Sunday Coffee #4

This weekend was very exhausting, since a friend was visiting town, and we decided to walk from the middle of Brooklyn to the far side of Manhattan. I’ve also eaten more vegan meals than not this weekend. I miss meat.

Sunday Coffee #3

Not much to say this week, except I’m not sure how much I actually enjoy writing. I read a blog post on ending a blog, and I’m not sure what my end state is. What am I trying to get out of writing?

Here’s some interesting links for the week:

A Burglar's Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh

A Burglar's Guide to the City

I really wanted to like A Burglar’s Guide to the City. I’m an avid reader of BLDGBLOG, and the concept behind the book sounded quite interesting–see architecture the way a burglar does. And indeed the book does have a lot of interesting anecdotes, but it’s also very repetitive. Each chapter is a simple idea repeated over and over again. It was still an enjoyable read overall, but it wasn’t as great as I hoped.

I’d suggest checking out BLDGBLOG and a recent Gastropod episode on food theft first.

Also on Goodreads.

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Ghostwritten

Spoilers Ahead

Sunday Coffee #2

Inspired by various other weekly links posts, I decided to retroactively rename this to “Sunday Coffee,” (because I am very original) and flesh it out a bit more.

Kinfolk and the Desaturation Aesthetic

I recently read an article on how Kinfolk is “the last lifestyle magazine” and how it “created the dominant aesthetic of the decade with perfect lattes and avocado toast.” As someone who very much enjoys both lattes and avocado toast, I went out and purchased the latest issue of Kinfolk and read it cover to cover.

Kinfolk is boring. Outside a series of neat photographs (skip the essay), Kinfolk is a magazine full of bland, mostly white people posing and doing absolutely nothing of interest. The writing is dull purple prose, and even the photography is desaturated.

The thing is, Kinfolk really should appeal a lot more to me. I’m in my early twenties, live in NYC, drink a lot of and think a lot about coffee, and even own a record player. But why does that mean my life should be empty and devoid of color?

Okay, so maybe it’s just Kinfolk in particular that doesn’t sit right with me. Fortunately, the article I linked helpfully has a list of “Kinfolk’s Kin,” other lifestyle magazines that have sprung up around Kinfolk’s surge in popularity. One of them, Cereal, recently put out a new issue, which I recently read a rave review about. So, I trekked out to one of the few nearby stockists and checked it out.

Cereal, too, is boring. Admittedly, the paper and binding were very nice, but it suffered from the same problems as Kinfolk. The photos looked like someone laid tracing paper on top of them, and the prose was lifeless.

I just don’t get why this aesthetic is so popular. Maybe I just have shit taste. Anyways, here’s the most interesting posts/articles/whatever I encountered this week:

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This Side of Paradise

I started off really disliking This Side of Paradise–every character in the book is conceited and selfish, but Amory is even more so. By the end of the book though, I couldn’t help but want him to succeed. The book is very well-written, especially considering it was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel. The beginning is a little boring and stuffy, but it picks up a lot by the time the second book starts.

As a side note, this book reminded me a lot of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man–Amory even reads it and finds himself “​puzzled and depressed.” Remarkably, Fitzgerald’s Bildungsroman is even more experimental than Joyce’s.

👍

Also posted on Goodreads.

Sunday Coffee #1

I spend a lot of time reading stuff on the internet, and I often encounter really cool stuff that I want to share with other people. Rather than scattering these links between Pinboard, Tumblr and Twitter, I figured it would be nicer to collect them all in once place. Plus, I needed something to force me to post to this blog semi-regularly. Thus, here’s some of the most interesting things I’ve read and/or seen on the internet this week:

Tales of Moonlight and Rain by Ueda Akinari

Tales of Moonlight and Rain

The introduction and copious notes are really good, but they do remove some of the stories’ allure. Read the stories first. The stories are excellent–spooky and unsettling without ever veering into true horror.

👍

Also posted on Goodreads.

Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren

Wabi-Sabi

Leonard Koren does a good job of stating wabi-sabi plainly and clearly. The basic, core concepts of wabi-sabi are nice. Unfortunately, in practice, wabi-sabi is pretentious false humility for the wealthy: like “Marie Antoinette’s playing shepherdess and milkmaid” but “much more serious.” To be fair, Koren does a good job of discussing this in the text notes, but at the end of the book, I have even less respect for wabi-sabi (and especially its practitioners) than when I started.

👎

Also posted on Goodreads.

Maker Culture

Debbie Chachra introduces the idea of “making” as a traditionally male domain. That’s a really good point that I hadn’t considered before, and the counterexamples proposed in the comments (cooking, homemaking) don’t really hold up.

However, I disagree with the central point of the article, that maker culture “risks ignoring those who teach, criticize, and take care of others.”

Programmers Aren’t Special

In Silicon Valley, those that code undeniably get more pay and prestige. However, this is also true of lawyers at law firms, bankers at Wall Street, and doctors at hospitals. At any company, those who are most directly responsible for the main product or service are naturally those paid the best. And, at software companies, those people tend to be the ones writing the code.

That’s not to say those who perform other tasks at software companies aren’t doing useful work, it’s just that their work has a less direct impact on the company’s success. Similarly, if you look at programmers that work at financial companies, they are treated just like any other non-banker.

Making vs Non-making

Chachra states that maker culture considers non-making “repair, analysis, and especially caregiving.” I would say that more commonly, the antithesis of making is consumption–passively consuming that which others have made. (I also think that Chachra greatly misunderstood Ayn Rand. Rand was not denigrating teachers or caregivers, but those who did not contribute to society.)

American culture is heavily based on consumption–the average American spends nearly three hours a day watching television. But now that “making” is easily within the grasp of most Americans, whether it be through art classes at the local community college or, yes, learning to code online, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to encourage people to at least try making something. And, although Chachra seems to disagree with me, I think the true mark of a civilized society is one in which every person can, if he or she so choses, create something themselves.

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