Jules’s Jukebox: Making It Count

Note: For a number of years now I’ve seen the 30 Day Music Challenges that proliferate in meme-heavy platforms. So I decided to tackle one of these challenge lists.

Day Two of the list I chose says to pick a song with a number in the title. So being unable to pick just one song–I’ve selected two just to get my jukebox quarter’s worth.

“Twentyfourseven” by Kasabian from 2017’s For Crying Out Loud

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of experiencing this song live on the front row. I love Kasabian. They have such raw energy and power and fist pumping, mosh pit jumping songs. This song is no exception. Kasabian have spent this year touring festivals, but I long for them to return stateside. I can hardly wait to see them again. Tom and Serge and the guys sure know how to put on a great show–and the driving beats of their songs are perfect for the jumping and swaying festival crowds.

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Tom Meighan, lead singer of Kasabian, belts it out at the Wiltern, Los Angeles. September 2017. (Personal photo by J. Shankle)IMG_6127

Serge Pizzorno takes the mic for a moment during Kasabian’s Wiltern show, September 2017. (Personal Photo by J. Shankle)

“Not Nineteen Forever” by The Courteeners from 2008’s St. Jude

 

This song is The Courteener’s “Wonderwall” in that if anyone knows a song by them, it is this one. I enjoy this song quite often when I’m walking at the beach, along with “Fallowfield Hillbilly.”

The Courteeners are planning a tour this winter in their homeland, the UK. Sometimes I wish I was a Brit.

I can only hope I get to see The Courteeners at some point–but either way, I listen to both of these songs on a regular basis.

 

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Jules’s Jukebox: Dog Days of Summer

Note: For a number of years now I’ve seen the 30 Day Music Challenges that proliferate in meme-heavy platforms. So I decided to tackle one of these challenge lists. Day Three of the list I chose says to pick a song that reminds me of summertime.

For this challenge, I’ve selected a pair of songs that may or may not have been released in summer, but they remind me of summer because of my associations and experiences. I’ve selected two songs that take me back to the summer between my junior and senior year of high school when my bestie and I swam at the local municipal pool every day. We were on a first name basis with all of the lifeguards–a few of whom I am still in contact today. These two songs are not necessarily favorites of mine, but they connect me to a time and place that is special to me at the swimming pool in those carefree summer days!

“If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” by Sting from 1985’s The Dream of the Blue Turtle

“Voices” by Russ Ballard from his 1984 self-titled album Russ Ballard

 

Jules’s Jukebox: Songs Wear Black Well

For a number of years now I’ve seen the 30 Day Music Challenges that proliferate in meme-heavy platforms. So I decided to tackle one of these challenge lists. Day One of the list I chose says to pick a song with a color in the title. Instead of one song, I pick one color and the plethora of songs about this color that have played a role in the soundtrack of my life.

The color: Black.

Black is not even my favorite color. I happen to love blues and greens–hues of forests and seas. But black is symbolic of mystery and power, protection and evil, strength and aggression, authority and rebellion, formality and elegance, fear and grief. Black is multifaceted–just as it is comprised of multiple colors, darkness, the absence of light. So I chose four songs that stand out to me for their use of this versatile color and its symbolic meanings. There are so many songs (though this website tries), but these four black songs stand out to me.

The Songs: “Blackbird” by The Beatles, “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones, “Back in Black” by AC/DC, and  “Black” by Pearl Jam.

“Blackbird” by The Beatles from 1968’s The Beatles (aka The White Album)

“Blackbird” was not a favorite Beatles song of mine while I was growing up. I was more the “Yellow Submarine” or “Golden Slumbers” type in my youth. But when I took my son to his first stadium concert to see Paul McCartney at Dodger Stadium, Macca just blew me away with his performance of this song. It was a truly magical moment that forced me to take a second look at a song that I often overlooked.

Over the years, McCartney has put forward a couple of stories about how he was inspired to write the song, but one recurring story he’s told is that the song was born out of the racial tensions flaring in the United States at the time with the blackbird in the song title  being a black girl (bird is UK slang for girl so blackbird would be black girl). Ultimately, it is a song about finding the light of hope out of the darkness. It reminds me of Alinsky’s quote that the night is always darkest right before the dawn. I may be broken, with sunken eyes and broken wings and still find the light and the ability to rise. What an amazing song (and one that isn’t easy to play either, supposedly based on a piece by Bach–McCartney himself claimed at that Dodger Stadium show that many play the song incorrectly when they attempt it)!

“Blackbird” by The Beatles (Written by Lennon/McCartney)
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
“Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones from 1966’s Aftermath

“Paint It Black” was a classic rock radio favorite when I was growing up, but this song about the depression and grief that paints the world black in the immediate aftermath of an unexpected death of a loved one became indelibly connected to the Vietnam War for me when the song was featured in the credits of Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 anti-war masterpiece Full Metal Jacket. The song has since been used in connection with other Vietnam themed video games, TV Shows, and films. The song is also groundbreaking in that it was the first number one song featuring a sitar–following a cue from The Beatles and exploring Eastern sounds. I have long loved this song as it acknowledges the basic human process of grieving and how debilitating it can be–that we all want everything to be black when our world’s light is darkened. But lyrics aside, the driving beat of the song is hypnotic and relentlessly pushes forward like the overwhelming black feelings of grief.

“Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones (Written by Jagger/Richards)

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors anymore, I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

I see a line of cars and they’re all painted black
With flowers and my love, both never to come back
I see people turn their heads and quickly look away
Like a newborn baby it just happens ev’ryday

I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door and I must have it painted black
Maybe then I’ll fade away and not have to face the facts
It’s not easy facing up when your whole world is black

No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue
I could not foresee this thing happening to you
If I look hard enough into the setting sun
My love will laugh with me before the morning comes

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors anymore I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

I want to see your face painted black, black as night, black as coal
Don’t want to see the sun, flying high in the sky
I want to see it painted, painted, painted, painted black, yea

“Back in Black” by AC/DC from the 1980 album Back in Black

This classic album and its titular song proved to be a vehicle providing a seamless transition for the band after losing singer Bon Scott in February of 1980 only to have Brian Johnson step in and own the helm by recording with the band and releasing this album within four months of Scott’s death. The black cover of the album was an homage to the fallen singer. This song’s hard rocking, fist pumping edge was more than a radio favorite. The song speaks of coming back from the beyond (a nod to Scott?), surviving against the odds, relishing every second as if it is your last. What makes this song so enduring is its message of overcoming losing in life by pushing forward at full speed–running wild with the rock n’ roll lifestyle. And hearing it live during Johnson’s last tour with the band was amazing. I’m so glad that I’ve been able to expose my son to these classic rockers. And even more lucky for me, my son loves going to see these “vintage” bands with me. Because who can resist a 60-year-old in a schoolboy uniform rolling around on stage while blistering the strings of his guitar. Pure poetry!

Back in black
I hit the sack
I’ve been too long I’m glad to be back
Yes, I’m let loose
From the noose
That’s kept me hanging about
I’ve been looking at the sky
‘Cause it’s gettin’ me high
Forget the hearse ’cause I never die
I got nine lives
Cat’s eyes
Abusin’ every one of them and running wild
‘Cause I’m back
Yes, I’m back
Well, I’m back
Yes, I’m back
Well, I’m back, back
Well, I’m back in black
Yes, I’m back in black
Back in the back
Of a Cadillac
Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack
Yes, I’m in a bang
With a gang
They’ve got to catch me if they want me to hang
‘Cause I’m back on the track
And I’m beatin’ the flack
Nobody’s gonna get me on another rap
So look at me now
I’m just makin’ my play
Don’t try to push your luck, just get out of my way
‘Cause I’m back
Yes, I’m back
Well, I’m back
Yes, I’m back
Well, I’m back, back
Well, I’m back in black
Yes, I’m back in black
Well, I’m back, yes I’m back
Well, I’m back, yes I’m back
Well, I’m back, back
Well I’m back in black
Yes I’m back in black
Ho yeah
Oh yeah
Yes I am
Oh yeah, yeah oh yeah
Back in now
Well I’m back, I’m back
Back, (I’m back)
Back, (I’m back)
Back, (I’m back)
Back, (I’m back)
Back
Back in black
Yes I’m back in black
Out of the sight
“Black” by Pearl Jam from the 1991 album Ten
When it comes to defining the early 90’s, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden dominated the grunge scene. I was never a huge fan of grunge, but I did have a handful of songs from some of the bands that I liked. Pearl Jam was the one grunge band that I did like though. These bands were some of the last bands that had distinct styles. When a Pearl Jam song came on the radio, it was easily identifiable as Pearl Jam even if I had never heard the song. Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell, Kurt Cobain, Layne Stayley, Scott Weiland–they all had singular voices and styles. Of this group, Vedder is the last man standing. I love Vedder’s solo efforts as much as his PJ work.  “Black” has been in heavy rotation on my beach walk playlist for a number of years now. This song about grieving the loss of a relationship–about how losing this lover has zapped all the color from the canvas, has stolen all the shape from the pottery, has shattered all the light in his world. It is a song that reminds me of my generation, Generation X, and our sense of feeling lost in this world, like we have never fit in. This song is haunting and beautiful and dark and lost in a searing grief all at the same time.
“Black” by Pearl Jam (Written by Gossard/Vedder)
Hey, oh
Sheets of empty canvas
Untouched sheets of clay
Were laid spread out before me
As her body once did
All five horizons
Revolved around her soul
As the earth to the sun
Now the air I tasted and breathed
Has taken a turn
Oh and all I taught her was everything
Oh I know she gave me all that she wore
And now my bitter hands
Chafe beneath the clouds
Of what was everything
Oh the pictures have
All been washed in black
Tattooed everything
I take a walk outside
I’m surrounded by
Some kids at play
I can feel their laughter
So why do I sear
Oh, and twisted thoughts that spin
Round my head
I’m spinning
Oh, I’m spinning
How quick the sun can, drop away
And now my bitter hands
Cradle broken glass
Of what was everything
All the pictures had
All been washed in black
Tattooed everything
All the love gone bad
Turned my world to black
Tattooed all I see
All that I am
All I’ll be
Yeah
I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life
I know you’ll be a star
In somebody else’s sky
But why
Why
Why can’t it be
Why can’t it be mine

Beyond 180: In a World of True Lies, How Do We Combat Falsity in a Post Truth Society? I’m Still Looking for BEST Answers in a World of No Right Answers.

A colleague of mine posted an article from The Atlantic this morning that caught my eye. As a journalism teacher throughout my career, I’m always on the lookout for articles that I can use with my students to help them examine the role of a free press in the United States–what is the job of a journalist? what is fake news? what is satire? how do we determine the credibility of information? so on and so on…

The article, “The Lasting Trauma of Alex Jones’s Lies” by Megan Garber, delved into an issue that I find disheartening, but very necessary in our public discourse: why does opinion trump facts? how does propaganda rule over information? how do we reconcile choosing fiction over fact because we don’t like the fact? I found this article compelling enough that I plan to introduce it to my English students as well as my journalism students. I’ve often used the premise of the “it depends” argument to bring in conversations about whose truth is “the” truth. When students start to say that “it depends” on circumstances, “it” usually is a pronoun for the truth or the right way. Yet the very way in which we determine collective truth in our society is not just under attack, it is falling back. And being aware of the danger we are in as a society that cannot agree on even our shared history–like Jones’s repeated untruths about the Sandy Hook school shooting as being a hoax carried out by crisis actors–is a frightening, frustrating, and even fruitless feeling. How do we change the mind of people who so firmly grasp onto an untruth? Can we even change the mind of people who believe that the 20 little kids and six of their teachers didn’t die that day, but are instead actors plotting to take away their guns and 2nd Amendment rights?

I’m going to be upfront here. I intensely dislike Alex Jones and his type of conspiracy theory, deep state hawking, snake oil vitriol. I do point him out from time to time with my students when we study rhetoric, argument, and propaganda because he’s a part of our world that students must be prepared to face–should we listen to those who have differing opinions and why? My students typically do not give him any credibility and think he’s a kook (at least I know that my students have savvy intuition). I do worry though when someone like Jones can amass so many willing followers with such obvious untruths. I find it sad and problematic that there are so many people in our society who feel angry, afraid, disenfranchised by our government, distrustful of education, and filled with hate toward anyone who thinks differently than they do. Actually, I do more than worry and feel sad. I grow frustrated and disheartened that the America in which I grew up has become this powder keg of ugliness and a place where every person can have their own version of the truth. When I internally cheer at someone being banned from Facebook and Apple (as Jones has been), I take pause and reflect–am I being unnecessarily vitriolic? am I being less than empathetic to these followers who obviously feel their worldview is just as threatened as mine (remember: empathy does not equal endorsement)? or am I somehow consenting or accepting their worldview if I remain silent? What can I do to combat this information war that is being waged before us?

One thing is for certain. There is no right answer for how to move forward. As a society, we need to learn how to choose a best answer or answers–because often there is no one right answer. And to those who continue to narrow their worldview and are afraid of having their view challenged, having best answers is a scary thing. There is no one right way. There never has been and there never will be. As a society, we must embrace the fact that there are many potential best ways to move forward and regain a collective sense of self and purpose. Modern philosopher Mokokoma Mokhonoana said, “We seldom learn much from someone with whom we agree.” It’s time we open our minds to the uncomfortable sensation of listening to someone with whom we disagree. As Bill Maher said in his August 3rd show: “every day is opposite day now” and many people in our society have bought into the “perfect unsense”. And why? Because it is easier to believe the nonsense than to listen to something that challenges us to stretch and maybe even change the way we think. I have had to spend a lot of time this past school year learning to accept being challenged through vitriolic personal attacks by people I liked and trusted. I had to figure out how to do better and be better despite the misguided methods employed by my colleagues. I may not like how they brought their views forward, but through listening, I was able to discern their message, determine if I was in agreement, and face the challenges through a more informed lens. It’s not easy. It’s not fun. But it was necessary–and still is.

So when school starts back up this fall, I will again pose the questions to students about truth. What is it? How do we know it’s credible? How do we work with people with whom we disagree? How do we choose the best answer when no right answer exists? This is the most current of events, a real-world problem that we see every day. Our youth need to be critical thinkers to help us move our culture away from the division that threatens us all.

“Out of My Body” by Richard Ashcroft from 2016’s These People

“…And tell everybody, write it up in the sky
Telling you know the reasons why
And tell everybody, write it up in the sky
Telling you know it’s one big lie

Out of the darkness, you saved me
I was alone, you came down to claim me
We went walking together
You whispered mysteries that have been here forever

Oh Lord I want to know now
Why this pain it just seems to grow, yeah
Out of the darkness, you saved me
I was lonely, you came down to claim me

Out of my body
Out of my mind
Free of control
The way I like it…”

Jules’s Jukebox: Beyond 180–The Dawn Is Coming

After finishing up my 180 Days project, I’ve been contemplating my next projects. I plan to start my Jules’s Jukebox back up for certain. But I’ve been debating how or if to write about my summer or find another project to explore. For the interim–it’ll be the Jukebox and probably my upcoming road trip. Until then…here’s the first Jukebox in a while.

Jules’s Jukebox: ARTY, featuring April Bender “Sunrise”

“…Hello can turn into goodbye
But you know we’re still on the same side
Our hearts will fade into black skies
Then we’ll come back to life in the sunrise…”

I still contend that music in a universal language that transcends our distances and differences. We can all hear music and feel the emotion it holds–connecting it to our life events, memories, as part of the soundtracks of our lives. So many songs throughout my life capture a certain time and place.

This song captures a frame of mind that I’ve worked really hard to embrace despite feeling quite the opposite many times. This past year and a half I have often felt the night cannot grow any darker without tumbling headlong into an abyss–the political climate is so ugly; the struggles at work with the stalemate at the negotiations table; the tribalism and ugliness I’ve seen in people I once considered at least friendly if not friends. But I know that we are not in the abyss yet. I keep having hope that there are silver linings to these dark clouds. And this song sort of captures that silver lining for me.

“We must believe that it is the darkest before the dawn of a beautiful new world. We will see it when we believe it.” ~Saul Alinsky

 

180 Days: Day 180–It’s Day 180! The End! Fini! Terminado!

My sophomores and I conducted our final Socratic Style Seminar of the year today, on our last day together. And this seminar felt different than the rest. Not just because it’s the last day, but because every single student participated and everyone seemed to finally gel and feel at ease with each other. The pressure was off. And the year was over in the blink of an eye. We could’ve held hands and sung “Kumbaya” at this point, but I spared them that assault on our ears. Instead, we took turns talking our successes and failures for the year–and set some goals for next year. We ended on a good note. I’ve got a feeling that tonight is indeed going to be a very good night to start a very good summer.

“I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas from 2009’s The E.N.D.

 

180 Days: Day 179–Graduation Day

Today our district held all high school graduations one after the other (we have four comprehensive high schools and one alternative high school) off campus–which is not the usual. Because each high school’s football field and track are being refurbished so they will be ready in the fall, we are taking turns at the local community college stadium.

Our school was third of the four in the day’s line-up. After we met at school, lined up, loaded the seniors onto busses in order, we were on our way. My job for the afternoon: assist the superintendent in handing diploma covers to students. So for what felt like forever, the super and I smiled, shook hands, handed out diploma covers, took pictures, and had a little side conversation about our own graduations from many years ago in different states.

One of my AP Students sang a beautiful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner”. Then the choir sang “For Good” from the Broadway Musical Wicked. They saved their best performances of the year for the end–a very fitting way to go out on top. They were spectacular!

As the ceremony wore on, the ecstatic seniors came to the stark realization that this was the last time they would ever be all together in one place at one time. It happened often at assemblies during their high school days, but now, they are no longer high school students. They are graduates.

Congratulations, Class of 2018!

“Graduation Day” by Chris Isaak from 1995’s Forever Blue

“Driving slowly watching the headlights in the rain.
Funny how things change.
Think of the good times wishing you were still with me.
The way it used to be graduation day…”

“For Good” by Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel from Wicked

 

180 Days: Day 178–No Seniors and Summer-itis

Today, I had only sophomores in class as the seniors were at graduation practice. I did walk over to help with grad practice during my usual senior period, but today was about helping sophomores adjust to how quiet the halls felt without the seniors there and preparing for their final class period with me over the course of the next two days. But while my sophomores did ask a few questions and work some, it was clear that summer-itis has set in despite the quiet and reflective mood on campus.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that the Board of Education had not accepted our bargaining proposals from last night’s board meeting, our union office has heard no official word as of yet. It seems like we do not even matter enough to warrant a response. All this lack of a response does is bolster my opinion that it is not a response that we will find favorable and that the district is digging in for a blow that will be about as ugly as ugly gets. My fingers are crossed that something good will come from all of this, but I’m not optimistic.

“Time after Time” by Cyndi Lauper

“If you’re lost you can look–and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you–I’ll be waiting
Time after time…”

180 Days: Day 177–Togetherness in the Coming Storm

Tonight was not fun. Tonight was not fun. Tonight was not fun.

This evening was the final regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting for the year. As has been the case for half a year now, our union members showed up in force and spoke during the open comments section of the meeting.

Union leaders walked in hoping to hear something positive come out of our flurry of negotiations from last week, hoping to put to bed two years of stalled negotiations and distrust. Instead, we found an emboldened school board that was dug in against us and ignoring our voices yet again.

As our membership showed up for our final week “grade in”, where many teachers filled overflow rooms grading their last week’s worth of student work, the board of education attempted to bargain from the dais to the boos from the overflow rooms. One board member thought he was doing us a favor to ensure we got district money to spend on supplies that should be provided by the district anyway. But his actions from the dais told me all I needed to know about what happened in closed session–the board was not going to negotiate with us and had instead chosen the path of imposition. When we were so close to finding a mutual resolution, they instead chose the power play to walk away and thumb their noses at us.

The board of education yet again chose to tell teachers that they didn’t matter, to just shut up and do what we are told, to throw away our years of experience and training and just read the script…and we continue to hold strong to our core values–that face time with our students matters, that if our employers want us to do more and more, then they should include raises out of the COLA they get from the state every year, that scripted, one size fits all methods do not meet the needs of our children–and that teachers are left to fight for child-centered instructional goals instead of this overwhelming program-centered approach that leaves everyone behind. This is not a case of teachers being resistant to change. This is a case of teachers being resistant to what is bad for kids, bad for our classrooms, bad for our profession. Thankfully, we still have a spark, as the board ensured tonight that the need to fight will continue.

“Firework” by Katy Perry from 2010’s Teenage Dreams

“Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting thought the wind
Wanting to start again
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards
One blow from caving in
Do you ever feel already buried deep
Six feet under scream
But no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there’s still a chance for you
‘Cause there’s a spark in you…”

180 Days: Day 176–Senior Day

Today was Senior Day. Senior Day consists of four hours of activities for the graduating senior class, including senior breakfast, senior slideshow, baccalaureate practice, handing out and signing yearbooks, and handing out caps & gowns and graduation tickets. It is a morning of fun, memories, and the beginning of the class of 2018’s legacy. Their time at our high school is now history.

While they officially have three days remaining as high schoolers, their coursework is complete and all that stands between them and the rest of their lives are three days of activities and final paperwork signing them out of high school. Today is the day that this all begins to feel real–that they are crossing a threshold, fulfilling a rite of passage.

Onward, Class of 2018!

“History” by One Direction

“You and me got a whole lot of history
We could be the greatest thing that the world has ever seen
You and me got a whole lot of history
So don’t let it go, we can make some more, we can live forever…”