Thursday, February 19, 2009

Smithsonian/USA Weekend/YouTube: National Anthem Singing Competition

Do you have a young, sparking vocalist in your midst? Or can your family help you record and make a video as a family project of your own singing talent? The Smithsonian is going very Web 2.0 to bring the public into the spirit of the National Anthem, and this might be an excellent family project.

The Smithsonian is partnering with USA Weekend and YouTube to create a National Anthem competition. Very charming and a nice Web 2.0 integration with the museum's mission. The Smithsonian "gets it" fairly well, plus has a new director from more of a digital heritage. They even Tweet (

And, of course, I put in a submission...helped out an critiqued by my lovely family. I had two of my children over my shoulder making changes with the video edit (too slow here, mom!) and one just wincing in the corner.

Take a listen at, vote, and listen to some of the rest, then pass this on!

Note: You need to help your own younger children and submit for them.

Monday, February 16, 2009

New and Old Fashioned Valentine's Day

I do miss the painful era when my kids were younger of the Valentine's cards for $1.99 from Thrifty Drugs (now Rite Aid). They had to have the perfect card and then slaved over it, writing the exact right names, matching up the goofy characters with which kid would get it, and angsting over who gave them what card back.

My kids are older (11-15) and so am I. Cards have given over to candy passed between friends. Strangely this year, no digital valentines. Many other "Hallmark holidays" have swung into major digital mode. I got more digital Christmas letters than I had patience for. Some of them became a meld of business updates and reminder pitches seeming "Facebook-y" friendly. Some of them were fabulous but strange versions of Photoshop art, melding places and faces to a new form of social comment. Some were animated gif things that I can't even describe.

But Valentine's Day this year didn't really go there. From my kids and husband, I got traditional printed greeting cards, even more traditional than in prior years. I got some Facebook apps to send me hearts and flowers, but nothing more than a blip. Some iPhone apps launched for V-Day and even e-card SPAMs were highlighted, but it was a digital trickle

Michaels Craft Stores ended up with an NPR mention that they are busier than ever, with a free make-a-card event at their stores that was crazy-busy. Sales of do-it-yourself crafts are reported to be on the increase, not surprising in this economy, but surprising that we haven't flipped to digital love in this era.

Are we getting closer to emotional, physical home? Or is digital finding its own places and spaces depending on what we are needing for that holiday? Family is near and dear but 2nd-degree friends (friends of friends) are an email blast away and not a "Valentine"?

Amusing on another front -- I was wandering around Second Life on the 13th and found another trail of Valentine's Day. There were some of the most gorgeous artificial balls and dances, with beautiful surreal outfits, and couples dancing in Second Life. Couples were slow-dancing (that is, their SL characters were) in beautifully decorated elegant ballrooms, ice palaces, and nightclubs. I felt I was intruding in that these seemed both public and intimate, so went back to my own RL home and waited for my kids to get back from an old-fashioned, rock music school dance.

Valetine's Day itself? Despite the Recession, we enjoyed a very crowded evening at our delicious neighborhood pizza joint, packed with other families enjoying a live Valentine's Day together with soda, pizza, and beer...while a big-screen TV was on in the background, droning the news.

Gifts, you may ask? I got a lovely necklace made by my 15-year-old daughter (who makes jewelry professionally already at this age) and new windshield wipers from my husband, who installed them in the dark.

Hope your own Valentine's Day was personal, fun, and with those who care for your heart and needs. That's not yet a fully digital world and it will be interesting how these worlds blend over time.