Teacher, teacher..

Teach the children well. If you can’t teach, you should be grateful to those who can..etc.  It’s school time again. I’ve been around teachers all my life. My dad was a teacher and I sleep with one*.  I am friends, both Facebook and in so-called real life, with many more. I am not necessarily speaking for anybody besides me.

Here in Nashville, and in Tennessee, veteran teachers have been buffeted and metaphorically  battered by state government and local government (not talking about Principals and folks in the schools).  Start with the stripping of the teacher unions to effectively negotiate, the attack on tenure, thanks to the new evaluation system that damaged morale more than anyone not teacher, or living with a teacher could understand, and now we have the latest insult: new teachers will be guaranteed a certain level of pay (higher than in the past), and current, veteran teachers get no raise.

To be very clear, it is not realistic to expect raises every year (either as a state employee like myself, or a local teacher).  Tenure should not be iron-clad, and a good evaluation process is extremely important to rid the school system of incompetent teachers, and much more importantly, to offer ‘course correction’ for those teachers who are generally doing a good job.  Nonetheless, the way this was all handled over the past few years was destructive. If you are a ‘specials’ teacher (art, music, PE), the basis of your evaluation made even less sense.

The state is tweaking the evaluation process, and I believe that system will improve. What the state and metro should also tweak is their approach to veteran teachers who have been pouring their heart, their time, and in many cases their own money into their jobs.

I laud the passion of my wife, Lynn Ownby Hutcheson, Abigail Reynolds, Linda Summey Slayton, Linda Sabol Hagan and many many others who really do care and should be honored (at least occasionally with a raise and an acknowledgement).

Once again, these words are my own, and my not be endorsed by any of the people listed above.

*uh, I should add I’ve been married to this teacher for nearly 35 years.

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‘A budget is a moral document’..

If you believe a political party can be judged by it’s proposed budget, then the Grand Old tea Party evisceration of Planned Parenthood (and no, abortions are NOT funded by the federal government) and their cancer screening services for the lower income women, the slashing of the WIC budget – a program that provides prenatals and infants with nutrition services and works with immunization to make sure that children are fully immunized, speaks volumes. No it won’t pass, but it ain’t remotely pro-life.

 

If anyone is serious about budget slashing, cut out the ethanol nonsense subsidies, the farm subsidies and more important figure out a way to manage medicare/medicaid spending, as well as not funding a project just because it is labeled ‘defense’.

The Bush administration dishonesty regarding funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars ‘off the books, while cutting taxes has left us in one of the worst recessions in recent history. Cutting taxes for the wealthiest did little to alleviate the problem. If these tax cuts really helped grow the economy and create jobs, then where the hell are the jobs?

 

I’m not even going to pretend that the Democratic party is seriously attacking budget bloat, but the GOP is doing nothing more than blaming the victims for the mess we are in, instead of trying to rein in the real swindlers who perpetrated the largest fraud in American history.  Income inequity is at the root of many of the uprisings we are witnessing around the world.  Busting unions and taking away nutrition services from pre-natals and infants may win points with the far-right base of the Tea Party, but it’s no way to run a country.

 

A balance between government over-reach and the social Darwinism proposed by the anti-government crowd is sorely needed.  Here’s hoping Obama and reasonable legislators on both sides of the aisle will figure that out..

 

 

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A few thoughts upon seeing the ‘Birth of Impressionism’ exhibit at the Frist

We made it under the wire, on the very last day.  Ironically, my wife and I were visiting the Musee’ D’Orsay when this exhibit opened in Nashville.  Having lived most of my life in the presence of art teachers, I always cherish an exhibit that is both inspirational and informative, and most of all surprising.  Impressionism is not my favorite period, but it did liberate the artist from the shackles of realistic painting..this exhibit does quite well in explaining the evolution of the genre, and gives one a greater understanding of the camaraderie and mutual inspiration of these revolutionaries.

 

My somewhat organized and loosely connected thoughts…

 

1) First of all, no textbook or print  can prepare you for seeing the Fifer by Manet or anything by Degas.  Manet’s palette is eye-popping in person, and his care in portraying his subjects is well demonstrated.  The kinetic energy of the ballet paintings by Degas move me especially, no little bit because my dad the art teacher loved Degas.

 

2) Hugh Hefner was not all that original (by several hundred years).

 

3) I wish I could have shared this exhibit with my dad. He told his many Art Appreciation students that the most beautiful form in the world was…well, related to item number 2 on my list! That thought, spoken aloud in the halls of David Lipscomb, probably surprised a few people.  I wished so much today that I could have shared the exhibit with him….me, being quiet for a longer period than normal..he, pointing out things that in fifty years, most people would never notice, and helping me understand the soul-shaking magnificence of what I was barely seeing..

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It never fails – if i give it all away and don’t have love I didnt’ do anything..

One day not long ago I was walking with a friend back from lunch. We randomly encountered her husband at a stop light and I got to witness a chance kiss, thanks to a light that didn’t change. Tonight I witnessed a wedding of one of my daughter’s best friends and the inevitable kiss that was entirely not random. I know these people and have great affection for these people..I am not really an optimist about humankind (why I really can’t be classified as a modern liberal), but acts of love give me hope (and in a subdued side-note, make me quite happy).

Veering off somewhat, but I will get back to the above…

I have heard talk all my life about how we are the greatest country that ever existed. I believe such talk is fatuous because no one has lived in every country that ever existed, and to iterate the obvious, not too many years ago the city in which I reside was ruled by apartheid, and a hundred years before that we considered black people sub-human and not eligible for that ‘all men are created equal’ business. But, I hasten to say – I will put our Declaration of Independence and Constitution against any document, written or unfurled by law, and I will never believe it’s a fair fight. The rule of law, which does exist in many countries, was the basis of this country’s independence, and enabled this country to survive lawmakers whose behavior was beyond any law devised by any country outside of dictatorships.

Veering back slightly to the original paragraph..

I was raised on religion. There was spirituality sprinkled in there (not literally..we were C of C full immersion), but the church I attended and the school I attended often got lost in the rules and missed the point. This is not intended to be an attack on either, but my bigger point is that religion is man-made artifice and spirituality is something else all together. Ask a recovered addict what rule about dancing or issue about music in church got them through the tunnel. Proof-text is the dance of pinwheels on angels, but attacking spirituality or Christianity (or any ‘brand’ of worship) based on the nonsensical hate-filled horror show that the religious side show has perpetrated on mankind is missing the mark. Just as stating that America’s ideology and basis for governance is invalid based on the fact that many of our forefathers/mothers were slave-owners or accepted slavery as the righteous way of life. The rule of law endures all things.

I’m a long way from where I was, but I will put up these words against any creed or religious teaching in the world:

Love your neighbor as yourself. When asked who is your neighbor, I will extrapolate and tell you that your neighbor may be a Muslim, an illegal immigrant. My neighbor may be Sarah Palin or a red-neck bigot. That guy over there has a neighbor who hasn’t bothered to learn English and my other neighbor might be the son of Jerry Falwell. I find it hard to like those neighbors, much less love them, but the radical rule of law that is espoused by Christianity is that all these people are my neighbors, (damn it!) and I need to treat them like I want to be treated.

Even better – and I’d like to see this piece of poetry go head to head with any heavyweight doctrine in the world:

Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not jealous..it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests. It is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices in truth. It bears all things, believes all things and hopes all things AND endures all things. Love never fails.

We fall short..we see that kiss…We see hope and we still get it wrong ever so often. But I want to live in a country where all men are created equal. Where life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is paramount. Where I am treated by people who don’t like me, the way I want to be treated. I want to live in that place where love will strip you to the marrow and lift you on the shoulders of giants.

Thanks to the people in love I have cited above..you know who you are..

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There’s no ‘I’ in TEAM, but there is an ‘M’ (Meyer), or, No one is inVincible..

I recently finished Buster Olney’s wonderful book on former Lipscomb coach Don Meyer.  I’ve always been a fan of Meyer (never met him) from the time my dad and I were talking on the phone when I lived in Brooklyn.  He said, ‘there’s something really odd going on with the basketball program…i’m not sure how the team is going to do under this new guy (Meyer), but it’s going to be interesting to watch’.  I followed the program from afar, and when we moved back to Nashville, I probably watched the man coach over 100 games.

He is, and was rather odd and off-putting.  He has a perennial scowl and doesn’t appear friendly.  He barked at his players and paced the sidelines like a chained pit-bull.  He also coached basketball at a different level and was watching a different game than I (a huge college basketball fan) and many others ever notice.  Underneath that scowl and bundle of eccentricity was one of the most interesting and humble men I’ve ever read about.   If you get Meyer, you understand how a man can be humble but not weak, tenacious, but not addictive.

Read the book, (and check out a former Northern Dakota player’s book about Coach Meyers* as well).  What the Coach weaves in an almost mystical tapestry of aphorisms and stories is that no one player on a team, no matter how incredible or how untalented is any more or less part of a team than any other player.  You understand that Meyer has influenced hundreds if not thousands of young people to treat everyone as if they were the most important person in the room, no matter their so-called station in life.  You read the testimonials of the men who played for Meyer and you understand that Meyer made them better people (or actually help them understand what they had inside them to be better).

You read about former player’s tragedy and how the Coach and many former teammates traveled long distances to be support their teammate.  Some of the things you read make you think the man is crazy and destructive, but then you realize he’s doing what needed to be done to bring a person down to earth or just to realize how fortunate he really is.

You read about a man who lost a leg in a car wreck and then cancer was discovered when surgery was performed on the leg and how that didn’t begin to bring the man down.  The book is not hagiography or idolatry, but you begin to understand a man of immense faith who didn’t just talk about doing the right thing.

I once heard him speak on what was supposed to be parenting..instead we got time management, the importance of not drinking sodas and the difference between religion and spirituality (first time I heard anyone describe the divergence so well), and how to live properly you live in the moment.  What I at first thought was a rambling collection of odd (and interesting) thoughts became a brilliant lecture on parenting, not because he spoke one word about raising kids, but because he was talking about being healthy on every level.  You take care of yourself, don’t squander your time, and live in the moment and you will be one heckuva parent.

I once saw the man call a timeout with two seconds left in the first half when his team was leading by 28 points.  It was one of the most illogically timed time-outs ever, but like I say, the man wasn’t watching the same game as most of us.  He saw something he didn’t like, and he didn’t want to wait until half-time to discuss the problem.

He wanted to win, but playing well and playing the game correctly, living life well and living it in the moment and living in a state of humility and strength were what he taught.  Once you got that, winning was a brilliant side effect….good parenting was a brilliant side effect.

I really don’t have anything to add to the Vince Young saga that has dominated our city for the last couple of days.  I read about Meyer’s players and how they learned to handle adversity and how to treat others, and it just makes me sad that Young didn’t have someone like Meyer at an early age to channel that incredible talent.  I’m sad that concepts like team and handling adversity apparently don’t mean the same thing to Young as it does to the young men I read about in Olney’s book.

Much more importantly, I realize how I’ve squandered time, have been thoughtless and ranted and raved about my computer not operating quickly enough (among other things).  I think about the anger I’ve expressed towards the people I love more than anything in the world, and I know that none of those people I’ve talked about are perfect, but how fortunate we can be, if we just see what is right before our eyes.

“Happiness begins when selfishness ends”

“A fool despises instruction”

“Do the ordinary things extra-ordinarily well”

“You can measure somebody’s character by how they treat people that can’t do them any good or can’t fight back”

*The book about playing for Meyer is ‘Playing for Coach Meyer’ by Steve Smiley

Olney’s incredible book is ‘How Lucky Can You Be’..it deserves to sell brilliantly..

 

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Creepin’ Monday Blues..

Sunday in the PM, fighting off those creeping Monday blues..

wanted redemption from the Titans, but they gathered no moss

had to go and lose…

squabbling and fussing, a junkie needs his connection..

but the sign said CLOSED down at the Cupcake Collection..

Got those creepin’ Monday blues..

darkness clamping early, not in on the daylight ruse

too cold to walk it off, too little of  Sunday remains,

want a shake-em-up transition, but i get the whistle of the trains

leaving Sunday behind, a wistful backwards glance..

need some rocking and some rolling, goodbye sundown dance..

It’s those creeping Monday blues, getting in some licks..

feel like a city boy, taking wrong turns in the sticks..

 

 

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Yeah, I watched the CMAs, but I’d rather hold Kort…

I had never watched the CMA Awards in their entirety, and I really still haven’t but I watched a lot more out of  curiosity this year, and not just to make fun out of the band that I’ll call Pascal Cats, so as not to be too mean.  Even though the sound was absolutely terrible from a TV perspective (and Twitter nation pronounced it no less a disaster in person), it is not my intent to be a musical snob and decry the escalating modernity of what once was truly country and western music.

Brad Paisley CAN play a mean guitar and Miranda Lambert has a great set of pipes, and even though I believe that Loretta Lynn pretty much blew everyone else off the stage, I don’t think anyone can say that the talent well has been capped and is nothing more than a nostalgia trunk show.  I will say that auto-tune apparently plays an important role in some of these folks recorded output based on their next-door-neighbor approach to tunefulness, but I’m really trying not to be mean..

Where I’m really heading is somewhere down the way from the Ryman is an alley called alt-country/americana/new country that artists seem to consigned into, if their sound is too folky, or actually too country.  Lucinda lives down there, along with Tom Russell, Rosanne C, Patty Griffin and a host of folks who folks who either hearken back (Jamey Johnson) or dabble brilliantly (Robert Plant & Elvis Costello), and then there are people who seem other-worldly (Gillian Welch) or ethereal (Julie Miller)…which brings me to my main point finally – there are records/albums/CDs so wonderful and pure and something i just can’t describe – you have to let the recording speak for itself.  The artists listed in this paragraph have all made such recordings and some of them do get recognized by larger audiences, but many are often niched and appreciated from a distance.

This year’s album was recently released here in the US and features a couple of Nashvillians who don’t sing one song written in the last ten years, and I promise you, is the best piece of country you’ll hear inside or outside the CMAs..The name of the duo is Kort  – one part Lambchop leader Kurt Wagner with this whiskey voice paired with the pure as branch water voice of Cortney Tidwell.  The songs are timeless, the harmonies divine and in some cases will break your heart.  Just buy the dang thing..please*

*I do not know either artist, nor do I receive compensation in any form for saying any of this (as if somebody would pay me). I just love good music, and frankly, I don’t give a damn what category…

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