What We Don’t Need

She had her earplugs in to keep from hearing their voices

Her sunglasses were as dark as she could stand without losing sight of the ground in front of her. Her hair was covered in a patterned scarf. She wore a pencil skirt, along with a jacket and tights to keep off the winter cold, or what was left of it. There was a book underneath her arm.

She had dressed to escape their eyes. But it didn’t matter. It rarely did. No matter how much she varied her footpath, or wore different clothes, or cussed them out, they followed her still.

They were advertising drones. And they were everywhere. Continue reading

What Football Teaches Us

Urban Meyer, the head coach of Ohio State University’s football program, is one of the most successful college coaches in history. He’s coached three national championship teams and has multiple Big Ten titles to his name.

More importantly, he’s the perennial enemy of my alma mater, the University of Michigan.

Earlier this year, Meyer was suspended for not reporting that one of his assistant coaches, Zach Smith, was abusing his wife, among plenty of other things that would get any normal employee fired. Meyer protected Smith by lying through his teeth to university officials about what he knew.

As a result, OSU suspended Meyer for three games at the beginning of the season. Because of this, he forfeited about half a million of his 7.6 million dollar salary.

When I read this, my first thoughts were not about justice; they were not about the terrible abuse Courtney Smith suffered, or what an asshole Zach Smith was; they were not about what Urban Meyer should’ve done, or why he did the unbelievably stupid thing that he did.

I thought, instead: “Maybe this is the year. Maybe this is the year Michigan can snap its losing streak against Ohio State.”

*** Continue reading

We Have Met the Scab, and He is Us: Shadow Work and the Internet

You are a sucker.

Every day, you work for free, doing work that used to be done for a wage.

You work for nonprofits, government entities, wealthy companies. And you don’t even know that you’re do it.

This work is hard to track. There’s a Bureau of Labor, but no bureau of this kind of work. There aren’t any unions that can represent you, labor laws that can protect you. But this work has a massive effect on your quality of life. It’s called shadow work: the small pieces of unpaid labor we do in our day-to-day lives. Continue reading

Proper Dreaming

If there were ever a place for dreamers, it would be a college commencement speech.

After four or more (never less) years, a college student is ready to bound out into the world, armed with knowledge, pep, and a quickly deteriorating set of skills. But probably the best dreamers among all college students aren’t engineers or the English majors. No, that title in particular would belong to the art students.

Robert De Niro gave a commencement speech to the graduates of the New York University Tisch School of the Arts. It will go down as a classic commencement speech because of the way it begins:

“Tisch graduates, you made it. And you’re fucked.”

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6 Reasons Being a Farmer is Terrifying

You might think being a farmer is a pretty sweet gig. From a cubicle, things look pretty nice: you’re working outside, one with the land, a  Wendall Berry poem come to life. But being a farmer is an insane profession; the job goes out of its way to make them as terrifying as possible for the weirdest of reasons. Like…   Continue reading

Mystical bookshelves full of magic

Elders

It is important to have elders. One of mine is Ray Bradbury.

He was one of the best science fiction writers that ever lived. Countless short stories, television scripts, plays, and books flowed from his pen. He also had a love of life few had, or will ever, match.

This shines through in a book of his called Zen in the Art of Writing. It is the best book about writing anyone can read. Oftentimes such work can fall into dull introspection, cynicism, and tactics; Bradbury doesn’t waste his time with any of these things. He is unabashedly in love with writing and wants you to be too. Continue reading

(Actually) Living Walden Two

A utopia is, by definition, nowhere. But that has not stopped people from trying to make it somewhere.

Most attempts throughout history to create such communities separately from society were done so for religious or political reasons. More recently, such communities were created as scientific utopias. Many of them were inspired by a single book called Walden Two, by B.F. Skinner.

Skinner was one of the most prominent behavioral psychologists of the 20th century. Turns out he originally wanted to be a novelist, but went into behavioral psych instead.

Its thrust is that human society is grossly inefficient, and that all of us working against each other makes a society where nobody is happy. By living communally and using behavioral psychology to shape human expectation and behavior, a planned society can make life better for everyone. It presents a completely different way of living than we experience now. Continue reading

Why Stop Asking?

Walden Two is a novel about an intentional society, or what we’d call a commune, based on scientific principles.

Its writer, B.F. Skinner, supposed that people could thrive while living communally. He wrote this book in an attempt to rewrite all our current social rules about work, love, and play.

I was at the dinner table last night discussing it with my folks and my fiancee. It was a good discussion.

What surprised me was that my folks knew about Walden Two. Though the book was written in the fifties, it really found its footing in the late sixties and early seventies, when they were growing up. There was a lot of talk about experimental ways of living during that time. People knew there was something wrong with society and sought new ways of living. They experimented. They asked the question “How is it that we should live?”

Something stuck in my craw during that conversation.

Continue reading