Hello! This is Everything is Amazing, a newsletter about curiosity, attention, awe and wonder.
And today, instead of delighting/scaring you with tales of arsenic paint and enormous blue holes, I thought I’d try something very different.
At the start of this year, I created a discussion thread where I asked “hey, what do you wish more people were curious about?” And because there were 13,800 of you reading at the time, it went bananas in the most fascinating of ways that proved to me, absolutely conclusively, that you’re all way more interesting than I am, and that the wrong person is probably writing my newsletter.
(But no, you can’t have it. I’m having far too much fun here. Sorry.)
Now we’re halfway through the year and there are over 18,000 of us, I thought I’d have another try at being awed by your horrifyingly boundless knowledge, wisdom and imagination - and it ties in with something I’ll be writing about the act of writing a newsletter, which is coming in a few weeks, just before season 5 wraps up.
I started Everything Is Amazing to reboot my sense of curiosity and wonder after having the wind knocked out of my sails by some stressful times, as I explained to
So I have an entirely hypothetical question for you:
If you had the opportunity (adequate finances, the freedom to go anywhere, everything arranged for you that would need to be arranged, etc.) to spend one full year pursuing a single hobby/skill/enthusiasm in a deeply committed way, on your own or within a team, having 🤓SUCH AMAZING NERDY FUN🤓 that you'd be able to feel it all the way down to your boots...
Throw caution to the wind and give me your most recklessly enthusiastic answer in the comments below!- Mike
(Image: Nathan Dumlao)
Get access to a LARGE, & I do mean large, 3 - D printer, & make life size statues of figures from history, folklore, mythology. & leave them all over my adopted hometown. The knights of the Round Table could hang about with Einstein, Socrates, Michaelangelo, Turing, Gandhi, Lao - Tzu, Solomon, Madame Curie, Galileo.....
My partner and I were discussing this recently and she had a very cool idea. She (Chinese American) wants to visit a bunch of Chinatowns in the US (both the older downtown ones and newer suburban ones, eg Manhattan's Chinatown plus Flushing, Queens), spending maybe 6ish weeks each in 9ish cities. She would do interviews, get involved in community centers, look at public records, and piece together an ethnography of each one. Then use all that material as a lens to view the 1st vs 2nd vs 3rd gen immigrant experiences, immigrant experiences changing throughout American history, why the urban ones are atrophying, and whatever else inspires her midway.
Stolen from our email exchange on this very subject, I’d spent a year playing epic games of hide and seek with fellow nerds in every cool place I could think of.
The caves of Andalusia. The hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. The stone-lined roads of Inisherin. The crumbling Caravanserais of Iran. The saguaro forests of Arizona. The Venetian canals. The cars of a moving train across Siberia. The chain of cliff beaches and sea stacks of southern Oregon. The elaborate souks of Marrakesh. The lava tubes of Hawaii. The Place of Dreams in South Africa. The narrow stone alleys of Palermo. The rocks of Joshua Tree. The ports of Tromso under the aurora. The Hoh Rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula. The deep, ancient grottos of Kingley Vale. The giant redwoods of coastal northern California. The fissures of Thingvellir. The exhausting hillsides of La Paz. The arches of Moab. The cemeteries of New Orleans. The thatchy beach’s of Belize. The dizzying, colorful cityscape of Singapore. The high plains full of elk herds in southern Colorado. The mossy, rocky tundra above Valdez, Alaska. The craggy beach caves of Melbourne. The massive orchards of New England. The castles of the Black Forest. The watery mangrove forests of the Everglades. The financial district of Tokyo. The thick forests of Lapland. The white streetscapes of Santorini. The underworld of the Yucatán. The…
I already added this briefly in Notes, but thought I'd go into this a bit more, because this is more than a crazy idea, I've had this as a proper plan for some time. I want to see every Eucalyptus species in Australia, which is nearly 900 (in the broad sense of the name anyway). Basically I want to take some sort of vehicle I can camp in and travel around Australia for a year with a copy of EUCLID, which is the botanical key to eucalypts and just see all of them. Of course, there's a lot of meeting people and talking about eucalypts along the way and I'd be writing about it at every step.
I wish a crazy millionaire with the same musical taste as me would commission me to form a band and faithfully recreate 70s jingles and TV themes. Yes, with orchestra, and outfits.
Building regenerative agricultural systems (permaculture) in low-water environments (the front range).
We would pull our children out of school, and my wife and I would take them around the world to visit as many of the world's protected and conserved areas as possible.
Watch every single episode fo Star Trek. Might need more than a year.
When I read your prompt, I didn’t think I had an answer to this. But as I started reading the answers, the fully-formed plan appeared in my mind: to interview and write about all the projects and communities that use food skills and cooking to improve other aspects of people’s lives: Luminary Bakery in London; Hot Bread Kitchen in Brooklyn; The Clink prison restaurant.... and eat their food, of course!
I'd go on a quest to find and learn the most interesting, awesome, weird and exotic dances on Earth! I'd choose 12 of them and spend 1 month in each place to learn and master the best that I can of each dance - and through it, their culture, mindset, community and basic language. A cultural immersion through dance! ❤️🌍💃🏻🏼 I'd keep training to be able to keep up with it and I'd definitely enjoy the heck out of it all. 🙌🏼
I’m actually kind of doing it this year already - a deep dive into D&D as it sits in today’s culture. As I play, run, and organize, I’m learning all kinds of details, from foley work to narrative subversions to the recreation of a player’s past events to acheive different results.
I’m learning a ton about probability and game theory, too. To the point where I’ve spent an evening trying to hit rubber ducks with a rolled die from varying distance to take accuracy data. Turns out you can’t aim a d4 worth a taco rolling, but you can shuffleboard it to great effect.
Wow this is a fun question. My interests are extremely varied but a couple ideas would be:
- library world tour. I love reading and I’d want to visit a new library (in a new city? country?) every week and read so many books. Study the architecture and history of the buildings and who uses them and how etc.
- something with animals...like living in Asia and tracking red panda behavior or in the mountains in Canada looking for lynx or pine martens. Oooh or following an arctic tern migration.
Buy one of those houses in Italy or Ireland that are basically free if you renovate and live there. Then live there off grid, feeding and sustaining ourselves off the land, and through old-fashioned 'favours' with the more connected neighbours. Explore the theory, while doing this, that this is actually how humans are meant to live, making for happier, less stressed communities. Document it all, change the world.
I’d move my wife and I to our forever home, and get a job with the local school district to develop an after school enrichment program where I run TTRPGs Monday to Friday.
I would help the kids become the heroes they are, develop into the game masters, actors, explorers, coders, math-magicians, leaders, critical thinkers, researchers and otherwise excellent humans they have within.
And take the occasional cruise with my wife for fun.
I would try to visit as many of Earth’s volcanoes as possible. I’d organize the travel by active status (all active volcanoes first, for example), or perhaps in order of biggest recorded eruptions (e.g. Tambora first), or maybe even by the category of the setting type of volcano (e.g. shield volcanoes atop mantle hot spots ---HAWAII! First then all of the plate boundary volcanoes second. Hmm I need to really think about this....
Or I’d try to go to every star party in every u.s. state.
I would produce and host a television series that is essentially a remix of No Reservations/Parts Unknown, Mythbusters, and Meet the Press. Let me explain.
No, there is too much. Let me sum up: I want to do to and for the political establishment what Anthony Bourdain did to and for the restaurant establishment.
"We the People" in America do not know enough about politics, law, or government to solve the problems facing us. We cannot save American democracy because we do not understand it sufficiently. And I'm not talking about those routine polls decrying the state of our country because only 17% of us can name more than one Supreme Court Justice. Hell, I'm a lawyer and I couldn't name more than three or four without looking 'em up.
We don't understand the fundamental statics and dynamics of American government. Most of us (and I would say around 70% to 80%) don't even understand federalism. Or separation of powers into three branches of government.
And all of us our angry. Rightfully so. For any number of reasons. But what are we angry about? And who are we angry at? Or should be angry at? If I think of "the government" as some unibody construction, then of course I'm going to get pissed off when my mayor won't help me with my IRS problems. Of course I'm going to be furious if my Congressional representative won't appear in court on my behalf. Or call the judge to ask her why she's ordering me to pay child support. And of course I'm going to want to throw out all the people in Congress because they're all selfish, power-hungry imbeciles (and whatever else FOX News is telling me).
Those are hypothetical examples, but I hope I'm making sense here. Because I want to help people better understand how American government, law, and politics actually work -- and are supposed to work. And I want to help them channel that anger in the right directions and at the right people.
While we're chatting, I'll also be asking them about their views on politics in general and what they would like to see. Conversations like I had with this guy on a train ride from Chicago to LA last August. He was a Trump supporter who was willing to talk with me about American politics and gun control, and in a 20-minute conversation, we solved a gun control problem; not "the gun problem," but a common sense solution that would ban the AR-15 (and sufficiently detailed to be introduced in Congress). We managed that simply because we got to know each other as people, first. We have to start doing that more, talking with each other and not at each other. The only way we're going to save the country is if We the People start doing what the top political elite (whoever they might be) aren't doing: chat with one another and treat people as people rather than political problems.
I want to challenge Congress specifically in the ways that SpaceX challenges NASA. That GenX attitude of "Hey, if you don't want to help us solve our problems or get what we deserve, we'll do it our damn selves." If Congress can't get it's act together, We the People will find a way to do it for them.
So, if I had a year and unlimited resources, I'd first contact every producer, showrunner, and pertinent crew member that I could get ahold of, get 'em in the same room for a week with the most seasoned constituent service staffers I could find. And then we'd all figure out how to do this.
How do we take the Mythbusters approach to educating people about urban myths and apply it to political myths? How do we recreate those conversational styles and settings from No Reservations and Parts Uknown? Do we bring in a bit of Dirty Jobs, too, along the way?
And how do we take all the high level political chatter and analysis that so many people are already doing and bring it down to ground level in ways folks better understand? How do we make The McLaughlin Group as accessible and entertaining as any of these other TV shows we're talking about? Hundreds of people are providing political commentary, information, and analysis, but how can we package and present all that great stuff to people at a practical level in useful ways? How can we help them better understand their anger, why other people are just as angry, and how to direct that anger to the right people in the right places and in the right ways?
What's the startup phase look like? What experts do we need to bring in next? And what do I need to do? What's my best place in this whole Mercury Project equivalent?
And then we'd go from there.
I just returned from a solo, budget trip to Egypt and would produce a movie to inspire other older women to stop waiting and go, doing it responsibly, connecting with locals, and explore off the beaten tracks.
Explore and study the back yard. Camp out there, and listen to the animals outside, scratching at the tent, wondering who they are (both me and the animals). Learn about the plants, the insects, the birds- all of the teeming life out there under my nose. Dig into the soil, note how it changes as I move from the creek to the hillside. Stare at the stars at night, noting how they change throughout the year. So many adventures so close by.
Quite a delightful daydream. We (hubby and dog, along with son, daughter in law, grandson and dogs) would take our road worthy tiny houses (existing currently in my dream only) first to Eastern Kentucky on the side of a mountain next to Daniel Boone National forest to visit the growing at Tame the Spirit herbs following through to a weekend intensive "Low Dose Botanicals for Practitioners. " on Wellspring Mountain, a beautiful botanical sanctuary in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina... ignoring their indoor mask rule. After an Eastern coastal tour, peddling our herbal wares, I would be sailing away to a 7 day Autumn Equinox Plant Immersion from September 17th till 24th at the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine, situated at the southern end of Scotland’s Isle of Arran.
Oh man, what a great question! I need FIVE YEARS.
Year one: 12-month meditation retreat! What the hell's going on in there really?
Year two: Intensive music composition study (new classical), history of music and digital recording immersive.
Year three: Take CAFÉ ANNE on the road! Write about a new small town every week!
Year four: Painting school so I can paint all the things in my head.
Year five: Donuts!
I would love to get together a group of scientists and artists to do some proper research on the moths of New Zealand, ten share them in beautiful, engaging ways. Photography, painting, sculpture, music, dance, poetry, fiction.
How many are there? Where do they live? What do they eat - and what eats them? How did they evolve? How do they overwinter? What roles do they play in their ecosystems?
We have over 1,000 species of moths but know so little about them 🦋
Falconry. Preferably near a winery or whiskey distillery so I could learn that, too. xo
I would love to get a time-travel machine and go find my ancestors as far back as I can find them. When I do, I'd love to have them tell me the stories of their lives and record every detail, feeling, and dream they ever had, and the outcome of it all.
I would be the Crone, Elder, Wise Woman that I Am calling in all the AMAZING MAGICAL CHILDREN, young and old to remember the unique magic and wisdom that they hold. I would record the Wisdom Keepers young and old and spread their messages far and wide. I would bless all with bubble magic and teach all to remember the power of play in WONDER ...Awe and Curiosity. What a WONDERfull world this is!
My friends and I have 1234567 thousand ideas on how we can explore Chinese history (with a woman-focused lens) through fashion and culture and if we have time and energy and resources I cannot think of any limits for us: writing books? Hosting tons and tons of workshops? Creating a bigger and better version of our online choose-your-own-path in our recreation of a Tang Dynasty courtesan house? There's probably even more we can think of once we have the time to do so
Ever since visiting Chimayo New Mexico in 1999, I have wanted to go back and learn all about Native techniques with natural dyes. If that also meant learning about spinning and weaving ( for context!) I'd go for that too.
Visiting every state in the union and taking enough time in each one to both play tourist properly there and read a book that takes place in that state.
I'd buy a concert ukulele, maybe also a tenor ukulele. Then I'd spend days and weeks researching jazz and klezmer songs and practice them until I am able to play the melody and the chords.
Definitely a writing retreat in New Zealand for my Fantasy novel to come to life. 💫🐉📖
Ode to joy! I would retrace the footsteps of my great grandfather, the famous circus aerialist from the Flying Banvards, who traveled the world....yet left an unsolved mystery with my great grandmother...who remarried a race horse trainer for the sultans in India...and cared for my British Mum and her pet mongoose. Such an adventure awaits.
Oh that’s easy, weaving. I’ve been weaving for about ten years and have only scratched the surface. I’d like to explore all kinds of looms and weaving traditions and get competent at all the major forms.
Okay, you know I already answered this over in Notes, so maybe this is cheating, but I need a second year and maybe a third because here's what I would do: One! I already said, I would go back to the pottery studio, as long as I had access to a high-fire gas kiln. And I would make a full set of dishes for my kitchen and also a lot of pots that are only interesting to other potters who tend to be pyros at heart.
Two! I would go to culinary school. Preferably somewhere very scenic and somewhat rural. South of France? The Basque region of Spain? Vietnam? South Korea? Maybe a season in each one as long as money is not an issue.
Three! I want to do a different short-ish walking tour in a different country every month. Like, there's 150 mile trail being developed in Western Massachusetts, and there's a trail all the way around Prince Edward Island (that's 435 miles, which might take a little longer), and another one in Bhutan, and several in Wales. Lots of walking, lots of local food, lots of pictures.
I would travel the world to be a Super or Supernumerary in as many large company operas as possible. (A performer who appears in a non-singing role; a “super” might have a solo walk-on to deliver a message, or might be included as part of a large procession, for example.) While in each city I will explore, meet people, gather stories. The following year I might write a book about it all, but that's only a definite maybe.
Super geeky, but: I'd write every single day, just as I am now, and then I'd have some lackey do the marketing stuff. Just go tell everyone about what I'm working on!
I believe that it's important, and I know it's fulfilling. I have almost everything I could reasonably ask for right now (including a tiny dog who is sometimes angry at me!).
I would take a load sketch books and art supplies and travel, so that I can do short hikes in beautiful places and sketch everything I saw.
I'd say I'm already doing it by making my first feature film.
Sail around the world on a tall ship!
I loved it the theme you choose. I love writing and I have so many good ideas 💡, but I must work in my mental healthy in order to effectively outsource it and make more productive. But, definitely it would do something related. One of my trips, at that time to Peru, I met someone who live his life travelling while working. He avoid fancy hotel or luxury, staying in Hostels and always he can buying and preparing his own meals. He has two apartments rented in his born country and he work for his own. So he only needs a good connection and his laptop. I promise to myself that someday I would achieve this style life. I love travel, I don’t need nothing fancy, and I can plan myself and organize very well cost-benefit trips. And I would love share insights, science, funny stories (I have one at least per day 🤣)
Thanks for sharing
Ride long distance trains all over the world, knitting, reading, and occasionally talking to people.
I love this so much. I think if I could I would travel and explore ancient ruins for a full year. Studying artwork left behind by our ancestors.
I'm kinda living this out right now. I saw an opportunity to leave work, do some major emotional healing, and go back to school to finish my BA all in one fell swoop. Had the funds, and now I have the time. I start school in the fall and I'm going in hungry to learn and explore and play with all the curiosity and joy and open-mindedness I have in me.
But say I had time during this delicious knowledge quest (which I do). Well, I've been playing with the idea of starting a Substack to nerd out HARD on certain TV shows I'm committed to. I'm hitting my one year anniversary of (happily) closing my fandom-themed tea shop and I'm missing the regular geek chats, the instant sense of bonding upon finding a fellow fan of my favorite show/book/band/etc. I've already got pages of notes for the show I want to start writing about...
This is lame but maybe not very nerdy, but as I am already a professional nerd, i needed to take a different angle, otherwise the answer would probably just be doing what I’m paid for for once. So I would spend the year either learning to properly play funk guitar in time (30 odd years of not really practising unsurprisingly has not fixed this issue), or learning football tricks off YouTube so that I felt like I’d actually mastered something physical for once
I’d try my hand at funny travel writing a la Bill Bryson. Going all over the world, pointing out regional idiosyncrasies and eating/drinking to the point where I can JUST remember enough about my day to write up some funny anecdotes.
Go to Puerto Jiménez. Drink. Watch girls. Walk. Read books. Wear a white suit and a Panama hat.
Oh I think about this ALL the time. I would travel everywhere that strikes my fancy, interviewing and illustrating people for my book called Beautiful Ordinary Life. Think illustrated journalism with a human interest slant.
I WILL do this in the future, I just don’t know how but I figure maybe when Cricklewood takes off I’ll see an opportunity.🤞🤓
What a terrific question!
I would love to deep dive into ethnobontany and foraging and attempt to live for a year only on foraged or grown food myself to really appreciate how hard it is and to get to know my local area better. I'd also love to just take the time and learn more about how we interact with our world and what we can do to change it
I would create an ornamental foraging garden consisting solely of UK native plants, with great swathes of wild flowers, fruit and nut trees and edible shrubs.
I would start by doing some research into all the weird and wonderful community events I could find and then set off to see as many as I could. E.g. cheese rolling at Cooper's Hill, semana Santa in Seville. When we go on holiday we love coming across a random local fête or event - makes our holiday! Only issue with that idea is it would be quite full on so either that or going somewhere completely remote to pursue my dream job: travelling around with a horse spotting and identifying wildlife!
What a fun question to toss in the middle of 18,000 Mike Snowden fans! You can ask the same question we hear whenever PowerBall jackpot exceeds $250 million -- Have you thought about what you will do with that money? You'll get a lot of the same total freedom, no limits stories back. Never did I find someone in the lottery line with me that was not sure of this answer.
I would love to research and write the “Engineer’s Travel Guide to the US,” highlighting things like science museums, factory tours, and built engineering marvels for those who like to visit more tech-related sights when they travel.