Goodbye Michael Brecker

In my first year of college, I attended the University of Miami-Florida as an enrolled student in its vaunted music program. But I wasn’t even in the same league as many of the young musicians there and I left after a year. But it was during my time there that I was introduced to the music of tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, whose sound really defined much of the late 1980s and early 1990s sax solos in pop and jazz-funk fusion. He has a very distinct sound that so many people now emulate.


I just read a blurb in our newspaper that he succumbed to Leukemia cancer this past week and it makes me want to dig out my old vinyl records to listen to he and his brother, trumpetist David, play some of their classic songs. Man, he could solo!! Check this video out:


I saw him in concert a few times and he just blew me away with his versatility and range each time, particularly as he branched off from his funk roots and moved more into mainstream jazz. (For a while, he was the main saxophone player as part of the Saturday Night Live band and he was always one of the close-up shots).

His wife has left a letter to the general public, asking for more support for Stem Cell research to possibly combat such diseases as leukemia, and you can read her letter here.
Bye-bye, Michael Brecker — I hope they let you take your saxophone with ya. Here is a nice solo video:

Peace (with clicking keys),

Two New Songs: Demos

I’ve been working a few new songs, perhaps for my band The Sofa Kings or perhaps for a side project with a friend of mine. Here is a song called Gotta Find Faith, with photos from Creative Commons via Flickr. I recorded it all myself with Audacity and a little microphone. The video was composed using PhotoStory 3.


And the second one is a bit more upbeat and is called Little Too Far:


Peace (through music),

Dangerously Irrelevant Survey Results

Scott, over at Dangerously Irrelevant, released the data from a survey he conducted of teachers who blog. He has graciously provided a powerpoint and some excel files with the answers submitted by the 160 bloggers who participated (which is an impressive number, don’t you think?)

Among the findings is that most bloggers would NOT quit their jobs if they were offered a chance to blog full-time. I think this demonstrates that blogging is a reflective and connective tool, and not really just a place to write. Some of the other findings also seem to indicate this. I have grabbed one of Scott’s graphs because it succinctly shows the answers to an important question: why do you blog?

Notice how Learning and Community are near the top responses. Interesting.

One final note: Scott asked about RSS feeds and found that while one person had more than 500 feeds in their aggregator, the average was 89 feeds. That shows the power of collecting many voices and sifting through the information for valuable tools and ideas, which is something I do on a regular basis.

Thanks, Scott, for conducting this survey. The findings are, umm, relevant. 🙂
Peace (with graphs),

Emoticon Challenge: Mix n’ Match

In a recent edition of Time Magazine, the essay section at the back was dedicated to potentially “new” emoticons for 2007 (very tongue and cheek) and so, in the spirit of fun and games, I have grabbed a few emoticons and the descriptions and I am challenging you to figure out which belongs with which.

Here are your emoticons:

Now here are the descriptions:

  • (A) I am disoriented by the act of blogging about the act of blogging
  • (B) I am filming a poorly shot YouTube video in response to your poorly shot YouTube video
  • (C) I am thinking about auditioning for a reality show that will give me an ephemeral and humiliating taste of celebrity
  • (D) I am mortified at having discovered my grandparents’ MySpace profile
  • (E) I am seeking help for my addiction to organizing my Netflix queue.

(Give up? Go to answer page)As an additional challenge, can you come up with a good description for this funny emoticon from the Time list? Use the comment feature to leave your answer.

Peace (with funnies),

OnPoEvMo: Like Birds in Flight, January 2007

Some of the writing for my OnePoemPerMonthForaYear project have come easily and some are still in the midst of revision and stuck with me as I try to understand just what I am trying to get at with my words and phrases and voice.

This poem, called Birds in Flight, is a prime example of this internal struggle. It is inspired by some conversations with my students about their own experiences living in a very insular and safe community, primarily white, and how our preconceptions shape our understanding of people who look, talk and act different than we do. My students’ experiences are very similar to mine as I was growing up and I tried to capture in this poem some of my conflicted feelings that took place when I first forged some close friendships with people of other color during my time as an infantry soldier in the Army National Guard.

I came to realize how racist some of my impressions were and how long it took for me to see them just as people, and not as different people because their skin was different from mine. This is something that no one taught me. I had to learn with experience.

Like Birds in Flight (January 2007)

Listen to the poem

I can’t crawl inside your skin
I’m claustrophobic with the fingers of history wrapped around my neck
and, besides, your black doesn’t fit with my white.
We clash.

Or so I have been told, not in so many words, of course, but in so many looks.
Which leaves us both here with this sense of intense misunderstanding
and missed opportunities that come from rage at the ways of this world.
No one ever told me that you were always the same as me,
with the same dreams,
the same heart,
and you, with your ancestors on an timeline that intersects with mine only in pain and infinite sadness,
you look so different from me — on the outside.
Your black doesn’t fit with my white.

I often wonder how it would be if we had a covering of feathers instead of skin
and you were to become haloed in a rainbow
with hues casting deep shadows that I could just swallow up like worms on a summer day after the storms have cleared away,
filling me whole with experience and reality,
and then maybe — maybe — I could finally feel your light, your strength, your sense of being you.

Just you and nothing more.
Your black would fit with my white.

We would no longer feel tethered by this solid Earth
and instead, as one, we would rise to the clouds on the upward draft of hope
and avoid the fears that keeps us rooted so firmly in our own minds.
I look at you.
I don’t see you.
Instead, I only see skin.

Peace (with understanding),

NWP in T.H.E. Journal

The National Writing Project is featured in the recent edition of T.H.E. Journal magazine as one organization that sees the potential and benefits of technology in the classroom. The article notes that blogging has a strong foothold in the NWP network (we know this ourselves). The article also mentions the Technology Initiative, which my Western Massachusetts Writing Project is part of through our Making Connections project (more on that to come soon as we are almost set to launch our second year).

From the article in THE Journal:

“Whether the digital vehicle is e-mail, blogs, or podcasts isn’t significant; what matters is that these are all tools that involve students in writing and bring them into the company of distant audiences, which supports the learning that comes when writers see what readers make of their work.” — from

Peace (with the Writing Project),

Map My Words

My Google Homepage keeps changing as I experiment with the various Gadgets (or are they widgets?) that are available. I like the idea that I can add and delete programs as I see fit. One of the cooler items I came across is something called MapMyWords dictionary, which visually connects daily words with other words through common connections. It is very visually and interesting to think about the connections.

I couldn’t help map out two words of interest to me: Writing and Music.

Peace (through connections),

Fun With Comix Creation

At a site called Make Beliefs Comix, you can create your own little comic strip. So I created this comic about my blogging practices. If you click on the comic, it will take you to flickr and the bigger picture (I had trouble fitting it on the blog):

Peace (in frames),

Teachers Teaching Teachers: Mid-Year Reflections

I took part in another Skypecast conversation lastweek with other teachers who are using blogs, wikis, podcasting and other technology through Teachers Teaching Teachers site (which is wonderful — check it out!). The conversation is now being podcast through the site, too.

Take a listen.

The conversation was a bit crowded for a deep and rich conversation but it is still very empowering to be part of a larger community and I appreciate the efforts of Paul and Susan to keep this forum alive and thriving. Their topic was reflecting on how the school year has been going and what is ahead for us.
One interesting aspect was a visitor to the conversation from China, who is not a teacher but still had some things to say about education in China in comparison to education as we were discussing on the skypecast.

Peace (with multiple voices),

De-Lurker Week

Did you know this is De-Lurker Week?
Me, neither. (Hell, every week is a holiday on the Internet, right?)
But, you are required as a reader of this blog to leave a comment, a breadcrumb, a trail of words … please. And I will do the same. My goal is to leave six comments on six different weblogs that I read regularly.

(Steal your own De-Lurker banner at I Speak of Dreams or  Paper Napkin)


Peace (with conversation),