January 2008 - Posts

I don't really like Kurt Vonnegut that much (a topic about which I can speak at length, but not right now, because I am at work and have limited time). Nonetheless, I think he has some good tips for writing fiction. Read on.


Eight rules for writing fiction:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

-- Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons 1999), 9-10.

 

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Well, I never found either of the stories I originally read about Jackson Pollack and the use of fractals in his art. But, I did find an article in which the author of the study talks about his research (http://media.www.dailyemerald.com/media/storage/paper859/news/2004/11/24/News/Fractals.Reveal.Mysterious.Links.Between.Stress.And.Art-1968806.shtml), and another article questioning some of the methodology used by the author (http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20070224/bob9.asp).

Seems there's no consensus on what qualifies as a fractal. The main question seems to be over what range the pattern needs to repeat to qualify as fractal. While Taylors work was consistent with that of many other peer-reviewed papers, some believe the term should be reserved for patterns that appear over an even greater number of orders of magnitude. Not to cop out on this, but I just don't know enough about the topic to weigh in on that. But I will say, fractal or not, the criticisms I found were over the application of the term "fractal," not over whether people seem to have a propPublishensity for the frequencies of fractals that occur in nature.

 

 




 

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Came across this wikihow page today and can't wait to try it! It's instructions for turning a photo into a pop-up photo! How cool is that? Actually, it reminds me of these books my grandma gave me and my cousins when we were little--they were custom made to include us as the heros. It would be really cool to make a whole pop-up book out of pop-up photos. Way more fun than another scrap-book project to document a special trip or event or chunk of your life, no? And it actually looks pretty easy--the instructions are clear and well presented. Check it out at http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Pop-up-Photograph.

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I was checking out some other blogs here at blogiversity this morning and read an interesting post over on the psychology blog. It was just a short entry on the importance of the natural world to mental health, but it reminded me of a paper I read a couple years ago on physics, fractal patters, and human response to fractals. I plan to see if I can find the original paper somewhere on the net later today, but for now, I just posted a quick comment summarizing the study. You can read the post that inspired it as well as my summary at http://www.blogiversity.org/blogs/psychology/default.aspx.

Some Five Alive readers may remember that I took interest in how interdisciplinary efforts brought the identity of Mona Lisa to light. Similarly, I originally noticed this particular work on fractals in part because it also combined the efforts of disparate fields. It stemmed in part from scientists and art historians working together to find new ways of verifying the authenticity of works purported to be created by American artist Jackson Pollack. Pollack is known for his distinctive body of work in abstract painting. A method was developed to analyze the frequencies of fractals in the abstract paintings in order to compare known Pollack works to suspected impostor paintings. This lead to the development of a device that would create seemingly random patterns with splatters of paint that would, in reality, be carefully engineered to be composed of specific frequencies of fractal patterns. Paintings made by this machine  were used in later studies into human perception on eye-pleasing art. Art, engineering, and psychology experts mutually benefited from the collaboration of talent.

 

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Black tea--counteracts the stress hormone cortisol in blood stream

Nuts--high in tryptophan and magnesium, necessary for production of serotonin

Oats--to boost seotonin levels

Bananas--high in potassium, to increase feelings of well-being

Brown rice--high in b vitamins, essential for good nerve functioning
 
These are just five of the many healthy food choices that, when incorporated into a healthy diet on a regular basis, can work to ward off stress.
 

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I used to work with this lady who would get irate over our local library's VHS/DVD collection. She would go on and on about how libraries are about literacy and literacy is about reading and the library should not spend money on non-print media. In the end she would always back herself into some ridiculous corner where she'd decry the value of entertainment and uphold some imagined sanctity of knowledge, and then I'd get her. "Xela," I'd say. "Who decides what knowledge is sophisticated enough to burn taxes on? I mean, the library is full of Tom Clancy novels, and Nora Roberts, and millions of back issues of People magazine. Should they ban that? Is it entertainment or education?!" Sometimes she'd squirm and insist the mere act of reading was mentally stimulating, so such collections would be worthy. Sometimes I'd point out that the library's video holdings included series like Carl Sagan's Cosmos and tapes of theater adaptations of Steinbeck novels, which must certainly be considered enriching material. Overall it was a boring game of devil's advocate for me though, because my adversary refused to engage me in a higher discussion of the role of public institutions, the rationing of and access to literacy in a global marketplace, or the concept of multiliteracies.

But, this post is not going to be a grand rebuttal drawing on those concepts. (If you're interested in such topics though, a good reader on the subject is Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Future. It's a collection edited by Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis of the New London Group, and it was published by Routledge (New York) in 2000.)

This post, instead, is a fluffy lil bit to bolster my argument that the confluence of multiple mediums can advance our appreciation of the "humanities" or "arts & letters" or what have you (something I'm sure Xela, the stuffy entertainment-hatin' co-worker, would approve of).

I guess the easiest thing to do would be to give you the link to the article I read, and then point out the specific details most salient to my case. The story details how the identity of the model behind the da Vinci's Mona Lisa has finally come to be known more definitively than ever before. Ready? Read up.

"German experts crack Mona Lisa smile"via Reuters

Alright, did you notice how the discovery of the written information was made some time ago, published in the library’s public catalogue, and ignored? Notice how a broadcasting crew recording at the university library was the catalyst for turning this into “news” at least two years after the info was published? Thanks to the flexibility of the library (bastion of written word, right Xela?) one of Western Civilization’s real-life mysteries is illuminated. TV, radio, 400-year old manuscripts, library archives and catalogues, paintings… I say: Mix it up! The more the merrier!

Cheers!


 

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1.) Start my own blog

2.) Organize my recipe box 

3.) Shop around for a better deal on car insurance

4.) Plan my dream vacation to the Taj Mahal

5.) Paint (artistically, not houses!)


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