Review: Timothy Snyder Examines the Holocaust in Black Earth

Black Earth, by Timothy SnyderWe all learn about the Holocaust when we’re children. I learned about it when I was quite young, in grade school. Childhood lessons on the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews in Germany often center on the most gruesome atrocities, the concentration camps and the ovens and the torture of people.

It is understandable why that is so. These things are so terrible to imagine, they seem to bear repeating to make sure that future generations know they happened.

But they are not the entirety of the horrors of the Holocaust. And there is a danger to the way these atrocities are so often taught to school children. They’re taught in such as way as to isolate them from our current reality, and that is dangerous because when we hear about them, we might believe that we live in a different time, where such things are the product of a madman’s racism, and being so singular, would never happen again.

We’d be wrong.

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How Designers Can Fight Unconscious Bias

I published a guest post on Design Observer, called, “How Designers Can Fight Unconscious Bias: Powerful Lessons From Vectors SF.” It’s reproduced below, or you can read it over there. In it, I discuss an IDEO designer’s important talk about unconscious gender and racial bias, and how designers can help eliminate it, from the Vectors SF design conference.

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Let’s create better content.

What could more engaging content do for your organization? A lot. It can help define your brand, tell your stories, educate your prospects, and inspire your users. The problem with content marketing is so much of it is formulaic, lifeless and boring! As a creative marketer, content strategist, and experienced copywriter and editor, I help mission-driven leaders bring their brands to life with content people actually want to read. Learn how.

Artist feature content series: FIGMENT artists

In 2017, I worked with FIGMENT Oakland interns and our communications team to brainstorm and produce a series of longform articles featuring outstanding FIGMENT artists. Together, we developed a content strategy and a plan for interviewing participating artists and creating some in-depth content.

The goal? To build excitement for the 2017 FIGMENT event, and raise awareness in the local community about these San Francisco Bay Area artists.

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Challenging fashion: Comme des Garçons at the Met

Snapshots from Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between. Photo by Irene Kaoru.

Since I was a child, growing up in the 1980’s, I have admiringly followed the work and career of Rei Kawakubo. When I was too young to know what, precisely, avant-garde fashion was, I sensed that this designer was doing something special, unique, and somehow, important.

From the pages of W and Vogue, I pieced together an education in the adornment and presentation of the female body as idealized and imagined, often by male designers creating for the pleasure of male gazes. Kawakubo was starkly different in every way: female, Japanese, trained in fine art but not in fashion, and wholly original in her rejection of simplistic prettiness and conventional beauty. Her work lit a fire of possibility in my mind.

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Considering Tyranny on Independence Day

The founding fathers did something special when they designed the United States of America, with its branches of government designed to keep one another in check and protect the personal freedoms of individual citizens. For many Americans, though, the Constitution is something of a magical document, and the ideals of freedom and justice amount to some mighty magical thinking. For many Americans, oppression, corruption, human rights atrocities and war are things faced by other people in other countries — here in the USA, we’re protected by that magical document. We’re exceptional. We’re safe.

Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University, would like you to consider that this magical notion of safety is nonsense, which you may entertain at your extreme peril. On November 15, 2016, Snyder wrote on Facebook, “Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism.”

He’s right.

The European history of the twentieth century shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary men can find themselves standing over death pits with guns in their hands. It would serve us well today to understand why.

In his book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Snyder presents the expanded and fleshed-out versions of the 20-point list (from that much-circulated Facebook post) of ways free citizens can protect their liberty and each other in politically unstable and frightening times. This slim volume is packed with ample reasons why we should care about doing so, and chilling, cautionary illustrations from 20th century history.

This 4th of July, as we take a day off to meditate on what makes our country special, let’s also consider how we can keep it. On Tyranny offers grim warning alongside essential hope.

One of Jasper Johns “Flag” paintings, 1960-66.

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An Artist Date with ferocious flowers

I haven’t been strictly following the weekly structure, but in my own haphazard and meandering way, this year I’ve been happily working and playing through Julia Cameron’s classic book, The Artist’s Way. By that I mean, I’ve been reading it here and there, writing my Morning Pages when I feel like it and sometimes even when I don’t, and whenever I’m feeling “stuck” or uninspired, I turn to the exercises and ideas contained within. I highly recommend this, whatever type of artist or human you happen to be.

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Review: Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values

A highly meditative take on how to conduct oneself in life and in business with others, Kofman’s book, Conscious Business, contains much to discuss and learn. I picked it up in response to reading an article by Matt MacInnis, the CEO of San Francisco tech firm Inkling, where the book is required reading for all employees.

Having just wrapped up my first experience taking an early stage startup from 1 to 20 employees, and wishing to understand more about how leaders may intentionally create business culture where employees can not only create business value but thrive personally and emotionally as well, Conscious Business felt highly relevant.

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Ethical Fashion: A rant and guide for fabulous women

Since I swapped my East coast corporate job for West coast startup life, I’ve been struggling to refresh my wardrobe in a way that will keep me comfortable (no matter which coast I’m on), professional (from meetings to yoga class to business trips), and still looking like myself style-wise (something I can’t explain but I know it when I see it).

This is harder than it should be because I want to avoid the biggest problems with modern shopping: In a world choked with “fast fashion” – disposable, poorly-made mass-produced garments that are often 1) made by slaves and children 2) in factories that pollute the Earth, and are often 3) ill-fitting and 4) short-lived style-wise – what’s an ethical fashion-lover supposed to do?

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Call for art: FIGMENT Oakland now accepting art submissions

The 4th Annual FIGMENT participatory community event celebrates Bay Area creativity

Oakland, CA – The organizers of FIGMENT Oakland, the Bay Area chapter of the global participatory art organization, have announced the opening of their art submissions portal in preparation for the 4th annual FIGMENT weekend event on June 10, 2017.

Artists, community organizers and performers of all types are encouraged to submit finished artworks, artworks in progress, concepts, performances, workshops or even games for inclusion in the 2017 event. Unlike many creative events, there is no fee to submit works for consideration, no fee for participation and no fee to attend the event.

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