Woody Guthrie Lives Inside of Me

memecat stays positive

From time to time, I pull out my guitar and record a “corner concert” in my house. Nothing fancy. Just me and a song. Given all the noise about politics, to which I am very much attuned, I pulled out this song that I wrote, Woody Guthrie Lives Inside of Me.

While the politicians sleep
We’ll occupy the streets
Woody Guthrie lives inside of me

Thanks for watching and listening and being engaged in this crazy political season.

That man

Peace (in the songs),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Who Stole My Hour?

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge for March, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We are writing each day about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

That hour ... Gone

Not much more to say here … my hour went missing last night and now I am wondering where it went … the only good news about Daylight Savings is that Spring has to be right around the corner, right?

Peace (in the leap),
Kevin

So Long, Internet Kid — It’s Been Great Writing You (and You, Too, Horse)

InternetKid23

This post wraps up The Wild West Adventures of the Internet Kid, a daily webcomic that I started in January as part of the #Ds106 offshoot known as #Western106 and 40-plus comics later, I am bringing the adventures to an end (for now). I decided to make this FlipBook of all of the comics in the series, and you can find the collection at The Kid’s tumblr site, too.

Thanks for reading. I hope it made you smile here and there, and maybe got you to think about genres and stereotypes (of Westerns and of Technology), now and then. I had a blast writing them. See you on the open trails!

Read the Collection

Peace (in the flip),
Kevin

PS — Wondering how I made the Internet Kid flipbook? I created a Keynote slideshow (powerpoint or slides would work), imported all of the comic images, and then saved the whole thing as a PDF. That allowed me to use the Fliphtml5 site (which requires PDF uploads) to convert it into the flippable book. Easy. But I like how all of the comics look like they are in a book format.

 

The Last Pony Ride of the Internet Kid (for now)

InternetKid23

I am nearing the end of this two-month run of making comics for The Wild West Adventures of the Internet Kid. This has been an ancillary project for the Course with No Course — a Western-themed offshoot of DS106. It has been a ton of fun to make these comics, but I don’t know how daily cartoonist do it, to be frank. The stress of new ideas … ack …. good thing I don’t do my own art or I would have gone mad weeks ago.

Today’s comic begins the last storyline, which will stretch out over a few days and invite you to take part in the story, too. It features The Kid and a Video Game Vortex coming to town.

You can view the Internet Kid Tumblr site, where I have been posting the comics every day (as well as on Twitter, with the #Western106 hashtag). You can also use the “random” option with Tumblr, so that when you click the link below, it will take you to a random comic at the site.

Get a Random Kid

While this is the last storyline, I suspect that this pause in making daily comics is only for now, and not forever. It’s hard to give up a character like The Internet Kid and The Horse with No Name and Anarchist Annie and Question Mark and others after living with them for seven weeks or so. They’re in my head, and in my heart.

Peace (in the frame of story and humor),
Kevin

 

Twenty+ Comics In: Checking In On The Internet Kid

InternetKid1

I’m past 20 now. Twenty-odd daily comics for The Wild West Adventures of the Internet Kid, an idea that was sparked by my participation in the open Western106 story adventure. I thought I would take a breather here to reflect on how it’s going for me, the writer (I make an appearance now and then in the comic, usually for criticism for not writing better comics or not paying attention to equity issues. Guilty as charged!).

Well, breather, plus today’s comic:

InternetKid12

So far, so good with my idea of a daily comic, although I have very little idea if anyone is reading them. A few comments and reactions trickle in now and then. I’m still more focused on the question for myself: Am I having fun making the comics? I am and so, I keep on going forward. In fact, I have at least another 15 comics in the bank, set to go forth, including one story arc that will invite readers to play a game. I also have an ending comic, for when I get there.

The way I have been writing them is in bursts. In fact, the first weekend when I had the idea for the Internet Kid, I had a deluge of comic making. I cranked out about 15 of them in a three-day weekend, just keeping up with the ideas. I won’t claim that every comic every day is great, but I hope they add a little entertainment chuckle value for folks now and then.

InternetKid8

What I am really trying to with The Wild West Adventures of the Internet Kid is to combine some of the elements of the Western genre (the cowboy, the horse, the villain) with some insights into the modern culture of technology. It’s trickier than it seems to pull that off in an entertaining way. I am often trying to make fun at the stereotypes of gender, making the so-called villain — Anarchist Annie — an interesting character, or so I hope. Her goal is to poke holes in the bias of our world. Sometimes, she blows things up to make her point crystal clear.

Attacking Annie ... Dumb move

In fact, a few of the storylines and comics are pulled directly from my reading of Participatory Culture in a Networked Era, a slow-read in the Digital Writing Month community. If you have read that book (and you should), and if you read The Internet Kid (which, of course, I hope you do), you will start to see some parallels of ideas around technology and learning and young people’s interactions in the Digital Age that surfaced there in that study of participatory culture by Henry Jenkins, Mimi Ito and danah boyd, and then got woven here into this comic.

The app I used to make comics — Comics Head — has limits, particularly to expressions of characters (although an upgrade this weekend with a ton of new art seems to open the door for adding more elements .. still checking that out). But I do appreciate the flexibility of the Comics Head app for what I am doing as a comic strip writer. (And I have not yet used the Audio element on The Internet Kid … which allows you to layer in audio tracks on top of the comic .. on my list)

I am purposefully posting the comics in different places — on Twitter with the #western106 hashtag, in Flickr in an album, and on a Tumblr site that I set up just for the comics (it turns out Tumblr is a perfect space for daily comics). Sometimes, I share on Google Plus. I also have the feed of the Tumblr site spilling into the DS106 course. I wonder if anyone else other than me uses an RSS Reader to peruse the posts going there and make comments?

Can I just give a shout-out to my favorite character in my comic?

The Horse with No Name just cracks me up. I hadn’t even thought of a horse until I had the Kid in mind, and then .. of course he needed a horse. The Kid is a cowboy. But not just any horse. The Horse with No Name (cue: America song) has his own personality.

He refuses to let The Kid ride him and the Horse even negotiates an agreement with the Kid on this matter (The Kid agrees but worries what other cowboys will think of him). Yet, the Horse with No Name remains a funny and insightful sidekick to The Kid.

I think, as the writer, I am the Horse with No Name more than I am The Internet Kid. (Maybe I have some Anarchist Annie in me, too.) This particular comic of the animals having a farmyard chat about The Kid, in particular, still makes me giggle. I love how the Horse has the tablet and the image of The Kid on it. Look at The Kid’s posture and expression. Priceless. We know who is really in charge of their partnership.

InternetKid13

Peace (more comics to come),
Kevin

Book Review: Thing Explainer

Cover of the book Thing Explainer

What Randall Monroe pulls off in Thing Explainer reminds me a bit of what Dr. Seuss did with his early books for young readers: he purposefully uses a minimal amount of words to explain the complicated world (although Dr. Seuss sought to teach young people how to read with The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham).

In the case of Thing Explainer, Monroe limited himself to 1,000 common words, and no more (he lists them at the end of the book). That may seem like a lot, until you realize the complexity of the world he is explaining — such as computerized data centers that make up cloud computing, and the space stations, cells, and the human body, and more.

What Monroe brings to these explanations is his witty sense of visuals and webcomic ability, which are always on display at his xkcd webcomic, but here, his visuals are given full pages (the book is oversized, and I would probably recommend going with the physical book over a digital book, but that’s just me). He may only use stick people, but those stick people are hilarious in their poses and verbal asides, and they fit in perfectly with Monroe’s visual design of our modern world, told in simple language.

It’s fun learning.

My students are in the midst of expository writing right now, and I might see if I can get a few of Monroe’s drawings out of the book and up onto my classroom walls. The pencil one in particular is very interesting and inviting, and it would surely draw the attention of my students (we’ve been doing diagram drawing all year long for creative writing).

Monroe also created a “simple writer” website, for trying out yourself how to explain something in few words, using his database of common words. I popped this entire blog post into it, and discovered many words above and beyond the complexity point.

Using SimpleWriter

 

Peace (in the thing, explained),
Kevin

 

Webcomic: The Wild West Adventures of the Internet Kid

InternetKid1

Last weekend, I was reading up on Alan Levine’s move to push ahead with a Western-style DS106 course, even though the college where he was to teach it pulled out due to lack of enrollment. Lack of enrollment in the course? Do they even know Alan Levine and DS106? Their loss, but Alan is launching the course as an open invitation.

There is sure to be lots of critique of the Western genre — of violence, and gender, and more — and I hope to do as much of it as I can, if only to be part of another DS106 adventure.  I am already part of an Outlaw Brigade with Wild Toady. I was thinking about Western DS106 this past weekend and started to get inspired to do a webcomic which has come to be called The Wild West Adventures of the Internet Kid.

Really, the comic has little to do with the Wild West and more to do about technology. No surprise there, if you follow my blog and comics. Before I knew it, I had more than a handful of comics created, and so I have decided to “publish” the comics, one per day (except today, when you get one plus my cover), on Twitter via the #western106 hashtag

I also just now realized that a Tumblr site would make sense, so here it is: The Wild West Adventures of the Internet Kid tumblr site. 

My aim is to have some fun with tweaking the Western genre AND technology and writing.  Plus, I like making comics. Honestly, some of the Internet Kid storylines work better than others, but I am sending all of them into the Wild anyway. I hope you get a chuckle now and then. And if it makes you think, well, all the better.

So, here you go — the first comic of The Wild West Adventures of the Internet Kid:

InternetKid2

Peace (partners),
Kevin

Digital Access and Equity: What if THEY is all of US?

What if they is us?

I am in the midst of reading Participatory Culture in a Networked Era with the Digital Writing Month community and thoroughly enjoying the format (discussions among Ito, boyd and Jenkins) and the topics, which connect nicely to my own diving into Connected Learning.

Chapter Three of the book centers on access and equity issues (under the academic guise of “genres” — at least, in my mind) and as I was reading, this comic began to form in my mind. It’s a bit metaphorically simple: the locked door and no access to the inside from those on the outside.

But it was tagline that seemed most important to me: What if they is all of us?

What if we (us teachers, us adults, us) are the ones closing that door on different elements of our population? What if we are doing it inadvertently? What if we don’t even know the door has been closed? Who’s waiting out there, wondering?

And then, of course, the ancillary question: how do we break that door open wide so no one feels left out? Pass me that sledgehammer won’t you?

access issue

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

Comic Response: On the Issue of Poverty and Possibility

On Poverty: A Response to Daniel

My friend, Daniel, has long been part of my various online networks, and his work around youths and poverty and violence prevention have informed many a discussion. 

As he writes on his blog:

My aim is to help communities create and sustain strategies that make more and better non-school tutor/mentor programs available to inner-city youth in high-poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities. I’m Daniel Bassill. I have led volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago since 1975. Learn more about me at http://www.tutormentorexchange.net/dan-bassill.

Last week, he posed a question to his social networks. Daniel asked us to respond with different kinds of media to this query:

“What Will it Take to Assure that all Youth Born or Living in High Poverty are Starting Jobs and Careers by Age 25?”

Daniel often uses mapping to show how data might inform interventions for young people. I went with a comic to respond to him. This both added another element and also restrained my response. I didn’t want to make a multi-page comic, so my three answers are in the middle.

Later, Daniel noted that I had not talked about after-school programs in my comic response, and he is right. While I think those activities are important, I find that the best way to reach the most kids is right in school itself, and I often worry about money and grants allocated for after-school programming take away from needed resources in the schools. I don’t discount the impact after-school programs can have, however.

Feel free to add your ideas to the conversation, in any media that helps you make your point.

Peace (everywhere, all the time),
Kevin