“For more than 30 years Archie McPhee has been bringing strange and amazing things to the world. We design and manufacture the kinds of impractical items that make life better.”
Has your gift game gone soft and you cannot think of an appropriate gift? Know someone that has everything?
Get them an Underpants Wallet, J.P. Patches Lunch Box, or The Cult of Unicorn Fez as a subtle hint that they better speak up if they want good gifts.
“Franzen thinks that there’s no way for a writer to do good work — to write something that can be called “consuming and extraordinarily moving” — without putting a fence around yourself so that you can control the input you encounter. So that you could have a thought that isn’t subject to pushback all the time from anyone who has ever met you or heard of you or expressed interest in hearing from you. Without allowing yourself to think for a minute.
It’s not just writers. It’s everyone. The writer is just an extreme case of something everyone struggles with. “On the one hand, to function well, you have to believe in yourself and your abilities and summon enormous confidence from somewhere. On the other hand, to write well, or just to be a good person, you need to be able to doubt yourself — to entertain the possibility that you’re wrong about everything, that you don’t know everything, and to have sympathy with people whose lives and beliefs and perspectives are very different from yours. ‘The internet was supposed to do this for people, but it didn’t. ‘This balancing act’ — the confidence that you know everything plus the ability to believe that you don’t — ‘only works, or works best, if you reserve a private space for it.'”
—Taffy Brodesser-Akner. “Jonathan Franzen Is Fine With All of It.” The New York Times Magazine. June 26, 2018.
Strikes me as the same idea discussed in the “It is the Worry That Made the Work Good” post a few days ago, i.e., you need to have optimism that a solution can be found and skeptical in the approaches you have tried thus far.
“In 2014 I was visiting a university in Alaska, and happened to sit in on a lecture by the Norwegian policy expert Willy Ostreng about the new geopolitics of the Arctic. After talking about climate change in the Arctic and the increased accessibility to oil and gas, he embarked on a detailed elucidation of the various stakeholders, rivalries, potential for conflict, and developments for exploration. The hall was filled with political science majors, obediently writing down everything, and I kept waiting for some bright-eyed undergraduate to ask how it was possible that the forces that had caused the destabilization of the Arctic were now considering destabilizing it further. But the questions were only about the political and economic details of the situation. Finally, unable to bear it any longer, I raised my hand. Citing the increasing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere and the dire predictions of climate scientists, I asked how it was even possible that nations and corporations were considering the commercialization of the Arctic Ocean. Surely our energies would be better spent actively resisting such policies. The audience looked at me as though I had three heads. Ostreng was silent for a moment, then he said: “We will regret it. We will regret it, but this is reality.”
These are some of the most chilling words I’ve ever heard, rivaled only by the obedient silence of the students. One problem with our collective silence on the subject of climate change is that while we pretend life is going to go on as usual, there are others who are deliberately planning for control of a climate-changed world. Imagine a highly militarized, totalitarian, automation-based, habitat-destroying, water-starved future of perpetual war within and among nations, with captive populations ground down by scarcity and failing infrastructure, held in thrall by contrived loyalties and addictions peddled by mass media, where mass extinctions and the deaths of millions of refugees are barely noted except with a Malthusian shrug of the shoulders—while the super-rich live in fortified, climate-protected luxury bunkers or occupy a greening Antarctica and fly to the corporate-owned moon for vacation. It sounds like a bad science fictional dystopia. But some of the steps along that path have already been taken.”
—Vandana Singh, “The Unthinkability of Climate Change: Thoughts on Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement.” Strange Horizons. September 11, 2017.
Quite possibly the best book review I’ve ever read.
“…members of “totalistic” cults—those that consider their ideology the one true path—share four key characteristics. They 1) espouse an all-encompassing belief system; 2) exhibit excessive devotion to the leader; 3) avoid criticism of the group and its leader; and 4) feel disdain for non-members.”
—Tom Jacobs. “A Cult Expert Finds Familiar Patterns of Behavior in Trump’s GOP.” Pacific Standard. June 21, 2018.
I know people with liberal politics love diagnosing what is wrong with Trump and the Republican party in the United States. But, this criteria is every bit as relevant to Democratic politics as the GOP in the United States. Believe that your country has no business spending a half a trillion dollars a year on the military and maintaining almost 1,000 military bases abroad? Both major U.S. political parties subscribe to that notion and cannot even entertain the possibility that it might not be a good idea to spend this way on war.
Collection of practical, well-explained Bash one-liners.
“To write good software you must simultaneously keep two opposing ideas in your head. You need the young hacker’s naive faith in his abilities, and at the same time the veteran’s skepticism. You have to be able to think how hard can it be? with one half of your brain while thinking it will never work with the other.
The trick is to realize that there’s no real contradiction here. You want to be optimistic and skeptical about two different things. You have to be optimistic about the possibility of solving the problem, but skeptical about the value of whatever solution you’ve got so far.
People who do good work often think that whatever they’re working on is no good. Others see what they’ve done and are full of wonder, but the creator is full of worry. This pattern is no coincidence: it is the worry that made the work good.”
—Paul Graham. “Being Popular.” paulgraham.com. May 2001.
Optimism that a solution to whatever problem you are tackling can be solved, and skepticism in whatever solution you’ve managed to find or create, thus far, is perhaps one of the great lessons of how to approach life.