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Studio Diaries: Boom Town, Ali Abdaal, Kelly Wearstler, and Agathe Marty

Welcome to my new Studio Diaries series! Each week, I will be sharing a list of what’s been thought-provoking and inspiring in the books, videos, art, podcasts, etc. that I’ve encountered in the last few days.

Here’s what I’ve loved this week!

Reading: Boom Town

In 2018, I heard an episode of 99% Invisible that discussed the history and story of Oklahoma City. Author Sam Anderson had just released his book Boom Town which chronicled the development of the city and its history, basketball team, weather, and political ideology.

As someone who always has a reading list that is out of control, four years after hearing that podcast, I finally got around to reading this inspiring narrative non-fiction piece. I love any book that tells a sociological or historical story through unexpected topics, and Anderson effortlessly weaves those elements together through interviews, cultural trends, economics, urban studies, and more. The story of Oklahoma City feels like an allegory for many parts of American society today and all its chaotic, dysfunctional, and ineffective governance.

Anderson depicts the forceful nature of the city’s establishment, the assertive intent behind each urban design decision, and the unpredictable and destructive forces of the region’s climate that features repeated and devastating tornados. The history he tells brings together materiality, a need for belonging, and a struggle for power that is at once disturbing and illuminating as it reveals truths we can certainly learn from.

“…years of aggressive tax cuts, even during boom years, had bankrupted the state. Social services, mental health programs, public transportation, and infrastructure were all in various stages of collapse. The public education budget was stripped so bare that teachers started flooding out to neighboring states in search of living wages, forcing Oklahoma to patch the gaps by issuing hundreds of emergency teaching licenses and even cutting some schools back to four days a week. It was a radical experiment in anti-government governance, and it was failing miserably.” (Boom Town, p. 396)

Listening: Ali Abdaal

I’m a huge fan of Ali Abdaal —I listen to every episode of his Deep Dive podcast and often turn to his YouTube channel to find advise about running a business, making life choices, or picking a book that will change my way of thinking. In this case, the title of last week’s podcast episode with Sahil Bloom, “How I grew from 0 to 500k Followers in 2 Years” didn’t sound like it was going to be full of insights relevant to my life or goals, but I was proven wrong.

Ali and Sahil had an inspiring conversation about what is ‘enough’ in life, how to focus your goals, and how to prioritize what is most important to you in every decision you make. I always admire Ali’s ability to speak candidly and share his introspective journey. His episodes are filled with his questions and thoughts around building a meaningful life, rethinking work and productivity, and understanding how to set up a day-to-day that brings him happiness and joy. Despite his immense career success, I always find that Ali brings up relatable questions that span from the existential concerns to day-to-day task-related decision making. Every time I listen to Ali’s content, I find his thought process and recommendations to be thorough and functional.

Seeing: Kelly Wearstler’s Masterclass

Because daily life is full of the pressures, stresses, and fears that are synonymous with contemporary society, sometimes I feel like I need permission to focus on beauty and enjoyment. Kelly Wearstler’s Masterclass on Interior Design granted me that permission. Her eloquent and commanding presence remind viewers to take pleasure in the beauty of a pattern, plant, piece of stone, or swatch of wood.

Now that I work from home, I have been increasingly interested in making my space fit my needs in terms of productivity, comfort, aesthetics, and practicality. Listening to Kelly describe her creative process matching materials, collecting artifacts that bring her joy, and transforming these small moments into architectural experiences was inspiring. Not to mention, I admire the beauty of the multi-sensory compositions and arrangements she puts together to create magical spaces for people to experience. I found the course to be a healthy reminder the space we create for ourselves is the world we live in.

Seeing: Agathe Marty Illustration

I am in love with these illustrations by French artist Agathe Marty who I stumbled across this week. Her prints set the perfect tone for my ideal August—a dreamy sense of a calm life in slow-motion akin to set and filming of Call Me by Your Name. Agathe’s graphic style mixed with her sensitive digital brushwork and restrained color palette are stunning.

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