Alan Jacobs


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I love Austin Kleon’s edge indexes.

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I end my new essay on “the mythical method” with a section on the great Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka, and if you’d like to know more about him, I wrote a post for you.

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My Harper’s essay on the rise and fall of the “mythical method” is now live!

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I wrote about Thomas of London.

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Wondertooneel der Nature

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Nina Jordan, Untitled, Flooded Home V, 2021

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I gave a couple of chatbots a list of movies with dates and asked them to organize the list in chronological order. Gemini could do it, ChatGPT 4o could not (though it said it did). For all these bots the failure points are quite different.

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Well, the Euros were shaping up to be a great tournament until England took the pitch. That was dire — hypercautious, unimaginative, and low-energy. But since they eked out a win, I’m sure Southgate will give us more of the same. ⚽️

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Currently reading: The Studio by John Gregory Dunne. This little book has a hundred great stories but my favorite is this: When planning the television series Custer, 20th Century Fox TV execs knew who they wanted to play Crazy Horse: Toshiro Mifune. This did not happen, for good reasons, but I can’t help wondering…. 📚

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Zach Rausch: “This is the challenge of our time: How do we balance the desire to give kids individual freedom and new digital technologies with our desire to give them a stable, tight-knit community?” But what if we can’t? What if we have to choose?

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Why I’m gonna read Moonbound again.

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Why am I shooting film again, after so many years? In part because of what Craig Mod says here:

We have access to such abundance — a billion photos, infinite video at our fingertips, the ability to fill our closets with clothes for a hundred bucks, a near-zero-cost amusement bonanza straight to the grave — that the move to “scarcity” mediums like vinyl or cassettes (!!) or film or obsessing over 70mm IMAX prints does make sense (in a cockamamied way). Sixty years ago, jazz kissa owners saw an “arbitrage opportunity” in music, in record ownership. Today that opportunity is lost. Today we have all the music we could want all the time. Ten thousand YouTube channels to explain each album. Transcriptions of every instrument. So what do we do? We arbitrage attention by hunting for records of albums on Spotify to put on our shelves. We load a clunky (mostly) light-tight box with celluloid and pretend like every shot is our last. These are ostensibly pointless acts (“Just tell Siri to play the album, just use your phone to take the photo!”) but in reality they’re goofy forms of prayer for us godless folk, prayer for honing attention, for cultivating intimacy, for looking a little more closely in a world beset by distraction, seductive distraction.

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Shooting on film — with a Nikon F100 — for the first time in many years. The natural bokeh is great, and the texture, but wow am I out of practice. I need to re-learn setting exposure and even proper focusing. (Also: there are so many varieties of film to choose from now!)

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Here’s a long post, with many links, explaining how I’ve sorta-kinda-in-a-way written a book in blog posts.

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Also, here’s Robin explaining in a video the language/script/typeface he developed for his fabulous new novel Moonbound. I love the fact that Robin’s one previous video was posted fourteen years ago. I can’t wait to see what he posts in 2038.

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Surprising moment from this interview with Robin Sloan:

[Gibson-Faulkner] Theory is, of course, the great policy planning framework of the Anth, which is what I call human civilization at its apex—our near future. The idea is that it’s a system for imagining and executing big projects that actually works. The theory emerges from the intersection of two maxims. First, there’s William Gibson: “The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.” Then, there’s William Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Mashing those together, we get an interesting view of the present, not as a point on a continuum, but rather a smear, a bleed, a diffusion of events and possibilities. (It’s well-known that early Gibson-Faulkner theorists were also influenced by Alan Jacobs and his concept of “temporal bandwidth”.)

To which I 🤯 and ☺️. (It’s really Thomas Pynchon’s concept more than mine, but I’ll take credit.)

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George Lois’s library — in his apartment in the West Village — is my kind of workspace. And the apartment, at $5,600,000, is a bargain!

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An outstanding post by Mike Sacasas about technology and work — the kinds of work we value and the kinds of work we ought to value.

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I wrote about character in the Pentateuch.

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Damascening

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Portishead’s Dummy is equidistant in time from (a) now and (b) A Hard Day’s Night.

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My pledge: I will never ever read an article about “How AI will change X” — no matter what X is.

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What a great post by Sara Hendren AKA @ablerism : “When my teenagers play patiently and attentively with someone’s much younger children at a party, people will compliment me warmly: They were so kind! I thank them but also tell them plainly that my kids were instructed to do so — they are no more naturally and authentically generous hosts as adolescents than anyone else. We just don’t make it optional at our house. And they’re old enough now to see the fruits of constraining their natural impulses. When you behave in prosocial ways, the prosocial feeling will often follow, not lead.”

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A friend sent me this extraordinary music video by RAYE — please do watch the whole thing. It’s a parable, a warning, a word of exhortation. It moves from the emptiness of lonely self-loathing, to the emptiness of celebrity and success, to … well, just watch to see where it ends up.