i've just posted some of the songs from my current "band" (aka me and jef with a computer, some pirated software, and burritos from la taqueria.) these are all works in progress that will some day rock the world.
for those of you who are fans of missy elliott's ultimate, kick-ass track "work it", have you ever wondered what she's saying in the part in the chorus that's backwards? this morning i loaded the track into pro-tools and put the thing down and reversed it. now we all can become enlightened by this brief mp3. if you'll excuse me, i think i need a glass of watt-ahh.
bethany has been fastidiously working on a project to collect photos of everyone doing the "gravity pull." this fascinating and potent maneuver is best known within our culture from the work of queen's freddie mercury, but i wouldn't be surprised if it has primal roots dating back to the prehistoric days when man was first leaving the trees. today arnold schwarzenegger is speaking at bethany's work and we both have high hopes that she'll be able to snap a photo of the action hero governor doing the g-pull.
i usually think of being creative as primarily a solitary activity, even though i've done a fair amount of collaboration. some might call it being introverted or being insecure. i think it's a bit of both, but also the result of not having much experience collaborating in groups that understand this mysterious and new-age-sounding thing they call the "creative process."
my friend jef, who i've been playing music with lately, is very creative — he does visual and interactive design for a living and painting in his spare time, among other things. we meet every week or so and work on recording songs for a few hours, which isn't really frequent enough to get songs completed quickly. jef constantly surprises me by playing the tunes that we've come up with for everyone, even when they're in the vague, inchoate stages. my approach has always been to keep my creative projects hidden away until i'm perfectly happy with every detail (never happens!) before sharing them with anyone.
now i'm starting to think that jef's approach is far more advantageous. for one thing, the early recordings i did were crap, even though i worked hard to make them my best. but i wouldn't have been able to get to the point i'm at now without having done those crappy recordings. and i won't be able to get to the next level without making some mistakes now. you've got to have the courage to put forth a lot of bad ideas in order to develop good ideas. paradoxically, in many ways it's better to write a lot of bad songs that one good song.
this is what people talk about when they talk about the "artistic process." it sounds hokey and cliche, but it's completely true and hard to remember: it's a process and following the steps leads you somewhere that you weren't aiming to go, which is where you were aiming to go. when i was doing copywriting, this was hard to explain to business people. they don't understand that you need to start not by limiting the discussion to what you want to say, but by freely rambling without fetters until you wind up discovering what you want to say.
i've been volunteering on the burning man web team for the past few months, and at our meeting last week we had a group brainstorm trying to come up with names for a new blog page. in the meeting i was completely unable to think of any ideas. zero. other people were throwing out ideas ranging from decent to crap, and i was mostly thinking about what was wrong with each idea, or worrying about feeling embarrassment for myself or others. then the next day i sat by myself on the train and listed every idea i could think of. i was surprised that i was able to come up with so many, and that some were pretty creative, even if none of them seemed like a perfect solution to the problem. it's surprising, but whenever i take the time to think of ideas, they are always there — and i suspect this is true for everyone.
having retreated to my comfortable solo creative process cave, i then emailed my list out to the web team. one person responded by pointing out some problems with several of the ideas on my list, either they were used by some corporate entity or sounded stodgy or whatever. my response was "let's just come up with every idea we can, and then we'll be critical later." that's how i do it by myself, and i think that's the key that i want to start practicing more in group brainstorming sessions. i'm not saying that all ideas are equal, or that we should settle for crappy ideas, or that we should all hold hands and love one another. i'm just saying that there are steps to follow here, just as there are steps to follow in a recipe. let the guard down in front of everyone. don't judge ideas at all. pour the ideas all over the table. put ideas on together in various configurations like legos. let 'em simmer in their own juices. then, and only then, turn up the heat and see which ideas evaporate and which remain.
gandhi spun his own wool. at least according to ben kingsley's portrayal. i believe the idea was that staying connected to basic labor is somehow better for the mind.
on a related note, you're not going to be any happier when you move to an apartment with a washer and dryer. trust me on this. i know that it's a big drag to lug that bag of clothing to the laundromat where you have to hangout with the proletariat, but really the grass is not much greener on this side (we have coin-op machines in our apartment). for one thing, it's much faster at the laundromat. it took me all day on sunday to do our three loads of laundry. at the laundromat i would have been in and out in two hours. also, i would have had coffee and a scone across the street and i would have played at least two games of centipede.
in the second part of this post i'm going to give you a laundry list (pun intended) of some of my prized laundry wisdom — lessons learned over the course of twenty years of doing laundry:
• you should know this, but it's important enough to warrant repeating: always go through the pockets of each piece of clothing. and, please, do it thoroughly. i don't want your crayon melting on my diesel jeans.
• turn treasured shirts and pants inside out before washing. it keeps them from fading.
• everyone knows that to avoid wrinkling you need to get your crap out of the dryer not long after it finishes its cycle. but what i just recently learned from bethany is that it's almost more important to shake out and flatten those dress shirts before putting them in the dryer. it's a pain, but it beats ironing.
• if you wind up with a serious ink stain on your shirt, don't worry. i could be a spokesman for biz bleach. this stuff really works. put the shirt in a bucket of water and biz. leave it there overnight and wash in the morning. yep, the stain is gone and you are looking dapper in that shirt.
please feel free to contribute your tips for dealing with laundry in the comments.
last week i interviewed eight candidates for a position at my office and interviewed elsewhere for one position myself. it was interesting to sit on both sides of the table, especially in such a short period of time. one insight: it's easy to sense real passion in someone's voice. my main focus in interviews has usually been trying to avoid screwing up. it turns out that nervousness wasn't a big minus for the committee of interviewers. the fact is that reading a hundred resumes, setting up interviews, and talking with strangers about their job histories is about as boring for the interviewer as it is nerve-wracking for the interviewee. if you can make the thing even slightly interesting by being funny, or talking about something with some palpable enthusiasm it makes the whole annoying thing that much more bearable.
here's a visual map of subjects i've been exploring lately, based on websites that i've bookmarked in the past few months. click on the subject to see the list of bookmarks.
bethany's post about the best quiche ever baked.
bethany's photos of saturday's project: moving mark's books from storage at lars and chris's to jef's house. warning: it involves bugs and earth worms.