Because it’s my birthday – a cupcake for you, and wishes too: That thought by thought, and action by action, this nutty, misguided, confusing, troubled, hopeful, amazing, strange and beautiful world may become a better place for our dreams to thrive. That we all choose to participate in the unfolding of what brings us our own individual peace. That we take a bite of something good and make a delicious offering of that something to ourselves, our friends, families, neighbors, co-workers, and those we pass on the street. That we uplift and respect and care and appreciate. That we smile on one another more. That we experience more of whatever brings more joy and more peace, more often, into our lives.
It’s no secret amongst my clients and colleagues – and let me preface this by saying I don’t “hate” much of anything, except maybe cheesecake (I know, I know…), and rudeness, or falling on icy steps – but sometimes I do hate Word. Microsoft Word, that is. It’s fickle. It’s not intuitive. It messes up. It can be nasty. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, I tell you!
Oh, and by the way, it is not, nor was ever meant to be, a design tool. Yet millions upon millions of people use it as if it were. I do not understand this. It infuriates me.
But I “must” use it because of those millions upon millions of people who use it, some of those millions being clients of mine and it’s a useful tool for sharing information. Note: Sharing information. Words. It was intended to process words.
Instead, it’s evolved into this messy catch-all of “things it can do”, most of which are not well done, hard to find, and tend at some point to rain on its own parade by crashing. Not crash as in “crash a party”; crash as in stop functioning. Nosedive. All systems out. As in, you’re barreling along when suddenly the spinny-rainbow-wheel pops up and begins its incessant twirl round and round and round and round, often caused by a task as excruciatingly simple as cutting and pasting a paragraph from one place to another. (Maybe it just doesn’t like Macs.)
It’s not well. It’s neither fun nor savvy. It’s a frustrating blend of “tools” that make people like me crazy. People who have worked with beautifully designed software programs that do what they’re supposed to do. People who have come to expect things to “make sense” when using them. (Personal flaw: Don’t like my time wasted, I admit it.)
Because it’s not going away any time soon, we all continue to use Microsoft Word. So we can’t actually break up. It owns the world. It’s the Big Cheese of Word Processing programs.
But, why-oh-why can’t they get it right? Why can’t they make it smarter and less finicky? Why does it try so hard to be things it isn’t, and why can’t it do the things it’s meant to do with efficiency and finesse? To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, if you’re going to do something or be something, be a good one.
Meanwhile, I’ll now go back and ONCE AGAIN, find the saved document remnants from my computer’s trash bin. And keep “saving saving saving” every time I dot an i or cross a t in my Word document.
Almost like clockwork, every January I’m reminded of my love for black and white. Maybe it’s the monotones of winter. Maybe it’s the bright white snow against a black sky. Maybe it’s because each year a new Ansel Adams calendar hangs on my studio door.
Whatever it may be, I’ve long been drawn to the beauty of black & white art, going back to the first time I picked up that favorite tool of mine (the #2 pencil) and sensed that magic was held within its lead.
From pencil or pen to the magnificent drama of a fine black & white photograph, I’m captivated by the power and emotional breadth that can be achieved without a spot of color. No distractions. Just character and grace, depth and strength and guts and mood. And like a good story, well done black & white allows your mind to add its own color by filling in what’s left unsaid.
Please note, I’ve tried to find image sources for all of these images, and sometimes failed. I would love to give proper credit where due, so if you know the original source of any of these labeled “source unknown”, please let me know!
These fall into the “they don’t make things like they used to” category. Not just because they’re well illustrated, or because of their artistry and creativity, but because of the cleanliness, the sheer un-clutteredness, the freedom from too many headlines and too much text vying for attention. They’re a breath of fresh air, courtesy of the early 1900’s.
Aren’t they wonderful?
I’m reading. Not a surprise, I realize, but isn’t that what holiday weekends were made for? Reading, writing, making some art, getting one’s hands full of garden earth, visits with family or friends. Point is: not working. Connecting with that sometimes elusive concept called relaxation.
So while the sun is trying its best to make a solid show and my daughter has gone off socializing, I’ve got a good book, a cup of tea, a pile of new dirt and plants ready for planting. (And yes, hot fudge on the stove for later.)
It’s a really good book so far ~ Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings. Again, this isn’t particularly surprising, but what did strike me was the uninteresting cover. The “ordinary-ness” of it. It feels very safe, very stock-photography-esque. It’s pleasing enough, but nothing that would have grabbed me had I not already been interested in the author.
I’ve talked about this before, but I’ll say it again ~ we do judge books by their covers. It’s our first impression. That first impression may or may not inspire us to read the back matter (what’s it about?). The back matter may or may not spur us on to actually open the book and read the first few lines. At this point, if the first few lines read well, you’re more than halfway there and your cover has done its job. If the first few lines read poorly, the cover may have surpassed its content (one might give it a few pages, even a chapter to decide~ but at least it got you to look.) Reviews, of course, give books some major traction, but if you’re at all picky about how you spend your time, you’ll probably still go through these steps before plunging in. And it all starts with the cover.
Book covers can be fantastic visual candy. And they actually can make or break a sale. As a graphic designer, and as much as I both write and read, creating covers is a natural extension of what I do, but not one many know about. So I thought I’d share some with you below. So you know.
P.S. The sun, by the way, has lost. The clouds have won, the rains have come. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m reading. : )
It just so happens that I am fortunate enough to have some gifted friends. And three of those friends recently published their own first books ~ which, also, just so happen to be quite good. So I thought I’d give them a shout out, because I’m both proud of their work and proud to know them. (If any of you are then inclined to read their books, all the better for everyone involved!)
Paul Huckelberry / An Accidental Book
I didn’t know Paul until he followed up on a referral to use both my graphic design and editing services ~ which he (very wisely : ) ) decided to invest in. So, yes, I am particularly biased in my review of this book, but I do know the book intimately ~ line by line, in fact, and cover design, too ~ and my assessment is honest. (Those who know me or my work, know that I can be a demanding critic, aiming for the best possible result with the highest quality representation.) And with that I’ll say that Paul is a writer who’d been masquerading as a well-resepcted engineer for many years ~ and write well he does in this lively collection of life stories ranging from love to politics, religion, greed, food on the table, self-worth, and generally a whole lot of things that seem to matter in this life we live. Without prescribing or preaching, he shares, and through that, gems of wisdom shine.
Over the past year, I have come to know and absolutely delight in this deep-thinking, witty, well-lived and wonderfully wise soul ~ and her first book is all of that as well. It’s a short, hauntingly real and beautifully composed sharing of life lessons learned, in ways that question, soothe, uplift and scratch at the very core of our spirit. She digs deep effortlessly and comes out on the other side brighter and wiser, refreshingly touching the reader’s life in the process.
Heather McCloskey Beck / Take the Leap
I’m pretty sure Heather and I have known each other in many lifetimes, as there was an almost instant “recognition” of one another across the miles, well before we met in person. We also share an uncannily similar approach to life, as well as a passion for art, creativity, peace and doing what you love ~ the latter of which, Heather is on a mission to help infuse into as many souls as possible So, when reading this lovely, thoughtful book, I nodded my head a lot, and found myself silently cheering her on, as well as cheering on all those who will undoubtedly be uplifted and motivated by her beautiful, compelling brand of inspiration.
This morning ~ before the chores, and before all the thinking and the doing – with an Indian summer sun on my face, a cup of tea, teen’s chatter in the kitchen, fresh strawberries, tomatoes and purple posies from the garden… I found myself once again remembering to appreciate the small moments and life’s simple blessings. And I just wanted to wish the same for you. ~ P
It’s a black and white world tonight ~ snow is falling against the dark night sky, which seems to take an edge off the bitter of winter’s cold ~ and I’m reminded how every year at this same time I feel this same compulsion to post some great black & white pieces. (It’s starting to feel a little spooky, how this happens, on cue, every January.) Whatever the reason for the timing, I adore black and white; always have. From my life-long love affair with the #2 pencil, to the magnificent drama of a fine black & white photograph, I’ve been captivated by the beauty and emotional breadth that can be so singularly captured without a spot of color. There’s character and grace and strength and guts and mood that seeps into your skin. I’ve written at length about these moods in the past, so will spare you the repetition and get on with the show!
“Everything an artist makes is a metaphor.” This is the overriding theme in this week’s video from Chris Staley, master potter, educator and Penn State Laureate. With disarming style, Chris recreates a snowman, a flower, a bent can and sticks in snow, inspired by a classroom visit with young children. (If you missed my introduction about Chris, you can read that here.) Enjoy!