“This is not advice,” Matt Levine will write before proffering tongue-in-cheek advice. “None of this is ever advice.” For Matt, a humorist disguised as a finance columnist, this is a running gag, a way to get readers to smile as he sets up a punchline.
It’s also a subtle reminder that we are awash in advice — and exhortations, mores, recommendations. Everywhere we look, people are telling us what to do or think, and the consequences for failing to comply.
Sometimes advice is welcome. This is usually the case when I ask for it (there are exceptions) and rarely the case when I don’t. Like most people, I seek out experts, both in person and on the Web. I would often be worse off without their opinions and guidance. The list of things most people seem to know and I don’t is embarrassing (and cleansing; see below). And yet, regardless of your intentions, my ignorance is not an invitation to correct me.
In this newsletter, I want to avoid doing to you what I don’t want you to do to me. I’ve gone back into my archives and rewritten history:
- “Worth reading” or “Worth listening” is now “Worth My Time”
- “Recommended” is now “I Liked It”
- “Highly Recommended” is now “I Loved It”
- “Highest Recommendation” is now “A Personal Favorite”
This has guided me toward additional revisions. There were works that meant a lot to me that I placed lower in the hierarchy because they seemed esoteric. While they may rank among my personal favorites, it didn’t seem right to imply that most people would agree.
You know what? Fuck that.
You’re not most people and neither am I. If a writer or podcaster creates something I value, it’s unfair to imply that it has less merit than a work that I consider equivalently valuable or enjoyable solely because one seems more likely to be popular. I apologize to you and to them.
As a way of making amends, I’ve fixed things up around here and will do better in this and subsequent issues. I’ve also gone back and fixed other recommendations, including the blurbs I wrote about software, products, and personal finance. New year, better newsletter.
Note: This is not advice. None of this is ever advice.
Welcome to January 2022s Disappearing Moment, an inventory of my experiences. I hope you enjoy it.
- Forever Is a Long Time (I Loved It): Our marriage is better because we know divorce is an option. By interviewing divorced family members and his wife, Ian Coss affirms this for himself.
- Going Wild (I Liked It): Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant is an accomplished wildlife biologist and an exceptional storyteller.
- Just Enough Family (Worth My Time): Wealthy people are fascinating until they aren’t. Spend more than just enough time with just about anyone and they start to get boring.
- La Brega (I Loved It): Puerto Rico is one of our favorite places. These stories explore its pain and heartbreak, and celebrate its beauty and character.
- Preserve This Podcast (I Loved It): A joyful, bracing, urgent primer on archives, with a focus on podcasts. These are my people.
- S***hole Country (Worth My Time): Ghana vs. San Francisco is a great premise, and the characters are memorable. It’s undermined by constant internal dialogue: no one is that clever.
- Through the Cracks (I Loved It): Jonquilyn Hill’s throough, empathetic investigation into an eight-year-old girl’s disappearance. Poverty kills, we aren’t doing enough, and it’s everyone’s problem.
- Why Do I Like Men? (A Personal Favorite): Writer Harron Walker talks with friends about desire, choice, need, and feeling wanted. She is quick witted, quick to laugh, and makes surprising connections.
I wanted to follow Neil Young in leaving Spotify. TuneMyMusic let me take my playlists with me for free, 500 songs at a time.
When you own a yoga studio for 10 years, like Beth did, you learn a lot about air fresheners. Air Scense Vanilla is the best.
Personal Finance and Investing
Getting estimates is inconvenient, awkward, and worthwhile. We got five estimates for installing our condensing boiler. The highest was 55% more than the lowest.
I Don’t Know
- Ballroom dances
- Board games
- Cable television
- Car maintenance or repair
- China (the country)
- Cookie decoration
- Diapers (how to change one)
- Electronic music
- Facebook or its subsidiaries
- Fashion models
- Greeting cards
- Horror movies
- House plants
- Ironing (clothing)
- Kardashians (or Kanye)
- Languages (other than English)
- Manual transmissions (how to drive a vehicle with one)
- Musical Instruments (any of them)
- Musical notation
- Popular music
- Programming (computers)
- Quidditch (or anything J.K. Rowling)
- Recreational drugs
- Red Stars (why people put them on their houses)
- Sewing (buttons, etc.)
- Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.
- Temperature (ambient, for comfort)
- Uncircumcised penises
- Video games
- X-files, Twilight Zone, whatever their current equivalent is
- Yard work
- Zeitgeist (current)
Thanks for spending a few moments with me. I look forward to corresponding again next month.