An Amazing Perk of Teaching – Outdoor Ed!

This past week, several teachers from Trinity School took 68 Fifth Graders up to Camp Will-A-Way in Winder, GA for the first our yearly overnight trips.

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We call these Outdoor Ed – outdoor education. The Fifth Grade takes two trips each year, one in the fall and the other in spring. The Sixth Grade also takes two trips, but they take on a different tone. This post is not about Sixth Grade though. Outdoor Ed is pretty much exactly what its name indicates – education classes that take place outdoors. The students rotated in groups through six different classes; the climbing wall, canoeing, two low ropes challenge courses, ceramics, and horseback riding. It is a time for team building and coming together as a grade level. Coach Brian is the trip coordinator and he instructs the students to think in terms of, “We, not me. What is going to be best for the group rather than what will be best for me.”

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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Saw ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ tonight. It was as good as I was hoping it would be. GQ and I both agreed that we weren’t the biggest Mr. Rogers fan growing up. I remember thinking the King was creepy. I definitely have memories of watching the show, but as a kid, Captain Kangaroo and Sesame Street have more of a lasting impact on me than Mr. Rogers.
 
That being said, Mr. Rogers’ message of you are fine just the way you are was and is a message worth putting out there. I’ve read a lot of reviews where people said they ugly cried the whole way through the movie. I think people that are going to do that are either people that don’t work with kids or those who have forgotten their inner child.
 
There were parts that made me smile, parts that tugged at my heart, and parts that surprised me.
 
One of the biggest takeaways I have from this movie is how radical Mr. Rogers was when he started, and honestly throughout his entire broadcast history. While almost every other show was doing physical comedy and showing characters embarrassing themselves in all kinds of ways, he consistently kept his message the same.
 
I highly recommend this movie to anyone. Obviously, people familiar with Mr. Rogers will like it best, but I would think kids who have never experienced him or his show would get some good out of it, too.

Influential Albums – Day 6

The Clash – S/T (US version)

I wish I knew where I heard The Clash for the first time. I got this on cassette – that was the format I used pretty much exclusively at the time – in California, I think at Tower Records in San Francisco. I was in 9th grade and my family was in SF for a conference my dad was involved in. I guess I heard something off London Calling, maybe had even gotten it at that point? Anyway, I love The Clash and this one totally struck a chord with me. Loud, raw, catchy. I know the lyrics are a very important part of the band, but to be perfectly honest, I’m a melody man. A song’s got to have a great hook and music to pull me in. I’ll incorrectly sing the words to songs for years. I am a serial lyric mishearer. So, again, I know the lyrics to The Clash are super important to whole thing of The Clash, but at the same time, so were their looks. They were calculatedly put together by the band. That has nothing to do with anything other than make me feel like less lame for not fully committing myself to the lyrics.

My dad did not understand or like my punk rock inclinations. I did not understand his disdain for it. To me, there were a lot of comparisons between the early, original rock ‘n roll he turned me on to and bands like The Clash. They even covered, “I Fought the Law”, not on this album, but nonetheless. Three chords, catchy songs, brazen attitude. It seemed synonymous to me. I get it now. Punk rock was an affront to a lot he held near and dear and I’m sure had he heard, “I’m So Bored With the USA”, he would have been none too pleased.

My favorite tracks from this one are – again, no certain order – “Police and Thieves”, “Garageland” (Gehr-aj), “Hate and War”, and “Career Opportunities

A podcast I listen to – and you should too – “The Great Albums Podcast” did one on London Calling not long ago and it was great. I was unaware that Joe Strummer wrote most of the songs, whether it was he or Mick Jones that sung. The Clash always did great covers, too. They could have put out an album of just their covers and it would have been great. The hosts of The Great Albums talk about how The Clash always make the covers they do their own, and it’s totally true. As mentioned earlier, “I Fought the Law” (Bobby Fuller Four version) could totally come from the pen and paper of a young, British punk rocker.

Not seeing The Clash play live is something I am sad about. I don’t know if the band would have gotten back together had Joe Strummer not died. Their induction into the R ‘n R Hall of Fame – who are those sharped dressed, hair slicked down men? – was interesting to see. I don’t know if Joe would have been part of that or not. He had moved away from punk rock as he got older, but he was still revolutionary. Mick Jones moved away from punk too with Big Audio Dynamite. I read somewhere that Joe was up for playing, but he died shortly before their induction. Damn.

The documentary on The Clash (there are several, but I really liked this one) and Joe Strummer are both worth watching. Go get your punk rock on and listen to The Clash.

Influential Albums – Day 4

Adam and the Ants – Kings of the Wild Frontier

There are lots of links in here. I hope you go to all of them because they’re a lot of fun!

I don’t remember when or where I got introduced to Adam Ant, probably Atlanta’s Video Music Channel, but wherever it was I took to his music, his artistic flair, and his persona pretty much immediately. Well, actually, I do remember seeing the Prince Charming album cover in Turtles, probably when it came out and thinking it was really weird. Who knew that within a few years I’d be trying to draw that same cover and making my dad concerned over this album cover being in his house and his son listening to this heavily made up Prince Charming.

The album of his that had the most influence on me was Kings of the Wild Frontier. The drums. The drum beats. I came to find out later that it was the Burundi beat. I found a great article on the recording of Kings as well as Prince Charming and Adam’s first solo album today when I was looking up info about the Burundi beat. Anytime I hear drums like that, Adam and the Ants immediately come to mind. Most recently it has been, White Rabbits, “Percussion Gun”.

So, I got into Adam and the Ants in 7th grade, and I got totally into it. I dressed as white face stripe Adam for Halloween and convinced several of my friends to dress up as him, or as the Ants, too. I would include British words in notes that I’d pass to my friends. This was pre-internet, I looked wherever I could.  I found a concert that showed on MTV of Adam and the Ants in Japan. I found some books on the band. I should say also that when I was getting into the band, the band broke up. Adam went solo. That’s all good and fine and I kept up with him through Manners and Physique in 1990. It wasn’t really my gig, it had some bright spots, but I was moving on by that point.

My love of awesome music videos comes partly from Adam and the Ants videos. Stand and Deliver and Prince Charming are awesome. They are little movies and they are just fun.  

Looking back at the songs from the Kings album, there are a few standouts and there are few stinkers. That’s hindsight talking though. At the time, the album fit on one side of a 90 minute TDK cassette and I listened to them all and loved them all. My favorite from the album is probably “Antmusic” and “Dog Eat Dog”. I’m excited because “Ants Invasion” has been remixed and probably remade by someone for the new Ant-Man & Wasp movie

Good stuff.

Influential Albums – Day 3

 

The Beatles – Meet the Beatles

The first Beatles album I heard was their 20 Greatest Hits. I remember hearing it when I was probably in 7th grade riding to a football game with a couple of friends and I was imitating the harmonica sound in “Love Me Do”. Sounds about right for a 7th grade boy. My favorite Beatles album is Revolver.

This album though, is influential because it’s the first one that I got for myself. Nowadays, I prefer the British versions to the American ones, but  back then I didn’t know any different and this was my exposure to any of their songs that weren’t greatest hits and any that I might have heard on Z-93 or 96 Rock growing up. I think my elementary school music teacher probably had us sing, “Yellow Submarine”, but that could be a shared memory of someone else.

The excitement of most of the songs on this album, to me, was electric. It has the hits, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “All My Loving”, “I Saw Her Standing There” and those are GREAT, but the deeper album cuts I really, really love. “Hold Me Tight” and “LIttle Child”. I can’t include music links because all the actual Beatles songs have been taken off YouTube. The slower songs on this album I don’t particularly love, but they fit. They are a snapshot of what the band was at the time – a group making their way through the world, trying to make it big. I’m sure they had NO idea; although, it was certainly starting at this time. They would appear on The Ed Sullivan show shortly after this was released in the US.

This album has LOTS and LOTS of “yeah”s. LOTS of them. There’s a whole lot of clapping too on these songs. It must have been pretty tiring to spend the time working out and recording  those claps.

The Beatles’ harmonies has always been one of my favorite parts of the group and they fascinated me when I heard this album. I love to sing and I am much more of a melody person than a harmony person, but I wish I could come up with harmony lines. I’m sure I could with practice or teaching or whatever. I guess with the Beach Boys and the Four Freshmen the harmonies were big here in America. I’ve always thought that Paul Anka’s “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” had to be influential to The Beatles’ early work. I know The Everly Brothers definitely were, but the line, “I beg of you…” and all the intro lines to the verses are very Beatlesque, even though their originals were just starting to be developed at the time.

I listened to this album on my way to school this morning and there were parts I’d forgotten, but by and large it was as exciting and exhilarating today as it was more than 30 years ago. Good Lord, more than 30 years ago. I had a great time singing along and trying to hit the harmony parts right. When I was younger I used to play with the balance a lot and listen to just the vocal track in one speaker and then just the instrumental track at different times. Whether it was the instruments bleeding through the vocals side or the chorus coming in on the instruments side, I just dug it.

I’ll end with two songs, George’s, “Don’t Bother Me” and the closing song, “Not a Second Time”. I like George’s songs. He was kind of thrown a bone on the records. At first it was, ‘Here, George, sing this cover or sing this song John wrote”, but then he started writing his own. Imagine the courage it took to bring a song to Lennon and McCartney! “Don’t Bother Me” is a great first original for George to bring to the group. “I’ve got no time for you right now, don’t bother me.” I loved that line as a teenager and still love it today. “Not a Second Time” is such a great song because you can tell the character still really wants to be with the girl he’s singing about, but he knows he can’t. He was hurt too badly the first time, and he’s not going to do it, not a second time.

What it could have been

Jellyfish – Bellybutton

Harmonies? Check. Clever lyrics? Check. Pure pop awesomeness? Double check. I found Jellyfish when I worked at the UGA radio station, WUOG. I totally fell in love with them. After listening to them I basically decided they were a continuation of Paul McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” which was just a continuation of Paul’s experimental/baroque Beatles genius. I have Jellyfish Pandora station and as soon as I figure out how to work Spotify correctly, I will have one on that, too.

10 Influential Albums – Day 2

The B-52’s Self Titled First Album

This would be another stone in my musical foundation. I’ve written about my exposure to the B-52’s before, so I’ll skip that. What I’ll do is talk about the amount of time I’ve spent dancing to Rock Lobster, the full 6:48 of it, not the shortened version. “Down! Down!!” The time I’ve spent trying name all 52 Girls. The time Glitter Queen and I had “Dance This Mess Around” played at our wedding reception because it’s just so good. How their version of “Downtown” is so different than Petula Clark’s version, and I totally want to go to THAT downtown instead of Petula Clark’s

I’ll talk about my memories of the seeing teens dance to this album and DEVO and thinking, “OH! I get it.” At the age of 9 or 10, when I saw them, and heard that music, I can’t tell you how pivotal a moment it was for me. On a podcast this morning, I heard journalist and Jann Wenner biographer, Joe Hagan say something that totally relates to this album, “just a fantastic expression or joy. If you listen to this record it’s fun and it’s funny.” He was talking about the Specials first album, but seriously, these songs on the B-52’s, that’s it.

I’ll tell you how over the years I’ve seen the B-52’s many, many times and how they always impress me, even when Cindy’s voice is failing because she has a cold, but she still is there doing the show.

I’ll tell you how I know I have an instant connection with someone when I see that they have this album, CD, digital file in their music collection.

I’ll tell you how Ramona’s doctor, the dearly departed, Dr. Yoder, had “Rock Lobster” as his ringtone and how that spoke volumes.

I’ll tell you how mustachioed Fred Schneider banging that cowbell in the song means more to me than the cowbell in “Honky Tonk Women”.

I’ll tell you how when I’m driving around listening to music I almost always think to myself, “How would this sound if it was a B-52’s song?” “Shut Up and Dance With Me” – totally could be one of theirs, Fred – “Come on, GIRL!!” Cindy & Kate harmonizing in their amazing way, “Don’t you dare look back, just keep your eyes on me”. Then the 3 of them together, “SHUT UP and DANCE with me!” It’s a logical connection to “Dance This Mess Around”.

If you have this album and you haven’t listened to it recently, go and do it. If you only know the B-52’s because of “Roam” or “Love Shack”, I’m not sure what you’ll think of this, but I hope you go listen and I hope you love it like I do. So, don’t forget, “Planet Claire has pink air, all the trees are red. No one ever dies there. No one has a head…”

What it could have been

DEVO, New Traditionalists. Man, oh, man. Those teens listened to DEVO, too and again, it just spoke to me. So weird and so awesome. I think I’ve said this before, but I tried to get a group of my friends in 7th grade to dress up in matching white shirts and white pants and be DEVO for the day. I’m pretty sure an older brother of one of the guys convinced us that it was a bad idea.

10 Influential Albums – Day One

Oldies But Goodies Volume 1

A high school friend nominated me for this look at 10 influential albums in my life. I’m super excited and hope you’ll enjoy it. Each day I’ll look at an album that has been a big part of my life at one point or another. I tried to pick ones that have had a lasting impact on me. It hasn’t been easy and for every one I feature, I have one that I could have included, but then, it’s not 20 influential albums…

First up is a compilation. Some people say those don’t count, but I disagree, especially if it is one that first introduced me to several artists and songs that I love dearly to this day. This way my gateway to 50’s rock.

As a kid going on car trips with my family always meant listening to Dad’s music and that is what formed my foundation. Early rock ‘n roll, doo-wop, rhythm and blues, and rockabilly made up these collections. I loved playing them on the turntable! It was good, heavy vinyl, not any of the flimsy stuff that my current records were made of.  This particular album has so many great songs on it. Seems like Side 2 has more of my favorites on there. “Roll With Me Henry (The Wallflower)”, “Stranded in the Jungle”, and “Let the Good Times Roll” are definitely my favorite. These songs bring back so many memories, all good. I remember several years back Dad was able to burn this onto a CD for me. I honestly don’t know how because to the best of my knowledge he never hooked up his turntable capable of digital transferring, but he knew how much I loved these songs and somehow made it happen. 

It Could’ve Been

Chuck Berry – The Great 28

I know. Another compilation. However, it’s Chuck Berry. I’m not including this one because I have never gone and dug deep into Chuck’s catalog, therefore, as influential as he has been to my musical life, it doesn’t count the way today’s entry does. It does count in that it was an important part of my life when Glitter Queen and I got our second tattoo and this was the soundtrack. Full disclosure – we skipped past “Havana Moon”. That’s my least favorite Chuck Berry song.

Dragon*Con 2016!

It’s been a few weeks now since my favorite weekend-long activity has passed and I’m finally ready to write about it. For those of you that don’t know, Dragon*Con is the  “largest multimedia, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction & fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe!” The universe. And it’s held here in Atlanta every Labor Day weekend. I love it. I look forward to it all year, but the start of the school year really starts to get me amped up about it.

For several years once Dragon Con ended I would get a little depressed. It is such a hyper-stimulation experience that it pushes me into a manic state. That’s not an exaggeration, you can ask GQ. We actually even came up with a phrase for this post-Dragon Con feeling, Chasing the Dragon’s Tail. It excited me so much that I had a hard time coming down and just getting back to the normal pace of life, which is exactly what you need to do after experiencing a full weekend of Dragon Con. So, for several years, I’d spend the two weeks after the show chasing the Dragon’s tail. I can proudly say that this year I was able to let it go once I left the convention area for the last time on Monday afternoon. That’s a first!

Why do I love it so much? Well, apart from the quotation above – which contains almost all the things I love and hold dear – it’s also the weekend that I get so see some of my favorite characters come to life. I get to walk around in the same space as Captain America, Black Widow, Wonder Woman, Batman (of all shapes, sizes, and costumes), The Flaming Carrot, Wookiees, Stormtroopers, robots, pirates, aliens and really, there are so many more that I can’t even name them all.

So, you may be wondering, do I just walk around agog at the spectacles around me all weekend? Far from it! I also go to several of the panels offered throughout the weekend. This past year Glitter Queen and I got 4-day passes for us and The Girls. When you buy them at the end of the current year’s con you get a serious discount for the following year. This year is the first time that I went down all four days. For all the years that I have been going, I think I went to more panels this year than I ever have before. One of the challenges that attendees face is that sometimes you are interested in more than one panel that is scheduled for a certain time. For instance, this year there was a comic book panel at the same time one for the CW show, Daredevil, was. Dilemma? Not this time. In order to get into panels for big shows like Daredevil you have to line up at least an hour early, if not two. I am not a big fan of standing in line for that long, but will do so on occasion. This wasn’t one of those occasions.

To keep this from being a ridiculously long post I am going to break the days down in separate posts; Friday, Saturday, and Sunday/Monday. I’ll leave you with a picture from last year’s parade. This guy got to come before the parade and kind of prep the crowd. He was having a great time getting the opposite sides of the street to cheer. How’s this related, you may be asking. Well, Dragon Con is completely run by volunteers like this gentleman here. They are dedicated, hard-working people that give up many, many hours of their lives to help out the tens of thousands of people that come and take part in this fabulous event.dscf1801

So, if you’re interested in reading more, look for three more posts over the next few days about Dragon Con.

 

Week of Service

This past week I had the pleasure and privilege to take part in the Week of Service with the Oak Grove UMC Youth Ministry. Five days out of the kids’ summer break were given to help different people in different parts of Atlanta with different needs. I participated Monday – Wednesday. My 14-y.o. did Monday – Thursday and my 11-y.o. did Tuesday and Wednesday. My plan was to include information that I took notes on each organization, but my phone took a bath and the notes are lost, so I’m just providing links to each organization for you to follow up on.13482932_296596774012852_935247682296494223_o

This is the first day and the group of kids that came with us. We went to Open Hand and delivered meals to folks in the Atlanta area. We broke into two groups and delivered meals to 21 people. Some of them invited the Youth in and visited with them. During our orientation, we were told that we may be the only people the clients see during the day. The team that got invited in was much smaller than our other team. We delivered meals to two assisted living communities on the same piece of property. All the clients were happy to see us, but also happy for us to go on our way.

Our second day we headed out to Mountain View Personal Care Home. For this day we were doing some maintenance around the facility. Some painting, some planting, some cleaning. The kids knocked it out very quickly and with only a couple of paint incidents (my 11-y.o. included). Luckily, the incidents were on the kids and not messes on the property. After finishing up our jobs pretty quickly, we loaded our buses back and headed for some good food for Taco Tuesday.

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The third day we headed over to the Toco Hills Community Alliance to help distribute food to families from the  Mobile Food Pantry. We watched as the truck pulled in and unloaded seven pallets of donated food to be distributed. It was hot work! The kids, however, were super efficient and super friendly. They greeted each family that drove through with a smile and arms full of groceries. We left feeling tired, but very grateful for what we have and happy to have been able to help those in need.13497928_297476123924917_4532408098611723673_o13528062_297476127258250_2968021674392176578_o13483395_297479697257893_3176185617188843107_o

The 11-y.o. and 14-y.o. showing some typical great Picture Faces

Thursday was my birthday (yay!) so I took this day off, but the Youth continued on! They made lunches for the Smart Lunch, Smart Kids program in Decatur and then delivered the lunches to some very appreciative children.

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The last day of the week, the Youth delivered care packages for girls ages 12-17 who have been  victims of sex trafficking. The last part of that sentence was painful to type, but it’s real and it is being addressed and helped by the Wellspring Living for Girls organization. Because of the severe nature of the organization, the Youth do not have contact with the girls living at the facility, but instead, they provided the aforementioned care packages to be handed out later. After delivering the packages they were able to help out around the grounds of the facility, doing some yard work and basic cleaning.

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Overall, the week saw 18-20 teenagers give 4 hours daily to help those in need. With summer swim league, jobs, summer reading, daily responsibilities and more, these kids showed up and put in a great effort to help others. It was humbling to be a part of this week. It made me more thankful for what I have. It also made me so proud to be a part of the ministry of Oak Grove UMC Youth. I love working with the kids anyway, but when I get to see them in this type of situation it really makes my heart swell with love and pride.

Earlier this year I spoke about the loss of my good friend, Katie. Katie was an integral part of the Central Night Shelter in downtown Atlanta.  After she died I was speaking with friends about how to move forward after such a loss of such a significant person. Someone who truly lived out Jesus’ words of, “Love your neighbor as yourself” in such a hands-on way. I hope that by taking part in this past week, as well as getting my Girls involved and participating, takes me a little closer to being able to follow in her footsteps.

I hope that you will follow one or more of these links and find a way to help at some point soon; whether by donation or giving some of your time to help. I can say, for me, it paid off tremendously.

Book Review – The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets

I’ve just finished my second non-fiction book of the summer. This one was given to me by my friend, Jill GoughThe Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets, by Simon Singh. I don’t know why “their” isn’t capitalized. It makes me a little crazy, but the author has it that way on his Web Site, so, there you go.

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Now, I’m not a math person. Well, I wasn’t when I was a student. I didn’t have a math phobia or anything, I just had a complete lack of interest and understanding. This would have been bad enough, but having a math teacher as a mother and an engineer as a grandfather made it much worse. When I tell my students that when they’re at the dinner table doing homework and there are tears of frustration and anger and confusion I know what they’re talking about, I 100% mean it.

So, Jill knows I love The Simpsons, and she said when she saw this book she thought of me and she got it and gave it to me.

I dove right in and was amazed to find out that so many of the writers of the show had advanced degrees in mathematics. I mean, several times during the book when the author is introducing writers that he’s going to talk about he says that as they were finished grad school they were looking at careers in applied mathematics, but then decided to pursue their love of comedy writing also. I love smart humor, and well, the writers of The Simpsons have it in DROVES.

The author goes through several episodes pointing out bits that unless you’re a capital m Math Person, you would not get at all, and there are LOTS of them. Some of them I got after reading the book and some of them were WAY, WAY, WAY over my head. I have two friends in mind that I want to pass this book on to, (both grads of Georgia Tech, both engineers, and both fans of the show. The author assures the reader that even if they don’t have the working math knowledge he’s going to talk about they can still understand it, and you know what, he’s right!

In addition to The Simpsons, there is also a section on another favorite show from the same creators, Futurama. The math in that show is even more in depth and probably one to two more “WAY”s over my head.

One of the neat things about the gags that the writers inserted into the shows is that they were not the focal point of a gag. Oftentimes they were put in knowing that in order to fully appreciate them viewers would need to record the show on their VCR (anyone remember doing that?) and use the pause button repeatedly.

If you’re a fan of The Simpsons or Futurama, I recommend this book. If you’re a Math Person, and a fan of either, or both, of these shows, I highly recommend it. I gained a greater understanding of some mathematical concepts (and quite a few remained out of my reach) and my respect for the writers of these shows went higher than it already was.

Here are a couple of scenes from episodes that are discussed in the book:

Bart The Genius

The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace

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There are many, many more episodes discussed.