Ongoing Thoughts: It’s Complicated (the social lives of networked teens)

I am reading danah boyd’s excellent new book, It’s Complicated, and making notes as I go via Goodreads as a sort of comment trail of my thinking of her ideas. So far, it is a great read, with lots of her insights drawn from extensive research around teenagers over multiple years time. She really has a critical eye for what kids are doing, and how adults perceive what kids are doing (often through the wrong lens).

It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked TeensIt’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd

I am going to check in here now and then as I read this book by the fabulous researcher, danah boyd. Her extensive research and background in social media and the lives of teenagers should make for an interesting read. As a father, and a teacher, and someone who tries to harness technology for storytelling and writing and composing, I am always intrigued by what kids are doing, or not doing, or doing without thinking of what they are doing. I am hopeful that boyd’s work will shed some light for me and for others.

View all my comments on It’s Complicated

Peace (in the reflections),
Kevin

Trading Fours on Poetry Genius

Trading Fours

I popped my prose poem from the other day — Trading Fours on the Seventh Night — into Poetry Genius, which allows for some neat annotating of poems (it is part of a larger system that includes the controversial Rap Genius, which has been taken to task over copyright issues for lyrics). What the site allowed me to do was connect my poem with the podcast, as well as annotate with embedded videos of the jazz musicians referenced in the poem.

Check it out and feel free to annotate the poem yourself.

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Inside My Mind

(This is for the Slice of Life feature at Two Writing Teachers)

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Each day, I receive an email notification from The Daily Create (an offshoot of  DS106) about an activity to get the brain and thinking mind moving in new directions. It’s really such a great idea, these short assignments that push boundaries with humor and creative passion, and every day is something interesting or odd to consider. I don’t mind odd. In fact, I embrace oddity when it comes to digital composition because I think that diving into the odd will push boundaries. Yesterday, the Daily Create assignment was to sketch out an imaginary map of your mind.

This one hung with me all day, as I took my son sledding and as I set up the ping-pong table for some ferocious paddling, and as I read my books, read aloud to my son, checked my email, wrote a few tweets and began the first day of our February vacation (not technically our first day, since we had two snow days to end last week, extending our time away from school). All day, I kept thinking: map my head, map of my head, map it out.

If you know anything about me, you know I can’t draw worth a darn. Which is why I so often turn to digital tools to help me, and finally, as I watched my son and his friend barrel down the huge hill on sleds, screaming the entire way, it dawned on me how I could do this assignment. As a comic. And I would do it in the style of Mad Magazine’s Sergio Aragones, who makes all of those little comics in the margins of the pages, with little characters doing funny things in small spaces.

My Meandering Mind and Me

By the way, today’s Daily Create is to make a video of you or someone unboxing something. Anything. Make it dramatic. Share it out. Odd, right? See what I mean? The Daily Create rocks.

Peace (inside),
Kevin

 

Inspired by Hass: Trading Fours on the Seventh Night

We’re examining Robert Hass‘s poem, The Seventh Night, for #walkmyworld this week. I was not familiar with the poem (actually, I was not familiar with any of his poems) so I dove into it cold. We’re using Poetry Genius to annotate the poem, if you want to come along. As I listened to Hass, and read the poem, I realized that the playful bantering reminded me of “trading fours” in jazz, where soloists exchange melodies back and forth. Sort of like a poetry slam, with music.

That led to me writing this prose poem this morning:

Trading Fours on the Seventh Night
(hat nod to Robert Hass)

The bar fell silent, watching. All eyes staring. They locked gaze together, swaying in time to the beat of the drums and the bass pounding out on the wood floor beneath their feet so that every thump traveled up their spines, every pluck of the fat string by fat fingers reached into the base of the neck. The pianist tickled out the faint melody of a tune. The stage was set. She raised up her horn. Started to call him out. Eyes closed, dancing with the muse. He admired the way her fingers flew over the keys, the bell of the trumpet suddenly alive with faint echoes of Armstrong and Morgan and Gillespie, before setting down into the cool of Baker as if someone had poured the room a scotch, neat, unhurried. He angled his mind then, catching one of her melodies in his ear and leaping in with it, knowing that once the first note was out, it would be instinct alone and nothing else to guide him. He folded himself up in her song as she watched him, smiling at the way Young and Rollins and Getz uncurled in syncopation, first from the reed in his mouthpiece, then from the caress of keys, then from the open bell on the roof of the saxophone where, finally, at last, Hawkins rolled out to take a drink with them, too. She poured that glass herself with an old line from Davis, sliding the whiskey back across the stage, where he added the ice with Coltrane. As if. And so it went, into the night with not a word spoken between them as they bantered about with metaphors rooted in the past yet slinking towards some symmetry neither one could understand nor comprehend, inventing a language all of their own on this Sunday night, this seventh night, this day of rest. Even after the crowd got antsy. Even after the band got tired. Even after the owner got so fed up that he yelled at them to stop, for God’s sake, just stop. Even after they had begun packing their horns away, there they stood, he and she trading fours until the owner turned off the lights and everyone went home but them.

Peace (on the imaginary stage),
Kevin

Up to V: The Nerdlution Wordvention Fictionary Update


I can’t believe I am at V already in my #nerdlution goal to invent a new word for every letter of the alphabet. The project — which I am now calling The Fictionary — is rolling along nicely. Some words are better than others, but I suspect that is true of the real dictionary, too, right?

Anywhere, here is my Monday video update:

I’ll be completing The Fictionary later this week, and I am working on a plan to gather all of the words (which are published in Notegraphy) together in some sort of online booklet of sorts. (Any ideas on how best to do that?)

T
h
a
n
k
s

F
o
r

R
e
a
d
i
n
g

Peace (in vercabulary-style writing),
Kevin

Write Yourselves into a Poem: A #Walkmyworld Call to Writing

Reflections from Week Five of the #WALKMYWORLD Project

I may be wrong but it seems like we are at an important juncture in the #walkmyworld project, where the shift from documenting and sharing our worlds towards reflecting through poetry hopefully will begin. I’m not sure how ready people are, though, as that leap from putting the lens on things around us (we can be removed from the action, somewhat) to putting the lens on thoughts inside of us (poetry comes from the heart) can be difficult for many, and sharing in a public space … even more so. It brings up the uncertainty that many have of themselves as writers. Yet, if the project is to be more than just documenting,  more than something than just another cute hashtag on Twitter, then I think we’ll all have to move forward, with Ian and Greg and others nudging us.

Upon reading Ian’s reflections this morning, his urging of us to become more collaborative and connected with others in the #walkmyworld spaces had me mulling over how I might write a poem inspired by the tweets in the #walkmyworld hashtag, and maybe use a poem to encourage/invite/cajole others to begin some poetry themselves. My aim is to bring people into the poem itself as way to encourage them to write their own. I humbly “borrowed” tweets from the #walkmyworld stream, finding inspiration within the confines of 140 characters. If you are in my poem, I thank you for your words and ideas.

Here’s what I composed:

 

Write Yourselves into a Poem

Over coffee …

my fingers flutter over the footsteps
of those who would
#walkmyworld with me in these
virtual spaces:

Cassandra, in backwards visual motion
bringing us out and then in again
towards faith;

Jason, with flames firing
out the center of his plate,
an extra helping of warmth in winter;

Kristen, her camera obscured,
capturing the days of others
unfolding as private moments in public spaces;

Ken, in negotiations with the unseen,
a call for action and a slow halt
to the falling sky debris that clutters our days;

Laura, on the inside looking out,
shadows falling against window panes
a lone green sentry standing guard in paradise;

Aubri, with blankets and family
and food and the screen as some beacon
of entertainment escape from the snow;

Julie, pondering her flexible role
as teacher, mother, writer, blogger
in this navigational spaces that don’t quite exist;

Antwon, deep in thought as his mind
runs along the texts of the page
even as the camera finds him in quiet repose;

and Kelly, raising her glass in a toast
to us all, to the world on which we
find ourselves walking thanks to

Ian and Greg and others who have pulled in Haas
as a mean to find words, and rhythm, to express
the everyday magic of the objects of our lives

so go on, write yourselves into a poem
sneak inside a corner of this page
and make yourselves at home …

We #walkmyworld together

Write your poem, if you can.

Peace (in the walking of the world),
Kevin

 

Book Review: Tua and the Elephant

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Tua and the Elephant is a beautiful little novel, and it was such a nice change of pace from my read aloud with my son of action and adventure stories that have a lot of noise but very little depth. Which is not to say that action and adventure are not part of this story in which a little girl, Tua, sets out to rescue an elephant, even as she is being chased by two seedy men who have abused the elephant and want it back. Set in Thailand, this small novel gives such a flavor of setting and character, and moves with humor and humanity, making it a perfect read-aloud for home or the classroom.

Tua is smart and determined, and her heart is what drives the story forward from the first page to the last. You can’t help but root for Tua and care about the young elephant she is intent on saving. Finding a gem like Tua and the Elephant (I saw it on a table at the book store, and was captivated by the cover, and picked it up) is such a refreshing thing, reminding me of the power of story told with compassion and understanding.

Tua lives in our hearts now, too.

Peace (in the story),
Kevin

 

Daily Creatin’ with a Visual Lens

I’ve been diving back into the Daily Create this week after a stretch of somewhat ignoring the daily prompts to “make stuff.” The Daily Create is still an amazing resource for stretching your mind, and I like the photography angle, since that is not really part of how I see myself.

This morning, the prompt was about pixelating and manipulating an image using an excel-based tool. Pretty strange, but I uploaded an image and toyed around to create this madness. If I had more time and patience, I would have been more systematic about what I was doing. As it was, I was just doing, not planning. (but check out the image pulsates if you toggle up and down very quickly. Odd)

Dog Leash Excelerator

Yesterday, the prompt was about using tape to create household art. I set about making Tapeman, and then (as someone noted, as if he were Flat Stanley), I propped him in various elements of the kitchen. He spent the night drinking our bottle of wine and is now paid out flat on the counter top. Never invite Tapeman to your party.

Tapeman

For Valentine’s Day, the prompt had to do with remixing a set of stock images with snarky comments. I tried to capture the digital disconnect with this one.

False Valentines

And finally, there was the visual palindrome prompt. My mind raced (eh, sorry) to the phrase of “race car” and you would not be surprised at how quickly race cars can be found in a house with three boys.

Visual palindrome

How about you? What’d you create this week?

Peace (in the share),
Kevin

Curation Makes the Difference: The Ken Burns App

Burns App
I admire Ken Burns for his storytelling and imagine him in my head a lot when it comes to digital storytelling. He transformed the way we think about still images with voice and music. But sitting through hours and hours worth of DVDs, even on subjects near to my heart like jazz and baseball, is something I just can’t do. (even though one of my neighbors is an editor with Burns and I feel guilt about not watching her work on a regular basis)

So I was intrigued when I saw the new Ken Burns App, and gave it a download. Here is what I was looking for: a curated collection of clips from various Ken Burns documentaries, culled and pulled together along various Big Ideas by Burns himself, with narrated introductions. I got all that, and more. The themes include art, politics, innovation and race, and while you only get one collection free (innovation), I ponied up the $9.99 for the rest because I just had to experience the Art collection (which mixes Billie Holiday with Frank Lloyd Wright with Woody Guthrie and more) and I am not regretting it. The experience is like a video mix tape, but with quality of storytelling and video production. I was hooked with the first segment.

The app is beautifully crafted, too, with a real feel for the way that touchscreens can be used to experience story. I suspect it will take me some time to get through all the collections, which is fine by me. I’m diving into the stories in order to learn more about America, and about filmmaking, and about digital curation. The Ken Burns App gives me plenty to chew on around all of those topics.

Peace (in the app),
Kevin

Book Review: The Last Wild

For all the truth around “not judging a book by its cover,” I admit that sometimes it is the cover that attracts me to a book. So it is with Piers Torday’s The Last Wild. The cover was so intriguing, and the novels’ name, too, that I just had to pick it up when I saw it out at the NCTE convention. I’m glad I did, as my son and I just finished it as a read-aloud, and now we can only wait for the sequel to see how the story ends.

The book is set in a dystopian future, where animals have been killed off by disease (called “red eye” or “berry eye”) and all humans are now huddled around some city centers to avoid contamination. The protagonist, Kester, is a boy who has been stuck inside a children’s boarding “school” for six years, following his mother’s death and his father’s work as a scientist and vet. Kester is mute, unable to talk, but he narrates for us in a loud voice and soon discovers that he has the ability to “talk” silently with insects and, yes, animals.

Because not all the animals are dead, and they have come to break Kester out of his school (jail) so that he can lead the last wild (a group of animals) towards a cure for the disease that has ravaged the world. Torday’s book is full of adventure, and difficult choices, and a re-imagining of the world where man has done nature wrong, and now it is time to fix the problems, and save the animals. Quirky characters, and evil antagonists, abound here.

I’m glad the cover the caught my eye. We thoroughly enjoyed The Last Wild, and wait for the next book.

Peace (in the wild),
Kevin