Detail from "Create Escape" by Banksy.

March 5, 2021
by Dave McClintock
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Art: Banksy, Beautyist, Bob Dylan, and Brooklyn

This week, my evening scribbles thread of bundled bookmarks (you can tell I’m still figuring out what to call these) is focused on art.

In tough times, I’ve said to my family, “We’ve got to write our way out of this.”

Whether writing privately to someone or in journals or publicly in blogs or “real” publications, writing is a core survival tool for finding an exit when every direction appears to be blocked.

Banksy’s latest public art installation reminded me of this – the power of writing your way out of trouble.

The mural is called “Create Escape: The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross & Banksy.” In it, we see a convict climbing down a prison wall on bed sheets tied together – but at the end of the rope, the sheets are revealed to be a white scroll extending upward from a typewriter.

Somehow the prisoner wrote his way out of jail – maybe it was a letter to the governor, a fantasy novel, or an autobiography.

I track public art via Beautyist.org, a project I started with my wife in 2004. We had just watched a documentary on PBS Thirteen about the Weather Underground and were so disgusted (still mourning what 9/11 did to New York City) that we wanted to contribute to a movement directly opposed to terror and violence – to make beauty.

We hope to sponsor installations and beautification campaigns, eventually. We need your help getting it going. Please tag your public art photos and videos with #Beautyist on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. (And more importantly, tag and name the artists ❤ ) Let’s all amplify news about public art.

Before this week, I had never seen Bob Dylan’s visual art. It adds a new dimension to his music, whether he’s illustrating his lyrics or capturing Americana. I’ve been a fan since my teens, and you could say I went to New York for college because of Bob. He was a big influence on my songwriting, and back then, when I played the open mic at the Speakeasy on MacDougal, the emcee even used the end of my set as an occasion to plug their annual Bob Dylan impersonation night. So yes, it was mind-blowing to take the virtual tour of the Halcyon Gallery and see the world through Bob’s eyes.

“Time to Buy” by Bob Dylan, on Facebook  .

Last, I’m admiring The Locker Room, an art collective in Brooklyn that brought 10 creators from different mediums to live together for a month (even during COVID). The effort is part of a larger campaign to advocate for the arts in New York City and chide those who have abandoned it during the pandemic. As their billboards in Miami and Los Angeles assert and plead: “New York is dead: Don’t come back.” To that, I add, long live New York. Check out Anna Rahmanan’s article in Brooklyn Magazine.

Thanks for being here. Keep making beauty.

Photo of the Endale Arch interior, in Prospect Park.

February 26, 2021
by Dave McClintock
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Restoration: Statues, Buildings, and Brains

On a family Zoom last week, I found myself blurting “When the pandemic is over, everyone will forget what it was like, what we all went through. They’ll just ask, ‘Well, what have you accomplished in the last years?’”

I was speaking about professional, educational, or artistic accomplishments. I had a hunch that the kind of people who judge us for those things would forget the larger drama of these years, the weight and stress and loneliness and mourning that we all are going through. (And I write this with gratitude for everything I’ve been spared.)

Still, my blurt was probably harsh. I may only have put more stress on my family, being the voice of paranoia and excessive diligence.

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February 19, 2021
by Dave McClintock
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Sounds of the City and a Barbaric Yawp

Today I’m threading some sounds that have reached me recently.

It started with birds, what sounded like a hundred tiny beaks chirping as fast as they could on my window sill, about an hour before I needed to wake up. Under the lead of an assertive, entrepreneurial leader, they discovered warm air leaking from the side panels of my air conditioner and decided to pile themselves like a pyramid of cannon balls and celebrate with monosyllabic bursts that tested what’s left of my high frequency hearing. The urgency of each cheep – cross-talking each other like a row of machine guns firing at once – suggested they expected some reward of food, maybe a million tiny worms dangling from the beak of their overlord.

At least, that’s what I imagined.

After fifteen minutes or so, once they were sure I was awake, they either moved on to murder someone else’s morning or decided to go silent. I haven’t heard them since.

More often, since last October, we’ve been awakened by an end of days sound that makes our hundred-year-old house in Brooklyn vibrate like a centenarian on four shots of espresso.

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February 12, 2021
by Dave McClintock
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Time Management and 12022021

Today I’m threading time. (That is, I’m realizing as I write this that these things can be connected.)

First, I saw Catherine Clifford’s piece on CNBC.com: “Why billionaire VC Marc Andreessen schedules every second of his day, including ‘critical’ free time.” Since the 90s, I’ve known Marc Andreessen is one of the smartest people in any room. I wondered if it would help me to schedule every day by the second, the way Marc (or his assistant) reportedly does, with healthy allowances for sleep, movies, and meditation. This weekend, I’ll try it. I already make appointments with myself at work, to force myself to move projects forward, on a much smaller, non-billionaire way. I doubt my schedule needs such a refined precision, though – no need to calibrate my shifts between scheduled activities in seconds.

Next, my brother and sister texted about the Lunar New Year of the ox. (Apparently it’s a Metal Ox – cool band name!) My wife is an ox. The description rings true: “Oxes are known for diligence, dependability, strength and determination.

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June 8, 2018
by Dave McClintock
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Garry Wills and the Definition of Saint: Studs Terkel

Garry Wills has a great definition of “saint” in The New York Review of Books (June 7, 2018), in “The Art of the Schmooze,” a tribute to Studs Terkel:

“I considered him a saint, by the only definition that makes sense to me: a man or woman whose company you leave feeling that you should become a better person.”

And that you can be …

September 16, 2017
by Dave McClintock
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Remembering Harry Dean Stanton at The Bottom Line

Rest in peace, Harry Dean Stanton. Circa 1988, I worked the ticket booth at The Bottom Line Cabaret on weekends, during the day, while I was at NYU. Stick thin, long-haired little weirdo. One rainy day, the night’s band was loading in. Suddenly, in the little yellow ticket booth, Harry Dean was next to me at the counter. No big production – it was as if he had worked at the club for years. He was singing that night – I was instantly starstruck – but he seemed to want to see the world through my eyes. Maybe he was slightly nervous – wanted to take it all in. Cubbyholes with stacks of tickets, cash drawer. Phone with punch buttons for five lines. He was one of those few famous people who rather than project celebrity uplifted your own humanity. (Among all the other performers at the Bottom Line, Herbie Hancock and Al Kooper also visited me like this. I’ll never forget them – or Harry.)

December 14, 2013
by Dave McClintock
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Duolingo.com: Learn a Language, Translate the Web, for Free

In this TED video, Luis von Ahn of Carnegie Mellon introduces Duolingo.com, a free online language tutorial site that (in the background) uses your quiz answers to help translate the web. Massive online collaboration.

Along the way, von Ahn explains reCAPTCHA – those two-word “type the mangled words to prove you’re a human” tests found on forms on Facebook, Ticketmaster, and many major sites.

Amazingly, in those tests, one word is from a digital book that computers couldn’t read – the OCR failed. So, when you fill out those reCAPTCHA forms, you’re helping to digitize books. (The other word is truly a test, to cross-check the digital book word.)

The video description:

After re-purposing CAPTCHA so each human-typed response helps digitize books, Luis von Ahn wondered how else to use small contributions by many on the Internet for greater good. In this talk, he shares how his ambitious new project, Duolingo, will help millions learn a new language while translating the Web quickly and accurately — all for free.

Here’s the video, “Massive-Scale Online Collaboration“:

August 22, 2012
by Dave McClintock
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A First Look at Medium.com

Medium.com is in beta launch, allowing posts from friends and family and inviting reader reactions via Twitter sign-ins.

The intro page describes it as a new platform for sharing stories and ideas. It’s longer-form than Twitter and organized into collections, by topic. So far, the design is very readable – gray-on-gray and all text (no ads or images).

I’m thinking it sounds like a giant shared blog, categorized by a core of editors … Like a wiki on human experiences?

With the founders’ track records at Blogger, Twitter, and other sites that revolutionized content generation and sharing, Medium is one to watch.

Here’s a snip from the overview:

While it’s great that you can be a one-person media company, it’d be even better if there were more ways you could work with others. And in many ways, the web is still mimicking print concepts, while not even catching up to it in terms of layout, design, and clarity of experience. …

Medium is designed to allow people to choose the level of contribution they prefer. We know that most people, most of the time, will simply read and view content, which is fine. If they choose, they can click to indicate whether they think something is good, giving feedback to the creator and increasing the likelihood others will see it.

Posting on Medium (not yet open to everyone) is elegant and easy, and you can do so without the burden of becoming a blogger or worrying about developing an audience. All posts are organized into ‘collections,’ which are defined by a theme and a template.”