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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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What it’s gonna get me to watch the ‘LeBron James Vanity Special’ tonight.

Note: some of this is borrowed from The Sports Guy. I have embellished quite a bit..I AM interested in where LeBron goes because it definitely will effect the next few years of the NBA.

To watch the show I’m not asking, I’m DEMANDING the following:
1) All the GM’s in contention in the room with LeBron
2) A rose
3) Seacrest
4) A table with all of the hats of the teams in contention
5) the frozen head of Ted Williams
6) a song from the losing GMs after LeBron makes his choice – preferably a medley of ‘You’re No Good’, ‘I’m a Loser’, ‘Fat-Bottom Girls’ and ‘Halloween Head’ by Ryan Adams

The show opens with Seacrest introducing the GMs and making jokes about the enormous forehead of Jim Gray (the official host of the show). LeBron descends from the ceiling in some kind of chariot (kind of a reverse Elijah). LeBron dribbles around (with a basketball of course), takes a couple of trick shots, and then begins to eliminate the hats from the table. When he gets to the final two hats, he opens the box holding Ted Williams frozen head, and puts the ‘winning’ hat on Williams cryogenic noggin, and hands a rose to the ‘winning’ GM.

Seacrest interviews the crest-fallen ‘losing’ GMs. An army of small children (possibly the offspring of Shawn Kemp) rappel down the forehead of Gray. The show closes with the medley from the losing GMs while LaBron and the winning GM ascend into basketball heaven.

Otherwise, I’m just gonna get the news from my phone and skip the foreplay..

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An appreciation, after the cascade, of Patty Griffin

Anyone who can read and/or hear in any fashion knows that we’ve been deluged with a cascade of famous people passing on..many of us have faced loss on a far more personal and poignant level. We often declare to others and to ourselves that THIS TIME we’ll treat others better, appreciate the small things, live life more fully, etc etc etc, only to find ourselves back in the rut of the day-to-day rinse lather repeat rhythm that weakens the resolve to climb higher and seek the noble.

It really is hard to change. I’ve promised myself that I will..and maybe I’ve grown (perhaps you more than I), but it’s easy to norm, and pretty natural.

After my friend Robert died, and I wrote an appreciation AFTER the fact, I have vowed to appreciate my friends more, openly and, at times, in writing. Patty Griffin isn’t really my friend, even though I wish I knew her. There are few celebrities I really want to meet. I think I’d have little to say and perhaps I’d be disappointed that they really aren’t much different than most.

Patty G is a singer and a songwriter of the highest level. I’m not sure what I’d say first, but I’d love to sit on the front porch with a coffee or some other brew and just delve into what she finds interesting. I’d love to tell her that ‘Long Walk Home’ should be taught in English classes everywhere because it’s a great short story in song, with hints that can be richly explored. I want to tell her that the first time I heard ‘Flaming Red’ in a Borders Book store listening station in Knoxville I knew I had found someone who moved me as much as Otis Redding and Sam Cooke did when I was a kid listening to WLAC on my transistor radio.

I love that Patty has such a big voice in such a small frame. I love the flaming red hair and when she croons and when she rocks. I’ve been to many of her shows, including the Ryman Aditorium concert that was later released as a concert CD (I told my wife after the show that this would make a great recording – I’m such a genius), a concert that made the audience members laugh, cry and actually shut up with the chatter. You really could have heard a pin drop. She’s that good.

‘Oh Heavely Day’ still brings chills. Nothing but ‘Blue Skies’ still elevates my spirit. I just wanted to say all this while someone I appreciate and adore is still with us…

Thank you, Patty.


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The Angina Monologues – Chapter 1, in which the narrator is asked to ‘Turn it Down’ (repeatedly)

I’m 12 years old and I hear ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ on the radio and I rush over to Zibart’s in Green Hills and I buy the single, and I play that sucker about 200 times in a row trying to figure out what this mad genius is talking about and then I turn the single over and it’s something called ‘Gates of Eden’ and I play that roughly the same number of times and it’s even more obscure, and somewhere in the middle of all that comes my mother’s voice asking me to PLEASE turn that awful music down and why would anyone want to listen to that, and then I turn it down a little bit, but that amazing Al Kooper organ just moves me so much and then I turn it BACK UP to 11 and the mother’s voice gets a little louder and I realize that I’m risking hearing my freakin’ father’s voice, which I do not want to hear in that context, so I turn it down, but in my heart, Dylan is ringing off the walls and peeling the paint on my closed bedroom door. The Beatles are on the hi-fi and they are twisting and shouting and I’m about to just explode because it’s that part of the song where they all go ah-ah-ah-ah in harmony each time going a little higher and I’m going a little higher even though the properties of marijuana are, as yet, unknown to me, and I’m singing my little butt off even though in no way, shape or form could my caterwauling be misconstrued as really singing, and I’m so happy I forgot that I had to go to church like 7 straight nights for a gospel meeting in which I will personally be stared at by 37 old women who are badgering me to be baptized but I’m stubborn like that and besides Bob Dylan saved me, John Lennon saved me, Chuck Berry saved me and I”m just about to start speaking in musical tongues when my mother’s voice high-pitches me upside the head: TURN IT DOWN. What’s a young skinny boy supposed to do? I can’t sing in a rock and roll band, but I’m starting to realize that I had the music in me, even if it is somebody elses music, lyrics and beat, and why do I have to turn IT DOWN? It’s my life, it’s alright ma, I’m only exceeding everything I knew before. I’m 16 and driving the Old’s wagon down the road and I”m picking up a date and I’m listening to Mick tell somebody to get off his cloud and I pick somebody up and they ask me to please turn it down and I want to say, IT”S THE STONES, but I realize that I won’t be going on many dates if I start yelling on one of my very first ‘car’ dates, so I turn it down, but I know already that this girl can’t be THE ONE because she wants me to turn down the Stones, the greatest rock n’ roll band that ever existed in 1968. I’m in love, I’m in college and her name is Gail and she appreciates the music and she grew up with the music playing loud, but she is tired of the loud and I’m trying to get her to understand that Lowell George is a freaking genius and she smiles and says yes, he’s good, but it is too loud and like a good boyfriend, I turn it down. Didn’t anyone understand that they were tearing another little piece of my heart?. My kid is about 5 months old and I’m married and it’s not my college girlfriend and I’m happy as the kid in Almost Famous and I’m arguing with my wife that if the kid is spoiled by having the music turned down low, he’ll never be used to hearing music correctly and he’ll cry at the drop of a turntable needle, and of course I lose that argument. Will I ever get to TURN IT UP? Many years later and the kids are grown (the very same damn kids who asked me to TURN the car radio down when I was driving them places) and we are not in a ‘good place’ and I feel at the end of a rope and I don’t know what to give (helpless, helpless, helpless) and I don’t know what to do, and then I hear this Patty Griffin song with tinge of gospel and a lot of soul and I sure she’ll love it and I can’t wait to play it for her when we go out on a Friday night and I’ve got it ‘cued’ up on the car CD player and I know she’s going to love it and we take off in the car and I crank it up thinking that this is my perfect gift to her, and of course she asks me to turn it down, and my heart just breaks in 15 places and I just want to turn around, go home and turn up some Stones, but you know the rest.


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What kind of idiot are you? It’s a pseudo Facebook quiz!

I’m not expecting you to answer any questions, because why would idiots answer questions (not that anyone reading this is an idiot)? They would assume, make silly-wild-ass guesses, postulate based upon nothing more they heard on talk radio or something their uncle told them when they were nine and it stuck for no other reason than the opinion came along with a stick of gum.

Do you forget to use your turn signal when you are changing lanes in heavy interstate traffic?

Do you forget to turn OFF your turn signal after you’ve driven a mile since you changed lanes?

Do you speculate on pivotal plot points OUT LOUD during the movie when others are merely content to silently contemplate those very points?

Do you repeat the same exact thing you just said three or four times, each time more loudly, when no one responds not knowing you are being ignored?

Do you yell at your computer when it’s moving too slowly for your taste?

Do you use anger to underline your point even though anger is the very thing that makes the person you are talking to quit listening?

Are you afraid to admit you like some TV show/movie/book/song/play just because the people around you are mocking that very piece of art?

Do you choose not to say I love you when it would be quite beneficial to the one you love?

Do you keep talking long past the time when it would be really good to just be quiet?

Do you avoid it hoping that maybe someone else will just up and do it?

Do you assume your friends know how much they mean to you just because you think about how much they mean to you?

Does fear stop you from doing the thing you need to do the most?

Do you really think you are in control?

Well, I’m one or more of that kind of idiot. You get to decide about yourself.

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Magdalene House – A great way to designate your United Way contributions

I don’t know about you, but where I work, it’s that time of year where we have a chance to donate to the United Way. If you haven’t specified your United Way donation, or haven’t decided to donate yet, I urge to consider the Magdalene House. Magdalene was started in 1977 by Becca Stevens. Becca is a hero. Listen to what they do (and consider that their success rate is over 90%):

Magdalene is a two-year residential community founded in Nashville, Tennessee in 1997 for women with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. Magdalene was founded not just to help a sub-culture of women, but to help change the culture itself. We stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from sexual abuse, violence, and life on the streets, and who have paid dearly for a culture that buys and sells women like commodities. At no cost, we offer women a safe, disciplined, and compassionate community for two years, paid for by the gifts we receive from individuals and private grants. Magdalene stands as a witness to the truth that in the end, love is more powerful than all the forces that drive women to the streets.

I can’t say it any better than that. Here’s a link to the Magdalene site (including a way to donate directly): Magdalene

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