Tuesday, April 20, 2010

PBS Kids Producers Summit

This was so cool! The PBS Kids people have a yearly gathering of all their TV and Web producers, to get together and share data and techniques. I was lucky enough to be invited as a keynote, and I got to meet the creators of so many cool shows! Folks from Henson, The Kratt brothers, the makers of Magic School Bus, the Blues Clues / Super Why people, not to mention Sesame Workshop, and so many others. It was a real honor to be able to talk to people who know so very much about how to create world-class educational programming! I gave a talk about Transmedia Worlds, (slides here), that went over pretty well. I might get a video I can put up sometime soon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Little Creatures

It might seem strange, but this was the first Talking Heads album I bought. They were somewhat in decline at this point, but it was 1985, when I was fifteen. When they were all cool and new in 1977, I was only seven years old. It was a big deal to me, this was some of the first "serious" music I ever bought. I remember being incredibly disappointed when I first listened to the album, in the attic of the house on Perkins Street. The songs just didn't grab me, or move me the way I hoped they would. (Not too surprising -- these are apparently the songs that didn't make it into their True Stories movie soundtrack.) However, I was quite surprised when I found them growing on me, and by the fourth time I listened to the album, I was really into it. It's funny the effect remembering music has on us. Every time I listen to this, I'm back in that cozy warm attic with the yellow wallpaper, hacking away on my Atari 800XL. I've never again had so serene a retreat. I know I feel a pull to start coding again... I wonder if that's why I pulled out this old album?

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Yeah, baby! It's Uno! Everyone loves Uno, right? The magic of Uno is hard to describe. I guess some of it is about the choice of who to harm, and some of it is is about the seemingly meaningless choice of which card to play, but the key part is having to say "Uno" when you have one card left -- building suspense in a weird way that I haven't seen in any other game.

I always love the story about how Merle Robbins created the game. The wikipedia article says he sold the 5000 decks he printed out of his Barber Shop, but that's just not possible, right? My understanding is he filled a van with them, and toured around to nursing homes and senior centers, demoing the game, and selling the decks, with a hook of, "Here's a game that you can play with your grandkids." Anyway, no publishers were interested when he started out, but after he'd sold 5000 decks on his own, he was able to get the attention of a publisher, and, well, the game's done alright.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Burnt Offerings

I always love a seventies horror movie. This one has connections to the past (clear influences from The Old Dark House), and the future -- I'm pretty sure that the creators of Amityville Horror must have seen this and said, "what if Burnt Offerings were actually scary?" Because, mostly, this movie is more weird than scary. In short, happy family rents a house at an unexpected price, but with unexpected obligation of taking care of and old lady in the attic that no one ever sees. Then they all go crazy, with horrific results. But, with Bette Davis and Burgess Meredith* its a really fun movie to watch. On top of all this, it has Karen Black in it -- one of the hardest working women in show business. Oh -- and it was based on a novel -- and it shows. There are several parts that probably made sense in the novel, but don't make ton of sense here. Anyway, it's fun and trippy.

*Weird side note regarding Burgess Meredith's name. For some reason, my whole life, I can never recall his name! It's not that I forget the man, I can just never remember his name! I remember having this problem in third grade when we talked about Rocky, and I still have it now -- I had to look it up on IMDB -- I just could not recall it to mind? Why in the world is that? Sometimes, when I try to recall him, I come up with Sterling Holloway, who sounds a *little* like him, but, I don't know... Anyway, I can never remember Burgess Meredith's name. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Weezer (Blue Album)

All that thinking about rock made me bring out this CD, which I hadn't listened to in ten years. I tried listening to their later albums, but none of them captured the same vibe that this one does. My new thinking about rock gave me new understanding for this album -- it isn't important if songs make sense. It's just important that they feel right when you make them. It's appropriate that they had such a hit with "Buddy Holly" on this album -- there is clearly a connection on this album to his music -- and I think it is because they rock the same way he does. Simply, clearly, with songs that have strong hooks, but don't really make much sense.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Rock U University Spring 2010 Concert

This was awesome. Kids ages 9-16 bringing it at the Hard Rock. We went because one of our neighbors was playing (Sam, age 9, playing guitar for The Flaming Potato Ninjas), and it was totally fun. As I sat listening, I started to think about this awesome article. And I realized, that until now, I've never really understood rock music. I mean, the process of making it. And how the point really is that you need to let the subconscious mind, and the right brain, do their work. It made me think how rock bands almost never have more than four members, just like my BVW groups. Then I got to thinking how my band has sixty people in it... but the rocking never seems to happen in groups larger than four.

In other words, I need to start coding again.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Tiny Art Director

This book is just hilarious. Artist Bill Zeman details his attempts to draw pictures for his two year old daughter, and gives us her detailed critiques. I guess it's funny because the art direction isn't that different than what we get from grown-ups. Anyway, this is super fun!