Align Center is back after a summer break with superb writing on finding a little less balance, a world where scientists are celebrities, and a vegetarian fast-food chain that will be on your corner soon. Continuing with the art theme, we look at an overlooked sketching profession and highlight a new podcast interviewing inspirational artists. The long read is a breakthrough in communicating with coma patients, and in the digs we have five of the best finds from the past month.
◦ selected words
What If Scientists Were Celebrities?
General Electric’s marketing team envisions an alternate universe where the people making big impacts in science and technology are celebrated and idolized. In an effort to hire 20,000 women for tech jobs by 2020, GE imagines a world where the uncelebrated are adored in four funny, human, short commercials. In an odd bit of timing, the ad featuring pioneering MIT professor and researcher Millie Dresselhaus was released just 12 days before her passing.
nautil.us (5min read + 4 x 1min videos)
Maybe We All Need a Little Less Balance
When do you feel at your best? The most fulfilled? For me, it’s on a strenuous multi-day hike, delivering a difficult project to a happy client, sharing a vulnerable experience with a stranger, or teaching a skill and seeing the sparkle in the eye that comes with a smile and exclamation when they “get it”. The common thread here is at these critical moments, life is not balanced — an over-used term I’m making a conscious effort to avoid when discussing the relationship between work, life and time. I suspect the author has read James Clear’s Four Burners Theory (7min read), as the concept is identical.
nytimes.com (4min read)
Are You Ready for America’s First Meat-Free Fast Food Chain?
Amy’s Drive Thru is the antithesis of fast-food — organic, locally-sourced, sustainable vegetarian fare. America’s first vegetarian, organic, gluten-free-optional fast-food restaurant uses recyclable tableware and its drive-thrus are solar-powered. With this, you’d expect “Whole Paycheck” pricing, but the restaurant from Northern Californian has a unique model that’s worked for 29 years, and now they’re looking to expand from its single location to become a nationwide chain.
fastcompany.com (5min read)
Taylor Swift’s Court Sketch: A Misunderstood Art
The pop star’s groping lawsuit versus a DJ created an unintended public outcry, but not for the expected reasons. Not to take anything away from the unanimous victory, but when the court sketches of Swift were released, online outrage ensued. Similarly, in 2015, after court drawings of NFL player Tom Brady sparked fan outrage, the court artist apologized and promptly sketched a redo that appeased the critics. A brief look into the day in the life of a court artist.
bbc.com (5min read)
Debunking Neuromyths – Eight Common Misconceptions About the Brain
Some people are left-brain dominant, others right-brain. Dyslexia occurs when people see letters backwards. We only use 10% of our brain. These three statements are all false. In an effort to learn how widespread neuromyths are and how they’re being perpetuated, a new study, led by The Development Neuropsychology Lab at the University of Houston and published in Frontiers in Psychology, focused on 32 common misconceptions about the brain and the efficacy of education in preventing the spread of false information.
psychologytoday.com (4min read)
◦ listen in
Eureka #3: Artists
The creators of the Baron Fig notebook and other minimalist gear on Kickstarter have launched Eureka, a podcast interviewing artists, discussing the growth and the inflection points that led them to pursue careers in art. Episode 3 dives into the life of artist Geoff Gouveia, who keeps a theme of hope, connection and positivity in his work. The Californian opens up about his journey from working as a barista, to commissions for Facebook and Gary Vaynerchuk. His thoughts on creating fine art alongside commercial art, dealing with criticism, and self-defining as an artist are especially poignant.
baronfig.com (33min podcast) and artist’s portfolio
◦ eat well
Saucy Portobello & Butternut Squash Tacos
I had some squash to use up and was missing the flavorful veggie tacos from Bandidas Taqueria in my old stomping grounds on Commercial Drive, so this recipe from Minimalist Baker fit the bill (yes, another one of hers). I’m at the point where I have complete trust in EVERYTHING Dana cooks and writes. Protein, fiber, and spice, all under 30 minutes.
◦ read slow
How Science Found a Way to Help Coma Patients to Communicate
Physics student Scott Routley at Waterloo drives away from his grandfather’s house in Ontario, gets hit by a police car, and his life is changed forever. For the twelve years in a vegetative state, his family was certain he was responsive and aware, but his caregivers have seen and heard this story before. Then Dr. Adrien Owen, head of the neuroscience lab at Western University, hears of the case and hooks up Scott to an fMRI scanner to watch the brain activity as they ask Scott a series of questions. A startling article written by Owen to accompany his recent book, Into the Grey Zone.
theguardian.com (17min read)
◦ current read
We Are All Stardust
If the title doesn’t grab you, the conversations with an all-star line-up of scientists will. Interviews with Jane Goodall on what we can learn from animals, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins on egoism and selfness, and the UK’s royal astronomer Martin Rees on whether we are alone in the world are just a few samples from this compilation. Physicist and journalist Stefan Klein sat down with 18 of the world’s leading scientists, diving into their lives, their work and their inspirations, while posing big questions on consciousness, God vs Nature, pain, death, human development, all in a conversational tone understandable and enjoyable to non-scientists and scientists alike.
We Are All Stardust by Stefan Klein (288p book)
◦ dig this
What I’m digging lately:
- Humans of New York: The Series – Filmed over 4 years, the hugely popular photoblog project, brought to life on video.
- 88 Female Artists Draw the Sky – At the exact same time, 88 female artists around the world look up sky and draw what they see.
- Panoramic Full Eclipse w/ Star Trails – A beautiful photo taken from a single location, from day to night, of the recent eclipse.
- Jim Carrey, the Painter – A deeply reflective documentary by the actor comedian. (“I Needed Color” 6min).
- Calling Bullshit: Data Reasoning for the Digital Age – Wondering if that TED Talk you watched was bullshit? Read about a clinical trial in WaPo or the Times? Two professors from the University of Washington created a course on how to spot scientific bullshit and effectively call it out when you see it. Best of all, it’s free. Just read the disclaimer at the bottom of every page for a taste of the humor.
◦ humble thought
“Art is an act of resistance.” – Chuck Wendig on staying motivated in a shitshow world
As I took the pen off the paper of my last sketch for the 30-day self-imposed drawing challenge, I felt a sense of satisfaction, and even greater sense of relief. I thought, I have my time back! No more pressure! And it’s not that the process wasn’t enjoyable, but I’ve realized that it is DAMN HARD to do anything consistently for 30 days besides brushing my teeth, particularly while traveling and working at the same time. Am I done with challenges? I wouldn’t say that yet, but a less strict routine of creating would work better for me. Lesson learned.
Through this process I’ve become more comfortable with the pen and learned that it’s not about reproducing what’s in front of you realistically, but instead how you interpret it and what you leave out. So, what’s next? I’ll continue to work on the craft, so look for a new medium where I’ll publish my progress, albeit not daily. 🙂
This recent time away from writing is a product of the difficulties I’ve experienced in the past month balancing priorities (there’s that B word again), relationships, career, and the yearning for exploration. I don’t ask for help much, nor do I talk much to anyone about myself, but I know this needs to change. Live in a silo, die in a silo. I can point to the emotionally avoidant Asian upbringing for this keep-it-to-yourself isolation, but I won’t release myself of obligations because of it. We are social beings, so I’m going to be more social. (And a special thanks to some strong men I’ve had vulnerable conversations with recently).
In the next few months I’ll be doing some much needed inner work that’s been neglected amongst the summer expeditions, and will make efforts to involve myself in the community and be there for others. Despite the uncertainty, I’m grateful to have the space to entertain these thoughts and also remembering not to take things too seriously.
Side note for those in the Northern regions: go for a hike! The leaves are changing over the next few weeks. Here’s an interactive map of the USA of when and where to see the best fall foliage change.