On The First of June (a poem and a comic)

World Coming Undone

An Autumn chill
arrives on
the first of
June

Harbinger
of the beautiful
or more news
to subsume?

The world beyond,
sleeps, now
accustomed to spin,
perilously
out of tune

The danger
becomes us;
wrapped in a shell
of words we consume

Peace (upon us),
Kevin

Music of the Pandemic: Long Walks Off the Beat

This short instrumental track is a new one to my collection of songs I have been writing and recording for this time of the quarantine, in a collection entitled Notes from a Quiet Corner. I still have a few tracks I am working on before I pull them all together. This beat track is inspired by the long walks we are now able to do, as we are home and can take frequent breaks from work to stretch the legs and get some air.

Peace (sounds like),
Kevin

Book Review: I Will Judge You By Your Bookshelf

I wish I could gently rip out every page of Grant Snider‘s new collection — I Will Judge You By Your Bookshelf — and pin them up all around the house and the classroom, and celebrate the love of reading in Snyder’s colors, and wit, and gentleness. But, you know, then I would be both destroying the book (ack!) and maybe other people wouldn’t appreciate the sudden decor (but the people I love would appreciate the theme).

Snider, whose work as a cartoonist with a literary bent is someone I have been following for years with appreciation, dives deep into his love of books with every cartoon in this collection — some have been published elsewhere (his work is often in the New York Times, New Yorker, etc.) and at his blog site, but many of them here are ones I had never seen before. Like his other book collection – The Shape of Ideas — I can see myself coming back time and again for a little artistic rejuvenation and appreciation for the way he explores writing and reading at beautiful angles.

If you love books, you’ll love I Will Judge You By Your Bookshelf.

Peace (in pages),
Kevin

Adventures in AudioStory Creation: Risking It All For the King

Risking It All For the King

As my students were writing their own “Stuck Inside a Game” short stories over a few weeks time in our distance learning adventures, I was recording an audiobook of my own story: Risking It All For The King. I’d been sharing each episode as I recorded them but then gathered all SEVEN episodes in one place, in order from start to finish. It was fun to layer sound effects in with voice for an extended story. This was fairly new to me.

Peace (in story),
Kevin

For Virtual Field Day: Making Stopmotion Movies

Our elementary school is taking a break from academics this week (we have three weeks to go until the end of the year) and doing all sorts of Wellness/Health/Arts activities. I think families, kids and teachers all needed a little mental health reprieve, a quick breather before the rush of the end of this strange school year is upon us.

Since we can’t have our usual Field Day of group activities throughout our school grounds, the specialist teachers designed a Virtual Field Day project, and invited classroom teachers to submit videos as inspiration to be active and creative for families. I decided to invite kids to make stop-motion movies, and made the video above as my way to introduce and invite movie making to happen.

Peace (frame by frame by frame),
Kevin

Slice of Life: A Three Memorial Day (No One Else Was There)

Field of Honor: Florence, Northampton

We’ve been keeping an active eye during the pandemic social distancing on our elderly neighbor, whose husband (a veteran of the Korean War and a long-time military man) died a year or so ago. We bring her newspaper to her door each morning and mail, too, on rainy days. We check in with her regularly, seeing if she needs anything from the store and reminding her that we’re right here, if she needs us.

The other day, she told us how her husband’s military service was now being represented in the Field of Honor at the Elks Lodge field, where this is the second year in a row the club in the next village over has hosted an entire field of American flags to honor veterans on Memorial Day. We told her we would go there and find his flag, and we did, reading his short biography on a tag on the flag post. We also wandered around with the kids for a bit through the flags, reading about other local veterans and remembering.

No one else was there.

Leeds Memorial Day

Earlier, I had ventured to our village memorial to veterans, which is often the scene of a community gathering to honor fallen soldiers with roots in our village.  I walked by, stopped for a bit in the shade of the trees, and heard the ghost sounds of the trumpet playing Taps in my imagination.

No one else was there.

Finally, our neighbor had wondered if the larger stone memorials in our city downtown now had her husband’s name carved into the stone for the Korean War. She hadn’t been out to check. We decided to investigate yesterday, and while his name is not there (My wife: Who do we call to make it happen?), we again spent some time reading through the names of soldiers of war, now gone.

No one else was there.

It’s strange to find commemoration in the city so quiet, but I’m not surprised, of course. Coming home from the trip to Memorial Hall, I noticed a hand-painted sign that said: Memorial Day Parade This Way, with an arrow pointing down the street. My wife said the city’s mayor (a National Guard veteran, like me) and a few elderly veterans did a car parade through this village of our city, in order to keep intact its record as the oldest consecutive running Memorial Day parade in the entire country. I wish I had known. I would I have watched and clapped, and honored the memories of those soldiers.

I hope others were there.

Peace (remembering it),
Kevin

Panels of the Pandemic: Remember the Vets

Remember the Vets

We have an Old Soldiers’ Home about 15 minutes down the highway that has been decimated by the virus, with more than 80 veterans now killed by Covid19. All sorts of local, state and federal inquiries are happening over the reasons why this happened, but it clearly points to poor leadership at the facility, lack of sufficient oversight by the VA, and, in the larger picture of the country, the slow fumbling of this crisis at the very top that, research shows, probably led to tens of thousands more dying than needed to.

So, today, on Memorial Day, we remember our veterans and we continue to look for leadership from the federal government, even if it looks like no one is really in charge anymore (other than the one looking out for his own political interest).

Peace (and remembering),
Kevin

NYT: Rabbit Hole Podcast (What Is the Internet Doing To Us?)

One of the benefits of being at home is that I am diving into more podcasts as I do my multiple daily walks with dogs or just to get away from the screen. An intriguing series that I have been following regularly is called Rabbit Hole, produced by the New York Times, and it explores the impact of YouTube and its recommendation algorithms in its early episodes, and then begins to open wider.

It’s central inquiry question: What is the Internet doing to us?

These audio inquiries are at first, fascinating. and then frightening, as I could only think about all the young people home now, spending hours and hours — more hours than ever — watching YouTube and following who knows what algorithmic paths into who knows what strange corners of YouTube. The podcast reporters follow one person’s YouTube history (they downloaded the entire thing, with his permission, and then traced how he spent hours every day over a few years, watching YouTube) as the young man became increasingly radicalized by YouTube – first to the fringe right, and then to the fringe left.

The last few episodes have pivoted a bit, and focused on the impact of PewDiePie as a cultural force — the podcast calls him The Accidental Emperor. He started with quirky videos about video games on a whim, grew to millions of viewers, and then became a lightning rod for his political humor (including more than a few bits that uses Nazi symbolism for jokes). Learning more about him and what he has been doing with his millions and millions of viewers at YouTube is worth your time, as the cultural undercurrents of his sophomoric humor and focus by progressives often happens outside of the mainstream, but have resonance in the entire digital world.

And if you don’t know who PewDiePie is, your surely kids do. Trust me.

Listen to the Rabbit Hole podcast series.

Peace