Sunday, March 17, 2013

#swmooc Songwriting with Pat Pattison ( My first Assignment )


AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Neil Krug

I am taking a wonderful new #MOOC called Songwriting by Pat Pattison.
Pat is an amazing teacher and I love his video lessons!
I am very impressed with all I learned in just the first two weeks. Plus the lectures for week 3 are the best so far. There is one thing though about the course I don't like, and that is something really going wrong in most of the MOOCs. Anonymous Peer Grading!
I said it before and will say it again, I would be happy to get rid of the grading completely and just concentrate on learning and helping each other out, but if it is necessary then why does it have to be anonymous? Not only does this open the doors to trolls, it also makes us miss out on the most valuable part of learning through peer review: Our peers actual thoughts and ideas!
Apart from that, it's just frustrating, when you get graded by someone, who misses the point or you think is mean and you can't get back to this reviewer, find out why and discuss the problem further.

In Pat's course there would be so much to learn from each other, but instead we answer questions about the quality of our peer's work selecting from drop down menues between "strongly agree", "agree", "somewhat agree", "disagree", "somewhat disagree" and "strongly disagree"....
I think that's stupid! (sorry) The only part of the exercise that would be worth while, the comment, is voluntary. There are some good souls, who take the time and try to give good advice and share their thoughts, but for them it's even sadder, if they get their results back with out anyone taking the same time and energy on their work. Having to write a short text (maybe 5-10 lines minimum) instead of grading would also force the people, who just want to get a certificates, don't read the questions and click the drop down menues with out any respect for their peers, to think!

So I decided I will do something different now...
I am in a private Songwriting community on google+  (, because I thought I don't want to have something as intimate as song lyrics dissected by strangers more than they must. But now I thought why not let my pants fall down and try to get what I want from the course apart from the great video lessons:
Real feedback! Not numbers.
That's why I will be posting all my assignments and songsketches here on the blog and hope that maybe somebody else likes the idea and we start reviewing our work and helping each other in a more open way. It's an experiment, who knows what will happen.
(I might be so courageous, because the last #edcmooc has been so lovely, that I have faith something like that could happen again.)

Writing this first song for the class was great fun but don't expect a master piece :)
Right now I can't even find a microphone cable and the recording is pretty LOW Fi, but at least I finally found the level control and it's I hope "listenable".

Here is the assignment:
In this assignment, you will write an unstable verse that moves into a stable chorus. Fellow students will evaluate your assignment based on the criteria below. Use them as a checklist in reviewing your own work.
  • The verse is unstable.
  • The verse’s idea is appropriate for creating an unstable structure.
  • The number of lines and/or the matching and unmatching of line lengths contribute to the verse’s instability.
  • The chorus is stable.
  • The chorus’s idea is appropriate for creating a stable structure.
  • The number of lines and/or the matching and unmatching of line lengths contribute to the chorus’s stability.
  • The verse idea sets up the chorus idea effectively.
  • The chorus’s title is interesting. Important ideas are spotlighted.
Using primarily number of lines and line lengths, write an unstable verse that moves into a stable chorus. Of course, since the verse is unstable, what it says should be appropriate to the structure. If you create a spotlight, try to place an important idea there, where it’s most likely to be noticed. You may submit your verse/chorus with or without music. If you choose to put it to music, you may use your own or write to one of the musical loops provided in the Resources area of the class site.

After Pat's lessons there is so much I would still like to try with this song sketch. I am not a good singer nor do I play guitar well (yet I hope!), so my progression is simple and and I don't change the chords. To make it not too boring I use some picking for the verses and strumming for the chorus, I also changed the chorus from 4/4 to 3/4. I felt that for what the song expresses the chorus ended up too stable, therefore this minor change, but leaving the number of lines matching and line length stable.
(the 3/4 is a little hard to switch to so I messed up sometimes a bit in the recording, but it sounded better anyway)
As you will hear I made a lot of spotlights in the verses to make it extra unstable.
I thought it fit to the dark humor of the piece, which for me definitely feels - imagine Pat's hands circling on the left side of his head :) - UNSTABLE.

Hope you like it. A week is much too short for me to be able to write and play a new song  with confidence and less mistakes. I'm still searching for the right places to start singing and I wish I could sing harmonies and different notes of the scale by will. After listening to Pat's video lessons 03 I realized I am hanging on the root of the chord with my voice almost always... Well I will keep on trying!
Let me know what you think.
(If the Soundcloud Player goes missing try this link:

The Clown


If it makes you
To see me
Fall on my face for you Dear

I will gladly
Fall on my face

If seeing me on the ground
Makes you Happy


I will never
let you down

I will    never
let you down           
I’m your clown


If it makes you
To use me
as a punching bag

I will gladly
Be that punching bag

For every hit


I will never
let you down

I will    never
let you down           
I’m your clown


I want to see
is you         
smiling at me

Just don’t cry anymore
about the one
who broke your


I will never
let you down

I will    never
let you down           
I’m your clown

In the end I took out this last 
If it makes you
To see me
fall on my face for you Dear

I will gladly    
Fall on my face for you
Cause I am
your clown...     

Oh and concerning the assignment I started out with this:


If it makes you <------------------- unstable verse
To see me
Fall on my face for you Dear

I will gladly <------------------- unstable verse
Fall on my face

If seeing me on the ground
Makes you Happy


I am your clown                             <------------------- stable chorus
I am your clown

I will never
Let you down

But writing and playing around with the song idea a slightly unstable chorus fitted much better.
So I claim artistic freedom. :)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

#edcmooc Final Assignment, Thoughts & Artefact

For my final assignment I resurrected and finished an old project, which sadly had been parked on my unfinished projects graveyard. I am happy to finally give it a life!
For me it represents my thoughts about technology, learning and the future. I think technology drives history and social change, but still we decide the ultimate direction. We are not helpless and technology is not pressured on us by an "alien" force, because without us there wouldn't be technology in the first place. It's important to encourage a lively public discussion about what all these innovations mean for humanity in a very large and wide context. Only through this public discussion will we be able to decide which unwanted consequences we are prepared to pay and which not. Science and technology can be incredible useful for humanity, but all the controversies of today also remind me of a poem by Goethe called:

"Der Zauberlehrling" (The Sorcerer's Apprentice)

You can read The Sorcerer's Apprentice , as well as other all encompassing technologies like genetics or an internet that destroys every safe place for our privacy, in two ways:
Some things are too powerful to mess with, if you don't have mastery about them - meaning having thought about all the consequences and what to do about them.
And Second:
Lying can be seen as willingly obscuring half of of the truth, but if you call this magical power you can never be sure or get rid of the consequences. (which reminds me of metaphors and how science and advertisement often encourage one sided ways to think about certain topics)

I think technology can solve a lot of humanities problems, but we have to stop closing our eyes for the not so beautiful consequences. Only if we can ponder and discuss the whole big picture, we can over come our fears, find solutions and work in the right direction. Utopia for me still is the right direction, but to pursue it we have to dream consciously, knowing about the problems we need to solve, which is actually quite hard work and not easy at all.

Please press the HD button and head over to vimeo to see the video in High Definition!

#edcmooc, #videos, #utopia,

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Transhumanism & Eugenics

I am sick and I am too tired to read or write much, but I think it's important to mention Eugenics. In my post about Humanism I already wrote that I doubt that Transhumanism will bring equality, because the rich will have access to new technology and the poor will not. I am German and because of history I am critical of anything claiming to be the "solution" for all. The fanatic Atheists of today scare me as much as religious fundamentalists. I don't see the difference. I always wonder how come that scientists, whose profession is to doubt everything, can end up making the same mistake all humans are prone to: believing in something and being unable to let go of it even if it is proven wrong. I am not saying that all the promises of Transhumanism couldn't work out for the greater human good. But shouldn't then already all our technology have done the same for all humanity?
It didn't because we live in a system that is not made to benefit all, no new technology will change that. So much progress where did it lead us? Not to a world with less poverty and no children dying of hunger. Even if now these deaths seem unnecessary.

In my first Mooc "Science Fiction, Fantasy and the Human Mind" the topic of Eugenics came up too. First it showed up in reading "Herland"by Charlotte Perkins Gillman and everybody seemed to hate her utopian vision of an all female community in unisono because it implemented Eugenics. I didn't because I think it was a feminist thought experiment in the context of her times, which were strongly pro Eugenics. The weird thing is, nobody cared for H.G. Wells Eugenic background ( H.G. Wells’s Eugenic Thinking 1892-1944 ) (2 - H. G. Wells and Population Control: From a EugenicPublic Policy to the Eugenics of Personal Choice)  at all, everybody loved him and people didn't want to know about it. What scared me most was that in discussing this topic my peers were convinced that something like Eugenics could never ever happen today.
I believe this is the only mindset that makes it possible that it can...

Did you know who coined the term "Transhumanism"? It was Julian Huxley the brother of Aldous trying to find a new friendlier word for Eugenics after the war (1957). Julian was also the first director of the UNESCO (and many more institutions!*), and in this position he wrote a paper entitled "UNESCO Its Purpose and Its Philosophy" in 1946. Remember that is after the second world war endend and the Concentration Camps and Dr. Mengele's Experiments were exposed.

Here are some hair raising excerpts of this paper:

“There are instances of biological inequality which are so gross that they cannot be reconciled at all with the principle of equal opportunity. Thus low-grade mental defectives cannot be offered equality of educational opportunity, nor are the insane equal with the sane before the law or in respect of most freedoms. However, the full implications of the fact of human inequality have not often been drawn and certainly need to be brought out here, as they are very relevant to Unesco’s task. [...]"

"This has quite other implications; for, whereas variety is in itself desirable, the existence of weaklings, fools, and moral deficients cannot but be bad. It is also much harder to reconcile politically with the current democratic doctrine of equality. In face of it, indeed, the principle of equality of opportunity must be amended to read “equality of opportunity within the limits of aptitude.

"At the moment, it is probable that the indirect effect of civilisation is dysgenic instead of eugenic; and in any case it seems likely that the dead weight of genetic stupidity, physical weakness, mental instability, and disease-proneness, which already exist in the human species, will prove too great a burden for real progress to be achieved. Thus even though it is quite true that any radical eugenic policy will be for many years politically and psychologically impossible, it will be important for Unesco to see that the eugenic problem is examined with the greatest care, and that the public mind is informed of the issues at stake so that much that now is unthinkable may at least become thinkable."

“The Age of the Common Man: the Voice of the People: majority rule: the importance of a large population: – ideas and slogans such as these form the background of much of our thinking, and tend, unless we are careful, towards the promotion of mediocrity, even if mediocrity in abundance, and at the same time, towards the discouragement of high and unusual quality."

Indeed some seem to see themselves always more equal than others...

This is just a small excerpt, but I guess it's enough to show why I am concerned.
I don't believe in any one solution not even science. Science can be incredibly cruel.
And people seem to somehow forget: Science is not infallible! Quite the opposite. It might be more reliable than believe systems but it is not always right and has been rewritten a million times.
For me to be human is to think with your head and your heart.
If Science and Technology are used and judged with this as a guiding light in mind then and only then can they be hugely beneficial for all humankind.

I really wonder why the BBC and Stephen Hawkins and all the other scientists (who probably had no influence in this anyway) called the documentary I posted under Transhumanism and Humanoids "Brave New World", when they are talking about supposed to be great innovations for humanity?
I also realized that people start to categorize "Brave New World" not as a dystopian novel anymore but a dystopian/utopian novel...

Aldous Huxley author of Brave New World speaking at U.C. Berkeley in 1962.

"Aldous Huxley uses this speaking opportunity to outline his vision for the 'ultimate revolution', a scientific dictatorship where people will be conditioned to enjoy their servitude, and will pose little opposition to the 'ruling oligarchy', as he puts it. He also takes a moment to compare his book, "Brave New World," to George Orwell's "1984" and considers the technique in the latter too outdated for actual implementation. "There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution." -- Aldous Huxley, Tavistock Group, California Medical School, 1961"

*now that I know about Julian Huxley being also deeply involved in the Humanist movement I find it hard to know what to think anymore...

"Sir Julian Sorell Huxley FRS[1] (22 June 1887 – 14 February 1975) was an English evolutionary biologist, eugenicist and internationalist. He was a proponent of natural selection, and a leading figure in the mid-twentieth century evolutionary synthesis. He was Secretary of the Zoological Society of London (1935–1942), the first Director of UNESCO, and a founding member of the World Wildlife Fund. Huxley was well known for his presentation of science in books and articles, and on radio and television. He directed an Oscar-winning wildlife film. He was awarded UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for the popularisation of science in 1953, the Darwin Medal of the Royal Society in 1956,[1] and the Darwin–Wallace Medal of the Linnaean Society in 1958. He was also knighted in that same year, 1958, a hundred years after Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace announced the theory of evolution by natural selection. In 1959 he received a Special Award of the Lasker Foundation in the category Planned Parenthood – World Population. Huxley was a prominent member of the British Eugenics Society and its president from 1959–1962."wiki

I found the documentary I wanted to post before:
Homo Sapiens 1900
I found it to be full of information I didn't know about...
It covers the history of Eugenics in the US, Sweden, Germany and the Soviet Union.

#edcmooc, #Transhumanism, #dystopia, #Eugenics, #JulianHuxley, #AldousHuxley, #SocialDarwinism