kottke.org posts about Kurt Vonnegut

Leadership lessons from the dancing guyMay 23 2013

This is possibly the best three-minute demonstration of anything I've ever seen. Derek Sivers takes a shaky video of a lone dancing guy at a music festival and turns it into a lesson about leadership.

A leader needs the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous. But what he's doing is so simple, it's almost instructional. This is key. You must be easy to follow!

Now comes the first follower with a crucial role: he publicly shows everyone how to follow. Notice the leader embraces him as an equal, so it's not about the leader anymore -- it's about them, plural. Notice he's calling to his friends to join in. It takes guts to be a first follower! You stand out and brave ridicule, yourself. Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire.

I got this link from @ottmark, who astutely notes its similarity to Kurt Vonnegut's three types of specialist needed for revolution.

The rarest of these specialists, he says, is an authentic genius -- a person capable of having seemingly good ideas not in general circulation. "A genius working alone," he says, "is invariably ignored as a lunatic."

The second sort of specialist is a lot easier to find: a highly intelligent citizen in good standing in his or her community, who understands and admires the fresh ideas of the genius, and who testifies that the genius is far from mad. "A person like this working alone," says Slazinger, "can only yearn loud for changes, but fail to say what their shapes should be."

On Twitter, Jeff Veen shortened the three personas to "the inventor, the investor, and the evangelist".

The three types of specialistMay 16 2013

From a passage of Kurt Vonnegut's Bluebeard, the three types of specialists needed for the success of any revolution.

Slazinger claims to have learned from history that most people cannot open their minds to new ideas unless a mind-opening team with a peculiar membership goes to work on them. Otherwise, life will go on exactly as before, no matter how painful, unrealistic, unjust, ludicrous, or downright dumb that life may be.

The team must consist of three sorts of specialists, he says. Otherwise the revolution, whether in politics or the arts or the sciences or whatever, is sure to fail.

The rarest of these specialists, he says, is an authentic genius -- a person capable of having seemingly good ideas not in general circulation. "A genius working alone," he says, "is invariably ignored as a lunatic."

The second sort of specialist is a lot easier to find: a highly intelligent citizen in good standing in his or her community, who understands and admires the fresh ideas of the genius, and who testifies that the genius is far from mad. "A person like this working alone," says Slazinger, "can only yearn loud for changes, but fail to say what their shapes should be."

The third sort of specialist is a person who can explain everything, no matter how complicated, to the satisfaction of most people, no matter how stupid or pigheaded they may be. "He will say almost anything in order to be interesting and exciting," says Slazinger. "Working alone, depending solely on his own shallow ideas, he would be regarded as being as full of shit as a Christmas turkey."

Slazinger, high as a kite, says that every successful revolution, including Abstract Expressionism, the one I took part in, had that cast of characters at the top -- Pollock being the genius in our case, Lenin being the one in Russia's, Christ being the one in Christianity's.

He says that if you can't get a cast like that together, you can forget changing anything in a great big way.

(via @moleitau)

Kurt Vonnegut's response to book burningMar 30 2012

Kurt Vonnegut is just the bee's knees, isn't he? Here's a letter he wrote in 1973 to the head of the school board at Drake High School in North Dakota after the school burned all of its copies of Slaughterhouse-Five in the school's furnace.

If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as educated persons would, you would learn that they are not sexy, and do not argue in favor of wildness of any kind. They beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are. It is true that some of the characters speak coarsely. That is because people speak coarsely in real life. Especially soldiers and hardworking men speak coarsely, and even our most sheltered children know that. And we all know, too, that those words really don't damage children much. They didn't damage us when we were young. It was evil deeds and lying that hurt us.

Searching Vonnegut's story shapesSep 02 2011

Austin Kleon explicitly tied the last two posts together and fed Kurt Vonnegut's story shape graphs into Google Correlate's search by drawing feature. This is SO GOOD.

Vonnegut correlate

Kurt Vonnegut explains the shapes of storiesSep 02 2011

Using a chalkboard and a simple graphical axis, watch as Kurt Vonnegut explains the different shapes that stories can take.

(via @coudal)

Update: This is part of a longer talk that Vonnegut gave...a transcript is here.

I want to share with you something I've learned. I'll draw it on the blackboard behind me so you can follow more easily [draws a vertical line on the blackboard]. This is the G-I axis: good fortune-ill fortune. Death and terrible poverty, sickness down here-great prosperity, wonderful health up there. Your average state of affairs here in the middle [points to bottom, top, and middle of line respectively].

(thx, clifford)

Kurt Vonnegut's advice to young writersAug 05 2010

"Don't use semicolons. They stand for absolutely nothing. They are transvestite hermaphrodites. They are just a way of showing off. To show that you have been to college."

Did you know Vonnegut's daughter was divorced from Geraldo Rivera in 1974? I didn't. This is part 1 of a lecture Vonnegut gave to Albion College called, "How to Get a Job Like Mine."

(Via Sagatrope)

Update: Thanks to a tip from Joseph, I did some digging and found that the title of his Albion College lecture was not unique. A lot of the lectures Vonnegut gave were titled, "How to Get a Job Like Mine", during which, he would talk about whatever he wanted. Here's a write up I found of the lecture Joseph remembered from Tufts in 2002. I saw Vonnegut speak sometime in the mid-90s, but I have no idea what the lecture was called.

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