Therapist for screenwriters

Barry Michaels helps screenwriters get over writer’s block.

By far the most common problem afflicting the writers in Michels’s practice is procrastination, which he understands in terms of Jung’s Father archetype. “They procrastinate because they have no external authority figure demanding that they write,” he says. “Often I explain to the patient that there is an authority figure he’s answerable to, but it’s not human. It’s Time itself that’s passing inexorably. That’s why they call it Father Time. Every time you procrastinate or waste time, you’re defying this authority figure.” Procrastination, he says, is a “spurious form of immortality,” the ego’s way of claiming that it has all the time in the world; writing, by extension, is a kind of death.

Small-talk and genius mixes

Screen capture of iTunes genius mixes

In casual conversation, music is one of those those canonical small-talk subjects that ranks up there with the weather. Even if you don’t share musical tastes, the topic can provide numerous avenues of discussion before the canapés arrive. It should be easy, but my encounters tend to go something like:

“So what do you listen to?”

“Umm… well… you know… lots of stuff.”

Which, is usually followed by some mumbling and wild gesticulation in attempt to coax a few band names out of my brain. Meanwhile, I’m hoping the prolonged awkward silence will push the conversation in a different direction or at least give me the opportunity to pull out my phone and distract them with videos of kittens falling over.

If my sparing partner actually seems interested and vaguely techno-savvy, I point them towards my profile. Of course, it’s just a clever way to redirect the discussion and draw attention away from the fact that I know nothing about my own musical tastes.

Now, we move on to a subject which could be considered tangential, if it hadn’t already been mentioned in the title and featured prominently in graphical format. Yes, this is a lazy segue.

I’m a regular user of the genius mix feature in iTunes, it provides a decent base for playlists and can set an overall tone better than DJ. On the other hand, I probably used the genius mixes feature once or twice when it came out and forgot about it. Most of my music wasn’t in genius at the time, but it’s the lack of customizability kills it for me.

The genius mix label gets lost in the iTunes sidebar’s sea of text, so I don’t normally notice it. I was playing around with the iPad’s Remote app, where the feature seems much more prominent and decided to give it awhirl. Honestly, I’m still not a big fan of the feature, the lack of customizability kills it for me. Although, now that more of my music is indexed it drew my attention to the genres and iTunes’ perception of my listening habits:

  • Indie Rock
  • Punk
  • Alt Singer/Songwriter
  • Electronica Mainstream
  • Post-Modern Rock
  • Progressive House
  • Chamber Pop
  • Classic Rock
  • Brit-Pop and Rock
  • East Coast Rap
  • Pop
  • New Wave

There we have it — new fodder for the small-talk cannon. It doesn’t even matter if the list is accurate. Memorize the genres, spit out a few of them at any given time and you’ve got enough permutations to last a lifetime or at least until the last course is served.

The inbox zone-out

Shawn Blanc on the inbox zone-out cycle and how to refocus. The cycle he refers to are those points during the day when you find yourself flipping between email, Twitter, RSS, etc., just waiting for something new to come along.

A simple way to help avoid ever even getting into the zone-out cycle is to only ever check your email or twitter or RSS feeds when you’re actually able and willing to act on those inboxes. Which is, of course, much easier said than done.

Parts of brain can switch functions

MIT neuroscientists have found that parts of the brain can switch functions, and aren’t necessarily predetermined by a genetic blueprint.

The finding suggests that the visual cortex can dramatically change its function — from visual processing to language — and it also appears to overturn the idea that language processing can only occur in highly specialized brain regions that are genetically programmed for language tasks.

Making oatmeal wrong

McDonald’s has somehow managed to screw-up oatmeal.

Others will argue that the McDonald’s version is more “convenient.” This is nonsense; in the time it takes to go into a McDonald’s, stand in line, order, wait, pay and leave, you could make oatmeal for four while taking your vitamins, brushing your teeth and half-unloading the dishwasher. […] Incredibly, the McDonald’s product contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin.

Take a fast and healthy staple, pump it full of sugar and chemicals, serve. Sounds like the rest of the breakfast cereal industry, or just pre-processed food in general.