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?

Pagan Idol: rate your favorite gods

Godchecker not only has tons of great information about deities from around the world written in a informative and humorous style, but it also features a Deity of the Day.

Here’s a sample from the Chinese god, Monkey:

From the beginning of time, a certain rock on the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers had been soaking up the goodness of nature and QI energy. One day this pregnant rock released a stone egg, and from it hatched a Stone Ape, who solemnly bowed to the Four Corners of the Earth — then jumped off to have fun.

This was MONKEY. He was high-spirited, egotistical and full of mischievous pranks. He was soon having a wonderful time as King of the Apes. But a niggling worry began to gnaw at him — one which would change his life. The Monkey King feared Death.

There are also essays, some theory and they just added a section for Christian Saints. Not only a useful reference for catching up on your mythology, but an entertaining one.

Use Body Position To Remember

Cognitive Daily has an interesting article on the connection between body position and memory. There was a study that proves that being in a matching body position to the one you were in the memory helps you to remember. In other words, if you are trying to remember something that happened while you were tying your shoes, you should lean over and tie your shoes while you try and remember. According the study, you’ll remember it more quickly and in more detail.

The conclusion is this:

Dijkstra’s team believes that the effect may be due to the way memories are stored in the brain: one theory of memory suggests that memories are composed of linked sensory fragments — odors, sights, sounds, and even body positions. Simply activating one or more of those fragments makes the entire memory more likely to be retrieved. In any case, if you’re trying to recall a particular incident in your life, putting your body in the right position might help you remember it faster and more accurately. The key appears to be your body position when the memory occurred. So if you’re trying to remember, say, the 1993 World Series, unless you were at the game, the way to access that memory would probably be to sit on your living room sofa holding a cold beer.

Use this to your advantage when you are creating. If the ideas aren’t coming, change your position. Posing or moving a particular way will set off a whole other series of memories and experiences. Too often we create while in the same position, for instance leaning over a computer keyboard. According to this study, this would only help you to remember other times you were trying to create, not other events or emotions in your life.

Click here for article

Own Your Own Rocket Belt!

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 11.37.00 AMThere are a few bits of technology that have represented the future since the 50s. The flying car, a robot maid and the rocket belt. Well, thanks to Tecnologia Aerospcial Mexicana you can now buy your own Rocket Belt!

The price might hold you back, $250,000, but if enough rich people buy them, the price will come down as they go into mass production. Only then will the future we have been promised come into being.

Here’s what you get for your money:

1. A fully-tested, custom-made flying rocket belt
2. This belt has been proved to be the most stable design and easier to fly
3. A special machine to make our own unlimited supply of rocket fuel
4. Hands-on training in the process and the equipment
5. Flight training of 10 flights in your own rocket belt
6. Maintenance and setup training
7. 24/7 expert support
8. Housing and food are included during training

They have a warning about using a machine from another company:

Be aware of people that offer plans, parts or a rocket belt that has not flown and tested because you will be killed.
The Rocket Belt is NOT a machine that you can make and fly easily, if someone offers to you plans or parts to make a “cheap” Rocket Belt ask for a demonstration and see an actual flight, don’t be the test pilot of a deadly machine.

All I know is that it’s pretty and shiny and I could jump over the building where I live with a single bound. Plenty of tempting video and picture galleries on their site.

Rocket Belt Site

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