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Creativity (104 posts)
You know that really-annoying-but-also-very-true saying "Only boring people get bored"? I was on a flight yesterday, trying to brain-message this thought to a teenager who was complaining of ennui to her mother while flipping through a magazine. Meanwhile, I was glamorously attempting to wrestle my 1-year-old into a sitting position while my 3-year-old slammed the window shade up and down and smashed goldfish crackers into her seat. Being bored, what a luxury! Still, I can relate -- I remember when flying was not a frenzied fever dream of shushing and wrangling, but, well, a bore.
So, should you find yourself bored on a long flight you could watch a dreadful movie you'd never choose, buy a drink for any mothers you see traveling with small children, or you could get really, really creative. Like the artist Nina Katchadourian.
Finding herself on a long flight and, you guessed it, sensing the onset of the dreaded boredom, Katchadourian decided instead to take to the lavatory, where she created a headdress out of toilet paper and commenced to take portraits of herself in the Flemish style. The results are hilarious, pitch-perfect, and rather beautiful. And the reminder -- that truly there is no boredom when you can be creative -- is priceless.
(via Laughing Squid.)
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There is something so important about having someone who takes you seriously, especially when you're a kid and most of the people in your life respond to your Big Ideas with a "Mm-hm, that's nice, dear." I think this is what I love most about this video which has been all over the Internet the past few days: Caine's Arcade.
The short film features one of the most creative kids you've ever seen, a 9-year-old boy named Caine, who spent a summer hanging out in his father's auto-parts shop in East L.A., building an elaborate cardboard arcade. Watch it for Caine's boundless creativity and the intricate arcade games he creates out of boxes, old toys, hooks, and tape. But also, look out for Nirvan, Caine's first (and for a while, only) customer, who ended up making this film:
There are many wonderful moments in this -- when Caine first sees the flash mob Nirvan invited to the arcade is a heart-buster -- but I think my favorite is when Nirvan pronounces Caine's "arcade fun pass," "a really good deal." He's not being facetious in the least. He means it. He thinks Caine's games are awesome, and he thinks 500 plays for $2 is a really good deal, and he's right. And because he takes Caine's awesomeness seriously, others do too, and they come to play at the arcade not to be nice or to indulge a kid or do anyone any favors -- it's because the games are fun to play, thanks to Caine's careful planning and attention to details (the tickets!).
Sometimes that's the greatest gift you can give someone -- a child, an adult, anyone: yout full attention and support. After all, when someone takes your creation seriously it starts to become, well, a real arcade.
I once worked for a few weeks in a balloon factory, I'm not kidding at all, located on the outskirts of an Iowa cornfield. Everything about the experience was a little surreal. Even though I was just answering phones and taking orders, it was all done to the background music of machines filling balloons with air and stamping images on them. Every now and then a balloon would detach itself and go whizzing through the air, unintentionally playful. Sometimes we would all break into a musical number. Okay, not the last part. But there is definitely something a touch otherworldly about balloons, those undeniable signs of childlike dreaminess. Even more so when they become the raw materials of art.
I'm sure this is no news to Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle, masters of a special brand of balloon twisting they call "airigami." These people make balloon-animal-making clowns look like, well, clowns. (Visit their site for some images of the mind-boggling things they've made from balloons.) And filmmaker Catherine Stratton made a lovely short film showing the process the artists use to make their balloon creations. The balloons floating in the air as the film opens...the poignant pop of one that doesn't make it...it's no exaggeration to say this video will have you looking at balloons as never before. Who knew they could be so beautiful...so expressive...so grown-up?
(via The Kid Should See This)
That's according to the classically trained, professional musician Adrian Anantawan, who happens to lack a right hand, when he and his parents decided that he should learn the violin it worked because “we came from the premise of ‘why not?’” And Anantawan thinks this is precisely what gave him the confidence to go on to become a skilled violinist who studied at Yale and has performed at the White House, the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, and Carnegie Hall.
Playing violin this well is an accomplishment for anyone, but in this case it's particularly amazing. Because Anantawan was born without his right hand, he plays the instrument with a special device designed just for him that he calls a "spatula." (You must see this video of Anantawan in action to see how this amazing device works -- and how effortless the music sounds.) The talented fellow told the Harvard Gazette that growing up different from those around him, finding the violin “was one of the first times I was accepted within a peer group, mainly because it’s how you sound; it’s not how you look. It’s how you express and communicate.” And so Anantawan has decided to pay it forward, using his talents to teach music to kids with disabilities.
I don't know what's most inspirational about this. The working with disabled kids? The persevering despite a profound disability? The cheery attitude Anantawan exudes? Or is it simply the idea that by forging ahead, powered by optimistic ignorance, anything is possible?
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And yet...I remain the most gullible, trickable, April's Fools-able person in the world, and why it was with great horror that I read the National Poetry Foundation's announcement that they were cancelling National Poetry Month, which happens every April. (Spoiler alert: it was published on April 1st. You know. April Fool's Day.) "Poetry has a presence in every part of American life?!" I read aloud, disgusted. "Instead, they are going to have 'an annual month of attention to film, topped off with an awards show in Los Angeles, to take place in February each year?!' Are they kidding??"
Well, yes. Yes they were. And once my brain started working gooder again, I couldn't stop laughing at the post. It's really worth the read. And like all great satire, not only does it make us laugh, it makes us think. Why should it seem so absurd, as the post suggests, that there would be reality shows about writers? That major news shows should debate who really wrote Shakespeare's plays? Will it ever be the case that poetry really is as ubiquitiously-loved as film?
I dunno. While the idea of reading poetry can intimidate me, I also know that there's nothing like that feeling of finding the right poem at the right moment, reading a line that makes you feel all sparkly, discovering that some poet you've never met has expressed a feeling you've often had with gorgeous precision. As I once said, "It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserable every day / for lack / of what is found there." Or wait, maybe that was William Carlos Williams.
Unfortunately, this does not mean you can actually step into your favorite fictional world, a la Gumby (I know, I was disappointed at first too). But darn close! Users can check out their book club's next pick (or a favorite book, or one you'd like to read) and find an interactive list of people, places, and things that appear in the book. A fun, new way to think about a book, but also a way to guide your reading -- for example, users can browse all books that mention Zeus, or California, or Coca-Cola. Share it at your book club's next meeting...or keep it to yourself, and make it seem like you just did some really awesomely close reading.
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Still in beta (for all you early adapters out there), this wonderful site is an encyclopedia of famous and historically significant paintings. Each artwork is accompanied by some information about the work and the artist, and the paintings are grouped by artist, period, style, and what's most popular on the site. Each click leads to another, like a self-directed (and surprisingly uplifting) stroll through the world's best museum. A bit of Basquiat before breakfast! A hit of Chagall for the mid-afternoon blahs! A spot of Renoir at tea time! I'm leaving this site up on my screen and all day hitting, refresh, refresh, refresh.
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Men! What are they thinking? We can't always answer that, but we'll be posting our favorite glimpses into their world in this space every Thursday.
* How a dad writing software manuals in Iowa became a Hollywood screenwriter with one response to a query on Reddit. (Wired)
* Does the Pope wear a funny hat? Several, actually. (MetaFilter; Time)
* RIP Earl Scruggs. The bluegrass pioneer passed away this week at the age of 88. Here he is playing banjo with Steve Martin. (YouTube; Seattle P-I)
* "Above all, art is a conversation conducted down through the generations."—Novelist Ian McEwan in a thoughtful lecture on art, science, creativity and originality. (The Guardian)
What are the things that you do every day? Go on, make a list. Shower, walk the dog, eat an egg, whatever it is. There's something to be said for routine, and I'll go ahead and admit that as I grow older I get more and more fixed in mine. And sometimes, routine is lovely. There's something soothing about the ritual of making a pot of tea. There's a special joy in walking past the same hedge every day and then realizing that one day the unassuming thicket has exploded into pale flower -- particularly because you saw the same plant covered in snow. Of course, routine can also be crazy-making, as when you're so sick of your same two chicken recipes you're about to choose from.
Designer/illustrator Chris Piascik has found a way to make the daily routine into something creative and affirming: He makes a drawing every day. We've all seen lots of "drawing a day" projects, but what I love about Piascik's are the messages he chooses to illustrate, and that he often shares the origin of the idea. "If everybody likes what you are doing, you're doing it wrong," he quotes Jen Bekman (and provides a link to the podcast he got the quote from).
Unless it's just Instagram. Could it be? Instagram, for the uninitiated, is a free iPhone app that lets you choose filters and frames to lend your humble phone-cam-pic the feel of a vintage photo. Mashable recently posted their top Instagram photographers, and I instantly recognized the ridiculous gorgeousness of my friend's photographic style. Yes, these photographers have good eyes, and (some of them) some really remarkable subject matter. (When was the last time you took a phone-pic of an elephant's eye?) I'm sure these snappers could take great photographs no matter what. But for the rest of us, the neat-o features on Instagram can transform a slightly blurry pic of a day in the park into a heart-stoppingly beautiful memento to share with the world.
And you know what the best thing about an awesomely addictive photo app like this is? The way you start to look at the world. That's beautiful, you start to think about every crocus sprout and parked car and pile of garbage you see. Or at least, it could be.
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