Archive for the 'creative' Category

The Value of Arts

For video, see below.  This approx. 60 minute speech (with music at the end) is an investment in time but well worth it and works as a supplement to our last book, Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America.

Wynton Marsalis ties together our Constitution’s founding fathers with bebop’s pioneers, Emerson & Thoreau with Thelonious Monk & Louis Armstrong, 1850’s minstrel music with 1992 rap.  He teases out the emergence of “rock and roll” and the debt it owes to its predecessors while demonstrating how much of what we know today is part of a cultural legacy we forget too easily or don’t bother to understand.

Nobody remembered that the American arts were integrated before baseball, but by the time the dust of the rock revolution had cleared, some kind of way, rock ended up being white, and the definitive “national music” and the blacks ended up with the minstrel show again. But this new minstrelsy was complex too – as suburban whites imitate the inner city blacks who embrace the bourgeois disaffection expressed in heavy metal nihilism fueled by the white misconception that black people are freer with their emotions and sexuality.

When I met Benny Goodman, there was absolutely no feeling of any mutual experience between the two of us. I knew his name and had heard a few of his recordings, but I didn’t know who he was. With all my education I was the perfect product of a disrespectful American youth culture…I didn’t understand what it took for Winslow Homer to paint black people with dignity in the 19th Century. I had never heard of him. And I definitely didn’t understand why any of this could be important to me.

The best of the American arts and the way they’ve been sung and swung provided human meaning to the questions posed by the Founding Fathers more than 150 years earlier…It told you we have a history, a depth, a tradition that requires skill and study but demands you apply those skills to search the frontiers of your soul. It told you that innovation and creativity hold hands with the tried and true.

The primary justification for the value of education is not some competition with other countries for technological jobs, or to win the so-called science race, or to beat anyone. Our arts demand and deserve that we recognize the life we have lived together.

From WE Dubois, “Education must not simply teach work, it must teach life.”

Are we frightened of being wrong?

Sir Ken Robinson gave a speech at the 2002 TED Conference on education, creativity, and society. Robinsons suggests that society needs to give the same “status” for Creativity & Education… we tend to reward progress of education but not creativity in our education system. He also talks about how children are not afraid to be wrong… they will just say what they think, but by the time we reach adulthood we have become afraid to be wrong because of the stigmatism of making mistakes. If we are not prepared to be wrong we will never come up with something original. We are educating people out of our creative capacities. Below is the link to his awesome presentation. I highly recommend that every parent watch this video.

Getting Paid is the Name of the Game

Check out this “Not the Daily Show with Some Writer” for a perspective on the writer’s strike:

Abject Expressionism


Morgan Spurlock included paintings by Ron English in his 2004 documentary “Super Size Me”.  In December, English is publishing a coffee table retrospective of his work and the image, “MC Milkshake”, above is on the cover.  You can see more of his work at  Is it art?  Is English the new Warhol?  Either way I like it.

From Wikipedia:

 One aspect of his work involves ‘liberating’ commercial billboards with his own messages. Frequent targets of his work include Joe Camel, McDonalds, and Mickey Mouse. Ron English can be considered the “celebrated prankster father of agit-pop”, who wrangles carefully created corporate iconographies so that they are turned upside down, and are used against the very corporation they are meant to represent.


When Kissing Won’t Do… Universal Spanks The Baby!

Thank god for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)!  A loving mother recently posted a 30-second video of her toddler dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”… to make a long story short… Universal threw a “temper tantrum” and sent YouTube a standard-issue Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice.  So YouTube took down the content.  Now to the good part… EFF has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family to restore the video and asking for damages plus the kicker of injunctive relief restraining Universal from bring further copyright claims against the family!

Now what to do with these rabid copyright holders?  “Universal’s takedown notice doesn’t even pass the laugh test,” said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. “Copyright holders should be held accountable when they undermine non-infringing, fair uses like this video.”

Read the full article on  And make sure to see the video of the dancing baby for yourself.

Democracy or Mob Rule? Buy the t-shirt!

Mob RuleI

[The Mob by Mr Shev]

I recently read a NYT Magazine article about, the latest manifestation of Web 2.0.  Basically, you contribute a t-shirt design and users vote on which designs they like best.  Each month the winner gets $2,000 and the design gets printed on 1,500 t-shirts and sold on the site. 

Not surprisingly, there are trends and certain designers win consistently, such as Glenn Jones from New Zealand who has won 16 times.  I got a kick out of his designs for kids’ shirts such as Defending the Kingdom and Homework Evidence.  But, what does it mean that small number of designers win most often?  That good design is hard and only a few are good at it?  Or is there a herd mentality? 

What about Wikipedia and YouTube?  Is Web 2.0 delivering on the democratic promise of the Internet? 

Which leads me to two recommendations for Fight Club topics: The Average American and The Cult of the Amateur.  Apparently, the average American lives within 20 minutes of a Wal-Mart, believes in God, can name the three stooges but not the three branches of government.  Do we really want input from a broader cross section of America? Take the Average American Quiz and find out where you are on the continuum. 

“Consider the notion that the most typical American is an adult in a traditional nuclear family – a married man or woman living with an opposite-sex spouse and offspring under eighteen years old. Census 2000 showed that the nuclear family now represents fewer than a quarter of all U.S. homes. Families consisting of a working dad, stay-at-home mom, and offspring make up only 7 percent of U.S. homes.” 

In The Cult of the Amateur: How today’s Internet is killing our culture Andrew Keen argues that “what the Web 2.0 revolution is really delivering is superficial observations of the world around us rather than deep analysis, shrill opinion rather than considered judgment.” In his view Web 2.0 is changing the cultural landscape and not for the better. By undermining mainstream media and intellectual property rights, he says, it is creating a world in which we will “live to see the bulk of our music coming from amateur garage bands, our movies and television from glorified YouTubes, and our news made up of hyperactive celebrity gossip, served up as mere dressing for advertising.” This is what happens, he suggests, “when ignorance meets egoism meets bad taste meets mob rule.” 

But our friend Lawrence Lessig points out in his blog that “Keen is our generation’s greatest self-parodist. His book is not a criticism of the Internet. Like the article in Nature comparing Wikipedia and Britannica, the real argument of Keen’s book is that traditional media and publishing is just as bad as the worst of the Internet. Here’s a book — Keen’s — that has passed through all the rigor of modern American publishing, yet which is perhaps as reliable as your average blog post: No doubt interesting, sometimes well written, lots of times ridiculously over the top — but also riddled with errors. Keen’s obvious point is to show those with a blind faith in the traditional system that it can be just as bad as the worst of the Internet. Indeed, one might say even worse, since the Internet doesn’t primp itself with the pretense that its words are promised to be true.” 

What about Broken Spines?  Are we really contributing anything?  Or are we just amusing ourselves? 

Here’s a link to the NYT Magazine article:The Way We Were: Consumed; Mass Appeal (requires NYT subscription) July 8, 2007, SundayBy BOB WALKER (NYT); Magazine ABSTRACT – From Wikipedia to ”American Idol,” shifting control from experts to the masses has never been more popular. As an example of what this can mean for consumer companies, the herd of anti-expertise experts often points to, which has sold millions of dollars of T-shirts by not hiring star …  

Exerpt from Average American:John Q Public. Plain Jane. The Average Joe. We think we know the type, but have we ever actually met the person? To be the perfectly average American is harder than it might seem: You must live within three miles of a McDonald’s, and two miles of a public park; you must be better off financially than your parents, but earn no more than $75,000 a year; you must believe in God and the literal truth of the Bible, yet hold some views that traditional churches have deemed sacrilegious.  

Free Culture follow-up

As part of our discussion during the last bout on Free Culture, we touched on the current issue of saving Internet radio. On my drive home today, I listened to a fantastic podcast regarding this- This Week in Media (TWiM), Episode 52. The five-man panel made up of industry insiders, including a big wig at Pandora, does a great job of explaining the history and reasoning on all sides of the issue.

If you have any interest in this subject, want clarification, or enjoy insightful discussion in the form of a podcast, I highly recommend this one!


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