Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Blogvangelist

Here's a very interesting article about a teacher who uses blogging in his teaching. Instead of telling his students to "hand their papers in to me, the teacher," he has them post entries and respond to other's posts on blogs created for the class. Their discussion on the book The Secret Life of Bees eventually included the author of the book herself! The students soon found that their blog was the number one result for a Google search on the book, surpassing even the author's website. He believes that the Internet and the right software tools will "liberate students from the anachronistic traditional classroom" and become "self-motivated learners and creators, driven by their own passions.

McCloskey, P. (2009). The Blogvangelist. Teacher Magazine 18(2), pages 22-24, 27-29.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Monkey Business

These comics will appear in an upcoming issue of Fun for Kids magazine.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Can a Mighty Andar/Bighead Team-up be far behind?

This made my day -- I had sent some copies of Eclectic comics to celebrated indie cartoonist Jeffrey Brown. He sent back a postcard note with a sketch of Andar meeting his character Bighead. The note and sketch will go in the next Mighty Mailbag, but I couldn't wait to share it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"The Oxbow" by Thomas Cole

The school where I teach was recently fortunate enough to be recipient of one of the Picturing America grants from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH). Through this grant they provide schools with huge, beautiful reproductions of masterpieces of American art, as well as a teacher's guide book that provides ideas on how to use the reproductions to teach concepts from history and art.

This painting can almost be divided in half, with the left side an untamed wilderness. A storm is passing through towards the left with lightning and dark clouds. On the right side, the storm has passed and everything is calm. It is an ideal rural scene, but the removal of trees has left scars on the hillside. On closer inspection, those scars are in the shape of Hebrew letters. From man's view, they spell Noah. Looking down, from God's perspective, they same shapes spell Shaddai, or the Hebrew word for God, or Almighty. The NEH materials ask, "Is Cole suggesting that the landscape be read as a holy text that reveals messages from God?"

The Metropolitan website says that this painting is "laden with possible interpretations". The oxbow itself is an emblem of human control over nature.

According to the American Studies of the University of Virginia site
Cole relies heavily on European conventions of landscape painting to convey the visual representation of the struggle between wilderness and civilization...The dramatic storm clouds over the wilderness speak of the uncontrolled power of nature, but also of the sublimity of this power. Cole shows no remorse for the recession of the wilderness from the scene. The soft greens and yellows and the gentle rolling landscape of the farms suggest that the pastoral civilization that replaces the wilderness is as beautiful in its order as nature is in its sublimity.
You have to look close to see Cole himself in the middle of the painting. He has staked out his claim by staking his umbrella into the hillside. His portfolio is nearby with his name on it.

According to essayist Eleanor Jones Harvey (1995)
his main goal, he says, was to create a “higher style of landscape that could express moral or religious meanings." He impressed several of his colleagues, teaching them that a landscape painter must have strength, determination, and should be willing to conquer the hazards of the weather and terrain in order to achieve success.

Cole had many views about nature, human life and mortality. He felt that the nation had a wild beauty. Cole said in one of his articles, “To walk with nature as a poet is the necessary condition of a perfect artist.” He illustrated the American landscape with a new vision, but at the same time he did not forget to paint pictures that portray allegorical and religious subjects.
Another writer (Wilmerding, 1993) thinks that in this painting Cole was "showing how the cultivation would destroy the natural wilderness, and as a result never meet in the painting.

It's interesting to me how many clues to possible meanings are left, but it doesn't seem to be spelled out definitively.

Harvey, Eleanor Jones (1998). The Painted Sketch: American Impressions From Nature 1830-1880. Dallas: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1998.

Wilmerding, John (2003). Signs of the Artist: Signatures and Self-expression in American Paintings. Yale University Press. p. 58. ISBN 0300097794.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Robotics Competition 2

Here's a video from the recent robotics competition my sons were part of.

If you want to see more, I have a bunch on YouTube, here:

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Robotics Competition

Today I got to see a robotics competition that my son Daniel's team was competing in. Since my son David will be in ninth grade next year, he got to go too, and was able to have a turn maneuvering the robot.
Each year, the robotics team is given a specific challenge and a limitted time to complete the robot according to the specifications. All the teams compete against one another. This year, the robot had to move around and scoop up balls and then try to put them in the carts being pulled by opponents' robots.
David (above)
Daniel (above)

Usually the competitions are in faraway places, so this is the first one I got to see. It was smaller in scale than the major events, but I was still very impressed with what these kids can do with the help of their mentors.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Magneto and Titanium Man

I found a story online with pictures about a time when two of my heroes met. Paul McCartney had a song when he was with Wings called Magneto and Titanium Man. Jack Kirby and his family were invited to a concert where Jack presented him with a drawing. Magneto
Titanium Man and the Crimson Dynamo who also appear in the song.
Here's the drawing Jack did for the band, with Wings being drawn to Magneto's magnetic hand.
Here Paul looks at the drawing while Jack talks to the Lynda McCartney and the rest of the band.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

At the Artsfest

I had a good time at the Artsfest today. I talked to a lot of really nice people and sold a lot of comics. Across the aisle from me was my good friend Paul Bozzo, a really great artist. I spent my down time trying to sketch him.

Judging from these photos below that my wife took, it was my son Nathan that had the most fun!