Monday, December 30, 2013

"Forget Setting Goals"

Here's a short article from "Entrepreneur" magazine about a point often raised here on the Slog. Here's the gist:

The Difference Between Goals and Systems
What’s the difference between goals and systems?

If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.
If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.
If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.
If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.

Now for the really interesting question:

If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results?

For example, if you were a basketball coach and you ignored your goal to win a championship and focused only on what your team does at practice each day, would you still get results?

I think you would.
Yup. This is why competition is a fallacy (as I tried to explain here and here). The trick is to do the thing you do with all the love you've got and let the chips fall. Pushing for an outcome never helps.

Plus, there's a larger point about motivation (e.g. most singers become singers because they want to be singers, not because they want to sing...which is why most singers are so awful).

There are a jillion ways to make this point - which explains why it's been made a jillion ways since the dawn of humanity (though most people still can't seem to grok it). But I'm surprised this article made it into a business journal. Back in the 1970's, you saw a lot of this published, as hippy businessmen tried to square their worldview with their capitalist impulses, and patrician money managers dug into their own psychologies to gain an investment edge.

The most successful popular financial writer of his time, who wrote under the name "Adam Smith", published a book titled "Powers of Mind" which was hugely influential on me as a child. But while there are still money managers out there with profound insight into human behavior from a lifetime of constantly focusing there, the business press has fallen out of the habit of giving voice to this sort of thing.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Using Evernote to Stave Off Hoarding (plus my customary buried lede)

Here's an article by Casey Johnston urging those who hold on to collections, curios and mementos to consider, instead, holding onto photos of these things. We save this stuff (and trudge it around whenever we move) mostly for its memory-evoking power, but memories can also be evoked photographically. It's smart!

I'm one of those hard-to-let-go people, too. As sentimental as your average Labrador retriever, I'm capable of falling in love with any random this or that, and I dream of unburdening myself of the several never-opened boxes I've shlepped from domicile to domicile. So I read the article and found myself agreeing, at least in theory. But there's an obvious shortfall: a photo of a thing is not, after all, the thing. Something would be lost!

But then I set eyes on Johnston's heart-breakingly beautiful "reference" photo of an angel figurine (used below with permission):

The angel was Johnston's Rosebud; she carried it around everywhere as a child. And the photo just kills me (remember, I'm a nano-aesthete).

What, exactly, is the juju behind this image's power? Is it an exquisite figurine? Nope. Is it an especially artful photo? Nope. So why's it so affecting? The explanation is slippery, and I've broached it from various angles over the years (see many of my articles on "creativity", especially this one and this one). Mostly, it's about the care, the care, the heart-breaking care (the fact that the photographer's prone on the ground is only the beginning of it): ten thousand micro-decisions, most of them unconscious, faithfully aligned via unswerving love upon a final goodbye. It is, as ever, all about the shakti.

Explanations aside, the image captures not only the objective photons, but also the subjective love of the photographer. If Johnston's love were ever to thin over time, a glance at this photo, which has been pre-loaded, would rekindle it more effectively than the object itself - which to cold eyes was just some kitsch figurine.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Passage of Time

Woodstock took place 24 years after the end of World War II. And Woodstock was 44 years ago. So World War II was much, much closer to Woodstock than we currently are.

In fact, World War I, so lost to the distant past that no veterans remain, ended 50 years before Woodstock...which means that in just six years, World War frickin' I will have been closer to Woodstock than we will be.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Guide To Holiday Greetings For Christians

The first and foremost thing to remember is that even though I look kinda Jewy, you will not offend me by wishing me a Merry Christmas.

Christmas is, as Fox News adamantly reminds us, a religious holiday. But in America it's also, of course, a secular holiday. "White Christmas" was written by a Jew named Irving. "The Christmas Song" (with the chestnuts roasting) was another Jew, Mel. And these weren't Jew-for-Jesus Jews. We're talking real staunchly Jewy Jews, neither of whom, obviously, blanched at the concept of Christmas. And yet you're still all nervous and weird about this whole thing!

When you peer at the size of my shnozz toward the end of a conversation, gauging my Jewiness in order to appropriately tailor your parting holiday greeting, that's offensive. My shnozz size tells you nothing about my spiritual inclinations. Watching you silently gauge whether I'm one of *Them* doesn't feel, to me, like polite or sympathetic consideration, though I realize that's your intention. It's actually quite an unpleasant sensation.

I do understand the root of it. One will indeed occasionally encounter Jews who smirk ironically when wished a merry Christmas, or even feel offended. But it's not that they're touchy Jews, per se; it's that they're touchy assholes*. Every tribe has some, and striving not to offend them is a fool's errand. They'll always find something.

* - Update: No offense to my friend Jon, who's neither touchy nor an asshole.

Such people are ridiculous to be offended by a friendly greeting. But if you genuinely offend the rest of us by 1. gauging shnozz size 2. making us feel excluded from an American holiday, and 3. acting all nervous and weird around us, all to stave off any chance of offending the touchy... well, that's just nuts.

Worse, your careful circumspection means you suspect that I myself might be a touchy fussbudget requiring delicate handling (note to liberals: you're so much worse than the most ham-fistedly explicit racists on the right, with whom I can feel genuine friendship and affection because they don't act as if I have some terrible condition which must never ever be mentioned yet must perpetually be monitored and finessed).

Jews aren't diminished by mention of your lord and savior, his birthday, or, the secular American celebration of same. Remember, he was one of us to begin with. And we wrote your songs. And we like trees and stockings and sleds and hot cocoa and candy canes. We like values such as peace, love and good will. And, if you're religious about it, we're happy for your celebration. We don't sit in the dark, bitterly gnashing our teeth until it passes (that said, I am getting really sick of the soundtrack - though perhaps that's just me being a self-hating Jew, given that my paisanos wrote that stuff).

If you're a devout Christian, and your "Merry Christmas" greeting carries actual spiritual implications, please don't deprive me of that, either. I won't join your team, but genuine spirituality's like soybeans. It's commoditized. Anyone who's ever surrendered experiences the very same infinite love. There are not distinct varieties of infinity, nor of the very deepest love. Really, it doesn't matter what you call it; we're all on the same team. So, holiday-wise, what the hey, I'll have what you're having, please.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Idiot Math

I'm bad at math. So I do what I think of as "idiot math", which I do really well, frequently leaving people with the mistaken impression that I'm good at math. I'm not good at math, I'm just good at doing idiot math.*

The other day I needed to buy eight 46 cent shelf brackets at the hardware store. As the guy was trying to find his calculator, I doubled 46 to get 92, and doubled that to get 1.84, and doubled that to get 3.68. Voila.

If I need to multiply 197 x 9, I multiply 200 x 9 instead, just 'cuz it's easier. So that's 1800, and I need to make up for my laziness by subtracting the missing 3 x 9 (or 27) to get 1773. If I'm feeling too bleary to subtract 27 from 1800, I subtract 30 instead, to get 1770, and then add back the missing 3 to get 1773. I just take the easiest nearby calculation, then compensate for the overage/underage, and it can go back and forth in a cascade of simple-minded calculation and diligent compensation.

I know, it reads super complicated, but the point is that no one calculation is at all difficult. If you keep the calculations easy, then it's possible to focus on the big picture - of exactly how much you're miscalculating - so you can compensate. Let go of the calculations, in other words, and direct attention toward the overarching logic.

* it's not paradoxical to say you're good at doing things poorly. I have the same situation with Spanish, where I don't have a great vocabulary, but am very fast and agile at applying the wrong words. For example, I may not know how to say "drapes", but can very fluently rattle off "the cloth things which cover windows so light doesn't come in").

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Winter Is Coming

Just six days till winter!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

E-Manual Ask

I compulsively stockpile future treasure for myself, but those checks are seldom cashed. I have great books I'll never read, great CDs I'll never listen to, and a fridge door-full of decrepit condiments bought in a prior millennium.

One move that unexpectedly paid off big was a mere afterthought. I keep a folder on my computer to store PDF manuals for all my appliances and gadgets. There was no need to scan hardcopy; you can find manuals for most anything on the Internet. That's really kind of what the Internet was made for, if you look past all the porn, snark, and promotion.

Whenever anything goes wrong with my stereo speakers, my clothes dryer, my printer, my drill, my thermostat, my lawn mower, my car stereo, my car, or any of the rest, it's all right there. For that matter, if I need to know a model number, again, it's all right there. I store it all in my DropBox, so I can access it from my smart phone (I could also throw it all into Evernote).

It sounds small, but I find myself eagerly opening this folder several times per week. Year after year, this has proved one of the most useful moves I've made with my computer.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Food Writers and Popes

There was a food radio program I used to guest on, and I'd drive the host - an imperious authority - absolutely crazy when I'd insist to his call-in listeners that my opinions held no more weight than their's. "But, Jim," he'd interrupt, "you can't deny that you're a food expert!" I'd point out that I'm just a dude who happened to get some gigs writing about a subject which tons of people know a ton about (this was shortly before I proved the point by founding Chowhound).

To him, I was calling into question his own haughty expertise. As he saw it, his relationship with his audience was based on the unshakeable assumption that he chewed and swallowed more knowingly than they. This was, of course, completely ridiculous. What attracted them (and, for that matter, me) to him was his umatched ability to clearly explain and describe. He wrote with warmth and flair, spinning tales of cuisine well beyond the surface level of potatoes and crock pots. But in his mind, he was, above all, an expert, and reigning from above his audience was the basis of simply everything.

And so I, a fellow expert, left him gasping by renouncing my expertise in front of his people. He saw it as a brutal betrayal. For my part, I never understood why he couldn't recognize that elitism isn't a necessary part of a writer's job description, and that he was unnecessarily exhausting himself by flailing to maintain the pretense (as is true of anyone trying to project infallibility).

Meanwhile, we now have a Pope who washes people's feet, keying into the simple essence of a priest's job description, which is about loving service rather than weighty grandeur. And I'm figuring the other cardinals must absolutely freaking hate the guy.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ranting About Locavore/Organic/Eco Sanctimony

This essay, originally published some years ago, sparked negative response from readers who found it bizarrely aggressive and angry. I've added a postscript explaining.

This morning "Up With Chris Hayes" had chef Tom Colicchio on. Hayes played a hilarious parody clip where sanctimonious diners grill their waiter about the organic and local credentials of the chicken - and of the chicken's feed - until, finally, to everyone's delight, the waiter brings out the fowl's resume, explaining that its name was Colin, and....

After that, Chris asks Colicchio a reasonable question:
"At one level, there's a critique of the current industrial food system that says "we have this huge directory of farms, subsidies, lots of cheap calories, corn gets in everything because we're subsidizing corn, etc." And the reaction is to create something that's more local-farm-to-table. But that can sometimes feel fetishistic. So what is the middle path in-between knowing the name of your chicken...and eating nothing but canned goods and sugary sodas?"
Hayes goes on to mock this "bourgeois hipster obsession", but that's only half right. The style may be hipster, but the impulse itself is pure bourgeois. Since the dawn of humanity, the very root of classism has been the visceral feeling that those beneath us on the social ladder are filthy. It sounds archaic, I know, but don't be sure such thinking doesn't remain lodged in our collective DNA. It plays into this phenomenon, albeit stealthily.

Have you ever observed shoppers at Whole Foods? With their natural fiber carrying bags and their exorbitant wild-caught arctic char and their glossy Yoga Journals and their Priuses, they're living a certain lifestyle, and they are Well. Really really Well. The wellness is high. And they're marketed to, fervidly, along that line. If the messaging was completely explicit, the tagline would be "Whole Foods: Flattering Your Smug Wellness".

It's a type. To recall a bygone vulgarism, their shit don't stink. Remember the Food Emporium jingle? The evil genius who wrote it completely understood this mindset. See how skillfully he gets inside the narcissism and patronization of it all:
"Someone made a store just for me
Someone's got my kind of quality
Someone got the message that people like things better
Even when they're shopping for
The simple things."

Here it is, in fact:

As I explained in my screed about Panera, I don't deny that therein lies an uncomfortable resemblance to my chowhound shtick. Yeah, I'm a picky mo-fo myself, obviously, when it comes to food. But this is a very different sort of pickiness. It's all about self-image.

Whole Foods shoppers imagine themselves as glowing with vitality. That's how the company's marketing attempts to mirror them, and I assume they know their customers. And it's by no means irrelevant that these shoppers are paying through the nose for the Whole Foods vitality experience. But the sanctimonious, eco-conscious, mega-well people wandering around Whole Foods with their environmentally green hued injection-molded plastic baskets appear to be as fat and distracted and grim and messed up and sickly as anyone else. And the deeper reality, never explicitly called out, is that they're all rich.

The experience of pursuing a premium level of wellness and a premium level of eco-consciousness and a premium level of sanctimony is available only to premium people. Poor people are lucky to eat at all. You know...the filthy poor people who eat the sort of shit which a glowing-with-vitality and expensively self-actualized Whole Foods shopper would never touch in a million years.

Same for restaurants catering to fervid locavores. Don't believe for a second it's not just yet another trendy way to indulge rich people in their desperate urge for a sense of elevation. Money, in and of itself, ought to bring an elevated sensation, but doesn't. It's just green paper. So many wealthy people desperately try to consume their way to that sensation. But when it comes to nutrition, it's a fool's errand. We spend our lives soaking in toxins and impurities. That stuff's everywhere, it can't be avoided, and it's absurd to assume you're rising above in any meaningful way via the purchase of eco/organic/local/free-trade wares marketed to flatter your self-image of wholesome purity.

Consider: while the government has no way to track each soybean or spinach leaf, they do know the quantity grown and the quantity purchased, and the inconvenient truth is that way more organic food is sold than is grown. Get it? If you believe you're being told the true story of your food much of the time, I've got some pink-sludge horsemeat hamburger to sell you. And even legitimately "organic" foods aren't what you think. Organic standards were diluted and corrupted years ago. Believe me, your free range chicken is not a healthy chicken. Unless you're prepared to walk the walk and go "back to the land", you're mostly just up-paying for a false sense of confidence and superiority.

So, sorry, sanctimonious wellness strivers. Your bubble is illusory. You will more than likely get cancer, anyway. You're not shielded. You're not elite. You overpay for smug delusion.

But you know what? I myself buy organic when I can (especially with concentrated foods like juices and butters). And I try to buy local when I can. And I even shop at Whole Foods sometimes (for sale-priced produce and a few brands I can't find elsewhere, e.g. Taste Nirvana coconut water). But there's a difference: I don't do so with a prissy sense of elevation. I don't drink the (organic, fair-trade) Kool-Aid. Chris Hayes asked about a middle path, and, for me, that involves stripping away the sanctimony, obsession, and delusion.

I don't delude myself about a bubble of purity and wellness - about transcending the squalor of plebeian existence. I just eat as healthily as I can afford to. That's it! When I eat organic and local, I accept the reality that I'm paying up a steep curve of declining results for the luxury of perhaps doing a scant notch better for myself. All with the wry understanding that I'll likely be run over by a bus on the way home.

Above all, be real. You can't be squeaky clean. You're neither virtuous nor pure. Purchasing fair trade coffee doesn't right your myriad eco wrongs, and organic cotton fiber clothing will not elevate you. And neither will a conventional hamburger and fries nor a slice of corporate white bread defile you. You come pre-defiled, and to imagine otherwise is to be an entitled, rich, narcissistic ninny.

No matter what, chemicals will keep pouring into you (breathe much?). A bowlful of Rice Krispies with milk from Stupid Farms in Ohio won't make the slightest diff. But, if you can, sure, by all means, do your best. Favor the organic; favor the local, favor fresh in-season (lowercase) whole foods. Just don't make it a religion, be grateful you can afford the capricious luxury - recognizing that's all it really is - and every once in a while send a check to help support those who'd be deliriously grateful for a box of Oreos. Because actual hunger is where the real problem lies, and where our money can do the most good.

If you think I'm ranting with more anger than is appropriate, then you may not be considering the full breadth of my argument. I'm not over-clucking my tongue at a silly food trend, or acidly judging people for patronizing a retail chain I happen to dislike. What I'm describing is something larger: a creepy pattern in the food world of pandering to the ugliest sort of classism. What's worse, a great many people fall for it.

Classism was, until fairly recently, quite open and acceptable. But nowadays that sort of thing has become taboo, and deeply repressed. So consumers, unaware subliminal buttons are being pushed, fail to notice that messages apparently speaking to their desire for sparkly, spiritual, well-scrubbed shiny good health actually appeal to darker sensibilities, e.g. a sense of sanctimonious superiority to one's social inferiors - those dirty, unwashed, impure souls down the ladder.

We have no idea this is happening because it's all so repressed (political correctness is a dangerous thing; I'd rather have folks warmly calling me "jewboy" than live in a society nervously feigning color-blindness). So I feel obliged to yell a bit to shake folks out of the trance.

For most of human history, people down the social ladder from us were perceived to eat filthy disgusting things. These days, millionaires swoon over tacos and dumplings, but the same prejudice has taken on new forms....all of them walled up in our dark mental recesses. And there's nothing marketers like better than an opportunity to engage a walled-up impulse.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Ugly Roots of Language Pedantry

In response to yesterday's posting, "Vanquishing the Language Pedants", my Brazilian friend Kita reports:
"Here in Brasil we have the same Portuguese language police...and it is so silly."
Of course you do! This is everywhere, because it involves a faculty as commonplace as language: arrogance. Such people never advanced beyond the silly adolescent notion that spotting flaws in others makes one superior.

But there's a much uglier impulse behind it all. What this really is (and I'm sure it's the same in Brazil and elsewhere) is a form of classism. The "bad" language which pedants decry is nearly always the sort of language used by their perceived social inferiors.

It's always been like this; people of lower classes have always been perceived to use language appallingly (and also to eat filthy disgusting things, exhibit poor hygiene, etc etc.). Since explicit classism is socially taboo these days, this sense of superiority and revulsion has become masked behind a pretense of academic rigor (to the point where most pedants have lost awareness of the true root of their impulse). But the irony is that academics, again, are definitely not on that side, and haven't been for decades. And Stephen Fry has blasted away all pretense that this is about anything but bald snobbery.

It's an ugliness, and thank goodness it's dying. But other forms of classism will pop up to replace it. These days everyone respects the foods of lower classes, but don't imagine for a moment that we don't still find ways to express classism in our eating habits.

Note: I've updated the article at that final link by adding a postscript, and will push that article back to the top of the Slog tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Vanquishing the Language Pedants

We seem to have hit a tipping point. Academics have long agreed that language is dynamic and personal, so it's really quite daft for anyone to suppose they have the authority to pronounce what sort of usage is "right" and what sort is "wrong".

Yet there remain legions of citizen pedant/vigilantes who make it their task to indignantly scold what they deem incorrect use. Such people never imagine that few academics would back them up in that sort of thing. As I wrote several years ago , the noxious influence of William Fowler (author of "Fowler's Modern English Usage") has been overcome, and modern lexicographers work descriptively (cataloging the myriad varieties of language use and tracking its continuous revision) rather than prescriptively (telling people - as if they were in any position to do so - what's right and what's wrong).

Well, this is finally beginning to penetrate to the public. And I've never heard the issue tackled as beautifully and eruditely as in this short, entertaining video where British actor and comedian Stephen Fry annihilates language pedants with such logic and eloquence that I can't imagine how any of them could ever possibly pipe up again:

Another sign of the mainstreaming of language counter-pedantry: this NPR page explaining how the substitution of "axe" for "ask" has been standard English for a thousand years - used by, among others, Chaucer.

Personally, that sort of thing makes me completely nucular.

Daily Show Taping

I was in the audience for the taping of last night's Daily Show. I've heard accounts from friends who've been there, and there are plenty of blog articles on the experience, so rather than run it down beat for beat, I'll try to offer some stray observations I haven't seen elsewhere.

As always with TV, the set is crap in real life. The desk is crap. The "newsroom" monitors in the background are cheap, blurry paint-ons. Everything seems small and tacky. I tried to capture the tackiness, below, but via some magic I don't understand, it all looks great in the photo. Chalk it up to lens-versus-eye juju.

Most of the audience followed the beats of the show, swiveling their heads toward monitors to view clips, etc.. I can watch the show at home, so I kept my eye on Stewart and his crew, hoping to see what the process is like for them after so many years on the air. I played a bit with Tony Bennett back in the day, and it was fascinating to watch him approach "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" for the umpteenth time.

As clips play, Stewart positions early for whatever mug he needs to have on his face when the camera returns. He doesn't view the clips - he's spent all afternoon watching them. Instead, he's cupping his forehead with his hand, leaning back apprehensively in his chair, or whatever...and cooly awaiting the camera. It doesn't seem forced or phony, just highly technical and tactical. Like a ballet where all movements have been pre-mapped, and attention's focused entirely on flow and pacing. You feel the pacing much more acutely in the studio than on TV.

Stewart mostly ad-libs; he barely follows his script. It wasn't that he was decorating or riffing off of it; more like he was so familiar with the material (again, he'd been working on it all day) that the script was just a guide. This rang home when, before the final segment, the teleprompter cued up "That's our show. Here it is, your moment of zen", as if he needed that. Stewart seems to do the show mostly by memory, while the script runs for security.

Before the show, Stewart was asked a couple of interesting questions: one was (winkingly) whether he and the staff had gotten together to revamp policies in light of last week's bizarre Jennifer Lawrence interview (which was referenced several times in the show):


He didn't have much insightful to say, but it was abundantly clear that he wasn't fazed in the least. I don't imagine much rattles him. This is, literally, a daily show, rolling forward ala sausage production. I can't imagine Stewart often frets on the drive home about stuff he might have done better. At least not with this gig, which he's been doing for a long, long 14 years. It's execution, period. Tactical.

Someone else asked when his movie would be released, and he froze in an uncharacteristic grimace of pain. I figure he's been killing himself with post-production on the film while doing the show - and he's at the agony point. He couldn't crack a joke about it. He just stood there mumbling something about how the film's not funny and he hoped people like it anyway. Bad moment. If you ever run into Jon Stewart, don't mention the movie.

Between segments, production people approach the desk to say serious-seeming things, to which Stewart seriously replies. You'd imagine they're making last minute tweaks to upcoming segments, but the odd thing is the same bar conference occurred before the Moment of Zen throw. There's nothing to adjust at that point - the show's pretty much over - so I have no idea what the conferencing was about.

The staff's still tickled after all these years. Production assistants line up along the side of the room, genuinely laughing their asses off. And the crew, surprisingly, was into the comedy as well. Even the cameramen, who you normally expect to be unflinching, kept chortling. Nobody's grinding it out.

There's very little cuing. Stewart was given one single time cue midway through the guest interview (with Ian McKellen, who, by the way, has a voice like burnished golden velvet chocolate), and guided things to commercial with no subsequent guidance. Having been at this for so long, his internal clock seems perfectly calibrated.

Woops, I missed the boat on that last part. Now that I've seen the show on TV, I understand that the producer was signaling that they had enough. Stewart let the conversation end organically, then they edited it down later.

Stewart never seemed to let up - not after the interview, which essentially closes the show, nor after the throw to Moment of Zen. Straight through, the energy never wavered; focused, clinical, un-stressed yet nothing taken for granted. No change even as he left the studio after thanking the audience. Of course, he was probably headed to an editing bay for nine or ten hours of film work, poor guy.

As I said, the set doesn't look like it does at home. Same for Stewart's body language. Live, he seems like a guy naturally moving and reacting. It's small and it's organic, though carefully timed and poised. Only on TV did it compose into the familiar animated mugging and gesturing. Glancing up at the monitor, I'd see what looked like the standard Daily Show. Quite a cognitive dissonance.

The guest segment was the converse. You can't hear well in the studio (mics are for broadcast only; voices aren't put through the PA), so I mostly watched body movement. And he and McKellen appeared to be moving way too much; like an exaggerated hyperkinetic ballet. On the monitor, though, you couldn't see any of that. It looked stone-cold natural. Though the mugging blows up on TV, the interview dynamics were reduced - which is, of course, why they intentionally overplay. McKellen's such a pro that he effortlessly matched the movement; the two seemed engaged in a coordinated dance; it was mesmerizing - though, on TV, you just saw a couple guys talking on a TV show. I suppose if they'd had a more normal conversation, they'd have looked like boring 1970's PBS talking heads. That certainly wouldn't cut it, so there's effort made to be extra dynamic for the camera.

From fifteen feet away, 74 year-old McKellen appears to have the body of a 19 year old, and I'll bet he works extremely hard to keep it that way. Movie star obligation stuff.

One thought: for regular viewers, it may seem like Jon Stewart draws from a limited - though highly effective - bag of tricks. But watching it happen live, I get the impression it's more that this is simply who he is, and, appearing on TV four nights per week, he has no choice but to be who he is. How many moves could you or I wield night after night, year after year?

All in all, this is a really lousy way to view a TV show (they make you wait forever, you can't hear much, camera men block your view, and it's over super fast), but a fascinating journey into the appearance/reality funhouse.

Oh, I spotted this in the staff kitchen, and I'm not sure if it's a joke or not:

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Billions, Millions, Thousands

Billions of people yearn for greatness.

Millions of people do things they hope will make them great.

Thousands of people do great things with nary a thought about where it will leave them.

Most singers become singers because they want to be singers, not because they want to sing. That's why most singers are so awful.

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