Friday, November 23, 2012

What is Story but Making Sense

"... Trying to make sense of the things that you think (of)." ~ Nick Hornsby

I like that line a lot, as a writer I'm always trying to make sense of the things that I think of. More often than not I have a notion, but no idea, ha, ha. No idea what that notion will lead to, and I only find out by writing.

Sometimes I start writing about my day, or about last night's turkey, or the cherry pie. The cherry pie in particular, because it's so easy to make. You just dump the contents of a can of cherry pie filling in a Graham crackers crust and put it in the oven for a bit. That's what my friend's mom told me. Often simple things are the best.

Sometimes simple things get lost in translation, sometimes even in a conversation with people who assume they speak the same language. One person's turkey day is another person's bane. Oi vey.

For some a "story" is personal, for others story equals premise, while for "stringers" it's how many meaningful words they're allowed to fit in a newspaper column. And that's only the beginning. We all interpret the meaning of "story" in a different way. Unless or until we're taking a creative writing class and the teacher hammers on using the same vernacular.

The Art of Spotting - Judith van Praag
Countless the times that someone told me, someone I respected, someone whose opinion was of value to me even, "Now there's a story." And I would say, "What, where?" I knew I had just related an experience, performed if you will the dialogue, but I knew just that was not enough to make a story.
Knowing the story, or even more importantly why a story would be of interest to readers, and what the justification to try and have those words of published is way more difficult than writing a hundred thousand words. Seeing the forest for the trees is an accomplishment, so is noticing the gem among the pebbles, or better yet the pebble that speaks to you.

Anna Elliott's post "Commitment" on the blog Writer Unbound triggered the above musings. IN her post Elliott disagreed with a phrase attributed to TV series Castle's title role character Richard Castle: “I already have the story. That’s the hardest part.”

Do I believe that Castle has the "story" before writing anything at all? No, I don't. But neither do I believe Castle, the (fictional) author is a newbie. In my mind Castle has put in his 10,000+ hours to perfect his craft already. He's got a file cabinet filled with newspaper clips dating back to his college years, he's got transcripts of court cases, folders within folders with words he's written already, character sketches, scenes and situations, and shelves of Who Donits in his leer.

That's why I believe him when he says "I already have the story." Because knowing what it is you want to say is the hardest.

Write on, write on writer, and the story may come to you.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Sunday, November 18, 2012

SEO Blog Posts are Islands of Content in The Flow

Transformational ecologically minded artist/ thinker/ writer Deborah Barnes asked me to take a look at her latest blog post WaterRIP, The Flow.
Deborah's blogger profile says:
"... former owner of Zootsuit Custom Apparel, now the creative director of fashionRIP an eco-politico fiber, multi-media, collaborative arts series which is a part of the FashonRip Project -a sustainable economic experiment of integrated services and products, a transitions model."
Good job! This blogger has (com)passion a product/ creative output, and I daresay enough content in this one blog post for two.

This is what I remind myself of when writing: Whenever The Flow takes you from the initial post in a different direction, or introduces another project entity, consider rounding off the first. You can suggest to your readers to follow you to the next post.In this case I suggest the blogger cuts the text in half, ending with reference to collaboration. Make sure you add hyperlinks to all important elements. In this case the articles Deborah refers to plus her colleague and friend Beverly Naidus. In the second post, which will be dedicated to Beverly's installation, Deborah can refer to today's post, and hyperlink WaterRIP, The Flow

In order to have readers land on your blog, you'll need to use SEO (search engine optimization) tags. Regarding this particular post, those who happen to be browsing the web for The Flow may be searching for a more contemporary form of DADAIST automatic handwriting or to Nathalie Goldberg, the author of Writing Down the Bones, and yet thanks to Deborah's "labeling" (another word for tagging) they'll land at FashionRIP re-visioned fashion".

Headlines of blogs are as important if not more so than those of newspaper articles. Don't be too creative/ abstract, be more to the point, if you want to hit the target, call an ace an ace. Using good SEO + extra tags will drive more readers to your blog, and they can make a post go viral.

I bet Deborah's blog will get a lot of visible followers when she adds the "Follow" gadget to the sidebar. And while her blog has a share gadget in the same sidebar, adding "share" widgets to the bottom of each post allows readers to share that particular post, not just a blog as a whole.

Deborah ended her post with the hyperlinked names of the articles that triggered her post. I'd like to see those in the opening paragraph. Don't worry about people surfing away from your blog prematurely, they'll return.

And last but not least, make sure you have a link to the place that you want to draw them to in real life, in this case Kerf Gallery. Oops, I couldn't help myself.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Right Side of Brain Creative and Left Side Editor? Give One or the Other a Break

Image by Bernard Goldbach
Creatives work with the right side of their brain and the more analytical minded just with the left?
The illustration created by Bernard Goldbach suggests the left side is merely dull, the right blasting with colors and creative force. But how clear cut is the difference between the right and left hemisphere really, and can we make do without one side or the other?

In her post "Our Storytelling Minds: Do We Ever Really Know What's Going On Inside?" Maria Konnikova introduces us to severance of corpus collosum —not the feared lobotomy— and the effects on the functioning of the human brain. Amazing stuff, check it out.

I haven't suffered brain damage, but Konnikova's post made me think of my personal experiences with left and right brain functioning. In 2001 my right arm froze, from the tips of my fingers to my shoulder. This was a painful affair, in many ways. I had just finished stretching four large canvases, and started the under painting on  a trio of vertical panels, and a singular nearly square one, when my right arm and hand went on strike.

Imagine an artist carrying her arm around supported by a pillow in a sling, muttering thanks for so many years of faithful surface, crying out her regrets.

"Overextended," was my physical therapist's verdict. Between stretching canvases, writing by hand, pruning fruit trees, gardening, driving, riding a bicycle, and doing household chores, I had worn out my dominant arm. That summer I gardened holding a banana in my right hand, just so I wouldn't answer immediately to the urge to dig out dandelion roots and pull weeds.

Initially I balked at finishing my paintings with my left hand, I had no control over gestures, my left hand didn't know anything about brush strokes, fine nor broad.

My dominant hand and arm were frozen.

Maria Konnikova writes: "... when Gazzaniga asked W.J. to point to the stimulus instead of speaking, he became able to complete the task. In other words, his hand knew what his head and mouth did not."

While I don't have the same or even similar experience, what happened to me, a visual artist and writer, unable to use her dominant right hand and arm, is comparable. And in a strange way I felt liberated, the routine lacking left hand's action was propelled by the creative right side of my brain.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Add Facebook Fan Pages to Interest Lists Or You Won't See Updates of Your Favorites on Your News Feed

Facebook Friends with Fan Pages are disgruntled. You may have seen this message appear on your News Feed: 
Changed how? You wonder? 
If you "Liked" Fan or Community Pages before, you would see  community posts in your News Feed. But that's no longer the case. Some suggest it's a ploy for Facebook to generate more sponsored ads, i.e. have holders of Fan Pages pay to have specific posts promoted, so they will show up in the margin of your window.
Would that be so bad? Fan and/or Community Pages are nothing more or less than Free Websites.
You can ensure that you continue to see the free updates in your News Feed.
Once you have Pages listed by interest, you can look up everything in one smooth dedicated stream. How cool is that?

 1. You already liked a Fan Page, now go back, click on "Liked" and hold the cursor, the drop down menu will appear. Mark "Show in News Feed". Then Click on "Add to Interest Lists..."

What you see next is the old set-up with boxed items. Your special list heading doesn't show yet? Click on next in the lower right hand corner and then you get a window that lets you create your own list name, see below. I created Music/ Musicians/ Bands. Next click "done" in the lower right hand corner.

In the drop down menu below you can see how I created another list namely Dutch Publications/ Publishers. Believe it or not, the Weekly Worst means Weekly Sausage. That's Double Dutch for you.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Akira Kasai at On the Boards in Seattle - 2004

The living and the dead join together, a post by Judy Shintani made me think of a performance I saw years ago in Seattle. Not requested to write a review, I filed my notes for future reference. I suggest you click on this link while reading. Although unrelated the soundtrack fits the text below.

Akira Kasai’s performance at On the Boards starts in darkness, minimal lighting for a small figure in traditional Japanese dress and wig. Sound reminiscent of revving airplane engines, ready to leave, or changing from airborne to touch down. Japanese vocals, monotonous and accompanied by traditional Japanese instruments, drums and flute.

    The dancer’s feet in toe socks remind me of Merce Cunningham’s arthritic toes, my memory of the oldest living Don of Modern Dance a clash with Kabuki —pop ulist theater, artists in drag. Fluttering around, knees bent, Akira is an old courtesan and as the drums tremble, a pissed of geisha, an oxymoron.

    My patience is tested. I want the dancer to shed his costume, show me the movements without the layered kimonos, without the carefully held sleeves, without the headdress, or perhaps that could stay, that and the white make-up reminders of tradition. I want to see muscles move, the dancer’s physical translation of inner motivation.

    A change takes place, again the revving of airplane engines, the Kabuki character’s hands claw at the air, the face suffers distortions, the body convolu ted.  gobo creates an indistinct shadow on the white backdrop, a tree, a hill top, an amoeba maybe, then the stage is lit brightly as before and the dancer appears rejuvenated, though still imprisoned by traditional dress. Again the Japanese vocals, flute, drums, followed by airplane engines, clawing hands, rejuvenation. Repetition.

    What are the voices saying, what is the story, what propels the dancer? Are we, is the audience being mocked? I want to know. Apart from the dramatic changes, the anguish shown in face and hands, the repetition in movement, I don’t have a clue what’s going on. My wish to know hinders my understanding.

     Butoh —result of a post W.W.II incorporation of Noh (more serious, musical art form), Kabuki (popular entertainment) and Bunraku (puppets and storytelling)— a new movement language, “the dance of darkness” shocked and aggravated its & first audiences. No wonder, since one of the guerilla art pioneers, Tatsumi Hijikata’s interpretation of author Yokio Mishima’s “Kinjiki” (Forbidden Colors) involved the dancer’s (faux) intercourse with a chicken, leaving the fowl’s neck broken.

    The time warp continues, sweeping sounds of a snare instrument surface, the dancer births himself from the Kabuki performer, a whirling dervish swirling across the stage. A pin, a ribbon, parts of the headdress come undone, fall to the ground, then with a swing of the dancer’s head, the wig flies off. Lights dim and three dressers appear. Akira huffs and puffs loudly, expelling all air, breathing in without sound. In silhouette he’s undressed, layer after layer, dressers working in unison, part of the performance. The dancer, nude in silhouette, svelte å, sculpted; Adonis slides into pants, a shirt. He grabs a mirror, checks his make-up, the remaining dresser hand-combs the wig matted hair.

    Piano keyboard resonance. A shaft of light divides the backdrop and stage floor in half, the dancer contracts, releases, contracts, releases his muscles, his masculine body unrestrained by traditional costume. Another shaft of light appears on the diagonal, then another perpendicular to the first. Again the drone of airplane engines. Akira, center stage, where shafts of light intersect, suddenly in bright light, struggles. Submission, or defeat? Unclear. Again the time warp, no way out, or…

    Electronic mus ic, flight, light, expression. Bloop, bloop, sounds of heart throb, energetic movements, no more Japanese vocals. The dancer’s vocabulary expends, light footed, open, large and looser movements. Wake up, nothing minimal, but yes repetition, repetition, 1970’s wild pop/ rock dance.

    Eurythmics, harmonious rhythm, the art of visible music, initially created by Rudolf Steiner as a new movement art, neither mime nor dance. Specific sound gestures chosen and practiced in sequence, intensified and repeated to stimulate specific organic functions. A healthful workout. Akira’s secret?

    Drone of airplane engine, mime, a suggestion of break dance without the mind boggling, spine breaking, spinning and sliding of youth. The music slows down, keyboard, rhythm, again the clawing hands, movements more edgy, square, linear.

    In my mind I juxtapose the new movements on earlier Kabuki style, a doubling of images, my private video screening. Combinations show energy and command of body, muscles, movement. I’m overwhelmed by motion, no moment of rest, of peace, of contemplation. None of the poised silence Butoh is known for. Akira creates his own language.

    The dancer all but disappears from the well lit white dance floor into the wings, than jumps back making eye contact with audience. Piano and electronic music orchestral, lights bright. The dancer mimes, poses, gestures of a lunatic. Madonna’s “Vogue,” “Strike a pose, strike a pose” comes to mind.

    Then silence and back to earlier Kabuki movements, bent knees… Someone in the audience sneezes. The dancer arches an imaginary bow, shoots an arrow at the culprit, receiving the arrow in his own head. Success, people laugh, an other arrow, and another one, comic relieve. Is the shooting a reference to Yokio Mishima’s posing as Saint Sebastian shot dead with arrows and did I imagine hearing the dancer say, “see your blood ”?   

    Sliding outside the borders of the white dance floor the dancer strips again. Off the shirt, off the pants, replaced by egg shell trousers and a jacket that doesn’t match the hue. Much toe work, matching musical notes on moon lit stage. Again a near exit, then a dived return to front stage.

    The dancer, amazing ball of energy, loose and quiet for a moment, less than a moment. Talks to audience, appears wasted, no music, laughter, crazy, facial silent screams, lunacy. Jabbers Japanese, overhead music and vocals loud. American Hip Hop. The dancer runs on empty, a tired modern dancer, high on wari ´ness, fatigue. White confetti turns pink on the way from top to floor, he thanks the audience, accepts applause. Exits, returns. Elvis croons “Love me tender”, the dancer hugs flowers, tosses them around on the stage. The audience gives standing ovation, the dancer loves his audience, loves himself.

    Standing ovation for Butoh an oxymoron; Akira Kansai practices an art form in flux, ever changing, a new, his own language.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License