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Public outreach in science is a important element for the maintenance of our present technology-affected (or afflicted) civilization. Science and engineering (Sci & Eng) activity is continually expanding the scope of the known. The global business sector, without relent, puts new technologies to work and retires others as obsolete. It is as though civilization is in a constant state of catch-up with the tools and materials being made newly available. And the quality of news is quite variable.

When it comes to the electronic and print mass media’s government reporting, the emphasis seems to me to focus on the current budgeting process and political conflict therein. These two subjects are in the “eternal now” in the flow of events. The word “news” is just the plural form of “new” so it is natural that news media focus on present budgeting and in-fighting. Media directors and executives know that reporting must be as concrete as possible and what could be more so than large dollar values and pithy news of political hijinks? Both raise our ire because cost and anger are emotional triggers for people. And emotional triggers bring lingering eyeballs to media.

The public not affiliated with Sci & Eng are quite often unaware of what their tax dollars are actually producing, perhaps many years down the timeline. The eventual outcome of government spending on Sci & Eng may be quite specialized and seem only remotely related to non-Sci & Eng life.

It has been my observation that media equates boring content with failure and compelling content with broadcasting success. The word “compelling” is used to describe something that attracts lingering eyeballs. Modern news broadcasting is the process of jumping from one compelling piece to another. I suppose we cannot blame them for this emphasis on superficiality because apparently it is what “we” want. The big We that draws advertisers and thus cash flow to broadcasters. It keeps the lights on and families fed. Basic stuff that can’t be dismissed with a utopian wave of the hand.

If there is going to be any fundamental change in the tenor and quality of content in media, it will have to come from citizen viewers. This leads me to the thrust of this essay: Those knowledgeable in Sci & Eng must bring the value proposition of current efforts in technological civilization to the citizenry, because broadcast media certainly can’t. By “broadcast media” I mean to include everything right down to what appears on your smart phone. Unfortunately, tech content typically emphasizes consumer goods like automobiles, electronic widgets, space, or miraculous medicine.

Those knowledgeable in Sci & Eng must bring the value proposition of current efforts in technological civilization to the citizenry, because broadcast media certainly can’t in any depth. They’re in showbiz. 

Arguments in favor of rational stewardship of our little world won’t influence elected politicians. But informed and persuasive citizens can influence those who are less so and if they apply some leadership. Carefully. Those who may be less educated and less up to date on the sciency subjects do not take kindly to speech that talks down to them. The hand that reaches from above is still above and off-putting. Learn to communicate on even ground.

What works for me in reaching out to all levels of education is to use humor and a bit of showmanship. Reaching out to the public in a way that keeps their attention is hard to do and not everyone is prepared to do it. Lest you think I am describing putting on a show, not entirely. I am saying that by the deft use of knowledge, public speaking skill, and the strength of personality, it is possible to persuade even the scientifically reluctant to perk up and follow your efforts at making a point. But the point must be accessible. Deep detail and meandering monologue will lose your group. Keep your outreach succinct and limit the breadth to a few pearls of wisdom. Get feedback on your presentation.  With any luck, they’ll go home and jump on Google for more.

If you need help with public speaking, join Toastmasters to improve. Try acting lessons. Join a theatre group. Learn to relax, pace yourself, and enjoy speaking. The better you get at the mechanics of public speaking, the more effective you’ll become.

[Note: The crummy WordPress text editor used to write this post is just abysmal. Why it was changed to the current revision is a mystery to me.  -Th’ Gaussling]

I sit in solitude in the lower dressing room, below the stage, at the Rialto Theatre in Loveland, CO, waiting for my cue to go on. The rest of the cast are upstairs in the new green room dressing and applying makeup. My preference is to get some self time before I go on. I have a bit part in our production of Father of the Bride.

The stage is set and the popcorn machines in the lobby are popping away, blowing a magical waft of diacetyl and hot corn into the dimmed auditorium. The curtain is closed and the blue low-wattage lights backstage are shining on the floor and black curtains in the wings. The stage crew are making last minute adjustments to the set dressings. Background music is playing and a few patrons are shuffling to their seats.

In a minute I’ll apply some makeup so my pasty white face topped with whitish hair will display a bit of facial expression in the bright stage lights. A bit of mascara to darken the eyebrows and some eyeliner to make the whites of the eyes pop out a bit:  All to accentuate the emotional spin I will apply to the lines. This will emphasize vocal nuances contrived to convey the emotional intent of the playwright.

One of the key ideas in acting is listening. An actor must listen to the lines being said not only for the cues they may contain, but for pacing and to convey a realistic sense of the interplay. For many of us in life, conversation consists of waiting for others to be silent so we can talk. The best actors sound natural in part because they are also listening.

Opening night of our 2 week run went well. We need to fill the seats with backsides to fund the next production. Snow is predicted for tomorrow, Mother’s day. Hard to tell what effect that will have on attendance.

7:30! It’s show time!

 

The current movie “The Lone Ranger” is a real stinker. The buffoons who produce pictures like this should not be encouraged with good attendance figures. You can’t build a movie solely on a sight gag consisting of Johnny Depp with a dead crow on his head. In fact, I’d rather not invest anymore heartbeats on the topic. <end>

There is a nice post at NeuroChambers on doing a PhD.  It’s well worth the read for those who may be contemplating the form of self-abuse called “grad school”. Getting a PhD has more to do with adopting a 24/7 lifestyle than getting a diploma. The diploma is just your journyman’s card to get you to your mining claim where you have to set up your sluice all over again and begin sifting for nuggets.

Gold, silver, copper, and molybdenum discovered in Haiti. Majescor Resources report favorable initial findings. Yow! That’s good news for somebody.

Friday (tomorrow) night is opening night for our play. In it I play a farmer of root vegetables … for the second time no less. I farmed Beets, previously, and a giant potato this time.  The story relates to an article in the September 28, 1895, issue of Scientific American, p 199, showing the potato and the farmer that I portray. The play is written in 19th century American English vernacular and has been a little vexing for the whole cast to adapt to. This will be the first performance of this play, so no one really knows what to expect by way of audience reaction. Our last play with this writer, Beets, was quite successful and well regarded.

In any case, final rehearsal is tonight. The set is complete, costumes fitted, special effects worked out, and light and sound cues set. We’re the first theatre crew to use the remodeled facility, so everyone is psyched. It’s a real trip to be in the blackened back stage and wings, dim blue lights illuminating the walkways, while waiting for your cue to walk onto a live stage with an audience in the seats.

Collapsing Towers

Amusing.

Being part-owner of a theatre company, I also get to be a roadie and stagehand for our play that opens in a week. Today is load-in day at the theatre. We have to move the set and props onto the stage and wings. Costumes have to go to the dressing rooms and make-up room supplies have to be put in place.  After many weeks of reheasal and production work, the thing is really going to happen. For Kitchen Witches, we have a cast of 4- 3w and 1m.

This time we put a bit more effort into promotional work. We have a talented graphic artist who does posters and other kinds of copy for us. Posters are up in every shop that’ll let us do it. Post cards are out to our direct mailing list of recpients. We have not advertised on radio owing to the high cost. Newspaper advertising is a puzzlement to us. Who reads papers anymore? When you have a small advertising budget, getting bang for the buck is risky.  

In community theatre, your audience is substantially the 55 + crowd. And among that group, it is heavily skewed to the 65 + demographic of blue hairs and Q-tips. Retired people go to plays. The age 21 to 50 group are commonly very scarce in the audience. I think it has always been that way.  We are a theatre group without a bricks and mortar theatre. Given the thin demographic, if we had to keep a buildng in operation we’d be broke already.

We have local “celebrities” each doing a cameo during one particular scene in each performance: Two mayors, the school superintendant, an elementary school principal, and a few business leaders. 

Our set guy came up with some clever stuff. We can’t wait to see the set in use.

Th’ Gaussling was in our November production of Dearly Departed, but the current production had no role for a cranky middle aged guy, so I’m sitting it out. We have one actor who just finished a run of Rocky Horror as well as an assistant director who was in the same production.  Their production of Rocky Horror was quite well done, even if they did not allow us to throw toast. First timers like myself got called on stage for a public spanking by one of the transvestite characters. That was hilarious.   \;-)

Mythbusters' Cannonball Flightpath
Via: PerceptionBuilder.com

I couldn’t resist posting this map.  Just how many myths are there involving cannons? Judging from Mythbusters, there must be quite a few because they are always blasting something.  There is a job I’d love to have.

I have moved my political posting to the Daily Kos where I’ll be an even smaller frog in the big pond. I want to limit this site to the sciency posts.

Saw Apollo 18 at the cineplex last night. It is filmed in a rough documentary style with “recovered” footage. My recommendation? It’s worth seeing on a big screen. Probably not a good date flick, though.  But that depends on your date.

While at a brew pub in Denver Friday night, I was summoned to a table of 20-something ladies who were obviously celebrating a girls-night-out before a wedding.  The bride-to-be, decorated with a pink faux veil, gestured for me to come answer a question. I walked over and bent down to hear her. It was then that she looked me in the eye and asked a question that most fellows rarely ever hear: “Can I pat your booty?” she said.  I looked at the table of a dozen well coiffed lovelies watching me for some sign of a reaction.  The guest of honor had a list of items in her hand that she needed to check off.  Seeing this, and noting the urgency with which she needed to complete the task, I grinned and “relented”.  At least she asked first. So I stood up, turned around and bent over a few degrees in supplication, and received the pat. With my brief role completed, I turned back around and bid them a farewell. Moments later I found my dinner party and sat down with them, satisfied that I had just participated in an important cultural rite of passage.  Hours later the wife unit assured me that this happened only because I appeared harmless. So it goes.

Th’ Gaussling happened onto the video behind the bouncy Heineken ad known as The Entrance.  As a public service, I have attached a link to the full video. The band is Danish and are called the Asteroids GalaxyTour

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