Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nazis from the Moon

I talk a fair bit about the future of publishing, so I thought I mention one possible future for the movie industry. The producers of Iron Sky have raised 8.5 million from fans who want to see the movie made. They did this by producing a couple of trailers for the film, uploading it to Youtube where it has been viewed over a million times, and asking for micro investments from viewers who might like to see the trailer turned into an actual movie.

And it seems to be working.

Here's the description of the film from the Iron Sky website:
The Story of Iron Sky
Towards the end of World War II the staff of SS officer Hans Kammler made a significant breakthrough in anti-gravity.

From a secret base built in the Antarctic, the first Nazi spaceships were launched in late ‘45 to found the military base Schwarze Sonne (Black Sun) on the dark side of the Moon. This base was to build a powerful invasion fleet and return to take over the Earth once the time was right.

Now it’s 2018, the Nazi invasion is on its way and the world is goose-stepping towards its doom.

At some level you have to love the idea of flying saucers filled with Nazis attacking the of those concepts that is so dumb it just might make a great B movie. But check out the trailers yourself and look around the site. A fascinating alternative to the Hollywood machine....

(see also the Wired Magazine article.) Thanks to Kevin Kozoriz for bring this to my attention.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Espresso Books

Well, I got excited there for a minute.

The day following my Keynote address at the conference in Beverly Hills, Mary took the kids to Disneyland while I worked on some writing. I took a long lunch break, however, to walk around Downtown Disney, the shopping and restaurant district which doesn't require any admission fee, though you do have to clear security. So walking down the street I spied this sign and thought, "Wowhoo! A bookstore built around the Espresso Book Machine!" Which is, of course, what I have been going on about in this blog and elsewhere. And where else would you expect to find such an avant garde concept realized than Disneyland!"

So I go in and look around what appears to be a fairly mundane bookstore, but at the middle back of the store is a sort of closed in alcove/counter deal with a clerk stacking books, presumably hot off the Espresso press. I elbow my way through the crowd
and look around for the machine.

"May I help you," the woman asks, seeming my obvious lost expression.

"Where's the machine," I ask in response, because I'm thinking, half the point of having an Espresso Book Machine is letting people watch their book being printed in front of them. I mean, it is way cool. Hiding the machine in the back is just wrong.

"What machine?" the clerk asks, not unreasonably.

"The Espresso Machine!" I enthuse.

Long stare as the clerk tries to decide if I have perhaps already consumed more caffeine today than is altogether healthy. "Um, its right over there in the coffee bar section."

"No Espresso Book Machine?" I ask, knowing full well that there is not. "But your sign says, "Espresso Books!"

Another long uncomprehending stare. "Because we sell Espresso, and we sell books."

"Have you thought of putting a comma in there? Between 'Espresso' and 'books'. Because it now looks like you have an Espresso Book Machine. It's kind of false advertizing and you know, disappointing."

"I'm sorry, what are you talking about?"

I tried to explain, but elicited only a shrug. Not her problem.
"No one else has ever complained."

And that was that. So Disney Downtown, not necessarily at the cutting edge.
But for a minute there...had me going.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

X marks the spot

Looked up in the sky to see huge 'X'; it took a minute or two for me to think of taking out my cellphone and snapping this picture, so it had already started to blur. But I have to tell you, that 'X' made me nervous. Who or what was marking our location and to what purpose? Vogon Hyperspace Planning Council was the first thing that came to my mind...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ideology and Blame

Allow me to quote from a press release on a recent article:

Financial Literary Bailout for the Younger Generation

Hanover, NH-June 2, 2010-In the aftermath of the global financial crisis,
financial literacy is still low among young adults. According to a new study
published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs, only twenty-seven percent of people aged 23-28 can answer three basic questions about interest rates, inflation, and risk diversification, and other basic financial concepts. Furthermore, this result was amplified when studying the answers of young women, African-Americans, and Hispanics, and those with low educational attainment.
The research, headed by Dr. Annamaria Lusardi, shows that financial literacy
is largely influenced by parental education levels and financial habits.
Lusardi says, "If we do not address financial illiteracy among young people
through high school literacy classes, we will fail to equip young people
with the tools they need to make financial decisions, and we may pay the
cost down the road. Not everybody has an opportunity to learn from their
parents or their friends. Young people at the start of their career, or who
are in the process of buying their first home need to be financially
knowledgeable before they engage in financial contracts."

It is the final paragraph that is most interesting. It is a fascinating example of the sort of thing I teach in my sociology of education course: the ideology of individualism focuses our attention on the individual and blinds us (well, average Americans, anyway) to the true structural problems. What we see here is the structural problems of capitalist economy, and specifically the recent economic collapse due to unregulated sub-prime market etc, translated into the individual consumer's fault! If only consumers were better educated, there would not have been the problem! It is a wonderful example of 'blaming the victim'!

And the solutions to economic problems -- education! Great how problems in the economy caused by bad (unethical) business decisions suddenly become the fault of consumers and the 'failed' education system.....

Keynote Speech at Beverly Hills Hilton

Right to Left: Keynote Speaker, Dr. Stewart L. Tubbs, The Darrell H. Cooper Professor of Leadership and former Dean of the College of Business at Eastern Michigan University; Dr. Turan Senguder, Conference Chair and CEO The Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge; and Robert Runté, Keynote speaker; the International Business & Economics Research Conference, Los Angeles, June 2-5, 2010.

I don't usually talk about my day job in this blog, but I got to be one of two keynote speakers at this conference, which was an interesting experience for me -- liked being in such elevated circles! At first glance, an education professor giving one of the keynots at a business conference may seem odd, but I was talking about the "assurance of learning" process, which is a hot button issue for business schools these days. I also presented a paper on my research on professional workers, which I co-wrote with my wife, who is a business prof. It was a very enjoyable conference, with some great discussion. Even the banquet was exceptionally good -- better banquet food than I usually get at Education conferences, though this conference was at the Beverly Hills Hilton, so you sort of had to expect great food and service.

Anyway, thought I'd show you what I look like on the job, for once.