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"Everything you can imagine is real."— Pablo Picasso

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Nov
3rd
Sun
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Everything made now is either a replica or a variant of something made a little time ago and so on back without break to the first morning of human time. This continuous connection of time must contain lesser divisions. The narrative historian always has the privilege of deciding that continuity cuts better into certain lengths than into others. He never is required to defend his cut, because history cuts anywhere with equal ease, and a good story can begin anywhere the teller chooses.
George Kubler, an American art historian and among the foremost scholars on the art of Pre-Columbian America and Ibero-American Art (1912-1996), The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962, p.2.
Mar
2nd
Sat
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High up in the North in the land called Svithjod, there stands a rock. It is a hundred miles high and a hundred miles wide. Once every thousand years a little bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak.

When the rock has thus been worn away, then a single day of eternity will have gone by.
Hendrik van Loon, a Dutch-American historian and journalist (1882-1944), The Story of Mankind, cited in Twitter, xkcd, what if?, Feb 2013.
Dec
9th
Sun
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The brain stays up all night telling stories while we sleep.
We just call them dreams.
Jonathan Gottschall, American literary scholar specializing in literature and evolution, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, paraphrased in Book review
Original: "Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories."
Nov
4th
Sun
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There’s never been a more exciting time to be a storyteller. (…)

A revolution in how we view and consume news, in how we engage politically, how we promote and fund businesses, how we spend our leisure time. And more to the point, it’s completely altered the landscape of the possible for art and for artists. We have new tools and new ways to reach audiences — and that’s amazing.

But the part that gets me incredibly excited is that we’re experimenting with new forms, too, or changing old ones into something breathtakingly novel. We’re making new kinds of art that can exist only in the intersections between media, not just taking old media to new places. It’s not every generation that gets to feel like you’re shaping a whole new art form.
Andrea Phillips is an award-winning transmedia writer, game designer and author, Creating Transmedia: An Interview with Andrea Phillips (Part One), Nov 2, 2012.
May
21st
Mon
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Paul King on what is the best explanation for identity

From the perspective of neuroscience, personal identity is what happens when the brain forms of a model of the environment that includes a first-person perspective and narrative history.

Eric Kandel, lead editor of the textbook Principles of Neural Science, and winner of a Nobel Prize for work on the neural basis of memory, calls memory the “neural basis of individuation.” And it is. For without memory, we could not each carry around a unique sense of self, formed from a differentiated life history.

If everyone on the planet woke up one day with amnesia, human beings would be a herd of mostly undifferentiated people. Without the ability to distinguish one person from another, or remember unique histories or events, everyone becomes a vague blur of humanity.

In addition to our sense of unique personal history, the brain also maintains a model of other people. “Theory of mind" in cognitive science refers to the brain’s ability to model and track the goals, beliefs, and behavior patterns of other human beings around us in a social context. With a little introspection, this model of others can extend to ourself. As one comedian quipped: "How can I know what I think until I hear what I say?"

Because everyone in society carries around a model of themselves and the others they know, all the brains in human society collectively comprise a substrate for the distributed representation of human identity. Our identity is shaped not only by our own beliefs about ourselves, but by what others think of us as well. Social roles are collectively determined, and personality is shaped by how others treat us as well as are predisposition to a certain character and temperament.

And lastly, while personal identity feels unique, unified, and permanent, it is not. Identical twins are often confused. In institutions, people are identified by role (e.g. sales representative for the western region) while the actual person may change. And someone’s personality can change with mood. In children, we see personal identity form, and in senior dementia, we see it unravel.” “
Paul King, visiting scholar at the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience at University of California, Berkeley, working on computational models of vision, What is the best explanation for identity (in a philosophical, neuroscientific, or psychological sense)?, Quora, Jan 18, 2012. (tnx wildcat2030)
May
9th
Wed
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Inside a mathematical proof lies literature. Some of the greatest mathematicians were also some of classical history’s most poetic storytellers


“Like novelists, mathematicians are creative authors. With diagrams, symbolism, metaphor, double entendre and elements of surprise, a good proof reads like a good story. (…) [Reviel] Netz reveals the stunning stylistic similarities between Hellenistic poetry and mathematical texts from the same era. (…) In the very layout, in the use of a particular formulaic language, in the structuring of the text (…) its success or failure depends entirely on features residing in the text itself. It is really an activity very powerfully concentrated around the manipulation of written documents, more perhaps than anywhere else in science, and comparable, then, to modern poetry. (…)

Metaphor is fairly standard in mathematics. Mathematics can only become truly interesting and original when it involves the operation of seeing something as something else – a pair of similarly looking triangles, say, as a site for an abstract proportion; a diagonal crossing through the set of all real numbers.” “
Reviel Netz, Professor of Classics and Philosophy at Stanford University, Inside a mathematical proof lies literature, says Stanford’s Reviel Netz, Stanford University Report, May 7, 2012. See also: 
Oulipo - a group of writers interested in exploring the application of mathematical structures, patterns and algorithms to writing
Jan
7th
Sat
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We’ve discovered that the universe is not a place; it’s a story, a story of an irreversible sequence of emergent events.
Brian Swimme, Ph.D. from the department of mathematics at the University of Oregon for work in singularity theory, he teaches evolutionary cosmology at California Institute of Integral Studies, The Powers of the Universe
Nov
23rd
Wed
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One describes a tale best by telling the tale. You see? The way one describes a story, to oneself or to the world, is by telling the story. It is a balancing act and it is a dream. The more accurate the map, the more it resembles the territory. The most accurate map possible would be the territory, and thus would be perfectly accurate and perfectly useless. The tale is the map that is the territory; you must remember this.
Neil Gaiman, English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films, American Gods, William Morrow, 2001
Oct
19th
Wed
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If you want to change the world, you have to change the metaphor.
Joseph Campbell, American mythologist, writer and lecturer (1904-1987), The Power of Myth, documentary, 1988
Aug
3rd
Wed
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The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.
Muriel Rukeyser, American poet and political activist (1913-1980), The Speed of Darkness, IX (1968)
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My cousin Helen, who is in her 90s now, was in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. She and a bunch of the girls in the ghetto had to do sewing each day. And if you were found with a book, it was an automatic death penalty. She had gotten hold of a copy of Gone With the Wind, and she would take three or four hours out of her sleeping time each night to read. And then, during the hour or so when they were sewing the next day, she would tell them all the story. These girls were risking certain death for a story. And when she told me that story herself, it actually made what I do feel more important. Because giving people stories is not a luxury. It’s actually one of the things that you live and die for.
Neil Gaiman, English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films (tnx crmerry)
Jun
4th
Sat
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Those who conquered all science and letters,
And shone as beacons among their betters,
Did not find the thread of this Tangled Heap,
Only told a story, then they fell asleep.
Omar Khayyám, Persian mathematician, astronomer, philosopher and poet (1048–1131) cited in Vlatko Vedral, Decoding Reality: the universe as quantum information, Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 23.
May
27th
Fri
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Ian Leslie: Are artists liars?

“Lying is a form of art, albeit of a lower order—as Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain have observed. (…)

We are born storytellers, spinning narrative out of our experience and imagination, straining against the leash that keeps us tethered to reality. This is a wonderful thing; it is what gives us our ability to conceive of alternative futures and different worlds. (…)

Most of the time, as our stories bubble up to consciousness, we exercise our cerebral censors, controlling which stories we tell, and to whom. Yet people lie for all sorts of reasons, including the fact that confabulating can be dangerously fun. (…)

Perhaps this is why we felt it necessary to invent art in the first place: as a safe space into which our lies can be corralled, and channelled into something socially useful. Given the universal compulsion to tell stories, art is the best way to refine and enjoy the particularly outlandish or insightful ones. But that is not the whole story. The key way in which artistic “lies” differ from normal lies, and from the “honest lying” of chronic confabulators, is that they have a meaning and resonance beyond their creator. The liar lies on behalf of himself; the artist tell lies on behalf of everyone. If writers have a compulsion to narrate, they compel themselves to find insights about the human condition. Mario Vargas Llosa has written that novels “express a curious truth that can only be expressed in a furtive and veiled fashion, masquerading as what it is not”. Art is a lie whose secret ingredient is truth.” “
Ian Leslie, journalist and writer, Are artists liars?, More Intelligent Life, May 2011
Apr
7th
Thu
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In the information age, you don’t teach philosophy as they did after feudalism. You perform it. If Aristotle were alive today he’d have a talk show.
Timothy Leary, American psychologist and writer (1920-1996) cited in Jody Turner, The Future Is Co-Mingled Sensation and Co-opted Dreams
Apr
2nd
Sat
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Humans are pattern-seeking story-telling animals, and we are quite adept at telling stories about patterns, whether they exist or not.
Michael Shermer, American science writer, historian of science