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We deliberately have very few partners. This is because when we work with an organisation, we go very deep, and we throw the full power of Misfit behind it. When we meet someone who is trying to change the world, who has an arsenal of talented people standing with them and we feel that synergy with the project, we jump in with both feet.

One of our partners in 2014/2015 is Sightsavers – an international organization working in 30 countries to eliminate avoidable blindness and supporting those with visual impairments to live more independently.

This month, we designed, developed and launched a website for Sightsavers’ Million Miracles campaign – a three-year initiative that will bring life-altering cataract surgeries to one million adults and children living with preventable blindness. That is one million people who will be given the gift of sight with this campaign.

The campaign kicked off with a live broadcast of a cataract surgery in Malawi which showed first-hand the incredibly important work that Sightsavers supports. Some of the Misfit team will be heading out to India to train staff on the ground in the art of digital storytelling at the beginning of next year.

If you missed the live broadcast from Malawi, we encourage you to watch a man named Winesi joyfully celebrate the moment after his bandages were removed and he could see again.

Now, if you can skip a few lattes this month, please consider donating a miracle. $50 can literally make a blind person see again.

~ Dane Johnson, Wordsmith based in Misfit’s Californian summer house. 

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This last summer, on National Hammock Day to be exact, a new movement was brought into existence. It referred to itself as the Hammock Initiative and made its first public appearance by inviting the Fargo community out for an afternoon of sway in a local park.

A handful of curious people arrived, followed by an array of local media, which then led to a presentation at a weekly entrepreneurial forum in Fargo, which then led to an official sponsorship from one of the most reputable hammock companies in the world.

A domino effect of publicity and intrigue began to spread the vision of this humble initiative throughout the city. This self-proclaimed “chilled-out movement” was beginning to take the community by storm and people were begging for an encore to their inaugural event.

So, in response to demands for more swaying opportunities, the Hammock Initiative, in partnership with North Dakota State University and ENO, has created HiNDSU to bring more relaxation to even more people.

On Saturday, September 27th, between the hours of 3-5pm, the Hammock Initiative Fargo will team up with NDSU to congregate amidst the many-treed Island Park on its South East corner with hammocks galore and relaxation a plenty.

If you find yourself in the Fargo area around that time, we’d recommend that you go and chill out for a bit.

We love initiatives like this because it’s further proof that ideas coupled with action lead to movements that change the ambience of a community.

In the words of Hammock Initiative, “This movement may not sound audacious or ambitious, and that’s the point. It’s an opportunity for people to be, not do.”

Go be yourself, and be open to receiving the good things that come with who you find there. 

For updates on Hammock Initiative’s swaying movements, subscribe to their newsletter. 

~ Dane Johnson, Misfit Wordsmith 

If a friend invited you to a community gathering in a narrow passageway between buildings lined with dumpsters, we’d understand your hesitance in accepting the offer. But, in Fargo, people don’t just throw their trash out in alleyways, they occasionally throw parties there, too.  image

In its third public appearance, Alley Fair converted the parking lots and oft-neglected urban space behind the Red Raven Espresso Parlor (one of our Misfit outposts) by bringing in food, music, art, and a little dash of wonder to activate an area of the city that rarely gets a second glance. But, this weekend, it became the center of attention.

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Alley Fair is comprised of a team of Fargoans that are committed to reimagining the role of side streets and overlooked spaces. Two of these team members are some of our very own Misfits Joe Burgum and Simone Wai.

Together, this team dreams up new uses for space while simultaneously providing unique canvases for artists, and unlikely stages for performers.

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Joe shared that he is passionate about the vision and work of Alley Fair because it allows him to repurpose alleyways into unique urban venues while enabling the community to engage with space in ways they’ve never experienced before.

* Huge thanks to Rick Abbot for all photos in this post :)

~ Dane Johnson, Misfit Wordsmith 

Scotch whisky, oatcakes, and a limited supply of oil from off the shore of its Northern Coast; these would support Scotland’s economy if it secedes from the UK. At least that’s what a Scottish sailor told me last month as I took a boat ride across a highland loch.

This young sailor had a button pinned on his thick wool jacket that read, “How no?” I asked what it meant and he began to tell me about the upcoming vote for Scottish independence. A “Yes” vote would see the nation leave the United Kingdom – a relationship they’ve maintained for over 300 years – while a “No” vote would keep things on its current course.

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I’d never heard the expression before, but he explained that it simply meant, “why not?” And, in reference to the referendum, it meant something like, “how could one not vote yes?” A lighthearted approach, I thought, to a weighty decision.

As I continued traveling through the highlands, I conversed with Scots that unleashed their hopes for independence with a great deal of passion – claiming a lack of representation in Parliament and a desire to be a nation that can determine its own future – but ended their patriotic rants with a timid smile that revealed a lack of confidence in an independent Scotland.   

So, on the day of the vote, these same Scots must feel an anxious thrill after hearing reports that the polls are too tight to call.

After suppressing a smile, the sailor consulted his pride and listed exports that could keep his country afloat. Among the goods he mentioned, only oil seemed to be valuable enough to bank on. However, I soon learned the supply would only last thirty years, and then what?

To quell impulsive thinking, and avoid careless voting, fueled by their countrymen’s patriotism, many signs are posted up along the A9 and throughout the countryside, which pose a harmonious thought that Scots should be:

“Proud to be Scottish. Delighted to be United.

Upon returning to the capital city of Edinburgh, I attended a comedy show, being featured at the Fringe Festival, by an Irish comedian named Jason Byrne. He held an impromptu poll over an audience of about 500 hundred people, who were mostly Scottish, asking how they’d be voting on September 18th. The reaction was clearly in favor of voting “No” to the secession, but those that motioned a “Yes” were boisterous and rowdy in their proclamation.

Byrne took a jab at the “Yes” voter’s logic by pointing out the bickering and divisiveness caused by the creation of Edinburgh’s recently completed transit system, adding that a cab can still get you to the airport faster. “Why then,” he asked, “do you all think it’d be a good idea for you to govern an entire country by yourselves?”

His question seemed a realistic one to be asking and no one I spoke with had a convincing argument that Scotland would be better off apart from the UK.

As the outcome of the votes will soon be made public, I can’t help but think that Scotland might become a victim of its own nationalistic fervor. Many Scots may soon be surprised that timid smiles and bashful laughs surprisingly led to a newfound freedom and identity. But, if that’s the case and the majority votes yes, I imagine that it’s going to take a much more confident posture to navigate a future apart from England.

~ Dane Johnson, Wordsmith for Misfit, Inc. 

The Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world. The population of Edinburgh doubles during the month of August as it welcomes performers and art lovers from all corners of the globe. 

This month, we’re conducting reconnaissance work to see how the worlds of art and commerce creatively collide on the city streets of Scotland’s capital. 

Throughout the month at Fringe, roughly 50,000 shows are performed, so choosing what to see has been a challenge.

  • However, we’ve not been let down by Minneapolis’ own Rhythmic Circus and their show Feet Don’t Fail Me Now. There was no way to stop from dancing during the show and, fortunately, the performers highly encouraged people to get on their feet and shake what the good Lord gave ‘em. 
  • London-based ensemble Action to the World delivers an electric rendition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Modern pop hits are seamlessly performed by the actors themselves as they move from dialogue to song within physical theater that is absolutely breath-taking. We’re going to see it again. It’s that good. 
  • We are beyond proud to see Fargo’s own Experience Blur collective perform Gatsby here at the Fringe. Their transition from the Fargo Theatre to Ecce Gallery to the Assembly Roxy Venue here in Edinburgh has revealed their professionalism in adapting to whatever the environment throws at them. The show has retained an intimate quality, extending an invitation for the audience to experience the drama surrounding Jay Gatsby’s complicated revelries.

Now, the city has much more to show us, so we must be off, but you can keep up with more Fringe-related updates on our Instagram and Twitter profiles. 

And, if you’re here, shout out and let’s go drink some whisky!

Dane JohnsonWordsmith on location in Edinburgh, Scotland :)

Misfit is generally shrouded in mystery. We walk a very balanced line between transparency and intense secrecy. But now, we’re ready to pull back the curtain to allow you to peek in on some of the work that our company has been doing around the world lately.image

From the highways and byways of North America:

This month and last, our collective head and heart of Misfit – AJ and Melissa – are on a 63-day and roughly 10k-mile tour of Shakespeare festivals, telling stories of the Bard’s impact in North America. The stories they gather are being featured at Shakespeare on the Road, which was a site built on the Misfit-developed theme called Legend. Legend will be released in limited supply this Fall, so sign up here for updates.  

In addition to the many hats she wears, Melissa has been expanding her skill-set wardrobe to include hand-lettering. In a word, she describes the last few months as busy.

AJ’s summation of this time is encapsulated in the word adventure. 

He’s been reflecting, as he drives hundreds of miles daily through the scenic beauty of North America (in a baller Land Rover), on the fact that he does his best work when he’s on the move.

Everything surrounding their current project with Shakespeare on the Road is full of art, beauty, and creativity - the perfect environment for planning future Misfittery.

Equally inspiring to him are the stories that he’s been gathering from Shakespeare Festival founders all over the country. Some of the founders are in their later years and their sustained commitment and passion for the festivals have made AJ think about how, when an old man, he’ll be telling similar stories about his work with the Misfits.

In the midst of traveling, he’s been doggedly working on other projects in partnership with conscientious and philanthropic organizations like Futerra, Sightsavers, and World Vision. Lately, business phone calls and emails are conducted from gas stations and cafes along the road.   

From Canada: Misfit Press & Good Misfit,

Our Vancouver-based Princess of Organizing Chaos, Jessie, has been excitedly ironing out workflow processes with Fargo-based Wolftree Magazine, as Misfit Press now acts as their publisher. This is the first relationship of its kind at Misfit and figuring out the seemingly boring things like tracking sales and inventory is one of the most important aspects. There used to be jokes whispered amongst the Misfits about Jessie’s spreadsheets. But, since these last few months spent developing her Excel expertise, that will be the case no longer.

Jessie is also pleased to announce that all Kickstarter rewards have just been shipped out to those who so generously donated to The Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit book campaign. If you’ve yet to acquire a copy of this beautifully designed collection of inspiring essays, you can purchase a digital copy of the book on Amazon and leave your thoughts in the reviews, if you please. The print edition will be available to buy online in early September.

The digital and epub versions of Misfit Journal Two are ready. The beautiful HTML5 site is ready. Now, we are just waiting on the printing of the magazines before we can launch this baby into the stratosphere.  

Additionally, Jessie works with Good Misfit to develop relationships that foster collaboration between Misfit and companies that hope to do good around the world. Last year she led Good Misfit’s windmill building project in rural Kenya. This year, Good Misfit’s project is being planned as I type. (Hat tip, profess your interest here if you who want to be involved in making real, tangible, measurable change in the world this Fall.)

Jessie has recently come to the realisation that creativity is not an innate skill, but something that can be developed. So, she’s challenging herself in the next month or so to develop her skills that lend themselves to creative direction of web design projects.

From the Philippines and Texas: Web Development

Dino holds down the fort at Misfit’s hub in the Philippines. He is a self-taught web developer responsible for making the world wide web a more beautiful place to visit. By his side is Jerome, a fellow mastermind and running enthusiast.

Right now, Jerome is excited to be working on a project with The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and polishing up the website for AJ’s book, The Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit, which will officially launch in September. In his spare time, he’s been learning about ancient battle tactics implemented by the Romans, which involved pigs being set ablaze to scare off enemy’s war elephants…we’ve got an eclectic team.

From the other side of the world, in Texas, comes the coding bedrock of Mr. Cebo Campbell. He has just been hired on to lend creative direction (and style) to Misfit’s many projects.    

To add a woman’s touch, our graphic artist and layout co-designer Stephanie works alongside the dev boys to beautifully animate all that we do. The image design gracing the top of this update is a sampling of her craft.  

With their powers combined, they act as Misfit’s dev crew and serve clients ranging from hotel chains to digital marketing agencies. Check out a gorgeous redesign they recently completed for The Row Hotel NYC.

Karen is the self-proclaimed neck of the company. She tells the head where to move and where to look. In plainspeak, she is basically one of the most organized people in the whole world. Her official Misfit title is Chief Maker of Mirth, and she consistently lives up to it with her joyful spirit and endless kindness. 

Chloe is Chief Troubadour, the voice of Misfit on Twitter. You know those delightfully sweet replies you get when you start tweeting at us? Well, you have Chloe to thank for that. She’s stays on top of everything that we’ve got going on in the company and shouts it out so that you know about it.

These last few months, Chloe has been sifting through the glorious social media aftermath that accompanied Misfit Con. She’s working her tail off to make sure that the online world knows all about our amazing time together in Fargo. Even from afar, she’s feeling the positive vibes emanating from Fargo and said that she’s learning that people don’t have to be millionaires or “big deals” to make a dent in the universe – we just need to keep to our respective Misfit paths.

In a word(s), Chloe describes these last few months as fantastically-crazy

From California: Twitgift & Package Distribution

Geni acts as the hands of Misfit. If you’ve received a package from us or our social enchantment venture, Twitgift, then you’ve benefitted from her labor of love. She boasts such enviable titles as Chief Ruffler of Feathers over at Twitgift and Chief Maker of Magic with Misfit, Inc.

In addition to designing and sending out all of the beautiful packages, Geni handles product research and development.

To ensure quality, she is monitored by a trusty feathered assistant named Retweet, who also works from the same Super Secret Bird Cave (office) with her. 

This month, she lent her magic-making powers to Misfit Press by helping them send out the Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit Kickstarter rewards and Wolftree’s latest magazine. (PS: if you’re curious to know how the Wolftree Mag + Misfit Press partnership came to be, click here.)

She also conducted a very hi-tech research experiment to test the resilience of her packaging. We shouldn’t even be sharing these findings…

This month, Geni learned that it is restricted to send butter substitutes to Canada and illegal to ship horror comics to the UK, which dashed a lot of our dreams for future ventures.

In a word, she describes herself as being blessed.

From Fargo & Scotland: Misfit Con 2014 & Wordsmith Residency

Our 2nd annual Misfit Con was a smashing success. We encourage you to read the wrap-up over here, yet even that comprehensive summary can’t communicate the feeling of community and inspiration that the city of Fargo so hospitably extended to our Misfits. For example, they let us take over a pedestrian skyway for lunch!   

We’re continuing to send roots down into the eight-foot surface layer of rich topsoil in North Dakota by teaming up with local ventures like Dinner Ties, Fargo Startup House, and connecting with local artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs to see how we can continue to make Fargo a town that welcomes Misfits.  

We’re instigating artistic exploits in Downtown Fargo by offering up a prominent billboard for local artists to claim as their canvas. You can read more about these shenanigans here

Our apprenticing Wordsmith-in-Residence, Dane, has been occupying our nest in the Red Raven Espresso Parlor and challenging himself to tell stories of Misfit’s work in the Fargo community, whilst stirring up some new ones. 

He’s also been working to write from a Misfit-voiced third person, which has been an absurdly fun task.

Most recently, he’s been tasked to undertake a reconnaissance mission to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. While there, he’s researching the many ways that Misfit could create more collisions between art and commerce in public arenas. He’s also tenaciously committed to researching Scotch. 

Keep up with his Scotland-related photos over at his personal Instagram, as well as Misfit’s Official Instagram

Dane’s been learning that there’s no better way to ingratiate oneself to another person than by eloquently repeating their own story back to them.

In a few words, he says that his first few months with Misfit have been an absolute blast.

Now, if you’re still with us, thank you, and we hope you enjoyed this tour of our ever-expanding Misfit empire. Be sure to reach out to us via the social medias or any other way you find feasible…and legal.

With lots of love and hugs,

Misfits ‘round the globe

PS: If you’d like to receive this official Misfit-wide newsletter, please sign up for the updates here.

We’ve enjoyed a long love affair with Fargo, so much so that we’ve decided to move our headquarters here! Now, we’re very excited to be throwing open submissions to the Fargo Billboard Project - offering up one of the city’s largest canvases for Fargo creatives to claim. 

If you have a concept that expresses, in visual form, that Fargo is a town full of misfits brimming with talent, living with intention and doing work that matters - and you think it might be pretty dang cool to see your art showcased on the billboard on Main Street - then please submit your idea to this form. Please note that the hashtag “#ilovefargo” must be artfully implemented into the piece (because we all do, right?). 

Accepted ideas will be displayed on the billboard for a month at a time over the next six months. The billboard’s prominence amidst the Downtown cityscape, as well as an eloquent write-up shared across Misfit’s many media channels, are pretty sweet compensation. But, we are also offering a stipend of $275 per accepted submission.

Don’t delay. Click here to submit your concept. 

Any questions? Please direct them to Dane Johnson at ramblewithaplan@gmail.com

Fargo-based artist McCal Joy sees herself as a detective searching for veritable versions of the stories we’ve grown up hearing.

I met with her in a studio space flooded with sunlight, as a large rectangular window framed Downtown’s busy thoroughfare below. We looked at the pedestrians shuffling about, unaware that they were being watched.

“I sometimes feel like kind of a creeper just looking at everyone,” McCal laughed, “but it’s fun to take in the sights from here.”

As she showed me her painting of Snow White, titled “White Skin, Red Lips, and Poison Apples,” she enlightened me to the actual tale behind the story that Disney managed to make universally palatable. 

In her research, she discovered that Snow White’s biological mother was the witch in the tale and was bent on destroying her own daughter for possessing a beauty greater than her own.

To vanquish her beautiful offspring, the witch mother would place poisoned apples around the forest where her daughter was known to explore. As Snow White wandered beneath canopies of trees in clothes made of tattered rags, her mother would morph into a raven sinisterly monitoring her every move.

In the original story, Snow White did eventually take a bite of an apple, but it wasn’t the poison that nearly killed her. Instead, she momentarily passed out after choking on a chunk too big to swallow.

Then comes “Prince Charming”.

He notices the fair maiden lying dead, or so he thinks, on the ground, and orders his seven worker boys (not dwarves) to drag her back to his home so that he can have his way with her.

Not as heroic, is it?

As the boys are dragging her back to his manor, she is bounced over a rock, which dislodges the apple chunk from her throat, thus enabling her to breathe again.

She looks up to the “Prince” and thinks he was responsible for saving her and so they live happily ever after…THE END. 

After discovering the origins of lore, McCal visually interprets their significance in her paintings. 

"Originally, people displayed art to evoke conversations about the stories they told," she said. 

What’s lost in mass-produced art sold at big box stores are their connection to a source of significance, she added.

"Pieces are often selected because it matches the color scheme of the dinnerware or bedspread, rather than communicating a story."

“The value in the story shared makes up for any price you pay for original art,” she said.

I encourage you to peruse her Origins of Lore gallery to see other artistic renderings of the stories that you thought you knew. 

~ Dane Johnson, Wordsmith-in-Residence posted up at Raven’s Nest in Fargo. 

Our Misfit team is spread across the globe, so finding fun ways to share our lives together can prove to be a challenge.

This weekend, however, we rallied around a common hashtag #weekendatmisfit to more easily glimpse into each other’s lives.

Now, we’d like to share our weekend highlights with you :)

In the Philippines, Dino proudly beat our resident pool shark Cheese at an intense battle on the felted green. 

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Their night’s festivities were fueled by beer and Mississippi mud pie. 

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Then, to mellow things out, the lovely Chloe wowed the team by turning wine into popsicles. Magic is real.

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In Canada, our Misfit Press team, Jessie and Matt, spent a romantic evening on a dock, sipping wine, and watching the sun set on another week.

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This was the calm before the storm to come, which involved a rave and drinking in a basement converted into a speakeasy ‘til the wee hours of the morning.

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Jessie would like to note, however, that she did round out her partying by baking bread, visiting a farmer’s market, and attending a vegan food festival. #multifacetedmisfit  

In California, our Misfit worlds collided in reality, as AJ and Melissa’s Shakespeare on the Road extravaganza passed through Geni and Mirko’s neck of the woods.

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Together, they attended a play at the Theatricum Botanicum; an outdoor stage presiding among the trees.

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It should also be noted that AJ and Melissa made a point to show up at Geni’s doorstep at 10pm with two bottles of Prosecco in hand. Classic.

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In Fargo, our Wordsmith-in-Residence, Dane, teamed up with local coffee artisan Young Blood Coffee (Ian Johnson) to give out free coffee to the citizenry of this fair city.

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Fargo’s WDAY News found Misfit’s generous exploits to be newsworthy and featured them on the five o’clock slot. Ian and Dane made sure to schmooze the reporter into joining them for a photo in front of our friend’s shop Unglued

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Then, Dane fled to the lakes country where he played bocce ball, sipped on Moscow Mules, and attended a yacht club party. The photo of this bird house in some Minnesota woods conveys his appreciation of the simpler things in life.

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In Texas, our ridiculously talented artist, and web-designer, Cebo, found himself in close proximity to a horse, as he walked the streets of Austin en route to see a performance by Kawehi

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He also made his way to a beach in Panama City, Florida, teasing our landlocked Misfits with a video post of waves washing up on sandy shores.  

We hope you enjoyed this casual and playful look at how us Misfits celebrate the weekend. 

~ Misfits ‘round the globe

For the last two years, AJ and a man named Hal O’Leary have exchanged poetic pleasantries over email. Hal is in his eighties; a World War II veteran; a former professor; a man of the theater; and a lifelong Misfit.

He is also a prolific writer, particularly of poetry, and has made a point of regularly responding to AJ’s thought-provoking essays on the Pursuit of Everything with inspired, poetic replies. In fact, AJ now has an entire email folder dedicated to Hal’s writing.

Recently, we had the honor of interviewing Hal for a new Misfit podcast series that will feature the remarkable Misfits within our community.

The following interview, produced by our Princess of Organising Chaos, Jessie White, and Fargo-based Wordsmith-in-Residence, Dane Johnson, records stories from a life driven by curiosity, surrounded by wars, and still clinging to the hope that man is innately good.   

Without further adieu, we sincerely hope you enjoy the wisdom and poetry of Mr. Hal O’Leary.

Bonus track: If you want more of Hal’s poetry in your life, listen to his reading of A Failed Man; a poem about his ongoing friction with society.