Tag Archives: education

Save-It Saturday: Celebrated Summer.

rfindebted

(Herewith follows the last article I wrote for Upper Deck. As the school year wraps up and we head into another summer, it still tastes as sweet as ever.)

Rallying Cry: Celebrated Summer

By Rian Fike
9/18/2008

This has been quite an eventful summer on many levels.  World-class athletes from all over the world converged in China for the Beijing Olympics.  Political candidates here in America battled intensely in the midst of a thrilling presidential election.  Vs. System crowned a number of new champions, and one of them claimed ultimate victory with Squirrel Girl!

celebratedpic2

For me, personally, the summer of 2008 included a rather large change of venue.  My career has come full circle.  I began teaching art in 1983 at an elementary school in the inner city of Miami.  After five years, I was recruited to pioneer a Media Arts program in a middle school.  Eight years later, I transferred to an alternative high school for kids that had been excluded from their regular school for various reasons.  I taught there for thirteen years until budget cuts and high-stakes standardized testing eliminated the Art department. 

Now, I am back teaching at an elementary school, and I couldn’t be happier.  Young children are full of the pure inventive energy that is often sorely lacking in older human beings.  They explore new combinations, free of the doubtful cynicism that drags the creative spirit down into doldrums.  They are so very much alive.

Returning to the freshness of the grammar-school perspective has also brought a shining, glorious glow to Vs. System.  My classroom mantra for the year is “I feel great when I create!”. And I think it’s carried over into the Vs. System TCG, because this game has been flourishing when it comes to brilliant fan-based innovation and originality in competitive deckbuilding.

Obviously, I want to start with Squirrel Girl.  The furry little wonder has been doing some major damage with her cardboard incarnation, including the domination of Gen Con Indianapolis.  Thanks to Robert Rietze and his S.H.I.E.L.D. Simmer concoction, my favorite character in comics is a true champion. 

Let’s learn about the deck from the mad genius that created it, shall we?

The concept is to cook your opponent slowly (hence the word “simmer”) while having reinforcement and disruption.  In the late game you reinforce whenever possible, and when they swing their seven-drop you play Dangerous Liaison and say “Try again later on.”  In fact, Dangerous Liaison is the meat of the deck, and probably my favorite card in Marvel Universe.  If you read this then you deserve a cookie.

Dan Clark was running S.H.I.E.L.D. burn, and he always won on turn 5.  His deck is probably a much better version… but I like jank, so here’s mine with comments.

S.H.I.E.L.D. Simmer

Robert Rietze

2008 Gen Con Indianapolis Champion

 Characters

10 S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents Just ten… I know.
4 Speedball ◊ Penance, Painmonger He’s sexy, no?
1 Blizzard, Frosty Friend Because he wins games, ask anyone.
2 Life Model Decoy Great for dreaming with.
2 Wolverine, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Growl.
2 Squirrel Girl Free guys are good.
1 Hank Pym ◊ Yellowjacket, Initiative Instructor Why not?  He’s a freaking Skrull, and I need at least one Skrull in a modern deck.

And that’s it for characters. 22 in total, which is all you need to simmer properly – since you have all the bouncing effects.

Mulligan condition = one S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent and or Penance.

Plot Twists
4 Origin Story  …amazing card.
3 Mobilize
1 Collect Them All
2 Blinding Rage
4 Savage Beatdown
4 Secret War It bounces and sets up Dangerous Liaison and Thunderbolts Mountain.
3 Dangerous Liaison The greatest card ever made.  It doesn’t target and keeps people from killing me.  Just ask the great Michael Barnes.
3 Invasion Plans Drawing cards is good with the low character count, and the agents kinda don’t do much.
3 Death of the Dream Either draw a card and replace your crap or get rid of Total Anarchy.

And…

ONE SUPERHUMAN REGISTRATION ACT! It wins games, but drawing multiples is bad… so just the one.

Locations
4 Birthing Chamber Obv.
3 Thunderbolts Mountain Draw a card, set up Penance, set up Blizzard on turn 3 to guarantee you don’t have to worry about big stuff.
3 S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier It would be four, but I only own three!

RFdangerousliasonWow.  Just wow.  After four and a half years of playing this game, I am still amazed at the crazed creativity and deep deviousness that can be captured in a single sixty-card construction.  I have been over and over that strategy in my head, and it amazes me every time.  Especially when I pinch myself and realize that Squirrel Girl actually swung for the win in the final match.  Don’t believe me?  I have proof.

Mad props go out to Shane “fatalsync” Wendell at www. vsrealms.com for the fabulous event coverage, especially the penultimate squirrelly smackdown that claimed the climactic crown.  It was a match for the ages, as the wonder known as John Hall could be seen flinging the wicked monkey madness of Gorilla Grodd and Secret Society.  John actually gained 30 endurance during the match, and recruited Doomsday on turn 7.  How did Squirrel Girl triumph against that?  Head over to the Realms and find out for yourself.

RFsquirrelgirl 

As you can see, the competitive environment has gone completely nuts over Squirrel Girl.  Tree rodents are flying across the tournament halls like white-hot Ping-Pong balls of pure power.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Vs. System has come to life, and the pulse of the creative spirit that pumps the blood can seen on a multitude of maniacal fan-based websites.  Chris Miller’s Lost Hemisphere is perhaps the most vibrant, and the other day he gave a magnificent shout-out to thirteen of this game’s staunch suppliers of inventive genius.  Included in that list is my personal favorite new source of Vs. System verbiage.  It’s called “Vs. Is Not Dead,” and it is the brainchild of Brian “Trader2699” Herman in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Recently, he too had a brush with the undeniable hotness of Squirrel Girl.

I love it when a plan comes together as much as the next person, especially when it comes to Vs. System.  Crafting and planning an intricate decklist/strategy is half the fun, but it’s also incredible to put that strategy into action. Unfortunately for the Injustice Gang handflood/burn deck, my plans went completely awry. I did not like the fact that missing Lex Luthor meant losing the game, and the deck never felt like it was going to “pop.”

So I scrapped it entirely the day before the BYOT tournament, and started over. When I got home from work, there was an unexpectedly early package containing a singles order I had placed earlier in the week. 3 S.H.I.E.L.D.  Helicarriers, encased neatly in sleeves and a top loader. I was so pleased that I decided to throw caution to the wind and play an Army deck for BYOT. The deck went through a couple of iterations, both while in written development and when I finally broke out the little 1-cost burners. What I ended up with was this…

RFspeedball

Brian’s decklist, tournament report, and ultimate triumph really got the blood pumping for this game that’s been going strong after all these years.  I applaud his efforts and enthusiastically anticipate many more opportunities to live out future Vs. System glories vicariously on his blog.  This summer has seen a blossoming, and the flowers get funkier every time.

The most heartwarming of these is found back on the continent of the Lost Hemisphere.  It has been the Summer of Love, in more ways than one.   I would like to take a moment to showcase a project that humbles my creative essence with its utter magnificence, while inspiring me to do greater things with my life and our game.  This is our moment, and Chris Miller’s words call us toward cardboard paradise.

celebratedpic3

There comes a time each year, a special time, after the rebirth of spring, with its bouncing baby bunnies and fragrant blossoms, but before the cool touch of autumn, with its kaleidoscope of leafy color and the gentle promise of snuggling by a warm, cozy fire. Yes, I’m talking about the heady, lazy, crazy days of summer. When a boy’s head turns to thoughts of baseball in vacant lots, swimming holes, and thick slices of watermelon, while young girls slip on their poodle skirts and skip down to the malt shoppe to listen to the juke box… hang on, I’m totally out of era, aren’t I…

One way or another, welcome to…

Lost Hemisphere’s Summer Of Love!

The concept: 32 decks, each a randomly assigned team-up, battle their way through a bracket to determine Vs. System’s happiest couple.

We randomly paired up 64 teams, rolling the dice to see what sort of wild and wacky team combinations we’d end up with. Clearly, we could have just slapped together the decks… but what if it wasn’t us doing most of the deckbuilding? What if it was celebrated deckbuilders and community luminaries?

The invitations went out, the community responded, and the shenanigans are ready to commence!

Behold! A veritable who’s who of dudes who we suckered into making decks for us!

Clifford “Captain_Comet” Parmeter, the most huggable podcast host ever, brings you Mask of Steel (Superman/Doom) and Knights Errant (Gotham Knights/Doom Patrol).

Miguel “CarlosTheDwarf” Rodriquez, the original VS blogger, brings you HK KO (Hellfire/Kree) and Green ’rine (Green Lantern Corps/X-Men).

Sean “BALDMAN” Marinelli, owner of the world’s largest forehead, brings you Crisis Knights (Marvel Knights/Crisis) and Shake ’n Bake (Morlocks/Secret Six).

Adam “Flashback81” Kirkby, the most puzzling man this side of North Haverbrook, brings you Pate de FOES IG-ras (Injustice Gang/Future Foes) and Dark(seid) City (Darkseids Elite/Brotherhood).

Squire “HomerJ” Kershner, jankmaster extreme, brings you ”Hi Everybody!” “Hi, Dr Spectrum!” (Inhumans/Squadron Supreme) and Titans United (Teen Titans/United Front).

Jason “Jaxxin” Hager, who likes yelling at Hulk on foil cards, brings you Stranger Danger (JSA/Nextwave) and Box Full of Evil (BPRD/Legionnaires).

Steve “Kamiza” Garrett, the U.K.’s man with the sexiest eyes, who can also pull off a roundhouse kick, brings you The Claw Society (Secret Society/Weapon X) and Family of One (Fantastic Four/X-Statix).

Brian “Kansashoops” Foley, American Maid’s favorite dork, brings you Adamantium Skrullmate (Checkmate/Skrull) and Psychopathic Reservists (Avengers/Sinister Syndicate).

Patrick “Majestic” Yapjoco, the winningest Yapjoco ever, brings you Crime Watch (Underworld/Crime Lords) and Wolvie Smash! (Warbound/S.H.I.E.L.D.).

Aaron “Onyxweapon” Mead, living the VS Life in the frozen North, brings you Task Force: Revenge (JLI/RevSq) and The Revenge of Tony Danza from His Tap Dance extravaganza (Fearsome 5/Outsiders).

Josh ”Runaway” Trujillo, the bravest blogger ever, brings you New Birds (New Gods/Birds of Prey) and Villain Potpourri (Villains United/Masters of Evil).

Talulah “Soshi Kenpachi” McGillicutty, who didn’t give me his real name in his email, brings you /r/ moar cards (Infinity Watch/Negative Zone) and On Public Urination (JLA/Thunderbolts)

David “CaptainSpud” Tierney, with the power of 10,000 potatoes, brings you Prime Qwardian Real Estate (League of Assassins/Antimatter) and Looney Bin (Arkham Inmates/Alpha Flight).

Rian “Stubarnes” Fike, the most psychedelic player in VS history, brings you Green Weakness (Emerald Enemies/Sentinels) and Hitler’s Wristwatch (Kang Council/Thule Society).

Paul “TheDerangedBear” Sung, renaming days of the week just for fun, brings you Warp Factor 9 (Heralds/SpeedForce) and Wild & Sticky (Spidey/WildPack).

Oh, and Pablo (“Eponymous’) laid claim to The Horse Conjurer  (Shadowpact/Horsemen), while I (“gdaybloke”) couldn’t resist the Rebellion in New Jersey  (Manhunters/Defenders).

RFlanterns

 
As a veteran of Vs. System history and histrionics, I must say that this tournament is unequalled in its sheer life-forced brilliance.  It breathes new hope into team affiliations and crazy combinations.  It gives us a bracket of beatdowns that will be extremely difficult to categorize, yet truly impossible to forget.  It is the Summer of Love indeed, and it will be celebrated forever.

Rian Fike is also known as stubarnes, and he is mad busy teaching little kids how to paint now that the school year has begun.  The celebrated summer lingers, while he marches forward into the future.  You can send him some ideas about how to manage his time and recharge his batteries at fullbodytransplant@dadeschools.net

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Filed under Comic Books, Save It Saturday, Squirrel Girl, Vs. System

Weekly Wonder Word: I Love My Job.

DirtyJob

I do. I love my job. Teaching kids how to enjoy life with art? It doesn’t get any better than that. I am truly blessed.

So what did I do for the Wednesday Weekly Wonder Word? Same as always. I went to deviantart.com and searched for “I Love My Job”. That drawing was the best selection.

Natch.

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Thursday Thirteen: An Art Teacher’s Manifesto.

watchmen_classroom_by_biigurutwin

(Watchmen in the classroom, by biigurutwin.)

I like to reflect. When I sat down to write a Thursday Thirteen this week, I decided to list the things I strive to instill in my students. This is my revolution.

1. Creative Success. Each student will feel the specific joy that only comes from inventive accomplishment.

2. Expansive Ideas. Each student will think about the world in new ways.

3. Wide-eyed Wonder. Each student will be exposed to a view of life as an unfolding gift of infinite potential.

4. Unknown Connections. Each student will see everyday things from extraordinary angles.

5. Controlled Freedom. Each student will have fun with their art and their friends while maintaining appropriate personal discipline.

6. Underlying Principles. Each student will understand why I enjoy each project enough to teach it to them.

7. Unwavering Positivity. Each student will have at least one teacher who is always in a good mood.

8. Modern Myth. Each student will relate some part of the lesson to comic book superheroes.

9. Relative History. Each student will be able to understand the origins of the things they know and love.

10. Convex Consumerism. Each student will flip the script from consumer to creator – from audience to artist.

11. Trading-card Tickle. Each student will get one of my extra Vs. System cards at random as a reward for good behavior and trade them joyously with classmates.

12. Punctual Responsibility. Each student will have an art teacher who is  a model of consistency and is always exactly on time.

13. Unconditional Love. Each student will be valued and loved equally as a creative human being.

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High-pitched Squeals.

x-babies x-babies

“I wake up dreaming again.”

– Little Feat

I am done pinching myself. That card is real. The one deck archetype that I created all by myself, immortalized on official Vs. System cardboard. Life just keeps getting better for me. Being human in 2008 is simply exquisite.

One of the ways I maximize the human experience is a sort of deep reflection coupled with the urge to figure things out. So why do I like the X-Babies so much? I wonder.

x-baby

I think one of the main attractions to Chibi characters is the sense of vibrant color that youth infuses into the grey mental objectivity of adulthood. I don’t ever want to grow up.

x-babies

Kids retain an essential purity. People can be so cruel. They often grow increasingly ugly in attitude and perspective. Youngsters start fresh, and they represent the hope of remaining uncontaminated.

x-babies2

I also adore flying eyeballs, so I guess a certain quest for philosophical simplicity may be in play. I love to distill things down until they are a single point. Then, when I return to the complicated experience of humanity, it looks like a little child all over again.

atoms-001

That’s a photo of my classroom this morning, and it brings me to one more reason that I will always dig the X-Babies. Today I am teaching computer theory to second, third, and fourth graders. I explain how a silicon chip converts binary codes thanks to the ability of their individual atoms to be programmed to stay “on or off”. You can see the fabulous drawings that one class of seven-year-olds did scattered around the tables. Want another second grade artistic interpretation of the atomic-level workings of computer memory? Okay.

atoms-002

That, however, is not the thing that I feel every time I see the X-Babies bursting forth from their new Vs. System card.

When my son was four or five years old, I taught him about atoms. They are spinning bits of matter that are really made of energy, and there are no batteries inside. He figured out, in true X-Baby style, what that means.

“God is in the atoms!”, he said.

It was the best explanation I have heard, and I have been squealing like this ever since.

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President Obama, the Artist.

murphy4

My formal education was focused on Fine Arts, yet I consider every person an artist. No matter what you do or how you do it, you have your own sense of style.

But.  If we do not rescue the Arts at this turning point in our nation’s history, our cultural identity will be reduced to basic marketing and data processing. We will all still be artists, but we won’t be any good.

When it comes to the visual arts and Arts education, we are in trouble. The struggling economy combines with an emphasis on high-stakes standardized tests to strangle the creativity from our national voice. Arts programs and teachers are being cut from the system like blooming branches, leaving nothing but a bare trunk.

That is the main reason I focused all the energies I had on electing Barack Obama as President of the United States. After our completely exhausting, yet utterly satisfying victory, the new website change.gov was launched. I rushed over to see how the platform for the Arts contained in my first link had been preserved. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

Before I go any further, I would like to introduce the work of Michael Murphy, exhibited in the Blackridge Gallery at Georgia College & University. The magnificent drawing at the top of this post is his, and his wire sculpture knocks my socks off.  Mike was gracious enough to give me permission to host his stuff here, but you really need to visit his site to get the full effect. Again, that’s www.mmike.com. It will enrich your soul.

The swirling uncontrolled greed that George W. Bush and his cronies unleashed on our nation has depleted the resources necessary for the Arts to thrive in our schools. Barack Obama understands that “The Art Spirit” needs to have a home in education and in our culture as a whole. He clarified his position a bit more within an issues page on change.gov, and he actually admitted that he considers himself an artist!

Barack Obama’s Plan

Arts

Our nation’s creativity has filled the world’s libraries, museums, recital halls, movie houses, and marketplaces with works of genius. The arts embody the American spirit of self-definition. As the author of two best-selling books – Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama uniquely appreciates the role and value of creative expression.

At first I was conflicted. Whoever wrote “as the author of two best-selling books” should have known how crass and common that pitch would sound. When I calmed down enough to understand what it was trying to say (taking out the “best-selling” would help for me) I realized that basically…

Our new President Elect considers himself an artist. As should we all.

John Lee took that photograph. It was two years ago, as Barack the Artist was sharing his work with an appreciative audience during a book signing. His chosen medium has changed drastically in 24 months. He will now be molding the clay of the entire planet.

Of course the tiny blurb about the Arts on the new website is nothing substantial. It is still more than we have heard from anyone this close to the ability to enact real change. Combined with the call for feedback sitting one click away from it on the page, it is more than enough for me.

Our cries have been heard, and understood, and championed by a fellow creative soul. President Obama, we salute you. Artist to artist.

By Joe Raedle, right down here in Miami.

By schwa242 at deviantart.com.

By artumus-gonzo at deviantart.com.

By roberlan at deviantart.com.

Whatever your style, whatever your most important issue, make sure you click around on change.gov until you find something to add to the new national suggestion box. There is a new day rising for feedback between the government and its people. Be creative with it, and express yourself. We are all artists in our own way. And now we have a President who understands that.

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Obama for the Arts.

(Art from zeushadesposeidon)

It feels rather fitting. Here we are near the finish line, and the biggest reason I have been working so hard for Barack Obama has finally hit the interwebs big time.

Raymond J. Learsy spells it out on HuffPo.

As never before, in this century of instant communication and the dissemination of information, it is the culture of a people, of a nation that portends its influence and its standing throughout the world. Yes, armaments and weaponry still count, as does economic might, but who we are and what are our values are will have far greater impact in the minds of friend and adversary alike. And it is our art, our culture of today, playwrights and actors, our song writers and musicians, our choreographers and dancers, our poets and writers, our artists and museum curators, our filmmakers and our art visionaries of every kind. This is the America the world is keenly interested in learning more about, hearing, seeing, feeling, experiencing. It is also one of our great strengths. This is a talented and gifted land with vast reservoirs of energy to create and dream.

(Art from Le Silly)

As an artist, and even more as an art educator, I have never had this much hope in a presidential candidate. Barack Obama actually has a fully fleshed platform for the Arts:

To remain competitive in the global economy, America needs to reinvigorate the kind of creativity and innovation that has made this country great. To do so, we must nourish our children’s creative skills. In addition to giving our children the science and math skills they need to compete in the new global context, we should also encourage the ability to think creatively that comes from a meaningful arts education.

Unfortunately, many school districts are cutting instructional time for art and music education. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that the arts should be a central part of effective teaching and learning.

The Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts recently said “The purpose of arts education is not to produce more artists, though that is a byproduct. The real purpose of arts education is to create complete human beings capable of leading successful and productive lives in a free society.”

(Art from a35mmlife)

Yes, that quote is part of the official Obama platform. I did not write that myself, and I did not pull it from an Arts Education magazine. This campaign actually understands what is necessary to regain America’s creative spirit. And they plan to do something about it.

(Art from Rudloff)

I have been phone banking my ear off these last precious days, and I consistently get parents who agree with this stance. The schools are losing all the enhancement programs that give their children an expanded sense of self. Clubs and music and art and dance and drama programs are being thrown away because of the tragic Bush economy and the criminally short sighted focus on high stakes standardized tests. Parents know how limited their childrens’ education has become. It’s time to do something about it.

(Art from craynol)

Barack Obama’s plan has three specific tactics, but his strategy will encourage all of us to get creative with the solutions to the real “culture war”. Here are the three seeds.

Expand Public/Private Partnerships Between Schools and Arts Organizations: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will increase resources for the U.S. Department of Education’s Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination Grants, which develop public/private partnerships between schools and arts organizations. They will also engage the foundation and corporate community to increase support for public/private partnerships.

Create an Artist Corps: Barack Obama and Joe Biden support the creation of an “Artists Corps” of young artists trained to work in low-income schools and their communities. Studies in Chicago have demonstrated that test scores improved faster for students enrolled in low-income schools that link arts across the curriculum than scores for students in schools lacking such programs.

Publicly Champion the Importance of Arts Education: As president, Barack Obama will use the bully pulpit and the example he will set in the White House to promote the importance of arts and arts education in America. Not only is arts education indispensable for success in a rapidly changing, high skill, information economy, but studies show that arts education raises test scores in other subject areas as well.

(Art from tsevis)

All of those are great ideas, and the Art Corps in particular sends exquisite chills through my body – directly to my creative spirit. And it gets me itching for the phone bank. We must win this, for our children and the cultural health of our nation. Hit the phones with me if you can. And, if you need yet another great reason for people to vote for Barack, stress the Arts.

We are on the right side of history, and it feels rather fitting that the final days of the campaign, for me, will be focused on this.

One last quote, from Raymond Learsy:

In Senator Obama’s opinion it appears the arts have become essential to reengage our standing in the world. According to an article in Bloomberg, he is the first White House contender to include a far- reaching arts-plank in his platform. Quoting Robert Lynch, president and chief executive officer of “Americans for the Arts” a highly respected Washington based arts advocacy group, “no presidential candidate in recent times has addressed cultural issues in such detail.”

(Art from january20th2009)

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Expanding Faces.

Whoa.  This job is mighty exhausting.  My creative senses are being expanded by the pure vitality of elementary school brainpower, while my organizational energy is drained down to empty every single day.

That is the demonstration example I did for my new lesson.  I will post some student interpretations in the coming weeks.  Right now I need a nap.

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