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Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

I’m still debating whether to take on NaNoWriMo this year.  I want to, but I am still up to my eyeballs with moving and jobbing and everything else I’ve got going.  I wouldn’t even consider it, except that “RSL” is complete and being critiqued. I don’t expect the crits to be done before December, so I have no other writing projects going right now. My fingers itch for the keyboard…

Will this blog be enough?  Oh yeah.  Flamencophile.com languishes for lack of attention, too.  Maybe not.

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Love and Promises

Writing is what’s on my mind today. My post, Nakedness, is listed on the Personal Power Blog Carnival at Pinkblocks.com. Last night I sent out my revised Part One of “Return of the Shadow Lion” to my Dedicated Readers, or DRs as they are known in Critters.org/critique.org lingo. The critiques, or crits, that came back off of last week’s submission of the Prologue and first three chapters of RSL were very helpful and gave me a lot to do and think about during the revision. The “Critters” (another critique.org term) not only made great comments, and asked insightful and pointed questions, they also gave me an unexpected gift.

After I sent out the first section, I sat back and reflected on what I’ve learned so far. That’s when I saw the real theme of the fantasy novel that has consumed so much of my time lately. Love and promises. Oh, I’d known that was in there, but several sub-themes and the necessary obsession with detail that is required for the editing process had distracted me from the primary point.

For all of the ordeals that I put my characters through and how much they suffer for their goals, this one thing became quite clear. Down to the last malakh, good or bad, honorable or scoundrel, the quality of their lives and their legacies is determined by one thing–whether they act out of limited self-interest or for the good of others. Their fates are sealed out of that fundamental choice of whether or not to live out of love. All else, their promises and commitments, and how they choose to fulfill those, flows from the fount of what lies deep within their hearts. And it isn’t always black and white, or obvious, what drives some of them. That’s the suspense and the surprise of it. It’s also a lot of the fun of the writing of it, too.

It is often the ones that suffer the most for their choices, lose their lives for their commitments even, that have the highest quality of life. They are the ones who love well and deeply; they die the same way. Their legacies are all different. They may come to their demise with grace or groveling, end up variously respected, vilified or redeemed, but the one constant is love. Love and promises.

Whatever happens with this book, whether it eventually finds a publisher or languishes on a CD-R in my office closet, matters a lot less to me at the moment than my happiness over having written something with a transcendent message. I do feel some obligation to help it find a larger audience than just me and half dozen critiquers, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the message it contains won’t allow itself be limited by either the vagaries of the publishing industry or the limits of my writing skill. Heck, it isn’t limited to the written page at all. That’s just this one messenger’s particular medium. The message itself flows into, fills, and overflows all of our little boxes, just as it flows into, fills and overflows our lives–if we let it.

Those are my thoughts on this blustery morning in Parks, Arizona. It rained last night and the San Francisco Peaks are sporting a wreath of clouds as I write this. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the first snowfall of the season dusting the higher elevations once the clouds lift. Today, I’ll be immersed in more editing and hammering away at flamencophile.com. I may even get a few boxes packed. Until next time, this Ariel Laurel Strong for the Cloud of Unknowing on WordPress.com. Posted on Sunday, September 23 at 18:59 UTC.

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It all started out innocently enough. I just got mad about my content being scraped over and over. I’m all for humans using technology to eliminate drudgery and expand opportunity. What I don’t like is humans using technology to use other humans.

After railing about the injustice and applying a few ineffective remedies, I decided to try something else. What follows won’t work against every scraper site, but it does alert users that they are reading stolen content and asserts your claim on your intellectual property. It’s kind of funny, too. Note: This is mainly for a hosted blog. If you have access to the server where your blog resides, there are better remedies.

I used two simple principles to design a “spam sandwich” to bait a scraper’s spider:

1) A human can quickly and easily scan to see if content is relevant and interesting. A human can also skim over the irrelevant parts and extract what was meant for human consumption only.

2) An automated scraper bot cannot. Do use care, however, in designing your “fly in the ointment.” Legitimate search engines can flag “over-optimized” content which is designed to alter search engine ranking, and could confuse your “spam sandwich” as an attempt to crank up your ratings, but with a little writing skill you can avoid getting penalized by Yahoo! or Google and still target your intended quarry – the dreaded Spiderbotus scraperus stinkerii.

Here’s the bot bait I designed using the above two principles: Three Great Ways to Increase Your Site Traffic

Here’s the result of the experiment: Open Season on Scraper Bots

There are lots of ways these ideas could be improved and refined. I’d like to hear the results of any similar experiment you conduct. The possibilities are endless. And of course, if you choose to indulge in this sort of behavior remember these words of wisdom by John Steinbeck:

“It has always been my private conviction that any man who puts his intelligence up against a fish and loses had it coming.”

In the meantime, if you like the idea, by all means use it. Just give me a link back, okay? (https://dangerousangel.wordpress.com/2007/09/19/vigilante-blog-justicehow-to-out-a-scraper-bot/)

Happy hunting. :-)
Ariel Laurel Strong on dangerousangel.wordpress.com

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Now that I’ve gone to putting at least one link back to this site somewhere in every post, I’m finding lots of my original content scattered around cyberspace. I’m not getting trackbacks, either; I’m finding the posts off of referrers coming into this site and to Flamencophile.com. They don’t even have the decency to give me a byline. Oh. Silly me. Such web denizens are not generally known for their well developed Internet manners.

The funny thing in all of this? My most recent blog posts with “web design,” “internet,” and “web development” tags are the ones that are getting hits the hardest (that was deliberate – read on, high volume readership – ha!) and it’s already sending lots of traffic to Flamencophile, which isn’t even out of development yet. (When a website isn’t even live yet, “increase in site traffic” is a relative term.)

Wonder if that title optimization will grab a few more of them. I hope so. And, I hope they use unmoderated bot-powered posts, too. That way, any human that happens to read this without an author’s attribution, or elsewhere than The Cloud of Unknowing on WordPress.com, will know that the blog or website they are on is posting content without the permission of the creator and in violation of intellectual property rights.

Itsy bitsy spiders crawling the web trying to find search engine optimized blog posts…but they do have certain built-in limitations. A computer program simply cannot do what a human can in filtering the written word for meaning and relevance. If you read this only slightly tongue-in-cheek article carefully, you can get an education in SEO. It could even be title d how to make money writing a thousand dollar blog post with web designs on how to get the highest traffic possible for search engine robot bait.

I learned many years ago in studying martial arts that an aggressive or offensive posture can often get you hurt easier than a neutral, or even a defensive, one. Save your energy for the big battles and use the attacker’s own momentum and energy against him… There’s more than one way to captcha the little web crawlers for one’s own nefarious purposes.

See, I didn’t wish a virus on those maddog scr*p#rs and sp^m$rs trying to make thousands of dollars, double their traffic, and earn high AdSense revenue off the work of honest bloggers like Ariel Laurel Strong. :-)

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The Prologue and first three chapters of my novel are out to the critique group, and the first two sections sit idle, pending the results of my request for dedicated readers. Now I wait. Wonder. Deal with my doubts. It’s rather funny, really. For all my talk about not worrying about what others think, I found myself getting uptight about this one.

The judgement of others on one’s creative progeny carries the potential for enlightenment and for intimidation. I’m sure to get valuable feedback; I will undoubtedly have to deal with at least some emotional reactivity, no matter what is said. Praise or criticism can be equal diversions from true creativity.

So, I did what I often do when I need a little boost – turned to the thoughts and reflections of someone who succeeded where I hope to tread. As usual, John Steinbeck spoke to my dilemma. Mo ghile mear. Some of my great hero’s thoughts on writing:

The basic rule given us was simple and heartbreaking. A story to be effective had to convey something from the writer to the reader, and the power of its offering was the measure of its excellence. Outside of that, there were no rules.

Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.

We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say—and to feel—”Yes, that’s the way it is, or at least that’s the way I feel it. You’re not as alone as you thought.”

The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.

~ John Steinbeck, 1902-1968
American Novelist and Writer, Nobel Prize for Literature for 1962

For more on John Steinbeck, see the Steinbeck Center website, or visit Critical Thinkers : : Steinbeck Resources for a wealth of great links.

At the moment, I am particularly taken by that last quote. I need to keep the perspective that no matter what anyone else may think of the product, the process of writing is a big part of my path. In that respect, it is absolutely essential to me, though no one else may ever, or needs to, give a hoot.

It appears that I must also write that lullaby I am to sing, as referenced in the “My Mission in Life” post. And I’m willing to bet it’s a story song about angels and dragons and other fanciful creatures…and probably to the rhythm of a nana or a bambera.

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“If you follow the classical pattern, you’re understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow – you are not understanding yourself.” ~ Bruce Lee

I am stripping away everything I thought I knew about playing guitar, using everything I know from every other thing I’ve done in my life, in an effort to pare down to just the essentials. Basics. Fundamentals. The three R’s – Relax, Release, Repeat.

In the midst of this process, I ran across the following quote by Bruce Lee, the famous martial artist.  Lee, in his own way stripped down everything he knew from his years of training in the classic Chinese martial art of Wing Chun, by listening to his own inner knowing and through tireless experiment.

I wish neither to possess nor to be possessed.
I no longer covet paradise.
More important, I no longer fear hell…
The medicine for my suffering
I had within me from the very beginning,
But I did not take it.
My ailment came from within myself,
But I did not observe it.
Until this moment.
Now I see that I will never find the light
Unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel,
Consuming myself.

~ Bruce Lee

For years, I tried to possess the secret of fine playing, pursuing some idea that the answer was outside myself, in teachers, exercises, practice, performance. For many years more, I gave up the pursuit.  When I returned to playing seriously, I started to repeat the same old errors.

In the last few days, I have been discovering something wonderful. I haven’t been doing anything on my lesson materials, none of the pieces, or even working on compás. But in my staying away from the specifics, and dwelling on the fundamentals, I’ve finally understood the spirit of the last few lessons.

“Duende,” “aire,” the soul, the angel of the music – those things cannot be grasped. They arise like a phoenix out of the ashes, as one consumes one’s own preconceived notions, burns away the fears, the worries, and the doubts, and ignites the inner passion that lies at the heart of creativity.

Like so much else on this blog over the past nine months, one thing turns around and mirrors and symbolizes another. My old post on “It’s Not the Flames That Kill You” takes on new meaning.  One more pass through the fire…

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Too, too much fun! All of this focus on compás and rhythm improvement has had an unexpected payoff. I was practicing along on one of the pop tunes for my gig at the Campus Coffee Bean and a flamenco strum slipped in there. It was totally unconscious, and it worked. Cool!

A little while later, I was working some chords up the guitar neck on another tune and, just wondering what it would sound like, I substituted a discordant B chord that is common in flamenco, but rather unusual in a old folk-rock sort of piece. (Bar a B chord at the seventh fret, lift the bar, just placing the first finger on the sixth string, and leave the first two strings open.) That worked, too. Hey, this is fun.

Stuff is clicking in unexpected ways and I’m unconsciously developing a unique sound to my playing. That’s something rather new for a classical guitarist who always tried to play it the “right” way and rarely took any chances with her music.

It does make me wonder where all this is headed, though. How did that uptight, sweet, little paper-trained musician ever find the chutzpah to become a firefighter/EMT/skydiver/river rat, etc.? And now that the harum scarum risktaker has settled down (a bit), will her music get edgier? Seems to be going that direction, anyway.

Well, I’m off to finish loading up for the Campus Coffee Bean gig tonight…

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