Idea Blog

Gif creator settles the great debate

Posted on: May 23rd, 2013 | 0 Comments

If you were among the group of people who said a GIF, the popular animated images file, is pronounced like the word “Jif,” then give yourself a pat on the back — you were right.

Now we know! Steve Wilhite finally clarifies the pronunciation of his popular images file format, saying: “Choosy programmers choose GIF”



Posted on: May 21st, 2013 | 0 Comments

All the time, things are happening. It is hard to record them in such a way as sitting by the passenger window in our minds and watching them, the things, flit by.

In Puerto Rico we stopped on the top of a hill in Maricao and it was a green, lush place that we could see, it did not end. From the top of the tower we watched homes and palms dig into the cliff side, their teeth strong and hungry. The still frame, this moment of our watching, did not let us see the many lives and feelings that daily bled their way across the landscape. We said, the air up here is cool and fresh. It was.

Six weeks before I flew in a plane out of New Orleans and thought about my mother.  Bayou spread beneath in watery veins. Green earth sang in small islands there and there. Then clouds moved in, and still could I see through their gentle whiteness. I said, this is what it must be to be in the arms of God.

The day before we boiled crayfish live and broke apart their bodies with our hands. They had soft, cartoon eyes that could not see, amassed and dead as they were.

And then some weeks later we bought a terrarium from an old woman. The woman who sold the terrarium had gray hair and thin hands. She told us this, the making of terrariums, was a thing she did often. A god she had become through hewing worlds.  I pictured her home. Glass walls and piles of stones. A kitchen rife with living things. At night, her refrigerator moans—the resting place of so much on the verge of decay.

But there is likely no God and so I must settle for his name and an aircraft. A feeling and a view.

Driving along the coast in Puerto Rico we see the ocean mawing at the land. It is a most beautiful thing to see. I plug the image into the constellation I am living.

We hop from node to node of importance and in-between we see the view below. Oh world, how green or yellow or brown you have made yourself. Oh feeling, that I might place you upon the world and say, you are the skin of my mother and you now, her bones.

I flew in an airplane into the hands of God and asked of God, what things you have made, tell me. He did not reply because he is not real or because there is no God or because a life is a life either way.

The greenness of the world signifies its continual decline and growth. When we, as humans die our skin becomes blue and mottled. Perhaps we are saying, hello sky. Perhaps it is nothing more than blue, we and our blood returning to the air, the water, the place we have always known as home.

Ocean MawGreen Earth


Dr. Dre, Iovine gives 70 million for new academy

Posted on: May 13th, 2013 | 0 Comments

Excited about this new program — has a clear vision for how work will be done in creative spheres in the future. Neat how it draws expertise from across schools in the development of the program.

William Schreiber on Stadium Stock Exchange

Posted on: April 3rd, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Rebecca Bernard

William Schreiber, a senior graduating from the Vanderbilt Curb Scholar’s Program, took a few minutes to answer some questions about his Senior Legacy Project, the Stadium Stock Exchange.

Interviewer: Give us the 20 second elevator pitch for your company, the Stadium Stock Exchange. 

William: We are building a fantasy stock market for sports. The current fantasy game does not translate to college sports well, despite the fact that college football is the second most popular sport in the country. We fix that problem with Stadium Stock Exchange, opening up fantasy games to the world of college sports.

I: Describe the evolution of both the idea and the formation of the company.

W: I have always wanted to build a stock market centered around something other than companies. I have also always been a college sports addict, growing up in Birmingham. One day, it hit me: sports teams are just like companies, and people can trade stocks in sports team as that team either out-performs or under-performs its expectations. 

I:Where in production are you currently?

W: We are currently designing and building the back-end database as well as designing the front-end user experience. We are also building a content network so that we can generate content centered around the platform itself. 

I: What’s the next step for Stadium Stock Exchange?

W: Raise venture capital, finish building the product, and plan a grassroots launch strategy throughout the Southeast. 

I: How did your experience as a Curb scholar and/or a Vanderbilt student, help you in designing and building this company?

W: I have always loved creating things. I think the Curb program encouraged me to take risks and celebrate creativity and creation. Vanderbilt gave me the relationships and skills necessary to launch such a company. 

I: It states on your company info sheet that one of your partners, McArthur Gill, is a champion–of what may I ask?

W: Fantasy sports. Specifically, NBA fantasy sports. McArthur is also an Auburn fan. I’m an Alabama fan. So it’s funny the two of us are building a college-centered fantasy platform together. 

I: What do you imagine the legacy of this project being?

W: I think it could transform how people think about sports. It can allow people with no financial knowledge to begin to understand what a stock is and what it means when that stock goes up or down in value.

Keep an eye out for Stadium Stock Exchange, and more interviews with graduating Curb Scholars.

Drop and give me 15 haikus!

Posted on: April 1st, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Elizabeth Long Lingo

I had the wonderful opportunity to present my ideas at TedX Furman University last week.  At the end of all the presentations, their local student improv troupe offered mini-improv skits based on each of the talks.

Here’s the one spoofing on my idea of the Creative Practice Booocamp. Love it!

Drop and give me 15 haikus



Posted on: March 11th, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Rebecca Bernard

I found myself in Niceville, Florida. It was a place I’d written about a while back. Then I was there. We had the top down and the sun was on us and all the surrounding earth.

In a movie I was watching, the camera would pan to the side sometimes. It would show desert and land and sky and the effect was a calming thing. It said: Here is also what is happening. It said: The world is outside of this particular frame, too. Look, it keeps going.

In Niceville I scanned the strip malls for my character. I knew he was either in a bar or outside of one. I knew he was thinking about the heat in the asphalt under his feet. I didn’t see him. I knew I wasn’t going to.

A sign on an overpass spelled Will You Marry Me Wilma Jane in white solo cups. It seemed like a big deal. We said, Isn’t that something. We agreed it was.

I wanted to ask him if his father’s deserting the family was really so bad, but because he’s a character it would be like asking myself.

I liked how quiet the scenes in the movie were. A desolate place in Spain or the like. I wondered if it was still so dry there. If wind was still blowing open white curtains. The characters stuck in time and space. Not moving for fear of dying off.

Our lives are built of frames for seeing the world. With the right light things are one way. Lose the light and you’re somewhere else. Only it’s the same place.

We watched the sunset on the beach. It was cold but I kept thinking–a photo would make this something else. The world could be warm in a photo. In a photo it could be anything. Perhaps, we too, are in Spain.

On the drive home there was a new sign on the overpass. A birthday message. We realized that what had seemed one way was actually another. Too bad.

For a minute there, it had all felt pretty special.



An Unstaged Reading

Posted on: March 10th, 2013 | 0 Comments

Looks like this.

by Aidan Carr

Looks like this.

There have been a couple historical models for developing new musicals. In the so-called “Golden Age,” shows grew via the out-of-town tryout—a month or so in New Haven or Philadelphia where changes would be made by gauging audience reception. The first number of Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, “Comedy Tonight,” emerged from frantic out-of-town revisions. (This anecdote contains a valuable lesson in musical theatre craft that further entries will investigate.)

The main idea here is to introduce the work-in-progress to the world and see how it does—where do people tune out? Where do they sit on the edge of their seat? Are they laughing and in the right places? Worse, are they laughing and in the wrong places? When musicals made lots of money, an entire production in a separate city was worth the capital to put it up, despite it being an experiment: now, musicals are like films, costing millions of dollars, and producers are much more skeptical to throw millions of dollars at an untested product. Cue the reading.

A reading has the same goals—watch the audience, tweak as needed—as the out-of-town tryout, but none of the window dressing, both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it is cheap; fantastic sequences of, say, dancing dolls and malfunctioning sewing machines, can be left to the imagination. A curse because the imagination can provide more than just window dressing—it is easy to fool oneself and say “this will work with costumes and lights” when it really won’t. The pros outweigh the cons—out-of-town tryouts still occur, but typically after dozens of readings, each more ‘produced’ than the last.

An unstaged reading is the very bottom of the reading totem pole. Actors sit on stage in a row; when they are in a scene they stand, and sit otherwise. They memorize nothing: the scripts are in front of them on music stands. Someone even reads the stage directions.

Readings can come together very quickly—at NYU, the musical theatre writing program mounts unstaged readings of new work with actors that show up the morning of the performance and piano players who have never seen the score before. (Due to some last-minute drama, these actors read an entire ten minute script of mine, in front of an audience, that I handed to them as the performance began.)

Readings put material into the world, and for this they are invaluable. They are what catches the attention of investors, of producers, of other writers, of the press. More than this, though, they are crucial in finishing what it is you wish to share—they are the taste test before the Michelin chef adds a dish to his menu. And so it must be polished, elegantly and cleanly presented—even though you threw it together in a week. I have many ideas on how to polish my reading—look for them shortly.


What A Bookwriter Does

Posted on: March 10th, 2013 | 0 Comments

The blueprint.


by Aidan Carr

The blueprint.

If a musical is a house, the bookwriter is its architect; he also shares interior/exterior design duties with the composer and the lyricist. Most of the spoken language of the piece (most) falls under his jurisdiction, but he also shapes the story itself, places the songs, cuts pages and scenes.

Like houses, the architecture behind a musical must be rock-solid, or else it will collapse. Structural design is less glamorous than aesthetic design, more conceptual, and considerably more difficult; bookwriters don’t get paid more for nothing. Not only are they relatively ‘behind-the-scenes’ as far as creative staff goes, since they theoretically contribute nothing to what musicals are all about (the songs), but they are frequently the first to blame when a show is lackluster—‘it’s got book problems.’ Not for nothing; structure is hard, and even professional Broadway shows frequently cannot master its design.  Spider-Man had an entire number in which an invented spider deity sang of her charmingly-wicked adoration for mountains and mountains of shoes—cue $500,000 dollars in innovative costume design for highly trained ballerina-spiders, Loboutin heels on all 8 legs. This went on for five minutes.

Bookwriting—thankless, vital, at times (Arthur Laurents, Hugh Wheeler) elegant. More to come.

Music is Sculpture

Posted on: March 10th, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Aidan Carr

Writing music before the 20th century was a lot like painting—you had certain colors and certain brushes, and you painted certain things. Like painters, composers outgrew these boundaries—painters stopped painting things, composers stopped writing tonal music, etc. But we still think of most music as having a pretty narrow set of ‘brushes’ or ‘paints’—the Beatles used guitars, classical composers write for the symphonic orchestra, Miles Davis played the trumpet.

You’ll notice I’ve neglected electronic music. This is for a reason. Electronic music and the thinking that produced it does not work this way. It does not have a palette; its palette, rather, is sound itself, the physical vibrations that make noise in your ear. Electronic sound is not paint; it is clay, clay under the hands of the most impossible alchemist, capable of morphing into literally any substance imaginable. Writing music on the computer is not painting, it is sculpture.

More on this to come, but for the time being, absorb this ‘sculpture’ by a British artist who produces under the name Four Tet. Like the work of Michaelangelo, its detail is pristine, exact; every sound is there for a reason, every detail contributing to the whole. It repeats, endlessly—accept this. Let what sounds the same wash over you—I promise you, if you do so, it will not be boring, it will be beautiful.


What’s Being Adapted

Posted on: March 10th, 2013 | 0 Comments


May title.

by Aidan Carr

Opening credits.

The film I’m adapting is called MAY. It is has a cult reputation of sorts—it frequently makes pop “Top 10 Horror of 2000’s” List, a horror-hipster favorite. This is actually how I discovered it—on such a list, the author ranked MAY as his second favorite of the decade, remarking that it was “not so much scary as sad,” which intrigued me.

“Sadder than scarier” is a fair assessment; unlike most contemporary horror films, MAY focuses on the monster and not the victims. It has this (and more, as you’ll see) in common with Frankenstein—a difference of purpose, more about why terrible things happen than the thrill of them happening.

MAY was written by Lucky McKee when he was a film student at the University of Southern California, and it is a lonely film—the eponymous monster/heroine is in nearly every frame, and half of these by herself. May cannot hold a conversation. Even animals become suspicious of her. As a member of the outside world, such a withdrawal is unsettling, disturbing, a harbinger of something darker and perhaps dangerous. Disordered social interactions point towards inner instability, and this frightens us. Pariahs scare us.

I saw a man in a park late at night in Barcelona pace in tiny circles, reciting a mélange of Arabic and Spanish syllables with no connection, and I stayed away.

Imagine this from the inside. That man pacing in circles was speaking, trying to communicate, and yet all his faculties for doing so were broken. All he can muster are the short-circuits of syllables. How terrifying this must be; more than terrifying, how lonely.

Super lonely. Super lonely.

This is May’s problem, though it is not as pronounced and all the more insidious—her signals too are broken, but they take on the illusion of order and coherence. They trick people for a time, herself included. May is fascinating—she makes her own clothes, she works for an idiomatically-challenged Eastern European veterinarian, she has an elaborate collection of fine porcelain dolls—for a time. Soon her obsessions—stitches and sutures, needles and scalpels, dolls—are no longer fascinating; they are dangerous. When her newfound ‘friends’ sense this danger, they too run away. Her own realization that she scares people is her anagnorisis, and nobody survives it.

The way May’s compulsions finally play out is this; all of the people she meets through the course of the film possess a body part that May finds particularly attractive. One man’s hands, a woman’s neck, another’s legs, et cetera. May has long since outgrown dolls and needs human company, hence why she meet all these people who rejected her in the first place. Nobody wants May’s company, so she resolves to fashion someone who does, out of all of the best parts of the people she knows. The creation of this new doll, ‘Amy,’ ends the film.

A strange subject for a musical, you’d correctly think. One key aspect allows room for music in this story,  even begs for it. May holds unspoken conversations with her doll Suzy that drive her emotional arc; these conversations are full of the kind of desperation and yearning and pure desire that sings onstage, and dolls are an inventive and unusual instrument with which to sing those desires. Sewing machines, too, have their own strange and strangely beautiful music, akin to the musique concrete of Edgard Varése or the minimalism of Steve Reich. Out of this kernel—musicalizing May’s emotional interior life, accompanying it with the sounds of the real world like the sewing machine—I’ve developed a sort of musical vocabulary that underpins all May’s movements in the world. Several other implications follow from this central conceit, many of them structural—they will be discussed in the posts that come.

A bottom line: MAY will be a musical like Sweeney Todd, that follows a monster through her emergence as such; it will be a musical like Cabaret, with a nagging discomfort that sprouts into full fledged dread; and it will be more, an electronic aberration, a show soaked in samples and synthesizers and stitches instead of trumpets and saxophones, something funny and uncomfortable and uncomfortable because it is funny, something sadder than scary. (All this, I hope.)