Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Shout Out With Ashley Bryan

"It's not that every artist is a special kind of person; it's that every person is a special kind of artist. Each of us experiences the aesthetic, and possesses the creative". -Ashley Bryan-

Last evening, Dunedin Fine Art Center hosted master storyteller, teacher and artist Ashley Bryan. Described as a “force of nature,” Bryan is the illustrator of 30 children’s books and winner of numerous awards, including the 2005 Coretta Scott King Award and Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for achievement in children’s literature.

Surrounded by an exhibition of his colorful illustrations and puppets, Mr. Bryan quickly demonstrated why he is in such demand as a speaker. Within minutes this quiet and humble man had his audience shouting and clapping along, as they repeated after him several African-American poems and folk tales.

Each of us immediately sensed his joyful commitment to writing and the spoken word. Later, after most people had left, Ashley Bryan stayed on, amazing us with his energy and willingness to share.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"I've Nothing To Say!" There's An App For That

We hear over and over these days how some marvelous new technological gadget will bring us together. From iPhones, Skype and YouTube to Facebook and Twitter, the mantra remains the same – “Stay connected!”

There are a lot of us who also use these same technologies to distance ourselves from others.

Take e-mail for example. Have you ever had a bit of unpleasantness with a friend and rather than meeting face-to-face or even phoning them, you instead tap out a quick impersonal e-mail. Confident the problem is solved; you are easily off the hook.

Facebook is an excellent way to stay tuned to what is going on in our circle of friends. Daily we learn of upcoming meetings, opinions or calls to action. But, as our circle expands, we become so inundated with opportunities to support worthwhile causes or attend urgent meetings that we automatically hit the “like” button and scroll on to the next news feed – a YouTube video of dancing dogs.

IPhone, with its e-mail and video functions, seems to be the ultimate connective tool. Messages and videos can be instantly uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, or a host of other services. Even video conferences are possible over these something-for-everyone marvels.

There remains in the world a group of people who do not function well in public situations. These are the folks who break into a sweat at the mention of the word “mingle.” At parties, they are the ones rooted at the food table, beer in one hand, stuffing canap├ęs in their mouth with the other hand. Thus encumbered, they are spared the odious task of simple communication.

The iPhone turns out to be an excellent diversion for these silent types. I was recently at a dinner party with a dozen people seated at table, all trying to get a word in edgewise. One guest, however, did not join in the discussion and sat pushing bits of food around his plate.

Suddenly, grinning, he pulled out a shiny iPhone and immediately became lost in its multitude of applications. The man no longer felt the need to interact with his dinner companions. He had become an island unto himself thanks to his personal connection device.