Tom Robbins makes me feel good...about the future

I've read most of Tom Robbins books and love the way he writes. It is pleasure to drink in his sentences, and thrill to the delectable similes sprinkled throughout the text that jump off the page like corn that's been air popped by lithe muses summoned to provide relief from life's disappointments. Gee, that was a pretty lame homage to his technique. Better to cite a few examples from the book:

The sporadic letters she'd sent me in Korea were approximately as affectionate as a foreclosure notice.

A big brooding hulk, he would puff his jowls malevolently and bulge his hyperthyroid eyes until he resembled a hippopotamus rising from the ooze, then unfold his meaty lips to emit one of those nervous little nearly silent giggles which which certain jazz drummers vent their ecstasy at the terminus of an especially complicated riff.

Dr Peters was tall, gaunt, and pale, with a weak damp smile and cold damp palms: shaking his hand was like being forced to grasp the flaccid penis of a hypothermic zombie.

His round face almost perpetually exhibited the wide-eyed gaze and surprised smile of an astonished child, one who might have had his blindfold removed to find himself in a castle filled with ice cream, puppies, and toys.

In addition to enjoying the book I've been encouraged by the thought that Robbins wrote this in his 80s. I hope I can hold on to my marbles in order to do good work in my golden years.


Doing business differently—and succeeding

Mission in a Bottleby Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff, co-founders of Honest Tea. This is another in a series of very interesting books I learned about by listening to Dan Pink's interviews in his podcast "Office Hours" series. Dan puts it well: "Seth and Barry have crafted a rich and compelling story and told it with the perfect blend of inspiration and humility. For anybody who has started a business—especially those considering an entrepreneurial path Mission in a Bottle is a must read." One of the many cool things about the book is it is written in comic book form.

Find common ground. It's the natural thing to do!

I enjoyed a recent episode of the "This American Life" podcast, about who is in the tribe and who isn't Here's a bit of the transcript, where the author of The World Until Yesterday describes how meeting new people is a new phenomenon created by modern societies. Jared Diamond: "The idea that you could just wander around and meet someone is utterly impossible in New Guinea. If you ran across a strange person on your land, that could only mean that they were there for some bad reason. They were there to scout out your land for a raid, or to steal a woman, or to steal a pig.

And so if you ran into a strange person in the forest and you couldn't run away from him, you came around a corner and there he was, then the two of you would sit down. And you'd have a long conversation in which each of you names all your relatives, trying to find some relative in common which gives you a reason not to kill each other. And if after two hours you haven't found any relative in common, then one of you starts running or you try to kill the other person."

So next time you meet someone, realize it's in your genes to find common ground with them. Sit down and find out what you have in common before you go any further. If that fails, I suggest that you take off running before they try to kill you!

Anything thing is possible, if you have four hours

I feel I'm late on the uptake coming across Timothy Ferris (of four-hour fame, not the comsmologist), the "world's best guinea pig". He's tried out all sorts of stuff so that you don't have to. Check out his books on dieting and entrepreneurship. Many of the tips seem counterintuitive, like eating sweet rolls once a week while dieting, but if you're ready for some fresh ideas you'll find plenty to consider.

I am thinking of preordering his newest, "The Four-Hour Cook", which is reported to include information on how to learn anything.

Trimpin: Contraptions for Art and Sound

Drop everything and get a copy of Anne Focke's new book about the kinetic/sound artist Trimpin. Thinking out of the box is one sign for us of "lovely thinking", and this elegant book is chock full of refreshing examples, giving a glimpse into Trimpin's journey, and placing his work in the context of visual art, music composition, performance, ambitious engineering, acoustics, and installation art.

Perfumes: the Guide, by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez

It's nice to see people who know a lot about something, and have a flair for telling you about it. Latest example to cross my path: nearly fifteen hundred fragrances reviewed in the definitive book by husband and wife team Luca Turin (scholar in olfactory science) and Tania Sanchez (perfume collector / expert). The reviews are fun to read, even if you don't know about perfumes—a nice balance between being informative, poetic, and critical without being overly coy, precious, or snarky. Here are four excerpts from one randomly selected page to wet your atomizer:

"Silly name, silly price. Armani Privé does a cologne, probably the biggest waste of money this side of Le Labo's Fleur d'Oranger."

"If you love Eau de Guerlain but want to pay more while getting a harsher, lower-quality fragrance, this one is for you."

"Wan leafy green. For the fun of putting on perfume without the fun of smelling it."

"Eau de Noho had a chance to be good with its interesting violet mimosa, like the ghost of Après l'Ondée looking for a witness in a green wilderness. Then a stonking violet leaf arrives to turn everything watery and harsh. Much too close to dishwashing detergent. This needed work."

Reading a few pages made me feel unsophisticated but cheerful. Next time I'm at the mall I'm going to check out some samples, maybe even visit a specialty store.