Monday, April 21, 2014

John Cage's rules for students

here is an excerpt from Marginal Revolution:

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.
RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.
RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.
RULE TEN: We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.
HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything. It might come in handy later.

If you're into multitasking, you could listen to his 4:33 while reading the rules.

Tyler Cowen, of Marginal Revolution, found the source material here.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

From novelty to innovation

This image is from an Asymco post on Innoveracy: Misunderstanding Innovation.  There, Dediu looks at a form of illiteracy - innoveracy.  The post looks a bit like a grammar or vocabulary lesson as he explains the differences between the four terms in the image.

I like the post because I feel it shows the difference in effort going from a novel idea to an actual thing.  I am sure that creativity is needed at every step from a novel idea to an innovation but so is hard work.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

good and bad advice and deciding what to follow

Instead of hunting for writing advice, this person simply asked for it on Quora: How do I write a spy novel?
A lot of the advice is to read Ian Fleming.  I guess.  I sure like the movies but not so much the books and here is why.  Bond succeeds but often not from his own actions.  I suppose that is more like real life, but dissatisfying in a novel.
Ignoring (bad) advice.

Be More Specific!

—Dimitra Xidous
I used to be part of a writer’s group back in Canada—myself, four other women and one man. One evening, I brought in a poem, ending on the lines:
I confess that I laid myself down then
like a dog, for love

The women ‘got’ it. Understood what I meant by ‘like a dog’. The man kept asking ‘how, like a dog’ exactly? He wanted me to make it explicit, to take away all the ambiguity—which, to my mind, and to the other members’ minds—was the reason the poem worked. He went on—‘was it salivating’, was it ‘hungry’ etc. And everything he suggested only served to lessen the impact.
David Foster Wallace on grammar.
There are only five grammar points - probably good ones for me to review but above the level of most of my students - but there is a lot of other information about DFW that makes me want to know more about the man.
Rules vs Guidelines in Fantasy.
One of these rules is that all fantasies shall be quests; another is that no fantasy world shall ever approach the Industrial Revolution.
Obviously, these rules get broken all the time, which is a good thing. But they remain in the background, like the ceiling in “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” that could lower and squash you at any time. And it can be very hard to think around them.
The Goblin Emperor was an attempt to contravene both rules. There is no quest, and this is a world with both magic and a lively technological and scientific community. (I never have understood why magic would negate technology, even though many stories I love take that as a guiding principle.) And the technology turned out to be decidedly steampunk.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Music to my ears

To be updated over the next week.

I registered in a Stanford U online course on creativity and the first segment was released around a day ago (living in Korea, I lose track of North American timeline).

The first lecture discussed the innovation engine- which is probably described in the link I gave above.  It is also described in the prof's book, inGenius.

This week's homework is to imagine my life were a music playlist and to design an album cover.  As a bonus I can also make a playlist of up to ten songs - real or imaginary.

I feel myself becoming cynical in my middle age.  I used to be only sarcastic but my cynicism has a grimmer, more despairing edge.  Anyway, I will try to make an album cover and playlist that showcases my sense of humour and fun rather than my less pleasant feelings.

Album cover ideas (sarcastic, cynical):
egg- representing my life as a white man in Asia and problems adapting.

Album cover ideas (positive):
Some of my teaching-driven art, even this picture I drew.

Gotta include Summer of Lovin'  and To be a liberal by Zimmerman and some by Jonathan Coulton: Skullcrusher Mountain and First of May.  Spirit of the West, probably Save this House. Barenaked Ladies: Peterborough and the Kawarthas and Odds Are.  And obviously Doug and Slugs.  That last one may be too obvious, I guess most entries will feature D & S. Alright, Making it work and Who Knows How to Make Love Stay. And, because no one knows I love it, sinfonietta allegretto (Leos Janecek).

I gotta say, this playlist has been a lot of fun and it fits who I am now.  Who'da figured that Barenaked Ladies would have the serious song of the bunch?
Off topic, but Kottke has a post about the daily rituals of artists.  It links to this post and this book.  From the post:
A habit of stopping when they’re on a roll, not when they’re stuck. Hemingway puts it thus: “You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.” Arthur Miller said, “I don’t believe in draining the reservoir, do you see? I believe in getting up from the typewriter, away from it, while I still have things to say.” With the exception of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — who rose at 6, spent the day in a flurry of music lessons, concerts, and social engagements and often didn’t get to bed until 1 am — many would write in the morning, stop for lunch and a stroll, spend an hour or two answering letters, and knock off work by 2 or 3. “I’ve realized that somebody who’s tired and needs a rest, and goes on working all the same is a fool,” wrote Carl Jung. Or, well, a Mozart.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What's my name? F- you! That's my name.

What: Auditions for a Busan English Theatre Association production of Pulitzer Prize winning play Glengarry Glen Ross.
Where: Kyungsung University: Building 5, room 518
When: Sunday, April 6th from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m in 15 minute blocks. Three people per block. 
Who: Everyone is welcome. Even though the play calls for an all-male cast, I really want a mixed cast. In fact, for some of the parts, I would prefer women. Please see character descriptions below for details.
How to audition: Please email me at with your contact information, preferred time and role(s) that you would like to audition for, and I’ll send you the scenes.   

Before anyone asks, the famous “coffee is for closers” speech, done by Alec Baldwin in the 1992 film, is not available.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

TWIC: Teaching edition

A powerpoint slideshow on why using powerpoint is bad.  I agree with most of the content but I don't give lectures; I lead seminars.  Also, my handwriting is terrible - everyone wants me, maybe not others, but me, to use PPT rather than writing material on the boards.  And, I never have answers fly or spin into position on the screen (that was slide 25, I think).
I have considered using phone versions of 'classroom clickers' -the same type of clicking devices used on various game shows for voting but in an app form rather than the $30/per dedicated electronics.  I haven't tried any yet but coworkers have said good things about Socrative.  iclicker tops the Google search I did but while playing with my phone's app search I found several others - just not while I'm typing this.

It's funny; one of the points of my first link -about the dangers of PPT - basically reminds educators to focus on content not style but I am interested in 'classroom clickers' without knowing what precisely I would do with them.  I want to use but may have to mangle a lesson plan to fit them in.  Kinda kidding; I won't use them for one class only so I need to learn how they work and see if I can mangle several classes!
Scandinavian schools don't restrict creativity. Also, Toca Boca apps look interesting.
Some Getty images are available free of charge.
Gaming the Bestseller list.  I disapprove of a church paying for get on the bestseller list but Scott Sigler managed a similar feat (and commented on my post).
Moral Hazard in science fiction (and here).  Even though real life has no guarantees of justice, readers want it in their stories and that takes some jiggering.
The parameters of ‘‘The Cold Equations’’ are not the inescapable laws of physics. Zoom out beyond the page’s edges and you’ll find the author’s hands carefully arranging the scenery so that the plague, the world, the fuel, the girl and the pilot are all poised to inevitably lead to her execution. The author, not the girl, decided that there was no autopilot that could land the ship without the pilot. The author decided that the plague was fatal to all concerned, and that the vaccine needed to be delivered within a timeframe that could only be attained through the execution of the stowaway.
It is, then, a contrivance. A circumstance engineered for a justifiable murder. An elaborate shell game that makes the poor pilot – and the company he serves – into victims every bit as much as the dead girl is a victim, forced by circumstance and girlish naïveté to stain their souls with murder.
 Seinfeld on productivity.
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.
“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”
You’ll notice that Seinfeld didn’t say a single thing about results.
It didn’t matter if he was motivated or not. It didn’t matter if he was writing great jokes or not. It didn’t matter if what he was working on would ever make it into a show. All that mattered was “not breaking the chain.”
This looks like good advice.  I'm sure that it is.  And yet, I don't connect with Seinfeld with continued output.  His book came out in 1994, right in the middle of his series and, as best I recall, repeated much of his TV material with little novel content.  I brought up this same point a year ago.  At that link, Seinfeld is described as a relentless maximizer, endlessly honing and improving his content more than creating new content.

Again, I'd call it valuable advice and I should go looking for a calendar to write on.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Writing, science and Beyonce

Some notes on Korean Science Fiction in English.
Planning a Bond-villain-ian style lair?  Here's one for the ocean (Sharks with frickin' lasers on their heads extra).
The periodic table of story telling.
William S Burroughs gives writing advice.
But is it art? Fan fiction and publishers.  When will Sean Keane's Riding Miss Daisy get the attention it deserves?
Pursuing this subject a little finally led me to a definition of 'pastiche':
pastiche is a work of visual art, literature, or music that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artists.[1] Unlike parody, pastiche celebrates, rather than mocks, the work it imitates.[2]The word pastiche is a French cognate of the Italian noun pasticcio, which is a pâté or pie-filling mixed from diverse ingredients.[1][3] Metaphorically,pastiche and pasticcio describe works that are either composed by several authors, or that incorporate stylistic elements of other artists' work. Pastiche is an example of eclecticism in art.
Allusion is not pastiche. A literary allusion may refer to another work, but it does not reiterate it. Moreover, allusion requires the audience to share in the author's cultural knowledge.[4] Both allusion and pastiche are mechanisms of intertextuality.
I need to fight Clinomania to get actual work done.
Related: Productivity myths
  • For instance, some people believe that sleep is important. The evidence for this, however, is not so clear. In fact, studies have shown that productivity levels fall dramatically when you’re asleep. While sleeping, you will be hard pressed to succeed in writing that paper or responding to those emails.
  • Some people also believe that meals are important. Now, what can you accomplish at the dinner table that you can't do sitting at your desk?
  • Some people believe that personal hygiene is important. Staying clean, however, is a Sisyphean task: an endless cycle of bathing and getting dirty, bathing and getting dirty, bathing and getting dirty. Keeping the dirt away is a futile endeavor, and should be abandoned without a second thought. There are too many memos waiting to be read.
How scientifically-oriented fish get their start.  Well, the article is about fish using tools, which I guess is similar to the title I gave it.
For artists, the best economic model is Winner Take All. For publishers and marketers, The Long Tail works better.