• Jeb Brack

Mission Control, this is Ticonderoga 2; we are go for creative launch. Commencing countdown at T minus 4…

4...) FUEL PUMPS ARE GO. Everyone knows that without fuel, a rocket just sits on the launch pad like a high-tech grain silo. The same is true for creative people, and the fuel is called IDEAS. Ideas are highly volatile, evaporate quickly if exposed to the open air, and sometimes they stink.

3...) OXYGEN TANKS ONLINE. Take a whole bunch of rocket fuel into outer space and try to light it on fire. Never mind how you got a match to burn in the first place, because there’s no air in space, but that just proves the point—without oxygen, even rocket fuel won’t combust. In the case of making art, the air is the WORK you do to fan the flames. No work, no work of art.

2...) WE HAVE IGNITION! Remember the match in the previous step? That’s INSPIRATION—the spark that starts the reaction that sets things on fire. It doesn’t have to be huge, just sharp enough to set you off. In the combustion chamber of your mind, ideas and work combine, to be set off by inspiration.

So the ignition spark hits the fuel, mixed with the air and it explodes, right? And you have an amazing work of art, right? And that combination propels you—like a rocket—toward success, right?


Wrong. Because the most important element is missing.

Something has to channel the massive forces we are playing with, otherwise one of two things happens. If nothing contains it, then the forces dissipate every which way and nothing goes forward. Or if the explosion is too contained, it blows out in all directions, taking the rocket and the creative astronaut with it. Scientists call this a “rapid unscheduled disassembly”. (See Fig. 2.)

1…) ROGER, WE HAVE MAIN ENGINE START. Note the nozzle on the rocket engine in Fig. 1. It shapes and guides the flow of the rocket exhaust, which in turn thrusts the rocket in the correct direction. As the combustion continues, minute changes can fine-tune the steering so that the rocket can reach a destination thousands of miles away.

Hundreds of things make up the rocket nozzle of a creative project: the customer specs, the genre, the materials at hand, the desires of the artist, the deadline—anything that restricts the project also directs it, making it achieve its destination that much faster. Think about it: if you have too many choices for what you can do, you dither and experiment that much more. Everything takes longer, uses up more energy, and is more likely to fizzle. So embrace those restrictions. The more of them you have, the better! Unless you have too many, in which case, see again Fig. 2.

Mission Control, we have liftoff. We are GO for the moon! Godspeed, Ticonderoga 2!

#writing #humor #cartoon #creativity #ideas #rocket

  • Jeb Brack

Marital Arts_edited.jpg

It may seem counter-intuitive. You join a karate dojo to learn fighting techniques, and you get married (presumably) because you love someone. Kung Fu practitioners kick boards and their mouths don’t match their dialogue, while married couples have babies and stop going clubbing. But matrimony and the martial arts have a lot in common. Both are highly stylized, ritualized forms of combat best done in loose clothing—but it goes even deeper than that. Here are five things marriage and the martial arts have in common.

1.) It ain’t like the movies, grasshopper.

You’ve seen countless kung-fu flicks and you want to be as awesome as Bruce Lee or Michelle Yeoh. You’ve watched a million romantic comedies so you know the meet-cute, the snappy dialogue, and the three-act story arc. What the movies don’t show you is the tedious, mundane bullshit you have to go through when you’re doing this for real. Before you master the Dim Mak Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, you’ll throw a million bad punches at nothing, stand for hours in uncomfortable stances, and do push-ups (push-ups!) or other pedestrian exercises. Likewise, when you’re married you still have everyday life to live—laundry, mowing the lawn, earning a living. Your conversations lose the zip when you’re talking about your budget for the umpteenth time.

2.) Practice doesn’t make perfect—but you have to do it.

There’s a point to all that repetitive, boring practice, though. It makes you better and stronger, but (and this is the catch) only if you STICK WITH IT. It’s painful, it makes you sweat, it wears you out, and the worst part is that there is no perfection, not in martial arts and not in marriage. It’s tempting to think you have learned enough and slack off, to coast on the skills you already have. Then one day you’re ambushed by a dozen ninjas or a menstrual cycle gang, and your skills are rusty or forgotten and you get curbstomped. Think about that the next time you feel like skipping a workout or watching a football game instead of going antiquing.

3.) You can do everything right and still get your ass kicked.

Doesn’t seem fair, does it? Your form is excellent, you’re alert and ready, you’re a tenth dan black belt-- yet somehow a foot catches you in the side of the head, literally or emotionally. Spouses or sparring, it takes two to tango, and other people are unpredictable. Have you ever watched the outtakes at the end of a Jackie Chan movie? That guy is highly skilled AND he knows what’s coming next, but he STILL gets creamed a dozen times every movie by something he didn’t expect. You can’t hope to do better, so what should you do when you get flattened?

4.) You take your lumps and learn from them.

You’re on the mat in a fetal position, felled by a spinning back kick you never saw coming. Or you’re on the sofa in a fetal position, kicked clean out of your bed by an argument you couldn’t win. In both cases, this seems like an excellent time and reason to give up, throw in the towel, pack it in. Go ahead, quitter. Or you could let the pain subside, figure out what went wrong, and FIX IT. It’s the harder path, no question, and it’s no time for self-delusion, but if you’re strong enough to change your technique you will become a deadlier fighter…or lover.

5.) When it’s done right, it appears effortless.

Watching the masters at work, every movement, every technique seems inevitable and natural. They make it look so easy. So do the strongest couples. You can’t imagine them struggling, arguing, making mistakes—but for everything you see, those masters and couples made a sacrifice, putting in years of hard work, sweat and practice into their relationship or their kata. You could be that good—all you have to do is snatch the pebble from my hand and then work at it every single day for the rest of your life, grasshopper. Then one day, without even realizing it, you will become the master…or the old married couple everybody envies. Only then will you have mastered the Exploding Heart. In a good way.

#cartoon #karate #art #marriage #humor

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  • Jeb Brack

I never thought I'd start a blarg. Now that I have, you deserve to know who you're dealing with. This is me in cartoon form.

Why "The Blarg"? Because I'm not sure what's going to land on this page, and "blog" denotes some measure of confidence and planning. It's an onomatopoeia of ideas hitting the internet, and that's what I expect--I'll serve up ideas in my own way; you decide what to do with them!

#writing #cartoon #karate #art #magic #gaming

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