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Archive for learning

reading log . Inspired by MLK

One of my goals for 2017 is to read at least 25 books. The goal fits into my thinking on three areas of growth I want for myself this year. I’ll share more on that later in the week, but in short, I see this goal of concentrated, intentional reading as a way to expand my thinking and creativity.

I tend to be a binge topic reader. So, while I often have what I deem a “doesn’t require much thought” book in the mix as a way to relax, I also usually have one or two more “serious” reads that fit into whatever binge topic of the moment. For the last two years, it’s been politics and political history — mainly covering a curiosity about the last fifty years. Given the craziness of the current political climate and the uncertainty of the presidency beginning later this week, some of those reads have left a knot in the pit of my stomach. So much about the last few years has seemed a discouraging redux of unrest and social stretching. This year, I wanted to take some of that immersion in history, and tweak it to stretch my own understanding of justice — and injustice. To open my eyes to more marginalized hearts.

So, for the next books on my night stand, I’ve turned to some of the lions in the fight for social justice… a list to prime the pump of my own willingness to speak out, inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on this day we celebrate his legacy. 

Strength to Love
by Martin Luther King Jr.

Published in 1963, this collection of sermon notes, bible studies, and convictions about faith and justice served to not only codify the ideals of a movement, but to inspire a new generation of nonviolent activism. Oddly, I’d never heard of it until we visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis a few years ago. The book was in Dr. King’s briefcase in the Lorraine Motel where he was shot in 1968. In her forward to the book, Dr. King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, wrote: “If there is one book Martin Luther King Jr. has written that people consistently tell me has changed their lives, it is Strength to Love.” She described it as the best explanation of “his belief in a divine, loving presence that binds all life.” 

Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation
by Clarence B. Jones and Stuart Connelly

Clarence Jones was a speech writer and advisor to Martin Luther King Jr., and his book offers an account of the weeks leading up to the March on Washington and how the “I Have a Dream” speech came to be. I heard about this book during the coverage of the 6oth anniversary of the March a few years ago, in an interview with Mr. Jones. As a “storyteller” often tasked with framing client messages, I am excited to read this account of how that role is applied to social justice.

March Trilogy
by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

I’ve been holding off on reading this trilogy until the final book came out in 2016. The graphic novels tell the personal story of Congressman Lewis, and his iconic involvement in the civil rights movement. Book One offers an account of his growing up years, his meeting of Dr. King, and the beginnings of the Nashville lunch counter sit-in campaign. Book Two covers efforts during the bus boycott, Congressman Lewis’ rise as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, his speech at the March on Washington and the Birmingham church bombing. Book Three, which won a 2016 National Book Award, continues the story including accounts of Freedom Summer, the fight against voter suppression and the march to Selma. The format of the books was inspired by the 1958 comic book, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story. We have much to learn from this American hero who is still standing for freedom today. I’ve promised to pass these on to my son when I finish reading them.

Love is Love
Comic Anthology

Love is Love is an anthology of graphic impressions contributed by numerous writers and artists as a response to the Orlando Pulse shooting. The book, organized by Marc Andreyko, benefits the survivors of that terror attack, and shares many of the fears and reactions from the tragic event. Because I have dear friends in the LGBT community, I choose to look carefully at this uncomfortable and raw reaction to unspeakable violence.

So, my journey of seeing inspired by MLK begins. I hope to read with an open mind and an open heart. I hope to share some of my reactions as I make sense of them. And I’m excited to see how these new perspectives will color my own work and voice.

reading log . Summer Reading + Nixonland

The autumnal equinox arrives tomorrow, and although you wouldn’t know it by the temperatures in Mississippi, that marks the official end of summer. The children and I had some family goals for reading this summer that were a little too ambitious for our travel schedule, but each of us managed to contribute several completed books to our Montgomery Summer Reading List. The kids were quick to insist that I include my own book selections on the list as well. Like me, each of the children really do like to read, but sometimes the fun gets dampened if the reading is some kind of “assignment.” I think they wanted to be sure this was actually a fun family activity and NOT some subversive summertime homework exercise!

In addition to adding some purely fun mysteries to the Summer Reading List, I also read a few challenging books — great books that challenged me to think beneath the surface, to look critically at the culture around me, to wonder at the power of storytelling, and to be moved by the experiences of other humans. Several selections focused on events and the political and social climate of some of my coming-of-age years, the years that are too recent to show up in any of the textbooks in school. As we close out summer, I wanted to share a few posts with thoughts on some of the books I would definitely recommend you add to your reading list.

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Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America

by Rick Perlstein

summerbooks_nixon I started 2016 wanting to read about politics and history — maybe because the presidential contest was already in such full swing. I was particularly interested in the 1960s and 1970s, and I had been re-reading several books about the story of Watergate by Bob Woodward, including All the President’s Men, The Final Days, and his tracing of Watergate’s impact through five subsequent presidencies in Shadow. My Scribd e-reader subscription offers up suggested reading based on your book history, and Rick Perlstein’s book, Nixonland, popped up. I decided to take a look.

The book was published in 2008, and was listed as a “notable book” by the New York Times and a number of other publications. As the subtitle suggests, Nixonland is mainly the story of Richard Nixon’s political rise from the somewhat-maligned and disrespected role as Eisenhower’s Vice President to his role as the eventual President of the United States and early architect of the modern Republican Party — plus, many of the bumps in between. It is also, however, an amazingly detailed account of so much of the racial unrest that occurred during those decades, the anti-war movement, the transformation of the Republican and Democratic parties as their souls and public images virtually switched, and ultimately, the dividing of America along the political rift these realities created. I’ve seen no better account identifying the roots of today’s divisive and deadlocked political culture.

Nixonland is not an easy or a short read. It took me a big part of the summer to get through it because of how much detail the author includes. There was a lot to absorb. However, it kept my interest the whole time because of how the author dramatically weaved together so many real-life stories along with Perlstein’s poignant conclusions. It is probably the best and most comprehensive book I’ve ever read chronicling the politics and social issues of the 1960s and early 1970s. What struck me about the book was how much of the political climate mirrors what we see today. Perlstein very effectively traced seeds of our current polarized culture through these very turbulent and formative years in modern American society. So many players in modern politics pop up in the book — presidents, strategists, and politicians who dominate our news stream today. It was amazing and eye-opening to see the dots connected between so many playmakers in the public sphere.

In many ways, Nixonland was a sad book to me. It definitely turned the mirror on American culture and so much of the social issues that are still left unresolved. Reading accounts of the Watts riots, segregation, and the very divided government response alongside today’s Twitter accounts of the Black Lives Matter movement and continued racial tensions now 50 years later was very disheartening to me. To be facing some of the same issues so many years later feels like an indictment on my generation. And, race was just one social issue that emerged. Poverty, trust in government, the specter of war, the role of faith in the public sector, and the emergence of media as a catalyst and impactor of public opinion are all areas from that era that mirror today’s climate.

Perlstein ends his book at Nixon’s landslide victory for re-election in 1972, even as the foreshadowing of the Watergate fallout was looming near. He points out that just 20 months after a routing of his political opposition, Nixon would become the only U. S. President to resign the office in disgrace. Perlstein also ended with an evaluation of “Nixonland’s” logical trajectory — the polarized vitriol we see on every channel today.

“In this book I have written of the rise of two American identities, two groups of Americans, staring at each other from behind a common divide, each equally convinced of its own righteousness, each equally convinced the other group was defined by its evil.

What Richard Nixon left behind was the very terms of our national self-image: a notion that there are two kinds of Americans…. and both have learned to consider the other not quite American at all.”

I highly recommend this book as a necessary read for those like me, who were barely born during these pivotal years in American culture, and yet have had so few opportunities to learn about them in ways that draw the threads tying the last decades of the 20th century to today. Nixonland, though a challenging read, also served as an inspiration for me to engage more critically in this year’s election process, to seek out a variety of voices telling the tales of social issues in our nation, and to re-engage with my own thoughts and beliefs about the nature of the democracy I’m handing down to my children.

Crooked Letter + Tough Questions

I’m thinking (and being wordy) about art and business and what’s mine and what’s yours today…

Being creative means juggling all kinds of influences and inspirations. Coming up with “original” ideas is actually kind of rare. The concept has been much discussed recently in light of political flaps surrounding the lifting other people’s words or ideas. I see posts from illustrators and artists I admire all the time bemoaning the lifting of their work to be produced without their permission or compensation. In the age of the internet and wifi and Google, the concept of “ownership” has certainly been watered down, or at least misunderstood.

As an artist, I think it’s important to balance the influence of others with a staunch respect for another person’s ownership of their own efforts. I’m thinking about it today because I came across at the Mississippi “Crooked Letter” design below in an Etsy shop called Hypsy Gypsy Boutique based in Purvis, MS — listed on July 8, 2016. The design bears some resemblance to my own block print design. It’s not the same, of course. It’s not an exact copy of mine. It’s just similar. I think what caught my eye is the apostrophe. The infamous apostrophe up there between the eM and the eye! I notice it because I’ve gotten a fair measure of lively discussion (some might say flack) about that apostrophe in my work and my choice in this piece to leave out one set of crooked letters to spell M’issippi rather than the “correct” way.

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Is it just a happy coincidence of two southern artists with the same cultural references? Is the design influenced by mine? Is it a knock-off? Is it a copyright violation? Does my design (and hers) somehow belong to the digital ether once I send it off for viewing on some platform via wifi? Tough questions.

The design of concern is a digital download sold for $2 with a few restrictions prohibiting use on mass produced products. Ok. It will never become the hand crafted pieces I make from the sheet of linoleum I carved and now print by hand on the work table in my office. So, maybe the answers don’t necessarily matter in the big picture.

Maybe. Or, maybe in a world of 128 characters, share buttons, and a meme a minute, the questions deserve a little more attention.

design read . Uppercase

 

I’m excited! In December, I treated myself with a subscription to UPPERCASE Magazine — “a magazine for the creative and curious. My first issue arrived in the mail this week and I can’t wait to immerse myself in it this weekend. At first glance, it promises not to disappoint with beautiful photography and spreads, a great design and intriguing stories and profiles from lots of creative disciplines, all on nice-to-hold uncoated paper. It’s published, edited and designed by Canadian designer, Janine Vangool. It definitely lives up to the teasers I found online it its companion blog. Enjoy a few of my favorite at-first-glance spreads and I let me know what you’re reading this weekend!

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Tools for Digital Business on the Go

It’s been a while since I’ve posted in Plop! about tools for marketing, so today I thought I would share a few mobile versions I’ve been using recently for work on the go. I’ve posted a lot of comments and photos about our time spent at the farm a few weeks ago. What I haven’t mentioned is that our farm doesn’t have internet access. Yep, it’s true! There are places in the world where it is ok to live without DSL!

BUT, my privilege of getting away with the kids for any extended period of time is contingent on my ability to keep up with work in at least some ways — particularly my client blogging and social media work and the occasional emergency design project. No matter the best planning, invariably unexpected needs come up, and although it’s definitely good to put work aside sometimes, I have begun to appreciate more and more the ability to get projects accomplished almost anywhere.

When I’m at the farm or otherwise on the go, I use my 3G iPad and iPhone to keep me connected to the Internet and my clients, and a collection of apps helps me get the needed tasks done. Here are a few I used during our Spring break trip that might be useful for you too:

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PDF READER PRO
This app offers lots of file management features for PDF files including file markup. It’s great for my work on the go because it allows me to transfer files from my laptop to my iPad through iTunes.

The next apps are ones that I use very often in blogging, allowing me to work with photos or images and post directly from my iPad. Each of the photo-related apps save new versions of the images directly to the mobile camera roll.

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PHOTOGENE
This one is almost like a mini photoshop in its image editing capability. I use it a lot for cropping and retouching of images.

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iRESIZE
This app is just like it sounds. It allows me to easily resize images while retaining proportions.

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iWATERMARK
I love this app because it allows me to I.D. images on the go. You’ve seen that I post lots of photos and I like to tag them with the Small Pond Graphics logo. This app lets me take logo image files I have stored in my camera roll and apply them as translucent wordmarks.

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WORDPRESS
You can’t go wrong with this one. It offers almost all the same functions as the full WordPress CMS, but on the iPad. It’s super easy and you can even open the web format right through the app. In fact, I’m creating this post with it right now!

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A quick iPad tip: To take an iPad screen shot, press the “home” button (on front of iPad) and the on/off button at the same time and release!

design read . JENESEQUA

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It’s a special privilege to find beauty, creativity and inspiration around us. I’m finding that paying attention to this privilege keeps me fresh in my own creativity. In times of transition and even sorrows as my family has experienced this Fall, it’s so easy to become numb to beautiful things around us. One of the hallmarks of coming alive, of moving forward — at least for me — is seeking out that inspiration once again. I’ve begun that process slowly during the last few weeks.

This week, I was browsing through the iPad publication, JENESEQUA. The app is a lifestyle magazine developed specifically for the iPad format, and it’s a true multi-media presentation. Beautiful photography, interesting lifestyle editorial content and varied content are augmented by “related content” curated from across the web including YouTube videos, Pinterest boards, blog posts and online shopping excursions. The content is sharable with a touch of the screen and readers can “favorite” items to a profile for reading later. The No. 12 holiday issue is sparkling with holiday celebration and fashionable finds. Enjoy a few of my favorite stories!

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Pinterest Tab for Facebook Pages

Do you have a profile on Pinterest you’d like to share with your Facebook audience? I think there’s a lot of marketing power in moving your audience across multiple media to experience more of your online presence. Creating awareness of various social marketing profiles is a first step! Last week, a Facebook “fan” of one of the client pages I manage contacted me about how to enable a Pinterest tab like the one she’s seen on the client page — similar to the one shown on my own page here…

I was happy to point her to the awesome free resource, and I thought I’d share it here as well. The Pinterest tab is a free and easy-to-install application from WooBox.com. They offer a variety of applications to enhance your Facebook page, some available as paid subscriptions and some free for a certain number of pages. The Pinterest application creates a tab to link your Pinterest profile to Facebook and imports your boards and pins into a Facebook-friendly format, while still keeping the Pinterest feel. You can see how my Pinterest profile displays on the Small Pond Graphics Facebook page below. What I love about it is that you can view individual boards and pin, like or send via email right through the interface. It also sends visitors back to your Pinterest page when they click either the Pinterest logo or the individual pins. Pretty cool. All WooBox.com apps also have a built-in analytics section to show at least limited stats on your tab traffic, so it’s easy to see if you’re getting added visibility.

The set-up of the Woo Box Pinterest Tab is super easy. You can click the “Install” button at WooBox.com, and once you allow permission through Facebook, you’ll see a settings screen like the one below. Simply input your Pinterest username and configure the various customizable features. Presto! Pinterest on your Facebook page!

With the popularity of Pinterest growing so rapidly, and more and more businesses creating profiles on the image-sharing platform, integrating Pinterest with your Facebook page can be a great opportunity for cross-marketing and reinforcement of your brand. The WooBox.com app is a great tool to make it happen, and it’s hard not to love free! Let me know how it turns out on YOUR Facebook page.

 

Adding Twitter to Your Business Facebook Page

If you’ve talked to me at all about my approach to marketing strategy and online media in particular, you know that I’m a big fan of finding ways to move your audience across your digital geography from one online medium or social space to another. I think this offers multiple ways to engage with other businesses or customers and to communicate more of your unique story. With the new Timeline format for Facebook pages, the story of your brand in that particular social space is even richer with more opportunities to share larger graphics and photos and better ways to organize your own information. One thing I like about the Timeline format for pages is the newer “tab” location — the four boxes just under the right side of the cover photo. The “photos” box is a constant, but the other boxes can be prioritized based on what you feel is most important to your brand.

With the goal of exposing Facebook connections to your other online media spaces, including a Twitter feed as one of the top apps is a great approach. I’ve tried several Facebook apps for adding a Twitter feed, including the Involver app, Tweets to Pages. It works great and is an easy, free installation. However, I have to admit, that the one I like best is the Twitter app from Tradable Bits. It’s just as easy. It’s free for up to 5 apps installed per page, and I just like the interface a little better.

You can see from the screen shot of Tradable Bits Twitter on my Facebook page that the app works well within the Timeline page format. The thing I like about Tradable Bits over the other apps I’ve tried is that it includes your Twitter profile pic and bio at the top of your feed along with the “follow” button. I just like the continuity of having the bio present. I like the polish that it gives the tab’s view. The other plus for this app for me is that it also includes the tweets in your feed that come from Twitter’s easy re-tweet function. Some of the other Twitter apps I’ve tried didn’t do that. I tend to use the RT function a lot with links I find useful or interesting on Twitter, and showing those tweets in the feed demonstrates an interest in sharing information and engagement — something I actually look for in other tweeters.

The installation of Tradable Bits Twitter couldn’t be easier. When you click through their website and give Facebook authorization, you reach a screen similar to this one where you can simply type your Twitter handle and click a button to the right to publish to your Facebook page.

I’m always drawn to the details when I’m looking for marketing tools, and Tradable Bits Twitter app for Facebook pages has those small things that I think that can be very valuable in strengthening your online presence.

design read . BluDot

Ok, so this is not really much of a “read.” It’s more eye candy, but it has me like a kid in a candy store. I received a BluDot catalog in the mail a few months ago, and I keep going back to it. It’s an oversized uncoated design in that layout where you flip the book over halfway through to see the spec pages. I just love the look and feel of it. And I love the products. The self-proclaimed “modern furniture” line is both classic and new at the same time. But, the reason I plan to absorb it again this weekend is the off-center styling throughout the catalog. The BluDot message is “good design is good.” It is, and the photos in the catalog show their product line strewn with random touches of life, rather than in some pristine showroom atmosphere. It has a fun blend of mid-century and 21st century elements. I just love looking at the images, and the spec pages are just as engaging. Have some fun window shopping BluDot this weekend!

Joy in the Labor

12 Days of Thanksgiving: DAY 10

I read this poem from the American Life in Poetry project last week and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I love the phrase “to claim a place in the bounty of earth.” Isn’t that what we really find ourselves about so many times? Claiming a place of bounty for our own hearts and spirits. So often we slip into thinking that bounty falls before us with no effort. That we are simply able to sit before a table amply spread and partake of bounty at no cost. But, as Mr. Levine writes, bounty more often comes through effort — through the conscious and persistent labors of grace in our lives and the staunch belief in our hearts that labor will be rewarded. And the belief that the bounty for which we labor is precious.

I’m reminded today that bounty must be cultivated as we root out the life of meaning that brings us joy. God is so incredibly generous. His provision is ample. But it is my responsibility to maintain that space for His abundance. It is my responsibility to put in the effort to cultivate my own heart, recognizing, claiming, and preserving what is important.

And, as the poem expresses, joy may be found in that labor. Our effort and struggle produces a greater measure of gratitude.

American Life in Poetry: Column 348

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

When we’re on all fours in a garden, planting or weeding, we’re as close to our ancient ancestors as we’re going to get. Here, while he works in the dirt, Richard Levine feels the sacred looking over his shoulder.

Believe This

All morning, doing the hard, root-wrestling
work of turning a yard from the wild
to a gardener’s will, I heard a bird singing
from a hidden, though not distant, perch;
a song of swift, syncopated syllables sounding
like, Can you believe this, believe this, believe?
Can you believe this, believe this, believe?

And all morning, I did believe. All morning,
between break-even bouts with the unwanted,
I wanted to see that bird, and looked up so
I might later recognize it in a guide, and know
and call its name, but even more, I wanted
to join its church. For all morning, and many
a time in my life, I have wondered who, beyond
this plot I work, has called the order of being,
that givers of food are deemed lesser
than are the receivers. All morning,
muscling my will against that of the wild,
to claim a place in the bounty of earth,
seed, root, sun and rain, I offered my labor
as a kind of grace, and gave thanks even
for the aching in my body, which reached
beyond this work and this gift of struggle.

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American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2010 by Richard Levine, from his most recent book of poetry, That Country’s Soul, Finishing Line Press, 2010, by permission of Richard Levine and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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