For GQ, Alex Pappademas gets unusual access to one of my favorite songwriters.
From a substantive new interview with Joshua Rothman:
I had felt for many, many years that the form of the novel, as I used it, created a distance from life. When I started to write about myself, that distance disappeared. If you write about your life, as it is to yourself, every mundane detail is somehow of interest—it doesn’t have to be motivated by plot or character. That was my only reason for writing about myself. It wasn’t because I found myself interesting, it wasn’t because I had experienced something I thought was important and worth sharing, it wasn’t because I couldn’t resist my narcissistic impulses. It was because it gave my writing a more direct access to the world around me. And then, at some point, I started to look at the main character—myself—as a kind of place where emotions, thoughts, and images passed through.
Finished season one. Stopped midway through, for its sourness, then continued through the finale. Moneyed, nasty fun that leaves a lousy aftertaste. Great performances. Nicholas Braun as Cousin Greg steals every scene he’s in.
I’ve been impressed with this offering in recent years and enjoyed this conversation with its young CEO.
Terrific interview with this Wolff Olins designer on “The Design of Business, The Business is Design.” Fun to hear some self-deprecating stories from his getting-started years.
I learned a lot from this longtime IBMer (and one-time journalism grad who became a brand and communications star). Especially enjoyed the section on how the team arrived at the “Smarter Planet” positioning.
Really enjoyed this conversation about this design and innovation consultancy.
Cat Power is back. I’ve had her new record on repeat.
Good fiction-writing advice from one who knows.
“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”
Hadn’t seen this Camus quote before. (It appropriately closed a new profile on Sam Mendes in TNY.)
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
— Annie Dillard, “The Writing Life”
I’ve been knocked over by the beauty and control of Jessie Greengrass’s short debut novel, Sight, about becoming a parent and losing one. (I’d seen coverage in The Atlantic and The New Yorker.) I was impressed and absorbed by the very first page:
The start of another summer, the weather uncertain but no longer sharply edged, and I am pregnant again. In front of me is all the ordinary and useful disarrangement of my desk and beyond it the rain-smudged window with a view across our garden to where my daughter plays, watched over by Johannes. She has begun to lose, lately, the tumbling immediacy of toddlerhood. I notice it when we walk together, our strides separate, or when we sit face to face across a table—how she is taller now and straighter, and inflects her actions with intent. Once her thoughts broke like weather across her face, but that readable plasticity is gone and she is not so transparent: complexity has brought concealment. The weight of her body when I lift her takes me by surprise, its unfamiliarity a reiteration of the distance between us. She used to clamber over me, her legs, around my waist, her arms around my neck, as though I were furniture or an extension of herself, unthought-of or intimately known. Now she stands apart and I must reach for her, on each occasion a little further until it seems her progress towards adulthood is a kind of disappearing and that I know her less and less the more that she becomes herself. This is how things out to be, her going away while I remain, but still I think that if I could then I might reach across to where she stands, outlined against the violent yellow mass of a forsythia bush, and pull her back to me, to keep her always in my sight so that she might be nothing more than the sum of what I know of her.
Every 20 pages or so after that, reading at night in bed, I would tell my wife, This book is incredible — I’m stunned.
Don’t miss it.
Nathanial Rich’s whole-issue article in the NYT Magazine. I read it in one punch-in-the-gut gulp on a car trip unusually free of kids and other responsibilities. Can’t recommend it more highly.
Wonderful. Need to rewatch Moonlight.
That’s how code happens in 2018. The process used to be the sort of thing people did in slow and ad hoc ways, a few times a year, and only after a lot of infighting over email. Now the same process might happen 10 times a day, and the infighting is right there in the pull requests. Hundreds of people might be working on one code thing or 10 people on 100 code things. GitHub makes that doable. I can’t imagine life without it. I’d much rather tell a newbie to get a GitHub account than suggest she read the git manual. If all companies are becoming software companies, GitHub is a primary enabler.
A truly fun aspect of Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub is that it was announced before Apple Inc.’s Worldwide Developers Conference. This is like when Passover overlaps with Easter in New York City. The WWDC, sacred nerd summit of Appledom, is where they announce things like a new “night mode” for the operating system and try to convince programmers that Apple Watch matters. But GitHub is nerd infrastructure. Huge portions of modern culture—Google’s TensorFlow machine-learning software, for instance, and even other programming languages, such as Mozilla’s Rust—run on code managed there. For Microsoft to trot this out during WWDC is a real thunder-stealer. It’s nice to see global-platform capitalism played with a little verve.
Ford is one of the most consistently entertaining and informed writers on technology — from the inside out. A former Harper's staffer, he's also one of the few writers who can casually and believably drop a Borges reference in a deep-tech piece. (Note: I also dig his podcast.)
On this Father's Day, here are four terrific recent pieces I've been lucky to come across — two very short essays, two short poems — that capture this part of life so well:
I'm honored and grateful to have been selected to be part of the 2018-19 class of Leadership St. Louis. Here's how FOCUS St. Louis describes the program:
Leadership St. Louis is a highly respected program for established and emerging leaders who have demonstrated a deep commitment to improving the St. Louis region. The 9-month curriculum explores such issues as economic development, racial equity, education, poverty and social services, arts and culture, and the criminal justice system. Participants visit key sites in the bi-state region, engage in face-to-face dialogue with regional decision makers and gain a deeper understanding of leadership approaches that produce results.
I'm impressed with those I've heard from who have completed the program, as well the fellow participants I met at last week's orientation. Should be an exciting nine months.
The Longform Podcast's new episode with Elif Batuman is fantastic. I've enjoyed her writing for a few years, and in this interview you can just feel her thinking deeply about literature and writing and gender and observing in cities around the world and much more. As interviewer Max Linsky tweeted when sharing the link: "Genuinely, this is the most fun I have had in a long time. It was so fun, in fact, that at one point I stopped and said 'Wow I’m just very happy to be sitting here with you! This is so fun!' And then Elif was very gracious with me and then she said a bunch more brilliant things." It's true.
I also loved Design Observer's new episode with Aminatou Sow. She was new to me, and I'm clearly late to the game. On being late, though: Really enjoyed Sow's skepticism of the tech press's focus on the young (who wants to peak at 28?), vs. her interest in longevity; she's long thought the ideal age is 63 .