Browsing articles from "March, 2010"
Mar
31

FourSquare Day: Listen up!

A few days ago, local Tampa blogstar Miss Destructo published her reasons why businesses around town should take advantage of FourSquare Day (this April 16th) to offer value to their customers and get their name out there… And I agree completely!

Check out Destructo’s riff here: Why Tampa Needs To Be Excited About Foursquare Day

An excerpt (added with her kind permission):

Foursquare is an application you can use on your I-Phone or Smartphone to “check into” places in your town. By doing so you can see if your friends may be checked into the same place, earn badges and even become the mayor of the location if you visit the place frequently. At first about hearing of Foursquare, I was pretty sure I might as well just give the stalkers my address. But it does have privacy features and not to mention more and more businesses are embracing foursquare for a promotional tool. Example: Hyatt Regency Tampa is giving a 50% eatery discount to anyone who becomes the Foursquare Mayor of their hotel. [...]

But if that’s what you want Tampa, get involved with Foursquare Day. Check into those businesses on that day that are offering discounts, get rewarded, finally meet those people that have been stalking you. Do you go to a place that isn’t announced as an Foursquare Day check-in spot? Find them on twitter, tell em about Foursquare.. show em this post… maybe they’ll get on board as well.

Not much more to add there, other than it would be great to see more businesses embrace not only FourSquare, but other Social Media avenues as well to get discovered and attract people.

A last point of encouragement: Businesses should not fool themselves into waiting until a platform gets to a certain point in its growth to then embrace it. As long as the services are free for the users, we have seen time and time again that people naturally flock to where value is offered.

In other words, businesses embracing services like FourSquare (and communicating this effectively) will increase their customer’s usage of those services, if only to take advantage of the offers they put out.

Find more about FourSquare Day here:

You can also follow the hashtag #4sqday on Twitter for real-time updates.

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Mar
31

Tonight’s Movie… Rangers vs. Islanders!

A recent posting on the NHL’s website caught my eye, not because of the headline, but what was buried towards the end of the article. The headline boasted about the league’s first game broadcasted in 3D on March 24th. In itself a very big accomplishment for both MSG networks (a property of the Madison Square Garden) and the NHL, a league that is notorious for not exactly being on the cutting edge of technology. Yet beyond the broadcast, it was the section in which NHL staff writer Dave Lozo touched on the fact that a very small segment of the population even owns 3D televisions so the game was also broadcasted at the Madison Square Garden theater for over 2,500 frenzied fans. That’s right, picture Ranger fans grabbing their popcorn buckets, cold beers and marching to their seats. All seems like a normal night at the Garden until the lights dim down and the 3D glasses come on!

Madison Square Garden

Image via Wikipedia

Now I applaud the theater for being forward thinking, along with the NHL and MSG networks; but I’m a hockey fan myself and there’s still no substitute for that goal scoring horn shattering your ear drum as 19,000 of your closest friends jump in unison. I have to imagine some of that energy gets lost in the same theater that just showed “Maid in Manhattan”, but I’d be willing to give anything a shot (the 3D game, not the movie!).

As more sports content providers jump on the technology, I encourage theater chains to broadcast these type of events. This is an area where they have a small window to be the exclusive content providers in most sports markets. All of a sudden Monday Night Football looks like a Stars Wars premiere… just replace the costumes with jerseys!

I would also argue: Get it while the getting is good, theater moguls. If last week’s reaction is as strong as what Lozo writes, then I would bet a few of those Ranger boosters headed right down to their corner Best Buy to snatch up their very own 3D set. Why not, you’ll save a ton on popcorn and the bathroom is a lot closer!

Technology is so damn exciting and its ripples are completely unpredictable. It always seems each new emerging tool creates unintended benefits. I really think 3D theater sports content can be a great surprise revenue-generator while giving fans a whole new way to experience thier favorite teams. Now, if they just add the beer man in the aisle you can count me in! Until that modern marvel reaches the Cineplex, I’ll continue to watch my goals scored in 2D!

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Mar
30

Dusting Off the Magic Kit

People like to buy into the  unknown and the promise of what could be.  How else can you explain Enron, Bernie Madoff, or the Segway launch?   How else can you explain the popularity of Lost, or the entire career of J.J. Abrams? (And I don’t mean that in a bad way Mr. Abrams.  Can I call you J.J.?)  Non-destructive tricks can be good.  Creative tricks that preserve the mystery of the world can be even better.

The truth is, we want magic in our lives. Witness this recent article in the New York Times.

The writer laments the ruination modern media players bring with their pause/rewind features, inviting frame-by-frame dissections, spoiling fond childhood remembrances of shows such “I Dream of Jeannie”.  Yes, Jeannie’s’ magic really was limited to a bunch of crude jump cuts and hokey sound effects.  Not exactly a new revelation.  Though, I can totally understand why a newspaper writer would be looking for some magic right about now.

The article does, inadvertently, lead to another interesting question.  Will today’s generation someday cry over the disillusionment that comes upon learning the blue thingies in Avatar were just CG?  Not likely.  Kids today!  They expect computer-generated wizardry.  Little surprises them, for they already live in a virtual world. Most could give you a pretty clear explanation of how the blue alien is really a mix of motion capture, wireframe and surface modeling. They saw it on YouTube!

Alas, one can no longer expose magic, for the simple reason that it did not seem like magic to begin with.  There are no true tricks to reveal as chicanery, just a mutually shared set of CG expectations with the only points of distinction being the different levels of artistry, money invested and rendering power.  The visual liberation of digital wizardry is quickly turning into the tyranny of the common place.  If everything is virtually stunning, then everything is also virtually questionable.  The magic dies by advent of its own ubiquitous application.

I write this not to lambaste great CG work.  My purpose is simply to offer a little cross-grain posit:  What if we brought back more of the old magic?  Imagine, just for a second, relying less on our graphics artists to simulate magic, and more on our own wits to occasionally deliver illusions where they hit home:  the physical world!

Of course, a good deal of attention-getting work is already going on in this area.  Think of the number of articles you’ve seen questioning whether a great light-painting commercial was actually done entirely in-camera.  Or, consider the host of recent spots picturing some sort of Rube-Goldberg device, with the marketer proudly touting the physicality of it all. Indeed, the Honda “Cog” campaign still impresses, as do all its latter-day imitators.  The Sprint light-painting piece still amazes, as do all its illuminated brethren. The point is, these types of campaigns caught everyone’s attention because they were not CG. We’ve reached a defining moment where the new is old, and vice versa. Campaigns that embrace physicality surprise us.  They produce the unexpected and, in doing so, can sometimes reside closer to magic than anything existing within the wide-open frontier of a render farm (git along little pixels!).

This said, it must be acknowledged that not everyone has Honda-sized budgets. Few of us can afford a brilliant team of artists to burn time and dollars meticulously staging large-scale real world effects. How fortunate for us, then, that the best magic actually happens on a small scale. It could just be a small slight of hand, nothing fancier than using a forced-perspective optical trick to play with a viewer’s sense of perception.  Or, it could be something more akin to the magic caught on a theater stage.  Yes, we see the set pieces moving – in some cases, we even see the stagehands doing the moving – but how wondrous and captivating still, as we see things transforming right before our eyes. The real magic is in asking the audience to join along in a shared dream. It’s an illusion we eagerly buy into. As proof of point, I might suggest revisiting the Google Chrome campaign, which, in concept, is all about revealed magic.

I can’t let this go without stating for the record: I love good CG!  I love it in the way I would love any motivated, properly conceived effect. If it propels a story and conveys the mysticism inherent in creative media, then it’s an awesome thing in my book. It’s just that I don’t see enough out there that truly puzzles and surprises within the digital realm. I see much that is a manifestation of graphics talent, but too little that is a manifestation of those areas where dream take hold. My hope is that we creative types reintroduce ourselves to the physical world in order to more fully realize what’s possible in the digital arena. By marrying the two with more forethought and planning, I believe there are many new looks to be discovered and, more importantly, more magic to be captured.

And, I also think the Segway is cool. There, I said it!

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Mar
29

Err… Maybe Social Media is Not For You

A world-renowned brand, with hundreds of sub-brands. Just under 100,000 Facebook fans. A fan page activity of 12 – 20 fan posts per hour. Sounds like a dream scenario? Well, not if you’re Nestlé.

In case you haven’t heard, about a week ago Nestlé’s Facebook page has been an example of how a few bad decisions can make social media can blow up in your face. Let’s fast-forward through how we got here, shall we?

A Greenpeace spot goes online, which demonizes Nestlé for deforestation and destroying the orangutans’ habitat. Hundreds of angry people around the world decide to raid Nestlé’s Facebook fan page. And if it stopped there, it would be OK (in the “we’ve seen this sort of thing before” sense).

The protesters begin turning up the heat, calling for a boycott and posting with logo mashups as their profile pic, like for example, the little gem on the left.

Nestlé then decides that they’ll take it no more. Check out a portion of their tone on Facebook:

This obviously creates a whole revolt in the online community, meaning that Nestlé was successful in making things even worse than they already were. Some people were saying that they weren’t ready to jump on the boycott bandwagon quite yet, until they saw their dictatorial attitude. Many in the audience perceived that Nestlé was censoring because they were hiding something – whether that is true or not. With this move, they quite definitely stepped in the cow excrement up to their knees.

What followed was the expected PR-style apology from Nestlé’s team, along with a lame but somewhat sincere update reading “Social media: as you can see we’re learning as we go.” But again, if it all ended there, it would still be manageable.

One week later, you go to Nestlé’s Facebook Page (really, go and then come back), and it resembles more of a post-war dystopic barren land than a brand presence. Apparently, Nestlé considered that if they can’t control the conversation, they just won’t participate at all.

So I ask: why even have a Facebook page at all?!?

Now to be fair, Nestlé had issued a formal statement responding to Greenpeace on their web site. They also seem to be pretty active responding to people thru their Twitter account. This is all good use of the medium.

Do I think that Nestlé should pull out of social media completely (as the title of this post might imply)? Of course not. Actually, I think that if Nestlé shut down their Facebook Page it might be the nail in the coffin for their online brand presence.

My point is this: If they want to have any sort of presence on Facebook, they need to be active.

This whole situation is simply unforgivable. There is a saying that the best counter-attack for bad information is an overabundance of good information, not censorship. Nestlé’s silence on Facebook speaks louder than hundreds of statements they could post on their website.

Obviously, Nestlé opened a Facebook page to gain from an online brand presence, not to be tossed tomatoes at. Nonetheless, they need to be active, period. There’s no other option for them at this point. They are quite obviously drowning in deep waters without even a call for help.

One more thing. If it’s true that Nestlé does not want to hear exactly what people think of their brand, then it may be true that social media is not for them. If all they wanted was another one-side space where they could speak only what they wanted said about their brand, traditional media was a much safer haven. (I’ll write more about this topic on another post.)

Now, let me disclose something, before the attorneys start chasing me. I have no idea who is right and wrong in the Greenpeace debacle. Everything I’ve stated here is just to illustrate what an ideal use of social media channels would be, and why Nestlé isn’t achieving such ideals.

Would you do anything different in their situation? Let me hear your suggestion in the comments.

Update: Loving Olivier Blanchard‘s objective suggestions: Greenpeace vs. Nestle: How to make sure your Facebook page doesn’t become a PR trojan horse (Part 2)

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Mar
26

How School House Rock Got it Right!

Here I come at the end of the week when all you’re thinking about are margaritas, am I right? Well, focus; most of my posts will be about two things anyway: the pretty and the engaging. Seriously. I know it’s not exactly the cool thing to say to a ~creative~ crowd, but I like pretty things and I often like things because they’re pretty. And if something interesting doesn’t happen in fifteen seconds, I move on. I got a short attention span like-


Now my first post subject, School House Rock (SHR), seems to be the perfect intersection of where pretty meets engaging.

I began my love affair with fonts during the grammar episodes of SHR.  Come on, don’t act like you don’t remember! Painted on the side of a boxcar was a conjunction… and young tikes the world over were asking the deeply profound question, “what’s your function?” They were like magic words, words that didn’t have to be ordinary. Words that made you look at them. From adjectives to adverbs, the block lettering transformed into whatever it needed to be.

Sometimes the words embodied what they were supposed to sound like or what they were supposed to look like, but they were always bold, clean, and fun. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned the word ‘typography’ and I’m absolutely convinced I would’ve gotten to it sooner if they had covered it in an episode of SHR. But even now, as I’m hipped to cool sites like Da Font , I can still appreciate the uncomplicated, brightly colored stenciling of School House Rock and the love affair it gave me.

And what about the engaging part? Well, you know what else School House Rock got right? Tutorials! Who knew tutorials about verbs and multiplication could be so crafty and creative? Which leaves me wondering…as a design newbie, why do tutorials about creative software need be so bland?  I cannot tell you how many Photoshop and Final Cut demos I’ve sat through that have me pushing the next button just to keep moving.

And don’t say it was just about the catchy tunes with SHR because…ok, it wasn’t all about the catchy tunes. It was a mixture of clever animation, catchy tunes and fun storytelling. Now I’m not saying design tutorials are the proper format for all of that, but a great challenge for software users and teachers alike would be to make something remotely as dynamic as SHR.  Maybe it does exist, maybe I just haven’t heard of it. I know it’s Friday but if you’ve seen one or come up with one, please post a link and let me know.

And I’ll see you back here next Friday… bring the margaritas!

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Mar
25

Going Viral: So Easy a Monkey Can Do It!

I’ve got to laugh.   As high-powered marketing firms and ad agencies spend untold amounts of time and money trying to figure out how to make their message or brand go viral, a small arboreal primate does it without even trying.  For those of you not in the know, he’s referred to by some as “The Mystery Monkey”.

"Going viral is easy when you're me"For the past year, he’s earned legendary outlaw simian status, eluding capture despite repeated backyard sightings all across Pinellas County. No one is quite sure where the Mystery Monkey came from, and no one is sure we’re he’ll go next.  And that, apparently, is enough to capture the public imagination and ensure viral transcendence.

The Mystery Monkey gets a ton of local, regional and even national press. He’s also got a loyal base of fans and followers through dedicated Micro-sites and a Facebook page that claims “official” Mystery Monkey fan page status (tremble and despair ye cheap imitators)!

Fortunately, this whole rogue monkey thing has given me a great insight into what really ignites the collective imagination and primes the viral zeitgeist.  It’s a simple formula and, while I can’t guarantee you’ll go viral, faithful attendance will ensure that you’re one step closer.  More on that in a second.

But first.  This goes out to you, Mystery Monkey. We know for a fact that you’ve been sighted in the Tropical Shores area in south St. Petersburg.  This is adjacent to my neighborhood.  Which means, now, it’s personal!  Friends of ours – owners of a tasty banana tree – noticed a telltale peel discarded in their backyard.  You’re leaving an evidence trail my long-armed friend.  Which means the long arm of the law isn’t far behind.  For sake of your continued freedom, I can suggest only one thing.  Come stay in our backyard! We live just down the street.

The backyard is lush, secluded and fenced-in.  You can stay there of your own free will, still maintaining your rogue-monkey cred!  I’ll confess, we don’t have an actual banana tree, yet.  But we’ll be more than happy to plant one.  Of course, we can’t expect it to bear fruit the first year.  So, in the meantime, we’re fully willing to buy a daily supply of bananas and whatever else it is that monkeys eat (except things like marshmallows – those would just rot your mystery monkey teeth out).

Okay.  Now that I’ve made my direct plea, back to to the promise I made to the rest of you with a surefire viral media approach.

Step One:  First you’ve got to capture the Mystery Monkey.

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Mar
25

Adobe’s Content-Aware Fill wows, scares me (part 01)

As far as I can tell from this video, one of the primary selling-points of Adobe’s upcoming CS5 suite will apparently be ‘sorcery’.

I can say with relative certainty than on any given work week, I use at least one part of the Adobe Creative Suite every day. I keep my ear to the ground for new info, and while I do remember hearing bits and pieces about Adobe’s new content-aware tools towards the end of last year, I never got around to looking into the details.

So as I watched this Content-Aware Fill Sneak Peek video posted by Bryan O’Neil Hughes over at Adobe I found myself shocked, slack-jawed and salivating at the immense power and potential of Photoshop’s new feature-set. (I also found myself a little scared and concerned, but we’ll save that discussion for another day and another post).

Now, while I was able to suppress my natural urge to grab the ‘ol pitchfork and run out into the night decrying witchcraft, I definitely felt an immediate need to better understand the science behind the incredible image conjuring I saw.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Based on research done primarily with Princeton, this appears to be the practical development of PatchMatch, a “Randomized Correspondence Algorithm for Structural Image Editing”. The paper (and associated materials) were submitted to SIGGRAPH last year, and are available at the link above.

From a cursory glance, what I’ve been able to gather is that these folks have implemented a new algorithm that uses reference points, both user-defined and automatically generated, to intelligently and quickly gather a ‘best guess’ of missing/modified content in an image and use these guesses to generate and apply a texture based on existing patterns and data within the surrounding image.

The improved algorithm’s guessing is seemingly paired with enhancements to the patching system to generate semi-random, semi-new content from what it gathers within the existing image.

The big deal here is not so much that this is possible, but that this algorithm is smart about the way it analyzes things, and so it can process its results at a speed to make it available commercially viable in a real-time environment.

In very much the same way, for Adobe’s end-user, it’s the speed that’s crucial here. As is mentioned in the video, what this tool is doing was not impossible before, it just took a lot of patience, a lot of time, and typically would result in very worn-out looking ‘cmd‘ & ‘z‘ keys.

In purely practical terms, cutting out big chunks of this time-consuming type of tedium is an obvious budgetary win – not to mention having a creative staff who looks at least slightly-less bleary eyed. But perhaps more importantly, I think this will mark a significant step towards allowing imagination and creativity to flow seamlessly and fluidly into a form of visual expression.

And that, I feel, will ultimately yield better work, as it will offer up more time and resources to the ‘creative‘ parts of the creating, and less to the preparation and the (inevitable) post-creativity cleanup.

I’ll also go ahead and make a safe prediction here that we’ll see a specific form of this tech in a significant way within CS5′s motion graphics package. This type of algorithm seems like it could drive some major motion tracking and compositing breakthroughs, and I guarantee you I will be keeping a keener eye on Adobe’s Labs in the days to come.

But…. (big but)… all that excitement aside, this tech also leaves me a little frightened – at this tool’s effect on the definition of ‘image’, at its ease of use, and its potential for abuse. This will almost certainly contribute to the mindset that we must question the validity of everything we see. We’ll dive more into depth on that next time, in part two of this post. Look for it soon!

In the meantime,  pick your jaw up off the floor and tell us your thoughts!

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Mar
24

Three-Dee Brain Freeze!

Binocular Dysphoria… sounds like something out of a bad 80′s Sci-Fi movie, but “BD” is actually a term associated with today’s 3D stereoscopic movies. It’s not in any James Cameron plot lines, but it could part of the viewing experience. The term refers to the result and reaction that some people encounter after watching a 3D film, specifically it’s the post-movie effect on the brain after the viewer has removed the glasses.

CHIBA, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 24:  Visitors watch a...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I have personally wondered as we enter the 3D “revolution” how and if prolonged consumption can effect the brain. It appears that although the mass creation of 3D televisions, movies and networks are churning out in droves, not that much research has been conducted on the health effects, which I find slightly odd. My personal thought on this is because the consumption of 3D content up to this point has always been in small quantities, therefore it didn’t really merit any health concerns or studies. But with the roll-out of 24 hour 3D networks and televisions combined with America’s current viewing habits… you start to scratch your head on: what could 6 hours a day, 365 days a year of 3D intake do to your melon?

It’s important for me to also state that I’m actually very much a fan of 3D content, along with our company being a producer of this type of visuals as well (shameless plug). We create 3D content for our clients and the entertainment value is awesome; but like anything in life, a balance might not be a bad thing. 3D content is mind blowing and truly a genre that is here to stay; but as the technology enters our homes in 24-hour cycles, we may want to ask as content creators… can the brain handle all that?

My non-medical answer is sure, why not? The human brain adapts to everything, and I’m sure the same things were said when television and computers came along; but I keep harping back to an article from Mark Pesce in which he speaks in detail on exactly how the brain is fighting it’s other senses in order for you to take in the 3D experience. Eventually the brain shuts these senses down until you remove the glasses and the movie is over. The question then arises: if you’re spending more time shutting the senses down and less using them, what could be the long term effects? And so we get back to our friend (or enemy, rather) “Binocular Dysphoria”, the short term cause of that feeling you have right after you take off the glasses, which might actually be the result of a little 2 hour battle your head just fought with itself while you were watching the Na’vi and humans go at it on Pandora.

I don’t think we’re in any immediate danger, nor in any need to launch a million studies at this point, so don’t crush your glasses just yet! I remember the days of sitting and watching the Saturday morning cartoons for hours, and now I think how cool those would’ve been in 3D… maybe just not everyday!

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Mar
23

Mayor or Mayor Be Not

For weeks, my wife has been sitting on a coupon to a newish Irish pub in downtown St. Petersburg. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, we decide to finally give the place a try for lunch. But then, something goes wrong.  Instead of just enjoying my beer-battered cod sandwich and pint of Guiness, I’m obsessing over one ridiculous idea: Who is Kevin L. and why should he be mayor here?

Photo: Stuart Spivack

For those of you who know FourSquare, I don’t have to explain. Kevin L. is someone who’s checked in enough times to earn his spot as “mayor” of the place. I, on the other hand, am a newbie to this pub and, to make matters worse, am a newbie to FourSquare. Of course, I’d long been aware of how FourSquare works and its potential, not just as a fun shared-experience locator, but as a great marketing tool for those with the savvy to tie into it.  It’s just that, belonging to the species HomoTimestrappus, I’d never really had occasion to play with FourSquare until this very moment.

Now, with iPhone in hand, and a cold cod sandwich wrestling with abandonment issues, I’m obsessing over a single thought: “You’re going down Kevin L.! ”Foolish?  Perhaps.  Waste of time?  Almost certainly. (Did I mention it’s a rainy day with not much going on?)

I should disclose at this point, I’m not the only one who’s slipped into must-be-mayor predator mode.  My wife discovers that the nearby post office has NO MAYOR at all!  Talk about a golden opportunity!   Imagine the street-cred you earn as mayor of the post office.  I’m sure they bump you right up to the front of the line and give you some sort of special stamp with your picture on it!   So, there we are, both checking in with reckless abandon, ignoring the friendly FourSquare pop-up admonishment that says we’d already had our share of check-ins for the day.

That was last weekend.  Now, in a calmer moment of reflection, I’ll be the first to admit there’s no real benefit to being mayor of a faux-Irish pub… unless the proprietor is cool enough to provide some marketing freebies to the honorary potentate (I saw no such offers posted).   And yes, there are so many more social media applications that really warrant my attention far more than FourSquare.  For instance, only a day later, I receive notice that Chris Hughes, one of the co-founders of Facebook, is now launching a new interactive tool meant to connect would-be volunteers to worthy causes.   It’s called Jumo. Check it out. http://www.jumo.com/

You’re presented with is a zany questionnaire that asks you all sorts of seemingly random questions.  I imagine they’re building some type of psychometric volunteer matchmaker profile.  But honestly, when they ask you whether you’d name your daughter Grace or Brianna, you begin to wonder, has the Facebook guy gone off the deep end?

Still, it’s a laudable pursuit and it gives me hope that social media is going in a generally positive direction.  Sure, I can waste my time trying to be mayor of some downtown pub.  But I can also volunteer my time with something that might actually contribute in a meaningful enduring way (Hope you’re successful Facebook dude!  Count me in!).  So, with this final, uplifting impression of a world wherein we truly do more connecting than fracturing, my mind races with the potential of what could be and how these new tools and resulting communities could actually do some good.

And, with that said, I lift up my pint of Guiness in this celebratory toast: ” You’re still going down Kevin L!”

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Mar
22

Note to Self: Showers Are Important

see also: sitting on porches. star-gazing. standing over your sink, mindlessly eating something while casting out your best thousand-yard stare.*

the last shower - time to go

In some ways this is a sister post to Marc’s inaugural entry, and while something topical would perhaps be preferential, I tasked myself with focusing my first post on the overarching concept of ‘creative ideas’, so I’m going to stick to that.

So while I feel that there are many times when Marc is right, that being creative is truly solely about losing control;  sometimes, creativity, to me, seems more elusive.

I find that if I set out trying hard to be creative, I can almost guarantee that what I’ll yield is NOT my best idea. It may be appropriate, timely, even effective, but it seems that those really great ideas are saved exclusively for the moments when I’m not paying attention.

Sitting idly, waiting on something or someone. Staring at the chips in the paint on a wall. Standing underneath cold water in the shower, suddenly aware of my surroundings. Or often, simply waking out of a dead sleep. An idea will hit me, and it’s all I can do to get that idea down in some form, a dream journal, a voice memo, whatever is fast. efficient.

Just the other day, the New York Times ran a great editorial, “Why We Need to Dream“.

I’d recommend the article in its entirety, but one of the more interesting ideas within the piece is the concept that our idle thoughts are sometimes more effective than our conscious ones.

Referencing both rats (specifically the studies of Matthew Wilson, a neuroscientist at M.I.T.) and us human-folk (Jan Born – a neuroscientist at the University of Lübeck), the piece speaks to the importance of sleep, most especially R.E.M. sleep, and the fact that while we feel we may be resting quietly, our subconscious is hard at work, compiling the data we’ve processed during the day, and trying to form associations between random occurrences -  in essence struggling to solve our conscious problems while we rest.

I find this fascinating. And while not solely an excuse to sleep in on one’s weekends, I think there’s some merit to valuing one’s downtime.

A good friend and colleague of mine, Andrew, is rarely stumped. But when he is, he will stop everything, and plead only that he be given some time to figure out an answer.

“I’m going to let my subconscious work at it for a bit”, he says.

And honestly — as hokey as it sounds — more often than not, a day or two later, without the help of google or wikipedia or any of the memory-replacers we have on-hand, that puzzle will be solved in his head. We’ll be in the middle of some other conversation and the answer will just come blurting out. Seriously.

This type of thing speaks to me. The idea that sometimes the best work I do is when I don’t think I’m doing it it at all. I find that when I stop trying, when I rest my head, step away from the computer and all its delightful temptations/inspirations/etc and offer some minutes up to silence, every once in a while, that elusive lightbulb will shine on.

Now, can I speak to the metrics of the merits of this type of behavior and its affects on creative ideas and inspiration? Sadly, I can’t. But I can point out to you several sets of wet-footprint stains on the hardwood floors in my house, where I’ve bolted from the shower to a computer to scribble down some (arguably) great idea down before it got lost in the steam.

Please know, I am not at all advocating the wasting of precious water, but I am trying harder to give myself those little idle moments, knowing that while I may not even be thinking about it, those great ideas may be bubbling up, just under the surface.

And, who knows, maybe that’s something to ponder the next time you’re stuck at a red light.

* a shout-out here. this phenomenon was first brought to my attention by a very talented fellow creative, mike wong . i will consistently catch myself staring out past my sink with a bagel, and think. wow. so true.

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