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Amy Shearn (558 posts)
Pop quiz: Was the above said by:
a) A teenager in Des Moines, Iowa?
b) A teenager in rural Wales?
c) Jack Mubiru, a father of the skateboarding scene in Uganda?
If you guessed all of the above, you would be right. The New York Times Magazine has some gorgeous photos of the relatively new skateboarding scene in Uganda. They are images of beautiful decay; they document people having the best time; they also remind us of how alike we all are, in the end. The Uganda Skateboarder's Saloon may not seem to have much in common with some sleek Californian skate park all voluptuous with curvy concrete hills, but the idea behind both places is the same: people need something to do, and in a void, they make their own fun.
Relearning How to Have Fun
Three Ways to Beat Boredom in Your Life
It's true, women are famous for not asking for help when we need it. We think we can do it all. We can do it all! But sometimes it's okay to ask someone else to open that jar of pickles. To help pick the weeds. And when you think about it, this is just a reminder of all the ways in which we wear ourselves out by doing too much. A reminder that bodies wear out. That we only make so much cartilage, have so much energy. So consider this your friendly non-doctor-blogger's prescription to you: if you're hurting, or even if it's just that you're tired, ask for help. Your hands, your whole entire self, will thank you when you're older.
The Best Way to Get The Help You Need
Why Asking For Help Is Not a Sign of Weakness
Angelica Dass's ongoing project Humanae offers a thoughtful way of looking at this puzzle of skin color. She photographs a colorful array of humans and then matches their skin tones to the Pantone color system. And it's no exaggeration to say the results will reconfigure anyone's color-vision. Look how pink and peach and rose and beige and mahogany and coffee-colored we are! What's most surprising is the endless variety -- if color is supposed to be divisive, then the sunburned and the very pale must be going to war -- and how beautiful every single shade is.
One Movie Star's Complexion Aha! Moment
Helping an Adopted African Daughter to Love Her Skin
If there’s one played-out idea I love anyway, it’s the staycation. Vacations are just so very much WORK, what with all the planning and the packing and the paying of the money. When really, we can get so much of the same lovely eye-ball-refreshing, the same much-needed brain-scrubbing, by just looking at our usual surroundings through a different lens. But it’s surprisingly hard to do: even as you set out for an aimless stroll through a part of town you don’t usually frequent, don’t you find yourself wandering, as if magnetized, toward the places you always go? Toward the park you know you like, or the building you’ve always admired, or even just the path you usually walk the dog?
Well, consider this prolific artist named James Gulliver Hancock, who has made it his mission to draw every building in New York City. His site is fascinating to click through, whether you’re an urbanite or a totally-not-that – the scratchy little lines, the loose sketches that suggest a boozy evening or else a quick stop on a crowded street, the more organized and tightly-constructed portraits that call out details you might have never noticed otherwise.
Here is his drawing of the Hearst Tower (Oprah.com headquarters!):
Hancock's virtual sketchbook makes me think, how might I see the structures around me a little more clearly? What would focus my vision and force me to look around rather than, let's admit it, at my phone?
Here then is an assignment for me, and anyone else interested in taking the world’s easiest staycation, practically guaranteed to make things seem fresh. You don’t even need to leave your neighborhood. All you need is a pen and notepad. It doesn’t matter if you can’t draw, that’s not the point. The point is to walk and look, really look. Go somewhere new (but stay safe!), or go somewhere you see all the time but never really SEE. Pick a building. A house. A rec center. A dog house. And draw it. Who knows what we will start to see?
21 Rules for Everyday Senseless Joy
3 Ways to See the World With Fresh Eyes
We've all heard it before: There are no new stories, but only new ways to tell them. Which is why when there is an actually new presentation of the Big Themes, it's completely arresting. This miniscule, minute-long movie, aptly named Tiny Story, pretty much says it all, with just a dot; it's basically instructions for living well. Begin. Dream. Listen. Learn. Wait. All you need to know to live a good life, in under a minute. There's nothing tiny about that.
Take a Whimsy Break
An Animated Meditation on Kindness
A Personal Fireworks Display
As an only-abstractly ambitious high school senior, I eschewed useless topics such as science, math, and whenever possible gym, in favor of the practical-life-skills-building Advanced Placement Art. Auspicious, I know. And yet, thanks to Facebook, I know that two of the girls (well, women now) from my class have gone on to support themselves as straight-up artists. They were both talented from the get-go, but they weren't the only or even the most talented artists in the class. They were, however, the most driven. Now, one was an excellent draftsman (draftswoman?). She was the only person I ever knew who could draw a horse. She makes her living as a graphic artist, and she's very good at what she does. The other girl, in my teenaged estimation, not the best at drawing. Her stuff didn't look like stuff. She couldn't really draw a horse. But she had ideas. She had crazy, amazing, creative ideas. She would tweak the assignments we were given and create, well, works of art. And, you guessed it, she is now a real, honest-to-god, gallery-showing painter. She's one of those painters with ideas, with vision, with Creativity with a Big C.
Even as a student I knew that though my paintings of cups and things were sort of nice, I did not have what this girl had. This ability to innovate, to really see things in a whole new way. Because that's the nature of creativity, isn't it? It's not strictly creating something to paint its portrait; to truly make something new you must see things in a unique way, which is a harder skill to learn than, say, shading something to make it look round. Which leads me to this: the 3-D Alphabet.
Ji Lee's site Please Enjoy is full of projects as clever as they are masterfully handled, and most have this element of, dare I say, genius -- that strange combination of being at once so unique you would never think of them, and so deceptively simple-seeming that once you've seen them you suspect you might have almost thought of them once... though you never actually would. It's that whiff of inevitability that makes the 3-D alphabet such a delight. Of course! Each letter rendered in 3-D! Why didn't I think of that? Reading a word "written" in the 3-D-ized letters becomes a brain-twisting pleasure; the whimsical space-age robot world created from the 3-D word building blocks becomes the most fun kind of puzzle.
The 3-D alphabet is fun for what it is. But it's also fun for what it reminds us: that a creative mind can transform anything.
The Creative Commandments
Unblocking Your Creativity
Quotes to Inspire Creativity
Graphic designer Milton Glaser claims that what he does is "move things around until they look right" and that he's been doing it "for centuries." The creator of the "I [Heart] NY" graphic -- which has become so iconic it's hard to imagine it ever had to be created at all -- shares his thoughts on creativity in this great video, and what he says is relevant to all of us, artists or not: "Anything I've ever discovered has come through the act of work or making things... the act itself is the path to discovery."
To master anything, says Glaser, we need to move toward what we don't know. "Most significant works come out of misunderstanding," he goes on to say. "It is the path to attempt to understand that is what you're looking for. The path by which you arrive at understanding is the whole point of the game, not the arrival." We know this, of course we do, but when faced with a big challenge at work, or any problem that demands creative solutions, it's all too easy to lose the nerve to search, the possibility of risk.
The On Creativity site has more designers, cartoonists, and artists of all kinds sharing their thoughts on creativity -- each says something worth writing down and pinning to the wall near your work station. An installation artist admits to a fear of the blank wall. A renowned designer decrees: "Use what is essentially you." No losing-of-nerve allowed. Go forth, into your future, embracing the possibility of failure. As Glaser puts it, if you're the best at drawing cocker spaniels...try to draw a goldfish. Good advice for all of us cocker-spaniel-drawers.
More on Creativity:
How to Start Any Project
How to Beat Procrastination
How to Get Out of a Life Block
Fast Company has curated this lovely collection of 8 Examples of Good Defeating Evil on the Internet. Example Number One is the amazing Indie-Go-Go campaign that a kind-hearted soul started in order to give a lady named Karen a nice vacation. You probably heard the story: a senior citizen works as a bus monitor, and one day the middle-schoolers on her bus decided to record their verbal harassment of her and put in online, because it's just so hilarious to taunt a sweet older woman into tears. One man decided that Karen the bus monitor needed a break, and started the campaign in order to raise $5,000 for her. Thousands of views, tweets, likes, and donations later, Karen's campaign has raised over $679,000.
Read on for more stories that will make you feel better about the world, the Internet, and your hours spent trolling its mysterious depths.
The Ripple Effect of Oprah's Act of Kindness
Pick a Card, Do Good, Share Online
Technology + Charity = Hope Mob
Turns out seeing a wide spectrum of color can help more than just coordinating outfits or recognizing hungry barracuda: it can also help you to identify emotions, or even disease. Evolutionary neurobiologist Dr. Mark Changizi has researched color vision and developed glasses that will help people to better see hue changes on others' skin, which can signal changes in feeling or health. According to Good, the target market for the eyewear would be medical professionals who could "use the filters in examinations to pick up on cues about patients unavailable to the naked eye." Veins and trauma would be easier to see; diseased blood would show up in a different color. But creator Dr. Changizi thinks these tinted glasses could also have applications in poker, sports, dating, and security; as he puts it, "one sees other people better by keeping them on." So we can all be a bit more shrimp-like. You know, in a good way.
The Invention of the Smile (Emoticon)
Trying Out the Latest Beauty Innovations
The upside of this kind of mania is that it goes both ways. This weekend I had finally sailed to port at the end of a supermarket voyage, both kids in the cart – at least I think so, somewhere there under all the berry cartons and bunny crackers– my list clutched in my fist like a besmirched treasure map, all my energy devoted to willing the kids to stop wailing for cookies and freedom...and there it was, the final gauntlet. The Clerk. She held the future of our day in her hands. Would she glare at my mewling young, shout out my way-more-than-I’d-thought-total, even, expect me to bag my own groceries while also convincing my baby of the wisdom of silence?
No. No she did not. This woman, she gave my daughter a sticker. Then she carefully, methodically, jigsaw-puzzled my purchases into my disgusting, over-re-used bags, with an artistry I have never before seen. She worked quickly, but you could see the concentration on her face. In a few moments, she had, with the precision of an eyebrow threader, filled one bag with the frozen goods, one with the boxes, one with the perishables. Fruit was nestled safely in a protective fence engineered of cereal boxes. Each bag was easy to lift, not too heavy. Unpacking the groceries at home would be a breeze, for in organizing my bags she had also organized my kitchen.
"You’ve changed my life!” I said. She nodded, sagely. She knew.
The thing was, she’d dealt with my groceries, with her job, for which she is likely not paid enough and certainly not much celebrated in the public imagination, the way I’d hope to deal with every task, no matter how large or small: with care and attention, with thought and organization, without expectation of glory or acknowledgement; doing a small task the best way possible simply because it is possible to do it well. I thought of her later that day as I loaded the dishwasher and took an extra 30 seconds to actually line up the dishes properly; again as I sat down to respond to an email in a thoughtful, sane way, yes, even spelling out every single word.
I'm not suggesting that everyone has to love their job every second. But since, every second, we have jobs to do, why not do them as well as possible, with the ninja-like mindfulness of, you know, a store clerk?
Finding A Love for Laundry
The Art of Living in the Present
Transform Your Life by Altering Your Thoughts