Come ask me questions on IO9!

I'm doing a live Q&A on IO9 about my book Information Doesn't Want to Be Free at 1PM eastern/10AM Pacific today -- come on along!

Video: Ferdinando Buscema on "The Magic of Breaking Ideas"

At the recent TEDxCaFoscariU in Venice, our co-conspirator Ferdinando Buscema, magician/author/engineer, explores "The Magic of Breaking Ideas." And don't miss Ferdinando's Boing Boing feature, "The Magic of Hacking Reality!"

Confessions of an Outlaw

“My attitude as an artist,” says World Trade Center high-wire walker Philippe Petit, “grew out of the realization I’d arrived at from an early age: that my intellectual engagement, my imaginative freedom, had a price: that of the forbidden. Whatever I decided to do, it was not allowed!”

Read the rest

Kickstarting Storium: turn writing into a multiplayer game

Mur Lafferty sez, "This week, Storium launched its Kickstarter and reached funding ($25000) in the first day. Storium is a web-based online game that you play with friends. It works by turning writing into a multiplayer game."

Read the rest

The Gap: animation of Ira Glass's inspirational rant about overcoming fear of creative suckage

Robbo writes, "Daniel Frohlocke has made a wonderful short film based on David Shiyang Lius' interview with Ira Glass, where the gap between one's taste and one's skills is observed and examined. It's a lovely visual representation of the gnawing conundrum that eats at the heart of every artist."

THE GAP by Ira Glass (Thanks, Robbo)

Creativity, math, and 12-tone music

We've featured doodling, fast-talking YouTube mathematician Vi Hart a lot here, but her latest, a 30-minute extended mix, is absolutely remarkable, even by her high standards. For 30 glorious minutes, Ms Hart explores the nature of randomness and pattern, using Stravinsky's 12-tone music as a starting-point and rocketing through constellations, the nature of reality, Borges's library, and more. On the way, she ends up with a good working definition of creativity, and explores the dilemma of structure versus creation. Brava, Ms Hart, you have outdone yourself! Plus, I like your copyright jokes.

Twelve Tones

Works that would be in the public domain today -- if America hadn't extended copyright terms in 1976


In 1976, the US Congress decided to extend the copyright on works that had been created with the understanding that they would enter the public domain after about 56 years (depending on whether the copyright was renewed after 26 years). This decision set the stage for a series of subsequent copyright extensions, each one coinciding, roughly, with the imminent entry to the public domain of the earliest Mickey Mouse cartoons. Effectively, the public domain has ended

Every year, Jennifer Jenkins and James Boyle at the Duke Center for the Public Domain publish a list of works that could have entered the public domain on Jan 1, were it not for the 1976 Act. James notes, "as always, scifi seems to dominate. Points to notice... Minority Report would have been in the public domain, Around The World in 80 Days -- the movie -- should have been Around The World in 34,699 Days."

What books would be entering the public domain if we had the pre-1978 copyright laws? You might recognize some of the titles below.

* Winston Churchill, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Volume I and Volume II
* Philip K. Dick, Minority Report
* Ian Fleming, Diamonds are Forever
* Fred Gibson, Old Yeller
* Billie Holiday, Lady Sings the Blues
* Alan Lerner, My Fair Lady
* Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey into Night
* John Osborne, Look Back in Anger
* Dodie Smith, 101 Dalmatians

Here are a few of the movies that we won’t see in the public domain for another 39 years.

* Around the World in 80 Days
* The Best Things in Life are Free
* Forbidden Planet
* Godzilla, King of the Monsters!
* It Conquered the World
* The King and I
* The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 remake by Alfred Hitchcock of his 1934 British film)
* Moby Dick
* The Searchers (1956 film version with John Wayne from Alan Le May’s 1954 novel)
* The Ten Commandments (1956 version by Cecil B. DeMille, who also directed a similar film in 1923)

Read the rest

Ball of Whacks magnetic creativity toy/tool

I gave "Ball of Whacks" to my 6-year-old son as a Hanukkah gift and I wish I'd have given it to myself. It reminds me a bit of Rubik's Snake but it's much more free-form and fun as the individual blocks aren't permanently connected but rather held together by 180 rare earth magnets. The blocks fit together in a 30-sided rhombic triacontahedron and can be recombined into animals, stars, and other geometric wonders. The Ball of Whacks comes with a guidebook suggesting lots of neat configurations, creativity exercises, and tips but we haven't bothered with that yet. It's addictive without any instruction. Ball of Whacks is available in red, blue, black, and multi-color which is what I, er, my son, was given. Maybe next we'll go for Von Oech's X-Ball, Y-Ball, or Star Ball magnet toys! Ball of Whacks

Great comic on creative work in the Internet age


The Oatmeal's "Some thoughts and musings about making things for the web" really captures a lot of the joys and sorrows of working in a creative field in the age of the Internet, especially the toxicity of spending too much time reading nasty comments, and the difficulty of maintaining self discipline. My one quibble -- and it's a major one -- is the business about "inspiration."

For me the major turning point in my working life was when I figured out that the work I produced when I felt inspired wasn't any different from the work I produced when I felt uninspired -- at least a few months later. I think that "inspiration" has to do with your own confidence in your ideas, your blood sugar, the external pressures in your life, and a million other factors only tangentially related to the actual quality of the work. If creative work makes you sane and happy (and if it supports you financially), it's terrible to harness it to something you can't control, like "inspiration" -- it sucks to only be happy when something you can't control occurs.

Some thoughts and musings about making things for the web (via Neatorama)

Great writing advice from this year's Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy writing workshop


Sam J Miller sez, "I just graduated from the amazing Clarion Writer's Workshop, and transcribed over 300 great pieces of advice and guidance from my instructors and fellow students. I did it for the benefit of myself and my Clarion Comrades, but hoped other folks would find it helpful."

I'm a Clarion grad, teacher, and board member -- I'll be back teaching next summer, in fact, after a five-year fatherhood hiatus. This is a great collection of the kind of stuff you learn at the workshop.

“A common way to structure stories is: ESTABLISH NORM. UPSET NORM. COMPLICATE & ESCALATE. CLIMAX. RESOLUTION.”

“Whenever you think you’re going to create a really strong character by putting “I” at the beginning of every sentence, you’re digging yourself a hole. It’s actually harder to bring “I” to life.”

“When it’s broken, you don’t always have to fix the whole thing. You can fix half—you just have to know which half. And that’s not always easy.”

“The problem with people is they have beer and they want egg in it. Things are good and they’re unsatisfied.”

“Opening the vein is where the best writing comes from.”

“You have to write things you genuinely are not sure about.”

“Frequently, your back brain is wiser than your front brain.”

“You left yourself a lot of hints that I don’t think you even know about.”

(Thanks, Sam!)

Clarion 2012: Every Brilliant Piece of Writing Advice*

Urban plant tags

I'm amused and charmed by this theoretical public art project proposed by Minneapolis' Carmichael Lynch Creative. Urban Plant Tags explain the care, placement, and proper feeding of inanimate objects like benches, streetlights, and fire hydrants.

You can go to the website to read those plant tags more clearly. But I love the care instructions for this bench: "Apply Real Estate Ads Annually — Occasionally Wipe Clean — Keep Warm With Butt."

Side note: Perhaps you are confused by the fact that this fire hydrant appears to be on a stilt. That's because it snows so much up here in Minnesota that they have to build the fire hydrants tall enough to clear the winter snow cover. An amusing regionalism.

See the whole set of urban plant tags

Via Andrew Balfour

Clay Shirky on the relationship between physical space and creativity

I really liked Clay Shirky's essay on the relationship between physical space and creativity. It's one of those classic, Shirkian riffs that includes a bunch of seemingly glib and merely clever ideas and culminates with a thing that ties it all together and makes you realize that a bunch of stuff you've been taking for granted is REALLY important and a bit weird.

In this video of his talk at PSFK CONFERENCE NYC, Clay Shirky talks about the work of Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. After working there as an assistant professor for almost ten years, Shirky describes five student projects that he thinks are pushing the creative boundaries - from interface design to how people cluster to build new work. At the end of the talk, the technology thought-leader compares creatives as members of a philharmonic orchestra and wonders if any rules can be drawn from looking at such an ensemble.

Clay Shirky: What I Learned About Creativity By Watching Creatives (Thanks, Avi!)

Joss Whedon on his success

A beautiful note from Joss Whedon to the world, his admirers, and his past self, explaining what it feels like to have directed a movie that broke all box-office records for opening weekend:

What doesn't change is anything that matters. What doesn't change is that I've had the smartest, most loyal, most passionate, most articulate group of -- I'm not even gonna say fans. I'm going with "peeps" -- that any cult oddity such as my bad self could have dreamt of. When almost no one was watching, when people probably should have STOPPED watching, I've had three constants: my family and friends, my collaborators (often the same), and y'all. A lot of stories have come out about my "dark years", and how I'm "unrecognized"... I love these stories, because they make me seem super-important, but I have never felt the darkness (and I'm ALL about my darkness) that they described. Because I have so much. I have people, in my life, on this site, in places I've yet to discover, that always made me feel the truth of success: an artist and an audience communicating. Communicating to the point of collaborating. I've thought, "maybe I'm over; maybe I've said my piece". But never with fear. Never with rancor. Because of y'all. Because you knew me when. If you think topping a box office record compares with someone telling you your work helped them through a rough time, you're probably new here. (For the record, and despite my inhuman distance from the joy-joy of it: topping a box office record is super-dope. I'm an alien, not a robot.) So this is me, saying thank you. All of you. You've taken as much guff for loving my work as I have for over-writing it, and you deserve, in this our time of streaming into the main, to crow. To glow. To crow and go "I told you so", to those Joe Blows not in the know. (LAST time I hire Dr. Seuss to punch my posts up. Yeesh!) Point being, you deserve some honor, AND you deserves some FAQs answered. So please welcome my old friend and certainly not-on-my-payroll reporter/flunky, Rutherford D. Actualperson!

The Purple. (via Making Light)

(Image: Joss Whedon, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from 35266893@N08's photostream)

John Cleese on how to be creative

John Cleese's 35-minute lecture on creativity is warm and funny and humane. I find myself disagreeing rather strongly with his central premise, though: Cleese advises giving yourself 30 minutes to sit quietly before being creative, letting all the nagging voices in your head quieten before you try to be creative. I've really found that by having good priority management -- the kinds of to-do lists recommended in Getting Things Done -- means that when distractions arise, I can put them into a queue for later treatment and clear my mind to work. That said, the advice on being unserious, on working together without shooting down each others' ideas, and so on, is fabulous.

John Cleese on Creativity (Thanks, Andreas!)

The Everything is a Remix theory of creativity

Kirby Ferguson, creator of the absolutely outstanding Everything is a Remix series, explains his theory of creative inspiration, remix, and cultural commons, citing some of history's best-loved "individual" creators and explaining how what they did was a remix, an extension and a part of the work that came before them.

2011/08 Kirby Ferguson (Thanks, Avi!)