Saturday, October 12, 2013

Art for Ourselves or Art for Others?

Kermit the Frog sings "The Rainbow Connection" and wants to make millions of people happy...
There has always been a difference of opinion regarding why we make art.  Do you, as an artist, create a work of art - be it music, painting, sculpture, play, novel or anything else - for  yourself?  Or do you create it for others?

I have met many people over the years who blog, and I recall a good many of them say they blog for themselves - not others.  In some cases they create their blog as a kind of therapeutic exercise for themselves, putting their thoughts and feelings out there on the screen to fill their own needs.  If others come along, happening to read these thoughts and in turn have opinions - it really doesn't matter, because the blogger writes the words for himself or herself only.  Other peoples' opinions and reactions are ultimately unimportant.  The act of artistic creation is an expression of the artist's soul, and as such is ultimately truly  meaningful for them alone.

Some visual artists use pigments or clay or a myriad of other mediums to bring to life a figment of their imaginations.  It is said some cannot exist without transforming these feelings into a vibrant visual representation.  These souls create painting after painting and keep them to themselves, holding on to them as they would their own innermost thoughts.  Similar stories and actions echo throughout the artistic world.

But still others use their talents to create artistic works for other reasons, not simply for themselves.  True, all artists must draw from within to ensure originality, but for some that's not the only goal or encouragement.  For a playwright, the sound of audience laughter, or crying, or even abject silence, is a sign that the story he has written has touched someone in a profound way. Some musicians create a composition, or play a concerto, because they know that by putting just the right notes in the right combination they can change another person's life.

So which is better?  I have my own reasons for the things I do, and the reasons I work to create art in my own eclectic and unusual ways.  I can give my opinion on which I prefer, and defend it if necessary - but I really would just rather hear what other people have to say.

You out there, you who are an artist.  Why do you create art, and who is it for?

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Top 10 Things I Took Away from Social Slam 2013

I figured I'd better open up The Inn again, since apparently it's fashionable again to blog--(oops, that's #7)

Anyway, in the spirit of one of things the things I learned at Social Slam 2013, held this afternoon in Knoxville, TN, here is my top 10 list of the most important, the most relevant, the most memorable (are those enough keywords?) things I learned today.

10)  There is still a growing "factionalization" of Social Media sites (I think I just coined a word).  No matter how much we hear the mantra of cross-channel and multi-channel content creation, some Social sites still have their major supporters and major detractors.  I personally still rarely use, nor see much value with Pinterest but it still has a large and vocal following.  Google + remains a mystery in it usefulness to me, as it does a lot of the crowd but some still swear by it.  I enjoy the rich business connection potential and useful Groups and other professional connectivity of LinkedIn, but some declare it little more than useless.  Some still decry Facebook and even Twitter, and there are still some hardy Instagram users out there.  Some fierce possessiveness still exists, and middle ground on some platforms seems difficult to achieve.

9) Vine is still basically a novelty.  Since half of the smart phones out there still can't run Vine (it's not available as of yet on Android devices), only the Apple contingent has access to it.  And of that group, it seems few consider it more than a souped up Animated GIF creator.  It may have its uses, and its greatest popularity may be yet to come, but not yet.

8) The most powerful force on the internet is not content, it's not community and it's not Mark Schaefer.  It's snark.

7) Blogging keeps circling back and forth and back and forth as being the most important Social Media tool. It seems to come and go in cycles, and now it's back again.  I think there's a reason for this, and I explain it in #1.

6) Nobody still has anything good to say about Klout :(  C'mon folks, if it's all you got, it's all you got.  Throw me a bone, here...

5) For all its good intentions as to putting the Social in Social Media, for me Social Slam remains a decidedly online-only event.  I rarely manage to bring another person from my work team with me to the event, and most of the local people I know that come to the event or are in the Social Media Knoxville group either organize the event, work the event, are speakers, or come in large groups of their own from PR houses or local media.  As such, I only spoke to a very small handful of people in person - the vast majority of my interaction during the day was through Twitter and using #soslam.  I realize I'm speaking totally for myself here, as someone who is a big introvert in large live social activities where I don't really know anyone.  I'm not making an actual complaint or offering up some kind of solution or suggestion, just that people like me exist and it would be nice if I could find a way to interact with more people I don't know at the event.

Caveat: This time of year I'm almost always working on a show, so my evenings are filled up with rehearsals and I wasn't able to make either the "night before" or "night of" parties.  Again, Your Mileage May Vary, but the actual social events weren't available for me.

4) If your presentation is lacking, the audience will turn on you.  There were a couple of presenters today who seemed to either wander far afield from their stated topic, or whose comments on stage began to border on insulting and unkind.  The attending community recognized this and reacted in kind online.  A living example of a community in action, both live and online.

3) Content is still, always has been, and always will be, king.  And I love the fact that this one nugget of truth is still held tightly by all who profess to see the value in Social Media and websites in general.  With all the talk of platforms and factions and tools and channels, good (great!) and interesting content is always the goal.

2) Raw, emotional, personal first-hand eyewitness accounts of 9/11 can still hold an audience enraptured and close to tears.  And it reinforced the idea that authenticity in content will attract and hold readership. But most importantly, damn, I hate that day.

1) There's nothing new under the sun.  As a long-time online healthcare marketing professional, I've attended several annual sessions of Greystone.net's Healthcare Internet Conference over the years. As such, I've seen the most popular and most emphasized topics range from simple website design to blogging to podcasts to multimedia to social to mobile and beyond.  I've also recognized points in time where the online world was catching its breath and really waiting for "the next big thing" to hit.  I think Social Media is at that point now, and Social Slam is caught up in the waiting game as well.  None of the main speakers or breakout sessions (that I attended) addressed to any great extent anything really cutting edge or new in either technology, innovation or cultural change.  Facebook and Twitter subjects still dominated the tool discussions, and other new online cultural changes were hard to find in the presentations.  Some years I go to these conferences and can scarcely contain myself from jumping right into all the new things and apps I wanted to try out.  Other than several good, new things from Google I hadn't heard of that my friend @shanerhyne spoke of, I would be hard pressed to really name any particular new items of interest to follow up on.

Mind you, this is not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, it's really not a bad thing at all.  It means that we can take a break from discussing the latest uber-popular platforms and concentrate on the core topics - the big "C's": content, culture, and clarity.  I came away with a lot of confidence and excitement of the possibilities of how I can improve my content creation - both at my job as Website Coordinator for a large local healthcare company, and for my personal online projects.

So, congratulations, Social Slam - I think 2013 was another successful year for this event.  I think it struggled more to find timely "content" for its presentations than it has in previous years but in a way that was ok.  It left the door open to talk about the subjects that really mattered - finding ways to bring genuine, authentic content that you or your organization are passionate about, to those out there who share the same interest, and using those connections and intersections to form, maintain and grow communities.  And that - not Plussing, Liking, Following, Pinning or snarking - that's exactly what it's really all about.


Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Billions and Billions

This story is, to coin a phrase, fascinating:

An Alien Earth May Be in Our Cosmic Back Yard


"Looking at thousands of red dwarf stars in the Kepler field, the lead investigator (Courtney Dressing from the Center for Astrophysics) found several dozen stars with candidate planets (probable companions that have not yet been confirmed). Out of those, she found three that were about the size of Earth, as well as being in their stars’ habitable zones, the right distance from their stars to have liquid water. Accounting for planets with orbits that don’t let them transit from our view, what she found is that 6 percent of red dwarf stars have Earth-sized planets at the right distance from the star to be potentially habitable.

That’s 1 out of 16. Out of 75 billion stars. That’s a lot of Earths. In fact, using that number and applying some statistics, Dressing and her team calculate that on average, in this part of the galaxy, Earth-like planets are only 13 light-years apart. That’s a long way to walk, but in galactic terms, that’s incredibly close. Only about three-dozen stars are known that are within 13 light-years of Earth. Could one of them bear a planet like home?"

It boggles the mind that, finally, soon, astronomers in the next 1-2 generations may actually be able to confidently say whether life might exist on other planets throughout the cosmos.

If we can determine the likelihood of life-bearing worlds, we can determine the likelihood of life.

Planets have to fall under certain criteria to have the potential to bear life as we know it. They have to be in a certain habitable "zone" around the sun - within a certain range of radii, to get that "not too hot, not too cold" effect, so liquid water can exist. Likelihood of greenhouse effect, density, etc - all these traits of worlds should eventually come into focus as better and better detection techniques are developed. Eventually, hopefully, astronomers will be able to point to some planet orbiting some star under some particular conditions and say, "Yes, it as a statistical probability that life exits on that world."

Of course, until we are able to visit such a planet (or, miraculously, contact it's inhabitants) we can't know anything for absolute sure. Heck, we live right next door to Mars and as of early 2013 we're still not sure if life ever existed there at all. But we know exponentially more about the possibility of Martian life now than we did even 15 years ago. I would predict if life on Mars exists, or ever did exist, we'll likely know for sure within the next 20 years. We're that close. So based on this article we're also very close, statistically speaking, to making a good, firm prediction about the probability of life on planets outside our solar system.

After years and years of fictional speculation about people loving on other planets around the galaxy - after imagining the lives of people living on Vulcan, Tatooine, Gallifrey, Arakis, Centauri Prime, Caprica, Tangaroa, Krypton, Hala, Aiur and many others - to imagine that the basic building blocks of such a larger universe, habitable planets, may actually exist and that we may confirm it in our lifetime is staggering.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Authority

It seems to be that the nicer person you are, the less authority you project or command - no matter what your position is. It's something I deal with a lot.  And not very well, I might add.

I deal with conflict very tentatively - I'm either too nice (I want people to like each other, and to like me) or, since I'm unfamiliar with the more negative aspect of command, I overstep and become a jerk.  

It's a very tight balance I walk, and as such end up not getting anything done when I really need it to be.

If I'm in a position of authority in some project, and those working for me are not getting the job done or making unreasonable requests, I'm more apt to let it slide.  Or do it myself.  Or compromise, compromise, compromise - rather than take a chance on someone not liking me.

But the first moment I stand up, I do it in such a way that feels - to me - like I'm supposed to do: laying down the rules, requesting all to follow them, and expecting they agree and understand our roles.  But what happens is I'm seen as "brash" or "talking down".  I don't know how to do it - I don't know how other people do it.

Well, I do, in a way. It's called charisma, and confidence.  You can't have confidence without success, and you can't have success without the charisma to command.  I have no real charisma, except that which is bound up in my "niceness".  And that has no real ability to command respect - even when my position requires it.  So it's a deadly circle that I see no hope of ever escaping.

Well, there would be one way - abandon the niceness, and worrying about whether people like me.  But that would mean completely throwing away who am I and becoming a jerk full time.  Which totally defeats the purpose.

So I'm stuck.  The cycle continues.

Friday, November 30, 2012

It's a Wonderful Life

Tonight is opening night for "It's a Wonderful Life" at the Children's Theatre of Knoxville.  I have had a blast working with this great group of young actors - their talent, professionalism and enthusiasm has been a blessing. This weekend's shows are tonight at 7pm, Saturday at 1pm and 5pm and Sunday at 3pm, then continues for two more weekends after that.

Please make time to come see this adaptation of the holiday classic with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. There is something special and meaningful about being reminded, especially this time of year - especially this time of the Age, that each of us MATTER.  We all affect everyone around us, we all have the potential to do great things, and there has never been anyone born that would've been better off not being on the Earth.  What we do with our lives is up to us, and we shouldn't be convinced everything's out of our hands.

Remember, even in a small way, you can do something important.  No one is truly alone.  And no man is a failure if he has friends.

http://www.childrenstheatreknoxville.com 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sounds of Knoxville Theatre

The latest episode of my Knoxville theatre podcast, The Sounds of Knoxville Theatre, is online.

I'd like to extend a special invitation to those of you who haven't heard my podcast - if you have any interest in theatre in the Knoxville and surrounding counties, take a listen to the podcast.  Every week (or so) I outline what's coming up in the theatre productions and auditions around the area, and usually have an interview with someone involved with Knoxville theatre.  Enjoy!

Scenes From a Hat

Yes. This. More.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Silent Clock

Flipping randomly through my Netflix Streaming Queue, I came upon 24.  The early-to-mid-2000's series about Jack Bauer and the fictional Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU) figured heavily on my weekly must-see shows of that time period.  In fact, I already own several seasons on DVD.

I remember when 24 first premiered, it was only a few weeks after 9/11.  The premiere episode included an airplane bombing - naturally, that the producers considered cutting the sequence or postponing the episode.  Eventually it aired, uncut, and the series went on for another 7 seasons.

24 associated, fairly or not, with the Bush era of heightened awareness of our state of security, and the steps we as a country would take to secure our own safety, both home and abroad.  The producers of the show swung to both ends of the spectrum throughout its run, and the character of Bauer went with it.  Torture, terrorism, two (!) separate nuclear explosions and numerous other attacks from both foreign and domestic ne'er-do-wells served as an intentional/unintentional commentary on our country's own feelings toward its own increased security.

While it can mostly be chalked up to coincidence that the show wrapped up its production only a year or so into President Obama's term (8 seasons is enough for almost any show, especially one that thrives on running constantly in high gear) I wonder what it would have been like during the rest of Obama's term.  With the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the general relaxation of the constant fear of a repeat massive terrorist attack on American soil (not to mention the effects of the Arab Spring), the tenor of the country has changed a bit in that regard.*

Getting back to the original point - in the 30 minutes or so I was on Netflix, I flipped around from episode to episode, season to season, watching bits and pieces and memorable scenes.  I re-watched the assassination of President Palmer, retired spies Tony and Michelle, tragic tech Edward, and others. But, at least at this point, I have no plans to go back and re-watch entire seasons.  This is coming from a guy who went back and re-watched the entire 7 season run of The West Wing (with my son), all 5 seasons of The Dick Van Dyke Show and looks forward to a few years down the road of re-watching all 5 seasons of LOST in their entirety.  I also plan at some point to go back and re-live The X-Files, Picket Fences, Crime Story and probably several others.  Why such an aversion to 24?

I practically lived and breathed the show when it was on - almost as much as LOST.  I can rank my favorite seasons in order off the top of my head (5, 1, 2, 7, 8, 4, 3, 6). I know what "Is Teri died?" means, and was there when the phrase first took off.

I think it relates, in a way, to my ongoing aversion to our annual national Rip Off The Scab Day (also knows as September 11th).  Ever year on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we voluntarily re-immerse ourselves in the glamorous mourning of the events of that day.  Jason Bailey of Slate writes:
These programs and others are a part of our continuing attempt to grapple with 9/11, and they raise a simple but difficult question: Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? We watch that horrible morning play itself out again, year after year, one inevitable event after another, helplessly gasping, crying, or screaming at our televisions, knowing that nothing we think or do or say will change a thing. The second plane will crash into the second tower, which will collapse 56 minutes later, and then the first tower will collapse 29 minutes after that. Watching those buildings crumble and take the lives of thousands of Americans is something akin to watching a snuff film. Reliving it all—our last moments of cheery obliviousness, the confusion of those first reports, the utter despair of watching those buildings crumble—is borderline masochistic. Isn’t it?
I feel the same way.  While I'm all for memorials and the occasional tribute, the constant popular re-airing of the footage of that day serves as a voluntary immersion again in all the emotions of 9/11/01.  Most were negative, some were positive, all were strong.  And I think that's what keeps me from going back to 24 - I've lived that life, I've followed those characters, they've drawn me into their world.  Other than the occasional foray to watch a favorite scene again, I have no desire to rip off those scabs once again.  Let it heal.  And move on.

At the end of various episodes in which a major character died, the producers silenced the traditional ticking clock in honor of the deceased.  I think that's a good idea.



* - It would be an interesting comparison to examine the similarities between The West Wing and how it reflected the Clinton White House, moving into the Bush White House, and 24, moving from Bush to Obama.  And how those two TV series reflected and were each shaped by the person occupying the (real) White House at the time.  For 6.9 seasons of its 7 seasons, The West Wing had one duly elected and re-elected president (Jed Bartlett), and another just elected at the very end (Matt Santos).  24 had a succession of Presidents and Vice Presidents over its 8 year run - from the extremely virtuous, yet unre-electable David Palmer to the villainous Charles Logan, at least 3 others in between of different flavors.  A better political sociologist can tackle that one :)


Monday, September 10, 2012

Freedom of Speech

Sometimes the First Amendment allows unfortunate and unwanted speech: 

Supremacist groups to meet in East Tennessee (Knoxnews.com, 9/8/12)  

But when you think of the alternative, you sometimes just have to grit your teeth and bear it.  I still find it amazing this kind of thing exists in the 21st century, and it's even more disheartening to read this:
“Tennessee is one of the states that has a strong presence of all of the major white supremacist groups active right now,” [Anti-Defamation League director of investigative research Mark] Pitcavage said....
Tennessee, where the KKK was formed in 1865, continues to play a key role in re-energizing the white supremacist movement. Pitcavage said a confluence of two factors — the election of Barack Obama and the economy — is driving the white supremacist resurgence, connected to a spike in violent incidents including a shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin that left six dead, including the shooter, Wade Page, a self-identified neo-Nazi.
But a foiled terrorist plot in Tennessee may have lit the first spark, he said.
In 2008, during Obama’s first presidential campaign, Bells, Tenn., resident Daniel Cowart, 20, and his friend Paul Schlesselman, 18, from Arkansas — both self-described white power skinheads — were caught before they could carry out an assassination attempt against Obama and 88 African-Americans at a school in West Tennessee.
I wonder sometimes what kind of sea change could possibly be hoped for, in that those citizens who actively promote white supremacy, or racial hatred of any kind can find an reason to see beyond color.  What has to happen to change these peoples' hearts and minds?

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Congratulations, Dollywood

The Eagles are Wild, man.

Congrats to Dollywood for winning FIVE Golden Ticket Awards, the Theme Park Industry's annual celebration of the best in themed entertainment.  The accolades won by our local amusement area were:
  1. Friendliest Park
  2. Best Christmas Event
  3. Best Food
  4. Best Shows
  5. Best New Amusement Park Ride of 2012: Wild Eagle
Thunderhead also ranked 4th for Best Wooden Coaster.

The management and staff of Dollywood are top notch..Here's a couple of great podcast interviews From The Season Pass Podcast with Marketing Director Pete Owens:
Not to be outdone, here's my podcast review of Opening Day of Dollywood's 2012 Season, along with Rex and The Beast's commentary on Wild Eagle, at RexandtheBeast.com: Audio Journeys Podcast #1203



Saturday, September 08, 2012

Back to Work

I think it's about time to drag the old girl out of mothballs...

Who still follows me?  Who still has an active blogroll or RSS feed?  Comment below if you're seeing this.

My company has allowed access to Blogger, so I will be able to blog from work again. Since the web and social media are my job, and part of being a successful online advocate for your brand is to have a strong online presence, I don't feel it's out of line to say personal blogging can enhance some people's professional standing in the digital field.

Social influence is a key element in today's marketing strategies, and it's important for the people behind the brands that are in charge of publicizing their good and services to be trusted sources of information.  Not just the company name, but the people behind the company name - they're the ones that will help sell the name.  So the more online influence a marketer her - personal, public online influence - the more reliable, trusted and influential they'll appear to the outside world.

At least, that's my understanding.

So expect more posts from me, but perhaps fewer daily observations about my life, and more commentary on the professional and special interest topics that catch my eye.  Obviously, healthcare will be a large part of that - particularly acute care services.  But since I'm no doctor (and don't play one on TV) don't expect any medical advice or extensive cross-linking - more about how online, digital and social media can enhance the public's perception of healthcare and how it is received. I think that's a worthwhile goal.

Meanwhile, of course my interest in theatre will continue and I'm sure I will post about my latest exploits upon (and behind, and under) the boards.  Although, you can find more on a regular basis on my podcast, "Sounds of Knoxville Theatre" (http://knoxvilletheatre.blogspot.com).

Also, I'm sure my great love and appreciate for theme parks will show through, especially Disney parks, so expect some comments on the latest developments in Orlando and Anaheim.

Lastly, my wonderful family will surely crop up from time to time, but for privacy's sake I will continue to refer to them anonymously.  For those who have perhaps lost touch in the last few years I've been off the blog circuit, my son, "BrainyBoy" is no longer a boy - he's a young man.  A junior in High School who just today took his first solo drive to school and back.  In my car.  And arrived unscathed there and back home later in the day.   My daughter is "Tink" and is in the eighth grade.  Her resemblance to the 1950's cartoon character has lessened not a bit.  My wife remains my inspiration, my confidant, my partner in crime, and my biggest critic :) And that's not a bad thing!  We anxiously await our 20th anniversary together, with a Carnival Cruise.  I'm sure that will be mentioned as well.

Thank you for your indulgence - again, leave a comment for me, please, if you read this.  Glad to see you.

The Inn is open.