Slice of Life: I Heard Me on Pandora

Gift of Peace on Pandora(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Last year, my friend and I released a holiday song called A Gift of Peace (For Christmas), more as an experiment than anything else. We did the whole thing — copyright lyrics and music, went into a recording studio, enlisted CD Baby to distribute the song through streaming services, and even hired my son to create a video story for the song.

Pandora was one of those services that took a long time to allow our song into its mix, but yesterday, while doing other things in the kitchen, our song started playing onto Pandora (I had created a station called A Gift of Peace) and I rushed to give it a thumbs up and to call my wife. We then danced for a bit around the kitchen to my song playing on Pandora.

If you hear my song on your station, give it a thumbs up, won’t you?

Peace (gifting it to you),
Kevin

Slice of Life: A Moment Too Late To Forget

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

It was only as I was watching it on the screen that I suddenly remember why we watched only PART of this video last year. At the reference to Whale penises, I was up and at the computer.

Let me explain …

We are working on a lesson around Fake News, and hoaxes, and one of the earliest hoaxes that used the aspect of global news to its advantage was the Nantucket Island Serpent Hoax of 1937, in which a local puppeteer maker teamed up with the local newspaper to report on sightings of a serpent off the coast of the island. It was a publicity stunt for tourism, but the newspaper’s role and its connection to wire services made the story go viral.

That part of the video is fine. Interesting. Nicely paced. Funny, at the right moment of the reveal.

Then the video shifts into a wider discussion of other fictional serpents, in places like Loch Ness and Lake Champlain, etc. Still, fine, and the kids are tuned in. They are curious.

Suddenly, the video takes a shift into explaining what people might have seen and thought were mythical creatures. Thus, not only a reference to the, um, whale’s large body part, but also a flash of pictures to, well, prove the video’s point about said whale body part. By then, I was at the computer, moving things along to the next slide in my presentation in front of a now rather-silent classroom of sixth graders.

Funny, but not one of them asked me about it, although I heard some surprised mutterings at the video references, and they didn’t blink an eye as I kept the lesson rolling.

Me? I was all professional on the outside, just moving things along, folks, just moving things along. Nothing to see here. Inside, though, I was kicking myself for not taking the time to watch the whole video in the morning. I had relied on my using the video last year for using it this year … but I didn’t leave a note for myself from last year. (Self, leave a note for yourself … Self, just did that … thank you … you’re welcome … now, remember … Ok).

Note: feel free to watch the video yourself

Peace (some days),
Kevin

Slice of Life: A Musical Moment

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

My guitar has been sitting in the corner for a few weeks as I have been busy with school, family, etc. I picked it up and within 15 minutes, this entire demo song was done — lyrics, music, demo. Sometimes, the muse flows through with the Pen and Paper Blues.

Peace (singing it the best I can),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Looking Next Door For the Neighbor No Longer There

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

There was a time when every Veterans Day, I would keep a special eye out for my neighbor, who served in the Korean War and who volunteered for years to help other vets out at the nearby VA Hospital. Of course, we connected many other days of the year beyond Veterans Day, but on that day, I made sure I was looking for him.

I’d see him, go outside, and we’d chat, and I’d make sure he knew we were thinking of him and remembering others who served in war and came home to restart their lives. I’d tell him about the Veterans Day event at our school — the breakfast and ceremony and music and celebration. He knew I had been in the military, too, but even on Veterans Day, we spoke little of those connections.

He passed away earlier this year and yet I found myself yesterday looking towards the fence, to where his rake would often rest near mine as we chatted, the leaves fluttering around us in the Autumn wind.

Peace (remembering Sarge),
Kevin

Slice of Life: She Has My Vote

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Today will be the first day I get to go into a voting booth and cast a vote for my wife. She’s running for the board of trustees for our city library, and she’s the most qualified, smartest, thoughtful, and beautiful candidate I know.

🙂

Years ago, I took out nomination papers to run for City Council but then never took the steps to get a political campaign in motion. We had three young kids and there was an incumbent, and …. now I have been able to cheer and support my wife, Leslie, in her first electoral run, inspired by the movement of women to get more involved in local politics.

Leslie for Library!

Leslie for Library

She’s a natural fit for the city’s library board. She’s a school librarian at a vocational and agricultural high school here in our city and she is involved in many local projects, including volunteering at the cot shelter (she was there, serving dinner, last night). She has been working in the field of literacy for 25 years, as teacher and as consultant. She loves books.

Leslie for Library!

There are five people in this one race, for three open seats, and two of the candidates are incumbents. All five are solid candidates, with lots of ideas for improving and supporting our public library. My wife is hopeful for a win on the board but she is realistic, too. The library will be in good hands, no matter what.

The larger picture is that we are seeing more and more people here getting involved in elections, which we hope will spill over nationally into the larger elections, leading to real change in our country’s leadership. Momentum begins local and builds national. It all starts at the ground level.

Leslie for Library! Catchy, right?

Peace (vote it),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: Visiting the Woods of Vermont for #Writeout

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

With the start of the Write Out project, getting outside to observe the world has been on the list. Yesterday, my wife surprised my youngest son and I with one of her “magical mystery tours” in which she doesn’t tell us where we’re headed until we get there.

Yesterday, it was an hour or so north, up to Brattleboro, Vermont. We had hoped the Autumn foliage would be more brilliant than here, in Western Massachusetts, but that actually wasn’t the case. There’s more green to the north than here, which was sort of disappointing, but the drive was beautiful, and our hike along the Sunrise Trail loop through Fort Dummer State Park in late afternoon was lovely.

Since “discovering stories” is a theme of Write Out, I did a little research on the Fort Dummer State Park. It was one of the first settlements and was built in 1724 with an overlook of the Connecticut River. Soldiers there, along with Mohawk Indians, protected the area from the French and other tribes.

Later, I had this idea of a music composition running around in my head, inspired by our hike through the woods, so I spent some time, creating the soundtrack — I call it Woodlines — and then used SoundSlides to put the music with the images from our walk in the woods.

Peace (in light and color),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: The Rhythm of Autumn

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I was walking on the campus of UMass Amherst — traveling between lunch and a workshop session for the annual fall conference of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project — when one of my walking companions told a story of moving to the Northeast and being asked by a friend from elsewhere how to know when the Fall Foliage has reached its peak.

We agreed that, if you have lived in the Northeast long enough, you start to get an internalized rhythm of the season, the flow of change, the shift in the forests. To answer the question “when it is peak,” you have to trust your instincts.

It was a beautifully sunny afternoon as we walked and talked about it, and we agreed that we were still in the days “before” the real change from summer to Autumn. There were certainly leaves of red and orange, but still plenty of green, too.

Now, three days later, with a few days of breeze and rainfall and chilling nights, I sense the shift is now underway. Maybe another week to ten days, with some sunny days, and the trees will soon be barren, readying for winter. I can see many browning leaves on the ground now, and some of the early harbinger trees — those wonderful isolated trees that reliably begin their movement early — are becoming all limbs, with fewer and fewer leaves.

If you live in a place long enough, you do sense the rhythm of things, the way the years and even the days progress, and you become attuned to the possibilities of the world in motion. In this, we become sensory scientists, gathering data about the changing world. You only notice, though, when you pay attention.

It’s nearly peak.

Peace (arriving in splendor),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Doodle Your Way into the Days

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

This morning, all of my students are going to get a huge, oversized calendar labeled October: Doodles of Place. And each day, when they arrive, part of their routine will be to look at the board, find the day’s theme, and doodle into the box for the day.

This is all part of CLMOOC’s October Doodle Month — a way to inspire art among the affinity network — and for the upcoming Write Out Project, the free online collaborative place-based project which launches in two weeks (October 13) and encompasses the National Day on Writing on October 20.

The daily doodle themes, which were gathered by crowdsourcing the list, are all about place — from rural places to urban spaces and areas in-between. Each morning, at The Daily Connect, a daily theme/idea will be released.

You can join in, too. (Today’s theme is Mountains). The Daily Connect site is here, and you can sign up for email notices (see the sidebar of The Daily Connect) or just keep an eye on the #clmooc hashtag on Twitter.

I’m curious about what my students make on their Doodle calendars, and I’m even more curious because we are starting up a connected project with some classrooms in California, and they are going to be doodling, too, and we hope to have kids share their doodle art via Flipgrid later in the month.

Why doodle? Well, first of all, making art is a great way to start the morning, and I know I have plenty of artists and comic book creators and more in my classroom. Second, it provides a connection point with another school on the other side of the country. Third, it will give us points to talk about how place informs stories, and how stories inform place.

And it’s fun.

I’ll be doodling at school on my calendar, but also, I am aiming to write small daily poems on the theme each day, too, here at home, as part of my own daily writing routine.

Here was the first poem, inspired by the theme of Mountain:

Handholds
and crevasse marks;
the scale of it nearly
overwhelms the senses
— you can’t look up
from below to understand
the scale of this place —
you need to gaze out
from above

Peace (doodling it everywhere),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Play(ing) it Loud(er)

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

My wife and I were enjoying a day on the bike trail, heading to downtown for some lunch and wandering. As we were coming off the trail to connect with the road, I could just hear the faint stands of music.

“Someone must be cranking their radio,” I thought, and then as we got closer, I added, “and it’s pretty loud.”

We rounded a turn and there, on the lawn of a house that was kitty-corner to two busy roads, was a man in his 60’s — donning a fedora hat on his head and wearing a bright tie-dye t-shirt — with an electric guitar and an amplifier. He was strumming power chords and singing at the top of his lungs, but the guitar was so loud, there was no way you could make out what he was singing. He didn’t care.

No one was watching, and he was not playing for anyone other than himself. The look on his face was perfect – eyes half-closed, mouth in a near smile, and his posture in the classic rock and roll pose, bent slightly forward over the body of the guitar. He hit another power chord, and the distortion blew out over the neighborhood.

I slowed down a little, gave a little wave, but he hardly noticed, and continued on my way, a fellow rock and roller giving silent thanks to some loud music on the lawn.

Peace (in the city),
Kevin

Invasion of the Memes: The Rise of the VSCO Girl

What to make of this? Since the first day of school, I’ve been hearing references and seeing references to being a ‘VSCO Girl’ in some of my students’ work and discussions. I did a quick search, and found that VSCO is a photo filtering app, and when I asked one of my students if calling themselves a VSCO Girl was related to photography and app filters, they gave me a look of confusion.

So, eh, no, maybe not?

Yet, sort of.

Their own explanation of what VSCO Girls meant was confusing to me, something about scrunchies and hydro-bottles and clothes, and so I decided I needed to do a little more research.  Doing so uncovered this summer-long viral meme of the VSCO Girl that had been completely under my radar. (To be fair, I am a middle age white man with three boys)

Centered mostly on Tik Tok, but now moving over to Instagram and YouTube and SnapChat, being a VSCO Girl is related to how a girl perceives themselves, and apparently, certain products and clothing are key elements.

Another element of this is the saying and typing of “sksksksk” (which seems to stem from slamming fingers on the keyboard or keypad) and “And I oop.”  (A meme reaction people use to show surprise on social media.) VSCO stands for Visual Supply Co. – the business which invented the app that sparked the meme that fed the movement.

One site, StayHipp, described it this way:

A VSCO girl is someone who is active on the VSCO app and/or whose style matches the aesthetics of VSCO. This trend has grown to the extent that “VSCO” is used as an adjective to characterize something or someone who embodies a VSCO girl lifestyle.

The VSCO girl trend is largely based on owning a specific set of items including Birkenstocks, scrunchies, hydro flasks, metal straws, and anything from Brandy Mellville. Many of the items associated with the trend are brand-specific and may be pricy, but things like homemade friendship bracelets and oversized T-shirts are just as important to the trend as AirPods and Instax cameras are. Each individual has the power to put their own spin on this trend, whether it’s through their attitude, style, social media presence, or just the good vibes they radiate.

Most importantly, being a VSCO girl, or even just dabbling in the trend is about keeping a positive outlook and having fun! — via StayHipp

It then goes on to list all of the objects that a VSCO Girl might have, and the cost, and how to buy them.

  • Birkenstock shoes
  • Scrunchie hair ties
  • Hydroflask water bottles
  • Brandy Melville clothing
  • Instagram-able meals
  • Metal straws
  • Slip on Vans shoes
  • Choker necklaces
  • Multiple rings worn at once
  • Friendship bracelets
  • Polaroid cameras
  • Pastel nail polish
  • Mario Badescu skincare products
  • Fjällräven backpacks
  • Stickers on laptops and water bottles
  • Carmex lip balm

Which makes me think this is all part of some larger Product Influencer Campaign, to sell stuff to young girls by targeting their Girl Identity through social media. Which makes me wary of the trend, yet I’m amazed at how much the concept has filtered through my entire sixth grade classes in just a few weeks of summer. In a small activity yesterday, many tried to add sksksksks and I Oop into what they were writing. That includes boys as well as girls, which makes me wonder if the meme is turning into something else altogether.

A piece at Slate, in which the writer interviews some high school teenage girls, indicates that the whole VSCO Girl concept can be seen in two lenses — one way is that some girls view it as a connector point through social media, a way to “fit in” through style and choice, and another way is some girls see it as a way to mock the whole consumer-driven marketplace, making fun of the idea of products defining a girl. (And did you know there are not just VSCO Girls, but also Soft Girls and e-Girls?)

For the teens I talked to, most said being called a VSCO girl was a bad thing, something to be avoided. They were mixed on whether anyone would own up to being one or proudly proclaim her VSCO girl status, or any strong connection with it, to the world. — from Slate

Why do I have a sense that these two competing concepts of empowering girls and mocking girls, making its way over social media, are going to collide and the girls who just want to fit in are going to be the very ones who are going to get the most hurt?

How do I have a meaningful discussion about trends like this to give my students the ability to make decisions about social media and memes and empower them to question the viral nature of their world?

I suppose I can do that best by empowering them to be critical of the world, and to think on the power of real friendships, real connections, real people. I want the wonderful girls who spend their days in my classroom with me as writers and readers and members of our community to be true to themselves, and not just become some product of influence from the technology they use.

Peace (confused but trying),
Kevin