Thursday, December 08, 2016

Done


Well, it's done. Last night I fulfilled the final requirement for my Masters Degree. I presented my final project at the SMU Capstone Forum. Students in the Graduate Program for the Liberal Arts are required to attend the forum and present their final projects. I brought Kim and Jackson along for this last jaunt in the process. 


My project took me down an unexpected path. As a history teacher I expected to write a research thesis. I had many ideas in mind. However, one of my creative writing projects caught the attention of my Academic Advisor. He thought I had the beginnings of a novel in one of my short stories. So I went with it and the process kind of snowballed until a novel began to take shape. It was going so good that I decided to submit it as my Capstone Project. 


I owe a great deal of thanks to Dr. Gary Swaim for his great advice and encouragement. He was a great help to me. He is a legend in the Dallas literary community. My novel is a satirical road novel that details the changes in social dynamics that occurred in the mid-1990's with the advent of the internet, right before social media and smart phones ruined everything. It's filled with existential angst, self-loathing and unresolved narratives: basically all your garden variety cliches of Generation X fiction. 


After the forum, my wife and son walked around the campus to look at the Christmas lights. Above is Dallas Hall, the oldest building on campus and where I had many of my classes. I will miss coming to The Hilltop every week. Southern Methodist University was a great place to learn and I met a lot of great people over the years.


So, I still have a lot of work to do. I have a lot of revisions and editing yet to do before I submit it for publication. But that's the goal, publication with a real publishing house. And I'm in no hurry. I want to get this right.

Next comes graduation. I could have walked this Saturday but there's too much going on with the Holiday Season. I decided awhile ago to attend the May ceremonies. That's when I'll get my diploma. It's been a fun ride.

A Master of Liberal Studies in the Humanities. 




Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Packing Up


For the past sixteen years, this (above) was my view as I looked out from my lectern at my classroom. This week I started packing it up. I have to have it all packed up by Friday, December 16th. Over Christmas Break, movers will take my stuff to my new room in the new building. I will be allowed to say good-bye to the room and give it the once-over on January 3rd. Then it gets roped off and becomes a demolition zone. 


This (above) was the view as you walked into my room. I'd feel a whole lot better if I was actually moving into my permanent room. But the room I'm moving to is only my temporary home. I'll be in a first floor corner room for two semesters. Then, next December (2017), I'll have to pack it all up and move to what will be my final stop on the second floor. 


So I won't be decorating the first next room very much. I'm going to keep it all pretty simple since I'll have to pack it up in a calendar year anyway. 


Here's the direct view (above) as you walked into my room. My Grandfather White made that lattice divider, one of the last things he made before his sight gave out. 


This is a view of my work space. My little office area back there in the corner. This room was very comfortable and was a second home. I'm going to miss it. The new room, both of them, will be corner rooms with four windows. I will be giving up some space and I'm losing carpet. But they will be very nice and decked out with a 70 inch monitor screen. The new wing will be great and when I move to my final room I'll have great views. But I will miss the old Temple of Doom a lot. It was a good home. 


Monday, December 05, 2016

Dolly


Saturday night we went to see Dolly Parton in Grand Prairie. I've never been a big Dolly fan, but my wife grew up loving her music. My wife, fearful that Dolly's touring days may not be long being that she's now 70 years old, wanted to go. So we bought tix and admittedly I was kind of meh about going. But man oh man I left that show extremely impressed.

Dolly Parton's talent is often overshadowed by her big hair, plastic surgery and out-sized personality. But her musicianship was on full display Saturday. She played guitar (both acoustic and electric), banjo, dulcimer, mountain flute, autoharp, harmonica and even the saxophone during her two hour set. Her songwriting skills have never been in question. Her connection to the audience is hard to fabricate. You can't conjure up charisma. She connects naturally and effortlessly. She's a showman (show woman?) in the truest since of the word. Saturday, she put on a show for the ages. 

Dolly is one of America's greatest entertainment icons. I've been thinking of who else would fit on that list, American entertainment icons who span decades, changed their art form, performed across many mediums and had success across genres.

Here's a few I'd put on the list along with Dolly Parton...

Elvis Presley
Will Rogers
Louis Armstrong
Frank Sinatra
Bing Crosby

These guys were big in music or movies or TV. Will Rogers even had a column in the New York Times. We need some more women on that list. 

I've had trouble coming up with other American artists so iconic over a long period of time. Willie Nelson is close and maybe Johnny Cash. If the Beatles were American, they'd be on the list. Charlie Chaplin comes close but he seems too pinned into one medium. There's been big stars who've had huge influence. But many of them are focused in one art form. Many of them are tied to only one era. It's a fun question to think about. I know I'm probably leaving off some big time names that are pretty obvious. 

Dolly definitely belongs on that list even if her music is not necessarily the music I listen to a lot. I like her stripped down blue grass the most. But on Saturday night, we were all moving to everything she did on stage. I've been to a lot of great concerts...but that was a transcendent experience. 


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

New Digs


So a friend of mine in the District Administration was able to swing a private tour of the new high school currently under construction. We will be moving into my wing this January. But the room I'll be moving in January will only be my room for a calendar year. Once they get the elevators operational I'll be moving to the second floor to what should be my permanent home. Seriously, there is a chance that room could be the last classroom I ever have. There's a good possibility I'll retire in that room. I only have ten years left if I retire when eligible. The rooms are a little smaller than what I've been in for the past sixteen years. And they won't have carpet. I may have to add some cheap Persian looking rugs...but not until I move into my permanent space.

Below, will be my view once I move upstairs in January 2018. Staff parking will be directly below so I'll be able to keep an eye on my truck. This corner room has four windows and very nice views. This January I will be moving into a first floor corner room. It will be nice, as well, with four windows. But I'd rather be upstairs. It will be chaotic. They are giving us one day to move. January 3rd. We're not allowed until then. Students come back January 4th. May be quite a scramble. And that's if they actually get it done in time!



















Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Cobras



My Dad's favorite car was the 427 AC Cobra. Whenever we see one, my son and I try to take a picture next to it if possible, to honor his memory. Sunday we stumbled upon two (the other one is in the background to the right) at the annual Turkey Trax Auto Show right around the corner from our house at the local park. These were the real deal, no kits. 


Dad always loved auto shows and particularly Cobras and Mustangs. They had at least twenty Mustangs. This is the 1968 390 Mustang GT fastback in Highland Green...the kind driven by Steve McQueen in the classic movie Bullitt. Kinda cool to be able to just walk a few minutes from our house and see so many great cars. Dad would have loved it. We've been going to this show for several years since its so close by. Now it means even more. 


Monday, November 14, 2016

I'm For Them, I'm With Them

                                         

After Brexit there was a rise in hate crimes against ethnic minorities in Great Britain. There were many dimensions to the Brexit vote but fear of mass immigration seemed to dominate many of the reasons why British citizens voted to leave the European Union.

To show support for the many ethnic groups under attack in the days following the Brexit vote, many citizens began wearing safety pins to show others that they were against this type of racist behavior and that they were a safe person for those needing support in tumultuous times.

After the election of Trump, the safety pin movement quickly migrated to America. Many Americans began wearing the safety pin to demonstrate their support for those mocked, ridiculed and threatened by the Trump campaign. The safety pin showed that the wearer was a person of safety. It is a symbol meant to instill confidence in those threatened that not everyone feels the same way as Trump and his supporters.

Of course, detractors say it's a useless symbol and worry that it gives the wearer a free pass thinking they're doing their part in fighting racism and bigotry. They believe that action is needed, not symbols.

But I believe symbols are important. Of course action must accompany symbols or they lose their power. But I work and teach with a lot of people who feel threatened by Trump's rhetoric. They are worried, legitimately worried about their place in Trump's America.

So I will be wearing a safety pin. I want my students to know that I am a safe person. I want them to know my classroom is a sanctuary. I want them to know that the main reason I'm in this classroom is for them. I'm for them. I'm with them.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Results

The past two days I've heard, seen and read a lot of entitled white folks telling people to shut up and accept the results of the election.

That's fine sentiment coming from a position of power. That's fine talk when you are white. As a white male I know full well the power of white privilege in this country. Don't pretend it doesn't exists.

Ever wonder why I've never been stopped by the wal-mart "guard" as I exit the store, when I see them stopping the African-American family or the Hispanic family right before or after me? Or when I've been given a free pass on a traffic violation when my African-American friend gets a ticket BY THE SAME COP for the same violation? Or when a Chick-Fil-A manager gets on to my African-American friend's son in the playground when it was actually a white kid bullying others? I could go on and on. These are events I have seen with my own eyes.

You won, white America. Now, stop talking for a moment. Stop trying to educate. Stop trying to explain yourself for a moment. Stop score boarding. For a moment, just a moment...listen. Be gracious for a moment.

I'm against violence. And I believe in respect. But I also believe people have the right to peacefully express their opinion without being told to quiet down. Peaceful protests enact serious change. Whether or not you liked Hillary, the fact remains a racist demagogue was just elected as President. Whether or not you feel he was the better option, it still doesn't change the fact that he has offended everyone from Muslims to the Handicapped. My sister is handicapped so I sometimes take these things personally.

Try telling the the Hispanic girl in my class who is crying because she's sincerely afraid of being deported because Trump threatened to rescind an executive order that gave her the right to be here, why she is wrong.

Try telling a young girl that the man who said horrible things about enjoying assaulting women, why it was okay to vote for him.

Try telling the Muslim girl, who was elected Homecoming Queen this year at my High School (in Texas no less!), why she shouldn't be afraid of a man who threatened to ban Muslims from the U.S.. By the way, he made that ban statement while she was out of the country for a week to attend her sister's wedding in Pakistan. She would not have been allowed to return to the country or my school if his ban had actually existed.

They can say they voted for economic reasons or pro-life reasons or whatever. They can say they voted because one candidate was corrupt. But the fact remains that when the Ku Klux Klan celebrates the victory of a candidate, we should all be ashamed.

Get out of your white suburb and your white social circle and your white family for a moment. Get out to the real world. Talk to my students who are scared. And tell them again why you voted the way you did.

Don't tell them to quiet down in the white paternalistic tone so prevalent in our culture.

Console them. Perhaps even apologize. You can lecture on social media or in letters to the editor. But look at my students in the eye and explain to them why you voted for Trump.

And you better hope they show greater respect and cooperation Obama was shown the past eight years.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Resolved

I must admit there have been times in recent years when I have been tempted to move to another high school to teach. Most of these other high schools that caught my eye have been schools with wealthy populations. And overwhelmingly white.

I admit that working in a diverse Title One District, that I have to drive 25 minutes to get to, has sometimes beaten me down. The challenge to teach students from difficult backgrounds can often be daunting, even after eighteen years. I have been discouraged to see some of my colleagues at wealthier districts having comparatively easier times coaching their students to excellent AP Exam or SAT scores. I have been temped to leave many times for greener environs.

And I did leave once. Ten years ago I left my school and taught for a year at the wealthiest public school in Texas. It was a good year. My fellow staff members were fantastic. My students much easier to teach in many regards. Getting high test scores was a breeze. But I was missing something not working with under-privileged kids. And the next year I returned back to the school where I had begun my career and where I teach today.

But even in the last decade since I returned I admit growing weary at the challenge of teaching dis-advantaged students. It's hard.

But yesterday's election results re-awakened me. Yesterday, my Hispanic, Islamic and African-American students had a look of fear and disappointment in their eyes. America had picked a man who had openly and regularly insulted their race or religion. This man had threatened to deport them, their families and friends. This man had suggested implementing a ban on allowing people of their religion to enter the country. This man had joked about sexually assaulting women.

One may have disagreed with Hillary's political positions and voted for that reason alone. But this action also showed support for a man who to many of my students poses an existential threat. Voting against Hillary was a vote for man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan...a terrorist group. You may have disagreed with Hillary, like I do on many issues, but voting for her probably did not pose a threat to your existence, your race or your religion.

Honestly, as a middle class white male, Trump's election will probably not effect my daily life too much. That's an unfortunate truth in a nation where white males to a great degree still have undeserved privilege compared to other ethnicities. But to many of my friends and students, their way of life may be in danger.

They need support. They need defenders. They need someone on their side. So yesterday, after getting past the initial and overwhelming disappointment, after getting over my anger and disgust with my fellow Americans and fellow "Christians" who voted for Donald Trump, I became resolved that I'm exactly where God wants me to be.

I am going to redouble my efforts to teach tolerance, respect and empathy for other cultures in my World History classes. I'm going to provide a safe sanctuary for my minority students. I am going to let them know that there are people here who will fight for them and defend them and stand with them. I am going to do my best to educate the poor whites in my school who so often fall prey to patterns of racist and bigoted behavior because they are feeling increasingly isolated.

I got into this profession to educate and empower. And I am privileged to be in a position to help those who need it the most. I will love them and fight for them and give them the strength and tools to reach their full potential in this life.

I'm not going anywhere.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

no words



Today I am ashamed.

Hillary was a obviously a flawed candidate. But to vote for xenophobia, racism, sexism, adultery, tax evasion and bullying?

As Glenn Beck said last night on NBC: "If this is what it means to be a Conservative or a Republican, I'm not sure I want to be either of those things any more."

Glenn Beck (!) said that.

I want all my Hispanic, Muslim, African-American, Handicapped, Immigrant and Female friends to know that even if my country doesn't stand beside you, I, for one, will. I will fight for you. I will stand alongside you.


Thursday, November 03, 2016

Well, Wow...


That was epic. Ten innings. A rain delay. Game tying home runs. Worn out pitchers. Close outs. Weird two strike bunt attempts. Game winning hits. Man, I'm tired this morning. That was a late game. Well worth staying up for. After I did finally get to sleep the power went off around 3 am due to a passing storm which woke me up. So I'm pretty groggy today. But that was a sight: The Chicago Cubs won the World Series.

My Dad must be up to something up there in Heaven. One month after he passes away the team he adopted as an adult, the Royals, win the title. A year later, the team he rooted for as a kid and teenager win their first title since the days of the Ottoman Empire. I wish he could have seen all this. 

Glad the Cubs won but I do feel for Cleveland fans. I believe they're cursed by the Chief Wahoo logo. They drop Chief Wahoo and they win a series. 

Happy to see Ben Zobrist win the Series MVP. He was an integral part of the Royals World Series run last year. He even named his baby daughter born after the 2015 series, Royal. But he moves on to Chi in Free Agency and helps the Cubs do the impossible. He's also an alum of Olivet Nazarene University. Good guy and good ballplayer. 

Only bad thing is that, like the Red Sox, the Cubs become just another team. No more curses. No more lovable losers. They are now just another big market team that has a lot of money to spend. Soon they'll be another evil empire. I mean I hope not...but that's the way these things often go. Amazing to think that Seattle hasn't even been to a World Series. The Nationals are still a young franchise so not surprising they haven't made it yet. And you've got the Rangers and Astros who haven't won the whole thing yet despite three appearance between the two. 

But man, the Tribe. Tough day. 

I did enjoy the throwback Harry Carey commercial at the end of the Series. Well played. Cubs Win! Cubs Win!



Wednesday, November 02, 2016

One Last Time...


Well, this is it. In about ten hours (from the time I'm writing this) I won't be able to say this so I'm going to say it one last time. Then I'll shut up about it until November 2017 when hopefully I'll be able to say it again...

The Kansas City Royals are the World Champions.

For about ten more hours.

I'm not really emotionally involved in this year's World Series. I'm glad to see two long suffering franchises getting a shot.

I'm going for the Cubs simply because that was the team my Dad rooted for as a kid growing up in Gary, Indiana. One of his uncles took him to Cubs games. Another one of his uncles hated the Cubs and took him to old Comiskey to see the White Sox. But my Dad always rooted for the Cubs although he always had a special fondness in his heart for the Sox. Nellie Fox, after all, was one of his all time favorite players. So was Ernie Banks. Dad had a signed photo of Ernie Banks hanging up in his home office. It's still hanging up there. In fact, it hangs next to a painting of the Cubs logo I made for him in high school art class.

My routine after school in my high school years was to come home, turn on WGN and watch Harry Carey and Steve Stone broadcast Cubs games. I would do my homework while watching the last few innings of Cubs baseball. I liked the Cubs and always hoped they'd win. But my heart was always with the Royals. Still, if I had a National League team to root for, it was the Cubbies. My senior year I had the privilege of attending a game at Wrigley with two of my best friends. It was a fantastic experience. Wrigley is a beautiful ballpark. This was in 1990 and we even got to see Harry Carey lead "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch. I even wore a Cubs hat from time to time.

The only thing that keeps me from really getting into this series is the sheer number of bandwagon Cubs fans. So ridiculous. Also, Chicago is a huge market and the Cubs have the highest payroll in baseball. It's hard for me to root for a big market team with huge monetary advantages over the majority of the league. The Cubs are in danger of simply becoming a mid-western version of the Yankees. It was easier for me to like them when they were lovable losers.

So yeah, I'm leaning Cubs...with my history I should probably be even more engaged. But I won't feel too badly if Cleveland takes it all tonight. Their fanbase has been through it as well. I'm glad it's gone to seven games. Gonna be epic.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A New Prairie Home Companion


I didn't make much time over the last couple of decades to watch Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. It was hard to find the time to dedicate two hours to a radio variety program every Saturday night. I would catch it here and there, usually while traveling on the road. Still, it gave me comfort that this show was on the air. I remember as a kid listening to it off and on. As a kid I didn't get it. I didn't get the humor or appreciate the music. As I grew up I gained an appreciation for bluegrass and roots music. And I began to catch the wry subtlety of Keillor's dispatches from Lake Wobegon.

Even though I didn't get to listen to it much it still gave me nostalgic comfort that there was still a place on the radio that every Saturday people could listen to homespun humor and Americana music.

Well, Keillor finally hung it up. He retired after over four decades as the founder, director and host of the show. And surprisingly he turned over the reins to one of my musical heroes, Chris Thile. I've been listening to Chris Thile for over ten years ever since I first saw him on Austin City Limits. He and his group, Nickel Creek, blew me away. Then he later formed the amazing band, Punch Brothers. He is a virtuoso on mandolin, a great singer and composer. He even once received the MacArthur Genius Grant.

Thile took over this past week as the new permanent host of Prairie Home Companion. I didn't actually listen to it on the radio. I watched it. I live streamed it on my TV via YouTube Saturday night. It was a fantastic debut show. Great guests like another of my heroes, Jack White and the band Lake Street Dive. Thile's monologue was spot on and the radio bits were good. The show is going to focus more on music, which is fine by me.

I may not always have two hours each Saturday night to give it a listen or a watch. But I'm going to give it a shot. The show is a relaxing way to end the week. It takes me back to a slower, more relaxed time which may or may not have actually existed. But it's nice to think there was such a time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Methodists



So Sunday we became Methodists. Officially.

This wasn't as easy as it sounds. Kimberly and I both grew up in the Nazarene denomination. We met at a Nazarene university. Without the Nazarenes I would not have met my wife. My son would not be here. My Dad was a Nazarene pastor. It's the only denomination each of us has ever known. And it's a great denomination.

Guess the tribalism instinct is a powerful force.

Yes the Nazarene church has its issues. Too many in the denomination are too cozy with one particular political party. There has been some political mis-management which almost led to the dissolution of the Nazarene Publishing House. There's the usual petty turf wars and policy battles. You find these in all denominations. I am aware of the serious issues within the Methodist denomination. These issues were not why we left.

We love the Nazarene Church.

But today we officially entered into membership with Heath First United Methodist Church. We are excited about this new journey. We started attending Heath UMC this past January. We quickly felt welcomed. The music is great. Our Pastor is a fantastic guy. He's an inspiring speaker and has a real vision for what this church can do in Heath and the surrounding area. The congregation has been wonderful to us. It's not a big church, but it has a big mission. The neighborhoods around the church are exploding in growth and there are great spiritual needs to be met.

So yeah, I'm excited.

But also a little sad. We didn't split from the Nazarenes. There was no doctrinal dispute or political issue that drove us away. We just could no longer attend the church where my Dad had pastored the last twelve years of his life any longer. It was too difficult and sad. His memory was everywhere. We needed a fresh start. And the other closest Nazarene church, where Kim grew up, where we got married, was also a part of our past. We really didn't feel moved to return there.

We really didn't know what to do. Doctrinally we knew we were pretty much on the same page as the United Methodist Church. I have a strong Methodist heritage on my maternal side of the family. But still, it's a strange thing to leave something you've known for so long...your entire life. But God led us to this little church. This little church that's going to grow. This church has already helped us immensely. They don't even realize how much they've helped us heal after a difficult season.

So we're Methodists. It's just a name really. We are followers of Christ. And as our pastor says, we are sowing the seeds for a great awakening.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

18th and Vine


I moved to Dallas, Texas nearly twenty years ago. And I have been searching for barbecue as good as my hometown Kansas City ever since. As much as I searched I could never find anything that was close to Kansas City BBQ. And I was a bit surprised. Texas is proud of their barbecue. There are some good places. I went to dives all over DFW and North Texas. But I could not find one that just hit the right spot. Until now.

Last year I heard about some Kansas City natives who had set up a BBQ catering business and hoped to soon open up a KC style BBQ place. Soon, a few months later, 18th and Vine BBQ opened up on Maple Street near the hospital district. In Kansas City, 18th and Vine is where you find Arthur Bryant's BBQ...the godfather joint of Kansas City style barbecue. 18th and Vine was also where the great jazz clubs were in the 1930's.

About a week ago we went and finally checked it out. And it was amazing. Just like home. I had ribs and my wife had pulled pork. They were most excellent. The place has photos of famous KC jazz musicians on the walls and even Charlie Parker on the kid's menu. It's a perfect place for KC expats to hang out.

The opening of this place has made me so happy! Finally, after all these years, I can have true KC style BBQ in the town where I live. Upstairs they have a music venue called The Roost where they feature live jazz. I hope to check out The Roost very soon.

Of course the place has burnt ends. Fantastic burnt ends.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Claiborne at White Rock


I had the privilege last week to see one of my favorite authors speak in Dallas. Shane Claiborne is a writer, Christian activist and one of the founders of the New Monastic movement. He spoke at White Rock United Methodist about his new book Executing Grace. 

Executing Grace takes on the issue of capital punishment from a Christian perspective. After a 30 minute talk, a panel discussion was conducted to discuss the death penalty. 

I left inspired. The refreshing thing about Claiborne has always been the fact that he walks the walk. He lives his message in the real world. His life is the anti-thesis of the ivory tower. 

That night I picked up his new book, Executing Grace. The first few chapters have been excellent. Claiborne always motivates me to put the book down and live the truth I'm reading. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

End of an Amazing Run


It was bittersweet last night hearing the Royals had been eliminated from playing in the post-season. 

It's been an amazing run. Two World Series appearances and a World Championship. After years of futility it was thrilling to see the Royals make it back to the top of the baseball world. 

But I was a little sad because the Kansas City Royals helped serve as a nice distraction during a really hard time. My Dad was also a Royals fan. It was something we shared. He saw their run to the 2014 pennant. He passed away a month before they won the 2015 Championship. 

My son and I drove up to Kansas City to attend Game Two. The Royals won 7-1. It was the last home game of the season since KC would win the title on the road in New York. 

That was the trip of a lifetime. My son had never been to my hometown before. He saw my old house, school and got to tour my old church. He had KC BBQ for the first time at my Dad's favorite BBQ joint, Johnny's. My son saw his first game at Kauffman Stadium. And it was the World Series!

My Dad was in our thoughts the whole time. That trip helped begin the healing process during an extraordinarily rough time. Amazing how a dumb game can really bring healing to a hurting soul. 

Well, the Royals just had some bad luck this year. Injuries and one bad month. And they still almost made it back. Next year, they'll have the same core that won a series. They'll give it a good run. They will be back. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Historical Record

I have been holding back. I really don't like getting political on this blog. But this is a strange presidential election. And I want to go on record. I want the historical record clear on where I stood on the 2016 presidential election. I want there to be no doubt. In ten or twenty years, when my son asks me who I voted for, I will not be embarrassed by my vote.

There is no way I could ever in a million years ever vote for Donald Trump.

He is not a real Republican. He is not a true conservative. He is destroying the party of my Dad.

He is a racist, misogynist bigot.

He is a terrible businessman who has declared bankruptcy six times. More of his business ventures have failed than succeeded. He inherited $250 million from his father. He earned nothing on his own. If he had put that inheritance in a simple index fund he would be worth $12 billion today...without lifting a finger. But Forbes has placed his worth at $4 billion. And that is funny money. He's actually in great debt. He can't even pay his campaign staff. He is a horrible con artist of a businessman. He ruins lives. He doesn't pay his bills.

He has been married three times. He is a notorious philanderer and womanizer. All these things are well documented. He even proudly admits to his indiscretions.

His policies are ridiculous. A wall? He's going to make Mexico pay for it? That stupid idea alone should be enough disqualify him from office.

He is a hypocrite. Make America Great Again? Bring jobs back? I actually own two neckties and a dress shirt made with the Donald J. Trump label. The two ties were made in Vietnam. The shirt...China. 

He will soon be under indictment for bribery in Florida for trying to pay off Florida's Attorney General.

Why won't he release his tax returns? Because it will show how little he has given to charity and how little he is actually worth. It will also probably show his business dealings with Putin's Russia. 

He lies and lies. When confronted with his lies he double-downs on his lies. He has no shame. He just doesn't care.

He is the most prominent of the birthers, one of the dumbest conspiracy theories in history.

He became pro-life only a few years ago for political expediency.

I could go on and on and on. Any decent human being, especially those who call themselves Christian, should stand up against such a brazenly racist candidate.

I know you may not like Hillary. I'm not a huge fan either. I don't agree with much of her world view. Honestly, this is not an endorsement of Hillary. But the truth is, she is the most scrutinized woman in the history of the United States. The Republicans have paid the best lawyers and investigators in the world to find dirt on her...and they have found nothing of substance beyond mere conspiracy theories. They even had a special prosecutor who's sole job was to find dirt on the Clintons. Kenneth Starr and his full time staff could not find anything on Hillary, not regarding Whitewater or anything. They had to fall back on the President lying about marital infidelities in the White House.

The private email server scandal is a joke. Colin Powell used a private server. Condeleeza Rice had one. This is a manufactured scandal.

Benghazi? The House Republicans have held six hearings and sent out dozens of investigators to find dirt. And they have found nothing. Nothing! A waste of taxpayer money.

The fact is, after twenty years and millions spent in trying to find skeletons, nothing substantial has been found. She may be shady...but she is no shadier than any other major political figure in Washington. She would not be my first choice. But I'm not going to waste my vote on a third-party candidate like I did with Ralph Nader, who I respect immensely.

The stakes are too high. Hillary may be an imperfect candidate, who is perfect? But she will be competent in the job. She has the respect of world leaders. She has the respect of anyone who has worked closely with her, Republicans and Democrats.

The stakes are too high. Trump is the worst political candidate my generation has ever seen.

I am sickened by how evangelical Christians have rallied to Trump. Listen, as a Christian you may not like Hillary. I get it. But to endorse Trump? Your conscience will have to answer for that.

 I know this post is harsher than most found on my blog. But I will not remain silent during such an important moment. I simply wanted to go on record. We may have to agree to disagree. This post is not meant to sway you or change your mind. This post is about me. It's about me wanting to be clear where I stand. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

NASA Mug


An ode to my NASA mug...

NASA mug, oh NASA mug.
You are mug amazing. 
Although made in China,
You represent America. American
hopes and dreams of a future fantastic. 

When I drink of thee I pretend I'm 
an engineer building rocket-ships to
the stars even though I had to take college algebra twice and still use my fingers to count. 

When holding thee I feel like a controller at Mission Control 
or a specialist at the Jet Propulsion Lab. For just an instant. 

For then my green tea is finished and 
I am teaching history again. But NASA 
mug, for just a moment...a brief shining moment, I was among the exploding stars and nebulae. 

Thank you NASA mug. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Acolytes


Yesterday the Little Man served as an acolyte in church for the first time. 

I love the tradition of acolytes in the Methodist Church. I wasn't aware of the tradition, growing up as I did in a less liturgical tradition. 

Two candles are lit by kids at the beginning of the service to represent the presence of Christ in the service. There are two lights to remind that Jesus was both God and man. 

At the end of the service the acolyte recaptures the light with their candlelighter and then follows the pastor out of the sanctuary to represent the light of Christ going out into the world where believers are called to serve. 

Symbols are powerful. I feel an added poignancy to the service with the entrance and exit of the acolytes. I feel a sense of the spiritual mystery of Christ's divinity and as a Christian mystic this tradition appeals to me greatly. 

Jackson did a great job on very short notice! 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

New Cans


Last week I finally ponied up for some nice headphones. I wanted a nice high-end pair but I didn't want to go too crazy on price. The same cans kept popping up in all the tech and audiophile sites...the 
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. MSRP is around $200 but Amazon had them for less than $150. For years I had read that suckers by Beats, audiophiles buy the AT's. The Audio-Technicas had a reputation for much better sound quality than Beats but for a lot lower price. Beats, all the sites repeated, sold based on hype and marketing. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x were the phones you found in studios used by professionals. 

So after casually browsing reviews for a couple of years and seeing the AT's mentioned time and time again I decided to take the plunge. And I was nervous. I know there are $600 sets out there but $150 is still a good-sized investment for me. 

But my gosh, they deliver. They are the real deal. UPS had them on my porch last Saturday. I carefully opened them. I first decided to listen to Blue Train by John Coltrane on my current pair of $75 Sonys which I had been using for several years. Then I plugged in the Audio-Technicas. 

WOW.

I mean WOW. 

The hype was real. The bass is powerful but not dominating. I heard riffs I had never heard before in a song I've heard a million times. These headphones are designed to play the music as intended by the artist. They don't add unnecessary mixing. Nothing is obscured by mix-happy sound engineers. You get the music as it was meant to be heard. Or as close as possible. 

I always thought my Sony noise cancellation headphones were decent. They are dozens times better than ear buds. But they sounded hollow and cheap in comparison to the AT's. I couldn't believe the difference. With the AT's I felt as if I was standing in the middle of Coltrane's quintet as they were playing. 

So I tried out different genres and styles. I listened to Beethoven and Radiohead. I gave Weezer and the Beatles a spin. I listened to Thievery Corporation and M Ward. I switched between my old Sonys and the AT's and was continuously astounded by the brilliance of the sound in my new Audio-Technicas. 

It was almost like hearing music for the first time. I am not exaggerating. Well, maybe a tiny bit. But they are unbelievably great. 

The new ATH-M50x's feature three detachable cords (two straight and one curly) of varying lengths. I don't plan on using these a whole lot on the go. They are big but comfortable. I will mostly use them at home and maybe for long trips on a plane or car. For everyday trips to Walmart or wherever I will still use my measly Apple earbuds. They also come with an adapter to plug into your home system and a nice leather bag. 

So I don't care whether or not the new iPhones have headphones jacks or not. These new headphones will make the phone adapter worth it. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Book of Common Prayer


Another excellent resource that I have adopted in my daily prayer and meditations is The Book of Common Prayer App which is now available on iTunes. 

The app, adapted from Shane Claiborne's book, leads readers through a series of concise liturgies to aid in daily prayer and contemplation. 

Here is the product description on iTunes...

Common Prayer helps today’s diverse church pray together across traditions and denominations. With an ear to the particulars of how various liturgical traditions pray, and using an advisory team of liturgy experts, the authors have created a tapestry of prayer that celebrates the best of each tradition. The book also includes a unique songbook composed of music and classic lyrics to over fifty songs from various traditions, including African spirituals, traditional hymns, Mennonite gathering songs, and Taize chants. Tools for prayer are scattered throughout to aid those who are unfamiliar with liturgy and to deepen the prayer life of those who are familiar with liturgical prayer. Ultimately, Common Prayer makes liturgy dance, taking the best of the old and bringing new life to it with a fresh fingerprint for the contemporary renewal of the church. Churches and individuals who desire a deeper prayer life and those familiar with Shane Claiborne and New Monasticism will enjoy the tools offered in this book as a fresh take on liturgy.

I have found the app a peaceful respite throughout the day. I recommend it highly. 


Saturday, August 27, 2016

First Week


First week done! Only 35 more to go! I better get busy, not much time left!

They do go by fast. This first week highlights the fact that we must embrace the chaos this year. Heavy rains during the week soaked our kids as they made their way from the main building to the cafeteria and gym. That's a pool outside my room. Construction has made everything a mess. But we are embracing the chaos!

My kids are great. I have 34 of them in my 5th Period on-level World History class. But we are embracing the chaos. 

It will be an exciting year. In a couple of years, when normalcy has returned and we're all in the humdrum of the routine in a new building, we'll look back fondly at these days of insanity. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Blessing of the Backpacks


Today our church, Heath First United Methodist, celebrated The Blessings of the Backpacks. Tomorrow school begins. I'm excited. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ready


I'm ready. Classes start Monday. My eighteenth year, sixteen in this classroom. But this is the last semester in the old Temple of Doom. Construction timetables have us moving to new shinier digs in January. If I look to my right, out the window, here's the view...


Kind of a mess right now with all the surprising August rains. That used to be my parking space. I will be sad to say goodbye to the old place. Sixteen years I've been in that room, more than most of the houses I've lived in my life. I'll probably be in an upstairs room. I won't have carpet, I will lose 80 square feet and I'll be a bit out of the main traffic patterns. However, a new place will provide a nice fresh start.

I'm also completely revising all three of my courses this year. I needed to innovate. Maybe I'm being a bit too ambitious. But I needed to get out of my rut. Last year was rough, losing my Dad in the first week of school. I lost motivation. I just wanted to get through the day. This year, I'm fired up. I'm ready to go. It's going to be crazy. It's going to be chaotic. It's going to be great. 



Friday, August 12, 2016

Mindfulness


As you can see, I haven't blogged in over three months. Those months just happen to coincide with summer vacation. We were pretty busy, as usual, this summer. Traveled to Florida, Indiana, and Oklahoma. Kept pretty busy in Texas. Now I'm back in preparations for school to start. I'm getting ready to get back into the routine. Things are about to get hectic. School, writing a thesis, little league...the usual.

One of the most important parts of my daily routine is time for contemplation and meditation. I've discovered if I can dedicate just ten to fifteen minutes a day to mediation and prayer my life improves remarkably. My blood pressure goes down. The ways I handle stress are much healthier. Problems do not loom so large. My outlook becomes much more positive. And I grow closer to God.

My practice is pretty quick and simple. I have an app on my phone called the Centering Prayer App. It's a highly customizable app that helps guide you through a series of steps to still your mind. Currently I have mine set to the following steps...

A recitation of Psalms 46:10 - Be still and know that I am God. I take a deep breath and recite this prayer three times. The last time I begin dropping off parts of the prayer...

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know
Be still
Be

Then the app chimes and leads me into four minutes of quiet reflection. The timer can be set to whatever duration you wish. I've increased it from three to four minutes and hope to expand to five minutes soon. During those quiet minutes I recite the Jesus Prayer slowly and quietly to myself over and over again.

Dear Jesus, have mercy on me...a sinner.

I repeat that prayer quieting my mind and focusing my busy thoughts on to Christ.

The chime rings and gives me the verse Romans 12:12 which I read out loud...

Rejoice in hope,
endure in affliction,
persevere in prayer.

I take a deep breath and open up a second app called Sacred Space. Sacred Space leads you through a series of six short prayers and meditations curated by Jesuit Monks in Ireland. These prayers mirror the Ignatian prayer exercises created by St. Ignatius Loyola centuries ago. They follow the pattern of...

The Presence of God
Freedom in God
Consciousness
The Word
Conversation
Conclusion

You can also find Sacred Space online at sacredspace.ie

I wrap up my time of contemplation with a daily text from the director of Seedbed. Seedbed is a publishing company associated with Asbury Theological Seminary. Seedbed is a Methodist movement seeking to bring people closer to Christ. Their doctrine is Wesleyian. You can subscribe to a short daily devotional from Seedbed's director J.D. Walt that is emailed to your inbox. The devotional is short, meditative and closes with introspective questions. I find these short devos challenging and thoughtful.

That's my process. It usually takes about ten to fifteen minutes. But those ten minutes make a huge difference in my day. I function better. My mind is clearer. My purpose in life reinforced. And most importantly I feel a deeper connection with my Savior.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Empty Classrooms


Public education faces many challenges. But one challenge that I don't hear mentioned much in the media or by parents is actually one of the most concerning. I'm speaking of the number of absences accrued by students due to extra-curricular activities and special "school related" activities.

I have students who miss up to six weeks of the school year due to "school related" events. I thought this problem might be unique to my school, but I have discovered, after conversing with teacher friends of mine who teach all over the United States, that it is a problem in high schools everywhere. I'm not talking about absences due to illness or personal issues. I'm talking about absences due to activities run by the schools themselves. 

And the problem has only gotten worse in recent years. Who's at fault? Who's to blame? I'd have to say teachers and administrators. Many teachers and administrators have created a climate where it is perfectly acceptable to pull students from another teacher's class any time they want. Today, for example, I have seven sophomores who are missing the final day of review before tomorrow's AP World History Exam so they can attend a Rangers game. That's right, they're not missing for an educational reason, they are missing for a baseball game.

I wish I could say this is atypical, but it happens all year long and at schools all over the nation. Class time is simply not respected. Many of these teachers pulling kids out are the same ones who say that teaching is a profession that is not respected enough by society. I find this completely hypocritical. They show utter contempt for what happens in my classroom by assuming the student can just "make-up" the missed work. They completely negate the importance of the teacher led instruction. Why, as a teacher, do I even bother crafting lesson plans if the student can just "make it up" later? I might as well just photo-copy a bunch of worksheets for the entire year and just let the students work on their own pace. Why do I even bother showing up?

Some of this, I believe, is due to the rise of online education. Online education can be beneficial in certain situations and in small doses. But now, we have entire degrees, undergraduate and post-graduate, that can be attained completely online. I've seen much of the coursework of online courses and they are often a joke. They completely discount the importance of face to face interaction with an expert. They rule out the importance of dialogue and conversation with other learners in a shared setting. As a result, we've created a situation where teachers are just an appendage, a highly paid baby-sitter. Just post the work and let the students get to it.

So we have Band, Tennis, Golf, Ag, "Academic" Competitions, and a host of other activities taking our kids out of the classroom at will. We have NHS, Special Olympics, Blood Drives, and Field Trips taking our kids out on a weekly basis. Many of these are noble pursuits and worthwhile. But they've been allowed to get out of control. Many events that can be done after school or on weekends have been allowed to fall during school days. These outside events should be integrated into the school calendar in a measured and reasonable way.

It is extremely demoralizing to teachers who actually try to do their job. The problem is endemic and has become a cultural norm. When 50 percent of my advanced placement students have missed over three weeks of instruction due to school related activities, then we have serious problems in our educational system. When you walk into your classroom and find it half empty on a regular basis it becomes really hard to remain motivated to put your all into the instruction. I continue to do so for the students who do show up. But it is a beating when so many are gone and then you have to put in extra time to help those kids make up their work since they were absent.

This is not the kids fault. This falls on the offending teachers. This falls on principals and administrators. This also falls on parents who allow it to happen and never question why their student has missed 24 days of class due to school events. It's not a trivial complaint. It is a problem that goes to the root of our understanding of the value of classroom education. Sure, education is evolving and much is learned outside of the classroom. However, there has to be balance. Right now, the balance is extremely out of whack, not just in Texas...but all over the United States.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

So Long to the Hilltop



Last week I finished up my regular coursework at Southern Methodist University. I still have a ways to go. Next semester I will be undertaking an Independent Study Course where I will complete my Capstone Project for my Masters Degree in the Humanities. If all goes well I will graduate in December 2016, although I would like to walk in the May 2017 ceremonies. There's a little more pomp and circumstance in May and after all these years I would like to enjoy it a bit. 

I ended up with a 3.9 GPA. I got one B+ during my first year in the program...an 88...that kept me from a perfect 4.0. Yeah, one of those kind of professors, you know the type. I will miss making the weekly trip to The Hilltop. I had a great experience and made quite a few friends. The professors were excellent. Although I am relieved to be rounding third and heading home, I am a bit sad that I won't be on campus as much. 

I know, I know...a doctorate. Could be in the cards. Right now I need a break. But who knows? Give me a year or two and a doctorate could be awfully tempting.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Goodbyes


This past Saturday I drove up to Oklahoma City to pay my final respects and say goodbye to my old friend Darren Currin. The weight of his tragic loss was heavy upon me as I made the drive up. It was good to see some old friends. I wish we had been re-united by different circumstances. Some of these guys I had not seen in fifteen years. We get so busy in our lives and I regret not doing a better job keeping up with them. I hope to amend that in the years to come. I wish it didn't take a funeral for us not to take each other for granted. But we shared memories of Dar and had a nice time reminiscing. I wish Darren could have been there. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Dar

This morning I was proctoring an Advanced Placement exam when I received news that one of my oldest friends had died suddenly and unexpectedly. Darren Currin (pictured left), was one of the first friends I made in college. We served on the university Newspaper and Yearbook staffs together. We became fast friends and were roommates our sophomore year of college. We were in each others weddings. He died of a heart attack last night at age 42. He is survived by his wife and twelve-year-old daughter.

Today has been a shock. I sat in stunned silence as those students continued to work on their A.P. exams. I just couldn't believe the news. We hadn't seen each other in a long time. We always promised that we would get together the next time were in town. But stuff, stupid stuff, always came up. We stayed in contact via social media and texts. But I should have made an effort to see him and his wonderful family more often.

He was one of the nicest guys I ever met. Seriously. He would do anything for you. He let me stay two weeks on a couch at his apartment after I returned from the United States after a year abroad. He helped me move a couple of times including my last big move, my move to Texas nineteen years ago. He would do anything for you. I can't believe he's gone.

He was a huge Sci-Fi fan. He probably would think it was a bit of sad irony to leave earth on May the Fourth, Star Wars day. He was a great writer. He worked as a columnist at various news outlets including the Metro Journal and the Journal Record in Oklahoma City. He became a leading real estate journalist in the state of Oklahoma. He also was a spiritual man. He wrote content for a large church in the OKC area. He often copy-edited my stuff back in college. Man, there's so much I could write, so many stories. Our senior  year we were suite mates in an upperclassmen dorm and pulled off a lot off practical jokes together. He was a great accountability partner. He never judged. He was always there for you.

I am a bit numb this afternoon. Darren is gone far too soon. I just can't fathom him being gone. He was a great man and a great husband and father. I feel so awful for his wife and daughter. I don't mean this to be trite, I mean this with all honesty...this world would be a hell of a lot better place if we had more people with the compassionate heart of Darren Currin. Rest in peace my friend.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A NASA Kind of Mood


I've been in a NASA kind of mood lately. I think it started with seeing the movie Gravity at the IMAX a couple of years a ago. Then Interstellar came out and blew my mind. FOX brought back Cosmos with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The Martian was excellent. I think these movies and shows rekindled my interest in all things space related. I always loved NASA stuff as a kid. I had a big NASA poster on my wall and a model Space Shuttle growing up. I even had a pretty sophisticated and thorough manual on how to fly the Shuttle. But as I grew up and realized my strengths and interests didn't lie in Math or STEM, I kind of let that phase pass. I focused on studying the Liberal Arts and Humanities. I still loved the big ideas of science, but the technicalities were beyond my skill set.

Then these movies and shows got me back into it. So I started looking at more than fiction. I began reading up on the recent expeditions to Mars such as NASA and JPL successfully landing a rover the size of a MINI Cooper on the surface of Mars. Space X and Virgin Galactic are doing incredible things. Space X just successfully landed a reusable rocket on a drone barge in the middle of the ocean. Crazy stuff!

Being in the space mood, we traveled down to Houston over Spring Break to visit the Johnson Space Center, among other sights. The Space Center is a pretty cool place. My nine-year-old son loved it, as did I. We saw the original Mission Control center that guided the Apollo missions. We saw massive rockets and amazing interactive exhibits. It was a pretty cool trip. My son is really big into all this science and engineering and already says he wants to be a rocket or robotics engineer. I remember feeling the same thing at his age, only difference is he actually enjoys doing science and math homework.

So this summer we're going to continue the theme and take him down to Cape Canaveral, Florida. We're going to spend a few days at Cocoa Beach and tour the Kennedy Space Center which is even more massive than Space Center Houston. I visited Cocoa Beach and toured Kennedy when I was in eighth grade and had a blast. My son can't wait. We're going to visit other places in Florida as well, but for my son, Cape Canaveral will be the number one attraction.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day 2016



Prince

The Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas honors Prince last night.

I wasn't a massively huge Prince fan. I owned a couple of his albums but I didn't actively follow his career. I did really dig some of his stuff. Some of it was amazing. But much of his work just wasn't my style. His flamboyant creativity often overshadowed his brilliant guitar playing. He was one of the most innovative and skillful guitar soloists ever. He had an intuitive sense on how to take a song in new and unexpected directions. Brilliant and weird guy. I wish more of our modern pop artists were as daring and creative. Here are two examples of Prince's guitar solos that blew my mind...

The first video is from Coachella 2008. He's covering Radiohead's Creep. This song is a Holy Grail song for me. This song was extremely important to me in the early 1990's and the thought that someone would dare cover it seemed almost sacrilegious. But Prince respects the song yet takes it and makes it his own. The guitar solo work is crazy good...



The second song comes from a 2005 tribute to George Harrison at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps. This band features a lineup of legends: Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and others. Prince was given the solo originally played by Eric Clapton and he rips it apart. Even in a band made of legends, he stands out. So yeah, he was flamboyant, strange, crazy and sometimes profane. But the guy could play and could play hard. He will be missed.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bout Time


I am thrilled to see Harriet Tubman will be honored on American currency. She was a hero of great courage and moral conscience. It is also wonderful to finally see a woman represented on American money. Not to mention that it is fantastic to see an African-American represented on our currency. This is a great move on so many accounts. There is nothing bad to say about this change except this...

They are still keeping Andrew Johnson's image on the $20 bill albeit in a different form and on the back side of the bill.

He should be removed entirely.

No one on American currency is perfect. But who are you going to replace? Washington? Lincoln? Franklin? Hamilton? Grant might be debatable since he did oversee one of the most corrupt and scandalous White House administrations in history. However...

Andrew Jackson? Not really a debate.

In no particular order...

Andrew Jackson was against paper money. He was a strict adherent to the gold standard and made it illegal for people to use currency to buy federal lands. Only gold or silver coins could be used which caused the Great Panic of 1857 and led our nation into its worst economic depression until the 1930's. He was against the idea of a national bank. To have his image on currency has long been a ridiculous joke.

He murdered a guy in a duel.

As a general he illegally declared martial law in New Orleans and had federal judges arrested. He suspended due process and shut down all opposition newspapers. Hundreds arrested with no due process.

He owned hundreds of slaves. He was virulently against abolition.

He broke federal law as a land speculator by buying and selling Indian land already protected by Federal treaty.

He forcibly removed thousands of Indians out of Georgia, against their will, in an act of ethnic cleansing. He did this to make room for many more plantations worked by thousands of slaves.

He summarily executed prisoners of war during the Creek Indian Wars.

The list goes on and on. How this guy was ever honored on our currency is beyond me. This is not liberal propaganda. This is simply the truth, the facts...facts that Jackson was proud of and wrote about freely.

So yes, I wish Jackson was off our currency for good. And it was way past time for a woman and African-American be so honored.

The only people that seem to be upset by this change are white males. Hmmmmm. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Duolingo


Things I try to do everyday:

Use the Duolingo app to study Spanish. Five minutes a day. Amazing little app. Available for lots of languages. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Ladies Man


My son was super embarrassed to have to take this photo with members of the High School's Drill Team who were greeting kids as they came to school Friday. He looks pretty cool and collected in the pic but he's a pretty shy guy and this caught him off guard. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Baseball Baseball Baseball


It's baseball all the time for us now. Practice twice a week. Often games twice a week. That's four nights a week of our lives taken by baseball...and we are not even on a tournament or select team! Not too happy with our league. We have several games that start at 8:00 pm on school nights. That means wrapping things up around 10:00 pm...for nine year olds...on school nights!

Youth league sports have gotten ridiculous. Jackson loves playing the game. Loves getting dirty on slides. Loves playing ball. He's progressing very nicely. He has a good coach and a good set of teammates. We like his team. But the overall culture places a lot of pressure on these kids. We have friends on select teams and the burden they put on these kids are terrible. 

People wonder why so many kids burn out or why there are so many Tommy John Surgeries these days. We are over-working these kids and most of them, the vast majority, will not play any sort of pro ball. A few might get lucky to get scholarships for college. But this should be about fun. It should be about building teamwork and social skills. It should be about exercise and fitness. It should be about learning the game and good sportsmanship. But now it's mostly about obsessive adults, living out their failed dreams vicariously through eight and nine year olds. And it only gets worse as the kids get older.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The White Album


I've been talking all this spring about the amazing number of new releases coming out from my favorite bands. Since January; Gungor, Chris Isaak, M. Ward, Brazzaville and now Weezer have dropped new tracks. Radiohead and Local Natives are also slated to release records soon. It has been a great year for music, at least for me. My faves don't usually all line up their releases at the same time.

April 1st, Weezer released The White Album. No April Fool's Joke. It's good stuff. The sound is very similar to last year's excellent Everything Will Be Alright in the End. Guess it should go without saying it's not on the Blue or Pinkerton level...but probably nothing ever will be and I've accepted that. Still, these most recent two albums have been their best in years. I've got a few tiers when it comes to Weezer albums...starting at the top...

The Incomparable Work of Genius: The Blue Album.

The Classic and Amazing (but not quite as good as Blue): Pinkerton

Really Great Stuff: Green, Maladroit

Excellent: EWBAE and White

Very Good: Red, Make Believe

I dig it even though I'm embarrassed to admit it and would never say so to hardcore Weezer fans: Raditude

Meh. Some good, some meh, mostly meh and some lame: Hurley, Death to False Metal

So yeah, I'd put The White Album somewhere in the middle. I particularly like King of the World and Endless Bummer. If you put the best one or two songs from each of their last five or six releases you'd have one super great album. Unfortunately  too much of their stuff is hit or miss lately. But White really holds up pretty much all the way through. I dig it.