Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not Go Gentle Into that Good Night

IMG_3101Yes, years ago Ms. Debra Ramon have a speech to the graduating Class of The American School Foundation in Mexico City in 2016.  It reached every soul and heart string in the audience as much hatred in words was strewn towards those outside of the United States.  As Americans it was difficult to be proud of being an American in another country when comments of hatred, vengeance, isolation, and division were being passed to the public as carelessly as words of love and generosity could have been.  Years later, I have seen those young ladies and gentlemen from Mexico, The United States, Colombia, Brazil, China, South Korea, Japan, and many more countries do nothing but present the best of what can be done in the face of such negative affronts of communication and turning action into change, and positive change as that.  It has been an honor to have been in the audience on the other side of the United States, as a faculty member at ASF in Mexico City and now see them graduating from college and pursuing the missions of peace, positive change, and dedication to creating a better world out of one surrounded by hate.  They never decided to to “Go gentle into that Good Night.”

3:00 AM?  Many that know me know I often wake up in the middle of night and send out messages when many are sound asleep.  There is much now, and then, that have kept me up late at night, and often, too tired during the day and need to find some respite in sleep. Many will say the year 2020 will do that to you.

Here we are in 2020 – and wow what a 2020. We could go on and one about how woeful we are in such turmoil, how much to blame are others for the predicament we are in, because there is plenty of that to go around.  Yet, having the honor of being a Class Advisor this side of the United States at Woodbridge High, and reading name after name of potential changers of our future, from Night to Day, it is often hard to concentrate on the names in front of me when I see so much potential in those names.  There is little difference in these young men and women I see in front of me though many would yell, scream, and shout that there is all the world of difference based on appearances and origin. 

For once, if we set aside appearances and origin, and realize that this side of the United States, or another side of the United States, America extends beyond a boundary we often make in our minds and restrict to our actions.  The largest message that needs to be instilled is the fact that these young men and women of 2020, more than graduating in a year influenced by a pandemic and racial conflict, have been handed a microscope and events that rely on their shoulders to make right.  These young men and women see themselves as barely getting by high school, or hitting all the right grades and words to land them spots at coveted locations they see as marking the success box on their checklist handed down to them from those that see money, position, power as the essential marks of such success.  We have seen that money, position,  and power often can lead to greed, unfair advantage and a desecration of equality across a country, as well as across ethnic and racial backgrounds.  Who will remind and encourage this class of 2020 that they are the light that can invade this darkest of darkest nights?  

That graduating class of ASF in Mexico years ago had much more common with this graduating class in the United States, and not just at Woodbridge High, but also every public school IN the United States.  We witnessed an amazing coming together of Delaware public schools when our beloved Troy Hayes was stricken too short by our standards in life.  Yet, his life never was in vain, as we saw that his life brought together hundreds, if not thousands of individuals together in one state and beyond state borders.  If there ever was a need to carry that momentum forward and have that life, and so many hundreds about thousands we have lost this past 2019-2020 year to so many pandemic, racial, and hateful events, we need to help remind this Class of 2020 they are not graduating into a hateful, ugly, unfair year.  They are being born into a chance to make the changes tat current leaders cannot make due to their blindness into this dark, darkest of nights. 

Congratulations Class of 2020, you are certainly the light that can change the face of the world, we are depending on it.

 

Dylan Thomas – 1914-1953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

 

 

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Bringing Back the Appreciation of Life Through Frankenstein

As the National Theatre in London streams this week Frankenstein– different meanings reveal themselves in a strange world we find ourselves in currently.

Having see this show in the Lunario in Mexico City, I vaguely remember why this was one production I could not find a review for.  While I had some many eye opening and positive moments in our lives,we all have moments we look back on and see as very difficult times in our lives as well.  I recall in one period, despite seeing this brilliant version of Frankenstein, this was a period in my days where I had many bad days and somehow the review I so often made sure to publicize slipped under the radar.  Yet, it seemed it was all for a purpose. In seeing Benedict Cimberbatch’s introduction to that spectacular production by Nick Dear, we are lucky enough to see the tie to a current day pandemic. 

The brilliant truths that Frankenstein’s creation, played painstakingly by Jonny Lee Miller, comes across hauntingly brings parallels today as we find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic.  Learning human nature’s tendency for lies, assimilating to a culture that has so much knowledge of how to hate, how to debase, how to humiliate, how to lie.  It is shocking still to see a creation that Dr. Frankenstein never thought to name  and to realize the Pandora’s box of qualities that his creation has picked up on human nature.  To me, it is a vital lesson that for all the hatred in the world, there is that much more need for counter measures.  Ironically enough, in a live online Open Mic last night, in a zoom with over 30 people, some comments came flooding in that were so negative about the looks, the race, the beliefs, the words of some of the performers, that is the ugliness we see with the risks that come with using technology such as zoom, the ugliness of putting down others does have a chance to sneak in.  Yet, with every comment, positive comments by all of us in the audience were thrown back and guess what?  The individuals departed  and instead of countering ugliness in thought for more ugliness in thought, positive one this time. 

We have much to change in the light of so much darkness, but a willingness and patience to counter ugliness with beauty, negatives with positives, if we can prevail in taking the higher ground when adverse conditions present themselves, it pushes us forward through a ugly muck and fog that often we cannot see through at times.  But in unison, with support and simply a higher respect for life and each other, things have the chance to create a better future.  In every moment that Frankenstein’s live acquires more knowledge, we see more growth in what is possible in life as we know it.

 or

 

Jonny Lee Miller drives the slow progression of Frankentstein’s creation forward in the best possible way I have ever seem and you find yourself holding your breath constantly. The pride and vanity that takes over played as Dr. Frankenstein by Benedict Cumberbatch, while not the only thing that drives this plot, keeps the plot burning and burning.  The setting and use of light to represent life and death is brilliantly used, and often the tools used to tie machine and human together are brilliant.  Every single support cast characters carries their weight and responsibility as an integral part of the one reminder throughout the whole production, the value of live that can be so taken for granted and yet so essential to not let yourself take every moment for granted.  What a powerful lesson in the appropriate time as we find ourselves living in today.

This is so BRILLIANT and powerful – you can see Benedict Cumberbatch play the creature  OR   Jonny Lee Miller play the creature – and the ability to see this in TWO different characters and yet – the same idea of life, and how taken for granted by creature – or as a master of life- oh what discussions can come of this brilliant variation on the ultimate story of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

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The Media and Library Looking Glass

After spending several weeks with the pandemic as muse, this topic and the article a friend found today is so so relevant!

Here is my paper:

Breaking Barriers, Restructuring the Educational Infrastructure Within a Social Technological Librarianship Framework

Introduction

Recently Delaware held their student National History Day competition, with Breaking Barriers as a theme.  In thinking on this topic, it was not obvious which barriers could and would be broken, when advocating for the position of a certified Library Media Specialist in every school.  Despite the misconceptions by many that certified school Library Media Specialists hold a non-essential role in learning institutions, the current pandemic crisis has revealed the need for this position all along. With the advent of Coronavirus in 2020, fissures in the health infrastructure have become obvious in trying to deal with a pandemic largely impossible to predict the effects of its impact.  One of the secondary issues that has emerged has been strengths and weaknesses in the educational system infrastructure across the United States.  It can be argued that the immediate need for online instruction on such a large scale has brought into focus just how essential the role of a certified Library Media Specialist is.  At the same time, excuses, opportunities, and infractions wear away individuals’ technology rights erode away in such an emergency for information.  Who best to prepare a future designated for technology than certified School Library Media Specialist who have the ability to interact with students on a daily basis, and help guide their needs from various disciplines through technological and digital citizenship responsibilities that will promote the future of the country?

In viewing school districts where certified School Librarian Media Specialists are utilized, the resources and transition to online instruction is a smoother process, and the role of a certified school librarian media specialist serves as an avenue to inform, protect, and diversify interests into all disciplines, on behalf of the student and educator.  Eben Moglin, Director-Counsel and Chairman of Software Freedom Law Center, stated we (society) need to put the question back into people’s minds, referring to sparking a questioning public in place of a constantly accepting and unaware public.  As Public Librarian Donna Carter verified, “We need to encourage people to be questioning sponges so that they can see how everything is connected using the virtual as a tool to feed and inspire the reality.”  Certified school Library Media Specialists do this every day, and often it is easy to take for granted the resources needed until a crisis in fact takes place.  The opportunity to open a public’s eyes to tenets of a growing technological world can be broken down through the resource of a school Library Media Specialist, and the time to address these needs in education is now. The issues that often overlooked due to a lack of awareness are those most pertinent to a technological future and are able to be tackled by a certified School Library Media Specialist.

 

Privacy

“As with so many areas of our lives, the virus is forcing us to confront difficult questions about our priorities… So, might the public be willing to trade one kind of freedom – the right to privacy – for another – the right to leave their homes and return to work? As with so many areas of our lives, the virus is forcing us to confront difficult questions about our priorities” (Rory Cellan-Jones).  The choice to have tracing via cell phones to ensure social distancing is certainly a topic that is controversial and has become a talking point now more than ever,  similar to patron’s public records being protected under in libraries.  The State of Delaware’s Code Title 29. of the State Government § 10002 provides for the privacy of patron’s library records, and with the justification for various governmental access to user’s information, the certified Library Media Specialist is more than ever a physical firewall of protection; a simple example of priavy protected and yet the privacy at stake in a larger sense grows every day. Delving into research and information to provide the education and awareness of these rights that extend beyond the walls of the library, during a pandemic as well as in non-pandemic times, privacy is compromised without awareness.

It seems that teachers, due to mandated testing, have a weakened ability to think “out of the box” from being handed curriculum that lists questions, desired answers that resemble cookie cutter learning.  This also is parallel to individuals relying on local providers for connectivity if the only provider has been the dominant voice to supposedly provide the privacy needed.  Students can’t learn to think outside of the box because the test is the box, the holy grail. They learn that there is only one right answer. Don’t think for yourself. The same parallel relates to Eben Moglin’s challenged too put the question back in people’s minds.  We need opportunities for alternatives, freedom to not be “boxed in” by the giants of technological service, but giants of choice in technological service and be aware of how privacy is compromised. Educational systems need to be as flexible as the choices available, as the ability to gain awareness of privacy when using fast resources like Zoom in today’s urgent and fast food society of technology.  Certainly in this time it is a good sign as Madeline Will’s article points out, “For now, in states where the decision has been left up to the districts, principals are trying to support their teachers the best they can.” It is difficult to gauge the amount of privacy being sacrificed and protected in a time of immediate need. However, it must also be more widely known that the certified Library Media Specialist has been trained for moments of need.

 It seems difficult to imagine educators and/or administrators having the time available to be aware of all changes in these regulations as well as time to disseminate rights to those immediately affected as developments occur.  Looking to a post-pandemic future, how and to what extent will future generations be educated on the privacy rights created to combat coronavirus, as well as those protections kept in place that could violate potential infractions on crossing the line of prevention and freedom infractions?  Additionally, options for personal servers, personal cloud storage that does not have to rely on big companies, and the inability to have alternatives to choose from, all require educating patrons. Introducing students to potential forums where ideas are not just presented, but allowing students to be an active participant, is a step higher in Maslow’s hierarchy of learning. There is no more legitimate advocate to do so than the certified school Library Media Specialist.

 

 

Communities

In reading Paul Kilduff-Taylor’s article “Playing With Toys While People are Dying”, obviously a comparable scenario formed in my mind related to the current pandemic.  Communities of learners have changed drastically, with so many attempts to reach out to address concerns of engaging learners in an online format.  Similar to gaming, the struggle is real when it comes to creating a meaningful reason for students to attend online courses when education as we know it, as well as expectations, are being created seemingly on the fly in an unprecedented time. 

Also referred to in Kilduff-Taylor’s article, the opportunity of using gaming to bring individuals together is present.  It is quite possible and desiring to use the needs of addressing summer slide (not Spring, Summer, and Fall slide) in student’s regression of education, and being much more critical of strategies that will create internal meaning to draw students to an online forum to want to peak their interest in continuing their education remotely.  Reaching out to include special needs, disability obstacles, and even easily distracted students through gaming and interactive programming to tie education to those very areas of interest seems quite a feasible approach and could be used to draw in individuals to a new perspective of what education can look like.  It would seem building gaming communities also has the capability of building new types of learning communities online. While many rely on libraries as their only source of internet access, when public libraries close down due to such a pandemic, it is quite essential for individuals to be able to access the library online, as certified Library Media Specialist have been working on alongside public librarians, long before an impending pandemic.

In the current pandemic, the Library Media Specialist has the ability to serve as liason, negotiator, and mediator of all things involving a balance of resources, tools, and sifting through those appropriate for specific end results.  Time is a new commodity that is weighed much more now than pre pandemic times, and having the ability of a certified Library Media Specialist to help provide tools to maximize personal time, research time, and planning time, for both faculty and students, now is more essential than ever as Kilduff-Taylor mentions:

I think the issue is mostly about time. Preserving valuable personal time for thought and direct action; actively deciding how to use money instead of just automatically allowing it to flow towards convenience or luxury; spending more time with your family or as part of a community; perhaps even taking a concerted period away from games to work on something of greater social importance: these are all possibilities for many of us. Indeed, I’ve seen many developers do these things in recent months. That doesn’t mean you can’t throw yourself body-and-soul at one project temporarily, or be dedicated, but it does mean that — at some point — you need perspective.

Being able to rely on an academic resourced facilitator such as a certified Library Media Specialist to help steer through COUNTLESS links, applications, resources being added every second, is truly an essential element to a new era of online and technological education. Filtering, discernment, and contemplation are needed amid a crisis and when pressure to acquire access immediately to avoid being left behind is a key pressure.  Choosing crucial and non-overwhelming levels of resources/tools to preserve new learning communities such as RSS, Snapchat, and Tik Tok are just scratching the surface of what at first seems appealing, but in the long run might have detrimental effects.  These mediums as alluded to by Mehan Garber, have introduced themselves in a new reality of less social gathering off line than online.  It is ironic during the current pandemic, a true cognitive surplus might be occurring due to limited opportunities to do much else. “Cognitive Surplus, in other words — the book, and the concept it’s named for — pivots on paradox: The more abundant our media, the less specific value we’ll place on it, and, therefore, the more generally valuable it will become (Garber).  

As new gathering locations in a social isolation period, the challenge is to reinforce technology as a path to renewed opportunities and possibilities, and not a crutch is ever developing. By being proactive in tackling these issues and providing insights into these trends before classrooms feel these changes, the certified Librarian Media Specialist serves as a lighthouse providing foresight and solutions in creating and stabilizing existing learning strategies in a pandemic area.

Obviously, wanting to be a part of a continuing online education system is not the sole issue, the percentage of individuals that do not lack access, budgeting to cover basic needs before worrying about online expectations is just as real a dilemma.  Building a healthy community relies on advocates that can research the positives, the negatives, and offer alternatives to the seemingly best offers that might not be the most beneficial in the long run. It is vital now more than ever, individuals have a path to receiving the best education interface, not necessarily the most popular provider or only alternative seemingly present. Who else to best serve in this capacity, to serve an ever-growing population of digital residents in need.

 

Digital Divide

This is a big problem – tech was meant to be the great equalizer but access gaps to both devices and connectivity are huge and the media companies that hold de facto monopolies are a big part of it

“Agreed. We live in rural Sussex County. Our only choice is Wifi via a big provider. Two weeks into the stay at home order, X*X*X*X* increase our Wifi speed. Last week, they throttled it. We can, of course, pay another $60 a month for greater speed. I plan to shop around for better deals and then reach out to X*X*X*X*

We are on X*X*X*X* – they provide services free or low cost to those experiencing hardship but the fine print is that they only do that if you’ve never ever been a customer of theirs.  I do have an X*X cellular plan. They upped my bill by $40 this months for no real reason except that they can

We don’t have access to X*X*X*X* out here on the farm.
I just found it intriguing that for two weeks our internet speed was super.
We can see a cell phone tower a mile from our farm.
I’m pretty sure at this point that it’s a matter of money with X*X*X*X*.  . I will switch to another company if I am not satisfied with their response
”  (Esham, GearUp).

The above is a conversation between just two parents of students in a local school district, that are dealing with the needs for their students, both at college and high school.  If anything, the current pandemic has allowed an opportunity for the weaknesses in education to be revealed, and a need for them to be addressed.  As the largest providers are stepping forward to offer temporary fixes for internet access, the question lingers in the realm of what long-term solutions will be provided?  Prior to only dominant companies being available to offer services in remote areas, often alternatives were non-existent or not known at all.  

“About 19 million Americans still don’t have access to broadband internet, which the Federal Communication Commission defines as offering a minimum of 25 megabits per second download speeds and 3mbps upload speeds. Those who do have broadband access often find it’s too expensive, unreliable, or has prohibitive data caps that make it unusable for modern needs” (Rogers). 

The true trap fall is, without a guide to lead individuals in making the best possible choice in light of the fewest possible alternatives, access if often impossible.  Certified Library Media Specialists represent and can advocate for the community, both in school and when it comes to education, informed decisions, organization, and implementation of ideas that can benefit individuals as well as many at large.

 

Conclusion

Stereotypes recently held regarding the role of a school Librarian Media Specialist surfaced to reality with the need of immediate resources needed on behalf of educators in a crisis period, as well as the transparency of issues that affect technology and education on a daily basis.  Issues such as privacy, appropriate resources for appropriate disciplines, and security issues continue to surface today as educators finding themselves in districts without school librarians, faced to tackle these issues and more amid a staggering list of to do’s related to student welfare. “Between 2009 and 2016, more than 9,000 full-time equivalent school library positions were eliminated in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s about a 15 percent reduction in the country’s total number of school librarian positions (Golden).  Inefficiency without certified School Librarian Media Specialists has become more visible on an educational platform, and unlike years of advocacy for the value and necessity of certified school librarian media specialist in schools, it has taken a single year crisis for this value to be realized amid many categories of concern that face education in the technological age.   

Issues worthy of attention and discussion but usually swept under the public educational platform are that of intellectual freedom, data collection, social media impacts, and anonymity, many of the freedoms protected lost or abused due to the lack of time or education give to make beneficial decisions about.  All of these focus areas are important to the growth of a technological rich, well-educated society.  Eben Moglimn was correct when he stated “Legends are future about the story we do not know yet, when the world is a screen, we need to train people to ask the questions.”  The question is who will be left in an educational setting that has become our home, do that will advocate like the certified Library Media Specialist unless deemed essential?

Works Cited

Carter, Donna.  Personal Interview.  27 May 2020.

“Eben Moglen on Facebook, Google and Government Surveillance.” YouTube, yasssunews

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJCczbSF-B8#t=28m26s.

Esham, Lucille. Digital Divide Post. Facebook, 22 April, 2020. 10:11AM,

https://www.facebook.com/groups/122712235024223/.  Viewed 22 April 2020.

Garber, Megan.  ”Clay Shirky’s “Cognitive Surplus”: Is creating and sharing always a more

moral choice than consuming?” Nieman Lab.  https://www.niemanlab.org/2010/06/clay-

shirkys-cognitive-surplus-is-creating-and-sharing-always-a-more-moral-choice-than-

consuming/.  Accessed 01 April, 2020.

GearUp.  Digital Divide Post. Facebook, 22 April 2020. 10:15 AM.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/122712235024223/.  Viewed 22 April 2020.

Golden, Hallie.  “The Decline and Evolution of the School Librarian”   City Lab.

https://www.citylab.com/life/2019/09/school-libraries-books-literacy-librarian-

jobs-education/597316/.  Accessed 20 April 2020.

Jones, Rory Cellan.  “Coronavirus: Privacy in a Pandemic.”  Technology.  BBC News.

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-52135916. Accessed 2 April. 2020.

Kilduff-Taylor, Paul. “Playing With Toys While People are Dying.” Medium.

https://medium.com/@mode7games/playing-with-toys-while-people-are-dying-

f8ed35ef8b25. Accessed 5 March 2020.

Mill, Madeline.  “Should Teachers Be Evaluated During Coronavirus School Shutdowns?

Education Week.  https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/04/20/should-teachers-be-evaluated-during-coronavirus-

            school.html?cmp=eml-enl-tu-news1&M=59534513&U=748936&UUID=14bcbfa3541169acda4973e0c2cf87e8.

Accessed 20, April 2020.

Moglen, Eben.  “Eben Moglen on Facebook, Google and Government Surveillance

on Facebook, Google and Government Surveillance.” YouTube, uploaded by yasssunews,

1 June 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJCczbSF-B8#t=28m26s.

Rogers, Kaleigh. “Rural America Is Building Its Own Internet Because No One Else Will”

Motherboard.  Tech by Vice.  https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/paax9n/rural-america-is-

building-its-own-internet-because-no-one-else-will.  Accessed 20 April 2020.

State of Delaware. “The official Website of the State of Delaware.”

https://delcode.delaware.gov/title29/c100/.  Accessed 23 April 2020.

 

Sources referenced:

Chandler, Simon.  “How Smart Cities Are Protecting Against Coronavirus But Threatening

Privacy.”  Forbes.   https://www.forbes.com/sites/mattperez/2020/04/23/trump-suggests

-injecting-coronavirus-patients-with-light-or-disinfectants-contradicting-experts

/#200f2d144088.  Accessed 13 April 2020.

FreedomBox Forum.  https://discuss.freedombox.org/.  Accessed  22 April 2020.

Moglen, Eben.  “Eben Moglen – Libre Planet 2017” Youtube, uploaded by pinochska.

10 September 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx1s7Mo3sac.

National History Day.   https://www.nhd.org/breaking-barriers-history
https://www.nhd.org/affiliate/delaware.  Accessed 1 April 2020.

Nield, Davis.  “Why RSS Still Beats Facebook and Twitter for Tracking News.” Field

Guide. Gizmodo.  https://gizmodo.com/why-rss-feeds-still-beat-facebook-and-twitter-for-

track-1800722740.  Accessed 17 April

and the link !

 

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/29/847732012/medical-historian-says-pandemics-reveal-a-lot-about-societies?utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_term=nprnews&fbclid=IwAR0df_PtupTpDvo05oMKrLFsMuekqAYkhGz97sHZ6-AavLANsuFMEK0re_M&fbclid=IwAR1e9w54W4exq52ZLOxS7XMFqFU0BnKdj2anuE3d92A-ayBx7enIk3iCaEI

 

 

 

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Carousel

 I used to think I was not really a musical kind of guy.  Really.  Yet there was that one time…

At the time there was a faculty member I heard through the grapevine – as a then student at Butler County Community College  – heard an older faculty member wanted to see the plays at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre but she was older and needed a driver – and in return would be a free ticket to the theatre and dinner to follow – I  took it.  I had no idea how much I would love the conversation and that experience. It stuck with me.  The conversations and contemplation we had after – I never realized and never realized how much I would miss them and having that experience…

Stratford Canada.  Shakespeare Festival.  Two years in a row and moving from theatre to theatre, seeing every type of technique and play and – meeting with the playwrights in the evening at a local hangout for actors and all crew called Down the Street– seeing Timothy Findley and knowing who he was thanks to then Carrie Ackinclose- (Gerber) The amazing talks Dr. Permenter would engage us in- wow.  Those moments from Butler County Community College really rooted in me and led me to truly appreciating this moment…

Traveling to New York and creating some crazy interview and oral history projects as one day trips and the people we were able to interview about the tragic 9-1-1 event, including the first photographer on the ground to see the fatal moments we saw on television, touring the first responding firehouse and seeing the items they recovered…a and the musicals we caught while there- it still managed to carry through to me all these years…

I had no IDEA the moments I would share on and behind the stage meeting the cast and crew of the musicals we witnessed as a member of the family I found myself in from Mexico and ASF – It was almost as if the single experience I had back in Butler County Community College had little steps that built and built to enjoy the family of students I was witnessing Broadway shows like WarHorse, Mama Mia, Phantom of the Opera, Chicago AND the amazing productions at ASF in Mexico City (Mes Miserables, Beauty and the Beast, and countless COUNTLESS others!  but productions that took your heart and breath away because the students on stage you were watching grow into their role and grow right in front of you!-  I watched every night and it was not enough- every night was something that caught my eye and stole my heart just as the students and faculty that did the same.

Seeing the productions that I came across at Woodbridge for the first time – I have to admit I was 1000% homesick for Mexico in moving away so abruptly and yet, the close knit, expertly directed and personal nature and talent of every single production?  I was sucked in immediately.  I was more than at home and it felt just right yet again.  When you see and feel someone’s heart in everything the love- you find a production that goes beyond the stage every time. (My cute dog Amaya thought so too.)

So as I sat down to watch Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel– Live from Lincoln Center, everything came back to me although at first I thought, Hmm, this is kind of a girls’ broadway show, huh? Sorry, but within the first thirty minutes, the local color of being near the shore and the life of fishermen and – The cast alongside the New York Philharmonic- magical.  The cast  fit the roles alongside the music perfectly,

Kelli O’Hara as Julie Jordan, Nathan Gunn ad Billy Bigelow, Stephanie Blythe as Nettie Fowler, and John Cullum as The Starkeeper/Dr. Selden –

okay –

it was AMAZING! and then the bigger picture dawned on me, – how ironic that all of life – at least mine, has been a carousel.  That first moment attending the Pittsburgh Theatre- you NEVER know what experiences that seem so random at one moment, and years later, traces are realized and maybe they are there all along.  I remembered a magic moment where we watched West Side Story, directed by Alonda de la Parra at el Auditorio Nacional  and how she broke into music and dance afterwards – memories that seemed like dreams.

In such an pandemic and unexpected time, we have the ability to reassure a class of 2020 that despite how everything has been turned topsy turvy, there is one thing that no one can take away from anyone despite anything – the ability to slow down (sometimes we do not have a choice!) and take in EVERT SINGLE DETAIL – life despite the ups and downs will still go around and around, and the things we can do to support, take, and relish the moments on each turn, they do end up lasting a lifetime.

 

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Growing Up Being Brought Up

Walking the dogs after dark has become a habit.  This was one of the greatest things to do in Mexico, with a night life that made it seemed as if the middle of the day, neighborhoods were alive until 2:00 AM and friends, neighbors, lovers, reveled in the ability go enjoy each other at any other over good food, a warm and inviting open establishment, no matter what the time.

It is difficult to come to terms with shaking the late night walk and certainly the dogs have not shaken that from their internal schedule. Despite the itching to just not go back out after a long day, once out, I am grateful for being able to have the tranquility of the stars, the quiet of the night, and now, even in such a forced time of quiet and solitude, despite the loss of open revelry of establishments and socializing that used to be the norm, from Mexico to the United Stated, this tranquility still exists to a degree.

It was this reflection as I walked past homes and almost every window was illuminated with a television screen that I also reflected on the lack of a television as I grew up except for the holiest of holies, a weekend Steeler game at my grandparents, the latest Mash episode, and, well that was it – often as I grew up I remember a television now even being the focal point of the living room, often absent.  I am grateful that even today I am not even aware of what sitcom is on when, and I have time filled with the outdoors and connecting with others with…

Yes – we have the computer now to take the place of the time television sucked out of us, don’t we?! As I thought of this, I did relish one of so many meaningful opportunities that have presented themself during this pandemic. The National Theatre in London, one of the most magical of streaming theatres that we would attend religiously in Mexico – is now streaming some of its BEST performance for free, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, for two more days for FREE.  One of my “favorit-est” productions by William Shakespeare of all time the depth and confusion, creativity and gender swapping you see allowing men to see the lives of women, women to see the lives of men, this version manipulates creativity to the HIGHEST level and HILARITY ensues.  Tasmin Greig is HILARITY amplified as Malvolio – the creative liberties that are taken with a stair case set that opens and a stage that revolves – this is an AWESOME production- and trust me, when we were lucky enough to see productions at the Lunario– magical.

It is amazing how specific events can make your adventures come full circle a world away, even during a pandemic.

Simon Godwin’s production of Twelfth Night is powerful personally because it reminds me of evenings where friends would gather beforehand for dinner on a balcony and an evening of high caliber theatre, then intermissions allowing our reactions, and a combination of socializing and entertainment in its best light (in this case, the dark). The cast – all captivating, hysterical, and in on plot within plot, is a revolving plot- dizzying at time and a great honor to the cast that makes all spin.

In the midst of this pandemic, there are so many amazing opportunities that present themselves that we can take in, in our own homes, and often defy the usual screen time experience.  And yet, the value of realizing in this difficult time, the value of having quality moments outside to truly be able to soak in the power of these experience? – just as powerful.  Do not miss the two day opportunity to see this production of Twelfth Night, it is a great spin on what Shakespeare can do in the modern day and show his timelessness – and a reminder of what is coming to the National Theatre in London, you will LOVE what comes next after this production ends on April 3oth. Coming full circle with your experience, and giving yourself time to do so, is a bright moment we can each find for ourselves during this difficult time.

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Searching for Contentment

In the middle of a pandemic, yes, easy to see many affected to being stir crazy, the onslaught of radio and television focuses on a what seems as a Repeat play of the same information, and overall feeling at times as if you are going crazy.

In trying to make myself comfortable through many uncomfortable radio messages, one resounding with me and was absolutely the truth.

In describing what we knew as “normality” before the pandemic, it might not be evident but there are aspects present now that should remain to improve what we didn’t realize we had. It is unusual to be off the “hamster” wheel of always having to move forward, always have to do more, higher, more, etc and hopefully, the realization that a pandemic should not be the reason to find time to realize time to simply be able to think, and think over your day without interruption for long periods, wow, what a difference.  This should be one staple of our lives day in and day out – and the things we are able to create, decide and do, it speaks volumes without saying a word.

Yes the pandemic is awful and not wanted by everyone, and yet while cracks exist to show weaknesses that have been exposed, it is a great opportunity to take steps to examine and approach weaknesses in a support system for salaries, health, business support and so much more.  Simply putting band-aids with the hope to move on past this momentary pause and not long term could be disastrous and given we have time, hopefully citizens will also realize now is a good time to reach out to those who represent us and take into consideration suggestions that can solidify better measure for everyone as a whole. 

The chance to reach out to relatives, friends, and realizing that away from screen time and wanting to limit that knowing how much is available, actually has been causing an appreciation for knowing technology is there, but does not have to be everything.  Old fashioned letter writing, reading, organizing, picking up new hobbies of creativity, and so much more; it is funny, I actually feel better when I feel inside I am balancing something other than screen time- it is difficult to pull away once sucked in but once knowing a limited time is okay and time away is even better – priceless.

Creativity is a huge factor, and my wish is for more people to give themselves more time for – themselves, as well as for creativity.  Time is previous, and often not realized until something force individuals to use time in a different way.  During this unnatural pandemic, the creativity that educators are using that involves SOME technology and also challenging individuals to think about concepts outside of technology, there is space and time to be invaluable during this time of crisis.

Reaching out to others and thinking more on the jobs that exists that keep us healthy, front line workers, low paid positions, and more, the hope is if each of us can reach out and thank those that give their time for each of us on a daily basis, instead of waiting for something to bring us face to face with that realization, would change much.

I have learned to carve out time in my day for me, creating time to read, to reflect, and as a result better impacts results will occur in the end. Cultures are built on reflection as a priority as I noticed in Mexico, and it changed me.  I wrote more, I blogged more, I connected with people more on a personal, conversational basis.  Now with restrictions that force time to be in place, my hope is for myself, and for others, we are able to truly turn a deadly situation into one where we will grow together in healthier ways for our lives, as well as for others. Maintaining the time and space that we never knew existed should be a “norm” all the time, and would benefit everyone in the long term, with no threat to our lives forcing this to occur.

 

 

 

 

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Beaten Before We Start

I was shocked to see a huge group of young students playing soccer together in a field today. I was in total disbelief, and seriously had no words until I thought of these words below after seeing a police officer from the local town, (thank you so so so much!) have to drive and ask everyone to disperse, and they were fighting and refusing this all the way to the parking lot, so much so that he had to pull into the parking lot to make sure everyone would continue to disperse and actually stay apart and not be a huge soccer playing crowd. I was so extremely deflated seeing all this and realizing the sacrifice so many have already made for their lives – it makes no sense to me.
“Beaten before you start”
In a drive to get my dogs in the truck and fresh air,
as I drive past the soccer field of a nearby school
I was completely beaten before I started.
25 plus individuals, together as it would be any other
65 + day, but this , as we know from another to another,
is not a normal 65+ day- nor has it been above a 65 graded
week, or season or year- – it was as if I had been deflated
25 plus individuals playing soccer on a green field,
but yet unaware, refusing, ignoring unwilling to yield,
to the fact that sunny days are certainly deceiving,
sometimes it is beyond belief and hard to keep believing,
that a day will come when we will get past all of this
yet, we need everyone to agree to not be remiss
and take more caution – the care you show every day
will not make up or reimburse the deaths making their way
into our new normal. Even in spite of the useless reasons
that seem to be ending precious lives that feel like seasons
Your actions will speak louder than the words that speak
for you as you are seen among crowds of 25 or more,
your actions will let others live beyond next week
your outward show of responsibility will spread or
even be the cure that we all are looking for
so we are not,  we are not beaten before we start.
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There is No Deadline On Caring

A bright spot – a student from last 9 weeks, third marking period- in March when we were still in school, has been sending me edits of his letter to get it better and better and sent me a final draft on April 5th. It was a project after working on picking a topic the freshmen felt serious about, they had to write letters to the Sussex County Revitalization Committee to tell them what they felt was important to consider.
 
We did this in the 2nd marking period too, to give them a sense of their writing being seen by someone outside of class.
 
It says something when you have students wanting to work on an assignment way past the due date, and also willing to go back to the drawing table to get it right – pretty cool- take a look –
 
April 5, 2020
Dear Western Sussex Revitalization Committee,
“Save Trees, Save Earth”
Trees and forests play an important role in our environment. They are rapidly disappearing all over the world and this could be disastrous for our planet. Most are unsure of how we can stop this from happening but there are efficient ways to prevent deforestation.
This quote gives the meaning that protecting the trees and forests should be a first priority in fighting climate change. Forests are critical to life on earth and they improve our quality of life by regulating the climate, improving air quality, conserving and cleaning water and supporting wildlife. Some benefits trees have on the environment are they clean the air by absorbing pollutants, prevent soil erosion, provide a home for wildlife, improve groundwater levels and provide shade for homes which reduces energy costs.
There are several things people can do on their own to help save the trees and planet. Some of the things people can do to help is using less paper, going digital with bills, reading digital books or using the library, planting trees, reuse of containers, stopping the use of paper plates and cups, preventing forest fires which are mainly caused by reckless people and educating others. Large businesses could do their part by reducing the amount of advertising mail they send out. Junk mail is received every day and normally is torn up and thrown away. That is a waste. If there could be an annual revitalization festival developed it could provide education and maybe gain the interest of people in Sussex County to help protect the future of our trees and forests in our county. If every person did their part there would be a lot of unnecessary trees cut down or damaged.
There are several regulations set to help protect the trees and forests from deforestation which are regular and planned cutting of trees, reforestation (every tree that gets cut down must be replanted) and monitoring the clearing of lands for agriculture use. The festival could also educate people on the regulations to help prevent the misuse of trees. There should be more focus on setting stricter regulations for cutting down trees because if not one day there may not be any. That probably sounds crazy but whoever would have thought we would be dealing with the pandemic we are today.
Just educating alone can help reduce damaged forests and trees in not just the county but all over the world. If people realize everything that trees provide for our environment they might take an interest in making our county and world a better place. “A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Thank you for your time and considering this idea!
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L is for Learning AND Librarian

library1YES!  It is School Librarian Month AND National Poetry Month!

Shout out to your School Librarians for School Library Month! Not seen to you, your school librarians recourse, network, create, develop, support and often repair problems with tech, research, and discovering new paths for discovery.
They put the P in Professional and in National Poetry Month!
Without them, blandness, lost opportunities, and loose ends are always present- there is a reason librarians are certified and it is not to gain a pay raise LOL! Reach out to yours and let them know what they do for you day in and day out!
If you have a GREAT school librarian experience, send it to asflitmag@gmail.com and we will share these during this month to show what this position does to support individuals and the institutions they serve!library2

A GREAT article to consider, and to realize how school librarians can be the backbone of all schools and learning!

Check out advocates of librarianship!

 

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This is your story that became ours.

I carried the thoughts around all day that today, on Dad’s favorite day, that he carried around all year playing pranks on so many, he is with us so much in spirit. I wonder what he would think of such a thing as what is happening now – and I can’t help but thinking, thanks to that stubborn streak of his, he would find the ten closest neighbors that did not have a ride, did not have food, and did not have cash, they would have all they needed if it was left up to him – There’s not a day that goes by that I wonder if I am doing things that remember him well – and not a day that he is sorely missed, especially on his birthday- April 1st. Love ya Dad.  This is your story that became ours.

 

 

The Rings Around Us

You always hear people say “Deja Vous”, or, “It was fate!”  A certain amount of events have occurred in my life where I realize that fate certainly did play a huge role, God certainly intervened, or that I just stumbled across the correct amount of lucky, though I was never known to have much of THAT.  However, one particular event has yet failed to cause others to be speechless, bring tears to my eyes, and remains a constant reminder that life is a chance for everyone to give it their all, and you will be rewarded.

It was the beginning of Spring 2002, I will always remember the sun peaking out behind the clouds on a mad rush towards home, then known as Butler, PA.  Yet, I am getting ahead of myself.  Sitting in the office of my job, chatting with friends amid piles of mindless work, my manager walks over to my desk.  Everyone has had a similar situation, flashbacks of “What did I do?!  Wrong or right?!”  I was asked to accompany her to her office.  “Uh-oh.  I really did it this time.”  With every step anchored with weight, I sat down in Bonnie’s office.  She looked at my very serious, I sucked in my breath anticipating the worst.  “Harry, your sister called.”  “What?” I thought.  My sister didn’t even have my phone number here!  “My sister?” I blurted.  A nod.  “Yes, your father seems to had to go to the hospital, and wanted you to know.”  Wow.  Now you have to know…

My father, aside from typical stereotypes about men, came from an era that buried money in coffee cans, worked until the following sunrise, and certainly did not visit doctors.  I had no recollection of my father EVER being in a doctor’s office unless it was on my own account.  My worry of job security shifted to a deep panic.

The flurry of gathering my things together, blurry images of my friends alarmed at the panic on my face, not seeing or remembering much except that sun on hitting the crystal snow on my race into Butler, PA that afternoon.  Thought sped through my head, and yet I knew.  There was only one way my father, father of 16 children, a rite of life in it’s own right, was going to be at a hospital.  “Quit being morbid and pessimistic!” I blared at myself.

The day of my father’s funeral was an extension of the emptiness that was felt throughout my whole family.  A punch in the stomach, the wind being knocked out of you, the delay in reaction that lasted for weeks, even months, call it what you will, that was me to a “T”.  Standing in the middle of the funeral floor, surrounded by hundreds of individuals’ lives my father had touched, friends of mine that were in complete silence, I felt my sense of organization and life plans gone in an instant.   My sister, Pam approached holding gently a lift-top box.  As she gently opened the box, I saw rows of silver rings with his initials HBB in top.  “Dad created these rings and left one for each son, and you need to choose the one that fits your finger Harry Jr.”  I was in utter disbelief.  In the morning of my father’s death, rows of hundred dollar bills had been aligned on the breakfast table, papers of bills, payments, and obligations neatly arranged.  That in itself was too much of a premonition to take in, but this?

A few days later, I noticed that the ring I had chosen did indeed seem big even with choosing the smallest ring possible.  I went into the closest Main Street jeweler, briefly explaining the value and problem to the owner.  Within minutes, a spacer had been put on the ring, with the last words I remember the owner stating, “It’s on the house, your father would have wanted it that way.”  Another moment to keep me in awe of the way things develop in life.

Two months later again driving on a summer and wonderfully summer day, hand waving in the half open window, I arrive at my father’s house to help at around the garage with my brothers.  Not being used to wearing a ring, I sometimes would forget I even had one on.  Looking down for no particular reason, my whole body began to shake realizing the ring was gone.  I panicked.  I tried to backtrack my day, “Yes, on before I got into the car”….realizing that somewhere along the drive, my last remaining physical tie to my father was lying somewhere on the ground.

Have you ever been so anxious or restless about a problem, dilemma, or seemingly unsolvable problem?   You’ll begin to realize the feeling I had as I spent the next two weeks conducting the world’s most extensive search.  I felt I had let my father down within a matter of months.  Irresponsible.  Inattentive.  The last words of my mother lingering in my mind, “Your father will get that ring back to you” amid my search.  I respected the optimism of my mother, however somewhere I knew this was an unrealistic conclusion to a very devastating incident.

The phone rings early on, and I can tell my Mother is excited.  Laughing, I begin, “Okay, so what’s -”   “Harry Jr.”, listen!  Sit down, seriously sit down.  Listen, now, I am serious, really listen.  A lady came by looking for a car…

That was right, a lady had come by looking for a car seeing my Dad’s lot full of cars, parts, and every other piece of machinery on the property.  What didn’t quite sink in yet was the fact that she had been by earlier that day, her son in the car.  Her son feeling suddenly sick, she pulled off to the side of the road.  Before anything did occur, (You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?!) he sees something shiny in the weeds.  He reaches out and low and behold, a ring!  I silver ring!  He pockets it.

“So you see Ma’am, when we came by the first time, no one was here, we decided to stop back.  It wasn’t until on the way back that my son told me about finding this ring.”

“May I see that ring, please?”  “Oh for heaven’s sake!”

I don’t know the expression that my mother received on her face, and I can’t even imagine or remember what I looked like in hearing this story.  I remember the sobs we both had over the phone, the jags that hit me in waves, unbelieving, wanting to so much, but receiving answers that were beyond my comprehension.   “What would have made this unknown, never been to my father’s place individual bring up this story at all?  What were the chances her car pulled off on the side of 11 plus miles of road in the exact spot where lay probably the most valuable item on earth?  What were the chances this individual arrived at my father’s place once, and would return again, with this ring, with the honesty of her son?”

To this day, I can say no more about this story, I literally find my mind stopping at this point.  However, I see things in such a more of an optimistic light.  Greater than luck, fate, or coincidence, I have realized that there are so many things about life that are precious.  The people that surround us are often taken for granted, as well as situations.  Most individuals contribute half their ability towards achieving things, or going after things they deem valuable, be it personal goals, hurdles at work or home, relationships, taking the time to reflect.  However, things will never slow my appetite to achieve what is most important to me in life, friends, family, a healthy relationship, a sense of stopping enough to enjoy the achievements around me.

To me, life is symbolic of this circular ring.  All things will come full circle if we just let it.  Quoting complete coincidence, the famous chronicles “The Lord of the Rings” peaked during this particular time in my life.  Easily drawn in to the comparisons of the ring, I was able to still value and hold true to the above mentioned values I seemed to inherit.

 

Thank you Dad.

Harry Brake

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