Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

One weekend ago, I visited Los Angeles for another trip.  This was for our group of Creative Artists to have a little party, and show each other our work.  Without further ado, here’s why I love CAN.

Funny Songs

A friend played her ukelele.  She played a song about the plight of anyone who graduated college, with an economically useless degree during a recession.  You can’t even get a job at Starbucks, but you can make friends laugh.  Yes, we’re all laughing at ourselves.  We can’t get jobs in one of the most expensive cities in the union, but somehow we manage to have art nights at a mid century mansion.  Irony.

Impromptu Old Timey Dance

Another reason I love artist nights is impromptu old timey dance.  Not sure who first put it on, but there was an ipad set to an old jazz station.  At some point between Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, it became dance time.  We did a few turns, some spins, a sweat heart wrap where and there.

New Vocabulary

Did you know that you can learn new words, just by hanging out with writers?  Here’s how one conversation went.

Me: Wait, you dated that guy?

Her: Yes.  An eighteen month long relationship happened.

Me: I never knew.

Her (swigs a bit of liquor): Because I am not a Facebook Exhibitionist.

Fudging in its Finest and Fantasies

The other reasons why I love can is that I can perform the single most challenging song I’ve ever attempted, fudge chords, and still get a great amount of applause.  Also, I can write a short script and have it read.  These are the things that make CAN special.

Most importantly, friends at CAN remind me why I need to be back in Los Angeles.  Anyone got a job opening?

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There’s this great little app that a fellow writer friend of mine shared with me.  It is call “I write like” and it compares your writing style (but not content) to other famous writers.  Here’s what I got:

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Yes!

…..and now I suppose I should read one of his books…

I am super excited to announce a new project.  Our super awesome municipal liaisons from NaNoWriMo have started a project.  This project is the cleverly named Novel Travelist.

This blog helps writers understand details about foreign countries without having to endure humiliation by the TSA to fly there themselves.  The Los Angeles ML’s have gathered several travel experts.  It looks like I am the writer for details on Korea.

The first Korea contribution can be found here.  It offers a small detail about how food is fresher than sushi in Korea.

Future Korea contributions will include.

  • Why Noraebang is completely awesome.
  • Starcraft!
  • How US Army Dudes chivalrously pursue feminists with liberal arts degrees.
  • How people feel about “the Kims.”
  • Why it’s important to get your lattes delivered.
  • Marketing, Begging, and Evangelizing on subway tubes: is there really a difference?
  • The Hagwon Heart-attack.
  • Starcraft!
  • Why E-mart is bigger than Walmart.
  • Soju hangovers in the classroom.
  • Chillin’ with Hip Hop Artists, rock stars, and theater troupes.
  • Why Korea is safe for single white females.
  • and of course, Starcraft!

This blog continues the discussion on why the young are leaving the Church.

Have ever heard this only partly ironic joke: Don’t smoke, drink, or chew or go with girls/boys who do?  While the phrasing is archaic, the spirit of the statement continues in evangelical culture.  It might be better said today as “Watch out for those video games, movies, music, internet chat rooms and Pokemon.”

demon_with_child

How stupid can you look?

Reason number one why young people leave is that the church seems overprotective.  As the Barna research reports expands:

A few of the defining characteristics of today’s teens and young adults are their unprecedented access to ideas and worldviews as well as their prodigious consumption of popular culture. As Christians, they express the desire for their faith in Christ to connect to the world they live in. However, much of their experience of Christianity feels stifling, fear-based and risk-averse. One-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” (23% indicated this “completely” or “mostly” describes their experience). Other perceptions in this category include “church ignoring the problems of the real world” (22%) and “my church is too concerned that movies, music, and video games are harmful” (18%).

I can still remember fear-based tactics to encourage a kind of ghetto, tribal, thinking under the guise of spiritual purity or holiness.  Most of the readers can probably know this too.  See if any of these statements sound familiar:

  • Colleges encourage hedonism and secularism.
  • It’s not acceptable to watch movies with nudity, foul-language, violence etc in it.
  • Harry Potter encourages witchcraft.
  • Martial Arts and Yoga worship demons.
  • Halloween is a pagan holiday.
  • Good Christians only listen to Christian music.
  • Is that a “Christian” video game, movie, book, school, person etc?

Most of these look rather reactionary, strange, and often just plain stupid.  It seems very odd to me that a movie or videogame ought to be denounced for sex and violence, but yet we are still expected to read passages like this in the Bible:

 Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give us your counsel; what shall we do?” Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, the ones he has left to look after the house; and all Israel will hear that you have made yourself odious to your father, and the hands of all who are with you will be strengthened.” So they pitched a tent for Absalom upon the roof; and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel. -2 Samuel 16:20-22 NRSV

I want to be clear with the irony here.  An overprotective church says that sexual content or violence is something Christians shouldn’t watch or see.   However, it’s okay to read a story were a prince usurps his father’s kingdom through sexual exhibitionism.  This is only one example of how the overprotective impulse would have us stop reading the Bible.

Little needs to be said here about Harry Potter, Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, or a host of other forms of entertainment that children and teens have enjoyed.  Harry Potter was actually infused with Christian symbolism.  Pokemon and Magic the Gathering never turned children into little satanists.

But what about movies and television?  Don’t these influence teenagers and young adults?  Shouldn’t we be worried about our Christian witness when watching a film that has a premarital sex, gay people, occult activity, and curse words?  A good Christian could never watch Dexter or Game of the Thrones for sake of these sins in those shows, or so it is said.

I actually do think that movies, television, and video-games influence behavior and even personality.  Yet this kind of mentality concentrates on incidental superficialities, rather than evaluating a work of fiction as a work of fiction.  In other words, an overprotective church complains about some presence of “sin” in a story, but fails to evaluate its role  in the story.

Let’s use Game of Thrones as an example.  Throughout season one, when see Daenerys Targaryen develop as a person.  At the first, she is little more than a pawn (and property) in her brother’s ambitious schemes.  At the end, we see her grow into a self-made monarch-to-be, the mother of dragons, and is also naked.  “Also naked” is the superficiality that an overprotective church fixates on.  There is no discussion about character arcs, themes, or anything else that a work of fiction should be evaluated by.  Someone is naked, and it is therefore “not Christian.”

Doing entertainment differently

Let’s be clear: young people are going to encounter the world outside of the Christian ghetto.  Attempting to censor what they read, watch, play or listen to out of fear will server only to make them resentful.  An overprotective church does the Gospel no service.  It only makes people appear awkward.

The solution to this is two fold.

For the first part, I am indebted to Glenn Peoples over at Beretta Online.  I recommend everyone simply listen to this podcast.  In it, he argues that we should not filter our entertainment between “Christian” and “everything else that is evil.”  If we are to evaluate a song, a film or a video game we ought stop asking “is it Christian?” and instead ask “is it good?”  Plenty of good things came outside of Christian ghetto.  Plenty of things inside the Christian ghetto represent a lousy form of Christianity.  What do I mean by this?  Listen to the podcast.  His accent is really cool.

The second part is this.  When we do evaluate a work of art we should not be counting how many sins it represents.  Rather, we should dig into its substance and evaluate the work of art as a work of art.  In the case of works of fiction, we need to be discussing characters arcs, genres, three acts just to start.  If we’re listening to music, we should be talking about musical arrangements, lyrical quality, vocal talent and so forth.  If we’re playing a video game, we’ll talk about game mechanics, plot development, and other things that make a game fun.

For all of these things, I count myself lucky to be in Southern California.  For all my gripes about “touchy feely west coast Evangelicalism,” it is wonderful to be surrounded by artists, musicians, actors and other Christian creatives who understand their faith well enough to interact well with the creative world.

So go out and watch something sinful tonight.  Read a book where someone does witchcraft.  Get yourself some funny shaped dice and slay a few dragons.  Listen to a rap lyrics was bad language.  Play a videogame where you shoot nazis.

When you’re done, ask yourself “was it good”?

I don’t think God is going to condemn you for your entertainment.

With much thanks to sister’s boyfriend, I am now fully exposed to the strange world of commercial screen writing.  What is the first step to writing a script?  Write a log line.  Basically, the log line tells people what the movie is in about thirty seconds.  Apparently, you write this line before you write anything else about the story.

A good log line must have several ingredients.  It must have Irony.  It must tell the target audience.  It must inspire a mental image.  It must give an idea to the cost.  Script writers use this to sell their work.  Ever wondered why many Hollywood movies feel formulaic (Black Cop meets white cop movies, anyone?) yet somehow still sell millions?  Now you know why.  Here are some examples Log Lines that could become scripts someday.  Read through them and then add your own silly, but perhaps still profitable, Log Lines.

“After losing his job, agnostic Mark Guyer is forced to follow his peers to an Evangelical Christian college.” -Wise as a Serpent

“A Marine officer is sucked into a magical quest to rescued a mystical unicorn and a POW” -Operation Sparkle Hoof

“Former meth dealer escapes the FBI with identity among the old order Amish.” -Churning Crystal

“An ambitious journalist goes undercover into the world of Montata Militia Surivivalists” -Pressing Liberty

“After witnessing her roommates murder, a college sophomore escapes witness protection and joins a biker gang for revenge.” -The Pink Rider

“Daughter of vanquished vampire lord trash talks the vampire slayer on social networks for revenge.” -Tweet of the Damned

“An army ranger, a PETA activist, and a conspiracy theorist crash land in the wilderness and must survive.” -Shut up or Shiver

A good log line is ironic.  It communicates the target audience.  It gives a compelling mental picture.  It lets a producer know how much it will cost.

So why not try it?  What’s your Log Line?  Add some comments below.

>Okay, so I am thinking about NaNoWriMo still, which is great because it forces me to organize my creativity. First, I would like to say that the book ‘The Artist’s Way’ has been very helpful. It has given me a lot of inspiration and forced me to just bleed thoughts onto paper. This is an incredibly helpful exercise because the inspiration will come to you. You might consider checking that ought, even if you do not do NaNoWriMo this year.

What now, I am thinking about writing my story based on two probable outline scenarios that I read about in a book on game design. You probably know that many people avoid NaNoWriMo because they are afraid to suck, but also because outlining is a challenge. There are two that I have learned about recently.

The first, is the Hollywood Three Act. I quote here directly from Game Development Essentials:

1. Beginning (Act I): The most interesting stories begin by placing the audience into the action or drama of the story. The backstory and any background events leading up to this moment can be introduced later. The goal is to capture the audience’s attention. Act I focuses on the character’s problem. The story should introduce this problem immediately.
Middle (Act II): The middle of the story focuesses on the obstacles that stand in the way of the character’s ability to solve the problem introduced in Act I. There are usually a series of obstacles in Act II that the character must overcome. this act comprises the bulk of the dramatic tension in the story.
End (Act III): The story ends when the problem introduced in Act I has been solved. The character often has to systematically face and remove each obstacle in Act II in order to reach this resolution.

This is the first of two outlines that I think are useful. Tomorrow, I will be concentrating on the hero’s journey.

That one will require a bit more thought.

Thanks for reading.
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>A long time ago a friend told me that he was reluctant to take up a musical instrument because he didn’t think he’d be good. On that night, I shared a recent epiphany with him: in order to become good at any talent (or “excellence” as the philosopher says), one my first have the courage to suck.

Yes, the courage to suck. Not the absense of fear, but the resistance to it. One must suck, and suck for a long time, and only then will one slowly get better at whatever it is you are pursuing.

So get ready to suck!

Last year, I desperately wanted to NaNoWriMo. I got all excited for my friends who were writing their 50,000 words of garbage. I wanted so badly to have time to produce that same amount of garbage that I was even quite a bit envious. Why couldn’t I angst up, force manic-episodes, and type feriously at my laptop until I needed some wrist exercises?

Because I was in grad school, I resolved rather to do it this year than last year. I have since purchased a few books on writing. One such book was Creating Characters, which is short but packed with a lot of really simple advice in order to get characters going. I have learned, that I have been thinking way to hard about the characters I create. So with that in mind, my characters will be much better. Another book (which is mostly about comics) was Scott Mccloud’s Making Comics. It was book that also highlighted, expanded, and downright paradigm shifted, my approach to making any comics in the future.

Most importantly, I going through the Making Comics. This is part daily devotional, part mental exercise. Ideally, I would’ve started this months ago, as the book is a guide a long a twelve week program. Still though, I feel that book is good. The very first chapter of the book encourages the reader to shut off their left brain -internal censor- that constantly criticizes and judges.

I think I can live with that.

You, who read this, probably have a creative bone in you. I really hope that everyone who is checking this blog consider NanWriMo. Remember, have the courage to suck.

I mean, just look at the webcomic I ran.

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