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The Whippet #111: A knife or other pointed object

McKinley Valentine — 7 min read

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A couple of days ago I found out that Anna Paquin won an Oscar when she was 9 (she’s the actor who played Rogue and Sookie Stackhouse). She would probably barely remember it.

I’ve been thinking: how would that affect your life goals and your future planning and how you worked in your chosen field? If you’d already achieved one of the biggest milestones in your field before you were really even conscious of setting life goals?

I feel like that must change the way she approaches what work she accepts or rejects, and what her personal metric of success is.

Like, if you’ve always wanted to be a published author, your big dream is probably publication. That’s the thing you daydream about. So would you work differently if you’d already published a best-selling novel several years ago? Would you put less work into your writing (because what’s the point now), or more, because you’d be sort of relaxed about it?

Or if you already had an Olympic gold medal, or a Pulitzer Prize, or sold an app to Google or, I don’t know, been made International Firefighter of the Year, look I’m a bit unclear on what people consider major career milestones in various industries (and I know for a lot of actors, the Oscars wouldn’t actually rank very highly), but anyway, whatever it is. How would that change how you approached your work?

As always you can discuss this issue in the comments section, or just read other people’s comments:

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  • The First Time (a podcast for writers) invited me back to talk more about newsletters as part of Darebin FUSE Festival — listen here!
  • I can’t stop watching [Melbourne comedy group] Aunty Donna’s Don’t Get in the Kiln sketch. I don’t even… I don’t even know if I’m recommending it. It’s just so more-ish.

ONLINE WORKSHOP: Using newsletters to develop your voice

Saturday January 30, 10am - 4pm (AEST)

I’m running a workshop on newsletters! As you would know, I think newsletters are awesome, and I love that you don’t have to edit yourself down into clickbait, that you can write about things you wouldn’t necessarily be able to ‘sell’, that you don’t have to have a single-topic niche.

I’ve titled it “to develop your voice” because I think that’s what separates newsletters from regular web writing, and what I love about the newsletters I subscribe to, and how I think having a newsletter has helped me the most.

The format is three sessions over the day, with breaks in between:

  • Session 1: Me talking
  • Session 2: Q & A (or me talking more if no one has any Qs)
  • Session 3: Exercises

It’ll be me and a moderator from Writers Victoria.

Since it’s online, you don’t have to be in Melbourne, though distant timezones might be tricky. LA would work: 3pm - 9pm (Jan 29). Also you got that sweet sweet exchange rate on our baby Australian dollar.

More info + registration

Wikipedia page: List of movies, books, albums etc. with different titles in the UK and US

Each listing has an asterisk to show which name was the original — it’s fun to decide whether you think the original or the new name is better.

UK: The Blue Boa* 
US: Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy

UK: Moroccan Traffic* 
US: Send a Fax to the Kasbah

UK: Bay of Blood
US: Twitch of the Death Nerve

(Where there’s no asterisk, it means the work originated in neither the US nor the UK.)

UK: Fahrenheit 
US: Indigo Prophecy

UK: The Story of Thor
US: Beyond Oasis

UK: Rhythm Paradise
US: Rhythm Heaven

What’s really interesting are the explanations — often the title is changed because there’s a famous show with a competing name (e.g. the film Neighbors in the US became Bad Neighbours in the UK and Australia).

Or a competing bank robbery: Michael Crichton wrote a book called The Great Train Robbery, which was made into a US film. But since the UK had an actual train heist known as “The Great Train Robbery” (RIP Ronnie Biggs 🤘) which the film wasn’t talking about, the film got renamed The First Great Train Robbery.

Sometimes it’s because the work is named after a famous phrase that won’t be recognisable outside of the country. E.g. the film The Man From Snowy River is based on a poem so famous in Australia that it’s written in titchy tiny writing on the $10 note as an anti-counterfeit measure. In the UK, the film is called The Untamed.

Sometimes it’s the other way around — a term that’s neutral in the original country might seem to be referring to something in the other. Kylie Minogue’s album Impossible Princess got changed to just Kylie Minogue in the UK because it was released only a couple of months after the death of Princess Diana.

I hate seeing the interesting, specific titles get changed to generic ones. Cool, a film called Renegade, that’ll really stand out.

Anyway as you can see I had a fun time reading this entire list, maybe you will too.

Increasingly unsettling eggs

“Many people have been using quarantine as a time to perfect their bread or coffee making skills, but I personally have taken this as an opportunity to make increasingly unsettling eggs” — Anna Hughes on twitter, a woman currently doing a PhD in astrophysics.

This word is pleasing to me

I came across it at random; I didn’t know that the action described would even have a word, hadn’t really thought of it as a distinct action, even though it makes sense and was probably used in ancient geometry and architecture and such.

I cannot imagine ever using the word, but there’s something very satisfying about knowing the concept exists and has a name.

In primary school kids used to tease me by saying I read the dictionary for fun and I was like “nooooo, I don’t, stop it” but actually it was true. And the best dictionary to read for fun is, the Online Etymology Dictionary!

It’s also much much easier to guess what unfamiliar words will mean once you’ve seen the roots (the etymology) of enough of other words to see the patterns.

Etymonline also has a Chrome extension, which adds “search for [highlighted word] on etymonline” to your right-click menu.

The companies that help people vanish

Another “there’s two kinds of people”: people who have some sliver of them that fantasises about their house burning up with all of their possessions in it, and people who cannot understand the appeal of that at all.

There’s a huge romantic appeal for me in faking my own death and starting totally fresh, despite really liking my husband and friends.  Oliver Burkeman, who has an excellent self-help-y newsletter, says this is a symptom of perfectionism — the romanticising of the fresh start and the blank slate.

Anyway, in Japan, there are companies who can help you disappear. It doesn’t have much romance, but it’s fascinating. It seems to be a mix of people escaping abusers and people escaping shame — who’ve been fired and can’t face their families. This seems tragic to me, because I think their families would rather have their person than the income. But at least it’s better than suicide.

The BBC has an article on so-called “night-moving” companies, with interviews from people who have “vanished”.

Unsolicited Advice: Things to celebrate besides traditional holidays

I am one of those people who tends to dread Christmas rather than look forward to it, due to my family situation, dislike of gifts, and dislike of being obligated to attend a bunch of hectic social gatherings back-to-back and probably travelling stressfully between them (in non-pandemic years).

So I started thinking: well, what if instead of just rebuking Christmas, I chose some days for myself, that are important and worth celebrating? Personal holidays.

I usually celebrate the 1st of August, because July is the coldest month of the year in Melbourne. Late June is the winter solstice, after which it starts getting lighter, but the 1st of August is the temperature solstice (the Coldstice), after which it starts getting warmer.

This year I also celebrated my Diagnosiversary, the day I got my ADHD diagnosis, because it was a big deal that resulted in a lot of positive life changes.

Other anniversaries you could celebrate: coming out, the day you moved away from home, becoming a citizen, renouncing your citizenship, the day you met a dear friend, changing religions, that time you won an Oscar when you were 9 years old, the first time you got paid to make art — these might not be good examples because the whole point is other people can’t guess what is important and meaningful to you.

If it feels narcissistic to ask someone else to celebrate it with you, you can just have a quiet beer or joint or piece of cake and toast to yourself, or even do nothing except put it on your calendar and notice it for a moment.

Also, if you can’t figure out the exact day on which it happened, that’s okay too. Lots of things have a commemorative day that isn’t the “real” day — the Queen’s Birthday in Australia is always on the 2nd Monday in June, which is a different date each year and nowhere near her actual birthday, which is in April.

It’s just an idea, if you think it might feel good to have your calendar marked out with some days that are meaningful to you instead of just ones chosen by other people.

Thanks so much for reading everyone!

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