Archie Bunker’s Editorial on Gun Control (1972)

The more things change, the more the talking points stay the same. Just swap teachers for airplane passengers, and watch a silly sitcom punchline morph into actual presidential policy.

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Tim Minchin Presents “9 Rules to Live By” in a Funny and Wise Commencement Speech (2013)

Tim Minchin isn’t much of a role model in the hair brushing department, but in every other way the prolific comedian/actor/writer/musician/director inspires.

He’s unabashedly enthusiastic about science, a lifelong learner who’s a strong believer in the power of exercise, travel, and thank you notes….

He uses his stardom and talent for penning controversial lyrics to raise awareness and money for such causes as the UK’s National Autistic Society and a local charity formed to send adults who, as children, were sexually abused by Catholic clergy, to Rome.

His creative output is prodigious.

And he’s one helluva commencement speaker.

In 2013, his alma mater, the University of Western Australia, awarded him an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters and invited him to address the graduating class.

The speaker insisted up front that an “inflated sense of self importance” born of addressing large crowds was the only thing that positioned him to give such an address, then went on to share a funny 9-point guide to life that stressed the importance of gratitude, education, intellectual rigor, and kindness toward others.

If you haven’t the time to watch the entire 12-minute speech, above, be sure to circle back later. His advice is hilarious, heartwarming, and memorable.

In extrapolating the essence of each of his nine “life lessons” below, we discovered many bonus lessons contained therein (one of which we include below.)

Tim Minchin’s 9 Rules To Live By

  1. You don’t have to have a dream. Be micro-ambitious and see what happens as you pursue short-term goals…
  2. Rather than chasing happiness for yourself, keep busy and aim to make someone else happy.
  3. Remember that we are lucky to be here, and that most of us - especially those of us with a college education, or those actively seeking to educate themselves to a similar degree—will achieve a level of wealth that “most humans throughout history could not have dreamed of.”
  4. Exercise. Among other things, it helps combat depression. 
  5. Identify your biases, prejudices, and privileges and do not exempt your own beliefs and opinions from intellectual rigor.
  6. Be a teacher!  Swell the ranks of this noble profession.
  7. Define yourself by what you love, rather than what you despise, and lavish praise on the people and things that move you.
  8. Respect those with less power than yourself, and be wary of those who do not. 
  9. Don’t be in a rush to succeed. It might come at a cost. 

BONUS.  Uphold the notion that art and science are not an either/or choice, but rather compliment each other. “If you need proof—Twain, Douglas Adams, Vonnegut, McEwan, Sagan and Shakespeare, Dickens for a start. …The arts and sciences need to work together to improve how knowledge is communicated. “

Read the full transcript of Minchin’s commencement speech here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Amanda Palmer Sings a Heartfelt Musical Tribute to YA Author Judy Blume on Her 80th Birthday

Art saves lives, and so does author Judy Blume. While some of her novels are intended for adult readers, and others for the elementary school set, her best known books are the ones that speak to the experience of being a teenage girl.

For many of us coming of age in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Blume was our best—sometimes only—source when it came to sex, menstruation, masturbation, and other topics too taboo to discuss. She answered the questions we were too shy to ask. Her characters’ interior monologues mirrored our own.

The honesty of her writing earned her millions of grateful young fans, and plenty of attention from those who still seek to keep her titles out of libraries and schools.

While her stories are not autobiographical, her compassion is born of experience.

Here she is on Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, a tattered paperback copy of which made the rounds of my 6th grade class, like the precious contraband it was:

When I was in sixth grade, I longed to develop physically like my classmates. I tried doing exercises, resorted to stuffing my bra, and lied about getting my period. And like Margaret, I had a very personal relationship with God that had little to do with organized religion. God was my friend and confidant. But Margaret's family is very different from mine, and her story grew from my imagination.

On It's Not the End of the World:

…in the early seventies I lived in suburban New Jersey with my husband and two children, who were both in elementary school. I could see their concern and fear each time a family in our neighborhood divorced. What do you say to your friends when you find out their parents are splitting up? If it could happen to them, could it happen to us?

At the time, my own marriage was in trouble but I wasn't ready or able to admit it to myself, let alone anyone else. In the hope that it would get better I dedicated this book to my husband. But a few years later, we, too, divorced. It was hard on all of us, more painful than I could have imagined, but somehow we muddled through and it wasn't the end of any of our worlds, though on some days it might have felt like it.

And on Forever, which won an A.L.A. Margaret A. Edwards Award for Outstanding Literature for Young Adults, 20 years after its original publication:

My daughter Randy asked for a story about two nice kids who have sex without either of them having to die. She had read several novels about teenagers in love. If they had sex the girl was always punished—an unplanned pregnancy, a hasty trip to a relative in another state, a grisly abortion (illegal in the U.S. until the 1970's), sometimes even death. Lies. Secrets. At least one life ruined. Girls in these books had no sexual feelings and boys had no feelings other than sexual. Neither took responsibility for their actions. I wanted to present another kind of story—one in which two seniors in high school fall in love, decide together to have sex, and act responsibly.

The heartfelt lyrics of Amanda Palmer’s recent paean to Blume, who turned 80 this week, confirm that the singer-songwriter was among the legions of young girls for whom this author made a difference.

In her essay, "Why Judy Blume Matters," Palmer recalls coming up with a list of influences to satisfy the sort of question a rising indie musician is frequently asked in interviews. It was a “carefully curated” assortment of rock and roll pedigree and obscurities, and she later realized, almost exclusively male.

This song, which name checks so many beloved characters, is a passionate attempt to correct this oversight:

Perhaps the biggest compliment you could give a writer ― or a writer of youth fiction ― is that they’re so indelible they vanish into memory, the way a dream slips away upon waking because it’s so deeply knitted into the fabric of your subconscious. The experiences of her teenage characters ― Deenie, Davey, Tony, Jill, Margaret ― are so thoroughly enmeshed with my own memories that the line between fact and fiction is deliciously thin. My memories of these characters, though I’d prefer to call them “people” ― of Deenie getting felt up in the dark locker room during the school dance; of Davey listlessly making and stirring a cup of tea that she has no intention of drinking; of Jill watching Linda, the fat girl in her class, being tormented by giggling bullies ― are all as vivid, if not more so, as my own memories…

Palmer’s husband, Neil Gaiman, puts in a cameo in the video’s final moments as one of many readers immersed in Blume’s oeuvre.

Readers, did a special book cover from your adolescence put in an appearance?

For more on Judy Blume’s approach to character and story, consider signing up for her $90 online Master Class.

Name your own price to download Judy Blume by Amanda Palmer here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Designer Creates Origami Cardboard Tents to Shelter the Homeless from the Winter Cold

During the day, Xavier Van der Stappen runs an electric car company. At night, the Belgian entrepreneur/designer helps spearhead the ORIG-AMI project, which creates origami-style cardboard tents designed to shield Brussels' homeless from the bitter cold of winter. Cardboard is light and portable. It holds heat fairly well. And the cardboard tents (as opposed to other structures) are legal on Brussels' streets. The cost for each life-saving structure? Only $36.

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Watch David Bowie Perform “Imagine”: A Touching Tribute to His Friend John Lennon (1983)

John Lennon's “Imagine” is one of the most covered songs in rock history. Its simple message is evergreen, its sentiments not hard to get across, but few renditions are as moving as David Bowie's one-night-only performance when his 1983 Serious Moonlight tour wrapped at the Hong Kong Coliseum.

It was especially fitting given that this, the final night of the tour, coincided with the 3rd anniversary of Lennon’s murder.

While legions feel a deep personal connection to that song, Bowie and Lennon were “as close as family,” according to Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono.

Lennon cowrote Bowie’s 1975 hit, "Fame," joining him in the studio with his guitar and a memorable falsetto. As Bowie recalls below, he also provided some much-appreciated counsel regarding managers.

As the anniversary loomed, Serious Moonlight guitarist Earl Slick, who played on several Lennon albums, suggested that a tribute was in order. He suggested "Across the Universe,” which Bowie had covered in the same session that yielded “Fame.”

Bowie reportedly responded, "Well if we're going to do it, we might as well do 'Imagine.'"

It was the final song played that night, Bowie setting the stage with some personal anecdotes, including one that had taken place at a nearby vendor’s stall, where Bowie spied a knock-off Beatles jacket and convinced Lennon to pose in it. (What we wouldn’t give to be able to share that photo with readers…)

Frequent Bowie collaborator back up singer George Simms told Voyeur, the fanzine of the international David Bowie Fanclub:

If I remember well, we didn’t rehearse that song. The night David did the ‘Imagine’ song, none of us in the band had any idea how that song was going to come off. David told us before, at a certain point, he would cue the band to start the song instrumentally. We didn’t know what he was going to do in the beginning but he had it very carefully worked out with the lighting people. We were on stage and it was dark. David was sitting on the stage at one particular place and, all of a sudden, a single spotlight went on David and hit him exactly where he was sitting. David started to tell something about John Lennon. During this, it went dark a few times again, but then when the spots went on again David was sitting somewhere else on the stage. David cued the band and we started the song. It was the third anniversary of Lennon’s death; it was December 8. We all grew up listening to The Beatles and John Lennon. After we did “Imagine,” we all went off the stage and back into the holding area. Normally we’d be slap-happy, talking and laughing, but that night there was absolute silence because of all the emotion of doing a tribute to John Lennon—especially knowing that David was a friend of his and that David was speaking from his heart. We didn’t know how dramatic the lights’ impact was going to be. Nobody wanted to break the silence; it was like a sledgehammer into your chest.

Lennon’s admiration mirrored the respect Bowie had for him. He may have busted Bowie’s chops a bit by reducing the glam-rocker's approach as "rock n’ roll with lipstick," but he also described his own Double Fantasy album as an attempt to “do something as good as (Bowie's) Heroes.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The 25 Principles for Adult Behavior: John Perry Barlow (R.I.P.) Creates a List of Wise Rules to Live By

Image by the European Graduate School, via Wikimedia Commons

The most successful outlaws live by a code, and in many ways John Perry Barlow, founder of the Electronic Freedom Foundation, Wyoming rancher, and erstwhile songwriter for the Grateful Dead—who died on Wednesday at the age of 70—was an archetypal American outlaw all of his life. He might have worn a white hat, so to speak, but he had no use for the government telling him what to do. And his charismatic defense of unfettered internet liberty inspired a new generation of hackers and activists, including a 12-year-old Aaron Swartz, who saw Barlow speak at his middle school and left the classroom changed.

Few people get to leave as lasting a legacy as Barlow, even had he not pioneered early cyberculture, penning the “Declaration of Independence of the Internet,” a techo-utopian document that continues to influence proponents of open access and free information. He introduced the Grateful Dead to Dr. Timothy Leary, under whose guidance Barlow began experimenting with LSD in college. His creative and personal relationship with the Dead’s Bob Weir stretches back to their high school days in Colorado, and he became an unofficial member of the band and its "junior lyricist," as he put it (after Robert Hunter).

“John had a way of taking life’s most difficult things and framing them as challenges, therefore adventures,” wrote Weir in a succinctly poignant Twitter eulogy for his friend. We might think of Barlow's code, which he laid out in a list he called the “25 Principles of Adult Behavior,” as a series of instructions for turning life’s difficulties into challenges, an adventurous reframing of what it means to grow up. For Barlow, that meant defying authority when it imposed arbitrary barriers and proprietary rules on the once-wild-open spaces of the internet.

But being a grown-up also meant accepting full responsibility for one’s behavior, life’s purpose, and the ethical treatment of oneself and others. See his list below, notable not so much for its originality but for its plainspoken reminder of the simple, shared wisdom that gets drowned in the assaultive noise of modern life. Such uncomplicated idealism was at the center of Perry’s life and work.

1. Be patient. No matter what.
2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him.
3. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
4. Expand your sense of the possible.
5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
6. Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself.
7. Tolerate ambiguity.
8. Laugh at yourself frequently.
9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
11. Give up blood sports.
12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously.
13. Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)
14. Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
17. Praise at least as often as you disparage.
18. Admit your errors freely and soon.
19. Become less suspicious of joy.
20. Understand humility.
21. Remember that love forgives everything.
22. Foster dignity.
23. Live memorably.
24. Love yourself.
25. Endure.

Barlow the “cowboy, poet, romantic, family man, philosopher, and ultimately, the bard of the digital revolution”—as Stephen Levy describes him at Wired—“became a great explainer” of the possibilities inherent in new media. He watched the internet become a far darker place than it had ever been in the 90s, a place where governments conduct cyberwars and impose censorship and barriers to access; where bad actors of all kinds manipulate, threaten, and intimidate.

But Barlow stood by his vision, of “a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth… a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”

This may sound naïve, yet as Cindy Cohn writes in EFF’s obituary for its founder, Barlow “knew that new technology could create and empower evil as much as it could create and empower good. He made a conscious decision to move toward the latter.” His 25-point code urges us to do the same.

via Kottke/Hacker News

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

An Animated Introduction to Epicurus and His Answer to the Ancient Question: What Makes Us Happy?

These days the word Epicurean tends to get thrown around in regard to things like olive oil, cutting boards, and wine aerators. The real Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher of the third and fourth century BCE, might not have approved, knowing as he did that happiness doesn't come from products that signal one's appreciation of high-end comestibles. But where, then, does happiness come from? Epicurus devoted his school of philosophy to finding an answer to that ancient question, and these two brief animated introductions, one by Alain de Botton's School of Life and one from Wireless Philosophy, will give you a sense of what he discovered.

Epicurus proposed, as de Botton puts it, that "we typically make three mistakes when thinking about happiness." Number one: "We think happiness means having romantic, sexual relationships," never considering the likelihood of them being "marred by jealousy, misunderstanding, cheating, and bitterness."

Number two: "We think that what we need to be happy is a lot of money," without factoring in "the unbelievable sacrifices we're going to have to make to get this money: the jealousy, the backbiting, the long hours." Number three: We obsess over luxury, "especially involving houses and beautiful serene locations" (and, nowadays, that with which we stock their kitchens).

Only three things, Epicurus concluded, can truly ensure our happiness. Number one: "Your friends around," which led the philosopher to buy a big house and share it with all of his. ("No sex, no orgy," de Botton emphasizes, "just your mates.") Number two: Stop working for others and do your own work, which the members of Epicurus' commune did in the form of farming, cooking, potting, and writing. Number three: Find calm not in the view out your window, but cultivated within your own mind by "reflecting, writing stuff down, reading things, meditating." The big meta-lesson: "Human beings aren't very good at making themselves happy, chiefly because they think it's so easy."

Wireless Philosophy's video, narrated by University of California, San Diego philosophy professor Monte Johnson, draws more rules for happiness from the teachings of Epicurus, breaking down his "tetrapharmakos," or four-part cure for unhappiness:

  1. God is nothing to fear
  2. Death is nothing to worry about
  3. It is easy to acquire the good things in life
  4. It is easy to endure the terrible things

Johnson expands on the fine points of each of these dictates while accompanying his explanations with illustrations, including one drawing of the bread on which, so history has recorded, Epicurus lived almost entirely. That and water made up most of his meals, supplemented with the occasional olive or pot of cheese so that he could "indulge." Not exactly the diet one would casually describe as Epicurean in the 21st century, but dig into Epicureanism itself and you'll see that Epicurus, who described himself as "married to philosophy," understood sensual pleasure more deeply than most of us do today — and a couple millennia before the advent of Williams-Sonoma at that.

To further delve into this philosophy, read Epicurus' classic work The Art of Happiness.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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