Clarity First Newsletter, November 30, 2018


Clarity First

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

This week on a late night flight home, a man carrying a piece of art wrapped as a gift boarded the plane in a wheelchair. The art would fit only in the overhead compartment, and it took up the space of two roll-ons. He was small, and couldn’t stand, and he became quite agitated when new arrivals tried to fit their luggage into the space with his art. Then the guy directly behind him put his hand on his shoulder and said eight simple words: “This art is really important to you, isn’t it?”. You could see the man physically relax. Then the helper offered to try to repack the compartment so that it didn’t take up quite so much space. When that didn’t work he talked with a flight attendant about whether there was some other place the art could be safely stashed. When it was obvious that this art was going to take up an inordinate amount of space, the helper took it upon himself to inform later boarders of this reality, and to personally fit smaller luggage in an around it in a way that protected the art.

This simple act of compassion, empathy and kindness made my whole week. Love works. It’s the most powerful tool in our toolbox.

Happy Friday.


Ecological Thinking, Change and Transition
Awareness that humanity is on a path to self-imposed environmental and social collapse as a source of hope

Photo by Tahreer Photography/Getty Images

David Korten has recently been involved in a series of dialogs about the transition to an “ecological civilization”. He says that they are giving him faith that such a transformation is “both possible and essential to the future of humanity”.

“I find the term ‘ecological civilization’ especially well-suited to the changes we must achieve to have a viable future,” he says. “‘Ecological’ focuses our attention on the active interdependence of all living organisms and their ability to self-organize into diverse, symbiotic communities. ‘Civilization’ evokes the depth of the cultural and institutional transformation required to create a human future of peace, justice, and environmental health that is truly civil.”
Article: Why I Have Hope in the Face of Human Extinction


Personal Development, One on One Communication
How to listen so people talk.

Daniel Dorsa for The New York Times

“It’s fair to say Terry Gross knows some things about talking to people. The host and co-executive producer of NPR’s “Fresh Air” has interviewed thousands of personalities over the course of her four-decade career.” In this insightful article she offers eight tips for having better conversations. These are basic practices that we can all use, whether we’re meeting someone at a party, or applying for a job.
Article: How to Talk to People, According to Terry Gross


Changing Minds
What neuroscience tells us about the persistence of hatred. Hint, it’s very persistent.

Photograph by Jeffery Salter/Redux

“Hate is a powerful emotion that lodges itself deep within a person’s psyche. Indeed, a growing body of social, psychological, and neurological research suggests that once racial biases and hateful ideologies embed themselves in a person’s brain, they can be difficult—if not impossible—to counteract. This research suggests an uncomfortable reality: that ending racism isn’t something that can be achieved through a handful of counseling or therapy sessions, or anti-bias training. In addition to the efforts of organizations like Life After Hate, millions of dollars have been spent in recent years on high-profile anti-bias initiatives at companies including Starbucks, Facebook, and Google, as well as in police departments across the country. Yet there is little evidence that these efforts even work.” Ouch. This is hard to grasp.
Article: The Pathology of Prejudice


Place, Community, New Economy
Our most desirable cities have a high tech/arts ratio.

Surprise. When you parse the data the cities that are thriving have open minds and a yearn to learn.
“The importance of cities developing a creative class was popularized by urban studies theorist Richard Florida in his book, “The Rise of the Creative Class.” Florida argued that a large base of highly-skilled, creative workers would thrive, and, importantly, choose to continue living in a city that has arts and other cultural attractions. An analysis of Yelp! data shows that most of the cities on this list contain a high share of cultural venues such as theaters, galleries, and museums. In general, the cities with the largest creative classes have the largest number of these cultural venues per capita.”

“…To identify the 30 cities with the largest creative classes, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2017 employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Standard Occupational Classification system. We combined total employment in each metropolitan area in occupations that we determined to be creative occupations. The share of adults with a bachelor’s degree is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, and is for 2017. The number of patents granted is from The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.”
Article: America’s Most Creative Cities


Visual Identity
Different, but the same.

It seems that expressing heritage and quality via typographic distinction has become too risky for high-end fashion brands. “Bill Gardner, a designer who obsessively tracks corporate identities at LogoLounge, cites a litany of pricey brands that lately have opted for the all-caps sans-serif look: Céline, Rimowa, Diane von Furstenberg, Balenciaga, and Saint Laurent, as well as Saville’s own refresh of Calvin Klein in 2017. All have been transformed into crisp-angled letterforms. When the Burberry redesign made its debut, design blog Brand New gave it a snarky welcome: ‘It is no more different nor more or less interesting than any other fashion sans-serif logo’”.
Article: Why Fashion Brands All Seem to Be Using the Same Font


Advertising, Creative Process, AI
It wasn’t if, it was when. Here’s the world’s first ad written by AI.

“Lexus used data on 15 years of award-winning luxury campaigns, as well as information about the brand and human emotion to create a 60-second film that tells the story of a car that comes to life and will inevitably lead to questions about whether artificial intelligence can do the same creative job as humans.” If you are a creative director, relax. For now your job is secure. For you the good news is that this ad is kind of dumb. The bad news is that it’s no dumber than most car ads.
Video/Article: How Lexus Programmed a Machine to Write the World’s First AI-Scripted Ad


Personal Development, Learning
We are all irrational, and we all make mental errors.

“For a long time, researchers and economists believed that humans made logical, well-considered decisions. In recent decades, however, researchers have uncovered a wide range of mental errors that derail our thinking. Sometimes we make logical decisions, but there are many times when we make emotional, irrational, and confusing choices.” Here are five of the most common biases and aversions and heuristics that keep us from clarity.
Article: 5 Common Mental Errors That Sway You From Making Good Decisions



One day this week I found myself humming Lou Reed’s Perfect Day.

I remembered that Andrew Bird had covered it in his great room with Matt Berningaer, of the National. So I went there first.

And then I found video of Lou performing his own song at Montreux in 2000.

What a beautiful song about a precious experience.

Deep bow, Lou. You held contradiction and made it into art.


Image of the Week

“Olalekan Jeyifous’ Improvised Shanty Megastructures uses images of fictional megastructures, constructed in the most unconventional forms, to force urban developers to rethink urbanisation and innovation, particularly as they affect the less privileged communities in Nigeria. The Nigerian artist and designer is based in Brooklyn, New York, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture. His images show fantastical cylindrical buildings in Lagos, made out of wood and melds of various metals that seem to hardly catch even the harshest of sun rays during the day, but which mildly light up at dusk.”
Article: This Nigerian Artist Unveils a Surreal Future of Living in a City


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