Hello there 🙂
Welcome to issue thirty nine of Manufacturing Serendipity, a loosely connected, somewhat rambling collection of the unexpected things I’ve recently encountered.
This newsletter is free to receive, but if you’d like to support me in this odd little endeavour you can buy me a coffee 🙂
Speaking of coffee, grab yourself a suitable beverage my loves, let’s do this thing…
Part I: Things I’ve Encountered Online…
This weekend I read this list of modern delights, and then, for no particular reason at all decided to create my own list, which I’ve shared below:
A list of things I find delightful
- The first sip of your first cup of coffee in the morning.
- That happy-sad feeling you get when you finish a really brilliant book, because you know you’ll never truly be able to replicate the experience of reading that book for the first time again.
- The utterly delicious hush of the library.
- When some work you thought definitely wasn’t going to come through, does.
- Setting your email out of office message.
- Unfollowing people on twitter.
- Treating yourself to fancy ground coffee to brew at home.
- Making stuff with your hands – even if you’re terrible at it.
- The deliciously free feeling of going out without a bag.
- The mesmerising way jellyfish propel themselves through the water.
- Riding rollercoasters.
- Wearing a sports bra to a theme park: absolute game-changer.
- Drinking full-fat coca cola.
- The evening entertainment put on by hotels – particularly if it isn’t great.
- Observing the oh so familiar dynamics of another company’s corporate conference.
- Getting handwritten letters through the post. Bonus points if those letters include children’s drawings or paintings.
- When friends send you cute photos of their babies.
- Finally getting around to opening all your mail.
- Overheard conversations on trains.
- Clean bed sheets.
- Clean windows.
- New socks.
- Repotting plants.
- The satisfaction of successfully unblocking your sink so the water no longer takes an absolute age to drain.
- Taking a ridiculously long bath in the afternoon.
- Emerging from your afternoon bath, and watching a film. (Actually doing anything in the afternoon which isn’t work or other types of useful/productive labour feels really great).
- Meeting up with friends either one-on-one, or in small groups so there’s one conversation with everyone included, rather than two or more conversations going on at once.
- Making yourself a cocktail and feeling very smug about how good it is.
- Coming home after a night out and dancing in your pants in your living room.
Why am I sharing this with you?
Back in March, I said that I’d been taking Austin Kleon’s advice and intentionally spiralling out, which I found helped me feel a little less anxious, and a little more calm.
It occurs to me that the exercise above, whilst clearly being the opposite of spiralling out (you’re focussing on delight, rather than fear) it serves a similarly useful function, and I’d highly recommend giving either, or both of these exercises a go.
Moar Serendipitous finds:
A close reading of the lyrics and composition of “Mr Brightside”
Far and away the best thing I’ve read on the internet this fortnight:
“Imagine two boys kissing: stubble scraping, tentative tonguing, hands wandering.
Imagine that they’re best friends, roommates, and totally straight (or so they both believe); they’re kissing as a joke, or an experiment. Can you see this in your mind, cargo shorts and all?
Afterward, one boy (the more sensitive of the two, obviously) can’t get the other out of his head. Imagine that boy listening through the wall, anguished and turned on as his friend hooks up with a girl. The boy wonders when he became so obsessed, so abject, so… gay.
It started out with a kiss, he thinks. How did it end up like this?”
Pop Culture Has Become an Oligopoly
“You may have noticed that every popular movie these days is a remake, reboot, sequel, spinoff, or cinematic universe expansion. In 2021, only one of the ten top-grossing films––the Ryan Reynolds vehicle Free Guy––was an original. There were only two originals in 2020’s top 10, and none at all in 2019.
[And] this isn’t just happening in movies. In every corner of pop culture––movies, TV, music, books, and video games––a smaller and smaller cartel of superstars is claiming a larger and larger share of the market.”
It turns out Earth is just a simulation. Luckily, the creators are looking for feedback.
10/10 would recommend.
A journal of literature made to exist on the web
Defer your doomscrolling and explore these delightful things instead.
Fashions in fear change, but do people?
Wise words from Shirley Jackson:
February 20, 1962
Dear Young Reader:
No one is really very much afraid of witchcraft any more. If the bewitched children of Salem Village came screaming and writhing into a modern courtroom it would probably be assumed—and with some reason, too—that they were the willing victims of a new teenage dance craze. Fashions in fear change, but do people?
We are not more tolerant or more valiant than the people of Salem, and we are just as willing to do battle with an imaginary enemy. Santayana says that “if we do not learn from history we are sentenced to repeat it,” and if we cannot see clearly how the good people of Salem were deceived by their fears we cannot act honestly today. The people of Salem hanged and tortured their neighbors from a deep conviction that they were right to do so. Some of our own deepest convictions may be as false.
We might say that we have far more to be afraid of today than the people of Salem ever dreamed of, but that would not really be true. We have exactly the same thing to be afraid of—the demon in men’s minds which prompts hatred and anger and fear, an irrational demon which shows a different face to every generation, but never gives up in his fight to win over the world.
Rudy Willingham holds up paper cutouts of people (and Muppets!) against carefully chosen backgrounds and photographs the results:
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- The cognitive bias codex.
Read Dracula in installments:
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is made up of letters, diaries, telegrams, newspaper clippings – and every part of it has a date. The whole story happens between May 3 and November 10.
Dracula Daily are posting a newsletter each day that something happens to the characters, in the same timeline that it happens to them, so you can read the book via email, in small digestible chunks – as it happens to the characters. Sign up here.
Part II: Books I’m Reading Right Now
This fortnight I re-read A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, before reading her latest novel, The Candy House, which is a sequel (of sorts).
A Visit from the Goon Squad was published in 2010, and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2011. Egan has said that the novel was inspired by Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, and HBO’s The Sopranos; which might sound like a bizarre combination, but if you’ve read it, it sort of makes sense. The narrative takes the form of a non-linear collection of short stories from various characters’ perspectives and it’s probably most famous for having a chapter rendered entirely in powerpoint.
I fear I’m making it sound gimmicky, when in truth it’s anything but -at its heart I think it’s a novel about memory, time, interconnectedness, and the ways in which our relationships with others continually shift and recombine. It’s brilliant, and I really enjoyed re-reading it.
The Candy House passes the mic to a series of characters largely on the periphery of the 2010 book. For what it’s worth, I don’t feel like you need to have read A Visit from the Goon Squad in order to either make sense of, or indeed enjoy The Candy House, but I feel like I probably enjoyed the book more as a result of reading the two books back-to-back.
The overarching themes of memory, time, and interconnectedness reappear here; alongside riffs on the performative nature of social media and how this challenges our perceptions of authenticity. Again it’s a non-linear narrative, and told through a number of interconnected short stories; and so those who like a more traditional narrative arc may find themselves baffled and/or disoriented by its structure, but I absolutely loved it.
This fortnight I also read Fight Night by Miriam Toews, the story of three generations of women, told by the youngest of them, nine-year-old Swiv; who paints a delightfully vivid portrait of a “dysfunctional” family, whose unconditional love would make anyone from a truly dysfunctional family deeply jealous.
Part III: Things I’ve Been Watching
Season two of Russian Doll (Netflix) is an absolute joy, and I highly recommend that you watch it. I rewatched season one before starting season two for no particular reason, and it’s not at all necessary to do so, but it was kinda nice to be able to compare them side-by-side. I’ve also been listening to the soundtrack whilst I write this.
I also watched some other things which I thought were trash which I won’t bore you with.
Part IV: What I’ve been up to…
I went to see Come from Away with my Dad (it is ace); got to ride rollercoasters at Alton Towers on my actual birthday with my friend Steve; was spoiled rotten with amazing birthday gifts (including this); had a lovely dinner out with friends; and met up with Areej and a bunch of my favourite women at LondonSEO XL.
On Friday I am off to see To Kill a Mockingbird which I am very excited about. I’ll also be prepping for my MozCon talk, judging the UK Content Awards, and doing some actual work so I call pay my bills.
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