Hitting ‘Publish’

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about journaling vs. blogging on this site, and how to balance between the two in a productive and beneficial way.

There’s an obvious psychological difference between words that intended for broader consumption, and those that are kept close and mostly to myself — consciously or not, there’s a certain self-censoring to one’s public-facing writings, as opposed to the more unstructured, impulsive, and emotionally honest relationship between a person and their journal.

However, I do think there’s room for both, and think that the public blog has more utility than one might expect in the journal/blog writing continuum.

When I decided to try and revive this webspace, I had two primary objectives.

The first was to hold myself accountable to the act of consistent writing – any significant length of time between posts would be readily noticeable to the curious / critical visitor, including myself.

The second objective was to do away with the fear of reprisal from broader consumption of my own thoughts and opinions: to leave little distance between my name and my writing, and to leave myself open to the public criticism, commentary, and consideration that putting your name and opinions the internet entails. In doing so, I recognize that I will occasionally be wrong, misguided, naive, or look stupid, and have to be okay with that.

As a general principle, I am a huge proponent of the importance of incremental improvement, the ability of one’s growth mindset to propel one’s learning and abilities throughout one’s life. From a personal standpoint, the skillset that is most important to me deals with the absorption of ideas, and my ability to impart my own interpretations and thoughts on these ideas coherently and cogently. Further, I believe it is crucial to learn from the responses and perspectives of others, who will only be able to respond to my thoughts with their own if I can express myself in a clear and structured fashion.

Therein lies the value of the blog – a repository for my own thoughts and a time capsule to be revisited by myself and others as I continue to learn and grow, while simultaneously a place to hone my ability to translate my thoughts into words, paragraphs, and blog posts.

Ryan Holiday recently reflected on revisiting his first book, Trust Me, I’m Lying, which he wrote and published at the age of 25:

When reviewing these pages — pages I’d hurriedly written and edited in my excitement to publish my first book — I wonder who the hell I thought I was. I’d studied and sat with the topic for how long? And here I was, printing words that could never be unprinted. I’m embarrassed by the certainty of it. As if it had never occurred to me to hedge my bets or entertain the possibility that subsequent events might prove me wrong. Why couldn’t I have said simply that this is what I thought at the time and knew to be true to the best of my ability? There’s a pervasive overdone-ness to so much of it. If there’s any proof of the ego’s insecurity, it’s there — in the fact that I have to put two sentences where one would clearly do, a big word where a simpler one would have sufficed.

Ryan continues:

And here I am now, regretting it, as I inevitably will regret parts of this article, and parts of the article I wrote last week and the one I will publish next week.

Not having had the privilege of publishing a book at 25, I can only imagine the feeling of revisiting your first book, after years and further published books that more accurately reflect how he seems himself today. However, I believe this ultimately only reflects positively on his evolution as an author, as a thinker, and as a human being. His ability to reflect on his initial writing with humility, and to have the distance and clarity to critically examining his younger self is a testament to the evolution that he’s undergone in just six short years. In my eyes, this reflects much more positively on himself and who he is today than the fact that his previous writing may have been immature, boorish, or incorrect.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book We Were Eight Years in Power is a truly fantastic collection of essays written during President Obama’s Presidency that dissect the broader context behind the President’s ascension, accomplishments, and legacy. Each essay is accompanied by an ‘up-to-date’ introduction that I found especially resonant. In these autobiographical pieces, Ta-Nehisi reflects on his year-by-year journey as a news reporter to a magazine contributor and blogger for the Atlantic to the author of Between the World and Me, his trials and tribulations from self-doubt and poverty, and his personal, professional, and intellectual evolution during Obama’s two terms.

In the book, he cites his blog, of which I was a faithful follower (but not contributor), as the place where the majority of his intellectual development and opinions were formed. During that span, he reflected on the books his was reading, openly solicited the thoughts, opinions, and supplemental reading and recommendations of his commenters and interacted with likeminded (and some non-likeminded individuals) on subjects that became the basis of some of his most lauded pieces. As he humbly recounts, it was those oftentimes anonymous contributors, as well as his desire to return to his blog day-after-day, week-after-week, that formed the basis of much of his later success as an author, thinker, and public intellectual.

One day, I hope to be able to revisit this blog with the same type of embarrassment and humility that Ryan and Ta-Nehisi see their earlier writings and blogs, and look towards this (and the internet in general) as a place where I was able to learn, grow, and develop. Until then, the onus is on me to continue to read and think, as well as compose my conclusions for all to see, consume, and criticize here on this site.

Less, More, and None


I was inspired by a page that has been making the rounds on the internet called Less, More, None, and decided to sit down and craft my own version of the exercise.

Revisiting this in digital form, I think the sum of the answers encapsulates my current state of mind.


  • Podcasts
  • Completionism
  • Seductive reading
  • News / Journalism
  • Impulsive acting
  • Excuses / Rationalizations
  • Negativity / Cynicism
  • Compulsive phone checking
  • Clutter
  • Distraction
  • Internet
  • “Needing to know”
  • Last in, first out (email)
  • Email
  • Digital


  • Music
  • Learning
  • Patience
  • Quiet
  • Thinking
  • Writing
  • Consistency
  • Gratitude
  • Creating
  • Experimenting / Tinkering / Toying
  • Long walks
  • Catching up with loved ones
  • First in, first out (email)
  • Journaling
  • Analog
  • Organization
  • Passions


  • Comparing my journey to others
  • Worrying about other’s opinions
  • Conformity
  • Self-pity
  • Chasing the latest / sexy trends


Gravity’s Rainbow: Embarking

After finishing the super hyped Annihilation last week (not terrible, but overly introverted for a suspense / thriller ), I’m building myself up to embark on a long-delayed journey – reading Thomas Pynchon’s infamous 1973 novel Gravity’s Rainbow.

A collection of different book covers used for Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)

I’ve long held Gravity’s Rainbow in a reading category with the works of old masters like Tolstoy and Proust, Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake, and American postmodern works like Delillo’s Underworld and Gaddis’ Recognitions: books that I’ve earmarked to read at some point in my life, but have purposely held off from reading due to some combination of intimidation, a desire to further build up my reading “muscles,” and more time to induce the wisdom/intelligence that only life experience provides. However, I believe that these are all mere rationalizations that have kept me from pursuing these works, like anything else that is used to keep one from carrying out a long-dreaded and delayed tasks.

After reading a great book that I’ve put off reading for one of the above reasons (or because a recent purchase, release, or recommendation has been moved to the top of my list), I normally return to a common realization – that life is short, reading time is finite, and there is little reason to spend one’s precious time reading books that are less than “great,” especially when there are multiple lifetime’s worth of worthy books to be read. However, the appeal of ‘easy’ books, or books that I deem particularly relevant at a certain point in my life, oftentimes take precedence, leaving the list of ‘to read, at some point’ continually growing. At some point (within reason), there needs to be a conscious effort made on my part to do away with drivel and ‘interim’ reads, as well as the books that indulge some small curiosity, and be more intentional with the books that I choose to tackle. </rant>

I bought my first copy of Gravity’s Rainbow after already having purchased a “Companion” to the book at a garage/library/$1 book sale. I was immediately seduced by this companion (A Gravity’s Rainbow Companion: Sources and Context’s for Pynchon’s Novel), a sort of cipher that would enable the reader to capably break through the complexity and more directly access the author’s intentions and hidden meanings. A minimal amount of online research furthered my understanding of the notorious challenge associated with reading GR, as well as an base knowledge of the general mystique that surrounds Pynchon the person, and the mass acclaim given to Pynchon the author.


A Gravity’s Rainbow Companion: Sources & Contexts for Pynchon’s Novel, by Steven Weisenburger (1988)

Since that initial fateful purchase, I’ve heeded the recommendation of many Pynchon fans of reading The Crying of Lot 49 as an “entry point,” into Pynchon’s work, given its relatively short length (160 pages) relative to his other books. The book introduces many of the concepts that seem to be characteristic of Pynchon’s broader work: metaphysics, vague, deep-seated conspiracies that are at the heart of our fragile order, and absurd backdrops and satirical characters (with quippy names) that veer from rational explanation.

Reading Lot 49, I felt fairly uninitiated to the the novel’s broader context, which was written in 1965 and includes references and nods to the 60s, most famously allusions to The Beatles / Beatlemania. This feeling was validated after reading two of Pynchon’s more recent novels: Inherent Vice (2009), which is set in hippie-era 1970s California, and Bleeding Edge (2013), which, most familiarly, is set in the aughts’ tech world. Both of these books felt more accessible, both in terms of their use of a more modern vernacular, as well as an ability to more capably process Pynchon’s humorous digressions and broader plot as a result of a more comfortable baseline of knowledge. From this standpoint, GR’s 1973 publication date already seems like a challenging entry point.

Aside: Instead of Lot 49, I would recommend individuals curious about Pynchon to start with Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Inherent Vice, which I think does a fantastic job of capturing the absurdity, humor and thrust of the novel. Now that I think about it, it’s probably my pick for the most faithful / worthy film adaption.


Paul Thomas Anderson’s faithful film adaptation of Pynchon’s novel, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Josh Brolin (2014)

I intend to use this blog as both a capsule and a tool for reading Gravity’s Rainbow, as I try and to tackle it chapter-by-chapter over the summer. Hopefully, using chapters or page intervals as a prompt to pause and reflect will allow me to maintain some grasp the novel. After reading and absorbing each chapter, I also plan to visit the Companion as a way to engage with some of the book’s hidden contexts or obscured clues. While I’m sure there are time-tested and/or recommended approaches for reading the book, for the time being I hope to embrace this method, and intend to capture my thoughts and reflections (and/or lack of comprehension) fairly regularly. That or I give up fairly quickly, and move on to an easier / more relevant read.

Cyan’s Worlds: Myst and Riven

As I mentioned in last week’s weekly reading post, I really enjoyed the experience of re-playing Riven, which coincidentally coincides with Cyan’s (the creators of Riven, and its predecessor, Myst) 25th anniversary.

Myst was a fairly ubiquitous experience for the early 90s PC owners – it came on CD-ROM on my parent’s Gateway computer, along with the ambitious, pre-Wikipedia Encarta and pre-Youtube music and movie encyclopedia projects Microsoft Music Center and Cinemania, both of which sparked a nascent interest in the broader worlds of music and film. Gaming-wise, the “bundle” also included the early LucasArts collection of non-Star Wars of animated point-and-click adventure games: the scifi Day of the Tentacle, the Road Rash-influenced Full Throttle, the extraterrestrial adventure The Dig, the cartoonish buddy comedy Sam & Max Hit the Road, and the globetrotting Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.

fate of the atlantis

Lucasarts’ Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (1992)

All of these games required a certain level of attention, intelligence, and imagination – items to be found, logical connections to be made, and tiny pixelated switches, levers, and buttons needed to be noticed and pushed/pulled. In short, you needed to think like a game designer, not a click-hungry eight-year-old. Needless to say, I beat none of these games, but both remain captivated by them, and nostalgic for them to this day. Thanks to the magic of GOG.com (originally Good Old Games.com), these games are mostly available to be played on modern-day PCs for less than $4.99 (and even more incredibly, on iOS / Android devices!), and have faithfully honored my recollections (though the graphics are always worse than I recalled) and indulged my nostalgia.


Lucasarts’ Full Throttle (1995) – now remastered & available on the iPhone!

Unlike any of these games, Myst defied (and continues to defy) convention. For a young person uninitiated to the world (and possibilities) of mid-90s video gaming, Myst was a revelation. Upon starting up the game, you are dropped into an seemingly alien world – with artifacts of planet Earth (wooden ship, clocktowers, library) and Alice in Wonderland-esque set pieces (oversized gears, spaceships, infinite oceans), all open to be explored at one’s leisure. There was no storyline (at least not without painstaking reading), objective, or clear-cut answers to be had. And I was hopelessly lost. The game couldn’t be more different from many of my other beloved early gaming memories – two-button Nintendo and Sega side scrollers with teams of enemies (and level-ending bosses) to dispense of, and yet I kept coming back. Something about the mystery of the island, and the potential secrets behind the puzzles and reading (imagine: reading in a video game), ignited my curiosity.


In retrospect, I conflate the hours spent and limited payoff playing this game as a 10-year old to the collegiate / adult experience of reading a brick-of-a-postmodern-novel – with the right amount of intelligence, concentration, and investment, pleasure exists, but it’s most definitely beneath the surface. And sometimes, it doesn’t exist at all.

The sequel to Myst, Riven, first arrived at the house of a friend’s in a carefully crafted box set of CD-ROMs. The ominous Riven logo graced the front and back covers, with inserts of each CD evoking the gorgeous, otherworldly scenery to be had in the game. With no ability to purchase the game myself, I immediately sought to prioritize my time spent at this friend’s house to maximize the amount of time spent exploring the contents of Riven.


Screenshot from Riven  – “The Rotating Room”

Even back then, Riven always felt more inviting – less barren, with more immediate “action” and even interaction with other humans, right from the start. Its world felt just as imaginative, following the same arrow-led point-and click format, with an entirely new world to explore and even more collections of weird contraptions, eerie music, puzzles to solve, and answers to discover. I’m not sure if I got much further in Myst than I did in Riven (maybe slightly), but Riven always felt like a more complete game than its predecessor, and worthy of my time and concentration. I imagined myself as an older person, notebook in hand, dutifully working my way through the game and solving its puzzles.


Two more screenshots from Riven

As I spent the past weekend recreating my imagined self, albeit in a foreign country and consuming an alcoholic beverage, I’m struck by just how much Riven met its hype, more than 20 years after the game’s release. As I worked my way through the game, I was struck but just how mindful the game required you to be – no in-game map or hints to be had – requiring the player to survey the areas themselves, both for orientation and hints for what’s next. It was interesting to learn that Riven was intentionally made more intuitive and rewarding: as recollected by one of the principal game designers (now a longtime animator at Disney), in a recent essay coinciding with the studio’s 25th anniversary:

Many players of the original Myst, while loving the experience, had never actually escaped Myst Island. That seemed… unfortunate. This time around we would start players in a fantastic world that would promote more exploration with less roadblocks. Puzzles would be equally challenging to Myst’s but more logical, better integrated into the cultures and environments and therefore less arbitrary. (link)

Watching some of the behind-the-scenes videos associated with the 25th anniversary release, as well as the 13-minute documentary on the Making of Riven (all due to the magic of Youtube), you are struck by the incredible analog effort behind the game’s production, as well as the romanticism behind the low/shoestring budget game with giant aspirations – a story akin to Kevin Smith’s Clerks, and his subsequent success.

Riven reflects everything that I still love about games (and art in general): a sense of mystery, adventure, and discovery, immersive worlds, and engaging and medium-hard puzzles. Just like most of the masterpieces that I love, it reflects the fact that more is not always better – in our current day of life-like graphics and multi-million dollar game budgets, I’ve found very few games which can equal the imaginative environment, evocative imagery and music, and rewarding and thought-provoking (and rewarding) puzzles – though I’m certainly open to suggestions!

Bonus: Here’s Steve Jobs introducing Riven’s creator, Rand Miller. “I guess some of the prior management didn’t like games. I heard this from so many developers that they didn’t support games. The current management really likes games.”


Embracing the Default Mode Network

Sometimes, it’s incredibly gratifying, and reassuring to realize that you’re not alone in your struggles, that people have oftentimes been in similar places in their own lives, and that part of the human experience is our innate desire to help one another and conquer these challenges.

Yesterday, I began reading Ribbonfarm’s post on Mak[ing] Your Own Rules, written by Venkatesh Rao. In reflection, I’m sure that I subconsciously prioritized reading this post as an easy fix, a way to put off actually establishing a modicum of internally-derived consistency and discipline. In fact, the article opened my mind to the broader mindset and motivation behind the creation of these life rules in the first place (borne of that very subconscious thinking), providing a much-needed bit of reassurance and hopefully setting me down a path of defining my own rules that will be useful, and purposeful in my own life.

Rao introduces the reader to the cognitive dichotomy between task-positive cognition (TPC) and the default mode network (DMN) as the two alternating states of the human brain.

TPC involves tasks that require a level of unconscious or imperceptible concentration, such as driving without crashing, cooking without being burned, or carrying out linear tasks. These tasks, and the flow-like mental and emotional state that these actions can engender, are oftentimes described as being ‘relaxing.’

On the other hand, DMN is focused on non-urgent decision making that governs your mind when not consumed by task-positive work, taking over when your brain has “nothing in particular it needs to do.” It is a state of open-ended, mind wandering that oftentimes leads to meandering existential questions of one’s life, purpose, occupation, etc.

While I’ve oftentimes thought of this DMN state as something that’s condemned me (and countless others) to a permanent sentence of in-your-own-head imprisonment, it turns out that there’s actually been research done on this task-negative cognition, or default mode network.

Among this research is the most common places our minds travel to during DMN states (and yes, these look familiar to me):

  1. Autobiographical thinking (reflecting on your life)
  2. Thinking about relationships (other-regarding cognitions including envy, admiration etc)
  3. What-if ruminations about the future
  4. Creative-play imaginative thinking
  5. Idle day-dreaming exploring pleasing thoughts
  6. Aspects of sleep dreaming
  7. Anxious, obsessive thoughts about non-clear-and-present threats
  8. Unfocused attention (scanning the environment)

Rao explains:

“What is common to all these themes is that they involve things you care about, but lack sufficient information, agency, computational tractability, or environmental enabling conditions to act on. You can’t be task-positive about them. There’s nothing to do immediately, only stuff to think about. If you have a breakthrough insight while in task-negative mode, then perhaps there will be a way to act (or a determination of action being impossible). Task-negative regimes of thought are nightmarish hell zones for doerists, wonderland play zones for contemplative types.”

This incredibly explanation provides an appeal to his readers for the need for life rules, to not only govern the “anarchy of the mind” that is the DMN, but also determine when and how to switch between TPC and DMN states, and appropriately regulate mindsets and the associated expense of energy.

One of the things that’s consumed me since making the decision to put off the MBA for this current year is how I go about moving forward; how do i capitalize on this newly ‘non-urgent’ time, without imminent deadlines, tests to take, or essays to write. Naturally, the DMN has been working overtime in this period, as I attempt to rationalize my past decisions, develop a level of comfort in the day-to-day, and put myself on a path to future success.

Being given this dichotomy, laid out neatly, feels like a breakthrough to someone like me who oftentimes finds themselves trapped in cycles of DMN with little refuge or way out. Understanding that there can be a healthy balance between the mind-wandering and task-based productive mindsets, ideally governed by a rule set, feels both liberating and hopeful – that the ‘beast’ can be honed to your own benefit. Through these “rules,” which if done correctly are meant to be broken / interated on / updated over time, as well as through meditation, which Rao points to as a way of “imposing authority” on the DMN, there is a proven framework in place and one that can help manage this balance.

From there, Rao lays out his “rules” for making one’s own rules, including beginner / moderate / advanced levels based on complexity, where you are at in your life, and your likelihood of adopting these rules consistently. Hopefully, the ‘beginner’ portion will be instructive, and I can begin to outline my own rules in a forthcoming post.

To Do: A new to-do method / manager

With the news that Microsoft is shutting down Wunderlist, I thought it made sense to take a look at my obsession with finding the perfect “to-do” list, and my failures to maintain a consistent, enduring system for tracking my tasks, thoughts, and long-term goals.

Rather than outline the numerous apps, mediums, and methods that I’ve attempted in the past, and the reasons that they haven’t quite worked for me, I thought I would reverse engineer what might be the best solution for me based on my requirements, which hopefully is a step towards more purposely adopting a new routine in the future.

Wanted: A new ‘to-do’ list. Must be:

1. Accessible: While a slip of paper can serve as a useful to-do list when at my desk or in a moment of particular heads-down concentration, ideally my to-do list would be readily accessible at all times: whether via a handy notebook or a nearby phone or computer. This strikes domain-specific applications like Apple’s Notes (I don’t have a Mac computer) and freemium applications like Evernote (which I frequently use to store longer-form thoughts, objectives, or inspiration.

2. Able to split into lists, or long-, medium-, short-, and intermediate goals: Another shortcoming of the notes app, or even a notebook, is that they make it difficult to “lump” all the different to-dos rattling around in my head from the mundane and ordinary (reach out to xxx) to the complex and multi-step (read articles about coffee cultivation). While applications like Wunderlist can break out the to-list into lists, I oftentimes find myself resorting to the default “inbox” list, rather than parsing through the newest combination of lists that I most recently curated for myself.

3. Uniplatform: One of the things that I especially appreciate about Google’s suite of apps that may merit a revisiting of Google’s Tasks function is how it’s all within a single universe, and thereby minimizing the number of steps required to reach out to someone / schedule a meeting / create a doc/spreadsheet. Google’s apps are free, multi-platform, and only require one password to access as well, as opposed to more labor-intensive webapps and software that require me to return to Gmail and Google Calendar to carry out / remind myself of the ‘to-do.”

4. Indexable: Here’s where Evernote really shines – my entire collection of notes can be easily searched by keyword. While Evernote doesn’t always strictly translate to productivity, it is incredibly useful to consult past thoughts or resources on a particular topic. However, its breadth requires me to have the intended task in mind ahead of time, rather than attempting to sit down and make some progress on some long-held goals.

With small exception, I think this makes up my requirements for a useful to-do list. Unfortunately, the apps that I’m familiar with may not quite suffice as a Wunderlist replacement, so it may be worth researching a bit on Lifehackers collection of ‘How I Work’ posts, or survey Ryan Holiday’s Writing Routines series for inspiration, and hopefully report back with a new system to replace (and improve on) Wunderlist. For now, the scraps of paper will have to do.

Turning it off: On email debt, and potential bankruptcy

Returning from a week-and-a-half vacation with my girlfriend to Salvador da Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, I was welcomed home by a barrage of non-work-related emails, totalling about 200, or roughly 20 / day. 90% of these emails required no action on my part, aside from reading them: the buildup was mostly from email subscriptions and newsletters that I had willingingly signed up for and amassed over the past ten-or-so years.

I consider myself to be far from a hoarder of email subscriptions – I’m fairly quick to unsubscribe from auto-enrolled mailing lists, and feel fairly discerning in trying to cull out email subscriptions that I don’t find genuinely useful. In addition, given my slow weaning off of social media (off Facebook since 2015, and finally gave up Twitter last year), email subscriptions serve a useful purpose in my attempt to “keep up” with the internet and the news cycle.

And while I’m hardly a compulsive news junkie (though maybe my girlfriend would disagree), I do like to keep up with the day’s stories, and oftentimes find myself learning or being captivated by something on a daily basis. Even more frequently, I come across stories of interest that I neatly catalog for later consumption in my ever-growing collection of Pocket articles (surely upwards of 500), and / or add a thought or to-do from this web browsing. And then there’s the articles sent to me by friends or family, based on their perception of my interest, all meriting a read and response.

But then again, maybe I’m just rationalizing a compulsive email / news habit. As we’re continuing to learn, the primary currency on the internet is your/my/our attention, and by giving in to these subscriptions and email newsletters, I’m consciously sacrificing my personal attention to the “push” of internet / media businesses, aggregators, and tastemakers and in favor of more pointed, personalized inquiry.

As a first step in taking action against this barrage of email subscriptions, I’ve tried and break them down into the following broad categories

a) Daily news digests: A compendium of the day’s news, similar to the experience of reading the morning front-page (and for me, the business and sports sections). Linked articles of interest are oftentimes opened and read immediately, or later that day.|

Includes: Morning reads: NYTimes Morning Briefing, Billy Penn (local Philadelphia news), Axios’ / Dan Primack’s Pro Rata and Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Dealbook (business-related news) and Evening reads: Dave Pell’s Next Draft Stocktwits’ Daily Rip.

b) Blog roll / RSS Subscriptions: Mostly a vestige of my past Google Reader usage, blog entries from longtime favorites. These normally point me to other links / information to be saved & cataloged.

Includes: Tyler Cowen’s Marginal Revolution, Tommy Lawlor’s Iggles Blitz, Fred Wilson’s A VC, Howard Lindzon, Ben Carlson’s A Wealth of Common Sense

c) Weekly News Round-ups: Weekly summaries of news magazines or weekend-only features of newspapers. These are mostly consumed over the weekend, and oftentimes provide a longer view on the week’s events (similar to the concept of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight) or a respite from the news cycle (reviews, etc.)

Includes: The Economist, FT Weekend, NYTimes Magazine, Interpreter, Book Review, and Travel Section, Axios’ Media Trends

d) Weekly Blog / Internet Digests: Normally round-ups of cool internet happenings, including longreads to be Pocket’ed for later consumption.

Includes: @Times, Jason Kottke’s Noticing, Austin Kleon’s Weekly Newsletter

e) Promotional / Marketing emails: These serve as little nudges to remind me to patronize businesses that I respect, take care of things I’m putting off (e.g., booking travel) and take advantage of special deals.

Includes: Film-related (Letterboxd, Film Forum, IFC Theater, Angelika Film Center, Alamo Drafthouse), Travel (Amtrak, Megabus, Jetblue, Scott’s Cheap Flights, Southwest Airlines), and finance-related stuff (American Express, Schwab, etc.)

Going through the process of cataloging all of these separate email subscriptions shines a further light on my need to cull these down to a more manageable level, or maybe do away with the majority of these subscriptions altogether. Trying to fend off the onslaught of incoming emails and endless array of links “of interest” almost turns into another job, and I oftentimes find myself devoting a portion of my weekend to “catching up” on the week’s news and accumulated links (the best of which I try and highlight in my weekend reading.) In addition, the attention and effort required takes me away from more meaningful, long-form / book reading and study, including making a dent in my ever-growing list of books to read, and taking some of the courses on topics that I’d like to better understand.

It really does feel like a bit of an addition when it is laid out and explained this way, at best a bad habit, and one that I have the agency and ability to correct.

Reading a passage from Tim Ferris’ Tools of Titans over vacation, I became acquainted with the concept of “email bankruptcy” — the act of delete-all-ing one’s entire inbox, and letting the consequences of this action (follow-ups, or more often than not the lack of follow-ups) dictate your actions, as opposed to being in a permanent state of email debt (read or unread.) Albert Wenger’s World After Capital highlights the increasing importance of attention in our age of information bombardment, and the need to filter your consumption (and production) to achieve economic, informational, and psychological freedom. I think this diagnosis serves as a helpful first step towards better developing those muscles of discernment, and the broader filter.

Right now, I feel somewhat panicked by the prospect of giving up some of these treasured sources of information, but I think even by starting small (10% less? Getting rid of the daily emails?) will serve to free-up more time and attention to devote towards personal and professional goals that I’m hoping to accomplish (if not begin to think through.) Hopefully I’ll be able to report back on my progress, and its resulting impact on my time, attention, and mental well-being.

Somewhat ironically, the following image was one of the many emails that greeted me upon my return from vacation – from the NYTimes’ Behavior Gap. I’m not quite sure I’m ready for a complete media fast, and I don’t think the correlation is quite one-to-one, but nonetheless, it’s a helpful (and timely) reminder, and one that I plan to actively heed in the coming months.


Dealing with Rejection

Last week, I had to deal with rejection, which has been a bit of a reoccuring theme of late. Of course, you won’t be rejected, and feel the complementary pangs of disappointment if you don’t put yourself out there in the first place, so there’s immediate consolation in the action act and the effort behind it (assuming the effort was there and is something you are proud of.) However, I thought it would be helpful to catalog my other related emotions to try and examine how I can capitalize on being rejected, learn from it, and use the process of rejection to reach an ultimately beneficial outcome.


1. Resignation

Being a somewhat naturally cynical person (to the extent that one can be naturally cynical), my first reaction is often one of utter resignation – of course it didn’t work out.

In order to sufficiently devote myself to the efforts entailed behind the attempt in the first place, there’s always some level of delusion, and my first impulse is to identify that delusion and augment it: “Of course I didn’t get it. What was I thinking to delude myself into thinking I even had a chance at getting it? The types of people who are bestowed these types of opportunities come from x (wealth, intelligence, world-saving) backgrounds, and you’re not it. In fact, you knew that before the delusion set in, yet you still went forward with the herculean efforts behind the attempt – what is wrong with you?

Despite well-meaning (and mostly correct) consolation from friends and family, in these initial moments I find myself inconsolable, and retreat into solitude (and sleep, if it’s a particularly crushing blow).


2. Resilience

Once I break out of the resignation phase, I find that I transition into a state of resilience, and usually revert into future planning mode: “Okay, that didn’t work out. You never really solely planned for that, did you? So what’s next? How are you going to move forward from this? What steps are you going to take (right now, not later) to build from this and continue the ascent?

Notice that this resilience appears (and feels) a bit belligerent, almost like I’m thrashing / flailing around to try and remove the film of rejection from my body, and relying on external efforts (and the reactions of others, through my efforts) to move forward and graduate from the resignation step.


3. Denial by “othering” / contrasting

I’m not sure if I have a perfect word for this. As I continue to reflect on the efforts, the doubt, cynicism, and skepticism associated with putting myself out there lead my mind to a place of individuality, of defiance towards conformism and my own personal, distinct journey. The famous Groucho Marx quote comes to mind: “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”

To manage the feelings of rejection, I lean into this individualist streak to contrast and “other,” or separate myself from the successful: “They’re conformist, I’m not. They fit into a neat box, I don’t. They’re formulaic and boring, I’m not.

While this act goes a surprisingly long way towards me feeling better, I think it denies the very real fact that I wanted this opportunity, and would have been plenty happy to have received. It. This denial temporarily takes me off my own personal path, and takes a bit of time (if not active re-centering) to overcome and move forward from.


4. Anger

This one is the hardest to admit, but is undeniable.

As I think through my efforts, and the gatekeepers or barriers preventing me from realizing these goals, I proceed into anger, cursing others for standing in the way of my dreams, and even sometimes going so far as to plan my revenge / redemption: “How will I prove to that society / group / committee / person that I was worthy all along, that they were wrong?

Inherent to this reaction is a feeling of entitlement: “I deserved this opportunity, maybe even at the expense of others. I worked harder. I put in more effort, and wanted it more. This is unfair, unjustified, and I will right this myself, without the help of these gatekeepers.

Obviously, this anger is not the most productive line of thinking, but it does serve to motivate me, to get myself back on the horse and end the period of self-doubt and depression.


5. Sunk Cost

The last thought that oftentimes permeates in particularly random pangs is the sunk cost behind the effort(s) that I devoted hours / days / years to, at the expense of leisure, or furthering other pursuits, and I won’t get this time back.

I think this is a fairly normal feeling for anyone who feels somewhat ambitious, and is willing to sacrifice to achieve that ambition, but allows those periodic moments to creep in: “Was it all worth it? Isn’t it all meaningless, anyways? Wouldn’t I be better served doing things that really matter, like spending time with family and friends?

This feeling is the one that reoccurs most often, strikes at seemingly random moments, and is sure to put a damper on whatever I happen to be doing or thinking about at the time. In these moments, I try to remind myself that the obstacle can be the way, that it’s not all about realization of a particular goal, and that growth and learning comes from all experiences, especially those that involve effort and being outside of my comfort zone.


The Need for Reflection

The one component of this process that’s noticeably missing is the act of reflection and analysis – the active process of attempting to impartially evaluate (or soliciting the help of others to assist in the evaluation) where misteps were made, where you may have went wrong, and how to take corrective action in the future to ensure success down the line.

Of all the post-rejection steps, I think this is likely the hardest one to see through, as it is likely the most effort-intensive and emotionally laborious. After a particularly heavy rejection, the last thing that I want to subject myself to is effort that will potentially yield more pain.

I think this exercise has been a helpful reminder of the wisdom to be gained from revisiting the “scene” of the rejection, and posting this conclusion here is a useful first step in holding myself accountable towards this pursuit, regardless of the hairy or scary truths that emerge as a result.

R.I.P. Cecil Taylor

Been away from the endless newscycle (more to come on that topic), and missed the passing of Cecil Taylor – a true jazz innovator.

Here’s Ethan Iverson on Taylor, who explains Cecil Taylor the musician and his far-reaching influence much better and more eloquently than I could ever dream of, and includes some incredible live performances.

Posting two of my favorite albums – the free-jazz masterpieces Conquistador (1967):


and Unit Structures (1966), both off the Blue Note label:


Rest in peace to a true great.

Ryo Fukui albums to be reissued

A shorter post than usual, but very excited to learn that Ryo Fukui’s two jazz trio masterpieces, Scenery (1976) and Mellow Dream (1977) will be reissued by Swiss label WRWTFWW Records’ new label, We Release Jazz.

I spent nearly half of my day in Shibuya during my trip to Japan scouring record stores in search of these two records, without success.

Scenery – 1976 (link)

Mellow Dream – 1977 (link)

These records currently go for upwards of $150 a píece on Discogs, so seeing them reissued is an absolute treat. Excited to finally own these two masterpieces.