Friday, December 30, 2011

Dear Diary

Once again, New Year's has me thinking I should resolve to have more discipline about blogging more regularly.

I'm also wishing I could spend all day everyday reading, writing or cartooning instead of planning, grading and teaching.

Don't get me wrong, I love kids and believe nothing is as important or as rewarding as teaching, and obviously no other job offers as much freedom to read, write, or create. Be that as it may, I'm still lazy and selfish like anybody else. Did I also mention that I wish I got paid twice what I make to do whatever I want instead of dealing with all the hoops to jump through from the State, the AEA, the board & administration and dealing with unmotivated or uncooperative students?

Anyone want to pay me $100K/year for just blogging? I'll cartoon or take goofy photos too if you want.

Glad I disconnected this blog from feeding into facebook & twitter since this is such a lame, self-indulgent entry. Anyway, enough time wasting, I need to either do some school work or help my wife dismantle the Christmas decorations.

DVDs rented over break

'Hoodwinked'- great kid flick, funny, Jim Bulushi's German accent sucked, though **1/2 (out of 5*)
'Dolphin Tail'- excellent "feel-good" story no matter what age, plus Ashley Judd ***1/2

'The Change-Up'- raunchy and formulaic but funny (if you're a 14-30yr old male), first time I didn't like the character Jason Bateman played, actually I disliked both characters he played in this one. *1/2

'One Day'-  Spoiler alert, this is NOT a "romantic COMEDY," still it's a decent chick-flick and as usual  Anne Hathaway not only looks beautiful, she acts beautiful. ****

'Larry Crowne'- Tom Hanks really is the ultimate "every man." This one is for every "nice" guy who was always frustrated by the fact that Molly Ringwald always ended up with the rich, hot, popular guy in those 80's movies (oops, did I spoil it?). Plus it's got a great message about staying positive and rolling with the punches in hard times. And Cedric the Entertainer is a kill too. Not sure why real critics panned it, maybe because it has a narrow appeal to lower class, middle-aged, guys who believe in working hard and treating people decently. Makes me want to go out and buy a scooter. ****1/2

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year, New Opportunity

Recently a couple of Monona County Democrats invited me to contribute to the blog, twitter feed!/IDP4th and facebook pages for the Democratic Party of Iowa's new 4th District . I hardly feel qualified (I've only lived here for 10 years), but progressives are so rare in this side of the state that I agreed to help. I've felt strongly that the few of us here in Crawford County really need to be better about networking and communicating.

I'll add these links to the right-hand menu of this blog. I can't believe how much busier I've been this year since I started teaching 8th grade Civics, so my contributions may be few and far between, but as I told the IDP4th webmaster, at least I'm more likely to keep my posts below 700 words than I was back when I had a column in the Mapleton PRESS.

If you're of our rare breed ("Blue" in a "Red" district), I hope you'll caucus next week so that we can replace Congressman Steve King with former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack and State House (Dist.18) Representative Jason Schultz with someone like Kasey Friedrichsen

Who knows, I may even send up a political cartoon once in a while.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

November Gold

Ever notice that it's not just decorations on the classroom bulletin board
and pictures on calendars
but October really IS orange
and November really IS golden?

Lawns are faded
Leaves have fallen, most are raked.

There's something to the angle of the sun
and a nip in the air.

Maybe it's because
between All Saints' Day and Thanksgiving,
we're reminded of out blessings and family-
especially those already in Heaven.

Whatever it is,
November really is

Gold November

The grass on the hills is golden
the bean fields are amber
and the corn stubble are is like Rumpelstiltskin's spinning-straw

The golden hours of dawn and dusk stretch out
leaving barely an hour of clear-blue noon
glazing the entire day with honey.

The red and orange leaves are gone
or faded to sepia
leaving the trees taupe or warm-grey
just a few yellow ones cling on
to avoid a fate in the foul fires
or the compost pile.

Candles have started to warm our homes' decor
and French fried onions decorate the green been casserole
and the roasted turkey's skin glints like polished brass.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Babysitter Pay?

To the teachers: Teachers salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It's time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do ... babysit! 

We can get that for minimum wage. That's right. Let's give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time or any time they spend before or after school. 

That would be $19.5......0... a (7:45 to 3:00 with 45 min. off for lunch and planning. 
That equals 6 1/2 hours). 
Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to babysit their children. 
Now, how many students do they teach in a day... maybe 30? So that's $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day. 
However, remember they only work 180 days a year! I'm not going to pay them for any vacations. 
LET'S SEE ... That's $585 X 180 = $105,300 per year. 
Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries. 
What about those special education teachers and the ones with Masters degrees ? 
Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. 
That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year. 

Wait a minute --there's something wrong here! There sure is! The average teacher's salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students = $9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student --a very inexpensive baby sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!! WHAT A DEAL!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Orange Cloud

I  look up at the greatest Ash in town
It holds the entire continent in its branches

Leaves the colors of rocks and fire in the desert West

Through those leaves I can hear waves crashing in the Gulf

Somehow, even though it's just Halloween,
it smells like the snow falling back East

Stupid Leaves, Stupid Breeze!

I can rake rake rake
and mow mow mow

but that darned October wind still blows
so every leaf from every tree
from every neighbor, hither and yawn

ends up back in my yard
and back on my lawn!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The prairie is a comfy bed

The rolling hills and prairie is a comfy bed that I don't want to climb out of
The sky is a crisp, clean, light blue linen
 with puffy white cloud pillows
Fields of beans are pulled up snug like a green and yellow quilt
 and the corn that's almost ready to harvest reminds me of a crocheted throw on top of that
 each are accented with tassels of red, white, and silver barns and bins
 and occasional deep green embroidery of trees
The September sun fills the room with tranquil joy
 while the gentle breeze billows the curtains and and quietly rattles the window screens
 bringing in the familiar scents of that brief moment between Summer and Fall
I think I might go pick you some sunflowers from the edge of the road,
 but this place is so perfect
 so inviting
 so comforting
 I think I might just stay here and soak it in a little longer.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Let America Be America Again
by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.Let it be the dream it used to be.Let it be the pioneer on the plainSeeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

We only complain about the ones we love

"I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."
~James A. Baldwin

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Random bits of week

Wed. there were calves in the road, only in Iowa!

Today, one of my 4 cheerleaders quit- before our first game. Ah, but tonight we had home grown tomatoes.

Saturday we're going to the greatest state fair on Earth!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Here comes the new season, not sure I'm ready

I have been coaching cheerleading since 1994. Sometimes it's a hassle, sometimes it's the most incredible opportunity in the world. Once upon a time I thought I should blog about it, maybe write a book someday- they're aren't a lot of male cheer coaches that I'm aware of. But I haven't been keeping up either that blog, or this one. I decided that maybe one problem was that I was writing for an imagined audience that wasn't there, while simultaneously being worried that anyone would read it.

So I've done two things. I adjusted my feed, so that this blog will no longer automatically post on my facebook account and I merged the two blogs. This one may as well include all my writing, not just poetry and politics. When I actually bother to write something I want to share on facebook, I'll just do that manually. I'll still try not to get too out of hand in the event that someone have a cow over something I post here, but my hope it that it will give me a little more freedom to open up and be real, like a journal.

I guess I'm not ready to fold my religious blog, into this one yet, just because it really has taken on a life of it's own. It's not that I want to compartmentalize my faith life, separate from everything else, it's just that it actually has some readers and kind of a following, which neither this blog or the old "Papa Bear" blog seem to. Anyway, here is what may be the last post on that blog, and perhaps the first of many dealing with coaching cheer that will start showing up here.

Originally posted on

I'm really tempted to just fold this blog into my main blog,
I feel like when I really use it, it's more to just vent than to document- let alone build anything book worthy. When I use it to vent, I'm being too reactionary. It seems like rather than relieve my stress, I feel like it only makes me more wound up. It misrepresents how negative coaching cheer can be when actually it's always been an overall very meaningful and rewarding experience for me. And of course, there's always the risk that students or parents that I write about might be offended.

Like at the beginning of the summer when the mother of a Freshman candidate was so livid with me for not putting her on the squad. It was unfair that her grandfather's funeral was the day that tryouts had been scheduled, but she hadn't turned in a permission form or teacher-recommendation forms which had been due a week before and had been available for almost two months before.

The real issue was that she was academically ineligible. I double-checked the policy and touched base with both our guidance counselor and our principal to make sure I was as clear as I could be with the parent. To be honest, the child can be a divisive, volatile, and disrespectful tiger. She's let her anger get away from her and used obscenity in uniform before while on junior high cheer- but even if she was perfect, her grades would've kept her off.

But that's the kind of conflict that both makes me wonder how many more years I want to continue coaching cheer and makes me question the wisdom of trying to blog about it (even when I try to protect the identities of the kids I work with.

Facebook and Twitter are shorter, easier and more immediate, making blogging something that I'm not as disciplined at as I used to be. Life gets pretty busy too. All summer I thought I'd write but instead was caught up in church and family activities. And school is about to start, which will make things incredibly busy again.

It seems like we've never had the first football game for a week or so after school had gotten started. This year our first home game is next Friday, school starts Wednesday! Three of my four cheerleaders are scared to have to perform at the first pep rally. I can't blame them.

The pep band won't be playing at the game that night. Our principal actually left it up to me whether or not to even have a pep rally. I really think we should, but I don't know if I should push the girls too hard if they're not ready.

One, a Junior, was even ready to quit earlier this week.

"i really didnt wanna do it in the first place but (Senior) was pressuring me so i thought i would give it a try but now im having second thougts because im really not the cheerleading type i like cheering from the stands...and i hate being in front of crowds like at pep rallys i cant do sorry," she told me.

I was having a heart attack.

I did my best to convince the Junior, "You're telling me that (Freshman Z), (Senior B), and (Sophomore R) ARE "cheerleader types" and you're not? (each example was a former cheerleader who was shy, awkward, or socially isolated). They're willing to get in front of people, but you're afraid to? Kiddo, you're smart, you're responsible, and you're gorgeous. Pep Rallies are nothing to be afraid of- let (Senior) carry them and just go along with the ride, they're fast and most kids who've cheered (like B, Z, and R) wind up actually thinking they're fun.
You're a natural leader and really fun. If you can handle Drill, Cheer will be a piece of cake.

I still think you should at least try a game or two. But, I understand how it can feel to be pressured so just like I said before, ultimately it's up to you- but I can tell you, if you can conquer this challenge (and I totally believe you can) you will come away with confidence and poise like you wouldn't believe. Doing this can put you over the top- it can be the difference between being kind of a leader and a majorly powerful woman who'll take on the world. If you bite down hard and try this this one short season, it'll be all gain for you.

Think on it, pray on it. Talk to someone you trust, adult or friend about it and let me know next week. I'll totally back off and not tease you or try to make you feel guilty (like how I tried to pressure Katie last year). But I really think you'll be great at this and this could be great for you."

Poise and Confidence are a couple of blocks on John Wooden's Pyramid of Success. I truly believe that these are powerful gifts that cheerleading can bestow on kids and I meant every word I said to her. But let's face it, I didn't want to go from 4 to only 3 (especially since one of the 3 is still pretty iffy). And I'll be honest, I'm not keen on the prospect of having Senior B or the "tiger" Freshman on squad this season either, if only because neither works well with the Senior we do have.

Fortunately, she tentatively agreed to give it a try. One of our Freshmen is really just giving it a try too ("iffy"), her true love is volleyball and her mother is nervous about her being too involved in too many things.

If you're actually a regular reader, or one of my friends or former cheerleaders that I shared this blog with, I'd sure appreciate your prayers and positive thoughts. Like every year. (:

This is the most I've written here in months and I really SHOULD be preparing lessons for next week. So anyway, if you come looking for this blog and don't find it, head on over to and just run a search for "cheer," or "coaching," or "Pappa Bear" and you should still be able to find this kind of entry once in a while.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New 4-H Club Blog

Good luck Achievers at CC Fair! Hope the Style Show went well this morning.

Members, parents, and former members- check out the club's new blog. Be sure to leave comments and share your memories, and please remember to either join, become a follower or best yet- subscribe by email to receive updates and announcements.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

What's the 4th for?

We're seeing lots of patriotic and political messages this weekend on twitter and Facebook, but it's important to consider what our independence really meant and who/what we are and want to be as a nation.

God bless our troops & their families- but the have Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Armed Forces Day.

I love our flag but it already has Flag Day. I've pled allegiance to it, but after all, it's just fabric, a symbol for what were really about. And don't get me wrong, I don't oppose the pledge, but it was really kind of a political tool back in the "red scare" 50's.

What is the Fourth really about? What is America supposed to be about?

How about our motto? E Pluribus Unum- "from many, one."

How about our Declaration? Voted on July 4, 1776. "ALL men are created EQUAL and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that AMONG these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

How about our Constitution, written 10 years later? "in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty for ourselves and our posterity."

Families and fun are fine, so are parades and fireworks. I love picnics and baseball and apple pie as much as the next guy. But I think that it's not just important to think about the red white and blue, but also for the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, with liberty & justice for ALL.

How much time do we spend considering what things like justice, domestic tranquility and the general welfare really are?

We owe it to ourselves, each other, our founders, and all those citizen soldiers who've fought for us over the last 235 years to think about our principles once in a while. And we owe it to our "posterity" to talk about our principles once in a while- to share them, discuss and debate, even argue about them, to teach them to our children and pass them on.

This 4th of July, make Iowa's state motto your own: "our liberties we prize, our rights we will maintain."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

'It's the demand side, stupid' | Marketplace From American Public Media

'It's the demand side, stupid' | Marketplace From American Public Media

This is one of the best commentaries on economics I've heard. I've been trying to explain this to people forever!

What to do about raging unemployment? Many Republicans and a few Democrats are peddling supply-side solutions. Cut corporate taxes. Reduce the cost of capital. Cut the employer share of payroll taxes.
This is nonsense. The problem is not on the supply side.
Companies don't need financial incentives to hire. They're sitting on $1.9 trillion of cash. They don't even know what to do with it all. If they wanted to use this cash to hire additional workers, they could. Instead, they're buying back their own stock and buying other companies.
Nor is the cost of capital an issue. Capital is cheap. Companies can get bargain-basement interest rates on new loans.
Nor does it make any sense to lower the employer share of payroll taxes. This won't create jobs. Payroll taxes are not deterring companies from adding employees.
Let's get real: The problem is on the demand side. It doesn't make economic sense for businesses to hire more workers unless businesses have more customers. And they don't.
These days consumers are reluctant to buy. That's because their real wages are falling, their home values are plummeting, they're still under a huge debt load, and they're worried about keeping their jobs.
Supply-side solutions have nothing to do with any of this. They're like pushing wet noodles. The economy needs a boost on the demand side.
For 30 years now we've been hearing from "supply-side" economists say that if we reduce tax rates on the rich and on corporations -- and keep the cost of capital low -- we'll get more jobs and growth. And the benefits will trickle down to everyone else.
Well, we've tried the theory out, and little or nothing has trickled down. Tax revenues are now 15 percent of the national economy. That's the lowest in 60 years. And capital is cheaper than ever. But the economy is going nowhere.
Can I be blunt? It's the demand side, stupid.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Van Jones on Meta-Branding and Crowd-Sourcing.

Watch the speech that Van Jones gave at Netroots Nation 2011 announcing the American Dream Movement and issuing a challenge to debate Glenn Beck. 

Progressives put all our eggs in the Obama basket. He's not as bad as the right makes him out to be, but if we have any hope of sharing our values, it has to be about principles and networking, not just hoping that just one personality. Dems in Western Iowa, we need to connect online.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Before you blame Obama for the Debt

Ronald Reagan increased the national debt by around 189%!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Most awesome quote EVER!!!

"Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy."

When I think about all I've learned about Thomas Hobbes and Adam Smith and John Locke and Rousseau- and then I contrast Jesus' teachings to Machiavelli, holy cow but this Wendell Berry quote is phenomenal. It sums up so much of what I believe.

We're all in this together folks.

Don't you think we were put her to help each other if and when we can? Why is it immoral to help and be helped? All that authoritarian malarkey about making people dependent on you is an excuse to be selfish and competitive. You want to keep following Ronald Reagan and be rugged individualists or Ayn Rand and be greedy fascists and paranoid anarchists- go right ahead, I obviously can't convince you not to.

Me, I'm happier with Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt. I'd rather be positive, constructive, and interconnected than angry, suspicious and defensive. If you think I'm some kind of "Socialist" for believing that government is her to protect us from corporations instead of corporations being here to protect us from government- then I guess that's the way it's gonna be, but we're still all in this together even if you don't want us to be.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

We're all in this together

Reagan's Budget Director David Stockman and former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich have both sharply criticized the budget proposed by Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan. Stockman was on NPR's "On Point" this morning explaining how we all need to share the sacrifice and essentially that supply-side economics won't work anymore (though he didn't actually admit it that blatantly). He admitted that we need to focus some on revenues (restoring taxes to pre-Bush levels). And he was pretty emphatic that we need to be realistic and pragmatic about austerity. We can't just continue to postpone/borrow our way into not worrying about deficits. He even recommended drastically reducing military spending.

Gingrich on the other hand started backpedaling after being chastised by fellow conservatives.

Stockman's still no Keynesian, but I have tremendous respect for his serious and mature take on the mess we're in. Bottom line, right-wingers are intractable on the dogmas (they've gone way beyond doctrine at this point) of opposition to taxes and insistence on cutting everything but defense. On the other hand, the establishment Democrats (that is, those in power, notice I didn't call them left, liberal or even progressive) keep saying that there's nothing really wrong and that all we need to do about the debt ceiling and the impending problems for entitlements is to bring in more smoke and mirrors to help us rearrange numbers. 

You might be surprised to hear me agree with a Reaganite, but I've been a deficit hawk long before it became politically expedient for Republicans to be. I say bring back PAGO (the pay-as-you-go rules in Congress). I may like John Maynard Keynes a lot more than Ayn Rand, but I'd almost go so far as to think of myself as relatively conservative fiscally. 

It's time for both sides to let go of tribal and partisan tenants of faith and hash tings out together. We're ALL in this together. Eliminating all the tax loopholes corporate and otherwise is a great place to start. 

I was talking to a friend about this kind of thing recently in regards to school funding here in Iowa. Sales taxes hurt consumers and renters (poor & working class), property taxes hurt home owners and  farmers (middle and upper-middle class), and commercial taxes supposedly hinder business and growth. Somehow we ALL need to share the burden. Before he backed down under party pressure, Gingrich characterized the Ryan plan as "social engineering," something that Republicans are constantly accusing Democrats as conspiring to do (Socialism- eek!). Gingrich was spot-on. If giving corporations the same rights as individuals while taking away the rights of organized labor, and dismantling the social safety nets isn't systematically maneuvering to establish a more oligarchical than egalitarian arrangement- then I don't know what it is.

I think that the right has gone so far toward the extremes of either corporatism and/or libertariansism, that those of us who used to be centrists are painted as "liberal." I've never advocated for Marxist revolution and I doubt that I ever will, but for God's sake, isn't it about time that we returned to a a little common sense? Should a Democratic president really have to stretch way over to the corporatist side just to appear as if he's trying to find some common ground? Whenever there are calls for compromise and bipartisanship it basically means that the Fraidy-crats are caving in to the Crazy-cans again.

Stockman's most important sentiment is that we all need to grow-up and get to work on fixing things instead of constantly seeing who can appeal most to voters' basest fears.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Perennial Stress-Out

Started out with 11 candidate, now 4 are backing out...
and I moved tryouts from today till next week due to Track meets, but guess what? Softball practice & games all nxt week AND we had girls qualify for State Track Meet- which is the day of my tryout!!!

Here's a note that I sent to our faculty and to some veteran cheerleaders, begging for them to put pressure on kids-

Teachers/Staff- I really need your help!  
Last week I had 11 candidates planning on trying out for cheer. I was excited, finally a real tryout, the chance to pick the best 6 out of 11- just what our cheer program needs. Kids who will get enjoy each other and that the fans will respond to.
Just yesterday, three of these candidates told me that they're opting out, citing grades, other sports and needing jobs. I reminded them that because so many of them have experience in either junior high or dance/gymnastics that if they make Cheer, it will really be a minimum time commitment. They can Cheer even if they play VB or are on Drill. They're likely to spend Friday night at the game anyway, so surely cheering won't put a strain on their grades.
Please encourage any of them that you think would make outstanding cheerleaders. Tell them how great a job you think they'd do. Tell them how much BV needs them to set a positive example and raise school spirit. 
After coaching cheer for 18 years now, I firmly believe that Cheerleading provides kids with confidence, poise, and leadership.
It also promotes school spirit, pride, enthusiasm, identity, community and sportsmanship for the whole school. 
So, say something to some of these girls today about how exciting it would be for BV if they were a part of that. If you don't see them today, do it this weekend or early next week.
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of seasons when we only get 5 girls come out and then having one or two quit, one or two move away and one or two end up ineligible due to grades. I can't do this alone. We're all in this together. Please do what you can.
Thank you all for your support! 
Will be FreshmenAlly Kahl- Mom's not sureMarissa Bruck- Hasn't turned in paperwork yetJamie Platner- Concerned about behavior as 8th graderJennifer Zehner-
Will be SophomoresKatie Cogdill- Not sureKelsi Segebart- Deciding not toTaylor Rassell-
Will be JuniorsEmmie Wood-
Lexi Seuntjens- Deciding not to
Will Be SeniorsKayla Sternberg- Vacillating Cammey Hast- Worried about having to put up with too many Freshmen! 

Monday, May 09, 2011

Excellent Quote

“My darkness has been filled with the light of intelligence, and behold, the outer day-lit world was stumbling and groping in social blindness” ~Helen Keller

Inspiring wisdom

"The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker."

"People do not like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant."

"There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his."

"Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained."

~Helen Keller

I was looking for just one Keller quote that I saw on a mural in the Polk County Activities Center this weekend. I never could find it, but I did find a whole slew, which I posted on this and two other blogs! You knew that Keller overcame deafness and blindness to become an inspiring speaker and accomplished author- but did you know that she was an outspoken opponent of war, that she she campaigned for women's right to vote, workers' rights, racial tolerance and many other progressive causes?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Are things looking up?

Three lively, fun girls; two Freshman and a Sophomore just came by my room to pick up forms.

Candidly, along with the Junior Cammey and 8th Grader Ally (who was JrHi Mascot this year) this would make a pretty decent crew. I will keep the posters up and running the announcements because there were at least 4 or 5 other kids whom I knew were interested at one time. I sent an email out to cheer alumna to volunteer to help judge.

The ugly part of having to have actual tryouts would be having to cut kids that I care about, to whom cheer is important. On the other hand, having higher energy, more initiative, more pride, more volume, and maybe even more dance/gymnastic skills are all great reasons to maintain a weeding-out process.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, let the Lord take care of the rest.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Trying to understand Islam and the Middle East

In the wake of the capture and death of Alqueda leader Osama bin Laden and the "Arab Spring" or " Jasmine" revolutions going on in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Iran, and Libya- I think it's a good idea to try to understand the Middle East.

Some think that it's only about Palestine. Within Palestine, Fatah and Hamas (both Muslim groups) are fighting each other. Others think that all Muslims are the same and hate America. Just as in Judaism there are Reform Jews, Orthodox Jews, Hasidic Jews, and many more; and just as in Christianity there are Orthodox, Coptic, Roman Catholic and Protestant- and within Protestantism there's Lutherans, Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals, etc. etc. etc.- Islam is not just one religion. Muslims have an infinite variety of different religious, social, and political views.

In the following column, I tried to untangle the complex variety of traditions. Admittedly, this is only the tip of the ice berg.

Originally published in the Charter Oak-Ute NEWSpaper & Schleswig Leader- Thursday, August 17, 2006

The most important thing to remember about the Middle East is to remember that it's not any ONE thing. It's LOTS of very different things. Too many supposed "experts" on TV "news" fail to differentiate between all these different and not always directly related, complicated things.

"Muslims" are followers of "Islam" (God's way). They believe that God, ("Allah"- that is "the One worthy to be praised" ) is this "Jehovah" of the original Jews, but that somehow they have gone terribly wrong. They believe that Allah's final and most important prophet was a guy by the name of "Mohammed."

I guess the mountain wouldn't come to him, so he went to it and they believe Allah gave him the last word in scripture, the Koran (sometimes spelled Qur'an).

There are 5 "pillars" believers must adhere to in this faith; 1) belief in only one (not triune) god and that Muhammad is his prophet, 2) daily prayer, 3) concern and giving charity for the poor, 4) self-purification through fasting, and 5) making a pilgrimage to the Kaaba in Mecca if you have the means. This is where they believe that Abraham built an altar with his son Ishmael. Whenever they pray, Muslims face the Kaaba, no matter where they are in the world.

But Islam is by no means uniform. First there's Sunnah ("the Muslim way of life") followed by Sunni Muslims. They have a second book besides the Koran, called the Hadith. In theory, this form of Islam is pacifist and they think of Mohammed and the Koran as absolutely inerrant only when it comes to theology, but not necessarily so for civil and cultural law. This is the biggest denomination in Islam, 80%. They think that Mohammed set up a council of "Imans", or leaders after his death.

Then there's Shi'a, practiced by Shiites, 20% if Muslims. They think that Muhammad's Koran is the absolute inerrant word of Allah on all topics. You might call them "Fundamentalist." They're much more militant. They believed that Mohammed appointed his cousin (who was also his sin-in-law) his sole successor.

But there is also "Ibadi" Islam, an even more conservative sect set up
50 years after Mohammed's death in Oman. And then there's Wahhabism. This is an extremist, fundamentalist sect of Sunnism. "Wahhabi" is a pretty funny sounding name, that's probably why they prefer to call themselves. "Salafist."

"Salaf" means "the earlier generations. They follow the teachings of their founder, Muhammad ibn al Wahhab. They believe that they are the ONLY true practitioners of Islam, not merely a sect. (Sounds like lots of Christians I know.) As you can imagine, they are going to hate Shiites like the Irish Protestants hate Irish Catholics. They are
going to resent mainstream Sunnis the way "born-again" fundamentalists think that main-line Christians are somehow lazy hypocrites.

Osama bin Laden and Alqueda, the perpetrators of the 911 attacks are Wahhabists. Bin Laden may be hiding out in either Afghanistan or Pakistan but he is from Saudi Arabia. They are predominantly Sunni, own lots of oil, have a royal family, NOT a democracy, and they're supposedly our allies. We gave bin Laden and other groups in Afghanistan tons of money and weapons in the 1980's to fight the Soviet Union.

Bin Laden loathed and hated Saddam Hussein, but not as much as America. Saddam Hussein is a non-religious Sunni. His Ba'athist party was nationalistic and fascist. It's ironic because Iraq isn't one nation. It's a bunch of nationalities pieced together first after WWI and then again after WWII. There are Sunnis, Shiahs, Kurds, Turks, a handful of Jews and Christians. All of whom pretty much hate each other. That may be why it's basically disintegrated into chaos. The poor majority of Iraqis were Shiite and had been persecuted by Hussein.

We gave Hussein tons of money and weapons in the '80's to fight Iran and so he'd like us more than the Soviet Union.

Muhamoud Ahmadinejad is the current President of Iran, who hates Iraq (they had a war in the '80's). Iran used to be one of our greatest allies in the Middle East until they had a revolution in 1979. Their Shah, or king, who violated lots of human rights and lived a pretty extravagant lifestyle at his subject's expense. We gave the Shah lots of money and weapons so he'd like us more than the Soviet Union.

You might remember their revolution was led by a the Ayatollah (supreme leader) Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, who practiced a mystic version of Shi'a called Irfan- sort of like what Salafism is to Sunnism.

As you may have heard, Ahmadinejad wants nuclear power- we think he want's the bomb. (Pakistan and Israel both have the bomb. Pakistan and India hate each other, Iran pretty much hates Israel, but I'm not sure why, except that their Jews.) You also may remember that our President indelicately characterized Iran as part of an "Axis of Evil" in a speech a few years ago, along with North Korea two countries that have absolutely nothing to do with each other or with bin Laden or Alqueda.

Back in the '80's the Reagan Administration had Israel sell weapons to Iran for us and then we used the proceeds to fund a band of right-wing terrorists called the "Contras" in Nicaragua. Remember that one?

Lebanon used to be a pretty westernized, country just North of Israel. Last year they held these big protests to get rid of a President who supported a political movement called Hezbolah who are supported by Syria, which is just east of Israel and sort of West of Iran and Iraq. But their new President didn't bother to disarm Hezbolah or get them away from the Israeli border.Yes, "disarm." See Hezbollah is a political party and a paramilitary movement, kind of like "Sinn Fein" is the political version of the Irish Republican Army.

Hezbolah's Secretary General is a guy named Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. They like to mix politics and religion. They're Shiites and Hezbolah means "the party of God." (Sounds like "Conservative-Christians.") Anyway, they don't think Israel should
exist since it was pretty much created by the U.N. after WWII and they want Lebanese prisoners released by Israel. All the latest hubbub started when they kidnapped a couple of Israeli policemen.

Meanwhile, Israel had hoped to have peace with the Palestinians (Muslims who claim to have been displaced when Israel was created.) Unfortunately the political party called "the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)" was replaced in democratic elections this past year by a party called "Hamas."

"Hamas" means "The Islamic Resistance Movement" Hamas are Sunni, so they hate Hezbollah for being Shi'a, but of course, they hate Israel more. Many Palestinian expatriates living in Saudi Arabia and Syria send their support to Hamas, who demand that Israel pull out of Gaza and the West Bank area along the Jordan river. With the PLO, Israel had been negotiating peaceful coexistence. Two nations in one place, so to speak.

So, it should be clear that it's not so clear. What is clear is that this is a time and a region that requires delicate diplomacy. I appreciate the desire to "take the battle to the terrorists," and that waiting for politicians and diplomats to work can be frustrating because it doesn't seem as satisfyingly clear and concrete as firm military action- but it just seems to be part of a cycle of counter production.

Middle Easterners (regardless of whether they're Muslim or not or which strain of Islam) resent America for our decadence or for our meddling in everybody else's affairs (playing policeman to the world) or because of our influence over their oil. But they aren't necessarily out to take over the world and attack all Jews and Christians. They
disagree with, resent, and even hate each other too much to cooperate that much.

We still haven't caught bin Laden, five years after the first 9/11 attacks and we've strained our military and resources (not to mention American and Iraqi lives) on an unnecessary invasion of Iraq- that had nothing to do with Alqueda or 9/11.

Israel's reaction to Hezbollah may have been excessive, but this doesn't have to become WWIII. When something similar happened in the '90's, President Clinton called up the President of Syria and asked him to get Hezbollah to back off and they did.

The "War on Terror" was supposed to be taking out Alqueda, not taking on every last group that uses terrorist tactics, not an excuse to try to recreate an entire region the way we'd like it and certainly not an excuse to chip away at our own Constitutional rights and freedoms.

Maybe it's time we remembered that. Who knows, maybe if we did, it might even have a positive effect on fuel prices. It's hard to sort out, but it's important to try, because thinking is the only way to solve problems instead of making them worse.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Man on a mission

-To Murph and the Magic Tones at the Armada Room of the Holiday Inn-
Elwood: We're putting the band back together.
Jake: You were the backbone. The nerve centre of a great rhythm and blues band. You can, make that live, breath and jump again.

-To Mr. Fabulous, the Matre'd in the dining room of the Chez Paul restaraunt-
Jake: We're putting the band back together. We need ya man, we need your horn.
Mr Fabulous: I can't, I really can't. 
Elwood: We got everybody but Matt guitar Murphy and Blue Lou and we're getting them next. 
Mr Fabulous: No way.
Jake: If you say no, Elwood and I will come here for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week. 
Mr Fabulous: Okay, okay, I'll play. You got me. 

Tryouts are coming up in just 2 weeks and I feel like a blues man trying to reassemble his band for a mission from God to save an orphanage in the last minute. I've done everything I can think of to cajole, convince, or coerce (okay, maybe not coerce) kids to come out for cheer.

I told them straight-out; Every year it seems like people don't go out for cheerleading because they're afraid that someone else, who's too into drama or kinda snooty or way too quiet is going to go out for cheer and they wouldn't want to have to be on squad with that person. As I've been trying to convince you all for the last month or two- if only 4 or 5 girls come out that's who we have to go with, even if they're ineffective, divisive or defective, but if 10, 12, 14, 16 or more come out- then we can pick the most enthusiastic, the most amiable, and the most talented.

I've begged, I've pleaded, I've sent them pictures of when they were on cheer in junior high. I've encouraged them to encourage one another. I guess all I can do now is to hang up the sign-up sheet and run the announcements and hope for the best.

Meanwhile, we lose money. Cheer & Drill share track concessions. Most years we have 5 home meets and make a bundle of money. This year we only had 3. One got cancelled due to rain. Cheer & Drill Squad members who are on Track were all scheduled to work the last meet, Monday May 9 because it's a Boy's Meet. But now, one of their rained-out meets is being rescheduled for that Monday- AND, some of the Drill parents want to grill burgers and brats at the meet for a fundraiser. A girl just told me that no one on Drill can work concessions for that meet because their parents want them to sell burgers and brats. First of all, don't they get that they're taking money away from their own fundraiser by competing with the concessions stand for customers? And secondly, most of the cheerleaders were also on Drill or are also on Track. Especially since I had 3 cheerleaders transfer to different schools this year and 2 more quit- I will have only one or two people able to work. AAAAAUUUUUGHHH!!!

Typical teenagers

I covered a study hall last hour for another teacher. Two of my football cheerleaders, who'll both be Seniors next year were in there. We talked about potential recruits. I don't know if there was anyone that they didn't roll their eyes about, glare at me over, or just generally poo-poo. "Ugh!," "Them?!", and "If they come out, I'll QUIT." were a frequent chorus.

It does seem that the girls who are enthusiastic about coming out are either divisive and drama-prone, or woefully unskilled and ineffective. Whereas those who you'd think would be bright, fun, amiable, and have any modicum of leadership are either already committed to Volleyball, Drill,  or taking stats for the football team- or they're really hesitating about taking the plunge.

At my annual coaching (performance) review, my principal made it clear that we needed to get girls who 1. aren't as on the social-fringe as they have been, 2. will make a deliberate and concerted effort to encourage/lead fans, and 3. be responsible enough to show come to games consistently. Tell me something I don't know, Boss- easier said than done. It's not easy to recruit kids who get along and will do a great job at a small AA school like ours.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


I don't get it!!!  When the last Congress passed the Health Care Reform Act, Republicans whipped Seniors and Tea-Partiers into a frenzy by CLAIMING that President Obama wanted to get rid of Medicare. They  use fear and anger to manipulate voters, because they don't have any plausible, responsible plans.  Part of the point of Health Care Reform was to reduce the deficit. NOW, Republicans are claiming that in order to reduce the deficit, they want to end Medicare as we know it; cut benefits, raise ages, and privatize most of it. Remember when they wanted to privatize Social Security?

Where were their screams about the deficit during the Bush years when he gave away our revenue with massive tax breaks to the richest 2% of Americans and to corporations? Where were their screams about the deficit when he started two massive wars off-the books? Don't let them fool us anymore. They don't care about real people, they only care about the money they get from lobbyists and big insurance and drug companies.

Tell Steve King that you can't believe that he supports the Ryan plan!

Rep. Paul Ryan's 2012 budget proposal was one of the most brutal attacks on the social safety net in decades. And almost all the Republicans in the House joined in by voting for it.

Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman called Rep. Ryan's budget bill both "ludicrous" and "cruel." "Ludicrous" because the budget projections were pure fantasy, "cruel" because it proposed massive spending cuts for programs that mainly help children, the poor and the elderly, while slashing taxes for corporations and the ultra-rich.

One of the main programs targeted by the Ryan budget was Medicare, which under the proposal would be destroyed in all but name, and replaced by a voucher program for seniors who'd be dumped into the private insurance market. And if the vouchers didn't cover the cost of insurance, too bad.

I just signed a petition to hold my member of Congress accountable for voting for this irresponsible and extremist proposal. I hope you do too.

You can find out more and take action at the link below. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


MarxhausenTribute by Mal Dog
MarxhausenTribute, a photo by Mal Dog on Flickr.
Artist and professor Reinhold Marxhausen used to tell his students that they were tools in God's hands, and he'd ask them "How has God used you today?" If an artist has a good tool, he uses it a lot, to the point the tool becomes well-worn and very familiar. A tool is not made to just sit in a toolbox, ready to work, but not being used.
~Josh Duncan,

One of my favorite Art professors, mentors, and inspirations. He passed away this weekend, after living with Alzheimer's since 1994.

Our loss is Heaven's gain.

No one will ever be able to be as creative, light-hearted, and out-of-the-box as he was, but I keep his picture on my desk at school to remind me that my job is to help kids see the world in new ways.

Here's a story about him in the Lincoln, NE paper

My Hero

The Art world lost a great genius this weekend, but our loss is Heaven's gain. Check out this video of Reinhold Pieper Marxhausen on Letterman, back in the 80's!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter 2011!

BethEaster2011 003 by Mal Dog
BethEaster2011 003, a photo by Mal Dog on Flickr.
Orange is the new pink!
Check out all my new macro tulip pictures,
visit my photostream on Flickr.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Quit yer bitchin'!

Some historical context on federal individual income tax rates can help us understand the gravity of this proposed budget plan:
  • In 1945, at the end of World War II, the top marginal tax rate was 94 percent.
  • In 1954, when Republican Dwight Eisenhower was president, the top marginal tax rate was 91 percent.
  • In 1980, the year Reagan won his presidential election, the top marginal tax rate was 70 percent.
  • By 1989, the year Ronald Reagan’s presidency ended, the top marginal tax rate was 28 percent.
  • When Clinton took office in 1992, he raised the top marginal tax rate to 39.6 percent, where it stayed throughout his presidency.
  • Clinton balanced the budget and left office with a surplus.
  • Bush Jr. chipped away at the top marginal rate until it rested at 35 percent in 2003, where it remains to this day.
Americans (Republicans and Democrats) used to take pride in paying their taxes. Our contributions made this nation great. We lived on less and paid our fair share to make sure all of our most basic needs were met. That changed in the 1980s with the onset of Reagan’s “trickle-down” economics. Reagan slashed the budget more than any president before him and drastically lowered the top marginal tax rate. And we found the trickle didn’t go far. Most Americans never felt one drop.
Read the article I got this from at the God's Politics Blog:

My favorite poem

Every April, our Creative Writing teacher asks the staff to submit our favorite poems, which she has her class post with our pictures on poster board in the hallways. This year I chose one that I figured was particularly appropriate for an Art teacher. 

Drawing Class
By Billy Collins, 2003

If you ever asked me
how my drawing classes are going.

I would tell you that I enjoy
adhering to the outline of a thing,

to follow the slope of an individual pear
or the curve of a glossy piano.

And I love trialing my hand
over the smooth membrane of bond,

the intelligent little trinity
of my fingers gripping the neck of the pencil

while the other two dangle below
like the fleshy legs of a tiny swimmer.

I would add that I can get lost
crosshatching the shadow of a chair

or tracing and retracing
the slight undercarraige of a breast

Even the preparations call out to me -
taping the paper to a wooden board,

brushing its surface clean,
and sharpening a few pencils to a fine point.

The thin hexagonal pencil
is mightier than the pen,

for it can modulate from firm to faint
and shift from thin to borad

whenever it leans more acutely over the page -
the bright yellow pencil,

which is also mightier than the sword
for there is no erasing what the sword can do.

We all started with the box and the ball
then moved on to the cup and the lamp,

the serrated leaf, the acorn with its cap.
But I want to graduate to the glass decanter

and learn how to immobilize in lead
translucent curtains lifted in air.

I want to draw
four straight lines that will connect me

to the four points of the compass,
to the bright spires of cities,

the overlapping trellises,
the turning spokes of the world.

One day I want to draw freehand
a continuous figure

that will begin with me
when the black tip touches the paper

and end with you when it is lifted
and set down beside a luminous morning window.

Earliest Spring

Grant Wood, Spring Plowing, 1932. MFA, Boston
The rolling prairie of earliest Spring
looks like an old quilt covering the hills and farms and wild spaces
with it's different squares and shape in different shades and colors

The corn stubble is still amber
and most of the bean stubble is still a dull grey

But the hay fields are just starting to turn green
like black and white photographs
that someone has touched-up with some watercolors

Here and there squares of the quilt have been tilled or plowed
revealing deep, dark browns

Jagged swathes are an even darker brown, almost black
where farmers are working on terraces and removing dead trees

Black lines trace the ditches where weeds and grass were burned
and faint green whiskers are peeking through the black
where controlled fires shaved culverts clean
deeper greens edge the creeks and brooks

From a distance the woods look like a fuzzy dark taupe
sometimes hinting at dusty rose or plum or just plain grey and brown
who'd imagine the white they wore just weeks ago, the glorious golds months ago, or the summer greens to come?

I can see what Grant Wood saw in his paintings
all my children can see are all the "BABY COWS!" prancing around their patient, stoic mothers

My lawn is finally regaining color and our trees are budding
and my children laugh at how fluffy and fat the robins have become
I figure their feathers are ruffled
like a turned up collar against a brisk April breeze
but my kids know it's because they're all pregnant
and about to have babies

I open my window wide and let the curtains flutter
and inhale the soft, hopeful breath of the new and listen to the chattering chorus of those expectant mothers

Monday, April 04, 2011


DancingCujo by Mal Dog
DancingCujo, a photo by Mal Dog on Flickr.

Having seventh graders paint with oil pastels again today and decided to try and paint a photo that I'd taken of our school mascot a few years ago.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

"Hi, I'm Ted, and I'm a Writaholic.
It's been three days since my last paragraph...

1. Admit we are powerless over our addiction and that our lives have become unmanageable. Damn right. If it were manageable, I'd be grading research papers right now instead of writing you. 

2. Come to believe that only a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Then again, there is that whole "Catch-22" factor, I mean, if we're sane enough to realize that this is a problem, then maybe we CAN stop any time we want to. I mean who's to say what the definition of sanity really is anyway?

3. Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him. But I don't understand Him, I mean come on- why, why, when there are SO many freaking books in Barnes&Noble, can't God let me be able to make a living at writing. Just a living, I don't have to be THAT rich, or THAT famous. Is that SO much to ask?

4. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Don’t you wish that some of those corporate CEOs at the oil companies and sub-prime mortgage lenders would do this? How about our politicians? Aren't we writers BECAUSE we're constantly making searching inventories of ourselves? We're some of the few people on this planet who are actually self-reflective, am I right? Or are we just more neurotic than other people?

5. Admit to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. I spend too much time writing. My wife is an English teacher and she doesn't write as much as me. I'll sit there writing at night while she wants me to watch Criminal Minds with her. I'm shameless. I'm supposed to be devising the assignments for my Photography students right now since it's my planning period, but am I planning? No, I'm writing. I can't help it, it's a compulsion.

6. Be ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Yeah right. He made me this way in the first place. I blame Him. I'm like the monster and He's Doctor Frankenstein. If God hadn't wanted me to be a writer, why'd He invent the personal computer? Is it His sick sense of humor to tease me with the internet but never let me make it to actual printed books or magazines? I bet he gets a real kick out of watching me type away. Like someone who just pretends to throw a ball or Frisbee for their dog to fetch because they think it's funny to watch them scurry after the phantom ball, only to be left sniffing around in circles for a toy that isn't there.

7. Ask Him to remove our shortcomings. The thing is, you have to be careful what you wish for. It's like this; do people who suffer from mental illness really suffer? Because if you have amnesia, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's or dementia, or multiple-personality-disorder, you wouldn't realize that you had it right? Some of those you'd forget you had it even if you did, right? So I figure, maybe this would be a good idea, because I wouldn't be so tormented by this love of writing anymore, I mean, does the person who undergoes a lobotomy miss their frontal lobe?

8. Make a list of all the people we’ve hurt and be willing to make amends to them. 
  • That lady who said she couldn't believe they let someone like me teach in our schools because I compared John McCain to Herbert Hoover and called Sarah Palin, "Caribu Barbie."
  • Those right-wing chicks who figure I'm going to Hell because I said that the way to reduce the number of abortions was to work at eliminating poverty and provide affordable health care rather than simply outlawing it.
  • My daughters that time I was late picking them up from whatever practice because I got so caught up in finishing a piece that probably wasn't for anything more important than a blog.
  • My friends who want to chat with me online, but I feel like they're bugging me like mosquitoes flying around my face while I'm trying to get work done (work being writing something that will never get published anywhere anyway).
  • My wife who wishes I'd watch Criminal Minds with her on the couch with some popcorn.
9. Make direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. I don't know... I love my wife and I enjoy Criminal Minds, but I really don't like popcorn. Frankly, that lady who likes John McCain so well is lost in her own ignorance, let her vote for Donald Trump or Newt or Huck for all I care. I can always find a job in Winnepeg, so long as my wife and kids will move with me. 

10. Continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong, promptly admit it. Well duh, that's what I'm always doing. Why do writers write? Because we think. That's like asking why birds bird or why bees bee. I admit it, I suck. If I was any good, I'd be Steven King or James Patterson- that doesn't mean I can stop. If I could stop

11. Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry it out. As opposed to praying that there's enough money in our bank account to pay all our bills again this month, or maybe praying that I could win the lottery without buying a ticket?

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we try to share the message with others and practice these principles in all our affairs. That's all I'm doing here. What did you think? That I'm writing this for my health?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Ashley's Eye

Ashley's Eye by Mal Dog
Ashley's Eye, a photo by Mal Dog on Flickr.

I took one of the photos I took last month and painted it with oil pastels. It's great when a demonstration painting that you do for your class turns out so well. Makes me love my job.

Happy National Poetry Month

"Poetry is not the expression of personality but an escape from personality." ~T.S.Eliot

In honor of April, National Poetry Month,
I thought I'd share some of my own- such as it is 
(thus the title, Max Nix is German for "not much,"
we Midwesterners are known for our self-effacing modesty).

But there is so much better poetry out there, so don't just read mine-

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Check out yet ANOTHER of my blogs!

Started a new venture- no long essays, just pithy inspiring quotes meant to encourage a positive climate, a nurturing culture, and hopefully boost morale during stressful times:

Monday, March 28, 2011

What to do when your right-wing friends keep forwarding you propaganda

I want to equip everyone with resources to help them analyze and evaluate anything they're told by followers of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, FOX News, or Glenn Beck.

The following links are very useful and reliable. As far as I've been able to see, FactCheck and Media Matters are both non-partisan organizations dedicated to debunking all sorts of political claims from both sides. PolitiFact was started by a newspaper in Florida and has long been recognized as one of the best sites for weeding through what's fact, what's opinion, and what's total bunk.


When it comes to Glenn Beck in particular, I have even more concerns. Rush, and O'Reilly are just your run-of-the-mill demagogues. FOX President Roger Ailes and owner Rupert Murdoch, like the Koch brothers are just powerful billionaires who use their influence to advance their own interests. Glen Beck however, invokes religion frequently and likes to deliberately evoke a religious fervor in his viewers that really makes you wonder if he isn't in it for the money or the politics, but the power-high of having so many people believe him and act on his instructions, like some kind of a cult leader.

The links above can help you sort through his various specific claims, but for me, the bottom line is that almost every time he speaks he uses fear. If he were really trustworthy, why would he need to do that? 1 John 4:18, there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out all fear. By connecting any given issue with non-rational aspects of viewer's thinking, like loyalty, emotion, or moral absolutes, Beck makes it more difficult for anyone to reason with them using facts, details or rational argument.

I wrote about Beck's Mormon faith and his appearant use of religious and moral sentiments for leverage in creating division on my religion blog back when he held a rally on the National Mall- 

Here are two websites that are clearly not objective, they both make it their mission to document and challenge what they consider Beck's history of distortion, smears, defamation, vitriol, disinformation, and taking advantage of people's anxieties.

My advice is that rather than worrying about trying to have a logical answer for every theory and assertion, try changing the subject or gently explaining that you probably won't always see things the same way and so you'd just assume not get into it at this time. Hopefully, eventually, whoever it is that is trying to convince you of their conspiracy theory of the week will eventually get the message and back off.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

POEM: Noisy Chatter

What is it with all that clatter in that tree?
Why is that gaggle of grackles chattering so?

Are they mating? Is all that noise some kind of speed-dating?

Is it just a family reunion?
Are they catching up, after only seeing each other in passing along the flyway during migration?
Are they swapping jokes and gossiping?

Is it a tree-wide argument? Shouting and screaming like on the Jerry Springer show?

Maybe it's some form of laughter-yoga, chirping exercises.

Or is it just choir practice? Planning and preparing this afternoon for tomorrow's Dawn Chorus?

Surely, surely, it's not an avian congress- full of political vitriol and fury.

If only I spoke bird, I might know for sure.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A map of the world

All art really is, is a map of reality
it;s not reality itself,
but it shows you the way.
No wonder that from across the room
it looks better than real life
but up close, it can look even worse.
Every artist, then, is just a glorified cartographer.
Shapes and colors, shades and scratches
are just so many roads and rivers
railroad tracks and cities
hills and valleys
destinations for the eye to travel to.
A record of where we've been.
A guide to where we'd like to go,
or to where are afraid to venture. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011


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Since I set up a Flickr account to use to help me teach Photography to three students by independent-study, I've been uploading all my pictures there and ignoring this blog. I decided that I should put at least a few of them here once in a while. I don't know why I don't shoot in black and white more, I really love it. I could've used a bit more density and contrast in this one, but I still like it. Rosaio here is in Advanced (independent-study) Ceramics. She's be creating some fantastic sculptures. This one is s praying angel. It makes me miss teaching at a Lutheran High so I can talk with kids more openly and more often about their faiths.

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Yesterday after a doctor's appointment, I didn't want to go home right away, and by the time I'd get back to school, the day would be over, so I went for a walk around the pond out at Yellowsmoke park East of Denison. Because of the time of day (and maybe the reflection/refraction off of the frozen pond) I definitely got a blue cast to most of my pictures on this walk. Ironic that it was in the low 60's 2-3pm but the colors appear so cold- whereas if I'd been out here around 6, during the "golden hour" I'd have gotten a warmer palette, but I'd have froze my butt off.

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I was hoping to find some color on my walk, but came up mostly with browns and beiges. Fortunately, I came upon some color left over from autumn that made it through the winter.

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The other day, I needed to take pictures of student's faces for a project where I have them draw themselves. A few of them asked me to take close-up pictures of their eyes too, so I obliged. This was one of the better ones.
Now I've finally posted pictures on this blog again. Who knows, eventually I may even post some writing here again too. Meanwhile, If you'd like to see more (tons more) of my photos, artworks, cartoons, or graphic designs, you can visit me on Flickr at

Monday, February 28, 2011

Another great teacher quote

"young folk of all colors and classes need to know that we're concerned and involved in their lives. They need to feel that we're listening to them, not kist with our ears but out hearts. They deserve out attention. Our attention is an extension of our love, and without loving compassion, no real dialogue can be established." ~Cornel West

Teacher Quote

"I see my role as an educator, as someone who feels both a Socratic and prophetic calling, to implement what Nietzsche called a singing paideia. I am always compelled to remember that paideia represents an unfathomable education in which self-examination and service to others produces a mature, compassionate person willing to speak, live, and sacrifice for truth." ~Cornel West