Friday, July 12, 2019

2. Stolen Idea. Contacting a crush*

I have crushes on people I admire. There are design crushes, thinking crushes, accomplishment crushes. Some people combine multiple talents, so the crush is layered. Jessica Helfand, articulate and witty in multiple languages, a founder of Design Observer, academic, mother, author many times over, and partner in brilliant podcasts, is a person of daunting talent and hence multi-layered.

Although I could easily post comments on podcast sites, I wanted to contact Jessica Helfand more directly because, in helping to empty my late parents' house, I found a program from a 1974 lecture at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, organized by The College's Section on Medical History.

The lecture was in honor of Dr. Samuel X. Radbill.  One of of the physicians on the Executive Committee was my beloved late father, Roderick Louis Tondreau, MD. The distinguished speaker was William H. Helfand, President, Merck Sharp & Dohme-Chabret—Jessica Helfand's father—who presented "Medicine and Pharmacy in French Political Prints."

I loved the coincidence/confluence. A mega-star design thinker's businessman father who spoke about imagery at a lecture abetted by my physician father whose avocations were photography and Medical History. The rub was that the program for the lecture bordered on ugly, with typography that lacked even the charm of something printed back in the day. In addition, my email draft was numbingly sincere. I couldn't find a way in. I kept the email in drafts.

Then I heard a forkeeps podcast in which Jessica Helfand discussed her late father's collections of medical-themed prints, posters and memorabilia and commented on— this phrase is brilliant—"the hyperbolic language of quackery." I thought again about the lecture in Philadelphia and reconsidered sending my excruciatingly earnest mash note.

So, today, I sent a message via LinkedIn, with an image of the very un-visual program. It was a nod to a polished parent and his equally-polished daughter, with their Parisian sophistication. More importantly, I realize, it was a tribute to my accomplished but unassuming father, who did his French Canadian heritage proud. Paris. Québec. Two levels of sophistication. Two fathers. One lecture, many moons ago, that lent a tenuous connection to two of their daughters.

*possibly, today's subject line borders on click bait

Responding to the LinkedIn message, Jessica Helfand sent a gracious brief reply (beginning with  "This is so lovely and so unexpected. ")

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