December 09, 2006

At Your Leisure

Time is doled out to all with full equanimity from a great account in the currency of 60 minutes to the 24 hours to the 365 days to the years. The question of "how can I get more?" has, for me at least, changed to the more biblical one of "how can I use what I have more efficiently?"

Redeeming time is difficult. It requires constant review of ones choices because the value of any one idea, action, option will change from one minute, hour, day to the next. So I won't ask you to spend your allowance reading this whole post. Take what you think is worth taking and leave the rest for another time. I'll tell you now that you can expect to read about how I'm spending time with thoughts, church, relationships, work, design, and the miscellany of left-overs that escape clear categorization. All the best to you!

I've been thinking about how much I hate money. I find myself scrambling to ensure that what flows in matches the demand of what flows out. It is a strange and complicated beast to me still, but a new job and some guidance will hopefully chain that beast fast to the ground. I'm changing and it feels good.

I've been thinking about the man who seems to live with the newsstands outside Union Station. "They're out to get you and you DON'T EVEN KNOW IT... yes, you in the suit... you know what I mean... I've been here for seven years night and day... conspiracy is what is wrong with... I'm telling you that the reason... why not change the sense... you can't ignore the..." he blasts. He doesn't look homeless. He's a black man of no small girth. He's clean and wears his cold-weather garb as one who knows the mechanics of buttons, zippers, cuffs, laces. We exchange glances every morning on my way to the metro. I nod. He acknowledges. We share a moment of brief mutual respect and then quickly return to our regiment. I don't know what his name is, but I call him Isaiah. He sits in the gates, the juncture of transit in the city, and broadcasts his message every day. Nobody stops to listen to him. They prefer the newspaper dispensers over his speech for information regarding the future of the world. I think that the prophets would have been the same way. I can picture people going in and out of Jerusalem thousands of years ago buying and selling and speculating in the grain market, laying up earthly treasure. All the while Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Ezekiel, and the rest of the band broadcast the message. I wonder if the culture back then would have looked at a man literally on his soap-box the way today's culture looks at the man at the newsstands. I wonder if the culture of today will ultimately treat the man at the newsstands the way people treated the prophets.

I've been thinking about how I've lost my faith in the United States Government. Living and working with and among the "govies" leaves me jaded. If the government were run like a business then I am confident (and this is no over-statement) that we would rid ourselves of the national debt quite quickly. I find with every government project I work on that everything is run completely backwards. Project goals for contracts are based on spending the entirety of a budget—not with quality of end-product in mind—so that they can meet or overspend as a basis to request more money for the next fiscal year. Example: I've started work with a project that passed through the hands of about six other designers because a committee of fifty or so people had to approve every detail of a concept design. Everyone in the committee originally shot down a two-column format for a series of fact sheets because they didn't like it. Then someone in the committee attended a seminar where they learned that two-column formatting is easier to read. So, naturally, they switched designers and told the new one to use a two-column layout. Seriously, just let the designer do his job! What a waste of time and money—of OUR time and money! I could have completed a project like this in about three weeks. We're entering the seventh month of going back and forth over this one, small project. I think that I need to write a few letters.

I've been thinking about how cool it is that people voted for one of my patterns at Hexa-herb was selected to be used on merchandise. Those who voted and emailed me, thereby qualifying themselves for free stuff from the site, can go ahead and choose something they like and let me know what they want.

I've been thinking about trust. How it is earned. How it is given. I think that it is easier for me to trust God with the things that He's proven Himself capable of handling (food, money, relationships, prayer). I know that it demonstrates a lack of faith on my part. The thing that gets me thinking is that if God can consistently prove His trustworthiness with one thing, then logically He should be worthy of trust concerning other things as well (forgiving, illuminating others, being capable of expending the kingdom without me). Trust is invested like money or time. Practicing putting stock in God's trust should be easy when you review His portfolio and see that you're guaranteed a high return on investment. Why is it so hard to invest when there is absolutely no risk?

I've been thinking about how people came to so enjoy commemorating a lost war. I write to you now from a vestibule in a coffee shop, flanked by large windows, on the corner of downtown Fredericksburg. Confederate soldiers mingle in the streets with tourists and shoppers. It is rather normal to see them on any given day in town toting their muskets and rifles, blues and greys, wilted hats. I can understand commemorating the Revolutionary War. The Revolutionary War marked the birth of a new nation; a new land for a free, unified people. But the Civil War is remembered as "The Lost Cause," the war between states and brothers. Do the Brits feel this way over the civil war that they lost (our Revolutionary War)? I can't help but feel uneasy around here having a "Yankee" heritage (though I was born in Louisiana; that detail at least gets my foot in the door). The statues and memorials up north celebrate courage, fortitude, prudence, and temperance in the forms of pious looking soldiers striding forward in confidence or bending to help the fallen. Southern memorials, however, commemorate the millions of yanks that fell by the hand of X company at Y place. They take the form of thick-armed men with vengeful expressions. They are thrusting their bayonet into the fallen skeleton-like effigy of a Yankee soldier begging for a mercy that to this day doesn't exist.

I am so thankful for the Body of Christ. Amber and I had been hunting for a church for some time and then God brought one right to our door. Amber has been seeing a chiropractor for some neck/shoulder tension. It was at an appointment that she met lady who's daredevil son needed treatment and whose husband is pastor to a small flock a county away. We visited the church and instantly fell in love. We've been attending for several weeks now. Hanover Baptist Church in King George County is an interesting mix of either parents and grandparents or very young children. But we all share a unity in Christ that seems to supercede age or background. The people are very sweet. We all are learning love God as best we can and exhibit His love in our lives.

Amber continues to be my dearest companion and truest friend. She's quite simply the most amazing person on earth and I love her. I look forward to getting off the train at the end of the day and finding her car, hearing about her day, sharing thoughts together before they're spoken. God is so good to us both in how He expresses His love for us through the earthly relationship that Amber and I share. At times I am caught spellbound at how heavenly love and earthly affection can weave and express themselves together through a single relationship. I grow more and more grateful to God for growing and guiding us together. Things aren't always easy. Circumstances aren't always comfortable. But there's grace and the promise of an easy yolk and a light burden. So in holding fast to Christ we find a tie that binds us closer to each other.

I wish that I could take all the people I love and bring them to where I am. I have to admit that it is hard to keep up with those I miss. I suppose that it reveals something about my priorities if I can't make time for people (!). Amber and I both are learning how precious it truly was to be in such close proximity to all the people with whom we felt most at home. She often refers to her core group of friends as "the family." If you're reading this then please know that you are missed. Please come visit!

I’ve recently taken a position with HMA Associates, Inc. (don’t bother visiting the website; it is old and we’re revamping the brand). I do primarily concept design work for various projects which include print, web, motion, video, and environment graphics. Naturally there is a good chunk of production to keep me busy, but the variety of work is enjoyably challenging and fun. HMA specializes in targeting multi-cultural markets (specifically the American Latino, Black, Pacific Islander, Native American and Asian demographics). The people with whom I work are incredibly talented and widely experienced. My immediate supervisor has a background in television and even worked with “The Today Show” for a while. The other designer for the company animated for Disney and still does a great deal of illustration work (I’m learning a TON from him). The guy with the office across from mine handled a lot of PR for the NBA and the Washington Wizards before joining HMA. I still haven’t really met everyone since I’ve been thrown into the middle of things at a very busy time. I’ve been meeting people on a day-to-day basis depending on whether I’m working through breaks/lunch or if I need to coordinate with someone on a project. I am loving the challenge of multi-cultural marketing. It stretches my creativity and forces me to stay current on trends in both the market and design worlds.

People have known for a while now that a lot of the world is shifting back over to an oral culture from a written culture. Growth in television and radio are the obvious evidences of how people enjoy getting their information. The vocabulary and tone of email/internet/IM correspondence offers a greater sense of immediacy compared to snail mail. People even use more conversational language as opposed to the more academic vocabulary and grammar of half a century ago.

Thinking verbally means that it is going to be increasingly difficult to communicate or sell a message to people using only mailers, tracts, brochures, or the like. These printed pieces are no longer valued as the primary source of information but are thought of more and more as the reference point. In other words, most people don’t want to be handed a brochure; they want someone to talk them through it and explain things and then say, “You can read this if you want more information.”

The paradox is that our society, because it is thinking more verbally, is thinking literally as well. So the tangible, concrete concepts are ones that most people readily grasp (hold the imagery, just give me the facts). This doesn’t mean that designers should skimp on the decoration and go hyper-minimalist. On the contrary, a literal-thinking society will respond to design that they can hold in their hands, things that can be felt and handled. Using unique papers and design that communicates a sense of dimension will speak more directly to the emerging market.

I strongly believe that the technologically dependent society that we have become will soon take an anti-technology stance in the arts and music. I say this because we already recognize in our day that technology and the ability to communicate through an increasing array of media is what drives today’s modern culture. It was at this point (historically speaking) that previous major advances in culture gave birth to their philosophical foil. The rediscovery of ancient literature incited a redefining of education that eventually caused the Renaissance. Romanticism sprung out first in art and music from the rigid glorification of logic in the Age of Reason. Hard-edged and fast-paced industrialism shifted into the Arts and Crafts as well as the Art Nouveau movements. Since history has a way of repeating itself, we can expect the first signs of an anti-tech mindset emerge from artists, musicians, and writers. It will most likely focus on the hand-made, technically difficult forms of expression. Lithography will outpace offset printing for display pieces like posters or CD covers. Musicians might imitate the synthesized sounds of computer-generated instruments in live performance. I think that hand-drawn animation of early Disney quality and artistry will come back strong in spite of how expensive it is. Stuff like that (IMHO).

So many of the celebrated facets of human life have recently passed in my immediate acquaintance: birth, death, passage into adulthood, coming into maturity, falling out of favour, divergence and convergence of minds. All of them together are almost overwhelming. To experience all of it in so short a time changes one. Each demands attention and reflection. My tendency is to try to see the stream that I assume connects each facet to the other. I strain at a theoretical link trying to build conclusions on intangible premises. There’s no real logic in any of it. I choose to take no opinion until I decide on either abandoning the equation or realizing that there is no math to calculate the sum of these experiences. Until then, know that I care.

Posted by timf at 12:07 PM | Comments (7)