Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Hate to Tell You...

That terrible day. That terrible day when a parent realizes their high school kid isn't among the intellectual elites of their class. Happens every year, usually about eleven school days in, after the first test or quiz. Kids have been flying along with their peers, their social network since elementary school. And they crash headlong into reality, into the wall of a true Advanced Placement college level course. Natural talent isn't enough. Being upper middle class and white is not enough.

Stages of Parental Reaction...

1.) Shock
2.) My kid just needs to "tweak" his study habits a bit.
3.) Tutoring. Tutoring is the answer!
4.) The teacher is being completely unreasonable!
5.) "Mr. White is deliberately crushing my son's spirit."
6.) Transfer request

Honestly #'s 3 through 5 don't happen very often, very rarely in fact. Usually they quietly transfer in the night to an on-level World History course. By #5 is an actual quote from a parent four years ago.

It happens to all of us sometime or another. That day when we realize the competition is fierce and it's time to stop lollygagging. Sobering but instructive and hopefully lifechanging for the good.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Random Olympic Thoughts

Random Olympic thoughts:

My five-year old son has Olympic fever bad. He asks us to record every event including the boring ones...waterpolo, cycling etc...

The opening ceremony was pretty much lame. Paul McCartney looked and sounded old. I like the idea of national healthcare but does it deserve an entire set piece in an Olympic ceremony? And the ripping up of agrarian England in favor of the Industrial Revolution? Why would you celebrate that? The Industrial Revolution was the worst thing to happen to this planet.

And how can you feature British music without Elton John, Oasis, The Smiths, The Clash and Eric Clapton? The Stones, Zeppelin and Bowie only get one line?

On the flip side, The Queen parachuting from a helicopter with James Bond was genius. Genius!

Ryan Lochte is too cocky. Phelps has no idea how to handle a loss.

Okay, more to come I'm sure.

If you haven't seen the Queen and 007's entrance watch it HERE. It's the highlight of the games so far.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

ACL Illusions

So the other day I finally got around to watching an episode of Austin City Limits that I had recorded a year ago featuring Elvis Costello. It reminded me of a time when I was talking with a relative, who lives in Austin, about the greatness of the show. He told me he was also amazed that in over twenty years an episode had never been cancelled due to rain or bad weather. It was amazing how the weather was always perfect for the show...no wind or anything that would hinder the performance.

I didn't have the heart to tell him that the show is filmed in a studio and that the skyline backdrop of Austin is fake. I didn't want to shatter his illusions.

Geez, I hope he doesn't come across this blog.

post-script: in fact, the ACL studio is a registered landmark. If you want ACL with the real Austin skyline backdrop you can always attend the ACL music festival in Zilker Park in October.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


The Mavs re-signed Delonte West this week. I can't tell you how happy this makes me. That's one tough hombre, a real scrapper. The guy's been through crap and back. During the lockout he didn't just sit around and watch Chris Brown videos. The guy got a job at Home Depot. The guy's for real. Played with a compound fracture in his finger. Tough tough dude. My second favorite Mav player after Dirk. Glad Mark Cuban made the right call.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fall 2012 at SMU

So this fall I will only be taking one course in my masters program at SMU. Just too busy to be in class more than one night a week. After this next course I'll be halfway toward graduation. I've really been enjoying the program. This next fall I'll be taking a course that relates directly to my job. I teach one section of AP European History at the high school. The course I'll be taking is...

The Cultural and Intellectual History of Europe

Dr. John Mears is the instructor. Dr. Mears is a legend in world history circles. He's a former president of the World History Association and is highly respected by everyone who has worked with him. This will be my first course with Dr. Mears and I'm anticipating a great semester.

photo: Dallas Hall, the oldest building on the SMU campus and the site of the class I'll be taking this next semester.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Haven't offered many album recommendations lately. There are two records that I have been listening to a lot the past few weeks. I'll offer up individual reviews on those records in the days to come. But I have been fortunate to listen to a lot of good music lately, mostly because with the new car came a subscription to satellite radio.

I used to scoff at those who would actually pay money for radio, especially since Dallas has a great public alternative/indie music station at KXT 91.7 (which you can stream on the web HERE...I have it running in my classroom all day every day during the school year.). I love KXT but satellite radio is awesome. The four stations I listen to the most are Real Jazz, XMU (indie music), Altrock, and Lithium (90's alternative and Jackson's favorite since they play Weezer and Sabotage by The Beastie Boys). But I love perusing the huge number of speciality stations on the Sirious XM dial. The fact that you can listen to them anywhere you travel in the nation is fantastic.

One note: I've been listening to KXT since the first day they went on the air two years ago. I've been a paid member of the public station. Finally they're getting some recognition. This week they won The Dallas Morning News poll for best radio station in DFW. Nice to see some class in Dallas.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Not So Good Joke

A not so good joke: But it is an original made up while JDW and I were tooling around walmart and it makes me and my son laugh.

Q: What sound does Jack White make when he, uh...uses the restroom?

A: Doo, Doo, Doo, Doo, Doo, Doo, Doo

some context: the answer must be sung to the song Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes whose lead singer was Jack White who we often tell JDW is his namesake which is not really true.

For those not familiar with the classic song Seven Nation Army you can hear/watch the song here:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Good Joke

My son, who is really into all things THOR made this joke up the other day (I don't know where he gets this tendency to create jokes)

Q: How does Thor count?

A: One, Two, Three, THOR, Five.

much laughter then ensues from the teller of the joke.

photo: Thor

Friday, July 20, 2012

God Bless...

Just Shut Up!

Listen, I don't care what side of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case you fall on. I don't care if you think Martin was a drug addicted thug or a saint or somewhere in between. What I do know is that George Zimmerman needs to shut the crap up.

In his latest interview with that blowhard Sean Hannity, Zimmerman says he believes everything that happened that fateful night was part of God's will. What a load of crap. It was not part of God's will for Zimmerman to track down an unarmed teenager against police advice and then confront him and shoot him to death (even if Trayvon attacked Zimmerman the whole thing would never had happened if Zimmerman hadn't acted in such a hostile manner, followed him and confronted him.).

I don't know what happened. It's hard to trust the word of a repeat liar, possible perjurer, girlfriend beater and police attacker with a history of anger management issues. Regardless, a young man, innocent or not, is dead because one guy was packing heat and the other wasn't. And the guy who killed the other guy needs to show some freaking respect to the grieving family and stop bringing God into it. Zimmerman: shut your freakin' mouth.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I can see clearly...a little

The clouds are beginning to lift over the American Airlines Center. After losing out on Deron Williams, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry it looked like a nuclear winter was in store for the Dallas Mavericks next year. But they have rebounded pretty nicely in the free agent market.

Signing Mayo, Kamen, Brand, Collison and Jones has given me some hope for next season. Still not quite convinced this is a championship squad but they are looking better and better. I'm not as depressed about their prospects as I was last week.

After Jason Kidd's arrest yesterday for DWI in New York I'm glad they got rid of the punk. I never liked Kidd. He bailed on the Mavs not once, but twice in his career. And I can never respect someone who was charged with beating his wife. I've always thought Kidd was overrated. His DWI arrest is confirmation that the Mavs were lucky he ditched town.

So after a tough period I think the Mavs have turned the corner.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Loss of a Great Man

The History Community lost a great man yesterday. Dr. Jerry Bentley passed away yesterday at the age of 63.

Dr. Bentley had served as the president of the World History Association and he was the editor of the World History journal. He was a professor at the University of Hawaii and a legend among world historians. His work on global history was groundbreaking.

For the past seven years my classes have used the college level textbook he co-authored. It is widely considered the best textbook in the field of world history. Dr. Bentley was also a grader/table leader for the AP World History exam. That's where I was honored to meet him several times. He was always gracious and humble despite his status as one of our great historians. He never minded people coming up to him and talking with him at lunch or dinner during the AP readings. He was even willing to take his picture with me a couple of different times.

At the beginning of this past reading at Salt Lake it was announced that Dr. Bentley was in bad health and his situation was dire. We were given no other details and I just assumed that he would pull through whatever it was. After all, he was only in his early sixties and I saw him every year playing tennis in the evenings.

So I was stunned to hear the news today of his passing. He was a great man who lived a full life. He will be missed.

Rest in Peace Dr. Bentley.

photo: Me and Jerry Bentley at last year's AP grading at Colorado State University...his last year to serve as a grader.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

pix pix pix

Massive photo dump on Flickr. Check it out HERE.

Photo: JDW practicing his noodling skills at the original Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Mizzou

Friday, July 13, 2012

On the Road

Just back from our annual trek to southern Indiana and Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

Sad to see Indiana experiencing a record drought and heatwave. We usually enjoy the break from the heat that French Lick, Indiana usually gives us. But this year Texas was actually cooler while we were up there. Everything that is usually so green and lush was brown and dry. Fortunately they did get a blast of stormy rain that lasted all day while we were there. Things were cooling off as we were leaving.

Interesting experiences this year: Kim and I ziplined in the Hoosier National Forest. I was nervous that this might be some fly-by-night operation and would be lame. But it took two hours to go through the course and was a blast.

Uncle Mike, a volunteer fireman, arranged for Jackson to take a ride in the department's hook and ladder truck. We rode around town, JDW in the front seat, in this massive truck with a 100 foot ladder. Jackson pulled the horn and operated the siren.

We also searched for cows and a bull on the Crews Farm, rode the world's largest water roller coaster and enjoyed the supercool rides at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana.

Then we raced on to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Had a nice visit with my grandparents. Saw my uncles, aunts, and cousins in a whirlwind day. Had a nice dinner at the Rib Crib, lunch at Pepper's and great meals at the Reinking house.

As nice as Spring Valley and Indian Territory is it's always nice to be back in Tejas. YeeHaw.

photo: Uncle Mike and JDW in front of the hook and ladder truck.

Monday, July 09, 2012

When The Believer Comes in the Post

I always love the day the newest issue of The Believer comes in the mail. Makes me feel like a part of a supercool group of literati that talks about supercool things of great cultural interest while wearing fake Buddy Holly glasses and Puma sneakers at the Dallas Institute of Humanities in that big old house in Uptown Dallas down the road from Cremona's Italian Bistro.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Don't Look Back in Anger...

2011 is seeming more and more like ancient history. JET (Jason Terry) has signed with Boston. Deron Williams spurned the Mavs to stay with the Nets. D-Will was playing the Mavericks the entire time. He never had any intention of leaving the Nets now that they are heading to Brooklyn. The Mavs could not offer the same amount of cash as the Nets because of the new CBA. But Williams needed leverage.

I find it interesting there were no other parties involved in the pursuit. The guy has a rep as a coach killer (forcing legendary coach Jerry Sloan into retirement) and a money-man. And when Mark Cuban eschewed the recruiting trip to film a TV ep of The Shark Tank and Dirk bailed and went to Wimbleton it became clear that they knew this was a losing cause.

So the Mavs blew up their title team for this? We thought this past season might be worth it to get some big time free agents in the summer. Now it looks like were stuck with scraps wasting Dirks final years. Geez it's depressing to think about.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

They Finally Got it Right.

Andrew Garfield is far superior than Tobey Maguire as Spider-man/Peter Parker. It's not even close. As a kid Spiderman was my favorite superhero. I thought the Raimi trilogy was okay (although the third one was terrible) except for one thing. Tobey. I can't stand Tobey Maguire. I can't stand him in any movie playing any role anytime. He ruined it for me.

I know that the reason this series was rebooted so soon was because SONY didn't want the franchise rights to revert back to Disney/Marvel. There was no way they'd let this cash cow get out of their hands and into their rivals. However, I don't care why the series was rebooted. I'm just thrilled that we can begin to move past the stain of the Tobey Maguire era.

So The Amazing Spider-man is a good movie. Not as good as Iron Man or The Avengers but pretty good. And it gets a lot of points in my book for destroying Tobey Maguire's hold on the character once and for all.

Just for disclosure's sake Spider-man ceased be my favorite comic book hero a long time ago. Iron Man is the man.

One more thing: I really dug how they made Peter Parker actually make his web shooters rather than the "organic approach" used in the Raimi trilogy. This approach is faithful to the original comics and demonstrates that Peter Parker truly was a scientific genius. Adds a bit more to the character arc that was missing with Tobey Maguire's biological web shooters.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012


Irony: Most of the people complaining about the nation's debt and deficit spending are deeply in debt themselves. We are the government and therefore the government is a reflection of us. How can we criticize government when we as a nation abuse credit cards and reverse mortgages?

Ronald Reagan did a great dis-service when he said "government can't solve the problem, government IS the problem." He was stating that the government is something other than us. But we are a democracy and our Constitution was founded on the principle of "We the People." The government is us. If we don't like what we see in D.C. then we need to change it. And we need to look in the mirror first.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


I'm not saying the Affordable Healthcare Act is perfect. It's far from perfect. But I find it funny how most of the people complaining about it are white middle class citizens with health insurance. I just finished a week working with inner city children. All were minorities who live in often nightmarish conditions. For many the AHA is the only way they can get health insurance.

The AHA insures over thirty million people who were previously uninsured.

According to the bi-partisan CBO it actually lowers the national deficit by $143 BILLION in the first ten years of its existence. It reduces the deficit by over 1 TRILLION in the second ten years.

It eliminates the pre-existing clause.

It prevents people from being dropped if they get sick.

Only those making more than $250,000 a year will see an increase in their taxes.

This Act is based on a system designed by a prominent Republican who is actually running for president this year. Romney's mandate system in Massachusetts has been deemed a success by Republicans and Democrats alike in the state. Romney only recently distanced himself from the plan to court Tea Party and Libertarian Republicans.

These are all good things. Again there are aspects of the Act that seem shaky. But I think this Act is a risk worth taking to help all Americans gain access to affordable healthcare.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Empire of the Summer Moon

So I don't really care for U.S. history much. I find it boring. I know this is a character flaw, I guess. But this year the UIL Social Studies competition will focus on a book that I found fascinating. Admittedly I don't usually read the assigned UIL book but this year I opened the book to read the first page or so and I couldn't stop. It was that good.

The book, Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne, is an excellent read. Gwynne relates the last years of the most powerful Indian tribe in American history, the Commanche. He focuses particularily on Quanah Parker, a Commanche who was actually half anglo. His mother was kidnapped at an early age by Commanches. She married a chief and later gave birth to Quanah who was destined to be the last great war chief of the Commanches. She herself was eventually returned to white "civilization" where she tried desperately to escape back to the tribe she loved.

I grew up in Indian Territory (Oklahoma and Kansas) and so Indian stories usually put me to sleep since I've heard most of them. But Gwynne does an amazing job making the dust of the Llano Estacado come alive. Most of this book was a revelation for me. His book pulls no punches as it describes rape, torture, scalping and bloodshed on the plains. Most of the story takes place on areas I'm familiar with spanning the Red River down into Texas where I live now.

Quanah eventually met Teddy Roosevelt, spoke at the State Fair of Texas and became a celebrity on par with Geronimo who he called a friend. His story is both tragic and poignant. Well, if you want a better review than mine check out the New York Times Review HERE. But I would definitely add it to my reading list whether you like history or not.