The Generalist Academy: One interesting thing every day

Check out The Generalist Academy for an interesting thing every day. I probably check in once or twice a week. Loved the recent post Rubble Moon. “The Martian moon Phobos is thought to be a pile of rubble that’s nearly a third empty space inside. It circles its planet twice a Martian day, and in a few million years it will disintegrate into rings.”

There’s also a brief mention of the nearly 300 foot tall monolith on the surface of Phobos.

Abandoned Things

In his most recent newsletter, Alan Jacobs mentions how much he admires the work of photographer Tony Cearns. Cearns’s site, How I See It, is absolutely worth your consideration and time. I was particularly struck by the section entitled Abandoned Things, which is photographed in North Dakota but forcefully reminds me of the abandoned places and homes and cars of Southeastern Ohio (only the flatness of the land cuts against the illusion that this is Jackson County).

Abandoned Farm, North Dakota, © Tony Cearns
Truck 2, North Dakota, © Tony Cearns

The News

I’ve had a number of conversations with friends recently about how I find and read news since I have no social media accounts (I don’t really count LinkedIn since I only use it to help former students who are trying to get jobs or promotions). I read lots of long form articles and essays from a variety of sources. From time to time, I plan to recommend these outlets here on What Work Is. But this is how I have approached news since I stopped getting it in my “news feed” on Facebook:

  1. Attempt to only look at news sites twice a day, in the morning and evening. *Once in a while I hear that there is some kind of breaking news and I’ll jump on to read.
  2. Avoid news agencies prone to sensationalism (clickbait titles, overlarge font for titles, overblown rhetoric, and so on).
  3. Find news sources that organize their articles, at least in part, based on categories of knowledge (National and International, Religious, Scientific, Cultural, Political, Entertainment, etc.).

I primarily read Reuters and NPR because they generally follow my guidelines (Plus NPR has Tiny Desk Concerts. I mean, come on.) I also read Knox Pages here in Mount Vernon, Ohio for my local news.

I want to be an informed citizen and a thoughtful, caring member of my community. Reading the news twice a day seems to allow me to be informed and give me the head space to consider what I’ve read or seen. I’ve come to view the inhuman pace of social media news feeds as harmful.

Sensationalism has been prevalent in U.S. news since the beginning. I want a news agency that will address me (as much as possible) in good faith. I don’t mind if the source has a particular bent. After all, we’re getting news from humans, not robots (or we should be, one more reason I don’t get my news from social media). I’m happy to decipher rhetoric as I read, I just don’t want a news source that obviously resorts to crazy headlines, bombastic rhetoric, and overt manipulation to keep me clicking. This is especially true if the information that they are giving me is something I want to be true. The temptation to check my mind at the door and be carried away by the tides of my wants is too great for me to fool around with.

Finally, the breakdown in categories of knowledge is deeply concerning to me. See my post on Content Collapse. The idea that everything is of equal weight and importance (Explosions in Lebanon, cat pictures, Black Lives Matter, and The Rock buying the XFL) is confusing and damaging to our communities. I once opened and saw a headline proclaiming that John Mayer broke up with Jennifer Aniston by text message. Now I know that. It has somehow stuck in my head (I’m hoping that it mostly stays there because I use it as an object lesson but I’m afraid it is because the headline infected me). Why did I see it? Because it was one of the top headlines for that day, I assume. (Update: I had written “pure sensationalism” here, but I think it is banality instead)

My guidelines certainly wont work for everyone, but maybe this post will be helpful for some of you who are struggling with how to engage without being overwhelmed in the rising tide. Good luck to you.

Roebling Point Books & Coffee – Covington, Ky

Photo Credit: Richard F. Ebert

Over the years, I’ve walked across this bridge many times on my way to watch the Cincinnati Reds. The blue John Roebling bridge is an iconic landmark in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. My family often stayed or parked across the river and walked to games in the old concrete monstrosity of Riverfront Stadium (which I dearly loved in spite of its design flaws).

A perfect day for me in Cincinnati now (or would be if there baseball weren’t on a hiatus) is to start the day with a coffee and some time spent wandering around Roebling Point Books & Coffee and then head over the bridge to catch a game at Great American Ballpark.

The bookstore has a great all around selection of literature, but always has a special section devoted Kentucky and Cincinnati area writers. The store isn’t large but they’ve done an excellent job curating their selection of books. There are several small rooms with soft seating available.

If you aren’t into baseball (I can like you even if I don’t understand you), Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky is still a wonderful place to visit. Lots of great restaurants, outdoor activities including trails along the river, the Newport Aquarium, and a number of other independent bookstores (Joseph-Beth, Iris Bookcafe, Duttenhofer’s, etc.).

The Book Loft – Columbus, OH (German Village)

Spring is slowly coming on (still more 50 degree days in the forecast) and as the state of Ohio begins it’s slow reopening from the Covid-19 crisis, I thought it would be a good idea to make another bookstore recommendation. The Book Loft in German Village, just south of downtown Columbus, is one of my all-time favorite bookstores. They almost always have books spilling out the front door and 32 rooms of glorious book browsing inside.

Parking in German Village is always a bit of a crapshoot, but once you’ve found a spot the brick walkways and homes add to the experience of an outing to the Book Loft. Much of the local architecture dates back to the mid to late 1800’s.

There are a number of great restaurants in the neighborhood of the bookstore and Stauf’s Coffee is right next door. Grab a coffee and be ready to wander. Yes, some of the rooms and walkways are a little cramped (lots of sideways walking through the hallway shown above). Yes, it is possible to get lost in the building for a little while (getting lost is part of the fun). Those elements are a small price to pay for 32 rooms of books (my wife and children are shaking their heads at me somewhere, I’m sure). If you are a book lover and in the Columbus, OH area, do yourself a favor and take a trip to The Book Loft (reopening date TBD).

*Photo Credit: The Book Loft website

99% Invisible – Podcast Recommendation

99% Invisible is a podcast about design; the way it blends into the background, but also the way it shapes the way we think and act in the world. They engage topics as diverse as suspension bridges and the Toronto Raptors Barney uniforms. One of my favorites is an episode entitled The Infantorium where, in the early 1900’s, “Visitors would pay ten cents to enter a spacious room full of glass boxes that were incubators with tiny premature babies on display.” Premature babies on display at amusement parks, that was a thing.

The episode entitled Usonia, about Frank Lloyd Wright’s home designs, is an excellent gateway to considering the design of your home. What makes a home conducive to human thriving? It is worthwhile to spend some time thinking about the designs that impact us most every day. I’m excited about an upcoming guest post by my longtime friend, Andrew Lloyd (not Webber or Wright), about building a cabin and the concepts that influenced it’s design.

Local Talent

My friend, David Wright, published his excellent book of poems, Local Talent, in 2019. The richness of the poems is in David’s keen eye/heart/mind for the distinctly middle American experience. It is also in his command of the musicality of language. While I’m what you might call rhythmically challenged, I have great admiration for subtlety and complexity of the music in Local Talent. It is also filled with David’s wry humor (he’s full of it) which I love. The title of the book, I think, it supposed to be funny, ironic, sad, and hopeful (where else could talent be?) all at the same time.