Links: MagnaCut steel, the sociology of art, the history of art, UFOs, and more!

* Long review of MagnaCut, a stainless steel that appears to have very desirable properties for knives. I cook a lot and thus quality knives are of high interest to me.

* “Against shock,” and I’ve noticed this: “And then—this is my contention—somewhere towards the 1960s the culture simply ran out of ways to shock.” In the ’90s and ’00s, I think that, in some circles, it was still cool to be denounced by Christians or Christian groups; today, that’s faded, a new racial piety has settled over the world that once celebrated offending people—but only the right people. In “Disenchantment and Dogma,” William Deresiewicz writes that “we pour our unsatisfied religious longings into an ever-shifting array of crypto-religious enthusiasms: movements, cults, conspiracy theories, New Age quackery, fandom—now, disastrously, politics” and that “into that vacuum, has lately stepped the ideology of ‘social justice,’ with all the certainties and all the furies of a new religion on the march.” Maybe the religious impulse will always be with us. In terms of art and shock, it may be also that the culture of narcissism that artists used to specialize in, became the general culture: “So, in other words, a dead-end—artists simply repeating passed-down wisdom about their expected social role as risqué exhibitionists.” If much of the culture is composed of risqué exhibitionists, that’s not a way for artists to stand apart. So what is?

* “Where’s today’s Beethoven?” An attempt at comparing past and present art and achievement, among many other things. I subscribe to the idea that many art forms have a “big bang” of achievement in which relatively early practitioners get 80% of the way “there,” barring technological achievements. That caveat is important: to most people, movies before the time period they grew up are unwatachable due to poor sound and image quality, for example. You, reader, may not be most people.

* UFOs above the Channel Islands. Also mentions Kelly Johnson, the Skunkworks pioneer, and his encounter with UFOs.

* On Sinclair Lewis, proclaimed by the headline as “The Novelist Who Saw Middle America as It Really Was.” I don’t find his novels readable today, apart from historical interest, and prefer this essay to them.

* “Dangerous humid heat extremes occurring decades before expected.”

* Moxie’s first impressions of web3. Subtle, surprising.

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