Category Archives: Music

Tuesday’s Tune: A Charlie Brown Christmas

It’s Christmas time. The season is upon us. Christmas will be here in sixteen days. I’ve survived Black Friday – I didn’t shop, or even leave the house.

I was four years old the first time the Charlie Brown Christmas first aired. It was 1965. We were living in Houston. We be there one more Christmas and then, we’d move to Sugar Land where I would grow up. My mom still lives in the house I call home, even though I haven’t lived there for close to thirty years.

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This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first showing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The network produced a special 50th anniversary special and then replayed the cartoon. I watched it, again.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is an animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. Produced by Lee Mendelson and directed by Bill Melendez, the program made its debut on CBS on December 9, 1965. In the special, lead character Charlie Brown finds himself depressed despite the onset of the cheerful holiday season. Lucy suggests he direct a school Christmas play, but he is both ignored and mocked by his peers. The story touches on the over-commercialization and secularism of Christmas, and serves to remind viewers of the true meaning of Christmas. (Wikipedia)

Rewind, I can imagine us, my brothers and I, sitting on the couch watching the Christmas special in our jammies. For us, it was in black and white; we wouldn’t get our first color television until 1971. I don’t have a specific memory of watching it, I just know we watched it. Sitting on the couch.

My kids have watched it, too.

A lot has changed since then. I can watch A Charlie Brown Christmas anytime I want – regardless of the season. And, much has stayed the same, A Charlie Brown Christmas was, in a way, a protest show about the commercialization of Christmas.

It bothers me that the Christmas season seemingly begins earlier every year. But, I don’t let it get me down.

A few years ago, I purchased the music from the show and loaded it on my iPhone. I play it as often as I can. I plug in my speakers in my classroom and play it before school starts and sometimes in class when my students are working, no one tires of the tunes. The music is calming and peaceful and it reminds me of the importance of the season.

I remember driving home to Ohio once – I don’t recall when. But, the backseat was in an uproar. My two backseat passengers couldn’t seem to get along, the dog was whining and barking, there was heavy traffic on the road and I popped in the CD. Presto, chango. We listened, whistled softly hummed, and thought of the gift of Christmas.

We won’t be driving to Ohio this Christmas. I am not sure what our plans are, but it will be Christmas. But, wherever we go we will remember the meaning of Christmas.

B has been working on the lights and we got the backyard done this past weekend. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Tuesday’s Tune: This Old Punk

My friend Scott sent his guest post to me Monday afternoon; and it’s now Wednesday, not Tuesday. It’s been that kind of week or so. I’ve known Scott since our school opened up in ’01.He teaches health education in the building and is a writer, too. He writes at Life is the Future and is planning to ‘Bite the Bullet’ this coming year. We were talking and writing came up – neither knew the other wrote, it’s interesting how that all works. I knew he loved music and collected vinyl. We got to talking and he agreed to guest post here at Making the Days Count. I enjoyed the read and I hope you do, too. I am thankful for friends like Scott, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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Some of my favorite memories come with a soundtrack. Of course, almost all my memories come with a soundtrack—the good, the bad, and everything in between.

In teaching discussions, and even in life conversations, I make it no secret that music has helped me stay alive this long. Music has been one of my constants in a lifetime of change. It has seen me age, and awkwardly so. It has seen me make bad decisions, and dread repercussion. It has seen me laugh, cry, and scream. It has taken me across the country on the kick of a dream. It has kept me home in the arms of my family.

While writing, I rarely do any stream of consciousness without it. And even then, when the editing grip finally takes hold, I can hear the echo in the embers. It’s in pieces, in manic-depressant fits of stress and relaxation. Like dust motes in the blank stare of a daydream, music can fill space or demand attention. Depending on the mood, music confirms or denies feelings of self-worth, vents of frustration, and outbursts of elation.

Pop music of my childhood combined with the classics from my parents, which led me to being introduced to other styles of music. The alternative music boom of the 80’s and 90’s paved the way for exactly what I needed: the edgy, angsty hooks of punk rock.

I was about 14 when I found punk music. Coming from a fairly normal and fortunate upbringing, punk rock didn’t represent a distaste for life, necessarily, but it hit home as it satisfied a very natural need of adolescence: to question everything. Question the norm, question the rules, question the answers, question existence… question oneself.

A punk song may never change the world, but I could tell you a few that changed me. Which means, by virtue, punk rock does exactly what it sets out to do.

If you’ve been there, you know; people are drawn to punk for many reasons, all unique to each individual. For me, the attitude of the music and lyrics was easy to relate to. But songs with societal meaning registered just as much as the galloping riffs that accompanied those often-indiscernible words. (Good thing for liner notes.) The punk community is one that offends the mainstream with no mercy but all in the demand for tolerance and equity. Racial and class lines be damned.

Identity in school, as in life, remains just as difficult a topic as ever. In my case, not following pre-set expectations made a lot of sense… classifications, stereotypes, cliques all seemed dumb and immature. Counterproductive. Moreover, why can’t a person be interested in a variety of things, and hang out with lots of different people? Funny enough, finding like-minded friends and having that kinship of a social circle is essential in teenage development.

Cue the music. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: This Old Punk

Egalité, Liberté, Fraternité: A History Lesson

I am a teacher. I teach kids history, some kids get it and others, will get it later.

We are studying the period in US History right after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution – the first fifty years from President Washington to President Jackson. On Monday morning when my students sat down in class for the new unit, I challenged them to name as many presidents as they could. I gave them ten minutes.

I had taken the same challenge the week before. I got 42 presidents and had 41 of them in chronological order. Give it a whirl and post your number with your comment.

The average for my students was 11. The high was 34 and the low was two. I do not think the ‘2’ tried, the next low was six, which is about right.

Tuesday was my birthday and I modelled the reading and thinking process with my students.

Wednesday was Veterans Day and my students learned the meaning of the day and the inspiration behind the poppy symbol.

all of our poopies together to form a field of poppies....
all of our poopies together to form a field of poppies….

Thursday I continued modelling and gave them homework – finish President Washington and we will review Friday in class.

Yesterday was Friday and in class, we were reviewing George Washington’s second term and the Neutrality Act came up. George Washington was an isolationist and believed in the dangers of political factions and parties. Essentially, he was a Federalist believing in the power of a strong centralized government. Alexander Hamilton Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury and architect of our financial system agreed with Washington. On the other side of the argument were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison – writers of two of our most important documents – the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, respectively. Jefferson and Madison argued against being neutral and siding with France.

Once again, I used music to make my point and I played “Cabinet Battle #2” from Hamilton: An American Musical.

They got it, I think. “…if you don’t know, now you know. Mr. President.….”

Washington listened and issued the Neutrality Act, Britain removed her troops from American soil, but is didn’t solve the problems of the day. Continue reading Egalité, Liberté, Fraternité: A History Lesson

Tuesday’s Tune: Guest Post Susie Lindau

Today’s Tuesday’s Tune is a guest post from Susie Lindau of Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride. I’ve been following and reading her blog for a while; I have followed her wild adventures from the mountain tops of the Rockies and to Europe and back. I admire her get up and go attitude and never letting anything hold her back; she’s more than a survivor, she’s a THRIVER and she’s been an inspiration to me. I’ll let Susie share her musical inspiration…

The first time I bought a record, they were vinyl and department stores carried them. I remember being in the 7th grade and had started babysitting for fifty cents an hour. I had some cold hard cash to spend. Okay. They were most likely coins.

My mother drove me to Gimbel’s. While she headed to women’s clothing, I took the escalator to the second floor. The music section was situated to the right. There were tables full of LP’s. I passed Carol King’s Tapestry, Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, and The Who’s Who’s Next. Instead I sauntered over to the affordable 45’s. They had a recording of one song on each side. The A-side contained the hit and B-side had the lesser known tune.

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What did I buy? Judy Collins, Both Sides Now. I recognized her hit tune from a couple years before. Looking back, it’s pretty ironic.

Both Sides Now

Years later, while working as a medical illustrator at the VA Hospital in Madison, I met Judy’s brother. He was a speech pathologist. Like most doctors who worked at the VA, he also covered the UW Hospital since they are physically connected.

According to her book, Singing Lessons: A Memoir of Love, Loss, Hope, and Healing, her brother developed an interest in speech from a stutter he endured as a child. He had her big blue eyes. I drew a larynx for him.

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Their father was a blind disk jockey, another auditory connection, but I never met him.

All these years I thought, Leaving on a Jet Plane was on the b-side and she did sing a cover of that song, but Who Knows Where the Time Goes is on the flip side.

She was the first singer I admired from afar. There have been many since. Ironically, after writing this blast from the past, I asked myself that same question. “Who knows where the time goes?”

Judy Collins Both Sides Now” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Tuesday’s Tune: Reelin’ in the Years

I’d like to introduce my first ever – guest blogger – Chris White. I’ve known Chris for a over forty years, he was my backdoor neighbor growing up and the leader of all things fun in the neighborhood. There were a lot of boys our age in the neighborhood growing up and only a couple of girls in our age bracket. Chris was a few years older than me, but I never felt that way – we played tackle football in the side yard,  baseball in the vacant lot, and when I got older, he became my boss at Tempo Records and Tapes.  I moved away from Texas in ’87 and he moved, too. We lost touch, but I never forgot growing up in the neighborhood. We got back in touch a few years ago on Facebook and we’ve messaged back and forth a several times catching up. His whimsical sense of humor was inspiration and I vividly remember many of the laughs we shared, many of which are not fit to print. Despite our moves, both of us still root for Houston sports teams. Which, if you know the history of most of Houston’s sports teams, is funny. Very funny.

I let Chris tell you the rest of the story…… 

I first discovered musical idols the day my older sister brought home “Meet the Beatles.” Not yet ready myself to idolize anyone not wearing a cape and tights, I watched fascinated as my sister melted into a puddle while the moptops went about changing popular music forever.

Flash forward a few years, leaping over a Herman’s Hermits infatuation that’s better left unexamined, to my freshman year in high school, when I first discovered that athletic skill wasn’t necessarily a prerequisite for attracting the opposite sex. I began to gravitate toward those girls who’d never heard of Johnny Bench but who could have described Led Zep’s Robert Plant in sufficient detail to satisfy a police sketch artist. It was around that time I discovered the first musical idol I could latch onto and call my own: Keith Emerson, the genius behind Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Keith was a giant of progressive rock, a colossus among multi-keyboardists — it was decades later that I learned he was (and still is, presumably) all of 5’4”. Regardless, Keith seemed larger than life at the time.

Since my family owned a Hammond organ, I began to teach myself how to play, taking baby steps at first. Wrangling a couple of friends who shared a remarkably similar complete lack of musical talent, I formed a band. Or more accurately, a “band.” Clay, the proprietor of this blog (thanks for the guest spot, Clay!), whose boyhood home was right behind my own house at the time, can attest to the fact that no amount of volume can make up for a dearth of musical skill. The amazing thing about lack of ability, though, is that it’s often accompanied by a simultaneous lack of awareness. Not realizing how bad we were, my bandmates and I continued hacking away on our respective instruments until a miracle occurred. Lo and behold, we gradually became mediocre. Eventually we progressed through “adequate” and “not terrible” and by the time we were seniors in high school, ended up somewhere around “pretty damned good,” complete with a record (recorded in an actual honest-to-God music studio) that got a few spins on KLOL, the dominant FM rock station in Houston at the time.

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Chris White on flaming guitar with Rex meredith on vocals and Curtis Peet on guitar

It was on a road trip in 1976 to play a spring break gig in Corpus Christi that I was introduced to the musical idols who would keep all others at bay for the next forty years. One of my bandmates brought along a supposedly high-fidelity 8-track tape of Steely Dan’s “The Royal Scam” album, which we listened to over and over and over in my dad’s Olds Delta 88. By the time I was back in Houston a few days later, the trajectory of my life had been irreversibly altered. No longer would I be quite as satisfied with the bombast glam of Queen or the overwrought noodlings of Kansas. I had discovered complex chord changes, jazz harmonies, guitar solos wicked enough to send the swiftest-fingered rockers back to the practice room, all set to rock songs with lyrics that were literate without being pretentious. A shimmering, gorgeous surface hid the musical complexity underneath, and the lyrics only gave the faintest of brush strokes to the sordid tales they painted, forcing the listener to fill in the details using his own imagination. That some people didn’t “get” Steely Dan, taking them as a light-rock band with glossy songs, only made it that much better. I was in that select group who understood how deep their music actually was. Genesis? Yes? Rush? Don’t get me started with those prog-rock posers, Steely Dan were real musicians playing music that was challenging in a way nothing else I’d ever heard on rock radio was. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: Reelin’ in the Years

Back to school…

School starts Monday. I’m ready, or at least I think I’m ready.

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It’s in the wrong order – should be ROY G BIV, but beggars can’t be choosers. image courtesy of Atlanta: InTown online – they’ve been back to school for two weeks!

I was at school working in my classroom Thursday and again, Friday afternoon – I have a list of to dos before Monday morning and my first official day of school – faculty meetings and administrative details before the kids arrive next Thursday.

Thursday, I was busy masking a line from the back of the room to the front of the room so I could paint a 3” wide blue line – I’ll be using it for a timeline 1750 to present. Jose, the head custodian, will paint it this week and I’ll start posting events as they come up in class. I had O with me on Thursday and she organized my project boxes – boxes of supplies groups can use in class. We went school supply shopping Monday and visited her school Tuesday and she got her schedule and organized her locker. She was a big help Thursday and I owe her big time.

Friday I met with my science colleagues and we planned. Afterwards, I made lists and organized a few bins and drawers. I’ll stay late Monday and Tuesday and work on a few more details before having Wednesday all t myself to get the room ready for students on Thursday.

As for today and tomorrow – the days before school starts, the final weekend before school: Today there is o’s softball practice and W’s varsity football picnic. And, of course yard work and my desk.

While I was driving to school yesterday morning, I realized there were several things about school that I missed this summer Continue reading Back to school…

Tuesday’s Tune: “All Summer Long”

americangraffitiWe are back home; and I am back at home in the basement. We left late Sunday night and arrived early Monday morning. O decided to join W and me, after we had pulled all of the boats and stored the outdoor furniture before leaving for the cottage for the summer. I don’t know when we’ll get back. I only know when I get back it will feel wonderful, like summer.

I am only a few days away from ‘being back’ but I’ve been back at school a couple of times in the past week and peeked into my classroom. I spent a few hours this afternoon working on planning and thinking.

At the beginning of the summer, I began tutoring a student in reading and social studies. We met several times this summer and today was our final tutoring session. She will be in my first period U.S. History class and we’ll continue working on some of the social studies skills we focused on this summer – sequencing and looking at cause and effect relationships.

It hit me this morning that summer is almost over when I read that 42 years ago today American Graffiti was released. It is the quintessential summer movie and though I did not see it in the theater, but I’ve seen it several times on television and replayed it on DVD. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: “All Summer Long”

Tuesday’s Tune: “Blue Skies”

I am number that third guy who walks into a music store searching for a tune he’s heard, sometimes I’ll have the tune, or maybe a bit of the chorus. Sometimes I have it correct, most times though, I am all messed up. Eventually I get it right and find the song.

Monday morning - nothing but blue skies do I see
Monday morning – nothing but blue skies do I see

Blues skies made an appearance yesterday. It was great to see them after Sunday’s storms. Storms rolled across the lake in waves Sunday afternoon. The first wave came around noon and brought wind, thunder, lightning, and rain. The second wave came a couple of hours later. The third wave came around 5 PM.

B and I had decided that gardening would have to wait for another day and she took off with O and friends to let the kids see a movie and to shop – she needed paint for the downstairs powder room among a few other items. I finished my chores and decided to watch a baseball game upstairs when the last wave rolled through.

5:09 PM Sunday August 2nd

I had my back to the lake Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: “Blue Skies”

Tuesday’s Tune: MtDC Playlist

Like most people, music has always been an important part of my life. I tried out for chorus in third grade and didn’t make it, I couldn’t carry a tune, I still can’t but it doesn’t stop me from singing. I played trombone in middle school and gave it up, like scouting and sports and so many other activities I quit in that awkward middle adolescent period between 13 to 16. Music was an important part of growing up – listening to the radio and learning the popular rock and roll songs of the 70’s. I worked in a music store in high school. In 1979, a music store sold records and tapes, the kind of music that was on vinyl.

Pink Floyd's The Wall was released in November 1979 - my senior year
Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” was released in November 1979 – my senior year in high school

At 17, I knew it all. I knew everything. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: MtDC Playlist

Forever in Blue Jeans

It’s Sunday, the day before Memorial Day, and the Indy 500 starts in less than a half hour. The pre-race is on and I wish I could watch it with my science students. It’s speed, physics, material science, and adrenaline all wrapped into 500 miles. I’ve been to the race track many times before, but this year I’ll be watching from the family room with B, W, and O. We’ll be thinking of B’s dad who was our ticket to the track. JD passed away last year after a long life of service to his country, community, and his family. He’s always in our thoughts.

JD Weaver (1926-2014), B, and my nephew - JD's grandson
JD Weaver (1926-2014), B, and my nephew – JD’s grandson

In my last post, I honored my dad, whom also is never far from my thoughts, either.

 There is irony in my last post because my dad’s birthday – 5/20/1933 – is also another birthday, of sorts: blue jeans were born, or rather patented by Levi and Strauss. Irony. I shared this with my classes and reminded them that education was the key to not wearing blue jeans as my dad believed deep in his core. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with hard, physical work – it needs to be done – but, most folks don’t aspire to it. Continue reading Forever in Blue Jeans