Curious Dilettantes #0007
Expand your mind, in less than 5 minutes each week.
Ron Hicks is an artist based in Denver, Colorado. His work combines traditional portraiture and abstract art, with elements that recall a weathered frieze. While originally a figurative painter, Hicks developed his unique style after he participated in a collaborative show, where he was paired with an abstract artist.
He recalls, “I thought, how in the world are we going work together? But then I realized the real issue wasn’t blending styles but something more subtle: how do we communicate? I had to look at painting differently. I started to see everything in an abstract way. We were, I suddenly realized, already speaking the same language. But, to make a collaboration work, I knew I had to give up something.“
Struggling with a problem that defies your attempts to find a solution? Try talking to the stranger waiting in line behind you at the grocery store, or seated next to you in the airplane.
Scientific research shows that talking to strangers with whom we have weak social ties helps increase the chances of ‘creative accidents’ by providing us with unfamiliar perspectives. These colliding points of view can prompt more creative thinking, in part, because we’re more likely to give consideration to a suggestion or idea from someone we don’t know well, as opposed to someone who’s close to us. But does that mean we shouldn’t take our problems to our closest friends?
Quite the opposite. The research also shows that the people whom we consider our best collaborators and co-conspirators are better for diving into depth with on those problems, because they can help build on your existing knowledge or assumptions.
We’re all familiar with origami, the Japanese art of paper-folding, and have likely folded a crane in our first attempt at the craft. The same principles that gave us delight as children are being applied to modern day technological challenges, such as how to fit a 28 meter long starshade into a craft the size of a minibus. Starshades such as the one in the picture are used to help take photos of exoplanets that orbit stars by blocking the light from the star from reaching the space-based telescopes, so that the telescopes can photograph the planets without being overwhelmed by the light coming from the star itself.
The world’s most famous professional tidier, Marie Kondo, introduced her KonMari method of organization to the world via Netflix in 2019. Kondo exhorted everyone to toss out anything that didn’t ‘spark joy’, resulting in an unprecedented wave of donations to thrift stores in the United States, which were overwhelmed by the butterfly effect started by Kondo on the other side of the world.
After having her third child, Kondo reconfigured her priorities, saying, “Up until now, I was a professional tidier, so I did my best to keep my home tidy at all times. I have kind of given up on that in a good way for me. Now I realize what is important to me is enjoying spending time with my children at home.”
Perhaps the best thing all of us who are constantly battling the need to keep our homes spick-and-span can take away from this is the realization that as our lives shift, so should our priorities. Kondo absolves us of this need by saying, “My home is messy, but the way I am spending my time is the right way for me at this time at this stage of my life.”
Minori Mukaiya has one of the most unique jobs in the world. He composes the melodies that signal passengers’ arrival at each of the over 110 train stations in Tokyo. In total, he’s written over 200 distinct chimes. Each station has its own theme, and the melodies reflect the history of the part of the city that the song is for; for older parts of the city, he uses old Japanese instruments, for newer ones keyboards and synthesizers.
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