Are You Antifragile?

From the Guardian's recent review:

The core idea behind this book is simple and quite enticing. Nassim Nicholas Taleb divides the world and all that's in it (people, things, institutions, ways of life) into three categories: the fragile, the robust and the antifragile. You are fragile if you avoid disorder and disruption for fear of the mess they might make of your life: you think you are keeping safe, but really you are making yourself vulnerable to the shock that will tear everything apart. You are robust if you can stand up to shocks without flinching and without changing who you are. But you are antifragile if shocks and disruptions make you stronger and more creative, better able to adapt to each new challenge you face. Taleb thinks we should all try to be antifragile.

Here's the video from RSA. it's dense. Really dense. I reccommend you just watch the short talk and not the economic panel after, unless of course, you are interested in economic systems. I've just ordered this book, and will give you a review later, but for now, I'll share a few ideas from the review that caught my eye. While the author is speaking as a philosopher, and looking at this idea as it applies to things like the bank and financial meltdown, there is plenty to think about on a personal/interpersonal level, too. Playing it safe if a really seductive idea, and a part of being an artist that keeps us locked in and locked up, imprisoned sometimes by our own success. It's a difficult tightrope -- keeping things fresh and, yet, staying intune with our "market," our hard-won and long-to-discover style of work.



From the NYTimes review: In Mr. Taleb’s view, “We have been fragilizing the economy, our health, political life, education, almost everything” by “suppressing randomness and volatility,” much the way that “systematically preventing forest fires from taking place ‘to be safe’ makes the big one much worse.” In fact, he says, top-down efforts to eliminate volatility (whether in the form of “neurotically overprotective parents” or the former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan’s trying to smooth out economic fluctuations by injecting cheap money into the system) end up making things more fragile, not less. Overtreatment of illness or physical problems, he suggests, can lead to medical error, much the way that American support of dictatorial regimes “for the sake of stability” abroad can lead to “chaos after a revolution.”

PS the Time's reviewer did not think much of the book, so for that view, see the review at this link.

Design Workshop with Central American Teachers


Today, (a couple of days this and next week) I'm working at Palo Alto College in San Antonio with 20 Central American and Caribbean teachers -- part of an international education program that I have been part of for the past 10 years. These teachers (and those who have been here over the years) come to San Antonio for the equivalent of an education degree from rural "underserved" communities in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Dominican Republic for 6 month or 1 year terms of study. They return to share their knowledge in their schools, communities and nations. This program, funded by USAID and administered by an international expert staff at Georgetown University (and our own Alamo Colleges International Programs) is one reason I don't mind paying taxes. 

These teachers who work under conditions that most U.S. teachers would find impossible (50-60 kids in a SMALL classroom, few if any books and supplies, often limited electricity and no running water, in communities with high incidence of absentee fathers, illiteracy and poor nutrition. They work long hours for not much pay -- many of them work second jobs to make enough to support their families.

Today I am facilitating a design workshop to help them find their strongest illustration style for personal stories that will become the first books in their classroom and school libraries of handmade books. These are simple products, made with inexpensive and recycled materials, and the teachers return home to teach their students and parents how to make the books based on their own experiences. I LOVE these books and have a great collection of art from throughout the past years -- I'll share some favorites over the next few days.



New World Kids (1) Now on Sale!

My co-author Susan Marcus and I and Dr. Cindy Herbert, another colleague from LAL days have been working on a rewrite/expanded new book for parents, to be released this fall by Greenleaf Book Group. It will be titled "The Missing Alphabet." (Isn't that cool?) 

And to get ready, we are having a great sale on the last book for our readers and supporters., So if you would like another (or a first) copy of NEW WORLD KIDS, and the accompanying teacher's guide don't miss this special deal. If you are interested, please order through Foundry Media directly -- the info is in the letter below (YOU ALL count at "a person at one of our events" since I consider reading this blog an event, so you are eligible for the special pricing):

Dear New World Kids reader:


This Fall, the authors of New World Kids, the Parents Guide to Creative Thinking, will be publishing a new book, The Missing Alphabet, a Parent's Guide to Developing Creative Thinking in Kids. In preparation for the release of the this book, we want to extend a special offer to of our customers:
Now until  May 30 we are offering New World Kids, The Parents' Guide to Creative Thinking at $7.00 per copy and New World Kids, The Teachers' Guide at $10.00 per copy both with free shipping! That compares to the list price of $14.95/$19.95 + shipping! This offer is being made only to those people who purchased from our website over the past couple of years or in person at one of our events.
Texas residents will have to pay 8.25% sales tax (sorry!) and we will only accept checks. Purchases will be shipped Media Mail.

Please place your order by replying to this message to, calculating the total cost (with applicable sales tax per above). We will ship your books immediately and you can send us your check.
If you have any questions, email us at or call us at 512-328-1920.



Bookmaking with the Maestros/Maestras

We're doing another round of book-making here at Palo Alto with the international program scholarship teachers in Group 4. Everyone is writing and illustrating with photo collages their own "me books," as models and to take back to their schools as examples when they return to the classroom. The creativity is exciting -- and everyone is enthralled withusing copiers and photo printers -- technology not necessarily at hand back at home. But, as the digital world gets broader, as tools become more accessible, these teachers will return with the knowledge and experiences to dream with their students. And, the basic book-making and writing and illustration exercises can be done with low-tech supplies and tools, too.



Handmade Books by CASS Docentes


In case you've been wondering what all this teacher and school stuff has to do with art, here's an album of the kinds of work I do with the Central American teachers who study with the CASS scholarship program at Alamo Colleges. The teachers write stories from their personal experiences, then try out some design skills. I help them choose an illustration style to work with, and monitor the progress, provide critique and teach the simple bookbinding skills that hold the whole thing together. 

These are books from the 2008 class, and I am visiting some of these teachers on this trip.


Head over to the Escuela CASS What Can School Be? site for more pics of the teachers books, (The upload on that site is much better)

Order from Jane's Corner

Here's a note that Jane Dunnewold, my friend and mentor, put on out on one of the online lists this week. If you plan to order Jane's new book ART CLOTH -- an update and reworking of what is certainly one of the classic resources of the surface design field, COMPLEX CLOTH -- then do her the favor of ordering from her Art Cloth website. I certainly will. And, even better, add my name to the drawing for one of Jane's wonderful pieces of art.

"I was dismayed to go to Amazon and see how deeply discounted my new book will be - even before it has been released. I know that's the way of the world, but it led me to some serious thinking about how to compete with discounting while offering value to those who are committed to sticking with and supporting artists by spending a bit more - rather than going for the discount. With that in mind, I've decided to host a "raffle" of sorts - to thank those of you who are willing to support artists first hand - without the middle person, like Amazon, involved.

Anyone who pre-orders my new book on my website - - will automatically be entered in a drawing for two of my larger works of art. The pieces are yet to be determined - I need to get some work back from Interweave before I can make the decision about what to offer, but they will be GOOD pieces. The drawing will occur on June 1, 2010. Anyone who has already pre-ordered from my website is automatically "in."

Please feel free to pass this on to other lists and friends. I am not
against Amazon at all, but am interested in leveling the playing field so that I might actually be able to hold my own against big business! And may I say, while engaging in a little fun with an outcome a couple of people will really enjoy!

(Is Amazon the equivalent of an on-line big box store? Am I the local corner artist?)


and yes, every copy ordered on the website will be personally signed."