Every day is like Wednesday

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I’m not a big going out person. I like a coffee out. And a breakfast. But mostly, most of the time, I’m in.

So lockdown has surprised me. Not with any hardship, there’s no hardship for us, but by the loss of rhythm. I lose where I am in the week. It turns out that I measure out my weeks with the mileposts of a regular breakfast out with friends on Friday, fish and chips on Friday night, coffee out on Saturday morning, Match of the Day (not out) on Saturday night, coffee out on Sunday morning and a bath on Sunday evening (also not out). With these things gone I flounder around in the week like a broken time machine.

And I have no idea when to bath. Government - where’s my bail-out?

  1. I like people who are early to take things seriously. They notice, a bit before everyone else, that some phenomenon isn’t just a fad and is actually worthy of serious attention. Please Like Me does that, paying proper attention to the culture and commerce of influencers.

  2. Exploding Topics is sort of similar. They track emerging things. Not like ‘trend spotters’ but like a trivial early warning system. Their newsletter is bite-sized. No links to long reads. And you feel like you’ve heard about something new.

  3. Here’s an idea that seems appropriate for now, about mediation retreats: “Experienced retreat-goers, it turns out, have a term for this phenomenon. They call it a ‘vipassana vendetta’. In the stillness, tiny irritations become magnified into full-blown hate campaigns..” Oliver Burkeman The Antidote

  4. And people who are good at zooms/hang-outs reminded me of this bit of Olivia Lang: “..she ran the conversation like a world-class tennis player, serving generously, returning every ball.”

  5. Also appropriate for now, some Emily Dickinson: “There is no Frigate like a Book / To take us Lands away”. Though, actually, lately, we’ve been watching a lot of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

I like Jürgen Klopp’s sign-off: Please look after yourselves and look out for each other.

(There are 581 of you. In 581 the Emperor Maurice wrote the Strategikon. It’s good that there was an Emperor Maurice.)

the chickens followed, they are not mine

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We've just come back from a holiday in America, using up the last of the air miles from all those years of flying for work. It was fantastic, but it felt like the end of an era. I was reading What We Need To Do Now and ‘fly to Florida and drive around in a convertible’ are squarely not on the list. This is a bit OK Boomer isn’t it? Have a life of flying and then decide to give up right at the end. Sorry about that.

1. A thing I like about holidays is the way you hear different music floating around. Such as, for instance, 10,000 Hours by Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber. Did you all know about this? Should this not have been talked about more? Are there any other pop sociology/science theories/myths that have made it as pop lyrics? There's a band called Skinnerbox. But, apparently no songs. There are loads of songs called Prisoner's Dilemma. You can imagine how those go. There appear to be no songs called You Only Use 10% of Your Brain. There is only one song called Money Ball. I'd have thought there'd be more.

I also note that some of the lyrics of 10,000 hours seem to be based on standard internet security questions. I presume someone was trying to re-activate their online banking while bashing out the second verse:

Do you miss the road that you grew up on?

Did you get your middle name from your grandma?

When you think about your forever now, do you think of me?

2. I was also struck by the way El Cantante by Marc Anthony shares a little brass figure with The Floral Dance by The Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band. (You can hear in at 1:12). Perhaps that's a job for Mike 2600.

3. As I get older I get more used to having events I remember recounted as history. It's strange, but it's sometimes lovely. This is one of the lovelies - Nabihah Iqbal's NTS special about Tears for Fears. I've grown in and out of obsessions with Tears for Fears. I guess, right now, I'm slightly out, but this is a magnificent reminder of how good and important they are.

4. Frank Lantz invents games, he's very good at it. He's invented an Alexa-based game called Hey Robot and in this tiny two-tweet thread you can see him demonstrating his understanding of the way games work on people, gems of insight about motivation and body language. (You do need to read the tweets and watch the video. You should.)

5. Pome is the best thing on the internet of newsletters. (Short modern poems for your inbox, because it's dangerous to go alone.) This poem arrived a while ago:

explain yourself

my life was like this when i found it.

so i walked with it the entire way.

the chickens followed, they are not mine.

It made me seek out more andrew michael roberts (he appears to favour lower case) and eventually a slim paperback arrived in the post. It contained this one:

the moon

all the other moons

get their own names.

I like that. (For instance)

(There are 576 of you. 576 was also a leap year. It is a highly totient number.)

Let's say we do this the first Sunday of the month

Because you've got to have a system

Five things:

  1. I recently read The Maintenance of Headway. It’s lovely and odd. You’re constantly wondering if it’s supposed to be this flat and banal, but it’s so smooth and readable you just keep ploughing on. A strange reading experience. It also contains a profound truth about buses, beautifully illustrated in this interactive diagram.

  2. Turbulence. I realise this is quite circular, me posting to a post from a (brilliant) newsletter about interestingness. But there’s a very high quality metaphor available here. About the technology race in defeating the turbulence from Formula One cars and how it means only the winners can win and the losers keep losing.

    Essentially the richest teams spend the most money developing their cars, which mostly comes down to tiny aerodynamic adjustments that help their drivers cut through the air with as little drag as possible. Those winglets and modifications also have the knock-on effect of causing additional turbulence, which most in the sport refer to as "dirty air" that makes it harder for other drivers to follow closely and pass…Because all this aerodynamic modeling is computationally intense. It’s also massively expensive (more computers cost more money). In racing, this meant the teams with the most money could find more and more ways to reduce drag in their cars. This led to a kind of arms war of winglets, as teams attempted to find more and more ways to direct air around their car, thereby reducing drag…But the second-order effect was an increase in turbulence for everyone else as these little bits and bobs made for unpredictability in the air as other cars pass.

  3. In Cockney/underworld slang a ‘carpet’ is 3 or 300, or 3,000. Apparently because if you were sentenced to three years or more in prison you got a carpet in your cell. I assume that’s not actually true, because these things never are, but it reminded me of stories you’d hear in the Civil Service about how, if you were promoted to a particular rank you’d get a carpet for your office. And, of course, if your office was subsequently transferred to someone of lesser grade the carpet would be removed at great expense and inconvenience. There’s some support for these stories online.

  4. This U.A. Fanthorpe poem is perhaps the best poem ever. It’s about WD40 and love.

  5. If anyone’s this good at this. Invite me round for breakfast.

(There are now 580 of you. The I-580 in California was featured in 2011’s Need For Speed: The Run. Not a great game.)

Something reminded me I have a newsletter

So I thought I should say hello. Hello!

Feel free to unsubscribe. Obvs. It’s been more than a year since I sent one of these. I imagine you’ve moved on.

(BTW, I have migrated from tinyletter to substack. Because all the cool kids are on substack, apparently.)

I felt I should do some sort of end of 2019 round-up but I haven't made any notes or anything so these are things that have stuck with me this year:

1. The song The Overload was made by the Talking Heads in an attempt to sound like Joy Division - without them ever having heard any Joy Division. They'd just read about them. Thats a good way to make art.

2. FDR once called for "bold, persistent experimentation". That's a good thing to call for.

3. I loved this description of a gear change - from Self and I - "On the drive to the cottage, he changes gear the way a singer goes up an octave: as an intensifier."

4. I cherish unexpected connections. Here's a peach from Victoria Coren's For Richer, For Poorer: "..the juxtapositions of genre and status aren’t surprising at all. That is how celebrity works. Fame is one big bubble where they all meet. That is how Freddie Trueman’s daughter came to marry Raquel Welch’s son. That is how the American boxer Mike Tyson came to date the Streatham-born model Naomi Campbell, argued with her at a cocktail party and was sternly told to ‘Leave that girl alone!’ by the elderly Oxford philosopher A.J. Ayer. ‘Do you know who the fuck I am?’ snarled Tyson. ‘I’m the heavyweight champion of the world!’ ‘And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic,’ replied Ayer. ‘We are both pre-eminent in our field; I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.’ Now that’s what I call a cocktail party."

5. And here’s an unexpected problem for a security service, from GCHQ: “The GCHQ staff were also sporty, providing most of the players in the Foreign Office football team that won the Civil Service Football Cup in 1952. This could present some peculiar problems. When local reporters covered matches in Cheltenham, they were told they could name the goal-scorers of the visitors, but not of the local team.”

Look. Five things. Maybe that could be the format from now. Monthly maybe? Stay tuned...

(There are now 546 of you. 546 is the sum of 8 consecutive primes 53 + 59 + 61 + 67 + 71 + 73 + 79 + 83. 546 Herodias is a carbonaceous asteroid. It is an identified Eunomian interloper.)

Sorry Helen

It's been a while. Sorry about that. I imagine you've coped.

And sorry to my friend and colleague Helen who tells me that she gets a little burst of excitement when she gets one of these - thinking it's an actual email - but then realises it's just one of these silly newsletter things. Sorry Helen.

Original thought has been thin on the ground this week so these are just some links/announcements, to get things ticking over again.

Exciting news! Ben and I got a piece of our 'art' into the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition. Should you be interested in acquiring a limited edition art scarf you can do so at our interactive internet website.

Audio news! 41256 is still going. I rather like the latest episode. I've almost made it half-way through the year, it's one of those long, slow projects that seems to have 'taken'.

Writing news! I did a silly thing about GDPR for Wired, largely inspired by thinking about this newsletter and wondering what my obligations and responsibilities to y'all are. I subsequently decided there aren't many.

And that's it. I will be aiming for an actual idea or thought in a couple of weeks.

(There are currently 494 of you. 494 Virtus is a minor planet orbiting the sun.)

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