I have a theory that Elmore Leonard came up with the idea for DJIBOUTI from a combination of headlines (piracy off the coast of east Africa) and a interview in which movie actor Morgan Freeman complained that he gets lots of work, but never gets to have sex in his movies. He has played Nelson Mandela, the corner man in MILLION DOLLAR BABY, not to mention God a couple of times- -all pretty much asexual. So my little scenario is that Leonard, who always has his eye on the movies, wrote the character of seventy-ish Xavier in DJIBOUTI for Freeman. Just a thought.
Megan Ganz is a writer for the TV show Community that I started out not much liking until I had seen a few episodes and now sort of love. Except that it’s on “hiatus,” never a happy word in TV land. Megan is undergoing community interrogation over at Reddit, and one of the comments linked to her “meeting notes.” You should take a look.
I am more certain about the boy who’s leaving: Jess. I believe the judges are setting us up for this. It seemed to me that he danced fantastically last night. His second dance in particular elicited “mehs” instead of what seemed to me to be the more obvious and more fair course: His movement is so precise. His rhythm is amazing. He stayed in character and exhibited joy. He excelled in a style not his own. But not a word about his “growth,” much less having “taken us on a journey.” Instead the judges praised the slightly less strong performance by Clarice. (Note that I know I am not a dance expert.) And Nigel gave away the game when he said that Jess is unsteady in his lifts. I.e., Jess is short. Very short.
So, I think the judges (= the producers) have decided that Jess can’t make it into the Top Ten because they will not be able to keep him from getting paired with a tall girl. So, he has to go. Thus, they’re setting it up so that tonight when he dances for his life, sending him home won’t be out of the blue. (The fact that a couple of weeks ago the judges told Ryan that her dance for her life wasn’t up to their standards but they kept her anyway pretty much confirmed that the decisions about who to cut are made before and regardless of the “dance for your life” segments.)
I’m pretty sure they’re also setting us up to send Ryan home. I personally think she’s the weakest of the girls, so I’m not as bothered. They even gave her a dance last night that featured what are supposed to be her “Hollywood” good looks and didn’t use that to boost her to us viewers. I believe her goose is finally cooked. The story will be that they gave her a chance when they rescued her a couple of weeks ago and she just hasn’t come through, although they’ll put it in more new agey language about being true to herself and being in the moment.
Overall, I think this season’s Top Twenty has been amazingly strong and even. But I’m not finding the same peaks as in many other years. (For me, Brandon and Will were two mighty peaks.) If I had to pick a favorite, it’d be Sasha Mallory.
We’re divided into four groups. I get assigned to Kurt Squire‘s, who works on games for edu at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery in Ann Arbor.
NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.
What can we learn from games about transforming education? As technologies of change emerge, his group thinks about how to engage the public in a conversation about them? The write games that try to make discovery visible. “We want people to experience the thrill of discovering something new,” and then, having discovered them, have the public participate in science.
E.g., Virulent for the iPad. Design viruses that will carry medicine throughout your body.
Another example. Anatomy ProAm lets you role play being a doctor saving people. There’s 17% variation in diagnoses of breast cancer, and a 3-4x variation in cervical cancer. Doctors don’t like to admit this. This project was intended to make them more open to discussing the variances in diagnoses with their patients. Imagine getting not a second or third opinion, but two million opinions. The crowd wouldn’t replace the doctors, but aims at helping them. The game has four audiences: children, people in medical training, radiologists and doctors, and the general public. In the game, you get symptoms, and you train beams through the body. The game has been shown to improve understanding of radiology, knowledge about what’s difficult about radiotherapy (you have to avoid frying healthy tissue), about treating cancer, etc. It increased students’ interest in being doctors.; this was especially true for girls.
The next step is to make this multi-player. They’ve started a Facebook game. You’re given a case. You assemble a team of online FB friends. You chat. You submit your diagnoses.
Game communities are not age segregated: In WoW, the elderly and the young play without regard. Curtis imagines professional medical folks playing with kids and the general public. This is the power of games: Get people to engage authentically while spanning demographics, ages, etc. Also, by playing in FB, the game can know a lot about you. It should enable peer ratings, e.g., doctors say that this 14 yr old knows a lot about anatomy. Public assessments will be controversial and will stimulate discussions. In fact, you will be able to roll your own assessments.
We talked about Curtis’ session. The investment in agency is powerful, we agreed.
Now we go to new tables where we summarize what went on in each of our tables.
Table 1: Neurological discoveries. There’s a correlation between how the brain works and how you learn. If a kid has dysgraphia, you can give the kid exercises that change neural pathways. Adding a gambling-based point system stimulates dopamine and learning. It’s not competition so much as the knowledge that there’s a chance you might get it wrong.
Table 2: Conrad Wolfram talked about the ability to create manipulable mathematical knowledge objects. That should change how we teach math. We waste time teaching computation. We should teach how to translate problems into math and how to interpret the results; the computation is the least important part of it. But, someone objects, we embedded these mathematical models into the financial system without knowing the computations underneath them. Response: The problem was in building the models, which Conrad would like students to become more adept at; he is advocating that they don’t need to do the computations themselves by hand. But the countries that do best on the international tests are the ones who drill on computation. Because that’s what get tested? Because it develops high order skills?
Table 3. Stanley Yang presents a biosensor device to wear on your head. It tells you whether you’re concentrating or bored, which problems are challenging, etc. The biofeedback can be integrated into learning. E.g., language learning: It won’t tell you what the Korean word for an object in the room is unless you are actually concentrating on the object. Is there evidence of the results? It’s very early. They are developing it for games, too.
MovieLine posted the trailer to support the wisdom of Super 8’s decision not to give away too much ahead of time. But, wow, does the ET trailer seem dated! It feels like it has about half as many scenes as a typical modern trailer. Contemporary trailers are much more coherent, not in the sense of making sense (which they usually don’t), but in the sense of feeling like a whole experience, usually ending with an ear-ripping blast or, after you’ve thought it ended, a shocking image or wry remark. I hate contemporary trailers because they are assaultive and disrespect the movies they spoil, but the ET trailer seems excepionally poorly made.
Maybe they figured (correctly) that they really just had to tell us that it’s the next Spielberg film, and that ET was unlikely to bite children in half.
A couple of days ago while waiting my turn in the shower, I snapped on CNN, quickly got fed up with what can only be called drivel, and spun the dial. I landed on what I at first thought was Airplane! but,which after a cognitive twitch came into focus as that upon which the parody was based: Airport 1975.
This morning I went through the same drill, but this time I landed at the final fifteen minutes of Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado about Nothing.
Fortune has, I believed, paired up for me two movies that meet the rigorous formal requirements for the relationship Could Not Be More Different Than.
Airplane 1975 is the one with Linda Blair faithfully waiting for a kidney, lying next to Helen Reddy who is an honest-to-jeebus singing nun. It’s the one where Karen Black accepts the garland for Worst Performance Ever by playing the stewardess-behind-the-wheel with such passivity that you want Sister Helen to come into the cockpit and slap her once, real hard. It’s the one where Charlton Heston descends from a helicopter through the hole in the airplane to save the incompetent female, and then tells her to calm the passengers with the eternal bard-llke phrase: “Go, do your thing,”
On the other hand, in the fifteen minutes of Much Ado, I laughed hard, cried harder, and hugged my wife at the end.
I’m sure there are other pairings, and I’m curious what they might be, but none can surpass the More-Different-Than-ness of Airport 1975 and Much Ado about Nothing.
I’ve posted a Kindle version of my kids’ novel, My 100 Million Dollar Secret, at Amazon. You get download it for $0.99 here. (I make $0.35.) It’s about a kid who wins the lottery, but is unable to tell his parents, and who refuses to lie to them…which puts some serious constraints on how he can spend it. It’s also about him working through the moral obligations of the advantaged.
I’ve got an ever-growing list of books that I intend to write reviews of because they’re so damn interesting. In fact, it’s because they deserve full reviews that I’m not writing any reviews. So, with the knowingly-false intention of coming back to write a longer review, here’s a brief report on one book on my list.
John Sundman (Disclosure: John is a friend from a mailing list) is a geek, and Cheap Complex Devices is a geeky novel. It not only assumes familiarity with some technical concepts (some but not all of which it explains along the way), it’s got a slashdotty sense of humor. But it shares its deep recursiveness — I can’t tell if it ever actually comes to ground — not only with Stanislaw Lem and Douglas Hostadter, but also with Borges, and contains passages that are reminiscent of (deep praise ahead) Nabokov.
Since much of the fun is in figuring out what’s going on in this very brief work, I don’t want to give away too much. But I feel safe in disclosing the premise: This book is supposedly the winning entry in a contest for computer-generated narratives. But there may or may not be a floating point error in the computer. Thematically, I take the book as a playful meditation on the emergent properties of loosely connected systems, the way a hive emerges from bees, the Shakers are (or, perhaps, are not) more than their individual members, narratives are more than their words, and consciousness is more than a bunch of neurons (or bits). It’s a narrative that seems to be at war with itself, struggling to be whole, but not sure that it wants to be.
Yeah, I’m being obscure. In part that’s to keep the book a surprise for you. In part it’s because I haven’t figured out how all the pieces work together. This is not a normal book. But it’s fascinating, and written with a very sure hand. As Julianne Chatelain says in her review, it “contains sentences of terrible beauty that are also terribly funny.” As soon as I finished it, I began reading it again.
John details the mechanics and economics of flogging self-published books in his report on DefCon.