Creativity, and how ideas evolve




Well, often I did unpremeditated things in those days, as I have said. Once, from the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome, for no reason except that I had come upon a Volkswagen van full of them, I let hundreds and hundreds of tennis balls bounce one after the other to the bottom, every which way possible. Watching how they struck tiny irregularities or worn spots in the stone, and changed direction, or guessing how far across the piazza down below each one of them would go. Several of them bounced catty-corner and struck the house where John Keats died, in fact. – David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress


Off to 1976 we go…

  1. Approximately, as it is near the beginning, and Markson had the novel rejected 55 times before it came out in 1988. It took a while in the days before email. []

RIP, Patrick McGoohan

Farewell to an enormously influential writer-actor, Patrick McGoohan, who is reported to have died in Los Angeles yesterday at age 80.

I had been planning to post about AMC releasing all of the episodes of The Prisoner for online consumption, but unfortunately that news comes with this much sadder notification of McGoohan’s passing.

True screen icons are diminishing, I think, and he carried the torch. McGoohan was a forceful actor and brilliant mind–don’t forget, came up with the concept for the show and wrote and directed many episodes. As comparable as someone like JJ Abrams is in the latter, Abrams certainly doesn’t have the acting chops.

If you haven’t watched The Prisoner, take a rainy Sunday and loaf in front of the screen and watch at the AMC site. They’re preparing some sort of remake, which will be interesting.

Reality TV Tunnel

My first reaction when I turned on the radio the other day and heard NPR’s TV critic Andrew Wallenstein complaining about how hard his job was, and his epiphany–that he has to watch even the bad TV for the rest of his life, because he’s a TV columnist–was a throaty sound of contempt, a disdainful uvulation. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Times New Gloaming, but to hear anyone griping about having to watch television for a living, however bad it is, strikes me as haughty and ungrateful.

But then I considered it a bit more, and wrapped my head around the fact reality television is absolute garbage, trading on the most odious traits of humanity, and responsible for a large part of the general decline in social values historians will surely cite as part of our millennial breakdown. I’d rather be slapped in the mouth repeatedly with a sock full of bolts than watch two prime-time hours of network reality programming. So if Wallenstein is going to fall on the grenade, as they say, and subject his mind to a raw drip of poison to spin that into a thirty-second dirge for my entertainment, hey, have at it, buddy.

But here are some reality shows I’d like to see.

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On Demand

set lag: The feeling you get when forced to watch one episode per week after watching several seasons on DVD to catch up to a series.

Man, I was watching three Battlestar Galactica episodes a night, now that Season 4 is on, I’ve got major set lag.

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Manhattan Steamer

Hey, kids, want to get an inside look at how the media works? When something crazy happens near you, instead of doing what your parents say and running to the basement, go check it out. Take photos and video.

Wednesday evening as many office workers began their commute a steam pipe ruptured in midtown Manhattan, causing a massive explosion and subsequent geyser in the middle of the intersection of Lexington avenue and 41st Street. One woman died and several dozen were injured. Initially, though, everyone thought it was much, much worse.

We were at Creativity HQ, at 43rd and Third, when it happened. Initially I don’t remember hearing much of anything, a little commotion–nothing more noticeable than any bumps or bangs you’d hear from the second floor above any commerce-heavy New York City street. But for many thousands in that area, myself included, the scariest part wasn’t the explosion itself, but the reaction among the crowds. There’s really nothing to get your heart racing like what we felt looking down from the second floor and seeing people sprinting up the street, looking behind them, faces full of raw, animal panic. The old Indiana Jones lookback. After a second or two of surveying the scene, Jonah, the editor of AdAge, said something to the effect of ‘Guys, we should probably get out of here,’ and everyone walked fairly calmly downstairs.

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Damon Dashing

He’s a renaissance man, and, really it seemed like just a question of time before Damon Dash diversified again, following Jay’s lead and getting involved in professional sports. Over a year ago, Damon partnered with promoter Lou DiBella, branching out yet again in one of Dash’s more understated ventures. Frankly I’d love it if more rap cats got involved in athletics, and Lil Flip and Hump followed through and bought the Houston Rockets (or the Comets). But until then keep an eye on Dame’s efforts in boxing. DiBella Entertainment’s latest heavyweight, Fres Oquendo, is looking for a second chance in the sport after being rooked by a number of sources. He told me he came to DiBella because of their reputation for honesty, which, in boxing, is a rare commodity.

DD: Boxing is a work in progress, just like all business. A couple years ago the music business wasn’t fair, and just based on the people that are involved, and how they shed the light on the artists, people know how to get a fair deal and certain things don’t happen any more, and I think in this age of boxing, we’re going to smarten up the boxers, where they’re going to be able to benefit more than anyone else, they’re going to be able to reap the benefits of their efforts. So I like the fact that people recognize that we’re fair guys, and I like the fact that I know that in my heart I’m going to try to do best by the fighters, and if they’re surrounded by nothing but love it’s going to be a good experience for that boxer. So no boxer’s ever going to walk away from us saying that they were treated unfairly. I’m not going to say no boxer’s never going to walk away from us, but I bet when they do they’ll say they we should have stayed with those guys, because we have their best interests at heart.

What have you noticed so far? What has made your business Spidey sense perk up?

It’s a very patient business. There’s a lot of politics involved. But the bottom line is that when you’re winning, and you have a lot of people knowing that you’re winning, there’s not too much you can do to stop certain things. But it’s patient. A lot of boxers want to fight fight fight, they’re young and they want to get in there and test themselves, but you’ve got to pace them, you’ve got to let them learn, you’ve got to let them grow, and in the meanwhile you’ve got to make sure they have a future in boxing, so you look at that. So most of the seeds that we plant now will be in effect in five years, so it’s a patient thing, and that’s cool for me, because I enjoy the sport of boxing and I’m doing it for the love.

But I think it’s very interesting to see how we’re going to change things, and, you know, not to be cocky about it, but you know how we changed things in the business world of music, the music world, and how we changed things in fashion; we’re going to change things here as well, and it’s going to be positive for the sport. We’ve got to think of innovative ways, and creative ways to keep people interested, and having a vested interest in the boxers, especially within the African American community, get some support there, but honestly, with Curtis [Stevens], Showtime, Jaidon [Cordrington], Andre Berto and Gary Starks, what they’ve done in the last year, I don’t think any fighter has done in the world of boxing, as far as people having a vested interest in them. They’re in magazines, and they’re on the cusp of pop culture, meaning what’s going on in this current generation. Look at Curtis, you know, he’s a regular guy, he’s a cool dude. But he’s also a very disciplined individual. So it’s kind of showing, just like me, I’m a businessman, but I look at myself like a cool dude. It shows you can look like a regular guy, act regular, but have the discipline of a professional. It doesn’t make you a nerd or a square. I think there’s a lot of good, especially within him and Berto, there’s a lot of good energy, personality, as long as they keep knocking people out they’re going to reap all the benefits of that.

On yet another front, last year Dash made time in his busy schedule for BET’s Ultimate Hustler. Part Apprentice, part Making the Band, Dash auditioned a protege from a group of live-in, aspiring entrepreneurs, with — well, let’s be honest here — tepid results. There were moments, though. So is Damon going to re-up for a sequel?

DD: We’ll see. I’ve got a day job, I’ve got a couple of them, so if I have the time, I’ll do it. You know, I initially did it to teach the community how to get money and have fun while they do it, and be fair, and things like that. Let’s see. If BET acts straight, maybe I’ll be back.

Was that more of a trying thing than you thought it would be?

DD: Only because of the post of it, like the editing, I had to edit it a lot. I’m a perfectionist, on a lot of levels, and it was my likeness and my brand, so I had to sit in the editing room and make sure everything was there. Because I was there, and a lot gets lost in the editing room, and I wanted certain things to remain there, and also, the production value meant a lot to me, so if you noticed, that’s why it was very stylized. I wanted to keep people’s brains working, and also entertain them, keep them laughing, keep some suspense, and at the same time teach them.

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Lexicon Devil: Swearengen

swearengen: v, tr.

1. To declare or affirm solemnly by invoking a deity or a sacred person or thing.
2. To utter or bind oneself to (an oath).
3. To say or affirm earnestly and with great conviction.

A friend left me with a heavy secret the other day and sealed the deal by looking me in the eye and saying “swearengen.”

In HBO’s Deadwood, The Old West pinkie swear is a spit shake. Mr. Wu and Dan, Al’s flunkie, seal deals with Swearengen slick-palmed, so we did too, with an oath of “swearengen” in Wu’s Chinese accent.

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