Monday, May 25, 2015

An Inherent Vice: A Very Short Story

Barefoot Days (M.A. Reilly, 2011)

Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat...

 - Walt Whitman

I. A Short Story

I had forgotten.

Watching Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice, I remembered. It was the filthy soles of Doc Sportello's feet that brought it back. My teenage years were spent barefoot. That was decades before bacterial soap would become a household norm, before grime and earth would frighten us, before worry became as commonplace as breath. Then late springs were more often about toughening the soles for a summer mired in gravel and tar.

Throwing off shoes and socks was akin to letting loose that wild animal that hid within our too-soft bodies. How could we know more than what we knew at that moment even if 8,000 miles away young boys we grew up with were dying?

A whole country was dying and all those summers we hitchhiked barefoot.
Went to concerts barefoot.
Walked in and around puddles barefoot.
Ignored the signs & shopped quickly at the A&P, darting between closing doors as the manager in his too-soft brown hush puppies rushed to catch us.
We nudged debris caught in the grooves of old rubber floor mats with our toes, arranging it as if it might reveal something we had lost.
We flicked lit cigarette butts away from our feet, watching how thin arcs of light illuminated darkness, briefly.
We walked across city streets, on dirt roads and through cold night sand--barefoot.

We were so beautifully careless.

And when late August turned cool, some found Birkenstocks tossed under beds or borrowed someone's Dr. Scholls or a pair of thick white socks--but more times than not we just pulled the frayed hems of worn bell bottoms beneath our heels. At dusk some lit punks, some passed joints, and lying back we felt the sweet coolness of grass beneath our feet.

Keeping Watch (M.A. Reilly, Plymouth, England, 2012)
 "Nothing is more misleading than a clear and distinct idea" (Louis de Broglie, p. 128).

II. What's Forgotten

I had forgotten.

Watching Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice, I remembered how way might not reveal way.  You see, it wasn't just the filthy soles of Doc Sportello's feet that wound me up as I watched scene after scene unfold all the while trying in earnest to recall the narrative until that too became too taxing, too misdirecting and I stopped wondering, What's the story, here?  and remained simply present.

And later, the very the phrase, inherent vice, kept nudging at something I thought might be important to know, something I might want to tell you.  And so I looked it up and learned:
An inherent vice is "the tendency of material to deteriorate due to the essential instability of the components or interaction among components" (from here). 
The made thing does not lasts. Even, memories, though sweet, are their own inherent vice. Something crucial right now is slipping, turning on itself like a scared animal cornered.

Somedays we move along and the way is forgotten. We move between order and disorder, barefoot or not.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Moon and New York

Waxing Moon above Central Park (M.A. Reilly, 5.22.15)


      by Mario Rivero
We met every day
in the same place
we shared poems, cigarettes
and sometimes an adventure novel.
We threw small stones
from the bridge where the workers
from the glass factory took their lunch.
I told her that the earth was round
my aunt a witch and the moon a piece of copper.
That one day I would go to New York,
the city where outlandish things happen all the time
where vagabond cats
sleep under the automobiles
where there are a million beggars
a million lights
a million diamonds . . .
New York where it takes ants
centuries to climb the Empire State building
and where the blacks stroll around Harlem
wearing gaudy clothes
selling shoe polish in summer
I would go from restaurant to restaurant
until I found a small sign:
“Boy wanted to wash dishes.
No college degree required.”
Sometimes I would eat a sandwich
I would pick apples in California
I would think about her riding on the el
and I would buy her a dress like a neon light . . .
she was about to kiss me
when the factory whistle blew.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tonight the moon dreams in a deeper languidness...

Tonight there is a waxing crescent moon (at 7%).  Venus and Jupiter are observable.  A very dark night with clusters of stars. This entry is part of a night sky journal I am keeping for one moon cycle. You can read more about the project here.

Here's what I observed and imagined...

Slender Moon (M.A. Reilly, 5.20.15)
Media: chalk pastels, gouache, on watercolor paper & then digital manipulation.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Picturing the Night Sky for One Moon Cycle

New Moon (M.A. Reilly, 5.18.15 - Gelatos, chalk pastels, white gesso, black and white photograph)

I have long been fascinated with the night sky--especially the moon.  For the last few years I have made hundreds of photographic images and traditional media works.  In a project I am currently beginning with teachers and students I made a slideshow--a visual slice of life-- using some of those images (see below).
Blueblack Night (M.A Reilly, 5.18.15)

For the next month (28 days), I'll be making images of the night sky--based on what I observe and
wished I might have observed.  I hold little allegiance to reality. I plan to use a range of media and to introduce children and teachers to that media as they study the skies.  I hope that they might explore some of the following traditional drawing and paint media, as well as digital media as they create a series of drawings, paintings, photographs, and mixed media collages that represent what they saw and imagined as they studied the sky during the next 28 days.  They'll create these works alongside some writing.

Drawing and Paint Media

  1. Watercolor cakes
  2. Reeves gouache paint set
  3. Faber-Castel Gelatos
  4. Chalk pastels
  5. Gel medium
  6. White gesso
  7. White glue
  8. Crayola Color Switcher Markers
  9. Metallic markers
  10. crayons
  11. Sakura white gel pens
  12. Sakura color gel pens
  13. Inktense Color Drawing Pencils
  14. 2H, HB, B and @b drawing pencils
  15. Charcoal White pencils
  16. Micron-01 black ink pens
  17. Erasers
  18. artist tape

Digital and Photographic Media

  1. Polaroid camera/film
  2. Digital photography


  1. Black drawing paper
  2. Watercolor cardstock
  3. Artist Tiles - Black
  4. Artist Tiles  white
  5. 70 pound white drawing paper
  6. cardboard
  7. found papers
  8. origami paper
  9. rice paper
  10. fabric scraps
  11. newspaper
  12. magazines
  13. photocopies

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Making Knowledge through Interactive Read Alouds in Kindergarten: New E-Book

from iTunes
I have revised and added the full set of read aloud units for kindergarten.  This e-book, Making Knowledge through Interactive Read Alouds in Kindergarten is now available for download through iTunes. 

It is book #10.

The book contains 8 units of study: 
  1. Concept Books
  2. Neighborhoods
  3. Giving Thanks
  4. Traditional Stories and Grain
  5. All About Trees
  6. Water
  7. Reading and Libraries
  8. Contemporary Stories

 There is also an introduction now that lists the unit, text, learning strategy and reading/writing focus so that you can see the learning strategies that are used across the text and what they target (comprehension, vocabulary, writing in response to text)

There was great care taken in the selection of texts.  As such, the books represent a range of topics and people. 

These are the books by Unit.

Unit 1: Concept Books
from Unit 1
  1. Bruchac, Joseph. (2004). Many Nations: An Alphabet of Native America. Illustrated by Robert F. Goetzl.  New York: Scholastic. (580L)
  2. Burns, Marilyn. (2008). The Greedy Triangle. Illustrated by Gordon Silveria. New York: Scholastic.  (580L)
  3. Cotten, Cynthia. (2002). At the Edge of the Woods: A Counting Book. Illustrated by Reg Cartwright. New York: Henry Holt. (No Lexile)
  4. Demarest, Chris L. (2003). Firefighters A to Z. New York: Aladdin. (310L)
  5. Falwell, Cathryn. (2013). Rainbow Stew. New York: Lee and Low Books. (740L)
  6. Houblon, Marie. (2009). A World of Colors: Seeing Colors in a New Way. Washington D.C.: National Geographic. (No Lexile)
  7. Jenkins, Steve. (2004). Actual Size. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. (1080L)
  8. Thong, Roseanne.(2000). Round is a Mooncake: A Book of Shapes. Illustrated by Grace Lin. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. (No Lexile)

Unit 2: Neighborhoods
Page from Unit 2
  1. Croza, Laurel. (2010). I Know Here. Illustrated by Matt James. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books. (760L)
  2. Cumpiano, Ina. (2009). Quinito's Neighborhood/El Vecindario de Quinito. Illustrated by Jose Ramirez. New York: Lee and Low Books. (490L)
  3. Fine, Edith Hope and  Angela Halpin. (2010). Water, Weed and Wait. Illustrated by “Colleen M. Madden. San Francisco, CA: Tricycle Press. (No Lexile).
  4. Kalman, Bobbie. (2000). What is a Community? From A to Z.  New York: Crabtree Publishing. (680L)
  5. Shewchuk Pat. (2013). In Lucia’s Neighborhood. Illustrated by Marek Colek. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press. (360L)
  6. Watson, Renée. (2010). A Place Where Hurricanes Happen. Illustrated by Shadra Strickland. New York: Random House. (No Lexile)
Unit 3: Giving Thanks
from Unit 3
  1. Delacre, Lulu. (2013). How Far Do You Love Me? New York: Lee and Low Books. (800L)
  2. Glaser, Linda. (2010). Emma’s Poem. Illustrated by Claire A. Nivola. Orlando, FL: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (790L)
  3. Mora, Pat. (2009). Gracias / Thanks. Illustrated by John Parra. Nee York: Lee and Low Books. (1040L)
  4. Swamp, Chief Jake (Mohawk). (2005). Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message.  Illustrated by Erwin Printup, Jr. (Cayuga/Tuscarora). New York: Lee and Low Books. (660L)
  5. Swamp, Chief Jake (Mohawk). (2005). Gracias Te Damos: Una Ofrenda De Los Nativos Americanos Al Amanecer De Cada Dia. Illustrated by Erwin Printup, Jr. (Cayuga/Tuscarora). New York: Lee and Low Books. (660L)

Unit 4: Traditional Stories and Grains
from Unit 4
  1. 1. Galdone, Paul . (1985 ). The Little Red Hen. New York: Sandpiper. (550L)
  2. Gershator, David and Phillis Gershator. (1998). Bread is for Eating. Illustrated by Emma Shaw-Smith. New York: Henry Holt. (450L)
  3. Hairston, Meredith. (2011). Little Red Hen. Illustrated by Jes Golden. Digital Story/Video. Retrieved 12.31.12 from: 
  4. Paulsen, Gary. (1998). The Tortilla Factory. Illustrated by Ruth W. Paulsen.  New York: Sandpiper. (550L)
  5. Sturges, Philemon. (2002). The Little Red Hen Makes Pizza. Illustrated by Amy Walrod. New York: Puffin. (320L)

Unit 5: All About Trees 

from Unit 5
  1. Depalma, Mary Newell. (2005). A Grand Old Tree. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books. (460L)
  2. Gerber, Carole. (2009). Winter Trees. Illustrated by Leslie Evans.  Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. (760L)
  3. Miller, Debbie S. (2002). Are Trees Alive? Illustrated by Stacey Schuett. New York: Walker & Company. (640L)
  4. Muldrow, Diane. (2010). We Planted a Tree. Illustrated by Bob Staake. New York: Random House. (620L)
  5. Pallotta, Jerry (2010). Who Will Plant a Tree? Illustrated by Tom Leonard. Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press. (No Lexile)
  6. Winter, Jeanette. (2008). Wangari's Trees of Peace. Orlando, FL: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (730L)

Unit 6: Water 
from Unit 6
  1. Asch, Frank. (2000). Water. Orlando, FL: Harcourt. (140L)
  2. Cobb, Vicki. ( 2002). I Get Wet.  Illustrated by Julia Gorton. New York: HarperCollins. (No Lexile).
  3. Lyon, George Ella. (2011). All the Water in the World. Illustrated by Katherine Tillotson. New York: Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books. (520L)
  4. Sweet, Melissa. (2008). When Rain Falls. Illustrated by  Constance Bergum. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree Publishers. (No Lexile).

Unit 7. Libraries and Reading 
from Unit 7

  1. Gonzalez, Lucia. (2008). The Storyteller’s Candle: La velita de los cuentos. Illustrated by Lulu Delacre, San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press. (730 L)
  2. Hest, Amy. (2007). Mr. George Baker. Illustrated by John J. Muth. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Books. (520L)
  3. Mora, Pat. (2000). Tomas and the Library Lady. Illustrated by Raul Colon. New York: Dragonfly Books. (440L)
  4. Ruurs, Margaret. (2005). My Librarian is a Camel: How Books are Brought Around the World. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press. (980L)
  5. Winter, Jeanette. (2005/2012).  The Librarian of Basra (Digital Version). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved 12.31,12 from: 

Unit 8: Contemporary Stories
from Unit 8

  1. Harjo, Joy (Muskogee-Creek). (2000). The Good Luck Cat. Illustrated by Paul Lee. Orlando, FL: Harcourt. (540L)
  2. Falwell, Cathryn. (2005). David’s Drawings. New York: Lee & Low. (150L)
  3. Herrera, Juan Felipe.(2004). Featherless/ Desplumado. Illustrated by Ernesto Cuevas, Jr. New York: Lee & Low. (No Lexile)
  4. Krishnaswami , Uma. (2006).  Bringing Asha Home. Illustrated by Jamel Akib. New York: Lee and Low Books. (560L)
  5. Smith, Cynthia Leitich (Muscogee [Creek] Nation). (2000). Jingle Dancer. Illustrated by  Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu. New York: HarperCollins. (710L)
  6. Sockabasin, Allen (Passamaquoddy). (2005 ). Thanks to the Animals. Illustrated by Rebekah Raye. Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House Publishers. (700L)
  7. Tafolla, Carmen. (2009). What Can You Do With a Paleta? / ¿Qué puedes hacer con una paleta? Illustrated by Magaly Morales. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle Press. (No Lexile)
  8. Tafolla, Carmen. (2012). What Can You Do With a Paleta? / ¿Qué puedes hacer con una paleta? (Digital Version) Illustrated by Magaly Morales. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle Press. Retrieved 5.1.15.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

There's Little School (Re)Form without Language Invention: A #Rhizo15 Post

Learner as Knowmad (Reilly, 2012)

I. Learner as Knowmad

We're driving in the car when Rob tells me our son is composing a first-person shooter (FPS) video game based on the science of parallel dimensions. I'm told that he intends to limit the weapons in order to level the playing field. Each player will have the same physical weapon, kitted out in the same fashion.

Why is he doing this? I ask.
He wants to study the sociology of FPS when the playing field has been leveled, Rob explains. 

And as we drive, I begin to wonder what emerges in such play? How does the practice of shifting into and out of parallel dimensions influence strategy? What happens to the nature and definition of team when dimensionality is in play? What happens to the understanding of individual when dimensionality is not just an interesting physics problem but a potential that can be realized? How is it that my 16-year-old who has never formally studied physics knows how to make such a thing? Where has he wandered so that he might compose such understandings of multiple universes? How does he understand such worlds?

I'm thinking about this in light of the #Rhizo15 discussion of late about the nature of content and the role of teacher, and the idea of community. I'm wondering about the play between content that gets produced and content that gets consumed and if such play doesn't help us to understand the co-specifiying nature of meaning making and becoming. I'm wondering how our understanding of teaching and learning is disrupted when we think about our children who are connected to a infinite world of influence, friendships, arrangements--where just asking is as natural as breathing and so they ask often and in doing so learn actively. To live in their world is to experience random juxtapositions where content and form are linked, where community is better understood as affinity groups that form and clear as needed.

Teacher as Time Traveler (M.A. Reilly, 2012)

II.  Teacher as Time Traveler

In our children's world, the instability of our titling becomes clearer--shows us more acutely the limitations of thinking roles, such as teacher or student, held steady. For is my son not the teacher in one instance and the learner too?  Is he not the player and the teammate too? Is he not the boy who abandons what he starts and finishes what he makes? Is it not true that a teacher he may need is one he's never met and one he's tutored and one he'll need for just a moment and himself? Is he not also the producer and consumer in so threaded a tangle that to know one is to be the other? Is he not contrary?

Is it not also possible that the role of teacher is too causal for this world and has limited reach? My son's world is one of connections and learners are teachers who time travel. They are knowmadic, for nothing holds steady, here. This is a world of becoming. There are no traces to follow, just maps that get made.

Thinking about this makes me wonder where inside the classrooms we are composing today does such fluid learning and becoming get privileged?  We must keep close to the heart the understanding that being is not equivalent to becoming. It never has.

Community as Rhizome (Reilly, 2012)

III. Community as Rhizome

Motion slows the passage of time and the titles we used to fix time--hold it steady are less orientable and far less accurate in the worlds our children are composing. There causality has limited play at best. Community is not defined by who joins, but rather by who plays. And play is not limited to participation based on what we can see or what we think we know.

Rather than classrooms inside buildings separated from the towns and cities where they reside--think assemblages formed by plateaus that are interconnected and breakable at every point of contact. We might think such communities are fragile.  They are not.  Rather they are non-orientable and to many of us, feel foreign.  Deleuze and Guattari (1987) explain, ‘Each plateau can be read starting anywhere and can be related to any other plateau’ (p. 22).  Learners in such affinity groups move horizontally and by lines of flight that cut stratification, clear over-coded space.

Think middle, not edges.

IV. Less (Re)Form, More Invention

School (re)form requires language invention.  How we name is how the world appears. That which we have no language for does not exist. Language invention will allow us to stop replicating models of learning that are causal. "I teach. You learn," does not serve us, or our children, very well.

And so, when we continue to understand teacher and student as separate roles located in distinct silos, our naming fails us. When we equate content with something set and proffered to all, our naming fails us. When we orient learning time to starts and stops signaled by the proverbial bell ringing, our naming fails us. When we understand physical classrooms and school buildings as community definers, our naming fails us. When we equate success with answering  predetermined and mass produced questions correctly and quickly our naming fails us.

In the learning spaces we most need, learning is already happening. No one is waiting for us to show up, unless we have forced them. There, learners are becoming not through some sequential development toward a stated standard--some state of being, but rather through a dynamic flow with self and others.

Here's the shift we most need to grasp: There's nothing to prove.  Becoming "produces nothing other than itself" (p.238). That's it. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Meditation in Five Parts

I've Been to Sea Before (M.A. Reilly, 2010)

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown        
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
                                    from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock


What is named is most always a fiction.


Rhizomatic tendencies do not come easy even if participation in #Rhizo15 makes the rhizome more commonplace, less happenstance.  I don't recognize myself as becoming for I am too rooted.  A narrative.

Time marches along and I stick to its edges.


Much in the way I live works against rhizomatic tendencies for rhizomes are about horizontal movement and little less. Such mindlessness makes me nervous, triggers an urge to rely on what has been given. Don't tell, but most days I want to know the road is well marked, well walked before trodding. For I am dutiful. A modern girl-version of Prufrock who measures life in coffee spoons--full of beginnings and endings and each time I've glanced away from those seductive middles, I've been rewarded.

Yes, rewarded.  I'm a slave to production.


I've come to understand how ruptures, those sweet lines of flight, are more about trusting what cannot be known than over-relying on what has been coded. And I want to trust. I do. But I live mostly by code. I wish I might be different and of course, sometimes I am--like that day in Dún Laoghaire at the Forty-Foot promontory when the afternoon sun cast shadows shifting three mere mortals to angels and I saw it all as it emerged.

I clicked the camera's shutter to clear space and see.


Some nights I dream myself quiet and wake with the sea at my throat.