Main

October 20, 2010

5Rhythms Spiritual Dance Practice

The 5Rhythms is a dance practice called movement as spiritual practice and a healing journey for the untamed spirit.

5Rhythms

Created by Gabrielle Roth several decades ago, it has an international following and thrives in New York City. Introduced to this through the grace of meeting someone training to teach the 5Rhythms, it has brought remarkable awareness into my life. Initially, sweating like never before was astonishing and fun and felt good. Then the real experiences started. Moving so much started to "unstick" things inside me. I am amazed to witness this. It's fun but can lead to some difficult places too. For anyone who is a seeker, the places are where we want to go, scary as they might sometimes be. It might sound a little nuts that a dance practice could do this but life is full of things that are nuts, including us, right.

November 18, 2008

Visions of Adulthood Dancing in My Head

Super popular series MadMen focuses on a Madison Avenue ad agency and its inhabitants in the year 1960. I don't have TV but rented the first season on DVD. The plots bring up many interesting social, cultural and psychological issues, set in a period that is our current time's roots.

MadMen

Good writing and acting and a stylish design aside, what has riveted me to the series' story lines is that this time in history is our current time's immediate predecessor. It's so far away and yet just beyond the door. It informs much of what we don't think about. So much has changed since then, it's almost unbelievable. In this time, men work and women are almost all wives or secretaries. There are three maverick female characters who most modern women will relate to, myself included. They are the wealthy and commanding dazzling leader of a Jewish department store, a free spirited unmarried commercial artist living in the Village and a (scandalous) divorcee who moves into the lead characters' suburban community with her two young children and the other mothers can't figure out how or what she's about.

These societal questions have me thinking more deeply than usual about what adulthood is, what adult roles are and what I myself want out of life, relationships, work and love. I've never seen this period portrayed in a way that made me realize what it was like to live in it as a young adult unless it's just hitting me this way because of my own time when watching it.

In keeping with these thoughts, the other day I thought about the Joni Mitchell lyrics from her song Court and Spark:

“It seemed like he read my mind
He saw me mistrusting him
And still acting kind
He saw how I worried sometimes
I worry sometimes”

Like MadMen and other stories and art, there are moments when meaning pops out and talks directly to us. I heard these lyrics differently than I had heard them before and it made me think about Joni Mitchell writing them and feeling them as an adult. When I first heard them, I thought of them at face value. Now I feel that “adult worry” and the worry in a relationship too is such a deep and troubling thing and I get so much more from what she is saying. I guess you never stop growing up in life, if you're lucky, that is.

November 2, 2008

Kittygate VII: A Two-Part Series

Part I: One Lump or Two

Kittygate has been quietly working its charms the past few months. My two feline furballs have made tremendous progress, as you can see in the event below, with pretty fur lumps in very close proximity.

Kitty Cordiality

Part II: First Touch

And now for the nearly impossible: the first touch occurred the other day. It makes a kitty lump owner's heart swell to witness this from two cats who couldn't stay in the same room together. And it was all made possible by the KittyGate. I highly recommend slow introductions to all catowners who have struggled with two cats that seem to want to rip each other to shreds. It's an interesting lesson in psychology overall too, how slow but steady wins the day, as if you didn't know that already, you clever you.

First Touch for the Kitties

NOTE: To follow the KittyGate series trail, just enter KittyGate in the search box of this blog and you'll witness the whole journey, from installation to first touch. To see the gate itself, see the first entry.

September 18, 2008

Progress

Bramwell is a BBC series from 13 years ago (1995) that explores the courageous life of a female doctor in 1895 named Eleanor Bramwell.

Bramwell

This series is captivating. I defy anyone to say that progress has not been made after taking in this series. No matter how dire our current world, we have made strides we usually take for granted. A female physician was extraordinarily rare in 1895 and was frowned upon. It was said that women had smaller brains and weren't equipped to be doctors. Diseases were shushed, operations were undertaken with risky anesthesia (a miraculous invention in itself), racial divides were enormous and squallor and sickness were rampant and misunderstood. A highly recommended show for historical interest, perspective and great period settings.

September 14, 2008

Your Due Season

In the uplifting movie, Daddy's Little Girls, there is a preacher who inspires the lead character, played by Idris Elba, not to grow faint (of heart).

Don't Faint The lead character is a good guy who faces numerous challenges.

At left, Idris Elba as Monty in “Daddy's Little Girls.”

He has three little girls, an ex-wife with a thug drug dealer boyfriend; he served jail time for a wrongful accusation of rape and he is trying to earn enough money to own his own garage despite obstacles.

The preacher says that your “due season” is so close at hand, it's right there almost next to you. He says that the proof is that you feel like you are going to faint. And when you feel like you are going to faint — don't faint. 

It has the ring of truth to it; it's like things having to get worse before they get better. Just when you think you can't take it any more, when you have been beaten down beyond belief, that's when relief is on its way. But there are many times in life when we are all sorely tested. It's why stories like Job in the Bible have so much resonance, because this struggle remains an aspect of life that we have to go through at times to get to the “other side.” (Watch a clip of the preacher here.)

There's no sin in getting weary;
the sin is giving up, says the preacher.

Whatever trial you are going through, these words may be of comfort. Know that when you feel like you are going to faint — don't faint — and your due season is imminent. 

August 25, 2008

Eye Contact

Been thinking a lot lately about relationships and what makes them work well or, in other words, what is a “well designed” relationship.

Eye Contact

People who look others directly in the eye, without flinching, and enable you to feel that you are in that moment being seen and listened to are keen. I was reminded of this likable trait by something I heard today. And since I've been doing a lot of thinking about people lately, what with refreshing summer gatherings, both business and social rendezvous, I was struck by this comment — direct eye contact is a great thing. As much as we need each other, we are often scared and uncertain and avoid this simple unspoken means of communication. Go for it.

August 21, 2008

Below the Surface

There are many cases in life and in people where the most interesting, scary, revealing, important or surprising elements lie beneath the surface.

Below the Surface My scientific client, Pratt & Whitney, makers of engines for aircraft and numerous other purposes, often uses diagrams and charts to explain concepts. And I'm not talking about diagrams of equipment; I mean conceptual diagrams. One of their standard diagrams is called an “Iceberg Chart.” The meaning of this may be apparent, that much of what is important in a project, approach or undertaking lies beneath the surface. And the information and needs that are below the visible surface must be taken into account for a full, productive, even safe picture and a successful outcome.

Like many business tools, the point may seem simple and obvious but the real meaning is deep and useful. I have recently been confronted anew with the startlingly obvious and important fact that much of what is important about people, both good and bad, lies hidden beneath the surface. If we don't pay attention to our own interiors and to those of others, we are walking through a world that is only a small percentage of what is actually there. Not to mention, we will be constantly confused because the real action and motivation lies beneath. So take a dive with me and uncover some real juicy stuff. 

August 19, 2008

Enough Suffices

Appetites and Satisfaction — as humans, we all have appetites for life's bounty.

Candy Curls by Will CottonWhether it be food, money, sex, power, control or some other pursuit with big draw, we all struggle with the right mixture of hanging on and letting go, giving in and resisting, taking and receiving. This wrestling is more and less profound depending on the topic and risks involved. And people play mind games with themselves about these things on a regular basis.

 


Contemporary realistic painting, “Candy Curls” by Will Cotton

Philosophers like Sokrates and Plato were grappling with these concepts among others; the challenge is intrinsic to man and womankind. I've always been intrigued with what makes a happy life. What is that perfect balance of things that combine to bring real satisfaction. And as one becomes smarter, one's tastes, goals, wishes and challenges presumably also become more refined.

Enough suffices or enough is sufficient is a phrase that comes to mind. I heard this first in college and it captured my attention as the simplest response to these questions. I believe this simple phrase eloquently sums up these big struggles and challenges and is the key to much happiness. Discipline and order are the paths to a bigger satisfaction than indulgence and immersion. It can be a very hard lesson but can bring the satisfaction of the ages once embraced.

August 2, 2008

Balance

In the part of Brooklyn known as South Slope sits a fantastic restaurant called Applewood.

Applewood in Brooklyn Applewood offers a delicious menu; prices are the steep side of “regular” but are worth it for a treat. Nestled on 11th street between 7th and 8th avenues, the decor looks like an intelligent East Hampton place while the food is more refined still.

My friend and I went here the other night and had a great time. We talked about Park Slope and South Slope in Brooklyn sporting constantly opening and closing venues.

He always loved to go out; I preferred to stay in; now I've been going out more and he's been staying in. It made me think how many times things take cyclical turns. We often seem to need to go in extreme directions first before learning to strike a harmonious balance like a cultured menu.

July 23, 2008

Life

“Life consists of what a man is thinking of all day.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

You are your thoughts

This is artwork created for and included in my business card. The background became my most flamboyant painterly rug, called "Think." The words were my version of a similar thought to Emerson's; I read the Emerson quote only recently. It's a distillation of a lot of interesting concepts I've read about the power of positive thinking and related ideas. But it's not just about thinking. It's the concept of how your thoughts become actions which become tangible things and experiences and ultimately your life. So be aware of what you spend your time thinking about. You have the power to direct your mind, although at times it can seem like your mind has you. And you can direct it to happiness and constructive endeavors or to negativity and circular thoughts that take you nowhere. I'd choose the former.

July 22, 2008

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

This entry isn't about cats.

Getting Along

The metaphor here is that my two critters have been taking two steps forward, one step back in learning to get along with each other. And as all math whizzes know, that means they end up ahead of the game.

When attempting new things, it usually goes something like two steps forward, one step back. When you realize that, it can make it easier to accept the one step back phase, which is inevitable most of the time. Learning something new doesn't happen instantly and that's part of the reward in the long run. One of my bosses used to say, “Hey, if it was easy, it would pay about $20,000 and everyone would be doing it.” Made me laugh and he was right. So don't let the backsliding part of learning something new get you down. It's part of the dance. Whether it's learning to cook and burning pans in the process, checking out new social groups and feeling awkward until you make great new friends, learning a new language and feeling like a tourista idiot trying to speak it, moving, learning to drive, studying a new musical instrument or myriad ways of enriching your life and opening yourself up to new views and experiences, give yourself a break. Don't let the faltering hold you back because you will get there and it will be worth it; you'll end up in the promised land. Just look at these critters. (Okay, so maybe my bed's not exactly the “promised land” but they're on their way.)

July 21, 2008

Business & Art Are Buddies

My instinct tells me that business and art are allies, not enemies. This has been proven true in my work in graphic design. This week at a lecture by Ran Lerner on his excellent product designs, the same message came through.

Products designed by Ran Lerner

Products designed by Ran Lerner: candle, cutlery set, salt and papper set, wine rack

Ran spoke about the process of bringing products “to market” and I was struck by how similar his working process is to my experience in graphic design. Not having designed mass market products yet, although my rugs are beginning to bloom, I didn't realize that many of the same principles apply in the day-to-day work challenges of product design as in graphic design. Ran works with manufacturers such as Umbra. When presenting to companies, you must take their market into account. So your design is not just about taste; it's about satisfying a company's vision and their client base. This is very much like graphic design where the client's subject matter, audience and goals are key. Learning to work with different clients and audiences challenges your sense of creativity and visual expression. It doesn't need to be a restriction in a negative way. It's certainly a challenge but constraints build new solutions.

When I was beginning to design things, I did some pro bono and low-paying work for broke musicians who needed materials. They had no budget. I had to produce ads, posters, invitations, tickets, CD packaging and business cards in black and white on whatever paper was around. And my creativity soared. I talked to my father about it and wondered why I couldn't be that creative (and cost-effective) for my own projects. He said that constraints are a great and eye-opening tool in all artistic work. The validity of this became evident to me from working on these very constrained projects that were deeply satisfying. Yet another of life's conundrums: sometimes less really is more and even leads the way to more.

July 10, 2008

Feng Shui and Kitties Too

Feng Shui is an ancient Japanese system to aid all aspects of life in the design and arrangement of your home. It breaks your living space into a nine section grid and advises that you focus on different aspects of your life and goals in the appropriate area of the grid.

Feng Shui Design

New bedding arrived today and Autumn gave it a test run right away. Thank goodness she approves. I have been hesitant to learn much about or to try to incorporate Feng Shui principles because, as a designer, I didn't want a system to influence me to possibly change layouts that I love. I think a lot of people feel that way initially. However, as I've learned a little bit about it, it really is fun and isn't hard to work with. It offers tips on ways to enhance your environment.

Your Wealth Corner is the upper left area of your house (when facing in from the front door). So you are advised to put tokens of wealth in that area and not to have it bogged down with things that might keep wealth from you. Your Love Corner is the upper right area of your house and the upper right corner of your bedroom and each room too. You are advised to use pink or red candles to attract love in that corner. The system is much more complicated than these simple tips but you can take it in bit by bit and it brings a fresh perspective. One of the biggest admonitions is to FREE YOURSELF OF CLUTTER. Feng Shui believes that clutter keeps all sorts of things away from us and mires us in the past and in incorrect thinking. It does feel great to clear clutter, even if it's inside a closet that no one normally sees; you can feel the clean spirit of it and that's the whole point: what you feel motivates what you do and what happens to you.

June 23, 2008

The Island of the Color Blind

Oliver Sacks is probably my favorite living nonfiction author, although his stories have the action, drama and intrigue of a good thriller. He is “An investigator of the mind's mysteries, in a class by himself,” says Publisher's Weekly.

Books by Oliver Sacks

A few of Oliver Sacks' entrancing books:
The Island of the Colorblind
, Migraine, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

For anyone who doesn't know his work, Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who writes like a poet. Some of his books, all true stories, have been made into movies, such as Awakenings, starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro, directed by Penny Marshall and At First Sight, starring Mira Sorvino and Val Kilmer. Dr. Sacks' brilliance and impact is because he is a scientist who looks at his subjects like an artist, thereby allowing developments and conclusions that others might miss.

The Island of the Color Blind focuses on the tiny Pacific atoll of Pingelap, where Dr. Sacks traveled, spurred on by reports of an isolated community of islanders born totally colorblind. Dr. Sacks set up a clinic in a one-room dispensary, where he listened to these achromatopic islanders describe their colorless world in rich terms of pattern and tone, luminance and shadow. The adage that “when one door closes, another one opens” happens neurologically also. People with extreme limitations in one area often seem to develop or be granted extreme capabilities in another area. Apart from the innate intrigue of the subjects Dr. Sacks covers, his studies provide profound awe at the depth of the human spirit and appreciation of the scientist's acceptance that people are not just a set of physical facts.

Speaking of islands, Oliver Sacks used to live here on City Island. It said on the back of one of his books, "Oliver Sacks lives on City Island where he swims and grows ferns.“ It was, in fact, one of the three things that introduced me to City Island and made me curious what such a place in the midst of New York City could be. Alas, he had already moved off when I moved on.

Oliver Sacks' latest book is Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. It “examines the extreme effects of music on the human brain and how lives can be utterly transformed by the simplest of harmonies.” I can't wait to read it. Also worth reading are Seeing Voices and A Leg to Stand On, one of my favorites.

Books by the fascinating Oliver Sacks

If you believe that there is inherent value in people, you will like the writing of Dr. Sacks. If you are interested in unusual neurological occurrences, you will like the writing of Dr. Sacks. If you are an artist who knows that the unseen and the seen are two sides of a coin, you will like the writing of Dr. Sacks. If you enjoy a good thriller, stories with surprising conclusions, you will like the writing of Oliver Sacks. In short, if there is anything in which you are interested within the depths of human nature, you will find Oliver Sacks' tales well worth your time.

June 22, 2008

The Other

20th century philosopher and theologian Martin Buber wrote I and Thou, which I read and loved in college, presenting insightful thoughts on how we encounter other people (and God). He discusses empathy, seeing from the other's point of view, trying to think from the inside of another person and to get outside yourself. It made a powerful impact on me and I think about it often.

I and Thou Now, I've found another book that takes this concept into the context of romantic relationships: Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages. While Mr. Chapman's book is intended for practical application (call it self help if you want) and Buber's is considered a great scholarly work, I see interesting crossover.

Five Love Languages

 

 

 

 

 

 
The Five Love Languages asserts that there are five primary ways people “speak” love and that knowing the primary way of your loved one is the key to a successful long-term relationship. Conversely, not knowing the primary love language of your mate is as frustrating and relationship killing as if you didn't speak their verbal language. The author believes that this is why so many marriages fail. It's a good metaphor.

The five primary love languages are:

  1. Words of Affirmation (affirming the other person's worth to you in regular simple statements)
  2. Quality Time (doing things to be together and create shared experiences)
  3. Gifts (tokens of thoughtfulness; can be free)
  4. Acts of Kindness (favors that mean much more to some people than the time they take)
  5. Physical Touch (the interaction of human touch and physical closeness)

Within each of these primary “languages” are countless “dialects,” so, for instance, if Quality Time is a person's primary mode, their preferred method of conversation could be needing to be listened to — i.e., as opposed to more active discussions. The nuances are complex but the idea is simple and powerful and explains — and could solve — a lot of relationship problems. Mr. Chapman, who is a long-time marriage counselor, says that rarely if ever do two people in a couple share the same primary love language; that is not what matters; what matters is finding out what language your loved one speaks and learning how to speak it, which will not come naturally if it isn't your primary one.

An example he gives is Bob and Tracy. Tracy likes symphonies and Bob grew up listening to country music on the radio and would be very happy never to go to a symphony in his life; he think symphonic music is elevator music. However, Tracy's primary love language is Quality Time and she loves to go to the symphony. So Bob willingly goes to the symphony throughout their marriage. Bob never learns to love the symphony, although he comes to like it more but he sure learns how to love Tracy.

I think this approach could work with friends as well as mates. Grasping how your friends are focused and learning to “speak their language” can only lead to more harmonious relationships. Only thing is it's relatively easy to figure out your mate's primary language once you think about how they've acted over the time you've known them. People you don't know as well may be harder to figure out. You can ask, though. No reason it needs to be kept a secret.

June 20, 2008

Designing a New Life

The Delancey Street Project

What's an even bigger challenge than designing a successfully balanced and beautiful piece of furniture, a well-functioning piece of equipment, a building or a whole city? I would say it's designing a new life. The Delancey Street Project helps people do exactly that and has helped thousands of people for over 30 years through the courageous and inspired vision of founder Mimi Silbert.

Delancey Street Foundation

Two of the six gorgeous locations Delancey Street has acquired all through the efforts of its own work. Pictured here are their New York and Los Angeles properties. Below: founder Mimi Silbert with her dog, Amnesty.

Delancey Street Founder Mimi Silbert“We are a community where people with nowhere to turn, turn their lives around.”

Delancey Street is one of those places that gives you hope. Hope for individuals considered lost causes. Hope for the world. Hope for your own problems and those of the people you love. Delancey Street welcomes criminals considered past being able to be helped and 14,000+ times has aided them in turning their lives around.

Similar to 12 step programs in several aspects, while life at Delancey Street is hard work, it goes against some usual consensus on how to turn failure into success. The program doesn't focus on “why” someone has been a repeat criminal; instead, it simply allows them to do things that help them change.

Delancey Street puts people to work. They have an upscale restaurant, a thriving moving company and several other extremely successful businesses, all run by people considered the bottom of the work rung and economic ladder, who have come to them as a last resort. They own six gorgeous properties at this point. Their businesses, run 100% by their residents, bring in millions of dollars of revenue each year. Proof once again that anything is possible with focus, determination and a sprinkling of grace.

June 17, 2008

Exceptions

For what do you make an exception?

A flavor you abhor but in the right recipe is perfection. A color you don't like but in the right outfit is startlingly beautiful. A friend who says rude things but you know you can count on them in a crisis. A clunky rhyme that sounds just right. A song that's bad taste but makes you happy. A junkie movie that's your favorite. A beautiful person's face or body with a big nose, uneven eyebrows, unruly hair, big butt or other seemingly out of proportion feature that is in fact just what makes them original and beautiful.

Olives and Peanut Butter

Pesto sauce makes my day but I'm just as passionately opposed to olives gone solo

Exceptions are part of life's perfect imperfection, like syncopated rhythms in music (a momentary contradiction of the prevailing meter or pulse); the unexpected that can make something good into something great — God's touch, the inexplicable. We need order to make sense out of chaos. Systems and order make great ideas and advances possible. Quantum physics is just a system. And just as nature defies her own rules, it is our nature to sometimes make exceptions within our carefully thought-through and valuable systems — and in so doing, realize our perfect imperfection.

Color Addict Bloggy Bonus

Super simple pesto and unusual sage pesto recipes. 

 

June 16, 2008

Fake It Till You Make It

“Fake it till you make it” is an approach advocated by 12 step programs and other smart people.

Change or Die

The intense admonition above is the title of a powerful book by Alan Deutschman. Mr. Deutschman wrote for Fast Company, among other publications and knows a lot about what makes companies successful or not. Focusing on several astounding people and businesses, the book discusses what it takes to initiate and stick with profound change, in a company or an individual. The first scenario is about heart patients, who are often told that if they don't stop doing what they're doing (eating the wrong foods, being overweight etc.), they are literally going to die. Mr. Deutschman discusses how fear and threats really don't motivate people, even when the fear is of dying in a short amount of time.

So what does actually motivate people? The author summarizes what works to create profound change, which he says is to “Relate, Repeat, Reframe” — a little hard to hold onto but it captures the concepts needed for 180 degree change. Examples of lifelong criminals becoming millionaire businessmen and many inspiring stories are covered. We've probably all had an occasion where we've begged someone to do something good for them and it doesn't matter. Begging doesn't work. So if you or a loved one is having a very hard time changing in an important area, this book is a great gift.

The Happy Hypocrite

“Fake it till you make it” is mentioned in Change or Die as one step that can be part of a successful path. Fantastic writer and illustrator Max Beerbohm's grown-up fairy tale from the 1920s, The Happy Hypocrite, is all about faking it till you're making it (hence the title). You can find the full text online and read it in an hour or so. My parents used to both quote this story to me whenever I felt really blocked. It moves me to tears because while the story is a fairy tale, the message is the same as Change or Die: that your life is at stake with the decisions you make and that you can be who you want to be, no matter what, no matter where, no matter when. You can buy an out of print copy of this masterpiece still.

June 9, 2008

KittyGate

Here is an experiment I'm conducting.

KittyGate

When I fostered a kitty previously, using a gate to gradually introduce him to my reigning kitty, worked beautifully. It took patience and time but by slowly widening their area of contact with each other, they were able to co-exist and even hung out together. However, this cat, who is still just a kitten really, is very feisty and knocks over and jumps over any kind of gate I could find. Plus, the first cat is terrified of her, to such an extent that we've had bad accidents. And the new cat isn't helping in that she continues to bolt towards the other one any time they are near each other.

KittyGate

Above: Autumn peers through a gate slat.

Pet gates don't come tall enough for Autumn to not jump over or knock over. I am amazed that they don't. So I tried calling screen door companies, sliding window screen installers and outdoor pet haven places but got almost nowhere. I finally went to Home Depot and got this lattice material and had a local construction guy make the frame, secure it with hinges and a latch and it's basically a taller gate. Only problem is I can't move it from place to place, which would work better.

Good news is that the new cat now has more room in which to hang out. Bad news is that the previous cat still wants nothing to do with her and isn't doing the curious approaching I had hoped for. We'll see how it goes over time. 

Above: Gate set up to acclimate two kitties. Cost: $120 including installation vs. $300–500+ for the potential screen doors that needed pet-proof screening and more work.

May 6, 2008

Self and Shadow

Conversations between dark and light, shadow and person take place visually and psychologically in the intriguing art of Nadine Gordon-Taylor.

Nadine Gordon-Taylor ArtAt left: “IMAX Shadow” in oil

Ms. Taylor places her own shadow in all her art, giving a new dimension to the work. I love the additional layer of the painted frame in the image at left, something she did in one series.

I had the good fortune to meet the artist at the Flat Iron Gallery this past weekend. She is as interesting as her art. I confessed that I love the images that show cats too and she told me about her cat, Matisse, pictured in the two acrylics below. She currently has five cats and I think one dog.

Technically adept, her work is influenced by concepts of how we hide and show our dark and light sides — very interesting and thought-provoking, besides being visually stimulating — a substantial creative journey.

Art by Nadine Gordon-Taylor

L to R: “99 & 100% Pure” and “To Sleep Perhaps to Dream” by Nadine Gordon-Taylor

 

May 3, 2008

Significant Type

What's in a typeface? Designers have heartfelt answers.

wandering into type


A documentary called Helvetica has come out. The title has made most people I've mentioned it to laugh, which indicates how many people are familiar with the Helvetica typeface, for one thing. If a movie came out that was called Baskerville, just as a random example, the title would elicit a blank response from most non-designers. Like the designers interviewed, I can go on a long road talking about type and have a strong view on Helvetica too. I'm of the “not” school. I love sans serif (without curly edges) type but admire so many other typefaces more (Futura, Univers and newer creations such as Agenda). What's really eye-opening about the film, though, is that it shows how ubiquitous this one face has become. 

Designers tend to be word conscious. Most graphic designers love the power of words; they are communicators, not just image creators. The iconic practitioners speaking in this film (Neville Brody, Paula Scher, Erik Spiekermann, Massimo Vignelli, Jonathan Hoefler, Tobias Frere-Jones and many others) made me realize that part of the clout (good and bad) of Helvetica is that you don't notice it specifically as type. It's purposely in the background.

One person pointed out that advertising lures people in by creating a mood first and then delivering its “sell” punch. Helvetica is unobtrusive so you may not know “what hit you,” aiding the sometimes subversive nature of ads and perhaps making mega corporations seem innocuous when they can be perceived as diabolical. This doesn't mean you can't play with it, as you can with any typeface. (I did my part above and incorporated part of the art from one of my rug designs designs inside the main word.)

“In favor” users love that it doesn't get in the way of a message. Artists who dislike it see it as lifeless, unimaginative and bland. It is used for hundreds of corporate identity systems; I love to create corporate identities but want them to have personality; the Helvetica solution is a cop-out, to my way of thinking. The movie shows countless varying examples of the type being used. It does a good job of covering contrary viewpoints, although I suspect creator/director Gary Hustwit falls in the “I like it” camp.

If you never thought about the power of typography, this is an eye-opening and amusing piece. And if you think about it all the time, as I do, it still opens your mind to some new and worthwhile ideas, many of which are complex and surprising.

April 8, 2008

Fear or Faith — Stake Your Claim

Human / angel stories are often funny and poignant.

AngelA, the Movie

Through good luck, I found the movie, AngelA, an unusual and deeply touching, stylish flic by director Luc Besson. Highly recommended — original in approach: part film noir, science fiction, morality tale, buddy story, romance. In fact, I like it so much, I just want you to see it.

April 7, 2008

Reaching Out

While watching a movie tonight, there was one scene that cut through to me. The heroine of the movie, who has been a concert hall singer in the late 1800s and so has performance moxie, helps a good, selfless character, who is giving his first speech and falling on his face. Seeing him floundering, she bounds up on stage beside him, where he's been speaking sheepishly into the floor and goads him into the passion he feels about his subject. The speech is a rip roaring success.

Our Better Selves

This exchange was the one that rose above all else for me in a film about a very different subject. It shows what people are capable of when we care. The heroine stepped outside of herself and gave of herself for this decent guy, as he had done before. I wish us more moments like this in our lives, both as instigator and recipient. If you step outside yourself and look, opportunities are lying in wait.

April 1, 2008

Freudian Slip

While talking to my friend and client, Andre, today, we were laughing about things said in certain circumstances without realizing the double entendres they held.

Freudian Slip

All my life, I have had the propensity to say things I didn't realize were risque in all sorts of settings. What can you do? They're out of your mouth and you can't take them back. Andre made the comment, "Freudian slip," and it made me think what a great caption that is. Here's Freud, great mind of psychology, who also tells us that a lot of what we say, do and think is about sex and yes, I make that type of "slip" on a regular basis in my life. I think it's beyond Freud, great mind that he was. I think it's God's sense of humor. I have always thought of God as a sort of tongue-in-cheek personality, laughing at our little ways. I think God gets a kick out of seeing us squirm when we put ourselves in compromising positions, whether trivial or serious. I think She has a heart too and cares about us but still leaves us to our own devices to basically sink or swim and cracks up when we make fools of ourselves, in a light or important setting.

March 5, 2008

Frozen Fun

Watch an original approach to art, life and fun that took place recently in New York's Grand Central Station.

Making Art Out of Life

Thanks to my friend, Jack, who told me about this. There's a talk about this wacky and well-planned event at the New Museum Friday at 7 p.m. for eight bucks. The museum just opened this winter on the Bowery — an area that used to be terrible and is now thriving, so appropriate and consciously chosen for this reason for the site. The New Museum is sponsoring art that goes in new directions. How great. 

February 21, 2008

Workaholic — Enjoying the Remnants

I've been a workaholic lately (five or six weeks now), which I assume if it goes on too long is bad like any other over-indulgence. However, at least this one has the benefit of leading to getting a lot done.

Some of the "remnants" with which I have managed to sustain myself
L to R: ancient eggs, canned black beans and chips (high protein), brussel sprouts

Why food pictures, you may ask? Understandable. Well, during this odd time of intense work focus, I have gone many days, if not weeks, eating whatever was around in the house. And I don't mind telling you that whatever is around in this house could be pretty dicey — like we're talking rubber bands and shopping bags. So therefore, it is not without a bit of pride that I present these photos of the scraps with which I have managed to sally forth (is that correct English?). Okay, the last one of brussel sprouts was bought so it doesn't really count but I was proud of steaming them so I included them. (They are very filling and, indeed, fattening, doused with butter, salt and pepper — yum.) The others, though, the eggs and the black beans with chips were salvaged from the depths of my cabinets, of dubious date origin, to be sure and I am elated to say that I have not suffered food poisoning episodes or any ill effects as a result.

I write this solely as a confession to my own oddities that strike me as relatively harmless and that have, in this particular instance, saved me bucket loads of grocery cash, while sustaining me through an odd time in my life. Sally forth now you, good friends.

P.S. I love taking pictures of food I've cooked because it's a rare occurrence. And I admit to getting the idea from a Queen Latifah movie I loved (Last Holiday), where she was an aspiring chef who took snapshots of her meals. It's great to capture them in time when they're going down your gullet in a few moments.

February 3, 2008

Believe.

Belief is a powerful force, right up there with love.

Believe in Yourself

I ran across The Magic of Believing today and it captured my attention. A friend and client of mine, Peppy of Peppy's Dream, just wrote in her blog on the same subject:

“…I believe in angels, in ghosts, in reincarnation, in aliens, in just about anything. I am not a cynic or a doubter. I don’t have to see, smell, hear, touch or taste something to believe it exists. I choose to believe…”

There is calm resolve in my friend's statement. Choosing to believe is half the battle, I think. More power to her and to all of you who are on the side of faith and belief.

When I was a kid, I was troubled and puzzled by two stories in the Bible about faith. One is Doubting Thomas and the other is the Prodigal Son. These are no doubt two of the most famous Biblical stories around and they have come to be my favorite stories as well. Doubting Thomas had to see Christ had risen for himself before he believed so the question is whether his faith was less solid than the others who believed as soon as they heard. The Prodigal Son is believed in by his father (and ultimately by himself), who has every reason to doubt him and his older brother doesn't get it and is jealous and mad since he was a good guy all along whereas the Prodigal Son was a screw-up.

Prodigal Sons and Doubting Thomases, my mother helped me to see, represent a huge group of people and also something that's inside each of us at times, even those with strong faith. They are human, flawed, doubting screw-ups and that doesn't mean you dismiss them. Evidence of the depth of Biblical stories lies in these tales' ability to show that while these characters are flawed, they are also great. I have a weak spot for all life's Prodigal Sons and Daughters, those who keep at it after they've messed up. We all have, each day, the ability to choose differently, to make the brave choice that we've been so afraid of. Be brave, believe against all odds and your faith will be rewarded.

December 2, 2007

Staying in Bed — Doing Whatcha Gotta Do

Kitties know how to relax. 

My kitty made me make the bed the other day with her still in it. As much as kitties know how to be comfortable, they are also often skittish. I guess she knows me well enough at this point because she let me struggle my way around her while staying just right comfy, don't you know. You can see the patch of a magenta color on the right side of the photo above, which is the top of the quilt that had to get tucked over her while she stayed put. She's the picture of comfort, don't you think? I loved it that she stayed her ground and let me work around her. She let me shove the blankets around however I had to and she slid right along. She was like a center kitty medallion that came in a set with the bedding.

October 11, 2007

The Quest for Understanding

Most people have a deep-seated desire for understanding — understanding the people we care about and ourselves, how to do things we want to do, why things are the way they are and uncovering new insights into familiar topics. As Plato said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

The Book of Knowledge

Knowledge and understanding are not always the same. I guess you could say that controversies as big as wars are the results of huge misunderstandings, although that sounds a bit simple.

Last night, a friend helped me to see another friend's viewpoint in a way that I hadn't before. Complicated issues can be unravelled piece by piece and from different angles, like taking instructions for putting something together step by step, patiently. Skip one step and the next one might not make any sense. We are not all the same and our minds do not all work the same way. Some people jump to one sort of reasoning while others automatically draw a different conclusion. If you care about people who don't necessarily jump to the same ways of reasoning that you do, it can be frustrating. But it is also rewarding when you gain insight into what another person cares deeply about which you had previously not been able to see. The metaphor of seeing is an interesting one in this case; to me, it's more like seeing than knowing. You finally "see" with your mind or heart. I am very grateful to have friends willing to take the time to help me see more of a panoramic view of human nature.

October 8, 2007

Autumn Adventures

The necomer is shown here still getting used to her new surroundings. Never was there an easier cat to love.


Autumn Introductions

The foster kity at left is being pretty cool with her already, as shown above, although my first reigning kitty has flipped out a few times pretty badly. So I'm still taking the introductions very slowly and the baby is spending most of her time in my bedroom. Angel that she is, she's behaving perfectly while this slow process has to take place.

October 6, 2007

Kitty Kung Fu — Noble Warriors

Here's a snapshot of my kitties doing some Kitty Kung Fu, my friends and my name for this air battling kitties do.

Kitty Kung Fu

I'm going to keep trying to get more shots of them when they're actually standing up and going at it with paws flying fast. It doesn't last long so it's hard to capture. I am not sure how much is play and how much is aggressive but it's very funny, as it has a sort of Asian art form peaceful warrior feel to it. You kind of expect them to bow to each other when they're done. 

March 23, 2007

What is Motivation and Where Does it Come From?

The puzzle of what motivates different people captures my imagination.

Motivation

When I ask people what motivates them, they usually answer with an unilluminating "I don't know." Illusive as it may be, people the world over are inspired to do, create and be amazing things, despite enormous obstacles and the plain old pull of lethargy.

"The Pursuit of Happyness," a movie starring Christopher Jaden Smith and Will Smith, is about the real-life story of Chris Gardner, a millionaire stockbroker who was homeless and penniless while working to get ahead. The movie is inspiring and captivating. Chris Gardner has written a memoir of the same title for those curious to hear more.

What this brings to mind for me is where motivation comes from, for any of us. Why and how can one person push and push and eventually overcome terrible adversity while another can't get moving forward? Depression and drug addiction tease the spirits of many yet some people overcome these trials also.

Witnessing people in drug recovery, I have seen lives go from one extreme to another, overcoming odds. These stories are modern-day Prodigal Son tales. I have no answers, just clues and questions. The 12-step programs have helped people where no other solutions have. I am in awe of the power of these well-thought-through systems, the components of which include honesty, open-mindedness and willingness (their acronym is HOW) as well as a sense of a power greater than oneself, unfailing group support and a focus on the moment at hand. The heart of these programs provides keys for all of us, not just those battling to overcome substance abuse.

Still, I am nagged with the question of what motivates people. Color motivates me. Music motivates some of my friends. Wanting to help people can motivate, wanting to achieve riches and other sorts of goals can move us forward. But none of these things in themselves answers the question "what is motivation and where does it come from?" It's a burning desire to overcome the odds but how can you harness it when all seems futile.

One answer is faith. One reason for the great success of the 12-step programs is that they do not require anyone to believe in a specific God, however, they maintain that a sense of oneself as a piece of a bigger puzzle is key. One simply has to see that there are powers greater than oneself to feel humble. This state of mind seems to be motivational and necessary.

Thoughts on motivation and faith to be continued…

February 3, 2006

Data Recovery & Human Recovery

Dear reader, I have been through a tough time. I had a computer disaster happen and my business and life revolves around my computer.

nonlinear nyc data recoverynonlinear computer designer

According to the life-saving data recovery company I worked with, DriveSavers, 90% of people don't back up. We are all fools. DriveSavers employs a crisis counselor because people are so distraught when they lose data, precious images and irreplacable records. I was one of these bereft people.

My situation started with forced software upgrading, where one thing led to another. You've got to get this to make that work and then that requires that. But in the process was human error too.

This experience can't help but make someone who looks for the meaning in things look for meaning. Was I trying to tell myself something? Did I need a clean break of some sort?

A bunch of people were praying for me. Anyone who has witnessed the power of prayer has seen amazing things happen. I believe that these people's prayers and good wishes helped my outcome. DriveSavers was able to get back my most important and my second most important file, the first of which was my address book with 1,450 names and details in it. They got back over a million, three hundred thousand other files! but one group of important files is gone and has to be recreated. I had all sorts of files that may never show up again, some of which aren't important, some of which I have hard copies of and some of which I will miss and can't recreate, such as personal notes.

This signifies change. You know change. You've met. You hear about resistance to change. How change is inevitable. The only thing that's permanent is change, said Jean Tinguely, the '60s kinetic artist I studied in college. So what else is new? But I also see miracles on a regular basis. Getting back my database was a miracle in my life. DriveSavers didn't even think it was likely since databases become fragmented once a drive is overwritten. But I've got it back intact. Numerous other data recovery companies said my whole drive was a lost cause.

I'm taking this to mean that after the suffering, I am entering a new and better phase, with backup policies in place but also with a renewed focus on what matters most in terms of work goals and life goals. THANK YOU to my friends and associates, whose power of prayer is stronger than any technology. And thank you to DriveSavers (especially Jeannie Harris, Bodhi Nadler and Scott), whose attitude is so wonderful that working with them would have been a pleasure no matter what the outcome.

December 14, 2005

What is Money?

Do you ever wonder what money really is? Money is a made-up concept represented by paper with numbers and pictures on it that we use to trade for goods and services. But money means so many different things. What does it mean to you?

piggybankmoney flying

Money can mean freedom. A new beginning. An old dream. A different life. Money can mean being stuck in a boring, tedious job for fear of being without money. Money can make us stingy or kind. It can make us "think big" or hord things. Money wears many faces.

I am setting up a new relationship with money. Though basically good with numbers, a happy relationship wtih money has eluded me. I am now questioning why. Like other behavioral traits, our attitude and relationship with money can be strongly influenced by the way our parents did or didn't do things. I've been reading books on money lately. My favorite is the best-selling Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. I like it because he opens your mind up to new ways of looking at money. Despite being filthy rich, he seems to have a down-to-earth partnership with money.

Do you think that people who are kind are generous with money? Money is tied into so many different ways of looking at the world, what we deserve or want or think we need, that it isn't as simple as nice = generous. They say that money breaks up more marriages than anything else.

When charging clients, do you determine fairness based on what everybody else is doing or some other standard? Economics is part of all of us playing this money game. To whom do you give "deals," and how is it a deal if you're not being paid fairly for services rendered? I am beginning to wish there was no concept of bargaining. Thinking about money can make you feel Socialist when you thought you were a Capitalist. I don't think I'm an anything-ist (but I'm not a Nihilist either).  

What I like about the ideas Robert Kiyosaki puts forth is that he begins to make you see that money is a constructed game of sorts. He has even created a board game called Cashflow. Cashflow aims to teach you how to get out of the "rat race," the endless trip so many of us run from paycheck to paycheck, even if that paycheck is decent. I, for one, want out of the rat race and am determined to find my way through the maze.

November 4, 2005

On Death and Living

A new theory has hatched in my head. It is that when someone dies, they may invade the living in interesting ways. This is a new twist on leaving your mark. My mom died in 2001. She was and is an original, refreshing, bright, loving presence. We had a lot of girlfriend fun but not, perhaps, the kind many women would think of. Not, for instance, shopping. While my mom taught me much about taste and detail, she was a bit of a slob, to use her own description. She was the original earth mama. That wound its way into a healthy attitude towards physical health and an unselfconscious attitude towards more superficial aspects of life. Don't get me wrong; she could drive you nuts too, like most people. But she had many unique and amazingly great traits. She was a writer. Over the last couple of years, remarkable words she would have used regularly pop into my head. They are not words I would use. And they are not slang; they are rich, descriptive, educated language.


Here's a new one. Over the last couple of weeks, I have developed a craving for a crunchy flatbread that is the sort of cracker my mother adored. Now, I always liked these too but this is much more intense. It makes me wonder if she is mischievously channeling her enjoyment of these treats through me. I mean, they are incredible! I cannot help but think of her.

When people we love die, I've heard some say that it's the tangible, down-to-earth things about the person they miss the most. That makes sense because that's what's gone. So here is an odd way in which someone's individual specificity has reappeared. Can‘t help noticing it.