180 Days: Day 155–Laughing for Money

This evening I attended a fundraiser. Yes, fundraising is a staple of life in a teacher’s world. But this fundraiser was special to me for a variety of reasons. First, it’s organized by a group of my former students that I love dearly. Second, it’s organized for our school’s Army JROTC students–and my son being a former JROTC student makes it near and dear to my heart. Third, it’s for scholarships for students who might not otherwise be looked at to receive scholarship money to help them in continuing their education. So this fundraiser is firing on all cylinders for me.


My son, the Marine Corps JROTC cadet (this picture was from his sophomore year–he eventually earned top rank for his battalion as its commander).

The icing on the cake though? We had a night of laughs at The Comedy Club.

Groups of my colleagues were scattered throughout the room to see the evening’s host, Feraz Ozel, along with Michael Rayner, Paul Reiser, and Lachlan Patterson. And this evening of laughter to the point of crying was sorely needed. One of my best friends and her S/O attended with me. And since we both work so hard as teachers (she and her boyfriend both teach elementary) as well as working hard as union advocates for our teachers and our profession, we were all about letting our hair down for the evening for such a great cause. It’s a win/win situation.

I have always considered myself lucky to live within easy distance of Hermosa Beach’s Comedy and Magic Club. And I often chastise myself for not going often enough to enjoy such top-notch live entertainment.  This was my first visit in nearly four years. Even I have to admit that four years is four years too many. I have always walked away from CMC with a smile imprinted on my face. And I mean “walked” literally. I live within walking distance of this fabulous place. But tonight, I used my son as my own personal Uber driver. He dropped me literally at the front door.

I’m familiar with Paul Reiser, as I’ve even seen him at CMC before. He is a class act. I loved the introduction to Ozel, Rayner, and Patterson though. The entire evening was filled with laughter, friends, and fun. And it was all for a good cause.

Feraz Ozel (2018)

Michael Rayner, juggler, (from 2009)

Paul Reiser at The Comedy Club (2014)

Lachlan Patterson standup (2017)

“King of Comedy” by REM


180 Days: Day 117–Happy Haka Day

My school’s annual Multi-Cultural Assembly was today. It’s typically the biggest day of the year for our students.  Over 26 languages are spoken at my school, so today is a celebration that highlights so many of the cultures represented at my school. Students dress in their cultural garments and perform traditional dances and music. Whether it’s a Chinese fan dance or a Tahitian hula, my school’s kids have got it going on in this annual celebration of our school’s diversity. They entertain as well as touch the soul.

Two of the most anticipated performances include the Haka and the Filipino stick dance  (as seen on the school paper’s Instagram page).

The best thing about this day isn’t the fun dances and songs though. It’s the sense of school pride. It’s the affirmation of who these kids are at their core. It’s the camaraderie developed by students from differing cultures joining in other groups’ performances.

I have one student who is new to the school this year. He is hard to impress, but even he admitted that he’d never been to a school that actually celebrated their differences and diversity so openly. His prior school was also richly multicultural, but he said that they did not have a similar commemoration. I like to think that this assembly, which ends a weeklong series of events every March, is one of a kind, though I somehow doubt it. But that makes it no less special in what it accomplishes–a week of fun, togetherness, and fellowship.

“Haka War Chant” composed by Kai Hartwig


180 Days: Day 98–Blind Man that Sees

Today we focused on dissecting Act I, scene ii of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. And my kids had an “a-ha” moment when Cassius uttered: “…The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings…” Julius Caesar (I.ii.140-141) So we examined the meaning of John Green’s source material for the title of his most famous book, The Fault in Our Stars, after reading Cassius’s famous monologue where he attempts to convince Marcus Brutus to join his conspiracy in  Julius Caesar. When they asked the obvious question: Did John Green read Julius Caesar? I responded: What do you think? What does the evidence tell you? My students suddenly had a connection with how modern writers reference Shakespeare’s work and how most writers employ archetypal characters/plot constructs/symbols of some sort in their writings.

fault in stars

So as we entered a conversation about archetypes, I shared a chapter of Thomas C. Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor with my students–the chapter titled “He’s Blind for a Reason, You Know.” This chapter became the basis of our conversation about the Soothsayer’s warning to Caesar to beware the Ides of March early in the scene.

While the text does not explicitly say that the Soothsayer is blind, the version of the film that we are using in class–the 1953 Marlon Brando/James Mason version–portrays him as blind (the Heston/Robards 1970 version does not). So we spent time talking about why the director may have chosen this portrayal. Using Foster’s chapter as a guide, my students saw that the story could be interpreted in different ways prompting a richer dialogue and scene dissection. All it takes is a little connection to the students’ background and world coupled with a basic formula for understanding the basics of storytelling (aka archetypes), and reading Shakespeare doesn’t seem so foreign after all.

1953 Version: “Beware the Ides of March”

1970 Version: “Beware the Ides of March”

“Ides of March” by Iron Maiden


180 Days: Day 78–Failure, the Greatest Teacher?

I have 14 sophomores with Ds and Fs. That’s 14 too many in my book. So I spent time yesterday and today working with each of these 14 individuals to develop a prioritized plan to save their semester in the next 8 school days. I predict maybe half will succeed in flipping their grade at the last second–a habit that far too many of these students expect to do semester after semester, year after year.

Their having ingrained the ethos of my generation’s grungy, angsty, distorted apathy will not save them from my pushing them to do better and always give their best, even if their best isn’t enough. Choosing failure is not an option. Failing at something and learning from that failure may be, but not even trying is the option I’m taking off the table.

I can only hope that these 14 individuals take the opportunity I’m handing them and make the most of it. And I hope they learn the lesson from my Gen X world that maybe we shouldn’t be okay with being losers.

As Yoda would say, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” But typically failure implies Yoda’s earlier teaching has taken hold: “Do or do not. There is no try.” Don’t sit and do nothing in my class and say you tried. If you choose to do not, just know it’s not because I didn’t confront you with your choice and provide you the choice to engage with the greatest teacher of all–failure while taking action, while finding the way that didn’t work. Or better yet, not failing at all and learning the lessons of success.

As Rosie Knight writes for Nerdist: “…it’s the master’s burden to watch their student grow beyond them, and to teach failure as well as victory.”

I can only hope that my students will work for victory, but learn from their failure. And that I will be lucky enough to see them grow beyond me.

“Loser” by Beck


180 Days: Day 66–The Last Friday of 2017

*Author’s Note: This evening, on the last day of 2017, I am posting the last 6 school days before winter break. Most of the writing has been previously completed, but the finishing touches (i.e. songs, links, etc.) had to wait until all of the holiday hustle and bustle died down. So without further ado…

Day 66. Order 66. Not the same thing, but for my Star Wars fan students it may as well be. The new Star Wars: Episode VIII opens tonight. So I donned my Yoda holiday shirt (okay, it’s my son’s shirt that I borrow) proclaiming, “An elf I am not!” All in honor of the trek back to that galaxy far, far away.

elf i am not

Regardless of intergalactic stories, my students are embroiled in the heart of the darkness of the novel that is William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Today they read chapter 9–the chapter where Simon, the resident Christ figure, meets his fate at the hands of boys who literally kill the messenger. I was pleasantly surprised that most students had completed their reading from the previous night–as they all came in lamenting Simon’s passing. So we started class with a few minutes of outpouring their grief for the poor kid, before dissecting the chapter. We discussed Ralph and Piggy’s despair at losing all members of their tribe. We discussed how Simon must appear with his blood-crusted nose and chin weakly dragging his seizure-wearied body all the way to the mountaintop to confront the beast. We discussed how the pilot must have looked and smelled after a day or two atop a hot tropical island mountain, yet how Simon faced what he feared and found the truth. We discussed how messengers with the truth are often ignored or deemed crazy–introducing the concept of archetypal characters. We discussed how he must have looked crawling out of the forest in the dark as the storm broke loose and the tribal dancing had worked the boys into a frenzy. Lastly, we looked at pictures of phytoplankton and other glowing sea creatures so that students could understand Simon’s halo. We broke it down, step by step, how boys had escalated from accidentally killing (the boy with the mulberry birthmark perishing in the initial fire on the island), to purposely torturing (the sow and each other when re-enacting the hunts), to outright murder (Simon, the messenger of truth). We discussed whether it is in man’s nature to act in this escalating violent manner and that laws merely kept us in line when we truly feared our leaders or whether some of mankind learns this evil behavior and needs a social contract to keep them civilized.



I was pleasantly surprised by how many students still say that man is born essentially good despite Golding’s jaded view of mankind in this novel. We will see how they feel on Monday after they complete the novel this weekend. And we will see if the students who do go see Star Wars can apply this worldview to that other galaxy’s worldview. Transferring knowledge and using it outside the classroom is a true mark of success.

Simon’s death scene from the 1963 adaptation of Lord of the Flies


Jules’s Jukebox: I’m Getting Re-Wired–It’s a Kasabian Kind of Night

Kasabian, the hard-punching guitar band from Leicester, England, is priming to release their 6th album, For Crying Out Loud, on April 28th. They tantalized me when they released the first single, “You’re in Love with a Psycho,” and played new music live in Australia last week. Guitarist Sergio Pizzorno has hailed this album as being about saving rock music and making a guitar record that is relevant (he is joined in the band by vocalist Tom Meighan, bassist Chris Edwards, and drummer Ian Matthews). I enjoy the band because of their ability to create a consistent sound that is distinctly theirs. I can hear a song and know it’s Kasabian. This ability to create an unmistakeable sound is what sets great bands apart from mediocre, dime-a-dozen bands. That’s what set bands like Oasis and The Verve apart from other bands formed in this same era (Kasabian formed in 1997, Oasis in 1991, and The Verve in 1990)–they weren’t grunge or indie knock-offs.

So tonight’s jukebox selections highlight how I discovered and fell for Kasabian’s easily distinguishable sound.

“Julie and the Moth Man” by Kasabian, the B-side to “Underdog.”

The 2011 Jason Statham/Paddy Considine movie, Blitz, introduced Kasabian to me with the hard, reverb-y, industrial guitar riff pounding over the end credits (yes, I know, I came to the Kasabian party a little late, but better late than never with this band). The song’s violent and seedy lyrics served the mood of this British serial killer/police procedural well. But suffice it to say, I like the music far better than the lyrics of this song–I guess the facts that my name is Julie and I don’t like the idea of f’n in alleys or getting hit by frying pans contribute to my dislike of the lyrics. One can argue, and I struggle with liking this song for this reason, that the lyrics glorify physical and sexual violence against women. That may or may not be Pizzorno’s intention. Lucky for him, I still like the song despite despising the lyrics…

“Re-Wired” by Kasabian, from the 2011 album Velociraptor!

“Re-Wired” is probably my favorite song by Kasabian because of its groovy, funky almost disco sound for the verses juxtaposed with the hard-rocking chorus. While the song most certainly alludes to drug use–again, I ignore the lyrics for the music’s aesthetics, the video is a fun ride through a high-speed car chase with the band that pays homage to many classic films, including Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

“You’re in Love with a Psycho” by Kasabian, from their upcoming album For Crying Out Loud.

The band released this song last week. This fun first single reads almost like Jabberwocky-style jibberish, but makes more sense as the song progresses with random references to Axel Foley (we’re not gonna fall for the banana in the tailpipe) and Charles Bukowski (“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead”). But the music is more “Re-Wired” than “Julie and the Moth Man.” It sounds almost like a mashup of Panic! At The Disco and Fall Out Boys stylistically.

Bonus Song: “Put Your Life On It” by Kasabian, from their upcoming album For Crying Out Loud.

This song was premiered live last summer by the band and is the closest thing to a power ballad I’ve heard from the band. I love that this song departs from their traditional sound and stretches into new territory for them.

Jules’s Jukebox: Musing about Muse & Politics in the Age of Resistance

When the Lollapalooza line-up was released today, I nearly fell out of my seat at the opening day’s line-up: MUSE, Liam Gallagher (Fuck Yeah!), Tritonal… so many I’d love, love, love to see. But tickets sold out before I could act–and I understand why. What a great way to spend a Thursday–and then catch a game at Wrigley on Friday. Talk about a perfect slide into the weekend.

Seeing the line-up took me back about a decade to when I really fell in love with MUSE. So tonight’s twofer (plus an extra for fun) features a couple of classics from Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme, and Dominic Howard.

“Citizen Erased” by MUSE, from the 2001 album Origin of Symmetry.

The first song I heard from this album was Paul Oakenfold’s remix of “New Born” from the soundtrack to the 2001 Hugh Jackman/John Travolta movie Swordfish. The remix prompted me to seek the original version, which led me to this hard-rocking reverb fest.  Finding this album sparked my interest in the trio from Devonshire, England. The song’s lyrics show Bellamy’s struggle with being constantly questioned by those around him. His allusion to Orwell’s 1984, particularly in the title and the lines “Wash me away/ Clean your body of me/ Erase all the memories/ They will only bring us pain,” remind us all that citizens can be erased and that lies can rule supreme, that innocence can be lost to experience only to be erased back to innocence. (Here is a great blog explaining this song much better than I.) The dichotomy and the dissonance in this song are compelling to listen to.

“Map of the Problematique” by MUSE, from the 2006 album Black Holes and Revelations.

This song continues to display the band’s ability to write layered lyrics that can be seen through a variety of critical lenses. While one person may read the lyrics to this song as being about a man’s inability to move on from a failed relationship, another reads a far more political message (which the band is known for) about war and world chaos that causes us to lose ourselves–like The Lost Generation of WW1. In the verse “Life will flash before my eyes/ So scattered almost/ I want to touch the other side/ And no one thinks they are to blame/ Why can’t we see/ That when we bleed we bleed the same” I can read both of the above interpretations. But my surface reading is this: We wreak havoc on each other, accept no responsibility or blame for our abuses of each other. We want to see the other side’s perspective. We want to reach out to the other. But we have so enabled ourselves that we can only see how right we are rather than find our common ground–that we bleed the same regardless of right and wrong.

“Uprising” by MUSE, from the 2009 album The Resistance.

This song has particular meaning for me right now in light of current world politics–the move toward nationalism, isolationism, authoritarianism. Bellamy has long been a critic of collectivism, but it’s interesting that this progressive liberal finds common ground with his more libertarian views–we both want to be free of mind control and manipulation in an information age rife with propaganda and fake news, kleptocratic rulers, and over-reaching, profiteering, capitalist elitists; we both want the world to be free from tyranny. And if any song is an anti-tyranny song, it is this song. This song is an anthem for resisters. The chorus reflects how when we stand together and rise up, we will win against the tyrants. “They will not force us/ They will stop degrading us/ They will not control us/We will be victorious.”

Ok. I’m throwing a Liam Gallagher song in for fun. Just because I love Liam Gallagher and am anxiously awaiting his new album…

“Rockin’ Chair” by Oasis, the B-side of “Roll with It” (“Roll with It” is from the 1995 album What’s the Story, Morning Glory?, but “Rockin’ Chair” did not make the cut for the album); featured on the 1998 album The Masterplan, a compilation of B-sides not featured on albums. “It’s hard enough sitting there/ Rockin’ in your rockin’ chair/ It’s all too much for me to take/ When you’re not there…” I just love LG’s voice. Here’s to hoping he’ll add more U.S. dates besides Lollapalooza in the near future.

Jules’s Jukebox: It’s a Beady Eye Night

I’ve been in a Beady Eye mood for days now–probably because I’m anxiously awaiting Liam Gallagher’s first solo album to be released followed up by his brother Noel’s third solo project. While Oasis and NG’s High Flying Birds frequent my playlist, I’ve really been hankering for Beady Eye’s eclectic sound. Beady Eye’s mix of psychedelia, adventurous edginess, and Jerry Lee Lewis-like piano riffs hit the spot whether I’m on a walk at the beach or curling up on the sofa with the fur-baby.  So tonight’s jukebox features a mixture of songs from the two Beady Eye projects: Different Gear, Still Speeding and Be.

“Shine a Light” from the album Be.

This gem of a song (okay, pun intended, as Beady Eye songs are written by Gallagher, Gem Archer, and Andy Bell) features a barely suitable for work video full of bare ladies and a cross-clad priestlike Liam Gallagher (a rather ironic image)  juxtaposing saintliness and sin while making a hedonistic statement of how thin the line is between pleasure and transgression. The percussion drives this song, which has been compared to U2’s “Desire” in sound and theme. “Shine a Light” and “Desire” do offer some interesting comparisons. Consider the following verses:

from “Shine a Light”

“…Rising fast on my feet, let me breathe, let me speak
I’m at home, I’m alive, both in veins above the size,
Crystalline in the dark, all you see is the spark
All you feel, you don’t speak, me and you born to see…”


from “Desire”

“…She’s the candle burnin’ in my room
Yeah, I’m like the needle
The needle and spoon

“Four Letter Word” from the album Different Gear, Still Speeding.

This song’s hard horns and psychedelic tone contrasts sharply with the guitar rock Oasis mainstay “Live Forever” in sound and word with the refrain “…nothing ever lasts forever.”

“Flick of the Finger” from the album Be.

Beady Eye reworked an abandoned 2004 Oasis song by adding new lyrics and ominous horns. The song opened the album showcasing the group’s willingness to take chances and wax experimental.

The political spoken word piece ending the song is performed by Kayvan Novak, who reads from a piece by Tariq Ali (who was quoting from the 1963 play Marat/Sade):

Spoken word part: “Don’t be deceived when our revolution has been finally stamped out and they pat you paternally on the shoulder and say that there’s no inequality worth speaking of and no more reason for fighting, because if you believe them, they will be completely in charge in their marble homes and granite banks from which they rob the people of the world under the pretense of bringing them culture…
Watch out, for as soon as it pleases them, they’ll send you out to protect their gold in wars, who’s weapons rapidly developed by servile scientists will become more and more deadly, until they can, with the flick of the finger, tear a million of you into pieces.”

“Wigwam” from the album Different Gear, Still Speeding.

This song reminds me of the more Beatle-esque qualities from the group’s Oasis days. The “…I’m coming up…” refrain at the end hearkens back to the “na na na” of “Hey, Jude.” Considering that this song is one of the safer sounding songs on the duo of Beady Eye albums, it highlights just how exploratory and innovative the band was. Because of the risks taken by Gallagher, Bell, Archer, and Sharrock on their Beady Eye outings, I’m hopeful that Liam Gallagher’s new solo project will show he is continuing to explore and show a novel and fresh innovative streak as well. While I can always count on Noel to provide some safe (and brilliant) radio-friendly tracks, I’m hoping I can continue to count on Liam to stretch and push the envelope.

Jules’s Jukebox: Lady Gaga’s Subtle Protest Rocked Super Bowl LI

Tonight’s jukebox is dedicated to Mama Monster!

Lady Gaga took to heart the fact that she was performing for all of America in her halftime show for Super Bowl LI, but her message of support for immigrants and the LGBTQ community still rang loud and clear.

Her opening with “God Bless America” segueing into Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” spoke to all of us in organized labor, but it also spoke volumes to those who have spent the past week resisting the Muslim Ban. Guthrie’s lyrics highlight that our land and freedom to roam it belongs to all of us–even immigrants and those enslaved by poverty and hunger, not just those who are wealthy or have plenty.

“This Land Is Your Land”
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

Coupling the few lines from Guthrie with her own song, “Born This Way,” added a little gravitas to her set of dance favorites. Singing “Born This Way” in front of VP Mike Pence, a pro-conversion therapy politician, paid direct homage to the LGBTQ community along with the immigrant communities of our nation. (Here’s the official video:)

“Born This Way”
It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
’cause you were born this way, baby

My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars
She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir

“There’s nothing wrong with loving who you are”
She said, “‘Cause he made you perfect, babe”
“So hold your head up girl and you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say”

I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Oh there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
Baby I was born this way
Oh there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Don’t be a drag ‒ just be a queen [x3]
Don’t be!

Give yourself prudence
And love your friends
Subway kid, rejoice your truth
In the religion of the insecure
I must be myself, respect my youth

A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital H-I-M (Hey hey hey)
I love my life I love this record and
Mi amore vole fe yah (Love needs faith)

[Repeat chorus + post-chorus]

Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re Lebanese, you’re orient
Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
’cause baby you were born this way

No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to survive.
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to be brave.

[Repeat chorus + post-chorus]

I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!

[Fade away:]
Same DNA, but born this way.
Same DNA, but born this way.

Lady Gaga managed to stage a mainstream, prime-time show for a wide audience while embedding a subtle, but clear message of acceptance in the face politicians who would work to strip rights from Americans. Her entertaining performance will long be remembered for its nonpolitical skin with a political heart.

Here’s her entire Super Bowl LI performance:

Jules’s Jukebox: Richard Ashcroft

This evening I splurged on a weeknight out for myself come April by purchasing a ticket to go see Richard Ashcroft in concert. I rarely venture from the Beach Cities to go to LA/Hollywood proper on a weeknight because traffic + late nights make for a cranky morning at work the following day. But when I heard that Ashcroft, former lead singer of The Verve, would be playing The Wiltern, I threw caution to the wind. I’m going to have an epic Monday night to carry me through that early April week.

So here’s a pair of Ashcroft’s solo songs for tonight’s jukebox picks:

“Hold On” by Richard Ashcroft, the second single from his 2016 album These People.

This single speaks to my current political mood as I resist in today’s post-US inauguration landscape. These lyrics, originally written about the Arab Spring uprisings, particularly stood out to me:

“…Until you get some pepper spray
And water cannons on the way
Fighting on your own
Can turn your heart to stone

And truth is on the march again
Wipe those tears away
Apocalyptic mind…”


“Words Just Get in the Way” by Richard Ashcroft, the third single from his 2006 album Keys to the World.

This ballad holds a touch of symphonic melancholy that gives way to hope as Ashcroft velvety voice offers to support during stormy times. Magnificently penned lyrics are the highlight of this song.  It connects thematically to the first song for me in that it is easy to lose hope in a world so full of chaos and despair. It is easy to feel that we may have outlived our usefulness in this mess of a world, but this song speaks of friendship, lending a helping hand, of finding that human connection that gives hope when words just can’t explain or make meaning for us.

The lines that stand out mid-song pointing out just how devoid of hope the person he sings to has become. His refrain of “if you want it/ you know I’ve got it” closely follows to show his commitment to being that silent rock of support:

“When you’re feeling like you’ve lost
When all your hope is gone
And the bridge above the river
Is only the beginning of your fall…”

I highly recommend giving Ashcroft a listen if you’ve not listened to anything other than The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.”