Quickfiction: Sounds

I wrote this quickfiction piece after realizing that I might never buy another CD again.

Listen to the story
Remember when it was vinyl and the bookcases were so weighted down that they bent to the left? You worried so much about what would happen to the cats if it fell and crushed them. Music had that kind of weight back then. You could sit on the ground, legs crossed, for hours as you listened, explored and read through each word of the liner notes. The revolution changed that as you carted your albums off to the landfill or tag sales or to friends who still had room and interest, and bid farewell in dramatic silence. Then, the sounds were captured on little shiny discs. The new bookcase, however, was the same as the old — bent and crooked with sounds. It might have been some woodworking error, yet here you were again, with the weight of music on your mind. You had long given up even reading liner notes during the revolution, losing touch with the stories behind the songs. The names too small to even read now. When the bookcase fell to gravity, you moved all of that plastic to boxes in the basement and shoved the round discs into an over-sized folder, optimistically hoping some random nature might take over. It never did and all you had now was disappointment. Music, yes, but also disappointment. Now it’s all on this box in the palm of your hand. You’ve realized something. You may have bought your last disc. Ever. You hold the last plastic box in your hand. Green Day. 21st Century Breakdown. Yes. That seems about right as you open the top to the recycling bin and toss the box in. Forever.

Peace (in music),

Quickfiction: Ghostly Playmates

I was working on a few new Quickfiction pieces this week. Here is one, inspired by a post over PostSecrets blog where a woman said that when she hears her children playing with imaginary friends, she thinks it is the fetus she aborted long ago.

Listen to the story
This cigarette tastes ugly. I draw another breath and struggle against the tide of air again. In the distance, I can hear him, playing. His five year old head is off in his imagination. This house looks strange, as if someone else is living here other than me, and him, and all of those ghosts from his imagination. I am sure they are here to haunt me, not him, but got caught up in the excitement as kids do. Even ghost children can’t resist the possibility of play. Another drag. Another shot of ugly. Is this how I punish myself these days? It used to be cutting. Then drinking. Tattoos up and down my arms. Now tar in my lungs. There they go again — playing pirates now, avenging stolen treasures. I can only hear my son’ voice and then empty silence where their voices lay scattered to the wind. Boys? Girls? One of each? How could I not even know what they were before they were gone? And why are they haunting me, us, now that we found some semblance of happiness? He’ll never know the truth about these imaginary playmates. But I know. I know. I draw another breath and choke on the sadness of siblings who only linger in the air. I crush the end on the ground beneath my shoe and begin to forget all over again.

Peace (in the story),


Why No Tech (at all)?

My school district is launching into a two year Literacy Initiative and part of that push is to send a bunch of us to a conference called Literacy for All in November (right before I head to Philly for various National Writing Project and National Conference for Teachers of English conferences).

The Literacy for All Conference in Providence, Rhode Island, has a lot of interesting sessions and many seem very useful to me as a teacher of writing and reading. I can’t wait to gain some new insights and some new approaches, and be part of the conversations. Now, I know this Literacy for All is not a technology conference, but you would think that in this day and age, there would be some technology integration into some of the topics and workshops being planned.



As far as I can tell from the descriptions of the sessions, there is a complete absence of the digital world reflected in the workshops being presented at Literacy for All. Isn’t digital composition the platform for real writing that kids are doing outside of school and shouldn’t that be reflected in some of the ways we approach teaching? I think so.

I’ll contrast that to the NWP and NCTE meetings that follow Literacy for All, where much of the focus will be on ways that technology and digital tools are impacting the writing process and how teachers are using these concepts to engage their students in new and interesting ways.

I am looking forward to Literacy for All, but it just made me wonder …

Peace (in the Digital Age),

Using my iTouch as an eReader

This week, I posted a review of the new Comic Application ComiXology for the iPhone/iTouch over at The Graphic Classroom. (See the review yourself — mostly positive).

Last week, I was quite interested in an article in The New Yorker about the Kindle eReader. The Kindle has been on my radar screen but I could never get up the nerve to spend that much money on a device that works only with Amazon and for Amazon eBooks. It didn’t make sense to me. The article by Nicholas Baker (read it yourself, if you want) is an interesting take on reading with an eReader and it calls into question a lot about the design of the Kindle and what is lacking. (What he doesn’t mention is that Apple is about to get into the eReader business, so Amazon better watch out).

Baker notes that you can get a pretty good reading experience from an application right on your iPhone or iTouch, so I of course had to give it a try with Stanza. This application is pretty good, I have to say, and I spent a long morning waiting for some car work to get done reading a free collection of short stories called Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link (a local author, it turns out).

I was immediately lost in the book, and not in the device or application, and that says a lot, doesn’t it? We want our technology to be seamless and invisible.

Stanza has access to a variety of book depositories — some have free books for download, some provide books that are for purchase — and the application turns the page when you touch the side of the screen. The resolution is pretty decent and you can even change the background and text colors, and fonts, so there is plenty you can do to make it fit yourown ┬áneeds. The screen, of course, is small, but I didn’t feel as if that hindered my reading of a story about a 24-hour convenience store on the edge of chasm visited by Zombies (you read that right!).

I also downloaded a bunch of books for my upcoming week in Maine, including some children’s books, although whether the battery in my iTouch will hold out for long periods of reading, I don’t know. But, no matter, my primary reading material will still be paper books. The technology is making progress, but it still doesn’t beat the feeling of hanging out in a chair, book draped open to a page, lost in literary thought.

Not yet, anyway.

Peace (in the book),

Rockin’ in the Hood

I live in a pretty cool neighborhood. We have all sorts of parties and gatherings and plenty of families. Last night, one of the neighborhood teenagers and his friends put on a rock concert on their front lawn. This four piece band of high schoolers (called Menivest Destiny) played to a packed lawn of friends and neighbors on a beautiful summer night with a full moon shining down.

Unlike my old days of playing in a high school rock band (China Grove, Rolling Stones, etc), these guys were incredibly hip. Amazingly so. Here are a few bands they covered:

  • Fountains of Wayne
  • Cake
  • Semisonic
  • Cold Play
  • Cold War Kids
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • and some others that I sort of recognized but not really.

I had a neighbor come up and whisper, “Do you know any of these songs? Because I don’t. I feel old.”

Yep — rock and roll.

Here is a clip from Youtube of Meninvest Destiny from some school event and they are playing an original song they wrote:

Peace (on the lawn),

A Tree Grows

As part of a new network adventure called iAnthology (for National Writing Project teachers in the New England/New York area), we are hoping that teachers will share their writing. Of all forms. Including digital compositions.
This morning, I tried my hand at using some photos of a tree at our school as a metaphor for watching my students grow and change over the course of the year.
Does the metaphor work?

Peace (in the leaves of time),

Sharings Songs: Achilles’ Heel

This is the third and final song that my friend and I recorded the other night (see Katrina Blows in and Beacon in the Night) as a sort of demo. This one is called Achilles’ Heel and I wrote it after reading a bit about the Trojan War and wondering how this concept of story took hold — how one beautiful woman could set the world aflame.

Peace (in beauty),