5CT for June 2019

This is what magic in the day-to-day looks like, wrote Clare Dwyer Hogg, as spoken by actor Stephen Rea, on the Irish border seen through the cluster that is Brexit. Saul Leiter knew something about magic in the day-to-day, just look at these pictures. The legendary UK based lit-band, Dark Angels, has a new album out — Dark Angels on Writing. Early reviews indicate their latest is a scorcher. Since we’re talking about Europe, and magic, and whether to stay or whether to go, here’s Timothy Snyder with some historical context. “Imagination,” said Einstein, “is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” To the 5CT subscriber who wrote to say, ‘I miss 5CT,’ thank you. Me too.


Saul Leiter, photographer

{ snow, 1960 (c) Saul Leiter }

{ subway car 4435 1950 (c) Saul Leiter }

{ jean 1948 (c) Saul Leiter }

{ boy, 1950 (c) Saul Leiter }


Saul Leiter started shooting color and black-and-white street photography in New York in the 1940s. He had no formal training in photography, but the genius of his early work was quickly acknowledged by Edward Steichen, who included Leiter in two important MoMA shows in the 1950s. MoMA’s 1957 conference “Experimental Photography in Color” featured 20 color photographs by Leiter. Read on here >

{ New York 1950 (c) Saul Leiter }


Say Nothing, Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe is a New Yorker writer of uncommon instinct, talent, grace and empathy. A couple of years back, he did what many writers do; he read a whopper of an obituary (Dolours Price, Defiant IRA Bomber, Dies at 61)  and followed his nose. That led him down an extraordinary path, to a murder mystery, a thicket of stories, and to the Troubles. Hard to imagine a more challenging, complicated story to tell. It’s a masterpiece. Read it, you won’t believe it. That’s Dolours on the cover of his book. At the end of her life, she fingered Gerry Adams as the man who gave the orders. She took on Margaret Thatcher and won. And, she became the wife of the actor Stephen Rea, seen below in a Brexit video. For a good podcast on this, go to Longform>

Excerpt from Say Nothing:

Just after lunchtime, at around 2 p.m., a phone rang at the headquarters of The Times of London. A young woman named Elizabeth Curtis, who had just started working on the news desk at the paper, picked up the call. She heard a man’s voice, speaking very quickly, with a thick Irish accent. At first she couldn’t make out what he was saying, then she realized that he was reeling off the descriptions and locations of a series of cars. He spoke for just over a minute, and, though she was still confused, she transcribed as much as she could. Before hanging up, the man said, “The bombs will go off in one hour.


Hard Border: Clare Dwyer Hogg & Stephen Rea

To Clare Dwyer Hogg, playwright, poet and journalist, who wrote this absolutely jaw-dropping piece on Brexit, we give thanks. “We’re holding our breath again, because we know that chance and hope, come in forms like steam and smoke.”


Dark Angels on Writing

The UK writing collective known as Dark Angels (where does that bloody name come from?) has published a new book, Dark Angels on Writing: Changing Lives With Words, aimed squarely at the legions of companies, businesses and writers who want to write beautifully and better. This is a very special book with appearances by such writers as Michelle Nicol, Nick Asbury, Tim Rich, Rowenna Roberts, Larry Vincent, Therese Kieran, Rob Williams, Becca Magnus, Faye Sharpe, Jonathan Holt, Nick Parker, Henrietta McKervey, and many others. Get your copy here >


Timothy Snyder Speaks

Timothy Snyder is a Yale historian and one of the people I look to for help in understanding what’s going on in the world. He wrote On Tyranny in 2017 after the car crash of 2016. This video — The European Union —  is part of a series of 16 or so videos he’s posted on YouTube. These are mini-lectures that he uses to air out ideas he’s thinking through. Episode 1: Russia Defeats America.

5CT recommends his latest book, The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America.



That’s it. Thank you.

Established: Lessons from the world’s oldest companies


Help us publish Established at Unbound, a crowd-funded publisher in London.

Established: 1198, 1498, 1515, 1519, 1534, 1570, 1698, 1705, 1715, 1759, 1824, 1891. An inn, a removals company, a butchers, a ferry, a printing press, a bell foundry, a wine merchants, a stone carvers, a scale makers, a brewers, an agricultural company, a gum manufacturer. How on earth have they managed that? And what are their secrets of survival?

In Established, twelve business writers set out to find the answers to these questions and to tell the stories of these companies that have survived scores of booms and busts, black sheep in the family and strange twists of fate.

But they’re not your typical team of business writers. The twelve are from the Dark Angels stable, the brand that since 2004 has been encouraging authentic voices in business writers through its residential courses and workshops. Storytelling is at the heart of the Dark Angels approach. In Established you will find that each of these enduring businesses has a great story, each of which is told in an individual voice that brings range and freshness to the book and makes it quite unlike the mainstream ‘how to’ hardback.

But the lessons the stories contain are every bit as instructive, from the eschewal of nepotism to the generational mantra of ‘humility and rebellion’. The reader will find contradictions, on questions like world domination or keeping it to the one shop. And that’s the joy of this book, that readers looking for insight as well as good old entertainment will gravitate towards the business that most resembles theirs in spirit and set-up if not in actual trade.

The lesson in every instance that is closest to the writers’ hearts is that the story itself is one of the greatest assets of every business – and when you’ve got over 500 years of records it’s quite a challenge to tell it, especially in a couple of thousand words. Established does just that.

I want to supp

5 Cool Things 2.10.13

Sending all good thoughts to everyone in the Northeast, many of whom are in shelters this morning. Geolocation technology makes for some interesting picture making. Pecha what? Pechakucha. Yep, there’s another cloud based music platform and 5CT has it for you. Wanna self help book that charts a whole new course? Of course you do. Also, a very cool restaurant / lounge reaches back to its great stories. Love this by the great Anne Lamott, “Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.” Onward we go, pals. Thanks for being here.

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1. Picture the Tweeting Places | Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman 

Well now, this is a clever and creative meld of some fairly new technologies. Imagine “A” sends out a tweet from a rural town in Georgia.

why dont people try making bracelets or necklaces with chips in them so kids can avoid being kidnapped and lost forever?

Person “A”, our tweeter, has her geolocation thingy turned on in her twitter settings. Which means you or me or Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman can figure out exactly where “A” was when she tweeted. So the tweet is bound to the land. All of which is to say that Nate and Marni gathered a whole slew of publicly available tweets, along with all the geolocation info for those tweets. Went to the very spot from whence those tweets came. Then made some lovely pictures and then paired their imagery to said tweet. Got it?

why dont people try making bracelets or necklaces with chips in them so kids can avoid being kidnapped and lost forever?

About 50 people waiting to get healed. @RockChurch

Will try my best to live life the right way, morally and ethically. I can’t keep living the way I am now.

From all this lovely work, Nate and Marni have made a fine looking Blurb book which you can look at right here >>

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2. 20 x 20 | The Art of the Presentation — Pechakucha

Hitchhiking for Sanity by Myles Dickason

Click the photo to watch the presentation.

Very cool development in the world of public presentations. Useful for educators, architects — anyone who makes presentations. Pechakucha is the creation of Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture. The first one was held in Tokyo. The idea is that you can gather a group of professionals, or artists, or anyone really, and in a spirit of shared intelligence and community and ideas, put on a bunch of cool, fairly quick presentations. The kicker? Only 20 slides allowed. And each slide is up for only 20 seconds. Hence, the 20 x 20 thing.

The photograph you see above is from a pechakucha on hitchhiking. By Myles Dickason. Charming tour into one man’s life on the road.

Visit pechakucha here >>

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3. More Music | SoundCloud 

From the very cool and very social SoundCloud website:

SoundCloud is a social sound platform that gives users unprecedented access to the world’s largest community of music and audio creators. SoundCloud allows everyone to discover original music and audio, connect with each other and share their sounds with the world. In addition, sound creators can use the platform to instantly record, upload and share sounds across the internet, as well as receive detailed stats and feedback from the SoundCloud community.

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Anne Lamott, photo by Sam Lamott

“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve thought there was something noble and mysterious about writing, about the people who could do it well, who could create a world as if they were little gods or sorcerers. All my life I thought there was something magical about people who could get into other people’s mind and skin, who could take people like me out of ourselves and then take us back to ourselves. And you know what? I still do.”

That beautiful place where she says, ‘take us back to ourselves.’ One of the more perfect descriptions of what great writing does. The writing that makes you want to stop strangers on the street — that’s writing that takes you back to yourself. The writing that makes you read out loud to your lover, that’s writing that takes you back to yourself. The writing that makes you buy a certain book for your favorite clients, that’s writing that takes you back to yourself. We love Anne. Wanna longer visit?

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4. Swimming Upstream | The Antidote, Oliver Burkeman

Oliver Burkeman and The Antidote (photo Jeff Mikkelson)

After a few pleasant exchanges via Twitter, I popped on over to my favorite Seattle haunt to hear Oliver Burkeman read and talk about his new book, The Antidote. So fascinating, such a cool, refreshing, intellectually rigorous plunk down of the positive thinking that infects much of the self-help canon. Fun and serious. Here’s an excerpt:

Yet it is a curious truth that the Stoics’ approach to happiness through negativity begins with exactly the kind of insight that Norman Vincent Peale might endorse: that when it comes to feeling upbeat or despondent, it’s our beliefs that really matter. Most of us, the Stoics point out, go through life under the delusion that it is certain people, situations, or events that make us sad, anxious, or angry. When you’re irritated by a colleague at the next desk who won’t stop talking, you naturally assume that the colleague is the source of the irritation; when you hear that a beloved relative is ill and feel pained for them, it makes sense to think of the illness as the source of the pain. Look closely at your experience, though, say the Stoics, and you will eventially  be forced to conclude that neither of these external events is ‘negative’ in itself. Indeed, nothing outside your own mind can properly be described as negative or positive at all. What actually causes suffering are the beliefs you hold about those things. (Italics mine.) The colleague is not irritating per se, but because of your belief that getting your work done without interruption is an important goal. Even a relative’s illness is bad only in view of your belief that it’s a good thing for your relatives not to be ill. “Things do not touch the soul,’ is how Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic philosopher-emperor, expresses the notion, adding: ‘Our perturbations come only from the opinion which is within.’ And, ‘There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so,’ Shakespeare has Hamlet say.

Fascinating book. Click the photo above, or click here, to head over to Amazon.

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5. Storytelling and Urban Cool | Vito’s Restaurant and Lounge on First Hill, Seattle

Vito’s – Back in the day.

Is this a great country or what? This place might even be too cool for Seattle. As I write this at 11:03 pm on Saturday night, I just left Vito’s Restaurant and Lounge (two Council of Ten’s) where I heard The Fig Trio do their wonderful supper club, cool Mose Allison jazz/blues thing. So fantastic. The lights were low, the horseshoe shaped bar was busy, the red naugahyde booths were tiny cocktail heavens. The drinks are fair and the food is quite good. Vito’s has been on this spot at the corner of Madison and Ninth for ages and ages, since 1953 actually. Note how Vito’s decided to make use of story (married to a great photo) to create a vibe and a sense of time and place. Wonderful.

Air on a G String


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FCT Special Edition :: The Lines are Open

jackie b. | me

1. Call Me at the Station, the Lines are Open

Last week I had the chance to do a live radio interview with my friend and business mentor, Jackie B. Peterson. We talked for about an hour about all kinds of things. The bumpy path of a writing business. Being afraid to write. The challenges of finding clients. The notion of voice in business writing. The time I met Kim Phuc. My visit to Spain with the Dark Angels. Joni’s song, It All Comes Down to You. The deal with creative staffing agencies. And much more. She was and is awesome. Thank you Jackie and thanks to Barbara Saunders at Solo Pro Radio.

To listen — just click my name or the little arrow. {When you click, your screen might go darker. Just click anywhere on the page, and your screen will return to normal. :)}

[audio: http://www.fivecoolthingsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Richard-and-Jackie-Interview.mp3|titles=Richard and Jackie Interview]

2. David Rakoff :: Freud Rides the Hampton Jitney

This past week the writer David Rakoff died at the age of 47. He was a regular on This American Life. If you don’t know him, he is David Sedaris’ soul brother. This should tell you something: Remember David Sedaris and his job as Santa’s elf in Macy’s those many years ago? His pal David Rakoff played — wait for it — Freud. In a store window. At Barney’s in New York. At Christmas. His essay is titled Christmas Freud.

Last summer at a writer’s conference on Long Island, David Rakoff read one of his signature essays to a packed-to-overflowing auditorium. I have never laughed so hard. (It was an unpublished piece on the life of a writer.) David Rakoff had 200+ people in tears, which, from all evidence he could do at will. Like his friend Sedaris, David Rakoff read with a very distinctive voice. You almost had to experience his writing through the sound of his voice. He was smart, talented, funny, cynical and compassionate. Completely irresistible.

At the end of the writers conference last year, I climbed onto the Hampton Jitney with my friend Peter Bolger. Across the aisle from us was David Rakoff, heading back home to Manhattan. He shared his New York Times with us and we swapped stories.

Excerpt below is from a 2006 Rakoff essay, Streets of Sorrow. (Worth reading entirely.)

“I take one final stroll over to Vine on my last morning on the Boulevard. Most of the businesses are still shuttered. The tourists have yet to arrive at Grauman’s. I pass Dan Avey’s star once again. It is all of four days old, but I see that it is patched. No doubt it left the workshop patched. There, against the salmon pink of the five-pointed star, is a cloud of darker red, like a bruise or the small beating heart of a tiny creature. There is such hope and poignancy, an almost animal frailty in that blemish, that I stop in my tracks for a minute. People have been coming out West with stars in their eyes for so long, and for just as long, some have returned to where they came from, their hopes dashed. But if the fulfillment of one’s dreams is the only referendum on whether they are beautiful or worth dreaming, then no one would wish for anything. And that would be so much sadder.” — from Streets of Sorrow, by David Rakoff

Times culture blog post here>>

Times obit here>>

Lovely New Yorker piece here>>

Doubleday plans to publish Rakoff’s final work next year. The title: Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish, Perish.

Five Cool Things 10.16.2011

Let there be coffee.

Wee bit of a ‘traveling’ and ‘place’ theme in this issue; traveling through time, films and places. The New Yorker DVD of the Week comes up with The Devil is a Woman. Looking for a metaphor that is apt for the moment? How about American Inferno? John Jantsch has an industrial strength business idea that is well worth your time. The man who made the film Helvetica, has released Urbanization. And last, the burial place of the man whose travels changed the world forever, Christopher Columbus. And how can you not love this, from literary traveler Samuel Beckett: “To be together again, after so long, who love the sunny wind, the windy sun, in the sun, in the wind, that is perhaps something, perhaps something.” 

1. Calling Paul Murphy | DVD of the Week at the New Yorker

Serendipity, how do we love thee! The New Yorker’s Richard Brody has a cool weekly feature, the DVD of the Week. This week’s selection is “a 1935 romp through the erotic tangles of turn-of-the-century Spain.” Titled, The Devil is a Woman. The filmmaker is Josef von Sternberg and the story concerns a Republican activist who, facing arrest, returns home on a clandestine trip from Paris and meets a woman (Marlene Dietrich) who tempts him to compromise his mission.
Other DVD recommendations; The House of Mirth by British director Terence Davies, Husbands and Wives, by Woody Allen, and The Long, Long Trailer by Vincent Minnelli, which depicts, if you can believe it, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez pulling a trailer around America to madcap and disastrous results. Pop over for a look see>>

~ photos by linda massey & richard pelletier ~


2. Take me to your metaphor | American Inferno 

American Inferno, burning in our imagination

In this gorgeous piece at the Paris Review, writer Margaret Eby takes us along on a journey to a place, to a metaphor, to a source of literary inspiration. Her piece, American Inferno is a beautiful read. Listen;

“The conflagration probably began in a stripping pit next to the cemetery, creeping along the deposits of fuel, burning up to three hundred feet underground. The town grew so warm that some residents no longer needed to turn on their basement hot-water heaters. Toxic plumes erupted, tree roots turned to ash, vegetables roasted on their stalks. The earth became unstable, and yawning holes opened into underground pits without warning: in 1981, twelve-year-old Todd Domboski fell into a sulfurous 150-foot-deep maw that appeared suddenly in his grandmother’s backyard, narrowly escaping incineration by grabbing onto a tree root. Efforts to stop the flames—clay seals to cut off oxygen, slurry pumped into the honeycombed caverns—proved useless. In the eighties, the federal government began relocating the town’s remaining population, razing their homes and shutting down a segment of the highway that had erupted. The fire may burn for another 250 years, encompassing 3,700 acres, before it runs out of fuel.”

Writers Dean Koontz, David Wellington, Joyce Carol Oates and Bill Bryson have all, in some form or other, used Centralia in their work. I love this sentence from the same piece;

“You could come here and never realize the chaos beneath your feet.” Have at it here>>


3. Cool Business Ideas | Commitment Factory

John Jantsch ~ big ideas for small business

Your passion and commitment are essential, but it’s your ability to build passion and commitment for that vision in others that is going to be the key to growth. – John Jantsch

John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing, continues to generate great ideas, big and small, for small business. Now comes an idea for a new model for business; a commitment factory. I’m not loving the use of the word factory here, but I’ll let John speak for himself.

A commitment factory, however, is my idea for the new model of business. A business that manufactures ideas, brilliance, passion and commitment in a community that chooses to join what might be more apply described as a cause. Generating commitment is the new currency of American business and the most important task of a leader of a business defined in this manner is to guide passion and purpose in a way that encourages staff and customers alike to find, nurture and grow commitment around the things big and small that make a business something worth joining.

Here are the six floors of the factory;

1. Get the right people.
2. Tell the story over and over.
3. Protect the standards.
4. Make meetings about action.
5. Teach and share the metrics.
6. Invest in the best tools.

Do read the whole thing>>


4. From the director of Helvetica | Urbanization

“Urban design is the language of the city.”

From the Urbanized website: “Who is allowed to shape our cities, and how do they do it? Unlike many other fields of design, cities aren’t created by any one specialist or expert. There are many contributors to urban change, including ordinary citizens who can have a great impact improving the cities in which they live.” Travel over to the Urbanized website>>


5. Here lies Christopher Columbus | Cathedral of Seville 

Cathedral of Seville ~ iPhone photo by rp

More by accident than intent, I found myself on a bit of a Christopher Columbus tour while in Spain recently. You really can’t visit the city of Seville without visiting the Cathedral of Seville, (ca. 1403) which, it turns out, is the burial place of Christopher Columbus. Very close by is the truly fascinating Archivo de Indias — an historical archive holding 80 million pages of documents including first person accounts from the Conquistadors. This is the place where the Spanish government keeps all the original documents related to Spanish exploration in the New World including Columbus’ plundering explorations under lock and key and temperature control. I was also in Cadiz, in southern Spain, from which port Columbus set sail for the New World. (Thanks to Mr. John S. for that tidbit.) Aside from being reminded of my appalling historical and geographical ignorance, I was reminded of the power of place. I can tell you when you walk around the Cathedral of Seville and you have in mind that Columbus is buried within, you can feel the pull of time, of place, of stories. It’s palpable; the place issues a distinct hold on you. And it’s because of the power of stories; the ones we tell about ourselves about our history, the ones we’ve been told. I was reminded too, of how Church and State seem to be back in each other’s arms again. A very big story in itself.