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Month: April 2021

Stacking hay

Stacking hay

When you’re young in the midwest and want to make some money – this is how you did it. Bailing hay and straw.

There’s an art and science to working together like this. How you stack, carry, and work together in a group really matters. This guy does a decent job giving you an idea of just part of the job.

Not shown is the job of stack behind the tractor, using elevators to get bales up into hay lofts, the dangers of hay loft flooring (often just lots of planks thrown around willy-nilly with holes everywhere, and the unbelievable amount of chaff and crud that you end covered in by the end of the day (and in your lungs to hack up the next day).

The musicians behind our best hits

The musicians behind our best hits

Everyone should check out the 2008 documentary film called The Wrecking Crew – because it astounding this story has gone untold for so long.

Popular music of the 1960s was dominated by young bands like The Beach Boys, The Mamas & the Papas, The Monkees, Simon & Garfunkel, Dean Martin, Cher, Elvis, Tina Turner, Frank Sinatra, and many more. Turns out, these bands sometimes didn’t even play their own records. At times, the only members of the band on a song was the vocalists. The Wrecking Crew were the Los Angeles studio musicians that played for almost all of them. They played and shaped hundreds of now-classic records and are likely among the most recorded musicians in history. The movie shows just how influential these musicians were in creating the songs we now know and love.

To give you a taste, check out how many classics of rock they were the ones that performed and created.

Parties for Influencers

Parties for Influencers

Social elites, artists, the rich, and now influencers have been known for extravagant and unusual types of gatherings and parties. The movies Eyes Wide Shut and The Game gave people a little glimpse into these worlds, but actually getting into these kinds of events is secretive and selective. Most people don’t even know about them even well after they happen. Just being invited often requires the right connections, social and artistic cache, as well as a bit of luck. Even chosen guests often know little about the details of the location, theme, artists, or the food until the very last minute.

Madame Lupin is a private Parisian experiential design group that extends invitation to those who take the time, effort, and patience to discover the secrets of Paris. They often organizing events at secret and abandoned locations – like sand caves under the Paris streets, an abandoned art museum, old military complexes, etc. They then invite new painters, sculptors, performers, and musicians to entertain – along with food and beverages.

Moving up the ladder of expense and extravagance, We Are the Oracle is a top tier organization that hosts elaborate clandestine dinners and parties, including the Paris catacombs, empty railways, and abandoned chateaus. What began as a word-of-mouth soirée among the Paris’ elite influencers has evolved into seasonal theme parties, all-night raves, and immersive theatrics of shows like “Sleep No More.”

As the reputation of their parties grew, so did the pressure to raise the level of extravagance. “Venise Sous Paris,” for example, took a year to plan and cost more than a million euros to produce. Check out some of their work like the party in the catacombs of Paris.

The above pictures are another event thrown by We Are the Oracle. They hosted a candlelit costume ball inside the abandoned Rothschild Chateau in the East of Paris.

If you don’t find yourself on these selective guest lists, you can check for other events on AirBnB or similar platforms – like spending Halloween night in the Paris catacombs – complete with dinner, spooky storyteller, and a bed to literally sleep with the dead.

Or, check out the “Don’t be a Tourist in…” series by Messy Nessy. She has books on New York and Paris (as well as a playlist to set the mood).

The Pirates of Somalia 2017

The Pirates of Somalia 2017


This movie was MUCH better than I expected. It was extremely real and held a depth that the truth does more than standard formulaic Hollywood story telling. I highly recommend it as some solid telling of a real person’s story.

Warning: spoilers below.

The Pirates of Somalia tells the true story of Jay Bahadur, a young Canadian trying to make a name for himself while living at home and working as a questioner for supermarket product placing. In a chance meeting with his journalist idol, Seymour Tolbin, Tolbin inspires him with some wisdom. He says that the reason journalism is a pile of garbage today is because real journalism can’t be taught – it’s innate. Tolbin says his famous war reporting (that gave him shrapnel in his back) wasn’t by using his head, but following his instincts on the story. Tolbin tells Jay that if he wants to be a big journalist, you gotta go somewhere crazy. Somewhere western reporters would consider it too dangerous to go – and write about it.

In pondering this later, Jay thinks back to a paper he wrote about Somaliland. It’s a place no western journalist would go after the brutal civil war of the 1990’s (made even more infamous by the Black Hawk Down incident). Jay then sees a news report on the famous hijacking of Richard Phillips’ ship by Somali pirates. Taking a completely blind leap, he contacts their diplomatic office via email, is accepted to come, and flies there with almost no money.

The majority of the movie is a very realistic and humble telling of Jay’s adventures. He meets the pirates – but even more so in the telling of his struggles and relationships with the people of Somalia. Along the way, Jay learns some great life lessons – lessons I think are universal:

  • Boyah is a lower Somali pirate that sees himself as the Robin Hood of his people. He says he is only defending his country’s waters and just extracting the taxes due his people from illegal fishing. Jay starts shooting cans that are ‘the size of a man’s heart’ with Boyah. The pirate tells him to shoot the cans not as if at an enemy, but as if it’s his lover’s heart. When Jay finally hits one, he says the heart was that of his ex-girlfriend. Boyah is disappointed and says that it was a waste of bullets – because there was “no joy in your victory, only revenge.” While certainly not a Christian ethic of ‘turn the other cheek’ and forgiveness – he has a lot more insight than many. Even when we’re fighting for something, are we fighting for good – or just revenge? Is the aim of our activates to spread evil/vengeance/revenge – or to follow one’s heart to joy. I think it’s a something here about how one can still maintain their focus on true joy/vision/path while even in the thick of the worst evils.
  • At the end, Jay is brought in as an expert to speak with various western generals who ask him what he thinks is needed to stop the pirate hijackings. Jay remarks on Somali’s amazing bloodless election in 2002 in which the minority clan won the election – yet the transition of power happened without a single shot fired. He told of the fact Somalians used to settle disputes and wars using poetry – not guns. Jay sums up that, “A fledgling democracy doesn’t make headlines like pirates do. You guys wouldn’t be sitting here talking to me if I just wrote a book on a fledgling democracy. All I’m asking is that you guys start to look at Somalia in a different way, not so much as them vs us, but rather look at Somalia as us, when we were young.” This spoke to me in several ways. First is how shallow our journalism is – and that we, nor our style of sensationalistic journalism, really cares about the everyday struggles that actually matter to the lives of most people. It reminded me never to discount anyone. Game designers have a saying, “Every winner was once a beginner”. Every great person was once broken or needed help. It’s reminds me of the way of Christ – that is to enter into the often broken realities of every person with love, respect, and dignity. And to walk that path of redemption with them. That real conversion happens when we forgive and walk with our enemy.
  • If you have a natural gift, follow the innate leads it directs you towards. I found some of the lessons Jay got were the same as mine. Jay started following his dream of being a journalist. I found that I had a gift and natural drive towards computers and programming. I followed that gift throughout elementary school through college – despite the fact my pursuit of it lead me down strange paths. I taught myself to program when I was in elementary school. I bought my own computer when others were buying their first cars. I spent my money on programming books and devoured everything I could find at local libraries. Later, I entered programming contests and won more often than I imagined – even winning a trip to Japan to work with big corporations. Following instincts that weren’t the established path turned out to have opened countless career doors, experiences, and relationships I would never have had. Something I think Jay would agree with. I sure may not be easy at times, but following your instincts can be life-changing.
Tim Hunkin’s mechanical wonders

Tim Hunkin’s mechanical wonders

Tim Hunkin is an innovative English engineer, cartoonist, writer, and artist best known for creating the Channel Four television series The Secret Life of Machines in which he explains the workings and history of various household devices. He has also created museum exhibits for institutions across the UK, and designed numerous public engineering works, chiefly for entertainment. Hunkin’s works are distinctive, often recognizable by his unique style of paper-mâché sculpture (made from unpainted newsprint), his pen and ink cartoons, and his offbeat sense of humor​.

His “Under the Pier Show” is on Southward Pier in Suffolk, England is a true delight. I love it!

There’s a place in the US with similar cool machines at Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Michigan.