Turning Collaborative Poem Into Song (but it ain’t no Shanty)


The other day, I wrote about a collaborative poem that folks in #ds106, and #clmooc, and beyond had contributed to. With 106 lines in its construction, the poem has now become a place of possible remix. I had joked at one point at trying to write a Sea Shanty with some of the words (ie, TikTok trend) and yesterday morning, after watching a bunch of YouTube videos of the recent Shanty trend, I was pretty confident that I could remix something. Too confident. I tried to work out a song on my guitar and realized my Sea Shanty was becoming more folk-punk with a hint of Dylan.

Ah well. I abandoned that ship and sailed forward into this:

Here are my process notes for the writing and recording:

I dove into the 106 lines of poem and began to find and make couplets to the rhythm I had started on my guitar. Sometimes, I could use the phrasing outright. Other times, I had to do a little twisting and editing to make the words fit. If a line didn’t seem right, I moved on to the next.

I quickly realized again just how much interesting phrasing was going on in the collaboration, as people jumped into the original poem to add lines. I felt bad that I could not use something from every line but that was not going to happen or else it would be a 30 minute song. In the end, I had eight full stanzas of four lines of mostly rhymed couplets.

I realized a chorus and maybe a little musical bridge was needed to break up the song and to give it a hook. I tried a bunch of possibilities and ended up on a Believe/See theme (after abandoning a Breathe/See theme). The couplet lines in the chorus are mine, as they capture what the poem is all about, about remembering and connecting. The short musical interlude is a way to put space between the verse and the chorus.

You can read all the lyrics here.

For the music, I had first thought just to do a raw recording and be done with it. Guitar and voice. But then I had this bass line in my mind and I realized a simple drum pattern would propel it along, so I jumped into Garageband to lay down some tracks. From there, I moved the files to my computer, and recorded the guitar part.

The vocals, always my weakest point, came last and I nearly passed out, trying to fit all the words into the phrasing. At some points, you can hear me, gasping for breath on the phrasing. (or I hear me, anyway).  I gave it a real Dylan reading/singing feel. You may notice that the first section has two verses, and then the next two sections, three verses, before landing on the last section, with one verse. It makes the center of the song feel longer than I’d like but when I had it another way, it all felt too long. Combining verses condensed the song.

I tweaked some of the audio settings here and there, and added an underlying vocal track to the chorus to give it more life and played an organ keyboard down low in the mix, but mostly, the song was recorded straightforward. I think it’s OK.

Peace (listening in),

Poetic Crowd Collaboration

Throwing Poems into the WorldI am always a huge fan of crowd poetry, where technology tools, even simple ones, allow for collaboration of acquaintances and strangers, so I was all in when my CLMOOC/DS106 friends Wendy and Sarah started up a poem for the DS106 9-year celebration of daily creative prompts (The Daily Create). It’s been encouraging and inspiring to see how many people have jumped in to add a line (the goal is 106 lines of poem).

When I have either facilitated or joined these projects in the past, there have always been elements of surprise, or hidden threads that suddenly connect the shared writing together. That we are just writing, and writing poetry, is a huge win in an age of distractions, I would say. I’ll be curious to see where the poem goes.

There’s still room for you, too. Come write a line of the poem.

Peace (and poems),

PS — I had this funny idea of intersecting the trend of Sea Shanties on Tik Tok with the DS106 collaborative poem. I didn’t write the song (yet?). I made a comic, instead.

Shanty Time


The Practice of Cartooning


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).

See: https://crazycartoonz.wordpress.com/ 



A Comic Reaction to the Data Visualization

DS106 Non-Analysis Comic

Greg kindly shared out a data visualization of some #DS106 connections.

Although I didn’t quite know what it all meant — even though the focus of the E-Lit 3.0 course that I am watching from afar is all about data tools and data analysis, so much of it is beyond me right now — Greg’s visualization looked pretty cool.

After looking at it for some time, I thought, this is a game board. Then I thought, this needs to be a comic.

So I made a comic, for Greg. The game might yet come …

Peace (in the frame),

A DS106 Thing: GifMeme Creative Workflow


I haven’t often written about my daily creative wanderings for the #DS106 Daily Creates (or at least, not in some time) but this morning’s call to make a meme out of a music video got me thinking, I should at least explain my process.

First, check out the Daily Create prompt.

This had me sipping my coffee, thinking of music videos. The thing is, I don’t watch as many music videos as I used to, you know? I thought about Peter Gabriel (Sledgehammer, anyone?), but then wondered if that would be too obvious for strangeness. Then, I remembered The Cars video for You Might Think, and although the peeping tom element is a bit unsettling, I remembered a clock face.

In my Chrome browser, I have an add-on called Gif It, which is integrated into YouTube, and this makes grabbing gifs from videos a breeze. It’s so simple to do. Just feed in the time of sequence and you get a gif in seconds.

But the prompt was for a meme, not just a gif.

I took that gif from the video and moved it into Giphy (along with a link attribution back to the original video), where I could then play around with its gif meme maker (where you can add text and stickers and drawings). Giphy allows you to download and also to embed in sites (like here).

Then, I shared that music video gif meme out to the DS106 hashtag on Twitter, and wrote the post you are now reading.

I also tried the process out with Genesis’ I Can’t Dance.


Not to be stuck in the DinoRock Era, I also dug into some Courtney Barnett songs from her recent album, and found this neat image of her rocking out while standing on a planet for her song Need a Little Time.


Peace (in the flow),


#NetNarr: Hacking/Remixing the Game of Chess

Merry Hacksters Title DS06

A few years ago, for DS106, I was part of a group that did a collaborative radio project that centered on the art of remixing. My segment centered around an activity I do with my sixth grade students, remixing and hacking the game of chess to create something new altogether. It is part of our Game Design Unit.

Here is the radio segment I did:

Peace (hacked for greater good),

PS — here is the entire Merry Hacksters Radio Show

Making Stuff for the 30 Day Daily Create Challenge

The DS106 Daily Create hit 2,000 prompts yesterday, and I had Sideshow Bob flip out in a gif. I’ve been doing the Daily Create for some time now. It’s part of my early morning routine — read the news, check email, scan the hashtags, write a blog post and do the Daily Create. It’s always a fun experience, if sometimes a bit challenging.

For June, the challenge was to do the Daily Create every day, and a bunch of us took part. Someone documented each of the 30 Makes. I figured that might be a good thing to do, too, if only to curate my experience, and remember what I was doing each morning (just as the coffee kicks in).

Then the coffee kicked in and I thought: How about just my top ten favorites from June? That seems more doable.

That’s nine, and ten is Sideshow Bob’s flipping out (technically, that one was done on July 1 but Daily Creating is all about not following the rules).

Peace (make it happen every day),


#NetNarr: Writing with Sound(s)

Netnarr doodling

NetNarr Doodling for Doodleaday

This week, at Networked Narratives, the focus is on using sound for writing and writing for sound. There are a few suggested activities (including gathering sounds from your surroundings), but I figured I would dig back into some past posts where I did focus on sound, both as a writer and as a teacher encouraging my students to write with sound.

Here are some annotated links:

  • Sound Stories — for the past two years, during Digital Writing Month, I have been teaching my students how to use Garageband to create Sound Stories. Their task is to weave in sound effects into a short story, and then work on the recording and engineering and publishing of those stories. The results are always intriguing.
    Sound Stories under construction
  • The Rhizomatic Play — In DS106, a focus is often the creation and production of Radio Plays. We took that idea during a Rhizo online collaboration and created a very complex production, featuring participants (as writers and as voices) from all over the world.
  • No Words/Only Sounds: I also tinkered with a sound story, but tried to use no words at all, and let the sound effects tell the tale. It was an intriguing compositional process, let me tell you. But worth it.
  • Musical Conversations: In CLMOOC, a friend and I worked on converting language to music, and then creating a collaborative musical composition of our “conversation.” Another interesting use of sound.
  • Image Conversion into Sound: There is this program called AudioPaint (for PC only) that will take an image and convert the bitmap into audio. It’s strange and odd, and makes you think about the relationship of digital work across media. Here, I wrote a poem, which I made into an image, and then re-crafted it into sound.

What will you make with sound?

Peace (sounds like),

Television Review: Abstract (The Art of Design)

I only watched the first episode of this new series on Netflix, called Abstract, which is focused on design across the fields of art. I was curious to see how it might connect to some of the elements we have been talking about in Networked Narratives.

And I was intrigued by the first episode, which is about artist Christoph Niemann, whose name I didn’t recognize but whose art I certainly did, as he often does the covers for New Yorker magazine, and his views of the world — where technology and art intersect with humanity — often catch my eye. And I remembered the cover that is the focus of this documentary, too — the one which began an Augmented Reality cover, in which the viewer is immersed in the artistic New York of Niemann’s imagination.

What’s interesting here is the approach the filmmakers use to showcase Niemann’s fertile artistic mind, bringing us into the cartoony world and using “meta discussions” to show how hard it is to understand what makes an artist tick, and in fact, by trying to show the process, you ruin the artistic inspiration. Time and again, Neimann resists the filmmaker’s urge for “reality” and instead, Niemann calls for more “abstractness” and the collision of these two is often funny, entertaining, insightful.

I was most interested in the moments where Niemann talks about the creative process and his realization that working hard — doodling, sketching, trying new ideas — is the way to pave the way for inspiration to hit, but if you just sit and wait around for the “big idea” you will likely be disappointed.

I am reminded of some of what Howard Rheingold told NetNarr during his “studio visit” about how artists pave the way for possibilities, even if you are not certain yet what those possibilities are. You follow your interests, and make art because you have to make art, not because it is required. Even though Niemann works as a design artist for a living, he still tinkers with the unexpected, such as this interesting Instagram series called Abstract Sundays, where he meshes found objects with drawing and painting … just for the fun of it.

In other words, an artist has to keep working, even when the art is not. You have to have faith in the creative sparks, and Niemann’s keen observations of the world are what fuels his work, but he notes that he has to withdraw from the world in order to create his abstract versions of the world. He also talks about the “editor mind” and the “artist mind” that often comes into conflict with each other as he works independently.

The Abstract documentary is a fascinating look at the mind of an artist, and while we see him talking about and struggling with the design of the Augmented Reality cover of a paper magazine — indeed, he often wonders whether the two ideas will ever be in sync with each other — I wanted to see more of the technical aspects of how they built the cover to actually work for the reader/viewer. There’s less of that, and more of Niemann as artist, with brush and pen. Which is great, too.

I have not yet seen other episodes in the Abstract series, but I aim to.

Peace (make art),