Tetris vs. Pong: A question of creativity?

Mal | Art Process and Creativity | Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

 Tetris
 photo credit: mat.teo 

While listening to NPR radio the other day, I learned that the ubiquitous video game Tetris turns 25 this year.

The game’s original programmer, Alexey Pajitnov, was interviewed and mostly ended up talking about the experience of trying to own the rights to his creative work, which was conceived during the 1980′s in communist Russia (and which probably explains that awesome theme music). Well, while that raises all kinds of interesting questions about who owns creative output, what really caught my attention was a throw-away question toward the end of the interview.

BOB GARFIELD: Now, I have to go back to the ’70s, actually, and I remember playing one of the early video games called Pong, which was developed by Atari. And when I think back to how ridiculous I was, to be putting quarters into machines in video arcades, to play that game, you know, I feel like an idiot. But I don’t feel like an idiot, going back to my first experience, more than two decades ago, with Tetris. Why does this game have such legs?

ALEXEY PAJITNOV: Well, many people have different opinion about that. But I still like Pong, and I wouldn’t mind to put couple of quarters to enjoy it. I don’t see anything wrong with it, by the way. But as far as Tetris is concerned, the game is very simple and it has very natural user interface. It has some kind of creative style. In most of the game you just shoot and destroy. In Tetris you try to build something, to put the order in the scales of random pieces. And probably that’s what make you feel a little bit better about what you’re doing with your quarters.

(You can hear the entire interview or read a transcript at the On the Media website. I recommend you do so, because Alexey’s Russian accent really adds to the experience.)

Tetris is a simple video game, yes. It can be addictive and a tremendous waste of time. It does, however, require some creative problem solving. There are a multitude of ways to solve the problem of tetris. It is, as Pajitnov notes, more about building something stable than tearing something down.

Pong is not about destruction, but is a game requiring some skill and minimal creative problem solving. Playing it  can quickly turn into a boring, repetitive tasks. It has had very little staying power in terms of popularity and perpetuation — and why would it? Who needs more boring repetitive tasks in their world?

As an interesting note, if you search for “tetris” on flickr, you’ll find all kinds of crazy creations — tetris halloween costumes, cupcakes, even jewelry! Searching for “pong,” on the other hand, returns mostly images of the original game, its packaging, and other retro-philic stuff. Does tetris itself encourage more creativity? More building and making? There is a recent study that suggests tetris may help to ameliorate the effects and memories of trauma. Is it the videogame that does it? Or is there something inherently healing about using that creative part of our brains? We may never know, but I think you know where my bias lies.

To me, this building something — this making order of my world through creativity — pays great dividends. Like Pajitnov, I do feel better when I spend my “quarters” on pursuits that build rather than destroy. It’s a privilege to spend these coins of time, effort, energy, and other resources which are in short supply on building a creative life.

What about you? Where do you spend your “quarters?”

Surfacing

Mal | Here and Now | Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Surfacing

The image above is from a painting I made a few years ago. I admit, it’s one of my favorites and (unlike most of the artwork I make which is destined for the recycling bin) it resides in my bedroom where I can see it.

I woke up this morning, rolled over, saw it hanging there, and smiled. The painting definitely reflects my current emotional state, and thank heaven! All was a bit doom-y and gloom-y there for a few weeks.

I suppose there are only a few circumstances in our lives when a few select words can change everything for the better. You know, things like:

  • You’ve won the lottery!
  • Will you marry me?
  • Auntie June had a little money squirreled away, and they want you to attend a reading of her will.

Late on Friday afternoon, I was called into a meeting where just such a set of words was delivered to me. In the interest of professionalism (and not getting dooced somewhere along the line), let’s just say that in the blink of an eye, 90% of my work woes were gone. Just like that.

I’m still traveling to my parents’ house later this week, and in spite of great love and affection, that’s always a bit stressful. But, all in all, I would say I am surfacing. If you follow me on twitter, you know that I actually started surfacing the day before the good news was delivered. It all had to do with relinquishing my fantasies of control and accepting whatever outcomes might come from the difficulty and drama I was experiencing.

Thanks for your great care and support while I pulled myself back together over here. Now that we are out of raw survival mode, I should be able to get back to the business of posting about creativity and art therapy.

How about you? What is your emotional state today? Can you sum it up in one word?

Make it because

Mal | Art Therapy,Finished Projects,Handmade,Here and Now,Prosaic | Monday, June 15th, 2009

Maxed-out bag

Because I started it a few weeks ago in one of my therapy groups, and have been meaning to finish it.

Maxed-out bag

Because sometimes just saying, “I’m maxed out” isn’t enough.

Maxed-out bag

Because I just finished a whole series of blog entries about how to fit creativity into our busy lives, after all. (Thank you, Emma, for the reminder.)

Maxed-out bag

Because I’m an art therapist, and I believe in the power of art to express and explore our thoughts and feelings.

Maxed-out bag

Because even though it took precious time, it made me feel better.

Weekly Roundup

Mal | Roundup | Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Testing beaded fringe

When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.

Buckminster Fuller

This week

Most of my free emotional and mental space (where the blogging and crafting used to fit) is all filled up right now. That surplus of creative energy with which I usually write, sew, and paint is currently employed with trying to find creative solutions to some major, major problems that have arisen at work and in my family. I sense that we are working toward solutions, but it has certainly slowed down my blogging, hasn’t it?

Please note

My cartwheel quilting method was highlighted on Joan’s Quilting on a Budget blog. She said some very nice things. Thanks, Joan! It’s always nice to meet people who respond to what I’m trying to do with turning*turning.

Comment highlights

Still, t*t readers continue to contribute wonderful nuggets of thought and wisdom. Here are a few that came through this week.

We’ve gotten a few more thoughts about making time for creativity.

Making time is always a challenge- for me its about finding the balance. I am so “all-or-nothing” that I tend to dive in and get swallowed up in whatever I focus on, whether that is ‘making’ or attending to daily responsibilities. I do think of making time as ‘me-time’ and it often comes last.
this past year I have had some physical limitations that have ended up being a gret ebenfit to me in this area. Not being able to sustain activities for any length of time has forced me to figure out how to do a little bit about a lot of things. Surprisingly, this piecemeal approach has resulted in several unfinished projects getting done, and even a couple of bigger ones! Now I try to spend a little time instead of trying to do it all in one sitting, and so far, its working!

Catherine (no blog)

Delurking to post a quickie: Like some of the others who responded, I try to work a little time for projects into my crazy schedule. Sometimes that means cutting out stencils or hexagons (!) at lunch in my office, or doing web-based research during slow time at work. Recent research projects: search for outlines of sparrows, ravens, hummingbirds, late ‘60 R/T Chargers and VW Bugs to make into stencils or stamps; hexagon quilts – which is how I found your wonderful blog; American pioneer / prairie dresses vs English muslin dresses of the early 1800s – just looking for stuff to inspire or inform future projects. Like others, I know I’m spending more time admiring the work of others than actually working on my own stuff. Sometimes I only have the time (or the energy) to be be inspired, and I’ve learned to accept that.

When I was able to take public transportation to work, I would knit or crochet on my commute. Now I must drive, which takes away my commute-time crafting, and ooooooh was I bitter about that! Recently, though, I realized that my car, which I park all spring / summer in a warm location, makes a perfect bleach stencil making / stamp curing location. Here’s what I do: I make the stamp / stencil during breaks at work, and the next morning, when I park my car at work, I put together the project & let it cure. When I get back to my car at the end of my day, my project has BECOME something in my car. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me…

Anyway, thanks for the inspiration you’ve provided & that which is to come.

Muna Samira (no blog, but photostream over on flickr)

I like the way that quilting can always stand for ‘getting it together’ — that is, the way the actual piecing of disparate elements is in and of itself an integrative act. That means that when all else feels like it’s whirling in chaos or falling apart, I can look at whatever I’m making and say, “but THIS is coming together…. “

Dee of Dee Mallon & Cloth Company

Good reads around Blogland

And finally

Not only am I facing some work challenges and gearing up for a trip to my parents’ house in the next couple of weeks, but also I just submitted the application for my state psychotherapy licensure. (I’m nationally certified but am pursuing a state license to practice independently.) This means that I’ll have two major exams to study for over the next couple of months. It’s going to be a miracle if I can keep making things and/or blogging about them! Please send all positive, creative, calming vibes my way!

What to do: Make time for making

Mal | Art Process and Creativity,Give-aways | Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

100th post giveaway

A few days ago, I asked, “How do you make time for making?”

I’m honored that so many of you chose to respond, as this is a topic that we all have to confront from time to time. So, here is a breakdown of the recurring themes in your answers, in order of popularity.

1) Squeeze creative time into small moments, whenever you get a chance, such as between other chores. Here, we have the “just do it” approach. This was our most popular answer — take advantage of small opportunities that present themselves most every day.

I make time by not waiting until I have a big block of time. I used to think I had to have a dedicated chunk (like 2 hours or more) to get anything done. But now I just keep a running list of bite-sized tasks, and if I have 15 minutes, I do one. The next time I have 15 minutes, I do another one. It adds up, and I’m getting a lot done! I also find that this lets me have multiple projects going at once. If I don’t feel like doing task 5 for project A, maybe I can do task 2 for project B instead.

I also stopped waiting until I had time to myself…

Evelyn of Use the Loot

2) Ignoring other “important stuff” — this includes things like housework, social obligations, and other negotiables but also includes neglecting things like sleep, cooking, and health issues. I’m not sure I can advocate this technique, although it certainly seems to be common! Christine’s entry makes me laugh, but many of the comments in this category are a little concerning.

I make time for making by leaving out non-essential things like eating and sleeping. Haha, sane? No… chocolate covered bridge mix helps with the eating, the sleeping problem? Haven’t figured that one out yet. I can’t help it that I sometimes stop quilting because my foot is cramping up and see that it’s 1am. Oops, how did that happen…?

Christine from Cutting Edge Quilt

3) Have a schedule, make dates/appointments with yourself. This is something that I will probably never be able to have any success with, but I’m happy that it works for so many of you!

When I see a free day on my calender- I try to actually make an appointment with myself. It helps me not have any excuses with other tasks. When I find 5 or 10 min a day that I don’t have anything going on I check out the web- blogs, flickr etc for inspiration so I’m ready for the days I plan to be away from technology with all these mental images and sketches that come from them!

Liz of Chunk of Chedder

4) Cutting out TV or time on the computer. ULP!

I make time to ‘create’ by GETTING OFF THE COMPUTER!!!! I spend so much time admiring stuff online; it does inspire me, but I just keep reading and playing.

Shelley C (no blog)

5) This wasn’t necessarily a “popular” answer, but it is probably my favorite one and one that I would say has been true in my life recently: Broaden your definition of creativity.

How do you make time for making?
It seems I never stop “making”. I see patterns everywhere I look. I dream about sewing. My color favorites are seen in the Fall season. A field of wheat waiting for cutting, pale blue sky and the turning leaves are my pallet of colors.
I set rules for myself. A little housework then the reward of sewing something. I even find joy in super-cleaning my sewing machine or winding a box of bobbins so I am ready to go with the next rush of sewing.

Subee Mohr of Subee Sews

20090607-random33

Congratulations to Casey of Casey Random who wins the mini quilt with her email announcing that she had earned the bonus point. All of the entries — comments and emails — were lined up in my email folder and Casey’s was number 33. This means that Casey commented, twittered, subscribed, and blogged. Go Casey!

Honorable mention goes to Tracy of Unfolding Moments who wrote an entire blog entry inspired by the question.

If you haven’t answered the question yet, please share: How do you make time for making? Does it fit into one of these categories?

Tutorial: Cartwheel Quilting Motif

backofquilt

I got lots of questions about the quilting detail on the 100th Post Giveaway mini quilt. Some thought it was a simple square motif. However, you can see from the illustration above that it is a bit more complex than that. The shape is almost like a 4-leafed clover, with intersection-points in the center of each cartwheel. You can start at any point on the motif and quilt in a continuous line until you reach that point again.

Here’s the view from the front.

cartwheelfronton

The mini-quilt was machine quilted, but I think this motif would work equally well with hand-quilting.

Stay tuned! The winner of this mini-quilt will be announced tomorrow.

Weekly Roundup

Mal | Roundup | Sunday, June 7th, 2009

MAL Quilt

Special thanks

The photo above (and those that follow) shows a wonderful mini-quilt made for me by Victoria of Bumblebeans. She wanted to swap for the collage that I made last week and I’m only too happy to send it to her! The quilt she made says my name, MAL, and she used it to practice her machine quilting skills. Looks great to me, lady! Thanks for your generosity!

I can’t wait to hang it on the walls outside my bedroom, where I’m hanging other mini-quilts.

What I worked on this week

Welcome to my slowest blogging week yet! Situations at work and with my family have eaten up most of my brainpower this week, and I am behind not only on blog writing but also blog reading. I’ve canceled all of my plans for tonight, though, and will be catching up on both reading and writing. It’s good for my mental health, and after a week like I’ve had, I’m particularly interested in what we, in The Biz, call “self care.”

MAL Quilt close-up

5 comments you should read

Of course, You All haven’t taken a break from contributing excellent and thought-provoking comments and I’m so glad to be able to highlight some of them. Be sure to always check and see what your fellow readers are saying!

(Read on for more…)

Making meaning: Hexagons and siblings

Mal | Handmade,Media,Quilting,Sewing,Works in Progress | Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Hex rough draft

There’s a saying in family therapy that each member of a family lives in a different family than every other member of the family. That is to say that each person’s perspective, their relationships to the other family members, and their unique experiences gives every family member their own story.

What does that have to do with my mini hexagon quilt project?

Hex stack

See, it’s not only my goal to make more things, but also to make more meaning with my creative endeavors. As an art therapist, it was natural for me to wonder if there was any meaning underpinning my hexagon phase. Maybe that sounds like a strange thing to say — hundreds and thousands of you are out there with your own hexagon quilts and that thought probably never crossed your  mind.

But the way the project seized me in the spring, the way I dove in headfirst and pushed the project into all of my spare moments, and the times and places when making hexagons became most important to me all added up to this: maybe there’s something there.

Hexagon pieces

I’m the 2nd of 7 children. My parents are still married and my siblings all get along fairly well. No one is disowned or giving the silent treatment to anyone else. All in all, compared with other families I know, I can say we are doing pretty well. Still, you can’t grow up in a family of 9 without it affecting you profoundly and there are certain, recent family circumstances — intense shifting of roles, jockeying for position, new alliances where there was once tension — that may have made this hexagon project take on an extra meaning for me.

 Hexagons clustered

You may remember that the hexagons hit me full force during a time when we were dealing with the state of my parents’ house (including my mother’s fabric hoarding), when armies of my siblings were descending for “clean-out days” and some of the fallout was reaching all the way to my apartment, two states away. The hexagons came to me during my brother’s engagement and were in full force when I went to his wedding.

And then it hit me. Here we have a hexagon — a 6-sided shape. Each hexagon connects to 6 other hexagons. Each has 6 sides, 6 corners, and a center. No single group of rleationships has been so important in my life as the relationships I have to my 6 siblings. Hmm…

Since having this realization a couple of months ago, I have come to believe that the slow, soothing process of stitching hexagons is my way of processing adult relationships with my siblings. It is the way that I have kept some of my anxieties (about the changing face of our family) at bay. It brings me back to my childhood, when my world revolved around these 6 strangers.

Hex stack

I believe that hexagon fever held meaning about my siblings long before I realized it. But, if you’re a skeptic, you might wonder about a chicken-and-the-egg effect. Do the hexagons hold meaning on their own? Or have I simply foisted meaning onto them by thinking about my siblings? Either way, the articulation of that potential meaning has psychologically connected this project to my sibling relationships, and I now think of them more frequently, more specifically, and more fondly each time I stitch a seam. When I connect two pieces together, I think about the connections I have with these 6 wonderful, crazy, frustrating people. I think about how we have evolved as adults, how our relationships get closer for a while, or weaker for a season, but how we always come back to center.

As my project starts to come together, these thoughts and feelings intensify. Sometimes it takes a little hunting, but I love to discover this kidn of meaning in my work. Knowing that these meanings come through in my own personal work makes my professional work as an art therapist even more powerful. I truly believe in what I do, and that’s such a privilege and a blessing in my life.

100th Post Giveaway

Mal | Give-aways | Monday, June 1st, 2009

 Mini quilt on fence 2

On January 18th, I broke my years of blogging silence and rejoined the ranks of crazy people who share their lives with total strangers. 5 months, 550 comments, and many miles of email exchanges later, we arrive at a milestone. It’s no full-sized quilt or bundle of designer fat quarters, but I am pleased to give away this mini quilt in celebration of my 100th post.

 Mini quilt close-up

The little quilt is dedicated to my readers in every which way. It combines elements of some of my most popular entries — modeled after my first mini-quilt, and made with the two colors you identified as your favorites during the last giveaway. Truly, this is the mini quilt that my readers built.

I’m so grateful to all of you who have contributed to the collaborative spirit of this blog. The comments are consistently well-written, thoughtful, and provocative. I learn so much from my exchanges with you — both those that happen here in public and those that happen behind the scenes in email or by phone.

 Binding on back 1

If you’re new here, welcome! Please feel free to jump into the conversation and share your views. If you’ve been following for a while, here is a rough draft of what you can expect in the next 100 posts.

  • Streamlined organization of the site, including better category structure and collective lists for series such as the What to do posts.
  • Active recruitment of guest posts from like-minded folks.
  • Tutorials?
  • Putting my art therapy skills to use with some kind of collaborative art project that you can join.

 Quilt on wall 1

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk on this blog about setting priorities and making time for creativity, so put on your thinking caps. Enter to win the mini quilt with one (or all) of the following methods.

  1. Comment on this entry by answering the question: How do you make time for making?
  2. Post about this giveaway on your blog, then post a link to your entry in the comments section here.
  3. Subscribe to this blog, then send me the secret phrase you’ll find in your feed reader or emailed entries. (Current subscribers can enter this way, too. You don’t need to be a new subscriber.)
  4. Post about the giveaway by twitter, including the phrase: “I make time for making by ________________. #turningturning.com” (Fill in the blank with your answer, of course!)
  5. As always, earn a 5th entry bonus point by doing all of the above. Just email me with the subject line “Giveaway Bonus Point.”

 Mini Quilt on Fence 1

If you’d like to hang this quilt, I’ll gladly stitch a pair of loops on the back. Just let me know! Entries are open until Sunday, June 7th. Good luck in the giveaway — I hope you win!

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