Clarity First Newsletter,
November 27, 2020

“There’s no such thing as a mistake. A mistake is only an opportunity to do something else.”
– Ralph Steadman

Clarity First

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

Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. While Debbie and I really miss being able to be with our family and friends this year, I appreciate a day or two when we all simply stop and recognize our gratitude. I feel so grateful for the life I live.

Happy Friday. Happy Thanksgiving.


The first Thanksgiving was not in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Abraham Lincoln created the day to bridge the divide in America during the civil war.

“It doesn’t feel like much of a Thanksgiving this year. Lots of chairs are empty, either permanently, as we are now counting our coronavirus dead in the hundreds of thousands, or temporarily, as we are staying away from our loved ones to keep the virus at bay.

“Lots of tables are empty, too, as Americans are feeling the weight of an ongoing economic crisis.

“Rather than being unprecedented, though, this year of hardship and political strife brings us closer to the first national Thanksgiving than any more normal year.

“That first Thanksgiving celebration was not in Plymouth, Massachusetts. While the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags did indeed share a harvest feast in fall 1621, and while early colonial leaders periodically declared days of thanksgiving when settlers were supposed to give their thanks for continued life and– with luck—prosperity, neither of these gave rise to our national celebration of Thanksgiving.

“We celebrate Thanksgiving because of the Civil War.”

Article: Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, November 25, 2020

History, Communal Living

Not all early New Englanders were stern-faced Puritans. One settler named Thomas Morton founded a neo-pagan experiment in communal living. 

Anonymous 19th-century engraving of Captain Miles Standish with his garrison observing the maypole festivities at Merrymount — Source.

“In 1620 the Mayflower shepherded in the founders of Plymouth Plantation, and in 1630 the Arbela brought John Winthrop with his sermons about the ‘city on a hill’, but during the decade that separates these canonical arrivals a very different sort of English colonist would establish a very different sort of colony on the South Shore of Massachusetts. Merrymount — founded as Mount Wollaston in 1624 near present-day Quincy, Massachusetts — was the brainchild of the Devonshire-born lawyer, raconteur, libertine, rake, and crypto-pagan Thomas Morton (1579–1647). His ideas for colonizing the New World were distinct from either the Plymouth or the Massachusetts Bay Colony. While generations of historians have claimed that Americans are intellectually the descendants of stern Calvinist Puritans and Pilgrims, Morton (who stood in opposition to both groups) had his own ideas. The utopian Merrymount, it has long been argued, was a society built upon privileging art and poetry over industriousness and labor, and pursued a policy of intercultural harmony rather than white supremacy. The site where it stood — now an industrial area across the road from a Dunkin’ Donuts — once bore witness to a strange and beautiful alternative dream of what America could have been.”

Article: Lord of Misrule: Thomas Morton’s American Subversions

Social Messaging, Persuasion

A strategy for injecting hope and optimism into seemingly hopeless problems

“Comedians who say something serious about the world while they make us laugh are capable of mobilizing the masses, focusing a critical lens on injustices, and injecting hope and optimism into seemingly hopeless problems. Through rich case studies, audience research, and interviews with comedians and social justice leaders and strategists, A Comedian and an Activist Walk Into a Bar: The Serious Role of Comedy in Social Justice explains how comedy – both in the entertainment marketplace and as cultural strategy – can engage audiences with issues such as global poverty, climate change, immigration, and sexual assault, and how activists work with comedy to reach and empower publics in the networked, participatory digital media age.”

Book Review: The Role of Comedy in Social Justice


Humor sells products, too.

Video: Freshpet Holiday Feast – 13 Dogs and 1 Cat Eating with Human Hands
(Thanks to our dear friend Jude Armitage for passing this along.)


Why won’t your designer just make the logo bigger?

Apple has developed a design system that is deceptively simple. Everything about Apple’s design is functional. Only the very essential elements are present, and as a result, the tiny bit of information there is left always takes center stage. Photo by Julian O’hayon on Unsplash

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked to make the logo bigger…. Reinoud Schuijers has done a good job of articulating why the request usually doesn’t make sense. The short answer is that the logo isn’t the point, the design is. In a well considered design the logo will be more obvious, not less, when balanced as one component of the whole.

“Nothing well-designed is the way it is, simply ‘because it looks good.’ It’s the other way around: it looks good to you as a result of the way it is.”

Article: Why Your Designer Won’t Make the Logo Bigger

Creativity, Content, Intellectual Property

This year the Dr. Seuss brand made $33 million. How his widow laid the groundwork.

“With streaming services battling for lucrative content, cherished intellectual property is more valuable more than ever. And in a Grinch-like year, the beloved children’s author made $33 million—serious green with a side of ham.

“Leading up to his death in 1991, Theodor Seuss Geisel and his wife of 23 years, Audrey, hatched a plan for a nest egg. The beloved 87-year-old author—better known to millions of readers as Dr. Seuss—had published some 60 books over the course of his career, but he could see that the fast-moving consumer culture would soon leave his iconic creations like The Cat in the Hat and The Grinch behind.

“Aside from a 1966 Grinch TV special and a smattering of deals for Sears bedding, Coleco stuffed toys, and plans for a Red Fish, Blue Fish exhibition at SeaWorld that never reached fruition, the Geisels weren’t monetizing Seuss’ valuable intellectual property much beyond traditional publishing.

“Though he once remarked that ‘Hollywood is not suited for me, and I am not suited for it,’ Dr. Seuss urged Audrey to spread his work across ‘the widest possible audience in any and all media throughout the world.’ Or, as she later recalled in an interview, ‘You use it or you lose it.’

“And she did. Nearly 30 years after his death, Dr. Seuss is hotter than ever, earning an estimated $33 million before taxes this year—up from just $9.5 million five years ago—and landing him at No. 2 on Forbes’ ranking of the Highest-Paid Dead Celebrities for 2020.”

Video: How Dr. Seuss Made $33 Million Nearly 30 Years After His Death



NYC Pilot Tries Mental Health Responders in Place of Police

Talk Summary: Prarthna Singh at Nicer Tuesdays

The Problem for the 21st Century Isn’t That We’re Too Urban—It’s That We’re Not Urban Enough

Material Highlight: ‘Wood’ You Believe Organic Cellulose Is a Viable Alternative To Plastic?

Just for Fun

At least we can laugh.

Article: These 30 Funny “2020 Versions” Of Things Are Just Too Accurate



“This fall brings a new collection of some old spirituals and gospel music, first recorded back in the 1970s. The Last Shall Be First: The JCR Records Story, Vol. 1 aims to give a second life to some memorable performances that almost disappeared forever. It’s a story that really begins with a close cousin of gospel music: the blues.

“In the late 1940s and into the ’50s, radio station KWEM in West Memphis, Ark., featured live broadcasts of future legends like B.B. King, Johnny Cash and Howlin’ Wolf. Eventually the station changed its call letters to KWAM, moved across the river to Memphis, Tenn. and started tilting in a more heavenly direction.

“In 1970, the station hired Pastor Juan D. Shipp, a clergyman from a local church that was known for its music. ‘Always wanted to be a DJ,’ Shipp now recalls.  ‘I do have a music background: I was in the band in my high school and I sang in the choir. Music was just a part of my life.'”

For 20 years Shipp hosted The Gospel Train daily from 2 p.m. until sunset. He focused on groups that featured close harmonies, similar to doo wop.

“At some point, Shipp, known on air as Juan D, noticed a disparity in the recordings he was playing: He realized that local bands were being shortchanged. The audio quality of those records — groups like The Spiritual Harmonizers, The Silver Wings and The Calvary Nightingales — didn’t match that of the national acts.

“So he went hunting for a good studio, where he could record area artists. One day, while picking someone up at the Greyhound bus station in Memphis, Shipp saw a hand-painted sign for Tempo Studios, owned by rockabilly drummer Clyde Leoppard.”

The rest, as they say is local history. It is a fantastic tale of vision, taste, perseverance and experimentation. His gospel records are very likely the first ever to feature the wha-wha guitar pedal. NPR has the whole story.

Article: ‘The Last Shall Be First’: A Lost Chapter Of Gospel, Saved From Extinction

If you want to make the case that rock and roll, Chicago blues, Detroit and Northern soul and R&B have deep roots in gospel, look no further.

Album: The Last Shall Be First: The JCR Records Story, Vol. 1


Image of the Week

The image of the week is a photograph of glacial rivers, crossed by a bridge in southern Iceland, seen from above. It was shot by Marek Biegalski, of Dublin, Ireland. It earned him a designation as an International Landscape Photographer of the Year in the annual contest of the same name.

“More than 3,800 entries were received in this year’s landscape-photography competition, from professional and amateur photographers around the world. Judges of the contest narrowed the field down to a “Top 101”.

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada, by Vikki Macleod

The Atlantic hand-picked 21 of their favorites. Do check them out. One is more stunning than the next. We live on such a beautiful planet.

Article: Top Shots From the 2020 International Landscape Photographer of the Year

Shout Out
Thank you and a deep bow to Austin Kleon, one of the inspirations for this letter, for pointing me to the Quote of the Week by Ralph Steadman.

What’s Clarity First?

If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s 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. Learn more.

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