Here is the great temptation of all middle age – comfort and security – but the surest death to the artist if accepted wholly
— Dawn Powell
This excerpt from A Diamond to Cut New York struck me (sidebar: the Dec 3rd issue of The New Yorker that re-ran a lot of old pieces has been oddly fun).
This has happened to me a few times now. I’ll see something specific to the arts or advice for artists and find that it applies much more broadly if you reframe it. Exhibit A: Jerry Saltz’s How to be an artist..
Anyways, don’t get too comfortable.
I couldn’t let 2018 come to a close without a Gritty reference. I don’t know how but Gritty is like the one thing to have gotten popular on the internet without also immediately being destroyed by the internet. Truly special.
Right for a right, wrong for a wrong
This is clearly not life’s design
Figure out quickly that nothing gets answered
When you ask the universe why
Life is a journey, to live is to worry
To love is to lose your damn mind
But living’s a blessing so I am not stressing
Man, the thoughtfulness and the story telling of the lyrics in this song floor me. Every. Single. Time.
AKA one of the best events of the year in Salem. It is organized by Historic Salem and really marks the start of the Christmas season in my mind. I like having a little time after Thanksgiving to decompress before jumping right into the next holiday.
This year focused on the Derby St neighborhood with 350th (!) anniversary of The House of Seven Gables and Nathaniel Hawthorne playing a particularly big role.
The house was turned into a museum in 1910 by Caroline Emmerton who used the proceeds to offer classes and workshops to the local immigrant community. She is a badass and her story is really cool. Worth a further look.
Anyways, it was a beautiful day with lots of other great historic homes and stories being featured too.
I decided recently that I wanted to learn more about cocktails. Someone had recommended this book to me a while back and I finally got around to picking it up.
It’s great. One of those books where the physical materials really add to the experience of reading it. Highly recommend.
Heading into Thanksgiving, I heard two perspectives over and over.
One went something like “confront 👏your 👏racist 👏uncle 👏or 👏you’re 👏the 👏problem.” It was — surprise — mostly on Twitter.
The other was a call for putting politics aside and enjoying the time spent with friends and family. An ask to dial down the partisanship and remember that we all often have a lot in common. Bill Maher went on a rant about this on Real Time.
I see merits in both and I feel like we’re retreating to the extremes again. It is one or the other. Why can’t we do both? It made me think of this book.
It is hard to influence people and get them to change their opinion on something. Especially when it comes to politics in our current environment.
Angrily confronting an older relative who probably changed your diaper isn’t going to lessen divides. It is going to deepen them. Ignoring it all together isn’t a solution either.
So I guess—try to find another approach. Read the book. Give it some thought. Maybe bond with your uncle over a beer while watching football and send him a thoughtful email right after that explains why you see some things differently?
I don’t know the answer but I know we can do better than the proposed extremes.
I’m often juggling too many projects (or ideas for projects) at once. Combine that with a procrastination streak… and it doesn’t always yield the best outcomes.
“Prioritize finishing” is a new mantra of sorts I’ve been keeping in my head. It has helped me keep up momentum across tasks. It is akin to the “only handle it once” principle from Getting Things Done.
Basically, if there is a loose end wrap up or a project I can cross off the list – do it. Close open loops. Etc.
The next time someone challenges you to explain “white privilege” – make them listen to this episode.
There is something simple, yet powerful, about hearing that to go on a road trip African American families needed a special book to know where it was safe to stop for food or stay for the night.
I know there are much more horrific examples from the 1950s and 60s. But something about learning about The Green Book just resonates. It’s like the smaller, everyday offenses are easier to digest.
I don’t know. Listen to the episode.
It’s probably my favorite Wu-Tang album *and* my favorite Beatles album.— Mαtt Thomαs (@mattthomas) November 19, 2018
Here are some fun facts about me:
- I am 32 years old.
- I have owned cars for 11 of my 16 total eligible driving years.
- I have never owned a car with an aux input or bluetooth.
I mention these things because when I was commuting by car and only had access to a CD player, I burned CDs for my commute. Even in 2009, burning CDs was a pain and I never wanted to do it.
So I listened to this mash-up of The Beatles and The Wu-Tang Clan a lot. Like a real lot. All because I had somehow managed to burn it into a CD.
It’s amazing. I never really loved either group. But I liked them both and I appreciate of the cultural and musical importance of each.
But I like this mash-up more than anything for either individual group. Blasphemous? Yea, probably.
Whatever. Who cares. I’m thankful for this mash-up.
I don’t know a ton about wine, which means I get the pleasure of learning something new rather often.
Within the span of a few weeks, I happened to hear a couple of people talking about “beaujolais.” I had never heard this word before. Turns out it is a region in France that produces wines. Makes sense.
Last night, my local wine shop was pouring a few Beaujolais Nouveau wines. And now I know this specific style of young wine is released each year on the third Thursday of November along with a corresponding celebration in the region. This is a good overview.
Anyways, it’s not my favorite wine ever but I like the annual tradition that accompanies it. Supposedly, the harvest this year was an unusually good one so I’m going to do my best to hunt down a few more bottles from different producers while I can. ‘Tis the season. 🍷
I don’t consider myself religious. Maybe that’s my nature or maybe it was the nurture of being raised without going to Church. Probably a healthy dose of both. Who knows?
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been more open to considering the spiritual aspects of life. I feel a closeness to my late father, for instance, when running hard. Maybe the oxygen debt triggers old memories of running with him. Maybe it’s something else. But it is a pleasant phenomenon all the same.
I’ve been trying to listen to a wider variety of music. Gospel as a genre and Aretha Franklin as an artist qualify as a blind spot in my knowledge.
I don’t know enough about music to offer any commentary other than – this shit is spiritual. I played it the other morning and felt in a pleasant mood all day.
Oof, I started reading this book last night. I’d heard good things about it. But I didn’t expect it to move me like 15 minutes into it. The chapter that got me was from a woman who lost a child late in the pregnancy. My wife and I lost our first child this June in the 20th week of the pregnancy.
In her response, Cheryl shares a couple of stories from young adolescent women from tough backgrounds whom she mentored for a year as a youth advocate.
The advice she eventually lands on giving one of the young women about dealing with adversity rings so true.
I told her it was not okay, that it was unacceptable, that it was illegal and that I would call and report this latest horrible thing. But I did not tell her it would stop. I did not promise that anyone would intervene. I told her it would likely go on and she’d have to survive it. That she’d have to find a way within herself to not only escape the shit, but to transcend it, and if she wasn’t able to do that, then her whole life would be shit, forever and ever and ever. I told her that escaping the shit would be hard, but that if she wanted to not make her mother’s life her destiny, she had to be the one to make it happen. She had to do more than hold on. She had to reach. She had to want it more than she’d ever wanted anything. She had to grab like a drowning girl for every good thing that came her way and she had to swim like fuck away from every bad thing. She had to count the years and let them roll by, to grow up and then run as far as she could in the direction of her best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by her own desire to heal.
Today is the 20 year anniversary of this album. Doesn’t seem that old to me some how. It holds up well. The sentiment below is a nice, concise summary.
So how could it exist? How could a commercially successful rap group, deep into rap’s first gilded age, make something that warm and layered and imagistic and thoughtful?
P.S. – Chonkyfire is so underrated.
Cast iron pans have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years and for good reasons. They are a great tool, they last forever, they are affordable, and they are healthier than teflon alternatives. Plus, they exude some always popular nostalgic, vintage vibes. Win, win.
Anyways, the internet at large will tell you in one sentence that “cast iron skillets are bulletproof” and in the next sentence explain to you how critical it is that you care for it in the exact right way. To be fair, some this advice is warranted as the way to clean one is different than a normal non-stick pan.
But a lot of the advice out there is high effort, low return in my opinion. The chemistry of cast iron seasoning suggests using flax seed oil1, The Alton Brown method recommends cleaning with kosher salt2, and Lodge even makes a product designed for scraping their pans3.
Here is what I recommend after years of tinkering around
- Get yourself some sort of steel scouring or scrubbing pad - like this one.
- Never use soap
- Run the pan under water and scrub the hell out of it using said pad (use the same pad for as long as possible, mine has been going strong for over a year so far)
- Take the wet pan and immediately put it on a hot burner on the stove to dry
Here is why this works. The scrubbing pad accumulates lots of grease after a few uses. So while it is removing food particles, it is also smearing oil around the pan. By drying the pan over heat, you’re doing a sort of mini-seasoning every time and eliminating any risk of rusting.
Lastly, and most importantly – this approach works because it is easy and quick. Once you know you can quickly and easily clean the pan then you will use it more. Using it more and more helps the pan build up layers of oil that have bonded into the metal over time. The best cast iron pans are always the ones getting the most use. Ask your grandmother.
Is this the perfect technique? No, probably not. But I can clean a cast iron skillet in a few moments without any hassle and it is always in good shape the next time I go to use it. Good enough for me. The salt technique took too much time. Rubbing oil into the pan with a paper towel tends to leave some paper fibers behind on the pan, which ends up making things stick. Keep it simple. Metal on metal. Dry over high heat. Done.
Note: you should definitely still properly season your pan from time to time. This is just for day to day upkeep.
Flax seed oil never worked very well for me despite spending a lot of time being very particular in trying to get it right. It ended up giving my pan an uneven, tacky surface. ↩
You’ll get sick of this method as you continue to pour more salt into the pan to try for a third time to scape off the stubborn last bits in your pan (and you want there to be stubborn bits – searing things on high heat is one of the great joys of using cast iron in the first place). ↩
They are okay but somewhat flimsy and the edge will inevitably melt if you clean the pan while it is warm (and, you know, easiest to clean…). ↩