Unsubscribe. Early and often.
I’ve recently read advice that says the first thing you should do with these things is remind people who are you and why they subscribed to your newsletter. So, I’m Russell Davies and I have no idea.
Here are 5 things:
Anne Shewring wrote 30 fantastic tiny stories in November. Each of 30 words or fewer. I love that they’re in an ‘experimental’ format - microfiction or whatever - but they’re so clear, accessible and readable. Perfect for phones.
Here’s an easy and helpful way to be grateful from Siobhan O'Connor.
This is a tremendous lecture from Lydia Davis about writing and revising notes and using notebooks. This bit about the precise and specific genius of the Beaufort Scale is especially good:
“From my notebook:
a. High wind yesterday blew women’s long hair, women’s long skirts, crowns of trees, at dinner outdoors napkins off laps, lettuce off plates, flakes of pastry off plates onto sidewalk.
Apropos of weather and precision, here is Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary’s chart of the Beaufort scale—a scale in which the force of the wind is indicated by numbers from 0 to 17. This source is “just” a dictionary, but the images are vivid because of their specificity and the good clear writing in the dictionary, and because the increasing strength of the wind on the scale becomes, despite the dry, factual account, dramatic.
Calm: smoke rises vertically
Light air: Direction of wind shown by smoke but not by wind vanes
Light breeze: Wind felt on face; leaves rustle; ordinary vane moved by wind
Gentle breeze: Leaves and small twigs in constant motion; wind extends light flag
Moderate breeze: Raises dust and loose paper; small branches are moved
Fresh breeze: Small trees in leaf begin to sway; crested wavelets form on inland waters
Strong breeze: Large branches in motion; telegraph wires whistle; umbrellas used with difficulty
Moderate gale: Whole trees in motion; inconvenience in walking against wind
Fresh gale: Breaks twigs off trees; generally impedes progress
Strong gale: Slight structural damage occurs; chimney pots and slates removed
Whole gale: Trees uprooted; considerable structural damage occurs
Storm: Very rarely experienced; accompanied by widespread damage
Hurricane: Devastation occurs
(I formatted the scale like that. It’s different and better in the original article but I can’t make the Markup/HTML work properly. It occurs to me that other, similar scales would be useful. For traffic jams, trade negotiations, pandemics, company cultures. The highest level of all of them, presumably, would always be ‘devastation occurs’)
Goals for 2020. “Cry less. I’ve cried everything single day of this whole pandemic. ” 57 seconds of life-affirming video.
I watched the Netflix documentary about cheese-rolling. I think it would have been better if they’d played it straight, the people involved were obviously brilliant and odd. But this line, designed to be a slightly snarky aside really stuck out and reframed everything in the world for me. They said tradition is just ‘peer pressure from dead people.” That’s great.
(There are 634 of you. 634 is a Smith Number. Smith Numbers are named after Albert Wilansky’s brother-in-law because of Albert Wilansky’s brother-in-law’s phone number.)