“With my index finger touching “sprezzatura,” I said, “Abe, what the hell is this?” Abe said he had picked up the word in Castiglione’s The Courtier, 1528. “It means effortless grace, all easy, doing something cool without apparent effort.”” (John McPhee, Draft No. 4)
The word has entered the English language; the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “studied carelessness”, especially as a characteristic quality or style of art or literature.
“Around the world and throughout the millennia, those who have thought carefully about the workings of desire have recognized this—that the easiest way for us to gain happiness is to learn how to want the things we already have.” (William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life)
A great sci-fi short story:
Her tree was growing in a lab near Toronto. It was technically a ginkgo, but it didn’t look like a ginkgo; its genome had been altered, so its leaves were larger and darker than a regular ginkgo’s, with barely the ghost of a cleft. More importantly, the structure of this new tree’s trunk and limbs had been modified to make room for a mind. Those long skeins of cells weren’t human neurons, exactly; but they weren’t NOT human neurons, either. Their weave was dense, and correspondingly expensive.
Ever since I read Ted Chiang’s Exhalation I’ve had a renewed appreciation for fiction and science fiction as well. I love it when stories leave it to you to fill in the gaps. When you sense there is a whole universe imagined that is surrounding a story.
Krisp adds an additional layer between your physical microphone/speaker and conferencing apps, which doesn’t let any noise pass through.
I’ve been doing a lot of Zoom calls over the past week (this would have been unchanged even if Corona wasn’t happening) and am really liking this little app: Krisp.ai.
Here is a link that will get you a month of their “pro” service (free is capped at 120 mins a week):
Some drawing about prioritizing:
I’m not sure how this became a longer thing than it is. Maybe that’s because prioritization, the subject of this piece, is a longer, harder thing to do than it seems at a distance. Anyway, this illustration started as a little morning drawing of an idea that I revisited from a book excerpt and grew into the series of illustrations
Why we listen to new music:
I’ve thought about this a lot for some reason. I love listening to new music. There is always the risk that you won’t like something, that it will be “meh”, but those times when new music grabs you, those can be unmatched.
Listening to new music is hard. Not hard compared to going to space or war, but hard compared to listening to music we already know. I assume most Americans—especially those who have settled into the groove of life after 30—simply don’t listen to new music because it’s easy to forgo the act of discovery when work, rent, children, and broadly speaking “life” comes into play. Eventually, we bow our heads and cross a threshold where most music becomes something to remember rather than something to experience. And now, on top of everything else, here we all are, crawling through this tar pit of panic and dread, trying to heft some new music through historic gravity into our lives. It feels like lifting a couch.
I thought this was really interesting and useful. I’ve noticed the effects of moving to different rooms for different activities makes a big difference.
We’ve seen how our experience of time is rooted in our apprehension of space, and how this is reflected in memory. So when we stop moving around over the course of the day, we shouldn’t be surprised that it messes with our experience. And this is why a day spent all in one spot will tend to feel like it’s passed quicker: as we experience the sequence of activities in our day, each is a little bit less distinctive and differentiated than it would be under normal conditions because it lacks spatial context, and the different portions of the day then bleed into each other.
Some really cool art:
Reminded me of the electric-theme series of images I’ve been doing as of late.
Visited another new place in Scotland and spent much of the week there:
Islay and Jura are two isles (islands) off the west coast of Scotland known for being remote, sparsely populated, wild, beautiful and full of some of the best whisky in the world. My Dad and I ventured out to find all of this to be very true indeed.
Favorite new music: The latest from Makaya McCraven, We’re New Again: A Reimagining has been a great companion to lunches and sketching.
The Chicago drummer and producer transforms Gil-Scott Heron’s final album into a masterpiece of dirty blues, spiritual jazz, and deep yearning.
When in doubt, tidy up. I did a lot of tidying this week as I find myself with some extra time off. The doldrums of the typical afternoon require that I do something with my hands to get unstuck and moving stuff around is a great antidote. Just remember, we don’t have to keep our spaces neat and tidy, just keep them ready for when we want to work (or play). That often means leaving things out, at the ready.
Rules of the studio from Austin Kleon and Kanye West: This inspired me to try doing some “studio time” at home, earmarking an hour (or however long it would last) for creating art with the kids. I want to expand it to include collage and sculpture, but for this first one we just had pens and pencils. Here are a couple of the outputs:
A book from Hemingway that was release posthumously: Islands in the Stream. I am in little bit of a reading rut and have been reading a lot of nonfiction on developing (good) habits and philosophies of life. This seems like a good antidote.
The first of Hemingway’s posthumously published novels (1970), Islands in the Stream was found by Hemingway’s widow after his death. Beautifully descriptive, he weaves together many of his signature narratives – love, loss, longing, adventure, and war. In three stories, Hemingway takes us through decades of the life of artist Thomas Hudson, in a semi-autobiographical depiction that begins with the joys of fatherhood and fishing before moving to suspenseful Nazi submarine hunting. This book has something for everyone, and is a worthwhile read for those only familiar with Hemingway’s more popular and earlier works.
The only thing that allows me to sit quietly in the evening is the completion of a worthy day’s work. What work? The labor of entering my imagination and trying to come back out with something that is worthy both of my own time and effort and of the time and effort of my brothers and sisters to read it or watch it or listen to it.
Favorite book excerpt:
A practicing Stoic will keep the trichotomy of control firmly in mind as he goes about his daily affairs. He will perform a kind of triage in which he sorts the elements of his life into three categories: those over which he has complete control, those over which he has no control at all, and those over which he has some but not complete control. The things in the second category-those over which he has no control at all-he will set aside as not worth worrying about. In doing this, he will spare himself a great deal of needless anxiety. He will instead concern himself with things over which he has complete control and things over which he has some but not complete control. And when he concerns himself with things in this last category, he will be careful to set internal rather than external goals for himself and will thereby avoid a considerable amount of frustration and disappointment.