10 Things I Appreciated This Week
The thick, the thin, and the delicious.
Join me and others in the thread for this topic and contribute to the discussion in real-time (only available for iOS users, for now).
Fully aware that it’s ironic for me to write about the things I liked this past week in a newsletter called Anti-Mimetic (which has mimetic desire as one of its themes), I’m doing just that—because I don’t want to write a regular essay just for the sake of writing if I don’t feel that I have anything meaningful to say at the moment, and I genuinely appreciate when some of the writers that I follow here give me a glimpse into their own desires.
So with that, here is the first week of an experiment. If this is something you appreciate, then I’ll publish one of these “Appreciation” editions from time to time.
My Cabinet of Weekly Curiosities
I have a deep appreciation for all forms of craftsmanship, whether it’s an old school bartender, roofer, or house painter. I could watch them working all day long. Earlier this week I found myself standing and watching a new construction project for at least 15 minutes. When I tweeted about my fascination with stuff like this, I quickly learned that there is a name for this activity in Italy—specifically, in the Bologna region, where it seems to be most common. It’s umarell: a retired man who watches construction sites—stereotypically, with his hands clasped behind his back—and who sometimes even likes to give unsolicited advice. I love these guys and think that I may be on my way to becoming one.
Snappy Gilmore. I learned about this guy from following @CountryClubAdjecent on Instagram, where he took part in their infamous Back Off Challenge. He’s having a lot of fun, giving hope to one-armed golfers, and showing that it’s never to late to completely re-imagine something as supposedly-serious as a golf swing.
8. Thanks to a reader in our Introductions thread for recommending the fantastic book below: The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. “This book falls into the ‘Anti-Mimetic’ category,” he wrote. I’m only 10 pages in but enjoying it tremendously. Here’s a beautiful discussion with the author on YouTube if you’re interested in learning more (it sold me).
I’m a fan of the History channel docudrama series The Food That Built America. It can be a little cheesy at times, but not in a way that bothers me. I find the storytelling impressive when you consider that in each episode, the writers are compressing decades—and sometime centuries—of complex history and entrepreneurial rivalry into a cohesive 50-60 minute story arc that seems to always highlight just the right pivotal moments. I just watched Season 3, Episode 12 (“Pasta Party”) on Tuesday. It’s about Hector and Mario Boiardi (yes, that’s how it was originally spelled). I didn’t appreciate that he was pressured into changing his name for branding purposes, but I also can…
I’m in the middle of designing a university course that I’m teaching this spring: ENT491 (Special Topics in Business): Psychology, Relationships and Human Dynamics. During one week of the course, students will explore the so-called Metaverse from a business standpoint—but also examine the effects of some the new technologies driving it, like Virtual Reality, on the human condition. So this past week I strapped on one of the Meta Quest II’s that I purchased and immersed myself in the trippy interactive film Goliath, a VR experience that puts the viewer/player inside the mind of a man with schizophrenia. As one of the exercises in the class, students will back into, or reverse-engineer, the philosophical anthropology of the game designers, and we’ll examine what experiences like this have the potential to do to human desire in the future. For instance: does it have the power to increase empathy? If you have a headset, I recommend giving Goliath a try. The entire experience lasts roughly 25 minutes. (By the way, I will eventually make a version of this course available to the public at some point in the coming year, after I work out some kinks. I will announce it here first.)
5. Capitol Hill Books will make you a handful of non-algorithmic book recommendations if you answer a few simple questions about your reading preferences and interests using this form. They will compile a stack of books that they think you’ll like and share a picture of their selections with you. If you accept their selections, they’ll ship it to you free (if you buy over $50 worth of books). In my case, I was able to pick my bag up. I told them I wanted to keep the contents of my bag a mystery until I picked it up, and it was full of surprises. I’m already enjoying a book I never would’ve picked out for myself, nor would Amazon ever have recommended to me.
Claire and I have a running game: she tries to slip anchovies into dishes she makes (because—let’s be honest—anchovies are a secret ingredient which, when used in the right way and in the right amount, impart a beautiful umami flavor to pasta and so many other things that you might not know it’s anchovies making the dish taste so good, but it sure as hell is…), and then waits to see if I am able to call it out. Last night, during a little LOTR viewing, she put one over on me with popcorn. I had no idea. I wasn’t even slightly suspicious. As you can see, we ate nearly the whole thing. Embarrassing on my part—but very delicious.
Jon Askonas has an excellent series in the The New Atlantis running, featuring this fascinating piece: “Reality Is Just a Game Now”. I was lucky enough to meet Jon in person this week. I’d love to know what people think about his dissection of the changing media landscape. Is the fracturing and fragmentation actually a good thing? He thinks so.
Did you know Salvador Dali has a cookbook? He used to put on lavish dinners at this home where the food blended with art. This book is delightful and is making me re-think what a dinner party could be. A surrealist culinary journey. Dangerous. (For my guests, at least.)
I went to a screening of the film “We Are As Gods” about the life and work of writer and quirky pioneer Stewart Brand (revered in Silicon Valley) at an event hosted by the Lincoln Network. Brand is most famous for founding and being the editor of the Whole Earth Catalog. “We are as gods and might as well get good at it,” he wrote in 1968. The film spent a good deal of time covering his desire to bring back the Woolly Mammoth as a way to save the planet, and his general fascination with de-extinction efforts (bringing back extinct species using breakthroughs in genetic engineering). I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about Brand. He was heavily involved in the Ken Kesey-led acid test scene in his younger years, and he continued to experiment with psychedelics and other drugs for some time, especially as he battled depression during a particularly difficult decade of his life. During the panel discussion after the screening, one panelist was asked how much he thought drugs contributed to the creativity and innovation in Silicon Valley’s early days. “Probably not at all,” he said. And I appreciated that.
Did you encounter something you appreciated this past week? If so, please share it with the rest of the community in today’s thread, which you can find here.