communicatrix newsletter archives

Welcome to the communicatrix | focuses archives!

Each issue contains:

  1. An article about getting your truth from here to there, a.k.a. becoming a better communicator
  2. At least three must-see/read/hear media recos
  3. A silly pen-and-ink sketch by yours truly (except for one month when I just couldn’t deal)

    If you like what you see, please subscribe. You’ll automatically receive a copy of the most recent newsletter, and then you’ll continue to receive one per month unless you unsubscribe, which the law and I make very, very easy to do. (I may theoretically send you something else every once in a while, but I haven’t done it so far in almost four years.) You are, of course, welcome to read stuff here and remain all mysterious and anonymous, but I’m a one-man band and it can take me a while to post these puppies to the site. HTML-wrangling, and all that.

    Do I enjoy feedback? Hell, yes, especially when it is useful, specific or nice. And I LOVE it when people share my stuff with their friends. It’s truly the highest compliment of all, and I am enormously grateful every time it happens. No kidding, every time!



    The arithmetic of awesome (01/11)

    snippet of an illustration

    As the noise levels on the web get louder and louder, creating meaningful content becomes more and more important. Are you showing your best stuff? Are you sure about that? Chances are that if you’re not filtering a good 80% of what you produce and leaving only the choicest 20%, you’re falling short, brilliance-wise.

    PLUS… keeping inspiration front-and-center, designer-style; an awesome (free!) tool for helping you to stay focused; a wonderful photography project that embodies right use of your skills and the web.

    » Read the January 2011 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!


    Making more room for yourself (01/10)

    drawing of flatware

    A magnificent life, like a great work of art or big, honkin’ ideas, requires vast amounts of space to take root, bloom and grow. From the stuck place that I was, I started identifying places to reclaim that space, and make even more of it. And yes, you can use them, too, or make your own.

    PLUS… a great batch of P.R. ideas to rejuvenate your quest for global name recognition; a highly-addictive TV drama series that gives bonus insight into what makes us tick; a nifty tool for finding the best places near you (and far, far away) in which to stroll, with purpose!

    » Read the January 2010 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Handling the mess of real work (02/10)

    drawing of multiple=

    Getting down to business can be overwhelming, especially when your business is creative work, something you’re making up as you go along. In this issue, some techniques I use to help burn off nervous energy, banish doubt and get me refocused on the real task at hand.

    PLUS… a wonderful site that gives you a window into the way really, really smart and productive people work (with plenty of tools and workflow ideas to steal!); a delightful series of inspirational quotes, visualized, to help keep you motivated; a blog by a publishing maven with a staggering amount of useful information about setting priorities, getting stuff done, oh, yeah, and publishing.

    » Read the February 2010 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    What would Mary Poppins do? (03/10)

    drawing of a conference

    Turning work into a game isn’t as crazy as it sounds, and it makes the regular stuff you do much more fun. Take a page (or several) from everyone’s favorite fictional nanny and supercalifragilistic your way to a done to-do list and a happier life.

    PLUS… a clutch of country songs I can guarantee you’ve never heard in exactly this way before; a sneaky way to get to many of the good things I point to without having to wait for them to show up here or on my blog (if at all!); more great photos of sports fans and the games they adore than you can shake a stick at.

    » Read the March 2010 issue
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    Picking carrots and choosing sticks (04/10)

    pen & ink doodle of author julien smithYes, motivation should come from within. Nothing beats a goal that makes your heart race faster for keeping you focused and on task. But when you need a little boost, or when the goal maybe isn’t your heart’s desire, sometimes a treat is just the thing. In this issue, several that have worked for me, and ways to come up with your own.

    PLUS… a year-long project that resulted in such an amazing quantity of good stuff, it could inspire the biggest couch potato; a stunning collection of book covers that are as good as the stuff they wrap around; the true King of All Media embraces Twitter (and creates more rabbit holes you’ll fall down than anyone on the Internet).

    » Read the April 2010 issue
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    Sticking it to yourself (05/10)

    pen & ink doodle saying "MFC"More external motivators you might find useful in your travels, ideas and resources for everything from creating peer support to establishing deadlines to scaring yourself into good deeds financially.

    PLUS… a DIY audio workshop that may help you change the world as well as your writing; some inspirational peeks into first drafts and other scribblings of the masters; and a terrific early documentary about an American original, from an American original.

    » Read the May 2010 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Reading your way to better writing (06/10)

    pen & ink drawing of a bowl of beansWriters, even the would-be kind, intuitively “get” the power of writing. What’s a little less obvious is the value of reading, although it won’t be once you’re done (ahem) reading this month’s installment.

    PLUS… an online magazine that will inspire and delight you, and all for the low, low price of nothing; a startling (and surprising) tale of homelessness that may well change the way you think about the state; a simple, downloadable, free tool that makes computing just a wee bit easier on the peepers.

    » Read the June 2010 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Building better writing habits (07/10)

    pen & ink drawing of a man's headWouldn’t it be great if there was a gym for writers? Or better yet, if you could have your own, personal gym in your own, personal house, with maybe a personal trainer named “Foxy” who dropped in five times a week to gently coax your sexy, sexy writing muscles into super-strength? Well, yeah. But until then, here’s a batch of pretty sweet tools that will help you to do it on your own. (Did I mention “free”? We’re big on that here.)

    PLUS… a little shameless self-promo for one of my favorite interviews ever; a (rare) newsletter I really, really like, and that actually might encourage you to get your real self in shape; a raunchy, a modern web soap opera that will have you alternately laughing your tail off (good exercise) and wincing (because it’s raunchy!).

    » Read the July 2010 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Say “no” to marketing! (08/10)

    Lookout, Marge! After 3+ years of hammering at you to sell yourself, I finally give you permission to slack off. Or at least, to back off. Or maybe just to really take a cold, hard look at your priorities, and to do a little readjusting. And believe it or not, once you’re done? You might be able to get your message from here to there even more efficiently.

    PLUS… a bonanza of links for film buffs, including: a great new indie/foreign movie site that aggregates info and lets you stream more obscure stuff, some for free; a fun website that gives the inside scoop on what was shot where (with great photo documentation); a Tumblog devoted to all things Netflix that just might let you manage that unwieldy queue (but will not make it any easier to spell).

    » Read the August 2010 issue
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    Killing all kinds of darlings (09/10)

    The hardest time to exercise restraint, of course, is when we really, really, REALLY want something. But the fastest route to making someone’s eyes roll up in his head is yammering on and on about anything. Included are tips and ideas of how to streamline all kinds of communications to reduce noise and avoid overloading the people you most want to attract.

    PLUS… a digitally-downloadable writing workshop I am very proud of, a superfab site for Amazon cheapskates and all the info you need on how to create better, more secure passwords.

    » Read the September 2010 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Wrestling stories to the ground (10/10)

    The more I give talks, the more I learn about giving talks. This month, I share a few doozies of lessons I learned during my last experience at Ignite: Portland.

    PLUS… an outstanding podcast covering all kinds of great thinking that served as my soundtrack on the I-5 between Los Angeles and Portland; a sprawling novel that entertains and provides an astute summing-up of our times; my must-have app for networking types with iPhones.

    » Read the October 2010 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Anatomy of a thumbs-up (11/10)

    These days, everyone is looking for a plug from just about everyone. Or anyone. And most of them are going about it completely wrong. Here’s a story of one woman who did it right, filled with lessons you can use to help spread your own news in a way that does send people running for the hills.

    PLUS… irresistible tours of various creative professionals’ workspaces; a sparkly, outrageously fun and irreverent album from an opera singer and his “orchestra” that delights at every turn; the compulsively readable biography of one of our greatest modern hustlers.

    » Read the November 2010 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Adding by taking away! (12/10)

    Without ever setting the intention, I found myself taking a year-long sabbatical from (paying) work in 2010. I was fascinated at the end of it to see which tools had been truly useful in making my life better and my inner journey easier. Here’s a hint: not one of them cost a dime, and many of them saved me time.

    PLUS… a delicious way to document your favorite books AND get a nifty piece of art, a fun (and easy-to-use!) toy for streaming music online, and a gorgeous collection of short, interview-based documentaries with great design thinkers.

    » Read the December 2010 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!


    Getting to fabulosity incrementally! (01/09)

    fancy lady

    Getting to fabulosity the incremental way, 10 minutes at a time, while allowing yourself the delicious freedom to be the imperfect work of wonder you are.

    PLUS… a treasure trove of fun & easy writing tips/tricks/ideas to get you out of the hole and back on the page, a bee-yoo-tee-full WordPress theme that makes blogging easier and SEO better than ever before (even for non-techies!) and a funky-perfect CD from an African musical genius that will engage your soul while it energizes your body (and leaves your mind free to work).

    » Read the January 2009 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Turning hated tasks into personal gold (02/09)

    drawing of 1980's preppy girl

    The stuff that challenges us can end up being not only the stuff that makes us grow better/stronger/faster, but also the stuff we love the most. Here’s a different take on how to think about the not-so-fun inevitabilities of life, plus (as usual) some things to monkey with if you want to put the theory into practice.

    PLUS… a site (and email newsletter) that manages to serve up the most important news of the day in a fun, fresh way; a site chock full of inspiring thoughts with a musical flavor; and a dopey but seriously fun online tool I guarantee you’ll find at least one interesting use for.

    » Read the February 2009 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Control what you can (03/09)

    drawing of an iMac

    The quickest way to vanquishing fear, and promoting fabulosity, is to apply considered effort towards the things within your grasp. This month’s issue offers three ways to do just that.

    PLUS… a fun, free tool that’s equal parts delight and utility (and that really will help you keep on track with your goals), a site full of delightful, hilarious story jokes told by masters of the genre that serves as stress relief and motivation to hone your own storytelling (and joke telling) skills, and the rebirth of a blog by one of the brightest, most controversial voices out there on change and the marketplace.

    » Read the March 2009 issue
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    Now, more than ever, you need to play (04/09)

    drawing of a snowball mic

    Making even a wee bit of room for structured, purposeful, but still whoop-dee-doo time and activities can work wonders for getting your creative juices flowing and, ironically, improving your work output. How it’s worked (and not) for me, plus a few ideas to give a test drive.

    PLUS… a site that provides a steady infusion of delightful and thought-provoking juxtapositions of words and pictures, a free tool that makes both concentration and sharing a workspace easier, and a jargon-free, freak-friendly book on communication you won’t want to hurl across the living room at your partner.

    » Read the April 2009 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Reinventing yourself (05/09)

    drawing of tea infuser

    Some perspective and tools for grappling with fast-paced change, one of my least-favorite phases (and one you can bet ain’t going away anytime soon).

    PLUS… a memoir about changing the world that will inspire you to do the same, a brilliantly curated site chock-a-block with fantastic images that never fails to amuse and delight me, and a free, don’t-even-have-to-give-up-your-email-addy PDF about how to make your blog kick maximum ass in minimum time.

    » Read the May 2009 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Standing out on a crowded internet (06/09)

    drawing of drinking glass

    When everyone and his brother is on the Twitter, how can you make your voice heard and your presence known? Short answer: be awesome everywhere and all the time. More practical answers? In this issue of the newsletter.

    PLUS… what happens when an outstanding organization is the subject of an outstanding short subject (hint: it rhymes with “boscar”); the “Beeb” does it again with another stellar situation comedy starring the stellar Steve Coogan; if you’re feeling down about your accomplishments to date, wait until you compare yourself with some people who came (and went) before you.

    » Read the June 2009 issue
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    Build your communications gym (07/09)

    drawing of a boomboxGreat exercises to keep your communications skills sharp (and you from getting bored on the same old workout equipment).

    PLUS… a daily shot of inspiration that’s eerily on target delivered straight to your inbox; delicious BBC-esque Tudor porn at its finest; and super-silly, totally awesome word diversions to play with in between all that serious brain lifting you’re doing.

    » Read the July 2009 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Getting people to love you madly (08/09)

    drawing of a tomato cage

    Hanging out in the big, bad, rapidly changing world of the social web, much less building some kind of useful, supportive network, can be bewildering until you understand the fundamental rules of the road. In this first of a two-part series, I share a simple credo that will keep you sane and your reputation sterling. (Part 1 of a 2-part series on social media)

    PLUS… a wondrously creative fund-and-awareness-raising project that utilizes the social web brilliantly, a straightforward (and easy-to-follow) “cheat sheet” for getting your daily web chores done, and a four-star round-up of four-star books that includes great summarizing data and interesting background info.

    » Read the August 2009 issue
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    Making people love you MORE madly (09/09)

    drawing of a folding chair

    Building on last month’s basic how-to’s, this month we go over some very specific tactics you can use to create great, heaping gobs of value on the web, keeping it safe for all mankind while making it work harder for your business or message.

    PLUS… a charming and crazily compelling musical duo whose videos are as toe-tappingly awesome as their songs (and vice versa); the one book on social media to buy if you’re only buying one (and a part of me really hopes you are); and the first American television show to make me laugh out loud since, wait…when did I laugh out loud before this?

    » Read the September 2009 issue
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    Letting your freak flag fly (10/09)

    drawing of the back of a man's head

    It may seem counterintuitive, but when times get tough, the freaks let their flags fly like a sumbitch. Here are concrete examples of how to let the true you shine through even such dastardly boring documents as resumes, and a little pep talk on turning those so-called freaky liabilities of yours into glorious assets.

    PLUS… a journalist takes a vacation by writing (and you get to read the real-time results); a ridiculously undersung yet wildly prolific writer-artist-genius you’re sure to respect even if you don’t love him as I do; and a TV that’s basically like a really well art-directed home movie from my youth.

    » Read the October 2009 issue
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    No skipping steps, snowflake! (11/09)

    drawing of a girl's head with ponytail

    Like it or not (and there are days when no one does), marketing is a process. Here are my best tips for plowing through the fear, and, sometimes, plain-and-simply overcoming the boredom and frustration with translating the truth of you into the language of them.

    PLUS… a charming and hilarious website full of wonderful nostalgic images (none of them yours); a must-read weekly feature for those rabid reader types who can’t get enough of that funky stuff; and a stirring/rousing/fascinating treasure trove of some of the greatest correspondence ever sent from one person to another.

    » Read the November 2009 issue
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    Getting into the handle-making business (12/09)

    drawing of word marmalade

    People run screaming in the night from anything that smacks of selling. But people love love love to be sold, as the saying goes. So how do you get people to take a look at what you’re “selling” (and I’m talking ideas and art as much as widgets and classes)? Make it ultra-easy, and their idea, to come to you.

    PLUS… a bonus treasure-trove of “little presents for the holidays, like really icky Santas; some tutelage on making the moral choice; counting down to Christmas the musical way; a website that will keep you from getting paranoid; and my ALL-TIME FAVORITE dessert, now shippable to your door.

    » Read the December 2009 issue
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    Get the help you need to be truly fabulous (01/08)

    heart 150

    Ways to find the group of advisors, idea generators, editors and other friends in need you’ll want, both online and off, to create your own best support network.

    PLUS… a consistently inspiring twice-weekly newsletter, a book with more creative jumpstarting projects than you can shake a stick at and a shameless plug for the greatest online music delivery system I’ve found yet.

    » Read the January 2008 issue
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    Homework for your enjoyment (02/08)

    heart 150

    Tips for making speeches more memorable (for your audience) and more memorizable (for you), culled from years in the copywriting/acting trenches.

    PLUS… a haunting, Oscar-nominated film well worth a view, a site chock-a-block with thought-provoking, inspiring short films, and my favorite tool for turning URL behemoths into short, user-friendly links.

    » Read the February 2008 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Meeting people made easier (03/08)

    fitzhugh 150

    Some guidance on making networking more gainful, less painful, using the sad lessons of my experience plus some good tricks from acting and other tawdry pursuits

    PLUS… a self-help book (and audio program) that’s a classic for good reason, some suggestions on why using them in tandem might be a good idea, and my plug for a social networking aggregator that streamlines the process of getting information from a bazillion different places.

    » Read the March 2008 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Demystifying (and de-nasty-fying) personal branding (04/08)

    shrimp 150

    Part 1 of my down-and-dirty how-to on personal branding, mainly dealing with the “why” behind it. Includes questions to ask yourself, to get you thinking about what it is about you that you want to share with the world.

    PLUS… my very favorite online resource for videos that are inspiring and educational (and often, hilarious) all at once, my swoon-fest plug for an outstanding singer-songwriter much beloved by the geeks (who is, himself, a model of personal branding) and my rave about the living, printed proof of one of the most outstanding volunteer programs I’ve ever seen for the benefit of young women.

    » Read the April 2008 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    How to spread the word of you (05/08)

    foryoursafety 150

    Part 2 of my series on personal branding covers the basic building blocks of branding–more elemental than you might think! Stuff like…your haircut! The typefaces you use! And other stuff that won’t cost a penny extra, but can help focus and telegraph the youness of you.

    PLUS… another reason the British are wiping the floor with us, television-wise, a super-short rave about the Twitter all the kids are talking about (and how you should maybe think about using it) and some shameless pimpage for a kick-ass book I wrote the introduction for.

    » Read the May 2008 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    First, let it be sucky (06/08)

    firstdrawing 150

    An explanation of why it takes so damned long to get good at something, and some tips and tricks to get you through the long, long gap between taste and ability.

    PLUS… a fantastic, 100%-free resource to connect you with journalists, authors and other word-spreaders telling stories, a terrific free e-book on solopreneur marketing and promotion and a great author’s finest work of writing.

    » Read the June 2008 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Project Thinking: the Friend of Fabulosity (07/08)

    pen nib 150

    Creativity rules, but sometimes, applying a little left-brain thinking, structure and discipline can ease the creativity birthing process. Some tools for turning your fantabulous creative notion into physical reality.

    PLUS… an amazing repository of how-to articles on social media, Colleen’s Dirty-Little-Secret tv addiction, and a wonderful book uses the power of listmaking to help you harness your dreams, and does it with style and grace.

    » Read the July 2008 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    How to Sound Like Yourself (08/08)

    80s girl

    A step-by-step method for figuring out what you want to say and then saying it with your own, personal style.

    PLUS… a treasure trove of fascinating and groundbreaking interviews on the internet, my new-favorite book on writing (wait’ll you hear the title!), and a sure-fire and stylish (and pretty cost-effective) way of staying in touch with people and commemorating the special events in their lives.

    » Read the August 2008 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Communicator, teach thyself! (09/08)

    the author

    Getting yourself out of a jam and onto the next level by applying a few really simple procedures.

    PLUS… a no-hassle time-tracking device that will send you an eye-opening summary of where you wasted, er…spent your time that week, more get-started-with-social-media resources than you can shake a stick at and a look down a rabbit hole that will have you seeing things from a whole different perspective.

    » Read the September 2008 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Making space for your voice (10/08)

    80s girl

    Some personal experience (and a few suggestions that came out of it) on how to create the kind of room you need in order to facilitate the change you want.

    PLUS… the incessant hammering on my pal, Chris Brogan, pays off in spades for YOU, a fantastic podcast devoted to the fascinating art of the cover song, and the one book to buy on creating great presentations if you’re only buying one.

    » Read the October 2008 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Keeping your eyes on your own paper (11/08)


    Sometimes life moves the guy next to you along a little faster than it does you. How do you not only cope with that potentially fraught inevitability, but move through it with grace AND learn you a little sumpin’-sumpin’?

    PLUS… a book from a marketer that will inspire you to reach way beyond the goals you’ve set for yourself (and for a great reason), a terrific online/email support group that puts the theory of many-minds (and hearts) into beautiful practice, and some mesmerizingly awesome storytelling yours for the download.

    » Read the November 2008 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Special holiday woo-woo edition! (12/08)

    flapper santa

    A few concrete methods of coping when you’re living through “interesting” times.

    PLUS… a nifty, light, fun-to-use screen grab utility that lets you be more social with your pictures, a couple of fantastic new site finds for culture vultures who especially dig on books and movies, and a movie available on DVD that is so uplifting, you cannot watch it without becoming a better, happier person.

    » Read the December 2008 issue
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    Say it better in two easy steps (May 2007)

    scan phone 150

    A few dandy ways I’ve learned to keep the ideas flowing, for when the Muse decides to take an unannounced holiday.

    PLUS… a delightfully fun site for exploring your creativity, a hilarious biography and a rock-’em, sock’-em blaxploitation gem.

    » Read the May 2007 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    How to talk to anyone in the universe (06/07)

    shoe 150

    A good script to help focus your thoughts on the person (or people) you’re communicating with. Applicable in writing, speaking, designing, what have you.

    PLUS… a new site where you can tell your stories (and read other people’s), a heartwarming biography by one of America’s finest, funniest writers about his muse, and a little-seen gem from the Criterion Collection.

    » Read the June 2007 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Geeky ways to become a better communicator (07/07)

    shirt 150

    A few lifehacks stolen from the nerds that can help you increase the quality and quantity of your output.

    PLUS… some really smart (and inspiring) resources on decluttering and a brilliant documentary on a filthy poet.

    » Read the July 2007 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Better writing through exhaustion (08/07)

    handset 150The more what you say/write/create comes from “the truth of you,” the better the chance it will land properly with someone else. This month offers simple, effective exercises for connecting with your authentic voice.

    PLUS… a meme to get you involved, a book about battling your demons and a film about finding inspiration in a really unlikely place.

    » Read the August 2007 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    MacGyvering your way out of creative blocks (09/07)

    ants 150

    When inspiration eludes you, sometimes the most effective thing is to do-it-yourself with whatever’s handy (hint: not always duct tape). Here are a few cheap (or free) ways to stir it up.

    PLUS… two creative visionaries who work in very different media, and a blast of hilarious TV from the vault, courtesy of YouTube.

    » Read the September 2007 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Stick to simple to make it stick (10/07)

    model-y 150A simple, straightforward series of steps for developing a successful piece of communication.

    PLUS… a great social networking site for big readers, a book about talking to kids that works amazingly well for grownups, and a BBC miniseries that held two continents AND the communicatrix in thrall.

    » Read the October 2007 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    7 ways to improve communications skills messing around on the Internet (11/07)

    hat 150

    Farting around on the internet no longer has to be an utter waste of time!! Check out this rundown of the best social networking sites, plus some innovative ways of using them.

    PLUS… improve your vocabulary while helping eradicate hunger, the best (and funnest!) newsweekly in eons AND a podcast for smart people masquerading as a podcast about S-E-X.

    » Read the November 2007 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!

    Prep now for a better 2008 (12/07)

    ornate 150

    My favorite resources for creating meaningful goals, fun projects and other cool structures that make change pleasant (as opposed to the pain in the butt it usually is).

    PLUS… A shameless plea, a book that will make you think differently about the seemingly mundane objects in your life, and an exquisite film about a man who communicated better using 1/1000th of himself than most of us do using our whole bodies.

    » Read the December 2007 issue
    » Subscribe, dammit!


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