Align Center is back after a year long hiatus! Thanks for your patience as I took a step back to re-evaluate the why of this newsletter. Austin Kleon said: “Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It’s that simple”1. I hope you find things you love in here.
Meta-note: the bulleted list of “digs”, interesting links / art / music / movies, has been moved to the first section, but the rest of the layout with the article, book and podcast recommendations, remains the same. Skip to the bottom “Now” for the timely, more personal bits. Enjoy!
◦ worth sharing
A few things I thought were worth sharing:
- I’m watching David Attenborough’s latest docu series with the BBC, Seven Worlds, One Planet. One episode per continent. If you need more convincing, Sia & Hans Zimmer collaborated for the song. (link to YouTube trailer).
- On a bit of a myco-kick, having just watched the documentary Fantastic Fungi featuring Paul Stamets, Michael Pollan, Dennis McKenna, Roland Griffiths, Mary P. Cosimano, and a slightly out of place voice-over by myco-fan Brie Larson. Admire close-up at the beauty of forest fungi and myxomycetes (slime moulds) in this artist’s extreme macro photos.
- A Korean artist’s tower creates the illusion of rising endlessly until disappearing into the sky.
- The founder of Studio Ghibli and creative genius behind Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away allowed one cameraman for the rare opportunity to go behind the scenes in his creative process. The entire season of 10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki is free on Japan’s equivalent of the BBC. Like you need more shows to watch.
- Dribbble’s 2019 Global Design Survey summarizes data from 17,000 design pros on salaries, skills, remote work and trends. Motion is in.
- A Twitter thread asks what’s the best thing you learned at therapy. Because Twitter is such a great source for personal change. 🙂
◦ selected words
“Our energies are overwhelmingly directed toward material, scientific, and technical subjects and away from psychological and emotional ones. Much anxiety surrounds the question of how good the next generation will be at math; very little around their abilities at marriage or kindness. We devote inordinate hours to learning about tectonic plates and cloud formations, and relatively few fathoming shame and rage.” Philosopher and author Alain de Botton, founder of School of Life, in his insightful and lucid British style, as pieced together terrifically with Mary Shelley’s writings by Maria Popova.
Brain Pickings by Maria Popova (7min read)
No bad vibes. Just manifest it. You may have read these on photo quotes or a t-shirt, rarely the best source for advice on living a life. A critical look at “high vibrational” culture and spiritual bypassing.
Elephant Journal (4min read)
A five-year-young San Francisco non-profit whose mission is to provide homes for those with inadequate shelters has built fifty houses in a rural area in southeastern Mexico, the first project of its kind. With feedback from the future owners on the type of home they’d want to live in, the 500 square foot houses were created in less than 24 hours each and are attached with a zero interest, zero profit mortgage of 400 pesos ($20US) per month.
Fast Company (3min read)
Yearning to contribute but Extinction Rebellion isn’t feeling like your cup of tea? Learn how to best amplify your efforts in this beautifully illustrated guide brimming with actionable advice on what you can do to make a difference. From The National Audubon Society, a conservation group focused on protecting birds and their habitats.
Audubon Magazine (15min read)
After a ten-year long public consultation process, the flowing Oodi opened in Finland’s capital in December of 2018, a library designed with a “commitment to openness and welcoming without judgement”. Another example of a Nordic country putting a lot of thought (and money) behind civic initiatives for the public good.
CityLab by The Atlantic (4min read)
◦ listen in
Season three of the Belgian psychotherapist’s poignant podcast Where Should We Begin? focuses on a young couple separated by borders. She’s in Mexico, he’s in the US. He grew up quickly, becoming the provider in his family and working long hours. She’s fiercely independent, but when she moves to his country and doesn’t yet have a visa to work, the relationship becomes strained and disconnected. Esther has the uncanny ability to open up couples and get to the root of the problem, challengeing them, and often helping them create a new, stronger bond.
Where Should We Begin? (51min podcast on Spotify) or iTunes
◦ eat well
Aubergine in French or berenjena in Spanish, the eggplant is an ingredient I’ve been avoiding due to the unknown. I ordered this flavorful dish at an Indian restaurant and was compelled to make it. I found this one pot recipe and nailed it on the first try in my Instant Pot. Fun fact, the purple spongy fruit is classified as a berry, just like tomatoes.
My Heart Beets
◦ read slow
Overstimulated, anxiety-riddled and stretched thin, pleasure seekers are turning to the same substance the FDA approved last May as a treatment for depression, the first reliably reproduced treatment that produces antidepressant effects within days and sometimes hours. A sedative and a stimulant with psychedelic effects in some cases with a very short come down so you can get up for work in the morning, ketamine has become the vice of choice for what the author calls our “disassociation generation”. I’m not sure if articles like this will help lessen or amplify the stigma around “K”, but it’s worth a read.
The Cut (12min read)
“It’s important for my kids to know where food comes from—to not have a disconnection or to think that everything we eat comes from the store.” In a society where minority communities are twice as likely as white communities to live within the borders of a food desert, a young couple from Albany purchased a 72 acre plot in New York’s Upper Hudson Valley on land neighbors deemed to be ill-suited for growing food. Then five years later in 2011, they’d have their first full harvest, and today Soul Fire Farm operates a sliding-scale CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), feeding 95 families and 350 individual with fresh vegetables, pasture-raised chicken, eggs and more. I beautifully told and photographed story from Emergence Magazine.
Emergence Magazine (23 min read)
◦ current read
I’ve been on a major art kick since summer, making a point to take out a few random art books from library whenever I’m in the area. This book was a lucky find and exactly what I was looking for – an example of the creative possibilities when art meets activism. In large coffee-table format, this expertly curated collection is the first book to explore contemporary art focused on nature, ecology, climate change and activism. It’s thoughtfully organized into six chapters: Re/View, Re/Form, Re/Search, Re/Use, Re/Create and Re/Act, based on characteristics of the art piece itself and its relation to the environment alongside the artist’s level of engagement. Highlighting more than 300 art works from 90 different artists around the world, this book might be hard to find so put a request in at your library to buy this important collection.
Art & Ecology Now, Andrew Brown, 2014 (256p hardcover book)
◦ humble thought
“It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of greener grass through more money, travel, sex, experiences, people, whatever you believe will bring you to that next level of bliss, but in most cases the grass is greener where you water it.”
– Nat Eliason
It’s been almost one year to the day since the last issue of Align Center. I haven’t completely stopped writing – I’ve somehow produced morning pages (daily stream of consciousness writings) for seven weeks and also three half-finished attempts at this newsletter.
Juile Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, often used to help artists get “unstuck”, has done a lot to unlock my repressed creativity, sparking a small fire that has always burned inside me. It’s an ongoing process, but I already feel its effects.
Last month I went to my favorite local event, the Eastside Culture Crawl, and it filled my well so much that I went for a second day. This free annual event has artists opening up their studios to display their art – everything from traditional drawings and paintings to glass blowing and Nespresso Cup tapestries. Some studios are live/work, like The Arc building on Hastings, where you literally step into the artist’s home, one after another for five floors.
Then earlier this month I was in Los Angeles visiting friends, and made my own art walk. I had no idea what an artist’s haven LA is, or that most art galleries here are free! Next to the Hauser & Wirth gallery, with it’s aesthetically perfect restaurant Manuela and chickens with an Instagram account, I stumbled upon a smartly curated Shepard Fairey exhibit “Facing the Giant: 3 Decades of Dissent”. He’s the artist who brought us the Obama poster, but before that, the Obey logo featuring a stencilled André the Giant, and also the highlight of Vancouver’s growing mural festival with his 20-story “Earth Justice” in the heart of the downtown. I’d learn how influential he has been and still is, going viral before the Internet existed.
Subversive, poetic, and sometimes simply to be admired for beauty alone, street art colors our cities with images and ideas that can sneak into your consciousness on an otherwise mundane walk, inviting us to pause and to ask questions. We can walk away inspired or provoked, amazed or offended. But even if for just a fleeting moment a piece stimulates a conversation or brings joy, it’s hard to think that’s not a success for the artist.
So in order to bring more art into my everyday, I now keep a rotating art book from the library on my kitchen table, have taken out my pencils from their dusty drawers, and am starting to decorate my walls haphazardly. I find this last part very, very hard. Why? If you’re anything like me, you overthink how to decorate a new home, overanalyzing, wanting it to be “just right” with the perfect frame and right balance of white space, falsely aiming for an unachievable perfection. I’ve done this in many prior homes to the point where I’ve moved in and out without having put anything on the walls, paralyzed by choice and indecision. The best one can do is learn, so I won’t make the mistake this time. But I think I’ll need more tape.
Note: this newsletter will not be sent every other Tuesday as before, as that artificial schedule bound me to this hobby and lessened my enjoyment of its creation. There is a lot of value in regular schedules, but that’s not for me right now. I’ve also had several readers comment that I should include more photos, but that would take time, and I already spend enough time writing this. Not right now, but thank you.
If you enjoyed this newsletter, forward it to a friend. Hit reply and tell me what you liked and what you didn’t, I take feedback very, very well. Thank you for hanging in there with me.
 The Vancouver Mural Festival is run annually in August, but you can do your own tour of the over 140 murals ,mostly situated in the trendy and central Mount Pleasant neighborhood.