Here I am, by The Boxer Rebellion

Fell in love with this song today, Here I am, by The Boxer Rebellion.

 I'll follow, blindly, however unlikely, that I'd find you, I'd find you. I just knew.

Here I am.

I lost you once I don't wanna lose you again.

This song is haunting and deeply moving. Yet, somehow, it is also romantic, in a raw and dangerously open sort of way.

The melody, the violin and piano, the pacing and the buildup. The pleading, "Here I am," and "I don't want to lose you again."

It's terrible and sad. Yet, so beautiful.

And I just love it.

 

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-N- Stuff  :  Music  :  Music Videos

A Gun's Life : Why we should expect more shootings

Today, I woke up, read, drank some coffee, slipped on the ice outside our house, then drove to work. As usual. 

When I got to my classroom I prepped for the day, made copies of some PDP notes for the novels my students are reading, then checked my emails. As usual.

When students began to walk the halls and fill their seats, I found it difficult to carry on the day, as usual.

So before each class, we talked about the shootings, the problems and solutions, and why it seems to happen so damn often (Since 2013, there have been nearly 300 school shootings in America — an average of about one a week - via).

We had more questions than we did solutions.

During lunch, I came across this video:

There are more gun shops in the US than Starbucks, McDonalds, and supermarkets put together.

That statistic was startling to me, terrifying actually, because if you want to know what a person, community, or country loves, look at where they spend their money and you will find the gods they serve.

We’re sacrificing America’s children to “our great god Gun”:

The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

I'm not convinced that guns are the problem and that if we are to only get rid of them, all problems will be erased. However, I am convinced that if in fact getting rid of guns would prevent, 100%, shootings in schools, America at large would still cling to their rights, their freedoms, and their guns, and that shootings would continue.

But not so, in Japan.

A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths:

The only guns that Japanese citizens can legally buy and use are shotguns and air rifles, and it’s not easy to do. The process is detailed in David Kopel’s landmark study on Japanese gun control, published in the 1993 Asia Pacific Law Review, still cited as current. (Kopel, no left-wing loony, is a member of the National Rifle Association and once wrote in National Review that looser gun control laws could have stopped Adolf Hitler.)

To get a gun in Japan, first, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once per month. You also must take and pass a shooting range class. Then, head over to a hospital for a mental test and drug test (Japan is unusual in that potential gun owners must affirmatively prove their mental fitness), which you’ll file with the police. Finally, pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. Just don’t forget to provide police with documentation on the specific location of the gun in your home, as well as the ammo, both of which must be locked and stored separately. And remember to have the police inspect the gun once per year and to re-take the class and exam every three years.

Seems like a small price to pay to save our children, our classmates, our teachers, neighbors, friends, parents, and . . . fellow man.

I hear the argument, that we shouldn't blame those who aren't the problem - the responsible gun owners, and that creating more laws is only hurting the law abider, not the law breaker. I get it. But I also don't. 

More than a few of my friends are recovering alcoholics. I, however, am not. But, no matter how much I enjoy a cold drink on a summer evening with the taste and smell of the grill wafting through the air, when they are present, I don't drink. Even though I don't have the struggle, even though I can drink responsibly, I forgo my right to have and drink in my house because I want what's best for the other person. Not just myself. 

This, more than the actual guns, seems to be the bigger more predominant issue - individual rights over the community wellbeing. Japan and other Eastern countries not only have stricter rules and regulations, they also don't have a problem with them being implemented, because they are more of a group society, whereas Western countries care more about the individual. 

Dan Hodges said it this way, "In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over."

That sounds harsh, and I can think of more than a few gun loving friends and family that this doesn't quite relate to, but that doesn't steal much away from the stark truth of the sentiment that the discussion has come to a close. And if we're unwilling to even discuss the possibility of change, nothing ever will. 

In the meantime, expect more shootings. 

(for more excerpts on the United States of Guns, visit Kottke.org).

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Taking of a Buddy :  Hatred in America

Giant Snow Art : Simon Beck

"It started as a bit of fun. But gradually, it's taken over my life."

For the past decade, Simon Beck has been decorating the Alps with his stunning mathematical drawings, created by running in snowshoes across freshly laid snow. Each image takes him up to 11 hours to make and covers an area about 100m x 100m, requiring him to travel up to 25 miles as he marks out the pattern (via).
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Recently, he's diversified into beach art. 

Simon-Beck-Art-LSD-Meets-The-Sea.jpg

Watching artists being artists is always inspiring and encouraging to the heart and soul. It reminds me that the purpose of art is to express the beat and conscious of humanity and, if possible, to make or turn that beat into something beautiful, something that makes us stand and wonder of life, of possibilities, and of the greatest things about ourselves we have yet to reveal. Things that could quite easily take over our lives.

Like images in our minds, stomped out on a mountainside, for the world to see.

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff   :  Inspiring Art  :  Great Big Stories

Red Gerard wins gold, in slow motion

Inspired by Curtis Jackson, here is Red Gerard's gold medal run, in slow motion, and to the tune of Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man.

There's something about watching a seventeen year old young man accomplishing such a massive feat under intense pressure that makes me question many things in life. 

Yet, there is something to this as well that is truly inspiring. 

You can watch Red Gerard's run in real time here.

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Inspiring Art  :  Rock Climbing to Sigur Ros Chinese Dancers to Modest Mouse

The Sound of Black Ice

This small lake outside Stockholm, Sweden, emits otherworldly sounds as Mårten Ajne skates over its precariously thin, black ice. “Wild ice skating,” or “Nordic skating,” is both an art and a science. A skater seeks out the thinnest, most pristine black ice possible—both for its smoothness, and for its high-pitched, laser-like sounds (via).

So cool. Yet, so terrifying. The scene around the 2:08 mark, where the ice is cracking beneath his skates is really a remarkable sight. 

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Inspiring Art  :  The Art of Flying

on Why we Create : by Salomon Ligthelm

In our home, the discussion of why we create, why we pursue the arts, and if the intentional, and often unintentional, consequences are worth it. 

This video didn’t answer all our questions, but it helped. And inspired. 

Thank you John Blanchard for sending it our way! 

“It’s not about you, it’s not about all your talents because all those things create this sort of pseudo reality where you find all your validation in what you do. And if you surrender yourself to it then those things don’t become as important and you find your creativity again.

Creativity  is for others. It’s not to serve yourself. It’s for others” 

 

You can watch more of Salomon Ligthelm's work here.

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Inspiration  :  On Creativity  Short Films

On Discipline : A possible chapter to a possible book I hope to finish in the possible future

Growing up, I often heard stories of how biblical shepherds handled sheep that constantly strayed – they would break the sheep’s legs.

Then, because the sheep could no longer walk, the shepherd would carry it on his shoulders until it healed. During this time, a bond of trust would form between the shepherd and the sheep. Once healed, the sheep would no longer leave the shepherd.

So, when my mother told me not to borrow her bike and I did anyway, she tried to break my legs.  

My bike was fine, but hers was better, and the road to my friend’s house was long. So long in fact that it took thirty minutes for her to catch up in the car. It took her less than three minutes to bolt from the car, stuff her bike into the undersized trunk, yell, “WALK HOME!” and whip the car around and through the oncoming traffic.

By the time I made it back to the house, the cool of the evening was beginning to settle in and I had some pretty fantastic excuses worked out.

I walked through the front door, parched, and ready to wash myself of blame and trouble. She too was ready, “Go to your room,” she said, “Wait for your dad to come home.” When she didn’t glance up from her floured tabletop and rolled out dough, I knew I was in trouble.

The hours between then and my dad’s pickup bouncing over the curb were forever. The hour it took for my father to slowly open the door and sit on my bed was even longer. The talk, however, was less than a minute: “No TV, no friends, no phone, for two weeks.”

“TWO WEEKS!” I yelled.

“Yes, two weeks,” my dad said, even though it was summer, beautiful summer, when kids should be out with their friends, riding bikes, fishing in small ponds, building forts, and getting into simple mischief.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. Not only was I confined to the acre and a half of my parents’ property, I was to memorize Bible verses, read books on the Lord’s second coming, and “think about what I’d done.”

Taking the bike was the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” because it was just one of a hundred times I was disrespectful, disobedient, and selfish, and I needed to learn my lesson. I needed to have my legs broken.

As a child, my mother didn’t yell and scream when I misbehaved, but she did place the responsibility for punishing a disobedient and defiant young boy upon his father. She had a hand in creating the consequence, but he was the one who enforced it, who sat with me in my anger and tears. He was the one who talked me through it, who listened to my weak negations, and who patiently, with tears in his own eyes, refused to budge or relent but affirmed that I would indeed be grounded for two weeks.

He was also the one who took me fishing.

About a week into my grounding, I was sitting in the backyard, reading, when my father came home from work and asked if I wanted to go to the river for the next week. I still had to read and memorize, but I could do it from the camper, after running bank lines and trotlines and swimming in the great currents of the northern Mississippi River. “Of course!” I yelled.

“Great,” he said, “then pack up your stuff. We’ll head out early tomorrow morning.”

I slammed my book shut and ran inside the house; my dad grabbed the tackle box and lifted me to his shoulders, just like a good shepherd should.

The next morning, we left early.

The five-hour drive to the campground was spent hearing the same old stories of when my dad was a kid on the river. How he and his friend caught a huge snapping turtle with only a net, how he spent a summer shingling the roof of his parent’s cabin, and about the time he and his friend built a bonfire so massive that it caught the attention of a barge passing by. He told me about the propane tank.

It was he and his friend’s first night away from the cabin and they were a bit scared of the dark, even though neither one would admitted it, so they threw log after log upon the roaring flames. When they found the tank buried beneath a pile of driftwood, they threw that on too. Then quickly forgot all about it.

Minutes later, it exploded, sending sparks and wood and teenage boys flying in all directions. No one was hurt and Dad chuckled as he told it, just like he’d done the dozen or so times before, which made me laugh and smile too because I loved that story.

Then, we were there. As we crested the bluff, my dad stopped, “Oh no.”

“What?” I asked.

“It’s flooded.”

The river must have just recently receded back to its normal levels because the road was covered with a layer of deep, sloppy, river mud. “Well,” my dad said, slowly pulling forward, “if it doesn’t rain the rest of the time we’re here, we should be okay.

With each nightly downpour, our fear that we’d never make it out grew, and with each passing day, my dad prepared to get us out of the mess and safely home by shoveling as much mud off the road as possible then haul and spread gravel from a nearby gravel pit over the road, all without a shovel. 

And never once did I doubt that he could, that he would, and that we wouldn’t make it home safe.

But then, a prison work crew showed up to fix all the picnic tables. When they paused for a quick lunch break, my dad asked one of them if he wanted some of our fish. The man looked at my dad and said, “You better as’ the boss firs’.”

“I did,” my dad replied, holding up the plate of freshly grilled catfish, “he said it’s okay.” The man looked around, at his other inmates, the river, then back to the plate, “Well,” he said, “You got any salt?”

Over the next thirty minutes or so, the dozen or so inmates finished off all the fish we’d caught the previous four days. I watched from the camper, hidden behind my book, but reading nothing. One man, with his mouth full, shook his head, “Shit. Dis is better ‘en my chicken,” and I knew he was telling the truth because my dad grew up on the Mississippi river, fishing, working, and learning from his parents, and he knew how to grill catfish.

Before leaving, the crew grated the road for us, laid down new gravel, and lined the old picnic tabletops under our camper and van. When it rained hard on our last night by the river, my dad slept soundly. In the morning, instead of clearing the road or heading home, we went fishing and my dad told stories of when he was a young and imperfect son.

My dad didn’t have to break my legs for me to learn how to trust him. Nor did he have to yell and scream and rain down punishments for me to respect him. He just needed time with me, to take an interest in me, and to show me that he just because my behavior was inappropriate it didn’t mean I wasn’t wanted, or loved.

Instead of creating consequences, he created memories. And in the following years, whenever I would get into trouble or found myself stuck, it was my father I went to, who I met for coffee or called on the phone while wandering the dark streets, searching for answers. Because he was the one who took me fishing.

So when “G” said, “Fuck this shit!” in front of the entire class, when he jumped up from his chair and started walking out of the room yelling, “this is bullshit!” I didn’t walk him to the office or write him up or chase him down the hall, yelling and screaming and threatening detention, suspension, or failure of the class. Instead, I let him go and thought about fishing with my father. When the bell rang, I went to principal because, like me, “G” didn’t need to have his legs broken. Nor did he need me to carry him. He just needed someone who’d be willing to sit with him, in the muck and the mire, and hear his story.

“I want “G” to spend the next week with me, during lunch,” I said, “Is that possible?” She was a bit skeptical.

“Please. Don’t write him up, just let me spend time with him.” And because I’m fortunate to have supportive bosses, she said okay.

The next day, with a ham and cheese sandwich and a few freshly cut vegetables scattered on my desk, I waited for “G” to show, but he never did. When I saw him in the hallway, I asked him about it, told him he wasn’t in trouble, but that I just wanted to talk and hang out with him for a bit. He said he’d come tomorrow.

When he showed up, I asked him how he’s doing. “Not good,” he said. Then, he told me about his family.

“My dad came in my room and asked where Mom is” he says, lounging in the cold desk, arms crossed, “and I didn’t know if I should tell him or not. Next thing you know, we’re sitting in the car for three hours. I call my mom and she says she’s at the movies but there aren’t any cars in the parking lot because there isn’t any movie showing. My dad starts crying and my little brother starts crying and I’m thinking, ‘What’s going to happen?’ Mom didn’t get home till 3am.”

“I’m sorry,” I say, knowing where this was going. He looks up.

“Hearing your parents argue is the worst. Having your ten-year old brother cry in your arms isn’t what anyone wants.”

He fights back tears. Because he’s tough.

“Mom’s crying, Dad leaves, and nobody knows where he went. Three days pass and no sign of my dad nowhere. Until the Fourth of July.”

The bell rings and “G” gets ready to go to class. “Thanks,” I say, “Thanks for sharing.” He nods gently and heads to class.

The next day, and for the four days after, he comes back.

He tells me how his parents almost got back together, but then, on a trip to the beach, they got into another big fight and he, his little brother, and his mom had to walk home in the rain. He talks about how she eventually moved out and how difficult it was because she still lived in town, with another woman.  

He tells me that was when he finally broke down and cried because the next morning, when he woke up, he found his dad passed out on the couch, “No one should have to experience this,” he says.

“G” used to be a “good kid,” a star athlete, and a decent student. Now, he doesn’t understand why he is so angry all the time, why he can’t control his temper.

“I used to be that kid thinking life would be so easy. But that just makes it harder.”

We sit in silence for a minute.

“I just want to beak down and cry,” he says “but it’s too late to be crying over something that I can’t fix. Life isn’t easy, and it never gonna be.”

“I’m sorry,” I say again, thinking of my dad and the river and wondering if and how I could lift “G” to my shoulders, because so much of his life seems bent on breaking his legs.

The bell rings, and I still don’t know what to do.

Later that day, another teacher writes “G” up and doesn’t want him in their class because he’s disrespectful and curses and needs to be taught a lesson.

He asks if he could spend his detention with me.

A week later, when he needs help with credit recovery for science class, he comes in during lunch and we work through the material together – neither of us having a clue what is being asked but finding, and sometimes guessing, the answers together.

Later in the quarter, he writes a poem about how the Fourth of July used to be the best time of year, until Mom and Dad argue, a little brother cries, and a family falls apart, and I find myself trying to fight back tears, to be tough like “G”.

Then he writes a powerful short story about his parent’s, his mother, and the day he found out she was leaving her family – her “G” - for a woman she met at work. He writes an essay on the power of music and another on anger and how it fuels his life but ruins his days, and I smile.

“G” hasn’t stopped cursing in class, but he is trying, he is showing up almost every day, and he is working on what he can – even if it might be “bullshit”, and that makes me smile. Because that means he’s healing.

I know I’m not “G”’s father or his shepherd, but I am his teacher. And when we had lunch together, when he told me about his life and the things that matter most, I listened. When he asked me if I could relate, I told him about my failures as a son, a father, a teacher, and a husband. I told him he wasn’t alone, in his failure or his pain.

I wasn’t able to take “G” fishing or carry him on my shoulders, but I do think I was still able to help him heal, if only a little,  because whenever I walk home from work and a car honks and honks and honks, I know it’s “G”, driving with his girl, just wanting to say hi.

And sometimes, it’s the best part of the day.

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  On Education  :  On Parenting

Instatravel and the search for Identity with Community

It's easy to watch this video and mock or scoff at all the wanna-be's. "Be original!" we might say, because nobody likes a poser and everyone wants to be uniquely different. Just not too different because we also don't want to be alone, misunderstood, or an outcast. We want community and relationships and to be included.

And that is exactly what is happening in the Instraval video. People are finding connection and community by embracing and participating in a movement, an idea, or a trend because it makes them feel part of something bigger than themselves, in their own unique way. Just like everybody else.

Even when we branch out, when find something that seems to be completely our own, we're not. Others are cheering, encouraging, and even dancing with us, which makes the experience all the more perfect. Because we're not alone.

"Being original," Adam Grant writes, "doesn't mean being first. It just means being different and better" (via). It means learning and absorbing from those around us while using our individuality and identity to progress an idea or truth beyond its current state. 

It also means whenever we find success, when the spotlight happens to shine down upon us, we acknowledge the community that so faithfully surrounded, protected, and provided for us.

Even if it was a simple paving of the roads. 

Be original. More importantly though, be thankful.

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Inspiration  :  On Creativity  

Ghosts of Football Past : A history of violence, racism, cheating, and innovation.

In preparation for Super Bowl LII:

It's the end of the 19th century -- the Civil War is over, and the frontier is dead. And young college men are anxious. What great struggle will test their character? Then along comes a new craze: football. A brutally violent game where young men can show a stadium full of fans just what they're made of. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Penn -- the sons of the most powerful men in the country are literally knocking themselves out to win these gladiatorial battles. And then the most American team of all, with the most to prove, gets in the game and owns it. The Carlisle Indian School, formed in 1879 to assimilate the children and grandchildren of the men who fought the final Plains Wars against the fathers and grandfathers of the Ivy Leaguers, starts challenging the best teams in the country. On the football field, Carlisle had a chance for a fair fight with high stakes -- a chance to earn respect, a chance to be winners, and a chance to go forward in a changing world that was destroying theirs (via).

 

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-N- Stuff  :  History  On Sports