Tuesday, April 18, 2017

TWIC: Holy ... It's already Sunday, the danger of social media

It's already Sunday and I haven't prepared a This Week In Creativity yet!

This stroller looks satisfactory but also homemade. I am not complaining about the amateur design but rather impressed with the reasoning and logic behind all the design features. and also that I might be capable of building something similar if I needed to.


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Why haven't I been keeping up with events for my blog? I guess beautiful weather has something to do with it. At my surprisesaplenty blog I share some photos of a recent cycling trip in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea.
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Amateurs and Professionals.
I dream about being a professional writer. I really should buckle down and just write.
I used to write a few hours on a random Saturday every third week of the month. I never got better, and I couldn’t understand why. Then I started writing 500 words a day for as little as twenty to thirty minutes per day. Within a year, I had found my voice. 
Frequency trumps quantity. It’s better to work a little toward mastering your craft every day than a lot once in a while. John Grisham knew this, too: he wrote his first novel in small pieces, during the only free hour he had before work every morning. By the time he was done, three years later, he’d created a new genre: the legal thriller.
What if he’d decided it was too painful to get up to write at 5:00am every day? What if he’d given into the overwhelming feeling of writing a novel on top of 70-hour work weeks? What if you decide the same?
I like a lot about this article but I wonder what "the overwhelming feeling of writing a novel" is.
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The BBC tells us that idle moments are crucial for creativity. The article starts by noting that passengers on flights from some countries to the US cannot access electronic devices and how galling those 11 hours will be without being plugged in. Then,
“My most creative moments come when my brain is allowed to rest,” says Megan King, a graphic designer for the architecture and engineering firm exp Global Inc. As a designer, King is expected to come up with new, compelling ideas all the time. “Sometimes I’ll spend all day working on a project and I’ll feel that I never quite created something that I’m really happy with,” King says. “I’ll get a good night’s sleep and [the next day], get something done in 15 minutes that is more innovative.”
But “I’m addicted to my smartphone,” she says.
A few years ago, when I really got into running, I needed, desperately needed, some audio to distract me from the monotony of running. As I got more into it, I adjusted my playlists, even deliberately adding a few mp3 files of 5 minutes of silence.

The BBC article discusses being taking breaks from screen time but with my hand writing I don't care to use notebooks for more than organizing notes. I can fill a few pages with text in a pinch but there are often real problems with rereading them later -even for me, the author! Still, I think it is time for me to set some limits for social media. I like blogging and feel this is a sort of creative outlet or place to organize my thoughts. I need to put more time into actually writing blog posts rather than these TWICs, which are mostly cut-and-paste. And yet sometimes they are all the content I produce here.

My friends and family are scattered across the globe so if I stopped using Facebook some friends would wonder if the North Koreans had started to attack. Still, I can definitely cut down on time there.

Feedly will be the toughest thing to cut back on. It is the source for much of my TWIC material and a place where I choose what news I want to read.

I shouldn't leave this for later. I might change this plan but as of now, I will be on Facebook for ten minutes morning and evening and on Feedly for the same period (another ten minutes, not the same ten). Quora will get ten minutes every other day. On rainy days and weekends, I can spend more time on social media but only when I set a limit before starting.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

TWIC: ukulele music.plotting, ESL writing, cliches, canoes


Covers of his songs here.
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Writer's block? One solution.
Slightly larger image at the link.
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Planning your plot. And keeping track of it all as you go. I love the idea of using wall space like this:A manuscript of Henry Miller's outline of 'Tropic of Capricorn' (Image is shrunk -see full size at the link)


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Protect yourself from copyright infringement. one of three suggestions:
One of the oldest tricks for proving that a work belongs to you is to print off your writing and send it to yourself in a sealed envelope. This sounds weird but, legally, it functions the same way as a copyright. All mail is stamped with the date by a government employee. And if an envelope is properly sealed, it implies that its contents haven’t been tampered with. Therefore the contents contained within the envelope are recognized by the government as having been written on or before the stamped date.
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Plot twists: too light on foreshadowing and they don't make sense. Too much foreshadowing and they aren't twists anymore.
These understated, almost unimportant titbits are what make for a good plot twist, but you need to get the balance right. If you give the reader too few clues the twist will seem as though it’s come from nowhere, and your story will feel tacky and thrown together. If you give them too many clues as to the impending twist, it won’t be a twist at all, because of its predictability and lack of surprise. Therefore, a successful plot twist needs to be both something that comes from beyond the audience’s viewpoint, and yet, once the dust has settled, feels somewhat satisfyingly inevitable.
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What writers really do.
I carried that image around for the next 20-odd years, too scared to try something that seemed so profound, and then finally, in 2012, noticing that I wasn’t getting any younger, not wanting to be the guy whose own gravestone would read “Afraid to Embark on Scary Artistic Project He Desperately Longed to Attempt”, decided to take a run at it, in exploratory fashion, no commitments. My novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, is the result of that attempt, and now I find myself in the familiar writerly fix of trying to talk about that process as if I were in control of it.
We often discuss art this way: the artist had something he “wanted to express”, and then he just, you know … expressed it. We buy into some version of the intentional fallacy: the notion that art is about having a clear-cut intention and then confidently executing same.
The actual process, in my experience, is much more mysterious and more of a pain in the ass to discuss truthfully.
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I am learning how to write creative science fiction and fantasy. My own students are learning how to write in English. They also need to be creative. My friend Rob Whyte has a blog focused on ESL writing and here are a few posts that caught my eye.

Basic writing
New Lesson
This week students will complete a first draft for writing assignment #4. It’s a story about a boy who meets an alien space ship. The purpose of this assignment is to practice and improve good writing skills like idea, organisation, the first sentence, word choice, and conventions.
In particular, please pay attention to articles and verb tenses.
The exercise has a second purpose. I want students to learn and practice writing complex sentences.
Here is the picture prompt for this exercise.
This is the middle part of the lesson - follow the link for the preview and review and etc.
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My own ESL students in writing and speaking are generally vague.

  • SA: What did you do yesterday?
  • STU: I saw a movie.

It would be so easy for them to tell me the name but they naturally relax to the simplest information. Sometimes I worry about prying. If a student told me in class he went to an 'ero'[tic] movie, I would be pleased with the detail but concerned about TMI. It's a fine line.  Anyway, Rob also tackles weak details, in creative writing rather than personal events.
Focus student attention on pictures 3 and 4. They lack detail. This is where students need to add detail by asking questions. These questions might include:
  • What does the outside look like?
  • How big is the spaceship?
  • Why did the boy go inside?
  • What does the interior look like and smell like? 
  • Who or what is inside the UFO?
Here are panels 3 and 4 - the others, as always, are at the link.
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cliches in comics.
Via Bizarro, I learned of Bob Mankoff's discussion of cliches in comics. Further searching led me to this list that John Freeman made. I copied the whole list here, then deleted maybe 80%. If it interests you, you know what to do.  Added after saving and returning later -Wow! When I first placed them here, there were in a tidy list, not jumbled together.
Abominable Snowmen Airport security lines
Banana peels Beached whales Beds of nails Bedtime stories
Bowling pins versus bowling balls
Cannibals Cats versus mice Cavemen – and women Cave paintings Centaurs
Cinderella Clowns in a tiny car Cloudwatching and identifying Comedy and tragedy masks
Couples caught cheating in bed Couples on a house during a flood Crash-test dummies
Customs agents Damsels on railroad tracks Damsels and dragons
Eskimos Evolution Funeral-parlour viewings Firing squads Galley slaves Gallows The Garden of Eden Gates of Hell
Groom carrying his bride over the threshold Guillotine
Humpty Dumpty Husband behind newspaper at Breakfast Igloos In Out Boxes Invention of fire Invention of the wheel Ice Hole Fishing Jesus on Cross
Marriage counselors
Nudists Operating Theatre Patent Office Pinocchio Pirate’s Lineup Political Stump Speech Robots Rubik’s cube Sandcastles
Snails Snow WhitSong lyrics as captions 
This Side Up box Thinking Outside the Box Tombstones Traffic cop pulling over speeding motorist Trojan Horse
Turtle and Hare TV Weather Forecasts Two Guys in a Horse Costume Umpires
Woman trying on hat You-are-here map Zen Zeus throwing lightning bolts Zorro
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Via Kottke comes this video of a master woodworker building a dugout canoe.

The Birth Of A Dugout Canoe by Northmen from Northmen on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Hokusai

I think that my appreciation of paintings is similar to that of music.  I tend to enjoy novelty more than objective classics.  In music this means I listen to a lot of Weird Al Yankovic, but also TMBG, Roy Zimmerman, and Jonathan Coulton.  I do like classical music but the one I listen to most, Leoš Janáček's - Sinfonietta I like most for the eldritch, unusual theme.

In paintings, I do like van Gogh's work - Starry Night graces my Kindle case - but works that better demonstrate my character are novelty ones. Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights is the best example.

Hokusai's paintings are among the best known in the world, and stand out as unconventional to western eyes.  Here are some of my favorites:



Actually, I don't care so much for this dragonfly image. I think I might be able to draw or paint a better dragonfly.





A website devoted to him.

Wikipedia article on the man here.
BBC article here.  Their podcast In Our Time devoted 40 minutes to him. I think their episodes are only available as MP3s for a few weeks but it appears you can stream from their site for an extended period.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

TWIC: VPNs, carving, marketing, motivation,

I can't think of any way this relates to creativity but as an important public service, here is an article on how to secure your web browser and set up a VPN. Incredibly important!
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How to sharpen wood carving tools.
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Bizarre Japanese Nurse stock photos. Find information about them at that link. The photos can be found here. And #savedyouaclick: there are no tentacle porn or naked nurse photos. I, uh, didn't search for them...Well, I didn't specifically search for them.
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Videos of Traditional ways of making from South Korea.
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Working from anywhere: a laptop lifestyle.
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Quora and Medium posts to attract readers.
and
Podcasting to attract readers.
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What is stopping you from writing?
and
What's holding you back?
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A poisonous grudge with another writer.
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Camp Nano is going on right now!
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Live like Kings and Work like Artisans.
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Beautiful Bookstore
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Bored scribes told a story in the margins of their illuminated manuscripts in days of yore. Why so many snails? The answer is in that video but it leaves out the possibility of a warning against Uzumaki!