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The Whippet #81: Fighter, Rogue, Wizard

McKinley Valentine — 6 min read

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Good morning! Exciting news! Is it still news if I've known about it for weeks but keep forgetting to mention it in The Whippet?

I'm running a workshop on newsletters! (Melbourne)

As you may know, I love newsletters, for a lot of reasons - I think they're currently the best medium for talking to people without having to deal with a bunch of internet toxicity and algorithm/SEO nonsense. I love that they're opt-in - I would find it really hard to write about the sometimes very silly things I write about if I felt like I was being pushed in your faces. Knowing the reader can unsubscribe any time is an emotional safety net for the writer.

Anyway, my point is that YOU should start a newsletter. You definitely don't need to go to a workshop to start a newsletter, but if it's something you've been wanting to do but not got around to, or not been able to do regularly, then a workshop is hugely motivating as a way to get around to it. It's the power of making an appointment that you then feel obligated to keep, and being shut in a room with other people who want to talk about newsletters, distraction-free environment, practical exercises, planning time, someone to ask about anything that you feel like is an obstacle, etc etc.

Note that I'm not going to be trying to teach everyone to write versions of the Whippet - newsletters are a format for getting your writing into the world, but your writing will be totally different from mine.

It's Sunday November 3rd, more details here.

Some moths live underwater

I thought I knew anything about the world, but a few months ago I saw mountain forest crabs in Japan and now this, aquatic moths.

For the most part it's only the larvae who live underwater, eating algae off rocks, before going into a cocoon to metamorphise. The new moth "drags itself to the water's edge and finds a safe place to shelter while it waits for its wings to dry". (It can't fly with wet wings.)

Emergency Services flatlay

One of my favourite kind of images is the flatlay: a top-down photo of a person's carpentry tools / crystals & tarot decks / backpack contents / etc layed out in a pleasing geometric arrangement.

Recently emergency services teams around the world have started doing flatlays of their vehicles and equipment. I love it but it's also super eerie: namely the way they've laid themselves out as part of the arrangement as though they're just another piece of equipment. The photos are better for it, and it's not actually dehumanising to want to include yourself in a photo, but it's definitely uncanny valley.

Hashtag #tetrischallenge for more.

Ostrich stomach flatlay

Contents of an ostrich’s stomach extracted after its death, circa 1930.⠀

"Amongst the items retrieved and noted down by Bond on the back of the photograph were two handkerchiefs (one lace) and a buttoned glove — presumably items expelled from the daily stream of visitors to the zoo, a sad consequence of the bird’s urban existence. Also found were a length of rope and various metal items, including assorted coins, tacks, staples and hooks, and a four-inch nail."

From Public Domain Review on instagram.

Fighter, Rogue, Wizard

I saw this Instagram post today:

"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time"

and thought - it is so weird how we use battle/fighting/military metaphors for almost any kind of challenge or goal whatsoever. Here's an article from a cancer patient who hates the phrase 'battle with cancer' - the most obvious example. But it's used to discuss getting through your workday, being creative (Stephen Pressfield's self-help book for artists, The War of Art, is a reference to Chinese tactician Sun Tzu's Art of War) and cleaning your house ("win the battle against shower grime").

In a lot of fantasy-themed games, both pen-and-paper (Dungeons & Dragons etc) and videogames, you can usually choose between a few basic archetypes: very often a warrior-type (strong), a rogue/thief/assassin (sneaky, stealthy) and a mage/sorcerer/wizard-type (smart).

from the videogame Oblivion

If you're a nerd, these are likely a very foundational trinity for you. So I started thinking: what if we lived in an alternative universe where one of the other archetypes had become the main metaphor for how we describe any kind of difficulty or achievement?

I'm really entertained by this idea, but then I couldn't actually think of any examples. Eye of the Enemy frontman and apparently excellent dungeon master Mitch Alexander suggested "summoning a positive outcome" and "she really slipped into recovery undetected huh". It's better than I'd managed ("I've stolen cancer's cache of rare gems").

The good thing about not being a comedian is it's not my job to actually write the joke, I can just describe the general concept to you, it's a good scam.

I've just realised I use the phrase "a good scam" admiringly, to mean someone's who's got a good thing going. "Bag of tricks", "something up my sleeve" are rogue-centric metaphors too.

Unsolicited Advice

"Your children are fine without your advice and suggestions" -- sign at an NYC playground, via Erik Nauman

and Elizabeth Gilbert ^

Just a reminder that unsolicited advice is roughly the speech equivalent of complaining about your work day: something that is wholly for the benefit of the speaker, not the listener. It's okay to say things that are wholly for your own benefit in a give-and-take relationship, the problem is that, unlike work-day venters, advice-givers (including media-recommenders, and especially the "I know you don't normally like jazz/EDM/trap but you HAVE to listen to this" style recommenders) and so on) sometimes think they are speaking for the benefit of the other person, which they are not.

(Again I am not claiming to be perfect at this, the urge to give advice is very strong. It's clearly for my beneit though - although I do believe my unsolicited advice will make their lives better, the urge to do it is more like the urge to straighten a stranger's collar on public transport. It's the thing of seeing something un-optimised and thinking you could optimise it (often wrongly, because they have reasons you're unaware of).

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

Someone did actually solicit advice this issue, and it was a really interesting question! But it was around whether to visit Auschwitz, what the ethics are around those kind of memorial-but-also-tourist places, what the purpose would be.
Since that very much breaks my "no depressing stuff that you probably don't want to think about on a Thursday morning" rule, I'm going to put my response up on Patreon in a few days, if you want to sign up for that. (Or just email me if you're interested in the topic but don't want to / can't with Patreon.)

Share this issue with someone who'd like it! If you want!

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