Slice of Life (Day Six): Recording in the Home Studio

(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 have a relatively new bass player in our band. His name is Brian and we are all impressed by his chops, and focus, and kind personality. Turns out, he loves music, just like us, and he is dedicated himself this year to doing even more music. When I learned that he has a home recording studio set-up at his apartment, we connected with a plan to try a little recording of some songs outside of the band setting (but let the band know).

Hanging with Brian2

Yesterday, I drove over to Brian’s pad, and for about two hours, we talked about music and did some recording of scratch (rough) tracks with my guitar and my (still-sick) voice and two songs from a collection of songs that I have been writing for a few years as part of a much larger narrative project with poems and stories and …. oh, who knows anymore.

Hanging with Brian1

It was fun, though, recording again, and I am curious to hear what Brian does with the tracks. I explicitly gave him full permission to do what he wants with the guitar and vocal tracks, so he can feel free to experiment and add layers. We’re hoping this partnership extends into more formal recording down the road.

For now, for yesterday, it was just for fun. Sometimes, that’s the best kind of music to be made.

Peace (in the studio),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Five): On the Possibilities of Collaboration

(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.)

One of my hesitations in jumping into Slice of Life is my participation in something known as Networked Narratives, a ‘course’ being run at Kean University by Mia Zamora and Alan Levine (remotely) which has an open online invitational component, which I am part of. So, this Slice of Life sort of converges with Networked Narratives. That’s a good thing.

My good friend, Wendy, from Australia, has been tinkering with the app Acapella as a way to foster more narrative collaborations with the NetNarr folks, mostly those of us out here in the wide open spaces. The students in the actual course seem a bit more restrained and follow the course’s activity guidelines pretty closely. Out here, we just do what we wanna do. We’re not getting graded, of course.

Anyhoo … Wendy and I have been trying to navigate the potential of the Acapella app, which has strange quirks around collaboration yet has some potential that we find intriguing enough to stay with it. We’ve messaging back and forth, working through the kinks and frustrations.

This is one of our impromptu collaborations.

Next up is an invite to a few more friends (Sandy and Terry) and plan out something a little more creative and focused.

Peace (in collaboration),
Kevin

PS — this is one acapella mix I made myself long ago, when I first tried out the app.

Slice of Life (Day Four): Watching Logan Run

(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.)

My youngest son, age 12, wants to see Logan. Ain’t happening. I went with my nearly-17-year-old son last night, and I have to say, finally, there’s a movie out of Comic Book Land that has a rich story and a real heart, overwhelming the magical wonders of watching a character with a superhero power. But man, Logan (rated R, for good reason) is very violent. This is not a kid’s movie. (By the way, one preview piece I read before the movie repeated that phrase three times IN CAPITAL LETTERS. I concur.)

With three boys who love movies and who love comic books, I’ve had to sit through some real awful doozies, in my opinion. The Avengers‘ movies were a mess. Same with Civil War. Iron Man? Didn’t do much for me.  If I never see another Batman or Superman movie again, I’ll be just fine with that. The new Lego Batman Movie? It was OK, but not nearly as inventive as the first Lego Movie. If they never make another Batman VERSUS. Superman movie again, the world will be a better place. Trust me.

Give me Ant Man any day, though. I enjoyed the lightness of that one. I wish Doctor Strange were a bit better, but I liked it. I am a fan of Guardians of the Galaxy, which is my youngest son’s favorite movie of all time.

But so many of these Marvel and DC Comic movies are just so over the top with effects and glitz, with no attention to character and story. You get lost in the haze of fighting. Fighting for the sake of flashy violence. I often walk away from the theater, barely remembering what we watched.

Logan is deeper than most of the superhero movies (including the various XMen movies that disappointed me), as a character grapples with themes of age and family. There is a complex narrative that weaves through this flick, one that resonates most in the quiet moments. But the Wolverine has always been a dangerous character, so danger comes and so, too, does the fighting to survive. And the scenes are graphic, even as the violence and its impact on those who wield it is part of the thread of the story. I suspect some parents might make a counter-argument on the nature of the violence and why it is needed.

So yeah, our youngest son? He can wait a few more years on this one …

Peace (not war),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Three): The New Cold War 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.)

This is one of those slices that will be sort like a mirror of past year slices done on March 3, but from a slightly different angle.

Yesterday was Dr. Seuss’s Birthday Day, and we love that Mad Hat Cat writer around here in Western Massachusetts (where he was born and raised). I often use the opportunity to talk about Allegory with my sixth graders — connecting story to theme to overarching geopolitical ideas. And I almost always share The Butter Battle Book with them, as I did yesterday.

But where as in recent years I could talk about the Cold War and Arms Proliferation as some distant past — way distant for these 11 year olds but not so much for me — this year, I found myself musing over the recent headlines that link Russia and the United States, and we talked about the term “Cold War” coming back around again (particularly with Trump’s push for increased military and more Nukes).

I still appreciate that The Butter Battle Book ends on the unknown … and we talked about why Seuss left that cliffhanger in there. I also wondered if that stalemate between those crazy butter-toast-heads might not yet be something in the near distant future. Are we on a collision course again? I surely hope not. I’d hate to think of my students as the new Cold War Kids.

Peace (sometimes it rhymes),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Two): Searching for a Singer in the Band

(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.)

Last night, we auditioned another singer for our rock and roll band. It’s been quite a journey for the past 18 months, after our band dissembled on a night when the singer left and the bass player, whose house we used for practice, said he was calling it quits. In the past six months, we finally added an outstanding new bass player, and have been bringing in singers. Last night’s Voice was about the seventh singer we have tried out.

There has been a wide range of talent. From the young 20-year-old kid who never sang with a band, ever (and that was clear from the first song) to another whose tenor-bass blues voice was interesting but forced us to change the key of every song to another who brought a friend who really wanted to sing, too, (eh, no) to another who just didn’t have the range or endurance (we already have that in a singer – that’s me). The Voice last night had some range and experience, and projected a rocking stage presence (he has played with other bands), and now we need to mull over the intangible: personality mix.

Band, Hanging Out After Practice

We’re going bring him back for another round next week, and try to get a better sense. Putting together a band is tricky. It’s a mix of musical tastes, personalities, musical chops and the strange unknown of working creatively with a bunch of people. In our group, three of us have been making music together for nearly 20 years now.

That reminds me of this satire site I once created:

boy band thimble

We’re hoping to get a singer in place and get gigging again in the next year. We’ll see where we end up from here …

Peace (sounds like),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life (Day One): Unexpected Turns in the Story

(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.)

You know that moment when you introduce an entirely new concept to your students, and even as you are watching their eyes take in the new information, you can see the wheels turning in their heads as they process it all? That was me and that was them, yesterday, as I began a mini-unit around Interactive Fiction (sometimes known as Choose Your Own Ending stories).

We began with a discussion about its basic elements — reader in charge of story, multiple narrative paths, use of second person narrative point of view, story maps, etc.)

Story Branches of Interactive Fiction

And then I read a book out loud called The Green Slime, allowing the entire classroom to act as “reader,” making “choices” along the way about where the story should go. Funny, each of my four classes took four different narrative routes, so each time I read the story, it was different experience for me.

I mapped out the different “branches” of the story as I read, showing them a visual of where we had been, and making note that they would be doing this kind of mapping, too, but from the writing standpoint, with every possible choice for the reader made visible.

Oh, they were pretty excited. Only a few had ever even seen these kinds of books, although some of my gamer’s make quick connections to the ways that video games use the same techniques. In the next days, we will be doing some writing and then some deeper reading and mapping of these books, and then move into a larger project using Google Slides as a launching point for Interactive Fiction, where hyperlinks become the way a reader “jumps” through the decision trees.

Peace (active and interactive),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Reveling in a Quiet Room

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

Every year, for past nine years, I have looked at the March Slice of Life Challenge, and thought: I can’t do it. A Slice of Life post — looking at the small moments of the day — every single day? I have other things going on! But then, I seem to mostly do it, right through every day in March. Tomorrow will be the 10th March that I have dipped into Slice of Life with the folks and friends at Two Writing Teachers. It’s a reason to write. It’s a reason to take notice of the small moments of the world. It’s a reason to connect with others (commenting on other blogs is highly encouraged).

So, here I am on, on a regular Tuesday Slice of Life .. getting ready of the first March Slice of Life that starts tomorrow ….

We came back yesterday from Winter Break, and I returned with a cough and cold that lingered and returned from two weeks prior. It made for a long first day back, as you might imagine. I was sucking cough drops and chugging juice, and hoping my voice would hold out. It did, barely.

I also started the new week with an expected IEP meeting right at the start of the day. I had it in my calendar as being later in the day and made plans, and suddenly realizing that either I had it wrong or someone changed the time without me knowing about it had me scrambling like crazy for the substitute teacher, and that panicky sense of the day never left me.

At the end of the day, I just sat there in my chair in an empty room, taking in the quiet. It was one of those days.

Peace (in the room),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: Even Fools Can Dream of Spring

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

A good friend of mine yesterday sent his group of pals — including me — a beautiful shot of the beach near his house as a text message. Blue skies. Sun, bright as a flashlight. Waves lapping at the shore. Sand everywhere you look. He lives just a few hours south of me, in Connecticut.

“Lovely day at the beach,” he wrote.

It felt like he was taunting me.

I looked out my back door here in Western Massachusetts, saw nothing but hills of white, and a snowman my son and I built the other day leaning left, and texted back: “Still got $%&*load of snow in our yard.”

There is still way too much snow here, although this week’s warming weather — via the same weather front that is giving him temps in the mid-50s to low 60s — will likely melt off a few more inches, and likely create more ice for us to slip on. But still, who can argue with warmer weather during February break? We might even hit 50 this week.

My son rode his bike on the bike path all the way into the town center for a breakfast sandwich yesterday. No ice on the path, he reported, as if he were a scout on patrol for the changing season and monsters were just on the edge of the horizon.

I nodded at his keen observation.  It’s way too early to be looking for flowers and I am no fool. The calendar says “February,” and I know winter ain’t done with us yet.

But even fools can dream of Spring, right?

Peace (sunny and mild),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Artwork in the Mail

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

For more than a year now, I have been involved in a postcard writing/mailing project with folks in my connected circles, mostly through the CLMOOC clan. This year, a subset of the Postcard-ers is doing Data Postcards along agreed-upon theme (So this month, it was “love”).

Postcards from friends

Yesterday, I gathered up a bunch of postcards that had arrived in the last week or so, and took a picture. We like to share out, if only to show arrival. You can see a woodcut postcard of Woody Guthrie, and a 3d keychain (and 3D shovel!), and messages about art and collaboration. And a mallard duck.

Postcards from friends

Then, yesterday afternoon, just after I posted my collection of recent arrivals, I received this gem of a postcard, and poem, from another friend, Sandy, in my mailbox. She and I connect in other spaces, such as the current Networked Narratives. Sandy does a whole other kind of postcard adventure around a magical art theme (I think). Her postcard — right from the beautiful colored handwriting on the envelope — was a work of part, and her poetry was pure beauty.

I’m lucky to have found my way into such a creative tribe.

Peace (in the post),
Kevin

Musical Slice of Life: Love and Defiance

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

In the days after the protest marches in Washington, I started to write a song about what I was seeing here at home, and how I was galvanized by the gatherings. I recorded a raw demo, but I knew I wanted to do something more with it.

So, when I had time to myself the other day (ie, family was out of the house and the world was silent), I finally got to record the song more properly, and I am happy with how it came out. When I first started writing songs, in college, all I wrote were protest songs, and my band would play them on campus to small audiences (mostly friends). That was during the Reagan years. I wonder if the Trump years will spark a new age of protest songwriting …

Well, here is Love and Defiance for you …

Peace (and resistance),
Kevin