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The Grinding Wheel vol. 10: craftsmanship
The Grinding Wheel is a semi-regular installment of This for That featuring recommendations curated for you to sharpen your toolkit, broaden your thinking or lift your spirits.
This installment of the Grinding Wheel is a bit different. Each of the recommendations below are tied to a theme: craftmanship.
After all, This for That is about the craft of building partnerships.
I hope you enjoy these six recommendations and make use of them during this holiday season …
“Forks” is one of the very best episodes of one of the very best television shows to come along in years. The Bear is a show about the relationships that form under the intense pressure of running a restaurant kitchen. The show forever changed my view of restaurants … and no episode more than Forks (S2, EP 7). I’ve heard this episode described as “a masterpiece” and “brilliant.” Forks is about hard work, delighting customers … and craftsmanship. The episode stands on its own - you don’t need to watch the entire series to enjoy it, though doing so will add more flavor to the experience. (You can find The Bear on Hulu).
Creating a song
Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. I love the way this show takes me into the mind of artists and uncovers the meaning behind certain lyrics and sounds. Among the +250 episodes, some of my favorites: Hell N Back by Bakar, Stick Season by Noah Kahan, Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac, Heat Waves by Glass Animals, Broken Glass by Rachel Platten.
Demon Copperhead is many things at once. It is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a boy trying to break free from his family’s past. It is also a modern day retelling of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfied. But to me, this book is a powerful reminder that the best way to help an audience to grasp a huge story - like America’s opioid crisis - is through the lens of a single character. The book’s first person narrative puts you in the room. And Barbara Kingsolver creates characters who you feel like you’ve met … even if, like me, you have never visited rural Kentucky.
Inspiring an audience
It can be easy to forget what it feels like for a politician to stir up strong, positive emotions among large audiences. This 5 minute story from Barack Obama is a masterclass. Obama shared this story during a rally in Manassas, Virginia on the eve of his becoming president in 2008. It is the only excerpt of a politician’s speech that I’ve ever added to a playlist that I listen to when I go running. This video leaves me fired up, ready to go.
Designing a game
My daughter introduced me to a daily online game that I find more challenging, more clever and more fun than Wordle. Connections is also produced by the NYTimes and I treat it like a little mental workout for my brain everyday. I also enjoyed this write-up from a NYTimes staffer who created the game about how she did it.
Creating something new
The Creative Act: A Way of Being is Rick Rubin’s guidance to anyone seeking to create something new. As I wrote in this post back in April, Rubin has become one of the most revered producers in music. Over the last 40 years, he has helps so many artists from their voice - artists as diverse as Johnny Cash, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. His book is unusual, closer to a manifesto than any common genre today. I recommend it to anyone trying to hone their craft and unleash their creativity.