Written by

Chris Gonzales


Nathan Dumlao

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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“The Road Not Taken”: The Poem Almost Everyone Gets Wrong »

Whether or not you’ve an interest in poetry, chances are you’ve heard at least a snippet or two from Robert Frost’s pervasive 1915 poem, The Road Not Taken, particularly the bolded bits below:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This mini-fairytale is typically interpreted as a salute to quintessential American individualism and nonconformity — I’ve misused it myself — but in 2016, Katherine Robinson of the Poetry Foundation tried to set the record straight:

Through its progression, the poem suggests that our power to shape events comes not from choices made in the material world—in an autumn stand of birches—but from the mind’s ability to mold the past into a particular story. The roads were about the same, and the speaker’s decision was based on a vague impulse. The act of assigning meanings—more than the inherent significance of events themselves—defines our experience of the past.

The year prior, poetry columnist David Orr argued something similar in The Paris Review:

The poem isn’t a salute to can-do individualism; it’s a commentary on the self-deception we practice when constructing the story of our own lives. “The Road Not Taken” may be, as the critic Frank Lentricchia memorably put it, “the best example in all of American poetry of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” But we could go further: It may be the best example in all of American culture of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

…although he later posits that the poem’s most popular interpretation isn’t wholly inaccurate:

Certainly it’s wrong to say that “The Road Not Taken” is a straightforward and sentimental celebration of individualism: this interpretation is contradicted by the poem’s own lines. Yet it’s also not quite right to say that the poem is merely a knowing literary joke disguised as shopworn magazine verse that has somehow managed to fool millions of readers for a hundred years.

What do you think? Would you rather continue romanticizing the poem as an illustration of nonconformity — as (heh) most others do — or will you henceforth only consider it in its full irony? As for me, I prefer the imagery of the “misinterpretation” to the true narrative.

Poetry is a heckuva thing.


The Agony and the XTC »

Speaking of The Paris Review, music critic and assistant professor David Yaffe wrote a lovely ode to English punk/pop band XTC:

Some music stays with you for life. It means different things at different times, but it is always with you, like a limb or one of those five senses working overtime. But sometimes it will be years since you last heard, say, “1000 Umbrellas.” You’ve lived several lifetimes since then, and, oh, isn’t it magical that some chords can take you back to who you used to be? Except they can’t. Your life is not a straight road. But the veneer of continuity—through other people’s music, through their feelings, their illusions—keeps the jukeboxes playing. You don’t get that experience back, but you get a reminder that it is gone forever. The reconstruction of the past is an addictive drug. We want that feeling again, even if it’s mixed with inconsolable misery.

Photo: Gavin Aung Than, Zen Pencils

Photo: Gavin Aung Than, Zen Pencils

Zen Pencils: “Life Jacket” »

Gavin Aung Than’s latest comic was made as a gift to his wife, but every long-term couple will relate:

We’ve been a couple for over 10 years now, and just like any relationship, we have our ups and downs. We’re definitely not the carefree young lovers we used to be. Life, work, money and children have been stressing us out lately, but amidst it all, we can always count on each other.

He’s made this comic available for purchase as a poster, which would be the perfect gift for your own loved one.

Max Temkin’s FAQ Page »

Mildly NSFW for language.

Cards Against Humanity creator Max Temkin updated his site’s FAQ page to include honest, thoughtful answers to questions like…

“What is the secret to doing a successful Kickstarter project?”

Figure out what’s special about the thing you’re making and clearly communicate that to backers. Don’t tell them what it does – tell them what they can do with it.


“How do I make a successful game?”

Some people make games as a form of art, and “what they want” is simply to express themselves. Those are some of the happiest people I know who make games. Other people make games as a business, and “what they want” is money. Those are some of the least happy people I know who make games.

[…] But there is no secret, shortcut, or formula for making a popular game. If there was some kind of a trick, I would use it, and all of my projects would be successful. But they aren’t.

There’s plenty more where those came from, and they’re all worth a read.

💁🏼 Kara’s Guide To Life 💁🏼 »

In a somewhat similar vein to that FAQ above, designer and New Yorker art director Kara Haupt put together a neat Google Doc full of recommendations on restaurants/services in different cities and products of various kinds, plus some unsolicited advice. There’s a little bit of everything in here.

I love this whole idea and am totally gonna steal it. I also agree with Chappell Ellison:

i’m scrolling through this and you know what’s wild is that this is what facebook or any social network should be. Linked, hosted docs of everyone’s favs

Makes me think of Frank Chimero’s “Homesteading” concept from a few years ago, which unfortunately no longer seems to be on the web but basically applied the concept of building a site like you would a home, filled with things you care about and presented in a way that feels like you.


Max Richter’s Sleep Album »

Thanks to Jason Kottke, I recently discovered Sleep, an 8-hour concept album/lullaby by German composer Max Richter that’s designed to be listened to while you sleep. It’s one of the most relaxing things I’ve ever listened to.

From Pitchfork (via Wikipedia):

Richter consulted with neuroscientist David Eagleman while working on the piece to learn about how the brain functions during sleep. “Sleeping is one of the most important things we all do,” he said. “We spend a third of our lives asleep and it’s always been one of my favourite things, ever since I was a child. … For me, Sleep is an attempt to see how that space when your conscious mind is on holiday can be a place for music to live.”

Try it while you sleep tonight:

A Homescreen Experiment »

Designer Marcelo Marfil is trying to be more mindful and intentional about his iPhone usage:

Inspired by this post by Manuel Moreale, I’ve been experimenting with a new kind of homescreen. One that is less stimulating and make me more conscious of what I really want to do when I unlock my phone.


I can’t tell if this experiment will stick, but if anything, when I unlock my phone now it no longer says, “tap me” but rather, “what are you here for?”

I was curious about the wallpaper he used in this post, so I spent way too much time tracking it down. The image appears to be by an illustrator named Steve Scott, who drew it for L’Express (page translation here). He also posted it on Instagram and Twitter. Direct link to the source image is here. (Whew!)

Neat Stuff We Published This Week

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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.