Slice of Life: 100 #NetNarr Comics (or more) over 100 Days

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

I’ve been part of the Networked Narratives “course” as an open learner (there is a real course happening at Keane University, with professors Mia Zamora and Alan Levine, and open folks like me are satellites), and each day, there is a daily digital prompt called The Daily Arganee. It’s built off the DS106 Daily Create (I do those, too) and I love the daily challenges.

When the Networked Narratives was in planning stages, and Mia and Alan were talking about creating alternative personas for online interactions, I decided to dust off two comic characters from a previous project: The Internet Kid and the Horse with No Name. I wasn’t sure how two characters from the Wild West would work, but I was happy to see them again, after nearly a year of quiet.

Daily Dda100

Every day, for 100 days, I put Kid and Horse into a comic riffing off the Daily Arganee idea, and it was a blast. But now that the NetNarr course is moving into new direction, with worldbuilding and game playing, I have decided that the Kid and Horse need a rest, so today’s comic is the final one (for now).

I had imagined I would be doing more storytelling, unfolding in comics over many days, but it turns out, I got caught up in the one-off comic from the daily inspiration. That’s not bad, but not quite what I had hoped. I did one stretch of comics as story, of the Kid and Horse rescuing the NetNarr World from the Digital Alchemist, releasing the comics slowly over a single Saturday, and have done other assorted Kid/Horse comics in the last few months.

Kid and Horse Tumblr view

I have not had all that much reaction to the comics — a few re-shares and hearts and reaction from a small circle of friends on Twitter, plus one cool imaginary cow friend from Australia — so I settled into the mindset of, I’m writing this comic for my own amusement. You know, that worked. I was amused.

Not every comic worked as humor every day, and more than a few rely on the context of the Digital Arganee prompt. They might be headscratchers out of context. I purposely did not spend much time on them — I read the prompt, opened up my comic app, went with whatever strange idea bubbled up in my mind, made the comic, send it to Twitter/Tumblr and moved on. Seriously, some days, that process took me all of 15 minutes.

I am sure the Internet Kid and the Horse with No Name will return for some future project. For now, after more than 100 comics, they have earned their rest, and apparently, Horse is booking a flight to Australia to see his friend, Jolt, another animal pal in the Networked Narrative atmosphere with a bit of attitude and enlightenment. Even imaginary characters can connect.

Some other day, I’ll be sharing out all of the comics I made during this part of the Networked Narratives course. Given the quantity, it might just be a Flickr Album or something simple. Last time around, I created an ebook as an archive.

You can also view the Tumblr site where I shared every day. It’s also archived with the original comics from Western106, where Kid and Horse were first born.

Peace (framed with friendship),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Social Media Illusion

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

My pre-teen son confided in me that he had gone back into his Musically app the other day, for the first time in a few weeks, only to find out to his surprise that he was Number One on their charts of users. Musically allows you to create short lip-sync videos with all sorts of filters. It’s fun, but I personally find it a bit too much. People heart you. It’s one of those sites.

“It sort of freaked me out,” he admitted, on seeing his username at the top of the chart. “I hadn’t even made anything (new video) in a long time. I don’t know how it happened. Did something go viral?”

He said he even double checked it was his (since he uses a fake name to protect his identity … good boy) and that led us into a whole discussion about the role of followers and why social media is built on this aspect of users needing more and more confirmation or hearts or likes or whatever from an unknown audience. And how shallow that entire system can be, even if it feels good at the time.

This led us to talk about places he knows online where you can “earn” new followers, too. I’m still not clear on this — do you buy followers somehow? What are you giving up? Your data? Your information? Your eyeballs for intrusive ads? Something, right?

“Maybe I should delete the app,” he wondered out loud.

We were in the car during all this, so I told him I would look at the app later. When I did, I realized that he had been duped by an April Fool’s joke by Musically, in which every user who checked the charts found themselves Number One.

Pretty clever, and also, pretty interesting for a social media app built on users and followers to play on the desire of its own users for more and more followers as a joke on those same users. There’s something strangely meta in that circle of thought.

My son was amused when I told him about Musically’s April Fools joke. He seemed a bit relieved, as if there had been a huge weight to bear when you suddenly realize you have become the top dog in a social media chart.

He was also a bit wistful that his day at the top of the charts was all just an illusion. But really, given the landscape of social media and teens, and what constitutes popularity in such fleeting ways, isn’t most of what we do in social media merely illusion, anyway?

Peace (thinking),
Kevin

PS — “Dad, a whole bunch of kids at school got pranked by the same joke, and thought they were number one. We all did. That’s funny.” — the boy.

On Reflection: Ten Years of Slicing into Life

Ten years is a long time to be doing anything.

I spent ten years, almost exactly, working as a newspaper journalist, covering politics, meetings, crime and education. Ten years seemed like forever when I finally left to become certified as a teacher (and take on role of caregiver with our boys at home in my stay-at-home dad chapter of life).

I am fifteen years into teaching now. That’s ten plus five. I remember the ten year mark as being important because it meant I had lasted and lasted longer than my previous profession as journalist. It was around then that I realized that, yes, I was a teacher.

My wife and I have been married nearly 2o years. Ten plus ten, with three kids. Those years have flown by. We still can’t believe it.

And it has been ten years in Slice of Life, too, as every March rolls around with the call from Stacey (and once, it was Ruth, too) and the team of too-many-to-count accomplices over at Two Writing Teachers. It’s a lot to ask of us, to write every single day about small moments that have larger implications. Yet so many did it — this March, the writers numbered in the hundreds at the start (more than 350 writers on the very first day) and still more than 240 at the end with the last posting on March 31.

Think on that. Hundreds of teachers who now see themselves as writers in digital spaces. And then there were the teachers who had their students writing Slices of Life, too. I hope they found an audience among other slicing students.

The mixed blessings to that kind of growth of anything online is obvious, too. There were so many people in the mix that I found commenting and connecting to be more like leaves blowing in the storm, at times. There was a less a sense of community. A bit disorienting. This is no fault of the organizers at Two Writing Teachers. It’s a natural part of online connections and a reminder of why many MOOCS (Massive Open Online Classes) falter over the long haul. The larger the crowd, the more the noise, and the less the signal. And when that happens, participants can feel as if their voice is lost in the wind. They drop out.

This chart shows some documentation of MOOCS, but it also translates well into how many online spaces flow:

The folks at Two Writing Teachers try to counter this by incorporating the “comment on other blogs” into their messaging on a regular basis. I continue to find that commenting as the first step into online conversation to be inadequate. I can’t easily trace my steps back to blogs where I have been, and then I feel guilty about not responding to every blogger who comments at my blog. And I wonder: how can I make a comment worth something and not just a few words on the bottom of a post? That would be a full-time job.

Meanwhile, you know, Life goes on. (And hopefully, it also provides more moments to write about later)

I did try to find new blogs to comment on this year, but I often found myself visiting the “early morning posting” crew, of which I am a member, and following bloggers I have come to know, either from the past or from the early days of this year.

I often felt a little lazy about doing that — of not reaching out more to. new folks as much as I could have. And I wondered if there were bloggers posting in the middle of the day who never got any comments on their posts because so many of us were either early morning-ers or late nighters. Those are the kinds of things that worry me, sometimes, and I am not even an organizer of Slice of Life. Sheesh. I guess when I participate in something, I feel a sense of responsibility.

March 2017 is now over, but the Slice of Life continues through the year on Tuesdays. The once-a-week gives a little breathing room, and you can write or not, read or not, comment or not. With no pressure, and only an invite to participate, the choice is yours.

I hope I see you there.

Peace (slicing it and sharing it),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 31): Celebrating Losing

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

Yesterday was Quidditch Tournament Day at our school, and my sixth grade classroom team — the valiant Blue Barbarians — just barely lost the 2017 championship. Just barely, by just a few points. That fact that it was so close, particularly given the athletic talent of the team that won, was cause of some celebration at the end of the long day of playing in our Quidditch Tournament. The last game — which featured our team versus the team that eventually won before an audience of a few hundred students, staff and family members — was right down to the wire. Every player was giving it their all with teamwork and hustle and positive energy.

What more could you ask for?

At night, we teachers came together as Pink Fury, and we played our sixth graders in our own Students vs. Teachers Quidditch match, and boy, I am tired and sore today. We didn’t win, either. In fact, the students beat us pretty thoroughly, but it was a great time, and fun to interact with them outside of the academic classroom.

The problem is that each year, we, the teaching staff, get a bit older — and slower, and more likely to tire out quickly — while our sixth graders each year stay the same age, like Peter Pan on the athletic gym floor. And with nearly 65 students signed up, they kept coming at us with fresh legs and arms. Eighty minutes of running, jumping, defending, throwing. You don’t realize how long 80 minutes is until you are in constant motion for nearly all of it.

It’s a long time.

Still, they won, fair and square, and we teachers then had our own little celebration at a nearby “establishment.”

Pink Fury Quidditch Team

Peace (in the air),
Kevin

PS — Our Quidditch game is now in its 18th year, and is played in our gym. We call it “literation in motion” and connect writing, reading, art, music and dance to our Quidditch season.

Slice of Life (Day 30): Making Quidditch Animations

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

We do all sorts of celebrating for our school’s Quidditch season, which comes to a close TODAY with a day-long tournament for our sixth graders and then a students vs. teachers match this evening. I am tired just thinking about it. But it will be a lot of fun. Noisy fun. Exhausting fun. You get the idea.

Among the many classroom activities surrounding Quidditch, which includes various writing pieces such as diagramming plays and using expository writing to explain the plays, I show my students the basics of stopmotion animation using a site called ParaPara Animation (click the yellow wrench in the bottom right corner to get started). It’s simple to use, and a little quirky and a bit buggy, but the students love it. We had them making animations to celebrate Quidditch, and their teams.

Here are a few:













Peace (catch it),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 29): Let’s Hear it for the Kids

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

I am the teacher-advisor to our sixth grade Student Council, which is hosting a Spirit Week all this week at our school. Yesterday was Animal Appreciation Day, and the Student Council organized a “supply drive” for the regional animal shelter. By day’s end, the table in the back of my room was filled with supplies.

Shelter Drive

This picture is BEFORE three push-truck-loads of paper towels and other items arrived from the preschool through second grade wing of our school. The entire table is now overflowing. We have cat food, office supplies, paper towels and other items that the Dakin Humane Society has asked for help with. Some families also sent in checks and cash donations.

The sixth graders on the Student Council were so excited yesterday, as they went around collecting donations, and they have another project on tap today — a “mystery project” to have the entire school thank the non-teaching staff in our building for all they do. This includes bus drivers, custodians, nurses, cafeteria crew, and office staff. They wanted to show appreciation for folks who often are outside of the focus of thanks.

I love that.

Looking at the ever-growing pile of supplies for the animal shelter, I suddenly realized: I have at least one trip ahead of me to deliver the donations. And, I promised anyone who would listen (colleagues, wife, kids) that I WOULD not be coming home with a new dog or cat.

Promise.

Peace (please),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 28): Who Was Here

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

We had a bunch of friends and neighbors over last night to celebrate what seems to be an overflowing group of March birthdays (including one of my sons, whose birthday is today). We had food, drink and lots of conversations.

Here’s who was here:

  • One college professor of political science
  • One chiropractor
  • One financial bookkeeper for a retail toy store
  • One school administrator
  • One teacher (me!)
  • Three students (two high school/one middle school)
  • One independent filmmaker and film editor

It was a pleasant gathering for a Monday night.

Peace (in talk and more),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 27): Lifting Lines and Making Poems

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

I’ve been know to lift lines, to steal words from other people’s blog posts and write poems as comments, and leave the poem as a gift from a reader. I admit it. I am thief.

That’s what I was doing yesterday morning – lifting lines. I do it as an act of close reading, of paying attention, of remix. I do it to honor the writers, whom I hope won’t be offended when I wrangle a thought and remove it from context, in order to spin something new from their writing.  I do it, for myself, to write.

Yesterday’s line-lifted poems have now become today’s Slice. I hope you follow the links back to the original posts. Thank you to all the Slice of Life bloggers who didn’t know they were giving me paths to poems. Your thoughts became inadvertent inspiration for me as I rambled around the Slice of Life sharing.

(Note: see below for a podcast reading of the poems. The audio is part of an exploration of voice with another adventure altogether known as Networked Narratives.)

Slices aren’t always eaten,
they are nibbled,
chewed, discussed,
enjoyed, often with a side
of surprise, joy, and possibly
sadness and surely, compassion.
We train our microscope towards
a single small moment
in hopes it transforms into
a telescope of the larger human experience.
Go on, then.
Nibble away.

from http://www.teacherdance.org/2017/03/solc17-2631-slicing.html

You act out the poem,
as if you were dancing
inside the lines, as if
the iambic pentameter
was a rhythmic beat
for your feet, as if
the seats in the hall were all full
with an audience, instead
of just me, as I read, to you,
with your eyes closed,
watching the ghosts
of the past come alive
on the stage, too.

from http://tworeflectiveteachers.blogspot.com/2017/03/slice-26-0f-31-sol17-finally-ten.html

I hear the smile on your face,
a million soft melodies
of love, and as I tune myself
into harmony, we sit here, quiet,
the silence merely a resting point
between
the notes.

from — https://wheresthejoy.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/sisters/

She dug in her heels,
carved indentations in the dirt,
hands clenched on the rodeo rope
and no room for give,
while on the other side of the arena,
me, the bull, refused to be slack,
my horns pointed upward in exasperation
as she danced around me,
the crowd, holding its applause,
wondering how the standoff might end.

from — https://raisealithuman.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/let-me-count-the-reasons/

The real work lies in the weeks,
months and
years ahead;
It won’t be enough to stand
and watch,
to complain
and shout.
Armchair pundits can’t call the shots
on Monday morning.
Change happens between neighbors:
handshakes and discussions
on porches, shopping lines and
at mailboxes.
Change, happens, but slowly.

from — https://barbarasut.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/back-in-the-political-arena-today/

This slack-jawed teen,
stretched out with his headphones
and eyes closed,
ponders the world from above,
strapped into his seat, secure and safe,
never knowing that, for now,
the earth is forever in motion,
and not just spinning for him,
for gravity will yet pull him closer to us,
eventually, perhaps not without a fight,
even as his soundtrack plays to the audience
of one.

from — https://vanessaw2007.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/sounds-in-the-airplane/

Then came the retainer.
So I empty my pockets
and hand you my coins,
the last remains of a life’s fortune,
as you pull me in close,
and whisper a fortune’s worth
of words.

from https://schoolinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/metal-mouth-milestones-solc-26-of-31/

Here we are, living the writerly life,
building homes out of poems;
shacks, out of words;
fires, out of feelings.

Each day, every day,
we sharpen our thoughts,
pencil into the machine, the soft hum of gears
set in motion as we wander our imagination.

We live the writerly life,
for without these stories,
the walls would be barren,
and life, more lonely.

from http://couragedoesnotroar.blogspot.com/2017/03/day-26-first-rate-teachers-sol17.html?m=1

Finally, since we have been talking about Voice and Audio in the Networked Narratives course, I decided to record myself, reading the poems.  Nothing fancy here. Just me, reading.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 26): A Neighborhood Gathers Together

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

This is one of those deja vu posts — every year in March, our neighborhood gathers for a Winter Blues pizza party/ Yankee Raffle event as a way to reconnect as Spring arrives.

Last night, more then 150 people came out for the event, and it was nice to see everyone again. We even helped an elderly neighbor, who has trouble walking, to the event, as a way to connect even the housebound to the community during the waning days of Winter. She was very grateful. I’ve written about the event most Marches for Slices of Life over the past ten years.

Poster: Mill River Flood

One of the items in the raffle immediately caught my eye.

It was a large, oversized, framed map of our part of the city, in the aftermath of the Mill River Flood. The year is 1874. The flood began when an upper reservoir broke, and a wave of water barreled down the Mill River, killing people and destroying mills and other buildings.

The Mill River flood is part of our neighborhood’s story (a few years ago, we established a plaque by the river, dedicated to those who died in the flood). Believe it or not, we still find shards of pottery and old glass in the river from the remains of the flood.  The map was intriguing because it was published in Harper’s Weekly magazine, apparently, and it shows the old railroad lines and mills.

We didn’t win the poster in the raffle, darn it, but my wife and I found out who can get us a copy.

Peace (history, present, future tense),
Kevin

PS — when my youngest son was 8, he made this video about our Leeds community. It was a project that he wanted to do, and we loved seeing his view of the neighborhood from his eyes.

Slice of Life (Day 25): Coyotes in the Distance

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

Duke heard it before I did. He stopped, frozen in motion. One paw was literally off the ground, and his head turned, sharp. The bristles on his back went up.

So I stopped, too, even though our early morning walk is often something I just want to get done with during the winter months. But he would not budge.

And then I heard it, too.

The high-pitched yelps of a single coyote off in the distance, followed by the cacophonous chorus of other coyotes joining in. Then, silence, before the single coyote began calling out again.

Duke was freaked out.

We’ve heard the coyotes before, in our early morning walks, and I knew they were outside the suburban neighborhood where we live. Likely, they were down by the river, where the woods brush up against people. The coyotes have been back for years now, as the regular signs on telephone poles asking if we’ve seen missing cats can testify. When people and nature butt heads, it is often the domesticated pets that pay the price.


Coyote Track flickr photo by mhawkins shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

“Come on. It’s OK. Let’s keep moving,” I whispered to Duke, and gently pulled on his leash. He turned, on my command and coaxing, rather reluctantly, and then kept on walking, a bit closer to by my side than usual. His head kept swiveling now and then, listening and wondering, and worrying.

But the morning had turned silent.

Peace (in nature),
Kevin