Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

03 June 2018

On the Spin #2: Podcast Edition

Since NPR One sucks now and is nothing but an endless Trump party with little to no regard for what I skip or like listening to on the regular (despite their promises that the app "just keeps getting smarter!"), I've started listening to podcasts in a big way—consuming maybe 2 or 3 per day, depending on length.

So if you're into that, or don't know where to begin—podcast discovery sucks, frankly—here's a primer on what I listen to now.

10% Happier with Dan Harris. Loved the book; the podcast neatly expands on its content and explores meditation from the perspectives of many. Harris likes to kick off with a segment where he listens to questions people leave on his voicemail. They aren't pre-screened, so it's fun to hear him tackle topics from meditation beginners and strugglers in real-time while always hastening to add, "I am not a meditation expert."

I keep secretly hoping somebody's going to surprise him with something weird, but it hasn't happened yet. Probably the producers pre-screen. Sigh.

His own earnest journey keeps me on board with my own meditation, though. I like his reflection that even if you meditate just a minute a day, that's still a success—a minute given to yourself. It's not a lot, keeps you out of a self-competing mindset ... and it's surprising how difficult it is to even allocate one minute to just you.

2 Dope Queens. My therapist recommended this to me as "homework". It's funny as fuck, super-real and packed with minority and female comedian talent.

A Very Fatal Murder. The Onion's tongue-in-cheek response to podcasts like Serial. It's just as well-produced, blows the lid off the little tropes true-crime podcasters use to keep you hooked, and takes no prisoners.

The Beef and Dairy Network Podcast. Fellow blogger/journo Stuart Dredge recommended this to me. It's a parody of hobbyist podcasts and has gone down a weird journey. At first it hewed so close to seeming true—with cynical fake ads, celeb interviews and name-dropping of "gods" of the beef sector—that it was hard to distinguish from reality until someone said something really weird.

Since then, it's gone down a few bonkers story arcs that border on the surreal. The narrator's befuddled, informational and geeky tone never wavers, though... except on the few occasions when he's in mortal danger.

Chiffon le podcast (FR). Intelligent interviews with women and men about the clothes they wear and why. Not all of them are from the fashion industry, which makes it more interesting. Fashion affects all of us in ways we can't begin to imagine.

Code Switch. Your primer to the ongoing identity war that characterises race in America. It often gets really personal. I don't listen if I'm already rattled because I OD'ed on news before getting up, though; it sometimes makes me hysterically, existentially upset.

Death, Sex + Money. From student loans to modern dating, this 'cast explores the intersection of culture, economy and why certain modern micro-experiences are surprisingly universal.

Endless Thread. My new favourite, which seizes on obscure Reddit stories or explosive memes, then explores the true stories behind them.

Game Scoop! A weekly dive into new stuff in gaming. The banter is awesome—like being in a roomful of friends—and it ends with a 20 Questions segment that's super fun.

Generation XX (FR). Interviews with female entrepreneurs—why they started their companies, what inspires them, advice for neophytes.

La Poudre (FR). Lengthy, personal interviews with feminists of all sectors and stripes. I like it when Lauren Bastide asks, "What's your relationship to your uterus?" It's neat to hear how many ways there are to approach that question. Also, no one is ever surprised by it.

Lexicon Valley. If you're a linguistics or English geek, this geek is for you. Plus his musical choices are adorably on-the-nose and dorky.

My Dad Wrote a Porno. I'm hoping I don't have to explain this—but if I do, basically a stereotypically fusty dad in retirement asks his son to read a book he's working on. His son realises the book is weird erotica about a woman climbing the ladder of the "pots and pans industry". His dad reveals he's already written multiple volumes.

Each season of is an almost painful reading of each book in its entirety, full of improbable scenarios—blue sperm, men grabbing cervixes—and other scenarios that are surprisingly probable (like that one time we all discovered that flight crews really do have a secret sleeping cabin where they may or may not orgy up with strangers). My favourite segments are the Footnotes with celeb guests who are die-hard fans.

Planet Money. A nice companion to Death, Sex and Money—except it's taking economic phenomena, then reverse-engineering them to explain how or why they came to be.

Pop Culture Happy Hour. From recent books to shows and films, this panel of close professional friends runs the gamut of every emotion you'll need to prep for before committing to your next act of consumption.

Radiolab. It's weird. It's smart. It takes you down rabbit holes.

Simplify. Blinkist's beloved podcast offering invites non-fiction authors to break down the key learnings from their work, and share books they love.

Stay Tuned with Preet. American politics in real-time from a high-level insider perspective. It stays on-point, explains how the innerworkings of our government impact stories that become clickbait, and never gets ranty, which is a fucking relief in this news cycle.

The Game Informer Show. My cousin described this 'cast best: It's a panel of people "very politely talking about gaming." Doesn't quite do it credit but now I can't stop thinking about how delighted he was when he said it.

The Guilty Feminist. Mostly I like this podcast because at start, a panel of women reveal the secret not-quite-feminist things they still sometimes think, do and say. It makes you feel less, well, guilty.

The Tim Ferriss Show. I haven't always been a Tim Ferriss fan, but he's going through this weird journey of awakening right now and has become infinitely more interesting since, because he's so vulnerable and is obviously trying to figure shit out.

Contrary to previous years, the podcast is less focused on pure-business topics intended to light fires of capitalism under your ass and more on long-term strategy, human insights and things that just make you better, not necessarily just to make money. I still skip the testosteroney intro, though.

Waking Up with Sam Harris. Sam Harris has more of an intellectual approach to the concept of "awakening" than Dan Harris does (and his monotonous voice shows it). Sometimes the segments are really enlightening and interesting; sometimes things devolve into arguments; sometimes I can't stand to listen because Sam Harris has a surprising tendency to shut down certain lines of discussion, or perspectives he can't identify with, wholesale. But it's probably also good for me to keep listening, so I keep it around when I need brain fibre or am just interested in a topic (like psychedelics).

This post was way less interesting than I thought it would be before I started. Oh, well. It's done now, so I'm publishing.

29 April 2018

Compliments Between Grown Women

Me: You're so good with herbs and pickling and experimenting with all kinds of culinary things. You would make the best witch.

Her: You would make the best witch! I would only be part of your coven.

Me: I know nothing about herbs! I'd make a horrible witch.

Her: You would work with electricity. I see it. I feel it.

16 April 2018

Destiny's Traps

Him: Would you go to Mars if asked?

Me: Yes.

Him: You couldn’t come back.

Me: I guess it depends when in my life...

Him: Tomorrow. You have to leave tomorrow.

Me: Yes. Still yes.

Him: So you’d leave me. For Mars.

Me: No! You could come!

Him: No, I don’t have an invitation.

Me: Then of course I would stay for you.

Him: No. No, you wouldn’t.

Me: Why would you entrap me like this?!! Where is this even coming from?

Him: It doesn’t matter. But now I know you’d leave me from one day to the next for something dumb. 

01 March 2018

The economics of creativity is not creativity.

Creativity is a survival trait.

We all have it. It is something all of us exercise and can also get better at. It doesn’t always come in the shower or in a flash of lightning. Sometimes it requires kneading and cajoling, or desperation, or discipline, to unlock.

Relegating the concept of “creativity” to a department, or a set of Chosen Employees, is not only an injustice but an act of violence. It saddens me that I may not be considered creative because of the title of my function in an agency. It makes me even sadder to hear people outside of the “creative department” proudly proclaim that they are not “creative people.”

We industrialised idea conception. For this reason, some people are paid to conceive ideas, others to sell them, others to manage their production, others to decide which are good or bad, others to soothsay, others to punt insights to journalists. Some of us went to school to learn these skills; probably all of us learned with time to get better at whichever component of the process we were assigned to.

This assembly line approach to capturing the miracle of ingenuity cannot begin to describe what creativity is; it only describes commerce.

We should never mistake the economic exploitation of a thing with the thing itself. 

09 October 2017

A thing about meaning

Around the table at dinner, chatting in a corner with two Polish Dominikas, too many languages and I'm so tired and the pad thai was so heavy, it occurs to me: I don't think we're supposed to know what our meaning is.

I mean, it's cool if we do, but our meaning is different for everyone we encounter. Possibly the biggest lie our culture has asked us to swallow is that our lives should be about the pursuit of One Meaning, the Thing that will make work feel like passion and transform sleeplessness into virtue. When we find it, we will know, we will give everything to it and the world will reward us and we will be Fulfilled.

But I keep thinking about Van Gogh, surrounded by paintings no one wanted, my age when he shot himself. He means something. His work means something. He worked so hard to realise his value, to be someone, to matter somewhere, and he does. He will as long as there are humans who exist that appreciate art.

It's just that the value didn't manifest within his lifetime.

We spend so much time trying to make something of ourselves, overworking, letting stress infect our bodies and addle our minds, groping for the Thing that Clicks and Makes it All Matter, wondering what we're doing wrong. We can't even sit still and be calm because what could I be doing instead right now in my ongoing pursuit of purpose?

It's a fucking mill-grinding tragedy. And it's short-sighted, this assumption that your existence requires a market in the passing wink of time that constitutes your life.

Meaning happens in fragments. It's kaleidoscopic: What I mean to my friends, my mother, my business partner, my employees and my dude are all different things, often unrelated. I can't begin to understand the granularities of my value to them—the variables shift as our relationships evolve, and in every passing interaction.

And they should not be expected to have to quantify my value for me; you know when you are nourishing a relationship, you don't need KPIs for that.

How were we bamboozled into believing our meaning is singular, and that we must define it, the better to market it?

Maybe there is a gift in not knowing, in understanding that all that matters, really, is what we do with this moment right now. Sometimes that can mean self-care; we, like the planet, are finite resources. Sometimes that can mean being a good sister. Sometimes that can mean driving people to be better, conveying a message, giving someone a lecture about the importance of recycling, listening. Maybe it's enough to just be here—present, paying attention, seeing somebody.

It is so narrow, such myopic capitalist bullshit, to insist your existence should culminate in some kind of point that, properly realised, results specifically only in material gain for yourself.

You get that, right?

30 August 2017

Creative Constraints

Someone lamented last week that she can't write because inspiration strikes so rarely. How, she wondered, does one keep inspiration full and burning?

I suffer from this problem with my personal projects, but I also write for a living and have rarely missed a deadline. I've written double-digit amounts of blog posts in a day, spent years contributing regularly to various columns, and live on deadlines that expect a certain number of stories daily, weekly, monthly.

I am not always inspired. Sometimes I have to stare at something for a long time to find my way into a topic. Often I'm not happy with the door I found, but have to pound on anyway, because a deadline is a deadline. And even if a deadline is a deadline, it still has to engage both the buyer and the audience. You can't just call this stuff in.

Successful writing isn't the sole domain of geniuses or virtuosos, so blessed with inspiration that the cups of their sanity run over, transforming them into the tragic figures we like to fantasise about. Successful writing is as gristy as a day job: You show up, bleary-eyed, and sometimes hate what you're doing. But your job is simple: You find your way in. When you are paid to write, you have no choice.

But like I said, I suffer from that same whingey inspiration complaint with my personal projects. No one is paying me for those or expecting me to show up. If I never find the time to do them, if I'd rather binge watch all of GoT instead, no one will ever know. The world won't languish at its loss.

So I was thinking maybe the key is not waiting for inspiration but imposing your own constraints on stuff you're passionate about. Maybe it can't be money, not at outset, but there are more compelling levers than money: A writing group you respect and that you want to perform for. A promise to yourself to meet a word count daily, monthly, yearly, no matter what, no excuses. Finally beating NaNoWriMo.

This model has served me pretty well in knitting: All my friends are having babies and I've committed to knitting them all stuff. They're probably not always thrilled with the results (well, I hope they are—that's my blood, sweat and tears, man) but it's something they've come to expect, and the deadlines of births have become as much a driving force as money.

It's also a model that served Bill, Darryl and me well when we wrote Generation Creation. Every week we had a Skype call. Every week we were expected to show up and do our little part to avoid letting everyone else down. We had a book in a year.

If I can do the same thing with my personal writing, I won't be in a bad place. I just need to find my lever.

Seen from this perspective—just a matter of finding the right lever—there's very little that seems difficult. Inspiration is a pipe dream. It comes if it comes, but it's an unfaithful lover: Appreciate it when it's there, but don't, like, try building your life on top of it.