The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

“A student who changes history is probably taking a test.”

Creativity is a weird thing, something I haven't given much thought to to tell you the truth. I've always been creative, and I've managed to surround myself with creative people so it was something that's always there, in the background, something I can pull from, sometimes easily, sometimes not so easily, but I manage to pull something out of the air when the time comes.

And like I said, I've never given it much thought, until I received the following in email from Bunny:

My friend XXX has a son who's been accepted at XXXX XXXXXXX, but needs to do this essay to qualify for a scholarship. I'm really no good at stuff like this. You have any ideas, being creative and all? You have such the imagination! I'm in awe!

Here's what she sent me:

XXXXX has to write a scholarship essay. The prompt is:

A dinner party is a comfortable venue for guests to engage one another in a discussion of ideas. Imagine a dinner party where you could invite any four people, living or dead. Whom would you select and why? What issues or themes would the guests discuss? Answer these questions and develop a portion of the conversation in an essay of no more than 800 words.

He's totally blank. He can think of lots of good people, but can't figure out what they should talk about and how it should be structured. What's the premise, the setup? You can't just jump in and start talking, it wouldn't make sense. He's very uncreative but so am I and I can't think of anything either. He came up with a stinker of an essay that was sort of an allegory tale—World War II Food Fight, where Stalin, Hitler, Churchill and either Mussolini or Hirohito were gathered together and started a food fight that paralleled their battles in the war. But I don't think the prompt wants an allegory, and it wasn't very funny, anyway.

Any ideas?

That forced me to think about creativity, and in the span of maybe twenty minutes or so, I somehow managed to come up with six different groups of people to write about. One of the ideas:

Okay. I might be inclined to do one with just about any four famous people (really, could probably just pick four at random, say, Sean Penn, Karl Marx, Oliver Cromwell and Ayn Rand and just have them complain about the food service, the food itself, and how young kids today just don't know how good they have it—much like the Four Yorkshire Men Sketch from Monty Python).

I'm not sure why exactly I included Sean Penn in the mix (perhaps his self-important goofiness?) but the other three I picked simply because they would hate each other (you'd probably be hard pressed to keep Rand from killing Marx), but then to just have them complain about the service I find terribly funny.

Yes, I do like my humor dry.

Another idea:

Or possibly a dinner conversation between Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Groucho Marx, and John Lennon (with the latter two rubbing the fact they got a stamp together while the other two didn't).

And there is no way that Karl or Lenin would be able to dominate the conversation with Groucho or John in the same room. Oh, to have Lennon tell Lenin to lighten up …

But, again, I certainly can't explain how I came up with these groupings (like the Presidents Andrew Jackson, William McKinley, Franklin Roosevelt and George Bush Jr), other than picking groups of people that would have a complex group dynamic (McKinley and Bush have similar administrations and both got us in unpopular wars, but Bush's cowboy image would certainly not appeal to McKinley, but would appeal to Jackson, but Jackson wouldn't care for Bush or McKinley (or Roosevelt for that matter) because they were city-bred rich folk—dynamics like that). Heck, these groupings almost write themselves.

Perhaps part of it is being well read, and certainly knowing history doesn't hurt matters either.

Anyway, I just find coming up with ideas pretty easy—ooh wait! I know! Three friends grilling George Lucas about Star Wars and what exactly was he smoking when he wrote Episodes 1–3?

See?

I can't exactly say where my creativity comes from, except the few I buy wholesale from Schenectady.

Anyway, some time later Bunny replied to my reply that her friend wrote back with a successful conclusion: saying her son managed to successfully write the essay.

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Update on Friday, January 5th, 2007

Major redaction as you can tell—Bunny's friend requested I remove this material, and since her friend didn't expect this to happen, I'm respecting her friend's wishes.

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