10 Years Ago … and counting

I know a lot of us are mulling over where we were in life as 1999 came to a close. I remember where I was: I was a newspaper reporter and like the rest of hte world, my editors thought the Y2K bug was gonna destroy all of the computers and lead to a community meltdown.

So, I had to stay in the office until midnight and wait for The End of Technology to happen. Yeah. Didn’t happen. So, I sat around, bored out of my gourd, watching television with one ear on the scanner, thinking: this sucks.

It wasn’t too much longer that I bailed out on my career in the newspaper business, stayed at home as a dad for two years (yeah!), went back to school and then went into teaching. Meanwhile, we had one kid born before 2000 and two more after 2000, and boy, time goes by fast.

I went through two rock bands, a number of smaller groups (one of which I named the Millennium Bugs as a nod to the great disaster that never happened) and an endless number of songs, poems, stories and whatnot throughout the last decade, and the words keep coming (not all of them good).

I also began the decade as a technology neophyte (heck, if the Y2K Bug had hit, I would have been in trouble trying to figure out how to explain it), but that changed when I joined the National Writing Project and took a path into technology in education. That changed my life. I am now fully immersed in the world of tech and loving it.

At least, tonight, the only bug we have to worry about is the flu. That’s progress.

Peace (in the decade),

What I love/don’t love about Sci-Fi

Yesterday, I took my older kids to see Avatar, the movie. We had to keep reminding my nine year old that it would not be a movie version of the cartoon/comic series also called “Avatar.” I wonder if there was some legal transactions around that name recognition, since the first time I heard of the movie in progress, I too thought of the comic series. (And to make it more confusing, I see now that the series is coming out as its own movie called The Last Airbender, or did I miss it already?)

This was the first full-length 3D movie that I have watched, wearing the funky glasses and all that. Three hours later, I had a bit of a headache but it sure was an interesting experience.

But the movie reminded me of what I have always loved about science fiction and what still rankles me.

I love how James Cameron really creates an entire world on the screen. It was beautiful and rich and stunning in its vision. I was particularly swept away by the little floating seeds. I won’t go into all the accolades that other reviewers will say about the beauty of the film, but it was magical to see. I’m not sure the 3D experience did a whole lot,however, and I would probably have been just as happy to see it in 2D (and save a few bucks in the process).

I was expecting to be knocked out with the 3D effects after all the press Cameron got. Some of it was cool, but I guess 3D still has a long way to go to become a fully immersible movie experience (Don’t tell Cameron that — every interview indicates that he has revolutionized filmmaking with Avatar — don’t believe the hype).

But Avatar also contains the weakness that drives me — a sci-fi nut, really — crazy. The story was another rehash (it was an updated Pocahantas, as done by Disney) and the dialogue was mostly terrible or barely passable. Character development, which was really the heart of the story, was just OK. The acting was pretty wooden for the main character (interestingly, I thought he did a better job when he was the computer-generated avatar than when he was a live person on the screen.)

Why can’t movie producers pull these these strands (effects, new worlds, dialogue, story arc and character development) to make a film that will blow away all audiences? I don’t get it. Last summer’s Star Trek took a good step in that direction (and now I see it popping up on a lot of Best of … lists) and the old TV series-turned-movie Firefly (the movie was Serenity) had some elements and updated Battlestar Galactica (against all odds, considering its history) kept storytelling and character development at its center.

But the movie world is littered with sci-fi crap. How can I expose my sons to the wonderful element of Science Fiction if so much of what falls under that umbrella is worthless junk?

Give them the books, of course. Give them the books and let them imagine the worlds and go deep into the stories.

Peace (in the worlds),

Kaossilator plus M-Audio equals … music?

For the holidays, I bought myself a gift: a new M-Audio Fast Track converter box that will allow me to finally plug a guitar, or keyboard, or a microphone (for my saxophone), directly into my computer. From there, I can use Audacity to do some editing.

It seems odd, since I remember the days of using my Fostex Four-track cassette machine to lay down tracks, bouncing things all around on this tiny machine that became like a member of the family for years. Now, I have my PC and the convenience factor is nice, but the experience seems different.

Anyway, yesterday, I wanted to try the MAudio out (it’s nothing more than a small box with input and output holes) but most of my gear is over at my friend’s house (note to self: get over there this week).

I decided to try out my Kaossilator, which is a handheld modulator device that I play with from time to time, but not all that often. It’s difficult to explain, but you move your fingers along the screen and it shifts the tone. It’s kind of like a 1970’s Moog Synthesizer, but in your hand. It’s fun but difficult to get exact notes.

I plugged the Kaossilator into the MAudio (and used my old Dr. Rhythm drum machine), and created this little song. It almost sounds like something that Mile Davis would have thrown away after a night of partying. I missed a lot of notes with my fingers. But still, I like the groove.

And the MAudio box worked like a charm (the real reason for the musical experiment).

Listen to the Kaos Groove

Here is a video I did a long time ago when I got the device:

Peace (in the groove),

Boolean Squared: Mr. Teach Declines

This is the last installment of my Children of the Screen sequence of comics for Boolean Squared. I thought it would be cool to add an Avatar reference to the strip today (you know, my characters are all over that) and how 3D movie making is not quite there yet.

Peace (in 3D),

Concept Mapping Two Collaborative Stories

Some of you know (because some of you are writing with me) that I launched a collaborative story this week. In fact, I launched two stories. Both began the same way, but one is being done with Google Wave and the other is being written at our iAnthology site (which is closed to the public).

It’s been pretty fascinating to watch the story shift in different directions — in one, a character is believed to be the inventor of the Internet but he comes to visit our main character with a bloodied knife and a story to tell of mistaken¬† identity. The other is set in Italy and again, a “friend” comes calling, but he is on the run from some local bad folks who want a precious stamp.

I thought it might be interesting to use a new site someone recommended called Spicy Nodes (a concept map site that is still in beta) to chart out the elements of the two stories. I’m not sure how Spicy Nodes is any better or more unique than other concept mapping sites.

Here is what I have come up with so far (direct link to the node is here):

You can still join us at the Google Wave story (of course, you need to be in Google Wave to participate). And that raises a question in my head — both Google Wave and the iAnthology limit participation because you have to be part of either structure. I am thinking that maybe we need a third variation of the story — on Etherpad, which requires no log in.

And so, in seconds, I created the start of the story over at Etherpad. Come in and join us: http://etherpad.com/cY2ufkguQ2

Peace (in the node),

Boolean Squared: Teachers as test subject

Here is another in this series of Children of the Screen comics with Boolean Squared. I thought it would be funny to have the boys use something they learned from Mr. Teach (the Scientific Method) for their project in creating a holographic e-reader. Mr. Teach doesn’t find it quite so funny.

Peace (in the method),

Boolean Squared: More Children of the Screen

This is the third installment of my Boolean Squared comic around kids growing up in the world of screen literacy. With the world awaiting news of Apple announcing some sort of iSlate or ereader thingamabob, I figured it was time to get my characters into the action. As usual, they will take the idea  a bit too far.

Peace (in the chip),

Boolean Squared: Labeling the Kids

This is the second in a series of new Boolean Squared comics about Screen Literacy and kids, which follows an article by Kevin Kelly that I read and blogged about the other day. Here, I was thinking how adults (particularly those in the media) always want to tag each cohort of kids with some label.

Peace (in the name),

Creating a Collaborative Wave Story

A few months ago, I got an invite from my friend, Ben, to Google Wave. I heard the hype and wanted to check it out. So, I got my Wave site set up and … consider me so far pretty unimpressed. Wave is sort of like a merging of email, chat and a wiki. Or something. A disclaimer: Google still considers Wave in beta, so more is sure to come and maybe that will make it more useful to me.

Still, I am determined to try out some of the possibilities and see Wave in action, if I can. Remember: we can’t really think about the learning possibilities of new technology without trying it ourselves.

So, I decided that maybe Wave would be a good way to start a collaborative short story (a sort of exquisite corpse idea). The Wave platform seems like a natural way for a person to start a wave with the start of a story and then allow others to add to the story. It could happen in real time or over time. It would not matter, since Wave is built for both experiences.

So I started a story in a Wave, and went through the process of adding folks from my contact list (I think Wave migrates contacts from gmail) to the short story Wave, sent out a few Tweets to let folks know about it, and … just one person (Thank you Sheryl!) has added a few lines to the story. I think I did everything I needed to do: I added contacts into the Wave, I opened it up for the public, etc.

Here is the story that I began:

To say she was connected would be too simple a statement. She was never disconnected. Even in her sleep, her dreams came to her in bursts of 140 characters. (She knew this because she often woke up and jotted down her dreams, a habit she acquired in her college psychology course. Her notebook was full of nighttime ramblings.)

And so, the night of the storm, with the weather forecasters freaking out about the high winds and possible lightning, she, too, began to freak out. She checked for batteries. She stood waiting near the electrical outlets, ready to pull the plugs at the first flash of lightning.

The last thing she expected was the knock at the door, but then, the unexpected always comes at the unexpected moment …

I figure the next step is to open up the Wave story to my blogging friends who might want to explore along with me.

SO — if you want to join my collaborative story Wave, you can do that by going here — http://tinyurl.com/yjlln5g — and if you don’t have Wave but want to see what the fuss is about, just leave me a comment here and I will send you off an invite (I think I have about 25 invites to dole out) into Wave.

I’d love to see the possibilities of this thing, but I can’t do it alone (the beauty of Wave is that it is built on the concept of collaboration, unless you are alone on your wave, and then it gets pretty lonely in the surf).

Don’t know what the heck I am talking about? Here is an overview of what Google Wave is:

Peace (in the collaboration),