June 26, 2015

Written by

Chris Gonzales


Joshua Earle

Welcome to this week’s edition of our Friday Quality Linkage column. Please enjoy this week’s collection of interesting and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee, find a comfortable place, and relax.

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Neil Gaiman on How Stories Last »

As part of the Long Now seminar series, Neil Gaiman recently gave a talk exploring the ways in which stories resemble (yet transcend) organic life:

Stories are alive. The ones that last, Gaiman said, outcompete other stories by changing over time. They make it from medium to medium—from oral to written to film and beyond. They lose uninteresting elements but hold on to the most compelling bits or even add some. The most popular version of the Cinderella story (which may have originated long ago in China) has kept the gloriously unlikely glass slipper introduced by a careless French telling.

If you have an hour or so, this is a wonderful lecture I highly recommend listening to. (The latter half of the audio is an interview, but also great in its own way.) In typical Gaiman style, this talk is both witty and charming, and there are several fascinating stories sprinkled throughout.

Maria Popova of Brain Pickings has transcribed several passages from the talk, two of my favorites being:

Stories should change you — good stories should change you.


But what we can do, I think, is try and create stories that are interesting enough and important enough that our grandchildren might want to tell those stories to their grandchildren — because that’s the purpose of stories, that’s what they’re for: They make live worth living and, sometimes, they keep us alive.

A Higher Plane »

Robert Twigger, writing for Aeon Magazine, takes a deep dive (steep climb?) into the history and research of altitude sickness, along with its varying effects on the human spirit:

It’s strange. We want to get higher, and yet something wards us off. Monasteries have often been sited at considerable height, though rarely on top of peaks. The Great Saint Bernard Hospice is the highest in Europe at 2,500 metres, which is above the timberline, roughly at the height that the first mild symptoms of altitude can be felt. The air is 25 per cent thinner here. A fifth of people who get rescued by a Saint Bernard dog will be suffering from headaches, nausea and general lassitude. But for those who can adapt, a reduced oxygen intake can be mildly euphoric. This is not to say that a sharpened spiritual sense amounts to nothing but a shortage of air. It might be that, as with fasting, a reduced intake of some vital substance encourages us to re-evaluate life.

Ben Brooks on Writing »

Ben Brooks published what he hopes is the only post he’ll have to write about writing. I might be in the minority here, but I like it when a blog post includes a table of contents.

Here’s an excerpt I enjoyed about the editing process:

Nothing is sacred in the edit. You cut anything and everything that even has a faint smell of being redundant, or not fitting. If it feels awkward, cut it out. If you later think you need it back, well rewrite it — you’ll probably come up with something better.


Editing sucks.

Editing is hard.

Editing is essential.

Be sure to edit.

Photo: Maya Robinson/Pixar

Photo: Maya Robinson/Pixar

All 15 Pixar Movies, Ranked From Worst to Best »

Tim Grierson and Will Leitch of Vulture took on the task of ranking all of Pixar’s movies:

If it feels like trying to rank all 15 Pixar films in order of quality is like trying to rank your children by how much you love them, that is probably by design. Whatever your thoughts about Pixar’s films […] no one believes they’re not deeply cared for: Even the misguided ones feel endlessly fussed-over. No one ever accuses Pixar of not feeling.

It is worth noting, then, that none of these movies is bad. But when you’ve made 15 films, one of them has to be #15 and one of them has to be #1. […] But some are more special than others.

My list would be slightly different, but they do make good points throughout.

Storytelling, Inside and Out with Pixar’s Pete Docter »

Speaking of Pixar, Spook Magazine interviewed Pete Docter — director of the recent (and wonderful) Inside Out film, along with Up and Monsters, Inc. — about his approach to storytelling:

Each storyteller within Pixar, too, [Docter] notes, approaches storytelling differently, and in regards to scriptwriting ‘rules’, Docter says don’t treat them as gospel. “I like to read those rules and forget them, then dive in and go with my gut. I don’t think anyone has ever told a story, or least I haven’t, that’s been born out of rules and list making. It’s always something more fundamental and emotionally driven. Those rules are great benchmarks and guidelines if and when you’re lost.”

More Inside Out-related interviews with Pete Docter:

Colossus »

Two-and-a-half minute timelapse of artist Patrick Vale sketching a very complex cityscape. Not much else to say except “Wow.”

My Daughter Went Away to Camp and Changed »

John Dickerson, writing for Slate two years ago:

The best moments of childhood—the memories that stay with you into adulthood—are ones where your parents aren’t there. They are moments you experienced truly for yourself. In Homesick and Happy, Michael Thompson writes about a study where people were asked about their happiest childhood memory; more than 80 percent name a parent-free moment. Thompson explains that kids are better off when they accomplish something without having to think about how their parents would view it. Those memories are also more indelible. The self-confidence that comes from that accomplishment sticks better because it is completely earned.

So, as a parent you should want to push your kids out of your space to where they can rack up these 80 percent experiences—to explore, take risks, and try new identities. We are not invited, which is a paper-cut echo of the truth at the heart of parenting: You’re doing it best when you’re teaching them to leave you.

Gosh, this is feeling truer by the day for me, and my son isn’t even four yet.

(via Merlin Mann.)

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