Old school pens and paper

There is something to physically writing things on paper. There's research regarding this, that the human brain better remembers and processes things when they are written on paper versus typing.

I'm finding that myself writing out notes and outlines more these days, despite a long practice of being digital. I might have an outline of a class in digital form, but I still enjoy jotting down a few notes or quotes. There's something more pleasurable about the writing, something more free form and empowering about a blank sheet of a paper and a good writing instrument. Digital notes are so powerful for their storage and search capability, but the irony is I rarely use these things.

Marie Kondo has taught us to not store things, since they are forgotten and become irritating clutter. Might the same apply to notes, outlines, and ideas? I rarely found Evernote as helpful as I thought, except for the occasional owner's manual. I rarely found what I thought was in there, or needed what I stored. I either misremembered it, or had filed it somewhere else. So what's the point?

Baron Fig makes some great notebooks. The Vanguard Plus notebook gives you 7" x 10" of glorious space, double that if you have the notebook fully open. Their Squire pen is a real pleasure, it just feels great with its crisp marks. There is a visceral pleasure with these devices that a keyboard and mouse simply don't provide. The Field Notes are great, especially the Byline model with its fantastic paper.

I do take a picture of important bits of notes from these notebooks – if you've ever lost one (or had it in a pocket, and then washed those pants), you know how disappointing that is. But there is something to the process of physical writing that makes it worthwhile, despite these risks. The immediacy, fun, and focus of longhand writing has surprised me in a time of Dropbox and iCloud.

Three Thoughts on Alexander Hamilton: An American Musical

Hamilton the Musical is about a book. Who relentlessly reads a thick biography on his honeymoon, dog-earing pages for a potential musical? Lin-Manuel Miranda. He read a book about restoring someone's legacy through a story, and Miranda saw that that story could be a hip-hop Broadway musical and so he wrote it. The result was an oddity, a musical that is historically accurate but stylistically and performatively wrong (the usual method is to change the history while making it look accurate). He hired the book's author, Ron Chernow, to check his musical for its historical accuracy so that the story could be true. At Miranda's last performance he read from Chernow's book, because the musical is, in many ways, a love story for a great book.

Hamilton the Musical is about counting. People often count things: Angelica counts 3 things she has learned, Phillip counts in his French lessons, the ten rules of dueling are counted twice, the duel is counted off. Hamilton died too young, and there is a sense of urgency in his life's work and the musical. Time is ticking, and Hamilton is running out of time. The musical is ticking towards that final duel. It creates an impressive narrative tension, as well as communicating this essential sadness to Hamilton's short life.

Hamilton the Musical is about a legacy. Hamilton's legacy in American history has been, until Chernow's book, an oddity: he was the man who was shot in a duel. The stunning achievements of Hamilton have been ignored for centuries, as the astute, modern, and urban Revolutionary War hero was eclipsed by the legacies of Jefferson and Adams. His wife Eliza fought for his legacy (and her own), but she lost, until Chernow told the story as it deserved to be told and then Miranda did the same in music and theater. Even Burr gets a nod, that his legacy of being the shooter is a heavy burden, that his story has not been told as perhaps it should.

Life is fragile. Let us tell our stories well.