“It’s always a risk when you share a book. You place part of yourself into someone else’s hands in the hope that they will understand you better. The best you can hope for is a communing of spirits over the open page. The worst is a cruel rejection of something you hold precious. Sharing books is risky business.”
March 31, 2012
March 29, 2012
March 28, 2012
March 27, 2012
Peter Diamandis (of X-Prize fame) gives an alternate view. I love his enthusiasm and “get-out-of-our-way-while-we-save-the-world” intensity.
March 26, 2012
The Decline of Literate Thought: “My own students enjoyed heat in the winter and plentiful electric lighting at all times, owned their own books (often sold back to the bookstore at term end, as they saw no point in keeping them), had unlimited access to libraries, and benefitted where necessary from plentiful loans and scholarships to assist them in pursuing their studies. Yet their enthusiasm for learning could not even remotely compare with what I was observing in an unfurnished, late-night public square. What I intuited then and fully apprehend now is that without a more or less equivalent degree of responsibility and determination on our part, an awareness of the value of literary studies and an ethical commitment to mastering our intellectual history and incorporating the wisdom and intelligence of the larger culture that ultimately sustains us, the world in which we live and which we take for granted will surely founder.”
You can fool some of the people some of the time, etc, etc, but you can’t argue your way out of the math. The governmental War on Arithmetic will not end well.
March 22, 2012
The Spiderman finish to that title that everyone remembers is “Great Responsibility”. But when you’re talking about creative endeavors that’s not always the case. I’m currently working on something for a client who has basically said “do whatever you want”. And while that’s usually music to a composer’s ears, a total lack of boundaries and pallet color options can be confounding. Not that I can’t write something cool, but some direction is nice- if only to avoid the dreaded “we don’t know what we want, but it’s not that… try again”. All music writers have experienced this and it’s the worst. Especially with a clueless client who just doesn’t get the amount of thought/time/work involved before you ever put pen to paper.
So I’m going through the quite common and reasonable process of helping the client narrow down what they want so that my first try is at least in the ballpark. Fortunately we’ve worked together in the past and know how each other thinks (one of the reasons I got the gig). No worries that I’ll soon establish the boundaries, and we’re excited about the direction that it’s currently taking.
But still… it makes me see again just how important the concept of limitations is in any creative endeavor. You have to know what you’re trying to say before you start talking. You need to know who your audience is if you’re being asked to connect with them. I think this is where friends (like my friend Matt) has a very understandable argument with Modern Art. Modern Art doesn’t seem to try and connect with the audience. (Much of) it seems to be just concepts thrown against a wall to see what will stick (sometimes literally). If your intention is to just talk and you don’t care if anyone listens to what you have to say (or write, or paint, or compose), then go for it: just don’t expect anyone to understand you, and don’t get huffy when they don’t.
Know your audience. And be prepared to mold your voice to what they can understand. You can always lead them somewhere new, but you have to first meet them where they are.
This is, I think, a pretty reasonable definition of the difference between a “composer” and an “arranger”. A composer says what’s on his mind (like the modern artist) and the audience either comes along or not. An arranger is usually hired for the much more mercenary task of deliberately manipulating an audiences’ emotions for a purpose- not that that’s a bad thing. The purpose can be to sell cars or convert someone politically or connect and uplift a big audience in a live performance. In each case we’re “selling” an experience. With a composer writing original concert music it’s much more like a writer of novels who doesn’t necessarily care that their stuff is popular or not- just that they get to say what is trying to burst out of them.
This, then, is why I’m probably more comfortable calling myself an arranger than a composer, though not many people see the distinction. I can write stuff that may not appeal to a larger audience, and there is, I think, a “voice” to my work that feels true and authentic, but 99% of the music I write is designed to connect with an audience. And I’m very good at it. But this means means that 99% of the time I have to subjugate, or at least tame, that inner voice in the service of the goal at hand. Totally different psychological and philosophical approach to writing music.
March 21, 2012
‘How Creativity Works’: It’s All In Your Imagination : NPR: “‘The brain is just an endless knot of connections. And a creative thought is simply … a network that’s connecting itself in a new way. Sometimes it’s triggered by a misreading of an old novel. Sometimes it’s triggered by a random thought walking down the street, or bumping into someone in the bathroom of the studio. There are all sorts of ways seemingly old ideas can get reassembled in a new way.’”
March 17, 2012
Interesting story in Wired about the new data center being built by the Ntional Security Agency in the Utah desert. Can’t say I’ve read many glowing comments about this on the net.
March 16, 2012
March 15, 2012
“We choose clothes to highlight our best features, we turn our best side to the camera, but it is easy to forget that the people we surround ourselves with are not only those whom we find interesting-they are the ones to whom we give the privilege of helping shape who we are.”
Rabbi David Wolpe
March 12, 2012
“Well, all of us know what a trauma it can be when one or more of your side-mirrors gets dinged. On the scale of oppression and misery it’s even worse than a flailing, about-to-fall-off wiper, and just short of an oil pan leak — milestones of grief and torment both. So, as the Post’s editorial board detailed, and columnist Matt Gurney ever so industriously expanded upon, the much beset Ms. Howson went to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, pleading — obviously — a diminishment of her human rights.
Ms. Howson is herself a former investigator for the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, so she brings to this matter an expertise that only first-hand exposure to the nebulous clouds of current human rights thinking can supply…
In Canada recently, human rights have been put through a great experiment. They have become unhinged from any basic understanding of their cardinal meaning, stripped of the aura that we accord our highest aspirations. If the current diluted concept of human rights is grounded in some coherent philosophy, related to a set of first principles, we all await the news of what that philosophy, those principles, might be. It isn’t enough to say that Archbishop Tutu likes the way we do things and leave it at that.
This latest reality-playlet from Ottawa should be satire. None of us, thank God, is born with a Right to Park Where We Want To In Ottawa. That a former agent for one of these commissions considers where her Mazda 5 spends the night a “human right” is, or should be, appalling. That her plight should even be considered under the rubric of human rights demeans the concept. Indeed, I would offer it as an axiom that if a human rights complaint even contains the word “Mazda 5,” someone has stepped off the bridge of reason altogether.”
Human Rights: I do not think that word means what you think it means.
March 7, 2012
It’s Time to Clean House – Philip K. Howard – Politics – The Atlantic: “Congress treats most laws as if they were the Ten Commandments — except they’re more like the 10 million commandments. Most legislative programs do not codify timeless principles of right and wrong. They are tools of social management. These laws allocate social resources — almost 70 percent of federal revenue in 2010 was consumed by three entitlement programs enacted a half century or more ago. Congress almost never goes back to rationalize these programs. Running government today is like trying to run a business using every idea every manager ever had.
At this point, Democracy is basically run by dead people. We elect new representatives, but society is run by policy ideas and political deals from decades ago. Congress has a tragic misconception of its responsibility — it sees itself as a body that makes new law, not one that makes sense of old laws.
The problem of obsolete law is not theoretical. It’s concrete, affecting daily choices across the country. It adds to cost, and slows productive activity to a crawl. “
You may be a carpenter. You may be an accountant or a teacher or pump gas for a living. Each of us does with his or her hours duties that define our time here. However, each of us is also constantly working- whether we know it or not- on the deeper work that will define us when we only exist in other people’s memory. We are not, after all, just “teachers”, we may be mentors to someone without realizing it. We’re not just an accountant, but rather we get to be the conduit that adds the figures up that lets someone realize their dreams. The surface activities that we call “work” aren’t everything that there is to it.
Every so often we get a small window into the deeper job that we’re about. Very occasionally we get some sort of feedback that lets us know we’ve made a difference in someone’s life. I am privileged in that my job allows more frequent contact with this layer of work than most. Tonight I got to see some of that evidence and it makes the long hours, hard decisions and sacrifices worth it. It may not be as dramatic or cathartic as a doctor saving a patient’s life or a teacher seeing the once-troubled student graduate with honors, but it’s still deeply meaningful to see that your contributions matter. I am grateful for these moments.
This is just a reminder to myself, really, for those long days of frustration and aggravation that are sure to come. That there are moments like this make days like that easier to handle.
Go and do good work.