The other day, I shared out a word cloud world from the Narrative Networks website that I had cobbled into place with an online word cloud generator. But Alan pointed out that the links to the active cloud pointed to a merchandise sale site. Not what I intended! (I had never even clicked on the animated words … I was happy enough to have words animated, I guess).
But that mistake got me thinking: maybe I could (should) create my own version of the Word Cloud World where links take you to associative ideas, sort of like a curated word cloud world.
What do you say about a book where a single chapter moves seamlessly from Bud Powell to Jerry Lee Lewis to Outkast? Or from The Ronettes to The Clash to Duran Duran to Bill Evans to Kanye West to Big Joe Williams? I say, that’s my kind of book. And in Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen to Music in an Age of Plenty, writer Ben Ratliff brings us on a sonic journey to better understand the possibilities of music in our lives, along lines way beyond genre.
I borrowed this book from the library but I am getting the sense — days after finishing it and knowing I need to return it soon — that I might have to buy Ratliff’s book after all. It’s one of those few books about music that I know I am going to want to return to in the future, in appreciation the way that Ratfliff expands our notions of the power of music.
With themed chapters ranging from loud, quiet, density, speed, space, improvisation and community and more, Ratliff’s inquiries are a map on which one can journey into many realms of sound. I found many touchstone tracks here (every chapter ends with a playlist) and many artists I had never heard of. This bridge between the familiar and the unfamiliar is what listeners need, or at least, it’s what I need, as someone who craves variety in my life soundtrack.
Every Song Ever, even with its hyperbolic title, is perfectly suited for this day and age of immense possibilities of music, but also, an age where the sheer volume of musical tracks makes it increasingly more difficult to situate yourself into a transformative listening experience. Ratliffe tries to shows ways we can listen, and be transformed, if only we remove the locks of genre from our scope of vision.
Infinite access … can lead to an atrophy of the desire to seek out new songs ourselves, and a hardening of taste, such that all you want to do is confirm what you already know. But there is possibly something very good, too, about the constant broadcast and the powers of the shuffle and recommendation effect. — Every Song Ever, page 6
I keep track of all my reading over at Goodreads and appreciate the ability to go in at the end of the year and gather some “data” about my reading. The above graphic is generated by Goodreads as an end-of-year infographic, and while reading is always about quality over quantity, I am often curious about totals.
My goal for 2016 was 100 books. I will have the same goal for this year.
As my sixth grade students were working on the final stages of their Hero’s Journey Video Game Design Project, I turned to my paraprofessional in the classroom, Sandy, to teach a lesson around advertisement. She had an entire career as an artist and magazine designer before moving into education, and her expertise about design and art is always worth tapping into. I am eternally grateful for her, on many more levels than this. She’s a real partner in the classroom, every single day.
Sandy taught them about the visual — of the icon being large and representative of the game concept — of lettering and color, of catch-phrases, and so much more. We looked and broke down some traditional video game advertisements, too, talking about technique and loaded words and phrases.
The results of the advertisements were pretty cool, and the ads are now being hung in my classroom. But I grabbed a few and made a video with them, too, as a way to celebrate my sixth graders as artists and designers.
(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments. You are invited. Come write with us.)
If you don’t know of the One Little Word project, it is a sort of New Year’s resolution to find a single word that might guide you forward into the coming year. Last year, mine was “remember” and I kept it on my desktop all year, as a reminder to keep a foot in the past even as I moved forward.
My one word for 2017 is going to be “filter.” I chose this word because I know I need to filter my news a bit more. I am NOT one of those who gets my primary news from social media, but still … it seems like I need to more active in where I get news and from places I trust. I need to better read beyond the news, too, and not trust reporters and writers to give me the whole story. I have an obligation as a reader.
I don’t intent for my “filter” to become a closed loop, however. Or another echo chamber. I will use my filter to seek out different opinions and hopefully, engage in discussions that are meaningful. I hope my filter helps filter out the nonsense, so some semblance of a truth comes through.
Also, I need to filter my anger and angst at the Trump presidency and the GOP Congress (it’s already difficult, given that GOP gutted the ethics commission that holds Congress accountable). But if I get angry at every little thing, then I won’t be able to discern real outrage when I need it.
I found myself immersed in the Tagul word cloud generator, using the entire Networked Narrative website as my canvas, tinkering with word choices and frequencies … all in a move to paint a visual world with words and I ideas.
I like how it came out.
NOTE: Alan clicked on the animation and it brought him to a sale site. What the heck! That was not my intention. Don’t bother going to animated word cloud. Sorry about that.
(I tried to embed the animated cloud here, which allows you to roll-over words to enlarge them, sort of like exploring the world from above, but, alas .. the embed didn’t work. Go here to check out the animated version.)
As I wrote yesterday, I have been writing a haiku a day for the past 20 days or so as part of a project known as Haiku for Healing. Today, I gathered up all of my poems and put them into a video, via Animoto, with a song that I wrote on open-tuned guitar.
For the last 20 days or so, I have been writing a haiku daily as part of a hashtag project called #HaikuForHealing that my friend, Mary Lee Hahn and others thought up as a way to keep moving forward with writing and staying positive in a world that seemed to shift in November towards the negative (OK, and January might bring us right into the negative again).
I looked around on Twitter, found a hashtag that was previously unused — #haikuforhealing — and got started with my Haiku-a-Day in December a week early. It’s helping my heart already — both the writing, and the small community that’s growing around #haikuforhealing.
They started right on December 1 but I didn’t. Tomorrow, I am gathering up all of my haikus together into a single project.
A few weeks ago, Greg McVerry interviewed me for some research he and Sarah Honeychurch are doing about literacy and leadership in open learning spaces. Before our conversation, Greg asked me to construct a diagram of the open learning projects I have been involved with, and gave me the ‘cartesian coordinate’ labels (involvement/learning) to consider playing with.
The diagram above is the best I could do .. I am sure I am probably leaving things out (Slice of Life? Is that open learning?) and I know that some should stretch more across time but it made the design of the graph ugly to do so as a visual. My ideas didn’t quite fit the grid. But it works for what it is, I think, which is a reflection point for myself
What I found interesting is my perceptions about what I learned in various networks, over time, and the corollary discovery which the graph shows me is pretty simple and expected, if you know me at all, and that has to do with the connection between agency and learning.
What the chart shows is that the open learning spaces that invited me to create knowledge, with freedom to explore (Rhizo, CLMOOC, etc), are the ones where I came away with a lot to think about, mainly because of the interactions with others (or it was where I was a facilitator with ideas on opening up the space to the emergent unknowns). The projects where it felt more like a structured class or course (Deeper Learning MOOC, IMOOC) were less “sticky” for me, in terms of learning. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have value. But the value was less fundamental to me as a writer/teacher than places where I had more agency to pursue my own interests in the company of others.
It’s early morning — my writing time — and I am at home, not a cafe, but I am still traveling along with local writer/artist Tom Pappalardo as he brings me on his tour of coffee cafes in Western Massachusetts in his self-published book, One More Cup of Coffee. The subtitle says a lot: “In which the author barely talks about the coffee.”
Which is not completely true. Tom talks about the coffee, but more often, he talks about the people and the atmosphere, and his own state of mind when the coffee hits the cup in the various places in my hometown and beyond. I am a sucker for local writing, set in local places, and Tom is a gifted observationalist — a bit biting and sarcastic in his views of the world, perhaps, but he has a keen eye for overheard conversations (so much so, I was hoping he wasn’t ever overhearing me in the booth next to him).
The passages here are short and often very funny, and Tom is not above calling the coffee bad when he tastes it, or the conversation, when he hears it, but he also celebrates something about the independent coffee shops that goes beyond the cafe itself — he is celebrating the public gathering spaces they represent, bringing people together to quietly write (as he does) or to loudly talk (as many do) or to just wonder about the state of the world (what I often do). Oh, and he is not afraid to tear down the corporate places, too. We do have Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts but only with great reluctance in these parts.
I don’t visit the downtown coffee places like I used to, give my family and teaching job, but Tom’s book brought me right into the heart of our Pioneer Valley’s lively centers. I know most, but not all, of the places he writes about (and appreciated some of the local history of how-this-place-used-to-be-that-place), and I could sense that I was hanging out with Tom as he wrote (which he probably wouldn’t appreciate or like, as my presence would interrupt his writing).
I bought this book to support a local self-published writer and the One More Cup of Coffee more than met my expectations, so much I just ordered another from Tom — a collection of comics and graphics. I think I recognize his work from our local alternative newspaper. I realized, too, that I have seen his music posters and artwork around my small city for years, and never knew it was him. Now I do. Good work, Tom.