Published in the March 1939 issue of The New Yorker, James Thurber’s short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” has been adapted into a full feature film, out now. I first read this story in my 9th grade English class, and it brings a lot of memories reading it again. The story has been unlocked at The New Yorker, so it’s well worth a (re)-read.
Walter Mitty stopped the car in front of the building where his wife went to have her hair done. “Remember to get those overshoes while I’m having my hair done,” she said. “I don’t need overshoes,” said Mitty. She put her mirror back into her bag. “We’ve been all through that,” she said, getting out of the car. “You’re not a young man any longer.” He raced the engine a little. “Why don’t you wear your gloves? Have you lost your gloves?” Walter Mitty reached in a pocket and brought out the gloves. He put them on, but after she had turned and gone into the building and he had driven on to a red light, he took them off again. “Pick it up, brother!” snapped a cop as the light changed, and Mitty hastily pulled on his gloves and lurched ahead. He drove around the streets aimlessly for a time, and then he drove past the hospital on his way to the parking lot.
If the link expires, you can always read the entire short story here.
Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation, reflects on the difficulty of writing:
It’s not that hard to be a lawyer. Any fool can be a lawyer. It’s really hard to be a writer. You have to be born with incredible amounts of talent. Then you have to work hard. Then you have to be able to handle tons of rejection and not mind it and just keep pushing away at it. You have to show up at people’s doors. You can’t just e-mail and text message people. You have to bang their doors down. You have to be interesting. You have to be fucking phenomenal to get a book published and then sell the book. When people think their writing career is not working out, it’s not working out because it’s so damn hard. It’s not harder now than it was 20 years ago. It’s just as hard. It was always hard.
Further reading: Elizabeth Wurtzel on her “one-night stand of a life,” published earlier this year in New York Magazine.
David Foster Wallace took his own life five years ago today.
This quote on the mortality paradox, found in Conversations with David Foster Wallace, resonated with me:
You don’t have to think very hard to realize that our dread of both relationships and loneliness, both of which are like sub-dreads of our dread of being trapped inside a self (a psychic self, not just a physical self), has to do with angst about death, the recognition that I’m going to die, and die very much alone, and the rest of the world is going to go merrily on without me. I’m not sure I could give you a steeple-fingered theoretical justification, but I strongly suspect a big part of real art-fiction’s job is to aggravate this sense of entrapment and loneliness and death in people, to move people to countenance it, since any possible human redemption requires us first to face what’s dreadful, what we want to deny.
That’s the quote of the day, courtesy of John Gruber, who runs Daring Fireball:
Megan Garber summarizes in The Atlantic:
The camera features a new lens (one designed by Apple) with an f/2.2 aperture and a sensor that’s 15 percent larger than previous models. It’ll have a relatively meager 8-megapixel sensor, but each pixel will be bigger than previous models’ — which will, Apple’s Phil Schiller explained today, let in more light. The camera software — which will be optimized for iOS 7 — will do an automatic series of adjustments to things like an image’s white balance, exposure, tone map, and autofocus. The camera will also feature what Apple is calling a “true tone” dual LED flash, featuring one cool (blue) LED and one warm (amber) LED, allowing the flash to better match the color balance of the light in the room. That makes for, Wired notes, “over 1,000 unique flash variations for your photos.” Which is, as Schiller put it, “a world’s first for any camera.”
That new f/2.2 lens looks particularly impressive. Just look at this sample photograph Apple has posted.
Just a ton of new features for the iPhone’s new camera. I’m pretty sure I’ll be upgrading come September 20.
Someone in social media cited Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet as their favorite book. I haven’t read it, but this quote on patience is sublime:
I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
This week, I had a deep, liberating, and humbling conversation with someone whose intentions I got completely wrong. The signals, signs, body language: I’ve misread everything.
And so: I am reminded of this quote from Philip Roth’s American Pastoral, on getting people wrong. It’s one of my all-time favorite quotes:
You get them wrong before you meet them: you get them wrong while you’re with them and then you get home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion empty of all perception, an astonishing farce of misperception. And yet what are we to do about this terribly significant business of other people, which gets bled of the significance we think it has and takes on a significance that is ludicrous, so ill equipped are we all to envision one another’s interior workings and invisible aims? Is everyone to go off and lock the door and sit secluded like the lonely writers do, in a soundproof cell, summoning people out of words and then proposing that these word people are closer to the real thing than the real people that we mangle with our ignorance every day? The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we are alive: we’re wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride.
So, thank you, Mr. Roth for this reminder. I am wrong because I am alive. I am alive, and so I’m wrong.
I had no idea that there were so many variations of pie in the United States until I read this interesting New York Times piece:
A big, deep, soupy mess of warm fruit or soft sweet potato, the sonker was made to feed everyone who happened to be working at the farm on any given summer day. Like the many other players in the loose-knit team of dishes based on cooked fruit and bread, it began as a way to stretch fruit that was perhaps past its glory or make use of economical fillings like wild blackberries.
A big pan of sonker was easy to haul to the church supper or the event in the South known as the “covered dish.” It is less fussy than a traditional round pie, and easier to serve to a crowd.
At this point, the astute reader is probably thinking this sounds like a cobbler with a funny name. But what is a cobbler, really? Is it the freewheeling cousin of the crisp? The Southern answer to the thrifty New England brown Betty? A pan dowdy with integrity? A pie for lazy people?
If you are looking for clarity, I apologize. Unlike a classic pie, which everyone can pretty much agree on, the broader category of baked fruit desserts like cobblers and crisps is at once specific and general. These dishes are so regional that people within the same county will disagree on the proper form, but so accessible and varied in interpretation that no one has a lock. A proper cobbler (or a crisp or a Betty or a sonker) is what you grew up eating.
I’ll take a side of cobbler, sonker down, crumbling my way to food heaven, please.
Related: Wikipedia’s list of pies, tarts, and flans.
An interesting post by Felix Salmon on “promiscuous media.” He thinks that because of the proliferation of blogs and various social media services, everyone is a curator (I don’t disagree):
Everybody is a curator, these days: publishers design platforms for certain types of content, editors shape publications by deciding what to leave out; journalists try to make sure that the stuff they’re doing is expressed to its best possible effect on the best possible platform. The result is a more fluid media ecosystem than we’ve been used to, but also a more effective one. Let content live where it works best; that way, the publishers of that content will be able to present something with maximal coherence and a minimum of feeling that they’re trying to do something they’re not particularly good at. The publishers who win are going to be the ones with addictive, compelling, distinctive content. Rather than the ones who are constantly flailing around, trying to copy everything that’s good somewhere else.
I don’t think blogging is dead. It’s just evolved.
What are your go-to sites for blogging? I’ve been on the fence about Tumblr: I like its ease of publishing, but what do I blog about?
One of the things that’s interesting about design [is that] there’s a danger, particularly in this industry, to focus on product attributes that are easy to talk about. You go back 10 years, and people wanted to talk about product attributes that you could measure with a number. So they would talk about hard drive size, because it was incontrovertible that 10 was a bigger number than 5, and maybe in the case of hard drives that’s a good thing. Or you could talk about price because there’s a number there.
But there are a lot of product attributes that don’t have those sorts of measures. Product attributes that are more emotive and less tangible. But they’re really important. There’s a lot of stuff that’s really important that you can’t distill down to a number. And I think one of the things with design is that when you look at an object you make many many decisions about it, not consciously, and I think one of the jobs of a designer is that you’re very sensitive to trying to understand what goes on between seeing something and filling out your perception of it. You know we all can look at the same object, but we will all perceive it in a very unique way. It means something different to each of us. Part of the job of a designer is to try to understand what happens between physically seeing something and interpreting it.
I think that sort of striving for simplicity is not a style. It’s an approach and a philosophy. I think it’s about authenticity and being honest. Not just taking something crappy and styling the outside in an arbitrary disconnected way.
–Jony Ive, via this blog post titled “Jony Ive is Not a Graphic Designer” (per this PR document, Ive is in charge of Human Interface at Apple).