My iPod Is Smarter Than Your iPod

The internet is just loaded with ways to fill your iPod with smart stuff for free!

The best site for free audio smart stuff is LibriVox. This is a sister project to Project Gutenberg their mission is to supply mp3s of people reading books, articles and stories in the public domain. I have found the quality of the readers to be uneven, but I can’t complain because it’s all free.

What about free old time radio shows? Try Old Time Radio Fans. You can even get the original broadcast of War of the Worlds for free.

Even though it is incomplete, if you want some free Shakespeare audio students at Los Medanos college have a podcast where they are working their way through all of Shakespeare’s work. What they have done already is available on their site. Shakespearecast.

Finally, Stanford University offers free audio of faculty lectures on many different topics. This is an amazing service. They have three courses that they are offering all lectures completely free of charge.


This Book is Unrecommended

Looking for something to read? Library Thing will let you go the usual Amazon route where things are recommended based on what you like. But, more interestingly, it will also let you type in a book you love and tell you what books you will hate based on that.

If one of your favorites is Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, it tells you that you will loathe Confessions of a Shopaholic. This is based on information about people’s actual bookshelves, so in the examples I typed in it was entirely accurate. Not to self: Never read Real Men Don’t Apologize by Jim Belushi, the internet tells me I would hate it. Well, that and common sense.

Link to the Unsuggestor

via Likehacker

Haruki Murakami: that moment you decide to create

I love  Haruki Murakami, he is probably my favorite living writer.

He tells a story of being at a baseball game in 1978. He was just sitting back and enjoying the game when someone hit the ball. The sound of the crack of the bat triggered something in his head. “All of a sudden I got the idea I could write: that simple.”

It’s almost as if he can describe a single moment when he had his calling to the creative life. He also describes his creative process in incredible detail. He doesn’t make anything up, he says, he just discovers it.

“That’s the beginning of the story. We have rooms in ourselves. Most of them we have not visited yet. Forgotten rooms. From time to time we can find the passage. We find strange things . . . old phonographs, pictures, books . . . they belong to us, but it is the first time we have found them.”

I thought this was a beautiful metaphor and wanted to share it. It’s like he’s remembering a dream. Discovering is always easier than making something up. The trouble is that you don’t always find what you need or what you want.

Quotes from this article

Creator Blog: David Byrne

David Byrne is best known for being the lead singer of the Talking Heads, but he does interesting things in lots of formats. He’s made movies, painted, done stage shows. The money from his music has allowed him to live a fantastic life where he can create what he wants.

He has kept a regularly updated blog for years where he comments on current events, talks about what he’s working on and just observing life around him. I like his writing and perspective.

My favorite entry of his was from last year. He was writing about outsider art. I enjoy outsider art, but I often have had to defend my enjoyment of it. Some people think that you can only enjoy outsider art in an ironic way, not for what it is. Someone once told me that my buying a Daniel Johnston album was just me making fun of him.

His entry help me clarify how I felt on the issue. Here’s a bit of it:

…what is sanity and does being functional make you a better artist? Full disclosure: I don’t think so — but then, I think a stain on the sidewalk or a blob of construction insulation has the equal value of some Picassos.

Functional to me is the key word. Not sanity. Many “sophisticated” and successful gallery artists are quite mad, lost in their own worlds and emotional wrecks — but they do know how to navigate the shoals and reefs of the art world. Well, a bit. They can compose and posture themselves sufficiently to get by, to talk the talk and walk the walk… though they also might be drooling drug addicts and conversational incompetents. Some of these observations come from personal experience — art dinners and openings.

I’m not sure I know anyone, anyone at all, who is completely sane. Sure, I know plenty of people who play the sanity game with skill and daring. Their masks of having it together are well secured and they don’t spit out profanities or stare goggle-eyed into space. But they are mad, too, though maybe, I’ll admit, to a lesser degree than the poor souls who can’t help but constantly express themselves visually.

David Byrne’s blog

How to make yourself smarter: why does this blog exist?

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 3.26.06 PM

I wanted to take a moment and let you know why I started this blog. I started it to find other people who were interested in creativity and genius. Not in the same sense those words are always used. Like a lot of great words, they seem to have been co-opted by businesses. Just the other day, Apple Computers applied for a trademark on the phrase “genius bar.” Today I wanted to explain the specific way I use those words.

I have to admit that my view of genius and intelligence was heavily swayed in my teenage years by several radical thinkers. One of those people was Timothy Leary. He defined being smart on my different levels and tied in concepts that aren’t usually linked to intelligence. At least they aren’t tied in if you go by the usual dictionary definition, something like “The capacity to acquire and apply knowledge.” Survival, adaptation and happiness are all part of his idea of intelligence.

In his book The Intelligence Agents, Timothy Leary lays out three rules to follow if you want to be constantly increasing your intelligence.

Here is my paraphrase of them:

  1. Always be searching for new information and new sources of information.
  2. Constantly revise your perspective and view of the world and seek new metaphors about the future to understand what’s happening now.
  3. Don’t spend all your time by yourself. Use social interaction as a method of intelligence increase. In particular, spend all your time with people as smart or smarter than you.

Leary also had a wonderful way for you to tell if your intelligence was increasing or decreasing. Again, to paraphrase, if your world seems to always be getting bigger, brighter and more interesting, your intelligence is increasing. If your world seems to be getting smaller, darker and less interesting, your intelligence is decreasing.

Think about what that means. If you accept that definition, it means boredom and disinterest are signs of encroaching stupidity. Action is better than depression. Hope is a sign of intelligence. Being interested and interesting are signs of intelligence. Looking forward to the what the future will bring is a sign of intelligence.

I want to use this blog to explore all three of the rules for intelligence increase listed above. I’m especially interested in creating a community of smart people who are accomplishing things. To that end, if you have a link or thought you would like to share just email me at david(at) Also, email me if you have a creative project with a web presence that you would like me to link to in a post.

You are a genius!

Creative Process: Walt Disney


In his book Strategies of Genius, Robert Dilts quotes a Disney animator as saying there were three Walt Disneys, “The dreamer, the realist and the spoiler. You never knew which was coming to a meeting.”

He goes on to say that creativity is a combination of these three elements.

The Dreamer is necessary for creativity in order to form new ideas and goals. The Realist is necessary for creativity as a means to transform ideas into concrete expressions. The Critic is necessary for creativity as a filter and as a stimulus for refinement.

There are a lot of self-help books and experts that tell you the dreamer is the only one of the three you’ll need. They say that the realist and critic are evil and need to be stopped at all costs. Often imagination is extolled as fragile flower to be cherished and never judged. One of the most common bits of creativity advice it to silence your inner-critic.

Isn’t it only bad when you try and do all these things at once or get stuck in one without the other two? As the quote above says, you don’t bring all three to the same meeting. Perhaps you should just mute your inner-critic while you’re in a creative burst and then schedule a meeting with it the next day. Reality is going to impact your idea whether you want it to or not, so you might as schedule a meeting with it as well.

If you were going to break this down into a usable process it would be:

  1. Pure creativity.
  2. What don’t I like about it? How can I improve on the idea?
  3. Is the idea possible? Will the world like it? Will it succeed?

Is there one part of this process that you can’t do well? Is something holding you back? Try breaking it down into these three steps and seeing what happens.

Dream it, realize it, improve it and then let go of it. It may take years to finish a project, but it sure sounds simple when you say it like that.

Parody Yourself, I Did And Ended Up With A Bacon Tuxedo

The company I work for, Archie McPhee, decided that we were going to do an April Fools joke homepage this year. I had the task of coming up with the products and soon realized that I was basically being asked to parody myself. If you aren’t familiar with the company, our products are incredibly over the top and exaggerated to begin  with. (Our top sellers include Bacon Mints and Remote Controlled Hopping, Yodeling Lederhosen.)

I recommend trying this exercise to everyone who does anything creative. It’s really much harder than you think! Half the ideas I came up with we decided were something we might actually do at some point in the future. (Which makes this exercise useful) The other half were too grotesque or profane to risk affiliation with our company. (Rainbow Flavored Unicorn Poop Candy? No.) I probably went through 15 ideas before settling on the first usable one.

After a few days, I decided to go for products that would be physically impossible, legally impossible or something that no one would want to buy. I came up with the Bacon Scented Bacon Tuxedo, the Baby Parachute, a Beard of Bees Kit and a Surprise Dumpster. You can see them here. Our graphics department did an ace job with the pictures, they sell the whole thing.

The reaction so far has been mixed. Some people, like Seth Godin, get it. Some don’t. I have to admit that I did enjoy the fact that proof of the downfall of civilization sprang from my brain.

The most interesting part of the whole experience for me has been the fact that the world is so over the top now, that people believe a product with this description would actually go on sale:

Beard Of Bees Kit
Tired of boring old facial hair? Take it up to the next level with a Beard of Bees! Years in development, we have finally come up with an economical way to take advantage of all the buzz about bee beards. In each box, you’ll get a tube of royal jelly, a grooming wand and a coupon for bees. Just send in the coupon or call with your redemption number and the following morning you’ll receive a package of 30,000 bees in our patented UPS approved Swarm Sack™ packaging. After they arrive, apply the royal jelly to your chin, neck and chest, shake the bag vigorously and then release the bees. Use included wand to coax bees into beard shape. Fun for birthdays, retirements or bachelorette parties. Not recommended for indoor use.

So, whatever you usually create, try and parody it. See what you come up with, it might surprise you!

April Fools Page

Funny Steve Martin Quote On Writer’s Block

From Steve Martin:

Writer’s block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol. Sure, a writer can get stuck for a while, but when that happens to a real author — say, a Socrates or a Rodman — he goes out and gets an “as told to.” The alternative is to hire yourself out as an “as heard from,” thus taking all the credit. The other trick I use when I have a momentary stoppage is virtually foolproof, and I’m happy to pass it along. Go to an already published novel and find a sentence that you absolutely adore. Copy it down in your manuscript. Usually, that sentence will lead you to another sentence, and pretty soon your own ideas will start to flow. If they don’t, copy down the next sentence in the novel. You can safely use up to three sentences of someone else’s work — unless you’re friends, then two. The odds of being found out are very slim, and even if you are there’s usually no jail time.

Read the rest of his essay on writing here

The importance of a blank screen

From Not Always So, by Shunryu Suzuki, Everyday Life is Like a Movie:

When you are practicing, you realize that your mind is like a screen. If the screen is colorful, colorful enough to attract people, then it will not serve its purpose. So to have a screen which is not colorful – to have a pure, plain white screen – is the most important point. But most people are not interested in a pure white screen.

Do you start with a blank screen? Or is it so colorful and cluttered that any attempt to put something new on it just gets lost in the jumble?

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