Day Four – #SeptVinylChallenge – Four Album Titles that Describe Me

This was a tough assignment. While finding four albums that describe you can be an easy task (fine four albums your love and Viola! You have the post) but in this case it was four album titles that best describe you. That is a bit harder. So I dug deep, did some real thinking, and went back into the recesses of my mind to remember which albums were actually in my collection to find four albums that describe me.

1. Strange Ways Here We Come – The Smiths

This album is one of my favorite albums of all time but also describes my life. I have lived in 8 states, lost my father to drug addiction, earned my doctorate, traveled to 49 states, been a pizza guy, fell in love, become a father, seen Depeche Mode 12 times, – I have lived a strange life. It has been wonderful and I look forward to the decades to come. This album typifies what my life has been like. Songs like Girlfriend in a Coma and Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before create a story of how strange life is and the melancholy changes they bring.

2. The Lost Boys Movie Soundtrack

I consider myself a Lost Boy. I grew up moving all over the country, I often feel alone and disoriented. I have to be a bit of a chameleon to fit in and I don’t feel comfortable with the mainstream. This album and movie by the same name is about isolation and the vulnerability of not fitting in. While kind of about vampires it is metaphor for the kind of people who interrupt a person’s life when they are alone and vulnerable. So many times I was tempted by fitting in and I resisted. The music is also part of that equation — even if they were not sure at the time it meant anything. Echo and the Bunnymen doing a version of People are Strange, Though Shall Not Fall (Cry Little Sister) by Gerald McMann, and Good Times by INXS are all in reference to band leaders or singers who were painfully introverted but acted extroverted for their art. This lead to two of their deaths. This album shows my painfully shy and lost side.

3. Document – R.E.M.

I love R.E.M. For far more reasons than I have time for in this post. But I can tell you that this album does 100% reflect my personality. This album and it’s title is a celebration of historical context in political, social, and emotional context. Finest Worksong, The One I Love, Exhuming McCarthy, and King of Birds are all blue collar songs of memory and lesson that is mean to serve witness to those who cannot represent themselves. I believe that history is more important than the future and this album is an antebellum relic of that. R.E.M. Are southerners who have a real sense of who they are what their heritage represents. I hope I do too.

4. The Immaculate Collection – Madonna

In 1990 Madonna released a “Greatest Hits” album that was more than that. It had new songs like Justify My Love and also featured remastered versions of songs that spanned her early career. The reason I selected this album was because like her songs I am a collector of things that spark memory. Sports cards, record collections, playlists, AFI Movie lists, you name it I love to collect things. I am not a hoarder, quite the contrary. I am actually a person who lives a minimalist lifestyle. But what I do collect I do with completion and purpose. I think Madonna did that with this album. It was intentional on how it was ordered, the music selected, I have listened to this album perhaps 100 times. It’s amazing.

So these are the four albums that describe me.

Day Three – #SeptVinylChallenge – An Album Given to me because I collect

I was born in 1973. The day I was born the biggest album in the United States and the world was Carol King's Tapestry. It was a singer songwriter album of sorts and is still considered one of the great folk/singer-songwriter album of all-time. The album is anchored by such mega-hits as I Feel the Earth Move, It's Too Late, and Tapestry but essentially the whole album is a hits collection. The album speaks to the complexity of love and commitment during the early, turbulent 70s and the power and pain of womanhood. It is a beautiful album of emotional depth and intellectual peaks. Carol King's voice is angelic and she sings with authority and wit.

I was given this album because my mother felt I should have her copy to keep in my collection. My mother loved this album and she felt it was important I have the album that was number one when I was born. Luckily for me that album was not a Tony Orlando album or something. I got lucky that the album that kicked off my life is as timeless as we hope out existence is. My father really introduced me to and cultivated my appreciation of music. But my mother understands how music affects me and its nostalgic qualities it has. So Carol King and I will forever be linked and that is pretty cool.

Day Two – #SeptVinylChallenge – Disappointing Follow-Up

During my senior year in high school Sinead O'Connor released her most influential and important album of her career. I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got was WAY more than Nothing Compares 2U. The entire album was the first Gen X soundtrack of the 90s and songs like The Emperor's New Clothes, I Am Stretched on Your Grave, and Black Boys on Mopeds were important and incredible songs. We all felt this was the start of an amazing career. She had other good albums including The Lion and the Cobra. So I was already a huge fan. But then came Am I Not Your Girl?

The 1992 album was essentially a collection of standards and covers and while the album was not terrible it was such a huge miss from her previous three albums. There was the decent Don't Cry for me Argentina and none of the album's songs were horrible. The standards were treated as a direct copy of their original which made that even more disappointing. Here is the deal. I was a huge fan and had so much hope for it. I remember going to the record store, buying the album, rushing back to my dorm, putting the needle down on the album and just being bewildered. Sure she had done a standard on the Red, Hot and Blue record but that did not need a whole album.

So this album was really disappointing and I hated that.

Day One – Bargain Find #SeptVinylChallenge

So in one of the many places I lived Spokane, Washington was one of them. This town of 250,000 located in eastern Washington was a great place to call home. It is also a spot where I purchased a lot of vinyl albums during my teen years. One place where I found a number of albums that were in my collection was at a second had shop called Value Village.  You could find anything there. Like the movie Napoleon Dynamite, of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop the second hand industry was really important. So that is where I found the K-Tel Records Compilation Overlord for I would guess .50 cents.

the album was a wonderful collection of early New Wave and alternative music. While I cannot remember the exact date of purchase I can say the purchase was in 1986 or 1987. It was at a time I was learning which bands like Echo and Bunnymen and The Smiths I was going to love. This album introduced me to an array of other amazing bands. It was the first time that I heard many bands like Depeche Mode, Yazoo, or Simple Minds. It got me hooked on alternative pop music and I listened to the album over and over again.

The album was produced by K-Tel Records who was the Now That’s What I Call Music of their day. Their albums would be advertised on TV and on the radio and you had to send payment to get a record weeks later. This album’s track list is amazing.

Join me in taking the #SeptVinylChallenge

(a project created by Craig Bididman – educator, blogger, music fan)

During the month of September I am going to be taking a trip down music memory lane. Doing some remembering on a collection of music that has long since departed my ownership. Everyone who knows me knows that I have a massive love of music. And that love began a very long time ago with my father. My father, who would have been 64 this year had a massive Vinyl collection. Thousands of albums that he had collected as a child to adulthood. He had them thoughtfully arranged by genre, artist, and feeling so when he was in the mood for a certain artist, kind of sound, or memory he can easily access them. I often felt that was how his brain worked. I spent hundreds of hours looking at, sifting through, and listening to his massive collection. He has this great Pioneer turn table and these huge Sony speakers that made every album sound perfect.

His collection made me want to collect records and I did at places like 4,000 Holes Records in Spokane, Washington, Flea Markets in South Florida, and First Amendment Records in Greenville, North Carolina. While I never amassed his volume of Vinyl I did have somewhere in the neighborhood of 750 albums. Here is where it gets sad. When I enrolled in graduate school in 1995 I did not have room in my car to take my albums with me to grad school at Southern Illinois University. So I left them with my father at his home in Pinetops, NC. I stored them in our barn with all of the rest of my stuff. I think you can figure out the next issue. In 1997 as I was moving between grad school and my new job in Texas a tropical storm hit Eastern North Carolina and it collapsed the roof of the barn. All of my albums were ruined. By time I got to them they were covered in mold, warped, and gone. It was devastating. I never collected Vinyl again.

Fast forward 20 years later and Craig Bididman posts a photo on Instagram with a 30 day Vinyl challenge. I knew right away this was the time to reintroduce myself to my Vinyl collection from 20 years ago and to look into the confines of my memories to recollect those albums all over again. So, why you will not see any photos of me holding a vinyl album know that each album I will post and write about I did own at some time and I think I might try to find again. Music has been the core of my personal survival and it always will be. For the next 30 days, I get to revisit so many of those important albums. Thanks Craig and I hope you too will enjoy this walk down amnesia lane.

Here is a screenshot of Craig’s Instagram Post for those who want to join in.

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Lilith Fair 1997, wishing for Lilith Fair 2017

It was a moment in time. The Lilith Fair debuted this month in 1997. The brain child of Sarah McLachlan and featuring an exclusively female line-up the festival had its heyday from 1997-1999. And it was amazing. It featured Jewel, Tracy Chapman, The Indigo Girls, Missy Elliott, India Arie, 4 Non-Blondes, Lisa Loeb, you name it. If you were a woman in contemporary music in the late 90s you likely graced the stage. McLachlan in her artistic and business wisdom read the tea leaves and found a bunch of Gen Xers who were clamoring for more women in music and the opportunity to see them take center stage. other festivals like Lollapolloza featured an almost all-male line-up and were more rock oriented. This festival featured singer-song writers, punk rockers, hip-hop artists, soul music, country, jazz, and much more.

I think that the moment in time also resonated with Gen Xers because we grew up with strong women role models in our homes and on our stereos. The children of divorce we were more likely to be raised in households where mom was the breadwinner and our parents were listening to Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, Loretta Lynn, Patti Smith, and other trailblazing women in music. The 90s were the best. So that got me to thinking. What would be the best line-up for Lilith Fair, 2017? Honestly we have another revolution of women taking over music so why not? So here it is, my dream list of a great Lilith Fair 2017. Two day festival, Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Headliners – Beyonce, Madonna, Taylor Swift

Top Billing – Rihanna, Adele, Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga, Miranda Lambert, Missy Elliott, Janelle Monae

Hip Hop – Nicki Minaj, Remy Ma, Young M.A, Lil’ Kim, Lauren Hill, M.I.A., Lizzo

Rock – Cat Power, Haim, Joan Jett, Bjork, The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, P!NK, Kelly Clarkston

Pop Music – Lorde, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Shakira, Ariana Grande, Elie Goulding

Alternative – PJ Harvey, Courtney Barnett, Fiona Apple, Alabama Shakes, Charli XCX, Paramore, Echosmith, Sleigh Bells, Misterwives, The Overcoats, The Dead Weather, Grimes, Tov Lo

Country – Alison Krauss, The Band Perry, Kacey Musgraves, Elle King, Margo Price

So, who am I missing because I am sure to have some glaring omissions.

Its time to bring back the test . . .

“A curious peculiarity of our memory is that things are impressed better by active than by passive repetition. I mean that in learning (by heart, for example), when we almost know the piece, it pays better to wait and recollect by an effort from within, than to look at the book again. If we recover the words in the former way, we shall probably know them the next time; if in the latter way, we shall very likely need the book once more.
– William James, 1890

I will be the first to admit it. I was a testing hater. When I first started teaching graduate level courses at the University of Central Florida I wanted to “test” the system and ban the information recall kind of evaluation in my classroom. I felt that it promoted memorization, was a lazy way to assess learning, and kinda made me less cool. So I assigned more group assignments, research projects, writing assignments, and other kinds of assessments of learning. Of course these all have their merits and I will continue to use them. But I have started to learn that a class without come recall assessment promotes laziness a bit.Continue reading “Its time to bring back the test . . .”

The 20 – Best Novelty Songs of All-Time

So the other day I was driving in my car and the song Do The Bartman come on the radio. It sent me to a moment in time. I knew then I had to do a countdown of the top 40 novelty songs of all-time. Here are the rules . . .

A novelty song is:

  1. A song that was made specifically to promote or advance something.
  2. Almost exclusively made by a group or act not looking for further fame or hits.
  3. Reminds you of a time gone by . . .
  4. People were kind of into it. It was a hit.
  5. Look, we all know what these look like okay . . .
  6. This list is not in order, but how I thought of them.

So here is the list.

20. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer – Elmo and Patsy

19. Monster Mash – Bobby Pickett

18. King Tut – Steve Martin

17. Who Let the Dogs Out – Baha Men

16. A Fifth of Beethoven – Walter Murphy

15. Super Bowl Shuffle – Chicago Bears

14. The Ketchup Song – Las Ketchup 

13. They’re Coming To Take Me Away – Napoleon XIV 

12. Star Wars Disco – Meco

11. Disco Duck – Rick Dees

10. Gangham Style – PSY

9. Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie – Brian Hyland

8. The Macarena – Los Del Rio

7. The Chanukah Song – Adam Sandler

6. Basketball Jones – Cheech and Chong

5. The Curley Shuffle – Jump in the Saddle Band 

4. The Homecoming Queens Got a Gun – Julie Brown 

3. Jock Jams – ESPN

2. Barbie Girl – Aqua

  1. Cotton Eyed Joe – Rednex 








The Biggest Challenge.

So, this was my lunch today. From a calorie standpoint, not too shabby. 450 total calories and surprisingly low fat. It was actually quite yummy too. But deep down inside I know that these choices are killing me, slowly. Look, I have acknowledged that despite any of my best efforts I am certain to not be the first human to avoid death. It will happen someday. But I do plan to make my life as vibrant and complete as I can. So I need to make some changes. The first, most obvious place I can begin this transformation is through my diet.

Which is, in a word – horrible.

I am a fan of overly processed, salted, and carbo-loaded foods. Afterall, my lunch consisted of;

Shelf meat – my chicken breast and dressing had a best by date of July 2019!! Not to mention it is meat that can be stored on a shelf, at room temperature.

Flaming Hot Funyuns – I know they are irresistible but anything that starts in a powder form and turns into food cannot be good. And the sodium alone is terrible. Afterall I am taking blood pressure medication. Damn it, am I mental?

Oikos – I know Greek yogurt is good for you (I think) and this is likely not a bad choice in the long run but I have to think that cow’s milk is not for us. Not sure how I kick my cheese habit but I really don’t like milk anyway so that is a good thing.

So here is the plan. I have been looking over two major sources for dietary change. The first is the Slow Carb Diet by Four Hour author Tim Ferris. I like his approach of slower (no no) carbs, lean protein, and eliminating the sugar, salt, and other additives. I also appreciate the one major cheat day a week to find my food joy and keep me on task but not miserable.

The second is using many recipes from the Forks Over Knives website and meal plan. I think my best bet for variety and also systemic change is by looking at becoming a part-time vegan. I don’t plan on going all in because, well, BBQ and steak, on occasion are amazing and I just don’t buy the whole total vegan thing. But I do know I eat WAY too much animal protein. And I also know this is selfish. I am not really an animal rights guy because I am okay with meat consumption but I also know that we cannot sustain our planet if I am eating meat during 16 or 17 of my 21 meals a week. So I am going to try to flip that and consume meat maybe 3 or 4 meals of my 21 per week and find meat alternatives to fill in those gaps like beans, grains, tofu, and such. Go like 80% plant based foods.

There is one other reason why this appeals to me. I notice that I eat the same foods over and over again out of habit. This new way of consuming can add tremendous variety and force me to eat some new foods and in different ways. This struck me as important about a month ago when I ate a stuffed grape leaf at a dinner. Where have these tasty little things been my whole life? I never knew I liked them so much. There has to be other foods that I think or thought I did not like but now I love. What else is there out there!?

I also recognize that this could also mean savings for my wallet. By purchasing whole foods, making them in sizable batches and eating reasonably I can stretch my budget as my waistline hopefully shrinks. From time to time I will post on how my diet is going, the foods I am exploring and how I am doing.

Confessions of a Southern Gothic

Good evening. I am very likely at the mid-point in my life. I am 44 years old and if I am lucky I will make it to the same age as Adam West, who died today at 88 years old. Of course this is barring an intervention from Singularity or a confirmation that God is a real thing or there is some force I am not aware of that will allow me to exist beyond this brief time on earth. It is a little humbling to realize that I am half way home. That between myself and an eternal blanket of darkness is likely just 44 short, tumultuous years. It is both beautiful and places me in a harbor of anxiety and fear. I cannot believe I got here so fast.

But I have to admit this is an amazing life. I am a person who works in education for a living. I get to travel, think, and write for a living. I get paid pretty well. I live a solid middle class lifestyle and get the honor to be married to a beautiful woman who has been my wife for 20 years whom I met in college and fell in love with since moment one. We have a daughter whom we do not deserve because she is stunningly beautiful, smart, witty, funny, and caring. I live in a great community in a nice house with a beautiful back yard and it is in a safe and diverse town. So far, things have been pretty good.

Sure it was not always that way. I am a child of divorce, my father died 12 years ago from decades of substance abuse. My family did not come from money nor did they get classical educations. My mother has worked for too long and too hard but is now doing as well as she deserves. She is finally getting the respect that she should. I have seen 49 of the 50 states and have lived all over. But what I keep coming back to is that I am a southerner first.

And that is the point of this post and will be the point of this blog, from now on. I am a committed to the idea of being a Southern Revivalist. I believe that for my 44+ years left to be of value I need to rediscover my personal and regional roots and understand who I am as a man and a southerner. Just so you know, when I say Southern Revivalist I am not interested in the racist, hateful past of the south. I am not a Confederate. I believe that that south has a hurtful and shameful past that we must speak about in the open. I am a classic Southern Liberal who believes that we must own up to our past. But this blog is going to be about all of the things that make being a Southerner a wonderful thing. So I am going to revisit my personal history by exploring and learning how to do the following well. I will write about them on my blog. They are as follows:

  1. Food – there is a beautiful cooking culture in the south. A combination of African, French, English, and Latin roots this food is delicious and satisfying and should be refined and respected. I am going to learn how to make classic Southern food that reflects the entire region.
  2. Drink – from sweet tea to craft beer there are endless options and I want to enjoy most of them and let you know about it.
  3. Music – pretty simple, no South, no Music. Blues, R&B, Country, Rock, and Jazz were all born here. I will listen and write about them.
  4. Books – Southern writers are amazing. I will read their books and learn from them.
  5. Travel – There are so many beautiful towns from Charleston to Chattanooga there are great places to live, work, and play. I think it is important to visit them and learn from their history and culture.
  6. Education – s many great American universities are located in the south and there are so many options. As topics on education arise I will write about them from a Southerner’s perspective.
  7. Lifestyle – Being a Southerner is a matter of lifestyle including diet, exercise, gardening, football, basketball, politics, and other topics on being a true southerner.

I want to learn about where I came from. I want to be more connected with my past, my present, and my future. This shall be a labor of love. I have never been so aware of where and how I need to express myself and live my life. You don’t have to read it, you don’t have to like it, you don’t even need to know it exists but this blog is going to be a catalog of my Southern Gothic life. I will cook, listen, think, and work to better understand my roots and myself. Because I suspect outside some sort of medical miracle or just being wrong I will only be here for so long. I need to use that time to better understand who I am, and to catalog it.