Friday, September 24, 2010

ū— — Crooked Timber

A great response to Merlin Mann's latest blast of nonsensical wisdom, "u-":
I think what makes Merlin Mann compelling is that he knows he has something important to get across about work and creativity, but what he has to convey is a kind of non-demonstrative non-formula, and trying to say it more than once puts him in the same business niche as a legion of people he rightfully despises. He is quite aware of this, so you see him constantly tuning his anti-pitch and sharpening his anti-advice to make sure he doesn’t find himself, late one night, naked on a bed in a motel in Omaha watching himself deliver an infomercial. It’s the problem of trying to teach something that needs to be shown, or of trying to theorize a craft — the way that critics of postwar critical theory used to say that the trouble with those guys was that they had succeeded in unifying theory and practice, in theory. His advice is excellent, but the act of delivering and listening to it subverts the point of the message, or is an example of the problem that needs solving.
For my part, what I see in Merlin's work is the understanding that the good stuff doesn't come from linear, logical overthinking. It requires the ability to dive into the contradictory state of simultaneously taking things very seriously and not seriously at all without worrying about the fact that that's exactly what you're doing.