Say yes and never do it
10 things worth sharing: Advice from Mel Brooks, how to draw an Exquisite Corpse, a close reading of Auden, the anatomy of a song, and more...
Only one week left to pre-order the fancy 10th anniversary gift edition of Steal Like an Artist and get a free signed bookplate. This thing is really beautiful. (If you pre-order from Bookpeople I’ll even sign and personalize it and you can still request a signed bookplate and stick it in another book!)
Here are 10 other things I thought were worth sharing this week:
Advice from Mel Brooks on dealing with bosses with bad ideas: “Say yes and never do it!”
The best thing I read this week was Elisa Gabbert’s close reading of a W.H. Auden poem. Just great. Can’t wait for her next book. (One of the things I love about the NYTimes’ Close Reading series is that it runs on scrolling — a thing we often do mindlessly, or with a sense of doom. In these pieces, you become mindful of scrolling, and it becomes a delight.)
On Tuesday I wrote about falling in love with my new bicycle, and wow, y’all had the BEST comments. Thank you, thank you. So many good tips and fun stuff to check out. (My favorite thing was the work of Geoff McFetridge.)
Whenever I’m bottomed out with my reading, I like to pick up a music book, and preferably an oral history. Anatomy of a Song is very hit-or-miss depending on who’s talking, but there’s some fun stuff in there, and some good “swimming upstream.” For example: the riff of The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” came from one of John Lennon’s favorite records, Bobby Parker’s “Watch Your Step,” which came from Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” and Dizzie Gillespie’s “Manteca.” (If you want something a little deeper on songcraft, I’d recommend Paul Zollo’s Songwriters on Songwriting.) And speaking of songwriting, I’m looking forward to catching Song Exploder at SXSW.
Alan Jacobs on blogging and architecture. (Over a decade ago, I wrote how I thought of my blog like my dad’s barn — I am the builder and the keeper.) Alan also wrote a good post about becoming “news resilient” – “finding ways to stay properly informed while avoiding doomscrolling and other forms of obsessive behavior.” (I’m experimenting with old-school NetNewsWire.)
Ear candy: If you enjoy the ambient/pedal steel sounds of Eno/Lanois, you might enjoy Milan, a collaboration between Alister Fawnwoda, synth pioneer Suzanne Ciani, and pedal steel legend Greg Leisz. (I especially like the track “Sweetheart.”)
Some good Victoriana-related reading: A truly excellent Twitter thread about Charles Darwin, whose life seemed to split cleanly between pirate and farmer, Anne Helen Petersen on the age of houseplants, and Louis Menand on Charles Dickens’ London: “The term for street filth was ‘mud,’ but that was a euphemism. Four-fifths of London mud was s**t.”
My kids and I made a silly video about our favorite drawing game: Exquisite Corpse!
“You think I’m especially not a genius?”
Thanks for reading, y’all. The world is crazy, but I’m trying to do what I know how to do: shine my little light over here each week, point you to the good things.
PS. Did I mention how cool the new hardcover of Steal Like an Artist is?