Drawing by Fiona Staples for Saga: Book One
In this mid-summer edition of Align Center, we have four articles on kindness, deforestation, the psychology of donations and religion in surfing, followed by a superb long read for all the hikers out there. Then turn the music up for the podcast recommendation, what I’m digging of late, and finally a call out for you to join me in a fun challenge.
◦ selected words
Do you ever wonder what you, as one person, can do to change the world in our increasingly troubled times? A beautiful story about the impact of simple acts of kindness in everyday moments.
onbeing.com (5min read)
In 1997, a controversial approach to slow down deforestation began in Costa Rica to pay villagers not to cut down their trees. This practice was replicated in other poor countries where the majority of deforestation occurs, and was so successful that it sparked a scientific team to create a study with a randomized trial of 121 villages in Uganda. The program was wildly successful, and similar programs are showing that this method is one of the most cost effective solutions to curbing carbon emissions.
theatlantic.com (5min read)
A 2014 study by researchers at the University of Oregon found that charitable donations are greatest when there is only one child in need, and as the number of victims increases, compassion fades. This psychological effect is known as psychic numbing and helps explain why large-scale human suffering continues despite humans being predisposed to helping each other. The researchers found that this irrational indifference is due to three psychological obstacles, which, with awareness, can be overcome.
vox.com (14min read)
It’s logical that surfing’s popularity has grown as fast as the spirituality movement — surfers revere the ocean and respect its power in a way that many reserve only for deities. Where else can you experience solitude without the loneliness? Scientists are beginning to discover how these feelings of awe, unity, grace and love are manifested while riding the waves. Contrast the waits between waves with a short burst of intense effort, and then finally surrendering to the wave, and it’s no wonder surfers treat their sport as a meditation.
theatlantic.com (10min read)
◦ listen in
It’s been fifteen years since her debut album, Come Away With Me, and only Adele’s 21 has sold more in that time. The daughter of a concert producer and famed Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, Jones was immersed in music early and often. Witness her growth as an artist and dedication to the craft as she breaks down Day Breaks, from her sixth solo album of the same name.
SongExploder.net (15min podcast)
◦ eat well
Remember back in early 2016 when cauliflower prices spiked to $7 a head, the same as a pound of grass-fed ground beef? Conditions have been much more favorable this year, leading to a surplus at the moment. Here’s a quick, forgiving recipe to put all of it to use.
◦ read slow
Hiking the 2,190 mile Appalachian Trail solo is a daunting task physically and mentally — but hiking it as a queer black woman through long stretches of Trump country adds layers of complexity beyond most hiker’s field of vision. When your trail goes directly past remnants of segregation like a hostel flying a Confederate flag, racist trail graffiti and strangers telling you “Black’s don’t hike”, typical worries of the solo hiker become overshadowed by an always-present fear — not of deadly animals or dangerous terrain — but by threatening people. This story asks the question, who is the wilderness for?
outsideonline.com (18min read)
◦ current read
An epic love story set across warring planets, with pages sprinkled with magical spells, ghostly apparitions, eight legged bounty hunters and alien sex (lots of it). It’s strikingly imaginative, or creepy and super weird depending on your point of view, but it works. Book One contains the first 18 chapters of this Image Comics Harvey award winning tale, but the best part of this compilation is saved for last. Process nerds will love the 46 bonus pages of concept sketches and the author’s actual story notes. Writer Brian K. Vaughan and illustrator Fiona Staples take you on a journey into their creative process by sharing 22 full scripts, each starting with a description of each panel and the dialogue, followed by the artist’s pencil sketches, and then how it is transformed into the final artwork. A window into a collaboration between two of the best in the business.
Saga: Book One (#1-3) on GoodReads (504p book / 18 issue compilation)
◦ dig this
What I’m digging lately (all free, except the movie is on Netflix):
- Requiem for the American Dream – Noam Chomsky reveals the causes of the growing inequality of our era in his final long form documentary interview, partially funded by Kickstarter (YouTube trailer / 75min movie on Netflix).
- Google Street View in Space – Take a virtual visit of the International Space Station!
- Apple’s Free Course – Apple releases their Swift app development curriculum for free on iBooks, a course that will also be offered at six colleges this fall (on iTunes).
- Newsletter Discovery – Want to preview newsletters before giving up your email? Or discover new ones by interest? GetRevue does just that, for free.
◦ humble thought
“What really matters are the countless small deeds of unknown people…who lay the basis for the events of human history. These are the people who have made change in the past; they are responsible for making change in the future, too…”
– Noam Chomsky paraphrasing historian Howard Zinn in Requiem for the American Dream
My childhood was devoid of art. I still remember spending months haplessly spitting into a rented clarinet, trying to make duck sounds through a wood reed with undersized fingers stretching to reach the too-far holes, rehearsing three blind mice and Auld Lang Syne. This was Grade 4 band class in small town Langley, well before Glee and Rock Band would turn so many people on to instruments. And the only reason I chose the clarinet was because I thought the flute was too dainty, and it was the next cheapest at the rental shop so that’s all my mom would allow.
It wasn’t until grade 10 that I discovered music with lyrics, listening to the radio on my dad’s lone luxury purchase — a massive Akai stereo system with dual tape decks. I would sit on the peach-beige carpet of our new house in Richmond for hours, waiting for the countdowns on Z95.3 on the FM radio and Casey Kasem’s Top 40 so I could make mix tapes first on 60min BASF cassette tapes, saving the good FM mixes for the better quality Sony Type II’s.
Of course, there were children’s books, but I had little appreciation for art. In high school I’d slowly come around, taking Art as an elective in the senior years and really enjoying it, many thanks to my kind teacher Mr. Bone who gave me full access to the darkroom, pottery wheel and seemingly unlimited paint (a medium I’ve never grasped) and silk-screening supplies in an otherwise under-funded school. But I was a dabbler, and without encouragement from my parents, art always seemed like a side thing, not something you could dedicate your life to. And soon I would discover computers, and that was the end of that.
But more and more I’m feeling drawn towards art, particularly the connection to people through art and it’s many forms. Learning about artists’s creative process often puts me in a state of awe and utter amazement. That graphic novel was a four year project? You’ve been drawing for 25 years? And played music since you were 7? In my freelancer life, I think in weeks, not years. So last year I’d had enough, and took a tiny step in my own art development. I completed my first 30-day challenge of any sort — sketchnoting daily. And I saw incredible progress, even inspiring others to start their own challenges! I’ve promised myself that I will do it again. I would say, this summer! Then, next month! But a new work project comes up, or a flight is just around the corner, or a friend is visiting, and I put it off. But life is increasingly being filled with endless distractions, and things don’t become a priority until you make it one, so August 1 I will start on another sketching challenge. Will you join me?