Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Radio Free Spirit --- Pandora finds...

For this session of Radio Free Spirit, I am sharing music that I have found on Pandora. They all three are ambient and mellow tunes that help me to relax. I hope you enjoy them!

Can you help Wendy?

It all started with a vintage suit (Pictured).

I went looking for a unique suit to wear for Easter on a rookie teacher's salary. Being a fan of vintage clothing, I happened across a store in Jacksonville's eclectic and bohemian Five Points neighborhood.

As soon as I entered Time Warp, I fell in love with the store's wares and walked away with a suit that cost no more than $50. Not only were the prices affordable, the owner was very sweet.

We talked about how film and television productions often rely on vintage clothing stores to properly capture a time from the past. Being inspired by how decades like the 1960s were half a century ago but still hold a timeless appeal, I liked the aesthetic that came to vivid life in AMC's 'Mad Men'.

I returned to the store and enjoyed conversing with Wendy about how I wore my Easter suit to my tenth high school reunion. I brought a picture of myself having a rip roaring good time at the Omni with Orange Park's Class of 1992. I bought more clothes from what became a favorite of mine.

Somewhere along the way since then, Time Warp closed.

I heard that she left the business after being attacked. I lamented the loss, but the memory of Time Warp soon faded.

I returning home from visiting family in South Carolina for Memorial Day weekend when I saw the front page of the Times-Union. It caught my attention with a front page article about a woman who suffered facial damage. I forgot about it as I was taking my parents and baby niece back home and trying to beat what looked like an approaching storm. [See article here]

I saw a reference to the Sunday front page story when I was casually looking at the news online. I clicked on the link and entered a time warp. The first few sentences of the article brought me back to the unclear and foggy story that I had previously heard of Wendy, but the entirety of the article opened my eyes to what had happened to Wendy and where she had been since then.

My heart broke.

The cheerful young woman who was a highlight of my day when I came to look for clothes for myself or brought out-of-town visitors to see Five Points. I missed Wendy, her Time Warp, and how Five Points was not the same for me after she left.

Now, I learn that Wendy is on the road to recovery but it is an uphill climb made rockier by her medical bills. Please visit Wendy's web pages and consider donating. Wendy Somerset Recovery Donations

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Can you like my friend's page? It's for a good cause!

As I am raising money to update technology in my classroom, an old classmate of mine has agreed to donate one dollar (US $) for every person who likes his law firm's Facebook page.

All you have to do is visit the below Facebook page and click 'Like' and he will do the rest. Please LIKE McGrath, Gibson, LLC today!


Friday, October 4, 2013

You have the power to help our students succeed!

The key to preparing students for college and career is to provide them with the most updated education technology to help them learn and succeed.

In today's schools, technology makes the difference because we can ill afford to get by with the traditional rote memorization of facts and the same reading and recitation. We are responsible for preparing students to use computers and audio/visual equipment that they likely will be using in higher education and the workplace.

The challenge, however, is that creating a 21st century classroom for our students takes money. As I teach sixth grade world history and want my students to have access to a technology cart to help present lessons and show them how to make the most of today's communications (laptop cart, document camera, projector, etc.), I have signed up with a local fundraising site to help acquire what we need to help our students get to the next level.

My goal is to raise $1,000 to purchase a technology cart for multimedia presentations, a document camera (also known informally as an 'ELMO' projector), and audio/visual for students projects and presentations through this new fundraising website (www.powerupjex.org). It is sponsored by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF) to match donors with worthy causes in public education. An added benefit of donating through PowerUpJax is your receiving a detailed report of where the raised funding goes in my classroom.

Check the below link to donate today! I will have the added benefit of matching funds, dollar for dollar, from Community First Credit Union. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

In honor of Labor Day...

"Dignify and glorify common labor. It is at the bottom of life that we must begin, not at the top." - Booker T. Washington

I hope that this Labor Day is a reminder that all work has its importance in our society.

We fondly remember the days when we could look forward to graduating from high school and spending a career that ended with a nice gold watch and pension. Today, we seek a more instant reward as evidenced by the so-called celebrities who are famous for no real known reason or for reasons we dare not share with mixed company.

This Labor Day, however, I hope that we can honor those who indeed expend their effort to not only make a life for themselves, but to serve others. Generations ago, the mere idea of working meant risking life and limb to make a buck.

Thanks to the labor movement and social progress, we can afford to take for granted the protections and the regulations that allow us to live and work another day.

Monday may be a holiday, but it this day of leisure is best spent observing the long road that our forbears and our contemporaries have walked for us to benefit from the sweat of our hard work.

While some may deride the labor movement as being radical, we must always remember that men and women who provide goods and services are central to the success any economic system. When we abuse, mistreat or disrespect our laborers, we also cause grievous harm to our community and our long-term prosperity.

Look no further than when Henry Ford raised wages for his workers so they could purchase his automobiles and contribute to a greater society.

Look no further than the popular retailers whose low wages force their employees onto the public dole and place an undue strain on our welfare system.

A little respect and dignity go a long way for our workers and for humanity.

Happy Labor Day 2013.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Radio Free Spirit goes back to the 1960s

I was listening to the Cousin Brucie program on Sirius/XM when I found this little gem. If this has not been incorporated into the Mad Men soundtrack, it should. There is that wall of sound aspect to it that makes me fall in love with this song. Please also keep in mind that the lyrics whisper in ways that today's 'love' songs tend to scream. Give it a chance and let me know what you think. The school year is back in force and I wanted to post some light material for your enjoyment!

After you give this one a listen, also think about Spanky and Our Gang. I enjoyed their music going back to when I was in junior high school listening to the oldies station at night before I went to bed...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A royal pain?

The royal family in Great Britain is welcoming a new addition, and many around the world are joining them in their celebration.

Huzzah, right?

The joyful sentiment is not shared much by others who shrug and openly ask, "Who cares?" This, in my opinion, is that this is a legitimate question in light of how our modern world consists of various forms of government that involve power being handed down through means other than inheritance.

This skepticism rings especially true in the United States of America, a nation that violently broke away from its 'mother country' and has since taken pride in being a meritocracy. George Washington famously turned down being president for life and set a precedent for a new way of leading on this side of the pond. For those who are not Anglophiles in America, the spectacle of anything royal somehow triggers a gag reflex and cries of open apathy - or even antipathy.

Those who have taken to the streets to proclaim how little they care about the yet-to-be-named baby prince are sincere in their wish that we could focus on more important things. Sure, the arrival of a future king is not necessarily an event of interest to all, but what real 'news' occupied our attention in the previous days and weeks?

To be honest, the news has been a welcome distraction for me in light of racial tension, serial killers and political gridlock here in my country. The degree to which I care is no more than what other news dispatch arrives on my computer, but I do not shy away from showing some interest.

But why am I interested?

Sure, Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy that has whittled down royal power to that of a figurehead who graces national currency, but the British monarch continues to be the head of state. In that vein, royal watchers are no more annoying than those who are fascinated with our very own combination head of government and head of state. Remember when American women attempted to copy the look of Jackie Kennedy or those who stormed department stores to buy the same attire as Michelle Obama?

It's not all superficial, however. For all of the leisure and laziness that is perceived in the British royal family, let us not forget that they have a staying power that has withstood the overthrow of other monarchies. In modern times, the British royals survived two world wars, the violent overthrow of other monarchies and managed to keep healthy ties with their Commonwealth. And even as republican movements come and go, the House of Windsor maintains a reservoir of good will that other political institutions would envy.

And the media do play a role in preserving the royals' relevancy. Before the modern media, the royal family indeed lived a very cloistered existence. The public trusted in their monarchs simply through Divine Right. As other nations changed their governments, the royals needed to justify their expense to the public. King George V knew that, in light of radical movements and the overthrow of his cousins, he had to present his family as everyday citizens and to dispel the image of the debauched kings and princes like his father - King Edward VII.

The new media of motion pictures and radio gave King George V a powerful tool for public relations. The human connection of a king's voice and his ceremonial presence combined to cast strong ties within what was a Dominion of Nations. Those ties were tested during the abdication crisis of George's son, Edward VIII. Great Britain moved past the abdication and then buckled down through a war in which their King George VI and family would not abandon them.

As you can see, the history of Britain is infused with the story line of their royals' 'soap opera.' Historians still discuss the drama that pitted George VI against the Duke of Windsor and debate how the Germans may have planned to use the former king as a tool for invasion.

Hollywood even entered the fray of royal watchers with its moving 'The King's Speech.' The tale of overcoming a speech impediment exposed the private battle of a king for the entertainment of millions. The details of his struggle were given added gravity by his responsibility to his nation. A film about a man who stopped stuttering would not have meant as much without the narrative of a man who was to be the voice of his empire.

The rest of the Pandora's Box for the royals came with television. The documentary of a day in the life of Queen Elizabeth II may have been a watershed moment in how Britons viewed their royals and then, of course, there was Princess Diana.

The frenzy of attention increased with every glamorous photo-op that featured Princess Di. The royal wedding generated record ratings on television not because the television networks had nothing else to broadcast in the early morning. Public demand reached a fever pitch for those who daydreamed of a Cinderella-type possibly becoming the queen consort.

The royal soap opera rivaled fiction in the coming decade of Andrew, Fergie, Charles, Camilla, etc. This after all, was the generation of the future king. At least with Queen Elizabeth, she only had a few minor scandals from Princess Margaret. In the 1980s and 1990s, the family was publicly falling apart. It seemed to hit the bottom when Princess Diana was killed in 1997.

I guess that one important aspect of this new royal baby is that it appears to be a redemption of a family that went through divorce and strife out in the open. I am sure that there are days when the Windsors want to retreat into themselves. But, as Princess Diana's death showed us, there is always someone who is standing outside with a camera. Their shame has been public so much, it would at least be fair to broadcast their triumphs as well.

Maybe that is one reason to 'care.'