Remember me? Jarrett Fuller, here, writing from a crisp, Fall morning in Raleigh, North Carolina. You’re getting this email because you signed up to receive updates from me and my work. These were supposed to be monthly but have became more sporadic over the past year. My text file for this newsletter says I started composing this draft at the beginning of August. That last month of the summer proved to be especially hectic, both personally and professionally.
This summer was defined by reading and writing. I took a break from Scratching the Surface and took advantage of my first summer as a tenure-track professor (thus, not hustling for freelance work) to think deeply about some recent topics of interest. I did more reading than I have in a while and finally got back into a groove of regular publishing for the first time about a year. I’m grateful my schedule and work allows for this and I already miss the time and space for this thinking. As much as I love solitude, however, I (think) love teaching even more and it feels great to be back in the classroom again.
This newsletter, then, is a little check-in on what I’ve been up to. Thanks, as always, for following along!
I’ve been (trying) to blog again and use that forum to work things out in public. My recent posts — on design as cultural invention and the vapidity of design PR — are very much half-formed thoughts, fragments of ideas I want to think more about. This is the value of blogging, I think. A blog post doesn’t need to be a fully edited, complete and buttoned up essay. I can just be some bullet points of things on my mind: a way to put them out in the world and think in dialogue with all of you.
I have a handful of other texts in the works that will hopefully be published over the next few months. More soon!
Scratching the Surface is back after a summer hiatus! I’ve released episodes with Maria Nicanor, the new director of Cooper Hewitt; Eva Hagberg, author of the great new book When Eero Met His Match; New York Times reporter Tripp Mickle, author of After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul; and most recently Matthew Wizinsky, author of Design After Capitalism. New episodes are in the pipeline and I’m excited about where the show is going! As always, you can support the show on Patreon to get bonus content, extra interviews, and help keep the show going.
I don’t do much client work anymore — as mentioned above, I have a full-time teaching thing now and do much more writing than I did a few years ago — but I still take on the occasional client when the project or the person is right. To reflect the changing nature of this work, I’d been meaning to update twenty-six.design, my studio’s website.
Off and on all summer, I’ve been tinkering with this redesign, based around some self-imposed limits: a single typeface and size, black and white, a few pages as possible. It took forever, especially for a design so straightforward and a build so simple but I’m happy with how it turned out. (I ended up adding a complimentary typeface at the end but kept the other rules in place.)
You can view the site here. I’m working on a few projects right now but I do have availability for new work again beginning January 2023. Hire me for design, editorial, and strategy work across publishing, branding, and content!
This feels wildly out of date now but I still want to share: during the mid-August heatwave, I started putting together a new playlist that I wrapped up during my last week of summer. It’s called Let’s Go Kill Time and features a mix of jangly alt-country, modern folk, and acoustic pop music perfect for the summer heat, barbecues, and working in the garden.
You can listen to that here.
This is sort of the opposite of my earlier summer playlist, Floating on Your Own Cloud. Where that one was electronic and dreamy, this one is acoustic and earthy — the two, together, reflect the music I most want to listen to during the summer months. Enjoy!
After reading this New York Times profile of director (and now novelist) Michael Mann, I’ve slowly been working my way through his filmography backwards, starting with Black Hat, his most recently released film. I’ve seen a handful of his films over the years but he’s admittedly a director I’ve never given much thought too. In watching his films back to back, what strikes me is how most of his movies are essentially about process: how people get their work done, whether that’s hacking a computer system (Black Hat) or uncovering a crime ring (Miami Vice). They are slow, methodically plotted and paced films about how to do the work. I’m reminded of the Godard quote “every film is a documentary of its own making” and thinking about how the processes Mann is drawn to illuminate his own filmmaking process. (Currently, and unrelated to Mann, I’m also going through The Criterion Channel’s 80s Horror collection!)
In The New Yorker, Colin Marshall writes about the value in listening to complete discographies. He’s writing about music — and what we can learn listening to an artist’s entire catalog in order — but it applies to all culture. Marshall picks an artist, and then listens to one album of theirs every day for a week before moving on. I’m not this structured but I love the process. I do similar things with bands, filmmakers, authors, etc.
I’ve also been rewatching Lost. If you spent any time around me circa 2010, you’d know that Lost was — and continues to be — my favorite television show. I’d been wanting to return to it recently, to see how it held up and figure out if my experience watching it now would feel the same way it did while it was on the air. My partner had never seen it so we’ve been ending our days back on the island. Reader, I’m completely drawn back into this world! I’ve fallen back in love with these characters and found my affection for this show has not diminished in any way. We’ll see if this feeling holds through the later seasons (which, in my memory, were my favorites, though more controversial among fans).
While painting my kitchen this summer, I enjoyed listening to these two podcast episodes back to back: The latest episode of Philosophize This!, on the late-great Bruno Latour and modernism, is a great intro to Latour’s work and extended thinking on the limits of modernism. (Philosophize This, by the way, is a fun show that does a great job breaking down philosophy concepts. I’ve listened off and on for years and always recommend it to folks interested in dipping their toes into reading philosophy.)
After that, I loved listening to Sam Illing talk to Stuart Jeffries on the Vox Conversations podcast about postmodernism. Jeffries connects postmodernism to neoliberalism in a way that I had never considered but am now unable to unhear. It’s a smart conversation and one I could feel rewiring my brain in the process. I’ll definitely be listening to it again. (Illing is the host of a new Vox podcast, The Gray Area, which is a “philosophical look at culture, politics and everything in between. The recent episode with Reza Aslan on the state of religion in the US is fantastic.)
Mike Davis, the great urbanist and Marxist critic, died last week and I’ve enjoyed reading and rereading this work (along with the many remembrances.) Here’s Hua Hsu in The New Yorker and Alissa Walker in Curbed. Max Read also has a great roundup of essential Davis essays here.
“Criticism at best is a performing art, a minor, lively art like musicals or stand-up comedy. It makes something out of something, unlike the major arts that make something out of nothing.” wrote Peter Schjeldahl in Artforum in 1996. Schjeldahl, the longtime New Yorker art critic, also died last week.
I’ll leave us with that.
There is more, as always, to say but this email is already getting frightening long — over 1500 words — so I’ll stop for now. How are you, by the way? Let me know; I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading.