Welcome to this week’s edition of our Quality Linkage column, this time being posted on a Saturday afternoon rather than Friday morning because, well, real life offline can be a little crazy sometimes and hopefully you understand.
In any case, please enjoy this week’s collection of interesting and entertaining links. Brew yourself another cup of coffee (I know you’ve already had one ☕️), find a comfortable place, and relax.
For the upcoming release of his new book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, computer scientist and self-improvement author Cal Newport did a Q&A with GQ — a GQ&A? okay I’ll see myself out — on his philosophy of reclaiming our attention from the devices and platforms that hijacked them:
You talk about how we’re always ceding our autonomy to these devices. I understand the immediate implications of that—you’re not being intentional with your time, you’re not in control of how you use it—but what are some of the long-term ramifications of always craving that constant hit of stimuli and distraction?
You get actual lasting changes to your brain chemistry. Now you have a brain that needs stimuli just to get back up to normal. Just like the drug addict: after a while it takes more and more drugs just get back to normal.
If you train your brain, “I always have to have stimuli. I can’t be bored for a moment,” you’re gonna have both professional and social ramifications. Professionally, it makes it very difficult to concentrate without distraction. […]
Personally, it can be impoverishing. Not just in a way that it takes time away from things that are more important, but when you’re doing things in your personal life, you extract much less value out of them, because you can’t sustain presence or attention. Going out for a drink with a friend is not as satisfying as it might have been 10 years ago, because you just have this itch the whole time, “I gotta check [my phone].”
Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz knows a thing or two about what it takes to make great art. In this Vulture piece from November he shared 33 rules (grouped into six “steps”) he’s learned over the years for doing just that:
Lesson 33: Be Delusional
At three a.m., demons speak to all of us. I am old, and they still speak to me every night. And every day.
They tell you you’re not good enough, didn’t go to the right schools, are stupid, don’t know how to draw, don’t have enough money, aren’t original; that what you do doesn’t matter, and who cares, and you don’t even know art history, and can’t schmooze, and have a bad neck. They tell you that you’re faking it, that other people see through you, that you’re lazy, that you don’t know what you’re doing, and that you’re just doing this to get attention or money.
I have one solution to turn away these demons: After beating yourself up for half an hour or so, stop and say out loud, “Yeah, but I’m a f****** genius.”
You are, now. Art is for anyone, it just isn’t for everyone. These rules are your tools. Now use them to go change the world. Get to work!
Journalist, author, and American institution Robert A. Caro wrote a terrific longform piece for the January 28, 2019 print issue of The New Yorker — where the story is headlined “Turn Every Page” — detailing the astonishingly meticulous research he did while poring over the enormous archives at the LBJ Library and Museum for his ongoing multi-volume biography about President Lyndon B. Johnson.
This enjoyable little tidbit from his beginning as an investigative reporter is what Jason Kottke accurately describes as, “as close to a superhero origin story as you’re going to get in journalism”:
[Newdsay managing editor Alan Hathway] didn’t look up. After a while, I said tentatively, “Mr. Hathway.” I couldn’t get the “Alan” out. He motioned for me to sit down, and went on reading. Finally, he raised his head. “I didn’t know someone from Princeton could do digging like this,” he said. “From now on, you do investigative work.”
I responded with my usual savoir faire: “But I don’t know anything about investigative reporting.”
Alan looked at me for what I remember as a very long time. “Just remember,” he said. “Turn every page. Never assume anything. Turn every g******* page.” He turned to some other papers on his desk, and after a while I got up and left.
Then there’s this part (I added line breaks):
One member of this circle was Thomas G. Corcoran, a pixieish, ebullient, accordion-playing Irishman known as Tommy the Cork, who had been an aide to Franklin Roosevelt and had since become a legend in Washington as a political fixer and a fund-raiser nonpareil.
I just loved interviewing Tommy the Cork. He was at that time in his late seventies, but if he came into the lobby of his K Street office building while I was waiting for the elevator, he would say, “See you upstairs, kid,” as he opened the door to the stairwell. And often, when I reached the eleventh floor, where his office was situated, he would be standing there grinning at me when the elevator door opened.
He was, in the best sense of the word (truly the best to an interviewer anxious to learn the innermost secrets of political maneuverings), totally amoral. He cared for nothing. Once, on a morning that we had an interview scheduled, I picked up the Washington Post over breakfast in my hotel room to see his name in big headlines and read a huge story about his role in a truly sordid Washington scandal.
I expected to find a broken, or at least a dejected, man when I was ushered into his office. Instead, he gave me a big grin—he had the most infectious grin—and, when I didn’t bring up the subject of the story but he could tell it was on my mind, he said, “It’s just free advertising, kid, free advertising. Just as long as they spell my name right.”
Set aside time to read the whole thing, it’s great.
+ As a side note, I ended up listening to this story rather than reading it, thanks to a service I hadn’t heard of until now called Audm, which hires world-class narrators to read longform stories like this one. It was slower way to consume the story than it would’ve been reading it for myself — the audio file is 1hr 15min long — yet it was enjoyable in the way listening to an audiobook is. That passage I quoted above actually made me laugh out loud while I was making coffee.
Also from The New Yorker comes this video wherein bread enthusiasts discuss baking techniques and the ways in which low-carb diets have villainized the starchy staple. (Can you tell how obsessed with breadmaking I’ve become?)
[Video] – Feel like being super hungry? This video of teppanyaki being prepared at a family-run restaurant in Hokkaido, Japan oughta get you there. Almost no words, just cooking sounds and a feast for the eyes (I’m not apologizing for that one).
Typography + graffiti: That’s what you’ll get browsing the Instagram account of British street artist “Pref”. You can read a May 2018 profile about the guy here, courtesy of Kate Sierzputowski of Colossal.
I’m a sucker for great rebranding work, and Carpenter Collective’s recent and incredible identity refresh for Kansas restaurant The Brass Onion is nothing short of a masterclass in typography, color, and illustration.
Our own editor-in-chief Shawn Blanc posted some initial thoughts and photos from the first-ever live event for The Focus Course that took place a few days ago. In case you missed out and want to see what future events might look like 😉
Neat Stuff We Published This Week
- A mirrorless camera for vloggers and video creators: Sony Alpha a6400 [pre-order; releases February 28th, 2019]
- One of the most important tools in any home bar setup: The Koriko Hawthorne-Style Cocktail Strainer
- Shears that cut just about any material around the house/shop without breaking a sweat: Wiss 10″ Titanium-Coated Shears
- Durable, premium audio on the go: Tivoli Audio’s “Fonico” True Wireless Stereo Earbuds
- Colorful tools for handlettering, writing, and more: Tombow Dual-Brush Art Pens
- A blueprint for growing a lean and agile business that can survive every type of economic climate: Company of One by Paul Jarvis
Got any suggestions for articles, videos, stories, photographs, and any other links you think we should be posting in our weekly Quality Linkage? Please do let us know on Twitter.