Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Just imagine about the boatloads of young readers this summer sitting down to read … a full-length play. That’s the text format of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the latest story set in J.K. Rowling’s world of wizardry. I am both pleased with the decision to use the drama/theater format, and also, I am a bit worried that it will turn kids off from the book (my son started it and stopped, saying he didn’t want to read a play).

Still, the book is a great opportunity to expose readers to the ways in which live productions are created (the book is script to the play now on stage, and is labelled Special Rehearsal Edition Script) and written, and sustaining the story throughout an entire book-length play forces the reader to imagine the stage itself, with actors and props and effects. I know many of us do this with novels, too, but here, it is explicit, with stage direction as text.

Does the story hold up?

Sort of. The beginning feels a bit slow, with many familiar themes emerging, as Harry and Ginny are now parents, and one of their boys, Albus Severus Potter, is off to Hogwarts. Albus feels different from the family, and finds a friend in Scorpius, the son of Draco Malfoy.

The two boys get themselves into a world of trouble soon enough, and the return of Voldemort might be imminent, as a result. I won’t go into the story too much, so as not to ruin it, but suffice it to say that the second half of the book found its footing and was quite entertaining, I think, as it broke away from echoes of the past Harry Potter tales.

As a father, I was particularly attuned to the tension that Harry feels with Albus, and the difficulties that the son and father have with each other, acknowledging the imperfect resolution of their relationship at the end of the story. I’m not sure how much that theme will resonate with young readers. One never knows.

This new book doesn’t quite match the storytelling flair of other books in the series, in my opinion, but then, that probably wasn’t the intention of publishing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as a play in the first place. In fact, Rowling is not even the listed playwright (that would be Jack Thorne). Instead, the book is “based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling,” although she clearly was integral to the development of the project (as noted by her presence in the back pages of the book). This fact is listed in huge letters on the cover, so the publisher was not trying to pull one over on the audience.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is worth the read, if you come in with realistic expectations. And who knows? Maybe some readers will use the script and start planning their own productions. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Peace (in all worlds, magical and muggle),
Kevin

 

And Then … They Danced

Sometimes, a crazy idea becomes the thing that actually gets done. A few weeks back, I had first jokingly commented on something that Wendy Taleo had written for CLMOOC that we should have a Dance Party. Then, I wondered: COULD we pull off a virtual CLMOOC Flash Mob Dance Party? How would we do THAT?

And so it came to be. First, some of us went into Soundtrap, a collaborative music platform, to create a music track. Then, we invited people to create dancing videos, of themselves or other things (or animals) and they did. We then asked them to upload the videos into a Google folder, and they did.

See? That’s the beauty of a network like CLMOOC. You try an experiment and lots of people are open to participate. Wendy and I were open about the fact that we neither knew exactly what we were doing nor how we would pull it off. Folks still danced and still participated.

Although we explored the possibility of collaborative video editing, in the end Wendy took on the task of editing the pieces together into a dance mob. I just love the video for the zaniness and happiness of it, and for the fact that we all pulled it off in time to get it at the top of the Make Cycle 3 newsletter. (Sorry if you didn’t get your video in on time … We can still revise)

CLMOOC Dance Party Collage

Peace (put on yer dancing shoes),
Kevin

Unfolding A Musical Conversation

K2BH Conversation

My friend, Karon B., and I have been playing around with different musical compositional tools. In tinkering with a site called Flat, we found we could collaborate together. So I started a “sort of” conversation (the words are mine) and invited Karon to “harmonize” with me in counterpoint. Kind of interesting to see two people collaborate on single music document, envisioning it as a thematic conversation, albeit a short one. (She had already been doing similar explorations with Twitter streams for CLMOOC).

Take a listen (and know we just used pre-set instrument voices from the site):

Peace (and harmony),
Kevin

Curiosity Conversations: Two Zeegas Walk Into a Bar and So Does Terry


flickr photo shared by *s@lly* under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I’ve been exploring the notions of Curiosity Conversations, inspired by Scott Glass in Make Cycle 3 of the CLMOOC. This interaction unfolded before Scott shared out his idea for CLMOOC, but fits perfectly with the concept.

Sometimes, the best part of writing digitally is trying to process the intent of the composition. But, I often don’t do much of that (or not enough for my own liking). Here, Terry Elliott and I took some purposeful time to interact with each other via a Hackpad to have “a conversation” about digital composition.

The overall thread was a poem that Jennifer N. wrote for CLMOOC a few weeks back, which then slowly transformed into a larger collaborative audio project. I wanted to take it a step further – using a tool called Zeega to make a visual piece. It turns out Terry was doing the same — making his own Zeega with the same audio and same poem.

Thus, our conversation unfolded … We asked each other questions, released some threads of ideas, wondered out loud about what it means to compose digitally. We don’t have any real answers. Just more questions.

First, watch each of our digital pieces.

First, there is mine:

And there is Terry’s Zeega interpretation:

And then, there is the messy Hackpad itself. You can add to the conversation, too. It’s an open document. Consider yourself invited. Join the conversation. Be curious.

Peace (in the mix),
Kevin

Curiosity Conversations: Turning Tweets into Music with Karon

I feel honored to meet so many interested and creative educators in the CLMOOC. Since last week, Karon B. and I have been engaged in an intriguing email conversation that falls under the umbrella of this week’s concept of “Curiosity Conversations” in Make Cycle 3 of CLMOOC.

Our interactions began with a Daily Connect, themed on “reaching out” (which she did), and then took a path towards presence in social media spaces (or, rather, non-presence and how that feels), and finally our back/forth reached a point where we worked on a project together that turned tweets into music.

Actually, she did all of the compositional work, and I just followed her lead as best as I could. This is what she did, in a nutshell, and where we have sort of ended up. For now. She is still working on other versions.

Karon is not on Twitter, for her own valid reasons, but she has followed the weekly Twitter Chats through the curated Storify projects that we put together afterwards. She has also been tinkering with a musical notation program, and so, she wondered if she could take the Twitter feed from the CLMOOC Twitter Chat and code the tweets into musical notation, and then create a “song” of the Chat.

 

 

I thought that was a pretty cool concept, and she went about it with an intense passion that I admire. I still don’t quite understand her coding system (sorry, Karon!), even with many intriguing emails back and forth as she worked hard on the project. The five-page music manuscript of the Twitter Chat is so interesting to read through, as themes emerge and counter-melodies of people and ideas.

from Karon Tweets into Music

You get a perspective of a Twitter feed that you don’t get in any other way. We’re slanted, on an angle, and see the sharing as music. How friggin’ cool is that, eh?

I wanted to do something with Karon’s manuscript. I wanted to find a way to turn her music on the page into music for the ear. So, using Soundtrap recording platform, I tried to record the song with my tenor saxophone, layering the top melody with the bottom harmony parts. I fumbled many times, and still don’t like this rough cut version. But I hope it gives you an idea of how the sharing from Twitter turned into music on the page turned into sounds for the ear.

Take a listen.

Thank you, Karon, for pushing my thinking about music, social media, and composition over the course of the week, and reminding me of how creative we can be when we think beyond the normal. She saw Twitter as an inaccessible point, and turned it into music.

For more on her project, check out the slideshow video she shared in the CLMOOC Google Plus space. She used a midi sound generator to create an audio soundtrack for her presentation, too, so you can “hear” what each person “wrote” in the chat. Nifty.

Peace (it sounds like the sunrise),
Kevin

Curiosity Conversations: Chatting It Up With Scott Glass

Scott Glass called me up on the phone the other day for a chat about CLMOOC, and we had a wonderful talk. He asked me about my writing routines and we talked about the classrooms, and more. It was nice to hear his voice.

Scott’s interview is part of the CLMOOC Make Cycle 3 theme of “Celebrating Connections” and his use of what he calls Curiosity Conversations. I appreciated that he took the time to call me, and we both noticed how the voice connection is such a powerful thing. He uses this concept in his classroom.

Scott, who is helping to facilitate this Make Cycle, shared some resources for Curiosity Conversations that are worth sharing out even further:

I am sure this topic will be coming up at tonight’s (Tuesday) Make with Me Hangout. Come listen and chat, if you can.

TheMake With Me live broadcast with chat on Tues., August 2  at 4pm PT/7pm ET/11pm UTC live streamed with asynchronous chat. This session will also be recorded so you can watch the archive later. In this special, last Make With Me, we encourage you to gather some loose parts for play and making and join us to celebrate the process of connecting with our hands and our minds.

Personally, I’m making use of that term “Curiosity Conversation” this week with CLMOOC, and I will post a few of my connections as we go along. What’s got you curious these days?

Peace (George),
Kevin

Get Your Groove On (A CLMOOC Invitation)

This week, in the final Make Cycle of the Connected Learning MOOC (CLMOOC), the theme is all about Celebrating Connections. In that vein, Wendy Taleo and I have been in “conversations” (more about curiosity conversations, as suggested by Scott Glass, tomorrow) about hosting a Flash Mob Dance Party in a virtual learning community.

The idea is to celebrate with a music track created collaboratively (Thanks to Bryan Murley for adding two guitar tracks) and then a video collage (or two) that has a bunch of people dancing to the track. Because we come from all over the world, this is a bit difficult (for example, Wendy is in Australia and I am in the US.) But we do have a plan.

And we have the song.

Now we need some dancers. If you are interested, read through this Google Doc of instructions (please make note of the fact that we are “winging it”) and shoot some video of you, dancing. We don’t need sound on your video, by the way. And we don’t make any promises about what the final video dance party will look like.

But that won’t stop us from trying …

Peace (in the boogie and in the woogie),
Kevin

Digital Poetry: Before Summer Ends

Before Summer Ends

My friend, Carol Varsalona, does a seasonal call for digital poetry — words layered on image. She then pulls them together into an online shareable gallery of community poetry. It’s very cool and inviting. The latest gallery will be called Summerscapes (read more here, and consider joining us with a visual poem of your own).

I went back into our Maine vacation photos from a few weeks ago, and found one of the marsh that was just beyond the deck of the house we rented, and then, although it is the end of July, I started to think about the end of summer. I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t help it. (dang it).

Peace (in summer’s embrace),
Kevin

Graphic Novel Review: Secret Coders (Paths & Portals)

I found this second book in the Secret Coders graphic novels series by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes more enjoyable than the first, which was fine but felt a bit flat to me. Maybe I needed to know the characters a bit more, and here, in Secret Coders: Paths & Portals, the characters and story get more developed.

As with the first book in this series, the story integrates Logo programming language, as the protagonists — Hopper, Eni and Josh — discover a portal to an underground “school” beneath their existing school (Stately Academy), and the place is full of programmable “turtles.” The school janitor is actually the professor of this Bee School, now closed but once a fertile space for young people to learn computer programming.

The story revolves around the kids learning about programming, and making the turtles do some tasks, as the principal of the regular school uses the Rugby team to steal a turtle and discover what the kids and the janitor/professor are really up to. At the end of each section, the reader is asked to consider some simple programming logic before moving onward.

There’s always the danger in books like Secret Coders that the “teaching” will get in the way of the “story,” but the writers’ sense of humor and lively illustrations provide a nice balance. Yes, you learn some basics of Logo programming. But not at the expense of an entertaining read. I’m looking forward to the next chapter in the Secret Coders books, and wonder where I can get my own Secret Coders t-shirt that the kids rock in the book!

Peace (code it for all),
Kevin