Friday, October 31, 2008

Grab Bag Friday: Happy Halloween!!

I hope you have lots of fun and sugar waiting for you today!

If you missed last week's post about Trick or Treat for UNICEF, there's still time to make your UNICEF box for tonight's festivities!

The Poop has a funny post about what to do when your child won't put on their Halloween lederhosen. (Some of the comments are more hilarious than the post.)

Seven Impossible Things analyzes Edgar Allen Poe's weaker efforts. (There are more Halloween poems at the Poetry Friday Roundup.)

And this trick-or-treat video cracks me up every time:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

This weekend, Bill Childs from Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child posted the unedited version of his daughter Ella's interview with They Might Be Giants. You should definitely check it out if you are a fan of They Might Be Giants, Benjamin Franklin, or Nikola Tesla.

When I was in high school, my grandpa and my dad didn't always like my music. But there was one song we could all agree on.

I liked this version (They Might Be Giants, 1990):

Papa liked this version (The Four Lads, 1953):

I think my dad kinda liked both. :)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Guys Lit Wire: 826 National

Last week over at Guys Lit Wire, Kevin wrote an interesting post about 826 National. Author David Eggers started the organization to help kids aged 6-18 with their writing skills, and to help teachers get their classes excited about writing.

It's definitely worth checking out, especially if you are a teacher, writer, or student living in a city with an 826 chapter. 826 can be found in:
  • San Francisco
  • New York City
  • Los Angeles
  • Ann Arbor
  • Seattle
  • Chicago
  • Boston
Stop by Guys Lit Wire and read Kevin's full post.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Grab Bag Friday: Trick or Treat for UNICEF

It's almost Halloween! Can you believe it? And that means it's time for me to gush about one of my favorite Halloween traditions.

Over the past 58 years, Trick or Treat for UNICEF has raised over $140 million dollars for lifesaving nutrition, clean water, education, protection and emergency response for children all over the world.

Think about that.

Kids knocking on doors and asking for a little loose change along with their Halloween candy have raised $140 million. That's amazing.

Here's how you and your kids can get involved:
  1. Go to the Trick or Treat for UNICEF site and order the little orange boxes, or make your own with their downloadable container wrapper.
  2. Bring your box trick or treating and ask folks to donate their loose change.
  3. Send the money to UNICEF.

Could it be any simpler?

It's a great way for kids to get involved in helping others. Halloween is such a fun night when they get to dress up and go around and ask for and receive this amazing wealth of candy. It gives them a real sense of pride and accomplishment to know that they are also responsible for bringing water or food or medicine to a kid who needs it.

This year, UNICEF is rolling out various online and mobile Trick or Treat for UNICEF programs. For instance, the program is now my "featured cause" on my Facebook page. I guess it's trick or treating for the new millennium?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Wrote a Hit Song! Contest Winner

The latest winner of the I Wrote a Hit Song! contest was announced last Thursday. Drumroll, please...

Lauren, age 7, from Louisville, KY wrote a terrific song called "When I Hear Love Calling." Please check it out, and leave Lauren a comment to let her know how you liked her song.

You can view all the I Wrote a Hit Song! winners and learn how to enter on the contest page. Also check out the Fall Songwriting for Kids Newsletter to take this month's Songwriting Challenge: Write a Blues Song!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lucille Clifton: Why Some People Be Mad at Me Sometimes

One of my incredibly talented sisters is writing a memoir, and since she began the project, we've been having some interesting conversations about memory. Specifically, we've been having conversations about how ridiculously often she and I second guess our memories. With six kids in our family, there are so many stories that have been told, retold, re-imagined, and mixed up over the years: Alan squirted Steph with the infamous squirt gun, no I did it, no that was Ali's boyfriend Dave.

Anna will remember a specific incident and then she'll call me and say, "Well, I don't know, maybe that didn't happen to me. Did it happen to you?" For a split second, I'll remember it vividly. Yes, that was me. And then the moment passes and I think maybe I've just heard it told so many times that it seems like it happened to me. I reply, "I have no idea."

I'm sure to some extent this happens in all families, though ours may be a bit extreme. Either way, when I came across this Lucille Clifton poem in Hip Hop Speaks to Children, the first thing I did was make a copy and pop it in the mail to my sister. I hope she keeps on remembering *her* memories, no matter what the rest of us say.

why some people be mad at me sometimes
by Lucille Clifton

they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and I keep on remembering

Friday, October 17, 2008

How to Compost: Expert Q&A with Fred Horch

For those of you who have been following the How to Compost series here at Please Come Flying, I have a special treat for you today.

Meet Fred Horch, a former corporate attorney, computer geek, private pilot, and professional environmentalist. Not to mention he's the friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable owner of the F. W. Horch Sustainable Goods shop here in Brunswick. [By the way, they're having a sale this weekend...if you're in Maine, I would definitely check out this flyer (.pdf).]

Fred's blog, Green Tidings, is a great place to get tips on things like indoor air quality, weatherizing your home, and yes, composting. Which is why I've asked him here. Fred has graciously agreed to answer a few basic questions about composting. Later this Fall, he's also agreed to write a guest post on his recommended home composters. Thanks for joining us, Fred!

JC: What is the most common composting problem people seem to have, and what is the best solution?

FH: People usually have one of two problems:

1) "I keep adding stuff but nothing is happening." This usually means the compost is too dry. You can preserve things for centuries if you keep it dry! The solution is to add water. Even better, add water mixed with an activator. The results are often spectacular.

2) "Help! My compost stinks to high heaven." This usually means the compost is too wet, and probably acidic. Add dry materials like shredded leaves, wood chips, clean sawdust, chopped up cardboard or shredded paper. It also helps to turn it and mix it air (this makes the smell temporarily worse, but then it gets better). If you want to compost kitchen scraps without odors, a dry source of carbon is not optional -- you must add all the ingredients (greens, browns, water and air) to make a successful batch of compost!

JC: Why should I compost? Is it worth the hassle?

FH: There are two main reasons to compost: 1) It's one of the few things you can do for the planet that literally makes the world a better place. Feeding your soil improves its fertility, which benefits all living things. 2) What else are you planning to do with your garbage? In a word, all the other alternatives suck. Landfills are expensive and pollute our water. Incinerators can't burn wet garbage. Dumping at sea is now illegal.

As far as being worth the hassle, that depends on you. Most people find it's not a big deal. If you don't have curbside garbage pickup, it's probably less of a hassle to compost than to haul big bags of stinky garbage to the dump.

JC: What is the most common misconception people have about composting?

FH: Most people think you need a lot of room to do it. The fact is, you can compost in an apartment if you want. We have self-contained worm bins, bokashi buckets, and NatureMills that all work inside.

JC: What is the strangest composting question anyone's ever asked you?

FH: We just had a guy ask us how to compost fleece. This summer one of our employees took a week-long course on industrial scale composting, so he was ready with the answer. (He'd be happy to tell you how to compost 200 cow carcasses, too, if you really want to know.)

JC: Thanks a million, Fred. I really appreciate everything you do in the community...we're all very lucky to have you around!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bruce Springsteen: The Ghost of Tom Joad

Today is Blog Action Day. Over 10,000 blogs across the world will be writing about the same topic. Last year's topic was the environment. This year's topic is poverty.

Since Wednesdays are music day at Please Come Flying, I thought I'd post Bruce Springsteen's The Ghost of Tom Joad. A live version of this song is on Serve2, a WHY: Artists Against Hunger benefit album.

If you are wondering what you and your family can do on a local and global level to help alleviate and address poverty and hunger, WHY (World Hunger Year) is a great place to start. There's even a Kids Can Make a Difference offshoot of the organization that has some great ideas.

As for the song, those of you who are John Steinbeck fans will recognize the character of Tom Joad from The Grapes of Wrath. Those of you who are Woody Guthrie fans will know him from The Ballad of Tom Joad. Guthrie's Joad ends his ballad with these last words to his mother:

Ever'body might be just one big soul
Well it looks that a way to me.
Everywhere that you look in the day or night
That's where I'm gonna be, Ma,
That's where I'm gonna be.

Wherever little children are hungry and cry
Wherever people ain't free.
Wherever men are fightin' for their rights
That's where I'm gonna be, Ma.
That's where I'm a gonna be.

Sadly, I'm unable to embed the original 1995 Springsteen video of The Ghost of Tom Joad, which is very moving. But here is Springsteen singing the song live in studio instead:

The Ghost of Tom Joad
by Bruce Springsteen

Men walkin' 'long the railroad tracks
Goin' someplace there's no goin' back
Highway patrol choppers comin' up over the ridge
Hot soup on a campfire under the bridge
Shelter line stretchin' round the corner
Welcome to the new world order
Families sleepin' in their cars in the southwest
No home no job no peace no rest

The highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
Searchin' for the ghost of Tom Joad

He pulls prayer book out of his sleeping bag
Preacher lights up a butt and takes a drag
Waitin' for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box 'neath the underpass
Got a one-way ticket to the promised land
You got a hole in your belly and gun in your hand
Sleeping on a pillow of solid rock
Bathin' in the city aqueduct

The highway is alive tonight
But where it's headed everybody knows
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
Waitin' on the ghost of Tom Joad

Now Tom said "Mom, wherever there's a cop beatin' a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there's a fight 'gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I'll be there
Wherever there's somebody fightin' for a place to stand
Or decent job or a helpin' hand
Wherever somebody's strugglin' to be free
Look in their eyes Mom you'll see me."

The highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes
I'm sittin' downhere in the campfire light
With the ghost of old Tom Joad

Monday, October 13, 2008

UPDATE: Hip Hop Speaks to Children on All Things Considered

One of my student's parents just called to see if I was listening to All Things Considered. When I said no, he blurted, "Turn it on, turn it on, turn it on!"

Not only was there a cool interview with Nikki Giovanni, they also played *my* song. I'm having take-out pizza to celebrate. :)

More on Hip Hop Speaks to Children

Three more cool links to reviews of Hip Hop Speaks to Children:

1. Todd Stocke from Sourcebooks was kind enough to send me a link to this NPR interview with Nikki Giovanni, since there's a brief mention of my song about 5 minutes in. Thanks, Todd!

2. The esteemed Fuse # 8 posted her review of the book at School Library Journal on Friday. Her verdict?
This is a great collection, woven together by an expert, and crafted with the best possible accompanying CD. Purchase of this book isn’t optional. It’s obligatory.
3. Diane Chen at Practically Paradise (also at SLJ) describes what happened when she brought the book to a faculty meeting at her school.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Grab Bag Friday: Tips for Beating Bailout Election Malaise (BEM)

I enjoyed Wednesday's post from Have Fun Do Good on how to beat "Bailout Election Malaise" (BEM). You know that feeling you're getting about now, with so many monumental things going on in the world that your head starts to throb every time you turn on the news?

Brit's advice:
  1. Go on a news fast
  2. Give
  3. Keep a gratitude journal
  4. When one door shuts, another opens: keep an eye out for your open door
At Have Fun Do Good, Brit has lots of interesting links and tidbits to help with the above.

How about you? Any advice on how to power through the next few weeks? Mine is afternoon walks. Preferably with a clear blue sky and crisp orange and yellow leaves falling all around. Works wonders.

Photo by Just Us Three

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Buddy Holly: Three Tunes and an Interview

It's my dad's birthday today, so I have a few Buddy Holly treats lined up. When I think of my dad and music, I always think of the short-lived band he had when I was a kid. They would practice in our basement and play songs like "That'll Be the Day." I probably would have grown up to love Buddy Holly anyway, but those few evenings curled up on the couch in my flannel pajamas, watching my dad and his friends goof around and make music--those really sealed the deal.

I also have fond memories of my dad singing Buddy Holly songs karaoke on a number of occasions. Not a bad image. :)

Here's a 1957 Buddy Holly interview with Red Robinson. I love how he tries to pin Buddy down on how long rock music will last ("Six months? Seven months?"):

Here's one of my favorites, Oh Boy. Sadly, the tracking is off a little:

The infamous That'll Be the Day:

A great live version of Peggy Sue, on the last TV appearance before Buddy Holly's death. The intro here is priceless:

Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday Morning Kidlit Tidbits

Here are some fun children's literature links you probably won't want to miss:

Wild Rose Reader has a fantastic roundup of picture books about Autumn. She also has a link to some leaf crafts and activities which look pretty cool.

Seven Impossible Things recently posted a fantastic interview with Lane Smith. I've been a longtime fan of his goofy illustrations and hilarious picture books (I'm especially fond of his work with Jon Scieszka). During this election cycle, I picked up Madam President and enjoyed a good chuckle.

Educating Alice has a note about a live webcast with David Macaulay hosted by her school tomorrow morning (10/7) at 10am. He'll be talking about his new book The Way We Work, and if you can, it will probably be well worth checking out.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Grab Bag Friday: Brain Melt

Last night, Kevin and I went to a fascinating lecture on the difficult problem of school reform by Diane Ravitch (Research Professor of Education at New York University and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.)

Then, we went home and watched the Vice Presidential debates and thought about the current and future repercussions of the economic bailout and Bush's foreign and domestic policies.

This morning, my brain is mush.

You know, how some mornings just feel like this:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mahalia Jackson: How I Got Over

It's a dreary, rainy, cup-of-tea morning in Maine and I felt like I needed a little Mahalia to get me going. The quality of this video goes in and out, but it is *so* worth it.

How I Got Over is my favorite Mahalia Jackson song. She sang it at the March on Washington just before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963. This particular video is live from a performance in Chicago.

No one can nail this song like Mahalia Jackson. (Well, no one can nail *any* gospel song like Mahalia Jackson.) I love how she creates this slow build and by the time she gets to "I feel like shouting" at the end, she can hardly stand still (and neither, apparently, can the audience). As the song gets worked up, watch the smiles start to spread!