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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Amtrak - NYC

It is mighty easy to ride Amtrak from Bridgeport to Washington, DC, and to view city skylines from the fast-moving tracks. The ride is very urban going through Baltimore, Newark, and of course New York City. It is a moving office with internet access, food carts, and ample space for luggage (very unlike a crowded flight).

With that noted, I am exhausted and need to get to sleep so I can go to Central Connecticut tomorrow for a conference. Back to the Explorer in the a.m., and in the meantime...a pillow.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Capital 2


I will leave DC today at three. It was eye opening to learn more about the capital and I met with seven or eight legislatures. I have a day of conference sessions and then a five hour grading frenzy back to Bridgeport. I sort of like this work.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Capital


I am in DC but like I predicted the Internet is fifteen bucks a day. So I will say that I felt like Katniss taking a train from Bridgeport to Washington especially as I passed sector after sector on the way to the Capital I kept thinking about how THE HUNGER Games really is a metaphor for the world. I will catch up with photos on Friday. All is safe. All is good.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Political


I am on a train to Washington, DC. Actually, I'm going on a train to Washington, DC.

Several National Writing Project site directors are lobbying at the Capital for the next three days talking with Senators and Representatives from our states about reinstating National Writing Project funds to support professional development for teachers. In 2011, the funding was removed and it was, perhaps, one of the silliest maneuvers made by hasty politicians caught in the tsunami of anti-teacher movements in the United States.

The other two site directors in Connecticut and I have arranged half hour meetings to showcase what we once were able to do (at a low cost) to benefit millions of American school children. I hope I will be able to post while there, but if airwaves are expensive as hotels, then perhaps you may see me missing in action for the next couple of days. I certainly hope not, but stranger things have happened. So, sing the national anthem for me. Bry's gone political.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What?

There was something peculiar about yesterday.

First, I was asked to give a talk at a research symposium sponsored by the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions. Then, I was asked to give another talk in the Department for Special Education. Although I don't fashion myself as a professor, it seemed yesterday people had to enduring my professing.

Actually, I talked about my teaching in Kentucky, my history of working with refugee adults and youth in Syracuse, and what I learned from listening to my students. Coupled with many years as a writing instructor and my whacky need to tell stories and use visuals, I am thinking that both talks went okay.

This, of course, kept me away from doing the other Connecticut work that is piling up on my desk, at my home, and on my computer. I will get to it. Yep, I will.

Still, it does feel good to talk to others about what I have learned as a classroom teacher and researcher. I always leave, though, thinking there is so much I still don't know.

Monday, March 26, 2012

I will never get anything done in Connecticut


As if texting wasn't enough, and then FaceTime. Then Words with Friends hooked me and I began battling friends internationally. Now I have been introduced to Draw Something through my students and I am addicted to the hilarity of guessing drawings in the ol' skool style of Pictionary. It is one of those games, however, than needs to be played in order for it to be enjoyed. The replays of your partner's guessing your picture is even funnier.

Now, I played a little yesterday and put it away. Before I went to sleep I played some more. I could honestly play the rest of my life and never, NEVER, nEvEr get anything done.

I was successful at resisting, though and spent a large chunk accomplishing what I set out to do. Even so, Draw Something was on my mind and I wanted to have another round of "Drawsome" fun.

If you read this, it is probably wise not to challenge me on this App. I have enough distraction as is (okay. if you do, I will accept)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March is too emotional

It all comes down to passion, dedication, and support.

I am excited for the Louisville win, but disappointed by the Syracuse loss. Watching the seniors emotionally process the let down was hard. It may have been because I was still processing THE HUNGER GAMES movie, but there is something to be said by keeping your eye on the prize and "shooting" with integrity. When you give your heart, body, and soul to what you believe in and what gives you hope in the world, anything other than achievement is a let down.

And so I post the photo of my sister wearing my mug in honor of Nikki's show. Here's the text of what I wrote and, from what I hear, the mission was accomplished.

Here's what I want. Each of you need to find a photograph of me and wear it to the show tonight. You must make a necklace or something with my head on it. I'm attaching a photo in case you don't have one. Nikki is EXTREMELY upset that I will have gone an entire season without seeing her perform. She is right. I only saw practices early on. I can't make it home, although I want to. But, if you love NIKKI and I know you do, you will bring me with you in a photograph and at one point in the show (when the stands are quiet) you will scream together, "YOUR UNCLE BRYAN LOVES YOU NIKKI. Ba Kaaaaa" If I find out this did not happen, I will be very very sad. Deal? If you are really brave you will give one to Julie and Larry to wear, too. Ha ha. I feel TERRIBLE that I didn't make it to a show this year. I want to be there. This is the only way this is possible. If anything, at least bring a piece of me with you so that Nikki can feel my love and support. And, this encouragement extends to Rachel and Melissa, too. Go Nikki! Go Melissa! Go Rachel! I wish I could be there!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Economical Dilemma

Funny how real life can match up with a take-home quiz for freshmen accounting majors.

I was meeting with a student when I was called by Park City Ford for an update on my truck. It's been a good five years since I have brought her in and I knew there was work needing to be done. I had federal taxes coming my way so I thought, "How bad can it be?"

Um. Never ask that question.

So, the accounting major informs me, "Yo, Bryan. I got an answer for you. Let's see. Is it better for you to repair a piece of crap like you drive (note, kids I teach are used to much nicer vehicles than I drive) or to simply get a new vehicle? Um. you're car is paid off, right, and I need to factor in taxes and interests? So, if you calculate that in and make monthly payments, um..." Student scratches his/her head. "Can't you just call your parents and ask for a new car?"

Nope. I paid for the repairs. My goal was a new car this summer. I am now thinking, "next summer."

We shall see, Connecticut. We shall see.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Good Friday Song

I am teaching Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky to my freshman class and, whether they like it or not, I am loving it. I have read the book a good 17 times, but it has been a good four years since I last read it. Tonight, I recognized that Charlie listed a Nick Drake song that I never noticed before. I knew his music list, but in the past I didn't know Nick Drake. Tonight this resonated and so I posted it above.

Yesterday, I worked with teachers who are trying to find a way to help youth heal after a senseless murder.

I watched Syracuse beat Wisconsin and Louisville defeat Michigan.

I made a hamburger.

My truck is in the shop so I was trapped at home for an evening of basketball and reading.

Before I went to bed, though, I looked up this song. As always, the book is on my mind...so is the song...so is life.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Important time to reflect

I visited a school in New Haven, Connecticut (yes, down the street from Yale University) where I was getting to know kids and teachers before a workshop on writing. While I was in the parking lot, I noted that there were many activities occurring on the street and that, yes, the school was located in a neighborhood facing many challenges. The challenges of the city youth were not the same challenges of Yale students swaying in and out of the many local coffee shops. When I went inside the school I learned that the older brother of two of the students was shot and killed over the weekend in drug and gang-related violence. I flashed back to Louisville, my work with Jan Arnow and Brown Students, and the murder of James Akech - a Sudanese refugee I mentored for several years.

When I left the school, I realized I needed to adapt my workshop and to make a better connection with the lives currently being experienced by youth and teachers at the school. I have chosen to do Jan's workshop to deconstruct violence and then to move into writing. I am skeptical of what I hope to accomplish, but I will do my best.

It is Thursday. My workshop is this morning. Tonight it is about NCAA basketball, but this morning it is about what might be heavy learning. We shall see. Violence is senseless, but then again....

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thrifty Man


Crandall in Connecticut spent too much money on the Lorax in 3D.







Crandall in Connecticut popped out the lenses of the glasses.







Crandall in Connecticut likes the new perspective he has with these glasses and feels he sees the world much better now. For this he is thankful.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wyoming was beautiful!

I almost forgot to post because I was in Wyoming last night.

Actually, my face was, but I wasn't physically there. Dr. Kevin Roxas invited me to talk about my research and and teaching with his undergraduates at the University of Wyoming. He and I have been cyber friends for a few months and his research paralleled mine in that he interviewed teachers about their work with refugee youth. He is a friend for life because his writing has become a tremendous source for understanding the young men I work with.

So, I Skyped. I sent my presentation and he clicked the slides. I guess I was a big head upon a screen that talked to his students as he acted as my Van White.

I think that it is rather remarkable. Here I am in Connecticut teaching a class in Wyoming from 9 to 11 p.m (7 to 9 Mountain time). That's insane and a tremendous opportunity. He visited my class a few weeks ago from Wyoming and it was an honor to return the favor. I wish I could say that Wyoming was beautiful, but I only experienced it from inside a lecture hall on campus. Hmmm, how do I list a guest presentation on my vita when I wasn't actually there physically? Tricky.

Monday, March 19, 2012

UCONN Women

UCONN men are out, but the women are still in and play again tonight. I need to start paying more attention because Northstar Breanna Stewart, who won the National Gatorade Player Of the Year, will be arriving to Connecticut next year: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 18....all you Northstars get up and lean. Connecticut women have a spectacular championship record:
  • 2000: Connecticut
  • 2002: Connecticut
  • 2003: Connecticut
  • 2009: Connecticut
  • 2010: Connecticut
I look forward to her playing in my new state and Dajuan Coleman, Jamesville-DeWitt playing at my alma mater, Syracuse University. Hmmm. I hope he has more success than Fab Melo.

Boy, 2012 isn't even over and I'm already looking ahead to 2013. Slow down, Crandall.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

In repair of bad knees

I spent this mild winter in Connecticut running in a pair of Adidas sneakers I bought before the holidays. I am blaming them for why my knees ache and have much pain. I know. I know. Running is terrible on the knees, but it is an addiction I can't shed. In Syracuse, I spent the winters in a gym usually letting my knees heal as I did other cross training activities. This winter, though, I ran. My knees are paying for it.

I am back to a pair of Sauconys. Seriously, I should write commercials for the company because they simply are the best. They have support, cushion, style, and they're well made. I've tried Nikes, Reeboks, New Balance, and Adidas, but for running, nothing beats Saucony. I think I need to spend a week walking, however, because my knees are truly throbbing. My house is on a hill and I must climb to reach a door. I feel like an old, old man when I do this and recognize I look ridiculous. I knew turning 30 was going to be rough, but 40 hasn't been that friendly, either. How great would it be to have a chance every now and again to go back to our more energetic and healthy bodies...just for a day?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Even in Connecticut I am weak

But I am human and I am loving it.

So, at 8 o'clock I decided I was hungry. I stopped at McDonald's for a sandwich (despite the fact that I suffer from a horrendous body image caused by self consciousness, genetics, and grease). When I got home, they failed to give me the correct meal. What is a man to do? I found their website and fibbed a little. I actually called, but their operators only work until 6 p.m. so I shared the following with them online. I like being creative.

Restaurant Address: 60 Hawley Lane
Restaurant City: Trumbull
Restaurant State: CT

Restaurant Landmark: near CVS, next to Kohls and a Bank, under the starlit sky, in this universe, and down the street from a lard ass who shouldn't be eating McDonald's because he just turned 40 and is feeling obese.

Comment: Whoops. Wrong meal. Wrong night, too. I was hungry, but my dog is happy. She got the cheeseburger that was in the bag. I wanted a Chicken Club and fries. I guess I should have checked the bag before I left. My dog is happy, though. She says "whoof" (which is thank-you in canine language). Meanwhile, I'm hungry and its NCAA tournament time (I am soooooo happy that Lehigh beat Duke. I hate Duke. Some say that it is the university Tom Wolfe based I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS after - great text. I recommend it. Duke sucks).

Shucks. I have the worst luck. I am sad. Why would someone pack the wrong food in my bag? I mean...I am feeling guilty enough about eating bad food, especially when I didn't run today because my knees needed a rest. I wanted the correct food so I wouldn't have to think about the evil I was putting in my body. The mistake made me think extra hard about how awful McDonald's is for me.

I wish I knew Spanish. If I did, I would write this in Spanish. All the employees at the restaurant speak Spanish and I want to tell them they gave me the wrong meal tonight. After I send this email, I think I will be brave and bring the receipt back to see if I can get the right food. I will also ask for Spanish lessons because it is not right that I don't know Spanish. I know German, but there are no German employees working at my local McDonald's. Perhaps this is the result of colonialism and globalization. If World War II didn't happen and the U.S. failed to save Europe I imagine that I would need to know German to order at McDonald's in the United States. I read Phillip Roth's PLOT AGAINST AMERICA (another good book, but not as good as Tom Wolfe's ... I recommend one first. It's about how stupid Duke is). We could be a Nazi nation, you know. That's what Phillip Roth writes about. If we were, I don't think I would be writing this email in English. Ich bin ein dumbkopf. That was German.

In the meantime, I am writing to say hello. Hi. I tried to fulfill a guilty pleasure tonight but I failed. I guess I earned the nickname Eeyore for a reason. Oh, my dog is licking my hand. She is happy. It's all good. I got the wrong food but my dog is happy. Oh no. She just threw up the cheeseburger. Alright, now I am mad.

Thank you for reading my words. I hope you have a good day and you see a butterfly. I am always amazed by those creatures. It means the day will be a good one if you see a butterfly.

Best,

Bryan

(I will let you know if I hear from them)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Perched Upon A....

Today is my official last day of spring break as I do not count the weekend, because they are normally not supposed to be a part of the official work week. Although I thought I would move beyond my chair once I landed a job, I have proven otherwise. The dent I have made in my Pee Wee Herman furniture is tremendous as my rump has sat it this chair hour upon hour upon hour for months upon months upon months at a time. This week, it has been my station for grading, catching up, answering emails, reading, planning, and watching the NCAA tournament from my Connecticut home.

Am I sick of it? Yes. But I am not as sick of it as the rest of my house that wonders why I never use it. I am always in the damn chair, online, and doing work. I suppose if it could also flush, I would never leave this chair.

I have around 8 more essays to grade and then I can do the other work I brought home this week. One of my students wrote that he spends 8 hours sleeping, 8 hours doing school, and 8 hours playing. Man, I want to find that kind of balance.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Speaking for the Trees, Part Two

With much anticipation, I went to see the new animation, THE LORAX, at a local Connecticut theater. I admit I loved the film, its message, and Dr. Seuss's memorable lines. "I am the Lorax and I speak for the trees."

Sadly, I am a Connecticut employee who may one day need to speak for the movie theaters, as well. Perhaps this isn't sad.

My administrative assistant, her nephew, and I were the only ones in the theater. To get in, it cost us $40 and she purchased popcorn and a soda, another $20. For one movie, we shelled out $60 bucks. It cracked us up, because twice employees came in to sweep the theaters and check for vagabonds. We greeted them each time and laughed that the theater belonged to us. We even chucked popcorn to the floor so they had something to do.

I don't believe that movie theaters can sustain themselves at those prices and with empty seats. I told Lois that for $60 we could have purchased trees and done more for the world than contributing to the ridiculousness of one movie experience. It seems to me that the industry has gone too far and things will have to change. I read recently, too, that youth spend more money on video games than movies anyway and Hollywood is struggling to pay their normal salaries. We shall see. Boo Hoo. Poor Hollywood.

I couldn't help but think that the experience of viewing THE LORAX in an empty theater was a metaphor for a time that once was. The glory of the cinema and all the hype that goes into it may be something we reflect on with our grandchildren. Like trying to go to the Big East tournament, the tickets seemed a little outrageous. If gas and grocery prices continue as they do, and the economy continues as it most likely will, I am unsure the luxury of such films will not be sustained. I may be wrong.

Either way, I feel guilty for the pleasure of enjoying Betty White and Danny Devito when the money could have been spent more wisely. It is definitely something I will think about in the future and it is most likely a phenomena that will not be shared by families in the future. Honey, do we need to pay our mortgage or should we take the kids to see a flick at Tinsletown?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

So, 50 Cent Lives in Connecticut, too

I am beginning to see a pattern. Big names are attracted to NYC because that is the place that doesn't sleep. Yet, once they are too big, they expand to summer homes in the Hamptons and year-long homes in Connecticut. I guess it makes sense...they can zoom into the Big Apple and zoom back out. They get the city without getting the city.

The boys always listened to 50 Cent to and from soccer practice. I found this ABC piece interesting because you can see in 50 Cent's face that he is really processing global reality. He made a career off of rapping about the urban streets of the U.S., but this provides a new context.

I sort of like the gangsta rap humanitarian schtick. I think it tells a tremendous story and I hope he puts out new beats that addresses more substance for the world. He is painted as a good man here and I hope he is.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mesmerized in Connecticut

I am supposed to be on break, but knowing I needed this break to get ahead (and catch up), I set a rigorous schedule to work through the week. I put CATCHING FIRE in my cart and put it back. Then I went back and put it back in, then put it out. Finally, I decided WTF. I bought it and began it Sunday night. I stayed up to 1 a.m. last night and finished it.

Suzanne Collins used to write for Nickelodeon and resides somewhere in Connecticut. I don't want to meet her, in the same way I don't want to meet J.K. Rowlings. Instead, I simply want to thank her for hooking me, engaging me, pulling me away from a routine of all work and no play, and for keeping my imagination alive.

In a culture that has turned against creativity and reading for pleasure and moved toward assessment, drills, and dictated curriculum, I am stoked that writers and artists are out in the world continuing to do what they do best - spark the human mind. That, my friends, is immeasurable and probably a complete threat to all those who want to argue otherwise. If we have a society of creative people, like Collins, weaving allegories and stories to help us question our systems (and who benefits from them), then I feel I live in a fortunate time. When such pieces are no longer created, that is when I worry.

I know these are supposed to be middle school books, but I love them. Bravo, Connecticut, for hosting such a brilliant writer!

Monday, March 12, 2012

This will be repetitive to my mom and sisters but

I used to love spooking myself as a kid. Last night, while walking, I stopped by Lois's and her nephew, Luis, was asking me if I could see ghosts. I was playing with him and said I could which freaked him out - I learned my lesson.

Still, Lois sent me this photograph of a blanket and said she saw a monkey in it. I am not convinced it is a monkey. I think it is my face. I see me in that blanket and I have circled it.

I am the ghost. I know it.

In all the places I have ever lived, the only place I ever felt a ghost's presence was on Rotary Avenue in Binghamton. Craig, Matt, and Andrew all reported they felt they were violated at night by a presence that laid itself across their chest. They couldn't move and it simply laid upon them. I thought they were nuts, but then it happened to me, twice. Both times I was stuck on my back with this tremendous weight upon me. I couldn't move, but then as fast as it came on, it disappeared. That is my only ghost story until now.

How did my face end up on Lois's step mom's blanket.

FrEaKy. Boo.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bird Follow Up

Yesterday, it was the hawks in Fairfield County.

Today, though, I couldn't bypass the opportunity to shout out to my alma mater, Louisville, for winning the Big East tournament and tearing it up despite all predictions. I went into this weekend expecting to see Syracuse win from my Connecticut home, but instead the CARDS flew in from nowhere. This was great and well-deserved.

It makes me sad to know the Big East will be no longer, though, and that the predictability of games between UCONN, Syracuse, and U of L will not be a predictable norm. I guess I should celebrate that it was fun while it lasted. I know football sort of dictates the course of college athletics, but departing from the Big East was a tremendous mistake for basketball fans. It will truly be missed.

In the meantime, is today Bracketology Sunday?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Perhaps the best story thus far in Connecticut

Two red-tail hawks have been causing mischief in Fairfield County. I woke up this morning to read the article about aggressive birds that areattacking residents and students near Ludlowe High School. It appears the aviators are over confident on the size of prey it can take down.

The story humored me because it is not an everyday occurrence. Fairfield County is a well-known mecca for amazing wealth and, for this reason, I find it funny. I think Saturday Night Live needs to spoof this story for its potential. Any time the rich and ridiculous are bothered by a nuisance I am ready for a chuckle. There is tremendous parody that might come from this.

Conservationists are likely to remove the birds for a while in hopes they will calm down once split and that their egos will be toned. There is a nest in the area and these beaked wonders want it protected.

Mother Nature 1, Fairfield residents 0. Go Hawks!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Call me Crocus, Crandall. I am ready to bloom for a week.

At 5 p.m. tonight I will officially be on Spring Break.

That is a lie.

At 5 p.m. tonight I will attempt to partially break for the next week. There are midterms to grade, proposals to create, books to finish, summer classes to plan, and the rest of this semester to contend with.

Yet, I can do this from my home and don't have to report to anyone. That, in itself, is a tremendous break and I am thankful for it.

Where's the pool? Not in Stratford, Connecticut. And I have never been the sort for the MTV Spring Break phenomenon, either. That, I have always felt, is for pampered kids (although, I am sure they have a great time and, had I the resources, I most likely would join them).

So, it's me, a few more Big East basketball games and a week to run/walk/float/and meander.
I am very ready for it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bring on the Change. Change is Inevitable.

Note: This was written before Jason Russell's psychotic break. It was my thinking after first learning about the video.

I blog this post from Connecticut to address the promise and strategy of the Invisible Children movement currently buzzing through social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, and news organizations. The story is of the atrocities occurring in Northern Uganda from barbaric war lordship and anarchist abuse of children. It is violent and needs to end. As I watched the video (you can watch it here) I was both moved and perplexed. I feel exposure to global crimes such as this is a necessity for the next generation of global leaders. I worry that a generation raised on quick sound bites of drastic information and the click of a few links to make moral decisions before they move on with their life may be flippant and disconnected. This might be more damaging. The film addresses the global inequities and horrific violence of one man, KONY 2012 in Uganda, and for this I applaud. My worry is that a generation will dust upon this VERY real reality with an easy decision of "like" or "comment" and no further interrogation of what has caused crimes such as this. Schools need to teach kids more of the truth - and if truth is subjective, they need to teach kids to think critically about the changing realities of the world.

What we fail to address are the economic realities and how they resulted from history - post imperialism and beyond. In some ways, Russell's movie continues the White man as savior, colonial mission that has occurred for centuries. It is not a good mission. This fails to acknowledge that current paradigms are the result of world civilizations (and as Aristotle would say, the seeds that bear their own destructions) (note: Russell planted such a seed, didn't he?). Nations grew wealthy by exploiting other cultures. African dictators continue to receive support from Superpowers (including the United States). When money is retreated, countries struggle and turn violent. The refugee youth I have worked with arrived to the U.S. as a result of these realities (they are the 1% of refugees who are chosen for relocation - millions more continue to live in poverty and powerlessness). Before these atrocities can be addressed, those of us in America need to reflect on our lust for materials and products, including oil. These youth have joined the U.S. in its traditions of education, hard work, "democracy," and social change --- if they are fortunate to make it in our schools. The realities of their lives before arriving are incomprehensible to a culture of fast food, Wall Street, IPads, and the high costs of education. The disparities are extreme. It is easy to see sickness overseas without failing to see our the virus our own culture spreads.

The saying, "A ship is only as strong as it's smallest leak," seems pertinent.

It is easy, and just, to make Kony famous so he will be removed from war crimes, but the deeper, darker, and more difficult work arrives from understanding history, what evolved so the U.S. could be in an economic state to provide so much for the globe, and the implications colonization has had on global economics which has created such violence. I imagine, with gas costing over $4 a gallon, that more violence is to come. Similar comparisons can also be made with the high drop out rate of urban youth in our own culture, the inhibition of teachers to prepare youth for what is needed because of state testing and bureaucracies, and the ways some benefit on the backs of a majority. I wish I could have more faith in those who are making decisions, but I do not. Those who rise into powerful positions make me nervous - they too often lose touch with what the majority experience on a day to day basis. This is as true for Barack Obama as it was for George W. Bush.

I support the Kony video because it makes me think and, after 20 years in public education, I am a proponent of changing systems. They are corrupt because small percentages make decision for the majority. I am cautious of who I call a leader in the 21st century.

The wealth and opportunities of our nation are not bad. In fact, I applaud that they have provided for more people than in any time of history. Still, I wonder whether or not democracy can be expanded beyond the U.S.. Are we ready to address the concept of global democracy and equity when so many inequities exist in our own nation? It is great that we now have the capabilities of filmography to show realities of the world (they have always existed and I am stoked to see communication move beyond text alone). With this said, our paradigms for what is knowledge, what is truth, and who is allowed to have control of any of it has shifted. This is exciting and new (or is it?). I wonder, will people move beyond The Biggest Loser, The Voice, American Idol, and NFL football to care enough to question their own behaviors and social responsibilities? Is that a lot to ask? What will we have to give up so that young people in our own nation and nations of the world do not have to live in fear of violence?

I don't know. There are many who will claim they know and, most likely, these people will move into positions of power and become the monster they once reprimanded. For now, I am thinking locally as a way to act globally. I am trying to figure out what I mean by this.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

About where I live


From the Stratford, Connecticut website: http://www.townofstratford.com/ COME VISIT.

Founded in 1639, Stratford is a community rich in history and abundant natural beauty.

Situated on Long Island Sound, and bounded to the east by the Housatonic River, Stratford has long viewed its waterfront as an important natural resource. The Town's location on Long Island Sound affords residents and visitors alike with two public bathing beaches, five marinas, several fishing piers and two public boat-launching facilities.

Within an hour's drive of New York City, Stratford is the easternmost town in Fairfield County-Connecticut's Gold Coast. Major highways such as I-95, Route 8/25 and the Merritt Parkway bisect Stratford, and provide convenient access to the entire Northeast corridor. The deep water harbor of neighboring Bridgeport provide excellent docking and terminal facilities for either domestic or overseas shipping, in addition to ferry passenger service to Long Island. Sikorsky Memorial Airport, located in the Lordship section of Stratford, remains a hub of corporate activity and provides commuter service to other cities in the northeast. Rail service provided by Metro North with connections to Amtrak further round out an excellent array of transportation choices.

Stratford has a long association with the aviation industry. Stratford became the birthplace of the American helicopter industry, when in 1939, a Russian immigrant, Igor Sikorsky, successfully flew the first helicopter at his Stratford-based aircraft plant. More than a half-century later, Sikorsky Aircraft, the world's leading helicopter manufacturer, still designs and produces state-of-the art helicopters for both military and commercial applications at its sprawling manufacturing facility on Stratford's north side. Drawn by a highly skilled and productive work force, excellent access to transportation, and a large inventory of affordable housing, it's no surprise that many businesses have chosen to call Stratford home.

The diversity of Stratford's natural resources is as rich as its cultural heritage, ranging from the 250-acre, town-owned Roosevelt Forest to the Great Meadows Salt Marsh, one of the largest unditched salt marshes remaining in New England and now a portion of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge. Stratford is host to a variety of cultural attractions as well, including the soon to be revitalized Shakespeare Theatre and Boothe Memorial Park, a municipally-owned park and museum showcasing an assortment of architecturally-unique structures and vast collection of Americana.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Happy 70th Birthday, Butch!

Today is my father's 70th birthday and proof he's lived many years beyond his childhood in Sherburne, New York (It's also Muhammed Ali's 70th, Louisville!) and as the husband of my mom. In honor of Papi Butch's day, I wish to list my top ten memories with him.

10. His patience when I dropped the Christmas tree through the garage ceiling.
9. His forgiveness when I drank a little bit too much in 9th grade.
8. His understanding when I backed his station wagon into my mom's Renault Alliance.
7. His dedication and support of Cynde's Colorguard days for many years.
6. His coaching of little league and support of the dents Casey and I put in the house.
5. His sharing of a cold beer whenever I mowed the lawn.
4. His teaching me to fish at Lake Lebanon, the St. Lawrence River, and Oneida Lake
3. His slop dance at weddings and whenever he feels like getting jiggy with it.
2. His driveway talks with me, Karl, and whoever else was around.
1. His tears when he sees Nikki perform (or when he sees all of us getting older way too fast)

I love you dad. I am wishing you the serenity of being in the boat when the walleyes are biting, the skies are beautiful, and the
winds are just right for trolling along the shoreline. Seventy years, Papi. Congratulations.

Perhaps some Representation

The Fairfield University Stags will play Loyola for the MAAC tournament at 7 p.m. today. They beat the #1 team, Iona, and if they win, they will be invited to the NCAA tournament (wouldn't it be funny if they played Louisville, Kentucky, or Syracuse). I have yet to see the men's team play and have heard of their up and down performance. Still, one of my students who volunteers for the team has been impressed by Sidney Johnson's coaching and feels he has coached them towards this success.

I guess I will await news to learn if they win and will represent Connecticut and the University where I teach during March madness. It's funny that the mascot is the stag because besides the multiple turkeys walking across campus at any time, there are multiple does and offspring. When I drive home, I have to look out for fowl crossing the street and deer. They match the decor of "Ugh" boots, baseball caps, and sweatpants that don the campus. It's Monday...this wouldn't be a bad start to the work week.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Man, Dr. Seuss

On Friday it was Dr. Seuss's birthday and, I suppose, to celebrate it Universal Studios released THE LORAX, a film to bring Seuss's environmental text to life. There's irony to the film, of course, because by doing this Universal has created a commercial craze where more products will be sold, more garbage will be created, and more consumption will be encouraged. These, of course, were the very points Theodore Geisel was critiquing. Capitalism, however, relies on selling ideas to others for the profit of others.

What are we to do?

For youth to realize that an environmental consciousness is important in the 21st century of Wii, You Tube, iPads, and cellular phones, only a Danny Devito film in multi-technocolor has the potential to capture the attention of another generation. The hypocrisy is naturally embedded. To save the trees, one needs to have 3D glasses and a bucket of popcorn.

If one really wants young people to respect the Earth (what my grandmother called Maude - a fusion of God and Mother Nature) they will take them outdoors for a walk every day. They will encourage kids to go outside and play. They will lift a rock and grow curious of the small wonders that life underneath it. They will breathe fresh air. They will expose kids to life beyond man-made products. That's how you learn the outdoors is wonderful. (That is why I love staring at waves, watching leaves move in slight winds, and contemplating the shapes of clouds).

The cynic in me thinks it is too late for that (hell, I am thinking out loud in cyberspace). The thinker in me is more reserved and wonders who is more foolish: those who live by greed at the expense of destroying humanity or those who live by righteousness pointing out all the flaws in others (another form of greed to me).

I will see the film. I will continue to sing Seuss's rhymes in my head. And I will prefer moments when I can get away from man made things for a good hike. Of course, if I can, I will also have a Lorax mustache to wear, as well. I am hoping they aren't expensive.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mercy Learning Center

I was invited by friends at Fairfield University to tour Mercy Learning Center and learn their success of bringing literacy to several women in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The center began from the ground up and works on the premise that investing in mothers is an investment in families. The center works to teach adult women how to read and write. These are women who have migrated to the United States for various reasons, who dropped out of school for various reasons, and one woman, age 82, who never was taught to read and write because she was raising a family on her own (with all of her children having college education, she decided she needed to learn to read and write. Her tutor at the center is 72 years old).

Mercy Learning Center works on the passion of donations and volunteers. The karma oozes from their doors and they implement a model that works. While the mothers work rigorously on their education, a day care center is sponsored to watch toddlers. There is job placement, GED support, and basic ESL. The school enrolls over 300 women, but the waiting list is as long as those who attend. They realize they need to expand but they do not have resources at this time.

My friends in Syracuse have reported there are similar needs there. Mothers of children who arrive to the United States often do not receive the literacy instruction that their children do. As a result, they can not help their children with school work and find it difficult navigating a life in the United States.

The highlight of yesterday's visit was the essay read by one of the mothers who is ready for her GED, wishes to attend college, and hopes to one day be an accountant. Her story from South America to the United States was remarkable. She works two jobs, raises a family, and studies. She sleeps little. She fights to find success in the U.S. It was an honor to work with them.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sikorsky

It was only a matter of time before I mentioned the fact that I live very near Sikorsky, a United Technologies Company, that is known for its helicopters. They have been Connecticut-made since 1929 and central to the heartbeat of Stratford.

"We pioneer flight solutions that bring people home everywhere...every time" was Igor Sikorsky's motto.

Recently, like most of the U.S., Sikorsky has faced economic hardships and let go of many employees. There is a likelihood more layoffs are in the near future. More joblessness, but rising prices; there are breaking points and, in Connecticut, I cannot imagine living without a paycheck. It is too unaffordable.

I will witness many helicopters flying overhead during the spring and summer months, I am told, yet I have not seen once since I began renting is Stratford. In terms of engineering brilliance (and employment of many locals), Sikorsky is one-of-a-kind. I hope it finds a way to triumph again and, like Clint Eastwood proclaimed, it is only "half-time America."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

For Colored Girls

At the recommendation of Dr. Marcelle Haddix, a mentor at Syracuse University, I put "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf" on my freshmen English course reading list. It is a choreopoem and the above trailer is a movie based on the book. As I read it last night, I watched Rock Center and viewed a story about Svante Myrick of Earlville, New York, who is the mayor of Ithaca and, as a mixed raced boy, was one of the only minority students to graduate from my father's Alma Mater, Sherburne-Earlville High School - home of the marauders. In the same episode, Rock Center did a story on recent developments in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan and the tragic developments occurring there.

There is something about reading Ntozake Shange's poetic script while having NBC feature stories of a town I knew as a young boy and the locations I have only learned about through my work with refugees relocated in Louisville, Syracuse, New Haven, and elsewhere in the U.S. As I think in Connecticut, I realize that one would have to read the book Marcelle recommended, visit Main Street where my father and his siblings grew up, and work with relocated African youth with limited and disrupted education arriving to U.S. schools to understand the sense I am trying to make of the world and my location in it right now.

If you visit the links in this post, view the Rock Center stories, and read "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf," you may better understand the discourses I live by - perhaps you can help me to make sense of them. There is a tremendous amount of work still needing to be done.