Archive for the 'Aesthetics' Category

When building a better car is building a [not so good] one

Remember this  image from the Simpsons episode where Homer finds his long-lost brother?

Homer thought he was building the ideal car by adding as many features and tools as he could. Sometimes adding too many features to tools and applications or even websites can leave you with a end product that isn’t so usable after all. Just a thought.

Okay… so now I understand what Twitter is all about

Image originally from the Morguefile. Click to view the original

Image originally from the Morguefile. Click to view the original

I’ll admit the idea of telling people what you were doing at any given moment did not appeal to the side of me that adores my privacy. Also, being involved in conversations with others that absobed so much chatter didn’t spark the curiosity of that extremely methodical part of me.

Yet the side of me that has come to appreciate “Stream of Consciousness” really gets it.

But after first joining Twitter I can see what people like about it.

A few tricks I learned quickly to reduce the noise factor on twitter:

  • The more followers/followees you have the faster the pace of the conversation. It’s good to search for conversations using “key words.” You can also save the chat
  • You can easily save tweets you like by clicking the “Star” or favorites option.
  • Just accept that you’re not going to get every piece of information being shared. Twitter is pretty ephemeral and it embodies that life of ephemerality characteristic of some aspects of “Internet life.”
  • Make comments even ones that appear to have no point every now and then.
  • If you’re sharing something cool include the link (be forewarned… if the link is too long you may not be able to share it. Hopefully, web developers out there whose pages require long urls are noting this. Or the twitter people might be able to develop a feature that allows you to associate links to text so you don’t go over the 140 character limit).
  • Addressing someone directly requires including their Twitter ID (ie. @nlkilkenny) in your tweet or post.
  • If you must, you can search through the archive of a saved search. Depending on the volume of a conversation you may be searching for sometime till you get to the beginning.

I’ve actually learned a lot this weekend on Twitter. Sorry to go off on a tangent, but I get this way when I learn a good deal of new and fascinating stuff.  I saved a search for Arduino technologies because I’ve very interested in learning how to make clothing and knitwear use electronic features using the Arduino Lilypad.

Arduino Lilypad
Arduino Lilypad

Can you imagine having a purse that’s hooked up to your cellphone so that it blinks a certain way when different people call? I’d also like to make some kind of garment (even just wristbands) for my brother that plays different sounds. He’s a musician that tries to bring traditional and non-traditional sounds and instruments together: OO-Ray.  I was searching through’s site and found some very fascinating applications with Arduino tech including this Fabric Synthesizer. What a wonderful way to showcase ingeniuity and creativity.

Art and textiles meet electronics and music

Art and textiles meet electronics and music

The Open Sourceness of Everything

\Ancient Remixes\

This comic strip is a rather cheap and quick cartoon I created in ToonDo in less than 10 minutes.

I attended this thought-provoking talk yesterday by Michael Amick (Dean of Academic and Technology Services at Central Lakes College) titled “Remix Culture Appreciation (aka Art Appreciation).”

He emphasized the idea that “re-mixing” of art (and in a larger sense concepts, ideas, inventions, etc.) is essential to human creativity.
During the lecture I had to think. “How many things in this room would actually be possible if no one had copied someone else to create them?”

No, really?

I tend to think that the Internet has empowered us to be immensely powerful in our creativity. I’m a big fan of Jame’s Burke’s Connections series, and one thing I learned from watching these shows is that advances in human technology and cultures happen when individuals, peoples and cultures interact and share ideas. If you think of the potential creative productivity of hundreds of millions of people having access to the Internet, some of whom are intensely creative and innovative, the possibilities are mind-blowing.

Today in the breakfast lecture Brian Lamb shared the simple example of the Free Learning site. This site was originally a link resource list created by one individual in Malaysia. Other interested folks in England and Canada volunteered their time to create an active wiki/resource/search engine for free materials. Lamb notes that this project was developed without a budget, without a project planning team.

And we haven’t gotten to some of the larger possibilities. I wonder what would happen if many people contributed to solving some of the larger issues we face today: climate change, economic collapse. What if there were several or dozens of dedicated individuals, including experts, who orchestrated discussions and problem-solving attack groups? Of course, I wholly realize that what I’m suggesting here frightens more people that it excites and invigorates. As a species we are so ‘inside-ourselves’ that we often cannot appreciate or even trust these attempts at such broad collaboration, and yet, as Brian Lamb pointed out in his lecture, Wikipedia is a prime example of mass cooperation among human beings.

I’d like to spend more time blogging/writing about this topic, but time is short right now. I need to move on to the next lecture at this conference (ITC).

Speaking of re-mixes here’s a really good example of re-mixing from the movie Amadeus. It’s also a good example of how people can get pissed off when their work is re-mixed, but this just demonstrates how Mozart’s character probably wasn’t so diplomatic. Then again why did he have to be? He just saw a better way of doing it.

Cool Example of Student Created Content

I was really impressed by this… a Movie/reinterpretation of the events of the Boxer Rebellion in China.

I’m a fan of Hong Kong cinema and I think these guys did a pretty good mix of storytelling with the fantasy martial arts genre. I remember falling asleep during the chapter of the Boxer Rebellion in my history class way back. I think these kids actual brought more meaning to the event than any old crusty history teacher ever could. Plus, they probably learned how much work it takes to produce a short film and became more engaged with history in the process.

I’ve got X-mas in the wash… it’s soap, baby!

I hate the fuss over Christmas.  I like giving gifts, but I don’t like the drama or hassle that comes tied in guilt and knots when it comes to holiday giving.  My solution= find a place on the internet that I’ve visited this year either on the internet or in ‘real life.’ More, I have to have absolutely loved the products I found there. Funny, everywhere I go now, if I like a store or business I always ask stores if they have a website, and if I can purchase their products online. It’s a really good way for businesses to keep tourist dollars coming even after the tourists have gone home.

marinelife.jpgWhen we were in Madison, WI this summer we went to visit the Soap Opera. I fell in love with their homemade glycerin soaps (Primal Elements Handcut Soaps). I even brought home a Pirate Soap (decorated with “Skull and Bones”) for my husband… he refuses to use it because it’s so cool looking.  I don’t mind because it actually has the most lovely scent of vanilla and marshmallows. The soaps come in such beautiful and curious designs that it’s hard to resist. I was given a sample of the “Dragonfly” soap… and after I tried it I regretted not purchasing a slice. I actually love this glycerin soap in general because it’s super mild and the essential oil blends they use on the soaps aren’t super intrusive or garish.

Also, I enjoyed reading the story of one of the owners of the shop: “How I Got from Art Major to Business Owner.”  I think it’s a wonderful story of one person’s journey through life trying to balance work and business with what one loves to do… especially if that means making ‘things.’ I believe that the booming business of crafts and handmade products is no coincidence considering the fact that we live in a growing world of virtual concepts through technology.

dragonfly.jpg skull.jpgflowrshp.jpgchocmose.jpg

Oh, oh, oh….I also found the retailer of these soaps made to imitate natural gemstones.  At the Soap Opera, I purchased the Red Jasper soapstone for my mother as a gift. But it looks like you can get the soaps here at a discounted price. Well, my Christmas Shopping is done! And I didn’t even have to push through crowds at a mall.
blackopal.jpg jasper.jpg

Dinner at La Sidereria Escondida

Walking past the Sidereria during the day

Menu (what I can remember)

  • Preserved/cured beef
  • Six kinds of cheeses including a buttery blue cheese called Cabrales
  • Smoked fish pate
  • Potatoes with langistino and eel with aioli
  • Blood pudding
  • Chorizo cooked in cider
  • Breaded and fried beef (pork) with fried potatoes and a blue cheese sauce
  • Bread
  • Chocolate mousse
  • A large bottle of cider for each person

People in Spain eat really late and the stay up all night. That’s what siesta is for. Eating and drinking is just a background for social life. I noticed in Madrid there were a lot of older people (past their 40’s) out late, not just in the Tapas places or bars, but coming out of the theater. At the Sidereria we met a couple with children who were hanging out with us until the late, late hours of the evening. Their children were staying at their grandparents for the evening.

I sometimes feel that we in America are incredibly insular (to the nuclear family) that there’s not a lot of socializing going on in general unless you’re younger. Maybe that’s why we’ve been leaning more towards being social online. Online is nice, but somehow, at least to me, it’s still lacking of the intangible rewards of being in the actual presence of others. But what do I know? I’m really introverted by nature.

The night we arrived our host Miguel and his mother treated us to a wonderful late dinner that included White asparagus with aioli (garlic mayonnaise), cheeses, bread, ham and a savory dish of snails (Caracoles). The snails were actually quite good and actually not unlike mushrooms in texture.


Eating Snails Alicante Style

Image Therapy Musings: Tekkonkinkreet and our ability to laugh

I drove by the Movie theater on 21st and saw that they were playing Tekkonkinkreet. I posted something on this earlier this month, and I have to say, I think this was probably one of my favorite movies out this Summer. The images were just visually stunning. There was a good deal of violence, so I wouldn’t recommend it as a kid flick for very young children. The play on light vs. dark was actually a little refreshing. It’s nice to be reminded that you can’t have one without the other and that light and darkness as concepts, moods, states of mind depend on each other. You cannot always live in one vs. the other.

The backgrounds, colors and details reminded me of the packaging from items from the Chinese Grocery store we used to frequent when I was a very young child. I think it was one of the few or only Asian grocery stores in town at the time… I think I just dated myself. I always felt really comfortable in there despite the fact that it seemed dark and confusing.


I was able to see the Simpsons movie as well. Despite the fact that I did feel like I was in the theater watching an extended episode or a string of episodes on a DVD, I did enjoy it. Who can pass up on the superb humor of the Simpson’s writing cadre? It was a nice way to end the work week: with laughter. I know it’s easy for us as a species to get all hung up on our ability to build magnificent cities, engineer impossible buildings or create works of art, but I think the ability to laugh and appreciate the comedic truly sets us apart from any other creature in the planet.

Why are we geared to laugh? Does it provide the same kind of physical release or satisfy an appetite like eating or sex? I’ve always felt that laughter is like exercising the heart. If you loose your ability to do this there’s a life or spirit in a person that may loose it’s radiance and ability to cope with all the darkness in this world. Look at all the cultures and social groups in our past (and even present) which really seemed to have a hard time with lightening up.  Can you imagine what life was for the Calvinists.  It’s kind of hard to find humor in things when you live under the guidance of the notion that you’re either doomed or you’re not (though most people are doomed*) or that human beings by nature are depraved and fallen creatures. You know if I was born a 16 or 17th century Calvinist I’d emmigrate from Switzerland  to Holland right away… either that or work hard and look forward to death because it would probably be a cake-walk compared to the hell on earth that they built. They’re always painted and drawn in art as if their tidies are in bunches.

*If that were the case and people were all doomed… I’d break out the pack of Gitanes and open a bottle of Pernod and say… “What the hey.”

Some related things:

Sometimes you just need a little positivism

I thought this video clip was appropriate for my mood today. Plus it’s Peggy Lee… one of my all time favorite artists.


Here’s the entire playlist. I love how Youtube can basically capture your frame of mind via music and visuals.

This is so cool!

I love robots. I always have.

Reggio Emilia – The environment is the ‘third’ teacher

Reggio Emilia educational approach and philosophy insists that children learn readily from their environment, and there for the environment is the ‘third’ teacher. I’m assuming that the teachers/parents and the child themselves are the first and second teachers.

So much has been written about this educational approach that I posted links to information below. You might wonder what an instructional designer is doing by focusing on pedagogy rather than adult learning theory. Perhaps it’s a result of my own efforts to deconstruct myself as a learner to better understand the subject of how to teach not just children but everyone regardless of their age. Next, I need to understand learning from the perspectives of others.

Also, I have this hunch that really building people who are ‘creative-workers’ takes more than just giving them internet access and the opportunities to collaborate. We need to think about how to raise these workers from the ground up. True businesses do fund a lot of educational events, but does it ever occur to them that helping people grow in understanding alternative ways of thinking starts from lessons you learn at a very young age?

I don’t believe that Reggio Emilia is the one and only approach to education. It’s an example of a model that is ideal. However, I believe that one of the cornerstones of a good education must be to provide learners with examples of learning that promote them to ask questions of their learning? To ask questions about what they observe and to learn from their environment. Yes, yes, yes… they still have to memorize times tables and Latin and Greek roots. Because naturally these are tools for learning. The focus should be on making connections with the rote learning and tools and application in the real world. Not just with storybook math problems about people taking trains and making connections. Children should be provided with opportunities to create their own story problems from their own experiences. True, the teacher still has to be an active guide helping these children achieve their questions and their answers (when possible). Teachers should take the role of post-modern mini-Socrates.

Not that this is the only example of this, but building a website offers children the opportunity to learn and apply knowledge and skills. Can you see where the language-arts, math, art, teambuilding skills are applied through these questions? The list below is just a start.

  • Who is going to do the work?
  • How will we divide the work?
  • How will we work together and follow needed schedules to accomplish our work?
  • What is our subject matter? Why is it important to us?
  • How will we produce the written content?
  • What standards will we hold for the written content?
  • What sizes (in inches/pixels) do we want for our webpages?
  • How do we reduce images that we find so they fit here proportionally?
  • What colors should we use?

What is Reggio Emilia?

Read More…

Side note and commentary – One of the things that frustrates me about education in general in our country is we (unintentionally) beat the desire to learn and explore out of students with the fundamental structuralist nature of or education approaches/systems. There’s so much emphasis on promoting creativity and the free flow of learning with younger children, but then how do we keep this going as children get older. Or do we hope that children have life-shaping experiences that cement the love of learning for them?

Links and Resources (some to start):

Reggio Emilia overview and links to books on the subject

Unpacking Observation and Documentation: Experiences from Italy, Sweden, and Australia *(Collected Works) – a collection of articles which includes observations by Gunila Danberg on an attempt to adopt Reggio Emilia practices in Swedish Schools. Some of the observations on being adaptive and making sure that a school/culture approaches R.E. to fit and involve “the whole organization” is important. Also, this paper treats some key questions in applying Reggio Emilia (and any other approach) in shaping a child’s learning and success at learning, do we refer to the ‘ideal’ pedagogical model of the child? How does this restrict us in educating the child?

Aesthetic Codes in Early Childhood Classrooms: What Art Educators Can Learn from Reggio Emilia* (Article)

Discovering Regio Emilia, Building Connections Between Learning and Art *(Paper)

*Available thru ERIC


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