Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Month: August 2018 Page 1 of 2

Is your classroom effective?

The Artdog Quote of the Week

The “Big Picture” may seem like a trite phrase. But most of us, students included, need a more global understanding than we’re often granted. Of not only what is required but why it’s important. Adults sometimes forget that kids need this. It’s also known as “creating relevance.” 

Without relevance, no amount of pleading will necessarily convince. With it, the possibility actually exists that you might only need to step back and get out of their way.

Beyond why, though, students also need to know how. Whether you think of it as “giving directions,” “instruction,” “guidance,” “scaffolding,” or whatever, HOW-to-do-it builds the essential bridge between “where we are” and “where we need to be.”

Providing the why and the how, as well as the what, is how teachers give students their wings.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Funderstanding, for this image-quote with an insight from educator Harry K. Wong.

The road to . . . where?

The Artdog Image of Interest

This artwork was published in The Etude, a music publication, in 1913. It came from by the National Cash Register Company and was created as a motivational poster. As quoted in the Gallivance post, according to Ken Jennings in Mapheadit was “one of the most popular illustrations of the 1910s.”

Looking at the details of the piece (helpfully provided by Gallivance), I’m sure any creative or business entrepreneur will recognize distractions and pitfalls along the way to a successful career. They’re just as troublesome now as they were 100 years ago. Whether any single “Right System” will get you where you want to go, however, is a bit of a question.

I’m not sure we’re all equally eager to achieve the Shining Lyre of Success on the hilltop, but seriously. Who doesn’t want to be successful? 

Nobody I know is willing to say they don’t want success–but the answers tend to diverge when you ask how people define success. We can’t all be standout athletes, business tycoons, movie stars, bestselling authors, virtuoso musicians, or any other high-profile performer in our careers.

Thank goodness, success isn’t always about being high-profile. It isn’t necessarily about being wealthy, and it isn’t necessarily about being famous. There are a great many people who really don’t want those things, yet who still have what they consider to be successful lives.

Perhaps it’s fitting, then, to end this post with a quote from another musical source, the Boston Philharmonic’s Benjamin Zander (who, we might note, also has achieved some of those other hallmarks of success . . . by avoiding some of the very pitfalls we looked at above).

IMAGES: Many thanks to Gallivance, for this artwork, both the full image and the details, which was created by an artist whose name I haven’t managed to track down. I also owe thanks to AZ Quotes, for Boston Philharmonic conductor Benjamin Zander’s definition of success.

Fostering greatness

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

This is one of those quotes that some people will read and then scoff at. It’s the kind of “touchy-feely” hard-to-measure kind of focus that for some practical-minded folk will smack of nitwitted impracticality.

Sorry, but I disagree.

I’ve seen students driven by seemingly endless demands to achieve. Many are quite brilliant, but even more are quite desperate. Trust me, if your kid is bright and taught well, she or he will indeed shine. If properly nurtured, he or she will perform brilliantly.

But, as noted in last week’s quote, not everyone is built the same way. Not everyone has exactly the same sort of genius. If you’re ruthlessly driven in one specific direction, but your greatest gifts lie in other areas, then you are a walking tragedy, no matter how many “A” grades you score.

Certainly academic success is one road to a certain type of achievement. Certainly scholastic skill opens doors that don’t open to everyone.

But so does kindness and caring. So does cooperation. So does optimism and the ability to encourage others.

In a business setting, these competencies are essential to networking effectively. They’re essential to team building, and seeking continual improvement (your team can’t ultimately succeed, if individual members are continually tearing each other down).

And in the grand scheme of life, who’s the more successful and happy person, the one who ruthlessly scrambled to sit, alone and hated, at the top of whatever particular heap they chose to ascend, or the one who mentored others, cooperated well, and built lasting accomplishments through cooperation?

IMAGE: Many thanks to The Learning Station on Facebook, via First Grade Fun Times teachers group on Facebook, for this unattributed quote from an unattributed graphic designer I couldn’t track down.

If a picture’s worth a thousand words . . . they’re not enough to sum up a Worldcon

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest

A Worldcon 76 montage: Clockwise from upper L: My badge, with ribbons; on the walk between the Convention Center and the Fairmont (where I’m staying); (center) Chesley Award winners Neil Clarke and Gregory ManchessWilliam F. Wu with his new book; the lineup of Chesley Award trophies; the hour-long line to get our badges.

I’m at the 76th World Science Fiction Convention, AKA “Worldcon 76” or 

#Worldcon76. There’s one committee, the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS), that guides and works with local groups that sponsor each individual event, but the Worldcon is always on the move.

This year, it’s in San Jose, CA, USA. Last year it was in Helsinki, Finland. Next year, Dublin, Ireland.  There’s a New Zealand bid for 2020, which we’ll vote on this year. It’s truly a world event. This year, of course, there are a lot of Americans and Canadians, and folks from all over the Pacific area.

This year’s Artist Guest of Honor, John Picacio, looked back through the archives and realized he was the very first Mexican (Latin, Hispanic, or however you prefer to designate him) GoH honoree in Worldcon history. His Mexicanx Initiative (now an anthology project on Kickstarter) has helped fund the attendance of 42 Mexican authors, artists, and other creatives (they invited 50 but some had conflicts). BTW, none had trouble at the border.

Last night, I helped present the Chesley Awards (annual honors bestowed by the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists or ASFA, a group I’ve long supported and occasionally helped run). We had the Retro Hugo Awards on Thursday. This year’s Hugo Awards event is Sunday.

What am I getting at, you may ask? I’m getting at the fact that a Worldcon is a lot of things, and a single image just can’t sum it up. Even a montage, such as this one only covers a fraction of the event, because no single human can cover ALL of it. It’s been taking me for freeking EVER to put the thing together, too (this post is late, because I keep falling asleep from exhaustion with my computer in my lap). If you’re reading this, I eventually did finish! 🙂

IMAGES: All photos in this montage were taken by Jan S. Gephardt at the 76th World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, CA, USA, on 8/15-16/2018. You may re-post or re-blog this image with my permission, as long as you (1) don’t materially alter it; (2) include an attribution; and (3) provide a link back to this page. Thanks!

Preparing to blast off

Atomic Avenue #1 by Glen Orbik

Going to a Worldcon isn’t nearly as exotic as blasting off to the stars, but it’s an endeavor. This year my son and I aren’t leaving the country–Silicon Valley is different from Kansas in a great many ways, but they’re both in the same U.S.A. Next year it’ll be in Dublin (we’ll see whether we can afford that one).

Meanwhile, I’m facing the eternal question. Once I get to the con, and I’m out of reach of all my resources here at home, what will I regret having forgotten about, left behind, failed to print, forgotten to consider, or otherwise left myself unprepared to do/have/use?

Yoda may be right that “always in motion is the future,” but in the meantime, always short of something is the Jan, at most cons. I usually muddle through just fine, but I always try to control for it better next time.

Well, it’s next time, right now. Where did I put my list?

See you in San Jose?

IMAGES: Many thanks to Glen Orbik, discovered via SciFi at Dark Roasted Blend, for Atomic Avenue #1, to AAlto University’s “My Courses” page for the Yoda quote-image, and to Anna Franchi’s Life in a Suitcase, for the overloaded-baggage-cart picture. 

Suiting the message to the learner

The Artdog Quote of the Week

I fear we often do this to kids. Everyone needs to learn certain things, but not everyone learns in the same way, at the same pace, or from the same background of understanding.

It’s really pretty obvious, when you think about it. But you might be astounded how hard this is, for some people to understand.

When we think of students in classrooms in terms of factory production runs, who all are supposed to learn the same, standardized lessons at the same, assumed to-be-“normal” pace, we rarely get the good outcomes we seek. Some will be confused and overwhelmed. Some will be bored out of their minds. Some will learn this lesson, but stumble over that one.

That’s why I’ve advocated for a long time that we should seek to teach to mastery, not to a school year. And that we should base assessments on a portfolio and individual improvement, rather than grading “on the curve.”

Do we prefer to arbitrarily create “winners” and “losers,” or would we rather ALL children learn as much as they can, as joyously as possible? Our traditional schools are organized to do the former, but mandated to do the latter.

This should change.

IMAGE: Many thanks to LoveQuotesWiki, for an excellent idea that may or may not have been something Albert Einstein actually said. WHOEVER said it, they’re right!

Badly shaken

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest

This week I tried a new thing.  Getty Images has allowed non-commercial blogs such as this one to embed short slide shows of their images, legally, for free (complete with captions). It worked beautifully on my “twin” blog (hosted by Blogger). Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t support it.

Rescuers look under the wreckage of a flattened mosque.

I’ve been watching the news, and have been concerned about all the damage, injuries, and deaths that resulted from the recent earthquake in Lombok, Indonesia. I was particularly struck by the terror worshipers at a mosque must have felt when their roof began to cave in.

Where is Lombok? It’s in the middle of the Lesser Sunda Islands. If you’re interested in making a disaster relief donation to help these folks, one trustworthy agency I’ve been able to find is GlobalGiving’s Indonesia Earthquake Relief Fund.

Lombok has been leveled.

It sometimes seems to me that August is the Disaster Month. Last week I featured a “fire tornado” from northern California. This week I thought I’d share an image (or two, as it turned out) from Indonesia.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Getty Images via the BBC for the photo of the collapsed mosque. I deeply appreciate the amazing photographic work of Ulet Ifansasti. I also want to thank GlobalGiving for the other photo from Lombok.


Jan S. Gephardt at the keyboard. Photo by Colette Waters.

Did you ever have one of those projects you thought was just about done . . . except you needed to adjust this one thing.

And then that one thing led logically to another. And after that you discovered an excellent new technique and it would apply to this current project, so now if you just revamp these bits . . . .

Eventually it HAS to end. In this case I’m talking about the novel I am THIS CLOSE to having completely ready to start productionON or before September 3, 2018, it shall be done (or else).

For reals. mean it. Friends who know me will point, laugh, and say, “Got THAT right!” when I tell you I am not a fast writer. For all my ongoing efforts to be a well-organized, methodical “plotter,” the “pantser” in my soul frequently takes me walkabout, as a way to open up whole new projects through the “discovery method.”

Here’s the color comp for the cover of What’s Bred in the Bone, created by one of my favorite artists, Jody A. Lee, based on a scene from the book.

may not live long enough to finish all of the projects I already have in my files (partially developed through said “discovery method” and mostly set in the same fictional universe), but by God I’ll have fun writing them. I also hope people will have fun reading them–which necessitates finishing them, and publishing them.

That’s my current task: sternly striving not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and working on finishing a final, publishable version of What’s Bred in the Bone.

The world I currently inhabit for as many of my waking hours as possible these days is the one I’ve been writing about (and in which I’m making the aforementioned revisions).

Set in an indeterminate future era which I call the Twenty-Fourth-and-a-Half Century, most of the action takes place on Torus Two of Rana Habitat Space Station, through the eyes of an XK9: an enormous, genetically-engineered, cybernetically-enhanced police dog named Rex, as well as his mate Shady and his human partner Charlie.

Readings from What’s Bred in the Bone that I’ve done at science fiction conventions, such as DemiCon 29 and SoonerCon 27, have been met with enthusiasm, which is encouraging. Most of my beta-readers have been enthusiastic, too. If you’ll be at Worldcon 76, I have a 30-minute reading scheduled there on Monday, Aug. 20, 11:00 a.m. in Room 211A. I hope to see you there!

IMAGES: Many thanks to the talented Colette Waters for the enhanced reality represented by her photo of me, and to the amazing Jody A. Lee, for the color comp of the cover-art-that-will-be for What’s Bred in the Bone.

Where are you headed?

The Artdog Quote of the Week

My apologies if I scared anyone who’s not set to go back to school this week.

I know some already have started; I know others won’t start for a few days or even weeks yet. But it’s That Time of Year. Time to gird up your loins and make the most of your opportunities!

Best wishes and GOOD LUCK!

IMAGE: Many thanks to Sage Buddha for this quote-image featuring the wisdom of Dr. Seuss.

Fire vortex

The Artdog Image of Interest

The Carr Fire along Highway 299 in Shasta, CA, on July 26, 2018. (Photo by Noah Berger/AP, via The Mercury News)

One of the worst fires of 2018 so far (fire season is NOT over, as I write this at the end of July/start of August, 2018) has been the Carr Fire in northern California. One of the most horrifying aspects of this enormous fire was the conditions that led to so-called “fire tornadoes” or fire vortexes. The mechanism that creates them is a combination of updrafts and extreme heat.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for the firefighters who battle these monsters. Four already have died in action in California as I write this.

They carry heavy gear and toolsrun up and down steep, rugged terrain, at altitude, in blistering heat, for 16-hour shifts. As a lowlander prone to heat exhaustion and altitude sickness (not to mention being a sedentary senior), I am simply in awe of what they do, and their steadfast courage in doing it.

IMAGE: Many thanks to The Mercury News and AP photographer Noah Berger, for this photograph.

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