What Do We Mean When We Call Art ‘Necessary’?

The effect is something like an absurd and endless syllabus, constantly updating to remind you of ways you might flunk as a moral being.

Glad to see someone writing about one of my least favorite descriptions for art.

This usage seems to gesture everywhere but at the art itself, both as an admonishment to the audience and an indictment of the world that has begotten the themes contained in the work being discussed.

Arbitrary Goals

The “time” just provides a framework to allow you to get to a place where it’s going to be hard. If you just did it casually, it would be much more comfortable, and I don’t think it would be as transformative or profound, on a personal level.

So, I use the “time” as a beacon, or a motivator—whatever you want to call it—not to break a record, but more like if you challenge this time, it’s going to get you to a place where it’s going to be uncomfortable and hard and … you’re going to learn something.

Really loved that bit of Joe Grant’s Nolan’s 14 interview. It captured one reason a lot of my hikes turn out the way they do. I like being outdoors and have a few regular haunts. But sometimes I can’t talk myself into getting out until I have a “gimmick”, I call it. Some silly goal. Can I do 40 miles in a day? What’s it like to hike an all-nighter? Can I cover X distance in Y hours… with no running allowed? What if I hiked the same 3-mile loop until I lost my mind? So I put myself in these odd situations, and at times I’ve found myself 20 miles out from the trailhead, thinking, “Well, 20 miles to get back home. The only way home is to put the hours in… so might as well get on with it.” I go through all these emotional roller coasters and eventually there’s a certain peace that comes along, but only after I’ve really stretched.

Take a Photo Here

Teju Cole on the sameness of travel photography:

The visitor to a place like the Roman Forum does not only take a photograph of the Forum; he also takes a photograph for the Forum. His photograph partly serves the narrative chosen by the Forum’s custodians. The visitor is inadvertently mesmerized not only by the site but also by the municipal or museological organization of the experience of the site.

My Visit to the World’s First Gym for Your Face

Self-improvement imperatives always offer the seductive notion of untapped potential: it’s a bummer to feel like you have to change, but a thrill, sometimes, to imagine that you can. The trouble is that there is no feasible end to this process.

And this, too:

Today, young female professionals have an unprecedented amount of economic and social capital; at the same time, our adulthood has been defined by constant visual self-surveillance, a market-friendly feminism that favors any female acquisitive behavior, and an overwhelming redirection of anxiety into the “wellness” space.

Letter of Recommendation: Airport Layovers

I loved this essay on layovers. Airports are usually incredibly relaxing for me:

All sorts of big questions wait on the other side of the gate. Will Bill still love you when you get home? Will you make it out there at college? Will Morocco be everything you’ve always dreamed of?

But you don’t have to answer questions like that during a layover. You can’t: The whole point is that they have to wait. You have been granted a reprieve — a chance to consider life as it was before it goes away, or as it might be when it arrives.

See also: Let’s fly.

News-Adjacent Reading

Ask yourself what are the relevant topics you have yet to read good pieces on, and then try to find them and read them. Over time, your broader opinions will then evolve in better directions than if you focus on having an immediate emotional reaction to the events right before your eyes. The more tempted you are to judge, the higher the return from trying to read something factual and substantive instead.

Tyler Cowen on finding saner, more productive ways to relate to the news (if you must).