Posted by midiguru on January 17, 2009
I’m an applause whore. I tend to choose creative projects to work on based on the likelihood that the finished work will be noticed and appreciated. The Emily Dickinson routine, where you write the poems and then stick them away in a shoebox, has always seemed cockeyed to me.
Sometimes I guess wrong. Four years ago I wrote a long novel that my agent felt he couldn’t market. It’s still sitting in a shoebox. The point is, I believed it had some potential, or I wouldn’t have put the time into it.
As I finish up my latest piece of interactive fiction (look for it in the Spring Thing competition in April), I find myself looking around and wondering what I want to do next. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in writing | Tagged: creativity, writing | Leave a Comment »
Posted by midiguru on January 15, 2009
I’m really bad at self-promotion. But if you’re self-employed and the economy is in the crapper, self-promotion is a highly desirable skill to cultivate.
Beyond the psychological challenges, though, I really don’t know what to do. I teach cello. My student roster has fallen off a bit since last fall, and I’d like to build it up.
I told my friend Roger I was thinking about this. He laughed and said, “Play on a street corner.” He was joking, but not really. The point is, Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in cello, music | Tagged: career, self-employment | 2 Comments »
Posted by midiguru on January 15, 2009
I’ve had Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way on my shelf since it first came out. I picked up some insights from it, but I’ve never done the course in an organized way.
Last night I found myself sitting at a table in a meeting hall in a nearby church, at the first session of a 12-week Artist’s Way group. My friend Jen organized it; I’m way too reclusive to have pulled it together.
I’m planning to stick with it, at least for a few weeks, to see how it develops. A couple of the exercises were interesting, and doing them in a group was even more interesting, because I got to hear some of the similarities and differences in other people’s experiences and struggles.
Morning Pages, though — that’s a tough one for me. I guard my mornings. Time for a short blog entry, but not for a thousand words of rumination. I’m going to do Bedtime Pages instead.
Demographic peculiarity: The other five participants are women. Maybe that’s because most of Jen’s friends are women, or maybe it’s because in this culture men have two hurdles to leap before joining a group of this sort. First, men are not supported in urging their creativity; women are allowed to at least dabble in stuff, as long as they don’t get too serious about it. Second, men who are being creative in some way are supposed to be tough and succeed on their own. We’re not supposed to admit we need help!
Posted in music, society & culture, writing | Tagged: artist's way, creativity | Leave a Comment »
Posted by midiguru on January 13, 2009
I enjoy writing imaginative stories, but these days I stick to fantasy. Science fiction is both too hard to do well, and not interesting enough.
The rationale of science fiction (SF) is that the events in the story could actually happen. Maybe in the future, or maybe on some other planet, but the known scientific facts of physics and chemistry are scrupulously adhered to. There are a few permitted exceptions: time-travel stories are always considered SF, even though modern physics doesn’t provide much support for the idea. Other SF devices, such as faster-than-light travel, have fallen out of favor for the same reason, but again, you can still use them if you care to, and nobody will accuse you of writing fantasy.
Most often, SF is set in the future. Amazing stuff has been invented that we know nothing about today. But it’s not supposed to violate the laws of physics … at least not in any way that the reader can easily detect.
The difficulty is, it’s impossible to predict the future. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in society & culture, technology, writing | Tagged: science fiction, writing | 4 Comments »
Posted by midiguru on January 12, 2009
Interactive fiction is a completely new art form, one that almost couldn’t exist without the computer. (A case could be made that Dungeons & Dragons fully qualifies as interactive fiction, but D&D didn’t predate the birth of text-based games by very long.)
What’s interesting about this art form may be slightly different for the player than for the author.
In a good work of IF, the player has the opportunity to rehearse, in a safe environment, the kinds of processes that we go through in the real world. We make mental maps of the terrain. We try to figure out how to overcome obstacles and get what we want. Sometimes we aren’t sure what we want, and we have to blunder around until it becomes clear. We pause often to take a close look at something unfamiliar, play around with it, pick up objects that look as if they may be valuable or useful, and try to avoid getting killed.
The author gets to play God. The author enjoys both the privilege and the responsibility of absolute freedom — you can design your IF world almost entirely to your own specifications. It can be whimsical or dark, florid or stark. But if you neglect to fill in the details, your world won’t come alive. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Interactive Fiction, writing | Tagged: Interactive Fiction, writing | Leave a Comment »
Posted by midiguru on January 12, 2009
Working on a few new articles for music magazines. You won’t get the details here, because the editors of the various fine publications would naturally prefer that you buy a copy. As a teaser, though…
For Drum!, I’m putting together “Top Ten Free Music Software Downloads.” This will be a grab bag of powerful programs that you can use without spending a nickel (except on the computer and maybe a decent audio interface). Researching this piece, I’ve found some great programs — look for them in an issue of Drum! in a couple of months.
For Keyboard, I just finished a review of a very strange plug-in synthesizer called Sonic Charge Synplant. If you’re into strange noises, check it out.
For Electronic Musician, I’m doing a column on the .scl file format, which is a way of letting software synthesizers play in alternate tunings. You can learn more on the Scala site.
This is the fun part of being a writer: I get paid to explore various weird things. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in music, technology | Tagged: music, technology | Leave a Comment »
Posted by midiguru on January 11, 2009
Off and on I’ve been listening to music at pandora.com. I’ve been knocked out by the selection of tracks and the ability to define my own playlists in a way that includes good surprises.
Tonight, though, an audio commercial (for American Idol) popped up between Baroque tracks by Bach and Handel. Sorry, Pandora. You’re dead to me. I stopped listening to radio years ago because I couldn’t stand the commercials.
I don’t care how much money your CEO wants to spend on his trophy wife. I’m not letting your damn commercials into my brain. I’ve got a perfectly nice CD collection to listen to; I don’t need to be abused this way, and I’m not going to be.
Posted in media, music | Tagged: media, music, pandora | 3 Comments »
Posted by midiguru on January 10, 2009
Herb Caen, whose column in the SF Chronicle made him “Mr. San Francisco” for decades, liked to poke fun at what he called the “prismatic luminescence” school of wine writing. There not being a whole lot one can say about wine, writers who are being paid (and paid by the word) have to come up with incredibly far-fetched ways of saying the same four or five things over and over. Metaphors are stretched until they twang.
I recalled Caen’s handy term this morning while dipping into a piece in today’s Chronicle (on their website, actually) about some artworks from the 1950s. Here’s writer Kenneth Baker’s provocative style at its most florid: “Michael Goldberg’s small, power-packed “The Last Apartment” (1959), Emilio Vedova’s “Del Nostro Tempo” (1950) and Ernest Briggs’ untitled canvas from 1952 all suggest ambitions to leave an imprint through the artist’s own unconscious volitions, in which viewers may feel themselves mirrored.”
My first response to “ambitions to leave an imprint through the artist’s own unconscious volitions” was, “Whaaat?????” After pondering it for a while, I think maybe I get it. What Baker is saying, when we liposuction out the pomposity, seems to be, “These artists are just throwing paint on the canvas without trying to consciously control what the result looks like, and you’re supposed to be Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in society & culture, writing | Tagged: writing | Leave a Comment »
Posted by midiguru on January 9, 2009
Today was the first meeting of my class for kids in how to write interactive fiction. The kids got into it much more quickly than I expected — they seem to take to Inform 7 very naturally, and they seem to be enjoying it a lot. This is exciting!
Imagine eight kids around a dining-room table, each with a laptop. They range in age from 11 to 13. I had given them some advance idea of what to expect by providing games that they could play, and several of them had already finished playing “Mrs. Pepper’s Nasty Secret,” which I suggested they start with because it’s newcomer-friendly. A couple of others had no idea what to expect, so I explained about navigating from room to room and examining objects.
We got Inform installed on the computers with barely a hitch. I showed them how to use the interface, and they were off and running. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Interactive Fiction | Tagged: Inform 7, Interactive Fiction, teaching | 2 Comments »
Posted by midiguru on January 4, 2009
I’d like to reorganize my eating habits. Having read the first half of In Defense of Food, I’m convinced: The standard American diet is really bad news. But because I live alone, have never done much cooking, and get nauseous at the thought of eating a salad, developing viable options may not be a stroll in the park.
Yesterday it occurred to me that I’d love to bake my own bread. I used to have a friend who baked bread, and it was always wonderful. But I own none of the required equipment, and I’ve never baked a loaf of bread. The probability of ineptitude is very high. And if I buy all this fancy equipment and then get discouraged when my first efforts are inedible, I will have wasted a lot of money. (I have a history of novel enthusiasms; gotta be careful about spending the bucks on them.)
I may start with vegetable soup. That’s almost bound to be easier. I wonder if they teach bread-making at the local community college, or at the local community center. And if they don’t … shouldn’t they? If I could learn to do it, not just adequately but well, I could teach other people. Yeah, there might be something in that. But first I have to learn to do it.
Posted in health | Tagged: diet, food, health | 3 Comments »