by Anthony Schmiedeler

"If one becomes a lawyer, scholar, mechanist, typist, scientist, production assistant, or what-have-you, the world will commend your decision. Each day at lunch, on vacation, or at whatever party you attend, your choice will be applauded, upheld, and affirmed. And you will know what is expected of you. Even if your job is difficult — if you are a brain chemist, international death merchant, or rocket designer — your responsibilities will be obvious and your goals concrete. If you achieve them, you may be rewarded by promotion. If you fail, you might be fired or demoted, but nonetheless — unless your boss is insane — the job will have tangible parameters. [Art], however, is different. You will never know exactly what you must do, it will never be enough… no matter what change you achieve, you will most likely see no dividend from it. And even after you have achieved greatness, the [tiny number of people] who even noticed will ask, ‘What next?’"

-From the book Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ‘n’ Roll Group quoted in this Medium post by my favorite author/artist Austin Kleon.

You can't get fired if you don't have a job. by Anthony Schmiedeler

I'm going to be completely honest here. It's embarrassing but I didn't really know who Margaret Atwood was before Monday. I don't consider myself "well-read" but I'm trying to get to a point where I do. I was slightly aware of her status as an iconic female author so I knew that hearing her deliver the Kenneth A. Spencer Memorial Lecture at KU was a good opportunity for me. So I made the trek out to Lawrence and I wasn't disappointed.

Margaret Atwood is an honest speaker. She was thoughtful and didn't pull any punches. She talked about the state of our world very bluntly, starting with where we came from and what we are.

We came long ago and we came equipped with the arts. Inside every one of us is an artist of some sort — maybe not a very good artist, but an artist nonetheless.

She ended with her answer to where we are going, urging us to embrace the humanities because they are "what make us human" and warning us to avoid the steadily growing "zombie" movement that appears to be doing the opposite. It was hopeful in a weird way and reassuring to hear that maybe I'm on the right track. It helped that in her explanation of the impermanence of ideas, she was able to insert some dancing Super Bowl sharks

My favorite part of the conversation were the audience questions and her super witty responses that always went much deeper than the original queries. Hear are a few I jotted down (largely paraphrased): 

• In response to "what made you get into writing?" she referred to the famous line "They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started playing..." which was a great way to say she didn't know what she was doing when she started. She finished with "I will explore almost anything to see how it works." I guess writing is what stuck.

 In response to "How do you address people who take your book too seriously?" she said "It's only a book. Just take the cover and close it." She writes books, not as a gloomy prediction of what's to come, but more as a map on how to avoid it. Nothing is inevitable and the future is not set in stone.

 My favorite line of the night was in response to "How did you get into activism?". She said she hates activism! It's more of a chore than anything else. But there are people who can't say what they want to say because they have jobs. Due to her time in the Girl Scouts she feels compelled to go a bit further than most. So she says what she wants for those who can't because "You can't get fired if you don't have a job!".

After the talk I guess I still don't know her that well but I can say that I'm a new fan. And I will be reading The Handmaid's Tale very soon.

Future Library. A 100 year project, started in 2014, of which Margaret Atwood is the first contributor.

Future Library. A 100 year project, started in 2014, of which Margaret Atwood is the first contributor.

Cool Tool by Anthony Schmiedeler

I picked this baby up from an art store counter display about 3 months ago because the design caught my eye and I've been using it pretty consistently ever since. The OLFA Touch-Knife is a spring loaded razor blade, concealed in a flat circular container. Since it isn't a typical pencil-like shape it is very portable and it has extra surface area for good leverage and accurate cuts. I use it for opening pretty much anything. I also use it when I'm crafting and it's the closest cutting tool within reach. Yesterday I used it to remove a splinter because it was the only thing around that was suitable for the job. An excellent combination of function and beauty.

This post was inspired by Kevin Kelly's book Cool Tools