Godin’s Poke the Box: manifesto demands that you go do something now!

Seth Godin’s Poke the Box is a breezy, short manifesto that extols the virtue of taking initiative and doing stuff, even though you might fail or annoy the people you work with. At first, it seems awfully glib — after all, Doing Stuff is easy to talk about, harder to make happen. But as the book goes on, it’s clear that Godin has anticipated many — if not all — of the roadblocks to rising up and making things happen, and writes about how to overcome them with humor and simplicity.

Godin’s short blog-posts are interesting little nuggets that can sometimes stick with you all day long, but time and again, Godin’s shown that these really work best when they’re strung together into longer essays. This is really quite an inspirational 88 pages.

Poke the Box

Reviewing the winners of the Design Julian Assange’s Next Hairstyle competition.

winnerassange.jpg99designs held a competition to design Julian Assange’s next hairstyle. One’s first reaction is a kind of exhausted disinterest. But the results’ technical and artistic quality are quite astounding. The winner, by Dezinerly, reflects both the creator’s ability and the baroque sensibilities of the shoop community at large. For starters, there is the intrinsic Joseph Ducreux-esque humor. But in Dezinerly’s victory lies a subtle convergence of Mr. Assange’s perceived self-opinion and the Washingtonian aspect that so perfectly expresses it. In this lies the moiety of the world, the greater crack in which Wikileaks’ promise lurks.

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I haven’t used soap or shampoo in a year, and it’s awesome: personal experiment update


I stopped using soap a year ago. It was easily one of the best moves I’ve ever made in my entire flippin’ life.

About this time last year I read an article (which Mark mentioned here as well) extolling the virtues of a soap-free bathing experience. TL;DR version: Your body is designed to regulate itself. Smearing chemicals all over it wrecks its own built-in processes, and screws with naturally balanced pH levels. This made sense to me and I thought I’d give it a shot for a month.

At the beginning of February 2010, I blogged about the results I’d seen so far. I didn’t stink at all (confirmed by friends, family and random people I ended up sitting next to on various forms of public transit), my skin felt better, oily and dry patches had all but disappeared and the light dandruff I’d had my entire life was almost gone. I was pleased with the results of my month experiment and decided I’d run with it for a while longer. As of January 1, 2011: it’s been a year now, and I can’t imagine ever going back.

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Eulogy for Mark Pescovitz, by Maxa Pescovitz

by Maxa Pescovitz
December 16, 2010

The loss that our family feels is immeasurable. Mark was not only the foundation of his immediate family, but of all of us that were proud to call him brother, uncle, nephew cousin, friend, co-worker or patient. He touched the families of those he saved, as well as those whom he could not. He put everyone first before himself. He loved the obtuse, as well as the mundane. His sense of humor puzzled those who did not get it right away, and caused belly laughs galore for those who did.

One of his greatest enjoyments in the summer was the Indy State Fair. I had the honor of being with him and Ora this past summer as we commented on the photo exhibits, took our own picture of the world largest boor (with Mark’s ensuing humor about it -of course). We laughed at the bizarre food options. Nothing was omitted- from the huge to farm equipment to the tractor pull. We laughed as we all crossed this last event off our “bucket list”–not even knowing it was on it!

Although I was older, I always wanted to be like him- minus the mustache of course.

When our youngest brother was two Mark and I took him to a house in Cincinnati that had a huge display of trains. Walking to the house holding David’s hands an older couple commented on what a nice young family we were. We laughed about this mistake for years.

Once, our parents had taken the older kids to Israel. While on Masada, Mark was wearing an Arab headdress — partly because it was so sunny, and partly as a souvenir — he was only 15 at the time. He had stepped away from my parents and we noticed others tourists taking his pictures- thinking he was an Arab tourist. Just when Mark had their attention, he called MOM! Dad! in English–throwing of the tourists and we were of course rolling on the ground laughing–here was Mark honing his sharp wit and quick response!

Mark was an enigma — like a Rubik’s Cube. Some knew one block, some a row, and still others a whole side. As my brothers and I have read the comments of so many people, only now are we able to see the entire cube. He was so much like our parents. The compassionate physician and excellent clinician like our dad, the amazing artist like our mom, and the ultimate philanthropist and volunteer like them both.

His commitment to his community- whether it be Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Michigan or places he visited, or to his medical community was unending. There was way more he intended to do in this life. We have all lost a great man.

As Mark Twain once said, “Endeavor to live your life so that when you die even the undertaker will be sad.”

This is how my brother lived his life. Our hearts are broken- our wonderful memories of him must live on! Go with peace and love my brother! Say hi to Mom and Dad.

Mark Pescovitz (1955-2010)

Eulogy for Mark Pescovitz, by Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch

by Ammiel Hirsch
December 16, 2010

This will be the twelfth remembrance of Mark today. I am not quite sure what he would have made of this. He was not a man of flowery rhetoric. He was reflective; more a man of action than of words – although, when Mark did speak, privately or publicly, it had a thunderous effect. He spoke with precision, brilliance, depth and that subtle incisive sense of humor so engaging to those of us who loved him.

All of our moving heartfelt testimonials do not actually do Mark full justice because who he was and what he represented, and the effect that he had on people, cannot be captured by words alone.

On behalf of the Hirsch family: We feel enormous gratitude that Mark came into our world. We are privileged that our paths crossed and our lives touched. Our sister, Ora, needed someone like Mark. He was so complementary and complimentary to her in practically every way.

Our family had never actually met anyone like Mark before. He was a revelation. To really get to know Mark took time, but the effect that he had on you was profound and permanent.

Here was someone who was loved without trying to be loved. He was admired without trying to be admired. He was respected without trying to be respected. He was trusted without trying to be trusted. He had authority without trying to exercise authority. He had quiet charisma, the product of a humble self-confidence.

Mark was stable, reliable and consistent. Day after day it was the same. He never disappointed you. He always displayed those same rich, deep, honest attributes. That is how you knew that this was really Mark.

Mark was a righteous soul. He was driven by ideas and his ideas were big ideas.

It is not only, as was said by his brothers, that he was a renaissance man. He was that as well. He had an approach to the world that Leonardo would have recognized. He loved and was intrigued by all things: science, math, art, aesthetic beauty, and music. He was so brilliant and so multi-textured that one marveled at how a person could know so much. One of the many tragic outcomes of Mark’s death was that the vast storehouses of knowledge locked away in the vaults of his mind have gone with him.

But even his broad range of interests and expertise wasn’t the heart of it.

Rather, it was that Mark was completely devoted to the central principle that science served humanity, not the opposite. He dedicated his life not to abstract science but to real human beings. His goal was not simply research for publication, but results for application. He stuffed his mind and filled his heart with an endless quest for discovery, not only for its own sake, but to serve people and to make the world a better place. He yearned, not merely for information but for understanding. He sought beauty, and he could find it in a photograph as well as an equation.

Mark’s dedication to others was not incidental to his personality. It was at the core of who he was. He used his enormous intellectual gifts for good. We are born with natural proclivities; we call them God-given gifts; but what we choose to make of them is our own decision.

That Mark was dedicated to humanity and channeled his extraordinary scientific brilliance to service – not in the abstract, but to real people and real causes – this was the most precious gift of all. It was this animating thread of Mark’s life that led him to the lab room, the operating room, the committee rooms and the board rooms of so many different causes.

In the end I think that it was the reason that people naturally gravitated towards him. It was not only his dazzling brilliance; it was also his radiant soul. The combination of these two qualities is what was so rare. You could live an entire lifetime and never meet another person like Mark.

To all of us who loved Mark: we would have wanted more time. Our tragedy is compounded by the knowledge that Mark may have had decades of life ahead of him.

And yet: we are grateful for the time that we had. Mark lived life on his own terms. He packed more into his fifty-five years than most people in several lifetimes. Underneath that prematurely grey hair was a man of exceptional vigor, vitality and strength.

We all yearn for a long life. The eye never has its fill of seeing. But old age, too, exacts its price. If God grants us length of days, our advancing years will sap us of the vitality of yesteryear. We will end our lives fully depleted.

Mark was never more vital and never stronger than on the day of his death. He was in the full blossom of mature adulthood. He was happy and content with his life. His accomplishments were prodigious. There was no sign of the inevitable decline that will seize those who succumb to old age.

And therefore, for those of us who loved and admired Mark, he will remain in our eyes the same. We will grow old, but he will stay as he always was. Even many years from now, in our mind’s eye, Mark will be as he was on the day of his death: ever green and ever vital.

There is a Jewish legend of the Lamed Vav Tsaddikim. According to Jewish tradition there are thirty-six special people in the world, whose role in life is to justify the purpose of humankind in the eyes of God. They travel the world doing good deeds and through their conduct hold the pillars of the world in place. Were it not for their deeds, the world would collapse.

Every generation has its own Lamed Vav Tsaddikim. The thirty-six are anonymous. Their identities are unknown to one another. They, themselves, do not know that they are in the ranks of the thirty-six. Tradition holds that if one of the thirty-six dies, their role is immediately assumed by another.

Who knows but that Mark was one of these thirty-six. He had all of their qualities. He was a man of enormous integrity. His heart was pure. He was accomplished and yet humble; he was modest and overflowing with love of life and humanity. He traveled the world doing good deeds for people. Through his good deeds he held the pillars of the world in place. It should bring us comfort to imagine that now that he has gone to his eternal rest, someone else has taken his place.

The psalmist wrote that one may lie down weeping at night but joy comes in the morning. One morning there will be joy again in our lives. Whenever we see a person doing a good deed, may Mark come back to us, as fresh as the morning air. Whenever we observe a kind gesture; whenever we witness an act of compassion, may we think of our beloved Mark and may his memory bring us joy; for these are the acts that sustain the pillars of the world.

May we honor Mark’s memory by living long, good and decent lives.

As the years unfold and we look back upon these days may our tears turn to smiles of warm memory so that even this distress will be a joy to recall. We had the great good fortune to have shared our lives with a remarkable man. He was the kind of person who made others glad to be alive.

Yehi zichro baruch: May the memory of this good, generous, compassionate, righteous soul be blessed.

Mark Pescovitz (1955-2010)

Help Wanted: Internet Killed the Video Store


This is a post about the side-effects of technological change, the sad fate of video rental shops, and an opportunity for you to help memorialize your favorite video store in song.

In San Francisco, Lost Weekend Video is struggling. A wonderful video rental shop with a well-curated selection and a friendly, knowledgeable staff, Lost Weekend is trying to remain afloat against a tide of Internet-fueled transformation that has already plunged big video rental chains like Blockbuster into bankruptcy and driven half the video rental stores in some major cities out of business.

Lost Weekend Video has responded to this turn of events with black humor and a knowing nod to history — in the form of a tune posted recently in the store’s window. Updating “Video Killed the Radio Star” — the 1979 song by The Buggles that ushered in the era of cable television and MTV — Lost Weekend rewrote the lyrics to tell their own story.

The complete lyrics to “Internet Killed the Video Store” have been transcribed here.

Now we’re inviting BoingBoing readers to complete the loop by either recording an actual, audio version of “Internet Killed the Video Store”, or (even better) doing the same with a video remix. Think of it as a way to honor of your favorite video store, wherever it is… or was.

Go for it. When you’re done, send a link to your work via the BoingBoing Submitterator, or link to it in the comments below. We’ll post the best versions in a future post.

Twenty-First Century Stoic — Insult Pacifism


This is the second in a series of three essays, written by a Stoic, about what it means to practice an ancient philosophy in the modern world. (Read the first essay.)

A colleague who had been reading some of my published work told me he was going to comment on it in a book he was writing. I told him that I was delighted that he would do such a thing. Then the axe fell: “I’m trying to decide,” he said, “whether, in my response to what you have written, I should characterize you as being evil or merely misguided.”

There was a time when being insulted in this manner would have upset me. I would have done my best to respond with a counter-insult, and whatever I said, I would subsequently have spent time fuming about the incident and thinking about other, more caustic things I could and should have said. I probably would even have spent time plotting revenge. In other words, I would have allowed the insult to ruin my day.

In the incident described, though, I did none of these things. This is because I had come under the influence of those ancient philosophers known as the Stoics and had, as a result, decided to follow their advice regarding insults. Consequently, I responded to the insult with a question: “Why can’t you,” I asked, “characterize me as being both evil and misguided?”

It may surprise readers that the Stoics would give advice on how best to deal with insults. Is this, one might reasonably ask, a proper activity for a philosopher?

Not for a philosopher whose interests were primarily theoretical and who therefore spent his days contemplating esoteric theories regarding, say, truth, beauty, and justice. The Stoics, though, were wonderfully practical in their philosophy: after determining what things in life were most worth having, they devoted themselves to developing specific strategies for attaining those things.

In the previous essay in this series, I characterized the Stoics as being the victims of a bum rap. Most people think of them as being anti-emotion, as being grim, wooden figures. As it so happens, the Stoics (and in particular, the Roman Stoics, whom I take to be my primary mentors) were not opposed to emotion in general but to negative emotions such as fear, anger, and grief — what sensible person wouldn’t be? They saw nothing at all wrong, though, with the experience of positive emotions. Indeed, they strove to put themselves into a state of mind in which they could take delight in the world around them.

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