David Sparks' New Field Guide: Presentations [iBookstore Link]

MacSparky's 'Presentations' Field Guide

David Sparks (aka MacSparky) recently released his long-awaited new Field Guide, Presentations. Beautifully designed from beginning to end, this ebook shows you how to make your presentations not suck.

With a primary focus on Apple’s Keynote software—and filled with more than 30 screencasts, audio interviews, and other rich media assets—David shows you how to plan an exceptional presentation that will connect with and delight your audience. He stresses the importance of telling a story rather than reading off bullet points out loud, how to make stunning presentation slides, and more.

He also shares some of his hard-earned presentation day tips, such as:

  • Putting together a “presentation toolbox”, a kit with all the adapters and other miscellany a presenter might need at the last minute
  • Advice on posture and stance
  • Presentation delivery techniques

I highly recommend picking up a copy of Presentations on the iBookstore. It's only $10, and your presentations will forever be changed for the better.

"Not Your Average Bread and Butter"

Chef Dan Richer has been dubbed the "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" of bread and butter, and rightfully so. Rather than carelessly serving up some dull and forgettable form of this pre-meal staple at his New Jersey restaurant, he has poured his soul into perfecting the recipe.

His approach to food is rather similar to the editing practices of great writers:

“I'm like the anti-chef. Like, I wanna do less to something, and I wanna put less on the plate. If there's an ingredient I can take off of the plate to make it more simple and more pure so you can actually experience the essence of what it is that we're serving, that's what's special to me.”

Absolutely wonderful video. Set aside eight minutes to watch it and prepare to salivate.

Big Update to Shawn Blanc's eBook, 'Delight is in the Details'

Delight is in the Details — v2

My buddy Shawn Blanc has published a huge update to his ebook about creativity, Delight is in the Details. Everything that made the original version awesome is still there, along with a ton of new content and refinements:

  • The ebook has been upped from 75 pages to 88 thanks to the addition of two new chapters
  • Two new audio interviews (Matt Alexander and Jared Sinclair), bringing the total to 10
  • All of the audiobook and audio interview tracks have been remastered
  • There are now transcripts of all the interviews, in case you’d rather read than listen
  • A new Makers Q&A section
  • References to iOS and OS X have been updated
  • Three short videos about creativity and design, all with high production value. You can watch one of them right now: “The Creative Life”

If you already bought the first edition of Delight is in the Details, you get this update (and all future updates) for free. A Gumroad link to the new files will be emailed to you, so keep an eye out.

As for the rest of you, now is the perfect time to get in on a fantastic book that will spur your creative work and show you why sweating the details is so important.

"Cut to B-Roll of Coffee"

Zachary Carlsen of coffee blog Sprudge is steamed that Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee isn't so much about the coffee anymore:

“Gone are the episodes of destination coffee-bar stops for decent coffee. So far, this season’s episodes have Seinfeld and his guests and cameras shoot in old-timey diners. In episode three with comedian legend Robert Klein, the pair visit the Landmark Diner in Ossining, NY but don’t even drink Landmark’s coffee. As they hem and haw, they drink from their take-out Starbucks cups they got off camera. Outside food and drink? Anything for his Majesty, King Seinfeld.

Maybe he's right, but I'm not as bothered by it. The show is as entertaining as ever and still one of my favorite things on the internet. As long as the conversations are interesting and they keep that coffee b-roll footage coming, I'm happy.

In any case, Zachary's article is a fun read and I get the sense he wrote it mostly in good jest. Mostly.

* * *

In related news, the latest episode is great, and features Jon Stewart of The Daily Show. I particularly enjoyed this moment at the 8:12 mark, as they were walking through a typical-looking suburban neighborhood:

Jerry: How close is this to how you grew up?

John: Pretty close.

Jerry: Really?

John: Yeah.

Jerry: Do you wish your kids were growing up like this?

John: No, that's why I've been working so hard.

And while we're on the subject, here are all of my favorite CICGC episodes, in case you've never watched the show and need a place to start:

"Take a Talk Show and Make It Move"

I really enjoyed watching this hour-long chat between Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman. They discuss the inner workings of the Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee web series, why it was created in the first place, the importance of good editing, and so much more. Lots of funny moments and interesting insights.

Neil Gaiman's 2012 Commencement Speech [Video]

This link was originally published before the launch of The Spark Journal. I will be republishing (and lightly editing, in some cases) a handful of such things in the coming days, mainly because I feel they're worth seeing twice. My apologies if this annoys anyone.

Somehow I completely missed out on watching this speech until recently. It seems like the kind of thing I should have come across sooner, since my internet friends presumably would have been linking it left and right at the time. But I guess better late than never right?

Here are a few of my favorite highlights, with accompanying time markers:

[1:51] - “First of all, when you start out on a career in the arts, you have no idea what you're doing. This is great. People who know what they're doing know the rules, and they know what is possible, and what is impossible. You do not, and you should not.”

[2:10] “The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can. If you don't know it's impossible, it's easier to do. And because nobody's done it before, they haven't made up rules to stop anyone doing that particular thing again.”

[19:29] “And now, go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.”

Introducing: the Spark Journal

So, I have an announcement to make. Nothing world-shattering, but worth mentioning all the same (and those of you who visited the site over the weekend already know about it anyway).

Henceforth, this site will no longer be known as Unretrofied. Instead, I welcome you to The Spark Journal.

Let's go ahead and get the admin stuff out of the way:

  • The new domain is sparkjournal.net. Please update your bookmarks accordingly.

    (Theoretically, if you visit any old unretrofied.com links (or, say, you still have the old URL bookmarked), you should still be directed to the proper destination. At least, it's worked with all the links I've tried so far.)

  • There's also a new RSS feed. Again, subscribers to the old Unretrofed feed shouldn't have to do anything because I've switched the feed URL on my end. If you do run into any issues, try unsubscribing from the old one and resubscribing to the new one. I apologize for any inconvience.
  • New Twitter account: @thesparkjournal
  • New App.net account: @sparkjournal (for those of you still clinging to the dream, maaaaaan)
  • New contact email: chris@sparkjournal.net
  • I've created a weekly email newsletter containing all of that week's posts. If that sounds like your thing, you can find the subscribe form on the About page. Goes out every Saturday morning.
  • The site has a new look! If you're reading this in RSS, click through and check it out. I tweaked a lot of CSS this past week and finally settled on something I'm happy with.

    The most obvious changes involve updated typography, a new overall color scheme, and a slightly nicer layout (I finally figured out why the entire blog index was shifted slightly to the left rather than centered, despite having margin: auto !important; configured in CSS: I was missing one teensy little Squarespace-made selector that controls the so-called "blog list").

  • Along with the new name, The Spark Journal will exist within a different "blog" on my same Squarespace account (i.e. sparkjournal.net/journal). It will look as though the old Unretrofied content has disappeared, but you can still find it at sparkjournal.net/blog and sparkjournal.net/archive-old.

Feel free to skip the rest of this post if you don't want to read a long-winded story about the change. Enjoy the new digs! —Ed.

* * *

So why the sudden name change? Well actually, this decision has been a long time coming. I remember emailing Shawn Blanc a year ago to ask what he thought about my idea to burn Unretrofied to the ground and starting something new. I couldn't quite articulate why I wanted this, I just knew it was time for a change.

He gave me lots of good advice, particularly this:

“It's the content that matters, not where it lives.”

And he's right, a new domain and CMS won't make me a better or more dedicated writer. If I wanted to change the editorial direction of the site on a whim, I totally could. Wouldn't be the first time.

Even so, I haven't really identified with the Unretrofied "brand" (blegh) for a long time. The site started as a very Apple-centric blog, and I honestly don't care much about that sort of thing anymore. And despite my own feelings on the matter, many readers still see me as a purely tech-oriented writer. If you want proof, look at the names of the Twitter lists I'm a part of.

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy (and will continue to write about) nerdy things like apps and using an iPad as one's primary device. Even as I write this, the big review I've been writing about Day One is calling my name from my drafts folder. It's just that my interests have expanded beyond the tech world and it's about time the site's name reflected that.

What I care about are the people who make things, and I care about helping people who struggle to make their thing. I want to write in a way that inspires others to do awesome stuff rather than drifting through a dreary rat-race life. I want to tell better stories. I want to try new things. As Chase Reeves might put it, I want to do things that are matterful.

This brings us to where the "spark" in Spark Journal comes from. Many months ago, I started keeping a list of my favorite words in Drafts, thinking I could maybe turn one or two of them into a new site title. Lots of good combinations came from this list, but "spark" was always the one that stuck in my mind most.

When people speak of inspiration or creativity or genius or adventure or love, they often refer to the spark of that thing. It was the best possible word I could think of to describe where I wanted this site to go.

The journal part of the name is merely a natural extension of my love of journaling and my rekindled interest in handwriting and notebooks and such. Plus I just like the word :)

I'll stop rambling now, and I hope you'll join me on this new journey. I have lots of ideas and things I want to do here, and couldn't be more excited about what's to come.

“A computer will make something perfectly square, perfectly spherical, and that’s just ugly and boring. All of your time is spent kind of messing it up, which is the opposite of most people’s jobs…the real world is a big old mess and most people’s time is spent tidying it up.”

Suzanne Slatcher, former technical director at Pixar