36 Artists Give Advice to Young Creators: Wim Wenders, Jonathan Franzen, Lydia Davis, Patti Smith, David Byrne, Umberto Eco & More

"Whatever you do, nobody else can do that better than you. You have to find what you can do better than anyone else, what you have in yourself that nobody else has in them. Don't do anything that you know, deep in your heart, that somebody else can do better, but do what nobody else can do except for you." That sounds like fine advice, but when receiving advice we should always consider the source. In this case we could hardly do better: the source is Wim Wenders, director of Alice in the CitiesParis, TexasWings of Desire, and many other films besides, an auteur seldom accused of making movies anyone else could make.

Wenders' interview clip and the others here come from "Advice to the Young," a video series created by the Louisiana Museum in Denmark (which has quite an impressive gift shop, incidentally, if you happen to need advice on gift-shopping). Jonathan Franzen, author of novels like The CorrectionsFreedom, and Purity, admits to feeling embarrassment about "giving advice to the young writer," but he still has valuable words for creators in any domain: "The most important advice I have is to have fun, to try to create something that is fun to work on."




And by fun he means fun like you have on a tennis court, where "you're not just messing around, you're not just hitting the ball wherever you want — you are focused on having a game, and once you are in it you are having fun. That's the kind of focused fun I'm talking about, and if you are having that kind of focused fun, there's a good chance that the reader will too."

The range of writers from which Louisiana Museum has sought advice also includes Lydia Davis, whose sensibility may differ from Franzen's but who has garnered an equal (or even greater) degree of respect from her readership. "You learn from models and you analyze them, you study them, you analyze them very closely, one thing at a time," she says, beginning her more expansive advice based on her own method. "You don't just sort of read the paragraph and say, 'Oh, that really flows, you know? That's good.' You say, 'What kind of adjectives? How many? What kind of nouns? How long are the sentences? What's the rhythm?' You know, you pick it apart, and that's very helpful." Her other suggestions include to "be very patient, even patient with chaos" and to keep a notebook ("it takes some of the tension and the worry away, because if you write it down, it may just be a note. It doesn't have to be the beginning of anything").

"Do what you want to do," Davis concludes, "and don't worry if it's a little odd or doesn't fit the market." That bit of guidance seems to have worked for her, and in the great variety of forms it can take seems to have worked for seemingly every other artist. Take Ed Ruscha, for instance, whose canvasses of gas stations, corporate signage, and other icons of American blankness must hardly have seemed geared toward any particular "market" when first he painted them. For the young he has only one piece of advice, received second-hand and briefly delivered: "No one could ever beat this thing that Max Ernst said. They asked him what a young artist should do, and he said, 'cut off an ear.' That's good advice to follow. You can't beat that."

Other artists featured in the video playlist include Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Umberto Eco, Patti Smith & more.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

36 Artists Give Advice to Young Creators: Wim Wenders, Jonathan Franzen, Lydia Davis, Patti Smith, David Byrne, Umberto Eco & More is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Wagashi: Peruse a Digitized, Centuries-Old Catalogue of Traditional Japanese Candies

If you've been to Japan, or even to any of the Japanese neighborhoods in cities around the world, you've seen wagashi (和菓子). You've probably, at least for a moment, marveled at their appearance as well: though essentially nothing more than sweet treats, they're made with such striking variety and refinement that you might hesitate to bite into them.

First created in the 16th century, when trade with China made sugar into a staple in Japan, wagashi have developed into one of the country's signature delicacies, appreciated for their taste but beloved for their form. You can browse and download a three-volume catalog of wagashi designs, itself centuries old, at the web site of Japan's National Diet Library: volume one, volume two, volume three.

The site also has a special section about wagashi, though in Japanese only. The catalog itself, of course, also contains text in no other language, but wagashi isn't about words.




Even without knowing Japanese, you can flip through each volume's pages (volume one - volume two - volume three) and recognize the look of dozens of sweets you've seen or maybe even sampled in real life, where their colors may well look even more vivid than on the page.

Like most realms of traditional Japanese culture, wagashi demands painstaking craftsmanship. Often brought out at festivals and given as gifts, it also celebrates different aspects of Japan: its seasons, its landscapes, chapters of its history, and even its works of literature. Some wagashi designs do this abstractly, while others lean toward the representative, replicating real sights and symbols in a form both recognizable and edible.

Many wagashi, as Boing Boing's Andrea James writes, "still look the same as they did hundreds of years ago when the art form flourished in the Edo period" of the 17th and 18th century. Instagram, as she points out, has proven a natural online home for not just the kind of traditional wagashi seen in these catalogs but designs that pay tribute to figures of more recent vintage, such as Rilakkuma and the aliens from Toy Story.

And though Halloween may not be an originally Japanese holiday, it hasn't stopped modern wagashi-makers from bringing out the ghosts, skulls, and jack-o-lanterns in force.

via BoingBoing

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Wagashi: Peruse a Digitized, Centuries-Old Catalogue of Traditional Japanese Candies is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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How to Practice Effectively: Lessons from Neuroscience Can Help Us Master Skills in Music, Sports & Beyond

Practice makes perfect, so the cliché says, although like many clichés, it has also spawned corrective variants. "Practice makes permanent," a common one of them goes, and what it lacks in catchiness it may well make up for in neuroscientific truth. We've all recognized that, when we do things a certain way, we tend to keep doing them in that certain way; in fact, the more we've done them that way before, the more likely we'll do them that way next time. What holds true for simple habits, formed over long periods of time and often inadvertently, also holds true for deliberately perfected — or anyway, permanent-ified — tasks. But what happens in our brains to cause it?

"Practice is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement, and it helps us perform with more ease, speed, and confidence," says the narrator of "How to Practice Effectively... for Just About Anything," educators Annie Bosler and Don Greene's TED Ed video above. It then goes on to explain our two kinds of neural tissue, grey matter and white matter. The former "processes information in the brain, directing signals and sensory stimuli to nerve cells," and the latter "is mostly made up of fatty tissue and nerve fibers." When we move, "information needs to travel from the brain's grey matter, down the spinal cord, through a chain of nerve fibers called axons to our muscles," and those axons in the white matter "are wrapped with a fatty substance called myelin."




Myelin, and the sheath it forms, is key: "similar to insulation on electrical cables," it "prevents energy loss from electrical signals that the brain uses, moving them more efficiently along neural pathways." (You've probably read about the weakening of myelin sheaths as a factor in ALS and other movement-related neurological disorders.) Recent studies performed on mice suggest that repeating a motion builds up the layers of those axon-insulating myelin sheaths, "and the more layers, the greater the insulation around the axon chains; forming a sort of superhighway for information connecting your brain to your muscles." This, though it has no direct effect on our muscles, may be what we're building when we say we're building "muscle memory."

All interesting facts, to be sure, but how can they help us in or own practice sessions, whatever those sessions may find us practicing? Bosler and Greene provide a series of tips, each quite simple but all in alignment with current neuroscientific knowledge. They include:

  • Focus on the task at hand. "Minimize potential distractions by turning off the computer or TV and putting your cell phone on airplane mode."
  • Go slow. "Coordination is built with repetitions, whether correct or incorrect. If you gradually increase the speed of the quality repetitions, you have a better chance of doing them correctly."
  • Frequent repetitions with allotted breaks. "Studies have shown that many top athletes, musicians, and dancers spend 50-60 hours per week on activities related to their craft. Many divide their time used for effective practice into multiple daily practice sessions of limited duration."
  • Practice in your imagination. "In one study, 144 basketball players were divided into two groups. Group A physically practiced one-handed free throws while Group B only mentally practiced them. When they were tested at the end of the two week experiment, the intermediate and experienced players in both groups had improved by nearly the same amount."

If you'd like more suggestions on how to practice effectively, have a look at the list of twelve tips from Wynton Marsalis we featured here on Open Culture last year. He takes a more expansive approach, encouraging those who practice — not just music but sports, art, or anything else besides — to adopt strategies like writing out a schedule, avoiding showing off, and staying optimistic. We must also stay realistic: optimism, even optimism backed by science, can't make our skills perfect. None of our skills are perfect — not even Wynton Marsalis' — but with the right techniques, we can at least give them some degree of permanence.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How to Practice Effectively: Lessons from Neuroscience Can Help Us Master Skills in Music, Sports & Beyond is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The post How to Practice Effectively: Lessons from Neuroscience Can Help Us Master Skills in Music, Sports & Beyond appeared first on IACCCE.

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