Sunday, July 31, 2011

Looking for a Revolution on a Sunday


I was able to focus full-heartedly on the housing/rental market in Southern Connecticut today, attacking Trulia, Zillow, Craig's List, and a number of other organizations. What I am reminded of again and again is that I, as a salaried professional making less than a hundred thousand dollars a year, cannot afford to rent or buy. Actually, I can buy, but I can't in this transitional market because I don't have two months worth of steady paychecks. The result of this is the fact that my hands are completely tied.

If I was an economist or a real estate agent or a statistician or a business man, I would totally create a company that works with people like me - stuck in the middle of the rich and ridiculous and the down and out. I only need a two bedroom space with 1,000 or so feet of living area. This, however, means I have to live in areas that are not what appear to be a place to call home.

So, I'm channeling Tracy Chapman and wondering about a revolution. I am sure this is a southern Connecticut phenomenon but this is a territory of the have and have nots - there are no inbetweens....at least for renters. I've never experienced anything like this. They say "education pays," but I am currently wondering what that means.

Fingers crossed. I am hoping something transpires in the next 48 hours. I really am running out of time.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A reflection from one of my students


Yesterday ended our four week summer institute at the Connecticut Writing Project~Fairfield. The teachers each presented their final reflections and Sean, a teacher in Bridgeport schools, brought his love for technology by posting this video essay of what he learned (as a dramatic guy with pride in everything he is as an educator).

All of the reflections were powerful and magical. I feel enriched from my short time learning from them and sharing the baton with Faye Gage who has directed the project for the last twenty-six years. I told her I have bigger feet than her, but I have tremendous shoes to fill.

This is to my first cohort and all they accomplished this summer. The bonding is something I'll never forget.

Friday, July 29, 2011

In need of a Friday Wake Up Song!


The four-week institute ends today. Whereas it has interrupted my sleep pattern, I'm in need of a peppy a.m. song. I'm Mr. Grumpy pants and if you're like me, you might benefit from early Friday silliness. This is what gets me going.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

With Joanne's fingers crossed.

For a Thursday


Say Anything. 80s sometime and a Peter Gabriel classic. Was thinking about this song yesterday and how I stop and think whenever it comes on. I remember in southern Indiana one night how a friend of mine played it over and over again after a break up. The song has always been beautiful to me and whereas it's almost the end of the week, but not quite there yet, I thought a good, contemplative piece of noise was needed.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

No, this isn't me, but...


Perhaps once a year I have perfection...or a slight taste of what it can be. My definition, of course, is odd, but it goes something like this.

I came home for work, and hungry, I chose to go for a run before I made dinner. The storm clouds were beginning, but I thought I could beat it. About mile one, they opened up and it was a downpour - hard - and abundant. I was drenched, but the air was cool and the oxygen was tasty. I kept running. I ran more. I ran even more.

What amused me about this is that it was in my new environment and I was running by these large homes and many people drove by me in their Volvos, Mercedes, BMWs and other status-cars, splashing me with puddles, making me more wet than I already was. I thought it was rather masochistic but enjoyed that these wealthy people drenched me and each time I had more in my kick. It felt great. I was free - at least for this moment - and enjoying every second of it.

Running in the rain - if caught in it - is simply the best.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Grammar Nazis


We've been debating about the best way to teach grammar in English for as long as I've been an English teacher. I am on the cusp of grammar books, having only one or two teachers who emphasized these lessons in my personal experiences. As a result, teaching grammar has always been important to me, but I've always worked lessons into context (always questioning the rules I'm emphasizing as important to my students).

Bring on a Nazi Grammar video. In this, a Nazi soldier attacks a man who is using incorrect English to the point that someone ends up dead). Many have posted their own grammar nazi pet peeves as a result of this which has cranked out somewhat funny, and teachable mini-lessons on grammar that we might use in our classrooms.

My goal has always been to promote voice and perspective and not stifle it. The language wars, however, have brought forth righteous behavior from some who scowl about improper language use. This, in return, silences those who don't speak Queen's English (if even that exists). Who controls the right and wrong? Should the debate matter? Well...that is the crux.

So, what do we do with this debate? We post such noise on a Tuesday morning. And then we'll see what comes next.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Good Ol' PBS


A faculty member had me over for dinner and introduced me to the British mystery show, Zen, which airs on PBS on Sunday nights. It's been a long time since I've thought about television programming uninterrupted by commercials but public broadcasting has withheld. With integrity, you get the show without the advertisement.

And it was good detective work, too. I was quickly engrossed and lost any sense of time. I recommend it. If you haven't seen the show, you can easily be hooked. Just turn it on and your Sunday evening will be hooked with the intrigue of a puzzle to solve in Italy.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Time To Rethink Syracuse

My mother informed me of the new Superintendant's vision of working with youth and I was glad to see that she was with Upward Bound - after all, they were the first program to invite me into their world when I returned to Syracuse. I believed in the kids who attended, the director (Ms. Hill-Marsh), and the vision to succeed with secondary students. It makes me happy to see the new leader has already begun to work with programs that have invested much time in the success of urban youth. It will be good for me to keep an eye on the progress from afar,

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thematic music for a sizzling Saturday


Well, today should be the last day of the super hot. It's a scorcher. I thought about the 80s song, "Some Like It Hot," but I admit that I like the Fall and Spring best. Give me temperatures between 60 and 80. I do like it warm to swim, but without a pool, it's not much fun. I haven't even been running because I'm afraid of what it will do to my body. I'll make up for it, however, when the temperature breaks.

Meanwhile, you...you should drink lemonade, find a lake, swim, and be cool. That's the ticket for today.

Friday, July 22, 2011

putting it all into perspective.


There were almost a million people in Louisville. Less in Syracuse, and if it doubled in size, it would reach a million. I think about this as I hear news of the famine reaching the horn of Africa and how millions of children, mothers, and families are living in poverty, drought, and hunger. Suddenly, the American grief is put into perspective and I wonder, how good has our humanity been?

What good does concern on a blog have? Where do responsibilities reside?

We walk the same earth. Worry about the same basic needs...and yet. Yet, it doesn't make sense to think that I finger-piano my thoughts as a daily post, and somewhere the music is much more dire.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

You won't watch this, but...


I've paid attention for many years on how to change a tire. I've kept up with my knowledge, because every time I see a blown tire, I ask myself "what if that happened to me?"

Well, I had my chance on 95 in Connecticut yesterday and I am thankful I was getting off the next exit when it happened. I heard pop, my truck wobbled and then I exited. I pulled in front of some man's house and proceeded to find a gigantic piece of metal totally piercing my back, left tire. I immediately went to work, in a long sleeve shirt and tie. Of course, it was about 95 degrees. It took me a while to piece the puzzle together but I did the job while onlookers huddled and offered me their pity but not their help. The dummy tire was placed upon the rivets and I got home.

The danger of such an episode makes me thankful that I was close to where I'm living and that it wasn't at a worse time or location. After all, I still don't know where I am. So?

Watch a few videos on changing tires just in case you find yourself in a similar situation. You'll be thankful you reviewed the process and knew where your tools were. I know I was. Otherwise, invest in AAA.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shouting Out


It makes me proud that the U.S.S. Brown School continues to prove its excellence in 2011-2012. Watching their advertisement to recruit students reminds me of the awesome staff, vision, and especially students that inhabit that building.

When I left, I said at the Comedy Caravan that it isn't necessarily the teachers that make that school work - it's the vision.

Today, I celebrate that the mission at 545 South First Street continues. It is an irreplaceable experience.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Good Ol' Dave


One of my students told me she lived by David Letterman and invited me to dinner. Afterwards, we drove the border of Connecticut and New York so she could show me his home (next to NYC's Mayor Bloomberg. So this is where they live when not vacationing in the Hamptons. Unbelievable.

Top ten things not to be found in their neighborhood.
10. KMart
9. Diversity
8. The Brown School
7. Couches on the front porch
6. Osama Bin Laden
5. Refugee families
4. Jay Leno
3. Used Car Dealerships
2. My future living arrangements
1. The Clam Bar

Monday, July 18, 2011

Because I wanted to know


There are days I have wireless in my summer home and days I have none. Yesterday was a night when the wireless didn't work. I woke up this morning and it was fully alive. Oh, look. It just disappeared again. It's back.

It made me wonder how wireless internet service works so I found this British bloke to explain. I'm not sure if I have a better understanding, but it's a start. I suppose this inconvenience would be similar to the couch potato who loses electricity. They can't turn the boob tube on and they're at a loss. That's how I feel when I can't get online to multitask, research, read, and communicate. Of course, if you step outside and look around, there is so much more one can do (that is more exciting and productive).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

This posted for Rhiannon


My CNY friend and I visited Captain's Quarters in Bridgeport (I think that is what it is called). We ate lunch on the water and all the seagulls ate with us. It reminded me of Finding Nemo and the scene where the birds are squawking, "Mine, Mine, Mine."

Eating lunch by the water is one of the perks of my new location and a good reason for living in this area. It is bay - not ocean - a sound - not the Atlantic, but it is water and it does support aquatic life. Living near the ocean has always been one of my goals. I've partially met it with this location, although the lapping of waves is what I truly desire. Still. I will live with what I've got.

And hopefully I will meet Nemo and Dory. That is the goal.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

That Woody Harrelson Song


In the 80s, Thursday nights were often spent watching Cheers. The infamous Kelly song was an on-going joke for anyone who ever met anyone named Kelly, and "Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly Kelly" became a chorus that was hummed in offices, schools, and bars.

So, I played a section of this yesterday to honor writer Kelly Gallagher before he presented to students and teachers involved in the Connecticut Writing Project. Kelly Gallagher is a simply a great man, teacher, thinker, and communicator. The last two days learning from him has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a tremendous way to kick off a new career in a new state. It was an honor to work with him.

And so, today is Saturday. The sun is out. It is a weekend. Go outside and play!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Possibility


I've been assigned to teach an incoming freshmen writing course and was given some freedom for what I hope to do. I was thinking I would teach OUTCAST UNITED about the refugee youth soccer team in Atlanta, Georgia, and tying it with academic writing, self-exploration of American identity, and changing demographics. I'm unsure, but curious about where it might go for 18 year olds entering college, especially at a university where diversity is not as readily available as in other places (which will be an ongoing battle for me if I'm unable to get into schools where populations provide alternative versions of the American story).

This is the book trailer for OUTCAST UNITED and my guess is it might allow for interesting conversations about how we see others amongst us. The course reader I'm choosing, too, has a section on sports and I want to make connections between academic language, personal writing, and history.

And that's what I'm thinking.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In case you ever find me at a pub


This is what I order. Newcastle. Yep. and Yum.

Just a pint. Especially on a Friday night. Saturday, too. Actually, Alice, Charlie and I used to start on Thursdays on hectic weeks.

It's early in the morning on a Wednesday and I'm already excited for the weekend.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Not to rub it in, Cynde


My sister was distraught as a kid when she couldn't purchase an invisible dog leash. See, this would have fulfilled her childhood and given her all the confidence she needed during her high school years. Alas, she didn't get one.

How many years later and I found an Improv Everywhere video where over a 1,000 people invaded a populated area and began walking invisible dogs. The farce is just that. You'd have to look twice if everyone on the streets were walking leashes with no dogs.

Fast forward. Years later, Cynde can walk her own dog (and my own). She has the real thing now, so the invisible one is a memory. Still, I post this for the humor. Happy Tuesday.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Go Me

video
In anticipation of making money again, I'm also looking forward to cooking more...perhaps even taking cooking lessons. I like to feed others, but it was hard on my graduate stipend. Now, I can think about living like an adult (in the way I once lived before I chose to return to school). There is much to be said about the sacrifices made to return to school. I haven't processed it, because I've lived in a state of fear for four years.

So, last night, I invented a dinner and it was good. Actually, it was the spicy cajun mix I put in the chicken and vegetables that added all the flavor. I can't take credit for that. That is McCormick's. But it was good. I'm looking forward to eating left overs all week long. It definitely had an Indian flavor, whatever it is I bought. And I ate two bowls. Yum.

It's Monday. I need to have fast and easy for the next five days.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Sunday Song


I couldn't function any day without a morning cup of coffee. Yet, on Sunday mornings, I love my coffee more than any other day of the week. When I went to bed last night, I knew I had limited coffee for my morning pot and that my Sunday brew was not going to be successful. I decided I'd rectify this through finding a coffee song, which I did - Frank Sinatra. It is my week's mantra.

Waking up. Brewing. Reading the paper. Perusing the internet. Letting the caffeine (and warmth) spread through my blood. Patiently awaiting the kick and then going for a long, Sunday run is a perfect 7th day to a week.

If you are fortunate, you are sipping a cup of GOOD coffee while you're reading this. That is the goal and delight. If you don't have a mug in your hand I ask you, "What are you waiting for?"

The best part of waking up...

Well, not Folgers. But something strong and with a kick.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

karaoke


I went to karaoke last night and the people I went with had talent. I enjoyed when they were called up to the mic and asked to sing. They deserved the time they were given and the applause they received. Others who performed reminded me of the Gong Show and my memory of the performers who deserved to be gonged. I suppose the 70s are alive in 2011, and shows like AMERICA'S GOT TALENT is a variation of the Gong Show. At local bars, Americans prove such talent.

It's been a while since I've gone to see people perform and I've forgotten how much some people, without talent, love their three minutes of fame. I am thankful that those who invited me out last night could sing. Others...well. Such is the risk one takes at a local bar on a Friday night. That's entertainment. I'm glad I was entertained.

Friday, July 8, 2011

transitions


When I was a young boy living on French Road, I remember the theme song of MASH coming from the television and my father's napping on the couch. As we moved from Clark Mills to Clay, the theme song continued to play. It was my dad's show and I remember how important it was the night we watched the season finale. I never saw the movie, but in some ways, I grew up with the sitcom. If gave us occasional breaks from Days of Our Lives which monopolized the tube.

I am thinking of the song today, especially as I reflect on changes that are both good and bad. Some of these changes come from a lack of proximity and this is not good. As I grew older (and away from childhood) I had less and less contact with my godfather, Louie, and his wife Jane. I post this in memory of him, learning he passed away earlier this week and was laid to rest yesterday. I am sad that I could not be there in person, but more upset that I was never able to find time to visit in the four years I returned to Syracuse. The friendship my parents had with Lou and Jane was monumental and as I reflect on my family's foundation, I think about how important they were to my parents...especially as they started out as a young couple with three kids in their first home. Louie and Jane could be counted on as next door relatives, and it is understandable why I became the godson. It united our families.

I know this passing is hard for Louie's family, but I imagine it is equally as hard on my parents. That is why I am thinking about the theme song to MASH and my childhood. I am thinking about my father, his career with Louie at the airport, and what it means to lose a friend.

My brother in law, too, lost a good friend this week. For these times we need music that triggers memories, and memories to trigger our hearts and minds to move on. In the theme of this show was friendship, struggle, and humor. Such is life. It is embraced.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

ABC Family


Although I won't show this to kids (and it was on ABC), I am thinking of improvisation and the art of making things up on the spot in anticipation of audiences. I am in first week of writing with teachers and I'm thinking about ways of writing humorously, but also on the spot. I am wondering about playing with ideas (in physical draft form, such as improvisation) as a way of thinking before one might set out to write something more formal.

I'm also thinking about how the scripts my students wrote came to life when actors could take the written word and bring it to life in their own imagination.

In some ways, we live the everyday in improvisation, but through the repetition of life we build a repertoire of our knowing that becomes somewhat redundant. When it comes to telling our stories, we're somewhat rehearsed.

A phone call here to try it out. Repeat here to a new audience. Alter it here for effect. Improvisation is the start, but eventually we build normalcy. I'm fascinated by playing with the unexpected...especially when the tension makes others laugh.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

no hipster on glogster


On friday, teachers are running a workshop on using Glogster as an alternative to traditional poster making in schools. This online poster is digital and eliminates the paper trail. If all students are online, it is a tool that can be useful. I love new tools (although this is older than new). Once upon a time books were in our hands and on shelves. Now they are going digital. The same is true for presenting. It's awesome, but the traditionalist in me wants it all to slow down.

In fact, when I register for such online toys, I used to be able to enter a birth date that was toward the top. Now I have to scroll to the middle of the pact. I started thinking...the oldest people who are using online sources (and may have the least familiarity) have to scroll down the longest...that may not be a good thing for aging farts like me. Oi vay!

And I also think, the generation of you going through school will one day see blogging and glogging as old skoo. Yikes. What tools will replace the ones we have? Will such tools take away from the content that we're really after?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

First Day, New Job


A few months ago I posted a video about saving the National Writing Project. Last night (although I have limited access to the internet in my townhouse - I get access then I am booted off...another aspect to my fine housing this summer), I found this other video. I haven't watched it yet because I can't stay on the Internet long enough to see anything. It's crazy. So, this is sort of a blind post and I hope what the video says is worthwhile. If it isn't, then scrap it up to how technology is a blessing...

and a curse.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Javier Colon


New location. New celebrity.

This is a shout out to Javier Colon from Stratford, Connecticut (neighbor?) and his recent achievement on NBC's the voice. As I become more familiar with the packed population of the Long Island sound, I become more impressed by his singing achievement. He surpassed the crowds and made a name for himself. His crisp, and original voice, singing a Cindy Lauper classic deserves the national attention he is getting. As I drive and learn the populated roads of Southern Connecticut, I realize how much his patience and perseverance has served him.

Applause for Javier on his journey, luck, talent, and dedication. Sometimes a shining moment. An American story (and its independence) for sure!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Long Island Sound

video
On a holiday weekend, the traffic all headed south to the Long Island Sound. I was invited to a beach in Stratford that had a Reggae band providing music. It reminded me of the bay at Devon's point in Long Island and with the sun hot, and the sky blue, it was a perfect day for putting the feet in sand. Looking at water is always heavenly and the noise of kids playing in the water and people relaxing is always a peaceful sound.

Ahhhhhh,

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Orange

video
Hmm. My refrigerator is nostalgic for home. I opened the door and noticed, "There sure are a lot of orange things in there." Perhaps it is subconscious to tap into the homefront as I transition.

Truth is, carrots were three bags for one. So? I have a lot of carrots to snack on. The humor is that I bought an orange smelling air freshener. Orange you glad I'm posting such silliness?

I am.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bridgeport


I was taken for a tour of Bridgeport, CT, last night, including the beaches (and neglect) of the downtown area. It reminds me a lot of what Louisville looked like before they overhauled the Ohio River corridor and made a walking park that drew people back to the city. It's possible. I found this long video of sights of yesteryear and when Bridgeport (described by Biggie Smallz as little NYC) was much younger. Of course, this is not Biggie Smallz world.

One of the highlights of last night's tour was seeing the international homes PT Barnum built to host guests when they stayed. One is for sale and I was encouraged to see if I can get a tour as a man looking for a home. If I do, everyone said they want me to bring them along.

As where everywhere I've ever lived, there's a history and I'm looking forward to learning more and more of it each and every day.