Saturday, February 23, 2013

TEDxGrandviewAve, Ideas, Pittsburgh

Okay, so a while back I had read about this TED talk spinoff called TEDxGrandviewAve. For those of you who don't know what the TED talks are, they are essentially a bunch of mini-lectures and talks on "Ideas Worth Spreading", and have been around since 1984ish. The TEDx Talks are kind of like TED talks, only independently organized events. TEDxGrandviewAve is the Pittsburgh version of it.

So I emailed the guy that helps run the Re(imagine) Media program about it. He liked the idea of the group of us coming to watch. Unfortunately, by this point the 100 slots had already filled for the physical event. Thus, the event we would attend would be a webcast party (one of the three official ones) at a place called StartUptown in the Uptown section of Pittsburgh.

Flash-forward to today: I go to StartUptown, and eventually meet up with the Re(imagine)rs and my friend Dave Wovchko at StartUptown. So what exactly is StartUptown? Well, I arrived first and had the chance to talk to Dale, the gentleman who founded StartUptown
"THE VISION is to build a community-connected campus of entrepreneurial activity in the eastern half of the Uptown neighborhood — and to retain companies as they grow upwards of 20-50 employees."
The StartUptown Space
So anyway, we visit the space, get a tour, and settle down into the area where we are to watch the TEDx Livestream. However, as with most things, it didn't happen that way.

The Livestream didn't work. The audio didn't match the video, and it kept jerking around. We really could have stopped there, the 10 or so of us who were there. But we didn't. We decided to open up a new window and watch some of the talks from, the main events.

What happened was interesting. Someone would suggest a video, and we'd watch it. Then something strange would happen - we'd start talking about something related to that video, and talk for a good 20 minutes or so before someone suggests another and it repeats.

So why is this so interesting? Well, the room ranged in age from 15 year old me to 64 year old Dale. These were adults and 20somethings and high schoolers all talking about the world around them, and the ideas that shape that world.

We took some breaks in between there, mainly to meander about the space, and Dave and I collaborated on a logo that may soon be a logo for one of the companies there. They had these door-sized dry erase boards in each of the spaces. I found this fascinating that the whole space was very much a space for creativity, and couldn't help but start sketching on the one.

Nevertheless it brought back into focus what I enjoy - listening to what people have to say, and being able to think and learn with and around other people in a setting that embraces creativity.

I feel like I was a part of something, even though we didn't see what actually happened at TEDxGrandviewAve, we learned about something. Something bigger than ourselves in a learning community.

And I think in a broader sense that's where everyone learns- not in the same age clumps, or in specialized hallways or whatever, but by interacting and creating with other people AND with yourself.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

We're so Into You Incredibly We'd Love to See You Terribly

So yeah, I stalled for two days extra. I'm sorry, but the last week has been absolutely insane.... To make up for it, I'll write something pretty long, pretty uplifting, and pretty sad. Maybe. Wish me luck on this one.

There was not a day this past week when I was just "home": I was usually up at the high school for one thing or another, and there was one night where I was at school then someplace else.

I've been working on an English project that answers the question: What if Ralph and Jack from Lord of the Flies were on a talk show? We answer by bringing you a very 70's cheezy talk show entitled (and long time readers will appreciate this one) The Clay Bodnar Variety Hour. All told, I've probably spent about 10 hours getting the space, filming, and editing - goodness the editing.

If there's something I hate about projects in general, it's editing things. I tend to have an inner need to perfection-edit, which is a process where I spend obscene amounts of time reading something I've done, hating and editing it like crazy. When I see the 'finished product', I usually hate it because it isn't finished or has some tiny editing error in it or whatever. Just a rant.

I've been going back and forth about what to write about, but I didn't want to get into some doom and gloom mode since two of my favourite things stopped existing.

So roughly a year ago, I wrote about a dude that wrote a column named Peter McKay. I liked his Saturday columns, and I kind of thought that I could try and learn his writing style. Then about a week ago I read this in the paper:
So yeah. This explained to me two things: 1) THERE ARE 11 YEARS OF COLUMNS I HAVENT READ and 2) It's gone. His column is gone. The other thing that died was the whole New York trip - due to lack of interest. Blah. So in that sense it was a bad week.

However, there were many things that went pretty well. WPXI came to spotlight our upcoming musical, 9 to 5. Yesterday was spent at the Carnegie Arts and History Museum, which I will say this much about: Remember the whole Devil in the White City thing? Yeah, there were artifacts from that same worlds fair. (And I would've included pictures too! Turns out that taking pictures wasn't allowed there though).

After the expedition to the Arts and History museum, I descended into the depths of it, and into the Library adjacent to it via the magic tunnel. My mission was to check out the Pennsylvania room that I had heard of in a Rick Sebak special... and I think I've found a new place to adventure to. 

Hopefully a more coherent blog next time...

Friday, February 8, 2013

On Writing Stuff.

So I've been writing a lot lately, but with no particular aim. I've found that I can snap into three modes with writing: The one where I write deep and profound prose and the sort, The one where I basically regurgitate facts, and The freeform stuff.

They are independent modes and if I try mixing two, it ends poorly. Unfortunately I'm forced to from time to time to write essays. Now I'm pretty sure this blog has posts from all of the categories... and I'm fine with it.

Apparently some people at my school read last week's post about the antiquated lighting system at the elementary school, and were motivated to at least try to do something. This both excites and scares me. It excites me that someone is willing to take action about things that are important to them. It scares me that people read what I write.

I mean, I want people to read what I write, but there's something about the knowledge that someone is reading something you wrote that sort of scares me. This especially applies to printing out something, and having someone read it next to you. As the person who spent hours working on such a piece, you are constantly wondering what they think, where the plot or essay or whatever the medium is should go next.

So when I read that my site hit 8,000 views I came to a realization that if each post had equal representation, there are like 46 hits per each post. Which means that someone other than I and my parents and friends and the sort are reading this thing.

So I guess what the answer here is to not base my drive or success on numbers (I hate math to start with) but rather on the quality of the content, or at least in this case the frequency.

I realize this was a movement on YouTube in December with Charlie McDonnell's "I'm Scared" movement and what JayScribble was talking about with Becoming YouTube, that content creators get scared of their audiences, but I think (selfish as it may seem) the thing to worry about is the content itself, and whether it's doing good.

This may just be some rant that I stayed up until 11 on a Friday night to write, but it might be something profound. I don't know. Maybe you do? Je ne sais pas.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Surviving The Concrete Jungle - Reunion?

So I was informed this morning that I might be going on the troop's trip this year to NYC. Four years ago (Before I started this blog) I went to New York as a sixth grader and told of my adventures.

It's been four years, and I'm a lot taller and adventurous than I was then. Though I will admit that New York City is a place that I fell in love with the first time I went, I still like Pittsburgh more. Perhaps it's mainly because this is home, but at the same time, I can't wait to go back.

The Christmas before I had gotten this little orange video camera, and I packed that along for the ride and videotaped it. If you want to see the (man is it bad, but it was my first) video, you can look at the annoying-voiced me take you through New York City:

It's so weird looking back and realizing that that was four years ago, but as I skim through the long video, all of it comes back. I remember what it was like, waving around that orange camera like an idiot, calling my mother on Liberty Island, spending four hours in Times Square, getting lost on the Subway system, it all just comes back.

I'm curious to see what it will look like again, and what we'll do there. It's like I'm 11 all over again, a small city boy getting ready to adventure to the Biggest City.

And you better believe I'm planning on blogging about this one. Not live of course, but yeah.

Friday, February 1, 2013

I'm Pulling all the Levers on a Crazy Train

This is Post 170, and it's going to be a rant.

Back in October, I am summoned to Mert's room at the high school. He tells me that they are looking for someone to help run tech for Carnegie Elementary's talent show. Within the week, my brother and I are down at the elementary school trying to get details. we get nothing. Two weeks ago we hear from one of our former teachers, asking if the offer was still there.

So Matt and I spent the past week's worth of afternoons at our old Elementary school making the antiquated system run as if it has been running all along. 

I was seriously worried that there would be something that was broken, since neither of us had seen the system in nearly two years. Luckily, the curtains were (mostly) in working condition, and most of the lights worked.

On that first day I took an inventory as light manager of the spots - 9 possibly working, only 5 actually working, house - 24 available, 10 on, and don't even get me started on the bars.

In order to control the lights and sound, you need to get up to what we've been calling the 'crow's nest' which is a platform atop a doorwell on stage right. It's 15 feet up, and the only way up is by a set of rickety wooden steps that are pretty fun to run up and down.

Then once you're at the controls, you need to switch individually each dimmer, and then you get to control everything (except for the blue bars and the spots that don't work) using perhaps the most steampunk-y lever system I've ever had the pleasure of operating. And the bloody thing squeaks like a 500 pound iron door that wasn't measured right. It reminded me of what the controls to a steam engine on a railroad engine would be like.

Basically, this auditorium had been neglected and used as pretty much an anything-goes storage ground. And honestly, I think this is extremely sad.

(From this point on, I want to address members of the district specifically)

So why am I bringing this up? Because though it needs work, I think we can still be able to use it and take advantage of the things we have. The district as a whole wants to move forward, but I think trying to fix what we already have is also nice.

The talent show went on for two nights, with a stage crew of 10 fifth and sixth graders, and throw us two high schoolers in also. Our ultimate aim was to make it look decent - and that's exactly what we did.

I will guess that no one from the district's higher-ups will read this, and even if they did, they couldn't do much. Though I want you to know this - we students care about the district. Some of us volunteer hours of our time to make the district look nice to the public, and never get as much as a photo credit.