Friday, April 25, 2014

There's probably a lot to be made in creatively writing contracts. For the artist, not so much.

A Grammy nominated artist shares his royalty statements and the numbers are not thrilling.
Here’s a screen capture of my quarterly royalty statement.  14,227 performances of music (almost every track 100% owned by me) generated $4.20.  Notice one performance of “Ceremonies” or “Distant Lands” streaming radio show like Hearts of Space that brings in 26 cents for the full writer’s share compared to 2,088 performances of “Gypsy Rain” on Spotify that brought in a total of 60 cents.
Someone’s making money, and in true fashion with the music industry, it’s not the artists.  Business practices like this are one of the reasons I jumped ship and only write for television now.

See the statements at the link.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Creativity: Music to my ears

I have worked hard, and been successful I think, at being a positive person while taking the Standford creativity class.  The class has been fun and I have learned a few things.  More than that, I have used the skills needed to be creative.
However, my cynical, snarky side has questions.
From Dr. Seelig's book.
"B.F. Skinner found that intermittent, or random, rewards lead to more robust behavior....gamblers play on the slot machines for hours, waiting for random payouts.  This principle can be sued to enhance creativity by giving intermittent recognition for creative work.  Consider using surprise rewards for creative contributions, or randomly giving special perks for particularly innovative ideas.  Knowing that at any time there could be a wonderful surprise as a reward leads to enhanced creative work." (P123, location 1414 of 2717)
I don't know Skinner's work but the example of slot machines suggests one is rewarded for simply being there, rather than performing novel work.

Last week's project was to brainstorm 100 ideas for how music could help solve a problem.  Our problem was "How can we encourage people to buy or read more books and be more literate?"  The last ten or twenty ideas were very good and that was expected (the first ideas are commonplace and obvious) in the brainstorming homework for the creativity class - is it specifically because of the brainstorming or because I/we have thought about the subject deeply and nearly continuously for more than a day?
Perhaps the official graders at the Stanford Creativity class are all superstars!  Maybe, I am learning, just by seeing their suggestions, how wildly creative people can be.  After finishing our own 100 ideas brainstorm, it is now up for evaluation by classmates. Each student needs to evaluate 8 other brainstorming lists, with the first three having been previously looked at by Stanford TAs.  After we submit our evaluations, we can see how we match or differ from the Stanford people.  In many ways my own commentary matches what the TAs except in the 'suggestions' category.  I have been noncommittal in my suggestions - not much invested in them, after all - but the TAs have suggested imagining the events happen on the moon or that Superman become involved.  Is this wild, valuable creativity or attempting to appear creative by throwing wild ideas in the air?  As one gets more chaotic, the actual value goes down - Astronomers might fret over the signal to noise ratio.
"Consider using some prompts that really stretch the imagination... How would superman solve this problem? How might you solve this problem 100 years ago?
Come up with really wild ideas... How might you do this on the moon, for example. "

Perhaps to get crazy enough, you need to get super crazy then dial it back.
As with many projects I have worked on, I think ours lacked polishing at the end.  We had more than a hundred ideas and the mindmap format worked but the results could have been displayed a little more clearly.  Other groups had their lists numbered (as ours should have been) and broken into several images for each category of idea.  The mindmap does a great job of displaying categories but takes effort to pan and zoom to see them all.
It was great to see in the book and on the class video, some rules for brainstorming.  i will repeat them here soon.  Everyone knows the basics, but there are important fine points, we are told.
I am really happy to read about people eating well.  Ah, I hope all the people writing about "branstorming" were talking about eating and not the effects of all that roughage.

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.