Using YouTube Annotation: Beware of the Head!

I was messing around with claymation today on a laptop that we will be using for next week’s claymation camp (and have some glitches that have me stressed out) and I created this short little claymation movie, using clay and legos and other assorted toys.

But I was interested in using the new YouTube Annotation feature, which allows you to add to text to videos as overlays. It seems perfect for claymation movies where you don’t necessarily want to add an audio narration, and I didn’t. I created a quick soundtrack with my Super Dooper Music Looper software, uploaded and added the words right there in YouTube.

It’s pretty neat, I think.  I am embedding the claymation movie, but the embedded version won’t have the narration annotations. You need to go to the Beware of the Head video at YouTube to see the words on the video itself.

The whole process took me about an hour, but I have done enough stop-motion to get into the swing of things pretty quick. I like this little demented movie, though. The set looks cool, and the head — well, the head without a body is a horror story classic, don’t you think?

Peace (in stopmotion),
Kevin

Slice of Life, Weekly Challenge, Chapter 14

(This is part of a weekly feature called Slice of Life Project)

You would think that the makers of a movie that has at its center the preservation of the Earth’s ecosystem would be more attuned to the concept of “junk.” But if you, like me, were one of the folks who saw Wall*E this opening weekend, you too probably got handed a plastic bag with a bunch of advertising crap (known as schwag in the industry) from the Disney/Pixar company.

A neighbor of ours warned me about this, and he may even write a letter to the newspaper editor about it, but I was still surprised to find myself with a throw-away watch with a blue plastic rubber band (sort of like Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong bracelets but without the meaning of giving and awareness), some tattoos and other little cards advertising yet another upcoming Disney movie about dogs.

The movie itself was fantastic and it was a nice summer outing with my three boys on a hot summer day. Much of the movie is without dialogue but the animation and action, and just pure scope of the screen, held us all in rapt attention as we watched the little robot single-handedly cleaning up the junkpile known as Earth falls in love with a robot probe looking for signs of life on the planet. There’s a real message here about taking care of the planet and about avoiding over-reliance on machines to run our lives. Plus, Wall*E is a cutie-pie.

So why did Disney pass out a handful of trash to everyone?

Clearly, the marketing department forgot to talk to the creative talent or never watched the movie previews. It would be offensive for any movie, in my mind, but to do this during a movie about saving the environment just seems so strange and reminds us that many (but not all) movies are not really about entertainment of the audience, but about money and marketing power of the corporations.

Peace (in the dark),
Kevin

Memoir Mondays: Down at the Bog

This is part of a project at Two Writing Teachers

We used to have epic sports games in my neighborhood. We were lucky, I suppose, in that we had a critical mass of kids. It was not difficult at all to gather up a good eight to ten kids ready to hit the baseball, or grab a football, or toss a Frisbee at a moment’s notice, and the day would then be consumed with activity. A good game of Kick the Can could last two hours on a given evening after dinner.

The apartment complex was somewhat hidden off the main road and for a few years when I was little, we even had an in-ground swimming pool. I suppose the upkeep and maintenance was too much for the owners and the pool went to seed quickly, over a short period of time. Then it became just an odd place for us to hang out as a teenagers. We’d crouch down beneath the cracked walls just a few feet from the odd-smelling green slime of the water that collected at the bottom of the pool. I think we were all surprised that no one ever drowned in there or got some exotic disease from the murky liquid that would require us to go into medical quarantine.

When the weather turned cold, we would often head out to the bog, which was a swampy area a short hike away from our apartments, through some fallow farm fields and into a wooded area. Much of it was a true bog — with thick, rich black peat moss soil that would steal a sneaker or your entire foot, if you weren’t quick or smart enough when stepping through it. The mosquitoes were vicious in the summer, as it was always wet, and the bog was full of hollowed out tree stumps that were home to a wide variety of owls. Sometimes, we would see the owls sitting in the holes, looking out at us with bewildered eyes.

In the winter, the bog was particularly beautiful. The ice and snow would create little paths through the black-soiled area, and we would jump from vegetation clump to vegetation clump in a wild game of tag. If you fell, you were in trouble from the sticky organic muck.

When it got cold enough, the water would freeze solid and there was one spot that formed a little pond, surrounded by circle of little stumps of grass. This place would become our ice hockey rink for the season. The games were played with full of abandon designed with one thing in mind: score a goal. Checking was allowed, and fights often broke out, although never anything too serious, and everything was later resolved and friendships restored as we built huge bonfires on a little island just beyond the rink from the deadwood that lay all around the bog. (As an aside: this was a neighborhood of mostly boys but some girls did stray into the games)

It sounds worse than it was.

This is the time and place where I learned how to get along with others, whether I liked them or not. It was also a time when I realized that adults don’t necessarily make the rules of the world. There is a pecking order that develops when you gather a group of kids together with no adults around and it doesn’t always come out fair or end nicely, but there are still lessons to be learned: You need to be crafty. You need to be caring. You need to be resilient. You need to find yourself.

Years later, I learned that bulldozers came into the bogs and cleaned them out to make way for some new houses. I could not believe it and drove by there once on a visit back, just to see it for myself. Sure enough, there were houses right there where our hockey rink had once been. I learned from a friend that the homes that had been built in our old bog were full of problems, including sinking foundations and flooded basements.

Hmmmm. I wonder why?

And I wonder, too, what became of those owls.

Peace (in childhood memories),
Kevin

Just One More Book Review

This file has been created and published by FireShot

I have another podcast review over at Just One More Book, which is a great site for learning about picture books and loving the genre. And they are welcoming to anyone submitting their own reviews of picture books. So, go ahead: give it a try — you can send them a written review, an MP3 review or even call their special phone number and leave your review on their answering machine.

This time (which I guess is now my fifth review there), I reviewed Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair by Patricia Polacco — a book that deals with the idea of books and literacy in a very interesting way. I love the ending, in particular, as the children lead the way to literacy.

Go to Just One More Book to hear my review.

Peace (in podcasts),
Kevin

Six Word Reflections of Our Days

In the span of the first day that I posted a call for Six Word Days in a Sentence, my blog was hit with 20 submissions. That says something about the power of the six words and the power of the Day in a Sentence format, doesn’t it? And the words kept coming the next day … and the next. By Saturday, I had more than 30 sentences in my blog bin.

Thank you to everyone who lent us your words this week. I have been very protective of them, but now, they can be released into the world. I won’t say much this week in terms of introductions, as the six words (give or take), capture what the writers were trying to say. My own words would just jumble up the experience.

What I did decide to do, however, is to group them according to some common themes that seemed to emerge (sorry if you don’t quite agree with my categories) and then it made sense to me to create a Bubble.Us concept map, color-coded along those themes.

Here you go:

The Teachers’ Life: School

  • Graduate school projects consume my time — Amy
  • Packing up is hard to do — Stacey
  • Graduation, celebration, culmination, year-end roll. — Lynn C.
  • Language immersion camp in full swing! — Amy K.
  • Students staff vacation packing for NECC. — Cheryl
  • Waiting irritably 4 school to be done. — Lisa
  • School ends, summer arrives, SI looms. — Bonnie
  • Our hard work recognized; Thanks NYSCATE! – Sue
  • My learning binge finds new fuel. — Connie
  • Holidays, time to reflect and regroup. — Jenny
  • Lunch with colleague lifts my spirits. — Susan C.


The Teacher’s Life: Kids

  • School’s out – twenty-two books still missing. — Janice
  • Kids creating music blows me away. — Anne B.
  • It was sad to say goodbye. — Paul
  • Discovered that Wii bribery helps math — Kathryn

The Home Life

  • Thunderstorms wreak havoc on family activities. — Kevin
  • Pool installers here–kids in frenzy. — Renee (for her kids)
  • Early starting, hard working, dogwalking. Sleep. – David
  • Moving this week, wish us luck! — Michaele
  • My vacation is taken over by life. — Liza
  • Trying to fill in my taxes. – Illya
  • muggy, humid; thunderstorms approaching rapidly – cool! — Sara
  • Smocking for grandson. Raccoons finally finished! — Cynthia

The Reflective Life

  • Tomorrow, I’ll have much better luck. — George (via Flickr)
  • Distractions win out over obligations (again). — Renee (for herself)
  • At 6,000 feet elevation, priorities shift. — Jo
  • Been there, done that – now vacation – Elona

The Odds and Ends of Words

  • Led North Webster parade as Santa — Rick
  • Painted tree nurtures young girl dreams — Jane
  • Forest fires cause smoky days. — Delaine
  • Relentlessly, the smoke fills our lungs — Lynn J.
  • Gleam, glean, lean, learn, earn, yarn. — Ken
  • The medical establishment is a turn-off. — Nancy

And here is the Bubble.Us Concept Map (and a direct link because the embed box is kind of small):

Peace (in words),
Kevin

A PhotoFriday Tag Galaxy

I have no idea what practical use this application might have, but TagGalaxy allows you to use tags from Flickr to create an entire world of photos. I used the photos from our collective PhotoFridays project (launched by Bonnie to great success) and, although there are not quite enough photos there yet to cover the entire TagCloud world, it was still pretty neat.

I used screenshots to capture the PhotoFridays TagCloud because I can’t find the way you might embed the actual world into a blog. But you can do it yourself. Just go to TagGalaxy, write in the tag “photofridays” into the prompt and give the world a spin. I think it will be cool to come back and do it again later this summer, when the pool of pictures gets larger.

Peace (in pictures),
Kevin

Photo Fridays with Coltrane

This is part of a Photo Fridays project over at Flickr that is overseen by Bonnie. You are invited to come on in and add your photos to the collection.

This is Coltrane, my cat (named after the legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane). I was taking a photo of something else entirely when he poked his nose right into the lens of the camera. I kind of like it.

It sort of looks like he has a milk beard, doesn’t it? But that is just the flash of the camera dancing off his face.
Peace (in purrs),
Kevin

The 31 Day Comment Challenge

external image comment_challenge_logo_2.png

The 31 Day Comment Challenge was a project designed to reinforce and introduce some good commenting habits. Through a series of activities presented and explained by the challenge hosts ( Sue Waters, Silvia Tolisano, Michele Martin and Kim Cofino), participants not only engaged with other bloggers on a series of conversations, but we cast a critical eye on our blogs.

I thought the challenge was a wonderful experience and a great way for me to move out beyond my own networks.

Last week, I learned that I was one of the “winners” of the prizes being offered by the challenge organizers, who were being supported by Edublogs (my preferred blogging platform) and CoComment, which is a tool that I began using in the Comment Challenge, as per the organizers’ recommendation, and have come to rely upon as a way to keep track of my blogging conversations.

Here is the news announcement from Michelle’s blog, The Bamboo Project Blog:

I’m very pleased to announce the winners of the 31 Day Comment Challenge! They are:

  • For the most high quality comments that thoughtfully reflect on the topicCarla Arena
  • For the comments that provoke and promote the most learning Kevin of Dogtrax.

Each prize winner will receive:

  • From coComment: US$100 to the winner in each of the four categories
  • From Edublogs: $50 in Edublogs credits to the winner in each of the four categories

Thanks to everyone who participated, and to everyone who voted, and most of all: thanks to the organizers for making us think and reflect and connection. I see a nice dinner with my wife in the cards sometime down the road.

Peace (in comments),
Kevin

Web 2.0 Wednesday: A Sense of Place

Michele, over at The Bamboo Project, had an interesting idea for this week’s Web 2.0 Wednesday and that is to capture a sense of place of where you live.

So, I did, in a poem and podcast in honor of my city:

This City Moves
(listen to the podcast)

You can find yourself in this place —
where Sylvia Plath
buried herself beneath layers of lines of poetry
while wandering along the paths and ponds of Smith College;
where Jonathan Edwards first preached religious revivalism
in a voice that still echoes through time
in the brick church at the city’s center;
where the Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles sprung to life
with a slice of pizza in hand and attitude in mind
that brought a green tint to everything;
and still, it teems with life:
from the punked out kids hanging on the street corners —
to the musicians singing harmony with a collection cup at their feet —
to the artists with easels set up to capture life like a camera —
to the uplifting vitality of the Young at Heart Chorus looking life in the eye:
this place flows beneath you
and into you.

The older ones remember the downtown as deserted —
a boarded up ghost town of shops where no one shopped
and storefronts adorned with broken windows —
but I only know my city as the place where the arts have come to grow,
and me, too,
as I moved from a lost soul wandering
to this man with my feet on the ground,
and kids in the yard,
and the vision of this place as one that nurtures us into our truest selves.

The sound of the Mill River dances in our ears
as it meanders down from the north,
bringing with it the ice melt of Vermont and New Hampshire,
and making it possible for the daring boys of summer to make the girls gasp
as the boys plunge
with leaping prowess into the pools below the waterfalls.
We’re content to drop sticks and watch our boats float,
catching the current as the river cuts around our city,
through Look Park, along the Rail Trail,
and feeding into the Oxbow — a huge swath of water created by glaciers–
before flowing down into the Connecticut River,
and then, out to the Atlantic Ocean.
Somewhere, we know, our sticks continue,
buoyed on by boyhood dreams of adventure
and cast about like messages in a bottle.

Between Boston and New York City, this small city of ours thrives
although not without its problems
and not without its own burdens
of drugs,
and politics,
and even violence from time to time.
This place is no snow globe that remains stable and anchored
as the Gods shake things loose —
our city moves
and we move right along with it.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

Day in a Sentence in Six Words

Wanted: Six Words. Your story. Here.

It’s that time again — we’re looking for your Days in a Sentence and since so many of us in North America are entering summer vacation/break (but not everyone, of course), I thought we could return to the Six Word Story format in an effort to keep things brief and to the point.

So, please consider boiling down your week or a day of your week into six words. You can use the comment feature on this post and then I will collect and redistribute the Six Word Sentences over the weekend as part of our growing network of writers.

Here is my Day in Six Words:

Thunderstorms wreak havoc on family activities.

I look forward to your words this week.

Peace (in brevity),
Kevin

PS — If you are interested in guest hosting Day in a Sentence, please let me know. I love having other folks take it on from time to time.