Kids and creativity

Austin Kleon recently posted two things that delighted me:

In praise of Garageband:

One afternoon a few years ago when we were bored, I showed my son Owen (now 6) how to make simple tracks on his little iPad mini, and ever since then, he’s been completely obsessed with the program. He spends, on average, at least an hour a day in Garageband. (He would spend way more if we didn’t limit his screen time, and we have to, because if we don’t he gets that weird zombie recording glaze in his eyes. [Musicians will know what I’m talking about.])

He has recorded 100s of songs. He started out, like most songwriters, covering songs by bands he likes. First, it was Kraftwerk. He came in one day after quiet time with this totally cool and insane version of “Autobahn.” Then he moved into parody. At my suggestion, he recorded Christmas versions of Kraftwerk songs. (“Christmasbahn,” “Trans Polar Express,” etc.) That was around the time he learned how to sample while looking for sleigh bells.

I have been searching for a way to get more Garageband in my life and I think I’ve found it. I knew my son would be useful for something. (Maybe we should follow Grimes and make an entire album on Garageband.)

A year of drawing:

My son Jules woke up on Christmas last year and started drawing. He was 2. (His birthday is in March.) […] I find it remarkable, at this point, how drawing for him still has nothing to do with the results. He does not care what you do with his drawings after he’s done making them. How he draws is intense and adorable at the same time: he will put down a few lines, and then stand back and shake while he admires them.

Fantastic that he already has his ‘great subject’—skeletons of all things. And the fact that his pile of drawings need sweeping up, there’s so many of them. Amazing.

Jules Kleon's great subject for drawing: skeletons

A pile of children's drawings being swept up with a broom

Elon Musk’s tunnel doesn’t scale, so it doesn’t matter

And yes, it would be great if this dalliance produces genuine improvements in tunnel technologies useful for building actual train-sized tunnels that can move the number of people who need to move. But Musk’s prairie-dog burrows are mostly hype, confusion, and elite projection. While delivering almost nothing useful, they are confusing elite opinion about whether we still need to build mass transit, which we do. Is any marginal benefit worth the resulting delay in getting the infrastructure we really need?

Source: Elon Musk’s Tunnel: It Doesn’t Scale, so it Doesn’t Matter — Human Transit

The referendum was only advisory, ffs

The late John Hirst, writing in 2009 about Ancient Greek democracy:

Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, the great Athenian philosophers, who had severe doubts about Athenian democracy and whose criticisms help us to understand how it operated. They complained that the people were fickle; they were indecisive; they were ignorant; they were easily swayed. Government is a fine art that requires wisdom and judgment, which are not the possession of all citizens. The philosophers would be much happier with our system of representative democracy. No matter what we say about our representatives, they are usually better educated and better informed than the people as a whole.

Peter Weir wanted to fuck with cinema audiences in The Truman Show

Weir and Niccols’ focus was on the audience, who are embodied alternately as a bar full of city dwellers, a pair of shiftless cops, a middle-aged guy in his bathtub, and a pair of elderly women clutching Truman embroideries. We see them react with joy and consternation as Truman begins breaking the rules of the simulation. Weir originally wanted to install cameras in movie theaters and, at some point, cut to the actual audience watching the movie, as well; he toyed with the idea of playing Christof himself. Truman may be fictional, in other words, but its setting was real. We would do this, the film insisted—we would watch a man merely live a life out on television, rather than living one ourselves. We would turn a nobody into a celebrity through sheer collective will.

Source: The Truman Show was a delusion that came true

It think this would have sent me over the edge. Also: 20 years?


My son’s almost 15 months old. Some of the babies in his NCT cohort came out with full heads of hair; some of them grew hair quickly and have since had it cut several times.

His hair has grown somewhat patchily. Today he had his cut for the first time. A big mohawk for a while, the gaps slowly filling in. It’s curly, from his mum, and ginger, from his maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother. It seems to be darkening as it grows and thickens.

As your child grows up you have lots of firsts and I try to be part of as many of them as I can. I took extended parental leave then subsequently quit my job so I’ve been very lucky to have been there for his first word, step, meal, mega-tantrum. I feel very lucky compared with many of the other dads that I speak to, many of whom come back from work to find their child already in bed. It’s not all been straightforward but the past year-and-a-bit has made me happier than I’ve ever been.

Online, some languages are more equal than others 

The problem is, we don’t know which language will desperately need the world’s attention next. When an earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, international organizations suddenly required Haitian Creole resources. Ebola outbreaks in West Africa affected speakers of languages like Swahili, Nande, Mbuba, Krio, Mende and Themne. Asylum seekers from Central America often speak languages like Zapotec, Q’anjob’al, K’iche’ and Mam. These speakers aren’t the ideal customers of big tech companies. They don’t have leisure time to edit Wikipedia. They may not even be literate in their mother tongue, communicating by voice memo instead of by text message. But when a crisis hits, internet communication tools will be crucial.

Source: The Widely-Spoken Languages We Still Can’t Translate Online | WIRED

The impact of climate change on language loss

One stressor that may be the tipping point for some communities is climate change. Many small linguistic communities are located on islands and coastlines vulnerable to hurricanes and a rise in sea levels. Other communities are settled on lands where increases in temperature and fluctuations in precipitation can threaten traditional farming and fishing practices.

These changes will force communities to relocate, creating climate change refugees. The resultant dispersal of people will lead to the splintering of linguistic communities and increased contact with other languages. These changes will place additional pressures on languages that are already struggling to survive.

Source: The impact of climate change on language loss

Photographs of massive storm systems

Photograph of a storm near Guymon, Oklahoma

[Mitch] Dobrowner’s black and white images of that megastorm are some of the most spectacular in his ever-expanding portfolio of extreme weather photography. Although tornadoes get all the attention on TV, Dobrowner is more interested in supercells, massive storm systems that sometimes spawn tornadoes. “I see them as living things,” he says. “Some are gorgeous and beautiful, some are tornadic and violent. And the longer they last the more form they take. Eventually, they mature and die. So I try to take a portrait, almost like with a person.”

Source: You’ve Never Seen Thunderstorms Like These Before