Posts Tagged creativity

The Old Dopamine Peddler


This is inspired by what Hank Green said about picking the right addiction just after singing about Tetris on JoCo Cruise Crazy 4. Appropriately, it can be sung to the Tetris tune (a.k.a. Korobeiniki, meaning Peddlers) though it is modeled more closely on Kobi LaCroix’s ‘The Peddler: A Half-Assed Translation’ than on any other version.

Open your mind and I know you will find that its system’s designed for times of rest.
You must know there are places you go when the throes of adulthood get you stressed.

Tics of our mental relief, incrementally pouring cement in between life’s bricks.
Kicks you spurn, they protect you from burnout, without them we’d turn out lunatics.

Drugs, TV or Tetris fun.
Learn, create, or get this done.

When willpower fails you, addiction assails you, and sometimes it ails you but there’s a way
to decide which addiction will guide you; when will won’t provide, you have a say.

Low-power moments with something to show for them, that’s how a grown-up can function well.
Something easy that won’t just delete, so it slowly accretes your world’s oyster shell.

Flappy Bird will do you wrong.
Add more words to parody song.

Not films of Fluffy, watch How To Make Stuff, and make making the puff you’re addicted to.
When at rest, read of skills that impressed, and you will find the best are afflicted too.

New bricks are falling; you can’t fit it all in; you may drop the ball into yawning gaps.
Do it too much, you won’t get to do much, but don’t over-rue such a paltry lapse.

Climb this twelve-step staircase to
time that will no longer waste you.

Post a creation of procrastination,  you’ll find validation to keep you keen.
Reinforce, don’t forget to be awesome, endorse with the force of dopamine.

 

(Reinforce, don’t forget to be awesome, of course that’s endorsed by the brothers Green.)

Read the rest of this entry »

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Ten Minutes A Day (Live on JoCo Cruise Crazy)


I recited a revised version of Ten Minutes a Day at the JoCo Cruise Crazy 4 open mic, because it’s about how to start doing the things you’re passionate about when you’re not in a position to literally quit your job like all these JoCo cruisers did. I introduced it with some quotes from John Hodgman from this video, which can be seen with more context in the JoCo Cruise Crazy 2 Q&A.

Here are the words I intended to say:

Ten minutes a day:
that’s all you need
to realise your dreams —
not as hard as it seems!
Ten minutes can always be freed.

Ten minutes a day,
a sixth of a clock,
to keep up your writing,
the forced march providing
the force to march through writers’ block.

Ten minutes a day
can’t be denied,
to read through your bookshelf
and castle your rook self,
with culture of kings by your side.

Ten minutes a day,
one day at a time.
To inch past the worst of it,
combat inertia that
nothing excuses, must try if it uses just

ten minutes a day.
Don’t you forget
to learn a new language:
word spread, grammar sandwich.
Ten minutes to keep your tongue wet.

Ten minutes a day,
not big amounts,
to work on your fitness;
don’t tire yourself witless,
but even a small workout counts.

Ten minutes a day,
on or offline
to maintain your friendships;
accept rain, and send drips,
as long as it’s something, it’s fine.

Ten minutes a day —
find it somehow!
Deny social network fun;
finally get work done.
You’ve got all these things to make, it’s really not hard to take

ten minutes a day.
That’s all you do.
To try meditation —
it’s self-re-creation!
You have to take some time for you!

Ten minutes a day;
it doesn’t take long
to tidy a tight space,
put junk in the right place,
and live with things where they belong.

Ten minutes a day;
put down those chores
to teach well your baby;
remember that maybe
its life will be bigger than yours.

Ten minutes a day?
I can do that!
Grab life while I’m alive!
Did all the things, and I’ve
got what I’m leaping for now,
and I’m sleeping for

ten minutes a day.
That’s all I need. [yawn]
Night dreams are boring,
my real dreams are [sound of snoring]

The main change since the last version of this poem is that I replaced ‘if you’ve spread spores’ with ‘put down those chores’ and moved that stanza nearer the conflicting advice to tidy up, because in the end it’s all about conflicting advice. The ‘spores’ line always seemed like grhyme scraped off the bottom of a barrel anyway. Also, people might take offense at my likening parents to fungi (not that there’s anything wrong with fungi), and if they’re going to take offense at my views on reproduction, I’d rather they react to The Family Tradition.

I’d recited an earlier version of this at an open mic in Geneva, which went well: my stated goal for that performance was to make the audience yawn, and I succeeded. But I was nervous that people would think it was over when it wasn’t, so I started the last few lines while people were still laughing too loudly about the previous ones to hear me. It’s a good problem to have, I guess. So my goal on the cruise, aside from getting all the words right (I got six words wrong, but they weren’t the most important ones, and I don’t remember whether ‘sleep dreams’ instead of ‘night dreams’ was a mistake or a premeditated improvement) not hesitating or rushing too much, and not dropping entire lines or displaying as much high rising terminal as I did at the last JCCC open mic, was to wait until the laughter died down before continuing with the last few lines. I succeeded! Achievement unlocked: elementary stagecraft.

My dictionary says that ‘stagecraft’ doesn’t mean what I thought it meant, but I’m sticking with it because ‘stagecraft’ is only two letters away from ‘spacecraft’. It’s a pretty cool thing to have. On the subject of spacecraft, I highly recommend seeing Atlantis on display at Kennedy Space Center; the way they show it to you is great. I’ll put up my video of it later.

While practising the poem, I got pretty self-conscious about the corny/overwrought rhymes, and wondered whether it was worth wading through them to get to the laugh line. Oh well: stagecraft! Jack Conte from Pomplamoose was hosting the open mic, and I think he is made of stagecraft. Hank Green was also hosting, but he made it pretty clear that he is made mostly of quarks. Hank Green, we’re not so different, you and I.

A few people who heard this poem at open mic have told me they were inspired by it, and are making progress on various projects because of it, and that’s great. But when I wrote this it was out of frustration with the idea. It always takes more than ten minutes, and there are always other things to do in the day, and if I try to do more than a few of these ‘ten minute’ things there isn’t enough time for sleep. Maybe I need to be stricter about stopping when the time’s up no matter whether I feel like doing more or am still waiting for my nearly-five-year-old Mac Ayu to let me start. I put in the ‘teach well your baby’ stanza almost as a joke, because I’m amazed that people with children have time and energy to do anything else at all, and yet they are told to spend just that wafer-thin amount of extra time doing each of several conflicting things to raise their children better, as well as all the other things. If you really only have ten minutes a day for a child, consider spending them on contraception.

The spontaneous Mr. Creosote reference in the last paragraph made me think of this extra stanza:

Ten minutes a day:
it’s just wafer-thin!
To add to your total,
create, Creosotal!
Conserve it, but don’t hold it in.

Which is kind of gross and kind of negative, but if you have something you want to create, and you just spew out whatever you can in ten minutes, it’s better than forgetting about it or using up mental energy fretting about forgetting it. If time is your nemesis, fight it with emesis.

I’ll leave you with the much prettier words of Jonathan Coulton and Hank Green: There isn’t time and space to do it all, so pick the right addiction.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Ace of Diamonds: Rook Song


This story is a sequel and/or prequel to Swan Song, but I hope it also makes sense on its own.

The artless masses follow each other through the darkness. In the safety of imitation, they are content. Time passes as quickly and as unremarkably as they can make it. When they move together, they are indistinguishable, but when one has a moment of weakness, it is just possible to distinguish that one from the others, and distinguish the moment from the rest of time.

One of these moments was in the past, and it happened to a mass which had once been called Bob, though it didn’t remember that. Bob was nervous, for new thoughts threatened to think themselves inside it and disrupt its peaceful rest. It carefully followed a stream of other such afflicted, and found itself at a diversion dealer.

“I need to relax,” said Bob as normally as possible. After pretending to check something on a computer for a while, the dealer motioned to the distraction section. The section seemed to fill the whole area, with boundaries as indistinct as those between customers.

Some amount of time passed while Bob looked through what was on offer, but Bob was not sick enough to care how much, just as long as it passed unnoticed. Bob settled on a collection named Rooksong, which promised to drown out all original thought if played loudly enough. Something terrifying briefly flashed over the dealer when Bob went to buy the recording.

Not sure whether to be more afraid of it being a real flash or a metastasis from its imagination, Bob asked, “It’s relaxing, isn’t it?”

To Bob’s relief, the dealer didn’t bother to respond.

Finding that those it was following were not moving, Bob began watching before even leaving the diversion dealer. Meaningless images and sounds unfolded all around and through Bob’s mind’s eye. In the resulting wave of relaxation, Bob merged with the rest of the queue so completely that it would have mixed character traits with the others if they’d had any. The next time anything happened, Bob found itself painfully torn from the others, then healed by the blissful distraction of the next show. Some were tired jokes, some were cats dancing to repetitive beats, most were the everyday stories of expert assassins killing time. All made time pass so smoothly that Bob felt nothing at all.

When the amusement stopped, Bob was more sensitive than ever to the passage of time, the pressure to do something with it and the agonising boredom of not doing so. It needed more rook song, and it needed it more quickly than it had ever cared to do anything. It flailed at the dealer. The dealer gave it a bored look, and then shuddered with recognition.

“You want more?” said the dealer.

“Yeah. Do you know where I can get some?”

The dealer shook off those that had followed Bob, and they fled from the unconventional motion. The dealer held a softly glowing object that mutilated the darkness, showing the terrifying outline of the dealer’s bulbous face. Bob, suddenly aware of having rudimentary physical eyes of its own, turned them away.

“This is a thought,” said the dealer. Bob already knew. It had narrowly avoided having one a few times.

The dealer set up a video camera while Bob recited stereotypes to itself and laughed to draw its attention from the light.

The dealer made its move without wasting any time, for it had worse things to avoid doing. It thrust the thought at Bob and held its point near where Bob wished it had eyelids. Bob panicked at the light reaching its mind’s eye. What terrified it most was the temptation to give in, to reach out and grab the flame of time and let it burn its flesh until the flame and Bob were both extinguished. But it dared not. Bob found its calm and recited countless brief tidbits. As the stream of tidbits began to wane, the dealer drove the thought through Bob’s forehead.

And it gave Bob an idea. Terrified, Bob held the idea at arm’s length and brandished it like a dagger.

Bob felt for the hole the thought must have made in its forehead, hoping a lengthy description of gore would stop this story from moving. There was no hole, but having a well-defined forehead was new and disturbing. Bob was different. “Am I alive?” it asked the dealer.

“You’re a watcher now. Go watch.”

Bob understood. It was free to liberate rook song at leisure.

The dealer handed Bob a video camera. “We can trade recordings,” he said. “Then we don’t have to gather as many.”

With that, it calmly went through the charade of selling Bob the camera. The dealer’s shaking had not been vigorous enough to disrupt the whole line, so a few new customers had already arrived.

Bob hid the idea and slid its way around the customers. When it found someone that didn’t look sick, it thrust the idea at it and started filming its reaction. Bob’s anxiety rose a little as it saw the moment of terror, the flickering desire. Then Bob basked in the divine procrastination of avoiding the thing one wants more than anything. The thrill was even more intense than that of watching recordings. Bob savored the spectacle a little too long before stabbing with the idea. The victim had no lust for rook song to keep it going, so it slid silently into the next world.

Potential witnesses to the attack had fled as soon as the idea was unsheathed, so Bob had to wander alone for a while to find its next victim. Having such an obvious gap between itself and others was disturbing; Bob almost saw its own form, and almost thought things nobody else was around to think. The usual distractions weren’t good enough any more. It was so desperate for rook song that it did something it had never done before: it hurried.

Bob found another line and enjoyed the rook song of the last follower. Bob shaded its idea carefully, so some of those ahead of the victim were so absorbed in looking at those in front of them that they did not see what happened, and Bob could feast on them next.

Only when the camera was full of rook song did Bob bother to take it back to the diversion dealer to exchange footage.

“This is terrible”, said the dealer. “You let it grow weak before ending it. And this one is too young; it doesn’t even know what it wants, so how can it avoid it?”

Bob was surprised. Usually, one likes what one is told to like. But only the highest quality time-wasting would satisfy the dealer. It taught Bob how to choose victims: how to tell them apart, and how to see how old they were and how good they were at passing time.

Bob had always been happy about time going on, but as it did so, Bob found it needed more and more rook song to keep going. Soon it understood what the dealer had said about low-quality rook song being unsatisfying. Sometimes it would watch recordings even while liberating fresh rook song. When there was not enough, Bob found itself banging painfully into things with its ever-more-defined features, instead of simply sliding around and through them. Eventually Bob was so defined that others would flee before it even showed its idea.

When Bob ran out of recordings, there was nowhere else to go. It ran to the dealer with the few things it had managed to record, and begged for more.

“This is pretty poor quality. And you just cleared out all my customers. Do you know how hard it was to coax them from the other queues?”

Tears streamed from Bob’s tear ducts. Without rook song, it could not survive much longer in this body. It slapped the dealer with an only-slightly-webbed hand, sending ripples through the dealer’s blastocaelic body. Bob’s fully-developed eyes could see that being surrounded by distraction hadn’t fully protected the dealer from the passage of time and the pressure to become something.

The dealer flashed an idea at Bob as a warning while sorting through some recordings. “Alright, you can have this one.”

Bob started watching straight away. The rook song from the near-formless creature in the recording was relaxing, but not as satisfying as usual. It seemed like it had seen it all before. Only when it saw the dealer plunge the idea into the victim’s head was there enough light for Bob to recognise itself. It saw the conception of its own idea. It remembered the terror of creating such a lively object, and the rooksong-given resolve that enabled Bob to resist it. It remembered the temptation to give in to it. By this time, the temptation was all that was left.

Bob stabbed its idea into its now-beating heart, and sent itself to the next world screaming eureka in pain.

 *

Doctors were worried by the sudden change of heart rhythm, so they induced labour. Fourteen hours later, ‘Bob’ was reborn. Her new parents named her Alice.

Read the rest of this entry »

, , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: