The War of Actually Shipping

Linchpin by Seth Godin

A few weeks ago I was re-reading one of my favourite books of 2009, “Pragmatic Thinking and Learning” by Andy Hunt, during a lunch break. On page 109 he writes:

When you try to start any creative endeavor, such as writing on a blog, an article, or (heaven help you) a full-length book, you will encounter massive resistance. Resistance
can take many forms, from niggling self-doubt to wildly creative procrastination to a myriad assortment of other distractions and excuses (see The War of Art: Break Through
the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
by Steven Pressfield for a disturbingly complete catalog of the many manifestations of resistance).

I circled the book and made a note to buy it.

That afternoon I, as I walked home from work, I spotted a new (rare) podcast from Merlin Mann of 43 Folders. He was interviewing Seth Godin about his new book “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?“.

In the interview they have along praise-filled discussion about none other that Steven Pressfield and his absolutely amazing must-read book “The War of Art“, the very book I had underlined at lunch.

The interview also discussed a big current theme of how our “lizard brain” paralyses us in so many ways (a topic I tackle in my hack on the Semantic Pause in the new edition of Mind Performance Hacks being released this year. )

Steven Pressfield’s book is by every account a must read, especially for writers (along with On Writing by Stephen King). It looks like Linchpin may also be worth a read.

You can read Steven Pressfield in the new, free ebook called “What Matters Now“, which came out in December 2009.  From the blurb:

Here are more than seventy big thinkers, each sharing an idea for you to think about as we head into the new year. From bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert to brilliant tech thinker Kevin Kelly, from publisher Tim O’Reilly to radio host Dave Ramsey, there are some important people riffing about important ideas here. The ebook includes Tom Peters, Fred Wilson, Jackie Huba and Jason Fried, along with Gina Trapani, Bill Taylor and Alan Webber.

I loved Godin’s use of the word “shipping” in the interview, to signify actually delivering (as opposed to faffing). It all aligns beautifully with my 20th anniversary copy of Eliyahu Goldratt’s business classic  “The Goal” .

Merlin Mann Interview Seth Godin –

The Neuroscience of Mindfullness

I am slow catching up with older stories, but this one from Psychology Today is worth a read:

The neuroscience of mindfulness

Farb and his colleagues worked out a way to study how human beings experience their own moment-to-moment experience. They discovered that people have two distinct ways of interacting with the world, using two different sets of networks. One network for experiencing your experience involves what is called the “default network”, which includes regions of the medial prefrontal cortex, along with memory regions such as the hippocampus. This network is called default because it becomes active when not much else is happening, and you think about yourself. If you are sitting on the edge of a jetty in summer, a nice breeze blowing in your hair and a cold beer in your hand, instead of taking in the beautiful day you might find yourself thinking about what to cook for dinner tonight, and whether you will make a mess of the meal to the amusement of your partner. This is your default network in action. It’s the network involved in planning, daydreaming and ruminating.

This default network also become active when you think about yourself or other people, it holds together a “narrative”. A narrative is a story line with characters interacting with each other over time. The brain holds vast stores of information about your own and other people’s history. When the default network is active, you are thinking about your history and future and all the people you know, including yourself, and how this giant tapestry of information weaves together. In this way, in the Farb study they like to call the default network the ‘narrative’ circuitry. (I like the ‘narrative circuit’ term for every-day usage as it’s easier to remember and a bit more elegant than ‘default’ when talking about mindfulness.)
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Le Roi et l’Oiseau

The King and the Mockingbird

Several months ago I was in Sremski Karlovci (near Novi Sad, Serbia)  on a weekend break. Whilst waiting for K to get ready to go out filming, I was flicking through TV channels and came across an amazing animated film on B92 TV called “Le Roi et l’Oiseau” or “The King and the Mockingbird”.

Beautifully drawn, with a dreamy futuristic atmosphere (the Bowler hatted police reminded me of A Clockwork Orange) and a classic story, this is definitely one to see.

DVD Times wrote of it:

“Le Roi et L’Oiseau (The King and the Mockingbird) is one of the true classics of animation in France, and although its renown and popularity haven’t made it across to this side of the channel, it has been a source of inspiration to many of the current generation of Japanese animators. Scripted by the celebrated poet, Jacques Prévert (who also scripted Quai de Brumes and Les Enfants du Paradis), designed by the master of French animation, Paul Grimault, based on a story by Hans Christian Anderson, Le Roi et L’Oiseau’s credentials are impeccable and its reputation unassailable.

Originally conceived and created as a short animated adaptation of Anderson’s ‘The Shepherdess and The Chimney Sweep’ in 1952, the film was never finished by Grimault. He bought back the rights to the original print of his work twenty years later and collaborated again with Prévert interweaving Anderson’s story into a new creation, Le Roi et L’Oiseau. Working again with his old team of animators and a group of brilliant young animators, new sequences were added, each of the animators feeding of the others’ experience and freshness, contributing to create a classic of modern animation.”   MORE

Films De France write:

Widely regarded as one of the finest animated films in cinema history, Le Roi et l’oiseau was the product of a legendary partnership between Paul Grimault and Jacques Prévert.  The former was the leading animator in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, the latter was arguably the most gifted and well-known of French film screenwriters.  Grimault and Prévert worked together on a number of projects but this is by far their most successful and popular collaboration (although it was completed two years after Prévert’s death).

The film began life in 1949 as an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, The Shepherdess and the Chimneysweep.  Before the film was completed, there was a major production dispute which resulted in both Grimault and Prévert walking away from the project.  The film was completed without Grimault and was released in 1953 under the title: La Bergère et le Ramoneur.  Twenty years later, Paul Grimault decided to return to the project and complete it as he had envisaged.  When the film was released in 1980 as Le Roi et le oiseau, it proved to be a great success both with critics and cinema audiences.  The film won the prestigious award, the Prix Louis Delluc, in 1979.   MORE

You can download it (legally) from the Internet Archive.

More links via Wikipedia.

Thanks to Michael Tool from “Tales too Tedious to Type” for helping me find this film. It was his post that I came across via Google, looking for “bowler hat police animation bird film painting”

Cloud Computing on Global Dashboard

I was chuffed to see one of my favourite blogs suddenly posted about “my” area , Cloud Computing.  Global Dashboard has this to say:

VoxEU explores the emergence of “cloud computing” and its potential impact on our lifestyles, business innovation, and economic growth. Charles Leadbeater assesses the associated rise of “cloud culture” and the importance of guarding this new space from the overbearing influence of government and big business. Elsewhere, over at Brookings Mark Muro wonders if the rise of Amazon’s Kindle could be a “symbol of American decline”.

Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka on religious extremism

"lanky midget zombie anorexic porn" by Mugley on Flickr. Click image for original.

This is an excerpt from an interview in the The Daily Beast:

Seated under the portrait of a local maharajah, Wole Soyinka—as regal of face and mien as the potentate in the painting—leaned toward me and uttered words so harsh that I sat bolt upright: “England is a cesspit.”

“England is a cesspit. England is the breeding ground of fundamentalist Muslims. Its social logic is to allow all religions to preach openly. But this is illogic, because none of the other religions preach apocalyptic violence. And yet England allows it. Remember, that country was the breeding ground for communism, too. Karl Marx did all his work in libraries there.

Why is Britain the way it is? “This is part of the character of Great Britain,” Mr. Soyinka declares. “Colonialism bred an innate arrogance, but when you undertake that sort of imperial adventure, that arrogance gives way to a feeling of accommodativeness. You take pride in your openness.” And so it is, he says, that Britain lets everyone preach whatever they want: It confirms a self-image of greatness.

…Our conversation turned to Nigeria, where ferocious killings had just occurred in the central city of Jos, with Muslims slaughtering Christians, and vice-versa. Mr. Soyinka, here, began to brood: “A virus has attacked the world of sense and sensibility, and it has spread to Nigeria, where it has taken on a sanguinary dimension. Roaming hordes of killers are entering homes and dragging out people of other faiths and hacking them to death. In my youth, you heard, side-by-side, the church bells ringing and the beautiful, sonorous call to prayer of the muezzin. But now, it’s a disease. One doesn’t really know how to handle it.”

The day before, in his lecture on The Road, Mr. Soyinka earned a burst of applause with his own, ingenious solution: “I think this is where our rocket engineers and astronauts can come to our rescue. We should assemble all those who are pure and cannot abide other faiths, put them all in rockets, and fire them into space.” In our own conversation, he offered—almost apologetically—a more prosaic solution: “Education. And rigorous punishment for those who feel, not ‘I’m right, you’re wrong,’ but ‘I’m right, you’re dead.'”

In Mr. Soyinka’s view, the origins of the current phase of the world’s religious strife—including all of the bloodshed in Nigeria—lie with Ayatollah Khomeini and his fatwa against Salman Rushdie, in 1989. “It all began when he assumed the power of life and death over the life of a writer. This was a watershed between doctrinaire aggression and physical aggression. There was an escalation. The assumption of power over life and death then passed to every single inconsequential Muslim in the world—as if someone had given them a new stature.

“Al Qaeda is the descendent of this phenomenon. The proselytization of Islam became vigorous after this. People went to Saudi Arabia. Madrassas were established everywhere.”

Mr Soyinka is absolutely right. The Rushdie affair was the start of Radical Islam’s assault on the the West. The continied attacks on Western writers and artists by Islamism is still a key battleground. For a superb explanation of this form of terrorism, see Richard Fernandez’s article “Killing the chicken to frighten the monkey“:

Henryk M. Broder, the editor Spiegel Online, argued that many European intellectuals have responded to an attack on Kurt Westergaard the author of the “Mohammed Cartoons”, by a Somali with links to al-Qaeda, by “de-escalating” their profile rather than denouncing the attack, in contrast to the somewhat vigorous defense of Salman Rushdie 20 years ago. Broder writes that “the West is choked with fear”.

The attack on illustrator Kurt Westergaard wasn’t the first attempt to carry out a deadly fatwa. When Muslims tried to murder Salman Rushdie 20 years ago, the protests among intellectuals were loud. Today, though, Western writers and thinkers would rather take cover than defend basic rights.

The attack on Westergaard is a textbook application of terror. Even the weapons chosen — an axe for example — contributed to instilling fear. Although Westergaard himself escaped unharmed, every European writer knows that the next victim may not be so lucky. And that next writer may be himself. The Somali also demonstrated the second object lesson of terrorist pedagogy. They reminded the world that they never forget. Salman Rushdie is still on the run. Westergaard will have to be guarded until the day that he dies. There is no statute of limitations on al-Qaeda’s anger. Blasphemy is forever.

And it works. By slow degrees the intellectuals are being cowed into silence. John Brennan, the President’s counterterrorism adviser, thinks that closing Guantanamo prison is necessary to avoid giving al-Qaeda “a propaganda victory”, when from al-Qaeda’s point of view the closure itself is probably regarded as the victory. In denying al-Qaeda one sort of victory, Obama is giving them another and more valuable one: it is subconsciously indoctrinating into the public an almost subconscious fear of “giving offense” to Islam that is more powerful for the fact that it may eventually be instinctive. Which is the point.

Bookmarks for January 8th 2010 through February 21st 2010

These are my links for January 8th 2010 through February 21st 2010:

Kosovo 2 years on: Worser and worser

Ian Bancroft has a great piece in the Guardian today about Kosovo.The EU is more divided than ever, Western donors propping up the territory are fed up with bankrolling it (their economies are in freefall), and now we are seeing some serious doublespeak from The Quint – the five principle pro-Kosovo powers:

The Quint – comprised of Britain, Germany, France, Italy and the US – recently sent a strongly worded communiqué to the Serbian foreign ministry, stating that “we have tolerated until now the Serbian aggressive rhetoric regarding Kosovo, because we believed that with time passing it could be taken off the agenda” and warning Serbia to abstain from “adventurous actions” once the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivers its verdict of the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence.It remains unclear exactly what the Quint meant by “aggressive rhetoric” and “adventurous actions”. Though Vuk Jeremic, Serbia’s foreign minister, has proposed a special session of the UN General Assembly following the ICJ’s verdict, with the aim of securing support for fresh negotiations over Kosovo’s status, such initiatives are in keeping with Serbia’s vow to pursue all peaceful, diplomatic and legal means to oppose Kosovo’s independence.
So that is what gets you a stern warning these days.  Meanwhile, in Kosovo…

…As uncertainty over Kosovo’s status continues to mount, the president of the Kosovo assembly, Jakup Krasniqi, has indulged in further secessionist and “aggressive rhetoric” by warning that “ethnic Albanians in southern Serbia are ready to join Kosovo” should Serbs in the north of Kosovo continue to oppose integration into Pristina’s institutions. In response, Serbia’s state secretary for Kosovo and Metohija, Oliver Ivanovic, immediately called upon the international community to condemn such “warmongering”; a request that remains unanswered despite the severity and implication of Krasniqi’s remarks. In light of such threats, claims that Kosovo’s independence contributes to regional peace and stability seem ever more incredulous and insincere.

So Serbia is warned about “aggressive rhetoric” (for seeking legal recourse at he UN) whilst Kosovo Albanians calling for secession of Albanian areas of southern Serbia to not raise a peep of objection from the Quint.  This is exactly the sort of double standard we have come to expect when it comes to Serbia.

The Serbian government, for once, is playing the international political game cleverly. It is driving its adversaries crazy. Look out for more absurd inversions of reality in the coming months as the Quint/Kosovo side tried to provoke Serbia into rash words or actions.

The Serbian government meanwhile is coolly maintaining its diplomatic and legal strategy. As for Kosovo, two years on, is in worse shape than ever.  It is an unsustainable crime-infested Mafia-run political and economic cesspit. Its human rights record is abysmal. Its future bleak. And Kosovars know it too. They pay thousands of Euros to be trafficked out to Western Europe.

I would be happy to see the people of Kosovo get some decent politicians, a negotiated political settlement to the crisis,  a booming economy and happy, safe minorities leaving peacefully there.  I do not, however, think I will see any of this this for a long time. That is bad news for Serbia too unfortunately.