“Unless my senses deceive me, the old centuries had, and have, powers of their own which mere modernity cannot kill.” - Jonathan Harker’s Journal, Dracula, Bram Stoker 📚

Things I learned the hard way: The #2 attachment on my beard trimmer is significantly shorter than the #2 attachment on a Barber’s clippers.

🎵 Any release day that includes new music from Slowdive is red letter. everything is alive is gorgeous.

Cover of the newly released album by Slowdive, entitled “everything is alive”.

A fun and nostalgic read from W. David Marx on They Might Be Giants, early-90’s music fandom and the delightful nerdyness of the early days of the internet: “I wanted to offer a first-hand account of this particular moment of forgotten online culture. More objectively this era is interesting as further example of the general principle that content on platforms always bends to the taste of the median user. The internet was once an AV lab inside of a college library and then it became a combination Spencer’s Gifts/rural weekend militia camp for white nationalists.”

Tim Adams on Tom Waits upcoming remastered mid-80’s Trilogy: ‘Waits, he recalls, would never be specific about what he wanted; it would be “play like a Russian barmitzvah, or Alice in Wonderland”. “You didn’t say, ‘What does that mean, Tom?’ – you just went for it. I think when something began to sound like the song he wrote in his mind, that’s where we started.”’

Alan Jacobs: “It is not true that silence is violence. The mandate to comment, to take a stand, to lend your voice — that is a violence against art. We need at least some artists who are too busy thinking and creating to notice what everyone else is talking about. We need artists who never, ever tweet or post or vlog — artists who block what blocks art. When accepting an Emmy for her TV show I May Destroy You in 2021, Michaela Coel counselled her fellow artists, ‘Do not be afraid to disappear — from it, from us — for a while, and see what comes to you in the silence.’ Silence, I think, is the first cunning, the aboriginal resistance.”

Currently reading: A Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible by Robert M. Grant, David Tracy 📚

“Jesus is not a theologian but the despair of theologians. No systematic treatment can do justice to the richness and variety of his thought.” (18)

Where my theologians at? Thoughts?

Wyatt Mason/Tom Waits (2017)“We also touched upon Leonard Cohen, who once said, ‘If I knew where the good songs came from I’d go there more often.’ (‘For the rest of us,' Waits said, ‘it appears, not only did he go there often, he got a room in the tower, and he paid in advance for a whole month.')”

Richard Brody on the vocational awakening found in a children’s book:

”I learned, through Anatole’s cheese reviews, that, by expressing one’s pleasures and displeasures, one could make a positive contribution to the world, and that the expression of one’s very personal sense of taste, if done the right way, could itself be a creative act.”

Olivia Reingold on the surprising power of the cold contact:

“These days, everyone says networking is the route to success. But I’ve always been a strong believer that any door can open if you score the right invitation. My advice? Don’t ever ask to “pick” someone’s brain. The trick is to get inside their brain. Start by googling them, or rereading or relistening to their work. Why do you like it? Tell them that. Make them know they matter. A good cold email is not unlike a good love letter. It should make you feel vulnerable. Cathartic.”

Periodic Re-Read: The marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake 📚

🎵 If you are a pop music fan who might describe their relationship to the most important songs in their life as “spiritual”, I have a newsletter for you.

Arthur C. Brooks in The Atlantic:

“A good deal of social and political activism is zero-sum, and admits only two possible outcomes: winning or losing. When these causes become an uphill battle, as commonly happens, losing is likely. Then the disappointment can be crushing.

None of this is to say that activism is a mistake; that is for each person to decide. But much of the data present a challenge for people who want to stay engaged without sacrificing their mental health—as well as for people in positions of political leadership and in academia, who often encourage young people to be involved in important causes.

A compromise might be available through minimizing activism’s most psychologically harmful elements: hatred and defeat. A shift in perspective—from winning to helping—can address both problems. This could mean a switch from protesting homelessness to providing services for people experiencing homelessness—for instance, by volunteering at a shelter or soup kitchen—or from marching against the president to giving people a ride to the polling station. Focus on what you can do to ameliorate a situation rather than simply demonstrating your opposition to it.”

Brooks here taps into various wisdom traditions to make an important point:

When faced with enormous and seemingly intractable problems, the best and most sustainable approach to activism is to “do small things with great love.”

I would wear the hell out of this boygenius t-shirt.

🎵Now Listening — Memento Mori by Depeche Mode on Apple Music 

This is, without doubt, the most exciting music they’ve released since Ultra. Excellent album.

Just your semi-periodic reminder that this oft-slept-upon gem is one of the best records of the 90’s… and of U2’s career.

The heavens meet the earth at East Sands.

This is actually great advice for anyone doing creative/generative work who struggles with perfection paralysis, courtesy of the never boring Willem Dafoe:

There is very little that is more satisfying than watching your child prepare for something that causes them significant fear, face into it with courage, and succeed. I’m always proud of my daughter, but it’s a joy to watch her stepping into challenges and growing in confidence.

Location check in 🗺 — Home for Work ⚒️

I got a little bit behind on this, but am all caught up and back in the saddle now. Have a listen to my song a day for 2023 playlist.

Freddie deBoer:

I have a niche, a narrow one but big enough for me - a leftist who maintains a commitment to civil liberties and procedural fairness, and who has serious criticisms of social justice politics, who’s nonetheless not willing to follow many “anti-woke” writers down a rabbit hole that leads inevitably to social conservatism. People want critical analysis of social justice politics that’s fair and accurate and which doesn’t presume a rejection of the basic left project of equality and shared prosperity, and that’s what I (intend to) provide.

Yes to “critical analysis of social justice politics that’s fair and accurate and which doesn’t presume a rejection of the basic left project of equality and shared prosperity.” More of this, please.

W. David Marx on what comes next:

In order to figure out what happens after the social media era, we need to break out from the binary of (1) the flavorless cafeteria buffet of online content versus (2) reactionary counterculture revival. The world is primed for a fecund offline culture, but it has to offer something other than retreat.

Emphasis added above. I think there’s real wisdom to rolling back some of the behaviours we’ve developed in response to our smart devices occupying a more and more central place in our lives. Having said that, Marx is mostly correct; we do have to offer more than retreat to an idealized past if we are going to move culture back towards embodiment in any significant way.

Saturday morning feel.

🎵Now Listening: R.E.M - Sweetness Follows

Happy Burns Night, friends!