There is an element of design that is essential: critique. It’s an intrinsic activity we learn in art schools. As artists, opinions of our own work can be biased. We’re overexposed to it. We know it’s flaws intimately, or are perhaps blind to them after a certain amount of effort. Getting a second opinion is one of the best ways to improve, if we’re willing to act on the feedback and revise. So, the ability to give criticism, and respond to it appropriately is a trait we seek to nurture in ourselves and the people with whom we work. We look for evidence of these abilities when hiring or delegating responsibility.
Too often though, criticism takes a negative form. Narrowing the conversation to the simplistic and pessimistic activity of pointing out flaws, attributing those flaws to individuals. Creative teams degrade when they are guided by the heirarchical principle that a good manager criticizes, and a good designer takes criticism. When we decide who can give criticism and who must receive it based on power constructs, creativity dies. The work becomes templatized, limited by fear.
I’d like to describe what good leadership is and how that manifests in design criticism. I believe it is rooted in optimism. Optimism, as defined by Martin E.P. Seligman Ph.D. in his book ‘Learned Optimism,’ is not an innate quality that people either have or don’t. It can be learned, like anything else, if it is practiced. Gain an understanding of what optimism is by examining it’s opposite: pessimism.
Pessimistic beliefs have a combination of three identifying traits. They are personal, they are permanent, and they are pervasive. Here is an example: A mistake is made. The pessimist concludes that “the person who made a mistake makes mistakes.” In other words “Phillip, specifically, always makes mistakes.” Personal, permanent, and pervasive–as though that specific person alone is in a state of mistakenness for all time. A fearful pessimist thinks this way about themselves as well. Rather than risk the exposure by really working with their team, they limit their activity to making judgments, placing blame, and taking credit.
Pessimistic thinking can be equally damaging to creativity when things are going well. The pessimistic leader thinks: “I am responsible, I led this effort, I should lead all efforts.” The pessimistic stakeholder says: “Phillip succeeded this time, I’m not confident in future work that isn’t led by Phillip.” The pessimistic organization sinks into duplication of whatever worked the first time. Terrified of any further investment in expiriment, initiative, and surely that which is initiated by newcomers.
The optimist sees the situation differently, “people sometimes make mistakes.” Many people make mistakes on occasion in various circumstances, including me. People who choose to see things optimistically do not permanently condemn others, or themselves. They see that mistakes, for example, are not permanent, and can happen to anyone. Further, they do not permanently personalize successes, giving the same leader all the leadership opportunity over and over again; then calling that teamwork.
Optimistic thinking allows for fluidity and growth. It gives people a second chance. It gives other people a second chance. It even gives first chances. It doesn’t cling to negative assumptions regarding the motivations and efforts of others without testing them over time. It doesn’t box people in to seniority based hierarchies. An optimistic person isn’t afraid to contribute to the work themselves. Optimism is the seed that real teams grow from. Optimistic people as a consequence make much better artists and managers. Optimism facilitates healthy critique of the work.
Look around your organization. What type of criticism are you rewarding? Is it personal, permanent, pervasive? Is it mandated to be one directional? Listen to what people are really saying, and what you say to yourself. If you find that pessimism has infiltrated your system, you can be encouraged by knowing that optimism is something that can be learned and practiced. Focus your criticism to elements of the work that are not personal; nothing about the business of creativity is permanent or pervasive. You can do it; and so can I; for now.
Practice optimistic thinking in your creative work and criticism.
Ch’i is the flow of electricity through living things. Tai Chi is the practice of moving in harmony with ch’i and wielding it–it’s purpose is to let ch’i flow without tension. Organic Chemistry is the study of the movement of electrons in the molecules of our cells. These two relate. The actions of neurotransmitters are the flow of ch’i in the brain. Marijuana’s thc (C21H30O2) occupies receptors in the brain that would otherwise be a channel for that flow. Blocking anandamide (C22H37NO2) from a cannabinoid receptor with thc can easily create a perceived dependency as it does a similar yet incomplete thing.
It wears off, anandamide levels depleted, reuse, vicious circle.
While thc might feel ‘essential’ that is because it is preventing the flow of anandamide and substituting for it. In a few days without it, the ch’i can flow, the electrical impulses traveling healthily through the synapses of the brain and everywhere else. Just a few more days and thc may begin to seem incredibly undesirable.
How to flush the present thc right now and get the ch’i flowing asap: exercise, move the body, metabolize, breathe. Movement will do that while also stimulating anandamide and all the other necessary neurotransmitters that we create ourselves by metabolizing ch’i. Movement makes the body visually and practically stronger and opens the path for ch’i, making you feel great.
Requisite caveat: cbd has been found to increase anandamide production rather than deplete it. But free movement and breathe does better.
It has been about seven weeks since California was directed to close businesses and practice social distancing on February 28. It has been the same time since I voluntarily left my job. In an event of incredibly coincidental timing, I resigned late in February, foregoing my primary income and health insurance. Why did I do that? I’ll explain that later, maybe. For now, I want to comment honestly on how the current covid crisis is affecting me. It will be important in the coming months, with an approaching U.S. Presidential election and a world in collective recovery, for all perspectives to be accessible. This is mine.
In late February, I found myself in a community already in trauma. Los Angeles was still feeling the shock from the news of Kobe Bryant’s unforeseeable passing. Many of us in terror of the increasing recklessness of our President; saddened by the Senate’s failure to remove him from office in January. I stopped taking in any news. My hopes of truly participating in democratic decision making were breaking – with a March 3 Primary election approaching. I had been making small donations to the Bernie Sanders campaign and attended a fund raising event for him in Hollywood on Feb 26. That night, my [ride share service] driver asked if I was concerned about ‘coronavirus.’ I said no – comparing the episode to be what I considered at the time to be politically motivated propaganda, strategically timed to interfere with voter turnout. I spent that evening in a crowded Hollywood venue. Went in to the office the next day, and had a conference call with my then boss, fundamentally disagreeing with him enough to leave the company. Yes, bad timing. The evening after that, while assessing my options in a Westwood bar, I learned about the six foot distancing recommendations, which were generally going ignored. Later I learned that all bars and restaurants were closing indefinitely at 11.
As the news of ‘coronavirus’ and the restrictions on business, travel, and gathering became clear to me, I realized my options for finding new employment would dramatically decline. National unemployment numbers were rising, and continue to. Fortunately I had by then prepared myself logistically to work from home and freelance until the next big job appeared. So I’ve been here, in my apartment, socially distancing, obeying my self imposed production schedule, taking time for exercise, practice, and work – with occasional store trips and morning runs. I’m not averse to spending days like this; I know how to awaken the introvert within.
I imagine many people feel the way I do now –more appreciative of a functioning and reciprocal economy. If I want to succeed, I need others to. Success in this moment is unadorned survival. In time we will regain our ability to meet and work together. Right now, though, is a logical opportunity to center ourselves, sharpen our skills, and strengthen our personal infrastructure while the threat subsides. There is always useful work that can be done within. Within our homes, within our selves. Our goal moving forward should be to build a more sustainable lifestyle –remaining civil yet becoming harmonious. Our approach to food, work, and travel need revision.
I’m fortunately prepared to weather this storm for a little while before I feel the financial heat. I’m hopeful and optimistic there is something ‘essential’ I can contribute now and in the emerging economy. I’m not fearful of scarcity, but I acknowledge it’s real potential. No one is immune to the shortages that may arise. However we can cultivate an abundance of resources if we content ourselves with the work ahead.
My current resolution is to stay calm at home and reduce the spread in my small capacity–continuing to learn and work here. Our leaders in government have clearly made mistakes handling the problem, but I forgive them at the moment, because it is such a difficult problem to face, and I have only gratitude for any person directly engaged in working to alleviate that problem. I am not pleased that Bernie Sanders dropped out of the Presidential race in the midst of this, and I don’t think he would have were it not for covid. It made the rallies and fundraising he needed to win more states impossible. That is an effect perhaps more long lasting than the temporary employment shortage. I’m sad that so many people have died. Isn’t death the worst? I feel there is a responsibility to socially-distance ourselves to prevent deaths and the unpleasant complications caused by covid for others. I had a 12 hour fever and a cough last month. Whatever happens politically or economically, I remain directly responsible for my own well being.
Overall I’m hopeful but uncertain. How has covid effected you?
I’ve been reading a book called ‘Yoga Nidra‘ and there is a lot of interesting ideas in it. I’ve learned that what I used to think of as ‘letting my mind wander’ as a child, is actually an ancient yogic practice, and is really a spontaneous activity of the relaxed mind. The images and visions are called ‘samskaras.’ That sounds correct and appropriate somehow.
It’s a good book. It is scientific in it’s explanation of how the yogic practice affects the body, nervous system, etc. It also recommends many practices that I had developed on my own, but didn’t know they were so well documented. Like visualizing the day at the end of it, to help ease into Yoga Nidra, and other techniques.
It’s available on archive.org for free and I highly recommend it.
You want your AE projects to render faster, so you amp up your disk cache allocation. That speeds things up, but now your disk is actually filling up with all that cache, creating a new problem.
You can just delete your disk cache in After Effects preferences UI, or go to ~/Library/Caches/Adobe/’After Effects’/16.0/ (16.0, or whatever version of AE you’re actually using) and delete it there. These both take several steps. And I want to save you some steps. So I made this script called kachekleaner that gets in there and deletes your after effects disk cache.
I put scripts like this on my OSX Dock, and they run with a single click. You really only want to clear that cache in between projects, and not during one. It won’t hurt anything, you would just have to re-render your un-cached project if you wanted to preview it again.
For clarity and quality control, this is the actual one line script, which is also attached in the zip. If the file is not ‘Unix Executable’ on your device, change it’s permissions to 755:
I’ve been spending most days in Santa Monica, designing ads at Tremor Video DSP, and doing coursework at SMC. This summer I was convinced to join Promo Pathway and have just finished the first round of classes. I’m starting new coursework in editing, writing, and producing today.
This month, I decided to get distribution with DistroKid and have exactly one song available on Itunes, Spotify, and Amazon. Would like to make more time for writing and recording.
I quit selling coffee. I did not quit drinking it.
Getting ready to VOTE by mail here in the next few days. I am definitely in the research phase, that I need to speed up. Generally it looks like we have an opportunity to update rent control here in California with Prop 10, and that seems important. It will probably be too late to save me, but it is a problem that needs attention.
I have a respectable Halloween costume lined up, really just a mask combination, but it works with my usual attire.