The Wilbur Wright Shooting Range

My former student – and The Invictus Writer – David Ake finally got me out to the shooting range today. It was a cold, dreary day but that hardly dampened our spirits. He’s an excellent teacher and an honor to his country. (He’s a veteran of the second Gulf War.)

Here’s my first attempt to fire an AK-47. It’s not pretty:

(You can see all three of our videos here at my The Gun Range YouTube playlist.)

 

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The Tigger Talk: On Life, the Process, and Everything

Grades don’t matter.

This is what I tell my students ever week throughout the school year. Education is about the process, I tell them as they roll their eyes, not the product. I implore them to focus on squeezing out every bit of knowledge from their assignments. I want them to attack uncertainty without fear of failure. I encourage them to fail.

Because in failure we learn.

But the truth is that even those students who try – try – to focus on learning and not grades still fall victim to that red letter penned upon their assignments. I can see it in their eyes, the smiles that beam across their face when they earn As and the sunken, silent despair when they earn Fs.

I want to grab each of them, look them in the eyes, and remind them that grades don’t matter. In class or in life. What matters is the process. What matters is the way you approach your education, your relationships, and your life.

Of course I can’t convince my students to think this way. Too much of our educational system is built around grades. So I do the only thing that I can: I tell them my story.

This is The Tigger Talk.

***

Part 1: On Life

Grades don’t matter. I’ve told you that throughout the semester. Before every assignment. After every assignment. Grades are simply irrelevant to what you have learned and what you know.

I’ve told you this but I haven’t told you why I know this. Today I am going to do that.

 

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SXSW: A Recap

In the next few weeks, I’ll be giving presentations that recap what happened this year at South by Southwest.

I’ve asked my friends (and the awesome folks at SXSW) to help me gather links and ideas. Here’s what we’ve assembled so far: SXSW 2011 Mind Map.

What do you think? What did we miss?

Once we’ve completed this, I’ll be making this available as a downloadable, interactive PDF that you can take with you.

A South by Southwest Guide to Surviving the Nerdpocalypse

Greetings Earthlings:

Nearly twenty years ago, I attended my first South by Southwest conference. At this point in my life, I have no idea about the specifics. I couldn’t tell you what I did and whom I met. All I know is the experience changed my life for the better.

I loved the conference – and the city – so much that I moved there in 1995. (And again in 2002 after I left Wired.) In the ensuing years, I returned to the conference every year. I returned for Music, then for Interactive, and finally for Film. Now, I return for them all.

I have done this conference as press, as an attendee, as a panelist, as a moderator, as an emcee, and always as a nerd. These days I do some panel vetting as part of the Advisory Board, I evangelize about the conference and I’ll be emcee’ing the Accelerator for the third year.

I tell you all of this narcissistic pabulum as a way to convince you that what I’m about to tell you has some merit or weight to it. Of course, this being SXSW Interactive you are more than willing to – well – interact with this content however you’d like. (And I know you will my Nerdikins.)

What I’d like to offer you is my SXSW Guide to Surviving the Nerdpocalypse (and my handy dandy map to all things Not-SXSW related in Austin that you must do):

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A Valentine’s Day Treatise

If you’ve followed my blog at all, you know that I have a deep and meaningful relationship with Mr. Hank Moody (and Charles Bukowski, the writer the show Californication is based upon).

At his highest, Moody is a sharp, witty writer examining the human condition while balancing his on-again/off-again relationship with girlfriend Karen and his casual escapes with other women.

At his lowest, he’s a drunken out-of-control addict unable to keep himself from self-destructing across the lives of everyone he cares about and everyone with whom he comes in contact.

Yet each week, you root for him. Even the other characters on the show root for him, especially the ones he spills across the most. Surely the damages cut a little deeper each time, but somehow you continue to like him.

Because he is unabashedly a Romantic.

He lives his life fully, openly and with the belief that this time – this time – is when everybody will finally get it right, make the right decisions and reach the zenith. Inevitably he falls when that peak is missed.

Until he gets back up.

**

I can tell you the moment that I fell in love for the first time. (That I can also tell you the time, location and type of drink I had for the first time may be more insightful that I wished it to be.)

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Running Man, the 2011 Edition

The Year of Health ended just a few days ago.

If I had to add it up I’d say I came out on the plus side of things last year.

On the positive: I quit smoking 48 weeks and nearly 2 days ago. I weighed in the neighborhood of 165. I completed my fastest half-marathon ever and finished a brutally cold trail marathon in December. I even regularly breached the sub-8 minute mile mark.

On the negative: My six-week post-marathon routine hasn’t been great and I’ve put on 10 unwanted pounds. I didn’t hit my time goal on the marathon. I haven’t found cross-training routines I care for.

Still, I consider the year a success. It’s certainly gotten me ready for the upcoming Year of Health 2: Electric Bugaloo. (As an aside, Electric Bugaloo will never, ever go out of style as a sequel name. Kudos to you 1980s.) Last year was training, this year should be epic.

Which brings us to my next 90-in-90 challenge: the De-Fatman Edition.

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Austin Tales: Where I Worked from 1996-1998

There’s simply too much to explain about this place. But nearly everything of interest that happened to me in Austin – and by that I mean nearly everything I will ever commit to the page in this forum – happened at Antone’s, the best blues bar on the planet.

To list all the musicians I saw here would serve no real purpose, but there’s rarely a day that goes by that I don’t recall – in that sunset fading way – the days of my youth.

Plow on Boy

My writing career was less than six months old in 1995 and things were not going well.

I’d botched an interview with Jim Carroll. I’d choked a brief encounter with Hunter S. Thompson. I quit my job at Cincinnati CityBeat, a local weekly where I was writing news. Instead, I wanted to write features. I wanted to tell stories.

So I did. Quitting that job made all the difference in my life. But one of the luckiest finds was a local Cincinnati band, Plow on Boy.

As it happened, I worked with the lead singer, Niki Buehrig (she’s Niki Dakota now), at the York Street Cafe in Covington. This was beneficial for two reasons:

  • She’s one of two songwriters in my life who have moved me; and
  • Her band was voted Band of the Year in 1995.

Since I worked with her, she asked the other weekly in town — Everybody’s News — to let me write their profile.  I still have it…down in Texas. But that’s not important now.

What’s important is this. Her song, “Pastoral,” has haunted me since the first time I heard it 15 years ago. How haunted? When I lost the only version I had in 2000, I freaked out and tracked down her old bassist Mike when I was in Cincinnati and had him burn me several copies of their old work.

I’ve lost touch with the group – Niki, Chris, Mike and Toby, mostly. I do catch up with them every once in awhile. But Niki’s words, the band’s melodies, and “Pastoral” follow me.

Now, hopefully, it will follow you. With an extra bonus track, “O.K. Then,” just for you.

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So New: In Which I Take The Bean Out (40 of 90)

Two years ago, I dated a woman with a 16-year old daughter. That was a first for me. I’ve certainly dated single moms before, but never one with a kid who would really remember any interactions we’d have.

I fell in love with her immediately, the way in which adults fall in love with children. She was this beautiful, funny, engaging, shy, nerdy, awesome love-able kid. We had our ups and downs, most of which I was prepared.

(Of course, I was wholly unprepared for the strength of the emotional outbursts – both good and bad – that come with being a teenager. Even as someone who has taught teenagers, it’s hard to gird yourself for that inevitable one-on-one clash.)

Still, in the short time The Bean’s mom and I dated, I developed a bond with her. One that I was devastated to lose when my relationship with her mom ended.

I kept in touch with The Bean through social media, although I checked in with the ex to make sure that it was okay. I’m very cognizant that she’s not my child and I wouldn’t ever want to over-step my bounds in that way. Still, I really wanted to catch up with the nugget in person. There’s only so much Twitter can do. I ran the idea of taking The Bean out past the ex, and she graciously agreed.

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So New: In Which We Write in Cafes (39 of 90)

I’ve been derelict in my writing.

I wish I could say that I haven’t been avoiding it, but the reality is I’ve let my life and school get between me and the words. It’s created a weird angst within me, the calling that usually comes before I cut the reigns and find myself roaming the countryside looking for what’s next.

I’m trying very hard to avoid that this time. I have a good life here in Indiana and the opportunity to do some amazing work.

So my former student Tiffany dragged me out into the city for a night of writing at cafes. Her charge: find us places to wander throughout the city. I have to say: she did an amazing job.

Our first stop: Henry’s on East Street. (See my Yelp review here.)

The ever-diligent Tiffany had printed directions for us, which we promptly ignored as we got lost. We somehow turned a 1-minute walk into a 20-minute escapade, although truth be told those are usually the best times. Only the ominous skies kept it from being entirely enjoyable.

But we made it inside before the rains came.

We plugged in and started working at 3:30 and stayed until just before closing at 7 pm.

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So New: In Which We Go To Bonge’s Tavern (38 of 90)

I’ve been plotting a trip to Bonge’s Tavern for a few weeks, but my plans kept falling through.

That fact was disappointing me because I’d heard nothing but amazing things about this place, which is odd considering it’s in the middle of nowhere.

How in the middle of nowhere, you ask. Check out this map and see.

It’s roughly 45 minutes from downtown Indianapolis and 45 minutes from Muncie. Which doesn’t seem so out of the way until I give you two more pieces of information.

The first: it’s an hour from downtown Indianapolis to Muncie, which means the trip to Bonge’s is 30 minutes out of the way; the second: it’s buried off the main drag, along a series of state routes that eventually lead you to a telephone pole with a hand-written sign on it that says “Bonge’s Tavern” to let you know you’re not lost.

Let me tell you: the wait was worth it. (Read my Yelp review here.)

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