What Does ‘F.E.A.R.’ Mean to You? 3 Little Tricks to Keep It in Perspective

images-8I heard a young woman the other day say, “The word ‘fear’ just stands for False Evidence Appearing Real.’”

And this was someone who should know, having overcome cancer and a stroke to now be starting her promising career as a motivational speaker.

Then this morning, I heard someone unknowingly pick up on the idea by saying, “When I encounter fear, I can F— Everything and Run or I can Face Everything and Recover.’”

Conflict. Decision. Action. The essence of little dramas we all live every day, and big ones that shape history. Some people make the same choices over and over, while hoping somehow for a different result. Sometimes we let fear stop us, sometimes we fight it — and sometimes we persist in doing what we must, even while we’re scared. That’s what adventures are made of — myths, archetypes, even. It drives us as storytellers or grips us as an audience.

I like how these two people came up with a way to diminish fear with simple word games. Try one of these little tricks the next time you find yourself afraid and see if it works for you.

You probably have nothing to fear but, well… you know.

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When Curiosity Leads to Adventure, You Get a Story You Want to Share: Alaska Love in Photos

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My sister Sammye out with the dogs, The Great One behind her

Alaska, map, Wasilla, Denali, McKinley, wildlife, beautiful scenery, hunting, fishing, salmon, bear, moose, cabin, camera, Facebook, video, family, wolf

Vince casts his line

Alaska is one of those places people are curious about. Whenever I mention that I used to live in the Great Land, they usually say, “I’ve always wanted to go there.” Or “Is it really that cold?” Or “Do you know Sarah Palin?” (Answers below.)

Even for some Alaskans, like my brother-in-law Vince, the curiosity doesn’t end. It turns into love. A native of Michigan, Vince has a passion for Alaska that has continued to grow over his 30-plus years there.

He and my sister Sammye love the outdoors – bow hunting, salmon fishing, river boating. Snowshoe softball playing. Racing up mountains and swimming across rivers.

They have a remote recreational cabin near majestic Denali National Park. They get there via riverboat in summer or snowmachine in winter.

Vince’s photos reveal not only a love for a special place, but also his willingness and delight to dive into photography and social media — so he can share his excitement. I’m always telling him how stunning the images are. (See his Facebook page for lots more.)

But what caught my eye most lately are these shots from a camera Vince attached to a tree to record what happens when he and Sammye aren’t around. He equipped it with a motion sensor and the camera takes pictures of various four-legged visitors strolling by the front door. There’s something about these. Intimate isn’t right, is it? Maybe they’re just cool because they’re a different view than what’s usually seen.

Or because it’s another display of Vince’s curiosity — and his need to tell these stories of Alaska.

I also admire the two beautiful shots at the top. They all make me wish I could visit the cabin and catch some more king salmon with my family. It’s been too long.

(Answers: You should visit, absolutely, because it really is a great place. Yes, Alaska can be very cold, of course — often but not always, in some places but not all. And, no, I don’t know Palin.)


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7 Times U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the Civil Rights Legend, Has Conquered Social Media

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis is Atlanta’s veteran Congressman and a genuine American hero. He’s also a master communicator, as anyone who has seen him speak or has read his riveting, beautifully rendered memoir, “Walking with the Wind,” can tell you.

Now the civil rights legend has been providing some of my favorite updates, photos, tweets and videos on social media lately. Just Thursday night, I saw this Facebook status update:

During the movement, we didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. We didn’t have the Internet. I am constantly amazed at our capacity to communicate using new technology. I hope you all will take a few moments and follow on a new platform for me, Instagram. But we must remember it is not enough to click like or retweet, we have to use our bodies and let the sound of our marching feet roll across America.

I had to smile when I read that — and it’s not the first time Lewis has been a highlight online. His story is the story of the modern South, a living example of this country’s deepest struggles and triumphs. Now in his 70s, he’s carried his story to Facebook and Twitter … and Instagram. Here are six more of his recent social media highlights.

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On Facebook on July 7, Lewis wrote: “Fifty-three years ago today, I was released from Parchman Penitentiary after being arrested in Jackson, Mississippi for using a so-called white restroom.”

* On Twitter, @repjohnlewis, July 8: “Hate is too heavy a burden to bear. Love is a better way.”

* And July 2: “If the Civil Rights Act was before the Congress today, it would not pass, it would probably never make it to the floor for a vote.”

Rep. John Lewis, congress, congressman, Georgia, Atlanta, Stan Lee, Marvel comics, ALA, American Library Association

With Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee on June 3 at a conference of the American Library Association.


* Superheroes Unite! Lewis has published a graphic novel memoir, “March,” and was a childhood admirer of comic books. Here he is with Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and countless more, at a librarians’ conference. Some 3,000 people liked this pic on Facebook; he also shared it on other sites.

* No Pinterest? I couldn’t find an account for Lewis on Pinterest. But there are countless pins, including this one from NBC News, 7 Things to Know about Rep. John Lewis (R-Ga.)  This is also a nice primer on Lewis and his achievements, for anyone who wonders what all the praise is about.

* The ‘Happy’ Dance: Lewis posted this on YouTube a few weeks ago, and then it was everywhere. Joyous and sublime.


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Where to Catch Great, Old Movies on the Big Screen around Atlanta

denver, atlanta, ogden theater, revival house, movies, old movies, classics, lawrence of arabia, the searchers, bette davis, jay croft, kevin dandy, gateway high school, 1970s

Down on Colfax — Music now, great movies back in the day

I used to love seeing old movies on the big screen of Denver’s Ogden Theatre, downtown on Colfax.

I live in Atlanta now, and The Ogden is a concert venue. But back in the pre-VHS era, you could see a different classic double-feature every night. Maybe two with the same star, theme or director.

Other cities had theaters like The Ogden. And when I went to college, the film society did its part.

It’s just not the same watching something like “Lawrence of Arabia” at home, no matter how big your plasma screen. And there was something social, too, in joining an audience of highly engaged fans that you can’t get with family or friends alone.

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No. 12 on ew.com’s list

On Tuesday night, I got to experience a little of the old magic at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema in Atlanta, which screened “The Searchers” as the opening of its Tuesday series of Westerns. (Next week: “Once Upon a Time in the West.”)

We recently had the chance to see “The Godfather” at Phipps and “King Kong” at The Fox. “Annie Hall” is getting a little rollout this year in some cities, but not Atlanta yet. And, hey, Georgia State, what’s happened to Cinefest? I saw “Mean Streets” there a decade ago; the latest “Captain America” will be just fine On Demand, thanks.

Here is a collection of titles, dates and locations for other one-off showings of older movies coming up around metro Atlanta. (Read about my summer catching up on ew.com’s Top 100 Greatest Movies of All Time. And why you must see the Roger Ebert documentary.)

Share memories of your own Ogden-like experiences. And let us know of other classics coming soon. Later, I will try to interview some of the folks behind the effort to bring us these opportunities.

But I wanted to get this out right away because “Blue Velvet” is at The Plaza on Thursday.


Tue, Jul 15: Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), starring Henry Fonda.

Tue, Jul 22: George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

Tue, Jul 29: Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969), starring William Holden.

Tue, Aug 5: Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992), starring Eastwood, Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman.

Tue, Sep 16: This Is Spinal Tap (1984), directed by Rob Reiner.

Tue, Sep 23: Ran (1985), directed by Akira Kurosawa. 35mm print!

Tue, Sep 30: Jules and Jim (1962), directed by François Truffaut.

Tue, Oct 7: M (1931), directed by Fritz Lang.

Tue, Oct 14: Toyko Story (1953), directed by Yasujirô Ozu.

Tue, Oct 21: Lord of the Flies (1963), directed by Peter Brook.

Tue, Oct 28: Elevator to the Gallows (1958), directed by Louis Malle. 35mm print!

Tue, Nov 4: I Vitelloni (1953), directed by Federico Fellini. 35mm print!

Tue, Nov 11: Contempt (1963), directed by Jean-Luc Godard.



Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (50th Anniversary) Thursday, July 24 at 7:30 PM
 Movie Tours at 5 PM and 5:10PM

Gone With The Wind (75th Anniversary) 
Sunday, July 27 at 2 PM

The Philadelphia Story
 Thursday, July 31 at 7:30 PM 
Movie Tours at 5 PM and 5:10 PM


Saturday Morning Cartoons
 Saturday, August 2 at 10 AM

Mamma Mia!
 Saturday, August 2 at 7:30 PM
Movie Tours at 5 PM and 5:10 PM

Young Frankenstein (40th Anniversary) Blazing Saddles (40th Anniversary) 
Sunday, August 3 at 2 PM

Double Indemnity (70th Anniversary)
 Thursday, August 14 at 7:30 PM
 Movie Tours at 5 PM and 5:10 PM

Mary Poppins Sing-A-Long (50th Anniversary)
 Sunday, August 17 at 2 PM
 Movie Tours at 11:30 AM and 11:40 AM

The Women (75th Anniversary)
 Thursday, August 21 at 7:30 PM 
Movie Tours at 5 PM and 5:10PM


Thursday, July 10, Blue Velvet (R)
 Thu: 7:30 PM

Alien (1979) (R) 
Fri: 9:30 PM
Sat – Tue: 7:20 PM
Wed: 6:50 PM
Thu: 9:30 PM

Star Wars July 18

2001 July 25

Follow these and other theaters on social media to stay on top of things. Without a central spot like The Ogden down on Ole Colfax, it’s hard to keep track of opportunities that pop up.


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Roger Ebert’s Love for Movies, Empathy and ‘Life Itself’ in a Powerful New Documentary

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Roger Ebert, at the movies

We all are born with a certain package. We are who we are. Where we were born. Who we were born as. How we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person. And the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams, and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.

This quote comes from the late film critic Roger Ebert at the start of the new documentary about him, “Life Itself.” It’s a powerful quote to set the tone for Ebert’s story, which cancer ended last year. And it applies to storytelling across the board, maybe even all art.

The compelling movie is a must-see for anyone who loves movies or stories of any kind, good writing, newspapers, thoughtful criticism, the evolution of mass media — and love stories. Ebert’s intense love-hate friendship with TV partner Gene Siskel, whom cancer claimed a few years earlier, is rich and complicated and uniquely compelling, as anyone who watched their movie review shows can remember. Ebert’s wife, Chaz, emerges as a powerful, loving force in the happy days of their relationship and also in Ebert’s illness, which robbed him of the ability to speak but never, to the end, the ability to share words via his laptop and voice-activation system.

Humans tell stories for a number of reasons, and movies aren’t the only art form to help us feel for other people, to understand their points of view, struggles and beliefs. But it’s Ebert’s unexpected legacy to leave his own story, even his own movie, as a bittersweet reminder of the transcendent power of empathy.

“Life Itself” is currently in theaters and available On Demand and iTunes.


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Life in the #ATL: 7 Terrific Blogs, Twitter, Facebook Accounts and Other Social Media about #Atlanta

I love Atlanta and I love social media. So it makes sense that I love smart, engaging content about our city on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, etc.

Here are a few that consistently impress, inform and entertain. I would love to know about more, so peruse your bookmarks, favorites and lists, and share some recommendations.

These generally aren’t from professional organizations or focused on entertainment events. They’re mostly from people sharing good stuff about topics like development, transportation, interesting people on the scene… business and the arts, traffic, shopping, etc… Salud!

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From ATLUrbanist, on a Marta train

1. ATLUrbanist. Darin’s smart passion for better city living shines through in his readable, savvy blog and tweets. He’s constructive, articulate and shares great photos and links. I follow him on Twitter @atlurbanist. You can find him, and the others, too, of course, on Facebook. Here’s what he says in his Tumblr blog intro:

I’m Darin. I live downtown with my family and these are my locally-grown, organically-produced thoughts on Atlanta + good urbanism. Not an urban planner, I’m an urbanist and an engaged citizen.

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From A Modern Ghost

2. A Modern Ghost on InstagramI like Instagram shots that are graphically striking images of cityscapes. Doesn’t hurt if they’re a little cold and distant and still, somehow, glamorous. Ryan Vizzions does this really well with architecture, transportation — and beautiful women, graffiti and other fresh angles on Atlanta.

3. The Atlanta 100 blogPR vet and former journalist Chris Schroder had a clever idea for a blog/enewsletter: 100-word stories, 100-second videos on topics of interest. It’s fun, breezy and substantial, for folks who just want a little morsel on a  wide range of news and views. Recent posts include a video interview with marketing whiz Ken Bernardt, a history (short, yeah) of the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, and some basic info on Music Midtown.

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From Why I Love ATL

4. Why I Love ATL on Instagram. Short and sweet description says it perfectly well: Capturing the beauty of the city ❤

5. Curbed Atlanta gives lots of short updates and good images on neighborhoods and real estate news. The blog is terrific, but I tend to prefer it on Twitter @CurbedAtlanta. Some good headlines/links include From Dump To Delight: Kirkwood Renovation Asks $309K, and Proof: Pockets of ATL Have Transformed in Recent Years. And I like this Visual Journey that shows The Changing Face of Brookhaven’s Dresden Drive.

6. Bitter Southerner. Well, who doesn’t love it, right? If you’re not familiar, get familiar. The Twitter bio, @SouthernBitter, says “We celebrate — usually with cocktails — the crafts and culture of the modern South.” But don’t let the pithiness deceive you. On the blog, you’ll find the kind of long-form journalistic reporting and opinion we used to find in the best newspapers — but with an Internet-smart feel, too.

We’re here for a reason: to shed light on what it means to be a Southerner. Not what it meant to be a Southerner 20 years ago, and certainly not what it meant 120 years ago. Instead, let’s talk about what it means to be a Southerner today.

Check out the widely lauded take on downtown’s new National Center for Civil & Human Rights.

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From Atlanta Time Machine

7. Atlanta Time Machine. The final entry here is a tough one. Not because I’m unsure of its quality and stature. The blog is fantastic, with

a plethora of  then-and-now photos of Atlanta through the decades, scores of old postcards, and miscellaneous ephemeral stuff like old advertising for nightclubs, bars, and restaurants.  In short, the site features a virtually endless supply of ‘historical’ stuff you probably won’t find elsewhere.

It’s smartly adapted on Facebook, too. There you can find a link to an article in the AJC about the Time Machine’s creator, Greg Germani, remaining in critical condition after a shocking and horrifying attack by a motorist while Germani rode his bicycle. It’s one of those hard-to-believe things. How could someone do this? And what sad, twisted side to the story of Atlanta does it reveal?

There’s a reward to find the driver who, policy say, intentionally ran Germani down.

Along with countless other people, I’m wishing Germani a full and fast recovery.

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A Story in iPhone Photos: From Busy Backstage as Disney Star Lucy Hale Makes Her Grand Ole Opry Debut

wordless wednesday, wordlesswednesday, jordan pokryfki, pool, john green, the fault in our stars, girl reading book in pool, lazy summer day, storycroftThe story behind last week’s Wordless Wednesday (and this one): Higher education is exhausting; even the best students need a nice break now and then. This is my niece blissfully enjoying a few days away from the stress of her studies to become a physician’s assistant. I love the colors, the bonnet, the shades… almost a ’60s vibe in her lounging. I was right there with her at my mom’s house near Nashville — which explains the photos above. As a treat for Jordan and her fiancee on their visit, a family friend took us to the Grand Ole Opry backstage, where we saw Opry stalwarts like Little Jimmy Dickens entertain a packed house. Disney star Lucy Hale made her Opry debut, with Hall of Famer Bill Anderson introducing her and watching her on the monitor, and the four house backup singers providing an interesting vantage point. The whole thing let us see the precision and complexity of the production. Fascinating. It’s always bustling back there.

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6 Most Popular Blog Posts: What to Learn from the Numbers

Sandi Parker (center), Manager, Creative & Marketing for Jamestown Properties, leads guests through the tour.

This is where the main food court will be inside Ponce City Market

It’s always fun to look at readership numbers for items posted online. It’s also important, since we can consider what “works” and what doesn’t when creating more content and telling more stories.

“If you don’t know what your most popular content is, then how are you going to create more of it?” asks blogging expert Jeff Bullas.

And WordPress, the platform on which I publish this blog, provides helpful stats that show how many page views each piece of content gets.

I’ve been blogging here for six months, so it seems like a good time to look for myself. I won’t bore you with the details, but here are my top six posts.

1. Inside Look: Preview Pictures from Ponce City Market. It’s a big, local story with lots of interest among Atlantans — and I got to take lots of photos when I went on a tour of the mixed-use development project. I posted 13, and each time someone clicked on an individual photo to enlarge it, that added another page view to the tally.

2. Listen Up! An Ex-Reporter Gives 12 Easy Ways to Get More Information from Anyone. I spent very little time on this one. It was just me blabbing, with a silly meme and no photos. Its viral success and the amount of comments I received shocked me, so I tried a sequel – which bombed.

Doug Brooks, Rusty Wolf, Sophie, three kids, gay, gay dads, gay parents, gay family, families, mouths of babes, children of gay, well adjusted, atlanta, georgia

Doug Brooks, left, and Rusty Wolf with their children

3. Short and (Very) Sweet. This is one of the first items I posted and it still gets page views from web searches about gay parents. I couldn’t be happier about that. Go ahead and click here to see what little Sophie has to say when asked a no-nonsense question.

4. A Gay Husband in Georgia Gets a Military ID Card. Attorney and veteran Jeff Cleghorn helped overturn Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. So when I saw his brief Facebook post about the joy he and his husband experienced recently, I had to get more information to share here.

5. What’s His Story: The Run Commuter Gets to Work on Foot. When Atlantan Josh Woiderski started running to work a few years ago, he had no idea where it would take him. His blog, theruncommuter.com, caught on in other cities and other countries, and brought him national media attention and even an income stream. Organic genius.

Nick and Steven Carse of The King of Pops

Nick and Steven Carse of The King of Pops

6. 9 Business & Marketing Tips from Atlanta’s King of Pops. Another popular local story with high interest and plenty of photo opps. Hmm… I’m noticing some themes here…

And what’s not working for me? Wordless Wednesdays, the photo-only feature a blogging friend suggested I try. I enjoy it, but maybe I can save it for when I have something special, huh?

Let me know what you think I should take from this. And if you’re a blogger or web producer and you don’t already know your most popular pieces, find out now and see what you can learn about your  audience. The power of the web is ours only if we use it.

Wordless Wednesday 5

Wordless Wednesday 5

wordless wednesday, wordlesswednesday, jordan pokryfki, pool, john green, the fault in our stars, girl reading book in pool, lazy summer day, storycroft

MeetingThe story behind last week’s Wordless Wednesday photo: I walked around the corner from North Avenue onto Highland Avenue and saw a young man stop to take photos of an elderly man passing him. I started snapping as I approached, and the young guy posed next to the older one. Curious, I asked the photographer why he wanted a picture of the stranger. “Because we’re both wearing purple,” he said.

Next week: The story of the girl in the pool.

27 Writing, Editing Tips for Better Content

Never Say Never, Sean Connery, things to never write or say, jay croft, storycroft, atlanta, communications,

Never, Mr. Bond?

We talk a lot about storytelling and content in business communications, marketing, websites and social media. The conversation is often about the Big Picture, and that’s important, of course. But strategies and UX studies won’t help us if our content isn’t as good as it can be.

Even the little things can turn people off.

If you want your content consumed, understood and shared, here are 25 things you must never do.



1. Never start a communications project without knowing what you’re trying to say, to whom and why. Talk it out.

2. Never oversell. In headlines and links, don’t promise too much excitement or information. (Nobody likes click bait.) In text, avoid overused adjectives like “amazing,” exclamation points and all-caps.

3. Never assume people already know what you’re sharing about. Or where your photo was shot. Or why they should keep watching your video.

4. Never be needlessly negative. It’s easy to be snarky. But it’s better to be useful and helpful.

5. Never forget to do basic research or to confirm what you’ve heard or read. In the Internet age, we’re all instant experts on everything. Except that we’re not. And you don’t want to be caught reacting to something that turns out to be a hoax.

Grammar meme6. Never let a reader doubt you know “it’s” from “its” or “your” from “you’re.”

7. Never dump your notebook. You have to make choices. You have to focus.

8. Never try to turn perfectly fine verbs into nouns. “Ask” is something you do, not something you add to an agenda. And it’s the same thing in reverse. When discussing a challenge, do not say, “The way we’re going to solution that problem…”

9. Never start a sentence with “I think” or “I feel” or “I believe.” If you write those phrases, see how the sentence reads or sounds without them. Better, almost always.

10. Never say “uh,” “like” or “you know” too much. Or this new entry into the genre, “again,” when you are not actually repeating anything. I’m not sure when that one became common. Listen for it. Let me know if you notice it.

11. Never waste space by metaphorically clearing your throat. Sometimes we want to warm up for a while, back into a story or a point before stating our business. It’s natural sometimes, so go ahead and write all that you need to. And then delete it.

12. Never write headlines full of words that can be verbs and nouns. Readers don’t want to struggle to make sense of a headline.

kill-your-darlings-150x15013. Never fall in love with a phrase, design or image for its own sake. You’ve heard the expression “Kill your darlings.” Yep. You gotta.

14. Never forget to follow a style guide. AP, Chicago, whatever. Consistency is key. It also helps you write faster.

15. Never publish without having proofread, paying special attention to figures and proper nouns.

16. Never confuse proofreading with editing. Do both or find someone who can. (Here are some tips from a master.)

17. Never write or say anything like, “As anyone who knows me can tell you…”

18. Never get political unless that’s your point. Why turn off a substantial portion of your audience?

26715619. Never use too many figures in a sentence or paragraph. Break them up or put them into a graphic, chart or link.

20. Never be crass or vulgar. Avoid using profanity and showing skin. Even in a tweet or status update.

21. Never use a new digital tool just to show that you can. Or publish images or quotes or outrageous things just because you can.

22. Never undermine your presentation with heavy-handed marketing. Ease up and let the content do its thing.

23. Never tell me something is ironic. Especially if you graduated from the Alanis Morissette School for Wayward Pop Stars.

24. Never pile on the acronyms. It’s like saying, “Call that guy about the place where they have the thing and tell him what I’m thinking.”

25. Never call a car crash tragic. Never call the natural death of an old person tragic. Never call something tragic unless it actually is. And then make sure you have a good reason for pointing it out.

26. Never use upspeak. If it’s not a question, don’t say it like it is.

27.  Never say never? Never.


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