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The Whippet #18: I would have used more ginger

McKinley Valentine — 8 min read

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My dear case moths,

It’s winter, and it is okay to stay in your cases. I am still thinking about the gym, specifically about building habits (like regular exercise, or committing to putting out a weekly newsletter). I’m not a naturally disciplined person, which means I know a bit abou
t tricks that help.

The first, most obvious thing is that your goal should be about behaviours, not outcomes. So not “I will be able to touch my toes” but “I will do a 30-second hamstring stretch every evening”. You are building a habit, a sustainable way of living, not sprinting for a particular finish line. Also, this means ‘success’ looks like showing up. You did your hamstring stretch? You succeeded. That makes you a success every evening. If your definition of success is touching your toes, you’ll feel like a failure every evening for three months until you can do it. Not helpful!

You’ve probably heard that you should start any habit small. This is correct! A good choice is “meditate for two minutes” or “do one push-up”. Because the first aim is to build a behaviour pattern, not to achieve enlightenment / Batman pecs.

But this is the extra trick that I know: your ego is super powerful and you can hijack it to be useful to you. So even better than “I will reach out to a friend once a week” is:

  • “I am the kind of person who keeps in touch with their friends.”
  • “I am the kind of person who never misses a workout.”
  • “I am a good dog owner (who always walks their dog even when the weather is shitty).”

The danger here is you’ll immediately go “no I’m not though.” So that’s the purpose of starting the tiny, one-pushup (or whatever) habit. If you never miss your one-pushup workout, then you can say “I am the kind of person who never misses a workout” and your brain won’t rebel.

So that’s my recommendation, think up an identity statement that ties into your habit, and then think of a really small way you could regularly reinforce that statement so that you would internalise it.

(PS you don't have to believe that identity or the self are real for this to work.)

(PPS related trick, watch tv shows / read books that reinforce this identity and make it seem cool to you. Pop culture is *super* good at romanticising and narrativising stuff, so steal its power for yourself. Terminator 2 or Starship Troopers is probably a good choice if you're habitifying push-ups. Avatar: The Last Airbender for meditation. Harry Potter for studying. You get the idea)

Artist feud over the right to use the world's blackest black

Please enjoy this story of cartoonish villainy

So firstly: Vantablack. It’s the world’s blackest pigment, absorbing 99.96% of visible light, and turning any surface it’s painted on into a flat black hole. It’s pretty toxic and has to be grown in a special sealed chamber. It was created for military and aerospace uses, but obviously artists were pretty excited about its possibilities too.

But when they approached the manufacturers of Vantablack, they found they had already made an exclusivity deal with Anish Kapoor, the world’s 7th richest living artist (Damien Hirst is the richest).

PEOPLE WERE EXTREMELY UPSET. “He's signed an exclusive agreement with the creators of Vantablack which blocks any other artist from using it. Nobody forced him or them to enter into an agreement like that. It's a heinous ego-driven pact which stops every other artist after him from working with Vantablack on art projects.”

Kapoor refused to engage or explain. He says this wouldn't happen with any other colour, people just get irrational and emotional about black.

Next: Artist and paintmaker Stuart Semple had a pink that was “particularly special. It just is like nothing else, it’s so vibrant. You can’t photograph it. It’s nuts. Like, the pinkest pink thing ever."

"When everybody started complaining that Anish Kapoor wouldn’t share Vantablack, I thought it was a really bad thing for him to be doing, and I was upset by it as well."

"And I thought, ‘Wait, hang on, if you’re upset about it, you’ve got all this awesome stuff that you’ve been making, all these colors, you should be sharing them. It’s wrong to be criticizing him and not sharing them.’"

So Semple released The World's Pinkest Pink. But if you want to buy it, you have to agree that “by adding this product to your cart you confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated with Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor.”

A few weeks later, Anish Kapoor posts a photo to instagram: his middle finger dipped in The World's Pinkest Pink. Then Semple gets told through a third party that Kapoor is suing him. “I wrote to them and said, ‘Look, it’d be really nice if we could just be friends, and he could say sorry for taking the pink, and give me the £3.99 back that it costs. And then we can just call it quits and it’ll all be fine.’ But they just ignored it and said they were suing me.”

Realising they would probably never get access to Vantablack, Semple and friends developed the second blackest black in the world: an open source, cherry-scented pigment called Black 2.0 that's thousands of times cheaper than the official stuff and much easier to work with. But will that dastardly Kapoor get his hands on Black 2.0 as well?

“I don’t want him to have it. I think the way he’s been acting is really dodgy. And all the time and effort that’s gone into Black 2.0, and how much everyone cares about it, it would just be a real downer if he got it. What I really like is the fact that loads of us can make really cool black things, and he’s stuck in his science lab, paying gazillions of pounds to get quite a similar thing. I think that’s so cool! Yeah, I don’t want him to have it. It would upset me if he got it.”

Full interview with Stuart Semple, including details on the suing aspect

Case moths build themselves blanket forts and then never leave

Case moths are a native Australian moth that stays in their cocoon way past what any other moth would consider normal. So, #relateable.

They “spin their cases out of silk and most species attach leaves, twigs, sand or soil to the outside for protection and camouflage. There are a number of different species and each species builds a distinctive-looking case, using whatever materials are available to them.”

“Case moths spend most of their lives in the caterpillar phase; this part of their life cycle can last 1-2 years. As caterpillars, they never leave their cases. However, they can be very mobile, dragging their large cocoons along as they move around. They poke the front end of their bodies out the top of their case to feed, collect case decorations, and cling to surfaces as they move about."

“As they grow, case moths expand their cases from the top (head) end, adding additional twigs as they go. They do this by cutting off appropriately-sized twigs, attaching them temporarily to the top of the case and then disappearing inside to cut a slit where they plan to attach the new stick. This is no mean feat. Case moth cocoons are incredibly tough; cutting a slit for a new stick can take over an hour!”

"“If they feel threatened they can seal off the end of the cocoon, cutting a new opening once the threat has passed."

“The females continue to live in their cases after they’ve pupated into adult moths, but the males leave their cases after pupation to fly off in search of females.”

Let us all forgive ourselves for our case moth ways.

Okay, someone's written Semple/Kapoor slashfic now. (It's SFW, but please don't consider this mention to be an endorsement or recommendation.)

Crime scene geology

Ah! Yes, this! This is exactly what's great about geology! I mean obviously I'm coming at it from the reverse direction, but still.

can't find original artist, sorry :/

Unsolicited Advice

How to be arrogant without annoying people too much

This advice is for people who are already pretty arrogant, and also for people who would like to be more arrogant, but worry that it will make them obnoxious and unlikeable.

I have quite a few friends who I think would be described as arrogant, and I was trying to think about what these people have in common, other than arrogance – what separates them from the arrogant people who are not my friends, because they’re unpleasant to be around. And it’s this:

They are all instantly, effusively supportive of other people’s endeavours. If you need a volunteer from the audience, and the audience has gone dead quiet, they’ll step up. If it’s your first gig and no one’s dancing, they’ll get up and dance in front of the stage, alone, until other people start to join in. If you say you’re thinking about taking a public-speaking class, they’ll tell you that’s awesome and you should definitely give it a go.

Basically, they have tickets on themselves, but they have tickets on everyone else, too. There’s almost no limit to how highly you can think of yourself, if you think of other people just as highly.

It’s pretty easy to imagine this: you’re at a dinner party with two people who are pretty good cooks, but who think they’re excellent cooks. Potentially annoying situation. One of these people whispers to you “ehhh this food is okay I guess. I wouldn’t have used so much ginger.” The other is all “it is so nice to be here with you and eating this food. Seconds, please?”

You can see which one is pleasant to be around, right? It doesn’t mean you can’t ever be critical of anything, but you can generally not dampen your friends' attempts to try new things. You will notice the second person didn't actually compliment the food. You can always find something to be pleased with, and if you can't, why are you there?

(Note: You don’t have to be as one-note excitable as my hypothetical arrogant person obviously, you can be supportive in a tone that’s more low-key and natural for you, send an email of private encouragement, flyer for their comedy show, endorse them on LinkedIn, support their Patreon, go to their launch party, commission an artwork, ask for their advice, gossip about how great they are to your mutual friends.)

I mean this is just an excellent trait to have in general, and I’d like to get better at it. But according to my chemical analysis, it’s also specifically the one that neutralises the toxic parts of arrogance.

If you want solicited advice, send questions to or just reply to this email.

Feels a bit gauche to put this here right after that particular Unsolicited Advice, but: if you want to support The Whippet, I have a Patreon now! You can give any number of dollars between 1 and all of them.
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