Tag Archives: Creation

Is There Anybody Out There?

Image from Wikimedia Commons courtesy Oliver Stein 

There will be a total lunar eclipse this week that almost the entirety of North America will be in a position to see. I’m undecided if I’m going to drag by butt out of bed to watch it because there’s another one coming on October 8th and I’ll have access to a telescope/camera combination then. At any rate, it got me thinking about how fortunate we are to have developed into these fabulous creatures that can ask questions, learn about our world (and the worlds beyond), understand and share information, ask more questions, become inspired, inspire others… and create.

It’s those last three items on the list that more often than not have me feeling that we, as a planet, have just won the Powerball lottery. The first five numbers gave us life. An extraordinary planet that spins and floats around an ordinary star in an ordinary galaxy in a random corner of the Universe. The sixth number, the Powerball number, gave us the self awareness and intelligence to appreciate it all. Whether or not you believe that All Of This was created by the hand of God or we just happened to win the greatest cosmic lottery of all time, one thing is certain: it is absolutely awe inspiring.

Image from Wikimedia Commons courtesy NASA

The iconic photograph above was taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 spaceprobe at a distance of 6 billion kilometres (3.7 billion miles). It depicts the Earth as a mere 0.12 pixel in size and the photograph is aptly titled “The Pale Blue Dot”. It was taken at the request of Carl Sagan as part of a “Family Portrait” – a collection of photographs of some the planets in our Solar System as taken by Voyager. In his 1994 book, “Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space“, Carl used some amazingly profound words to describe what he saw:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Sagan had a way with words, didn’t he? I keep that photograph along with the first paragraph of his description on my phone and every time I need a little perspective I take a look at it and read the text. The copy of the picture I have has a little arrow pointing to Earth with the comment “You Are Here”.

The human brain has a hard time working with things that are on a scale much larger or much smaller than what we experience on a day-to-day basis. Until you see the entirety of your existence as a dot on a screen I don’t think it’s an easy thing for people to grasp just how small we are, and just how absolutely huge everything else is. Fortunately, there are some very creative people who have come up with some nifty tools that help us out in this regard.

You could easily spend days playing around with these, so be careful. You have been warned!

If The Moon Were Only 1 Pixel – Josh Worth

This is the best example I have ever seen which highlights the true massiveness of the universe. The concept is simple: if the moon were 1 pixel in size on your computer screen how big would everything else be, and more importantly, how far away would everything else be? You use the scrollbar on the bottom and you travel to the right through our solar system starting with the Sun and working your way out to Pluto. Along the way the creator of this site puts witty commentary in the voids between all the planets so if you jump back and forth instead of scrolling you will miss some good stuff. As he says around the 117,350,945 km mark, “Most of space is just space.”

100,000 Stars – Chrome Experiments (Chrome browser only)

From the ‘?’ link on the page:
“100,000 Stars is an interactive visualization of the stellar neighborhood created for the Google Chrome web browser. It shows the location of 119,617 nearby stars derived from multiple sources, including the 1989 Hipparcos mission. Zooming in reveals 87 individually identified stars and our solar system. The galaxy view is an artist’s rendition based on NGC 1232, a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way.

Instructions: Pan using your mouse and zoom in/out using your touchpad or mouse wheel. Click a star’s name to learn more about it.

Warning: Scientific accuracy is not guaranteed. Please do not use this visualization for interstellar navigation.”

Cosmos – ChronoZoom

This is one link where you can get lost for a long while and I’d recommend it for everyone who has ever wondered about the concept of time, as well as every science teacher out there. The site allows you to zoom in and learn about the Universe in terms of time. You start with the Universe at it’s beginning – more than 12 billion years ago and you can scroll, zoom, and click your way through time. As you will see, humans exist in just a fraction of a fraction of the whole thing. Here’s a link that should take you right to “Humanity”. Use your scroll wheel to zoom out and you’ll get a good sense really quickly exactly how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time. Alternatively, click the main link I provided in the header and when you arrive at the site click the word “Humanity” at the top.

Finally, even though this song finishes with a solar eclipse and not a lunar one I think it’s still appropriate to end this post with one of my favourite Pink Floyd tunes. The songs “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” come off the album Dark Side of the Moon (easily in my top 5 albums of all time) and features a very Sagan-esque set of lyrics:

All that you touch and all that you see
all that you taste, all you feel
and all that you love and all that you hate
all you distrust, all you save
and all that you give and all that you deal
and all that you buy, beg, borrow or steal
and all you create and all you destroy
and all that you do and all that you say
and all that you eat and everyone you meet
and all that you slight and everyone you fight
and all that is now and all that is gone
and all that’s to come and everything under the sun is in tune
but the sun is eclipsed by the moon

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZL0sNxP_28?rel=0]

~ Andrew

Frame of Mind

I find it fascinating to watch people in the process of creating. I don’t know why this is but I think it has something to do with the fact that I have my own special brand of “getting in the mood” and I’m looking for some sort of validation that I’m normal.  More and more lately I suspect that I am not.

I was on the phone with my wife and she was telling me to get some words done while she was out and the kids were asleep. Sage advice from a woman who knows me very well and wants me to finish this damn book. The only problem was that I was exhausted from a week of working the day job and I wasn’t in the mood to write. Plus, with only 13,000 or so words left in the novel I was beginning to realize that an outline would have been a good idea. These were some of my notes for unfinished chapters:

  • Insert some stuff about the police in here doing police-type things
  • Hint a bit more about extreme nefariousness
  • Peter and Dana come across some disturbing shit

This is going to win me Kafka Prize, I can feel it.

Franz Kafka

As someone with a history of traumatic brain injuries I can attest to the fact that sometimes the best ideas are the ones that come to you when you’re head is not on straight. Out in the real world they are usually called “bad ideas” and people end up losing their jobs, or their loved one, or their friends; but for creators a bad idea is still salvageable – it’s just going to take a little bit of creativity.

A while back I did a post about giving birth to ideas; a process that in my opinion is significantly less interesting compared with what actually happens when someone starts to work on that idea and begins to flesh it out and bring it to life.

For most people, getting into a creative mindset is nontrivial, and for some finding the Creativity Zone is almost as elusive as finding the G-spot (only the Creativity Zone actually exists). You may be thinking, “But it looks like people do it effortlessly” Well these people are few and far between. They are amazing to watch and invaluable to interact with to be sure, but they are definitely a rare breed. For the rest of us schleps, finding the right frame of mind is a fair amount of work – just like anything else.

Frame of Mind (I know, I know…)

Even one of the most creative minds on the planet will tell you that there’s a process to it, that it doesn’t just appear out of thin air like a catapulting cow that’s just been hurled over the wall of a castle. If you have 36 minutes you should watch the John Cleese on Creativity video. It completely changed the way I approach things. If you don’t I’ll sum it up for you:

If you’ve got a nice quiet place to work, about 90 minutes, and access to some like-minded creative people then you’ve got what you need to foster a good amount of creativity.

This brings us to my problem from the second paragraph of this article. Exacerbating it is the fact that there are very few moments in a day where I have all those things at the same time. The best I can do most days is have the kids asleep, a couch to sit on, the Internet on my laptop, and 120 minutes before I go to bed. The other night it turns out that this was close enough.

What I did then, was sit by myself with my manuscript open in one window and YouTube and Facebook in another. My cursor was set to the part of my story that was in need of attention. Then, I watched a good half an hour of Louis CK stand up comedy. This guy is really funny and I find that laughing out loud has a way of relaxing the mind. Then I hit up a friend on Facebook who had a few minutes to spare. We chatted for a bit and just tossed random silly ideas back and forth. The last one I came up with went something like this:

“I think I’ll write a story about a window washer. A transsexual window washer who doesn’t use scaffolding but instead floats down from the roofs of buildings on one of those big Cirque du Soleil velvet ropes, squeegee in hand, washing the windows and winning the hearts of big city Dallas.”

All he needs is a squeegee


I had been reading something about transsexuals recently and my story takes place in Dallas. There was that Cirque person who tragically died a while back during a show, so that was probably in the back of my mind as well. As for the window washing, I can’t explain it. I think I just like the word squeegee.



Once I hit that point I was off to the races and I flipped over to my MS and just started typing. I guess it worked because 24 minutes later I had more than 700 words on the page and was still going strong (anyone who has done NaNoWriMo knows that this is a pretty good clip).

So there you have it. One example of what it took to get from “I’m not in the mood to write” to real life words on a page. I hereby dub it The Squeegee Process™. Is is fascinating? Probably not to most people, but it works for me, multiple concussions and all.

If you have a creative process you’d like to share please comment below. I’d really like to know that I’m not alone.

~ Andrew

Got Stuff?

What do Monsanto, Apple, Disney, and Stephenie Meyer have in common? The way I see it they are all in the business of creating stuff for the sake of turning a profit. Of course, I say that as I sit here at my laptop on my comfortable couch in front of my big screen television waiting to answer my iPhone (via Bluetooth).

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac?rel=0]
“Ever notice that their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff?”

Now, I am a big fan of a high functioning capitalistic society; money makes the world go ’round and all that… but at what cost? As much as I enjoy “stuff”, the more I look at my children and what we’re leaving behind for them, the more I begin to wonder if the costs of consuming are worth it. Is it possible to reverse the path we’re on and focus more of our time, energy, money, and attention on creating to improve instead of creating to capitalize?

Thankfully, there are concerned individuals much smarter than myself who are asking tough questions on the topic. These are the types of things they are asking us to consider:

  • If we grew food to actually feed people instead of to just sell food how many people would still be hungry?

  • What would our world look and sound like if music and television weren’t assembly line productions controlled by just a handful of companies?

  • If we invested in science and technology to learn and understand the universe instead of just to be the one who sold more phones/televisions/computers this year how much further would we go?

  • What would we see if the best selling books in the world weren’t formulaic, predictable, and based on the latest force fed trend?


Some of you are thinking, “Oh lord, the guilt trip continues” (or something to that effect). Don’t worry, I’m not here to make anyone feel bad about themselves or the lifestyle they keep. The goal of this blog is to provide my thoughts and observations, usually on topics based on my newcomer experiences to writing and content creation, to generate conversation or get people thinking in a direction they might not have otherwise.

Lately, I have found myself asking the question, why are we (as a society) creating the things we’re creating?

I have found all too often that the answer is to sell it, or even worse, I don’t know, and that’s a scary thought. What’s scarier though is that George Carlin released his bit “A Place for My Stuff” on vinyl in 1981 – 32 years ago – and it’s probably more true today than it was then.

Stuff is cheaper so we can afford to buy more stuff. Stuff is smaller so we stuff more stuff into our other stuff. We’ve made it easier and repeatable to create stuff so just about anyone can produce stuff and the internet makes it so that just about anyone can buy it.

My daughter created this with chalk in the kids’ area at a music festival.
For as long as we were there it was the only section no one erased.

Why are we creating the things we’re creating anyway?

I don’t know, but I’d like to issue a challenge to anyone willing to give it a try:

  • Have at least one meal this week made with non-genetically modified, locally grown food, or better yet, start a small garden of your own

  • Turn off the television or video game at a time when you would normally do such a thing and find a song by an independent musician and just listen to it (there are tons available on YouTube), or better yet, go watch a local musician play live

  • Invent something to fulfill a need, or better yet, do it without having to buy any new materials (as a note, this becomes noticeably easier to do if you have children or are capable of thinking like one)

  • Read a short story by an author you’ve never heard of on a topic you know nothing about, or better yet, write one about something you do

~ Andrew