Archive for April, 2009

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