Great writing and great cuisine, compared.
This week and the next one are likely to be slow, due to the holidays and some other stuff going on, but here's some (metaphorical) food for thought.
One of Paul Krugman's more interesting essays -- one I've cited before -- was about English cuisine ("Supply, Demand, and English Food"). His thesis was, in part, that a free-market economy is great at breaking down barriers and introducing things to places where they weren't before, but not so great at preserving the diversities introduced by such a system. "You may say that people have the right to eat what they want," Krugman wrote, "but by thinning the market for traditional fare [as opposed to mass-market foods], their choices may make it harder to find -- and thus harder to learn to appreciate -- and everyone may end up worse off."
On why both giving and interpreting good criticism are dying arts.
Criticism and advice are often wrong, but that merely highlights it is not a sufficient condition to becoming a better person, only a necessary one. Life is too short to learn everything by trial and error, so watching and listening to others is essential. A bias that critics are cretins leads to a life guided only by errors so great they can not be ignored, an inefficient path to enlightenment.
If Diogenes were out and about today, lamp in hand, I have a feeling he'd not say "I'm looking for an honest man," but rather "I'm looking for a sensible critic."
Do you own thing, but don't let it fence you in.
If you enjoyed making a thing, and you’re proud of the thing you made, that’s enough. Not everyone is going to like it, and that’s okay. And sometimes, a person who likes your work and a person who don’t will show up within milliseconds of each other to let you know how they feel. One does not need to cancel out the other, positively or negatively; if you’re proud of the work, and you enjoyed the work, that is what’s important.
Don’t let the fear of not pleasing someone stop you from being creative. The goal isn’t to make something everyone will love; the goal is to get excited, and make a thing where something wasn’t before.
Two sides to this.
Is franchise-driven storytelling the default mode of storytelling from now on?
Is it enough to just make one movie anymore? In the wake of Marvel’s audacious world-building in an assembly line of completely indistinguishable adventure movies, the studios would answer no. What used to be one series of movies has become a web, one that involves various other series’ and offshoots of one particular brand. ... But no one should be surprised: every studio has been headed in this direction for quite a while now.
Observation 1: Only someone not looking very closely would think that The Wolverine (which I liked) is "indistinguishable" from Captain America (which I also liked), but they're completely alike in the sense that they're both a product of the same exude-by-the-yard-and-shrinkwrap-to-order mentality. The individual projects, and the individual creators, may not believe themselves to be part of such a thing, but once enough of their output clogs up the multiplex like so much foliage blocking a storm drain, it hardly matters. It's the long-term effects on diversity that are most deadly -- the stuff you never know is being crowded out in the first place because it doesn't have a chance to manifest on the same level.
You have to take yourself seriously enough to know when not to take yourself seriously at all.
When writing a novel (greatly overrated as a romantic and enjoyable activity, by the way) I always hit the buffers at some point and think the book is utter rubbish. The trick when this happens is to get less serious about what you're doing and recognise that one less novel in the world is not going to make a heap of difference. You're there to have fun and you hope that will communicate itself to the reader. So you take your eye off the ball for a bit, go for a walk, see friends or simply play.
One surefire way to enrage most any artist is to say to them, "Hey, I think you should take what you're doing a little less seriously." This, in the artist's mind, is tantamount to telling a mother, "You should give less of a damn about your kids." POW! Right in the jaw, or in the nethers if you're really unlucky.
A new site opens up under my provenance; video games make a comeback in my life; and I ponder the future of my publishing system.
tl;dr: Interesting things afoot avec mi casa.
Busy week, not much time for blogging, and I'm heading into an even busier weekend -- big, big changes at Chez Genji in store -- but a few things worth discussing.
Another case of yesterday's tomorrow, today.
I'll start with a quote, from A.K. Dewdney's The Magic Machine:
I can readily imagine the first full-fledged, feature-length motion picture generated by computer. The year is 2001. I stumble down the aisle while carrying an oversize bucket of synthetic popcorn and a soft drink containing a few additives that make all the usual ingredients unnecessary. The house lights dim, the curtains part, and the silver screen comes alive with an adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Frodo the Hobbit strolls through an open glen. In the distance jagged, snow-capped mountain peaks thrust into the sky. In the foreground exotic trees and plants of unknown species shimmer in the sunlight. The scene changes to a wizard gazing into a crystal ball. In the center of the sphere a fortress appears, flames leaping from its battlements.
Although it is hard to say just how convincingly Frodo will walk and talk in such a film, I am convinced that the mountains, the plants, the crystal ball, and the flames will all come off magnificently. The success will be due largely to the pioneering software and hardware of a company called Pixar, formerly the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Laboratory.
Dewdney wrote this in December of 1986.
He was only off by two years -- and if you count 2001 as part of the release window for the whole film cycle, and you substitute Gollum for Frodo (I guess he figured the whole thing would be CGI), then he was pretty close.
The big difference, of course, is that the movie we got is a mixture of live-action and CGI, rather than the all-digital PIXAR spectacle Dewdney imagined. Now there was something to mull over: what if it had been PIXAR and Disney that had booted up this project, rather than New Line, Warner Brothers, Peter Jackson, and WETA? Would a PIXAR / Disney(-fied) version of the project been very different, tonally, from the version we did get?
Based on what Disney has since become -- I mean, come on, they just bought Indiana Jones, for goodness' sake -- I'm not sure it would have been all that different in the long run.
I wonder now what Dewdney thought about all this in retrospect.
On the merits of talking critical smack.
On BuzzFeed's ban on negative reviews:
The usual insufferable tweedwads argue that literary criticism is a genre unto itself, its value residing not in the appraisal of the book so much as the context, scholarship and thematic exploration offered by the critic. Uh-huh. Sure. Go ahead, Margaret Atwood — make this about you.
The other silly argument is that a positive review is rendered meaningless if there is no possibility for a negative one. Oh, really? Ever see a hyperlink?
The single kernel of truth in their justification -- "Why waste breath talking smack about something?" -- is surrounded by so many acres of idiocity I'd need hip boots to wade over there. And it turns out that one kernel is, on closer inspection, a withered husk.
Me and my MT. (Is it "blog" or "bleargh"?)
I just upgraded to the latest version of Movable Type that I'm allowed to use, 5.2.9, and reconfigured it to run under FastCGI. The results are pleasantly snappy, enough that any difference in terms of UI performance between this and WordPress are pretty much nitpicking.
On the whole, though, the long-term plan is to wean myself of Movable Type as soon as Ghost becomes a viable option. It's not that I dislike MT, but the most recent version of the program (and everything to come after it, apparently) really isn't designed for, or marketed to, individual bloggers like yrz trly. This used to be a major component of MT's sales pitch, but not any more. No more single-user or open source versions of the program, either: the least I'd have to pay is $595 for a 5-user license, four users of which will most likely never get used! (Open can of paint, paint one door, throw out the rest?)
This page contains an archive of posts in the category Uncategorized / General for the month of December 2013.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind