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Political musings amid a pandemic (giving voice to vitriol) April 21, 2020

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(At) Least Her People Know the Choice Is…*

graphic mashup of Covid-19 illustration and Statue of Liberty photoLeast her people know the choice is…,
sounds from White House, how they sting.
Trump has mimicked FoxNews voices—
“crown him now, he is our king.
‘Four more years,’ repeat the mantra,
to him tribute we must bring.”

Fear of virus cannot stop us
from insisting Trump must go.
Forefathers empowered us
to guard this nation, not his dough.
So, with courage, donning facemasks,
cast we votes this fall for Joe.

Every day to us is Zoom day,
with its Covid-19 song.
When we hear the daily bluster,
fact-check Right, correct the wrong.
Dethrone Trump, vote for Joe Biden;
now in him our hopes belong.

*by Mark Deshon, with apologies to God and all Christendom (plus William M. James and Henry T. Smart, who wrote the words and tune to UMH 304, “Easter People, Raise Your Voices”)

40 years ago: part of God’s plan March 3, 2020

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photo of me and mascot YoUDeeIt was 40 years ago today that, as a wet-behind-the-ears graphic designer, I headed off to begin a new job, taking my place in a cubby-hole office at the south end of Evans Hall on the University of Delaware campus to work for a six-year-old interdisciplinary engineering unit called the Center for Composite Materials (CCM).

Fresh off a 20-month-long real-world experience in an advertising agency that eventually folded (I was the last employee to be laid off) and, thankfully, a short stint on the unemployment line, I was jumping into a new type of creative work just before turning 24. All this was due to a pressing need of R. Byron Pipes, then-director of CCM and an acquaintance of mine from the church I had been attending for just over a year, to fill an employee position of someone who had relocated to Boston.

Working with traditional artist tools of pen and ink, straight-edge and Bezier-curve plastics, and translucent vellum paper, I began creating technical and representative drawings for engineering staff and students.

I also got to continue creating marketing materials, something I had been doing during my first job with the ad agency and my design mentor, Harwood Ritter.

As the Center grew, the work involved in my position broadened. The mid-80s brought more responsibilities and demands, as corporate funding of my position waned and government defense contracts picked up the tab. There had also been a change in directorship, and I was now being supervised indirectly by my boss’s assistant.

At the same time, there was a seismic shift happening. The engineering group for whom I worked were early adopters of a new Apple product, a personal computer—the Macintosh. Beginning around 1985, I began about a three-year transition from daily heading home with inky black fingers to never having to use a pen or eraser again. Initially, I worked with MacPaint—a raster-based program. Then came MacDraw—more of a vector-based tool.

photo of me and my graphics crew at the timeI was, at one point, doing everything from conceptualizing drawings to darkroom photography (working with film and chemicals) to preparing and mounting diazo slides by hand (and being exposed to way too many nasty ammonia fumes).

There were new challenges for me as well, as I took on supervisory roles in addition to my regular work. At the peak of this position, I had been promoted a couple times and had a staff of three others with whom I worked and/or helped train—an able photographer and two artists.

Things continued to evolve, as my professional life continued to flow increasingly toward digital media. Within a few years, my staff had shrunk—my photographer had died and artists each headed out for new opportunities. I had learned some valuable lessons along the way, the most important of them being that I did not have the right acumen for supervising, nor did I really enjoy it.

Working solo, however, created pressures that I didn’t always deal with in healthy or prudent ways. I was forced to reckon with my own shortcomings and struggled to learn to work as a teammate rather than as captain and master of my own ship. Having been married for less than 10 years also added stressors of inexperience at the time. Looking back, discomfort with new and unfamiliar challenges or environments have always proven difficult for me.

My reputation increased with my adoption of and newly developed expertise with desktop design, which created a demand outside of my unit. This enabled me to service the College of Engineering as well with some fun-to-create marketing pieces, including a quarterly magazine, which ran for a few years.

During the 90s for a number of reasons, longtime CCM staff were, one by one, abandoning ship and finding greener pastures elsewhere. I had been promoted to Art Director, the ceiling position within my then-current career ladder. The digital revolution had also created efficiencies for everyone else that led directly to the shrinkage of my workload.

I was also being supervised by one who was actually in a lateral position, which confounded me, until I came to realize that I had probably been such a pain to have to supervise that it was thrust onto the editor with whom I most closely worked on communication-related projects. This individual, Diane Kukich, was responsible for my learning the nuances of a new craft—editing. Late in the decade, she also left CCM, which left me having to report equally to co-directors, which was a bit of an exercise in schizophrenia.

book cover, Who Moved My Cheese?I borrowed the book Who Moved My Cheese? from a colleague, and it really opened my eyes. Before then, I had not thought much about my professional future or why I was not enjoying working at CCM as much as I had in earlier years. I began thinking about change.

A new millennium brought with it a chance encounter in a gymnasium hallway with a friend in another unit on campus. At the time, my son, Jordan, was in first grade, and there were some home-schedule things that needed attention. Eric Jacobson stopped me in the hallway and asked me if I new of a “mini-Mark” who might be looking for a job. What he meant by “mini-Mark” was someone who did what I had been doing but on a part-time basis. I told him that I really didn’t know of anyone but that I might be interested in such a position.

One thing led to another, and before long I was pursuing a part-time position with the Institute for Public Administration (IPA), a training-and-service unit within a different college at the University of Delaware. This made sense for me and for our family at the time. I shifted into this new position in the fall of 2000, working about 28 hours a week and giving me the chance to be home when Jordan got off his school bus.

photo of UD cardProfessionally, this became a “new lease on life” for me. My new colleagues warmly welcomed me, and I began creating a variety of things for IPA, including a new website, something into which I had dipped my toes in the mid-90s while at CCM. Something about the mission of this unit—public service—made me feel very comfortable as well. In retrospect, my very personality has always enjoyed the intrinsic benefits of using my God-given gifts to serve others. Being part of a unit that was dedicated to teaching better government practice and community engagement therein appealed to me as well.

While I had always shown some interest in the written word from a structural point of view, the ten years that I spent on the job at CCM with Diane had increased my own interest in good writing. One of the facets of the IPA job that I had willingly taken on was as an editor. So, I found myself intimately involved with reports and documents, from cover design to editing the content for clarity, grammar, and punctuation.

I continued to learn by doing, gaining valuable experience in digital photoediting, which enhanced my design capabilities. During that time, I even started a statewide website-improvement group among local governments—the Municipal Web Developers Group.

Working closely with Julia O’Hanlon and Lisa Moreland, I spent a wonderful but fleeting 12+ years at IPA. IPA’s longtime director, Jerome Lewis, was my boss the entire time and a wonderful person for whom to work.

photo of Mark with his business logoJo Anne, my wife and the love of my life, had retired in 2011, after 36 dedicated and successful years of teaching in our local public schools. At this time, I began considering retiring from UD myself at some point. I was feeling that I had given all I had to give to the institution and felt that I was no longer able to keep up with the ever-more-quickly-changing tech world, which had direct bearing on my work. Plus, in my mid-50s, I was not as sharp as I had once been, which bothered me to some degree.

So, I retired from UD in November of 2012, during my son’s sophomore year there, and began concentrating more on other interests. Professionally, I’ve continued the business entity I had begun in 1989—Deshon & Associates Graphic Design. This business was always more of a hobby while I held my job at UD, but it became a continuing creative outlet as I’ve been slowly transitioning out of my professional life.

I even had a hand in “passing on the torch” to Sarah Marshall Pragg, who replaced me at IPA in the spring of 2013. It warms my heart to know that this young woman, who has shown capabilities and potential that I did not have, has flourished in the position I once held.

photo of the Deshons at Mark’s retirement receptionAll this said, on this day, March 3, 2020, I look back on my 33 years of working at UD with gratitude, humility, and a strong sense of having participated in God’s larger plan for my life, knowing that I could neither have imagined nor planned this path on my own.

Thanks be to God!

Typographic creativity on display December 12, 2019

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photo of Mark’s July 2015 Stage 4 poster

Mark’s poster of Stage 4 of the 2015 Tour de France

Late in 2019, some of Mark’s creative work was included as part of an exhibition of Lead Graffiti letterpress projects at the Delaware College of Art and Design (DCAD) in Wilmington, Del. During the show opening, Ray Nichols and Jill Cypher talked about the creative process and presented anecdotes about some of their favorite projects during their time at Lead Graffiti.

Holding the entire exhibit together were selected posters from Lead Graffiti’s monumental five-year “Tour de Lead Graffiti” project, each year during which Ray and Jill would spend 23 consecutive days working an average of 18 hours a day (along with others) creating posters related to the particular day’s event within the Tour de France. Mark’s July 2015 stage 4 poster and his July 2013 stage 5 poster (see “Travail de Triomphe”) were displayed among the other letterpress posters and fine letterpress art.

A look back…35 years ago today March 3, 2015

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photo of UD cardI’d often had to remember and write down this particular date—3/3/80. When I awoke this morning, I recognized that it was the 3rd of March, a day that has special meaning to me personally, because it was on this day 35 years ago that I first stepped into a new position at the University of Delaware.

There is but one clear similarity today—snow and ice cover much of the parking lots, just as they did in Newark then. Beyond that, that day 35 years ago seems eons removed from who and where I am today. And yet, without having passed that portal back then, I wouldn’t be who and where I am today.

I was green and clueless then, with only a desire to use the knowledge I had learned both in college and at my recent advertising agency job (which I had held for 20 months until my position was eliminated for financial reasons) and creative skills with which I’d been blessed.

Today I can look back on a rich career as a staff designer for two campus units over all but two years of the 35. I’m now two years into a different stage in my professional life, as someone trying to be solely responsible for a business—Deshon & Associates—as well as the design work that sustains it.

I learned a whole lot, through trial and error, through good times and hard times (though “hard” is simply a relative term—I probably wouldn’t have survived in the private sector), about my craft, certainly, but even more about myself—my place as a servant with special skills but also as someone who has to work in relationship with others who have differing viewpoints, angles, and sometimes political motivation.

The time at UD served me well and helped me mature, at least to a degree, as a professional and a man, though at times I can really identify with the wisdom in the Don Henley song The Heart of the Matter—“The more I know, the less I understand.”

Sometimes it seems I’ve simply come full circle. I’m now working at something new, trying to apply what I’ve learned and yet still “in training” in many respects—3/3/15.

A reflection of faith December 22, 2014

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The Way of life, now…
…is a Gift that our Creator has already delivered and is waiting only for acknowledgment of receipt.

image of lighthouse and reflection of faith - Jesus is The Way


Le Tour encore June 24, 2014

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A shout out for my good friends Ray Nichols and Jill Cypher at Lead Graffiti. The Newark letterpress business was featured last Friday on WHYY TV locally. It’s part of a half-hour segment, so skip directly to 23:45 on the video to see the piece. (See if you can spot my 2013 Tour de Lead Graffiti poster at the 25:52 mark.) Truly a wonderful advertisement for a unique design business (LeadGraffiti.com).

photo of Ray Nichols from WHYY TV “First” video

Related links:
> See original post—“Travail de Triomphe.”
Read my reflections on the day working at Lead Graffiti.
> See the story of how the poster was created.
> Read Lead Graffiti’s explanation of the Sports Illustrated story.
> See the page from the University of Delaware Messenger.

I used to like to draw June 23, 2014

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photo of Mark DeshonWhen I was growing up, I liked to draw. It didn’t matter whether it was just doodling or trying to create something recognizable, like souped-up fantasy cars or uniformed NHL “mannequins.” I was always trying to express myself through drawing.

Sadly, I haven’t drawn much in the past few decades, but I’ve come to experience drawing in a totally different sense.

I’ve always been pretty competitive, especially in sports. Winning and losing always seemed pretty black-and-white to me, results that bespeak who had performed better on a given day. Didn’t matter whether it was baseball, football, basketball, golf, or my favorite sporting pasttime—running and racing.

Then, in his youth, my son became enamored with football, football as the rest of the world knows it—what we Americans call “soccer.” There was a lot I had to learn while watching a sport that was at one time foreign to me. The more I began to understand the game and its great subtleties and supreme athleticism, I came to understand why they call it “the beautiful game.”

OK, I’ve become hooked.

But not everything about the game squares with my yearning for fairness in the cosmic realm. Whether it be a decision through the gut-wrenching practice of penalty kicks, a devastating loss, or a fortunate win, I’ve come to dislike the fact that in soccer the outcome does not necessarily reflect which team played better during the match.

Then there’s the tie, known as the “draw” in world football parlance.

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ All in One Rhythym™ graphic

Strangely enough, like wins and losses in soccer, draws can also seem like victories or defeats. Last night’s contest between the USA and Portugal is a shining example of the one thing I can’t stand about o jogo bonito. USA’s Group G games so far have seemed somewhat mirror images of one another, with the fortunate exception that our country actually maintained its late-captured lead over Ghana.

One could easily propose that Ghana deserved to win, having outplayed the USA for all but about the first minute and the 88th minute. And then there was last night. Looking to rewrite the records for both teams (Portugal had been undefeated in World Cup play when scoring the initial goal, team USA had been winless when conceding first), USA dominated the match, only to give up the latest regulation-time goal in the history of the World Cup.

So the USA has to settle for a draw, when the whole country could have been celebrating together in a big way this morning. Is there just a little cosmic irony at play here?

And so I no longer like drawing. It can be a rather hollow feeling for both teams, but typically worse if it feels like a loss. Yes, the USA is still in decent position to advance, but the “group of death” is taking on new meaning for USA fans, as expectations (that would surely soften past failures’ wounds) climb.

Then again, I’d enjoy a draw with Germany in the next game. Go figure.


On Covenant Discipleship June 9, 2014

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Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday. I presented the following witness to our church family.

Related scriptures for the day:  I Corinthians 12:3b-13 and Acts 2:1-21

photo of Mark Deshon by Stacey AltemusGood morning.

I believe most of you know who I am, but for those whom I haven’t yet had the privilege of meeting, my name is Mark Deshon, and you are part of my community of faith. I feel that, more and more as time goes on, you are indeed part of my family—my brothers and sisters in Christ who, like me, are on a journey.

You’ve already heard from two of my three Covenant Discipleship partners, Diane and Stacey. I’d like to take a few brief minutes to share with you what it is we do together and why.

Not too long ago, four of us entered into this venture in discipleship growth, which involved cooperatively drafting a covenant of intention to weekly engage in acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We meet weekly to pray together, report to one another our successes and failures with respect to our covenant, and encourage one another in our individual journeys in discipleship. This is what Covenant Discipleship is all about, and it is very simple.

This practice is a modern adaptation of the “band” meetings upon which the Methodist movement was built by John and Charles Wesley in 18th century England and upon which early Methodist societies thrived.

The words “intention” and “practice” are very important, because most anything we endeavor to do well in life takes a lot of practice, and it takes being intentional about it.

About 15 years ago, it became clear to me that God was telling me to begin doing that which I had learned and believed in my heart that Jesus wants us to do, not just continue to study and talk about it, which I had seemed more content to do in my earlier years. And because advancing age has a funny way of shaping perspective, I was feeling like I’d better get busy.

For me, though I have been a part of an accountable small group of one form or another for more than 33 years, I know I haven’t arrived yet at what John Wesley refers to as holiness of heart and life, nor have I done nearly enough of the doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with my God of which the prophet Micah said is what God really requires in response to his love for me.

I’ve found that Covenant Discipleship brings not only a weekly challenge but a very necessary balance of works of piety and mercy into my life as a follower of Jesus Christ. Moreover, I know that I need the support, the encouragement, and, yes, the loving reminders of my brothers and sisters in the faith in order to help shape me into the disciple that God wants me to be. And by the same token, they need me to do likewise for them.

I am not very good at daily prayer, which is one of our covenant’s acts of devotion. Some of my strengths tend to be in serving within our faith community, which is one of our acts of worship, and being a good steward of the earth’s resources, one of our acts of justice. Each of us seems to struggle with one or more of the acts in our covenant from week to week. I am reminded and encouraged each week to find ways to work at my weaker areas while not neglecting those things that tend to come more easily to me.

My current group members and I have differing gifts, and these qualities usually bubble to the surface during our respective reporting. It is within this framework of diversity that we help each other grow.

Indeed, it is this model that makes me believe that we, as a church family, would do well to move in the direction of reclaiming our Wesleyan heritage. Though not unique in this respect, Covenant Discipleship is a powerful tool for molding and shaping followers of Christ into faithful and mature disciples, and, in turn, leaders in discipleship themselves. And we do this together, not individually.

I pray that you will consider this method, not only for yourself but for building up the community of faith of which you are an important part. I’d like to end by quoting from a devotional reading [by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre from The Upper Room Disciplines] based on today’s retelling of the Pentecost story, which gets right to the point of today’s shared message.

In a consummate moment of community, Jesus’ followers are not only called but called together. The followers of Jesus still are called together. And life together requires more than private devotions, though they are as good and necessary as the food and rest we take. God calls us to engage in a shared life that binds us closer than brothers and sisters, whose common heritage is the breath of life and the bread of life and the spirit of life that is “poured out” in these latter days, more present and abundant than we can imagine. 


Travail de Triomphe – redux April 14, 2014

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In yet another aftershock, though not nearly as tumultuous or mind-bending as the initial one, my poster collaboration with Ray Nichols and Jill Cypher of Lead Graffiti was featured in the University of Delaware Messenger’s “On the Green” section, p. 26. The brief article touts the University of Delaware alumni involved with the 2013 Tour de Lead Graffiti project, along with Ray and Jill, both of whom spent many a year working at the University. The publication of the poster in Sports Illustrated had also been mentioned in UD’s For the Record, Dec. 20, 2013.

The article reads:

Tour de France:  23 days, 23 posters

poster from Stage 5 of 2013 Tour de Lead GraffitiThe 2013 year-in-review edition of Sports Illustrated included some surprise recognition for an accomplishment with UD connections—not on the playing field but in a design studio.

The magazine’s Dec. 16 edition featured a project by the Lead Graffiti printmaking collective as part of the “Year in Sports Media” section. Lead Graffiti, a Newark, Del., design studio, is operated by Ray Nichols, retired professor of art and former coordinator of the visual communications program at UD, and Jill Cypher, a former graphic designer for the University.

Sports Illustrated highlighted the studio’s annual “Tour de Lead Graffiti,” in which designers attend [the live broadcasts of] the 23-day Tour de France cycling race and create a poster at the end of each stage highlighting the day’s action. Designers for the 2013 endeavor included Mark Deshon, AS78; Jeannie Marcotte Wagner, AS88; Jessica Koman, AS88; Hendrik-Jan Francke, AS93; Ann Lemon, AS84; Lindsay Schmittle, AS13; Ben Gallegos, AS14; and Rebecca Johnson Melvin, of the UD Library.

The magazine illustrated the item with a poster [shown here] created by Nichols, Cypher and Deshon. For more about the project, and to see all 23 posters, visit leadgraffiti.com.

> See the page from the University of Delaware Messenger.
> See original post—“Travail de Triomphe.”
Read my reflections on the day working at Lead Graffiti.
> See the story of how the poster was created.
> Read Lead Graffiti’s explanation of the SI story.

“Litigiousness” February 25, 2014

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Sounds a bit like an invented word former President George W. Bush might have used. That’s the one term I might use to describe my experience of our society today as I sat, and sat, and sat at last night’s Newark City Council meeting.

NBC_bannerLast night I went to represent the Newark Bicycle Committee, the drafting body of the Newark Bike Plan, which was one of the agenda items up for review, comment, and adoption by the council. Having not attended a council meeting in a year or two for any reason, it soon became quite clear that times had changed. What I knew going in was that it was item 4 on the agenda and that I was prepared to speak in favor of its adoption if necessary. What I didn’t realize until a little into the meeting was that this would be a great exercise in patience, something of which Jo Anne (my wife) continually says I’m in short supply.

When I arrived, there were many citizens buzzing around in a hornet’s nest of anticipation. I surmised they might all be there to give public comment about what is a controversial plan to build a mega-large, megawatt power plant to power a proposed data center on the University of Delaware’s STAR campus. Indeed, some were there for that very purpose.

The meeting began innocently enough, with a photo op with the mayor and a retiring public servant, in recognition for his years on city staff. It quickly turned rather circus-like, kind of a “democracy on steroids,” in my humble opinion. (Thank God we still say the Pledge of Allegiance at City Council meetings and we’re still “one nation, under God, indivisible,” because it would be hard to tell, given the direction we’ve headed in our country’s public sphere in recent years.)

Having time for public comment at these meetings is great and a necessary component to open government. However, what I witnessed last night made me come up with another potential Bushian term to describe the local political scene lately—“watchdogism.” Though I really value the fact that there are caring citizens who are intent on holding our public officials accountable for their decisions, the overuse of everyone’s time to make one public comment after another, no matter what the subject, will likely make me reticent to attend a future council meeting.

Everything, from protecting one’s Second Amendment rights—in this case to be able to carry a firearm into chambers during a City Council meeting (obviously to protect an individual from the wackos in the room who think it might be safer for everyone otherwise)—to rehiring a lobbyist who has worked for the city for a number of years, to revisiting the very rules for decorum in City Council meetings, became fodder for public comment.

Several individuals came to the mic multiple times, each time, of course, having something of extremely important value to get off his/her chest within the three-minute time limit allotted them under current council procedure. Why, even the three-minute limit was commented on by a citizen who was in front of the mic for perhaps the sixth time during the meeting, asking if the time limit could be extended to five minutes, as it had been in years past. Really.

So, I continued to sit, and sit, and sit, waiting for item 4 on the agenda to be addressed. To make a long story short (well, actually, to try to wrap what may have become for you, the reader, an annoyingly long way to describe a tediously longer meeting), the council adopted the Newark Bike Plan at 11:13 p.m., without much more than a couple clarifying questions from a couple council members.

Yes, it was “past [my] bedtime,” as one of my bike committee colleagues, who was presenting the report, told the council, acknowledging me as chair of the Newark Bicycle Committee. And, lo and behold, no public comment. Nada. Not a single peep from the hearty few who had remained in the audience.

My remaining thoughts at that time were as follows:

1. I’m outta here! (Though I had come prepared to defend the plan, I confess I was way too tired at that point to have put together a coherent thought and eschewed wasting anyone else’s time.)

2. I wish I had guessed that this would have happened and shown up a couple, maybe even three, hours after the 7 p.m. start time.

and, most importantly,

3. I have such great respect for our current council members for bearing their responsibility to patiently and politely listen, absorbing a lot of generally directed criticism while forthrightly and sincerely dealing with minutiae that might make some lawyers cringe (and most others salivate). Though inside they may be seething, their decorum to a person was nothing short of commendable…even when forced to talk about what we should all expect as proper decorum from everyone involved in public meetings.

Oh, by the way, there were nine items on last night’s agenda, but I only stayed the four hours and 13 minutes it took to get through the first four. Lack of patience, I guess.