Hello there 🙂

Welcome to issue twenty seven of Manufacturing Serendipity friends!

I’ve now been sending out this fortnightly newsletter for close to year, and to mark the occasion I figured I really ought to do some sort of retrospective thinger. This is part two, and you can find part one here.

What’s happened as a result of me collating a years’ worth of loosely connected stuff? Grab yourself a suitable beverage my loves, and let’s find out…


Some of the unexpectedly delightful things which have happened as a result of me writing this newsletter

In the last issue of this newsletter I wrote about some of the things I’ve noticed since I’ve been paying attention to what I’m paying attention to. In this issue I want to talk about some of the things that have happened as a result of writing this thing.

I’ve been more productive

You might think that starting up a newsletter would mean I got less stuff done rather than more, but it hasn’t worked out that way at all.

Dear readers, you have been excellent accountability buddies.

Each edition of this newsletter takes around 10 hours to put together, and as I’m sure you can imagine, finding 10 hours every fortnight can be a struggle. But I said I’d send a newsletter every fortnight, you (and other lovely people like you) have signed up to receive it, and so, no matter what happens I get this newsletter written and sent.

But of course, it’s not just about getting this newsletter written and sent. I regularly use this newsletter to tell you about the things I’m going to do; and as a result of writing that I’m going to do them, I actually do. Without this newsletter, and you, dear reader, I’m certain I would have done far less this year than I have.


I’ve made new friends & reconnected with old ones

Many of you have got in contact to let me know what you think of this newsletter, to recommend stuff, or just to say hi and let me know what you’re up to right now.

I love receiving these messages from you. I always hoped this thing would be a conversation as opposed to a broadcast, and I’m delighted that it seems to be working out that way.


New opportunities have come my way

It’s always tricky to pinpoint exactly how various opportunities come about, (did the opportunity arise because of this newsletter, or was it just a contributing factor?) but I feel confident in saying that there have been a bunch of amazing opportunities which have come my way, at least in part, as a result of writing this newsletter.

Perhaps the best example of this, is my friendship with the thoroughly wonderful Isaline Muelhauser. We’ve never met in person, but fingers crossed, some day soon we will. She signed up to receive this newsletter, and a few months later got in contact to invite me to speak at her online meetup. Rather than give an industry-focused talk, she instead encouraged me to give a talk and Q&A on my first love: fiction. This was an amazing opportunity that would never have come about otherwise, because without this newsletter I don’t think we’d have ever got to know each other.

In addition to this, there have been a bunch of other speaking gigs and podcast invites; invitations to write articles, or collaborate on projects; plus the reason I initially started offering one-on-one coaching because someone asked if it was something I’d be willing to do.

Want me to do thing, or collaborate on a project? Hit reply to this email and let’s talk 🙂


My Favourite Finds of the Year (Part Two)

Advice, Articles & Interviews

The Unbearable Whiteness of BalletIn an excerpt from her book Turning Pointe, Chloe Angyal highlights how ideas about whiteness and femininity have kept ballet so white for so long.

list of lists.

My Toxic Feelings about Money by my wonderful friend Areej.

Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming…

How Twitter can ruin a life.

Dollhouses and demo modes – Matt Webb explores the things dollhouses got right but modern technology, so far, has not.

L. M. Sacasas’ 41 Questions Concerning Technology.

Walking While Black. Garnette Cadogan reflects on the realities of being Black in America.

If you’d bought bitcoin 10 years ago, you (probably) wouldn’t be rich today.

The “5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar” does not open until 5pm, which puts a crimp in trying to live out the metaphor of its name…

The Last Battle in the Sellout Wars was fought on Oprah’s Book Club.


Art

Dystopian watercolours by Alvaro NaddeoBrazilian artist Naddeo’s watercolors imagine a dystopian world left in ruin by overconsumption and littered with the branding and logos of the past.

Artist Ememem patches up broken asphalt creating beautiful puddles of colour. This reminds me a little of Kintsugi – in that it emphasises and celebrates fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them.

LEGO Universes by Artist Ekow Nimako Envision an Afrofuturistic World. Nimako’s ongoing series, Building Black, includes masks inspired by West African tradition, mythological characters that draw on folklore and proverbs, and an Afrofuturistic reimagining of medieval Sub-Saharan Africa.

Marking a Pandemic, One Crane at a Time. Grace Loh Prasad and her son took on what seemed like a simple project: fold one origami crane every day during the pandemic.

Tatsuya Tanaka’s Miniature Calendar. Since 2011, Tanaka has been creating artworks using everyday items in unusual ways, and uploading the results each day.

Matt Small’s Scrap-Metal Mosaics. Small’s mosaics link our tendency to throw away the obsolete or undesirable to the ways adolescents are frequently marginalised and not seen as viable members of society.


Language

We were a species without a word for “attention” for hundreds of years… Juliana Castro explores the etymological root of tenderness and its connections with attention.

It’s ‘“abso-f*cking-lutely” not “absolu-f*cking-tely”.


Science, Nature & various Studies

Fungi can turn living creatures into zombies and use them for their own nefarious gains.

Thanks to this NY Times article: Many People Have a Vivid ‘Mind’s Eye,’ While Others Have None at All, I discovered I have a condition called aphantasia.

Some trees socially-distance.

Everything you know about obesity is wrong.

The parasite which turns ants into Dorian Gray.

Why do so few men read books by women?

The Rise of Must-Read TV – How our Netflix habits are changing contemporary fiction.

Americans are more confident that (even unarmed!) they could beat any animal in a fight than Britons.

Arrogance is Contagious – “If you have been exposed to an overconfident person, then you become more likely to overestimate your own relative standing.”

Sand tiger sharks eat their siblings in the womb.


Tweets & Web thingers

Chas Hutton on sleep.

Take a break from the social media hellscape and play with Wayfinder, a lovely animated game where you seek out objects to create Haiku-like poems.

If you could time travel where would you go?

Don’t Fear The Reaper played on a music box.

Series Heat – a glorious thinger created by Jim Vallandingham which creates a heatmap of average IMDb ratings for any TV series.


Fiction & Poetry

This One Sky Day, by Leone Ross. Set in the fictional archipelago of Popisho, a place where its inhabitants each possesses a special power, or “cors”. Some can heal, some can walk through walls, some have the ability to detect lies. It’s a love story. It’s satirical. It’s political. Even if magical realism isn’t your thing I’d highly recommend it.

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian is another novel which employs a touch of magical realism, but is set very much in our world, rather than another. A story about familial expectations, addiction, love, and what it means to be both Indian and American. It’s brilliant.

Disturbing the Body, edited by Nici West. A collection of body-themed speculative autobiographies from a range of women writers which explore the moments when the body goes wrong, misbehaves, is disrupted, or otherwise disturbed.

Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson. A compelling, chilling, and strange story of a young woman struggling to understand herself and others, to make sense of her world (polite society), and what her place might be within it.

Lote by Shola von Reinhold. A thoroughly brilliant debut novel which concerns the removal and obscurement of Black, female, and queer voices from history.

Elizabeth McCracken’s short story collection The Souvenir Museum. A collection about families, and those private, weird little worlds we build together.

All Men Want to Know by Nina Bouraoui. A book about mothers and daughters, shame and sexuality, and existing between two cultures whilst belonging to neither. 

A little girl stands on a knife covered ledge…


Non-Fiction

Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake. Clearly a book about fungi will not be for everyone; but I’d urge anyone who’s even mildly curious to get their hands on a copy. Sheldrake has an exceptional gift for making the complex easy to understand, and this book is beautifully written.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel. In Bechdel’s third memoir, she explores why she has devoted so many hours of her life to exercise. As she revisits each decade of her life, she looks back on her tendency to use her exercise regimes as a balm for whatever’s truly ailing her. 

Closer in style to a political manifesto than a self-help manual, How to do Nothing, by Jenny Odell is about disengaging from the attention economy; and re-engaging with something else. “The point of doing nothing, as I define it, isn’t to return to work refreshed and ready to be more productive, but rather to question what we currently perceive as productive.”

Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. An autobiographical graphic novel, divided into two parts; the former narrates her childhood in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution, and the latter tells the tale of her return to Iran as a young adult.

The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich (translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky), an oral history of the experiences of some of the one million Russian women who fought in the Second World War.

Arbitrary Stupid Goal by Tamara Shopsin, a quirky, non-linear memoir about Shopsin’s unconventional upbringing in the 1980s, in Greenwich Village, New York.


Films

Shirley, (Netflix), a film based on Susan Scarf Merrell’s novel Shirley. Here we see inside the marriage of author Shirley Jackson and her husband Stanley Hyman, through the eyes of a fictional younger couple who come to live with them in North Bennington. 

Netflix’s Fear Street. Essentially “Scream” meets “Stranger Things” – if you liked either or both, I think you’ll enjoy these films.

Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s film which was shot using the same actors over a 12 year period.


TV

The Underground Railroad, (Amazon Prime). The series based on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

We are Lady Parts, (Channel 4). A sitcom that follows a group of Muslim women who form a riot grrrl band (their songs are excellent) and the chaos that ensues in their quest to secure their first gig.

On Becoming a God in Central Florida, Netflix. Tells the story of Krystal Stubbs (played by Kirsten Dunst), a woman whose husband falls into a cult-like pyramid scheme company called FAM (Founders American Merchandise).

Season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Chair, Netflix caused me to disappear down a glass cliff rabbit hole, and Sandra Oh is glorious.

Squid Game. Unlike many hyped TV shows, this one is actually worth watching.


Stuff I’ve made, done, or tried out

I started offering One-on-One Coaching, and found that I really enjoy it.

I ran an in-person training course at BrightonSEO which was an absolute delight. I’ll be back on 6th April 2022 running the same course.

The Story Behind the Story. Isaline Muelhauser invited me to give a talk and Q&A on my first love: fiction.

I was asked to contribute to Aira’s State of Link Building Report 2021, and also the 2021 State of Technical SEO Report.

I bought myself a children’s origami book and for around six months have been attempting to make creatures from paper. I’m not very good at it, but I enjoy it a lot. There are now a litter of origami critters in my flat.

I realise that I may not be predicting the future, I might actually be affecting it.

I created a blackout poem entitled Dong-Shaped, in honour of the billionaire space bros out there.

The Business of Content Conference – In August, I did a talk called Creative Differences, (which outlines a bunch of mistakes I made as a manager) you can see the slides I presented here, download the video here, and I also recorded a podcast with Lloyd Silver on this topic.

Whilst on my hols in Tenerife, with my friend Laura we took an amazing stargazing trip. We saw the sun set above the clouds, more stars than I’ve ever seen in my life, plus we got to view various planets, stars, and deep sky objects through the telescope which were amazing. I can report that Jupiter is beautiful, as is Saturn (it looks exactly as you’d expect it to – glowy and gorgeous and remarkably close to those glow in the dark stick on stars that people used to stick on their ceilings in the 1980s).

I signed up for an online course with London Lit Lab which was brilliant, and got me excited about writing fiction again.


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