I missed last week because I played hooky to celebrate halloween the little nieces, so this week you get extra content! Lucky for you. Themes in this dispatch: loss, women in tech and the arts, and elections.
+ This piece on kindness was widely shared this week, and for good reason. If you are struggling with a loss, or have a sick parent then this’ll lighten your aching heart some.
+ This travel story on flying kites for Dia de los Muetos at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala came out of nowhere, crazy because I wasn’t looking for anything when I picked up this magazine and I happen to be going to this exact part of Guatemala in a couple weeks for a yoga + writing retreat. Even if you don’t have any trips coming up, it’s a well-written rumination on how different cultures celebrate death.
+ A teen (girl!) comes up with the best algorithm for fighting cyberbullying I’ve seen so far. Research so far shows it is over 90% effective in reducing hate speech messages. Investors, where are you? Give this kid all the moneys.
Ugh, Elections amiright:
“It was demoralizing to watch some truly pro-woman candidates like Wendy Davis lose on Election Day as other candidates win by ignoring or outright disparaging the very feminist values that enabled them to become politicians in the first place. As I watched the Republican women deliver their victory speeches, I wondered: Has she never been on birth control? Has she never had a pregnancy scare? Has she never had a friend threatened by a man with a gun? Has her life experience really taught her that everyone ignores race and gender and judges each other on the merits?” – Why the Midterms were bad for Women
Interestingly, I finished Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaid’s Tale last week, which is a strange book to read around the time of an election. It’s about a futuristic dystopian, heavily militarized, and highly physically repressed American society where white women (there are no openly gay, trans, or people of color in the story, because according to the epilogue, they were “phased out”) are ENTIRELY subservient to men upon threat of extreme exile or death. This book taught me to imagine how it could be possible that slowly and steadily people could be stripped of choice until after a few generations, no one remembers what it was like to be able to do anything, much less vote. Written by Atwood in 1985, it’s still quite relevant as this week’s election presents no major gain for women and other marginalized groups. As much as a downer as this book was, I think it’s an important story in remembering why civic duty exists in the first place. And to bring this book’s message beyond women’s studies classes where it’s probably most often discussed, to continue to fight for equal rights for all. As I was mulling this over, I saw this excellent explainer on Facebook, which gives me a huge dose of hope that these election losses can be improved on in 2016. So, there’s at least a hopeful note to end on!
Has anyone ever asked “what inspires you?” It is a valid question, but I think it misses the mark a little. It implies that getting inspired is something that just happens, as if by chance. It’s fleeting and out of our control. I think “what influences you?” is a better, more empowering question. It means that we get to chose what filters and funnels into, and out of, our work. Influence is contagious; it has a lineage that can be traced. Viral, as it were. Good things go viral, but a lot of crap too. We all have positive and negative influences in life, and sometimes they are the same thing which is tricky. Consuming and enjoying content that has roots in negative places is perfectly fine, so long as we are critical and conscious of the negative aspects. I’m an ardent hip hop fan, even though there’s a lot of it that is gross, violent, misogynistic, vapid. There’s also a lot that’s not those things. It is even possible to like some of the iffy stuff and not be a bad person, especially if this fact is acknowledged and balanced somehow.
If you are searching for a way to grow your influence, then you must question what is currently influencing you, and shift your focus to target what’s most accessible and likely to influence a wider and more diverse group of people. We must all remember: reacting in a better way than our negative influences is the only way to ensure that what we make in response will have a better affect on others in turn.
One of the best times I learned this was last summer when I was working on a book with Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects. The book featured a selection of Studio Gang’s projects and the kernels and idea seeds that sprouted them. One notable example is the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. The design for the building is influences by this photo of the Arab Spring uprising in Cairo in 2011. This highly organized camp is what the protestors built together in order to promote their cause. It’s a perfect thing to influence a building of the same goal.
The façade of the building is made from cross-sections of tree trunks cemented together. The idea for this came from Obama’s inauguration in 2009. You can see the faces and diverse attendees in the crowd are echoed in the different colors and types of wood. To take it a step further, Studio Gang reversed-engineered the construction so it was carbon-neutral and highly insulating for the smallest environmental impact possible.
Compare this to a similar project from one of Jeanne’s contemporaries. Another world-renowned architect once made a book of his influences, a beautiful and expensively produced tome, with the side effect of revealing his love for trashy imagery that diminishes women. Quite the difference in influence, no?
So what else can good influence look like? Here’s some examples that the show influence in a variety of ways, all surprising & unique. Why did I pick videos to showcase this? Well, TV is most accessible type of culture these days, with the capability to affect a huge amount of people in moments. Also, there’s so SO much dumb/tacky/off-color/whatever TV, I wanted to curate some of the best. After watching hundreds of videos over the last few weeks, these are my favorites. I hope you enjoy.
[Full disclosure, the Apple one was included as a thank you to Apple for hosting me. And, if we have to watch a commercial at least it’s a good one, eh?]
Thanks for reading/watching! Want more? Sign yourself up for my newsletter, there’s plenty more I’m sharing there. Also, in the interest of transparency of what *my* influences are, here’s the places and people who helped shape this talk. No secrets or guilty pleasures here. :-)
Well, this week flew by in a breathless woosh. How is it Friday already? Not that I’m complaining, mind. Five deadlines this week ate all my blogging time and I’m cutting out early today to head to Purdue University to see Studio Visit, Chad’s show with Cody Hudson & Stephen Eichhorn.
Here’s some fodder to make up for the lull this week though:
+ Major, major office supply lust courtesy of HAY, a little design boutique in Copenhagen. Itching to get on a plane just to visit this shop alone.
+ Okay Type releases their newest font, Harriet, to rave reviews including an award from the Type Directors Club. I can certainly see why, Harriet is no joke. Expertly executed with careful finesse, she’s smart and friendly, modern and classic, which means infinite uses. Hope to find an excuse to buy soon!
+ Hear: Aimee Mullins‘ story on the Moth Podcast. Aimee is a double amputee who also happens to be an athlete, model, actress and comedian. She even got to be in Matthew Barney’sCremaster, with custom designed faun legs (above, eat your heart out, Gaga). Easily my most favorite Moth podcast in ages. There’s also an awesome Ted talk here where she talks all about her pairs of legs.
+ All of the Illustrator shortcuts! See similar for inDesign as well. Most of the shortcuts I use I discovered by accident or by watching someone else work inside the program. Regardless, forcing these infographics into my brain would certainly be a good exercise in streamlining workflow.
Happy 2012 all! I did a lot of blog & content planning while I was away from my computer over the holidays and now I have all these fun blog ideas. Just in time for my trip to Alt…which is in just two weeks! So, so soon! Time to get crackin.