Clerestory

A frequent unfiltered stream of thoughts

I failed either to edit or to write as much as I would have liked this week, though I watched several films, read Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate, and began James C. Scott's Seeing Like a State which, so far, is great. It reminds me of Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years in scope, novelty, and some of its view of history.

On the plane to Phoenix I watched—and wrote about—the 1954 and 2018 versions of A Star Is Born, but I may have left it too long to motivate me to write it, to want to type up my views. Maybe I’ll try to see the 1937 and 1976 ones and then write a comprehensive post. The Cukor (1954) version is less earnest and more self-aware, it feels like, about the extent to which both the industry and the audience are culpable in such cases.

Tonight we‘ll watch Brazil, which I‘ve not seen in a decade. I‘m looking forward to it.

I'm writing from a hotel in Desert Ridge, Phoenix, AZ. I flew here on Friday to surprise my parents; I'm flying back to London today. I have no deep qualm of conscience on this point, short though the visit was, because it meant that I at least got to see my parents before my wedding at the end of this month, which for reasons of miscommunication and our own ineptitude, they will not be able to attend.

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Nothing to say in particular this week. I'm dreading editing, even though every time I succeed in starting, I enter the flow state readily, really, sometimes instantly. Nonetheless I have trouble sustaining it. I have been dividing time into pomodoros, which help me to start, but cause me to stop. I managed twelve hours this week, but maybe I ought to aspire to bigger blocks of time, something like 50/10, and to aim for more, four hours per day, and structure every other hour around those four. That would make for twenty hours on the weekdays, and perhaps that volume would warrant a break at the weekend.

I'm in a strange place socially. I'm drinking little, from concern for a liver damaged by disease, treatment thereof, or just by a lifetime of irresponsibility. I'm trying to be more attentive to the circumstances and plights of others, yet usually this backfires, as, in the absence of alcohol, I want nothing so much as solitude. Most interactions appear as distractions, even as I wish to be a more inquisitive friend, I forget to question what it is I really wish for. I wish to be left alone, though when I'm alone I'm just as unhappy. Not dissatisfied by a desire for sociability, but by my own inability to progress as much as I'd like, to make tangible progress towards what is important. In other words I'm miserable to be around.

A job looms. I shall probably have to work again soon. If that happens, I hope that the change in circumstance will allow me to construct a more suitable routine, that is to say more ascetic, from which I neither deviate nor desire to. The reality is likely to be starker.

Today I “gave notice” of marriage, which in the UK requires a period of publicity, during which the public can raise legal objections. These seem primarily to consist in lying to the registrar, but the most important seemed to be whether either of us had ever married, and whether we were related by blood. First cousins, we were told, can marry, but there's an additional form. It doesn't come up often, but it does come up, the registrar reported.

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I am not a fearful person. Last year, I was ill enough that I thought I would die; I made my peace with it. This experience was useful. It taught me what I find important in life. The certainty that I would die made life feel like a second chance, to be used more wisely than the life before. Fitzgerald said this wouldn't happen; I'm American, and should get no second act, after wantonly wasting the first. It put things into perspective. If one doesn't fear death, or value life, then one can't really be threatened or coerced.

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Tonight a friend arranged a conversation dinner in which people were paired up (with friends of friends) to try the 36 Questions that Lead to Love which you may have read about a few years ago.

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In a bit of holiday downtime, I'm planning what I'd like to do in 2019. Beeminder is having a New Year's Resolution Survivor competition, with contestants listed here. The basic idea is to commit to a goal for the whole year of 2019, and stick to it throughout. I've decided to enter with three different goals:

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Lately I’ve been thinking about free will. This is in part thanks to Sam Harris, who has been examining the topic in his new Waking Up app. He seems especially interested in the fact that we seem to have little influence on which thoughts appear in consciousness. We hear sounds, but we don’t produce them in consciousness. We think thoughts, but we don’t produce them either; there’s a sense in which they happen to us.

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This weekend I finished Cal Newport's So Good They Can't Ignore You. Much of it rings true for me. Although it's intended to motivate and to help one maximise career potential, it can also be painful to read, since it can highlight one's career missteps. Or at least it has thrown my mistakes into high relief. Nevertheless I'm very glad to have read it. It is an easy book to outline as Newport clearly delineates the constituent ideas into rules, so I'll summarise them and explain how I reacted to each of them in turn.

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I recently read Derek Sivers' Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur. I can't remember how I came across it, but the subtitle was not (and is not) particularly promising. Some sort of glorified set of bulletpoints, I thought, aimed at businesspeople. I was surprised, then, to find such a moving and eloquent account of discovery, something closer to Marcus Aurelius than to the tepidly inspirational listicle I'd expected.

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