John Donahue on Food & Drink for the Soul

“One way, and I think this is a really lovely way, and I think it’s an interesting question to ask oneself too, and the question is, when is the last time that you had a great conversation, a conversation which wasn’t just two intersecting monologues, which is what passes for conversation a lot in this culture? But when had you last a great conversation in which you overheard yourself saying things that you never knew you knew, that you heard yourself receiving from somebody words that absolutely found places within you that you thought you had lost and a sense of an event of a conversation that brought the two of you onto a different plane, and then, fourthly, a conversation that continued to sing in your mind for weeks afterwards? And I’ve had some of them recently, and it’s just absolutely amazing. They’re like, as we would say at home, they are food and drink for the soul.

Second thing, I think, a question to always ask oneself — who are you reading? Who are you reading? And where are you stretching your own boundaries? Are you repetitive in that? And one of the first books I read as a child — we had no books at home, but a neighbor of ours had all these books, and he brought loads of books. That’s how I ruined my eyes, like, and I have to wear glasses. [laughs] But one of the first books I read was a book by Willie Sutton, the bank robber, who was doing 30 years for robbing banks. And in the book somebody asked Willie, and they said, “Willie, why do you rob banks?” And Willie said, “Because that’s where the money is.” And why do we read books? Because that’s where the wisdom is.

So like my professors in colleges always used to say, if you were doing an essay or doing a thesis, the first thing you have to do is read the primary sources and trust your own encounter with them before you go to the secondary literature. And I’d say to anybody who is listening to us, who is interested in spirituality and who is maybe being coaxed a little away from believing it’s all a naïve, doomed, illusion-ridden thing — pick up something like Meister Eckhart or some one of the mystics and just have a look at it, and you could be surprised what an exciting adventure and homecoming it could become.”

-John Donahue, “The Inner Landscape of Beauty.” On Being with Krista Tippett. February 28, 2008.

Let the Wild Rumpus Begin

“This time last year it looked like we might have a standard bubble with resulting standard pain for the economy. But during the year, the bubble advanced to the category of superbubble, one of only three in modern times in U.S. equities, and the potential pain has increased accordingly. Even more dangerously for all of us, the equity bubble, which last year was already accompanied by extreme low interest rates and high bond prices, has now been joined by a bubble in housing and an incipient bubble in commodities.

One of the main reasons I deplore superbubbles – and resent the Fed and other financial authorities for allowing and facilitating them – is the underrecognized damage that bubbles cause as they deflate and mark down our wealth. As bubbles form, they give us a ludicrously overstated view of our real wealth, which encourages us to spend accordingly. Then, as bubbles break, they crush most of those dreams and accelerate the negative economic forces on the way down. To allow bubbles, let alone help them along, is simply bad economic policy.

What nobody seems to discuss is that higher-priced assets are simply worse than lower-priced ones. When farms or commercial forests, for example, double in price so that yields fall from 6% to 3% (as they actually have) you feel richer. But your wealth compounds much more slowly at bubble pricing, and your income also falls behind. Some deal! And if you’re young, waiting to buy your first house or your first portfolio, it is too expensive to get even started. You can only envy your parents and feel badly treated, which you have been.”

-Jeremy Grantham, “Let the Wild Rumpus Begin*” gmo.com. January 20, 2022

The Barstool Rule

“Folks, I’m a non participant in all forms of social media other than maintaining a mostly inactive LinkedIn account. Therefore, I’m unfamiliar with the condition of discourse out on the inter-webs. As an individual who’s spent a lot of time in bars and at card tables throughout North America, on those rare occasions that I post a comment, I do the following: before hitting ‘send,’ I read it out loud. If it sounds like something I’d be comfortable saying in any bar in America, I hit send. If not, I revise or delete. Quite frankly, I’ve read a lot on this thread and others since I’ve had the privilege of joining your little club that would have gotten someone knocked backward off their barstool, or otherwise corrected, if said out loud in the real world. You all are really smart people. If you just take a sec to use those big, beautiful brains of yours, a good portion of these ‘misunderstandings’ will likely be eliminated. Just my two cents.”

-Unattributed

Something I saw in a forum I frequent that I thought was great and worth remembering. Unattributed because the poster in question clearly isn’t looking to increase his or her online profile.

Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf

“Mountain’s Leslie West and Mama Cass aside, rock has produced precious few 300 pound icons like this one time Ted Nugent vocalist, unnoticed Motown artist, and ROCKY HORROR SHOW scene-stealer. Even if you’ve never heard a note of BAT OUT OF HELL (which is unlikely), this everything-INCLUDING-the-kitchen-sink masterpiece deserves legendary status for its jaw-droppin’ cover art alone. Backed by a quirky cast including sax maniac Edgar Winter, soul-beltin’ mama Ellen Foley, motormouth baseball legend Phil Rizzuto, and members of the E Street Band and Utopia, Meat Loaf’s debut was a schlock-splattered tag team effort with bombastic, lyrically longwinded composer/pianist Jim Steinman. Crammed with SPECTOR-esque groove-ology and maniacal musical maneuvers, the seven sonic slabs of operatic slam-glam here are really mini-plays…in fact, boy-meets-girl barnburner PARADISE BY THE DASHBOARD LIGHT is divided into three subtitled acts. Super-producer/guitar guru Todd Rundgren lets rip like a Harley in heat on the crash ‘n burn title track, the Loaf sweetly laments lost lust on TWO OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD, and you can almost smell the sexual sweat on ALL REVVED UP WITH NO PLACE TO GO. He may be thinner now and sport a better hairstyle, but BAT OUT OF HELL will forever remain Meat Loaf’s meal ticket to musical immortality.”

-Dave Chavers, “User Reviews of Bat Out of Hell [by Meatloaf]Allmusic.com. September 12, 2015.

Movie Review: West Side Story

I’ve always thought the original West Side Story (1961) was close to perfect. I was not excited to see a remake of it. Remakes should focus on flawed films and make them better.

Much to my surprise, the new West Side Story (2021) shows the flaws in the original I simply didn’t see before. It’s a better movie is every way that matters. Highly recommended.

Pathways of Success

You’re obviously a very capable, smart person: would the Aella story would have landed in the same spot if you had a different start in life? If you hadn’t worked in a factory say, or if your family had been different? Would you be a Y Combinator founder right now instead? Nothing against the current line of work, but I often ask myself the counterfactual of where I’d be if matters were otherwise.

It’s unlikely. Part of the reason I’ve been so successful is that I accidentally ended up in something smart, young women don’t end up in, which is sex work. Most people with some level of competence end up in college, and I didn’t for various reasons. That put me already into a minority….you mentioned earlier that you yourself stand at the desolate intersection of a Venn diagram of two different worlds. That has propelled me at a greater level of success than would have otherwise happened.

I really tried to go to college. Because I was very much stuck in the standard this is what success looks like. I had very, very small world view of what was possible for me. And when I didn’t get to go to college, I cried. I was really sad: “well I guess minimum wage jobs are forever.” That’s what my world was.

I think sex work really helped broaden that; it taught me kind of by accident that you can have success in life through very different ways. If you take risks, if you do the thing that other people don’t typically do, but you do it very seriously and you do it very well, then that in itself earns some sort of respect or validation or the skills translate to other things. And I would never have been able to predict that beforehand.”

-Antonio Garcia Martinez, “Wherein I pay Aella for sex, and we just chat instead*ThePullRequest.com. January 18, 2022

That last paragraph is on point. It’s one thing to be the best. It’s another thing to be the only. And the path to both can be helpfully thought of as a manifestation of the Helsinki Bus Station Theory.

“The Long Telegram” by George F. Kennan

“In atmosphere of oriental secretiveness and conspiracy which pervades this government, possibilities for distorting or poisoning sources and currents of information are infinite. The very disrespect of Russians for objective truth–indeed their disbelief in its existence–leads them to view all stated facts as instruments for furtherance of one ulterior purpose or another. There is good reason to suspect that this government is actually a conspiracy within a conspiracy, and I for one am reluctant to believe that Stalin himself receives anything like an objective picture of [the] outside world. Here there is ample scope for the type of subtle intrigue for which Russians are past masters. Inability of foreign governments to place their place squarely before Russian policy makers–extent to which they are delivered up in their relations with Russia to good graces of obscure and unknown advisers whom they will never see and cannot influence–this to my mind is the most disquieting feature of diplomacy in Moscow, and one which western statesman would do well to keep in mind if they would understand the nature of difficulties encountered here…

…We must see that our public is educated to realities of Russian situation. I cannot over-emphasize importance of this. Press cannot do this alone. It must be done mainly by Government, which is necessarily more experienced and better informed on practical problems involved. In this we need not be deterred by [ugliness?] of picture. I am convinced that there would be far less hysterical anti-Sovietism in our country today if realities of this situation were better understood by our people. There is nothing as dangerous or as terrifying as the unknown. It may also be argued that to reveal more information on our difficulties with Russia would reflect unfavorably on Russian-American relations. I feel that if there is any real risk here involved, it is one which we should have courage to face, and sooner the better. But I cannot see what we would be risking. Our stake in this country, even coming on heels of tremendous demonstrations of our friendship for Russian people, is remarkably small. We have here no investments to guard, no actual trade to lose, virtually no citizens to protect, few cultural contacts to preserve. Our only stake lies in what we hope rather than what we have; and I am convinced we have better chance of realizing those hopes if our public is enlightened and if our dealings with Russians are placed entirely on realistic and matter-of-fact basis.”

George K. Kennan, “The Long Telegram.” wilsoncenter.org. February 22, 1946

Looking & Acting Bad

““Do you want material that looks bad before it acts bad, like shingles or clapboard, or one that acts bad long before it looks bad, like vinyl siding? A whole philosophy of maintenance falls one way or the other with the answer.”

-Stewart Brand, “How Buildings Learn.”

True of maintenance, true of life.

In 1997, the BBC aired a three-hour documentary based on Stewart Brand’s book, How Buildings Learn. Brand has posted the whole program on YouTube in six 30-minute parts: part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six. Below, it says it is unavailable, that is just the first one if you aren’t in the right country, copyright-wise. You can either switch your country using a VPN to the United Kingdom or start with part two.

h/t The Prepared and kottke.