ToDo: Facial Fun

Here’s something that’s just plain fun…and may occasionally prove useful: “Ultimate Flash Face” and online “sketching” program that lets anyone draw a pretty darn good face.

I can personally testify that 8 year old boys love it…and that everyone who I’ve introduced to it has gotten sucked in.

The easiest thing to do is to try and draw each other’s faces. It’s a pretty shocking how accurate you can be if you’re just patient. The next trick is to try on new hair or glasses. Arguing about whether or not your nose is that large or lips that thin can take up a fruitful half hour.

Advanced “students” will want to try their hand at caricature. Exaggerate Elton John’s glasses. (Don’t think it can be done? It can. The dimensioning tool is pretty nifty.) Play. A sick child or a grumpy friend can be nicely distracted.

The teacher in me feels compelled to point out that you can learn a lot about how crime sketches are composed (that process is clearly the basis) and about how faces are shaped. Have you ever really looked at other people’s eyes? They’re really different. Like all good instruction, you’ll come away looking a the subject, in this case faces, differently.

What’s wonderful, of course, is that this little tool is freely available on the web. Someone–actually a generous German by the name of Franks Fahrschule—has offered this up to the world. People all over the world get a bit of pleasure, a moment of fun, and the chance to learn something.

It’s an amazing world we live in, really.

Telecommuting to Korea…or Paris

The Casper Star-Tribune carries an interesting story about a small town in Wyoming, Powell, that is anticipating gaining a 150 jobs. The jobs: teaching Koreans to speak English.

The folks in Powell are understandably pleased. That’s a LOT of jobs in a town of 5,373. But your question has to be: Why Powell, Wyoming, of all places. Not, because there is a secret hotbed of Korean expats in small-town Wyoming. It’s happening because Powell is having its own fiber-optic network built. As a result, the people of Powell will have enough bandwidth in their homew to hold video-based conversations wih “students” in Korea. (That is a mighty long telecommute!)

But Powell has no other advantages beyond fiber. No one there speaks Korean, I’m willing to bet. Being able to speak the native language of the student would be a huge advantage. Which brings us to Lafayette: We’re soon going to have plenty of bandwidth available to our homes “real soon now.” And a fair proportion of the population speaks a French patois — and not a few have acquired facility with “Parisian French.”

How’d you like to make a few bucks chatting with folks in Paris? Lafayette and Paris is surely less unlikely than Powell, Wyoming and Korea….

5:56 update: You don’t have to rely on being hired by some company. You can freelance your language skills at EduFire.

Digital Arts in Louisiana & Lafayette

Here’s something that Lafayette ought to get one of: “Tipitinana’s Music Coop.” Or at least some of this funding for our native equivalent. An article in last week’s Advocate describes the concept and its utility:

[Tipitinana’s Coops] in New Orleans, Shreveport, Alexandria and now Baton Rouge provide workspace and office and production equipment for musicians and digital artists to help them make more money and fuel the state’s culture industry.

“It’s a job-skills training and economic development project,” said Todd Souvignier, technical director of the Tipitina’s Foundation who has spearheaded the opening of the co-ops.

For $10 a month, the co-ops give members access to technology — from conventional office machines to software such as Pro Tools and Final Cut Pro, “the kind of stuff real musicians need to get their hands on to do some real work.”

Souvignier said 1,200 musicians and digital artists use the various co-ops 12,000 times a year to check e-mail and make phone calls or faxes to book tours or use computers to make press kits, Web sites or MySpace pages.

As I understand it this is pretty close to the concept behind ACFM (Acadiana Center for Film and Media) But where Tipitinia’s starts with music and strays to video ACFM starts with film and strays to “media,” broadly understood.

Tipitina’s appears to be supported by grant funding with a small $10 dollar a month coop membership fee that could do no more than supplement the exterior funding. ACFM appears to impose no fee on users and has at least channels 15 and 16 on cable as farm league placement for the work of folk who do their production using the facilities.

Both concepts are good ideas in as far as they get the tools of production into peoples’ hands. There’s a lot of belief that the near future holds a lot of potential for media production moving away from the big centers and towards very local, artist and fan-produced works. If that vision is to be realized we’ll need lots of places like Tipitinas’ Coop and ACFM. It’s not enough for a thing to be possible–people have to be able to afford the tools and, even more crucially, find the community of folks that will help the learn how to use the tools well.

For my money, Lafayette could easily support both a Music-facing digital studio and a Video-facing one. You have to think the synergy would be good for both. And, you know, real soon now we’ll be getting an in-city network that will open up a 100 megs between local nodes on the LUS network. A Tipitianas or an ACFM could easily put together a “channel” on that kind of bandwidth. Either tap into the multicast stream or download from the growing archival library. It’d be an instant way to make good cultural use of the bandwidth we’ll have.