Welcome, Members of Parliament

Welcome, Members of Parliament. This blog is designed to act as a student forum for anyone enrolled in my classes at a Dallas-area proprietary college, former students, and/or others who find our conversations interesting. The Parliament will be moderated to ensure civility and relevance. The directions we take, the paths we follow, and the concerns we address are all up to you.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Here's Your Chance to Have a Say

The Daily Good for February 15 (otherwise known as Half Price Chocolate Day) offers students the opportunity to speak up on the future of education: Hey, Young People: Arne Duncan Wants to Answer Your Education Questions.

For those of you who don't already know this, Arne Duncan is the U. S. Secretary of Education. And since you folks are the ones to suffer and/or benefit from changes currently being discussed and implemented, it might be a good idea for you to weigh in. It's mostly about K12, rather than higher education, but most of you aren't that far removed from those glory days--and some of you will be having children that will be affected by policies developed over the next few years.

I also wanted to alert you to the video I've been showing in some classes this week, given by Sir Ken Robinson and animated by RSAnimation: Changing Education Paradigms. The link will take you to other Robinson videos and others by RSAnimation--and/or go there to see a larger screen; I had to reduce this one to fit my snazzy new blog design.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Design Web News

Yet another snow day has found me on the web, and fooling around with blog design. The initial "Watermark" template was only meant to be temporary, but I haven't until today had time to sit down and work on changing it. I'd appreciate some feedback, since this will always be a work in progress. If you think it needs more tweaking, let me know, and we can work on it together.

While I was messing about in my e-mail this morning, I found some stuff you folks might find interesting. The first item came to me via Good magazine, which featured an article on a blog called 10Answers, founded by Rebecca Silver who writes and designs in (where else?) New York City. The concept is simple. Every post consists of a series of ten questions Silver asks of fellow creative people, such as yesterday's interview with graffiti artist/muralist Caleb Neelon. Categories include almost every kind of art and/or design, so there's something here for everyone. I'm thinking of adapting her format for my student information sheets--since the answers are much more interesting than what I usually ask for.

From the venerable New York Times section on the Arts came a short article on an exhibit at Milan's La Triennale Design Museum, Celebrating a Graphic World. Oddly enough, there are more images available on my iPad version of the Times online--but the primary interest of the article lies in its discussion of changes in how we view the field of graphic design and its relationship to advertising.

And just in case you haven't heard about this yet, Google's latest wizardry involves applying its street-view technology to museums. Go to the Google Art Project to visit some important museums around the world, and use its features to explore significant works of art really close-up. Ever wanted to put your nose right up to Van Gogh's Starry Night? You can do it here--just go to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, and zoom in.

As usual, I leaped over to Wikimedia Commons when I was looking for an image to illustrate this post. I wanted to see if there was anything available that had at least something to do with graphic design (since all of the stuff related the articles I mentioned is copyrighted). With my usual serendipitous luck, I found a work by the British poster artist, Tom Eckersley which reminded me of the snow outside my window, of the Pont du Garde aqueduct in Nimes, France (featured in this week's History of Art & Design I lecture), and Henri Matisse's cut paper works. You can see an online collection from his long career at the Visual Arts Data Service.

And if all the above isn't enough to keep you from getting bored (if, of course you're already finished with whatever I've assigned for the week), take a look at this site full of Free Images from generous folk who, like those who contribute to Wikimedia Commons, don't mind not making a buck off of everything they do.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow Days

By now you lot are probably either sick of the weather or rejoicing that you've got extra time to get assignments completed before midterms. This week's adventures in education have included three full days of canceled classes (including today) and a pretty flimsy attempt to get things on track yesterday. When I got to school for my afternoon class (having spent over an hour to drive 30 miles), I met Dr. Frisbee in the hall, who'd had one student make his morning class--out of about 23. Other instructors reported similar statistics.

For my 1 pm History of Art & Design II class, eight (count 'em) intrepid souls showed up. But because exams are scheduled for next week, I decided to construct them around the first three weeks, and try to catch up a bit afterward. So, Be Here Warned: exams for HAD I and II will cover material from weeks 1-3, and will take about 2 hours. After that, don't expect to be able to head out to the bars, because any lectures and/or workshops will be held in the second half of class. That includes the Friday night people, too. Updated schedules are available on the course pages linked to Owldroppings.

If anyone's interested, I showed the film, Mr. Bing, L'Art Nouveau to those devoted folk who attended Thursday afternoon. They will be rewarded accordingly. The video is available in the Library for anyone interested in seeing it, and is well worth the effort. Please watch it in a viewing room, however, since I'd rather it not leave the building.

One of the highlights of the day was the wonderful coincidence of winter knit hats that led to the following photo, for which Katie and Donna obligingly posed.

In case folks don't get it, my hauling them into the library for the shot was inspired by this poem, composed by Edward Lear, the first verse of which goes like this:

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

and the second:

Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

Since we didn't have a piggy hat, I'll leave out the last verse--but you can go to the link for the rest. And since Katie and Donna don't even know each other, concentrate on the hats!

I suppose I made the connection not only because of all the owl silliness that surrounds my name, but because I've been listening to Natalie Merchant's terrific new album, Leave Your Sleep, which contains a song based on a poem by Edward Lear, Calico Pie.

Now, I can't possibly leave this teaching moment at this stage, because this album is a prime example of the connection between art, creativity, and scholarship. Merchant has gathered together a large selection of poems, mostly written for children, but which lack the usual syrupy sentiment associated with kids. The poems themselves are clever, witty, disturbing, sad, inspiring, funny, and thought-provoking--sometimes all at once. And I can't even begin to say enough about the music. The arrangements run stylistically from Jewish klezmer to Gypsy to Cajun to New Orleans jazz and beyond, with wonderful instrumental accompaniment by outstanding artists. It took her five years to arrange the whole thing, and it's totally worth the effort.

You can get samples from her website (linked above), or try this TED lecture, which features one of my favorite cuts, The Sleepy Giant:

This is just the thing to snuggle up to with your iPad or computer on a cold snowy day. Enjoy your weekend, and the Super Bowl if you're into that sort of thing (Go Steelers!). Get some rest, and show up next week ready and eager for your exams.