Category Archives: Inspiration

Let’s Say Goodbye to NYC’s Other Music

A cultural institution and champion of independent music has closed. For 20 years, New York City’s Other Music has served as an invaluable resource for obscure, alternative, and forgotten music.

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As a music collector, DJ, and former indie record store manager, I remember when every major city had an Other Music—small, indie stores that doubled as communal spaces serving poseurs, affectionados, students, and fanatics alike. Nowadays, places like Other Music are a rare exception—a reminder of an era long past and another lost opportunity for us as human beings to connect on an interpersonal level.

I still remember ordering by mail or friends making trips to New York to secure the latest electronic and club music imports from Other Music. These strange and obscure pieces opened our minds, formed the foundation of our DJ sets, and helped us spread the electronic gospel to the uninitiated and unconverted.

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NYC’s Other Music was a refuge and repository for independent music for 20 years.

The New York Times’ Manjula Varghese’s touching video tribute to Other Music reminds us that places for self expression and artistic pursuit still matter.

Other Music is dead, long live Other Music.

Coda: Check out Other Music’s Top 10 Spins Video:

These are 10 essential albums that define the Other Music sound.
These are 10 essential albums that define the Other Music sound.

Observing Bill Cunningham’s New York City

Bill Cunningham chronicled New York Fashion and urban street style for more than 40 years.
Bill Cunningham chronicled New York Fashion and urban street style for more than 40 years.

Legendary New York fashion photographer Bill Cunningham died last week, he was 87.

His more than forty years of photographing New York fashion and street style is a singularly astounding body of work and a fascinating catalog of cultural anthropology.

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My first encounter with Bill Cunningham’s work was attending the premiere of the documentary “Bill Cunningham’s New York”  at the AFI Silverdocs Festival in 2010.

Bill Cunningham's New York (2010) is a moving and fascinating documentary of the aforementioned street fashion photographer.
Bill Cunningham’s New York (2010) is a moving and fascinating documentary of the aforementioned street fashion photographer.

Although I remember frequently seeing his photographs in the
New York Times, I never knew anything about the dedicated artist behind the camera.

BCunningham_OntheStreet_Video

Leaving the theatre I was awestruck by the passion, focus and dedication Mr. Cunningham had for his craft. In this age of social media there are many, many street fashion photographers; but Bill Cunningham was a true original.

 

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!

Life Lessons from Nobel Physicist Dr. Yoichiro Nambu

I love reading newspaper obituaries.

Not only does it remind one of how brief life is, it can be a powerful motivational tool for learning life lessons. Here’s one from Nobel Prize winning Physicist, Dr. Yoichiro Nambu:

“‘When he won the Nobel Prize, Dr. Nambu was asked what advice he would offer students interested in science.

Yoichiro Nambu

‘Think independently and think all the time,’ he said.
‘I like to tackle a problem first by myself, and then look up somebody’s answer, if there is one.’”

For a man of science, Dr. Nambu sure sounds a lot like an artist.

Complex’s Mindbending FKA Twigs Online Cover Story

Avant Garde photography and clever online animation turns feature article into a user experience art piece.
Avant Garde photography and clever online animation turns feature article into a user experience art piece.

Kudos to the staff of Complex Magazine for its approach to the feature article on Pop and R&B Art Futurist FKA Twigs.

Part artist profile, part interactive art exhibit, and part user experience multimedia experiment; it boldly shows a glimpse into the possible future of entertainment content delivery.

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

Cooper Hewitt Exhibit Explores “How Posters Work”

From my childhood I fondly remember staring at Richard Amsel’s Raiders of the Lost Ark poster outside of the theatre box office: it’s clean lines, graphic symmetry, and beautifully rendered images and bold colors inspired me.

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Richard Amsel’s iconic poster for Raiders of the Lost Ark.

As a designer, I have always loved to create and study posters. They have always struck the balance between information and creativity; often revealing an artist’s distinctive style and singular point-of-view as much as the product or service it’s promoting.

Cooper Hewitt’s How Posters Work Exhibition explores the theory and technique of the poster and is on view from May 8, 2015 to November 15, 2015. I have included samples below, but a detailed look at the curated pieces for the exhibition are online and print in a companion book edited by Ellen Lupton, Cooper Hewitt’s Curator of Contemporary Design.

POSTER, JUNIOR WELLS, 1966 Offset lithograph on white wove paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie J. Schreyer. 1979-34-37, Victor Moscoso (Designer). Source: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18498021/
POSTER, JUNIOR WELLS, 1966
Offset lithograph on white wove paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie J. Schreyer. 1979-34-37, Victor Moscoso (Designer). Source: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18498021/
This object was made for (as the client) Addo-x and designed by Ladislav Sutnar, Source: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18647331/
POSTER, ADDO-X, 1958 Offset lithograph on white wove paper. Gift of Anonymous Donor. 1994-109-7. This object was made for (as the client) Addo-x and designed by Ladislav Sutnar in 1958, Source: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18647331/

 

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

Take Cartoonist Lynda Barry’s Drawing Challenge

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Artist, educator, novelist, and playwright Lynda Barry encourages us to draw like children with the Monster Drawing Challenge

Every day I pick up my four-year old daughter from day care and every day each student produces at least two new art projects! I admire and aspire to their level of output (and to have mandatory naps and play time), but what impresses me most is the freedom and joy in their work. Kids aren’t overly concerned about proficiency and perfection, they just want to express themselves and get their ideas out. The results are always creative, interesting, and original—isn’t that what EVERY artist wants?

Enter artist and educator Lynda Barry, whose comics I have been reading for about thirty years, who has a great drawing exercise to access one’s creative inner child (Source: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/schedule-for-friday-may-8-2015-1.3065520/cartoonist-lynda-barry-dares-you-to-draw-like-a-kid-1.3065525):

Level one! Monster to-do list:
1. Take an 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper. It’s better if it’s a piece of paper you were planning to throw away.
2. Fold it into four quarters, so it’s divided into four chambers.
3. Take a pencil or a pen. On one chamber, make a squiggle.
4. On another chamber, make a closed shape, like a square or a rhombus.
5. On the third quarter, make another squiggle.
6. Set a timer for two minutes, that’s how much time you have to turn that first squiggle into a monster. You know, eyeballs, teeth, claws, etc. Repeat for all four chambers.
7. Make a list of 10 things you have to do that you’re not doing. (I have to do my laundry, go to the dentist, etc.)
8. Look at that list, and figure out which monster has to do what.
9. Write those tasks above those monsters. It’s an instant comic and the results are often hilarious.

Level two! Monster parenting
1. Fold another sheet of paper into quarters.
2. Take any one of those monsters, and now draw that monster’s parents.
3. Think about the task that monster has to do — like go to the dentist. Make one parent loves the monster “Honey those teeth aren’t important, what’s matter is you’re happy.” Make another parent hate you “Of course you’re not going to the dentist.”
4. Just have them start talking about the problem. It’s instant! And the most important thing is it makes you start laughing.

Bonus: the Counterfactual Drawing Board Project: