New Serial? YES PLEASE!

If you haven’t listened to “Serial” yet then you should. You can find it here. It’s full of nail biting cliff hangers, and amazing plot twists that make any “who-done-it” worth watching.

There were some moral dilemmas also. this wasn’t a random “who-done-it. This was an actual murder case, with an actual man still behind bars, and an actual conclusion as to what the host thinks was and was not done correctly, and what she concluded about his innocence and/or guilt.

Can you make a podcast about a living, breathing person? Can you put his life and crimes on trial in front of millions of people? Clearly the answer is yes, because they did. And they are coming back with two more seasons!

I learned about Serial through, of all things, a tweet.

Two girls walked by me today, deep in conversation. “There’s no way Adnan did it,” one of them said, and my world got that much smaller. – Wil Wheaton

This intrigued me. Who was this Adnon and why wasn’t I in on the know? So I looked him up, and then I found the podcast. Once I started listening I couldn’t stop.

After listening to several episodes I started searching the internet for more information about the case, and who was involved. I found forums, and sub-reddits, and podcasts about the podcast. People were obsessed about this story, and kept coming back for more.

The outpouring reminded me of the days, long ago, when people would talk about the latest episode of some TV show EVERYONE was watching. We rarely have things, like Serial, that fascinate a majority of our population anymore. The only other thing I can think of is “Game of Thrones”, and sports. Maybe things like the Avengers, and LOTR movies. There is so much media out there, and so many different ways to get it, that unless you are in that group you don’t know anything about it.

Serial was also the first hit in podcasting. They had more listeners every week then any other show in the history of podcasting. This opened the doors for other podcasters to be recognized. I think two more seasons can only help the rest of us.

Explaining the world

I was watching a news piece about the shootings in France on youtube last night and my son wandered over and asked me “Why did they do it?”

That’s a big question, with a bigger answer. I tried to explain it: They drew cartoons criticizing their religion and they didn’t like it. Then my son asked what the cartoons said, and then he had extra questions.

questionmasterMy son is the Question Master. When he focuses on a subject he starts asking about every little thing, and if you let him he will have  you there for a couple hours just answering more questions about the same original subject. He doesn’t understand that it’s frustrating for other people to have to answer 15 MILLION questions about the operation of a stick shift Subaru. (Except for Gregg, he loves Subaru.) Usually once he gets to a certain point I will point him toward Google and say “have at it.”

But this time he wasn’t asking about aerodynamics, or cakes, or tensile strength of a bridge (yes he’s really asked those things. My kids WAY smarter then I am.) This time he was asking about religion, extremism, cultural differences and censorship. Things that are a little tougher to understand. Things that you can’t simply say “this is right and this is wrong.” No, these subjects are more nuanced.

We take for granted this “freedom of speech”, except that it is our right, and then rally against those who would try to silence or control it. At least sometimes.

But not everyone believes in freedom of speech. Not everyone thinks “everything” should be allowed. And I’m not talking about just certain religions or certain cultures. EVERY culture has issues. Even the USA that prides itself on this freedom has groups that ban books, like Harry Potter, or Christian groups that try silencing other groups because they aren’t christian.

When you feel that you belong to a specific group you tend to want to help that group. You might show it by wearing your teams colors on Sunday, or singing a hymn in church. You might wave a banner, or spend a month camping out near Wall Street. And some people take that idea that their group is right and yours is wrong to new heights. Just ask the parents at the last game who started a brawl in the bleachers of their kids school.

How do you explain the world and all its intricacies? Why did they shoot a cartoonist?

We can say it was fear, or pride, or anger… but I think there are some people in this world who hold the idea of being “right” over the idea of life. When a human life is less important then being right then things start happening. Things that sometimes end in deaths.

And I’m not talking about just this incident. Look at any mass shooting, every war, every violent act. Someone believed that they were right, and it was more important then the life they took.

Wikileaks_cantstopsignalI’m not a religious person, and I have anything against anyone who wants to practice a religion. But I do have a problem when your religion infringes on my right to a happy, and healthy life. That includes information. You can’t stop the signal! You can never stop the signal!

Knowledge, science, and progress aren’t going to stop just because someone, or some group are afraid of it. It didn’t stop Galeleo, or Rhazes, or Domagk. If the KGP and Gestapo couldn’t stop it then neither can the NSA or ISIS leaders. We will endure. Knowledge will prevail.

And life will find a way.

Science and Art

I just got done watching Adam Savage’s SXSW Address and I needed to talk about it. Adam Savage is a fantastic speaker, and usually has something very thought provoking to say. In this speech he is talking about Science and Art. That they are connected because they are both ways to discuss the same thing. Human Culture.

I am a writer, and I also do art. This makes me an artist, right? Yes, I would say it does. But I also am a scientist. I enjoy performing thought experiments about scientific advancements. I use these thoughts in some of my writing. How can a space ship save it’s passengers from cosmic radiation? If electromagnetic fields on earth do this how can we create an artificial electromagnetic field on a space ship? How can we encompass an entire colony ship?

I’m not the first writer to think about how things could work, and use those things in there writing. The writers of Star Trek did this every week, and create some interesting technology that no one ever thought would be realistic. Then we got communicators, and touch pads, and reusable shuttle crafts. They, Star Trek, inspired so many scientists. And yet “Star Trek” is still often seen as low brow cinema. Even though Star Trek was one of the first TV shows to comment on the cold war, the inequality of African Americans, and sexism. Not directly, of course, but it was often written into the show in such a way that people could accept it, and discuss it, when they could never have done so before.

Art opens doors for communication. It doesn’t matter if it is “high brow” or “low brow” art, it doesn’t matter if you initially understand the piece, but it get some people talking. And that is what art is for.

In my novella, “Osiren’s Tears“, there are several themes. The extremist view point leading a society astray, the difference in two cultures clashing and causing war, the idea that women are less then men just for the fact of their sex. I did not write the story with the idea of these things being talked about, but they probably made their way into the story because they are effecting me more now then they ever did before. Crimea, Iraq, Afghanistan. Extremists on every continent are trying to drive entire societies like leading a bull with a ring in it’s nose. The bull doesn’t want to go there, but the pain from the ring in their nose makes them move. Sometimes the bull will break free and go it’s own way, but other times it can’t stand the pain and just goes along with it.

Writing is a way of sharing thoughts and ideas, and exploring both sides of a story, without consequence. I can write from the view point of someone who thinks and does atrocious things without anyone actually getting hurt. I can explore why they would do such a thing, and what drives them, and maybe understand them a little more while doing it (though never condoning).

Cultural Anthropology, the study of cultures and people, is a science, and I think every artist would benefit drastically from that science. Statistics are math, and statistics show some invaluable information. How things are better, how things are worse, how things effect you or societies. Then there are environmental sciences, biology, and basic geometry. How does your world fit together? How do the creatures evolve? What are the dementions of a temple, and how do people access each floor?

Science and art work hand in hand. Science explains how the world works, and art is a communication tool to explain it to the layman. Art is a way of exploring facets of the world we have yet to experiment with scientifically. And science is the way to explore those same ideas even further.

There is a movement to add art to the STEM programs. It’s called STEM to STEAM. They want to add art to the middle of STEM where I think it belongs. And I completely support this. Schools don’t just need scientific exploration, they need understanding of the culture around them, and they need to know how to communicate in different ways which is taught by music, painting, writing, and sculpture. All things that use math and science to get their points across.

But the bigger question: how do we get our children to engage in science and math?

MAKE IT PERSONAL! If it isn’t personal to them then they won’t care. I did not care about history in school because the history class was so boring, and did not link the past with the future so I kept thinking “this doesn’t matter to me.” But when I got to college I took some awesome college classes in history that made the world come alive.

But if you teach a child through mediums that they enjoy, and show them how science, math, and history link to those things, then they are likely to take a closer look at them as well. Some students will stop thinking of themselves as just creative, or just scientific, and realize that they are both.