Connecting Dave with Dave: A Top Ten List

This is mostly likely a pop cultural reference that only those in North America really get (sorry, everyone else) but with the retirement of late night television show host David Letterman, there has been a lot of news about his Top Ten lists.

When a newsletter from another Dave (Cormier) entered my email box, asking us to think and maybe contribute to the development of a practical guide for engaging in Rhizomatic Learning, my sarcasm box got powered up.

And so, with apologies to both Daves (one for ripping off the sarcastic Top Ten idea and the other for aiming the sarcasm at Rhizo15, which I love), I give you my Top Ten Reasons You Should NOT Join Rhizo15:

Top ten


By the way, I used the Hanx writing app, which gives you that old-fashioned typewriter feel to writing. I like the look of it for a top ten list.

Peace (engage your sarcasm filter),

Book Review: Fakes


For those who know me, this is my kind of book. Fakes: An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, “Found” Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifacts, a collection edited by David Shields and Matthew Vollmer, is all about taking a genre and twisting it all around in an attempt to make something new and interesting. I first saw this book on a store shelf in the Library of Congress, of all places, and then ordered it when I got home.

The fiction in this book — which begins with a disclaimer to the reader and ends with a  contributors’ note and index, all finely fraudulent  — runs the range of all sorts of official-looking documents — from Last Will and Testaments, to Works Cited, to complaint letters, to personal advertisements — that open up to the door for the writers to explore genre, break genre and be creative. In doing so, they open up the reader’s eyes to possibilities.

The most powerful piece in here, for me, is Kevin Wilson’s “The Dead Sister Handbook: A Guide for Sensitive Boys (Laconic Method to Near Misses)” — which broke my heart while pulling me down into the world of self-help guides for kids. A brother trying to comprehend his sister is the center of this piece and all the while, you can feel the slope getting steeper and steeper.

Not every piece is as strong as that one, but given the ways in which we have come to twist genres and styles of writing, and the way the Internet allows us to freely share our versions of writing, Fakes remains an intriguing look at some possibilities. For more daily variety, I suggest you check out McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies, too. I get more laughs per post there in my RSS feed than anywhere else.

Peace (its not fake),


Two Makes I Can’t Quite Explain

I don’t know why I went off on these tangents, but I made two strange things yesterday in a burst. The first was inspired by Audrey Watters’ post that looked at the history of “teaching machines” and included some drawings from the patent office archives. I put one into my comic app and added a little commentary.

Patented ed

The second was a terms of service that Alan Levine shared out, for a “fake name generator” and its legalese really called for parody. I went in the underwear direction with a XRay Goggles remix.

Frack Name Generator

What did you make yesterday?

Peace (because),

An Essay as Apology to Those Whose Names I Forgot

Listen to the post:

Audio recording and upload >>


Who r u?
An essay as apology to those whose names I forgot

My friend,

I’m sorry I forgot your name. I apologize if my eyes darted quickly from your face to your name tag, and then back up to your eyes as you began to speak. Did I look confused? Lost? Or out of place when we were talking? I probably was. My brain was working to remember your name, to place you in my constellation. I blame Google for making me stupid. No. I blame genetics and memory cells. Darn you, Mom and Dad.

The fact is that as much as I love coming to educational conferences and hanging out with everyone in person after all the time that we spend in online spaces exploring writing and making cool stuff, I am finding it a wee bit trickier over the years to remember all of you when we finally get to a face-to-face situation. That’s not completely true. I never found it easy and I always thank the Conference Gods who provide us with name tags.

It’s not you; it’s me.

You seem to have no trouble remembering me. I appreciate that. Perhaps my restless online presence translates into a strong physical presence? <Cue laugh track>. Of course, you would not likely recognize me from my “dogtrax” avatar. Unless you squint your eyes, use your imagination and maybe do a few shots of whiskey first. And by the way, if we are at the same bar when you do that whiskey shot to spark your imagination, call me over. I am buying. We can imagine together.

Maybe it’s my walk and not my avatar that you recognize. My wife says I have a distinctive walk, and one of my former colleagues who I ran into at NCTE (no, I did not recognize her when she called out my name and she even taught two doors down the hall from me … 11 years ago … But still, I should have her face in my memory banks, right? Right. Sigh) said she recognized me from afar from the way I was walking down the hallway. I find that hard to believe. Do I have a funny walk? I personally think it is the rest of the world that is slightly off-kilter. I walk with perfectly normal strides.

But, if you recognized me by my walk or from my avatar or from some various hangout or whatever (maybe even from that whiskey bar), and I failed to do the same of you and your walk, I am so sorry. Perhaps your walk is on the so-called normal scale. There were a lot of people there, after all. (although now that I think of it, if we did hang out in that whiskey bar, both of our walks might be a bit funny by the end of our conversation.)

Still, when I hear someone saying “Kevin” or “Dogtrax” from across the room, I think: This .. is … so … cool. Someone I know is here. I get excited about the connection. I do. After all, what we do online should spill to what we do offline, if the possibility exists. When it happens, it’s an amazing connection, like some two-pronged electrical plug. Inevitably, though, I draw a blank when your hand reaches out to me and I feel dumb (again …. Google) and scramble my brain for your name. I mean, you took the trouble to remember me. I should remember you. I quickly calculate, what space were you in with me? What projects did we collaborate on? Are you sure we know each other? I don’t want you to ever think that what we did together is inconsequential nor without meaning, which is why a small panic builds inside of me. I valued our work. I just can’t retrieve your name from my data banks right at this second.

I have decided a strategy is in order. So I have begun stringing various name together, sort of like lights on the holiday tree. Or a run-on sentence. Names name names. I just need to make sure none of the lights go out on that string of ours, and I will be good to go. There’s a whole year to go until our next big conference. A whole year to learn how to remember.

Or a whole year to forget … Damn it. See you at the bar. I’ll be the funny-walking writer who looks a little confused. Come on over and let’s talk about things for a bit. Make sure you introduce yourself first.


#CLMOOC Make: How To Make a Snarky Flowchart

Making a Snarky Flowchart
I admit. I’m partial to flowcharts that explore odd ideas, and inflect humor into the choices. Some of the best ones that I come across these days are on the back page of Wired Magazine, and if appropriate (which is not always), I put those flowcharts up on a closet door in my classroom so that my students can read them. You should see them gather around, following the paths of decision-making.

There are all sorts of things going on when you compose/write a flowchart. You have to imagine a “conversation” with the “reader” who needs to make choices about which way to go. But you also realize that every reader will ultimately follow all of the paths, too, if only to figure out where things might have gone. The questions have to be written in an engaging way. You want to draw the reader in.

So, I decided that for the first Make Cycle of the Making Learning Connected MOOC, in which the them of the cycle is to create a “how to do something” project, I would create a flowchart that would explain how to create a snarky flowchart. Snark is hip on the Interwebz, and another difficult writing activity. If you go to far with snark, you lose the reader (no one wants to be made fun of) because you insult their intelligence. If you don’t go far enough, the snark loses its … snarkiness, and thus, the appeal. I’m not sure I found the middle here, but I tried.

This is how I went about making this flowchart (in the CLMOOC, we try to lay bare the process of making as part of our reflection):

  • I began with a simple sketch on paper, knowing that my topic would be How to Make a Snarky Flowchart. I worked on some basic questions only, knowing more would come as I created the real chart;
  • I opened up the app in Google Docs (it’s one of those add ons you can know install). This app is designed for flowchart creating, although the artwork is very simple and rather boring;
  • I dragged boxes, arrows and text into my flowchart project, trying to keep it to one page for easier viewing. Flowcharts work best when it is all in front of you, the whole crazy map of choices;
  • Readability is key, so you don’t want too many lines zig zagging all over the place, and it helps if a few of the “loser” choices point together towards a single box. Working on the right text for that shared box took the most writing time, it turns out. It needs to be generic enough for multiple arrows and yet, still have a message;
  • I then exported the flowchart from (the file is now in my Google Docs, by the way) as a jpeg file and uploaded it into Flickr;
  • Then, I wrote this post which I am writing right now and added the image and my bulleted points that I am writing this very moment in this very blog post, so I guess I better stop typing …. now … right now … stopping

What would you explain how to do? Come join the CLMOOC. It’s never ever too late to jump on in.

Peace (in the flow),

Book Review: The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

Good lord.

If you want to laugh at some of the more absurd humor writing to be found on the Internet, then visit McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Or you could buy this book: The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Why spend money on a book when the content is free online? Because books rock, that’s why. Books are the ereaders of the present. Plus, writers go hungry all the time. Feed the writers.

Can you tell McSweeney’s has affected my writing voice? Because it has, and that lighthearted snarkiness (which sometimes becomes heavy-handed ridicule) is what makes the pieces collected in this collection such as collector’s edition.

With pieces focused on types of font (told from the prickly perspective of an angry Comic Sans), to how to become a better writer (which would not likely include writing a blog post about this book, to be frank, if my name was Frank, which it isn’t), to the absurdity of being hailed a conquering hero for plugging in a wireless router (don’t ask), to more Shakespeare references than you can shake a stick at (although, to be frank again — and I’m still not — the collection goes a little heavy on ol’ Will but I guess dead writers have it coming to them), to the ongoing debate about the plausibility of the Death Star trash compactor in Star Wars (who knew there was so much to say about it? Not me.), this book is a barrel of laughs … in the shape of a paper-bound square that, unlike a barrel, would not hold much tasty wine for the reader.

Still …

There’s more … much more …. but if I told you more, I’d have to open the book up again … and I’m not doing that. At least, not yet.

Peace (on the pages),


Myself; My Selfie

Some convergence of “selfie” ideas came to my mind yesterday, with the DS106 Daily Create riffing off creating a “bad selfie” to someone sharing the cute video and CommonSense Media posting an interesting piece about girls and selfies and body image, and then I decided to do my own version of the Ellen selfie, but with webcomics.

This was my submission to the Daily Create, using a filter to warp my head an then photobombing my own selfie with my comic self.

Bad Selfie (with Webcomic Photobomb)

I love this video. It captures the oddity of the selfie with humor.

Selfie from Andy Martin on Vimeo.

And I did my own group selfie:
My Self, My Selfie (comic-style)

Peace (in the vid),