Excellent Things: 04

“One of the biases of retrospection is to believe that the moral crises of the past were clearer than our own — that, had we been alive at the time, we would have recognized them, known what to do about them, and known when the time had come to do so. That is a fantasy. Iniquity is always coercive and insidious and intimidating, and lived reality is always a muddle, and the kind of clarity that leads to action comes not from without but from within.”

This was the most resonant quote, especially given everything that’s going on in the world, from Kathryn Schultz’s ‘The Perilous Lure of the Underground Railroad’.

Semi-related: Slate Star Codex on how/why to vote in the upcoming election.


‘Best To You’ was my favourite song of the past three months.

Rihanna’s ‘Anti’ was the album I couldn’t stop listening to.

The new Bon Iver, Paul Dempsey, Nicolas Jaar, & Frank Ocean albums were all welcome additions too.

do whatever will teach you the most

I donated to these initiatives:

New Incentives

Give Directly - Basic Income Project

“If you are irritated by every rub, how can you be polished?” — Rumi

Three recent profiles/interviews stand out.

1.‘Sam Altman’s Manifest Destiny’, which you leave feeling uneasy, as if you’re watching a full glass about to tip over.

2.Tim Cook’s Washington Post interview was a revealing, guarded look inside the life of a CEO at the world’s most valuable company.

3.The Obama exit interview with Doris Kearns Goodwin stood out for its endless quotability.

“You could analyze me and say that my father leaving and being absent was a motivator for early ambition, trying to prove myself to this apparition who had vanished. You could argue that me being a mixed kid in a place where there weren’t a lot of black kids around might have spurred on my ambitions. You could go through a whole litany of things that sparked me wanting to do something important.
But as I got older, then my particular ambitions started cohering around creating a world in which people of different races or backgrounds or faiths can recognize each other’s humanity, or creating a world in which every kid, regardless of their background, can strive and achieve and fulfill their potential.
And those particular ambitions end up being rooted not just in me wanting to prove myself, but they end up being rooted in a particular worldview, a recognition that the world only makes sense to me given my life and my background if, in fact, we’re not just an assortment of tribes that can never understand each other, but that we’re, rather, one common humanity that can meet and learn and love each other.”

Related:

Mr. Robot was the best TV I watched:

“Every day we change the world. But to change the world in a way that means anything takes more time than most people have. It never happens all at once. It’s slow. It’s methodical. It’s exhausting. We don’t all have the stomach for it.”

Jake Gyllenhaal’s ‘Demolition’ was the best movie I watched, but I can’t imagine others will feel the same.

Netflix’s ‘Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom’ was the best documentary.


I know it’s over, and everyone’s moved on, but I think about LeBron’s finals performance every day. I’ve re-watched Games 5, 6, 7 over and over since July.

In his two career NBA Finals G7s, LeBron put up a 27–11–10 and a 37–12–9 and won both. It’s hard to fathom that level of mastery in the face of such a weight of expectation.

The sweat of hard work is not to be displayed. It is much more graceful to appear favoured by the Gods.

Look at the faces of the people trying Nura Headphones for the first time. That was my feeling when I tried them. I couldn’t stop thinking for weeks after about how different our experiences of life are from one another.


This Vox explainer made me go deep again on the Kanye back-catalogue with an entirely new appreciation:


Ray Dalio’s ‘Principles’ is dense. But you can get something even from the first page. For everything in life, the first step is…

…ask yourself: “Is it true?”
The way to be right all the time is not to be right all the time, because that never happens.

I am in awe of Snapchat. To make Spectacles your next strategic move is so bold and crazy. I can’t wait to see what happens.

And for Evan to still be thinking about things in such a human way, with so much on the line, is mind-blowing:

“It was our first vacation, and we went to Big Sur for a day or two. We were walking through the woods, stepping over logs, looking up at the beautiful trees. And when I got the footage back and watched it, I could see my own memory, through my own eyes — it was unbelievable. It’s one thing to see images of an experience you had, but it’s another thing to have an experience of the experience. It was the closest I’d ever come to feeling like I was there again.”


You couldn’t watch this unforgettable Grand Final moment, and not well up. A coach giving his victory medal to his injured veteran star Bob Murphy after the Bulldogs broke their 60+ year premiership drought:

The other epic AFL story was Moana Hope, a priority pick in the newly formed AFL Women’s, being profiled on Australian Story, then bagging 6 goals in the same week at the women’s marquee match.


Usain Bolt was the story, but Wade Van Niekerk’s gold from Lane 8 will be the memory of this last Olympics.

The best book I read was ‘Collision Low Crossers’.

“On the one hand, the players were actual people the coaches guided, taught, and came to know and care about. On the other, the players were abstractions, works perpetually in progress for the coaches to edit, improve, even transform.”

The best chapter I read was the final one in ‘When Breath Becomes Air’, written by Lucy Goddard Kalanithi, the author’s wife.

“When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

The best essay I read was James Baldwin’s ‘Letter From A Region In My Mind’.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, 
But I have promises to keep, 
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep.