Tales from outer turnip head...

Tales from outer turnip head...

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year...

There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow. Today is the right day to Love, Believe, Do and mostly Live. --14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso

Sunday, December 24, 2017

May the blessing of light be on you—light without and light within...

'Hope' is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

-Emily Dickinson

Happy holidays: 
There is always light to show the way. Especially on the darkest nights, stars in the heavens shine their brightest. 
May the sun shine warmly for you this coming year, and on those cold crisp nights, when the moon is new, may the stars about you light your way. 
We wish you peace, compassion, and loving kindness... 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

You can make your own conclusions about what I think about New Neutrality...

"Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.":  I have mixed thoughts about the video media connected to my post this week. It is a corporate ploy. It is seemingly not an "honest" documentary of an event; rather, it is edited for emotional effect and charged with bias...

"Fairness is what justice really is.": But, the message is one I agree with. It deals with access to resources (in this case, digital ones). I am a supporter of open access to the internet in the public school I teach in. I praise the 1 to 1 initiative that has placed Chrome Books in every student's hand in our school. I support finding funding options to bring reliable internet to our more rural and financially strapped families. I believe the internet has enabled such a paradigm shift in the ways we tap information and knowledge that the benefits will propel the dreamers, and inventors, and curious learners to spaces we have not even begun to imagine. I realize we will face new obstacles, but it is as we deal with them them that we will continue to grow as a species.  Our capacity to learn, record, and share what we have learned with others—and even the future—has always been what moves us forward. The digital revolution is just that, a revolution that must be allowed to reach its full potential just like our students and... for ALL learners...

"Ethics and equity and the principles of justice do not change with the calendar.": Equity (not equality) is central to what I believe needs to be practiced in our public schools. One size does not fit all, and yet, when we dedicate money in the public sphere, we so often try to offer equality in order to "be fair." It is when we try to do what I believe to be truly right by our populations in the movement of funds, other resources, and access, that the public debate becomes so mired in jealousy and anger which is often focused on groups traditionally marginalized in the public sphere...

"Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.": While it may be a little contrived, watch the next video and imagine yourself as an eager learner, or your children as such. Imagine that these learners trustingly show up to life eager to succeed, mindful of their own interests, but always aware of "the others" around them. Ignore the corporate sponsorship (Sprint) and just imagine what might feel "true" about the story they present. Our schools should be places that level the playing fields, not by holding some learners back, but by propelling each to reach their full potential...

Sunday, December 10, 2017

"Abuelita: Tonight is about family."

A holiday trip to the movies: I recently went to the movies to see Coco, Pixar's newest animated film and holiday release. I wish to offer a positive recommendation without overselling it, nor do I wish to fail in giving it proper lip service. Here is a story on NPR (audio version of the story available as well). NPR: Coco. And here are the numbers: Metacritic Metascore: 81%, Metacritic User Score 8.4/10, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 96%, Rotten Tomatoes User Score: 96%. 94% of Google users liked this film and the IMDB User Score is a 8.9/10. I give it a thumbs up.

Bias?: Before I proceed further (and perhaps as part of my efforts) I should declare my bias and my loose criteria. I love animated film. I look to be delighted and moved by drawings in the same way I expect to be by real images of real-people action. The wonder of animation that is value added to "real" looking movies is that a teapot can dance, a broom can have malicious intent, a house can be floated across the world with helium balloons... and the path from the living to the dead can by traversed on a bridge of illuminated marigold petals.

There are 7 million animated lights in the computer model of the city of the dead.

And because it is animated, it is somehow more believable than some of our best CGI moments in "real" looking films. The suspension of disbelief is easier when the subject matter is cartoon. BUT the characters, whether a  gimpy-fined fish, a non-verbal robot, or the personification of the emotion "fear", must be believable; and when they are believable, then the magic happens. We are moved deeply by good writing and narrative delivery, but can still immerse ourselves in a world that can only be imagined in "the real."

Bias cont.: Although I loved Shrek by DreamWorks, their other animated films have almost universally failed me. And while I have animated favorites (which includes stop-animation like The Nightmare Before Christmas, old classics like Watership Down, and animation newcomers like Cartoon Saloon's The Secret of Kells), the bulk of my favorites come from the Disney empire. I place the works of Pixar Studios over those of Disney Annimation (The Lion King, Frozen, etc.), and at the top of my hierarchy are the films by Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited away, Naussica, etc.). [It should be noted that if it were not for Disney buying Pixar and getting John Lassiter back into its fold, Miyazaki's works would not have been brought over in any quality for English speaking audiences. Lassiter may be king of the hill in the animation world. Dare I say "Thank you Disney?"]

The List: So that said, the following list is sorted with a combination of initial wonder and repeat watchability in mind. It was a hard task for me and I may shift it around if asked again tomorrow:

Haven’t Seen
Haven’t Seen
Haven’t Seen

So Coco falls at the top of the second grouping for me. The first group represents films that changed how I watched animated films as a whole, and which for various reasons I have watched many times. The bottom third speaks for itself, sequels for the most part. In the middle are films that I enjoyed but may not wish to see more than a few times each.

Last words: Coco may not have legs for repeat views (time will tell), but on first viewing I was delighted. It is visually gorgeous, musically catchy, culturally appropriate and sensitive to its setting and spiritual theme; and it was emotionally powerful in real and difficult ways that Pixar seems unafraid to approach. I smiled, laughed, cried (in more than a few places), and said more than a once to my date "I am really liking this film..."

Sunday, December 3, 2017

"Seven black and white photos that represent your life. No people. No pets. No explanation."

So I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook and the role it serves in society and my life. But a recent "challenge" offered me what I do like about it. "Seven black and white photos that represent your life. No people. No pets. No explanation." I had fun taking photos each day and looking at the ones my friends were posting. The lack of commentary made me look at the photos are differently than I would have expected. Now that I am finished the seven days, I offer a little ditty on my uploads:

11/24/17: C.H.U.D.: When I was in middle school I participated in a winter sport called the Hardy Project. It was a combination fitness/outward-bound run-in-the-woods, rope-course, team-building, adventure-style athletics. One day on a run through a local green space park that hugged a stream that ran through northern Baltimore we explored a storm drain tunnel that had an oval entrance about 3 feet high and run under suburban homes with stone walls and green lawns. I processed quite a bit of claustrophobia and fear when at least 30 feet in one of my schoolmates began muttering "chud" under his breath like the little boy in The Shining muttered "redrum." Long before I had read Steven King's It (1986) which would have given me more reason to fear storm drains and tunnels, I knew of Douglas Cheek's movie C.H.U.D. (1984) which stood for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller. I read that it could also stand for Contamination Hazard Urban Disposal; both spoke of a danger that could lie in the storm drains and tunnels in northern Baltimore. If one were brave enough—and I was—to proceed about forty feet in, past a bend, in the dark, one would find a small room dimly lit by small holes from the man-hole cover above. Proceed beyond this little room required belly crawling which I was not brave enough to do...

11/25/17: Lightrail: I have always loved trains. And I have always loved Thanksgiving. And I have always loved my brothers (even when at times we did cruel things to each other). So for the last two years I have engaged in what feels like a new tradition; hitch a ride to Baltimore with my older brother and his family to have Thanksgiving with my family, take the light rail downtown with both my brothers and the kids (laughing and making jokes the whole time), walk the harbor to the edge of Little Italy, and order a bowl of seafood bisque (not the Maryland chowder) from Moe's Diner. There is lots of walking, and taking, and walking on rails, and harmless shenanigans. I love the holiday because it is with family. I love the holiday because there is no membership requirement to participate fully; it is not nationalistic nor "club" specific. It's about gratitude. That simple. I am grateful for my family, the love they offer me no matter what, my good fortune, and well... trains...

11/26/17: Mullican: I spend a lot of time at my desk, writing, grading, surfing, creating. I have a double monitor and a high performing mac, several hard drives and fans, a scanner and a printer, optical drives and other peripherals. I am surrounded by technology and gadgets that I suspect chomp more kilowatt hours than I care to admit. But just beyond the field of technology is my bulletin board. It holds reminders of appointments and the usual fare, but it also serves to remind me of my inspirations and motivations. It is an eclectic array but has served me well love the years with little change. Contained within are spirt animals and philosophical anchors, aesthetics infused with relationship, and small trinkets of friendship. There are so many stories and positive forces I continue to celebrate my gratitudes...

11/27/17: The Ghost Train: I live by the tracks. Actually, I live on the other side of the tracks, whatever that means. I drive alongside them when I go to shop for food. When my children were small we would race ahead to a crossing where the train had not yet reached, get out and stand right next to the tracks, and feel the rumble of the Norfolk Southern engines shake our insides; then we would stay and listen to all the cars click and clack past. Occasionally the coming of night brings a fog, and a train passing through just then with it's three bright headlights lit, light up the air in front of the engines, and we declare it "The Ghost Train." [It's a carryover from the Thomas The Tank Engine story days.] On the 27th I was fortunate enough to catch such a ghost train lighting up the crossing bar just before it dropped. I snapped my shot, placed my phone back in my pocket, closed my eyes, and felt the rumble in the depth of my childhood come to life...    

11/28/17: 81,500 pounds of force: I teach for work: I keep toys on hand, and oddities, and little gifts; i'm like so many others who value the personal space of a cubical at work; but I work in a classroom and therefore my cubical is large and filled with visitors and is full of life and strife and purpose. In the corner is my desk where I can often be found during the time I am not dancing about in front of my students. The dashboard buddha can be pulled up and released to do a spastic dance that no dashboard moment could ever manufacture. The firedog cup holder was a gift from the now passed-away secretary who always had my back, especially when I race out of work to go to a fire. Origami, binary teaching flashcards, and a host of cables that link me to my teaching tools add to my beloved clutter. And at the heart of this still life is the cup from the brother who was the engineer who worked on thrust for engines and taught me that propulsion works with a suck, squeeze, bang, and blow...

11/29/17: Holiday Walk: The first Saturday of December marks the day of a holiday walk in my little town, The Village Beautiful. It's a college town with an old congregational church (among many other churches) near the center, and a side street about two blocks long that has shops; barber shop, the liquor store, several restaurants and a few art galleries. But there is also a small movie theater with marquee and a book store and cafe. A coffee shop a few other stores that make the whole scene feel like a moment out of a Norman Rockwell painting. And the light posts that run the length of the street are adorned with greens and stars and little lights, all in preparation for the walk and the holiday season to follow. I love little twinkling lights in the dark afternoons of winter. The icicle lights are my favorite; incandescent and low watt, casting an amber warmth into the chill of winter. And on the day of the walk we arrive on the street to watch a '"reign-dog" parade (with an occasional interloping goat or two), and put raffle tickets in boxes for dozens of prizes at a penny social, and get hot cocoas, and visit with friends promenading up and down the street, and we just breath a little slower and take an afternoon to do nothing in particular than doing the things we have done each year before. College groups sing a-capella in a variety of spots, and the model trains go in loops and loops in the window of the sports shop where there are cookies and crackers...

11/30/17: Joe: Two Christmases ago I bought a motorcycle who I named Joe. It is to be a learning vehicle and has been on the road a few times with issues. So have I. There are so many stories to be told about my journey in repairing Joe, while slowly reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This bike in no way defines me, just as each of the other photos do not either, but each in their own way tell a part of my story. The bike is a metaphor for  me. It is a dream that is in process. It is a 40+ year old piece of beautiful manufacture that needs a little attention to fulfill its purpose. The battery is tended, the rubber is new, the engine just needs a little work to go really fast. Spring will bring new life for sure...