Please j’onn, Don’t Eat Me

Not to be outdone by Drew McManus’ generous referral last week of donations toward Jon Silpayamanant’s Mae Mai blog, I went to see him perform this week.

It was a dangerous trek across the backroads of rural Ohio. But none of that compared to the peril of meeting Jon himself, as you can see in this picture. (He is the warrior in the back.)

Fierce Klingon cellist and his brother in blood

I assure you, if he hadn’t started to engage a cloaking field which blurred his features, you would appreciate the full terror inspired by his mighty form. In his hand behind me, he is holding a D’k tahg dagger as he muses that the blood of humans, tainted by their cowardice, tastes worse than targ blood.

In other words, I had a great time.

I made the trip to Cincinnati to see A Christmas Carol in the original Klingon. I had seen the show listed before and hadn’t realized this was the first time the production had been mounted in Cincinnati. All the previous productions were (and still are) performed in Chicago and Minnesota. (Video of a Chicago cast here.)

Much honor was earned this month in Cincinnati!

As much as I say that tongue in cheek, even with all the Star Trek fans out there, it isn’t the easiest thing to go to a new city and audition actors who can speak Klingon, or find actors willing to learn.

Jon composed the score for the show and made a special appearance yesterday with members of Il Troubadore to perform during intermission. There were pieces of Klingon opera as well as “Terran folk songs.”

Probably not what you imagined if you read that Jon often focuses his blog writings on “ethnic orchestras,” but like a good writer and musician, he doesn’t discount any potential avenue of exploration.

It makes Western orchestras look silly worrying about what is appropriate to wear onstage. He has to fret over Klingon armour and a Wookie costume (he aims to have one like this by 2015) and face the scrutiny of truly pitiless critics –sci fi enthusiasts.

Allow Yourself The Same Patience You Would A Baby

I don’t recall who it was that provided the link. I want to credit Maria Popova at Brain Pickings because this is the sort of thing that appears there.

But someone directed me to Stephen McCraine’s Doodle Alley web comic. Specifically his Be Friends With Failure comic that urges beginning artists to have patience with their self and to realize that the process of developing their skill is going to be fraught with mistakes and missteps.

In many ways, it is similar to Ira Glass’ talk about the gap between your creative taste and your ability to execute it I wrote on last year.

I really liked the whole  Be Friends With Failure strip, but the frames that got me were these:

you faildont treat self like baby

McCraine has his strips indexed by general topics of advice for artists like setting goals, improving and motivating yourself. It appears he finished his series last month. There are about 25 strips so it is easy to get through them all in a relatively short time. He tackles some interesting concepts like “Practice Does Not Make Perfect” , “Know Your Artistic Lineage,” “Diversify Your Study,” and “You vs. You.

The answers to all your problems aren’t going to be encapsulated in a short web strip, but I think the medium and execution are an effective shorthand reminder to help steer yourself back on track. You may not have the time or inclination to pick up a text that discusses these concepts, but I think the format is such that you would more quickly return to it for a little boost of motivation.

Wherein I Hallucinate About Internships

I recently misread the title of a post on Museum 2.0. But in that second of misapprehension, my brain flooded with assumptions about the subject of the post. I misread “A Shared Ethics for Museum Internships” to be something like “Ethics for Shared Museum Internships.” In that moment, I thought shared internships was a great idea and had a vision for how it would work.

Some of these assumptions were made in the context of the growing discussion of problems with unpaid internships, most recently an quoting former Sleep No More interns as saying there wasn’t any educational benefit to the experience.

One thing articles about unpaid internships have focused on is the idea that the experience is supposed to be educational and of no direct benefit for whomever the intern is working. Now the best information I have right now is that these guidelines don’t apply to non-profit and public sectors. But there are rumblings that this may be changed. And there is also the issue of just because you can use an intern in the place of a staff person, doesn’t mean you should.

What I thought the Museum 2.0 post was going to suggest was trading interns between companies, particularly between for- and non-profits. I had this immediate vision of interns at a bank working in a museum and the museum intern working in a bank for a few weeks. The benefit being that the future banker would have an understanding of arts non-profits and the future museum director/curator would gain insight into what motivated banks to support arts organizations (or what motivates individuals to give as part of their bequest if the intern worked in the the trusts department.)

While it may not be entirely appropriate for a non-profit to “act like a business,” this type of experience can contribute to a better understanding of the points of view of board members who are business leaders by future non-profit leaders, and those of non-profits by future business leaders and board members. Miracles probably won’t result from a few weeks spent interning in a different company, but it shouldn’t impede things too badly either.

Moments later, I realized what the real title of the piece was, but my initial impression still seemed like an interesting idea. Even if you didn’t do an internship trade, placing an intern to work for a week at the company that did your brochure printing or the hotel that put your performers up, would give an intern a better understanding of the work done by the close partners of the organization.

A few years down the road, the intern might be in a position to propose an arrangement that is mutually beneficial to both the non-profit and the commercial partner that ends up bringing them closer together. A closer bond would also be the hopeful long term benefit of the intern swap I initially mentioned. Once the interns had reported on their experience and moved on, hopefully the cooperating businesses and non-profit would feel a continuing respect and understanding of each other.

Of course, it can be hard work to arrange all these details. It is hard enough to ensure that the experience at your organization is meaningful and doesn’t relegate the intern to copying and answering the phone, much less to provide the same experience at other work sites. But then, the intern isn’t really supposed to be making a lot of copies during this period anyway.

Any thoughts about this, its viability and how it might be accomplished? I mean, essentially what I am asking is, since I already hallucinated the post into existence, does anyone want to write about Ethics of Shared Internships?

Hard To Pronounce Show? There Is An App For That!

We all know that an online ticket platform can make it more convenient for people to purchase tickets at their leisure, but a recent article on Slate suggests that it may also help sell tickets by avoiding opportunities for anxiety.

…1980s change in Swedish liquor retailing that led to stores being moved from an “ask a clerk to retrieve a bottle” model to a “self-service” format. It turned out that, not only did removing a layer of human interaction spike sales (by 20 percent) but it also led to a shift in those sales toward a large number of difficult-to-pronounce drinks. According to Swedes independently surveyed by the researchers, it is apparently harder to say Stolichnaya than Absolut in Swedish, and there were real challenges with French wine pronunciation as well.* So take away having to say anything out loud and the sales of the tongue-tied bottles increased by 7 percent.

Another example they gave was that online ordering for pizza increased the spending on each order. People didn’t order more pizzas, but they did order more toppings on each pizza. The theory was that people were more comfortable doubling up on meats or making a complicated order (like for a Starbucks coffee) when they could do so online rather than having to express it to a person.

Of course, that may not always be in the best interest of the consumer…

..the website induced more “double bacon” than “double veggies” orders. The picture painted is one of people avoiding the awkwardness of complex—and fattening—orders online and making simpler—and healthier—ones when they had to deal with a real, live person.

I oriented more on the concept that ordering online helped people avoid potential mispronunciations on shows like Antigone and Coriolanus or artists with foreign pronunciations like Stephen Colbert.

I wondered given non-profit arts organizations are in the business of educating, is it better to gently correct or even correctly pronounce the name when reviewing the order, or to just ignore the mistake and avoid embarrassing the customer at all.

I don’t have any research to show that this sort of anxiety factors into the method people choose when they order tickets, but the research showed that people deferred their real desires even when the opportunity for embarrassment seemed low.

Though anxiety over the ticketing ordering process probably ranks lower than most barriers to participation for arts audiences, it does seem like another reason for having the alternative available and easy navigate.

I am not trying to contradict my blogging confrere Drew McManus with the title of this post and encourage people to develop new apps, but many of the commenters on the Slate article mentioned how much they loved being able to place their order when they entered Starbucks or a deli and have it waiting by the time they got to the register.

It may be beneficial to use a ticketing service that offers those sort of apps so people can order in advance or while they wait on line.

Perhaps I am overly sensitive to constantly being up-sold during my Christmas shopping excursions, but the last paragraph of the article especially resonated with me. The author, Joshua Gans, notes that this potential for embarrassment also inhibits employees who are forced to ask for customer names, email addresses, store credit cards and extended warranties, from giving the best and most sincere service to customers. It can undermine confidence and goodwill if customers pick up on this unease or are annoyed at a time when they are spending money.

So in addition to examining whether your processes are making things difficult for your customers, you may need to evaluate their impact on your employees as well.