Tag Archives: United States

Get Thee To The Getty

10 Nov

I recently had the pleasure of spending a few hours at The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The only thing wrong with my visit was that it wasn’t long enough. Besides the many great works of art there, The Getty’s architecture and the grounds are a thing to behold. Here are some shots I snapped via Hipstamatic, and a bonus panorama shot. More at Flickr.

Getty01 Getty02 Getty03 Getty04 Getty06 Getty05

What do you think? Have you ever been to The Getty? Do you notice architecture and landscaping for their artistic characteristics? What’s a place where that’s happened for you recently? Let us hear from you in the comments.

This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin: A Review

27 Oct
Note: The folks from Grammarly graciously offered to sponsor this post. I use Grammarly for proofreading online because it can free up more brain power for enjoying music.

Music is everywhere, especially when it has to do with our emotions. Music has the power to move us, physically and spiritually. It is familiarity and exploration simultaneously drawing from experience, atmosphere and energy… spatial points of reference blending in sound.

This is Your Brain on MusicI discovered this book while browsing Audible randomly for something interesting a few weeks back, and I’m glad I did. I found it to be entertaining, well-articulated and just technical enough to make solid points but not so much that I became lost in scientific mumbo jumbo. The author, Daniel J. Levitin states:

“This book is about the science of music from the perspective of cognitive neuroscience – the field that is at the intersection of psychology and neurology.”

Levitin is an experienced producer and studio engineer, who came by his musical appreciation honestly – his father offered to finance a set of headphones as long as the young author promised to use them whenever his dad was home. Sounds like good parenting to me.

Levitin later went on to become a bona-fide brain researcher and Ph.D., incorporating his musical background. This qualifies him to explore what’s happening with the brain in relation to music.

Consider how something as instinctive as “groove” works. Levitin notes: “when we talk about a ‘great groove’ in music… we’re talking about the way in which beat divisions create a strong momentum. ‘Groove’ is that quality that moves the song forward. When the song has a good groove, it invites us into a sonic world we don’t want to leave.”

That’s a pretty darned good description of groove, right there.

Beats and melodies, grooves and lyrics, disconnected ideas forging a shared energy… what happens with music is happening in our brains. So many areas of our consciousness activate together in a musical experience – like performance and interpretation happening at once. I’ve long believed music is the most powerful art form.

The book explores some of the author’s own, and other recent studies conducted on music, musical meaning, and musical pleasure, along with what’s happening in the brain in relation to music, from many perspectives – biological, physical, anthropological, and others.

“Music listening, performance and composition engage nearly every area of the brain that we have identified, and involve nearly every neural subsystem.”

This makes a ton of sense to me, since so many, many hours of my youth were spent listening intently to music closely, over and over, concentrating on untangling its secrets into something I could tap into and impart to others through a shared experience. It’s a beautiful thing, and this book illustrates some of the biological mechanisms that enable such magic. As a self-taught musician, I found it fascinating to consider all this from a physiological and evolutionary point of view.

Above: interview w/ Daniel Levitin on The Agenda with Steve Paikin

Levitin notes that “music is unusual among all human activities, for both its ubiquity and its antiquity.” I agree that there’s something primal about music, something as elemental as the air we breathe, as visceral as any vibration. Like the rhythms of a wind rustling leaves, hoofbeats on a plain, or a brook cascading among the echoes of a forest. It makes sense of the world through organization of energy, with the power to send us elsewhere and take us back home in our minds, something that has been happening since humans first started drumming on logs around a fire, continuing to this day in new and exciting forms.

“As our brains have evolved, so has the music we make with them, and the music we want to hear.”

Just think of a song you know, one that makes you tap your foot to the beat or sing along – maybe just the first melody that pops into your mind, maybe something you heard on the radio on the way to work… in a commercial… in college… last weekend at a friend’s house… years ago when you were just beginning to understand the world — what is that sound? It’s living in your brain right now and likely will be for a long time to come. This book can offer a new appreciation for that kind of art.

Update: author comments & recommendation!

What do you think? Have you ever considered how music affects the brain? What do you consider an example of a song that takes you to a certain place? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Artwork Feature at Xaxor.com

3 Jul

Many thanks to XAXOR.com for featuring my photomontage art today! The lead image is my experiment in understanding the work of  Jerry Uelsmann, documented here at “Learning from the Masters.”

Xaxor.com features my artwork today

My art featured at Xaxor.com. Click to view. See more of my art at 500px.

I happened upon XAXOR.com by way of Pinterest, and enjoy the mountain of interesting visuals there – all neatly arranged in categories. The site describes itself as, “a gallery of the most awesome pictures online. Our frequently updated database contains over 40,000 articles and 1 million photos.” Definitely worth a look if you’re into that kind of thing.

Making Things Happen: Now Featured by WeAreJUXT

1 Mar
Making Things Happen by rsmithing
Making Things Happen, a photo by rsmithing on Flickr.

Two things I’ve been doing lately: travelling and listening to Beats Antique (often simultaneously). The music is, for me, a perfect mood-setter: stimulating, forward moving, and compelling without lyrics. I saw the band twice in 2012, and captured this image of Zoe Jakes at a gig in Asheville, NC. This snapshot makes the perfect foreground for this vista from above the clouds off Florida’s Gulf Coast, brought together via iPhone with the masks & textures of Photoforge2.

Update 3/3: Now Featured by WeAreJUXT

JUXT LogoBig thanks to the folks at WeAreJUXT for including this image in their weekly showcase! This is the second image of mine featured there (here’s the first) and I’m totally flattered, since they constantly and consistently highlight such great creations with insights from their creators (and I’m not just saying that because I’m there). You should definitely check out the whole JUXT site. Here’s what I say about this image over there:

My favorite art is the kind that gets the viewer to consider things in new ways. I believe that’s the most exciting thing about sharing creativity: the opportunity for a mind-expanding experience. That can happen for me through words, music, or with visual art as in the works of my favorite artists, Salvador Dalí and Jerry Uelsmann. The story behind this image is that I was on a business trip last month and happened to be in the air at just the right time to capture a glorious sunrise from above the clouds. I knew I wanted to remember the moment, but didn’t know what form that would take. This week, the vision hit me: a dancer amid the clouds with selective lighting and textures was what I wanted to make happen. I instantly thought of this silhouette image I shot last year at a show by one of my favorite bands, Beats Antique, which happen to be on heavy rotation during my recent travels. The mysterious form in the foreground is the troupe’s Zoe Jakes as shown backlit from behind a screen with exotic costume accents. The spell-casting pose along with textures, layer modes and and masking in Photoforge2 makes the mind-expansion thing happen.

Crestfallen. Twice.

22 Feb

I like making connections. So I’m often on the lookout for them. It’s fun for me to align concepts for an expanded meaning beyond what they may singularly impart. The same is true with writing: symbolism, parallelism, etc. And as a corporate communications professional, connection-making often comes in handy, whether with words, concepts or people.

Crestfallen

Wired February 2013So it was interesting for me to see an uncommon term, “crestfallen” twice in a single issue of Wired this month. The word appeared in David MacNeal’s story on mobile boombox dance parties, as well as Carl Zimmer’s story on sleuthing out deadly mutant bacteria. Both are positive stories overall, but each includes a mention of someone being crestfallen. I think that’s interesting, and am happy to report not being crestfallen at this discovery.

What do you think? Ever notice an uncommon phrase in rapid succession from multiple sources? Do you believe in synchronicity? What are your thoughts on making connections? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Solarized Tree – Rainy Day Inspiration and Flickr Feature

13 Jan

Solarized Tree, by rsmithing

One good thing about rainy afternoons is how the ordinary can take on more beauty. Here’s a snapshot of a tree I noticed in the post-rain haze of my neighborhood. It takes on new depth thanks to the Dynamic Light app’s “solarize” function and some finishing touches with the TtV Photo Studio app.

Flickr Explore PageUpdate: We Made Flickr’s Explore Page!

About 24 hours after this post, I visit the source image at Flickr to respond to any comments, and whaddya know: it’s featured on Flickr’s Explore: Recent Photos gallery!

Flickr’s “Explore” galleries are curated collections of 500 select photos each day. Considering the site gets photos uploaded by the thousands every minute, that’s very flattering. Other categories include “The Commons,” and “Galleries” – and all are fun ways to discover interesting new art and artists.

What an honor – thanks, Flickr!

What do you think? Have you ever been inspired to turn the ordinary into art by way of a rainy day? What are your “go-to” apps for photo editing? Let us hear from you in the comments.

December 21, 2012: Your Last Chance To Dance

21 Dec

Apocalypse, Mayans, and… Star Trek?

Here’s a rare NSFW post from me (you’ve been warned), but I find this too entertaining in a ridiculous, party-rocking sort of way not to share: a friend’s metal band made this video about today’s hype-fueling date. It’s crude, juvenile and bizarre – they’d probably take this as a complement – but oddly catchy in the style of Alice Cooper or a less self-righteous Marilyn Manson. I thought I’d do some PR for them today (hope I don’t regret this). Again: you’ve been warned…

[youtube:http://youtu.be/Q1-lUds1IMg?t=13s%5D

 

Trade Street and Tree

16 Dec
Trade Street And Tree

Trade St. & Tree | See full size at 500px | Originals at Flickr

I’ve been meaning to document this doorway for a while. I ride by it at least a few dozen times every month. So it only felt right to work it into a montage. I snapped an image of it using Hipstamatic one day while waiting at a traffic light. Later, I realized it would be more interesting with the door part obscured and replaced with an image of a tree. I snapped the tree photo in the moment, especially for this image. But it still needed at least one more element, so I browsed through my repository of unfettered originals from here and there, and found the perfect complement in this outdoor light from a bar, Single Brothers, a few blocks up from where the door exists.

Trade Street and Tree

Originals at Flickr

So, I mix all this together in Photoforge2 with masks, a border, varying levels of curves/levels/clarification adjustments, and here we are: an image to accurately represent my creative vision that also represents a part of my city. There’s even more of Winston-Salem, on Instagram, courtesy the good folks at Airtype and their Winstagram project.

What do you think? Ever seen any interesting doorways in your city? What would you create in a photomontage? Let us hear from you in the comments.

American Apparel’s “Bored During the Storm?” Campaign: PR Stunt or Well-Intentioned Goof?

1 Nov
Really, American Apparel?

American Apparel Advertisement

It would seem obvious these days that capitalizing on catastrophe via social media is in poor taste. So why would an otherwise savvy brand like American Apparel appear to be doing exactly that?

Given the very poorly received efforts of Kenneth Cole during protests in Egypt, you would think other retailers would have a clue by now, right?

It’s one thing for a business somehow connected with a major upheaval to approach the line between altruism and marketing. And it’s certainly a fine line. Consider American Express’ Sandy-related communication efforts for its travel customers:

But it’s another thing entirely to risk the appearance of piggybacking on disaster for advertising’s sake. Sure, it gets some buzz, but is it worth all the backlash?

As reported by Huffington Post:

CEO Dov Charney did not express disappointment over American Apparel’s marketing team capitalizing on Hurricane Sandy. “I don’t think our marketing guys made a mistake. Part of what you want to do in these events is keep the wheels of commerce going,” he told Business Week. “People shopped on it. We generated tens of thousands of dollars from the sale, but we’ll probably lose a million dollars from this (storm) event at a minimum. We’re here to sell clothing. I’m sleeping well at night knowing this was not a serious matter.”

And here’s another take from American Apparel’s representatives, via Fashionista:

When reached for comment over email, an American Apparel spokesperson told us, “Of course we’d never mean to offend anyone and when we put the email out yesterday it came from a good place.”

So, is this really a big deal?

However in poor taste it may now seem in the wake of Sandy’s devastation, American Apparel’s approach was not in mean spirits, even though it’s easy to characterize it as such. The company has a history of corporate responsibility – along with a history of pushing the envelope through its marketing for PR purposes. And it serves them no purpose whatsoever to appear flippant or dismissive. Upon investigation, it’s clear they don’t wish anyone further misery from Hurricane Sandy, what with their acknowledging as much in the subsequent damage control. As reported by ABC News:

Ryan Holiday, spokesperson for American Apparel, responded to ABC News in an email:

“For us, this is about us working like crazy to get and keep our stores open. We’ve got employees who can’t work when stores are closed due to weather and the biggest Made in USA factory in the country that sits idle–we would never try to offend anyone or capitalize on a natural disaster, this was simply an effort to mitigate some of the effects of the storm on our business.”

Fair enough. So what next?

My advice for American Apparel right now:

  • Turn your affected stores into recharge-stations with power strips and free wi-fi for all so someone can tweet some good about you. Buy generators if necessary. It won’t cost much and ROI would be huge.
  • Give 20% off to ANYONE, nationwide, referencing the ad for the next week to capitalize on the viral nature of the campaign, requiring a tweet or Facebook post with hashtag #aacares or similar. Cost to you: minimal.
  • Donate 20% of profits for the next week to northeast U.S. chapters of the Red Cross. Yes, this will cost some cash, but there’s no arguing with a monetary statement.
  • Just  be proactive somehow to make this right. Or risk being one of the “don’ts” of social media. Better to be one of the “OK, we get it” stories instead.
What do you think? Is this a PR blunder or a marketing gimmick? Are you more or less inclined to shop American Apparel now? Do these suggestions make sense, or is there something you would recommend? Let us hear from you in the comments.
Image

Cicada Eyes – Single Image Sundays

2 Sep

20120902-234507.jpg

These guys are making a furious noise in the trees here in North Carolina. Every 13 years or so, depending on the species they come around, and I was lucky enough to get some shots of one over the weekend. I believe it may be part of Brood I, but I’m not totally sure. I took this with my iPhone, using Hipstamatic and a macro attachment lens.

What do you think? Have you experienced any of these critters around your neck of the woods? Let us hear from you in the comments!
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