Four ways of destroying to create

I’ve recently started a creative practice called erasure or blackout poetry. (Follow me on Instagram to see more.) Basically, you take a page of text or prose and create your poem by removing words from the text. Here’s one I did recently:

it isn't brokenAs someone who loves process and improvisation, this kind of exercise has just enough structure to be challenging, and also extremely liberating. And I’m interested in how much creating is about destroying.

  1. In this case, I quite literally destroyed a book by tearing out the page, then destroyed the page by using my very permanent sharpie to cover up the original work underneath. I was surprised at how difficult I found it to actually rip this book up (a rather compelling read titled Ten Things I Learned from Bill Porter: The Inspiring True Story of the Door-To-Door Salesman Who Changed Lives by Shelly Brady), a thrift store book I should have no emotional attachment to.A book, any book, seems like such a final, permanent product. And yet it’s not, nothing’s ever permanent. Whether you take the book and use it as a coaster for your coffee mug, or throw it in the dumpster to get jostled with banana peels and used tissues, the book’s finality is perhaps not what it seems. Eventually, like a creative band-aid, I just tore that page out Ten Things knowing that it’s all part of the process.
  2. The process also included that bittersweet, destructive creation tool called editing. Editors are notorious destroyers! In this case my process went something like: What word grabs me? What word goes with that word? Shall I go with a verb pattern? How about that phrase? O now that word doesn’t work anymore. What themes are emerging? How does choosing a different word, change the work? But, I like that word! What if I switch the order? Where does it start, and where does it end? Is that the right ending, or is this the right ending? Oh, it’s what time? I’ll just find one more phrase. End process. Begin sharpie.
  3. Once I chose the page for erasure, I had to embrace the limitations of the text, sacrificing a whole universe of choices for the few in front of me. In the worlds of improvisational arts, these limitations or structures are gold. One of my teachers, the great Ruth Zaporah, wrote in the introduction to her book Action Theater: The Improvisation of Presence, “These rules open pathways that lead into unexplored territories.”
  4. After I completed my blackout poem, I just couldn’t leave well-enough alone. I actually started playing around with using it as a jumping off point for a physical improvisation, extending the creation process into another discipline. Or, more precisely, an erasure of the erasure, destroying the poem in order to create a new piece.

The destroying and creating cycle has endless possibilities.

Want to check out any of my favorite books on the creative process and support this blog? As a Powell’s Books Partner, we’ll will receive a small portion of any sales that come directly from links on this page. Thanks!

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Cover: Waterfalls by TLC feat. Tamlyn Tomita, Lynn Chen, & Phil Yu!

Fun DIY cover of the (now) classic TLC tune.

Conceived by musician Jane Liu, It features a bunch of her friends, rad indie Asian American creative types including Angry Asian Man Phil Yu (an old pal of mine), actors Lynn Chen and Tamlyn Tomita, musician Goh Nakamura and others.

Lui raised money for the video through a mini Kickstarter campaign (I didn’t know you could do mini Kickstarter campaigns!) basically made the thing in a day. It’s been getting some nice play from places like Huffington Post and Jezebel.

A big yeehah for delightful creative projects featuring talented people of color.

Hanging with the K & P

A friend posted recently about how much she loves Key and Peele. They are definitely among my favorite comics at the moment. So thrilled that they’re able to do their ridiculously smart comedy that plays in and around race politics with hilarious and astute style. I think the other reason I relate so well to their writing – especially Keegan-Michael Key who is almost exactly the same age as me (he’s 7 days older) and from the neighboring home state of Michigan – is because they nerd out about the same stuff I do. (Others I appreciate in this vein are Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Simon Pegg and Joss Whedon, but not many are tackling race as well as K & P.) Plus, I can see how their work is rooted in great improvisation. It’s what makes their comedy go beyond jokes into great stories and interesting characters.

Here are a few of my favorite clips:

A new vampire challenges the sexy vampire status quo

Dude can’t get a word in, even in song

Colorful code names causes offense amongst superheroes

Lots more from their show on the Comedy Central website, including full episodes.

Artmaking family-style

A family that plays together stays together, right? Check out the fabulous talents of these fine family acts.

DMK
This awesome video is making the rounds on my Facebook feed again and it’s so worth sharing. DMK is a Depeche Mode cover band. DMK members are Dicken Schrader and his adorable kids Milah and Korben (also members of the ‘cool name’ club). Here’s their creative cover of Depeche’s ‘Everything Counts’ played on awesome DIY musical instruments:

Queenie Liao and son Wengenn
Though little Wengenn is asleep in the fabulous photos, his dreaming body serves as inspiration for imaginative mama Queenie Liao. Check out her whole series of photos called ‘Wengenn in Wonderland’ here. I think they look best in their still photo form, but she also did make a video complete with Ken Burns effect and lullaby music:

Adam McKay and daughter Pearl
This one is close to Matt and my comedy nerd hearts. (Can you do a ‘cover’ of comedy skits? Because Lilli would bring a special something in this role.) Written and directed by daddy Adam, Pearl co-stars with Will Ferrell in this cautionary (and laugh-out-loud-hilarous) tale, ‘The Landlord:’

Books on the table

I’m feeling rather tired and boring tonight, but nagged by NaBloPoMo commitment. So, like any good improvisor I’ll look for a little inspiration where I can find it. Tonight my coffee table will have to do.

I’ve got a stack of New Yorkers and these three books sitting on my coffee table:

Oregon Curiosities: Quirky characters, roadside oddities & other offbeat stuff by Harriet Baskas

Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco

Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann

coffee table books

Longing, a list inspired by my coffee table books

I long to have space for travel and to travel in space.I long to learn more about the place I live.
I long to show my daughter the joy in exploration, discovery, getting lost.
I long to be creative create.
I long to stop feeling like an imposter.
I long to be daring.
I long to know more about my family history, my cultural history, my country’s (real) history, my local history.
I long to read more.
I long to write more.
I long for an ‘instant tidy’ button.
I long see my parents.
I long to have time to luxuriate in making a meal.
I long to listen.
I long for stories, words to tell the story.
I long for the complexity of simplicity.
I long to long for less.

Awesomest Halloween candy infographic

With the hash tag #nerdsrule, my pal Kathleen posted this supremely awesome graph her rockstar eight-year-old Stella made. The graph tallies up Stella’s Halloween booty — Snickers reigns over Kit Kat (I think) by a hair. Nerds do rule, especially proud nerd moms who empower their beautiful, clever nerd daughter’s DIY infographics!!

Stella's awesome graph tallying up this year's Halloween booty.

Stella’s awesome graph tallying up this year’s Halloween booty.

Coal coming through the Northwest + multimedia storytelling

The environmental news team I work with, EarthFix, won a bunch of awards for this year’s SPJ Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest. Yay us! We even took the top two spots for our special/enterprise online reporting on the proposed Northwest export projects and the anniversary of the Clean Water Act.

Though it wasn’t part of our 2012 Northwest coal coverage (we’ll submit the ongoing series again for 2013), our multimedia special Voice of Coal came directly out of the traditional news reporting the team had done. If you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest, let me tell you – these coal proposals are very controversial, pitting environmentalists against labor unions, public health officials and politicians against job creators, and folks on all ends of the spectrum. ‘Voices’ was our effort to bring real people’s voices and first-hand experience to the forefront, but always with the backdrop of well-reported journalism on the topic.

Though I don’t often have time to create content for EarthFix myself (I mostly do community engagement, events and social media), I had the opportunity to pitch in for this. Here are two audio slideshows I produced as part of the ‘Voices of Coal’ project:

It’s a pretty exciting time to be doing digital media and storytelling. We were very inspired by the Climate Wisconsin project for Voices of Coal. I’ve since seen some great interactive multimedia/transmedia projects (using video, audio, photos, text) including Black Gold Boom, about the big oil boom in North Dakota, and Reinvention Stories, looking at the identity crisis and ultimate efforts to reinvent the city of Dayton Ohio. Both those projects were part of some public media experiments called Localore. And of course there’s the epic, sublime experience of consuming Snow Fall: The Avalanche At Tunnel Creek. There you go. Now you’ve got several sittings worth of excellent transmedia storytelling to geek out on.

Let’s do this

I’ve been meaning to get back to blogging for a while now. I have lots of very valid excuses… I’m mama to a toddler, I work full-time, I travel a lot… boring, true but not necessarily the biggest obstacle for writing.

under the hawthorne bridgeFor me, once I’ve been away from something for a while, it always feels deceptively daunting to come back. Yoga, improv theater, knitting have all suffered from this… fear, I guess. All I need to do is just do, right? Instead, I ponder, stress, worry. Instead of doing, I think too much and I feel a weight come over me – I should commit to committing.. I should come back whole-hog, full-force… I can’t just dabble away with a post here and a post there – Which is bunk. Just fear holding me back. Dabbling is titular here!

Months ago, I started drafting this big post. My deep, thoughtful re-emergence in honor of Lilli’s first birthday. It was going beautifully, but as is my weakness, I raised the stakes too high and then kept pushing it off because it wasn’t ever “complete.”

My new year’s resolution (I’ll take the Lunar New Year!) is to dabble as I can. Fleeting, fledging is a-ok. Trite, but true: it’s not about the process, not the product. Today, it is February 23, 2013, not a particularly significant or momentous day. Today, I blogged, goddamit.

Friday’s A to Z

Building on yesterday’s post, here are some things I ♥ right now:


A – APA Compass. We did a show this morning. We’ll have archives up in the next couple of days.
B – Boots.
C – Community. One of my favorite TV shows right now with one of my favorite characters on TV right now Abed. One of the best episodes of TV ever is Modern Warfare from Season 1, Episode 23, directed by Justin Lin.
D – Danny’s Auto on Halsey and 60th.
E – Energy.
F – Farmers Market. Only 2 more weeks!
G – Gabriel’s Bakery’s herb cheese bagels.
H – Harry Potter. I know, I’m a late bloomer.
I – Improv Theater. Shameless promo: We’re doing a show next week Small Space, Big Stories.
J – Jackets.
K – Kissing hubby.
L – The Library.
M – Milani Nail Lacquer “Cappucino” – described “Light Coffee with Gold Shimmer”
N – The Great Northwest.
O – Owls.
P – Piano. I feel very blessed to have one of my very own. I recently learned how to play “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Here Comes the Sun” on YouTube. Amazing.
Q – Maggie Q, star of Nikita. I watched the show as homework for our APA Compass radio discussion about APAs on TV, and now am fully sucked in.
R – Rest.
S – Slings and Arrows. More on this next week.
T – Time Traveler’s Wife.
U – Upper Horsetail and Triple Falls at the Columbia River Gorge.
V – Vodka Martini. A little dirty.
W – White Tea. Specifically Vanilla Apricot White Tea by Tazo.
X – Extracurriculars. (Close enough to X!) My life is all extracurricular it seems right now.
Y – Soft Yolks. I had my eggs over easy this morning and it was yum.
Z – Portland Zombie Walk.

“A” image is by me.
“Z” image found on Wikimedia Commons: Route sign for Missouri Supplemental Route Z. Based on Image:MO-supp-K.svg by User:PHenry.