Peanuts

Many, many books have been written about the significance of Charles Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts. These books can never accomplish the goal they strive for, because art, by its very nature, is experienced by individuals who bring their own unique experiences to the table. I can’t even sum up what the strip means to just me, so let me just say that the first thing I remember reading regularly was Peanuts in the Sunday comics of the Kansas City Star. I was enjoying the strip before Kindergarten at least, because it’s well-documented by family members that I based several school projects at that time on the strip.

I credit the strip not just for encouraging me to read, but for giving me an appreciation of the sublime sense of humor that showed up on our doorstep every Sunday. As I read the collected comic strips in book form now, I can begin to appreciate the layers and depth that Schultz wove into his comic. It’s funny and witty on multiple levels.

Today is the tenth anniversary of Charles Schulz’s passing, and I wanted to share with you a layer I never really fully appreciated in his work. I found this fascinating exhibit called Schulz’s Beethoven that I want to share. It’s on the American Beethoven Society’s website. Enjoy!

http://absadmin.users.sonic.net/schulz/pages/page1.html

Goodbye, my first webhome

geocitiesTomorrow, Geocities is closing.  If you were around the web in the mid to late ’90’s, you are familiar with the bold, multiform, free-for-all that was the Geocities community.  It was the “free web hosting” site to be on, and you could find practically anything you could imagine there.  That included my very first pages.

Let’s see, there was a home “link-page” that was my very first effort, written on Netscape Composer, as most of my first pages were.  Follow that with my online resume, a page devoted to the Amiga computer, a page that showcased my artwork, a page for the University of Missouri’s Special Education class of ’98, a kid’s homework help link page, a site I wrote for students who wanted to participate in (or even run) their own IEP meetings (that one was featured in the newsletter for the Center for Innovation in Special Education, or CISE), and probably my most popular splash at the time, a website written in honor of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, as depicted by Alexandra Tydings on the TV shows Hercules:  The Legendary Adventures and Xena:  Warrior Princess.  That last one was an experiment in writing something with popular appeal, and it succeeded for its time; it was visited several hundreds of times daily at the height of its popularity.

It was a different era, I guess, when regular people felt free to put up a simple page featuring their eclectic interests.  Now, it’s all done through MySpace or Facebook.  Though I have archives of my old sites (and they will soon be linked to my main page at Todd’s Webspace), I will miss that colorful community.  Goodbye, Geocities!

Gran Torino

grantorino

Movies are something my dad and I have shared for many years now.   When I went away to grad school, I would not only come home every Saturday to watch the latest HBO premier movie, but I would bring back tapes I had recorded from my residence hall’s closed circuit movie channel – movies that weren’t even on regular cable yet.   Each week, I’d bring home half a dozen or so of them, and then Dad and I would make a pizza and enjoy the Saturday HBO premiere.

I’ve also shared some good movies with Dad at the theater.  One of the best was Apollo 13.   That’s one movie that just isn’t the same on the small screen.  Conspiracy Theory was also good fun, and there have been many others.

We had meant to see the new James Bond movie in the theater, Quantum of Solace.   We enjoyed the last one so well on DVD, and we thought it would be a perfect movie to see at the theater with all its action.  But unfortunately, it left our local theater before we had a chance to see it.   We were bummed about it until we saw that Gran Torino was coming out.  We were able to catch that one.

Gran Torino was good.  Tragic and heroic in its quiet, yet explosive kind of way.   It was really enjoyable.   But the real fun of movies is sharing them with someone, like your best girl, your dad, or in this case: both!

Internet cultural dropout

Hello friends.  Yes, this is a new post.  It’s been nearly a year, and some of you may be wondering why it’s been so long.  It’s simple.

I dropped out.

I’m generally a pretty well-adjusted and happy guy.  I’ve always worked hard, enjoyed spending time with my wife, and tried to stay connected to and participate in society and culture.  I enjoyed getting into the blogging scene and experimenting with the medium.  I had no audience, really, except for those who are close to me, but I know my playful attempts to add something to the Internet will be out there in the ether, along with countless other individuals’ similar musings.

But the Internet is a communication medium, and my dropping out probably has more to do with a change I’ve seen since my early days on the web.  I put my first page up in 1995.  Things were very different then.  There was no real formula for contrubuting.  Bright flashing animated graphics, music in the background and links to cool things that popped up on the web were the norm, I guess.  People took care in what they posted, there was a community responsibility to add value to the internet in the process of crafting a presence for yourself.  But somewhere along the way, anonymity took over and the results of that have snowballed ever since.

I first noticed the shift on Usenet news groups.  There, new identities were much easier to create than a webpage presence, and people started assuming multiple identities.  These people were invariably the folks who would be argumentative, stirring up trouble on the news groups, and delighting in lowering the level of discourse.  They are known as “trolls.”  The multiple identities often times were used to back up the original troll identity, pretending to lend support and keep the regular members angry.

Anonymity breeds cruel and hateful behavior.  The more savvy internet contributors get, the further away from the original ethic of contributing positively we get and the more trolls with their “nym” armies start “flame wars” and then enjoy the fireworks.  With no reputation at stake, people who used to post technology articles to social media sites like digg.com are now vastly outnumbered by people spouting hostility.  Anonymity on the web = no consequences for hateful behavior.
Even an article submitted telling about today’s solar eclipse is met by trolls.  One comment:

“What’s new in this? Is it the first Solar Eclipse ever? wtf?”

Anonymity breeds cruel and hateful behavior.

That’s just a technology site.  Don’t go looking for intellegent and civil discourse on a site like the Daily KOS.  But news sites aren’t the only thing affected by this.  In fact, anonymity allows for much, much nastier behavior.  For instance, last year a mother created a fake MySpace profile in order to start an online relationship with one of her daughter’s rivals for a spot on the school cheerleading squad.  The resulting harassment inflicted on the teen eventually caused her to commit suicide.

This is not the Internet I knew when I made my first page.  That is why I haven’t spent much time inhabiting it.  But you know, it doesn’t have to be this way.  The web may be anonymity and hostility run amuck, but this little space I’ve carved out can be more.  It, along with the spaces of my friends, family, and kindred spirits around the world can make something better here.  Something that can provide some good-natured fun and elucidation.  Where disagreements don’t end up in name-calling.  To contribute to this web, not to degenerate it.

I’m going to start blogging again.  On my terms.

Blue Man Group

BlueManGroupHow To Be a Megastar 2.0 Tour.  The Blue Man Group.  Where to begin talking about this concert.  Well, more than a concert…an experience.

Angie and I decided to have an “appetizer-dinner” at one of our favorite restaurants in Columbia, Old Chicago, which, incidentally is where this odd group is originally from (the city, not the restaurant).  Once we got to “The ‘Zou” we were greeted by the music and video of Mike Relm, the opening act.  We didn’t have the best seats in the house, but once the Blue Men started their show, we felt like we were in the thick of a great rock concert.

The show was much more than that, though.  It was music with inventive percussion instruments and a full backup band.  It was comedy with audience participation.  It was special effects with crazy lighting and luminescent clothing.  It was gross, with half-eaten food being used as an art medium.  It was art with paint flying and splattering.

All of these elements added up to a slightly off-kilter look at the phenomenon of fame and rock stardom.  Angie and I really enjoyed it on every level.