180 Days: Day 33–Hell, pt. 2

I’m really hoping that tomorrow is not Hell, pt. 3. I really hope that the heat will break as it has been forecast to do. The second straight day of 90+ temperatures in my classroom has been miserable.

But my kids were troopers. They stayed focused for the most part–though I did have to keep nudging them to keep their heads up off the tables (yes, I have tables instead of desks in my classroom) in a heat-induced lackadaisical stupor. Part of why my sophomores could stay interested is because we were reading Laura Hillenbrand’s account of the Japanese attack on the US Navy at Pearl Habor and US Military fuel depot and airstrip on the Wake Atoll in chapter 6 of Unbroken.  We looked up maps and pictures of the atoll (as well as the definition of atoll). We discussed why Wake Atoll was in a key location (thank you Google Maps). We talked about Hillenbrand’s interesting word choice: “In one day of breathtaking violence, a new Japanese onslaught had begun.” We discussed why the author might choose the word “violence” instead of “power.” We discussed the positive versus the negative connotations of the words and how they might be foreshadowing what we will see later in the book. We discussed how the perspective of this text is very American in that the Japanese are portrayed with words of negative connotation–even if they are accurate words denotatively–and is it okay to portray one side in a positive light and the other in a negative light or should a book showing history be more neutral. Some of the arguments defending Hillenbrand’s choice is that she is not writing a history book, she is writing a biography of a man who was brutalized by the Japanese. Overall, it was a productive day.

My seniors didn’t get very far into Hamlet Act I, scene 2 today. But they did start to make sense of some of scene 1’s passages. We analyzed two passages that featured allusion and symbolism particularly. Then we divine right of kings, primogeniture, and marrying for treaties as opposed to love. My goal was to set the class up to be able to explore the motivations of the characters in the play as it proceeds. I’m okay with moving slowly to start, so long as we can speed up as we move forward.The kids don’t know it yet, but they will have assigned reading tomorrow night so that they can watch and match the text with the adaptation more quickly.  I really want to start highlighting Branaugh’s choices/interpretations as the director as we are still in the early acts of the play.

Yes, we moaned and groaned in the heat, but we still got a lot done today considering.

“In the Heat of the Moment” by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds



180 Days: Day 13–That Other Racism

What a way to start a Monday–sophomores asking questions!! Woo Hoo!! Except these questions were very uncomfortable questions–but I was okay with that. Sometimes we have to be uncomfortable to stretch and learn and think differently about the world around us. Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for the word of the day: solipsistic (the theory that only the self exists; egotistical self-absorption).


In the quest of helping my students to not be solipsistic, we read “Indian Education” by Sherman Alexie, from his book of short stories The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. I read the first half to the class modeling a variety of reading strategies with them (we are practicing good reading fundamentals right now). The students were assigned to complete the reading on their own and annotate the text and be ready for discussion tomorrow in class. The students were stunned by how brutish the missionary second-grade teacher was to the protagonist, Victor “Junior” Polatkin.  They were shocked by the narrator’s nonchalant use of racial terms for whites and Native Americans. They had no clue about life on reservations or in Indian HUD housing. They were also quite surprised at the glue-sniffing fifth grader. So we had a conversation about what corporal punishment looked like in schools when I was a kid. I also had to explain to them what rubber cement and horn-rimmed glasses were. I shared stories about my hometown in Oklahoma having “Indian Housing” and that Native Americans were the largest non-white racial/ethnic group in my school. Thank goodness for google images and my own personal experiences as the historical context is the difference between understanding this story or staring off into space wishing to be anywhere but the English classroom reading some old story (written in the 90s about the 70s).

So far, in 13 days we have read four stories and written two pieces–a vignette and a letter. Our stories have featured a young lady from the depression afraid to step out of the traditional female role and follow her dream, an immigrant war refugee from Greece, a first-generation Mexican American fifth grader in south Texas, and a Native American on a reservation in Washington state. I want students to build a tapestry of knowledge and backgrounds as rich as the messages of these authors (Richard Brautigan, Nicholas Gage, Sandra Cisneros, and Sherman Alexie). I want them to ask the hard questions that these authors prompt us and cajole us into asking.

We will see how the discussion goes tomorrow–as on deck is the great Maya Angelou…

“Question” by The Moody Blues


“Question” by The Moody Blues
Why do we never get an answer
When we’re knocking at the door
With a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war?
‘Cause when we stop and look around us
There is nothing that we need
In a world of persecution
That is burning in its greed
Why do we never get an answer
When we’re knocking at the door?
Because the truth is hard to swallow
That’s what the war of love is for
It’s not the way that you say it
When you do those things to me
It’s more the way that you mean it
When you tell me what will be
And when you stop and think about it
You won’t believe it’s true
That all the love you’ve been giving
Has all been meant for you
I’m looking for someone to change my life
I’m looking for a miracle in my life
And if you could see what it’s done to me
To lose the love I knew
Could safely lead me through
Between the silence of the mountains
And the crashing of the sea
There lies a land I once lived in
And she’s waiting there for me
But in the grey of the morning
My mind becomes confused
Between the dead and the sleeping
And the road that I must choose
I’m looking for someone to change my life
I’m looking for a miracle in my life
And if you could see what it’s done to me
To lose the love I knew
Could safely lead me to
The land that I once knew
To learn as we grow old
The secrets of our soul
It’s not the way that you say it when you do those things to me
It’s more the way you really mean it when you tell me what will be
Why do we never get an answer
When we’re knocking at the door
With a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war?
When we stop and look around us
There is nothing that we need
In a world of persecution
That is burning in its greed
Why do we never get an answer
When we’re knocking at the door?
Songwriter: Justin Hayward


180 Days: Day 9–A Normal School Day, A Not So Normal World Day

Today was our second PLC Late Start Day of the school year. Teachers meet from 7:45 a.m. until 8:35 and students start class at 8:50–a full 50 minutes later than the other four days of the week. Last week, on our first PLC Late Start, 183 of 1813 students (yes, 10%), showed up late to their first-period class. I almost cringe to see today’s numbers in the morning when I print the report because even if it is a better number, it’s not by much. Mercifully, classes are shorter on Tuesdays because we teachers are freaking exhausted at the end of every Tuesday. We are running hard all day long. So in that regard, it was a normal day. I put my nose to the grindstone and enjoyed my time with my students. My sophomores wrote vignettes and my seniors analyzed apocalyptic symbolism in Yeat’s “The Second Coming.” The poem, part of which is used as an epigraph and the title of Chinua Achebe’s classic Things Fall Apart, compares the turmoil in our world to the End of Times with imagery of the Anti-Christ/the Beast. So it was a typical school day–except the themes of today’s work resounded on the world stage today.

POTUS gave a bellicose speech to the United Nations in which he threatened to destroy the entirety of North Korea and its 25 million people and continued his childish name calling tradition by mocking its leader, Kim Jong Un, with the title of “Rocket Man” in an official speech on the world stage. I’m too stunned and fear-filled by DJT’s warmongering to be embarrassed by him anymore. Frankly, Red America, you broke it, you bought it. And we just might face a calamity the likes we’ve never seen. And that says a lot with the 20th Century’s horrific war record in our rearview mirror. Yet, our congressional majority party leaders do nothing to check DJT’s ugly cataclysmic rhetoric. The lessons of history stare us in the face only to be ignored in favor of a short-term power grab and the umpteenth chance to strip health coverage from millions of hardworking Americans. In the end, it’s hard to let a dead man eat cake, even that fancy Mar-a-Lago chocolate kind.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean is hunkered down in misery under the thumb of yet another Category 5 hurricane. Lady Maria has been just as merciless as Harvey and Irma before her. To make matters worse, Mexico suffered a second catastrophic earthquake in as many weeks earlier today–an 8.1 hit the nation on September 8th, but today’s 7.1 hit the heart of the nation’s capital and the death toll has topped 149 with the latest reports.

Today felt like Yeat’s poem outside the classroom. Let’s hope that Things Do Not Fall Apart in our world. And let’s hope our pugnacious POTUS doesn’t spawn WW3 by taunting an isolated, defiant, trigger-happy North Korean leader while our people and our neighbors are consumed by the widening gyre of natural and political disasters.

“The Second Coming”
by W.B. Yeats
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Kasabian’s song “Where Did All the Love Go?” somehow seems appropriate in all this Trumpian chaos as well.


“Where Did All the Love Go” by Kasabian, from their 2009 album West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
Never took a punch in the ribcage, sonny
Never met a soul who had no shrine
Keep this all in your mind and get it inside my window
What do we become trying to kill each other?
You’re faking it son, gonna get you tonight
I suck another breath to the hearts of the revolution
Because you still ain’t right
Where did all the love go?
I don’t know, I don’t know
(I bet you can’t see it)
Where did all the love go?
I don’t know, I don’t know
(I bet you can’t see it)
Can’t see the signs of a real change a-comin’?
Take another sip from your hobo’s wine
Get yourself a million miles from the concrete jungle
This is a time full of fear, full of anger
A hero’s exchange for a telephone line
Whatever happened to the youth of this generation
Because it still ain’t right
Where did all the love go?
I don’t know, I don’t know
(I bet you can’t see it)
Where did all the love go?
Now I don’t know why, oh why
The rivers of the pavement are flowing now with blood
The children of the future are drowning in the flood
Where did all the love go?
Now I don’t know why, oh why
In this social chaos, there’s violence in the air
Gotta keep your wits about you, be careful not to stare
Where did all the love go?
I don’t know, I don’t know
(I bet you can’t see it)
Where did all the love go?
Now I don’t know why, oh why
(I bet you can’t see it)
Lyrics by Sergio Pizzorno


180 Days: Day 5–A Trip to the 30s

Tonight my sophomores are assigned to read “Greyhound Tragedy” by Richard Brautigan. The story was published in the 1970s but takes place in the 1930s. So we spent most of today researching movies and movie stars of the 1930s. These are kids in which 9/11 is someone else’s history, so the 1930s is completely alien. So we talked a bit about what films looked like in the ’30s, who the movie stars were, what key world events occurred that might influence what movies would be about. So we looked at the Great Depression, the election of FDR, the rise of Hitler, Jesse Owens, Amelia Earheart, the Hindenburg disaster, etc. The goal was to provide some context for a group of 15-16 year-olds who idolize celebrities of their own, to help them empathize with the protagonist of Brautigan’s very short, minimalist story. I enjoyed teaching this story last year because it offered so many opportunities to discuss writer’s craft and elements of a story–what does a piece of writing have to have in order to be a story? For such a compact piece of writing, it’s a powerful example of how literary devices (such as metaphor and allusion) can add rich subtext and provide meaning.

When my colleague brought the story in last year, I immediately fell in love with it because I connected with the protagonist so strongly. My mother always watched old movies on the lone TV on Saturday afternoons while I was growing up in the ’70s. She filled our bookshelf with saucy books about the Golden Age of Hollywood that I voraciously devoured and eventually read with more adult eyes (a juicy favorite was Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon). Hollywood was a bright shiny dream for small town Oklahoma girls like my mom and me, so I fully empathized with the protagonist. I shopped at Penney’s as a youth. I loved Clark Gable movies (Teacher’s Pet is a favorite–Gable in a rom com!). And I understood the allusion to Harlow and Valentino in the final sentence–and how the reference to them adds another layer to the tragedy of the title. I will see just how many students can explore the subtext enough to understand what the titular tragedy of the story is–if they bother to read their homework at all tonight.

One can hope.

A clip from the 1958 Clark Gable/Doris Day film Teacher’s Pet (Gable’s Gannon character blurting out in protest of writing 2,000 words sounds just like my students. lol):


180 Days: Day 3–“I Don’t Know Anything About It”

Remembering 9/11 has grown more and more intriguing and challenging in the past couple of years as most of my students were infants or very small toddlers when the event that changed everyday life for all Americans happened. I asked for students to explore what they did know about the events of that gut-wrenching day 16 years ago. Many knew there were four airplanes. None new there were 19 hijackers or that they were mostly Saudis. They knew Osama bin Laden was behind it, but few could name his terrorist network, al Qaeda. But all were shocked by the images of “The Falling Man,” a series of photos by Richard Drew of one of the Twin Towers victims leaping to death.

Tom Junod wrote an amazing piece for Esquire about the famous images last year.


I asked students to tell The Falling Man’s story. I just wanted to see what they knew of storytelling techniques. Most struggles to get the first line down, but some wrote feverishly for the 5-7 minutes allotted to them. Many opted to write from the point of view of the man in the photo. A few opted to write in third person omniscient. Some chose to tackle the image head on and start in the middle, while others chose to start at breakfast that morning and try to work up to the terrifying climax. Most students understood the basics of good storytelling. And this picture spoke volumes to them. Even the kid who proclaimed that he had a hard time starting because “I don’t know anything about it” admitted that the image spoke the proverbial thousand words.

Before segueing away from our 9/11 remembrance exercise to launch us into a unit on storytelling/narrative writing, I shared an emotional piece of slam poetry with the kids. Most of the kids left class today understanding that while they didn’t live the event, even though they had no working memory of the event–they understood the emotion of the event. They opened their eyes and their ears to the stories of others who did live and remember the event. The impassioned poem by Mike Rosen prompted silence. Then gulps as students fought back tears. They got it.

Mike Rosen “When God Happens”


Before the towers collapsed into a white noise
of bodies and strewn paper,
there were people in the windows. They clutched family photos
and they jumped, became human tombstones
falling into the shrapnel of a city covered
in the ash of its own citizens,
a city shapeless and somewhere else, writhing as it fell.
That night, I feared everything but darkness,
so I slept on the floor at the foot of my father’s bed —
it’s a place where monsters and planes are made easy work of.
That morning, I went to the window, I wiped my hand along the sill,
I watched my fingers turn grey and I thought: “bodies.”
But I didn’t want to wash them, I wanted to go to the roof, I did.
I saw the smoke crawling into a postcard, the smell was everywhere.
I wondered if they would change the postcards now,
put smoke where once were towers, and then address them to our relatives
in Texas and Carolina where they were rearing to go to war
and say I wish, I wish you were here.
I wish you could see these clouds forming under the clouds
I wish you could touch this smell with your nostrils every time you breathe
I wish you could run your hand along your window and wonder
how the bodies got through the door
and see what it’s like to live in the most Beverly Hills version of awar zonee
and realize what war might just look like, feel like,
taste like, in your breakfast cereal,
when you realize you’re sitting there digging Cheerios out of a bowl
when they’re digging bodies out of the ground.
That day was not about your god or their god
because when God happens, no one is right.
These were times when we lied to our children.
When you lie to children, no one is right.
I can’t make this any clearer to you. That day had no black or white,
‘cause under that rubble everyone was grey.
Under that rubble was no red, whites, or blue.
Under that rubble was just grey.
Now I know New Yorkers, we talk a lot — sorry!
But I’m taking this one back for my home
because under that rubble was not your country,
under that rubble was our city, our town,
our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters.
That day, no one in New York grabbed rifles,
we grabbed bandanas and shovels and we started digging
because our lives were underneath that rubble
and the firemen were looking for the bodies.
It has been ten years, and my friend is still looking for her father’s body
Your war is not helping her find him.
Your war has done nothing but add to the list of little boys like me,
who wish to sleep at the feet of their father’s beds.
My father worked nowhere near the Trade Center, but I didn’t know that then.
What I knew was that the phone lines were down
and that until I heard his voice, so was he.
Your war has done nothing but add to the list of boys
in New York, in Iraq, in Afghanistan
The list of boys who are still waiting
for their fathers to come home.


Hell in a Handbasket: Charlottesville Proves We Haven’t Learned History’s Lessons

I grew up in a state that many consider part of the Midwest, but most of my neighbors would argue that we are a Southern state. The US Census Bureau agrees only because Oklahoma, the reddest state in the union, is south of Mason-Dixon Line. But Indian Territory, as Oklahoma was known in the 1860s, wasn’t legally open to white settlers until 1889. Oklahoma Territory didn’t become the 46th state until 1907. Nevertheless, many Confederates settled in Oklahoma in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Some of those Confederates were my ancestors–moving from North Carolina through to Arkansas and on to Oklahoma. I’m not proud of this fact, but it is a fact with which I have to live and face. This knowledge is the context of my childhood.

With Confederates on both sides of my family and a paternal grandfather that openly used the “n” word while I was growing up in the Sooner State, I’ve long been amazed that I turned out as I did–a politically active progressive liberal who believes in social justice and fights for equity for minorities, for women, for all. I remember all the racist, sexist, ethnic “truly tasteless jokes” (that were eventually collected into a series of books in 1982) that we all told as grade schoolers as we giggled thinking we were getting one past the grown-ups around us. So much of what I grew up with in the 1970s would not pass in today’s society–rightly so or wrongly so, we have lost our ability as a nation to laugh at the expense of any group, much less ourselves. In many ways, this is indeed progress, but in other ways, we have become a nation at war with itself because we are constantly offended with each other. I have been searching my experiences in my mind trying to trace the path from growing up with tasteless jokes to being trolled by acquaintances and strangers alike in social media for being an intolerant snowflake libtard (among other names).

I considered the humor of Mel Brooks, for example. I can remember laughing at early scenes from Blazing Saddles as a youngster in the back seat of the car at the drive-in theater as my parents tried to enjoy a date night of sorts. My younger brother and I both hee-hawed at the bean farting scene. Then we started arguing over who got the red and blue M&Ms, ate some popcorn, and fell asleep (I was 5 1/2; my brother was 4) before the new sheriff came to town. But as adolescents, we were re-introduced to the entire film. And we both loved the brilliant satire. We still do. I often quote “Mongo only pawn in game of life” when people look to me to solve their problems for them (I’m a firm believer in the Alinsky’s Iron Rule of Organizing–Never do for others what they can do for themselves). Mel Brooks knew that even back in 1974 he was broaching taboo racial, ethnic, and sexist subjects as he parodied Hollywood Westerns, but he did so deftly and with such satiric skill and wit that the classic film still works today.

The closest a film has come to this level of line-crossing satiric genius in the past decade would have to be Ben Stiller’s 2008  Tropic Thunder, which also put Hollywood in the crosshairs while using taboo racist, ethnic, and sexist humor to fantastic effect just like his predecessor Brooks. Tropic Thunder opened the month before my 40th birthday, but I remember thinking as I sat virtually alone at a weekday matinee of the film that it was a brilliant piece of satire that actually pulled off the unthinkable in the post-millennial world–having an Academy Award nominee in blackface for virtually the entire film. I have to wonder if Stiller would have been able to get the green light for the film today, in a post-Trayvon Martin/Michael Brown/Eric Garner/Philando Castile/et al world. Part of me hopes yes, but another part of me hesitates to think so. We are a society that is hurting and not healing. The wounds of our Civil War and its resulting segregation are festering and poisoning the body of our nation. And our national “leaders” do not lead with the courage to do what is right, but instead look for expediency and to curry favor with a chosen few.


Today’s horrifying spectacle of the President of the United States openly defending alt-right protestors who were yelling Nazi chants at this last weekend’s “Unite the Right” rally, of him openly defending Confederate General Robert E. Lee by falsely equating him to President George Washington and President Thomas Jefferson (neither of whom betrayed this country to raise arms against it) while denouncing the alt-left as violent offenders was stunning to watch (here’s a guide to the terms). The simmering hatred against America’s first black president, Barack Obama, has in short order boiled over in a very public defiance and a rage egged on by DJT/45 (I still refuse to type his name). The alt-right men and women who descended upon Charlottesville this last weekend were open and proud to wear their White Nationalist symbols. Gone were the KKK face-hiding hoods. The brazen marchers knew the terrifying history behind carrying torches and marching at night–KKK rallies and lynch mobs. They knew that this action steeped in the traditions of the White Supremacists and Segregationists would bring these actions symbolic of the violent old into the now and the future. They also knew that counter protesters would show up–that those in opposition to their extremist views would not stand in fear in the shadows like in days past. America’s wounds are splitting open and bleeding for the world to see.

And all my acquaintances and friends in my birth state of Oklahoma can talk about is how libtards like me are writing a revisionist history erasing their heritage. That is what saddens me the most. How did we arrive at this point in time where extremism is ruling the day and the majority stands by acquiescing? Did we learn nothing from our fathers and grandfathers who fought in WW2? Did we learn nothing from Hitler’s Final Solution and Master Race rhetoric? I can’t help but think of Mark Antony’s stirring the Roman people: “O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,/ And men have lost their reason.”



Jules’s Jukebox: Songs for Social Justice

As I enter this bizarre week bookended by juxtaposing events, I can’t help but think of that long arc of history bending toward social justice–and popular music’s strong ties to helping spread the word on our society’s most pressing social issues. Tomorrow, our nation will honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his Stride toward Freedom while on Friday giving the oath of office to a man who maliciously called one of Dr. King’s civil rights brothers all talk and not action–for the very action of standing up to him. While searching for songs to properly encapsulate this week, I found some amazing lists that I would recommend to anyone for listening (maybe check out this one from Amnesty International). I looked and looked and selected the following two–one for MLK Day and the other for Inauguration Day.

“Strange Fruit” by Billie Holliday. This Jim Crowe era song from 1939 describing lynching is an appropriate choice for both occasions this week in reality. Rebecca Ferguson, an X Factor UK singer, offered to sing at DJT’s Inauguration under one condition–that she sing Holliday’s haunting “Strange Fruit.” At last check, she was not on the list featuring acts such as Toby Keith, Jackie Evancho, and 3 Doors Down. And now that DJT is no longer attending his MLK Day event at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, one would think a reach out to this key constituency would be in order. Instead, he doubles down on the insults to civil rights leaders.

To capture what all my right-wing friends think about where I live and what I believe, I chose to add a little dark irony to the mix. This song was originally written in 1979 as a piece of Juvenalian satire against California Governor Jerry Brown (yes, he is our governor again, hence my tongue is planted in my cheek). Since Governor Brown has vowed that California will work to protect the environment despite a DJT administration’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations, this seems like a perfect song highlight the dichotomy and divided nature of the right’s view of all of us flakey La La Land libs against the pervasive views of the progressives’ views of DJT and his incoming administration.

“California Über Alles” by The Dead Kennedys–a single in 1979, released in 1980 on the album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.

Jules’s Jukebox: Year in Review, Pt. 2 –The Fabric of My Childhood Unraveling

Tonight’s Jukebox will look and sound a little different. Tonight, rather than songs we will have a combination of words, video, and symphonic music as we celebrate the lives of some of the pop culture icons who left us this year. Most of these people have been part of my pop culture consciousness since I was old enough to remember. With a heavy heart, I look to a future world that has progressed beyond my memories. My generation, the X’ers, are quickly coming to the days where we will attend more funerals than weddings. And this year was a stark reminder of that fact of aging.

  1. Gene Wilder–Wilder died on August 29th at age 83 from complications from Alzheimer’s Disease. Wilder was a mainstay of my childhood. I was lucky enough to have a mother who loved movies. When my brother and I were 4 and 5 years old respectively, my parents went on a date night to the drive-in theater with us in tow in the back seat. We sat in our pajamas eating popcorn and M&M’s and playing with our toys as Blazing Saddles started projecting across the screen. We didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the film other than the bean fart scene and the Waco Kid’s lightning fast hands. We fell asleep, but always remembered laughing at the movie. So when we had opportunities in junior high to watch the film we did. It became a favorite just as much as Young Frankenstein and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. For my birthday this year, my brother took me to see the stage musical of Young Frankenstein–partly for us to pay honor to my mother (whose birthday was four days after mine) and her love of theater/movies/the arts and partly to pay honor to the late Wilder.

from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

from Blazing Saddles

from Young Frankenstein

2. Sports heroes Arnold Palmer and Muhammad Ali: Both men were constants in my childhood in very different ways. Both were from sports that were not commonly watched in my household–golf and boxing– but both were trailblazers with loyal followings. Whether being “The Greatest” & “stinging like a bee” and protesting against injustice or being everyman’s hero while having a drink named after him and meeting presidents, these icons top the heap in bringing their sports to the mainstream. Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74 on June 3rd after suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for three decades. Arnold Palmer died on September 25th at the age of 87.

3. Sir George Martin: The Fifth Beatle died in his sleep on March 8th at the age of 90. Ringo Starr announced his death via Twitter. John Lennon expressed that they worked and learned together. From Sir George’s Rolling Stone’s obituary: “George Martin made us what we were in the studio,” John Lennon said in 1971. “He helped us develop a language to talk to other musicians.” Memorably, Martin played the Bach-esque piano solo on the Beatles’ hit “In My Life.” The solo showed how the producer and the band innovated in the studio–the instrument was a piano recorded at half-speed and then played back at normal speed sounding rather Baroque, like a harpsichord. The song was also one of the first of Lennon’s songs to focus on his personal experiences. “In My Life” is one of the more renowned Beatle’s hits. My brother, who is a huge Beatles fan, selected this song as his first dance with his bride at his wedding reception. Saying good night to the fifth Beatle is like losing our past inch by inch.

4. Alan Rickman: I have loved the man with the most distinctive voice ever since his break-out role as a terrorist falling from Nakatomi Plaza on Christmas Eve in 1988. Learning of his passing on January 14th from cancer at age 69 was an unexpected blow–especially on the heels of David Bowie’s death a few day earlier. Rickman’s versatility and exceptional talent allowed him to play the most dastardly of villains and the softest of lovers. Whether he was terrorist Hans Gruber or loving suitor Colonel Brandon or magical double agent Severus Snape, Rickman chewed up and owned every scene in which he appeared. And even better, he’s one of the British Men Reading Poetry with his interpretation of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130. So we will not belie with false compare…

from British Men Reading Poetry/Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130”

from Sense and Sensibility

from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2

5. Carrie Fisher: Fisher’s death, so fresh in my heart and mind, is so hard to take. Carrie Fisher was the first damsel in distress that really wasn’t a damsel in distress. She created the role of Princess Leia as a strong “soldier” (her word) setting an example for me and my generation as young girls. I still have my original Princess Leia action figures, which she hilariously speaks of in her one-woman show Wishful Drinking (based on her memoir of the same name). I fell in love with Carrie Fisher the author in my college years when I bought her first novel, Postcards from the Edge. Her sarcasm, her wit, her frank and open capturing of life in all of its glory and gory conflict spoke to her exquisite talent as a wordsmith and opened up a whole new career path for her as a novelist, screenwriter, and nonfiction memoir writer. I own three of her books and plan to read the remaining. When I heard of her heart attack on December 23rd as she returned on a flight from London, I feared the worst. Having lost a friend a year and a half ago to similar circumstances, I feared that she would not recover. Despite my fears, I hoped. But when the news came this morning, that she passed away at 8:55 a.m. at the age of 60, though I was not surprised, I was still immensely saddened. My first heroine inspired me to find confidence, to write, to not be afraid of people who may suffer from addiction or mental illness. She was the complete package–someone who grew up in the glare of the spotlight (as the daughter of Hollywood royalty Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds) but was always giving back to the world around her. Rest in peace, Princess.

from The Blues Brothers

from Wishful Drinking

from Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back

“Princess Leia’s Theme” from the Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope OMPS

Jules’s Jukebox: Remembering Lennon

Today marks the 36th anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination by Mark David Chapman. Thankfully, Chapman was denied parole for the ninth time in August for the rock legend’s murder. He will come up for parole again in two years. So for two more years we can forget him and remember the man he took from us despite him.

The story of how Lennon died is so chilling, but today I remember not how John Lennon died. I choose to remember how he lived–as an activist  who topped J. Edgar Hoover’s secret FBI “enemies” list (his dossier was over 300 pages), who had to fight deportation from the U.S. for participating in anti- Vietnam War efforts, and who had to battle even harder to secure his green card to live in the U.S.

Lennon’s example of standing up against injustice is not lost on me. I’ve long believed being a BMW (a bitcher, moaner, & whiner) solves no one’s problems. Getting involved, being an activist, learning as much as possible about my issues, educating others, mobilizing and organizing on my issues…those are things that can promote progress.  Lennon proved himself a leader of people–one who would stand up at the front of the crowd and show them how to work for social justice even at the risk of being labeled “subversive” by the U.S. government. One doesn’t have to agree with Lennon’s left-wing politics to recognize and honor his dedication and investment in progressing his beliefs for peace and justice.

Photographer Allan Tannenbaum took the last photo shoot of Lennon for promotion of what would be his last album, Double Fantasy, ten days before his death. Tannenbaum said,  “He loved to push ­boundaries like that,” referring to Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, posing nude. The photographer related that “nudity was just another form of expression for them.” The image most easily found online from this photo shoot shows such happiness and ease from the couple.


One of Allan Tannenbaum’s photos from John Lennon’s last photo shoot.

To honor his activism and his life on this day, I stand with his widow, Yoko Ono, in pleading for common sense gun laws in America. On her Facebook page, Ono eloquently wrote:

Dear Friends,
Every day, 91 Americans are killed with guns.
We are turning this beautiful country into a War Zone.
Together, let’s bring back America, the green land of Peace.
The death of a loved one is a hollowing experience.
After 36 years, our son Sean and I still miss him.
Yoko Ono Lennon
8 December 2016


She also shared this heartbreaking and shocking image/meme:


So today’s jukebox duo of songs are to celebrate the activist, the leader, the man–John Lennon.

“Remember” by John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

“Power to the People” by John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

Cognitive closure and US politics — Later On

That’s from a very interesting Open Culture post by Dan Colman, which begins: There’s a political disconnect in the United States. We have two political parties, each now living in its own reality and working with its own set of facts. The common ground between them? Next to none. How to explain this disconnect? Maybe the answer […]

via Cognitive closure and US politics — Later On

*Jules’s Note: My colleagues and I have long talked of Leon Festinger’s theory of “cognitive dissonance,” the discomfort  an individual experiences when holding two or more contradictory beliefs or values at the same time. The individual may also perform an action that is contradictory to those beliefs or values, but these actions often occur when the individual is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas or values.  The individual tends to choose the beliefs or values over what the new information show to be erroneous in those held beliefs or values. “Cognitive closure” gives some clarity to how “cognitive dissonance” can exist. This video is enlightening. Take a few minutes and watch.