Where Do You Stash Your Minutes of Life?

21 Jan
cartoon of precious moments of your life ticking away

Would an Internet outage put your life on hold?

My vacation was fairly tech-free, which left me energized and refreshed. So I was rather amazed at the fallout from the Wikipedia blackout January 18.

Not the political issues—addressed elsewhere in this blog—but the social issues. Maybe you’ve heard comments like these regarding an Internet outage:

“I think it’s easier to get off heroin.”
“There would be a sense of loss: what would I do with my time?”
“That would be beyond catastrophic.”

Even if I couldn’t head for the library, or pick up a book from the stack I feel like I stole from Border’s (they were so cheap), I am so blessed that I can draw on a rich inner life. My top 5 things I would do (besides read) with the “extra” time:

  1. walk and talk or visit a friend
  2. plan an evening of games with friends
  3. experiment with exotic recipes from a, yes, cookbook
  4. write a letter with colored pens and stamp it and mail it
  5. plan ways to display family photos (since they haven’t been on Facebook anyway)

What would you do during an Internet vacation? Can you even conceive of such a thing?

A Thank You to Those Who Sacrificed

7 Dec

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

U.S. flag

What have you gained from the sacrifice of others?

Those words by Winston Churchill, although not spoken specifically about the U.S. entrance into World War II (December 7, 1941), encapsule the entire war years and give us the proper perspective.

Each generation since that “greatest generation” should pause today and reflect on what world war meant to country, home, and family. Even if the impact was a few generations ago, there isn’t a person alive who has not been shaped by that conflict—perhaps by a change in homeland, language, or family unit. Perhaps it was a shift in family occupation, eduation level, or prosperity—World War II has affected each of us.

At the risk of romanticizing the past, I suggest checking out a film about the era (my favorite, “The Longest Day”). And continue to remember what you owe.

What’s your favorite World War II film or quotation?

Copyright at the Core of Digital Media and Cultural Advancement

2 Dec

Digital media of all types have raised the discussion about a creator’s right to benefit from his (or her) creation.  (We also call that copyright.) As I see it, creation is colliding with the collaboration that is at the core of digital media. I don’t have much confidence in collaborative outcomes in terms of art or literature (or politics, for that matter).

Lining up on one side of this discussion is Creative Commons, a non-profit promoting copyright reform. They couch their argument in terms of cultural advancement. They offer an alternative to copyright:

With a Creative Commons license, you keep your copyright but allow people to copy and distribute your work provided they give you credit — and only on the conditions you specify here.

In simplest terms: is that how you, a creator, want to work? You toil and innovate and only get satisfaction from being a hyperlink?

Which way is right for both creators and culture?

Maybe some people feel that way; they can sign up now.

One of the voices on the other side is journalist Robert Levine. I find great satisfaction that he has framed his careful argument in print, through the 2011 book, Free Ride: How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back. Levine provides a detailed background and poses thoughtful questions that we cannot ignore. There has to be a place to have access to the wealth of digital information, yet support its creators if they so prefer.

Which side is truly promoting cultural advancement?

Will You Embrace Digital Literature?

2 Dec
Book with open arms

Can a digital file grab you like a book does?

The work of the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) is interesting, thought-provoking—and unsettling. The ELO focuses on “digital-born” literature for those who no longer regard the printed book as “an exclusive medium of education or aesthetic practice.”

Let’s break that down. Yes, I can agree that books are no longer “exclusive” in education. I’m enrolled in an online class and although we use a book, much of our content is from the web. For my profession, much of my advanced skill development is on the web. Higher education degree programs continue to embrace distance/online learning, with alternatives for printed materials.

But I pause at “aesthetic practice.” There is a beauty, an aesthetic, to books. They do not onlyconvey information or ideas, but have a message of their own delivered in a package of heft, size, texture, smell, and color. A book is more than its content.

ELO gives examples of electronic literature:

  • Hypertext fiction and poetry, on and off the Web
  • Kinetic poetry presented in Flash and using other platforms
  • Computer art installations which ask viewers to read them or otherwise have literary aspects
  • Conversational characters, also known as chatterbots
  • Interactive fiction
  • Novels that take the form of emails, SMS messages, or blogs
  • Poems and stories that are generated by computers, either interactively or based on parameters given at the beginning
  • Collaborative writing projects that allow readers to contribute to the text of a work
  • Literary performances online that develop new ways of writing

Is it literature if we all collaborate? Is it literature if it’s performed or viewed? Is it literature if I determine the outcome—if I grab and shape a story instead of its grabbing and shaping me?

What are your thoughts?

Children’s Books—Hope for the Future of Print Media?

2 Dec
Two boys looking at e-books: "My mom says this story is a real 'page-turner.' I have  no idea what she means by that."

Will your grandchildren ask you to "read me a book?"

 Recent exposure to the hot topic of digital media has caused me to think, think, think about its implications in my life both personally and professionally.
Today I want to focus on the personal side and my love affair with books—their texture, shape, smell, appearance. A book’s paper, design, and typeface (“font” for you Gen-Yers) impact my perception (and yours, too, if you think about it) of  the author and his/her work. Think of a favorite childhood book and your emotional memory bank will awaken. Will all of that be Kindled away?
This recent New York Times article provided some hope: 

Print books may be under siege from the rise of e-books, but they have a tenacious hold on a particular group: children and toddlers. Their parents are insisting this next generation of readers spend their early years with old-fashioned books.

This is the case even with parents who themselves are die-hard downloaders of books onto Kindles, iPads, laptops and phones. They freely acknowledge their digital double standard, saying they want their children to be surrounded by print books, to experience turning physical pages as they learn about shapes, colors and animals.
 Maybe children will save us from this onward rush to ethereal infatuation.
Be sure to buy a book for your next gift to a child—better yet, read it together.

Thanksgiving, Part 1 of 2

25 Nov

“Please, would you explain what is Thanksgiving?” the woman comes up to me at the end of an English language learners class. She’s been in the U.S. five months.

Wow—a chance to teach a new immigrant the truth. Random facts spill from me:

pilgrims in 1620

The pilgrims desired to worship freely

  • 1620 (I’m rather amazed I manage to pull that date from memory)
  • Pilgrims
  • Massachusetts (oops—that word puzzles her)
  • Indians
  • England
  • harvest
  • thankfulness
  • freedom to worship God

I continue: “It’s a beautiful holiday—a day to thank God for His blessings. A few people even go to church that day, although not many. Many Americans don’t even know the real meaning.” I’m enjoying this pure moment.

I admit, I’m trying to innoculate her against the Commercialization Machine that revved up late October, grinding towards New Year’s Eve. For the few minutes we speak, at least, the Thanksgiving holiday stands alone in its glory.

May your Thanksgiving be a deliberate, focused celebration of gratitude with your loved ones.

Thanksgiving, Part 2 of 2

24 Nov

I truly love Thanksgiving, as do most of you.

This is the day we empty our Thanksgiving jar—a canister stuffed with scribbled scraps of paper collected throughout the past year. With those scraps we travel back, reviewing a landscape of God’s loving provision toward us: “Remember this?” “Oh, I’d forgotten I had to deal with that!” “Oh yeah, that was amazing.” Some years it takes us hours to go through our jar as we re-tell our stories.

thanksgiving jar

A Thanksgiving jar can be a joyful addition to your holiday

We tend to jot down the good, material blessings—but sometimes we surprise ourselves with a note about how we have been delivered through, not out of, something.

 How will you focus on thankfulness this Thanksgiving?