Saturday, February 09, 2008

Re-Inventing the Wheel

Once again, this was going to be about something else. I had a new essay theme I was going to do that I thought would motivate me to actually post on a semi-regular basis. As it turns out I instead fell into a semi-regular problem, re-inventing the wheel.

For me this personifies not with the wheel but another common and available technology. You see, every now and then while I'm walking, or waiting, or doing something that otherwise requires nothing of me other than my presence I start problem solving in my head. I could problem solve the 'small' things, the little things, things immediately relevant to my life. I could. If I wanted to think small.

But that's not the way I roll.

I go for the big problems. Namely, perpetual motion. While I haven't had a direct conversation with that part of my brain, I can only assume that it truly believes that if I just think about it long enough that I'll come up with a solution despite my lack of a background in thermodynamics or engineering.

And I get close, to, dammit. Almost every time. I can see it. It starts off with a simple mechanism, usually shifting back and forth of a weight with reduction gearing. And then I start thinking of a weight that would be more constant, more...fluid.

Before long I find that I have re-invented hydro-electricity. The disturbing thing is the number of times I've actually done this.

It's not always something I know exists that I inadvertently re-create. I witnessed the rise and fall of my theater career in the six hour span of when I came up with the idea to do a stage version of Refer Madness and when I got back on the internet to find that there was already a successful stage musical version that was being shot for Showtime.

This is extra disturbing for someone who hopes to make their living creatively. But I sooth those fears with two thoughts. First, I am not one idea. I come up with and forget at least four or five ideas a day. Not all of them are gems, in fact there is a good reason I forget most of them. But coming up with them isn't a problem. It's sorting through them and figuring out which ones are worth a second thought is where it's at.

Second, I firmly believe that art is in the execution. Perhaps this again comes from starting off as a jazz musician. There isn't really a concern over doing someone elses song. In fact, especially during the be-bop era, performers just grabbed chord changes and tunes from popular songs, sometimes not even bothering with melodies (a la Donna Lee). It didn't matter where the song came from, it mattered how you play it. It wasn't, and isn't, uncommon for player to even 'quote' other players solos. They aren't 'ripping them off,' they're playing a theme. They could be saying hello, or showing someone how it's done, or just taking a good sounding lick in a different direction.

Which is a long way to say that it's in how you do it. Saying that people can't do similar ideas is like scoffing at an artist, "Pfff. A portrait? Perhaps you haven't heard of the Mona Lisa?

So this was going to be one of those. I had this idea for a theme that Sous Rature tactfully pointed out someone already does, probably better than I was going to. That was, link ads that I see in my over-consumption of television and comment on them. Slate apparently already does this.

But for the above reasons, and because this blog has all of 2-3 readers and this thing is updated so infrequently I don't think it will really matter. So there. That's my lengthy excuse for the post that I might get around to that Slate already re-invented wheel.

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