Music By Collaboration: A Whale’s Lantern (Everything is Made of Smaller Parts)

Whale's Lantern: Everything is Made of Smaller Parts

The second round of music by collaboration — known by the project title A Whale’s Lantern — has now been released, and the theme of the musical pieces was The Elements. The album is located for listening, and for downloading, at Bandcamp. The whole project is built on collaboration — from the songwriting, to the recording, to the production. Each song represents a different collaborative partnership.

I was paired up with Luka, an amazing engineer and musician from Eastern Europe, and we worked together on a song called Alchemist Dream.

I wrote the lyrics, inspired in part by the Alchemy theme of Networked Narratives, and Luka wrote the music, and then we worked via email and other means to merge the two pieces together. I sing the song, and added some sax at the end, but Luka has done everything else. The back and forth we had was intriguing in many ways, and I am pretty happy with how our track ended up. Luka deserves much of the credit for the production value, as he spent hours working on it.

If you are wondering how this all works, a call went out from our friend Mascha in the Mastodon networking space (this is the second round; the first round is entitled Flight into the Nebula, and I worked with Laura on a song I wrote called I Fall Apart).

Participants are given rather random partners, and an extended period of time to work together. Some partnerships don’t get the finish line for all sorts of reasons. This second round had more completed tracks than the first.

The songs are then pulled together (by Mascha, who is the heart and soul of this project) on Bandcamp for sharing, and for purchase, with some proceeds going back into supporting the Mastodon network.

Read the oral history project from the first Whale’s Lantern album:

I hope you enjoy the music and the stories of how these pieces came together. Indeed, everything is made of smaller parts.

Peace (sounds like the world),
Kevin

 

 

 

 

CLMOOC Pop-Up Invitation: Annotating DeSchooling Society

CLMOOC Annotating DeSchooling

The deeper I am reading into Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society, the more annoyed I am getting at his view of teachers, like myself, in public schools, like where I teach. His accusatory tone and finger-pointing of the problems of the world seem to fall squarely on the shoulders of teachers. In some ways, this echoes the political landscape of today, with the kind of sentiment stated by Betsy DeVos and her crew, although the recent teacher actions are visible public counters to this narrative.

Which is not to say that every teacher in every classroom is doing what they need to do for all their students. There is plenty of blame to go around for why too many of our students are not getting the education they need to live the life they deserve. But Illich has all teachers in traditional settings in his crosshairs.

That said, I am enjoying the ability to annotate and discuss his book in the margins via Hypothesis, as a part of a CLMOOC Pop-Up Make Activity, and others are in the mix with me. I have just finished the section section and am moving on to the third.

You come, too.

We’re having discussions and feedback in the margins of the text, with a focus on how Illich’s views on education (published in the early 1970s) on student agency and individualized student learning might connect/disconnect with the principles underpinning Connected Learning. It’s been interesting to read this piece with that frame in mind.

So far, I see nearly 75 annotations have been made. There’s room for you.

Join the annotation.

See you in the margins.

Peace (off the side),
Kevin

 

That Poem In Your Pocket Should Be Shared

Yesterday was Poem in your Pocket Day. I love this annual celebration of carrying poems around to share.

All day long in school, I had a folded poem sticking up out of my shirt pocket, and during each of my writing classes, I would take it out with great fanfare and read it to my students.

Which poem?

Words are Birds by Francisco Alarcon.

words
are birds
that arrive
with books
and spring

they
love
clouds
the wind
and trees

some words
are messengers
that come
from far away
from distant lands

for them
there are
no borders
only stars
moon and sun

some words
are familiar
like canaries
others are exotic
like the quetzal bird

some can stand
the cold
others migrate
with the sun
to the south

some words
die
caged—
they’re difficult
to translate

and others
build nests
have chicks
warm them
feed them

teach them
how to fly
and one day
they go away
in flocks

the letters
on this page
are the prints
they leave
by the sea

Then, I gave each student a different poem, as a gift, from a collection of poems that I had downloaded last year from Poem In Your Pocket Day, and we spent part of the class just reading the poems out loud, letting the words dance in the air, sharing the writing.
Finally, all of my sixth graders folded up their poems and put them in their pocket for the day. They got a kick out of that.
“At recess,” a student in one of my later classes shared, just before I read out Words are Birds, “all my friends were pulling poems out of their pockets and reading me their poems.”
Another student knew of the Poem in the Pocket event, from home.
“My mom and my dad put poems in their pockets today,” he said, before folding up his own, too, which he intended to share with his parents later.

Peace (sharing poems),
Kevin

Book Review: Broad Band (The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet)

History, it’s said, is told by the ones who win. Which makes me wonder with discomfort why I, an avid reader of technology, never thought about the question of “Where are all the women?” whenever I have read histories of the Internet and technology in the past. Broad Band (The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet), by Claire Evans, sets the record straight, and does so with depth and storytelling. I’m glad to have discovered it.

Evans, a technology reporter, dives in deep to the many women whose work from the very beginning of technology and computers (stretching back to Ada Lovelace’s work with Babbage) paved the way for the way we interact and use the Internet (and other tools) today.

There were women doing the first manual card programming of mainframe computers — the women were called “computers” before a conference of men decided that “computer engineer” was a better term that would allow more recruiting of people into the field, and in doing that change of identity, they effectively shut the door on many women who did have advanced degrees in engineering because of cultural norms around who stays home with the children and who is the primary paycheck in the family.

There were women at the heart of the emergence of video game design, creating games that were built around storytelling and interactive choices, eyeing ways to engage girls in a time when boys were the rage. A section here about marketing of games via gender is fascinating. There were women creating safe social networking spaces before, and then as, the World Wide Web began to take hold, years before MySpace and Facebook and Twitter. There were women who devised the protocols of the Internet data packet transfer systems.

We often hear about The WELL in San Francisco, California, as one of the starting point of community networking, but in the same city, in another building, there was a collective of women with their own mainframe computer, programming it to gather and share resources about social services for families and organizations, as well a place to make connections over modems. Just like the WELL, in some aspects, but RESOURCE ONE was more attuned to the common good of the world. And mostly forgotten. I’d never heard of it.

And on and on it goes, and I appreciate that Evans researched and wrote this kind of book, as a sort of counter-balance to the male narrative of computers and technology. I am appreciative of the design capabilities of these women, and their vision for a more connected and more positive world with technology as another means to an end.

Peace (in the back pages),
Kevin

Blog Celebration: 10,000 Comments and Counting

Blog Comment 1

I know numbers are not everything. But some events still require a little celebration, right? Yesterday, during the Slice of Life, Chris posted a comment about my interaction with a student, and her comment became the 10,000th comment at Kevin’s Meandering Mind.

Blog Comment 10000

It’s funny because I kept checking in all morning to see if I would reach 10,000 during the morning, after posting my Slice of Life. I knew it would happen because the Slice of Life group is one that regularly reads and comments on Tuesday mornings.

I just didn’t know who it would be or when it would be. Thank you, Chris, for being the one.

I’m still staggered by that number, though. Ten thousand comments. That’s … like, a whole city of comments. A book could be made of the comments here. Pretty cool to consider.

I went back and searched my blog for the very first person to comment here and I found it was Will Richardson on July 27 2006. Will being the first commenter is sort of symbolic in a way because Will’s work early on with blogs, and wikis, and podcasts, helped inspire me to dive in with wonder when I first started blogging as a teacher (this blog came as a result of conversations and work with National Writing Project friends in a Tech Matters retreat in Chico, California, and I still have many close friends from that retreat.)

I went into the Wayback Machine to look for my blog in 2006.

My Blog: Wayback Machine 2006

I am grateful that people still bother to read blogs (now and then, but not as often as it once was, alas) and that they even bother to read mine, and then, take the time to leave comments. It makes blogging feel more like a public act of writing, as opposed to a private notebook posted for others to look at. I wish I were better at using comments to start larger conversations.

Certainly, social media platforms have overtaken blogging in many ways. People (and not just the young kids) are more apt to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr (sort of a blog), and more, and the decline of RSS readers (I still use one) as a way to gather aggregated feeds from blogging writers and educators is less a reading experience for many. Blogging isn’t dead, not by a long shot, but it has faded a bit into the busy background of the social media landscape.

So, if you have left a comment here sometime in the last 12 years, thank you. See you at 20,000 comments in about 12 more years … right?

Peace (making note of it),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Boy Who Wants to Hit Delete

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I’ve had a conversation a few times with one of my students that goes along the lines of something like this.

“Mr. H, can I trash all of my writing?”

“What? No. Of course not. Why would you do that?”

“I don’t know. My Google account seems full of files. Can I get rid of them?”

“You don’t need to do that. First of all, your school Google account has plenty of space — more than you will probably ever need. Second, I want you to be able to look back when you graduate high school and see what writing you did in sixth grade. This account will follow you for the next seven years.”

“Oh.”

“And third, we will be working on a digital writing portfolio this Spring, pulling pieces from the entire year, to showcase your work. If they are in the trash, you can’t easily find them.”

“Oh. Ok.”

I’ve had at least three iterations of this same conversation with this same student over the last four months or so. He is an avid technology user, and he has benefitted from our extensive work with technology to improve his writing. I’m not sure why he feels the need to delete his files in his Google account. It clearly is on his mind.

I suspect it is not so much to do with his feelings about his writing — which was my first thought, as writing does not come naturally to him but he works hard on every assignment — and more to do with the untidiness of the Google architectural design system. Even with folder systems, the Google digital file architecture can be tricky and confusing to navigate.

Yesterday afternoon, at the bus loop, he told me he wasn’t sure anymore if he wants to be an engineer. I told him I was surprised to hear him say that, and that I thought he would make a fantastic engineer — he loves to design and build things, and solve problems — and when he asked me what kind of engineer I thought he would become, I said: architectural engineer.

Later, thinking of our conversations about files and computers, I wondered if he might be the one to finally solve the problems of curating digital content in meaningful ways for all of us as a networking engineer or something.

Maybe so.

Peace (don’t delete),
Kevin

 

Tumbling Back in Time (An Archive of a Rock and Roll Band)

Big Daddy Kiljoy Collage

My guitarist friend passed me the large envelope and asked me to become its “owner.” I looked inside. It was filled with documents from one of our earliest rock and roll bands (Big Daddy Kiljoy). There were contracts for gigs, paper fliers that we used to put up around town, receipts from studio recording sessions, and more.

It was a travel down memory lane, for sure, and I digitized all the documents at home, and created the collage for him, and the drummer. The three of us — now nearly completing the formation of another band with the possible addition of a bass player — have been making music for more than 20 years, and it all began with the rag tag rock and roll of Big Daddy Kiljoy.

Wanna hear some from the archives? I wrote and sang the first song, and our friend, Tom, now deceased, sang the second song, written by Bob, the drummer.

Send Me Out a Sign

I Miss Understanding You

 

Peace (rocks out),
Kevin

 

 

Riffing Off Poems with Echoes of Originals


Typewriter flickr photo by markus spiske shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

It started with a poem about not having a poem to write about. Or rather, a morning where Bud Hunt didn’t post an image to inspire poetry, as he has been doing all month. I am a creature of writing habit, so when the prompt wasn’t there, I still had to write a poem, and then shared it with Bud on Twitter.

From there, Bud wrote a poetic response, on Twitter, and I heard an echo of a famous poem in his opening lines, so I tweeted back with my own poem. Dave Cormier jumped in and before I knew it, we were doing some poetry ping pong.

You can nearly hear the works of Poe, Whitman, Angelou, Williams, Wordsworth, Dickens, and others, if you read carefully enough in our Twitter poems. Not that we were being true to the poems, only that we were building off the familiar.

I gathered them up into a Twitter Moment (my first stab at Twitter’s curation tool). Take a look. I think I got them all.

For all the talk we have of the worries and dangers about social media, a small experience like this — a poetry riff that emerges only from creativity and connections — is a gentle reminder of the possibilities that come when people and ideas flow together, with humor and humanity.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

Everyday Alchemy (video collection, continued)

I’m still deep into making daily alchemy with the Networked Narratives daily prompts (known as the Daily Arganee), but I suspect with the university courses nearing the end of the semester, the dailies will begin to fade off. Which is fine. (NetNarr is a combination of two university courses taught by Alan Levine and Mia Zamora, and anyone else on the open web who wanders in.)

Until the daily prompts end, I’ll continue to try to arrive at something poetic at a slant (meaning, I try not to address the prompt straight on but rather, use the prompt for something different — tilt your head to see, that sort of thing) … and I will continue to gather and curate my small pieces into short video collections. Right now, my biggest hurdle is trying to name these curated videos.

🙂

I am also still gathering every prompt response I have done, and need some sort of inspiration for the dozens of small videos that I have made. Something will come to me, I am sure …

Peace (alchemized),
Kevin

 

Book Review: Books for Living

There’s a moment towards the end of Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living where he recounts how a book he read — A Journey Around My Room by Xavier de Maistre in 1829 — reminded him the power of observation, and how we can make sense of our lives if we just slow down, observe the small details and write with passion.

This call to reflect reminds me a lot of some the writing I have been trying to do in Mastodon, of noticing small moments and writing small poems, of invocations of the world and of the wonders of the world, writ small. Unlike de Maistre, I am not confined to my bedroom by the legal system (as he was, for a stretch of time, and therefore, he had little more to write about when he decided he would write about his room as if it were an entire world).

Throughout Schwalbe’s Books for Living, as he uses each chapter to focus on book(s) connected to something he has learned about living his life, I was reminded of the power of reflection, and agree with his observation that reading is a certain kind of magic that connects us with our past histories, our current stories, and lays the groundwork for where we might be going.

Here, Schwalbe connects with such books as Stuart Little, Giovanni’s Room, The Odyssey, Song of Solomon, Bird by Bird, and many more. His writing style is inviting, and his honesty shines through in his observations of his life through the lens of stories. This is a book for book lovers, and even encountering books I didn’t know– such as A Journey Around My Room — you can feel the pull to investigate, as Schwalbe provides as suitable guide into the internal landscape.

Peace (books),
Kevin