Kids also learn nothing about the importance of a positive outlook, especially how it affects other people. They don't learn about setting goals, or managing risk, or discerning the difference between truth and lies in the media and in person.
You could make your own long list of skills that kids aren't taught during the time they are learning things they will never use. Yes, yes, yes, I understand that some of the subjects taught in school are meant to increase critical thinking and generally expand minds as opposed to teaching useful facts, but isn't there a way to accomplish the same thing with topics that ARE useful?
I'm in the process of building a house. (This is year 3.5 of the process, and ground was broken just yesterday.) While the project is frustrating, it is also intellectually fascinating. I had no idea how many technical disciplines would be involved. There's even an engineer who specializes in knowing how to move the dirt from one part of the property and fill in a hole in another, packing it down in just the right way to make it stable for the foundation.
You could take any tiny portion of the house project and make it an exercise in critical thinking. I can imagine a school curriculum organized around building an imaginary house, advancing from first grade through high school. Kids could learn all sorts of useful skills, from budgeting (math), to calculating loads (science), to learning how couples can decide on the fixtures and furniture. Your geography course could be based on deciding what country to build your house in. Geology would be oriented toward deciding what type of land to build on. Art class would involve interior design and architecture, with a semester on how to identify good art for the walls. Biology would involve understanding your own future garden and plants. Evolution would involve learning why your family dog walks on four legs and you walk on two.
You would learn all the critical thinking you ever needed just trying to design a kitchen that requires the fewest footsteps and fits into a defined space, with a limited budget.
Kids who are gifted would learn more about the math and science behind the engineering of the house. Kids on a more hands-on career path might be learning how to pave the driveway or design the electrical system. Designing and building a house employs almost every useful field of knowledge, excepting maybe history and language.
Maybe we wouldn't be in this economic mess if all kids had to learn about budgeting, mortgage loans, and risk analysis.
We know the country can get past one suspicious Presidential election, because it did exactly that with Gore versus Bush. But two in a row would turn even normal citizens into conspiracy theorists. Given the anxiety over the economy, concerns about abortion rights, and the continuing wars, you have a perfect storm for revolution.
Interestingly, the only person who could stop the riots would be Obama himself.
Long time readers of this blog remember I was trying to help cartoonist Scott Meyer develop a syndicated comic strip. He already has a comic called Basic Instructions that is popular on the web, but its format and characters aren't a natural fit with mainstream newspapers. And while newspaper syndication didn't work out, Scott just came out with a book that is a collection of his comics. I have a copy, and it is pure genius. Check it out.
The web site is here: www.basicinstructions.net/
In July I had surgery to fix my voice issue. For 3.5 years I have had spasmodic dysphonia, a condition where the vocal cords squeeze shut involuntarily when you try to talk. The projected recovery time from the surgery is 3-4 months, while the transplanted nerves in the neck regenerate. I was told that after a few months of only being able to whisper, the new nerve pathway would finally be complete, and one day I would wake up with a voice.
It happened this week.
I don't yet have a full voice, and I still can't talk above much background noise, but it's a real voice. Unlike before, it is fully functional. For the first time in years I can use the telephone, and order food at a restaurant and be heard. It will take several more months for the voice to become essentially normal. I am delighted.
Recently I was asked if human creativity is nearing its limits. It seems as if every idea has already been done. Regular readers of this blog know that every time I describe what I think is a new idea, someone provides a link to an earlier description of the same idea.
I don't think creativity is coming to an end. I think creativity is increasing at an increasing rate, and always will.
Creativity is generally a combination of existing ideas. If there were only two concepts in the universe, creativity would be "What happens if we put them together?" If you add a third and fourth concept to the universe, the number of creative combinations shoots up.
The Internet allows you to check the originality of your idea quickly, so it sometimes seems that all the good ideas have been taken. But the Internet also seeds us with many more concepts than we would otherwise be exposed to. Humans are like distributed computing for creativity. The Internet and the media and our daily lives dump huge volumes of raw concepts into our heads and we process and combine things until something new feels right.
Worrying comes from predicting the future on a straight line, imagining trouble increasing at some established pace. But the real future comes in leaps and bounces, with creative solutions expanding faster than problems. I believe this is some sort of fundamental law of the universe, that solutions will always outpace problems.
Take a deep breath. You're going to be fine. Someone, somewhere, just thought of an idea that will fix everything. And you couldn't stop it if you tried.
The rest of this post is for art nerds who care about this sort of thing. I'll see the rest of you tomorrow.
The equipment you see me using is a Wacom Cintiq 21ux. Here's a page that describes it
It's attached to a plain Windows PC running XP. The software is Photoshop. I created my own font for the lettering, using a commercial font creation packages. I forget which one.
Obviously I started my career drawing on paper, with the first draft in pencil, and then inking over the pencil lines. The dot pattern used for shading was a sort of decal you could buy at high end art stores. You placed the decal on your art and then used an X-Acto knife to cut it to fit.
It was a tedious process, and took about twice as long as my current method. When finished, I would take a photocopy and mail the original to United Media in New York. The flaw in this process is that once the local Post Office figures out who you are, the original art starts disappearing. So the next step involved scanning the originals and e-mailing them, which took forever with the computers of the day.
The next phase in the tool evolution involved drawing the basic art on paper, then scanning it into the computer to finish. Once scanned, I used Photoshop just to clean up stray lines, add the shading with a "fill" command, and do the lettering. I created my own dot pattern for the fills, through trial and error.
During those years I used a Macintosh for the art, and a PC for everything else, partly to be compatible with licensees. Every Mac I owned was a lemon, crashing ten times a day on average. My Windows machines were all relatively sturdy, so I moved everything to Windows and things have been great since. (You don't need to tell me your Mac never crashes. I know.)
About four years ago I moved to a fully paperless process, using the Cintiq 21ux. It took me about three months to get the hang of drawing on screen. It's an entirely different feel, scale, and process.
I still draw a first draft, as you will see in the video. It's hard to tell, but the lines of the rough art are jaggy because of the scale I use to draw it. The rough art is in its own "layer," which is Photoshop lingo. When I'm happy with the rough art, I click on the layer and change the opacity of the lines to about 25%. That makes the rough look like a light gray line. I do that so that when I do the final art in another layer, the black lines of the final are easy to distinguish from the lighter lines of the rough draft below it. I zoom to 200% for the final art, and use the paintbrush tool at size 6, with 25% hardness, giving the lines a smooth look.
The starting file is 600 dpi, grayscale. The comic size is about 2" x 7" with some extra white space around the perimeter. You can draw in any size that is proportional to the finished product. It took some trial and error to figure out what works best for me.
The daily strips are colored by an outside firm. I color the Sunday strips myself, in Photoshop. It takes about ten minutes, mostly just using the paint bucket took and clicking a color into each area. Before I add the color, I convert from grayscale to bitmap then back to grayscale and up to CMYK. The detour to bitmap makes the color fills cleaner, going all the way to the black lines without leaving a little border.
Most syndicated cartoonists still draw on paper, then scan the art and e-mail it to their syndication company. They're going to be pissed when they see this video and realize how much extra work they have been doing.