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A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about. Ask me anything you can't Google.



Oct 21, 2014
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Lydia Davis’ “Head, Heart,” from The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, handwritten by Maira Kalman in her new book, My Favorite Things (via)

Lydia Davis’ “Head, Heart,” from The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, handwritten by Maira Kalman in her new book, My Favorite Things (via)

Oct 20, 2014
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Why going into debt for (art) school is a terrible idea

In Steal Like An Artist, I wrote: “Get the education you need for as cheap as you can get it.” As anybody who’s followed my “you don’t have to go to college” tag knows, going into soaking debt for a degree is a bad idea, but even more so for artists. This graphic is from a recently published report, “Artists Report Back: A National Study on the Lives of Arts Graduates and Working Artists” by BFAMFAPhD:

In the United States, 40 percent of working artists do not have a bachelors degree in any field. Only 16 percent of working artists have arts related bachelors degrees. Though arts graduates may acquire additional opportunities and skills from attending art school, arts graduates are likely to graduate with significant student loan debt, which makes working as an artist difficult, if not impossible. We acknowledge that some arts graduates are satisfied with work in other fields, but the fantasy of arts graduates’ future earnings in the arts should be discredited.

Emphasis mine. Hyperallergic has an in-depth look at the report, and points out that it’s not just applicable to art students, either:

While this report focuses specifically on the arts, I couldn’t help but notice that it’s a part of a much larger conversation that’s been roiling across fields recently, particularly when it comes to graduate degrees. Our higher education system is producing a vast quantity of workers with educations and expectations for high-level and high-paying jobs that simply do not exist in the quantity needed to employ all these people.

…this is not an isolated issue in the arts — we’re training hundreds of thousands of young people who dream of gaining lucrative, or at least sustaining, long-term employment in a job market that is over-saturated with precisely those people and has been steadily losing good jobs.

To quote Steve Albini: “Some of your friends are already this fucked.”

The only decent argument I’ve heard for getting an MFA or teaching at an MFA program came from George Saunders:

I would feel weird if my students were going into mad debt to study with me. At Syracuse, we give 100 percent remitted tuition and about 15K a year, which a person can (sort of, approximately) live on in Syracuse. In any event, nobody’s leaving here with, you know, 80K in student loans. So this changes the dynamic dramatically. I feel good about teaching here, I feel like it’s honest. If we can help someone along their personal trajectory, great. If not, well, the person is only three years older than he/she was.

Via BoingBoing: It’s all but impossible to earn a living as a working artist, new report shows

Filed under: you don’t have to go to college

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s four types of readers

From lecture two of his Seven Lectures On Shakespeare and Milton

(Thx @communicatrix!)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s four types of readers

From lecture two of his Seven Lectures On Shakespeare and Milton

(Thx @communicatrix!)

Oct 17, 2014
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I wrote a little something about reading here.

I wrote a little something about reading here.

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I have maybe one suicide a year and they all seem to be poets. If I were an insurance company, I’d never write a policy for poets.
— Margalit Fox on writing obituaries

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To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect.

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How to pitch a creative idea

Over at The Atlantic, Derek Thompson points out that people think they like creativity, but teachers, scientists, and experts usually reject things that are too new. One possible solution? Disguise your new idea as an old one:

Creative people often bristle at the suggestion that they have to stoop to marketing their ideas. It’s more pleasant to think that one’s brilliance is self-evident and doesn’t require the gloss of sales or the theater of marketing. But whether you’re an academic, screenwriter, or entrepreneur, the difference between a brilliant new idea with bad marketing a mediocre idea with excellent marketing can be the difference between success and bankruptcy.

American culture worships creativity, but mostly in the abstract. Most people really don’t like new ideas that sound entirely new, particularly the experts that often have to approve them. The trick is learning to frame new ideas as old ideas—to make your creativity seem, well, not quite so creative.

Filed under: show your work

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John Darnielle, Wolf In White Van

Filed under: my reading year 2014

John Darnielle, Wolf In White Van

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Oct 15, 2014
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In Impro, Keith Johnstone writes that when improvisers try to be original, they fail. “Don’t be original; be obvious.” When you state the obvious, you actually seem original. Paradoxical, eh? Likewise, the more specific the feelings, experiences, stories – the more universal they appear. The trick is, what’s completely obvious to you isn’t obvious to anyone else. Many people can tell exactly the same story about exactly the same event, but if each speaks from their authentic point of view, each story will seem “original.”

Oct 14, 2014
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if you want to get hit by a train you better go stand on the track.
— St. Vincent on writing
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