A special piece by Daniel Mendelsohn about Homer's epic, his father and a journey they took together.
Where have I been to miss this marvelous podcast for its first 101 episodes? Hrishikesh Hirway interviews musicians and asks them to break down a single song, which we hear in bits ... and bits ... and then in its entirety. It's a fantastic idea executed with great polish, sensitivity and humility (Hirway is almost never heard from). I've so far enjoyed Jeff Tweedy/Wilco, Ghostface Killah and Bjork, with many more in the queue.
A wonderful and humbling New Yorker profile of this 74-year-old philosopher (and so much else).
What a rich life to have lived, at the helm of the New York Review of Books, to have these warm, admiring, vivid remembrances follow your passing:
Insightful and entertaining New Yorker profile by Alec Wilkinson. I can still vividly recall seeing the White Stripes at The Pageant in 2002, a blazing tricolor duo that owned that room from start to finish.
The novel feels immediately canonical, so firm and unerring is Hamid’s understanding of our time and its most pressing questions. Whom are we prepared to leave behind in our own pursuit of happiness? Whom are we able to care for, whom are we willing to care for, and why are our answers to those questions so rarely the same? At one point, Saeed points out to Nadia that millions of refugees previously came to their own native country, “when there were wars nearby.” Nadia replies, “That was different. Our country was poor. We didn’t feel we had as much to lose.” Comfort, she knows, can anesthetize one against concern for others.
Terrific interview with a designer and strategist who's done work with the greats (Landor, Pentagram, Interbrand, R/GA).
Finally saw this extraordinary movie, piercing and tender and unforgettable. Catching up on some interesting pieces about it, including this one.
I'm pleased to be speaking to the St. Louis chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators on February 23 about the refreshed messaging and identity platform my team introduced for Forest Park Forever in 2015.
I've really been missing new Knausgaard material, as I've been waiting for the next translation... and suddenly I saw this new book being reviewed. Grabbed it from the library and gobbled it up in a few nights. Knausgaard and fellow writer Fredrik Ekelund exchange emails during the most recent World Cup. The topics are soccer, literature, childhood, family, yearning, memory... and on and on. Totally unique and enjoyable.
I have endless gratitude for and pride in the America that welcomed refugees I would be lucky enough to get to know and love, with my wife and her parents at the top of the list.
This was such a great memoir — probing, entertaining, funny, self-deprecating, insightful into the craft of songwriting and record-making.
Brought me back to decades ago, when I'd play "Greetings" & "Wild" over and over, learning from the vivid imagery and swaggery storytelling. It had been years since I'd listened to any of Springsteen's records, but it's been fun to queue them up on Spotify as I read about each one's background. (Small note: I appreciated his unapologetic use of all caps and exclamation points when an insight or memory or confession called for them.)
Whether you've read it yet or not, Springsteen's recent interview with Terry Gross is worth a listen.
Intelligent, upbeat conversation about how Dash is working toward a more humane engagement with technology.
Loved this World Book Club episode, with informed and curious readers asking Knausgaard about one of my favorite works of literature in several years. We shouldn't be surprised that he's a thoughtful and candid interviewee.
Wonderful, highly New Yorker-ish Tad Friend profile of Mike Mills.
I'm such a believer in how Fried and his Basecamp colleagues position themselves for productive work. (Also great: this blog post about how the team made decisions about what Basecamp can solve and chooses not to solve.)
Smart, well-framed piece.
Continuing my 16-year tradition, here are a few favorite (mainly cultural) things I experienced during 2016:
- Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, Max Porter
- How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things, Explain Things, Make Things Look Better, Make People Laugh, Make People Cry, and (Every Once in a While) Change the World, Michael Bierut
- Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?, Roz Chast
- My Struggle: Book 4, Karl Ove Knausgård
- The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
- My Struggle: Book 3, Karl Ove Knausgård
- Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein
- The Days of Abandonment, Elena Ferrante
- Known and Strange Things: Essays, Teju Cole
- The Monocle Guide to Cosy Homes, Monocle
- Nobody Grew but the Business: On the Life and Work of William Gaddis, Joseph Tabbi
- Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power, Mark Landler
- Notorious RGB: The Life & Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
- Seven Interviews with Tadao Ando, Michael Auping
- Max Beckmann at the Saint Louis Art Museum: The Paintings, Lynette Roth
- Believer: My Forty Years in Politics, David Axelrod
- The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens, Paul Mariani
- The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End, Katie Roiphe
- Eleven Museums, Eleven Directors: Conversations on Art & Leadership, Michael E. Shapiro
- Manchester By the Sea
- The Big Short
- Love and Friendship
- Force Majeure
- About Elly
- Straight Outta Compton
- The Assassin
- Going Clear
- Café Society
- Better Call Saul, Season 1
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Seasons 1-2
- The Americans, Seasons 1-3
- The People vs. O.J. Simpson
- The Night Manager
- Broad City, Seasons 1-2
- Veep, Season 5
- The Good Wife, Seasons 5-7
One of the things I like most about being a Spotify subscriber and daily listener is being able to quickly tune into new artists — whether I read about them or they’re served up via the app’s “Discover” tab. New-to-me folks I enjoyed this year include Eskimeaux, Father John Misty/J. Tilman, Florist, J. Cole, Laura Gibson, Alina Ibragimova, My Bubba, Agnes Obel, Angel Olsen, Andy Shauf, and Sun Kil Moon. Among the artists I’ve long loved, I couldn’t get enough of Radiohead’s beautiful 2016 record, “A Moon-Shaped Pool.”
Last year I had a whole Podcast section. Many of my favorites this year are the same (Design Matters and Longform remain must-listens), so I’ll just note new ones I enjoyed: The Design of Business | The Business of Design; The Axe Files; The New Yorker Radio Hour; and the short-lived Mystery Show.
Select highlights from another fun, productive year at Forest Park Forever include our first-ever “Artists in Residence” program; the audio project Listenforestpark.org; our exclusive series of posters from friend and artist Michael Eastman; and a short-video project with Once Films that came in parts one, two, three, four and five. I also enjoyed sitting down for conversations about the Park and our conservancy with Don Marsh on “St. Louis on the Air” and Andrew Davis on “STL Community Cast.”
In terms of side projects, in September of this year, I was honored to be part of “The William H. Gass Symposium: International Writing” at Washington University in St. Louis. I joined Lorin Cuoco, who co-founded the International Writers Center with Gass in 1990 and was its associate director until 2001, in giving some opening remarks, then discussing Gass’s work with William H. Gass Fellow Matthias Göritz and Ignacio Infante, associate professor of Comparative Literature and Spanish at the university. I was also pleased to move “Abstractions Arrive,” which had been an iPad-only e-book pairing a Gass essay with photographs by Michael Eastman, to the open web via Medium.
We enjoyed spending some time with my brother’s family in Minneapolis — return trips to the Walker Arts Center and MIA (International Modernism was memorable), catching a show at the Dakota Jazz Club and enjoying a great meal and beers at Surly Brewing Co.
A special cultural and family highlight for me this year was taking in four shows at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation that my wife, Tamara, was a part of either as curator or co-curator: The Ordinary Must Not Be Dull: Claes Oldenburg’s Soft Sculptures; Exquisite Everyday: 18th–Century Decorative Arts Objects from the J. Paul Getty Museum; Ellipsis (Janet Cardiff’s “The Forty Part Motet” was unforgettable); and Medardo Rosso: Experiments in Light and Form (nice video overview).
Of the many hundreds of photos I took of our son, Leo, this year, the one up top is a favorite, as is the one below. Background: Tamara was in the midst of a work trip to Italy, and when Leo saw this beam of light on the floor, he sat down and asked, while tracing the line with his finger, if it was mama’s plane in the sky.
I loved this book: a visually rich and smartly narrated collection of case studies exploring all parts of creative communications (logos, naming, typography, photography, illustration, messaging, client presentations…).
Bierut is an intelligent thinker and a terrific, crisp writer (beyond his obvious world-class design chops). Yet he knows the readerly pleasure in having an accomplished instructor (recall the book’s title) chronicle his own missteps en route to delivering a gem.
Here’s a passage I underlined and circled, a lead-in to a section on logotypes and symbols:
Everyone tends to get overly excited about logos. If you’re a company, communicating with honesty, taste and intelligence is hard work, requiring constant attention day after day. Designing a logo, on the other hand, is an exercise with a beginning and an end. Clients know what to budget for it, and designers know what to charge for it. So designers and clients often substitute the easy fix of the logo for the subtler challenge of being smart.
When we look at a well-known logo, what we perceive isn’t just a word or an image or an abstract form, but a world of associations that have accrued over time. As a result, people forget that a brand-new logo seldom means a thing. It is an empty vessel awaiting the meaning that will be poured into it by history and experience. The best thing a designer can do is make that vessel the right shape for what it’s going to hold.