Dog

Jacob has been staying in my place and after I’d fed him on one the mornings this week, I suddenly understood the sentiment behind the song I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing

He has to be fed at 6am in the morning, which is at least three hours before my usual morning wake-up. What I typically do is feed him, then crash on the couch. He often goes back to sleep as well. 

One of of these mornings as I lay on the couch, I watched him curl up on his blanket and found myself unable to go back to sleep. 

I just wanted to keep looking at him, his little paw curled up, the crook of his leg sticking out, the gentle up-and-down movement of his body as he breathed in and out. 

Every time I look at him, I know that I would do everything in my power to give him a happy life. I wonder if loving a child will feel this way. The magnitude of it frightens me. 

But then I think about this science fiction short story that I read when I was a teenager, in which a group of humans brought alien pets (dogs) back to Earth. 

In the story, the dogs lived pampered lives. They got regular meals, were bathed by someone else, had comfy beds to sleep on. And whenever they wanted a treat, all they had to do was “shake hands”. 

Thinking about Jacob, I wonder if that story has some truth in it after all. 😂

Frozen

I came across an article about the “father of the modern frozen food industry” recently and I was fascinated!

Clarence Birdseye’s modernisation of food freezing methods were borne out of his work in the US Fisheries Association, which at the time was trying to find better ways of getting fish to the marketplace. 

Frozen seafood at the time was deplorable. Apparently, only the lowest grade food was frozen and frozen foods were sold at even lower prices than canned food. 

Birdseye had always been entrepreneurial from a young age. While he was drawn to nature, he was also fascinated by the “industrious spirit of the times”. 

“Once, he noticed an abundance of muskrats in a nearby field, wrote letters to a local zoo director to assess demand, and ended up trapping and selling them for $1 a piece,” Zachary Crockett writes about Birdseye. 

While he was living in Labrador (described as “a remote, inhospitably cold region in Newfoundland”) — where he was breeding silver foxes for fur — he also developed an interest in food preservation. 

He noticed that when Inuit fisherman pulled fish out of the water, they would freeze “mid-flip” in the air. They would then be packed in snow outdoors. He discovered that they “tasted perfectly fresh” after thawing, even if it was weeks later. 

After he returned to the US, he started experimenting with methods to “fast-freeze” foods. And I guess, the rest is history. 

We take our frozen food for granted these days. Perhaps we’ve gone full-circle and begun to turn our noses up at frozen and other preserved foods. 

But like most kinds of food, frozen food has a story as well. 

Guilt

During my periods of melancholy, one of the most common emotions I experience is guilt.

No matter how I look at things, it’s either guilt about not working enough or guilt about not spending enough time with family. Guilt over not standing up for myself, or guilt over “being selfish”. 

I feel guilt over being annoyed when someone talks to me while I’m working. Then guilt over not paying attention fully because I’m working and trying to listen. 

Guilt tugs at my heart if my to-do list isn’t long enough, then keeps me up at night if I don’t manage to check all the items off. 

During the times when I’m so tired I feel like going to sleep forever, I feel guilty over not being grateful enough for all the other positive things in my life. 

I feel guilt when I eat meat, over how my existence affects the world’s environment, when I think about how things might be better if I just. died. now. 

And then I feel guilty for even thinking that at all. How self-important, I think. You’re not that important at all.

I suppose in the world of Pixar’s Inside Out guilt would be a mixture of Sadness and Fear’s influences. And I don’t know how they become so powerful in my mind. 

But a little voice in my head says, “Just keep fighting.” And so, I do. 

Constructive

Some time back, I read an article in The Guardian about their pilot project to “see how readers would respond” to good news. They wrote more than 150 pieces highlighting the “good things happening in the world”. 

They discovered that the number of readers “for this kind of journalism” was “remarkably robust”. They found that “almost one in 10 readers” shared these stories on social media. (They don’t mention how this compares to the sharing of bad news.)

In a world where bad news seems to get the most sensationalised — I’m thinking about my Facebook feed and WhatsApp group chats — it’s refreshing to read uplifting news. 

Rather than switch off completely, which is what I’ve seen some self-help articles suggest to shield one’s self from the negativity, perhaps it could be a good thing to read about what’s going right in the world. Or to read a more constructive take on a negative issue. 

“If people just shrug at news because they feel there is little they can do, nothing will change,” Mark Rice-Oxley writes. 

While most people expect journalism to be just reportage, perhaps it may need to evolve to become something more. 

It doesn’t need to give solutions, but perhaps can provide a well-rounded list of suggestions that readers can use to make the world a better place. 

Clone

I recently read a hilarious piece of flash fiction titled ‘Taylor Swift’. 

In this weird alternative reality, anyone can purchase clones of Taylor Swift. Each clone knows all the songs, of course, and can sing them “just for you”. 

There are basic clones, and then there are others that are fitted with accessories like wings. 

One of my favourite things about flash fiction is that it can say so much in such a small number of words. 

For example, what kind of a world are these characters living in, that it’s possible to buy a live clone of a pop star with just a few swipes on your mobile phone. How cheap are they that some people can own multiple clones? 

Has capitalism grown into such a state that live Taylor Swift clones can be produced at such highly efficient rates? 

Besides being a “meditation on capitalism, fame and consumer culture”, it’s also a story about being a teenager. How emotions like love and rage seem so much bigger, and yet, you can switch from one emotion to another in a flash. 

At its core, Taylor Swift is a love story. To me, anyway. Or perhaps more of a story about love — wanting it, finding it, figuring out how to get it. 

Fight

“Stoicism is not resignation. It is, in fact, a philosophy that shines brightest when the outlook is darkest.” 

This was one of the lines in the Daily Stoic email newsletter from November 18, 2019. It’s one of the reasons stoicism draws me in. 

In the hardest of times, in the most stressful of times, my practice of stoicism has helped to remind me that as long as there is hope, I can find the strength to keep going. 

That as long as there is something I can do about a situation, all I have to do, is do something. 

This issue of the newsletter highlighted the Spartans, during a moment when King Phillip of Macedon threatened to attack. He demanded their submission, saying that: “If I conquer your city, I will destroy you all.”

The Spartans refused to submit anyway, because the one word they heard was “If”. 

“They weren’t going to lay down their arms without a fight—you were going to have to come and take them,” says the Daily Stoic. 

There are times in my life when everything feels bleak, when it feels like I’ve fought as hard as I can and am still fighting. There are times when I’m tired — not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. 

Stoicism reminds me to “focus 100% of our energy on what is in our control”. 

It reminds me to stay alive, to keep fighting. 

Advertising

I’m always fascinated by the ads that Ryan Reynolds comes up with and this time was no different. His latest stunt is a gin ad in his Netflix movie ad in a Samsung TV ad, which Fast Company calls the “turducken of advertising”. 

In the article, the writer also comments on Reynolds’ “ability to mock pop culture while simultaneously creating it”. 

I love his ads because Reynolds is always on-brand. This style (or shtick) of his works because as an audience we know what he stands for as a brand. Would the same kind of ad work for someone else like, say, Hugh Jackman? 

I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s a question to think about. 

This, I guess, comes back to authenticity. 

Authenticity isn’t always about being the most earnest, or coming up with a message that will tug at heart strings. It’s about staying true to who you are, to what your brand represents. 

When Ron Swanson from the TV series Parks and Recreation sets up his business, he called it “Very Good Building & Development Co”. 

As background, Ron is no-fluff, no-nonsense type of character. And when he cares about something, works on it to the best of his ability. He’d rather have less business than compromise the quality of his work. 

The quality of his work is what sells. And when he needs to create a commercial, I think mainly to tell people that he exists, he goes straight to the point as well. 

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