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Long Term Food Security For Urban Areas

Urbanization, climate change, and food security are tightly linked issues. It is estimated that by 2050 more than 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas.

New strategies are needed to ensure food supply and food security for people living in urban areas.  

Food security means achieving a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice.

Cities Must Be Reimagined and Redesigned

Promoting local food production in urban areas is the key to integrating green and edible vegetation into their boundaries. Cities must be re-imagined and re-designed to incorporate agricultural practices in order to achieve sustainability.

Rooftops, courtyards, and public green areas can all be converted into vegetable gardens.

In Italy, an average of 44% of the population grows fruit and vegetables in urban gardens and private terraces.

The heritage of Italian vegetable gardens is rooted in a tradition born of a deep reverence for the earth, for growing and preparing food, and can pave the way to more sustainable urban living.

If you google “Italian vegetable gardens” you’ll get a whopping 137,000,000 results. Not only have Italian gardening traditions been maintained in Italy and abroad by Italian immigrants, in their backyards, they’ve also been adopted by other cultures. Classic Italian vegetable gardens can be found throughout Canada and the USA

Many years ago I relocated from Canada to Milan, Italy. It was in the city of Milan, where I saw my first communal vegetable gardens. 

In a city such as Milan, a private backyard garden is a rarity. Mostly I would see older Italians, tending after these communal gardens. They reminded me of summers spent at my aunts’ and uncles’ homes in Ontario. 

I grew up in an Italian immigrant family, in Canada, at a time when traditions from the old country were held onto with passion and commitment by the previous generations. 

My uncles and aunts each had an ‘Orto’, an Italian vegetable garden. At times most of the backyard was allotted to the vegetable garden. 

I witnessed frequent conversations about whether there had been too much or not enough sun and rain and which moon cycles needed to be observed for yielding the best results, as different vegetables require to be planted and harvested at specific times during the lunar phases. 

In these gardens, they grew aubergines, tomatoes, zucchini, fava beans, peppers both hot and sweet, string beans, rucola, carrots, lettuce, fragrant herbs, and so on. Italian vegetable gardens can produce a lot in very small spaces. Tiny backyard plots would feed an entire family and friends.

In the fall, endless jars of tomatoes, grilled eggplant, peppers, jams, and pickled vegetables would be stowed away for the winter months ahead

Unfortunately, these traditions were not always held onto by successive generations as many opted for a BBQ deck and/or a swimming pool in place of a vegetable garden.  

Promoting Local Food Production

Over the years, since living in Italy, I’ve seen a shift, with a passion for vegetable gardening taking a hold of the younger generation. Gardening is no longer only a pastime for the elderly.

Projects such as Coltivando, an urban vegetable garden, set up on 1000 sqm of land at the Bovisa Campus of Politecnico di Milano, is a perfect example of urban community gardening. The project was developed and designed with the collaboration of and for people from the neighborhood

Local authorities in Italian cities, organize and rent urban gardens. There are different parameters and systems for the concession of public gardens. Some municipalities may offer annual use in exchange for a small fee, while others may be reserved for certain age groups and there are those who open tenders for assignments, offering rent shares that vary according to income and age

Just 25 km outside of Milan, in the province of Lombardy, there is an experimental educational farm, the Minoprio Foundation, with the production structures consisting of greenhouses, tunnels, shadows, nurseries, vegetable gardens, and an orchard with old and new varieties of plants. 

The Minoprio Foundation enjoys and benefits from an estate of about 60 hectares consisting of a historical, agricultural, and naturalistic park.

Another initiative that got my attention is ​​MILANO GREEN WAY.  A five thousand square meters urban community green area, in the city of Milan, along the Olona river, in the Barona village district. This redevelopment project transformed a degraded urban area into a shared community garden. The project was curated by OPERA in FIORE, a  Social Cooperative, with the collaboration of inmates on leave, residents, students, and young gardeners.

With over 44% of the population growing fruit and vegetables in urban gardens and do-it-yourself terrace gardens Coldiretti’s analysis of the latest Istat data from 2019 showed a recorded growth of 18.5% in five years, exceeding 2.1 million square meters and estimates for 2020-21 indicate further growth with the introduction of vertical gardens in Milano’s latest architectural projects.

Data also shows that in one year the number of Italians living in conditions of utter poverty increased from 4.6 million to 5.6 million

To make matters worst, crop losses, from anomalous weather trends, coupled with a sharp rise in production costs, from fuel to fertilizers and an increase in energy costs, have taken their toll on Italian households.

Urbanization, climate change, and food security are tightly linked issues. It is estimated that by 2050 more than 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas.

Perhaps being locked in for months on end, due to the pandemic, and the resulting economic crisis has ushered in a new design for urban living, with a desire to reconnect with nature, save money and eat well.  

It’s truly delightful to see gardening traditions continued, whether on a small or large scale. These practices help us understand the importance of living close to the earth and do our part in creating a more sustainable future

 It is no longer possible to remain inactive and hope for better times.

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A Daily Dose Of Happiness

What is happiness? If you look up synonyms for this elusive word you’ll find gems such as euphoria, glee, jubilation, seventh heaven, bliss, and elation.

How does one achieve such a state? Is it love, money, beauty, youth, health, success, or a combination of all of these? Hard to come by the full package, don’t you think?

I believe in a daily dose of happiness, no matter what. A permanent state of happiness is difficult to achieve and would be counter-productive. It is the difficult times in our lives that teach us to appreciate the good times.

It can be said that certain life circumstances and conditions contribute to one’s happiness, give or take.

Falling in love, getting a raise, your favorite team winning the game? But are these not fleeting moments of happiness? So what would make for long-lasting happiness? Winning the lottery? I imagine oodles of money would make many people happy, yet those same happy lottery winners could very quickly fall back into unhappiness, should their spouses, once they cash in half the winnings, choose to leave them, or if the lottery winner were to never walk again, following a head-on collision with a wild boar, while speeding on a country road in their new dream sports car.

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but my point is simply that life is made of ups and downs, and these don’t come announced or have any particularly recognizable patterns. Life is full of surprises, some better than others.

I don’t believe in being happy all the time, it simply doesn’t work, doesn’t exist and the mere thought of having to be happy all the time is stressful. I enjoy crying when I have a good reason to cry. I enjoy arguing when I have a good reason to defend a position. I enjoy anger as well, as long as it is properly vented, in a constructive creative manner.

A full range of feelings must be given free reign, in order for us to keep developing our very unique identities. Life serves up all the experiences we need in order to realize our potential.

Perhaps it would be wise to get more acquainted with the sources of our unhappiness in order to navigate our way towards happiness. It’s a little like getting vaccinated. You become less prone to falling into the unhappiness rut, you react with a constructive resolution instead, and find ways to move beyond. Go ahead and scream at yourself in the mirror, but make sure you don’t take any shit from yourself…that’s the trick. Come to an agreement with yourself, no use beating yourself up. Make little adjustments to how you think and how you communicate with yourself.

The difficult times in our lives can help us appreciate the good times. Whether it is the loss of status or of a loved one, these are the defining moments that help us realize happiness, like life, is a temporal and fleeting occurrence.

Research shows that happiness is not the result of bouncing from one joy to the next, but typically involves times of considerable discomfort

Happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life, with a sense of purpose, meaning, and deep satisfaction. Research shows that happiness is not the result of bouncing from one joy to the next, it typically involves periods of considerable discomfort.

My secret is to find a daily dose of happiness. I do this by thanking the universe every morning when I wake up to a steaming cup of my favorite coffee, a flushing toilet, and the hot shower that follows. I cultivate my friendships as if they were all part of an exotic garden that I am the keeper of, and I take every occasion I can to immerse myself in nature and celebrate the beauty of life. Don’t underestimate the simple comforts in life and how they contribute to your happiness.

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New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work and Here’s Why

New Year’s Resolutions are a secular tradition. A person promises themselves to embark on a mission of self-improvement, or simply promises to be more civil with nice gestures such as picking up their dog’s poo as soon as the New Year starts.  I say, hey why not start right away ?

Forget those New Year’s resolutions. Want to quit or reduce smoking, drinking, start working out? Want to start eating healthy, working less, reduce, re-use, recycle, give up your seat bus to elders, pay more attention to your family and loved ones? Watch less TV?

Want to give yourself a boost and get back on track? Been feeling sluggish, and life seems dull? New Year’s Resolutions aren’t going to do it.


This mass-induced ritual of self-betterment, that we embrace with the entrance of a New Year, is a futile gesture considering most people will not stick to the program they’ve set out for themselves. 

Studies showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail.

Often the program is unrealistic, and part of the reason that most people postpone it to the New Year is that they want to keep partaking in their old habits, be they good or bad, for as long as possible. In this manner, resolutions become sacrifices.

Resolutions are about self-betterment, about shedding old baggage and all that stuff that apparently prevents us from being our best, and from achieving our full potential.

This lady says it well…LIFE IS THE GAME WE PLAY


I believe, beyond any reasonable doubt, that in order to reach our full potential and give birth to OUR SELVES, we need to embrace our madness. We need to not care what others think or say about us, we need to stay true to ourselves against all odds. Simply put, it means you need to listen to your inner voice. Which one, you might ask, there are several.

If you pay attention, you will be able to distinguish your own inner voice from the voices of your elders, society, friends, peers and colleagues, the church, and the media. Your voice will stand out amongst all of that caucus that lives inside your head. 

Chase out all those voices that don’t belong to you, all those voices leading you astray, that tell you you’ll never make it, that you’re too fat, too young, too old, too tall, too small, your skin too dark, that your ideas are stupid. Chase them all away and embrace yourself, embrace your madness. 

No matter how crazy your ideas may sound, even to you, go for it! So instead of wasting time making a list of resolutions, you won’t keep, why not start thinking on your feet? Why not do something to stimulate your blood flow and get your juices flowing. Somewhere in there, if we dig deep enough we all have some crazy ideas, and these very ideas may be the key to harnessing our full potential and freeing us from boredom and a life afloat in dullness and repetition.

Embracing your madness means harnessing your passions and creating something from nothing.

Here’s a couple of ridiculous ideas that made these guys a fortune.

“Back in the 70’s some guy bought a bunch of stones from a builder’s supply store, packaged them in cardboard boxes with holes (so the rocks could “breathe”), and marketed them as serious “pets”. For a production cost of less than a dollar, Dahl sold each rock for $3.95. And sell them he did. By Christmas of 1975, pet rocks were all the rage.  As for Dahl, his aptly-named Rock Bottom Productions was rolling over…. in profits.”

IFart App has Ridiculously Rich Person Behind It: Joel Comm. Estimated Profit:  $400K Somewhere, in Joel Comm’s unique mind, the iFart was conceived, the whoopee cushion for the iPhone.  What’s even crazier? He thought people would pay for the app.  iFart retails for 99 cents, and the absolutely insane part about this all is that Joel Comm was right.

The more you define who you are, the more you unleash your potential.

Who cares how much you weigh and how many followers you have.  As new adventures enter your life, you will come into your own new skin as you shed old habits. The best part is you don’t have to wait for New Year’s eve to do so, and it doesn’t have to be a million-dollar idea. 


It can simply be getting off your butt right now, picking up the phone, and getting something in motion. Doing that thing that has been nagging at you for some time. Get involved with people and make things happen, small projects that can benefit many, simply by creating a common goal, and playing together to make it happen. 

Self-improvement is a full-time activity and requires healthy doses of feeling good about ourselves, very different from what people are usually feeling when they make resolutions.

If you absolutely must stay true to tradition then here’s one bit of advice. Resolutions are more sustainable when shared, both in terms of with whom you share the benefits of your resolution, and with whom you share the path of maintaining your resolution. Peer support will increase your chances of actually sticking to your New Year’s Resolution.

HAPPY NEW YEAR and remember to EMBRACE YOUR MADNESS!

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS

With 2021 coming to an end, I wish you all the best in the new year and would like to share a short holiday greeting video, followed by a poem to capture the spirit of the season, written by 19th-Century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, entitled ‘The Meeting‘.

Peace Love and Joy

The Meeting

After so long an absence

At last we meet again:

Does the meeting give us pleasure,

Or does it give us pain?

The tree of life has been shaken,

And but few of us linger now,

Like the Prophet’s two or three berries

In the top of the uppermost bough.

We cordially greet each other

In the old, familiar tone;

And we think, though we do not say it,

How old and gray he is grown!

We speak of a Merry Christmas

And many a Happy New Year;

But each in his heart is thinking

Of those that are not here.

We speak of friends and their fortunes,

And of what they did and said,

Till the dead alone seem living,

And the living alone seem dead.

And at last we hardly distinguish

Between the ghosts and the guests;

And a mist and shadow of sadness

Steals over our merriest jests.

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Use It Or Lose It – Words Have Power

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

George Orwell, 1984

Through the study of language, we can discover some revealing things about any given culture.  It is said that the Eskimos have over 35 words for “snow” because its exact condition is very important to their thinking. Sanskrit has 96 words for love.

Approximately 359 million people speak English as their first language. Although the English language has only one word for love, it reportedly has over 500 words for the female genitals and almost as many for the male apparatus. Merriam Webster dictionary has 23 synonyms for the term ‘sexual-intercourse’.

How language Affects Thinking

  • Russian speakers, who have more words for light and dark blues, are better able to visually discriminate shades of blue.
  • Some indigenous tribes say north, south, east and west, rather than left and right, and as a consequence have great spatial orientation.
  • The Piraha, whose language eschews number words in favor of terms like few and many, are not able to keep track of exact quantities.
  • In one study, Spanish and Japanese speakers couldn’t remember the agents of accidental events as adeptly as English speakers could. Why? In Spanish and Japanese, the agent of causality is dropped: “The vase broke itself,” rather than “John broke the vase.”

Language shapes how we understand, space, time, and causality

It turns out that if you change how people talk, that changes how they think. If people learn another language, they inadvertently also learn a new way of looking at the world. When bilingual people switch from one language to another, they start thinking differently. 

  • Does language shape our thoughts and influence culture? 
  • Do English, Chinese, Russian and Japanese understand and remember experiences differently simply because they speak different languages?

These questions touch on major controversies in the study of the mind, with important implications for politics, religion, and sexuality. The idea that language might shape thought was for a long time considered untestable, at best, or dismissed altogether. 

New cognitive science research has shown that language does profoundly influence how we see the world. 

New research shows us that the languages we speak not only reflect or express our thoughts but also shape the very thoughts we express. The structures that exist in our languages profoundly shape how we construct our reality, and assist us in being as smart and sophisticated as we are. 

“That language embodies different ways of knowing the world seems intuitive, given the number of times we reach for a word or phrase in another language that communicates that certain je ne sais quoi that we can’t find in our own language.”

Steve Kallaugher


What role does the media play in shaping our thoughts and our language?

News coverage of the pill (in the 60’s) and of the Clinton/Lewinsky episode proved to be 2 turning points in an accelerating preoccupation by the American Media with all things sexual.

The role of the media in shaping public perceptions and opinions regarding significant
political and social issues has been the subject of both speculation and research since its inception. Now the focus has shifted to Social Media. With so much going on globally, media has the power to influence not only our perceptions it also decides what is important and what isn’t.

The Julian Assange case is a striking example of how corporate media buried news about one of the most important political trials of our lifetime.

The “power of language” not only means language in service of power,  remember that language can also undermine power

While censorship is often conducted by corporations and governments to prevent words, images, or ideas from entering the mainstream, censorship of literature was around as early as 399 B.C.  The Catholic Church had been compiling lists of banned books since 1559, and only stopped the practice in 1966. 

“Of all the weapons of destruction that man could invent, the most terrible-and the most powerful-was the word. Daggers and spears left traces of blood; arrows could be seen at a distance. Poisons were detected in the end and avoided. But the word managed to destroy without leaving clues.” 

― Paulo Coelho

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Telepathy Inspires Mind Sharing Interfaces

In the realm of our physical senses-based world, telepathy has long been regarded as a controversial phenomenon. However, as of late, science and tech journals feature ever more studies, indicating telepathy holds keys to modern technological applications with designs to increase the brain’s channels of communication.

Telepathy is not science fiction. In fact, both science and technology are now drawing inspiration from the principles of telepathy to develop brain interfaces designed to increase the brain’s channels of communication.

Telepathy has long been a disputed phenomenon in the scientific community. On the other hand, it has often been perceived as a viable means of accessing the unconscious mind.

In the late 19th and early 20th Century telepathy was a topic of interest, discussed and written about, by Sigmund Freud, Thomas Huxley, W. T. Stead, and Oscar Wilde, amongst many other eminent men and women of the times. They put into question whether telepathy signaled an evolutionary advance or a possible decline.

In his book, The invention of telepathy 1870-1900, Roger Luckhurst investigates this question and many other questions, in a study that blends the history of science with cultural history and literary analysis surrounding telepathy.

Telepathy and mysticism have been intimately connected in man’s attempt to answer the most taunting questions about life. One could say that telepathy has been seen as a possible bridge to the metaphysical world.

Edgar Cayce, also known as the “Sleeping Prophet” spent over 43 years of his life as a practicing “trance physician” and telepathic clairvoyant. When Cayce passed away, on the 3rd of January 1945, he left an impressive legacy of his life’s work, 140,000 documented stenographic records of his trance readings, one of the most extensive compilations of psychic primary materials recorded to date.

Telepathic connections between twins have provided researchers with the means to study the phenomenon and have served as significant evidence of telepathy amongst humans.

 Dr. Lynn Cherkas, who studied Telepathy in twins, concluded that 20% of identical twins and 1% of fraternal twins had some type of telepathic experience with their twin. A most comprehensive survey on the history of research into twin telepathy is compiled in the book Twin Telepathy by Guy Leon Playfair.

Many people claim to have had some form of telepathic experience at some point in their lives.

Have you ever found yourself jolted out of reverie by your phone ringing and the name that appeared on your screen made your heart leap? Almost gave you the creeps? The very person you were thinking of!

Perhaps a distant friend or family member you’ve been out of touch with for years. Is it a coincidence that they happened to contact you at that particular moment or the exact day you happened to wake up thinking about them or had dreamt of them?

Often time it can be as simple as being in a room with another person and you know exactly what they are about to say, before they say it, at other times it can be a hunch that saves your life or the life of a loved one.

These types of experiences always leave us feeling as though there is some special deeper meaning to the event and give us momentary access to an otherwise invisible and complex network of communications that most of us are unable to willingly harness. They make us reflect deeply on life. The possibility of communicating at a distance by simply using our minds is both alluring and unnerving. It shakes up some fundamental belief systems.

Some people experience precognition, a feeling, or a presentiment of something about to happen or about someone, which reveals itself to be a real occurrence.

I dreamt of my grandfather’s funeral, as a child, and the following day we received news of his death. I had only ever seen my grandfather in photographs since my parents had relocated from Europe to Canada shortly after I was born, so I had no conscious recollection of my grandfather.

I have had several other premonitions over the years, one particularly stands out, involving a girlfriend I’d been quite close to and lost touch with when I moved from the West Coast of Canada back to the East Coast.

For days, following a vivid and preoccupying dream, I attempted to find her. There were few resources available, no internet yet. I managed to get an address for her brother and sent a letter, which eventually made its way to her. Years later, when we met up again, she admitted that upon reading the letter she was startled. How could I possibly have known that she was going through difficult and trying times, in a situation that had put her life at risk? The letter had been a wake-up call for her and as a result, she set herself on a new path and out of harm’s way.

How can an event that is occurring to a person at a specific time and place be simultaneously communicated to another person’s consciousness who is at a distance?

When telepathic communication occurs, place, time and distance have no bearing.

Extrasensory perception during the dream state has been studied for decades. In truth, the first attempt to study telepathic dreams experimentally is reported by G.B. Ermacora (1895) in a publication of the Society for Psychical Research. 

Most Telepathic experiences involve a direct transference of thought from one person to another. So essentially we have a sender and a receiver communicating without putting into play the usual sensory channels of communication, therefore considered a form of extrasensory perception (ESP).

Studies conducted on people experiencing paranormal phenomena have yielded significant results.

“Scientists at the University of Washington and Carnegie Mellon University created a brain-to-brain interface system that allows one or more people, called “Senders,” to influence the decisions of an individual, called a “Receiver”

https://massivesci.com/articles/mind-control-brain-machine-interface/

Understanding the physical mechanisms of telepathy has inspired modern technology with the endless possibilities and applications of brain-to-brain communications. Much can be uncovered by studying the sensing, emitting, and receiving principles at work in telepathic communication.

Not so far-fetched when you consider Elon Musk’s Neuralink app, a new kind of brain interface being developed, which would allow you to control your iOS device, keyboard, and mouse, just by thinking about it. Even the telephone was invented to meet the needs of long-distance communication.

Both the application and the implications are numerous. Consider the endless possibilities of increasing the brain’s channels of communication. These methods could be employed to treat a wide range of neurological disorders, restore sensory or movement functions, and without a doubt change the way we interact with one another.

Aside from the possible medicinal uses, brain-to-brain communication could find interested players across many disciplines, from sports to business, the military, and civilians. If this technology were to be used on the battlefield it would enable soldiers to send and receive commands and warnings, through a form of electronic or synthetic telepathy.

There is more than sufficient evidence pointing to telepathy and its scientific possibilities. Telepathy no longer resides in the realm of superstition. According to Forbes mind sharing is definitely coming. It will revolutionize how people learn, interact and experience new things. 

Consciousness, free will, and the meaning of life have always been at the core of man’s questions about our existence. It stands to reason that our evolutionary progress should eventually take us beyond the limitations of the five physical senses we rely on and science and technology are leading the way.

Some would argue that we are not ready for this leap and that our innate telepathic abilities are meant to be matured and accessed organically, so to speak, without the aid of technology.

These developments would greatly increase both the efficiency and power of select individuals and organizations to monitor, regulate and respond. Just as we use tools to shape our world, the tools we use shape us.

In our quest to make great leaps, with science and technology at the helm, perhaps we should ask ourselves the same question those luminaries from the early 20th century posed themselves, ‘will it lead us to an evolutionary advance or a possible decline‘?

Image by by Tomasz Alen Kopera

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Why Comedy Should Not Be Censored

Given the recent outcries from the LGBTQ+ community over Dave Chapelle’s recent material I’ve given much thought to WHY COMEDY SHOULD NOT BE CENSORED.

We’ve been Laughing at jokes about Blacks, Asians, Jews, Blondes, Mexicans, Americans, Italians, the size of dicks, tits, and noses, fat and skinny people, sex, religion, the KKK, politics, and more, for decades.

Comedy has historically pushed boundaries and poked at sensitive issues and topics. As with all other art forms, comedy is also hatched in a dark, deep personal realm where everything is unfiltered. Many comedians draw from personal experience.

Take Richard Pryor for example, who through his own personal experience and raw, uncensored brand of humor brought to light issues surrounding poverty, racism, and drug abuse.


Lenny Bruce was another pioneer who pushed the boundaries. “Lenny worshipped the gods of Spontaneity, Candor, and Free Association. He fancied himself an oral jazzman. His ideal was to walk out there like Charlie Parker, take that mike in his hand like a horn and blow, blow, blow everything that came into his head just as it came into his head with nothing censored, nothing translated, nothing mediated, until he was pure mind, pure head sending out brainwaves like radio waves into the heads of every man and woman seated in that vast hall. Sending, sending, sending, he would finally reach a point of clairvoyance where he was no longer a performer but rather a medium transmitting messages that just came to him from out there — from recall, fantasy, prophecy.”

“Lenny Bruce worshipped the gods of Spontaneity, Candor, and Free Association.

Comedy is an art form and as such should not be censored. People need to learn how to laugh at themselves again. Without shock, subversion, and a little bit of transgression and irreverence, comedy cannot fulfill its important social function. Laughter is revelatory and can awaken our awareness of injustices.

I read somewhere that humor can turn anger and frustration into fine art. Even science advocates the value of self-mockery

Comedy is very much like a pressure valve, releasing us from our daily challenges and existential strife. If you want to read more about the value of comedy and laughter in our lives.

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Have We Forgotten How To Laugh At Ourselves?

Revisiting classic movies can be a seriously startling experience. Last night I watched some scenes from Death Wish 3. The story of a once mild-mannered liberal, New York City architect, played by Charles Bronson, who snaps when intruders break into his home, murder his wife, and violently rape his daughter. His frustration with the police, unable to find the intruders, leads him to moonlight as a vigilante, and gingerly gun down any criminal that crosses his path.

There is a scene, in Death Wish 3, where an elderly Jewish couple’s home is broken into by local scoundrels that have been terrorizing the neighborhood. This scene, by today’s standards, would be considered inappropriate, tasteless to say to least. The stereotypical representation of the elderly Jewish couple is both comical and dismal, not to mention the character that leaps in through their window, like a flying monkey version of Rick James, in a crop top, may he RIP.

This got me thinking and reflecting on some of the classic movies I grew up with, such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I asked myself, how does Mickey Rooney’s stereotyped performance as Holly’s Japanese neighbor, Mr. Yunioshi, fare by today’s standards?

Hell, they’ve even censored Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry for depicting racial stereotypes and caricatures.

Recently we’re seeing more and more censorship, and Disney is a perfect example. They’ve edited and censored everything from the movie Splash to Toy Store. What exactly are we concerned about?

They say humans start laughing as early as three months, in life.  “In a study of thousands of examples of laughter, the speakers in a conversation were found to be 46 percent more likely to laugh than the listeners.” This is because laughter is also a way for us to signal that we want to connect and collaborate.

laughing baby
They say humans start laughing as early as three months.

Laughter may have evolved as a way to enhance connectedness in societies but it goes far deeper. Have you ever asked yourself why people will laugh at the misfortunes of others and in the realization that a norm has been breached?

Plato, along with other ancient Greek philosophers maintained that people find humor in, and laugh at, earlier versions of themselves and the misfortunes of others because they feel superior. The bottom line is that people are attracted to authenticity since it stands to reason that by revealing our own flaws in a humorous way, we can build bridges so that others might feel comfortable lowering their guard.

Several centuries later Freud advanced the notion that laughter is a release, allowing people to let off steam or release pent-up “nervous energy.” This theory also explains why tabooed scatological and sexual themes and jokes hinting at those familiar thorny social and ethnic topics are amusing to some.

There are many definitions of humor, yet it still seems to be elusive. However, whether it’s slapstick, double entendre, or ethnic jokes that induce laughter, these all have one aspect in common; A person realizes that an ethical, social or physical norm has been violated and that this violation is not reprehensible. 

Chris Rock, Jennifer Saunders and more have argued that ‘wokeness’ is stifling comedy.

Shock, subversion, and transgression are essential elements of comedy. Nowadays we are experiencing a redefinition of humor. Some comedians are sounding the alarm, stating that cancel culture is killing comedy. Chris Rock, Jennifer Saunders, and more have argued that ‘wokeness’ is stifling comedy. Has social media become a tool of oppression?

Comedy has historically pushed boundaries and poked at sensitive issues and topics and as with all other artforms, comedy is also hatched in a dark, deep personal realm where everything is unfiltered. Many comedians draw from personal experience. Take Richard Pryor for example, who through his own personal experience and raw, uncensored brand of humor brought to light issues surrounding poverty, racism, and drug abuse.

I read somewhere that humor can turn anger and frustration into fine art. Even science advocates the value of self-mockery. In a recent study, researchers discovered that self-deprecating humor improves our health. It goes without saying that one shouldn’t use self-deprecation in order to camouflage insecurities, however in this study, it was observed that people who regularly poke fun at themselves exhibit greater levels of emotional well-being.

“In particular, we have observed that a greater tendency to employ self-defeating humor is indicative of high scores in psychological well-being dimensions such as happiness and, to a lesser extent, sociability,” the study authors wrote.

Having a good laugh is excellent for reducing stress and it makes us more flexible, creative, and effective in the face of challenges. Comedy is very much like a pressure valve, releasing us from our daily challenges and existential strife.

Without shock, subversion, and a little bit of transgression comedy cannot fulfill its important social function. Laughter is revelatory and can awaken our awareness of injustices, as well as open our eyes to what is wrong in our world and needs fixing. Laughing unites people.

“In order to truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it. “

charlie chaplin

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Sustainability Is More Than An Investment In The Future

The words ‘sustainable’ and ‘sustainability’ have become household terms. Recent statistics point to the irrefutable fact that both consumers and businesses prefer dealing with sustainable companies, that have implemented an environmentally-friendly business strategy. Customers have become more educated over the last decade. They are no longer easily sold on a product or service with a 30-second commercial, a little eye candy, a catchy jingle, or a slogan.

With a world of information at their fingertips, customers want to know more about your product, your services, company philosophy, customer reviews, and business strategies, before making any decision.

Customers are not only engaged, they are pointing the way and giving a strong message to businesses and organizations. Sustainability is here to stay, as more and more customers and businesses have shifted their focus. They prefer to partner up with businesses that share their values and have incorporated sustainability into their best business practices.

Sustainable Business Practices

Regardless of the size of your company, there are numerous things your organization can do to incorporate sustainable business practices, starting with conserving resources. Your organization can conserve water and electricity by simply converting to energy-efficient water faucets, and lighting, to start with, and you’ll have added advantage of saving on bills.

Develop a sustainability program, within your organization. Inform and engage employees in being an active part of a sustainable organization. Simple things like powering down computers at the end of a shift, turning off lights when not needed, recycling, and not wasting water are but a few examples. You can opt for a cleaning service that exclusively uses green cleaning products. Create a program for recyclable products within your organization. Here are some ideas for products that can be recycled in-house:

  • Batteries
  • fluorescent light-bulbs
  • Electronic components
  • Computers and monitors
  • paper products
  • plastic
  • glass

Sustainability In The Metal Industry

Finding long term sustainability solutions to areas of growing concern in metal industry

When referring to sustainability in the metal industry we need to address a multi-faceted reality in order to find long-term sustainability solutions to areas of growing concern, such as issues regarding the long-term availability of metals, which raises some questions:

  • How long will ore resources last?
  • What will the economic and social consequences be, once primary resources have been exhausted?
  • What are the economic and ecological consequences of extracting ores whose quality is always becoming poorer?

Part of the answer to these questions can be found in industrialized nations, where recyclable metals are being accumulated. Countries that were poor in primary materials, to date, could become the resource-rich countries of the future. Waste-to-value businesses generate revenues through the recovery, recycling, and selling of recyclable materials.

Products recovered and recycled from mining or steel generators can be transformed into by-products for reuse. The management of raw materials, wastes, and by-products is a sustainable form of business. There are other revenue-generating initiatives that can be taken while increasing sustainability in the metal industry:

  • The customization of products by turning metal waste into quality raw materials is a viable and revenue earning solution
  • Domestic and international trading of metal by-products and raw materials is another business opportunity in the new landscape of sustainability

End-to-end manufacturing solutions are also available for the metal industry. Technology has made it possible to seamlessly connect people, assets, workflows, and many business processes, with numerous sustainable solutions.

With the help of Leading Edge Technology you can increase efficiency and savings as you reduce waste

Transform Your Business Model Into A Winning One For Today’s Market

Not only is sustainability an investment in the future, but it is also a tremendous investment opportunity, that can make it possible for businesses, to achieve a circular economy, by redefining growth, and focusing more on business practices that foster positive society-wide benefits.

New leaders in today’s business are companies with strong forward-looking visions of a clean economy that actively participate in creating a sustainable future

Giant tech companies, such as Apple, in their quest to attain a more sustainable profile, are now using more recyclable materials than they did in the past. These companies are responding to consumers, worldwide, pushing towards sustainable business models and solutions.

Hire a company that provides services dedicated to helping transform your business model into a winning one in today’s market. They will provide your organization with innovative solutions to achieve sustainable business practices, by helping with the management of raw materials, waste, and by-products, while turning these into revenue.

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Will Cryptocurrency Transform The Way We Do Business?

Although not all of us may be driven by money, most of us are familiar with how uncertainty about the future and the lack of confidence about a sustained income can lead to anxiety and insecurity, which in turn can upset our sense of well-being and continuity in life. I mean, astonishingly, even the wealthy live with fear, insecurity, and a sense of inadequacy surrounding their wealth, namely for fear of losing or of being cheated out of it. At the end of the day, it turns out that money is intimately connected to our emotional craving for stability and livelihood.

Since the pandemic has swept across the globe, financial insecurity has spread like mold and at the same time, we are seeing a silent revolution at work.

Money has been around for a good 3,000 years, whether a shell, a metal coin, or a piece of paper was used, the value was determined by the importance that people placed on the medium of exchange. Now Bitcoin, along with 10,000 different cryptocurrencies, has emerged as a new medium of exchange, and some have already seen astounding returns over the past decade.

From the moment that humans harnessed fire and chemistry, we journeyed from the Stone Age through the Bronze and Iron Ages, to our modern developed society, and to this day we remain dependent on metals and alloys for survival. The European conquests abroad provided them with constant new sources of precious metals and as a result, until the 16th century, metal coins were the sole form of currency in Europe.

American Express was vital to the evolution of currency and took us from metal to paper, to the invention of the credit card. Once a product only for the wealthy, accepted at only a few places, credit cards became available to millions of people, and the most accepted form of payment worldwide. Who would have thought that a plastic card would take us so far?

The Gemini card is bringing crypto to the mainstream and this is a serious indication that the world of crypto is growing, as digital currencies and blockchain technology keep edging closer to the mainstream by simply providing crypto in a way that doesn’t alter consumer habits. 

Many are embracing the idea of cryptocurrency simply because it removes central banks from managing the money supply.  More and more companies are warming up to the idea of cryptocurrency. Institutions are climbing on board in a significant way for the first time, while the tourism industry is ahead of the game boasting some impressive partnerships with some of the world’s biggest online travel brands, all of whom are embracing crypto. 

For example, 700,000 Expedia Group hotels and accommodations have been available via the crypto-friendly booking platform Travala.com since 2020, and it is expected that new generations of travelers will demand and embrace new forms of payment for travel.

Is Cryptocurrency going to pave the way? It is not an easy concept for everyone to wrap their head around, but what it boils down to is trust and the importance that people place on the medium of exchange, which will determine its value. Does anyone still write cheques? I haven’t for years, yet at one time, a cheque had a value, yet it was a simple slip of paper, and although many of us saw our fair share of bounced cheques, it was still an accepted medium of exchange.

The fact is that no one really needs gold nor paper, for that matter, but everyone needs to feel safe and to exchange goods and services. The market for cryptocurrencies has exploded and is currently estimated to be worth about $2 trillion, so it would seem many people have given it a vote of confidence. Crypto currency security may still be a concern, however innovative solutions are being found, by the cybersecurity sector, that address these concerns.  

Cryptocurrencies were the result of a radical desire for access to assets not controlled by governments and central banks. Ironically, regulations are now being considered to guarantee transparent pricing and security for investors. Many believe that new regulations could help cryptocurrencies become a bigger part of our daily lives.

Will cryptocurrency transform the way we do business? Some say it already has and it could eventually make banks obsolete. One thing is certain, cryptocurrency has transformed the money and finance landscape.  

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Facial Recognition – Friend or Foe?

Many feel that Facial Recognition Technology may be the latest step on the march towards total surveillance and Totalitarian New World Order. Invasive surveillance is nothing new.  Monitoring, activities, behavior, and information for data mining and influencing people did not start with the internet. Electronic means of surveillance and data gathering were being deployed way before the advent of social networks and search engine bots. 

Research on facial recognition technology dates back to the mid-1960s when Woody Bledsoe along with Helen Chan Wolf and Charles Bisson began working together, and the US government has been putting the technology to the test since the 1990s.

We’ve come a long way since, as facial recognition is becoming increasingly more diffused, which leaves us facing ethical issues that have come into play. Issues that both businesses and consumers should consider.

Facial recognition is but the tip of the iceberg when you stop to think about the risks each and every one of us takes every day online. If you feel you are being watched or listened to, it may not be paranoia after all.

Corporate surveillance, data mining, and profiling, GPS tracking, and wireless tracking have enhanced surveillance to new dizzying heights, never known before. Following journalistic investigations, it was revealed that location data is tracked by a wider variety of parties for a greater number of purposes, and in ways that exceed our understanding or control. With companies hungry to feed us customized savory digital bait, the sheer volume of location data tracked, disclosed, and repurposed has become gargantuan and the tension has risen between innovation and privacy.

How Much Privacy Are You Willing To Sacrifice?

The biggest fear, surrounding facial recognition, is that identity theft would be rendered possible by anyone. For example, Google Glass has sparked debate over privacy, for the simple reason that a total stranger could quickly access all your social profiles, along with personal information about you, simply by snapping a shot of you while you are shopping, having a coffee or walking down the street. I could argue that a total stranger can also come across your FB profile picture and used it for similar purposes, which as we know has been done on many occasions. However the implications of Facial Recognition reach much further and deeper.

Those in favor of facial recognition will cite the many benefits:

  • Easier to track down burglars, thieves, and trespassers. The technology can also analyze the feed of private and public CCTV camera networks.
  • By singling out suspects among crowds, face recognition technology could help decrease stops and searches on law-abiding citizens.
  • It could be used to help find missing children and seniors.
  • Face recognition could make security checkpoints at airports less intrusive to passengers.
  • Facial recognition could be used to battle banking frauds.
  • Face recognition technology could be used to improve attendance at work by putting an end to time fraud. Employees would be required to check-in and out via a face-scanning device for work. 

Those against facial recognition technology, such as Civil liberties groups, are concerned over threats to privacy, violations of rights and personal freedoms, potential data theft and other crimes as well as the risk of possible errors due to flaws in the technology.

Facial Recognition technology promises benefits at a cost. How far are you willing to compromise and sacrifice your privacy?

I always envisioned a technology-driven future and amongst my favorite authors were visionaries, such as Arthur C. Clarke, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Frank Heinlein, H. G. Wells, and William Gibson.

We are living at a time when the boundaries between science fiction and reality have thinned exponentially and we are now faced with a perplexing scenario. The questions we all need to ask ourselves are, how much privacy are we willing to give up for the benefits derived from technology and most importantly what else are we giving up?

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Ever Thought Of Pursuing a Career As An Adaptation Technologist?

Have you ever asked yourself who the people behind frontline aid work are and how did they end up dedicating their professional lives to pursuing solutions to age-old plagues such as war, famine, natural disasters or drought? These brave individuals are known as Climate Change Adaption Technology Specialists, and they help and train affected communities by introducing them to self-sufficiency and focusing on effective, sustainable, recovery solutions.

Implementing effective strategies for sustainability in aid work is very sought after. Assisting post-disaster and poverty-stricken areas by designing sustainable systems that can withstand climate change can make a real difference to the quality of life and help communities rebuild quickly. 

Most methods of adaptation involve technology, materials, equipment, and most importantly diverse forms of knowledge. The forms of technology for adaptation are often quite familiar and have been tried and tested over generations, such as coping with floods by building houses on stilts or by cultivating floating vegetable plots. Other more recent forms of adaptation involve the use of advanced materials, science, or remote satellite sensing. Take for example how Adaptive Technology is the focus of an extended Egyptian climate project.

If you have an adaptive mindset and enjoy fostering innovative solutions to global environmental issues, training is available worldwide.

Green Warrior Permaculture‘ specializes in frontline aid work and for anyone interested in becoming a professional Climate Change Adaption Technology Specialist, they offer a 2-year apprenticeship program. Once the initial 10-week hands-on internship is completed, the trainee will be assigned to various projects at one of their many field school sites. Students can develop projects to test their skills and gain experience alongside other Permaculture teachers and practitioners. “Permaculture Aid gets real results by helping the people restore their community using local resources. They grow their way out of poverty”. 

Students practice in the field, where they develop all the necessary skills to bring self-reliance to people needing aid. Students must complete several small-scale projects, such as construct safe wells, build community infrastructures, implement waste management solutions, or build nurseries, to list but a few. The projects are conducted in real communities, where students get to solve real problems.

Upon completion of the 2-year program, one is qualified to co-teach for 2 years, after which one can open their own Permaculture Field School, with the option of branching out on their own or by joining forces with a guild of trainers. 

A 10-week Climate Change Adaption Technology Specialist apprenticeship is also being offered, as a stand-alone course, for those with some previous experience. Courses can be customized for people with specialized skills or previous experience in the field. 

These courses are run through Green Warrior Permaculture’s new facilities at the ‘Centre of Advanced Permaculture’. All of Green Warrior Permaculture’s programs and field courses focus on how to adapt and mitigate climate events. More in-depth information on Green Warrior Permaculture field courses can be found on their website: https://greenwarriorpermaculture.wordpress.com/category/what-is-a-green-warrior/

If Green Warrior’s program is not the right fit or location for you, check out these other options for training as an Adaptation Technology Specialist:

https://cat.org.uk/adaptation/

Studylink

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat and the Expert Group on Technology Transfer carried out an extensive review of adaptation technologies and assessed their possibilities in five sectors:

  • Coastal zones
  • Water resources
  • Agriculture
  • Public health
  • Infrastructure

This review gives you a pretty good idea of the challenges that lie ahead for mankind and the opportunities to make a difference. The review is published as a technical paper, and can be found on the UNFCCC website (www.unfccc.int).

The global climate system has always confronted human societies with extreme weather events and we can expect future climate change will simply exacerbate these type of events, increasing their scale, duration or intensity, which should be possible to adapt to some extent by modifying or extending existing technologies.

If you are interested and would like to read an in depth publication which provides an overview of the old and the new, clearly showing us that we have been using existing knowledge to adapt to changing environments and that new adaptation technologies and methods are available and are being developed. Download this publication as a reminder of what is possible and how you can make a difference by becoming an Adaptation Technologist.

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Why You Should Know How To Tell Quality Fabric From Cheap Fabric

If you stop to think about it, fabric is one of the most important components in our daily lives. From the clothes we wear, to the upholstery of our home furniture and cars, to our bed linen.  The fabric used will determine the value, comfort, and durability of the item in question. Not all fabrics are suitable for all applications and not all fabrics are alike when it comes to quality.

I grew up with a seamstress for a mother. Spent many days down long aisles of fabric stores in Montreal’s St-Laurent area, the heart of the city’s garment industry back then. Rows and rows of shelves lined with fat rolls of fabric. An infinite array of textures and colors to choose from. You could always tell who worked in the store since they had measuring tapes hanging around their necks and long sharp scissors always on standby.

The best part of going fabric shopping with my mother was that I was allowed to touch the merchandise on display. This never happened anywhere else. I mimicked my mother’s meticulous perusals of fine threads. I listened to her rumblings when she was not satisfied with the quality or price. Without realizing it I was learning about the fine art of textiles through my fingertips and my mother’s unintentional coaching.

As a consumer, you owe it to yourself to know the difference between valued fabrics and cheap fabrics. Whether you are buying new furniture for your home, a new suit, special dress, or bed linen, the fabric used will make all the difference. If you are going to spend money on a classic suit, special dress, or important piece of furniture for your home or office, you’ll want it to last and to look good after some wear or use.

Cheap or ill-suited fabrics in upholstery will quickly turn that new sofa into a junkyard piece as the fabric stretches, thins, fades, easily stains, and rips at the seams. When it comes to clothes or bed linen, your comfort is largely dictated by the fabric used. High-quality fabric will ensure that your suit or tailored summer dress will not turn into an incubator on a hot day. 

When it comes to bed linen, the sensation on your skin when you come into contact with finely woven Egyptian cotton, versus regular cotton is notable even by a novice.  Egyptian cotton sheets may cost more, however, the longer you use them, the more cost effective they become. Let’s just say that you get your return on your investment. What makes Egyptian cotton special is partly the high number of threads per square inch. Egyptian cotton sheets resist pilling, easily absorb vibrant color dyes, and are so much softer than most other sheets. I purchased two sets of Egyptian bed linen and comforter covers, and I’ve never looked back. They look and feel as good as when I purchased these 12 years ago, the colors are as vibrant as day one, and every night when I slip into bed my skin thanks me for not having bought Ikea bed linen. 

If you’re like me your bed linen is part and parcel of your home decor, so why not invest a little extra in top-quality Egyptian cotton that you know you can enjoy for years to come. Enjoy not only for its esthetic values but also for that unprecedented and truly lush experience that only the finest of fabrics can give you. 

Textiles can be seductive, exciting, intimate, and, even shocking in some instances. Take for example to use of PVC for fetish wear. Lace, silk, and satin have long been considered sensual textiles. Why is this? Because as you touch these fine fabrics your senses are awakened through your skin and touch. Who doesn’t like the soft furry feel of mohair knit or the provocative touch of plush velvet? The delicious draping of silk taffeta is something for our eyes to behold. Textiles offer us a multisensory experience. 

How To Tell Quality Fabric From Cheap Fabric

Whether you are buying a suit or bed linen, start by reading the label. It helps if you have some knowledge of textiles. Here are some useful pointers to help you understand the difference between quality and cheap fabrics.

  • Fiber Weave: High-quality fabrics feature fibers that are closely and tightly woven together. There should be no obvious gaps between fibers as that’s often an indication of weakness in the fiber quality and they can tear easily. High-quality fabrics have a more well-balanced combination of vertical and horizontal weaves, which make for a stronger fabric surface.
  • Color: Look out for unevenness in tone throughout the surface of the fabric. There should be no streaks or spots. Test fabrics for colorfastness as well.
  • Thread Count. This refers to the number of thread strands per inch. A higher thread count means the fabric is tighter and more durable.
  • Finish. The fabric should show no uneven weaves, unusual creases, or stretching in the corners.
  • Price. Quality comes at a price, and usually cheap items are an indication that corners have been cut either by using cheap material or cheap labor (or both). The price point should match the item in appearance and quality.
  • Finished Product. High-quality linens and apparel have a distinct appearance. The seams should be well sewn. The buttons should be clean and even.
  •  Longer fibers, such as those in Egyptian cotton can be spun into a finer yarn. Fine yarn can be more tightly bound, which makes the resulting fabric stronger and more durable.

High-end, natural textiles typically come with a price, however, when building a solid, timelessly elegant wardrobe, these fabrics are worth the investment. Silk, cashmere, leather, and linen have long been highly acclaimed, sought after, and expensively priced for obvious reasons.

There’s also a case to be made for sustainability. Instead of buying a cheap garment which will fall apart at the seams and need replacing in no time, try spending a little extra and you will have saved in the long run. Aside from having that favorite suit, dress, jacket or sofa still looking and feeling new for many years ahead, clothing or furniture made with quality fabrics can be resold at a good value.

Whether you are investing in your home or wardrobe, learn to recognize quality fabrics, make smart purchases and you’ll never look back.  

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Beginners Guide On Using Hickory and Mesquite For Smoking Meat

The heat is on! Summer is here and it’s perfect for grilling and smoking meats outdoors. For those of you not familiar with using smoke for cooking, it is important to understand the variety of woods that can be used, whether you are smoking brisket, pork ribs, fish, or poultry. Think of using smoke in the same way as you would use spices, garlic, ginger, curry, or basil in a dish you are preparing. Each one of these will give a distinct flavor to your dish and will either work for or against your dish, depending on how you use them.

Meat should be smoked prior to grilling for that special flavor. You don’t need a dedicated smoker. Here are some handy solutions for smoking meat using your gas or charcoal grill.

If you’re new to smoking meats, you should familiarize yourself with a variety of woods to choose from, suitable for smoking meats. Many fruit trees are suitable for smoking meat. Apple, cherry, pear, plum, and almond woods will lend a sweet, fruity flavor to most meats.  Apple wood is a very fine option as it results in a light, fruity, sweet smoky flavor.

We’ll start with Hickory and Mesquite since these are amongst the most popular woods used for smoking meat. Both Hickory and Mesquite are high-quality hardwoods, so in order to choose between these two firewoods, you’ll need to know more about their individual characteristics, flavor, smoking point, and burning time.

Hickory vs Mesquite

In order to get the best results, when choosing which wood to use when smoking meats, a good place to start would be to examine the differences between Hickory wood and Mesquite wood. These are both hardwood trees, which means they make for high-quality firewood.

If we were to measure Hickory and Mesquite on a spectrum that spanned from mild to strong, we would find Hickory in the middle, along with other woods, such as maple and oak. These woods are excellent for smoking pork and bold enough to smoke beef, and game meats as well. Mesquite is in another category, all of its own. It produces the strongest tasting smokey flavor and should be used in moderation, or combined with other woods when smoking lighter meats. Let’s have a closer look at the characteristics of these two fine hardwoods.

Hickory Chips

Hickory

Hickory is the longest-burning wood of the two, it is high-quality firewood and because it has quite a high heat output, Hickory tends to last longer than many other kinds of wood and delivers consistent smoke throughout the entire cooking period.

Hickory is a versatile smoking wood that works well with most types of meats and is the classic choice for bacon and turkey. Just about anyone is familiar with hickory bacon. Hickory produces a strong-flavored smoke, slightly more intense than alder and other fruitwoods, such as cherry wood or applewood, and Hickory has a milder profile than Mesquite wood does. Many Pitmasters will pick Hickory because it adds a dark coloring to smoked meats.

Hickory is a clean-burning wood that provides longer slower smoking times and can be mixed with other wood types if desired. With Hickory, you’ll have less to worry about when cooking different types of meats together or steaks of various thicknesses. Hickory is a simpler choice, for anyone who is new to smoking meat.

Mesquite Chips

Mesquite

Mesquite is also a prized wood for both smoking and grilling meats because it produces a lot of heat and gives the meat a deep flavor. Mesquite has a unique, pleasant scent and flavor, both strong and tangy. However, Mesquite burns faster than Hickory.

Mesquite also produces long-lasting coals, although not as long-lasting as Hickory. More smoke is produced when using Mesquite than any other type of smoking wood because it contains higher levels of Lignin, which gives us that fantastic BBQ smokey flavor when burned

It is recommended that Hickory be used as the base, and Mesquite be added either at the beginning or near the end of the smoking process. Mesquite should be added in small amounts, or you risk turning the meat bitter tasting, and so as not to overpower the meat.

Generally, when smoking light meats, Mesquite should be used moderately. For those who prefer a more robust smokey taste, then Mesquite is for you. However, remember that if you need longer cooking times, Hickory is a better choice.

Depending on the meat you are smoking there are some combinations that are proven to be winners. The general rule of thumb is that Mesquite is more suitable for smoking dark red meats. and game, because of its strong-flavored attributes. Meats that need less cooking time are best for smoking with Mesquite wood, as these don’t risk staying on the grill long enough to turn bitter.

Is Hickory or Mesquite Preferable On Different Meats ?

Smoking meat before and during grilling

Hickory or Mesquite For Chicken

Poultry is an excellent meat to add flavor to by smoking. Poultry meat will take on any wood smoke and will work with most woods. It is a matter of personal taste. Super strong woods like mesquite may be overwhelming for those people who prefer a milder smoked chicken flavor. Hickory is not as strong as Mesquite and works wonders with Turkey and Chicken.

Hickory or Mesquite For Ribs

Both Hickory and Mesquite work well for smoking ribs. Hickory is the preferred choice for a traditional Southern barbecue. It imparts a strong, sweet smoky flavor to meats and is used mainly to smoke pork shoulders and ribs. Mesquite will give a more robust smoky taste to your meat dishes, which works very well for ribs and any other strong-flavored meats.

Hickory or Mesquite For Pork

Traditionally Hickory is used for smoking pork. Hickory will give a rich flavor and darker coloration to the meat. You could try adding a little Mesquite at the end to add a little extra smoky and tangy flavor.

Hickory or Mesquite For Brisket

Mesquite can be an acquired taste, however, if you’ve been dying to try Mesquite for smoking, then brisket lends itself perfectly to the task. Since it is a richer meat than most, it can handle the stronger smokey flavor of Mesquite. Being a fast-burning wood makes Mesquite the ideal choice for authentic Texas-style brisket.

Hickory or Mesquite For Steak

Mesquite burns faster than Hickory and is suitable to use for quick cooks like steak. Mesquite will add color to smoked meats, although it’ll be a bit lighter in color than meat smoked with Hickory. If you have not used Mesquite before then try mixing it, using Hickory as a base.

Hickory or Mesquite For Burgers

Both Hickory and Mesquite are favorites for smoking burgers. Hickory will impart a nice, bacon-like taste and aroma, whereas Mesquite will lend burgers a steak-like quality.

Hickory or Mesquite For Pulled Pork

You’ll find people debating online on whether to use Hickory or Mesquite for Pulled Pork. Generally, Hickory is favored, but in the end, it is a matter of personal taste.

Hickory or Mesquite For Jerky

If you like that bacon flavor in your Jerky, then Hickory should do it or try adding a little Mesquite if you want your Jerky a little smokier, and stronger-flavored.

Hickory or Mesquite For Bacon

Hickory has been a longstanding favorite for Bacon. For those who enjoy stronger smoke-flavored bacon, you’ll find Mesquite bacon to be tangy, savory, and surprisingly delicious.

Smoking does more than add flavor to meat dishes, it also tenderizes and adds an appealing color to the meat itself. Hickory is partially popular because it gives the meat a rich, dark color, which makes the meat more appealing and appetizing to the eye.

Although Hickory is the more popular smoking wood, Mesquite is perfect for wild game, beef brisket, duck, and lamb. For some people’s taste, Mesquite might be too strong, used for smoking chicken, fish, or even ribs, and pork shoulder. Mesquite also adds some color to the meat, but generally, not the rich, color that Hickory imparts.

Mesquite and Hickory both have their unique flavor and are high-quality smoking woods. However, the general consensus is Mesquite should be used sparingly unless you would rather opt for a richer, deeper, and stronger taste. When you need longer cooking times, as for poultry, and you prefer a slightly milder, sweeter, taste, Hickory is the right pick. For shorter cooking times, Mesquite can be used, depending on personal tastes.

The rule of thumb is to smoke the lighter meats, with the milder woods, in this instance, Hickory, and the heavier meats with the stronger flavored woods, such as Mesquite.

If you don’t have much experience with smoking meats and you want to play it safe, Hickory is a good wood to start with. It’s easy to over-smoke meat with Mesquite and you risk the meat tasting bitter as a result. With Hickory wood, you don’t risk changing the taste of the meat, and it won’t turn bitter even if you over-smoke it. Hickory is forgiving and more flexible than Mesquite. Hickory will lend a deep and rich quality to your dishes and is an exceptional choice for any meat you want to smoke, from beef to pork, poultry, and fish.

You can experiment by simultaneously using a mix of Hickory and Mesquite, or Hickory with other mild fruit woods such as cherry or apple. Hickory and Mesquite combined together, will result in a flavor that is stronger than Hickory but lighter than Mesquite. You’ll appreciate the earthy yet sweet and mellow flavor that the blend of Hickory and Mesquite will give your meat dishes.

If you’ve never tried smoking meat, when grilling, you have truly missed out on one of the great culinary pleasures. Smoked meat is super tasty, and tender beyond comparison. The results will astound your palate.

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The Evolution Of The Seductive Shoe

Fashion is ephemeral, constantly throwing new styles, shapes and colors at us as it mirrors societal changes. Historically, Fashion turned what used to be a necessity into an artistic expression of the times, cultural norms, sensibilities, sexuality and morals. Fashion ushered in a world where novelty, rapid changes in taste, and societal trends attributed a new significance to clothes and footwear.

As early as the mid 14th century, Fashion had become a system of rules by which people could express their disapproval through ridicule, criticism and ostracism. Fashion was driven and associated to extravagance and wealth.

Louis XVI’s brother, Count d’Artois, was known to order 365 pairs of shoes per year, revealing him to be far more of a shoe hound than Marie Antoinette ever was. Although in all fairness, it should be pointed out that in mid century France, interiors, even in palaces, were very dirty, muddy and often there was animal excrement about. For those who could afford to, shoes were disposable and replaced on a daily basis.

The Turning Point For Shoes

French Silk Damask Shoe with buckle c. 1760-65

Until the 14th century, shoes for men and women were similarly fashioned, sporting flat soles and almond shaped toes. With the shortening and tightening of clothing, in the mid 14th century, for both men and women, shoes came into full view for the first time and this caused ripples throughout all of society. Shoes had become as important as a hat, and needed to be “au courant,” lest one wanted to be the brunt of ridicule.

French Silk Damask shoes with fold-over tongue, trimmed with silver lace c. 1720-30

This was a turning point for shoes, when they went from being a necessity to becoming a fashion statement and an indicator of societal status, which still holds true to this day. The infamous first lady, Imelda Marcos, was heavily criticized for her collection of fancy footwear, amounting to 3000 pairs of shoes. She was a hard contender to beat. Some quick calculations clearly demonstrate that with 3000 pairs of shoes, to her name, Imelda Marcos could not have worn the same pair of shoes more than once, for a period amounting to eight years.

Platforms, pumps, stiletto-heeled sandals or ballerina flats, shoe trends come and go and return. An ongoing debate, has been raging since the late 1800’s, with regards to high heels, posture and related injuries, and pointed toes were also put into question. Health concerns influenced the mainstream and by 1904 the masculinization of women’s footwear was well underway. These concerns resurfaced again decades later, which gave birth to Dr. Scholl and Birckenstock shoe Brands.

Very few fashion items have been regarded with as much passion as shoes. In 1939 the editor in chief of American Vogue pled with the Fashion Guild to stop the promotion of the open-toed, open-backed shoe. She represented a large number of consumers, who at the time, preferred good old fashioned closed shoes. The real issue with open-toed shoes was that women’s stockings, at the time, had toe and heel reinforcements, a small detail, which nevertheless was considered in bad taste, and going bare legged was entirely out of the question. Stockings without reinforced toes and heels hit the market in 1940 and women have not looked back since. By the 1990’s, most women had opted for comfort and freedom and chose to leave their legs bare.

New heel styles were introduced by the early 20th century. Oxford pumps and sandals dominated shoe fashion in the 1930’s. Toe baring sandals were first introduced in the late 1920’s, as beachwear. Platform shoes, which made their first appearance in the late 1930’s, were originally classified as beachwear. Platforms saw periodical comebacks over the decades as these were reinterpreted by designers.

If 19th century rules of fashion, whereby popularity was the ruler by which a design’s success was measured, were applied in today’s market, then it would be correct to say that the biggest selling shoe style of the past 80 years has been the rubber soled trainer, which went on to take many shapes and styles. The personal fitness rage, which took over the 1980’s, ushered in some creative takes on sports footwear, including sneakers with stiletto heels.

Boots And Wartime Restrictions

Until the late 1780’s women only wore boots for horse riding, at some point they began wearing boots for walking as well and so it was that the fashion for boots gained popularity. Boots became the chosen footwear for bicycling and walking until skirt hems rose, and the shafts of boots grew taller. Unfortunately wartime saw a demand on leather required for military use and as a result, in 1917, boot height was restricted to eight inches in England.

Boots have come a long way since, and boot lovers can now choose boots for functional purposes, such as work boots, motorcycle boots and climbing boots, or simply choose to wear boots as a fashion or sexual statement.

American Nylon Stockings Boots with Plexiglass heels – 1967-

Shoes And Sexuality

“Shoes figure prominently in stories and fairytales, including Cinderella (a highly sexualized tale in it’s more original versions), Puss ‘n’ Boots, Seven League Boots, The Wizard of Oz, The Red Shoes, and The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe, as well a more contemporary tales. Shoes and our desire for them are the objects of art, satire, museum exhibitions, [and] films. And they are the objects of a growing number of histories, catalogs, essays, and tributes…As all of this attention suggests, what we wear on our feet is far from a matter of indifference or utilitarianism” 

It has been reported that that 80% of shoes are bought for purposes of sexual attraction.

Since the mid 14th century, fashion has faithfully continued to be influenced by popular culture. Designers have since skillfully broken the boundaries of gender roles and identities in clothing and footwear. Take for example these Oxford Pump knock offs for men.

The Future Of Shoe Design

We’ve seen futuristic shoe design such as the self-lacing Nike or gravity defying moonwalker boots, and maybe these are an indication of what to expect in the future of shoe design. However if we’re to use the last 700 years, in the history of shoe design, as any indication of what to expect in the future, then it is safe to say that shoe design will continue to take inspiration from the past, and add a new twist or some extras. here and there. There is rarely a style that is completely new. Take for example these black leather colonial pumps, with silver buckles, by John Fluvog c. 1984.

These were clearly influenced by colonial Fashion, which in turn was influenced by earlier trends dating as far back as the 14th century France, flat with exaggerated pointy toes.

These leather pumps by John Fluvog were clearly inspired by Colonial fashion, which in turn had found inspiration in earlier designs, as far back as 1795, as can be clearly noted in the long pointed toes and flat heels. Buckles were also trendy for men’s shoes as far back as 1760 France.

The consensus is that the future of shoe design will be centered around sports and comfort. I am willing to wager that shoes who’s sole purpose is seduction, even at the price of comfort, will continue to be coveted and desired by both men and women, far into the distant future.

SOURCES

  • The Seductive Shoe by Jonathan Walford
  • Psychology Today

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Would You Rather Go To Mars Or Rebuild Earth?

Almost two decades have been marked by record-breaking hurricanes, floods and heatwaves. It is snowing plastic in the Arctic, our shorelines and marine life are choked and bound in plastic, yet conditions continue to deteriorate further. Since the 2020 pandemic began, there have been an estimated 194 billion disposable face masks and gloves being tossed every month, washing up on shorelines, worldwide.  

Almost 15 years ago, ‘sustainability’ became an overnight household term. From one day to the next, practically every existing corporate company had put in place a sustainability program, recycling bins, dedicated staff and budgets. Never before have the concept and implications of sustainability reached so far, as they have in the last two decades. Yet in the blink of an eye, it has been put to rest with the arrival of Covid-19. 

The long term impact of our day to day actions, on the environment, have been a concern for mankind far longer than most of us realize. As far back as the 17th century, Forestry was the first economic activity where people were confronted with the long term issues surrounding forestry and sustainability.  

Following the USA’s first landing on the moon, in the 1970’s, there was a strong stirring with concerns for the future of our planet. In just a few decades we’ve reached a critical point. Now that we have the resources, tools, knowledge and technology to save our planet, those with the means to do so have turned their eyes, power and wealth towards Mars.

New Frontiers To Fight Over Are In Cyberspace Or Outer Space

In the midst of a global pandemic, China managed 140 launches into orbit. With an exhaustive five year program for their new orbital space station, the retrieval of Martian samples and a Jupiter exploratory mission, for starters. 

India launched its ‘Defense Space Research Organization’ which is charged with finding and implementing defense applications for India’s entire spectrum of space technologies and protecting India’s interests in space.

So far, NASA, China and the United Arab Emirates all launched missions to mars in July, 2020. Always follow the money if you want a glimpse of the future. We are living at a time when the new frontiers to fight over are in cyberspace or outer space. 

We all know where Musks stands when it comes to ensuring the survival of the human race. He is a firm believer that a permanent and self-sustaining presence on Mars is needed, in case earth is left uninhabitable and he has put his money where his mouth is.  

A Martian city is being designed in the Dubai desert, made up of pressurized bio-domes, covered with transparent polyethylene membrane, like those we’ve seen in many sci-fi movies and series. 

So far, NASA, China and the United Arab Emirates all launched missions to mars in July, 2020. Always follow the money if you want a glimpse of the future. We are living at a time when the new frontiers to fight over are in cyberspace or outer space and 2021 promises to be a competitive race for all invested parties.

We were promised a sustainable future, with cars that don’t burn oil, a future where central power stations would be redundant, and carbon emissions, a thing of the past. Where industries no longer dump toxic waste into our waters. We have the resources and the technology, to do all this and we are already seeing important changes in the automotive industry.

Surely between climate and marine policy advisors, and activists, technology and science, we should stand a chance of saving the planet, but will this happen? How can this happen when countries, governments, top scientists, researchers, architects and tycoons are invested in an evacuation program to Mars?

Regardless of the scope, ambitions and investments being made with this race towards Mars, one thing is clear, Mars represents something other than a solution to our dying planet, and it will permanently alter our world’s geo-political equilibrium. New powers will emerge. 

Earth Or Mars?

I have a foreboding that sometime soon the planet will be polarized and split into two, between those that believe the future of the human race can only be ensured by colonizing Mars and those that believe we can fix Earth. Which of these two factions would you side with? 

Call me old world, but I happen to love planet earth and have intuitively known, since I was a child, that it was the only planet I could call home. Sure, like most kids, I had my share of fantasies about space travel, and going to the moon, after all my generation grew up with the space race between Russia and the US and witnessed the first landing on the moon. 

As magical, life changing and mind bending it was to watch Neil Armstrong do his moonwalk, I was grateful we had earth. 

It has been said that Modern man often lives detached from his environment and has long lost the understanding that we are one with nature. Perhaps we don’t deserve this exotic paradise we named earth. Perhaps we deserve to live under plastic domes on a desolate, unwelcoming planet such as Mars?  If so, how will future generations feel about not having had the chance to live their lives as earthlings? In most sci-fi stories, they always want  to find a way back to earth, even if it means dying.

If nothing else, at least our stories speak loud and strong about our passionate love for planet earth.  In a world divided by frontiers, race, religion and politics surely we must be able to identify as earthlings, at the very least.

It is frustrating to see so much money and resources being invested in a space race, when these powers could join forces to save our planet. How ironic and sad, to think that all that awaits human civilization, in the near future, is a desolate, harsh planet where people live in bubbles, imitating earth. 

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How To Take The Lead As A Newbie Copywriter

I felt compelled to write this article, following my own decision to embark on a career as a copywriter. There are many blog and copywriting gurus, out there, promising to share their trade secrets and help you pave the way to becoming a highly paid copywriter, double and triple the traffic to your blog or turn you into a famous blogger.

They’ll promise you writing material you can’t buy anywhere or from anyone else and zillions of hours of content and templates, all organized to save you loads of time, and double or triple your blog’s traffic.

There are no shortcuts and no get rich quick schemes. The best way to learn to be a writer is by writing, every day and reading what others write. I literally dove into writing overnight. I had been writing short stories, mostly fiction, for my own amusement and for some close friends. Last year I left my job of 20 years, in television, and I embarked on my writing path.

How I Got Started As A Copywriter

I took a few grammar and writing tests online, with a couple of agencies. I jumped on board with the first one that let me in, I was eager.

I will be brutally honest. The pay sucks and it is often difficult to get inspired by the topics of the articles being requested. Although that could have been a personal setback due to my bout with writing fiction. The client briefs can be totally incoherent, inexistent or exhaustive. Guess what, it’s the perfect bootcamp experience for any newbie copywriter.

Your Toolkit As A Copywriter

No matter where or how you decide to embark on the copywriting train, before you do so make sure you’ve done your homework and honed your skills before you enter the arena.

You must have polished writing skills, know how to write powerful headlines and have an awareness and empathy for user experience and marketing. After all, copywriting needs to reach the niche needs of consumers. Every sector has its own language, at times quite technical. It is imperative that you be able to swiftly grasp and synthesize the basic concepts you are to communicate in writing and do so in a way that elevates the brand and user experience. The tone and language you use needs to be in sync with the topic, the client’s brand and demographics.

Copywriting takes on different forms, from copy for advertising, websites, blog posts, UX writing, landing pages, brochures, product descriptions and reviews, lead magnets, white papers and more. Do some research and study these different formats. Do get familiar with SEO writing techniques as most web content requires this. Read as often as you write.

Set Goals For Yourself As A Copywriter

You need to set goals for yourself. My goal, starting out as a ghostwriter online, was to get promoted to a higher tier of writers, where I could access higher paying assignments, within a month. If I could get over 40 five star reviews and recommendations, I could make it, and I did.

In order to achieve this, I needed to get some repeat customers. I managed to secure three loyal clients, who gave me first dibs on their requests. In one instance, it was the client who contacted me after reading the first article I had written. I also tried to pick clients with multiple assignments and write at least two articles for them, this is was a good way of starting a working relationship with that particular client. In this manner, I secured two more loyal customers. They were very pleased with the two articles I had written and asked me if I would be interested in writing all their content, from there on.

I love baptism by fire. What I mean by that is, I enjoy learning on the go and under the gun, so to speak. I perform well under pressure. In those four weeks or so, not only did I manage to get promoted to a better pay rate, the most important accomplishment was writing article after article, day after day, for three different clients, who’s businesses, brands and message had nothing in common.

As a writer I spend 60% to 70% of my time researching and 30% to 40% writing. Writing 40 articles covering the ins and outs of any topic can be an education in itself. Having a couple of websites where you did all the copywriting, is an excellent achievement for a newbie copywriter and for your portfolio. It’s what gives you credibility as a copywriter.

Build A Track Record As A Copywriter

As I mentioned earlier, the pay sucks, but that shouldn’t matter when you are starting out. The reason being, if you are a newbie copywriter, chances are, you have no track record. You’ll need to build a portfolio and get reviews and recommendations. This is the only way to build credibility and gain trust from prospective clients.

This is exactly what I did, working on a poor paying platform, for a couple of months. I wrote for numerous clients, until three of them became loyal clients. They were very pleased with the writing and the turnaround time so I got an exclusive, which also pays a higher rate, although that was not where my motivation lay. My goal was to reach further, one step at a time and move off the platform.

For my first client, I wrote the web content for a Generic Viagra online store, all of it. From the About page, to disclaimers and a mountain of product reviews. I learnt everything there is to know about erectile dysfunction, every possible treatment available and what works best for whom. It was an interesting assignment, which definitely put my empathy and writing skills to the test. The five star reviews form this client were abundant and seriously complimentary. His astounding reviews were, in part, what helped me secure my next two loyal clients

For the second client, I wrote numerous blog articles, as a call to action, designed to attract local online businesses, to their marketing services. I gained a wealth of information researching the material, which has already proven useful in marketing my own small business. I received excellent reviews both on the writing platform and LinkedIn, and was tipped generously by the client.

For the third client, I completed a package of 40 articles with a call to action, for an aesthetics clinic’s website. As a result, I now have in depth knowledge of any and every procedure which can be performed on any part of the human body. Laser treatments are trending for anything from hair restoration to vaginal rejuvenation. You may be laughing right about now, or not. The fact is, the client has since offered me an exclusive long term blog writing contract for which I get to name my price.

What To Expect Starting Out As A Newbie Copywriter

Yes at first the pay is sad, but the paybacks are plentiful. You need to have realistic expectations and work your way up. Once you have what it takes, I call it ammunition, then you’re ready to play with the big guns.

To date, I have written articles promoting procedures, treatments and cures for every possible condition that ails humans. Following a mountain of DIY’s and product reviews, spanning from power tools to sex toys, I took a break and whipped up a few Bios for artists. I needed to change flavors. Then I moved on to wellness, which is a booming industry, especially following a one year global lockdown, due to COVID-19. Sex, as always, is a heavy contender in the virtual arena and maintains its poll position, so I took an assignment which masqueraded as an article on eroticism but was in fact a detailed review on different porn platforms. I was flabbergasted at how much porn has changed since blockbuster days. Wrote a couple of landing pages for online Cannabis dispensaries in the USA and Canada and these made me wish I lived there.

I enjoyed the variety and I find it keeps me fit and interested, as a writer. It’s almost as though I’m exercising different muscle groups, depending on what I’m writing about. It’s like wearing different hats and speaking different languages. You don’t need to go about it this way. You may be an expert in a certain area or prefer writing for a special niche and that’s a great way to go about starting your copywriting career.

Since I started my journey, only a few months back, I have secured two copious copywriting assignments on my own, one of which is a long term assignment should I be interested and I get to name the price for both jobs. By my standards, it’s a notable accomplishment, as a newbie copywriter. My secret? Keep it real.

Keep It Real And Take The Lead

If you choose to start copywriting, via an online writing platform such as iWriter, Upwork or fiverr, you should know the competition is fierce but don’t let that get in your way. Not everyone is as good a copywriter as you are, remember that!

Any unoriginal or plagiarized content is immediately rejected. You may write a 1500 word post for a blog and it might get rejected, even though it is an authentic original piece, without you even getting a chance to rewrite. If this happens have a look and see what, if anything, you could have done better and move on to your next assignment.

Sometimes the briefs are misleading or lacking the necessary information. You’ll need to reach out and consult with your client. Maybe their title or the subheadings they’ve requested are not effective. If so, you need to take the lead and propose alternatives that will knock their socks off. Your client will appreciate your genuine interest, commitment and professionalism. This is how you can secure loyal customers for yourself as a copywriter.

The request for written content, whether it is for social marketing or to populate websites, has increased exponentially. The subject matters are infinite and cover every topic imaginable and unimaginable.

However you choose to go about it, if you are serious about being a writer, then you need to write. No one can give you or sell you a magic, out of the box solution that will turn you into a famous, high paid copywriter or blogger, in a short time. It comes with practice, diligence, discipline and passion and there’s plenty of opportunities, to get started, if you are willing to do the work, keep it real and take the lead.

Becoming an accomplished writer is similar to forging a blade. A blade needs to be tempered through repeatedly heating, hammering and folding it, until the blade is fine, strong and sharp. The process can be demanding and laborious, if you want to secure your place amongst the sharpest of writers.

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Why You Need A Brand Toolkit For Your Business

A brand is not your logo, it is so much more. It is your company’s culture, reputation, what it stands for. Your brand identity and your brand story are intimately connected. They are the emotional links and the lifeline between your company and your prospects. 

A brand kit it is a customized kit, designed to assure that your brand identity is consistent on your website and across all social platforms. If you run an online business, or use social media to promote your business online, your brand identity needs to be consistent across all your social media profiles. You will require banners, profile images, posts, stories and ads. All these have different formats and they should all be inline with your brand identity.

Designing an ad or a post in Facebook and slapping your logo on a picture won’t cut it. In order to keep your brand identity alive and make sure people recognize you, you need to have consistent branding. Here are some examples of a brand toolkit I designed for a client who is opening an online store specializing in high quality truffles and all natural truffle by products, such as condiments, oils and sauces.

The client is a truffle hunter, who lives with his hunting dogs, in Italy. He wants to distinguish his products and brand by making a connection with people who demand excellence and this means unadulterated products that are 100% natural. His product line is small, selective and top quality. In designing the elements, I took these factors into consideration. The choice of a brush stroke for the logo name was not a casual choice. The irregular symbol next to the logo has an organic feel, reminiscent of the irregular shape of truffles. The customized toolkit reflects the brand identity the client wishes to build and promote.

A brand toolkit can make all the difference. Whether you are a small or large business, the same rules apply when it comes to brand identity and consistency across all platforms. With a strong brand identity guideline and a brand toolkit you can boost communications and save yourself lots of time and grief.

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THE GIFT THAT LASTS FOREVER

I was a small inconsequential man, yet my actions, or lack thereof, have had their consequences.  Stripped of love, self respect and a future, even an insignificant man, such as myself, becomes capable of doing the impossible. Only once I’d lost everything and everyone that mattered to me, only then, did I find myself and my life mission revealed to me.

It was in this manner that I discovered my true mission in life to be death.  

I have embarked on a path of solitude, although my solitude is not entirely self imposed. 

When I look ahead there is only fog, thick and cold, promising more emptiness. With nothing to lose I have nothing to fear. My shadow and I are inseparable.  

Once, I was no one, now I am everyone’s nightmare.  I have found my place in the dark recesses of your mediocre minds.  Any who dares walk away from my shadow will not be spared, of this I am certain.  

You read about me in the morning paper as you sip your fresh brewed coffee in your favorite mug, that reads, “The World’s Best Dad.”  

You serenely send your children off to school. Absently kiss your wife goodbye without even a glance, just another empty gesture.

You are so distracted by the seemingly important chores of your mundane life, not knowing that today will be the day that will break you, reshape you, twist your insides out, cut your breath short and slowly, silently, contort you into an unrecognizable version of who you’ve been until this moment.  All your dreams will be crushed in an instant. Your reality, altered forever and they say nothing lasts forever. I bring you the gift that lasts forever. 

You may not appreciate this sacrifice of life, that frees you from your stupor, from the Xanax blindfold you willingly wear, which smothers the outlines of your life with an iridescent blurry glow, softening the edges of your constructed reality, making you feel safe. No one is safe in life or in death.  

Once you awaken to the reality that you are alone, your deepest dreaded fear, the fear of being alone will be replaced with something new. A numbness which will brew and turn into a deep spiral of dark and torturous thoughts. Regret and guilt are perfect partners in crime and are always by my side. 

Rebirth often feels like death. Do not hate me or try to avoid me for I am your destiny. I am true to my nature which is more than you can say for yourself.  I am not your chance at redemption, do not mistake death with life.  I am the doorway through which your volatile splintered self can be released. In my company you will die many times, before you die. As I reveal my dark and punishing eyes to you, I will lead you towards a more authentic experience of yourself. Truth will rise and set you free of your greatest fears.

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MATING RITUALS

“I don’t like the way I acted towards Barbara last night. I was experiencing her as a very attractive woman, yet the whole time I acted like a single-celled, lower-level asexual organism. When I feel like a man, I want to act like one and not like a polite eunuch.”

“When you say you didn’t act like a man, do you mean to say you were not comfortable being yourself?”

“No, what I mean to say is she makes it impossible. This is our third date and I’m starting to believe she does it intentionally. She emanates superfluous amounts of sexual energy, but it’s as though she has a shield and I’ll get electrocuted if I as much as touch a finger of hers or even lean in too close as I speak. I mean I can actually feel this sort of energy shield – I can’t see it but it’s there and it’s scary.”

“We both know that is unlikely Benjamin.  I do register a high level of anxiety on your part. Do you know what it is you are afraid of? Rejection?”

“That’s the least of it, rejection ha, if only it were so simple. When was the last time you dated Doctor Thompson?

“What about the other woman you are seeing, Emma?”

“She’s getting married soon and that won’t be with me. It’s just great sex between us. We don’t even like each other, I mean she dislikes me a whole lot more than I do her. She hates absolutely everything about me, the way I look, especially my ears, she told me, my drinking, smoking, the music I listen to, everything. But the sex is, was great. I imagine it will be over soon, at least I think so, we never really discussed it.”

“I see. How do you feel about it?

“How am I supposed to feel? Feels like summer is over, you know. Time to buckle down again. Women, so much work really and for what? I mean it’s as though I have to clean up all of Disneyland for 1 free ride.”

“So you’re saying that the women you meet are not inclined to invest any real-time or energy, leaving you to do all the work for just a bit of fleeting joy, why do you think that is Benjamin ?”

“How am I supposed to know that? You would have to ask them.”

“Have you thought that perhaps it is you who chooses these women, for exactly those reasons? I want you to reflect on that Benjamin and I want you to try something.  With women, try not to have any expectations, especially of a sexual nature. Try to get to know the other person and be yourself. Try doing simple things together like going for a walk in the park.”

“What? You mean instead of doing shooters at Hooters?”

“I’ll see you next week Benjamin .”

Benjamin leaves the doctor’s office and heads outside where his friend Tony is waiting for him in a convertible lemon yellow Mustang. He hops in.

Perhaps the saying that the greatest friendship is that created of opposites, might explain Benjamin and Tony’s friendship. Two men made of entirely different cloth and weave. Benjamin is a tight weave, like expensive Egyptian cotton compared to Tony’s weave, which is as loose as a fishnet made for catching big fish.

“How did it go with the shrink?

“There are no immediate solutions.”

Listen to me, Benjamin. What is your objective? Getting chicks?

“It’s not like that.”

“Ok maybe I’m not a gymnast with words  like your shrink, but if you want to score with women you need a dog.”

“Are you kidding me? What would I do with a dog?

“ It’s the easiest way to meet women.”

“While I’m picking up my dog’s excrement. Huge dollops of stink,  that is how I’m going to meet women?”

“Trust me, a cute little puppy will open a lot of doors for you. A shrink can’t do that for you but a little furry puppy, with floppy ears and big doe eyes, can make miracles happen. Besides, if you get a small dog, one that won’t grow too big, they poop like rabbits, small stuff, easy to handle.”

The Mustang pulls up in front of a store window with a large sign that reads, ‘Adopt don’t Shop’.

“ Let’s go in and get you a miracle worker.”

“ An Animal Shelter, Tony? Are you sure? I mean aren’t these all abandoned, mistreated, traumatized, dying, or dysfunctional?

“They have puppies, come on let’s have a look.”

They enter the animal shelter. “See, what did I tell you, there’s a cute pup.”

Benjamin leans down to take a closer look at the dog Tony is pointing out.

“How much do you actually know about dogs, Tony? Just because a dog is small does not make it a puppy. Look at it. It’s so old its eyes look like soft boiled eggs.”

“How about that little guy over there?” Tony is looking at a cage where a perky Jack Russell Terrier is housed.

“See what did I tell you, floppy ears, furry and small, chick magnet.”

Tony is referring to the red-haired young woman standing next to the cage housing the Jack Terrier.

“At least this one is still standing. I’m referring to the puppy,” says Benjamin.

The puppy is wagging its tail, executing little jumps while circling the cage.

“Hello and welcome to our shelter, I’m Wendy, This is Jackie Chan. We named him after the actor, Jackie Chan for his agility. How can I help you today?

“Hello, Wendy. Hello Jackie. My friend Benjamin here is looking to adopt. He wants a dog that won’t grow too big.”

“This breed tends to reach their full-sized framework between six and eight months old, and they typically fill out to their full weight by 12 months old.  Jackie is almost two years old.”

“Right, well I would need to give it some thought. I’m not very good at keeping things alive like plants and so on.”  Benjamin turns on his heels heading for the door when Tony grabs him by the forearm.

“Always kidding around, he can’t help it, he’s a natural-born comedian. Excuse us just a moment.” Tony leads Benjamin away from Wendy’s earshot.

“This one is perfect, think about it. Women won’t be able to resist the colossal amount of cuteness that little furry fella can generate. You won’t regret it.”

3 DAYS LATER:

“There you are, what took you so long.” Benjamin almost pounces on Tony entering his apartment.

“Whoa, take it, easy buddy.” Tony shuts the door behind him with his foot. He is holding a box.

“In this box is everything you’ll need to get a handle on your situation.”

“My situation is your doing Tony. Why did I listen to you? My home can be officially classified as a disaster area. Look, just look around. There is nothing that the dog hasn’t chewed on. That’s not the least of it. I have  been scooping up dog feces and urine off of my floors for 3 days now.”

“Don’t you take him out to do his business?”

“How am I supposed to know when he needs to do his business? It’s not as though he says “Hey Benjamin, I’ve really got to go to the loo!”

“You’re doing that funny voice, Benjamin .” Benjamin’s voice rises 3 octaves when he’s stressed.

“Fuck that Tony. You take the dog, I can’t deal with it, him, whatever. I’ll have you know that I did take him to the park, once. He was dragging me the whole way, pulling on the leash like some big Ox.”

“You just need to let him know who’s boss Benjamin. Dogs can be trained to be obedient.”

“Tony, this dog is possessed. I actually think he is the reincarnation of an old pervert. He pissed on a woman who was napping on a blanket in the park. It was horrific! She was furious at me. I was not the one who urinated on her!”

“He’s your dog, your responsibility.”

3 WEEKS LATER:

Benjamin is in the park attempting to walk his puppy, Jackie Chan. To anyone walking past, it appears Jackie is walking Benjamin.

“What a beautiful puppy.” says a young woman walking past. She stops and crouches as Jackie takes a flying leap towards her. Benjamin loses his balance and trips as the leash violently tugs at him unexpectedly.

“Spirited puppy as well, what’s you’re name? She asks Jackie as she rubs his ears.

“Jackie Chan, on account of his superior agility. He is, you know, more of a monkey than a dog. In that sense. If that makes any sense.” Benjamin is recovering from his fall, dusting himself off.

“The name suits him. I am Chloe, nice to meet you, Jackie.” Jackie jumps up placing his two front paws on her thighs and Chloe leans over to kiss him.

Benjamin can see Jackie is getting aroused. He tugs at the leash and jerks the dog back.

“We really need to get going. Nice meeting you Chloe.”

“Maybe I’ll see you around Jackie. Well goodbye then.”

Benjamin is pulling at the leash and it’s a tug of war.  Jackie barks and cries at the same time, he wants to follow Chloe.

“Well, this is embarrassing.” Benjamin takes a step back as Jackie growls at him.

“Is it your first?” Chloe is amused, Benjamin seems out of his element.

“Is it that obvious?” I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My friend Tony convinced me. But I’m not so sure anymore. It’s as though we speak different languages.” Benjamin is still pulling tight on the leash.

“Just give it some time and you’ll be best friends.”

“You really think so?”

“Having a puppy is like having a toddler, I had 2 dogs growing up. Why don’t I walk with you and Jackie, that is if you don’t mind.”

Benjamin loosens his grip on the leash, his jaw drops by 4cm as he tries to believe his good fortune. Jackie practically jumps into Chloe’s arms.

“Well, that settles it then. Jackie is seriously smitten by you Chloe  and he’s made it quite clear he won’t move unless you come along.”

Remembering Diana Rigg

Many of you probably know Diana Rigg from the series, Game of Thrones, where she played Olenna Tyrell, a withered, cunning and sharp tongued old woman with a wicked wit. To me Diana Rigg will always be synonymous with Emma Peel, the stylish, sexy, confident, daring devilish, crime-fighting partner of the dapper intelligence agent John Steed, played by Patrick Macnee, in the 1960s series, The Avengers.

I know and understand why Actors hate being remembered for a single role in a TV series and that this is tantamount to death, as Diana Rigg herself stated in an interview. Nevertheless, I must state my case and make an exception, where the character Emma Peel is concerned.

Emma Peel – The Avengers

Emma Peel was the quintessential new liberated woman of the 60’s and a beam of hope for many young girls my age, who were starving for a new free spirited role model. There was no other female role, on TV, that came close or compared to Emma Peel, in the TV series The Avengers. She was unique, exciting, dangerous, a woman in control of herself and her life. She did not need to be rescued and her special skills were appreciated, and put to good use, instead of being kept under constraint, as was the case for other TV female starring roles, at the time.

TV Shows such as Bewitched and I Dream of Jeanie, which were also popular during the 60s, both portrayed iconic blondes with magical powers, sexy, daring and confident, but unlike Emma Peel, they had men, their husbands namely, that were apprehensive, overly conventional and borderline oppressive, always getting in the way, to contain their wive’s extraordinary skills.

My favorite character, in Bewitched, was Endora, played by Agnes Moorehead. She was Samantha’s quick-witted, witch mother. She knew how to exercise her witchy and female powers without exception, and she couldn’t fathom why her daughter would bend to her husband’s will and oppressive expectations. She detested mortals, in particular her son in law, Darrin. Endora refused to speak Darrin’s name correctly, alternately calling him Derwood, What’s-his-name, Darwin and Dum-Dum, all much to his annoyance. Endora saved the show for me, episode after episode, as I waited for the dynamics to change so I could finally take pleasure in Samantha’s triumphs over her controlling husband, except it never happened. The same formula applied to the show, I Dream of Jeannie, where Tony kept his own personal wish granting blond bombshell and her special talents, under wraps and sealed in a bottle.

Of course the scripted sitcom formula provided many opportunities for these women to act out, behind their husbands’ backs, always with good intentions of course. Yet it was always predictable, whereas watching Emma Peel, in The Avengers, was refreshing and exhilarating. There was nothing I enjoyed more than watching Emma kick and toss a villain about, all the while being witty and clearly of superior intellect and prowess. What young girl in the 60’s wouldn’t want to be like Emma Peel and kick ass with body and mind? Needless to say that Emma Peel appealed to both the sexes and many of her most ardent fans were quite young.

In a 2019 interview Diana explains how she was thrown for a loop as she practically became a sex symbol overnight.

Becoming a sex symbol overnight [in The Avengers] shocked me. I didn’t know how to handle it and I kept all the unopened fan mail in the boot of my car because I didn’t know how to respond and thought it was rude to throw it away. Then my mother became my secretary and replied to the really inappropriate ones saying: “My daughter’s far too old for you. Go take a cold shower!”

The Gaurdian 2019

She had a devoted following that, by today’s online social standards, would define her as a mega influencer and hard act to follow.

Diana Rigg’s success, as Emma Peel in The Avengers, generated much celebrity and media attention, which led to a flourishing film career. Throughout her acting career she has often embodied the self assured, daring woman, with nerves of steel, a woman with a sharp mind and tongue, not afraid to speak her mind. Diana herself was just as strong and feisty as the characters she played.

My father was a railway engineer and got a good job in India, so although I was born in Yorkshire I spent the first eight years of my life out there. But Yorkshire really formed my character. I get straight to the point and say what I feel. I can’t help it, it’s genetic. That’s my excuse anyway.”

The Guardian

Today I want to pay honor to a Grand Dame, who shaped the lives of many young girls during the 1960s. To me, growing up, she represented an antithesis to everything my mother’s generation of women, and those before her had to suffer. This iconic female TV character fueled our collective imagination. This was the first TV show that put a woman front and center. We didn’t have Xena, the Warrior Princess, to serve as a role model for strong independent women, and the Bionic Woman didn’t show up till 1976.

You might laugh all this off as silly nostalgia and think I’ve infused this character with too much social relevance, but I assure you that young girls, growing up in the 1960s, had practically no female role models that gave them permission to explore their wilder female nature and individual gifts and potentials, without constraints.

Nowadays there are many great examples, in movies and TV series, that showgirls and women saving the day, being fearless, and brave. These female characters inspire young girls to dream and be their best. We only had Emma Peel.

RIP, Happy Birthday and thank you, Diana Rigg.