The almost insoluble task is to let neither the power of others, nor our own powerlessness, stupefy us.

– Theodor W. Adorno

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Featured artist: Mark Conlan

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery
 

Welcome to Issue 175!

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My reading list that informs these intros includes a handful of pieces on the ethics of eating meat, and I’ve been dragging my feet to read and talk about them here. I mean, ugh, there are enough things to worry about these days without the vegan moral police making us feel guilty about food.

Besides, I think – perhaps foolishly – that by now a good chunk of society feels the cognitive dissonance that comes with eating animals. They are aware of the destructive impacts animal farming has on our forests, soil, oceans and climate. Many understand that, yes, humans have eaten animals forever, but also that factory-farming on an industrial scale creates unfathomable suffering and is far removed from the methods and diets of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

So, instead of throwing more terrifying quotes and facts at you, I want to share a personal perspective that might help you in your efforts to become a more ethical eater.

It’s worth noting that, obviously, the slaughter of billions of farmed animals every year is not a problem any one of us can solve. Like so many issues, it’s a system-level problem, so individual action – other than being a node for social contagion – can feel like a drop in the ocean. Personally, I make ethical choices such as this because I’m able to and because it lets me contribute to the kind of future I want to live in.

My own path towards a meat-free diet started, like it so often does, with a few documentaries that tipped the cognitive dissonance scale off balance. As a first step, my then-partner and I – and it absolutely helps to have an equally committed companion – decided to stop buying meat at supermarkets, removed red meat from our diet and sought out the most ‘ethical’ sources for poultry. This meant, for example, buying genuine free-range chicken, raised at a farm an hour from Melbourne, using transparent, organic practices. It costs about four times as much (hello privilege!) which reflects the cost of raising an animal humanely.

Shortly after that, my partner started volunteering at an animal sanctuary that gives discarded (!) or injured farm animals a second life. That was the final straw. It was too hard to unsee the cruelty. She went all in and started a vegan diet. I joined her, but still allowed myself to eat the occasional dairy product.

Fortunately, meat and dairy alternatives are becoming better and more available every year, making the initial steps easier and more socially acceptable. Though, a big part of transitioning to a largely plant-based diet is to unlearn the notion of vegetables as a mere sideshow. The reward is an appreciation for a rich variety of delicious, wholesome foods that most meat-centric eaters will never experience.

I’ve been a vegetarian for about seven years now and don’t feel any temptation to eat meat. While I’m not a vegan, I do try to minimise my intake of animal products, knowing that the dairy industry in many ways creates more (prolonged) suffering than the meat industry.

Changing your diet should be done with an appropriate amount of research and preparation. Don’t just cut out meat. Be mindful of dubious advice online – the vegan space is full of great recipes and bogus health claims. Read widely, mostly from well-researched, well-reviewed books. There are some great resources online – like this Meat/Less email course by Vox – just, you know, check the sources. Also, get a few blood tests over the course of a year to ensure your diet offers balanced nutrition.

I also learned the importance of not being too hard on yourself: you will have slip-ups. Try to not be overly dogmatic towards others. Newly vegan/vegetarian people tend to be very preachy. Oh, and purists and meat-lovers alike will regularly accuse you of being a hypocrite, pointing out, for example, that you stopped drinking milk but still wear leather shoes. Ignore at will.

Zero waste advocate Anne-Marie Bonneau is often quoted for having said: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” If you’re an imperfect vegan or vegetarian: congratulations and thank you, you’ve taken a step towards a more compassionate future! – Kai

 

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Apps & Sites

Typeface →

Font manager

This native font manager for macOS has a minimial UI while still being powerful enough to cope with large font collections. Extensive exploration options let you preview details such as OpenType and variable font features, glyphs and body text layouts.

(Not Boring) Habits →

Gamified habit builder

The ‘habit builder’ segment of apps is getting ever more creative: this app uses a game-like motivation approach “to master a positive habit or slay a bad one”. Though, I’m actually more intrigued by the look of the many other little apps they produce.

HappyCow →

Vegan/vego restaurant finder

HappyCow is a very active, global community of vegans/vegetarians that together built a giant directory of restaurants and food outlets catering to the cruelty-free eater. I’ve previously used the app while travelling and found some real gems!

Age-Positive Image Library →

Free images of people 50+ years

I thought I include this here after receiving one too many marketing emails with ‘perfect-looking’ millennials in it. I’m glad there are now several options for more racial/ethnic diversity in stock photography (like Nappy, for example) but this is the first (I think) high-quality library of “positive and realistic images of people aged 50 and over”, and it’s free. More info and usage terms here.

 

Worthy Five: Elliot Jay Stocks

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Five recommendations by designer & musician Elliot Jay Stocks

A question worth asking:

‘Is this the best way to spend my time?’ It’s a great question to ask yourself regularly, whether you’re stressing over work (‘Do I actually need to work late on this?’), whether you’re losing patience with manic kids (‘Is getting cross a good use of our time together?’) or you’re procrastinating (‘Is watching Netflix more fulfilling than making progress on that side project?’).

An Instagram account worth following:

@Gemmacorrell perfectly captures so much of modern life’s day-to-day anxieties in mini comic form.

A recipe worth trying:

The owners of a café in France once shared their shakshuka recipe in a magazine I used to run. It’s so simple, it’s become a staple for us.

An activity worth doing:

Daily meditation has been a transformative experience for me. After being a sceptic for a long time, I’ve found that ten minutes with Calm every morning helps me deal better with anything the day throws at me.

A podcast worth listening to:

Whether you’re a Smoke Fairies fan or not, the banter in their podcast Smoke Signals is always charming, and the entire podcast provides an amusing look inside the lives of independent musicians.

 

Books & Accessories

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Wanting →

Why we desire what we desire

A new book exploring the work of French polymath René Girard who tried to better understand where our desires come from: “Humans don’t desire anything independently. Human desire is mimetic – we imitate what other people want. This affects the way we choose partners, friends, careers, clothes, and vacation destinations. Mimetic desire is responsible for the formation of our very identities. It explains the enduring relevancy of Shakespeare’s plays, why Peter Thiel decided to be the first investor in Facebook, and why our world is growing more divided as it becomes more connected.”

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You Should Write a Book →

Why & how to publish your know-how

A Book Apart goes ‘meta’: their newest title encourages everyone to publish their professional expertise in the form of a book. This practical guide breaks down and demystifies the steps involved in getting yourself published. “Adding your voice to the conversation leads to a stronger, more inclusive tech industry.” Friends of DD enjoy a 10% discount. Become a Friend to access specials like this.

 

Overheard on Twitter

Computer culture used to be ‘Information wants to be free.’ Now it’s ‘How can I bring ownership to things you can’t own.’

@afivegantenna

 

Food for Thought

That which is unique, breaks →

Read

Oh, what an absolute joy this little piece is! Simon Sarris beautifully illustrates how much we lose when we commodify the creation of everyday things. Don’t skip this one! “To mend is to comprehend a human scale problem, and without this understanding our creations become strange creatures. We see this in the common examples of our time, from architecture to websites: Things used daily that, inexplicably, do not seem to be invented for human use. In the case of housing, bad architecture treats a human-scale environment as if it were a commodity-scale problem. The creators of some places see inhabitants not as humans but parameters. I do not need to spoil your view with visions of this architecture, I only wonder, what have their creators ever repaired?”

How can wonder transform us? →

Read

It’s been said that when we grow into an adult we leave behind our sense of wonder about the world. In this essay, Helen De Cruz tries to understand what wonder is and what we (re)gain when we let wonder guide us. “Wonder ... is a grounding emotion. It attunes the perceiver to the things they find valuable, and away from the sense of inevitability that sometimes looms. ... she argues that wonder ‘closes the distance between “this is wonderful” and “this must remain,” between the “is” and the “ought.” It is a bridge of moral resolve that links the physical world and the moral world. … a sense of wonder may well be a moral virtue, perhaps the keystone virtue of an environmental ethic.’”

100 tweets of advice →

Read

I rarely link to Twitter threads here, but I really enjoyed this extensive list (compiled over six hours!) of advice by Visakan Veerasamy, which includes nuggets of wisdom such as: “Laughter and anxiety are two sides of the same coin. (h/t Alan Watts). It’s okay to be anxious about stuff. Saying ‘Don’t be anxious!’ typically has the opposite effect. But if you can find a way to laugh, the anxiety usually dissipates. One must imagine Sisyphus LOL-ing.” There are lots of practical goodies, too: “If you’re trying to get healthy, drinking a glass of water and going for a walk will serve you much better than spending time researching obscure details about nutrition and exercise. Figure out a good-enough next step and execute it. This applies to practically everything.” (Full, unrolled thread here.)

 

Aesthetically Pleasing

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Painter Laura Fisher creates abstract landscapes with oil, working with both subtle and pronounced interplays of colour that add up to an inviting composition.

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SpaceWalk is a rollercoaster-like staircase installation taking visitors seventy metres high up into the South Korean sky.

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Two minutes of incredible footage of the Schwebebahn in Germany’s Wuppertal, recorded in 1902! The hanging electric train was built between 1897 and 1903 and is still operational today. (via)

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Fragen is a text-display hybrid with a strong slab flavour and spirited italics, available in 16 styles.

 

Did You Know?

Smiling for photos is largely the result of marketing campaigns.

When looking at older portraits (first painted, then photographed) you would notice that very few subjects smile. As this piece explains, up to the beginning of the 20th century, “a grin was only characteristic of peasants, drunkards, children, and halfwits”. In the first half of the 20th century, camera company Kodak tried to make the experience of having your photo taken less awkward and more fun, and thus created a marketing campaign to emphasise the pleasure of photography. The photographic smile became a byproduct of an increasingly sophisticated advertising culture focused on telling cheerful stories about products.

 

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The Week in a GIF

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Reply or tweet at DD with your favourite GIF and it might get featured here in a future issue.