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On Taste
21 May

On Taste

Taste is complicated. In different contexts, it’s a physical sense or a social grace, something you feel immediately and certainly, or something you learn bit by bit over years.

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On Athletic Beauty
07 May

On Athletic Beauty

Any job done well is a pleasure, but sporting achievement distills that pleasure into a kind of beauty.

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On Envy
23 Apr

On Envy

I speak today of a secret vice. Rarely admitted, but relentlessly practiced. “The sin that everybody commits.”* No, not that one. A distinctly modern sin, made for (and perhaps made by) a modern consumer economy: envy.

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Craft as Design
25 Mar

Craft as Design

How do buildings resist gravity? Or, for that matter, strong winds, weathering, tectonic shudders, and the seasonal heat and ice? The modern answer has two parts: a science of architecture and a craft of building. On one side, years studying drafting, structural theory, conservation science, and computer-aided design. On the other, years learning and refining the techniques of masonry or carpentry, plumbing or fitting.

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What's The Harm?
08 Mar

What's The Harm?

Justice, when it comes, can be by act or omission. There are moments when the machinery of state moves to right inequity, and moments where it must relinquish power to do so. A case of the second kind occurred in May 1937, in Albany, seat of the New York Court of Appeals.

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Unpacking
03 Mar

Unpacking

Just as the return leg of a journey seems shorter, as if the mental energy has already been spent on the outlay, and now you are being pulled magnetically back home, unpacking feels easier than packing. The difficult decisions are already made. Did I need that second whisk, or the book about Alexander von Humboldt? Either way, it’s too late.

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On Comfort
30 Dec

On Comfort

It tinglesIn Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habitalongside the more familiar stories of learnt behavior, impulse control, and the expectation-reward arc which makes the infant grab the marshmallow and the flâneur paw at the cashmere, there’s a story about toothpaste.

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On Recognition
23 Oct

On Recognition

Unhappy is the man who assesses everybody’s clothes. Most likely, they will fail to meet his cultivated eye, and he will have no option but to write to the usual places about how standards are slipping, and nobody but him remembers the rules. But worse, one fine day he might find himself in a room full of bespoke, and realize that for once the hand-welted shoe is on the other foot. He will be on the receiving end, he imagines, of the same withering critique.

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