Tag Archives: wisdom

The Best of Monday’s Links Roundup Videos.

Monday's Link Roundup

If you didn’t catch these gems in previous Monday’s Link Roundup posts, now’s your chance to see what you missed.

  • A Brief History of Film Title Sequence Design in 2 Minutes. “In his graduation project, an absolutely brilliant motion graphics gem, Dutch designer and animator Jurjen Versteeg examines the history of the title sequence through an imagined documentary about the designers who revolutionized this creative medium.”
  • The Power of Simple Words.[Video] “Long, fancy words designed to show off your intelligence and vocabulary are all very well, but they aren’t always the best words. In this short, playful video Terin Izil explains why simple, punchy language is often the clearest way to convey a message.”
  • Noah St. John’s ‘The Last Mile’ [Video] “This is the first of series of stories from a new partnership between The Huffington Post and NPR’s new hit storytelling program, “Snap Judgment,” hosted by Glynn Washington. And it’s a good one.” [Thanks to Sally Goldin of  Tell Me A Story for alerting me to this item.]
  • The clues to a great story. [TED talk] “Filmmaker Andrew Stanton (“Toy Story,” “WALL-E”) shares what he knows about storytelling — starting at the end and working back to the beginning.”
  • The Old Man and the Sea Animated. “In 1999, Aleksandr Petrov won the Academy Award for Short Film (among other awards) for a film that follows the plot line of Ernest Hemingway’s classic novella, The Old Man and the Sea (1952). As noted here, Petrov’s technique involves painting pastels on glass, and he and his son painted a total of 29,000 images in total.”

6 More “Purrfect” Business Tips from My Cat.

Annie in tree

Annie in the plum tree.

Groan. Don’t you just hate puns?

Anyhow, my cat Annie  is a source of inspiration for my life and business. Previously I wrote 6 Lessons My Cat Taught Me About Time Management. I might add, she was quite pleased by the positive response that article received. ;-)

Here are some more of Annie’s pearls of wisdom.

1. Take time to play. Every day Annie insists we play at least once if not twice. If I’m not available, she’ll make up her own games. She’ll race madly about the house, dive into a stack of newspapers, or climb the plum tree.  She knows the wisdom of the old saying “All work and no play makes…”.

Make certain to build play time into your daily schedule.

2. Exercise caution in any new situation. Annie doesn’t immediately take to new things. A new chair, plant, or visitor is carefully and gingerly approached, sniffed, and either tentatively accepted or rejected until she feels more comfortable.

Whenever you embark on a new project or work with a new client, you could emulate her behavior (well maybe not the sniffing part). Take time to do your homework and assess the situation before plunging in.

3. Claim your territory. Annie has claimed the backyard as her territory. She defends it vigorously from other cats. And for the most part they now leave her alone.

It’s important to claim your space in the business world. Be clear on what you’re offering and to whom. Then stand up and stand out!

4. Be curious. All cats love to explore. And Annie’s no exception. In the summer she spends hours in the backyard, peering into flower beds and checking out the next door neighbor’s yard. She comes in at the end of the day, tired and stimulated.

Curiosity is a tonic that keeps your business fresh and relevant. Be curious about your competition, potential new products and services, and interesting marketing ideas.

5. Be gentle but strong. Annie is petite, soft, and gentle. That is until she feels threatened by another cat. Then she puffs herself up to twice her size and lets out a blood-curdling scream. It seldom goes any further than that. The other cat receives the message and retreats.

I’m not suggesting you puff yourself up and start screaming at people who upset you. Even though this might satisfy the “inner cat” in you. ;-) What I am saying is that you must be clear that you will not be taken advantage of or treated poorly.   Stand up for your rights!

6. Break the pattern. Annie’s a creature of routine. She has her favorite chair and set times for eating. She loves a snuggle while I’m watching a little TV at night. But she also mixes it up. She’ll decide to move to a different spot to sleep or skip the snuggle and be on her own.

It’s useful in our business to avoid becoming stale by doing the same thing over and over again. Follow Annie’s example and change things now and again.

Annie has looked this post over and approved its content. Whew! She can be so demanding.

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Photo by Dan Curtis © 2012 all rights reserved

Encore! When Small Can Be Profound.

Not long ago I was asked to audio record some final words from a young mother who was dying from cancer.  I’ll call her Sonia to protect the family’s privacy. She was in her early thirties and she wanted to leave something for her only child, a five-year-old boy…Read more.

Monday’s Link Roundup.

For Ken Burns fans,  this Monday’s Link Roundup includes a terrific 5 minute video,  Ken Burns on the Art of Storytelling. In Skepticism About Stories: The “Narrababble” Critique,  you’ll find a challenge to the popular view that people’s lives are a collection of stories.  And find out if you live in one of America’s well- read cities by checking out What Are The Most Well-Read Cities In America?

  • Alzheimer’s Patients Turn To Stories Instead Of Memories.[NPR] “Storytelling is one of the most ancient forms of communication — it’s how we learn about the world. It turns out that for people with dementia, storytelling can be therapeutic. It gives people who don’t communicate well a chance to communicate. And you don’t need any training to run a session.”
  • Life Writing. [pdf] “This special virtual edition of Life Writing presents eight articles that have a clear connection with the themes of the upcoming conference of the International Auto/Biography Association, to be held in Canberra, Australia, in July 2012. The conference is called ‘Framing Lives’, and its title signals an emphasis on the visual aspects of life narrative: ‘graphics and animations, photographs and portraits, installations and performances, avatars and characters that come alive on screens, stages, pages, and canvas, through digital and analogue technologies’ (www.iaba2012.com).”
  • The Colossal Camera that will capture Vanishing Cultures. “One photograph, no retakes, no retouching, just a pure honest photograph and a giant camera that will travel 20,000 miles across the US to photograph American Cultures. Vanishing Cultures is an astounding and completely unique concept…This one of a kind monumental camera will be transported by a huge truck trailer, due to it’s extremely large size. His [Dennis Manarchy] aim is to capture cultures that are rapidly fading from society and to feature their portraits on 2-story sized prints displayed in stadium-sized traveling outdoor exhibitions along with the amazing negatives and the stories behind the people and cultures.”
  • Skepticism About Stories: The “Narrababble” Critique. “…it is a very popular idea in psychology, philosophy and various social sciences that people experience their lives as a story or collection of stories. For example, the philosopher Dan Dennett explains the mind as a master novelist: “We try to make all of our material cohere into a single good story. And that story is our autobiography,” he has written. Moreover, says the philosopher Galen Strawson, there’s a parallel claim in the air that this is A Good Thing: that each person should be able to understand his/her life as a meaningful story, with an arc and a recognizable end. Strawson, though, is having none of it. He thinks these ideas, which he’s called “narrababble,” are a fad.”
  • What Are The Most Well-Read Cities In America? “Amazon has released their second annual list of the most well-read cities in the country, based on their book, magazine and newspaper sales data in both print and digital, since June 1, 2011. The statistics are per capita, and only include towns with more than 100,000 residents.”
  • What’s so special about biography? “It is my contention that biography has a unique way of helping us to understand what we are like as people. There have been true Golden Ages and Reigns of Terror in the fabric of human history; but, by examining the lives of real, flesh-and-blood human beings who inhabited those places and times, we can see the similarities and the constancy of human nature throughout that history. So, how does biography accomplish this in ways that other genres cannot?”
  • Ken Burns on the Art of Storytelling.[Video] “In explaining his own view on filmmaking, Burns rolls out that old quote from Jean Luc-Godard, “Cinema is truth at twenty-four frames a second.” But he has his own response to the famous proclamation: “Maybe. It’s lying twenty-four times a second, too. All the time. All story is manipulation.”

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Monday’s Link Roundup.

Don’t miss Reflections in today’s Monday’s Link Roundup. It’s a powerful reminder that behind every aged face there was once a younger self with dreams and ambitions. If you’re a serious blogger,  you’ll find some practical wisdom in 10 Lessons Seth Godin Can Teach You About Blogging.

  • Robert Caro’s Big Dig. “Caro is the last of the 19th-century biographers, the kind who believe that the life of a great or powerful man deserves not just a slim volume, or even a fat one, but a whole shelf full. He dresses every day in a jacket and tie and reports to a 22nd-floor office in a nondescript building near Columbus Circle, where his neighbors are lawyers or investment firms.”
  • Choosing Between Making Money and Doing What You Love. “…when you are facing the unknown, they only way to know anything for sure is to act. When you are dealing with uncertainty — and whether you are going to make any money from your passion at this point is definitely an uncertainty — you act. You don’t think about what might happen, or try to predict the outcome, or plan for every contingency. You take a small step toward making it a reality, and you see what happens.”
  • Why Entrepreneurial Thinking Is For Everyone Now. “We need a new playbook,” says entrepreneur and author Ben Casnocha. “The world has changed. The world of work has changed. Many of the assumptions that have guided how we think about careers in America are no longer true.” The Start-Up of You, written by Casnocha and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, is that playbook. It argues that we can no longer expect to find a job, instead we must make our jobs. As Hoffman says, we have to “find a way to add value in a way no one else can. For entrepreneurs, it’s differentiate or die — that now goes for all of us.”
  • Reflections. A poignant reconstructed portrait series  where  older people gaze into a mirror at a reflection of their  younger selves . Created  by photographer Tom Husey.
  • Social media self-promotion scheme draws authors including Margaret Atwood. “As bookshops teeter and publishers sway in the shifting landscape of the digital age, authors are being urged to go out and find their own readers by a new $20m (£12.5m) fund that will pay them a dollar for every book sold. With early adopters including Margaret Atwood and FlashForward author Robert Sawyer – who claimed the scheme would have added $20,000 to his income from audio over the past two years – the fund is being launched by digital audiobook site Audible at the London Book Fair this weekend.”
  • Book Design: Choosing Your Paragraphing Style. “Anyone who wants to do their own book design can spend some very worthwhile time studying books that are old. I mean really old, like going all the way back to the beginning of printed books. Early on, I found these books and the book typography that’s used in them very stimulating when thinking about how I wanted the books I was working on to look.”
  • 10 Lessons Seth Godin Can Teach You About Blogging. “Ever since I started in business, I’ve always loved Seth Godin. He’s a brilliant marketer and a great writer. In fact, he runs one of the most popular blogs…And while many people view him as “America’s greatest marketer,” there is a lot to learn from him about blogging.”

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Encore! Scrabble And Family Stories.

Scrabble 2

Image via Wikipedia

I read an essay, Lessons Beyond Words by Darren Yourk, on the Globe and Mail website.  It’s subtitled, While thrashing me at Scrabble, Grandma did more than expand my vocabulary. She shared our family’s story. Yourk’s piece is both humorous and touching. Here’s an excerpt… Read more.

Monday’s Link Roundup.

In this Monday’s Link Roundup I found PANTONE: A Color History of the 20th Century a reminder of the important role of color in our memories. The book looks gorgeous. It’s definitely on my Santa Claus list. Anyone want to play Santa? ;-)

  • The Terrible Word of the Year “Voltaire famously said that the Holy Roman Empire was “neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.” Yesterday, Oxford University Press announced that, for the first time, their U.S. and U.K. lexicographers (along with “editorial, marketing, and publicity staff”) had chosen a “global word of the year.”
  • On the Future of Books: A Discussion with Seth Godin. “The industry of publishing ideas has been undergoing a revolution for more than a decade, and where it’s headed is still an open question…Today I share a conversation I had with best-selling author, blogger and publisher Seth Godin on the future of books, publishing and blogging. It was fascinating.”
  • Nile Rodgers’ top 10 music books. “From Beethoven’s letters to Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, the musician chooses books that reveal the private lives behind the public melodies.”
  • 16 Ways to Leave a Legacy. “You’ve spent years digging up data and stories to breathe life into the grandparents and great-grandparents who’ve made your existence — and your children’s — possible. But what are you doing to ensure your family’s legacy will be around after you’re gone?”
  • PANTONE: A Color History of the 20th Century. “… longtime PANTONE scholars Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker explore 100 years of the evolution of color’s sociocultural footprint through over 200 works of art, advertisements, industrial design products, fashion trends, and other aesthetic ephemera, thoughtfully examined in the context of their respective epoch.”
  • EyeWitness to History.com. “Your ringside seat to history – from the Ancient World to the present. History through the eyes of those who lived it.” [Thanks to Mim Eisenberg of WordCraft for alerting me to this item.]
  • The Legacy Project. “The Legacy Project began in 2004, when I started collecting the practical advice for living of America’s elders. Using a number of different methods, my research team systematically gathered nearly 1500 responses to the question: “What are the most important lessons you have learned over the course of your life?”

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3 Things I Wish I’d Known Earlier About Being a Professional Personal Historian.

Want to avoid some pitfalls as a newcomer to the personal history business? Read on.

We  love our work. Right? But that doesn’t mean we  can’t be blindsided by some unsuspected snag. Looking back on my seven years in this work there are a number of things I wish I’d known earlier. Here are just three:

1. Some personal history clients can be darn right disagreeable.

It’s true and I have the scars to prove it.

For the most part, working with people on a personal history project is a satisfying experience. That’s why early on I was lulled into a dream-like  state, believing all my clients would be simply wonderful.  Wrong! One “client from hell” snapped  me out of my reverie.

What did I learn? I now make sure that I only work with clients that are a good fit and that I like.  In addition, I’m very clear from the outset about what I will or won’t do.  And I always make certain clients sign a contract.

2. Keeping up with changing technologies never stops.

A few years ago I invested several thousand dollars in the latest prosumer camcorder. It was a beauty. Now it’s  obsolete. It doesn’t shoot in HD and isn’t flash-based.  I’ll soon have to purchase a new camera which will also necessitate an upgrade of my editing software.

It’s not just keeping up with the latest equipment and software.  You’ve also got to budget for these upgrades. I’m embarrassed to admit that in this department I’ve been somewhat lax.

What’s the lesson?  Build into your production budget a rental fee for your equipment. Make sure that those fees go into a designated new equipment fund. And keep repeating to yourself: “This too will soon be obsolete.”

3. Working in an unregulated profession has it’s disadvantages.

There’s no certification or governing body for personal historians.   Some are experienced veterans and others are just starting out. Some charge nothing or very little while others charge thousands of dollars.  For potential clients this can be confusing. They may well ask why they should pay you a professional fee when someone down the street is offering a bargain basement deal?

What’s the answer?  I’ve learned not to sell myself short and not to be “nickel and dimed” to death. I sell myself on my years of experience as an award winning  documentary filmmaker.  I promise a professionally produced personal history that my clients will be thrilled with or they get their money back.   If they still prefer to go with “Joe”  down the street and are happy with a less qualified person and an inferior product, I’m not going to sweat it. Life’s too short.


So what are some of the pitfalls you’ve faced as a professional personal historian and what did you learn? Love to hear from you!

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Photo by iStockphoto

Monday’s Link Roundup.

Welcome to another issue of Monday’s Link Roundup. For those of you who are discovering this weekly roundup for the first time, a word of explanation. The links I select are those that I find personally entertaining, informative, amusing, thought provoking, and unusual. As well, they all have some connection to the realms of personal history, memoir, oral history, and biography. I hope you enjoy your visit here today.

  • How a Book is Made: AD 400 vs. 1947 vs. 1961 vs. 2011. “I love books, their past and their future. Yet, while ubiquitous and commodified, books and how they come to be remains an enigma for most of us. No longer. From Discovery comes this 5-minute microdocumentary on how books are made.”
  • Movellas democratises ebook publishing for Europe. “Movellas is bringing a popular Japanese concept for mobile partwork publishing to Europe. The publishing platform — which just won a Meffy for the Best Mobile Social Media Service — allows aspiring authors to write short novels chapter-by-chapter in a social and interactive environment.”
  • Selling My Mother’s Dresses. “Some of my favorite things — including the sundress I’m wearing today and the Winnie the Pooh car that Jay is pushing our daughter in — are from someone else’s life. I find no joy in shopping at regular stores anymore…I love trying to sniff out a memory from a bud vase or a favorite song from a case of L.P.’s. The stains and broken switches, the bend in the knee of an old pair of jeans. Sometimes I just want to look at how many Mason jars one person can collect and imagine what they might’ve held. It’s comforting to know that someone has breathed and laughed inside a sweater before me. That I am part of a continuum.” [Thanks to Mary M. Harrison of Morning Glory Memoirs for alerting me to this item.]
  • Helvetica: A documentary Film by Gary Hustwit. “Helvetica is a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which recently celebrated its 50th birthday in 2007) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives.”
  • World Wide Words. “The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or change their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least some part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, the background to words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.”
  • Schools, beware the e-book bandwagon. “..schools may want to pause before jumping on the e-book bandwagon. In a study last year at the University of Washington, a group of graduate students were given Kindles, and their use of the devices was monitored through diary entries and interviews. By the end of the school year, nearly two-thirds of the students had abandoned the Kindle or were using it only infrequently. Of those who continued to use the e-reader regularly, many had “switched to a different and usually less desirable reading technique,” researchers said.” [Thanks to Paula Stahel of Breath and Shadows Productions for alerting me to this item.]

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Encore! 10 Commandments for the Professional Personal Historian.

10 Commandments for the Professional Personal Historian. I’m not Moses or even a prophet for that matter. But I’ve been around for a while! As a freelancer for thirty years,  I’ve learned some key lessons that can be summed up in these ten commandments that I try my best to follow. Not always successfully!  For those of you starting out, these might provide a useful checklist. For the experienced among us, perhaps the commandments will be a  useful reminder of what we need to keep doing. What are your … Read More