Chad Comello

libraries, culture, typewriters

They podcast me back in

“If your mind is forever filled with the voices of others, how do you know what you think about anything? Pulling attention apart is pulling a mind apart.”

After watching this video by CGP Grey about attention (h/t C.J. Chilvers), I deleted over half of my podcast subscriptions. I’ve culled the list before, but like Don Corleone:

(I happen to be in the middle of rewatching the Godfather trilogy.)

Podcasts are perfect for my input-seeking brain. I have liked them for a while. Every morning, first thing, I check for new episodes and fire them up. Though I’m very liberal with skipping ones that don’t interest me, the ones I do listen to can still flood my brain for hours.

But like any habit, what starts as a fun diversion can easily turn into a compulsion. Social media I can regulate easily. Podcasts, I’m realizing, not so much. They are good during chores and driving, but not during time at home with my wife or when I want to be creative. Scaling back will help, I think, but so will prioritizing those other more enriching and lasting activities.

The happiest typewriter on earth

My sister-in-law picked this up from a baby resale for me. And by me I mean my future child:

I’ve trotted out my real typewriters for my nieces and nephew, but they are still too young to use them correctly. This will be a great gateway drug to the typist lifestyle.

Next step: replace all the Disney branding with something a little less corporate-behemothy.

Bill of Reader’s Rights

I wanna put up these “Rights of the Reader” (from Daniel Pennac’s The Rights of the Reader) in my library:

1. The right not to read.

2. The right to skip pages.

3. The right to not finish.

4. The right to reread.

5. The right to read anything.

6. The right to escapism.

7. The right to read anywhere.

8. The right to browse.

9. The right to read aloud.

10. The right to not defend your tastes.

The only right I don’t take advantage of is rereading. There are just too many books out there to read that rereading seems like a wasteful indulgence. But all the more reason to try it once in a while.

(h/t Austin Kleon)

One nation under The Rock

Magazine mashups from GQ, June 2017. More here.

The Opposition in the WCTU archives

The Frances Willard House Museum & Archives has an extensive collection of books, articles, reference material, and other educational media on topics of all kinds. I’ve looked through hundreds of books and boxes in the WCTU archives, which hold some material as old as Willard herself. Among these titles are subjects you’d expect: medical treatises, temperance sermons and literature.

But I also found things you wouldn’t expect, like the back catalog of The Brewers Journal and anti-temperance literature. One of these “opposition” titles popped out in my recent archival digging. A Prohibition Primer, published in 1931 by an anonymous author and a “liberty-loving Publisher”, is a short but sharp tongue-in-cheek rejoinder to Prohibition and the temperance movement.

Chapters like “What Is Silly About Prohibition?” and “Why Is It Right To Disobey Prohibition?” are embellished by cheeky illustrations that show the “horrors of drink according to Prohibitionists” and caricature temperance advocates as a ghastly, scolding jack-in-the-box. Conversely, a bootlegger with a dapper three-piece suit is given a halo and deemed “a necessary evil.”

Paired with the illustrations, the simple and didactic writing style is aimed directly at children (or adults looking for a laugh):

“At school, if there is anybody you hate more than a big, bullying candy-stealing boy, it is a tattletale. Well, Prohibition is filling up our country and especially its Government offices with the kind of men and women who were tattletales when they were children and have never learned enough to get over it.”

What’s probably obvious by now is that it’s not terribly generous toward the temperance movement:

“From about 1820 on they began trying to force their ideas on everybody. They made speeches in halls, at lectures, in the churches, on the streets. They had ministers preach from their pulpits that it was wicked to drink alcohol. The more they talked the more excited they got. The more excited they got the more things they said that weren’t true and couldn’t be proved.”

How seriously the WCTU worried about their public reputation is hard to say. The book was published not long before the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition, so the movement’s influence was already waning. Regardless, call it opposition research or just plain savviness; the WCTU knew it was important not just to Do Everything, but to Know Everything, especially their rhetorical enemies.

Revisiting my top films of 2008

Ten years ago I ranked my top 10 films of 2008. (I also started filmlogging.) Since last year’s revisit of my top films of 2007 was so fun, I thought I’d make this an annual tradition.

Here’s my original 2008 list:

  1. WALL-E
  2. Happy-Go-Lucky
  3. Man on Wire
  4. In Bruges
  5. Rachel Getting Married
  6. Shotgun Stories
  7. The Dark Knight ­­
  8. Tell No One
  9. Encounters at the End of the World
  10. Milk

Lots of interesting choices here. Kinda shocked Happy-Go-Lucky was so high and that Milk made the list. Also surprised I was so into Man on Wire and Rachel Getting Married. That year in general was a time with an odd mix of hope (Obama elected) and darkness (the world economy). The tenor of these picks falls all along that spectrum, as I suppose any year with a properly diverse array of films should.

Ten years out, that hope-despair spectrum remains but my taste has changed, if only slightly. As always, without rewatching all the candidates it’s hard to make a totally fair and accurate list, but here’s where my gut goes:

  1. Summer Hours
  2. WALL-E
  3. Goodbye Solo
  4. In Bruges
  5. Shotgun Stories
  6. Tell No One
  7. Man on Wire
  8. The Dark Knight
  9. Rachel Getting Married
  10. Encounters at the End of the World

With honorable mention to Rachel Getting Married, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Iron Man, Burn After Reading, The Wrestler, W., Happy-Go-Lucky, and Milk.

The precipitous drop of Happy-Go-Lucky, which went from #2 to honorable mention, was surprising. Perhaps a rewatch would put it back on the list. But I had to crown a new champion in Summer Hours, the Olivier Assayas family drama, and bump Milk for Goodbye Solo.

I fondly recall watching all of these during college, when I was also discovering so many old and new films in the cinephile canon. My college library and the public library were go-to sources. Some things never change.

Code of Ethics for engineers (and everyone)

Not sure where I found this on the interwebs, but I immediately fell in love with it—not for the engineering and robotics aspect, but for how it can be used for any creative work:

Let’s call these the 10 Commandments of Creative Work. Just replace “robot” with your art of choice:

1. Be industrious. Build, test, repeat.

2. Follow Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.

3. Ask questions. Always.

4. Try things you’ve never tried before. There are many solutions to one problem.

5. Don’t fall apart if your robot does. It’s a chance to begin again.

6. Keep tinkering even if you’ve run out of ideas. Building will bring you more ideas.

7. Save your best ideas in secret notebooks.

8. Read lots of books about other things. Things that are not robots.

9. Pay attention to dreams.

10. Remember: the best robots are the ones you haven’t thought of yet.

Comello’s Kitchen

Here are four things I recommend to make your time in the kitchen better.

Onion goggles. My wife and I laughed at these when we saw them in a store, because they are laughable. It took a few passes before we gave them a try, and now I’m mad at myself for all that pointless, ugly onion crying I endured before now.

Gordon Ramsay’s onion cutting technique. After yet again botching what should be a routine process, I hit up YouTube for a more efficient way to cut onions. This one was a minor epiphany. Unless you need slices, this is the way to go.

Manual food chopper. I love being able to mince several garlic cloves in a few seconds. It’s a few more pieces to clean but totally worth it.

Immersion hand blender. I make breakfast smoothies regularly, but using a traditional blender was a nightmare. The ingredients would whip up to the sides of the glass and not blend, and it was a pain in the ass to clean. Got one of these on a recommendation and it changed everything. Easy to blend and clean, and it’s the perfect serving size. (And get you some reusable metal straws, people.)

Frequency

Frequency. Saw this on Amazon Prime and had to rewatch it. I was a big fan when it came out, so glad to see it holds up. It’s an ostensibly goofy concept of magical-realist family drama that turns into a murder mystery, but they somehow pulled it off.

Lane Greene’s language litany

Lane Greene, from his forthcoming book Talk on the Wild Side:

Language is not so much logical as it is useful. It is not composed; it is improvised. It is not well behaved; it is resourceful. It is not delicate; it is hardy. It is not always efficient, but its redundancy makes it robust. It is not threatened; it is self-renewing. It is not perfect. But it is amazing.

Amen.

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