June 24, 2023

The most thrilling moment of my writing career happened last night, when I received physics-related hate mail in response to my new article on the implosion of the Titan, published yesterday in Jacobin: No Matter How Rich You Are, You Can’t Own the Sea. A reader emailed me pointing out that the weight of the column of water sitting over the Titan at a depth of 12,500 ft was actually only 77,000 tons, not "millions of tons" as I wrote. He's 100% correct, I did the math. My extremely weak defense is that I was speaking more generally about the region of the seafloor, and if we take an only slightly larger area into consideration (such as the size of the Titanic wreck), we very quickly get into the realm of millions of tons; also I was only a B+ student in physics. But what a rush, to know my work generated any kind of emotional reaction in anyone at all, and that that emotion was mathematical irritation.

I am hoping to get a couple more pieces published this year.

My focus in the last two months has been mostly musical. I plan to spend the summer recording and re-recording stuff that has been kicking around in my head or on my hard drive for years. Some are very simple acoustic guitar songs, and some have very complicated arrangements that will be challenging to do well. My goal is to have a Bandcamp / Spotify situation up and running by the end of the summer. Getting these articles published has definitely changed my perception of myself as a writer, and so I am both excited and apprehensive about the prospect of publishing my music in a way where people can listen to it without me there being like "ok, don't take this literally, this was facetious, haha! I was thinking about . . ." It feels much more intimate -- articles on economics or the literary merits of a book are very ideas-driven, and opinions or viewpoints can easily be divorced from the identity or personality of the author. But music operates on the emotional plane -- there's no, like, "Some people might say . . ." or "According to . . .". I'm choosing the notes and chords, I'm playing them, I'm subjecting the listener to the emotional experience and journey of the song, which is an actual thing I'm feeling as I'm recording it. There's nothing between us. So that element of it makes me extremely self-conscious, but if I don't set a goal then I won't play, so --

Here is a brief excerpt of my journal on the night of March 21:

Smith-9th Streets is the highest point in the New York City subway system. As the train banks up the long northward curve into the station, you get a spectacular view of downtown Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, & the skyscrapers of Midtown far beyond -- but only if you sit on the left side of the train, facing the inside of the track's curve. If you sit facing outward, you're shown the shipyards, the highway, & an infinitesimal glimpse of the Statue of Liberty guarding the blank darkness of the bay, the momentous & verbose mouth of the Hudson. I always end up on the wrong side to see the skyline. Rather than remember which is which, I have begun to convince myself that the lightlessness, the emptiness, the lack of stimulus in the water is the real anomaly, the actual sight to see. So here I sit, serendipitously rounding this curve with my back to the city, until I am plunged back into it.

yours always,