David Byrne Launches the “Reasons to Be Cheerful” Web Site: A Compendium of News Meant to Remind Us That the World Isn’t Actually Falling Apart

Whatever your ideological persuasion, our time has no doubt given you more than a few reasons to fear for the future of civilization, not least because bad news sells. Musician, artist, and former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has certainly felt the effects: "It seems like the world is going to Hell. I wake up in the morning, look at the paper, and go, 'Oh no!'," he writes. "Often I’m depressed for half the day." But he writes that on the front page of his new project Reasons to Be Cheerful, which began as a quasi-therapeutic collection of pieces of "good news that reminded me, 'Hey, there's actually some positive stuff going on!'" and has grown into an online observatory of world improvement.

What kind of positive stuff has Byrne found? He identifies certain common qualities among the stories that have caught his eye: "Almost all of these initiatives are local, they come from cities or small regions who have taken it upon themselves to try something that might offer a better alternative than what exists." These adjustments to the human condition tend to develop in a "bottom up, community and individually driven" manner, they happen all over the world but could potentially work in any culture, all "have been tried and proven to be successful" and "can be copied and scaled up" without the singular efforts of "one amazing teacher, doctor, musician or activist."




The stories collected so far on Reasons to Be Cheerful fall into several different categories. In Civic Engagement, for example, he's found a variety of effective examples of that practice in his travels back and forth across the United States. In Health, he writes about efforts to end the war on drugs in places like Vancouver, Colorado, and Portugal. As anyone who's followed Byrne's writing and speaking about cycling and the infrastructure that supports it might imagine, this side also includes a section called Urban/Transportation, whose first post deals with the global influence of bike share systems like Paris' Velib and bike-only street-closure days like Bogotá's Ciclovia.

In Culture, Byrne writes about the rise of a form of music called AfroReggae that offers an alternative to a life of crime for the youth of Brazil's favelas, the distinctive libraries established at the end of Bogotá's rapid bus lines and in poor parts of Medellín, and even some of his own work related to the recording and tour design of his own upcoming album American UtopiaAmerican Utopia in the year 2018? That might sound awfully optimistic, but remember that David Byrne is the man who once went on an artistic speaking tour about his love of Powerpoint. If he can see the good in that, he can see the good in anything.

Visit Byrne's Reasons to Be Cheerful site here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

An Animated Introduction to Friedrich Nietzsche’s Philosophical Recipe for Getting Over the Sources of Regret, Disappointment and Suffering in Our Lives

The idea of acceptance has found much, well… acceptance in our therapeutic culture, by way of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief, 12-step programs, the wave of secular mindfulness practices, the body-acceptance movement, etc. All of these interventions into depressed, bereaved, guilt-ridden, and/or anxious states of mind have their own aims and methods, which sometimes overlap, sometimes do not. But what they all share, perhaps, for all the struggle involved, is a general sense of optimism about acceptance.

One cannot say this definitively about the Stoic idea of amor fati—the instruction to “love one’s fate”—though you might be persuaded to think otherwise if you google the term and come up with a couple dozen popularizations. Yes, there’s love in the name, but the fate we’re asked to embrace may just as well be painful and debilitating as pleasurable and uplifting. We cannot change what has happened to us, or much control what's going to happen, so we might as well just get used to it, so to speak.




If this isn’t exactly optimism in the sense of “it gets better,” it isn’t entirely pessimism either. But it can become a grim and joyless fatalistic exercise. Yet, as Friedrich Nietzsche used the term—and he used it with much relish—amor fati means not only accepting loss, suffering, mistakes, addictions, appearances, or mental and emotional turbulence; it means accepting all of iteverything and everyone that causes both pain and pleasure, as Alain de Botton says above, “with strength and an all-embracing attitude that borders on a kind of enthusiastic affection.”

“I do not want to wage war against what is ugly,” he wrote in The Gay Science, “I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse.” Readers of Nietzsche may find themselves picking up any one of his books, including The Gay Science, to see him doing all of the above, constantly, on any random page. But his is never a systematic philosophy, but an expression of passion and attitude, inconsistent in its parts but, as a whole, surprisingly holistic. “My formula for greatness in a human being,” he writes in Ecce Homo, “is amor fati

That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it… but love it.

Although the concept may remind us of Stoic philosophy, and is very often discussed in those terms, Nietzsche saw such thought—as he understood it—as gloomy, ascetic, and life-denying. His use of amor fati goes beyond mere resignation to something more radical, and very difficult for the human mind to stomach, to use a somewhat Nietzschean figure of speech. “It encompasses the whole of world history (including the most horrific episodes),” notes a Leiden University summary, “and Nietzsche’s own role in this history.” Above all, he desired, he wrote, to be a “Yes-sayer.”

Is amor fati a remedy for regret, dissatisfaction, the endlessly restless desire for social and self-improvement? Can it banish our agony over history’s nightmares and our personal records of failure? De Botton thinks so, but one never really knows with Nietzsche—his often satirical exaggerations can turn themselves inside out, becoming exactly the opposite of what we expect. Yet above all, what he always turns away from are absolute ideals; we should never take his amor fati as some kind of divine commandment. It works in dialectical relation to his more vigorous critical spirit, and should be applied with a situational and pragmatic eye. In this sense, amor fati can be seen as instrumental—a tool to bring us out of the paralysis of despair and condemnation and into an active realm, guided by a radically loving embrace of it all.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Hear Dolores O’Riordan’s Beautifully-Pained Vocals in the Unplugged Version of The Cranberries’ 1994 Hit “Zombie”

Yesterday, amidst the many tributes and inevitable dissention over the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., a sad piece of news seemed to get buried: the death of Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan, at the far-too-young age of 46. The Irish vocalist not only “defined the sound of The Cranberries,” as her NPR obituary notes, she defined the sound of the 90s. Anyone who remembers the decade remembers spending a substantial part of it with Cranberries’ hits “Linger,” “Dreams,” and “Zombie” looping in their heads.

Just 18 when she auditioned for them in 1989, O’Riordan took the band from what might have been rather formulaic mopey, jangly dreampop and gave it “a smoky hue in full cry” as well as “a sweet, delicate tone that evoked centuries of Gaelic folk tradition.”




Like another recent, tragic loss from the Gen X heyday—Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell—she fully embodied passionate intensity with a voice that was an arresting force. Whether you were a fan or not, you simply had to pay attention.

Listen, for example, to the band’s 1994 protest song “Zombie,” which memorializes two boys killed the previous year in an IRA bombing. It’s a track that “sounds wildly anomalous,” writes Rob Harvilla at The Ringer, “given the other songs that made her famous.” While the “plodding rumble” and “crushing distortion” evoke any number of angsty quiet-loud anthems of the time, O’Riordan’s “was the last voice you expected to hear howling over it.” The contrast is haunting, yet the song works just as well without fuzzed-out guitars and thunderous drums, as in the orchestral MTV Unplugged version above.

The “Zombie” video offers a classic collection of 90s stylistic quirks, from Derek Jarman-inspired setpieces to the use of black and white and earnest political messaging. For us old folks, it’s an almost pure hit of nostalgia, and for the young, a nearly perfect specimen of the decade’s rock aesthetics, which included a refreshing number of famous female solo artists and frontwomen just as likely as the men to dominate rock radio and television. Indeed, it seems like the 90s may have produced more prominent female-fronted bands than any other decade before or since. Or maybe I just remember it that way. In any case, central to that memory is Dolores O’Riordan’s “stadium-size hit about deadly violence in Northern Ireland,” and its beautifully pained laments and pointedly unsubtle yelps and wails—a stunning expression of mourning that reverberates still some 25 years later as we mourn its singer’s untimely passing.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies: A Free Course from Princeton

Quick fyi: Earlier this month, we tried to make sense of the Bitcoin frenzy in the only we know how--by pointing you toward a free course. Specifically, we highlighted a Princeton course called Bitcoin and Currency Technologies that's being offered on the online platform Coursera. The course is based on a successful course taught on Princeton's campus. And it's worth mentioning that you can find the actual video lectures from that original campus course on Youtube. (See them embedded above, or access them directly here.) Pair the 12 lectures with the free Princeton Bitcoin textbook and you should be ready to make sense of Bitcoin ... and maybe even some of the Bitcoin hype.

For more free courses visit our collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Omoshiroi Blocks: Japanese Memo Pads Reveal Intricate Buildings As The Pages Get Used

We've all had the experience, growing up, of using notepads for something other than their intended purpose: running our thumbs down their stacked-up pages and savoring the buzzing sound, turning them into flipbooks by painstakingly drawing a frame on each page, and even — in times of truly dire boredom — cutting them down into unusual sizes and shapes. Now, Japanese architectural model maker Triad has elevated that youthful impulse to great heights of aesthetic refinement with their lineup of Omoshiroi Blocks.

The Japanese word omoshiroi (面白い) can translate to "interesting," "fun," "amusing," or a whole host of other such descriptors that might come to the mind of someone who runs across an Omoshiroi Block in person, or even on the internet.

According to Spoon & Tamago, Triad uses "laser-cutting technology to create what is, at first, just a seemingly normal square cube of paper note cards. But as the note cards get used, an object begins to appear. And you’ll have to exhaust the entire deck of cards to fully excavate the hidden object.

These objects include "various notable architectural sites in Japan like Kyoto’s Kiyomizudera Temple, Tokyo’s Asakusa Temple and Tokyo Tower. The blocks are composed of over 100 sheets of paper and each sheet is different from the next in the same way that individual moments stack up together to form a memory." Other three-dimensional entities excavatable from Omoshiroi Blocks include trains, cameras, and even the streetscape of Detroit, which includes the late John C. Portman Jr.'s Renaissance Center — the Tokyo Tower, you might say, of the Motor City.

You can see most of these Omoshiroi Blocks, and others, on Triad's Instagram account. You may have no other option at the moment, since Triad's official site has recently been overwhelmed by visitors, presumably seeking a few of these recently-gone-viral blocks for themselves. Besides, notes their most recent Instagram post, "all items are out of stock. So, overseas shipping is not possible at this moment. Please wait for our online shop announcements to be updated."

Until then, according to Spoon & Tamago, you might try your luck finding one at the Osaka branch of Tokyu Hands, Japan's most creative department store.

If you can't make it out there, rest assured that Triad will probably have their online shop up and running before this year's holiday season, thus providing you with an impressive gift option for the enthusiasts in your life of architecture, stationery, unconventional uses of technology, small-scale intricate craftsmanship, and the artifacts of Japanese culture — all fields in which Japan has spent hundreds, if not thousands of years excelling.

via Spoon and Tamago/ h/t @herhandsmyhands

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

A Teaser Trailer for Fahrenheit 451: A New Film Adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Ever-Relevant Novel

From HBO comes a teaser trailer for an upcoming adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, a film that went in today production a year before the 2016 election--that is, before things in America took a turn for the worse and the weird. That life has started to imitate Bradbury's art hasn't been lost on the film's director, Ramin Bahrani, who told critics at the Television Critics Association:

Politically things are going in a very strange direction in terms of what is real and what is not real... I think we’ve been going in that direction for a long time, it’s just now kind of being revealed to us more clearly. So I think from a high level, that’s a problem....

I don’t want to focus so much on [Trump] because I don’t want to excuse the 30, 40 years prior to that. He’s just an exaggeration of it now...

I don’t want us to forget what Bradbury said, that we asked for this... We are [also] electing again this thing [a smartphone] in my pocket . We are electing to give it all away to this.

Between the technological advancements in last 20 years and politics, I think Bradbury’s biggest concern about the erosion of culture is now… and the speed at which this is advancing is exponential.

Will we actually get ahead of the dam, or will it just be a flood and up to some other generation to bring back all of Bradbury’s heroes?

The new film starring Michael B. Jordan, and Michael Shannon will come out this spring. Stay tuned.

via Devour

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Smartify, a Shazam for Art, Lets You Use Your Phone to Scan, Identify & Learn About Major Works of Art

Not so long ago, art museums were known as temples of quiet contemplation, despite daily invasions by raucous school groups.

Now, the onus is on the museums to bring the mountain to Mohammed. Those kids have smartphones. How long can a museum hope to stay relevant—nay, survive—without an app?

Many of the museums who’ve already partnered up with Smartify—an app (Mac-Android) that lets you take a picture of artwork with your phone and instantly access information about them—have existing apps of their own in place: the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, to name a few.




These institutional apps provide visitors with an expanded view of the sort of information one commonly finds on a museum card, in addition to such practicalities as gallery layouts and calendars of events. More often than not, there’s an option to “save” an artwork the visitor finds captivating—no word on what this feature is doing to postcard sales in museum shops, so perhaps print isn't dead yet.

Given all the museum apps free for the downloading, for whom is Smartify, a "Shazam for art," intended?

Perhaps the globetrotting museum hopper eager to consolidate? Its developers are adamant that it’s intended to complement, not replace, in-person visits to the institutions where the works are housed, so armchair museum goers are advised to look elsewhere, like Google Arts & Culture.

Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries will be the smaller galleries and museums ill equipped to launch freestanding apps of their own. Smartify’s website states that it relies on “annual membership from museum partners, in-app transactions, advertising and data sales to relevant arts organisations.”

Early adopters complained that while the app (Mac-Android) had no trouble identifying famous works of art, it came up empty on the lesser-known pieces. That's a pity as these are the works visitors are most likely to seek further information on.

One of the developers compared the Smartify experience to visiting a museum in the company of “an enthusiastic and knowledgeable friend telling you more about a work of art.”

Maybe better to do just that, if the option exists? Such a friend would not be hampered by the copyright laws that hamper Smartify with regard to certain works. A friend might even stand you a hot chocolate or some pricey scone in the museum cafe.

At any rate, the app (Mac-Android) is now available for visitors to take for a spin in 22 different museums and galleries in the UK, US, and Europe, with the promise of more to come.

Those whose knowledge of art history is vast are likely to be underwhelmed, but it could be a way for those visiting with kids and teens to keep everyone engaged for the duration. As one enthusiastic user wrote:

As a childhood Pokemon fan and avid art fan, this is a dream come true. This is like a Pokedex for art lol. If you ever watched the anime, Ash Ketchum would scan a Pokemon with his Pokedex and get the details of its name, type, habits, etc. This app does that but instead of scanning monsters, it scans and analyzes art work then gives you the load (sic) down about it.

Those with Internet privacy concerns may choose to heed, instead, the user who wrote:

Be aware, they want to gather as a "side effect" your private art collection. I just wanted to try it out with some of my art pieces (Günther Förg, Richter, etc) but it doesn't work if you don't give them your location data. Be careful!

 

Museums and Galleries Whose Images/Art Appear in Smartify as of January 2018

USA:

J. Paul Getty Museum

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Laguna Art Museum

Museum of Contemporary Photography

Freer | Sackler GalleriesThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met Cloisters

 

UK:

The Bowes Museum

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

Ben Uri Gallery

The Wallace Collection

Royal Academy of Arts

National Gallery

Sculpture in the City

 

Europe:

Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum Twenthe

Little Beaux-Arts

Museo Correr

Museo San Donato (MPSArt)

The State Hermitage Museum

The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

 

Download Smartify for Mac or Android.

via Dezeen

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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