Sunday, August 29, 2010

Creating Creativity

Earlier in the month, Tony Schwartz, on the Conversation (one of the Harvard Business blogs) wrote a piece  called Six Secrets to Creating a Culture of Innovation.

It's geared towards those running a business, primarily, but I thought it might be interesting to consider how a loan wolf artist like myself might use the 'secrets.'

The first secret is 'Meet people's needs.'   Well, that's something I have no problem doing: if my inner man says, in the middle of writing something, I'm hungry, I send him off to the kitchen (which is conveniently placed a couple of metres away from my computer).   He can make as many cups of tea or coffee as he likes in a day - or finish off that fruitcake someone obligingly gave me...him.   If my inner man has unmet needs, I know about them pretty quickly, as you can imagine.   I can't always settle them immediately, (especially if the fruitcake was finished the day before) but I do my best.

The second secret (how can these be secrets if he's telling us them?) is 'Teach creativity systematically.'   According to Schwartz there are five well-defined, widely accepted stages of creative thinking: insight, saturation, incubation, illumination, and verification.   I read the blog post the link in the previous sentence takes you to (it's very irritatingly bringing up some oddball codes on my browser) and I don't particularly disagree with these steps.   Although when she (someone called simply, Maria) says, "The first stage of the creative process is finding or formulating a problem. The tricky part about this stage is that it requires creativity in itself," I kinda feel that there's a bit of a catch 22 in there somewhere.   However, these stages are worth considering - once I've dealth with one of my inner man's unmet needs.

The third secret is to nurture passion.   I have to be excited about what I'm creating.  Don't give me some mundane work to do; my inner many won't stand it.  He'll hive off to the kitchen again.

This ties in with the fourth secret: make the work matter.  There's no point giving me a job writing about cashmere mittens for women if I don't have some excitement about aforesaid cashmere mittens - or about women, if it comes to that.   But if you can get my creative juices going when it comes to cashmere and mittens and women (and not necessarily in that order), you're on the way.

Provide the time.  This is the penultimate secret (another secret Mr Schwartz doesn't mention is include slightly more obscure words in your blog posts).   I try to give my creative person all the time in the world.   What does he do with it?  Fritters it away on Twitter or Facebook or writing blog posts of an inane nature, or checking his emails every few seconds, or playing another round of Scrabble online or seeing if anyone's paid him for anything in the last week/day/hour/second.   I can be a slightly tetchy boss at times.

Finally we have: Value Renewal.  Mr Schwartz says that human beings are not like computers; they can't be left on day and night flicking meaningless screen savers across their faces.   Human beings need to expend energy and then relax.  Expend and relax.  In the relax stage they recover their creative juices and get ready for another hack at the problem in question.   And at the same time, miraculously, while they're whiling away time making the fourteenth cup of tea/coffee, or playing 'fetch' with the puppy, or checking out the Guardian sports videos, all sorts of remarkable creative breakthroughs are taking place.   When that cup of coffee is drunk, or the puppy worn out, or the videos have proved to be not as exciting as the Guardian made them out to be, then you'll find that the brain is just itching to go, full of new insights, ideas, stuff you can use.  Or not.

Sometimes this creative incubation stage just doesn't get itself going quite as quickly as you'd like, and a whole day, or week or more can be whittled away while the incubation is going on.   However, you can fool the brain by working on some other totally unrelated project in the meantime, and give it a double job to do: incubate on project one and project two simultaneously. 

The brain may happily mix these up - and according to all creative writers this is a good thing.   Just make sure that at the end of the day that project 1 winds up with creative solutions to itself and not to project 2.  Unless your boss also thinks that's a good thing.  

Photo by velo_city on

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fashion....or not

I've worn bow ties a few times over the years, but never anything quite as garish as the one in the picture.   I'm hard pressed to think what colour clothing would go with it.  A dark suit would become almost invisible, and anything that matched it in any way would rather defeat the purpose of the formality of the tie.  

I'm assuming formality, because I don't know anyone who wears a bow tie in the normal day.  Except University professors in the movies.   They often seemed to wind up with them, though I'm sure it's not part of their uniform, but it appears that those who do clothing design for movies think it is. 

I've got a couple of bow ties that I've acquired somehow, but 99% of the time they sit in the drawer neglected.  The occasions for wearing them are few and far between these days.  I can't even think what I would have last worn them for, in fact.   Possibly some show where I was playing the piano; nowadays I just wear an ordinary tie - ordinary in the sense of it being your regular tie; not ordinary in the sense of design because I have one that has The Scream on it, and a couple that have piano keyboards on them.  Why wear a tie if it's going to be boring?   I really only wear them now when I accompany singers somewhere.   I haven't worn a tie to work since I don't know when.... I certainly never wore one to the bookshop after the first day or so, because my then boss didn't think there was any reason to.   And I've never worn one to work since. 

Ties, like other things that seem to have been around forever, are going the way of the dodo for most of us. 

I remember some writer on one of the Triond sites berating men for wearing a noose around their necks.   Of course women have never worn anything equivalent, like corsets, or bustles or high heels.   Give me a loose noose anyday over the strain of wearing shoes that break my back....


Charities in the UK have critised a police report which they say undermines the problem of human trafficking in Britain.   The report was released by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), and claims there are currently only 2,600 trafficked women across the UK.  A senior police official has argued this figure is more in line with female trafficking statistics for London alone.

A senior police official slammed the report as "amateurish."   The report also claims that there are no women in the UK who have been trafficked in from Africa.

Codenamed Project Acumen, the ACPO report built its conclusions on UK trafficking after interviewing 254 women in London brothels.  It then estimated the size of the problem across the UK based on these figures and information garnered from newspaper reports.

But anti-trafficking charities across the UK have slammed the report, saying it greatly undermines the seriousness of the problem and how it should be tackled.

Cherifa Atoussi from the Child Trafficking Office for Africa [the group may actually be called, Africans Unite Against Child Abuse] said: "This denial is actually empowering the people behing human trafficking. I would like to know what the intention is behind this report and where they got their figures from because they are contrary to what we have on the ground here."

Earlier this month the House of Lords assured church leaders that countering human trafficking in the build-up to the Olympic Games in 2012 was a top priority and that police provision would be bolstered over the coming year to help them tackle the issue.

The above information comes from an article on the Christian World Mission site. 

One of the issues suggested for World Blog Day is trafficking, both of women and children.

Execution of Christians in North Korea

Christian World Mission reports that three church leaders in the Pyongan province of North Korea have been executed.
The Christian ministers, from secret underground churches, were killed by authorities in Pyungsung county in the Pyongan province.  Another 20 Christians were reportedly sent to hard labour camps.
Religion is completely outlawed in North Korea and citizens are expected to worship only their leader, Kim Jong-il [photo at left] and his late father and predecessor, Kim il-sung.
Open Doors - an organisation that supports persecuted Christians around the world - has said that the country is the worst in the world for persecuting Christians. 
The country’s estimated 400,000 Christians are forced to worship behind closed doors.  They face imprisonment, torture or public execution if the authorities discover their faith.
400,000 Christians in a country that is supposed to be one of the most atheistic in the world.   (If that's the word you can use about a place that worships a man.)   This is an extraordinary figure, and shows how Christianity persists even in the face of the most violent persecution.  

Thursday, August 26, 2010

James Gibb/the vital place of women (!)

A couple of quotes from The Story of the Otago Free Church Settlement 1848 to 1948 by John Collie.  The first relates to James Gibb, a minister who came to First Church, Dunedin around the turn of the 19th-20th century.

He could work strenuously all day in conferneces and committees and then study hard up to three or four in the morning, the intensity of his zeal being the guarantee of concentration.  When ill-health did seriously threaten him in his prime he cured it partly by defying it and partly by ignoring it.  Ordered to diet, he would munch sweets whenever opportunity offered.   pg 292

Gibb lived to be 78. 

No one who has even a cursory acquaintance with the work carried on in our Maori Field will ever doubt the vital place which women missionaries must always hold there.  More men are required, but they cannot do the work of a woman.  Similarly in the foreign field - the whole work would ultimately come to a standstill without the women missionaries.   pg 278

That the statement above is true is testified to by the number of women who served as missionaries throughout the 20th century.  While they couldn't hold leadership roles in their home churches they were 'allowed' to do so almost as a matter of course in the mission fields (both in New Zealand and abroad).   I remember, when our family was in the Assembly of God Church back in the 70s that there was an insistence that the men were the ones who led the churches.   And then a missionary came to speak.  She turned out to be a little, quiet woman with nothing much remarkable about her, yet she'd been working and leading successfully in the mission field for some years.  The irony of this seemed lost on the male leadership!

Photo of James Gibb courtesy of the Presbyterian Church Archives.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Unread novelists and long-lost typewriters

Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac says today, "It's the birthday of novelist Brian Moore, born was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland (1921). Not many people have read him, but he's considered by literary critics to be one of the most influential novelists of the 20th century. Three of his books have been short-listed for the Booker Prize, but none of them have won. When he died a decade ago in Malibu, his obituary in the LA Weekly began, "THE MOST ACCOMPLISHED AND LEAST fashionable writer in Los Angeles died last week.""

Not many people have read him.  That seems a curious statement, since he was a reasonably prolific writer, with some 27 novels listed on the Wikipedia entry.  Not winning the Booker Prize doesn't necessarily make you an unread author - in fact a lot of people don't read Booker Prize authors for the very reason that they've won the prize.   It usually indicates they're way out, or supra-literary, or so innovative that there's little story to read.   All of which is as much of a generalisation as the statement 'not many people have read him.'  

Talking of being prolific, I sometimes wonder if writers are now more prolific because they use PCs, or laptops, or netbooks or the like.  I know I am, but whether being more prolific necessarily means you're a better writer is another matter.   Blog posting doesn't necessarily bring out the best in you, for starters, and that's where a huge amount of my writing is done these days.   There was a time when I wrote by hand, though it's almost so long ago that I can't remember.   If my writing hasn't been done on a keyboard, it's been done on a typewriter - I taught myself to type almost as soon as I could earn enough money to buy a typewriter.   And a great thundering thing it was too.   Sometime later I bought a portable one, about half the size, and probably less than half the weight.  It was a great little job, but I have no idea what happened to it now - nor what happened to my first typewriter.   Perhaps I sold them....?   Who knows?

John Michael Talbot

Back in the days when I used to run the Christian bookshop, one of the top-selling artists at one point was John Michael Talbot.   He sang simple, straightforward songs he'd written himself, accompanying himself on a guitar.   Most of the albums had subtle background music - and sometimes choirs - adding to the mix.   In fact, I remember one person saying that without these, the music wasn't all that remarkable.   I think that's a bit of an overstatement.   Certainly the additional music made a huge difference in emotional content to the basic simple songs, but not every song had these big background accompaniments, and the tracks that were done in a simple way were often highly effective. 

Like so many artists at that time, Talbot kind of went off the boil in terms of sales, and I haven't thought much about him in recent years.   I'd got the impression that he was a priest or monk, but in fact he's neither.  He joined the secular Franciscan order, but was never a monk.  The entry in Wikipedia tells us that he's now married to a former nun, and that he founded a integrated monastic community of celibates, married people and families called the Brothers and Sisters of Charity. 

In spite of my not hearing much about him, he's never stopped producing albums and has been doing big tours around the US for a number of years.   In the video below he talks about moving into a much smaller scale ministry, one that emphasises simplicity, and which is much more like a road tour without all the hype and paraphernalia; something with an element of serendipity in it, by the sound of things.

The other thing that's noticeably different is the long flowing white beard.   I remember him as having a short beard in the old days, but this gives him the look of a Patriarch.   Interestingly enough, on the video, he sounds like a young man still.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Being a distance student, I don't often go into the University Library here in Dunedin (and this time I've found all the books I need for my essay in the public library, as it happens) but when I do, it always amazes me how many of the students leave their laptops lying around while they go off and chat, or go to the loo, or get something to eat or drink.   I guess if Mummy or Daddy have bought the laptop then the students don't have any sense of having had to work to pay for the thing, or maybe they think that there's a special student laptop insurance that applies in their case - and of course Mummy and Daddy will be dealing with that anyway. 

I've only used my laptop in the library a couple of times, and I don't think either time had anything to do with studying.   It just happened to be a pleasant place to do some writing.   If I remember rightly, one of the occasions was when I was working on the script for the musical.   It was early in the piece, when I was trying to get an overall structure to the thing, before my collaborator came in on the scene and gave the whole venture the real kickstart it needed.

The script is sitting on the computer at the moment, feeling a bit neglected.   Work on the university paper I'm doing has tended to take up most of my brain time, though I'm getting a little frustrated at not getting on with the composing side of things for the musical, and I can see me pushing that into the mix even though I should be giving time to the paper. 

It's the problem of having two interesting things to juggle at the same time.   I've never been terribly good at the actual physical art of juggling, though I did spend quite a few weeks practicing at one point.   Just couldn't seem to get past that stage where you're worrying over what's happening next and into the point where you start to relax.   It's something I'd like to be able to do, because it's quite a healthy thing: not just the physical arm movements, but picking up the balls continually is physically demanding.   Well the balls are still sitting in my wardrobe waiting.....

Photo of Tom James, the unicycle juggler, by Les Chatfield

Creativity and Failure

"Creativity is a consequence of sheer productivity. If a creator wants to increase the production of hits, he or she must do by risking a parallel increase in the production of misses. ... The most successful creators tend to be those with the most failures!" Dean Keith Simonton

Robert Sutton wrote in Weird Ideas That Work, that "in a typical year this group of about 10 people generated just over 4,000 ideas (which they know because all ideas are tracked on a spreadsheet):
Of these 4,000 ideas, 230 were thought to be promising enough to develop into a nice drawing or working prototype. Of these 230, 12 were ultimately sold. This "yield" rate is only about 1/3 of 1% of total ideas and 5% of ideas that were thought to have potential. Boyle pointed out that the success rate is probably even worse than it looks because some toys that are bought never make it to market, and of those that do, only a small percentage reap large sales and profits. As Boyle says, "You can't get any good new ideas without having a lot of dumb, lousy, and crazy ones."'
No one should choose the option of failure deliberately, but trying especially hard to avoid it means taking no chances on change. The better message to get across is that failure is a by-product of risk-taking, and honest mistakes will be forgiven.

All of the above are from an article, Forgive and Remember, by Robert Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University. He studies and writes about management, innovation, and the nitty-gritty of organizational life.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Scientific tools....inadequate?

Adam Bly in this video is asking whether science is running out of 'scientific' tools to answer the big scientific questions. Maybe the arts will be an answer - maybe the spirit?

Adam Bly is the founder and CEO of Seed, a media and technology company committed to helping advance science and its potential to improve the state of the world.

The cost of the ETS

Muriel Newman writes in her weekly column: 
It is very clear that the direct costs of the ETS [Emissions Trading Scheme], in the form of increases in power and petrol and rising prices across all goods and services in the economy, is having a negative effect in these bleak business conditions. How much it has contributed to the increase in 19,000 people who have lost their jobs over the last few months - to take unemployment back up from 6 to 6.8 percent - is difficult to tell. What is not so hard to ascertain is that the decision to implement the ETS was clearly a victory of one-eyed ideology over common sense, thus making a lie of Bill English’s promise that his government is focussed on improving the country’s economic performance.

Read the rest of the article online.  

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wilmington, NC

At one point I wrote a number of posts on this blog about the city of Boise, in Idaho, (just put Boise in the search box above) never suspecting that this year I'd discover that my son's girlfriend comes from there.  Must have been premonition!   She has taught us exactly how it's pronounced, which was one of the foci of my posts in the past.  Good to have these things clarified, even if my son has to fall in love with a girl from the Northern Hemisphere to get it clarified.

There's no such difficulty in pronouncing Wilmington, (the home of Wilmington NC real estate), at least not as far as I'm aware.   Or am I about to get myself involved in a series of discussions about the actual, totally proper, correct pronunciation of the word?   Don't think so.   I suspect it's difficult for anyone who's spoken English since they were one year old to mistake the pronunciation of Wilmington.   It's more of an English word than American anyway. 

I knew nothing about Wilmington (nor Wilmington NC real estate - sorry, but I have to keep throwing that in; it's kind of a rhyming slang), so thought I'd do a little research on the place.   Firstly, it's very likely it's named after Wilmington in England, which is located 12 miles from Eastbourne and has been inhabited since Saxon times. The 12th Century Parish Church is dedicated to Saint Mary and Saint Peter. (That's not as old as the church where my parents-in-law are buried, though, which can clock up nearly a 1000 years.) The local public house is called The Giant's Rest, probably in homage to the Long Man of Wilmington, a giant chalk figure carved on the slopes of Windover Hill. It is one of only two human hill figures in England.

Wilmington NC isn't quite so old, but still has some impressive history: for instance, during the Civil War, the port was a major base for Confederate blockade runners.    A de facto coup d'etat (as Wikipedia puts it, nicely mixing Latin and French) took place there, when a mob ran a number of African Americans out of the town.  During the second world war, the city had a prisoner of war camp, which housed over 500 German prisoners at its peak. 

And for those creative people among you, the city is home to EUE Screen Gem Studios, the largest television and movie production facility outside of California. "Dream Stage 10," the facility's newest sound stage, is the third-largest in the US.  It houses the largest special-effects water tank in North America.

Surprisingly, the city's population is only just over 100,000, something I checked up on, as it seemed a small number of people for a place that has one of the largest historic districts in the country, encompassing nearly 300 blocks.   I mean, the city where I live, which has a population of about 130,000, would be lucky to be able to encompass 300 city blocks (!)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

In reply....

About a week ago I copied a letter that appeared in the Otago Daily Times relating to an article on inducing cows.   Someone smarter than me has now replied to that letter in the following way: 

Cows moo and people choose.  Mooing is characteristic and an attribute of cows.  Choosing is an attribute of people.   Cows don't have the right to moo.  They just do.   People don't have the right to choose.   They just do.

The woman who wrote about being appalled that the cow did not have the right to choose to abort her calf is saying it is good as long as you choose.   People choose very bad things at times and society chooses to lock them up because they made the wrong choice.  'A woman's right to choose?'  We have been terminating our children based on a  meaningless slogan.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pick of the Week

The viral advertisement above was directed by Ned Wenlock of New Zealand based production company HoverLion and at this date (18 Aug 2010) is being featured as a 'Pick of the Week' on internationally renowned Shots advertising website.

Just love the combination of laid-back narration and amusing visuals.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Back on the 30th January I wrote the following in my journal:
Today we went out to get some seaweed from Brighton beach, and that was fine, except that after we’d collected four bags, I went ahead dragging two, hoisted them over the little chain fence between the path and the car, stepped over it and next minute found myself in a heap on the ground, both legs skinned in different places, and the left side of my chest very sore. I wondered at first if I might have cracked a rib, but it’s probably not as serious as that. However, even though we’ve been doing some gardening on this arvo, my chest is still not comfortable.
I’m not sure what caused the fall; can only conclude that I caught my foot on the chain when I thought I was actually over it.
I posted a similar thing on Facebook at the time and got all the sorts of comments you'd expect...only one of them was in the least bit sympathetic.  (I thought I'd posted it on here and was a bit surprised not to be able to find the post yesterday.)  I'm still not sure how it's possible to throw yourself over a tiny little fence, but having done it I can only conclude that it is.
Anyway, having recovered (some time ago) from that painful fall, I went and damaged the same rib(s) on Friday night (!)   
A remote had dropped down the back of one of the couches; my wife was trying to reach it, and I said, 'I'll get it!'   I lent over the back, couldn't quite get it, went to lean over further, slipped, and gave my rib a thump on the wooden top of couch.  I couldn't believe I managed to hit the same spot again.  
It isn't as bad as the last time - plus there are no skinned shins - but it was still rather uncomfortable walking down the hill to work this morning.

Photo of Brighton Beach by Dino Borelli

More on the dog....

I wrote a week or so ago that we'd acquired a dog, and life has been interesting since then, to say the least.   The kitchen is no longer our own particular space.   It's dog home, at least for the time being.   The dining area (which is normally now closed off to the puppy) is extra space for him when he's allowed in there, and when he is, you'd think he'd been given the keys to the kingdom. 
As for going outside: we only have a relatively small back section, a good deal of it taken up with vegetable garden, and some flower gardens.   Nevertheless, this is a huge world to Marley, and brings enormous excitement.   It's full of aromas we can't even begin to imagine.
Cleaning up after him - he's improving in the toilet department - takes us back to the good old days of cleaning up after babies.   There's not a lot of difference.  
I spend a lot more time washing my hands, and I'm sure people think I'm starting to smell like a dog,'s all good.
At the other end of the spectrum, Jason Clark wrote about losing the dog he's had for a number of years.  It says a good deal about dogs and God, and the space in between. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Algebra and I

There was a time when algebra was my favourite maths subject.   And then along came some irritating equation, something that just didn't make sense anymore, and, sadly, algebra and I parted company from that point on.

Not entirely.  There was a point when I lived in England when I used to help a boy with his homework, particularly algebra, because in spite of my first paragraph above, I have a soft spot for algebra.  It used to frustrate me a little that this young fellow didn't quite understand the fact that in order to 'prove' your equation, you had to show the steps that got you there.   He liked to jump from the start to finish, leaving out the middle, where possible.  

Later on I came across a great book on algebra which promised that it would all make sense for me.   The first two or three chapters did....and then I had that same old sinking feeling about the subject that I'd had in school.   No matter how I tried to figure out the workings of an equation, I couldn't get there.   It was as if the writer was doing the same thing as my young friend: jumping from Al to bra with no ge in the middle.

Nowadays, it appears, you can get help online for such things as 4th grade math, 5th grade math and pretty much every other math between, before and after.  Of course you pay a monthly subscription, and you have to take that into your mathematical household equations, but that aside, it must be great to go online at 11 pm, when your Algebra 2 is due in first class in the morning, and know that there's someone who understands your problem.   That is, after your parents have given up trying to figure it out.

Parents, after they've left school and maths well behind, can cope up to about the level of adding fractions and then everything they were ever taught goes out the window.   Unless they happen to be like my geek of a son, who reads maths like I read a novel.    He's the sort of person (probably) who knows what the formula for volume is, or someone who finds graphing linear equations meaningful.   (I don't; I just grabbed the phrase from somewhere to make this sound impressive.)

Maybe I'll dig that old algebra book out, and see if I can get beyond that problem point.   By now, maybe, my brain will have caught up with what I was missing when I was younger. 

One lives in hope.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Serial tweets

Alan Jacobs wrote a set of serial tweets saying the following: 

Why I don't write posts on hot issues people think I ought to have opinions about. See the 2nd paragraph especially.

When I see people desperately trying to pick fights with someone as gracious as @reihansalam [on Twitter], that previous tweet is confirmed.

The interwebs seduce us into trying to solve all problems by argument, because argument is what the interwebs can do.

One of my chief goals in the coming year is to learn to have a meaningful online presence that doesn't involve debating issues...

...because the way we have defined "debating" and "issues" in our online lives is destructive of the social fabric.

The challenge is to learn to *be* in a certain way online, rather than always challenging or making a case. Blake: "Enough, or too much."

Online "debates" don't just hurt the social fabric, but also the selves who depend on the adrenaline jolt of disputation.

All addictions make people destructive and self-destructive. The junkie needs drugs; the online "debater" needs enemies.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The cow has no choice

A woman who shall be nameless wrote a letter to the Editor of the Otago Daily Times - it appeared today, the 10.8.10.   Her letter misses the point of Simon Cunliffe's article, I think, and gives an odd response to his argument. 

In speaking of the outcry about the practice of farmers inducing premature calving so as to synchronise births and therefore increase milk production, [Simon Cunliffe] states that a discreet veil of silence is drawn over the 17,000-18,000 abortions carried out each year in this country. It seems an analogy is being drawn between the two situations, with an accusation of hypocrisy implicit, perhaps.

I was quite appalled to be informed of this common practice of inducing the premature birth of healthy calves. I am also a strong supporter of a woman’s right to choose, including abortion, when faced with an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. These two situations are not analogous. The key difference is choice. Clearly, the cow has no choice in the matter whatsoever.

Topsy Turvy!

One of my former customers who now lives in Australia, sends a note about his latest blog posts most weeks.  This particular blog (The Inspiration Room) has wide range of media material on it, but the particular section that comes up relates to videos and stills from advertising campaigns - ones we never see here in NZ for the most part. 

In a recent post he put links to a couple of videos from Johannesburg.   One was part of an ad campaign, the other a longer follow-up.   They relate to the Topsy Foundation which works with people who have HIV AIDs.   In the ad, a woman called Selinah is seen deteriorating from a healthy state to advanced AIDS.   But in the follow-up she is once more healthy, with normal weight.   The only difference is she's having to use a stick to get around. 

The reason she's healthy again is that she's had anti-retrovirals (ARVs) administered.   The AIDs symptoms are virtually reversed. 

You can see the two videos on the Topsy site.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Marley & Me

The other day we bought a puppy, a Pomeranian cross.   For some reason by the time I got home from work he'd acquired the name, Marley, which seemed to suit him just fine, in spite of the fact that at present he's little more than a couple-of-hands-lengths piece of creamy brown fluff. 

My daughter had a book called The Dog Whisperer, by Jan Fennell.   My wife has been reading it and picking up tips about training the puppy.   So far things are going well, helped by the fact that the little bloke is pretty amenable anyway. 

A friend of ours called up to see the puppy.  She's a great dog lover herself, and brought with her a DVD of a movie called Marley & Me.   Our friend probably enjoyed the movie a good deal more than we did, but we cringed at the way in which the labrador in this film is allowed to wreck everything in sight, chewing up furniture, books, carpets, floors, walls, and more.  Kathleen Turner, who gets fourth billing in the cast, has a three minute scene as a dog trainer.   This dog is even too much for her.   (Why they don't try another dog trainer is beyond me.)  This dog is never given the slightest bit of discipline.   The married couple, played by Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, react to his every piece of wrongdoing with mild expressions of surprise, and seem won over by his (very) occasional moments of tender loving care for them and their kids.

Apparently this movie was based on a bestseller in which just such a dog featured.   The book was based on bi-weekly columns in which his exploits were given prominence, and won for the newspaper a huge following.  (This must have been some time ago; newspapers are lucky to increase their readership at all these days.)  I can only think that the columns/book must have been a good deal more amusing than this movie.  It never knows whether it's supposed to be a comedy (dog pulling owner through all sorts of 'funny' settings), a schmaltzy piece of family history, a story about the ups and downs of marriage (nothing particularly drastic), what happens when a person writes a column but wants to be a reporter (Wilson's character seemed particularly dense at this point) or...who knows?   My wife asked: who is this film meant for?  

I checked out what Roger Ebert had to say.  He coped with it, but I don't think it's his favourite movie of all time.   But I was amazed by Stephanie Zacharek's review (she writes for  Normally this woman will see through anything that's intended to pull the audiences' heartstrings in a cheap fashion, and she begins her review by discussing that.   But perhaps she's lost an important pet at some time; whatever the reason, she gives the thumbs up to this movie.

Well, we can't agree all the time, Stephanie.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

When the medium fails...

Paul Fromont on Prodigal Kiwi(s) pointed me to Barry Taylor on Nevermind the Bricolage who pointed me to Brian Eno who wrote (somewhere):
"whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit - all these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It's the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.

Note to the artist: when the medium fails conspicuously, and especially if it fails in new ways, the listener believes something is happening beyond its limits."

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Protecting, or not protecting, Intellectual Property

Julia Kirby has written an interesting article, published on the Harvard Business Review, called Why China Might Never Protect IP - that's Intellectual Property, to you and me.

China plainly has a different view of what belongs to whom. Or perhaps they have a different view of theft. But what Kirby points out is that even in the Western world now people are focusing increasingly on openness, a way in which when I create something that you can use or develop, I just let it go for free. Linux is an early example; Wikipedia is a later one, and one that has those people who think you have to make money out of everything still scratching their heads over.

Newspapers are learning the hard way that people aren't interested in being 'special people' who can read the 'special' news by paying a subscription for an online newspaper. Some will - that's fine. Most people who use the Internet have an innate sense that if newspaper A online isn't free newspaper B will be. Guess who gets read?

One of the comments on Kirby's article calls the article drivel. I just read through Seth Godin's alphabetical list of ;post-industrial' words. He introduces it by saying:

New times demand new words, because the old words don't help us see the world differently. Along the way, I've invented a few, and it occurs to me that sometimes I use them as if you know what I'm talking about.

Yes, he has invented a few, but not so many that we don't understand what he says. And his list isn't that unfamiliar. Anyway, one of his favourite words/phrases is the 'lizard brain'. My suspicion is that the person who called Kirby's article 'drivel' was being driven by his lizard brain when he wrote his comment. Kirby and Godin would mostly agree with each other's 'worldview' (another of the words on Godin's list, and definitely one he hasn't invented!)

We're in an extraordinary transition time in terms of property of all sorts; greed and endless profit is no longer the motivating factor for many people. It'll be interesting to see how it all pans out, and at the speed with which things are moving, I may still be around to see what happens!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Anne Rice and Blog Posts

Anne Rice, the author, has been in the news lately - at least in the States.   Her renunciation of Christianity (again) has apparently hit the headlines, because it always seems to suit the media to trumpet somebody who's put the boot into Christianity.   That's their preferred modus operandi.  

No doubt everyone and his brother (and her sister) has been blogging about it, so I may as well join the club.  However, I'm not going to say anything new about it, since I don't know anything new (or even anything more than I've read).   I'm just going to pass you on to two writers, one whose blogging I read a good deal and the other whom I've never heard of before (but comes recommended by Alan Jacobs, another writer I read a good deal) and let them speak for me. 

Firstly, the Alan Jacobs recommendation: AKMA, who's written a post called, On Giving Up. 

The second piece is by Richard Floyd, who always seems to write good sense.   His post is called My Top Ten Reasons Why Anne Rice Would Hate the United Church of Christ.  If you want a little more background to this post, read his previous one as well.

Myers-Brigging my blogs...

A post on Prodigal Kiwi(s) said they’d tried an analysis of their blog via a site called typealyzer.

Never one to miss such an opportunity, I tried it on this blog and came out as ESTP - The Doers, with the following explanation:
The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

Of course it’s only analysing the first page of the blog, so it depends which posts you had on it at that time.

The National Mission blog, which I compile, came out as INTP – the thinkers - and had this explanation:

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

My Travel blog came out as an ESFP.

You’ll note that not one of these matches up with what I came out as at the Myers Briggs day we did recently: ENFJ !!