It Can Always Be Better

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mission to Dixon

Galena Avenue in Dixon Illinois by Eric Basir
Photo: Eric Basir
I lost count of how many times I passed Dixon, Illinois while driving east and west on Interstate 88. Each time I saw signs reading "Hometown of President Reagan." I am over 40 years old and in my mind, I have only a picture of a sign when it comes to the early history of my country's 40th president. On May 2nd, all of that changed.

This all began with an invitation to exhibit and speak at the Lee County Small Museum Conference in my mind's most mysterious place: Dixon, Illinois. I did not have much luck finding it at first (I do not have a GPS; I use an ancient navigation tool known as a map).

Photo: Eric Basir
Photo: Eric Basir
Hoping I could see the museum from room 179 at the Comfort Inn on Plaza Drive, I was thoroughly disappointed with the view. A walk to the town store (Wal-Mart) to purchase much needed avocados also left me wondering about the Ronald Reagan boyhood home. I must be getting close, I kept thinking.

I got here first!
Photo: Eric Basir
Early in the morning on my way to the conference, I finally found Mr. Reagan's home. However, not before the red squirrel found me first.

Ronald Reagan statue at the Dixon Reagan home
Photo: Eric Basir
Eventually, I made it to the house. Unfortunately I was too early and it was closed. This big statue of President Reagan adorns an immaculate lawn and landscape.
Photo: Eric Basir
Nicolette Meister speaking about preservation
Photo: Eric Basir

Photo: Eric Basir
For the conference, I had the opportunity to listen to all the speakers as I had the final session. I can say without equivocation that they knew exactly what they were talking about. Nicolette Meister of Beloit College's Logan Museum of Anthropology explained all the details about caring for originals. She brought samples of damaged originals for students to examine.

I missed Pat Miller's talk on the Five Core Documents. But I'm sure it was great. Sharon Welton from the Stephenson County Historical Society gave us the history of photographic prints and how to estimate the date photos were taken according to style of prints and how people dressed. This was the best, most comprehensive photo identification workshop I have seen, heard or read. The on-screen presentation was also highly informative. I kept wishing she had a book. However, she was generous enough to give me permission to share her bibliography with you (this link may only remain active through June 2015).

Andew Holt from Big River Bindery in Iowa. A trained conservator, he focused on caring for and restoring paper documents. From the history of paper to choosing storage materials, everyone learned something new about taking care of their originals. He is also another speaker that needs to publish a book about their work.

For lunch, I stopped at a Touch of Thai in a very well-preserved and lively downtown Dixon. While waiting for my take-out order, I bought a Thor omnibus comic book at The Paper Escape down the block. This was a jam-packed comic book and game store with a very friendly owner.

Eric Basir listening to a lecture behind exhibit
Photo: Pat Gorman
Eventually it would be my turn to present. After eating lunch with President Reagan in statue form along the Rock River, I made my way back to the conference. My presentation was about organizing photos using metadata. It is available at no charge at the Photo Grafix Youtube Channel.

For a small museum, this was a big group. It was an honor to be a part of the event. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Public Domain History Project: Translate Diary of Badin

Three years ago, a friend told me about a peculiar Swedish man who was born in the mid 1700's named Badin. What made him particularly interesting was that he had black skin and was not a slave. He was a member of the Royal Court and a noble. Since then, I have scrounged the internet—and beyond—to learn more about this man.

Having obtained his diary from the University of Uppsala in Sweden, I knew I was obliged to find—or create—an English language translation. A few Swedes and Americans have embarked on projects to chronicle some aspect of Badin's life. I want to build on what they have done, but I need your help.

Please take a few minutes to view the video and consider donating anything from $5 to $1000 before April 21st. Supporting this project will make a professional English language translation available for all on the internet at no charge. I will take no profit whatsoever for this project.

Friday, March 13, 2015

April and May 2015 Photo Restoration Workshops

After quite a long time of very few appearances at genealogy-related events, I'll be in a sprint of non-stop workshops this Spring. I hope to see you at one of them. As usual, we have lots of fun and you never know who you'll meet among fellow genealogists.

Nordic Family History Center 
Complete Photo Restoration in Four Easy Steps  
April 25, 2015 (Saturday, 10 am until Noon)
Swedish American Museum Genealogy Center
$10 for non-members. Free for members.
5211 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 728-8111
As a man of half-Swedish descent, this museum always has a special place in my heart. I spoke there last year on the topic of my journey to Sweden to meet long-lost relatives.

Lee County Historical & Genealogical Society
Image Organization Made Easy
May 2, 2015 (Saturday, 8:30-4:15)
Small Museum Conference (Includes other genealogy-related workshops, museum tour and door prizes)
Loveland Community House & Museum
$30 (Includes buffet style luncheon)
513 West 2nd Street, Dixon, IL 61021
(815) 284-1134 or (815) 284-2741
I last spoke at this conference in 2007 in another great line-up of knowledgeable speakers. I'll never forget the giant wind turbines in Lee County. I still have yet to edit that video. Please pardon my slackness!

Cook Memorial Public Library
Scanning Basics
May 11, 2015 (Monday 7-8 pm)
Free registration
Aspen Drive Library
701 Aspen Dr., Vernon Hills, IL 60061
(847) 362-2330
The year 2010 was last visit with the CMPL as part of my Photo Restoration Roadshow.

Wisconsin State Genealogical Society Webinar
Complete Photo Restoration in Four Easy Steps
May 19, 2015 (Tuesday 7-8 pm)
Free registration
This will be my first presentation for the WSGS. Be sure to register and cheer me on!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Professionalism and Responsiblity in the Advertising Industry

Money Can't Buy Professionalism
Spoiler alert: This is not an article about super-skinny retouched models or sales of poisonous substances. It's about management.

With the worldwide labor pool of photo retouchers growing at breakneck speed, some companies think they can get high quality work and fat profits while turning a blind eye to responsibility to the society in which they do business. It doesn't work that way.

No business or government can last indefinitely. However, they can insure a more sustainable course of growth if its workers and citizens are in a positive state of mind and in good mental and physical health. This means you can keep a staff of domestic retouchers and a team of contractors (in your country or another country), while still making profits.

However, if you want good work and service for which you can make profits, you must commit a large share of time and money into your workers with their dignity in mind. There are no precise formulas to build and maintain a profitable business. However, there is a simple standard by which each and every leader of a business should annually assess. It is an addage famously known as the Golden Rule:

Do unto others that which you would have them do unto you.

If you are an owner of a business, and have suddenly been put in the shoes of your highly-skilled and humble employee, would you like someone to just lay you off in an hour's—or days notice? It happens to all of us. However, does that have to be the rule—or could it be the exception?

So times get hard. What is a manger to do? First of all, it means leaving at least half of your high wage retouching jobs untouched, regardless of the ups and downs. By doing so, you keep a legacy of knowledge and talent in which you can invest more money during profitable times. The expenses of hiring a brand new team is astronomical over the long-term. Cut your expenses through consultation with staff. Don't just send down edicts like some king of old. Business owners and managers have a lot of responsibility. However, the secret of handling that responsibility is not in the hiring of some high-paid manager!

Wise owners and managers don't make wise decisions. Wise owners and managers find wise decisions from their workers and then facilitate the execution of plans to the end. This fosters great respect, loyalty and all around good will within the company and the society. Be professional. However, be responsible.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Refusing and Resisting Adobe's Creative Cloud

It will be over a year since Adobe chose to rent their Photoshop program and I have not given in one millimeter. I'm still retouching pictures and teach—albeit much less since our industry in the United States has tanked and I've been spending more time on Black Rhino Illustration. I will continue using CS5 until it breaks or I find a better alternative. I have a copy of CS6 on-hand when that time comes.

CS5 is fine with me. Old is never bad. Reruns of Columbo, Star Trek and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are just as entertaining as anything else I can find on television or at the public library's DVD section. Creativity isn't dependent on tools in some nebulous "Cloud" of relays, microchips and servers. Creativity is the use of the imagination or original ideas in the production of an artistic work.

I live a humble lifestyle with very happy children in a home and community some people around the world will never be able to experience. I own my home, I don't own a car and I don't have credit card or student loan debt. That lifestyle isn't wealthy nor does it place me in the category of middle class. Since 1999 I have built most of Photo Grafix and my adult life on the quote from Napoleon Hill's Law of Success: "No sacrifice is too great to avoid the misery of debt."

$10-20-30 per month or any other software rental scheme equates to debt. I don't rent my screwdriver, sofa chair, TV, pitchfork or compost bin. I refuse to rent my software or computer. To my customers and students who might not work with me because of this attitude, that's your choice. My choice is to sacrifice to avoid the misery of debt.

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