Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Top Ten Wins

10.  The 2013 home victory over the Vikings, 42-14.  As my friend Josh would say, why you always troll the Vikings?

I don't.  But this was a great game.  Especially after the debacle that was the last time we played the Vikings in 2009 in Minnesota.

The highlight of this game for me was Gio Bernard's huge catch and run on a little dump pass.  One of the best plays of that year!

9.  The 1995 27-9 victory over the Steelers - in Pittsburgh - over the Steelers.  Thought the Bengals came in at 2-4 (and the Steelers would rebound after this loss and make a run to the Super Bowl), they hit took the field by storm for this Thursday night game and never let up.  Jeff Blake's deep ball talents were on display as he finished the game with a perfect quarterback rating.  This game typified what was so great (one of the very few things that were even good about these Bengals teams in the 1990s) about the Bengals' offense: they could throw the ball all over the field.  Blake would go on to make the Pro Bowl and Carl Pickens would go on to catch 17 touch down passes and Darnay Scott would emerge as a serious deep threat (though his hands were always questionable) and Tony McGhee was always a decent tight end threat.  If they just would have had some coaching and a defense, this team could have made the playoffs.

8. The 2012 victory over the Steelers - in Pittsburgh - to guarantee a playoff birth, and, best of all, to knock the Steelers out of the playoffs.

The Bengals sat at 8-6.  So did the Steelers.  The winner would secure a Wild Card spot in the playoffs.  And though the Bengals couldn't must anything on the ground and little threw the air, they pulled off a gutty 13-10 win on the road.

The highlight of the game was Big Ben launching a deep pass late in the game that was picked off by his nemesis, Reggie Nelson, and returned into Steelers territory.  Thanks to a connection on a beautiful deep out pattern by AJ Green, the Bengals drove in to field goal position where Mike Nugent sealed the win.  Where was Nugent back in 2006 when we needed him?

7.  The 2004 come from behind victory over the Ravens at Baltimore 27-26.  This proved Carson Palmer was legit.

The Bengals were 5-6 under a struggling Carson Palmer, who was in his first year starting at quarterback for Cincinnati.  Though he did through an interception that was returned for a TD, he did rally the Bengals to pull out a one point victory against that vaunted Ravens defense.  All Palmer did was light the Ravens up for 24 fourth quarter points.  Palmer used his two big weapons - Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmandzadeh to drive the final 60 yards in 7 plays with under 1:42 to set up the wining FG.

This set the stage for what was a Pro Bowl year and a division championship year in 2005 for Palmer.

6.  The 2015 28-24 come-from behind road victory over the Ravens.

The Bengals jumped all over the Ravens before Steve Smith exploded.  The Bengals trailed 14-17 in the 4th quarter.  It was the first time they trailed all year despite this being their third game.  They trailed for all of 8 seconds.  Thanks to the amazing AJ Green.


This left the Bengals 3-0 and helped propel them to their 8-0 start last year.

5. The 2015 27-24 overtime home victory over the Seattle Seahawks where the Bengals erased a 17 point fourth quarter deficit.

This game had it all.  AJ Green going off on the Seattle secondary.  Andy Dalton finally coming up big in a critical situation. And it had my favorite play of the entire year - Mike Nugget's last second field goal to send the game into OT.  Dalton drove the Bengals down the filed to get them in position to go ahead with a touch down.  But he was hit on a scramble and brought down for a minimal game. This is usually no big deal.  However, Cincy had no time outs left, so the field goal team had to hustle onto the field with only about 16 seconds to go - and no way to stop the clock at all - and execute the field goal, which they did as time expired.  This capped a 17 point rally by the Bengals.

4.  The 2005 38-31 victory over the Steelers - in Pittsburgh - to guarantee their first winning season since 1990.

This was a great game that went back and forth.  Thanks to a bevy of turnovers from Big Ben, Cincy was able to come out ahead.  This included the final Bengals' touchdown from Rudi Johnson, a 14 yard run against an all-out blitz from the Steelers, to put the Bengals up 38-28.

This basically won the division for the Bengals for the first time in 15 years.  It also guaranteed they would have a winning season since 1990 too.

3.  The 2003 24-19, Chad Johnson guarantee win, over the undefeated KC Chiefs.  This meant that the Bengals were legit under Marvin Lewis.

This game basically put the Bengals and Chad Johnson on the map.  This was Lewis's signature win of his first year.

Cincy hosted the 10-0 Chiefs.  Despite being a subpar 4-5, Chad Johnson - who hardly anyone had ever heard of before despite his first 1,000 yard season a year earlier - guaranteed a win.  This brought a frenzy of media attention to the Queen City and the yet unknown Johnson.  I saw a pregame show on Johnson that featured him wandering around the stadium in the middle of the night and basically living there.  Where did that hunger go?  This was the best of times for Johnson and the worst.  He would ink a very lucrative contract extension earlier in the week, but this brought out a dark, me-me-me, side in Johnson that would later lead to his trade from the team.

Though the spotlight was on Johnson, it was Peter Warrick who stole the show with a punt return for a TD and a fourth quarter TD of 77 yards.  Rudi Johnson also ran over the vaunted Chiefs defense.  And the Bengals defense forced 10 straight punts from the Chiefs before their offense would finally get rolling and make a game of it.

2.  1981 AFC Championship - 27-7 over the Chargers in what is known as "The Freezer Bowl."

This was the game that made me fascinated by the Bengals.  I was watching it - or sitting through it as I did on most Sundays as my family watched football on TV.  Something about those orange and black jerseys and those awesome tiger striped helmets won me over for life that day.  Ken Anderson out dueled fall of fame Dan Fouts in this frigid game that sent the Bengals to their first Super Bowl.

1.  The 1988 AFC Championship - 21-10 over the Buffalo Bills.

This has to be the best Bengals' win in team history.  The entire city was captivated by the Bengals, who had been a miserable 4-12 the year before but had the best record in the league at 12-4.  They were undefeated at home and had the league MVP in quarterback Boomer Esiason.  They had a deep threat in Eddie Brown.  They had the biggest offensive line in the league, led by Pro Bowlers Max Montoya and Anthony Munoz.  They had a two headed monster at running back in the scat-back / do-everthing James Brooks (who scored 14 touchdowns rushing and receiving and who almost broke 1,000 yards rushing while averaging over 5 yards a carry) and the rookie sensation Ickey Woods, who rushed to a league leading 15 touchdowns, which he capped with his "Ickey-Shuffle."

Ickey would rumble for two late touchdowns and Brooks caught a short TD pass to account for all the scoring.  All Pro safety David Filcher sealed the win with an end zone interception as time expired.

This sent them to their second Super Bowl, this one again against the dreaded 49ers.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Top Ten Losses

As a Bengals fan - and one who endured the most wretched decade (the 1990's) of football by any franchise not named Cleveland - it is hard to isolate just 10 losses because that was a respectable season in the 1990's.  However, I'm focusing on those heartbreaking, gutwrenching, I'm-going-to-be-ill losses.

If you're a vikings fan, the fourth down TD pass vs. Arizona to knock them out of the playoffs counts.  The loss to the Dirty Birds in '98 counts.  And most definitely Brett Favre's last second interception in FG range vs. the Saint in '09 counts too.

If you're a Green Bay fan, you know it too - when Roger's was hit and fumbled vs. the Cards or when Fitzgerald rumbled for a huge play in OT vs. the Cards again or when Favre again threw a last second interception vs. the Giants to send New York to the Super Bowl vs. the undefeated Pats.

And if you're a Pats fan, you know that feeling when Manning launched that deep pass to David Tyree for the "Helmet Catch" or again when Manning threaded a pass to Mario Manningham in 2012.

And Seahawks fans you know it from the worst goal line play call in all of football: Russel Wilson's interception int he 2015 Super Bowl.

And remember as a Bengals fan, these are the games that Cincy just let get away.  I'm not talking about the 40-0 pastings to the old Houston Oilers or Steelers.  These are the heartbreakers.

So here are my top ten most gut-wrenching losses -

10. The 2013 road loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Oh what one lousy quarter can do.  The Bengals were keeping pace with the Cards on the road in Arizona.  They were up 14-7 at halftime.  Then they laid a total egg in the third quarter, falling behind 31-14.  They were able to climb back in the game in the fourth quarter by scoring 17 points.  They drove deep into the Cards' redzone, trailing 31-28, Cincy was in prime position to take the lead and run some time off the clock.

Then on a third and four play, Cincy called a pass/run option.  Instead of handing the ball to Gio Bernard, who likely would have easily gained the yardage for first down.  Instead Dalton threw to the end zone to AJ Green on a go patter.  They even got the match up they wanted as they had Green on a back up corner.

They missed by just an inch as Green's foot just came down out of bounds.  They kicked the field goal but let too much time for Palmer and Fitzgerald to go right down the field - mostly picking on our third corner, Leon Hall, to get in position for the last second field goal.

This loss was brutal because the Bengals missed out on home field advantage in the playoffs by one game.

9.  The 1989 last second road loss to the Houston Oilers.

This was a Monday Night Football game in what was then known as "The House of Pain."  The Bengals - who were struggling to win games despite starting out 4-1 and going 5-1 in the division.  This was their loan loss in the division.

The Bengals hated the Oilers back then (they would trounce them 61-7 just a few weeks later), and they always struggled on the road here.  But this one was one that they let get away.  Despite huge plays - a long touchdown pass to tight end Rodney Holman and a long TD run by James Brooks, the Bengals gave up a last second field goal to lose 21-24.  Had they won this game, they'd have gone 6-0 in the division and made the playoffs.

8.  The 2003 last home game vs. the Browns

This was Marvin Lewis' first season.  The Bengals were coming off a brutal 2-14 season and a decade of pure misery.  But in his first season, Marvin had the Bengals sitting at 8-7 with a final game against the Browns at home.  They had to beat the Browns and then hope the Steelers would beat the Ravens that night and they'd be in the playoffs as division champs.

But they laid a total egg, losing 22-14.  Cincy finished 8-8, which was much better than anyone ever expected after going 2-14, but this would have been their first winning season since 1990 had they beaten the Browns.

7.  The 2006 last home game vs. the Steelers

It must be something about home finales.  The Bengals were division champs the year before (despite losing their home finale against the Bills, by the way), but Baltimore clinched the division.  Still, Cincy had come on late and needed a win in one of their last three games (a Monday night game vs. Indianapolis, a Christmas Eve road game vs the Broncos, and the final home game vs. the Steelers, whom the Bengals beat in Pittsburgh in the second week of the season).

The Bengals just needed one win . . . but they couldn't pull one off.  They were close to taking down the Steelers.  The Bengals were on their way to Bungling the game away.  But then they forced a turnover, just as the Steelers' running back was heading into the end zone.

Then they drove down to score a touchdown.  This was destiny.  For the year before in the playoffs Carson Palmer tore his knee on his first pass - a 77 yard bomb to Chris Henry, who also hurt his knee on the play.

And on this drive Palmer happened to hit Henry for another 77 yard gain.  Cincy was in field goal position to take the lead with a last second field goal.  But Shayne Graham missed.  The game was headed to OT.

On their first play in OT, Big Ben hit Santonio Holmes for a 70 yard touchdown and the game was over.  So were the Bengal's playoff hopes.

6.  The 2006 last road game vs. the Denver Broncos.

Again, Cincy just needed on win to return to the playoffs as a wild card in 2006.  This game was a heartbreaker as I watched it at grandma Gail's in Grand Forks.  Things started off strong as then rookie Jake Culter threw an INT that the Bengals returned to the one yard line, but then Palmer through an interception trying to force a pass in to TJ Houshmandzadeh.  That wouldn't be his last interception of the day though, as Champ Bailey would make life rough for the Bengals' QB.

The thing that made this loss so tough was that the Bengals outplayed the Broncos.  They were up 17-
14 at the half.  They threw for yards and they ran for yards.  Their no huddle offense was killing the Broncos defense, but turnovers and mistakes killed the Bengals this afternoon.

On one play in the second half, the Bengals' no huddle had the Broncos' defense totally exhausted.  They were going up tempo and the defensive line wasn't even set when Palmer handed off to Rudy Johnson who ran around the right side for a big gain.  They only guy ready on the entire Broncos' defense was John Lynch who hit Johnson with a forearm to jar the ball lose and cause a turnover.  Still, the Bengals were able to drive the length of the field and score a touch down with just a few seconds left to tie the game at 24.

Or that's what I thought.

I remember saying, "They still have to make the extra point."

And the snap sailed through the holder's hands.  We were down 23-24.

The Bengals did manage to recover the onside kick . . . but their rookie line backer Ahmad Brooks was offsides.  Game over.

5.  The 2009 home opener vs. the Denver Broncos.

The Bengals were on the verge of losing 0-6.  Then Palmer was able to finally get the offense to come alive and score a TD with just a few seconds remaining.

I was in the bathroom at the Hillsboro Burger King when I got the update on my phone.  I was the least shocked fan in all of football that day.  I knew if the Bengals could piss away a game, they would.

And that was exactly what they did.  The Broncos scored on an 87 yard Hail Mary when Leon Hall accidentally tipped the ball high into the air and it sailed right into the arms of a wide open Brandon Stockley who then into the end zone to seal the win for the Broncos 12-7.

It is a play that you just have to see to believe.

4.  The 2013 wild card playoff loss to the Chargers.

This maybe hurt worse than all the others.  Even the Super Bowl.  I mean the Bengals have lost 7 straight playoff games, an NFL record.  But this game.  This game should have been the one where Cincy ended the drought. But Dalton played his worst game of the season, fumbling the ball away and throwing desperate interceptions.  Likewise, the defense, which ranked in the top five overall, couldn't force San Diego to punt.

So a team that shouldn't have beaten a Kansas City team who was resting all of their starters, needed a miracle to squeak into the playoffs.  And the got it when the refs didn't note they had an illegal formation on a fake punt.  And this team absolutely throttled the Bengals.

3.  The 2005 wild card playoff loss to the Steelers.

2.  The last second bungling loss to the Steelers last year.

Just like 1988 and 1981 (Super Bowl season for the Bengals), Cincy was coming off a 12-4 season.  This year was different, though.  After leading the team to a 10-2 record, Andy Dalton broke his thumb on the first drive of a loss to the Steelers and was done for the year.  Still, AJ Mccarron stepped in and played well vs. the Steelers.  He beat San Fran and Baltimore.  And he lost a close game to Denver in OT, a game had they won, they would have had home field advantage for the playoffs!

Still the Bengals gritted an ugly game out vs. the hated Steelers.  Late in the game, Mccarron threw AJ Green his first TD pass in the playoffs, to put them up 16-15. Hue Jackson then called the worst two point conversion play in the history of two point conversions (why didn't he run wild cat with Mo Sanu at QB?).  Instead of being up by a FG, the horrific play call left the game at 16-15.

On the ensuing play, Vontaze Burfict, who had missed the first 6 games with a knee injury, and who was playing the game of his life (a fumble recovery, a sack on Big Ben that resulted in him having to leave the game) intercepted the Steelers back up QB.  They had the ball deep on the cusp of the redzone.  Kicks a FG and you're up 19-15 and the Steelers have to score a TD, which they had been struggling to do against this defense all night.

On the next play Mccarron handed off to Jeremy Hill who slashed threw a hole for a solid 8 yard gain.  The only problem: he had the ball stripped out just before his knee touched.  Now it should be noted that the only reason Hill, who was plagued by fumbles all year, was carrying the ball because our closer at RB, Gio Bernard, was knocked out of the game by a vicious hit (and now an illegal hit) by Ryan Shazier.

Still, the Steelers had to drive almost the length of the field with an injured Big Ben.  And they did just that thanks to two brutal personal fouls by Burfict and Adam Jones.

Game over.  The magical season over - yet again - in the first round of the playoffs.

1.  Super Bowl XXII - a four point loss to the 49ers, 16-20.

Oh, the horror.  The Bengals were up late in the game 16-13.  They kicked a go ahead field goal with 3:20 in the game.  They kicked off, and thanks to a penalty, found themselves pinning the Niners on their own 8 yard line.  That means the 49ers had to go 92 yards in 3:10.  They only needed roughly 2:40 seconds to do it.

Boom.  The championship, after a magical 12-4 season in which their offense was the best in the league and their defense was remarkable in the playoffs, was gone.  On top of that, they have won one playoff game since this moment.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Be careful what you post . . .

Just because it is a meme, and just because it says something you passionately agree with, doesn't mean that it is factual.

This goes for both sides of the Black Lives Matter/Blue Lives Matter/All Lives Matter.  This goes for Trump/Hilary.  This goes for far left and far right.  This goes for the young (who should know better) and for the old (who really should know better).

These are skills I attempt to teach my juniors and seniors, so when I see respected people posting things that they believe strongly, yet are sketchy when it comes to being factual, you are ripe for being used as an example in class.

So before you share a meme or sponsored video that you really like, just be careful to do your research.  After all, I'm guessing you'd want your kids or employees to do the same.

Example - I love the idea that Einstein stood up for his religious beliefs, but it is very, very unlikely to ever have taken place.

This is a good site when it comes to examining this and actually doing some research.  I like that they state right away that they love the message.  They just aren't quite sold that it was Einstein involved.

This is one of my favorite examples.  It even says "True Story" in the title!

But if it just seems too good to be true, it most likely is.

Here is another meme that is also one of my favorites - because so many people want to believe it to be true - yet it is totally false, garbage.  Yet, I've seen it spread of Facebook again and again because people are convinced it must be true because it supports something they believe, OR - and this is most terrifying - they just don't care that it's true; they just want to believe what they want to believe and they're willing to grasp at any propaganda that supports their beliefs.

But again, there is little evidence to support that Einstein ever did, in fact, say this.  Here is another author who delves into this to find the truth.  It does seem that this quote is loosely based on a film, not anything factual.

Just remember - because it's a meme and supports your beliefs, does not make it true!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

An older post that appears as relevant as ever

This is amazing.  This man appears to be a wonderful leader and a true hero.  But for every great man like this, there are also others like the police officer profiled below.

Given the tragedies that have occurred for both innocent victims (such as the Minnesota man who was shot) and for the innocent police officers who were killed in Dallas, this post seems just as relevant today as it was when I initially wrote it last summer.

There is Teach for America to make up for some of the folks who should never have gone into teaching (either they don't have the skills, work ethic, the personality or the empathy).  In Teach for America, the best and brightest from our best universities can apply to the program.  If accepted, they undergo training (not nearly enough training, but still some training) and then they are sent into inner city schools to teach for two years.  The payoff?  Their students loans are forgiven and they are paid according to the teacher pay scale.

This has a few benefits - first, it exposes students to some of the best and brightest minds our country has to offer (as opposed to suffering "the dance of the lemons," where often cases the worst, most ineffective teachers are simply reassigned to the worst schools).  Second, it shows many young professionals, the majority of whom will go into the private sector as lawyers, investment bankers, and so on, how challenging teaching (especially in urban areas) can be.

As I see more and more stories like the ones below, I'm starting to think maybe we should have a Police for America.

I mean out of all the great police officers I know, I have never heard one threaten to "put a hole" in anyone's head.  I've been treated kindly and respectfully and am alive today thanks to the highway patrol and EMTs that took care of me after a particularly nasty car accident.

However, is there any excuse to treat someone like this?

I get this off duty detective's anger.  Yes, the kid was going down a one way the wrong way, but is that an excuse to treat a citizen (who the officer has sworn to protect and serve, by the way) this way?

Imagine if this was your son or daughter?

Or being harassed like this?  I get that this man dislikes the tone the young man is taking with him, but while he isn't being blindly obedient, the man is not being disrespectful, nor in my estimation deserving the treatment he is being given.

If the officer dislikes having every thing he is doing being criticized and scrutinized, he should spend a week teaching high school kids!  (And no, I honestly don't wish I could do this to any of my students).

Since I wrote this post, I did a little research and found that the officer in the video did resign.   It's amazing how a temper can bring an end to a 30 year career just like that.


I still have to think that the stories, again, like this one, that are emerging illustrate the few (okay, maybe more than a few) bad apples who should never be graced with a badge or any sort of power.  But that can be said for any profession (teachers, doctors, and so on).

I believe there are far more officers like the ones below than the two goons above.

Such as this officer.  How would the detective who threatened to "put a hole in the head" of the young man in the first video have reacted in this officer's shoes?

How awesome is this?


And this?

And my favorite example -


The Best Songs You've Forgotten or Never Knew

I am an adamant believer that boredom is a myth.  There is always something to do.  If you're like me - an "indoors man" - that something is preferably in the comforts of your air-conditioned home and involves some form of media.

That leads me to a post I've been meaning to write for a long time, as it's a topic that has long interested me.  I grew up in maybe the heyday of radio popularity.

I remember as a kid - probably in the early 1980's - getting my first "headphones" for my birthday.  It was a radio (which my mom bought from Thompson Hardware in town) - no cassette player - that would rarely come in.  I recall biking around the neighborhood and just drifting from station to station, content if I could just find a radio station that actually played music to come in.

A few years later, I saved up my money and bought a Soundesign cassette player from Kmart.  Here is the exact brand and model too!  I recall the first tape I ever bought, Eye of the Tiger by Survivor to listen to on it.  I was close to buying 4 by Foreigner - as my cousin Kent had rocked out to "Urgent" and "A Girl Like You" when he and his family visited us from Colorado.  The second tape I ever purchased, this one from Hardware Hank in Red Lake Falls, was Thriller by Michael Jackson.  Everything changed for me, though, when I bought my third cassette: Pyromania by Def Leppard.  I became fascinated by them because one of our neighbor's Wade Schultz, had a Pyromania T-shirt, and it was the coolest cover I had ever seen.  The album itself, which every track is excellent, had me hooked.  I loved the tape so much that I took my Soundesign speakers I had bought from good old Larson Music in TRF and taped them to the handlebars of my red and white BMX to blast "Photograph," "Too Late for Love," and "Rock of Ages" across the neighborhood wherever I biked.  The good old days!

Of course, this was at the beginning of the hair band trend in rock music.  I would soon fall in love with Quiet Riot, though Mom would never let me buy their album Metal Health because it had a "bad" song: "Love is a Bitch."  She did, though, let me get Van Halen's 1984, despite the offensive cover of an angel smoking a cigarette.  But Mom loved "Jump," so apparently it was okay.

That had me hooked.  Soon I was listening to KJ 108 and Power 95 and Q 98 every chance I could get.  I avoided the trendy, pop heavy XL 93, Magic 96, and Y 94 as much as I could.  Except for XL 93 who had a rock block show Saturday evenings where they actually played hard rock and heavy metal.  I was interested in one band they had on one night, Hollywood Trix, who was leaving for LA soon to try and make it big with the likes of Guns N' Roses, LA Guns, Warrant, Ratt, and so on.

I even recorded a couple of their songs, one of which was "Redrum."  Little did I know that my brother-in-law was the lead singer of the band!  Small world.

Since I grew up in the heyday of radio, I had many songs ruined because they were literally played too much by the four or five radio stations I listened too.  This didn't apply, though, to my favorite band, Def Leppard.  Their massively successful follow up to Pyromania, Hysteria, which came out in 1987, once had four songs playing at the same time on four different radio stations that I listened to!

So songs like "Money for Nothing," "Everybody Hurts," "In the Air Tonight," and "Born in the USA" just became overplayed so much that I couldn't help but grow to hate them.

But there were some truly excellent songs that I loved that no one ever played - or weren't even released as singles.  Here is a list of the best songs that I think few people have ever heard of or songs that people just plain forgot about.

"All Night Thing" - Temple of the Dog from their self titled, and only, album.

Temple of the Dog was an old fashioned "super group" of the grunge era, even though the bulk of the band (made up of former members of the band Mother Love Bone as a tribute to their lead singer, Andrew Wood, who overdosed.  The members went on to form the bulk of Pearl Jam.  They joined forces with Wood's close friend and former roommate, Chris Cornell, frontman for the band Soundgarden).  Their album is a classic, but "All Night Thing" stands out to me as it is so unlike anything either Pearl Jam or Soundgarden have ever recorded.

"Welcome to the Boomtown" - David + David from Boomtown.

Thought this song and album came out in 1986, I didn't actually buy it until my senior year when my taste in music became much more eclectic.

I believe this was featured on Miami Vice, which always liked to feature up and coming musical groups.  There is just something about this song that captures the emptiness and commercialism of the 1980's.

"Fire in the Sky" - Ozzy Osborne from No Rest for the Wicked.

I've never been a huge Ozzy fan.  I blame Mom for this.  As one of the first albums I bought when we moved out to the farm in 1984 was Bark at the Moon by Ozzy.  Mom listened to it, and she actually liked it!  That about ended by love for Ozzy and his over-the-top Alice Cooper-esque musical style.

But I did get Osborne's No Rest for the Wicked as part of a tape club I was in.  I wouldn't have normally bought it, but when you have to select 10 cassettes from a list of 50, your options are limited.  So I found myself with this album, which actually is pretty solid.  I think it's the first one to feature the excellent guitar work of Zakk Wylde.

"Fire in the Sky" is the story of a little kid who has this imaginary world in his head that he built up to protect him.  That concept appealed quite a bit to me as a tubby, awkward kid.  But then something goes wrong for the young man and his imaginary world ends up in flames.  I always imagined the young boy being bullied in school or angered by his parents divorce.

"Breathe a Sigh" - Def Leppard, from Slang.

The '90's were brutal for my favorite band.  This is ironic because I really thing that the 1990's music - known as grunge or alternative - was the best ever made.  I will take the work of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, Blind Melon, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Nirvana . . . Just killer music compared to the commercial and synthetic stuff churned out in the 1980's.

So when - in my opinion - the best of the hair bands, Def Leppard, tried to release their version of a "grunge" album in the mid 1990's, it was a bitter disappointment.  However, I think it is one of their actual best albums.  The songs are well crafted, not nearly as commercial and over produced as the songs on Pyromania, Hysteria, and Andrenalize.  The songs are more sophisticated, but as heavy as the songs on High N' Dry.

The sad fact, though, that Leppard couldn't quite transition all the way to the more harder style of grunge.  As a result, they did have several ballads on the album.  In the '80's and early '90's this worked great for them: "Love Bites," "Hysteria," "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad," "Two Steps Behind," and "Miss You In a Heart Beat" were all huge top-ten hits for the band.

But those ballads all pale in comparison to the ballad, "Breathe a Sign" on Slang.  Had this song been released in 1988 it would have sold a million copies and been played every hour on the hour.  But since it came out in a time when no one cared about the hair bands and their whiny ballads anymore, the song was ignored.  But it's some of Leppard's best work.

"Speed of Light" - Queensryche Operation Mind Crime II

One of the best albums of the late '80's was Queensryche's concept album Operation Mind Crime.  I was thrilled to discover that 20 years later, Queensryche was releasing a sequel.  Though the songs don't hold up to the original, this song does.

Operation Mindcrime, of course, is the story about a group of political extremists who want to overthrow the government via assassinating key political and religious figures.  The main assassin is the protagonist of the story.  At the conclusion of Mindcrime, he is arrested and sent to prison.

The sequel opens with him having served 20 years and being released.  This song is the moment when he realizes who much the world has changed since 1986.  I can just imagine him standing in the middle of Times Square and seeing how the world now moves at the speed of light.

"Everything's Ruined" - Faith No More from Angel Dust.

Faith No More is more known for their hit "Epic" than the follow up to that album.  But the track "Everything's Ruined" is a great metaphor for materialism and parental pressures to fit in.  This is a surprisingly intelligent and sophisticated song.

"Three Strange Days" - School of Fish from School of Fish.

I first head this song as I was driving around with some friends pondering if we should go to the state hockey tournament or not.  I didn't know it at the time, this would have been early in the grunge movement - early 1992.  I heard this song and it was unlike anything I had ever heard before.  If I still hear it from time to time, I am brought back to the moment I first heard this song.

"I Want You" - Third Eye Blind from Third Eye Blind.

This song - as far as I know - was never released as a single from one of the biggest albums of the late '90's.  You will certainly know the big hits from this album - "Jumper," "Semi-Charmed Life," "Graduate," and "How It's Going to Be."  But this might be the very best song on it.  I love how it captures - in a very haunting way - the relationship between the two people in the song.

"Not Enough Time" - INXS from

This was INXS's last hurrah was they were one of the bands - like Def Leppard - who had their world crushed by grunge.  But this song, had it been released a decade earlier, it would have been as huge as "Need You Tonight" or "Never Tear us Apart."

"Misty Mountain Wonderland" - Fleming and John

I first heard this when I was shopping in American Eagle in 1994.  I was struck by the song because I thought I was listening to a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Misty Mountain Hop."  Then before I knew it, I realized I was actually listening to a Christmas song.  I was blown away, and I have never forgotten the song.

It is also one of the most interesting covers I've ever heard.  Fleming and John take Zeppelin's "Misty Mountain Hop" and arrange it to "Walking in a Winter Wonderland."  The result is brilliant.

"Thorn in my Pride" - The Black Crowes from The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion.

One of my favorite bands has always been The Black Crowes.  But the grunge era wasn't kind to them either as their old school blues and funk rock style would have been better suited for the 1980's. However, this song is so cool and original I never tire of hearing it.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Today's Reads, Views, and Links

I am a huge Calvin and Hobbes fan.

Since the author isn't producing any more cartoons, this reinterpretation of Calvin and Hobbes will have to do.


I'm taking three graduate courses this summer to finish taking as many credits as I can according to our pay scale.

The first one, Understanding the Digital Generation, is blowing me away.  This course is like taking College Comp 2.  So many of the texts and authors we read are part of this course: Steven Johnson, Mark Bauerlein, Marc Prensky, and even my favorite, Seth Godin!

Here is a video from the second module that is really intriguing.

Here is an article, Digitalk: A new Literacy for a Digital Generation, that is also part of the second module.  Like the video, this too is quite thought provoking.  We have always known that language is fluid.  In fact, it wasn't until Gutenberg's printing press became standard that our language and spelling also became standard.

Technology, especially social media, is changing that now.  Right before our eyes.  What an amazing time to be alive and to be a teacher!


In my ALC Sci Fi class first summer session, we are exploring one of science fiction's most enduring themes: the dangers of technology.  First we watched The Island.  Then we read Judith Merril's "That Only a Mother."  Now we are watching the classic Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Not only is T2 one of those rare sequels that surpasses the original, but many of my students haven't seen this before, so they are riveted, just like I was when I first saw it the summer before my senior year (1991).

Here are some of the best scenes that still hold up today.

This is one of James Cameron's best scenes.  Many of us had no idea that Arnold's character, the villain in the first Terminator, was now the good guy.  He throws us off even more by having the real bad guy, the T 2000, in the uniform of a police officer.

This scene was amazing.

This scene is one of the most effective from Terminator 2.  One thing I remember most vividly about the film is just how unrelenting the T 2000 is in his quest to terminator John Conner.  This scene is so intense, you almost need a break after it.


And, of course, who can forget the film's amazing climax.


Given that there are well over 100 published works that attempt to claim that the Holocaust of Nazi Germany didn't actually happen, I think this is an amazing idea.

As Bradbury wrote in Fahrenheit 451: sometimes we really need to be bothered about things . . . so they won't happen again.

Genocide is certainly one of them.


This TED x Talk by Will Richardson is one of my favorites.  I thought of it because of the grad class I'm taking on Diving into Digital: engaging the digital generation.

The authors of the text note that our students today have a "just-in-time" attitude to learning.  Because of their high-speed digital environment, they know they can learn almost anything when they actually need it.

My generation, though, didn't have that luxury.  My teachers had a "Just-in-case" approach to learning.  In other words, I had to learn things - just in case I actually ever needed to use it.

This talk begins with a great example.  Will's daughter - who is taking piano lessons from an instructor - is bored one day and uses her dad's laptop and internet connection to research how to play Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" on the piano.  She finds a Youtube video showing her how it is done and finds a copy of the sheet music on line.

She surprises her father with the song, and he is blown away.  She took initiative to learn a complicated song, which also showed grit, determination, and satisfaction in how proud she was in her own learning and drive.  This illustrates her "Just-in-time" attitude.  She was bored and decided to challenge herself.  She didn't need to know how to play the song until she really wanted to, and, as a result, she learned it on her own in a way that was highly engaging and effective for her.

A week later when her instructor came by for their lesson, Will proudly declared to her instructor that she could play a Journey song.  Her instructor, clearly adopting the "just-in-case" learning mindset said, "She can't do that.  She's not ready for that!"  In the instructor's mind, there were a number of progressions her students had to go through - just in case - they ever really wanted to learn how to play popular music.

This issue is at the heart of why so many students are bored and disengaged in school.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Today's Reads, Views, and Links

I just saw this powerful story.  In short, a rape victim speaks to a college football team about the time she had been raped by four college football players.  In her talk, she said that she actually hated the head coach - who only suspended the offending players one game and said they were good kids who made a bad decision - more than the actual rapists.

Then - and this is what is so powerful - she said "that man is right there" as she noted the coach in question was the head coach of the football team she was addressing.

Even more incredibly, that very coach, Mike Riley, had invited her to speak to his team.

As the victim stated at the end of her talk - in referencing Riley- this is what accountability looks like.

Let's hope there is some healing to go along with that accountability.


If you know me or read this blog often, you know how big of a fan I am of the millennials.  Well, here is what MTV is calling the generation after the millennials: the Founders.

An interesting title.  Why?

MTV President Sean Atkins says the name acknowledges that while millennials have disrupted society, it’s this new generation’s job to rebuild it. “They have this self-awareness that systems have been broken,” he told TIME ahead of the announcement. “But they can’t be the generation that says we’ll break it even more.”

Indeed, let's hope they find a way to fix the damage that has been done - not just by millennials but by Gen Xers too.


Five Ways to Personally Approach Your Students

The author steals five lessons on personalized teaching from watching Kung Fu Panda.

1.  A child is not your copy.  If you've seen the films, you know that Poe's father is a goose while he is a panda.  Something is clearly off here.  Yet, Poe's father appreciates their differences.  Initially, he tries to mold Poe into a noodle chef, like him.  However, when Poe has the chance to train to become the Dragon Warrior, he doesn't stand in the way.  He lets Poe find his true passion.  Now look at the other father son relationship in the film, Shifu and Tai Lung.  Shift is too blind to see the dark side of Tai Lung's nature because he is too focused on molding Tai Lung into his version of the Dragon Warrior.

So how can we, as teachers, allow students to develop their own talents and voices, even if they are not in line with our own visions or hopes?  When I began teaching, I had the foolish belief of being some kind of Mr. Keating from Dead Poets Society, where I would turn all of my students into budding intellectuals and poets.

Now, I know better.  I try to show students how they can use my classes to fit their true passions.

2.  Each has own abilities.  Shifu finally has a break through in the film when training Poe.  He realizes Poe has his own abilities and ways of doing things.  Once Shifu realizes this - he is able to unlock Poe's potential as the Dragon Warrior.

How can we get students to realize their own true abilities.  How can we get them to see things in themselves that they don't even realize are there?

3.  A cookie might be better motivation. Shifu realizes that he can motivate his other warriors through discipline and criticism, as they are all intrinsically motivated.  Not so with the Big Fat Panda, though.  He is motivated by food.

How can we find new and inventive ways to motivate students?  Simply yelling at them will only motivate a few.  How else can we get them work other than to say that it is assigned?

4.  You might wish for an apple or an orange, but you will get a peach.  These are the immortal words to Shifu from Oogway when he councils him on how to train Po as the Dragon Warrior.

How can we adjust our expectations so we can appreciate the types of people our students become?  I'd be sadly disappointed if - as I tried early on in my career - I didn't produce future English teachers and wanna be authors.  I've produced a few of those, but I've also helped students discover how to use writing to excel in college on their way to being nurses, engineers, journalists, entrepreneurs, and administrators.

5.  "When a student is ready, the teacher comes."  This might be my favorite quote of all time.  And I don't think this refers to Po in the film at all.  I think this actually refers to Shifu, who also is able to learn a lot from Po.  Only when Shifu is ready to accept the first four lessons here, is he able to understand the fifth.

How can we learn to tap into students' true potential so that they blossom in our classes and that, in turn, we blossom into effective teachers?  I mean it's always more effective to teach students who really want to learn.


This was one of the highlights of my spring/summer.  If you aren't already subscribing to the Entreleadership podcast, you are missing out.  This is one of their top 20 best episodes: Leading the Next Generation.

The podcast features an interview with Tim Elmore, who specializes in helping teams and businesses understanding the two massive generations invading the workforce - the millennials and Generation Z.

This podcast was so good, I bought his book - Generation iY: Secrets to Connecting with Today's Teens & Young Adults in the Digital Age.

This is so full of excellent content, that I'm going to save a good portion of it for my 2016-17 Teacherscribe's Teaching Tips, but here is one tip from Elmore, that as a parent, I just love.

He notes that today's teens are in dire need of mentoring more than ever.  So what he did was when his kids turned 16 - a pivotal year in all of our lives - he arranged for six adults, who the family thought personified their values, morals, passions, and hopes, to mentor their son and daughter.

How brilliant is that?

I always stress to my students that it's awesome to be an adult.  I think they get the reverse message too often - that you should try and prolong your youth as much as possible.  I think they see this absurd message in all formats - certainly TV shows (like anything on Bravo, such as The Real Housewives, where those wenches act like the biggest spoiled brats you could ever encounter in elementary school) and even in the adults around them - how many times have teachers unconsciously only asked students about how they were doing in sports (thereby subtly implying that sports are overly important) or parents who act likes idiots at athletic events or other parents who treat their kids like friends rather than children and, worst of all, some parents who dress the same way as their kids!

Elmore and his wife first chose Sara, an RN, who was a great mentor for their daughter, Bethany, for Sara was willing to show their daughter how cool it was to be an adult and how important having a positive impact on the world truly was.

Elmore and his wife asked their mentors to spend one day with their daughter mentoring her.  Sara first took their daughter to a maternity ward to see mothers give birth.  Later in the day, Sara took her to a class for unwed mothers, many of whom were Bethany's age but were facing far greater difficulties.  Can you imagine the lessons Bethany learned in just those two instances?!  Sara's overall message to Bethany was on the importance of sexual purity and waiting for the right man.  Those two examples had a far greater impact than any lecture from mom or dad ever could!

The next mentor, Holly, took Bethany to downtown Atlanta where they worked on projects for underprivileged families.  Her message was on the importance of service.

Betsy, a third mentor, worked as a flight attendant, and surprised Bethany by flying her up to New York City for the day to show her the contrast between the glitzy big city life and her more rural, southern home life.

As parents, we all know the pivotal role peers play in the lives of young adults.  I like Elmore's method of finding adult mentors for his children as a counterbalance to the peer influence his children will face.


The horror, the horror!

I'm a huge modern art fan.  Lichtenstein, Rothko, Mondrian, and Picasso are all favorites.  So when we were in NYC for the choir concert, my wife was able to persuade her group to take a trip to the MOMA (museum of modern art).  I wasn't able to convince my group, as they wanted to shop, which was fine (I had to settle for a trip to the Manhattan Lego Store).

But when Kristie's Clique (the name for her group on the trip) began bombarding me with pictures of my favorite works, it was almost too much to take!

The group spotted a Picasso.  I wonder if his classic, "Guernica," was there?  I believe the last time it was in the US, though was from 1939-40.

Along with Lichtenstein, I love the work of Mark Rothko.  I could spend hours looking at this.

I love the work of Piet Mondrian, and her Brenna and Cooper are posing with one of his works.  I could spend an hour looking at this one too!

When I received this, it broke my heart just a little.  You see, I love the work of Roy Lichtenstein.  This is his classic "Drowning Girl" painting.  In fact, I have this in my classroom.  So when Kristie's Clique were touring the MOMA, they rounded a corner to take the elevator and saw this!  "Reynolds!" They all said as they knew I had this in my room.  They were kind enough, at least, to take a picture of it for me.


My wife has long been a fan of James Corden's Car Pool Karaoke.  This one might just be my all time favorite -

I like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but many of their songs do sound the same, but the musicianship is on full display here.  Growing up in the '80's I can't help but wonder how many of the bands that rose to fame back then would function on this show.  Most of them formed just to get laid and to get rich.  Thus their songs are three chords and junior high level lyrics.  I don't know if they could display the rhythm and style and flare that the members of the Chili Peppers do in here.


Finally, here is one of my favorite little pick-me-up speeches of all time.  


Can you believe we are 9 days from the Fourth of July?  That means after that comes the fair.  Then August rolls around and fall sports kick in.  Summer is just about over!!!