Categories
blogging Life Music Personal development Philosophy

Getting through

During lockdown I have taken the opportunity to give my small (but now a little more perfectly formed, I hope) corner of the internet a makeover after, it must be admitted, a period of inattention.

Instead of launching straight into business matters, and in particular in view of the title of the previous post in this blog (very much pre-COVID19), I wanted to give a shout out to a few publications/resources that I’ve found helpful in getting through these strange times, and are also interesting and enjoyable in their own right. In no particular order:

Newsletters

Laura Olin

Laura Olin is a ‘digital strategist with sisu’. No, I didn’t know either, but now I wish I was Finnish, although there’s no strict necessity to be Finnish in order to join her in acting with determination, even in the face of seemingly impossible odds. [See what I’m ranting on about at https://www.lauraolin.com/]

But anyway, Laura Olin compiles a weekly email of ‘lovely and/or meaningful things’. The ‘things’ are not on any specific topic or agenda, but there’s always something to be interested in, to be surprised about; something to spark and encourage your creative energy.

Gretchen Rubin

I think she’s the most interesting and insightful person writing on happiness. Each week (amongst much else) she has a different interviewee responding to the same ten or so questions about happiness, habits and relationships. Last week the interviewee was author, blogger and speaker Jen Hatmaker [https://jenhatmaker.com] who spoke vividly about the importance of connectedness to us as humans – something we have all been missing in these days of social distancing.

In my latest book Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire, I was surprised to discover how not just important but crucial connected relationships are to our well-being. It is the single factor that overrides virtually every other marker of health. It alone has the power to meet all three basic human needs outlined in Self-Determination Theory, it is the strongest predictor of physical health and lifespan, and it is permanently linked to our levels of resiliency, optimism, and productivity. In other words, the lonelier we are, the worse we are doing in every facet of life, and the more connected we are, the better we are doing in every facet of life. Connection and belonging matter almost more than anything else we put our hands to.

Read more at https://gretchenrubin.com/

And I can’t leave newsletters without mentioning writer and artist (or, artist and writer) Austin Kleon. He is a brilliant curator who always has interesting things to say and draw your attention to in art, writing music and more. You can read more and subscribe here.

Podcasts

I’m a recent convert to Podcasts, but I’m really loving and highly recommended these:

How To Fail with Elizabeth Day

A blog about failure… or rather, getting through failure to the other side. Coming to terms with the things that haven’t gone right, in business or life or both (after all, work is part of life, which is why I don’t really go for the ‘work/life balance’ shtick; but that’s another story), because to ‘learn how to fail is to learn how to succeed.’

Whether one totally buys into this overall proposition or not, Elizabeth Day is an excellent interviewer and is able to attract a lot of very interesting interviewees.

During the lockdown there have been three special editions interviews with Mo Gawdat (author of Solve for Happy, Alain de Botton (of the School of Life and much else), and also now one with fashion designer Henry Holland. All are thought-provoking and offer a lot of helpful advice and insight. And are often very moving. For me, the standout (both original interview and recent coronavirus special) is Alain de Botton.

FT Culture Call

Lively and engaging chat and interviews between two engaging FT’ers in London and New York about culture high and low – a redundant distinction, thankfully, but just to indicate we’re not simply talking opera and classics here.

In a recent episode Lilah, in New York, interviewed chef Samin Nosrat, author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. You don’t need to have heard of Samin Nosrat or be interested in food to find this a fascinating listen.

Find out more here: ft.com/culture-call

Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs

Finally, for a bit of fun and escape, Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs is hard to beat. These two are fun, sassy and, as with all the best conversations (or criticism for that matter), it doesn’t really matter whether you know or care much about the particular song or artist they’re talking about. Still less whether you agree with them. I can even just about forgive them for not including Tom Waits in their episode talking about songs called ‘Hold On’. His is head and shoulders above any they chose. But no matter.

What they have to say is always entertaining and perceptive. The recent episode on Nelly Furtado is a good case in point, the conversation ranging far and wide, from reflections on the emotional power of music to a certain nostalgia for the days when you had to actually leave the house to get your hands on a new album. It’s a joy, and a regular fix for me while walking the dog.

Categories
Books Life Personal development

I’m so glad I didn’t die…

‘I’m so glad I didn’t die on the various occasions I have earnestly wished I might, for I would have missed a lot of lovely weather.’

Elizabeth von Arnim, in a letter.

[#quoteFriday]

Born Mary Annette Beauchamp in Sydney, Australia on 31 August 1866, the prolific and, in her day, hugely successful author ‘Elizabeth’ von Arnim lived a remarkable life that, just for starters, included performing Bach and Liszt on the organ at Bayreuth for Cosima Wagner (Liszt’s daughter) and marrying into the Prussian aristocracy.

Rain or shine, enjoy the weather. And read more about Elizabeth von Arnim.

She is this month’s ‘Author of the Month’ at the LRB Bookshop (from whom I learned of this quote).

Categories
Technology

AI in the fight against disease

The protein folding problem and AI

The unprecedented modelling capacity of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is opening up new possibilities for understanding the way diseases develop, and finding more effective ways to fight disease.

This short video of the presentation by Abigail Hing Wen at the AI O’Reilly conference in Beijing 2019 provides a fascinating glimpse into how AI, in the form of Google’s Deep Mind, is helping researchers begin to provide answers to long-standing problems which up to now have eluded scientists.

For example, the three-dimensional structure of a protein, based on a sequence of amino acids, governs a protein’s abilities to perform its functions. Inability to perform these functions can have devastating consequences, for causing diseases and allergies, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cystic fibrosis.

Understanding how a three dimensional structure is determined can help us better predict harm to patients, design better drugs and design better proteins to fight diseases.

But the possible shapes that a string of thousands of amino acids can take is far beyond the capacity of even the most powerful computers to model …

Watch the video here:

Categories
Business development Design Technology

Who do you want your customers to become?

Interesting thinking on innovation and customer focus in this post at Harvard Business Review –

Smart companies increasingly recognize that their own futures depend on how ingeniously they invest in the future capabilities of their customers.

and transforming your innovation mindset:

Shift the focus from extracting value from customers to making customers more valuable. Simply put, this new focus redefines the purpose of innovation — which is not just designing better products and services, but designing better and more valuable customers.

Read more here: https://hbr.org/2012/07/who-do-you-want-your-customers

 

Categories
Business development Technology

The indoor farm

Plenty indoor farm

With robots picking the produce and the humans adjusting the flavour profile of the plants. A glimpse of the future arriving?

Interesting post by Adele Peters at Fast Company. Read more at: https://www.fastcompany.com/90365627/robots-are-already-farming-crops-inside-this-silicon-valley-warehouse

Categories
Book design Books

Albanian Letters by Arthur Evans

 

Arthur Evans Albanian Letters

Design for Albanian Letters, a compilation of letters and reports on Albania in the 1870s by archaeologist and journalist Sir Arthur Evans, the latest book from the Centre for Albanian Studies now in print.

From the blurb:

In Albanian Letters Evans not only explores the implications of the key political events of this period but also paints a vivid picture of the country’s complex social and cultural make-up. Albanian Letters looks at how Albanians’ views of their homeland were affected by developments taking place at the time, including increasing awareness of ethnic differences, population migration, and changes to its distinctive culture and tradition.

and the back cover testimonials:

‘These fascinating letters and reports – never previously collected – cast fresh light on one of the most vital periods of Albanian history. The crisis which began in the late 1870s would lead, eventually, to the creation of an independent Albania. But while the end-point of that process was a relatively simple solution, the starting-point was a complex problem, with many different interests competing for power. Arthur Evans was both an opinionated young man and a brilliant journalist, with a vivid pen and a keen appetite for information; his accounts of these tensions and conflicts, both internal and international, make him a very valuable witness – and a very good read.’

Sir Noel Malcolm, Senior Research Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford

‘Despite their biases as pointed out by the editors, Evans’ journalistic reports provide an impressive depth of detail as well as insightful analyses of events, personalities and intrigue within their cultural and historical context.’

George W. Gawrych, Professor of History, Baylor University 

Categories
Music Uncategorized

Leonard. Oh, Leonard.

You have left us.

But you have left us the music. Leonard Cohen, fare well.

Categories
Life Photography

Erwin Blumenfeld, from Dada to Vogue

Today is the last day of the office in Cavendish Square, with the advantage of the Mayfair galleries just a short step away. So very glad to have caught a great exhibition of work by Erwin Blumenfeld this lunchtime at Osborne Samuel on Bruton Street – Erwin Blumenfeld: From Dada to Vogue.

The exhibition includes some of his brilliant early work in collage as well as a wonderful selection of his experimental photography.

Erwin Blumenfeld: From Dada to Vogue

Nude, Paris, 1938

Above, Left: Nude, Paris, 1938

cof

Above: Hitlerfresse, Amsterdam, 1933

cof

Above: Shadow of the Eiffel Tower, Paris

cof

Born in Berlin in 1897 Blumenfeld left Germany after the First World War, settling first in Holland, where he established a Dutch arm of the Dadaist movement, then Paris, where he made some of his most famous images, including Nude Under Wet Silk (1937).

Fleeing France in 1941 he settled in New York where he became one of the most internationally sought-after portrait and fashion photographers in the 1940s and 1950s. Remember his iconic Vogue cover of 1950 (not in the exhibition):

erwin_blumenfeld_vogue_1950

For more information see http://www.erwinblumenfeld.com/

From Dada to Vogue until 29th October 2016: www.osbornesamuel.com

Categories
Photography

Wing in the clouds

Approaching Vaclav Havel Airport, Prague (Praha).

cof

Categories
art Photography

William Eggleston at The NPG

eggleston 1

I wish I could say I had known all about and studied ‘legendary Memphis photographer’ William Eggleston before I read about the current exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. But, I don’t think I had ever heard of him. And that’s a big omission because his work is extraordinary. An education for the eye.

The pin sharp focus and vivd colour of his portraits give them a stunning presence, combined with a certain mystery and, in some cases, dread. Like the shot of his friend, the strange Memphis dentist TC Boring (though on this evidence boring he most certainly wasn’t; except perhaps in his day job), standing nude in his graffitied, black and red bedroom; it’s as if the image prefigures the violent death of its subject – Boring was later murdered by locals and his house set on fire.

And this strange picture (above) of Marcia Hare in Memphis, lying on the grass and yet almost floating above the surface – an effect created by the sharp focus on just the small area of the buttons on her dress, her outstretched arm and the camera. Hanging alongside this image is another portrait of Marcia, this time dancing (as if no one’s watching) – with a very similar body configuration, as this photo of the exhibition shows, taken before I discovered no photography was allowed:

cof

The portraits are not portraits in the traditional sense; frozen moments in time but not character studies. Most are ‘Untitled’, the name of the subject in some of the photos revealed for the first time in this exhibition.

Another stand out image, printed in grand scale, of the artist’s uncle with his assistant who unconsciously mimics his employer’s pose; the one open door lends a strange, uneasy air to the image.

eggleston 3Whatever your knowledge or interest in photography, if you possibly can do go see this exhibition. It’s a glimpse of the work of a master.

William Eggleston, Portraits. National Portrait Gallery, 21 July – 23 October 2016.

Categories
Photography

Frame (weekly photo challenge)

Salisbury Cathedral

Stained glass windows at Salisbury Cathedral, reflected in the flowing water font by William Pye (1980).

In response to WordPress weekly photo challenge: Frame

Categories
Photography Work life

Brilliant Disorder

mde

Laura at her leaving party, in Laura mask. Brilliant Disorder in response to Paula’s Thursday Special word challenge.

Elusive profusion – 4 Lauras (reclining)

4 Lauras

Categories
Photography

Balcony in Alcudia

In response to Paula’s Thursday special – Traces of the Past.

Balcony in Alcudia

Balcony in Alcudia, Mallorca.

Categories
Landscape Life Photography

The Sea in Winter

Portrait of Helen at the beach in winter. Posted for this week’s WordPress photo challenge – Fun!

Helen at Kimmeridge

Categories
Photography

Narrow

Entrance to Ramillies Street from Oxford Street. Taken in response to the Narrow WordPress weekly photo challenge. Narrow

The sign for the Photographers Gallery is just visible, reflected in the glass front of the building on the left.

cof

Categories
art Book design Design Photography

Vogue at Burlington Arcade

There’s an exhibition of Vogue covers along Burlington Arcade in Piccadilly at the moment that’s worth catching if you are in the area.

sdr

My favourite (of course) is the black and white Irving Penn cover for June 1950. Look at those eyes. Fantastic.

 

Categories
art Design

Picasso Ceramics at Sotheby’s

Picasso ceramics 3

By chance on Bond Street because I needed to take a photo of the Atkinsons building for my nearly finished book on Mrs Dalloway and caught the last day of the exhibition of ceramics by Picasso at Sotheby’s.

The extraordinary vigour and certainty of his line, his playfulness and use of colour never fail to enthral. And always that feeling of excitement being in the presence of work imagined, moulded, touched by that ferociously creative genius.

With ceramics and prints there is also the temptation towards recklessness that you could actually buy one; take away a work bearing that iconic signature.

Being sensible was helped by the fact the ones I really liked (inevitably) still retained a hefty guide price. In any case, ownership is not the key issue; it’s the capacity to enjoy the work that really matters. (Nonetheless …).

The work dates largely from the 1950s when, aged 65, Picasso moved back to the south of France after the war –

While staying with the printer Louis Fort in Golfe-Juan, the two came across Madoura and this led quite simply to the artist’s engagement with the pottery traditions of the area. There was also an influence on a personal level as the artist met his second wife, Jacqueline, when she was working in the Madoura pottery studio in Vallauris. She began to live with Picasso in Paris in late 1954 and they together moved to the villa La Californie in 1955. (Lucy Rosenburgh)

And of course it was one of the ‘Jacqueline’ earthenware dishes I wanted most.

Jacqueline Dish

Jacqueline’s strong features, her prominent profile, and her dark hair and eyes are readily found in much of the art Picasso made during these joyful years. Earlier portrayals often depict Jacqueline with her abundant hair covered by a headscarf, as seen in these two red and white earthenware empreinte. In the empreinte, the artist’s carved and modelled plaster mould would be pressed into the clay, leaving the unpainted impression as the only decoration. Picasso developed the method at the Madoura studio, inspired by the process of print making. (Lucy Rosenburgh)

Jacqueline 2

And more, just because…

Picasso ceramics

 

Picasso ceramics 2