Hello and welcome to the first issue of the decade! I've been sitting on publishing this one because of a lack of Internet out in Chiba Prefecture, my first time in Japan at the start of a trip back to SE Asia. But it's done, and full of goodness starting with a TV show I'm really enjoying, actionable advice on climate change, negativity as a relationship killer, the changing use of public spaces, and a personal revelation as the year begins.
◦ worth sharing
Here's what perked my ears from the past month:
- This short doc on two acrobats as they navigate life, aging and parenting both as professional circus performers and business partners. When Mailchimp is getting into the content game, we've reached…
- Peak TV – we're there. In a crowded field of over 500 new shows, the angsty comedy Fleabag stands above them, rightfully earning several recent awards. It's perfect for the moment.
- Author Gretchen Rubin will visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art, every day in 2020.
- The Biggest Little Farm – a documentary of two city folk filmed over 8 years and their challenges of regenerating the soil of a 200-acre neglected plot of land is a microcosm of the interconnectedness of our planet.
- Stunning photos of waves exploding against the shore during one of the biggest storms on BC's Sombrio Beach.
- A man takes a photo of himself every day for 20 years.
- Awkwafina makes history, winning the Golden Globe for Best Actress. If you haven't seen The Farewell, it's on Netflix now so you have no excuse.
- We've all been duped. This 5min video from The NYTimes will have you rethinking the effectiveness of recycling.
- Seattle native Damien Jurado's 14th album, In the Shape of a Storm (Spotify or iTunes), returns to a raw acoustic sound.
◦ selected words
This may not be a Japanese invention, but I'm impressed by the windows in this new Nippon Boeing 787 I took to cross the Atlantic. Two buttons adjust the tint that somehow, through the magic of technology (or some gas), the window changes shade slowly. Taking cues from UK's famed "nudge" behavioral economists, Japan's labyrinth metro network is a test bed for influencing crowd behavior with unique solutions.
CityLab (8min read)
If you haven't been completely overwhelmed by climate anxiety after the recent fires in Australia and haven't yet figured out how to save the world, this piece is an excellent starting point to shake your paralysis. You don't have to a politician, full-time activist, or have a degree in environmental science to make change. Five steps to join the cause, because there is no greater issue in our times.
The New York Times (6min read)
Why are long-term relationships so difficult? Authors of The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It made this the focus of their research, finding that how one responds to a partner's negativity is a leading factor in disconnection. Falling into the demand – withdraw pattern? Your well-meaning actions may actually be destructive, bringing you closer to a breaking point.
The Atlantic (10min read)
An organizational psychologist's research found three main reasons why we follow the inept and provides solutions on how we can move forward to elect leaders who exemplify empathy, humility and competence. It's all about that bias, about that bias, no treble…
TED Ideas (5min read)
◦ listen in
Recently I was in a room of friends spanning from the teenage years to the sixties sharing podcast recommendations. Not only did it show how mainstream podcasts have become, but it also made me acutely aware of my consumption bubbles. Especially in my circles of mostly middle-class men, Joe Rogan's podcast is one of the most listened to, if not the most listened in the world. So when recommending a specific episode, the best I could recall that wasn't about bio-hacking, hunting, or MMA was with Harvard philosopher and activist Cornel West is thought-provoking and reassuring, as they cover image, status, comedy and socialism in an engaging way.
JRE #1325 20190724 (1hr58min podcast)
◦ eat well
After experimenting with switching from nut milks to home-made oat milk, I've now stopped buying alt-milks altogether. The main change driver was the amount of not-so-recyclable Tetra-Paks piling up in the "recycle" bin. It's main use was for smoothies, but it turns out you don't need milk! Here's what I've been doing in the mornings instead: I make a large pot of tea – preferably rooibos, any herbal or even green tea – then enjoy a hot cup, pouring the rest into a mason jar and sticking it in the fridge. The next day I use the cold tea as the base. You don't get the simple milky smoothies like almond peanut butter banana, but with frozen bananas and fruit, I don't miss it. A company now even started a business on Rooibos smoothies.
Rooibos Smoothies by RedEspresso
◦ read slow
My second house I grew up in had four bedrooms and five televisions. Look around today and instead of being glued to the tube, everyone is on their personal devices. But do we even know what is on the screen? Instagram? Sports? Porn? On generational differences and the importance of public spaces vs "non-places" to amplify or negate one's sense of self.
The Atlantic (11min read)
◦ current read
This light-hearted graphic novel is about Death, who has never missed a day of work. That's until HR forces him to take a year's sabbatical. How does Death spend his time? A hilarious ode to leisure and life by illustrator Brian Rea. I found this gem at The Museum of Contemporary Art in LA and I couldn't wait until my turn came up for it at the local library.
Death Wins a Goldfish Brian Rea (168p book)
◦ humble thought
"Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.'"
– Miles Davis, quoted in Dave Chapelle's acceptance speech
Long time readers might notice a slight shift in tone in this issue. I still tend to go for an NPR-style voice, because I like it and imitation leads to finding your own voice. I carry no shame in admitting my limited writing credentials!
But it might also have to do with a shift I've felt in me already this year, the decade I like calling the Roaring Twenties. Most that know me would say I'm a positive person, but the start of winter has been hard. The short days (sunset at 3:58pm on the Winter solstice at this latitude!), the expected but no less relentless rain that takes serious mental fortitude not to grow weary when it stretches from days to weeks on end, topped with the frustrations of venturing back into the dating pool, climate anxiety and a louder than usual existential angst permeating through my day as another birthday approached. I'm pretty damn lucky that these are the extent of my problems, but as I've heard once, they're still my problems, so fuck you and your judgements! (Kidding! I love you all!).
My first Polar Bear Swim on New Year's was that start of a change in me that hasn't stopped. I've been making a conscious effort to put myself out there more, trying new things, diving into new practices like hot and cold exposure, breathwork, ecstatic dance and contact improvisation. The difference has been that instead of finding the hundred reasons why I shouldn't go (it's rainy, it's far, it's pricey, my friend bailed, I should go work, I want to watch another episode of Fleabag), it was easier to say YES and go.
It's a wonderful thing to live in a city full of wise, skilled and talented people willing to share their immense knowledge, in addition to having a population large enough to support almost any type of interest. Yes, when you start living life this way you're going to have some duds, some awkward moments and inexperienced teachers. Some would argue is a waste of time, but you're not going to bat perfectly every time. There are no guarantees, you can only control what you do and how you show up.
And I've chosen to make the best of every situation. And if I don't like it, I no longer stress about walking out of a situation. You can always leave.
Since this mental shift, the world around me has changed, even though I know it hasn't. It's me. We affect our reality the way observing nature affects what is perceived (yes I went quantum there). I think this is what it means whenever you read about creating the life you want, a favorite of life coaches everywhere.
With the privilege and luxury of choice that my predecessors have gifted me by raising me in a stable home in a stable country, how do I want to live my life? Sitting at home in the rain as another night passes by, or going out in the world and learning, sharing and connecting? I'll take the latter, thank you. But one more episode of Fleabag first.