Friday, February 29, 2008

Poetry Podcast

As an optional "Next Gen" exercise, we were asked to create a podcast. I decided to read a poem from a chapbook I co-authored with Sandra Reiff and Sharron Crowson in 1995. The poem, "Daniel Boone's Wife", runs about 3 minutes long. I joined Gabfest and read the poem into a phone receiver on my lunch hour, certainly an easy way to record a podcast. It should be accessible on the blog side bar.

The Astronaut's Ex-Wife project featured poems about wifely characters real and imagined. I mostly wrote about the wives of famous historical figures such as Ben Franklin and Daniel Boone. It was fun hunting down information about these hardly known figures in history. Maybe when I retire, I can write some more pieces in this vein. The Becca Boone poem may also be thought of as a dramatic monologue.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Making/Listening to Music Together: Exercise 26

1. Take a look around several of the music networking sites and compare notes on what they offer. Social music sites such as Mog, Imeem and Project Playlist have risen out of the Web 2.0 mindset. Fans and musical peers pay more attention to each other's recommendations than to official reviewers. At Mog, you can make friends based on common musical tastes. Imeem is a site where you can share music, photos and videos. An article in Television Week (1/28/2008) indicates that Imeem adds 65,000 new registered users daily, which makes it the fastest growing social network today. Using Project Playlist, you can share your playlist on Blogger, My Space, etc. In effect, you bookmark your musical favorites. Although it was educational to look at all these sites, I felt no compulsion to join any of them.

2. Either sign up for an account with one of the sites listed under "Sharing Musical Tastes" or create a song using JamStudio. I enjoyed playing around with JamStudio. I registered and created a few (so-called) songs. I'm sure this site gets better if you pay. As a free user, I only had access to 4 beat composition. Also, there were no 7 th chords such as G7. It was fun to try out all the different effects such as Clouds, Rocking Horse, Chimes and Bells. You could change the tempo and choose between piano or guitar, etc. I'll spend some more time on this site later on. If you made a song you really liked, you could even email it to friends.

3. Write a blog post about your discoveries. Most of these sites have appeal to younger generations than mine. However, I am glad to have the opportunity to explore them. It's good to know what's going on with young adults and twenty/thirty-somethings.

Photo by KAO: from Shattered Blue series

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sound/Digital Rights: Exercise 25

1. Burn a copy of your chosen song to CD.
It was time to learn how to download music from HCPL's Digital Media catalog. I chose the Romantic Dinner Classical Companion. First, users must download the Overdrive Media software. Then after that, it is pretty simple to point and click through the Windows Media Player towards that magic moment when you "RIP" the music to a CD. So now I should go home and light some candles for the dinner table....

2. Write a blog post discussing how easy or difficult the process was for you. Do you still use CDs? Never mind CDs, I still use cassette tapes... And CDs! I had some assistance from staff to burn the CD. For an upcoming road trip, I plan to burn some more CDs of music and audiobooks. I hope to become an old pro at this before the CD era comes to pass.

3. In the same blog post, discuss your thoughts about sharing music online. Do you think music and musicians benefit more from strict copyright protections online or free and open sharing? I think talent should be rewarded. No one can afford to give away all the products of their labor. I don't know how much an artist gets of the 99 cents I might pay for a song, but I bet most of it goes elsewhere. Open sharing is appreciated when feasible, but without some financial reward, how much music would come to light?

For the legal lowdown on copying music, see this flyer produced for college students, as linked to by our Next Generation lesson plan.

P.S. 2-23-08: I furthered my acquaintance with I noodled around looking for free music to download. My vocabulary was enriched encountering the names for certain sub-genres of Indie Rock, such as Dream Pop, Jangle Pop and Shoe Gaze, to name a few. And I began to appreciate just why performers give away music on the internet. If you like the "free" music enough, you'd probably consider buying additonal tunes!

Photo by KAO: from Shattered Blue series

Sound: Exercise 24

For all my "Next Gen" assignments, I will list the questions and then my answers. In this and future posts, I may add commentary beyond the questions towards the end of the Exercises.

1. Look at the different types of pay sites, comparing features and prices. Napster: $12.95 a month and up. iTunes: 99 cents per song. Yahoo!: $5.99 or $8.99 a month. Rhapsody: $12.99 a month. Amazon: usually 99 cents per song. For my purposes as a new iPod user, I'll stick with iTunes.

2. Download a song to your computer and transfer it to your branch MP3 player (or your MP3 player) from one of the free sites, which don't require software installation. I downloaded "Beautiful Dreamer" from and moved to an MP3 player at the library. I found it to be more difficult than using iTunes, so I asked for help from another (younger) staff member more experienced in downloading music.

3. See if your favorite radio station offers listening through their website. Yes, our local Houston NPR station, KUHF has an online link to live radio. I also enjoyed sampling radio stations around the world using as a starting point. I briefly sampled KNBA, Native Radio Online from Anchorage, Alaska and other stations from California and Wyoming. I even tried Chinese radio, but for the most part could not negotiate the Chinese language links. A library customer stopped by my office while I was doing this part of the exercise and recommended public radio CKUA from Edmunton, Canada. She said she listens to it all day from her computer. I've got to stop thinking of radio as local when global radio is (click, click) just around the cyber corner.

As I downloaded some songs to my iPod recently, I found myself wondering how many times I've purchased the same songs by Joan Baez, Judy Collins and Leonard Cohen in all their burgeoning formats. First as phonograph records (visions of sitting on the floor in my college dorm room with a gang of girls, all of us listening to a phonograph player); then cassette tapes and compact discs. Now the MP3 format. How many times do I have to buy the same song to own it once and for all? I could/should start transferring music I own on CD to the computer and onto the iPod, but oh how much easier it is to point and click in the iTunes store!

Photo by KAO: from Shattered Blue series

Saturday, February 16, 2008

iHCPL: the Next Generation

The "23 Things" have multiplied. Harris County Public Library staff will study a bunch more technological "things" through November 30, 2008. The new name for our learning journey is iHCPL: the Next Generation. Our method of reporting will continue to include blogging about what we have learned.
There will be 8 thematic modules which we can pick and chose from. The first module explores the theme of sound. In the past, I tried out two MP3 players but was not impressed with their ease of use. I recently purchased an Apple iPod touch. Hopefully I can catch up with the Next Generation real soon! Our first assignment included comparing different "pay to play" sites, etc. I'd like to get up to date on downloading eBooks, audio books and films, since we offer all of these @ HCPL. Stay tuned.

A novel is like a bow, and the violin that produces the sound is the reader’s soul.
– Stendahl

collage: Nocturne by KAO

Friday, February 8, 2008

Creativity: What I Know for Sure

- The pump can be primed. Finding out what you need to immerse yourself in to prime the pump is part of the creative process. And that may change from time to time. For me, long walks help, but so do trips to museums or listening to great music. I've seen people with writer's block come around when they accept the challenge to write haiku. In that case, being given the structure of the 5-7-5 syllabic form helped channel the flow.

- Have fun. Whether it is painting, composing music or choreography, playing with the components without putting pressure on yourself to create a masterpiece can help you leave an overly critical mindset behind.

- Explore groups. Try collage parties, writing circles, improv groups, etc. A popular book for structuring creative groups is The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.

- To generate new ideas, try something new. If you are stuck in one area, try a new medium. The first time I joined in an Artist's Way group, we tried fingerpainting, theatrical monologs, collages, and sculpting in clay. Some did not come as naturally as others, but switching between mediums got the flow going. Another example: drawing with your non-dominant hand, or drawing without looking at the paper.

- Journaling can free the creative spirit. Being playful, asking questions, indulging in lists and wishes, keeping the hand moving -- can lead creative surprises. The subconscious begins to show. For writers getting started in this vein, in my opinion, Natalie Goldberg is the Queen of the Writerly Flow. Her book, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within was very instrumental for me when I began to take creative writing seriously some years ago.

Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual. - Arthur Koestler

Drawing by KAO: Big Pink Moon with Fanciful Poles