In this holiday edition of Align Center we examine social programming, the point of productivity, small town dating, MSG, a witty book on therapy and relationships, and a few ‘best-of’ lists for the end of the year and the decade.
With hesitation, I’ve added a new section, ‘Undivided Attention’, highlighting movies, documentaries and TV shows that are a cut above. I hesitate as our media trajectory is blasting forwards into over-abundance, with networks like Disney / Marvel opening the fire hose and pumping out consistently average sequels and reboots, but I hold hope as the HBO’s, Hulu’s and even Netflix’s of the world are maintaining a dedication to cinema and the art of storytelling.
Here it is, the last issue of the decade! Happy holidays!
◦ worth sharing
A few things I thought were worth sharing:
- A Canadian non-profit’s mapping project visualizing indigenous lands by territory, language and treaties.
- An Australian photographer captures ocean waves in full expression.
- How and why the controversial and iconic East Van neon cross sculpture got built.
- Ayla Nereo weaves poetic lyrics with magical melodies into deeply connected earthy music with her 6th solo album, By The Light of the Dark Moon (Spotify / iTunes). A remix of her 2016 single, Eastern Sun, always gets stuck in my head.
- It’s that time of year for ‘best of’ lists. You could do worse than The New York Times Year in Pictures.
- If a year isn’t enough, how about ten? Look back at the Times’ Decade in Pictures or the version by The Atlantic.
- Brain Pickings’ best childrens books of 2019 (they’re not just for kids!).
- And finally, the best epigraphs of the year (those short quotations at the beginning of a book).
◦ selected words
Your Output Depends on Your Input
Not unlike how you nourish your body, the stimulus you choose to feed yourself with profoundly influences the quality of what you put out in the world. Instead of bingeing throwaway TV shows, I’ve been making an effort to check out books from the library on artists I’m curious about like Helma af Klint, Shepard Fairey and Ai Wei Wei, so when I have some downtime it’s easy to reach for them.
Austin Kleon (2min read)
Being “Crazy” in a Sick Society is Actually Healthy
Starting with a reference to David Foster Wallace’s This is Water, this article from 2016 is still potent today, if not more so in our times where all the tools are available yet it seems harder than ever to challenge the status quo. This one’s for the rebellious few who choose to live in the margins, breaking the cultural conditioning that has out living out scripts, lulling us to complacency.
The Unbounded Spirit (5min read)
What’s the Point of Productivity
As a recovering GTD (getting things done) junkie, relentlessly finding hacks and shortcuts to streamline my life to the point where I’d lost sight of the why, sometimes we need to be nudged back on course or fear ending up climbing the wrong mountain. Another stellar piece from a writer known for practical, not so self-helpy self-help.
Scott H Young (6min read)
The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of MSG
New York Chef David Chang of Momofuku fame and star of two current Netflix series, Ugly Delicious and Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, had tasked his R&D team to find ways to replicate MSG’s flavor-enhancing properties. Three years later they settled on a fermented solution to create the umami flavor which turned out to be chemically identical to MSG – a combination of sodium and glutamic acid discovered a century ago by a Japanese chemist. A brief overview on the history and current state of the oft-maligned food additive.
Mel Magazine (8min read)
◦ listen in
Mark Groves on Creating the Relationships You Want Through Self-Worth Expansion
"When we allow too much flow of what doesn’t feel good, our natural reaction is to go from the poorest boundary to a rigid boundary which is (to) push everything away. So we leave the relationship. Often what we haven’t learned yet is to exist in love, how to exist in relationship and hold on to who we are. In one part you’re connected but not protected." Originally from Calgary, Mark Groves shares his upbringing and initial career path working sales at Best Buy and later a pharmaceutical rep, getting engaged at 25, then breaking free from cultural programming and now specializing in human conneciton. An excellent conversation on self-worth, setting boundaries, losing yourself in a partnership, and how to stay connected in an ever evolving relationship landscape.
Expanded with Lacy Phillips – Ep #13 (69min podcast on Spotify) / iTunes / Stitcher
◦ undivided attention
HBO’s The Watchmen (Season One)
Fresh off the disappointing final season of Game of Thrones, HBO teased ComicCon with a three minute trailer of an adaptation of TIME Magazine’s Top 100 English Novels of All-Time, the only graphic novel to make the list. Alan Moore’s classic satirizes the typical superhero tripe, but unlike the mostly faithful yet not universally well-received 2009 film, this new series is a remix rather than a reboot. Introducing new characters and writing a new alternate history based in fact, HBO’s version is an example of the format at its finest. The first two episodes can be a lot to wrap your head around, but commit to the third you’ll be rewarded, especially in episodes 5 and 8 which are examples of some of the most well-crafted and engaging television since Game of Thrones (excluding the last season). Not a casual watch by any means, I recommend starting with the graphic novel and chasing each episode with recaps from Den of Geek.
HBO’s The Watchmen Season One (9 episodes) – Trailer on YouTube (3min22s)
◦ eat well
Mexican Barbacoa Roast Cauliflower w/ Coriander Rice
Cauliflower is NOT traditional! A hilarious line from Peep Show’s classic holiday dinner scene, a British sitcom I was introduced to this Christmas Day. Local shops seem to have an abundance of the annual lately, so I found this recipe that uses commonly found pantry items, except ancho chillies.
The Guardian – Food
◦ read slow
‘This is small talk purgatory’: what Tinder taught me about love
"I did not intend to be single in the rural village where I live. I’d moved there with my fiance after taking a good job at the local university. We’d bought a house with room enough for children. Then the wedding was off and I found myself single in a town where the non-student population is 1,236 people. I briefly considered flirting with the cute local bartender, the cute local mailman – then realised the foolishness of limiting my ability to do things such as get mail or get drunk in a town with only 1,235 other adults. For the first time in my life, I decided to date online." About dating in a small town, taking risks and breaking out of established patterns.
The Guardian (15min read)
◦ current read
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed
I first heard Lori Gottlieb on this podcast episode of Design Matters. A former TV executive turned psychotherapist with a gift for wit and words, the pen behind The Atlantic’s "Dear Therapist" column has written one of the most compelling and revealing books of the year. Gottlieb shines with wisdom and relatability as she lets us in on her patient’s lives (anonymously) and her own. The result is a hilariously raw inquiry into the truths and fictions we tell ourselves, and the transformations that emerge when we examine them with care.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb (432p book)
◦ humble thought
"By definition, don’t all relationships end in tragedy?"
– Dr. Manhattan, HBO’s Watchmen S01E08
The holidays is a great time to pour a hot cup, take out your journal and reflect on the year, diving inwards and setting intentions for how we want to carry ourselves going forward. However, I’m not going to do that here. Instead I’m keeping this short and light because I’m full and heavy from Christmas dinner and leftovers. 🙂
A few oddly familiar thoughts to end the year:
Growing up is realizing you get more joy out of seeing others open presents than you do from opening your own.
Between Love Actually, Harry Potter, and Die Hard, Alan Rickman might be the most viewed actor on TV Christmas Day.
Ice cream has so much flavour yet so little smell.
When you walk through a grocery store and they are playing good music, you have become their target demographic.
Here’ an idea for a funny comedy sketch on Saturday Night Live: take a perfectly cast iconic movie character and swap the actors out for each other. The kind of roles you couldn’t imagine anyone else playing, like Will Ferrell in Elf and Jim Carrey in How the Grinch Stole Christmas or The Mask, then Freaky Friday switching them with the tone of those funny sketches from the Oscars.
When someone asks how you are and you explain that you’re sick, no one wants to hear about how you don’t get sick or about your supplement regime. Just stop.
The last two are mine, the rest via Reddit.com/r/ShowerThoughts.
Sending hugs and wishing a warm and nurturing holidays and new year to you, your friends and your family!