Ed Emberley

brushesWhen I was a little tyke back in the ’80s, I loved checking Ed Emberley drawing books out from the library. Mr. Emberley’s style was to start each lesson with “If you can draw this: (followed by a bunch of scribbles that even a trained monkey could do) then you can draw a fish!” Substitute “fish” for “dog,” “cat,” “three ring circus,” etc., and you get the idea for most of his drawing books.

I actually credit Ed Emberley (and a few of my classmates) with instilling in me a love of Art, as my own elementary Art teacher did little to encourage me.

So imagine my surprise when I found out that not only is Mr. Emberley still making books, but he also has his own flash based web site! This gem of online design includes instructions for a variety of activities, complete with written permission to reproduce sections of his web site. I may have to work some of this stuff into an Art lesson later.

RSS Feeds

circuit boardYesterday I mentioned RSS feeds, so today I thought I would describe them in more detail.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It’s sort of like html code, but different in some key ways. Mainly, with RSS feeds the content comes to you rather than you going to the content.

If a web site has an RSS feed option, you’ll see a little link or button that says “XML,” “RSS,” “Syndicate this site,” “Atom,” or something like that. (The feed URL for this site is to the right near the top, for example.) You may have already seen this button and clicked on it, only to get a page full of text and code that was difficult to read. That’s OK, it’s just not meant to be read in a web browser.

Instead, what you can do is copy the address for that page of gibberish into a program known as a “news aggregator.” That program then checks the feed on a regular basis to see if the website has any new content. If there is, it shows it to you. Naturally, this feature is nice for sites that update often, like news and blog sites. Most of my news comes from the RSS feeds I’ve subscribed to, although I’ll occasionally listen to the radio.

News aggregators are becoming more and more common, and you don’t need to pay a dime for a good one either. If you use Firefox you can download an extension to make it an aggregator as well as a browser, or you can go with any one of a number of programs out there. Even Thingamablog (the program I use to make this website) has an aggregator feature, although at this point I much prefer NetNewsWire Lite for OS X. You can even use a web based news aggregator if you use multiple computers (Yahoo! has added this feature, for example), but I much prefer using a separate application.

Furl

Browser Window pixWhat do you do when you find a website you like? Why, bookmark it, of course! But wait, what if you’re in a lab and there’s no guarantee you’ll be on the same computer again? Or perhaps your a teacher using a shared computer in the teacher’s lounge? Or what if you want to visit the same site from home and from school?

Well, you could always copy the sites’ addresses down by hand on a scrap of paper, but if your handwriting’s anything like mine you might not remember if you used an “a” or a “u” in some cases. Better yet, you can use a website like Furl that saves bookmarks online.

Online bookmarks are really nothing new (there were a few dotcoms back in the day that thought they could make a ton of money off of the concept … they couldn’t), but Furl added a few other pictures to sweeten the deal. Bookmarking sites is quite simple, once you copy a Furl link into your browser’s bookmark bar. When bookmarking, you have the option of filing the bookmark in any number of categories, as well as adding keywords and a short description for reference later (so you don’t have to ask why you bookmarked the site two months from now).

One of the nicest features included is the ability to export your bookmarks on a variety of formats – RSS feeds, web site additions, ZIP archives, Mozilla bookmarks and – best of all if you’re a teacher or student – MLA or APA citation format. That’s right, never have to write out your works cited list again.

I’m still playing around with it, but if I may very well add Furl to this site in the future. We’ll see.

Test your Art IQ

brushesWhen Modernism came about, many more traditional artists questioned whether “Modern Art” was an oxymoron or not. Then came Post-Modernism, Installation Art, Performance Art, and all other kinds of fun things that truly tried to turn that fine line between the works of the masters and the quirks of the legally insane into a grey blur. (This is not to say that it was all bad, mind you.)

Ok, enough of my rambling. How about you take the Art or Crap quiz and find out how well you know the works of the 20th century.

Lissa Explains it All

Browser Window pixYour first web site is a step into the brave beautiful world of self publishing, where you can share your ideas, your masterpieces, and, dare I say it, your very soul with the world.

Unfortunately, a lot of the so-called web page builders provided by the free hosting services out there leave a lot to be desired when it comes to customization.

Lucky for you, web design isn’t too hard to learn thanks to web sites like Lissa Explains it All. (This is quite possibly a take off of an old Nickelodeon show called “Clarissa Explains it All.”) Don’t let the garish color scheme drive you off, this stuff can be quite helpful.

Sure, you can use a program that writes the code for you. I’ve used plenty of those myself. However, I’ve yet to use a program where I didn’t have the desire to go in and tinker with the code “by hand.” Sometimes it’s faster and easier than trying to modify the same thing through the program’s menu options. I’ve yet to see anyone learn to use HTML and then regret the time it took.

Leoville.com

circuit boardYou’re in a jam – your computer doesn’t work. It could be a virus, but then again maybe it’s something you accidentally configured wrong. Could it be that your software’s incompatible? Wait … is smoke supposed to come out of THERE?! Oh, if only your user manual didn’t read like it was written in a foreign language!

Fear not gentle souls, for Leo Laporte is here! You may remember Mr. Laporte from the hit TechTV show, “Call for Help.” He’s also on the air in southern California on KFI AM640, a station with more than one decent show broadcast over the internet.

In my opinion one of the best features of this site is the Town Square, a friendly community message board suitable for all ages and full of people willing to help anyone out if they can. When I have a tech problem, this is where I go.

Mark Harden’s Artchive

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Ok, let’s say you’re having a discussion with your students and it leads to an artist whose work is pertinent to the conversation. Unfortunately this spontaneous conversation means that you have no preparation time, and you can’t find the right picture in your Art textbook (assuming you even have one). What do you do? Why, go to the Artchive, of course!

This gem of a resource, maintained by Mark Harden, lists artists my name and by genre. You’ve got a hunt on your hands if you don’t remember an artist’s name or the name of the artwork, but other than that this site is a gold mine for images that are large enough to make half decent 8.5 x 11 prints.