A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Nutsy news, edition 4

1. Well, does a good decision make up for a previous bad one in terms of PR damage?
The Colorado State Patrol has withdrawn the $22 jaywalking ticket issued to a good Samaritan who was seriously injured by a pickup after he pushed three people out of its path.

Bus driver Jim Moffett of Denver and another man were helping two elderly women cross a busy Denver street in a snowstorm when he was hit Feb. 20.

Moffett, 58, suffered bleeding in the brain, broken bones, a dislocated shoulder and a possible ruptured spleen. He remained hospitalized in serious condition Friday.

"He's doing better, but it's going to be a long, hard road for him," said his wife, Donna. "His knee is just completely destroyed, his shoulder was badly dislocated, he's got a lot of internal injuries."

The State Patrol said in a statement that it withdrew the citation "after examining the ... circumstances" and consulting with prosecutors. A patrol spokesman didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

The patrol initially said that despite Moffett's intentions, jaywalking contributed to the accident.

The patrol also withdrew jaywalking citations against the other good Samaritan and one of the two women. The other woman wasn't cited because troopers said she wasn't directly involved.

A citation against the pickup driver for careless driving resulting in injury still stands.

The two women and the other good Samaritan were passengers on Moffett's Regional Transportation District bus.

"He told his son he'd do it again, which really upsets me because he almost lost his life," Donna Moffett said.

2. When you trap something smart in a glass container filled with thousands of gallons of seawater, you might want to make sure it can't get revenge:
Staff at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium in California say the trickster who flooded their offices with sea water was armed. Eight-armed, to be exact.

They blame the soaking they discovered Tuesday morning on the aquarium's resident two-spotted octopus, a tiny female known for being curious and gregarious with visitors. The octopus apparently tugged on a valve and that allowed hundreds of gallons of water to overflow its tank.

Aquarium spokeswoman Randi Parent says no sea life was harmed by the flood, but the brand new, ecologically designed floors might be damaged by the water.

3. A good lawyer might make the argument that no real law was broken-- he was just testing the system. But will he get sent to a fake prison?
A man was been arrested after police said he used counterfeit money to purchase fake OxyContin pills from an undercover officer. Unicoi County Sheriff's deputies arrested a 21-year-old man on Tuesday and charged him with criminal conspiracy with schedule II drugs, forgery and criminal simulation.

Investigator Frank Rogers said the officer met with several people at a mobile home park and arranged for the suspect and another man to come to Unicoi to buy 76 OxyContin pills for $4,875.

Officers said it was "obviously bad money" with some bills printed on just one side.

4. After this lady wielded her frying pan, did her assailants also little twittering birds flying around their heads like in the cartoons?
The 70-year-old wife of an Ohio judge said teens who tried to rob her made her so angry that she whacked one in the head with a sauce pan.

Ellen Basinski said she was on the phone with her husband Tuesday when four boys pushed their way into her home in Elyria, west of Cleveland.

Lorain County Judge David Basinski overheard the scuffle and raced home, while his wife grabbed her favorite pan to defend herself against the intruders rifling through her purse and cabinets.

One of the teens told police he threw a bottle of whiskey at Basinski to distract her so another boy could flee. They ran from the house but were later caught and charged with aggravated burglary.

The judge said his wife is upset that police took the pan as evidence.

On hearing the news, Chef Emeril Lagasse said he felt so bad that the woman that he's replacing the item.

Lagasse planned to send Basinski a whole new set of his signature cookware.

5. And now, the Ms. Cornelius Award for Absolute Chutzpah goes to dis guy:
Attorneys for a former state trooper who joined a group affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan were scheduled to argue Tuesday before the state Supreme Court that he was wrongly fired by the state.

In briefs filed with the state Supreme Court, the attorney for former trooper Robert Henderson says his client’s free speech rights were trampled and that Henderson didn’t violate a specific state policy because he never treated anyone differently based on race.

But an attorney in state Attorney General Jon Bruning’s office argues that Henderson’s previous ties with the KKK is a clear breach of a policy: that officers be impartial enforcers of the law and encourage public confidence.

“Employing as a state law enforcement officer someone who espouses a personal conviction that race makes a difference in how people should be treated, and who aligns himself with ... the KKK cannot, under any circumstances, be consistent with public policy ... to encourage public confidence in our law enforcement officers and treat all citizens equally,’’ Assistant Attorney General Tom Stine says in written arguments to the state high court.

The court was expected to offer the final word in the topsy-turvy case.

Henderson was fired from the force, then ordered by an arbitrator to be reinstated as an officer, only to have the reinstatement overturned by a Lancaster County District Court judge.

Henderson was dismissed in early 2006 after patrol officials discovered he had joined a racist group and posted messages on its Web site.

Henderson, who was a patrolman for 18 years, told an investigator he joined the Knights Party in June 2004 to vent his frustrations about his separation with his wife. She left him for a Hispanic man.

Henderson posted four messages to the Knights’ Web site, according to the investigator’s report. The group has described itself as the most active Klan organization in the United States.

Arbitrator Paul J. Caffera from New York later overturned Henderson’s firing. He said Henderson was entitled to his First Amendment rights of free speech and that the state violated the state troopers’ contract, in part when it fired Henderson “because of his association with the Knights Party ... and the Ku Klux Klan.’’

Caffera ordered the patrol to reinstate Henderson within 60 days and pay him his back wages.

Bruning’s office appealed that decision and won in Lancaster County District Court. A judge said Henderson violated the state’s public policy against discrimination.

Henderson then appealed that decision.

His attorney argues that there is no evidence Henderson committed “actual acts’’ of racial discrimination. The attorney, Vincent Valentino, says in written arguments that Henderson has never been accused of any such act and that data on who he stopped while working indicates he did not engage in racial profiling.

Valentino goes on to argue that the public policy the district court pointed to when reversing the arbitrator’s ruling was “judicially created.’’

“Since ... Henderson has never deprived anyone of any right, privilege, liberty, property or employment because of race, he has not violated the public policy identified by the district court,’’ Valentino says in his written argument.

“Henderson was fired for exercising his constitutional and statutory rights to free speech and free political affiliation, and not for violating clear and explicit Nebraska public policy,’’ Valentino goes on to argue.

The state Police Standards Advisory Council will wait until after a ruling from the state Supreme Court before holding a hearing on whether to revoke Henderson’s certification to be a law enforcement officer.

And by the way, this is news because, yesterday, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld his firing.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tunesday 7: Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird, Noble Beast

I first heard Andrew Bird when I bought the Squirrel Nut Zippers' Hot back in the mid-90s. Then one of my students later shared a couple of songs from his solo work-- "Sovay" and "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left." Since then I have followed his career with a lot of interest, and interest is the word. Bird is a multi-instrumentalist, utilizing violin, guitar, and whistling-- yes, whistling-- as his primary sounds in addition to his singing work.

Bird's latest offering is Noble Beast. Favorites on this album include "Effigy,""Nomenclature," "Anonanimal," and "Fitz and the Dizzyspells." As you can see, musical inventiveness that is not precious and lyrical depth are characteristics I admire. It's when you listen to artists like Andrew Bird that you realize how absolutely boring conventional radio has become, and you feel forced to turn toward burning loads of your own CDs and spending way too much on iTunes-- and curse you/I love you, iTunes Genius selections!!!


Now, to see if you've been paying attention... what have the last three artists profiled had in common?

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

And now, a GOOD sportsmanship basketball story

Character. That's what sports are supposed to instill:
Winning is "not a matter of life and death," according to the venerable sporting adage coined by former UCLA football coach Red Saunders, "it's more important than that." The reality, of course, is the exact opposite, and that fact was vividly illustrated by the actions of the high school basketball players and coaches of DeKalb, Ill., and Milwaukee Madison earlier this month.

During the day of their match-up, Milwaukee's captain, Johntel Franklin (pictured here) had the misfortune of being at his mother's bedside when she succumbed to a five-year battle with cervical cancer. Understandably, he decided to skip the game, but later Franklin changed his mind.

In the second quarter, he arrived late in what was a close game. Because Franklin was not scheduled to play, DeKalb were awarded two free throws for a technical foul. DeKalb's Darius McNeal stepped to the line, and proceeded to purposely miss the shots, bouncing the ball several times on their way to the baseline. McNeal's attempts were rewarded with a standing ovation from players and fans from both teams.

Franklin eventually scored 10 points as Milwaukee won comfortably. Afterwards, players from both teams went out for pizza together. McNeal's take on his meaningful missed shots: "I did it for the guy who lost his mom ... it was the right thing to do."

And if you didn't get a lump in your throat, you've got a heart of lead.


Open the pod bay door, HAL....

A few suggestions to school IT people everywhere:

1. Please understand that we are busy trying to make sure that students learn. We do not have 40 hours to spend crafting a website on the software that you purchased instead of working on matters more directly related to teaching. We are not enthralled with the idea of spending more than a full week learning a bunch of code. We especially do not want to do this and then get some cartoony website that looks like third graders did the graphics. Well, maybe a third grade teacher would be okay with that. But most of us are neither IT guys nor third grade teachers.

2. I also do not have time to respond to fifteen (no kiddin') emails about WHY I prefer to use blogging software for my classroom website over your ridiculous program (see 1). If you have time to send me fifteen emails, then YOU need to find something to do. I have some papers that need grading. Perhaps you could try to enter the grades on the idiotic internet-based grading system software you have also foisted upon us. Because right now it will neither save the grades that I have spent all day putting in, nor will it let me quit. So I am in quite the Catch-22 position.

3. You also want to require every teacher in the building to take over 45 hours of computer classes, and yet there are no microphones with which to make podcasts, there are two digital cameras to split among over 200 teachers, and I have to go get extra special double secret permission before I can add any piece of freeware or download a song from iTunes to my computer for instructional purposes. Since you are out of communication 70% of the time, that usually does not happen.

4. And meanwhile, I am placed in firewall limbo when I try to access any images to liven up powerpoints-- and images would be the only thing I use them for, since my students admit that my criticism of powerpoints (ie, that the only thing a kid will write down when being shown a powerpoint is what is on the slide, and nobody wants to read a slide with more than ten words of text on it) is valid.

5. And then, every year, there is the debacle over the software crashing (and often crashing the servers) when students are trying to register for next year's classes. Since my classes always go first, they are always the guinea pigs when this happens. Madness then ensues.

6. The excuse behind the internet-based grading system we use, meanwhile, was that it would save us labor. Since I now have to keep both a paper gradebook and the internet-based one, I think that that claim certainly doesn't hold water (and by the way, neither does my keyboard, and my roof sprang a leak last year right over my desk over a weekend. That was fun).

7. How about the next time we marry ourselves to some software company, we do a check to see if their customer service level rises above something better than, "We have no interest in fixing that problem right now." Which is what you told us the company actually said the last time the software went through a systematic meltdown.


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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Thirteen: Karma chameleon edition

1. Charter Cable goes bankrupt. Yes, finally, the end of an alleged television provider that doesn't actually provide television service except when druids are dancing at Stonehenge-- no offense intended to any neo-Pagans out there.

2. Roland Burris didn't really mean that he told the "whole truth" before getting his senate seat, just the part of the whole truth that wouldn't peel the crazed leech of ambition off his moral compass.

3. A-Rod was stupid. We get that. But not so stupid that he's going to give back a quarter billion bucks. So I don't think the stupidity defense really works. But the "cojones the size of marbles" thing now has some real traction on the credibility scale.

4. Even Argentina doesn't want Richard Williamson, ersatz bishop of the Catholic Church.

5. What the hell is the point of the SEC? I hope our new president gives that some thought. But Texas billionaires do not blend into the scenery.

6. And on the same subject, how do you get people not to think about what they are doing? By making them feel like they're part of an exclusive club if they don't let you rob them blind.

7. Stop me if you've heard this one before... corrupt CEO misappropriates funds. But when you hurt my friends, jocko, you've hurt me. Rot in prison.

8. So much about this is wrong.

9. That would be an ippon, I believe. Thieves beware.

10. If you don't say thanks, I'll bash you with a golf club.

11. Sagging finally trips up tha thug life.

12. A tiger in the tank? Perhaps you meant "Panama Red."

13. Wow. The mortgage crisis means you can't even keep your cave.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

IEP meetings are a chance to see the tree from which that apple fell

Had a great meeting with everyone over a piping hot IEP last week. Reminded me of just what I love so much about these things.

When I approached the Screaming Kid's habit of provoking other students (and being none too respectful to adults in the vicinity, as well, if it were to come to that), Dad raised his voice at me and told me how it sounded like I was taking the other kid's side in the Great Altercation from Hell.

I wanted to say, "Sir, your child is here for 'socialization' only. Therefore, it would seem fair to bring up a lack of progress in socialization. Unless you're going to react with a hair trigger. Hmm. Seems familiar...."

If only we could be so honest. It reminds me of the meeting we had during my first year of teaching with the mother of a student who would roll around on the floor, or stiffen herself and slide under the desk when she didn't get her way. The mom twisted in her seat, twirled her hair into a celtic knot, and then climbed into a (so help me) Rolls-Royce and drove away. Ai yi yi.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tunesday 6: Theresa Andersson

Theresa Andersson, Hummingbird, Go!

I first heard this talented artist on NPR, as she was being interviewed about this album. Theresa Andersson is a multi-instrumentalist who provides nearly all of the sounds on this album herself, with the help of two looping machines. She also utilizes samples from great artists, especially those from New Orleans, where she has lived since 1990 since moving from Sweden. In concert, every performance of each song is different, since she starts over from scratch each night. Just watching her keep it all straight makes me feel like a complete klutz.

There are a range of emotions covered in just thirteen songs. From the meditative "God's Highway" to the intense Swedish "Innan du Gar" and the soulful "Now I Know" to the whimsical "Japanese Art" there is absolutely no telling where she is going next, but it's all an original, fantastic ride.

Here's how she does it:

Try Theresa Andersson, and put another knife into the black heart of modern commercial radio.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

I've looked at love from both sides, now...

Happy Valentine's Day. Love touches us all, even the lack of it, or the lack of a fit of it, but love is therefore more of a treasure than ever. And if all you know about this song is the Judy Collins version with the harpsichord from hell, it's time to get yourself straight with Joni Mitchell. It's the best three and a half minutes you can spend today, of all days.

Joni! Mitchell!

Both Sides Now
by Joni Mitchell

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I've looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As ev'ry fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day

I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all
I've looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

And yes, I was watching Love Actually. So?????

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Cruel to be kind?

How would you respond? Better yet, how do you think the teacher responded? Here are a few scenarios to discuss:

1. Erica enrolled in class a few weeks ago. She has a baby and has been kicked out of her home, and they are currently living in a shelter. She doesn't have to start school each day until 10 am because it is "hard for me to get to school any earlier, and I may be late to your class, too." Erica has been absent 75% of the time. She has yet to turn in any assignment, including ones that could be completed in class, and the last time she was given a quiz she returned it blank because she said she wasn't "ready."

2. Justin approached his teacher and expressed concern about his current grade. He admits to not doing the reading, and to procrastinating, but says that he hasn't added any activities that would explain his sudden inability to, um, "git 'er done," and yes, his teacher did wince mightily when that particular phraseology zoomed out of his mouth. When it was suggested that maybe he should start reading and and doing the assignments, he looked quizzical and said, "No, that can't be it."

3. Aaron has a severe chronic condition which usually causes its victims to have a life expectancy, on average, of 37 years. Aaron has also developed hypoglycemia and possibly a hernia. Aaron is gone quite a bit, but often the absences are unexcused, and when he comes to school, acts shocked that he has anything to make up, like getting a copy of notes or finding out what assignments were done. Aaron often eats candy for lunch or does not eat at all. When asked about his health, Aaron's mother states that it is actually really good. When told that there is an absolute deadline for grades to be done, Aaron is gone that day, and then gets the principal's permission to turn in three weeks' worth of work overnight, which the teacher is then required to evaluate and then manually override the grade.

4. Juanita is also gone from class a lot. The last four times she was gone she said it was because she was with someone in the hospital: her best friend, her brother, her grandma, and a neighbor.

What would you do?

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A few little words to the wise...

The Wizened Old Broad of the Classroom here, dispensing her hard-earned knowledge like scented hankies in the hope that some will be caught and tucked away before they flutter, uselessly, to the ground to be sullied by the stampeding feet of the hoi polloi:

Have any kids who carry PSPs? Beware: those things contain a universal remote that can be used to turn on and off equipment that utlizes a remote control device in your classroom. Like a tv. That seems possessed. While you are trying to teach.

Just sayin'. And no, I didn't tell the kids who told me about this that it is in the slightest bit amusing.

If it was used on my colleague Redneck Mother, I might have a different opinion, however.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tunesday 5: Allison Krauss and Robert Plant

Allison Krauss and Robert Plant, Raising Sand

What? You didn't watch the Grammy Awards?

Five Grammy Awards. Five. You know, just when I lose hope in the Grammies, they pull out a Joni Mitchell tribute album last year and now this one. Almost makes up for anything Eminem has ever foisted on my poor unsuspecting eardrums. Almost.

I've enjoyed this album for over a year. It's amazing to think about putting these two truly singular voices together on an album-- and only the unfathomable mind of T-Bone Burnett could conceive of such a thing. I bow to you, sir. These two artists possess such stunning gifts that I almost want to never dirty the air with my lame warbling after their voices have echoed within the room.

What makes this album so amazing?

1. A ethereal cover of one of my favorite songs, "Killing the Blues."
2. An unusual number called "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us."
3. Outdoing the Everly Brothers on "Gone Gone Gone."
4. The country twang of "Through the Morning, Through the Night." I mean, Robert Plant singing the high harmony!

Here's Robert Plant and T-Bone Burnett discussing the project:

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Michelle Rhee makes nice

NYC Educator has the link to a WaPo article where Michelle Rhee says she never meant to imply it was all the teachers' fault over in the DC Public Schools.


Movie Madness Monday 136: Kahn, Korman, and Wilder edition

For this week's M Cubed, please comment carefully. I love this movie, but quotes taken out of context here can be problematic. Doesn't make it any less hilarious, though!

"Hello, handsome, is that a ten-gallon hat or are you just enjoying the show?"

"Where's my froggy?"

"Stampeding cattle."
"That's not much of a crime."
"Through the Vatican?"
"Kinky. Sign here."

"Now, I suppose you're all wondering just what in the heck you're doing out here in the middle of a prairie in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night."
"You bet your ass."
"I'm hip."

"What do you want me to do, sir?"
"I want you to round up every vicious criminal and gunslinger in the west. Take this down: I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists."
"Could you repeat that, sir?"

"How 'bout some more beans, Mr. Taggart?

****Weekend Update: Ride into the sunset on


Mel Brooks and Harvey Korman! Madeleine Kahn and Gene Wilder together again!

Genius! Un-PC genius!!!!!

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Thursday, February 05, 2009


... do I need to give a final exam to a child who is severely disabled and is simply here for "socialization?"

... do I have a young person in my room, a room already filled with twenty-five other people, who is here strictly for socialization?

... did that student nearly get in a fight with another kid because his aide was not by his side, as required by his IEP?

... did I have to break up that altercation, at considerable risk, since this young person is so incredibly unpredictable?

... did I have to answer dozens of questions and eight separate emails about a problem that lasted less than two minutes from six, yes--six!-- different people?

... don't the parents of the other kids in the room scream their own heads off when this kid's wailing and shrieking completely drowns out my voice as I am trying to teach and continues like a siren in my and everyone else's ear for ten solid minutes?

... doesn't anyone ask what the cost is to other students of having disruptive and volatile young people sitting in a classroom for socialization only, especially when it is obvious that this socialization is not working or this child wouldn't be getting into altercations with someone at least once a week?

... does the caseworker not comprehend this obvious failure in strategy?

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Some amazing linky goodness:
1. IB a Math Teacher presents us with the ultimate enabling parent.

2. Bob has an evil knife problem, and a Les Nessman-ized thumb.

3. Teachergirl tells us that Pittsburgh, the home of those damn' Steelers, actually delayed school on Monday. The reason why is nuts.

4. Phantom Professor tells the tale of a college instructor who sued her students. Word.

5. Millard Fillmore's Bathtub relates that Harry Truman never advocated bamboozling people.

6. Jay Matthews at the WaPo points out the value of high school athletics, of which I often need reminding this time of year, now that the wrestlers are all running around eating bizarre concoctions-- if, indeed, they are eating at all.

Go have fun now!


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Tunesday 4: Dar Williams- Lucky we are when the stars leave us singing

Dar Williams, Promised Land

Here are just a few of the things I love about Dar Williams:

She wrote a song that sums up the barriers of experience both men and women of my generation underwent growing up called "When I Was a Boy." I lived this song. I remember when suddenly I was told that I couldn't do certain things or act a certain way because I was a girl. When I was little, I thought of myself as a kid, not as a girl, and so this was a shock to me. This song perfectly captures how I felt.

Now Dar has a new album, Promised Land. On this new album she helps keep Marshall Crenshaw playing-- and I have believed that Marshall Crenshaw was a genius since I listened to "Someday, Someway" over and over again in my dorm room in college. I believe that he is one of the singer/songwriters as well as guitarists who have not received nearly enough attention.

Her lyrics are mystical, and yet, in the tradition of the greatest folksingers everywhere, also often amazingly accessible. One of my favorite Christmas songs is another classic of hers, "The Christians and the Pagans." It's a screamingly funny song about what happens when a couple of NeoPagans visit their "Christ-loving uncle" at Christmas/Solstice. The imagery is amazing in this song: pies burning, hopefully instead of witches.

Then there's her cover on this album of a song by one of my favorite bands-- Fountains of Wayne-- where she does her own version of "Troubled Times." The intersection of a great singer-songwriter doing a cover of another singer-songwriter just reinforces what a blessing it is to be able to enjoy the cross-pollination of Dar's prodigious gifts with those of other current voices that speak the truth of life so clearly that it makes you ache.

Favorite songs on this new record include "The Tide Falls Away," about the gifts of experience; "The Holly Tree," about a farm wife trying to give birth; "Buzzer," about the Milgram experiments of the 1960s; and of course her cover of "Troubled Times."

Here are the lyrics to "The Tide Falls Away:"

I walked the spiraling village one night
Drawn by the word of a bell or a light
Out on the flat side it rose to a spire
All becomes clear as
The tide falls away

Parent and child and an ocean between
One is not heard and the other not seen
Too many bottles but each had a message inside
All becomes clear as
The tide falls away
All becomes clear as
The tide falls away

Lucky we are when the stars leave us singing
A hymn or a dirge when the surge of the ocean is gone
Is gone

And the old woman just stares at her hands
So many heroes have crumbled to sand
All those cathedrals were merely by men
It all becomes clear as
The tide falls away
All becomes clear as
The tide falls away
All falls away

Here is Dar discussing the album on NPR, and there is even a link to hear her performing in concert.

If you enjoy music that is both musically and lyrically rich, then Promised Land is a gift you owe yourself.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Movie Madness Monday 135: Skwirls predicting the weather edition

Here is a surprise reappearance of Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game. This is one of my favorites of all time because, every year, it feels so perfect for how I am feeling. So put your quotes in the comments section!

"People like it!"
"People like blood sausage, too. People are morons."

"This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather."

"This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. What a hype. Well, it used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it. You're hypocrites, all of you! You have a problem with what I'm saying, Larry? Untie your tongue, and you come out here and talk, huh? Am I upsetting you, Princess?"

"You're gonna eat steak, you need to get some sharper teeth."

"There is no way this winter is ever going to end, as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don't see any other way out. He's got to be stopped. And I have to stop him."

"I like to say a little prayer and drink to world peace."
"To world peace."

"When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn't imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter."

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I can still remember how the music used to make me smile

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the Day the Music Died-- when Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, the Big Bopper JP Richardson, as well as the pilot, died in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa, sending the youth of America into mourning and probably changing the course of rock-n-roll forever:

It's been 50 years since a single-engine plane crashed into a snow-covered Iowa field, instantly killing three men whose names would become enshrined in the history of rock 'n' roll.

The passing decades haven't diminished fascination with that night on Feb. 2, 1959, when 22-year-old Buddy Holly, 28-year-old J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and 17-year-old Ritchie Valens performed in Clear Lake and then boarded the plane for a planned 300-mile flight that lasted only minutes.

"It was really like the first rock 'n' roll landmark; the first death," said rock historian Jim Dawson, who has written several books about music of that era. "They say these things come in threes. Well, all three happened at the same time."

Starting Wednesday, thousands of people are expected to gather in the small northern Iowa town where the rock pioneers gave their last performance. They'll come to the Surf Ballroom for symposiums with the three musicians' relatives, sold-out concerts and a ceremony as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame designates the building as its ninth national landmark.

And they'll discuss why after so many years, so many people still care about what songwriter Don McLean so famously called "the day the music died."

"It was the locus point for that last performance by these great artists," said Terry Stewart, president and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. "It warrants being fixed in time."

Clear Lake is an unlikely spot for a rock 'n' roll pilgrimage — especially in winter. The resort town of about 8,000 borders its namesake lake, and on winter days the cold and wind make the community 100 miles north of Des Moines anything but a tourist destination.

...Stewart said the deaths still resonate because they occurred at a time when rock 'n' roll was going through a transition, of sorts. The sound of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Holly was making way for the British Invasion of the mid-1960s.

"The music was shifting and changing at that point," he said. "The crash put a punctuation point on the change."

All three musicians influenced rock and roll in their own way.

Holly's career was short, but his hiccup-vocal style, guitar play and songwriting talents had tremendous influence on later performers. The Beatles, who formed about the time of the crash, were among his early fans and fashioned their name after Holly's band, The Crickets. Holly's hit songs include "That'll Be The Day," "Peggy Sue" and "Maybe Baby."

Richardson, "The Big Bopper," is often credited with creating the first music video with his recorded performance of "Chantilly Lace" in 1958, decades before MTV.

And Valens was one of the first musicians to apply a Mexican influence to rock 'n' roll. He recorded his huge hit "La Bamba" only months before the accident.

The plane left the airport in nearby Mason City about 1 a.m., headed for Moorhead, Minn., with the musicians looking for a break from a tiring, cold bus trip through the Upper Midwest.

It wasn't until hours later that the demolished plane was found, crumpled against a wire fence. Investigators believe the pilot, who also died, became confused amid the dark, snowy conditions and rammed the plane into the ground.

The crash set off a wave of mourning among their passionate, mostly young fans across the country. Then 12 years later the crash was immortalized as "the day the music died" in McLean's 1971 song, "American Pie."

...In part because of its role in rock history, the Surf Ballroom has retained its vintage look, with a 6,000-square-foot dance floor, ceiling painted to resemble a sky, and original cloud machines on either side of the room. Ten Buddy Holly banners line the wall opposite the stage. The 2,100-capacity ballroom still hosts many national and regional performers, most of whom add their names to a backstage wall that is now crowded with drawings and signatures.

"It's quite a special place," said Nicholas, the Surf board member. "This place looks just like it did in 1959."

And they have named the Surf as a National Landmark.

There was also quite a bit of tragic irony in those who were unlucky enough to get on the plane that fateful night.
Holly began a solo tour with other notable performers, including Dion and the Belmonts, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. After a performance in Green Bay, Wisconsin at the Riverside Ballroom, on 1 February the tour moved on to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa on 2 February 1959. Afterwards, Buddy Holly chartered a Beechcraft Bonanza to take him and his new back-up band (Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings) to Fargo, North Dakota, enroute to play the next leg of the Winter Dance Party tour at the Armory in Moorhead, Minnesota. Carl Bunch missed the flight as he had been hospitalized with frostbite three days earlier.[9] The Big Bopper asked Jennings for his spot on the four-seat plane, as he was recovering from the flu. Ritchie Valens was still signing autographs at the concert site when Allsup walked in and told him it was time to go. Valens begged for a seat on the plane. Allsup pulled a 50 cent coin out of his pocket and the two men flipped for the seat. Allsup lost.

The plane took off in light snow and gusty winds at around 12:05 A.M., but crashed a few minutes later. The wreckage was discovered several hours later by the plane's owner, Jerry Dwyer, some 8 miles (13 km) from the airport on the property of Albert Juhl. The crash killed Holly, Valens, Richardson, and the 21-year-old pilot, Roger Peterson. Holly's body, along with those of Valens and Richardson, was thrown from the wreckage. Holly and Valens lay 17 feet (5.2 m) south of the wreckage and Richardson was thrown around 40 feet (12 m) to the north of the wreckage. The pilot's body remained in the wreckage. All had suffered severe and multiple injuries. Without any doubt, all had died on impact, with the plane hitting the ground at 170 mph (270 km/h). While theories abound as to the exact cause of the crash, an official determination of pilot error was rendered by the Civil Aeronautics Board. Although the crash received a good deal of local coverage, it was displaced in the national news by an accident that occurred the same day in New York City, when American Airlines Flight 320 crashed during an instrument landing approach at LaGuardia Airport, killing 65. Don McLean referred to it as "The Day the Music Died".

Holly's pregnant wife became a widow after barely six months of marriage and miscarried soon after.

Holly's funeral was held on 7 February 1959 at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Lubbock under the direction of Sanders Funeral Home.[10] His body was interred in the City of Lubbock Cemetery in the eastern part of the city. Holly's headstone carries the correct spelling of his surname (Holley) and a carving of his Fender Stratocaster guitar.

Maria Holly did not attend the funeral and has never visited the gravesite. She told the Avalanche-Journal: "In a way, I blame myself. I was not feeling well when he left. I was two weeks pregnant, and I wanted Buddy to stay with me, but he had scheduled that tour. It was the only time I wasn't with him. And I blame myself because I know that, if only I had gone along, Buddy never would have gotten into that airplane."

Early in 2008, Maria visited the apartment building where she and Holly lived. There, she observed musicians in nearby Washington Square Park, where Holly often played his guitar. "I gave one musician $9 because 9 was Buddy's favorite number," Maria told the Avalanche-Journal. She said that she had never come to grips with his premature death.

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Win at all costs?

Ever heard the phrase "Win at all costs?" This incident puts a new spin on that phrase.

On January 13,the girls' basketball teams of two small Dallas-area private schools, the Dallas Academy and the Covenant School, played each other. The final score was 100-0 in favor of the Covenant School.

This score has raised questions about sportsmanship and values in youth athletics, and rightly so.

Sadly, this video doesn't provide even half of the real story, though.

The Dallas Academy specializes in working with students with learning disabilities. The girls from the Dallas Academy and their coach have maintained a positive attitude in the face of such a lopsided defeat, talking about team spirit and improvement and playing for the love of the game. They haven't won a game in four years. However, they cancelled any future games against Covenant, and, indeed, withdrew from the league:
The Bulldogs play, Civello said, for more than the final score. They play in hope of improving skills, learning teamwork and picking up whatever life lessons athletics may bring.

But they won't be playing Covenant again this season; they canceled their Jan. 30 game against the team. After the game, Dallas Academy informed the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools that it was withdrawing its girls team from the league for the rest of the season.

"We just said, 'The hell with it,' " said Jim Richardson, Dallas Academy's headmaster.

Instead, the team will set up a new schedule against some junior varsity teams.

The Covenant School, which is a Christian school, later issued an apology and announced its intention to forfeit the game:
Officials from The Covenant School visited Dallas Academy on Thursday morning to apologize for their girls basketball team's "victory without honor" in last week's 100-0 game.

Covenant, located in Dallas, also e-mailed the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools to declare its desire to forfeit the District 3-2A game.

Edd Burleson, the TAPPS director who oversees 236-member high schools, said there is no formal procedure when a school wants to overturn one of its victories.

"If they want to forfeit, it's forfeited," he said.

Dallas Academy athletic director Jeremy Civello said his school accepted the "heartfelt" apology delivered by Covenant's head of school, Kyle Queal, and athletic director Brice Helton.

Civello said the girls' team, which hasn't won a game in his four years there, doesn't want to be credited with a victory it didn't earn on the court.

"Covenant has a great team," Civello said. "We wish them all the best for the rest of the season. We don't think what happened is a reflection on those girls in any way."

Dallas Academy has since withdrawn its team from the TAPPS district and is piecing together a new schedule that will include junior varsity opponents.

Queal did not return phone messages Thursday. Covenant posted the apology on its Web site 10 days after the game.

The Web site has removed the 100-0 victory from the team's record, which it lists as 6-3. The three losses have been to larger schools. Covenant is undefeated in district, winning its three other Class 2A games, 54-29, 66-7 and 77-27.

The Web site message from Queal and Todd Doshier, the North Dallas Christian school's chairman, called the 100-0 final a "victory without honor," "shameful" and an "embarrassment."

On Jan. 13, Covenant kept the pressure on winless Dallas Academy until midway though the fourth quarter, when it scored its 100th point. The score was 59-0 at halftime and 88-0 after three quarters.

Dallas Academy is known for its work with students who have learning problems, such as short attention spans and concentration. Dallas Academy headmaster Jim Richardson said those problems sometimes manifest themselves on the court.

Asked about the final score Wednesday by e-mail, Covenant coach Micah Grimes responded: "It's unfortunate we got to 100 points in the game against Dallas Academy. It just happened, and we are not happy about that.

"Please know Covenant intended no harm against them. I see this as a real learning opportunity, so we can prevent this from happening in the future."

The Covenant Web site said the school has "acted to ensure that such an unfortunate incident can never happen again."

It gave offered no details on what actions were taken.

But wait, now it gets even better. Covenant fired the coach when he objected to the apology over the score:
The Covenant School fired its girls basketball coach Sunday, the same day he posted a message on a youth basketball Web site saying he disagreed with school officials who had publicly apologized for the team's 100-0 victory over Dallas Academy.

In reporting the firing, Kyle Queal, Covenant's head of school, emphasized that former coach Micah Grimes "now only represents himself" when discussing the game, which has become a national talking point. Queal said he could not say whether the firing was a direct result of the posting and declined to answer any questions.

In a statement posted Sunday on www.flightbasketball.com, Grimes offered his first public comment since the story was first reported.

"I respectfully disagree with the apology, especially the notion that the Covenant School girls basketball team should feel 'embarrassed' or 'ashamed,' " part of the post says. "We played the game as it was meant to be played and would not intentionally run up the score on any opponent. Although a wide-margin victory is never evidence of compassion, my girls played with honor and integrity and showed respect to Dallas Academy."

Grimes also included the quarter-by-quarter scoring on his post: 35, 24, 29, 12.

At the end of his post on the Web site, which identifies him as co-founder of Flight Basketball, Grimes wrote, "So if I lose my job over these statements, I will walk away with my integrity."

Grimes did not teach or work at The Covenant School. He was in his fourth season as girls basketball coach, having built the program from a 2-19 record his first season to a state championship contender last season. Covenant, which plays larger out-of-district schools, is 6-3 this season and undefeated in its Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools district. It has informed TAPPS headquarters that it has chosen to forfeit the Dallas Academy game.

What did this win cost?
1. It cost the coach his job.
2. It cost a Christian school its reputation for living out the Christian values of mercy, at least temporarily. They have endeavored to right this, belatedly.
3. It caused at least temporary humiliation to the girls on the Dallas Academy team, although their grace afterwards brought them national attention.

When I was very young, there was no mercy rule in softball. I was once involved in a game in which the final score was 72-3 against a neighboring elementary school. I think I was in fourth grade at the time. We scored a bunch of runs in the first inning, as I remember, but as it became apparent by the middle of the second inning that the other team was completely not up to it, our coaches did change strategies. Our pitcher, who was dominant, was moved to center field. We were told to play any position we had ever wanted to play, but had never gotten to try in a game (I even got to pitch, which convinced me I should never pitch again). One of our players helped a girl on the opposing team learn how to swing levelly, and she got a hit. We cheered the other team when they scored. After the game was over, both teams shared their cans of pop and snacks together, as one group.

But we were still sorry that we had gotten the score up to 72 runs. To this day, as you can see, this game has lingered with me, when other, sweeter victories are nothing but dim sparks in my memory.

I have played sports for nearly forty years. Winning is great, and I love it. I believe in playing my heart out, and I love competition. I even played while pregnant-- carefully, and with doctor's approval. But sometimes, there is nobility on defeat, as well. Knowing that you played hard and made progress in some areas is also valuable. Playing for the love of the game is valuable. Most participants in athletics won't become pros-- but perhaps, they can develop a lifelong opportunity to play the game, as I have, and my life has been the richer for it. The friends I have made and the camaraderie enjoyed have been special gifts. This basketball game reminds us all of that.

Something to think about today as we all worship at the altar of the Super Bowl this evening. I personally will be cheering on the Cardinals in my Kurt Warner jersey, hoping for a miracle.


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