SXSWi, anyone?

South by Southwest interactive is drawing near...

The university has requisitioned a gold pass (interactive and film) for our group, and the anticipation is mounting. Austin transforms from a fairly sleepy college town into a beehive of activity during SXSW. We don't get passes for the music portion, but I don't care. I had a grand time last year, and met lots of brilliant, friendly people, and learned oodles about what's happening on the WWW.

I'm looking forward with great excitement to connect with folks I met last year, and meet new friends. And of course learn lots of new tricks.

Are you planning to attend SXSWi this year? Get in touch with me by commenting on this post, and I'll try to arrange a meet-up.

I know Liz Henry will be here, she's leading some sessions. And of course the ubiquitous Bruce Sterling. Dan Rather will give one of the keynote addresses, and His Wakiness, Ze Frank will be in attendance. The Sims daddy is scheduled, and more Web gurus than you can shake a stick at. And it's OK to end a sentence with a preposition. I said so.

The BlogHer ladies are coming, I hope we have a gathering at some point. I'd love to meet Ronni Bennett, and some of the silverback women bloggers. The boomers are hitching up to the 'net, and my new friend from the Boomer Chronicles may grace Austin with her presence.

This has been a phenomenal year of networking and meeting visionary bloggers and communicators. It has certainly enriched my life, and I've only scratched the surface. To think SXSW is growing annually is mind-blowing. As long as I can live in Austin, I plan to attend this event, if I don't do anything else.

One teeny problem is that I have a March 15 deadline for a fairly hefty, in-depth article about the tenth anniversary of our division's Innovative Instructional Technology Awards Program (IITAP) that's presently eating my lunch. The program awards cash prizes to faculty who have developed instructional tech for their classes, and so much is going on at UT that I'm totally inundated with history and descriptions of brilliant Web applications for the classroom. It's totally cool, I'm just a little worried about delivering on time, there's so much to include.

I have a pretty good angle, but the volume of interviews, notes, and putting the pieces together is taking all my time and effort. Would that I had an assistant to take care of the more pedantic chores--scheduling interviews, transcribing notes, doing laundry and dishes.... I need a housewife or househusband!!

This is going to be a dynamo month. A concert on March 31, SXSWi, the article deadline, and a couple of professional development classes just for openers. Then there's the Zona Rosa writers group, side editing gigs, not to mention my day gig--I'll be lucky to get to April in one piece. And I desperately want to visit my daughter in Boston and meet the Boomer Chronicler.

So if you're heading to Austin for SXSWi, let me know--let's get together!


Sloppiness and life in general--mostly music and grammar

Ronni Bennett, elder blogger par excellence, is a sister Nazi Grammar Policewoman. What the h**l is with our educational system that people don't even know how to diagram a sentence these days? That's not all Ronni blogs about, she's the grand dame of the elder bloggers, and always posts a lively comment on many issues.

But, gee, spelling, grammar, and word usage seem to have gone by the wayside in writing from bottom to top. I regularly edit writing produced by PhDs and am appalled by what is commonly accepted as good communication skills. Not to belabor the issue, but when a Dr. mispells a word, it really makes me wonder...

Just as there was a "new math," it seems there is a "new grammar." Kiddos learn verbs, THEN nouns. The word "predicate" is now only a whisper. I can see how learning the action portion of a sentence is compelling; however, I want to put the brakes on "dumbing down" grammar simply to make English more accessible to slackers.

Do I sound harsh? Perhaps. There are other nouveau practices that I heartily endorse: cut the jargon, write in a direct, clear, active voice, leave plenty of white space, and get the important points above the scroll line. These practices enhance communication rather than negate it. Spelling, good grammar and usage, however, are the basic architecture of human relationships, and I hate to see them go by the wayside, even though new ways to spell old words can be entertaining, to a certain extent.

Good on you, Ronni, for recognizing that we elder bloggers manage to adhere to the older best practices. Somehow I think we are the last of a dying breed. Speed and flash seem to be the buzz words of today. Get it up on the Web, and worry about the basics later, if ever. I am certain that we can do both. Send me something to edit, and I'll get it back to you in less than 24 hours. How much faster do you need it done than that? Even the most die-hard Web surfers have to sleep sometime :)

Which leads me to music. What's with the current sloppy rehearsal techniques? When I was in college, we were expected to do our very best every single time, not just at performance time. How can we improve if we don't challenge ourselves?

I sing with a semi-professional chamber chorus, and I'm constantly bitching about going flat. It truly hurts my ears, and if it goes on long enough, I get nauseated. What is our music education system doing these days that students can't develop a decent pitch memory? I tend to want to attribute it laziness--lack of breath support, not paying attention to dynamic markings, just "getting through" rehearsals until the performance.

The joy of music is as much in the journey as it is in the culminating performance. How can one expect to improve one's music skills if one only puts out the minimum required to (sort of) learn the music before curtain time? Is it so excruciatingly boring to not do your best? Why not develop that transcendence during rehearsals as well as in performance? I tend to cut everyone off at the knees over this issue.

NPR had a report that posited that your brain and ear "grow" to recognize and appreciate "pleasant" sounds, including your native language, and the language of justice, morals, etc. When your ear and brain encounter a "dissonant" sound, the body responds in a negative way. What has happened to our population that most people accept "less than" pitch or musical production? Doesn't it hurt their ears and stomach, too?

Have we reached a point in our civilization that we can no longer teach and absorb the basics in language, communication, music? What a sad state! I've often bragged that I can teach anyone to sing. Anyone CAN sing, if they pay attention, and WANT to sing. It's a skill that's learned like any other skill: pedagogy and practice. I always tell my students "Practice makes POSSIBLE, not PERFECT." We can sometimes get away with blind skill and luck, but in the long run, we'll never be happy until we dedicate all of our senses and focus to the task at hand.

OK, now I'm sounding old. It's true, though. Check it out. I can teach you how to sing, I'll guarantee it, as long as you honestly put all your resources into learning...

Shot in the arm for bloggers

Interesting meme going around recently. Don't know how it happened, but Fried Okra Productions was in included in 2000 Bloggers, a networking group started by

The idea is to stimulate communication among the various bloggers on the list. They suggest interviewing other bloggers, whether or not they are in 2000 Bloggers. Here is the script:

  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. How do you describe your blog?
  3. How has your blog changed over time?
  4. Do you have any other blogs?
  5. Do your family and friends blog, too?
  6. What are you favorite blogs? Who do you read?
Who wants to play? Simply comment on this post, and I will forward it to 2000 Bloggers. If the 2000 number has not been met, you may become a 2000 Blogger, too!

Kinda nice way to get to know other people on the 'net. So all you regular readers, let me hear from you!
Take this to a new level.

Makes me more and more excited about SXSWi this year. It's bound to be even more helpful and meaningful than last year, my first. Looking forward to seeing folks I've been corresponding with one way or another in the intervening year.


Woodstock Generation, a contemporary view

A fabulous new friend sent this essay. Beautiful writing, with a stunning flower to accompany the piece. Thanks Bruce, looking forward to our next encounter.


In case you haven’t noticed (just kidding!) your planet needs you. (No kidding!)

Those of us who experienced the consciousness revolution of the 1960s first-hand may have sometimes felt since then that the decade in question became an anachronism. Later generations often considered the ’60s “uncool.” Or at best quaint, unrealistic, or puzzling. The slogan “Peace & Love” became something corny, trite, even embarrassing. How many of us proudly profess to be a Flower Child, or to believe in Flower Power? It’s time to reconsider. For the planet’s sake.

I’m not prone to nostalgia, & I certainly have no desire to return to any earlier time. On the contrary, if I’ve learned anything in the last four decades, it’s the importance of being present, living in this moment: BE HERE NOW. Recently, to this challenge of mindfulness, or remaining engaged in the immediate, direct experience of living NOW, is added a new awareness.

My lifetime of searching brings me to something I’ve had all along. What some call the “Law of Attraction” is the latest key that has fallen into place. Recent scientific studies of happiness reveal that success does not cause happiness. Instead, happiness is a precursor of success, a pre-condition making you more likely to succeed. To struggle for goals only attracts negativity. Just do your best. BE HAPPY NOW. Flow.

This is definitely the most exciting, promising, & dire moment in human history. The planetary biosphere we call Gaia will most likely persist with or without us. We’re talking wake-up call. In order for humanity to get its act together in time to survive as a species, those who care enough must be willing to assume the roles of authority that our experience has prepared us for.

The so-called Baby Boomers are mostly those who remember when the Woodstock Festival happened, whether you attended or not. Most of you who recall that era have gone on to relative affluence & material success. Yet how many are truly happy now? Many have lost their way, forgotten what we have always known deep inside. We live in a culture built upon discontent. Still if you want what you have, you have what you want.

Most of the Woodstock Generation is now materially successful. In reality, the 1960s were not primarily about drugs or great music. Flower Power was a genuine evolutionary surge, a spiritual acceleration, a massive infusion of global awareness, even cosmic or universal concepts entering into collective awareness. The world has never been the same. It never will be the same. It can be better.

That era did not end with 1969. It went to seed. The seeds scattered over the planet & are now reaching maturity. Some of those now involved in politics simply never “got it” about Flower Power. In the early 21st Century as the pendulum swings from political darkness toward a new dawn of awareness, we cannot afford to let it swing all the way back, ever again. Let that swing become a spiral of life. A dance of joy.

This is about waking up, though most of humanity sleepwalks through life, & that’s OK. Only the movers & shakers need to awaken. It’s about re-claiming our core values, what really matters: Peace & Love. It’s about taking over by accepting full responsibility for your actions, by assuming the kind of authority that serves the best interest of the planet. Only in this way can you serve humanity.

And indeed, many far younger humans have already gotten this message, that Peace & Love are what really matters. If there’s a future for us, it must be extremely green. As James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia Theory says: “The well being of Gaia must always come before that of ourselves: we cannot exist without Gaia.”

You can only teach others by example, by loving yourself well enough to care deeply about others. By loving your planet enough to place Nature first, the rest follows naturally.

Peace & Namaste,


Copyright 2007 Bruce P. Grether/ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


South by Southwest Interactive

Starting to get a buzz on for this year's SXSWi. Dan Rather is speaking, as is the Sims creator. Saw a fabbo demonstration of Second Life in UT's island. Our group is exploring the implications for classroom IT, and so far, it looks good, even though it takes a lot of real time and bandwidth. It's a good thing I don't have the money to subscribe, or I'd spend waaay too much time there.

SXSWi excitement is building, it's less than a month away. Last year was a revelation. So many creative folks, so much creative activity. I learned much more than I expected. It will be fun to be with folks I met last year, find out what's new, share loads of information, and enjoy each other's company. I'm looking forward to it, even though it's exhausting.

In researching emerging technologies, I've come across thousands of sites on writing, blogging, aging, and other things I'm interested in, at work and at play. Perhaps I'll put them in lists in case anyone is interested. I know about del.ici.ous, et al, but I'd rather mess around in my blog than go to another site. I'm grateful to have so many enjoyable and challenging activities going on in my life, and don't want to give any of them up. Sometimes that means neglecting one thing or another, usually laundry.


Molly Ivins, 1944-2007

There was a full moon over Austin the night Molly died. I had flashed on her that day, and actually sent out an update on her health to everyone I thought might be interested. I took a few minutes to enjoy the moon on the way home from work that evening, and woke up to NPR Thursday morning to the news that she had passed away at 5 p.m. the day before.

Thursday morning I went to the Texas Observer Web site, to read their beautiful piece, and scanned the comments section, noting many friends. I wanted to gather my thoughts before commenting, and when I went back to the site on my lunch break I was astonished to find that the volume of comments from friends and even strangers who recognized what a truly courageous and great writer she was had totally crashed their server. Her last post was true essence d'Molly and is her most passionate ultimate rallying call ever. She makes me believe that the pen is mightier than the sword, especially when it speaks the truth.

Articles and memorials are pouring out all over the Internet for this remarkable woman, one of my three greatest sheroes--Molly, Ann Richards, and Barbara Jordan. They did more for me in my life and career than anyone outside my family. They taught me courage: they showed me that Texas women don't have to cave in to the typical "old boy" slings and arrows, but can take a place at the table with wisdom, humor, reason, sanity, compassion, and grace. They gave me hope. They gave me role models.

I met Molly on several occasions at friends' homes, but never had the honor of moving closer into her circles. She did "bless my heart" when I told her that of all the writers I knew, I kept up with her even while living in Australia for two years, and that I counted on her to tell the truth about what was really happening.

So many of the posts express loss, and I also wonder "who will write the truth for us now?" The answer, of course, is that there is no one who can write like Molly. She was a "one-off," with more influence and fans than she probably ever realized. We can't let her down. We must get out our pots and pans and long-handled chuckwagon chili spoons and beat them until they hear the truth in Washington. We can't let her flame go out.

I like Bill Moyers' post the best so far. He wrote it for the Observer, but I read it in Common Dreams. Another indication no other person's passing has seen such a deluge of loving posts than Molly's.