Hello there 🙂

Welcome to issue forty four 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 đź™‚

Speaking of coffee, grab yourself a suitable beverage my loves, let’s do this thing…

Part I: A couple of additional thoughts about “thinking more strategically”…

Last time I sent you a thing about what I think people mean when they tell you that you need to be “more strategic”. It seemed to resonate with a quite a few you of you, which is ace; and I do hope you found it useful.

However, the truth is, that I shied away from writing what I really wanted to write about the subject.

This is what I really think:

Most of the time, when people say stuff like: “you need to think more strategically” they don’t know what they actually mean, and, consequently, neither does anyone else. 

That essay was really just me trying to guess what those people might mean, in order to try to help the folks who work for those people to navigate this stuff. (I feel like I hinted at this within that essay, but didn’t explicitly say so).

As I said above, it definitely seems to have resonated with some people which is cool, but at the same time, I kind of hate myself for writing it because I’m effectively saying that the people being told to “think more strategically” should act differently; when what I’d really like is for those who say stuff like “you need to think more strategically” to act differently. 

I suspect that some of the people who say stuff like: “you need to think more strategically” are doing so, because as my friend Andi said“they’ve no f*cking idea what they’re talking about but think this makes them sound clever”; but it occurs to me that perhaps some others who say stuff like that, do so in good faith, but just don’t realise that what they’re saying is horribly unclear.

If you are a person who says stuff like “you need to think more strategically”; and/or are frustrated that the team that you manage aren’t “strategic” enough; then I’d encourage you to think hard about how you might communicate with greater clarity, and provide further support to help your team develop.

Because the truth is friend, the problem here isn’t your team, it’s you.

Serendipitous finds:

Confused by UK politics? We all are babe. I’ve mainly just been reading Russ Jones’ excellent threads – you might like them too:

I particularly enjoy Russ’ monikers, in this thread he dubs Michael Gove “Johnson’s emotional support turbot”; Theresa May “a spindly seabird who has swallowed a kazoo”; Priti Patel “the Shetland Pony of the Apocalypse”; Suella Braverman “vague legal-guesswork hamster”; Jacob Rees-Mogg “the harrowing outcome of a bout of hate-sex between a Dalek and a bassoon”.

The Top Articles of the Last Decade

For Pocket’s 10th anniversary, they looked back at the most-saved article each year since 2012.

“A time capsule of the stories that captured our collective attention this decade, including Michael Lewis’s revelatory profile of Barack Obama, Ed Yong’s pandemic predictions, and Anne Helen Petersen’s magnum opus on millennial burnout.”

From Nodding Night Court to Satan Wood Drive, What’s Up With Columbia, Maryland’s Quirky Street Names?

“Take Rustling Leaf to Brush Run, then it’s a right onto Perfect Hour.”

“Turn left off Windharp Way onto Deep Calm.”

Anyone asking for directions through Columbia, Maryland’s residential neighborhoods could be forgiven for thinking a helpful local was pulling their leg. But this suburb between Baltimore and Washington, home to just over 105,000 people, really does have some of the wildest place names in America. Here, otherwise typical split levels and townhouses line Empty Song Road and Crazy Quilt Court, in neighborhoods with names like “King’s Contrivance” and “Hobbit’s Glen.”

Alexa will soon be able to read stories as your dead grandma

Voice assistants aren’t already creepy enough, so Amazon have been working on a new thing. Oh good.

Four Tom Cruise movie moments which capture a genuinely special aspect of his acting

I love everything about this essay by Celia Mattison, and I particularly enjoyed this:

Getting dressed post-volleyball in Top Gun (1986)

What hasn’t been said about the volleyball scene? There is one thing, and here it is: Tom Cruise gets hideously sweaty and sandy playing beach volleyball in his jeans, and then throws a t-shirt and bomber jacket onto his actively wet body to go eat macaroni or whatever with his teacher.

Immediately upon entering Charlie’s home, he blunty asks if he can take a shower. It is so weird in a movie that is already often incoherent, and the tactility of leather on sweat is far more erotic than any aspect of the romance.

It’s a moment entirely emblematic of the magnetic but deeply alien personality that defines Cruise as an actor and as a masculine ideal.

Formats Unpacked: A Guy Walks Into a Bar…

Why do some types of jokes endure? I love it when people interrogate the seemingly mundane, and so I really enjoyed this:

Let’s face it, this setup is old. Like possibly Ancient Sumerian old. Its survival secret? Stability and adaptability.

Because it’s more than a joke setup: it is a humor chassis. It doesn’t just carry person + action + location, it bolts them together, putting them in a relationship to quickly build context.

Amazing Embroidery

French knot forest by Sew Beautiful

UK-based artist, Sew Beautiful captures the outdoors within tiny wooden hoops, these hand-stitched pieces are available on Etsy.

You might also like:

Part II: Books I’m Reading Right Now

I really enjoyed the eerily prescient, near-future speculative novel A Song for a New Day, by Sarah Pinsker. Written in 2019, it tells the story of a world changed by a pandemic, (long-term curfews and quarantine), and the consequential rise of two particularly powerful corporations you’ll likely recognise. Against this backdrop we meet musician Luce (who remembers the Before), and a young woman called Rosemary (for whom the After is all she’s ever known). It’s a love letter to live music, and a protest song, and well-worth your time.

I also loved the graphic novel Driving Short Distances, by Joff Winterhart. (Thanks for the recommendation David!). It tells the story of 27-year-old Sam’s return to his hometown, following three unsuccessful attempts at university and a breakdown. Seeking a job that will demand very little of him, he finds himself drawn into the world of a man called Keith Nutt whose business is apparently “distribution and delivery”, however, day-to-day it turns out that this largely consists of driving around various trading estates in Keith’s Audi. It’s beautifully observed, funny, and sad, and I’d highly recommend it.

Part III: Things I’ve Been Watching

Here are a couple of things which I’ve watched this fortnight:

  • Spiderhead, (Netflix) – Entertaining, and Chris Hemsworth is surprising good; but ultimately this film doesn’t really honour the short story by George Saunders which it was based on. Wanna read that instead? Here you go my loves: Escape from Spiderhead.
  • Keep Sweet, Pray & Obey, (Netflix) – This four-part series which takes us inside the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is acutely distressing; (trigger warning – sexual, physical and psychological abuse); however I felt the documentary makers did an excellent job of giving survivors the space to share their experiences and tell their stories.
  • Outlaws Season 2, (BBC iPlayer) – deliciously lightweight nonsense, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Not a TV thing, but this is really great: Vox and The Pudding have joined forces to look at what happens when an artist goes viral on TikTok, and it’s fascinating:

Part IV: What I’ve been up to…

I got to meet up with my friends Ben and Gary which was wonderful, and my friend Steve and I went to a storytelling event called One Track Minds which was ace.

I also managed to finagle a little writing time and wrote something to submit to a competition. I did not win, but you can read the winning entry, plus submissions from myself and others here.

What’s next?

Dear reader I’m writing this newsletter from my hotel room in Seattle. It is 4am and I am awake because of jetlag, or possibly it’s because my mortal soul has been delayed:

“She knows, now, absolutely, hearing the white noise that is London, that Damien’s theory of jet lag is correct: that her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly umbilical down the vanished wake of the plane that brought her here, hundreds of thousands of feet above the Atlantic. Souls can’t move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.”

~Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

I hope it catches up to me before I head back to London, and lose it all over again 🙂

I’m a little nervous for MozCon, but excited that I’ll get to spend time with a bunch of wonderful friends while I’m here.

Speaking of MozCon, if you’d like to check out my talk you can find a write up, and my slide deck here.

BrightonSEO Training Course: Advanced Content Creation for Digital PR

On October 5th I’ll be running a training course in Brighton. It will be lovely. You can find more details about the course, and book your spot here.

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