The Saturday Spectacular 27/11/21

why aren't speeches good? why is advice difficult? why is email bad?

The Saturday Spectacular 27/11/21

Hi folks,

I'll level with you: I've had quite a busy and tiring day (and week!), and over the course of said day I've managed to develop a stinking cold. I'm going to post this and then go and sleep it off. I hope you're feeling better than I am!

This week I wrote about:

and there was a new episode of my podcast Memetic Hazard.

This week I've been thinking about:

  • On the podcast yesterday we discussed how (or whether) certain art forms seem to have lost their power somewhat (specifically with reference to the (possibly alleged?) riots that followed the premiere of Stravinsky's The Rite Of Spring. I was wondering something similar about speeches the other day: what accounts for the decline of that particular form of communication? One theory I was toying with was that people in general have far less, and far less detailed, command of shared references—the classics, the Bible, Shakespeare, etc. They might get some of it but they can't be relied upon for all of it. Looking back at my post about Eugene Debs, a lot of the stuff I like about his speech is his biblical allusions, which resonate with me because of my particular personal context. In a more irreligious society and with schooling that focuses less on "great books", there isn't very much that can be relied on to carry that kind of weight.
  • I worry that this thing I wrote the other day falls afoul of one of those issues akin to the issue that I took away from that Scott Aaronson comment: giving universal advice or admonishment is very tricky because it doesn't always meet people where they are. Some people need to be told they're too pushy and that they should dial it back a little, but if you're already someone who worries about how they come across, hearing that is more apt to send you more in the wrong direction. I've been trying to write something for a while now; a short advice guide to my past self which I hope will be useful to others in similar situations. I know folk who are in this position and who have seen improvements by applying some of these suggestions so I have reason to believe that this will work, but I'm trying to find a balance between hemming and hawing about making sure the reader is the right person for the advice and delivering the advice with enough directness that people can feel confident taking it.

This week I've been reading:

  • Slowly making my way through Slime Mold Time Mold's very long but fascinating multi-part series on obesity, which is so far a very thorough multi-vector treatment of the subject.
  • I've been reading Cal Newport's A World Without Email, which I think is not just a worthy successor to his previous books but also more usefully prescriptive, so far? It feels like it takes its conclusions further and presents them in a more actionable way. I will be applying them as best I can in my own context.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Over and out.


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