Dan Zen Museum - Tour

BIOGRAPHY TOUR

Welcome to the Dan Zen Museum Biography Tour. As a reward for taking the tour, we will tell you that one word is out of place. If you combine this word with out-of-place words from the other tours you will have a secret message. Dan Zen encourages you to slow down a little - relax, enjoy and fully experience the museum. And now, without further meta, on with the tour!

GUIDE

Birthplace
Nature versus Nurture
Creating
Influences
Career
Culture
Conclusion

Birthplace

Dan Zen was born on Maui in Hawaii just south-west of the hippie-surf town, Paia, half way from the crystal coast of Paia Bay to the moonscape of the Haleakala crater. You can see Zen's photos of Hawaii - and again as alter ego, Hollander Maui. Unfortunately, on a recent visit to his birthplace, he lost over 500 photos when near-by volcanic eruption created an electro-magnetic pulse.

Speaking of eruptions, Dan Zen specialized in input and output at an early age experimenting to see if everything in the bathroom could go down the toilet. He was mesmerized by the patterns of water coming out of hoses. According to stories, he used a periscope to see out his crib. His favourite toy was a hand puppet called Maki - which he still has despite his younger brother biting off his nose. He went on to create a number of stuffed toys - Pillow #1, Pillow #2, Football. etc. to complement Whaley, Monkey, the Phantom and other apply categorized creatures.



Dan Zen has a fascination with artificial intelligence and the extension of humans through mediated reality and nano-technology. It turns out that he is a descendent of Mary Shelly, author of Frankenstein, through his mother's side and Grandmother, Gran Gran. Gran Gran, who lived inside a Banyan tree on coconut avenue beneath the shadow of Diamond head in Waikiki, was a librarian (master of information) and would read and tell many stories and whisper secret words to Zen. Zen has followed in her footsteps becoming one of the foremost Interactive Story tellers of our time. A difference is that Zen's stories and environments are his own creations. So from where did this creativity come?

GUIDE

Birthplace
Nature versus Nurture
Creating
Influences
Career
Culture
Conclusion

Nature versus Nurture

Dan Zen's loving mother, Adele Rose - who chose to use her name, Rose, is quite the maker. She baked braided breads for five growing children and is currently the proud creator of over 100 quilts - an expert in patterns and colors. Dan and his uncle Jim, Rose's brother, share a fascination with the mechanical aspects of the world - there have been many visits with kites, bikes, cameras, solar panels and the potting wheel of lovely Aunt Pat. There is Zen's paternal genius father, Ben, an oceanographer who produces a pun a sentence - and uses dashes, like someone we know. There are many dashes in his 500+ online stories. Ben is Dutch and the Dutch have a history of invention - windmills filled with mechanical wonders - think Dick Van Dyke in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The Dutch also live an exciting social life... Neither parent could quite be called an inventor but they certainly had open and active minds.



Along with Nature... there is Nurture. Dan Zen is a child of the sixties. His mother met a wonderful radical called Randy who became Zen's second father at the age of three. Randy is a Sociologist - and expert in parties (we kid you not). Randy and family (with new brother, Kimo) left Hawaii and came to Canada to teach at McMaster in the early seventies - the time of the health food and Hippies. The Zen family met friends down the way who had matching children and the two families moved to a farm in the country to play in the hay and walk through the woods.



Zen's third father, Alex, was very interested in games and sports - activities that have certainly interested Zen as he has gone on to make hundreds of games and still quarterbacks in football every Sunday. It should be noted that Zen MAKES the games and PLAYS the sports - not plays the games and watches sports. So what has Dan Zen created? Let's continue the tour.

GUIDE

Birthplace
Nature versus Nurture
Creating
Influences
Career
Culture
Conclusion

Creating

Dan Zen would quite enjoy entertaining his brothers, parents and friends with haunted houses, magic shows, role playing games of pirates where the floor was the water, hiding games, Frisbee tag and golf, building lands with blocks and Lego. He made and still makes all his cards and many of his presents. He developed personas like Cosbian Fisbate that would make his brothers laugh as he said "Petumaaa!" before zipping off. He would create horses to ride on railings, piles of clutter to jump, fort after fort in snow or wood, go-carts out of tricycle wheels and role play endless stories with Plasticine or anything - rocks, string, cutlery, pillows.









He has made huge Halloween costumes out of cardboard and has been a Henry Moore Sculpture (chicken wire and paper mache), a Storm Cloud with two other friends, a Hookah Smoking Caterpillar on a Mushroom, a Sci-fi wall of a video store, and a variety of performance costumes such as worm on the floor of a nightclub. He added fiberglass fins to his Mazda 808 which were quite memorable in his university days. When that died there was the Opel Manta, the Volkswagen Sirocco, the BMW 320i, the Mazda RX7 first generation and the last generation of Honda Hatchback - the Civic SIR red with white self-designed racing stripes.







With respect to style, Dan Zen was New Wave and Punk in high-school, Bat Caver (Goth) in university, Garage Punk Mod post-university and finally settled on Psychedelic Sci-fi with a zap of Cyberpunk and a puff of Steampunk. He was in a mod band in the 80's called The Chessmen putting out an album of 13 self-penned tunes and a space rock band called Thee Gnostics. Zen played the Moog, the Theramin and sang - in full costume of course. He has hosted dances - a series called the Op Hop where he would do the posters and create light shows - he always loved patterns from frost to phosphenes which led to has fascination with psychedelics - oil drop shows and optical art.





During his twenties and thirties, Dan Zen held psychedelic theme parties with sitars, bongos, strobe lights and waving ties, jams and collective story telling activities. There was the Beatnik Feast, the Space Feast, the Medieval Feast - all in full costume with game activities. He wrote five mysteries and hosted mystery parties twice each for multiple sets of friends - they were then turned into the Moustache Mysteries.



He organized car rallies EINSTEIN and treasure hunts all with themes and props around his Hamilton location. Hamilton in native times was known as a Shangri-la - it was the meeting area of many tribes surrounded by waterfalls. There are still many woods in and around the Pleasant Valley area of Dundas where Zen currently resides and hosts themed picnics in the woods and fields and, philosophizes and plans his Recreational Ravines movement.

The Dan Zen workshop filled with creations (money making machines, space outfits, dozens of medallions, home-made magic tricks, costumes, dioramas, etc.) and bins and shelves of raw material like computer parts, fasteners, hoses, wood, tin and paper - hey, there are even some tools! The garage features larger medallions, paintings with eyes that move, tie "love beads", Roli and Hoopi the rollable bots, cyber trees and cyber stones, the buddhas and banana wind chime - and the Owl that says "Why", a technology tower, light shows, tree house walking sticks, and... a ping pong table!











The residence is known as the House with the Red Dragon - named after the large red hedge dressed every Halloween by a large wooden head and eight wooden spikes and tail. Spooky shadow puppet plays take place in the drive with the garage doorway holding the screen. Kids play in the eight foot tall castle in the back. One day, an extra story will be placed on the house turning it into a pagoda - something Dan Zen has done in the digital world. For Zen's many digital creations, please see the CREATIVITY TOUR. Onward to the Influences section...

GUIDE

Birthplace
Nature versus Nurture
Creating
Influences
Career
Culture
Conclusion

Influences

One of Dan Zen's media influences was the Hilarious House of Frightenstein - a Hamilton production with zany characters and video feedback dancing. Zen has gone on to become the world's number one psychedelic dancer according to Google with his series of Psychedelic Dancing as Exercise. He also loved Scooby Doo, the Hardy Boys and mysteries in general which would explain the Moustache Mysteries. He read Danny Dunn - about an inventor's son and Charlie and Chocolate Factory and is often compared to Willy Wonka in the eyes of children and parents. He grew up playing Hasbro and Parker Brothers games like Twister, MouseTrap, Clue, etc. and has gone on to create a paper-based game each New Years and a hundred Web and mobile games - games like Touchy and Tilty which could be considered the modern day Twister.





Dan Zen is an avid reader of sci-fi moving from Isaac Asimov and Gordon Dickson through William Gibson and Neal Stephenson to Alastair Reynolds and Iain Banks. These have led to interest in the future, writing short stories about artificial intelligence, nano-technology and mediated reality. He has also read books on logic, cosmology, and patterns such as by Douglas Hofstadter. In the last 20 years, Zen has stopped reading non-fiction to concentrate on writing and first principles. He pops out of the Sketchbooks on occasion to see if similar minds are thinking in similar ways lightly looking at Noam Chompsky and Ray Kerzweil. His major influence is by far himself. He has now progressed quite far in his philosophy of Nodism with hundreds of diagrams and information pages. See the NODISM TOUR. A cumulation is the Dan Zen Creativity Framework.

Results would be quite different without his wife, RoseAnne, to offer love and practical advice. Many directions, names and interfaces have been adjusted after consultation and conversations. He and his daughter Madeline have been working on the island of Beryea which includes and language of curls and dots, political and social systems, and environmental concerns. Elliot, his son, is an expert in computer 3D space and a keen follower and creator of memes. He aids his father in product testing.





Education has had little influence on Dan Zen. He moved around a lot when young, skipped grade 6 and had your average high school experience with a sculpture award and nomination for athlete of the year. He took maths and sciences in preparation for university in Engineering. He was an Ontario Scholar and went to school with Stephen Elop - Head of Microsoft Devices Devision. In university at McMaster in Hamilton, he befriended Cyborg, Steve Mann - the two of them went on explorations and Zen named him Computer Steve.

Dan Zen learned to code in Basic and Fortran on a VAX system in 1982. He specialized in ergonomics and interface as he thought Engineering would give credibility to his inventions. His inventions were primarily social and simple in a mechanical sense so perhaps the education was slightly wasted. He had fun dancing at nightclubs four times a week and often all night on weekends. And what about Zen's career so far?

GUIDE

Birthplace
Nature versus Nurture
Creating
Influences
Career
Culture
Conclusion

Career

In business, Dan Zen become a Patent Agent to further lend credibility to his inventions and in general, learned that he was not interested in such a slow moving system for his types of projects. One would think that learning to prepare the most skill-testing legal document - the Patent - to classify inventions would provide a clue into Zen's upcoming world of Nodism and the Dan Zen Creativity Framework. But aside from the word, embodiment, this was not the case - which was a good thing as it gave him the encouragement that his work was needed. He did meet with a retired Patent Agent who was the first person to tell him about the Internet in 1994.

In 1995 Dan Zen worked on the Understanding McLuhan CD Rom with Southam New Media and Voyager. It was certainly an exciting time for media at the dawn of the Internet as we know it. More on this can be found in the Dan Zen FORMATION TOUR. McLuhan might have had an influence on Zen but more so on a meta level - that someone can be a pundit and that the field of communication existed. The name-dropping beating around the bush style of McLuhan led Zen to realize that media needed to be described in a clearer way. Much of Zen's teaching comes from doing and being able to describe what is being done, how and why without complicated words. So we can say that this experience led Zen to describe and analyze his works and set him on a path to teach and ultimately, towards philosophy.





In 2002 Dan Zen won the Canadian New Media Awards Programmer of the Year for his Dan Zen site at which point he got up in front of the Oscar-like crowd and claimed that we was not a programmer but an inventor and story-teller who uses programming to make environments in which others can create and communicate. The presenter of the glass-sculpture award was the Marketing Director of Sheridan College who told Zen of a job teaching and coordinating the Sheridan Interactive Multimedia one year post grad program. Zen had weathered the ownership change of Southam first to Conrad Black and then to CanWest Global. He was instrumental in the launching of canada.com and hundreds of contests and media Web sites.





Dan Zen took the job at Sheridan and in 2008 won the Canadian New Media Educator of the Year. He still teaches at Sheridan and is looking into a potential new program in Advanced Interfaces such as gesture technologies, brain control, wearable computing, augmented reality and more with a goal of creating media-ready projects that advance our culture. Speaking of culture...

GUIDE

Birthplace
Nature versus Nurture
Creating
Influences
Career
Culture
Conclusion

Culture

Dan Zen has been part of the cultural scene in Hamilton for 30 years. He has been in bands and performances, exhibited art, nurtured art scenes, live-casted reality shows, worn countless haute couture outfits, carried sitars, danced up hundreds of storms, judged art, performed windy days, presented many times on technology and culture, co-founded and attended clubs and user groups, given software demos, handed out thousands of spiraling cards, put up thousands of posters, MC'd fashion shows and art events, been in magazines, newspapers, and on TV but his favourite thing to do is to meet people and hopefully encourage them to be more creative and open to communication.



Dan Zen will continue to create and be part of the burgeoning Arts and Technology scene which brings us to our conclusion...

GUIDE

Birthplace
Nature versus Nurture
Creating
Influences
Career
Culture
Conclusion

Conclusion

As you can see, Dan Zen has lived quite a varied and exciting life so far. He wishes to thank his family, friends and supporters. In the future, he expects to continue his work in philosophy (see the NODISM TOUR) and encourage people to create - see the Dan Zen Creativity Framework a powerful tool to help you create. He looks forward to the growth of his family. Who knows, he may drop out of the technological race and turn towards further exploring Recreational Ravines. He sees great opportunity here to help the world live in a more social, environmental and connected way.

We hope you have enjoyed the tour and will continue to follow the life of one of the most creative people in the world.