What Some Research on Creativity Tells Us

22 April 2017

From The Epoch Times:

If anyone doubts that our culture is obsessed with creativity, a quick survey of the available literature on the topic should satisfy.

The amount of scholarly interest on creativity in the last 50 years at least is mind-boggling. Psychologists, cognitive scientists, and philosophers have studied it, of course, but researchers in the fields of engineering, theology, and linguistics have looked into it as well. Studies have ranged from how moods, intelligence, and personality type are related to creativity, to how it affects mental health, economics, and neurological processes.

. . . .

When we think of creativity in relation to health, we might first think of improved mental health. Art therapy, according to the American Art Therapy Association, is used to help clients explore their feelings, foster self-awareness, and manage behavior and addictions.

But one hefty but by no means exhaustive review of literature from 1995 through 2007 on the relationship between the creative arts and health suggests an even deeper effect. Looking specifically at the therapeutic effects of music, visual arts, movement/theater, and expressive writing, one review surveyed the effects on physical healing.

For example, in two studies that used music therapy on hospitalized cancer patients, the benefits included reduced pain (found a study published in Oncology Nursing Forum), and increased immunity and lowered anxiety, among reductions in other psychological and physical symptoms (found another in The Journal of Psychosocial Oncology).

And at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, researchers compared those receiving “art intervention” with those who did not, in different units of the hospital. The groups receiving the intervention showed significantly better vital signs and fewer physical symptoms of stress, and needed less medication to help them sleep.

The Journal of Aging and Health reports long-term benefits. Researchers found that openness, or a mental flexibility and willingness to entertain novel ideas, can be a factor in increasing longevity, or as Scientific American put it, “creative thinking reduces stress and keeps the brain healthy.”

Link to the rest at The Epoch Times

Newspapers, magazines and other publications

22 April 2017

Newspapers, magazines and other publications have the constitutional right to be offensive, even disgusting. As evidence of that, just watch this space regularly.

Mike Royko

Brick-and-Mortar Stores Are Shuttering at a Record Pace

22 April 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

American retailers are closing stores at a record pace this year as they feel the fallout from decades of overbuilding and the rise of online shopping.

Just this past week, women’s apparel chain Bebe Stores Inc. said it would close its remaining 170 shops and sell only online, while teen retailer Rue21 Inc. announced plans to close about 400 of its 1,100 locations.

“There is no reason to believe that this will abate at any point in the foreseeable future,” said Mark Cohen, the director of retail studies for Columbia Business School and a former executive at Sears Canada Inc. and other department stores.
Through April 6, closings have been announced for 2,880 retail locations this year, including hundreds of locations being shut by national chains such as Payless ShoeSource Inc. and RadioShack Corp. That is more than twice as many closings as announced during the same period last year, according to Credit Suisse.

Based on the pace so far, the brokerage estimates retailers will close more than 8,600 locations this year, which would eclipse the number of closings during the 2008 recession.

. . . .

The seeds of the industry’s current turmoil date back nearly three decades, when retailers, in the throes of a consumer-buying spree and flush with easy money, rushed to open new stores. The land grab wasn’t unlike the housing boom that was also under way at that time.

“Thousands of new doors opened and rents soared,” Richard Hayne, chief executive ofUrban Outfitters Inc., told analysts last month. “This created a bubble, and like housing, that bubble has now burst.”

. . . .

As retailers rushed to expand their physical footprint, the internet was gearing up to do to apparel companies what it had already done to booksellers: sap profits and eliminate what little pricing power these chains commanded.

Despite the view that shoppers prefer to try on clothing in physical stores, apparel and accessories are expected this year to overtake computers and consumer electronics as the largest e-commerce category as a percentage of total online sales, according to research firm eMarketer.

Helena Cawley, 37 years old, said she used to be a “die-hard” department-store shopper. But with two small children, the Manhattan entrepreneur doesn’t have time to visit physical stores the way she once did. “I buy much more online now,” she said. “With free returns and free shipping, it’s so easy.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

As PG has mentioned before, he takes no joy in bookstore employees or anyone else losing their jobs. However the rapid and continuing reduction in the number of bookstores is part of a very large trend throughout physical retail.

By reason of its high density, mass transit options and (for many) high incomes, Manhattan should be almost the ideal location for physical retail to survive. In many parts of the island, billions of dollars in personal wealth are within a ten-minute walk of a store.

If online shopping is becoming more attractive than physical stores in Manhattan, traditional retail will have an even more difficult time in less densely populated urban areas.

An Hour Renting Emily Dickinson’s Bedroom Where She Wrote Her Entire Life’s Work

22 April 2017

From Pictorial:

“Sweet hours have perished here;
This is a mighty room”

You can visit the café in Edinburgh where J.K. Rowling supposedly sat penning Harry Potter, tour Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West, still crawling with cats, or see William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak, a Mississippi home flanked by cedar trees. But few writers have written their entire life’s work—nearly 1,800 poems, in Emily Dickinson’s case—in just one room.

For one hundred dollars an hour, you can rent the second-floor bedroom in Amherst, Massachusetts where Dickinson spent a huge portion of her life. The Dickinson Homestead on Main Street was purchased by the Parke family in 1916, and sold to the Trustees of Amherst College in 1965 (it quickly became open for public tours). After twentieth-century wallpaper and floorboards from Dickinson’s room were removed, clues to the original floor coverings and interior design during the Dickinsons’ occupancy were discovered.

In 2003, Amherst College acquired “The Evergreens,” a dwelling directly next-door to Emily’s house, once inhabited by her brother Austin. The buildings were merged to create the Emily Dickinson Museum. In further attempts at historical accuracy, the two-year restoration of Dickinson’s specific room was completed in 2015. Although the Museum has been visited by thousands every year—eager to peer inside the eminent poet’s room on the guided tour—this is the first time her chamber has actually been rentable.

Link to the rest at Jezebel

Umbrellas

22 April 2017

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Mrs. PG and PG visited a tulip festival a couple of days ago. This location is called Umbrella Walk.

Conditions were less than ideal for photography (wind and intermittent rain), but it was still a lovely experience.

14 Sites for Making a Spectacular Book Cover

21 April 2017

From The Digital Reader:

A book’s cover is often the first thing a reader sees when they find your book for the first time.

You never have a second chance to make a first impression, as the saying goes, which is why many would suggest you hire a professional to design your book covers.

But some authors have the skill to DIY or want to learn about cover design by doing so they can work better with the designers they hire, so here are fourteen sites, services, and apps that you can use to make an awesome book cover.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Nate has included several interesting-looking sites with which PG was not familiar.

He has used Canva, however, for creating and formatting some social media posts (not for TPV and not book covers, but for other parts of the PG media empire).

Here’s what Canva says about book cover design:

You’ve done the hard work and created an amazing book. Make sure it sells out by creating an awesome cover design!

Canva’s free book cover maker is ridiculously easy to use – even for the novice or not-so-tech-savvy writer. Our book cover maker allows you to choose from hundreds of layouts, making it easier than ever to create a memorable cover.

. . . .

Create a beautiful book cover in under 5 minutes

  1. Open Canva and select the “Kindle Cover” design type or insert your own custom dimensions
  2. Choose from our library of professionally designed layouts
  3. Upload your own photos or choose from over 1 million stock images
  4. Fix your images, add stunning filters and edit text
  5. Save and share

Customize your book cover to suit your book genre

  1. Change the images. Upload your own images or choose from our stock library of over 1 million photographs, graphics and illustrations.
  2. Change the fonts. Choose from of over 130 fresh fonts.
  3. Change the background. Choose a background from our library or use an image.
  4. Change the colors. Change the color of your text boxes and text to add extra flair.

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Here is a demonstration of Canva’s power (for good or evil). PG created this cover in a few short moments without even thinking about it.

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One-star review activism is still a contentious issue on Amazon and elsewhere

21 April 2017

From TeleRead:

We’ve had a lot to say on the subject of one-star reviews over the last few years. Consumers have used them to protest practices they didn’t like, be they windowing the publication of an ebook, applying unfriendly DRM to video games, or even double-dipping on Lord of the Rings DVD releases.

Beyond that, organized rating or voting campaigns have become a favorite tool for online activists, be they Gamergaters who want to smear the works of feminists whom they loathe (or feminist movies like the Paul Feig Ghostbusters remake), Sad or Rabid Puppies who want to influence or trash the Hugo Awards respectively, Greenpeace downrating Amazon’s Fire phone, or even the wags who tried to force a British government agency to name its newest research vessel “Boaty McBoatface.”

The Hollywood Reporter has the story of the latest such incident to make the news. The Promise, a movie about the controversial Armenian genocide during World War I, has seen its Internet Movie Database listing receive 100,000 1-star votes as the result of a campaign by those who would deny there was a genocide at all. IMDB has said that there’s not a lot they can do, and even with the filmmakers organizing their own campaign to vote the movie back up, it’s still only ranked at 5 stars on IMDB (4.2 when the article was written).

. . . .

Given how much has already been said about the added difficulty of discovering new works online, activists gaming the ratings for ideological reasons is not going to make it any easier. In the end, it’s going to be up to sites that allow review rankings to figure out their own way of dealing with this issue.

 

Link to the rest at TeleRead

A question occurred to PG while he was reading the OP.

Has any author who is the target of organized negative review campaigns ever inserted an explanation of what’s happening with his/her reviews in the book’s description? Something like, “A group calling itself Friends of Dogs has organized a protest against my books because they portray cats in a positive manner. Many of the one-star reviews of my books are part of that protest.”

On the one hand, it might help potential readers understand that some of the reviews are not really about the book’s content. On the other hand, it might spur protesters to even more extreme actions.

Why do you think the lottery is so popular?

21 April 2017

Why do you think the lottery is so popular? Do you think anybody would play if the super payoff was a job on the night shift in a meat-packing plant? People play it so if they win they can be rich and idle. Like I told you years ago – if work is so good, how come they have to pay us to do it?

Mike Royko

It’s a great time to be a writer. Kind of.

21 April 2017

From ChicagoNow:

During last year’s NBA Finals, I wrote an article reminiscing about the times I guarded Golden State Warriors’ All-Star Draymond Green back in our high school basketball days. It was going to be super timely, especially as I watched Draymond knock down five threes in the first half of Game 7. He was playing like the best player on the court, well on pace to become the NBA Finals MVP.

The Cavs came back, Draymond didn’t win MVP, but I still published my post. I also reached out to the sports editor back at my hometown newspaper, sent the article to him in hopes they would run it. Maybe a big Sunday spread in the sports section!

I never heard anything back.

Fast forward almost a year later, and I saw the following post on LinkedIn from the same sports editor: Hi friends, I just want to let you know that my position of sports editor has been eliminated.

Not fired, eliminated. The role of sports editor at that paper no longer exists. And before I get into that, I’ve got one more related story.

In June, I am self-publishing a novel that I’ve been working on since the fall of 2008. I’ve wrestled with the self-publish vs. try to publish traditionally question for over three years (I’ll have many posts to come on this very subject). One of the reasons I decided to pull the trigger on the self-publishing route was the thought, “Hey, I won’t be able to get into Barnes & Noble, or airport bookstores, but maybe I could channel my door-to-door salesman side and get into local bookstores. And, since my novel takes place in my hometown, maybe my favorite hometown bookstore (Sleepy Hollow) would carry it.”

I Googled “Sleepy Hollow, ” and the top article was an article from July of 2016, “The final chapter. Sleepy Hollow Bookshop plans to close.” The next result was Sleepy Hollow’s listing on Yelp marked, “Sleepy Hollow Bookshop – CLOSED.”

. . . .

Twenty years ago, hell, maybe even just five years ago, an 18-year-old could’ve said, “I want to be a sports writer, so I’m gonna go to a great journalism school, get into a great graduate school, get an internship at a great newspaper, work my way up. At first I’ll be writing stories about grade school basketball, then middle school, high school, all the way up to the NBA. After 20, 30 years, I’ll be one of those people on ESPN’s Around the Horn. And THEN, once I have a big name for myself, I’ll write a book and it’ll be in every bookstore around the country, including my hometown store, where I’ll set up a table and sign autographs. I’ll tell a kid wearing a Chicago Bulls hat, ‘Now, make sure to study hard in school young lad, one day you can be right here.”

Where does that story fit into the 2017 landscape? Every step of that defined process is now in question. Newspapers struggling, bookstores struggling, many shutting down altogether. I mean even the value of a college journalism degree or graduate degree is in question.

. . . .

So yeah, I think it’s a terrible time to be a writer IF you’re using yesterday’s blueprint. It can lead to a devastating place where you’re left saying, “This isn’t fair. I played the game. I followed the rules. And this is what I have to show for it?”

. . . .

Would you rather…

Write a book, send it off to 5+ literary agents, wait, wait some more. Get rejected, send out another 5+, wait again, more rejections, then maybe, maybe, one finally takes a chance on you. They now try and sell your work to a publisher, the literary agent’s going to get 10-15 percent of the sales, the publisher needs to make money too, but that’s ok, because a year, two years, five years later they got you into a bookstore, you see the physical copy of your book on the shelf only to see out of the corner of your eye a sign reading, “80 percent off, going out of business sale.”

OR

Start writing the book tomorrow. Tonight. Ask friends for editing help. Go on any of the hundreds of freelance sites to find some more editing help, grammar help, book cover design, formatting, etc., and then, when it’s all finished, throw it right up on Amazon. One click away.

P.S. Amazon is opening physical bookstores too… just saying.

Link to the rest at ChicagoNow

Creativity Makes You Seem More Attractive

21 April 2017

From The Atlantic:

Dos Equis’s most Interesting Man in the World ran a marathon just because it was on his way, is both left- and right-handed, and is fluent in all the world’s languages, including three that he alone speaks. The character was, until recently, played by a 70-something, little-known actor named Jonathan Goldsmith, whose earlier claim to fame was selling waterless car-wash products. And yet he—or at least his persona—was undeniably enticing.

According to a new paper published in Royal Society Open Science, the appeal of average-looking Interesting Men, both real and fictional, might be all in their interestingness.

. . . .

[Study participants were shown photos of an attractive or less-attractive female face or an attractive or less-attractive male face]

Each image was paired with a short story based on the painting The Lovers by René Magritte. The stories were written such that they were either creative—“even if you are in a relationship with someone, perhaps you don’t know how this person really is”—or unoriginal—“It seems they have white cloth/pillowcases over their heads to blind them from their environment.” The participants were told the people in the photos wrote the stories, and then asked to judge how attractive they were.

Though the subjects always thought the physically more handsome men were more attractive, the more creative men seemed more attractive than the uncreative ones. But creativity did nothing to enhance the women’s attractiveness in the subjects’ eyes.

Next, a new group of study participants were shown similar photos alongside descriptions of things to do with a car tire—some of which were creative (making a Loch Ness Monster sculpture) and some of which weren’t (using it as a seat.) With the explanation that the people in the photos came up with the tire uses, participants were told to rate their attractiveness.

Again, creativity made the average-looking men, but not women, appear more seductive. The results showed creativity was more of a boon to the men with less-attractive faces.

Across the study’s three trials, just one showed any attractiveness benefit of creativity in women.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

For the record, Mrs. PG is quite creative and PG finds her very attractive.

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