Writers do the Happy Dance

Someone shared this video over at one of my social networking sites and I just had to crack up. It is such a great spoof of how a book gets published, with everyone doing the happy dance as the book moves along the process.

Peace (in publishing),

Photo Fridays: Some Japan Photos

I love the community of Photo Fridays, the Flickr community created by Bonnie where we share pictures and connect. This week, I added a few from Japan, including this one:

As I wrote:

The shrine was defended by a series of Samurai statues, most with swords and weapons in their hands. This one, however, caught my eye. Instead of a sword, he had a pen and paper (perhaps an early editorial writer?) and I dubbed him my “writer warrio.” He looks like he has some digression to write about, doesn’t he?

Come join us with Photo Fridays, if you get the time.

Peace (in pictures),

On the prowl for Days in a Sentence

Thanks to Bonnie and Anne for guest hosting Days in a Sentence for a couple of weeks while I was off to Japan with my family. I appreciate the fact that there are plenty of folks who are willing to host the feature from time to time, and if you are interested in hosting Day in a Sentence at your blog, let me know. It’s a fun and relatively easy way to bring the network to your doorstep.

This week’s Day in a Sentence is the traditional format: reflect, and boil down your week or a day in your week, and use the comment link down below to share out. I will collect and then publish them all over the weekend. Easy, right? Come on in and join us.

Here is my sentence:

Although I am required to teach it, I can’t quite figure out how a student learning about parts of speech and breaking down the role of an individual word in a sentence becomes a better writer.

Peace (in sharing),

PS — Remember the theme song? Here is again, just to keep you dancin’

Newspapers: R.I.P.?

I am a newspaper man at heart, spending 10 years as a reporter for the largest newspaper here in Western Massachusetts. I immersed myself fully in that world of journalism for so long that even now, as a teacher, it is hard to shake off. When I visit a city, my eyes always scan for local newspapers — checking out layout design, headlines, and quality. I remember the days when newspapers were pulling in profits of 10 to 20 percent and riding a wave of cash.

Those days are long gone and I have mixed feelings.

I often feel as if large newspapers abused their roles in the communities — pushing through the personal agendas of publishers (as happened regularly with our newspaper, it seemed) — and ignoring all of the tell-tale signs that the digital revolution could spell the end of their role as arbiter of the news. It’s obvious that almost every publishing company ignored those signs, as every day brings more news of a newspaper on the brink of collapse or is gone forever. Just this morning, I read and heard about the plight of the paper in San Fransciso, and yesterday, it was about the fall of a newspaper down in Bridgeport, Connecticut. And our own regional newspaper, the one where I worked, is but a skeleton of itself — decimated by staffing cuts. Even today, I buy the more local newspaper and avoid the one where I worked. I just can’t stomach it.

But I don’t want to see newspapers fail.

So I read with interest the recent cover story by Walter Isaacson in Time Magazine, where he advocates a new model for web-based newspaper content. First, he notes that the push to offer free content on the web by newspapers was wrong and short-sighted, and established in the minds of readers that all news should always be free. If there is no pay, then newspapers can’t hire investigative reporters and other quality journalists. There is room for blogging journalists in the world, but we also need full-time dogged reporters and we can’t expect them to work for no pay.

Second, Isaacson said newspapers should move towards the micro-payment model for their web-based content — charging a few cents per page for readers, which then gives people the choice to pick and choose what they want to read. And those cents, if the news is good enough, will add up, he argues. This seems to make sense to me, but I wonder if such a model will ever be adapted and, if so, will it be adapted fast enough to save newspapers.

Communities are built around connections, and local newspapers have an important role in their communities. They connect us on many different levels. I would hate to see them all disappear. Even as someone who believes in the digital world, there is still a place in my heart for the walk down to the mailbox in the morning, the scratchy feel of the paper, and the chance go find something unexpected inside the fold that starts my day, thinking.

Read Isaacson’s essay here.

Peace (in the paper),

A Slice of Life: the jet lag blues

(Note: This is part of a regular Slice of Life feature over at Two Writing Teachers)

Jet lag sucks. There’s no other way to say it, other than to use some profanities that I prefer to keep off this site. We arrived home from Japan on Saturday night — in a strange twist of time zones that allowed us to arrive in the US earlier than we left Tokyo — and Sunday seemed fine, even though our bodies were 14 hours behind the time on the clock.

Sunday night … not so good. I slept for about two hours, exhausted, and then … boom … my mind was on full alert and I had to get up. I tried to get back to sleep a few times, to no avail. Then the kids started getting up, too, and the house normally quiet at 2 a.m. was suddenly fully awake. We got the kids back to bed but not me, as my mind continued to dance the cha-cha-cha. Around 5 a.m.  or so, I finally drifted off for about an hour or so, and then up and at ’em again, to get ready for school.

It was a long day in the classroom, although the kids were wonderful and curious about my trip, and we got ourselves back into our unit on Parts of Speech — not exactly the most exciting element of my writing curriculum. I stifled yawns as best as I could and kept my head in the game. Then, after school, I had to drive to a meeting of my WMWP Tech Team, which lasted for about two hours. I didn’t feel too tired, probably because we have so many exciting things going on.

I got home, ate some dinner, and then conked out for the night. I was worried that the jet lag would keep me up again, but that didn’t happen. I slept a good deep sleep, and feel pretty good this morning. Yeah. That darn ol’ jet lag better keep away from me!

Peace (in days),

Japanese Advertisements — and a challenge for you

In our journeys through Japan, I kept getting a laugh out of the street advertisements — it may have been my own cultural ignorance, but I found them highly amusing.

Here are a few:

One ad in particular, which was in the Chinatown section of Yokohama, puzzled all of us. So, I challenge you to make a guess as to what it is all about. Use the Google Form to submit a guess and I will share your answers at a later date.

Here is the ad:
Japan ads (24)
Now, make your guess:

Peace (in cultural divides),

A few stray Haiku Postcards from Japan

We arrived home last night after a grueling airplane ride — nothing too dramatic, just too long, and the time changes wreak havoc with your mind … how do we land in Atlanta, Georgia, earlier in the same day that we left from Tokyo? That had my sons’ minds spinning a bit. But, we survived.

I hope to go through photos later today (as you can imagine, we have tons) and share a few out, and get a collection to show my students when I am back in the classroom tomorrow. (Yikes) One interesting side project involved a series of photos of advertisements we saw in Japan that had us scratching our heads. I hope to have my students look at them, write about what the ads are about, and then talk about advertisement techniques that travel across cultures.

Yesterday morning, we got a tour of the USS George Washington, which is an aircraft carrier where my brother-in-law is an operations officer in charge of coordinating the fleet of which the GW is the flag ship. It is an incredibly large ship that is home to thousands of sailors and pilots when it is at sea (it is in dock now, getting repairs and updates).

So, my first haiku:

A floating city
thousands of sailors living
in this labrynth

As we stood aboard the flight deck, out in the distance, we could see Mount Fuji appear in the skyline — a sight that is hard to describe. It is a stunning vision.

Almost a mirage;
Mount Fuji sits on the edge
of the horizon

During out travels, we saw beautifully crafted porcelain pottery. Bowls, cups, etc. Much of the designs have stories behind them, moving tales into artwork.

Intricate, etched blue
set against the white background
tales told: pottery

And finally, green tea is everywhere and it has a very distinct taste. One day, the kids ordered up some green tea ice cream. It was delightful, although with a strange aftertaste.

Hot liquid green tea
cooled and transformed into ice
sweet and yet, bitter

Peace (and thanks for reading my haiku postcards),

Haiku Postcards from Japan: the trains and the adventure

I did not get to post yesterday, as it was a day for great adventures: a bus ride from Tokyo to Mount Fuji, a bus ride up to a point about 7,000 feet up the incredible dormant volcano, a boat trip across a crater lake in Hakone, a gondola ride up another massive mountain that provided spectacular views of the world and Pacific Ocean, and then … the coup for my youngest son … a ride back to Tokyo on the super-fast bullet train. Wow.

One observation: the commuter trains here are brutal at rush hour — the trains are packed full and yet, no one speaks, no one communicates. It’s a small space with no sound. Unless you are Americans with five young kids and then all you hear are our voices. Also, the train waits for no one. There is a strict timetable – to the minute — and the doors close whether or not you are all the way in. There are even train employees called “pushers” that jam you into the train to make sure the doors close on time. If you have little kids, this is a bit stressful, as you might imagine.


Doors close, in or out;
This train stops for no one;
Unrelenting pace

Mount Fuji is as impressive as you might imagine — rising as a white landmark from miles and miles away. We got lucky – it was clear skies and blue and we could see all the way to the top. It was breathtaking in its beauty.

Magnificant cone;
white-capped, majestic beauty;
its power:dormant

And finally, after a gondola ride up another mountain, we were greeted by an ornate temple, standing like a sentry thousands of feet up in the air.

Red temple standing
near five volcanic craters
peaceful and serene

Peace (in poetry),


Frozen Saxophonists: a Japanese city haiku

We spent a good amoung of time outide the naval base yesterday (after getting rattled awake by a small earthquake in the morning) in order to get a sense of a Japanese shopping district. It was bustling with activity and a food court, in particular, was interesting to experience — all the different kinds of foods, exotic and strange to our Western tongues.

On the city streets, though, what intrigued me were a series of statues … of saxophonists. I play the saxophone, so I kept being pleasantly surprised to find these solitary musicians embedded into the chaos of the city streets. I guess it must be some appreciation for jazz music, although there were no explanations — just statues here and there.

Thus, today’s haiku from Japan:

Music as language;
Frozen saxophonists play
cool Japanese jazz

Peace (with city music),