Review: From Plato to Post-modernism

51GBGRne7aL._AA300_.jpgOne thing I’m going to try this year is to write a review of every book I get a chance to read. It’s March already so I’m a bit behind and the next few will be out of order, but this seems like as good a place to start as any.

One new thing I’ve been doing this year is listening to audiobooks with an Audible account, so this first book review is actually an audiobook. Great Courses is actually an old school thing where you could order college lectures on tape. From the references throughout the lectures I listened to, my guess is that the recordings are from the 90s. This one is called From Plato to Post-modernism: Understanding the Essence of Literature and the Role of the Author ($25 on Audible, $9.99 on cassette tape ūüôÉ).

I really enjoyed this series. Some of the early lectures covering Aristotle, Longinus, and Sidney’s “Apology for Poetry” were quite brilliant. Later ones from Foucault¬†and Derrida on were weaker and harder to follow, which I think is a function of both the material, which can be dense when it starts getting into Modernism, the length, fixed at 30 minutes, and the lecturer, Louis Markos.¬†Markos teaches at Houston Baptist University and his asides can sometimes be a little traditional,¬†but in an adorable grandpa way. He has an infectious enthusiasm that makes even the slower chapters on Kant and¬†Schiller bearable, but his love of and fluency in the earlier classics is really a pleasure.

It made me curious to look into more online lectures and sometime this year I’m going to check out this one on Value Theory at Khan academy. I also picked up a used copy of Critical Theory Since Plato which had the original text for many things discussed in the lecture, so was a great reference point when I was at home in Houston, where I end up listening to most audio content since it’s a driving town.

WordPress Collaborative Editing

I’m really excited about the new Google Docs integration that just launched — basically it builds a beautiful bridge between what is probably the best collaborative document editor on the planet right now, Google’s, and let’s you one-click bring a document there into a WordPress draft with all the formatting, links, and everything brought over. There’s even a clever feature that if you are copying and pasting from Docs it’ll tell you about the integration.

I think this is highly complementary to the work we’re doing with the new Editor in core WordPress. Why? Google Docs represents the web pinnacle of the WordPerfect / Word legacy of editing “pages”, what I’ll call a document editor. It runs on the web, but it’s not native to the web in that its fundamental paradigm is still about the document itself. With the new WordPress Editor the blocks will be all about bringing together building blocks from all over — maps, videos, galleries, forms, images — and making them like Legos you can use to build a rich, web-native post or page.

We’re going to look into some collaborative features, but Google’s annotations, comments, and real-time co-editing are years ahead there. So if you’re drafting something that looks closer to something in the 90s you could print out, Docs will be the best place to start and collaborate (and better than Medium). If you want to built a richer experience, something that really only makes sense on an interactive screen, that’s what the new WordPress editor will be for.

One final note, the Docs web store makes it tricky to use different Google accounts to add integrations like this one. To make it easy,¬†open up a Google Doc under the account you want to use, then go to Add-ons -> Get add-ons‚Ķ -> search for ‚ÄúAutomattic” and you’ll be all set.

I’m very excited to have been selected to join the Henry Crown Fellowship Class of 2017. Many, many folks¬†I admire including Reed Hastings, Kim Polese, Cory Booker, Aileen Lee, Stephen DeBerry, Deven Parekh, Chris Sacca, Tim Ferriss, Reid Hoffman, Scott Heiferman, Troy Carter, Bre Pettis, Lupe Fiasco, and¬†Alexa von Tobel have been through the program in previous years, and several of those people have spoken highly of it to me. I’m excited to meet and get to know the rest of the 2017 class, and embark on a learning journey alongside them.

Thirty-Three

I’m taking it easy this week, nothing too crazy — just sharing good meals and wine with friends. Which is probably a good example of my goals for the year: putting family and loved ones first, slowing down (to go further), and deliciousness. (Single Thread Farms blew me away.)

2016 was a year of incredible contrasts: it was the saddest and most challenged I’ve ever been with the passing of my father, and while that overshadowed everything there were also bright moments of coming closer to family, deepening friendships, and growing professionally¬†with incredible progress from both WordPress and Automattic. That momentum on the professional side is carrying through and right now I’m the most optimistic I can recall, and thrilled to wake up and get to work every day with the people I do.

I talked about trying to spend longer stretches of time in fewer places, and that definitely happened. I flew 162k fewer miles than the year before, and visited 35 fewer cities. My blogging decreased¬†a lot too — from 252 posts in 2015 to 76 posts in 2016, but the posts I did write were at least 50% longer. I made it to 9 more of the Top 50 restaurants and stand currently at 50% of the list. I finished 22 books, including a lot more fiction including¬†my first few graphic novels like¬†Ex Machina, Y: The Last Man, and Watchmen. I watched 35 movies,¬†9¬†of which were¬†from the Marvel universe on a single flight from Cape Town to Dubai.

Last year I said, “it‚Äôs exciting to make the most of the opportunity that the volatility, love, loss, glory, failure, inspirations, and setbacks that 2016 will bring.” I didn’t know how right I would be, and wish I hadn’t been.

This year doesn’t start with new plans, but rather three intentions continued from a few months ago. I revealed one yesterday, and promised I would expand today on the others, so here they are:

  1. Symmetry — Balance in all things, including my body which is stronger on my right side and much tighter on my left side. We also need symmetry in WordPress between the .org and .com products which differ too much.
  2. Stillness — In echoes of Pico Iyer, so much of my life in my 20s was about movement, and “going places to be moved.” In my 30s I’m looking inward. As Saint Augustine said in Book X, chapter 8 of Confessions:¬†“Men go forth to wonder at the heights of mountains, the huge waves of the sea, the broad flow of the rivers, the vast compass of the ocean, the courses of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.”
  3. Yellow Arrows — The idea that there are clear indications of where to go next at every fork in the road, and if not you should paint them. I wrote more¬†on this ¬†yesterday.

Previously: 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, and 32.