Writing About Songs: Send Me Out a Sign


(This is part of a series of posts about releasing some early music via Bandcamp.)

Of all the songs on this album, Send Me out a Sign packs the most emotional punch for me. I wrote it during the heady days of courting my (now) wife. This was a songwriting phase where I was often writing three to four songs every single week, and using a little Tascam recorder to record demos. I first brought Send Me out a Sign to a friend, who played bass, and we did a version of the song. Later, I brought it to a new band I was in — Big Daddy Kiljoy — and when I played it for the band, you could see that everyone recognized it for a good song that we could work with. This version, recorded in a real studio, does a fair job of capturing our version, with a powerful harp solo and a nice easy groove.

There’s a certain feeling you get when you share a song that is close to your heart. On one hand, you don’t want to let it go. It’s so personal that it feels like a child that needs protecting. On the other hand, some songs come out nearly perfect (or so it seems) and the only way to breathe real life into it is to share it. I’ve been fortunate to be in bands where I can bring in songs that we will at least try (and we abandon as many as keep, it seems).

Send Me out a Sign is about waiting for that special person to know that the next stage of a relationship is ready and waiting, and that you are too. There’s a real uncertainty about where a relationship will go, and the song is positive and yet, there is a yearning to it, too. The Romeo/Juliet metaphor of standing under the window, waiting for a sign … that’s universal, right? This song reminds me of the strength of my marriage, and is a musical testament (sap alert) to love.

Peace (in the muse),
Kevin

Writing About Songs: Using Bandcamp


Some of you know that I play and write music as a hobby. Over the years, with various bands and friends, I have recorded music here and there, and many of the tracks have sat electronically for years. Time to set them free and see if anyone likes them. Over the coming days and weeks, I am going to be reflecting and writing about the songs that I have recorded and sharing them out. I decided to use Bandcamp as a place to host and share, and maybe sell a few songs here and there. I have no expectations of striking it rich or anything, and any proceeds will get divided up with friends who helped make the music.

I’m playing an assortment of instruments here — some rhythm guitar, saxophones and even keyboards on some of the tracks.

You don’t need to buy the music to listen to the music. You can listen right from Bandcamp. If you like a track and buy it, I offer you deep appreciation. I chose songs from our recordings that I wrote, co-wrote and mostly sang lead on. A few songs have other bandmates singing, and I have noted that in the liner notes (such as they are).

Today, I want to share the entire album (see above) and in the days ahead, I will break it down track by track as best as I can remember about the writing and recording. As a sort of bonus sharing today, I also dug up an old video from my band, Sofa Kings, as we went into the studio. The sound is awful because it is a first generation Flip Camera (remember them?) and the microphone was tinny. But it captures some of what we were doing in the studio and a few of those tracks are in the Bandcamp collection.

Sofa Kings: in the studio from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

Thanks for listening.
Peace (in the songs),
Kevin

 

Graphic Novel Review: Steve Jobs (Co-Founder of Apple)

(Note from Kevin: A few years ago, I was a reviewer for The Graphic Classroom. I really enjoyed the way we look at graphic novels with a lens towards the classroom. The site got taken over by another site, and then … I guess the owner of The Graphic Classroom stopped doing what he was doing. Which is fine. But I still had some reviews “sitting in the can” so I am finally digging them out to share out here.)

Story Summary: Not to be confused with the recent bestselling biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, this comic book version of the Life of Jobs by Bluewater Comics is like a whirlwind overview of the innovator’s highs (with some token nods to the lows). STEVE JOBS aims to present Steve Jobs’s life in an accessible format, and give this comic book’s length, there is a lot about Jobs that is not told. Mostly, STEVE JOBS celebrates Steve Jobs. We don’t get much of the ways in which he treated his employees and the people around him, but we do get a good sense of the ways that Jobs changed the way we look at and interact with technology. You get the impression that Bluewater rushed this comic biography into production to ride on the coattails of Isaacson’s book, and Jobs’s passing. (I found a few proofreading errors)

Art Review: There’s nothing special about the art here, to be honest. It’s fair, but not innovative. I suppose, as a reviewer, one would hope that a comic about someone obsessed with design would be more beautiful to read. It isn’t. I did like the layered text and images behind the main scenes, particularly towards the end when we encounter a sort of “highlights reel” of his life. The art there gave the book a bit of a mash-up feel.

In the Classroom: I am sure there are plenty of students in our classrooms who want to know more about Steve Jobs and who would be put off by Isaacson’s definitive biography, given its hefty size. There are other biographies floating around, too, and this comic by Bluewater might be a nice companion piece for students interested in the ways that Jobs and Apple have transformed personal computing.

More Information:

Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Bluewater Productions (January 10, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1450756727
ISBN-13: 978-1450756723

My Recommendation: I would recommend STEVE JOBS: CO-FOUNDER OF APPLE for its use in current events and biography of the moment, but not necessarily for the art of the comic. The writing could be stronger, and the illustrations, more interesting. But I suspect students with an interest in “all things Apple” won’t really care about those points.

Peace (in innovation),
Kevin

Emoji Movie Poster: Screenface III

Screen face #tdc873
Yesterday’s Daily Create was to create an emoji movie poster. I suppose this could have gone a few ways: we could have made a poster for a movie told entirely in emoji (which I don’t think anyone did) or we could made a poster for an emoji movie (which is what I did). There are probably other options, too, but that’s the beauty of the Daily Create.

I went into Webmaker Thimble, using a Movie Poster template that walks you through all of the steps, and remixed it for a fake movie: Screenface III. What’s funny is that the emoji I used got blown up (not literally) so large that you can only see the top of its head, with odd eyes on the horizon of the page. I tried to fix it and then realized: it works better this way. Or  maybe I just got lazy and realized: good enough.

Peace (in the theater),
Kevin

 

Internet: Data Flow

You may have already seen this but it is yet another way to get your mind around how much flow is happening in online spaces. Or, you might not be able to get your mind around it. Still, our students and what they are doing is part of this mix.

Click the image to open the interactive version (via PennyStocks.la).

Peace (in the flow),
Kevin

 

On NWP Blogtalk Radio: My Wife and Others talk Leadership

My wife is an educator and administrator at a vocational high school, and a leader at our Western Massachusetts Writing Project. Here, she took part of a discussion around leadership and professional development work during a National Writing Project’s BlogTalk Radio program. The talk centers around nurturing and supporting teachers as leaders. She joined Bruce Penniman, one of my own mentors in the WMWP, in this discussion, along with other folks.

New Education Podcasts with NWP radio on BlogTalkRadio

Take a listen:

Peace (in the talk),
Kevin

Graphic Novel Review: Legends of Zita the Spacegirl

(Note from Kevin: A few years ago, I was a reviewer for The Graphic Classroom. I really enjoyed the way we look at graphic novels with a lens towards the classroom. The site got taken over by another site, and then … I guess the owner of The Graphic Classroom stopped doing what he was doing. Which is fine. But I still had some reviews “sitting in the can” so I am finally digging them out to share out here.)

 

Story Summary: Don’t tell my wife, but I am somewhat smitten with Zita, the spacegirl. You will be, too. In LEGENDS OF ZITA THE SPACEGIRL, writer/illustrator Ben Hatke brings us into the second adventures of the young Zita, who is fearless, brave and kind, too. And she can save the world! What’s not to like? LEGENDS OF ZITA THE SPACEGIRL picks up where the first book (Zita the Spacegirl) left off (and even provides a nice in-book play that retells that first adventure), and here, Zita is seeking to return home to Earth. Which is not easy, particularly when the galaxies are full of nutty aliens and strange accidents, and more than a few oddball obstacles standing in Zita’s way. There’s even echoes of The Prince and the Pauper here, as a robot stand-in for Zita almost completely takes over her life. Still, Zita is nothing if not determined, and resourceful, and the adventures in this story unfold at a quick pace for the intrepid heroine. And a bit of foreshadowing at the end by Hatke leaves no doubt that this is not the end of the story for Zita. That’s a good thing.

Art Review: Colorful illustrations are a hallmark in the Zita stories, and this second book does not disappoint. What I also love most are the very strange aliens characters that pepper most pages. They’re cute, but often dangerous, and yet, Zita rarely blinks in the face of it all. And speaking of Zita, Hatke has really created a smart-looking heroine whose expressions and movements are all emblematic of a great protagonist that you feel compelled to cheer for (see, I told you I was smitten).

More Information:

• Reading level: Ages 8 and up
• Paperback: 224 pages
• Publisher: First Second (September 4, 2012)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1596434473
• ISBN-13: 978-1596434479
In the Classroom: There may not be any overt connections to teaching with Zita the Spacegirl, but the fact that Hatke has created a strong female protagonist in a science-fiction graphic novel is something worth celebrating, and relishing, and this fact alone should open up some space on classroom shelves for readers of both genders.

My Recommendation: I highly recommend LEGENDS OF ZITA THE SPACEGIRL for the rich storytelling, colorful illustrations, and science-fiction setting. It’s a book told with humor and adventure and it is sure to engage boy and girls readers in elementary and middle school classrooms. There is no profanity or anything objectionable in either of the Zita stories (unless you have something against Star Heart scavenger aliens, and well, who doesn’t?).

Peace (in space and beyond),
Kevin

An Audio Remix: Making Learning Relevant


I’ve been exploring the Making Learning Relevant project from the Connected Learning Alliance and decided to tap into Popcorn Maker to create a remix of some of the podcasts and images they have been collecting. (Popcorn Maker by Webmaker is fun to use with different media but it is not yet a seamless experience in the editing process for me. They’ve made some nice changes lately — adding a media search component and the automatic citation element – and it does work smoother than it used to. Lots of potential for Popcorn Maker.)
Feel free to remix what I did, too.

Check out An Audio Remix: Making Learning Relevant

 

Peace (in the sharing),
Kevin

 

Picture Book Review: A Home Run for Bunny

A Home Run For Bunny

In our house, it is baseball all the time these days. All three boys play ball, and the Red Sox are always on the radio (even during the dark stretches of the losing streak that finally ended yesterday). My youngest son’s book club is reading A Home Run for Bunny, by Richard Anderson.

This story, set in 1934, tells the tale of Bunny Taliaferro, an African-American athletic standout from nearby Springfield, whose American Legion team went south to play in a national tournament, only to be confronted head-on by racism. Bunny was the only black athlete on the Springfield team, and in the tournament, and his presence sparked confrontations everywhere, from the hotel that did not want him to sleep on their beds, to the practice field where people threw garbage at him, and more.

In the end, the entire team decided to go home rather than play in the tournament, after Bunny was told he would be not be allowed on the field with the white teams. It’s a powerful moment when Bunny’s teammates, although confident they could win this tournament and move to the next level, take a stand and pack up to leave in order to support their black teammate rather than play without him.

A statue of Bunny Taliaferro now stands in one of Springfield’s parks, and the governor honored him and his teammates in a recent ceremony, noting the racism that Bunny endured during this time as an athlete and the sacrifice that his team made in choosing friendship over winning. The story is written in a removed first-person narrative, allowing the reader to see the story unfold from one of the teammates, and this is effective.

Times may have changed, even if racism is still an issue, but it is important for us to remember that even before Jackie Robinson and other pioneers who broke the race barrier, there were people like Bunny Taliaferro suffering the sting and scorn of a country still driven by hatred of skin and culture. By focusing on the team’s response to such racism, writer Richard Anderson reminds us of the goodness of people, too.

Peace (please),
Kevin