Know When To Hold ’em…

A former classmate of mine posted this question on Facebook…

A question for my organized, book-loving friends: how on EARTH do you decide what books to keep and which ones should be donated or sold or (*gasp*) pitched? From picture books on up we have way more than we need — many of which have already been read. Homes need books, but how many? Which ones? (I’m truly seeking advice here.)

I have two versions of my answer that I’ll share for you folks here – one from the perspective of a home owner and the other as a graphic designer.

As a graphic designer there are some books that you just don’t need any more such as manuals or how-to books for software programs you just don’t have any more. Since I no longer have a machine running Windows98 it’s pretty obvious to other people (besides me) that I don’t need the Windows98 manuals.

Any software specific manuals (Classroom In A Book for Photoshop 5.5 from 1999/2000, Illustrator CS3, Ray Dream Studio 5.5, Bryce 4…) for programs none of use any more can be recycled with reckless abandon. Same can be said for books on older versions of HTML. Any book that was not written for HTML5 can safely be tossed since you’re going to be hard pressed to find clients who want you to write code in an obsolete format.

One caveat: There are a handful of software specific books that are not version specific. I have a book about creating photorealist backgrounds and textures in Photoshop/Illustrator that was published in the 1990’s. It’s just as useful today.

The books every graphic designer should hang on to are the ones that teach the basics of Graphic Design, Typography, lay-out, publication or any of the basic of our trade should be held onto with intense vigor. There are going to be times when you’ll be arguing with a client about contrast or using decorative type in the main body text (DON’T!) and you’ll need a reference book to back yourself when you don’t have adequate vocabulary.

There are also a handful of trade magazines that you should hold on to like issues of “How,” “Print” and “Computer Arts,” – you should hold on to every issue that you have for a couple of years. I have no rule of thumb, it’s whatever you and your living space can handle.

Then there are the art books or source books. I have a short pile of books about artists that inspire me that I use as inspiration once in a while. Sometimes just flipping through those books helps me tap into my creative energy or makes me look at my project in a different perspective. These are books that we should never think of getting rid of, period.

Finally, any old book that stands in the way of you and your work need to go elsewhere. They can either get out of your workspace or out of your home all together.

As for the home owner perspective:

I have a books that are in four categories; books I’ve read, books I want to read, books that I have no intention of reading, and books that I have no intention of reading but they make me look more intellectual to my guests.

There are some of the books that I’ve read that I can’t part with, these are usually SF classics that I read in my younger years that shaped my optimism/pragmatism that I still hang on to today. There’s no way any of my “DUNE” books are ever leaving this house, which includes both the originals written by Frank Herbert and the new books by his son and Kevin J. Anderson.

Same goes for most of the Isaac Asimov’s, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, the John Steinbeck’s, and Ernest Hemmingway’s. These are books that I’ve read at least once and just seeing the spine of these books on my shelves brings back memories of the stories themselves and the times and places from my life when I read them. Often times the mere titles of these books serve as a family album of sorts in my mind, not easily replace.

There are those books that I bought on a whim and have actually tried to read but with no success. Those are the books that I can easily part with. There are also those books that I have no interest in reading but were given as gifts; I would rather pass those along to people whom I know will actually enjoy them.

All the books I want to keep are on display stacked nicely on the shelves, those that aren’t kept are either gone or on their way out as of today.

I’m a hypocrite when it comes to magazines; I say get rid of anything older than a month old (sans trade publications) but there are some issues that I hang on to that I use for future references. If you can’t put things like these in storage and you know they aren’t going to be collectibles someday it’s about time you either donate them to a local library or school or simply forget about them.

As with everything else, there’s such a thing as moderation. Having too much of a good thing becomes a serious problem when you’re either spending more time cleaning or dusting than you do enjoying the things you love. There are also unhealthy aspects when you become a hoarder and you simply can’t function in your own home or you’re creating a fire hazard; nothing screams danger like the lonely cat lady collects newspapers she’ll get to someday and likes to light candles when the power goes out.

As a home owner you have to do what’s not only good for you and your emotional health but what’s good for your family and pets. For the sake of everyone (especially yourself) you have to take a serious assessment of what you have laying around and make mature decisions about what to keep and throw away. Work-at-work graphic designers have to be extra serious about their workspace and any potential hoarding problem since your offices appearance might even affect you working relationships with clients who might come over to discuss a project or possible hire.

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Couple of words on “Windows 8” and Microsoft.

There are a couple of articles out there that are debating whether or not we’re starting to see the end of Microsoft because of horrible sales of their tablets/states/flat widgets. While I think the theses of these articles are wrong (Microsoft isn’t going anywhere) there are some points I would either like to consider or have answered.

First; Nobody has been able to give me an answer to this question that I felt was adequate enough for me to get on with the rest of my life… why did Microsoft release Windows 8 so soon after Windows 7?
I mean… besides the money issue.

Rather than release a “brand new” operating system, should they have been working on an upgrade to Win7 that would allow it to work (better) on touch screen devices? We had five years between XP (2001) and Vista (2006), then only a few short years between Vista and Windows7 (2009) – Windows seems to have a track record of releasing a great OS, then a weak OS, then another great one again… Windows8 users have been scrambling to find a way to either find a way to make it look and work like Windows7 or downgrade to Windows7 all together…

Could Windows7 be the “XP” for this decade?

Rather than creating something brand new from scratch, shouldn’t they have been building more essential tools for something that already works and works extremely well?

Win7 is a great operating system and I am able to get more work with my machines than I ever could with my XP unit or on any Mac. Granted, it’s an OS that I’m used to and I know where everything is… and maybe that’s the point.

Again, why fix what isn’t broken by rebuilding what isn’t broken from scratch.

Second; One of the reasons why Microsoft (and PC manufacturers) are in such trouble is the number of people who are buying tablets instead; you either want an iPad or an Android tablet.

No matter how awesome a tablet is, it’ll never be as powerful as a desktop computer nor laptop simply because you can put more hardware in either of those two. A tablet is, by its nature, limited by its size. I have yet to meet anyone who has gotten work done with a tablet without the use of a Bluetooth keyboard and even then they have to use an external storage like “Dropbox.”

A laptop/desktop PC might be over kill for your grandmother or great-aunt who only wants to read emails, go on the internet and play solitaire while a tablet is woefully insufficient for doing real work. All those people who really ever needed something small and simple like a tablet are getting those now and is a reason why PC sales are suffering.

What’s going to be curious is the phenomenon that will occur after everyone who wants a tablet gets one.

Third; One of the biggest beefs I have as a graphic designer is the footprint of operating systems – regardless of whether or not it’s a Mac or PC. Meaning, how much system resources are being used by the OS rather than the programs I use to create like Adobe Creative Suite.

If it were at all possible to use Adobe Creative Suite on a Linux machine everything in this article would be moot – I would be switching ever computer in this house (except my wife’s work computer,) over to something like Fedora or Ubuntu because in most instances they have smaller footprints.

As a professional graphic designer – not using the Adobe Creative Suite in this point in time is the surest way to handicap your career. You MUST use something that runs CS (and now “Creative Cloud”) if you want to be considered for a job or freelance work. For Graphic Designers who are still using PC’s, Windows isn’t going anywhere for a very long time unless something horrible happens to them like Windows9 is a bigger dud or Adobe does something daring like release a version of CS/CC for Linux.

You Are What You Do.

In doing my reading for my latest rant I came upon Jenny McCarthy’s blog for the Chicago Sun Times and her post last Wednesday titled: “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?”+

When we identify ourselves as something like a single mom, or a child of an alcoholic, or anything we think defines us, we lose the greatest life lesson there is, which is we are just beings. We all come from the same higher source, and our bodies, along with our images, don’t move on to the afterlife for a reason — because it’s not ultimately who we are. I wrote a blog last year called “I AM.” It’s my favorite blog to date. It touches on the same subject, but I felt it was important to remind people — including myself — to not get caught up in our own identities. By separating your “self” from past labels you put on yourself, there is an amazing freedom that comes with it. You are no longer a victim or a martyr. You are just what I like to call a “light ball.”

She’s right to an extent, we should be allowed to shed off our past labels and redefine ourselves as we pass through different phases of our lives. Nobody is the same person they were decades ago; unless you’re one of those sad 40-Something’s still living with your mom and collecting action figures and playing video games all day because real life can be “so expensive.”

We all go through phases of our lives, childhood, adolescence, college/trade school, early career, parenthood, maturity, retirement and death. That’s a simplified version but you get the point.

Imagine you did something silly like… oh, I don’t know… star in some soft core porn for a men’s magazine and you’re granted the label of “Playmate Of The Year.” Would you like to be stuck with that label for the rest of your life?

I wouldn’t, but I’m a man and who wants to see me topless, anyway?

If you want to move past that phase of your life, good luck because there are going to be people like news reporters and columnists will always refer to that person as a former Playmate, period. It’ll be the first line in her obituary.

Same holds true for other people who have been accused of doing other things. When Richard Nixon died, the articles basically wrote themselves; “Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974, when he became the only president to resign the office” (Source: Wikipedia.)

When Bill Clinton dies, the first thing that will be mentioned in his obituary will be the Monica Lewinsky scandal. When Gene Roddenberry died he was remembered first and foremost as the creator or “Star Trek.” When I’m dead the first sentence in my obituary will be…

What?

In many of the books that I’ve been reading (via Audible and Kindle) such as “Art And Fear” (1) and “Do The Work,”(2) I keep encountering the same theme; you are what you do. If you create graphic design, you’re a graphic designer. If you write, you’re a writer. If you’re a painter, you paint. It’s like the old adage; if it walks like a duck, it swims like a duck, and quack’s like a duck it’s a safe bet it isn’t a horse.

We are the sum total of all the choices we’ve made in our lives. We are all the good choices we made, all the bad mistakes we’ve made, and even the moments of inaction and indecision. We are all the things we’ve done and left undone.

In short, we are what we do. I am what I do and what I’ve done. I am a writer and a graphic designer. She’s a woman who takes off her clothes for money when she’s not writing books about junk science or her personal life.

If you want to be remembered for something, then get busy doing it now. Figure out who you really want to be and make it happen while at the same time acknowledge the fact that some people can’t and won’t let go of the things in the past. Usually it’s because they have junk in their own past they’re trying to hide.

“Art And Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland
“Do the Work” by Steven Pressfield

The Daily Rant: Jenny McCarthy Pisses Me Off!

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really pissed off at Jenny McCarthy; I’m using her as an example of celebrity women in general like Kim Kardashian, Katie Holmes, Kate Upton, Kate Middleton (oh, Geezus… I gotta think of another woman’s name that doesn’t start with a “K”!) Kate Hudson (Sh!t – there’s another woman who’s name starts with a “K”! Focus, Eric! FOCUS!) Kaley Cuoco, (Sh!!!!!t!!!) and other women who have become tabloid fodder for no good reason.

Let’s not forget women like Kristin Stewart (What’s with my obsession with women whose name starts with the letter “K” this morning?!?) who is famous only because she “acted” in the Twilight movies, the entire cast of the “The Hills,” Teen Mom turned porn star Farrah Abraham, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Rihanna, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton.

Speaking of Paris Hilton – take any woman who’s famous for being famous…

The list goes on… I’ll just use Jenny McCarthy as the catch-all, the sacrificial goat, the metaphor for what’s really wrong with our society and our obsession with beauty and celebrity.

All of these women have a few things in common; for starters it’s their job to just look amazing. While they were blessed with incredibly good looks – they won the gene lottery – I’m sure that many of these women work out just as hard as contestants of “The Biggest Loser” just to maintain their incredible bodies. They have an army of make-up artists, wardrobe experts and press agents. They also have the benefit of being at the right place at the right time earlier on in their careers, and I’m sure that most of these women work hard at… whatever it is that they do.

So I have to ask, what makes these women authorities on anything? Why do we give a funk about what they think about anything? Why them and why not other women who are just as beautiful but are even smarter? There are two women in my life who I can’t stop think about when the subjects of celebrities comes up – my wife and one of my professors. Two of these women are two of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m not kidding when I say that. They truly are…

Take my professor who knows more about one given subject than anyone else I know. She knows more about this topic than most of us will ever know on any other topic and is someone that we should all aspire to be more like… find out what you love and master it. If asked, (with my wife’s permission) I would walk through fire for this woman. She has a commanding presence and most of us can’t help but hang on her every word why given a lecture.

Second and most importantly is my wife whom I’ve heard use huge “High Score Scrabble words” or medical technobabble in conversations that traverse subjects both casual and professional without even thinking twice about it. My wife knows what she’s talking about in many different fields which leads me to two questions: why didn’t she become a doctor and what is she doing with me? My wife is, without a doubt one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m not just saying that because she’s my wife, she was that beautiful when I met her and that’s why I pressured her. She’s also smarter than most celebrities I’ve ever seen on TV – obviously smarter than the talking heads on talk shows or news anchors.

Which begs the question; who are choosing these celebrities? How does chose one chose a “Jenny McCarthy” over my wife, Carol, to be one of the voices on “The View?” For that matter – any of the former hosts on “The View” is a fine example.

Granted (I mean “No Sh!t”) they both followed different career paths… but still.

What I’m really getting at is the question about how we value the women in our lives who are more than just another pretty face. Why is it that I have a hard time taking a woman like Jenny McCarthy seriously on any topic (including Autism) while wondering who the funk is someone like Kim Kardashian offering relationship advice?

How does one woman become someone we want to hear their opinion on something while others we ignore?

How come we care what Jenny McCarthy says, while we don’t care about Anna Nichole Smith? (Besides the fact that she’s dead…) How does one rocket to stardom to be an Oracle of wisdom while another is just an answer to a Playboy trivia question?

Am I the one with the problem because I can’t value the opinions of former sex-symbols who now what themselves to be known for something other than getting naked for the camera?

Am I an example of the uphill battle these women are fighting against?

Why was I thinking “what the funk?” when it was announced that Jenny McCarthy was becoming one of the cohosts of “The View;” especially when I have never seen a complete episode of that talk show in my life?

And how come the only beautiful women who I think deserve to have a voice of authority are the just the ones in my own life.

Sexist much? I think the fact I’m asking these questions say as much as the questions I’m asking…

After all this I’m left asking; how do these women get chosen to be the “voices” of the women of their generation and others aren’t? 

Dreams

One of my friends, a fellow CGD’er Rebecca, has been posting daily about the dreams she’s been having. I understand this is very therapeutic for the writer and for the reader we can get an insight into our friends who are doing this so long as they don’t embarrass us with gory details of sexy dreams (unless you’re a voyeur) and they don’t bore us with six paragraphs of a description of the rainbow the kitten is running on while chasing the unicorn into a fantasy world where “Nirvana” is more than just a grunge band from the 1990’s…
Two nights in a row I’ve had dreams about taking college courses in one of the elementary schools where I was enrolled when I was a child, (for those of you who grew up with me, they’re Green Street and Walnut Street schools) and I’m not sure if I’m the teacher or the student. Does this mean anything, or is it like Sigmund Freud once said; “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

This wouldn’t be a big deal but one of the medicines I’ve been taking for the brain injury I suffered a while ago makes most of my dreams incredibly vivid and intense to the point where some mornings I’m not sure if the dream is reality and reality is a dream for a few moments. Some morning I’ve woken up with incredible ideas that I’ve had to put down on paper before they’re lost into the netherworld of daily drudgery.

Couple this with the fact that I’m also doing some research into the colleges where I once attended and checking out their graphic design programs and what books they are assigning for this upcoming year. Perfect example is the SUNY Canton Graphic Design Program – I’m checking out the books I would have been assigned if I was there now and wondering if it’s worth supplementing them into my own library.

Speaking of dreams: Let me tell you about the time I chased my cat over a rainbow and found myself in Xanadu where Olivia Newton-John was teaching my wife how to be a proper muse like those in Greek Mythology…