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> I am Clay
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February 2022

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

“I would like to go on the roof”

The Banality of Genius: Notes on Peter Jackson’s Get Back

A good song or album – or novel or painting – seems authoritative and inevitable, as if it just had to be that way, but it rarely feels like that to the people making it. Art involves a kind of conjuring trick in which the artist conceals her false starts, her procrastination, her self-doubts, her confusion, behind the finished article. The Beatles did so well at effacing their efforts that we are suspicious they actually had to make any, which is why the words “magic” and “genius” get used so much around them. A work of genius inspires awe in a lesser artist, but it’s not necessarily inspiring. In Get Back, we are allowed into The Beatles’ process. We see the mess; we live the boredom. We watch them struggle, and somehow it doesn’t diminish the magic at all. In a sense, Paul has finally got his wish: Let It Be is not just an album anymore. Joined up with Get Back, it is an exploration of the artistic journey – that long and winding road. It is about how hard it is to create something from nothing, and why we do it, despite everything.

Drive to Thrive

Learning About Work Ethic From My High School Driving Instructor

Bob notices things that I suppose only a long-time driving instructor could notice, like how you could tell that a driver was from Hoboken by the way the screws framing their license plates are scratched and worn from having parked so many times in the city’s tight, unmarked spaces. He has an uncanny memory for driving situations. He is constantly telling these insanely detailed and tedious stories, like the one about a student who back in 2006 took the curve too fast on Summit Avenue just north of Hillcrest — Bob said the student had a tendency to accelerate into turns — and nearly skidded off the road, but managed to stick it out because the town council had recently repaved the street with an expensive grippy top-coating. There are no climaxes in these stories. In fact they’re not so much stories as nerdy shoptalk, the thinking-out-loud of an intensely interested man.
[…]
One incident stands out in particular. We were about an hour into the lesson and had just graduated from the backroads of the student’s hometown to a two-lane street with steady traffic. The car in front of us had slowed down, signaled, pulled over toward the shoulder, and made a smooth right turn into a shopping complex. Bob was impressed. “See how nicely he positioned that car?” He explained to the girl that that was exactly how it was done. And then a while later, long after the moment had passed, he said quietly, more to himself than to either of us, “I really liked the way he did that.” It had the ring of nostalgia to it.

Dookie

Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field

Dogs preferred to excrete with the body being aligned along the North–South axis under calm magnetic field conditions. This directional behavior was abolished under unstable magnetic field. The best predictor of the behavioral switch was the rate of change in declination, i.e., polar orientation of the magnetic field.

Wordle

These may spoil your fun:

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Thanks for reading. Have a great month,

Clay

January 2022

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

My Media Stats from 2021

  • 406 podcast episodes totaling over 457 hours
  • 58 movies totaling over 112 hours
  • 21 books
  • 18 television seasons

About a Roy

On “Succession,” Jeremy Strong Doesn’t Get the Joke

Kendall is the show’s dark prince, a would-be mogul puffed up with false bravado. He is often ridiculous in his self-seriousness, especially when he’s trying to dominate his indomitable father. Strong was perfectly cast: a background player who had spent his life aspiring, and often maneuvering, to fill the shoes of his acting gods. “Kendall desperately wants it to be his turn,” Strong said. Last year, he won an Emmy Award for the role.

Strong, who is now forty-two, has the hangdog face of someone who wasn’t destined for stardom. But his mild appearance belies a relentless, sometimes preening intensity. He speaks with a slow, deliberate cadence, especially when talking about acting, which he does with a monk-like solemnity. “To me, the stakes are life and death,” he told me, about playing Kendall. “I take him as seriously as I take my own life.” He does not find the character funny, which is probably why he’s so funny in the role.

Mall Rats

Everything Must Go: Why we’ll never stop mourning the American mall

For most of my life, the shopping mall was the symbol of the capitalist experiment. Everything about it celebrated consumerism and the illusion of plenty, and fueled the suburbanite’s need for a real-world simulacrum—one that could replace scary diverse downtowns with “safe,” artificial Disneyland-ish approximations that substituted commerce for community. The choices in a mall were simultaneously endless and extremely constrained: You could try on every shoe in the world. Eat six different kinds of foods at the food court. Watch one of five movies. Maybe there was a fountain or a carousel. The actual activities you could do were limited, but there were so many products to choose from that it felt—to lame teenage me, certainly, covered in zits and longing to belong—like a place where rehearsals of glamour and independence and self-fashioning were possible (even if I never quite managed to access them myself). And yet, they’re dying. A 2017 report by Credit Suisse predicted that 1 in 4 malls would close by 2022. That was before the pandemic. How are these castles to consumerism crumbling while the system they so ably represented lives on?

If It’s Brown…

Why Does Coffee Make Me Poop?

This communication between the stomach, brain and colon, called the gastrocolic reflex, is a normal response to eating. But coffee seems to have an outsize effect; one study published in 1998 found that eight ounces of coffee stimulated colonic contractions similar to those induced by a 1,000-calorie meal. Researchers have hypothesized that coffee’s gut-brain messaging is likely caused by one or more of coffee’s many chemicals, and perhaps mediated by some of our own hormones that play important roles in the digestive process, like gastrin or cholecystokinin — both of which can spike after coffee drinking.

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Thanks for reading. Have a great month,

Clay

December 2021

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

‘But, like, what is money, man?’

How Credit Cards Make Money

Payments are deceptively complicated—everyone has used them and thinks they have good intuitions for how they work. However, payments require coordination of a dance between different parties who have extremely different incentives, both on a transaction-by-transaction basis and what they get out of participating at all.

Taking a Step Back

Underrated Reasons To Be Thankful

That humans didn’t evolve under strong alpha selection, meaning that 99% of us don’t get eaten by birds in our first moments of life as we crawl down the beach towards the ocean, which is nice.

Rich Uncle Pennybags

Monopoly’s Origin and The Landlord’s Game

Today, the “real story” behind the invention of Monopoly, America’s most iconic board game, is well-known. But, as the game’s popularity began to intensify, executives at Parker Brothers wanted to keep the origin of Monopoly a secret. LeRoy Howard, a game designer and developer at Parker Brothers, advised George S. Parker about purchasing Monopoly from Charles Darrow in 1935. During the acquisition, Parker Brothers learned that Darrow’s commercially-produced version of the board game was based on Elizabeth M. Phillips’s previously-patented creation, The Landlord’s Game. In the end, Parker Brothers purchased the original patent from Phillips for $500. The document, titled “The Origin of the Game of Monopoly,” includes a handwritten annotation that reads “Not for Publication, L.H.” and was originally marked “Confidential.”

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Thanks for reading. Have a great month,

Clay

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