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).

Interiority

To explore someone else’s interiority is not just to flash, at this moment, to what you think the other person might be thinking or feeling. It’s a layered, almost literary thing, to imagine the history of their experiences (known and unknown, actual and possible) and to think through those experiences, thoughts, and feelings all the way through to the end.

Today I found myself thinking back to this, from the January 12 edition of the Kottke/Carmody Noticing newsletter.

We Are What We Repeatedly Do

I like David Cain’s writing about the importance of re-learning:

I’m sure the Germans or the Japanese have a word that means, precisely, “Life-changing ideas that do not change our lives because we only read about them once, agree enthusiastically, and then forget them before we act on them.”

If not, we could use one. How many times has your mind been set ablaze by a profound truth from a book, podcast, article, or a speech, only for the idea to fade before you could do anything with it?

One thing I’ve been pondering lately: making space for good stuff I already know about. After I ported over thousands of old tumblr posts, the ongoing clean-up process has resurfaced a bunch of old stuff I forgot I ever experienced.

Mother Nature’s Sons

I loved this Robert Moor essay on environmentalism and masculinity.

Even as progressive men renounce the traditional notion of subordinated femininity, many still harbor conflicted notions about manhood. They want to feel individually reckless, but not socially irresponsible. They want to minimize carbon emissions, but not to scold, scrimp, or carry tote bags. They want to be pure of deed but wild at heart. So they dig ever deeper into the past, searching for a way of life that existed before “real” men and their ecological consciences parted ways.

His book On Trails was one of my faves of 2017.

Robert Eggers, Director of ‘The Witch,’ on the Horror Right in Front of Us | | Observer

“Because modern horror is usually this masochistic titillation bullshit, a lot of people in interviews will tell me [The Witch] is not a horror film, it’s a psychological suspense thriller with supernatural elements,” he said, putting on a tone of faux-snobbery. “And I’m like, ‘O.K., that’s cool.’ But then fucking Edgar Allan Poe isn’t horror, either. “What’s important to me about horror stories,” he continued, “is to look at what’s actually horrifying about humanity, instead of shining a flashlight on it and running away giggling.”

Robert Eggers, Director of ‘The Witch,’ on the Horror Right in Front of Us | | Observer

Genevieve Bell: ‘Humanity’s greatest fear is about being irrelevant’ | Technology | The Guardian

I’m interested in how animals are connected to the internet and how we might be able to see the world from an animal’s point of view. There’s something very interesting in someone else’s vantage point, which might have a truth to it. For instance, the tagging of cows for automatic milking machines, so that the cows can choose when to milk themselves. Cows went from being milked twice a day to being milked three to six times a day, which is great for the farm’s productivity and results in happier cows, but it’s also faintly disquieting that the technology makes clear to us the desires of cows – making them visible in ways they weren’t before. So what does one do with that knowledge? One of the unintended consequences of big data and the internet of things is that some things will become visible and compel us to confront them.

Genevieve Bell: ‘Humanity’s greatest fear is about being irrelevant’ | Technology | The Guardian

Paris Review – William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211

There was a lot of inherent cultural relativism in the science fiction I discovered then. It gave me the idea that you could question anything, that it was possible to question anything at all. You could question religion, you could question your own culture’s most basic assumptions. That was just unheard of—where else could I have gotten it? You know, to be thirteen years old and get your brain plugged directly into Philip K. Dick’s brain!

That wasn’t the way science fiction advertised itself, of course. The self-advertisement was: Technology! The world of the future! Educational! Learn about science! It didn’t tell you that it would jack your kid into this weird malcontent urban literary universe and serve as the gateway drug to J. G. Ballard.

And nobody knew. The people at the high school didn’t know, your parents didn’t know. Nobody knew that I had discovered this window into all kinds of alien ways of thinking that wouldn’t have been at all acceptable to the people who ran that little world I lived in.

Paris Review – William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211

On Digital Minimalism – Study Hacks – Cal Newport

Be wary of tools that solve a problem that didn’t exist before the tool. GPS helped solve a problem that existed for a long time before it came along (how do I get where I want to go?), so did Google (how do I find this piece of information I need?). Snapchat, by contrast, did not. Be wary of tools in this latter category as they tend to exist mainly to create addictive new behaviors that support ad sales.

On Digital Minimalism – Study Hacks – Cal Newport