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Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year's 2013 - A Look Back and a Hope

In just a few short hours, the famed Tiffany Crystal Ball will descend down a flagpole in a crowded Times Square,New York with a countdown echoed lodly both in Times Square and in living rooms across the eastern seabord.  At the stroke of midnight, 2013 will be ushered in and we will speend the first few minutes and perhaps the day ahead with close loved ones.

2012 has been a year many of us will be happy to see gone.  This fall saw the devesatation brought on by Hurricane Sandy in the New York-New Jersey area.  I am particularly grateful that my home saw some superficial damage and the inconvenience of a lack of power for a two week period.
Other neghibors were not so lucky and even today and in the future weeks and months, the work will continue to repair and rebuild in many local communities.

2012 also saw a continuation of mindless gun violence in the USA.  As I noted a few posts back, when I began my blog, my first blogpost concerned the shooting of Representative Kathy Giffords of Arizona.  2012 was a year when this violence spread to movie theatres and schools.  A simple solution will be difficult to achieve but hopefully in 2013 our leaders can join together to reduce the amount of dangerous weapons and evaluate how they can be left in the most resposible hands.

The amount of mindless violence is somehting we all need to take a stand against.  In simple, quiet ways we can all make a difference.  There is no cost to kindness.  In my opinion we all must work towards a forgiving and just society.  That will be my pledge as I enter into 2013.  I want this world to be a better place for my young children and it has grown cold and coarse for too long now. 

As we close out 2012, let us all strive to make a difference in our communities.  I am reminded of a little prayer from St Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

My best wishes to you, my readers, for a happy and healthy year in 2013.  I thank you for finding me and look forward to hearing back from each and everyone so please leave me a message.

Steve

St. Francis of Assisi - Jusepe de Ribera




Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review: The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue (2013) by Shama Kabani

The last several years have seen an explosion in the amount of social media use both by businesss and individuals.  It has easily moved well past any novelty phase and is now an essential tool for marketing communications, personal development and in the instance during the "Arab Spring of 2011", social media can contribute towards the toppling of entrenced dictatorial governments.

I recently was presented with an advance copy of The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue by Shama Kabani in order to provide a review to the readers of my blog.

I began a blog in January 2011 in order to have forum where I could opine, on a fairly regular basis, about current events, sports, politics, education and other topics I wanted to share or spark some debate with my readers.  Also, I wanted to develop a new skill set I could someday use as I teach with my students in the 21st Century Classroom.  During those formative months as I built my blogsite and added assorted elements on the pages I came upon this book in its 2010 edition.  I was particularly interested in Ms. Kabani's chapter on Twitter.  At that time I had begun to use Twitter regularly and preferred it over Facebook which I viewed more as a "friends and family" place.

In fact, I remember that I began following Ms. Kabani immediately after reading that chapter.  I also began developing a Personal Learning Network on Twitter consisting of teachers and administrators to develop and network myself in my new career as a Teacher here on Long Island.

Ms. Kabani's book is a necessary tool for all readers who wish to increase their knowledge base about social media and how to use it as an effective tool to incorporate it into their business communications strategy, non-profit marketing or in developing their own personal brand.  I appreciated the updated content and the new chapter on Google+ as well as the overview on Social Advertising with its overview on Groupon and Facebook ads. 

Ms. Kabani's new edition provides a thorough description of Search Engine Optimization and it will aid those readers seeking a targeted audience for their product or service.  In my experience, it explains the large number of views I received and still receive for a blogpost made in the spring of this year when I worked on building a baseball card tabletop as it continues to be viewed consistently as it shows up on  search engines by using several vital keywords. 

Finally, video and its use on the web is given a whole chapter investigation.  From someone who made a few attempts with an audio podcast on his blog, video is one of those things I would eventually use on my blogsite.  These examples are just the tip of the iceberg as far as the amazing amount of information provided.  I highly recommend this book The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue by Shama Kabani as a vital tool and reference to add to your business/personal development arsenal. 

In closing remember, the word Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Middle Chinese word Dzyen, which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "absorption" or "meditative state".  Absorbing the wealth of information provided in this book will not be too daunting and your application of the knowledge provided will make truely make you a "Dalai Lama" of social media marketing. 


***** Highly Recommended








Sunday, December 16, 2012

Like a Phoenix...

"I read the news today oh, boy."
The Beatles - A Day in the Life

This blog post is a reflection on the tragic events which took place this past Friday, December 17th in Newtown, Connecticut: the senseless massacre of 27 individuals, 20 of whom were children no older than my own son.

I started this blog in January of 2011 as an educator focused on using technology and experimenting with the medium but also as a platform to express comment and debate regarding current events.  One of my earliest posts was a discussion of the shooting of Congresswoman Kathy Giffords of Arizona.  It's sad to me that  almost two years since then the American public has been witness to more displays of gun violence in malls, movie theatres and houses of worship.

It seems in my lifetime, 1970's onward, the proliferation of guns has had a hamrful effect on our society.  My opening quote from the Beatles was written by John Lennon, another victim of gun violence in 1980 here in New York City.  The news I read today was terribly sad.  The innocent children had their whole lives ahead of them.  Despite the overall tragedy of this sad event, the actions of the slain principal and teachers, as well as the actions of the survivors, showed the personification of the words selflessness and bravery as they defended their children from harm.  As an educator, their example is one I will take back to my classroom in the days, months and years ahead.  I also offer my prayers to the families of the victims and to the survivors as they begin the healing process.  That road towards healing will be arduous and there are no easy remedies which will heal the pain and suffering Newtown is feeling. 

However, if there is any good that might come out of this tragedy perhaps it can follow these two tracks.  First, there must be a concerted collective will of the citizens to have "rational" discussion on the accessibility and need for semi-automatic guns.  I respect our Constitution and I respect the 2nd Amendment.  I don't want to see any of our rights reduced or repealed but our founding fathers did not envision the sheer firepower of today's arms.  Is it a necessity for the individual to have this kind of firepower?  For what use would the individual have the need for such arms?  These are just two questions I would ask gun manufacteurs and gun enthusiasts. 

Second, without getting specific on the recent perpetrators of gun violence, it seems that there is a similar script in play everytime: the lone nut.   Access to weapons for these individuals must be restricted.  Also, mental health services should be promoted and provided to these indivduals.  Also, I am astounded that no family members noticed or even kept an eye on some of these individuals before they acted out with such destructive force.  What does that say about the current state of families?

Like the mythical bird the Phoenix, thru this tragedy perhaps a rebirth from the ashes of a great tragedy can take place.  One where we as a citizenry demand a stop to the incessant and  mindless gun violence.  One where we as educators can ensure our children a safe learning environment. In this holy Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa season, let the light shine as a refuge for those mired in the dark and feeling hopeless.



Monday, November 19, 2012

Towards Thanksgiving and a Music Review

Here we are smack dab towards the end of the month and approaching Thanksgiving Day.  Here in the New York metro area, life has returned to some normalcy with electric power having returned to homes and schools which was then followed by a noticeable reduction in the lines at the gas (petrol) stations.  The superstorm, dubbed Sandy, wreaked havoc on many local communities, which will take many months and resources to clean up and rebuild.  The storm also managed to expose vulnerabilities in our local infrastructure.  This was the second year in a row with a prolonged power disruption caused by a large storm.  Surely heads will roll and one top executive with LIPA, our electric delivery provider, has resigned his post.

This storm provided a lift for President Obama as it came within a week of the November election.  President Obama won a second and final term and he was seen looking Presidential while visiting several devestated areas following the storm.  It should be a very interesting four years ahead as our country faces many, many challenges both internally and externally, take your pick.  I'd love to hear your thoughts as to what you think are the most pressing challenges the United States faces (leave a reply!!!).

Well for me, I wanted to share a quick recommendation for all music lovers out there.  Bob Dylan released his latest album called Tempest in September.  I had heard a single from the album called "Duquense Whistle" and I next saw a video for the song.  Dylan has been performing music for 50 years and it seems that every album he's released over the last 10 years has been hailed as a "return to form".  I haven't purchased a Dylan album since 1989's Daniel Lanois produced Oh Mercy but on Tempest I found a vital, invigorated Bob Dylan.  Besides "Duquense Whistle", I also like the song "Soon After Midnight" which finds a contemplative Dylan singing about a relationship:

My heart is cheerful
It's never fearful
I've been down on the killing floors
I'm in no great hurry
I'm not afraid of your fury
I've faced stronger walls than yours

Tempest closes out with a song called "Roll on John" and in that song Dylan offers a tribute to the late John Lennon.  I find this song amazing as John Lennon was assassinated almost 32 years ago and only now does Dylan makes his own comment about the life and loss of the great Lennon.  Many of the lines in the song reflect the Beatles and Lennon's lyrics:

From the Liverpool docks to the red light Hamburg streets
Down in the quarry with the Quarrymen.
Playing to the big crowds Playing to the cheap seats
Another day in your life until your journey’s end
Shine your light, move it on, you burn so bright, roll on John

I heard the news today, oh boy
They hauled your ship up on the shore
Now the city’s gone dark
There is no more joy
They tore the heart right out and cut it to the core

Come together right now over me

A must buy to add to your Bob Dylan collection or to begin your collection.  I must credit my older brother Leo for providing early exposure to the music of Bob Dylan and I have found, as I've grown older, a greater appreciation for his music and career.  



Well that's all for now.  I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.  This year we have so much to be grateful for and I hope the upcoming holiday season is a peaceful one for you.  I would love to hear back from you so please drop me any comments or suggestions you might have.  Also, I wanted to give a quick shout out to Roy M for his generous donation to the blog.  Thanks



















Sunday, November 4, 2012

Aftermath...

It's almost been one week since the great superstorm Hurricane Sandy, dubbed "Frankenstorm" by some in the media, made a direct hit on the greater New York region of the northeast United States.  The damage caused by this weather event has been staggering.  Many remain without power nearly a week after the storm hit and for many in nearby coastal areas their homes have been destroyed. 

Reflecting on this past week, I am very fortunate that my family is safe.  The electricity returned yesterday afternoon after four full days of being out.  Damages to my home were minimal with the worst being a large pine tree falling on my neighbor's driveway.  Thankfully the car parked there just missed the tree.  I also had a section of my backyard fence fall and some shingles blew off the roof.

This is certainly minimal to many residents who have no home to return to and will require a great deal of assistance moving forward.  Already there is an appeal to donate to the Red Cross to provide financial resources to those in need.  A telethon that aired this past Friday has raised 23 million dollars towards relief efforts:  Thanks Bruce, Billy, John Bon Jovi and others.  More assistance is needed, money, supplies as well as volunteers.

DONATE TO THE RED CROSS

However as the saying goes, "all charity begins at home" and I just wanted to give a shout out to family for providing a refuge for Aimee and the kids a few days in Connecticut and earlier in the week near home.  Additionally, the aftermath of this terrible event has brought out inspiring examples of the goodness in others.  My neighbors in particular have been very hospitalble in welcoming me into their home for coffee and supplies.  One neighbor loaned me a tool to help me in trimming the fallen pine tree.  Thank you.

These examples, give me hope that during our darkest moments, light can still shine through and we can all help each other rest, recover and eventually rebuild. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Presidential Debate

In just under 30 minutes, the first of three U.S. Presidential debates will begin.  No doubt by tomorrow and for the remainder of the week the "infotainment" press will opine about which of the candidates came across well. 

Here we are almost 4 years ago from the last dog and pony show.  Have things improved over the last 4 years?  Our electorate seems split right down the middle.  A percentage 47% or so will be loyal to our President while his challenger tonight needs to appeal to the many undecided voters looking for an articulate, measured reason why he or she should vote for him to replace the current occupant of the Oval Office. 

It's all up to you (us) America.  Your vote is precious, lives have been lost defending our right.  Stay educated and informed about the important issues these two men will be discussing tonight and throughout the month.

Your thoughts???









Monday, September 17, 2012

The Occupy Movement - 1 year later

This morning here in New York I woke up and flicked on the "idiot box" to get an idea of what "news-entertainment" the local stations were covering.  Most were down in Wall Street covering a group of protesters commemorating the first anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Last year, a group of mostly young people took over Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan for several weeks beginning in late September and staying there until the police, like exterminators, cleaned out the park in November. 

The Occupy movement inspired similar protests in other large US cities and in cities across the globe.  There was really no agenda or formal structure to the group in New York.  That may have been the reaason for its disappearance from the politcal discourse since last year.  There was no real statment from the group at what its aims were.  Unfortunately in my opinion, the Occupiers missed their chance to mobilize as a counter-point to the right -wing Tea Party and could lead to Occupy endorsed candidates for political office.

Certainly the economic situation here in the US and worldwide has not improved since last year.  Unemployment is still high, the housing bubble has left many people underwater with mortgages too high to leave any discrectionry spending left and young people are saddled with high debt from college with no certainty of finding work. 

Perhaps the Occupy movement could have been successful if it had transitioned into a viable alternative to the political quagmire we see daily in Washington D.C.  By offering suggestions for solutions to our economic problems it may have provided the necessary spark to lead to bold and creative solutions.

Instead we've seen more of the same.  The too big to fail banks get their handouts, main street has seen in the words of Bruce Springsteen "vacant stores, seems like there ain't nobody come down here no more" and Mr. and Mrs. Joe Sixpack are sold out by our leaders in D.C. who are more responsive to the K Street lobbyists than their own constituents.  All the Federal Reserve wishes to do is print more money as Quantatative Easing III was announced last week.  How is printing more money a solution?  It just makes our dollar less valuable. 

What's the solution?  I don't know but it's not found in Washington.  I wish more Americans were informed about current events instead of what's on TV.  I also wish more people would exercise their right at the ballot box.  This is very important because it's our only way of exercising term limits on most of our representatives.   

Occupy (your thoughts),
Occupy (the voting booth),
Occupy (and become the change you wish to see),
Occupy (and demand solutions).

There is always a chance.   



Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back into the trenches

Tomorrow brings the return to my classroom of 12 active teens full of energy and enthusiasm.  While it's only been three weeks since I've seen most of them, it hasn't felt that short.  I am looking forward to an exceptional and creative year with these children.  Also, good luck to my son and daughters as they continue their school journey at a new school.

Two quotes from Elbert Hubbert illustrate what teaching means to me:

The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without his teacher.


The teacher is the one who gets the most out of the lessons, and the true teacher is the learner.


cartoon teacher
Now to get some rest, it's back to business tomorrow.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Last Dog Day of August

This Friday, August 31st, provided me the perfect opportunity to reflect on several topics I wish to share with my readers.  First, I want to give a shout out to my wife Aimee.  Yesterday was our Ninth Wedding Anniversary and while our life now revolves around raising three children, one 6 year old and twin four year olds, it seems we often lack the time to spend with each other.  It's a common situation I know for couples with young children who are involved and participate in sports and other activities.

I promised Aimee that we will soon celebrate our Anniversary together in a few weeks when things have settled down and our new school year routines have begun.  Also adding a pall over the last two weeks of summer was that my wife was hit in the rear on August 20th as she was returning home from work and as a result she's not in tip top shape.  Hopefully, her recovery will be quick, weeks not months, and after some  Physical Therapy I pray that will be the case.

Also, this last day of August moves the calendar towards Labor Day and for many a return to school.  I am very excited to have my children get off to a solid start at their new school.  We visited the school a few days ago and they had a chance to go inside the building and speak to several of the teachers who were there setting up their rooms.

My children aslo visited my classroom this week as I went in and set up my classroom.  I am a dually certified Elementary Teacher (1-6) as well as a Special Education Certified teacher (1-6) and I will be entering my third year in the profession.   I became a teacher, after working in the business world, in order to make a positive difference in the lives of children. I always had good rapport with children and teens and once I returned to school to earn my Master's degree, there was no turning back, I was hooked. My student teaching experiences only validated my decision to return to school back in 2005 as the correct one.

These last three years I've taught in a self contained classroom at a Special Eduction School where I work with 12 children ranging in age from age 12 to 18.  My students, each with unique backgrounds, are a testament to the character traits of fortitude, resiliency and spirit and it is my honor being their teacher. 

I am excited to rejoin my kids and to continue to facilitate their learning.  This year we will be using the Smartboard, which was installed this summer, across many activities in several content areas.  I would also like to continue to find other creative ways to demonstrate to my kids that the world is bigger than what they see outside.  Last year, I used a web based site called e-pals to have several snail mail correspondences with students from England.  Additionally, a class from India reached out to us this summer so I have to follow that up and involve classes from other parts of the world.

This global connectedness extends to social media such as Twitter.  I have been fortunate to follow several teachers, principals and administrators on Twitter.  There is no lack of ideas or other school related creative platforms discussed using this medium and I have discovered and plan on attempting several exercises gleaned from my Twitter "collaborators" and "facilitators."

I want to thank each and every one of them for sharing on Twitter and for providing the impetus for me to reflect on my own practice and providing me with other great ideas I can employ in my practice.  So educators follow me on Twitter: @SteveKeegan10 and I'll follow back.  Also, Special Educators of Severely and/or Behaviorally Challenged I would love to hear back from you and pick your brains.  Perhaps our classes could collaborate on a project together.

Leave me a line with your e-mail and/Twitter handle in the comments section.

Onward and Upward,

Steve

P.S.  Another shout out today goes out to WFUV radio here in NY at 90.7 FM dial or on internet radio using the Tunein Radio app.  Today they played free form music all from the 1980's.  This was a formative decade for me and I thoroughly enjoyed all the music I heard today.  From new wave bands, to one hit wonders to established artists the music selected today was instantly recognizable and brought me back in time as good music will do.  Here's a video of one of the tunes I heard today.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Farewell Summer: It was over before it began.

Hello again and welcome to my blog.  It's been quite a while since my last post and the calendar has almost reached the unofficial end of summer.  In another week and a half it will be September and Labor Day will be upon us.  My kids will soon be back to school, 1 first grader and 2 kindergarteners here at home, and teachers will be back to work. 

Many teachers, which include 5 members of my family, have been off since the end of June.  As for me, after having the last week off in June, I worked at my school from July 3 through August 10th as part of its extended year program.  I had fun this summer with my students as there were weekly activities structured for them to enjoy as well as swimming twice a week.  Also, very exciting to me, my room received an interactive Smartboard and we began to use it in a variety of ways.

During the start of my school's summer program I was very fortunate to have my children stay with my in-laws during the first part of the program.  My children enjoyed staying with Mama and Papa in Florida and they all returned to NY as much better swimmers. 

My in-laws then brought the children home in mid July and they stayed with us for the last month of summer school.  I want to express to them my thanks and gratitude for their generosity and assistance during their stay with us.  The moments shared with your grandchildren will be ones they will remember forever.

Since school ended on August 10th, I've had almost three weeks to cram in as much activity as I can squeeze in with my family and it's been great having this time with them.  With my girls, we've made tie died t-shirts and with my son we've gone to a Mets game.  My kids are also participating in Pee Wee Football and Cheerleading so that has kept us busy with practices twice a week.  Once school begins it will get even busier around here but I am looking forward to the new school year and my children's continued educational journey.  We also visited their former daycare where we saw many of the staff that watched and worked with my three kids for four years.  The staff in the baby room were amazed at how tall my daughters are.  I remember bringing them there as babies in a double stroller and now they are ready for school. 

This may be my last blogpost for a little while.  I've been posting to my blog since 1/2011 and while I enjoy an occasional opine about some current event or personal story i wish to share, I haven't received as much feedback from the readers (at least enough to engage me and offer any inspiration or debate) as I wished to have, despite my appeals for comments.  The most views I've had to a particular blogpost was to the modified IKEA table I affixed baseball cards to and varnished back in the spring.  I suppose readers liked that activity.

Another factor in any reduced output in blogpost is time.  Once school begins, I will be busy with work (my own and my children's schoolwork).  As a result, the opportunities that  I could get some time to spend on the blog will be few and far between. 

Maybe the overall format of the blog will change.  In this age of Twitter, maybe shorter blogposts would be the answer to the lack of time I have to devote to the blog.

As been said on T.V. "stay tuned."  

Would love to hear from you so drop me a line and/or follow me on Twitter @SteveKeegan10.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

Happy 4th of July, Independence Day to us here in the United States.  A day for many away from their daily jobs and time spent with families around the barbecue and pool.

Whatever your chosen recreation activity is today have fun but take a minute or two, or maybe more, to reflect on those brave men of the Continental Congress who met in Philadelphia in 1776 who were most responsible for the birth of our country.

Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson.  The names together sound like a law firm but they, joined with the delegates from the 13 colonies, had the courage to shake off their colonial rulers diplomatically, through Jefferson's elegant prose The Declaration of Independence.

Later George Washington commanded his army to defeat the greatest army, at that time, to earn finally victory against the British and the United States was born. 

Over the 236 years has passed since the 13 colonies united as one in their quest for freedom and our country has led and made history here and throughout the globe.  We have a rich history, one that is sorely glossed over in schools.  We have been blessed with abundance in resources and we have been fortunate to have leaders that have made wise decisions for us beginning with Washington.  Is there more to be done?   Of course, the work continues.  Check out this clip from HBO's new show The Newsroom written by Aaron Sorkin.  In the clip, the lead character is asked to answer a question from a college student "What makes America the greatest country in the world?


I think his answer was spot on and he certainly believes we can be a great country, but we have much to work on and improve.

Finally, no Independence Day is complete without a shout out to the film 1776This film was based on a stage musical which depicts the workings of the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia in the time before the Declaration of Independence is written.  The acting is good, the music a bit hokey, but I always found it fun to check in on the 4th while growing up.  I think it's on Turner Classic Movies this evening so I gotta watch some of it.  Anyway, the driving force of the production is John Adams who in the beginning attempts to push the other states for a formal grievence to be made.  The other states refuse to join in until Ben Franklin suggests a southern state make the proposal which leads to Virginia to make the proposal.  Adams then convinces a reluctant Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence and you know the rest.




Thanks for checking out the blog and have a great day.  Would love to hear back from you.  So leave some feedback.





Thursday, June 28, 2012

Supreme Decisions and an Observation


The Supreme Court of the United States made its ruling on the Affordable Healthcare Act, aka Obamacare this morning.  While I have not read the decision yet, it appears that the court has upheld the law as constitutional and with a 5-4 ruling, Obamacare and its individual mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance will become law. 

Chief Justice Roberts was the key swing vote joining the courts liberal members as he wrote the majority opinion, The court ruled that the federal government does have the power to require all Americans to acquire insurance if the "fine" imposed on those who don't is considered a tax.

This decision will, no doubt, become a key topic during this fall's presidential campaign and the Republican members of Congress will look to repeal the law.  

My take is that this law will be put in effect in 2014.  Despite its noble promise, to provide healthcare to all American, healthcare costs will continue to rise and the hardworking taxpayer will see his private healthcare costs soar.

Update:

I have been off this week and enjoying some quiet time at home and catching up on some household chores.  I have one observation being at home:

People are lazy.

Over the last few days I have counted at least 10 landscaping trucks providing landscaping services to my surrounding neighbors.  Each truck carries a trailer hitch and is staffed by at least 4 to 5 employees.  They come at all times and their machines make a lot of noise.  Are people that lazy that they can't mow a small strip of front and back lawn?  I actually like the exercise benefit I get from mowing my grass.  I remember in 1986, when I was 15, I worked one spring and summer with a neighbor who had his own landscaping business.  This was a good job for a high school kid who wanted to make a few extra bucks.  Now these "professional landscaping services" are all over the place and I don't see one high school kid working with them. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday Arts

I just received a few pictures from a friend who painted 3 - 18"x24" oil pastel and paint on paper what he refers to as his "Basquiat" studies.  If anyone is interested in these pictures for purchase please let me know.  My email is SKeegan10@aol.com or reach me via Twitter @SteveKeegan10





Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was an American artist.  He began as a graffiti artist in New York City in the late 1970s and evolved into a Neo-expressionist painter during the 1980s.

Basquiat's career began in the late 1970's and emerged fully in the 1980's.  Andy Warhol gave his career a boost through collaboration on several projects.  He battled substance abuse and died in 1988 at the age of 27.


A movie based on his life was released in 1996, seven years after his death titled Basquiat it was directed by Julian Schnabel, with actor Jeffrey Wright playing Basquiat. David Bowie played the part of Andy Warhol.


Looks like a good flick, I gotta check it out.

Till next time...



Happy Father's Day

Hello and welcome to another edition of my blog.  I am so amazed at the continued response to my Baseball Card Table Post.  I put the project up on IKEA Hackers Blog and many of the views of the blog have come from the IKEA Hackers site.  It's great to see all the places around the world these readers are from, truely a global brand that IKEA.

Anyway, today June 17 is Father's Day in the United States of America.  I wanted to give my Dad thanks for all he has done for all of my brother's and sisters.  He and Mom raised the 12 of us teaching us the most important lessons at home by example and gentle encouragement.  I have often said that now as a father of 3 myself, just a fraction of the children he had, I am so amazed that he and Mom had all of their children.

Sure, there were less distractions 50 and 40 years ago and one wage earner could support a household.  Today, it seems the consumer culture has won with marketers targeting babies practically from the crib and at times it seems that the speed of today's society has changed the dynamics of families, one could argue not for the better. 

My Father is a man of faith and he knows that it's foundation is in the home.  Like a patient gardener, which he actually is, my Dad has tended his garden which has now rewarded him with 30 grandchildren and at times a very busy house.

I had the pleasure to travel with him and Mom to Paris, France in March of 1999.  It was my first trip to Europe and his first to Paris.  At the time, I worked for Marriott and  we stayed at a nice Courtyard property in Neuilly, a suburb just outside the city.  Dad rented a car for excursions to Versailles, Aimens, and Chartres.  It was an experience I will always treasure since it was just the 3 of us and two years later we returned to France.  In 2001, we were joined by my wife, sister and Aunt and Uncle.  We visited the Normandy D-day sites and Mt. St. Michel.

Good Times, Great Man.
Thanks Dad

We love you.





Saturday, June 2, 2012

Watching History

My post today comes from the historic accomplishment made by the New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana last night.  Santana's achievement was that he threw the first no-hitter in the 50 year history of the team.  For readers of this blog who live overseas, in baseball a pitcher throws to a batter who then takes a swing and attempts to put the ball into play and reach first base.  Last night, Santana allowed 0 hits.

What's remarkable to me is that Santana didn't pitch all of last season as he was recovering from shoulder surgery.  He has made an amazing recovery and is the ace of the rotation.  Last night also was a shared experience with Met fans from all over through the use of social media.  I was with my family and as it usually happens my children were watching some tv before they went to bed.  I was checking the Mets score on their website and on Twitter.  From the Mets site, there were automatic updates to the game from the 6th inning onwards.  As my kids went to sleep, I switched channels to watch the later innings and saw Mike Baxter, #theprideofwhitestone make an incredible catch to preserve the no-hit bid.  He left the game as he hit the outfield wall pretty hard, hopefully he isn't hurt too bad.

Once Santana recorded his last out, the tweets from Met fan twitteratti exploded, including several celebratory tweets from yours truely.  When you think of the 50 year history of the team and the great pitchers who have played for the team: Seaver, Kooseman, Ryan, Gooden, Cone etc none ever pitched a no-hitter.  Last nights events have solidified Santana's place in Mets history and now, after a few years in their new stadium, Citi Field can be called home.

Congratulations, Johan Santana.  Thanks for making Hi57ory and thank you Mets for your team like approach and early season success so far.

Let's Go Mets.



Saturday, May 12, 2012

Salute to Mothers on Mother's Day

Hello and welcome back to my blog as the calendar moves through May.  The weather has settled down this Mother's Day weekend from the April-like showers those of us in the Northeast U.S. were treated to earlier in the week. It does feel like a nice spring day today.

Tomorrow (or Today depending when this is posted) is Mother's Day and I wanted to share a brief reflection on Mothers.  First is my own Mom.  She is a very special woman.  I am one of her 12 children, her 10th to be precise.  My Mother is Mother to 8 daughters and 4 sons and she has 30 grandchildren.  Growing up, she taught us the most important lessons at home by displaying a constant selflessness towards her children which has been a strong example for me and my siblings in our adult lives.  Is it any wonder that a majority of her children ended up working in professions where they serve others for a greater good.  I have been blessed by having such a great Mother who, together with my Father, were the best role models anyone could ever asked for. 

The lessons she learned as a little girl during the Depression Era 1930's and WW II years hold a significant resonance to me as I raise my children along with my wife today in the 21st Century modern age.  Thank you Mom for all that have done for me and my brothers and sisters over the years.  I hope you have a peaceful Mother's Day.  We will see you soon!

Happy Mother's Day to my wife Aimee.  We too are blessed with three growing children.  My wife is simply the best.  She has been able to balance work and the duties of motherhood with true multi-tasking skill.  I am a lucky man to have her as a partner who is so well rounded and attentive.  She is definitely the heart of our home, keeping everything beating and flowing along.  She also keeps me well fed!!!

Finally, In the spirit of Mother's Day it seems that Spring can officially declared here as we will soon be treated to the miracle of life just outside the door.  A Mother Robin bird has built a nest inside a sand castle bucket belonging to my daughter.  This bucket was sitting on the top of a storage shed outside of my house.  This scenario happened last year in the same spot but I disturbed the nest and broke one of its eggs.  It was then abandoned by Mama bird.  This year, I left her and the nest alone.  I did see four blueish eggs inside the intricate nest.  Mama bird's been here all week and maybe by next week, the eggs will hatch with her little birds.  Ah, the miracle of life.

Have a Fabulous Mother's Day Moms.



Sunday, April 15, 2012

Rites of Spring

This weekend, here in NY, has brought a bounty of incredible warm weather.  This has been refreshing since most of the past week has been cool and a mix of that in between late winter/early spring mixed up weather.

As it heats up, I am so happy to get outside and play around in the garden and maitain the lawn and garden.  For many of my neighbors, they have landscape services which handle that but I prefer to get my hands dirty and get it done myself.

So this week, I continued to clean the yard with an eye towards this warm weather we would be having this weekend.  On Friday, I picked up some flowers and other supplies and I planned on transplanting some flowers purchased to two hanging baskets located near the side entrance to the house.  I also picked up some Pansies with nice purple flowers, I would place in two large heavy planters near my front entrance.  I also picked up some soil, seeds and fertilizer for my lawn.

With my three assistants, I returned home Friday and went out to plant.   Here are the pictures of our progress:







As the weather continues to warm up and as the Spring season moves along, I will continue to work on the garden and lawn  and shape it into something nice.

Any landscape designers out there?  I would love to get some feedback from you as I have some questions for you.  Thanks

A Use for Old Baseball Cards Pt II

Having started the project to hack an exisitng piece of IKEA furniture: the LACK table, I planned to finish it sometime before my spring break vacation was finished which meant today.

To recap, I purchased the LACK table from IKEA last week and I placed 70s and 80's baseball cards to the table top.  Yesterday, I sealed the table by applying a mixture of 4 parts glue with 1 part water.  This morning I was ready to apply the epoxy resin to coat the entire table top.  The resin would be left to cure and by tomorrow I will have a cool piece of furniture/nostalgia.

The epoxy resin was purchased at Home Depot and following the directions I measured roughly 8 oz of the epoxy and after stirring I combined with the sealer again mixing for 3 minutes.  This seemed to be enough for my table and I used the paint stirrers from Home Depot to spread the mixture across the table.

Once I was satisfied with the application, I covered the table so no outside debris or my kids would disturb the table as it cured.

Here are some pictures:


So far, so good.  The cards have taken on a shine and once fully cured, the table will be very nice to look at and to use.  This has been a fun project and while researching it on the web, I saw a cool video for making a game table that I might try with the same IKEA table (I do have enough Epoxy for one more table).  First I want to see how this one turns out.  

That's all for now, thanks for stopping by. 


Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Use for Old Baseball Cards - Pt 1

In just a few weeks, April 22, Earth Day will be upon us.  In the spirit of the environmental saving themes of reuse, reduce, and recycle, I've begun a project which incorporates some of these green tenets.

I saw on another blog called IKEA Hackers a cool table which was made using baseball cards on the table top .  Unfortunately, the post with the video was taken down, so I scoured the web to try to find a video which showed the technique to seal the table with epoxy resin.  This seemed like a fun project to try to take a crack at doing.

As a boy, my brother and I collected many, many, many baseball cards and a few years ago he gave me a ton of them.  I had them outside my house, sitting in a box inside my crowded shed.  They really weren't serving any purpose, so I went through them to select the cards I wanted on my table.  My choices included local favorites, from the NY Mets and Yankees and other players and cards circa 1970's and 80's.  Now I was ready to begin.

So far here's what I have done:

1) Purchased 1 - IKEA - Lack Table - 21 5/8" X 21 5/8"  - $7.99
2) Purchased 1 - Glue Gun and Package of Glue Sticks - $5.50
3) Sort through 70's - 80's era Topp's and Fleer Baseball Cards for use on table - Priceless!!!
4) Arrange chosen cards and use Glue Gun to adhere cards to table.

This is the current state of my project:


My next step is to seal the cards using a mixture of 3 parts glue and 1 part water.  After that dries and once I find the appropriate epoxy resin to use, I will coat the table with the epoxy and it will cure and then hopefully it will look something like this table:


Have you ever taken on a project like this?  So far it's been fun and in researching this project, I saw a cool video where a nice looking game table was created.  Maybe a future project???  Well, I have to get this one done first. 

Take care and hope to hear from you all so don't be shy brave readers.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring Beginnings

Hello again and welcome back to my blog.  Here we are in April and my allergies are probably at their worst today than they've been in a while.  The warmer weather that typified the last month here in NY has returned to where it should be, high 50's and 60's.

Yesterday, I celebrated Easter.  The weather was beautiful and my children enjoyed an easter egg hunt.  I was so proud at how they behaved so well at church.  This time of year holds so much promise and signals rebirth following the dark, cold winter.

I am off this week from school and I look forward to resting and reflecting before the return next week.  Last year, we drove to Florida during the Spring Break.  It was fun but something I wouldn't want to repeat this year.

The Spring heralds the arrival of our national pastime, Baseball.  The 2012 season has begun.  Right now my favorite team the New York Mets stand 3 wins and 0 losses.  They have completed a sweep of theirarch- rivals, the Atlanta Braves.  Is this team a mirage, showing each Met fan the promise of better days ahead.  Although it is very, very early in the year I hope the Mets will provide its fans with sound fundamental baseball with its team of blue collar no name primadonnas group of players.

Across town the Yankees,  with their reconizable constellation of All Stars, were swept by Tampa Bay to open their season.  The Yanks may be beginning to show its age from Jeter to A-Rod.  Going forward, it should be an interesting season for sure. 

What's on your agenda for Spring? Leave me a reply, I would love to hear back from you!!!!

 I plan on working on my garden as the weather warms up. 

I hope your holiday was a peaceful one and that you enjoy whatever Spring activities you may have planned.

Finally, for all my fellow Met fans out there.  I am posting this video I found off Youtube.  It's from a guy who went to the Mets home opener in 1982 against the Phillies.  He must have had a very expensive camera because the quality is excellent.  It captures the essence of the loveable dump Shea Stadium was and the fans attending the game.  I was laughing so hard during this video, enjoy.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bits and Pieces

Hey there intrepid readers.  Spring has finally arrived and with it the sun, warmer temperatures, and allergies.  Here in New York, we were spared a harsh with minimal snowfall.  I don't think I ever took the snow shovel out of the shed.  It's nice  to have longer days and get outside for recreational activities.

I wanted to use this brief post to comment on a few topics instead one general theme.  My first topic is the great new album from Bruce Springsteen.  I have been listening, a lot, to his new album Wrecking Ball and reading his lyrics to many of the songs confirmed my suspicions of the track listings when I first read theme:  Bruce's comment on the state of the economy and the effects American greed has had on communities the last several decades.

Bruce puts in best in his song "Death to My Hometown" behind a celtic vibe singalong:

They destroyed our families’ factories and they took our homes
They left our bodies on the plains
The vultures picked our bones
So listen up, my Sonny boy
Be ready for when they come
For they’ll be returning sure as the rising sun
Now get yourself a song to sing and sing it ’til you’re done
Yeah, sing it hard and sing it well
Send the robber baron’s straight to hell
The greedy thieves that came around
And ate the flesh of everything they’ve found
Whose crimes have gone unpunished now
Walk the streets as free men now
And they brought death to our hometown, boys
Death to our hometown, boys
Death to our hometown, boys
Death to our hometown



The great thing about his lyrics is the individual interpretation one can make to any of the lyrics on the album.   In "Wrecking Ball" I find a note of optimism as Bruce sings:

Hard Times Come and Hard Times Go,
Yeah, Just To Come Again
Bring On Your Wrecking Ball
Bring On Your Wrecking Ball
C'mon Take Your Best Shot
Let Me See What You Got
Bring On Your Wrecking Ball

It's almost a challenge, an appeal to all that the worst we face will not take us down and we are stronger and resilent to any of the "Wrecking Ball(s)"  we face.

Thanks for a vital and much needed album for our times, Bruce Springsteen.

A bit of sad news comes this past month from Florida and has now entered the national consciousness.  In late February, 17 year old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed, while visiting his father in a gated community just outside Orlando.  The youth was walking home from a convenience store with a drink and candy and was observed by a community watch officer who phoned police dispatch and was told not to intervene.  He did so and that's where things took a tragic turn.  Trayvon Martin was shot after some scuffle and the watch officer, George Zimmerman was not charged by local authorities as he has claimed he shot in self defense.  Now the state and federal justice department are looking into civil rights violations.

Truely a disturbing and tragic story.  In my opinion, Zimmerman should have complied with the police dispatch and let Trayvon go about his business.  The police, after all, should be better trained to deal with these matters.  The nature of Zimmerman's training as a "safety patrol" officer can be called into question.  I know whenever I have visited my in-laws at their gated community in Florida, they leave all of our names with their front gate security people.  This story has only grown in the national discourse over the last few months and will probably remain in the news for some time to come. 



Finally, my football team, The New York Jets traded for QB Tim Tebow yesterday.  Inital thoughts were maybe they needed to initate a prayer group in the locker room.  Seriously, What are they thinking.  First they flirted with the possibility to get Payton Manning. When he decided he had no interest in the Jets, the Jets resigned their current QB, Mark Sanchez and lauded him with superlatives and saying he was their guy.  With this move, Tebow might be a distraction, What does Sanchez think about this?  How will this help the team?  It does bring some buzz and may help with the sale of tickets as the ownership of Woody Johnson seems like he wants to make the proverbial "Big Splash."




Anyway, That's all for now.  Drop me a line readers, I would love to hear what's on your mind.






Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Patrick's Day - A Refelction

Yesterday, March 17, was St. Patrick's Day.   A day which has long been one of refelection and celebration of all things Irish here in the USA.  This day also heralds the imminent spring and it is very evident here where I live, New York.  Trees are starting to bud and green shoots are coming out of the ground.  Also, my allergies have been killing me this weekend.

Growing up, there was always the decor and celebration of St. Patrick's Day at home and school.  Green decorations were all around and the call of Erin Go Bragh - Ireland Forever was prominently featured in a sign at home.  The Irish in America have come along way since their arrival beginning in the mid 1800's and continuing to this day, although in smaller numbers.  The Irish were not greeted with open arms, infact they were look upon as dirty, ignorant, and violent.  No Irish Need Apply signs were displayed in the windows of businesses looking for employees. 

Despite the antipathy aimed squarely in their direction, the Irish through their determination, hard work, and tenacity made important contributions to the American mosaic.  They fought in the American Civil War, helped build the Transcontinental Railroad, and several generations later they could claim a President as one of their own.

Today, the Irish example is emulated by other foreign born peoples.  From Asia and from the Southern Hemisphere these new arrivals seek better lives and a chance at the "American Dream."  In fact, my in laws did such a thing almost 50 years ago and worked hard and raised a family and are now retired and enjoy their grandchildren.  Was it easy for them?  Was it easy for the Irish, no.  However, we must recognize the important contribution made by immigrants to the fabric of American, both yesterday, today, and tommorrow.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Leo the Lion King

Yesterday evening I received word that my father had to be admitted into the hospital.  In the morning he had joined three of my brothers to attend SUNY Stony Brook's basketball game.  From what I was told, he appeared pale upon arrival and said he was dizzy before going into the gymnasium.  An ambulance was called and my oldest brother, who's a Doctor, went over to the SUNY Stony Brook Hospital with Dad.

I heard by the time he went to his room, he was feeling better and that he should be coming home today.  Hearing this news yesterday made me very reflective and grateful that I've had my father in my life.  I am who I am thanks to the example and lessons he, along with my mother,provided my brothers and sisters in our home.  These lessons continue to carry over today in how I raise my three children.

I am amazed that he and my mother raised 12 children in a tiny Levittown house.  In our house there were no basements to banish the kids to when they get too loud.  Was it perfect?  No, but what household is perfect?  It just worked for us and the result is 12 productive children and 28 grandchildren with 2 more on the way. 

Dad, you are Leo the Lion King and I hope you're feeling better soon  as we enter the spring season and warmer days ahead.

Love,

Steve

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Look up to the Sky

My theme today is taken from an editorial which ran in Saturday March 3, 2012 edition of The New York Times.  Titled "In the Sky Above", the editorial notes that over the next few nights in the western sky there will be a chance to view not only the Moon but also the planets Venus and Jupiter in a unique and rare alignment. 

The editorial mentions that over the next few days it will appear as though Venus and Jupiter will be getting closer to each other and in the eastern sky Mars will be rising. 

All of this movement makes me reflect on how those looking up to the sky hundreds of years ago viewed Earth as the fixed point, the center of the universe, which these planets and other heavenly bodies revolved around.  Today, we know that isn't the case as we know the Earth makes its annual passage around the Sun just like our other neighbors do in this solar system. 

I also think of how truely small and fragile we all are on this planet when I look up to the sky.  When we consider the size and scope of our place in the solar system, it makes all our problems a lot smaller and for a few moments forgotten.

So take a look up at the skies this week as we reach a full Moon on March 8 and marvel at the wonder of life and place in it all as we trek on spaceship Earth surrounded by our celestial neighbors. 



Sunday, February 26, 2012

Teaching, Time, and Twitter

My latest post takes its inspiration from the recent news of New York City's Department of Education release of teacher ratings, about 18,000 total.  The reverberations from this past Friday's discharge of this information has sent shockwaves across the education community.  These Teacher Data Reports (TDR) covered three school years ending in 2010 and were intended to show how much value individual teachers add.  This was measured  by determining how much their students’ test scores exceeded or fell short of expectations based on demographics and prior performance. 

These "value added assessments" are being used in increasing numbers in teacher evaluation but they are an imprecise science.  The New York Times reports that "the the margin of error is so wide that the average confidence interval around each rating spanned 35 percentiles in math and 53 in English."  Also in some instances, some teachers were judged on as few as 10 students. The article has a quote from the city's number 2 education official, Shael Polakow-Suransky who commented "The purpose of these reports is not to look at any individual score in isolation, ever."  However, I believe that's what will happen with the distribution of these reports.  Parents will now have some form of evaluation for the teachers of their children regardless of the flaws inherent in such a  large scale effort as rating teachers over three years.  I won't review the entire article but if it interest you please follow the link below.

Times report on Teacher Ratings


It's clear to me that this news serves some political agenda.  Mayor Bloomberg has put forth many education "reforms" during his tenure as Mayor.  From Mayoral control of schools to Cathy Black.  Now Governor Cuomo seeks to have some form of evaluation of teachers statewide put in place.  Is there a "one size fits all solution" to this madness.  Sadly, there is not.  Just as there is no one way to teach a child, there is no fair way to evaluate the hard work, effort, sacrafice and intrinsic value of a teacher. 

I became a teacher after working for several years as a cog for a cold corporation.  I sought this path because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children who will be inheirting the mess we've made of our world.  However, it seems my timing is not the greatest.  Since I began my studies towards my Master's Degree and graduation, encompassing the years 2006-2010, we have experienced one of the worst economic implosions since the Great Depression.  At the same time, corporate reformers have set their sights on the public funding of education.  As Willy Sutton said about banks, the same is true of education.  To paraphrase Sutton, the corporate reformers go where the money is and it is there in public education.  Also the emphasis on standardized testing is just plain idiotic.  Our future leaders needs to learn critical thinking skills, to problem solve, collaborate, and be creative.  How do you learn these skills?  Not from a standardized test.

To be sure the effect on me has been one of  limited opportunities for me to enter a field I know I can make a difference.  Could it be due to lack of teacher turnover as teachers nearing retirement hang on a year or two more?  Have cutbacks in school districts due to shrinking school budgets impacted my chances of being hired as a teacher?  Sure there is always a cause and effect and as I reflected earlier my timing has never been great.  Thank you economy and real estate bubble.

Where do we go from here?  Well I believe the solution is quite clear and it's harnessing the power of social media via Twitter.  The dissemination of information and exchange of ideas via social media was instrumental in  toppling despots in the Middle East during the Arab Spring last year.  Now it can be employed to organize and rebut the corporate reformers and politicos who seek to turn education into a passionless, clinical, numbers first kids second enterprise.

Since I began using Twitter and through last year, I have followed many caring, knowledgeable educators and individuals from other fields.  I have also been fortunate to have several of them follow me as well.  First, thank you for all that you do and for the perspectives you share.  The professional development I have found via Twitter has been wonderful.  The following individuals, in my opinion, should be followed on Twitter for their knowledgeable views on education:

DianeRavitch - @DianeRavitch - Noted education historian, ed policy analyst, and Former Assistant Secretary of Education.

leoniehaimson - @leoniehaimson - Parent Advocate Ex Director of Class Size Matters.



 


I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.

John Steinbeck





 




Friday, February 17, 2012

The Boss

As the winter days keep getting longer, heralding the upcoming season of spring, I have had some difficulty coming up with something to write about for the blog.  I wanted to move away from commenting about events in the news despite the fact that there's been so much to discuss.  So to catch up with the last few weeks, I will offer a brief, first thing that comes to mind comment.

NY Giants win the Super Bowl - Nice job G-men against the Pats.
No snow this winter, at least here in New York/Long Island - No complaints here.
New York Basketball - Jeremy Lin, Linsanity continues Go Knicks.
Gary Carter -  Thanks for the 86 season and World Series Kid.
Whitney Houston - So sad, so talented, unfortunately an all too familiar script.

For the remainder of my post I have decided to discuss a musician that has maintained a professional career for 40 years.  He and his band opened this year's Grammy Awards.  He needs little introduction other than his instantly recognizable nickname: The Boss.

I'm talking about Bruce Springsteen.  I have been a fan for quite some time and growing up as one of 12 children, I was surrounded by many musical influences from my older brothers and sisters.  Bruce Springsteen was one of the artists popular with my oldest brother.  I remember listening to his vinyl copy of Born to Run, an album that was a make or break album for Springsteen when it was released.  Born to Run is one of those albums that you need to listen to in its entirety once in your life as you take the long drive, down the Jersey Turnpike or ramble down some other long highway. 

I love Darkness on the Edge of Town.  This album packs a wallop with songs of  intensity such as Adam Raised a Cain and Prove It All Night and in my opinion this album showcases some of Bruce's best lyrics.  In his song The Promised Land, Bruce sings,

"I've done my best to live the right way
I get up every morning and go to work each day
But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold
Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode."



How many of us are the everyman embodied by this song.  We get up, we work and live our lives with no fanfare.  Springsteen is singing for the everyman, who lives and works for no other reason than that was what was expected of him.

1980's The River was a double album release.  In it Springsteen backed by the E-Street Band claim the mantel of best band with a straightforward rollocking "rock and roll" album.  Beyond the fun songs like Out in The Streets, Sherry Darling and Hungry Heart, Bruce takes on mature themes of relationships and marriage.  In the title song "The River"  Springsteen paints the picture of a young couple who marry young and begin their lives together but then hard times hit and as Springsteen puts it best

"I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company
But lately there ain't been much work on account of the economy
Now all them things that seemed so important
Well mister they vanished right into the air
Now I just act like I don't remember
Mary acts like she don't care."



Bruce followed up The River by releasing an album of demos he meant to flesh out with the E-Street Band but changed his mind.  Nebraska is just Bruce, his guitar and songs of desperate men and women and situations out of their control.  In Johnny 99, Bruce sings about Ralph who lost his job at the auto plant, couldn't find a job, got drunk one night, got a gun and shot a night clerk.  Johnny 99 when arrested and facing the judge makes the following statement,

"Now judge I had debts no honest man could pay
The bank was holdin' my mortgage and they were gonna take my house away
Now I ain't sayin' that makes me an innocent man
But it was more 'n all this that put that gun in my hand."



For his next release, in 1984, Bruce gathered the E-Street Band and released Born in the USA.  The song Born in the USA was misundertood at the time and appropriated by Ronald Regan seeking reelection that year.  Bruce refuted the vision of Regan's America pointing out that the song's protagonist, a Vietnam Veteran, has trouble integrating back into life in Reagan's America.

The album is so solid with other standout tracks being:  Cover Me, I'm On Fire, No Surrender, Glory Days and My HometownMy Hometown has particular resonance 28 years later as the vacant stores and whitewashed windows mentioned in the song are found in hometowns across 2012 America.  In the song, the textile mill closes down and those jobs are never coming back. 



Springsteen got married in the late 80's and he followed up Born in the USA with the personal 1987's Tunnel of Love.  In the album the songs center on the doubts and fears Bruce had in his short marriage to actress Julianne Phillips.   This album is intimate, quiet and an exploration of the four letter word l-o-v-e.  My favorites on this album include One Step Up and Brilliant Disguise.

Human Touch and Lucky Town, were released simulatneously in 1992.  Perhaps Bruce should have released one cohesive album, but hey he could do whatever he wanted at the time.  Also, these albums found Bruce working with other muscians and not the entire E-Street Band.  I saw him on tour in 1993 in Phoenix and though it was a good show, it was not as as good as the show I saw at Madison Square Garden in 2000 with the E-Street Band. 

Springsteen reunited with the E-Street Band on his Greatest Hits release of 1995 and later for an original album 2002's  The RisingThe Rising is notable for Springsteen's response to the loss and trauma following the 9-11 attacks. 

Fast forward to 2008 and Springsteen's endorsement of Barack Obama.  Following his election, Springsteen released 2009's Working on a Dream.  In the title song he sings,

"Now the cards I've drawn's a rough hand, darling
I straighten my back and I'm working on a dream
I'm working on a dream
I'm working on a dream
Though sometimes it feels so far away
I'm working on a dream
I know it will be mine someday."

Next month will see the release of Bruce's new album Wrecking Ball.  Already a single has been released, We Take Care of our Own.  It's a catchy song and I read the lyrics as a call to Americans to take care of those who have been hit by tough times as we are all Americans and we should take care of our own.  Reading the track listings, I'm curious to hear and read the lyrics to Death to My Hometown and The Depression.  I'm sure these songs will capture the mood of the current state of economic uncertainty perfectly. 



Bruce Springsteen is the Boss everyone would love to have.  One that stands up for the average man.   The Boss who inspires others to work together for the greater good.  As a fan and a listener to Bruce Springsteen, I want to thank him for the great music he and the E-Street Band has made for all his fans.  Most importantly, I thank him for the efforts he has made for local charities and to organizations like Amnesty International to raise awareness of inhumane conditions and support for political prisoners throughout the world.  Perhaps Bruce's new release will inspire all of us to "take care of our own" and make our hometowns a better place for all. 

Thanks Bruce.