Slice of Life: Comics As The New Year Starts

(This is for the Slice of Life, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective and then all through March — every single day  …  You write, too.)

Today, we go back for the new school year with staff. Tomorrow, the kids return, and then we’re off to the races. It seemed like a time to try my hand at some “start of the year” comics.





Peace (in panels),

Write Out: A Collection of Journals

As we gear up for Write Out 2022, with a STEAM theme, we are also exploring how notebooks and journals can be used, and have been used, for inquiry, writing, data collection, etc. My teaching and online friend, Brian Kelley, had gathered and curated a collection of journal pages and information from many artists, scientist, writers, etc. and he gave me permission to pull them into a video collection to share with others.

Write Out takes place in October and is a partnership between the National Writing Project and the National Park Service for place-based learning. There are free resources for teachers, and live events. More information about Write Out is here, including a sign-up for a newsletter.

Peace (sharing it),

Book Review: Things To Look Forward To

Sophie Blackall’s Things To Look Forward To (52 Large And Small Joys For Today And Every Day) has echoes of Ross Gay’s wonderful The Book Of Delights – the literary DNA of both books is to notice and appreciate the wonders around us, even if it all too often feels like chaos and confusion is winning the battle of the soul and the mind.

Here, Blackall gathers together 52 small moments that gives the reader a chance to breathe, and her illustrations alongside the writing — short texts, no more than a paragraph at times and no longer than a page or so at others — provide a sense of beauty and calm to this book.

It begins with “The Sun Coming Up” and then wanders through topics like “Listening To A Song You’ve Heard Before” and ends with “Seizing The Day.” Her writing is intimate, a portrait of a writer and artist taking notice of the world. The topics are calming, a reminder of how to center oneself in a world off kilter.

It was the kind of book I needed, just days before the start of a new school, and the kind of book you might gift a friend in need — as I did, sending a copy of Things To Look Forward to one of my best friends, whose family is dealing with a few issues that has unsettled them all.

I borrowed Blackall’s book from the library, but now realize, I may need to get my own copy, along with Gay’s book, too, and begin a little section on the bookcase for books that bring calm and clarity. A zen shelf, perhaps.

Peace (in the noticing),

Poetry: Circe Waits For Nobody

Circe I
Circe I flickr photo by A . shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

This is another in a series of longer poems I am working on this summer (along with shorter daily poems), trying to stretch my writing with purposeful revision, and taking my time with the writing. The prompt via NWPStudio for this one was about a mythical creature during household chores (or some variation of that), and I thought of Circe, battling time as she waits for the return of Odysseus.

Circe Waits For Nobody

Circe shakes sand from inside the shack,
wrestling the rugs with a frustrated snap,
cackling songs with a maniacal laugh,
but he’s not coming back

The Four Winds know but refused to say
what pulls at the sky, what shifts it away,
what shimmers the ground, day after day,
while he refuses to stay

She scrubs every window in order to see
linear lines dancing at the seams,
sailing the waters of ancient dreams;
And still, he takes leave

Circe sighs, sparks a fire for light,
loosens the knots that held him tight,
whispering spells to an enveloping night;
gone to wind, like a kite

And so she is, pining for past, year after year,
Circe waits, watching, for sails to appear
but time has a way of deadening fear:
Nobody’s presence, a ghost from tears

Peace (and poems),

Ten Steps Project: Video Collage Finale

Ten Steps Video Project

For the past two months, I have been periodically using my camera to take ten photographs of the places I am walking. It started as an idea for a simple summer video project, and soon became something more interesting (to me): an exploration of terrain, from paths to sidewalks to flower gardens to beach areas.

I take ten pictures and then weave them together with a slow fade and some light music (via SoundSlides platform). For each video, every photograph lasts just 6 seconds, and then fades into the next. Each video is exactly one minute in length. This is important for what I am sharing today.

Initially, I thought I’d do ten videos (ten steps – ten videos) but a vacation visit to the beach provided me with a few more interesting opportunities, so I ended up with 12 videos.

I knew I wanted to gather all of the videos together in some creative format, beyond a video playlist, and came upon the idea of a video collage, in which the videos all start and end together. The visuals of 12 videos, running simultaneously, as each image in each video fades to the next at the exact same moment, seemed like an intriguing concept.

First, I tried it with Google Slides, making a single slide with 12 videos. But that didn’t work the way I wanted when I published the Slide. A viewer would have to manually allow the music soundtrack, and I really felt it needed the music to make the experience work.

Then, I tried a collage site I’ve used before called Kapwing. It has a lot of cool features and, although fitting the videos into a single collage page was tricky, I spent time with the formatting, only to realize that unless I wanted to pay a significant user fee, the video would be branded with a Kapwing icon. Um, no.

Finally, I landed on Canva, which I can’t believe I didn’t try at the start. It did exactly what I wanted, and with no fuss. And no fee. And no branding. My first iteration was a collage in two parts — two screens, with six videos each. I composed the music for this video collage.

It’s fine and does what I intended, but I still wanted all 12 videos on one screen, playing forward at the same time. The next video is the final result, and although it is a little crowded with videos and best seen in full screen, I think it works best if you stare at the center of the video and lose yourself in the slow fading of images. The animation of the videos at the start makes it seem like the videos are themselves on a walking path, too, which I hadn’t even considered until I was playing around in Canva. The music comes from Creative Commons via Soundslides.

I like the simplicity and the rhythms of this Ten Steps project — all you really need is a phone that can take photographs, and maybe a way to pull the images together, and a place to be walking — and gather the images together in either a collage or slides or something else.

Peace (in 120 steps),

Open AI, Algorithms and Art

Dalle-E Collection

I had forgotten I had signed up for an account with the DALL-E art site, which has gotten a fair share of notice for how it uses AI software to create art from written prompts. So when I saw an email yesterday, telling me my account was now active, I went in and played around. I used music themes for all of my prompts for the AI. The more specific the writing, the more interesting the image that the AI kicks out, I found.

I decided to create a “band” of musicians, with different settings and textual descriptions. It was an interesting experiment, and I used the “variations” tab quite a bit to see what the AI might generate in a second variation but for the most part, these come from the first round of algorithmic art by the platform.

I’ve included the text I used for the AI to generate the images.

DALL·E trumpet
DALL·E saxophone
DALL·E piano
DALL·E guitar
DALL·E drummer
DALL·E bass

You get a certain number of “credits” and then it costs some money to generate art.

Overall, I found the experience rather interesting, and yet I wondered how the AI was using my text descriptions to make itself “smarter” and was curious about what was going on underneath all of the code. There is a research paper available and the “about page” is full of positive elements of AI and the DALL-E site. It acknowledges the worries about AI, too, which I appreciated.

From the site:

Preventing Harmful Generations

We’ve limited the ability for DALL·E 2 to generate violent, hate, or adult images. By removing the most explicit content from the training data, we minimized DALL·E 2’s exposure to these concepts. We also used advanced techniques to prevent photorealistic generations of real individuals’ faces, including those of public figures.

Curbing Misuse

Our content policy does not allow users to generate violent, adult, or political content, among other categories. We won’t generate images if our filters identify text prompts and image uploads that may violate our policies. We also have automated and human monitoring systems to guard against misuse.


I am also curious about this part of the Mission Statement:

Our hope is that DALL·E 2 will empower people to express themselves creatively. DALL·E 2 also helps us understand how advanced AI systems see and understand our world, which is critical to our mission of creating AI that benefits humanity.

Let’s hope so, eh?

Peace (and Art),

DALL·E music note