Blog

The amount of exercise, water, and sunlight you should get

There are a lot of health fads. Because I care about distributing truths as such I think it is appropriate to clarify three of the most misunderstood aspects of proper living: exercise levels, water intake, and sunlight exposure. Click on the headlines for sources.

Exercise

Adults need a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, and you should aim for at least 22 minutes of movement a day. You don’t necessarily need to go to the gym or take up jogging. Pick any activity that gets your heart rate up, including walking. In addition, the guidelines call for adults to do muscle-strengthening activity on two or more days a week.

In sum,

Kids

  • Every day: active play for preschoolers throughout the day
  • Every day: 60 minutes of aerobic physical activity for children
  • 3 days/week: muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening (i.e. jump-roping or running) activities for children

Adults

  • Every day: move more, sit less. Remember, something is better than nothing.
  • Every week: at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity throughout the week
  • 2+ days/week: muscle-strengthening activities that use all major muscle groups

Older Adults

  • Follow the guidelines for adults
  • Each week: balance training, as well as aerobic and mus cle-strengthening activities
  • Each week: If you can’t complete 150 minutes of aerobic activity due to chronic conditions, do as much as your abilities allow
  • If you have chronic conditions, learn how those affect your ability to do physical activity safely

Water

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:

  • About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
  • About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women

These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages and food. About 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks.

Eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day is a good goal.

Sunlight

Weather permitting, you should get 10-30 minutes of midday sunlight on about a third of your skin, so maybe wear shorts and a tank top. After that amount of time, it is advisable to put on sunscreen to protect your skin.

 

 

The literary influences of Albert Camus

Albert Camus

At the end of Camus’s Lyrical and Critical Essays,  the genius, immensely explorative author of thought-provoking works like The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus provides a glimpse into his literary influences during a series of interviews.

When asked about his reputation as a revolutionary writer, Camus states,

I don’t know what that means. If it is revolutionary to ask oneself questions about one’s art, then perhaps…but I cannot imagine literature without style. I know of only one revolution in art; it belongs to all ages, and consists of the exact adjustment of form to subject matter, of language to theme. From this point of view, I love, deeply, only the great classical French literature. It is true that I include here Saint-Evremond and the works of the Marquis de Sade. It is also true that I exclude certain academician, both present and past.

When discussing how he got his urge to write he responds that as a young man he was lent the work Le Douleur by Andre de Richaud, which described a world he knew – poor areas and nostalgias he felt. This inspired him to search for his own self-expression.

Jean Grenier, also a writer, was his mentor and key philosophical inspiration. Camus notes Les Iles as an admirable book by him.

Malraux, Andre Gide, Tolstoi, Dostoevski, and Montherlant reigned over his youth, the first two in particular. The Gide of Pretextes taught him how to constrain his anarchy and limit his art. He was also influenced by Moliere.

When asked if Franz Kafka is an influence he says no and claims Kafka is too fantastical; however, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was an inspiration for his conception of the Absurd. But in a footnote, it states that during the writing of The Myth of Sisyphus Camus was deeply troubled, even obsessed, with Kafka and toward the end of his life rendered him unlimited homage.

He says of Rene Char, who is the one cited in that footnote, that he is one of the greatest contemporary French poets.

The Plague was written in the vein of American authors like Faulkner and Steinbeck, but he doesn’t have much regard for the American novel besides some enthusiasm for Faulkner. He would, in fact, give one hundred Hemingways for one Stendhal or one Benjamin Constant.

Others he enjoyed according to Philip Thody (the editor of the book) in the introduction include Madame de Lafayette, Martin du Gard, the Greeks, Shakespeare, and the Spanish playwrights of the Golden Age as dramatists.

 

 

The avant-garde

Avant-garde was once a military term designating the elite shock troops of the French army.

Later it was applied to the “men of vision” of the coming society – artists, philosophers, scientists, and businessmen – whose actions would direct the future development of humanity.

Then it became a successive metaphor to identify writers and artists intent on the establishment of dramatic movements – writers like Lautreamont and Rimbaud and artists like Manet compelled the emergence of forms like Expressionism, Russian and Italian Futurism, Dada, Surrealism, and Constructivism.

Tate describes the movement today simply as “art that is innovatory, introducing or exploring new forms or subject matter.”

But in the book The Avant-Garde Today, the wonderful thrift store find from which this information is pulled, Charles Russell gives a more penetrating explanation.

It’s worth noting that the work is from the early 1980s, so the information might be dated. But Russell writes in such a way that makes you wish for the conception to have remained cemented.

It is as complicated as it is smart and intense:

A sanctioned aesthetic predilection, if not an institution. It suggests a personal and social need for renovation, for potentiality, change, and freedom. Struggling within the confines of a self-reflexive formal orientation and against an ill-defined social context of liberal and diffusive pluralism, the avant-garde bears curious witness to an ambiguous state of mind. It displays a creative and critical vitality, yet raises only minimal expectations. It countenances an active and often aggressive assertion of individual will, yet betrays an uneasy acquiescence and resignation. Its most significant innovations involve the self-conscious exploration of the nature, limits, and possibilities of literature in contemporary society. But the vision of the future of this literature and culture which the avant-garde works should provide is tentative and unclear, as if the avant-garde could not lead beyond doubt and distrust toward inspired vision.

He writes later in the book that it expresses a historical sensibility.

A future oriented art, it declares faith in the necessary transformation of art, consciousness, and society. It is known as both nihilistic and visionary: antagonistic toward whatever inhibits change, activist in its attempt to stimulate change. It is an art of discovery, of innovation and experimentation. Its goal is the expansion of consciousness and the liberation of behavior. The common assumption of all avant-gardes is that new forms of perception and expression lead to new states of consciousness and action.

In fine, he concludes, “Implicit in all avant-garde manifestoes are these corollary beliefs:

The act of discovery is an agent of liberation. 

The act of liberation is an agent of discovery.”

 

 

The creative process

It’s likely your project won’t feel good enough. Authors miss deadlines for drafts all the time because they just don’t think their work is quite right.

It’s likely that what resonates will be surprising. Many artists receive surprise smash hits.  I like hip hop, so I will use that to exemplify. Kyle was amazed when his song “iSpy” blew up, and on the flip side, it’s likely that what you think will resonate won’t. Logic thinks that Mos Definitely is a great song on his album Everybody, but most people don’t really talk about it.

If you want to be creative, create. Put yourself out there. Your first drafts will be stinkers. That’s part of the process. Some authors go through over 20 drafts.

Don’t worry about unoriginality. There is no original. Every innovator is influenced, and it takes a lot of time and practice to develop a unique voice.

This applies to startups and new programs in an organization and working out and going to school. You’re bad then you’re kinda good. The hardest part is trying consistently. You have to really want it. Napolean Hill calls this the need for a burning desire in Think and Grow Rich.

Sure, there are different approaches. For some, trying is journaling to practice clarity of thought. For others, it’s blogging every day, a rough chapter of a book idea, or a basic beat in FL Studio.

And yeah, structure is often important to get right.

But I promise you will never succeed until you take your life into your own hands and take the first steps to build momentum.

You will remain just another someone who wishes they took a shot.

 

Cicero on the greatest thing to be praised in a great and splendid person

Marcus Tullius Cicero was one of the greatest leaders of the Roman Republic. Over the course of his career, he became, among other things, an orator, lawyer, and politician. Also, for centuries, he was considered one of the greatest philosophers. One of his best-known works is On Duties. 

According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

Written in the form of a letter to his son Marcus, then in his late teens and studying philosophy in Athens (though, we can gather from the letters, not studying it all that seriously), but intended from the start to reach a wider audience. Cicero addresses the topic of duty (including both the final purpose of life, which defines our duties, and the way in which duties should be performed), and says that he will follow the Stoics in this area, but only as his judgment requires. More explicitly, the letter discusses how to determine what is honorable, and which of two honorable things is more honorable; how to determine what is expedient and how to judge between two expedient things; and what to do when the honorable and the expedient seem to conflict.

The book is as wonderful as it is dense and aphoristic. But my favorite and most personally influential line in the work describes his conception of the greatest thing to be praised.

He writes in Book One,  Section 88 that:

Furthermore, we should not listen to those who think we should be deeply angry with our opponents, and consider that that is what a great-spirited and courageous man does. For there is nothing more to be praised, nothing more worthy of a great and splendid man than to be easily appeased and forgiving. Among free peoples who possess equality before the law we must cultivate an affable temper and what is called loftiness of spirit.

Notably, this has been translated differently as followed:

Neither must we listen to those who think that one should indulge in violent anger against one’s political enemies and imagine that such is the attitude of a great-spirited, brave man. For nothing is more commendable, nothing more becoming in a pre-eminently great man than courtesy and forbearance. Indeed, in a free people, where all enjoy equal rights before the law, we must school ourselves to affability and what is called “mental poise”;/a for if we are irritated when people intrude upon us at unseasonable hours or make unreasonable requests, we shall develop a sour, churlish temper, prejudicial to ourselves and offensive to others. And yet gentleness of spirit and forbearance are to be commended only with the understanding that strictness may be exercised for the good of the state; for without that, the government cannot be well administered.

His remarks may apply to your personal life and may be summed in the following manner:

A great person is kind, gentle, easily forgiving, affable, and calm.  

 

David Sedaris on his writing process

David Sedaris is one of the most beloved living authors. His works are revealing, humorous, and relatable. The above video provides a glimpse into how he approaches his craft.

He affirms advice an old mentor once gave me. That is, you do what comes easily to you. This man was a physicist. One might think, “Wow, that must have been hard to accomplish.” But it wasn’t for him. He was good at math, so it was natural. For Sedaris, that thing is writing. He is compelled to write more than he is disciplined.

There are five pillars to his process:

  1. Keep a diary
  2. Carry a notebook for more detailed diary entries
  3. Read and revise in front of an audience
  4. Just write, don’t worry about it being a masterpiece
  5. Read voraciously to learn how to make your words look like they belong in a book

These lessons aren’t all in that video. I summarized this article from Open Culture. You can check it out if you’re interested in learning more.

The latest and greatest from the remarkable Maria Popova

I wrote about Maria Popova’s fantastic blog Brain Pickings here.

On February 5, the incisive author released her first book, Figuring. The work, as she wrote in her newsletter, “explores the complexities, varieties, and contradictions of love, and the human search for truth, meaning, and transcendence, through the interwoven lives of several historical figures across four centuries — beginning with the astronomer Johannes Kepler, who discovered the laws of planetary motion, and ending with the marine biologist and author Rachel Carson, who catalyzed the environmental movement.”

Two days later, The New York Times released a profile on the author that focuses strictly on Popova’s book tastes.

Here’s a breakdown of Maria Popova’s favorite books from that piece:

Her longtime favorites: 

  • The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • The Lives of the Heart, by Jane Hirschfield
  • Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit
  • Henry David Thoreau’s diaries
  • How the Universe Got Its Spots, by Janna Levin
  • Time Travel, by James Gleick
  • Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, by Alan Lightman
  • Little Panic, by Amanda Stern
  • Inheritance, by Dani Shapiro

Books she is currently smitten by: 

  • Jill Lepore’s history of America
  • The Living Mountain, by Nan Shepherd

A recently discovered classic:

  • Beloved, by Toni Morrison

The best book she ever received as a gift: 

  • Little Tree, by Katsumi Komagata

Her favorite fictional hero or heroine: 

  • Orlando, by Virginia Woolf

The books Donald Trump should read: 

  • The Origins of Totalitarianism, by Hannah Arendt
  • Crave Radiance, by Elizabeth Alexander

The three authors she would like to have dinner with: 

  • Rachel Carson
  • Susan Sontag
  • Margaret Fuller

The book she plans to read next: 

  • Jenny Uglow’s 2002 biography of the Lunar Men

Other notable authors or books: 

  • Ann Hamilton
  • Henry Beston
  • John Muir
  • Robert Macfarlane
  • Usula K. Le Guin
  • Are You My Mother, by Alison Bechdel
  • Hallucinations, Oliver Sacks
  • Stephen Fried’s biography of Benjamin Rush
  • Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
  • Ten Days in a Madhouse, by Nellie Bly
  • Denise Levertov
  • James Baldwin
  • Margaret Mead

 

 

Democracy can work better

It isn’t that people are apathetic, that they don’t care about what’s going on at city hall and just want to live their lives with the government operating in the background.

It’s that the government’s communication strategy is terrible.

We live in a hectic world where we’re constantly interrupted, and they are publishing 150-page documents filled with jargon and without any sense of context or narrative to their websites then just posting it in the newspaper because they’re legally obligated.

People tend to only show up to complain or be negative because they’ve only just been explained how policy impacts their daily lives.

The government needs to be dedicating more resources to tell their stories – in media besides the newspaper. No one reads newspapers.

Invest in good video communications, relatable tweets, and creative engagement.

Show up to churches and schools and let students know how your policy will impact their lives.

They’ll care if you explain it right.

Get past busy by creating better content, showing up, and adapting the medium.

If we evolve our mediums, we can start healing our broken communities.

The failures and successes witnessed

My first internship with the Kankakee County Chamber of Commerce terrified me. I walked away so dismayed about professional life I emailed Northern Illinois University’s College of Business, telling them I was terrified. Here is how I ended the email:

I feel like college and the real world is going to crush my twenty year old dreams, and I’ll end up like everyone else – hoping – letting competition crush them and letting their distant dreams fade into what could have been.
I’m writing this to you after being less than 8 months to transfer feeling an impending sense of concern in that the next few years I’ll be scraping by, flipping burgers trying to find a decent part-time entry job making nothing hoping I might have an element of leadership (which I’ve read up on extensively) to put me somewhere where maybe I might live an okay life. I’m scrambling to learn any skill I can e.g. excel, free certification of project management, SWOT analysis, business plan development so that hopefully life doesn’t kick me down.
In short and in absolute, sincere honesty I am absolutely terrified.
That was just over four years ago. I felt I wasn’t ready because I had studied classes such as Contemporary Social Problem, Marriage and Family, and Abnormal Psychology rather than ones like Managerial Accounting.
In addition, I was deeply concerned that so many people settle for an average life, are disingenuous and only act kind because they want a connection, or get a little success and think they’re big man (or woman) on campus.
Here’s a great tip: If you want to see how someone really is, see how they treat people they can’t get anything from.
Professionals get so caught up playing their “game” or trying to advance their careers that they forgot to take enough time to listen and provide mentorship to the next generation.
I saw them mock citizens on social media, take pride in their ability to slam the public who were against the policies they were pursuing, look down on their colleagues, and not follow-up with me or treat me well because I didn’t serve their interests.
But not everyone will count you out. I have also received mentorship, and people did meet with me sometimes.
While there are those selfish folks, as Mister Rogers says, there are also the helpers – the ones who believe in you and give you a hand up if you’re really trying.
It’s true that time, patience, and perseverance will accomplish all things.
Try and try again – fail often. Eventually, despite the non-believers, you’ll make it.

American Masters

Sturgeon’s law states that “ninety percent of everything is crap”.

Notwithstanding the debatable verity of the revelation, the fact remains quality content is a rarity.

There are a lot of folks putting in the minimum viable effort, appealing to the least common denominator, or trying to pander to popular sentiment.

To make the quest for content less of a burden, consider looking at things that have been proven by their accolades, e.g. recipients of Pulitzer, Nobel, or Peabody awards.

This post is to highlight one such program: PBS’s American Masters. 

PBS American Masters

This information is adapted from the program’s about page:

American Masters, an award-winning biography series, celebrates our arts and culture. Launched in 1986, the series has set the standard for documentary film profiles, accruing widespread critical acclaim. Awards include 72 Emmy nominations and 28 awards — 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999 and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 12 Peabody Awards; three Grammys; an Oscar; two Producers Guild Awards for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television; and the 2012 IDA Award for Best Continuing Series. Now in its 30th season on PBS, the series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and also seen on the WORLD channel.

The series’ individually crafted films reflect the specific attention deserved by American Masters subjects, including such great talents as Arthur Miller (the series’ first subject), Georgia O’Keeffe, James Baldwin, Diego Rivera, Martha Graham, F. Scott Fitzgerald, I.M. Pei, Leonard Bernstein, Sidney Poitier, Judy Garland, John James Audubon, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Johnny Carson, Zora Neale Hurston, Albert Einstein, Rod Serling, Bill T. Jones, Lucille Ball, Paul Simon, Richard Avedon, John Cassavetes, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Gehry, Woody Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix, Edward Curtis, Julia Child, Walter Cronkite, Woody Allen, and Billie Jean King, as well as influential cultural institutions and eras such as the Actor’s Studio, the Algonquin Round Table, the Negro Ensemble Company, the Juilliard School, 60 Minutes, the Joffrey Ballet, and a century of Chinese American cinematic history in Hollywood Chinese.

Praise for the program:

American Masters has produced an exceptional library, bringing unique originality and perspective to illuminate the creative journeys of our most enduring writers, musicians, visual and performing artists, dramatists, filmmakers and those who have left an indelible impression on our cultural landscape. Balancing a broad and diverse cast of characters and artistic approaches, while preserving historical authenticity and intellectual integrity, these portraits reveal the style and substance of each subject. The series entered its 28th season on PBS in 2014 beginning with Salinger — the series’ 200th episode.

One of the most durable and worthwhile jewels in public television’s crown. — TV Worth Watching


When it comes to biography, no one’s doing it better than American Masters. — Wall Street Journal

It’s like the Pulitzer for this business. — Don Hewitt

…one of the greatest cultural storytelling franchises in American life. — The Baltimore Sun

…the kind of PBS program even a die-hard congressional critic of PBS can love. — Variety

Film recommendation:

The film I am most interested in checking out in the near future is Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. It is highlighted on the Peabody homepage, and the entire film is available for free on PBS’s website. It’s proven to be a great show, premiering to critical acclaim at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, winning the Audience Award at AFI Docs, and being featured at notable film festivals worldwide, including Full Frame, Sheffield, IDFA and Seattle. Altogether, it earned 17 awards on three continents and has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award.