The gaze we build: Portrays and Ladies on Fire.

Change the world? As many say, shall we move back to normality—the very normality that defined a world on the brink of disaster? What? No disaster in your perception-horizon? 
Same with privilege, we don’t recognize or have perception of disaster before it happens. All seems to be well, for the privileged—that is us (many of). Irony wants that we have often all indications that disaster is imminent. Still we do nothing. Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor–We approve of the best policies, but follow the worst. True, “we” are a lot, but who are we?
The privileged—I always said I am one. Even with the difficulties that came in my life (such as the loss of my father), I still remain a true privileged white man–and middle-class. I enjoy being so, of course—I mean privileged. The problem is I had no idea of this being so. Still, one marginalized group–women– has fought and advanced a lot, in a short span of time, to be recognized and take what is theirs. Think of the woman’s gaze, a gaze that was enclosed, subordinated, repressed.

The sole fact of recognizing that other gazes exist, and mine is not that important, is revolutionary. We need to expose ourselves to such gazes.

Then there is the construction of that gaze. What if the following quote was pronounced in the context of education? It’d seem perfect, wouldn’t it.

We’re trying to create a very active viewer, and to put you in a different position. We have a project for you, you know?

Céline Sciamma, film director

Think of this thought–I’ll be back at this quote and its author and work. We have a project for you, dear student. We have a project for ourselves, dear faculty. We want you to build the project together with us, and not be a mere consumer of content. It can be the beginning of a syllabus. Well, fantastic. But what does it mean to be an active viewer of a film? And what does it mean to be an active student of a subject? To build something, perhaps–whatever: content, artifacts, works for and about the subject itself. Because by building, one works out the forces of learning and earns understanding, connecting the dots, clarifying the view, matching patterns, growing doubts. When I speak or write I make my own meaning, I understand. Some doubts dissipate and others grow. And mind you, I may understand something quite different from you, my peer. Now, in science the diverse understandings need to converge toward a common corpus of knowledge, but that end product does not preclude the multi-faceted interpretation-laden territory of individual or group speculation.

I am fascinated by this metaphor that equates a movie-viewer to a learner and defies the conventional view that the instructor instructs and imparts knowledge while the student consumes. This post is proof of the vitality and activity of one film, its life beyond the viewing; the construction of knowledge (here, now, while I write and research the subject).

Sciamma–like artists and instructors–invites her crew (actors, engineers, technicians) to participate in the making of the movie. But she also invites us, the viewers, to participate into that construction, see? I love this metaphor. Also since, as I was writing earlier in this post, she and her crew issue a strong call of arms to save the world!

So, it was very refreshing to see a film director like Céline Sciamma (with her crew) who actually believe that changing–or better, saving–the world is essential. And they work for that. And this is why we need to watch movies like Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Actually, the original title is about more of a girl than a lady, indicating perhaps that changing the world seems to begin with youth.

It is “A manifesto about the female gaze”, she claims.

[…] the scene on the beach where Marianne finds Héloïse and cries and says, “Your mother’s coming back,” and they kiss. Suddenly, it’s this big, emotional thing. And the fourth take was like, wow. I called “cut” and I turned to my DP and I told her, “We are saving the world.” And she said, “We are saving the world.” And that was the first time we said it. Sometimes we said it as a joke, like, “Are we saving the world?” It was mostly a joke. But, of course, images and culture can change culture.

Vulture, The Women Behind Portrait of a Lady on Fire Believe Their Movie Can Save the World (March 2020)

It’s a movie of women.

There’s a woman painter and another (the girl-lady) whose portrait must be painted. The two meet in a remote mansion close to the sea. There are women, many women, only women. Men practically don’t appear and aren’t almost named. It’s a feast of women, for women. But it’s also a feast for all.

Listen to her (interview on Vulture, quoted above): Céline wants not only to talk to us, but most importantly to make us respond and react and participate in the film’s constructions. Likewise, the painter asks collaboration from the subject to be portrayed, and the resulting work is not only the painter’s. Likewise, I should add, Sciamma works with her crew and actresses to build the movie. This is not a script upon which a film is shot.

We’re trying to create a very active viewer, and to put you in a different position. We have a project for you, you know? It’s not that you anticipate that there’s going to be a strong response, but I am thinking about the response when crafting the film.

We have this very radical language in the film, and my dream is always that the viewer loves the language and starts to speak the language of the film. Part of the pleasure, part of the excitement, is being part of the brain of the film. Getting it, and having this joy, speaking its language. It becomes this new tongue.

I think art, can change the world. Otherwise, why [do it]? We believe that we’re creating the future.

It is a film on “looking”, and there stands its exceptional value: in implicating the viewer in this looking business where we’re used to believe there is but one look–the author’s– but we are at the very least forced to think, wait!, we’re looking through the mirror, here, we’re making the look, we build it while looking. Amazing.

And again, listen to her on how a sex scene is conceived and collaboratively thought out with her leads Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant to make of it all but a simulation.

We were all collaborating on this idea that it was sexy and fun, and also there was room for you. That thing about the male gaze logic defining women is that you’re basically held hostage. You don’t have a choice. You can close your eyes, but otherwise, the image is giving you an order. How we feel, what arouses us—sometimes we are held hostage by this, because, you know, it works! It’s education, it’s training. The fact that you could be lost in this image, and wandering, and having fun with it… I mean, that’s a journey of sex. That’s the idea of sex.

Anna Menta @annalikestweets from Decider.com (March 2020).
“I know the gestures. I imagined them all, waiting for you.”

“Take time to look at me,” says Marianne, modelling for her class of female students at the start of the film. It equally works as a provocation to us. Take time to look at these characters properly, Sciamma is saying. By the end of the film her order takes on extra resonance as the short-lived love affair inevitably ends, and memories and paintings are all that are left. After such a restrained study of love and the power of looking comes the devastating ambush of the film’s ending – but, entirely appropriately, it’s one that simultaneously revels in the rhapsody of art.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire first look: Céline Sciamma conjures an oasis of female freedom. Isabel Stevens, BFI.

By the story’s end, memories and paintings are all that are left. This resounds deeply.

The film is full of amazing (literally) stuff. Like the fire scene, where the fire is metaphorical and real at the same time. Like the already famous armpit scene, provocatively confusing. Like another scene with the portrayed girl–proud and liberated–caressing her own armpit.

Like the story of Eurydice and Orpheus, which is a meme throughout the film and which is read aloud under candlelight: Remember Orpheus looking back at Eurydice while they were climbing up from Hell? He was told not to do so, lest they both would return back forever. But he does. Now, asks Céline and the movie: What if that look was commanded by Eurydice and Orpheus could not but obey it?

Could Eurydice be the author of her own fate, the commander of his gaze?

Mark Kermode, The Guardian. Portrait of a Lady on Fire review – mesmerised by the female gaze (March 2020)

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Remote education and the quarantine: My view

Tell you something: I did no pivoting, when the remote ed pandemics struck. In fact, I seamlessly transited from face-to-face to remote and online teaching (and learning, ftw) in an easy way. Here is my experience after three full COVID-driven education months.

What has the pandemic meant to me? Well, during the quarantine I found a lost space (like many are saying). I enjoyed it (yes, the privileged me).

I enjoyed it.

Laziness, time flowing slowly, sleepiness, staying home, not seeing anyone (nor listening to); reading; watching; silence; cooking; teaching; speaking; writing; breakfasting; dreaming; re-owned time.

During the semester, of course I was overwhelmed by classes, email, blog posts and newsletters. But I enjoyed it. Wasn’t I supposed to? Plus the Zoom, a lot of Zoom, from my home’s dining room. Cogito Ergo Zoom!

Hey, This is not real distance ed, guys–say some. This is just remote education. Know what? Stephen Downes debunked that, stating that yes, that was and is distance ed, albeit not in its best shape. So, what did I do during the second half of the semester? I finished happy and so were my students. I did not lower my standards, for one.

A little debate spurred out of the question of whether this form of emergency teaching could be considered distance education. Jim Groom resumes it beautifully (After this there will be no more good clean online fun). Starting with the following observation by Downes:

Online learning should be fast, fun, crazy, unplanned, and inspirational. It should be provided by people who are more like DJs than television producers. It should move and swim, be ad hoc and on the fly. I wish educators could get out of their classroom mindsets and actually go out and look at how the rest of the world is doing online learning. Watch a dance craze spread through TikTok, follow through-hikers on YouTube, organize a community in a Facebook group, discuss economic policy in Slack. All of that is online learning – and (resolutely) not the carefully planned courses that are over-engineered, over-produced, over-priced and over-wrought.

Stephen Downes: Who’s Zoomin’ Who? (After a post by Clint Lalonde)

After that, some people protested vehemently, saying that education must be a planned, carefully thought-over process, designed, modularized and finally organized around students. While Jim took a medium stance,

I was reading Downes as suggesting the nature of the online pivot might open some space for forgiveness for subject experts to explore and experiment a bit.

But again, I was not seeing Downes as suggesting explore brave new technologies and learn how to broadcast on the radio or something, but rather just be flexible and try different approaches whether via email, LMS, WordPress, Youtube, etc.

No forgiveness, course planning should involve some experimenting, perhaps not always, but often. and it does. This time, we could do that experimenting more freely because we constructed the plane while the plane was flying. The huge point of online education at this point is that it is often heavily regimented and courses are constructed by means of some catch-all recipe. That’s OK, it’s called best practices. And that’s OK, if it doesn’t preclude some vivid passion and sparkles from happening. The tracks of the LMS may be good, when they bring forth some good practices, but it is not when courses resembles each other. I mean, the themes under consideration should inform the design of the course, right? The design–and certainly the visual, esthetic and interfacing design is part of design tout court), but we have delegated that part and function to the LMS. So be it. Well, no. In fact part of what Jim, Brian Lamb, Gardner Campbell, Alan Levine and many more have been preaching is to build some part of one’s course as an indie website, out of a process of Instructional Design that does not abdicate the esthetic and visual design to the platform of choice. Mike Wesch has built a whole methodology out of a well-thought course design centered around experiences–not just concepts. See his mixtape/podcasting example to check the joy of his own doing!

The Evil Eye

Albeit far from the heights of Mike, I have been trying to follow this route for long, and almost all my courses have a website that I call the course Web hub. And this is why I had almost no pivoting! Hey, I got to have Jim Groom talk about Mario Bava’s Evil Eye through Zoom in my Italian film & culture class!

In the end, this video shows a sound methodology to develop an outstanding joyful, appealing and compelling course.

No doubt, as Campbell recorded (see video), the lot of small pieces loosely joined of the Web came into focus when people started using such services to embed interaction and content onto one’s course, via LMS or Website.


Anyhow, this is my immodest best practices:
All interaction and course work orbit around the Web hub (for instance, the New Media course, inf115.com). It is a syndicated hub where students’ contributions get aggregated from their own blogs. emphasis on word “own“: meaning, the blogs and posts therein are theirs, not the University’s nor mine.

After it starts, the Machine works seamlessly. Every week I publish a post with ideas, objectives and work ahead. Come Saturday or Sunday, I also email a short newsletter (I love newsletters) with some of such ideas, but more resumed. The newsletter I found is useful also as reminder bearing device, to help students not feel lost. (BTW, students say they feel lost all the time, not only when remote. To which state of mind I reply that’s fantastic–it’s the prelude to asking good questions and learning; in fact I don’t get why we are so desperately afraid of students expressing their sense of uncertainty and doubt. Certainly, blogging gives them an opportunity of expression much stronger that whatever forum). I love using GIF’s (They are useful to convey meaning, examples, etc; are light; and we all love memes)–I ask them to create and use GIF’s and shere them over the nets.

Joking on Zoom classes!

Apart from the blog there’s Twitter expression (we want to be authentic by using the same tools pros use); so we tweet and retweet; and student pairs rotate as managers of the official course Twitter account. The apparently simple fact of giving full voice (and publication “rights” from Siberia to Patagonia) is an all-powerful device. First, it is an exercise on freedom of expression and freedom of the Press: two rights we enjoy in many nations but not everywhere equally. So it also builds conscience that rights are to be defended and protected and yes! exercised lest they atrophy. And we are so privileged! Second, it also builds the conscience of what it means to make something public, vis-à-vis enclosing it in a closed drawer. All this beyond the empowerment of getting their voice out.

That’s it–well, sure, there’s more, but that depends on the class: we may be doing podcasts (see La Situación, from the New Media course inf115); or AWS practicing with a Web server install; or doing social bookmarking (nobody believes in that anymore, apparently) or collaboratively share curated compilations of media preferences.

Apropos of privilege. I shall come back to it shortly, precisely in a time when we are talking a lot about it in many contexts, from BLM to male privilege.



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Storia di Ásta

Since the beginning of this blog, I have written in English, with just a few excursions to Spanish, the language I speak every day. Until recently I did not feel the need of using my native Italia, until now.

I like to annotate books (novels, essays, etc.), both paper and e-books. So I asked myself about a way to record such annotations and extend them to a second life, to make them more avalable (to me, mainly). I think the straight answer is just to write them down, on the blog. Thus, I have my first annotated reading of one book, which I loved. The book is a translation into Italian. I want to quote such annotations and write about them and the book. Ergo, this post is in Italian. And perhaps a few more. It took me a few years to get here, and yes, I am a little slow.

So this post is about a novel from Iceland titled Story of Ásta, by Jón Kalman Stefánsson. And by all means feel free to Google Translate this post. [No translation yet into English, but there’s a little extract of the novel here].


Che bella che è la lingua islandese, al meno per come è scritta.

Con tanti accenti e nomi incomprensibili per noi. Interessante e anche molto bello che ci siano traduttori da una lingua X a una lingua Y che amino entrambe le lingue e che producano opere come la Storia di Ásta. E poi l’islandese ci ha dato la parola saga, che meraviglia: e questa è un po’ una saga familiare, di un paese, di una tribù.

Ásta è un nome che significa amore dalla radice Ast ed è la storia della protagonista di questo bellissimo romanzo. Certo il protagonista non tanto secondario del romanzo è la propria Islanda con la sua geografia e soprattutto clima, colori e il freddo vento, i fiordi, la neve e il freddo di nuovo e comunque sempre. E i protagonisti cercano di fuggirne, alcuni almeno. La stessa Ásta si ritrova a Vienna e a Praga a studiare e in realtà scappare dalla realtà islandese, dalla figlia e dai genitori.

È un romanzo lirico, questo, scritto con una lingua meravigliosa e quindi tradotto anche molto molto bene da Silvia Cosimini. Un romanzo pubblicato in una veste editoriale curatissima, quella di Iperborea, con il formato ormai classico più alto e meno largo. Perfino la copertina è molto bella, e gli architetti-designer di queste edizioni devono aver pensato anche al suono suadente e accogliente che emana questo tipo di copertina quando la si sfoglia.

È la storia di Ásta e la storia della sua vita e dei genitori perché secondo l’autore non si può parlare di una storia senza poi parlare di tutto ciò che ne è il contorno, e quindi la storia della storia. I genitori, la madre con la sua follia di donna libera e fuori dal mondo; il padre, il tale simpatico Sigvaldi con questo nome straordinario; la figlia e altri personaggi che lei incontrerà nel romanzo. Soprattutto quello della vecchia Kristin, la quale “al mattino  si sveglia in un’altra epoca del suo passato e può così rimediare ai rimpianti che le ha lasciato la vita“.

Il suo rapporto da giovanetta con Joseph che la lascerà segnata per tutta la vita, un amore impossibile tra un andare e tornare, un amore che si scioglie solo alla fine e in maniera melodrammatica, tragica.

Pagina 472 della versione italiana:

Ci sono poche cose giuste in questo mondo. Anzi, le verità del cuore non sempre si accordano a quelle del mondo. Per questo la vita è incomprensibile. E dolore. E tragedia. E la forza che ci fa risplendere.

Con queste parole finisce praticamente il romanzo e dopo di queste parole c’è solamente un capitoletto finale, ma questa è la vera conclusione del romanzo. Ma a pagina 447 c’è un anticipo:

Non avrei mai potuto immaginare che fosse possibile sprofondare così a lungo, e così tanto.

Perché chi profonda, sprofonda, e viene ricompensato con il silenzio totale e l’oblio.

Straordinaria la presenza di queste citazioni filosofiche di cui è ricchissimo questo romanzo, caldo e con molta passione e con vocabolario pieno e poetico. A pagina 388 Joseph parla di Ásta e del loro rapporto:

Abbiamo semplicemente smesso di parlare, siamo spariti l’uno per l’altra. Ma prima mi avevi detto: hai dentro un tale fervore che ho paura. E talmente violento che ho paura di amarti. Ho paura di perdere il controllo della mia vita. Il nostro amore mi terrorizza. E poi te ne sei andata.

Ecco riassunta in pochissime parole la storia tra Ásta e Joseph, o meglio la paura che impedisce a questa storia (e a lei) di crescere.

Ci sono poi le sfumature letterarie con citazioni della grande letteratura nordica e islandese e anche di una piccola poesia di Costantino Kavafis:

“e se non posso dire del mio amore linea se non parlo dei tuoi capelli, delle labbra, degli occhi“

Il dicembre del 1903. Da “Poesie erotiche”, Crocetti Editore, 1983

La poesia si intitola Il dicembre del 1903 quindi dice l’autore, una mestizia di più di cent’anni. E poi ci sono altre citazioni poetiche, per cui si scopre il Canto del cigno sulla brughiera e poi alcuni versi della canzone Ninnananna islandese all’arpa (da una poesia di H. Laxness, premio Nobel, vedi video qui sotto). Tutte opere che ovviamente sono andato a consultare immediatamente (e il web è un eccellente strumento per questo).

C’è anche una bellissima frase all’inizio del libro che quasi riassume molto il senso del romanzo e della vita e dice “però, quanto ci si mette a capire i concetti più semplici!“ Mi ha fatto ripensare al Montalbano di Camilleri, il quale, “quando voleva capire qualcosa, la capiva“. E poi un titoletto che recita:

Non morire  subito. Forse domani ma non adesso, non oggi.

E questo è uno degli stili che usa l’autore di questo libro (e poi questo Stefánsson era un poeta, prima di scrivere romanzi): mettere titoli curiosi ai capitoli del suo libro; titoli poi con i quali incomincia spesso lo stesso capitolo (come fosse l’incipit di una poesia), senza discontinuità. Quindi Storia di Ásta è un libro veramente molto bello e mi ha aperto una finestra a tutta una letteratura nordica che non conoscevo; e anche se da sempre sono un ammiratore dei paesaggi e delle atmosfere nordiche devo dire che ne avevo letto solo la letteratura noir finora, senza accedere a libri belli e straordinari come questo.

La storia di Sigvaldi poi, di questo di questo omone grosso alto che casca da una scala e muore e prima di morire rivede un po’ la sua vita al rallentatore. Lui è il padre di Ásta ed è sposato con una certa Helga, una donna certamente molto libera, e terribile, molto aperta, e che non riesce a star chiusa in nessuna circostanza e che quindi poi fuggirà. Tra tutti e due lasciano Ásta in uno stato decisamente confusionale, in una vita che trascorrerà in luoghi diversi, tra cui la campagna dei Fiordi Occidentali, dovre vivrà con la vecchia Kristin e suo figlio Joseph, un contadino con cui avrà poi un rapporto molto bello–ma da cui fuggirà.

È molto molto interessante anche la relazione che si instaura tra Ásta e il suo professore a Praga, un appassionato studioso e cultore di Bertolt Brecht e dalla cui presenza di cultura Ásta viene in qualche modo soggiogata. Ma questa grande cultura europea poi finisce nel nulla quando Ásta gli offre i suoi favori sessuali. Donna libera anche lei, paga col prezzo della propria libertà e della propria sanità mentale la voglia di oltrepassare i propri confini e quelli della sua cultura.

Mi è piaciuto moltissimo in questo libro anche il sapore dell’Islanda: la pioggia battente e la neve, il freddo e di nuovo il vento. C’è una descrizione molto bella di Sigvaldi che aspetta l’autobus dove dovrebbe arrivare la figlia dalla campagna in cui è stata per un bel po’ di tempo. E sotto la pioggia battente Sigvaldi l’aspetta. E il mare ovviamente è un altro grande personaggio del libro, il mare che batte sui fiordi, sugli scogli, sulle spiagge senza tregua e che è onnipresente nella vita di tutti gli islandesi. E infine la neve, quelle lacrime degli angeli che cadono dal cielo d’Islanda e nascono dalla loro tristezza.

Bellissimo libro! Ed ecco la recensione di CriticaLetteraria: https://www.criticaletteraria.org/2019/01/storia-di-asta-stefansson-iperborea.html.

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The cultivation of curiosity

Institutions of learning should be devoted to the cultivation of curiosity.

–A. Flexner

Abraham Flexner conceived and developed the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and was its founding director from 1930 to 1939. A unique place, that was able to adopt the major science thinkers from war-torn-Europe and let them stay in peace to express their creativity. You know, Einstein strolling with Gödel and Turing living in close contact with Von Neumann.

This guy Flexner wrote something in 1939 that resounds today profoundly in my mind: The pursuit of curiosity should drive both higher ed institutions (i.e. be an essential component of their mission) and guide the pedagogical and technological environment through which education in implemented.

In the quotes, bold is mine.

They have done their work without sort of use in that throughout the whole history of signs most of the really great discoveries which had ultimately proved to be beneficial to mankind has been made by men and women who were driven north by the desire to be useful but merely to the desire to satisfy their curiosity.

Curiosity, which may or may not even trade in something useful common is probably the outstanding characteristic of modern thinking. It is not new. Institutions of learning should be devoted to the cultivation of curiosity, and less they are deflected by consideration of immediacy of obligation, the more likely they are to contribute not only to human welfare back to the equally important satisfaction of intellectual interest which means the receipt to have become the ruling passion of intellectual life in modern times.

Abraham Flexner (1939): The usefulness of useless knowledge. Harper’s.
“Quote” by ullerup is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Here is an extract from Brain Pickings:

In The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge (PDF), originally published in the October 1939 issue of Harper’s, American educator Abraham Flexner explores this dangerous tendency to forgo pure curiosity in favor of pragmatism — in science, in education, and in human thought at large — to deliver a poignant critique of the motives encouraged in young minds, contrasting those with the drivers that motivated some of history’s most landmark discoveries.

Maria Popova, Brain Pickings 2012

Curiosity was my driving engine (see previous post, The magic of dreaming and the power of imitation): through curiosity I set up to imitate those from whom I was impressed enough to begin pursuing something. I think my whole life has been driven by that, at least in the educational arena: a mix of curiosity and emulation.

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The magic of dreaming and the power of imitation

Two episodes describe the magic that happens when you get inspired by something and rush to work on an imitation process—on something that you want to go after. Such episodes may change your life. In my case, there are two episodes plus one.

First—John Conway, the mathemagician of Cambridge and Princeton, has died recently. This NYTimes articles helped me remember how fond I was of him.

Travels With John Conway, in 258 Septillion Dimensions: 
The Princeton mathemagician, who died in April, left 
an engaging legacy of numerical gamesmanship.  

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/16/science/john-conway-math.html

I remember when, fresh instructor of computer science, I inspired students by the same inspiration of his ideas, reframed by Martin Gardner and others (including Douglas Hofstadter). His ideas were weird automata that played according to a simple set of rules: the Game of Life. In a board, a set of dots propagate and reproduce according to a simple few rules of proximity. The fascination is enchanting. This way on cannot but fall in love with computing. And that was my practical introduction to automata, Turing machines, and self-replicating creatures. That was also the first time I got introduced to John Von Neumann’s genius: he was the guy who first had the glimpse that artificial stuff could reproduce by themselves. Imagine viruses without that principle. So, I inspired tens of students on those apparently pointless exercises to program automata that showed beautiful compositions on the board!

And there I was hooked to math and computing!

Courtesy of James Gardner, Martin Gardner Papers, Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, as published on Wired, A Life in Games: The Playful Genius of John Conway, by Siobhan Roberts, 9/5/2015.

This is how Martin Gardner presented his friend’s Game of Life (a cellular automaton) in his SciAm column (The fantastic combinations of John Conway’s new solitaire game ‘life’, October 1970)

“Because of its analogies with the rise, fall and alterations of a society of living organisms, it belongs to a growing class of what are called ‘simulation games’ – games that resemble real-life processes. To play Life without a computer you need a fairly large checkerboard and a plentiful supply of flat counters of two colors.”

Mulcahy, C. (2014, October 21). The top 10 Martin Gardner Scientific American articles. Scientific American Blog Network. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/the-top-10-martin-gardner-scientific-american-articles/

Here are the rules for the Game of Life:

From Wired, https://www.wired.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Conway_LifeRules-482×258.jpg

And here is where one can play The Game of Life: https://playgameoflife.com/

I played a couple of examples from the site, then screen-recorded the plays with the faithful Quicktime. At last I uploaded the mov file to https://convertio.co, which then gave me these two brilliant GIFs. I could stare at the symmetries and patterns forming for hours.

Gosper Glider Gun automaton (Game of Life)
10 Cell Row automaton (Game of Life)

Then there’s the Sprouts game, which can be played on a piece of paper with just two players. Here’s an image of a possible game. People tell that at Princeton, when Conway proposed first the game, everybody, including secretarial staff, became addicted to it!

Play the game here https://chrissmith2.github.io/Sprouts-Game/! Instructions and info here: https://github.com/ChrisSmith2/Sprouts-Game

How to Play

Start out by placing 2 or more dots anywhere on the page (click to place dots). The game is played turn by turn with two players. Each turn must follow the rules below.

Turn Rules
  1. First, a player draws a line from one dot to another or from one dot back to itself (click and hold to draw a line).
  2. Lines can be curved or straight but cannot cross another line or themselves.
  3. After drawing a new line, a dot must be placed somewhere on that line.
  4. No dot can have more than 3 lines coming from it or going to it

The winner of Sprouts is the last person able to draw a line. One game of mine, recorded and rendered as a GIF (I played against myself):


Second— I experienced my second moment of huge inspiration in two steps. My two friends Mario Núñez and Jim Groom are responsible. Jim had just given a brilliant and inspiring talk http://www.vidadigital.net/blog/2009/05/11/video-de-la-presentacin-de-jim-groom-la-revolucin-no-se-televisar-se-sindicar/) at Mario’s Blogfesores congress in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico (it was 2009, and I wrote about it here http://blogs.netedu.info/2009/03/25/blogfesores-2009-78-mayo-09/). That was enough, but later he gave a workshop in syndication through WordPress and a magic plugin, Feed WordPress. The plugin would allow to subscribe to a number of syndicated RSS feeds and include their content in one’s own blog content. Wow. A universe opened up in front of me. That was when I started to copy whatever Jim ever invented or transformed. The point here is not so much to talk about his work, though, but instead of the inspiration, dream and magic that work injected in me (and many others).

Both example here suggest a mentoring component. In fact, I continued doing copycat business after them, and I keep on to this day doing almost every class of mine with a syndication-based technology and methodology—of connection and openness.

There’s a third part in all this, and that is when Mario and I coincided with social bookmarking (both loved del.icio.us –RIP–): Mario has also had a huge mentoring effect on me. One night, after a workshop he gave, he began talking of a tv series he was hooked with. It was Dexter.

Of course, Mario is a psychologist of the Jungian school, so guess what, the shadow in Dexter’s story was immensely attractive to him. But he managed to infect me with that same passion, and I got hooked too. Those were the times of the new golden age of tv that was starting up with gorgeous, well-scripted and greatly shot series. I began my tv series addition at that time. Forbrydelsen (the original The Killing), Homeland, and all the following up to Breaking Bad and Borgen, Peaky Blinders and the surreal Ozark.

The original show from Danish TV with Sophie Gråbøl

Well, last but not least, I have a powerful mechanics of following people I admire. So my choices, education and all were biased throughout the lenses of my own perception of such people’s examples. This article could well be an excuse to talk about authentic learning, but it is really only on the imitation game. That is a very powerful way to inspire people to education.

I am leaving you with the trailer of Forbrydelsen, even if I already have published it on this blog.

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