"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Google Glass, Geezer and Gosh

Brinkman with the Glass, plus sunglasses
“Glass, take picture.”
Lillie-Beth Brinkman of The Oklahoman stood in front of about 50 students at the UCO Media Ethics conference last week.
The photo of the class she was looking at appeared on the TV screen behind her, as though you were seeing it through her eyes. And she showed a video clip of what it looked like from her eyes to zip line on vacation a few weeks ago.
She was wearing the new-fangled Google Glass inventions, explaining its use and possibilities as a journalistic tool.
Brinkman is one of about 8,000 people in the U.S. who were selected to “beta test” the gizmo before release. It fits around your head like a pair of glasses, with a camera, prism and computer located above your right eye sightline. 
As assistant features editor, she writes The Oklahoman’s “Get-App-y” blog, exploring new computer apps and technology that affect people’s everyday lives. She showed us how it works for video, photos and more, some with voice commands, some with tapping on the side, swiping, etc. Here’s the link to her column.

A student scopes it out.
She sees it as another journalistic tool, one that would help readers be on the scene with reporters. It can obviously record interviews while they’re being conducted.
“I think it’s like a smart phone up here, like a flash drive,” she said, adding that journalists who eventually get them need to decide what you’re going to do with it first. She sees applications in medicine and mechanics, for example, as with doctors wearing them in surgery to show others what is going on.
There are drawbacks. Battery life is only about six hours, and you’re pretty well tethered to a smart phone, or the “cloud” for storage. It has 16 MB of storage. 

"Geezer and Glass"
Is it distracting? She said you tend to forget it’s up there, but people certainly notice it and wonder about it. Hers are in a bright baby blue, but she had choices of tangerine, black, white, gray.  She can clip in sunglasses. More apps are coming for it, naturally, and the developers at The Oklahoman have been exploring it for possibilities. Brinkman’s colleague Clytie Bunyan wore it to church one day. Here’s a blog post, “20-40-60 Etiquette,” about her reactions and others.  There are certainly ethical questions about its use, including those of privacy. 
It’s not due for release until next year, and the current price is about $1,500, but release price will drop, perhaps to $300, and with competition, you know it'll go down more.
Another journalist who has used it to live stream protests in Istanbul is Tim Pool. He has it wired to a battery pack. Here’s the link to his Story.  If you want more information, here’s the Google Website.
Gosh, is this where the world is going? Not for geezers like me, but I think you better bet on it. Several years ago, an Enid newspaper woman  pulled our her phone, and said, “This is our future.” (Pre-twitter). Look how fast that has changed.
My students live on their phones, get news on their phones. We asked the how many of the students attending the session checked their phones the first thing in the morning? Every hand went up. Time will come, it'll be the Google Glass or something like it.
I think once the price goes down, almost everyone will have these, instead of phones. That was predicted several years ago by scientist and science fiction writer David Brin, most notably in his novel Existence, set just a few years from now, where all people wear computer  “Specs.” See his web page;   and his evaluation of the reality in an article in “Variety”:  and my blog post on “Coffee with Clark,” in February. I'm indebted to colleague Yvette Walker for the photo of me with the Glass...makes me look cool and up-to-date, or at least as close as this Geezer can get. Walker is the Ethics chair of the department and organized the Ethics Conference. More posts on that later.
There’s competition coming, of course. Check ReconJet’s version.  And Apple surely won’t be far behind. Or go even further, and enter the Matrix world of virtual and alternative reality with the swim-goggle gizmo from Oculus.   Scary.
I know, I know, those are a lot of links to check. Those links, and The Glass, just show  what I’ve said, that journalism has always been a child of technology. This prediction may be laughable five years from now for being so slow, but I think in five years, these things will be as common, or more common, than hand-held cell phones.
Which means, that instead of me dying in a head-on collision with somebody texting, it’ll be somebody hitting me while they're telling their  computer glasses to take a picture.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Equinox, when you can see time

Camping at Chaco Canyon, watching time move in morning shadows on equinox
The sun blinds you, driving due east or west, morning or evening. You can almost feel the earth move under your feet, each day this September as the sun inches due west or east. It's not moving, but we are.
As urban dwellers, as citizens of the age of science, as people removed from nature, we may not notice, other than the inconvenient glare in the windshield or rear view mirrors early and late in the day.
Our media will announce the official start of autumn, but we miss the point that our ancestors, and those still in tune with the earth, know well.
Equinox--the day the night and day are of the same length, the slow tilt of the earth's axis that will bring the end of the planting seasons, the start of the harvest seasons, the coming of the cold seasons, the preparation for another year's "end."
Many people will gather at ancient sites like Stonehenge in England and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico to observe the day, to relive rituals lost in time, trying to retouch our instinctual past, and something more.
There is something powerful about the day, about those sites, that transcends science, but we've largely forgotten it the more removed we are from the physical world as we dwell in air conditioned cocoons. Perhaps, like our appendix and shortened tail bone, there is a vestigial element in our memory that calls out to us. I hope so.
Having camped in  Chaco on more than one spring equinox, I know you can see time there, time moving,  shadows moving up and down sandstone cliff faces. Those ancient "Anasazi" measured and marked with great accuracy over the years-- in feats of patience and civilization--the movements of the sun and moon. 
It may have been of necessity for an agricultural society, and it almost surely had religious significance. When you're that close to nature in  everyday existence and survival, the earth and universe are certainly alive and spiritual. You know who you are and how small you are. At night there, watching the stars wheel across the sky, you can almost  feel the earth move beneath your feet. 
You are not in charge of the world, or your life, but just a small part of it, and it's best to honor and respect that universe.
You can still feel that power at Chaco, and  dwell on what we "civilized" people have lost with science, as you watch the sun "come up," on equinox here in Oklahoma and elsewhere.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

New Reader, 121 on the nation list

The High Tatra Mountains, northern Slovakia
I want to go there. So I thought when a reader from the 121st country to click on the blog arrived...Slovakia. Of course, when I grew up it was part of Czechoslovakia, carrying a long history of invasion and turmoil in central Europe. But not now.
Map from the CIA
After a "Velvet Divorce" as part of the "Velvet Revolution" in 1992, the former country became two. It had the highest economic growth rate for three years  in the late 2000s, before voting against the Greece bailout by the EU. But it is still flourishing, and made recent news for women business people emulating Steve Jobs. See the New York Times article.
Ancient castle overlooking Danube, in capital of Bratislava
originally build including stones from Roman ruins.
It's taken a long time to get there, since the Slavs began arriving in the area in the fifth and sixth centuries. It's been part of various empires and invasions, including the Moravian Empire, testified to by castles on many hills. any castles. Longest was the Kingdom of Hungary from 1,000 to 1919. Relatively peaceful after WWI when it became Czechoslovakia, the country was sold down the river by Britain in 1938 when Chamberlain gave in to Hitler at Munich. Slovakia caved to Hitler during WWII.
A communist coup in 1938 put the country under the control of the USSR until 1989-90 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the dissolution of the USSR.
Now the country has about 5.4 million people and is somewhere between the size of South Carolina and Mississippi. Slovakia has its own website or if you spell it in Slovak, Slovensko .  More about the country can be found on the European website.
There is one famous Slovakian you've heard of--Andy Warhol, whose parents were Slovakians. Another Slovak of note, to whom many aviators owe their lives, was  Štefan Banič--who invented the parachute in 1913.
The country's flag colors echo several Slavic countries, with white, blue and red. Except for the Slovak coat of arms, it would be identical to Russia. It's also very similar to Slovenia's flag, a country it is often confused with, even by world leaders. 
The Slovak name for the country, Slovensko, is identical to Slovenian word for the Slovenian language,That’s just one of the near-similarities between Slovenia and Slovakia that cause confusion for outsiders.  And the fact that they’re both in the EU, both in NATO, both formerly part of Austria-Hungary, and both border Austria.

Friday, September 13, 2013

African outpost of slavery, 120 on the blog

Map from CIA
A new reader clicked on this blog this week, marking the 120th country to have had readers. I'm astounded, especially since the reader is from Mauritania, the 18th African country on my list.
But when I started looking up facts on this country, I found that it is the "last outpost of slavery" in the world, and that as many as 600,000 people (up to 20 percent of the population of 3.2 million) may be slaves.
That is just hard to imagine. Of course the military government, that overthrew the first elected leader in 2008, denies it, but recent articles by CNN, BBC, the US State Department, and others say differently. It is also cited for other human rights violations including child labor and female mutilation.
Nouachott, with the Atlantic in the background
The capital, on the Atlantic coast, is Nouachott, "the city of dunes, or wind," has an estimated population of about a million. Less than one percent of the country's land is arable, and if other African countries' experience is typical, discovery of oil will only help the rich.
It's a poor Sahara land on the northwest coast of Africa, mostly desert, and most of the people living on less than $2 a day. But it is a new oil country and made news this week for agreeing to sell electricity to Senegal.
The country gained independence from France in 1960, (the U.S. was the first to recognize it)and officially abolished slavery in 1981. But it wasn't a crime to own slaves until 2007, and only one slave owner has been fined. The population is about 30 percent Arab-Berber, 30 percent black and the rest mixed. The north is largely Arab and the south black, and ironically in this African country, many of the slaves are black for white masters.
The overriding color of Mauritania is sand, on the earth and in the sky. The country is larger than Texas and New Mexico combined.
The flag of green for Islam and gold for the sand, carries the crescent and star of Islam, which is the religion of almost 100 percent of the population. I can imagine the reader of this blog surviving in a sad, harsh land. I hope you find it interesting. 
My trip to neighboring Mali a few years ago introduced me to the region, but Mali is a democracy. Poor, yes, but the people were hard working and friendly. I am amazed and learned much.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Country at top of world, No. 119 on the blog

Mountains speak to me, and to many others, but I imagine they speak no louder anyplace in the world that in Nepal, where a reader clicked on the blog this week, making it the 119th country to have done so.
"The roof of the world" sounds trite, and understates this place I've always dream of visiting for two reasons. The first is the mountains. Nepal is home to the world's highest point, Mt.Everest, (Sagarmatha (सगरमाथा) in Nepali, "Forehead of the Sky"), at 29,029 feet, on the northern border with Tibet/China...and the country is home to 240 Himalayan peaks topping 20,000 feet.
It's not all mountains however, with a fertile, humid lowlands in the south. The other reason I'd like to visit is the name of its capital, Kathmandu. That is just so beckoning of adventure and being far away. I've been fortunate to have one Nepalese student here at UCO.
The country is a little larger than Arkansas and a little smaller than Oklahoma. It stretches 487 miles from from east to west, and from 150 to 250 miles wide, landlocked between Tibet--now ruled by China--and India, with a population of about 27 million.
About 80 percent of the population are Hindus, and, although Gautama Buddha was born in the country, about nine percent Buddhist.
The country was a monarchy  from 1768 until 2008, when a civil war ended and a federal multi-part republic was adopted. There is still turmoil between  the communist party and others, and elections are scheduled for this November.
The flag is unique in the world, the only one not a square or rectangle. Based on a design almost 2,000 years old, red is the national  color and that of the rhododendron. Blue symbolizes beach, and the triangles perhaps the mountains, the two symbols the permanence of the universe. (Some Material for this post came from Wikipedia.)
View a YouTube video of a flight over Everest below:
This gives me a chance to quote my favorite writer, John McPhee, who writes about geography. In Basin and Range, he wrote: "When the climbers in 1953 planted their flags on the highest mountain, they set them in snow over the skeletons of creatures that had lived in the warm clear ocean that India, moving north, blanked out. Possibly as much as twenty thousand feet below the seafloor, the skeletal remains had turned into rock. This one fact is a treatise in itself on the movements of the surface of the earth. If by some fiat I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence, this is the one I would choose: The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone."
At the top are 400-million-year-old fossils--the bones and shells of creatures that died in ancient seas--Ordovician limestone. The Himalayas began forming about 65 million years ago when the Indo-Australian plate of the earth's crust moved north and under the Eurasian plate, pushing the rocks up. 
The earth's crustal plates are still moving, India going north more than an inch a year, and the mountains rising up to 10 millimeters a year. That gives you an idea of how long this took, pushing mountains up more than five miles. We are small, and brief indeed.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Turning the world upside down, questions on media

One of the joys of teaching upper level students is being able cause them to think, to be aware of the differences in the world, by asking questions centered around what we used to call "current events." So it is with my International Media class, where 24 students have to adopt a country and present to the rest of the class how its media reflects the culture and government.
Before then we concentrate on how press systems differ, and the only textbook is the New York Times, which we get free every day. It's full of items that show the interaction of media and every day international life.
This map of the world turned "upside down," (which is ridiculous since there is no up or down in space, but only how we're trained to look at it) formed questions for discussions about Eurocentric, ethnocentric, xenophobic," etc. last week. 
I've created a blog for the class, Clarkinternational where assignments are made, and students respond. Tomorrow's assignments  are all questions about two events--the U.S. security leaks, and the Syria crisis.
One post is "Authoritarian government in the U.S? and it asks this question: "Why is this American journalist, Barrett Brown,  in jail? Jailed Texas journalist Is it justified? Does this make the U.S. government authoritarian in spite of the First Amendment? Comment today."
The other post, "Syria and international media"  asks three questions: Find two sources today about the impact of international media on the crisis in Syria, and post below.  Why is President Obama using TV?TV and foreign policy . Why are journalists being kidnapped in Syria? Kidnapped journalists .
By the way, I think you'd be interested in some of the countries we'll hear presentations on, in addition to all the English-speaking countries, there will be Japan, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Mozambique, Bhutan, Kenya, and others.
Oh, I give in to old-fashioned learning too. Students have to identify most of the countries in the world, continent by content, on blank maps I give them. It's called "geography." We can't have "globalization," if we don't know where England is.
So what do you think?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Blogging evolution

What I enjoy about blogging, and about teaching blogging, is that every day is a discovery because the only constant is change, as in life. This blog graphic tells the story.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

New Mexico provoked, painting

Watercolor, 11 by 14, 140 pound d'Arches
 I'm not sure I like the word inspiration, when it comes to writing, or painting, or anything creative...This comes from a coffee conversation with Oklahoma Today editor Steffie Cocoran Friday. We think inspiration comes from not sitting around, but working, and then sometimes "magic" perhaps happens.
I was asked by my daughter last week and by a friend this week if I was painting. I said no, and while they didn't really ask, I could see the "why" on their faces, or I felt like I had to explain. Nathan Brown, Oklahoma  poet laureate, writes a poem every day. I remember a couple of summers back, following his example with a painting a day. My painting obviously got better, in spite of all the failures
So I started again this week, not inspired, but "provoked" by my recent trip to New Mexico, and by these friends. Below is the photo of the old building and wonderful rot at Ocate, posted here earlier. Above is my first attempt. You can tell, my painting is as rusty as that roof.  But there will be more. I'm provoked.

From South America, No. 118 on the blog

A reader from the South American country of Guyana clicked on this blog this week, raising to 118 the number of countries that have had readers here.
Guyana is officially part of the Caribbean Community, one of the few such countries not an island, and its headquarters are in Guyana's capital Georgetown.
Originally settled by the Netherlands, it became a British colony for 200 some years before gaining independence in 1996.
Its population is about 750,000, 90 percent living on the narrow coastal strip, and the country is about one third the size of Texas, and slightly smaller than Idaho. Its names comes from a native language meaning land of many waters. What is most notable is that it has one of the largest unspoiled rain forests in the world, much of it almost inaccessible. It received a $45 million reward from Norway for its forest protection efforts.
Paradise, protected from humans, with a hint of hell, thanks to a religious nut.
It is probably best known in America, unfortunately, because it was the site of the "Jonestown" atrocity in 1978 when 918 followers--men, women and children--of a religious nut Jim Jones all committed suicide, drinking poisoned "Koolaid." 
The flag, adopted at independence, uses colors to symbolize the forests and agriculture, white for rivers, gold for minerals, black for endurance, and red for zeal. Guayana becomes the ninth South American country to have a reader of this blog. Welcome.
(By the way, I get much of my information on this countries from Wikipedia.)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Classic car treasure on US 66

"You just have to spot at the new truck stop and see the car museum," said my daughter , knowing I was going to New Mexico on I-40, in the ghosts of US66.
I'd seen the truck stop being built, the first exit inside the state from the Texas Panhandle, just about a mile or so west of the welcome center, but I wouldn't have stopped if she hadn't mentioned it.
What a surprise, with 25 cars and hundreds of old memorabilia inside.  The oldest is a 1927 Model T Roadster, and the newest is a 2007 Supersnake convertible. There's a 1929  Model A pickup, a 1952 Harley, and a lot of cars from the 1950s.Best of all it's free.
 These are the passion of Emory and Barbara Russell. He started hauling logs in New Mexico, moved to Cimarron in 1964, and after flooding lived in a tent for a while. They went into the grocery business  and expanded. He still owns the grocery in Cimarron but sold most of them, before getting into the truck stop business at Springer and expanding. You have to check the family web site  Car Treasure! for better photos than these--the light played havoc with my cell phone.
What the web site doesn't tell is how he got into the car business, but one of the employees told me he has five cars at Springer, and about 200 total, most of which are still "projects." There's also apparently an annual car show. Read the web site and you'll find these generous people have indeed given us all a treasure. Worth the trip and the stop, for sure. There's a Route 66 diner serving breakfast all day, and a gift shop.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Back road journal--solitude at dawn

Dawn over the Old Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico
"Out here there's the sky," wrote Willa Cather in Death Comes for the Archbishop, capturing the essence of the wide open spaces in New Mexico. Out here, you can see forever, and the colors and light of dawn astound. Out here you can breathe in solitude and freedom. My best photo of the trip.
"Dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plains," were lyrics in the old Western, "Wagon Train. "Whoever wrote that, had to have taken the back roads out here.
Even the Interstates can be back roads...Sunday morning on I-25 heading for the Santa Fe Trail landmark, Wagon Mound--so named because it resembles a covered wagon led by oxen. Scarce traffic, wide open spaces, the solitude of traveling and thinking.
(Click on all photos to enlarge)
Wagon Mound, and I-25--even it is a "back road"

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Back roads journal--IV, mystery of curves

What's around the remote curve on unpaved  NM 120 in the Sangre de Cristos?
"Lonesome Road," two favorite songs, one from 1927 and another by James Taylor, are different, but still songs of introspection, of discovery, of haunting emotions.  They almost capture for me the mystery of traveling the back roads, but not quite. I like those that twist and turn, and those that cross the wide open stretches, the ones that stretch out to the horizon, and I love mystery around every curve, over every hill. 
"Deserted" NM 26, winding toward who knows what
New Mexico does that for me, taking roads I'd not traveled before, the roads less traveled, wondering what I'll see. I'm never disappointed.
Don't say the roads are deserted, because life teems along them, from small to large. On NM 26, around one curve,  I found three bucks calmly grazing at the side of the road. They didn't run. I rolled down my window and began taking photos, five feet away.  Velvet still on the antlers. They knew it wasn't hunting season.
I love the roadsigns that show curves ahead, telling you to slow down. they beckon with changes of geology, of more challenges and interest.

Yes, riders on horses in the middle of  the unpaved
"highway," NM 120.

You can't get bored on straight stretches, because sooner of later, you're going to turn, sometimes abruptly.