A Peace Poster/Elvis Costello Remix

(Note: This post got lost in the ‘draft bin’ but here it is ..)

After writing  about my students art project — the Peace Posters — and remembering the classic Elvis Costello song — What’s So Funny (About Peace, Love and Understanding) — I realized that I could merge and remix the two with Mozilla Webmaker’s Popcorn Maker.

And so I did ..

Peace (in the peace),
Kevin

Two Makes I Can’t Quite Explain

I don’t know why I went off on these tangents, but I made two strange things yesterday in a burst. The first was inspired by Audrey Watters’ post that looked at the history of “teaching machines” and included some drawings from the patent office archives. I put one into my comic app and added a little commentary.

Patented ed

The second was a terms of service that Alan Levine shared out, for a “fake name generator” and its legalese really called for parody. I went in the underwear direction with a XRay Goggles remix.

Frack Name Generator

What did you make yesterday?

Peace (because),
Kevin

Annotated Song: Walking (With the Thoughts of You)

I’ve been working on this demo song that meshes nicely with Walk My World and the YouShow project. It is inspired by a friend but also, some distant memories of my hiking days. So here it is:

And this version via Zeega:

Interestingly, Terry “remixed” my Zeega, which means that at the end of mine, his version begins (new song and new media). Be sure to experience both.

Director’s Notes

The guitar part for the song is an echo of a very old song of mine, one I wrote about my grandmother when I was first starting to write songs (oh so long ago). I didn’t want to lose the chord progression after rediscovering it and I kicked around with it for a bit before the lyrics started to take hold here. The words are sort of a gift to a friend who is going through some difficult times right now and who spends many days hiking in isolation as a way to think and understand the world (truly, walking the world). I put the final lyrics into the app Notegraphy, which makes words look fancy, and then downloaded the lyrics as an image file. I uploaded the file into Flickr, and then used Thinglink to “borrow” the image for annotation. The song was recorded very simply (live take, no dubs) in Soundtrap and then exported into Soundcloud for embedding here, there and everywhere, including Zeega (which borrows audio from Soundcloud).

Peace (in the muse),
Kevin

Graphic Novel Review: The Sculptor

I know it early in 2015, but is it too early to call The Sculptor by Scott McCloud my “book of the year”? I was sent an early review copy of McCloud’s novel by First Second Publishing, and it has not just blown me away. It’s story and imagery has stayed with me, lingering for the last few weeks in my mind. I’m almost ready to dive right back in and read it again, and if you know me, you know I rarely re-read books.

While the story has familar echoes — you sell your soul to the ferryman for some artistic element or edge in your life that you have long desired and never attained (think Robert Johnson’s Crossroads, or even Charlie Daniels Band’s Devil Went Down to Georgia) — the way that McCloud uses the graphic novel format and visual storytelling brings The Sculptor to a new level.

McCloud is very famous for his groundbreaking work about deconstructing comics and graphic novels as unique and innovative storytelling platforms, and sharing his knowledge with the world. His Understand Comics is a must-read for anyone interested in the storytelling possibilities of graphic arts.

For The Sculptor, it seems like he aimed to pull out all the stops, with whole sequences of art that will floor you, even as he weaves the story of his protagonist, David Smith, who literally gives up his life for his art, and gains the power to sculpt any material with his own hands.

And then, David finds love in the days before his time runs out (by the way, here, the Devil is not the nasty dude you might imagine him to be), and he races to create the great Art Project of his life before it is too late. I won’t give the story away, but the narrative power of writing and illustration packs a real emotional punch. The way McCloud uses the comic medium to bring the reader into the story is inspiring.

 

Note: this book is not for younger readers, and with some scenes of nudity and adult themes, it may not be suitable for even high school students. You should read it first before bringing it into your classroom. I hope some university class eventually uses it as a literature text, however. It’s that good, in my opinion.

Peace (in the story),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: Making Adventure Happen

(Note: This is a Slice of Life, facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. Slice of Life is a weekly writing activity. You write, too.)

Rhizomatic Discoveries

It’s not that I didn’t have plenty of shoveling to do yesterday. I did. I did. But a snow day yesterday also gave me time to play around with an app that I had put on my iPad the other day, thanks to Paul Hamilton. Adventure Creator is a “make your own adventure” interactive fiction maker and I am still working to figure it out (Paul helped with a short video tutorial).

I’ve worked with Twine (which is free) and played around with some other “make your own adventure” — or interactive fiction — creators, such as Inklewriter. This Adventure Creator app seems intriguing, although it costs almost 4 bucks so I am not sure it is reasonable for an entire classroom.

Still, I dove in, played around and began making an interactive story about Rhizomatic Learning, as I gear up for the upcoming Rhizo15 online gathering that is slated to begin in March (I think). My idea is to create an interactive story, exploring a bit of rhizomatic thinking. Mostly, I hope it helps me better understand the concept. Even a year after Rhizo14, and the continued connections all year, I am still a bit fuzzy on this kind of interlacing and inter-tangent thinking of learning practices, although I know enough about it to know there is something there.

Adventure Creator allows you to build out a story, and I think you can add objects, but I have a lot to learn and am grateful for Paul’s video guidance, and now I need to dig into the app and find tutorials. Constructing a text-style ‘make your own adventure’ story requires planning and thinking but I think it could be cool.

Peace (on the map),
Kevin

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),
Kevin

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),
Kevin

 

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),
Kevin

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),
Kevin

 

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),
Kevin