Monday, October 31, 2011

For Mom, Day After Da Dome

Every November in Cherry Heights that I can remember meant the end of Cynde's Field Band Season, the arrival of turkey, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and a thursday of field band and drum corp competitions on PBS. Knowing Nikki, Cynde's daughter, was performing last night in the dome, I looked up the DCI to see what the latest national bands were up to. It is good to know the sound and drill is still fantastic, alive, and neat to watch.

I'm sure my mom (even my dad) will enjoy this brief compilation of the 2011 World DCI championship. After all, drumbeats and horns were a major part of the music knew when we were young. As my mom often says, "I still get goosebumps when a band performs at their best."

Congratulations, Nikki, on another year at the Dome, following in your mother's footsteps.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I am a teacher

Dave Eggers continues to support teacher initiatives by investing in those who educate and exposing the reality of the profession. Teachers spend out of their own pockets, teachers take second jobs, teachers can't provide for their families, and teachers burn out rather quickly. This, of course, needs to be put into perspective with the fact that although teachers make must less than other college-educated individuals, they make more than the national average.

Even so, it is something to think about and I hope to catch a screening of this documentary next week in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

In anticipation of a warm sweater

Pam Kelly of Fairfield University shared with me that she and her friends are dressing as penguins this year for Halloween. She also pointed to the knitters in New Zealand who are knitting sweaters for birds who are pecking at their feathers because of the slick oil spill. It seems to be working. I wonder, though, if the sweaters get heavy when they're wet and if some of the penguins are picky about what pattern they get to wear. Perhaps they'd like Ugh! boots, too.

We live in strange times. There's hope in human ingenuity, however.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Memorable moments in my education

As a junior in college, Dr. Carol Boyce Davies showed us a documentary that traced images of Black people in American history through entertainment, books, and (at the time) sitcoms. I remember the documentary had a huge impact on my thinking and, twenty years later, I think the academic research of this scholarship is still important. Historically, constructions of Blackness arrived in its relation to how White society viewed people of African descent. An awareness of school books used for children, portrayals of Black individuals in film, and how history was portrayed in textbooks is relevant to everything 2011.


Yesterday's constructions make today's reality.

I revisited the clips with a student in my office yesterday who was asking questions about being a smart Black male at a primarily White institution. I was helping him shape his thinking by offering him resources to help him think through his ideas, including the online version of this film, and many books from my shelves. I've kept up with books...not so much in film.

I'm glad my resources were allowed to come to life once again. And I'm inspired to keep building on them (after all, twenty years after Ethnic Notions, much more has been contributed)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Where I am

My body wants me to be sick. I always know this because it begins with my sinuses and then I am drained completely in complete exhaustion. I can't think. That's the hardest part. It is difficult to concentrate on anything, because my shoulders, eyes, ears, mouth and brain are simply exhausted.

At night, one nostril decides it wants to wrestle with allergies and drip, while the other nostril chooses to become sinus pressure and clogged breathing. The result is water eyes and a headache.

One medication caters to one nostril and the other caters to the other nostril. It's a no win situation. I think with orange juice and solid sleep, I will get better. I need my brain. It is central to the work I do and when it shuts off, well....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

This was always an indicator that Xmas was coming

You know, we didn't have Pixar or 3D. Our stories were basic, simple, and yet they conditioned us to trust particular morals and values. I miss having only a few channels and occasional opportunities to view a kid film. Now, everything is so accessible. It makes us crave more when we want it. We're spoiled.

But it's a good thing. Creativity sparks creativity...and I suppose there will be a day when all the Charlie Brown films are made to captivate a more modern audience. There's not all the hype and pizazz, but the stories still held meaning and got us excited.

Yesterday I posted on Willy Wonka (old skool). The new school version was a flop. It didn't create excitement or urges in kids. It simply annoyed them because it wasn't fantastic enough. I remember how excited I was when Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Willy Wonka, or Mary Poppins came on television. Finally, a story for us. Now, well, there's little to satisfy, because it is so constant.

"I got a rock"

For some of us, it's the story of our lives. (Ah, but Rudolph will be on soon - "A Charlie in a Box!"

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Everlasting Gobstoppers

I found Everlasting Gobstoppers on a clearance rack at a nearby grocery store which reminded me of my all time favorite judge of good character, Mr. Wonka. I purchased the candy to give to my students this week (and anyone else who I should run into). I also put the poster I got from Denmark in my office that featured the new Wonka movie with Johnie Depp, although I was extremely disappointed. All the magic was removed from the remake.

Given that it is sugar week and time for Halloween, I will miss trick or treating with my older sister and her husband. It became a Syracuse ritual that I loved immensely. This year, sigh, I won't have anyone to dress up for.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Written in the Sky (and Happy Birthday, KC)

Yesterday morning, I was working when I looked up to hear this story - the story I've taught to my freshmen this year and that resonates with the research that I conducted at Syracuse University. I learned of this woman's work at the soccer practices I attended with the boys from Somalia, Sudan, Congo, and Liberia. We all read the book together, and now I teach it. It was strange to look up and see a report on CBS and learning all the incredible updates made in Clarkston, Georgia. To be honest, this is the sort of work I see myself doing. I need to be on the ground working with kids and building their futures.

If you have not read OUTCASTS UNITED by Warren St. John you should. It tells the story of Luma Mufleh, from Jordan, and her work to promote the wellbeing of refugee youth through soccer and tutoring. She's become a mother to many, many kids and now is building a school to best support them.

The truth is, all youth deserve this sort of support and ALL youth can achieve when someone or a community of someones are devoted to seeing it happen. Her dedication should be a model for all schools, all teachers, and all adults in the Western world. It takes a lot to help a young person to achieve, but it can be done.

We just have to get out of our own. We can make it happen.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

cuz I don't have Handy Man, Mike

I wanted to budget my heat this winter so I installed a programmable thermostat as my brother-in-law Mike taught me. Knowing I'm a nincompoop with home repairs, I relied on YouTube videos to help me along. The first system I bought didn't work at all. I thought I totally screwed it up, but then I realized the buttons weren't working once I hooked it up. I returned it, got another, and had much better success.

In fact, the heat just kicked on so I am feeling rather proud of myself. I hooked the wires up correctly and didn't need to call Mike once. Even so, I'm paranoid I did it wrong and I'm waiting for the my electricity to go out because I've caused a short or something. I guess only time will tell.

I tried calling the 1-800 number the first go-around, but YouTube (and this man) helped me to problem solve. Got to love modern technology. Now I can sleep cool and wake up warm. Wusah.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Thinking of Emelia

In 2001 (two g's and a dollar), a young woman introduced me to this song by Joni Mitchell. With her warmth and energy for the world, she sang this at graduation and dedicated it to me. The song has always had a place in my heart and, last night, when I went for a run, the song kicked on my iPod and and I had a reflective spirit, thinking about the youth I had at the Brown School, the diversity of their personalities, and the irreplaceable magic they held to my heart.

These kids, the class of 2001, are now adults - older than I was when I taught them - and I think about the perspectives they offered my world. It was karma and an irreplaceable experience to have the same crew of kids during their freshmen, sophomore, junior, and then senior year. We were a case of each other.

And for this song, whenever I hear it I dedicate it back to the rainbow fish who first introduced it to my world. The song represents the freedom of American history and a period of time when music connected people and was less commercial. It was more folk and the lyrics had meaning beyond the dollar sign.

A taste of the lyrics:

Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I'm frightened by the devil
And I'm drawn to those ones that ain't afraid

I remember that time you told me you said
"Love is touching souls"
Surely you touched mine
'Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet

Oh I could drink a case of you darling
And I would still be on my feet
I would still be on my feet

And I am still on my feet thinking of the joy I had with the youth who changed my life forever.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tis the Season

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

A friday rap. I didn't cut the mouths correctly, but I did get a kick out of making the video on Jib Jab. Wusah.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Your Job: Make Wind Sounds, Howling Wind Sounds

Last night, the northeastern, code for a heavy wind storm, hit Connecticut. When the winds howled, I thought about finding a video that captured the sounds I slept luck. But I did find this one of a duck and her ducklings. It struck me as sad, but also inspirational. What's a few tumbles anyway? There's more quacking to do. Roll a little, bounce a little, find yourself in a new location, and move on with your journey.

I can't help but see this short clip as a metaphor for my life right now. I hope you are making the wind sounds still. I'm still waiting to ruffle my feathers and find a nice pond to settle in. At this point, I'm still bouncing along in the wind wondering when I'll be on my feet again.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Calling all my creative friends

Around the world, there are contests where individuals are challenged to take their dissertation work and turn it into interpretive dance. Hmmm. It got me thinking. This was a recent winner who studied food, I believe, and so I'm wondering about my work with 'perspectives of eight African-born male youth with interrupted formal education on writing in a U.S. high school'

What might that dance be?

Of course, i should have had the twins who visited me this weekend come up with ideas, but this video came to my attention right after they left. Ideally, it would be fun to choreograph an entry and to challenge the textual documentation that has entrapped me the last few years. I would love to see my findings come alive through movement (which, by the way, was a major finding).

It's a thought. I'll keep kicking it around.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jennifer Aniston

My television is very excited that I've had visitors. It hasn't had this much action since my nephew Dylan was here to visit. Last night, too, I learned we could rent a movie and the twins ordered HORRIBLE BOSSES. Jennifer Anniston's character in the movie is brilliant. A new role for her, I suppose.

I half listened to the movie as the boys watched. Mindless stupidity. You've got to love that. I really need more of that in my life. Lately, I've felt like I've been living with mindful stupidity.

I hope my new administrative assistant never wants me knocked off. That would probably suck.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Follow up

The twins presented to my freshmen today on campus. We had pizza and relaxed, but their story of relocation caught the attention of others. As I listened to them: their maturity, their knowledge, their focus, I realized how miraculous the two actually are. They've had their eye on the prize and with only five years of schooling, they are freshmen in college themselves, making As, and devoted to making the world a better place.

I've been writing about them for over a year, but seriously, I think the greater learning has been their inspiration of how to fight on and make the most of each day. We've extended their stay 24 hours. On Tuesday they'll leave.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

48 hours of a new noise

The twins have arrived and brought their singing, their Liberian pride, and zest for life, and their jokes with them. I spent all day writing as much as I could in anticipation that I'd lose all rationality trying to keep up with their wit, energy, and curiosity. They've come to talk with my freshmen class and to connect their experiences with Outcast United, by Warren St. John, that we're reading in class.

Boy, I've missed Lossine's singing...non stop harmony, I tell you.

But I'm glad to have some social time in all this first semester chaos.


Saturday, October 15, 2011


Fairfield University is featuring the film, HOME (click the link to watch) for the 2011-2012 academic year. I started to watch it a couple of night ago, and then simply got depressed. The way the film depicts it, there's little we can do before we completely ruin the planet and life will no longer be sustained. It seems things will begin to deteriorate rather quickly and by 2025, well, it might be rather unbearable.

Today, with my students, I told them I imagined a movie of me watching HOME while the camera panned above my house, over Connecticut, to the Eastern U.S. and Atlantic Ocean, then the nation, and eventually the globe. I said, "Man, the movie had me worried, but then if I imagined the big picture, the universe's grande finesse, my tiny Stratford concerns are rather silly. I channel Monty Python and envision a fish swimming through the galaxy simply swallowing the earth whole like it's food in an aquarium.

On Wall Street, protestors are speaking for the 99%. I am curious if they are speaking of the 99% in America or the 99% globally. I visited websites and read a lot about unemployed college graduates who are $120,000 in debt from loans. I started to think about how the money spent on their education could have helped feed the 99% who live elsewhere. I am trying to imagine having the comfort for spending that much money for school. I don't think I could ever justify investing that much cast into an unknown future. I think any family who struggles financially (which are many) would think a loan of that amount is simply insane. That's more than the mortgage I took out on my house (which, by the way, still hasn't sold).

I am not a millionaire (I laugh, because I'm barely breaking even at this point in my life), but I have a college degree. That makes me a part of the 1% of the world who has such a title. My roommate's friend from China said last week, "If you have toast in the morning and a cup of coffee, you are a part of the world's most privileged people." I'm not sure where she got that, but it reminded me I don't have a toaster. I have coffee, however.

And so I look at any image of a spinning globe and am amazed that our technologies have brought us the capacity to view Earth from great distances - we've come a long way from thinking it was rather flat. I marvel at the fact that I can write noise with my fingers to be read through the magic of cyber space, yet I worry that such advancements might really be the demise of the blue, green, and white marble that floats as it does. It would be a shame. The minerals used to make chips for my computer are mined in third world nations where rape, murder and torture are used as a means to control the land. With each word I type, I suppose I am responsible for other injustices in the world.

Perhaps text like this will one day be the bones of a brontosaurus. Maybe they will get buried in dust only to be discovered 25 million years from now as an artifact from an ancient time. As someone makes sense of my words, they can blame me for causing the ruin of our home.

Friday, October 14, 2011

If Dad Could Play the Piano

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook yesterday to bring a smile to the faces of those who viewed it. Married 60 years, this couple still works a crowd through entertaining them. They walked into a building, saw a piano, and decided to play.

Sort of reminds me of a generation that is no longer.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The allegory for life

If you know me, you know my fondness for the Sisyphus story. Up the hill, only to see it fall back down the hill again.

This is how I feel from my seven days a week, fourteen hours a day. There are no breaks, and I move slowly up the hill thinking, "I will get the boulder there this time," when, WOLA! gravity hits.

And I start all over.

It's a good thing I enjoy working, because otherwise I might be closer to a nervous breakdown. Time to start the day, though. I have a window of time to get a lot done and I will do it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Good Luck, Gina

I post this in support of my Binghamton University friend. Her book debut happens today and, although I posted about this a few weeks back, I send this noise to the world again! Why? Gina is a burst of energy and I'm sure her text is full of wisdom and positive knowledge.

I laugh that her debut is in NYC. As a 19 year old, I flew to meet her in Manhattan for New Years, 1992/1993. I had never been to NYC before and she showed me around town. It was an experience that opened my eyes to the possibilities in life. In Binghamton, the two of us bonded and I can honestly say that I wouldn't be the educator I am today without her amazing influence.

As her book shows, everything is possible. It's been twenty years (Gosh, really?) and I am laughing with pride for my friend. If you get a chance, check out what she has written.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Not quite sure who stole the cookie

Yesterday, while working, several of my colleagues came in to find their rooms had been pried open and their laptops stolen. I had my computer at home with me, but the afternoon turned into a lot of investigation. It looks as if tools were used to pry open doors and laptops were the cookies they were after.

Of course, this video is a little more humorous - kids acting out the age-old cookie question.

I am thankful today that my room was spared, which is rather remarkable considering that all rooms in my wing were sabotaged. I immediately backed everything up and have chosen NOT to leave things in my office. There's no security camera, I guess, and the doors are left open all the time. I'm guessing this will be an economical issue: either find a way for faculty to swipe in during offer hours (and consequently offer more security) or pay for replacement computers whenever this sort of thing happens.

Yikes. Never good to have a thief in the crowd. It's a way of life, but so frustrating for those who are swindled.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hmmm, how real is it?

Twenty years ago, when I came back from London, MTV had its first season of the The Real World. It doesn't seem possible that twenty seasons of cast members have come and gone, but that is the truth. I remember the show caught my attention because I had just returned from London living with strangers and I thought, "Shoot. They could have filmed my apartment."

Fast forward. The show now seems to cast unbelievable drunks, sex addicts and egomaniacs, but it still is intriguing to watch. They were reality television before reality television was the trend. Now it is normal, and it all seems like Hollywood hype. Yet, the over the top story lines still engage viewers.

And what is funny about this season's episodes in San Diego, is that one of the writers - yes they have writers - for the season, came to Syracuse University a year ago and was talking to me about this year's cast. He was frustrated by how scripted he had to make the show and was fed up, so he quit. I wonder what it would be like to be filmed and to have only one hour - the most interesting times - of the week posted. I believe I'd be more interesting if I was clipped to only 60 minutes of an otherwise mundane existence. I imagine I'd be entertaining, too. Then again, I wouldn't want a camera in my face 24/7. I have enough trouble falling asleep.

Twenty years. Oi Vay. Age.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

a Philly connection

One of my students is writing about her pride for Philadelphia this semester and I began to think about Bruce Springsteen's tribute to the city. Actually, I was just in the mood for Bruce, having worn out my cds with his music. I can celebrate, though. I finally have my iPod in my possession again. The ear jack has been replaced.

I do want to hear the Nebraska album, though. Alice and Charlie turned me on to it and it is one of my favorite albums of all time. It is sad and dark, reflecting his voice and chords. Not all music tells a story like his lyrics and sounds do.

Have a great Sunday. It's supposed to be warm. I hope you soak up the heat while we have it. I'm sure it will be short lived.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I have to laugh

Because I feel so old.

At one point I sang this song in class today and the freshmen asked, "Did you just make that up?" I was like, "No. It was a club song in the mid-nineties. What do you mean you've never heard of it?"

Yep, times come and times go. You're so uncool even when you didn't realize how truly uncool you actually are. The song was cheesy, but I thought it was cheesy classic. You mean it isn't even a perpetual wedding song? What's up with that? I thought for sure it was like a cult classic. I guess not.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Home sick for one of my other homes...

My mother sent me this yesterday - and those of us who have been to Copenhagen often know this station very well. I can only imagine how beautiful this must have been for all the travelers who were there, live and in person.

There's not much for me to write. The flash mob speaks for itself.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


This theme music might not resonate with you, but for me, it brings back memories. Unlike my sisters and mom, I went to bed early during my high school years...usually around nine p.m. On the night Dallas aired, however, I always would hear the theme song blaring from my mother's televisions. The song just stuck in my head, although I don't think I watched the show ever. I still don't know who shot J.R. even though the nation talked about it at the time.

Why do I post it today?

Well, I need sleep. I though hearing it might bring me back to my days where I didn't have trouble finding time to sleep. My mind would rest when it hit the pillow and it wouldn't take four hours to finally stop thinking enough to get some zzzzzz's.

I am in desperate need of sleep.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Here we go

I saw this yesterday and it put a smile on my face. I think we all should hum like Gonzo's chickens, especially to Bohemian Rhapsody. I've been working with Dr. Jane Hansen who is speaking to the Connecticut Writing Project, but I'm channeling Jim Henson who was a master of imagination and altering the view that puppets are real. We need more Muppets, really we do.

So, hum with your chickens today as I hum with them in Connecticut. It's the least I can do.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

theme music for Tuesday

I came home last night, late, and realized the materials I wanted to work on are still on my office desk. I have a marathon of a day, followed by a marathon of a day to follow, so I thought I could use music to get me through. I am now in my office, early, and finishing the work that needs to get done so I can be ready to meet the events of the next 48 hours. I'm happy to admit I at least have my sense of humor with me.

I'd rather be running barefoot on a beach, but I will be satisfied with Chariots on my blog for 2011. Hum the theme music with me, will you?

Monday, October 3, 2011

I can't spot Nikki

So this was sent to me from Saturday night's field band competition at West Genesee. Times have change in CNY and it seems the kids have gained more rhythm than they used to have - more spunk. I thought this year's show held to a military theme. This doesn't seem to be the case.

At one point, I thought I spotted Nikki when she was dancing up front, but I'm unsure if it was her. She tends to be fair skinned and I know it's been a while since I've seen her, but I doubt Cynde has allowed her to go tanning.

Someone needs to help me locate her. I don't see any rifles, either.

Either way, Congratulations Northstars on another fabulous show. I'm glad your instructors are now allowing us to post the performance on our webpages.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The season has changed

I stepped outside for a run and thought, hmmm, this isn't the wet thickness of the last month. It is cold, crisp and feels like a new season. Vivaldi, I believe your orchestration is pertinent for the change of weather. Suddenly I want chili and apple pie. I'm ready for a sweater or sweatshirt and a pair of blue jeans.

Of course, this was startling because I stepped outside in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. Whoops. Haven't been paying much attention to the Weather Channel I guess.

Happy Sunday, world. Have a cup of hot cocoa for me. I shall be in my office revising once again. I need to take advantage of every second I have to move my research forward.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Affrilachian Poets

Many moons ago, Affilachian poet, Frank X. Walker came to my classroom to do a poetry workshop with my students. Since then, he's written several collections, including Affrilachia, which was staged at the Kentucky Center of the Arts. I ordered another of his collection, America, What's My My Name; The Other Poets Unfurl the Flag, to possibly provide counter readings in a course I'm teaching next semester on literary theory and reading literature.

His work, along with the powerful language of his fellow Affrilachian poets, may offer an alternative to prose my students have had little exposure with. Hearing him read makes me miss the bluegrass and the friends I made there. It also makes me proud that my students - way back when - had him to influence their writing worlds.