It has quickly become obvious that my photo-every-day project needs a little focus. Haha. Focus. Get it. A photography joke…. never mind. Anyhow, each day so far I’ve picked up my camera and gone out to the park or the backyard and then… uh… snap. Done, right? Problem is that in about two weeks you’re going to have a big collection of photos of Claire at the park that, while certainly all lovely and interesting, kinda defeats the purpose of pushing myself with a daily photo goal. There are numerous ways I could solve this, but how I’ve chosen to try is via a randomized photo prompt. Geek-power activate: Last night I wrote a really simple little PHP script into the sidebar of this blog. It’s a bit of code that when activated, checks to see if there is already a daily prompt and if not goes ahead and picks three random variables –a palatte, a technique, and a subject– mashing them together into a cue for me: the result is I get a little sentence that describes something I need to take a picture of fot that day. Essentially, each day, the first time the blog loads for the day, a new cue is randomly generated (so I don’t get knowledge ahead of time of the day’s challenge) and that is posted on the site (and also sent to me via email, if you feel that you want to know more about how this works!) It’s an idea generator, and what results can be awesome, crazy, simple or insane. It could be a colourful macro photo of food, or a black and white action shot of nature, or… who knows. There are currently about four thousand unique combinations (and I’ll hopefully think of some more descriptors to add in over time.)
Facebook is ablaze with angry people raging about topics they only half understand on both sides of a complex political spectrum. Thing is, politics is not sports: you’re not supposed to “cheer” for some team you’ve arbitrarily picked because of where you live or what your friends think. You are supposed to use your brain. So, if you do only one thing this election season, do this: don’t vote for a party. Vote for someone with convictions that matter to you and your family. Vote for ideas that will make this country better. Vote for a candidate that will represent and fight for policies that work for you. Vote for a leader who will listen to your community. Vote for someone who will answer their phone or respond to your email or re-tweet your inquiry with a coherent response. Open your mind to all available options and vote for something… and not just a color or a logo.
What posts in June? Oh, thooooose thirty posts in June… again. It seems that for the fourth year in a row I’ve climbed aboard the daily blogging train and continued that monumental, multi-year writing effort to string a topic or idea across the vast reaches of years. Each day a new post on a new topic, but on the same blog-per-day topic as last year, creating another set of Those 30 Posts in June. Today, that post just happens to be:
June 29th // Something You Want to Tell Others
I don’t know much, but in my short little life I think I’ve started to get the faintest glimmer of a glimpse of some important truths, such as:
carpe diem | run like the wind | saying that you can’t run is very different that saying that you don’t run | if you don’t run find some other way to use your body | happiness is just a piece of the journey not a destination in itself | happiness is neither a guarantee nor an entitlement | no one brags about their failures on facebook | failure is a necessary part of success | motivational slogans and platitudes won’t change your life | these are probably motivational slogans and platitudes | your body is just a biological machine: learning how it works is the most important thing you’ll ever do | television is a distraction: that can be both good and bad | find balance | grown ups don’t whine about their preferences: they either eat what’s on their plate or shut up | successful people try new things every day | the inability to follow directions, societal norms, or speed limits is not a skill | unless you built it yourself, I don’t care how fancy your truck is | credit is how the rich control the poor | if you’re reading this, you’re probably rich (relatively speaking) | free will is probably an illusion | half of what you believe is wrong | the other half of what you believe is only as true as your ability to perceive the universe | find your thing | naivety is supposing that other people are naive because they think or act differently than you | if you’re determined to wait for something better, stand aside and let the rest of us enjoy right now
You’ve heard of TED, right? Y’know, those ten minute inspirational videos that people forward you all the time, post on Facebook and tell you “dude! you’ve gotta see this… so inspiring!”
Pecha Kucha is not TED, but I think the model springs from the same fountain of inspired speaking: give the stage to someone –anyone– with an idea. That idea could be bubbling passion for civic-public engagement, honeybees, public art, or being a good global citizen. The topic might be light and funny or deep and serious. The only real rule is that every presenter gets twenty slides and those slides flip, automatically, after twenty seconds each.
Add a beer tent and a hot dog stand, throw in some hipster organizers, and host it out in the middle of the square in front of City Hall and you’ve got an evening event that draws a few hundred (mostly twenty to thirty-somethings) to sit in the chilly June air and listen.
Because there is such an overlap between some of interesting young leader-types I’ve encountered through work, the committee that organizes this here in Edmonton, and the swirl of it all, I’d heard about the series but had never gone: fully intending to at some point. The stars aligned last night, and I stayed late after work, hung out downtown until the event began, and parked my sore butt on a picnic bench for the three hour show.
It was pretty great and my only question is: Who’s coming along next time?
Having woken up before 4am on Sunday morning –and having achieved a fully-caffeinated state for my taxi-shuttle-service duties to the airport and back– I found myself with a good chunk of time in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning to do some blogging. And there is nothing like a wee-morning-hour buzz to get the neurons firing about a hot topic. The result was an article I wrote called Debunking the “New Math” Fear, an article on a topic that has me a little fired up in a different way. Now that I actually have some first-degree stake in this curriculum-and-education game, I find that the wandering irrationality of polarizing politicians and their blind followers drives me even more bonkers. I hope you don’t mind, but as much as I’ve strayed away from controversial topics in the last few years on this blog, I think there are some topics for which I’m going to be a little more actively climbing that metaphorical hill of battle and upon which I’ll be planting my flag of slanted opinion. So… a bit more of that. It’s for my daughte, after all. It’s a thing I’ve gotta do.
I watched a video a couple weeks ago that implied that we are eating apples all wrong. It’s assertion was that the idea of a “core” was a myth, a relic and artificial artifact of the orientation of how we are trained to eat apples, and wastes an average of 30% of the fruit. Essentially, the idea goes, that if you eat an apple from the side, yeah, you’re going to run into this middle bit of slightly-chewier middle that no one really likes to eat after the soft part on the outside. Instead, if you eat the apple from the bottom, starting at that bit where the little bits of leaf-matter are still usually clinging to that dimple (clean that off first) then after eating through the apple bottom up you’ll only be left with a few seeds and a little stem twig. So, of course you know I tried it. And… yeah: ate the core and didn’t even notice it.
I’ve been reading an interesting book by Tom Standage called Writing on the Wall. It’s a kind of history of human communication starting with the premise that all media, even that dating back to the ancient Romans and earlier, is inherently based on the notion of a “social” two-way conversation between creator and audience. The idea that social media in the modern internet sense –including blogs, Twitter, and the like– is so-called disruptive to more traditional forms of broadcast and publication is challenged. He seems to be arguing that the disruption occurred when, around about 150 years ago, the cost of the technology made media the nearly exclusive domain of big business and government… and the internet just put things back to how it used to be, albeit with bytes rather than ink. It kinda justifies what I’m doing here, actually.
#justupdated #wordpress to 3.7 & it adds advanced date queries! methinks that could be fun. #creativejuices now flowing.
I’ve been fascinated for a number of years about the idea of writing personal tall tales. It’s a tough thing to explain why this is and where exactly this fascination blossomed into a full-on obsession, but I can tell you that the seed was planted when I watched that movie “Big Fish” a number of years ago.
It was an OK movie. But what stuck in the cavernous gaps of my poor little brain about it was the notion of tall tales, and the idea of how they could wrap themselves around ordinary people.
A quick recap of the movie “Big Fish” for those who may have missed it or have foggier memories than little-ole-obsessed me: Enter present-day protagonist and son of the primary movie protagonist. He is dealing with the impending death of his father. The father (the aforementioned primary protagonist a’la a series of flashback narratives) is a guy who has spent his entire life being a larger-than-life character in a series of grandiose tall tales he has constructed, re-told, adapted, and stretched over the years from the folds of an otherwise modest life. This is a larger-than-life character the son (trapped in a literal and reality-based world-view) struggles to reconcile with the glimpses of the everyday ordinary man he thinks he knows. The dad nears the end, the stories are recapped and re-told one last time for the sake of catching up the audience, some of the reality is pried loose, and (spoiler alert) father and son have a moment of understanding just as the dad dies in a flight of metaphor and one last tale tale invented by his son.
Again, it was an OK movie. And again, the story was a nice tear-jerker-kinda plot. But what really has stuck with me the last number of years since I first saw it –and about the only reason I really remember the film, actually– was that it sparked this notion of the tall tale in my head… and I can’t really shake it loose.
But What the Heck is a Tall Tale?
Wikipedia sums it up nicely: A tall tale is a story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual. Some such stories are exaggerations of actual events, for example fish stories (‘the fish that got away’) such as, “that fish was so big, why I tell ya’, it nearly sank the boat when I pulled it in!” –Tall Tale, Wikipedia
Johnny Appleseed or Paul Bunyan are a couple of big character stories that I grew up with.
Most people are probably very familiar with the notion of tall tales as a kind of general storytelling or folklore: y’know Johnny Appleseed or Paul Bunyan are a couple of big character stories that I grew up with.
And many other people have probably blurred the edges of their own storytelling –relating adventures back to their family and friends– to create slightly bigger tales than reality would support. I’m sure we’ve all done just that, actually.
But I’ve been thinking –pondering for a long time, as I just noted– and the idea of purposely constructing these tales is quite interesting to me.
How Would That Work, Exactly?
A few years ago I penned a few random ideas as a kind of “Family Mythology” framing out a couple of vague stories that might form the seeds of some tall tales.
It’s not that life is boring, but rather that the lessons we’ve learned from life often loom in our memories larger than they really were. We exaggerate and self-aggrandize not because we are narcissistic but rather that we have ideas in our head that have come from spaces and events that don’t seem so important as to warrant those ideas. It’s not that they couldn’t have come from such things, but years and decades later in the telling real life lessons often warrant the reaction “you got THAT from THAT?”
as an experiment in storytelling combine a handful of my own real life lessons into tall tales
I was not trying to supplant that reality, but rather as an experiment in storytelling combine a handful of my own real life lessons into tall tales, stories with the grains of truth made to seem boulders: seconds or minutes of panic stretched into days and weeks of turmoil, oddball characters morphed into multidimensional archetypes, and small mistakes or misunderstandings ballooned into life-altering trials.
The result –I hoped– would be a collection of short stories that I could tell along the way. A collection of stories that capture the imagination, inspire a curiosity for the reality that’s layered within, and preserve a nugget of family history. Thus these were my…
Four First Attempts at Tall Tales
The Rats of the Berlin Zoo is the story of a three-day chase through the streets of Berlin pursued by the Rat Brothers, a gang who sought to drag me into the dark depths of the city for reasons I didn’t understand at the time. (A tall tale of facing fears.)
The Goollish of Oh-Street is the story of my year spent learning the language of an angry and disturbed creature living the caves beneath my apartment,a creature who only emerged from his lair at night to shout at the sky. (A tall tale of standing up to misconceptions.)
The Raindrops of Wellington is the story of a week spent stuck inside a broken elevator: nine very different people from very different places who’s only means of escape was to agree on the means of escape, something that we couldn’t quite figure out. (A tale of uniting for a cause.)
The Battle of the Sky is the story of my secret training and subsequent battle, when I fought back a hoard of mind-enslaved businessmen with naught but an electronic sword and the power of punnery. (A tale of going down with fight.)
Of course, these are just the seeds of the ideas. There is much more left to write and in their writings it is bound to be an effort of multi-revisionary-ever-more-exaggerated storytelling… but then that’s subject matter for another post. Stay tuned.
This is a cross-post from some thinking I was doing last night about my other blog…
I\’ll admit. I haven\’t actually been doing a good job of keeping that particular blog updated. And it hasn\’t actually been getting a lot of hits. It\’s what you might call… uh… stale.
The problem is this isn\’t exactly due to lack of ideas or content. It\’s due to lack of something else. It\’s due to lack of something that I haven\’t exactly been able to put my finger on until recently.
It is something like this: a couple years ago I started writing the FooBarn Blog as a kind of project in-and-of-itself. It was the point. The point being to write a blog about technology and information that I thought would generate enough interest to keep it up-to-date and peppered with articles about what I was working on or thinking about.
I wrote. I filled up a lot of pages. And then…
Well, then I (in a matter of speaking) wrote myself into a corner. I focused. I focused, well, too much.
I was just recently (as in last week) on a vacation. I unplugged. I left my phone at home in my drawer. The only electronics I brought along were a camera and a Kindle. Nine days of e-freedom ensued, a span of time when I was under no obligation (or ability, to be honest) to blog, type, tweet, update, code, create, or otherwise put characters into an electronic space. When you have that kind of break, literally separated from something, you often tend to come back to it with a slightly skewed perspective on it. And having time to think about it a little bit I realized that the problem I\’m having with this blog is that I\’ve written myself into a corner.
As of my writing this, the blurb on the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœabout\’ section of the FooBarn Blog reads: Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is a blog about technology, information, and interface.Ã¢â‚¬Â This remains true, but I think I want to tweak that, skew it, and add a few new ideas. What I think I want is the FooBarn Blog to be a blog about the relationship between technology and people, between information and ideas, and between interface and art. It should be a blog about using technology to embrace knowledge and enhance society through creatively, intuitively, and thoughtfully built tools.
I want to write about not only what I have been writing about — the information management and design principles of my work — but also about curious and intriguing ways people are employing technology to make communities and cultures blossom with ideas and personal expression. I don\’t just want to pepper readers with vague ideas of finding better interfaces and organizational structures, but I want to pull back the veil of those better interfaces and understand how this helps us learn, expand, explore, and become better citizens.
This is just my plan. But I\’m changing the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœabout\’ section of that blog a few minutes after I post this. And I\’m going to do some writing very soon, too.
Occasionally, every once in a while, and usually more often than I’d be willing to admit, I let my ambition run away from me.
It usually happens around the New Year. A January One rolls around there is that omnipresent wave of idealistic endeavour that sweeps across my idealist-self and props me towards creative greatness. A thousand ideas flung against the canvas results in a few dozen sticking. They cling there for a few weeks and gradually, inevitably,time passes and a few slurp loose, cling for a few long moments on their cheese-stretching strands of glaring possibility, and then unceremoniously fall to the ground with the others.
What remains? A handful of ideas: the four or five good thoughts that continue on. Those will prosper. Those will linger. Those might see March or maybe even June. And perhaps one or two will make the cut through to next December.
Inevitably, I enter this slumping, sloughing phase in late January each year, and then humbly hide away in the shadows for a few days until I work up the words and the courage to face my invisible public and exclaim the reality that, actually, I don’t really have the time or energy to keep up the games… and that, yes, I’m just going to let a few of those globs of misshapen ideas lurk there on the floor until I get bored and irritated enough to sweep them up.
It’s the creative process, you see. And I need to work through it on a regular basis to retain what little remains of my faltering sanity. Hopefully that does it.
Despite the mountains of rational evidence to the contrary there are still a lot of folks out there holding to the claim that come December 21, 2012 the ire of the universe will refocus upon the planet Earth and cast us all into an end-of-the-world scenario of some kind. If those folks are right then I’ve got barely half-a-week left to get some hard-earned advice out to my readers before this blog goes offline… It’s time for another Week of Lists!
As an amateur photographer I’m always on the lookout for a great project. And, assuming I remember to grab my camera bag as I’m fleeing for my life as society is collapsing into chaos and ruin around me this Friday, I doubt even armageddon is going to shake that habit loose.
But being a guy who often snaps pictures of family outings, nature macros, sunsets, and city-scapes, refocussing my camera lens during and after the end of the world — all while trying to keep myself and my family alive — is a complex prospect. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
So, what’s a photographer to do? Well, the subject matter might be different, but I’d like to think that all the skills we’ve been practising can form the foundation of some great new photo projects on the other side of society’s near-annihilation. For example:
1 :: A Last-Chance-To-See Gallery of Soon-To-Be-Extinct Nature Photography
There is always that slim, glimmering chance that whatever scary shape the apocalypse takes it will take the form of that mythical “magic bullet” and thus hone in on just humanity alone leaving the rest of the Earth unscathed to continue on without us. More than likely, however, whatever reduces our population to a withered remnant of its once former self will take out a goodly portion of nature along with it. Plants and animals covering the vast spectrum of flora to fauna will quickly become rare specimens, and as a photographer this might be your last chance to capture the glint in eye of a once majestic beast, or the delicate essence of a blossoming flower before they wither under the apocalypse-darkened sky.
Personally, I’ve always had a soft spot for black and white photography. Often I find myself flipping the colour-mode of my camera over to a setting that produces stark, high contrast, monochromatic imagery. There are details that a good photographer can pull from a scene and emotions that a good photographer can evoke with the surreal tools offered by this often-underrated art. As the End of the World arrives and all the bits-and-bobs of humanity’s greatest era of innovation is discarded and left to crumble — everything from now-useless iPhones dropped into gutters and left gather dust to the crumpled wrecks of minivans abandoned on the jagged asphalt of no-longer-tended suburban free-ways — these pieces, slowly being reclaimed by whatever is left of nature are the perfect evocative subjects for drama-seeking photographer of the post-society.
…poignant before-and-after photos.
3 :: Then-and-Now: Paired Location Shots from Before and After the End of Civilization
Of course, any photographer worth her salt is already going to have a hefty collection of scenes and panoramas of the epic views and vistas of the world prior to it’s utter collapse. These might be anything from bustling city skylines to famous landmarks protruding from the Earth as a testament to humanity’s might and prowess over the land and sky. And nothing tells a great photo-journalistic story so much more than those certain kind of poignant before-and-after photos, often taken from similar (or where possible, exact) locations with a disaster of some kind stuck in the middle to change things up in a dramatic way. There’s no telling what the world will look like following the collapse of society, but whether the landscape has been crushed to ruin by the weight of an alien invasion or simply fallen eerily silent having been swept clean by an epic viral plague that’s wiped out ninety-nine percent of all life, the contrast between now-and-then, the past-of-today and the future-of-tomorrow, is certain to be eye catching and interesting.
As disaster unfolds it is quite possible that as either (a) the cause or (b) the result of said disaster will be the appearance of mutant creatures that will subsume control over the crumbling ruins of society. While your fellow survivors may be interested in hunting these creatures for food or defence, you as a photographer have an interesting opportunity to be the first to capture and document imagery of these unholy creatures of mass destruction. Such imagery has the advantage of not only being artistically interesting but may have awesome implications for some distant future scientific study by the rebuilt remnants of humanity. Remember to carry a good zoom lens and avoid the use of your flash.
5 :: Faces of the Future: Snapshots of Kids Too Young To Remember the Internet
Last, but not certainly not least, portrait photographers will find an excellent opportunity as the first generation children born to survivors in the post-apocalyptic era. Babies will quickly start to grow in kids and young adults, so don’t miss the brief window you’ll have to capture this rare span in photos. These tots represent the new dawn, the beginning age of Society Two-point-oh, and are probably unfamiliar with the things you currently find mundane and normal: cameras, the Internet, and indoor plumbing. These kids will be filled with innocent optimism for the un-knowable future and will very likely hold an awesome potential as subject matter for any photographer, particularly after years of snapping pics of glum and grim adults pining for the good old days of 2012 before the collapse of society.
This post is part of my (satirical) Seven Days of Apocalypse Week of Lists countdown to (almost certainly not) the end of the world. Share and enjoy.