Be Creative. Every Day.

As we gear up for the Making Learning Connected MOOC (#CLMOOC), I am dipping into another endeavor underway called 5 Habits of Highly Creative Teachers, and as part of those freeranging discussions, I went into Adobe Voice and created this short piece. It echoes something that my friend, Terry, often said last year, as the first #CLMOOC was about to launch: Make Something. Every Day. (or something close to that!)

Peace (in the create),
Kevin

Writing About Songs: Flicking the Switch


(This is part of a series of posts about releasing some early music via Bandcamp.)

Our drummer, Bob, loves to play music, and he would love to write songs. So, he often sends out reams of lyrics (he’s the king of the double entendre) with hopes that one of us will work some of it into a song. This one — Flicking the Switch — began with a few verses from Bob, as I was working on a funk song for the band (Sofa Kings). In the end, about half the words are Bob’s and half are mine. It’s a love/lust song in which the relationship is clearly heading south, and the narrator is pleading for another chance. (He’s not going to get it.)

Our keyboard player, John, is the lead singer, and I was able to layer in some saxophone in the studio (I used a tenor and soprano) to create a pseudo horn section. Live, this song was a hit. The opening riff gives off the funk and when Bob kicked the beat, it got folks dancing. The studio version is fine but doesn’t quite capture the energy of performance.

Peace (in the funk),
Kevin

Writing About Songs: Beacon in the Night


(This is part of a series of posts about releasing some early music via Bandcamp.)

There some songs where I hear the lyrics years later and I shake my head in agreement, wondering where in the world those words came from. Beacon in the Night is one of those songs. My friend, Don, is the lead singer on this one and my friend John wrote the music.

The words are all mine and I just love the turn of phrases that are in this one, capturing a real uncertainty of the world. It’s about the idea of finding faith in who you are, and with the person you want to be with, even with the criticism of others around you. The beacon is the idea that there are true lights shining. Finding those lights is what makes life important, and being the beacon for others is at the heart of a full life. I remember this was one of those songs where the words just came, flowed and spilled out, as if I were removed from the act of writing.

Don and I had some arguments over a line – I’m locked and loaded — which he did not want to sing because it sounded too military for him. I really wanted that line in there. Not just for the alliterative element, which is important, but because it symbolized strength and a willingness of the narrator to beat the odds. Don did sing it, reluctantly. I don’t often fight hard over phrases or words. I did on that one, although years later I am not sure why it was so important.

Soundwise, the piano (another John) really adds a layer to the song. It would not be the same without his keyboards because those notes fill in the gaps left by the guitars. On this version, my role is merely backup singer. I don’t think I played an instrument here but the song remains powerful for me, and it is one that I often pull out on my acoustic and play by myself.

Peace (in the light),
Kevin

When the Woodcarver Came to Town

Elton2014

Respect.

Persistence.

Responsibility.

Creativity.

Focus.

As local woodcarver Elton Braithwaite began working with our sixth graders on what has become an annual woodcarving project, he spends less time at the start talking about carving and more time talking about life itself, and how one needs to carry oneself as an artist at all times. I love this part of Elton’s visit, because has a fine way of connecting the themes we discuss all year into a meaningful art project that requires students to do all of the above.

Of course, safety with sharp tools is in there, too, but Elton, who grew up poor in Jamaica before staking out his name as an artist in this country, has many stories to tell of struggle and opportunity, and I am always grateful that our suburban kids get a chance to hang out for extended time with him, learning about making wood sculptures, yes, and also learning more about themselves and the possibilities of their lives ahead of them.

Plus, they make beautiful art.

Peace (in the carving),
Kevin

Parsing Data at the Museum of Science

link station
We took our students on a field trip to the Boston Museum of Science yesterday (long day!), which is a wonderful space of interactive displays and special exhibits (The Grossology Exhibit, in particular, was a huge hit with a certain kind of kid).

I was particularly interested in a special exhibit around math that had all sorts of interactive engineering technology activities (design a skyscraper, build a song, determine probability of a huge flipping coin, etc.) and something known as the Hall of Human Life.

In the hall, you had the option of collecting a wristband, and as you did a series of activities, it showed you your data in relation to 200 other museum visitors. There were activities around nutrition, calories burned with each step, how light affects your sleep and depth perception, focus and attention, flu symptoms, balance and more. I suspect that many of these “activities” are really research projects for some grad students in the Boston area. The results shown are often broken down into categories, such as age and sex and other factors (which you put into the computer when you pick up your wristband).

hall of human life data

What is cool is that you can come home, and check out your data from the online site, too (anonymous, as we are only a wristband number – no name was ever asked), and the chart above shows one of the data pools from a set of questions around social networks. I found it intriguing that the museum found a way to engage us in a series of interesting activities, probably as a anonymous research subjects, and the spit the data out for us to examine as part of a larger collection.

We had a blast at the Museum of Science, and this was just one small piece of the day that stuck with me as I looked at my own data this morning via the website portal (I am the red dot).

Peace (in science),
Kevin

Writing About Songs: Gravitational Pull


(This is part of a series of posts about releasing some early music via Bandcamp.)

I’d be remiss not to mention that one of my guitar-playing friends, John Graiff, has also been one of my songwriting partners. He often supplies the riffs, and I then work with those riffs to add lyrics, and then together, we convene, argue and hammer out songs that whatever band we’re in then works on. Gravitational Pull is one of those songs that we wrote together.

Here, the music is almost entirely John. It’s based on a blues pattern, but he has an off-kilter rhythm to it that the drummer latched onto and drove home. I’m not sure where the idea for the song came from but the phrase of “gravitational pull” came early and I realized I could use a science theme to write about romance, as if the person is an object of such admiration and beauty that you just fall into their gravitational force field, whether you are ready or not. You know, love.

This one was always a blast to play live because it has a frantic pace to it. I’m not so sure we (Sofa Kings) nailed this song in the studio as best as we would have liked. It doesn’t always click right to me, as I listen years later. But you can’t help but feel the fun here.

Peace (in the pull),
Kevin

Making Fun with Comics (again)

I’m checking out a comic creator app called Rosie Comic Maker, which I want to use this summer for periodic looks at the Making Learning Connected MOOC. Rosie, the app, costs two bucks (I think), and there are limitations around poses and expressions. But I think there might be enough for me to play with. (I suspect Rosie has some other connections to television or something but I am out of the loop. I just like the cartoony feel to the comic maker)

Here are my first three comics:

Clmooc comic 1

Clmooc comic 2

Magic Box of Stuff

Peace (in frames),
Kevin

 

Writing About Songs: Katrina Blows In


(This is part of a series of posts about releasing some early music via Bandcamp. In these posts, I am trying to shine a light on the writing of the songs – where inspiration comes from and how it manifests itself in music.)

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, I realized that I needed to try to express my anguish (at the devastation) and anger (at political incompetence) through song and out of those mixed feelings emerged Katrina Blows In, which became a standard song for my band, Sofa Kings, for a number of years. My attempt was to catch a feel of New Orleans with the sound and tell a story of survival from someone in the midst of the approaching storm.

There’s also the political element — of how the system failed people in the time of their greatest need, and how we need to rely on each other as much as possible.

“If we all pull together
we might find a way to weather the storm …”

I really like how my bandmates brought their own ideas to this song, shaping it into a full-blown track instead of the dirge-like demo that I had in mind. There’s life in here, just as there was still life in those who made their way out of Katrina, even though their world would never be the same. I was hoping to honor those people as best as I could, from my perch in the Northeast.

In live shows, the opening riff would often bring people to the dance floor, although I am not so sure they were listening to the lyrics. I think they were moved by the beat and the mandolin. I’m playing guitar on this one, and singing the lead. It’s one of those songs that I can listen to, and nod my head, and know that we pulled this one off pretty well.

Peace (in the storm),
Kevin

Trigger Warnings: An Animated Poem

trigger warnings poem
You could not escape the phrase “trigger warnings” last week, as colleges and universities grappled with the idea of warning students about text before reading, and the battle over censorship and the protective society. I say, let young adults read without warnings, and if disturbed, so much the better for the discussions and experiences that follow.

Anyway, those news reports inspired me to write a poem that warns the reader about the poem, and recommends they take a chance anyway. I used Webmaker’s Thimble for this one.

Check out Trigger Warnings

Peace (in the text),
Kevin