Leonardo da Vinci was the king of creative research, apparently

So recently I was looking for something to read and I happened to come across a recent biography of Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. I am not someone who is typically interested in art or art history but I do love well-written biographies about interesting people and I knew that Isaacson is particularly excellent in this respect, so I decided to pick up a copy from my library out of idle curiosity.

It turns out that telling the story of Leonardo da Vinci’s life is a bit difficult because while he left behind a lot of notebooks and writings, he almost never wrote about himself in any detail. Isaacson does a great job of filling in the blanks based on the historical evidence that still exists but the biography of Leonardo(1) in many ways ends up being a biography of the work he left behind, both finished and unfinished, more than a biography of the man himself and how he lived his life. Because while Leonardo didn’t write much about himself, he did write a great deal about things that sparked his curiosity. And much of what he was curious about ended up informing his work in the various artistic and scientific realms that he worked in.

Basically, what I’m saying is Leonardo da Vinci did a lot of what can be understood now as creative research.

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What I’m reading: August 2021

Some bite-sized thoughts and reflections on the items I’ve been reading, listening to, or watching this month. 

Also: Did you read, watch, listen to, play something this month that you particularly enjoyed? Feel free to share in the comments! I’m always looking for recommendations.

Note: The following post contains spoilers for Dr. Death (the podcast and probably the TV series), Glow Up, and Humans. Also I talk about The Most Amazing Vacation Rentals on Netflix in some detail. I don’t think it’s possible to spoil a travel reality show but I’m mentioning it just in case. Also: no reality show catch phrases (e.g. “What a life!,” “Ding dong!” or “Bring on the models!” were harmed in the writing of this blog post.)

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Thinking about Hamilton and creative license

For the Fourth of July this year, I finally sat down and watched Hamilton on Disney Plus, the version that was filmed live with the original cast back in 2016. As someone who, even in normal times, doesn’t get to the theater as much as I would like to due in no small part to ticket prices, I generally appreciate these special, filmed performances that get released to movie theaters and sometimes streaming (see also: Newsies). But unlike a lot of the shows I watch on screen, I’ve actually seen the touring version of Hamilton live. It was a pretty thrilling experience, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this filmed version.

Generally speaking, I liked it a lot. It was a lot of fun to see the original cast, many of whom I know from other projects, in their breakout roles, especially after having just seen some of them in the movie version of In the Heights. Like a lot of people, I do wish they had been able to capture more of the amazing choreography in the film, but I guess the trade-off was getting to see the actors’ faces up close in a way that you wouldn’t if you were actually seeing the show in the theater. Anyway, it was a lot of fun.

I also watched the tie-in special that ABC/Disney made to go with the release of the film, which is called “Hamilton: History Has Its Eyes on You.” The setup is a kind of group Zoom interview between Robin Roberts, members of the cast, and Harvard Professor Annette Gordon-Reed. I expected it mostly to be a fluff piece about how great Hamilton is and mostly it is but it also considers how Hamilton as a show feels a bit different in 2020 (when the special was filmed) than it might have when it was filmed back in 2016. And there are also questions about the show’s historical accuracy.

In my upcoming book project, I have a chapter on the ethical use of information that considers some of the differences between “ethical use for academic/scholarly research,” where citation is required and creative license is anathema, and “ethical use for creative research,” where creative license is assumed. I used both Hamilton and The Social Network as examples of popular creative works that take liberties with the histories they purport to tell. So I was very interested to see how Lin-Manuel Miranda and Dr. Gordon-Reed answered questions about creative license and historical accuracy in the special.

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What I’m reading: July 2021

Some bite-sized thoughts and reflections on the items I’ve been reading, listening to, or watching this month.

Also: Did you read, watch, listen to, play something this month that you particularly enjoyed? Feel free to share in the comments! I’m always looking for recommendations.

Note: The following post contains spoilers for Monument Valley, In Treatment, Love, Victor, All That Glitters, Never Have I Ever, and an old episode of The New Girl. 

 

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Gone fishing: Summer edition

I’m on vacation this week so I won’t be posting any new content, but below is a list of some favorite posts from this year so far in case you’d like to check out any you might have missed. Enjoy and see you in a few weeks!

Guest post: Jesi Buell on how to use research in creative writing

Dear students: Citing your sources incorrectly is not plagiarism

Research in fiction writing: What problem is this investigation trying to solve (for librarians)?

Reference desk interactions: Helping “library users” versus helping “information creators”

Research in fiction writing: What problems is this investigation trying to solve (for writers)?

Reflecting on Being a (Former) First Generation Student

My Online Teaching Persona is a Major Introvert

Why I Start My Freshman Seminar with a Game Called “Category Die”

Dear AWP: Research is Not Just for Nonfiction

In Search of Borders Between Research Contexts

The True Bummer of Teaching

That Time I Tried Using a Tom Lehrer Song to Teach Plagiarism

 

 

What I’m reading: June 2021

Some bite-sized thoughts and reflections on the items I’ve been reading, listening to, or watching this month.

Also: Did you read, watch, listen to, play something this month that you particularly enjoyed? Feel free to share in the comments! I’m always looking for recommendations.

Note: The following post contains mostly vague/light spoilers for Shadow and Bone (the Netflix series), Six of Crows (the book), Days Gone (the PS4 game), The Nanny, The Magicians, and Superman & Lois.

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What I’m reading: May 2021

Image: Title screen for TV series Warrior, owned by Cinemax

Some bite-sized thoughts and reflections on the items I’ve been reading, listening to, or watching this month.

Also: Did you read, watch, listen to, play something this month that you particularly enjoyed? Feel free to share in the comments! I’m always looking for recommendations.

Note: The following post contains discussion of and possible spoilers for Crime Show (podcast), Warrior (TV series on HBO Max), and Lego Masters (TV series on Fox/Hulu). 

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What I’m reading: April 2021

Some bite-sized thoughts and reflections on the items I’ve been reading, listening to, or watching this month.

Also: Did you read, watch, listen to, play something this month that you particularly enjoyed? Feel free to share in the comments! I’m always looking for recommendations.

Note: The following post contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and The Circle (all currently available episodes as of 4/27).

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What I’m reading: March 2021

Some bite-sized thoughts and reflections on the items I’ve been reading, listening to, or watching this month.

Also: Did you read, watch, listen to, or play something this month that you particularly enjoyed? Feel free to share in the comments! I’m always looking for recommendations.

Note: The following post contains spoilers for The Neverending Story (both the book and the movies), the podcast Who the Hell is Hamish?, The 100 (TV series), WandaVision, and The Bridge (the HBO Max reality series).

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