Clarity First Newsletter,
February 25, 2022

“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”

– Ursula K. Le Guin

Love & Work

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

War on a scale that I never thought I’d see is being waged in Ukraine. Books are being burned and banned, abortion is being made illegal, and blatant voter suppression is being waged in multiple U.S. states.

We have a new dog, Sparky. He is a sweetheart and we love him already. The organization that rescued him and got him to us, Better Together Dog Rescue, is amazing. Our new granddaughter, Evelyn, is 10 months old and thriving. It’s snowing in New England and we’ll ski with friends this weekend.

It seems that we need to take the bitter with the sweet.

Happy Friday.

Futures Thinking

“Hard times are coming. We’ll be needing the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, who can see through our fear-stricken society to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope.”

In 2014, Ursula K. Le Guin was given a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters by the National Book Foundation. In her acceptance speech she made a plea for the role that science fiction and fantasy (SFF) plays in guiding us through tough and challenging times.

“…We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.”

“…we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now…We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.”

Lincoln Michel, himself a science fiction writer, was inspired. “I know I’m not the only writer who has had these lines stuck in their head ever since. How can we create new ways of living in this world if we can’t imagine them on the page? Literature has many goals, of course, but one of them—especially in science fiction—has always been imagining new possibilities.”

The seed she planted inspired him to ask on Twitter about favorite SFF works that imagine different systems. He turned the responses and his own library into a syllabus of novels that imagine alternative ways of living that are positive, not dystopian.

Article: When Science Fiction and Fantasy Envisions Life Beyond Capitalism

Geography, Learning

The U.S. is relatively a lot smaller than you think it is.

United States (blue), India (yellow), and China (orange)

“When you picture a 2D representation of our world, what do you see? Chances are, you’re probably thinking of the Mercator map—a standard type of projection that’s been around since the late 16th century. Although it’s useful for navigational purposes, the map is also misleading because the relative sizes of countries are inaccurately conveyed. Some places, such as Greenland, look huge on this type of chart, but in actuality are much smaller. The opposite is true for places like China.

“To uncover these often-stark differences, the True Size Map was created—a interactive website that allows you to drag countries and continents around the Mercator projection and discover just how big they are (or aren’t). You can do this for any country by simply typing its name into the map, allowing for a seemingly endless amount of comparisons.” –  Sara Barnes

Article: Eye-Opening “True Size Map” Shows the Real Size of Countries on a Global Scale

Group Process

Successful groups encourage a culture that embraces “the joy of being wrong”.

“In the 1970s, psychologist Irving Janis pioneered research into a phenomenon that goes by a name most people know, probably understand intuitively, and perhaps have experienced personally. I’m talking about “groupthink.” Janis saw the symptoms of groupthink in a host of bad collective decisions he studied. He was particularly intrigued by White House fiascos, like the Bay of Pigs invasion and the escalation of the Vietnam War, but also detected groupthink in the Challenger space shuttle disaster. Janis called it ‘a deterioration in mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgements as a result of group pressures.’

“But when, exactly, does groupthink take hold and ruin a committee’s, a governing body’s, or a society’s decision-making process? How little independent thinking does there have to be for collective deliberation to go astray? And what role does rethinking your opinions play? A recent paper, by Vicky Chuqiao Yang and colleagues, published in the Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences, investigates these very questions.” – Joshua Holden

Article: What Makes Group Decisions Go Wrong. And Right.

Communication, Human Voice

Humans’ physiological adaptations that enabled speech some 50,000 years ago are the evolutionary key that led to our role as earth’s dominant species. Discuss.

“In 1999, journalist, author, and novelist John Colapinto damaged his vocal cords while singing in a rock band without properly warming up. The incident sparked a decades-long investigation into the miracle of the human voice and its biological, sociological, and psychological implications.

“Colapinto poured his research—which began with an article he wrote for The New Yorker, where he’s a staff writer, about vocal surgeon Steven Zeitels, who has worked with Steven Tyler, Cher, and Adele—into his book, This Is the Voice (Simon & Schuster), out this month in paperback, which tells the story of the human voice from its ancestral precursors in lungfish millions of years ago to its role as a powerful, efficient tool wielded by most people every day. He also explains how the voice can provide clues about a person’s age, sexual preference, and culture, and argues that humans’ physiological adaptations that developed to enable speech some 50,000 years ago are the evolutionary key that led to our role as earth’s dominant species.” – Mara Fisher

Article: The Magic and Miracle of the Human Voice

Design, Social Responsibility, Professional Ethics

The moral responsibilities of designers and developers

“By now, most people working in tech know and feel the deep concerns related to surveillance capitalism fostered and upheld by the tech giants. We understand that the root of the problem lies within the business model of capitalising and monetising user data. Stories of how people are being exploited surface on a daily basis, like the recent story about how Instagram withholds like notifications to certain users, with the purpose of increasing the rate of which they open the app. In the same story, The Globe and Mail describe how former high level employees of Facebook are growing a conscience and tell horrifying stories about how features are meticulously being built to exploit human behavior and make us addicts of social media.

“As designers and developers we have an obligation to build experiences that are better than that. This article explains how unethical design happens, and how to do ethical design through a set of best practices. It also helps you understand how you can plant the seed to change the meaning within the company you work for and in the design community, even if you are not part of the management layer. Change starts with a movement!” – Trine Falbe

Article: Ethical Design: The Practical Getting-Started Guide

Advertising, Social Messaging

MasterCard introduced a credit card that lets cardholders use their preferred gender name.

“A real action that challenged a whole industry into more acceptance. MasterCard launched a card for trans and non-binary people to be able to use their preferred name and avoid discrimination. Banks followed through after seeing the demand.”

Case Study/Video: True Name


The organic colors and soft shapes that seduced me as a young man

Die Schwebe Leise (hairdryer), Philips, 1978

I turned 18 in 1971. That year I drove from the Berkshires to Cambridge to visit Marimekko, Bowl and Board, a shoe store that sold Danish clogs and one of the very first Urban Outfitters. It was one of my first introductions to design and I was in heaven.

So, this book had me at hello. The soft, globular, color-coordinated promise of products that can soothe your soul is so seductive.

Book Review: ‘Soft Electronics’: this polychromatic old consumer tech will blow you away.


Article: Why US Cities Are Investing in Safer, More-Connected Cycling Infrastructure

Article: One Faith Leader Says Love Is The Key To Climate Action

Article: Climate Change Enters the Therapy Room


On the 11th of this month Spoon released Lucifer on the Sofa, their 10th studio album. Matador, their record label, describes it as the “band’s purest rock ‘n roll record to date”. I’m not exactly sure what “pure” rock is, but this record might stand in as a definition for now. It does rock, and it is a delight.

They chose Cuban-born artist, Edel Rodrigue, to create the album and collateral art. Over the years Juxtapoz magazine has talked more than once with the band’s leader, Britt Daniel, about  how they choose album cover art. Britt has previously stated that  “we did the research, and it turns out 80 percent of our fan base is composed of graphic designers.”

Single: The Hardest Cut

Album: Lucifer on the Sofa

RIP: With A Whiter Shade of Pale, Gary Brooker accelerated pop’s future at warp-speed

Image of the Week

“More than having a good taste, the cakes of Lauren Wodnicki, the baker-decorator behind Lauren Loves Cake, present detailed and worked designs. Based in Southington, Connecticut, the latter is driven by two passions: ‘baking a delicious cake from scratch and using it as a canvas to create a one-of-a-kind design made with buttercream.’ On his creations, we can see flowers and more particularly succulents, but also decorations that look like knitted and woven, or macrame.”Article: Cakes Decorated with Amazing Designs

What’s Love & Work?

Love & Work is the weekly newsletter by me, Mitch Anthony. I help people use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as a pedagogy and toolbox for transformation.

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