March has been busy! Just like that, 20 days since my last post. I’m typing this out on Dropbox Paper, having caught up with an old friend who now works at Dropbox, and it feels surprisingly refreshing compared to Google Docs, which I spend a considerable amount of my time working in. Sometimes it helps to have a clean white space to think in.
There is so much to talk about in the arts. I went ahead and made two playlists on Spotify, one my monthly playlist, and one my top ten songs from NPR’s Austin 100 playlist. Some of the most exciting releases this month were from Fleet Foxes, Real Estate, and Gorillaz (as of yesterday). Real Estate in particular met all my expectations as a complete album, basically the same formula as the last two great albums despite a band lineup change. “Saturday”, the closer, is perhaps my new favorite song from them, and maybe my favorite song about a day, period. It starts at a slow tempo with a dreamy piano melody then, like Belle & Sebastien’s “If You Find Yourself Caught in Love”, emerges into focus with a bright guitar sound, quickened tempo, and delightful sixteenth note pick in the riff. It’s one of the best musical representations of the feeling of waking up. My rating: 4.5/5
I was born on a Saturday
What about you?
Well I know, I already know that you were too
After finishing up Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate, I read three more books this month: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth, and Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens. The two novels had surprisingly similar narrative devices: both took place, at least partially, in LA, namedropping familiar cities like Westminster, Pasadena, and Downey; both had a meta-novel within the novel, with the documentation and reading of the protagonist’s story having profound consequences on the characters; both were a delight to read. I probably prefer The Sympathizer (which won the Pulitzer last year) for its grander scope and shockingly nihilistic conclusion. The Commonwealth, on the other hand, was tragic and beautiful in familiar ways. Sapiens, recommended by my friend Collin, is ambitious but surprisingly shallow as a read. Ultimately the moments of profundity are like little flashes of light, an argument or point of view that is surprisingly insightful. I particularly appreciate his sweeping summary of the Industrial Revolution, the unification of humanity under money, empires, and religion, and the double-edged sword that is capitalism. It’s actually a great reading for the kind of teaching I do at Stanford, and I will probably end up using if I ever teach a course on urban ethics.
Finally, not much to highlight in terms of film except for Logan, which is up there near The Dark Knight in terms of superhero stories done right.
April is full of delights: concerts by Foxygen, Whitney, and Hans Zimmer; a talk by Van Jones; and Hamilton! And in May I’ll be heading to New York in the first week for a couple of conferences and other meetings. Look out Sunday for a post reflecting on 25 years.