Tag Archives: culture

On the rise and roots of our current minimalism

Minimalism is a foreign concept to some Westerners, especially as it is practiced in parts of Japan. Indeed, this line:

Fumio Sasaki’s one-room Tokyo apartment is so stark friends liken it to an interrogation room. He owns three shirts, four pairs of trousers, four pairs of socks and a meagre scattering of various other items.

You see “interrogation room” and “meagre”, which gives you some insight into how this writer sees it. The article which this comes from (and which is linked to below) does get more insightful and you gain a better insight into Japanese minimalism, from its cultural roots to its practicality (such as the real problem of how earthquakes make home objects dangerous).

Minimalism seems to be growing as a cultural concept throughout the world, and it’s good to know more about it, how the Japanese see it, and to think about how it should differ in Western cultures. To do that, see:

Three shirts, four pairs of trousers: meet Japan’s ‘hardcore’ minimalists in The Guardian

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Want to know why it is so expensive to get tickets to special events?

Then you want to read these two really good pieces on why it is brutally tough to get tickets to an event without paying a fortune:

What it comes down to is a very limited supply and a very high demand. But that’s obvious. Read the pieces to see just how it really plays out.

A good article: Why I Am Not a Maker. With one comment by me.

If you hang around with or are involved in some way with IT people, you will come across individuals extolling the virtues of being a “Maker”. Making things (typically software or IT systems) is seen as a virtue, in some case one of the highest virtues, and the implication is that makers are virtuous people.

A well written critique of that is here: Why I Am Not a Maker – The Atlantic. If you consider yourself  a maker or aspire to be considered one, you should read it. A key point is this:

When tech culture only celebrates creation, it risks ignoring those who teach, criticize, and take care of others.

This is true: tech culture sometimes places little or no value on other activities, such as the ones that the article mentions.

My main criticism of the article is that it has a blind spot for the middle ground. I know plenty of creative people whom I consider makers that also take care of others, teach, manage, administer…you name it. Often time the things they make are superior to those of people who devote themselves to being makers.

Being a maker is a virtuous thing, for the most part. But so is teaching, providing care, managing, cleaning, coaching and many other positive activities. Find the thing you are good at and contribute positively in your own way.  If you can make some things along the way, all the better.

On declining ebook sales (two thoughts and some good material to consider)

If you are interested in books and ebooks in particular, you should read this: On the declining ebook reading experience. Two beliefs I have on this topic:

  1. Book sellers have become more competitive. In Canada, Indigo’s prices seem to be much lower and they sell books using low prices stamped prominently on the cover.
  2. He doesn’t say it, but the author hints that Apple should step in and make their own Kindle. I certainly would like to see Apple step up and make their own Kindle. The device and the user experience would be great, I am certain. It would blow the Kindle out of the water and likely make me switch over to becoming a bigger ebook reader.

 

What do Renaissance artists and animators have in common?

Cartoons! Well, there’s more to it than that, as this fascinating post shows: The secret to great Renaissance art: tracing (Vox).

I knew Renaissance artists did sketches: I didn’t know that they used them as stencils. In hindsight, it makes sense: to make such great paintings, it is best to work them out in detail first and then focus on paint.

The Greatness of Günter Grass

Grass died today. To read most of the pieces on him, you’d have a hard time imagining he was a great writer. So read this instead: The Greatness of Günter Grass in The New Yorker. It’s by another great writer, Salman Rushdie. It makes you appreciate the greatness of Grass.

Some thoughts on Miley Cyrus, Show Business and performers of her age

Having a daughter a bit younger than Miley Cyrus, I have followed her career and that of many of her peers whether I wanted to or not. I even chaperoned my daughter to a Jonas Brothers/Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana concert! So I have always been interested in what happened to them, if only because they have been part of her life and part of my life indirectly. Most of them shone on as stars for awhile and then faded (e.g,. Hillary Duff, some of High School musical gang). Some of them have crashed and burned (e.g., Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes). And some of them seem to be in the process of transitioning from kid stars to adult actors and performers (e.g. Miranda Cosgrove, Vanessa Hudgens). And some have been all over the map (e.g., Brittany Spears, who crashed and burned but now seems to be on the uptake, career wise).

Ideally all of them, because of talent, would mature and become successful adult performers (e.g., Jodie Foster, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Justin Timberlake). But that transition is difficult. First, because alot of them are in the Disney/Nickelodeon machine, and while they are in it, they are well managed and groomed, but once they are out of it, they are on their own. Unlike some of the other performers, Cyrus has an independent support network, and that seems to have kicked into high gear with the timing of the VHS performance, her video release, and the Rolling Stone cover coming one after another.

For those upset at how over the top it all seems to be, recall that she had a previous attempt at transitioning to performing as an adult and it was mocked and dismissed. She and the people she works with likely thought they would have to do something stronger to succeed. Hence the recent performances and appearances.

She does seem to be succeeding too, if you measure success by gaining and holding attention. That has always been the measure of success for American entertainers, and by those standards, she is succeeding. It would be best if she could gain that attention by the quality of her work, not by subverting her previously manufactured image of the stereotyped good little girl with the new stereotype bad girl, but I have seen her work, and it was never that good. For example, her show, much like the Jonas Brothers that came before her and many others like that, consisted of lots of costumes, dancing with other dancers, and generally doing a lip synced/over dubbed musical show while a bunch of middle aged dudes all dressed in black pants and T shirts played all the music in the background. (I imagine the star did play and sing, but the session type musicians in the background did all the heavy lifting, musically speaking, while Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers entertained the crowd.) That doesn’t mean she can’t sing and dance: she can dance, and at the end of the show, she performed a solo number, as if to show the audience that yes, I am real.

Did you know that Miranda Cosgrove recently did a series of rock n roll type concerts? No, you wouldn’t, because Cosgrove’s were pretty standard and very tame in comparison to Cyrus. She is comparable with Cyrus musically, and she has a ton of fans, who filled her shows. But unless there is a hidden talent she is holding back until a later time, she is never going to get on the cover of Rolling Stone or have people talking because of her music, fan base or not. To get that attention, you need to be either really good or really outrageous, or both.

Justin Bieber seems to get this. Or at least his handlers do. He should be fading now, but he manages to stay in the news with his behavoir these days. It too is a bad boy behavoir, though because of our patriarchial society, his bad boy behavoir comes across in a different way. It’s not bad boy behavoir compared to Keith Moon or Ozzie Osborne, but Bieber doesn’t have to be that bad to get attention. The same with Cyrus: she’s not Courtney Love nor Janis Joplin, but she doesn’t have to be.

A Show Business career, like alot of lucrative careers in the U.S., is a brutal business. Cyrus seems to know this and seems determined to succeed in it by whatever it takes to succeed. Mick Jagger once said that Madonna was a thimbleful of talent in an ocean of ambition. Like many quips, this is unfair and insightful. What is true is that Madonna would do what it took to stay on top, and has managed to do it for a crazy long time. That is her true talent. It looks like Cyrus has the same ambition, and she may decide to follow the same path to achieve a similar level of success.

The latest Rolling Stone has her interview here: Miley Cyrus on the Cover of Rolling Stone | Music News | Rolling Stone. I breezed over it, but she came across as pretty savvy here, which is not surprising, after I thought about it. She’s been in the business for along time, and she’s been a star for along time. Right now she is outraging people with her calculated behavoir, and the interview shows her dealing with some of the fallout for that. She is a professional, and that comes across in it. In a year from now, if a different set of actions will keep her in the news, I imagine she will tack in that direction.

It is possible she will crash and burn at some point. (The same could be said for Bieber.) I suspect she will not, and she will transform herself many more times over the course of the next few decades. Like Madonna, I suspect we will be listening to Cyrus for years to come, whether you like it or not. And like Madonna, that will be her true talent.