Justin Jacoby Smith is an organizer, web geek, Buddhist, and poet.

#11: self-feeding pancake

Download MP3

Robin & Justin talk about what a good community can do for your creativity, and why it can be more meaningful to build your own community from scratch. Hackerspaces, social service houses, collectives, and our own little startups can all play a role in inspiring us to do better work. And even treehouses. Matriarchal treehouses. Dot treehouse dot mom. Most importantly: pancake shall never kill pancake.

Get at us on Twitter at @DefiniteA. Subscribe to us on iTunes, subscribe to the RSS feed, or visit the show at hoosteen.net/tda.

Show Notes

Voices of the 99%

This is a thing Justin spends lots of his time on.

Washington Peace Center Activist Award Honorees 2013: Voices of the 99%

The Voices of the 99% radio station started at Occupy DC in 2011 with the intention of covering resistance movements worldwide. Their current shows use round-table discussions, critique of ongoing news debates, and interviews to raise the public consciousness.

Courage Is A Muscle--Build It

This is a blog post about Justin's old friend Max, whose confidence used to terrify Justin.

Creating the Medici Effect

A new book looks at creativity at the intersections of fields, disciplines, and cultures. An excerpt from The Medici Effect explores the far-flung food ideas of chef Marcus Samuelsson.


TX/RX Labs is a non-profit organization that provides a makerspace for the greater Houston area.

Benton House

Benton House is a neighborhood social service agency, continuing the heritage of the settlement house movement. Our purpose is to enrich the quality of life of both individual residents and the neighborhood as a whole.

The Lamont Street Collective

This is the house where Justin lives.

Parkinson's Law

Throwback clip yall.

The Descendants: Milo Goes To College

10: stalin on a fixee

This week Robin & Justin return from a long hiatus to talk about sustainable creativity. How do you keep doing the work you love when nobody wants to pay you unless your article has gifs? What keeps us going when the well runs dry? Is "loving it" enough?

Robin tries to figure out whether making your work into work is a problem, her dog has opinions about Tchaikovsky's vocabulary, and Justin gets lost in a long metaphor about bowling bumpers that he promises to clear up next week.

Show Notes

When People Write for Free, Who Pays? @ Gawker

That Cord Jefferson is a pretty good writer. He should get a raise.

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist

It's hard to do what you do when you don't get paid.

Tchaikovsky On The Paradox of Patronage

Sometimes getting paid makes your work less honest...

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway Volume 2

...but maybe sometimes it's the reason you make good work.

#9: advanced tactical turkey

This week Justin & Robin dig into creative heroes. Do we put too much expectation on creative greats who are just as screwed up as the rest of us? We try to figure out how to avoid the lifestyle approximation problem, remember that a cape & red underpants don't make you Superman, and resist the romance of our heroes bad habits. Plus the most important question we've ever asked: if you put Wild Turkey into a turkey, do you have an Advanced Tactical Turkey?

Get at us on Twitter at @DefiniteA. Subscribe to us on iTunes, subscribe to the RSS feed, or visit the show at hoosteen.net/tda.

Show Notes



The classic hero tale a [Joseph Campbell][1]. Heroes venture out from the mundane world into a supernatural one, achieve some kind of victory, and then return with the power to help his/her fellow human.

”The Deal We Strike With Our Heroes”* at Heroes Blog

“You [the hero] reflect what we want to see in ourselves. But if you reflect the reality of us as people and a society, then you’re just one of us after all. And therefore, you’re no more special than we are and you have to come down from your pedestal and stand in the muck with the rest of us.”

”The Seven Paradoxes of Heroism”

1. The truest heroes are fictional heroes... We found that fictional heroes and villains were rated as more definitely good or bad than their real-world counterparts.

How to Pack Like Nellie Bly, Pioneering Journalist

Nellie Bly was a female journalist when being one was unheard of. And she was good at her job, too. She raced her friend Elizabeth Bisland around the world in eighty days, just for the story.

Shape Singing

Robin does a bit of this in this episode.

Musette Bags

The British Combat Musette Bag is a great day packs for your essentials. The smaller musette bag makes great kids backpacks. The musette bag is heavy-weight cotton canvas and has small backpack straps. The musette bag styled after the British Combat Musette.

Stephen King on Alcoholism & Returning to the Shining @ The Guardian

Promethea by Alan Moore

Sophie Bangs was a just an ordinary college student in a weirdly futuristic New York when a simple assignment changed her life forever. While researching Promethea, a mythical warrior woman, Sophie receives a cryptic warning to cease her investigations. Ignoring the cautionary notice, she continues her studies and is almost killed by a shadowy creature when she learns the secret of Promethea.

Days of War, Nights of Love: Rimbaud's Deathbed Conversion

Rimbaud knew better than to save any of himself for the grave; he spent every resource he had in this world down to the last penny—burned money, health, friends, family, sanity as so much fuel for the fire—so when Death came to take him away He got nothing, not even a man with his pride or common sense intact. His life still stands as an example to all of us.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's Creative Reuse of Turkey

"Take the remnants, or, if they have been consumed, take the various plates on which the turkey or its parts have rested and stew them for two hours in milk of magnesia. Stuff with moth-balls."

#7: amish quilts and goat rodeos

This week, Justin and Robin chat with Mike Rohde, sketchnoter extroidinaire and author of The Sketchnote Handbook. We talk about why visual note-taking is a superior tool for learning and remembering even for those who don't consider themselves visual learners. Mike lays out how sketchnotes can help you think, Robin mostly talks about graphic novels that she likes, and Justin considers the true meaning of goat rodeos.

Get at us on Twitter at @DefiniteA. Subscribe to us on iTunes, subscribe to the RSS feed, or visit the show at hoosteen.net/tda.

Show Notes

Mike Rohde @ Rohdesign


Mike's website, which contains his weblog (or blog), his sketchnotes, and protips about design and becmong a sketchnote master.

The Sketchnote Army

Sketchnotes from around the world! The growing group of sketchnoters put their work up on the site for others to see and learn from. It doesn't take long to appreciate that everyone has their own unique style of sketchnoting that works best for them.

Sketching: The Visual Thinking Power Tool @ A List Apart

A thorough how-to and why-to of sketchnoting. If you're looking for somewhere to begin your sketchnoting adventures, this is a good place for it.

The Sketchnote Handbook

Mike's 2012 book about the art and practice of sketchnoting. In the same way that physical note-taking does a better job of making facts stick in your head, reading physical books is better than reading on screens. It just is. Multiple scientific studies say that Robin really thinks so.


Justin's short-lived series of decontextualized things he hears on conference calls.

Feynman by Jim Ottaviani & Leland Myrick

A graphic novel about famous Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. Surprise: he was an awesome dude.

Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

Another graphic novel about a famous scholar guy: Bertrand Russell. Philosopher, mathematician, activist, and Robin's biggest historical crush ever. Seriously. This guy loves math so much.

Guy Delisle's travel graphic novels

Guy Delisle makes graphic novels of different places he's travelled to. He's like a very frank travel journalist who isn't trying to sell you anything.

Bullet Journals

Another brilliant note-taking system, focused on keeping you productive, not busy.

Window of Time

A short but thoughtful piece by Mike about our time on this earth, and why you shouldn't worry about how brief it is.


#6: you gotta leave the library

This week, Justin and Robin ostensibly talk about learning. There is some banter about Battlestar Galactica that we level-headedly refrain from turning the entire show into, and then we talk some about why learning gets mistaken for schooling, and how not to be noisily average.

As always, you can find us on iTunes, or subscribe to the RSS feed, if that's your style. Follow us on Twitter at @DefiniteA to read delightfully digestible summaries of each episode as they air.

Show Notes

Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich

A book that challenges a lot of deeply held beliefs about schools and institutions in general. Illich suggests that our ideas of what education really is are so influenced by what schools tell us it is that we don't believe we can find any true education outside of schoolroom doors. The institutionalization of society renders individual accomplishment so suspect that those who deviate from the educational norm are considered uneducated.

Rhyme's Reason by John Hollander

In his classic text Rhyme's Reason the distinguished poet and critic John Hollander surveys the schemes, patterns, and forms of English verse, illustrating each variation with an original and witty self-descriptive example.

Mario Savio Speech in Battlestar Galactica

Comparing Mario Savio's famous 1964 Berkeley speech with Galen Tyrol's pro-strike speech from the 2006 Battlestar Galactica episode "Lay Down Your Burdens, Part II"

Where Should I Go to College? by Mark Edmundson

A critique of the modern state of the American university and high school. Edmundson describes two opposing kinds of university - the corporate city and the scholarly enclave. Neither of them exists in their pure forms, but there are varying amounts of each element in every school. Although it certainly is "not about what you know, but who you know," perhaps it's still important to, like, read books and stuff.

Bring on the learning revolution! by Ken Robinson

Ken Robinson has over a dozen TED talks about education, but this one particularly sticks out. He talks about how standardized education prevents students from unearthing their true talents, and why we need to stop ignoring that.

"Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven" by WB Yeats

"Tread softly, for you tread on my dreams."

The UnCollege Manifesto by Dale Stephens

In which Dale Stephens, the founder of UnCollege, lays out his beliefs about college and why it's not only not necessary to be successful, but is a veritable breeding ground for normalcy and mediocrity.

Grad School - ART THOUGHTZ by Hennessy Youngman

"But why take out loans and enter into massive debt just so you’ll be able to hold up your end of a conversation at a creative time benefit? You know? That makes no sense, internet. But for $4.99, plus shipping and handling, I definitely think it’s worth it."

#5: you can't live in a pillow fort

This week Robin & Justin are joined by PhD student Sam Spurlin to discuss meaningful work, habits & skills, and his new 99U article "It's Not About Productivity: It's About Living Purposefully." Along the way Ernest Hemingway and Chris Rock manage to agree on something, Robin's furniture has a delicious musk, and Sam reveals the best wedding gift idea ever.

Get at us on Twitter at @DefiniteA. Subscribe to us on iTunes, or visit the show at hoosteen.net/tda Note: Justin had some technical difficulties in recording & editing this episode--he hopes Sam (and Robin's mom) can forgive the imperfections.

Download Episode

Show Notes

"It's Not About Productivity. It's About Living Purposefully" @ 99U

It becomes less about tips and tricks and more about making sure you’re allocating the most scarce resource in the universe, your attention, in ways that most closely align with who you are and what impact you want to have on the world.

Sam Spurlin Coaching & Consulting

I'm extremely interested in the process of good work and how people can do more of it. I think the mindful application of positive psychology in a coaching relationship can be a huge, huge, force for good.

So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion In The Quest for the Work You Love

In this eye-opening account, Cal Newport debunks the long-held belief that "follow your passion" is good advice. Not only is the cliché flawed-preexisting passions are rare and have little to do with how most people end up loving their work-but it can also be dangerous, leading to anxiety and chronic job hopping.

TEDTALKS--Flow: The Secret To Happiness

Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi asks, "What makes a life worth living?" Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of "flow."

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

The book by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi that apparently everyone has read but Robin.

"Never Confuse Movement With Action"--Did Hemingway Say It?

Dietrich had received a lucrative job offer at a Miami night club, but was debating whether or not she should accept it. Hemingway advised: "Don't do what you sincerely don't want to do. Never confuse movement with action."

Talking Funny @ YouTube

Stand-up legends Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais and Louis C.K. sit down for an informal group conversation on comedy.


Comedian is a 2002 documentary focusing on Jerry Seinfeld that explores the other side of stand-up comedy; that is, the preparation, politics, nerves, creativity, and so on.

from <em>Born Standing Up</em>

#4: camp in the middle of hell

Download Episode

This week Robin and Justin talk about knowing when it's time to quit--when to stop painting, when to end the line, when to hand in the letter of resignation. Protip: thinking like your audience can help a lot. Justin gets hopped up on energy drinks & raids the library in full Tusken Raider costume, Robin quits her job & avoids her lazy evil twin, and we set up camp with Dante in the middle of Hell.

Get at us on Twitter at @DefiniteA. Subscribe to us on iTunes, or visit the show at hoosteen.net/tda.

Show Notes

Calling a Painting 'Done' @ Huffington Post

"They're never done," said New York City painter James Willis. "There are just levels of done."

Back to Work #10: "At Last The 'Inpiration' Show"

Dan and Merlin try to remove the airquotes from "inspiration" by talking about what it's great for (shipping better and more interesting stuff), what it's terrible for (getting started).

How to Change Your Life: A User's Guide @ Zen Habits

If you’re not willing to make it a daily change, you don’t really want to change your life in this way. You only like the idea of learning [something new]. You don’t really want to do it.

Beating the Little Hater @ Ill Doctrine

What does that little voice say to keep you from being creative, and how do you make sure he doesn't win?

Art of the Poetic Line by James Logenbach

"What matters most is facing the dilemma itself, rather than one's particular solution."

Advice for Beginning Poets by Wesley McNair

"The capacity to revise determines the true writer. Suspect the finished poem. Your evil twin wants your poem to be finished."

The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry & Writing by Richard Hugo

The Triggering Town (1979), contains a series of essays arguing against the idea that a poet should “write what you know,” advocating instead an approach to poetry based on triggering subjects and words.

Tusken Raiders @ WookiePedia

Tusken Raiders are fictional creatures in the Star Wars universe. They are characterized as a nomadic warrior race that lives on the planet Tatooine.

Dante's Satan

In Dante’s Inferno, Satan is portrayed as a giant demon, frozen mid-breast in ice at the center of Hell.

#3: put the t-rex on the couch

Download This Episode

This week Robin & Justin tackle stress--when it can be good, how you can use it to your advantage, and why it's important to buy the right size hamper if you don't want to bang your face against the wall. There's help along the way from business psychologists, William "Therapist to the Dinosaurs" James, and even a guest appearance by the Buddha.

If you're a follower, you should follow us on the Twitternet: @DefiniteA. We like to toot about things that we like, which are mostly comics.

Subscribe to us on iTunes, or visit the show at hoosteen.net/tda.

Show Notes


How to make stress work in your favor

...new research suggests that all the attention to the risks of stress may actually be part of the problem. Though it tends to get lost in the frenzy, our stress response evolved to do us good; psychologists have long recognized that under the right conditions, it can improve mental and physical health and boost athletic and cognitive performance. And researchers are finding that one way to unleash this positive side of stress is simply to retrain ourselves to think of it differently.

Understanding the Dangers of "Ego Depletion"

The reality of modern life is that we can’t always avoid depletion. But that doesn’t mean we’re helpless against it... Simply knowing you can become depleted, and moreover, knowing the kinds of decisions you might make as a result, makes you far better equipped to handle difficult situations when and as they arise.

The Principles of Psychology by William James

When we look at living creatures from an outward point of view, one of the first things that strike us is that they are bundles of habits. In wild animals, the usual round of daily behavior seems a necessity implanted at birth; in animals domesticated, and especially in man, it seems, to a great extent, to be the result of education.

Dukkha: Etymology

Later translators, however, including Walpola Rahula (What Buddha Taught, 1974) and nearly all contemporary translators, have emphasized that "suffering" is too limited a translation for the term dukkha, and have preferred to either leave the term untranslated or to clarify that translation with terms such as unease, anxiety, stress, dissatisfaction, disquietude, etc.

Stress as Metaphor

This inward reorientation of the stress metaphor, Becker argues, is largely the result of the rising monoculture of liberal individualism, which places individual freedom and self-actualization at the heart of what it means to be human, all the while preserving and honoring the fluid self and negating the myth of fixed personality.

Parkinson's Law

The total effort which would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety and toil.

*P.S.: Thank you to George Porteus, who designed our awesome new logo! Y'all should check out his other work and hire him to make things for you because he has got the skills to pay the bills, as they say. *

#2: like how chemicals make stuff

This week Robin & Justin talk about influences, synthesizing your life into your creative work, and why it's worth picking up where your heroes left off. Sven had to cut out hours of talk about glutens, which are bad for you.

Download Episode

Show Notes

Back to Work with Merlin Mann & Dan Benjamin on 5by5

Back to Work is easily the single biggest influence on this show for us both. You should listen to it.

Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen by Larry McMurtry

Using as a springboard an essay by the German literary critic Walter Benjamin that he first read in Archer City's Dairy Queen, McMurtry examines the small-town way of life that big oil and big ranching have nearly destroyed.

The Anxiety of Influence by Harold Bloom

Bloom's central thesis is that poets are hindered in their creative process by the ambiguous relationship they necessarily maintained with precursor poets.

Stanford Presidential Lectures: The Anxiety of Influence

"Influence," Bloom insists, "is Influenza - an astral disease," and against its threat, strong poets learn to protect themselves by "misreading" their predecessors."

Everything is a Remix: The Elements of Creativity

In which Kirby Ferguson talks about the myth of "completely original" and the beauty of creative influence. Also, all of your favorite artists are copycats.

Love and Theft (Bob Dylan Album)

From barroom blues to gentle swing, the 12 songs here cover a huge geographical territory: from the Deep South to Appalachia, from Florida to the Iron Range.

"Love and Theft: An Interview with Eric Lott" @ Gadfly Online

Fiona Apple - "Across the Universe"

This is the fantastic Fiona Apple cover that Robin mentioned in the show, with a fantastic music video directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. You should watch it and be convinced that copies of things are still very good things.

#1: the elements of style, by drunken whites

In which: your hosts Robin Babb and Justin Jacoby Smith are introduced, and the meaning of "The Definite Article" is revealed. Plus discussions on democratizing content creation, why the right hat is the wrong focus, and whether your typewriter matters.

Download Episode

Show Notes

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White

The Elements of Style (1918), by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, is a prescriptive American English writing style guide comprising eight "elementary rules of usage", ten "elementary principles of composition", "a few matters of form", a list of forty-nine "words and expressions commonly misused", and a list of fifty-seven "words often misspelled".

Definition of "The Definite Article" at EduFind

1. to refer to something which has already been mentioned.

2. when both the speaker and listener know what is being talked about, even if it has not been mentioned before.

4. to refer to objects we regard as unique

A New Wave of Women’s Pages at Medium

“Women are not a hobby or an industry. Cordoning off women the way you cordon off sports or business [sections] makes no sense. It’s going to look totally ridiculous when we look back on it in decades and decades.”

In Defense of the Drunk at Slate

"Social drinkers, by and large, are not arrogant. They are curious and humble. They know they are attackable. They know they have an Achilles heel. They know there is a crack in anything—but in the words of Leonard Cohen, that’s where the light comes in, that’s where the light comes in".

Robin thinks that quoting Leonard Cohen, a man who could doubtless have used some anti-depressants, in your article about substance abusers is just about as tacky and disrespectful as it gets.

The Daily Routines of Famous Writers at *BrainPickings

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”


"Minimalism and the Rhetoric of Power"(pdf) by Anna Chave

This is why Justin thinks Donald Judd is a fascist. There's no time to go into this now. No time.

0: Booting Up

The Definite Article is a new independent show about the creative process hosted by yours truly and my fabulous friend and fellow Texan Robin Babb.

We'll examine the habits and lessons to be learned from the greatest who've come before us, look closely at the work of the best among us, and talk to the people building the future of creation and education. There's a lot of ground to cover, and we hope you'll join us in covering it.

There will probably also be fart jokes.

We record our first episode this week.