Halloweening 2006

Will Darth, Lounging

Originally uploaded by steven_d_krause.

I was thinking this morning, when I was taking some of these pictures of Will as Darth, what a series of costumes that he has gone through over the years. It seems like just yesterday when Will was dressed as Blue and I had to go through all sorts of rig-a-ma-roll to get a shirt to look like Steve. A couple of years ago, Will was a knight. A few years before that, I think, he was a gladiator.

And this year, Darth.

I guess I like to see that as a sign of progress and maturity. But maybe that’s just me.

Dueling DarthsAnyway, Halloween also included a “Halloween parade” and various parties at Will’s school that Annette attended. My favorite picture from that is this one with Will (in the mask) giving a friend, also dressed as Darth Vader, the bunny ears. Just the sort of thing that any evil villain should do.

Halloween festivities actually began around here a couple of weeks ago during Will’s and my annual adventure to the pumpkin patch and our carving session last night. I was pretty pleased with the results, and, as this picture shows, we only had some modest squirrel damage, unlike some previous years:

Three cool pumpkins with modest squirrel damage

Of course, the real point of Halloween– and this is why it is fundamentally a children’s holiday– is the candy and the trick or treating. I’ve written in previous years about my humbug-ness about some of the trick and/or treating that happens around here, and I won’t relive that now. All I will say for the time-being is that mild weather brought what I have to think is a record number of T&T commuters. We were out of candy by 7:00pm.

Will and his friend Gage certainly made a good haul. After they got done, they came back and began the process of sorting and then trading candy:

Two gummie bears for a gum drop

This activity had the chance of turning into an all-night affair, so Annette and Gage’s mother broke it up pretty quick.

And then it was time for Darth to go off to bed, snuggling with his plastic light saber and his doggie.

Mili-Blogs via Boing-Boing and More

Speaking of more reading that might be useful in teaching English 516 and/or English 444: Via boing-boing, comes “NPR: Pentagon scans milblogs for security risks (audio report).” That title doesn’t do this justice because there are a whole bunch of different links and info here about the blogs and other Internet-based info kept by soldiers in the field in Iraq.

Good Wikipedia Article; as usual, Academics have "mixed feelings"

One of the things I’m supposed to be doing right now is planning for my online version of English 516 (a graduate course called “Computers and Writing, Theory and Practice”) in Winter 2007, and preparing/proposing an online version of the class English 444 (which is “Writing for the World Wide Web”) for Spring 2006. One reading that might be useful for both of these classes comes from last week’s CHE, “Can Wikipedia Ever Make the Grade?” I think it does a good job of kind of covering the “issues” with Wikipedia in terms of what it means as an academic source, meaning it doesn’t settle anything (how could it do that?), but it raises lots of good questions in an easy to access piece.

Personally, I think the argument that wrong stuff can be (and usually is) quickly changed is the most compelling reason as to why Wikipedia is, for the most part, a “trustworthy” source. I suppose we could (and when it comes to teaching classes like FY Comp, I suppose you have to) debate the idea of Wikipedia being source for “research,” but my basic answer to that for myself is that it is pretty much the same as using an encyclopedia as a “research” source: both might be useful to get started, but neither is a real source.

Facebook in; MySpace out?

From today’s Washington Post, “In Teens’ Web World, MySpace Is So Last Year.” Here are the opening paragraphs of the article:

Teen Web sensation MySpace became so big so fast, News Corp. spent $580 million last year to buy it. Then Google Inc. struck a $900 million deal, primarily to advertise with it. But now Jackie Birnbaum and her fellow English classmates at Falls Church High School say they’re over MySpace.

“I think it’s definitely going down — a lot of my friends have deleted their MySpaces and are more into Facebook now,” said Birnbaum, a junior who spends more time on her Facebook profile, where she messages and shares photos with other students in her network.

From the other side of the classroom, E.J. Kim chimes in that in the past three months, she’s gone from slaving over her MySpace profile up to four hours a day — decorating it, posting notes and pictures to her friends’ pages — to deleting the whole thing.

“I’ve grown out of it,” Kim said. “I thought it was kind of pointless.”

Dang– and this after I’ve tricked out my MySpace page! (well, okay, maybe not…).

For what it’s worth though, I think this is one thing to point to as evidence about why “blogging” and “social networking sites” like MySpace are actually two different things.

A good night for vampires…

Boo!Last night, Annette went to an event for the undergrad English majors club (really, literature majors club), so Will and I had a “Daddy/Will night” event: we went to see the classic silent film Nosferatu at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. A silent film, you ask? Yes, but with orchestral accompaniment, which included things like this weird wind sound effect machine, lots of other percussion, and, of course, the theater organ. And as an aside here: this is one of those reasons why I like living in this area and why we probably will be moving to Ann Arbor eventually, that it is possible to see classic silent films with music as a special event at a place like the Michigan Theater.

Anyway, it was a dark and stormy night, so that seemed to be a perfect atmosphere for seeing one of the classic (perhaps the classic?) horror/vampire film. Lots of other people thought the same thing; the place was about 2/3rds full, including the balcony.

How was it, you ask? Well, for starters, it was less than scary, which probably suited Will just fine. I’m sure the horror effect was in part diluted by the giggling junior high boys who sat behind us. But beyond that, the melodramatic and dated acting and not great special effects didn’t instill fear. I guess it was scary 80 or so years ago.

But it was still pretty cool to see, at least for me. There’s a ton of stuff in this movie that has been repeated over and over again in countless other movies, and it is one of those things that anyone who has even a remotely serious interest in film has to see. Again and again even Will was able to point out when a “famous scene” came on the screen. And the music was very cool too.

I’d say go see it yourself, but it was a one-shot deal. I guess I would say instead that you should go see another one of the other silent films they show there once in a while.

Daily photo project

This morning via yahoo, I came across this “daily photo” project. There’s a video at the site that shows a time-lapse of this guy’s self-portraits over the last seven or so years, from the time he was 22 until now. I’m not sure, but this seems like a pretty, um, self-involved thing to me. And it doesn’t so much show off the process of aging as it shows the changes in this kid’s hairstyles. Still, it’s kinda cool….

NPR, Blogs, and Slang

I heard two good stories on NPR’s “All Things Considered” which might be good teaching resources some time this coming winter. First, there was “Blogs Capture, Amplify Galludet Protest,” which is about how a couple of bloggers covered the ongoing problems at Galludet in DC. Given the nature of the story, there’s a transcript at this site, too.

On a completely different topic, there was also this story, “American Slang, Adapted and Updated.” This is an interview with Paul Dickson on an updated version of a dictionary he has on slang. I thought that this might be an interesting thing to think about in a first year composition class, actually….

Is this the next "big" thing?

I haven’t had a chance to play with it yet, but boing-boing had a link pointing to Vox the other day. I had actually heard of this site earlier (and btw, if I have heard of something before it shows up on boing-boing, does that make me super-duper cool or what?), but I haven’t set up an account yet.

It does look promising though; basically, this it’s like a blogger-type space that allows you to easily incorporate lots of video, audio, pictures, etc., etc. That’d be pretty handy for a class where one of the goals is to get students to do stuff with a variety of different online medias but where there isn’t a lot of time or computer lab access to take students to work on iMovie and other software.

Sony Reader reviews are so-so

I read this review of the Sony Reader (by WSJ reporter Walter S. Mossberg) in the AA News Sunday paper (even though it was published earlier). Pretty interesting review; this particular reader is clearly not ready for “prime time,” but maybe this is a sign that something that’s actually a workable “electronic book” is around the corner.

Oh, also according to this article, they’re going to sell these things at Borders. Since Borders is headquarted in AA, I have to assume that I’ll be able to check one of these things out at the flagship store downtown at some point.

MacArthur Foundation and "Digital Learning"

I have no idea how cool (or not) this is going to be, but I got an email from my department head the other day about the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning web site, which looks like a new initiative for making grants and spreading the word on, well, digital media and learning. Ther’s a forum this coming week I signed up for (though next week I probably won’t have a lot of time to read it, to be honest), and there’s a bunch of other potentially interesting things on this site.