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

Slice of Life (Day 24): Doodling on the Brain

(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.)

Maybe it is due to following Doodleaday this month, but I found myself noodling around during a meeting yesterday. Some people can listen more intently as they draw, but I don’t think that is always the case for me. I am better off taking written notes. Oh well.

Doodling

Peace (on the paper),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 23): Still Searching for Singer(wo)man

(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.)

A few weeks ago (wait .. that was Day Two), I sliced out how my yet-unnamed rock and roll band is searching for a new singer, and how we found someone we hoped might fit. Well, three weeks later — after three cancelled practices due to family conflicts, and then sickness among musicians, and then Blizzard Aftermath — we finally got to play some music again last night. It was good to pull out the saxophone and just jam for a few hours.

The singer, whom we invited for a second try-out, called in sick, but we decided that he probably was not the right fit for our band, due to style. He’s a full-out rocker — think Bad Company and Aerosmith — while we are more nuanced groove — think Otis Redding and Motown, with some ZZ Top thrown in. He was hinting in emails to us his own reservations about the fit.

So, we move back to Square One in our search for a singer. As I said when I first wrote about this, it’s not easy to find the right fit for a band, to find a person you can get along with and make great music with over the long haul.

We play covers and originals, and handing over a song you wrote to be sung by someone else you barely know is a fragile thing, one built on trust and collaboration. Things have to click if it is going to work. I’m not sure we completely clicked with the last singer. I think he wanted a band to back him up, not to be part of a band itself, if that makes sense.

We’re frustrated by how long it has taken us but determined to make it right, and get out there, gigging again. Until then, we’ll keep looking and keep on making music.

Peace (in power chords),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 22): His Lips Are Sealed

(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.)

“Are his lips even moving?” my wife asked.

I adjusted my glasses, squinted a bit. The stage was in the distance, packed with about 80 high school juniors.

“I don’t think so,” I replied, as the chorus of voices on the stage recited the pledge for the National Honor Society during last night’s dedication ceremony for incoming honor society members. Our son is one of those on the stage.

Years ago, our older son was in the middle school chorus, rather reluctantly but we worried about him spending idle time in the Study Hall period. During concerts, he would not sing. He would just stand there, sometimes moving his lips. Never singing. Not even humming. Just … there. We laugh about it, as a family.

Now it was our middle son who had his own lips locked on stage, even as everyone around him was pledging to uphold good citizenship, academic performance and honesty.

He had somewhat been reluctant to agree to be accepted into the Honor Society (students are nominated by teachers), although he is solid student and fine athlete, and he does help others in the community. He has a big heart. We, his parents, shallowly like that being in the National Honor Society doesn’t hurt for his college applications and, not so shallowly, that it will provide more ways for him to do community service over the next year.

Later, he admitted to us that he didn’t say the pledge. He told us this with a grin on his face.

“I knew it!” my wife said, tapping him on the chest. He’s about a foot taller than she is.

“It’s kind of a cult,” he responded, and his best friend, who was also on stage with him, nodded in agreement. “Sort of cultish. Lighting candles and all that.”

What he meant is the strange vibe of geeky academic kids pledging in one voice to uphold rules and regulations in a sort of robotic recitation. The past members light four candles in honor of the “four pillars” of the society.

On one hand, I was proud of him for his individual spirit and sense of resistance. He’s going to need it in the Trump years ahead. On the other hand … come on, kid. It’s the National Honor Society! They do good in the world.

Sigh.

Peace (saying it out loud),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 21): Feeding the Bot

(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 would love to have a larger database of terms to use with a Twitter bot that I created for Networked Narratives, and I am hoping you might have some words to feed into the bot. The creation of a Twitter Bot was an offshoot of an earlier activity, in which I taught myself how to do it. (A Twitter Bot is an account that has certain random settings and posts either on a schedule, or when it is invoked by other Twitter users. You can read more about how I set mine up here)

My PeaceLove Bot is set up rather simply: it tweets with the message What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and ______. The blank space is what gets filled by pulling from a database of terms. That’s where you can come in and help me. I want to expand the database of terms.

Add to the PeaceLove bot

Use this Google Form to add a phrase that can be added to the Peace, Love & ______ phrase of the Twitter Bot, which now will be posting twice a day (instead of every six hours, as I had it set before).

Thanks! The bot thanks you, too. If you are curious, you can view the database already in place. Some came from suggestions. Most came from my own head.

Peace (and love and),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 20): CodeBreaker StoryTeller

(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 one will be a bit difficult to explain to an outside audience, but as part of the Networked Narratives course (I am an open participant, which means I can come and go as I choose – the course is about digital storytelling – there are folks in a real Graduate Level course at Kean University, too), there has been hints of secret codes, hidden within video frames and inside course messages. For a long time, weeks actually, I figured, I’ll let someone else crack the secret codes.

Code break doodle

No one did.

And then, this sort of gently taunting tweet came along the other day from two mysterious recurring Twittery characters (who are part of the larger story of the course being “hacked” by outsiders), and I decided, OK, time to get cracking.

I had to stop and start the online video Youtube conversation with instructors Mia Zamora and Alan Levine a number of times, and use a screenshot grab to get the secret code embedded in the video. I stared at it for a long time, and then began to see a pattern, and worked from there.

This was the code:

Code2

The result? Well, I made this audio version of the message (which, again, will sound strange out of context of the NetNarr community, but which indicates the start of a push towards the second half of the course, which I think is about world-building and civic imagination.)

I tackled this simple code by hand, determining it was based on an alphabetic shift of letters, but later realized there are plenty of online sites that will do it for you, too. Still, I was glad my initial foray was on paper. There was a certain level of satisfaction that I did not require technology to crack the code.

Now, there are all sorts of other strange codes coming into the NetNarr stream, too, with numbers and letters and I have no idea how to even begin to figure those out … any ideas?

Peace (coded for the world),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 19): A Boy A Dog A Sled A Hill

(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.)

It might have been one of the last sledding days of Winter. A few days after the blizzard, and with rain coming, and with Spring just around the corner, my son readily agreed to an invitation yesterday to join a group of friends at the hill at his middle school for sledding (and King of the Mountain, and snowball fights, and all the things you can expect a group of adolescent boys to do with snow).

Boy and Duke on hill

We arrived on time, but no one else was around yet (everyone else was late to the sledding party), so my son began the walk up the hill, and I let our dog, Duke, go free from his leash so that he could join him on the journey. As my son zoomed down the hill, Duke ran alongside him, tail wagging hard, as they both barreled down the steep slope, joy on both of their faces.

Peace (in snow, melting),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 18): Making a Mess

(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, our normal Friday schedule was all messed up. We had a visit from the guidance counselor at the regional middle school, where nearly all of my sixth graders will go next year, and along with getting information, they filled out some paperwork. It’s a sign that the end of the year is on the horizon (well, in a few months). The other sign was that we gave out report cards for our second trimester yesterday, too.

We are now in the last trimester of the school year. How’d that happen?

Since the day was already broken up, we decided to allocate a stretch of time for students to begin making posters for the Quidditch teams. Each team (each sixth grade class) has to have five huge posters for our upcoming Quidditch Tournament — three run-through posters and two posters to hang on the wall to decorate the gym. So they did sketching in the morning and then some painting in the afternoon.

Making posters

Oh boy. These kids are messy with paint, particularly when you have 70 kids painting in the same space — the cafeteria. The teachers were wandering around with paper towels and wipes, reminding kids to clean up any drips and dribbles. At one point, a student hopped all the way across the cafeteria floor to me, asking for a wipe. He pointed to his shoe.

“I stepped on a glop of paint,” he chuckled, and indeed, the entire bottom of his show was now coated in black paint. Sigh. I handed him some wipes and watched him one-foot hop his way all the way across the cafeteria floor.

Clean-up was crazy and chaotic, and the end of the day was a mess of motion — moving posters to classrooms to dry, washing paint brushes, wiping the floor, handing out report cards, keeping track of everyone. I was happy for the quiet of the empty classroom.

Still, the posters are looking pretty darned good.

Making posters

Peace (it’s here),
Kevin

St Paddy Day Tie

Slice of Life (Day 17): When Memes Creep into the Classroom

(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.)

There’s a single line in the short Quidditch video that I shared with my sixth grade students yesterday that sparked an interesting reaction in all four classes that I teach. I was sharing a clip from the first Harry Potter movie, where Oliver Wood explains the game of Quidditch to a very young Harry.

The video, as well as one showing how they play Quidditch at the college level, is part of our work around our game of Quidditch, played for more than 12 years at my school and the 2017 Quidditch Championship is coming up in two weeks. (Video below is how we play our game)

The two videos set the stage for an activity in which students design and explain in writing how to play the play. It’s a lesson around different kinds of literacy — how a sports play diagram can be “read” and “written” — as well as reinforcing expository writing.

Anyway … in the movie video clip, Harry looks down at a box of Quidditch supplies.

“What are those?” Harry asks (at the 34 second mark, in case you are curious), pointing to a bludger bustling to burst out of the box.

What are those … students in every class echoed together as soon as they heard Harry speak the lines. What are those … What are those …

I had heard this phrase before, but not recently, and I never followed up with any research as to where it had gone viral, and why. Of course, yesterday afternoon, intrigued, I did some research, going to Know Your Meme site (bookmark that site, teachers) to find out what is up with what are those … I knew it had to do with shoes and a sweeping hand movement towards the feet. I had seen students doing that, and crowd giggling.

According to Know Your Meme:

On October 2nd, 2011, Urban Dictionary[4] user JOHNxRYAN95 created an entry for “What Are Those?”, defining it as a question yelled at someone wearing unkempt or off-brand footwear. On June 14th, 2015, Instagram user Brandon Moore (a.k.a. Young Busco) uploaded a video in which he confronts a police officer by loudly asking “What are those?” before panning to his black shoes (shown below). Within three weeks, the video gained over 2,300 likes and 1,200 comments.

And the What Are Those? meme became a hit on Vine, I guess, and I suspect this is where my students found the meme.

It looks like the meme peaked about a year ago (according to Google Trends graph) but I guess some viral sayings just stick with you.

What are those

What are those?

Peace (that’s what they are),
Kevin