Categories / Writing

Invictus

“Invictus” by William Ernest Henley.

Daring Mystery 8

Wow. Now I’m hunting down an original.

Daring Mystery #8 (January 1942) art by Jack Kirby

Daring Mystery had a rather sporadic schedule.

Issue #7 came out seven months after the previous issue and it would take an additional nine months for #8 to be released. What a difference an issue made. Daring Mystery #6 was produced shortly after Simon and Kirby started working for Timely. It included a Fiery Mask story, a hero Joe Simon created for Timely as a freelance artist when he had just started in the comic book business. DM #7 came out shortly after Captain America #1, Simon and Kirby’s first big hit. Issue #8 came out the same month as Cap #10, after which Simon and Kirby moved on to working for DC.

Props to kirbymuseum.org

Bruce Sterlings alter-ego

From the fevered mind of Bruce Sterling and his alter-ego, Bruno Argento, a consideration of things ahead. Seed Magazine have allowed the two of them to put forth frank and honest ideas about our collective future. We should all appreciate such diametrically opposite points of view.

2009 Will Be a Year of Panic ! America’s harshly competitive, highly individualistic society has scarcely any grasp of “solidarity.” Likely they imagine “Solidarity” has something to do with Polish anti-communism. But no, “solidarity” is a feeling of natural affinity with the unjustly oppressed. One could call it benevolence. Or one could describe it as a wary, street-smart understanding that some fellow citizen just caught it in the neck for no good reason, and that you yourself could easily be next.

Two versions of the same article, one written by Bruce, the other from Bruno who apparently is living in Turin, Italy. The universe in 2009 is a cool little navigation device for giving you a browser based view of the entire magazine’s flagship content stories. It’s beautiful playing with the navigation header and watching all the elements light up and come into focus. High recommend you play with it.

Oddly enough


Oddly Enough from Reuters, an off-beat news blog on all the things that shouldn’t really be catching your attention, but do. It’s good gossip that’s masquerading as news, but like the title suggests you just never know how odd it is until you’ve read it.

Today’s story about a young actress and her little black dress.

For those who enjoy noting deep-seated differences among cultures, here’s one you probably wouldn’t find in Hollywood. A student and aspiring actress who appeared in a revealing dress at the Thai equivalent of the Oscars has been given community service as punishment for undermining morality. Chotiros Amy Suriyawong ensured maximum media exposure by stepping out last week in a full-length black gown, tantalisingly split from cleavage to hips to hem. But the authorities at her university described the outfit as obscene and gave her 15 days of reading books to the blind as punishment.

The whole incident has generated plenty of opinions. One producer went so far as to delete all footage of Chotiros from one of his films. A Thai newspaper actually reported that Chotiros won’t be wearing the dress when she reads to the blind. Thanks for clearing that up!

Twyla Tharp

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.

From Publishers Weekly
Perhaps the leading choreographer of her generation, Tharp offers a thesis on creativity that is more complex than its self-help title suggests. To be sure, an array of prescriptions and exercises should do much to help those who feel some pent-up inventiveness to find a system for turning idea into product, whether that be a story, a painting or a song. This free-wheeling interest across various creative forms is one of the main points that sets this book apart and leads to its success. The approach may have been born of the need to reach an audience greater than choreographer hopefuls, and the diversity of examples (from Maurice Sendak to Beethoven on one page) frees the student to develop his or her own patterns and habits, rather than imposing some regimen that works for Tharp. The greatest number of illustrations, however, come from her experiences. As a result, this deeply personal book, while not a memoir, reveals much about her own struggles, goals and achievements. Finally, the book is also a rumination on the nature of creativity itself, exploring themes of process versus product, the influences of inspiration and rigorous study, and much more. It deserves a wide audience among general readers and should not be relegated to the self-help section of bookstores.

Twyla Tharp’s new book, The Creative Habit, is
1. Practical and straightforward, two attributes to be expected from a dancer. Dancers wrestle daily with the obstinacies of the flesh. It’s not about smoke and mirrors. It’s about hard work and commitment, the “habit” of showing up to do the work and developing one’s creativity in the process.
2. Literary and literate. Tharp quotes the Bible, Dostoyevsky, Mozart, and many other greats of the Western Canon to illustrate her points and show that the struggle to be creative is nothing new and that great artists have fought the same battles as anyone who strives to create.
3. Accessible. There’s no mystery or theory of genius here other than the habit of work. Tharp constantly makes the point that we have to establish habits for our creative pursuits or the work will not get done and the creativity will have no place to manifest.
4. Myth Busting. Mozart didn’t get his musical genius from On High; in fact, he worked his fingers into early deformity from practicing so much. Not that Tharp proposes hurting oneself in the creative quest. She’s merely making the point that practice is supreme, not sitting around waiting for the muse to make an appearance. Her choice of Mozart is historical, but I’ve heard similar about Michael Jordan. When other ball players were out doing whatever, Jordan was on the court practicing his shots.
5. Encouraging. One of America’s greatest choreographers shares her demons with us, so we know our fears aren’t “special,” and no, they won’t go away with success, so stop with the “if only.” Wrestling demons is just part of the process; it comes with the territory.

I love the layout of this book: an airy, elegant use of color, font, and white space, which parallels the visual of her stage work. Tharp is very generous in sharing details of her work regimen and her methods for getting things done. Obviously it works for her. The good news is that because her methods are so practical, they can work for others, too.

Tharp uses photos very sparingly in this book, so if you’re looking for a photo history of her career or her company, this isn’t the book. She focuses on the Creative Habit and she doesn’t make herself or her work the center of the story; she draws on the experience and history of many well-known artistic giants and a few lesser known artists as well.

If you want to create or you’re interested in the creative process, don’t wait for the paperback. I’ve seen many books on creativity, but this is by far the most practical and accessible one I’ve read. Tharp knows that it takes hard work and good habits to create something tangible, and she doesn’t waste our precious time on mystical mumbo jumbo or some magical “way” of the artist. It’s the work, folks.

The Warrior

Can scarcely tell a scarlet tanager from Scarlett O’Hara, but The Life of the Skies had me transfixed from the first page. Jonathan Rosen writes with astounding insight, wit, and compassion. The story he tells here is the best kind of odyssey, an outward journey that ends up highlighting the beauty and daring that live inside of us. Even if you don’t have a son fighting in Iraq, even if you don’t read poetry, even if you think you are immune to the power of a mother’s lament – pick up The Warrior and read it right away. Fran Richey has written some of the most powerful stories I’ve ever encountered. It is obvious that her life was changed by living these poems; yours may well be changed by reading them.

Bravura

1 : a musical passage requiring exceptional agility and technical skill in execution 2 : a florid brilliant style 3 : a show of daring or brilliance

In classical music, a bravura is a virtuosic passage intended to show off the skill of a performer, generally as a solo, and often in a cadenza. It can also be used as an adjective (“a bravura passage”), or refer to a performance of extraordinary virtuosity. The term comes from the Italian for great skill.

Pronunciation: \brə-ˈvyu̇r-ə, brä-, -ˈvu̇r-\
Function: noun
Etymology: Italian, literally, bravery, from bravare to show off — more at bravado

NSA’s Brand Problem

NSA

Good Will Hunting
written by Matt Damon & Ben Affleck

Will:Why shouldn’t I work for the N.S.A.?

That’s a tough one, but I’ll take a shot. Say I’m working at the N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I’m real happy with myself, ’cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people that I never met and that I never had no problem with get killed.

Now the politicians are sayin’, “Send in the marines to secure the area” ’cause they don’t give a shit. It won’t be their kid over there, gettin’ shot. Just like it wasn’t them when their number was called, ’cause they were pullin’ a tour in the National Guard.

It’ll be some kid from Southie takin’ shrapnel in the ass. And he comes home to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, ’cause he’ll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks.

Meanwhile he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And of course the oil companies used the skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them but it ain’t helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. They’re takin’ their sweet time bringin’ the oil back, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and fuckin’ play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain’t too long ’til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy’s out of work and he can’t afford to drive, so he’s walking to the fuckin’ job interviews, which sucks ’cause the schrapnel in his ass is givin’ him chronic hemorroids.

And meanwhile he’s starvin’ ’cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat the only blue plate special they’re servin’ is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I’m holdin’ out for somethin’ better. I figure, fuck it, while I’m at it, why not just shoot my buddy, take his job and give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president.

Mind maps

Mind Map IDEO

David Kelley, founder of IDEO uses mind maps to foster creativity.

“When I want to do something analytical, I make a list. When I’m trying to come up with ideas or strategize, I make a mind map. Mind maps are organic and allow me to free associate. They are great for asking questions and revealing connections between seemingly unrelated ideas.”

Full size graphic here

Just do it, write!

Write it, do or don't

Self-consciousness, self-doubt, awkwardness, and overcompensation are perennial hallmarks of the beginning writer. The reason today’s amateurs seem more profoundly un–profound could be a simple matter of exposure.

There used to be impenetrable gatekeepers. Now, CNN round tables, documentaries, independent films, MTV, and the web—which has no gatekeepers in most countries—are broadcasting every poorly crafted phrase and half–cooked idea imaginable. Patience, readers. All is not lost. Great writing can be taught and atrocious writing is entirely preventable.

Femme Fatale

Angry Femme Fatale with high heel in her hand

I’m figuratively dressing a femme fatale for a cinematic sequence.

She’s well read, well-spoken and has her own particular ‘likes and dislikes’ navigating several centuries of art/culture yet enjoys talking up trashy fashion.

Make no mistake, this women is versed in the science of seduction. Frankly, her weapon of choice is the sophisticated pencil skirt, a move of her calculated creativity.

‘Seek and you shall find’ meaning accept deeper research. The true jewels of this intriguing femme fatale can be found fairly easily. I’m adoring this women already. Defining more expression/history/character traits will allow us to go beyond stereo-typical references.

She’s a trained master in seduction.

“slim silhouette stays that way – with just a flattering hint of poufiness”

The hand-on-hips is a unifying image of sophisticated 1920’s style femininity.

Femme Fatale wearing pencil skirt

The high-hip skirt is a much softer look/playful touch. Black nylon tights, or something with a slight pattern. Elegant Christian Louboutin’s stilettos, painted toes, red gloss, towards the darker side of red.