Improvised Life » books + zines (mindset) If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Wed, 23 Apr 2014 08:24:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Make a Map of Your Daily Life Mon, 21 Apr 2014 08:14:19 +0000

Becky Cooper of the tumblr Map Your Memories printed blank maps of Manhattan, gave them to New Yorkers and asked them to fill them out however they saw fit. What she got in return was some completely unexpected maps of New York (and of the lives lived here). It made us open our eyes wider to the many levels on which we can travel around a place. She’s compiled 75 of the maps in her book Mapping Manhattan: A Love (and Sometimes Hate) Story in Maps by 75 New Yorkers.//

Each map presents a completely original view of the city, and a life. Here are some of our favorites from Cooper’s tumbler: (more…)

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How Vivian Maier Defied the Norm and Made Her Secret Art Thu, 17 Apr 2014 08:37:11 +0000

(Video link HERE.) In the March 31st New Yorker, Anthony Lane asks a compelling question in his review of Finding Vivian Maier, a documentary about the nanny who, during the 50′s and 60′s, secretly photographed the street-life of Chicago during her time off. It was not until years after her death that her enormous body of photographic work was found. Writes Lane: (more…)

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Productivity Practice: Read a Great Kid’s Book Mon, 24 Feb 2014 09:06:20 +0000

One of our most useful productivity practices is to take a break in the late afternoon, lie down, and read a kid’s book until we fall asleep for a refreshing 30 minute nap. If it’s the right book, it will take our minds AWAY from all that’s on it and into another world, while firing up our creativity, because the best kid’s books are really about living and discovery (like Phantom Tollbooth’s dissertation on asking “Why Not?“)

A favorite of late is Moominland Midwinter//, (more…)

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Radical Snow Play in Video and Images + a Kid’s Book Thu, 20 Feb 2014 09:37:11 +0000

(Video link here.) The record snowfalls across the country have brought with them both hardship and heartening creativity. Here’s a small collection of spontaneous snow creations made in joyous defiance (including a wild New York City snow boarder). They’re accompanied by a few philosophical words about snow from one of our favorite kid’s books, Moominland Midwinter,// in which a hibernating little beast wakes unexpectedly to see his first snow.

“Tell me about the snow,” Moomintroll said and seated himself in Moominpappa’s sun-bleached garden chair. “I don’t understand it.” (more…)

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You Are Not Lost + Beat Wisdom + an un-Kerouac Road Map Tue, 11 Feb 2014 08:31:05 +0000


This great sign reminded us of the Gary Snyder Poem, Off the Trail, which we think is an essential place to be at times: All paths are possible, many will work, Being blocked is its own kind of pleasure, Getting through is a joy…

It is the opposite of the 45-page manual of driving instructions to follow the EXACT 17,527-mile road trip that Jack Kerouac documented in On the Road, his great, transformative, UNPLANNED odyssey. Open Culture calls these Google-based e-directions “a map for our times”. We think, sadly, it is the worst of our time: completely planned, following someone else’s path, unwilling to just follow the road wherever it will lead.


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New York Arbor: The Creative Life of Trees Mon, 03 Feb 2014 09:26:00 +0000

Mitch Epstein/Courtesy of Steidl/ Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

If we were looking for a stunning gift to give a friend, we would give the book Maria Robledo gave us recently: photographer Mitch Epstein‘s incredibly beautiful New York Arbor, images of remarkable trees growing in New York’s parks, gardens, sidewalks, and cemeteries, amidst the life of the city. It is not JUST photographs of trees, but a truly transfixing and transformative work that seems as alive as its subjects.

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Tree Cloud: What Might We See if We Were Really Looking Thu, 30 Jan 2014 09:52:46 +0000

Our friend Christopher Eldredge emailed us this image on the very morning that we read this passage from Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Sun My Heart//: (more…)

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Maurizio Cattelan on Being a Loser + a Revolutionary Thu, 23 Jan 2014 09:37:01 +0000

Maurizio Cattelan

Ever since Holton Rower gave us an issue of Maurizio Cattelan’s magazine-book Toilet Paper (where we found the image above),  we’ve been following the artist’s work. Recently, we started hunting Cattelan’s words and found much about living and making that resonated: (more…)

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The REMARKABLE Lives They Lived 2013 Fri, 10 Jan 2014 09:29:27 +0000

(Video link HERE.) At the end of every year, the New York Times publishes The Lives They Lived, a special issue of the Magazine that features remarkable people who passed away that year. It is well worth checking out for the sheer scope of human originality it spans,  from  Nelson Mandela’s complex, flawed greatness to Cheryl Denella Righter’s very remarkable transplant donation. We especially loved the profile of electrician/inventor Andre Cassagnes, creator of the Etch-A-Sketch, by the great Cristoph Niemann.  (more…)

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Bird by Bird: Anne Lamott’s Instructions for Writing and LIFE Thu, 09 Jan 2014 08:22:36 +0000

One of our favorite all time books about the creative process is Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life//. It is NOT just about writing. In fact, you could probably cross out the words ‘write’, ‘writer’ and ‘writing’ and substitute any number of words that have to do trying to create — which is really about living — and have it make great sense. Recently, Brainpickings excerpted some great chunks of Bird by Bird, including the story behind the title: (more…)

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Ai Weiwei-isms for the New Year Mon, 06 Jan 2014 09:16:18 +0000

(Video link here).  At first we thought a video of artist Ai Weiwei dancing around singing a cute kid’s tune with an iPad in his hand to be a fun, restorative, vicariously-liberating bit of ‘technobiophilia’. That’s researcher Sue Thomas’ word for our “innate attraction to life and lifelike processes as they appear in technology”, that actually enhance our digital well-being. After all, Ai Weiwei’s work is always life-affirming and illuminating; and we know for sure that just watching joyful stuff can help our mindset.

We discovered that Ai Weiwei’s video is also a message of rebellion and action. (more…)

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Emily Dickinson: Writing on Whatever Was At Hand Thu, 19 Dec 2013 09:42:04 +0000

Emily Dickinson

We were surprised to learn that the great poet Emily Dickinson often wrote her poems on whatever scraps of paper were on hand: envelopes, a household memo, the back of a Western Union telegram. The fragments of salvaged paper that held her astonishing poems —many of them experimental work —  have been collected in the beautiful book The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems// by editors Jen Bervin and Marta Werner.  Writes Bevins:

Sometimes Dickinson’s writing fills the space of the envelope like water in a vessel or funnels into the triangular shape of the flap…

The Gorgeous Nothings is a full-color facsimile edition of Dickinson’s late writings, reproduced life-size in full-color front and back, with an accompanying transcription to aid in reading them. For poetry lovers, and those interested in the creative process, it would make a sublime gift. (more…)

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Alternate Realities: Jimmy Nelson’s ‘Before They Pass Away’ Tue, 10 Dec 2013 09:47:37 +0000

Jimmy Nelson/Before They Pass Away

British Photographer Jimmy Nelson spent three years traveling to some of the most remote places on earth to document unique, endangered tribal cultures with his 4 x 5 view camera. The result is Before They Pass Away, a// 12-pound, 400-page coffee table book as well as a stunning interactive website, where you can see some of his images of tribes from Ethiopa to Papua New Guinea, from Mongolia to Nepal to Namibia. Select where you want to go from the drop-down menu, then click Explore Tribes to see the images come to life. Above, a nomadic Mursi tribesman from Africa’s Great Rift Valley. (more…)

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Pop Music Wisdom for Thanksgiving and Beyond Wed, 27 Nov 2013 18:14:16 +0000

Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow: Pop Music Wisdom// excerpts wisdom and advice from 250 pop songs, from the likes of  Bob Dylan, Depeche Mode, Pink Floyd, The Smiths, Dean Martin, Tom Waits, Madonna and The Beatles.  (Well ‘er… we’re not sure if all its advice is solid or really helpful. “Boys don’t cry” Really??!!!  And we’ve always been secretly rankled by Bobby McFerrin’s exhortation to “Don’t Worry — Be Happy”, finding there are better ways to dismantle worry than demanding we be happy.)

But there’s some really good stuff here. Massive Attack’s ‘Be Thankful’ is perfect for the coming holiday. Since we wish music would play as we looked at the quotes, we thought we’d provide it with a couple of them. (Click to listen) (more…)

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