Yesterday I noticed in Deek Deekster's video blog from London that he greeted a guy working in the park with, "Hey, mate!" The friendly, British sound of it was in my mind when a few hours later I found myself standing next to a nervous-seeming young Brit in line at Dunkin Donuts in North Station, Boston. On a hunch, I said, "Hey, mate! Where are you from?" He gave me a startled smile, then a big grin and said he was from England, in the States on holiday. We chatted about the exchange rate for a few moments, then I wished him well on his trip as we parted. I headed for my train enlivened by a sense of connections, from Brit to Yank, from electronic social network to in-the-flesh hospitality.
Friday, August 31, 2007
Meet Deek Deekster
On the regional train to Boston, which makes many more stops than the lickety-split Acela, I'm enjoying the fuzzy edges of my thinking after a night of fewer than four hours of sleep in Lancaster. I stayed up late doing a Video Pod Chronicles episode, then spent the usual amount of time too wired to sleep, replaying the vid numerous times, admiring the little details that make it pleasing to me, like using fade-in transitions to move between one speaker and the next.
In this mellow mood, I was particularly struck by a video blog I came across from a Twitter friend, podcaster and blogger, Deek Deekster, of the Islington section of London. It's a simple creation, with no music, no titles, none of the things I hold to be so crucial in my own podcasts. But it drew me all the way to the end, about 20 minutes. Deek comes across as a grumpy guy who thinks too much, so I can relate to him. The video is shot on a walk through Islington, which he alternately likes and dislikes as a place to live. He shows us someone doing a yoga pose, an example of what he sourly calls "people doing healthy and dynamic things." He zooms in on cute dogs in a park, noting that a man walks a wide arc to avoid them, rightly fearing they could at any time turn into a howling pack of killers. The video made me laugh and made me think, about how all these pretty places in the civilized world exist in a kind of bubble that could burst by the agent of climate change, a grocer's strike, or who knows what. He's right, of course, but to cope on a day-to-day basis, I mostly avoid dwelling in such thoughts. It's still good to have them said out loud once in a while.
So this is New Media: raw and real stuff we'll never see--even on Public Broadcasting--completely unpredictable, original content being offered up into the cyber-commons every moment of the day from all over the world. Most of it unwatchable and worthless. Some of it sublime.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
I'm approaching the END OF THE second leg of my three-train trip from Old Orchard Beach, Maine, to Lancaster, PA. The Acela is threading its way through the congested areas outside NYC. I would describe the scene, but frankly I hardly ever look out the window when I'm riding the rails. I am listening to Leo Laporte's This Week in Tech #111, featuring my favorite geek heroine Veronica Belmont in her first official appearance as a Mahalo employee, preparing for the debut next month of The Mahalo Show, a daily how-to tech podcast which will, I'm sure, be a huge hit.
I've been working on my presentation tomorrow at the National Association of Independent Artists, practicing Hercules Randall's flying skills in Second Life, Twittering, uploading photos, checking e-mail, and enjoying a First Class breakfast of French Toast and strawberries. It's been bliss.
Whenever I prepare for a train ride, I imagine that I might actually sit and look out the window. But it never happens. I take in the motion outside the windows as background for my electronic travel. It's different on a train, even when I'm doing exactly the same things as I do on my MacBook Pro in a cottage or a condo. The fact that my body is hurtling through space changes the experience of moving around the Internet. I don't know why. I imagine that when I first fell in love with trains, riding the Santa Fe Chief from Pampa, Texas, to Chicago en route to Boston, I was reading kids' books or playing a puzzle game or doing something. My nickname as a boy was Lennie Energy. The active little guy is alive and well, about to turn 57 the day after tomorrow (thus the treat to myself of upgrading to First Class today.)
UPDATE: The ride through Pennsylvania countryside reversed my focus of attention. The late afternoon light turned the green leaves luminous, as if the light was coming from inside. Lancaster's train station had an historic feel, with a long hallway and tall windows taking me over the tracks to the terminal. I'm exhausted, settling into the Eden Resort Inn. Yahoo Maps says I could have made it here four hours earlier by car, but what would have been the fun of that?
Labels: amtrak acela train multitasking
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
same time that their "real" counterparts are hanging at the Hilton in Chicago, site of the Second Life Community Convention this weekend. On Artropolis, I met Esch Snoats, one of the creators of Artropolis, and Gracie Kendal, an artist with a studio there. Esch is going to meet me in SL at the start of my talk on August 29th at the National Association of Independent Artists (NAIA) meeting of art fair directors. If all goes well, I'll introduce the audience to Hercules Randall standing on the roof, and Herc will then fly down into the first floor of the hotel to meet Esch and talk to him about his art and what this all might mean for art fairs in the world as we know it. I've been practicing flying and other moves, because I want this all to look easy and plausible to the art fair directors.
It's really fun, I have to admit, even as I understand how ridiculous it sounds when I try to explain Second Life to civilians, as I did at supper tonight with my parents, who are 78 and 80. What floored my wife was when I admitted I had spent about $2 in hard money (500 Linden dollars) to buy a new blue suit for Hercules, so he'll look sharp for the NAIA.
I'm not going to linger long in Second Life at the Lancaster presentation, but I thought it would be a fun way to kick off my hour of technological speculation and tips. I don't really expect to jump all the way into SL obsession once my NAIA gig is completed. But I'm having a ball in the meantime, and I'm gaining understanding why so many people on Twitter and elsewhere go in and out of Second Life as if it's just another way of being in the 21st Century. I'm learning that you cannot understand these new phenomena--social media, podcasting, Web 2.0, whatever--from the outside. You have to jump in and play, and even learn to fly, in order to appreciate the possibilities.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
A Micro Media Mogul, I Presume...
On the putting green at the Colony Hotel in Kennebunkport, Maine, I posed this morning with Jim Long, aka newmediajim on Twitter, founder of Verge New Media and a veteran NBC News cameraman. I met Jim on Twitter, where he is a rock star for his engaging, intimate Tweets from home and his far-flung, fascinating work. Today he was doing live shots with John Yang, who looked spiffy as usual on camera in a polo shirt and dark blazer. What you didn't see unless you were standing on the putting green was that John was wearing shorts and was doing his live reporting in his bare feet.
Jim and I had a great visit, in between interruptions from his Blackberry, and I'll have a version of it up Wednesday on the Video Pod Chronicles. He is the second person I've met in person after a virtual introduction on Twitter, the first being the Boston writer and stand-up comic Baratunde Thurston. These moves from virtual to real are exciting, and as I drove from Ocean Park to Kennebunkport this morning, I couldn't help thinking of Stanley's first meeting of Livingstone. "Dr. NewMediaJim, I presume..." Instead, he spotted me in the din of the media work station as I stepped tentatively into a wild babble of voices, which today included French, because Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, was visiting the Walker's Point compound for les hamburgers with the Bushes.
I admire Jim's skillful straddling of new and old media, and his determination to make a career for himself, eventually, in the new. His skill with a camera is painterly. He showed me how he set the aperture to create a gauzy, handsome background of the Maine coast behind John Yang, and it's no surprise that reporters at NBC jockey to have Jim do their camerawork. He also gets the power of new media and is creating an exciting new social network for the crafts community at CraftyNation.com .
I will remember in particular one bit of advice Jim offered, regarding how to be successful in the new media. Be genuine, and be nice to people. That's it. That's what it takes to gather a following on Twitter, or on your blog, or in any of the other virtual hangouts of the Internet. The genuine part is tricky, I find. We all divide our lives among the public, the private, and the secret. Being genuine online means taking risks in where you draw the line between the public and the private personas. Most secrets should remain secrets for sanity's sake and the good of the community. Jim Long is a good model of someone who has got the recipe right: a genuine guy sharing his interesting life with the world, and treating others with kindness and generosity.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Sweating It for the Birthday Boy
When the call went out for a special canvass in Portsmouth, NH, to celebrate Barack Obama's 46th birthday, I eagerly signed up, knowing I'd be within an easy hour's drive from Ocean Park, Maine. I joined about 12 other volunteers at the headquarters in Portsmouth and paired up with Will Gattis of Falmouth, a talented 19-year-old singer-songwriter who believes a change is needed, and Obama is the guy who can do it. "Like the bumper sticker says, 'If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention,'" Will told me during a break in our work. Our assignment took us to Dover, NH, and a neighborhood of well-kept, modest homes where [90 percent] MOST of the people on our lists were "NH" or "Not Home," according to the code which we entered on the call sheets. We left lots of flyers and each drank a quart of POWERade when we were half-way through.
One of my favorite encounters was with a man who was home and who said he is undecided on which Democratic candidate to support. He gladly took my brochure, and as I left he said, "Thank you for caring." That meant a lot, as I continued on my way dripping wet with sweat, stunned by the heat. I do care. And it felt great to help out in a very small way, letting people know about a candidate whom I believe might actually transform America's politics and standing in the world. I'm fired up, as the candidate likes to say.
I'm glad I will have plenty of chances to visit the Portsmouth office in the months ahead to help out in the crucial first-in-the-nation primary. Obama's New Hampshire organization is growing rapidly and seemed full of energy and smarts today in Portsmouth.
[Several] TWO of the staffers I spoke with said they had "gone to college in Boston," which usually indicates a Harvard grad unwilling to drop "the H-bomb" in casual conversation. Sure enough, they were fellow alums, going to work for Obama right out of the university where the candidate graduated from Law School. Barack explained the reluctance to mention Harvard when he appeared on the Jay Leno Show. Leno asked how come he had mentioned Columbia, where he got his undergraduate degree, but not Harvard. "Nobody likes a smarty-pants," Obama replied with a grin. Well, that's right. But I think the country may be ready for someone who has some smarts and can excel in places as wildly diverse as Harvard Law School, the South Side of Chicago as a community organizer, and the rough-and-tumble Illinois State Legislature.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Waking Up in Maine Again
The Hooper Cottage just before sunrise this morning was lit with its own glow from the porch. It's a summer cottage built more than 100 years ago, and it faces dune grass, sand, and ocean. We'll be here for the month of August, settling into the long-ago rhythms of surf and sand. This place is next door to the one my great-grandfather Skelton purchased for his wife in the 1930s, which later was the place my parents honeymooned. So I like to say I've been coming here since before I was born.
Other photos from this morning are up in my Flickr set of Ocean Park.