Today celebrates the tenth anniversary of the launching of Blog for America. Over the past ten years, I've followed a lot of different blogs and used various tools to do so. Back in 2005, I wrote about using Flock, del.icio.us and Bloglines. I used del.icio.us quite a bit, but over time started using Bloglines more. Both were shutdown and then resuscitated. Flock never really did much for me, but I did end up using Rockmelt quite a bit, including some limited RSS capabilities.
When Twitter came along, I started spending more time with Twitter, and my wife even made a shirt for me with the line, "I get my news on Twitter".
When Blogline shutdown, I moved most of my blog reading over to Google Reader. Now, it has been announced Google Reader is shutting down, and I need to figure out where I go next. A lot of people have been writing a lot of blog posts about the end of Google Reader and what to do next. These have varied from recommending Feedly, news blur, and The Old Reader. Others have spoken about using IFTTT and a 'read later' site. The option that seems like it comes closest for me is the revitalized Feedburner.
Things that are important to me are the ability to look at all unread blog posts, or unread blog posts on specific blogs. It is important to me to be able to have many feeds. Currently, I'm following around 500 different blogs. Bloglines does all of this fairly nicely. The one thing that I'll miss when I finally move off of Google Reader is the mobile abilities. I haven't been able to find a bloglines client for Android.
Another thing that I liked about Google Reader is that besides having a mobile client, you could also read your stories on Flipboard. Hopefully, there will be the ability to read feeds stored from Bloglines or other sites from Flipboard and other mobile apps as well.
Other sites have suggested using newer news services that select what they think I'll be interested in based on topics. So far, other than Google News, none of these have really been all that interesting to me.
All of that said, I have three months before I have to move off of Google Reader, and I wouldn't be surprised to see lot of new developments between now and then.
If any of you have recommendations for good RSS/Blog readers, let me know
In my own little corner in my own little chair
I can be whatever I want to be.
These words came back to me as I helped clean out the basement of my mother's house. I always felt some kinship to Cinderella in the Rodgers and Hammerstein production from my childhood; not so much about going to the ball, but more about being picked on by siblings and wanting a place to escape, to my own little corner.
There was a small red rocking chair that I put in my secret hideaway beneath the basement stairs. It was my own little corner.
Cinderella would come around on the television about once a year and we would all watch it. The world has changed so much since those days. Now, Fiona watches whatever she wants on her iPhone whenever she wants. Some of the simple magic seems to be gone.
My sister and brother headed out to take another load of stuff out of the house. I stayed behind, lugging boxes of fabric and yarn out of the basement. My mother loved to sew. She would get together with other women from town for sewing circle. That was her peer group, her time to socialize.
As the car became more and more packed with fabric and yarn, I worried about how it would be received. We have too much stuff at our own house. Yet I knew that Fiona would appreciate it.
Perhaps sewing is a trait that can be passed on, skipping a generation. Perhaps, though I never developed a love of sewing or needle craft myself, I am a carrier, and Fiona has inherited some of it through me, from her grandmother.
By the time I came back from my next trip to my mother's house, Fiona already had one project nearing completion and was dreaming of others.
Me? I now sit in a much larger chair, in a different corner of a different house.
On the wings of my fancy I can fly anywhere
and the world will open its arms to me.
Now, I try to record my flights of fancy in stories I tell online.
All alone in my own little chair.
The other night, after spending time cleaning out my mother's house to get it ready for sale, I had another one of those "not being able to find my way home" sort of dreams. This time, it was in some sort of university setting. Many of the details have escaped in the morning light.
I suspect these dreams are triggered by thinking about my mother's death. On top of this, my wife's boss's mother just passed away which may be adding to these triggers.
There are several different parts of the dream that I have memories of. One was about a coworker getting into an argument about the role of doctors and nurses in primary care. In another section, there was a large sheet cake that graduates twist a screw into. I was not a graduate, but I got to place the first screw, which made some of the others particularly upset.
There was a section in a bar. This may have been where my coworker had the argument, but I don't remember more details. Then, there was the trying to get home. It involved going through levels of an underground parking lot, trying to find a way out.
My dream then moved into wondering about how a friend who was supposed to have a tumor removed on Friday is doing.
A couple days later, I had more dreams that seem to be related to cleaning out my mother's house. One was cleaning out a car in preparation to try and outrun some sort of coming storm. There were a bunch of weird parts, like someone sailing a sailboat up onto the land, and the keel plowing a furrow in the sand. Then a strange woman tried to get a ride with my brother and I as we prepared to leave.
Later, I was at a party. It was at a house from my childhood neighborhood. My brother was at the party, and a friend from the town I live in now showed up. When I was supposed to leave, and head to my mother's house, I tried to find them to get them to come, but I couldn't.
We live in a polarized society where just about everything is right or wrong, black or white, either/or, and rarely both/and. Perhaps this is some of the starting point of the discussion about the Amity High School Theatre Department's production of Sweeney Todd. It is violence ladened entertainment, or it is art. Even when talking about art, we find this dichotomy, art for art sake versus art as a means of societal change.
Last night, at the Amity Board of Education, I suggested a middle ground. Can we look at Sweeney Todd as both art for art sake, and art capable of bringing about positive societal change? Can art contain distasteful violence and be redeeming at the same time? If we are willing to step outside of our preconceived assumptions, it just might be possible.
For me, this relates back the whole idea of indirect lessons. Kids learn football for football's sake, yet at the same time, they are learning about teamwork. There's a lot of teamwork you learn when you are in a musical. Yet there's even more. There is a certain amount of emotional intelligence and empathy that can be indirectly learned by the cast and the audience a like. There can be catharsis and redemption even in a play about revenge.
Amity has a great tradition of theatre, yet one thing that I've not been able to find around that has been groups gathering to share with one another what they have experienced and learned from attending the productions.
The dust up around the production of Sweeney Todd appears to be offering an opportunity to fill this need. Over in a discussion on the Orange Patch, The Rev. Ann Ritonia wrote,
"a community discussion on violence is a wonderful idea. All are invited to attend a continuation of a community dialogue on April 23rd at St. Barbara's Greek Orthodox Church sponsored by the Orange Interfaith Clergy Fellowship. Prevention of Violence in our Culture: The Next Steps will begin at 7 pm and childcare will be provided. The public is welcome and Middle and High School Students are most welcome to participate in the discussion."
I hope people will attend Sweeney Todd. I hope they will then join the discussion at St. Barbara's Church. Let's celebrate and share art for art's sake that brings about positive social change.
This evening, I attended the Amity Board of Education meeting, where the public comment ended up being about the theatre department's upcoming production of "Sweeney Todd". I decided to go after I saw an announcement in the Patch, Violence Continues at Amity High School.
It was an unfortunate headline for an unfortunate announcement. The violence continuing at the high school is in the form of the musical, "Sweeney Todd". One high school student commented that the only violence at the school is freshmen during the first part of the school year, and that most of the time, Amity High School is a pretty mellow place.
The announcement resulted in an article in the Patch, "Parents Plannning [sic] to Protest at Amity BOE Meeting". It appeared in both the Bethwood Patch and the Orange Patch. Between the two articles and the announcement, there have been around 40 comments on the topic. It was also picked up in the New York Times.
Many of the comments talked about those opposing the production as "small-minded protesters [who] should be ashamed of themselves" and who "should get a grip on reality". Yet I think this misrepresents what is going on.
The first person to speak talked about an inter-faith coalition that was concerned about violence in society, and particularly as it exists in the media. She raised concerns about the violence in the musical and if it was teaching the sort of lessons we want to teach our youth. Others spoke about the musical in terms of art.
I spoke about how, perhaps if we think seriously, the two positions aren't as far apart as people would like to imagine. Art is a powerful way for people to deal with trauma, with the evil that is in the world. It provides an opportunity for people to discuss violence and the sort of society that we want to be part of.
I encouraged everyone to attend the musical, and then to gather with friends to discuss it and broader topics of violence in society. Afterwards, I encouraged the husband of the first speaker to attend, and to distribute leaflets inviting other theatre goers to an open discussion on a later date about violence in society and how art, and the musical addresses this problem. We shall see if anyone takes me up on this.
After I spoke, Howard Sherman echoed some of the same themes, reflecting on Sondheim's words, "Art isn't easy". Art isn't easy. Confronting evil and violence in our world isn't easy. Teaching our children isn't easy. But all of it can come together to help make the world a better place.
So, please come see Sweeney Todd, and then engage in discussions about the music with your friends and neighbors. Join in a broader discussion about how we can make our community a better place.
(This blog post has also been submitted to The Patch)