It’s just so damn easy to look upon someone else and jealously think, “Wow, he sure got lucky.” Real people did not have great opportunities fall in their lap. Mostly, crappy opportunities come along, and in the meantime, you make the best of them.

Po Bronson [via powazek]

My favorite part from Randy Pausch‘s book, The Last Lecture:

I’ll take an earnest person over a hip person every time, because hip is short-term. Earnest is long-term.

Earnestness is highly underestimated. It comes from the core, while hip is trying to impress you with the surface.

“Hip” people love parodies. But there’s no such thing as a timeless parody, is there? I have more respect for the earnest guy who does something that can last for generations, and that hip people feel the need to parody.

“Most normal persons are now taught to neglect far too much the sort of excitement which the mind itself manufactures out of unexciting things.” —G.K. Chesterton on the Joy of Dullness

The history of the weekend and how it’s changed our culture of leisure:

For many people weekend free time has become not a chance to escape work but a chance to create work that is more meaningful—to work at recreation—in order to realize the personal satisfactions that the workplace no longer offers.

[via link banana]

Strange as it may sound to many people, who tend to think of critics as being motivated by the lower emotions: envy, disdain, contempt even… Critics are, above all, people who are in love with beautiful things, and who worry that those things will get broken.

Daniel Mendolsohn

From an interview with Anthony Bourdain, a passage on those beautiful moments and how they feel kind of sucky at the same time:

I‚Äôve talked elsewhere about there are times in your life… I‚Äôll use the example of you‚Äôre standing alone in the desert, and you see the most incredible sunset you‚Äôve ever seen and your first instinct is to turn to your left or right and say, ‚ÄúWow, do you see that?‚Äù Okay, there‚Äôs no one there, what do you do? Next, where‚Äôs the camera? Look through the viewfinder and you realize you know, what you see through that little box is not what you‚Äôre experiencing. There comes this terrible moment when you realize well, this is for me. There is no sharing this. Worse: if you try to share it with old friends or someone you love it‚Äôs almost an insult. “How was your day?” “Well, we did three hundred covers tonight, somebody sent back a steak…” “Well, in the Sahara there was this sunset and you wouldn‚Äôt believe it.” You know?

It’s been really wonderful to keep an eye on A House by the Park, “a first-hand chronology of the design, planning, and construction of a modern home in Seattle.” I’m not in the market now, nor do I plan to be in the near future, but it’s cool to watch and learn from a safe distance.

Noticing… curating… caring

This cool dialogue about noticing made me think of three connections.
The first one came before I read it. The idea of noticing reminded me of a passage in Anne Fadiman’s book, Ex Libris, that I quoted in my review and will quote again because it’s funny:

The proofreading temperament is part of a larger syndrome with several interrelated symptoms, one of which is the spotting mania. When my friend Brian Miller, also a copy editor, was a boy, he used to sit in the woods for long stretches, watching for subtle animal movements in the distance. The young John Bethell was a whiz at figuring out What’s Wrong with This Picture? Proofreaders tend to be good at distinguishing the anomalous figure–the rare butterfly, the precious seashell–from the ordinary ground, but unlike collectors, we wish to discard rather than hoard. Although not all of us are tidy, we savor certain cleaning tasks: removing the lint from the clothes dryer, skimming the drowned bee from the pool. My father’s most treasured possession is an enormous brass wastebasket. He is happiest when his desktop is empty and the basket is full. One of my brother’s first sentences, a psychologically brilliant piece of advice offered from his high chair one morning when my father came downstairs in a grouchy mood, was “Throw everything out, Daddy!”

The second thing it made me think of was Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People. In the book, the first way to make people like you is to “become genuinely interested in other people.” Authentically give a shit. It’s so simple. That’s seconded here in the noticing interview:

Portigal: Super-noticing power really is a strong cultural idea. The enhanced human with awesome noticing and synthesizing powers crops up regularly in science fiction…

Soltzberg: Right, sort of like a super-charged version of William Gibson’s Cayce Pollard character in Pattern Recognition. Noticing definitely draws on a set of skills that these kinds of characters embody and amplify, but at the heart of it you have to genuinely be interested in the world around you and in other people.

The last thing is the idea of curating, just being open and attentive to influence and where it leads you. Curiosity and curating share a common root, which is… CARING.

Sculptor Richard Serra gave the 2008 commencement speech at Williams College. I like his comments about thinking, obsession, and play:

If it’s not broken, break it. One way of coming to terms with the prevailing language of a cultural orthodoxy is to reject it. It may be necessary to invent tools and methods about which you know nothing, to act in ways that allow you to utilize the content of your personal experience, to form an obsession and to cut through the weight of your education. Obsession is what it comes down to. It is difficult to think without obsession, and it is impossible to create something without a foundation that is rigorous, incontrovertible, and, in fact, to some degree repetitive. Repetition is the ritual of obsession. Don’t confuse the obsession of repetition with learning by rote. I am suggesting a form of inquiry, a procedure to jumpstart the indecision of beginning.

The solution to a given problem often occurs through repetition, a continual probing. The accumulation of solutions invariably alters the original problem demanding new solutions to a different set of problems. In effect, as solutions evolve, new problems emerge. To persevere and to begin over and over again is to continue the obsession with work. Work comes out of work.

But solutions need not only be the result of constant repetition. There is another route, not so structured but rather free-floating and more experimental but no less obsessive. It is to be found in the activity of play. I cannot overemphasize the importance of play. The freedom of play and its transitional character encourage the suspension of beliefs whereby a shift in direction is possible; play ought to be part of the working process. Free from skepticism and self-criticism play allows you to relinquish control. Playful activity provides an alternative way to see, to imagine, to do, to make, to think otherwise. In play there are no ends, there are only means, however, means inadvertently can lead to ends. Rules can be made up as you go along or even in hindsight.

[via michael surtees]

I divide this world into two classes—the cruel and the kind; and I think a thousand times more of a kind man than I do of an intelligent man. I think more of kindness than I do of genius, I think more of real, good, human nature in that way—of one who is willing to lend a helping hand and who goes through the world with a face that looks as if its owner were willing to answer a decent question—I think a thousand times more of that than I do of being theologically right; because I do not care whether I am theologically right or not. It is something that is not worth talking about, because it is something that I never, never, never shall understand; and every one of you will die and you won‚Äôt understand it either—until after you die at any rate. I do not know what will happen then.

A worthy bit from The Disadvantages of an Elite Education:

The opportunity not to be rich is one of the greatest opportunities with which young Americans have been blessed. We live in a society that is itself so wealthy that it can afford to provide a decent living to whole classes of people who in other countries exist (or in earlier times existed) on the brink of poverty or, at least, of indignity. You can live comfortably in the United States as a schoolteacher, or a community organizer, or a civil rights lawyer, or an artist—that is, by any reasonable definition of comfort. You have to live in an ordinary house instead of an apartment in Manhattan or a mansion in L.A.; you have to drive a Honda instead of a BMW or a Hummer; you have to vacation in Florida instead of Barbados or Paris, but what are such losses when set against the opportunity to do work you believe in, work you’re suited for, work you love, every day of your life?