Creating from the middle

Some people claim they can only create when they hit a bottom.

Some people claim they can only create when they hit a top.

No doubt a lot of creativity can come from extremes. But what happens the rest of the time?

We can't all be Hunter S. Thompson, whose daily routine would kill most people on the first day.

But we can all be Stephen King, about whom I wrote recently. His advice is to show up, and keep showing up.

Steven Pressfield offers the same advice.

You can certainly do some things to make it easy to maintain some continuity in your creativity. Earnest Hemingway used to stop writing mid-sentence so that he'd have a starting point for the next day. Pablo Picasso, on the other hand, disagreed. He said you can stop if you're willing to leave the work as complete should you die before you get back to it.

Ritual is important to creating. So are habits. And routines.

Nothing's foolproof, of course. Even the greatest slip up sometimes.

But if you keep showing up, your chances of success get much better.

Losing our shame and making more connections

We were at a wedding recently, and another guest asked me about dancing. "How do we learn dance moves?" he asked.

Aside: Let's assume this conversation is paraphrased. Hypothetically speaking, he and I would not have been having this conversation if we hadn't been enjoying ourselves. To wit:

#weddings

A post shared by Josh Shear (@joshuanshear) on

"We're born with them," I said, "and we have to learn how to un-forget them."

As we get older, we start to gain more of a sense of shame. And by "get older," I mean as we age out of toddlerhood. Because really, we start getting ridiculed for nonconformity pretty early in our school careers.

By the time we're teenagers, many people are afraid to stand out, and when they do something to "stand out," usually they do it in groups. The success of Hot Topic points to this. It's a place where nonconformists can go to conform to each other.

There are, of course, social benefits of conformity. We gain a sense of community. We feel accepted, perhaps even loved. If we conform really well, we get to be very popular. You can sell stuff. If you're a true nonconformist, your creative output is too, well, weird for everyone else.

You can be different and pretty far out there — Kevin Kelley asserts that if you have 1,000 true fans who will buy whatever you do, you're free to explore various avenues that will appeal to vastly different groups — but you still have to really resonate for 1,000 people.

I'll bet if I handed you a pad of paper and a pen (and took your phone away), it would take you at least an hour to write down the names of 1,000 people you either know or have heard of (you're unlikely to actually know 1,000 people, even if you can count that many people in your network).

Back to shame, and my wedding conversation.

"You look like you've got some moves," he said.

"Nah," I countered. "I just don't care if anybody thinks I look silly." Like this lady.

It's true. I'm a goofball.

It's not that I don't care at all, just that I pick a few things about which I deeply care when it comes to people's perceptions of me, and the rest of the time, I just want to have some fun. It's the kind of thing that allows me to come up with creative solutions to some problems but not be able to see outside the box for others.

Brene Brown is a shame and vulnerability researcher. She finds that people who are willing to show vulnerability have empathy and form deeper connections with others.

That's an oversimplification of her work, but if you want the 20-minute version, she does it much better than I do, so just watch her TED talk:

If you want more, listen to her discussion with Tim Ferriss or Chase Jarvis or Lewis Howes.

If you're feeling blocked, or alone, or generally bad about yourself, go be silly. Or go cry. Find some vulnerability. Do it in public. That's where we make our connections.

Culture vs. Politics: What do you want from your leaders?

In one of his shows last week (watch/listen above), level-headed conservative commentator Ben Shapiro took on President Trump for retweeting a gif of himself hitting a golf ball that ultimately hits and knocks over Hillary Clinton.

I'm not going to dignify the tweet with a link or an embed; you know where the president's account is.

Anyway, Shapiro pointed out that the tweet's fine if you're a fan wearing a Republican jersey. But when you're the President of the United States, you need to have a higher standard for yourself.

A week later, the president was battling NBA and NFL players. On Twitter. Because he's got that kind of time and energy, but not the sort required to help write legislation.

It's the same medium he used to hand the North Korean dictator a schoolyard nickname. A Korean diplomat says there's no way Kim Jong Un laughs it off. He's going to attack the US because the president can't shut his twap (see what I did there?).

To be totally honest, I had this post written it what I thought was its entirety and scheduled and then the weekend in Trump vs. NFL happened.

It's really a continuation of the rest of the post. Is it an interesting cultural phenomenon? Perhaps. If NFL owners fired everyone who knelt or sat and went to find replacements, maybe some people would be happy, but to be frank, the quality of play would drop drastically.

If you're Walmart and you need 200 new greeters, it won't be hard to find. Finding 200 NFL-quality players who aren't already in the League (and you have to leave out the ones who would kneel or sit, I suppose), the product becomes more like a second-tier league.

If you're an NFL fan who doesn't watch the CFL or AFL, you're not going to watch an NFL full of players who didn't make the cut the first time (or second or third time) out. You certainly won't pay current ticket prices or buy subscription packages.

The league would lose more money in diminished quality than it is from people who are willing to vote with their dollars. We're too lazy as a nation to do much more than complain. When it comes to actual action, we're pretty lax. If your habit has been pizza, beer and buds on Sunday, you're not getting together to watch Netflix and chill.

I write about discourse a lot here.

Apart from that, it's simply not something that should be on the president's radar, never mind the focus of his ire. Puerto Rico is in huge trouble. Southern states are still recovering from Harvey and Irma, requiring federal intervention (I just got an email from my Congressman this evening about people available to help apply for assistance). He could be working on health care or tax reform or figuring out how to handle North Korea diplomatically instead of having a slap-your-dick-on-the-table contest with Kim Jong Un.

Donald Trump is a cultural icon, no doubt, but he's not a leader. If your boss said to you a lot of the stuff the president says to everyone, you'd be filing complaints with HR and probably taking your company to court.

Disagreement is one thing, belittling is another.

We need leaders who can lead, not who can yell. Being louder doesn't make you correct, it just makes you louder.

Coloring outside the lines

When Hurricane Irma was coming toward us in September, we were scheduled for a trip to Central New York for a family wedding.

We were at the car rental counter when we landed, and inquired about adding days onto our rental if that became necessary — the day we were scheduled to return to Savannah was the day Irma was expected to hit the area, making our return on that day unlikely and our ultimate return day uncertain.

The clerk at the counter wasn't confident that we'd be able to extend our reservation, especially with the same car, but she suggested that we call the agency we booked the car through to check.

"Hypothetically speaking," I asked her, "what if our flight were to get moved to, say, Wednesday, and we just didn't bring your car back until then?"

She explained that if we were able to extend the reservation, it wouldn't be a problem, but otherwise, they'd give the car to someone else.

It took several go-arounds for me to make my point. We were scheduled to bring the car back Monday, and they could therefore rent the car to someone else on Monday.

In order for her to hand someone else the keys to the car, though, we would have to bring the car back. What if we didn't?

She simply couldn't conceive of someone not following the rules.


In a coloring book, the lines constrain an image, but not a palette. An object is offered, but the scene is not. Take this gorilla with a bow tie, for instance:

The gorilla has a proud expression on its face, but outside of the animal straightening a bow tie, we have no context. Coloring inside the lines augments the subject, but still doesn't give us any context. Did the gorilla steal the bow tie from a zoo visitor? Is there a formal dance at the panda display? Is the gorilla crashing the Academy Awards?

If you want to tell a story, it's the part outside the lines that is most important.


The law of the instrument says, in its most famous iteration, if you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

It's really a story about education — one early version says:

Give a boy a hammer and chisel; show him how to use them; at once he begins to hack the doorposts, to take off the corners of shutter and window frames, until you teach him a better use for them, and how to keep his activity within bounds.

Within bounds? That will sound familiar to my Masonic brethren.

In Freemasonry, when we speak of bounds, we're talking generally about "keeping our passions within due bounds," that is to say, even in the face of anger or frustration, we are to keep a level head and treat people politely.

What it doesn't mean, though, is to treat every situation in the same way.

We have leeway to come up with reasonable solutions. So too, the child with the hammer and chisel. There are times when it is perfectly reasonable to use a hammer and chisel.


You could use the face of a hammer to break the safety glass and the claw to pull a fire alarm. You could play pool with the grip as a cue.

You could use a hammer to open a bottle or can, set a broken nose or make mashed potatoes.

You could carry a thin sheet of hot metal.

Each case would certainly be within due bounds, if unorthodox. Except the setting a broken nose bit. I'm pretty sure that's exactly how they do it. If you've ever seen my nose and noticed sort of a re-curve in the bridge, that's an over-corrected broken nose, and it looks exactly like someone took a hammer to it.


Duncker's candle problem is a cognitive exercise in which a subject is placed at a table next to a wall. On the table are a candle, a book of matches or a lighter, and a cardboard box of thumbtacks.

The charge is to light the candle and walk away, but ensure that no wax drips on the table.

The solution is to empty the box of tacks, tack the box to the wall, and place the candle in the box.

The success rate when Duncker first proposed the exercise was fairly low.

If the same items are presented but with the tacks piled on the table next to the box, the success rate is almost 100 percent.


I don't know this for sure, but I'm guessing the linear, inside-the-lines thinking that gives people trouble creating scenes around a coloring-book gorilla, makes Duncker's exercise difficult and makes it hard to understand that someone might not follow established norms is learned.

I know our education system is based on a factory model, though increasingly we have de-institutionalized ways around that, from MOOCs to on-demand boutique learning through sites like Udemy or Creative Live or The Great Courses Plus, to tutorials on YouTube on anything from changing your oil to installing a water heater to building a shed.

Without allowing creative thought and nonlinear problem solving to take a larger role in our development through schooling (and subsequently through our largely institutionalized workplaces), we're going to have fewer and fewer people to take the sorts of shots that Elon Musk, Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil are taking, or that Astro Teller is looking for over at Google X.

Let's think differently and make the world much more amazing.

No more bad art

It's going to be a few weeks of reaching deep for me.

Stephen King's advice to writers includes this important bit:

Write every single day.
 
"Once I start work on a project, I don't stop, and I don't slow down unless I absolutely have to," says King. "If I don't write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind ... I begin to lose my hold on the story's plot and pace."
 
If you fail to write consistently, the excitement for your idea may begin to fade. When the work starts to feel like work, King describes the moment as "the smooch of death." His best advice is to just take it "one word at a time."

Seth Godin blogs every damn day.

A few things converged recently in my life. We had an inspiring conversation with Jon Vroman. After I read his book, I picked up Bill Morrissey's Edson again. It reminds me a of few things:

  1. You can feel old when you're young, if you want. The story's protagonist is 37 and at the end of his rope when the novel opens.
  2. Life is short. The author died shortly before he turned 60.
  3. Share. Just as I was introduced to Morrissey by Tommy Shea (formerly of the Springfield (Mass.) Republican), Morrissey introduced me to Mississippi John Hurt.
  4. Give. Morrissey signed eight copies of his book for me one night after a concert and reading. That took some time for him, especially with a room full of people who wanted to talk to him, and he left me a nice inscription.

Around the same time, my old friend James O'Brien popped up in my Facebook feed with some new old music.

O'Brien was the first artist whose music made sense to me after 9/11. I always think about him this time of year.

His song "War Has Come" reminds me where some of my privileges lay, but also that they come with a responsibility.

It's easy to write a bullet. It does not hiss, it is not close to me. It's easy to write a wound. I've never clamped a femoral artery.

It also reminds me that art requires internal war — and is sometimes itself an act of war.

When I was on Cesspool, I was asked who my dream podcast guests were. I deferred. I've already interviewed Joan Jett and Bruce Campbell and David Clayton-Thomas and some other great talents. I said I wanted to have something to offer the Marc Marons and Joe Rogans of the world.

I've been sitting on that thought for five years, and I've done a little toward it, but not enough.

So I'm reminded, again, of John Baldessari's purge. It marked a turning point for him, but it was a calculated turning point. He didn't wake up one day and say, "Fuck this old shit I did, it was terrible!" He decided what would serve as a reminder of his past, but that didn't need to take up space for him anymore.

So I'm starting today, planning my purge. It'll probably be a weeks-long process, but it will mean improvements, I hope. In my life, in the content I produce, for the future, and for my legacy.

Onward.

More: Who challenges you?

More than just information

“If information were the answer," Derek Sivers once told Tim Ferriss, "we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”

If you are of a certain age, you remember CDs, and if you were early enough to the internet, you remember that once upon a time, CDBaby was the place for independent musicians to sell their wares.

Sivers created CDBaby, then sold it for a boatload of money, which he largely gave away.

He's read, reviewed and synopsized dozens of books so that you don't have to.

Information, then, is important to him, or he wouldn't have done all that reading.

But there's something more. The information isn't enough. It needs to be mixed with the best of each of us to take form, to become something greater.

Be undeniably you


Twinsies!? From left: Vin Diesel, Adam Sandler, Josh Shear.

"Hey, man, you look like Vin Diesel!"

"Hey, thanks! Check this out: I even have the haircut," I replied, lifting up my cap for proof.

I was in a hotel bar, towel over my shoulder, fanny pack around my waist, handing a crumpled $20 bill over the counter for a lager in a plastic cup.

Diesel (real name Mark Sinclair), is listed at just shy of six feet tall and around 225 pounds. He's 60 years old. When I saw a trailer for a recent film of his, I asked, "when did Adam Sandler get so big?" Sandler is also 50 years old. He's listed at 5'9" and about 185 pounds.

I'm 10 years their junior, 5'2" tall (on a good day, I might hit 5'3") and at my heaviest, I tend to weigh in around 165 pounds. I'm not anywhere near Sandler's size, never mind Diesel's.

The guy at the bar who told me I looked like Diesel was working on his second Budweiser, so let's assume he was pretty well with it.

Anyway, it's at least flattering to be taken for a celebrity. Even a celebrity I sometimes mistake for another celebrity.

To be honest, I've seen very few of their movies, combined. Sorry, gentlemen. I respect your art, it's just not for me. But you keep doing you.

And that's what this is about — you being you.


Be you. Be your own original. You look like what you look like — or whom you look like, for that matter — but don't let those comparisons shape the person you are or would like to be.


I was told the evening before I was mistaken for an action movie star that there is a dentist in Milwaukee who could be my twin.

I stood looking contemplatively for a moment at the woman who told me that. I may have stood vacantly for just a moment too long because she apologized for any offense; I told her no, I was just filing that away in case that information became useful someday.

See also: Reasonable doubt.

I had been reading The Godfather at the time.


Again, be you. Be an original. Whether you resemble a famous actor or a bodybuilder or a dentist in Milwaukee, if you're not one of those things, don't try to become them. Don't emulate them.

Be the person you are, or become the person you will become.

Our drug problem: Prohibition, ads, incarceration and revenue

We wrote recently here about the new American Prohibition Museum here in Savannah.

Alcohol prohibition had a long rise in the US, starting as far back as the 1820s. States began passing their own temperance laws in the 1840s. We still see remnants of some of these today. Beer laws are changing in Georgia to allow breweries to sell their own product; this follows a similar change in Alabama last year. Pennsylvania is figuring out how to privatize liquor distribution. In some states you can't buy alcohol Sundays, or at least Sunday mornings.

The constitutional amendment that prohibited alcohol in the US (the 18th amendment), was ratified in 1919, and reads thus:

Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.
 
Section 2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
 
Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

Fourteen years later, in 1933, the 21st amendment to the US constitution was ratified. It reads:

Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
 
Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.
 
Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

If Section 2 of the 21st amendment sounds a lot like Section 1 of the 18th amendment, read it again closely. The 18th amendment prohibits the manufacture, sale, transport, import and export of alcohol. The 21st amendment prohibits the illegal transport, import, possession or use of alcohol.

In other words, we went from no booze to don't be stupid with booze.


During the years of alcohol prohibition, we saw the rise of Al Capone, who made sure Americans drank their fill. We saw the rise of Walgreens, which expanded from a couple of stores to hundreds filling prescriptions for medical whiskey. Bootleggers were the first at-home auto tinkerers, and prohibition gave rise to NASCAR.

The years of prohibition also cost the US $11 billion in taxes and $300 million in enforcement. Adjusting to today's rates, that's $207.1 billion in lost taxes and $5.6 billion in enforcement.

Today, alcohol sales are a $211.6 billion industry in the US. The federal government makes about $10 billion a year in taxes on that, and states and municipalities take in around $5.5 billion.

Extrapolated over 13 years and assuming no change, that's about $201.5 billion, pretty close to what we calculated for the prohibition years.


The CDC estimates there are about 88,000 alcohol-related deaths per year. Add to that 480,000 smoking-related deaths each year and 33,000 heroin- and opioid-related deaths.

Cocaine overdose deaths are now under 10,000 a year.

Deaths related to LSD appear to be too low to measure.

The best (read: no political agenda) stats I've found on marijuana-related deaths show that traffic deaths in which one driver had marijuana in his or her system increased in Colorado after legalization. The numbers are somewhat tempered in this case by multi-drug use, meaning that if the driver had used marijuana and alcohol, or marijuana and some other drug, it was still classified as a marijuana-related death (and also an alcohol-related, other drug-related, death).


Colorado saw $1 billion in legal marijuana sales in 2016 and took in $141 million in taxes during fiscal year 2015-2016, a 60-percent increase over the previous year. That will likely be up another 50 percent when we get the final numbers for 2016-2017 in a few weeks. Near as I can tell (the data are presented differently), Colorado is pulling in $5 million a month or so in alcohol-related taxes, or about 45 percent of what te state brings in from taxing marijuana.

Washington state is also selling about $1 billion a year in marijuana sales, and is pulling around $7 million a month in state and local taxes, which extrapolates to around $85 million a year. Washington gets about three times that in alcohol-related taxes.

Colorado has slightly under the average population for a US state; Washington is slightly higher, according to 2013 Census estimates.


Alcohol and marijuana prohibition are probably the most parallel examples we have — both were at one time illegal and they brought about big business thanks to some combination of illegal trading and legal prescriptions.

Cocaine is rarely (if ever) still prescribed, though it used to be. Most of the opioid overdose deaths we see start with prescriptions.

There's good evidence that SSRIs — often prescribed to fight depression — lead to higher rates of suicide. From strictly a social science standpoint, it's impossible to tell if people on SSRIs who commit suicide would not have committed suicide if they weren't taking them. You don't get a do-over with suicide, and you can't ask reflective questions of someone who has committed suicide.

The National Institutes for Health have a deep-dive on the pros and cons of direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs, but one stats-gathering organization says that for every dollar spent on advertising, we see an increase of $4.20 in sales of prescription drugs, so the advertising is getting better than a four-to-one return right now.


You probably, by now, have figured out where this is going, but I'm going to take it farther than you think.

First, I should disclose my drug practices. I am an occasional (two to three times per week) alcohol user; I will smoke several cigars a year (tobacco); and I have used marijuana recreationally fewer than three times in my life. I have not tried any of the other drugs mentioned here.

All drugs should be legal, taxed and regulated. You've read 1,000 words at this point; don't bail on me just yet.

I think alcohol serves as the best precedent we have to work from as a model. We have:

• An agency that controls the quality of the ingredients
• A uniform way to measure how much alcohol we get (ABV, paired with volume)
• A measure describing legal impairment
• A minimum age for purchase and consumption
• Rules on who can make, distribute and sell alcohol

Those are the basics. We need them for every drug, and legalizing everything allows us to write a catch-all for synthetics that haven't been invented.


It would, of course, take some research. We've learned that the brain finishes maturing around age 25. We should, then, wait until someone is 25 or 26 before we let them buy and use psychedelics.

If there's not a good way to measure levels of consumption (we use blood-alcohol content for alcohol, with a level of 0.8 percent meaning impairment, as far as driving is concerned), then there's a zero-tolerance policy. You can use the drug in your own home or whatever, but if you operate a vehicle or commit a crime such as theft or assault and have any of the drug active in your system, the penalties are higher because you're impaired.

If a drug is so dangerous it shouldn't be used, use fines and/or property forfeiture as the penalty. Some 46 percent of inmates in the US are in prison on drug offenses; many of them have also committed other jailable offenses, so it wouldn't decrease our prison population by half, but it would get 15 million or so people producing in the economy instead of costing governments money by sitting in prison.

[I got that 15 million number by taking Five Thirty-Eight's numbers that a quarter of the US population is in prison and 16 percent of those prisoners have drug offenses as the primary reason they're incarcerated.]

Even if a drug is so dangerous it shouldn't be used, you should probably be able to use it in your living room if you're just going to take the drug and leave everyone alone until it's out of your system.


The average prisoner in the US costs taxpayers nearly $32,000 a year, with places like New York skewing it a little high ($60,000 per prisoner across the state and over $167,000 per perisoner in New York City).

I'm having trouble finding good numbers for welfare programs (there are over 130 of them, with 72 of them assisting individuals), but I know from my days in retail banking that supplemental income (SSI) requires you to either work 30 hours per week or be permanently disabled. SNAP benefits (food stamps) are said to help 4.8 million people a year — and nothing on the order of what it costs to feed and house a prisoner.

We're starting to wander a little far afield here, but the point there is that even if every single person in prison on drug offenses alone was to be released and put onto SNAP rolls instead of contributing to the US economy via jobs, it would still cost less than keeping them in prison for nonviolent offenses.


In case you missed it in all the reading above we're not only talking about spending less money on people in prison (and also in not having to pay people to enforce drug laws including expensive long-term investigations and undercover stings), we're talking about more income from because all those newly legal drugs are regulated and taxed. Shops pay money to get licensed the way bars and liquor stores pay for licenses. If you have a product to distribute, it needs agency (something like the FDA, if not the actual FDA) approval. And then there are taxes on both the property from which the drugs are sold (new businesses, yay!) and on the drugs themselves — and that tax, like the taxes on alcohol and tobacco, can be higher than sales tax.

I think that about covers it. Your thoughts?

Know your audience (or at least get their money before you insult them)


Photo by Jenny Shear

The Waimea Canyon lookout at Pu'u Hinahina on the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i is 13 miles up a winding road. About 10 miles up that road there is another lookout, and the sign makes it unclear which way the road continues and which way the lookout rests.

We accidentally pulled off three miles before the beginning of our planned hike and figured that we'd take in a view before continuing up.

When we got to the lookout, there was a man (pictured above) who told us some of the history and customs of the native Hawaiian people. Before hula became a sensual dance performed by women in coconut bras and grass skirts, it was a war dance performed by men in masks hoping to send the enemy into retreat before combat became necessary.

He taught us a little about the language, about how the word aloha breaks down into alo, meaning a shared presence, and ha, the breath of life.

And then he told us a little about himself and what he does.

You see, a few years ago, he was arrested and charged with being an unlicensed vendor. He'd been coming to this spot with a tip basket and a history lesson for tourists to provide for his family, unsanctioned by the parks service or any state agency.

He argued in his own defense, asking the judge for proof that the prosecuting attorney had jurisdiction to arrest and charge him. He said he didn't recognize the United States' sovereignty over Hawaii. He asked to see the articles of annexation. After five trips to court — five days he couldn't provide for his family because he was in court — his case was dismissed after the prosecutor failed to provide the requested document.

He continued his story about how Kaua'i, the furthest Hawaiian island from the US mainland (outside of one privately owned island with a small, mostly native population) and least developed to date, is being bought up by people who love its unspoiled nature, and are spoiling it. He complained about Mark Zuckerberg's purchase of 700 acres on the island.

At this point, his crowd started to scatter. He'd received one tip from someone who left before he got into his lesson.

As you might guess, his audience was largely (probably entirely) tourists. All were white. No one wanted to stick around to hear how badly we were destroying things — we knew we had a history of doing that on the US mainland and we were here to get away from, among other things, a particularly nasty bout of political shouting.

Educational vacation? Sure, I like learning things. I don't, however, enjoy being lectured to. If I want your opinion on politics and the local atmosphere, I'll ask. And I probably would have said some

If you rely on people giving you tips for a living, ask for money when you're at a high point in your speech. Don't wait until you're lecturing them on their bad behavior.

Know your audience. Stop talking at the point they're most likely to give you money. If you get to that point and they're not giving you money, cut bait. If you keep talking, you might accidentally find your foot in your mouth.

Independence Day 2017

On July 2, 1776, the 13 colonies that at that time composed the United States ratified a declaration of independence from Great Britain. It was revised and updated, with the final version gaining passage on July 4 of that year.

So today, we celebrate our independence as a nation. Last year for my podcast, I read the Declaration of Independence. You can hear that below (there's also a remembrance for Elie Wiesel, who had recently died). I'm also dedicating this space today to the text, so you can read along, or read it without listening to it, perhaps for the first time as an adult. The text comes from the National Archives, and the spelling and grammar represent what's on the original document, not the current accepted usages.

In Congress, July 4, 1776.
 
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
 
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
 
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
 
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
 
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
 
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
 
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
 
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
 
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
 
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
 
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
 
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
 
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
 
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
 
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
 
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
 
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
 
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
 
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
 
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
 
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
 
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
 
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
 
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
 
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
 
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
 
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
 
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
 
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
 
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
 
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
 
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
 
Signed:
 
Georgia
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton
 
North Carolina
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
 
South Carolina
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton
 
Massachusetts
John Hancock
 
Maryland
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
 
Virginia
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton
 
Pennsylvania
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
 
Delaware
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean
 
New York
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
 
New Jersey
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark
 
New Hampshire
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
 
Massachusetts
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
 
Rhode Island
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
 
Connecticut
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
 
New Hampshire
Matthew Thornton

Did you learn anything? Did anything surprise you? Did you have any myths about the declaration you were holding onto?