Well if I thought last month was chaotic, this month has been next level. I’ll explain all in the monthly newsletter I’ll send out in the next few hours, but this has truly been one of the busier and more bizarre months I’ve had in quite awhile. April is sure to be a productive one in terms of writing though, as I’ll be housesitting for the next 3 weeks and can finally focus on editing that damn book!
What I’m Reading
With all the travel I’ve done this month, it’s also been an excellent opportunity to catch up on a lot of reading. There’s often a push on my part to write instead of “wasting time reading”, but the reality is regular reading each day and night puts me in the mental state to get on with my other work and makes writing so much easier.
So with that in mind I’ve finished off Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman, churned through months of unread articles saved on Instapaper, and moved into more of my “Mars One Preparation” reading list, including:
The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday – This book is exceptional. I’ve been interested in elements of Stoic philosophy for decades and have solidly embraced the lifestyle in the past, however I’ve always needed to try and strike a balance between the “disconnected” sense I can experience by being purely practical, and the seductive experience of having everything at you could imagine yet not appreciating the small every day things. In a broad sense I can even see it as a tussle between the hyper practicality (and brutality) of the military, versus the hedonism of comedy and the performing arts. It’s been a strange and winding road, but reading this certainly put a lot in context. The book’s tone is unnecessarily harsh at times, but I’d still strongly recommend it to anyone as the lessons on Stoicism and seeing reality as it is (rather than as we expect it to be) are very sound. It’s inspired me to read more of the Stoic original texts like Aurelis’s Meditations and Seneca’s Letters From a Stoic next.
Religion of the Samurai: A Study of Zen Philosophy and Discipline in China and Japan by Kaiten Nukariya – In a similar vein to The Obstacle is The Way, I’ve had an interest in Zen philosophy for decades and I’m revisting it through this book at the moment. While there are entire pages that ramble off listing all the different students of a particular Zen teacher, the stories of the teachers are always the most instructive in breaking through the illusions we wrap reality with. I’m only halfway through it at the moment, but I’m certain that it’s helping strip back some of the more hedonistic habits I’ve developed just as reading The Obstacle Is The Way has.
What I’m watching
Besides re-watching Hidden Figures and Interstellar, I haven’t really had time to watch many movies or TV this month. That’s sure to change during April though – I’ll be doing plenty of intensive writing/editing while I’m housesitting, and I usually break up writing sessions with an episode of something funny and/or stupid.
Last time I housesat like this was late 2014 and it was episode after episode of Bob’s Burgers – I haven’t watched an episode of Bob’s Burgers since, and just discovered there’s FOUR ENTIRE SEASONS I haven’t seen! So suspect I’ll be catching up on that along with finally seeing season 2 of The Expanse.
There is one thing I’ve watched recently that is incredibly notable mostly because it was completely unexpected, I wasn’t sure if it was an April Fools Hoax, and because of it’s unmitigated awesomeness. I speak obviously of…
Rick and Morty Season 3 Premiere – Firstly if you want evidence that Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland (creators of Rick and Morty) are pure evil, this is all you need. After nearly 2 years of waiting for the new season, initial claims of a release “before the end of 2016”, then further claims of “February”… AdultSwim decided to livestream the season 3 premiere without any kind of promotion or warning ON APRIL FOOLS DAY. Twitter exploded with people claiming it to be a hoax, with other imploring them to look at the livestream.
Given that fans have been literally “rick rolled” about the new season before, the incredulity was deserving… but I couldn’t even check – the live stream was region locked to the US! I had to convince a very skeptical friend in the US to check the live stream (even though it had “April Fools” written all over it) to know that it really was a new episode.
Eventually I managed to find a copy shared online and watched it… and lost my mind. I won’t spoil it, but safe to say that it’s the darkest, most extraordinary and possibly the funniest episode to date – if you have even a passing interest in Rick and Morty (or haven’t even seen it before) then you need to find a way to see it. We also found out that the rest won’t be broadcast till the US Summer (June onwards), but at least we know it’s on it’s way and will 100% be worth the wait.
Also, this is my desktop background for the foreseeable future…
What I’m listening to
I’ve listened to a bit of Spreading Rumours by Grouplove, as well as Read Music/Speak Spanish by Desaparecidos this month, however I briefly mentioned last month that I’d been venturing back into some old albums a little while running – I’ve heartily embraced that now.
Interestingly almost all of the albums I’ve been re-listening to (or thought about re-listening to) come from roughly the same 2009-2010 time period, which pretty much covers the entire time I was preparing for and then serving with the British Commandos. It’s crossed my mind more than once that I’m re-visiting these albums because I’m in a similar emotional space now: excited about the coming months and the potential with Mars One, as well as questioning much of who I am and what is really important to me.
It’s Blitz by Yeah Yeah Yeahs – This is a long time favourite, and I’m really glad I have it back on rotation again. I was introduced to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs while I was working as a blaster in the mining industry, and it’s genuinely one of the best things that came out of the entire experience. It’s Blitz was released early 2009 right between when I’d discharged from the Australian Navy and was training heavily in preparation to join the British Royal marine Commandos. There are so many memories tied to every single track, but everything about it is potential and drive – knowing where you’re headed and pushing yourself hard to get there.
Fantasies by Metric – A month after It’s Blitz was released, Fantasies dropped too, so both albums are very heavily tied to the time I was in Perth and ready to step into the breech with the Commandos. Fantasies doesn’t have quite the same power over me that It’s Blitz does, but to this day there are few songs that will get me running harder than the opening track “Help I’m Alive”.
Eyes Open by Snow Patrol – This one might seem a little left field but way back in 2006 I was living with a (now ex) girlfriend who introduced me to Snow Patrol, and for some reason it stuck. I suspect it’s come back because like early 2009 just before the Commandos, in late 2006 I was in the final stages of preparing to climb Mt Kilimanjaro with my Dad. I spent the month of Christmas with that girlfriend and her family in Aix-en-Provence, and every morning I’d run in the early morning frost around the nearby ruins of a castle while listening to either Snow patrol’s Eyes Open or Mezmerize by System of A Down… you know, just to mix things up.
Finally, I’ve partially reconnected with podcasts. There was a time at the end of 2015 where I was right into Serial, and I’ve tried several others, however I can’t work with a podcast on – they’re reserved for when I want to step away from the world for awhile but don’t need a nap! After a recommendation though I found down The Tim Ferriss Show and hunted down his interview with world-renowned psychologist Dr Phillip Zimbardo, and it was 100% worth the hour to listen to it.
I’d read Dr Zimbardo’s book The Lucifer Effect in 2008 when I was re-visiting boot camp with the Navy and absolutely loved it, and have bought copies for friends and partners through the years so they could appreciate it too. The interview with Tim Ferriss is equal parts fascinating and hilarious, as Dr Zimbardo talks about the horrors of the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Abu Ghraib abuses all while alarms, phones and animals run wild in the background! Tim mentions multiple times in the podcast that Dr Zimbardo is one of the people he’s most wanted to speak to for decades, and it’s really clear they’re both loving the chat – highly recommended.
Till next time!