The Mac Lab

Archive for July, 2009

Thinking Out Loud

by on Jul.27, 2009, under Blog

kimber_smA beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.
Frank Herbert / Dune

So, I woke up early (surprise) knowing the direction this post would take (kinda-sorta since I started this yesterday afternoon) and, like Harry Potter after the Felix Felicis (though I only drank Diet Coke), I cranked open my 42 morning tabs, took numerous right and left-click turns, added videos to our channels, images to Inspiration, and posted comments and tweets rather than taking the direct route to the task at hand. Along the way I found exactly what I didn’t know I was looking for. Delicate care indeed! The final tab led to the page that contained the image that pegged the coincidence meter. Note: If you haven’t been reading the posts [0725] and/or don’t know that Valhalla‘s colors are orange and white, that probably won’t make any sense at all. Bottom line, it was time well spent. And now, back to our regularly unscheduled reprogramming…

I’ve so been busy looking in both directions (forward and back) that I’ve only just realized how hard a time I’m having in letting go of the graduates. It’s the blog’s fault, of course. I’m certain of that. It’s brought some of us even closer and I got stuck right here in the middle without even realizing it. Silly sentimental Skocko. Every year it seems that stronger bonds are formed with the students (well, some students). Due to the interactive nature of the blog, I’ve grown accustomed to a (semi) rich dialogue accompanying most posts. When writing, I’ve been trying to bridge both worlds and there’s just too much riding on the new to risk it with longings for the old. So, without further ado (adieu, old timers… you’ll always be welcome here), time to look to the future (Kim L).

Reading Dune (see opening quote) is a lot like teaching, except that instead of starting over once (I got about 100 pages in way back when I read it the first time, was completely confused, and returned to page one) I get to start over year after year. It’s fun finding new ways to solve old problems. It’s even more fun sketching out new goals for the kids. Two examples are expanded and more focused creative freedom as defined by the image I saw earlier this morning (though I’d exchange the word LOVE for KNOW) and a public art show (though we certainly won’t be smoking death sticks while creating art or drinking Tiger while viewing it). The rest of this week’s additions (and quite possibly all additions up to the start of school) will be dedicated to defining (or at least brainstorming) the plan for 0910 in the Mac Lab. Though I’ve written about it before, this post and these comments (from there down) began the process in earnest. It’s time to lay a few more cards down before taking off on our vacation later this week. But first I’m going to continue reading this old friend. Sure, I’ve already read it, a dozen or more times if you must know. It’s one of those wonderful books I’ve worn out before and will again.

Must find that delicate balance between work and play, don’t'cha know. ;)

Later… In the if you build it, they will come category, I just received confirmation that we’ll be getting 5 licenses of Final Cut Studio for free! Well, not really for free. I invested in a 3 year Maintenance Agreement in January of 2007. Timed it just right as we got FCS 2 in May of ’07 and will be getting v3 for the fall. Lucky, huh? Maybe I should head to Vegas! (I don’t gamble but I do play this game. A short 65 days away!) And somebody wake Shaun C so I can ask him if this is for him. He wants a career in animation (or so the story goes) and I want to give him a solid shot. (Especially since he’s going to be spending almost the whole day in the Mac Lab. It pays to take care of required classes early!) We’ll also be getting a couple of licenses for these sweet After Effects plugins too (with a deep education discount) and, well, I don’t want to spoil all the surprises. Let’s just say that the Mac Lab is going to be a dream-come-true playground for the serious digital artist. All of this comes with an entry fee though. The dedicated students get the cool programs.

0728: I find myself returning again and again, both physically and mentally, to a few lines I read in Dune yesterday: Think you of the fact that a deaf person cannot hear. Then, what deafness may we all not possess? What senses do we lack that we cannot see and cannot hear another world all around us? The reason I keep coming back is that this time I heard it differently. You see, it made an impression on my thought processes years ago (read that if you dare) and has always been front and center as a nagging question: What am I not perceiving? But yesterday I had one of those moments. You know, either this or this. (It’s hard to tell as the two are separated by such a slim margin.) Yesterday the words illuminated the creative process rather than primary perception (if that makes sense). Along the lines of ee comings: Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question, now I just have to find the question. And for those who didn’t dare

At some stage in the process of creation, the creative product — whether painting, poem, or scientific theory — takes on a life of its own and transmits its own needs to its creator. It stands apart from him and summons material from his subconscious. The creator, then, must know when to cease directing his work and when to allow it to direct him. He must know, in short, when his work is likely to be wiser than he.
— George Kneller / The Art and Science of Creativity

Note: I’ve taken it as a given for some time now that the blog is wiser than me. ;)

0729: A big hello to whomever stopped by from Guam yesterday (110 countries and counting). Perhaps you were also our 20,000th visitor (since GA started keeping track in April). Dune keeps surprising me: It is shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult. That Princess Irulan is a fountain of wisdom. Now if I can shock those fictional beliefs out of a few more students this year… While searching for links to George Kneller (The Art and Science of Creativity guy), I ran across some food for thought. Some of the points are relevant to the Mac Lab’s radical departure for old school educational practices. Considering this conversation, Hayes might find it of interest too. Received confirmation that we’ll receive a free upgrade to v8 when it comes out. Oh, didn’t I mention we were getting a few copies of this for 3D? Forgetful me. Probably forgot to tell you that pricing for this fits into the budget too. No gaming in the Mac Lab! Unless, of course, it’s a game you’re creating in class. We’ll be starting with the 2D version so all students will get a shot to pitch their ideas. (Hint: Set the WABAC Machine to this post and try to imagine what I have in mind. Search and destroy missions might work if your protagonist is a white blood cell. If he’s just another guy with a gun, probably not.) Depending on the level of student participation, I may look for additional funding for the 3D version as well. I’ve begun to brainstorm out loud about our initial projects but failed to stress how we’ll begin ALL classes with foundations in the core Adobe apps: Illustrator, Photoshop, Bridge, and Dreamweaver. Kinda like I forgot to stress the Adobe apps in this entry. Oh well, live and learn. As Baca knows and as I’ve been know to say, you can’t win if you don’t enter (but read all the rules first).

0730: Dreamweaver + Bridge, Acrobat, Encore, or Flash? Or maybe Flash Catalyst + Photoshop and/or Illustrator? Hmmm… I’ve been researching Adobe options all day and each has its benefits. We’ll probably be using Bridge for the initial portfolio (6 weeks) to keep things simple and add Acrobat and/or Encore for the second and third portfolios (12 and 18 weeks) to give you more creative freedom without huge time investments. The second semester will offer other choices for advanced students but I’d like to keep the portfolios as sweet and simple as possible so you can focus on your projects. We’ll be skipping the text links for the most part but there’ll be a writing component so text will play its part. I’d say I can’t wait, but I really can. Summer’s been wonderful and I’m not ready to let go yet.

Oh, and not to change the subject but my credit card just got a one, two, three workout! :D

0731: Visitors from the Faroe Islands and Mozambique bring us to 111 countries. Shouldn’t it be 112? No, I just noticed that Google’s been counting something called not set as a country. We’ll skip that one and just add up the ones we can find on a map, so 111 it is. (Do you know why that map is unique? What’s the real value of Bucky‘s version? Search for your own answers and think about how those other maps have distorted our perception of what the world really looks like.)

Well, it’s here. Today’s a frenetic day of last minute chores and preparation. Tomorrow morning we leave on a two-week road trip, up one side of the state to Oregon (with multiple friends and family stops along the way) and back down the inland route to our quaint condo in the mountains. Internet access and time to post will be somewhat unpredictable so… I’ll talk with you later… Today? Tomorrow? Who knows? Catch up with your blog reading meantime. There’s more tucked away here than many of you can imagine. Be good to one another.

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Raising the Stakes

by on Jul.20, 2009, under Blog

anguh_smNew opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed without any other reason but because they are not already common.
— John Locke

This blog is like a high-stakes poker game. There’s gotta be people out there who think I’m bluffing. I mean, how is anyone supposed to believe that our unorthodox approach to the classroom (and I use the word our rather than my because all of it hinges on student buy-in) will lead to unprecedented student achievement? That’s the claim, you know, that this year, like every single year before it, Mac Lab students will produce some of the highest quality projects to ever come out of a new media arts lab. The big difference this year is that all my cards are being dealt face up. Everything’s being revealed in real time in this oh-so-public forum. You want to know the weirdest part? Even though I’ve admitted it again and again, I don’t think many of you really believe that I make most of this up as I go along. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never had so many rock-solid ideas for curriculum but I plan on encouraging the kids to fragment and explore like never before. Like it says in DYC:

Batting clean up, leading off, you following my drift?
Seeming things not always are, but answers can we sift
Many meanings have few words, and some are even true
Sometimes three roads lead one to, a fourth that no one knew
Footsteps blaze the trail taken, a path that we’ll create
Just because you’re following, don’t mean I can’t relate

And speaking of following, I wondered just how few people would follow the blog over the summer. Would it be worth my time to continue to post? Well, by way of an answer, over the weekend we had our 10,000th page view (from 67 countries and 43 states) since school let out in June. Small potatoes for high-traffic sites but seriously encouraging numbers for my secondary goals. Think about it. Click to see Chris F’s wonderful linework. That’s not counted as a page view. What is counted? The movies on the Student Page? No. All those video tutorials people rave about? No. The endless pages in the old site? No. Nothing counts except the pages with the template you’re looking at right now. That means we have people who are actually interested in what’s being written. No, not to feed my ego, but rather to push the frontiers of education. You see, I know that a certain percentage of our readers are educators. It’s my hope that some of these teachers will begin to embrace some of the ideas that are being developed here. This one, of course, is central to all others. Again, from DYC:

Trust is time to ask yourself, to find the strength to ask
Questions free the answering, unbinding them our task
Faith is time spent wondering, what we’re meant to find
Imagine it’s your purpose, adventure by design
Belief is time to listen, but who has time for that?
Especially when the answers, knock expectations flat

You see, Dream Yet Complete isn’t just an exercise in verse; it’s a pot of gold I was lucky enough to discover last century. Oh sure, all the original lines are in my handwriting, but I’m not foolish enough to believe it’s all my own invention. The quotations on this page speak to the source. Too much is riding on our responsibility to unlock the potential in our respective classrooms. I don’t care if some think me a fool or a charlatan because the kids prove it works. This story holds the key to unlocking other doors this year. This post contains sustenance, food for profound academic thought. This entire blog is a living, breathing entity. It may be a battle at times to get the kids to embrace it, but what worthwhile thing isn’t?

Everybody gets a shot, ’cause all the world is staged
Wouldn’t want to waste my turn, blind spot I’d not engage
What if I’ve a single round, the ref might count to ten
Cost of shooting cryptic bull, in eyes would haunt me when
“Think of what you could have been,” reflections charge displeased
Nothing ventured, nothing lost, except good memories

0721: Valhalla has never been a typical school. (How many other schools are round?) Maybe that’s why it attracts atypical admin-types and extremely dedicated teachers. When we had a change at the top last year, teachers were adamant that the district consider the culture of the school when replacing the principal. How I wound up here as a rookie teacher in 2002 is anybody’s guess. Maybe it was just the luck of the draw. Maybe, as I’ve intimated, it was meant to be. Regardless, I find myself pondering my good fortune while reflecting on this response to the initial post (above). Mr. Hayes and I have exchanged scores of emails over the past few years. His drive and dedication are to be admired but his dilemma… (read his comment) This age of standardized testing and strict accountability can easily squeeze creativity out of the education process. No educator has ever been fired for following tried and true methodology. But where in the process is there room for profound innovation?

Hey, I’m not advocating the rejection of proven educational strategies, I’m proposing we adopt select new strategies to compliment the others and leverage the creative energy in our computer labs. You and I both know that kids are genuinely excited about learning to use these new tools. We’ve got a natural advantage that most teachers would love to have. We need to dare to exploit this advantage. We need to engage our own imaginations. We need to dream. We need to push our students into new creative realms. We need to get out of our comfort zones and do something profoundly new. If you find yourself in Hayes’ position, you need to modify your strategy to suit the brain-dead suit at the top, but you still need to act (as our friend, Mr. H, most surely will).

I already know that the kids in the Mac Lab are going to produce incredible work next year. I already know it’s going to be the most successful year we’ve ever had, by far! In a way, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy fueled by the power of positive thinking. But in truth, it’s a product of the culture of the classroom, the mystique of the Mac Lab. I’ve written a little about it here (educators only, registration required) and it’s embedded in the rules. Oh, and I should admit that I already know that some won’t like the class no matter what I do (second paragraph).

Oversimplified Summary: Establish the rules and the culture. Empower the students by grounding them in the fundamentals. Set the bar sky high and get out of their way.

Far more detailed information will follow as I expose my remotives (DYC) in these daily posts. For now I’d like to call on my students to offer up their opinions of the way the Mac Lab’s run. Here’s your chance to let other educators know what you think. What helped you to succeed? Conversely, what didn’t you like? (I’m not silly enough to think you approve of everything I do!)

0722: Pondering what to write while engaged in morning rituals and I happened across a link which triggered a several hour-long inspiration fest. Lots of new imagery in Inspiration, new videos in our channels, and new ideas whirling around my head. It all ended (temporarily) a few minutes ago when I came full-circle and pondered a conversation I had with Mr. Bradford last week about my interest in assigning several teams to illustrate the concept of a mole. When Mr. Bradford gave an example of just how big a mole is, I was amazed. Googled: chemistry mole facts, got these top three results: 01 | 02 | 03, and was less than amazed. Pitiful, eh? My imagination conjured fabulous imagery to accompany Mr. B’s explanation. Chemistry obviously needs our help! Infographics to the rescue! Tim Berners-Lee wants raw data now! Might shed some interesting light on the historic fact or fiction mini discussion in here and here. (Steven must have misspoke because he’s much too intelligent to believe history=facts.) Paradoxically, one of my favorite quotes on the subject comes from Aldous Huxley: That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history. Whether based on fact, fiction, or tales the victors told, history still offers vivid lessons for humanity (and golden opportunities for Mac Labbers next year!).

Odd Coincidental Factoid: I’d tentatively planned on featuring Collaboration 2.0 today (working with students in other schools) before the attack of the inspirational infographics. Just checked today’s stats and that page is getting more hits than any other so far despite showing no evidence of where the visitors are coming from. So, either the data is flawed or a group of people had bookmarked that page in the past and decided to visit today. Odd but interesting. (Well, at least it’s interesting to me.)

0723: Since I already wrote the equivalent of a post in a reply to Chris’ excellent critique, I’ll skip today’s topic (will get to it tomorrow) and instead issue a challenge…

Hey! All you Mac Lab veterans? (Especially you Comic-Con enthusiasts.) I say you aren’t a real fan of storytelling unless you peek beneath the emperor’s robes (so to speak). How dare I insult you so? With a clear conscious, that’s how. I challenged you to watch three videos (0612 entry) but who rose to the challenge? I say, NONE OF YOU. Not a single one of you cow-eyed boys and girls watched the videos and learned some of the secrets behind the art of storytelling. I’ve told you that I love to be proved wrong. Go ahead, step up and declare that you’ve watched the videos. I’ll even let you cheat and watch them today and you can say, YOU’RE WRONG, SKOCKO! I WATCHED ‘EM! and no one will know the difference (except that pesky person in the mirror). So go ahead, ignore my challenge and remain as you are, a metaphoric cow, cluelessly chewing your cud, aimlessly wandering about a muddy field, continuously shooing flies with your eternally swishing tail, just a few short steps from the creative highway of life. Look around. You’ll have plenty of company. I’ll be sure to wave as I drive by.

(If that doesn’t rouse them, nothing will. ;) )

0724: New sponsor for Invisible Children. Click widget at right to help some kid who is not as lucky as you. And while our thoughts are on Africa, I should mention that a visitor from Antananarivo, Madagascar spent almost a half-hour here this morning. (People from 109 countries have now visited the blog since April.) I wonder of he/she hopes my students are getting their Omega-3′s? (Read yesterday’s entry if you don’t get that.) Speaking of international visitors, I keep getting more jazzed about the collaborative projects we’ll be working on with students near and far next year. While brainstorming at lunch in LA last week, a teacher suggested we create a jobs board so kids throughout the district might collaborate with one another. The recruiter from Obsidian suggested the same thing the next day. Ever since the idea behind this project proved its value, the desire to merge skill-sets, whether across periods or across international boarders, has been percolating to the top of my to do list. What’s on your to do list? Will you be mooing today or getting a move on?

0725: Ironic beginning to the day. Woke suddenly with an idea screaming for attention. Reached out and wrote down: GRIDS. I’d not seen or thought of that site in months but I’ve been juggling lessons in my mind, pondering how best to start the year. Since typography is the current popular favorite (among my multiple mind-sets), working grids into the mix is a no-brainer. I’ve taught grids to individual students in the past, but never as a core fundamental for all. YES! I popped out of bed (earlier than I would have liked but energized to start the day) and added it to the master plan for the 0910 school year. Checked email and was alerted to new comments on the blog. (Tardy Girl keeps writing in this old thread for some reason.) Chris F, our featured artist, also added a comment. Do you see the irony? Finally a kid responds to my challenge (shame on the rest of you!) and his reaction is to resist the structure. Now (for those slow on the uptake), imagine how he might react to GRIDS. (Ironic, ain’t it?) Fundamentals, my dear students, will take you a long, long way (so long as you’re willing to embrace them). Check my response to Chris. You might as well accept that we’ll have more structure earlier in the year this time around. And, as I’ve already said, we’ll also have unprecedented levels of creative freedom for those who play by the rules. Are you game? (Or are you still mooing?)

0726 Fun Facts and Odd Stats: Since school let out last month, 1,389 different people from 71 countries and 45 states have visited the blog 3,743 times, racking up 11,562 page views, averaging a little over 5 minutes per visit. World-wide, top 10 most visits (outside the US): United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Argentina, Australia, France, Taiwan, Brazil, India, Netherlands. Spending the most time per visit: Namibia, Chile, Madagascar, Pakistan, Austria, South Korea, Japan, Costa Rica, Hungary, Italy (the US fits between South Korea and Japan). In the states, top visitors outside California and New Mexico (Michael Werner skews those numbers): New Jersey, Florida, New York, Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan. Spending the most time: District of Columbia, Vermont, Colorado, Kansas, New Jersey, Texas, Missouri, Indiana, Georgia, New York. Most visits in California, excluding our local communities and Huntington Beach (Hayes skews those): San Diego (not in our school district but surprisingly high numbers since I began tracking in April — sure would like to know who these people are), La Jolla, Ladera Ranch, Fountain Valley, Midway City, San Francisco, San Jose, Parlier, Modesto, Beverly Hills. Spending the most time: Yorba Linda, Parlier, Santa Rosa, Davis, Coalinga, Concord, Poway, Indio, Durham, Reedley. 59% of all visitors arrived directly (probably bookmarked the site), 23% were referred from another site, and 18% used a search engine. Oddest search string leading visitors here in the past 30 days? Definitely: a group of visitors listening as a touri. Used twice!

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Coming Out of Our Shell

by on Jul.13, 2009, under Blog

baby_turtle_smEvery start upon an untrodden path is a venture which only in unusual circumstances looks sensible and likely to be successful.
— Albert Schweitzer

That’s right. Like Baca’s beloved baby turtle (They’re great with just a pinch of salt! Sorry, inside joke.) the Mac Lab is going to extend its collective neck and look around the school for collaborative projects in the fall. C’mon, quit moaning. Many of you will be coming to me later in the year asking if it’s okay to produce your WWII posters in class for an Humanities assignment. (And I always let you, don’t I?) Here’s Robbie Fikes’ (he’s a grad now) “What if the Axis Won the War?” poster. (It’s part of the eclectic collection of prints on our door that often stops people in their tracks.) Speaking of that, here’s some WWIII posters with a nod to designs of yesteryear (via). Our primary partner is Mr. Bradford (Chemistry). Here’s an example of a fun way to communicate chemisty concepts with graphics. Here’s another unrelated video that explains how we got into this economic mess (that’s already impacting our classroom directly). And what about a book report no one will ever forget?

I could go on and on (I think you already know that) but this is the reason I’m at this fleabag of a hotel (see tweet) writing at this cramped desk — to learn new strategies to initiate deeper collaboration with core subjects. Mac Lab Veterans already know how I pushed this last year. Was it quixotic? (Look it up.) Probably. Is this week going to transform our curriculum? Not completely, but to use eduspeak, it will inform my teaching practice. (Alter my strategy.) Not such a stretch as I’ve been moving in this direction anyway. Think about it. Who’s going to be the first to pitch an idea that requires our 5D? (A camera that records video like this.)

Bottom line: The projects we’ll develop are the projects that win competitions. Prizes are nice but these are meat for your portfolio and resume sandwich (soy-based if you’re a vegetarian). That’s sustenance for the next phase of your journey into your own adventure: life after high school. Dang! As if to confirm this message, a bird with feathers in it’s beak was perched on the fire escape outside my window. (Kinda late in the year to be building a nest, isn’t it?) It flew away when I reached for the camera.

I guess the moral of our little story is: It’s always the right time to build for the future.

0714: Azerbaijan makes 108 countries to visit our little blog. (I love the geography lessons. I knew it was one of the breakaways from the old Soviet Union but I didn’t know exactly where it was located on a map.) I can’t hear 108 without flashing on Bull Durham and Annie Savoy’s wonderfully bizarre 108 rant. (I’d compiled my own 108 connections in pre-WWW days. Thank you, TBL for making the world a smaller place for seekers.) Hey, look, another info-graphic video dealing with tangential meanderings. Amazing what’s right there at our fingertips!

That was fun. I’d not intended to write any of that, but, you know… Now, with only a few minutes left, I should tell you that I got my wish yesterday. True, it was a modest wish, but little things add up. My fear that this would have been a week better spent recording videos for you proved unfounded. There’s a terrific group of teachers here and hearing what they have to say is worth the trip alone. The day also included a few applicable ideas from the all-day sessions. The moment of the day was at the intersection of Visual Literacy and a teacher’s comment about a student’s A-Ha! moment: Now I know how to read an image! I’m not sure if that connects with you but it sure rocked my perceptual world. That’ll shape and inform a few lessons next fall!

Today’s goal is the same: Give me one or two solid ideas to help my kids learn. Think about it. We already have a pretty solid program so the addition of seriously worthwhile projects is a boon for all. But it may be a little hard to focus at times because my mind is sure to wander. You see, tomorrow two-thirds of the teachers are going here and one-third here. I’m not sure how they divided us but I do know my dream came true (if you catch my drift).

0715: Yesterday I rambled about the 108 countries who’d visited since I added Google Analytics in April. Since school let out in June we’ve had 1,125 unique visitors from 66 countries and 41 states. Comparison map. And now all those kind folks will get to see the higher quality Best Work video I uploaded last night. I’m not sure why the HD version glitched so badly. This one slows down at the same point (very strange) as well but doesn’t suffer the horrible pixelation. If you’d like to download a copy, the link’s at the lower right on this page. Heading behind the scenes at DreamWorks today. Of course a coincidence popped up to mark the occasion (via). No slight intended. (Though Pixar is king of the hill, imho.) We also get to discuss topics with an industry panel of heavy hitters before boarding the buses for our field trip. It’s going to be a great day!

0716: Sorry for the delay. The roller coaster of life took me up, up, up, and then… I’ll skip the gory details of the food poisoning episode last night that continued past noon (a sure winner on America’s Grossest Videos) and focus on the ups. Quick overview. (Don’t be a fool! Click the links.) Panel Discussion Highlight This came up again later as even DreamWorks is involved. Don’t dismiss the look of the site. This is an unbelievable ladder to climb; and like all ladders, you start at the bottom. Keynote Highlight. Again, don’t underestimate the impact on our program. Hey, this USC grad helped to start it (I like how ILM helped to start IML). We’ll be using new strategies that will help you succeed no matter your career plans (as evidenced by this new minor). Next up, face to face with industry reps. First with a very funny guy who recruits and hires. Three out of their four lead designers majored in literature. It’s all about the story. How do you draw people into the game? Oh, almost forgot to mention that I’m going to follow his recommendation and will be adding this to the lab next year. Interested? Next up, another funny guy who just started QuickFest. Tons of great advice. “You want to work for me? Learn to spell!” (Are you listening, Baca?) “Show up on time. And that means early!” Like everyone else, he advises: lose the ego, volunteer, and do more than you’re asked to do. (That was universal advice.) Tons more to add but even if that was the whole story for the day, I’d be raving about how worthwhile this entire trip had been. But there was one more thing left to do…

We didn’t get the promised two hours at DreamWorks. We got three. What a fan-friggin-tastic place to work! Go here. Roll over COMPANY, click CAREERS, and watch the video. They hired 55 new employees straight out of college in both of the last two years. They’ve started an outreach program and are connecting with multiple CSUs. Two of the hires last year came from SJSU (where I got my BFA). If you don’t read that, you’re a fool and you missed: Recent graduates of our program have gained employment at major studios such as Walt Disney Feature Animation, PIXAR, Industrial Light and Magic, Electronic Arts, Blue Sky, and DreamWorks… (Wow!) Our “tour guide” was the individual who screens new applicants. The information she shared was from an insider’s perspective. We were shown successful demo reels and portfolios. Go here. Roll over STUDIO, click ANIMATION 101 PRODUCTION PROCESS (they changed the site since last week!), then scroll through the slides. That’s the short version. It’s a little more complex than that. Aspects of their production pipeline will be find their way into the Mac Lab’s workflow next year.

Way more to add but I need a break.

Coincidence of the day: Just got an email that says: CONNECT is designed to introduce high school students interested in film to top film industry professionals for an intimate day of workshops and networking. Students are exposed to a full day of screenings, question and answer sessions and a unique mentoring luncheon. Over 250 of the most promising and enthusiastic film students are hand-picked to participate each year. One of the speakers for this year will be an animator from Dreamworks! Yes, of course I signed us up. Now, who will step up to be considered in the first few weeks of school? Applicants who read the blog will receive special consideration. Post a comment if you’re interested. CONNECT is Friday, September 24 (in San Diego) but they’re sending the applications out the last week of August.

Coincidence No. 2: Looks like we’ll be having a new presentation next year. I’ve been hearing great things about the Gnomon School this week (missed the face to face with their rep yesterday). One of their counselors just contacted me. Oh, it’s going to be a great year!

0717: No clock in this “luxurious” room but I managed to wake with a smile to Surfin, USA. I love technology. Analog technology ain’t bad either. As I was packing up the room (leaving today) I noticed a note on the pad beside the bed. This is a perfect example of why you should ALWAYS have pen and paper at the bedside. I slept so hard I didn’t remember writing anything until I saw: EVIL SPELL PROCRASTINATION scrawled on the pad. (I write in all caps thanks to a year in this program before switching to this.) The memory crystallized instantly. I woke in the middle of the night remembering something Jim from Obsidian had said: If I had magical powers and I could curse someone to make sure they were never successful, I’d make them a procrastinator. He said procrastinators never reach their full potential. Kind of obvious but I’ve told you before how important that pen and paper is and I’ve told you when and where ideas happen most often. And yes, I’ll have a pad on the passenger seat in the car (I can write without looking at the paper. Neatness doesn’t count.) So, a question. Answer honestly. Do you have a way to capture your ideas in the middle of the night? Do you have paper and pencil/pen next to your bed within easy reach? If not, why not? How many killer ideas have been lost because you chose to ignore my advice or worse, you’ve — insert spooky, dramatic music — PROCRASTINATED?! It isn’t an evil spell. It’s a self-inflicted wound. (Note: I tried a tape recorder but all I could hear were incoherent mumblings. Easier to read a few key words.) Heal that wound. Start today. Put the implements by your bed AND BEGIN USING THEM NOW. Watching TV? What if an idea pops up? Write it down. And that little bird (or one who looks the same) just landed on my window sill and made eye contact. You don’t ignore signs that confirm TRUTH. Well, not unless you’ve been cursed.

0717: Ah, good to end the day back home. Odd that no one’s chosen to answer the question. Oh well. Getting late. G’night all. Dream well.

0718: This post is so long, I doubt if many will get to this point so I can semi-safely stick in a tribute to Walter Cronkite and lament the degeneration of his once-trusted profession. Dream Yet Complete is the same age as some of my high school students. Time has been kind to the story; if anything, it’s more relevant than ever. When I think back even further and ponder the depiction of the press in Stranger in a Strange Land (one of my favorite books but one of my least favorite parts of it), it saddens me that Heinlein‘s ridiculous characterization is growing ever more prescient. I’m not about to ask anyone to read all of DYC but I will challenge those few reading these words to check out: Chapter Three | The Press. It contains a reference to Cronkite but he’d never have stooped to the level of the talking head you’ll find there. I happen to agree with Bruce Hornsby‘s take on the same line. I’m certain he wasn’t slighting Mr. Cronkite’s most famous words either when he wrote:

That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
Oh, but don’t you believe them

As we dreamers know, there’s always hope. Change happens. Don’t give up. Don’t give in.

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By the Numbers

by on Jul.08, 2009, under Blog

55_chevy_smIn the beginning
Back in nineteen fifty-five
— AC/DC • Let There Be Rock

As yet another ’55 undergoing restoration (Stockwell), I’ve gotta tell you how good it feels to take steps in the right direction. In the past week I’ve seen a new doc (a genuinely good guy), began physical therapy (for blown-out back due to 5 months of this), had vision checked and ordered new glasses and frames (reading and distance), added a pool (cheaper and more fun than air conditioning) and a chair ($249 in the store and surprisingly comfortable when writing/recording) to our summer home (which is also our winter, spring, and fall home), and am set to expand the video foundation for next year. On a completely different restoration frontier, I ran into this (she’s quoting something I wrote 14 years ago) while composing this reply earlier this morning. An interesting coincidence. Good to invigorate the perceptual muscles as well! Now, back to the subject at hand…

The 5 Stages of the Creative Process

Fifty-five has the interesting property that it is the 10th Fibonacci number and the sum of the numbers 1 to 10. (via) You may or may not remember this connection but I was happy to get high-fived by this book a few hours ago when reminded of the 5 stages of the creative process. Even though I subscribe to the Gestalt model of thought, I feel it’s helpful to break the process down so our linear-thinking Western minds are able to comprehend in familiar terms. The process (in a very simplified form):

01: First Insight Seek and/or discover problems that need solving. (This will be in the form of projects, assigned or self-directed. One of us will be defining a problem in need of a solution.)

“The formulation of a problem,” said Albert Einstein, “is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old questions from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science.”
— A. Einstein and I. Infeld / The Evolution of Physics

02: Saturation Gather, sort, and categorize information. (I’ve gotten the ball rolling with Inspiration. Do NOT underestimate the value of looking at the same imagery dozens of times! That’s what the right brain needs to shift into its pattern recognition, intuitive, problem-solving mode. See last paragraph here as well.)

The unconscious, though one cannot force it, will not produce new ideas unless it has been painstakingly stuffed full of facts, impressions, concepts, and an endless series of conscious ruminations and attempted solutions. On this we have the testimony of many creative people.
— Morton Hunt / The Universe Within

03: Incubation Searching for a solution. Trial and error. Brainstorming. (Here’s where imagination and intuition play their part IF you’ve stuck with the process.)

It [the right hemisphere] needs exposure to rich and associative patterns, which it tends to grasp as wholes. Programmed instruction is certainly not for the right hemisphere, but I am not sure what is the right method of instruction for our silent half. It is part of the elusiveness of the right hemisphere that we find it easier to say what it is not than what it is.
— Eran Zaidel / The Elusive Right Hemisphere of the Brain

04: Ah-Ha! The solution suddenly appears. (This is the mysterious moment of clarity, the instantaneous moment of knowing, the magic moment of the creative process. Few students are diligent enough to experience this. Will you be different? Or will you be yet another flatliner?)

I can remember the very spot in the road, whilst in my carriage, when to my joy the solution occurred to me.
— The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin

05: Verification Acting on the Ah-Ha moment. Testing your insight. (This is not only following through on your idea, but taking it that final 10% after you think you’re finished, boldly going where few students have gone before.

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre and the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility than most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson / Self-Reliance

I’ll be expanding upon these 5 stages of creativity for the next few days. They’ll be playing a starring role in the Mac Lab this fall. Those who embrace and stick with the process are virtually guaranteed to experience their own magic moments. Just promise not to celebrate like Archemides did! (We have a dress code.)

0709 Visitor Update: Nepal makes 107 countries and Wyoming makes 49 states (c’mon North Dakota). Interesting side note: Since school let out we’ve had 950 unique visitors from 60 countries and 42 states. (And I thought I’d be talking to myself all summer.)

0709: D’oh! Video sitting right there that I forgot about when I posted yesterday: The Process Before an Idea. Jr.canest is one talented film/graphics student. I’ve added a number of his videos to various Mac Lab Channels. He’s got a gift and he’s not afraid to use it. I’m a fan! Speaking of FANtastic — I can’t believe I’m going to say this — I absolutely love the potential Twitter offers. It fits right between GCL and the Blog. It’s the perfect addition to our Web 2.0 IDS (Information Delivery System). And with the widget (in right sidebar) you don’t even have to leave the Blog to follow the updates. Perfect!

0710: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Source. Forget about platforms, watch the video, and make a difference. Make today something different by doing something different. Stop and Think, and then act. (Thanks, Jr.)

0712: Am taking off for a week-long conference in Hollywood. Info to follow. Check the Twitter widget at right for other updates.

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The Journey Begins Anew

by on Jul.01, 2009, under Blog

fishy_smPart of the communication problem, as we shall see, is the strangeness of what is being found… Very few people are synthesizing information being gathered in far-flung places.
Marilyn Ferguson

If you read Specialists vs Generalists, you might understand something about the choice of that quotation to christen the wheel’s turning. (The 09/10 fiscal school year officially begins today.) For those who’ve also preformed this perceptual self-diagnostic, well, you know that I look far and wide for sources of inspiration. (For you daring souls who clicked that link, be sure to watch the series of videos that begins with Believe. That’s at the heart of artistic experimentation and exploration when drenched in inspiration.)

Good stuff to come tomorrow. (Hey, gimme a break! I’m busy with SOI.)

0702: I doubt that most of you would consider this “good stuff” but the Students Page is filling nicely with the initial videos. Only 40 or so, so far. ;) Lots more to follow.

0703 Randomness: Updated (flawed) Best Student Work video on Vimeo in HD. There are 21 new additions. Is yours there/missing? Let me know about suggestions you might have. Why does it glitch when the old one worked fine? Looks like it’s try, try again time for me. Can you simulate this video’s style in Photoshop? Watch a clue to that and other (hopefully) thought-provoking ideas. If you want to try on your own, 1280 x 720 might be a good size to play around with (720 x 480 on smaller monitors). Think in HD. A variety of variations on this theme are flashing in my mind’s eye right now (yes, I’ve jotted them down as they surface). When a winning idea gels and you want the highest quality, 1920 x 1080 is the ticket. We/you might enter this “commons” competition in the future (via). Note the low vote totals. Additional details linked in right column. Over 4.5 million pics to use but resist the urge to download ‘em all. Better idea: grab a camera and use it! Our friend from Namibia has come back twice but Wyoming and North Dakota remain unaware of the blog. Invisible Children reached their SocialVibe goal and our widget (in right sidebar) was reset to zero. I wrote and asked. Answer: Yes, additional clicks will continue to help the cause. Be a rebel. Give a click and/or join the cause. I know politicians are seldom original, but this is beyond ridiculous! (As is the denial.) But don’t you wish you had the perk Maine students have? Official info. Forget the platform (or political affiliations if your mind’s stuck back there) and imagine how that initiative could transform education here. Yeah, I know. We’re broke. Can’t afford breakfast? Catch your own. Fresh mosquito. Yum! (I’ve gotta get a tripod.)

0706: What a weekend! And this week’s off to a great start with a terrific offer to educators from Scott Kelby and Peachpit Press. High School Teacher Info (It might be easier to call 800.848.9500 to find your rep.) One more piece of the Creative Freedom and Career Path puzzle snaps into place. (Those videos are straight from the new, nearly completed Students Page.) Our 80,000th page view happened over the weekend.

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