Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hunting Fables

Packing my rather nest-stained copies of Krylov’s Fables, Phaedrus, and Plautus’ bawdy comedies in a leather scrip made from hippo hide (a gift from an African devotee of the Sphinx) also filled with tasty tidbits for snacking while drifting, I took the ancient celestial highway southwards over the Himalayas. Not the best season for an enjoyable flight but as an immortal with an appetite for adventures as well as victuals, the trip was bearable. My stopover was to be the Sun Temple at Konarak in Orissa. Once upon a century, I had several apsara friends who danced there on its walls. Hopefully they could locate a copy of that famous Indian classic, the Panchatantra, a text that should provide my little theatre company with material for some juicy plays. A book of Jataka Tales would be a bonus.

Indeed, no problem, Sundari had a handy Panchatantra she would part with. In Sanskrit of course, which I’ve never learned. So I’ve had to stay several days to claw up English versions of these works that will appeal to the less classically educated members of the San Jose troupe. I’ve finally settled on W.H.D. Rouse’s The Giant Crab and Other Tales from Old India and Jataka Tales retold by Ellen C. Babbitt. Naturally I will be available to explain any subtleties that escape Flea-in-the Ear Coyote and Brazil-Nut Macaw. Even they will appreciate the cleverness of the animal protagonists and the realistic conclusion of each story. No Disney confections for the thespian appetites of this, the first animal-centric theatre company to perform for animals as well as humans. Alas, my four-year empty stomach has not been as appreciative of spicy curries as I expected. Now, onwards and eastwards, perhaps with a Pacific layover.

A dropped feather for you regarding a human-centric video version of Krylov’s The Raven and the Fox (sorry, but I’m too busy dodging air traffic to translate if you don’t understand Russian). Oh, when will it be possible to chase these humans out of our rightful roles? Oh, yes, I’ve a human face, but my heart throbs with the passions of a bird.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

After a Four Year Nap

It was that excruciatingly tedious flight through northern China's polluted skies to my nest I blame for this hiatus in my adventures. A week after waking to merriment of distant Christmas festivities my feathers are still directed to every compass point. I could have been created a hedgehog and been saved the trouble of getting my bits and pieces together. Also my usually polished claws need trimming before I can hunt. Four-years-aged leftovers are no longer delectable. Where are you, my dear friend, Zhar? A basket of goodies in beak would be so acceptable. Those four years have eroded quite a hole in my stomach.

We Sirins are optimists, ready to visualize roses on a bare thorn bush. This new decade seems a moment to blossom. So as soon as I am able to wrangle these feathers into flight order, I'll be heading east again but by a more tropical route. Four years ago I promised to assist that little theater troupe of San Jose birds and beasts with my expertise. Just a quick dart back to my nest to pick up a few useful volumes of classic plays and we could set to work building up an impressive repertoire of pieces for them to perform. Alas, Plautus became my pillow. Moliere propped up my claws. Aesop's ass brayed in my dreams but was unable to awaken me. How false my promise must seem to those talented actors and actresses, courageously struggling to artfully present the humor and pathos of bird and animal life to their fellow creatures. Lift up your tails, fluff your quills. An hour or two more preening and I'll be on my way to breakfast and California.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ten Weeks Later: Catching Up With Myself

I left off describing the conclusion of our journey, in mid-flight so to speak, while Zhar and I were perusing a odd scrap of paper collected by our scavenging acquaintance, Mr. Crow, who had scooted over to our library billet to offer us the rather suspect job of educating his newly formed theatre company about the possibilities of Web 2.0 podcasts and videos. Zhar naturally declined. He has a standing engagement with the Moscow ballet. I fluffed my flight feathers and considered. A few more weeks sampling sun-ripened California while assisting some grateful thespians? Or finishing my decade-long nest tidying project in the Urals? No hard choice. To celebrate Zhar's departure and my new role as their technical advisor, the troupe laid out a delectable banquet for us at their rehearsal studio/rooming house, located (you guessed it) in that very same well-protected garden spot I have previously written about. So we feasted on fruits legitimately picked and borrowed parrot biscuits, while toasting the future success of our hosts' theatrical venture.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Week 4: A Proposal for Implementing Social Software in the San Jose Library

(A very crumpled draft)

This proposal is designed to use the wonderfully rich multicultural heritage of San Jose to build a wiki, A Thousand Flavors of San José, that will collect through personal accounts a historical portrait of San Jose life from 1900 to the present with a focus on family and communal celebrations during which a sharing of traditional ethnic foods strengthened old ties while creating new friendships. Any photos or artwork contributed to wiki would be stored on Flickr.

According to Wikipedia, "A wiki is a collaborative website which can be directly edited by anyone with access to it. Ward Cunningham, developer of the first wiki WikiWikiWeb, originally described it as 'the simplest online database that could possibly work'." Wikipedia describes Flickr as "a photo sharing website and web services suite, and an online community platform..."

The implementation of A Thousand Flavors of San José wiki would require
collaborating with such library departments as Partners in Reading (PAR), Adult Services, the California Room, and our Multicultural Committee, and partnering with such community organizations as the Mexican Heritage Center, Japanese American Museum of San Jose, Viet Heritage Society, and Chinese Historical and Cultural Project. A few examples of possible collaboration: PAR could incorporate entries to the wiki into its Learners program; Adult Services could design a program to elicit family reminiscences, for instance a Vietnamese New Moon festival gathering or a Mexican Quinceañera. The stories collected could be used to enhance other library programs. Contributors would have the satisfaction of sharing their experiences with a wide San Jose audience through technology utilized by their library.

Obvious roadblocks to this sort of project are: 1) Selling this project to administration and department partners. 2) Deciding whether wiki should be hosted or on the library's server, in which case software would need to be selected and purchased. 2) Finding staff time to discuss idea, address any legal or policy issues, set up the organization of the wiki, inform the library and public about it, provide instruction in how to contribute text and photos, review entries on a weekly basis, and plan ways to use the material accumulated in this wiki database. 4) Locating and involving community groups. 5) Addressing question of legal ownership of the material/photos.

These roadblocks could be addressed by: 1) Submitting a detailed, carefully researched proposal with realistic goals and measurable benefits. 2) Researching hosting and software and presenting this information to administration and library IT for a decision. 3) Assigning a scheduled block of time per week for staff involved in project. 4) Utilizing already developed contacts with community organizations, placing a visible promotion of the wiki on our library website, and producing handouts about the wiki for library programs. 5) Adding a legal disclaimer/policy statement to wiki.



"Not yours?" queries the crow. "Not a jot!" Zhar looks offended. Despite his fiery personality, my friend hasn't the claw for cooking. I, on the other hand, have stirred up a tasty pot of stone soup, baked Pompeii bread in hot ashes, and attempted Mouse ala Kiev. This proposal could elicit some flavorful recipes. "Too frivolous," is Zhar's considered opinion. "Not at all," I retort. "Food preparation has always been a way of bringing folk who have mouths and stomachs together - whether human or not. Sharing communal feasts promotes better understanding of each other's preferences and eating habits." Mr. Publicity (whose indelicate corvid eating habits are far too well known) is poking his beak into A Proposal to discover its content. Next moment he bops up with "Could I interest you, sir and madam, in a tasting tour of downtown's best restaurant garbage bins?" But, of course. We just need to find napkins.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Week 4: Effectively Implementing Social Software

Ah, virginal September, proffering us grateful creatures her harvest cornucopia. Zhar and I are once more enjoying an early morning view of the SJSU campus from our library perch while nibbling on grapes, pomegranates, and insect tidbits borrowed last night from that well-stocked garden. Two small white dogs who could be litter mates of the garden's guards are chasing each other and the squirrels. Does the university also employ a spitz security service? A flap of untidy wings announces our new friend, Mr. Crow who bumps down beside us. "Thanks for that expert advice. I've met with a librarian lady as you suggested. She's considering how we can collaborated. Plus the troupe's got an interview this afternoon with one of the local papers. Mr. Goodnight sent me to look for you two to ask if you would be interested in staying on for a bit in San Jose as our technical consultants? By the way, did you drop this?" Mr. Publicity extracts a very crumpled bit of paper from under his wing feathers. Fastidiously smoothing the sheet out with a golden beak, Zhar declaims, "A Proposal for Implementing Social Software in the San Jose Library."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Week 3: Flickr, Podcasting, and Vodcasting

Determined to introduce our equally famous selves to winged San Jose City media stars, the three peregrine youngsters, Zhar and I are still roosting on campus. Zhar, preening his glowing plumage, considers "Would I be as photogenic as those falcon triplets?" I've been digesting peaches and attending to a few still sticky feathers, so my answer is succinct. "It depends on the camera, the vision of the photographer, and clever editing." Tonight I intend to secretly fly into David Free's wiki and David Lee King's website to hunt for pod/vodcasting tools that will fit into Zhar's sturdy satchel. "Excuse me, sir, madam." We both look up startled. A large crow has quietly (for a crow) joined us. "You appear to be of a theatrical character, yes?" "Yes, and no," says Zhar. "It so happens that I am the publicity agent for a newly formed San Jose theatre troupe and thought you might be members of a foreign touring company." We stare at him so he goes on, hopping back and forth on black stick feet. "We are as yet a small number of actors and actresses, with a property manager, Fluffovits, a director Mr. Osmandius, a producer Mr. Goodnight, and myself. It's an all animal/bird troupe. No humans to allowed to join." "What sort of repertoire do you perform?" asks the experienced Zhar. "Aesop's Fables for starters, but we are working up some original material to fit our special talents. What we are most in need of is a venue, a place to perform, a stage to strut on." The peaches must now be thoroughly digested, because a clever idea pops into my head. "What about making a video of your act?" I've caught Mr. Publicity by surprise. Crows do think they know all the tricks. "How would we do that?" he croaks. "See this lovely bird hotel we're perched on? It's a library. A library means an audience of kids and a gaggle of librarians hoping to find programs to entertain and instruct them. As a novice troupe you might not want to perform publicly but a video of your act added to this library's website could be a perfect solution for their problems and yours." "I see I have a lot to learn from such well-travelled, technologically aware avians," says Mr. Crow (quite humbly for a corvid). "I'll get right on this proposal. Thanks, and hope to see you around later." Zhar and I watch him take off a bit awkwardly with my idea in his craw. What do they teach these Silicon Valley avians!

Week 3: Flickr, Podcasting, and Vodcasting

AwakeningA dip in the campus fountain removes the incriminating peach juice. Zhar reminds me Flickr is next on our itinerary. Naturally he wants to find a picture of himself. But I instruct him first to pick the "jaguar" tag (I'd never seek out a member of the cat family unless it was a sphinx) while I search for "librarian" (and "Melusina"). Then together we'll browse the Libraries and Librarians group. My Melusina search led me to Sirena del Sol, who has a wonderful gallery of siren artwork. I've left her my Flickr nest address in case she would like to meet a real sirin of the air and view my collection of watercolors which include Awakening. Question after sorting librarian by "most interesting": Are human beings always more interesting if they wear glasses? Zhar joins me, puzzling over the oddities of tagging. "What do a cat and a car have in common besides the letters "ca?" "I suppose you found the tag "Firebird?" He inclines his head glumly. Our group exploration proves very tantalizing. We swoop into several links, finally landing in a Second Life virtual world inhabited by Rowdykians. Another question: Where are these Rowdykians living their First Life? Time to take care of our present avian one by filling our empty stomachs.