Welcome to this week’s [evening!] 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.
Man, what a great interview. I loved every bit of it. I’ll quote a couple good passages below (edited for NSFW language, of which the interview has in spades).
On the parallels between today’s politics and those of the Founding Fathers:
But I think the bigger parallel is like, “‘Twas ever thus.” I think the notion of our Founders being these perfect men who got these stone tablets from the sky that became our Constitution and Bill of Rights is bull****. They did a remarkable thing in sticking the landing from revolution to government. That’s the hardest thing to do. You can go across the ocean to France, where they totally f****d it up and then got stuck in a cycle of revolution and tyranny. So that’s not nothing. But that being said, there’s compromise in our founding documents.
…and on having a deeply-ingrained awareness of one’s mortality:
I’m very aware that an asteroid could kill us all tomorrow. But I create works of art that take years and years to finish [laughs]. So it’s an enormous act of faith to start a project. I think compounding that is my awareness that we lost Jonathan Larson before he ever got to see a preview of his show, Rent. He never saw what would change so many lives, mine included. So that sense of mortality is with me, always. It’s intensified by having a child. And how much of his life am I going to get to see? And hopefully his kids’ lives. It’s funny, I finished college with a ton of stuff written. I was painfully aware of the financial sacrifices my parents were making so that I could go to college, so I was not going to just leave with a B.A. in something. I was going to leave with stuff. I wrote a show every year of college. Not for credit, but because I needed to be leaving with more than just a B.A. So in that way, I’m very Hamilton-esque, in that I’m aware of both time and of the incredible opportunity that I’m lucky to have, and not wanting to squander either.
Seth Godin on why you should fix those pesky verbal tics of yours:
Each of us now owns a media channel and a brand, and sooner or later, as your work gains traction, we’ll hear your voice. Either in a job interview or on a podcast or in a video.
I heard a Pulitzer-prize winning author interviewed on a local radio show. The tension of the interview caused an “um” eruption—your words and your approach sell your ideas, and at least on this interview, nothing much got sold.
It’s always interesting when Tim Carmody fills in for Jason Kottke:
Barbecue is the debate that has everything. It’s a regional rivalry with value attached to it, that’s making definitional claims. And there are so many possible distinctions! Texas and Carolina partisans might unite to reject “barbecue” to mean “cookout,” but fall apart again over the merits of beef vs pork. You can even vote on it; the voting will decide nothing. It is an infinite jewel.
Speaking of barbecue, Sam Sifton at The New York Times offers a nearly foolproof recipe for making brisket, even in a big city. It only takes about an hour of actual prep work and cooking, with 9–10 hours for the brisket to sit in an oven at at 225°F, tightly wrapped in foil (this is the “cheater” part). Doesn’t get much simpler than that.
In this New York Times op-ed, astrophysics professor Adam Frank talks about the paper he and astronomer Woodruff Sullivan wrote about the potential for galactic civilizations to have risen (and possibly fallen) before us:
A decade or so ago the discovery of even a single new exoplanet was big news. Not anymore. Improvements in astronomical observation technology have moved us from retail to wholesale planet discovery. We now know, for example, that every star in the sky likely hosts at least one planet.
But planets are only the beginning of the story. What everyone wants to know is whether any of these worlds has aliens living on it. Does our newfound knowledge of planets bring us any closer to answering that question?
A little bit, actually, yes.
- Related reading: The Fermi Paradox
This is true of so many things we want to achieve. We know what needs to be done. The strategy part is almost laughably simple. But the execution… the execution phase is the graveyard of good intentions.
Showing up day after day after day, to do repeatedly do something, requires incredible self-discipline and focus.
‘Self-discipline’ and ‘focus’ are two areas where I’m definitely a work-in-progress. For me, the climb out of laziness and easily-distractedness has been a slow one, but compared to where I was even a few years ago? The difference is night and day.
Amanda Berlin, writing for The Muse:
The question “What do you do?” has basically become synonymous with “Who are you?” There’s a reason it almost always follows “What’s your name?” in polite conversation: It’s helpful. It’s get-to-know-you shorthand. The one-word answer to “what do you do?” lets people categorize us and gives them a snapshot of what we do or who we are.
But there’s also a dark underbelly to introducing ourselves with this kind of shorthand: When labels go wrong, they can lead to stereotypes. Perception becomes more about the experiences accumulated by the people you’re talking to than anything that they may or may not know about you, personally.
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