In Praise of Gentle Giants

Many of us struggle with life on social media these days: the bickering, the artless insults, the escalation of every disagreement to defcon 1… I find myself spending more time on Instagram, surfing the brighter parts of friends’ and relatives’ lives.

For my father-in-law, the brighter part of his life has always been his big dogs. Actually, anyone’s big dogs. So this morning when I checked my email, I wasn’t particularly surprised to see he had forwarded another one loaded with adorable dog shots.

But this one felt different. It was a collection taken by Andy Seliverstoff, a photographer based in St. Petersburg, Russia. His work features small children playing with very big dogs.  According to the email, Andy got into this subject later in life after taking family portraits for friends that included their Great Dane. He was fascinated by the relationship between the large animal and the young children. This dichotomy became his signature subject, to the point where early this year, he released a book called “Little Kids and Their Big Dogs.”

You can see a lot of Andy’s work on this page on 500px, a social network for photographers. I apologize that it’s not curated more ruthlessly, but if you are having an off day, or if you just like big dogs and play and smiling, click on the link and start browsing.

Some might find this work the canine equivalent of Anne Geddes‘ baby portraits; a little too adorable, too saccharine, too too. If so, I get it.

But compared to the sturm und drang of our political circus or the thought of Ted Cruz’ indiscrete habits, a healthy dose of gentle charm feels exactly right.

Happy Thursday.

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The Best Goodbye I’ve Ever Read

The following is the final essay from “A Book of Uncommon Prayer: 100 Celebrations of the Miracle and Muddle of the Ordinary” written by poet, editor, and novelist Brian Doyle. He graduated six years ahead of me in college, spent a rich lifetime writing, and died this past May from brain tumor complications. It takes a special gift to describe the tragic or maudlin with humor, but Doyle’s essay on death works as an inspirational, life-affirming, guide to living. I never met him, but I stand in awe of his remarkable talent…

Dear Coherent Mercy: thanks. Best life ever. Personally I never thought a cool woman would come close to understanding me, let alone understanding me but liking me anyway, but that happened! And You and I both remember that doctor in Boston saying polite but businesslike that we would not have children but then came three children fast and furious! And no man ever had better friends, and no man ever had a happier childhood and wilder brothers and a sweeter sister, and I was that rare guy who not only loved but liked his parents and loved sitting and drinking tea and listening to them! And You let me write some books that weren’t half bad, and I got to have a career that actually no kidding helped some kids wake up to their best selves, and no one ever laughed more at the ocean of hilarious things in this world, or gaped more in astonishment at the wealth of miracles everywhere every moment. I could complain a little right here about the long years of back pain and the occasional awful heartbreak, but Lord, those things were infinitesimal against the slather of gifts You gave mere me, a muddle of a man, so often selfish and small. But no man was ever more grateful for Your profligate generosity, and here at the very end, here in my last lines, I close my eyes and weep with joy that I was alive, and blessed beyond measure, and might well be headed back home to the incomprehensible Love from which I came, mewling, many years ago. But hey, listen, can I ask one last favor? If I am sent back for another life, can I meet my lovely bride again? In whatever form? Could we be hawks, or otters maybe? And can we have the same kids again if possible? And if I get one friend again, can I have my buddy Pete? He was a huge guy in this life—make him the biggest otter ever, and I’ll know him right away, okay? Thanks, Boss. Thanks from the bottom of my heart. See You soon. Remember—otters. Otters rule. And so: amen.

“A muddle of a man”? Hardly. Thanks Brian. Godspeed.

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Ryan Grewell

Why Vertical Formatting Matters for Social Video

It might have something to do with their primary audience’s age, but in a small bit of irony, I couldn’t maintain this video’s native vertical format when editing it in iMovie, or posting it to Vimeo, Youtube and LinkedIn.

Still, when it comes to the giants of social media platforms–Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram–vertical is the way to go.

By the way, if you need some expert social media strategic advice, connect with Kate Miller; she’s pretty amazing. IG & TW: @LetsReallyLive.

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Brands and “Authenticity”: When the Hackneyed Becomes Crucial

If you read a strategic brief at any point over the past five years, you read the word “authentic.” Whether yogurt, beer, or casual wear, brands fell over themselves in their rush to assert their ‘authenticity.’ Frankly, most protested too much and overuse diminished the word’s impact.

But this week, GoDaddy, the purveyor of web addresses that spent its early years lobbing embarrassingly sexist and sophomoric ads on the Super Bowl, did something genuinely authentic: they pulled their web-hosting services from the white supremacist site The Daily Stormer. It was a strong, very public move and truly embodied authenticity.

But that’s not how the story read Monday morning on Facebook…

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Heard Any Good Movies Lately?

It’s amazing how well-produced and deftly-applied sound empowers a film. Much has been written about Hans Zimmer’s extensive use of “Shephard tones” in his soundtrack for Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t comment.

I did however, just watch the trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s new star-studded horror movie Mother!  If you need a quick refresher on how to make music and SFX really work, watch this: Continue reading

I’ll Vacuum My Own Floor, Thank You

I love modern conveniences. Cruise control, gas grills, TV remotes: I’m an unabashed fan. But this whole IOT invasion of smart assistants like Siri and Alexa and Cortana skeeves me out. Even my dog Hank hates it. There’s a house on our daily walk where a Landroid robotic lawn mower rolls endlessly back and forth and he growls at that thing every time we pass.

So last week, when iRobot CEO Colin Angle mused about the value of the data their high end Roomba vacuums collect, it stopped me cold.

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Where The Wild Things Are Today

Maybe it’s just me, but perhaps you too share my sinking suspicion that all this AI, all this data and machine learning, will ultimately create little more than the world’s most brilliantly optimized classified ads.

Oh they’ll be effective ads—remarkably so. They will forge an unprecedented level of tactical and transactional effectiveness. They will optimize the context of a wide variety of consumer journeys, they will weight the messaging hierarchy, they will include nearly infinite personalization integrated directly into the consumer experience.

They will do all these amazing, innovative, unheard of things every minute of every hour without ever taking a sick day or leaving for a new opportunity.

But they won’t fire human imaginations with the white hot power of pure delight. Continue reading