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Updated: 2017-03-22T14:07:26+09:00

 



Bill Murray on Art & Life

2017-08-30T13:26:14+09:00

Embed from Getty Images Bill Murray is a wonderful storyteller. A couple of years ago, I linked to this wonderful interview with Bill Murray by Howard Stern. In this radio interview, Murray said the key to being funny was being... (image)



2 Great Visual Storytelling Books for Children

2017-04-04T12:56:18+09:00

There is loads of evidence that reading to children at bedtime is not only good for their emotional well being, it also has long-term benefits for their cognitive development. We have a 6-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy. Since they...There is loads of evidence that reading to children at bedtime is not only good for their emotional well being, it also has long-term benefits for their cognitive development. We have a 6-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy. Since they were babies they have been exposed to books. Bedtime stories are one of the great joys of parenting and is a nightly ritual for us. As it is the Christmas season, I thought I would recommend two books here that do a great job of presenting their material in an engaging, visual way. The first is the classic The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore. There are many editions of this classic tale, but based on the amazing and numerous reviews on Amazon, I purchased Robert Sabuda's The Night Before Christmas Pop-up last year in time for Christmas.The pop-up art is amazing and imaginative. I was not sure at first that I would want a pop-up book for story time, but the great thing about the 3-D aspect of it is that the kids are always touching the paper and playing with the tabs and strings as the story progresses. They use their imagination to believe now that the story is about them and their house. In the final two-page spread, for example, a snow-covered town pops up with Santa flying over the houses. My son will say something like "here is our house and this is our bed room window." My daughter would then comment "here's grandma's house and here's our school across the bridge." I read each page, but we spend more time on questions and adding to the narrative before I move on to the next spread. It's a well-made book, but you need to be a bit careful with it, especially with infants. Still, if you are just a little careful, the pop-ups should keep working long after the kids are grown. My 4-year-old son pulls tab to have Santa and his reindeer fly above the snow covered village. My 6-year-old daughter opens the page which reveals the eight reindeer and Santa scurrying down the chimney. The second recommendation is not a pop-up, but rather a series of visual books that come with an audio reader than the child can control. My wife had a business trip to New York City about a year ago and brought back The Disney Star Wars Me Reader. It was an instant hit.The box comes with eight short illustrated books and a durable plastic electronic reader. Of course, I can read the book as my children follow along, but they actually prefer that I hold the book for them as they press the buttons on the reader to go through the story page by page. The electronic reader is intuitive to figure out for the child. We got this Star Wars set over a year ago when my son was 3-years old and he knew how to navigate the analog menus after 1-2 minutes of playing around. The narrator's English is extremely clear and easy to understand and I believe this has helped with their English pronunciation. The kids don't just listen but repeat phrases from the book — "It's a trap!" As we live in Japan, I am about the only person they interact with in English, so tools like this were surprisingly useful. My son is the Star Wars nerd (as am I), so I think we'll get a different Me Reader for my daughter for Christmas such as the Frozen Me Reader. The Star Wars Radio Youtube channel has a preview of one of the books along with the audio for each book. This should give you a feel for what they are like. We've already gotten a lot of mileage of these books. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="261" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZrfeEarl4Wo?feature=oembed" width="468">  May The Force Be With You. [...]



New Book for Researchers, Scholars, & Technical Presenters

2017-01-31T12:45:13+09:00

There's a new book just out that focuses on improving the kind of presentations that scholars, researchers, and other technical specialists need to give. The book is Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks by data-visualization pro Jonathan...There's a new book just out that focuses on improving the kind of presentations that scholars, researchers, and other technical specialists need to give. The book is Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks by data-visualization pro Jonathan Schwabish. Jonathan is a Senior Research Associate in The Urban Institute’s Income and Benefits Policy Center and a member of the institute’s communication team where he specializes in data visualization and presentation design. Jonathan is an economist by training and an expert in data visualization. He’s a numbers guy with a special skill for helping others communicate their data in ways that engage and connect with an audience.Jonathan also created the PolicyViz website which features a popular podcast that covers a range of topics related to effective communication and the display of data visualizations. Recently, I was a guest on the PolicyViz podcast. You can hear that episode here on the PolicyViz website. "Presenting is fundamentally different from writing," says Jonathan. "[But] with only a little more time, a little more effort, and a little more planning, you can communicate your work with force and clarity." Better Presentations is a simple, well-written, visual book that is useful for students, teachers, and other academics, as well as for anyone who needs to give data-driven presentations. Check it out. Links • Follow Jonathan here onTwitter.• The PolicyViz website• Jonathan's book Better Presentations on Amazon.com• A great book on using charts called Good Charts by Scott Berinato• Another book for tech presenters: Presenting for Geeks by Dirk Haun [...]



No amount of technology will make a bad story good

2017-10-12T14:15:03+09:00

When Toy Story opened in the US at the end of 1995, it was met with enthusiasm and great critical acclaim. The film would go on to be the highest-grossing film of the year. There was tremendous buzz (ahem) about... When Toy Story opened in the US at the end of 1995, it was met with enthusiasm and great critical acclaim. The film would go on to be the highest-grossing film of the year. There was tremendous buzz (ahem) about the film before it arrived here in Japan a few months later. Much of the talk focused on the stunning 3-D animation and the remarkable technical achievements by Pixar to pull this movie off. I remember sitting in a movie theatre in the spring of 1996 in Osaka, Japan watching the film. I was a bit of a technology geek in those days so what propelled me to actually go see the film initially was the fact that it was the first truly digital animation feature film. And yet the thing that impressed me about the movie was that I soon forgot all about how the animation was created and just remembered being engaged by the story. I wanted to see the film again (and again). I thought it was perfect. Fast forward to today and I have seen every Pixar film ever made dozens of times. I have two small children who adore all the Pixar films and I don't mind watching along with them. If there was a degree given out for watching Pixar films, then I'd by working on my PhD by now. I watch the films repeatedly because my kids ask to see them, and since our DVDs are in English the movies are more than mere entertainment. But truth be told, I love watching the Pixar films because I have learned so much about story structure, story elements, character, etc. simply by seeing them so many times and paying close attention. These films are designed for adults and kids to enjoy and you may not think there is much to learn from these animated features, but you'd be wrong. Lasseter has said that the first 18 months of working on Toy Story was spent laboring just on the script, that is, the story. The animation is awesome, but it's the story that hooks you, holds you, and rewards you at the end. And it is really, really hard to craft a good one.There are many lessons from Pixar's prowess at storytelling that we can take and apply to other forms of storytelling, including the 21st-century short-form presentation format. At the end of this documentary on the making of Toy Story, filmed before the film was released, there is a great line by Pixar's now legendary John Lasseter: "Everyone's going to talk about the fact that this is the very first computer animated feature film, but the computers are just tools [the computers] didn't create this picture, it's the people who created the picture." — John Lasseter In spite of Pixar's amazing technology, there has always been a focus on the people creating the picture, the people in the audience, and above all, the commitment to the story and the story process.Steve Jobs on Pixar, Hollywood, and StoryIn this 2007 interview of Steve talking with Wall Street Journal columnists Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, Jobs tells how the typical live action film will shoot between 10- to one 100-times more footage than will actually appear in the film. After shooting, the film is assembled in editing, which leaves most of what was shot on the cutting room floor. But animation is much too expensive to create a film in this way. Because animation is so expensive you have to edit the film before you actually make it, Jobs explains. This is where storyboarding comes in. The story team has sketches of each scene which follow the progression of the script. A film could have thousands of these. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-LUGU0xprUo?feature=oembed" width="459"> "Basically we build our movie before we make it out of these story sketches, and we video them, put scratch music and scratch voices so that we can watch our movie. And invariably what you think is going to wor[...]



Scientifically Proven Ways to Persuade & Influence Others

2017-03-02T11:34:05+09:00

A good book I often recommend is: Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Dr. Robert B. Cialdini et al. I first read the book when it came out in 2008. The book is designed for professionals who... A good book I often recommend is: Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Dr. Robert B. Cialdini et al. I first read the book when it came out in 2008. The book is designed for professionals who are interested in becoming better at understanding how to persuade or influence others. The book may also help you understand why you decide to do the things you do. Even if you are a researcher or teacher or a medical doctor, and so on, and not a business person, it's still important to understand how people are (or can be) influenced and persuaded by your words and behaviors. Each chapter focuses on a single question and is no more than 3-5 pages long. If you want to go deeper you can checkout the sources for each chapter in the Notes section. "Yes!" is not a textbook, and it may not go deep enough for some, but for extremely busy professionals, this is a useful book with many clear, quick lessons that will get you thinking. Above: The book on my desk. Each chapter focuses on a question such as what common mistake causes messages to self-destruct, how sticky notes can make your messages stick, etc. Checkout the table of contents here to see all 50 chapters at a glance. If you want a little more depth, I suggest Cialdini's other huge bestsellers Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and Influence: Science and Practice. These books have sold in the millions by now. Some people may be skeptical about the ethics of trying to persuade and influence others, but remember, it's not just about marketers trying to influence someone to buy something they do not need with money they do not have. Persuasion can be used for good just as it can be used for ignoble reasons. For example, a medical doctor often needs to be effective at persuading patients to comply with her recommendations. Facts, data, and argument are usually not enough to influence a change in behavior.If you do not have enough time to read the Influence books yet, the 12-minute video below will give you a good idea as to the key findings in Cialdini's research. The video presentation covers the six universal principles of persuasion which are scientifically proven, according to the author, to make you more effective at influence and persuasion. (Watch below or on YouTube.) allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cFdCzN7RYbw" width="464"> Principles of Persuasion at a glanceIn an ideal world people would use reliable information and sound logic to guide their thinking and decision making, but the reality is people use shortcuts or "rules of thumb" to make decisions. The six shortcuts below, according to the author, are universal rules of thumbs that guide human behavior. The key is to understand these shortcuts and use them in an ethical manner to persuade others. There are many examples in the books, but in the video they can only give one or two. Here are the six principles in brief.(1) Reciprocity. The obligation to give back when you have previously received. The key takeaway: Be the first to give and make it personal and unexpected.(2) Scarcity. People want more of those things which are perceived to be rare or in short supply. It's not enough to tell people about the benefits they will gain, you must also tell them what they stand to lose or miss out on if they do not adopt your idea (or buy your product, or choose your school, etc.).(3) Authority. People will follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts. In the presentation space, it's highly desirable to have someone give a short and concise introduction of yourself which highlights why you are an expert worth listening to.(4) Consistency. Asking for small commitments that can easily be made. Then going back and asking for larger co[...]