Car-Race Meat Spiral Chief Restaurant Snail Button

No, it’s not some new awesome, all-purpose web widget. That was the subject line of an email I just received. The next one read “Butterfly Drink Book Army Data Base Aeroplane Space Shuttle,” and “Worm Data Base Rainbow Jet fighter Compass Pocket Telescope” was after that. They were spam of course, and, as much as it still frustrates me that there’s an entire industry dedicated to intruding my inbox (and phone line, and hard drive), I’m trying to see the positive.

Mind Performance HacksThe subject lines above are perfect fodder for Mind Hack #19 [Seed Your Mental Random-Number Generator] from O’Reilly’s Mind Performance Hacks (edited by Ron Hale-Evans). I mean, you can make that stuff up, but randomness is easier if it just arrives via email.

Another one I use a lot is Hack #27 [Play Mind Music]. Though I still often play Hip-hop when I work, I’ve been listening to more and more instrumental music. Here’s a sample of my recent playlist of “mind music”:

  • Explosions in the Sky All of a Sudden I miss Everyone, The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place, Friday Night Lights OST
  • Cliff Martinez Solaris OST, Wicker Park OST
  • Pelican City of Echoes, The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw
  • Red Sparowes At the Soundless Dawn, Every Red Heart Shines Toward the Red Sun
  • Main Hz, Motion Pool
  • Mogwai Zidane OST, Mr. Beast, Happy Music for Happy People
  • Peter Gabriel Long Walk Home (Rabbit-Proof Fence OST), Passion (The Last Temptation of Christ OST), Birdy OST
  • Brian Eno Eno Box I: Instrumentals, Music for Airports, Apollo, Discreet Music, etc.

(Brian Eno might be the best creative catalyst available, what with his cannon of ambient music and his co-creating the Oblique Strategies [Hack #23]). Mind Performance Hacks has nearly a hundred tricks and exercises to rattle your brain out of its usual patterns.

A Whole New MindI also just read The 4-Hour Workweek (Crown) by Tim Ferriss and am in the middle of Daniel Pink‘s A Whole New Mind(Riverhead), both of which have exercises that will make you think differently. The former has more for achieving personal goals, delegating responsibility, and getting free of your work, while the latter has more regarding cognitive and creative concerns. Pink contends that the next revolution will come not from left-brained engineers and accountants but from right-brained creative types like designers, teachers, and storytellers (good news for artists that want to be formerly known as “starving” — thank you, Govone), and his book is rife with exercises for your right hemisphere.

Anyway, I’m now thankful for weird subject lines in spam messages. Anything that makes me think about things in a different way is welcome.

What tricks do you have for tackling problems creatively?

Sticker Nation by Srini Kumar

I don’t know how most people feel about stickers, but they make me get all smiley. Sticker Nation (Disinformation) contains over 400 stickers emblazoned with subversive themes. Classic slogans like “Let the good times roll,” “Express yourself,” and “Power to the people” are peppered amongst “I just changed the world,” “Listen to Marshall McLuhan,” “Eat more veggies,” and “Talk nerdy to me.” My personal favorite is “When I hit the drum, you shake the booty,” but it’s difficult to have a favorite when there are so many good ones in here. Continue reading “Sticker Nation by Srini Kumar”

A Hacker Manifesto by McKenzie Wark

A Hacker Manifesto is the Big Picture of not only where we are in the “information age,” but where we’re going as well. Adopting the epigrammic style of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, as well as updating its ideas, Ken Wark establishes so-called “knowledge workers” as an unrecognized social class: “the hacker class.” Wark also updates Marx and Engels, Deleuze and Guattari, Nietzsche, and a host of others: Continue reading “A Hacker Manifesto by McKenzie Wark”

Nightwork: A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT by Institute Historian T. F. Peterson

The Massachusetts Institue of Technology has been host to the leaders of innovations in many fields: Artificial Intelligence, media and communication technology, open source development, and on and on. One of its lesser known areas of bleeding-edge innovation has been pranks and hacking. Well, Institute Historian T. F. Peterson is here to set that straight with Nightwork: A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT. Continue reading “Nightwork: A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT by Institute Historian T. F. Peterson”

Cyberactivism Edited by Martha McCaughy and Michael D. Ayers

Cyberactivism: Online Activism in Theory and Practice illuminates many current vectors in online activism, never losing sight of the big picture. Martha McCaughy and Michael D. Ayers have assembled a stellar collection of scholarly essays. Sitting at the intersection of virtual and corporeal, theory and praxis, Cyberactivism observes the brief history, the current actions, and the future implications of online activism. Continue reading “Cyberactivism Edited by Martha McCaughy and Michael D. Ayers”

CTRL [SPACE] Edited by Thomas Y. Levin, Ursula Frohne, and Peter Weibel

They’re everywhere: tiny cameras, webcams, security cameras… video-capturing devices are almost as ubiquitous as the banner ads for them: “Watch anyone, anytime.” We’re all stuck somewhere between reality TV and a TV reality. Following the panopticon from an eighteenth century architectural drawing by Jeremy Bentham to the pervasive surveillance of the twenty-first century, CTRL [SPACE] is a comprehensive history of watching and being watched. Continue reading “CTRL [SPACE] Edited by Thomas Y. Levin, Ursula Frohne, and Peter Weibel”