This was a scattered month. All my months since March have been a bit scattered, the world changing quickly around me. Been trying to find the right balance between flexibility and stability, but this month was maybe especially unstable.
I slept in 8 different beds this month. Each was, at the time, my primary residence or as near to one as I could get.
In theory, I’m maintaining flexibility so that I can do what Recoolit demands, at each moment, but a bit more planning would probably have served me well. For example I could have said, in advance, I’m going to spend N months in the US doing XYZ and then found an N-month sublet. And yet I resisted that urge, and have yet to do that.
I spent a beautiful week on the road, from SF to Tahoe to Crater Lake. Well, that was the plan. The whole state of Oregon went up in flames halfway through that trip. I got in one beautiful day in Crater Lake, seeing its majesty, before the smoke covered it up. I was safe, but what can one say or do, how to react, when new catastrophes emerge from our interconnected mess with each week that passes?
I finished a small consulting project and am starting a new one. Having a bit of income gives me some emotional stability to keep tackling Recoolit without worrying too much about my finances, but it also serves as a slight distraction. On these projects I’m working with other people, on clearly-defined problems, where traction is visible day-to-day. It’s addictive, and a stark contrast from my work on Recoolit. I need to be very careful not to let it creep in too much.
On the Recoolit side, I submitted an application to Y Combinator! It felt a bit like a rite of passage, but also too late, both in my life and YC’s. That’s a bit silly, because of course it would still be a massive victory to be admitted. This felt somehow more momentous than any of my other fundraising work or applications, maybe just because of the brand name. I don’t know if it’s warranted. But I’m marking it as a milestone regardless.
I went on a bit of a movie spree while in Tahoe. Raising Arizona is an early and fun Coen Brothers joint, too full of mediocre slapstick, but allows you to see their craft developing. You can pick out what will make them great, eventually, but this isn’t it. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure didn’t have the same expectations, but somehow I was still disappointed. It’s enjoyable, in exactly the ways it’s meant to be, but I would have been happier skipping it, I think. Tammy was truly terrible, I recommend staying far away.
Later in the month, I saw Palm Springs with Andy Samberg. It uses the same conceit as a famous movie from the 80s, but departs enough from it to still be interesting. This was a good light-hearted movie, though perhaps with a bit too much or too heavy-handed philosophical depth.
Grapes of Wrath was great, but definitely worse than the book, especially in close succession. The novel is a tough act to follow, and the movie makes a valiant effort, but misses so much.
Finished Walk Through Walls. Marina Abramovic is an incredible inspiration in her approach to art and to life. I tried to catalogue all the pieces described in that book but gave up after the first 100 pages, there is too much richness there.
The Unbanking of America would be a good introduction for someone who is new to on-the-ground consumer finance, but didn’t add much for me (full review).
Sacred Economics was extraordinary. It contains a detailed analysis of the fundamental ways in which our society and economy are out of sync with true human values, and a call for an expanded Reunion with the natural world. Reminded me of David Graeber’s Debt in reconcieving how I thought about the underpinnings of the global financial system and its connection to our human lives, but deeper and more hopeful and joyous. It was challenging to my brain and my heart: I didn’t agree with everything but I will be sitting with its ideas for a long time.
A gust of cold air after that was Tyler Cowen’s Complacent Class, which makes the case that America has lost its edge and is stewing in a risk-averse stupor. He marshalls a variety of statistics and qualitative evidence to show that we’re just not doing things the way we used to, that we’re too satisfied with the status – or at least the upper class is. This was published a few years ago, but the last few pages look pretty prescient – that some kind of turmoil will erupt through the stagnation and we may not like it.
I picked up Grapes of Wrath from a friend’s shelf, and devoured it. I had read East of Eden a few years back, and loved it, so I had high hopes and was not disappointed. The humanity, the just absolutely collosal devestation of a nation that this describes; the wanton cruelty, the class warfare, the unfairness and loss. Effective as propaganda, at the very least, but to me so much more. There is a lot of ecology here too, scattered, if you know where to look. Pretty good companion to Sacred Economics, actually.
Finally, a quick jaunt through The Soul of a New Machine. I liked this, gave a bit of factual color to a world I’ve mostly seen through the TV show Halt and Catch Fire.
Another month. More work to do, more sunny days to bike through, more meals to eat, a whole ocean to sit near and stare calmly into.