Penn Gillette is entertaining, which is not the same as interesting.

Kim Kardashian, Alex Jones spinning another conspiracy theory, and Charlie Sheen going into meltdown are entertaining. Noam Chomsky explaining political euphemisms, HL Mencken dissecting democracy, even Robert Price making his case against abortion - these are interesting, even if you fundamentally disagree with them.

But in "Presto!" - Penn Gillette's book about how you can get thin if you have exactly the psychological peculiarities of Penn Gillette - he makes an interesting observation in passing.

There are, he says, two ways to achive - to be a juggler, or a magician.

Juggling, fire eating, contortionism - these are skills, not tricks. You can pretend to be able to juggle, but you can't fake the ability. Jugglers are those who get things done by painfully mastering a difficult skill.

Magicians...find ways to make hard tasks easy. Or by extension, to make the impossible possible. Inventors, programmers, and engineers are magicians. So are scientists and philosophers - but not religious mystics.

Penn's diet involves eating nothing but plain baked potatoes for two weeks, bulldozing through the consequent illness and mental fog to lose two pounds per day. It works. If you can do it. Which almost no one can.

But then, Penn is one of those people with heroic willpower who thinks what the world needs is more people with heroic willpower. He also seems to think you can develop heroic willpower by an effort of heroic willpower.

I'm a magician - one of those people who will spend weeks of effort to save minutes of effort every day thereafter. And I think the world needs more technicians. I also catch myself thinking you can become technically minded by approaching the world with a technical mind.

We use the word "bored" to mean both "not interested" and "not entertained". Perhaps we shouldn't. Because when we think we want to be entertained, often we really want to be interested.

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