Under the Influencer: As You Like It and Social Media

If Shakespeare were alive today, what would he think about social media? This type of question is an imaginative prompt. It is a call to speculate. It can’t be a hypothesis because there is no way to prove it. Without the ghost of Shakespeare communicating with us, we can only use his words and ideas to dream up an answer.

One thing I can say with conviction is that Shakespeare understood the power of social influence. He dramatizes transformative dynamics of persuasion in the comedy As You Like It. In the first scene we have a confrontation between brothers. Their father has recently passed away and the younger sibling Orlando is asserting himself as a rightful heir. This kind of self-promotion, this dogged belief in one’s own rights and worth, has Logan Paul written all over it. 

When he is denied his rightful portion of his inheritance, he fights a professional wrestler. This performance is a public spectacle and because he is willing to risk being hurt or being humiliated, Orlando creates a scene that has a lot of interest for the audience, including the cousins Rosalind and Celia. Make no mistake about it, Rosalind is the most powerful influencer of the play, the Call Her Daddy of the Forest of Arden, but the play begins with Orlando’s fight. Rosalind’s reaction to the occasion is funny and telling.

The title As You Like It might as well be describing how social media algorithms work. As you like things on Facebook, as you spend time on various websites, your desires begin to take shape in the form of data, and this is reflected to you in the messaging of targeted ads. Your affinity for things creates a path paved with offers for those things. As you like it, it is served to you. When we are first introduced to Rosalind and Celia, they are discussing their problems and they decide that to find some escape from their troubles they are going to use love as a diversion. They make the decision to play the game of liking boys.

This decision is followed immediately by an opportunity to meet a hot young influencer. Rosalind follows her instinct for pleasure when she hears about a wrestler who has been breaking young men’s ribs. Of course, she wants to see that. Orlando appears out of nowhere to fight the wrestler, Charles. It is as though their decision to find diversion through love conjures up a meeting. She wants to find a boy toy. Driven by desire for entertainment she meets Orlando. Rosalind and Celia are hilariously explicit in their desire to find distraction through love with the exception that they are not going to take the guys seriously. They are out for a fling, looking to feast on man tears. Along comes young Orlando. Poor unwitting dude.

The wrestling is being performed for the Duke, Celia’s father, so when they all assemble for the match, he sees his daughter and niece and calls them over to him. He asks them to talk to Orlando, to convince him not to wrestle. Poor Orlando is so bummed about his stupid older brother he has become super emo. He says he has nothing to lose, that if he dies then he opens a place for someone else, some real self-pitying stuff. It’s funny because he’s doing this brave thing, but he’s also super bummed on himself. You can see the negative influence his brother has on him.

Orlando shocks the crowd by beating the wrestler and his victory transforms his mood and his status. The women go to congratulate him on the fight, and he finds himself completely enamored with Rosalind to the point that he can’t manage to form any words. Talk about influence. Rosalind from this moment has the upper hand. She is also attracted to Orlando, but he is mad for her.

In Shakespeare’s depiction of their world, it is influence or be influenced and that is true in social media today, too. You are either driving the conversation or following it. Rosalind plays the game expertly. Orlando is such a simp for her that it is easy. She can manipulate him to her will.

Under the influence of his affection for Rosalind, Orlando becomes obsessed with romantic love. He spends his days writing poetry and pining away in the woods. He changes all his habits because of her. Rosalind can influence Orlando the way an Instagram model can get people to subscribe to her Only Fans. It’s all too easy. 

To play the game better, Rosalind takes on an alter ego so she can interact anonymously with Orlando. She convinces the poor sap to pretend that she is Rosalind and to practice expressing his love for her. Orlando thinks he is pretending that this young man Ganymede is Rosalind, when it really is her. Rosalind uses this catfishing technique to test Orlando and to see how he responds. She begins to train him how she wants him to behave, punishing him for being late and constantly questioning the authenticity of his feelings. 

Rosalind has extremely strict rules for how lovers should behave, and she holds him accountable. It is not until Orlando is physically harmed that Rosalind is in turn influenced herself. When she is shown a bloody piece of Orlando’s shirt and it is explained to her that he was injured defending his brother from a mountain lion she passes out. This reversal of influence illustrates the game of social influence and is relevant to understanding how today’s media and marketing functions. As you like it, you allow it to influence you.

Content Pillars and Purpose

Cannabis, Writing, Photography, Marketing, Art, Landscape, Ocean

Cannabis: I believe cannabis can do the greatest good for humankind immediately and in the long run. Worldwide legalization of cannabis will set the scales back towards justice and will restore some faith in the sincerity of the systems of governance. It is hard to trust anyone who is against cannabis. It’s like being against naps or being anti-mellow. You people are getting along too well! You must be stoned. What’s next? Cooking up some dank munchies? Crimes against culinary standards? Too much caramel sauce on the cereal? Not only do I believe that the side effects of cannabis are harmless, we all know they are beneficial to many people. Anyone struggling with loss of appetite or insomnia can regain control over vital parts of their health with the help of some quality cannabis. I think that more than the obvious advantages legal cannabis creates (tax revenue instead of criminal activity, for one) the main shift that legal cannabis will bring is a shift in tone. It will open up that beautiful space that only stoners know where there is a sense of innocence, a mellowing out of the harshest vibes, a sense that daily life is ok and that it really matters. Cannabis leads people on an introspective journey that leads to gardening and preserving tomatoes and that is a-ok. As a content pillar, I intend to write about cannabis to advocate for its use, to highlight brands that are doing good things, to interact with cannabis influencers, and to share stoner experiences.

Writing: Writing is thought given shape and refinement through the logic of composition and editing. We use the tools of composition to establish our thoughts on a topic and to express our opinions, ask questions and to share stories. Through editing, we revise both what we think and how we compose our ideas. Writing is the mysterious revelation of self. Instead of merely looking into a mirror, we have to slowly develop a sense of how what we think looks in the external world. Our thoughts are native to our experience, but the moment we externalize them and give them form through a composition, in the shape of an essay, we begin to see who we are. This gives us the ability to change what we think, and in the process to direct the development of our character. Writing gives us intellectual intentionality. Through writing, we are able to determine how to use the best of what we think to the advantage of those we wish to help. Writing about writing is important because thinking about thinking is important. It’s fundamental to improving your form. Strategizing about writing, coming up with prompts, working on exercises and having a dialogue about strategies and techniques keeps the ball in play. By paying attention to writing, we can improve our quality of thought, we can make better decisions, and we can help other people to find their direction and purpose. Language is uniquely human, and writing is the focused and deliberate use of language to express ideas. By writing, you become more human. You can both learn about who you are, discover how you want to be, and work on growing into the kind of human you respect and admire. Writing is our most powerful tool of self-analysis. When combined with the introspective tendency of cannabis consumption, writing can lead to breakthrough after breakthrough. 

Photography: Photography is my main visual mode of work, these days. I love video and painting, but I have been thinking about and practicing photography for the past fifteen years with a passion and dedication. Photography has helped me to grow, to give people valuable memories, to help promote businesses and to have amazing relationships. Studying photography was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The history of photography is so brief, but it has accelerated to such an impossibly enormous volume. Being thoughtful about photography both leads to making better photographs and to understanding the world of photography, but it is also a tool of introspection. You go out into the world to find subjects. You explore compositions with your camera. When you return to the studio to edit your photos, however, you are faced with some idea about yourself and your job is to present that to the world in a way they will find the most interesting. This can also lead you to understand things about yourself and about how the world feels about you. Like all meaningful growth that can be painful at times and pleasurable at others. 

Marketing: The future is going to have more marketers than ever. That is the logical conclusion of a workforce left with nothing but creativity and communication. With the advance of automation, people will increasingly need to become more adept at messaging and branding. While some people feel an aversion to sales, they don’t like being sold to, marketing can be much more than a pitch. It can be beautiful design, thoughtful writing and interesting research. Marketing can be useful to you and when it is, then it really works well. There is no escaping marketing. One common form of marketing you see is the marketing of no marketing which is essentially a business or person bragging that they are so good and so in demand that they don’t have to spend much on advertising or branding. It shows an ignorance about branding, though. That is marketing and branding: it is the branding of no marketing. We don’t need no stinking marketing marketing. Yes you do. We all need good marketing.

Art: The category of art as a separate sphere of concern from other forms of media will always be interesting to me and so I will always think and write about it for those who are interested in what I have to say about it. If art can be any media, then why not consider all media art? There are deep philosophical reasons for wanting a category of cultural production that defines itself differently than the rest of culture. There is something deeply generative about the category existing in the first place. It is an invitation to experiment, an ethos of innovation, a reputation for making things new. Art matters the same way freedom of speech matters. It is so fundamental to the way we think, even if not consciously, that it is almost impossible for us to see why it matters. Writing about art is an attempt to give us that perspective even if just for a moment to look behind the curtain at what the category of art is doing socially and culturally and why it matters.

Landscape: Being out in a natural setting, watching how the sun travels, moving through the landscape in a way where I understand the various textures on the trail, all of these things matter to me deeply. As a human animal, I crave a connection to the landscape. I want to know what is happening in the woods. I want to explore every creek and know every tree. Writing about the landscape is important because it can help us to remember our priorities in times that we are easily distracted by other things.

Ocean: The ocean connects us all. As the universal symbol of the unconscious, the ocean is the most dynamic and deep subject for humans to ponder. It is so dramatic and expressive, it demands a million artist pay attention at all times. I am one of them.

Creation and Curation: Value in Content Marketing

If you start with the audience in mind, then every choice you make becomes more focused and purposeful. This is the first step in the right direction. It may seem obvious, but it is not common. Instead, you often see people trying to promote themselves and it comes across as cringe. Genuinely providing a service to the public with your content marketing will earn you respect and trust with a customer base.

You can start this process by imagining which topics are most important to your audience. If you are doing content marketing for a yoga studio you will find different content pillars than if you are working with a shopping center. Each business or organization will have a different audience they are trying to reach. Identify four or five topics you think would be most relevant to your audience as the starting point to organize your content. 

One of the great things about this approach is that it puts you in dialogue with other people creating content in your field. You have the opportunity both to research and to network. By learning about what other people are doing and saying you expand your knowledge of the topics and you identify the interesting people with whom you might want to collaborate.

Say for example you get hired to create content and to do content marketing for a gym. In addition to the original work that you will create by interviewing key figures, photographing equipment, doing videos of exercises, or what have you, you will also provide a valuable service by posting relevant information about: nutrition, fitness competitions, cutting edge gear and technique, inspiration from favorite influencers, etc.

There is so much content created for the internet every day, so organizing the relevant stories in a way that is useful to busy people makes a lot of sense. Content marketing is dual in nature: you both create original content and curate relevant content. This combination of research and production makes for a rich and useful follow.

The Internet is a very chaotic place, so curation can help give people a sense of order. It is important to make original work to promote your brand’s values, products, services, etc., but you can also do something valuable by organizing a timeline of relevant articles as they are published that help to inform and to flesh out the context of your subjects. If people gain an understanding of a topic by following your feed, then they are much more likely to believe that you know what you are talking about when you discuss your own offerings.

Begin by imagining a half dozen of your ideal customers. Who are your services or products designed to help or please? Now imagine what they would want to know about, what would be entertaining to them, what would give them a reason to smile, something new to learn, a talking point, an inspiring quote, something that adds to their understanding and experience of whatever your field is. As content marketers, we have the privileged position of creators and teachers, and when we combine those two elements well, a lot of value is created for the client. 

How to Make Social Media Work for You in 3 Easy Steps

The digital world and the analog world are slowly merging together. Their common denominator: strangers. Being in public spaces or interacting online is similar because we are open to the energy of other people. We work throughout our lives, consciously or not, to cultivate relationships that we can trust. The thing about strangers is that you don’t know ahead of time if they are friend or foe.

The obvious dangers involved with encountering strangers in analog life, in the physical world have trained us over time, that is to say we have evolved to understand the risk of people we do not know. World history is essentially colonial. Humans have gone to the most unimaginable lengths to expand the dominion of their group’s power. The chronicles of conflict, an age old history of war, informs us as we step out the front door and onto the driveway. We prepare ourselves to go out in public. We dress differently. We look in the mirror before we leave. We become aware that we may see someone we really like or we might see people with whom we have conflict. Either way, we want to be ready.

When it comes to showing up in the public space of the internet, however, we seem to have lost all discretion. People compose their tweets on the toilet. You might as well go start shitting on the sidewalk. It’s disgusting how little regard we have for our own privacy anymore. We both broadcast too much of our private lives and allow too much public interaction in our private times. It’s not that the line between public and private is eroding. It is simply that we have not learned how to treat the digital world like the public space that it is. 

SOCIAL PUBLIC. The first step to making social media work for you is to treat it like it is being in public. Don’t check your social media until after you have showered and prepared yourself for the day. This step alone would so radically change things for most people, it might be enough on its own. When you start to think about social media as a public space it makes you reconsider what kind of content you might post as well. 

The inherent danger of public spaces has informed how humans act for our entire history. Now we have a public space that feels like we are in the safety of our own privacy and so we are not acting with the same kind of caution. There are different protocols for different parts of the public space in the physical world and the same is true, online. It is totally appropriate to take your shirt off at the beach. In line at the bank, this is not going to fly.

We understand from experience, from education and from the influence of culture how to behave in public. The nuanced social codes become as second nature as driving a car once we have mastered them. In the digital realm, though, we are acting without any kind of caution and are showing very little wisdom about safety. If you didn’t understand how to behave in the physical world just imagine how much trouble you could create. Well, that is exactly what is happening every day and night, online.

SOCIAL SHARING. Extending from that idea of social media being another kind of public is the awareness of a need to create boundaries. Even as you exercise the discipline to not engage on social media unless you are prepared for a public experience, you also have to define your boundaries so that other people know when they can contact you. You wouldn’t just show up at someone’s home in the middle of the night, and sliding into their DMs might be just as inappropriate.

Coming up with a schedule of what you want to share, an editorial calendar, will help to give the whole process a much-needed structure. The problem with social media as we are using it now is that it permeates too much of our lives. Creating boundaries and best practices will allow you to regain some traction in relation to your social media use. But, sharing consistently will proactively help to shape that process. If you decide you want to post 4 times a week to keep the public aware of a project you are working on, then that gives you deadlines that will help to motivate the production of the work. Instead of just randomly posting things when you feel like it, following a plan will give your social media presence the discipline necessary to control the volume, to modulate the amplitude. Social media can be like trying to drink from a fire hydrant. Coming up with an editorial schedule is a plumbing fix. It creates a structure that allows only so much of that activity into your life at once. It makes the whole experience much more productive.

SOCIAL DIET: Figuring out how much you want to share also gives you a sense of how much to consume. Social media can be anything you want it to be. There is as great a variety out there as you could imagine and more. The trick is to figure out what the different values of consuming culture can be, and to create a way of choosing how much and what kind of media to consume. 

You can use social media to learn about fads and trends, to network, to research, to find inspiration, and also for mindless entertainment. None of those things are bad. It is just about the balance and your ability to nourish yourself intellectually and emotionally through that media. We understand that we have certain nutritional requirements, so no matter how good candy tastes we are not going to eat nothing but candy all day every day without some serious consequences. The same is true, culturally. We need to be consuming things that help us to grow in much greater quantities than that which gives us immediate gratification through pleasure but is ultimately a burden of empty calories that we will likely store as fat and have to carry around until we decide to do something about it. 

All three of these shifts will help you to get more traction over your social media use and regain more balance in your life as a result. Remember that social media is another form of public. Treat going onto social media with as much seriousness as you would going in public or at least on a zoom work call. Figure out what you want to share with the world and then create a schedule so that you can build up a sense of credibility and reliability through a measured and regular presence on any platform. Finally, figure out what kind of cultural exchanges you need in order to grow and which ones are simply a fun but empty moment of time and then budget your time the way you would think about eating nutritious food and having a dessert from time to time. You don’t wake up and go straight for the ice cream every day without it starting to affect you in serious ways. We are beginning to understand how powerful social media is, and once we begin to treat it with the respect we do for going out into public, then we will get much more out of it and it will have fewer adverse effects. Social media is extremely new in the scheme of things, so it is only to be expected that there will be some periods of experimentation until we get a grasp on how to use this technology effectively and responsibly.

Resistance Training and Social Media

What is your morning routine? The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is I prepare a cup of coffee and sit down to write. While I’m waiting for the water to boil, I will make my bed, brush my teeth, take a leak or do any leftover dishes from the night before. Any kind of moving around will help to wake me up. Brushing your teeth first thing wakes your mouth up gets the salivary glands firing.

Once the water boils, I follow a series of specific steps to brew a great cup of coffee and then I sit down and write.

Central to my methodology is the refusal to look at my phone for the first hour of writing, the first hour of the day. I turn the alarm off and then I don’t see anything for at least one full hour and two pages of writing. 

I don’t think that our phones are controlling us any more than I think that gravity is controlling us. Some people cave into the pressures of gravitational force, but other people use that existing inertia to build strength. Some people build rockets. By resisting gravity, by lifting weights, by doing pushups, by climbing up hills, we use that negative force to our advantage.

There is a tipping point to strength versus difficulty of  resistance. Gravity keeps things grounded, but there is a certain amount of strength that is achieved through resistance that makes that force less meaningful. When your strength is greater than the forces exerted upon it, there is a freedom from the negative. Strength negates the weakness which is given to us as a precondition. Muscles atrophy without work, but we can train and become a lot stronger than if we remain sedentary. 

The same thing is true with our consumption of culture or food or anything else. The stronger the urge to do something the greater the capacity for strength. It merely requires a knowledgeable plan of action that will lead to increased will power. If you do this this and this, then this will result. In the case of social media, the program of resistance has not been developed. We don’t have social media trainers. The closest thing we have is Gary Vee.

If we lift weights, run, or follow some well-designed exercise plan, we will most likely see some good results. The harder we work, the more we resist quitting, the better those results are likely to be. The same is true culturally. We just need to have a conversation about media consumption and health and then evolve that conversation to be about fitness. Everything is circumstantial. Just like an athlete who is working out with high intensity twice a day is going to have different food requirements, an artist who is producing a lot of work will also have different needs with what they consume.

We need to develop some fundamentals. We need a set of best practices when it comes to social media that anyone can follow and become decently fit, fairly fluid, and more in control of the entire process. That will be a service to humankind to develop that kind of discipline. Figuring out the right amount of time to spend on different activities will help you to build up the will power necessary to use social media without becoming victim to it. These activities, which I will describe soon, will help us to make the most of digital culture.

Social media has a very strong pull on us at the present moment. We need to learn to resist. That doesn’t mean to not participate. If anything, it means to engage more fully. As long as it is going to be a part of our lives, we should learn to use it to build our will power. If resistance doesn’t mean abstinence when it comes to social media, then what does it mean?

We have to create a set of standards and best practices to gain some traction for our personal journey through a social media influenced world. 

Lights, Camera, Influence! Social Media and Social Change Makers

What is digital culture? Culture is one of those all-encompassing concepts that is hazy and hard to see, like Society, and with 5G Internet it is omnipresent. Digital culture is like the smell of air. It’s gotta have one, but we only smell things that are floating in the air, like a puff of weed. Digital culture is both the cannabis we smoke and the air it is blown into. 

Humans project cultural understandings and misreadings onto the world. Through interpreting the signs around us, we recognize the existence of other cultures, subcultures, even microcultures. Culture is the totality of our collective consciousness and its expression. It is an awareness of our differences and an articulation of those difference in form. Learning happens as individuals act, transact, and are acted upon. Digital culture is a massive conversation and collaboration among billions of people.

Culture breaks down into smaller and smaller sub-cultures online. The smaller the niche the more distinct the code. Language is one key part of cultures, and you can see how this local specificity develops in smaller and smaller places with language through slang. This tendency of creating inside jokes, insider codes, is an engine of diversity. If we are constantly addressing the specifics of our spaces and our experiences, then our communications will become narrower and narrower as we adapt to be useful in that specific place. 

Just like breathing, the way we experience culture happens both voluntarily and involuntarily. As long as we are alive and interacting, we are a part of culture, but with conscious effort we can amplify our effect. We can get more out of and give more back to our culture by taking an active role. 

The Internet radically changed the way our culture grows and shifts. In addition to the way language and fashion diversify and differentiate influenced by local conditions, the interactive space of the digital network–the world wide web—creates another layer of cultural exchange. What does a website like OnlyFans do to our idea of what our neighbors may be up to? In a world with millions of podcasts, there are more people actively shaping culture than ever before. In that sense, we are becoming more democratic. 

Because of the broadening of cultural participation through social media, there is a much more chaotic cultural scene. Internet culture is so interesting because it accelerates the broader culture in two distinctly different directions. On the one hand it allows for an alliance between cultural misfits, for better or worse. People who are in the minority culturally in their geographical location can connect to likeminded people through the Internet. This networking supports and sustains their culture. Culture needs attention to grow. 

Content creators have the opportunity to participate in the shaping of culture. There are steps a thoughtful creator can take to be more conscious in designing content to have desired effects. There are parts of the larger cultural contexts we want to change, and by understanding the power of cultural influence we can push the needle in the direction we think will be safe, fun and profitable. 

Every time we do a photo shoot, record a podcast, publish a blog and share a story we are starting a conversation. The more effective we are at getting people to care about the things we are interested in, the greater our influence.

You just have to know that the potential is locked away inside of people and change is possible. Listening to Jane Goodall talk about being plant-based inspired me to give it a try. That is one month of not eating meat that is directly attributable to one podcast. I was in a place where I was all but ready to experiment with a plant-based diet and Goodall’s stoic steadfast point of view added that last nudge of encouragement I needed. I’m back to eating meat because I found it impossible to eat enough protein on a vegetarian diet, but it was a great challenge, and is making me more conscious about what I eat and eating more plants than I was before. 

That is an example of a moment when something changed for me culturally. It is a significant change, and a voluntary one. Being inspired to try plant-based eating creates cultural conflict, too. It means joining a minority group. Changing a habit means potentially offending people who are used to that habit. I don’t judge people for what they eat. When you are the only one who can’t eat a family dinner, however, it might not feel that way to everyone. 

Making anything significant culturally means making some kind of cultural change. It doesn’t have to limit anyone else’s options, but even through expanding a new direction, breaking original ground an idea can be revolutionary. Silicon Valley fell in love with the word disruptive because it minted a lot of new billionaires, but it is more than just disruptive when new ways of sharing and creating culture emerge. Disrupting the culture of gatekeeping has been a good thing for innovation.

This is just the beginning phase of social media, though. I think that the first chapter of social media closed with the storming of the capital. That was a moment when we no longer could deny what had been obvious for a decade: the internet is transforming our culture. Social media is not a cute pastime. It is the new stage. It is a stage of development when subcultures can grow in strength and numbers and have undeniable effects on the real world.

This is a moment when we can participate in the process of cultural change, by exercising our powers of imagination. We are taste makers, conversation starters and innovators of culture. Welcome to the show. Prepare to be influenced.

In Cannabis We Trust

During the pandemic, the cannabis plant and the industry surrounding it have become more valuable than ever before. State by state, we are creeping towards federal legalization as the evidence continues to grow in the places where it already has been made legal for recreational use. Legalizing weed is the most SENSIble thing to do. With one stroke from a pen, a switch would flip that could empower hundreds of thousands of people with work, liberate tens of thousands from incarceration, and would potentially provide all of us with the therapeutic tools we need to heal and grow stronger.

Canada legalized recreational cannabis with the Cannabis Act in 2018. Mexico in on the verge of passing their legalization bill. Just as California couldn’t stand by and watch Colorado capitalize on legal weed, it seems beyond inevitable that the US as a whole will finally abandon its stance against cannabis as history continues to show that legalizing cannabis is not just an experiment, but a full-fledged transformation of global drug policy.

Cannabis users who have experienced legalization may have varying views of what legal weed looks like for the people who care most about the plant, but there is a widespread consensus among its advocates that cannabis is a beneficial plant and that making access to quality bud safe and affordable would be a good thing.

When will the US recognize its potential for leadership in the embrace of cannabis and hemp products? If cannabis is federally legalized, will that speed up the process of incorporating hemp commodities into our agricultural and industrial plans? When will we see the ascendency of Hempcrete as a building material? How soon can we phase out plastic and replace it with hemp alternatives?

These questions have urgent importance, and the more we elevate the topic as a priority the sooner we can start working on these powerful problem-solving practices. It is perhaps understandable that people are still resistant to legalization as it shows the power of the anti-drug campaigns that have ideologically backed the drug wars. If you didn’t have personal experience with cannabis, it might still seem like a dangerous or negative thing.

The truth is, cannabis is beneficial to many many people.

When you listen to leaders in the cannabis space, a common story you hear is one of conversion through injury or illness. Oftentimes, these folks will have been extremely conservative people who were anti-cannabis and believed the propaganda against the plant. After being recommended cannabis to deal with seizures, pain, or the side effects of chemotherapy, a great number of people have converted to become stoners who sing the praises of the plant and advocate for it.

One of these people was Jack Herer. He is one of the most iconic examples of a conservative converting to cannabis after trying it for the first time in his 30s. Herer opened up a head shop and started researching cannabis and hemp and became a spearhead for legalization. His book The Emperor Wears No Clothes is a cornerstone work in the legalization movement. Herer became one of the legends of cannabis during his time and he started out starkly against the plant as a Goldwater conservative.

Just as Jack Herer changed his mind about cannabis, we have seen a major shift in attitudes. The more states legalize cannabis, the less the stigma against cannabis users is able to stick, and lots of people you may not have thought were cannabis users have stepped out of the closet. We no longer see cannabis use in the same way. We are getting experienced. Jimi Hendrix would be proud.

Why Blogs Matter More Now than Ever

The internet changed the world. When it began to be used widely by the public in the early 90s, the World Wide Web connected us irrevocably. No other invention has had as much of an impact on human culture. A tech revolution has ensued and the collective effect of the advance of technology and its meaning for the human race is staggering to try and comprehend. 

Part of what has changed due to this massive cultural shift is our attitude towards time. How humans change is one of the most interesting topics to study, as it requires a tricky kind of self-reflective sensitivity. As we collectively work to understand how to use the new modes of communication to our advantage, old habits and desires wait to be fulfilled in new ways. Narcissus looking at an iPad.

The word Blog has never struck me as attractive in any way. All of the connotations it brings up for me are negative: a bog, a log, blah, swampy slimy nerd shit. I have never wanted to be a blogger. That always sounds like an insult. This is where technologists have failed miserably: in the poetry of tech. Web log becomes blog, a broadcast you can listen to on your iPod becomes a podcast. Do iPods even exist anymore? It doesn’t matter. Once a name has taken hold, it sticks.

Why are the most profoundly powerful aspects of this new technology so badly named? Walt Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass. The blogosphere should be a place where masterpieces of literature are being created experimentally. Instead, it comes across as lower level than a local editorial column. 

I remember at one point jokingly naming my own blog a bjournal. My thinking was that if we had someone who cared more about words, then it would have been called a web journal or a bjournal. That never really caught on, partly because people don’t understand that blog is web log shortened, so when they see bjournal it doesn’t make sense to them. The inside joke is all there, but nobody catches on or cares.

This is because we are still getting used to the idea that the gatekeepers were wrong a lot of the time. We relied upon a system of cultural production that forced creators to work in a system that perverted their visions. Now that we have the ability for a creator to go directly to the public, we are seeing better and better results.

The people who saw the opportunities provided by the blog space took advantage and have created some amazing media conglomerates. The Huffington Post began as a blog. There was an era when blogs were able to turn into full-fledged media empires. Fifty Cent didn’t give two shits about the name blog, he turned his site into a hub of culture.

Joe Rogan started out on the Internet as a blogger. There is a natural progression from blogger to podcaster, but I think that they both are still incredibly important. Rogan is an advocate of writing, but he doesn’t publish his thoughts anymore. Still, that might be what he could bring back into rotation that would make his program even more compelling. 

When it comes to creating content, there is no replacement for good writing. The writing is fundamental to the form, the content to the design. A blog is just a place to share writing. It is an idea generator, a conversation starter, and a repository of your thoughts and work.

Every brand, every content creator, every organization should be using a blog to publish their ideas. This helps to keep new ideas coming into circulation, and it keeps the public aware of the vitality and originality of the brand. Whether you love or hate the term blog, the function of publishing your ideas on a regular basis is a stimulant to growth and an invitation to positive networking. Not to mention the SEO. 

More important than getting noticed, however, is the work it takes to improve and that can show more clearly than anywhere else in the archives of a blog. Leave your trail of breadcrumbs, create your own routes through this digital forest and inspire others to form their own sense of creative agency. It’s all about the blog, baby.

Train for the Change You Want to See: GYB Strength

We have the occasion, during this period of life interrupted, to think about one of life’s great questions: how do we create social change? There are so many ways to approach this topic and I think that one of the great things about contemporary culture and social media is our ability to see plenty of examples and to learn from our peers. 

When you stop and look at the flow of history with the objective of seeing how social change occurs, it becomes clear that most of what we see as social equilibrium is merely an angle of repose that has resulted in a dynamic balance from ages of struggle and collapse. Beneath that image of stability is a violently churning reality. There are multitudes of groups pushing for their own interests and it is some vast turbulent ocean of conflict and cooperation that is keeping things dynamically the same and allowing for some change in certain moments.

We have professional activists who study the situation looking for nodal points of leverage where force or support can be applied to some effect. We have career politicians actively transforming ideas into reality through the drafting of legislation, the execution of mandates, and the judgment of actions. Politics is much bigger than a business or even an industry. Politics are the official and often arbitrary outcomes of power struggles. It is the public story power writes.

It is the people who are doing the struggling, though. In many cases, this struggle results in a form of work that is like existential hysteria, an outward expression of the ultimate grief. The display of displeasure, the story of true human suffering becomes a work, a narrative that can be replayed, retold, reconfigured as evidence supporting our cause. In other words, the people who are publicly hurting are providing us with the ability to discuss our underlying problems. In doing the work to understand how to change the conditions that lead to such unnecessary suffering we are honoring their sacrifice.

In many if not most cases, the people who become national topics of debate do not do so intentionally. Our great change makers often are not volunteering for the job, but people who simply suffer the consequences of an unjust system and who inspire other people through the expression of their suffering. It is through phrases of sheer terror that a truth is illuminated: “I can’t breathe.” It is in the extreme vulnerability of a human being involuntarily brought to the edge of life itself asking for their mother or their father that we see something true about our condition of being. How do we become more humane humans?

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to work with one of my favorite artists, Gillian Young. She is too many things to name, which is why the title of artist is really the only label that fits. She is a fitness coach, a food influencer, a writer, a fashion model, a social activist and a community builder as well as many other interesting things. One thing she is not, however, is quiet about the change she wants to see.

Whenever I see Gillian in person, I have the feeling that I am in the presence of a superhero. She is an exquisitely beautiful woman, with a fashion forward style, flowing with feminine grace and elegance but accented and accessorized with an edginess that speaks to her strength. Her bright and warm demeanor are offset by a tattoo of a knife, by her shoes. This is a woman, one thinks, capable of being a great friend, a valued collaborator, but also one you do not want to fuck with.

Gillian, like anyone mentally fit enough to pay attention, is on a path of awakening to more of the world’s truths and, as we come to understand the depth of the problems we collectively face, it can be daunting to engage. How do we speak up for what we believe effectively? How can we be positive influences of change? What does that look like? 

For Gillian, as a fitness coach and personal trainer, the answer is through training. You don’t achieve fitness goals overnight. They take work and dedication and discipline. Well, why would we think it would be any different or easier to create a healthier society? It’s not. 

It has often been said, attributed to Ghandi, that one of the best ways to effect change is to be the change you want to see in the world. Gillian is taking this idea to its practical level by training to create the change she wants to see. After all, we can’t just be anything we want without doing the work. We have to practice any art or skill we want to improve.

Taking the discipline and the technique of working towards fitness goals and applying them to building a diverse community, Gillian is modeling an effective approach to changemaking. This is a kind of proactive model of protest. It is about building coalitions and sharing stories so that we can coexist more happily together.

But don’t mistake this movement as a superficial and doomed to fail because overly optimistic flash in the pan. This is not fool’s gold, it’s not gold at all. It is good. The common good. Enlightened self-interest. The social agreement. But remember the tattoo of the knife. In order to build community, you also have to have clear boundaries, and you have to establish a seriousness of your intent to preserve the integrity of the group. We are not fucking around, her smile seems to say.

We are here to do the work, her back states, to create powerful social connections and to articulate our vision of equity and friendship to anyone willing to try. Gillian’s brand name is GYB, the acronym for her full name Gillian Young Barkalow, but it also stands for her motto, her mantra, her mission statement, her mandate: Give Your Best.

Certain people are inspiring to be around because of their verve, their spark, their drive for living and this electrical aura is what makes Gillian such a powerful coach. Following her on social media is witnessing a woman building a movement. If you are looking for motivation in your fitness journey, you should consider an interview with Gillian the Great if you are ready to train for the change you want to see.

4 Fun Reasons Why I Enjoyed Shooting the Hanloh Pad Thai Meal Kit

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1. The ease. You ever feel that sense of flow when everything is just kind of happening gracefully and you don’t even need to push, there is just a beautiful controlled forward movement? It’s like riding a skateboard down a hill with a gentle incline and smooth surface, you can go as fast as you want or just cruise and enjoy the feeling of effortlessness.

 

It’s been a little like that for me at times lately with my photography. I’ve been embracing the opportunity to work on studio lighting and creating still life compositions with products and food at home. The result of that work is that sense of fluidity that allows me to work fast and get great results.

 

Now, I don’t want to give the illusion that this flow has come easily. It hasn’t. I’ve worked my ass off numerous times and for a long time to get where I am in my abilities. I know what feels good to me, so I can pretty reliably say when I am on or off and the results always follow that feeling.

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For me, an important part of the process of shooting food is appetite. You have to be hungry. That’s why I work out so hard, doing my 700 pushups and squats and hiking or biking tons of miles. A lot of photography is sitting at a computer, so it’s super important for me to be as physically active as possible. You don’t often think of fitness and photography in the same context, but for me it is critical that they go together.

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Well, when I received the text to shoot the meal kit, I was hungry as could be from working out, so I was all primed to go. For those who don’t know, Hanloh is a Thai food pop-up here in Santa Cruz and they always have delicious authentic flavors. I was excited to see what this Pad Thai kit would create.

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2. The aura. The variety of color texture and form inside this meal kit made a beautiful subject to shoot. As soon as I opened the box, I could tell that it was going to be fun. Sometimes things just have that kind of magical presence to them and good marketers always try to create it for the consumer. It comes from the combination of an authentic and powerful cultural object and an enthusiastic appreciator.

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It’s like when a kid sees a skateboard or an electric guitar for the first time. That thing kind of hums and glows with this magical aura and that is exactly how the ingredients appeared to me. I also feel that way about wine and beer. To me, those drinks are almost more beautiful to look at than to taste.

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What makes something pleasing to look at? Where is the source of beauty? While I have studied these questions for thousands of hours, the experience is the only thing that really makes sense. We don’t know why we like things, but we’re lucky we do.

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3. The people. All of my work is motivated by people I respect, and this was no exception. The beer is from my sister’s brewery Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing. Through working with Emily (the best community builder I have ever known) I met Lalita Kaewswang, who is the woman behind Hanloh. An intensely smart culinary artist, Lalita is passionate about her craft, and that always inspires me.

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The other people who motivate me are the people of Santa Cruz. This is the community I know best and care about most and it is the small businesses, the surfers, the entrepreneurs, the brewers, the naturalists, the teachers, the yoginis, the musicians and all the other brilliant and beautiful kinds of folk in this town. If Portland is where the dream of the 90s still exists, Santa Cruz is where the dream of the 60s was born and where its best parts still thrive. We support our own, here. We shop local.  That’s how we maintain our unique character. It’s the people who are working hard every day to provide the people of Santa Cruz with the culture they enjoy who inspire me.

 

4. The food. Like I said earlier, I work out a lot and that makes me very very hungry. Well, let’s just say that none of this food went to waste, lol.

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It was a pleasure to shoot this meal kit for Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and Hanloh Thai Food. Thanks for reading my blog and for looking at the photos and I hope you get a chance to try the food and beers!

You can order your meal kit, HERE: https://scmbrew.square.site

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