Eat Food. All the Time. Mostly Junk.

Laura Shapiro writes in the Atlantic about the state of the modern American diet.

Whether it’s potato chips or air-popped organic corn puffs, “smart” frozen entrées or conventional frozen versions, these products are doing way more good for the companies producing them than they’re doing for us. I’m not trying to force the exhausted women in Pressure Cooker to start massaging fresh kale for salad, I promise. We’ll always need shortcuts, takeout, and convenience products to fall back on. But junk food, plain or fancy, stopped being a convenience a long time ago. Today it lives right in the house with us, greets us on the street, finds us at work, and raises our children for us. Our relationship with food, wholly transformed since the ’60s in ways both heartening and horrifying, has lost touch with a truth none of us can afford to leave behind: Cooking isn’t a luxury; it’s a survival skill.

The Life of The Poet

I’ll take the life of the poet, the ones and the tens, those screaming, blistering tens and those fuckin’ heart-wrenching ones. Yeah, for sure, I’ll sign up for that. What else are we gonna do? Try to just ride out the middle ground. That’s just less interesting to me.
— Aubrey Marcus

What are human beings anymore?

I’ve let go of judging people around things that I don’t agree with because I reckon I don’t know everything. I’m this. My morality is about how I behave.

And if people said to me, “I’m thinking about going hunting” I go, “Well, these are my feelings about it, however, though, I just heard that hunting does contribute, apparently, to the survival of some species and there is an argument that it is quite natural and indigenous and it’s probably a way of getting into contact with who we are, originally, as hunting people, as an important part of our anthropological history and possibly a lot of the condemnation of hunting is part of the rejection of who we used to be, as we’ve become over-civilized and more and more detached from what it is to be human, whether that’s sacred or pragmatic. We don’t know what human beings are anymore. We reject our own sexuality. We reject our own bodies. We’re trying to turn ourselves into these sort of cyborgs, these emotional, sexless, meaningless creatures. Where is our passion? Where is our connection with the sacred?”

They would go “Hold on, I only asked you about hunting. When are you going to stop talking?”

Never! You gave me an in. I will pummel you with my belief system on all things.
— Russell Brand on JRE #1283

Hitler was great at parties

Carlin: I’m optimistic when I meet individuals, when you talk to one person. People are great one at a time cause you get in and you see all the beauty, all the potential for this species, but as soon as they get in groups, Larry, I get scared. Two people, even, they change. They say, “I like Bob, but not when he’s with Linda.” You ever notice that?

Three people, five, ten, they start having hats, little armbands, slogans, and an agenda - stuff they want to do.

The bigger the group, the worse it is, Larry.

Give me people one at a time and I’m an optimist. Put ‘em in groups of four hundred or ten thousand or ten million and I get scared.

Larry: So each German may have been alright in World War Two?

Carlin: Well, Hitler was great at parties, they said. And great with children.

Defining success > achieving success

But it bugs me a little bit because I think satirizing Hitler’s incredible productivity and influence perfectly embodies a point I’ve long made about the self-help world: achieving success in life is not nearly as important as our definition of success. If our definition of success is horrific—like, say, world domination and slaughtering millions—then working harder, setting and achieving goals, and disciplining our minds all become a bad thing.
— Mark Manson

On Getting Things Done as an art

It’s really kind of an art, the art of how do I manage the flow of life’s work and my commitments, and that whole inventory. You don’t end that. How good can you get at parenting? How good can you get at cooking spaghetti? How good can you get at playing the flute? There is no end to any of those. There is no end to this either. I’m still tweaking, refining. As my life changes, then how do I manage the flow of that change in life? That never stops.
— David Allen on London Real

Kat Koh on creative perspective

I am a ghost, driving a meat-covered skeleton made of stardust, riding a rock, hurtling through space.
— Kat Koh - Writer, Career coach for creatives

Koh shared this cosmic gem in her Medium piece How to Overcome Creative Paralysis. She playfully reminds you to step back and realize that your work doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it can’t be.

You need to chill out to get creative.

Be a threat to the world

I’ve been trying to find more time to write each week, but often a full day can seem like it’s already decided for you. It can take it out of you.

Work has to get done. You have to get coffee and squeeze yourself into a speeding bullet. You need to cook something with the slightest bit of nutrition and get some exercise because you don’t at the office.

When the sun goes down, sometimes, I just want to down some Queer Eye from the softest part of my couch.

But I found a bit of fight in Tim Ferriss’ 5 Bullet Friday email last week. It was a line from Chuck Palahnuik’s Lullaby:

Old George Orwell got it backward. Big Brother isn’t watching. He’s singing and dancing. He’s pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother’s busy holding your attention every moment you’re awake. He’s making sure you’re always distracted. He’s making sure you’re fully absorbed. He’s making sure your imagination withers. Until it’s as useful as your appendix. He’s making sure your attention is always filled. And this being fed, it’s worse than being watched. With the world always filling you, no one has to worry about what’s in your mind. With everyone’s imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world.

You need to fight for your own time. Or else the world will tell you what to do.

Will Stephen’s TEDx talk is a perfect tongue-in-cheek companion of smart-sounding nonsense. Stephen says, “I’d like it to seem like I’m making points, building an argument, inspiring you to change your life, when in reality, this is just me… buying… time.”

P.S. - The joke is on Big Brother because I don’t have an appendix.

Stupid enough to be right

A big inspiration for this (almost) daily blog is Austin Kleon. He wrote Steal like an Artist and Show Your Work, and his latest book, Keep Going is right around the corner. But more importantly, he writes almost every day on his own blog.

And when I had trouble writing today, I went to Kleon’s blog for an adjustment. Of all the endless topics we could write about, I found it incredible we were sharing a wavelength - chasing stupidity. In a post entitled A fine line between stupid and clever, Kleon wrote:

Every artist knows the truth in this. I often know an idea is worth working on if I honestly can’t tell if it’s incredibly stupid or absolutely brilliant. (“This idea is so dumb,” I’ll think. “I bet everyone will love it.”)

I need to consider stupidity my new compass.

Especially because what I wanted to write about was what Jerry Seinfeld said on the topic. Reflecting on the two years he spent writing a joke about a pop tart, Seinfeld told The Times:

It’s a long time to spend on something that means absolutely nothing. But that’s what I do. That’s what people want me to do, is spend a lot of time, wastefully, so that I can then waste their time.

Later on, he continues:

I know it sounds like nothing. And it is nothing. You know, in my world, the wronger something feels, the righter it is. So to waste this much time on something this stupid, that felt good to me.

Kleon, you’re in good company.

What are you, fun?

Almost more bizarre than the very statistical hail mary we call consciousness is our ability to just straight up swallow it. Somewhere along the line we stop being amazed that we wake again and again in this world.

I don’t want to take it for granted. I want to understand more about what people think is going on. And with that being said, I found some giggles and thoughts in an episode of the You Made It Weird podcast, where comedian and host Pete Holmes sat down with comedian and former talk show host Craig Ferguson about higher powers.

Craig: I think it’s Descartes that said all societies no matter who they are have a deity. All societies - Aztecs and Chinese, and people that have no connection at all, but they all have the idea of a deity. And one of [Descartes’] proofs of God was that for for every appetite there is a cessation. For the desire to procreate, there is sex. [For] the desire to eat, there is food. The desire for war, there is, you know?

Pete: Right.

Craig: So for every appetitive, there is a cessation. The proof of God is the fact that humans have an appetite for God, proves there is a God.

Pete: That’s interesting.

Craig: Because if you didn’t have an appetite for it, it wouldn’t exist.

Pete: But we also want to fly and stuff.

Craig: We do!

Pete: Yea, but I mean I want to take off by clenching my butt.

Craig: But that’s not how it works. How it works is, I mean, the fact we fly in the air, we fly in the air, so just because it’s not the way you planned it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exists. Of course it exists.

Peter: To that logic then, God very much so, following this logic, might not be clenching my butt to fly, it might be an airplane.

Craig: Of course!

Pete: Which means it might not be the God the Aztecs were worshipping, or my Jesus, or…

Craig: Or it might be the exact same God at a different point in time. But because God and Time don’t have to be the same thing. If, for example, you say the Aztec God or the Hebrew God, or, does Confucius have a God? Yeah, whatever it is - whatever God in whatever society, that God takes the form of what input you give it. For example, you plug the toaster in, it’s a toaster. You plug the sauna in, it’s a sauna.

Pete: I love this. We quote this all the time - you can dig a bunch of different wells, but it’s all after the same water.

Craig: Right!

Pete: You plug the sauna in, it’s a sauna. What are you, fun? You’re like a fun guy?

Craig: Yeah, I like the sauna.

Questioning the hunt for one-shot answers

My father is turning 67 in a few days. And despite his first-born son, ahem, working during the day as 3D product support, and during the night on a personal blog, he couldn’t tell you how to use the Internet beyond pecking in the letters for youtube.com to watch the music video for Skid Row’s 18 And Life.

But, to my surprise, when he was gifted an Alexa last Christmas, he found a new way to rock out.

My one year nephew, AJ, isn’t far off either. He barely knows how to speak but he can certainly yell “Alexa” while shaking the hockey puck shaped device in his tiny baby hands. And, yes, it is adorable.

The future is here. We’re talking to robots. And, as James Vlahos writes in this month’s Wired magazine, “it’s going to upend our relationship with information”. Because we want answers and we wasn’t them now. We don’t want to rifle through pages of links. We want the undeniable facts. As always, we want the speed.

But what becomes more interesting is the other part of the equation, the question. You’d think we would need to train ourselves to talk to robots, but they are already a few steps ahead. Before Amazon released the Echo, William Tunstall-Pedoe developed True Knowledge - a website offering one-shot answers. Vlahos explained in Wired:

Most exciting for Tunstall-Pedoe, True Knowledge could handle questions who answers were not explicitly spelled out beforehand. Imagine somebody asking, “Is a bat a bird?” Because the ontology had bats sorted into a subgroup under “mammals” and birds were located elsewhere, the system could correctly reason that bats are not birds.”

True Knowledge was getting smart, and in pitches to investors, Tunstall-Pedoe liked to thumb his nose at the competition. For instance, he’d Google “Is Madonna single?” The search engine’s shallow understanding was obvious when it returned the link “Unreleased Madonna single slips onto Net.” True Knowledge, meanwhile, knew from the way the question was phrased that “single” was being used as an adjective, not a noun, and that it was defined as an absence of romantic connections. So, seeing that Madonna and Guy Ritchie were connected “at the time” by an is married to link, the system more helpfully answered that, no, Madonna was not single.

But can technology always grow to understand what we’re asking? Are there limits to the one-shot answer, or is it that we’re already living in a miscommunication world? Is there a single, correct answer for when to say “I love you” or how to negotiate a salary?

Life can feel messy but could there be a one-shot answer after all?