Deejaying on the hedonic treadmill
10 things worth sharing + navigating full moon fever
That full moon threw us into chaos this week. I’m supposed to be in the Frio Canyon right now in a workshop with Alan Jacobs and Sara Hendren about the work of repair, but the universe had different plans. To quote Tom Cruise in Collateral: “We gotta make the best of it. Improvise. Adapt to the environment.” At least the power is on and the A/C is working. (For now.) Thanks to all of you who “keep the lights on” around here:
Here are 10 things I thought were worth sharing:
How we might use the DJ tricks of volume and sequencing to navigate the hedonic treadmill.
I really liked David Shenk’s The Immortal Game: A History of Chess. The structure is great — it’s chronological, but each chapter is focused on a theme and paired with moves from “The Immortal Game,” so there’s an added layer of page-turning because you want to know what happens next in the game. Really smart. One of my favorite lines: “The game is often as much about demolishing your opponent’s will and self-esteem as it is about implementing a superior strategy.” In a previous newsletter, I described my son and I playing chess as a way we can “safely try to destroy each other,” and then in the book I found out chess has long been described as “battle without bloodshed.” (I bought him a book called How To Beat Your Dad at Chess as an act of self-sabotage.)
I’m coming up to page 1,000 in Iain McGilchrist’s two-volume 1,400+ page book, The Matter With Things. Is it possible to both be deeply engrossed in a book and pissed at the author for making it so long? (It’s like the opposite of the old joke about the two ladies at lunch: “The food here is terrible!” says one. “Yes,” says the other, “And the portions are so small!”) It strikes me as a very centrifugal book, to the extent that I’m thinking, “Should I just read the Tao Te Ching, William James, Henri Bergson, and William Blake and come back?” (I think his chapters on “the coincidence of opposites” are going to be an influence on My Next Thing.)
Tuesday was his birthday, so I dug in my archives and linked to some of my favorite blog posts about Henry David Thoreau. (He’s one of the authors in the 165-year-old archives of The Atlantic that are now digitized.)
By now I’m sure you’ve seen the incredible images from the James Webb Telescope. I was reminded of how Jerry Seinfeld kept photos from the Hubble telescope in the Seinfeld writer’s room for cosmic perspective: “It would calm me when I would start to think that what I was doing was important.” (A reader who is an astronomer’s wife once wrote to me with some perspective on cosmic perspective!)
The great Tim Kreider finally started a newsletter. (His latest essay is in the NYTimes.) For a good time, watch the video of our delightful chat from last year. (I think it includes me harassing him to start a newsletter.)
TV: It’s a good time to be “totally watching television”: the second half of the final season of Better Call Saul is here, and What We Do in the Shadows is coming back after 3 near-perfect seasons. On top of that, I’m surprised by how much I liked the first few episodes of The Boys, especially considering I really don’t care much for superhero stuff.
Music: I watched this performance of “Come On Eileen” approximately a dozen times and laugh-cried at the comments. Two drummer friends of mine have new albums out: Dean Sabatino’s stratum and Thor Harris’s Doom Dub II. (I blasted Deerhoof’s Friend Opportunity on repeat while writing this email.)
Kevin Kelly had me back on Cool Tools to do a “show and tell” video of me demonstrating four of my favorite tools: my beloved brush pens, my date stamps, iOS’s Live Text recognition, and my bicycle. (We previously talked about waterproof notebooks, ear plugs, an app called Camo that turns your phone into a webcam, and having a piano in the home.)
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