Sunday, January 30, 2011


Originally uploaded by T-Mal
Here we are in the Campus Center (student union). The girls recruited us dumb guys so that they could build stunts. The mascot costume is pretty fierce looking, but the chick inside was this really cute red head... anyway, this was the final Concordia Teacher's College cheer squad because in 1989 they changed the school's name to Concordia College, and in 1994 it became Concordia University.

Yes, I am aware that my hair looks like a helmet and that I look like a dork without a goatee.


Originally uploaded by T-Mal
These were the Concordia Teacher's College 1988-89 Bulldog's Cheerleaders. This is the Seward, Nebraska town band shell next to Godfather's Pizza at the end of the Homecoming parade. I still remember the chant-

This is the Doghouse
Big Blue and White!
This is the Doghouse
And we know how to FIGHT!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

In the Merry Old Land of Oz!

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz, #1)The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fun, fanciful read that really helps you get to know and care about the characters better than the movie. It's an easy read (go figure, it's a children's book). I enjoyed reading it myself so much that I decided to start reading it as a bedtime story to my 6 and 9 year old daughters, and they're loving it too! There are a lot more adventures and the friends encounter more strange creatures than in the movie. Of course, the witches are also a lot more vulnerable and Dorothy is much less musical than in the film too.

Simple, sweet and American classic that it is- legend has it that it is a political allegory of the gilded age. I'm not sure how well it stacks up to other satires like Dante's Divine Comedy or Voltaire's Candide, but as a former high school American History teacher, I did a little digging around and this is what I found.

Midwestern farmers (The Scarecrow)

Urban industrial workers (the Tin-man)

William Jennings Bryan, populist presidential candidate (the Cowardly Lion), although some theories say that the lion represents the organized Church and religious leaders.

Yellow brick road (the gold standard), in spite of what Glenn Beck and Tea-Baggers think these days, Baum apparently thought of it as a road to nowhere.

Emerald City (Either paper money & finance, or perhaps Washington DC)

Wizard of Oz (the President) OR... Oz is an abbreviation for gold, which was a hot political topic with people rallying for a fixed ratio of silver and gold, OR... Mark Hanna, the chairman of the Republican party at the time.

Dorothy, the symbol of Everyman, us, U.S. (Although, another theory is that she represents Theodore Roosevelt, the United States president. Some people believe this theory more than the other because of the similarities in the names: Dor-o-thy and The-o-dore.

Silver shoes (the proposed system of basing backing the Dollar at least partly with silver, popular with Western miners and farmers)

Wicked Witch of the East symbolizes the large industrial corporations and eastern finance. But some think of the Witch of the West as the Railroad Barons, but others say she is William McKinley who ran against William Jennings Bryan and won.

Good Witch of the North is thought to represent the workers of the north, whereas the Good Witch of the South is thought to represent the farmers of the south. This contrasts the wicked industrialists of the east and the railroad moguls of the west.

Uncle Henry: In the late 1800's, there was a famous farmer who was the editor of a leading farm magazine. His name was Henry Cantwell Wallace, and everyone called him Uncle Henry.

The flying monkeys represent Native Americans.

The basic moral seems to be that the "powers-that-be" can only remain in power through deception- our ignorance and "red-neck-hood" allow the powerful to manipulate and control us.

Ha - ha - ha, Ho - ho - ho - And a couple of tra - la - las
That's how we laugh the day away, In the Merry Old Land of Oz!

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Don't turn back

Rolling back reform would add $230 billion to the deficit, allow 32 million Americans to go without coverage, and put the insurance companies back in charge of who gets care.

Even though their repeal won't make it through the Senate only to be vetoed, Republicans have vowed to try to try to pick apart at healthcare reform with a plethora of small bills and court challenges. 

These are some of the things that they're hoping to do:

-- Undo steps to close the "donut hole" in prescription drug coverage that makes prescriptions unaffordable for millions of seniors;

-- Allow insurance companies to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions -- as many as half of Americans under 65;

-- Legalize the practice of insurance companies dropping people's coverage when they get sick -- just because they made a mistake on a form; and

-- Prevent young adults under 26 from staying on their parents' insurance.

Yeah, these are pretty much talking points from, so I'm a pretty much being a party shill here, but the thing is 1. I agreed with the mass email they sent me, 2. I'm being honest about it and 3. this is important.

The House leadership is using deceptive language and fear mongering again. This time instead of talking about socialism and "death panels" threatening to kill Grandma, they're calling it the "job-killing healthcare reform bill" and pretending to care about the deficit. Iowa's Steve King compares it to a malignant cancer growing on the Constitution! What a bunch of hubris!

It doesn't seem to matter to the GOP or the Tea Party movement that Bush's massive tax cuts for the richest 2% or the unprovoked war against Iraq both took us from surpluses under Clinton to the massive deficit we have and the gross negligence of Wall Street and the housing markets made more government spending necessary to prevent global financial disaster!

The Healthcare reform passed by the last Congress is almost identical to that written by Republicans back in the 90's yet they've made it central to as much fear, anger and vitriol about government as they can conjure. 

Isn't it time for this nonsense to finally stop?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

De Facto Segregation

This is a day late for MLK Day, but it's pretty amazing if it's true and worth a thought. De Jure Segregation may have been banned, but de facto segregation continues.

U.S. fact of the day

American schools are more segregated by race and class today than they were on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, 43 years ago. The average white child in America attends a school that is 77 percent white, and where just 32 percent of the student body lives in poverty. The average black child attends a school that is 59 percent poor but only 29 percent white. The typical Latino kid is similarly segregated; his school is 57 percent poor and 27 percent white.
Overall, a third of all black and Latino children sit every day in classrooms that are 90 to 100 percent black and Latino.

Monday, January 17, 2011

3 Things we really should talk about

In the wake of the shooting massacre at Congresswoman Gifford's meet-and-greet in Tucson, Arizona last week there seem to be three controversial topics which have been on the minds of many Americans.

Regardless of whether or not any of these three actually had much influence on shooter Jared Laugher or not, all three are things which we really do need to be able to have some "grown-up" conversations about. Unfortunately, many people have gotten either so defensive or so indignant about at least two of the three, that the third seems to be going ignored. It would be tragic if it ends up being shelved and closeted or swept under the proverbial rug, because it has spent far too long there already.

The topics of course are, civility in discourse, the availability and lack of regulation of weapons and ammunition, and the treatment of those with mental health issues.

Of course it has long been next to impossible to talk about the second issue because of the deterioration of the first, but I'll get to that later.

First of all, let's face it. America has become intensely polarized in the last few decades.

There are those on the right who will claim that in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks we came together under the "United We Stand" slogan, but the "liberal media" and the anti-war movement quickly began sowing seeds of dissension.

Myself, I suspect that the real schism was pried open by the manipulation of sound bites and talking points memos crafted by the likes of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and GOP strategist Lee Atwater and disseminated initially by AM talk radio shock jocks like Rush Limbaugh and Mike Savage. Those who agree with me could draw a logical line of lineage to Karl Rove and FOX personalities Bill O'Rielly and Glenn Beck.

But some will argue that I am a hypocrite for pointing the finger of blame and villainizing conservative activists. Fair enough. Let's take it further back. Older conservatives might say that the entropy of civility and political polarity is due to the disrespect for high office and distrust and adversarial positioning that were a result of the Watergate coverage by the Washington Post and CBS News and the anti war movement during Vietnam.

Although, there are those on the left who would speculate that if it wasn't the spin-doctoring introduced by the Reagan administration, then it was Nixon's Southern strategy of appealing to latent racist fear and anger to capture votes of Southern Whites in the late 60's with "code words" like states-rights, urban blight, and law-and-order.

Wherever the ultimate blame lays, here we are in a ultra tribal climate where people on either extreme of the political spectrum see each other as subhuman and are in a constant struggle to win over the 75-80% of Americans who live in the middle. One side uses emotionally charged, moral language, and the other uses overly complicated policy laded jargon. Is it any wonder that one side sees the other as intolerant fanatics and that side sees the first side as insufferable elitist?

Whatever happened to the good old American maxims like we're all in this together, we're all in the same boat, let's agree to disagree, and lets try to find some middle ground? The fact is that if we're ever going to solve any of our mounting problems, we are going to have to be able to talk with each other. That starts with the presuppositions that we are all people and that we are all equals.

We can't become immediately defensive and we have to all grow up and stop assuming that each of us has an absolute monopoly on what's right. We need to be willing to listen and we need to not be so hypersensitive whenever someone says something we disagree with- no matter how wrong we believe they are.

That, boys and girls is called civility. It means that you have to share and play nice. You have to be patient and kind and respectful. Sometimes you may even need to be deferential or (gulp) compromise.

Now, as to guns. You're right NRA, "guns don't kill people, people kill people." But you know what? They sure make it efficient. Laugher had 30 round clips that he got at a Wal Mart. Here's a guy who was rejected by the Army and ejected from community college, both for being mentally instable and yet it was convenient for him to get 30 round clips. Standard is a 10 round clip. Hunters, sportsmen, law enforcement officials and military personnel will all tell you that no one needs 30 rounds for self defense or to kill a deer. The only reason for having a 30 round magazine is to make it efficient to kill several people quickly.

We're not talking about taking away your guns or denying your Constitutional rights. We're talking about reasonable restrictions which make us ALL safer. At the risk of sounding condescending or un-civil, the Russians aren't going to invade us like in the 80's movie Red Dawn and there's no such thing as zombies. If you think it's imperative to stockpile a large number of weapons with as much ammunition as possible, you're very likely a member of some kind of paranoid, militaristic White supremacist group or a polygamist cult or you're very mentally unstable yourself- or all three.

If you're not one of these three kinds of nuts, or involved in organized crime in some way, please try to be a little less absolutist when arguing for your gun rights. If you could muster a little more reasonableness and a little less sanctimony, it will go a long way toward the rest of us not stereotyping you as gun "nuts." I'm perfectly fine with the logic that every American has a right to a rifle, shot-gun, and/or hand gun, but come on, get real, your right to bear arms does not include a right to automatic sub-machine guns or surface-to-air rocket launchers- it just doesn't, I'm sorry. The rest of the world thinks that we're unreasonably violent cowboys for wanting just the one hand gun each.

Finally, and most importantly we have to do something about our shameful ignorance of and indifference to the plight of the mentally ill, not to mention our lack of any kind of meaningful structure for screening, evaluating, and treating people with severe mental and emotional illness.

Oh you'd think that we've made giant strides because we closed down all the embarrassing institutions exposed in books like 'One Flew Over the Coo Coo's Nest,' and because television has almost as many commercials for antidepressants as it does for erectile dysfunction- but just because we can take CAT scans and PET scans and MRIs of the human brain and just because we now consider lobotomies and electroshock therapy as barbaric, doesn't mean that we're caring for or providing desperately needed services to this often shunned part of our population.

It's one thing to dissect and analyze Laugher's blog and videos for phrases that might mirror those of Glenn Beck. It's one thing to question how someone who had run afoul of the Army, college, and employment could get their hands on guns and such powerful ammunition so almost effortlessly. But the REAL question is, how could someone so obviously sick not get help? Why wasn't he hospitalized? Why wasn't he in regular counselling? Medicated? Supervised?

Maybe it's because we stigmatize mental illness more than we do respiratory illness, cardiovascular illness or ostiopathic well being? Do we not value Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Therapists, Counselors and Social Workers as much as surgeons, oncologists, gastroenterologists, endocrinologists and other internists?

We seem to be obsessed with our physiques, our skin, our hair, our teeth, and especially the performance of our penises- but when it comes to sociopathy, psychopathy, neurosis, depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma, grief, personality, identity and as in Laugher's case, schizophrenia- we don't want to see it, we don't want to think about it and we sure as hell don't want to have to pay to do anything about it.

I don't know what the answer is. Maybe too few of us have any concept of what could be done because no one has ever been willing to talk about it.

What I do know is that I think it will be a phenomenal tragedy if the next chapter to the story of the Tucson massacre is that Laugher pleads insanity and some right-winger laughs because it's those mamby-pamby bleeding-heart liberal's own damn fault because they let everybody get away with everything.

What I'd love to see is for the recovering Congress woman, her astronaut husband, the gay Latino hero who saved her life, Gifford's dear Republican friends and the parents of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green would all come together to get Laugher psychiatric treatment and propose and fight for a National mental health care bill and establish foundations to provide mental health services to adolescents and young adults in Tucson and beyond. That would be fantastic.

It seems to me that John Hinkly Jr., President Reagan's would-be assassin quickly became the butt of all kinds of crazy guy jokes and Reagan aid Jim Brady who was put in a wheel chair by Hinkly's bullet and ever since tirelessly fought for stricter handgun control laws has all but become a footnote in history.

My prayer is that Gifford and Laugher together become catalysts for major change in the tone of our discourse, in gun regulation and especially in mental health reform.

But if you disagree with me on any of these three issues, do me a favor- please don't call me names, threaten to kill me, or think I must be crazy just because I see things differently than you do.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sent out to a variety of Alumni from 2 schools

Years ago I used to ask former cheerleaders to pray for my current squads. I've kinda gotten lax on that commitment in the last couple of years- mostly just because of being so busy. But the longer you're in this job, the more heartbreak you see in kid's lives, so I'd like to invite you all to ask God's help for a few kids I've been cheering.

If you're from or still in the Dunlap area, please keep these prayer requests confidential. If you're not a person of faith, please don't be offended by this email, just delete it. If you are a believer but like me have been getting caught up with the business of everyday, maybe God will use this email to rekindle your own relationship with Him.

Okay, here goes, first the two biggies:

  • Please pray for "BK," a 5th yr Senior who cheered for us during football season but has now transferred to another school. She's aged out of the foster care system and recently got locked out of the house where she was staying. Her love is basketball, but since she's 19, her hs eligibility has run out. She's a miracle baby- she was born premature with her organs on the outside. She wasn't supposed to survive, but did. She's been surviving ever since. Self-styled rapper on facebook/youtube- not bad for a white girl from Omaha, lot of hurt and anger though- as you could imagine.
  • Please pray for "Kay," a Junior. She also cheered during football this year, but didn't come out for basketball season because she found out that she was pregnant.  Yesterday she had a miscarriage. She was 12 weeks along. As frightened as she had been when she found out she was pregnant in the first place, she's absolutely devastated about losing her baby.
But it would be wonderful if you'd consider praying for a couple of broader and less profound areas too-
  • Please pray for my current basketball squad- Two veterans quit after the first week of games. As often happens when people quit, they didn't really give a reason. The remaining cheerleaders aren't very experienced, they aren't very confident, and they aren't very loud. Don't get me wrong, I'm very proud of them and they've come a loooong way in practice, but they're not the strongest we've ever had. No kidding, three of the girls are painfully shy (it's kind of surprising that they had the courage to come out for cheer). The one girl with the most moxie is a freshman who's a new student and something of a social outcast. Her skills are developing quickly and she has a lot of dedication and motivation, but not exactly as pretty as or as popular as a prom queen. Her family lives in an old funeral home in town and the consensus in town is that her whole family is... maybe a bubble-off-of-plumb, so to speak. Rounding out the squad is a severe/profound special ed boy. He's not able to speak much but just exudes joy and enthusiasm. They're all sweet kids and trying their hardest. I guess, please pray that they'd continue to improve, especially their coordination and that kids wouldn't make fun of them or deride them too much. Especially pray that they'd all gain courage, confidence, poise and skills by working together this season.
  • Please pray that God would bring together a strong squad for next year. There are a few 8th graders who would be good- but they're pretty prone for drama. There are a few Juniors, but I don't know which ones will come out again and whether they'll want to work with next year's Freshmen as Seniors. And of course, there are the girls on this year''s basketball season- a Freshman, a Sophomore, and a couple of Juniors. The last couple of year's it's been hard to get girls to come out for football season, they'd all say that basketball season is more fun- but now this year almost no one wanted to come out for basketball either, and then 2 of them quit.
  • And I guess please pray for my coaching. Last year I was feeling really inspired and reading lots of John Wooden. This week I'm pretty wore out. It's probably just this time of year- basketball season can be grueling with 3 games a week and late nights. I'm not ready to throw in the towel or to give up coaching or anything, but school's busy and with 3 girls of our own, home is busy yadda yadda yadda. Pray that I can remain focused and motivated because these kids deserve the best I can give them. They need a coach and not just a sponsor. Maybe I'm just tired, maybe I'm worried about BK and blue about Kay, to be frank, maybe I'm self-conscious about this season's squad- but for whatever reason I'm feeling pretty fried this week.
That's it. Thank you for your thoughts and your prayers prayers. One of the reasons you were included in this email is because I feel so privileged to have been able to teach or coach you. You are all amazing people who I'm really proud just to have known. It's been wonderful to watch God make you into such great adults.

"The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." James 5:16b


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Words we needed to hear

I think he did an excellent job- as usual. Eloquent a intelligent.  Only RFK did better after a tragedy- when he heard the news of MLK's assassination.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

My other 9 fingers are getting jealous of my right thumb

I got a new (used) toy for Christmas, an 8 gigabyte ipod touch. I am proud to say that I am using it to read the likes of  Carl Sandburg,  Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Emily Dickinson, and Mark Twain. This is a wonderful way to pass a 45 minute bus ride to away games during basketball season in Iowa.

However, I am ashamed to say that I haven't written much at all since the addictive little UFO came to live in my breast pocket- and as you all know, I was once a blogaholic.

What can I do? Thumb exercises? There are free apps for training yourself to speed type- but the 2"x1" qwerty board is just not the same. I wonder if this is what Mike Royko felt like when he gave up his old cast iron Remington for an IBM PC.

Also, because I got the AOL instant-messaging app so that my wife can get a hold of me at school all day, my 8 year old niece thinks that I am an facebook and wants to chat with me. Since I don't reply, she thinks I'm a big meanie (not that I understand why her parents allow a second grader to have a facebook account).

While I'm at it, there is this app for LinkedIn, a professional networking site- but who do I REALLY need to network with anyway? I'm just a high school Art teacher. Should I keep that app? Do I network with other Art teachers? I don't really know any. Okay, one- and she wanted to Skype with me, but my wife got my ipod used on eBay so it doesn't have a camera, let alone a front-facing one. What exactly would I Skype with anyone about anyway?

I never wanted the Visaphone on the Jetsons, just the flying car. Of all the things from that show to come true- why the Visaphone? You'd think the vacuum-tube elevators would've been much more fun.

So I ask you, how do I make myself write again? Will I ever write again? Did I only THINK that it was a compulsion and an integral part of who I am? Have any of you found yourselves limiting your writing to 140 characters or less? Have peculiar symbols crept into what little writing you do do, like "@" & "#?" (by the way, I've been reading a lot by Rosanne Cash and Steve Martin too- but not her memoir or his novel- their tweets. I highly recommend them both. Don't get me wrong, Conan's okay and Corbet's a hoot, but BP is over and God's not everything he's cracked up to be.)

So what do you think? Do I just have to FORCE myself to sit down with the old laptop once in a while? Will that be the only way to get really WRITING again? Do you think maybe I should try writing letters? Would that do the trick? Do you think that might get the old juices going again?

Click "like" if you think I should. Share this with anyone you think may be going through the same problem I am. Or else I guess you could retweet it, whatever.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Welcome to the Teen decade

This is a good day to reflect on the events and blessings of 2010, commit or recommit to resolutions, and maybe make a few predictions- what can you imagine will happen this year?