012023: Dogs, Beans, and Red Badges

Me sitting in a big golden picture frame outside, in the back of the picture: a lake and tree

I’m currently on a train back to Berlin. My sparse data plan is already used up, and as the train’s wifi is not working, I am treating myself to five hours of flight mode. Over the past months or maybe even years, I became extremely sloppy with answering text messages. The little red badges on my phone’s apps kept multiplying exorbitantly—until I finally deactivated them. I used to be on top of my game and very active on social media, eager to connect to people and keep digital conversations going. I found it exciting, and I gained energy from the digital exchange. But looking at those 15 unread WhatsApp messages, 10 long Instagram direct messages awaiting a reply, and an email app very far away from “inbox zero”, I have to admit that I am not that person on top of their game anymore. I can’t keep up.

But I also have to say: I don’t want any of it. I want to be at the bottom of things. Endless conversation streams are almost as exhausting as endless meetings, endless classical concerts, and endless scrollable feeds. I prefer things to have a beginning and an end. A narrative, so to speak.

Just as I struggle with keeping a tidy inbox, I feel exhausted keeping up with current debates on technology. After Elon Musk bought Twitter and sent it down its hell ride, I basically left the platform. I do not miss it; those timelines and “digital products” in general have lost their joy and meaning for me. Therefore, I missed most of the early and heated debate on ChatGPT. I do find its rise interesting, to some extent. But I do not care about computer-generated vocals, or artificial radio hosts, or machine-written movies. There’s no joy in that; we’ll get bored by it quickly. I am more curious about how people and states will learn to live with these inflammatory tools, and I want to see them bring an actual positive impact to the world. Haven’t read much about that yet. Until then, I’ll mute the buzzwords. We still are in control of who and what we pay attention to—at least for now we are.

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On dogs. When spending time with the dog, I remembered the On Being podcast episode with artist and illustrator Maira Kalman. She describes dogs in the most beautiful way: “They’re heroic, and they’re comic at the same time, which I guess is my favourite way of looking at things.” In her book Beloved Dog, she writes: “They are constant reminders that life reveals the best of itself when we live fully in the moment and extend our unconditional love.”

On beans. I’ve been enjoying Kerry Cunningham’s newsletter Circle Back so much recently! She’s so funny! I loved this issue about Anish Kapoor’s new and sad Bean sculpture in New York from a while ago. Subscribe here.

On the blog: I keep writing my monthly lists. They’re a good processor of life’s events. Read all lists, or specifically January 23, February 23, March 23, April 23.

Briefly noted: My friend/colleague/accomplice Sonja and I will host our annual Writing = Design workshop at University of the Arts in Berlin this summer. It’s one week (August 7 – 11) of writing and exploring text, and if this sounds like it could be something for you: It is! English language, everyone is welcome, find all the details here.

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I hope you had a great start into the year and are enjoying some of the much needed spring sun that has been appearing every once in a while recently. Watch out for big red notification badges, turn them off, even, and go for a little walk. Greetings from within flight mode.

(If you enjoy content like this: I send it out as an irregular newsletter called Christel’s CornerSign up for it here.)