Food for Thought: Smartphones and Creativity

Inspiration

On Open Culture, Ayun Halliday writes about smartphones and creativity, extensively quoting cartoonist and educator Lynda Barry.

Flickr Nicolas Nova Smartphone Rituals

Smartphone Rituals by Nicolas Nova on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Here’s one of Barry’s thoughts that especially struck me:

“The phone gives us a lot but it takes away three key elements of discovery: loneliness, uncertainty and boredom. Those have always been where creative ideas come from.”

– Lynda Barry

I’m still mulling over the quote, but I seem to be leaning towards disagreeing. People who are inclined to doodle, people-watch, nap, let their thoughts wander, knit, read or whatnot will continue to do so even with smartphones. Not to mention that it’s perfectly possible to be bored with your smartphone and all the access it gives. Boredom, I find, isn’t dependent on having access to x, y or z; it’s more a matter of what doesn’t inspire you at any given moment. Nor are smartphones a cure-all against loneliness or uncertainty.

Smartphones are undoubtedly a tool, and equally unboubtedly they can be a distraction. My tentative hypothesis is that as the newest and perhaps most exciting devices in the history of human tool use, we haven’t collectively learned to balance their benefits and disadvantages yet.

Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier for those struggling to resist the siren song of instant and interminable access.

Jenkins’s Wonder Woman Movie Inspired Vocabulary Change in ASL

Geek out!, Stunt Double, Thumbs Up

Apparently, there’s been a vocabulary change in American sign language (ASL) because of the Wonder Woman movie. The 6-panel gif below shows an exchange between an ASL-using audience member and Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins.

Jenkins Wonder Woman ASL Comment1Jenkins Wonder Woman ASL Comment2Jenkins Wonder Woman ASL Comment3Jenkins Wonder Woman ASL Comment4Jenkins Wonder Woman ASL Comment5Jenkins Wonder Woman ASL Comment6

[audience member in ASL] “In the 1970s, when you have Lynda Carter, I was a little girl and I would copy it and I would sign like this.” [shows the old Wonder Woman sign that involves multiple segments]

[in ASL] “However today, because of this film, we have changed it for this.” [crosses her arms like Wonder Woman in the movie]

[Patty Jenkins, delighted] “Wow!”

[in ASL] “So these little deaf girls are signing now ‘Wonder Woman’.”

[in ASL] “And when I grew up we were doing the multiple signs, so thank you. Thank you!” [applauds in sign language]

[Patty Jenkins] “Wow! That’s so cool! That’s so cool! That’s awesome! Thank you! That is amazing!”

Wonder Woman interview with Patty Jenkins, Connie Nielsen and Lucy Davis at the Apple SoHo, August 23, 2017.

Yay & wow! To have changed language with your work really is awesome. 🙂

Found via I Bought the Airline on Tumblr.

Discoveries: INFJoe Cartoons

Books & Mags, Thumbs Up

Artist and introvert Aaron Caycedo-Kimura set up a creative persona for his insightful comics. As INFJoe, he shares the joys and frustrations about being an introvert.

I first ran into the comics through his book Text, Don’t Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life.

Illustrated Introverted Text Dont Call

The book cover describes it like this:

“Introversion is no longer taboo, but there are still many misconceptions out there. People think we’re just shy or anti-social. That we don’t want to have close relationships, that we’re all cat people, or that we don’t like big parties. (Okay, the last one may be true.)”

And, boy, do INFJoe Cartoons deliver! As an introvert married to another introvert, I find so much to relate in the comics. Below are some of my favorites.

Introvert Togetherness:

INFJoe Introvert Togetherness

“I LOVE being alone. Together.”

#Introvert Inclusion:

INFJoe Introvert Inclusion

“Sometimes we want to be left alone. Sometimes we want to be included. Most of the time we want to be included with the option to be left alone.”

I’m Busy Working Here:

INFJoe Im Busy Working Here

“Staring off into space I’m bored. Talk to me.”

“Staring off into space = I’m busy working here.”

Love ’em! Especially the one about being alone together. There’s so much comfort in knowing at gut level that your partner knows exactly what it’s like to be an introvert, too.

Read more INFJoe comics or shop the INFJoeCartoons store.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

New Non-Fiction Reading

Books & Mags

Can’t wait to dig into this new non-fiction book:

Non-fic Reading Sept 2017

Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong — and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story by Angela Saini was published earlier this year, but I’ve only gotten it into my hands now.

In an interview, the author has this to say about her intent:

“[…] what I really wanted to understand is, ‘What does science say about women?’ Because I think different societies have different views on women, and different women have different views about themselves, so it’s a complicated picture.

[…]

“I don’t think I’ve provided a library of truths here, because that’s not how science works. Science is a process and it gets towards there slowly, but what I really want to do is pick apart the arguments and controversies.”

Read the rest of interview with Saini at New York Magazine.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Random Beauty: Tiny Feather

Random Beauty

Somehow this feels like the perfect thing for the beginning of October, even though I spotted it in out driveway a few weeks ago: a teeny, tiny perfect feather.

Tiny Feather Closeup

On the basis of color and shape, I’m guessing a baby turkey. We’ve had a gaggle of five hanging around on and off with their mother and an aunt.

I just love nature – it creates such amazing things!

My Worldcon 75 Highlights

Geek out!, Thumbs Up

A random assortment of memorable moments, thoughts, views, and quotes from our time at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki.

From the panel: Always Connected, It’s Mandatory with Effie Seiberg, Fred C. Moulton, Jo Lindsay Walton, Kristina K., and Tommi Helenius

  • I missed who said it and whether there were further details, but one panelist mentioned a study with the finding that merely having a cell phone on your desk, even if it’s off, lowers your ability to concentrate by about 20 percent.

The tidbit certainly gives food for thought. If true, it gives an added bonus my decision to keep my phone out the way on a small side table. Phone out of direct line of sight: +2 to concentration roll!

 

From the panel: Pronouns, Who Needs Gender Pronouns with Cenk Gokce, Johanna Sinisalo, Catherine Lundoff, Kelvin Jackson, and John Chu

  • Johanna Sinisalo shared a story from producing the freebie anthology given to congoers, Giants at the End of the World. The translator for a story she was editing asked the gender of a very minor character that passes by in the background in order to use the correct pronoun, so she passed the question on to the author. Their reply was: “Who knows?”
  • John Chu continued on the effect that grammatical details like that have on thinking: in English you have to specify, whereas in languages that have different pronoun systems, speakers may specify the gender of their characters.
  • There was an audience comment on the 3rd person singular pronoun it used of people (in reference to a panelist who remarked that that’s possible in some dialectal uses in some languages). In the commenter’s view, people want to contain multitudes, and using it of people would be taking something away.

Clearly, defining characters’ gender matters greatly to some people and not so much to others (like the “Who knows?” Finnish author). Of course, not all writing nor all works of fiction are or should be the same, or created for the same purpose. For example, when the mood takes me, I’m delighted to read fluffy comfort lit that at other times would drive me to distraction. I think the variety that exists is fantastic, and limiting our expressions—especially in speculative fiction—is, well, limiting. We as a species do indeed contain multitudes.

Instagram Lada ladule_b W75 Fandom Is Family

 

Autographs: I got my copy of Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff signed.

Maresi w Author Autograph

 

From the panel: Editor’s Dream with Thoraiya Dyer, Masumi Washington, Katrina Archer, and Robert S. Malan

  • Katrina Archer, a Canadian copyeditor who works with both Canadian and American writers, mentioned that she creates a style sheet for each individual story. She includes, among others, notes on word selections (in consultation with the authors) and the dictionary and spellings used.

Self-evident, when you think about the pragmatics of editing. I’m going to steal that idea to apply for my various projects.

 

From the panel: Reviewing 101 with Juan Sanmiguel, Markku Soikkeli, John Clute, and Fred Lerner

  • Fred Lerner, by his own description “a recovering librarian” (yay librarians!), quoted Sturgeon’s Law (to the effect of: 90% of everything is crap) and noted that it therefore follows 10% is of use, so if a reviewer cannot find that 10% maybe they should do something different.

I’ll have to try and remember this. Not that I review things that often, but to vet other reviewers. (Also, note to self, a related critique panel mentioned Mary Robinette’s method which I believe is the one she tweets about here.)

 

In the exhibits hall: On guest of honor Nalo Hopkinson’s table, a puzzle featuring her book covers had been set out for passersby to work on. Irresistible! And a really inventive, unintrusive promo method.

Patreon Nalo Hopkinson W75 Book Cover Puzzle

 

Made it: There’s photographic proof I was at Worldcon!

Instagram Baron Dave Romm W75 Art of the Snapshot

 

From the panel: Jack of All Trades, Master of Several with Carl, Roseanne Rabinowitz, and Jani Saxell

  • Carl remarked that “external brains” (=tech) can help us branch out because looking up information is very easy.
  • Jani Saxell noted that as SF operates at the edges of the new and strange, you cannot prepare for everything; there should be a place for generalists in SFnal stories.

As a Jill of Many Trades myself, I found the topic fascinating. I’d note that finding information may have gotten much easier, but a lot still depends on an individual’s ability to sift the useful from useless and absorbing the appropriate bits.

 

Seen in person: We’ve streamed it a few times before, so we knew the routine, but it was surprisingly exciting to be able to attend the Hugo Awards ceremony.

Instagram writer_aki Aki Parhamaa W75 Hugo Awards

 

Seen in person: I also had several nice random meetings with both old friends (some of whom I haven’t seen in over 15 years) and new-to-me people. For example, on Friday we saw a Finnish journalist and fan Jussi Ahlroth on morning tv talking about the con and later that day actually met him. Cool. 🙂

 

Speaking of cool: Did you know that John Howe (yes, THAT John Howe!) was at Worldcon?!?

Instagram writer_aki Aki Parhamaa W75 John Howe

 

From the panel: Older Women in Genre Fiction with Catherine Lundoff, Delia Sherman, Liisa Rantalaiho, and Helena McCallum

  • The panel noted among other things that women’s bodily needs aren’t usually present in stories. Older women don’t have to deal with e.g. menstruation, but they do have physical ailments due to age. Elizabeth Moon was mentioned as someone who is great at describing the difficulty of getting going in the morning, for example. The panelists also talked about how, just like in real life, older women in stories are often hiding in plain sight (i.e., ignored).
  • Liisa Rantalaiho noted: Older women have sex.

Another fascinating panel through and through. Elizabeth Moon’s name came up in other panels, too; clearly I need to look her up.

 

Seen in person: Speaking of looking people up, I found a few other new-to-me authors and artists to try. I often do that if I like what someone’s said at a panel or program item.

 

The end is nigh: At some point during the con, signs for marking the end of the line (when queueing into program rooms) appeared for people to hold up and pass on. Of course it would’ve been nicer if long lines hadn’t happened at all, but it was a practical and humorous solution to an annoying facilities problem.

Instragram Tiina Vastamaa tiinatupuna W75 End of Line Please Queue Here

 

From the panel: Gender and “Realistic History” with Cheryl Morgan, Thomas Årnfelt, Gillian Pollack, Jo Walton, and Scott Lynch

  • Jo Walton said that women are left out when canons get formed; if you go looking for women in extant documents, they are there.
  • Thomas Årnfelt mentioned a few examples of women’s occupations gleaned from 12th c. Parisian tax documents: various positions in food and textile industries, barber, goldsmith, locksmith, and night guard, among others.
  • Cheryl Morgan talked about how people have been constructing gender(s) in many various ways in history / around the world. E.g. beer brewing and tavern keeping are now seen as male professions, when in fact they were purely women’s work at one point. Another example she gave is that a man couldn’t work in Nelson’s army (or Napoleon’s?? can’t make out my handwriting) if he didn’t know how to sew.

Lively discussion and many, many examples. I kept missing references writing down others. I wish this panel had been videotaped!

 

Seen in person: A live astronaut. All three presentations / panels with Kjell Lindgren were fascinating! Here’s the video of The Kjell & Jenny Show: A NASA Astronaut and his PAO where Kjell talks about the astronaut selection and preparation process.

The Kjell & Jenny Show: A NASA Astronaut and his PAO by Worldcon 75

 

Once upon a time on a lunch break: I ate at the Messukeskus Hesburger fast food joint (also fondly known as Hese) purely out of nostalgia. And was proud of myself, both as a Finn and an introvert, for sharing a table and a conversation with a total stranger. I don’t typically do that. At the same place my top half was also, memorably but unfortunately, splattered with hot chocolate. Oh well. Accidents happen, and I wasn’t scalded.

 

From the panel: Pullantuoksuinen – Writing While Multilingual with Nina Niskanen, Aliette de Bodard, Emmi Itäranta, Ken Liu, and Jakob Drud

  • Emmi Itäranta commented that juggling two languages simultaneously is sometimes a hindrance (if you find a fantastic phrase in one language but not the other), but it also makes you a better writer because it forces you to be more specific in your meaning.
  • Ken Liu noted that it’s perhaps more important to explain a cultural concept for yourself than the audience.

I have a bad habit of code-switching out of pure sloth with Husband since he knows Finnish so well. Perhaps I ought to try and stick to one language at a time. Apart from making puns; that I won’t give up. 🙂

 

From the panel: On the Care and Feeding of Secondary Characters with Fiona Moore, Carrie Patel, Mur Lafferty, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and Diana ben-Aaron

  • “Knowing why characters exist tends to make them flat. Try not to know that.”

Really great quote. If you know who said it, please let me know! (Jo Walton???)

 

“I liked the way everyone was pleasant and polite. Panelists seemed to get along well with each other, even when they disagreed. Audiences seemed appreciative. The whole thing was good, low-tension fun. I sometimes think the discussions on the Internet leave people with a really wrong idea of what the experience of attending a convention is like. Problems are few, attitudes are positive, and people laugh and smile a lot.”

– Greg Hullender commenting at File 770

There were problems, and I witnessed some true clueless behavior first hand, but on the whole I agree with Greg. I saw so many examples of people greeting each other, sharing small moments of connection, helping each other out in general, troubleshooting tech issues, sharing tips and smiles, and giving up their seats to those who needed it or who might enjoy a panel more. Fandom definitely is my family. ❤

 

From the panel: Book Blogs with Cora Buhlert, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Shaun Duke, and Thomas Wagner

  • Shaun Duke of The Skiffy and Fanty Show (I think—please correct me if I’m attributing this to the wrong person) said some authors don’t seem to understand how the Internet works. Apparently he’s chosen not to review some people because he’s seen how they’ve treated other fans and reviewers online.

Yup. Rep gets around.

160204dingy

 

Images: Fandom Is Family by Lada (ladule_b) via Instagram. Maresi by Eppu Jensen. Nalo Hopkinson puzzle by Nalo Hopkinson via Patreon. Art of the Snapshot panel audience by Baron Dave Romm (david_e_romm) via Instagram. Hugo Awards ceremony collage by Aki Parhamaa (writer_aki) via Instagram. John Howe by Aki Parhamaa (writer_aki) via Instagram. End of Line by Tiina Vastamaa (tiinatupuna) via Instragram. Dingy bird via MTV.

Cross-posted from Co-Geeking.

Discoveries: Geeky Rendering on Blue & White China

Design & Designers, Stunt Double

The Things Could Be Worse mugs by Calamityware are an interesting take on traditional blue and white ceramics:

Calamityware Mugs Things Could Be Worse

Things Could Be Worse mugs by Calamityware.

Robots, pterodactyls, giant animals and hairy humanoids aplenty. LOL! 🙂

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

2017 Jane Austen Rewatch: Persuasion

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

The last but certainly not least in our Jane Austen rewatch, Persuasion is a novel of pressures, choices and second chances, posthumously published in 1817. The heroine, 27-year-old Anne Elliot, has never come to terms with her refusal to marry the great love of her life due to the prudent advice of a friend in loco parentis. The he returns to the neighborhood 8 years later…

Jane Austen Rewatch Persuasion

JASNA provides a map for tracking the physical locations of the story:

JASNA Persuasion Locations map-pers-1200

Map of locations in Persuasion. Jane Austen Society of Australia, via JASNA.

Like Mansfield Park, there aren’t terribly many screen versions of Persuasion. We rewatched the 2007 and 1995 movies, although apparently also a miniseries from 1971 is available.

The newer movie (from 2007, screenplay by Simon Burke, directed by Adrian Shergold) stars new-to-me Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot. Rupert Penry-Jones, whom I know from the British spy series MI-5, plays Captain Wentworth. Unfortunately, I find both performances listless and unenergetic, even though the script – bafflingly – has Anne indefatigably running all over the city of Bath after Captain Wentworth at the end of the movie.

Minor performances, for example by Anthony Head (Giles! from Buffy!) as Sir Walter Elliot, are ok. There are some other oddities in the writing, filming and music which diminish my enjoyment of the story, but it looks like they actually went to Bath, which is great.

The 1995 Persuasion, however, is excellent. The screenplay is by Nick Dear, and Roger Mitchell directed Amanda Root as Anne Elliot and Ciarán Hinds as Captain Wentworth. I really like Root’s understated and considerate version of Anne; Hinds works well enough even if a few scenes tend towards hammy.

Although the picture quality is grainy, the soundtrack is nice, and there are subtitles (not a given on older DVDs). The props, locations and costuming are also great. This is my favorite version so far – in an ideal world, of course, we would be due another adaptation.

Read more about this Jane Austen rewatch project.

2017 Jane Austen Rewatch: Emma

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

Emma (1815) was the fourth and last of Austen’s works to be published during her lifetime. In it we follow the titular character’s growth from a good-intentioned meddler-in-romance to a more mature and self-aware young lady.

Jane Austen Rewatch Emma

Here, again, is a map provided by JASNA for tracking the physical locations of the story:

JASNA Emma Locations map-emma-large

Map of locations in Emma. Jane Austen Society of Australia, via JASNA.

Our rewatch included three versions: two movies and a miniseries. I’ve since discovered that there’s a version transposed to India (Aisha, 2010), which sounds interesting. Clueless I’ve no interest in, and I’ll skip the 1972 miniseries, too.

Extraordinarily, the year 1996 saw two movie releases based on Emma. Both are solid adaptations with decent plot arcs, very good acting, and wonderful locations and sets.

The first is written and directed by Douglas McGrath and stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma Woodhouse and Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley. Occasionally Paltrow delivers some of her lines in an overly whiny manner, but fortunately those are rare. I haven’t seen Northam in anything else, but his Mr. Knightley was quite good – efficient and proper but not as acerbic as Mark Strong’s Mr. Knightley.

A very neat tidbit is to see young Obi-Wan Kenobi Ewan McGregor singing – he has a fabulous voice! One thing I cannot stand in the McGrath movie, though, is Paltrow’s changing hairstyles – it seems like the production might have employed two different hair designers, one of whom wasn’t up to the job.

My favorite, incredibly dry line delivery:

Mr. Knightley [to Emma when they’re practicing archery]: “Try not to shoot my dogs.”

The other 1996 Emma is written by Andrew Davies, directed by Diarmuid Lawrence and features Kate Beckinsale as Emma Woodhouse and Mark Strong as Mr. Knightley. Overall, I’d say the casting is stronger in this version. The otherwise excellent Olivia Williams (elsewhere e.g. in Dollhouse) is a little wooden as Jane Fairfax, but I love the rest of the cast. Bernard Hepton’s Mr. Woodhouse is such a darling!

My favorite speech comes when the self-important Mrs. Elton discusses foppish young men:

Mrs Elton Scourge of Puppies

Mrs. Elton: “Ah! But you must know I can be very severe upon young men. I have a vast dislike of puppies, quite a horror of them. Had he turned out to be a puppy I might have said some very cutting things, you may be sure. I am a scourge of puppies, am I not, Mr. E.?”

My absolute favorite, though, is the Emma miniseries from 2009 (adapted by Sandy Welch, directed by Jim O’Hanlon). The version has several strengths, starting with excellent casting. Romola Garai stars as Emma Woodhouse, and – yay, again a treat for me! – Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley. His is by far the most enjoyable Mr. Knightley performance I’ve seen. Mr. Knightley is often played as rather curt and strict, which I find not just offputting but a mistake. The interpretations of Harriet Smith by Louise Dylan and Miss Bates by Tamsin Greig are also the most enjoyable I’ve seen.

All major characters are introduced at the beginning of episode 1, which helps people new to Austen. Moreover, this version does the epilogue clearly and succinctly, without massive infodumping. In addition, I immensely enjoy the music, the set dressing, costuming and propping, and other visuals.

It’s a thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable Emma. In fact, if the same team were to make other Austen adaptations, I’d go to great lenghts to see them. Finally, let’s face it: the longer form better fits the depth of Austen’s genius, and that’s that.

Enjoy this sneak peek from PBS:

MASTERPIECE Classic’s Emma begins Jan 24, 2010 | A Sneak Preview | PBS

Read more about this Jane Austen rewatch project.