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Fun and games
In my last two posts, here and here, I mentioned that I was going to start a big, really cool project and that I’m searching for at least 100 volunteers to participate. And since I want this to be as diverse as possible, it will take a lot of input from a lot of different people.

So how will this work? The how is fairly straight forward, but there are three important pieces involved. The first, is to take some digital pics and put some effort into the look and quality of the photos – the technical bit. The second, is to add a little bit of spice – some creativity. And the third, is to send them to me.

Taste the bright lights, but not for free
To explain this further, I’d like to break this down the way I learn best – elementary-school style, using the ABCs. I used to teach English in the public high schools in Japan where I would try to clarify my educational expectations using the American A-F grading scale. Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate well in Japan where grading is numerical, non-inflated, standardized, and no fun at all. I would explain to the students that there were some obvious cultural differences between East and West and they would do well to learn and adapt to them quickly because this class was instant immersion – a Little USA, a privilege on their shores. And just like Big USA, it was a place where the strong or rich survive and the weak or uninsured are eaten alive. Welcome to The Jungle where we grade students the same way we grade beef carcass in order to make ’em marketable. This is a system we’ve been designing for the past 110 years; it’s an honor to be a part of it and it’s not to be questioned, only celebrated.*

*I went on for an hour introducing great American heroes like Upton Sinclair and Axel Rose and truly great American concepts like freedom, idols, funniest home videos, and gladiators, and I assured them that we do indeed got talent. I’m not sure how well this went over. I think I lost them at hello.

In beef we trust
Unfortunately the students still couldn’t decipher my grading and never could figure out how they jumped from a D to an F and skipped E. I told them E was exempt because it stood for Excellent and no one qualifies. What do D and F mean? D means Dumb Idiot and F means For the Love of All That is Holy This is Un-gradable. They then wanted to know why B meaning Below Awesome was higher than Excellent. I told them that they really didn’t grasp the English language, gave them Cs, as in Can’t Believe You’ve Made it This Far, and told them to go home and study harder.

Since I, like institutions, apparently find it more difficult to quantify expectations using an alphabetical scale than to grade meat, I’ll break this down carcass-style. But to keep it simple, I’ll use three market grades instead of the industry’s eight *– I’m trying to eliminate Utility and Canner grades from my life whenever possible.

*I need to bone up on my beef trivia, but if I remember correctly, the beef industry uses the letters A-E to rate carcass meat and eight grades such as Prime, Choice, Select, Utility, and Canner as market grades. Utility? Canner? Micky D? Chef Boyardee? I’m lovin’ it.

Everything ’bout the hog but the squeal
Sending in a photo is Select work, gets the job done and no one can complain about that. At the same time, those Choice photos, the ones with more attention to detail, may edge ahead. In Choice photos, more thought is given to the lighting and the composition. Colors are considered, as well as clothing and background patterns. There’s more deliberation to the props – a little more effort. To make things easier, I’ve made a handy, little cheat sheet, with a few guidelines, suggestions, and examples for a Choice grade. They key to Prime, as I learned in school, is to give the grader what they want and appear to put some original thought into it. And true to form, that’s all I’m looking for. Send in a picture following a few guidelines and put some thought into what you’re sending.

A wild beast in a menagerie
This may already make sense to you, or perhaps you’re thinking “You artist-types, what the hell are you talking about?” I’m used to it. My mother always told me to use my pictures, not my words. Visual examples are needed. I can dig it. I work in the same way. Next week, I’ll have a few examples for Show & Tell.

And get ready, ‘cuz I’m bringin’ my A-game to Prime-time.

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