Thursday, January 29, 2009
"Why do rich kids get all the breaks, while the poor slum kids have to work, sweat, struggle and slave?"
Here's another from the Beacon Theatre, in NYC 1975. A Preservation track. Everybody sing along now.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The of course, there's howling against more money for the National Endowment for the Arts. Professional arts companies are shrivelling and dying, leaving thousands of artists without jobs. Arts institutions are cutting costs by opening less hours and cutting staff. Our own Akron Art Museum is closing on Sundays. A friend of mine just lost her job there.
What to do? In a fit of frustration, I sent off emails to my elected federal officials. I hope you are moved to do so as well. Here's the text of my emails and links to my representative and senators.
I am very concerned that the concessions being made to Republicans in the stimulus bill are focused against women and artists. Contraceptives, like health care, should be available to everyone. The arts must be funded and considered to be "shovel-ready" projects along with infrastructures. Jobs should go to women as well as men and to artists as well as construction workers.
Our governor called for a new education program for the new century today. He wants to emphasize creativity, problem-solving, leadership, collaborative thinking, and communication skills -- all skills that can be taught through the arts.
"Bipartisanship" should not mean turning women and artists into second class citizens.
Contact your senators and congressperson today.
Extend the school year 20 days to students are in school for 200 days per year.
Extend the school day to provide after school programming in wellness and intervention services.
Teachers must go through a four year residency requirement before earning a license.
Bad teachers must go. Ditto bad principals and other administrations. (No specifics on how this will be handled. It will have to be evidence-based. See following point.)
Everything must be evidence-based.
Add to the core subjects: courses that teach creativity, problem-solving, communication, collaboration and leadership skills. (sounds like Ohio needs more drama teachers!)
Drop Ohio Graduation Exam and replace with all Ohio seniors must take the ACT and three additional tests before graduating. All seniors must complete a senior project that shows creativity, collaboration and higher level thinking skills.
Here's the education portion of Strickland's State of the State speech:
(For full text go here. )
Together, we must focus our energies and resources on the programs most vital to our future prosperity. First on that list is education.
In the 1830s, Samuel Lewis was hired as Ohio’s first state superintendent of schools. Lewis was given the task of making sure that every child in every town was provided a quality education.
Lewis needed to know how many schools we had, where they were, what and who they taught. He couldn’t get the information he needed any other way, so he climbed atop his horse and he rode from town to town and school to school. He spoke to teachers and parents and students and people he met in the town square.
Lewis’ journey took him a total of 1,200 miles as he circled Ohio and prepared a report for the legislature.
Lewis wrote in his report that public schools in Ohio must be “free to all, rich and poor, on equal terms.” He said there was no greater tribute to patriotism than supporting strong public schools.
And Lewis concluded that the commitment to improving Ohio’s schools must be made immediately. He wrote, “Every year’s delay is adding mountains of obstacles to be overcome. We need no longer direct public attention to the future – to our children’s children – to the third and fourth generation, before the promised blessings are realized. Nothing will be more hurtful,” he said, “than procrastination.”
Seventeen decades later, you can Google Lewis’ report and see that his words still ring true. And what’s more, if Lewis were to ride his horse up to one of our schools today, he would immediately recognize what he was looking at. He would recognize our school day. He would recognize our school year. In too many schools he would recognize the typical classroom with rows of students lined up to listen to a teacher and record, rather than interact, with the information being provided.
Now there is no doubt that by working together we have made improvements in our schools.
Over the last two years we reduced the tax burden on local communities as the state now provides the majority of funds needed for our local schools.
Together we took the school building program that Governor Taft and the legislature created, and we expanded it to fund hundreds of new and renovated school buildings. And our new schools are being built to efficiency standards that will reduce our energy costs for the life of the building. In fact, Ohio has the largest energy efficient school building program in the nation.
Our education system has been strengthened immeasurably by the vision of legislators and other leaders who have long been committed to seeing that Ohio’s schools rank among the nation’s best.
I share that commitment. And while I didn’t ride on horseback, I have spent the past two years visiting every corner of our great state. I’ve met with parents, educators, researchers, business and community leaders. I’ve looked at the best research available on what we should teach and how we should teach it. And in the last few months I’ve benefited from the considerable experience and wisdom of Ohio’s new Superintendent of Public Instruction Deborah Delisle.
It is absolutely clear to me that simply tinkering with centuries-old education practices will not prepare Ohio’s children for success in college, in the workplace, or in life. Therefore, today I present my plan to build our education system anew.
The plan is based on a very simple premise: we should design our education system around what works. I have embraced an evidence-based education approach that harnesses research results and applies those findings to Ohio’s specific circumstances.
Now there will surely be those who protest that education research isn’t perfect. But frankly, we cannot afford to ignore the best available answers. Medical research isn’t perfect either, but it saves lives.
My Ohio evidence-based plan is designed to provide the best education we can for all of Ohio’s students. The elements of my plan are supported by evidence, and that evidence will guide our implementation of the plan over the next eight years.
First, what we teach and how we teach will prepare Ohioans to thrive in the 21st Century.
Students will, of course, continue to learn the timeless core subjects like math and science that are critical to their success. But we will also add new topics including global awareness and life skills to the curriculum. And we will use teaching methods that foster creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration, media literacy, leadership and productivity, cultural awareness, adaptability and accountability.
These are the skills that help people thrive in their lives. These are the skills our business leaders look for in the people they hire. These are the skills we find in people who create jobs, create products, and create entirely new industries.
Under my plan, the Ohio Department of Education will set standards for Ohio schools requiring innovative teaching formats. Interdisciplinary methods, project-based learning, real world lessons, and service learning will be the norm.
For example, a history teacher might build a lesson around a novel being read in an English class. Students might write a research paper that winds up in the school newspaper instead of being tossed in the trash can.
The learning experience will be built around the individual student. Lessons will not end when a fact is memorized. Students will be given a chance to interact with information, to follow up on the subjects that fascinate, to think critically and creatively and to use what they’ve learned to draw conclusions.
Our schools are not assembly lines and our students are not widgets. We will teach to each individual student’s need because we recognize that it is the surest path to seeing our young people reach their full potential.
Second, under my plan, we will expand learning opportunities.
Over a ten-year period we will add 20 instructional days to the school calendar – bringing Ohio’s learning year up to the international average of 200 days.
We will end the outdated practice of giving our most impressionable students only a half-day of learning. Ohio will now require universal all-day kindergarten.
We will provide resources to expand the learning day for all students with activities such as community service, tutoring, and wellness programs.
We will build on our ‘Closing the Achievement Gap’ initiative to take what we’ve learned from the existing program to help us provide enhanced intervention services in schools with high dropout rates.
We will create community engagement teams in our schools. We will place nurses in our schools. We will have professionals in the schools who will help educators, families and community service providers come together to help our children succeed.
And for the first time the state will provide dedicated resources for instructional materials and enrichment activities.
We will celebrate learning with new academic achievement competitions and awards that make learning as publicly praised as athletics. With the creation of the Ohio Academic Olympics, students will compete in science, in math, in writing, in debate, in the arts, and in technology.
Now, there are some who would say we’ll never fill the seats of a stadium for this kind of competition. But I’ll tell you this; the winners of this competition will be able to design the stadium.
Knowing that America’s children are among the world’s leaders in the amount of television they watch, we are claiming a few more hours of childhood for reading, thinking, community projects, and other activities. And in exchange for those few hours, we will give our students a lifetime of advantages.
Third, under my plan, we will improve educator quality.
There is simply nothing that we as policymakers can influence in our schools that is as consequential as providing top quality teachers for our students.
And before I go any further let me say something directly to Ohio’s teachers: thank you. Thank you for what you do for Ohio’s young people and for Ohio’s future. I hope that every day as you work you take a moment to remember that you can never tell where your influence stops.
So, under my plan, in recognition of the enormous importance of excellent teachers, we will revolutionize teacher preparation and development in Ohio with a residency program. Just as future doctors begin their careers under the watchful eye of an experienced colleague, we will give our new teachers the benefit of thoughtful guidance from an accomplished senior teacher. After a four-year residency, successful candidates will earn their professional teaching license.
We will recognize the development of a teacher’s skills and accomplishments with a career ladder that begins with their residency and can build up to lead teacher, a person whose credentials, experience, and student results warrant additional responsibilities. That means for the first time our teachers will have the opportunity to advance their careers based on objective evidence of student progress.
Our lead teachers will play an active role in overseeing new teachers in the residency program and assisting all their colleagues.
We will provide collaborative planning time so that the best ideas of the best teachers can spread across a school and reach the most students. Mentoring, coaching and peer review will be a standard part of a teacher’s job.
We will harness the expertise of the Chancellor of Higher Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction to collaborate on professional development programs and innovative techniques for the classroom.
Let me say that not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. And the residency program will identify them. But even for teachers already in the field, we must have the ability to remove them from the classroom if their students are not learning. Right now, it’s harder to dismiss a teacher than any other public employee. Under my plan, we will give administrators the power to dismiss teachers for good cause, the same standard applied to other public employees.
We will create a Teach Ohio program to open a path to licensure for professionals who have the subject knowledge but lack coursework in education methods. Teach Ohio participants will complete an intensive course in classroom methods and then be eligible to begin the four-year residency program.
Scholarships will be made available for future teachers who agree to teach in hard to staff schools or in hard to staff subjects.
Our university teacher education programs will be redesigned to meet the needs and standards of our primary and secondary schools. The Chancellor of Higher Education will be empowered to reward university education programs that best prepare their students for success as teachers in Ohio.
We will strengthen our licensing standards for school principals while giving them the ability and the responsibility to properly manage their schools.
We will create standards for the mastery of both education and management principles for school superintendents, school treasurers and other business officials.
And you know, good ideas shouldn’t be something we stumble on accidentally. That’s why my plan creates a research and development function within the Department of Education. The department’s Center for Creativity and Innovation will monitor research and results from across the country and across the world to keep Ohio schools and Ohio educators informed of new advances.
We take these steps to strengthen the education profession because we recognize that our teachers, much like doctors and pilots, hold lives in their hands, and we must do everything we can to make it possible for them to do their jobs extraordinarily well.
Fourth, under my plan, we will measure ourselves against the world.
Ohio’s current graduation test does not measure creativity, problem solving, and other key skills. We will make our assessments both relevant and rigorous by replacing the Ohio Graduation Test with the ACT and three additional measures.
All students will take the ACT college entrance examination, not only to measure their high school achievement, but to help raise students’ aspirations for higher education. Students will also take statewide ‘end of course’ exams, complete a service learning project, and submit a senior project.
These four measures will give our graduating high school seniors the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge, creativity, and problem solving skills, in short, to demonstrate precisely the skills that will help them succeed in life.
In grades 3 through 8, our assessments will also be entirely rewritten to test for mastery of the information and skills in the curriculum.
Our goal in our teaching and in our testing is nothing short of national and international leadership.
Fifth, under my plan, we will establish an unprecedented level of school district accountability and transparency.
School districts will undergo performance audits overseen by the Department of Education to make sure they are maintaining the academic and operating standards we’ve established.
Districts will report their spending plans before each school year and then account for every dollar at the conclusion of the school year.
And just as we provide an academic report card for our schools, we will provide parents, public officials, and taxpayers an annual fiscal and operational report card for every school district. That means that when we send districts funding to help students who need additional attention and instruction, we will now be able to track our dollars to see that they directly reach those students.
Failure to comply with our standards will result, first, in the assigning of technical assistance to help a school district correct its deficiencies. If the problem persists, a district will be required to present a comprehensive plan outlining how it will reach full compliance with our academic and operating standards. Continued failure would result in the district being placed in receivership, with entirely new leadership installed. And finally, if the district remains non-compliant, the State Board of Education would be required to revoke the school district’s charter.
In short, if a school district fails, we will shut it down.
And, as we establish a new level of accountability in our school districts, we must also establish accountability in our charter schools.
For those who may have misunderstood my position on charter schools, I want to be very clear. I support charter schools that meet the same high standards we demand of traditional public schools. Charter schools that hire quality teachers, show fiscal and academic accountability, are regulated by the Department of Education, and are not run by for-profit management services have a place in my plan.
Now, in order to implement our evidence-based model, our students will need educators, support staff, materials, and special programs necessary to deliver a 21st century education. And by defining what our students need, we have in the process defined the resources our schools need.
The first step in providing those resources is eliminating aspects of our current funding system that are, quite frankly, indefensible.
In the current system, when the state calculates how much tax revenue a school district has, the state uses phony numbers. You may have heard this called ‘phantom revenue.’ For example, in many school districts, rising property values do not produce additional property tax revenue. But the state formula for school aid assumes districts do get additional tax revenue. That’s not logical, and it results in many districts being punished because the formula says they have an abundance of phantom dollars that don’t actually exist.
Under my plan, the state will no longer ask school districts to pay their bills with phantom dollars.
Instead, my plan lowers what our local taxpayers are expected to contribute to local schools from 23 mills to 20 mills. The state will assume responsibility for providing the difference between what those 20 mills raise and the cost of the full range of educational resources our students need according to our evidence-based approach.
Additionally, districts will have the option of asking voters to pass a conversion levy. Now, a conversion levy simply maintains the existing millage on residential property for a district currently above 20 mills.
Districts that use a conversion levy, and all districts whose tax structure already allows growth on 20 mills, will see their tax revenues grow with increased property values, helping schools to keep up with inflation.
Last November alone we had more than 200 school districts asking voters to approve school levies. Under my plan, school districts that choose this option will not have to go to the ballot year after year just to stay even with inflation.
And, we will strengthen the historic partnership between the state and our local school districts. When I came into office, local school districts paid for the majority of school costs. In the upcoming two-year budget, even with grave economic challenges facing Ohio and the nation, my plan will take the state’s share of education funding to 55 percent. As our Ohio evidence-based plan is fully phased in, the state’s share will grow to an unprecedented 59 percent.
And when we do these things, I believe we will have finally and unquestionably met our constitutional obligation to our children.
What’s more, together we’ll make Ohio one of the first states with a school year 200 days long.
Together we’ll make Ohio among the first states to place 21st century skills like creativity, problem solving, communication and leadership at the center of its curriculum.
Together we’ll make Ohio the first state with a comprehensive residency program for new teachers.
Together we’ll make Ohio among the first states to require universal all day kindergarten.
And we’ll take these steps with a very deliberate purpose. It’s because, as President Kennedy once put it, “We want to be first. Not first if. Not first but, but first.”
We will graduate Ohioans ready to succeed in the modern economy and in modern life. Future generations will look back gratefully and say that when we came together on education, we claimed this new century for Ohio.
Now, the words I quoted earlier aren’t Franklin Roosevelt’s best remembered comments about economic hardship. His most famous words were: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That’s a wonderful sentiment. But the truth is, our people have a good deal more to fear than fear. The loss of a job, a home, health care, and a pension hovers over far too many of our neighbors.
So I stand before you today with the unshakable knowledge that Ohio has been an economic powerhouse for 200 years, and, my friends, I believe Ohio’s best days are yet to come.
Whether we progress swiftly or slowly, however, will be in direct proportion to how well we work together.
If you looked up at the sky as the weather turned cold and the birds headed south for the winter, you probably saw a flock of geese flying together in a V formation.
Many years ago a pastor asked his congregation, “Do you know why geese fly in a V instead of side by side?” And then he explained, they fly in a V because it allows each goose to reduce the wind resistance for the bird flying behind it. By flying in formation, the whole flock strengthens each individual bird, allowing each goose to fly vastly greater distances together than it could possibly fly alone.
My friends, surely we are as smart as the goose. We can share a common direction, a sense of common purpose, and in so doing we can strengthen each other even as we strengthen ourselves.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Two guys from Chicago emailed me over the summer. They were thinking of mounting a production of Preservation prior to the election. Nothing came of it, evidently. Wrong election for that show. Dog help us all should Obama turn out to be Flash or Mr Black.
Yet this rock musical remains timely. The cynicism of Preservation applies to governments near and far, at every level. So difficult to know if the person we vote for will turn out to be one of the good pols or one of the bad 'uns. Some people we don't even get to vote for, but their actions will have profound effects upon our collective and individual futures.
Take the newly confirmed secretary of the treasury, for example. Tim Geithner. He's supposed to be the one who will save the economy and the glorious capitalistic society in which we have shopped until we dropped, polluting the entire planet along the way. Do we really want to save the mode of living that brought us to this predicament? Do we return to flipping houses and betting on futures. Junk bonds, hedge funds.
I'm no economist, but I do know that "Money Talks." From the Beacon Theatre in NYC, 1975. Sing along words here. Thanks to KKfromNJ for posting this on YouTube:
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Lyrics are here. And a tip of the flat wool cap to Dr Don. Everybody sing along now:
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Community Forum on the Economic Crisis
Thursday, January 22
6:45 pm –8:45 pm
Meeting Rooms A & B
Akron Main Public Library
60 S. High Street, Akron
This is a follow up to the December 9th Town Hall Meeting on the Economic Crisis
Discussion – Debate – Decisions
Federal Economic Stimulus
The Obama Administration is proposing a $825 billion tax and spending package which seeks to create and save 3 to 4 million jobs, and jumpstart the economy. Millions of dollars will be coming to Akron and other Summit Co. communities for construction, energy, housing, education, technology, social services, and other projects. What can we do to pressure our federal elected representatives to pass the stimulus bill and our local elected representatives to make sure it goes to meet the greatest needs?
Bailout of Wall Street Banks
The 2nd half of the $700 billion bailout funds will soon be voted on the House of Representatives. What can we do to make sure that the $350 billion is used to help people who face foreclosure instead of providing banks another blank check to use the funds virtually as they please.
Creation of Local Barter Network
It was agreed at the December 9th meeting to launch a local program where people can exchange goods and services to meet their needs. We’ll spend time discussing details of setting up a local program.
AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE
Northeast Ohio Office
2101 Front St., #111, Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44221
Phone: 330-928-2301 Website: www.afsc.net
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I sat behind them, watching the young African-American students sitting up taller. The glow on their faces bounced around the room and I was suddenly struck all over again by the beautiful diversity of my students: Asian, Hispanic, black, white, students of native American descent and students who are children of immigrants -- all taking pride in the election of somebody who grew up "different" from the norm.
It was impossible not to reflect upon my own schooling, and I shared with one class that my education had been segregated because that's the way it was for most of us in the 1950s and 1960s. There was no diversity when I was in elementary school, nor in middle or high school. It wasn't until university that the faces around me in my classes took on a more global aspect. What a loss, is all I could think. We would have all been so much better off growing up mixed together rather than kept so far apart.
And then I thought of the times that we were drawn to the television for collective viewing when I was a student: the deaths of John and Bobby Kennedy and the death of Martin Luther King Jr. The race riots, The nightly Vietnam War death counts. The crumbling of the Nixon reign. About the only positive television memory I can summon was watching the astronauts take their first tentative steps toward outer space and eventually land on the moon.
But my students today were barely three years old when 9/11 shook our world. They hear others' memories of the ugliness of segregation, but have never experienced it for themselves. They have not seen the hatred that strikes down beloved leaders. I cannot expect that their lives will never be touched by a collective national tragedy. But I do expect that this youngest of generations will carry in their hearts and minds the memory of this day, and that they will find what it takes to move the human race further ahead socially, politically and ecologically.
Unfortunately, the bell rang in the middle of Obama's inaugural speech, and I had to usher out one class and bring in another, but what I heard was both bracing and inspiring and I couldn't wait to get home to find a transcription and reflect upon his words to us all. The following passage, in particular, is one to reflect upon and remember:
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Too bad the inauguration is on a work day. I've decided that my students and I will view it in real time during drama classes. After all, it is a giant spectacle that employs a lot of entertainment industry people to pull it off. Beyond the networks and all the media on and off camera workers, you have the crews who erect the stage, design the setting, and deal with audience issues.
I'm also sure we can discuss things like techniques of speech writing and delivery in ways that go beyond partisan debates. At least, that's the lesson plan!
So here it is again, in shortened version. It was a thrill to see Pete Seeger with his banjo exhorting the crowd to sing all the verses. And there are some great verses in that song, including my very favorites. This one:
And this one:In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.
You don't get to hear that verse very often. How fitting that it came about on national television, with rousing backing by a youth choir as well as Pete's grandson and Bruce Springsteen singing along. Pete, was on everybody's blacklist for way too long, radical rabble-rouser that he has been for 89 years now! He looked and sounded great, even had the energy to jog off the stage when it was over.As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!
It brought tears to my eyes and it made me want to hear Woody Guthrie, the fellow who made up that song in the depths of the depression. He didn't really mean for it to be a patriotic number, but rather a tribute to those who struggle to survive. Here's a snippet with footage of Woody in action:
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Obama InaugurationIn the same email from the the Stratford East, this request. If you haven't voted in the Theatregoers Choice Awards for Ray Davies's musical, Come Dancing, there's still time:
Barack ObamaCelebrate the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama with Theatre Royal Stratford East.
Theatre Royal will be screening the full historic event LIVE from Washington DC as it happens on Tuesday 20 January.
The Inauguration of Barack Obama is scheduled for 5pm. Our doors are open from 4pm.
The event will be hosted by Kat Francois
Live entertainment in the Bar, DJ ‘til late
Hot Dogs, popcorn etc!
Places are limited and allocated on a first come first served basis so, to make sure you get yours contact Emma on 020 8279 1138 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
What's On Stage Theatregoers Choice Awards
There's still time to vote in the What's on Stage Theatregoers choice awards. We're chuffed to have 2 of our shows nominated. So if you haven't cast your vote yet then click here.
Voting closes on the 31st January 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
What? They didn't include Phenomenal Cat?
Kinks fans finally have a box set honoring the music of the best band to ever come out of the UK. Picture Book is a 6 CD collection of music spanning the decades between the 1960s and the 1990s. This set may or may not be any fan's dream compilation. Certainly it has lead to intense discussions on the Kinks Preservation Society mailing list. Some fans want more of the hits, while others want more rarities and obscure tracks.
Organized chronologically, the six discs contain 138 tracks. Checking out the Unofficial Kinks Web Site, we find 601 songs listed. Many of those are from either Ray or Dave solo albums, but even so a lot of great Kinks songs did not make the cut for this compilation. I would definitely prefer to have Everybody's a Star on here, and (Wish I could Fly Like) Superman instead of Catch Me Now I'm Falling and Heart of Gold (two of my three least favorite Kinks tracks. At least they didn't include Brother, which would be my third and final least favorite track.)
But don't count me among the big complainers. I'm thrilled to find songs I've never heard before, particularly one that just happens to have as a title my last name. In fact, Disc 5 has a cluster of never-released tracks from 1979-1980. There are also live tracks, alternate versions and demos of some favorite songs scattered throughout the discs.
The best thing about Picture Book for this fan is that listening to it is like looking through picture books of my own life. The Kinks are the soundtrack to my adventures. When I hear certain songs, I am rocketed back to the times when I heard them for the first time. Well Respected Man brings images of my pal Holly in high school, teaching me the notes to this song as I struggled to learn how to play acoustic guitar. Celluloid Heroes will always take me back to college days, hanging with my theatre pals late nights after rehearsals and listening to Everybody's in Show-Biz.
And then of course, came the day I heard Preservation Act I and II for the very first time and was hooked forever. Those were my post-college FM radio days, at WCUE-FM in Akron. We were all agog with idealistic notions of the power of progressive radio to transform the lives of our community. Until we all got fired for being too radical. In retrospect, we should have paid more attention to the message of Preservation. Because after all Money and Corruption are ruining the land, and indeed, Money Talks!
My passion for theatre was matched by the theatrical endeavors of Ray Davies and the Kinks for the first half of the 1970s. I watched a rehearsal of Soap Opera at the Akron Civic Theatre and Schoolboys in Disgrace (complete with schoolboy costumes and Ray in Headmaster mask) performed live in Cleveland. Inspired, I left Akron for a Life on the Road of experimental theatre that began on the east coast. The releases of Sleepwalker and Misfits found me taking the train from DC to NYC to catch as many Kinks concerts as I could. By Low Budget, I had moved to San Francisco with ten dollars in my pocket to study mask making and performance at the Leonard Pitt School of Mask and Mime.
The Kinks were banging out great albums in the early 80s. The double disc One for the Road captured the intensity of their live concerts. Give the People What They Want contained a very personal message for me in a song called A Little Bit of Abuse. It took me way too long to figure out how to find my way out of that Yo-Yo relationship. By the release of State of Confusion, I gathered my few bits of Property and escaped to Ohio.
Back in Akron, I bought the cassette version of Think Visual, listening to Working at the Factory and Repetition over and over again as I slogged away working as a check encoder at a bank, trying to pull myself together after the years of living in a dark and deep emotional hole. When The Road was released, I was beginning to find my theatrical feet again, and began teaching at a local studio. I started a couple of theatre companies and took my act on The Road to cafes and art bars from Chicago to Baltimore and Cooperstown, NY.
UK Jive was full of socio-political perspectives and so was I in the late 80s, publishing my own underground 'zine of anarchy and art. In late 80s and early 90s -- the time of George Bush the Elder -- we found ourselves involved in another stupid useless war. It was enough to send us all Over the Edge. Phobia marked the end of my era of hard-scrabble avant- garde theatricals. By the time I got hold of the US release of To The Bone, I found myself working in a respectable job, as a public school drama teacher. But I still use the Kinks as soundtracks for acting games and exercises. You Really Got Me (live version) will always be one of the best warm-up tracks of all time while Jack the Idiot Dunce remains a favorite with my students.
It has been a great pleasure immersing myself in Picture Book. I received my copy yesterday, having ordered it via Ray Davies' web site. I could have ordered it for less money via amazon or other online outlets, but I liked the idea of ordering from one of the original sources, and hoped that perhaps more of the profits might go into the hands of the band members rather than a third party. This meant waiting longer, and I did so patiently until a month had gone by since ordering. Two days ago, I wrote an email of inquiry and the very next day the box set showed up in my mailbox -- on the coldest day of January. I brought the frozen discs inside and let them reach room temperature before opening them up and importing them into my computer.
Today I received the following email from customer service:
Hi,Wow! Could that possibly John "Nobby" Dalton? Or is it some other Nobby? Perhaps Nobby is a widely used nickname in the UK. I hope to solve the Nobby mystery along with the mystery of the missing 60 page booklet that should have been included in the box set. Hopefully, they'll airmail me the missing booklet which is supposed to include rare photos and commentary on the various tracks. While waiting, I have a lot of CDs to keep my enthralled and entertained.
Your order is somewhere between us and yourself.
Ray Davies management did delay in getting replacement stock in December, but all orders have been fulfilled.
All international orders are sent via Airmail
Hopefully it will be with you very soon, if not already.
Needless to say, The Village Green highly recommends Picture Book.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
by William Shakespeare (Love's Labour's Lost)
When icicles hang by the wall,
and Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
and Tom bears logs into the hall,
and milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipped and ways be foul,
then nightly sings the staring owl,
to-whit, to-who, a merry note,
while greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
When all aloud the wind doth blow,
and coughing drowns the parson's saw,
and birds sit brooding in the snow,
and Marian's nose looks red and raw,
when roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
then nightly sings the staring owl,
to-whit, to-who, a merry note,
while greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
For an in depth look at smart's development and future plans, check out this article at Motortrends. Highlights include positive test results from smart's electric fleet established in London. While the test electric smarts give drivers 72 miles per charge, the company plans to boost that capacity to 150 miles per charge. The electric smart is a pure electric vehicle that can charge overnight.
Telsa Motors will be providing the batteries for the next generation of electric smart cars. From an article in the Mercury News:
Daimler, which also sells the Mercedes-Benz brand, chose Tesla because of its "well-founded battery know how," said Julia Engelhardt, a company spokeswoman based in New York City.
"We looked into several options, and it's the best possible solution when it comes to a battery-powered car."
What's unclear, she said, is whether the electric Smart will be available only in Europe, or in the United States as well. Since 2007, Smart has leased 100 electric vehicles in London. This spring, it will begin another pilot project with 100 EVs and 500 charging stations in Berlin. Later this year, 100 electric cars from both the Smart and the Mercedes-Benz brands will roll into three Italian cities.
The price for an electric Smart car has not been disclosed.The gasoline version of the Smart ForTwo starts at less than $12,000.
I wonder how much that electric drive will boost the cost of the car. Until a reasonably priced alternative energy car is developed, only the well-off will be able to drive green
Monday, January 12, 2009
Quincy Jones has started a petition to ask President-Elect Obama to appoint a Secretary of the Arts. While many other countries have had Ministers of Art or Culture for centuries, The United States has never created such a position. We in the arts need this and the country needs the arts--now more than ever. Please take a moment to sign this important petition and then pass it on to your friends and colleagues.
Sign the petition here.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Lots of commentators and bloggers have been passing the time until January 20th, praising or dismissing the various picks for the new cabinet and administration leadership jobs. Not having a crystal ball, I've been mostly content to wait patiently. Let's give the folks assigned the clean up task a real chance to get in there and actually work at it, before harping and carping. The only move Obama's made that really rubbed me the wrong way was the selection of Rick Warren to speak some mumbo jumbo as prologue to the inauguration. (You can read my comments here.)
So he made one mistake so far. Nobody should expect him to be perfect. What is reassuring is his insistence that he is not attaching himself to solutions based upon who comes up with the idea, but rather that plans are flexible and that we focus on finding the best solution. It does sound like a huge breath of fresh air is about to sweep through Washington. D.C.
Speaking of D.C., one of Obama's missions is to involve himself with the city's community -- not just the federal workers, but the folks who live and work within the city. He has mentioned this consistently and so has Michelle. He has set up a Community Inaugural Ball for residents to enjoy, met with the Mayor and will do his best to get out and about and involved in the life and culture of the city. Most presidents and politicians hunker down in their various domains and seldom get involved with the local community.
I moved to D.C. in 1976. It was my first time away from Akron, and I moved there because I had some college theatre friends already living there and they gave me a place to sleep while I looked for work and a place of my own. My first impressions of D.C. were this: enormous white buildings were everywhere, and the city was studded with statues of white male generals. Yet as I rode the buses and subways, looking for work, I found myself riding with people of color, through burned out neighborhoods (left to rot after the riots of 1968). The core of the city was as white as the government buildings, but the rest of the city was primarily black and living in poverty.
The great disparity on display in Washington's daily life shocked me. Homeless people sleeping on sidewalk grates, taking in the warmth vented from the subway system below. Bag ladies scurrying down alleys and across the mall, carts filled with garbage bags containing who knows what. Anyone who could afford to was moving to the suburbs of Maryland or Virginia, leaving the rest to hustle, thieve or sell drugs and/or their bodies.
I lived in the Adams Morgan area, a multicultural progressive enclave with a food co-op, a Hispanic theatre company, and other assorted store front ventures. I was hired as company manager for Earth Onion Women's Theatre, an experimental theatre company existing on a small NEA grant. We worked and performed in a tiny store-front theatre space that we shared with the local Socialist party group. My apartment was "illegal," an unfinished dump above a porn shop, with rear windows looking out on a trash-filled alley. I kept those windows closed whenever possible to keep out the sickening greasy smell from a McDonald's across the alley. Every day when I left for work, I had to step over a wino sleeping in my door way. Fun times.
What is the D.C. area like in the 21st century? According to the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless:
Washington, D.C. has the 7th highest poverty rate in the country-- 16.4% as of 2007, and has the highest proportion of people in the U.S. with the lowest income levels.Funny how these statistics are ignored year after year by the politicians who come to D.C. to work for the good of us all, isn't it? If the Obamas continue to pay attention to the entire community in which they intend to live for the next eight years, maybe some positive change will come to all the residents of Washington, D.C.
At least 17,800 people are homeless in Washington, D.C. over the course of a year, one of the highest rates in the country.
In the District of Columbia, a worker earning the Minimum Wage ($7.55 per hour) must work approximately 140 hours per week in order to afford a two-bedroom unit at the area's Fair Market rent.
For the year 2007, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for an efficiency apartment in Washington, D.C. is $1025 a month. The FMR for a 1-bedroom unit is $1168; 2-bedroom, $1324; 3-bedroom, $1708; and 4-bedroom, $2235.
The unemployment rate in D.C. was 6.7% as of July 2008, higher than the 5.7% national rate.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Here's an image of the giant cactus and overgrown aloe plant thriving inside while outside the snow piles up on the fence and in the driveway.
This aloe blooms regularly, sending up long canes with odd little flowers sprouting from them.
Below is a Phalaenopsis I picked up in bloom at Donzell's Garden Center in the fall. After it finished blooming, I fed it some orchid food and new buds began appearing on the old stems. Here is a closeup of a new bloom:
Below, the thrilling sight of my Lady Macbeth Paphiopedilum budding for the third year in a row. I purchased this orchid via Ebay and it is turning out to be my most successful orchid. It is certainly the most dramatic!
What could be easier to grow than African violets? I picked up two fancy ones at the same time. They feature ruffly leaves with pink edges and the flowers are a gorgeous purple. The pictures I took today all came out blue for some reason.
Finally, here's a very special amaryllis (actually Hippeastrum) given to me by a graduating student two years ago. I was told that the plant was a daughter bulb from a family heirloom plant that had been maintained since the early part of the 20th century. You can see the phalaenopsis blooming in the background. I keep my indoor plants under fluorescent grow lights all year long.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
In tough economy, smart USA exceeds sales goals
In a very tough year for carmakers, Bloomfield Hills-based smart USA exceeded its sales targets. For December, smart USA, which is a partnership between Daimler AG and Penske Automotive Group of Bloomfield Hills, recorded 2,341 sales. With year-to-date sales for 2008 at 24,622 units, smart USA surged past its sales objectives in its first year of business in the U.S. market. The total sales exceeded smart USA’s original projection of 20,000 units during what proved to be the auto industry’s worst year since 1992.For me, one of the main attractions of the smart fortwo is that from start to finish, the designers of this car made decisions in a thoughtful ecologically responsible way. The factory (nicknamed "Smartville" is in Hambach, France. In the book Smart -- small car, big deal (by Jurgen Zollter and Willi Diez, Motorbooks 2008), I found a description of the environmental planning that went into the development of the smart car facility:
Daimler officials also said the smart for-two offers a combination of outstanding fuel efficiency, innovative safety features, environmental friendliness and excellent value.... There are currently 74 smart centers open in 35 states. Daimler also plans to show off an all-electric version of the smart car during the North American International Auto Show next week in Detroit.
All phases of the product life cycle, beginning with development of indivdiual smart comonents, through building the factory park in Hambach, to the product utilization and recycling phases, were and remian intergrated within a strict ecological concpet. The factory park in Hambah realized an unmatched moddel of ecological responsibility. All building are free of formaldehyde and hydrocarbons. The facades are clad in Trespa, a raw material derived largely from easily replensished European wood. Distinction is even made between drainage from gutterrs, and that from roads and parking lots, roof drainage is used in storage ponds for firegighting use. All other surface wateris directed through oil separators, treated in storage basins, and then re-utilized.There's more!
A central biological water treatment plant, reflecting the highest state of the art, treats all sanitation and industrial waste water. The plant uses biological membranes and the Biosep process, a highly flexible recycling system first employed in France. The cleaned, treated waste water is used to irrigate the landscaped grounds, and for colling purposes in the production process.Additionally, the factory's paint shop uses powder painting which means that no solvents are emitted, and no hazardous waste. The quality of the coating is very high and at the same time the process is entirely free of lead and and cadmium. Excess powder is captured and re-used.
More on Smartville's ecological manufacturing process tomorrow. Meanwhile, here's a video of smart cars on the assembly line.
Monday, January 05, 2009
As for political stuff, please read Digby. She writes about politics in ways I most always wish I had been able to say. Take this one today about the proposed tax cuts.
As for me, I plan on doing more posting on my often neglected Critical Links Theatre Journal this week. It's a blog for ongoing theatre education research in the classroom. Read it if such things interest you.
Sunday, January 04, 2009
As I contemplated buying replacements, I checked the brand name on my range and frig. Both are Admiral appliances. You remember Admiral? They made televisions and apparently got into the appliance business as well. I tried to find out more about Admiral appliances online, but all I found were sites that listed parts for sale. The brand was sold to Magic Chef which was sold to Maytag which was acquired by Whirlpool. I can't put an exact date on my Admiral appliances, but upon looking at their electrical plugs, I'm convinced they are way too old to be running safely for very much longer.
I headed over to what once was Rolling Acres Mall, but now is a vast abandoned concrete shrine to consumerism. All the doors are shuttered, except at Sears and J C Penny's, once the proud anchors to this now defunct mall. Ten years ago, when I moved to Kenmore and began exploring my new area of Akron, I was glad to find Rolling Acres. Now I wouldn't have to drive to Montrose or Chapel Hill for major shopping expeditions. In particular, I've made use of Sears for automotive needs and major appliance purchases. Although everything else in the area has disappeared (I still mourn the loss of a conveniently located Marks and Pets Plus), thankfully, Sears and J C Penny both own their respective mall corners. They cannot be foreclosed, and I hope they hang in there for the sake of the convenience of all us Kenmorites.
So I found some suitable appliances on sale and they are scheduled for delivery later this month. On the way home, I stopped at the Kenmore Acme, which has been undergoing renovation and expansion. They've managed to do this without closing the store, and it has been kind of fun to go there and note the changes as they take place. With more room, there is a chance that more of the kinds of products I like to purchase can find their way to the shelves. A few years back, I complained to a manager about finding only quart containers of soy milk in the dairy case. Now they have a nice array of soy milk in gallon containers.
Sadly, I'm still probably the only shopper at the Kenmore Acme who brings my own reusable shopping bags. They need to take a hint from Buehlers and Mustard Seed, both of which give shoppers a discount for providing their own bags. Maybe it's time to write another letter to Acme.
Driving home along Kenmore Blvd, I note that the new library looks fabulous, but the Musicians Bargain Basement has gone out of business. There are more thrift stores and too many games of chance operations. And then there is the religious tattoo parlor where apparently you can brand yourself with your favorite religious brand's icon. Though I rather doubt that anyone requesting pagan imagery would be accommodated.
What changes will come to this Boulevard of Broken Dreams in 2009? Will any of the economic stimulus plans send some much needed cash infusion to the folks who work and dwell in Kenmore?
Saturday, January 03, 2009
What will happen to the building and all the theatrical sets, costumes, and props is unknown at this time. The Carousel also rents space at Canal Place, so that will have an impact upon that business. Oddly, according to a comment posted below the ABJ article, it will even have an effect upon business at Donzell's Garden Center, where tour buses regularly discharged passengers for shopping sprees upon departing Carousel.
Dinner Theatres were really big in the 1970s, but as costs increased and the audience demographic grew older, it became more difficult to fill houses and turn profits. Carousel has not released any financial information yet, but it seems clear that even a top seller like Wizard of Oz was not enough to make the business profitable. Ticket prices were increased for the 2009 season, with a top rate of $60 for dinner and a show on Saturday night. Cheapest price listed was $39 for a matinee performance without a meal.
In times of economic uncertainty, people will think twice before taking the family to a dinner theatre. With two adults and two children under twelve, the total comes to $170 + the service charge which as I remember was another 7 bucks per ticket -- yikes!
It will be interesting to see if professional sporting events see a decrease in ticket sales. However, with a pair of binoculars, a family of four could see a Cavaliers game for $40 plus parking and concessions.
For the true blue theatre goers, sporting events are no replacement for live theatre. So what are the local options? Will E J Thomas Hall schedule more shows in their annual Broadway series? Ticket prices range from $32.50 in the upper levels to $52.50 orchestra seating -- and that is for a show with no dinner. Quality of touring productions varies and you won't get a local theatre review for anything that is here for one or two days only.
At the Akron Civic Theatre, you'll find the third string touring companies -- the ones that bring "educational" offerings for school groups. These are generally one show only productions. Coming up, Tom Sawyer - an original musical in March and The Princess and the Pea in April (no production details given for either).
Other local professional options include Actors' Summit in Hudson and The Bang and the Clatter in Akron and Cleveland. Somehow I'm thinking Actors' Summit has more chance of latching onto Carousel regulars than BNC. However, Actors Summit does more straight plays than musicals. As far as I know, BNC never does musicals and their very adult productions would stand a lot of blue hair on end. (BNC really needs to update their web site and keep us posted on the status of their Akron venue.)
Musical theatre fans might turn toward community and university theatres who do put on the occasional splashy musical. Weathervane just finished a sold out run of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. Their next big musical is Man of La Mancha in June. The University of Akron is presenting Big River in Feb/March, while Kent State will be presenting the musical version of Jane Eyre, also in Feb and March. You'll have to wait until summer for the musical offerings at Porthouse Theatre.
Otherwise, it's time to look northward to the Cleveland theatre district or else hop an Airtran daily flight to NYC and fork over the big bucks to see musical theatre at the source. As for dinner -- you'll have to find that on your own
Friday, January 02, 2009
In San Francisco, the Magic Theatre is teetering on the brink of closure. It's getting so I dread opening up Stage Directions, because each issue brings more bad theatre news. It is not really a surprise, because professional theatre is very expensive to produce and in hard times, one can buy a lot of groceries with what one would pay for a theatre ticket.
Carousel's ticket prices are not cheap, even with the price of a meal factored in. They've survived for years on the senior citizen bus tour packages, but in hard times the seniors might be opting for less expensive outings.
I've been to more shows at the Carousel in the past couple of years than I have in my entire theatre-going career. Honestly, most of the shows they do are not exactly my cup of tea -- however, many of my students have been cast in recent productions. Therefore I have gone and put up with their crappy vegetarian alternative plate and fairly entertaining productions. Best one was Urinetown, hands down, but it was a financial disaster for the theatre.
Carousel gave my students a wonderful opportunity to experience long runs with a professional company, runs that included several two-a-days each week. That sort of experience teaches them all about the kind of discipline it takes to be a working professional. I know the news is going to make my students very sad. And then of course there are all the local folks who have been collecting paychecks from Carousel -- some long term staff members are undoubtedly in shock today. My heart goes out to them.
Will the Obama era of change bring about another form of the Federal Theatre Project? Let's hope so, and perhaps this recession will encourage forms of theatre that are not so expensive to produce.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
So here we are in the year 2009 of the Common Era, looking out at a world still pock-marked with violence and straining under the load of too many human beings all scurrying around to grab for some more of earth's dwindling resources. Things like clean water, clean air and a bit of land not touched by toxic chemicals.
I spent New Year's eve working on a rather large drawing. I have quite a pile of unfinished work that I'd like to complete and show to others this year. That's the goal for 2009 -- get enough finished and framed to have an art show.
The drawing above is a view of religious oppression from one who isn't. I did the sketch a number of years ago, but only finished the coloring this year. My typical way of working is to do the drawing in ink and then color with colored pencils. Prismacolor is my pencil of choice. No other brand has the feel, density and hue of a well-sharpened Prismacolor pencil. And they keep adding new colors too!
I have a long-standing tradition of doing a New Year's drawing. It's my own way of clearing out the mental detritus and looking ahead at what needs to be done. It seemed more appropriate to finish one from the pile rather than start something new, so I spent long hours last night and into the dawn of January 1st coloring the old piece. But I did take an hour or so to do something new in a very small journal I picked up in NYC at a farmers' market last fall. It is a journal made out of native to Bali materials including bamboo, pakis, waru and banana trees. The paper has a very interesting texture. I plan on using it to experiment with pencils, ink and water color.
The new sketch book looks like this:
Here's a peak inside: