Clarity First Newsletter,
August 6, 2021

“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”
– Wendell Berry

Clarity First

A notebook about how we work, and learn, and love and live.

Wendell Berry is one of the thought leaders who has helped me to understand the power of place and community in civic life. This week he celebrated his 87th birthday.

Happy birthday, Wendell. Happy Friday, dear reader.

Place, Community

A lover of place pushes against the unraveling of America.

Wendell Berry, 2019 Photograph by Guy Mendes

Yesterday poet, novelist and essayist, Wendell Berry, turned 87. In celebration Gracy Olmstead published a beautiful biographical tribute and appreciation.

“For Berry, ambition and talent are inseparable from his deeper fealty to family, place, and community. Where many of us have a markedly individualistic vision – in which talent and dreams carry the self beyond a local scope – Berry lives in a world in which young and old, nature and farmer, individual and community are all woven together in a thick tapestry. It is an indivisible network, and Berry has embraced its limitations alongside its many gifts. Regardless of how Berry came to receive this vision, he has most certainly called it forth in thousands more hearts – including mine.

“When we first met, at a conference in Louisville, Berry was the keynote speaker, but he and Tanya arrived several hours early, and he took notes during the panels and lectures before and after his speech. Afterward, when I asked Berry whether he might be willing to do a Q&A with me for The American Conservative, he agreed, but on the condition that the interview take place via letters, rather than by phone or email. Thus began a correspondence that, remarkably, has continued (off and on) to the present day.”

Article: Wendell Berry’s Long Obedience

Creativity, Social Learning

‘No School Manifesto – A Movement of Creative Education’ wants to open up the meaning of learning and fundamentally questions traditional education, through creativity.

“‘No School Manifesto – A Movement of Creative Education’ wants to open up the meaning of learning and fundamentally questions traditional education, through creativity. Curiosity, experimentation, unrestricted thinking, making and developing—by yourself and in collaboration with others—are basic elements of all forms of learning and living together. In the current educational system these values are regularly overshadowed by rules, legislation, bureaucracy, a unitary approach, and little attention to the intrinsic inquisitiveness of both the student and the teacher.”

Article: No School Manifesto – A Movement of Creative Education


“Creativity is about a willingness to consider and test ideas outside of the boundaries of conventional wisdom, and to acknowledge that what you think you know may be wrong.”

In the most-watched TED Talk ever, the late Sir Ken Robinson made the point that “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” 

“…But there’s a less appreciated benefit of creativity that is just as powerful. Creative employees are more likely to take the kind of ‘good’ risks that lead to innovation. They’re also willing to take the social risk of speaking up to help to steer the team out of harm’s way. That’s why the squeaky wheel—the whistleblower, the skeptic, the constant questioner—may also be a reservoir of creativity.”

Article: The Surprising Link Between Creativity and Risk

Personal Productivity, Creativity

How walks create the foundation of Craig Mod’s creative work

Craig Mod has a fascinating method for driving his work as a writer: walking.

“Craig thinks of a walk as an operating system that he can use to support, feed, and inspire all the basic functions of his writing. Walking gets his mind moving, stimulates his bottomless curiosity, and energizes his creative force.

“But it’s more than that: the whole gamut of work Craig does, whether digital, or tangibly, unapologetically analog—is supported by his approach to walking. Both how he writes and what he writes about are inextricably linked to the process, discipline, and experience of putting one foot in front of another.

“The results speak for themselves. Craig’s writing has developed an engaged and loyal following over the years—tens of thousands of people read his multiple newsletters, and his work has appeared in publications like EaterWiredThe New Yorker, and The Atlantic.”

Article: Walking as a Productivity System

Visual Identity

Campbell’s protects equity while modernizing their look

“Nearly sixty years ago, artist Andy Warhol took the Campbell’s soup can, already an American icon and pantry staple, and recreated 32 virtually identical examples of each on canvas, laying them out in a grid. When asked, Warhol said he found inspiration in the same lunch he had for 20 years. Despite their uniformity, each can was handpainted, a subversive commentary on painting as a medium for unique creativity.”Nearly two decades later and Campbell’s is tapping into its legacy in the visual art world to celebrate a redesign to its classic label. Teaming up with Queens-based streetwear designer and artist Sophia Chang, Campbell’s will auction off 100 “AmeriCANa — Sophia Chang x Campbell’s” pieces via NFT in partnership with NT-WRK and Open Sea, with proceeds supporting Feeding Americas efforts against food insecurity.”The changes to the Campbell’s soup cans are subtle, retaining the red and white backdrop with a change to the logo script inspired by Joseph Campbell’s signature. Shadows are dropped, lending crispness to the label. Hidden details like the Campbell’s “C” found within the fleur-de-lis graphics and the slanted “O” in soup is a nod to the original 1898 red label.”

Article: Campbell’s Unveils New Soup Cans Alongside NFT Charity Auction


The banker’s box just got a whole lot better

Wow. This solution was sitting in front of us all along. Designed for Muji by Drill Design.

Article: A Small Design Change Yields Better UX for the Cardboard File Box

Feel Good

A cop walks into a party…

He’s hard to see, but the drummer for this song is a cop. And he’s playing well.

“Officer Dan Carrone was originally called to the home on a noise complaint. It seems that the homeowner was throwing a large party, complete with a rock band.

“The neighbors had complained, so Carrone made a deal with the band – they could play one last song as long as he could play the drums.

“‘I walked into the crowd, and went to talk to the guitarist between songs, I said, ‘Hey, do you know Basket Case by Green Day?’ And they’re like, “Yeah, we all know it,” Carrone says. ‘They go to give me the microphone, and say, “Hey, you wanna sing it?” I’m like, ‘No. I’m not a singer. I’m a drummer. I’ll play with you guys.’”

“Carrone rocked out on the drums and the crowd loved it. A mosh pit even formed.”

“…Carrone says that performing was a great way to ease the situation and to connect with the community to show that police officers are people, too.

The performance even earned praise from Elmwood Park Police Chief Michael Foligno, who called the action ‘textbook community policing at its best.’”

Video: Police Officer in NJ Shows Up to Shut Down a Loud Party – Then Gets in on the Fun

Article: Elmwood Park Police Officer Responding to Call Shows Off His Musical Skills


Article: Traffic Crashes Are Getting Worse. Car Ads Are Part Of the Problem.

Article: Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy Announces Starship Casual Newsletter.

Article: Why Managers Fear a Remote-Work Future.



Annakalmia Traver, of the band Rubblebucket, on stage at WRSI’s 40th anniversary festival at Unity Park in Turners Falls on Sunday. Staff Photo by my friend Paul Franz.

Last Sunday WRSI, an alternative FM station founded right here in Greenfield, celebrated their 40th anniversary by hosting a free concert in Unity Park in next-door Turners Falls. It featured Rubblebucket, Winterpills and And the Kids.

Debbie and I got there in time to catch Rubblebucket’s set, which was truly mind-blowing. It inspired me to seek out their Tiny Desk Concert, six years ago:

Video: Rubblebucket: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

The reason we got there so late was that our daughter in love, Marcy Gregoire, was hosting an “unofficial Rubblebucket afterparty” at her Nice Snack Parlor, which is in the front room our son Sayre’s motorcycle shop, Nova Motorcycles. The shop is smack dab next-door to the Tuners Fall Skate Park, which is in Unity Park. We got VIP parking and easy access to a free concert.

And we got to see the whole set that Tender Spot, a self-described ‘queerdo witchpunk band’ performed in front of the shop.

Photo: Richie Richardson

Their outstanding, very punky, performance led me to their Tiny Desk 2021 Contest entry:

Video: Tender Spot’s Tiny Desk

I’ve said this before, I love rock and roll. And I love community. And I love being the parent of very cool adult kids. Marcy, Sayre, you rock. Thanks for making the party happen.


Image of the Week

The image of the week is a mural by street artist Cosimo Cheone Caiffa in Milano, Italy. It reminds me of how the world feels about now.

Instagram page: cosimocheone

Article, with more shots: Mural by Cosimo Cheone Caiffa at Porta Romana 113 in Milano, Italy.


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