Monday, January 14, 2008

Jon Udell's Interview with Gardner Campbell

Discusses Campbell's concept of digital imagination and how the Internet impacts the creation and sustaining of a learning community beyond the boundaries of the classroom and institutional walls.

read more | digg story

Friday, January 11, 2008

Yes, You Do Need Cartoons to Read!

Just thought I'd pass along, a very interesting blog post about the infantilization of the modern newspaper: Dr. Etzioni makes some great points and I sympathize with his view. However, I did have some thoughts in response which I posted in his comments section and have included below. But before you read my comments (or at the very least, right after) pleas check out his original post.

I'm 34 years-old, an on-again/off-again news hound, and an avid comics fan. I remember being shocked when the New York Times first printed a color photo on its page 1 and thinking "this is the beginning of The End." Likewise with the Wall Street Journal started including color on its pages. And so it was an end of sorts. The end of intransigently stodgy institutions. Even these titans would have to kowtow to the Internet Age.

I mourn that loss for nostalgia's sake - the idea I held when I was (more of) a youngster that The Times and The Journal were papers I would come to read as a "grown up". Little did I know then that I wouldn't even be reading the actual "papers" but the electronic facsimile thereof. And for that very reason I welcome the change. Most of my communication with my dad these days surrounds the NYT articles we forward to each other via email throughout the week. Thus the makeover of these dusty old juggernauts doesn't simply serve a cosmetic purpose, but a functional one, as it brings their formidable presence to bear on what was seen (and is by some still seen) as a lightweight medium. Note that the parent companies of The Times and The Journal respectively undertook infrastructure changes that were extremely costly in time and money to produce their new "looks". From that, I can only presume that the changes were to adapt to the advent of the Internet and not for appearances alone.

Finally, I submit that comics are not infantile in and of themselves, but are in fact an equal, if not higher form of written communication than print alone. The content of a lot of products within the comics medium can be and is extremely infantile, but the form itself is one that has been crafted throughout the history of written communication (literally, history itself). There, I've said it. But for an expert treatment of this premise, I refer you to Scott McCloud's seminal work, "Understanding Comics" (

Truthfully, I would insist not only that you should read it, but also the producers of the very same publications you pooh-pooh above for being too "comics"-like. I think what you'll both find is that a true understanding of the comics form could substantially increase readability and generative comprehension of news and other topics of importance. Further you'll see why the mere window-dressing of colorful pictures and stacks of bold headlines simply result in lousy newspapers and worse "comics". McCloud's follow-up to "Understanding Comics" called "Reinventing Comics" ( discusses the lessons of the comics medium, applying them to new media and information systems such as the Internet. Too much to cover here, and I've butchered what little I did. So I leave you in Mr. McCloud's capable hands.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Single Serving Popcorn

I empty my single serving bag of microwave popcorn into the crisp white cafeware cereal bowl awaiting on my kitchen counter. And I flash back to a linoleum counter from 30 years earlier. 30 years ago, when popcorn making was itself an event.

In the early days, I remember the excitement of the silver Jiffy Pop container first placed on the heated stove. The explosive percussion of superheated kernals smashing tin, followed by the Openheimer bloom of aluminum foil, buttery puffed kernel fallout contained safely therein.

I remember later when we first brought home the popcorn popper. An orange domed UFO worthy of the proudest Martian explorer. It inspired years of the most rigorous disciplined scientific research that a gang of pre-adolescent kids could muster. Our mission, to pop the elusive perfect batch. Enough corn oil to fill up to the inner ring, there was no talk of canola oil nee rapeseed. Add enough kernels for the oil/kernel mix to extend to the outer ring. Those were merely the basics.

The alchemy began where Oster's or Kitchenade's or Hamilton Beach's instruction booklet left off. Heat oil then add kernels or andd oil and kernels together? When to unplug it? Switches or automatic shutoff, you ask? Hah! When do you flip the dome? What dome cover to use? (A newly cleaned Kool-Ade lid always seemed the best fit, but after 3-4 uses became slack and pointless.) And what of those slots at the top of the dome? Lay down chunks of butter to melt and drip through during popping? Maybe pre-melt then pour through the top? Or melt and mix in after the dome is flipped? Salt before butter, or butter before salt? Margarine, you say? For popping maybe but topping? Never.

Countless questions, and layers of mystery beneath them. In the time it has taken me to write these few words, I've already emptied my bowl save a few pieces of kernel shrapnel. No layers of mystery. No unpopped kernels of truth below for wonderful tooth-shattering crunches later on. No crowd around the dome digging in for seconds, thirds, and fourths as the mummy, the werewolf, or the creature from the black lagoon terrorizes us through the tv glass for the umpteenth Saturday afternoon. Just me, in my apartment, settling in for the my latest Netflick to stream over the wire and into my solitary laptop screen.

Single serving popcorn for a single serving movie screening.

Those old popcorn poppers were probably spectacular fire hazards. And who knows whether that superheated orange plastic will pay us off with gastrointestinal cancer of one form or another within the next 30 years. Somedays, our popping results were pretty dodgy. Others, they were downright inedible. The smell might linger around the house for the rest of the day, if not the rest of the week. But there is one thing that sadly seems certain. The best popcorn days are now behind us.