Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Love and the Tree of Life

July 13, 2011

Two friends separately wanted me to see The Tree of Life, partly so that we could talk about it.  I went and saw it with Will, my movie-buddy-kid.  Then Will and I talked all about it—and there is much to discuss, much ambiguity and beauty and disturbance and yearning and indulgence and brilliance and sadness and not seeming to end… And then I had good talks with my two friends, and I liked the movie more for seeing it through their eyes, for noticing new things, different themes, discrepancies between what we each thought actually happened in the film.

At first I was trying to decide if I liked it, much less loved it, as my friends did… and then I thought that maybe that’s the meta-message, or point:  to love is to know someone or something, separate from ourselves, and yet connected all the same.  Maybe it’s better to ask what an artist was expressing, or what we felt and experienced, than it is to give it a grade, or even a thumb’s up or down.

The Tree of Life left me a bit melancholy.  It is partly brilliant in showing scenes of a vanished childhood of empty lots and unsupervised times making trouble and darkly discovering hearts and bodies… and it is partly confusing, boldly artistic in an “American way” as one of my friends suggested, and I agree.

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In Praise of Bad Ideas

June 8, 2011

A recent article by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker, “Creation Myth,” is ostensibly about how Steve Jobs walked into Xerox’s secret lab in 1979 (in exchange for giving Xerox a crate of Apple stock) and walked out with everything he needed to re-think cutting edge technology for use (and monetization) in the real world.  It turns out that Xerox actually invented the personal computer and the mouse, but it was Jobs who realized how to take it to the people, with panache and at a price-point that lead to today’s Apple (and in some ways to this blogosphere and our virtual connection).

The part of the article that caught my attention personally was a quote of Dean Simonton, a psychologist I read closely when doing my doctoral work on creativity.  He says, “The more successes there are, the more failures there are as well.”  This is about the nature of innovation, where true innovators have hundreds of ideas… and therefore hundreds of bad ideas.  Gladwell underscores the point that creativity is messy and inefficient; a process that is difficult to manage.

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Honoring Ellie

May 28, 2010

Last year I wrote about Ellie on the anniversary of her death, but this year I choose to write about her on the anniversary of her birth, in 1926.  Parents can be difficult, but watching Andy lose both her parents has been a profound experience—one that in some way or other everyone can relate to, or will face in some variation eventually.

Ellie’s first husband was a cowboy and movie stuntman (the father of my brother and sister-in-law).  Her own dad, an army officer, died when she was only four.  Andy’s dad was an urbane New Yorker who came out to LA with Danny Kaye’s radio show.  When they met, Ellie was working at a tony telephone answering service from which she had many a colorful story about potty-mouthed celebrities and how she, always a feisty sort, set more than one or two of them straight.

More often than not, parents are a mixed bag, but when a “good mother” comes along you grab on.  Mother-in-laws are the oldest joke in the joke book, yet my mother-in-law was fantastic to me.  From the first night I met her, she and Arthur telling old Hollywood stories in a booth at Musso & Franks, Andy and I still shaking the dust of our cross-country road-trip off ourselves, she was unexpected, unconventional and a unique character.  I never called her “mom,” that word just never had the best ring to me, so I went with “Ellie,” a really pretty name for a truly beautiful woman.  When I was a kid my dad had said something to the effect of if you wanted to know what a woman was going to look like when she was older, look at her mom.  Ellie made me think of those words and conclude:  no worries in that department.

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Learning how to see

May 7, 2010

I found myself rather choked up recently listening to an NPR profile of a new book—Dorthea Lange:  Drawing Beauty out of Desolation.  The strange thing was that I was moved by the story of an artist who made a difference for all our collective children… at the expense of her own children.

Something about the angst, the drive, the ambition, the woundedness struck me as more deeply human than might a story of a more conventionally “good” mother.  I have often been struck by the pain of parents who were unable to optimally care for their children, sometimes due to psychosis, sometimes to economics, perhaps even from narcissism… yet I have always glimpsed the anguish peeking out from the nearly drawn shutters of the psyche.

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Maestro Maazel on the Music of Parenting

July 10, 2009

will abstractI was driving home from work the other day, listening to NPR, when a piece about the retiring conductor of the NY Philharmonic came on.  He is now turning to nurturing young conductors at his ranch, and in his remarks about this he referenced parenting as a metaphor for the proper attitude of a conductor.  He’s a good influence on us parents and I recommend listening to the piece:

A couple of key excerpts are as follows:  

“I’m very firm about what it is that I feel I want for myself and from the orchestra and I’m quite stubborn, I keep at it,” he says. “But if you respect the people you’re working with, you don’t start shaking your fist at them. It’s also true at home. No child, and I’ve had seven of them, has ever felt my hand. An intelligent parent learns very quickly about the importance of the alternative. Rather than saying, ‘Don’t do that,’ why not say ‘Do this.’ “

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Cultivating Creativity

May 22, 2009


If you want to facilitate creativity in your child, focus more on being interested in what they create rather than on praising it.

In a study on creativity in children, kids were asked to do artwork and then professional artists blindly judged the work.  The top rated works were then rewarded with prizes.  A few months later the teachers asked the kids to do artwork again, and a new panel of judges evaluated the results.  What the researchers discovered was that the kids who had been singled out and rewarded for their creativity in round one, now made work judged conventional, rather than creative, in round two.

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