Saxophones on the Brain

In the course of 10 minutes yesterday, I ran across two mentions of the saxophone (my main axe) in both Newsweek and Time magazines that are worth mentioning. And the Muppets were on my mind, too.

The first was an obituary for Peggy Gilbert, who was one of the first female jazz saxophone players to make a true impact on the world. Gilbert, who died at the age of 102 (see what music can do for you?), shared the stage with such greats as Benny Goodman and Louis Prima, and she didn’t subscribe to the notion that men are better musicians and band leaders than women (and you shouldn’t either). The obit reminds us that Gilbert took on Downbeat magazine when it ran a commentary that seemed to detail how men are better than women. Thanks, Peggy, for being brave and creative!

The second mention was a bit stranger. The article on comedian Jim Carey and a new movie called The Number 23 features a striking picture of Carey, with tattoos and muscles, holding a saxophone like a weapon. I couldn’t find the reason why his character has the saxophone but it doesn’t look good (for him or his saxophone). Maybe the muse plays a supporting role.

Finally, I ran across this video that I just love from the Muppets that I just had to share because, frankly, we all need a good Muppet laugh once in a while:

Peace (with pioneers, players and puppets),

OnPoEvMo: The Rhino and Gazelle/Father and Son February 2007

This is another installment in my series of poems I am writing and podcasting every month under the banner of One Poem Per Month for a Year. I wrote it as I watched my oldest son (age 9) playing basketball the other day and was amazed at his athletic abilities and I was wondering where this passion for sports came from (music was my thing). And we had just visited the San Diego Zoo, so animals were on my mind.

The Rhino and Gazelle/ Father and Son

(February 2007)

Listen to the Poem

The gazelle inside of you came from somewhere but not from me.
I am more like a crash of rhinos with heads lowered, eyes narrowed, horns raised up in defiant defense.
I am more like the lumbering giant than the fleet footed creature that you are,
darting, moving, skirting the horizon with energy and freedom.
You spring from one side of the world to the other with your motors on full,
an open field with nobody else in motion,
time slowed down to a crawl,
and all of us just watching, watching, watching,
as you surprise your opponent with stealth and speed.
No one expected that of you.
Certainly not me.
To the rhino, the gazelle is just a flash of a rainbow caught from the corner of the eye
and coveted as a dream that has been released to the stars
as if it were but a balloon on a string on a windy day.
No, the rhino remains firmly centered here on this Earth with gravity pulling on the mind
with weight and worry draped like an anchor around the neck.
I could never run like you. Never.
I was always the bull — the muscle — the brawn —
the man in the middle who threw the block and freed up others so that they could gain the glory
and I would often wonder at why it was that I was built so different from all of them
but the gazelle never gazes upon the rhino except in times of need.
And now I know. Now, I know.
I was built to protect the gazelle from others who want to tear down the beauty of the run
and twist in the imperfections, twist it into something ugly and painful
— already it has begun, the self-doubting, the impossibilities, the sound of other voices taking hold on your tongue–
and so I lower my horn and crash into the crowd, a raging rhino,
determined to protect you at any cost from the slow and steady pull of gravity in the world.

Peace (without cages),

Thelonius and Tech Matters

I was asked by a colleague from the National Writing Project to donate a short movie to a promotional video he is putting together for fellows at his site around the idea of a technology institute. Brett asked if I would create something that reflected upon last summer’s Tech Matters retreat in Chico, California (where I started this blog project) and so I couldn’t resist using my clay friend, Thelonius, and a dry erase board with stop-motion (plus a wide array of hats) in my movie. That’s what you get, Brett, for asking me to contribute. 🙂

Actually, it was nice to reflect upon that experience many months later and realize that more than the tools that I was exposed to, it is the network of new friends and colleagues that remain the strongest link of the week in Chico. I am still very close to a handful of Tech Matters people (Bonnie, David, Tonya, Maria, Mary, Joe, Troy, Karen, Paul A. — among others) and that is important to me.

Here it is (wow — look, I can close my eyes!):


Peace (in video),

In the mood for drawing …

I just got back from California (San Diego) with my family (Legoland, San Diego Zoo, and SeaWorld were all highlights) and I was in the mood for something different, so I popped over to Artpad, where you can make your own drawing and let other people see the process of creation (warning: art has never been my strong suit). Apparently, you can also add to my painting, if you so desire.

Click on my picture to bring you to the artistic recess of my mind:

Peace (with paintbrushes),

All the news not fit to print

I found my way to a site called Fodey that allows you to create an instant fake newspaper front page. Very fun. So I created this little project, which comes on the heels of a day where I spent most of my time asking the class to be quiet, listen and pay attention (to little avail).

PS — I don’t really want to a silent class.

Peace (in headlines),

Inside the Inner World

Over at New York Magazine, writer Emily Nussbaum has written a lengthy look at why in the world young people would want to blog their lives out to the world. It’s an interesting examination of the rationale that some 20-year-olds are using when they write personal stories or post personal pictures. As an educator, the stories from her interview subjects also give me some perspective into where my sixth graders are going in the years ahead and how I can think about getting them to ask questions of themselves and others before they plunge into the Webbed world of information.

Nussbaum ends the article on this thought:

“Right now the big question for anyone of my generation seems to be, endlessly, “Why would anyone do that?” This is not a meaningful question for a 16-year-old. The benefits are obvious: The public life is fun. It’s creative. It’s where their friends are. It’s theater, but it’s also community: In this linked, logged world, you have a place to think out loud and be listened to, to meet strangers and go deeper with friends. And, yes, there are all sorts of crappy side effects: the passive-aggressive drama (“you know who you are!”), the shaming outbursts, the chill a person can feel in cyberspace on a particularly bad day. There are lousy side effects of most social changes (see feminism, democracy, the creation of the interstate highway system). But the real question is, as with any revolution, which side are you on?”


Why do we always have to take sides?

Peace (with understanding),

Digital Math Picture Books

I am preparing a workshop this week for the Pioneer Valley Reading Council and my topic is Digital Mathematical Picture Books, which were a great success with my students last year and are becoming a topic of a chapter for a book I am co-editing about how technology is changing the way we teach writing (although this year, the curriculum focus will be on science).

I prepared this little movie as an introduction to the workshop.


Peace (with words and numbers),

OnPoEvMo: Finding Words Inside of Image, February 2007

This morning, I was up particularly early because one of my sons was sick and somehow, this “found poem” that is inspired by Michael Wesch’s video on New Literacy began to formulate in my mind, and I became obsessed with composing and publishing it. I used Tonya W.’s translation of the video into text as my source (thanks!)

So, here goes:

Finding Words Inside of Image: An Undiscovered Country (February 2007)
(with credit to Michael Wesch for creating the video Web 2.0 … the Machine is Us/ing US and to Tonya Witherspoon for converting Michael’s video into text. With apologies to both.)

Listen to the audio version of the poem

To hunt the invisible poem inside the video
is akin to exploration.
You unlock the door — pull back the skin —
and decode its unfolding creation.
In this undiscovered country — a hidden interior —
beneath the code of image and sound —
a webworld of nodes exist
beyond sight and sense, but not experience;
Its poetry is waiting to be found.



Digital text is anywhere, everywhere, virtually structural, expanded, different;
Social form defining formatting constraints
as the content is designed and expanded and productive;
linking no longer teaching the machine,
no longer linking information,
we teach you an idea a billion times a day as a virtual sticky document;
post your note in private, but highlight the network,
paper the web.
Exchange the form.
I am linear/non-linear information.


Created in the Limelight, fluffy and white, social, tracing authorship,
organize the people, the text, the family, ourselves
media mashes U and I into RSS as a broadcast blog born every second
that can relink/respond to this automated HTML-XML-Web 2.0 world.
Highlight the collaboration; free the idea;
forge a link; teach me in digital response: love;
teach the machine when we post, tag, name, link, export, map, save, organize.


Do not define form as content in code;
define it as flexible humans designed to forge and expand together.
Rethink the world as an idea of the Wayback Machine;
Ethics/Aesthetics/Rhetorics: names teaching us of ourselves.


The beauty of being digital is not just text
but video
photo flickr data design
hypermedia anthropology created by you,
View the source as bold and italicized,
and free of complicated code that is no longer just commerce;
etext me; I etext you; We etext the we in us because the information is:
flexible structural elements
sharing as moveable savage minds that can be exported,
highlighted, organized.
Above all,
search!… create! … teach!

<title><title>Rethink the World <endtitle>


Peace (beneath the surface of text).