More on Feevy

I’ve been affectionately challenged to put the feevy feed on the front page and see what happens and, in the spirit of yesterday’s post about Rick Rubin’s exhortations to keep an open mind, I’ve put them up on the sidebar. I know they don’t line up quite right, my sidebar is a wee bit too skinny for them, but other than that, play along and give some feedback — cool? gets you reading stuff you didn’t plan to? distracting? makes the site way more social? jeez Nancy, who let all those other authors in? What do you think?

The spiritual bases of creativity

Slivka pointed me to a great article in last week’s LA Times by Robert Hilburn about Rick Rubin, producer extraordinaire and, it turns out, seriously spiritual guy. It’s so unusual to see any frank discussions of the role spirituality plays in anyone’s career. He was talking about creating music, but I found his thoughts applicable to all creative process, and wise words for everyone.

Whatever the project or musical style, Rubin enters it with the same goal: Create an easy, reassuring atmosphere that encourages collaboration and experimentation. He thinks of himself as a coach, but you could just as easily call him a counselor or therapist.

As a Communication teacher, I agree completely that creating a context in which people feel relaxed and open to experience is crucial to enabling the best of what can come. It’s at the heart of being a good teacher, a good friend, a good person, a good thinker, a good everything.

It’s not hard to see why artists feel comfortable — even safe — with the man known as the gentle guru of pop. Sit with him for even a few minutes and the tension drains from your body, which is unusual in someone in the hyperactive music business, where urgency is invariably the prevailing mood.

This thought on perspective is helpful too:

“You and the band have to believe what you are doing together is the most important thing in the world,” he says. “But you never want them to think that what they are doing today is the most important. You don’t want them to ever think, ‘Oh my God, I have to get it right today or else.’ “

I’m always amazed at the contrast between my experience of a day of writing and the final written piece when it’s long since done. Yesterday I reread something I wrote a couple of years ago and (as usual) it was hard to believe I’d written it. I experienced the writing experience as a stressful challenge of wrangling things together that was taking too long, but looking back at it, with all the individual days of stressing out about it gone, it’s a pretty fine piece of work, and you can’t tell what any given day’s contribution to it was.

Rule No. 2: Keep an open mind.

“It’s one of the things we talk about at the beginning of a project: ‘Let’s try every idea and see where it takes us, not prejudge it.’ Sometimes it still comes up where someone in the band makes a suggestion and part of me says, ‘That’s a bad idea. Let’s not waste time on that.’ I stop myself and think, ‘Let’s try it and see what it sounds like,’ and very often it sounds good.” […]

“I think the act of creation is a spiritual act [...] I don’t think great songs stem from us. They are just kind of in the universe. The best artists are the ones with the best antennae that draw it in, and meditation helps get rid of tension and tune into the ideas that are out there.”

Yeah. And not just musical ideas. I also loved this way of putting open-mindedness into practice:

Today, he takes his belief in democracy in the studio so far that he and a band will sometimes hire several engineers to do the final mix on a recording and listen to the results without knowing which engineer did which track.

“If you know the greatest mixer in the world mixed one track and the guy who is making coffee on the project mixed that one, you’re liable, psychologically, to think the famous engineer’s mix is bound to be the best,” Rubin explains. “But if you don’t know who did what, the playing field is clear and even, and you are really picking based on what sounds good. And very often we’re surprised. Very often.”

There are a lot of riffs I could go off on at this point, but I’m just going to put this up and let them stimulate your own thoughts of how they apply to what you do (and don’t do) instead.

Live blogroll gizmo

My buddy David turned me on to a really nice little web app called Feevy that lets you embed an RSS feedreader on your site. Over on the right there you’ll notice a new link under contents called “Blogroll Feed” where I’ve collated all the blogs in the ‘eyes on net pop culture’ blogs in the blogroll, making this your handy dandy one stop shop for that sort of blog action. Hope you find it handy and if there are blogs you think should be included that aren’t, let me know in the comments!

Political Bloggers on

So if you’ve been living under a rock, aren’t American, or just don’t care about politics, you might have missed the news that Barack Obama made his official website into a social networking site. The launch was pretty slick but not without problems. Within 24 hours there was trouble stemming from a user-created new group with a racist homophobic title that automatically appeared as the example of what you could do on the site and the secret service found a death threat to Hilary on someone’s blog on there.

My initial reaction to the social network site, thinking like a promoter or a fan, but not like a politician, was “genius.” What I loved about the idea was the power it puts in the hands of his adoring throngs. But, of course, one difference between politics and entertainment (yes, a few do remain) is that those who oppose politicians have more at stake than those who hate the tv show others love so.

So when I went to the political blogger panel I wrote about here, I asked them for their take on the site. The consensus seemed to be that he’s going for the youth vote, and doing it in a powerful way by validating the means of communication that they claim as their own. But the inability to police the site and lack of built in self-moderating technology means he’s opening himself to a lot of dirty tricks he may not be able to contain.

I am fascinated by the willingness to give up control of the message that doing this entails. It is not unlike taking your official corporate site and turning it into a fan site. Goodbye official Lost site, hello I think most of us would agree that there’s a necessary place for both the official site where the message is controlled and the fan sites where we get to make it all our own. Giving up the one for the other is a risky move, but man oh man do I admire him for it.

And p.s. I don’t have a favorite candidate yet myself.

Tired and expired?

I may feel tired, if not expired, but it seems I’m Wired. Thanks Annalee and a Big Welcome to everyone clicking that link on over here to visit! Have a look around, stay a while, get comfy, leave a comment. And, as always, if you know of interesting things I should be writing about, drop me a line.