Death Cloud

In case you haven't noticed, I like to share other creative projects from time to time, usually ones completed by friends of mine.

This week, I present the super ominous, super cool Death Cloud. It's a novel by my buddy RJ Batla from his Senturians of Terraunum fantasy series.

He's trying something new this time and running a Kickstarter campaign. Naturally, I've backed it.

If you're interested, you can check it out right here!

 

And hey, if you've got some cool creative project you're ready to share with the world, let me know about it. You never know, I might just check it out and post something.

AlphaMystica

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So, what’s the deal with AI these days?

What do they know? What are they capable of? What do they want from us? And how do they feel when we abandon them in the woods with their sad little faces staring longingly into our swiftly departing rearview mirrors?

You’ll find out all that and more from this article.

Designer Diary: The Search for AlphaMystica

Alright, I confess, it’s not really about that stuff I said before. But it is about AI and boardgames. 

Tysen Streib, an AI developer for games shares his insights and struggles as he works on an AI for a digital version of the game Terra Mystica.

I’ll admit, the article gets very technical by the end—even for a genius like me (yes, I still have to look up how to spell the word ”genius”), but the beginning part is especially interesting. It turns out that not only can AI beat the best chess player, they can also beat the best Go player.

First, there was AlphaGo, which learned by studying human games, then came AlphaZero, which was completely self-taught and markedly better than AlphaGo. It’s kinda freaky when you think about it too much (which I do), especially if you’re really into boardgames (which I am).

What other areas of life will AI develop complete mastery over their human competitors?

Well, I have yet to meet one able to make a better quesadilla than I can, so we’re still safe for the time being. But when that day comes ... be afraid, be very afraid.

Planecrafters

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Every now and then someone I know makes something awesome. In this case, it’s a board game (well, technically a card game) by my buddy Michael Patience.

And the name of the game is

Planecrafters

It’s up on Kickstarter right now and if you’re into card or board games I recommend you get it.

In Planecrafters, you build a task force of specialized workers in order assemble airplanes out of any spare parts available. Based on the workers you hire and the planes you build, you get shiny coins.

I have played the game in a nearly finished state and my wife and I loved it. It has all things I enjoy in a casual game: easy to learn, many roads to victory, player interaction, great art, unique theme, and, most of all, fun!

So fire up your engines, propel yourself over to Kickstarter and nab a copy.*

*I was not in any way paid or even asked to promote this game, I honestly enjoyed it and hope it sells well (I’ve already backed it myself).

Good Book, Good Animation

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As you probably know already, I’m a Christ follower. It’s not a big secret or anything, but I also try not to be too forward about it either. It’s who I am, it’s an important part of my life, and if you get to know me, you’ll find out about it one way or another.

Since I’m a Christ follower, reading the Bible is something I do pretty regularly. Believe it or not, I actually love reading it. It’s not a chore for me (though it’s not always easy). I could go on about why I think the “Good Book” is so great, but hey, if you really want to know, just ask me some time.

But this post is not about Bible reading, it’s about Bible watching.

Say what?

If you like animation and have even the remotest interest in what the Bible is about, you definitely need to check out...

The Bible Project

This may sound surprising (it does to me), but I think I’ve learned more about the central themes of the Bible from The Bible Project than I have from listening to sermons or even my own reading time.

They do a great job of breaking things down into simple ideas and explaining a lot of stuff that is typically misunderstood about the collection of ancient texts known as the Bible. And that’s pretty nice because the Bible can be super confusing and daunting. Have you seen the size of that thing? It's huge!

Besides, let’s be honest here, no one has ever accused me of being too smart or too Biblical. Not once. But I’ll wager even if you have suffered such fiery accusations, you’ll learn a thing or two watching The Bible Project. Plus, the animations are top notch (this, from a professional animator).

space & sound

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Two fun audio/visual links for you today, both brought to you by APOD, which I've mentioned before.

 

First, a galactically packed image where each galaxy has a sound based on its distance:

The Hubble Ultra-Deep Field in Light and Sound

 

Next, a cross-section of Saturn's rings, which can be played in both major and minor keys.

Play Saturn's Rings Like a Harp

 

Safe travels (mind the tribbles and the treble clef) as you enjoy you voyage through space and sound!

your own thing

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Brief one today.

First, a confession. I really like Maggie Rogers’ music. I don’t know, it just moves me. Ya know?

I only recently watched her success story video, which you can find on YouTube here.

In it, Pharrell Williams (Mr. “Happy” himself), listens to Maggie’s song during a music class critique and is clearly blown away. 

Even better than his facial expressions throughout (and Maggie losing herself to the music) is his feedback. 

“You’re doing your own thing,” Pharrell says, “and that is such a special quality and all of us possess that ability, but you have to be willing to seek.”

I think it’s a wise outlook for any creative. 

You can learn from others and study a craft, but in the end, you have to be boldly creative in the one way you were called to be—your own unique way.

When you do that, it stands out because you're doing something truly special in a world full of imitation.

Radiolab: color & marrow

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For this week, a couple recommendations, both from the Radiolab podcast:

Colors

All sorts of fascinating stories and discoveries about colors, including the one animal that can see more colors than any other, some people who have additional color sense, and why Homer (The Odyssey one, not Simpson) never mentions the color blue. All fascinating stuff from a creativity standpoint.

Match Made in Marrow

A story of a bone marrow donor, the man she saved and where their unique connection has led them. I found both the presentation and the story itself unique and intriguing. I hope you will as well.

There you have it. You're welcome and enjoy!

background music

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I’ve recently come across a few articles about background music and how it relates to creativity. I thought you might enjoy the share.

This article covers evidence that happier music may promote more creativity thought.

This article, by esteemed author Ryan Holiday, discusses his habit of listening to the same song or set of songs on repeat like a madman, even songs he doesn’t particularly enjoy.

I’ve given it a bit of thought but haven’t dedicated myself to any specific method.

Typically, I’ll listen to instrumental music because I find words distracting, especially when I’m writing. Lately, that’s been piano music. I’ll often find a set on YouTube and then follow similar links.

I have recently discovered, and greatly enjoyed, Mattia Vlad Morleo, after watching an eclipse video with a stelar musical composition.

Hey Creatives, I’d love to hear what your listening habits are when you want to be in a creative mode. Do you crank up the volume or need utter silence?

story from a word - part 2

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It’s been a while since I offered up one of these. Based on a writing assignment from my class with David Farland, the goal is to write a brief narrative paragraph based on one word. You may recall my last one, Horse.

Without further ado, here it is, story from a word, Part Deux.

House

To say the building was dilapidated would be a gross understatement. Unlivable would be closer to the truth. Dangerous, now that was a fine word. Its moss-covered roof sagged so low on one side that it could be reached from the ground without the aid of a ladder or step-stool. The glass in its windows had been punched out like decayed teeth long ago. Even the boards once nailed over the windows had now fallen off, leaving the building with an eerie, vacant expression. Most of the steps leading to the entrance were either broken in half or missing altogether. A pathetic pile of bricks now slouched where a chimney once stood. Tangled vines criss-crossed up the rotted-out paneled siding of the house, pulling it down into the swampy earth. Long ago, the building had been constructed from the trees of the bayou and now, it seemed, the bayou wanted its lumber back. And to think, a family once called it home.

 

Give it a try: write your own narrative paragraph based on the word, "house," then share it here. I'd love to see what you come up with.

improv(e)

I read an article by Leigh Anne Jasheway with suggestions on how to improve creative writing using some improv activities. In it, she laid out some ground rules before getting started. After reading the rules, I realized, hey, these could apply pretty well to getting started with any creative project. 

Instead of exercises, she prefers to call them games, because they’re meant to be fun, not work, to get your brain thinking. 

  • There is no wrong way to play. And you can’t fail—so there’s no reason not to jump in and just see what happens.
  • Don’t wait until you have a great idea to move forward. Move forward and great ideas will come. Creativity is like a rusty spigot; you have to turn it on and let the gunk run through the pipes in order for the clean water to eventually pour out.
  • Nothing is too silly to try. As the scriptwriter Beth Brandon said, “Opening your imagination to the ridiculous opens your mind to what you’re not otherwise seeing. In other words, it makes room for the genius to come through.”
  • Whatever happens, explore without judgment. Improv is all about shutting down your inner critic and not measuring your work against anyone else’s (including your own previous writing). Yes, you’ll end up taking some side trips, but who knows what you might discover along the way.

Creative exercises (or, if you prefer, games) can be a great way to not only come up with some fresh ideas, but also to explore avenues you hadn’t yet dreamed of. They can help you refine your work before exposing it to the light of day, as I wrote about earlier. They offer a safe place, free of judgement, in which to explore and discover something wonderful before you share it with the rest of us. Then again, they can be just as fun to do in groups and laugh at the results. Don’t believe me, try a mad-lib or two with some friends and you’ll see.

 

Hey Creatives, do you have a favorite creative exercise? Let us know in the comments below.