Friday, May 27, 2011

An e-book can be many things

I have to say that I've been at a loss when thinking about what my class can do with an ebook for our final project.  Some want to write from an LDS perspective, which is fine, and something that would be worth doing.  I just have a hard time getting on-board with the idea, partly because I don't know how I could fit the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy into a project like this.

I've been thinking more along the lines of what Bri has proposed in her post.  I think that the best way to combine our novels into one coherent book is to write about our own digital literary research and combine the process with writing about our literary work that we've been studying.  I think this will serve our authenticity requirement, as we can make it available to those interested in doing similar work, having shown processes and tools for research 2.0. 

I won't cover everything that Bri talked about, but I do think I have an answer to her question about scope and how we can do an e-book with the time that is left in the term.  An e-book can be many things.  Its only requirement is that it be digital and consisting of a theme that binds it all together.  We don't have to make fancy flash-powered animation of page turning.  It can be simple.  I think that the best way to do this is with a wiki.  The menu on the side can be the table of contents and we could even have a topical guide of sorts that gives links to all 'chapters' talking about certain topics of research.  On the wiki we can include photos, video, and other things that a kindle format would not allow.  We can also submit the link to groups and projects like teachers and the DPLA so they can see the use of multimedia and web2.0 in modern-day research.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

MLA Bibiliography and Borges

  • I've been interested in Rachel's search for things about Borges, so I decided to see what I could find in MLA International Bibliography.  
  • MLA Bibliography is a great bibliography of articles, journals, books and even chapters of books going back to the 1920's
  • I originally looked in the MLA Bibliography trying to find a great article in Spanish that I might be able to translate for Rachel, something pertaining to her search about art and Borges.  I didn't end up finding anything that looked interesting in Spanish though. I used the adnvanced search options putting in Borges name and words in Spanish and in English using the OR boolean operator.  I got back many options but using the peer reviewed tab, I found a useful article online with a PDF and found the reference to it in the BYU library.
  • Baler, Pablo. "The Subconcious of Civilization: An Interview with Lilian Porter." Sculpture (U.S.A.). 20.1 (2001). 26-41.
  • Lilian Porter talks about her art and how it has been influenced by literature, especially by the writings of Borges and Carroll.
  • I'm not positive if this will help Rachel, but it seems to fit with what she has talked about with her research on artwork and Borges and also her plans to maybe submit something to the DPLA project. It didn't help her get into a article written in Spanish, but hopefully it is something that she can use.

Researching ideas on Humor and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in ERIC

  • I searched the ERIC database in hopes that I could find something on either The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or even just ideas about teaching humorous texts in the classroom.
  • ERIC (Education Resource Information Center) is a database of indexes and abstracts of many educational journals and reports after 1967.
  • I accessed ERIC through EBSCO on the BYU library wesite.  My intention was to see if anything has been written about using Hitchhiker in classrooms.  I didn't find anything, so I searched more generally for articles on humor in the language arts classroom and humor AND English.  This yeilded many resulsts and I was able to peruse the abstracts of the articles to find out which article might suit my needs. The article I found wasn't available but clicking the get@BYU button, I was able to find a pdf version on ProQuest.
  • Goebel, Bruce A.. "Comic Relief: Engaging Students through Humor Writing." English Journal  98.6 (2009): 38-43.
  • Goebel writes about the benefits of studying humor as a way to help students become engaged in learning and its use as a vehicle to teach grammar, language analysis, public speaking, and many other important aspects traditionally required in the study of language arts.
  • I liked this article for two reasons. First, it gave some great general ideas for teaching humor in the classroom which I could apply to Hitchhiker.  Second, it talks about several ways humor is produced which gave me some new ideas and confirmed others that I already had as correct.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Time is an illusion. Wasted time doubly so

At least, that is how I feel about the opportunities available by blogging our research process.  In the old days, with traditional methods of research and writing, if I were to research something that ultimately led to a dead end I would have been frustrated and disappointed about all of that wasted time. Not so with this blog.  I can talk about the process and my thoughts behind it and it serves a purpose and guides me to the next part of my research.  This post is about what I learned and what I think about the possible connection between Douglas Adams' Vogon poem and Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky.

The answer is a strong maybe in my mind.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Another book that inspired a movie.

Mountain ManMountain Man by Vardis Fisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book when I was in high school but had to add it to my goodreads shelf. Anybody who enjoyed the movie Jeremiah Johnson will absolutely love Fisher's novel. The amount of detail in this book really transports you into the world of the mountain man. After all of these years, I still remember the descriptions of food and everyday processes the protagonist goes through. But the book is so much more than that. It is about a man who lives in an untamed world, far from any comforts or civilization, but he is happy. That is until his Indian wife and unborn child are murdered by some warriors from another tribe. Then, he wanders the wilderness seeking vengeance against those who stole away his love and happiness. Very good stuff.

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Searching for a possible connection between Douglas Adam and Lewis Carroll in the Literature Resource Center

  1. Searching for a possible connection between Douglas Adam and Lewis Carroll in the Literature Resource Center
  2. My purpose was to see if the LRC (Literature Resource Center) had anything about Douglas Adams and a possible relationship between his work and that of Lewis Carroll.  I saw something while reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and wanted to research the perceived connection.
  3. Literature Resource Center This is a great resource for literary topics, authors, and their works, covering all genres, disciplines and time periods.  It has full-text access to articles and also biographical essays and links to other resources.
  4. I used the LRC to search any articles I could find on Douglas Adams and Lewis Carroll.  I did a simple boolean search of "Douglas Adams" AND "Lewis Carroll."  I also used combinations of these keywords with "Jabberwocky" and "Hitchhiker's Guide."  They didn't provide any useful results that were different from the first search. I found one article relevant to what I was searching.  Out of curiosity I searched "Douglas Adams" and it only returned about 21 results. This doesn't reflect on LRC necessarily, rather on the fact that not many people have felt the need to write scholarly articles on my chosen author or his works.
  5. Nediger, Will. "Lewis Carroll and Douglas Adams." Word Ways 38.1 (2005): 19-20. Literature Resource Center. Web. 24 May 2011
  6. The author talks about the relationship between certain aspects of Carroll's stories about Alice and Adam's Hitchhiker writing, saying that Adams was probably inspired by Lewis Carroll.
  7. This wasn't the best I could have hoped for but it was the best I could find.  I was hoping that someone had written about Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky" and a possible relationship with the Vogon poem read to Arthur and Ford before they are ejected into space.  This relates to my study of Adams' use of humor and a belief that I have that he was spoofing or even lampooning Carroll. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Group Discussions about Hitchhiker's Guide

The other day I found some groups about Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on Google and Goodreads.  Part of the way I want to research Adams' skill with comedy is to connect with others who love his works and hear what they have to say about it.  So, I used the discussion sections on these groups and posted this to them.
"The first time I read Hitchhiker's Guide, I was blown away by Adams' uncanny ability to write comically. His books are so memorable largely because of Adams' skill with humor and his great one-liners.
What do you think? How does Adams do it? What is it about his writing that tickles our funny bone every time?"
I have put this question to three different Douglas Adams fan groups now (it has been a challenge to find good active fan pages. I mostly find blogs and other types of websites).  This morning I had some emails alerting me that I've received a couple of answers to my question.  Both have mentioned reasons why they find Douglas Adams so funny and have given me new insights into his writing style.  I can't wait to see what other people have to say.

What if Shakespeare's characters all shared the same world?

Kill Shakespeare Vol.1 (Kill Shakespeare, #1)Kill Shakespeare Vol.1 by Conor McCreery

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The idea for this story is such a good one that I couldn't resist buying the book to check it out. I like the story and enjoyed the art, but I found the dialogue to be average. The psuedo-shakespearean language was used incorrectly and distracted from the story. That said, I enjoyed everything else and thought it was a fun take on the well-known creations of the Bard. I will probably buy the second part when it's available.

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Towel Day: May 25th

It can be argued, I think, that a book's importance can, in part, be measured by the type of impression it leaves upon society after it has been written.  There is, of course, the immediate effects while people are still excited about a given work, but there are also longer lasting impacts that truly show how important a book has been to our culture.  Granted, these influences are not always profound or important, but they do exist and they are important for some people.  I'm talking about something more than Twilight fame.  Twilight has had its moment, but I don't think it will last, or ever have a following like the Lord of the Rings or other stories.  Part of my exploration of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is going to be on the way it has influenced our culture and how it has remained relevant and popular even after more than 30 years.

For this post I want to talk about Towel Day.  Towel Day began May 25 2001, a mere two weeks after Douglas Adams' untimely death.  It has since been a tradition for fans everywhere to carry their towels with them every May 25 to celebrate Adams' life and his genius and creativity as a writer. 

For those who aren't familiar with the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, towels were named in the stories as being one of the most valuable possessions a interstellar traveler could have.  This is what the Hitchhiker's Guide says:
"A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough . . . any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with."
In honor of Douglas Adams, I am going to carry my towel with me and of course tell everyone who asks about one of the most entertaining authors that I have read.  I also wanted to write this post to share with everyone who comes across it so that they too can share the love of humor, Science Fiction, and hitchhiking.

Here is a short video talking about Towel Day

This is a Google Doodle done by Vinesh, a student at Lincoln Praire School, where they will be reading Vogon poetry to celebrate Towel Day.  Google Towel Day Logo.

Desktop backgrounds by Travis Avery to celebrate Towel Day 2011

Lastly, Towel Day will also be celebrated in Second Life at Milliways, the restaurant at the end of the universe

If any of this made absolutely no sense to you, please, do yourself the favor and go down to your nearest library or bookstore or get onto Amazon or iTunes and buy this book.  You'll laugh your way through it and have a more light-hearted look at Life, the Universe and Everything.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Modern take on the Hitchhiker's Guide

Here is a funny video a fan made. It's what the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has to say about coffee. I like how he made the Guide to look like an ipad screen.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Great Book

American GodsAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really loved this story. Gaiman blends the mythology of multiple cultures into a melting pot of gods and magic appropriate for the demographics of the United States. The old guard vs. the new guard of gods and fairy-tale creatures are on the verge of a mythological battle which represents a paradigm shift of belief and worship in the United States, and Shadow, a regular, unassuming man, gets caught in the middle.

This novel is a very fun and quick-paced read. Gaiman keeps his story balanced between good action and mystery, which keeps you on your toes, and character development which shows the humanity of even the most barbaric of gods, which lets you really feel for the characters and enjoy their triumphs.

This is a novel for adults, with some harsh language, but the sex and violence isn't too explicit. I'd recommend this book to anybody who enjoys fantasy or mythology.

p.s. I listened to the audio version of this book. The narrator is perfect for this novel. Very well done.

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Curse You Amazon!!

I got my books I bought on Amazon today.  It was, as always, an exciting experience until I realized that they sent me the wrong book.  Having read and loved Neil Gaiman's American Gods, I decided I wanted to read two other books of his.  Stardust and Don't Panic, a companion guide to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  To my dismay, Don't Panic wasn't in the box.  Instead, I had a regular paperback copy of the actual Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Aaarrrgghhh! The incompetence!  The invoice, of course proves that the error had not been made on my end of the transaction.

My plan is to read Neil Gaiman's companion guide and to write him after and hopefully asking him some questions about his thoughts on the novel, based on what I read from his book.  I still have to call the people at Amazon, but I hope they can get me another copy of that book fast so I can see what Mr. Gaiman has to say.  Until then, Amazon, you're on my list.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"I love deadlines. . .

. . . I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
                                             ---Douglas Adams

I'm having trouble deciding how I want to approach The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  I'm trying to blog my processes of research and what I am learning, and tangle with the text in a literary way.  The problem is, I'm not sure how I want to approach this.  One idea is to look at the humor of the book and Douglas Adams, and analyze how he creates humor and why it works.  This idea appeals to me because it is something new for me, and I think I could learn quite a bit about the craft of comedy.  Another approach that I am considering is to look at the ways the book has influenced pop culture and how the book has stayed alive in the hearts of the general public.  This will be fun because I can look at how people consume the book and create their own content in order to celebrate Adams and his Galaxy.  Lastly, I could study how this book has remained relevant in our digital and scientific culture, even 32 years after it was published.  This is a rare thing for a Science Fiction novel and even more surprising when you think of more serious Science Fiction novels that are terribly outdated merely because they failed at predicting the future of technology and science. 

I am sure I would enjoy any of these options, but I'm not sure which would be most profitable for me to study.  I know that in a way these ideas are interconnected, but to talk about all three would be too general of a topic. 

What do you think I should do?  Leave comments and tell me which idea sounds the most interesting?  Any input will be appreciated.  I can't promise to follow your suggestion, but I will promise to take it into consideration.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Do you make soundtracks for your books?

photo by dalydose
Yesterday I set up a feed into my Google reader through Google's blog search for any posts with the words "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".  It paid off immediately as one of the first things I got was a link to this post.  I love this because these people have created "mixed tapes" to accompany the first three books of the Hitchhiker's series.  The author has asked for people to make suggestions to improve the mix, offering a reward for the best suggestion.  What a great example of someone remixing to create something new and consume media in a different way.

At the bottom of that post are links to listen to all of the songs they have chosen for each book.  So, I listened to this mixed-tape soundtrack for Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  The songs they chose are either songs that were written about the story itself or something that fits with a certain scene in the book.  They placed the music in the same order as the book.  Also, and this is my favorite part, the author gives a small explanation for many of the songs and why they were chosen.  This is beneficial to anyone reading the book because it considers characters, themes, and tone and explains how the songs match enhance these elements.

I think this will enhance my reading of Adam's master work.  Using music and art to interpret literature is nothing new.  Music can help form an emotional connection on a deeper level than just reading can.  Experiencing something in many mediums makes a deeper impression on your mind.   This is a good way to connect people to what they are reading.  It's fun for students to experience their readings on multiple levels.  If listening to this mixed-tape soundtrack causes someone to form a permanent connection between Coldplay and Douglas Adams, I would consider it a good thing.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Collaboration: A 21st century necessity and reality

Collaboration.  That is something that has been on my mind quite often after reading both Rainbows End and Crowdsourcing.  Rainbows End has the importance of collaborative work spread throughout the novel.  As both plots unfold, the level of collaboration employed by characters is increasingly more complex and more important to the success of their endeavors.  Even Robert Gu has to learn that he can be more successful in life by working with others instead of constantly pushing them away.  In Crowdsourcing, Jeff Howe shows that, time and again, the amateurs working in the crowd are often willing to collaborate and share their knowledge to the benefit of the entire collaborative community.  This is a key component in crowdsourcing.

I'm trying to look at this course in light of my future career as an English teacher, and I've been thinking about collaboration mostly in context of a high school or junior high context. Why is collaboration so important for kids in school, and how can I best employ it?

My short review of Jeff Howe's Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of BusinessCrowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business by Jeff Howe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't often read books like Crowdsourcing, but I found Jeff Howe to be an engaging writer who knows how to tell engaging stories to explain his theories on how to use the crowd in business. There are a few places that feel a little repetitious and dull, but Howe mostly delivers a solid message in an way that I found entertaining. My recommendation: Don't read this book word for word. Skim it, browse it, read it like a manual of sorts and you'll pick up the message without getting bogged down it similar stories or parts you don't find interesting.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review of Rainbows End

Rainbows EndRainbows End by Vernor Vinge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Vinge's Rainbows End is a good book that he just didn't seem to be able to tie up completely at the end. I really enjoyed this book. I thought that some of the themes he addresses and the futuristic world that he creates were quite good. The idea of people who wear their computers and are always connected, experiencing an augmented view of reality is one that is exciting and exotic, yet not too far-fetched. The issues with this book are the ways he connects the two plot lines. I thought that both plot lines were good but so different from each other that you almost have to change mindset when switching to the other story. Vinge doesn't give enough closure for my taste on the secondary plot line and this left me feeling a little dissatisfied. I want to know more. That said, I thought this was a good book and one that I would recommend to friends and family who enjoy SciFi. Vinge has a few misses but when he gets it right in this book I really enjoyed it.

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Favorite Movie Adaptations

I'm so excited for June to come fast.  No, it's not because we finish Spring term.  It is because Cinemark will be showing, for one night each, the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and I got my tickets to see The Fellowship of the Rings.

Having talked in class about different ways to consume books, I began thinking about other movie adaptations and which ones have been good and which have been disgustingly bad.  Here is a list of some of my favorite movie adaptations from books that I have read.

The Princess Bride

This iconic '80's movie starring Cary Elwes and Robin Wright is an adaptation from William Goldman's book by the same name.  What I love about this book adaptation is that although the movie doesn't contain every scene from the book, what it does contain is surprisingly accurate.  Even the grandfather reading the story to his grandson reflects how Goldman tells his story.  This is refreshing in an industry that often takes liberties with the story lines they are adapting, resulting in a final product that resembles the original in name alone.

The Godfather

I think that many people don't realize that this move starring Marlon Brando as Don Corleone was originally a book by Mario Puzo.  Although Puzo's book details much more than you see in the first movie, The Godfather tells the essential story of the Corleone family and their workings in the dark, yet honor bound world of the Italian-American mafia.  This movie has become Hollywood's ultimate example of the mafia and is constantly alluded to in movies and TV programs.  This is one of the must-see's in the world of cinema.


Richard Chamberlain stars in this mini-series that successfully takes James Clavell's Shogun to a new audience via TV.  This mini-series lasts about 9 hours but is well worth the time for anyone interested in the exploration period, feudal Japan or simply a great story.  The story told here is one of love, politics, isolation, religion and betrayal.  It is very compelling, with excellent actors (including a surprising tie-in for this post).  The Portuguese pilot is played by non other than John Rhys-Davies, also known as Gimli, the dwarf, in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Is your head stuck in a cloud?

Wordle: blogcloud

I briefly mentioned the word "cloud" in a post I did earlier today.  I wanted to talk a little more about how this word is changing for us today and what cloud means in the digital age.  This will be a big help for people like my dad who asked me the other day to explain the cloud to him. As I talk about this, I have to confess that my mind always makes an ironic reference to Aristophones' The Clouds whenever I think of the modern-day use of cloud 

A cloud, when talking in digital or technical jargon can be more than one thing.  The first example is a word cloud, like the image above.  Word clouds, like this one made with wordle, show an analysis of words used in any given context and assigns the word a size according to the number of times repeated, relatively, in the piece it analyzes.  This wordle I have here is an analysis of my blog.  By looking at it I instantly see that I favor the word "class" in this blog.  This can have several uses.  Look at the bar on the right and you will see that I use a word cloud to show my diigo tags and also, lower down, the tags for my posts on this blog.  The more often a tag is used, the bigger it appears in the cloud.  Easy enough, and quite fun to play with.  This can be useful in education to help students analyze a work and see how often important words are used.  They can easily find themes and topics addressed in any written work.  Wordle isn't the only resource available to make word clouds.  For more sites that help you do this, check our the post Sites for Creating Word Clouds.

Are you listening to podcasts?

ePublicist on Flickr
I don't listen to a large amount of podcasts, but I do listen to several regularly.  My discovery of podcasts dates back to 2007 when I used to work spraying lawns and trees with fertilizer and insecticide.  I would drive around all day long listening mostly to the programming of NPR, my favorites being Talk of the Nation and Diane Rehm. Well, when I went back to school I took a night job and was either in school or sleeping when my favorite programs were on, so I began to download the podcast of the show and never looked back.

I still listen to those two podcasts but now I have several more as well.  I picked up the CNN presidential race analysis in 2008 and listened to that once a week, and subscribed to a technology podcast by NPR.  They are all very good and informative, and the best part is that I listen to them when I have the time to do so.  If I'm not interested in the story or am behind on my listening I can erase some and skip to the good ones.  It is a great way to consume entertainment and news on your own time schedule and especially great for those who enjoy talk radio.

Here is a list of podcasts I am subscribed to:
And the best part is . . . these ones are free.  I've listened to others but either I haven't subscribed or have since unsubscribed to their feeds.

So, what does this mean to those who are reading this post?  Chances are that you have no desire to listen to the same things that I do.  That's fine.  I'm just writing this to tell people out there that podcasts are a great way to consume content.  You don't have to have an ipod to listen to these.  You can download them on your computer and listen to them wherever.  Chances are, there are really good podcasts available that talk about something you are really interested in. Whether that be collecting old soda cans to amateur stargazing.

Tell me some of your favorite podcasts.

I'm blogging in my Writing About Literature class?!

image by Blogging Librarian
Why did I take English 295 Writing about Literature? Because I had to.  I would not have taken this class otherwise.  Fortunately, when I signed up for this class I saw that Dr. Burton was teaching one section and decided to add his class, hoping to see some new fun technology in use.  The class I signed up for was nothing I thought it was going to be.  I think, in fact, that all of us were confused as we walked into a computer lab for an English class.  It turned out that this class would focus on writing in a digital culture for a digital audience.  I loved the idea and have been having a great time.

The one question I've asked myself is why this class is hiding in a writing about literature section if it is so much more than that.  Forget the advanced writing requirement.  I would have taken this class on my own if I'd have known it existed.  I think that if this class were advertised better, there would be students lining up outside of Dr. Burton's office to take it.  This type of writing is relevant because it has a larger audience than one person, and that is what makes the class so enjoyable.  Without explicitly asking, I have come to the conclusion that this class must be a pilot program to see how it would work, if it is worth doing at all.

I may be off with this, but I think that most people in this class have found it to be a good one, and one with definite benefit.  So why is it hiding in the English 295 category?  Could it be possible to have this class taught regularly under its own category?  This would advertise it to students and let them know that this type of writing class is available to them.  I'm sure that many would prefer this class to many other writing classes offered at BYU.

I was thinking about this today as I left class and was hit by a great idea.  Our collaborative project for the semester could be to help push this class out of the pilot program and into the regular curriculum.  Why don't we, as a class, prepare a presentation that uses the skills we are learning to show the powers that be at BYU what exactly the value of this class is, and how we, as students, feel about having this class available to us?

What do you think?  Would this be something worth doing?  I feel that it has real-life value with a possibility of real-life results.  I haven't taken the idea much further than this.  I just thought I'd throw it out there to everybody else to see what they have to say on the matter.

What do we do when tech fails?

Technology has done so much to improve our lives.  There are so many things that have become easier and more available to us in this age because of the internet and the tools we have at our disposal.  So what happens when that technology fails us?

I imagine that I have been as frustrated as most because of blogger's downtime the last day or two.  When you get used to having easy access to a technology it can almost be a tragedy when that access is temporarily cut off.  Of course, having blogger turned off for a few days really doesn't qualify as a tragedy by any stretch of the imagination, but what happens when other tech fails?

It was just a week or so ago that Amazon's access to their online storage was out of service.  This means that people couldn't get their movies and music that they have purchased and left on the cloud.  The cloud is touted as the end all be all of portable media and information but I have always had my doubts.  I can store my things on the cloud and wont have to worry about losing my information if my hard drive fails, but if my movies are in the cloud, what do I do when I'm in a place that has no connectivity?  Furthermore, what if my hard drive or other device fails? How will I access my information?  The cloud is a great resource for us to have but I think that I will always want my hard copy of books, movies, and other types of information and data simply because a book with paper pages will always be accessible.

I'm not saying I don't support the use of the cloud.  I'm just thinking out loud about the inconvenience of having our information and entertainment exclusively in digital formats.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Crowdsourcing = Good Policy?

Yesterday I was talking with Amy Whitaker about the digital culture book I am reading, Crowdsourcing, by Jeff Howe.  We were talking about how the crowd can usually produce some great ideas and function more effectively than even a group of top experts, given that the crowd is somewhat familiar with the subject in question.  Amy brought up a great point, and one that I have been thinking about since last week

How would crowdsourcing improve politics?

I think it would be interesting to see what the crowd could do with important issues like heath care, immigration reform, budgets, and many other aspects that congress works at but just isn't able to get done.  It would make for an interesting experiement.

I am still working this idea over and hope to write more about it later, but I thought I would throw it out there to see what the readers of this blog think about the subject.  I used the email me link on Jeff Howe's blog Crowdsourcing to ask this same question.  When I get an answer I will let you know what was said and further talk about my thoughts on the subject.

Monday, May 9, 2011

H.P. Lovecraft, Forbidden Knowledge and the English Major
I was reading Ben Wagner's post "I'll never be able to read everything I want" this morning, where he talks about the impossibility of consuming all media that is created, and it reminded me of a conversation I had with my brother and his girlfriend about a week ago.  During this conversation, my brother and his girlfriend mentioned H.P. Lovecraft, which got about as much of a response from me as they could get from a rock, because I had no idea who or what H. P. Lovecraft is.  After staring at me in open-mouthed shock, they exclaimed how is it possible that I am an English major and have never read any Lovecraft.  I, of course just laughed at them.  "You can't read everything out there that someone thinks is worth reading."  At this point, I had never even heard of H. P. Lovecraft, so they explained to me that H.P. Lovecraft practically started modern Horror--a genre that I am not very interested in.  It did make me curious to remember the incident and his name though.

I began to encounter H. P. Lovecraft in other places.  Having remembered the name H. P. Lovecraft, it made me smile when Vinge makes a reference to him in Rainbows End when talking about one of the belief circles in the library.  It seems that maybe Lovecraft had enough influence to get remembered in Vinge's novel set around 2025.  So, after reading Ben's post and remembering my brother and his girlfriend, I decided to check him out on wikipedia.  Going down the page I learned for the first time that H.P. Lovecraft is a person and not a sub-genre of horror like I had originally thought.  I was also amused to see that Lovecraft was quite fond of the idea of Forbidden Knowledge, a figure popular in one of the belief circles of Vinge's Rainbows End.  Lovecraft has also inspired a lot of music, movies and literature with his horror and strange fiction.  Learning these connections was kind of fun for me, but I doubt that I will ever get around to reading his work.  And that is OK.

What is the point of studying English in college anyway?  Can I consider it an education if I've never read H. P. Lovecraft or Lord of the Flies or any Steinbeck?  Of course I can.  The way I see it, English isn't about who can read the most books.  It's about communication and art.  We learn better communication by learning to write and express ourselves and also learning to analyze and understand what others are trying to say through their own writings.  We learn the art of language by appreciating and studying what makes literature artistic and what aesthetic value it has to offer.  Then, those that are especially good, can combine the two aspects and create something themselves that is both well communicated and artistic. That is how I view my college education.

What do you think? Should I try to read everything?  Can we call ourselves English majors or lovers of literature if we haven't read everything on the official canon of literature?  What is the point of the study of language?  Leave me some of your comments.  I'd love to see what you think. 

p.s.  I've tagged some Lovecraft info in my diigo account.  Check that out on the right if you want to know more about him.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Dilemma: To lose my mind or to lose my voice

First, to read my thoughts on Vinge's Rainbows End, as a complete work, follow the link here

Robert Gu, early in the book, finds himself with a dilemma of sorts, in regards to his Alzheimer's disease and the cure: Stay sick and die a famous poet who had Alzheimer's, or get better but lose your talent for poetry. Unfortunately for Robert, the decision has been made and the question answered before it was even asked.  Robert, a legend in the world of poetry, had been suffering from Alzheimer's and dying.  The cure for this degenerative disease has restored his mind, but it could not do so without some side-effects.  Being capable of coherent thought and memory, Robert wants to continue his works of poetry by writing about his fall and rise from Alzheimer's  There is only one problem, Robert has lost his talent to make the words sing.
The dramatic question in Robert's plot line is whether he will get his talent back or can he learn to accept his new life and his new-found affinity for technology.  Robert's loss change his fundamentally and as the book progresses, he becomes a person that people can actually consider pleasant company.  This is a slow, unintentional progress for Robert but slowly develops as he learns to accept his circumstances and be content with the choice that was taken for him. 

I find it interesting that, only after he truly learns to be happy with what ability he has in his new life, Robert is presented with the idea that he might have his cake and eat it too.  At the end of the novel Robert finds himself wondering if he might not be able to have both his poetic genius and his knack for technological things.  Vinge leaves this as an open question.  I think he knows that technology and beauty do not have to be separate entities, and this is the true epiphany Robert has as the novel closes. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Crowdsourcing: The 21st Century Business Model

I got my copy of Jeff Howe's book Crowdsourcing yesterday.  I've been leafing through it and have found it to be a very interesting read.  This isn't a book that I would probably pick up on my own, but I am, nevertheless, fascinated by the concepts and what this means for the future.  I want to read a bit more before I talk to you about it, but in the meantime, here is a YouTube video of Jeff Howe telling us just what crowdsourcing is.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quick and Dirty Tips ™

Anyone who regularly writes would do well to make Grammar Girl a part of their media consumption.  Grammar Girl's podcasts offer quick writing tips focused on different aspects of grammar and how to apply them in your writing.  Her podcasts are focused on a new concept each time, and she presents them in a concise and entertaining manner that makes her podcast a great experience and a quick listen.  This podcast is very well done and is a good addition to any who already listen to other podcasts and a great starting point for people who have never tried them before.
Below is a link to a website offering minilessons on a variety of topics.  Under the Writing & Education tab you will find the link for Grammar Girl's website where you can listen to her blogs or read the transcripts provided.  I recommend subscribing to Grammar Girl's podcast and taking advantage of her excellent advice.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Times, They Are A-Changing

First, I can't say these words without thinking of one of my all-time favorite Bob Dylan songs, which I feel is appropriate considering the aims of this blog and what I will be talking about.


Alright, times are definitely changing in the world of writing.  I have been thinking about what Matt Harrison said about the New York Times and the how distribution of news and mass media is changing.  Also, I liked Nyssa Silvester's comments and the link she gave to a website talking about the nature of e-book publishing and why it sometimes can cost more than a paperback version of the same book.  I was browsing that website a little bit when I was struck with how much the publishing and writing world has evolved in this new digital age.  It truly is the time of change and new models of business for writers.  

Freelance writing seems to be the order of the day for most websites and even magazines lately.  The old model of the traditional nine-to-five, cubicle-dwelling writer is quickly dying away.  The nature of the beast is changing and writers find themselves more able to work from home and write for a large number of clients.  This creates a great opportunity for many aspiring writers but also a lot of competition as thousands, if not millions, of writers are all seeking to sell their skills as freelancers.  I think this is a great thing that will improve diversity in the field and create a new model that can be both beneficial for writers and their employers.

Related to the freelance writer, is the self-publisher.  Self-publishing can be done through websites like Lulu or Amazon and can be done in paper or electronic format.  This offers a huge opportunity for authors who are struggling with agents and publishers in order to get their texts out to the public.  Whitman began publishing Leaves of Grass with his own money and was so successful that he was later picked up by someone.  This has happened in recent years with authors like Richard Paul Evans when he published The Christmas Box on his own.  I even have a friend working on publishing a graphic novel he has written and drawn through Lulu.  It's quite an exciting world for writers right now. The digital world offers a great opportunity for self-publishing, again, improving an old model of business to fit in a new digital world.

I have marked a couple of sites in my Diigo account under the tag "writing." As I find more on the subject I will mark it in Diigo under this tag.  Feel free to check out what I've seen by following the link or clicking on the writing tag in my Diigo stream in the column to the right.

Looking Without Seeing

I've been enjoying Vernorn Vinge's Rainbows End during the last few days.  It is a SciFi novel, set in the not-so-distant future as an old man, newly recovering from Alzheimer's and any number of other illnesses, tries to adjust to life where technology and everything else are virtually inseparable.  Poor Robert Gu is a 75 year old poet who finds himself torn between his former stubborn refusal to adapt to technology and a new and confusing fascination with how this newfangled stuff works. 

During the first twelve chapters, Robert refuses to adjust his life to the new technology around him.  In Vinge's world, this means that Robert refuses to "wear."  "Wearing" is basically using high-tech clothes and contact lenses that constantly maintain the wearer connected to online information of all sorts and even place layers  of information over what the wearer sees, in a sort of Iron-man kind of fashion.  Robert's granddaughter Miri exclaims that people who do not "wear" cannot see the world like regular people.  It is like looking through a keyhole, she says.  Effectively, Robert can look at the world around him without seeing anything that most people in that time would consider worth knowing. 

There is a definite theme of sight and vision in this novel.  When Robert Gu is healed of his Alzheimer's, he is also healed of many other ailments, including blindness.  Robert remarks that trying to do things for himself before recovering his sight was like fumbling around in the dark when you can't turn on the light.  Interestingly, after Robert regains his sight, he is still blind to the world around him.  Because he does not "wear," Robert fumbles and is not able to see and interact with all things around him.  It is like a severe myopia that impedes him from getting more than a gist of the information that should be available to his eyes.  Robert looks without seeing, but this time, his blindness is by choice.