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functional embeddedness


Neal G, who I walk with on occasion, has invented a device that allows one to use their iPad in a much more ergonomically correct position than currently possible. He showed me his invention the other day. It seemed quite ingenious and I advised him to get a patent.

He described the process of invention as being one of "functional embeddedness". Imagine being in a dark room and needing light. You see no light switch on the wall. Finally, when your eyes are accustomed to the dark, you can see there is a ceiling lamp and that the switch has been installed beside it on the ceiling. Hmm...there's no ladder. Hmm...there is a broom in the corner of the room. You grab the broom, push a chair into the middle of the room, stand on the chair and reach with the handle of the broom to the switch beside the ceiling lamp, and Voila, you have light.

That's 'functional embeddedeness.' The notion that the solution to any problem is available, is within you, is accessible. (Though when I googled "functional embeddedness" all that came up were strange arcane responses i.e. 'embeddedness in custodial banking' etc. etc.). 

I've always liked Marcel Duchamp's 'there is no solution because there is no problem.' A sort of reverse functional embeddedness, I suppose.

Well, Gracie (pictured above) is about to solve a problem she's having with a hot fudge sundae with the great earnestness all creators share.


saturday along hayes & gough

Writing takes time for itself, sits in a cafe longer than it should with bread and a glass of wine.

On such a day only the unwritten gets written.



The differences between Lao-tzu and Confucius. If you want to survive, become useless, unnecessary to everyone. Act through inaction. And what is the Tao? It is impossible to say, its essence is vagueness and inexpressibility. However, how can you know how to serve gods if you do not know how to serve people? And until you know about the living how can you presume to know about the dead? 

Can Taoism be applied politically? What would a society, a culture, a human environment look like were the principles of Taoism practiced by the state? Would the state exist?

I am troubled by our politics and waver between intense concern and surrender, between participation and absence, between appreciation and disdain.

I read a poem a day, and recommend the practice.


Hedda Sterne erases the ego

Hedda Sterne, artist, died the other day. She was 100.

I read an interview with her that was published several years ago in "Art in America", and remember copying things she said into a notebook I kept at the time. I can't find the notebook, but when I read of her death I remembered the interview and remembered thinking that she was the sort of artist an artist must be. 

There was complete acceptance of condition and of response, and a continuity of searching. Though she was once pictured and identified with the big boys of modern American art, her life and her work was the attitudinal opposite of "I do not seek, I find."

Apparently she made art until almost the end.


the story inside an old apple

Somewhere inside an old apple is a story the writer wishes he could remember.

But the apple is lost, said to be in retirement, and the best the writer can do is to make a reconstruction of the original.