Fourth of July is upon us– one of the great American excuses for the chill hang.

I'm Nat Bennett, and you're reading Mere Being, a monthly(ish) newsletter about hanging out and kicking back. (But, also, whatever I want.)

It's looking increasingly like this will be the last month of mysterious coming sooooooon reports about a secret project that's taking most of my time. So keep an eye out for next month's issue because it will (probably!) contain screenshots (and sick brags about my Ecto refactoring skills.)

We're going out of town for it this year, because we live in a neighborhood in San Francisco where people come from all over the Bay Area to set of fireworks, and we share our household with a small creature of delicate constitution, who if he hears a firework will demand to spend the rest of the night stuck to me, kicking me in the head as he tries to get comfortable on my pillow.

(Was it this way before the pandemic? My memory is that June 2020 was the first daily firework extravaganza – but that was my first June with a dog, so maybe I just didn't notice it before then.)

Also going out of town for grilling. One of the minor tragedies of city life is necessarily limited access to live flame. If I return to the suburbs it will be for a backyard and a ceramic grill.

Here's what I love about grilling, and especially the low-and-slow variety often referred to as hot smoking: It is the perfect excuse to invite your friends over to do nothing.

You say "brisket" or "beef ribs" or "a whole chicken" – or maybe you keep it simple and suggest "pork butt," the crown prince of "low and slow." Your friend offers to bring the meat over and make sure it's salted beforehand – after all, you're the one with the grill. They'll certainly want to be there for putting it on – with great ceremony! – and then – you have six or eight hours to "watch the smoker."

I am a great fan of Nothing, as an activity. I don't do enough of it, and neither do you. I blame many of our modern ills on the disappearance of Nothing as a standard activity – "dropping by for coffee," the church potluck, the chill hang.

I used to be afraid of hanging out. I used to not really believe in it. Getting together, there had to be an activity – gaming, a meeting, at least some kind of elaborate, themed party. I rarely did it because there was so much overhead. I mostly socialized – when I socialized – at work, or at bars. Loud places, where I wasn't very comfortable. "My house" was always too small, too cluttered, too embarrassing.

Then, the pandemic, which stripped social activity to its core. The human animal craves the presence of other human animals. There's something balancing about it – calibrative.

I had pretty good outdoor spaces so I ended up inviting people over to my place a lot – basically, I got over myself. Now I still don't socialize as much as I think I ought to – but I'm much more likely to invite people over to hang out, even people I don't know particularly well.

It helps that I find it much easier to clean in the 2 hours before people arrive – focuses the mind. I have a friend who is habitually about 30 minutes late and we eventually convinced him to stop apologizing for it, because it gives us 30 minutes of extra time in that magical "someone is about to come over" time.

On hosting

  • Get people a drink immediately, as soon as they arrive
  • Put on some music
  • Put out some fresh flowers
  • There should be food, but make at most one thing yourself, get the rest at a store
  • Put food and drinks in a few different places, if you only have one table people will clump up there
  • In the evening: low, side light, lamps are your friends, string lights are great too
  • Find the people on the edges and talk to them

A note on drinks: Alcohol is optional – often I'll mention that people can bring their own. I put more effort these days into making sure there are interesting non-alcoholic drinks. Maybe it's just my friends but these days I think most thirty-and-forty-somethings just want to drink water. I try to make sure there are a few different kinds of flavored sparkling, and a lots of chilled still water with herbs or something in it. I especially like hop water and Liquid Death.

I do think there's something magical about sharing a bottle of wine. I also like "sparkling wine & pizza" β€” the only glassware I own in party volume is a set of stemless champagne flutes.


We finished our very long-running watch of the original series of Dragonball. If you grew up watching Dragonball Z I ... moderately recommend it? I dunno, it's goofy, and the pacing is pretty uneven, but there is a lot about the Z that makes more sense once you've watched Dragonball.

Now we're watching Dragonball Z Kai, mixing in some Super when we're waiting for more DVDs to arrive.

I've been taking notes

martial arts is the most powerful force in the universe
meditation improves combat ability
the hero getting the shit kicked out of him repeatedly

the dragonballs being huge is a neat trick narratively
lots of neat narrative tricks
Vegeta sits on the dragonballs like eggs

slowly tightening narrative tension
Freiza's spiked wineglass

the ping of power detection while in the healing chamber
Goku gets the shit kicked out of him, like, all the time

"witness my true ultimate form"

"at last... now I will truly become... a super saiyan"

Frieza mostly just likes to hurt people

"Saiyans don't know when to quit"
they get really powerful when they're angry

Goku is a terrible father

being a cyborg is a power up but it's also a sign you're about to get defeated

"don't let doubt stop you from seeing the world"

"he may whine like an earthling but he heals like a Saiyan"
Gohan would make a good Culture agent

"clearly, without this sword in your posession you're nothing"
"Well, you're wrong, but you probably figured that one out"
Trunks is the Spiderman or Sonic of Dragonball Z

"If you let me go, I'll give you one of my finest planets!"

"what part of 'our planet exploded' don't you understand?"

"some kind of hybrid of man and machine"
"it would be a great chance to see what I'm made of!"

extremely accurate depiction of myocarditis

Goku intensely loves training
"master of knowing nothing"

Anyway, that's why I got a copy of the Shōbōgenzō

Has anyone written The Philosophy of Dragonball? "Zen and the Art of Screaming a Lot?" Would probably be weird for an American to do that, huh.

Also did a deep YouTube dive on videos of Sean Schemmel and Chris Sabat. Turns out that Dragonball is technically hard, as a voice actor.

Personal favorite: Known dog-haver and internet artist Max Scoville gets Goku and Vegeta (and King Kai) to read angry Yelp Reviews

Okay well it's now 10pm on the last day of June so – time to ship it. Best of luck with your various summer heat domes, explosions, grill adventures etc.

- Nat

Mere Being 014 - June - Hanging Out