The Art of Skywriting, an Interview with Madlib, Fighting Cynicism, New Tunes and More

Arts & Culture

One man will decide if the art of skywriting lives or dies

For Skywriters, the sky is their canvass. The smoke is their ink. But like Snapchat, their messages disappear, only to be preserved in memory by photograph. There are only a handful of people that can draw characters in the sky. Can the art of skywriting go on?

“The only bad part is that I can’t take my canvas of art away with me. Eventually it fades away. It goes with the breeze.” – Skywriter Greg Stinis

Madlib Lecture | Red Bull Music Academy (New York 2016)

Madlib is not afraid to keep his music real and raw, noticeably imperfect. Perhaps that goes back to his funk collection and growing up with parents who were also musicians: “I can’t articulate music. I just do it.” Below is a snippet on his process (23:30):

“Watchu expect man? It’s natural, if you sit there and think about it too much your shit kinda whack, it doesn’t sound natural. Roots of this shit is you just do it and that’s that. If you sit there and polish that shit for a week, I don’t know about all that shit.”

PLUS: Herbie Hancock on Miles Davis and Mistakes

Philosophy & Productivity

On the Soul-Sustaining Necessity of Resisting Self-Comparison and Fighting Cynicism: A Commencement Address

Just because it’s easier and more practical to be a pessimist, doesn’t mean we should go that route. Lazy people can be cynics. “Don’t complain, make things,” LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy once said. Or as Brainpicking’s blogger Maria Popova points out in her commencement speech:

“Cynicism, like all destruction, is easy, it’s lazy. There is nothing more difficult yet more gratifying in our society than living with sincere, active, constructive hope for the human spirit. This is the most potent antidote to cynicism, and it is an act of courage and resistance today.”

PLUS: NYU psychologist/professor Gabriele Oettingen encourages you to rethink positive thinking.


Podcast: In Our Time: The Muses

The muse demands consistency. But you can’t blame the muse for avoiding the work or being tardy. At the end of the day, the muse is really you. Invoking the muse is invoking the artist. As Jerry Seinfeld says,”Don’t break the chain.” For others, like author Steven Pressfield, the muses are still those creative Greek gods that love to cheer you on.

This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete. – Steven Pressfield, War of Art

Social Media & Tech

The self-fulfilling prophesy

A Google search represents who we are. Sharing on Facebook may represent who want to be. The mind is elastic. The algorithms of both platforms can therefore start to shape our desires. An Oxford philosopher examines the online advertising’s impact on personal identity:

“We can be easily influenced, nudged, pushed and pulled. If this happens constantly, relentlessly, year after year, the relationship between our digital profiles and our selves becomes one of mutual interaction.”

New Music

Episode 88 | Tunes of the Week

Thought of the Week

“If you’re not making a mistake, you’re making a mistake.” – Miles Davis

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By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger who writes about Life & Arts. He's also the author of and four books.