7 For Seven: how we spend our days (and spaces) is how we spend our lives

Routines, powerpoint activism, steamed hams

Brady Gerber’s “7 For Seven”: Seven links on writing and creativity in your inbox by 7 AM EST every Wednesday, as well as Headphone Nation and ARTS & FARTS music reviews. 1st Friday: a new short story. 2nd and 4th Fridays: interviews with writers. Read on your browser.

this is a cartoon of an archaeologist

It’s Wednesday morning. Oof. Here are seven things to make your week more interesting:

1. We won’t remember much of what we did this year.

(It’s like a remix of the great Annie Dillard quote: “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” Sometimes, even our days could use a different space.)

New experiences are indeed important for planting a rich crop of memories. But, by itself, that is not enough. A new physical space seems to be important if our brains are to pay attention.

(Also, some of you have commented that you can’t read any of the Financial Times features that I share because of the paywall. When I’m picking my links to share, I often am too excited to remember this! Apologies, all. The above feature is free, along with all the paper’s COVID-19 coverage, but I also really enjoy this other feature: We’re all hypocrites. Aka, chill out on pointing fingers at people in the park … when you also are in the park.)

(In a recent poll by Ipsos Mori, 75 per cent of respondents said they were following the government’s coronavirus regulations all or nearly all of the time, but only 12 per cent believed the rest of the British public was doing so. In the early days of lockdown, one would frequently hear grumblings about how many people were in the park, making it impossible to keep two metres apart. One wondered how they had managed to find this out.)

2. “What people need to know is we’re not protesting churches. We’re protesting this church.”

(I understand that this isn’t a hard rule, especially for my colleagues whose beat depends on social media, yet this feature confirms my belief in a rule of writing and journalism that I stand by: a tweet can lead to a source and a story; a tweet should not be THE source or story.)

3. The look, the branding, and the numbing of PowerPoint activism.

(Instagram is a surreal place: It’s where you go to get yelled at by people you agree with. The yelling is probably intended for people we disagree with - more likely than not, people we don’t follow or who don’t follow us. This is not me grunting against meaningful protest, but rather making a case for smarter, more effective ways to learn and make changes. You’ll have more impact on your community calling your councilmember and reading books about subjects you’re interested in rather than sharing … some brand on Instagram.)

“A lot of this stuff, you can swap the text out for anything, and it’ll completely change the message,” Hu added. “There isn’t much of a relationship between content and aesthetics; if anything, the content is just interchangeable like an ad, for better or for worse.” He later direct-messaged me a slew of corporate made-for-Instagram advertisements, and sure enough, the parallels are shocking and potentially problematic when considering how integral design is in “selling” consumers a product, a vision, or even an ideology … Most of these activism slideshows don’t appear to be made with malicious intent, nor are they actively harming anyone, but some are worried about the long-term neutralizing effect of making advocacy more digestible and consumable for a large audience.”

4. An oldie but still good: People who "pretend” to be shitty are … frequently just shitty.

(I appreciate this writer for being transparent about being a former Louie fan, instead of trying to pretend that Yes, I’ve Always Known That This Person Was Bad; it’s as much an exploration into how we are (and aren’t) mindful of the art and media we consume.)

He wasn’t a misogynist, he joked about misogyny; he wasn’t a racist, he was drawing attention to the ridiculousness of racism. Lots of people bought into this act. I did, too.

5. My latest for Vulture, I profiled Conor Oberst, talking about the Bright Eyes reunion and how it feels, as now someone in his 40s, to revisit the teenage melancholy that made him so famous in his early teens. Also this week for Vulture, I interview The Killers’ Brandon Flowers! The new Killers album! It’s pretty good!

(Cool update: My Aaron Dessner interview for folklore and this Conor profile are in the current and next week’s issues of New York Magazine! If you find a copy (socially distanced), pick one up.)

6. Something that is very dumb and which has brought me much joy while writing this newsletter: Steamed Hams, but it’s “Basket Case.”

(Also, every programming tutorial.)

7. And finally, the best Oasis song.

And so …


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“GIVE A LITTLE, GET A LOT”

This might be hyper-local to where I live, but I’m a part of the Prospect Park Alliance, which, through donations and volunteer opportunities, helps keep the park clean and is involved with its day-to-day operations and maintenance. What I’ve learned recently is that most bigger parks, or at least different groups of parks, have some sort of external organization involved with making sure that the parks are kept clean and safe for all. My socially-distanced walks to Prospect Park have been vital during the pandemic, and it’s an honor to give back to the park.

GIVE: Less than $10 a month (cheaper than any sandwich in NYC) to the Prospect Park Alliance, or whatever organization helps out with your nearest local park.

GET: A cleaner and safer park!


HEADPHONE NATION

(think global)

Anoraak (Marseille, France) That kind of glamorous French sound that sounds good as both rock and disco; the bass is especially good.

Mel From Melbourne (Melbourne, Australia) I thought this was a long-lost and warped Daniel Johnston track. Ghostly-like.

The Shalfonts (Birmingham, UK) I don't listen to new Birmingham guitar music enough.

The Lamplight Club (Rothley, UK) I feel like this kind of spider piano-playing went out of style years ago, yet it's still a great way to make a hook.

Loganz (Murcia, Spain) reminds me of the good kind of blogrock that makes me want to dance in my bedroom alone.

… we carry on …


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ARTS & FARTS

Song “reviews”

Hayfitz - “Pinpoint” (2019)

For when you want to move beyond folklore.

Aaron Copland - “Hoedown” (1942)

Maybe my favorite minutes of any American classical composition … ever? One of my favorite musical transitions of any work of music is around the 46-second mark. It happens again to greater effect around the 1:08 mark.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - “Not In Love We’re Just High” (2018)

I remember this album getting a pretty underwhelming reception when it came out, yet I always thought it was special. A few years later, it sounds even better. It sounds so out of touch with a lot of what was huge in indie rock at the time. Maybe that’s why it still sounds good today. The best song though is “Hunnybee.”

Roosevelt - “Montreal” (2013)

Now THIS is what I would play for someone who wants an idea of what much of 2010s indie sounded and felt like. I do like Roosevelt, but this aesthetic of dudes tucking in their shirts and who have seen the latest A24 film has been done so much. (Imagine me going up to a band and saying, “Hey, this thing you enjoy doing, please stop it, I’ve seen it before.”)

Say Sue Me - “Here” (2018)

And THIS is my ideal mix of the above two; this “sound” was very popular in 2010s indie, yet I still love this band dearly, because they did such a great dang job at this sound. I still stand by Where We Were Together as one of the great indie albums of the last decade.

Onward!

-Brady


Brady writes about music (and other things) and draws cartoons. You can find him in New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Interview Magazine, McSweeney’s, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, and more. Check out his website, where you’ll find his reading list this year, his latest features, and more ways to connect. Brady is a freelancer for hire who can do interviews, reporting, criticism, and playlists - get in touch if you need a writer.

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All cartoons by Brady Gerber. Headphone Nation logo by Sophie Wiener. This newsletter was made possible with the help of Simon Morrow, who also designed the “Give A Little, Get A Lot” and ARTS & FARTS logos. Thank you, Simon!