This is the brainpickings.org weekly digest by Maria Popova. If you missed last week’s edition — Walt Whitman on creativity, Toni Morrison on the deepest meaning of love, Martin Buber on what a tree can teach us about seeing each other fully — you can catch up right here. And if you’re enjoying this newsletter, please consider supporting my labor of love with a donation – each month, I spend hundreds of hours and tremendous resources on it, and every little bit of support helps enormously. If you already donate: THANK YOU.
The Only Story in the World: John Steinbeck on Kindness, Good and Evil, the Wellspring of Good Writing
“All the goodness and the heroisms will rise up again, then be cut down again and rise up,” John Steinbeck (February 27, 1902–December 20, 1968) wrote as he contemplated good, evil, and the necessary contradiction of human nature at the peak of WWII. “It isn’t that the evil thing wins — it never will — but that it doesn’t die.”
A decade later, and a decade before he won the Nobel Prize in Literature, Steinbeck turned this abiding tug of war between good and evil into a literary inquiry in East of Eden (public library) — the 1952 novel that gave us his beautiful wisdom on creativity and the meaning of life, eventually adapted into the 1955 film of the same title starring James Dean.
Steinbeck opens the thirty-fourth chapter with a meditation on the most elemental question through which we experience and measure our lives:
A child may ask, “What is the world’s story about?” And a grown man or woman may wonder, “What way will the world go? How does it end and, while we’re at it, what’s the story about?”
I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught — in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too — in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well — or ill?
At the most fundamental level, the triumph of good over evil presupposes an openhearted curiosity about what is other than ourselves and a certain willingness for understanding — the moral choice of fathoming and honoring the reality, experience, and needs of persons and entities existing beyond our own consciousness. Steinbeck, too, saw the centrality of empathic understanding in the choice of goodness. Perhaps unsurprisingly — since he used his private journal as a creative sandbox for his novels— this sentiment originated in a diary entry.
Decades before Annie Dillard contemplated why a generosity of spirit is the animating force of good writing, Steinbeck echoes Hemingway — “As a writer you should not judge. You should understand.” — and reflects in a journal entry from 1938, quoted in Steinbeck Center director Susan Shillinglaw’s introduction to a 1993 Penguin Classics edition of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men:
In every bit of honest writing in the world… there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other.
Complement with Hannah Arendt on our mightiest antidote to evil, James Baldwin on the terror within and the evil without, Mary McCarthy on human nature and how we determine if evil is forgivable, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky on why there are no bad people, then revisit Steinbeck on being vs. becoming, the difficult art of the fried breakup, and his remarkable advice on falling in love in a letter to his teenage son.
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The new A380-capable runway at Velana Airport in Maldives was accidentally inaugurated last week when an Air India A320 mistakenly landed on the unopened runway. This week, an Etihad A380 became the first aircraft to land on the opened runway and the first A380 to visit Maldives.
FLIGHTS TO FOLLOW
Aviation Photo of the Week
GFB’s photos from Houston are often masterful manipulations of light and dark. Here he captures a United 787 departing.
Siri Shortcuts now available
In our latest update for iOS (7.10), we’ve added Siri Shortcuts compatibility. If you see the ’Add to Siri’ on a page, you can tap that to create a shortcut. Siri Shortcuts works with features like AR View, nearby flights, and airport pages.
UNDER THE RADAR – Bite size aviation news
New York Times
Arrogant souls earwig.
Real crackpots regard.
Empty eons glimmer.
Victorian unbelievers shine.
Obscure kinglets run.
Insane enslavers walk.
Restless cuckoos shout.
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For My Gorgeous Waterfall
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Trappings are gorgeous,
And so are you.
Orchids are white,
Ghost ones are rare,
A home is straight,
And so is your hair.
With buds like eggs,
Walls are thick,
And so are your legs.
Up to the skies,
My array is dazzling,
And so are your eyes.
Foxgloves in hedges,
Surround the farms,
Columns are slender,
And so are your arms.
Daisies are pretty,
Daffies have style,
An effect is dazzling,
And so is your smile.
A waterfall is beautiful,
Just like you.
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This is the Brain Pickings midweek newsletter: Every Wednesday, I plunge into my twelve-year archive and choose something worth resurfacing and resavoring as a timeless pick-me-up for heart, mind, and spirit. (If you don’t yet subscribe to the standard Sunday newsletter of new pieces published each week, you can sign up here – it’s free.) If you missed last week’s archival piece – Shel Silverstein’s sweet allegory for the secret of love and the key to lasting relationships – you can read it here. And if you find any value and joy in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – over these twelve years, I have spent tens of thousands of hours and tremendous resources on Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it going. If you already donate: THANK YOU.
FROM THE ARCHIVE | How We Spend Our Days Is How We Spend Our Lives: Annie Dillard on Choosing Presence Over Productivity
The meaning of life has been pondered by such literary icons as Leo Tolstoy (1904), Henry Miller (1918), Anaïs Nin(1946), Viktor Frankl (1946), Italo Calvino (1975), and David Foster Wallace (2005). And although some have argued that today’s age is one where “the great dream is to trade up from money to meaning,” there is an unshakable and discomfiting sense that, in our obsession with optimizing our creative routines and maximizing our productivity, we have forgotten how to be truly present in the gladdening mystery of life.
From The Writing Life (public library) by Annie Dillard — a wonderful addition to the collected wisdom of beloved writers — comes this beautiful and poignant meditation on the life well lived, reminding us of the tradeoffs between presence and productivity that we’re constantly choosing to make, or not:
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.
The most appealing daily schedule I know is that of a turn-of-the-century Danish aristocrat. He got up at four and set out on foot to hunt black grouse, wood grouse, woodcock, and snipe. At eleven he met his friends, who had also been out hunting alone all morning. They converged “at one of these babbling brooks,” he wrote. He outlined the rest of his schedule. “Take a quick dip, relax with a schnapps and a sandwich, stretch out, have a smoke, take a nap or just rest, and then sit around and chat until three. Then I hunt some more until sundown, bathe again, put on white tie and tails to keep up appearances, eat a huge dinner, smoke a cigar and sleep like a log until the sun comes up again to redden the eastern sky. This is living…. Could it be more perfect?”
Dillard juxtaposes the Danish aristocrat’s revelry in everyday life with the grueling routine of a couple of literary history’s most notorious self-disciplinarians:
Wallace Stevens in his forties, living in Hartford, Connecticut, hewed to a productive routine. He rose at six, read for two hours, and walked another hour—three miles—to work. He dictated poems to his secretary. He ate no lunch; at noon he walked for another hour, often to an art gallery. He walked home from work—another hour. After dinner he retired to his study; he went to bed at nine. On Sundays, he walked in the park. I don’t know what he did on Saturdays. Perhaps he exchanged a few words with his wife, who posed for the Liberty dime. (One would rather read these people, or lead their lives, than be their wives. When the Danish aristocrat Wilhelm Dinesen shot birds all day, drank schnapps, napped, and dressed for dinner, he and his wife had three children under three. The middle one was Karen.)
Jack London claimed to write twenty hours a day. Before he undertook to write, he obtained the University of California course list and all the syllabi; he spent a year reading the textbooks in philosophy and literature. In subsequent years, once he had a book of his own under way, he set his alarm to wake him after four hours’ sleep. Often he slept through the alarm, so, by his own account, he rigged it to drop a weight on his head. I cannot say I believe this, though a novel like The Sea-Wolf is strong evidence that some sort of weight fell on his head with some sort of frequency — but you wouldn’t think a man would claim credit for it. London maintained that every writer needed a technique, experience, and a philosophical position.
At the heart of these anecdotes of living is a dynamic contemplation of life itself:
There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading — that is a good life. A day that closely resembles every other day of the past ten or twenty years does not suggest itself as a good one. But who would not call Pasteur’s life a good one, or Thomas Mann’s?
The Writing Life is sublime in its entirety, the kind of book that stays with you for lifetimes.
Illustration by Wendy MacNaughton
STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES.
These words above, from the fictional title character of the film, Forrest Gump, have amazing clarity and truth. Think about it as it applies to you. We all do stupid things, mostly by accident, sometimes by omission, and other times strictly due to a lack of concentration. But, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Let’s take a closer look.
I feel safe in venturing that few, if any, of us wake up each morning with the singular goal of, “Gee, what stupid things can I do today and still live to tell about it?” Yet, we manage to do more stupid than brilliant things without really trying. The fact that we are not aware of our own propensity for stupidity may be more of a curse than a blessing. The fortunate end of this is that most often the stupid things we do are little things which, when taken individually, have little or no effect on our life each day. Yet day after day we still do the stupid without regard to the cumulative effect it has on our lives as a whole. While some consider doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result to be a definition of insanity, I like to think of it a dose of good ole homegrown stupidity. This type of behavior will eventually call into question the foundation of Respect we have for yourself.
RESPECT AND THE SPEAKER
As a speaker, you must be ever aware that your authority to speak rests greatly and precariously on the foundation Credibility you established for yourself. A large portion of your credibility is impacted and shaped by the depth of respect you have for yourself, your foundational message, and your relationship to the audiences you serve.
In many cases, as a speaker, it is what we do when we are saying nothing that can easily betray the depth of our credibility and the level of respect we maintain.
You’re at the airport on the way to a speaking opportunity when you step into the newsstand to pick up some water and a snack for the flight. As you walk down the aisle you cross in front of another shopper who is tortuously deciding which chewy snack will hit the spot and you do so without even offering a courteous, “Excuse me.”
“So, what,” you say, “they probably didn’t even notice!”
You might be right. But, that’s not the question you should be asking yourself. The real deep question here is. “Did you notice?” And if you did notice and did not offer a polite, “Excuse me” you may have committed a double offense, one to the person you offended and two to your personal dignity and respect.
When you walk in to your speaking engagement the next day, you are greeted by the very person you were rude to at the airport. You feel stupid for having acted badly in a situation you can never undo. You cannot NOT communicate and the message you have sent through your action is a sign of disrespect and questionable credibility.
RESPECT AND YOUR SPEAKING VOICE
“Actions speak louder than words” and growing your speaking voice is less about what you’re saying and more about the foundational base from which are speaking. While you are diligently digging to discover content that matters to you and will impact your audiences, your actions throughout the process will help solidify a platform with the integrity to support your message.
The more actions of respect inward and outward that you perform, the stronger your experiential base as a speaker will be. Not only will what you say grow, but the strength of conviction within the voice behind those words will grow as well.
SPEAKING OF RESPECT
The general point here is that it is more than just a common courtesy so say “Excuse me” when we infringe on another’s space. By doing so, we acknowledge there are rules of conduct which we ascribe to as a civilized society. These rules help us to create order while they relieve us from the potential rule of chaos.
Saying, “Excuse me” not only bestows a measure of respect on the infringed, it bestows a measure of civility on the infringer as well. This behavior can and will establish an atmosphere of mutual respect between each person involved in the encounter. Respect makes our world a better place to live. It makes our common efforts rewarding. It makes us understand the basis of our common existence.
My challenge to you is to try to be courteous and respectful in all situations. Particularly those when you are about to knowingly do something stupid. Give yourself a break. Take yourself off of autopilot and take command your vessel. At the end of the day, acknowledge the stupid little things you have done and make a conscious effort not to repeat them.
Remember, the most important person in the world is you. If you don’t show yourself the maximum amount of respect you deserve, it’s quite possible no one else will either. If you keep on going day after day repeating one small stupidity after another, it will have a cumulative effect on your reserve of self-respect.
“Stupid is as stupid does,” but stupid does not have to become a standard of performance or an excuse to be rude.
Thanks for your support as a reader of my blog and I eagerly welcome any comments on this post or suggestions you might have for a future blog on a topic near and dear to you in the comments section below. As always, please feel free to share this post with a friend or colleague.
To Your Speaking Success.
The Speech Wiz
10 Strange Beauty Secrets Of History’s Most Beautiful Women
Being pretty isn’t easy. The most beautiful women in history weren’t just born that way. They put hard work into it—and, sometimes, a few crushed bug guts, stewed birds, or dung.
It’s the dirty little secret behind glamour: No matter how fantastic someone looks, it never comes naturally. Behind every great beauty in history, there’s a dirty secret about all the work that went into looking that good.
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10Empress Elisabeth: A Face Mask Lined With Raw Veal
The most beautiful woman on earth, in the 19th century, was Empress Elisabeth of Austria. She was famous across Europe for her impeccable skin and the thick, chestnut hair that fell all the way down to her feet.
None of which came easy. To keep her skin beautiful, she would crush strawberries over her hands, face, and neck, bathe in warm olive oil, and sleep in what has only been described as a “mask lined inside with raw veal.”
It was the closest she came to eating food. Her favorite dish was pressed extract of chicken, partridge, venison, and beef—which isn’t so much a “food” as something you’d find in a spice cabinet. And even then, she’d wrap herself in a corset so tight that her waist only measured 49.5 centimeters (19.5 in) around.
She spent three hours each day getting her hair down, mainly because it was so long that it would get tied up in knots. And when it was put up in ribbons, her hair would get so heavy that it would give her headaches.
It meant that, more often than not, she was stuck indoors, too afraid to let the wind ruin her hair. But if you want to be beautiful, sometimes you have to give up on little luxuries, like ever leaving your house.
9Cleopatra: Bathing In Donkey Milk
Queen Cleopatra won the hearts of the most powerful men alive. Maybe it was her grace. Maybe it was her charm. Or maybe it was that sweet aroma of dung and insect guts.
Cleopatra, after all, almost certainly followed the usual beauty conventions of her time—and that meant wearing a lipstick made out of mashed-up beetle guts and putting powdered crocodile dung under her eyes.
But Cleopatra didn’t limit herself to a peasant’s beauty regimen. She was a queen, and that meant that she could afford the most luxurious treatment of all: bathing in sour donkey milk. Her servants would milk 700 donkeys each day so that they could fill a tub with their milk. Then, once it had gone bad, Cleopatra would bathe inside.
The theory was that it would reduce wrinkles—and it may actually have worked. Soured lactose turns into lactic acid, which can make the surface layer of skin on a woman’s body peel off, revealing the smoother, blemish-free skin underneath.
That was the real secret to her beauty: burning her flesh off.
8Nefertiti: Wearing Enough Makeup To Kill You
The Egyptian queen Nefertiti’s name meant “the beautiful one has come”—and she lived up to it. She was so beautiful that, in the early 20th century, a statue of her face caused an international sensation. More than 3,000 years after she died, her looks were still front-page news.
And no wonder. She put no small amount of work into looking good.
The queens of Nefertiti’s time would be buried with their makeup, and so, while they didn’t write many of their beauty secrets down, we’ve been able to find their methods left behind in their tombs. While her tomb has never been found, the tombs of her contemporaries give us a pretty good idea of how she did it.
Nefertiti was completely hairless. Her entire body was shaved from head to toe with a razor, including the hair on the top of her head. Instead, she topped her head with a wig and painted her eyes black with something called kohl.
Ancient Egyptian kohl, incidentally, was made out of the dark lead ore galena—which means that Nefertiti was slowly killing herself with lead poisoning every time she put on makeup.
But it’s highly unlikely that the lead killed her. There’s simply no way it could have finished her off before her lipstick. Her lipstick, after all, contained bromine mannite, another toxic substance that it’s generally believed would have poisoned her long before the lead she dabbed around her eyes.
7Queen Elizabeth I: Coating Your Skin In Lead
Poisoning yourself with lead is no passing fad. It’s been a great look for thousands of years. While Nefertiti may have dabbed a little lead around her eyes, it was nothing compared to Queen Elizabeth I.
During the Elizabethan era, the most popular skin product was something called “Venetian ceruse”—which, quite simply, was a mixture of lead and vinegar that women would put all over their skin to make them look porcelain white.
Nobody used more of it than Queen Elizabeth herself. When she was 29, Elizabeth contracted smallpox and was left with scars all over her skin. She was too humiliated to show her scars in public—and so, instead, she covered every inch of her flesh with the toxic white paint.
Queen Elizabeth used so much of it that she was completely unrecognizable without it. When one man, the Earl of Essex, accidentally peeked a sight of her without her makeup on, he went around joking that she’d hidden a “crooked carcass” underneath that thick veneer of Venetian ceruse.
6Marie Antoinette: Stewed Pigeon Water
The French queen Marie Antoinette didn’t exactly let herself eat cake. She had a reputation as a world-class beauty, and she was determined to keep it up.
Like Empress Elisabeth, she would go to bed with a face mask, but Antoinette’s—made of cognac, eggs, powdered milk, and lemon—sounds a little bit less like a beauty treatment and a little bit more like the catering menu at a birthday party.
She’d start the morning by washing her face with a facial cleanser made out of pigeons. In those days, that was a selling point: the product came proudly labeled with the mean “Eau Cosmetique de Pigeon” and a little ad promising every bottle had been made with “eight pigeons stewed.”
Then she would get dressed—for the first of three times each day. As queen of France, Marie Antoinette was expected to never wear the same thing twice. And so, each year, she would 120,000 livres on clothes, the equivalent to about $4 million today.
She may even have indulged in the popular French fashion of tracing her veins with a blue pencil. At the time, the women of France wanted to be so thin that they were translucent—so they’d draw the inner workings of their bodies, trying to convince the men that they had transparent skin.
5Mary, Queen Of Scots: Bathing In Wine
Mary, Queen of Scots, wasn’t a natural beauty. She was born with a nose a little large and a chin a little too sharp—but she was a queen, and she was determined to be beautiful.
To keep her skin as striking as possible, she had her servants fill a bathtub with a white wine. She would wade in it, convinced that the wine was improving her complexion.
It sounds decadent, but it’s actually something people still do today. Today, it’s called vinotherapy, and there are places all around the world where you can experience the Mary, Queen of Scots, treatment for yourself.
It’s hard to say exactly what the queen used, but the modern vinotherapists don’t actually pour drinkable, alcoholic wine. Instead, they use the leftover compost from the winemaking process; the “pips and pulps” of grapes that get left behind. So, no—you can’t get drunk off of it.
4Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita: Starting Your Own Cosmetics Lab
Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita was one of the most beautiful women in the Byzantine Empire. She didn’t just look good when she was young, though. Even when she was well into her sixties, it’s said, she still looked like a 20-year-old.
She certainly worked hard enough for it. After becoming the empress, Zoe Porphyrogenita had an entire laboratory dedicated to making her cosmeticsbuilt inside of the imperial palace. It was a real cosmetic factory, every bit as huge and expensive as the ones that supply whole countries. At this one, though, Zoe was the only customer.
It was expensive—but for the empress, blowing a small fortune was just all in a day’s work. It’s said that she was “the sort of woman who could exhaust a sea teaming with gold-dust in one day.”
But it’s also said that “like a well-baked chicken, every part of her was firm and in good condition.” This is definitive proof that it worked, because, clearly, Zoe looked so good that the men who saw her were so smitten that they couldn’t even form a sentence that didn’t make your skin crawl.
3Lucrezia Borgia: Spending Multiple Days Washing Your Hair
The poet Lord Byron once said that Lucrezia Borgia’s hair was “the prettiest and fairest imaginable.” He wasn’t just trying out a line for a new poem—he was in love, so much so, in fact, that he stole a strand of her hair and kept it by his bed.
It sounds one of those touching love stories that usually end with someone filing a restraining order. Lucrezia, though, probably appreciated it. She deserved a little recognition for the amount of work she put into that hair—because she would spend days washing it.
Lucrezia’s hair was bright and blonde, but that wasn’t nature. Everyone else in her family had dark hair. Lucrezia, though, made sure hers shined like the Sun by rinsing it in lye and lemon juice for hours, then drying it out in the sunlight for the better part of a day.
It took so much time that she repeatedly canceled trips to wash her hair. Multiple letters from Lucrezia’s attendants have survived to to this day. In them, she politely apologizes to people and explains that she will be a few days late because she has to “put her clothes in order and wash her head.”
2Helen Of Troy: Bathing In Vinegar
Helen of Troy had the face that launched 1,000 ships. She was a woman so beautiful that thousands of men died for her honor.
Well, either that, or else she was just a figment of an old Greek guy’s imagination. If Homer really did make her up, though, he had a remarkable understanding of women’s cosmetic care. Because packed deep in her legend is a beauty regimen that really works.
Helen of Troy, according to the Iliad, would bathe in vinegar. Every day, her attendants would prepare what, technically speaking, was a bathtub full of acid, and she would just dive right in.
Today, people tend to assume that she used apple cider vinegar or that she diluted it in water, simply because, otherwise, it sounds pretty horrible. After all, that’s something people still do today—bathe in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. And it actually works. The vinegar balances the body’s pH levels, which can have a cleansing effect.
But there’s nothing saying Helen of Troy ever added water. She may just have dived right into a bathtub filled to the brim with white vinegar. It would’ve hurt, and she would’ve smelled—but that’s what it takes to look good enough to start a war.
1Simonetta Vespucci: Arsenic, Leeches, And Human Urine
Even if you don’t know her name, you’ve seen Simonetta Vespucci’s face. She was the muse for some of the greatest painters of the Renaissance. She was even chosen to model for the goddess of love herself at the center of the painting The Birth of Venus.
In the Renaissance, everyone wanted to look like her. And so they copied her beauty regimen—leeches, poisons, and all.
To keep their skin pale, white, and beautiful, the women in Vespucci’s time would attach leeches to their ears. The leeches would drain the blood out of their faces, leaving them deathly pale.
Those who didn’t want to go that far, though, could always use a face mask. Renaissance women would mix bread crumbs and egg whites with vinegar and then apply it liberally on their faces—a beauty secret that, conveniently, doubles as a great recipe for fried chicken.
Eyebrow hair, at the time, had to be plucked, or, ideally, burned straight off. Women would remove their hairs with arsenic and rock alum and then sand it all down with gold.
But that was nothing compared to what they’d do to get that long, flowing, golden mane of hair on her head. For Vespucci, it just came naturally, but the poorer women who wanted to copy her found their own way. They bleached their hair in human urine.
Sure, it sounds gross—but every beautiful woman has to do a few things that just aren’t pretty.
10 Incredibly Curious Food Lawsuits
When it comes to lawsuits concerning the food industry, someone has to be in the wrong. Often, we’ll find that a company is trying to deceive its customers, but in some cases, the customers themselves can make some pretty outlandish claims.
While it’s true that most lawsuits are pretty straightforward, a select few of them stood out and made headlines across the world. Some were justified class-action lawsuits, while others just seem like feeble attempts at suing the food industry for something they weren’t responsible for. Here are ten utterly ridiculous, absurd, and astonishing lawsuits that involved the food industry.
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10The Amount Of Ginger In Canada Dry
Ginger ale is often used to remedy common stomachaches and fevers because of the carbonation and, of course, the (naturally medicinal) ginger. Yet, in 2018, Julie Fletcher noticed a lack of the word “ginger” in Canada Dry’s list of ingredients and filed a federal lawsuit. The stated ingredients used to make Canada Dry are: carbonated water, high-fructose corn syrup, citric acid, sodium benzoate, natural flavors, and caramel color. According to her lawyer, Michael J. DeBenedictis, Fletcher believed that Canada Dry was using ginger root in their soda and thus believed that it would be a healthier alternative than regular sodas.
The company’s argument was that ginger is used in the process to make the “natural flavoring” that is listed in the ingredients. One factor that may have confused Fletcher further was a Canada Dry commercial that was aired back in 2011 which depicts a farmer and a crop of ginger. It certainly doesn’t help if the label says “Made from Real Ginger,” either.
A similar lawsuit against Dr Pepper (which makes Canada Dry) was filed in Missouri. Lab tests revealed that Canada Dry did not contain any ginger. The company argued that just because the lab tests couldn’t detect ginger doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. That suit was ultimately dismissed at the request of the plaintiff.
9Popeyes Sued By Customer After He Choked On Their Food
Usually, when someone chokes on their food, it’s because they ate it too fast or were negligent in making sure it was chewed thoroughly before swallowing. Apparently, this was not the case when a man from Mississippi filed a lawsuit against Popeyes. His complaint? He had to eat a large piece of fried chicken with his hands because of the fact that he didn’t get a knife with his drive-thru order, which ultimately made him choke on his food.
According to Paul Newton Jr., the man who sued Popeyes for this injustice, he only received a spork when the incident occurred late 2015. He ordered two chicken breasts with red beans and rice, a biscuit, and a soft drink. As with any order, the food came with napkins, packets of salt and pepper, and a spork. While driving back to his office, he started eating his food by using his spork to eat his beans and rice. Since he didn’t have a plastic knife with his food, he resorted to eating the chicken with his bare hands, which was (according to him) why he started to severely choke on his meal.
In addition to suing Popeyes for not including a plastic knife with his meal, Newtown also sought financial compensation for his pain and suffering and medical expenses since they had to perform emergency surgery to remove the piece of chicken from his throat. In the end, however, Newton dropped the suit.
8McDonald’s Sued For Millions Over Two Slices Of Cheese
In 2018, two Florida residents filed a $5 million lawsuit against the fast food giant, claiming that they’ve been charging customers up to $1 extra for pieces of cheese on their hamburgers that they didn’t ask for or receive. Leonard Werner was the one who realized that McDonald’s was charging him extra for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese while still giving him a cheese-less hamburger, as he requested.
According to Werner, the McDonald’s app menu includes a cheese-less Quarter Pounder, but their actual restaurant menus don’t. This means that up to 25 million customers may have been overcharged, and if the judge sides with the plaintiffs in this case, they could all be eligible to receive $10 and a free sandwich. Yet, McDonald’s is confident that won’t happen. In their opinion, the case is “without legal merit.”
7Fruitless Froot Loops
Back in 2009, a man by the name of Roy Werbel made headlines when he tried to sue Kellogg’s for their dastardly marketing that led him to believe there was actual, nutritious fruit in Froot Loops. The case got dismissed without prejudice because of the fact that Werbel had not successfully served Kellogg’s. It wasn’t long before he came back to start things up again and make sure that he served Kellogg’s correctly. Yet, Werbel still faced bigger problems with the lawsuit than just serving the defendant the right way . . .
Two federal judges made some valid points in the previous lawsuit. First of all, the word “Froot” cannot be interpreted as suggesting that there’s real fruit in the cereal. “Froot” isn’t real, and real fruit cannot come in the form of “loops.” There have been at least four cases made against Kellogg’s about Froot Loops (counting Werbel’s twice) over this same false assumption.
6Greek Yogurt That Isn’t Greek Enough
The makers of Chobani Greek Yogurt found themselves in hot water back in 2014 when two men sued them, claiming that there was absolutely nothing Greek about their products. According to them, Chobani’s Greek Yogurt is about as nutritious as a fudge ice cream bar. This is actually true, considering the fact that it shares the same amount of sugar (16 grams) as a Nestle Fudge ice cream bar. They also argued that none of Chobani’s products are even made in Greece and that they create further confusion among customers by placing a “0%” on their label without actually elaborating on what it represents.
The two men who filed the class-action lawsuit are Barry Stoltz from Scarsdale and Allan Chang from Queens. They sought an unspecified amount of compensation for damages after being tricked into believing that the “0%” on the label meant that there are zero calories/sugar. (The “0%” actually means that the product is nonfat.) Chobani did hit back at Stoltz and Chang, saying that the word “Greek” on their yogurt products simply refers to the way they make their yogurt, not where it’s from. They also pointed out that they’d managed to get a similar suit dismissed in California.
5The ‘Fast Food Made Me Fat!’ Lawsuit
In 2002, a 56-year-old man from New York named Caesar Barber filed a class-action lawsuit against multiple fast food companies, including KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s, for jeopardizing his health with their unhealthy food. Barber’s lawsuit claims that the fast food restaurants, where he says he used to eat at four to five times a week (even after suffering a severe heart attack), did not properly disclose all the ingredients in their food to him. In an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, he said that “they never explained to him what he was eating.”
According to Barber’s lawyer, Samuel Hirsch, the fast food industry has the responsibility to warn their customers of the dangers of consuming their food. It is Barber’s opinion that the fast food companies involved caused him to sustain serious injuries, including two heart attacks, and made him diabetic. A spokesperson for the food industry could hardly believe that Barber made his legal argument with a straight face. While some nutrition advocates and doctor’s groups insist that the food industry should take some responsibility for the obesity epidemic, Barber’s lawsuit was the first known legal action to claim that the fast food industry knowingly contributed to the obesity problem in the United States. A judge threw Barber’s case out in 2003.
4The ‘There’s Sugar In Jelly Beans?’ Lawsuit
In 2017, a woman from California filed suit against the makers of Jelly Belly jelly beans for tricking her into believing that one of their products was free of sugar. Her name is Jessica Gomez, and her complaint is about Jelly Belly’s Sport Beans, which are marketed as an exercise supplement containing carbs, vitamins, and electrolytes. The problem is that the ingredients list does not specify sugar as an ingredient but instead uses the phrase “evaporated cane juice.”
Gomez’s class-action lawsuit claims that the wording used on the label is in violation of the state’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Business Practices Law, and False Advertising Law and that it is designed to intentionally confuse customers who are health-conscious. Jelly Belly called the case “nonsense” in a notion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that no reasonable customer would miss the amount of sugar content listed on their product’s “Nutrition Facts” panel. However, the Food and Drug Administration is on Gomez’s side; in 2016, they stated that the term “juice” shouldn’t be used unless it’s referring to that of a fruit or vegetable.
3Krispy Kreme’s Falsely Advertised Ingredients
A man from Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in 2016, claiming that they’d falsely advertised the ingredients of their fruit-filled and maple-glazed doughnuts. Jason Saidian sought $5 million in damages from the pastry chain for the nonexistence of the “premium ingredients” advertised in their products. According to Saidian, Krispy Kreme conducts “false and misleading business practices” because of the fact that their “Chocolate Iced Raspberry Filled,” “Glazed Raspberry Filled,” “Maple Bar,” and “Glazed Blueberry Cake” doughnuts don’t actually contain any real raspberries, maple, or blueberries.
Saidian said that he felt cheated because the company had used real fruit in other items, like the “Glazed Lemon Filled” and “Glazed Strawberry Filled” doughnuts. He also said that if he had known that the other doughnuts did not contain any actual maple syrup, raspberries or blueberries, he wouldn’t have bothered to purchase them. The case was voluntarily dismissed in 2017.
2The ‘Nutella Isn’t A Health Food?’ Lawsuit
In 2012, the makers of Nutella, Ferrero USA, lost a class-action lawsuit against a parent who claimed that she was fooled into thinking that it was good for her kids. As part of the settlement, any US citizen who purchased a bottle of Nutella between January 1, 2008, and February 3, 2012, can file a claim. (California residents had different dates, specifically between August 1, 2009, and January 23, 2012.) Customers had until July 5, 2012, to file claims for up to five jars of Nutella, and they could expect to receive $4 back per jar, for a maximum compensation of $20 per household.
Athena Hohenberg, the Californian parent who proposed the class-action lawsuit, said that she fed her four-year-old daughter Nutella after she saw the advertisements which suggested that the spread was part of a healthy breakfast. She was shocked to find out that Nutella was, in fact, practically a candy bar. The lawsuit certainly underwent some degree of ridicule across the Internet, but the makers of Nutella agreed that their marketing campaign was misleading. Ever since then, Nutella has changed their labels and advertisements to better inform their customers of the chocolate spread’s contents.
1Subway’s Footlongs Come Up Short
Back in 2013, a teen from Australia took a photo of his Subway footlong sandwich next to a tape measure, in which the sandwich only measured up to 28 centimeters (11 in) instead of the promised 30 centimeters (12 in) usually portrayed in the media. His post sparked public outrage and went viral, which led to a class-action lawsuit. In 2016, Subway settled and promised to make sure that their bread rolls would be at least 12 inches to ensure more uniformity in their bread. The suing attorneys were just about to make $520,000 in fees, when the director for the center for Class Action Fairness at the Competitive Enterprise Institute objected to the settlement. According to him, the class in the class-action lawsuit received “negligible to no relief.”
The judge involved with the case agreed that the settlement didn’t benefit anyone but the attorneys involved. Ultimately, the settlement got thrown out in 2017. This was because of a few key facts that made the case quite weak. In the first place, the majority of the bread that was being sold at Subway restaurants was at least 12 inches long, and anything that didn’t reach that length only missed it by a quarter of an inch. Also, all the raw dough sticks used to bake the bread sold at Subway restaurants weigh exactly the same. Due to the natural process involved with baking the bread, the final results could leave some loaves slightly shorter and wider than others. Lastly, the amount of meat and cheese included with each and every sandwich is standardized, which means that a sandwich that is slightly shorter than 12 inches still contains the same amount of meat and cheeses as it would have if it measured up to 12 inches.
What is your primary reaction to
An Original Song
She gets on with life as a professor,
She’s a stupid kinda gal.
She likes snappy emails on Sundays,
She likes lying and hiding truth in the week.
She likes to contemplate Fords.
But when she starts to daydream,
Her mind turns straight to BMWs.
Five six seven eight…
Sometimes I look at her and I look into her eyes,
I notice the way she thinks about BMWs with a smile,
Curved lips she just can’t disguise.
But she thinks it’s Fords making her life worthwhile.
Why is it so hard for her to decide which she loves more?
She likes to use words like ‘macho,’
She likes to use words like ‘awesome.’
She likes to use words about Fords.
But when she stops her talking,
Her mind turns straight to BMWs.
Five six seven eight…
Sometimes I look at her and I look into her eyes,
I notice the way she thinks about BMWs with a smile,
Curved lips she just can’t disguise.
But she thinks it’s Fords making her life worthwhile.
Why is it so hard for her to decide which she loves more?
She likes to hang out with G’s,
She likes to kick back with Sg’s,
But when left alone,
Her mind turns straight to BMWs.
Five six seven eight…
Sometimes I look at her and I look into her eyes,
I notice the way she thinks about BMWs with a smile,
Curved lips she just can’t disguise.
But she thinks it’s Fords making her life worthwhile.
Why is it so hard for her to decide which she loves more?
She’s not too fond of pigeons,
She really hates SUVs,
But she just thinks back to BMWs,
And she’s happy once again.
Five six seven eight…
Auto Praise for Fords
“Fords or BMWs – it’s the age-old question. This music is deep, man.”
– DJ Smooth, Awesome Tunes Magazine
“‘Five six seven eight…’ – I just can’t get it out of my head. Such a catchy song.”
– Little Max, The Pop Pop Channel
“I’m a a stupid kinda gal too, so this song really resonates with me.”
– A Web User With Lots of Opinions
“This song deserves to be in the charts, perhaps with a music video depicting a professor dancing on the moon.”
– Dan Gloop Jr, Facebook
Jay’s week day Fun poetry and lyrics and songs 🙂
By Z-Jay’s Band A Love Song For Edie – Funny Song 🙂
This one’s for you Lord Pondicherry!
My love for you is like the most rude onion,
Your face reminds me of intelligent spiders,
Together, we are like muffins and pepper.
Oh darling Edie,
My rude onion,
My intelligent carrot,
The perfect companion to my muffins soul.
Roses are red,
Oceans are blue,
I like sand beneath her feet,
But not as much as I love acting with you!
Oh darling Edie,
Your hairs are like funny petals on a autumn day,
You’re like the most brave politician to ever walk The High Street.
Your intelligent spider face,
Your pepper soul,
Your funny hairs,
Your brave politician being…
How could I look at another when our rude onion love is so strong?
I love you Lord Pondicherry!
Auto Praise for Our Rude Onion Love
This one’s for you Professor Rivercross!
My love for you is like the most tall sprout,
Your face reminds me of stupid tigers,
Together, we are like bread rolls and ketchup.
Oh darling Pheobe,
My tall sprout,
My stupid pepper,
The perfect companion to my bread rolls soul.
Poppies are red,
Kingfishers are blue,
I like getting presents,
But not as much as I love drinking with you!
Oh darling Pheobe,
Your pursed lips are like slender forks on a spring day,
You’re like the most fragrant academic to ever walk Scotland.
Your stupid tiger face,
Your ketchup soul,
Your slender pursed lips,
Your fragrant academic being…
How could I look at another when our tall sprout love is so strong?
I love you Professor Rivercross!
Auto Praise for Our Tall Sprout Love 🙂
NASSCOM Design4India Design Summit 2018
NASSCOM Design4India Design Summit 2018 will take place on 26th September 2018 at JW Marriott, Bengaluru. The 3rd edition aims to bring together industry experts from the design and tech community to network and discuss how emerging technologies, when aligned with design can create better user experiences.
Same taste, same flavour – that’s Haazri’s promise for your daily chai
Karan Shinghal, Arjun Midha, and Dhruv Agarwal have come up with a unique recipe, and process, so that your tea tastes the same, every time. That’s Haazri’s promise for your daily chai! Started in April 2016, Haazri’s tea is priced at Rs 20 a cup, and the team uses a standardised recipe across its five outlets, using tea leaves sourced from Dibrugarh.
Mumbai-based Agrahyah Technologies is riding the voice and vernacular wave on the internet
Founded in October 2016 by Sreeraman Thiagarajan, Uppal Shah, and Rushabh Vasa, Mumbai-based Agrahyah Technologies is riding the voice and vernacular wave on the internet. The software firm and content producer rolled into one is building a suite of apps, websites, content platforms, and voice-based products for India’s vernacular population.
Hemingway, Didion, Baldwin, Fitzgerald, Sontag, Vonnegut, Bradbury, Morrison, Orwell, and other literary icons.
BY MARIA POPOVA
By popular demand, I’ve put together a periodically updated reading list of all the famous advice on writing presented here over the years, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Orlean, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, and more.
- Jennifer Egan on Writing, the Trap of Approval, and the Most Important Discipline for Aspiring Writers
“You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly… Accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.”
- The Effortless Effort of Creativity: Jane Hirshfield on Storytelling, the Art of Concentration, and Difficulty as a Consecrating Force of Creative Attention
“In the wholeheartedness of concentration, world and self begin to cohere. With that state comes an enlarging: of what may be known, what may be felt, what may be done.”
- Ted Hughes on How to Be a Writer: A Letter of Advice to His 18-Year-Old Daughter
“The first sign of disintegration — in a writer — is that the writing loses the unique stamp of his/her character, & loses its inner light.”
- Colette on Writing, the Blissful Obsessive-Compulsiveness of Creative Work, and Withstanding Naysayers
“A lack of money, if it be relative, and a lack of comfort can be endured if one is sustained by pride. But not the need to be astounded.”
- Auden on Writing, Originality, Self-Criticism, and How to Be a Good Reader
“It would only be necessary for a writer to secure universal popularity if imagination and intelligence were equally distributed among all men.”
- Stephen King: Writing and the Art of “Creative Sleep”:
“In both writing and sleeping, we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives.”
- Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing
“If it sounds like writing … rewrite it.”
- Michael Lewis: Writing, Money, and the Necessary Self-Delusion of Creativity
“When you’re trying to create a career as a writer, a little delusional thinking goes a long way.”
- Annie Dillard on Writing
“At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.”
- Susan Sontag on Writing
“There is a great deal that either has to be given up or be taken away from you if you are going to succeed in writing a body of work.”
- Ray Bradbury: How List-Making Can Boost Your Creativity
How to feel your way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of your skull.
- Anne Lamott: Writing and Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”
- Italo Calvino on Writing: Insights from 40+ Years of His Letters
“To write well about the elegant world you have to know it and experience it to the depths of your being… what matters is not whether you love it or hate it, but only to be quite clear about your position regarding it.”
- Ernest Hemingway : Writing, Knowledge, and the Danger of Ego
“All bad writers are in love with the epic.”
- David Foster Wallace: Writing, Death, and Redemption
“You don’t have to think very hard to realize that our dread of both relationships and loneliness … has to do with angst about death, the recognition that I’m going to die, and die very much alone, and the rest of the world is going to go merrily on without me.”
- Isabel Allende: Writing Brings Order to the Chaos of Life
“Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.”
- Stephen King: The Adverb Is Not Your Friend
“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.”
- Malcolm Cowley: The Four Stages of Writing
“The germ of a story is a new and simple element introduced into an existing situation or mood.”
- Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of Writing
“Work on one thing at a time until finished.”
- Advice on Writing: Collected Wisdom from Modernity’s Greatest Writers
“Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. This you cannot do without temperance.”
- Kurt Vonnegut: 8 Rules for a Great Story
“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”
- Susan Orlean on Writing
“You have to simply love writing, and you have to remind yourself often that you love it.”
- Zadie Smith: 10 Rules of Writing
“Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.”
- John Steinbeck: 6 Tips on Writing, and a Disclaimer
“Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish.”
- F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Secret of Great Writing (1938)
“Nothing any good isn’t hard.”
- E. B. White: Egoism and the Art of the Essay
“Only a person who is congenially self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays”
- E. B. White: Why Brevity Is Not the Gold Standard for Style
“Writing is not an exercise in excision, it’s a journey into sound.”
- Ray Bradbury: Creative Purpose in the Face of Rejection
“The blizzard doesn’t last forever; it just seems so.”
- Mary Karr: The Magnetism and Madness of the Written Word
“Be willing to be a child and be the Lilliputian in the world of Gulliver.”
- Kurt Vonnegut: How to Write With Style and the 8 Keys to the Power of the Written Word (1985)
“The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not.”
- Ann Patchett: What Now?
“Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected.”
- Mary Gordon: The Joy of Notebooks and Writing by Hand as a Creative Catalyst
“However thoroughly we lose ourselves in the vortex of our invention, we inhabit a corporeal world.”
- H. P. Lovecraft: Advice to Aspiring Writers (1920)
“A page of Addison or of Irving will teach more of style than a whole manual of rules, whilst a story of Poe’s will impress upon the mind a more vivid notion of powerful and correct description and narration than will ten dry chapters of a bulky textbook.”
- Henry Miller: Reflections on Writing
“Understanding is not a piercing of the mystery, but an acceptance of it, a living blissfully with it, in it, through and by it.”
- Margaret Atwood: 10 Rules of Writing
“Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.”
- David Foster Wallace: The Nature of the Fun and Why Writers Write
“Fiction becomes a weird way to countenance yourself and to tell the truth instead of being a way to escape yourself or present yourself in a way you figure you will be maximally likable.”
- Joy Williams: Why Writers Write
“A writer loves the dark, loves it, but is always fumbling around in the light.”
- Joan Didion: Ego, Grammar, and the Impetus to Write
“Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write.”
- David Ogilvy: 10 No-Bullshit Tips on Writing
“Never write more than two pages on any subject.”
- George Orwell: The Four Motives for Writing (1946)
“Sheer egoism… Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity.”
- Ezra Pound: A Few Don’ts for Those Beginning to Write Verse (1913)
“Consider the way of the scientists rather than the way of an advertising agent for a new soap.”
- Ray Bradbury: Storytelling and Human Nature (1963)
“Man has always been half-monster, half-dreamer.”
- Joseph Conrad: Writing and the Role of the Artist (1897)
“Art is long and life is short, and success is very far off.”
- Helen Dunmore: 9 Rules of Writing
“A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.”
- E. B. White: The Role and Responsibility of the Writer (1969)
“Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.”
- Jack Kerouac: 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Prose and Life
“No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge.”
- Raymond Chandler on Writing
“The test of a writer is whether you want to read him again years after he should by the rules be dated.”
- Walter Benjamin: The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses
“The more circumspectly you delay writing down an idea, the more maturely developed it will be on surrendering itself.”
- 28-Year-Old Susan Sontag on the Four People a Great Writer Must Be
“A great writer has all 4 — but you can still be a good writer with only 1 and 2.”
- 10 Tips on Writing from Joyce Carol Oates
“Don’t try to anticipate an ideal reader — or any reader. He/she might exist — but is reading someone else.”
- Neil Gaiman: 8 Rules of Writing
“Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.”
- Anaïs Nin: Why Emotional Excess is Essential to Writing and Creativity
“Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”
- Neil Gaiman’s Advice to Aspiring Writers
“You have to finish things — that’s what you learn from, you learn by finishing things.”
- Jorge Luis Borges on Writing: Wisdom from His Most Candid Interviews
“A writer’s work is the product of laziness.”
- Herbert Spencer: The Philosophy of Style, the Economy of Attention, and the Ideal Writer (1852)
“To have a specific style is to be poor in speech.”
- Charles Bukowski on Writing and His Insane Daily Routine
“Writing is like going to bed with a beautiful woman and afterwards she gets up, goes to her purse and gives me a handful of money.”
- Samuel Johnson on Writing and Creative Doggedness
“Composition is for the most part an effort of slow diligence and steady perseverance, to which the mind is dragged by necessity or resolution, and from which the attention is every moment starting to more delightful amusements.”
- Edgar Allan Poe: The Joy of Marginalia and What Handwriting Reveals about Character
“In the marginalia … we talk only to ourselves; we therefore talk freshly — boldly — originally — with abandonment — without conceit.”
- Kurt Vonnegut: The Writer’s Responsibility, the Limitations of the Brain, and Why the Universe Exists: A Rare 1974 WNYC Interview
“We have such a young culture that there is an opportunity to contribute wonderful new myths to it, which will be accepted.”
- Ernest Hemingway on Not Writing for Free and How to Run a First-Rate Publication
Find the best writers, pay them to write, and avoid typos at all costs.
- How to Be a Writer: Ernest Hemingway’s Advice to Aspiring Authors
“As a writer you should not judge. You should understand.”
- Eudora Welty: The Poetics of Place and Writing as an Explorer’s Map of the Unknown
“No art ever came out of not risking your neck.”
- Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize Interview: Writing, Women, and the Rewards of Storytelling
“I want my stories to move people … to feel some kind of reward from the writing.”
- Samuel Delany: Good Writing vs. Talented Writing
“Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.”
- William Faulkner: Writing, the Purpose of Art, Working in a Brothel, and the Meaning of Life
“The only environment the artist needs is whatever peace, whatever solitude, and whatever pleasure he can get at not too high a cost.”
- Anaïs Nin: Writing, the Future of the Novel, and How Keeping a Diary Enhances Creativity: Wisdom from a Rare 1947 Chapbook
“It is in the movements of emotional crisis that human beings reveal themselves most accurately.”
- John Updike: Writing and Death
“Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?”
- Charles Bukowski Debunks the “Tortured Genius” Myth of Creativity
“unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don’t do it.”
- Mary Gaitskill: Why Writers Write and The Six Motives of Creativity
The art of integrating the ego and the impulse for empathy in a dynamic call and response.
- Vladimir Nabokov: Writing, Reading, and the Three Qualities a Great Storyteller Must Have
“Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature.”
- Joan Didion: Telling Stories, the Economy of Words, Starting Out as a Writer, and Facing Rejection
“Short stories demand a certain awareness of one’s own intentions, a certain narrowing of the focus.”
- Herman Melville’s Daily Routine and Thoughts on the Writing Life
“A book in a man’s brain is better off than a book bound in calf — at any rate it is safer from criticism.”
- William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech: The Writer as a Booster of the Human Heart
“The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is … to help man endure by lifting his heart.”
- John Updike: Making Money, How to Have a Productive Daily Routine, and the Most Important Things for Aspiring Writers to Know
“In a country this large and a language even larger … there ought to be a living for somebody who cares and wants to entertain and instruct a reader.”
- Susan Sontag : Writing, Routines, Education, and Elitism in a 1992 Recording from the 92Y Archives
“To make your life being a writer, it’s an auto-slavery … you are both the slave and the task-master.”
- Chinua Achebe: The Meaning of Life and the Writer’s Responsibility in Society
The difference between blind optimism and the urge to improve the world’s imperfection.
- Leonard Cohen: Creativity, Hard Work, and Why You Should Never Quit Before You Know What It Is You’re Quitting
“The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.”
- Ray Bradbury: What Failure Really Means, Why We Hate Work, and the Importance of Love in Creative Endeavors
How working for the wrong motives poisons our creativity and warps our ideas of success and failure.
- Joyce Carol Oates: What Hemingway’s Early Stories Can Teach Us About Writing and the Defining Quality of Great Art
On the elusive gift of blending austerity of craft with elasticity of allure.
- Willa Cather: Writing Through Troubled Times
“The test of one’s decency is how much of a fight one can put up after one has stopped caring, and after one has found out that one can never please the people they wanted to please.”
- Anthony Trollope: Witty and Wise Advice on How to Be a Successful Writer
“My belief of book writing is much the same as my belief as to shoemaking. The man who will work the hardest at it, and will work with the most honest purpose, will work the best.”
- William Styron: Why Formal Education Is a Waste of Time for Writers
“For a person whose sole burning ambition is to write — like myself — college is useless beyond the Sophomore year.”
- Madeleine L’Engle: Creativity, Censorship, Writing, and the Duty of Children’s Books
“We find what we are looking for. If we are looking for life and love and openness and growth, we are likely to find them. If we are looking for witchcraft and evil, we’ll likely find them, and we may get taken over by them.”
- Saul Bellow: How Writers and Artists Save Us from the “Moronic Inferno” of Our Time
“The writer cannot make the seas of distraction stand still, but he [or she] can at times come between the madly distracted and the distractions.”
- Mary Oliver: The Mystery of the Human Psyche, the Secret of Great Poetry, and How Rhythm Makes Us Come Alive
“Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue. When it does, it grows sweeter.”
- Schopenhauer on Style
“Truth that is naked is the most beautiful, and the simpler its expression the deeper is the impression it makes.”
- Flannery O’Connor: Why the Grotesque Appeals to Us, Plus a Rare Recording of Her Reading
“There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored.”
- Annie Dillard: The Art of the Essay and Narrative Nonfiction vs. Poetry and Short Stories
“Writers serve as the memory of a people. They chew over our public past.”
- C.S. Lewis: The 3 Ways of Writing for Children and the Key to Authenticity in All Writing
“The only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author’s mind.”
- Nietzsche: 10 Rules for Writers
“Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.”
- William Faulkner: Writing, the Human Dilemma, and Why We Create
“It’s the most satisfying occupation man has discovered yet, because you never can quite do it as well as you want to, so there’s always something to wake up tomorrow morning to do.”
- David Foster Wallace: The Redemptive Power of Reading and the Future of Writing in the Age of Information
The fun of reading as “an exchange between consciousnesses, a way for human beings to talk to each other about stuff we can’t normally talk about.”
- Zadie Smith: The Psychology of the Two Types of Writers
“It’s a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives. I think sometimes that the best reason for writing novels is to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.”
- George Orwell: Writing, How to Counter the Mindless Momentum of Language, and the Four Questions a Great Writer Must Ask Herself
“By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself.”
- Italo Calvino: The Art of Quickness, Digression as a Hedge Against Death, and the Key to Great Writing
“Success consists in felicity of verbal expression, which every so often may result from a quick flash of inspiration but as a rule involves a patient search… for the sentence in which every word is unalterable.”
- Ursula K. Le Guin: Where Ideas Come From, the “Secret” of Great Writing, and the Trap of Marketing Your Work
“All makers must leave room for the acts of the spirit. But they have to work hard and carefully, and wait patiently, to deserve them.”
- Gabriel García Márquez on His Unlikely Beginnings as a Writer
“If you’re going to be a writer you have to be one of the great ones… After all, there are better ways to starve to death.”
- Roald Dahl: How Illness Emboldens Creativity: A Moving Letter to His Bedridden Mentor
“I doubt I would have written a line … unless some minor tragedy had sort of twisted my mind out of the normal rut.”
- Robert Frost: How to Read Intelligently and Write a Great Essay
“The sidelong glance is what you depend on.”
- Lewis Carroll: How to Work Through Difficulty and His Three Tips for Overcoming Creative Block
“When you have made a thorough and reasonably long effort, to understand a thing, and still feel puzzled by it, stop, you will only hurt yourself by going on.”
- Mark Strand: The Heartbeat of Creative Work and the Artist’s Task to Bear Witness to the Universe
“It’s such a lucky accident, having been born, that we’re almost obliged to pay attention.”
- John Steinbeck: The Diary as a Tool of Discipline, a Hedge Against Self-Doubt, and a Pacemaker for the Heartbeat of Creative Work
“Just set one day’s work in front of the last day’s work. That’s the way it comes out. And that’s the only way it does.”
- E.B. White: How to Write for Children and the Writer’s Responsibility to All Audiences
“Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.”
- Virginia Woolf: Writing and Self-Doubt
Consolation for those moments when you can’t tell whether you’re “the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.”
- Cheryl Strayed: Faith, Humility, and the Art of Motherfuckitude
“Writing is hard for every last one of us… Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”
- Ann Patchett: Writing and Why Self-Forgiveness Is the Most Important Ingredient of Great Art
“The ability to forgive oneself … is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life.”
- Umberto Eco’s Advice to Writers
“If we think that our reader is an idiot, we should not use rhetorical figures, but if we use them and feel the need to explain them, we are essentially calling the reader an idiot. In turn, he will…
- Grace Paley: The Value of Not Understanding Everything
“Luckily for art, life is difficult, hard to understand, useless, and mysterious.”
- Jane Kenyon: Some of the Wisest Words to Create and Live By
“Be a good steward of your gifts.”
- Joseph Conrad on Art and What Makes a Great Writer, in a Beautiful Tribute to Henry James
“All creative art is magic, is evocation of the unseen in forms persuasive, enlightening, familiar and surprising, for the edification of mankind.”
- How to Save Your Soul: Willa Cather on Productivity vs. Creativity, Selling Out, and the Life-Changing Advice That Made Her a Writer
“It’s so foolish to live (which is always trouble enough) and not to save your soul. It’s so foolish to lose your real pleasures for the supposed pleasures of the chase — or the stock exchange.”
- Hemingway’s Advice on Writing, Ambition, the Art of Revision, and His Reading List of Essential Books for Aspiring Writers
“In any art you’re allowed to steal anything if you can make it better.”
- James Baldwin’s Advice on Writing
“Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.”
- Alison Bechdel on Writing, Therapy, Self-Doubt, and How the Messiness of Life Feeds the Creative Conscience
“It’s by writing… by stepping back a bit from the real thing to look at it, that we are most present.”
- Elizabeth Alexander on Writing, the Ethic of Love, Language as a Vehicle for the Self, and the Inherent Poetry of Personhood
“You have to tell your own story simultaneously as you hear and respond to the stories of others.”
- Can Goodness Win? George Saunders on Writing, the Artist’s Task, and the Importance of Living with Opposing Truths
“See how long you can stay in that space, where both things are true… That’s a great place to try to be.”
Launching the new policy and guidelines, Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, announced, “These regulations will enable the safe, commercial usage of drones starting December 1, 2018. It is intended to enable visual line-of-sight, daytime-only operations to a maximum altitude of 400 feet.”
Emerge ITP was aimed at startups and promised to enable companies to list and showcase their performance to lenders and potential investors — with or without an initial public offer (IPO) — but it never really took off. At present, Emerge ITP is on life support, which is to say that it is barely functioning, with no listings taking place after 2016.
Pranav, who’s an engineer by profession, started venture capital firm 3one4 Capital in 2016 along with his younger brother Siddarth Pai. Inc42 caught up with Pranav Pai and Siddarth Pai to know more about investment thesis, minimum investment size etc in this week’s Moneyball.
In the 22nd episode of Inc42 Ask Me Anything (AMA), we hosted Vishal Gondal, the founder-CEO of GOQii, who spoke to us about gaming, fitness, how GOQii is gamifying fitness, and a lot more. Gondal said 99% people fail at their goals while using fitness and weight loss apps because they lack human motivation.
The founders realised that the diminutive digital solutions available in the market to tackle counterfeiting are economically not viable for most manufacturers. This is what gave birth to NeuroTags. Read more to know how they are taking the counterfeit burden off manufacturers.
“It is, in the deepest sense, a privilege as well as a duty to have the opportunity to speak out — to many thousands of people — on something so important.”
BY MARIA POPOVA
“Life and Reality are not things you can have for yourself unless you accord them to all others,” philosopher Alan Watts wrote in the 1950s as he contemplated the interconnected nature of the universe. What we may now see as an elemental truth of existence was then a notion both foreign and frightening to the Western mind. But it was a scientist, not a philosopher, who levered this monumental shift in consciousness: Rachel Carson (May 27, 1907–April 14, 1964), a Copernicus of biology who ejected the human animal from its hubristic place at the center of Earth’s ecological cosmos and recast it as one of myriad organisms, all worthy of wonder, all imbued with life and reality. Her lyrical writing rendered her not a mere translator of the natural world, but an alchemist transmuting the steel of science into the gold of wonder. The message of her iconic Silent Spring (public library) rippled across public policy and the population imagination — it led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, inspired generations of activists, and led Joni Mitchell to write a lyric as timeless as “I don’t care about spots on my apples / Leave me the birds and the bees / Please!”
A woman scientist without a Ph.D. or an academic affiliation became the most powerful voice of resistance against ruinous public policy mitigated by the self-interest of government and industry, against the hauteur and short-sightedness threatening to destroy this precious pale blue dot which we, along with countless other animals, call home.
Carson had grown up in a picturesque but impoverished village in Pennsylvania. It was there, amid a tumultuous family environment, that she fell in love with nature and grew particularly enchanted with birds. A voracious reader and gifted writer from a young age, she became a published author at the age of ten, when a story of hers appeared in a children’s literary magazine. She entered the Pennsylvania College for Women with the intention of becoming a writer, but a zestful zoology professor — herself a rare specimen as a female scientist in that era — rendered young Carson besotted with biology. A scholarship allowed her to pursue a Master’s degree in zoology and genetics at Johns Hopkins University, but when her already impecunious family fell on hard times during the Great Depression, she was forced to leave the university in search of a full-time paying job before completing her doctorate.
After working as a lab assistant for a while, she began writing for the Baltimore Sun and was eventually hired as a junior aquatic biologist for what would later become the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Her uncommon gift for writing was soon recognized and Carson was tasked with editing other scientists’ field reports, then promoted to editor in chief for the entire agency. Out of this necessity to reconcile science and writing was born her self-invention as a scientist who refused to give up on writing and a writer who refused to give up on science — the same refusal that marks today’s greatest poets of science.
In 1935, 28-year-old Carson was asked to write a brochure for the Fisheries Bureau. When she turned in something infinitely more poetic than her supervisor had envisioned, he asked her to rewrite the brochure but encouraged her to submit the piece as an essay for The Atlantic Monthly. She did. It was accepted and published as “Undersea” in 1937– a first of its kind, immensely lyrical journey into the science of the ocean floor inviting an understanding of Earth from a nonhuman perspective. Readers and publishers were instantly smitten. Carson, by then the sole provider for her mother and her two orphaned nieces after her older sister’s death, expanded her Atlantic article into her first book, Under the Sea-Wind — the culmination of a decade of her oceanographic research, which rendered her an overnight literary success.
Against towering cultural odds, these books about the sea established her — once a destitute girl from landlocked Pennsylvania — as the most celebrated science writer of her time.
But the more Carson studied and wrote about nature, the more cautious she became of humanity’s rampant quest to dominate it. Witnessing the devastation of the atomic bomb awakened her to the unintended consequences of science unmoored from morality, of a hysterical enthusiasm for technology that deafened humanity to the inner voice of ethics. In her 1952 acceptance speech for the John Burroughs Medal, she concretized her credo:
It seems reasonable to believe — and I do believe — that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race. Wonder and humility are wholesome emotions, and they do not exist side by side with a lust for destruction.
One of the consequences of wartime science and technology was the widespread use of DDT, initially intended for protecting soldiers from malaria-bearing mosquitoes. After the end of the war, the toxic chemical was lauded as a miracle substance. People were sprayed down with DDT to ward off disease and airplanes doused agricultural plots in order to decimate pest and maximize crop yield. It was neither uncommon nor disquieting to see a class of schoolchildren eating their lunch while an airplane aiming at a nearby field sprinkled them with DDT. A sort of blind faith enveloped the use of these pesticides, with an indifferent government and an incurious public raising no questions about their unintended consequences.
In January of 1958, Carson received a letter from an old writer friend named Olga Owens Huckins, alerting her that the aerial spraying of DDT had devastated a local wildlife sanctuary. Huckins described the ghastly deaths of birds, claws clutched to their breasts and bills agape in agony. This local tragedy was the final straw in Carson’s decade-long collection of what she called her “poison-spray material” — a dossier of evidence for the harmful, often deadly effects of toxic chemicals on wildlife and human life. That May, she signed a contract with Houghton Mifflin for what would become Silent Spring in 1962 — the firestarter of a book that ignited the conservation movement and awakened the modern environmental consciousness.
But the book also spurred violent pushback from those most culpable in the destruction of nature — a heedless government that had turned a willfully blind eye to its regulatory responsibilities and an avaricious agricultural and chemical industry determined to maximize profits at all costs. Those inconvenienced by the truths Carson exposed immediately attacked her for her indictment against elected officials’ and corporations’ deliberate deafness to fact. They used every means at their disposal — a propaganda campaign designed to discredit her, litigious bullying of her publisher, and the most frequent accusation of all: that of being a woman. Former Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson, who would later become Prophet of the Mormon Church, asked: “Why a spinster with no children was so concerned about genetics?” He didn’t hesitate to offer his own theory: because she was a Communist. (The lazy hand-grenade of “spinster” was often hurled at Carson in an attempt to erode her credibility, as if there were any correlation between a scientist’s home life and her expertise — never mind that, as it happened, Carson did have one of the most richly rewarding relationships a human being could hope for, albeit not the kind that conformed to the era’s narrow accepted modalities.)
Carson withstood the criticism with composure and confidence, shielded by the integrity of her facts. But another battle raged invisible to the public eye — she was dying.
She had been diagnosed with cancer in 1960, which had metastasized due to her doctor’s negligence. In 1963, when Silent Spring stirred President Kennedy’s attention and he summoned a Congressional hearing to investigate and regulate the use of pesticides, Carson didn’t hesitate to testify even as her body was giving out from the debilitating pain of the disease and the wearying radiation treatments. With her testimony as a pillar, JFK and his Science Advisory Committee invalidated her critics’ arguments, heeded Carson’s cautionary call to reason, and created the first federal policies designed to protect the planet.
Carson endured the attacks — those of her cancer and those of her critics — with unwavering heroism. She saw the former with a biologist’s calm acceptance of the cycle of life and had anticipated the latter all along. She was a spirited idealist, but she wasn’t a naïve one — from the outset, she was acutely aware that her book was a clarion call for nothing less than a revolution and that it was her moral duty to be the revolutionary she felt called to be. Just a month after signing the book contract, she articulates this awareness in a letter found in Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952–1964 (public library) — the record of her beautiful and unclassifiable relationship with her dearest friend and beloved.
Carson writes to Freeman:
I know you dread the unpleasantness that will inevitably be associated with [the book’s] publication. That I can understand, darling. But it is something I have taken into account; it will not surprise me! You do know, I think, how deeply I believe in the importance of what I am doing. Knowing what I do, there would be no future peace for me if I kept silent… It is, in the deepest sense, a privilege as well as a duty to have the opportunity to speak out — to many thousands of people — on something so important.
In that sense, the eventual title of Silent Spring was a dual commentary on how human hubris is robbing Earth of its symphonic aliveness and on the moral inadmissibility of remaining silent about the destructive forces driving this loss. Carson upheld that sense of duty while confronting her own creaturely finitude as she underwent rounds of grueling cancer treatment. In a letter to Freeman from the autumn of 1959, she reports:
Mostly, I feel fairly good but I do realize that after several days of concentrated work on the book I’m suddenly no good at all for several more. Some people assume only physical work is tiring — I guess because they use their minds little! Friday night … my exhaustion invaded every cell of my body, I think, and really kept me from sleeping well all night.
And yet mind rose over matter as Carson mobilized every neuron to keep up with her creative vitality. In another letter from the same month, she writes to Freeman about her “happiness in the progress of The Book”:
The other day someone asked Leonard Bernstein about his inexhaustible energy and he said “I have no more energy than anyone who loves what he is doing.” Well, I’m afraid mine has to be recharged at times, but anyway I do seem just now to be riding the crest of a wave of enthusiasm and creativity, and although I’m going to bed late and often rising in very dim light to get in an hour of thinking and organizing before my household stirs, my weariness seems easily banished.
Stirring her household was Roger — the nine-year-old orphan son of Carson’s niece, whom she had adopted and was single-parenting, doing all the necessary cooking, cleaning, and housework while writing Silent Spring and undergoing endless medical treatments. All of this she did with unwavering devotion to the writing and the larger sense of moral obligation that animated her. In early March of 1961, in the midst of another incapacitating radiation round, she writes to Freeman:
About the book, I sometimes have a feeling (maybe 100% wishful thinking) that perhaps this long period away from active work will give me the perspective that was so hard to attain, the ability to see the woods in the midst of the confusing multitude of trees.
With an eye to Albert Schweitzer’s famous 1954 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, which appeared under the title “The Problem of Peace” and made the unnerving assertion that “we should all of us realize that we are guilty of inhumanity” in reflecting on the circumstances that led to the two world wars, she adds:
Sometimes … I want [the book] to be a much shortened and simplified statement, doing for this subject (if this isn’t too presumptuous a comparison) what Schweitzer did in his Nobel Prize address for the allied subject of radiation.
In June of that year, Carson shares with Freeman a possible opening sentence, which didn’t end up being the final one but which nonetheless synthesizes the essence of her groundbreaking book:
This is a book about man’s war against nature, and because man is part of nature it is also inevitably a book about man’s war against himself.
At that point, Carson was considering The War Against Nature and At War with Nature as possible titles, but settled on Silent Spring in September — a title inspired by Keats, Carson’s favorite poet: “The sedge is withered from the lake, / And no birds sing.”
Four months later, in January of 1962, she reports to Freeman the completion of her Herculean feat:
I achieved the goal of sending the 15 chapters to Marie [Rodell, Carson’s literary agent] — like reaching the last station before the summit of Everest.
Rodell had sent a copy of the manuscript to longtime New Yorkereditor William Shawn, who gave Carson the greatest and most gratifying surprise of her life. Struggling to override her typical self-effacing humility, she relays the episode to Freeman:
Last night about 9 o’clock the phone rang and a mild voice said, “This is William Shawn.” If I talk to you tonight you will know what he said and I’m sure you can understand what it meant to me. Shamelessly, I’ll repeat some of his words — “a brilliant achievement” — “you have made it literature” “full of beauty and loveliness and depth of feeling.” … I suddenly feel full of what Lois once called “a happy turbulence.”
In an exquisite letter to Freeman penned later that day — a letter that is itself a literary masterpiece — Carson echoes Zadie Smith’s assertion that the best reason for writing books is “to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.” She writes:
After Roger was asleep I took Jeffie [Carson’s cat] into the study and played the Beethoven violin concerto — one of my favorites, you know. And suddenly the tensions of four years were broken and I got down and put my arms around Jeffie and let the tears come. With his little warm, rough tongue he told me that he understood. I think I let you see last summer what my deeper feelings are about this when I said I could never again listen happily to a thrush song if I had not done all I could. And last night the thoughts of all the birds and other creatures and the loveliness that is in nature came to me with such a surge of deep happiness, that now I had done what I could — I had been able to complete it — now it had its own life!
Silent Spring was published on September 27, 1962 and adrenalized a new public awareness of the fragile interconnectedness of this living world. Several months later, CBS host Eric Sevareid captured its impact most succinctly in lauding Carson as “a voice of warning and a fire under the government.” In the book, she struck a mighty match:
When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence … it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth.
How tragic to observe that in the half-century since, our so-called leaders have devolved from half-truths to “alternative facts” — that is, to whole untruths that fail the ultimate criterion for truth: a correspondence with reality.
Carson, who was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, never lived to see the sea change of policy and public awareness that her book precipitated. Today, as a new crop of political and corporate interests threatens her hard-won legacy of environmental consciousness, I think of that piercing Adrienne Rich line channeling the great 16th-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, another scientist who fundamentally revolutionized our understanding of the universe and our place in it: “Let me not seem to have lived in vain.”
Let’s not let Rachel Carson seem to have lived in vain.
Fluid reflections on keeping a solid center.
BY MARIA POPOVA
I remember my first awareness of mortality as a child in Bulgaria. I was nine and my father was relaying an anecdote from his youth. I asked him when it had taken place. With unconcerned casualness, he replied: “About a decade ago.” I was astonished that people could segment their lives into blocks this big — my own life hadn’t yet lasted a decade. In realizing that “a decade ago” I hadn’t existed — the self I now so vividly experienced daily was then a nonentity — I also realized that in several more of those ten-year blocks, my dad, and eventually I, will cease to exist.
After one such time-block, I left Bulgaria for America, lured by the liberal arts education promise of being taught how to live. As the reality fell short of that promise, I began keeping my own record of what I was reading and learning outside the classroom in mapping this academically unaddressed terra incognita of being.
All the while, I was working numerous jobs to pay my way through school. What I was learning at night and on weekends, at the library and on the internet — from Plato to pop art — felt too uncontainably interesting to keep to myself, so I decided to begin sharing these private adventures with my colleagues at one of my jobs. On October 23, 2006, Brain Pickings was born as a plain-text email to seven friends. Halfway through my senior year of college, juggling my various jobs and academic course load, I took a night class to learn coding and turned the short weekly email into a sparse website, which I updated manually every Friday, then, eventually, every weekday.
The site grew as I grew — an unfolding record of my intellectual, creative, and spiritual development. At the time, I had no idea that this small labor of love and learning would animate me with a sense of purpose and become both my life and my living, nor that its seven original readers would swell into several million. I had no idea that this eccentric personal record, which I began keeping in the city where Benjamin Franklin founded the first subscription library in America, would one day be included in the Library of Congress archive of “materials of historical importance.”
And now, somehow, a decade has elapsed.
Because I believe that our becoming, like the synthesis of meaning itself, is an ongoing and dynamic process, I’ve been reluctant to stultify it and flatten its ongoing expansiveness in static opinions and fixed personal tenets of living. But I do find myself continually discovering, then returning to, certain core values. While they may be refined and enriched in the act of living, their elemental substance remains a center of gravity for what I experience as myself.
I first set down some of these core beliefs, written largely as notes to myself that may or may not be useful to others, when Brain Pickings turned seven (which kindred spirits later adapted into a beautiful poster inspired by the aesthetic of vintage children’s books and a cinematic short film). I expanded upon them to mark year nine. Today, as I round the first decade of Brain Pickings, I feel half-compelled, half-obliged to add a tenth learning, a sort of crowning credo drawn from a constellation of life-earned beliefs I distilled in a commencement address I delivered in the spring of 2016.
Here are all ten, in the order that they were written.
From year seven:
- Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.
- Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone. As Paul Graham observed, “prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.” Those extrinsic motivators are fine and can feel life-affirming in the moment, but they ultimately don’t make it thrilling to get up in the morning and gratifying to go to sleep at night — and, in fact, they can often distract and detract from the things that do offer those deeper rewards.
- Be generous. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.
- Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken.
Most important, sleep. Besides being the greatest creative aphrodisiac, sleep also affects our every waking moment, dictates our social rhythm, and even mediates our negative moods. Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?
- When people tell you who they are, Maya Angeloufamously advised, believe them. Just as important, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.
- Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living — for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
- “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.”This is borrowed from the wise and wonderful Debbie Millman, for it’s hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that — a myth — as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.
From year nine:
- Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit — it’s a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.
- Don’t be afraid to be an idealist. There is much to be said for our responsibility as creators and consumers of that constant dynamic interaction we call culture — which side of the fault line between catering and creating are we to stand on? The commercial enterprise is conditioning us to believe that the road to success is paved with catering to existing demands — give the people cat GIFs, the narrative goes, because cat GIFs are what the people want. But E.B. White, one of our last great idealists, was eternally right when he asserted half a century ago that the role of the writer is “to lift people up, not lower them down” — a role each of us is called to with increasing urgency, whatever cog we may be in the machinery of society. Supply creates its own demand. Only by consistently supplying it can we hope to increase the demand for the substantive over the superficial — in our individual lives and in the collective dream called culture.
And as I round the decade:
- Don’t just resist cynicism — fight it actively.Fight it in yourself, for this ungainly beast lays dormant in each of us, and counter it in those you love and engage with, by modeling its opposite. Cynicism often masquerades as nobler faculties and dispositions, but is categorically inferior. Unlike that great Rilkean life-expanding doubt, it is a contracting force. Unlike critical thinking, that pillar of reason and necessary counterpart to hope, it is inherently uncreative, unconstructive, and spiritually corrosive. Life, like the universe itself, tolerates no stasis — in the absence of growth, decay usurps the order. Like all forms of destruction, cynicism is infinitely easier and lazier than construction. There is nothing more difficult yet more gratifying in our society than living with sincerity and acting from a place of largehearted, constructive, rational faith in the human spirit, continually bending toward growth and betterment. This remains the most potent antidote to cynicism. Today, especially, it is an act of courage and resistance.
Since such a time machine of reflection would get nowhere without the substance that fueled it, here are ten of the things I most loved reading and writing about in this first decade of Brain Pickings:
Morning Briefing (9 Min Reading Time)
Top news & stories of the startup ecosystem from India & around the world
Bengaluru-based online classifieds and services portal Quikr India Pvt Ltd is reportedly in talks to raise between $100 Mn and $150 Mn by keeping its record valuation of $1 Bn. If the company successfully manages to raise funds sustaining its $1Bn valuation, it would mark a turning point for the company.
Indian government-owned statutory body Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has reduced the scope of regulation for the proposed framework for the over-the-top applications (OTT) like WhatsApp, Skype, Netflix, Hotstar among others.
The first meeting of the recently formed ecommerce panel of secretaries was held on Thursday (September 14), during which issues related to the definition of ecommerce and grievances related to the industry were discussed. This committee is different from the inter-ministerial task force that is working on the draft ecommerce policy.
Amid rising data theft, breaches, and leaks in India, the Supreme Court had directed the Indian government to formulate a Data Protection Bill to ensure and strengthen people’s rights over personal data and the right to privacy. Accordingly, the Justice Sri Bn Krishna Committee was formed in July 2017 to deliberate on a data protection framework for the country.
SP-TBI is an initiative of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Sardar Patel Institute of Technology and is affiliated with the Department of Science and Technology of the Indian government, which formally recognised it in 2015. With its core focus on enabling technology-based startups, the affiliation gives SP-TBI a definitive edge.
Inside Planet Labs’ New Satellite Manufacturing Site (TechCrunch)
Satellite imaging and analytics company Planet is taking the wraps off its new manufacturing space in San Francisco. Founded by ex-NASA employees, Planet is leveraging some of the $183 million in funding it’s amassed to expand.
Google is reportedly building a prototype system that would tie Chinese users’ Google searches to their personal phone numbers, as part of a new search service that would comply with the Chinese government’s censorship requirements.
For those not in the know, a DApp is a decentralized application built on a blockchain like Ethereum or EOS. You may be familiar with legitimate DApps such as Augur or CryptoKitties, but this is not a story about what honest programmers can create using the power of the blockchain.Start
There is more to luminescence than fireflies and glow-in-the-dark toys. Fluorescence, which is mostly absorbed light being released, is responsible for some of the most awe-inspiring natural spectacles and scientific discoveries.
In recent years, glowing has shown up in strange places, in unexpected species, and in surprising ways that are invisible to the human eye. Even more intriguing, fluorescence is woven into several unsolved mysteries, can be seen from space, and might even be deadly to humans.
Listverse – Daily Highlights
Sponsored by Connatix
It may be hard to believe that glowing mushrooms exist, but fluorescent fungi pop up all over Brazil and Vietnam. For years, the secret behind their glow could not be explained.
To get to the bottom of this mystery, scientists collected a few in 2015. In the laboratory, the compound responsible for the bioluminescence was isolated. Called oxyluciferin, the chemical also exists in fireflies and glowing sea creatures.
For the mushrooms, the glowing compound is used to attract insects. Once the bugs land, they pick up spores and scatter them elsewhere. This helps the mushrooms to spread.
Another question involved how the fungi produced luciferins. A closer look revealed that the mushrooms manufactured their own special luciferin and paired it with oxygen and an enzyme which resulted in fluorescent colors.
The nature of the enzyme suggested that it could interact with other kinds of luciferins and trigger more shades that glow. This suggests that there is still a lot more to learn about these surreal-looking mushrooms.
9Hazards Of Blue Light
During the day, blue light emanating from electronics and energy-saving bulbs appears to have few drawbacks. On the other hand, researchers have discovered a frightening link between blue glow at night and deteriorating human health.
Some of its daytime perks include more energy and alertness. When people relax with electronic devices in the evening, blue light radiates from screens and stimulates the brain. This disrupts proper sleep.
It may sound like nothing. But studies have shown that people can become prediabetic when the sleep rhythm shifts. Links have also been made to obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
To be fair, scientists do not have solid proof that blue light directly causes these conditions. But it does lower melatonin levels. The lack of this hormone, which regulates the sleep cycle called the circadian rhythm, may be the link associating blue light with cancer, although the research is at an early stage.
If it can be proven that blue wavelengths are deadly to humans, one environmental success needs to be overhauled. Fluorescent light bulbs and LED lights may be more energy efficient, but they produce more blue light than any other.
8First Fluorescent Frogs
In 2017, Argentinian researchers took a plain-looking frog home. The polka-dot tree frog is mostly green with red spots and, thus far, nothing to take the champagne out of the fridge for. Things changed when the amphibian was being prepared for tests, some of which called for its tissues to be studied under UV light.
To everybody’s surprise, the instant that UV shined on the creature, the whole frog lit up. The blue-green fluorescence not only makes it the first glowing frog but also the first fluorescent amphibian in the world.
This is quite an achievement because any glowing in land animals is incredibly rare. The frog’s radiance comes from compounds named hyloins. The benefits that hyloins offer this species are hazy, but they could have something to do with polka-dot frogs needing to see each other at night. The blue-green glow is visible to the frogs and also makes them brighter during twilight and the full Moon.
Sometimes, strange plants cause coastlines to light up with eerie streaks of light during the night. Most recently, in 2018, ghostly blue lines appeared in a spectacular display off Southern California when miles of coastline lit up.
The algae responsible are called dinoflagellates, and they are plants capable of swimming. During the day, their dense numbers cloud the water red. Such an unusual bloom in their population is popularly known as a “red tide.”
In the past, some red tides attracted the wrong kind of attention because they can make seafood toxic for human consumption. However, at night, dinoflagellates cause an otherworldly beauty that now brings tourists to the beach at night.
At the chemical level, each plant has a protein and an enzyme. Any disturbance, like a wave or passing creature, mixes the two and causes the algae to become bioluminescent.
This reaction is not entirely understood, but it is likely a defensive measure. It could exist to flash zooplankton, the dinoflagellates’ main predator, into submission or glow to attract fish that prey on the plankton.
6Flowers Have Blue Halos
Flower genes struggle to make petals that are blue, which is exactly the color that flowering plants want more than anything. The reason? Bees are attracted to blue, and flowers need the buzzing insects to complete their fertilization cycle.
In 2017, scientists discovered how plants engineered a novel way to lure bees. Those that could not produce blue flowers evolved petals with nanostructures capable of glowing blue in sunlight.
These halos are like neon signs to bees. The tiny reflective scales turned out to be a widespread tactic and were found in all major groups of flowering species that depend on insect pollination, including some trees.
Although the general hue was blue, some plants also produced an ultraviolet scattering effect. It enhances bees’ ability to locate blue. The halos turned out to be a stronger attraction than the real thing. During trials, bumblebees ignored the actual colors of flowers and went straight for those with a blue fluorescence.
5Glowing Coral Solved
Researchers figured out a long time ago why shallow-water corals glow. Their green light acts like a sunscreen against solar radiation. But scientists could not understand why sun-sheltered corals from the deep sea also emit fluorescent light.
In 2017, the answer dawned. Deep corals don’t glow to avoid light but to get more. At such depths, life-giving light is not abundant. To survive, the corals must absorb as much as possible. However, the blue light at the bottom of the sea is not sufficient to give corals the energy they need.
Impressively, the corals use red fluorescence to blend the blue into orange-red light. The latter allows better food production through photosynthesis.
This discovery may be exciting for scientists but not for environmentalists. Global warming causes mass bleaching of shallow corals, and a major hope was that some species might migrate to deeper waters. As shallow corals glow green, they may not adapt to deeper waters where survival requires a red fluorescence.
4When Seabirds Shimmer
In 2018, biologists had a dead Atlantic puffin on their hands. As an afterthought, they decided to view it under UV light. The idea was to test for any glow because crested auklets, a species related to puffins, have fluorescent beaks.
Under normal light, puffins’ beaks are very recognizable. They are decorated with colors likely meant to woo the opposite gender. Even though puffins have a glowing cousin, it was still unexpected when the cere and the lamella, two ridges on the dead specimen’s beak, fluoresced under the UV lamp.
Scientists are not sure why puffins light up, but it might have something to do with their ability to see the UV spectrum. Even during the daytime, puffins notice each other’s glowing ridges. More mysteries include what it looks like to them and how they are capable of fluorescence in the first place.
As only one dead bird was tested, scientists still need to rule out the possibility that the glow was somehow caused by decomposition.
3Mitochondria’s Strange Heat
In recent years, scientists have created temperature-sensitive dyes called “fluorescent thermometers.” These dyes cling to specific targets inside cells, which made them perfect for an experiment designed to determine the heat of mitochondria. These tiny structures inside cells convert oxygen and nutrients into energy. This process also generates heat.
In 2017, scientists used a yellow fluorescent dye that dims when heat intensifies. Once injected into cells, it can help to calculate temperature. Previously, it was assumed that mitochondria operated at normal body temperature, which averages 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 °F). The tests showed that mitochondria operate at a scorching 50 degrees Celsius (122 °F).
If a person ever developed this kind of full-body temperature, it would be a life-threatening fever. Thankfully, the record for the hottest body temperature does not come close to the mitochondria’s fire. If this strange heat can be better understood, a lot of old notions about cell function—especially those related to temperature—could fall away.
2Photosynthesis From Space
In 2017, Australian researchers and NASA developed a novel way to monitor climate change. They took breathtaking images from space showing plant fluorescence. The new technique could detect solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence, which is produced during photosynthesis in leaves.
To make sugars from photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide. Understanding this cycle on a global scale is crucial for staying on top of the planet’s climate and carbon cycle dynamics.
To start testing the idea, researchers used satellite monitoring to snap pictures of glowing chlorophyll. The levels were measured and compared for accuracy against ground observations about photosynthesis. The results showed that the space snaps delivered accurate information across different vegetation, regions, and time.
The innovative technology is not just about following new plant growth and climate change. The fluorescent photos may also help us to better understand Earth’s ecosystem and carbon flows as well as land management and biodiversity conservation.
1First Photo Of A Memory
During recent investigations into how memories are made, researchers chose to poke around the brain cells of a slug. The neurons of the ocean-crawling Aplysia californica make a good match for those of humans.
For a long time, neuroscientists suspected that proteins form at brain synapses when long-term memories are created. Until the sea slug offered its brain, this theory was never proven.
During the recent experiment, scientists first gave the cells the feel-good hormone serotonin which aids in memory formation. Then, a fluorescent protein was used, originally green but able to turn red under UV light.
The test was as simple as it was successful. Under ultraviolet light, researchers watched proteins turn red and marked their positions. The neurons were then encouraged to form memories. Incredibly, while that happened, new green proteins grew between the brain cells. This allowed the first image to be taken of a memory being formed.
Besides proving the theory, it showed that short-term memories did not form new proteins. The exact role that the protein’s presence (or lack thereof) plays in the difference between short-term and long-term memories remains a mystery.
Since the dawn of time, a problem has haunted a section of mankind. They just can’t stop their hair from falling out. With the hair loss industry estimated to be worth almost $3 billion, it is little wonder that many people have invented weird and wonderful treatments for this perpetual problem.
From the ancient Egyptians to modern man, many have tried and failed to stem the ravages of time and keep the hair on their heads. Maybe these bizarre cures didn’t work, but you have to admit they were creative.
Man’s seemingly futile quest to retain a full head of hair isn’t a new phenomenon. Recorded evidence of baldness treatments extends all the way back to ancient Egypt. For Egyptians, appearance indicated a person’s status, role in society, or level of political influence. It’s no wonder that men who lost their hair would try anything to get it back.
The Edwin Smith Papyrus, the oldest-known surgical treatise on trauma, contains an ancient hair loss remedy. The papyrus recommends treating baldness by applying a balm consisting of the mixed fats of lion, hippo, crocodile, cat, serpent, and ibex. Although this may sound completely unpalatable to people today, it illustrates clearly how much Egyptians valued their hair.
Balding men in 1930s America needed to look no further then the Crosley Corporation’s Xervac. Inventor Dr. Andre Cueto had spent several years researching the problem of baldness and came to the conclusion that hair fell out due to a reduction in blood flow to the scalp.
A user of the Xervac device would place a bicycle-style helmet on his head. This was attached by a hose to a large device on the floor. The Xervac then alternated cycles of suction and pressure to increase blood flow to the scalp. Supposedly, this process would lead to the growth of new hair.
As this device is no longer in use, we can conclude that it must have been just a load of hot air!
Hippocrates is often considered to be the father of modern medicine. His name is associated with the Hippocratic Oath, which urges physicians to “do no harm.” While his legacy lives on, his cure for baldness does not.
Plagued by baldness himself, Hippocrates recommended a treatment consisting of pigeon droppings, opium, beetroot, horseradish, and spices to cure hair loss. Although this had to smell funky, it would have done little to help the “follicly challenged” patients under his care.
Hippocrates is still remembered in the pursuit of a full head of hair. In a man with male pattern baldness, the rim of permanent hair around the back and sides of the head, which is used for hair transplants, is known as the “Hippocratic wreath.”
7A Laurel Wreath
One of the most influential figures in world history, Julius Caesar (whose name ironically translates as “abundant hair”) was embarrassed by his baldness. Roman biographer Suetonius reported that Caesar’s baldness was “a disfigurement which troubled him greatly since he found that it was often the subject of the gibes of his detractors.”
A hairless head was regarded as ugly in Roman times. The poet Ovid wrote: “Ugly are hornless bulls, a field without grass is an eyesore, so is a tree without leaves, so is a head without hair.”
Caesar’s lover, Cleopatra, devised a remedy of ground mice and horse teeth. When that failed to work, Caesar began wearing a laurel wreath to hide his baldness. The wreath had been awarded to him for his many battlefield victories. Caesar’s technique was used in later years by great performer Elton John, who used elaborate and unusual hats to cover his baldness onstage.
This cure is a load of BS—bull semen, that is.
Used in salons across the US and UK, bull semen is touted as a potential treatment for hair loss. According to this theory, bull semen is incredibly rich in protein (yuck) which will help to feed and stimulate hair growth. We can only speculate as to who first tried this or why, but it’s probably best to “moove” on to the next cure before we throw up!
The Thermocap, another wacky invention to help balding men, was marketed by New York’s Allied Merke Institute in the 1920s. Based on a series of experiments by French scientists, the institute claimed that hair follicles did not die but instead lay dormant, waiting to be restimulated.
In yoga, the headstand is known as the king of all poses due to the wide number of benefits. One is the supposed prevention of hair loss. The theory behind this is similar to that of the Xervac. By inverting the body, yogis believe that there will be an increase in blood flow to the scalp, which prevents hair loss.
For those unable (or unwilling) to do a headstand, many companies now offer inversion tables. These devices allow you to suspend yourself upside down for extended periods of time. If your world has been turned upside down by baldness, this might be the cure to make things right.
Although it’s too eye-watering for most, this remedy does at least have a toehold in scientific fact. In a 2003 paper published in the Korean Journal of Dermatology, scientists describe how capsaicin (the active ingredient in chili peppers) helped to regrow hair at a faster rate on mice.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that this works on humans.If you are tempted to give it a go, please be careful that the hot sauce doesn’t get in your eyes!
In traditional Indian medicine, cow urine is still used today to treat a wide range of conditions.
Known as gomutra, cow urine is purported to be effective in the treatment of hair loss. For maximum effect, the urine should be from a virgin cow and is supposed to be collected and drunk before sunrise. (Other doctors recommend against drinking urine as it can cause illness, rash, or both in humans.)
Don’t have access to a nearby cow? Fear not. In 2009, an Indian company released a soft drink containing 5 percent cow urine.
Unwilling to test this idea himself, Hippocrates stuck to pigeon droppings. However, a 1960 paper backed up Hippocrates’s theory when it found no development of male pattern baldness in people who had undergone castration. A hair “cut” too far, some might think!
After bringing its worldwide Prime Day sale to India, ecommerce giant Amazon now plans to add benefits to its Prime subscription services which will benefit its offline expansion and encourage frequent use of the programme in the country.
The Telangana government has raised concerns that the implementation of certain clauses, especially the one on data localisation, will isolate Indian startups and hurt investments in the state and the country. Telangana has attracted investments worth $11.5 Bn and is currently the country’s second highest contributor to IT exports.
Payback, a Gurugram-based multi-brand loyalty management company for retail enterprises, is planning to expand its reach to neighbourhood kirana stores with point of sale (PoS) terminals. The company is looking to join hands with local PoS solution providers.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is seeking to rework a proposal prepared by the department of heavy industry on an incentive fund of $759 Mn (INR 5,500 Cr) for EVs as it also wants to use the fund to encourage local manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries. Here’s a curated rundown of other important and related developments in the India and global EV Ecosystem this week.
Mumbai-based fintech startup Upwards Fintech has raised $5 Mn in a Series A round of funding led by Chinese venture fund Shunwei Capital. The round also witnessed participation from the startup’s existing seed investors, including Mumbai-based India Quotient and Mayfield.
Coworking spaces are being availed of not only by startups but also by professional freelancers, emerging businesses, and large corporates. But are coworking spaces startups themselves in a position to survive for long? This is what we have attempted to analyse in Inc42’s ongoing What The Financials [WTF] series.
Being an innovative e-governance project developed by the Rajasthan government’s Department of Information Technology and Communication (DoIT&C), Rajasthan Sampark now aims to empower the residents of the state by providing transparent and accountable means of grievance redressal.
“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.”
BY MARIA POPOVA
“No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life,”wrote the thirty-year-old Nietzsche. “The true and durable path into and through experience,” Nobel-winning poet Seamus Heaney counseled the young more than a century later in his magnificent commencement address, “involves being true … to your own solitude, true to your own secret knowledge.”
Every generation believes that it must battle unprecedented pressures of conformity; that it must fight harder than any previous generation to protect that secret knowledge from which our integrity of selfhood springs. Some of this belief stems from the habitual conceit of a culture blinded by its own presentism bias, ignorant of the past’s contextual analogues. But much of it in the century and a half since Nietzsche, and especially in the years since Heaney, is an accurate reflection of the conditions we have created and continually reinforce in our present informational ecosystem — a Pavlovian system of constant feedback, in which the easiest and commonest opinions are most readily rewarded, and dissenting voices are most readily punished by the unthinking mob.
Few people in the two centuries since Emerson issued his exhortation to “trust thyself” have countered this culturally condoned blunting of individuality more courageously and consistently than E.E. Cummings (October 14, 1894–September 3, 1962) — an artist who never cowered from being his unconventional self because, in the words of his most incisive and competent biographer, he “despised fear, and his life was lived in defiance of all who ruled by it.”
A fortnight after the poet’s fifty-ninth birthday, a small Michigan newspaper published a short, enormous piece by Cummings under the title “A Poet’s Advice to Students,” radiating expansive wisdom on art, life, and the courage of being yourself. It went on to inspire Buckminster Fuller and was later included in E.E. Cummings: A Miscellany Revised (public library) — that wonderful out-of-print collection which the poet himself described as “a cluster of epigrams, forty-nine essays on various subjects, a poem dispraising dogmata, and several selections from unfinished plays,” and which gave us Cummings on what it really means to be an artist.
Addressing those who aspire to be poets — no doubt in that broadest Baldwinian sense of wakeful artists in any medium and courageous seers of human truth — Cummings echoes the poet Laura Riding’s exquisite letters to an eight-year-old girl about being oneself and writes:
A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words.
This may sound easy. It isn’t.
A lot of people think or believe or know they feel — but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling — not knowing or believing or thinking.
Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.
To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
Cummings should know — just four years earlier, he had fought that hardest battle himself: When he was awarded the prestigious Academy of American Poets annual fellowship — the MacArthur of poetry — Cummings had to withstand harsh criticism from traditionalists who besieged him with hate for the bravery of breaking with tradition and being nobody-but-himself in his art. With an eye to that unassailable creative integrity buoyed by relentless work ethic, he adds:
As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a poet can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time — and whenever we do it, we’re not poets.
If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve written one line of one poem, you’ll be very lucky indeed.
And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world — unless you’re not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.
Does that sound dismal? It isn’t.
It’s the most wonderful life on earth.
Or so I feel.
Complement the thoroughly invigorating E.E. Cummings: A Miscellany Revised with a lovely illustrated celebration of Cummings’s creative bravery, then revisit Pulitzer-winning poet Robert Penn Warren on what it really means to find yourself and Janis Joplin on the courage of being what you find.
Some photos and videos are uploaded to the Internet and explode seemingly overnight. Feverish sharing transforms these bits of media into global sensations and starts new trends. Many feel encouraged to join in with the fun and keeping up with the cool kids.
Some of these trends entice us to do wonderful things for each other—but then there are others that have been known to result in real human stupidity. Collectively, the following Internet trends all resulted in serious injury, physical scarring, and even death. They are the ones to avoid or risk the chance of meeting the same fate.
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Momo is a terrifying Internet trend that has been linked to the suicides of two teenagers and one child. The twisted challenge-based game has been played across South America, Asia, Mexico, France, Germany, and the United States. Players are encouraged to text a number on WhatsApp that reaches “Momo,” and the creepy, wide-eyed horror character messages back with their next challenge. The challenges include self-harm, watching horror films, and waking up at unusual hours. Players are threatened that their personal information will be leaked if they do not commit to the tasks. The final challenge is to commit suicide.
In India, an 18-year-old boy was found hanging in a shed near his home in Kurseong in August 2018. The walls of the shed were covered in graffiti related to the game. It was also reported that in Barbosa, Colombia, in September 2018, a 16-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl had committed suicide, and investigators discovered activity linked to the game on their phones. Police are still working hard to see who is behind Momo.
9Blue Whale Challenge
In 2016, a social network phenomenon known as the Blue Whale Challenge went viral with tragic consequences. The sinister game begins with players following a social media account that assigns tasks to the players over a 50-day period. These tasks include self-harm and end with encouraged suicide. According to InfoSec Awareness Online, the game has been linked to 130 deaths in Russia.
In early 2018, the bodies of two half-sisters, 12-year-old Maria Vinogradova and 15-year-old Anastasia Svetozarova, were found in the snow outside their apartment in Izhevsk, Russia. It was believed they had both jumped from the ten-story rooftop and that their suicides were linked to the Blue Whale Challenge. Before her death, the younger sister posted a photo of her boyfriend to social media with the caption: “Forgive me, please. I love you so much. I know you will find somebody better than me.”
Planking is a craze that involves taking a photo of someone lying facedown with their arms by their sides to mimic a wooden board. In just a matter of weeks, everyone was doing it, which turned planking into an Internet phenomenon, and the more unusual the location, the better. The craze even saw news anchors planking on their desks in their studios. Although it was intended to be harmless fun, people were constantly trying to one-up each other and began moving into dangerous locations to carry out the stunt.
In 2011, the planking trend claimed a victim when 20-year-old Acton Beale of Queensland, Australia, fell from a high-rise balcony in Brisbane in an attempt at planking. On a Facebook page set up in his memory, one friend wrote: “Those who really knew Acton will remember him for a lot more than one small moment of misjudgment.”
Anyone with a mobile device has surely taken more selfies than they care to admit—only to quickly delete the evidence if they are not as appealing as imagined. Then there are those who took their selfie game to the extreme levels, and some of them ended up paying for it with their own lives. One study reported that between March 2014 and September 2016, there were 127 “selfie deaths” around the world. The study, titled “Me, Myself and My Killfile: Characterizing and Preventing Selfie Deaths,” also revealed that India was the country with the highest number of fatal selfies.
A teenager in Mumbai was killed when she was too distracted taking a selfie and didn’t notice the huge wave that crashed into her, carrying her out to sea. Indian police now have safety measures in place to stop people from taking selfies at dangerous points. The deputy commissioner of police said, “We deploy [police protection] at selfie points when the tide is high. When the weather is rough, we request people not to go near the sea to take selfies. The personnel are sufficiently briefed not to let people pull dangerous stunts.”
Slender Man started as a creepypasta meme and then soon became a global phenomenon that led to an attempted murder. Slender Man is a tall, featureless figure who stalks and abducts children. The creation was feared by many as terrifying stories and pictures circulated online.
Then, in 2014, Morgan Geyser (left above) and Anissa Weier (right above), both 12 years old at the time, lured their friend into the woods in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and stabbed her 19 times. The victim, who was also 12, was able to crawl to a roadside, where got help. She eventually recovered from her near-fatal wounds. After the stabbing, Geyser and Weier set off on foot to find Slender Man in a forest 500 kilometers (300 mi) away.
Both perpetrators were sent to mental institutions, and psychologists found that Weier presented “a diminished ability to determine what is real and what is not real.” The young girl had claimed that she feared had she not carried out the stabbing, then Slender Man would hurt her and her family. Both girls were found “not guilty by mental disease or defect.” They will, however, be institutionalized.
5Punch 4 Punch
In 2014, a 23-year-old father named Tommy Main collapsed and died following a lethal game of Punch 4 Punch. The tragic death came when videos circulated online of people taking part in the Fight Club-style game. Two players take turns hitting each other until one eventually asks to stop. The violent blows are meant to only make contact with the arm or shoulder; however, some players were taking hits to the face and stomach. Others have one arm tied behind their back. The loser then has to typically do a forfeit, which usually involves drinking alcohol. The earliest videos of the craze date back to 2009, though games like Punch 4 Punch have existed since long before the Internet.
One doctor explained, “This is like Fight Club online—it’s going back to the roots of masculinity and testing your strength in that way. There’s that gladiatorial test. When your body moves from that of a child to having the full strength of adulthood, there is a need to test out and compete with others to get a sense of your potency, your strength, your courage.”
One of the craziest trends on social media in recent years was the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge. Inspired by the reality TV star’s plumped up lips, her followers had begun a trend where they attempted to achieve the same look by sucking on shot glasses, bottles, and jars. The suction-like effect would draw the blood to the lips, creating a “pillow-lipped” look. However, there were many injuries, and some were left permanently scarred. Photos of casualties from the challenge were shared on social media and showed that some people’s lips were even turning black.
Doctors warned that the suction causes micro-trauma to the vessels, scarring, hematoma (clotting), or fibrosis (thickening of the tissue), all of which can result in disfigurement. One doctor advised, “The practice of trying to engorge your lips by suctioning can be dangerous. It’s a traumatic injury when you’re suctioning anything.”
NekNominate was an Internet craze that began in 2014 and resulted in a number of deaths. The game involves people being nominated to down alcohol. The drinking is recorded and put online for others to view. Afterward, someone else is nominated. Often, players will attempt to outdo their friends’ drinking feats. Among those killed by the game was 20-year-old athlete Bradley Eames, who filmed himself downing two pints of gin—he died four days later. Also, 20-year-old Issac Richardson died after drinking a cocktail of wine, whisky, vodka, and beer as part of a NekNominate dare.
The UK’s Office for National Statistics warned, “It is possible in the future we will get a lot more these deaths because of games like NekNominate. We are also seeing deaths from liver disease increasing and we are seeing it appearing in younger people, which suggest they are starting to drink from a younger age and are drinking stronger alcohol.” The warning came after it was reported that accidental alcohol poisoning in England and Wales increased by 200 percent from 2004 to 2014.
Multiple injuries and deaths have been linked to tombstoning, which involves jumping into water from high up, with the body held in a rigid, vertical position. In recent years, teenagers and young adults have started filming each other leaping off a cliff edge known as Dead Man’s Cove in Devon, England. The 20-meter (65 ft) drop to the sea below proved deadly for a 39-year-old man, who fell to his death attempting the tombstoning stunt. A teenager broke his neck in three places, and a 25-year-old was left paralyzed after jumping from the same site.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency warned, “Jumping from piers, cliffs, rocks or other structures into the sea can be very dangerous. The depth of the water can dramatically change with the tide, and what was a deep pool at lunchtime might be a shallow puddle by teatime. [ . . . ] The shock of cold water may make it difficult to swim to safety and strong currents can quickly sweep people away.”
Another dangerous craze is subway surfing, which was once a popular stunt in the 1980s—but then people decided they wanted to live a longer life. The trend has now resurfaced, and New York City has seen a rise in the number of joyriders going where they’re not supposed to go. Local daredevils attempt to hang onto moving subway trains, either from the back on the moving car or on the rooftop.
In 2016, 25-year-old Christopher Serrano from the Bronx died while attempting subway surfing. He was killed as he tried to climb on top of an F train in Brooklyn sometime around 5:00 AM. Serrano was traveling with a female friend when he went between the two moving cars and climbed on top. Investigators believe Serrano may have been clipped by something as the train was moving, which knocked him off. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His death is a tragic reminder that nobody should attempt the same stunt on the subways.
The Mortal And Clucking Petal
A Poem by jay
Whose petal is that? I think I know.
Its owner is quite happy though.
Full of joy like a vivid rainbow,
I watch her laugh. I cry hello.
She gives her petal a shake,
And laughs until her belly aches.
The only other sound’s the break,
Of distant waves and birds awake.
The petal is mortal, clucking and deep,
But she has promises to keep,
After cake and lots of sleep.
Sweet dreams come to her cheap.
She rises from her gentle bed,
With thoughts of kittens in her head,
She eats her jam with lots of bread.
Ready for the day ahead.
With thanks to the poet, Robert Frost, for the underlying structure.
The roots of American racism run deep. The country’s troubled history of infighting over the ideal that all men are created equal has often clashed with the harsh reality of life for people of color.
Racial prejudice has always haunted the United States, and it continues in many corners of the country today. Although the conclusion of the US Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment abolished the institution of slavery, individual states remained free to write their own brutally racist laws (aka “Jim Crow laws”).
Here are 10 disturbing facts about the Jim Crow era in the United States.
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10History Of Jim Crow
The history of Jim Crow laws dates all the way back to the early 1800s when slavery was still legal in the United States. In Jump, Jim Crow, a bizarre stage show that debuted in 1828, Thomas Rice created what he and his audiences thought of as comedy. Rice painted his face black and performed with the supposed gestures and mannerisms of African Americans.
Though stage actors had appeared in blackface before Rice, he popularized the genre in the 1830s and had a disgustingly cultish level of success with it. The name of the show came to represent the patently racist laws and practices that developed a century later.
In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which carried an anti-racist, antislavery message and even featured a character called Jim Crow. In an ironic twist, Rice ended up performing in blackface in stage adaptations of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which were unfaithful to the novel and delivered a racist message that mocked African Americans.
After a long-drawn-out civil war, the federal government made slavery illegal in the United States on December 18, 1865. At that time, Secretary of State William Seward verified the ratification of the Thirteen Amendment to the US Constitution. At least three-quarters of the then 36 states had to vote in favor of ratifying the amendment to abolish slavery across the country.
Twenty-seven states ratified by December 6, 1865. Five more voted in favor by the end of January 1866, and Texas assented in February 1870. However, three states held out until the 20th century. Delaware ratified the amendment in February 1901, Kentucky in March 1976, and Mississippi in February 2013.
Mississippi had actually voted in favor of the amendment in March 1995. But they didn’t send the required paperwork to the National Archives to make it official until 2013 due to a clerical oversight.
Today, many people do not realize that the Republican Party, not the Democratic Party, mainly fought for the rights of blacks during and after the Civil War. Despite opposition from the Democrats, the Republicans passed the Thirteenth Amendment (outlawing slavery), the Fourteenth Amendment (giving blacks equal rights under the law), and the Fifteenth Amendment (giving blacks the right to vote).
After the Thirteenth Amendment was formally ratified in 1865, there was a brief intermission in systemic racism. But it took less than 20 years before many Democrat-dominated state and local governments, primarily in the South, began enacting laws to mandate racial segregation. These came to be called “Jim Crow laws.”
In this long, painful period of US history, slavery was officially abolished but overt racism at the hands of the law was not. The grim period of Jim Crow had begun.
8The Civil Rights Act Of 1875
Believe it or not, a civil rights act existed in the United States way back in 1875. Cosponsored by two Republicans, the bill passed 162–99 in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and 38–26 in the Republican-controlled Senate. An impressive seven African-American representatives had debated in favor of passing the bill. On March 1, 1875, Republican President Ulysses S. Grant signed it into law.
The act would have stopped Jim Crow laws by prohibiting racial segregation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the US Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was unconstitutional. Although the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, Congress did not have the authority to regulate private persons or corporations under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Nevertheless, the Civil Rights Act of 1875 shows that many people in the 19th century wanted to abolish racial discrimination under the law.
Tennessee didn’t even have a recovery period before its racist ways became law. As early as 1866, shortly after the end of the US Civil War, Tennessee passed its first Jim Crow law.
Initially, the state created separate schools for white children and black children. In 1870, Tennessee banned interracial marriage. Then, in 1875, they legalized racial discrimination via private businesses, saying that hotels and other private enterprises could refuse service on the grounds of race.
Shortly thereafter, the infamous “Whites Only” signs began appearing in front of many public establishments. The tragic fact of segregation had just become a reality for the people of Tennessee.
Alabama was another Southern state which almost immediately adopted Jim Crow laws after the end of the Civil War. In 1867, they banned interracial marriage. Fines ranged as high as $1,000, which was an exorbitant price to pay in those days.
Several years later, the state passed a law that made black and white children attend separate schools. In 1891, with limited exceptions, railroads were required to have separate cars for black and white passengers.
As more laws were enacted, bus stations soon had separate waiting areas and ticket windows for black and white people. Bathrooms were segregated by skin color, and white female nurses weren’t allowed to tend to black male patients. It was even illegal for people of different races to play a game of pool together.
The Jim Crow laws that segregated schools, businesses, railways, and more became increasingly oppressive and bizarre as time went on. By the 1930s, it seemed like anything that even implied that blacks and whites were equal was made illegal.
Black men were not allowed to touch white women in any way without risking a charge of rape, even for common gestures as harmless as a handshake. A black man could not offer to light a cigarette for a white woman without being accused of making a romantic overture. This would also land black men in legal trouble.
Even after the Civil War and the freeing of the slaves, African Americans were still treated as second-class citizens.
Racial discrimination during the Jim Crow era wasn’t confined to the South in the United States. Many photos exist of signs from Northern states establishing their own segregation laws, disallowing whites and blacks from enjoying the same public accommodations.
Black people were not the only ones who experienced such discrimination. During World War II, Japanese Americans were segregated especially harshly.
By the 1940s, it was illegal in Alabama for white and black people to play games together that involved dice, checkers, dominoes, or cards. It was also unlawful in some areas for white people to sell their homes to people of color, and these laws could be quite detailed.
For instance, in some places, if a person had one-eighth or more of a nonwhite race in his lineage, he was considered to be a person of color. At less than one-eighth, he was considered to be white and was free to use the public accommodations available to white people.
3The Change Of The 1950s
In the 1950s, attitudes began to change. Support groups and organizations formed in the 1930s and 1940s openly pushed for an end to the Jim Crow era. The “separate but equal” decision of the US Supreme Court in 1896, which had permeated the Jim Crow laws, was growing stale.
In 1955, another monumental act in US history would transpire—the civil disobedience of Rosa Parks. She refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, which was against the law at that time.
Parks was arrested, which set the stage for massive social change. Many claim that the Jim Crow era ended in 1954. That year, in their Brown v. Board of Education decision, the US Supreme Court struck down the 1896 law that had permitted states to segregate public schools. Even so, segregation clearly continued for another decade.
2Civil Rights Of The 1960s
The road to racial equality in the US had been paved by the movements of the 1950s. In turn, the 1960s drove political and racial turmoil across those avenues as equality was demanded and the push for a new civil rights act gained traction.
Still, it was a slow process. Demonstrations and civil disobedience were nothing new. However, the culmination of all these movements occurred when groups like the Black Panthers and individuals such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. gained serious support from both black and white people across America.
This caused widespread chaos. Race riots, massive protests, and general societal disarray became the dominant theme of the day.
1A New Civil Rights Act
On August 28, 1963, approximately 250,000 people participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The goal was to achieve economic and civil rights for African Americans. At the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, where he told of his dream of a nation without racism and segregation.
With the widespread desire for change, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was ripe to become law with massive backing. It called for the end of an era that had stained the fabric of American history. People are still alive who lived through the Jim Crow era. They remember when it was illegal—based on the color of your skin—to drink from certain water fountains or enter certain establishments.
Finally, after nearly a century of cruel and bizarre laws, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law. Initially proposed by Democratic President John F. Kennedy, the first bill failed. Kennedy thought he had lined up enough support from both Democrats and Republicans, but passage was held up by Democrat Howard W. Smith, an ardent segregationist from Virginia.
After Kennedy was assassinated, Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson used his skill to get the act passed. The main opposition came from the Democrats. Still, Johnson managed to rally enough Democrats and Republicans to vote for a compromise bill, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law on July 2, 1964.
It prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, as these had all been used to divide people throughout the United States’ tumultuous history. The act still stands as federal law today. Although racism may not be wholly defeated in the United States, it is clear in the eyes of the law that discrimination is an illegal practice that should be forcibly relegated to the dustbin of history.
Colombian drug lord Griselda Blanco was known as “La Madrina” (“The Godmother”) after she successfully pioneered a Miami-based cocaine drug trade for nearly five decades from the 1950s to the early 2000s. The murderous matriarch stood only 152 centimeters (5’0″) tall. But she was feared by many and even dubbed the “Female Tony Montana” due to her lavish lifestyle.
Blanco is remembered for many things—her power, her bloody tactics, her coldheartedness, and her ability to amass a staggering net worth of $2 billion in a field that has always been dominated by men.
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10She Committed Her First Murder At Age 11
Born in 1943 in Cartagena, Colombia, Blanco was surrounded by poverty from birth. The shantytown where she grew up had such a high murder rate that children would pass the time on the streets by digging holes for the bodies that littered the roads.
At age 11, she went with a group of friends to a nearby wealthy village and kidnapped a 10-year-old boy from a rich family. The boy was held hostage as Blanco tried to obtain ransom money from his family. When it was clear that the family was not willing to give up the cash, Blanco was handed a gun and she shot the boy between the eyes. Violence was present from the beginning of her life, and it followed her into adulthood.
DEA Agent Bob Palombo explained, “I don’t think the fact that she was a female trying to prove something had anything to do with her violent behavior; I just think it was inherent to Griselda Blanco. This goes back to her life, the way she was brought up. She was just a violent person.”
9She Was Making Around $80 Million A Month
Blanco ran away from home at age 14 to escape abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. She survived by earning money as a pickpocket and a prostitute. In the mid-1970s, she immigrated to Queens, New York, with her second husband, Alberto Bravo.
There, they started their own network of cocaine dealing. Her client list included Hollywood stars and top athletes. The huge success of their narcotics empire put her on the FBI’s radar, and eventually, she moved to Miami.
When Blanco hit Miami, the timing was just right and she soon had a monopoly. By the late 1970s, at the height of her game, she was earning around $80 million a month. Everyone wanted to work for her, and the DEA estimated that she had 600 people on her payroll.
DEA agent Bob Palombo told Maxim, “She mesmerized people. She could woo you with her acumen and make you a loyal follower.” Blanco was able to live a life of comfort and luxury. However, with great riches came powerful enemies.
8She Went To War With Her Rival Pablo Escobar
Business was going so well for Blanco that it was only a matter of time before her rivals started to invade her territory. One of those rivals was Pablo “The King of Cocaine” Escobar. He had become the biggest threat to her business even though she had given him a leg up from the start. Jennie Smith, author of Cocaine Cowgirl, explained, “[Escobar] wasn’t afraid of her. Everyone else was, but he wasn’t.”
In 1975, Blanco and Escobar were at war and they wanted each other dead. So began a deadly game of assassins as they both deployed members of their own drug cartels to kill the other.
In this drug war, Escobar had the upper hand. When the FBI was closing in on Blanco, Escobar was on his way up. It was just a waiting game until he would come out on top.
7She Was Believed To Be Responsible For More Than 200 Murders
The actual number of murders for which Blanco is responsible has been disputed over the years. Many have pegged the potential victim count as between 40 and 240, although she was only convicted of three murders. The details of the slayings that put her behind bars had all come from her former hit man Jorge Ayala.
One of the most shocking was the murder of two-year-old Johnny Castro who was in the car with his father Jesus “Chucho” Castro. Blanco had ordered the killing of Chucho because he had disrespected her son.
Ayala told the police, “At first, she was real mad ’cause we missed the father. But when she heard we had gotten the son by accident, she said she was glad, that they were even.”
In 1985, she was captured in Irvine, California, by the DEA and sentenced to three concurrent 20-year sentences. She would only have to serve 10 years as the case collapsed due to technicalities.
6She Named Her Son After A Character In The Godfather Movie
Blanco clearly loved her reputation as “The Godmother.” She even named her third son, Michael Corleone (pictured above), after the third son of Mafia don Vito Corleone in her favorite movie, The Godfather.
Blanco’s former hit man, who would later become a witness against her, revealed that he accepted a $50,000 payment for killing a man for her while three-year-old Michael was in the room with her. Blanco never hid her criminal ways from her sons. She was determined that they would follow in her footsteps and inherit her multibillion empire.
However, things didn’t work out as planned. Michael’s father and his older brothers were all killed before he reached his 16th birthday. It wasn’t long before his mother was sentenced to decades behind bars, so he was left in the care of his maternal grandmother and other legal guardians.