Archive for the ‘Ideas, Opinion & Commentary’ Category

Massachusetts – Public School Kids Really Need Your Help!

MASSACHUSETTS Supporters of Public Schools‬ URGENT HELP NEEDED! You do NOT need to have a child to do this!

Lobbyists paid for by funding through the Walton (Walmart), Gates, Broad and other 1% backed Foundations are hard at work trying to gain more of your tax dollars by lifting the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts.

If you feel you need more information, details on how Charter Schools hurt Public School funding can be found here and here.

Tell our elected leaders that if you lift the charter cap, it will close good public schools.

 

If you have a few minutes – and we hope you do!

Help Massachusetts Public Schools receive the funding they need.

Here are a few simple things you can do.

 

Please act quickly. The lift the cap bill maybe voted on as soon as Wednesday, July 16th.

 

  • Call your Senator and ask them to vote NO on Senate Bill 2262. Senator contact information can be found here. (If you’re not sure who your senator is, you can search for the answer here).  All you have to say is: “I am calling to urge the Senator to Keep the Cap On Charter Schools in Massachusetts and vote “NO!” on S2262.”
  • Sign this petition, asking Senators to  “Keep the Cap” on Charter Schools
  • Post a link to this page on your facebook page. Ask your friends to help too! (copy/paste – it works!)
  •  If you want to be a total hero, and again, we hope that you do, you can call all of the senators.

 

 

 

Remembering Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou died this week on May 28th.  You’ve certainly heard the news and read many tributes, but I wanted to add one more.  I think Angelou was one of the most significant Americans of the 20th century in all her influence as a poet, author, activist, spiritual leader, teacher and all the other things she accomplished over her long life.

On the day she died, I remembered on social media that I’d heard her speak once at the College of William & Mary Convocation ceremonies in August 1993.  I thought it was the most inspirational speech I’d ever heard.  Other friends shared their own memories, some who were also at the Convocation event and some who were in other rooms with Maya Angelou and some who even met her.  All the memories were positive with a mix of awe and inspiration from her wisdom.

Anyhow, one friend found an article about the Convocation address and another posted a recording of the speech, so I thought I’d share them here.

angelou

So long, sister Maya.  Your wisdom will continue to inspire down the generations.

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Worst Night of the Year Won’t Go Away

Believe it or not it’s been three years since I posted how much I hate Daylight Saving Time, and particularly the night in which we must “spring forward” the clock 1 hour.  I’m not looking forward to waking up tomorrow and dragging myself through the day.

I’ve nothing new to write, but here are my previous four posts on the topic:

EDIT ON MONDAY:  Here’s something that might make me wonder.  How about instead of having the time change occur on a weekend in the middle of the night, why not have the time change on a Monday afternoon.  That’s right, at 1 pm on Monday afternoon everyone sets their clocks ahead to 2 pm.  A shorter workday for everyone once a year!  And yes, employers, you still pay your hourly workers for an 8-hour day.

 

 

Boston Olympics?

Liam:

With the Winter Olympics in full swing right now, I thought it would be a good time to bring back my post on why Boston & New England should host the Winter Games.

Originally posted on Panorama of the Mountains:

On Sunday night during the broadcast of the Closing Ceremonies from the 2012 Summer Olympics in Boston, a trend started on Twitter asking what an Olympics in Boston might be like.  Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub who started the trend Storified the many humorous responses.  My own contribution was to suggest that Big Papi would carry the torch up the Charles on a speedboat.  Almost instantly after tweeting I knew I should have said Duck Boat instead, and several people rightly corrected me.

It’s not very likely that Boston would ever host the Summer Olympics in reality as the city is too small to welcome so many people at once and constructing all the necessary venues would be cost prohibitive and difficult to justify beyond the games (although it should be noted that Boston has played its part in Olympic history).  I got to thinking though that Boston could…

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Remembering Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger died on Monday night.  He is perhaps my greatest hero as I’ve long been inspired by his music and activism.  His long life was a tireless effort to right wrongs and to bring people together in peace.  He leaves the world a better place than he found it.  And if you’re pessimistic about the world today, just imagine what it would be like without there ever being a Pete Seeger.  Among the many things he accomplished in his 94 years, Pete:

  • agitated for the rights of the poor and working people by organizing labor
  • stood up for American civil liberties before the House Un-American Activities Committee
  • participated in the Civil Rights movement
  • lead a generation in the Vietnam anti-war movement
  • in the vanguard the environmental efforts to clean up the Hudson River aboard the sloop Clearwater
  • inspired millions that they could change the world by joining together in song
  • continued as an activist through his final years, supporting the Occupy movement

I don’t recall when I first heard of Pete Seeger.  His music was part of my childhood.  He even appeared on Sesame Street.  I remember watching the movie Alice’s Restaurant some time in my teens and not recognizing him until my mom told me who he was.  Probably what really got it started for me was his performance leading a singalong of “This Land Is Your Land” on the Folkways: A Vision Shared tribute album.  Through high school and college and beyond, I picked up some albums, read some books by and about him, and tried to teach myself banjo using his book.  On two occasions, I was fortunate enough to see him perform in person.  Once in 1995 with Arlo Guthrie at Wolf Trap in Virginia, and then again at Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival in 2002.

It’s kind of the whole point of Pete Seeger that there are no “Pete Seeger songs.”  Sure, he got writing credit on some songs but he was the first to admit that he stole bits and pieces from other songs and cobbled them together to make something new.  And he wanted you to to take pieces of his song and make something else.  And share it with everyone. At his famous Carnegie Hall show, one entire set is Pete promoting the songs of new, young musicians (and Malvina Reynolds who was young at heart).  The other set was the music of the Civil Rights movement.  The whole point of the entire show was other people’s music and the community of music as he got the audience at Carnegie Hall singing along as well as many who’ve listened to that album over the years.

Nevertheless, one can’t help but think of the best Pete Seeger songs on this occasion.  His music is a gift he leaves behind, both through the many recordings he made as well as being a living link between the roots of American music and the many artists he inspired and supported over the years.  I looked in my iTunes and discovered that I have 215 Pete Seeger recordings!  Of those, his most essential albums are We Shall Overcome (a live recording of his historic Carnegie Hall concert in 1963) and Singalong: Sanders Theatre, 1980 (perhaps the quintessential concert recording as summed up in the article “Pete Seeger And The Public Choir “).  I perhaps felt closest to Pete when I performed with the Revels at Sanders Theatre and tried my best to do my part to engage the entire house.

Below are a handful of the most meaningful Pete Seeger songs, followed by rembrances collected all over the net.

“If I Had a Hammer”

“We Shall Overcome”

“Waist Deep in the Big Muddy”

“Old Devil Time”

“Abiyoyo” from Reading Room

“Sailing Down this Golden River” performed by Sarah Lee Guthrie

“This Land is Your Land”

WBUR: Pete Seeger And The Public Choir 

“Pete Seeger understood something fundamental about humans and music, which is that many people can’t sing on key, but all crowds can. Even without rehearsal, public choirs can be stunning to listen to and thrilling to be part of. And he believed that everyone should do it, that people should retain the ability to get in a room and sing, because it was good for you, and because it taught people to pitch in and be brave.”

WGBH: Pete Seeger Had A ‘Soft Spot For Boston And Cambridge’ by Bob Seay

American Songwriter: American Icons: Pete Seeger

The Nation: Pete Seeger: This Man Surrounded Hate and Forced it to Surrender

“Pete Seeger outlasted the bastards.

But he did so much more than that. He showed us how to do our time with grace, with a sense of history and honor, with a progressive vision for the ages and a determination to embrace the next great cause because the good fight is never finished. It’s just waiting for a singer to remind usthat “the world would never amount to a hill of beans if people didn’t use their imaginations to think of the impossible.”

Smithsonian Folkways: A Tribute to Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

Bill Moyers: Remembering Activist and Folk Singer Pete Seeger

As recently as 2011, Seeger, a veteran of the labor, peace and civil rights movements, led an Occupy Wall Street protest through Manhattan. “Be wary of great leaders,” he said two days after the march. “Hope that there are many, many small leaders.”

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: Farewell, Pete Seeger

 He told a story about showing up at a PTA meeting in Beacon to talk on some issue, and some local guy told Pete that Beacon didn’t need outsiders telling them what to do.  This hurt Pete, since he’d been living in Beacon at that time for more than 30 years, in the house he built by hand.   Pete told me that he realized a world reputation doesn’t count for much if you can’t use it to make things better in your home town.The “local project?” He said he wanted to get an old sloop, and sail the Hudson River signing to get people to clean it up.

WBUR: Pete Seeger, Folk Music Icon and Activist, Dies at 94

“For all of his social activism, Seeger said more than once that if he had done nothing more than write his slim book How to Play the Five String Banjo, his life’s work would have been complete. …

“If Pete Seeger didn’t save the world, he certainly did change the lives of millions of people by leading them to sing, to take action and to at least consider his dream of what society could be.”

The Atlantic: Pete Seeger and the American Soul

His critics often called Pete Seeger anti-American. I think the opposite was true. I think he loved America so much that he was particularly offended and disappointed when it strayed, as it so often has, from the noble ideals upon which it was founded. I don’t think that feeling, or the protests it engendered, were anti-American. I think they were wholly, unabashedly American.

Feministing: RIP Pete Seeger

Q with Jian Ghomeshi: Remembering Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

On Point with Tom Ashbrook: The World According to Pete Seeger: A Remembrance

The Atlantic‘This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces It to Surrender’

How did Seeger take an instrument—one with no inherent properties of justice, as evidenced by its history—and assign it a new cultural value?

There is no way to answer this but to observe the rarity of a force like Pete Seeger upon the Earth.

Sure, the banjo has a jaunty, inviting sound. Sure, it can be played in a variety of ways, making it suitable for a range of musical genres. But these qualities did not prevent it from being a prop of racist entertainment. They did not make it a symbol of community. They did not transform it into a “machine [that] surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”

That was the work of man. One man, really.

Arlo Guthrie’s Facebook status

“Well, of course he passed away!” I’m telling everyone this morning. “But that doesn’t mean he’s gone.”

Phil Sandifer: Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

Later in the set, it started to rain just a bit. Only a few drops – nothing major. But a couple people had umbrellas and popped them open, at which point Seeger stopped playing and calmly explained that he would not be continuing until the people who were under the tree and thus still dry passed their umbrellas to the people not under the tree so that everybody could be dry.
It remains the only time I am aware of in which an artist has actually created, however momentarily, a socialist utopia.

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A Tour of Massachusetts’ Author-Illustrators

I recently had the epiphany that a great number of 20th-century author-illustrators (chiefly of children’s books) have Massachusetts connections.  Not only that, but many of them have some sort of landmark in the Commonwealth.  So here’s a tour of seven author-illustrators

Eric Carle –  The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art – Amherst, MA

The creator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar lived in Northampton, MA for more than 30 years and this unique museum of picture book art is located in nearby Amherst.

Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) – Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden – Springfield, MA

Geisel was born in Springfield, immortalizing that city’s Mulberry Street in the book And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street!

Edward Gorey –  The Edward Gorey House - Yarmouth Port, MA

The only artist in this list not associated with children’s books, although that doesn’t mean children can’t read them.  The Gashlycrumb Tinies would make a good bedtime story.  The Cape Cod house where he lived his later years is now a museum.

Robert McCloskey –  Make Way For Ducklings statues – Boston, MA

McCloskey studied at the Vesper George Art School in Boston in the 1930s and the time spent in the Public Garden feeding the ducklings inspired his creation of Make Way For Ducklings.  The book is now the official children’s book of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Nancy Schön’s statues in the Public Garden are always a hit with children.

H.A. Rey & Margret Rey –  The Curious George Store – Cambridge, MA

The creators of Curious George moved to Cambridge in 1963 and nearby their former home in Harvard Square is the location of the world’s only Curious George store.

Richard Scarry – Boston, MA

Scarry was born in Boston in 1919, which may have been the inspiration for Busytown and notoriously bad driving of Scarry’s characters.  Sadly, I haven’t been able to locate a landmark for Scarry in Boston, but here’s an entertaining literary travel story.

I’ve personally only been to the Boston and Cambridge sites on this list, but a wider tour of the Commonwealth is on order.

Dialect Map

The New York Times  recently published a quiz called “How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk” that purports to determine what part of the United States you are from based on your dialect. You’ve probably seen it on all the usual social networks.

I had some interesting results, and some questions that were a bit tricky to answer.  So, I thought instead of merely publishing my results, I would also comment on some of the questions that could go either way.

How would you address a group of two or more people?

  • Of the options presented here, I’d probably go with “you” or “you all,” although the seven years I lived in Virginia convinced me of the utility of “y’all.”

What do you call the small road parallel to the highway?

  • Something I didn’t have a term for until about a decade ago when a friend told me they were called “frontage road.”

What is the distinction between dinner and supper?

  • I find myself one of the few people who actually make the distinction (most people I know don’t seem to use supper at all) but “dinner takes place in a more formal setting than supper.”

What would you call a sale of unwanted items on your porch, in your yard, etc.?

  • I’m glad that “tag sale” is an option here.  That’s what they were called in Connecticut when I was young, but I got strange looks when I tried to advertise a tag sale in Virginia, and haven’t heard the term here in Massachusetts.

What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?

  • I’m really curious where in the country are the people who refer to a sunshower as “the devil is beating his wife” or “monkey’s wedding.”  This question has the weirdest options of the entire quiz.

What do you call a big road on which you drive relatively fast?

  • “Highway” is the generic term I’m clicking off here, but also in my vocabulary are “turnpike” (refers to a toll road) and “parkway” (refers to a highway that passes through a scenic and/or historic area).

What do you call the long sandwich that contains cold cuts, lettuce and so on?

  • The correct answer – “wedge” – is not listed as that seems to be limited to a small portion of the small state of Connecticut.  Since leaving Connecticut I’ve had to concede to using “sub” instead.

What do you call a traffic situation in which several roads meet in a circle?

  • I grew up with “traffic circle” but you can’t live in Massachusetts for two minutes without encountering a “rotary.”  Technically, “roundabout” refers to something different from a “rotary” and our city would be improved if “roundabouts” replaced “rotaries” (physically, if not linguistically).

How do you pronounce aunt?

  • I pronounce it “ahnt,” but have to say “ant” when referring to the relatives in my wife’s midwestern family.

So, what dialect do I speak?  My parents are from New York (one from the Bronx and the other from Brooklyn).  I was born in New Jersey, but grew up in Connecticut where my education and dialect should’ve been formed.   The Connecticut accent always struck me as what you might call “standard American.”  Like, they send DJ’s and announcers to Connecticut to learn how to talk like they’re not from anywhere in particular.  Seven years in Virginia and fifteen years in Massachusetts muddy the waters a bit.

Here’s my map:

dialect map

I guess this should not be a surprise.  After all, the red zone of “most similar” goes through Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey – three of the four states I’ve resided in.  I’m disappointed that New York and Boston, or for that matter any city in the state of Connecticut are not identified.  But I have to admit that while I haven’t lived in Springfield, Yonkers, or Newark / Paterson, they’re all kind of close to places I have lived.  The least similar are Amarillo and Lubbock in Texas, and Little Rock, Arkansas, which should also not be as surprise.  Perhaps that’s where they say “monkey’s wedding” for a sunshower.

So there’s my voice.  What’s your dialect?  Let me know in the comments.

Happy Independence Day

On July 2, 1776 the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia voted for independence thus birthing a new nation, the United States of America.  As John Adams wrote,

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

So how are you celebrating Independence Day today?

Wait? You’re not celebrating until July 4th, a date on which nothing of great significance.   Sure, the document known as the Declaration of Independence was approved on that day, but the momentous event of actually declaring independence already happened on July 2nd.  The idea of the Declaration being written, presented to Congress, and signed on July 4th as depicted in art never happened that way.  The Declaration was written over the course of June, presented on June 28th,  and signed on August 2nd (with other delegates adding names through the autumn).

So we celebrate our nation’s independence on the wrong day.  Still we can make it work.  We love our country and we love to celebrate, so why not have two days?  We can celebrate the real Independence Day or Adams’ Independence Day on July 2nd and the conventional wisdom Independence Day or Declaration of Independence Day on July 4th.

Having two Independence Days solves the “July 4th falls on a Wednesday problem.” When July 4 falls on Monday or Friday we celebrate on July 4th. When July 2nd falls on a Monday or Friday we celebrate on July 2nd. When July 2nd is Sunday and July 4th is Tuesday we split the difference and observe Independence Day on July 3rd. Same thing when July 2nd is on Thursday and July 4th on Saturday. And when July 2nd is Tuesday and July 4th is Thursday it’s a Jubilee Year and we all take the entire week off!

EDIT ON JULY 3:  I didn’t see it until today but Mallard Fillmore’s Birthday wrote a much better July 2nd Independence Day blog post than mine.  Read it now!

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Liam:

The post I reblogged reminds me of one of the most thought provoking  — if overlooked — works of Mark Twain.

 

The first time I heard of The War Prayer was in a film adaptation of Twain’s The Private History of a Campaign that Failed.  “The War Prayer” is dramatized as an epilogue to that story. This the YouTube version: 

I chose “The War Prayer” to read at an interfaith service when I was at college.  This was in 1991 when pro-war preaching both religious and civil was still very common in the aftermath of the Gulf War.

“The War Prayer” remains relevant to this day.

Originally posted on Millard Fillmore's Bathtub:

(Updating dead links, especially from the late and lamented (here at least) VodPod, I found myself back in 2008, with this post on Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer.”  Fortunately, I found the film migrated to YouTube, though split in two parts.  Some information that should have caught our attention in 2008 deserves noting now, and we can update and add new links.)

It’s largely forgotten now, especially in history texts in high schools.  After the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. wrested several territories from Spain, including Guam, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, the U.S. quickly got mired in one of the original guerrilla wars in the Philippines.  It took 15 years, but the U.S. finally put down the rebellion — 15 brutal, bloody years.  The conduct of that war shocked many people, including Mark Twain.

This piece was written partly in response to that war.

Many…

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Retropost: Confessions of a St. Patrick’s Day Curmudgeon

In honor of this special day let’s revisit one of my favorite posts.

While most kids look forward to Christmas, when I was a child, St. Patrick’s Day (along with Thanksgiving) was one of my favorite days of the year.  It was a big day in my family usually involving going to the parade in New York and seeing family and friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  Then there was the music, the stories of St. Patrick, the history of Ireland and the Irish in America.  Growing up in a town where the dominant population was Ital … Read More

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