Graffiti Needs Help

I'm as urban as the cool, headnodding to (insert favorite music genre) person sitting next to me on the subway. I know that graffiti can be art.  Graffiti is a form of artistic expression that, at its best, compels one to contemplate one's viewpoints and place in the world and instigates other profound thought. I've seen Basquiat's extensive work, viewed Five Pointz from the number 7 train, and was raised in BedStuy, home of some of the most awesome graf murals on the planet. I have also seen the much denigrated other side: graffiti littering neighborhood walls, serving as evidence of adolescent boredom, acknowledgments of gang members, turf, and the like. But what is this?

It is not art and it ain't gangsta.

Granted using a USPS Priority Mail sticker for tagging is a waste of tax-payer money and is also annoying to remove but fiscal irresponsibility isn't hardcore. Neither is the writing of the friend or foe who chose to violate the January 2008 stamped sticker by scribbling over the thick sharpie strokes with an ink pen.
Are the days of interesting, (semi-) legible graffiti in NYC gone? This blogger hopes the answer is a definitive no. Help me believe in great graf again. Post your favorite graf "finds" in the comment section.


Paper Star Wars

Any true Star Wars fan will appreciate this reenactment featuring paper-made characters by Eric Powers.  Jeremy Messersmith's song "Tatooine" is a fitting score for this brief version of the legendary tale. At about 2 and 1/2 minutes, it's cohesion with the film in pace and feel are admirable.

I couldn't help but think, this is multi-modal literary construction in the "flesh."  I can imagine this as half of a presentation, the other half being the written component that explains and connects the Star Wars story to the presentation. The film garners its full credit in my assessment; I appreciate and applaud the ingenuity of paper repurposed as physical objects, music that bleeds emotion, succinct lyrics that wrench multiple meanings from metaphor.  My favorite moment: "Solos are fine but duets are romantic."  Watch it and enjoy the wit of this line for yourself.


The Distracted Person's Dilemma

I find myself to be easily distracted.  I am at once reading intently, focused on the words before me, and again minutes later, wondering what I have just read as some phrase or sentence three paragraphs ago led me to a thought process not wholly related to the material in front of me.  This very post grew out of one such moment.  After completing my deterrent though and approximating how much of my reading material I hadn’t fully processed as a result, I was faced with the distracted person’s dilemma, should I go back and re-read what I’ve half-absorbed or should I plunge ahead with the hope that I’ve retained enough to sustain my understanding?  Unfortunately, the answer isn’t always the same.  Or, as s public policy professor taught me years ago, the answer is always the same – it depends (Thanks Prof. Sermier).  I have to ask myself, is the reading interesting enough or important enough to warrant a return to the partially digested paragraphs?  My stubbornness in needing to have examined the fullness of a text’s offerings wins about 98% of the time.  Nevertheless, on rare occasions, for me it comes down to mood.

By the way, I do pause occasionally when reading to absorb the information (especially for dense material) but frequent pauses would disrupt the flow of the text. [Aside: I toyed with the idea of beginning the previous sentence with the text-friendly "Btw" rather than the traditional, fully expressed version that I ultimately chose.  I haven't decided whether the grammarian in me wouldn't allow it, although it does allow contractions, or whether it was a style decision.  I suppose that's fodder for another post.]

How do those of you afflicted with the distracted person's dilemma handle half-absorbed readings?  Does distraction disturb other areas of your life? Share your stories and tips in the comment section.


Knit and Crochet to Save the World!

Apparently, I'm a "craftivist."  I create (mostly) crochet items for family and friends and, whenever a charity event comes along, I do my best to participate.  While perusing my overflowing inbox today, I read about an opportunity to contribute my skills to society via the Caps for Good Campaign.  The gist of it is that "Save the Children and the Warm Up America! Foundation will again ask Americans to pick up their knitting needles and crochet hooks to help save the lives of nearly four million newborn babies in the developing world." We're making caps for newborns!
While I'm sure I can whip up a few dozen myself between now and February 2011 when this season's campaign ends, together we can give a great deal more.  Free patterns are available at  Full details are on Save the Children's website. For those pros out there who dare not use another's pattern, all caps are to have a 12" circumference.
Get stitching!


Response to Texts and a "Blackout" Poem

Recently, I've been catching up on back issues of magazines that are faithfully delivered to my home and just as faithfully squeezed into the bulging, oversized magazine basket in my entryway. Among my favorites are Spin and Poets & Writers. Kevin Larimer's profile of David Rhodes in the Sept./Oct. 2008 issue inspired me to create a blackout poem a la Austin Kleon (Newspaper Blackout: Austin Kleon). Though I used a magazine instead of a newspaper and I circled the chosen words rather than marked out all others--minor alterations--I'm sure this endeavor still qualifies. I was rather tempted by the flow of Larimer's novelistic phrases but I carefully avoided their gravitational pull for a more sparse effect.

coming after
that interaction,
a certain sense, unrelated,
of abstraction
unmoored abandon
needles in

With this unexpected found poetry, I also discovered the germ of a poem.

Media Can Engage and Entertain

We live in a culture of communication.  Media has only expanded if not exacerbated the forms through which we do so.  Many teachers with access to technology in the classroom have incorporated media into their lessons to share information with, provide examples for, and generally engage students.
With You Tube the go to site for video clips of all kinds, it seems fitting to provide an example from its massive files.  A 3-year-old explains his relationship with his mother to his mother.  The gist - "I like you only when you give me cookies"- but its better than that! Watch:

After the hilarity of the moment, this video is an excellent opening for discussions with children of all ages (and I do mean all, but especially with teens).  Did I hear Aretha humming in the background?  R.E.S.P.E.C.T.s that the remix?  R.E.C.I.P.R.O.C.I.T.Y. 
And the list goes on and on.... (sweetly hummed a la India.Arie)


Newspaper Blackout: Austin Kleon

Newspaper Blackout Poetry - redacting newspaper articles with a magic marker to make poems -  is becoming a popular activity for teaching poetry in English classrooms. Blackout poems, said to be part of the new “remix” culture, are a great entry point for students who keep poetry at arms length and an inticing task for readers and writers alike.  Writer and cartoonist Austin Kleon has created a collection of this "found poetry" or "altered text” in his poetry collection Newspaper Blackout, forthcoming from HarperCollins this month (April 2010). 

Visit his website for samples of poems from the book and checkout his blog for drawings and new blackout poems.  I came across a few poems that I found especially intriguing.  One, machine and memories, I'nve included here in its original form:

AUSTIN KLEON is a writer who draws. His He has drawn for clients such as Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. He works a day job designing websites, and lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife Meghan and their dog Milo. You can see his work online at


Heineken Goes Viral

Going viral used to be a bad thing.  Now it's good and, as Heineken has proven, it can be rather entertaining.  With deception and willing accomplices, Heineken crafted a master prank for the ages.  They combined the football (aka soccer) fan's assumed worst nightmare - a classical music concert with poetry - scheduled it to conflict with an all too important game and compelled the sports fans to attend.  Heineken's massive marketing effort has surely reaped them much reward.  Watch the video and enjoy!


Curious Pages Blog

If you're a fan of the obsurd, check out
It approaches (mostly) the illustrations of not so innocuous children's books from an adult sense of humor.

The nerd in me most enjoys Grammar Can Be Fun by Monro Leaf featuring the so lazy he is nearer death than most Ain't who graces the cover but unfortunately doesn't survive beyond the first page.  I'm not sure what's funnier, Leaf's prose or the blogger's commentary.

This book and others feature detailed illustration that make the experience especially enjoyable.  It's akin to watching a movie on mute and creating your own dialogue except without the embarrassment if someone walks in on you doing it alone.

Check it out and share your favorite or now favorite children's book.


Haiti Needs Our Help

All of  you know by now of the terrible effect of the earthquake in Haiti. 
There are many ways we can help.

If you'd like to donate time, money, or other resources, you can check out these websites for details:

The $10 text donation has become quite popular.  Millions of dollars have been donated thus far. Here's how you can join in:

TEXT "HAITI" to 90999
This mobile fundraising initiative is a partnership between the American Red Cross, Mobile Accord and the mGive Foundation that is supported by the U.S. State Department.

Customers of participating wireless carriers can text message "HAITI" to 90999 and make a $10 donation to support the American Red Cross Haiti relief efforts. Donations will appear on customers' monthly bills or be debited from a prepaid account balance. Message and data rates may apply. To opt-out, send "STOP" to 90999. To see the terms applicable to donations, please visit Receipts for donations are available at

Participating Carriers:
Alltel                              nTelos 
AT&T                             Sprint 
Cellular South                 T-Mobile
Cellcom                          U.S. Cellular
Cincinnati Bell                 Verizon Wireless
Cricket                           Virgin Mobile


30 in 30 Update

So the challenge is days from over and I'm far behind schedule.  I've written a few words here and there but surely not 30 of them.  I think I'll post them in groups of 10. I have 5 full days so there's hope yet!  Check out the progress of others who have accepted the 30 in 30 challenge at
and be inspired to start or complete your own!


Happy New Year!

New year, new goals, new things to look forward to.  This is the year I will push myself to new limits.  That said ( ;) ), the 30 in 30 challenge is still on, I have a lot of catching up to do.  I'll be delving into more discussions of language as I read, write, and perform (yes perform, I'm returning to the stage, albeit the small stage of lounges and cafes). I look forward to travleing this leg of my journey with you.