Entries from March 2018

Publishing My Reading List

Inspired by the personal websites of Silicon Valley autodidact Susan J. Fowler and Estonian parliamentarian Kaja Kallas I've published a reading list of books I've completed recently. I intend to use this published list as a way of motivating myself to read more and better works and to give myself a place to write a bit about some of them. Compiling the list for the last three years has already suggested changes I should make. Check back often as I'll update the page with each new book I read.

Skyscraper Doodles

In recent months I've been edging closer and closer to taking my love of architecture a little more seriously. What with October's trip to Dubai and consequent gawking at some absurdly fanciful (and yet actually realized!) designs for towers, a few mildly architectural home projects I'm working on, and my fascination with Netflix's new show The World's Most Extraordinary Homes, it's time to indulge in publishing some old architectural fantasies of mine. Here's a page of doodles from last January, mostly playing with the terraced idea that's been so important a part of skyscraper design since the beginning:

Sharpie pen in Moleskine sketchbook

Of Jackboots and Tumbrels, and Other Not-Nice Things

In the 1940s, George Orwell, fighting a long campaign to keep the English of his contemporaries clean and honest, directed some of his fire against the word “jackboot”, denoting a type of cavalry equipment that was already mostly useful only as a symbol of totalitarianism. In his “As I Please” column (#62), he complained of being unable to determine what a jackboot was, exactly, and quipped that it must be “a kind of boot that you put on when you want to behave tyrannically”. Orwell's definition has stuck with me because it is obviously even more apt now that “jackboot” (and indeed, all the language used to condemn 20th century fascism) is even more stale and meaningless than ever, while showing absolutely no signs of being retired in favor of something fresher.

So it was a surprise to come across jackboots, as part of the ordinary equipment of some not-necessarily-authoritarian person traveling by horse, in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities recently. It struck my 2018 ear and made me take notice, reminding me to think about the politicization of words and causing a brief moment of something like relief, because it brought me to a time before ideological warfare became quite so constant a feature of life.