Four works of art that show attention to craft, from peculiar artists, with particular takes. All recommended if that sounds interesting.

One Good

I started to get dizzy in January 2023. It began with ringing in my ears after attending a loud concert and gradually worsened. Some days, it was debilitating, almost like being on a spinning ride. Other days, it felt more like being on a constantly rocking boat. They called it vertigo, and when doctors use that term, they take it seriously and subject you to numerous tests to determine the cause. In my case, they were unable to pinpoint a definitive reason, and after about 45 days, the symptoms lessened and eventually disappeared over the next few months. During these investigations, they also discovered high-frequency hearing loss in my auditory range - completely unrelated to the vertigo! - but most likely caused by years of exposure to loud live music.

This reminded me of my friend Keith who was one of my concert-going friends a long time ago. Keith and I backpacked around Asia after we graduated from school. I’d like to think we were a good duo as Keith pushed me towards adventure (“don’t worry it’s safe if we give them our passports to rent these motorcycles”) and I got us to Bangkok and back from Singapore many months later. One time he hiked to the top of Mt Batur on Bali at sunrise while I stayed behind, too sick with food poisoning to join him. When he returned he took a photo of me recovering with one of the few disposable cameras we brought to document our trip. Back then, there were no mobile phones to capture memories in an instant. Even though we talked about our travels often for years afterwards, I never really told Keith how meaningful the whole thing was. We have those few photos, though.

This got me thinking: the area codes linked to our phone numbers once indicated our current location, but now they represent our place of origin.

That change in perspective gave me an idea: in a world of abundance, the real question is not what we can do but rather what we should. What if the aperture of what was available was then, and instead, narrowed down and limited?  Imagine a service that offered only one item within your desired category. Then I poked around and noticed that others were also thinking about this same thing.

Fair Warning is an art service that auctions only one piece of art every other week or so.

1001 Albums wants you to listen to all the great albums of all time but only presents one a day to you. Dudel Draw is an app that gives you one new shape every day to draw on. One Thing is a newsletter about one interesting thing, each time. 

What if there was a movie service that offered only one film per week, exclusively on Wednesday nights? And once the movie was gone, it was gone for good. The catch? You wouldn't even know what the movie was until two days before it played. Is this interesting or just a gimmick?

The concept of narrowing focus made me think about this thing my friend R and I do. We send cold emails to interesting people we want to meet, obsessing over who we choose and what we write. Most of the time, these emails go unanswered, but I’ve come to realize that's not the point. It's not about getting a response; it’s about the idea of doing the act itself, challenging yourself, and taking a (small) personal risk. Maybe it's more about the idea or memory of doing it than actually doing it.

These emails reminded me of something Sarah Manguso wrote: “The first beautiful songs you hear tend to stay beautiful because better than beauty, which is everywhere, is the memory of first discovering beauty.”

I remembered something else that has beauty: the  Jewish custom of saying “may their memory be a blessing” when someone dies. They may no longer be with us, yet their memory remains a gift and a blessing.

All these thoughts made my mind drift to a few weeks ago when I found myself in a tiny basement bar in the West Village late into the night on a random weeknight and a jazz trio was playing mid tempo songs and people were drinking martinis and talking loudly and strangers were dancing and it felt like the center of the universe. Ever get that feeling?

aka Mr. Chow

"For the real version of me look into my painting.

Painting can never lie.

Nowhere to go, nowhere to hide"

- Mr Chow

Why do we write reviews? Is it to persuade others to engage with or avoid the item being reviewed, whether it's reading, listening, or watching?

Maybe so, and then again, maybe not. Opinions about something are inherently subjective. What justifies one person's belief that their viewpoint should be employed to persuade another when the matter itself is inherently uncertain?

Instead, perhaps the purpose of a review is to capture the moments that have caught the reviewer's attention. By sharing these moments, they offer the possibility that someone else might also find them intriguing.

Here are 5 moments I noticed about the documentary aka Mr Chow:

  1. This man led a fascinating life, or perhaps more importantly, he held the belief that he did; perhaps we all can perceive our lives as equally interesting?

  2. His devotion and meticulous attention to detail serve as his belief that it is the route to achieving success.

  3. This man wanted to be an actor; then became a restauranteur, an iconic one; that led him to amass one of the greatest collections of modern art we've ever seen; and then became an artist in his own right. Things aren't straight.

  4. Mr. Chow seems to exude happiness, not necessarily in a traditionally optimistic manner, but more in the sense of embracing the curiosity of life and being open to following curiosity.

  5. Towards the film's conclusion, there's a short scene where he revisits his childhood home. Although it isn't the central focus of the narrative, this moment carries profound emotional weight, evoking intense pathos and a feeling of witnessing something deeply personal that we perhaps shouldn't be privy to, yet he invites us in.

    I am still thinking about this, brief, moment.

Family Meal by Bryan Washington

"Sometimes the best we can do is live for each other, she says. It’s enough. Even if it seems like it isn’t"

- Bryan Washington

I find there are a few things that can happen with a work of literature. One is where you put the book down and think to yourself, "hmmm."

Another is when you immediately text your friend "trust me on this one."

A third is where you must find some way to wipe the tears from your face and stop your sobbing. And step away, knowing the meaning and deep effect from that work will hit you later, and only then will you be able to decide what to do with that meaning.

Family Meal fits into that last category.

The Purpose of Writing

That’s one of the great things about songwriting; it’s not an intellectual experience. One might have to apply the brain here and there, but basically it’s capturing moments

- Keith Richards

The first blog post I ever wrote, in 2006, was simply listing the poem Resemblance, by David Ferry:

I started then, using one of the original pieces of read/write software - Blogger, code originally written in 1999, acquired by Google in 2003, rarely updated since then, but still used by me in 2023.

My writing has slowed down when I approached it as an intellectual exercise. Yet, maybe it's not dissimilar to songwriting - capturing moments. Let's see.