There are positives to Beijing. People still give birth to babies. There are a few nice parks. Last week I walked in one, and a few people came up to me and gave me a thumbs up or patted me on the shoulder. Why do they have to do that in such a secretive way? No one is willing to speak out. What are they waiting for? They always tell me, “Weiwei, leave the nation, please.” Or “Live longer and watch them die.” Either leave, or be patient and watch how they die. I really don’t know what I’m going to do.
The other day on Twitter, I had a particularly silly/dorky Steve Jobs tweet become crazy popular, like a thousand retweets popular. So — being again, particularly silly and dorky myself — decided to pull some of my most popular tweets into a Storify to try to discern a pattern (if any).
BIG PATTERN: People love pop culture references. But my Twitter feed (and probably yours) regularly ABOUNDS in pop culture references. So that actually turns out not to have a ton of explanatory value on its own.
SMART PATTERN: What people really seem to love are oblique, unexpected pop culture references that hit a particular niche. They’re tweets that say: “this message was only for you; now share it with everyone you know.”
BIG PATTERN #2: People definitely respond in a big way to big news events. If something is going on that’s happening in real-time, the retweet button gets a workout.
SMART PATTERN #2: The problem with big events is that everybody’s tweeting and retweeting everything. Which is fine! It’s good! But at the same time, some sort of conceptual scoop that shines a light on something different about what’s happening adds more value.
BIG PATTERN #3: People love anything that reminds them of their childhood. SMART PATTERN #3: I love anything that reminds me of my childhood. And that Proustian love is a propulsive force that drives me to write better sentences.
He had never dwelled on memory’s delights. Impressions slid over him, vivid but ephemeral. A potter’s vermilion; the heavens laden with stars that were also gods; the moon, from which a lion had fallen; the slick feel of marble beneath slow sensitive fingertips; the taste of wild boar meat, eagerly torn by his white teeth; a Phoenician word; the black shadow a lance casts on yellow sand; the nearness of the sea or of a woman; a heavy wine, its roughness cut by honey–these could fill his soul completely…
Gradually now the beautiful universe was slipping away from him. A stubborn mist erased the outline of his hand, the night was no longer peopled by stars, the earth beneath his feet was unsure. Everything was growing distant and blurred. When he knew he was going blind he cried out; stoic modesty had not yet been invented and Hector could flee with impunity. I will not see again, he felt, either the sky filled with mythical dread, or this face that the years will transform. Over this desperation of his flesh passed days and nights. But one morning he awoke; he looked, no longer alarmed, at the dim things that surrounded him; and inexplicably he sensed, as one recognizes a tune or a voice, that now it was over and he had faced it, with fear but also with joy, hope, and curiosity. Then he descended into his memory, which seemed to him endless, and up from that vertigo he succeeded in bringing forth a forgotten recollection that shone like a coin under the rain, perhaps because he had never looked at it, unless in a dream.
In grave amazement he understood. In this night too, in this night of his mortal eyes into this he was now descending, love and danger were again waiting. Ares and Aphrodite, for already he divined (already it encircled him) a murmur of glory and hexameters, a murmur of men defending a temple the gods will not save, and of black vessels searching the sea for a beloved isle, the murmur of the Odysseys and Iliads it was his destiny to sing and leave echoing concavely in the memory of man. These things we know, but not those that he felt when he descended into the last shade of all.
From “El Hacedor (The Maker),” a story about the blindness and insight of Homer — both of which Borges shared.
HAL: I understand that you are going to do a movie or want to do a movie. Can you tell us about it?
SHEL: I will be doing one soon. It’s a movie I wrote and will be directing. It will be very far out. It will be the furtherest-out movie ever done in America, I know that. In any country, as far as I know.
HAL: Will it be impressionistic or realistic?
SHEL: Yeah, impressionistic and realistic. Yet, never obscure. Always very clear.
Now, please note that Shel Silverstein never directed a movie… and was probably never actually going to. Was he just messing with his interviewer? Possibly. And how fun is that?—seeding the world with news of made-up projects. Maybe that’s how you decide what to actually do: wait and see which made-up project generates the most excitement.
Also, can I just remind you that Shel Silverstein looked like this?
David Weinberger has a thoughtful look at Reddit as journalism. He calls it “community journalism,” a distinct variant of “citizen journalism.”
Two gems to put in your shoe:
What’s interesting to a community is not enough to make us well informed because our community’s interests tend to be parochial and self-reinforcing. This is not so much a limitation of community as a way that communities constitute themselves.
One of the mistakes we’ve made in journalism and education is to insist that curiosity is a serious business. Perhaps not. Perhaps curiosity needs a sense of humor.
Love how this video from Oxelo Skateboards totally subverts the form. Instead of a gray suburb full of annoyed non-skaters, the backdrop is Bangalore, Jaipur, Agra—all over India—where everybody seems just like, really into it. P.S. It’s also beautifully shot.
Seriously, if you are thinking, yawn a post about old books, please: just click that link and scroll halfway down the page and stare at those images for a second. Those layers of handwriting peeking up out of history. I don’t know about you, but it gives me the creeps, in a good way.