Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's a big world and I really like it

Thanks to Jennifer Allen for sending me this excerpt from George Saunders's essay, The Braindead Megaphone, written while he was in a plane over Dubai watching Meet the Fockers.

It's a big world and I really like it.

In all things we are victims of The Misconception from Afar. There is the idea of a city, and the city itself, too great to be held in the mind. And it is in this gap (between the conceptual and the real) that aggression begins.

No place works any different than any other place, really, beyond mere details. The universal human laws - need, love for the beloved, fear, hunger, periodic exaltation, the kindness that rises up naturally in the absence of hunger/ fear /pain are constant, predictable, reliable, universal and are merely ornamented with the details of local culture. What a powerful
thing to know: that one's own desires are mappable onto strangers; that what one finds in oneself will most certainly be found in The Other - perhaps muted, exaggerated or distorted, yes, but there nonetheless, and thus a source of comfort.

Just before I doze off, I council myself grandiosely: fuck concepts. Don't be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more,
until the day you die, world without end, amen.

I guess what I'm trying to say

I remember working as an art director at the Martin Agency, back in the early nineties, and I was always keeping my eye out for cool pieces of communication - films, writing, design - all of us were, and it seemed like something magical would come up maybe once a year, something so fresh and human and true and surprising and delightful that we'd have to stop and pass it around and it would force us to reevaluate our own work.

I remember when I first saw the Nike Instant Karma commercial. It just rocked my world for a while.

And now there's something delightful every day. It's endless. And it rarely comes from the pros.

It's stimulating and overwhelming. What do we do with all the newness, the freshness, the creativity? How do we keep up? Everyone seems to have the tools to create wonderful things, and while the pros use to dismiss the democraticizing power of technology, the amateurs are passing us right and left these days, all the time.

Our level of craft remains high, but how often do you see a piece of spontaneous and honest and original communication coming from the pros? It happens, for sure, but the landscape is so different, so much more competitive. Our jobs are more challenging than ever. I like it.


I just read an interesting blawg this weekend that showcased cool calling cards made by neighborhood gangs in Chicago in the '60s and '70s. There's so much interesting stuff out there. Everyone has a blawg or facebook page or twitter account or youtube channel or photo stream with something interesting to share.

Which lead me to an idea, which I believe will guarantee every one of us enjoys our deserved share of the limelight.

Here's how it will work. Every day, including Saturday and Sunday, globalblogoftheday.com will showcase a blawg, facebook page, twitter account, flickr account, etc. for one person in the world. For one day, you would have the attention of 8 billion people! Imagine how you could use that stage!

It would start in alphabetical order. Based on only 50% of the world's population participating, and on my last name, This is Jelly's blog will be featured on October 17 in the year three million four hundred twenty thousand nine hundred and twenty three.

(If we alphabetize by first name, I jump to June 29, 1,687,994.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Story tastes good

I like the way Whole Foods adds nuance to the "conventional" v. "organic" discussion. Reading this story of the Blitz family's farm made my oranges taste even better.

I've worked in advertising for a long time, but it's still fascinating to me how intangibles like story and justice for the worker can alter the physical experience of eating an orange.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Go, 12! Go, future!

Went to 12.5 graduation last night, and it was fun. Got to meet some lovely parents of graduating students, and I think I might have danced a little bit with one of the dads. Hm.

Had many interesting and enjoyable conversations with grads from the first four years of the program. They remain the bright, hilarious, optimistic/skeptical people whom I knew as students, and I enjoy them even more as peers.

Quite a few conversations about Twitter/facebook/YouTube/internet-living. Many said something like: Okay, we're connected. We've all shared the freshest, most inspired, hilarious, bizarre and obscure stuff that's out there. Now what? All of us have a media channel, or two, or three, or more? What's it getting us?

Yes. Interdigiworld is frequently an echo chamber of hype, distraction, self-absorption, banality, hate, boredom, loneliness and superficiality. The screen/clicky-click interface reduces our best and richest nature as humans, no doubt. It's weak on story. It's weak on meaning.

A lot of us could stand to get away from it for a while, to sit out a few rounds and walk in the woods and connect with family and grow our own food and paint and write and hang out with Rick and watch all the Kurisawa films and start a business and go work with kids and whatever non-clickety activity that brings joy and connects us to the earth and each other. Of course. Jacques and Jerry Mander and Postman would endorse that plan, fully.

But past the good/bad judgments, I'm interested in the creative tension between what hyperinstantconnectedsharingness clearly is not providing for us and the unknown potential of what it might. Can we embrace technology in a way that is mindful and fun and expansive of what we bring to the world? What can we learn from Obama? Or Shaq?

Beyond saying yes and diving in, I think using technology thoughtfully requires the basic work of thinking about what you value, and what value you provide to the world, and asking: How can the internet bring me more of what I value? How does it bring me less of what I value? How do I use technology to bring more of who I am to world? How can it help me do my thing? How can it undermine my value to the world? And maybe most importantly, in a globally-connected world where we live everywhere at once, where are my roots?

A few people have told me that my blawg has inspired them to start one of their own and I'm glad. It's hard to over-sell the rewards of writing a hundred or so posts and putting them out there in the world. Beyond the surprising connections and conversations it sparks, keeping a blawg can deliver the same magic as keeping a journaling, but on a public stage. Treacherous and exciting!

Yet I'm blawging less these days. Just as hyperinstantconnectedsharingess gets more useful and interesting, I'm spending more time away from it. The tension is in how it simultaneously provides an opportunity to express my voice, share my perspective, tell stories and connect, and at the same time, takes me away from things that give me greater enjoyment and let me be my full freaky self. So I find myself spending less time clickety clicking and expressing my thoughts to the cyber-ether, and more time working and laughing and hanging out with real people.

On that note, I gotta get out in this gorgeous day. Take a walk, maybe read the paper on the porch.

If I come across something interesting, I'll tweet it.

Hope you're all well. Always happy to hear what's going on with you. Email me@jellyhelm.com.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Value & Wealth

As we are rebuilding our economy, the questions I am most interested in have to do with value and wealth, in the fullest sense of the words. What do we value? Where is our wealth? It’s clearly not where we thought it was. Where is our security?

How do we create value and wealth as a society? How do I create value and wealth? We are natural wealth and abundance machines. What sort of wealth do we wish to create?

We created one sort of “abundance” and watched it collapse, hollow. What sort of abundance do we want to create this time? How will it be different than what we created before? How we strengthen it? What will be its center? Will this culture ever have a center again?

Where is our value as people? What do we value? Where is our wealth?

Where is my value as an individual? What do I value? Where is my wealth?

I’m asking these questions sitting here in this wonderful public garden in downtown Seattle. It makes me think of the MLK waterfall in San Francisco. Yesterday I had a wonderful meeting with a new client I am grateful to be working with. They have a terrific story that will benefit from a better telling. I am working with a team well-suited for the task. I will wander around downtown a bit before I catch the train back to Portland.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Rutan Voyager

We upped the ante in the latest flying vehicle model by adding popsicle sticks to the cardboard innards. Leo put a coat of paint on it last night, but I also like how it looks raw.

The story of this plane is pretty far out. In 1986 it was the first plane to fly the 25,000 miles around the earth without stopping or refueling. It took the two pilots more than 9 days. They shared a cockpit as big as a phone booth. When they landed, at the same runway where they took off, they only had a few gallons of fuel left.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Grow, tree!

This little guy inspires. Not one to let a setback get the best of him.