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Showing posts from April 21, 2013

A Computer-Generated Future -- Writer's Poke #449

Could a computer write a hit pop song? Why not? The Australian comedy trio Axis of Awesome demonstrated that many pop songs follow a basic four chord formula. If that’s all it takes, then certainly a computer should be capable of reproducing the formula. For all I know, maybe computers already generate all pop songs already.
If computers did produce the music you love to listen to, would it bother you? Maybe pop music doesn’t qualify as “art,” but what about traditional European classical music? Bach and Beethoven and Mozart were all geniuses, right? And their music isn’t just simply the equivalent of disposable plastic eating utensils; it’s the fine china of the music world. If a computer could compose original classical music, that would be a feat indeed, wouldn’t it? Would it at the same time diminish the genius behind the original human creations of the past masters?
The problem with computer-generated music – pop or classical – is that it’s all derivative. But perhaps that isn’t a …

The Failure of Will Alone -- Writer's Poke #448

Does failure result solely from the lack of will to succeed? That’s a rather provocative question, and to fully understand what it means, perhaps it would be a good idea to examine a few examples. Let’s just brainstorm and randomly see what develops.
1. The War on Drugs. Pretty much a failure, right? Why? Too much money in the drug trade; too much consumer demand for illegal drugs.
2. The War on Terrorism. Failure? The use of force exhibited in Boston after the Marathon bombings was impressive, but the lack of intelligence needed to prevent the bombing from occurring in the first place is less than impressive.
3. The War on Poverty. “If people are poor, then they should working harder and do something about it. It’s not my problem.” The lack of success resulted from the inability to overcome an entrenched attitude. 
We like to declare war on problems. No one ever declares peace on problems. “War” indicates we mean business, but unfortunately metaphorical wars lack set-piece battles. The…

We, As Humans -- Writer's Poke #447

I’ve been reading student essays for the past fifteen years, and I wish I knew how many times I’ve read students write the following: “We, as humans, ….” Most of the times I just mark out “as humans” and go on reading.
Quite honestly, I probably haven’t given the phrase any deep thought, but the qualification does seem to imply that the “we” the students speak of could be something other than human. What exactly could “we” be, if not human? Perhaps an examination of this question has merit.
Take, gender, for example. One feminist writer described gender as a copy without an original. Essentially, gender is “prescribed” – by culture, or religion, etc. What it means to be “male” or “female” are simply ideas, and all of us pick up on the particular ideas created by the group(s) we belong to.
Assuming this is true, it makes sense to suggest that what it means to be human works the same way. What does it mean to be human? Homo sapiens belong to the animal kingdom, but when people speak of …

Shakespeare Matters -- Writer's Poke #446

In high school I didn’t know much about Shakespeare, and I didn’t care. If we did read any of his work in any of my English classes, I’m sure it was Romeo and Juliet, which is probably one of his most “accessible” plays. I don’t recall if we read it or not, though, as I’ve done a fairly good job of blacking out all memories of English classes from high school.
My freshman year was my last year in Honors English. At that point in my life, I didn’t know the meaning of homework or studying. If I didn’t know something immediately, it probably wasn’t worth knowing, or so I thought. Besides, each English period was a perfect opportunity to work on my novel. I called it a novel, but it was actually just episodic scribbling. I spent an entire year working on my writing, but I have to admit it was crap. I wish I would have had more direction on how to write, but like I said, I wasn’t in the mindset to study craft. That wouldn’t happen until college.
By the time I reached college, I fell into be…