What I learned last week (#78)

Picture of the kitchen at dusk with painting kit

Two book excerpts that were related that I loved this week:

“It was a brilliant idea: You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.” (Richard P. Feynman, Ralph Leighton, Edward Hutchings, and Albert R. Hibbs, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!“)

“Some people may have thought that this book was too personal, too confessional. But what these people think about me is none of my business.” (Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird)

Walking is making a major comeback:

The family and I have been enjoying long walks around the farm for the past few months, and recently discovered a good route to walk to the grandparents place directly. There is something very unique about walking a good distance alone or with others. I always seem to end up feeling better than before I left.

One thing was clear: the walks were some sort of therapy. They seemed to loosen my thoughts, bestowing the type of clarity I usually found on long drives or airplane flights and inspiring ideas that I jotted down trailside in my phone.

The history of walking as a means of liberating the mind spans cultures and centuries. Practitioners of kinhin, the Zen Buddhist practice of walking meditation, move slowly and deliberately, paying attention to each step and breath. Great thinkers from Nietzsche to Kant to Thoreau to early-feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir famously had walking practices*.* “I cannot preserve my health and spirits,” Thoreau wrote, “unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”


Reading list on the history of hip-hop:

A great list of further reading but filled with interesting excerpts thoughout, including this on the making of Ol Dirty Bastard’s Return to the 36 Chambers.

Method Man joked that the album’s repeated verses were the result of ODB’s absentmindedness during a long recording process, but, intentionally or not, that repetition turned his verses into hooks. “Brooklyn Zoo II (Tiger Crane)” has verse fragments from three other songs on the album, like a reprise in a musical. His raps wormed their way into the brain in unusual ways, the product of his unusual methods.

Those methods required several measures to wring an entire album out of Dirty. RZA was the hands-off architect. Buddha Monk was the handler, body man, and engineer, tasked with getting ODB prepped and into the studio, and making sure his vocals sounded right. Mastering engineer Tom Coyne was dubbed “the referee” in the liner notes for breaking up fights. Elektra A&R Dante Ross had the demanding task of shepherding the album to completion amid chaos. “I knew I had to get it to the finish line because there are times in life when you know you only have that moment in time, and you gotta get there,”

100 race-conscious things you can say to your child to advance racial justice:

A lot of these might seem obvious, but it’s surprising how hard it can be in the moment to stay on message. Also covers areas you might not think about, such as gender differences. Useful list.

The United States and happiness:

Psychology teaches us that manic happiness is frequently a symptom of a pain that cannot be faced. A smile has to become permanent in order that an underlying sorrow can never be felt. By extension, America may be smiling very hard not because it is genuinely carefree but because there are a few things it simply cannot bear to mourn.

Painting what’s out the window:

Brush pens make for good portrait drawing practice:

Quote that sums up something I want to teach my kids to understand:

This coincided with two things that Vivi asked me recently, the first being “Why do you like to do art so much?” and, in response to me saying something to the effect of “I like to practice it,” she said “But why do you need to practice? You’re already so good.”

Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you’re willing to practice, you can do.

Bob Ross

Lastly, check out what we’re up to now.

One response

  1. That’s really interesting about ODB. I saw one of his very last shows before his death, he played at The Aggie Theater in Fort Collins and it was the worst Wu-Tang show I’ve been to (I’ve probably seen them a half-dozen times in various configurations). Similar to the quote above, his crew was trying their best to keep him on stage, helping fill in his vocals, boosting his performance, and keeping things calm when the (understandably) angry crowd was unkind. It was clear he was not in a good place mentally, and he died 2-3 days later.

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