Tag Archives: brain and creativity

Listening to my unconscious: a riff inspired by authors R. Kurzban and J. Lehrer and V. Woolf

Terry and Salomé Take a Trip to Monterey on the coast of California

In the previous post I gave an example of listening to my unconscious – or what I might call my “key tracking mind app” in that particular case, if I am to draw upon Robert Kurzban’s multiple minds theory (Why Everyone [Else] is a Hypocrite).

Another interesting incident of unconscious watching occurred last December.

I arrived home one evening and pulled pork chops out of the freezer, defrosted them in the microwave, located a casserole dish, filled it with milk and sliced yellow onions, placed the pork chops on top, sprinkled all with black pepper, baked it, heated peas, opened a can of apple sauce, and sat down a bit later at my kitchen table to eat the meal of scalloped pork chops and green peas.

What was so unusual about this? For one thing, I am pretty much a vegetarian; I can’t remember the last time I cooked pork chops or even had them in my house. For another thing, I seldom make a complete meal when I am by myself, and especially not on a week night when I arrive home exhausted from my job at the college. I am more likely to eat a peanut butter sandwich, or a plateful of fruits and vegetables. And scalloped pork chops are an unusual meal for me.

It was not until I took my first bite of pork and potato that the truth struck me: it was my sister’s birthday. Until that moment, I had not been consciously aware of the date at all. That was relevant because scalloped pork chops was her favorite meal when we were kids. Continue reading Listening to my unconscious: a riff inspired by authors R. Kurzban and J. Lehrer and V. Woolf

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Back to Proust Was a Neuroscientist – with an intro riff to Kurzban’s Why Everyone (else) is a Hypocrite

I’m writing at a Starbucks in Encino today. Outside. Beautiful day. I love L.A.! Just came from a seminar on Neuroscience and Creativity at UCLA. I’ll have a few comments about that in a later post. I seem to be on a theme roll for a while here with those two topics. I gotta admit, too, that I am thinking I should write my own book on the topic (maybe after I finish my Amy Beach and Me one). Scientists are studying this, but they are really missing the creativity and creator perspective, I think. I have made a few mentions of this in previous posts (will look up and link here later). There needs to be more cross-talk between scientists and creative people, too. And the scientists must take care that they talk to actual creators, not imitators – the latter being a descriptor for the majority of people practicing any of the arts. That in itself, is a huge topic of discussion – and I will discuss it, but today we are all about Walt Whitman and  Proust and Jonah Lehrer again.

Lehrer focuses attention on poet Walt Whitman’s refusal to separate body/flesh and mind/spirit. He cites contemporary neuroscientist, Damasio, who conducted a card game study in which, over time, the game playing subjects’ fingers appeared to learn the “danger” of selecting from one card stack before the player consciously became aware of the game’s rigged win-lose pattern. The player’s fingers would hesitate, perspire, etc. as they approached the incorrect deck. Damasio calls this the “mind-body loop.” Lehrer raises this example as a modern day concurrence of science with poet Whitman’s apriori understanding of it.

This particular example of Damasio’s mind-body loop theory (hypothesis?) does not have me convinced. Why is it thought that the fingers are thinking and reacting, rather than that some part of the unconscious mind is calculating faster than the conscious mind, and directing the fingers to react (via sweat/perspiration) unbeknownst to the conscious mind? Or, perhaps, Lehrer has slightly misrepresented Damasio’s theory here. Maybe we need to ask him.

Adding author Robert Kurzban’s hypothesis  about mind structure (Why Everyone (else) is a Hypocrite) to this mind-body loop idea, I might draw a different picture. Continue reading Back to Proust Was a Neuroscientist – with an intro riff to Kurzban’s Why Everyone (else) is a Hypocrite

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Art Is Science!

Terry Bailey's Texaco Texas Case Color Palette Story Animation

Art is difficult. Whether the art is for “commercial purposes” – as in the litigation support interactive project I created for Texaco in 1997 (shown in the demo animation above) – or art that is considered “fine art” – art that may be bought and sold, but is created by an artist for non commercial purposes. Artists work hard to create art of value, of substance, art that uncovers important truths. Just as scientists work hard in their searches for truth. I cannot bend to anyone’s notion that the truth of science is more valuable, important, difficult, or true than the truths discovered by art.

In the 1990s I spent some time creating interactive multimedia for a corporate law firm in Washington DC. The managing partner, Ralph Savarese ( a forward thinking attorney!) saw the value of my art, new media and storytelling skills to the process of litigation after his firm settled a patent case based in part on an animation I had created for them to demonstrate a highly technical process and product.

In the Texaco case demonstrated above, I created a new media app that dealt with the (false) accusation that one of Texaco’s oil wells was leaking salt water. The well was encased in about a foot of concrete from soil to the depths that it traversed underground. It also had what one engineer referred to as “about six layers of protection” using other technologies to keep the well and its contents secure. That engineer’s casual and definitive remark became the subject content “motif” for the interactive new media program I conceptualized and designed for Texaco. I also employed a visual motif of concrete and earth tones (colors) to support the themes of natural and earthiness. After I conceptualized the project and designed the interface and color palette, I took my design staff to a geology library in DC to study the earth in the area of Texas where the case was taking place, and to study oil wells. Washington DC is a researcher’s heaven. There is a library for just about any subject. Continue reading Art Is Science!

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Have we side-tracked from the goal of everyman/woman computing?

Note: I have never done this before, but this is a shared post with my amybeachandme.com/blog as it covers information apropos of both blogs. I have edited it a bit for this blog.

Studio back together – ready to start creating again!

One of the down sides of working with art and technology is that technology has to be tended to a lot, and it is not all that fun. There are days when I just want to create my riffing blog, my Amy Beach book, compose music, make some digital art or a new media piece, but I can’t create because I have to tend to technology.

I am always grateful that I can take care of my own technology – that our digital world has evolved to the point that I can create independently in a technological world – but the technology itself is still an inhibiting feature of creativity. And I do have concern that current software and hardware creators are not keeping their eye on the goal of making technology easier over time, not more difficult.

That sometimes feels like the Lost Goal lately.

Let me give an example. I recently purchased a new computer. Way more powerful, lots of great features, but, as with every computer up-grade, there was a great deal of time consuming technical work involved before I could get back to creating. I had to transfer all my software, connect all my hardware peripherals, deal with items that were incompatible with the new system, on an on.

I discovered last week that my sound hardware was not talking to my music/sound software. I wasted a whole precious creative day in an attempt to fix this problem. Continue reading Have we side-tracked from the goal of everyman/woman computing?

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New book, but I am still obsessing about the brain, neuroscience and creativity

Cover of Proust was a Neuroscientist
Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer

You know, Einstein didn’t “discover” all his theories through laboratory experimentation. He thought. He used his imagination (what would I see if I rode a light beam?) to conjure them. Didn’t Newton sit under an apple tree and ponder the falling fruit in order to have his gravity brainstorm? Well, truth be told, I don’t know if that is a history myth or not, but my guess is Newton was using his imagination to create the idea of gravity, and only later proved it with experimentation. Or, he made observations through experimentation, but it was his imagination that brought on the aha moment of understanding. Planck did discover light quanta through experimentation and formula testing and searching, but he apparently missed the big picture largesse and real implications of it and quantum mechanics, because he stuck to experimentation and did not use the old imagination.

I am not surprised at Jonah Lehrer’s proposal that artists, using their imaginations, have often foretold the factual “discoveries” of science. And Proust Was a Neuroscientist does a great job of illustrating this. But, one of the thoughts that nagged at me as I read it was the crazy social evolutionary split between the arts and science that have caused others to be surprised. It is my hope that this book, and my riffing about it over the next couple of weeks, rather than conveying a simple take away that some artists are really smart and make important discoveries using their imaginations, will encourage readers to realize that there is not naturally a big abyss between science and the arts, or between scientist and artist.

In a college freshman physics class, my professor explained that there are two types of physicists: those who work abstractly and come up with new ideas, theories and discoveries, and those who are more like the mechanics of physics – plodding along repetitively through experimentation to test theories proposed by the abstract thinking scientists. In art classes when I studied a great artist/scientist like Leonardo di Vinci, I was told that he was a Renaissance man, a rarity, an exception to what was ordinarily humanly possible. Continue reading New book, but I am still obsessing about the brain, neuroscience and creativity

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