conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Did this guy jump to his death?

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Maybe. Maybe not. But I saw somebody jump.

The High Bridge in Saint Paul is…high. High over the Mississippi.

And the High Bridge is long. Very long.


I was at the high end of the High Bridge at sunset—taking photos (as one does).


I saw a guy near the middle of the bridge on the rail.


My slow shutter experiment captured a car as well as a person way off in the distance. Was this the last photo of the guy?

Should I call the cops? I wondered.

Then he was on the other side of the rail.

I dialed 911.

I told the dispatcher where I was and that there was a guy on the outside of the rail in the middle of the bridge and he looked like he was going to jump.

“And he jumped. He just jumped, ” I told the dispatcher as I walked to where he wasn’t.

Two or three people had stopped their cars toward the middle of the bridge when they saw him outside the rail. They were also on the phone with 911. And now we all stood looking into the water.

Three of us standing there said a prayer. I could only think to ask for mercy. That’s pretty much what I’m praying most every day, so it seemed even more fitting right here.

Right now.

Maybe somebody saw him surface. Maybe his face was bloody. Maybe he was pulled down deep into the full, wet chaos of the river channel—that’s what the St. Paul police officer I talked with said.

That’s it. Life. Then death.

I was not thinking about life and death when I set out to make photos on a warm Thursday evening.

I’ve not stopped thinking about life and death since.

I am reminded that a family is involved—others who loved this guy. Friends will be broken when they find him missing. What problems he jumped from…well who can say any more than that?

How little we know about what is going on deep in each others’ soul.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

July 25, 2014 at 7:39 am

Loose Lips Link Scripts

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Open(ish) access for tight-lipped companies

Technical people can learn something from advertising people.

My creative director friend presented advertising concepts by first showing how his agency team came up with the idea. His presentations took a bit more time, but along the way he restated the problem, showed visuals of how competitors attempted to solve the problem and then revealed stumps of ideas that never really worked. Then he got to the solutions he hoped the client would pay for.

My friend’s process placed his solution in a context that helped those around the conference table understand why the solution made sense. As he spun out his process, he verbally brought these people with him so they were nodding “Yes” long before they signed off on the solution.

The boardwalk protects fragile land while providing access.

The boardwalk protects fragile land while providing access.

Many of my clients guard their proprietary information with fierce protections. And rightly so: their processes keep things running and bring in the coin that satisfies employees, stakeholders and shareholders. But in a search and share economy where like-minded people find each other more and more often, is a firewall surrounding all information really the best way forward?

The right information presented at the right time (that is, just when someone needs it, which typically coincides with a search for that information) affects buying decisions and brand loyalty. Interestingly, your technical people are right now busy working through the context that, if properly presented, would draw others to your product.

People are searching for your information.

If only they could find you.

My more innovative clients are finding ways to help their problem-definers and solution-makers talk more publicly. And as these discussions move outside the corporate walls, they best ones are finding ways to combat the PR department temptation to suck meaning from the words. Because sharing useful information happens person-to-person. And useful information will always have something of an unfiltered quality to it.

How is your organization preparing to share details with those who can help you move forward?



Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Pierre: Vive La Liberte

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Written by kirkistan

July 23, 2014 at 8:17 am

Posted in curiosities, What is remarkable?

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George Trow: On a Reporter’s Appropriate Subjectivity

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Subjectivity is part of the human condition

I dislike all talk about “bias” and “lack of objectivity” in a reporter. He is there to clue you in to his best assessment, his reading of the code of events. He has no way to be objective (other than not to have a personal stake in the argument); he doesn’t know the real facts; or if he does, it’s so rare as not to be worth the mentioning. He can’t read Arafat’s mind , or Assad’s, or anybody’s. In a way, what you value most about him or her is his or her appropriate subjectivity; his or her feel for events.


Trow, George W. S. My Pilgrim’s Progress (NY: Vintage Books, 1999) 42

Written by kirkistan

July 22, 2014 at 8:36 am

Question Authority: “I wonder if that’s true.”

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Is suspension of belief the same as active doubt?

Strangers, colleagues, friends and family are adept at sounding like they know what they are talking about. It’s a piece of the human condition in our U.S. of A. to come across with confidence (even better—hubris—if you can manage it). Use a certain tone of voice, jam words together quickly, toss in a few technical terms, keep your head steady and hold someone’s gaze, and—presto!—you’re an expert.

And your word matters.


Back in college studying philosophy I might have been an irritating presence with friends because the most common, most innocuous comments could elicit questions. Over time I learned to hold those questions to myself and mull things over in a less public way. But whenever I find myself in the presence of people who wrap themselves with authority, those questions pop out.

I’m attracted to Robert Sokolowski’s take on phenomenology. In particular, this notion of bracketing our natural thoughts and suspending a belief to ask about it and examine the pieces and parts and moments and manifolds of that belief. It’s a great thing to do in conversation, and many generous-minded thinkers and experts will walk that direction with me. But those intent on cloaking themselves with authority—those using bits of knowledge as rhetorical tools to one-up their conversation partners—see ordinary questions that come from bracketing as weapons of aggression.

And in truth, sometimes they are. To respond to the expert with “I wonder if that is true” is to question authority, to question context, to question orthodoxy. It also brings common relationships into question. Can we be friends if you question this basic statement?

And yet the most marvelous thoughts follow those ordinary questions. Thoughts that propel forward with much deeper motivation and insight.

Friends who allow you to ask very basic questions are a gift to be cherished.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston


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Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

July 18, 2014 at 5:00 am

You could always dance around the world backwards

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Via Tastefully Offensive

Written by kirkistan

July 17, 2014 at 9:55 am

Posted in curiosities


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