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Cassette From My Ex: The Book

Time travel, puppy love and the universal relatability of musical self-expression.

I’ve been a longtime admirer of Cassette From My Ex — a lovely, lovely mixtape revivalist project that brings back musical gems from the past, along with the charming personal stories behind them, through hundreds of digitized, streamable soundtracks to first loves. So imagine my excitement over Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves — the marvelous book based on the blog. (Beginning to see a wonderful pattern here with favorite blogs becoming books…)

And while the iPod era may have its many pocketable advantages, there’s still something to be said for the lost charm of crafting these sonic love messages, blending the art of musicology curation — always a winner around here — with the intimacy of a letter. Speaking of curation, that’s perhaps what makes the book most impressive — book culls such intimate stories of mixtape masterpieces from 60 noted writers and musicians, including The Magnetic Fields’ Claudia Gonson, This American Life’s Starlee Kine, Improv Everywhere’s Charlie Todd, and even Rob Sheffied, the godfather of the mixtape genre.

I was an Asian guy with long hair who was into Heavy Metal; she was a Latvian dancer who liked to chain-smoke Camels.” ~ FJ

Long ago, in a city I will not name, I loved a woman, and she punished me for it.” ~ BG

Extraordinarily relatable, Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves will move, inspire and delight literally everyone. Because we all have our stories of being young and in love and desperately trying to capture in music that intangible butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling. These stories shaped much of our relationship with music as a tool of emotion and self-expression — and this book is fascinating anthology of such stories, a beautiful intersection of musicology, anthropology and pure human experience.


Dan Witz’s Dark Doings

What hookers and tigers have to do with reclaiming your awareness.

Brooklyn-based artist Dan Witz has been one of the defining forces in contemporary street art.

It was Dan Witz who, back in 2003, first showed us how powerful street art could be. Each summer Dan’s projects take street art to new levels by adding elements of “surprise and delight” into the city landscape. For us, Dan Witz is the consummate street artist. He’s provocative. He’s dedicated. And most of all — he has absolutely wicked skills.” ~ Marc and Sara Schiller, Wooster Collective

Witz spent this past summer working on his latest project, Dark Doings, which opens as a solo exhibition tonight at the Carmichael Gallery of Contemporary Art in LA.

Inspired by a recent visit to the Red Light District of Amsterdam, Dark Doings explores the tragic obliviousness we’ve developed to our surroundings through subtle, haunting images of human and animal faces trapped behind dirty glass windows.

I’m trying to exploit our collective tendency towards sleepwalking by inserting outrageous things right out there in plain view that are also practically invisible. My goal is to make obvious in your face art that ninety-nine percent of the people who walk by won’t notice. Eventually when they stumble upon one or find out about it I’m hoping they’ll start wondering what else they’ve been missing.”

The project embodies the true purpose and power of street art — to challenge, to compel, to jolt us out of our self-constructed comfort zones and stagnant defaults. Dark Doings is a remarkable reminder of, to quote the theme from TEDGlobal, the substance of things not seen.

See more of the installations from the series, and remember to look a little closer — in the street, and in life at large.

Editor’s Note: On a related note, I’ve explored the importance of mystery in street art in my first article for the wonderful GOOD Magazine, investigating the greatest guerrilla art mystery never solved.


Troika Moonshine 300

Three random things, 300 words, a story.

Troika Moonshine 300 is a collective of writers tasked with creating 300-word stories based on three words assigned to them by another artist. Since 2007, these stories have spanned an incredibly rich range of styles, genres and voices, playing with the dynamic relationship between boundaries and creativity in the most inspired of ways.

Artist Eric Power chose to construct his story — based on the words driftwood, poncho and sacrificial — visually, in this beautifully animated short film.

Explore all the stories for a fascinating journey into the diversity of imagination.


Play Me, I’m Yours: Reclaiming Public Space

What the London Symphony Orchestra has to do with skate parks and the Sydney homeless.

You may recall UK artist Luke Jerram and his brilliant glass microbiology from our Biology-Inspired Art issue. But besides exploring the beautiful intersection of science and art, some of his work transcends aesthetic art, entering into social experiment and anthropology.

Play Me, I’m Yours is a fascinating project, touring the globe since March 2008 and placing street pianos in locations all over the world. From train stations to laundromats to skate parks, the pianos emerge in public spaces, inviting the community to engage and interact with them in a way that creates a playful and vibrant canvas for grassroots cultural self-expression.

Questioning the ownership and rules of public space ‘Play Me I’m Yours’ is a provocation, inviting the public to engage with, activate and take ownership of their urban environment.

Since its launch, the project has received wide media attention from NPR, The New York Times, BBC, and a myriad other culture-purveyors. And the 112 pianos installed so far have been played by anyone from school children in Sao Paolo to the London Symphony Orchestra.

Next year, Play Me, I’m Yours is hitting London, Belfast, Barcelona, Pécs, Cincinnati, San Jose, Medellin, Cartagena, Bogatoa and 17 more cities.

The project is a much better-conceived and more ambitious analogy to Volkswagen’s recent Fun Theory effort, which tests the simple hypothesis that giving people something fun to do will change their behavior and their relationship with public space.

Explore Play Me, I’m Yours and more of Luke’s amazing work for a glimpse of art’s transformative power in human behavior and sociology.


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