Cracked : by Kristen Meyer

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I cannot stop staring at this saltine art piece by Kristen Meyer, "a multimedia artist currently residing in New Haven CT with her husband and two daughters." And when I discovered that she had two daughters, it made a bit more sense. It may not be true (and probably isn't), but I'd like to think that her daughters are young, maybe one is three and the other just over a year, and that they both love saltine crackers and milk, constantly asking for more but never really eating all of them or finishing their drink. So every day, after every snack, she's left with a saltine cracker mess to clean and sweep and toss into the garbage. 

But not this day. No. Today (or whatever day it was she made this), she put the girls down for their afternoon nap, grabbed the broom, then paused. A few of the crackers were already in place, it just needed to be completed. And she had time.

When it was finished, she stepped back, admired her work, and called it "Cracked." 

Then the kids woke up and ate it. 

I doubt it happened that way, but no matter. I love the piece. You can see more of her work on her website or on instagram.

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I think my daughter would really like hanging out with Kristen Meyer. 

 

Also check out:

Smallest Sushi on Earth  :  Smallest Cup of Coffee  :  Inspiring Art

Enjoy the day!

Kendrick Lamar wins the Pulitzer. And traditional America isn't happy.

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Kendrick Lamar can now add Politzer Prize winner to his growing laundry list of awards

Shocked? If so, you're not alone. I was too. Because, I always thought that the Pulitzer Prize was set aside for great writers and poets and journalists? That it was for classical musicians, not rappers.

So I did some looking around and found Eatock Daily, a composer based out of Toronto who shared my thoughts and assumptions. But then, I read these words, 

I’ve noticed that some classical types have been careful to sound respectful and inclusive when discussing this issue. Perhaps fearful of being labelled “elitist,” or hoping that just a little bit of hip-hop’s coolness might rub off on them, they praise Damn for its musical craft, sophistication and cultural authenticity, and say supportive things about Lamar’s prize-win (via).

And my "this is bullshit" radar sounded.

Then, when he quoted Norman Lebrecht, who called the decision, “an almighty kick in the teeth of contemporary composition" and added the he, "a classical {himself}" was "alarmed" by this decision because, "Even though the prize has almost always been awarded to a classical composer (with the exception of a few jazz artists) there has never been an official statement of this policy – it was an unwritten tradition", I pushed the panic button, holy shit!

Daily goes on to say that Lamar winning this award is "cultural erosion" and that "only time will tell if Lamar’s prize is a gesture of tokenism, or if the Pulitzers will largely embrace popular musics, and America’s classical composers will find themselves shut out of a prestigious award that used to “belong” to classical music." Damn. 

But also, why? Why does the Pulitzer have to belong to classical music? Because of tradition?

What tradition? 

Because from what I read, the Pulitzer music prize is awarded “for distinguished musical composition by an American", not tradition. 

So why the animosity or frustration?

Probably because Mr. Lamar doesn't fit easily into the image of what many traditional American's consider art, and not only because of how he looks, but because he uses gritty language and raps about a lifestyle and reality many Americans would rather turn away from and ignore.

But if that's the case, why did the staff of Reuters win the Pulitzer for Feature photography? Because their images of "the world to the violence Rohingya refugees faced in fleeing Myanmar" (via) are pretty gritty too.

  Rohingya siblings fleeing violence hold one another as they cross the Naf River along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Palong Khali, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, November 1, 2017. (photo from Pulitzer.org)

Rohingya siblings fleeing violence hold one another as they cross the Naf River along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Palong Khali, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, November 1, 2017. (photo from Pulitzer.org)

  Hamida, a Rohingya refugee woman, weeps as she holds her 40-day-old son after he died as their boat capsized before arriving on shore in Shah Porir Dwip, Teknaf, Bangladesh, September 14, 2017. (photo from Pulitzer.org)

Hamida, a Rohingya refugee woman, weeps as she holds her 40-day-old son after he died as their boat capsized before arriving on shore in Shah Porir Dwip, Teknaf, Bangladesh, September 14, 2017. (photo from Pulitzer.org)

 Mohammed Shoaib, 7, who was shot in his chest before crossing the border from Myanmar in August, is held by his father outside a medical centre near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, November 5, 2017.  (photo from Pulitzer.org)

Mohammed Shoaib, 7, who was shot in his chest before crossing the border from Myanmar in August, is held by his father outside a medical centre near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, November 5, 2017. (photo from Pulitzer.org)

Why are these stories more valid than Lamar's? Why are these atrocities seen as "shocking" and move our hearts while Lamar's offend?

Why are photographers praised for their voice and style and Lamar criticized and considered a tainting of tradition?

Because he curses? What?

Mr. Daily actually beat me to these questions when he wrote, "It was only a matter of time before someone rhetorically asked,  “Hey, wait a minute, if the Pulitzer is for ‘distinguished musical composition by an American,’ why shouldn’t hip-hop be considered?” And it is his answer that I find most troubling. He writes, "the Pulitzer Prize for Music must now be shared among (presumably) all genres of American-made music. And the small and marginalized contemporary classical music world just got a little smaller and more marginal."

Damn. Presumably? Marginalized?

Really?

Kendrick Lamar is unfit for this award because allowing more non-traditional music into the discussion will leave classical musicians feeling marginalized? What about musicians of the past hundred years who were never recognized because they didn't follow "tradition"? Where is their contribution to music and society and mankind's story?

Marginalized?

Because right now, as Mr. Lamar is being celebrated as the first rapper to win the Pulitzer, CEO Kevin Johnson's is trying to salvage the Starbucks image by closing 8,000 stores in May for "racial-bias education day" after two black men were arrested for not buying anything.

Do you know how many times I have sat in Starbucks and not bought a damn thing but just sat and read or wrote or waited for a friend? Not only that, do you know how many of those times I've asked for a free glass of ice water AND used the bathroom? Countless. And never was I questioned, denied, or even remotely suspected of anything other than sitting and doing nothing. 

Marginalized? Really?!

This is exactly why it is so important that Mr. Kenrick Lamar won the Pulitzer Price for music, because now traditional America has to take him and rap and all those stories of how the other half live seriously. Because now traditional America can no longer use the argument, "That ain't music" or categorize it as, "black people music" and turn the station and their attention to something more agreeable to their ears. Because now (as it already has been for many years) it is truly part of America's music and a crucial component to America's story.

Damn. by Kendrick Lamar isn't a gesture of tokenism or a kick in the teeth to tradition and for sure it isn't a cultural erosion. It's progression in American storytelling, in American poetry, and in American voice. It's a piece of distinguished musical composition written by an American and recognized as "a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life" (via). And Kendrick Lamar deserves an applause, not a patronizing pat on the back.

"Pulitzer was the most skillful of newspaper publishers, a passionate crusader against dishonest government, a fierce, hawk-like competitor who did not shrink from sensationalism in circulation struggles, and a visionary who richly endowed his profession." And whether Mr. Daily or traditional America likes it or not, so is Kendrick Lamar. 

Hot Damn.

 

You can listen to the full album on Spotify

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Inspiring Art  :  Music

 

Gerhard Haderer's art reveals us

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"Art isn't created just to please our eyes; it also transfers ideas and provokes thought. Austrian cartoonist Gerhard Haderer has been producing satirical illustrations for decades now, highlighting why today's society is nowhere near perfect" (via).

I really appreciated these illustrations by Gerard Haderer because although some were a bit funny, some were also desperately on point. 

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As a collection (of which you can see more here), I quickly noticed a running theme of greed, distraction, and altered reality. All of which, at any given time, are exactly what my heart and mind wrestle with. Which is why, I think, I connected with these images. Because they illustrate the absurdity of what my mind can easily mask and camoflage. 

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For more on . . .

-N- Stuff   :  Inspiring Art  :  Visual Arts

Do something great

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My wife sent me this photo on the same morning I listened to this podcast, Do Meaningful Work and Change the World with Adam Braun, "the CEO & Co-Founder of MissionU, a debt-free college alternative for the 21st century that CNN called 'perfect for young people who are eager to launch their career'" (via), and I truly enjoyed it. 

One of the more inspiring, or challenging, portions of the podcast came at near the 30 minute mark. It's his last interview question to anyone wanting to work for him and his ideas. The question is, "What do you consider to be your single greatest success that is unrelated to your career or your family?"

I asked this question to a few friends of mine and, as intended, it engaged us in a lengthy personal conversation about life. Mainly because we disagreed with the question, "There isn't time or energy for much work outside of my career and family!" And maybe that's okay, because the point of the question is to get to know someone, beyond the job, and find their deeper purpose, their deeper self - not what they did. Because it gets to the question of character. 

So when we struggle to find an answer outside of teaching or parenting or husbanding, that's okay, because we're not bragging about what we've done - our simple accomplishments - but the moments of growth, of inspiration, and of where we've been able to see where our work, our ideas, and our presence has been able to change the world. 

What would your answer be?

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  On Living   Favorite Podcasts

A Culture of Riots : Malcolm Gladwell Thoughts

This week, I've been diggin these talks with Malcolm Gladwell.

His ideas, as well as the article he references, "Thresholds of Violence : How School Shootings Catch On" have inspired another possible chapter to a possible book I hope to write in the future.

But until that happens, enjoy the soft and soothing tone of good ol' Malcolm Gladwell.

"You're not insisting on it. You're asking us to consider it."

"Forty years ago he would be playing with his chemistry set in the basement and dreaming of being an astronaut because that was the available cultural narrative of that moment. That would be the cultural narrative appropriate for someone with his interests.”

Pretty provocative with much to consider, if nothing else.

How to Keep Going

 image by Austin Kleon

image by Austin Kleon

I really appreciated this talk by Austin Kleon. Not only does it inspire and encourage any artist who struggles with endurance and purpose, it's also pretty poignant to life - as all good art should be. 

"What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same and nothing that you did mattered?" And how we answer this question is not only how we live our lives, it's our art.

But what I like most about the mindset of creativity within a Groundhog Day world is the insulation of pretending like there is no tomorrow. That there's no chance of success nor is there chance of failure, "there's just the day and what you can do with it." 

Damn. That's good.

I also really liked and was challenged by number three, "forget the noun, do the verb." 

Lots of people want to be the noun without doing the verb. They want the job title without doing the work. Forget about being a writer . . . 'follow the impulse to write.' Because if you let go of the thing you are trying to be . . . and you focus on the actual work you need to be doing . . . it will take you some place further and far more interesting. 

But really, the whole thing is pretty fantastic.

Here's a list of his 10 Ways to Keep Going

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"Everything you need to make extraordinary work can be found in your ordinary life. You just have to pay attention to it."

I don't know what my Iris is, but I'm gonna find out. And you should too.

Here's a similarly inspiring chart, Successful VS Unsuccessful people, and the habits that define them.

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Inspiration  :  Embracing hardships  :  On Creativity  

Clean Streets : When it's more than just a job

I've been watching a lot of StoryCorp lately. These stories, short and sweet, are also immensely powerful and challenging. 

Like this one, a story of how cleaning the streets can be something so much more. And why, when it's over, a neighborhood comes out to say goodbye.

StoryCorps was designed by David Irsay to "preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world," and has collected well over 50,000 stories (that number is from June, 2015). 

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Favorite Podcasts  :  TED Talks  :  StoryCorps films