Book Review: The Girl on the Train

I know I’m a sucker when book publishers spend a lot of money to promote the message that “this is a book in the tradition of …” and then fill in the blanks. It doesn’t always live up to the hype (I’ve gone through a few “just like Game of Thrones” novels to much disappointment). Still,  I saw the hype over The Girl on the Train (in the tradition of Gone Girl) and used a gift card that I received over holiday break to get it. I figured, this isn’t costing me much.

It was worth every penny I didn’t spend.

The book is good, although the echoes of Gone Girl are a little too strong at times (someone missing, multiple voices, unreliable narrators). The narrative frame of views of something odd taking place (it’s a thriller) as seen from the commuter train, and then allowing characters to only chime in during the morning and evening commute times, gives the story a definite rhythm (like a train), building to the dramatic points at the end of the story. I won’t give it away. Promise.

Does The Girl on the Train hold its own? It does, and newcomer writer Paula Hawkins constructs a tightly-wound plot, bringing us into the heads of female characters with variable troubles and views on the world, even as things start to fall apart on them all (some, more than others).

Peace (on the tracks),

Identity Exploration: Not That Kind of Writer

Not the WriterAt Walk My World, we are diving into identity in this cycle,which is always a fascinating topic to explore when it comes to who we are in digital spaces (or whom we project ourselves to be) and who we are outside of those digital spaces, and where are the intersecting lines.

With my sixth graders, our work around avatars is centered on this concept of identity — who we choose to be when we are online, and how to make sure we have that choice. Want to see an interesting collection? Go to the New York Times piece about avatars in gaming environments. They put photos of the real person with their avatar, and it is a stunning example of how people project who they want to be in digital spaces.

This poem of mine is one way for me to think of my own act of writing and publishing in online spaces, and the question of: Is that really me writing there? I think we all hold back part of ourselves, even those who dip over the TMI line, and so what you see in these words here is just a glimpse of me as the writer. I wrote the poem, trying to show the veil that is there for all of us, and how the push into the digital spaces we inhabit both foster this concept of multiple identities and collapse it … sometimes doing both things (expand and collapse) in the same moment.

Director’s Notes:

I took the photo on my iPad as I wrote the poem as a draft. I had this idea of writing a few lines about writing (the first line was my first idea) and I wanted a shot of my with pencil on paper. Not keyboard and screen. I still write a lot on notepads, particularly when I am writing poems and songs. Those drafts then get written on the screen, but only after much scribbling and much reworking (and sometimes, head scratching over what is that word that I wrote anyway …).

Taking the photo required a bit of human origami. You don’t see my left hand reaching out behind the Ipad, twisting my thumb to the large circle that will take the shot. There’s got to be a better way …

I moved the photo into an app I have called Fragment, which allows you to mess with the photo in any number of ways. Since this piece is about identity, and mixed identities, I thought it would make sense to fragment the photo itself.  I then moved the photo into the free Aviary app (a must-have),  added a border and then finished the poem itself.

I liked how one of the tools in Aviary allows you to color in small sections, so I kept the color focus on the pencil and my hand, writing. This brings the eye into the writing, which is the heart of my identity in this poem.

The photo is hosted at Flickr, which allows embedding in media sites.

Peace (in who I am right now in this writing),


Tweets Transformed into Poems (sort of)

My friend, Janet, shared this interesting tool called Poetweet the other day. It takes your Twitter stream and based on your decision of the style you want (three choices), it creates a poem of sorts. What’s interesting is that the site also annotates the phrases with links back to the original tweet.
PoetTweet my Twitter
(Check out the live link to the poem here)

Now I wish I had more wittier things in my Twitter stream … but that opening line — To Brady Bunch and Clone Wars … that’s a classic! And then reference towards the end to “found poetic lines”- that’s me, all right.

Peace (in the poem),

Book Review: Holes (a reader revisit)

I had forgotten just how brilliant the novel Holes is until I had a chance this past week to read it with my youngest son. It’s been more than 10 years since I picked it up, although I do see quite a few of my sixth graders continuing to read it on a regular basis.

Midway through, I said to my son, this book is an onion. He looked at me like I was nutty, so I had to explain how the onion reference in the story is like the story itself — layer upon layer, all related together. I mean, Louis Sachar’s construction of Holes is a thing to behold as a reader and I wish I had a visualization of how the story strands slowly come together.

I have the sequel - Small Steps — ready for read-aloud and yet, I am little reluctant. What if the magic doesn’t hold up? My son wants to see the movie of Holes, too. Again … will that ruin the beauty of the book? We’ll see. For now, I am grateful I had another chance to read Holes and just find wonder at the writing of it.

I found this diagram online — the mapping out of the characters, and items, and their connections to each other. Pretty nifty.

Peace (in the hole),


When DS106 and Rube Goldberg Unite .. or how to put on a hat

Hat on Yer Head #ds106 #dailycreate
It’s cold this morning here in New England. Wind chill about negative 14. Walking the dog … not so much fun. So when the DS106 Daily Create came into my inbox with a note of explaining how to do something, I was reminded of a recent classroom activity/lesson around Rube Goldberg contraptions (my students had a blast with it).

Here, then, are my instructions for putting a winter hat on your head. (My attorney suggests I mention that you should not try this at home. Duh.) At the Daily Create, you could only write text, but I drew out the contraption in the Paper app (which I am still figuring out).

Winter. It sucks. So, you know, you need a winter hat on your head to keep your brains from freezing when you need to walk to the dog.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Superglue fishing line to a bowling ball
2. Stuff bowling ball inside winter hat
3. Place bowling ball/hat on the top of the stairs
4. Sit on the bottom step of the stairs, holding fishing line in hand
5. Pull on fishing line. Be sure to pull hard enough so that the ball and hat start tumbling down the stairs
6. Quickly pull fishing line a second time to dislodge the ball from the hat. Guide bowling ball around you (note: this is important)
7. Hat sails through the air, lands on head

If you set up pins on the ground near the bottom of the stairs, you may even get both a strike AND the hat on your head. Be careful that the bowling ball and the hat don’t change positions. If that happens, you might end up with the bowling ball on your head. If that happens, you won’t need to go outside on your own. The ambulance will take there and it is probably heated.

Peace (you deserve it),

Connected Poem: The End of the Internet

Anybody else read the fascinating article in The New Yorker about the work by the Internet Archives to make a database of the entire Internet? I know about the Internet Archives and its Wayback Machine, but the piece by Jill Lepore  — called The Cobweb — was intriguing in many ways. (See my own blog in the archives).

The article had me thinking and that thinking led me to a poem, in which I used Hypothesis annotation tool as a sort of connector between my poem and Lepore’s article — with comments in the annotations as the sort of glue that holds it together.

A Glimpse of The End of the Internet
A Connected Poem
Kevin Hodgson

This morning, just after dawn,
with the blue lights flashing like shooting stars,
we bid farewell to the archived Internet —
all twenty six thousands pounds of it packed tight
inside a shipping container —
and we began again.

Some of us worry about the loss of memory
while others of us wonder about the possibility
of reinvention of the world,
now that we know how to build what we built
before we knew what we were building,
and how all those little scraps of words and images
and sounds and videos had become a scattered
collection of us.

Someone popped the cork off the champagne,
passed the bottle around, as the ship sailed off,
and someone else raised up a glass in a toast
to the potential of finally living in
the moment.

What none of us saw or imagined was the debris
of the Internet left behind in all the far
corners of the world,
in places where no amount of scrubbing
ever made the place clean.
Here, there were echoes of the past, imbuing us with
false knowledge of false starts, so that what we are building
becomes is built on the bones
of what we already built, for some things are beyond
our understanding.

One hundred days later, we all forgot anyway.

Works cited (if only temporarily and with little value as to the permanence of this piece):

Lepore, Jill. “The Cobweb.” The Cobweb. The New Yorker, 26 Jan. 2015. Web. 24 Jan. 2015. Funny how I was able to access this before the publication date, as if I stepped back in time to gather the article about archiving the past ….


Peace (in the poem),

Going Nutty on a Flag


Alan Levine shared out this very cool suite of text/photo editors the other day called Picture to People, and this morning, after making a flag as part of the YouShow’s “The Daily” — a fun “make” activity each day on Twitter — I decided to see what I could do to my flag by putting it through a few of the image generators.

Unknown Country Flag Collage

Peace (in the tinker),


When Connected …

Joining in Nile Conference

I was able to join in a conversation taking place in Egypt yesterday, hosted by two friends named Maha. It was a conference called NileTESOL  and the session by Maha B. and Maha A. was about using online resources in the teaching of English. I participated in a Twitter chat for a bit and then jumped into a Google Hangout for a spell. (TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)

Think about that for a second: from my home in Massachusetts, USA, I was engaged in a discussion about teaching at a conference taking place simultaneously in the Middle East, chatting with folks in a hangout from South America (I think that’s where one of them was from) and listening to a student in France talk about how he uses digital media in the classroom (with my friend, Simon).

When we talk about the connected world and how it can open up new avenues for sharing, that’s the power of the connection.

Peace (across the world),