I just got back this morning from a 36 hour marathon trip to NYC. This uncharacteristically short trip was instigated by a workshop I got invited to do at Brooklyn College (which was a lot of fun), but the larger reason for this post is, of course, the wonderful, beautiful city of New York. So below you’ll find the tale of the tape of my journey (along with a map), highlighting just how much goodness you can pack into a day and a half if you don’t sleep 🙂
Thursday April 10th, 10:00-10:35 pm
Soundtrack: Arrived at Penn Station, ate my first and only dirty water dog, then headed to the subway to catch the F train to the lower Lower East Side. All the time with Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation and Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star (a new favorite) exclusively on the head phones, which during the trip was pared down to just the second part of the “Trilogy” (a.k.a Hyperstation) from Daydream Nation) and “Self Obsessed and Sexxee” from Experimental Jet Set. The Sonic Youth soundtrack was key to the tenor and energy of this trip, mind you.
Thursday April 10th, 10:35 pm-12:30 am
Met good friend Matt Gold at the Delancy Street subway station and together we head for the first of two amazing NYC pizza experiences. This one was at Bella’s Oven on the Lower East Side, and I won’t go into all the details because Ed Levine does an excellent job describing the food, the place, and the delicious pizza quite well in this post over at Slice, a great NYC pizza blog recommended by Matt. We actually split two large pies, our first a Diavolo (with hot salumi) and the second a straight, old gold margarita. Delicious food and great conversation about all things EdTech, academia, and New York City.
Friday, April 11th, 12:30-3:00 am
Headed back to Matt’s apartment and caught up with Liza, who I haven’t seen for way too long. Spent some time out on their patio, which overlooks the East River and the Manhattan Bridge. Felt a bit like Christopher Walken in Abel Ferrara’s King of New York (1990). Matt and Liza went to bed around 1:30 am, I stayed up for another hour and a half to polish off the details for my WordPress workshop in the morning at Brooklyn College.
Friday, April 11th, 3:00-6:00 am
Against all good judgment and reason I go to sleep for three hours, and dream of New York.
Friday, April 11th, 6:00-9:45 am
Woke up at 6 am and worked on my presentation for two more hours, then struck out the door at 8:15 am, forgetting how long it takes to get from point A to point B for an inter-borough trip using the subway. Took the F train to Jay Street, got of and walked down Flatbush avenue to Nevins Street to catch the 5 train (which was the slowest express I ever took). Travel time for 7.1 miles was one and a half hours. Made it to Brooklyn College at 9:45 with only 15 minutes to spare.
Friday, April 11th, 9:45 am-3:30 pm
Gave a workshop to fifteen faculty on using WordPress, which was really just one way of introducing them to the Small Pieces Loosely Joined (SPLJ) approach to teaching and learning with technology. The workshop was a ball –I don’t think I ever had such a big block of time to talk specifically about SPLJ with so many faculty. In fact, the workshop actually ended up being five hours long because I refused to stop showing them things they could do, and a majority of the folks stayed which I’m taking as a good sign.
We spent the first half hour discussing the possibilties of an “educational publishing platform,” and how others have used it. There was real interest amongst several of the faculty present in thinking about WordPress (in conjunction with several of the other tools I presented, like YouTube, Google Apps, Flickr, and del.icious) as a way to cobble together an eportfolio system.
The next four and a half hours we spent working though these tools in a hands on manner. We covered the basics of WordPress quite thoroughly 🙂 Each of the participants got a blog through Edublogs (thank you James Farmer!) and we started from there. Brooklyn College is currently considering WPMu and has setup a preliminary installation, but it wasn’t entirely ready for primetime. I didn’t want the participants to suffer through these limitations, especially since the logic of the talk is that you can do much of this on your own regardless of what an IT department offers you.
After everyone was familiar with WordPress as a publishing engine, we covered everything from embedding YouTube videos to linking Flickr images to the value of Creative Commons to the move towards open educational resources to the power of networks (in this regard Twitter was a huge hit, after doing a shout out—a la Bryan Alexander—I got a large number of immediate responses from all over the world, which I could see blew many of them away). In fact, Twitter might be the single best tool for both visualizing and demonstrating the idea of a network, as well as its potential power.
I created a resource for the workshop on edublogs here, and many of the faculty created some impressive blogs/sites in the short time we had. For example, check out Karl Steel’s blog (a Medieval Literature professor at Brooklyn College) who is already a prolific blogger, but wanted to see some of the benefits of WordPress in action. All in all, the workshop was a blast, and I truly hope that Brooklyn College is able to support the innovative, web-based work this group is chomping at the bit to do, or at the very least is smart enough to get out of their way and let them do it with a SPLJ approach —the days of BlackBoard are over, and I’m afraid the CUNY system will refuse to recognize this fact until it is too late.
Friday, April 11th, 3:30 pm -5:00pm
From Brooklyn College, I strolled about ten blocks to Avenue J to meet up with Matt at DiFara Pizzeria for what is arguably the best slice in Brooklyn, and by extension the planet. DiFara Pizzeria has been around for over 40 years, but has recently become a more widely known phenomenon being hailed by as one of the best slices around by various food writers—something I agree wholeheartedly with. Yet, I think the popularity of DiFara has far more to do with the fact that Dominic DeMarco (the owner and proprietor) has labored individually over every pizza ever made there. He works 12 hour days seven days a week, and has only closed down on two separate occasions in 40 years: a trip to Italy in the late 80s and a more recent foot surgery. Fact is, he won’t open his pizzeria if he can’t make the pizzas, and watching him make your pizza is part of the joy of going here, for the joint is just a regular Brooklyn pizzeria, but the owner is a character whose singleness of purpose has resulted in a kind of cult following that seems to be quickly leading to a more international fame, at least in the pizza world. Our pie was half meatball and half sausage, and wholly delicious. The prices have doubled since the last time I was there a number of years ago—I chalk that up to all the fanfare. It was strange to see a slice of pizza selling for 4 dollars, but this may be that rare occasion when it’s worth it.
Friday, April 11th, 6:50pm-9:00pm
From DiFara’s, Matt and I jumped on the Q train and headed to the Atlantic Avenue station have settled on adding to this already amazing trip yet another layer of genius, taking in a movie at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Cinematèk! The BAM’s Cinematèk is, as of right now, my favorite place to go anywhere in the world. I will be writing an entire post about the amazing film we saw called Chikamatsu’s Love in Osaka (1959), and directed by Tomu Uchida (who is a Japanese director who is virtually unknown in the West), so let it suffice to say for the moment that the BAM’s film programming has got to be the best in the nation, and perhaps a strong contender for that title more globally. A true cultural resource that is without equal in my mind. Lavish 35mm prints in a real theater with real popcorn and real soda and real people in a real city. I can’t begin to express how wonderful it was to be back at the BAM enjoying a movie I would never have access to otherwise. The unadulterated act of truly losing yourself to the magic of cinema in the environment it was meant to be experienced is without parallel for me.
Friday, April 11th, 9:00pm-1:00am
Right after the movie, we walked about three or four blocks to Freddy’s Bar which is just another highlight of some of the best 36 hours I have yet to have in my life. Freddy’s is a Brooklyn attraction for a host of reasons: affordable beer, a great old school bar, a relaxed crowd, its public attacks against the Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project (one that will further divide and gentrify this great city within a city). But if I were to be honest, the reason I love to go to Freddy’s is for Donald O’Finn’s “TV Dreams” – a never ending series of VHS tapes featuring the most tripped out and intelligent re-cuts of movie clips, commercials, and various other resources you can imagine. I have wrote about these masterpieces already here, and seeing them again just re-affirms just how amazing this artist is on so many mashed up levels. His work provides a superb example of the mashup as de-contextualizing the medium from the message in order to re-contextualize a mindful imagination. The tape on tap Friday evening was no different, we caught a few great series, one which featured all the far out clips of people dancing from about 400 films I never saw, where does he find all this stuff? I really want to call him up and talk to him about where he sees his own art in relationship to the current state of copyright, mashups, and digital media more generally.
Saturday, April 12th, 1:00 am -3:00 am
Matt and I voyaged out into the rain drenched streets of New York and took the Q train at Atlantic Ave. to Canal Street, then hailed a cab back to Matt’s apartment on the Lower East Side. I quickly packed up, said goodbye and caught a cab back to Penn Station to conclude a really amazing trip. Special thanks go out to “Old Gold” Matt Gold for his unbelievable hospitality and push to make the little time we had some of the most enjoyable ever. I mean come on pizza, movies, Brooklyn, beer, video art, and on and on and on….what more could you want, huh?