Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Rose by any Other Name

The anonymous blogger, such as your truly, is all the talk in our online world these days. Tony Messenger wrote an editorial on the issue of blogger anonymity and it has sparked good discussion. To post our names or not to post our names, what shall the local blogger do?

Everyone under the electronic sun has chimed in on the subject. I would have sooner, but the wife has had me on detail lately since school is out. Been too busy with chores and a Memorial Day camping vacation to say my piece. Besides, I wasn’t really sure what I thought.

So here am I, Johnny-Come-Lately, with my own thoughts of this whole ordeal:

I think Messenger has missed the point of what a blog really is. He has confused blogs with traditional media. It is an understandable mistake. The creature known as a blog is confusing and difficult to define. Sure, some blogs are more journalistic in nature. In fact, some are part of the mainstream media – Ozarks Messenger is just one example – while others are simply personally-run outlets of non-traditional media. Those non-traditional blogs still, typically, follow the same journalistic ethics. At least they are supposed to. These types of political blogs are supposed to be public modes of information dissemination, just by non-traditional means and by citizen journalists. However, the definition of blog does not end there.

There are many more blogs out there that are not intended for public consumption. I know that sounds crazy, and maybe I am wrong here, but it seems to me that there is such a thing as a non-public blog that is published in the public domain. By that I mean a blog that is established as a creative outlet.

The writer may not intend for anyone to read it but family and friends. This person may not be looking for wide exposure or reprints in the local newspaper. While still in the public domain, the blog is for a small audience. The name is withheld to protect the writer because the blog is published in the public domain. The protection can be for many legitimate reasons. In this case, credibility and civility are non-issues. Those who need to know, do know who the writer is. Therefore they have credibility within their own readership.

This is true with me. Fat Jack doesn’t care if the world reads his blog online or in the newspaper. I write this blog out of a cathartic need for creative expression. I write for myself, my family, and my friends. Maybe that statement disqualifies me as a citizen journalist. That does not mean that I do not write about important issues facing my community. It just means that my blog is not intended for a large audience.

I’m keeping my pseudonym; it suits me fine. I don’t see why Messenger cares anyway. According to him the better blogs in this community are signed anyway. So why he cares about whether or not my crappy little blog is signed or not is beyond me.

Camping on Memorial Day

This was a camping weekend for the House of Jack. My sister’s family and my in-laws joined our little trio for an extended weekend of camping and swimming in Branson. Before we go on, it should be explained that the term “camping” is relative. In this case we had a mixture of styles. We were in a campground with electricity, running water, hot showers and lots of RV’s. My sister’s clan and the in-laws both do the camper thing. The House of Jack, on the other hand, camps in a primitive (pre-1860) mountain man lean-to with an open front.

We cooked some, ate out some, and got rained on some. The campground had two pools – a hot indoor pool and a frigid, grape-shrinking outdoor pool. Amazingly, the kids spent time in both. While they would not admit it, they liked the indoor pool better.

It never rained for very long, but one time it rained really hard for about 20 minutes and flooded the entire place. The water was ankle deep in lots of places. Everything was soaked. The kids and I were in the indoor pool at the time and the roof started leaking. So we got out of the pool and headed for camp. We were already wet from the pool so it seemed silly to try to huddle under a porch. Amazingly, folks got out of the pool, covered their heads and ran for cover. Crazy.

We didn’t cook for every meal. We had between 10 and 16 at every meal, so that made cooking hard work. So we cheated some and ate out for a few meals. One morning we decided to go up and eat at a place called Billy Gail’s Restaurant. We were warned before we went and the warnings were well deserved. One pancake at this place does a body fine, considering they are 14-inches in diameter. If you try to order more than that, the waitresses make sure you know what you are getting in to.

Another night we cooked, over the campfire, barbequed chicken and brats for a group of 16. We also had black forest cobbler cooked in my cast iron Dutch oven. Camp cobbler is always a big hit and it is easy to make, assuming you have a Dutch oven.


12-inch Dutch Oven (with convex lid)
2 cans of pie filling (this time I used cherry)
1.5 packages of dry cake mix (this time I used chocolate)
1.5 sticks of butter

Preheat the Dutch oven (lid and base) over the campfire. Pull the base off and put a half stick of butter in the bottom. Dump in the two cans of pie filling. Pour the dry cake mix on top of the pie filling. Cut up one stick of butter and place the pats on the top of the dry cake mix. Put the lid on the Dutch oven. Pull some coals out of the fire and place the Dutch oven on top of them. Place some hot coals on the lid. Cook for 35-45 minutes or so. This recipe fed 16 people.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

I Know. I'm a Mess

Why don’t clothes washers come with alarms? Driers have them to remind us to take the clothes out. What I need is a washer with an alarm to remind me to finish a job that I started. In the 20 minutes that it takes to wash clothes, I have completely forgotten what I was doing and have moved on to other projects. It’s maddening. I can’t tell you how many times I have left a load of clothes in the washer overnight because I forgot I was doing laundry. The clothes don’t smell so good after they’ve sat in a wet lump for eight hours or more. Then I end up having to rewash them the next day.

Actually, what usually happens is my wife gets ready to do laundry and discovers my poor attempt at doing household chores. So she ends up finishing my job. You might think that would work to my advantage and I suppose it does sometimes. But then when she goes out of town and I need clothes for the next few days … well, I end up putting old clothes in the drier to fluff them up. My mother would be so proud.

All I need is an alarm on a washer. [sigh]. My wife and daughter are on a girl scout overnight. They are camping out at Wonders of Wildlife. Me? I need clothes for today and all I have to show for my work is a washer full of wet jeans. At least I picked up all the dirty clothes in the house and sorted them. I even did some dishes. Crap. That reminds me, I have a load of dishes in the dishwasher that need to be put away.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Making Sense Out of Mathematics

When I got to my Math class this morning to take my comprehensive final, my teacher met me outside the door. He pulled me aside and told me that I was exempted from the final because he felt confident that I had developed my math skills well and knew that material well. I have made A’s on all the tests, turned in all my homework, participated in class, helped others, participated in study groups, and taken the class very seriously. I tend to take all my classes seriously as I am concerned more with learning than I am grades.

Anyway, it was a nice gesture and I accepted his offer graciously. He has been one of my favorite teachers. I had him last semester for a previous math class and took him again this semester. He’s that good, not that any of the youngsters appreciate his genius. Rather than just mindlessly having us memorize equations and algorithms, this teacher focuses on conceptual knowledge – true understanding of the material. For the first time in my life I have finally started to understand mathematics.

Most college kids don’t want to work that hard, and this professor has a reputation of being very hard and very picky. He’s also very dedicated to making sure we actually think, rather than just memorize facts that we are likely to forget after the test. I am less likely to forget my material because of his teaching philosophy.

It’s great to learn, really learn.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

What My Mother Taught Me

Hi, my name is Fat Jack and I am a recovering Baptist.

That means that I have well trained on being judgmental of others and seeing the world in black and white, good and bad, terms. I was especially good at being judgmental during my teen and early adult years.

I remember a girl in my class. She was part of the lower class of kids: an outcast. She was poor, disheveled, unconcerned with education and had a crush on me. Somehow everyone else found out about her feelings before I did. I was above her, you see. I was better than her and I was not about to cross the school cast system. I was not interested.

It was eighth grade and we were about to graduate junior high. At that time, my school held a eighth grade graduation ceremony. Each boy was paired with a girl to walk down the isle. My luck, I was paired with her. My friends thought that was great and it made for all the talk. We were going to share our love together and all of that. I was none too happy about the ordeal. So much so, that I told my mother about it. I was trying to find a way out of it.

A countertop separated us while I stood in the kitchen talking to her. She was washing dishes. She looked up at me and told me about girls. I didn’t know it then, and I really didn’t care, but she told me about how important it was for me to walk that girl down the isle. How it was likely that no one ever told her she was pretty. That being nice was what a good boy did, what a Christian did. She pointed her finger at me, soap clinging and water dripping, and told me that I (Faticus Jackson) was going to walk that girl down the isle and make her feel pretty and that was that.

Years later, I realize what my mother was teaching me. She wasn’t just telling me to be nice to ugly girls. No, she was training me to be a sensitive, caring adult who sees beyond a persons socio-economic status, and life choices, and see the person inside for what she (or he) really is. She taught me the importance of love and of not being judgmental. It’s a good thing, because I really needed to be balanced out and less black and white in my world. It took much more than one lesson to pound that into my head. It’s taken a mother and a wife to teach me a few things, but eventually it has taken effect.

I understand that importance of walking that young lady down the isle and acting like a man. People, all people, need to feel loved and accepted by others. Even if I didn’t reciprocate her strong feelings for me, I learned to show respect for women and love for other humans beyond my own self-indulgent teenage ego.

I like where I am at in my recovery. I enjoy being less judgmental and more understanding. That whole love thing is pretty cool. I have my mother to thank for that foundation.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Notes from Planet Comicon

You are dying, no doubt, to hear of my adventures at Planet Comicon comic book convention in Overland Park, Kansas this weekend. It went just as expected. I met several comic book creators and talked with lots of hard-core fans who know more about comics and the industry than I will ever know.

Of course there were plenty of vendors with comics, toys and whatnot to pilfer through. That is an adventure in and of itself, especially if the comics are not categorized or alphabetized. Plenty of the cheap comics are just boxes and boxes, lined up on tables, with all manner of comic goodness inside. It can take hours to make it through them all. I don’t have that kind of patience, but there are plenty who do and they walk away with arms loaded.

I spent my time doing research. I left my friend, Larry, and my cousin, Austin, to their own devices and headed for the creator corner. There I found a nice mix of artists and writers who were all too happy to discuss their works (and the works of others) with anyone who took the time.

I especially enjoyed talking with David Petersen, writer and illustrator of the acclaimed book MOUSE GUARD. He was working on some illustrations (inking) while we talked. Those illustrations were for sale as was some of the original art for MOUSE GUARD. I was tempted to buy some of the original art from the book, but the lowly graduate student cannot afford $350 on art. Would if I could, but can’t right now. The wife of the graduate student, who is the only one working, might furrow a brow over that. Who could blame her? Peterson and I talked about his work and how some classroom teachers have used it. He agreed to being interviewed by me at a later date for my thesis and for THE GRAPHIC CLASSROOM.

Incidentally, I am keeping a list of people – writers, illustrators, publishers, teachers, librarians and students – who are involved in using comics in the classroom, especially the elementary classroom. If you are a part of that process and are interested, please drop me a note, either a comment on the blog or an email. I would love to talk to you.

I also talked to John Schuler. He is the illustrator for SUPER BILL & BUSTER. The interesting thing about Schuler is that he is also a middle school art teacher. So we talked shop for a bit, which was a lot of fun. He, too, agreed to a future interview for the thesis and THE GRAPHIC CLASSROOM.

As for photos, I took what I could without being intrusive or annoying. I did not take pictures of the creators that I talked to. In hindsight, I think I should have. It would have made for a better blog post, but at the time I did not want to be a bother. I did, however, get some shots of the place. I have Comic Life on my Mac, so I put the photos into that. If you want to see my photo comic montage, then you can click here to go to my personal photo site and check them out. Don’t bother emailing me to critique my comic layout. I just did it for fun.

The table is set. I have made room reservations for Wizard World Chicago later this summer. I cannot wait to go. It sounds like so much fun. And the research opportunities! I can only imagine the creators and publishers I will be able to speak with out there. I giddy with anticipation.