Drive: A Sort Of Perfect Essay
A feeling I’ve been trying to describe after more than a year’s hiatus from writing:
It's hard to write about your core self, that doesn’t always want to honor other people’s wishes and is rarely satisfied. But you have to make some space for that core self, and sing about it, because when it is satisfied, that’s the most satisfaction you ever get to feel. That’s the satisfaction that makes you rhapsodize without worrying about how stupid you sound. That’s the satisfaction that makes you drive all the way to San Jose and back, wasting your whole day, listening to stories that make you realize that the life you’ve led up until then has been very, very small. And all at once, in that car speeding across miles of farmland — empty paper cups, open sky, cigarette smoke drifting out of each window into the cold air — you know you want a bigger life than the one you’ve been living.
And on the grit of being who we really are:
One of the things I hate the most in life is this impulse to hide inside declawed, defanged versions of what’s real. If you occupy that bland realm, you never find yourself reflecting on mixed feelings or on survival itself. You will not be rhapsodizing, because rhapsodizing is imprecise and unpredictable. You will not be romantic, because romance is sloppy and ambitious and humiliating.
When I think about the romantic rhapsodizers I’ve known, they all light up in my memory and I want to write them each a very romantic letter about how much they continue to matter to me. Whenever I back away from them I’m also backing away from myself, backing away from the love that loves to love the love that loves, backing away from the rough, dirty details that make up a life.
Sometimes it takes hard work to be proud of your wretched, inconsistent, idiotic idiosyncrasies. It’s easy for years and then it’s very hard out of the blue. But a true romantic does it anyway. A true romantic makes space for love and hate in the same room. A true romantic says you can never turn your back on a pure heart. You buy the strongest coffee and you drive as long as it takes.
Read the full essay here by Heather Havrilesky.
Tax Heaven 3000 by MSCHF
A truly epic drop by MSCHF making even tax season vaguely appealing.
The Rise of Subscription Living
An interesting read from Plumia about the rise of subscription living and repurposing hotels; perhaps even in the future also the plenty vacant office space available. I know from extensive firsthand experience that being location-independent means living in subpar accommodation 90% of the time and how the Airbnb “aesthetic” gradually begins to erode you. The idea of location-independent lifestyle brands and subscriptions that would cover you across a range of locations is intriguing.
Subscription living is the next logical step for accommodation brands seeking to serve the nomad market. In future, nomad travelers might boast about the features of their favorite brand: the Swedish design aesthetic, the oversized American furnishings, or the chopsticks and rice cooker in a Japanese-run property. The brand you choose may not be that of your home country, but instead one that provides the aesthetic and accommodations you prefer. The companies hope your subscription will become part of your identity, like an iPhone or an American Express Platinum Card.
Some of the places I’ve lived over the last 5 years:
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You Are You. We Live Here. This is Now.
Once again, I enjoyed a recent piece by Freddie deBoer… I guess about being alive, online and off, and where this all goes in the face of AI, TikTok, etc. That Robert Frost line came to mind: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference”.
It feels as though there will be two camps: One distinctly human and physically embodied, the other wholly digitally embodied. Maybe the latter will have some short term advantages but unless you decide, you’ll be decided for — as with most things in life. The shift towards decentralisation and self-governance is a compelling one, though more arduous. Self control is the name of the game in order to access something riskier, but deeper and enduring. What are you willing to trade for meaning especially in a world so high off convenience? They say that what we really want isn’t “unbridled freedom” but more so a set of self-imposed constraints. I recommend Make Your Own Rules by Venkatesh Rao.
Basic dynamic in life: there is nothing meaningful enough to make you happy that could not make you sad if you lost it. This is the paradox of feeling, and it’s inherent and existential. If things inspire real positive emotion in you then they are necessarily things in which you are sufficiently invested that you would feel negative emotions when they’re gone. One of the fundamental choices that you face on Earth is the degree to which you’ll pursue deeper but riskier fulfillment or practice avoidance that exempts you from bad feelings but leaves you bereft of good ones. We all move in one direction or the other, from one day to another, certainly including me, but it feels to me as if our society is decidedly embracing the latter.
Depth and intensity of feeling risk too much; Xbox and hard seltzer and HR culture anesthetize. Pop culture soothes and placates with a steady series of uncomplicated morality tales in predigested narratives where nothing ever really changes and so there’s no worry that the storyline will move in a way that hurts your feelings. Crowdsourced “content” is built on ephemerality.
Ask a TikTok megafan, someone who’s totally unapologetic and proud about their love of the service: what’s a TikTok that you still come back to, a year later, two years later, three? I think the honest answer is “none.” Because like so many other things in our culture, those videos are designed to be thrown away. They can’t hurt you, but they can’t move you. They’ll never challenge you, and they’ll never inspire you. All they’re meant to do is help you pass the seconds that make up your life, a finite and precious resource. — You Are You. We Live Here. This is Now by Freddie deBoer
OH MY GOSH
On the plane recently from Taipei to Chiang Mai, listening to Gosh by Jamie XX. The second half of the song sounds how I want the future to feel — hopeful, vibrant, and moving in unison. The music video is also a mesmerising pure work of art. It makes me feel very strange. The bizarre BTS is also a trip in itself which I highly recommend.
From a fascinating interview with the director Romain Gavras:
I almost saw (the video) like a coming-of-age journey through a world where cultural appropriation became so insane that you need spirituality in order to elevate (yourself) from something where culture makes no sense. Somehow, spirituality is where that kid (in the video) is going to find sense. It’s like when you leave your friends, when you’re in high school, and then you’re going to go to the big town – that kind of coming-of-age type of narrative. And this why then they all circle him and he’s detaching himself from his other group of friends, and then he becomes his own prophet. But really, he doesn’t elevate himself, it’s the camera that elevates – so it’s the old thing where he doesn’t change, it’s the perception that we have that changes. This was the intellectual process I had making it.
Plato’s Other Half
I love the speech given by Aristophanes in Plato’s Symposium about love. As the tale would have it, there were originally three types of human beings: male, female, and a third category known as androgynous. They were powerful and therefore a threat to the gods, so Zeus decided to cut them all in half to limit their strength. I recommend reading this summary, but love is concluded as “the pursuit of wholeness”, to reunite with our original halves.
These are the people who finish out their lives together and still cannot say what it is they want from one another. No one would think it is the intimacy of sex—that mere sex is the reason each lover takes so great and deep a joy in being with the other. It’s obvious that the soul of every lover longs for something else; his soul cannot say what it is, but like an oracle it has a sense of what it wants, and like an oracle it hides behind a riddle. Suppose two lovers are lying together and Hephaestus stands over them with his mending tools, asking, ‘What is it you human beings really want from each other?’ And suppose they’re perplexed, and he asks them again, ‘Is this your heart’s desire, then—for the two of you to become parts of the same whole, as near as can be, and never to separate, day or night? Because if that’s your desire, I’d like to weld you together and join you into something that is naturally whole, so that the two of you are made into one. Then the two of you would share one life, as long as you lived, because you would be one being, and by the same token, when you died, you would be one and not two in Hades, having died a single death. Look at your love, and see if this is what you desire: Wouldn’t this be all the good fortune you could want?
Cities and Ambition
Every now and then, one must revisit Paul Graham’s archive of essays. One of my all-time favourites is his essay Cities and Ambition and I thoroughly recommend reading it.
I’m at an interesting juncture in my life where I’m trying to introduce more permanence as more of the world is trying to facilitate heightened mobility. Having experienced living in a number of cities and having become different versions of myself according to those cities, the question of physical place matters to me more than almost anything else. In Paul’s words:
Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder. The surprising thing is how different these messages can be. New York tells you, above all: you should make more money. There are other messages too, of course. You should be hipper. You should be better looking. But the clearest message is that you should be richer.
What I like about Boston (or rather Cambridge) is that the message there is: you should be smarter. You really should get around to reading all those books you've been meaning to.
When you ask what message a city sends, you sometimes get surprising answers. As much as they respect brains in Silicon Valley, the message the Valley sends is: you should be more powerful.
If physical places send you certain messages according to the values, geography and ambience of that place, what messages does the “city”, or perhaps “country” of the internet send? That depends, distinctly, on which neighbourhood you live in, algorithmically selected or chosen community.
A final thought:
You'll probably have to find the city where you feel at home to know what sort of ambition you have. — Paul Graham
20 Friends Share 20 Songs
A really cool website full of customised playlists I stumbled upon by Tiger Dingsun. He’s also behind this and many other interesting things on the internet.
Childlikeness holds all the wisdom
I came across a blank website with only this text displayed on a white background. I was immediately touched by it and sent it to my best friend Gaby, who informed me that it’s actually from a children’s book called Star Child. It loosely reminds me of Where the Wild Things Are and how pure our observations and feelings from childhood are — difficult to preserve but essential to maintain.
A must read essay by Libby Marrs
I remember sitting in Bluestone Lane on Kenmare Street reading this a few years ago when I was learning graphic design and it blew my mind. So the saying goes: “Graphic design is shit, coding is shit, all I want is revenge.”
But who are we — am I — trying to be original for? Myself, a client, a boss, a professor, Instagram, my mom, nobody at all? I think that it’s time to really think about who we’re creating for, so that we can strategize who deserves our originality, who deserves our efficiency, who deserves both, and who deserves neither. If there’s one thing I’m sure of after all this talk about authenticity, it’s that graphic design is a service, and since its conception it’s been loyal to industry, which makes it entirely inauthentic, but very real. — Libby Mars
Due to rapid economic decline, please forward this to any friends who might like it 👹💕⛓
The Libby Marrs essay is gold