On Reading Haruki Murakami: What does it mean to follow an author’s canon of work?

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14th Street PeopleWay: The Dream of a Car-free New York City

I dream of a car-free New York City.

Every night honking cars arrest me from sleep, and every day myself and millions of New Yorkers breathe the carbon monoxide exhaust from a sea of passing cars.

The 14th street “PeopleWay” is a proposal to make the 14th street corridor car-free: used by buses, bikes, and pedestrians only.

With the proposed L Train reconstruction approximately 50,000 New Yorkers will now be traveling across town in some way other than the L train. New York City needs to take steps to reimagine transportation in the communities that are going to have to do without the subway. And this is the perfect opportunity to reimagine a safer, less polluted city at the same time.

Transportation Alternatives describes the14th Street Peopleway’s proposal,

Private motor vehicle trips are the least efficient form of travel in terms of capacity. A combination of two-way protected bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes and expanded sidewalks could double the corridor’s current capacity, serving up to 24,500 people per hour or more than 500,000 people per day.  – TransAlt

If you dream of a car-free New York City too? Sign the petition for the 14th Street Peopleway, and RSVP to join the 14th Street Peopleway Campaign this Wed 6/22 in Union Square.

How to Make Anyone Happy

How to make big bubbles

The bubbles of Bushwick are majestic. I’ve seen bubbles sailing off rooftops, I’ve seen bubbles swirling around my feet while standing in line for Roberta’s Pizza, and I’ve seen bubbles fly out of the Morgan Avenue subway station. Bubbles everywhere, and everyone seems to love them.

Last Saturday, as I sat watching the bubbles, it occurred to me that making bubbles must be the cheapest and quickest way to make just about anyone happy.

Whereas most things in life demand a certain amount of energy and investment, the bubbles just are. They don’t force a perspective or agenda. There’s no competition, no judgment. And as soon as you look too hard, or try to touch one…

POP!

It’s amazing how much joy people get from such a simple, temporary thing.

The man responsible for putting the blue bucket on the street is local artist Alexis Rondeau – also known by the community as Dr. Bubbles. With his bucket of Dawn and a little bit of magic powder, he’s encouraged hundreds of passersby to take a break and make street art. The only thing he asks is that participants give themselves an artist name. (“There’s been Bubble Trouble, DJ. Suds, and Bubblicious,” Rondeau tells me.)

Rondeau is a 30-something inventor / artist, and like many New York City residents he carries multiple business cards. I asked him what gave him the bubble idea and he credited the work of Brian Eno for the inspiration:

“You know how airports spend billions of dollars on architecture, and then they flood the place with the lamest music? Eno was passionate about bringing art to improve those environments. He used this concept of ‘furniture music’ to make art that blended into the atmosphere of the room, rather than to be focused on. Ultimately: art that doesn’t demand your attention, yet improves your experience. I asked myself, ‘What would Brian Eno do?’ and wanted to bring that kind of art to Bushwick. Bubbles seemed like a fun and positive medium to play with.”

On one hand, I believe Rondeau is selling the art form short by saying that his Bushwick bubbles don’t demand any attention. They’re quite enchanting: I’ve seen the huge, 10-foot wide bubbles slow club kids to a whisper, and the smaller bubbles lead both children and adults in energetic pursuit. Yet, I can understand the comparison to Eno’s art; shortly after the bubbles leave the wand they are absorbed into the background, gradually and then all at once. They become part of the landscape. The fenced-off Boar’s Head distribution center never looked so colorful. The Wonton Food Inc. building never so soft. The McKibbin Lofts so serene.

One of the most wonderful things about the bubbles is that they bring people together. Rondeau tells me, “I’ve met almost all my neighbors and some new friends as well.”

“Who’s the last person you met that really stood out to you?” I asked him, and he shared this story:

“Last Saturday we were on the street when a 6-foot tall bearded man on a skateboard came riding by. He was wearing a torn blue dress. And as he passed through the bubbles he graciously shouted to me, ‘Thank you for the bubbles!’ That guy made my night.”

Make bubbles and you are making people happy. And the happiness that comes out if it is disproportionately higher than the effort that goes into it. If you put in 100%, what you get back is 1000% percent. 

How to Make Big Bubbles

Since writing this piece, Alexis has relocated to Berlin. Which means the Bushwick sky this summer will be less majestic than in years past. Unless we do something about it! It’s up to you to keep the magic afloat. The recipe is simple:

Ingredients for the Bubble Solution

Ingredients for Bubble Wands

Step-by-step your first time making bubbles: 

  1. Cut off a long piece of rope 3x the length of one dowel
  2. Cut rope into 2 pieces: 1x length of dowel, 2x length of dowel
  3. If your rope has a nylon core, pull it out inch by inch
  4. Knot ropes
  5. Attach knotted edges to dowels
  6. Soak Bubble Wand Ropes in solution for at least 20 minutes
  7. Dip the wands in bubble mix
  8.  Cover the world in bubbles!

Tips & Tricks: Bubbles are sensitive so avoid hot sun. Dry air and too much wind will make ‘em pop too quickly, too.

Bushwick is a feeling. Now spread that feeling. Bubble safely!

*Bubble recipe courtesy of Dr. Bubbles himself.

On Leaving The World Better Than How I Found It

Campsite RuleIt’s called the Campsite Rule. If you’ve listened to Dan Savage’s sex advice podcast, you’ve probably heard it. The idea goes like this: when two people are in a relationship the more experienced person has the responsibility to leave their partner better than how they found them.

I mean, how nice is that? To meet someone, and to leave them better than how you found them. After hearing Dan Savage’s Campsite Rule, I wanted to expand his metaphor beyond romantic relationships, and into my relationship with everyone in the world. And from there I began to re-work his idea into a simple rule for living: I must leave the world better than I found it.

It sounds nice in theory, but how will I measure “better”? It’s a lot of pressure for one tiny human like me to wrap his head around.

As I write this I become aware of the room around me: The music I’m listening to came from John Lennon, The MacBook Air I’m writing on was left by Steve Jobs, and the chocolate chip cookies I’m snacking on were invented in the 1930s by a woman named Ruth Wakefield. Each of these things no longer belongs to their original owner. These chocolate chip cookies are more mine than Ruth Wakefield’s.

I have this image of John Lennon in my head, and even though he’s passed away, his influence ripples far and wide, through other humans currently on the planet, and through future generations. It’s as if the human body has the potential to become a giant echo machine.

At this point, you may be thinking, “Yeah, but that’s John Lennon. How often do we get a John Lennon? My echoes aren’t nearly as important.” But you’re wrong. Yes we praise the revolutionists, admire movie stars, and remember history in wide chunks. It’s easy to get hyper-focused on wanting our lives to result in a BIG echo. Sometimes we’ll put tons of negative energy out into the world, as some form of daily sacrifice in pursuit of one day making a BIG dent in the universe. I think that’s the wrong way to go about leaving the world better than how you found it.

The better way: start with all the smaller echoes we make each day. Because all our little echoes add up to something big.

Now I’m going to turn it on myself: I want to share with you my top five echoes that I pay attention to each day in order to (hopefully) make the world a better place:

1. People: How I treat others, especially those with whom I interact daily. This includes my colleagues, my family, and even the cashier at the grocery store. My energy has a huge impact on all of them. Author Ian Maclaren once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” This resonates with me. When I go to sleep each night, I hope to leave the world with more kindness than I require myself. Which sometimes means being kind to those who aren’t necessarily in a position to be as kind back to me.

2. Money: The most powerful echo! With every purchase I approve a new idea, and give the owner of that idea resources, power, and the ability to keep growing. And with every non-purchase, I decide which companies will not thrive as readily. Your consumerism is a weapon. This is sometimes referred to as “Voting with Your Dollar,” and it’s one of the most significant echoes I can make.

3. Earth: How I treat the planet. I’ve made a personal pledge to use products that improve instead of hurt the planet. I limit my consumption of animal products for this reason. It’s an imperfect science for sure, so I’m doing my best with what little I know and welcome opportunities to learn more each day.

4. Ideas: The quality of the ideas that I’m able to share and leave behind . The smallest degree of idea sharing comes at the level of Facebook. The Facebook Wall is an endless hall of echoes. Each post reverberates from one side of the planet to the other. What I choose to share, like, and comment on is a decision to add something positive or negative to the public consciousness.

5. Children: If I choose to have children, the degree to which I prepare them to send wonderfulness to the future. Neil Postman calls children “the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” That’s a great responsibility. Kids can become monsters, but they also possess the ability to leave the world better than we left it for them. And if you’re a guiding example of how to live well, there’s a reasonable probability that they will.

Conclusion

Much of your life was decided before you were born. Applying the Campsite Rule to the whole planet – leave the world better than how I found it – means taking some responsibility for all of those who are still yet to come. Think of the smallest decision you made today. You are so influential that EVEN THAT is a vote for how you believe the future should look.

So please clean up after yourself, because new people arrive everyday.

How Not To Make It In New York


We created How Not To Make it In New York because we wanted to tell the not-so glamorous side of New York City startup story: the hustle, the disappointment, and the comedy.

Whereas most depictions of the startup life seem outrageous and opulent (think: HBO’s Silicon Valley,  The Social Network, The Circle) we wanted to show the scrappy dreamers who may or may not ever get their big break.

I started writing How Not To Make It in New York with Sydney Flint back in October 2015.  At the time we had a simple longline: A risk-averse creative woman, and her overconfident male friend attempt to fake their way into the NYC startup scene with their idea for a meditation app.

Which later resulted in the series’s opening narration:

This is the story of two friends, who leave their corporate jobs to startup a startup.

These first few episodes show the two main characters Kate and Jackson gearing up to quit their corporate jobs (at the yoga mat company NamaStacy) in order to follow their passion of starting a startup.  What is to come in later episodes is their journey sneaking into a local co-working space called The Garage where they attempt to take over the world with their gamified meditation app.

 


 

Credits

Kate – Kate Dearing
Jackson – Kenny Kline
Paul – Mic Daily
Narrator, Director and Editor – Chris Castig
Producer – Sydney Flint
Written by – Chris Castig & Sydney flint
Director of Photography – Annakeara Stinson
Sound – Hannah Rimm

Pros: Things that worked

  • The people! Everyone we worked with was so awesome and supportive. Thanks everyone.
  • Friends that let us use their living rooms and offices!
  • Planning: We did lots of planning (maybe too much?). We used Google Spreadsheet to draft our initial call sheet and script outline. Here’s our Call Sheet Template [Word] [Pages] in case you’d like to use it on your project.

Cons: Things that didn’t work

  • We didn’t use a tripod on some shots. We experiment with handheld cameras which resulted in some shaky shots.
  • I think it took us some time to find our stride. That’s just a natural part of the creative process I suppose.
  • If I shot this again, I’d shoot it more lo-fi and use the extra time to on character development.
  • Improvising scenes. For us, this resulted in lots of extra takes, lots of film being shot, and therefore we had an exorbitant amount of footage to go through in editing.

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