My latest, reporting for Paste Magazine:
“Obviously, user review repositories such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google are a net gain for people in need of lodging, a delicious meal, or a new tool, gadget, or surprise to solve their current problem. But as we increasingly turn to big, crowd-funded data to help us stay informed and avoid buyer’s remorse, we need to be thinking of better ways to get the most up-to-date and accurate information available while also rewarding the efforts of those who aim to please us.”
I recently completed a $150 DNA test for a story I’m working on. Without going into too much detail, this is what I learned:
- I’m healthy. Of 36 diseases tested, I’m not a carrier of any problematic genes. Phew!
- I’m 99.9% European. That’s code for “white privilege.”
- I’m ordinary. For example, I’m a normal sleeper. And although we were all Born to Run, my muscles are more “sprinter” than “endurance” type.
- I got confirmation of what I’ve already observed. For instance, I don’t posses the bald gene, I’m not hairy, my ring finger is longer than my index, my second toe is longer than my big toe, I have wet earwax, and my skin is fair. Go figure!
- Genes are overrated. Like my favorite sci-fi move so eloquently proves, our genes do not define who we are or how we choose to live. Yes, DNA is important and can have a big impact on our circumstance. But it does not determine our destiny or who we chose to become with the cards we’ve been dealt.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned for the full story.
I admire Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. Both are big thinkers and deserve to be imitated by any who hope to follow their success.
But unless you’re already a celebrity (or otherwise top 10) executive, you probably shouldn’t follow their tacky example of wearing the same casual uniform everyday. Here’s why: Continue reading…
In the early 1900s, bananas may have been named the world’s first superfood. At the time, even The American Medical Association praised them for being “sealed by nature in practically germ-proof packages.”*
Although still one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat, bananas are no longer consider a superfood. (I eat one every morning, however, as they’re always in season). Trendy things like acai berries, green tea, quinoa, kale and other manufactured foods are. It’s gotten so out of hand, that the FDA issued a warning letter recently about falsely advertised “superfoods.” As of 2007, the European Union has prohibited food makers from using the term “superfood.”
So how can we distinguish marketing hype from science when seeking out nutrient-rich foods? Highbrow did just that recently. This is what they came up with—the top 10 superfoods backed by science. Continue reading…
The United States of America is the mightiest nation the world has ever seen. (Murica!)
Its economy is bigger than the next four national economies combined. Its military spends more than the next 20 nations combined. Its human rights and democracy record are admired throughout the world. And in terms of pop culture, it’s arguably the “coolest” nation on the planet.
So how did the United States achieve all this?
History buff Balaji Viswanathan makes a pretty convincing argument on Quora. Here are his reasons: Continue reading…
Courtesy 20th Century Fox
Here’s where my travel column went last month:
Although the technology is “95% ready for mainstream use,” the home stretch will likely require another decade of coding, insiders say. Reporting for Paste Magazine…
For the record, I don’t consider myself a great writer. I’m certainly an effective, efficient, and sometimes amusing one. But I wouldn’t say great. The below, on the other hand, written by my friend Davey Saunders and published with his permission is great. I hope you enjoy it.
As I often do, I cold emailed a bunch of people today asking if I could write for them. It was a great day. Not because one of them did this:
(They didn’t.) It was great because American strangers are wonderful to work with. They’re so freakin’ nice. Continue reading…
I’ve spoken highly about bluetooth speakers before, including the original UE Boom, Mega Boom, and Cambridge Audio. Like 21st century boomboxes, they bring music to life because they’re easy to pair with your phone and go anywhere.
This month, Ultimate Ears sent me a UE Boom 2 in the hopes I’d publicize it, which I’m doing now. Not because they asked me to. But because it maintains the full and deep sound of the original (although not as bumping as the Mega or as rich as the Cambridge) with twice the wireless range, a little more battery life, and pause and skip functions right on the speaker. That alone makes it a no-brainer consideration for budgets between $100-200.
That said, UE are giving away a limited edition Boom 2 (pictured) to blakesnow.com readers. Here are the official rules:
- You must reside in the U.S. (sorry international readers)
- You must share your favorite underrated or under-appreciated artist of all time in the below comments and convincingly explain why they deserve more airplay.
That’s it. I’ll announce and publish my favorite entry on May 15 and the speaker will ship shortly thereafter.
Thanks for playing. May the best entry win.
Courtesy RSA Films
Humans — either insecure or work-in-progress ones, myself very much included — often combat ignorance with ignorance. They fight prejudice with prejudice. They hypocritcaly label others as bigoted before crushing their own intolerance.
This is why the world can’t all get along. Continue reading…
An edited version of this story first appeared on April 5, 2016 in The Atlantic
Not long ago, I stumbled on a list of the best sci-fi novels according to the Internet (i.e. the highly entertaining computer geeks on Reddit). As someone who reads for pleasure as much as job security, I decided to finish as many of these and others that I could handle.
After completing over a dozen—not to mention many more in film adaptations—the following occurred to me: every single one of these acclaimed, futuristic stories—at least the many I was exposed to—completely missed the existence and impact of the Internet. Everything from published media and daily communication, to realizing sight unseen romance and access to global markets.
“A lot of science fiction was primarily focused on moving people and things around in exciting ways,” says technology commentator Clive Thompson. “These forward-thinkers were using flashy visuals to hook their readers, while understandably overlooking non-sexy things such as inaudible conversations.”
Which is largely what the Internet facilitates. Like electricity, it’s really just an everyday utility now. And utility talk is not plot. It’s boring. Continue reading…
- Keep a journal. Because they remind us of our thoughts and feelings as well as photographs remind us of people, places, and things.
- Say “no” to distractions. I’ve started doing this already by avoiding the news. Instead of consuming news in the morning, afternoon, and night, I now only read three newsletter summaries from my three favorite sources. This frees a massive amount of time without missing the most important stories to my work.
- Hire a professional coach. I did this a few years ago and it nearly doubled my sales. After become complacent recently, I need to do this again.
You know the drill. Here’s where my travel column went last month:
credit blake snow
A happy wife is a happy life. Or so goes a popular adage.
This goes both ways, of course. But I suspect the saying is written primarily for men because we probably fail as spouses more often than women.
Either way, what’s the key to successful marriage?
First and foremost, always pretend you’re still courting your spouse, writes popular Quora author and Cal physicist Richard Muller. “Seduce. Entertain. Be nice,” he says. “Do all those things you did when you were trying to win her over.”
That means taking a sexual interest in them (not just maintenance, mind you—that’s not love-making), making them laugh, smile, and feel good about themselves, and respecting them no matter what (as opposed to misjudging, resenting, or objectifying them).
Lastly, “Don’t take them for granted, ever,” Muller says. Do this long enough and you’ll probably get divorced.
In other words, surprise them. Marriage is not a given. Do all you can to earn your keep. Contribute. Give. Don’t just take. Be the spouse you’d like to have.
Sage advice, Mr. Muller.
I sigh every time I see toilet paper hanging under the spool as opposed to over. Toilet paper orientation is a big deal. So big I sometimes switch offending rolls mid bowel movement. It’s one of my OCD indulgences.
But spool orientation is more than just preference. Researcher Barry Sinrod found that 68% of Americans roll over. In fact, 60% of those who earn $50,000 a year or more roll over. Meanwhile, 73% of those who earned less than $20,000 roll under.
When asked what his research proves, Sinrod replied, “I don’t know, but it’s sure interesting.”
I’ll give it a shot. Rolling over conserves more paper. It’s not as easy to let it fly, but it offers better control. Under, on the other hand, is easier. Similarly, making less than $20,000 a year is easier than $50,000.
Granted, being underprivileged isn’t always about taking the easy road, even though it is some of the time. And 40% of middle class and higher roll under. But that’s the best I can come up with.
credit lindsey snow
My wife and I asked and answered five simple questions over a picnic lunch on our sun-drenched driveway today. Most of our answers are closely aligned. This is what I came up with:
What things do you value most in life?
Happiness, which is largely derived from my wife (aka love life), my experiences, my children, the food I eat, the friends I play with, my work as a writer, and my faith.
What is your biggest achievement so far?
Marriage, children, and getting hired by and published in fancy media and blue-chip company publications.
Where do you want to be in five years?
Same house, all the kids in school, still healthy, discoverer of at least five new hobbies, published non-fiction author, discoverer of five new friends, sailor, visitor of all seven continents (Antarctica, Asia, and Australia still pending). My wife answered, “Skiing every weekday with friends, more involved in the community.”
What are some of your favorite books?
Of the top of my head: A Short History of Nearly Everything, Planet of the Apes, Thinking Fast and Slow, Unbroken, And Then There Were None, The Last Place on Earth, The AP Guide to News and Feature Writing (more here).
Found another one. In addition to Stardust and The Natural, The Princess Bride by William Goldman is a better film than book.
I read the latter this month and was in awe of the actual book within a book. Admittedly, Goldman is a remarkably creative, funny, and powerful writer. But the literary mechanism he uses to set up, interject, and conclude the beloved ’80s story — in this case pretending to be a humbled author searching for his next great hit by abridging “the good parts version” of another fictional author’s larger work — detracts from an otherwise five-star effort.
I suspect even Goldman realized this when writing his award-wining screenplay for the actual movie 14 years after publishing the book. Instead of his original, confusing, and over-the-top author trope, Goldman instead opts for the much cleaner “grandpa reading the story to his sick grandson” setting.
Either way, Goldman is a sarcastic genius. And I’m glad he finally got it right. Four stars out of five. Would have awarded it five stars had it not been for the above oversight.
If you do read it, skip the setup, treat Goldman’s interjections as author’s notes, and head straight for the exceptional story of true love, Inigo’s heartwarming backstory that is strong enough to stand on its own, and dozens of beautiful passages like this:
- The woman who emerged was a trifle thinner, a great deal wiser, an ocean sadder. This one understood the nature of pain, and beneath the glory of her features, there was character, and a sure knowledge of suffering.
- The rope seemed almost alive, the greatest of all water serpents heading at last for home.
- His eyes bulged wide, full of horror and pain. It was glorious. If you like that kind of thing.
- I really do think that love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops. But I also have to say, for the umpty-umpth time, that life isn’t fair. It’s just fairer than death, that’s all.
I, Blake Snow, wrote this for my children, but figured you might enjoy it too. According to science, the following habits lead to a healthy, happy, and sustainable lifestyle: Continue reading…
Content marketing has been around for centuries—ever since the first newspaper figured out they could sell ad space against stories that interested people. But it wasn’t until the last few years—even after mostly failed corporate blogging efforts—that content marketing has become a staple of modern marketing budgets in the social media age.
Consequently, commercial brands, communication departments, and Fortune 500 marketing arms are hiring former journalists, editors, and content strategists at an astonishing rate. One well-known software maker I consult for even has a bona fide news department. The place bustles like the New York Times newsroom. Their editorial content is generating executive interest and finding traction with online audiences.
That said, we’re still in the wild west of content marketing. Here are 10 ways to lay claim on the new frontier. Continue reading…