Tag Archives: Arts

Last Book Read: Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead

14 Sep

The last book I read is Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead by Neil Strauss. It’s a collection of interviews that Strauss feels are particularly revealing about some high-profile personalities. Strauss is a well-known author and longtime interviewer for magazines such as Rolling Stone, and was formerly on staff at The New York Times.

What I like about this book, besides the content, design, and the insight into the mental workings of some charismatic and sometimes famously reclusive celebrities, is the fact that it is a collection of powerful yet digestible works. I have never had the patience for the long-form novel, especially nonfiction.

Not Into Books? This book is for you.

This may sound odd, coming from someone writes professionally and also has a degree in English. But maybe it’s because I had so many dull reading assignments foisted onto me through my academic career that my favorite form of literature is a well-crafted article, interview or story. Flannery O’Connor is, by far, my favorite short story author of all time.

I can count on two hands the number of long-form books to truly engage me, ever. You may think this is a sad confession, but I can in no way count the number of interesting articles, magazines or other short-form compositions I consume continuously every day, every night, on the weekends, and probably in between.

“In The Interest of Literature”
Created by iPhone using Hipstamatic & Photoforge2
If you like this, check out my iPhoneography at Pinterest.

I’ve always been a news junkie, and my work in PR is fueled by that fire. Many other PR professionals are also avid newshounds. So it isn’t that I’m  uninformed or ill-cultured (but that’s debatable), rather it’s just that I enjoy reading especially good writing in concentrated bursts. If you also fall into this category of reader, definitely check out Strauss’ engaging collection of interviews. Here’s a review I wrote about the book on Amazon.com:

Compelling Sketches, Interview Style

I’d love to see this book’s unedited manuscript, or especially Strauss’s notes, because that would mean being a modicum closer to the personalities in these pages — something you’ll want to do with at least several since the interviews are like rhythmic character sketches, with journalistic precision. Definitely my favorite of 2011.

rsmithing at Amazon.com

What do you think? What’s the last book you read and really enjoyed? Are you familiar with Neil Strauss? Are you more of a magazine person than a book person? Or is the opposite true for you – why do you think that is? Let us hear from you in the comments!

Foursquare: Do or Die Time?

17 Aug

Here’s something interesting: I often look to the media for blog post ideas, but this time it seems to have happened in reverse. Case in point: a few weeks back I heard a broadcast from Marketplace Radio speaking to Foursquare’s CEO. Amazingly, just a few weeks prior I asked this very question on LinkedIn: “Has Foursquare’s time passed?” There were several good answers and a general consensus that it’s too early to tell.

Not long after I posted my question, Foursquare released a major update to its mobile app and got its PR machine cranking. What’s interesting here is that both Marketplace and I shared the same thought: Foursquare was introduced in 2009, gained massive popularity, and has been gradually cooling off ever since. Is that a sign of its having peaked already or just the fleeting attention span of the digerati?

Life After Death of the Check-In

“Life After Death of the Check In” -Jon Mitchell via ReadWriteWeb

Earlier this year, months before any of this, Jon Mitchell of ReadWriteWeb did this excellent and provocative article on the death of the check in. He rightly notes that it can be overkill:

…it’s a mundane performance of “I’m at the grocery store!” which is annoying noise to one’s friends and followers.

I started using it in early 2011, out of curiosity and to have something to do – like taking photos – while waiting in line at places or making art out of routine trips to places like, well… the grocery store. Hey, at least I try to make my activity interesting – but I sure as heck do NOT post every single update to Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Grocery Store Art

I took all these photos of my local grocery store with my phone for Foursquare check-ins.
I always try to include a photo with each one. Hey, it keeps me entertained.

Businesses Could be Using Foursquare Better

Here’s the secret ingredient: Photos. Include fun photos of your storefront, employees (smiling, preferably), specials, or a behind-the-scenes view of what’s going on. These kind of unique details draw people in, and it can certainly be endearing to customers. I’d love to see an “ask us about this photo” post at some place I check in, then feel like an insider when I take them up on the offer. I’d be getting to know the business better, and maybe even getting a special deal.

I’m glad to see Foursquare innovating and I look forward to what’s next. The real test will be adoption. It won’t be genuinely interesting  until more businesses and users get in on it and get creative. I just hope the next major developments don’t take as long – and with any luck they won’t. I’m sure Foursquare itself has also surely noticed its buzz decline, like Marketplace and your humble author.

What do you think? Are you on Foursquare? Have you been on it and lost interest? Have you ever gotten a deal somewhere because through the app? Let us hear from you in the comments!

From Music and Words into Movement – The Fun of Art

5 Jul

Here’s an excerpt of a deftly written story by Mike Sager from the May 2012 Esquire. I wasn’t that interested at first, but after giving it a chance while streaming some music, I was knocked over by one of those transcendent moments that come about through experiencing real art. Or something like that.

“Ugly” by Mike Sager. This paragraph with the right music playing at the time was like watching a live-action portrayal of The Grapes of Wrath. So I noted the image with the Labelbox app for future use in this post. Click for full article at Esquire.com.

The above paragraph is best experienced with music: Orsten – Adagio Sostenuto

 

I hear the broken piano and shuffling yet determined electric beat, and reading the story of this vagabond, seeking out other vagabonds, having the scene painted along the lines of something modern-day that would make sense to Tom Joad, it hits me at once.

And that’s why I read. That’s why I love music. That’s why I’ve made myself adept with an iPhone enough to capture the moment,then blog about it (typed most of this post in a note with my thumbs).

There’s beauty in being moved, expanding on the thought and then channeling that into something new altogether, even if it is just a pastiche of other art. Those pieces become the colors of a new palette. What’s important is that the idea gets sketched, moving from the brain into the living world, to be seen. It’s a very satisfying feeling.

Next time you have the thought when something moves you, “I could do something with that!” — make it happen. Make it real.

Beats Antique: Tribal Fusion Electronica Awesomeness

29 Feb

I discovered Beats Antique through Pandora Internet radio, and after liking every song of theirs I heard, I checked the band out and discovered they are the real deal. The group blends electronica with traditional Mid-Eastern percussion and melodies (and live bellydancing). And they are my new favorite music.

Video: Copyright 2011, Tom Couture Photography

I’ve always been a huge fan of percussion. I’m not a drummer, but I play I mean set of air drums to most any song. And generally speaking, things like shakers, gamelans, hand drums, and especially the tambourine (think: power pop 16th notes) have always appealed to me greatly, though my main instrument is bass guitar. Percussive effects are one of my favorite elements of electronica, but it’s even more amazing live – there’s a primal energy that’s in our DNA from when our cave dwelling ancestors beat on logs around a fire and danced around. And yet another super-cool thing about Beats Antique is that they’re real musicians, not just an electronica act. Check out the group breaking it down acoustically:

Beats Antique Acoustic - Opens in New Window

Video: Copyright 2011, Relix 

Compare the above “unplugged” performance to the actual studio version to fully appreciate the awesomeness – they don’t miss a note or beat.

Bellydance Music and Beyond

What I especially dig about Beats Antique is their blending of traditional percussion with unique instrumentation, along with melodies evocative of caravans traversing the desert or incense wafting through spice market stalls. But it’s not exactly “world music.” Nor is it simply electronica, and it definitely isn’t rock. Whatever you call it, Beats Antique definitely grooves, and makes for some excellent bellydancing accompaniment, as evidenced by the group’s dancer, Zoe Jakes.

Beats Antique Live at the Fillmore, Denver

Beats Antique Live & Selected Tracks:
rsmithing’s YouTube Playlist – Click To View

Beats Antique is on tour right now, and I’m happy to have scored my ticket to see them at the Cat’s Cradle in NC in a couple of months. In the meantime, I’ll be blaring their beats and melodies through my headphones and in the car at every opportunity.

UPDATE: Instagram Brings Fans to Gigs!

May 4, 2012 – Just wanted to point out how social networking and visual art-by-way-of-blogging (and the Facebook) can promote the art-music experience of Beats Antique. Show tonight. Blog review to come…

Beats Antique Facebook Instagram

Click to view Instagram post referenced here.

David Satori

And I met David Satori before the gig. Cool dude.

 
What do you think? Can you name other examples of traditional sounds blended with modern beats? What new music have you discovered lately? Or what are you listening to at this exact moment? What’s the last song played on your iPod/Zune/8-track? Let us hear from you in the comments!

Spontaneous Photography Thoughts

27 Dec

Saw a photo, got inspired, wrote something:

We can hold the sky,
Touch the sun… for a moment
In photography.

Tomo’s Sunset Sky – via @Chocolatepics324

Peeped this on Instagram and immediately had to make a note… er, haiku. Check out the rest of Chocolatepics324’s stream here.

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