+ 2 days agoAn incredible introduction to the life’s work of Robert “Mack” McCormick, buried in this NY Times feature on the search for the roots of Americana.
That unofficial knighting launched one of the postwar period’s most storied careers in American cultural fieldwork. Searching for records led to searching for the people who made them, and McCormick had natural gifts when it came to approaching strangers and getting them to talk, or if they could, to sing and play. He had a likable, approachable face, with pronounced ears and intelligent eyes. He took a job with the census, expressly requesting that he be assigned the Fourth Ward, the historic African-American neighborhood in Houston settled by freed slaves who migrated there from all parts of the South, where he knew he would find records and lots of musicians, going house to house. The fables of his research are legion. He drove unthinkable miles. At one point he started traveling county by county or, rather, he started moving in a pattern of counties, from east to west, marking a horizontal band that overlapped the spread of slavery west from the Atlantic colonies. He investigated 888 counties before he was finished. He asked about everything, not just music but recipes, dances, games, ghost stories, and in his note-taking, he realized that the county itself, as an organizing geographical principle, had some reality beyond a shape on the map, that it retained in some much-diminished but not quite extinguished sense, the old contours of the premodern world, the world of the commons, how in one county you would have dozens of fiddle players, but in the very next county, none — there everyone played banjo. He began to intuit a theory of “clusters,” that this was how culture worked, emanating outward from vortices where craft-making and art-making suddenly rise, under a confluence of various pressures, to higher levels. Elaborating that theory would be his great work, or part of it.
+ 1 week agoFrom a short video circa 1980 about electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani working on the music and sounds for the Xenon pinball game.
She’s written whole scores for movies by touching buttons, patching cords.
+ 2 weeks agoFrom the Times Sunday Book Review of John Beckman’s American Fun.
fun — especially fun in the midst of struggle — is the personal and communal experience of freedom. All it requires is a cavalier attitude toward killjoys, tyrants, limits and timidity.
+ 1 month agoPatient Peter recalling his experience of assisted therapy in grappling with “end-of-life anxiety.” From LSD, Reconsidered for Therapy in the NY Times.
These painful feelings, regrets, this fear of death. I remember feeling very cold for a long time. I was shivering, even though I was sweating. It was a mental coldness, I think, a memory of neglect.
+ 1 month ago42Floors on seeking constructive feedback.
We call it Thirty Percent Feedback. It’s a trick I learned from our investor, Seth Lieberman. It came about because I once asked him for feedback on a product mockup, and he asked if I felt like I was ninety percent done or thirty percent done. If I was ninety percent done, he would try to correct me on every little detail possible because otherwise a typo might make it into production. But if I had told him I was only thirty percent done, he would glaze over the tiny mistakes, knowing that I would correct them later. He would engage in broader conversations about what the product should be.
+ 1 month agoDescribing the problems inherent in the question How much is time wrong around the world? The map showing the difference is particularly interesting.
Looking for other regions of the world having the same peculiarity of Spain, I edited a world map from Wikipedia to show the difference between solar and standard time. It turns out, there are many places where the sun rises and sets late in the day, like in Spain, but not a lot where it is very early (highlighted in red and green in the map, respectively). Most of Russia is heavily red, but mostly in zones with very scarce population; the exception is St. Petersburg, with a discrepancy of two hours, but the effect on time is mitigated by the high latitude. The most extreme example of Spain-like time is western China: the difference reaches three hours against solar time. For example, today the sun rises there at 10:15 and sets at 19:45, and solar noon is at 15:01.
+ 2 months agoHere’s Why Ikea Is Discontinuing Everyone’s Favorite Shelf
Ikea uses a whopping one percent of the world’s wood supply.
+ 2 months agoOpen letter to Larry Ellison on What Would Make San Francisco Want to Host Another America’s Cup
Any America’s Cup ship that captures or sinks the mysterious “Goolge Barge” automatically wins the America’s cup. This is non-negotiable.
+ 2 months agoLorrie Moore on the difficulty of teaching and writing simultaneously, and the great help of Veras.
There are some men I know who are teaching and writing who are single fathers. But not many. Most of them have these great devoted wives, some version of Vera Nabokov. Writers all need Vera. She famously taught some of his classes. He would say, ‘My assistant will be teaching the next class,’ and, apparently, when Nabokov gave the lectures, he needed notes. When Vera gave the lectures, no notes.
+ 2 months agoExplaining the importance of Ukraine to Russia in this informative 9 questions about Ukraine you were too embarrassed to ask.
One of the very first sentences you’re taught to say in Foreign Policy Community College is, ‘Russia without Ukraine is a country; Russia with Ukraine is an empire.’