Marginalia - Issue #23

There is a repeating cycle in my creativity revolving from stricture to spontaneity. I set a schedule with consistency in mind and then over time I begin to feel trapped by the rigidity I’ve set. This is something I didn’t understand before; something that I believed to be “my rebellious nature.” But I’m beginning to see it in a different light. I beginning to see it in light the of learning.

What seemed so strange to me is something very normal in education. We start learning to form handwritten letters with cursive sheets where we trace the letters across dotted lines reminding us where the curves of letters begin. We follow the rules, we all aim for identical uniform cursive writing, and then eventually we are set free. We absorb the basic concepts and from there our styles begin to differ. We all diverge into our own idiosyncrasies and develop our individual styles on handwriting. My father makes e’s that look like backwards 3’s. My mother’s writing is full of perfect arcs. I have a strong distaste for cursive letters that don’t actually look like the letters themselves (lowercase z’s, uppercase G’s.) I choose instead to incorporate their print counterparts. This cycle of structure and chaos is how we learn. We start with training wheels and and then we learn not to crash into bushes.

This week Lam and I recorded and episode that I scrapped. We both got to the end and knew it wasn’t any good. It’s the first time in three years that has happened. I’ve never scrapped an episode before. But this one was bad. It was boring. It was last a lot of reading notes on over-analyzed systems. And it happened because of stricture.

Somewhere along the line, I picked up this unwavering belief that podcast episodes had to come out every week on the same day. Why? There’s no broadcast schedule, there’s no advertiser breathing down my neck. Yet, I operated like there was some invisible deadline that I had to meet every Monday.

Now, maybe I needed that to start. Maybe I needed that pressure to push me past the laziness that some call “waiting for inspiration.” Maybe pushing to get episodes done forced me to continue, when most podcasters fizzle out and quit in less than ten episodes. Maybe without the tension of holding to that schedule, I would have quit making the show when Lam left and I had to do the show all by myself. Maybe I never would have discovered the format of rotating the second seat on the show between Lam, Tom, and guests. Maybe I needed those lessons to learn how to do this thing the right way.

There are two reasons I had to scrap this episode. The first is that I expect more. I’m finally in a place where I know what the focus of the show is and how it should feel. I know that I want to deal with topics that require research. I know that I want to stretch my understanding with each episode. I know that I have high standards.

The second reason I had to scrap it is time. I don’t have enough. Some of these topics are so big that I just can’t be prepared in 7 days. Some will require months of research to get uneven a decent understanding of them. And what of all the other episodes I need to make in the meantime? Do I short those episodes and lop easy topics in the mean time? No. That violates the paragraph above; it violates the standards. So what do I do?

I recently switched podcast apps on my phone because I wanted something that tracked my listing history. Sometimes I hear something in an episode that doesn’t strike me as meaningful until a few days later, when I’ve forgotten which podcast I was listening to. So, I wanted an app that would show me what I’ve listened to and would allow me to track down the episode and listen to it again.

In the process of moving shows between apps, I started to notice that most of my favorite shows, then ones that really made me think, payed little regard to the weekly episode paradigm. A few publish bi-monthly, but the bulk of them publish episodes whenever the hell they want. Never on a specific day or at a specify time. When something is done, it’s done and they release it. Sometimes several in a week, other times almost a month apart.

I saw for the first time that I didn’t need lessons anymore. I din’t need tracing paper any longer. I was ready to let go of the assumptions that had carried me this far. I’d outgrown the braces.

Going forward, I’m going to let my curiosity and my research lead the way rather than adherence to a schedule. I’m no longer going to focus on squeezing episodes into a seven day cycle. My episodes will come out when they are ready. And I’m doing the same with these newsletters. When I have some interesting stuff circled, I’ll send. When I have written something to share, I’ll send. When I’ve heard insightful podcasts, I’ll send. When I’ve looked up a bunch of words, I’ll send. When there’s a new episode, I’ll send. When someone emails me a question to, I’ll send out an answer.

These emails will start coming from from now on, so keep an eye on your spam folder.

RB 142: DisagreementChad and Tom talk about whether there is a way to disagree well? Is there a way to disagree with someone but still have a good and valuable conversation? What are the ways that we continually fail at this? What can we do to improve?


Stuff Circled

As a child, Andy Kaufman used to pretend there was a camera in the wall and that he was putting on a TV show.

In 1971, President’s Day was moved from Washington’s birthday (Feb 22) tot he third Monday of February in order to create three-day weekends.

The cliffs of Dover are white because of algae.

C.C. Patterson was the first to determine the age of the Earth. He was also the first to discover the dangers of lead. And when he began to share his findings, the petroleum industry tried, unsuccessfully, to buy him off.

For better quality pizza delivery, ask them not to cut the pizza for you. This prevents topping slide in transit and when the pizza arrives it will be about 150 degrees, which is the perfect temperature for slicing.

Podcasts Starred

Phil Zuckerman - What it Means to Be Moral: Why Religion is Not Necessary for Living an Ethical Life | Science Salon

  • Are atheists more or less moral that theists?

  • What is the difference between morality and obedience?

  • Is something moral because god commands it or does god command it because it is moral?

  • enforcing laws vs revenge

How Do You Build a New Operating System for the Mind - Mark Williamson (COO of Masterclass) | Crazy Wisdom

  • thinking is a sense

  • hustle porn is nonsense. the time you put into something means nothing compared to the attention you give it

  • status seeking & drug abuse for coping with pain

  • we need non-dogmatic politicians & we need reprioritize compromise

  • independent thinkers don’t align with political parties

8: Andrew Yang: The Dangerously Different Candidate The Media Want You to Ignore - The Portal

  • he doesn’t seem to be hunting for the perfectly scripted answer but rather he answers like a normal human.

  • he’s not afraid to make a misstep

#1354 - The Black Keys | The Joe Rogan Experience

  • music streaming favors well know artists

  • American radio is boring because of algorithms

  • we used to enjoy “bad” movies because it’s what was available and we didn’t have our heads constantly in a device

  • signing bands = deflecting blame because only 1 in 100 break even

Words Looked Up

psychophysical - the branch of psychology that deals with the relationship between physical stimuli and mental phenomena

treble - consisting of three parts

numinous - having a strong religious or spiritual quality

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Santa Cruz adventures with these dudes
October 1, 2019

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