Reader's Log

Too Many Elements…?

06.17.09 | Permalink | Comments

I’ve been plowing through books again and right now, I’m on Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element. Well rooted in this TED video…

Now, this video has virtually become one of the borderline cliché videos in the education forefront. Everyone knows about it or has seen it.
But the book is a much more deeper analysis of many, many stories regarding Robinson’s proposal of the Element, an interphase of desire, senses, creativity, and intelligences that converge to create a happiness and productive super-state.
Concurrently, Robinson also critiques and comments on the current social structures, particularly education, that appear to stifle and disrupt the achievement of the Element.

In essence, Robinson proposes that there is a sweet-spot in the human adventure and life is about finding that.
It’s also similar to Dan Pink’s Johnny Bunko, which I wrote about here.

Right now, I’m somewhere in chapter three, and it’s been a good read.
But for me, I feel as if this is something I’ve always believed in.
Okay, always is probably exaggerating, but I have been in lockstep with Robinson’s argument.

But right now, I wonder… What of multiple Elements?
Robinson argues that there are ‘mediums’ that people enjoy their Elements.
Whether that’s Richard Feynman, Matt Groening, or Paul McCartney, each has found their zones.
But they’ve found them in physics, animation and music.

Except, bringing it to a much more egotistical venue,  I tend to find myself in many mediums.

I love music.
I love photography.
I love teaching (though I will rarely, if ever, admit it).
I love to write.
I love to work on computers.
I love to read.
I love leading & planning.
I love analytics.
I love free expression.

I can find myself working in many areas and enjoying every moment of it.
Yet, I also get stuck in zones.
And I also get bored too.

What is my Element?

I guess I’ll have to read on.

General

These Are The Voyages…

05.30.09 | Permalink | Comments

Okay, you got me.

I’m a pretty big Star Trek nut. No, I don’t know where the Romulan Neutral Zone is or what star Ceti Alpha VI orbits, but I like me a good Star Trek here and there.

Unfortunately, there were very few good new Star Treks lately.
That show with the pansy song intro sucked beans until the season it got canceled and the movies were crapola in a box too.

And here we are with a new trek across the stars with a new crew and an old Spock to boot.

What did I think? Lessee…

Lens Flares… WTF?

Did some of the keys on the editing software get stuck or something?

The lens flares are annoying.

WTF.

Bigness in Real Life doesn’t necessarily transfer to Film and Screen.

Okay, so I’ve heard that JJ Abrams wanted to make Enterprise feel all big and stuff.
So they used everything from a beer factory to a new, larger bridge to do it.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work.

The Bridge, Sickbay, Engineering.
All of it was purposefully BIG looking.
But it entirely failed to communicated the size or bigness of the ship.
Abrams’ camera work and the tightness of the shots ended up making the ship feel tiny.
And the random junk around the sets made it feel cluttered like my desk.

And at the same time, the old sets felt more advanced because it allowed more of the ship left to interpretation and imagination.
JJ’s intent to show the ship to be bigger made it feel smaller because it created real borders, as opposed to those imagined.
Much like the Star Wars prequels with fake giant sets, the world became restrained.

And big doesn’t mean advanced.
I mean, for frak’s sake, we try to make things smaller when things get good.

Even Battlestar Galactica was able to pull off a much larger feel, despite tinier sets.
I don’t know how Ron D. Moore was able to pull it off, but Galactica felt like a behemoth.
I mean, they didn’t even show the engine room until the last half of the last season!

Enterprise felt the smallest in years.

Slow. Down. It’s. Okay. To. Lay. Off. The. Speed.

Am I getting old or something?
It’s not like I can’t keep up.
I can.
It was damn fun.

But please, please, someone try to educate me as to why everything is so damn fast.

Didn’t they teach you that a good steak needs to rest before you eat it?
Or cook it, for that matter.

This movie was definitely fun, but the problem is that once it starts running, it just keeps on galloping to the gate at full flank.
It doesn’t slow down for the sadness, speed up for the action, or give you time to consider Nero’s position.
It just runs straight ahead on warp factor 9 straight through the script as if mommy was calling JJ in for dinner.

In Japan, especially Western Japan, and in many areas around the world, the concept of ma is appreciated.
Ma
is purposeful rest.
It’s a fundamental in music, cooking, comedy, everything.
With silence and lull comes the emotion.

All I got was an adolescent “AWESOME!!!”.
I would like a little more than that.

And the Moral of the Story is…

This movie is good, but it’s not great.
It’s a popcorn action movie.

Except, the greats of Star Trek, and much Sci-Fi for that matter, are able to carry a nice plot point to the end.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan wrestles with aging and cheating death.
Battlestar Galactica wrestles with morality where your conscience is your only policeman.
1984 wrestles with information freedom.

But this Star Trek could have had a perfect plot point.
Yet, it failed.

Star Trek could have been entirely opposite of it’s Khan predecessor by saying “YES, YES YOU CAN cheat death/be awesome/take risks and succeed. (Circle One)”.
It could have been about confronting adversity and succeeding despite your pitfalls.
It could have been partly the pursuit of happiness.
It could have been, “fall seven times, rise eight”

But it just ended up being traditional hero worship.

The good thing is that there’s enough to hope for the next movie though.

Captain James T. Kirk is not a douche. Just kinda. But he’s okay.

Recently, there was an article on io9 that straight out called Chris Pine’s Kirk a “douchebag”.

At face value, that’s what I thought too.
Yet, really, he’s just cocky and confident, not super douchy.
Pine’s Kirk is definitely not William Shatner’s Captain. James. T. Kirk.
Yet, Pine does justice and creates a believable, yet herotastic Kirk.

Recently, I was asked where I get my confidence.

(Okay, I’m not that confident, but apparently I look so. Anyways.)

My answer was that I don’t really know.
I just am carefully confident.
In my opinion, Kirk was always this way too.
He just is confident.
And this Kirk is just as so.

All Good Things…

…must come to an end.

And right when you thought things could pickup, the movie ends.

Nero?
Oh, yeah.
He’s dead already.
Can’t we go explore the next solar system or something?

That’s what the movie ends on.

And I like that.

It ends with a great platform for the next feature.

I just hope it’s a little deeper.

Space, The Final Frontier…

It’s damn good.

Go watch now.

Cognitive Dissonance

Study Hall Hell: Why It’s An Even Bigger Waste of Time Than It Ever Was

04.27.09 | Permalink | Comments

The rise of technology has really done one thing for all of us. It’s made it a lot easier to work from anywhere. We can take work home on disc or stick and we can sure as hell do it when we want to. Very few things, especially in the educational context, actually needs to be confined to a school or classroom.

In fact, as many technologic forerunners like to say, ranging from Mimi Ito to Don Tapscott to my boss to occasionally me, this new age in information ubiquity is all about life long learning. The availability of information allows for education and learning to be a constant, on-demand and no long stringently constricted by the availability of a teacher. The Internet allows for that small world syndrome to come to an apex, freeing all of us to learn what we want, when we want, and from who we want. And by extension, schools are somewhat reduced to rubber stamp organizations that commoditize the individual.

In theory.

But the same constructs that allow all of this information transparency and access also directly affects the constraints on non-educational things as well. Websites, services and games have all allowed for the space between people feel closer and less distinct. We can now access the activities of our friends, family and even neighbors via constructs such as, in no particular order, Facebook, email, Twitter, blogs, World of Warcraft, Second Life, SMS, Skype and instant messaging.

Indeed, the world has gotten smaller! WE CAN BE WITH OUR FRIENDS ANYTIME!

Yet, despite the spread of the newest of new technologies, the ’social’ of ’social networking’ remains poor facsimile of the real thing. Regardless of our social mannerisms and stature, the persona of our human existence is often warped and construed by the interpretation of the two-dimensional context of the Internet. The medium is inherently flawed and is not a substitute for actual face-to-face interactions and true social membership in a community. The medium is naturally dividing and allows for the detachment of the ‘real’ individual and the ‘online’ individual. Concurrently, the ’social’ component is inherently fueled by the presentation of the individual. The feedback, in turn, creates a pleasing response that fulfills the social hunger of the single person. Though it is hard to diminish or rate this interaction, it is a different type of social membership and community. But that doesn’t make it the primary… At least until we all evolve into machines.

Enter study hall.

Study hall is a construct that is supposed to allow students to study during school hours. Naturally, it is open for students to freely interpret and select what they feel as optimum. And it’s no surprise that such hours, except in those times of duress (typically post-procrastination), this interpretation typically involves not doing a lot (procrastination!). Though it is also available for group work, study hall naturally moves what is individual time typically outside of the school schedule into it. And this is where things begin to separate.

Despite the long, long twelve years of primary and secondary education, this time is actually a fairly short in the grand scheme of things. Yet, high school is barely four years and study hall is an even tinier speck of this spectrum. But this time in high school is also, what I believe to be, strongly formative in the lives of many students. And study hall wastes this time. Time that school can create communal and social participation.

As mentioned above, schools have become somewhat marginalized with the rise of information ubiquity. But no social construct has usurped its place as an organization that can organize and bring together similarly aged groups of people, especially youth. Regardless of the overall efficiency of the educational structures themselves, schools act as a hub that can allow for strong academic collaboration and facilitate the healthy growth of the youth. Schools also enjoy place in many societies as places of learning and a status of pseudo-sanctity. It is these qualities that we cannot ignore nor squander. Schools need to be efficient and have it so students can exploit every single moment they get to be with their peers while manipulating the increasing deluge of information.

Study hall flies into the face of this, wasting time that can be used to collaborate in the real world. And this is without considering the fact that students are busier than ever and have less real time to spare outside of the school day. Naturally, one or two hours of freedom is probably not a bad thing, but it is subject to the typical laws of diminishing returns. Technology allows for individual time at home to be enriched with the strength of community and face-to-face time, but let’s not waste the real thing when it’s available. When it all comes down to it, Facebook Groups do not replace band and student council nor teach how to organize events and negotiate rent. Let school be where students get real social experience.

Reflections

Battlestar Galactica: Rules, Considerations & Resolution

04.13.09 | Permalink | Comments

This is a random rambling about Battlestar Galactica. I can’t get it to come out right, and frankly, I give up. This post sucks. Battlestar was good. And it makes you think outside of the box. That’s what I’m trying to say. But I’m still posting.

I have always been a science fiction fan. Star Wars, Star Trek, Cowboy Bebop. Brave New World, 1984, Blade Runner. Whatever the medium or style, science fiction has always been one of my favorite forms of exploring the human experience.

That said, Battlestar Galactica was a show I got into very, very late. Despite hearing all the rumors and talk about an incredible sci-fi experience, the show didn’t catch my attention until far into its last season. This was most likely due to the campy, craptacular nature of the original and the varying science fiction shows that have been mentioned in the past, such as Babylon 5 and Firefly, that were talked up but barely caught my attention.

“For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits you… [C]harting the unknown possibilities of existence.” – Q (John DeLancie), Star Trek: The Next Generation

Although dystopias and the continuous questioning of human progress are part of my own personal views, I have a soft spot for Star Trek and its optimism. Though fans and product are both eternally mocked and loved for its own form of campiness, Star Trek provides a view to a world where life is better, but with its own set of problems. Yet, instead of simply trying to overcome problem after problem, its storytellers invited the watcher to try to understand the conundrum beyond the plot device of the week. Through a lens based on tolerance and diversity, creator Gene Roddenberry projected an optimistic worldview in an age of Cold War hostilities.

But, in essence (or cynically), Star Trek is about a set utopian rules and testing these rules with various allegories of (nearly) everyday problems. Racism, good & evil, sharing, artificial intelligence, arrogance, sin, war, death, cheating, whatever. Star Trek was a dispenser for stories that were tackled with the gloss of optimism.

“You cannot play God then wash your hands of the things that you’ve created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can’t hide from the things that you’ve done anymore.” – Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos), Battlestar Galactica.

Where Star Trek tested its own fictional rules of tolerance, Battlestar Galactica presented a world where the society was shattered. Star Trek’s stories & world were always supported by a mythical United Federation of Planets and its Starfleet. Few times were such givens blatantly broken by the heroes, as repercussions and uniformly strong moral character seemed to be without shortage in the universe.

In contrast, the crew of Galactica and its ragtag fleet are faced with the abyss of extinction during the entire run of the series. And with that premise, they confront the perpetual questioning of existence itself and sustaining values that they had previously held as inalienable.

“Sometimes, you gotta roll the hard six” – Lieutenant Sharon Valerii (Grace Park), Battlestar Galactica

For me, Battlestar Galactica’s appeal came from this struggle between the divide between order and anarchy. Where Star Trek tested rules that were enforced, Battlestar Galactica tested how the rules stood and bent under duress. And it is this freedom from the rules that allowed a new exploration beyond a single vision of the future. In place of a vision, Galactica explored the fringes and limitations of mankind. And it danced all over it.

Galactica’s “rules beyond the rules” may not seem too revolutionary, but for me, it opened up a new set of considerations. What are the rules where there are no rules? What rules are the rules that need to be rules and which are superfluous? Add to that the considerations of the classic dystopia of technology versus humanity and you’re left with a enormous pile of materials for the dreaming Chief of IT Operations. (No surprise that my position title is inspired by all the ‘chiefs’ that fix everything on sci-fi starships.)

“All good things must come to an end” – English Proverb

Obviously, this post has been inspired in part by the end of Battlestar Galactica. And really, I’d rather talk about that. Because the final episode was a vapid excuse for an ending. No, I don’t really have a problem with the ending itself. But the delivery was awful. The action story never teased the viewer with the possibility of failure and everything felt as if it was scripted and on greased rails running towards a happy ending as fast as possible. Ron D. Moore has said that he felt that it was all about the characters, but really, we need plot too. The character stories were well scripted, but the story lacked punch and whatever complexities were left to the will of God or the Gods or whatever other random plot device they could come up with. Including making Starbuck a frakking archangel or something.

All in all, it was a good run. Galactica made me think. It made me laugh. It made it fun.

Now I just need to find another place for my sci-fi fix.

Food

Something To Munch On

04.12.09 | Permalink | Comments

While I work on my entries, munch on this…

This video goes best with this one from CHOW.

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