Sunday, February 24, 2013

Books: The Human Connection

At a recent dinner party, I heard a compelling argument in the Ebook vs RealBook debates:  real books can connect humans (on subways).  People actually start conversations with strangers regarding books.  Covers add a layer of human play and interest to the fray of urban life.  And yesterday, this truth showed itself during my hours at Books of Wonder.

Neil Gaiman reading & book signing! 

Illustrator/Author duo of Chu's Day
The lines began.  The most considerate way to have used my waiting time?  Figuring out precisely what to say in 15 seconds about being inspired as teacher/writer, capped with a profound witticism.

Yes, I didn't do that.

Instead, I bought a copy of every day by David Levithan.

I read 35 pages as I shuffled in line.  The novel caused four spontaneous discussions with strangers.  Four.  Not only did this say volumes about this particular book/author, it reminded me (a Nook user) of the power of books to connect people.  And of the gravity of authors within an expanding universe.

A compelling YA novel (that stirs conversations with strangers)
Meanwhile, Neil Gaiman has very passionate fans.  The store was packed.  One older gent dressed up as Destiny from Sandman.  A toddler was dressed up as Chu (from Chu's Day).  Most fans had their picture taken with Neil (with several fan in tears of joy).  I suspect the lines continued late into the evening.  Neil himself seems a particularly down-to-earth guy, which made the spectacle rather warming for such a cold, rainy day in NYC.

Me?  My back & legs cramped, but I was enjoying my new book.  

The woman in front of me handed Neil and Adam Rex bottles of fine juice, which lifted spirits.  Then as I approached, the owner of Books of Wonder, Peter Glassman, initiated a conversation about the non-Neil book I was carrying: "That's a great book!"   So, I'm 10% blaming him for having nothing of import to offer Neil Gaiman when I stepped up.  I had no fine juice.  No personalized witticisms.

Only heavy admiration...

Sometimes words just suck.

As I watched him scribble "believe" in my book, I chuckled.  Someday I will buy him a fine beer, I promised myself.  Yes.  Authors matter.  Dead-tree-book-devices matter.

Whether they sleep inside dead trees, digital data, or our frayed neurons - stories, like the gods, need our warm blood & breath to live.  I think what matters most is whether they guide us to improve ourselves.  To be more human.

(this is not a YA text)
My rambling reflection is passive, cliche, & indulgent - yet embodied.  Sometimes words just suck...  :-)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

(Re)Imagining Drones

(small drones such as these are available in many stores)

Awww... they are so adorable!  Right?

If somebody says "drone," our brains often leap to imagery of death-dealing monsters.  What else can we envision?  What do you imagine when you see a video like this:




I suspect that this is a matter of mood & imagination...

Companies like Apple or Google aren't going to design a flying sphere just because it's cool, but I bet they have people trying to figure out ways a personal drone could improve our lives.  One guy already figured out how to use Siri voice control.  How long until it can order and then pickup my dinner?

This film festival is a significant attempt to intentionally push the public imagination, with drones being used as both a central subject and as a medium for story telling.  It shouldn't surprise us to see humanizing themes.  Enjoy.

"Samuel Eros Cupido" (Netherlands)

"The Flight of the Ninja" (Japan)

"What a Difference a Drone Makes" (England)

"Berlina" (Germany)

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Spectacular Tribe (SCBWI)

"If we can't solve it cognitively, we solve it emotionally." - Shaun Tan

What a conference!  Lin Oliver offered a sense of belonging and momentum.  Meg Rosoff demanded we hold dear what makes voice and storytelling so vital.  Julie Scheina gave me hope. Shaun Tan planted a fierce something-strange that I can't explain.  Margaret Peterson Haddix sang about young humans needing stories and friends.  Need.  Julie Andrews reminded me to sing my own blessings.

Mo Willems.  The poop (and the pooper).  It could change the world.

Now for another totally random music/dance video: