For a creative person, I have some of the dullest dreams around. I don't get it either.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/08/14 08:00
Here is what may sound like a truly bizarre confession for an author: My dreams are some of the most boring, repetitive things you could ever find this side of the last time you waited for your number to be called at the DMV.
Ideas aren't what matter, anyway. Execution is. And beyond that, the habit of executing. But why do we get hung up about great ideas?By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/08/11 08:00
Among most any subreddits you'll see the same questions posted, worded almost to the letter, by different people at least once a week. One of the subreddits I subscribe to, /r/gamedev, has some variant of this timeless classic pop up at least once every couple of days: How do I keep people from stealing my fantastic game idea (which, odds are, the person in question hasn't gotten around to actually making into a game, and which — spoiler alert — they probably never will)?
The most beautiful Mozart you'll hear, the one from your own fingers, is beautiful because you now know what it costs to have even a bad version of Mozart out there.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/08/07 08:00
I don't remember where I read this, but someone once said that if you want to hear the most beautiful version of a piano piece by Mozart, or Erik Satie, or whoever, it's going to be the one you learn how to play yourself.
For a long time I filed this one under Narcissism, because I didn't like the idea of encouraging people to be fascinated with their own work, their own selves, at the expense of others. It took a lot of time to get settled with the real truth of it, which isn't about narcissism but is about self-reflection. No prizes for guessing it was Zen that helped me see this.
When does a story's logic hold fast, and when does it break?By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/08/06 08:00
I need to think about something other than mass shootings or melting glaciers, and I suspect you do too, so here goes.
Articles dissecting the illogic of blockbuster films are a dime a dozen, so here's a dime for you — an analysis of all the logical inconsistencies of Avengers: Endgame. What I liked best was not the article itself, but this comment: "In all honesty, this is a world where a boy mutates to a spiderlike creature, a god is playing Fortnite and grows a beer belly and racoons have an amazing sense of humour so I’m certainly not going to fuss about some illogical stuff."
This provokes a useful question: Where in such a story is it safe to call certain things illogical and other things not? Where's the logic and illogic coming from in the first place?
A letter to a long-dead friend.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/08/05 08:00
As best I can reckon, it has been a little shy of eighteen years since you died. You died in 2001, days before 9/11 — not of a terrorist attack, not because of some horrible hateful maniac with a gun, but of natural causes, an undiagnosed medical condition that took your life within a matter of minutes.
There hasn't been a month since then when I haven't wondered what you would have made of all this. Knowing you — or maybe better to say, reconstructing you from what I remember of you — you would have shaken your head and wondered, why the hell do people have to be so goddamn mean?
Tags: these troubled times
"Don’t think about your discipline, don’t think about your craft, just play at this."By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/08/01 08:00
The great blessing from Jim Henson was, “Don’t think about your discipline, don’t think about your craft, just play at this.” Get thinking about the craft out of the way, and the rest will come to the surface.
Recent scholarly work about play tells us it is a kind of rehearsal process. You play to run through various scenarios about how things might play out, to throw things at the wall and see what sticks. People who get into the habit of play as a way to turn ideas around in their heads tend not only to be more adept at it when they do it, but more willing to engage in that kind of play in the first place: the what-ifs, the counterfactuals.
If you don't work on yourself, it makes the job of others defining you against your will easier for them.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/07/24 17:00
Back in 2013 or so when I started my other site Ganriki, devoted to reviews and analyses of Japanese popular culture, one of the notes I made to myself that ended up in the site's explicatory note went something like this: Palettes, not hierarchies. This was something I had gleaned from another figure prominent in my Zen studies, John Cage. The point was not to worry about ranking things, least of all one's self, but to simply learn the lessons on display all around you, as offered by others. The "worst horse" is actually the best because he has the most to learn, the most opportunity for growth and application of the universe of lessons.
Said Cage, in Lecture On Something:
When Art comes from within, which is what it was for so long doing, it became a thing which seemed to elevate the man who made it above those who observed it or heard it, and the artist was considered a genius or given a rating: First, Second, No Good, until finally riding in a bus or subway: so proudly he signs his name like a manufacturer.
When I first encountered all this, I thought: How is it, then, that we are to improve if we are not worried about the quality of our work? This was answered, fairly swiftly, by another assertion: If you compare yourself to anything, compare yourself to your earlier self.
Science fiction, rebooted.
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