#021 — It Might Be Called Kinetic Beauty

Hi, hello, how are you? This is Tendrils, your weekly update from your friend Adam. Slowly but surely I’m winding things down here at the end of the 2022 internet season. As such, a shorter and more piecemeal issue this week. Here in Oxford, we’re eating bibimbap, we’re still basking in the glow of a sweep over the Mets, we’ve got horror movies on the radar, new beans in the hopper, and the local park looks like this:

Chess drama update

How much room did I give myself for updates on the Carlsen / Niemann drama? A sentence? A paragraph? I’ll keep it brief. The two players got paired to play one another again in this week’s Julius Baer Generations Cup, which is played online. Carlsen made one move, then resigned before his second, and disconnected his camera (video clip). In his first interview on the situation, Carlsen didn’t say much, but made (seemingly pointed) mention of Niemann’s coach: Maxim Dlugy. The President of FIDE (the world chess governing body), Arkady Dvorkovich, issued a statement admonishing Carlsen for his actions, and raising the prospect of an investigation. A Norwegian friend told me this whole saga has been the top news story on Norwegian TV: ‘Carlsen tapte med vilje: Fullstendig uakseptabel oppførsel’. It may be confirmation bias, but I’ve been seeing it everywhere: on the BBC, in The Guardian, on video game websites, in foreign policy podcasts!

Despite resigning that game and gifting Niemann a win, Carlsen has made it to the final of the tournament. It’s played over two days, the first of which was yesterday, and saw Carlsen absolutely crush his opponent Arjun Erigaisi, 2.5 : 0.5. In doing so, he moves a step closer to becoming the first player in history to attain a rating of 2900. You can tune in this evening from 18:00 CEST to see how it plays out.

Taylor Swift corner

This week Taylor Swift received the Nashville Songwriters Association International award for ’Songwriter-Artist of the Decade’ (she can keep the trophy next to her ‘Artist of the Decade’ award from the 2019 AMAs). During her acceptance speech, she revealed a fascinating detail about her writing process:

I’ve never talked about this publicly before, because, well, it’s dorky. But I also have, in my mind, secretly, established genre categories for lyrics I write. Three of them, to be exact. They are affectionately titled Quill Lyrics, Fountain Pen Lyrics, and Glitter Gel Pen Lyrics […] based on what writing tool I imagine having in my hand when I scribbled it down, figuratively. I don’t actually have a quill. Anymore. I broke it once when I was mad.

First of all, I am now desperate to know more details about how Taylor Swift broke her quill. But, secondly, I found this mental categorisation of in-progress work to be really interesting. As someone who has struggled to maintain ‘voice’ when writing in various modes, perhaps it might be worth trying to adopt these mental gymnastics.

Also this week, Swift confirmed that her new LP — Midnights (out 21 Oct) — is produced by Jack Antonoff (which is great news as far as I’m concerned). She’s currently revealing song titles from the record on TikTok, in accordance with the whims of fate. Oh also, she’s a little busy to play the Super Bowl halftime show right now, but thanks for asking!

• • •

I am all out of elegant segues into the bullets section, so… here’s the bullets section:

• last weekend we walked around Bagley Wood, and my special lady friend brought home a pocketful of acorns that turned out to be full of curculio larvae! This week our walking permit for Wytham Woods arrived, so we spent a while there this afternoon;

• a celebration of Joan Didion’s life and work was held a few days ago;

• Roger Federer played the final competitive game of his incredible career this week. One of the best pieces of memoirist sports writing I’ve every encountered is by David Foster Wallace, published as ‘Roger Federer as Religious Experience’ in the NY Times in 2006, and later part of the posthumous collection Both Flesh and Not (2012) — highly recommended. (NB if you watch any footage from the celebration of Federer’s career following that game, beware the Ellie Goulding performance, which should carry a public health advisory.)

• an interview with ‘the last man standing in the floppy disk business’;

• music pick of the week: I’ve really enjoyed the latest record from Han Frissen, under his Yugen monicker: You, out last week on Semantica.

I’m calling time on this issue. One more of these from me before the autumn / winter offline break; you’ll get that in your inbox next Sunday. Until then, have a week!


— Adam