I took up jazz guitar during the pandemic and, while I haven’t gotten very good, I have discovered a love of vinyl. It’s a weird thing, this hobby. I’m optimizing some of the most primitive audio tech in the world, working to get physical vibrations off of a disk of plastic.
Vinyl reminds us that science is physical. The tools needed to create these disks defined the early 20th century. Understanding how to generate a vibrational impulse sent up a needle and through a set of magnets became the basis of countless industries, from the recording industry to 3D printing.
Further, the artistry of vinyl reminds me that the best technologies are the simplest. These disks of acetate shouldn’t be able to produce the magic they do. But, somehow, the world picked them up and turned them into art. A Wes Montgomery disk is a holographic model of a single performance, created at a certain point in time. In an age when recording is an afterthought, it took time, energy, and artistry to capture a moment in time onto a wax disk spinning 33 1/3 rpm.
Falling in love with vinyl isn’t special but it’s important. In this age of endless improvement and change, tethering ourselves to the dhrithi of the physical is important. We are rocketing into the future and we often forget the past. There are a few things — books and records among them — that remind us to look up and look around.
I’ll be in Miami this week if anyone is around. Reply to this message or tweet me @johnbiggs.
Do you have an entrepreneur in your life? I’d love for them to review Get Funded. I’m happy to send a PDF or hardcopy in exchange for an amazing review. I don’t think the book got enough attention when it came out in the middle of the pandemic and I’d love to restart it a little. Let me know!
And, with that, I present the great reads.
by Eileen E. Power
This book is one of the best examinations of Medieval life I’ve read in a while. It’s concise and exploratory and wonderfully written and I really enjoyed reading about everyone from Bodo the estate worker to Marco Polo who paved the way for the age of exploration. Power’s book is actually free on Kindle right now so it’s well worth a read.
by John Julius Norwich
I’m a sucker for focused history and this was a good one. It ran through the story of Sicily from an arid trading post to global power and then its eventual decline. I’ve never been to Sicily and I want to go and, during this time of no travel, this was the next best thing.
by Malcolm Gladwell
I usually hate-read Gladwell. He’s a facile thinker and his “discoveries” are pretty weak but damn if he doesn’t know how to tell a story. In this book, Gladwell explores the difference between precision and strategy and the resulting tale, which could have been a blog post but Gladwell wouldn’t have gotten a big enough check for it, says that you have to think outside the box. If it weren’t so compelling a read I’d have left it off this list but please let me know what you think.
As always, I welcome recommendations. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.