Nrrtve strctre

Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

And ever since that day…

Narrative structure is interesting. I truly enjoy this boiled down version that strips much of the nonsense out.

A CEO’s Guide to Emacs | Fugue

For those who haven’t used Emacs, it’s something you’ll likely hate, but may love. It’s sort of a Rube Goldberg machine the size of a house that, at first glance, performs all the functions of a toaster.

Having switched to Dvorak after first learning rudimentary emacs I’m a little scared to return. All things in good time I suppose. The above quote seems fair to me. It’s the most complicated text-editor in the world… And why would that matter? (Unless, of course, it does.)

My top 5 ‘new’ Python modules of 2015 « Robin’s Blog


I suspect that tools like this will make things more enjoyable. At any rate, I’m just starting to mentally sync with what could be done with these tools. It’s not that I can’t imagine applications, but I’m just starting to have the right types of problems (and questions) that make the tools useful enough for me to apply time and thought to learning them. Time will tell how far I get.


Years ago I funded a wonderful project. We raised money to pay musicians to play classical music scores so that we could record them and release them immediately into the public domain. That effort was a success.

Now, I’m finally able to share the fruits of the second project to do the same with the complete works of Frédéric Chopin. This is a wonderful collection. Please listen here. Please download. Please share.

I’ll talk about this more later. For now, enjoy.


I took what was weird
repackaged it whole
sealed it in plastic
up-charged for in stores

and for a small fee
— I loan my IP —
you can license
just like me
(but not for free)

Why Flunking Exams Is Actually a Good Thing –

Very interesting quotes on the proper balance of study and practice. The article relates the idea that pre-testing (i.e. failing) primes the brain for future success by opening different neural pathways than studying a single question:answer relationship.

The quickest way to master that Shakespearean sonnet, in other words, is to spend the first third of your time memorizing it and the remaining two-thirds of the time trying to recite it from memory.

Further, it expands on the processes of remembering, studying, and guessing. Of the three, guessing is the most likely scenario to result in failure, and this failure once again inspires a fuller listing of associations to spur memory.

Retrieval — i.e. remembering — is a different mental act than straight studying; the brain is digging out a fact, together with a network of associations, which alters and enriches how that network is subsequently re-stored. But guessing is distinct from both study and retrieval. It too will reshape our mental networks by embedding unfamiliar concepts (the lend-lease program, the confirmation bias, the superego) into questions we at least partly comprehend (“Name one psychological phenomenon that skews our evaluation of evidence”). Even if the question is not entirely clear and its solution unknown, a guess will in itself begin to link the questions to possible answers. And those networks light up like Christmas lights when we hear the concepts again.

It seems clear that this linking of failure, guessing, and higher test scores — derived from more complex mental associations — may contribute more directly to creativity.

via Why Flunking Exams Is Actually a Good Thing –

Non-Ambiguous Tasks

The dishes clearly need to be washed. There’s no ambiguity about whether it’s a necessary task and when you’re washing the dishes, it only takes a tiny portion of your attention — a tiny portion of your mind — and so the rest of your mind just wanders around drifting and stumbling across all sorts of interesting shit. And then when you’re done, it’s clearly done. You say: Yep, moving on to my next task. And honestly, I don’t exactly know how to phrase it, but that was the most pleasant aspect of the whole thing. My day was a series of discrete things that I knew that I wanted to do, and I knew when they were done and none of them were lingering. At night, I had achieved them and they were done and it was all off my plate and there was nothing hanging there for later. It made me nostalgic for manual labor.

via 5 Things You Learn When You Take a Yearlong Break From Facebook, Twitter, and Work (

The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection – Boing Boing

I’m relieved to learn that someone has taken the time to codify terms and phrases related to pre- and post-web. There are currently—and increasingly will be—reasons to mourn what we have already lost. We should also celebrate the many advantages.

Straddle Generation

Neither Digital Natives nor wholly Digital Immigrants; they were born in the 1980s and will be the last people to remember life without the Internet. After she got text-dumped, Stacey was determined to only date Straddle Gen guys. “They’re so Romantic!”

via The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection – Boing Boing.

My Clown Backstory

  • I was born between the first & second World Wars.
  • I sold newspapers for my family but was fired when I created too many paper hats.
  • My soul occasionally rises and falls with the sounds of the ocean which carried my grandfather to this country from Bologna.
  • I don’t touch knives on account of the missing pinky finger on my left hand.
  • I didn’t lose the finger because of a knife… though that seems like the most likely scenario.
  • Fictionally, I lost my pinky finger while chasing a balloon across a farm field. Damn Windmill!
  • I stopped believing in the truth when my father gave up clowning and became a tax collector.
  • When I sit on the curb my large legs press my knees up next to my chin. From this position they more easily create a tunnel into which the water from passing cars can more efficiently be directed into my face.
  • When Nixon was elected I sat on the floor and didn’t get up until I was arrested for blocking the overpass of the freeway.
  • When Lincoln was shot and killed I wasn’t alive… but I laughed heartily at the illustrations.

[Troy, I found this and had to share it here. This is a great memory.]

The Problem with Music

Two years ago I threw some money at an idea. The idea was big: raise $11,000 to hire an orchestra to record some music. The music was in the public domain — Mozart, Beethoven, etc. — but recordings of it were not. So, if you were able to read the public domain sheet music and produce the sounds from instruments with your own hands then you were free to hear the public domain music. If you weren’t, well, you weren’t able to hear those sounds unencumbered by copyright. You couldn’t use those sounds for your art, your life, or your business without the possibility of legal action being taken against you.

The Relationship

If you’ve read this blog in the past you’re aware of my thoughts on copyright and how those thoughts emerged from my use of GNU/Linux and other free–as in freedom–software. You see, there’s this thing called DRM that makes it hard for people to do things with their files (like listen to a song on another player, or read an e-book on another device). These things should be easy, it is the 21st century after all. But it isn’t.

The Author’s Guild has fought to prevent e-readers from digitally speaking aloud the text (for blind readers) in the name of copyright, claiming that the out-loud reading is a derivative work. DRM has a hand in all of this.

The 21st century has yet to live up to its promise (and its reality) in part due to copyright laws. The idea that there was a way to support the public domain, spread art, and inspire the public was too good to pass up. I donated what little I had and waited.

Giving the Public Domain to the Public

It turns out others, at least 1200+, supported this idea too. It obliterated its $11,000 funding goal and raised nearly $70,000. Now, two years later, that music has finally been released.

I’ve never looked forward to hearing music so much in my life. Cheers to the composers! Cheers to the Czech National Symphony Orchestra! Cheers to Musopen! And cheers to you! Do whatever you want with it because, well, you can. (And that obligates you a little bit, doesn’t it?)

The Music

Beethoven – Coriolan Overture
Beethoven – Egmont Overture Op. 84
Beethoven – Symphony No 3 Eroica
Borodin – In The Steppes Of Central Asia
Brahms – Symphony No 1 in C Major
Brahms – Symphony No 2 in D major
Brahms – Symphony No 3
Brahms – Symphony No 4 in E minor
Brahms – Tragic Overture
Bach – Goldberg Variations
Grieg – Peer Gynt
Mendelssohn – Hebrides
Mendelssohn – Italian Symphony
Mendelssohn – Scottish Symphony
Mozart – Magic Flute Overture
Mozart – Marriage Of Figaro
Mozart – Symphony No 40 in G Minor
Rimsky Korsakov – Russian Overture
Schubert – The Piano Sonatas
Smetana – Vltava
Tchaikovsky – Symphony Pathetique

String Quartets:
Beethoven String Quartet in B flat Major Op 18
Borodin String Quartet No 1
Borodin String Quartet No 2
Dvorak – American in F major
Dvorak Quartet in F Major Op 51
Haydn Quartet in D Major Op.64
Mendelssohn Quartet in F Minor Op 80
Mozart Quartet D Minor K421
Mozart Quartet in C Major K 465
Suk – Meditation

Download and Use

Exercises from the #2510’s Project

If you’re not already aware of my #2510s project I’ll give you a brief recap: I wrote 25 ten-minute plays over the summer of 2011 and released them on the web. Each of 20 of the 25 plays were rewritten using some exercises I’d been developing and testing over the past couple of years. Some were successful for me, some weren’t, but I’ll leave the final evaluation up to the reader.

At any rate, I’ve finally finished putting all of those exercises into a digestible form. If you’d like to see them, click here.

The exercises are arranged in the order I used them for the #2510s project (day by day, week by week). There are 20 exercises based on four broad areas: visual art, music, acting/directing, and dance.

I hope you’ll find it worth your time to take a peek. Feel free to try them out on your own work as well. They’re fairly rigid in their current form (they dictate a certain number of steps from which you are not supposed to deviate) but feel free to experiment with them.

The “translation” from other mediums to playwriting isn’t a 1 to 1 type of situation (as you’ll discover if you take a look). Also, I’ve tried to give these exercises as broad an audience as possible, so often the “translation” is often reductive or somewhat abstract. If you have a particular knowledge in one of these areas you an certainly use it to your advantage and increase the complexity &/or specificity of the exercise. But if you don’t have special knowledge in an area have no fear: I’ve tried to make each approachable and employable with little expert knowledge.

At any rate, head on over. Let me know what you think. Enjoy.

The #2510s Project

So I started a little project. I use the term “little” because that is how it appears to most outside observers. To me it is far larger than a “little” project. I can count the days and hours spent on the creation of the final product itself. None of that, however, involves the time spent leading up to creating the work. The yellow brick road began long before I started piecing together any of the disparate ideas that would ultimately allow such a project to form in my mind. At any rate, I started a “little” project.

This little project is, at its core, twenty-five ten-minute plays. That’s the creative end product. I spent five weeks writing one play each weekday. Each play was, then, written in under 24 hours. There is also a meaningful separation between each week of scripts because I was also testing out playwriting exercises I’d devised as such:

  • Monday: Write an “Original” 10 Minute Play
  • Tuesday: Modify “Monday Script” with Playwriting Exercise.
  • Wednesday: Modify “Monday Script” with Playwriting Exercise.
  • Thursday: Modify “Monday Script” with Playwriting Exercise.
  • Friday: Modify “Monday Script” with Playwriting Exercise.

This became the flow of my life for five weeks. Each week, then, is a curious set of material that is ultimately very strongly related with itself. So, in essence, there are five groupings of related plays.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “You wrote the same play five times? psssh! BORING!” My answer might surprise you: You’re not entirely wrong. This could be very boring indeed (and, for some of the modifications, it’s a defensible position to take). However, before you jump to that conclusion entirely, I’d like to point you to three of the “Week One” scripts (that, as of this writing, are already posted on the website). I’m providing links below for each of the PDF files. Even a cursory glance at each of the plays will reveal how striking the differences were within the first week of scripts.

The variations and modifications do not, in fact, have to be boring or remarkably similar. In fact, 1.0 and 1.1 are probably the most similar of any of the scripts in “Week One,” and it is this wide variety of material that was particularly interesting to me. How much can a script change? How much might it possibly improve? How quickly can these changes occur?

However, it is a lot of reading (sorry). I say as much (upfront) on the project’s website. Playwriting is not an internet friendly medium, even in the ten-minute play form. (And it really doesn’t help the cause that playwriting is an unfinished art form to begin with — productions transform the written part into a whole). This week has shown me just how “internet unfriendly” playwriting truly is:

A very (very very) modest amount of interest was generated on Day #1 of the project — New! Shiny! — but as you can see from the graph above, that tapered off very very quickly. (And, of course, not every person who visited the site downloaded one of the scripts… and not everyone who downloaded a script actually read it… and on and on.) Does this make me cry? No. Is it disappointing? Sure. I wish more people would see the work for a number of reasons. That’s not entirely up to me though. I’ve worked on this stuff and put it out there. I have to rely on others to extend its reach for me. Perhaps that other is you.

One of the reasons I release my works under a free culture license is because I truly believe that it is congruent with the present. Despite governmental movements indicating otherwise, lobbying money swaying against it, and decaying business models crying out that they are, in fact, acting on behalf of “the artists” and their “best interests,” I believe we’re swinging in the other direction. I believe we are firmly moving towards something more open, more accessible, more shared, and with more rights for the end user. Maybe it will take a while, but can’t you feel the momentum?

At any rate, the below graph (via the thought-provoking indicates my ultimate hope for these works (in terms of their use and exposure). I’m not saying that “they’re good” (that’s up to you), and I’m certainly not expecting them to become “classics” (they probably aren’t), but for right now they might just be worth reading, seeing, using, remixing, or otherwise benefiting from in some way. Again, though, that’s up to you. At any rate, I’m just waiting for the up-swing. If you enjoy a play: share it and/or do something with it. I couldn’t really ask for anything more wonderful — more current — than that.


The Skills I Happened Upon

The Inspiration

Pop marketing guru extraordinaire Seth Godin had a marvelous post recently. It was titled Time for a workflow audit, but the relatively short tidbit inside sparked a moment of self-reflection on my part. By the way, if you’re not following Seth’s daily tidbits of advice you should be (and you should use RSS).

If you’re asking yourself “What is RSS?” or you’ve just returned from Google to find that I’ve caught you not knowing don’t feel bad. You’re not alone. This is perfectly normal. No one can know everything.

If you’re a little older than me and thinking that the younger generation has this innate knowledge and understanding of existing technologies you can rest easy: they don’t. I’ve been around plenty of my peers (and those more than a decade younger) who waste time day in and day out because they’re not aware of existing tools, functions, or programs that could do those repetitive tasks for them. They unknowingly do it the hard way. I say again: you are not alone.

The Hobby

While my degrees are almost exclusively in the Arts (specifically theatre), I’ve long had a side hobby of technology. I’ve blogged about this hobby before (most notably in my post Why I Choose Creative Commons BY-SA). This technology hobby initially grew out of interest in automating repetitive tasks along with a fascination with the complex randomization that computers could perform. Perhaps more generally, it has always been about ensuring that the tools I use are fast, effective and productive. The other (more negative) way to put it is that I spend gobs of time trying out every tool under the sun in order to find the best one for any given task. I wrote one example recently concerning my minimalist writing environment.

The Fool’s Errand

Productivity can be an end in and of itself though. You can be so focused on being “productive” that you forget to actually do anything. Merlin Mann sarcastically attacks the minimalist trend in a very funny (and, for those of us who have been trapped by such snake oil in the past, heartbreaking) video. The point being that an entire market has emerged to sell the product of being productive in the digital age. This varied industry probably decreases productivity overall, despite occasional moments of insight. How could such an industry emerge? It’s easy: we deal with incalculable and inescapable information every day. More troubling, it’s always with us on our computers, phones, and other devices. It is, clearly, a problem. Technology causes this problem and, paradoxically, technology can be utilized to solve it.

The Bad Businessman

The interesting thing about Seth’s post was that it was from a different perspective than my own. His perspective revered and found value in skills and knowledge I happen to possess. I don’t often value my own skills or knowledge. Seth’s post, however, reminded me of how often I end up getting asked about how to do some task (which is to me rather mundane) and being heralded genuinely as the savior of the moment (or day, or year, et cetera). The person I help is extremely grateful to have received help, they’ve learned something (if they were paying attention and interested in learning), and I’ve done my part to make the world a better place.

Further, it occurs to me that I’ve been “hired” before to do similar things: introduce a professor to blogging (particularly the site setup), guest lecture for a graduate arts administration class about how to effectively use Microsoft’s Excel for whatever task they could imagine, recommend digital time-saving techniques for my own students doing work for other courses, and a host of other examples.

As a teacher, I have a profound belief that everyone can learn. This belief leads me to diminish my own particular skills (whether innate or acquired) in favor of assuming that everyone generally has (or can have) the same skill sets and interests I do. Seth’s post reminded me that other people (maybe even you) find skills I possess valuable. These are the skills I happened upon, not through formal training, but through a genuine interest and desire. They are skills I live every day.

Worth Something

These are the skills that make my peers stare over my shoulder in confusion as  I quickly go about my daily work on a computer at lightening speed. These are also the skills that make watching most other computer users go about their work a frustrating experience for me (especially if I’m waiting on them for something). These are skills that are worth something. So, I second Mr. Godin’s call to find a geek, sit them next to you, and ask them how you can work better. I, however, second it from the other side. As such, I’m open for business.