Ready Player One – Movie Review

The Stacks
The Stacks

This weekend my son, his friend and I went to see Ready Player One. Now my son and I have been anticipating this movie ever since they announced the book would be made into a movie. I first read the book as a part of the K-State Book Network (KSBN) common read program, in which a book is selected by committee and read university wide by incoming freshmen. Ready Player One was the book chosen for 2013, and our campus where I work in Salina had a lot of activities related to the book. So I passed it on to my son who read it around age 12 and he loved it. The book does contain some harsh language and themes, so parents looking for a book for kids to read be advised about that.

However, the movie felt like it cleaned a lot of that up as compared to the book. It is still PG-13, and there are a few questionable moments for really small kids, but nothing more than in any other Steven Spielberg show you might have seen.

The Clan
The Clan

We’ve been anxiously waiting for this movie to come out, and we finally got to go see it last weekend. One thing to consider when you are a fan of a given book and heading to see a film based on a book is that books and films are two different forms of media. Both forms have strengths and shortcomings, so it is unfair to directly compare the two. My friend, K-State Librarian and KSBN guru Tara Coleman says:

I think you have to judge movie adaptations of books on a different scale. - Tara Coleman

So I kept an open mind at the film, and tried to see it without nit-picking too much that this detail or that was left out of the picture. I think it helps when you approach it using that mindset.

I do think it is fair to expect the film to keep with the spirit of the book and not change the overall story in that light. The main ideas need to be preserved, and I think that the Ready Player One film succeeds in this regard. Also, I appreciate that some large plot details were changed, in that it allowed me to see a new story unfold without knowing exactly what to expect next. I won’t spoil the film for you in disclosing any of them here, other than to let you know that you can expect a few surprises that are fulfilling and enjoyable. I found myself laughing out loud at some of them, and at the end I wanted to cheer and applaud. I wonder if attendees at larger screenings that actually happened?

I’m not a film critic, and I don’t get really hung up on details that the pros might. I just expect to be entertained with a good story when I see a movie. I am so tired of attending films that have weak stories, I am to the point where I’m very skeptical and very choosy about what I will pay money to go see or not see.

I came away from this one feeling satisfied, even rewarded. The thing moves along nicely. Typically, in many if not most films I can sense when I’m getting bored and things aren’t moving along as quickly as they should. Often times it is because they are showing me details that I really don’t care that much about. (I’m looking at you War for the Planet of the Apes and The Last Jedi ). If I notice myself getting bored and feeling the “willing suspension of disbelief” dissipating, there’s a good chance I won’t feel good about recommending the show to my friends. That was never really the case with Ready Player One.

Some of the battle scenes, some of the CGI stuff I felt were a bit overdone. But I feel that way about a lot of the comic book based movies that are being made. In fact, the trailers that I saw before seeing the movie all felt that way, so I was a little leery going in. But I’m willing to forgive a bit of that so long as the story is reasonably good, and in this case it was.

Wade & Halliday
Wade & Halliday

Overall, it was a good story, reasonably faithful to the spirit of the book, presented some new ideas and surprises, and I walked out of it feeling satisfied. I give it two thumbs up. It is one movie of a very small list that I might actually consider watching again.

Tin Can Titans Audio Book

Book cover of Tin Can Titans

I resubscribed to Audible audio book service and have been listening to books during my hour long commute to and from work. Last week I finished Tin Can Titans by John Wukovits.

The book captured my imagination immediately by introducing the scene of American ships entering into Tokyo Bay just before the Japanese surrender in WWII. I spent two years aboard the US Navy destroyer USS Cochrane (DDG-21), that was forward deployed at the Yokosuka naval base in Tokyo Bay. The hills around that  base and city were pockmarked with tunnels and caves that had been dug during WWII and sealed up after the war. After that hitch, I spent two more years aboard the USS Missouri (BB-63) so I’ve always been a Pacific fleet guy and interested in things that happened there in WWII. Here is part of the book’s opening:

Admiral William F. Halsey had not been this satisfied since before the war. As he looked across the waters of Tokyo Bay on August 29, 1945, from the bridge of his flagship, the USS Missouri–the battleship nicknamed “Mighty Mo”–a conglomeration of battleships and cruisers steamed behind in a long line stretching to the horizon…

Halsey might justifiably place his Missouri in the first spot, giving his battleship the honor of taking the victorious United States into Tokyo Bay as conquering heroes come to lay claim on a defeated foe. He instead handed that honor to a trio of destroyers, O’Bannon (DD-450), Nicholas (DD-449), and Taylor (DD-468), smaller vessels dwarfed in size by “Mighty Mo,” which followed them in line.

I could tell this would be my kind of book. Destroyers and Mighty Mo. I smiled at the thought. This introduction had three things I knew, destroyers, Tokyo Bay, and the battleship Missouri. Here is a photo of me recently shared on social media by a shipmate on the USS Missouri (BB-63)

Genereux at quarters
Genereux at morning quarters on the Mighty Mo. Photo credit – Zane Watts

I frequently wondered about the war and the history of what happened. As I walked around the Yokosuka base and the decks of the Missouri, it was hard not to wonder about all of the history that had happened right there where I stood.

I read a couple of history books back then, but little about the role of destroyers in winning WWII. One book I do remember reading back then was called Retaking the Philippinesso I was familiar with MacArthur’s campaign in that country. I spent a lot of time time at Subic Bay and used that book to learn more about the last stand at Corregidor and the Bataan Death March, as well as MacArthur’s return to Leyte Gulf.

Tin Can Titans was especially fascinating to me given the places I have seen and been. Of course I had heard of Guadalcanal, but never had full appreciation of the importance of winning there. According to Tin Can Titans, Guadalcanal was the key to turning the tide of the war. Lose Guadalcanal and chances were good that the entire Pacific could be lost, including Australia. Destroyers played a vital role in securing that victory.

As a tin can sailor myself, I understood the role of these ships as one of expendibility. We were there to be on the front lines, to run picket keeping the enemy far from more important assets like carriers and such. On a tin can, you can hear the ocean sloshing against the hull right where you sleep.  More than once, I imagined how little it would take for something to come right through that bulkhead and have ocean come pouring in on us as we slept.

The Tin Can Titans book does a nice job of explaining what it was like for the destroyer men of WWII. They spent many long hours in battle. Sometimes having no rest from the previous engagement before the fighting resumed. It wasn’t overly difficult to sink these ships. Some were struck by gunfire or devastated by kamikazes.

I was moved by the fact that the Fletcher-class destroyers lead the way into Tokyo bay at the conclusion of the war. I think Halsey made a right choice in doing that. Many of these ships had been heavily damaged or sunk, and they all were the work horses of the fleet, taking it on the chin to protect the bigger “more valuable” capital ships.

If you enjoy WWII history, particularly Pacific war history or naval history, you will really enjoy Tin Can Titans.

 

 

 

 

Amateur Night

Image source: xkcd.com/386/

I was recently thumbing through the book The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users by Guy Kawasaki & Peg Fitzpatrick and I came across a gem of a suggestion for handling heated topics and comments online. If you’re like me, you sometimes post something that is controversial and then the subsequent commentary quickly spirals out of control. I don’t mind getting into an online discussion and sharing my opinions as well as seeing the opinions of others, but over the years it has become painfully obvious to me that it is impossible to win an argument on the Internet.

That’s why I really like Mr. Kawasaki’s suggestion of going three rounds:

My suggestion is that you embrace the rules of amateur boxing and fight for only three rounds. The opening bell is you share a post. Ding-ding. Round 1: Commenter comments. Round 2: You respond. Round 3: Commenter responds to the response. End of fight.

How simple is that? You share something. You make your position known. Your guests get to have their voice heard. They even get the final word. I like it. Now if I can only remember to use it.

 

A Student’s Suggestion for My Online Course

This semester I’m teaching online for the first time in many years, and it is a course that I’ve never taught online before, Social Media. Now if there was ever a course that makes sense to do online, I think it would be a Social Media class. (If you’re interested in seeing us in action, check the #digme406 hashtag on Twitter.)

One of the things I did was require my students to video chat with me. Some opted to use telepresence robot. Some just used Skype or Facetime.

This week, I had a video chat with a student who gave me a suggestion I hadn’t thought about. I mentioned that I noticed there is a flurry of activity on Sunday night when all of the week’s assignments are due. This student is a 100% online student, so her perspective was really helpful. She said some classes have a number of small assignments due through out the week to encourage regular participation. In other words, I’m shooting myself in the foot by making everything due once a week on Sunday night.

It was a great suggestion. I think these one on one conversations are great for improving the course. I think they are important for feeling connected to the students, and for them to feel connected as well.

One thing I did that seems to be working well is the Study Buddy assignment. I required everyone to make contact with three others in the class in the first week. These contacts seem to be sticking, as several have reported having regular contact with their study buddies. That makes me feel good, because it is not unusual to go an entire week without hearing from any student. I think the suggestion of staggering assignments is the way to go, to make sure everyone is regularly checking in.

Creative Attendance Taking

After coming across the Near-Sighted Monkey’s post on using a drawing exercise for taking attendance, I had to share it here. This is absolutely the most creative way I’ve ever seen for taking attendance in a class. Starting with an original drawing, each student was to copy the drawing exactly except substituting the face with a drawing of their own face.

I love the idea of giving a creative assignment like this for taking attendance. I’m going to think about similar creative ways to take attendance in my classes. Well done!

Higher Education Podcasts

Podcasts. I love ’em. I listen to a number of podcasts on a variety of topics. I’ve listened to design podcasts, storytelling podcasts (This American Life is my favorite), podcasts about faith and spirituality, history podcasts, science podcasts and of course podcasts about education.

I recently heard about the Higher Education Podcast Project  Right now there are over 100 podcasts listed related to teaching/learning/professional development in higher education. I’ve only listened to one so far, and it is excellent. It is the The Teaching in Higher Ed podcast. You can be sure I will be looking through the list and giving some more a listen. Podcasts are a great way to turn your car into a rolling classroom of learning!

 

 

The Graphic Syllabus

For a while, I have been intrigued by the possibility of the graphic syllabus. I was particularly inspired by the work of Lynda Barry and her hand drawn syllabus book. I have seen some of these graphical syllabi floating around the web, and a few years ago I decided to give it a try with my Visual Literacy class. It only made sense that I would employ some of the concepts of visual communication in the syllabus for that course. Here is a copy of what that one looks like in infographic format:

Visual Literacy Graphic Syllabus

click to view Vis Lit Syllabus – Fall 2016

And below is another one I did for my Fall 2017 edition of an online course I taught in Digital Literacy. The theme for that online course was “Superheroes” so I had a lot of fun developing a syllabus in comic book format:

click to view Digital Literacy Syllabus – Fall 2017

Distance Classes for K-State Students in Arts, Humanities & DigMe

I was perusing the offerings of online classes this summer, specifically looking for things that would make good electives for students in our digital media (DigMe) degree. Since we are a small campus here at K-State Polytechnic, and have limited offerings in the arts and humanities, I often look online to see what my students can take through distance learning at K-State.

Wow, what a bunch of courses I found! There have always been a few, but I’ve never seen a list as long as this one before for digital media students to consider. I have compiled a list and am sharing it here, in case some K-State students happen to see this and are thinking about a summer distance class that involves fine arts, humanities or digital media technologies.

Social Media (taught by myself)
DIGME 406 – Class Number: 12040

Digital Photography (taught by myself)
CMST 146 – Class Number: 11479

Introduction To Cultural Anthropology (taught by my friend & mentor Mike Wesch – highly recommended!)
ANTH 200 – Class Number: 11946

Art Appreciation
ART 106 – Class Number: 12078

French Revolution 1789-1815
HIST 595 – Class Number: 11740

Introduction To Theatre
THTRE 270 – Class Number: 12024

Dance As An Art Form
DANCE 205 – Class Number: 11953

Mass Communication In Society
MC 110 – Class Number: 11918

Music Fundamentals
MUSIC 100 – Class Number: 11900

Introduction to Film Music
MUSIC 340 – Class Number: 11966

Drone Photography and Video
MC 589 – Class Number: 12109

Basics Of Digital Photography
ART 300 – Class Number: 11624

Music Listening Laboratory
MUSIC 160 – Class Number: 11910

History of Rock and Roll
MUSIC 170 – Class Number: 11939

Introduction to Music of the World
MUSIC 249 – Class Number: 11911

Lorde Concert

Yesterday I took my kids to see Lorde concert. Thanks Vettix for the free tickets! The whole idea behind Vettix is to give something beck to those who have served. Event tickets provide veterans and active service members an opportunity to get out and do things with family and friends. It is a kind gesture to a population known to struggle with state of mind.

This was my third concert with Vettix, and the first with my kids. My Daughter is 16 and son is 14. Emily loves Lorde. She’s a musician, so even though she’s just a kid, I do tend to respect what she thinks is good. I have heard a few Lorde songs but wasn’t well familiar with her work. I had Em give me a crash course in Lorde discography on the way to the concert in the car – thanks Spotify!

Lorde is really interesting musically. It’s not like the bubble gum pop songs of my youth. She’s no Debbie Gibson. I could tell right away that Lorde is a true artist. And my initial response to her songs was that they were very different, in a weird, poetic way. I asked Emily if she writes her own stuff but she didn’t know. But I’m thinking this stuff is so original I highly doubt she’s performing someone else’s material. I could be mistaken, but I’m fairly certain she writes all of her stuff and you have to respect a musician who does that.

When we arrived a few minutes after 7pm, the opening act was already playing. And it was a Lorde song. We’re missing it! Emily was getting upset. I was confused. I’ve never been to a concert where the headliner started at the advertised time. But it seemed to be a Lorde song and it sounded just like her! It was Tove Styrke, I think. She was almost like a Lorde impersonator. We soon figured it out and had a giggle about it.

covering my earsIntermission. And then another act took the stage. Run The Jewels. They were very loud. And foul mouthed. And brash. Made my ears hurt.  And it was so not my thing. About the only part of their performance I enjoyed was the parts of it was the oscillating sub frequencies that turned my seat into a rather effective massage chair.  Hopefully the experience will serve as a reminder to never attend another concert without a set of ear plugs. I’m getting too old for this stuff! A day later, my ears are still ringing.

Around 9 o’clock we finally get to see Lorde. Emily is out getting some dippin dots ice cream when the lights dim. Where is she!? The music starts, still no Emily. But just as her idol starts to sing, she returns with her dots of ice cream.  There were lights. And smoke. And sonic sensations. My daughter was loving it.

It was very theatrical. We stayed for the whole thing. Even the encore songs. And we slipped out ahead of the crowd since our seats were at the rear of the stadium. And our parking was nearby. And we made it back to our hotel without fighting much heavy traffic. I’m sure a few minutes delay and it would have been gridlock. It was coming in. We stopped at one parking lot and the attendant said “there’s a concert tonight?” I laughed because we thought that was why all the traffic. There’s a car show and a basketball game too.

So it was a fun trip overall, and exactly as the Vettix goals state, we had a great family experience. My daughter’s first ever concert and she was thrilled. My son’s too, but the jury is still out on that. I think he’d like to see Ted Nugent or some other classic rock band better.

A big thank you to VetTix and AEG Presents for the gift of concert tickets to Lorde: Melodrama World Tour in Kansas City, MO. I took my kids to this concert. I probably wouldn’t have picked this one myself, but my 16 year old daughter is a huge Lorde fan. (Even bigger now that she’s seen a live performance!)

VetTix has the goal of helping veterans to be involved in the community and doing fun things with family and friends. I can’t tell you how much in means to me that someone cares enough to do this for us. For me, it is a really big deal. I even wore my USS Missouri ballcap. A USS Missouri sailor attending a Missouri concert, what do you know about that?

We are from a small town in Kansas, 3 hours drive to Kansas City, so for us this concert was a big time adventure. My daughter is 16 and my son is 14 and neither have seen a big name concert like this before. It was really fun to see their eyes light up at seeing the world class performance.

Thanks so much VetTix and AEG!

 

 

 

 

Why No One Follows You on Twitter

angry bird

Earlier this month, I gave a reading assignment in my social media class to read and reflect on an article called Why No One Follows You On Twitter. It was really interesting to read the feedback my students gave on that article. It actually has spurred a great deal of introspection on my own goals and philosophy about using social media. I thought I’d share a bit of those thoughts here.

Probably the most common student response I heard was, “Why should I care how many followers I have?” In other words, the students who expressed this idea hadn’t bought into the idea that a large Twitter following was a worthwhile goal in the first place. That’s fair enough. After all, one student shared an article about the lack of value in having a large number of fake Twitter followers. Clearly a large number of followers by itself isn’t enough. If one is trying to build a large following simply out of vanity, I wouldn’t see a lot of value in that either. Twitter is about conversations. It is about feedback. It is about learning new things. And for some, it is even about being a leader or an influencer.

I would much rather have a smaller network of authentic connections than a large network of people (and spambots) where I have little or no actual connections or influence. I think anyone interested in using social media for serious purposes such as business, marketing, or professional development would feel the same way.

A couple of students remarked that they had little to say on social media, perhaps stemming from being young and inexperienced. My response to this is that everyone has some expertise that others don’t have, and would like to have. My daughter is only 16 and didn’t view herself as an expert in anything. I pointed out that she is far more knowledgeable than I am in the area of softball, and that she has even been paid to coach and provide feedback to young girls just learning the game. So it is all a matter of perspective.

We have been reading the book Show Your Work by Austin Kleon in our class. The philosophy behind that book is to do your work, your problem solving, your struggles publicly, because chances are others have similar problems they are trying to solve, or because there is someone out there who wants to hire you to solve those kinds of problems for you. Doing your critical thinking and problem solving in public takes guts, and a little faith that it is worth it, but showing that process not only has the potential to help others, but also shows people who are interested in hiring you for your skills, either as an employee or a client, what you can do.

When you are sharing what you are learning, you are providing something of value to others. That is what will build your follower count, and your followers in turn will feed into what you are learning and your knowledge base.

Finally, there were some technical things that students new to Twitter picked up on, such as private DMs or direct messages, and deciding to set up up a public or private account. Again, the DM function is useful and I use it on occasion. However, I am fully aware of the fact that our online privacy is an illusion. Our information is only as safe as the platforms we are using. Case in point, one rogue employee could choose to spill the beans on even the President of the USA, if desired.

Regarding the public vs private accounts, or maintaining multiple accounts on Twitter, I can see the rationale behind all of these. My teenaged daughter says I am “trashing up my feed” when I tweet about a variety of things that my followers might see as “off topic” and perhaps she is right. I know that some well known internet personalities have different profiles and channels for different things they are trying to accomplish. For me, I see my online profiles as an extension of myself. In other words, my digital self is myself. I try to keep it as real as I am able, so sometimes I’m serious and businesslike, and sometimes I am playful and joking around. I’m like that at work as well. Oh, who am I trying to kid? I’m mostly just joking around! But I don’t try to deceive anyone about who and what I am.