Friday Finds (Mean Girls, Durant, Algorithms, Sermons, Airlines)

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Hi friends,

Greetings from Austin!

I've been heads down building Write of Passage for the past year, and now that our basic systems and company infrastructure are in place, it's time to get back to writing seriously. I'll be sharing what I publish with my David's Musings list, so click here if you want to receive new articles.

(If you are subscribed to Monday Musings, you'll get these emails automatically.)

To kick things off, I published a few short pieces this week:

  1. Take More Photos: The idea that snapping photos takes you out of the moment is flat-out misguided. Here's my short article about it.
  2. A Twitter Thread about Mean Girls: This teenage drama (and literally the best movie ever) is full of dark details about human psychology. Here's my in-depth analysis.

If you prefer an audio experience, I recently recorded this podcast about online writing, how architecture has shaped my work, and the recurring contradictions in my life. (Listen here: Apple | Spotify)

Today's Finds

Will Durant: One of the 20th century's great historians. He's famous for his Story of Civilization series and a little book called The Lessons of History that you have to read (I summarized it here). My favorite idea from the book is about the productive tension between radicals and conservatives. The people who resist change are as important as the ones who propose it, and the human project smartly advances through the productive tension between the parties. Durant writes: "It is good that new ideas should be heard, for the sake of the few that can be used; but it also good that new ideas should be compelled to go through the mill of objection, opposition, and contumely; this is the trial heat which innovations must survive before being allowed to enter the human race." I recommend his commencement speech from 1958, this string of short observations, and this piece on the power of religion.

Louis C.K. on Social Media: When people try to go viral by playing to an algorithm, they’re seeking the attention of artificial brains. Before social media, people were obsessed with what audiences or gatekeepers wanted. Now they’re working for computers. The result is self-sanitized content where creators serve technology instead of actual human beings. By appealing to algorithms, creators become homogenized because they're incentivized to shave off the parts of themselves that the code doesn't reward. Louis says to focus on the quality of your work, not the algorithm's appetite because quality is the only thing that’ll make you look back at your life and be proud of your work. Just make what you want. What kind of creator wants to spend their life serving an algorithm?

The Unseen Realm: If you want to understand the writing of antiquity, you need to read it in the way people thought when it was written. For example, so many critiques and misunderstandings about the Bible come from reading it through a modern lens. This book is written to help people understand the Bible through a supernatural lens — just as the ancient Israelites and first-century Jews saw it. If you prefer a shorter and simpler version of the book, read Supernatural. The author also made a documentary version of the book, which I haven't seen but have been recommended.

Here Be Sermons: Kevin Simler's blog was one of the first Internet rabbit holes I ever went down. This essay is about sermons. What are they? Why are they so repetitive? How do listeners participate? Simler posits that sermons don't just help people change as individuals but also help communities change too: "A proper sermon, then, is an attempt to cultivate a network effect around a shared value — and the preacher herself acts as a seed around which the network crystallizes. The core idea is that a sermon warps the social fabric in ways that encourage virtue and discourage vice." Since sermons are built on common knowledge, they rely on simplicity and repetition to be effective.

The Economics of Airplane Leases: Many of the airplanes you board aren’t owned by the airlines you’re flying on. Instead, they’re owned by leasing companies who rent the planes out to airlines. New aircraft are typically rented for 10-12 years. The leasing model was pioneered by Tony Ryan, who went on to start Ryanair. He saw how high capital expenditures and oscillating demand crushed the profitability of past airlines. As Byrne Hobart observed, leasing companies benefit from an Iron Condor. Individual airlines have high variance. They’re constantly growing and shrinking. Meanwhile, the industry as a whole is much more stable. Leasing companies absorb some of the risks that individual airlines would face if they owned their aircraft and profit from that service. Here’s a good introduction to the aircraft leasing model.

Have a creative week,

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