Archive for April, 2009

The Midnight Disease

April 27th, 2009

So. Book #19 and I’m rolling along quite nicely. One week ahead of schedule. I saw this book a long time ago, thought it was about the problem of being nocturnally creative. Not so. Even better, it’s a scientific approach to what drives people to write, and takes a historical approach. From Kafka’s hypergraphia to Robert Louis Stevenson’s 5 day cocaine binge when he wrote Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, so far the spectrum of examples are extraordinary. It’s highly scientific and wordy, but after Eno, it’s an easy read.

Book Thoughts ,

Finished With Eno’s Diary

April 26th, 2009

Spent 4 hours Saturday/Sunday morning hurtling through the book….

I found it at times to be an uncomfortable read, like I was using “reading muscles” that had never before been flexed. Always sore, wanting to go back to using my usual muscles that were already toned and flexible. The subject matter was foreign, the person someone I couldn’t relate to in any way. I felt trapped in a foreign country with no money, no map, and all I could do was pick an arbitrary direction and start walking, but always curious about what was around the next corner…. And I kept walking, all the way to the last page. I saw and heard amazing things, and very much enjoyed the hardship. But I’m glad it’s over.

My own journal writing is more frequent and reads better.

Amazed at Eno’s ability to transfer his thoughts to the written word. It seems nothing is lost in translation. Whereas my mind and my pen don’t hear each other at all (in certain areas), let alone proper translation. I have the same problem with drawing and penmanship. Mind/Body disconnect.

I listen to music differently.

It transformed a very minor part of me, but completely.

Book Thoughts ,

A Life Recorded Is A Life Twice Lived…?

April 19th, 2009

I’m not even 30 pages into Brian Eno’s diary and I’m blown away. I’m blown away by how much detail is in his writing. It wasn’t until October of that year that he considered publishing the diary and already, it being the 3rd week of January, he’s writing as if the world will read it. But in his mind I’m sure he believed nobody would ever see it.

He hangs out almost daily with David Bowie. I’m not a big Bowie fan, but the conversations and descriptions of the work they do in the studio and how Bowie thinks creatively is really amazing.

It seems like on a daily basis he has so much free time. He’ll work 3-4 hours in the studio then spend of the rest of the day shopping, or at museums, art galleries, parks, friend’s houses. And the way he writes about it, he’s so insightful about people, so active. Everyday he writes and everyday the energy and profundity jumps off the page. To read, it’s exciting and draining at the same time as my own fatigue has overwhelmed me these last few days.

It’s not a book to use as a comparison to one’s own life, that is for sure. What is an average day for him I’ll have only a few times a year. And I don’t mean what happens during the day, I speak mainly of the energy, the creative spark, the ability to create something out of nothing. It’s fantastic.

A Year With Swollen Appendices, Brian Eno

Refining My Journal Writing

April 18th, 2009

A couple recent books have got me thinking about my journal. I’ve kept a steady journal for about 3 years now. But no matter how hard I try it always seems to turn into a “comment box” that only gets negative responses, or complaints. Reading my journal is not something I do much. Lots of negative crap in there.

Anything I write that has any depth or meaning behind it, usually goes on one of my blogs. So if you follow my blogs at all, and have seen the “good stuff”, you can see how badly I need to learn to write, and keeping a better more profound journal is the simplest way to begin that process.

With that in mind I purchased the seemingly rare A Year With Swollen Appendices by Brian Eno. It’s his diary. It’s out of print so I paid a pretty penny, but something tells me it will be worth it. Brian Eno is many things, but most notably a producer, having worked with David Bowie, David Byrne, U2 (including producing Joshua Tree), James, Coldplay, etc… As his Wiki page states, he is known as the “father of ambient music”

It’s a long book, over 400 pages. But I know I’ll enjoy it, and I’ll TAKE MY TIME (which has been difficult lately). At the same time, I’ll write in my journal things that happen that are important, not petty and easily forgotten, and thus, Brian Eno’s book has already had an effect.

A Year With Swollen Appendices, Book Thoughts, Brian Eno

Update On Recent “Irritation”

April 16th, 2009

Just a quick update: an email I received from Daniel Nettle. See post for initial post.

Hi Brian
To my embarrassment I have no idea what I meant either. My excuse is that I am away from home and don’t have access to my copy to check the context, but off the top of my head, who knows? Perhaps it was a pretentious way of emphasising that art creates a shared experience (between Stefan and us, the viewer). On the other hand, don’t underestimate my ability to have just written it down wrong or something. However, in the event that I work out something deeper that I meant, I’ll let you know.
Best wishes

It’s cool that he took time out of his schedule to address my email, and even cooler that he gave a simple shrug and the “I have no idea either”. But still keeping the option that there may be a deeper answer that without the context of the essay itself he has forgotten.

Stefan Sagmeister, Things I Have Learned So Far

The Fresh Breeze of David Sedaris

April 13th, 2009

So I’m through with Things I Have Learned So Far and all the related correspondence. We’ll see what answers we can get there.

My next book is David Sedaris’s When You Are Engulfed In Flames. I don’t have to be at work for 4 hours, since it’s 5 AM right now, so I’m starting the book now.

Previous Sedaris favorites include:

  • Me Talk Pretty One Day
  • Naked
  • Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim

All were a joy to read. I’m expecting nothing less from this one.

David Sedaris, When You Are Engulfed In Flames

Irritated By This Little Tidbit.

April 12th, 2009

Reflection Is A Deeply Personal Activity that takes different forms for different individuals. However, we can also tap into the reservoir of the reflections of other human beings through the ages. We do this through reading, through conversation, and through art, and it is a great consolation and source of strength to us. Thus, Stefan is right when he says Traveling alone is helpful for a new perspective on life, but in another way, we are not alone. Stefan is traveling with us.

This is an excerpt of a group of essays found in my current book. And my question is, Why is Stefan traveling with us exactly? I suppose it would be true if I was actually reading his book while traveling and thus, taking his personal reflections with me. But this isn’t what Daniel Nettle is saying. Perhaps he is just not saying it clear. But why is Stefan Sagmeister always traveling with me? Is it because the moment I read his book, his reflections are forever in my brain, and therefore always with me when I travel? I have no idea, but the statement was just outright odd. I’ve read many books, and I’ve been confused by many statements, but obviously there is a collaboration between Daniel and Stefan. Daniel wrote the essay, and Stefan placed it in his book, so he agrees as well. Why the hell is Stefan traveling with us?? And why would we want that?

I have a feeling I’m either missing his point or this guy really is God’s greatest gift to me.

Someone help me sort this out. Here, Daniel, maybe if I link to you using your name, Daniel Nettle, you will see this and answer me. Thanks in advance.


I wrote this post, and 5 seconds later I said “screw it” and wrote the dude an email. We’ll see if he responds.

Hi Daniel,

I’m currently reading Stefan’s book and I read your essay and was wondering if you could take a moment out of your undoubtedly busy day to expound a little more on your last section of your essay contained therein.

Contained therein? I don’t really talk like that, honestly.

I have a simple question, why is Stefan traveling with us? I read quite a bit, and consider myself having above average intelligence, but for the life of me I could not sort out what this line was really saying. This was by far the clearest and most poignant of all the essays, but then at the end I read this line and stopped dead in my tracks. I thought and thought and thought, but for the life of me I couldn’t make sense of it. Was it the spirit of Stefan that was with us? Was it that we, having read/viewed his inner reflections, would have a bit of Stefan with us as we “travel”? Was it a cryptic metaphor? Is Stefan the symbol of inner reflection and thus, always with us? I’m not quite sure what you mean. Everything else you wrote, that I understood, was brilliant.

Thanks in advance for the clarification,

Brian Utley Cottonwood Heights, UT USA


Stefan Sagmeister, Things I Have Learned So Far

Here, I’ll Save You $40

April 12th, 2009

The 20 Things Stefan Sagmeister has learned so far:

  • Everybody Thinks He Is Right
  • Starting A Charity Is Surprisingly Easy
  • Worrying Solves Nothing
  • Money Does Not Make Me Happy
  • Trying To Look Good Limits My Life
  • Everything I Do Always Comes Back To Me
  • Helping Others Helps Me
  • Over Time I Get Used To Everything And Start Taking It For Granted
  • Actually Doing The Things Set Out To Do Increases Satisfaction
  • Traveling Alone Is Helpful For A New Perspective On Life
  • Everybody Who Is Honest Is Interesting
  • Keeping A Diary Supports Personal Development
  • Drugs Feel Great At The Beginning And Become A Drag Later On
  • Thinking Life Will Be Better In The Future Is Stupid. I Have To Live Life Now
  • Complaining Is Silly. Either Act Or Forget
  • Low Expectations Are A Good Strategy
  • Material Luxuries Are Best Enjoyed In Small Doses
  • Assuming Is Stifling
  • Being Not Truthful Always Works Against Me
  • Having Guts Always Works Out For Me

So there you have it. I haven’t finished the book yet, as I just started it last night, but so far so good. I haven’t ever read a book like this, a book on graphic design. I’m not a graphic designer and I have no interest in becoming a graphic designer. But like Stefan says, graphic design is just a language and there’s no reason you can’t learn more than one. I don’t speak graphic design, but I can still know the graphic design world a little better than I did yesterday.

Stefan Sagmeister, Things I Have Learned So Far

The Spaces Between

April 11th, 2009

I finished Blink tonight and now have an infinite number of choices as to what to read next. Or I can just choose from the dozen or so books that I have ordered but have yet to read. I like these moments, and I usually jump into the next book and get it started. Usually I avoid a gap in reading. So far this year, I’ve started a book literally moments after finishing another. Even if it’s just a chapter or two, I’ll get started on it.

What I think I’ll do now is just make this blog post and go to bed without having a book to read. I’ll choose something tomorrow.

Blink, Book Thoughts, Malcolm Gladwell

What Do You Want?

April 9th, 2009

Tonight I’m on a reading spree, having read about 70 pages, in the last hour, of Gladwell’s Blink. And it’s amazing. The topics and insights are remarkable. But I can’t share them, it’s not something I’m good at. I can’t take a topic or experience and put it to words. I can do that with my own thoughts and ideas, things that originate in my own head. But I can’t do it with books, or say, with movies. I’ll watch a movie and someone will ask me what it is about and I’ll have absolutely no idea what to say. Because I think in pictures, and in emotion. So when someone asks me about a movie like, The Reader, I see a dingy bedroom, a young blonde German boy, I see frustration, I see sex, I see the stubbornness that ruins a woman’s life, and I see a man’s life changed by a few months in his teenage years. I see lots of things, I feel lots of things, but if you were to ask me “What is The Reader about?”, you would get a blank stare and a response of something like, “well, Kate Winslet is in it, and it’s kind of sad, but it’s a great film.” Not exactly a descriptive answer, but really, that’s all you’ll get. Because the side of my brain that processes thoughts with imagery and the side of my brain that processes words don’t work together as well as they do in other people’s brains. But I like to tell myself that this is because each of those sides of my brain are extremely strong-willed and not as willing to share and collaborate with each other as other brains. I don’t see it as a weakness, I see it as a characteristic.

So that leads me to ask, what do I write here? What do you want to read about this resolution? Why do you come to this site? Why are you reading this post? When I read, as counterintuitive as it sounds, I read images. The words are pictures in my head. I don’t read letter by letter, I read pictures of words, and I combine those pictures of words to form pictures of sentences, which shape ideas in my head that I hold in a mental picture frame. Ask me what a book is about, even when the book is words and not images and you’ll get the same answer as you’ll get asking me about a movie. I can tell you what I saw, and I can tell you how I felt, but I can’t necessarily disconnect the books imagery and connect to the books words, and tell you what I read. I might have an anecdote here and there, but you won’t get much from me.

So what can I do for you? This site helps me track what I’m reading, and I’d really like to add something else that would benefit you, but it’s not going to be book reviews, and it’s not going to be in-depth critiques either. So what does that leave me with? Something like what you are currently reading? The psychology of the written word? How Brian Utley processes data written in the English language? Is that something that is beneficial to anyone but myself? And even then, is it beneficial to me at all? Is this post doing anything for anybody?

For certain, it’s getting this idea and these thoughts out of my head, and traditional psychology will tell me that is something worthwhile.

I’m reading Blink, I’ve had a shitty day. I spent a good two hours talking in depth with an agent from the FBI, I was left out in the cold when I should have been a part of a possibly momentous event, I’m listening to a song by The Eels that for some reason has developed meaning to me, and has left me half submerged in extremely heavy introspection. And a combination of these events have brought me here, asking a simple and self-serving question. What do you want? Do you want anything? Are you checking in to see if this resolution will fail? Are you checking in to see if the book I’m reading is interesting? Are you checking in with Brian Utley because you haven’t seen or heard from him in a while and want to know what is going on? Am I egotistical in these possible scenarios? What blogs aren’t ego-driven? But who cares?

There is really only one thing I’m certain of tonight. Tomorrow morning these words will appear in a dear friend’s Google Reader. As to what he thinks while reading, whether it’s imagery or words, I’ll never fully comprehend because the conveying of that information gets lost in the static that appears between thoughts and language.

So I’ll listen to The Eels, get back to my book, wait for the arrival of my son, and break down the events of the day and the reasons for my failures. And learn from it.

Book Thoughts

Where I Read

April 6th, 2009

Well, some of the time. It’s a quiet room, a new room. We recently refinished our basement and I finally got an office of my own.

Book Thoughts

The Mind’s Eye, Book #14

April 6th, 2009

I also started and finished Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Mind’s Eye yesterday. It was a short book at 105 pages. But it was brilliant and unpretentious and very candid. And I really enjoyed it. You don’t learn much about Bresson himself, as it seems through the book that he doesn’t particularly like talking about himself. But he loves talking about photography, and love, and friends, and that was very enjoyable to read.

Now I’ve chosen Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, which I’ve already started.

We’re through Q1 and I’m holding a very good pace.

Blink, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Malcolm Gladwell, The Minds Eye

Finished “Why People Photograph”.

April 5th, 2009

So I’m through with Why People Photograph. The books starts with seven quick little essays about subjects ranging from Teaching to Dogs, all of them quite interesting. The essays are the best part of the book, you could say that is where the meat is. The initial essays delivered the most insight into the photographic mind, you could say.

The second part of the book delves into the lives of 9 photographers, each of which is portrayed with a bias that is easy to pick up. The author obviously dislikes Edward Weston, while singing the praises of Lange and Atget. Ansel Adams is what he is (and the founder of Aperture which was news to me), and Paul Strand was here to save us all.

The book finishes up with three essays that were difficult to get through that were titled:

“Working Conditions In The Nineteenth Century West”, “Working Conditions In The Twentieth Century West”, and “Two Landscapes”. These essays dealt primarily with the shrinking west, and overpopulation. I disagreed with most of it. Or rather, I really didn’t care. I don’t particularly do landscapes, I like portraits, so overpopulation is a friend of mine. Not to push aside the implications of tin cans flowing down our once-proud rivers of the West, but it wasn’t the message I was looking for.

What the book did do, is get me started into the history of photographic achievement and I now have a list of books in my Amazon wishlist that I find curious. Such as the biographies of Dorothea Lange and Alfred Stieglitz. Steiglitz is a familiar name from the biography of Georgia O’Keeffe, one who saw Ansel Adams’s work before most, and was the mentor of Paul Strand, who I think of as a master of natural light.

Robert Adams, Why People Photograph

Why We Photograph Is Spot-On

April 1st, 2009

At our best and most fortunate we make pictures because of what stands in front of the camera, to honor what is greater and more interesting than we are. We never accomplish this perfectly, though in return we are given something perfect-a sense of inclusion. Our subject thus redefines us, and is part of the biography by which we want to be known.

This book already has me hook, line, and sinker.

Robert Adams, Why People Photograph

Why People Photograph

April 1st, 2009

This is book #13. Why People Photograph. And I’m excited.

Anyone read it?

Robert Adams, Why People Photograph

Finished With “Click” New Books Arrive

April 1st, 2009

So with Click all I could think about was “where does he get all this wonderful data, and how can I get access to it?” And because of that, it was difficult to focus on his case studies. And to be honest, none of them were very interesting. What WAS interesting was what I learned from the logistical portions of the studies, or the new perspective on how to use data, how data can lie, and how if you don’t have complete data, your projects will fail.

It was a quick read, and I recommend it, not because the topics he chooses will be interesting but because of the methods he uses to take data and form conclusions.

Bill Tancer, Click