You probably know by now that I am interested in studying tools and techniques for self-awareness, self-motivation, and creative productivity. As part of this study, I have been reading “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss.
If you are interested in being intentional about how you live your life and how you work your work then you should read this book.
This book was compatible with my morning routine and I read it in short, 15 to 30 minute chunks every day. I found a lot of useful and motivating content.
You might remember your math teacher telling you that the answer was important but “showing your work” was also part of the points on a test. As it turns out, your math teacher was right. This principle still applies today, especially for creative professionals such as visual artists. Social media takes sharing your work to a whole ‘nother level.
This concept was driven home to me by Austin Kleon in his aptly named book Show Your Work . I found out about Austin Kleon thanks to Chase Jarvis.
An image from Kleon’s book.
I am an avid learner of new things and my goal right now is to keep my sharing/teaching as up to date with my current passions and studies as possible. It is easy to want to wait until I am an expert about something before posting videos on youtube about it. However, Austin Kleon has convinced me that it is better to learn from a passionate student than a cynical and jaded old expert.
Right now, I am most passionate about learning as much as I can about herpetoculture, snakes, bioactive vivaria, and the scaping of functional and aesthetic miniature ecosystems.
Here is a recent youtube video I made about this exciting learning process that I knew nothing about 6 months ago:
What are you passionate about right now? Are you avidly learning about it? Could you be sharing your process more?
For more of the benefits of showing your work check out this short video about the book:
In this audiorecording, I continue to describe more of my adventures and observations with the Hadza hunter gatherers of Tanzania. This time, I visit a different group and describe more of what I learn about their archery equipment and how they make their arrows. In the photo below, you can see the fletching style on one arrow and a bunch of shafts on the ground.
Necessity is the mother of invention. One guy is holding an arrow shaft between his toes and he shapes while the man in the foreground uses the back of his sandal as a cutting board for trimming the feathers on his newly made arrow. He wore a Hadza-style tire sandal on one foot and a”Croc” type shoe on the other.
This photo shows a still smoldering charcoal pit. The Iraqw tribe are mostly subsistence agropastoralists but they make charcoal to be sold for cash. The production of charcoal for cooking fuel is one cause of deforestation in this area. The trees chosen for charcoal production are often the important habitat trees for the animals the Hadza hunt such as birds and Galagos.
In this photo, you can see what I think is some species of Cordia with edible berries. We spent almost an hour gleaning fruit from this tree. This tree is also the source of the arrow shafts and bow staves used by the Hadza. Talk about a multipurpose plant! Further research on this tree in its human ecological context would be very useful. Fortunately for the Hadza, it seems that the Agropastoralists often leave this tree when they are clearing areas for cultivation, probably not for the fruit as much as for the valuable fodder the leaves provid.On this trip we also saw some cool cucurbit species growing wild including a jelly melon, which I have grown in my garden in California.
On this eventful day with this group of the Hadza, this guy shot a hornbill and another guy shot a Goshawk. These were some of the most interesting bird species that I saw close up during my entire trip to Tanzania. What is it about killing and eating a hornbill or a bushbaby compared to chicken or pig that affects modern Westerners? For more about this topic see Eating Biodiversity.
In this video you can see part of the fletching process.
I practice archery and I fletch my own arrows so I have a lot of appreciation for the speed, efficiency, and artistry of the Hadza fletching process. It takes me twice as long to fletch a single arrow.
While the Hadza worked on arrow shafts, I was busy drawing the plants, animals, and material culture that make up their daily life. This journaling process was the backbone of my trip and the basis for the book that I put together when I got back home.
For more about my time in Tanzania you should check out my book, Intertropical Impressions: Volume Three, available in a high quality print edition, a downloadable PDF and an ebook edition.
On my third day with the Hadza I tag along with the women for a little bit to learn about some of the plant resources they gather and use. When I get back to camp I spent some time reflecting on some of the complexities of my observer/tourist role and the implications of cultural tourism on the Hadza way of life.
Some of the questions that I ask are: What is authenticity? How is the Hadza’s daily life curated to provide an “authentic” experience to tourists?
Part of my intent with my Tanzania trip was to be as transparent as possible. I’m recording my impressions, I’m recording what I see, and I am recognizing that I am part of the equation. I am not objectively floating above the landscape. In these audiorecordings and in my book you can see how I try to pay attention to and process my conflicting feelings around cultural tourism, my role in it, and my relationship to the Hadza. While it might be easy to imagine some isolated stone age tribe living in harmony separate from everyone else, it would be a disservice to all involved to project this blindly onto the Hadza. The truth of the matter is that we live in a much more complicated and inextricably interconnected world.
In the above photo you can see two Hadza and Yussef the motorcycle driver walking past several spiffy safari Land Cruisers parked outside the Hadza camp. Some days there would be more than 5 groups of tourists that might come through and visit one Hadza camp. They would often be led through the same series of activities and hear the same speech from the cultural tourism guides. “And here you can see how they make fire with sticks, and now you can see how they smoke marijuana, and now you can see how they shoot the bow, and here are the women cooking baboon, etc.This photo would have looked more “authentic” if it were not for the bright green shirt of Ita, the motorcycle driver, and Zacharia in the frame. I noticed in myself the automatic desire to snap photos of just the Hadza with their bows and animal skins and to exclude the modernly dressed guide and driver. This is one way in which the bias and expectation of outsiders can influence how the whole experience is curated. When I look at a lot of the photos about the Hadza and videos of the Hadza online the Swahili speaking guides and the drivers and the other Tanzanians are usually not present in the photos. I understand the aesthetics behind this but what is the meaning? How would you feel if you were one of the guides and you notice that the tourists are always avoiding you or even shooing you out of the frame when they are taking shots of the primitive Hadza tribes-people?
On my second day out hunting with the Hadza I experimented with doing audiorecordings during the trip instead of trying to take notes in my small pocket notebook. It was my first time trying this and was a bit hard because I felt self-conscious talking to myself in English while following these guys on their subsistence hunt. Once I got over that it turned out to be a much more efficient and safe way to record information while running over rocks, dangerous steep gullies, and seventeen kinds of spiny plants. Part way through you can hear the loud sounds of humans, baboons, and dogs clashing violently. You can hear some of my personal questions and train of thought around the human ecology of Hadza hunting.
Young hunter and the large male baboon that he shot with his bow on this hunting trip.
Here is my recap from the rest of that day. In this recap I share some more of the complexities and reality of how these people actually live and my own personal experiences in the moment. For example, how they shared food with some of the agropastoralists and how they stopped to get soda at a weird little shack. I talk about my own reflections around the concept of a “curated experience” and some of my hidden biases around what to portray and what not to portray in my photos.
During my trip to Tanzania, I used my nature journal and my pocket notebook for drawing and writing and I used my phone for photos, short videos, and audio recordings. With this diverse toolbox I tried to document my observations, feeling, and impressions.
I tried to keep very careful notes about their hunting techniques, how many arrows they shot, how they debate the tracks on the ground, and how they make decisions about where to follow the animals. I mostly used my small Moleskine pocket notebook for scribbling notes and drawings on the fly because the Hadza move so fast that there was little time for me to take out my nature journal. I soon learned that it was even more efficient to record audionotes on my phone on these hunts.
Several birds and squirrels were taken in this hunt and also some lesser Galagos, and an intense encounter with Baboons. These notes include some of my descriptions of the beauty of the landscape and some of my questions. There is also more about my process in this audio-recording from Tanzania. You can hear the East African birds in the background as I review my trail notebook from the first day with the Hadza.
Here is a short video I took on the first hunting trip where I tagged along. They walk fast, talk, joke, and smoke.
By traveling and studying traditional food production systems around the world I am sometimes in situations that present ethical questions. These Galagos were the cutest animal that I saw the Hadza kill for food and I am sure that many of my compatriots would question the killing of such animals for food. My main goal on these trips is not to judge from the standards of my industrial culture but to be an observer and to try to understand the perspective of these people who hunt and gather every day for their survival. For more on the ethics of eating see my post about Eating Biodiversity.
Journaling is a process, a learning tool, and it is a record. In many cases journals have been kept mainly for record-keeping purposes. While it is not my all-time favorite benefit of journaling it is fun to go back through old journals and see the record of the past. It is funny to see what I didn’t know back then, how much I have changed, and in what ways I have remained the same.
In this video I give some background into some of the key turning points in the evolution of my current journaling practice. I also share some of the tools and materials that made it possible.