Review of Steal Like an Artist

I picked up Steal Like an Artist at the Delray Beach Library for a buck and read it over a few hours.

Written prior to Show Your Work,  but like his other book, Austin Kleon work is filled with practical insights for approaching the creative process, examples of the advice in action and techniques for getting a better understanding of one’s own position in relation to one’s chosen family of creators and other issues of practical concern to a creative.

One such instructional section that I like particularly related to homage and inspiration in relation to one’s creative work and process.

Creation as Curation

All great artists are voracious consumers of cultural products.

I’ve spent more money on my personal reading library than is really sensible given my financial conditions – but the sense of joy that they haven give me, of being able to look back at notes that I left for myself or seeing which passages thought were important at the time and so underlined them amuses me to no end so I feel that it is worth it.

Then there’s the smell of books…

Anyway, Kleon’s advice is to make an assessment of where it is that you’re taking from, to ask yourself why, to really determine how the pieces of what you read gets more or less mixed within your self and how it makes it’s way into your art.

You know who really killed it on this mission before Kleon ever wrote about it? Henry Miller. His works The Books in My Life, The Time of the Assassins, not to mention sections throughout his oeuvre, all do this and help world build him as someone equally worthy in status to those he names.

Theft and Art

Emerging from historic, symbolic culture – all art is theft.

Technology certainly changes society and the realm of the possibility, but at a fundamental level, nothing is new under the sun.

For instance my favorite novel by Milan Kundera is  The Unbearable Lightness of Being. This is literally an updated, inverted Anna Karenina. Star Wars is based on numbers myths from antiquity. I’m living my life largely based on Henry Miller’s and the goal of my creative work is to turn Dostoyevsky on his head. The list goes on, the take away being that the quest for excessive novelty can lead to bad art and that transformation rather than mere imitation of work – as in the above – is new and ought be viewed as such.

The “Rules” for Creativity

In my preparations to move out of the country I went through a number of old boxes that contained documents of works that I’d written when in my late teens. Reading them 15 years later was amusing, not just because of the vast divide in perspective that has developed since then but also as I realized that I was not waiting for something external to validate my creative journey but that I just did it.

I also came across the 1930’s type writer I’d purchased for myself and a number of notebooks that I collected my various art compositions in. Seeing these made me recall my college days and how much I loved working with a small group of friends to make collages, drawings, paintings, and performance poetry.

It’s these sorts of experience, Kleon says and from experience I concur with, that help build up a more holistic approach to art.

The book is a quick read and cheap so I highly recommend it to all.

And if you have the time watch this Tedx Talk by Austin, it’s worth it.

Canciones para una Diosa: Sonnets desde Medellin – New Poetry Collection Pre-order

Fun fact: I compulsively visit used books stores whenever I’m in a foreign country.

The guiding idea behind Songs for a Goddess – Sonnets From the Sheets and Streets of Medellín (o Canciones para una Diosa – Sonetos Para una Diosa: Sonetos de las Sábanas y las Calles de Medellín) was to create a combine Trap latino and Dirty South rap/OVOXO lyrical content with sonnet structure.

Despite being separated by hundreds of years and miles – not to mention different class audiences – the two forms of artistic expression nonetheless have a number of similar themes.

Both praise of beauty; are concerned with the fleetingness of life and the importance for action; are concerned with infatuation and sexual passion; and express a mix of spiritual and sexual desire.

Were all of these lyrical texts combined one would have a description of similar to Lilith, or her modern incarnation in rap music – the bad bitch.

Lilith, the OG Bad Bitch 

Lilith (1892) by John Collier.
Si ella morena, se vería como mi musa.

A Jewish folk character, Lilith is a seductive and dangerous feminine spirit. Said by some to be able to possess women by entering their consciousness through mirrors. Others tell tales of how she enraptures men with her beauty to their economic or spiritual detriment. She is siren-like, but deadly in another way.

If it is seems a stretch to connect this to modern urban music, do a search via the Talmudically styled rap lyric repository Genius for bad bitches and see that the descriptions of such women’s behavior and appearance falls totally in line with Lilith. Packs of them exist in the tales told over 160 beats. Many of these sweet mamacitas that no speaka english are sung into existence to provide content matter for boasts, for odes, for expressions of hopes, for oaths, for all of the many urges of men that stem from their relations with women.

Additionally bolstering the connection with Lilith is the prevalence of songs directed to women, rather than just being about them. Twista’s Overnight Celebrity is the first of many examples of this that comes to mind. Here Twista offers  media exposure and fame in exchange for sexual favors, something now making more headlines in the wake of the #MeToo movements. Unleashing Lilith in life is thus appealing to the vanity of women in text, song, film or other artistic the mirror-like reflection of the world. The object motivates behavior, stimulates desire, helps Dan get his Serena.

Lastly, considering the subjects in my collection, it’s worth pointing out the tendency  to describe such woman in terms of their not speaking English. For example, see the works of Juicy J, Yung Simmie, Future, Kent Jones, and Big Sean.

Songs: Music or Magic?

I think it fair to say that if one were to combine all of the seductive or bragging literary and musical artistic works, I think it’s fair to say you’d have curated the foundation for a holy text of sorts – the creative’s lyrical id view of women, The Book of Lilith. Much like the personality of God which emerges from those that ascribe divine inspiration to their respective literary texts, from it we’d see the many sides of desire, despair, dejection, spite and the many other encounters inevitable with an archetypical character. Like her father, a book could be made about her and a religion formed on it. This work is in part an collection of the wide swathe of those emotional potentials.

Those readers of mine that listen Trap latino and what I’d claim is it’s gringo counterpart – Dirty South rap/OVOXO  book will notice allusions to and lyrical engagements with them. It’s part of the genre, just like back when minnesingers courted butchers daughters alongside verdant riverbanks filled with barques at half-mast near castles bustling with the commerce, production, planning, etc.

Those that have only dipped their ears into the genre might scoff, but they’d be making a mistake. Trap music is in a twisted way a modern iteration of the old work song. Certain essential human desires for form are, seemingly, timeless.

Last one scoff at the glamorization of what some consider anti-social behavior first consider it’s popularity. Trap latino and Dirty South/OVOXO artists are killing it in number of YouTube views. I need rely solely on numbers to justify something, but it is compelling.

Second, in all reality Dirty South rap/OVOXO  aren’t given the props they deserve for skills in composing lyrical braggadocio and romantic conquest narratives. I think that is because those that are familiar with the poetry, songs and cultural norms of, say,  Cervantes’ Spain – wherein creatives would sing seductive songs under the windows of the women they hoped to give tip to and songs of conquest in the bars filled with thirsty guys in hopes of getting tips from – often don’t listen to trap latino and Dirty South rap/OVOXO so thus can’t draw that connection like I can for my readers. Well, now you know!

Back to me.

Please note that these aren’t just “trap” songs in poetry format. I include a number of my own personality into the poems as well. Because let’s be honest, there is a lot that’s awful out there. Having absorbed so much really, I know.

As such, I now want to highlight some excerpts that ought be praised for their word play. Then, because this article’s really about me, I’ll give you some samples of the poems.

Let’s go.

So of course one lyricist that’s always killing in, Lil Wayne. Here’s a wonderful couplet from She Will – a song best played while watching a girl shake her ass fast while on grass while you throw cash at her. At least that’s what I’d say given the content of the video.

“I like my girl thick, not just kinda fine
Eat her til she cry, call that wine and dine”

 

Drake‘s songs also typically have compelling romantic/sexy lyrics along these lines. Here’s two lines from Own It.

“Next time we crush, I don’t wanna crush, I wanna make love
Next time we talk, I don’t wanna just talk, I wanna trust”

Yeah, crush isn’t what it actually says but self-censorship for the Facebook monitors…

I don’t even want to get started on The Weeknd… Seriously. Anything under a thousand words is disrespectful and I’m trying to pitch my book and not praise him so I’m going to shut up and just say listen to every word the man has to sing.

Then there’s Tyga’s Make it Nasty, which is great both for it’s narrative structure and eclectic rhyme scheme back by them sick instruments and explicit video that makes it a classic a ratchet anthem.

Jeremih’s Down on Me, why should I say anything when you can watch?

The list goes on…

Anyway, enough trying to contextualize the work to the unaware reader as to the scope and span of this project inspired by the title. Here’s the list of the twenty poems that I wrote. They got no beats and no sonnet’s perfect – but I’m happy enough with what I made that I’m willing to share it with you. Oh, and if you’re wondering how I came up with such creative titles, prepare to be disappointed as most of them are from profile descriptions of prepagos.

Here’s a taste.

Songs for a Goddess 

Sonnetlisting

  1. Complacent – Complaciante
  2. Unforgettable – Inovidable
  3. Boyfriend Experience – Trato de Novio
  4. I Can Give You All of Your Fantasies – Puedo Cumplir Todas Tus Fantasias
  5. Dirty Little Doll and a Ball of Maddness – Muñequita Delgada y Colita de Locura
  6. Sweet and Tender – Dulce y Tierna
  7. Please Every One of Your Desires – Complacer Cada Uno de Tus Deseos
  8. Coquetry – Coquetiar
  9. Love (in the Key of Trap Latino) – Amor (en the llave de Trap Latino)
  10. Lil Sloth Princess – Princessita Perezoso
  11. Flower in the Crack – Flor en la grieta
  12. Wet – Mojada
  13. Spectacular Company – Compañía Spectacular
  14. Staff of Hermes – Baston de Hermes
  15. Screams of Pleasure – Gritos de Placer
  16. Nothing Vulgar and Very Discreet – Nada Vulgar y Muy Discreta
  17. Paisa Flavor – El Sabor Paisa
  18. There are no limits, let imagination run wild with me – No hay límites, deja volar la imaginación con me.
  19. Oral Natural – Oral Natural
  20. What’s your location? – Donde es su ubicación?

Two Sample Poems, One in English one in Spanish:

I Can Give You All Of Your Fantasies

As rivers lose name and shape in the sea
So too I, lost in the grip of her love
Cara, cuerpo, cuca, each alone enough,
To unmoor me from reality’s quay.
Like the prize held in the hives of bees,
From diffent places we come and yet such
Intensity makes me unable to judge
What’s other, what’s unique, what’s her, what’s me.
The rhythm of hips and honeyed lips,
An engine headed to oblivion;
Though the light slips to full eclipse
Moments after the dance is done.
Still the sun’s colors still flow through my veins,
And when meditating I still feel it’s remains.

 

 

Love in the Key of Trap Latino

We hav’n met n yet I’m hr amor
Hr bb, hr heaven, hr King, hr knight –
Sweet pet names, bu’ droppin pretenses I’m
Mos’ contented as Director & Actor.
Arrivin’n costume n make up t’th 9s
She a ten n Im tryn not to jump gun
Playn Trap Cartel beats shes shakng n
Bringng me peace makng me feel – Life Fine.
What Arcangel, Ozuna and Aanuel
Ache for s’th experience she gave me –
N now when I hear those sensual beats
Like they I wan’ to repeat it. Yeah! All!
I want her to repeat those rhythmic movements,
I want us to repeat those sweet moments.

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The print edition will also contain 10 never to be placed online photos. Seriously, I’m making you sign and deliver documentation before I’ll actually ship. Are they actually taboo or is this just a marketing ploy to pique your interest. Only one way to find out…

Oh and this picture here. This is not one of those photos – just the workbook/journal that many of the poems were first formed in and a thematic tie in to the project in general.

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Pre-order now by filling out the below and I will be sending your notice of when they are ready to purchase.

What Computers May Soon Uncover About The Creative Process of Writers

I began my survey of the business potential of  text mining applications after  undertaking market research for a several part series of onsite content blogs. My focus began in the APIs have vast applications in the biomedical field achieved through text mining. Text mining is two words with limits in a way really only limited by language itself. For a creative like myself, I was fascinated with it’s potential and dug as deep as a week of reading got me into the literature. Ranging from the identification of novel drug targets; the identification of the names of drug gang targets in novels; the target names of novel drug use reporting techniques; the potential novel drug functions; parsing specific types of standardized and tested data points in order to determine better models of interactions between the millions of bodily interactions to understand… well things that were never ever possible before. Simply put: the increasing availability of digital medical literature and patient databases means in a way that while the machines can’t “learn” medicine, they can at least report on findings that may have the highest medical value. Yay a type of mining that doesn’t ravage the environment and the lives of the people found around the the ore, oil or other hallowed resource deposit!

Text mining has also been broadly applied to interdisciplinary fields such as government, marketing, social media, history, etc. This is where text mining kept my attention.

General Process for Text Mining and Analysis

What’s broadly referred to as the digital humanities can be described as a set of conceptual and practical approaches to engagement with cultural materials that are aided/mediated by computer applications. Some of these can be quite simple, such as Google Ngram, which can track word usage and changes in meaning over time. While those within academia are careful with their methodological approaches as they expect a high level of scrutiny from the peer-reviewed journals that they hope to get publication in, most outlets for news and cultural content are often less discerning – hence leaving me to the belief that the article from websites lauding it’s  useful in marketing is over rated.

For business applications and tracking – yes absolutely. In that way it’s been invaluable to me. And that’s the point, that’s all it’s ought to be – there’s other things out there. So you content marketers emailing me asking if they should invest time in it – I’d say not. But also clarify that it’s not also important to at least be familiar with. I’ve produced several works using R as a component that I’m pleased with – however – these were short and sweet little works designed just for a short smirk and a share. It could be used for a work with greater complexity to the content, but so few threaded Tableau’s really arrest one’s attention.

Visualizing Numbers

For example: Articles like this analysis of marijuana talk on Reddit. It is, at least to me, insightfulless. Can I have the time I just spent reading this back please? The same goes for this this analysis of Donald Trump’s Twitter. Doubly so when compared to something like this New York Times analysis and categorization of Trump’s tweets by people! It’s not just the lack of a genuinely noteworthy findings that I take issue with, but also how many have no mooring to acceptable social science principles. It’s literally spreading stupid.

The methodology of this article’s “psychological analysis” on the personality of CEOs is incredibly flawed due to it’s arbitrariness and the nature of public speech. Articles like this one, which uses a sentiment analysis of geo-tagged Twitter posts, declare that  “Florida is the 5th happiest state,” despite the fact that a study with actual social scientific rigor, like this one by Gallup, show that this is false. To me, this is all a testament as to how low publishing standards have dropped – when time saving relationships in the form of marketing brand and brain fodder takes the place of . Lest I seem like some partisan crusader, note I’m really just using this as a means of marketing to potential clients as to the standards I take in a non-legalese manner so as to get a better vibe on me. Irony! Anyways, my discerning reader, I will continue…

Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis: Examining Author’s Notebooks

Page from the notebook of Honoré de Balzac

If th are as bad as I say, why would they get published? Well for one, the producers like it as 99% of the time it is cheaper than taking a different approach. Because of the pseudo-scientific trappings, it allow publishers to justify posting whatever B.S. conclusions are given.

This is not to say that *all* text analysis done by API’s are valueless or mystifying instead of insightful – I find this project on screenplays to be fascinating and insightful –  just to state that at least most of the ones that I’ve seen promoted via new media outlets are.

This article on Large-Scale Computerized Text Analysis in Political Science: Opportunities and Challenges is focused on a particular sub-branch of Political Science that I read in graduate school masterfully delves into my reservations in greater detail than I will here.

What Machine Learning May Be Able To Tell Us About Creativity

 

A Page from Dostoyevsky’s Notebook

What I do see as valid from a social science perspective and genuinely excites me is the future prospect of being able to use textual analysis to examine the process of creative writers. One of the most rewarding projects that I took as an undergraduate was an extensive study of  Dostoyevsky’s writings, which gave me an deep insight to how he worked. It’s one of the reasons why I think it would be cool to be able to cross reference news stories with changes made – however this has some issues as well as there’s no way of ascertaining sans interview with the author on whether or not they were apprised of a particular issue.

A less epistemologically precarious form of analysis on the creative process would require that word processors keep constant documentation of a number of data points. Not only would it be cool to know at what scenes, George R. R. Martin had difficulty continuing a certain story or how and if characters in J. K. Rowling Harry Potter series – it would also be scientifically rigorous. Combining human and computer categorizations would allow for honest findings on a number of other issues as well.

People could quantify if there is a connection between the time it takes to complete writing a scene and the type of scene that it is, the characters that are in it, etc. We could map how a characters personality changes during the revision process and chart the variances in time taken on each character. Presuming the word processing application was granted geolocation data – perhaps it could be determined that there are certain locations where authors are more productive (coffee shops, library, home, etc.) as well as times of the day. These are just some of the many ideas for what computer applications may be able to tell about the creative process.

Using OCR, APIs, text mining and machine learning to be able to examine authors that used physical journals would be more difficult, but would also being productive towards make conclusions about the creative process of writers. I say this as speaking from my own experience, I occasionally write long passages in my physical daily journal when I feel stuck on a certain piece of writing.

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Lastly, I just want to throw out how I would love if someone bought me a copy of Henry Miller’s The Nightmare Notebook. I read it while an undergraduate, but would love to have my own.

On the Book Cover for Medellin Sonnet Mixtape

While I spent a lot of time on deciding a book cover for Unraveling, the process for what would front Medellin Sonnet Mixtape was much easier. How so? Simple, I asked my muse what sort of image she’d most prefer for the cover and without skipping a beat she said: “Quiero que sea una foto desnuda de mí, pero al estilo de una pintura al óleo”. I then asked her what sort of oil painting style she wanted to go with and here’s what she chose.

What I’d like is to have a normal photo (taken with an iPhone camera) altered into something like one of these along with appropriately stylized title text, author attribution and a small description:

Medellin Sonnet Mixtape by Ariel Sheen

20 poems in English and Spanish

That’s it! If you can do this, I’ll send you the photo reference images of her for use in making it.

New Translation of Pablo Neruda’s poem “The Dead Woman”

La Muerta, or The Dead Woman, was written by Pablo Neruda. I was reading a bilingual edition of this book at El Cafe de Otraparte and didn’t like the translation so have transcribed my own below on the right side, linked to where other translations are below and then explained why I think my translation is preferable to theirs.

Si de pronto no existes,
si de pronto no vives,
yo seguiré viviendo.No me atrevo,
no me atrevo a escribirlo,
si te mueres.Yo seguiré viviendo.Porque donde no tiene voz un hombre
allí, mi voz.

Donde los negros sean apaleados,
yo no puedo estar muerto.
Cuando entren en la cárcel mis hermanos
entraré yo con ellos.

Cuando la victoria,
no mi victoria,
sino la gran Victoria
llegue,
aunque esté mudo debo hablar:
yo la veré llegar aunque esté ciego.

No, perdóname.
Si tú no vives,
si tú, querida, amor mío, si tú
te has muerto,
todas las hojas caerán en mi pecho,
lloverá sobre mi alma noche y día,
la nieve quemará mi corazón,
andaré con frío y fuego
y muerte y nieve,
mis pies querrán marchar hacia donde tú duermes, pero seguiré vivo,
porque tú me quisiste sobre
todas las cosas indomable,
y, amor, porque tú sabes que soy no sólo un hombre
sino todos los hombres.

If suddenly you do not exist,
if suddenly you no longer live,
I shall live on.I do not dare,
I do not dare to write it,
if you die.I’ll keep living.For where a man has no voice,
there, my voice.

Where blacks are beaten,
I cannot be without energy.
When into prison my brothers go,
I am with them.

When victory,
not my victory,
but the great victory
comes,
even though I am mute I must speak;
I shall see it come
though I am blind.

No, forgive me.
If you don’t live,
if you, beloved, my love,
if you have died,
all the leaves will fall on my chest,
it will rain on my soul night and day,
the snow will burn my heart,
I shall walk with cold and fire and death and snow,
my feet will want to march to where you sleep, but
I’ll stay alive,
because you wanted me above all things indomitable,
and, my love, because you know that I am not only a man
but all humankind.

Why My Translation is Better

Where my translation differs from the other versions is as follows.

In the third stanza seguiré should read as a statement of commitment to life rather a phrase that a book with some sort of platitudinous title on coping with grief would tell you to repeat over and over again in a mirror until you start to feel that you are “back amongst the land of the living” and thus no longer “trapped in the past/in death”.

The fifth stanza I’ve changed for the following reasons. First, the other translators incorrectly attributed the Castilian meaning of the word rather than the Chilean. While generally sensible, any Spanish speaker that’s travelled know that there is a wide variety regional dialects and meanings. Here’s an screenshot of a Chilean Spanish Slang Dictionary:

If that’s not enough to convince you why my iteration is better, consider this – while “not being dead” may sounds poetic, it doesn’t imply the same sort of implication of commitment to ameliorating racial oppression that was a major component of Neruda’s politics. Pablo Neruda was an ardent Marxist, a member of the Communist Party and was a politician and diplomat under President Salvador Allende. The lines as they were slightly obfuscated something that Pablo Neruda would have been highly attuned.

As it was worded,
it suggested that the “I” of the poem – which is later on characterized as indomitable – respond to racial oppression merely by oneself not succumbing to death. Using a dictionary definition rather than an informal one thus loses the implied need for material commitment to oppressed peoples liberation evidenced in my rendition of “I cannot be without energy”. People in perilous situations that require great physical endurance to survive are able to exert themselves past the point they would normally collapse because of the importance of their actions. My rendition captures this, and for similar reasons the next two lines of the stanza is also lacking verisimilitude to what I believe to be Neruda’s intent.
Embed from Getty Images

As it was,  the “I” of the poem implied a commitment to revenge seeking or some kind of adventurism. That’s not, however, the case as Neruda would be very familiar with the concept of solidarity. Now I understand and even appreciate why it’s rendered that way, for the sake of sound, but I also think it’s important not to declaw the meaning behind the words of a poet who was assassinated by the government of General Pinochet with the assistance of the C.I.A.

Marchar en Chile

In the eight stanza I changed “breast” for “chest” as pecho is both and. Following that I think the translation is again playing fast and loose for the sake of sound. Neruda uses the word marchar, to march, and in the translation it’s replaced with walk, or caminar. While one certainly walks in a march, the collective sense implied in the Spanish word is lost in the old translation.

Lastly, I changed the last line from “all men” to “all humankind” as the gender specificity within Spanish nouns need not apply to the English rendition given the alternative which more accurately symbolizes socialism’s aspiration for universal solidarity.

“Don’t do with love, what a child does his balloon, that having ignored it, then loses it crying.”

Buy yourself a copy of Neruda.

The Struggle for Catalonian Independence and Art

82 years after the Asturias Revolt, and 78 years after the end of the Spanish Civil War Republican unrest is now mobilized enough again that politicians in Catalonia believe that independence from Madrid is a possibility. Spain has always had a special place in my heart and thus I’ve been closely following the events in Catalonia regarding their movement for independence. As a populist movement not only does it’s development lend itself to new forms of art, which I will briefly talk about below, but it also allowed President Maduro of Venezuela to troll Prime Minister Rajoy with the phrase, “Who’s the Dictator Now?” after Rajoy was critical Maduro’s response to U.S. backed attempts to destabilize the country and to bolster indigenous people’s attempts to create their own national governments, like in Kurdish Iraq. Massive Social Mobilization Across Catalonia These photos show the millions of participants in the protests that were part of the huelga general (general strike) called for by all the Catalan trade unions. According to the Catalan government the general strike was the largest economic paralyzation in the history of Catalonia. Reports I’ve read state how one of the many chants that  reverberated in dozens of cities across Catalonia, was “The streets will always be ours!” The reason for this stems from the fact that people were upset with Spanish state repression and police violence against the #CatalanReferendum, in which 90% of the voters voted for independence from Spain. Their claim that the streets belong to them reflects the fact that police from outside the region had to be brought in to control it.

Workers Against the State While the police were celebrated by small crowds in other regions for the oppression they would bring to their neighbors, Catalonian farmers blocked the ports to prevent more police officers from coming in, to prevent police vehicles from coming in and to otherwise hamper the movement of those that were already brought off shore to “reign in” the movement. The Huelga General, or General Strike, called by the Catalan unions is supposed to be the largest in history and has paralyzed commerce throughout the region.

The State Against Workers and Democracy 

“The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker.” – Leon Trotsky

Not all social services workers were willing to fight for the status quo, here we see firefighters that are attempting to keep the police from preventing people from going to polling stations. Other powerful photos of what’s going on there depict ballot boxes connected by chains to large concrete blocks to prevent police from confiscating them. Reports from all outlets depict greater  90% of those that voted wanted independence.

Is History Repeating Itself?

Let’s clean them out! – 2017 Comrade Lenin is Cleaning the World of Scum – 1917

100 Years on from the Russian Revolution and it is still inspiring people around the world trying to get free from oppression and exploitation. While reading some Spanish language news media, I came across the above poster on the right and was tinkled pink (or is tinkled red more appropriate here?) as it is a variation of the famous Lenin poster that I placed on the right. While the forces driving Catalonian independence are nationalist and not anti-capitalist – the region’s history as a Libertarian Communist/Radical Republican stronghold during the Civil War are well documented.

Or is History Adapting to the Conditions of the Present?

While I found myself resonating with the Escombrem Los! image and the illustration above to the left as it combines a famous photo by Robert Capa called Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936  with a depiction of the current suppression – this is one of the examples where historically powerfully iconography is repackaged in a way that’s not really appropriate. The anti-monarchic sentiment may be the same and there is similar dissatisfaction with the government on it’s spending choices – it’s not an international revolutionary movement.

The Future is Unwritten, But Has Certain Limits Brexit, massive youth unemployment and brain drain to Germany, growing nationalist movements – the hopes for a united European Union is starting to unravel. Just like the Catalonian independence movement is not likely to become a clarion even for those disaffected with the neoliberal world order nor is it that Catalonia will again be a testing ground for new weapons. And yet these historical images are still being used by those on the ground now as a reference for understanding the present.

While this is to be expected, it’s worth recalling Karl Marx’s famous quote on the subject: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.”

A More Appropriate Art of Protest

While there are certainly groups within the Catalan nationalist movement that wish to make the referendum for nationhood similarly a vote for socialism, this is a vocal but small group.

Because of this, I believe, a more appropriate aesthetic is less that which pulls from a revolutionary tradition and more one that sees it as solely a transfer of powers. It’s a lot less sexy, but a lot more accurate. It’s also a lot more dangerous, as continuing the state in this regard will not necessarily ameliorate the anxieties expressed in such social mobilization and opens up the way for new ones.

The Return of Fascistic Unity

Embed from Getty Images

Regardless of one’s position on Catalan independence, it’s worth noting the strong similarities with those against it and those that wish to make the United State a white ethno-state. It’s said that a picture says a thousands words, so notice the swastika tattoos on this anti-independence Catalan demonstrator at a National Unity rally in the centre of Barcelona during Catalonia National Day on September 1.

The struggles in the street over symbols, history and power will continue so long as profound dissatisfaction with the distribution of political and economic power continues. However, reliance upon old verities such as nationhood or race that once made people feel secure will not provide a genuine out for such problems. I hope that the electoral aspirations of the Catalonians are achieved, but also feel that should independence happen the hopes that they have will soon be lost given what will be their diminished power in the current world order.

How To Best Use Data for Storytelling and Content Marketing

In this article I explain how creative strategists like myself can help companies utilize their own data for use in content marketing campaigns or evergreen website content. I review some of the formulas which underlie most of the viral content shared on social media and outline with an examples how it is that data can also be used for evergreen content.

I don’t, however, go into detail why data based content is so important for today’s companies.

Turning Data into Narrative and The Most Viral Content Marketing Structures

Content marketing is both an art and a science.

Its designation as a science stems from being able to obtain and determine the significance of information from a single or multiple sets of data in a methodologically sound manner as well as being able to then track its effects online to determine ROI. This is why the best content marketers often work in conjunction with growth hackers.

Its designation as an art comes from that fact that once a number of these particular findings are uncovered in data, they must then be placed in a narrative structure with aesthetically pleasing components (infographics, gifs, videos, etc.) that is compelling enough to hook and hold the attention of a reader. This is why the best content marketers often work in conjunction with a team able to properly promote campaigns.

Examples of Successful Content Marketing Narrative Structures

Surveys and internal data that use demographic information to tell engaging stories is that which is most likely to be picked up by media outlets and shared on social media.

There are, however, a finite number of ways that such data can be presented and not all of them are equal in the value they bring. Those that exhibit certain traits have a higher tendency to become viral.

Here is a non-comprehensive list of some of the narrative constructions most likely to be shared:

  • People who do X are more likely to to be Y.
  • Having X attribute (big butt) means you are more Y (smart/stupid).
  • X% of children in Y birth order are more Z% than their siblings.
  • Doing X (glass of red wine) easy thing = Y (one hour of exercise)
  • X study confirms Y thing (that everyone already agreed about — such as dogs are better company than people)
  • Being X “good thing” (religious) means you are more Y (bad thing) (mean)
  • People who do X on social media (post selfies) are more likely to be Y (narcissistic)
  • People with X “bad” personality trait (Loner) are Y “good attribute” (more intelligent)
  • Doing X regularly (meditating) correlates with Y (happier life)
  • X type of person (Women) need more Y (sleep) than opposite type of person (men)
  • People who do X (brag) thing to get Y (praise) reaction, actually are the Z (opposite – insecure)
  • X% (high percentage) of Y (common demographic) group admit to Z (taboo thing)

The Psychology Behind People’s Curiosity

It’s possible to go into great depth on the variety of emotional responses and how they are likely to affect various reader personas, so for now an analogy will do. Chances are at some time you’ve been out somewhere in public and heard someone call out your name. If so, you probably can recall the feeling of sudden alertness you get. Where did that sound come from? Who said that? What message do they have for me now that they’ve captured my attention?

The social media equivalent to this is seeing a headline with one or more demographic qualities featured in it that relates to you or someone you care about. You want to know this new bit of information about people like you or something that interests you.

Using Survey and Internal Data For Content Marketing

Depending on the business, oftentimes the data required to tell a good story is already stored in a Customer Relations Management (CR) database or something similar. Depending on their willingness to publish this information, this can be a great means for producing content marketing with original research. Here’s an example:

A company like BeachBody could potentially use their clients data to illustrate possible differences in likelihood of starting and completing a particular workout program by age, weight or current level of physical fitness. This would be a great piece of evergreen, potentially live updating, marketing content as it would show subscribers the attrition rate for all the programs based on those demographics.

By informing those that might be new to their services that certain exercise programs are more appropriate for people at higher level of fitness, it could help them to lower the monthly cancelation rate as people can now visualize how others have handled their programs and realize that they might need to choose an easier one.

For survey based content marketing campaigns, wherein new data is created through services such as Survey Monkey, including demographic questions is the key for turning raw data into narrative. As you can include a variety of questions that have previously been peer-reviewed and tested to show a number of psychological qualities, surveys typically allow for much more complex data to be parsed that that normally collected by companies.

Why You Should Hire Ariel Sheen to Develop a Content Marketing Plan Using Your Company’s Internal Data; Existent Data or New Data

As presenting misunderstood or misinterpreted data can damage a company’s reputation, it is imperative that at each stage of research and production all findings are fact checked for quality assurance. Thanks to my academic training and content marketing experience, I am uniquely qualified to produce SEO-optimized, original, viral or evergreen marketing content that follows best production processes.

If your business is ready to incorporate content marketing projects that uses internal data, existent data or newly created data as part of your digital media fingerprint, then contact me and together we can craft a statement of work that helps you to achieve your marketing goals.

Review of “Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing”

Reading Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing by Les Edgerton reminded me how to be attentive to the variety of creative decisions that determine the voice of a work. How they can be interpreted, improved and evolved from different experiential exercises. The book contains focus on various voices – pulpy, sardonic, confessional, etc. – along with “before and after”  changes. Theres illustrate how a few different decisions can radically alter the ease and enjoyment level of the reading. Some of the various traps to watch out for that Edgerton cites are the “beige voice” as well as talking up or down to the reader. As all of the fictive dream – the neurological firings in your brain that are activated during the process of readings words on page or screen- occur as the results of words, best get them right. Right?!

There are, additionally, exercises contained within for identifying the ways in which honing in on voice in specific passages can radically improve the experience of the reader and how some choices can lead to it “going wrong” in one’s writing. For instance, say one wanted to get the reader to slow down. Not to scan the text; as so many are apt now to do. Well, the solution is simple. Place a number of shorter sentences back to back. This is a particularly effective practice following longer expository passages. Explaining difficult things, after all, requires the combination of lots of pieces. Much as in the same way that sentence variation forces the reader out of the simplistic subject verb object constructions.

The book is for both writers of fiction and non-fiction and addresses something that is very important as it relates to today’s media landscape – talking up, down and beigley to the reader. Explaining every and all thing can cause passages to drag on and o n. If they are known by the reader, it’s a bore, and leads to mental lagging. A good writer, Hemingway and others have stated, leaves something for the reader to want to discover. Writing in too high of a voice is the struggle that I’ve had, having an advanced academic background I can sometimes lapse into uncommon terms that are, nevertheless, quite useful for understanding today’s world. But this isn’t all about me. This is not purple prose, either, which I’ve only found in contemporary Latin American literature, is not gone in to but that’s just because it’s so rare in American fictional and non-fictional works that get published.

Edgerton’s colloquialisms, and the linguistic playfulness of the text was, I thought, a little corny at first. However it did grow on me. Plus, I recognized what he was doing with it. Not only was he describing insights into what makes a well crafted writers voice; but he was also demonstrating it! By sharing this, as well as the hat of instructor, he’s helping to show one of the Walt Whitman quotes about – I’m stacatato-cattically summarizing her : “there being multitudes that exist within each of us”. It’s true. There are!

Les’ lessons are follower by exercises to either read, write or re-write. The book is an attempt at a comprehensive attempt to teach the craft of good writing, plot, etc. but just focus on narrative voice and the voice of characters. He lists a large number of books that go into these other areas, and it’s clear with his familiar with them that a lot of experience and time went into the formation of this book.

I finished the book not only informed but also interested in seeing the dynamic that exists in his writing workshops. Having attended several writing workshops as an undergraduate at Florida Atlantic University and in Prauge, Czech republic as part of a University of Michigan program – not to mention other informal gatherings – I’ve always found workshops a productive place where people provide new eyes to help you see things you may not be aware of because you’re too close to the work, or wasn’t aware of some insight or whatever other reason that shows up when people gather with strategic and creative intentions.

I like how following this book one can apply like dissection tools onto the writings of your favorite writers in order to better place their style in history rather than a burden. Stealing can always be great art, but only if it’s great art does it get called great art – not just because it’s just an iteration of the same efforts. That last quote, ya, that’s me. Put that on a goddamn site so i can get me da stats higher.

Review of “The World of Sex”

I’ve read most of Henry Miller’s work but hadn’t heard of his composition entitled The World of Sex until recently reading The Selected Letters between him and Anais Nin. Impulsive Ariel, of course, jumped onto the internet, set my web browser to Amazon and two dayed it. Both delivery and in time spent reading it.

The World of Sex is an extended essay written at the time that Henry Miller’s work was being censored from publication, importation or sale of his work in the United States. He was becoming a cause célèbre in France, where he’d wrote much of his early work. However in puritanical America a number of graphic depictions of sex lead to suppression of his work. A number of copies made it into the US, making his book literally an underground phenomenon until his work was finally deemed not categorized by the legal definition of pornography, however this dynamic caused Miller much consternation and a cause for deep reflection on what sex can mean to the individual as well as the relationships between sex and art, sex and fiction, and sex and society.

As one would expect given his oeuvre, Miller tells the story of how he came to have a number of his views on sex and love through a recounting of his personal narrative. Describing his infatuations and frustrations from the vantage point of decades of distance, not to mention much internal and psychological research, provides the necessary detached frame that allows him to describe impact these impulses and urges being contained had on his – and indeed all peoples – development. Because of these constraints, be it social taboos or ideologies and religions which seek to shame the body, he comes to see these as invalid for they vastly limit our knowledge of others and ourselves.

Society takes much of the brunt of Miller’s animosity, it is an assemblage of conflicting messages that engenders neurosis is listened to. Real truth is the self, Miller believes and shows through his life and work. By rejecting those as a means for guiding oneself and allowing the internal direction one feels to fully take hold – be that in the pursuit of sexual conquests to gain self-knowledge or through living something other than the typical “get married, work hard, follow your dreams leads to failure” mantra then great things start to occur:

Our laws and customs relate to social life, our life in common, which is the lesser side of existence. Real life begins when we are alone, face to face with our unknown self. What happens when we come together is determined by our inner soliloquies. The crucial and truly pivotal events which mark our way are the fruits of silence and solitude. We attribute to chance meetings, refer to them as turning points in our life, but these encounters could never have occurred had we not made ourselves ready for them. If we possessed more awareness, these fortuitous encounters would yield still greater rewards. It is only at certain unpredictable times that we are attuned, fully expectant, and thus in a position to receive the favors of fortune. The man who is thoroughly awake knows that everything “happening” is packed with significance. He knows that not only is his own life being altered but that eventually the entire world must be affected.

Much of the many underlined passages that I have in Miller’s work relates to these moments of revelation – be it as it relates to friendship, lovers, the role of literature in society or something else. It saturates his fiction and here too, such insights appear. In one section on page 33, Miller describes a deep spiritual relationship to numerous authors that I’ve too suggested other people spend time with. Their stories, their vision, their analysis, their dynamic tension, their message, their… “X factor” was something that made it worth’s one attention to read them as well as it makes your inner vision that much more expansive.

A quote of Miller’s

There are comments Miller makes about the sexes that are open to being considered misogynistic. For instance while describing the archetypical psychological aspects of male-female sexual and romantic relationships he states the following:

“A man is usually plagued with all kinds of disturbing notions with regard to love, sex, politics, art, religion and so on. A man is always more muddled than a woman. He needs woman if for no other purpose than to be straightened out. Sometimes it takes nothing more than a good, clean, healthy fuck to do the trick.”

I’m not going to place what he says for the women here lest I seem to be endorsing it outright, but having had a lot of experience with women I think that there is some truth to it. Obviously it doesn’t apply to all, just as the above need not be the truth for all men, however I would largely agree with the above statement and feel that much of what he says is true even if not universally so. Miller, certainly, didn’t place himself fully within this mass, instead identifying himself with the “man of genius,” who through his work or by personal example, seems ever to be blazing the truth that each one is a law unto himself.

As someone versed in Miller’s work I found his reflections on his own writing to be particularly rewarding as it matched much of my memories of them. I’ve only recently begun to remind myself of him due to events in my life, but when I read this, his letters and passages like the below it all came back to me:

The Tropic of Capricorn represents the transition to a more knowing phase: from consciousness of self to consciousness of purpose. Henceforward what metamorphoses occur manifest even more through conduct than through the written word. The beginning of a conflict between the writer who is resolved to finish his task and the man who knows deep down that the desire to express oneself must never be limited to a single medium, to art, let us say, but to every phase of life. A battle, more or less conscious between Duty and Desire. That part of a man which belongs to the word seeking to do its duty; the part which belongs to God striving to fulfill the demands of destiny, which are unstable. The difficulty: to adapt to that desolate plane where only one’s powers will sustain one. From this point on the problem is to write retrospectively and act forwardly. To slip is to sink into an abyss from which there is no rescue possible. The struggle is on all fronts, and it is ceaseless and remorseless.

For fans of Miller as well as those that are interested in essay’s on sex, art, and social matters I highly recommend this book.

 

Review of “A Literate Passion: Letters of Anais Nin and Henry Miller”

On the inside cover of the used copy of A Literate Passion: Letters of Anais Nin and Henry Miller 1932-1953 is an inscription that has been covered over with black permanent marker. Dated December 1987, it reads

Dear Thom,
In some ways we will always be together.
Love,
S.

Those familiar with the life and works of Anais Nin and Henry Miller would no doubt not be surprised by such a sentimental dedication being written into its pages, and made an amusing start to my reading this 395 page edited selection of these two literary luminaries letters. I chose to read these letters, which range in length from 1/2 to 33 pages, following a reflection on a discussion.

As you can see from the below photo from my library…

#Truestory: I #binge #books #henrymiller #litlife

A post shared by Ariel Voyager (@arielvoyager) on

I’ve a long history of affection for Miller’s autobiographical oevre. Now that I’ve read enough of Art and Artist by Otto Rank, a psychologist who actually plays an short but important role both as an inspirer to both and lover of Nin’s, to know the word I’d even go so far as to say that he was, in Rank’s terms, the artist after which I’d apprenticed myself.

Missing from the picture are the journals of Nin’s that I’ve read from the same period when she was first introduced to Miller. I’d first read two of her multi-volume journals while in Copenhagen, Denmark, occupying time as rain made the wide city unwelcoming. My host, a family friend, had just smoked some buds from Christiania, put on some chaotic but oddly calming jazz music while writing a paper on import tariffs effects on the fishing industry of the country and then suggested I occupy myself with what was on his shelf since he had no television. I perused it, picked up her, and began literary journey of my own as the recordings of her inner life were so compelling and the man about which she felt so ecstatic about so intriguing that after that bingereading I knew I had to have more.

In the letters collected here they are at first merely two people with deep passions to be recognized as literary artists. The share the writings that they’ve been working on – in Miller’s case Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn while in Nin’s it was her early childhood journals – and give each other reams upon reams of feedback, discuss art, and a variety of topics from the banal to the esoteric. A note in the introduction, in fact, points out that the roughly 400 page collection is but a partial fragment as a number of the notes – sometimes two or three a day – were lost and that a sizeable amount of material was excluded so as to make this collection a “best of”. Anyways. Though both were married, Miller and Nin soon became lovers after meeting. Nin also explores lesbianism with Miller’s wife, June. Anais’ husband, well he’s oblivious to it all. A banker, he leaves for a short period and this gives the two of them a few weeks together. The time that they share during this brief affair become grist for more and a growing, profound appreciation for each other. Since Miller is too poor to afford to keep a home with Nin as he’s unwilling to take on non-literary work he is not able to ever “set them up” as he so wishes. Amusingly enough in fact, Miler relies on Hugh for money to live, though not directly but by that which is given to him  by Nin. Here, for example, is one of the many delightful passages that Miller writes:

Don’t expect me to be sane anymore. Don’t let’s be sensible. It was a marriage at Louveciennes – you can’t dispute it. I came away with pieces of you sticking to me; I am walking about, swimming, in an ocean of blood, your Andalusian blood, distilled and poisonous. Every thing I do and say related back to that… I say this is like a wild dream – but it is this dream I want to realize.

It’s not just as human expressions of love and longing that makes the collection pleasurable. Alongside the star-crossed love narrative are the reflections of two genius writers that struggle to find markets for their works. My book is peppered with underlines to mark great turns of phrase and insights into the human condition. No surprise given that this was a period when both were each producing significant works. One of those significant works, in fact, I learned about for the first time while reading this book. The World of Sex is a Penguin Modern Classic that despite having read all of those books from New Dimensions and Grove Press that I’d never heard of.

Those familiar with Henry literary work will be pleased to find a number of the kaleidoscopic collisions of thoughts in the form of beautiful flourishes of phrase and insight characteristic of Miller at his creative height.

The latter third of the book the romance has ceased to be described. Following a series of events – which I describe in the close their letters and lives turn from lovers to an exemplar friendship. Such a friendship does not come easy, however. A number of letters contains long and heart-rending accusations and cold, but insightful recriminations flow back and forth. The romantic love subtext fades from their exchanges, but they still clearly love each other.

Henry’s final break with Nin comes over her haven taken on Rank as a lover. While there is no direct statement of this by Henry, the pattern of behavior that he follows for a while hints at his pain. Had he the courage to admit the source of his pain, to overcome it and thus not keep distant from her is an interesting exercise in “what if”. While they both found professional acclaim and a financial stability form their work – I can’t but help wonder – a la La La Land’s lovely and yet heart-rending ending – whether or not they would have found greater happiness had pride not prevented it.