Adulting classes, tiny books, the trouble with Facebook group therapy, and being kind and grouchy at the same time are some of the most interesting reads from the past two weeks. Listen to a new series on creativity from a podcast stalwart, and learn about a fascinating scent artist/scientist in the long read. Then I’ve got six links I’m digging this issue, followed by an update from a seaside tropical place to call home.
◦ selected words
The man behind Sesame Street’s most iconic characters, Caroll Spinney, retired after fifty years. Mostly known for playing Big Bird, Spinney also voiced and played Oscar the Grouch, a character created to teach the importance of understanding, tolerance, and diversity. The trash can inhabitant lived and acted differently from everyone else, but despite his grumpy demeanor, Oscar was never mean and always kindhearted. More life lessons from the classic children’s TV show.
Kottke.org (2min read + 2min video)
A growing corner of emotional support groups are taking to the social media platform, providing community and support to those in search of help. When the topics are extremely sensitive and personal, privacy breaches and bad actors can result in negative life-altering impacts. A glimpse into the challenges of moderating closed groups and Facebook’s often reactionary measures in adapting to this new method of social support.
The Atlantic (8min read)
An experiment to change the age-old standard paperback book is underway, borrowing a format from the Dutch called “dwarsliggers”, tiny flipback novels that can be read with one hand. Penguin Minis are printed horizontally on ultra-thin paper with a specially hinged spine, about the size of a cellphone and only slightly thicker. The first run includes the young adult hit, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, with more titles available next year.
The New York Times (6min read)
“Adulting”, popularized by the 2013 book, “Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 535 Easy(ish) Steps”, and named by Grammar Girl as word of the year in 2014, the term refers to behaving like adults do – including the all of the mundane and tedious tasks that come with it. Rather than millennial-bashing, the articles takes a fair, nuanced look at teaching life lessons to younger generations and the industry sprouting around it.
CityLab from The Atlantic (12min read)
When the independent store October Books needed to move their 41-year-old business down the street on a budget, they were looking to find a way to do it on a budget without closing down the store. Their novel solution leveraged the community they’ve built – a call out for volunteers to create a human conveyor belt resulted in 200 people turning out to move the store, one book at a time. A feel good story of community from Southampton, England.
NPR (2min read)
◦ listen in
If you need to listen to a podcast titled “How to Be Creative”, one could argue that you aren’t. But hold that judgement and give this series chance. Through interviews from luminaries such as artist Ai Weiwei, inventor James Dyson, musician Elvis Costello and writer Jennifer Egan, Freakonomics’ Stephen Dubner reviews what we’ve learned about creativity to date, and investigates the latest research on how it can be nurtured, at a time when so many people are pursuing a creative life.
Freakonomics Radio episodes 354 + 355 (52min + 1h13min podcast) – Ep 1 / Ep 2
◦ eat well
I picked up my new favorite, extremely addictive snack from my host in Sayulita last April. It’s as easy as frying an egg. Start with a large skillet on medium heat, adding olive oil, coconut oil, or butter (guess which is the tastiest?). Add a layer of whole pecans, toss, and sprinkle salt. I’ve ruined a few batches by multitasking, so watch it carefully as they can go from perfect to burnt in a hurry. When it’s nearly done, turn off the heat and drizzle maple syrup over top, toss, and serve. Pecans can even be toasted whole with nothing added, not even oil, and in hot weather, try popping them in the freezer for a crunchy treat.
◦ read slow
It’s estimated that the average human can identify more than one trillion scents – much more than the ten million colors and 330,000 frequencies that we can distinguish. Bypassing the language and visual parts of our brain, the sense of smell belongs to the limbic system, associated with emotions and memory. It’s here where Sissel Tolaas does ground-breaking work where science intersects art. A Norwegian scent artist with a background in chemistry, mathematics, linguistics and art, Tolaas speaks nine languages, invented “smell memory kits” used to help you recall anything, and her work is has been exhibited at MoMa, MIT and Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art. One exhibit captured the smell of fear and another the armpits of severely anxious men. Walking around with a mini vacuum the size of a cigarette package, Tolaas captures air molecules in little glass tubes for later analysis, which she then recreates synthetically in the lab. Ride along with Engadget’s documentary crew as they follow this fascinating scientist, artist, and eccentric as she catalogs the smells of a Detroit neighborhood.
Engadget (16 min read)
◦ current read
An entertaining memoir by a semi-retired baby boomer leaving America to build a life in a small surf town in Mexico. Written in entertaining prose, revisit the experiences of Barry Golson and his wife as they build a home in Sayulita, Nayarit, less than an hour’s drive North of Puerto Vallarta in one of the few jungles in North America. The book shines early on with Golson’s insights on the culture, attitudes and history of Mexico. Reading as a guide on how not to be a bad American tourist, the liberal New Yorkers also show an appreciation for Mexican culture and people, while keeping a laissez-faire temperament through the inevitable trials they face in constructing a house.
Gringos in Paradise: An American Couple Builds Their Retirement Dream House in a Seaside Village in Mexico by Barry Golson (325p book)
◦ dig this
What I’m digging lately:
- NaNoWriMo – November isn’t just moustaches, it’s also National Novel Writing Month. Get your pen to paper with the world’s largest writing community.
- Free Human-Centered Design Course from IDEO – Learn prototyping and bring your ideas to life, from the expert designers at IDEO together with +Acumen.
- Wander. Roam. Replicate – Insta_repeat is a funny / sad Instagram account showing how photos look the same.
- Surfboards Made from Trash – Winners of the Vissla Upcycle Contest include a board made of 150 aluminum cans, and another of 700 Dunkin Donut coffee cups, with the fins entirely of plastic straws.
- Bike Paths Made from Recycled Plastic – A Lego-like modular road system built, where else, but the Netherlands.
- Josiah and the Bonnevilles – Siting influences like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Ryan Adams, the Tennessee-born singer-songwriter was the only American Idol contestant not to make the Top 24 to sign a record deal. He reminds me of Tallest Man on Earth with more of a rock sound.
Spotify / YouTube
◦ humble thought
“Solitude is fine, but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.”
– Honoré de Balzac, French novelist & playwright, quoted in Patricia Hampl’s “The Art of the Wasted Day”
I arrived in Sayulita a few days ago in time for the Day of the Dead festivities, with the intention to spend the winter here. I’ve been looking forward to this break, change and challenge since first visiting this bohemian little surf town on Mexico’s Pacific coast this past April. But am I running away, or running towards something?
I don’t have any answers at the moment. The best I can describe this move is as chance to reset, to find an equilibrium and to create space for creativity and growth. Vancouver is world class city, and you can find all of this there, probably better than most places. And even if my family wasn’t there I would still keep coming back. I’m lucky to call it home, jokingly thanking my mother for not moving to Winnipeg or Toronto (love you all! but really…).
But lately I’ve felt myself falling into the pace of the big city, buzzing around in a car, rushing from one appointment to the next. Vancouver is only home to 2.5 million, half of Montreal’s and not even making the list of top 50 metropolitan areas in the Americas. Like a wagon wheel stuck in a rut on a cobblestone road, the drive to make a living can cloud the actual living part, and if you’re not careful, the path could lead you to a destination not of your choosing. While costs and real estate are a major factor and seems to be the major topic of the city, there’s also a growing feeling and I can’t shake. As the season turns, I feel the residents are losing kindness and patience with each other.
Maybe it’s me and the energy I’m bringing, so this change is needed and what I’ve been working towards after an overscheduled summer. It was a heck of a fun one too, but it was too often on someone else’s rhythm. I’m looking forward to moving into a space more amenable for community, skill sharing, healing, and to just be, away from the hustle and towards a deeper connection to the natural and other things that fill my inner being. Come visit, you’ll see. 🙂