Category Archives: Feature

Five Lessons Learned from the Greatest: Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali, an athlete whose accomplishments in and outside of the boxing ring transcends the world of sport and makes him one of the most recognizable and influential figures of the past century.

Here are five lessons to be gleaned from “The Greatest”:

Muhammad Ali 2016

  1. Believe in Yourself—Muhammad Ali called himself the Greatest long before anyone else did; so believe in your abilities and banish the negative self-talk.
  2. Believe in Something Greater Than Yourself—Mr. Ali’s strong spiritual faith was a source of both humility and strength during a time of great social and political upheaval. Find your center and it will ground you in times of adversity.
  3. Believe in the Greatness of Others—We can’t do it all alone and we must rely on a team to reach our goals. Choose your friends, partners, and confidents wisely and in turn help them achieve their goals.
  4. Believe That You Can Change Your World—If not you then, who?!
  5. Believe the Change You Affect Will Be Remembered—Execute tasks and complete work with your legacy in mind.

Explore the Universe of Miles Davis on His 90th Birthday

90 years since his birth on this day and almost 25 years since his passing into immortality; the shadow of Miles Dewey Davis still looms large on the cultural horizon.

Polygraph’s The Universe of Miles Davis quantifies the jazz avatar’s wide ranging influence through his 2,452 Wikipedia mentions (English).

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It’s Miles’ World and we’re just living in it.

Through this visually striking interactive site we descend down a digital rabbit hole of recordings, people, and places that traces a through line of Miles’ relevance from the early twentieth-century to today.

“Knowledge is freedom and ignorance is slavery”
—Miles Davis

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If Mr. Davis were alive today we are certain he would approve. Happy Birthday Miles!

DJ Shiftee Explores Thirty Years of Turntablism in Fourteen Minutes

Electronic music production and DJ training facility Dubspot has been instrumental educating the public on the history and technique of the DJ and two-time DMC (Disco Music Club) turntable champion and instructor Shiftee’s examination on the craft is an arresting blend of historical lecture and performance art.

This is an excellent primer on one of the pillars of Hip-Hop culture (Break Dancing, Emceeing, DJing, Graffiti Art, and Beatboxing) and for those who wish to explore the subject in detail I recommend the following:

  • Wild Style (Film), Hip-Hop is exposed to the World in Charlie Ahern’s seminal 1983 film
  • Scratch (Film), Doug Pray’s fascinating documentary on the history of Turntablism and the cult of the DJ
  • Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop (Book), Jeff Chang explores the economic, political, and social forces that create and shape what we now know as Hip-Hop Culture
  • Last Night a DJ Saved My Life (Book), Bill Brewster traces the unexpected history of DJ culture through exhaustive research and engaging personal interviews

10 Writing Tips From “On Writing Well” Author William Zinesser

Here are 10 writing tips from author, editor, and teacher William Zinesser who passed away last week at the age of 92. I must admit, I didn’t know of Mr. Zinesser’s work prior to his passing, but after hearing an thoughtful appreciation of him last week I intend to read On Writing Well immediately.

Writer, editor, and teacher William Zinesser's book, On Writing Well sold more than 1.5 million copies
Writer, editor, and teacher William Zinesser’s book, On Writing Well sold more than 1.5 million copies (Photo: Walter Daran, The LIFE Picture Collection, Getty Images)
  1. Don’t make lazy word choices: “You’ll never make your mark as a writer unless you develop a respect for words and a curiosity about their shades of meaning that is almost obsessive. The English language is rich in strong and supple words. Take the time to root around and find the ones you want.”
  2. On the other hand, avoid jargon and big words: “Clear thinking becomes clear writing; one can’t exist without the other. It’s impossible for a muddy thinker to write good English.”
  3. Writing is hard work: “A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”
  4. Write in the first person: “Writing is an intimate transaction between two people, conducted on paper, and it will go well to the extent that it retains its humanity.”
  5. And the more you keep in first person and true to yourself, the sooner you will find your style: “Sell yourself, and your subject will exert its own appeal. Believe in your own identity and your own opinions. Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.
  6. Don’t ask who your audience is…you are the audience: “You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.”
  7. Study the masters but also your contemporaries: “Writing is learned by imitation. If anyone asked me how I learned to write, I’d say I learned by reading the men and women who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do and trying to figure out how they did it.”
  8. Yes, the thesaurus is your friend: “The Thesaurus is to the writer what a rhyming dictionary is to the songwriter—a reminder of all the choices–and you should use it with gratitude. If, having found the scalawag and the scapegrace, you want to know how they differ, then go to the dictionary.”
  9. Read everything you write out loud for rhythm and sound: “Good writers of prose must be part poet, always listening to what they write.”
  10. And don’t ever believe you are going to write anything definitive: “Decide what corner of your subject you’re going to bite off, and be content to cover it well and stop.”

Source: http://www.openculture.com/2015/05/10-writing-tips-from-legendary-writing-teacher-william-zinsser.html

Four Steps to Executing a Successful Deejay Performance

<Writer’s Note: This is an amended post where I have added more information>

I am a Graphic and Web Designer by trade, but for many years I’ve earned money as a professional DJ (for events, companies, organizations—and on occasion—a wedding or party on referral) and there is nothing quite like the rush and excitement of performing music for a crowd. But, before you can move the crowd there is a lot of preparation involved:

  1. Be Prompt—respond to any and all correspondence immediately, be it a contract, question, or request; the sooner you have all the info you need, the sooner you can start your preparation
  2. Be Prepared—ask questions, research your client, request an itinerary,  walk through your performance venue, create an equipment checklist, and practice, practice, practice your material; the unexpected will happen at your event so be prepared when it does
  3. Be Professional—respond quickly (see tip 1: Be Prompt) by phone or email; dress appropriately; arrive and set up early on event day, be friendly, flexible, and smile often
  4. Be Productive—before, during, and after the gig engage your guests, clients, and followers in person and online (have your business cards ready); be diligent in producing content and sharing your work (this will lead to new clients and opportunities)

Deejaying is a performance: the live aspect of playing before a crowd is theater and everyone is watching you so don’t blow it by not being prepared.

 

 

The High Priestess of Soul Featured in New Documentrary

Nina Simone documentary slated to air on Netflix
Nina Simone documentary slated to air on Netflix, June 26th 2015

Academy Award winning filmmaker Liz Garbus has directed a long overdue documentary on Nina Simone using unseen archival music, photos, and film footage tell the story of a fiercely creative, complex, and socially conscious artist.

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Nina Simone is personally inspiring because of her singular commitment to her craft, her art, and her message. During the height of the civil rights struggle, she put it all on the line—her fame, her reputation, and her career—to reflect the times in which she lived.

I, for one, am excited to see this film and not the fictional movie on Ms. Simone, as portrayed by Zoe Saldana(!).

Questionable casting in fictional portrayal of Nina Simone.
Questionable casting in fictional portrayal of Nina Simone.

Cultural Exchange: Questlove Deejays and Crate Digs in Cuba

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Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is best known as drummer, writer, and producer for the hip-hop supergroup The Roots, but just as important he is a globe-trotting DJ and avid record collector.

Questlove on a dig with Cuban producer Edgaro Productor n Jefe
Questlove on a dig with Cuban producer Edgaro Productor n Jefe

Quest For Cuba is a thirteen-minute documentary by Okay Player Films chronicling Questlove’s funky, street-level cultural exchange tour of Cuba: spinning tracks, crate digging for classic vinyl (I spotted a classic Los Zafiros album in the stack!), and visiting the legendary EGREM Studios in Old Havana.

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Ten years ago, The Roots played in Cuba and Questlove vows to return again soon. I can’t speak for the American or Cuban governments, but I trust that “Questo” speaks the truth and we will all be the richer for the effort!

 

 

 

 

Dr. Seuss’ Timeless Advice for Kids and Adults Alike

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
—Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

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Like many Gen Xers and Millennials, I grew up with Dr. Seuss: the books, the animated specials, and the movies (in the third grade, my career choice was to be the Cat in the Hat).

I was too old to read his final book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! when it was first published in 1990, but reading it now to my family I understand why it’s message resonates with adult readers.

This book has been popular with graduates since its first  publication by Random House in 1990
This book has been popular with graduates since its first publication by Random House in 1990

It is a motivational self-help manual masquerading as a children’s book. Inspiring, practical, entertaining and insightful, it is worth the read and is far cheaper than attending a seminar or training!

“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”
—Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

 

Emily McDowell’s Honest Design for Serious Illness

Designer Emily McDowell turned personal illness into beautifully empathetic design

“My work reflects our shared human experience, in all its different, messy forms, and I feel most satisfied when something I made helps somebody feel like someone else out there gets them.” —Emily Mc Dowell

Designer and Illustrator Emily McDowell has transformed personal illness into beautifully empathetic design by creating a line of cards for people with serious illnesses.

They are funny, quirky, touching, and above all refreshingly honest—eschewing the usual tropes and clichéd language found in other sympathy cards.

Serious cards for serious illnesses

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Ms. McDowell has created a line of cards that she would’ve liked to receive during her battle with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 24.