Everybody Clap Your Hands

There is a celebrity educator renowned among teachers for his bestselling books and the extraordinary commitment he has made to fostering the success of disadvantaged students. His achievements and advice are laudable, as is his practice of funding his school with the honorariums he earns as a popular speaker. Anyone would be thrilled to have him looking after the learning of their child. And yet, despite my admiration for all that he has done for children and teachers alike, there is one quirky aspect of his personality that makes me cringe. He is known for spontaneously mounting desks and tables and proceeding to dance.

Now, I have nothing against people dancing. For all I care, the whole of my community can shimmy about as a choreographed flash mob the next time I’m out and about town. I will smile charitably and perhaps even enjoy the display. Just don’t ask me to boogie along. Primal as the urge to dance supposedly is, I have never felt the compulsion to bust a move. Just the opposite, in fact. Never am I happier to remain seated than when a group of revelers is dancing. My reluctance to dance is little different than, say, your dismissal of foods you do not like. It’s just not for me. I simply do not enjoy it.

But the dancing celebrity educator sees it differently. Not only does he literally put himself on a pedestal and shake his groove thing, he expects everyone else to follow his lead. Whether he is addressing his student body or a convention hall full of teachers, he expects every last soul to clap along. Read More

Of Course We’re Going To Riot

Penn State students making their point by destroying property.

You can fire the university president, and you can fire the head football coach. You can fully cooperate with authorities and enact whatever painful, pragmatic measures are necessary to restore respectability to a tarnished institution. But what, Penn State officials must be asking themselves, can be done to reeducate the misguided students who rioted after the announcement of Joe Paterno’s termination? While the allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky apparently reveal a systemic failure to properly notify police and child welfare agencies of reported abuses, the destructive behavior of students on Wednesday night is indicative of another ingrained dysfunction.

Many of the young adults quoted in a New York Times account of the incident were disturbingly cavalier and defiant about the violent student reaction to news that their beloved coach had been suddenly and unceremoniously axed. “It’s not fair,” claimed one of them. “The board is an embarrassment and a disservice to the student population.” Note the adolescent egocentrism in that remark. The young man is upset because firing Paterno for failing to fulfill a moral obligation to actively prevent further instances of child abuse impinges on his needs as a student. It’s like a bratty kid kicking the fireman because his Halloween candy melted. Read More

The Immortal, Medicinal Marx Brothers

For the uninitiated: Zeppo, Groucho, Chico and Harpo

One hectic spring somewhere in my thirties, I realized that I was coming perilously close to taking myself and everyday life too seriously. Dwelling on chronic annoyances and my inability to remedy them was simply compounding my problems. I was at risk of developing a permanently sour expression. Then I stumbled upon a most unexpected antidote to gloomy self-absorption. While browsing at the library, I found a DVD box set of the first five Marx Brothers movies.

The Marx Brothers were a cultural phenomenon that I had somehow ignored. I knew who Groucho Marx was, of course, and I was aware of Harpo’s pantomime shtick, but beyond a rudimentary knowledge of titles and famous routines, I knew almost nothing of their celebrated movies. What was it that made them so appealing to their fans? The box set was an opportunity to eradicate my gnawing ignorance. Anal retentive that I am, I resolved to watch all of the movies in the order by which they were released. It was a course of action that, in hindsight, I would prescribe to anyone who feels weighed down by their burdens. Read More

Solo Artist

Education Director Jason Hanley interviews Carl Palmer at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“There’s lots of things you play when you’ve got an instrument – whether it be a guitar or piano, or whatever – that you kind of play for yourself; you don’t really think of playing it in concert because it’s not that type of piece of music,” explained Carl Palmer at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum last Saturday afternoon. “Usually drum solos need to be exciting, very direct. In a festival environment, you know, in a concert environment, you can’t be too arty about it, you’ve got to get to the point. And I like to entertain people as well, and I like to make sure if there’s any drummers in the room, they know I can play.”

Explosive laughter resounded throughout the intimate Foster Theater at that last remark. Fewer than 200 lucky fans had just enjoyed the U.S. premiere of The Solo, a 35-minute art film featuring the legendary drummer doing what he does best. If his accomplished career with Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Asia were not sufficient evidence of his extraordinary talent, The Solo showcases Carl Palmer’s abilities as never before. Read More

That’s Right, I Said “Autumnal”

I have just become aware of a popular trend in seasonal nomenclature that threatens to upend millennia of tradition and, more importantly, thumbs its nose at my personal preference. It concerns the term by which we ought to refer to today’s astronomical event, when the center of the sun can be seen to pass directly overhead (90° off the horizon) as observed at the equator, thus signaling a change of season. It is my habit to call this occurrence the Autumnal Equinox. I also accept the use of Fall Equinox, inasmuch as autumn and fall are synonyms. However, there is a movement afoot to hereby replace those cherished monikers with September Equinox.

This is apparently the term that is preferred by many astronomers and other scientists, and in that particular regard, it is a reasonable replacement, for it is more precise. After all, one hemisphere’s Autumnal Equinox is another hemisphere’s Vernal Equinox, and scientific terminology demands the absence of ambiguity. Fair enough. You scientists may exercise your right to specificity, and I may carry on using a name that works for me and everyone else in the Northern Hemisphere. But do a little poking around on the Internet, and you’ll find some members of the lay public adopting September Equinox for a totally different reason. Read More

Kasich Threatens To Hold Breath

Ohio’s strong-willed Republican governor, John R. Kasich, unleashed a new and unprecedented tactic in his ongoing campaign against the repeal of Senate Bill 5, which places severe restrictions on collective bargaining for public employees.

“You don’t want to know what will happen if SB5 is repealed,” Kasich told an audience of business owners at an event sponsored by the League of Wealthy Citizens on Thursday. “Because if this Issue 2 is defeated, so help me, I will hold my breath until I turn blue. I swear I will. Don’t think I don’t mean it.”

Voters will have the opportunity to decide the fate of SB5 by voting on Issue 2 in November. As worded by the Franklin County Board of Elections, a “no” vote on Issue 2 is a vote to repeal SB5. Read More

As If I Could Forget

I hesitate to add my voice to the clamorous din of narratives and opinions examining the legacy of the 9/11 tragedy on its tenth anniversary. The notorious event was born on the dawn of media saturation, and not even the enormous towers themselves could have contained the last decade’s voluminous reporting about their destruction. It seems like every news organization, whether national or local, is compelled to produce copious coverage of the milestone, as though to do anything less would somehow be unpatriotic. It has reached the point where the mere mention of the words, “a look back at 9/11” is enough to make me tune out, and we haven’t yet reached Sunday.

It reminds me of an item I saw buried in the back pages of a community newspaper several years ago. A pair of teenagers had come through town in the course of their marathon walk across the state. The purpose of their trek, according to the reporter, was to raise awareness about 9/11. That’s a little like staging a publicity stunt in order to call attention to the heliocentric model of our solar system, but kudos to them anyway, as I’m sure their intentions were sincere. Read More

A Great Summer

The rain in Maine falls mainly on the…um…rocks, I guess.

The school year is now well underway in central Ohio. Students have settled into familiar routines, teachers are dutifully plowing through the curriculum, and the specter of statewide standardized achievement testing is but a faint glow on the distant horizon. It’s the season when the world of a teacher begins to contract like a closing camera aperture. Our collective focus is narrowed on academic objectives and the welfare of our students, leaving comparatively little time for our own extracurricular pursuits. That is why I am especially grateful that I enjoyed a totally fulfilling and restorative summer break.

If you are of the currently fashionable conservative ilk who resent educators as bloated, public-sector leeches sucking the monetary lifeblood out of taxpayer coffers, then read no further, unless you want to risk being provoked into a jealous and indignant rage. For while you were slaving away, trying to prime the sluggish circulation of our torpid economy, I was enjoying the better part of June, July and August in a leisurely existence free from the annoyance of a weekday clock alarm. Seething yet? You might just want to give this lucrative education thing a try. Read More

Night Of The Hunter

Welcome Back To My Nightmare: Alice Cooper introduces Steve Hunter in Columbus.

It’s a great time to be an Alice Cooper fan. Just last November, Alice wrapped up a 16-month world tour dubbed Theatre of Death, an over-the-top theatrical extravaganza propelled by his best band in years. In April, the original Alice Cooper Group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with a bombastic celebratory box set arriving in the summer. Next month will see the release of Welcome 2 My Nightmare, a conceptual sequel that reunites Alice with legendary producer Bob Ezrin and includes contributions from the ACG as well as veteran solo career collaborators. It would surely be permissible for the rock icon to take the summer off and relax.

But no. Not only has he been canvassing Europe and both North and South America since May, he is doing so under the banner of a new tour called No More Mr. Nice Guy. As the concert filler between Theatre of Death and the forthcoming Welcome 2 My Nightmare tour, it could easily have been a minimally produced affair in which Cooper & Co. make a few bucks off an assortment of greatest hits, and few would have complained. But Alice is firing on all cylinders right now, and his current show is no mere stopgap, as Wednesday’s date at the LC Pavilion in Columbus, Ohio proved. Read More

Remember The Alamo? How About The Titanic?


You must take off your hat inside the Alamo, but next door you can buy Alamo Crackers.

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, there is a lot of talk about the proper way to commemorate the tragedy. Foremost among many concerns is the desire to maintain a spirit of solemn reverence, and rightfully so. The thousands who innocently perished there would be grossly dishonored by any attempt to use the occasion for political or commercial gain. This is inherently obvious to us, as we are only a decade removed from one of our nation’s darkest days, and the scope of loss has been enormous. It is difficult to imagine that the notorious incident will ever be regarded with any less gravity.

Yet our popular culture does have a history of repackaging tragedy as entertainment, and it is a phenomenon that goes well beyond the production of exploitative disaster movies. I am thinking of the sort of endeavors that would have been unthinkable to undertake within ten years of any catastrophe yet somehow became commercially viable later, the kind of projects that could never have overcome the offended sensibility of the collective public if they had been attempted too soon. It’s a train of thought that leads me, inevitably, to San Antonio, home of the legendary Alamo chapel. Read More

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