Another Writing Exercise from the Archive – Broken Back Basketball

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bigchairbook More stuff stumbled upon during my prep to move my junk to Florida. As before this was another one called a Quick Draw Visualization Exercise. The instructions and story was written the day after the first one posted, over 12-years-ago, on March 6th, 1996… It should have been written closer to Halloween:

INSTRUCTIONS: Please do not show the photograph or the title of this piece to the students until the end of the exercise. Read the following story with as much dramatic license as you are comfortable with (the idea is to put an image with emotional impact in their minds). After the reading they need to spend 15 minutes (max.) producing their picture of what they thought they’d heard. Emphasis that this is not about their artistic expertise but to help them develop their ability to get the ideas in the their heads on paper (visualization)—an important step to good writing!

The face in the photograph made me think of a nightmare I had when I was seven or eight-years old. I used to love basketball. Just like you guys, every day before school, every recess, every lunch I’d be bouncing the big orange ball. I loved it so much that my dad put a hoop and backboard up above our garage (he was also probably just tired of hearing my brother and I hit the garage door when we would pretend to have a net). And at night, the Lakers were on the radio and I’d listen to Chick Hearn talk a thousand words a minute about some incredible play they’d be making. In a word, I had basketball on the brain.

Then one night I went to sleep and dreamed that I was at a Laker game. I was still too young to know any of the players but there I was standing courtside watching this one player making lay-ups. The whole arena seemed to be empty except for me and this player making lay-ups and some coaches walking along the sidelines. The whole place was dark except for where this guy kept circling. I was standing just outside the light. Then he started to do slam dunks. I don’t remember how many he did. I just remember that he was jumping higher and higher; higher than I had ever seen anyone jump. Then it happened.

He jumped up to slam one and he jumped so high that when he started to come down he hit the rim with the center of his back. I heard this horrible crack and looked away. I knew he’d broken his back. When I turned back around he lay on the floor in a heap, his legs and hips didn’t seem to be connected to his upper body anymore.

The coaches came running over to see what had happened. With one coach on either side of him they picked him up off the ground. Each coach had to grab the basketball player with one hand on a shoulder and the other hand at his hips, literally holding his body together. I knew that if the coaches let go of him that he’d fall to the floor like a pile of sticks. Then he started bouncing the basketball again and the coaches walked around with him in little circles. His legs barely worked and he almost didn’t seem to realize that he’d been split in two.

This went on for several horrible minutes. I couldn’t stand to watch, but I couldn’t look away. His body bent and broken with two coaches holding him together he just kept bouncing the ball and walking in little circles. I wanted to run. But where? And then he suddenly turned and stared me dead in the eyes and I saw his craziness, that he had become some kind of deformed monster. Then I suddenly woke up. jbb

(Click the link to see the original photograph that inspired the story)

 

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Temple on the Waters – A Writing Exercise

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boynbook I went to work during my break to begin going through my stuff, tossing some of it and putting some of it in boxes, in preparation for my move to Florida. As is pretty normal for this process I had to keep myself from spending too much time reading through everything. As i was tossing papers left and right I found a folder with a couple writing exercises that I used to use with my 6th graders meant to help them with their writing. This one was called a Quick Draw Visualization Exercise and based on my notes it looks like I must have given this to a substitute to do with my students. The instructions and following story was written by moi over 12-years-ago, on March 5th, 1996:

INSTRUCTIONS: Please do not show the photograph or the title of this piece to the students until the end of the exercise. Read the following story with as much dramatic license as you are comfortable with (the idea is to put an image with emotional impact in their minds). After the reading they need to spend 15 minutes (max.) producing their picture of what they thought they’d heard. Emphasis that this is not about their artistic expertise but to help them develop their ability to get the ideas in the their heads on paper (visualization)—an important step to good writing!

I had no idea how long we’d been drifting down this river. I had dropped my compass and map into the water days ago. It was hard for me to trust the river guide, but I didn’t have any choice. I was tired and the days of endless rain made me want to curl up under one of the smelly canvas tarps to sleep the rest of this trip away. I was on the edge of getting mad because I hated hiding from the rain under this stupid tarp. I had gone into areas of this Asian country that I had been told to stay away from and now I was hiding from the rain and some very mean looking soldiers with big guns who were not particularly fond of nosy Americans with cameras. My mom told me that coming here was a bad idea. Thanks mom.

The river guide started chattering about something and he was very insistent about it. Part of me kept saying, “Just keep your head down and it’ll all go away.” But the guy wouldn’t shut up. If his blabbing didn’t attract attention then me sticking my head out to see what was happening wouldn’t mess things up either. I took a deep breath, anticipating the worst. Then I hesitated. I got my cameras ready. I figured if I was going to get my head shot off I’d at least try to get a good picture out of it. I took another deep breath and then threw back the tarp.

For a moment I was blinded by the sun. When I’d crawled into my hiding place the world outside had been filled with grays, and rain drenched drab greens. But now the sky was a bright shimmering blue with one or two pure white clouds scooting away from the sun’s brilliance. And on the water, the thing that the guide had been yammering about… rising out of the water on a beautiful white wooden platform stood a proud colorful Asian temple with a tall tower pointing up to the sky like a long thin finger. I just stood there for a moment with my mouth open, forgetting about the cameras hanging around my neck and whether there might be any solders hiding in the bush. It was all so different from what I had expected. And then without thinking I brought the camera lens to my face and started shooting.

The white platform had a railing all around it that looked finely carved and freshly painted. There were also stairs that led to the waters edge. The temple itself didn’t have any walls but just finely carved wooden beams holding up the red and orange and green roofs. It wasn’t just one roof like an American home and but in all four directions of the building there were three little roofs one above and scooted back from the other until they all met at the tower or spire that stuck out of the center of the temple. There were little pointy carved objects that stuck out of the crest or peak of all of the roofs. From this distance they looked like little carved unicorns. I could count ten of them on the edges of the roofs. The tower on the top of the center roof was as tall as the roof was above the platform. When I looked really closely I could see someone or someone’s statue standing in the center of the temple. I couldn’t see clearly who it was. Just then I heard the grunts of soldiers on the shore and dove back under my tarp. Then I spent the next endless hours crouched in the darkness praying that I’d get home to develop these pictures. jbb

(Click the link to see the original photograph that inspired the story)

 

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Computer Games on a TV look like Crap & Why Kids Love ‘em Anyway

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K, I can troubleshoot the hell out of an lab-full of aging CRT iMacs with 35 energetic 12-year and 13-year olds pounding these relics from the late 90s into submission. But some things get past me. I mean, over Christmas break when I finally got around to seeing if I could get some of my old PC games to run on my MacMini, which is connected to my old school CRT standard def TV, it dawned on me: games meant for a PC monitor look like crap on a standard def TV. My DVD collection and video podcasts look great on the 10-year-old 36-incher. But even the first gen Age of Empires was completely illegible on my TV. Damn. And Duh!

But because I use the TV mostly for DVDs and don’t even watch broadcast TV on it (’cause I cut the cable over a year ago), I have a hard time justifying buying something fancier. I don’t know, it seems silly. But then again, I am the guy who just spent a shit-load on an external back-up system (le drobo) and three 500GB hard drives when it became clear that the drives I was hoping to use from my G4 tower were … um, of the wrong vintage. Damn.

I don’t know why I keep feeling the pull to get into computer games. I’ve never really been a gamer. But part of me feels like interactive computer environments are going to be a serious part of education. I mean, they already are a part of any kid who spends any time on them; girls on chat and myspace and boys on some MMORPG or pr0n. Ack. On a marginally related note: Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, the genius behind the “Zero Punctuation” game reviews, rocks:

Rare Earth - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Rare Earth - (I Know) I'm Losing You Music: (I Know) I’m Losing You from the album “Earth Tones: The Essential Rare Earth” by Rare Earth

 

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The Curse of Signs I’d Ignored

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Long-HairedWriter I’ve written about this before. I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse. I decided to tackle the pile of papers I’d shoved into my bookshelf and put them into a hanging folder organizer. Of course the papers where print-outs of my online journal from 2003 to 2006, and I couldn’t file the papers without reading through a few. So I was left with the question of why I hung on to the non-relationship with You-know-who for so long?

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Remembering Defining Moments & What Really Matters

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667_A1_clouds1 I met with one of my pastors earlier this week to talk about what things can be done to improve the church website (I recommended doing something like Geeklog). Blah, blah, blah. Then he asked me, ” So Joe, what’s your story?” Let’s see, how many friends have I chased away with horrendously long renditions of my life story? Fortunately for both of us, he and I had to be somewhere else so that limited the breadth and “agony” of this re-telling of “what Joe’s been doing for the past five years.”

One good thing that came out of this conversation was that it reminded me of something I wrote on a web-page just as I was coming into this experience of Love that would so completely change my life. And even though the relationship seems to have run its course and I’m currently not with the person who was at the center of this very long whirlwind, the things that I was beginning to learn and wrote about still hold true. My struggle for the past few month has been to remember and hold on to all of the good things that I’ve learned despite how things have turned out. Some days are harder than others…

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Video Essays on Ed-Tech: Labs vs. Classrooms (Video Resumes)

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I created these video essays in 2005 when I was looking for another ed-tech job. Enjoy.
Uploaded to YouTube on July 19, 2006. “Labs Versus Classrooms” is a video essay about the most effective ways to implement technology on a school site.

The Four Video Resumes:

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