The Weekly BTSF newsletter
Let's talk beauty, technical, serious, and funny
I am going to start a new weekly feature as part of my Substack. Something I call the BTSF newsletter. BTSF stands for beauty, technical, serious, and funny…a very creative name, I am aware. I will send this out each week with something that fits in each of the above categories. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them. So here we go:
Beauty: The Remains of the Day
I will preface this by saying that I am generally not a fan of period pieces. I’ll watch one if they come out, but I will never seek one out. With that throat-clearing completed, when I was a teenager, a movie with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson called The Remains of the Day came out. I think I remember the movie release because it was the quintessential example of something I would have less than zero interest in seeing. Fast forward a few decades, and for some reason, I decided to pick up the novel on which the movie was based. To this day, it is one of my all-time favorite works of fiction.
No spoiler alert. The bulk of the novel, by Kazuo Ishiguro, takes place in pre-World War 2 England, where a butler has spent most of his life serving the owner of an estate, who turns out not to be the man he thought he was. The book is a phenomenal mediation on how one can become blinded to obvious realities while doing our duty. I couldn’t possibly recommend it enough.
By the turn of the 20th century, the world population was multiplying, and there was real concern if we could, and there was genuine concern if we could feed everyone. Fertilizers were in short supply and hard to find…they were using things like guano (seabird and bat shit) to extract nitrogen to improve crop yields. In 1909 Fritz Haber came along and figured out a way to extract nitrogen from the air, which makes up about 80% of the earth’s atmosphere. Later, Carl Bosch discovers how to industrialize the process and the main reason we have the food resources today. Many people consider this discovery to be primarily responsible for the population growth we have seen over the past one hundred years, so it would not be too much of a stretch to say this is among the most critical discoveries in the history of mankind.
Serious: Why Did the Edmund Fitzgerald Sink?
Who doesn’t love Gordon Lightfoot? I sure do. Race Among the Ruins and Sundown are all-time great folks songs. But, it’s his 1976 song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, that many people know him for. In that song, he details, based on a news article, the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior the year prior. Well, if you are interested in some more details about the event (like the fact it was over 700 feet long!), check out this documentary I found on Youtube. Next time you hear that song, you’ll want to give your friends a history lesson (don’t do it…trust me).
Funny: Brooklyn 99
I think Andy Samberg is one of the most underrated Saturday Night Live performers in history (checkout Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping). However, it was only recently that I discovered Brooklyn 99 on Hulu, and I have been devouring it ever since. Samberg plays a police detective with, let’s say, an color cast of characters. I give you my personal guarantee you will laugh at loud at least once every episode or your money back!