Clarity First Newsletter,
March 4, 2022

“Rats and roaches live by competition under the law of supply and demand. It is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.”

– Wendell Berry

Love & Work

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

I’m struck by Wendell Berry’s observation that it is a privilege to live under the laws of justice and mercy. With privilege comes responsibility. One of the biggest collective learnings of the past six years is that democracy is not a spectator sport. We each have the responsibility to contribute our best selves to the potential of our communities in the best ways we can.

Happy Friday.

Systems Thinking

Resisting popular culture’s hunger for simple solutions

Kelly Easterling, via Banff Centre for the Arts

“Keller Easterling is an architect, designer, and author whose works traverse a wide range of spaces. I came to her work as someone interested in complex systems — a topic that Easterling, a professor of architecture at Yale, has been writing about for decades. She has written about everything from the Appalachian Trail (in Organization Space) to North Korea’s demilitarized zone (Enduring Innocence) to special economic zones and broadband infrastructure (Extrastatecraft).

Medium Design, Easterling’s new book, can be read as a corollary to her prior work. Extrastatecraft, for instance, provides detailed descriptions of various sprawling, techno-solutionist systems that prop up capitalism and their negative impacts — but readers didn’t find explicit guidance concerning what to do about them. To be fair, a lot of books about capitalism do this; there’s plenty of cultural currency in being the most right about how bad things are. And factoring in the interconnected crises of climate change, political demagoguery, algorithm-enabled far-right radicalization, ever-widening income inequality, ever-growing refugee populations, and, of course, living through a pandemic, things are pretty bad, and solutions are badly needed.

“Easterling doesn’t provide simple solutions. Medium Design actively works against popular culture’s hunger for simple solutions. While embracing a diversity of tactics for a diversity of crises, Easterling puts forward an expansive definition of ‘design’ that includes examples of systemic hacks like community land trusts and tactical refusals of market norms like social capital credits. The ‘medium’ in question is more a reference to being in the midst of things and making unusual connections rather than something between XS and XL design.” – Ingrid Burrington

Author Interview: How to Design Better Systems in a World Overwhelmed by Complexity


Futures Thinking, Solarpunk

What might the future look like if humanity could figure out how to solve our problems by making sustainability a primary criteria?

Images from @solarpunkartChobani/The LINEDinotopiaNausicaä of the Valley of the WindBloomberg,Marco Casagrande, and All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace

My friend and client Jamie Wolf first turned me on to the concept of Solarpunk many months ago. He had me at hello. According to Wiki it “is a genre and art movement that envisions how the future might look if humanity succeeded in solving major contemporary challenges with an emphasis on sustainability, climate change and pollution. It is a subgenre within science fiction, aligned with cyberpunk derivatives, and may borrow elements from utopian and fantasy genres. Contrasted to cyberpunk’s use of a dark aesthetic with characters marginalized or subsumed by technology in settings that illustrate artificial and domineering built environments, solarpunk uses settings where technology enables humanity to sustainably co-exist with its environment with Art Nouveau-influenced aesthetics that convey feelings of cleanliness, abundance and equability.”

It’s a field big enough to merit a cannon. Fortunately Paul Fletcher-Hill has gathered such a collection of books, essays, and films for people exploring Solarpunk today.

He says that “many of these I’ve already shared or written about on the Solarpunk Substack newsletter, but I thought it would be helpful to put them all in one place for easy sharing.”

Article: Solarpunk Cannon



There is often more biodiversity in cities than in nature reserves and the protected areas outside them.

“What would it mean to practice design in the knowledge that the well-being of humans, and non-humans, is inter-connected? A recent design workshop at Milan Polytechnic explored just this question: practical ways to make cities hospitable for all of life, not just human life.” – John Thackera

Article: Lifeworlds: Design for Multi-Species Cities



By now corporations co-opting the counterculture is business as usual. But it wasn’t always so.

“William Burroughs once said that On the Road “sold a trillion Levi’s.” The iconic denim brand is just one of the fashion companies to benefit from the disaffected, worn-out look popularized by the Beat Generation. The group of writers—including Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso—were staunch anti-capitalists who railed against American materialism, but that didn’t stop them from setting the tone for style in the 20th century.

“Blue jeans, white t-shirts, workwear jackets and battered canvas holdalls were practical essentials for a life on the road, and they soon came to define the uniform for a generation of post-war youth disenchanted with traditional values. Along with counterculture icons like James Dean and Bob Dylan, the Beat writers spearheaded a look that became associated with alienation and rebellion. The movement—a reaction to mid-century, mainstream American society, which valued conformity and consumerism above individuality and freedom of expression—expressed their anti-establishment values through the way they dressed.”

Article: How the Beat Generation Created the Uniform for Disaffected Youth

Graphic Design, Cultural Messaging

100 years ago, “in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution and subsequent civil war in Russia, a group of young, talented artists emerged, ready to contribute to and invent a new Soviet culture.”

With all eyes on a maniacal, heartless sociopath invading an innocent country, it’s important to remember that he doesn’t represent his people, nor their dreams and talents.

There was clearly a golden age of Soviet poster art that we often think of, the aesthetic that Shepard Fairey has been influenced by and a sort of heyday of poster advertising. Poster House in NYC (just opened) The Utopian Avant-Garde: Soviet Film Posters of the 1920s, an exhibition looking at the golden age of Soviet poster art and the unique style of advertising films.

“In the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution and subsequent civil war in Russia, a group of young, talented artists emerged, ready to contribute to and invent a new Soviet culture. As the government embrace cinema as the best means of propaganda, these designers created dynamic, experimental, explosive posters, papering the streets with wild colors and arresting imagery to draw people to the movies.”

Article: The Utopian Avant-Garde: Soviet Film Posters of the 1920s @ Poster House, NYC


Social Messaging

How Ukraine creative agency Bickerstaff.734 switched their focus on a dime.

The Bickerstaff.734 team in an undated photo. Credit: Ilia Anufrienko

“War changes everything instantly. Yesterday you produced global projects on how businesses can influence the environment and fight for awareness, sustainable values and tolerance. Today you are coming up with fanciful explanations for your daughter—these are salutes in honor of our trip, and not missiles that can kill us.”

“…This war put a new reality in front of everyone. Agency social projects that we were engaged in, such as upcycling merchandise for brands or helping a dog shelter, were replaced by social media projects for the military—three are aimed at deterring Russian aggression and aiding Ukraine, and four more briefs are being developed. There are no commercial projects at all. Ukrainian businesses have put communication on hold because people now have the task of surviving and repelling invading troops, not buying new sneakers or yogurt at a discount.

“And how the Ukrainian creative industry will exist in the future— after what we hope is victory over the occupying forces—is a brief that has yet to be written.”

Article: How a Ukrainian Agency’s Brief Changed from Brand Strategy to Survival


Cultural Understanding

How English speakers sound to people who speak Japanese

Yuta Aoki teaches Japanese language online. He also maintains a really good YouTube channel, That Japanese Man Yuta, on which he dives into cultural challenges you may not have considered before, such as How to Date a Japanese Girl, According to Japanese Girls, and Actually Being Mixed Race in Japan.

On a recent episode he hit the streets and asked random people if they could imitate how English-speakers sound to them. What is striking to me is how emphatic they act, with a lot of physical gesturing and guttural proclamations.

Video: How English Sounds to Japanese People


Article: AI-Generated Andy Warhol to Narrate New Netflix Documentary Series

Article: Anti-capitalism is flooding TikTok as young people question a life that prioritizes productivity over well-being

Article: Most Consumers Worry the Metaverse May Lead Them to Lose Touch With Reality



Film still from Blackalachia, Moses Sumney with his band Images by Moses Sumney, courtesy TUNTUM

“In 2020 singer Moses Sumney was living in Asheville, North Carolina, preparing set lists for a tour while conceptualizing a long-form music video for his second studio release, grae, but the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans. From this cloud a silver lining emerged: “I had to pivot to something I could do locally,” the performer recently shared. “I decided to take heed of my environment and what made the most sense was to go outside and gather my band. I got my hands and feet dirty and dug into where I was, and by doing that I was able to make something creatively that was unique to me and my vision.” With that simple foray into the wild, the film Blackalachia was born.

“The feature film, which originally premiered in December 2021 at the Pérez Art Museum during Art Basel Miami Beach, made its gallery debut at Nicola Vassell in New York on February 3. Blackalachia marks the singer’s directorial debut in an hour-long live performance that incorporates songs culled from Sumney’s first two studio albums, Aromanticism (2017) and grae (2020). It’s heavy on introspection and is akin to a visual journal that examines loneliness, otherness, identity, and the power structures that conspire to control how these states of being are defined.

“The live performance includes 14 songs performed by Sumney, four bandmates, and a three-piece horn section. There is no audience — it’s just the musicians and the luscious North Carolina Appalachian mountains near Asheville, which Sumney has called home since 2018. The band’s sparse stage is punctuated with elaborate accents: a craggy tree branch festooned with local flora is fashioned into a mic stand that appears to grow from the earth up through the stage. It provides a proper perch from which Sumney croons his highly emotive lyrics. Throughout the performance aesthetic and sonic transitions set the tone, which toggles between light and darkness, day and night. Like Sumney’s live sets, the film ‘starts off a little mysterious and launches into high energy before going into the more cerebral, esoteric, deep emotional places,’ he says, ‘but “Insula” introduces the theme [of isolation] of the record.’ The philosophical underpinnings of Blackalachia were inspired by writer Taiye Selasi, who also shares a writing credit on ‘Insula.’ Her opening prose dissects the theme and reveals the etymological roots of the title. ‘Isolation comes from “Insula,” which means “island”. We are introducing the concept of isolation and the feeling of being islanded,’ says Sumney.”

Film: Blackalachia

Album: Live from Blackalachia

Article: A Musician’s Introspective Journey Through the Lush Appalachian Landscape

Image of the Week

Two Gypsies jamming in Kosovo-Montenegro in 2016, shot by Catherine Turnauer.

“The Manuel Ortiz-Rivera Foundation in Arles presents the exhibition The Dignity of Gypsies, a series of touching portraits by Catherine Turnauer. From April 15 to June 9, the foundation will highlight the work of the photographer, former assistant to Frank Horvat, passionate about the human race, encounters around the world, the different cultures that inhabit our planet. In this historical and anthropological exhibition, the roots of the Gypsies are traced from India to Eastern Europe where the photographer’s many travels have taken her to Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Kosovo and in Montenegro. The Dignity of the Gypsies is also a book, which was published in Europe in 2017 by Hatje Cantz editions and in the United States in 2018 (D.A.P Publishing).”

Article: The Dignity of Gypsies : a Poetic Series by Catherine Turnauer

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.

If you get value from Love & Work, please pass it on.

Not a subscriber? Sign up here.You can also read Love & Work on the web.


Leave a Comment