Category: Sioux Falls

August 1st, 2013

At 8:45 PM, my bike becomes a land speeder, racing against time, dodging blinking lightning bugs and fighting against the wind. My goal is to get home before dark. My wheels creak and my tires give – both too old and neglected to handle many more rides. I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember, yet every time feels like I’ve just learned how to stay up on two wheels.

My ass hurts. My legs are sore. Just a few more miles.

My arm tingles: I’ve been on the trail long enough that it’s starting to fall sleep. My bike doesn’t fit my body very well – in fact, it probably never did. It’s an issue I don’t bother with because next week (and it’s always next week) I’m going to buy a new one. I deserve it. After fifteen years, I’d say I’ve earned it. After two colleges, three cities, thousands of rides and hundreds of curse words directed at its unreliable gears and scraping brakes, this simple machine is ready to be put down for good.

My rides are getting longer, these days, though I still don’t play the part. I’m still missing the lycra shirts and the bike shorts, missing the toe clips and the slick helmets. I don’t race, and I don’t mosey. I don’t use my bike as transportation, or for exercise. I just use it as a thing I can ride. My skull looks like a shiny black mushroom, and my years-old Pacers shirt is becoming ragged. I bike in sandals and cargo shorts. I look like someone’s father. Which, I guess, is exactly what I am.

I ride through a pocket of cold river air, goosebumps forming. I wipe a gnat out from the corner of my eye and breathe in the smell of water and fish and mud. I dip away from the river and into a park, my tires like a machine gun over the wood slatted bridge as I exit the bike trail and head away from its endless loop. My ass still hurts.

And as the sun rests, my breath labored from the final hill, I look at my phone. It’s 9:05 PM, now, and I’m home. And all I can think about doing is getting back out for another ride.

April 3rd, 2011

It wasn’t that this was a conference about marketing and creativity, because it wasn’t. Not at all. It’s billed as such, but that’s not the point.

It wasn’t that this conference had a slew of inspirational speakers, either, because to be honest not all of them were all that inspirational. Some of them sort of talked about themselves without offering any real insight, and others outlined their book for an hour, and still others tried hard not to drop names but couldn’t be helped.

But there’s something about OTA Sessions. Something pretty special. Something we don’t usually get in Sioux Falls.

OTA Sessions was about something and the speakers all offered context and though I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know, that’s not really what these conferences are for.

I didn’t receive any knowledge. That’s cool.

In it’s place, I received rejuvenation. All offered through three overarching themes.

Embrace your differences

Like Sally Hogshead says: it’s up to us to be ourselves. To steer clear of becoming someone we’re not. To find our difference and own it.

Being the underdog works. No marketing bull here, please – living in South Dakota is a constant fight to overcome our differences. It sharpens our tenacity and provides us with opportunities to embrace a landscape and culture that no one else can make claim to.

Our teachers and parents always tell us to “be ourselves, don’t follow the crowd, etc.” and we brush it off knowing we’ll grow into fantastic humans if we just get into the right cliques but, surprise!, we find that the best ideas and greatest moments come from those wackos who, for whatever reasons, clung to who they are and refused to be stripped of the junk they were born with.

Don’t patronize the differences. Just find them and make them great. Do that, and you’ve suddenly become interesting. What’s more: you’ve given yourself the freedom to brush off criticism.

Own your location

In the Midwest, most look to escape as fast as they can. Good for them. Maybe they’ll find their muse elsewhere. They have all of my well wishes.

That being said, I’ve got no patience for Midwest haters: the arrogance, the dismissal, the trivial comparisons. We’re not New York. We’re not Los Angeles. We’re nowhere, and that’s why we’re great – undeveloped by trends, we’re blank canvases, where creativity and innovation rule not out of vocation, but out of necessity.

To fill in the spaces, we must create.

Ultimately, there are two types of people who grow up in South Dakota – those who move away, and those who have the strength to stick around and make something with what they’ve been given.

On Friday, the Orpheum filled with the latter. Inspiring on its own, without the speakers, without OTA. Just that fact made me want to be better at what I do.

Accept your inadequacies

Because, ultimately, there are still people who still struggle with making something great.

For example: imagine you’re at a conference, surrounded by hundreds of intelligent people, watching speaker after speaker discuss their successes and insight and goals.

Before long you realize how far you have to go before making a significant difference in the world. How much work it is to be good at what you do. How much harder you have to work to be one of the great ones. How none of this is easy.

It’s a rush of forced inspiration, like adrenaline during a bear attack. To get from A to B you need a dose of reality-based C: a kick in the saggy pants and a yell from your idols – “YOU’RE STILL NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH.”

Happens every time. It’s always just in time, too. For two years, OTA Sessions has been a constant dose of humble pie. With a side of whipped panic.

Ultimately, OTA – itself a twisted acronym that stands for “Originality + Action,” isn’t about creativity or marketing or social media. It’s about community. It’s about displaying the power of an active and blossoming community, filled with people who stay true to the region, who aren’t afraid to be themselves and aren’t afraid to break away from the typical cynicism of talented professionals and dive straight into a new project.

To make something great on the ground they live on. To celebrate their differences. To live thinking that “anything is possible” isn’t as ridiculous as it seems.

Category: On..., Sioux Falls, Words

March 3rd, 2011

Attention, content people.

Let’s talk.

If you are in the Sioux Falls area on Thursday, March 24th, take note: we’re going to get together and talk content.

Yeah, you heard me. CONTENT STRATEGY MEET-UP TIME!

It’s like this:

1. We get together. We will meet at Monk’s at 5:30 pm, with content smarty talk starting around 6:00 pm, or whenever we break the ice and stop looking awkwardly at each other. It will continue until it stops.

2. We plan for the future. The subject of the first meet-up is simple: what content-based topics do you want to cover? Content strategy deliverables? Online publishing models? The transition from traditional copy to web copy? Content Strategy Book Club? Any idea is a good idea – we’re brainstorming, yo.

3. We talk. Just a bunch of talking from a bunch of people who enjoy being word, structure and internet nerds. Laid back. Casual.

Sounds fun? It won’t be, UNLESS YOU’RE THERE. (RSVP via TWTVITE right now!)

Come down. Hang out with us. It’s three weeks away, so you have time to get a babysitter or a dog sitter or whatever. And yay content!

September 27th, 2010

Let’s take two men on opposing sides of an issue and throw them in front of an audience of casual spectators. Let’s give them what is somewhat of a hot-button issue, at least at this event. Let’s say the event is a book festival. Let’s say the issue is the increasing market share of e-readers and what it means to the landscape of literature, publishing and reading itself.

Let’s say one of these guys is Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, an organization that seeks through the e-book format to make accessible all of the world’s greatest works, including some that – with permission – are still in copyright. While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and say the other guy is Michael Dirda, a Fullbright Fellowship recipient and Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post book critic.

(Let’s also say Marilyn Johnson, author and library stalwart, is there, representing the middle ground but unable to get a word in edgewise.)

Now, let’s sit back and wait for an answer we’ll never get.

Because neither of these men is interested in bridging the gap between the promise and accessibility of ebooks and the tangible joy and art of physical binding. Neither of these men is interested in discussing how Project Gutenberg offers limitless preservation of what used to be the fragile and time-consuming practice of book collecting, and neither is interested in discussing how a mix of both physical and e-books helps people rediscover the joys of reading.

Instead, both men want a pissing match.

E-books are awful, a slap in the face of literature, and you water down the process of literary experience by missing out on the feel and texture of the book itself.

Physical books are pointless, archaic, space-hogging and inefficient, and everyone should read books electronically because you can fit 30,000 on one disc.

It’s one or the other. Love it or leave it. If you’re not with ‘em, you’re against ‘em.

Now, let’s vent. Because after seeing the previous example, live, in person, at the Sioux Falls Orpheum, in front of hundreds of interested people attending the South Dakota Festival of Books, I came away feeling disgusted and disappointed, frustrated that the promise of what could have been a great discussion turned out to be a symposium on Michael Hart’s inability to look behind his own project and Michael Dirda’s weak attempts at playing the same game.

The real issue is how we use e-books to further literature and adapt with the times, understanding that even ancient scrolls were pushed out by the more efficient book format, and that was thousands of years ago. Books will never go away – Dirda’s point on the art and tangible feeling that comes with reading a physical book is right on – but we can’t be naive in thinking it’s the only way to read.

Not when so many people are living without access to physical books. Not when you can provide a book in seconds to a willing audience. And especially not when there is already a drop in literacy rates and willingness to let books OF ALL TYPES fall by the wayside.

Traditional books and their texture? They mean nothing unless someone reads them.

30,000 books on a disc, for free? THEY ALSO MEAN NOTHING UNLESS SOMEONE READS THEM.

Let’s pretend that the two sides sat down and discussed the future of reading. The future of publishing. The future of literature and writing and everything that goes along with it, because, let’s face it, the future of reading is also the future of education and the future of our countries and the future of the world.

Let’s pretend the only agenda brought into this panel was one of collaboration and innovation.

Don’t I wish that was the case.

September 20th, 2010

There are times I give our city government the benefit of the doubt that they know what they’re talking about – that they understand the weight of a small disaster like, say, for example, a basement flooding.

Then, other times, I get this.

Kerrie linked me to this, straight from the Sioux Falls “Falls Community Health” site.

That's a very small bucket.

OMG LOOKIT! HOW CUTE IS THAT LITTLE BUCKET? *SWOON*

I have news for you, City of Sioux Falls. That little bucket? PROBABLY not going to help.

June 21st, 2010

Dear Brian C. Liss, Republican candidate who “plans to exhaust all legal means to unseat Susy Blake,” a present state representative who I voted for and continue to support.

I received your letter in the mail today. Congratulations on your apparent candidacy for state representative of District 13!

Though I have never heard of you in my life, your letter took me by surprise.

See, you refer to yourself as a Freedom Fighter. It’s right there in your signature! “Brian Liss, Your freedom fighter!” With exclamation points and everything!

Here’s the thing. Despite your letter’s insistence, governmental support for public services is not “socialism.” And the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act isn’t “unprecedented intergenerational theft.” (Also, you should probably hyphenate that one. “Inter-generational.”)

Those things don’t mean the same thing. They never have. Buy a dictionary.

I’m struggling to determine which freedoms you’re fighting for, and why I’m in need of a freedom fighter in the first place. I get it, though. You’re using baited buzz words in order to scare those who aren’t paying attention into backing the standard Conservative Agenda. Ha! Conservative Agenda. Get it? I’M USING YOUR TERM AGAINST YOU! LOL!

Let’s get one thing straight. I supported Susy Blake last election. And I will again, especially if you are running against her, Mr. Brian Liss, Republican. See, I appreciate a candidate that doesn’t run screaming to the party line in order to make a case for election. I respect a candidate that positions the argument as “here’s why you should vote for me,” not “here’s why my opponent sucks and why you shouldn’t vote for her.” Most of all, I’ll support a candidate that backs away from hyperbole and weasel words, instead offering factual evidence, explanation and cautious realism.

Oh, and there’s the issue of class. This letter has no class, Brian Liss, Republican. It’s brash and intrusive. It doesn’t belong in my mailbox. It doesn’t belong in any mailbox.

You missed an opportunity, I think. When you’re connecting to those of us who aren’t officially affiliated with a party, you are representing your entire party’s platform. So next time, remind me why I should vote for you. Because all you’ve done with THIS mailing is remind me why I never will.

May 8th, 2010

So they put televisions in our gas stations and our restaurants and our vehicles and our phones and really there’s no place you can go without running into a television.

The question I keep asking, especially when it comes to businesses and the service industry, is “why?”

Is it really true that a product or brand will lose out because there’s no video available? Will a person pass up going to a gas station because, you know, THAT one isn’t showing Fox News?

An example: today we ate at Whisk and Chop, a local ready-for-big-time breakfast/lunch hybrid restaurant in the vein of Perkins or Bakers Square. (By “in the vein” we really mean “almost absolutely exactly like” because, for some strange reason, they’ve taken a Perkins-esque view of interior design and a Bakers Square-like dedication to mediocre food.)

Every wall had a television.

Every. One.

You go to Pizza Ranch, and every wall has a television. McDonalds. Gas stations. These aren’t sports bars – these places aren’t catering to drunks who want to watch football. They’re serving breakfast. Fast food. GASOLINE. What. The. Hell.

I know. People like television. I get it.

But take those televisions away from the inside of Whisk and Chop. All of them. Leave them out of the budget. Save money on the satellite feed. Take that savings and put it into, oh, I don’t know, a better attention to detail (like toasting the English muffin under your luke-warm Eggs Benedict).

Open the doors and see what happens. How many people are going to say, “I really want breakfast, and I’ve heard Whisk and Chop is good…”

“…oh, but they don’t have a television for me to watch.”

Can we all agree that, because this is such a negligible feature to a breakfast restaurant, that it’s unnecessary, much like an automatic napkin dispenser or valet parking or two sets of silverware for each dish?

Can we all agree that, when it comes down to it, it’s kind of tacky?

So, no television. Will they really lose customers?

Or, by going against the grain and offering a more peaceful environment with which to eat hashbrowns, will they actually gain customers?

I find it hard to believe anyone would notice in the first place.