Six or seven years ago, I began reading a blog named A Restless Transplant written and curated by a young man named Foster Huntington. Over the years, it was a pleasure watching Mr. Huntington’s focus flow from idea to idea, from the American landscape, to style, to the nostalgia of college, to career opportunities in NYC, to life on the road. His latest project was the construction of a more permanent home in the Columbia River Gorge, consisting of two treehouses, a skating pool, and a wood-fired hot tub. He’s raising money for a new book project through Kickstarter.
His embrace of a dream is inspiring. The scope and content of dreams is an individual thing. Watch the film, and I hope that you find some fuel to help you chase down your own.
I love to ask people what they would take to a desert island — one album, one book, one painting, one sweater, one picture, the game can go on and on. I love the question because it forces us to confront the overabundance we take for granted today. Any album you want to listen to is at your fingertips on Spotify or YouTube. Any book is available within seconds from Amazon or a library download. This allows us to have broad, sweeping tastes, and media that suits our every mood. But what if it were not so easy? What if media were not limitless? What if you had to make a single choice, to find pleasure and inspiration from single source for the rest of your life (or at least until the occurrence of the very fortunate circumstance of a cruise ship passing by your island)?
I’ve spent years pondering this question, particularly for music. I’ve settled on a firm answer. It is Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians. This piece was composed by Steve Reich during 1974-1976, and premiered on April 24, 1976 at The Town Hall in New York City. It’s a meditative, pulsating, shifting, hypnotic, and beautiful work, built on a cycle of 11 chords, and my favorite.
One hundred years ago this past June, a Serbian anarchist named Gavrilo Princip fired his revolver into an open car on Franz Josef Street in Sarajevo, killing the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, Duchess Sophie. The next month brought forth a debacle of international diplomacy, culiminating in the Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia, with the German invasion of Belgium soon to follow. 9 million soldiers and 7 million civilians would die before armistice four years later, largely due to horrific consequences of armies attempting to conduct 19th century warfare against 20th century weapons.
I have been listening, reading, and viewing a lot of material this summer related to the war. I don’t contend to be even marginally knowledgeable about this conflict, but I have been fascinated by the metaphorical crossroads that World War One represents – a transition from agrarian to mechanized societies, a transition from the “nobility of war” with its codes of conduct to mass slaughter, a transition from armies of professional cavalry to mass conscription of civilian armies, and a transition from war fought in meadows to war that consumed an entire continent. It is perhaps the event that most singularly crystallizes the advance into the modern age. To that end, Gavrilo Princip may be the man more responsible for modernity than any other.
These are links to some of the material that I found most helpful in developing a deeper understanding of the events of 1914-1918.
Dan Carlin’s multi-part podcast, Countdown to Armageddon
Color Photos of World War One
Color Photos from the German Front
The Impact of the U-Boat on Naval Warfare
Falling in Love with the Dark – Todd Pitock – Nautilus’s Todd Pitock presents a captivating story about the efforts to find night skies dark enough to still allow meaningful astronomy and stargazing. A reminder that some of our most precious resources are under persistent and silent threats.
Shane Parrish’s Farnam Street review of Daniel Levitin’s The Organized Mind – Anyone interested in managing decision fatigue and information overload should read Parrish’s description of Levitin’s work and decide (if you can summon the mental resources) whether you dive deeper into the whole of The Organized Mind. I’ve added it to my list.
“Why I Hope to Die at 75” – Ezekiel Emanuel’s personal essay about finding balance between longevity and a life well lived. Whether you agree or not, the piece will cause you to think about what matters most to you in seeking the life you want to live.
DMT: The Spirit Molecule – This documentary presents an account of Dr. Rick Strassman’s groundbreaking DMT research through a multifaceted approach to this intriguing hallucinogen found in the human brain and hundreds of plants, including the sacred Amazonian brew, ayahuasca. The film introduces us to far-reaching theories regarding its role in human consciousness. Pair this with Sam Harris’s blog and Waking Up.
If you aren’t listening to Radiolab on a regular basis, you should be. Hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich take deep dives into subjects that are commonplace, but remarkably difficult to define and describe. The interviews, discussions, and thoughts they share about our everyday human experiences make for a consistently intriguing and rewarding experience. It is among the very best podcasts out there.
Check out this new episode on memory and forgetting as a starting point: