Archive for Around the Web

The Truth Behind the Photo that Tricked the Internet into Hating on Kids Today

If you spend any time on Facebook, you’ve probably seen this 2014 photo, which periodically makes the rounds to disgusted clucks of disapproval.

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There it is, the end of the world as we know it. A metaphor for our times.

One thing we’ve learned about the internet, people love to pile on. It makes us feel better about ourselves. Read the comments under this photo when it is shared and you’ll find the overwhelming majority of people are appalled by “kids today.” This shot, for many people, represents all of society’s ills in a nutshell: this is why we’re going to hell in a handbasket. Those darn kids and their stupid phones!

And yet to me it never looked quite right.

Maybe that’s because I’ve spent time in schools, have teenagers of my own, or perhaps I’m just not so ready to believe the worst about this generation. In fact, I incline toward the opposite direction. I look at young people today and feel hope.

And I also believe in teachers — that they wouldn’t be so ready to allow students to stare vacantly at phones during an educational field trip to a museum. Right? That’s obvious, isn’t it?

Earlier this morning I saw that photo come around again. I typed out a quick response, but didn’t post my comment. Instead I saved it.

I had written this:

“My two cents: I’ve seen this photo before and I don’t like it. Very easy to shame these kids for using their phones, and the reality is we don’t know what’s going on here. It may be as bad as it looks, or something else entirely. They might be bright, thoughtful, intelligent, creative young people who are using those amazing computers in their pocket to enhance learning. They may even have been instructed to do after viewing the artwork. I know the idea here is to portray these students as brain-dead zombies and for us all to feel smug and superior about the younger generation. It doesn’t seem fair or accurate.”

I didn’t post those thoughts because these days I am trying to stop myself before unloading on innocent victims. But it did spur me to do some research, and I discovered this:

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It turns out that these students were, in fact, on a field trip. The museum allowed them to download a free app onto their phones — you know, those useful, instructive computers they carry around in their pockets.

Reports indicate that the students were active, engaged, inspired.

The lesson here is don’t be fooled by one photo.

And more importantly, don’t be so ready to judge.

You don’t want to be this guy:

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Make Digital Photos Look Old in 5 Seconds Flat

NOTE: I originally posted about this website back in 2011 and am delighted to report that it still exists. This is an updated version of that old post.

For a quick, easy way to make your new digital photos look brand old, check out this Japanese website.

All you do is upload your photo and in about five seconds, the site spits back an aged-looking version which you can download. It’s insanely easy. Clearly, some shots lend themselves better to this treatment than others, but it’s fun experimenting with it to find out. I’d bet a baby picture might turn out especially swell, or a new photo of an old house.

For example, I got this from an image I found a few days ago . . .

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I like what it does with a landscape, which is already timeless . . .

Or this, from my daughter’s regatta up in Saratoga . . .

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And it’s also a neat way to salvage a great but poorly lit moment . . .

Celebrate National Poetry Month (April) with a FREE POSTER

Teachers, librarians, book store owners! Follow this link for a FREE POSTER created by artist Maira Kalman — who happens to be great! — commissioned by the Academy of American Poets in celebration of National Poetry Month.

The organization distributes more than 100,000 free posters to schools, libraries, and bookstores from sea to shining sea. Just click on the link to fill out the easy form while supplies last.

Support poetry, share your love for the written word, and beautify your wall. Sorry I could make that image bigger, but it’s the best I could find.

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Additional information the Academy of American Poets:

National Poetry Month is the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K-12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, bloggers, and, of course, poets marking poetry’s important place in our culture and our lives. 

While we celebrate poets and poetry year-round, the Academy of American Poets was inspired by the successful celebrations of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March), and founded National Poetry Month in April 1996 with an aim to:

 

New Stamps Honor Ezra Jack Keats and “The Snowy Day”

 

I’m going to need these stamps . . .

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Ezra Jack Keats, the creator of the groundbreaking children’s book, The Snowy Day, was born on March 11, 1916, nearly 100 years ago. To commemorate his achievement, the U.S. Postal Service will issue stamps featuring Keats’s artwork.

I think it’s a wonderful idea and a much deserved honor.

To me, the beautiful thing about this book is not that it was about a black boy in the snow in an urban setting, though that was (amazingly) a revolutionary thought at the time, published in 1962. Rather, Keats captured a universal expression of joy and wonder in this book — of a child, any child, every child, playing in the snow.

Transcendent and unifying.



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Just an aside, but anybody see the connection in Matthew Cordell’s widely-acclaimed new book, Wolf in the Snow?

I wonder if that’s intentional.

I’ll have to ask him.

EDIT: My pal Matt replied via Facebook, but I’ll post it here.

“The red coat was probably a subconscious hat tip to The Snowy Day, but not overly intentional. Just something about red on white snow that feels very bold and iconic. I used a red coat on my first pic book too (Toby and the Snowflakes, by Julie and me). Worth repeating! Then, of course, there’s the red riding hood throwback… who else did I steal from?”

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Star of Stars, Wonder of Wonders

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When we write, sometimes we reach for something we can’t quite express. In this case, a sense of wonder in the great big world.

It’s the trying that counts.

This illustration is by R.W. Alley from the upcoming “Jigsaw Jones” book, The Case from Outer Space. It’s the concluding image from the book, placed on second-to-last page.

I had the opportunity to review the sketches before R.W. went to finals. He does such an exceptional job, full of care and warmth, I don’t ever say too much. In this instance, I had only one change to suggest.

Here’s the initial sketch for that final scene:

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I asked Bob if he’d consider making them smaller. Pulling way back. I wanted to see Jigsaw, his father and grandmother, together under the stars, small in the great wide world.

More sky.

The book concludes:

After a while, we headed to the car.

My father led the way. He took the flashlight. 

I walked with Grams.

She held my elbow.

We went slowly.

“Careful,” I said.

And together we headed back.

Home.

 

I don’t think I ever did that before, stringing together so many one-line paragraphs. It seemed to fit the mood I was searching for.

I don’t know if I completely hit what I was reaching for in this scene, but I do know that Bob’s illustration will help bring readers a long way toward that goal. It’s nice for an author to have someone to lean on.

One other note. My mother is 90 years old. There’s a bit of her and me in that scene, when Grams takes him by the elbow, fearful of falling.

Today I’m grateful for this book, for Bob Alley, for my mother, and for our smallness in this great big world.

It’s a good thing, right? Just to be reminded of that fact. Our smallness.

This site, featuring images from the Hubble Space Telescope, does that for me. A place to visit every now and then. A reminder of our smallness, yes, but also our connection to the deepest, greatest mysteries.

Merry Christmas, folks. Or happy holidays. Or however you wish to express your wonder, your joy, your sense of beauty, your love.

CHEERS,

KIND READERS,

AND THANKS

AS ALWAYS

FOR STOPPING BY.