When I was avoiding writing this newsletter, fearful of committing to something I hadn’t yet found the true shape of, this was the issue that kept me from starting. A letter where I’m not sure what to say, where I haven’t squirreled away themed links ahead of time and Sunday night approached with a blank text file and a family that would prefer my attention.
Before too long the familiar voice appears—the Welsh Troll as Roderick would call it—and I’m wondering what I’m even doing. What possible purpose this letter can serve when there is such a magnificent renaissance of good writing and good email letters out there.
So I keep writing. And editing. And reading the links I’ve saved. Then I come across a particularly inspiring piece from Gwenda Bond, whose writing I’ve followed on and off for years since my first nascent attempts at being a bookblogger. The essay, “Ten Reasons To Keep Your Eyes On Your Own Paper (Or, Go Team Writers),” hit me like a ton of bricks and reminded me that one of the main reasons I committed to this letter in the first place was simply to force myself to put pixels on the page.
The only answer to all these questions is to keep writing and see. Keep trying to get better. Keep your eyes on your own paper. All writing careers are icebergs–there’s more happening than what you see above the surface–but I can guarantee you that any news that would make you envious or sad or disappointed is probably the result of the person doing one key thing: Writing.
So I keep writing.
And much of what I’ve written tonight is no longer in this letter, though I hope you’ll read it somewhere else eventually.
Along the way, here are some links that have kept me entertained or distracted this week. I hope they’ll tide you over too.
- A stunning real-time data visualization (I won’t say infographic. I won’t say infographic.) of how bananas America’s online and offline consumption habit is. (In the two minutes it took me to write this bullet, McDonald’s sold over 3,500 burgers and Amazon sold over $200k in merchandise.)
- Life shaman Alton Brown’s Top 5 Tactics to Make Steak
- This awesome piece from Mauricio Estrella details how he used the repetition of typing his computer password to change his life. I love this idea, and have practiced something similar for awhile, ever since I started using passphrases in addition to random character strings for passwords.
- If that last link was too positive and you need a reason to both marvel and despair, take note that the dead trees and fallen leaves near Chernobyl aren’t decaying.
A gallery in your pocket
If you’re interested in how technology and culture play together (and if you’re reading this newsletter I sincerely hope you are, or you’re going to eventually get bored), don’t miss “Ways of Seeing Instagram,” Ben Davis’ exploration of art theory (specifically John Berger’s Ways of Seeing as influenced by Walter Benjamin) in the age of social networking.
Davis asks, “Isn’t it striking that the most-typical and most-maligned genres of Instagram imagery happen to correspond to the primary genres of Western secular art? All that #foodporn is still-life; all those #selfies, self-portraits.”
Quoting Davis at length:
Technology has so democratized image-making that it has put the artistic power once mainly associated with aristocrats—to stylize your image and project yourself to an audience as desirable—into everyone’s hands. (Although the parallel to art as “celebration of private property” is probably most vivid in the case of those who most closely resemble modern-day aristocrats. See: “Rich Kids of Instagram”). But images retain their function as game pieces in the competition for social status. “Doesn’t this look delicious?” “Aren’t I fabulous?” “Look where I am!” “Look what I have!”
Interesting stuff, for sure. I’ll spare you my thoughts, however, on John Berger’s quoted prediction in the piece, “that Instagram, or other things like it, ‘should replace museums.’” Yeah, right.
Inside your Fuego, we keep it rolling
I know this is an unpopular opinion in some parts, but I’ve enjoyed the music of Phish for more than twenty years. And while I won’t apologize for some of their more ridiculous moments and their self-idulgent streak, they do still manage to make some pretty good music that melts improvisation with tight composition. They have a new album out, Fuego, and here’s good HD footage of the title track performed on the Fourth of July in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Okay: links, music, art. Books? I’m currently enjoying the second installment in Jeff Vandermeer’s super weird, extremely compelling Southern Rech trilogy, Authority.
Vandermeer is a great writer and champion of New Weird. If you’re into fiction that asks way more questions than it answers, start with Annihilation, strap in, and enjoy the ride.
Alright, my dears, let’s agree to kick some serious ass this week. Sound like a plan? Good. See you soon.
(Feel like writing back? Just reply to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @mikemorrow.)