The weather -- the first substantial snowfall in New York City in over 700 days -- made it a weird week. The snowfall and the bitterly, bitterly cold that followed. And the wind, my god. I remember in school in England one of the teachers said that Americans had invented the idea of “windchill” to make themselves feel heartier -- another example of our ideological delusions, or something. But man, fuck that guy -- he’d clearly spent very little time outside of Oxfordshire. Because let me tell you, the winter wind coming off the Hudson and into Hell’s Kitchen is brutal. And while it might’ve been sunny at some points this weekend, it was deceptive. Step outside, and that wind chill was in the single digits.
Needless to say, all four of my runs were inside on the treadmill. While I did take a Citibike to the gym on Friday -- I didn’t want to get salt on my bike chain and I thought that the heavier bike might be safer in the bad weather -- I did a lot of biking inside as well. I didn’t swim -- I was not in the mood for the cold (relatively) water of a lap swim. I did take my first ever Pilates reformer class on Friday -- an exercise in fitness technology journalism for Second Breakfast. I didn’t hate it.
In other Second Breakfast news, I wrote about abandoning New Year’s Resolutions. (Update: I talked to a therapist on the phone, and I have an appointment, face-to-face with her this week.) I also recorded a podcast with Mike C that’ll go up on the site next month. This week, I need to finalize the one I recorded with Sherri S in December; it should go up on Monday.
Things are going... okay with Second Breakfast. I guess? The fallout from the Substack-supports-Nazis thing is quite substantial, although not exactly in the way that many writers have feared. I have lost some subscribers; I am not gaining tons and tons of free ones each week. But something else is going on too. Ironically, because so many people insist on saying “I have a Substack” rather than “I have a newsletter” -- something that bloggers, for example, stopped doing in the mid-2000s when you heard less “I have a Livejournal” and more “I have a blog” -- I think that a lot of readers have heard that Substack is bad and have decided that it’s all newsletters that are the problem. And perhaps too there’s a little bit of newsletter fatigue, much as there was when everyone had a blog. I keep seeing writers complain too that they can’t leave Substack as there is no other way to promote their work other than the network effect that Substack promises. That is the weirdest argument, but so indicative of how much writers believe the story that we’ve been told: that the only way people are going to find our writing is by relying on social media (and in the case of Substack, this pseudo-social media feature they’ve created with Notes). If you have a small newsletter, which I do with Second Breakfast, you will never be able to survive if you leave Substack, I hear others say. JFC. Thanks for the encouragement, colleagues. But also, how ridiculous! It feels a lot like just justifying the inertia of not moving because of the Nazis, to be honest. But there are other things swirling, some of which I should spell out in more detail on Second Breakfast perhaps.
My friend John W. wrote a very good essay on “consideration versus consumption” recently, drawing on Kyle Chayka’s new book Filterworld:
Outside of algorithms, individuals are now more likely to be seen as influencers rather than critics and the individuals who come to our attention do so via algorithms. We are in an era of consumption over consideration, and an influencer is more useful than a critic when it comes to fueling consumption.
I think that we writers have been sold this story that what we are actually doing is not writing, but selling our writing, our writing as a product — and sure, capitalism, we are. But rather than thinking about our writing as an intellectual or creative expression, one that helps others think through and about things, the focus is on selling a product. Creation is merely for consumption, not consideration.
There are, of course, other ways we can gain attention too without relying on social media and "the algorithm." I mean, crikey, we did we do in the early days of blogging, right? We'd comment on one another's posts; we'd link to them. And now that we're all sending out and receiving newsletters via email, why don't folks just hit reply!? Perhaps because writers aren't interested in building rapport, they're interested in "reach" — consumption not consideration.
Elsewhere in media: I finished Unshrinking; I started A Pocketful of Happiness (well, I downloaded the audiobook); I started A Feast for Starving Stone. Kin and I finished listening to The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel, and we started Filterworld. Thanks to much time on the treadmill I finished the final season of Physical, and started the latest of The Morning Show. Kin and I finished the final episode of this season's Fargo, and started two new (to us) series: Death and Other Details and Slow Horses. (I hate Gary Oldman. He killed Nancy Spungeon after all.)
I cooked red curry lentils with sweet potatoes and spinach; mint chocolate chip ice cream; roasted cabbage and meatballs with ricotta dressing; chewy coffee cookies; farro and bean soup; Mark Bittman’s biscuits; tahini noodles with spicy tofu crumbles; Ali Slagle’s recipe for multigrain stuffing with dates, kale and sausage (except I made it vegetarian); and mint chocolate chip ice cream again (can you tell Kin digs this?). Kin wrote about our dining out experience on Saturday: Kin Ramen.
I had a one-on-one call with the NYRR Volunteer Operations crew and I'm starting the process of becoming a Volunteer Leader. Looking forward to getting more involved in the running community here.