Peach baskets

In conversation there must be, as in love and in war, some hazarding, some rattling on; nor need twenty falls affect you, so long as you take cheerfulness and good humor for your guides; but careful and measured conversation is always, though perfectly correct, extremely dull and tedious—a vast blunder from first to last.

~ Arthur Martine from, Martine’s Hand-book of Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness

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“Kid, anyone can fix it with the right tools. It takes a real mechanic to fix it with a peach basket full of junk,” was the punch-line life-lesson from a story my dad used to tell from his first days in the elevator trade.

I’ve mentioned this book by Martine before. Large parts of it are patently ridiculous. But there are parts of it which are solid.

Anyone can learn something from a well-written book. But it takes a first-rate mind, and a lot of practice, to read through a peach-basket full of assorted crap, find the right parts, and find a lesson or three along the way.

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Narrative

Cinematic Portraiture … I try to make a picture that draws elements of a larger scene happening. For me it’s always that challenge of how do you come up with a picture that gets the essence of the person, but also does a little more.

It’s different depending on the medium, but there are some things that are the same throughout. One of them is, you have to know or define your narrative because you’re always telling a story whether it’s in a single frame or in a two hour documentary. The first thing for me is to know what story I’m telling. With photographs it’s often, I read about the person, I start sketching ideas, and hopefully I can make up a story that I can tell that is true with that person. If it’s a music video, I’ll try to get what I want to say about the song; Whether it’s trying to be very literal or trying to be very opposite, I still have to know the story I want to tell. With doing Off Camera, it really is— You could talk to anyone for 100 hours and not get even close to their whole deal, so the idea is to try to pick the things you really want to look into and develop a little narrative.

~ Sam Jones starting around 44:50, from https://www.richroll.com/podcast/how-to-cultivate-your-authentic-voice-with-sam-jones-rrp-126/

Sam Jones is well-known for his Off-Camera project. Each “episode” is a photoshoot, documentary video, podcast and print magazine. This interview from 2015 on Rich Roll’s podcast covers a wide range of things related to being creative. This podcast episode is a true gem.

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*click*

The power of preserving silence is the very first requisite to all who wish to shine, or even please in discourse; and those who cannot preserve it, have really no business to speak. … The silence that, without any deferential air, listens with polite attention, is more flattering than compliments, and more frequently broken for the purpose of encouraging others to speak, than to display the listener’s own powers. This is the really eloquent silence. It requires great genius—more perhaps than speaking—and few are gifted with the talent …

~ Arthur Martine, from https://fs.blog/2013/08/the-art-of-ordinary-conversation/

Months ago, I presume, I had marked this Farnam Street article for later reading because it’s stuffed full of wonderful insight about conversation. That’s something about which I happen to be passionate, you know? Today I was giving it a thorough, leisurely read and the bit I quoted above screamed at me to be the lead quote of a post. I’d wager it caught my eye when I months-ago marked it for later reading. Turns out I have the book containing the original source, Martine, A. (1866), Martine’s Hand-Book of Etiquette, and Guide to True Politeness, pp 8-9, librarything.com/work/1885064/book/101201787

I read the book a decade (or more?) ago when I obtained it. But now I’m inspired to re-read a few of its chapters now that I’ve become reacquainted with conversation as an art in itself.

“Okay, Craig, get to the point.”

Sometimes bricks of thinking and action click perfectly into place. In this case: A web page from 2013 which I’m only just reading in 2020, a different web page I read a decade ago, an author working just after our Civil War, my personal journey, my interest in conversations and podcasting. I quite often worry about all the things I regularly jam into my brain; they’re good things, but they are so numerous that my brain sometimes feels overstuffed! And then, click. It’s all worth it.

Do you have ways of regularly exposing your self to… well… whatever it is you need to feed your mind?

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Practice practice practice

Depending on your own personal history, there isn’t necessarily a lot at stake in how you conduct yourself at a cash register. What I’m trying to get at with my idiosyncratic cashier-focused story is this: there’s a vast difference between the habit of getting by, and the habit of getting better, and you may, without realizing it, be free to choose between them.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2020/02/getting-by-and-getting-better/

I’ve not gone down the exact same rabbit hole as Cain. However, being intentional with my work on the podcast interviews is amazing—it’s the same iterative path of discovery as he’s describing.

I’ve done well over 100 interviews—indoors, outdoors, quiet spaces, noisy spaces, while healthy, while sick-ish, with shy people, with insanely energetic people, during the day, at night, across sunsets with natural light, English-speakers and English-as-second-language speakers, old-ish, young-ish, men, women, couples, teams, while working alone and with an assistant, sleep-deprived and well-rested, with the occasional tech problem, in comfy chairs with tea, in an unpadded folding chair for 12 interviews in a row, well-fed and ravenous, . . .

None of that matters.

The conversations are always amazing. Time after time, once we get into the flow state, it turns out that people are interesting— most of the time surprisingly interesting. The more I work at this, the more I’m coming to believe that the art of communication, and in particular conversation, is the single most important skill for a human to possess.

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