We have a dog. His name is Duke. I’ve wanted to bring his spirit and personality into a comic for some time now.
Well, here we go.
In a series I am calling Dog’s Eye View, I’ll be posting comics now and then with a dog as the center of the action. The real Duke is an inspiration for the comic strip Duke, but who knows where this idea is going to go. I’m using my go-t0 comic-making app, so the art is limited. In other words, you might see common poses of the main character across strips.
Let me know if this comic strip idea, as seen from a dog, seems like a good idea …. Maybe I’ll even use some of the ideas in a books some of us are reading about the art of cartooning and move over to paper at some point!
(I guess I never posted this … it’s been in my bin for some time. New Bruce music coming out had me thinking of this viewing again. — Kevin)
I have a friend who has long been a diehard Bruce Springsteen fan, who watched the Netflix special “Bruce on Broadway” (and even tried to score tickets during Bruce’s run in New York City) who dislikes the Springsteen he sees up on that stage. My friend thinks Springsteen comes across as too pompous and unapproachable and, well, fake.
Which I find interesting, since Bruce begins the show by telling us, his audience, that he is indeed a fake, a magician who invented his hard-scrabble persona for the stage of rock and roll by emulating his father, the one who showed little love during Bruce’s childhood but whose country-wide unexpected travel to see Bruce in California before his first child was born is one of the emotional touchstones of this concert. He never worked in a factory. He never worked as a car mechanic. His sole job has been making music.
I appreciate Springsteen as a songwriter (although I find the Born in the USA album years of over-produced pop a terrible turn for him, even though I know it was made him into a star) and I was impressed with how well he commands the stage when I saw him and the E Street Band years ago. He had us at the first power chord.
I find it sadly ironic that while he uses his stage to advocate for racial tolerance and economic equity, and weaves those messages into his songwriting, his longtime core audience of blue-collar listeners is likely the same ones who voted Trump into office. You can tell he thinks about this, too.
Unlike my friend, I watched this special, knowing what it was: a performance on the stage and not just another acoustic concert. Bruce spent a year or so working on these stories, the flow and the pacing, night after night. He framed his songs as stories of his life, and as a songwriter, I am always fascinated to hear a musician peel the paint back on where songs come from. Bruce does that, although sometimes he reaches a bit too much for a grandiose approach (this is what bothers my friend).
The ghost of Clarence Clemons looms large in the show, and the section where Bruce remembers meeting the saxophonist and his huge personality, and the way the E Street Band coalesced around the two of them — characters in a story on the stage — is pretty fascinating. Bruce nearly tears up on the memories, and then launches into Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, about Clarence and the band during the New York blackout.
Bruce is a fine piano player. I guess I didn’t quite know that. He has a soft touch and I was pretty impressed with how he finds his way around the keys, as he alternates with acoustic guitars on songs.
The story of his father underlies everything, and the aforementioned tale of the day before Bruce’s child is born, when his dad arrives unannounced to tell Bruce that he wishes he had been a better father, is riveting. It’s not an act of forgiveness as much as an act of understanding. The song about his father he then plays is like a call to the past.
Bruce uses his position on the lighted stage to push back against anti-immigration policies, and for cultural awareness and understanding, before playing The Ghost of Tom Joad, and I wondered how this audience — paying top dollar on Broadway — differs from his other audience, the one that saw themselves in The River and other songs.
A revamping of Born in the USA as a swamp blues song shoutout was good, and necessary, pulling the song back from political hoorah of America to the story of how America has long left its war veterans with marginal support.
Bill, a DS106 friend, shared out that he is reading Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice — which Brunetti describes as a sort of cartooning class in a book — and so a few of us — Sarah, Ron, etc. — are also getting the book. Mine arrived via library yesterday.
I joked that Brunetti telling the reader that they should do everything in sequence, to “not skip any of the assignments, jump ahead, or fudge on the instructions” seems counter to all of the ethos of DS106, but I will give it a try. I will not likely try all of the drawing/comic exercises here, but I’ll dip in now and then.
This activity — in which you draw 100 small boxes and then sketch without thinking to fill every box with an image — came out interesting, although I miscounted the boxes (see? already cutting corners!) and did it all in three sittings, not one.
Still, it is interesting to see what my brain came up with. Some of the boxes contain images I have no idea what I was thinking about.
Peace (in the frame),
PS — on a strange tangent — when I started to type “cartooning” in my browser, a reference to a WordPress site that I helped my son make TEN YEARS AGO with paper-cut animations (he had a stable of invented characters on the theme of peas), and some live action, came up. He called the site Crazy Cartoonz. There’s not much there, other than a few movies that he made. (Somewhere, I have three large PDFs with pages of the cartoon/comics that he made as self-produced books). Ten years … wow … time flies. (He’s a media/film major in college right now).
The fourth iteration of A Whale’s Lantern — a musical collaboration on a theme with random partners, mostly from the Mastodon social networking space — has just been released this weekend, and a song I co-wrote/co-produced with my partner — Bobbo — is the track called Photobooth. The theme was “portraits.”
I wrote about the construction of the Photobooth song from idea to final track here. But now you can listen, too, to what we ended up making together:
I admit it upfront: it was the reference to stick figure drawings more than the math that got me interested in this book when I first saw the cover. But, truth be told, it was the math ideas and concepts, and Ben Orlin’s wonderful sense of humor and explanations of those ideas, that kept me reading on to the end.
What I enjoyed about the book — other than Orlin’s simple but funny drawings — was the expanded notion of math as a guiding principle and underlying force in our world, and the ways in which Orlin surfaces those ideas. Yes, we are covering probability, statistical analysis, number theory, logic, and even the weird underlying math of the Electoral College, and more, but Orlin — who knows his audience is likely neither math teachers nor math fanatics — uses clear explanations, connecting math to the real world as much as possible, and when all else fails, letting us know when we’re moving into geeky esoteric mathematical principles. At least, the reader is forewarned.
In an early chapter, Orlin introduces a strategy game called Ultimate Tic Tac Toe, which I brought into my sixth grade classroom as a challenge activity, and many of my students really enjoyed the game, which expands the game board and tweaks the rules to make an otherwise predictable game much more challenging. (You can even play a version of it online — against a computer or with a friend. Neat.)
Math with Bad Drawings is a recommended read for anyone interested in learning math beyond the textbook, even writers and teachers of young writers like me, and you’ll come out the other side of the text with an expanded knowledge of theory and practice, and a few ideas for making stick people drawings. So, you know, win win win.
The other day, I helped gather together another team of teachers together for another year of offering a free summer camp for middle school students at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site — as part of an ongoing partnership between the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, the Springfield Armory and the City of Springfield school district (focused on a social justice magnet school in Springfield).
This will be my third year as main facilitator of the camp — which we call Minds Made for Stories — and the sixth year of the camp itself, which has been funded over the years through a variety of support from the National Writing Project and the National Park Service, and other local organizations. This year, with no grants and with worries that there might be no camp, the Duggan Middle School in Springfield and the Springfield Armory itself stepped up to fund the work, and I am very grateful.
The week-long camp takes place at the end of June at the Armory itself, and each year, we change the themes of the experience for the participants. We also have new folks from the middle school involved, as a way to provide more professional development to more teachers.
This year, we are using “Seasons and Maps” as our hook, with each day focused on a season and a historical theme (such as Autumn: Pearl Harbor and Winter: Shays Rebellion), while we work different kinds of mapping activities through the week to visualize history (such as mapping out the immigrant journeys to Springfield during the heydays of the Armory as the main manufacturing center for the US government). Our goal is to publish a Zine of student work at the end of camp.
At our planning session, we did our own mapping — charting out each day’s main events along themes, taking on responsibilities, tasking each of us with some different elements, and after two hours, the camp really took shape.
Now I just need to get through the school year (3 1/2 weeks left!) and then it is right into summer camp.
The first time I heard the term — Feldgang — I scratched my head. I had no clue to what it was, and it was Terry Elliott who used it to as he captured a walk on his farm.
Since then, I have seen Terry use the term quite a bit, from the wandering and noticing and documenting of the world via #smallstories and CLMOOC (and its various offshoots, like a community annotation read of The Art of Is happening now) to the way he plunges into books and texts with artistic annotations and doodling to surface ideas that might otherwise have been lost or unnoticed. It encompasses writing, reading, annotation, art and remix.
Way back in a piece from 2013 still archived via NWP’s The Current, he wrote about the art of the Feldgang, citing Otto Scharmer’s work on leadership, Theory U. Scharmer uses “feldgang” in this analysis, stretching the original meaning of the word from “field walk” to something larger and smaller, all at the same time.
Terry’s Original via The Art of Is
Kevin’s Remix of Terry
Scharmer, in a 2003 piece called The Blind Spot, notes, too, his childhood days on his family farm and the walks he and his father took to notice nature, and changes underfoot on the farm, and he writes of extending this Feldgang approach as a social observation concept that forces a pause in the world:
Very much in the same spirit, this study is a about a field walk across the social fields of our contemporary society. And just as we did during the Feldgang, once in a while we will stop and pick up a little piece of data that we want to pay closer attention to in order to better understand the subtle textures, structures, and principles that are involved in the evolutionary dynamics of social fields.
So, go on: plunge in with the world, and record your observations. Notice the fields. Surface the ideas. Step back and see. A Feldgang is a moment where observation and reflection come together, the quiet, a pause in the noise of the day. We all need more of that, and less of the other.
I’m not sure I have read quite so powerful a graphic novel in some time as I did with Illegal, by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin and illustrator Giovanni Rigano. Aimed at upper elementary and middle school readers (and maybe high school), this heart-felt graphic novel follows Ebo, a young boy refugee on the run from Ghana, Africa, to Europe, where he hopes to find his sister and start a new life.
Such is the story of so many people these days, and Ebo’s journey is both harrowing and hopeful. Along with his older brother, Kwame, Ebo is determined to survive his trek across the Sahara Desert and then the balloon boat ride to Europe. It’s a trip of travails and tragedy, one made visual and visceral by the use of the artwork in this story. It will pull you in and tug at your heart, particularly one specific scene on the ocean just before a rescue. It will make you wonder about the headlines and stories you read about those who don’t survive the journey, and those few that do.
It will make you consider, too, the people in the so-called Migrant Caravans making their way north from Central America to the United States border, and the desperate need for a better life, away from violence and poverty, that propels such a journey. Illegal will remind you, as the authors do in their note to the reader, that “…every person is a human being.”
An additional small black-and-white graphic interpretation of an real interview with a woman who made a similar journey as the fictional Ebo is a powerful use of the graphic novel genre, bringing us into the face and story of Helen, who left Eritrea for Europe and had her own journey of desperation. This small piece helps to ground the larger story in the real world, and makes you weep for those who face such danger just to find a safer place to live, with a future, for themselves and their families.
Autobiographies of musicians intrigue me because they pull back a layer on something behind the engineered musical tracks we hear that first caught our attention. Consider Daniel Lanois’ book – Soul Mining (A Musical Life). You may either not know or only be vaguely aware of Lanois, but his impact on the musical landscape for much of the 1980s and 90s is undeniable.
Mostly, he did this as a producer/engineer of Peter Gabriel (So), U2 (Joshua Tree), Emmylou Harris (Wrecking Ball), Bob Dylan (Time Out of Mind), Chris Whitely (Living with the Law) and many others, including his own French Canadian-influenced solo albums (Acadie).
His connection to Brian Eno and the aesthetic of “space” in music is something still very apparent today. I was just listening to the incredible new album by The National and found myself as listener in the gaps of words and sound, and knew that this an enduring influence on the part of what Lanois (he is not involved in The National, as far as I know) and others brought to the table with their sound explorations.
This autobiography brings forth insights into how Lanois began to hear and experiment with sound — he had a lot of freedom as a kid, which he attributes to forced imagination and making creative outlets for amusement, and his mother essentially let him and his older brother turn part of the house into a recording studio when he was at a young age (one of his first recordings he did was for Rick James, which is strange to think about). He also is very organized and detailed, making intricate notes on everything in the studio as a producer, and some of his journal pages shared here in the book are rich with thinking and complexity.
“Keeping track of arrangements and ideas on paper has always been part of my work process. Remembering is just another word for choosing. The world turns the same way for everybody but different people choose to see different things.” — from Soul Mining (A Musical Life), by Daniel Lanois, page 13
I was struck by his curiosity. He’d pack up and move someplace in a minute if the instinct struck him. One time, he moved to a remote location in Mexico. Another time, he bought an abandoned theater in California, and created a space for artists to record and perform. Most of all, as a producer and engineer, Lanois always seemed deeply in tune with the artists he is trying to capture — combining his vision for music production with the depth of the musicians and songwriters he works with.
Give Lanois a listen, and pay attention to the space in his songs and the way pieces are layered together to create a rich cushion for voice and words. His artistry behind the board is undeniable. Soul Mining brings that vision to the forefront.
Peace (in sound and design),
PS — I was sent this book rather unexpectedly by my musical friend, John, and I will be passing it along to another musical friend.