26 April 2010

improv wisdom: don't prepare, just show up; Aquarium

18. improv wisdom: don't prepare, just show up by Patricia Ryan Madson (4/5)

Reading Voix de Michele's tales of improv and Colleen the Communicatrix's review peaked my interest in improv wisdom, so I checked out a copy from the library. Well worth reading. (Thanks for recommending it, Colleen!)

The basic premise is that the tenets of improv performing can also be applied to life. "Say yes," "just show up," "start anywhere," "make mistakes, please" to name a few. Each chapter contains examples of its maxim from her life and her students' experiences, as well as experiments so you can try it out for yourself.

It could be easy to dismiss a maxim like "don't prepare" but Madson is mindful of context. Obviously certain tasks, e.g. neurosurgery, require a great deal of preparation. For other tasks, however, there is a lot to be gained by just diving in rather than over-thinking it.

Be in your life rather than perpetually contemplating it.

Also, saying you're bad with names is a total cop-out. Make an effort. I've started to and learned 7 in an afternoon a week ago when I showed up to volunteer on an art exhibit. At the exhibit's opening on Saturday, I spoke with 4 of the 5 I saw, initiating most of the conversations, including a brief exchange with a total stranger. Granted, I failed the next day when I did not say hi to my neighbor, but he kind of refused to look up from what he was doing in my direction. Maybe next time.

All this is to say that improv wisdom has lots of good tidbits for introverts. I'm going to add it to my wishlist.


19. Aquarium Photographs by Diane Cook and Len Jenshel, essay by Todd Newberry, interview by Lawrence Weschler (3/5)

A married couple of landscape photographers, Cook shoots in black and white while Jenshel shoots in color. The book is a series of photographs from each, intermingled, shot at numerous aquariums around the world.

I didn't always get what they were going for with their juxtapositions, as revealed in the interview at the end of the book. Some of their photos seem more successful in retrospect. Generally, I preferred the black and white, but there were a handful of each that I really liked.

Weschler is an astute interviewer. I read an excellent book by him about artist Bob Irwin years ago, Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees. My Dad recently read it and looking for other Weschler works, came upon Aquarium. I agree with him that Newberry's introductory essay is a little cheesy. Weschler's interview, however, is not to be missed.

There are definitely some cool aquariums out there as well as less savory ones. I read Aquarium in one sitting, so if underwater creatures and aquariums are your thing, it's worth a look.

A year ago on TTaT: Don't touch the cub


  1. Thanks for the link - I'm totally checking out that book.

  2. You're most welcome! Let me know what you think of it.

  3. So happy to see other people jumping on board the Patricia Madson train. It really is a gem of a book, filled with so much great info, and inspirational/fun-to-read, to boot.

    Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for spreading the word!

  4. Improv Wisdom is a nifty little book; I'm happy to do it.