Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Burning a Summer CD

I haven't burned an audio c.d. in some time, but thought I'd compile a good 20 songs to roam Syracuse this summer while going back and forth to Say Yes To Education. My goal is to leave it in the truck's c.d. player so it is embedded with my 8 week experience in a thematic way. I put this James Taylor song on the disc, but never saw him sing it live. What a hippy! Quirky as it is, I miss my youth and long hair, too.

Monday, June 29, 2009

And on the 7th Day.

Rest! After a seven hour celebration at Limp Lizard Barbecue in Syracuse for Mike's 40th on Saturday night, Sunday was spent trying to squeak by on minimal sleep and a lack of total energy. I got a run in and some pool time, but my head tried to reinvent itself all day. I am not a college student who can keep collegiate hours any more, and consequently, celebrating at a bar with an incredible band, Rhythm Method, has me feeling rather geriatric. Either way, the forty lickings Mike received for his birthday were worth it. I think we're through until his 80th.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Two Week Institute

For the last two weeks I had the honor of working with 130 college students with preparation to enrich the lives of 800 k - 3 students in Syracuse City School District. The summer institute was a rigorous introduction to some of the obstacles in young people may face and several of the intellectual challenges our society should consider. The goal of our summer camps is to promote life-long learning through five weeks of fun, enlightenment and hands-on experiences.

Each counselor is assigned to a school and will assist teachers who are working with summer school curriculum. In the afternoon, the students will become campers and learn to step dance, do hip hop, play lacrosse, sculpt monuments, hike on nature trails, do community service, learn to play trumpet, etc. It is a summer camp that promotes SAYing YES to EDUCATION is important. George Weiss gave a keynote speech at yesterday's culminating, institute event. His words were inspirational, moving and intelligent. From D.K.U.! to Roberts! Say Yes! Passport! Success!, all the college counselors of the summer institute stepped up and are now ready to promote the importance of being active learners in the 21st Century. I have had my quirky moments while teaching and training our first cohort, but I feel I'm a part of a historical movement that works. The two weeks have been enormous.

Say Yes to Education Summer Camp Training

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Nikki

It was Nikki's birthday! She's officially a teenager and last night we celebrated her thirteenth with a Dweebs, Geeks and Weirdos party. It was a nice way to end a quirky, spastic week. With revenge of the nerds, we've officially added a new dork to the mix. There's nothing horrible about this. The world needs more nitwits. For those of of us who grew up in the 1980s, there was never a more triumphant comeback than the spazagazoinks in this film.

Friday, June 26, 2009

When the Fawcetts pour out Jackson Juice.

Gilda Radner once said, "I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity."

May your day of Farahlessness be ambiguous and full of moonwalks.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

At 3 a.m. Tuesday Night

There was no storm, but I heard the cracking of trees. I awoke to see a large limb fell out front, barely missing my house. I had to go to work, though, and after a nine hour day, I came home with the Super Stolz team of Karl and Nathan to my rescue. They buzz sawed and I piled. Dad supervised. We finished around eight, and the timing of the tree added a quirky twist to an already hectic day. When I have more time to process my day, yesterday, I will be able to chuckle a little more at the humor. Let's just say it was one of those days that almost pushed me over the edge.

It too shall pass.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Party Quirks

Personally, I prefer living my life with the possibilities of Improv at every moment. Today's world work (homework that transcends school) is for you to move into a situation today as a bizarre character until someone guesses exactly who you are and what your issue actually is. See if they can guess what you're up to.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

One Bottle of Pop

Be patient with this video. It starts out quiet, but then it gets going. I was looking for this musical round that I had SU students sing yesterday, but I couldn't find it. Instead, I found this wonderful rendition of another classic my mother taught us to sing when we were kids. It looks like I have a lesson plan for today. Go me.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Barrel of Crackers

I began yesterday with a Father's Day celebration at Cracker Barrel. Unfortunately, my food was not cooked and I ate it. To make a long story short, my stomach quickly turned and it made for a day of gurgles, groans and toilet bowl moans. (Note to self: A Bryan letter is deserved. Perhaps a free meal will come from it).

While eating, my father mentioned that it's hard to get a diner feel at a Cracker Barrel and he's right. One of our other abodes is Thee Diner, and they have photographs hung around the establishment of all their customers. That provides a community feel, indeed. I imagine that even with a world of Walmarts, strip malls and fast food chains, the ol' fashioned diner can't be replaced. Cracker Barrel tries with the quirky country store attempt, but in the end there is nothing like a dive for the locals to begin their day. Coffee. Bacon. Eggs. Toast. It makes a difference when the clientele are regulars and, like Cheers, everybody knows your name.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

the last summer of my youth -a pan for frying

I heard from Amy Ritchie tonight. She and I traveled overseas as Kentucky's first generation of English Speaking Union Scholarship recipients. We traveled to Cambridge, England, but had enough money to travel to Denmark, Ireland and Scotland, too. The summer was miraculous.

I'm not sure if you're listening to this song, Frying Pan, as you're reading my words, but my goal is to type the words as I'm listening to the song. We drove two cars that summer: We began with Dianna, but traded her in for Fergie, because she was more like the two of us. Either way, before we left, Amy made a traveling cassette we could listen to while on the road. This was the one song that bonded us the most. We'd play it over and over again while driving the countryside of England before finding our rooms at Cambridge University.

The two of us look at this time as the last years of our youth. Amy is married now with two kids, living a beautiful life as a teacher and mother. She still sings and is amazing. I am still searching for answers, now at Syracuse University, and together, the two of us are still walking the line while looking in the frying pan.

In England, we met a plethora of people, including Australians and Irish folk whom we fell in love with, often bonding over our common ancestry from Great Britain imperialism. Watching this video is odd for me because I've only known the words and sound. Now I see the man whose voice box it arrives from. My memory comes from the green of Great Britain and not a shaggy dude with a guitar. For me, Evan Dondo has always been a muse from anglo speakers. His song is a part of my heart beat.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Because dragons are smarter than I'll ever be

I had the fortune of being an undergraduate at Binghamton University from 1990 - 1994. The first creative writing class I ever took was from David Bosnick (who now teaches 8th grade). He is married to Liz Rosenberg who was at the Carousel Mall last night signing her new book, Home Repair. If you haven't read any of her books, I recommend you get to a library and start reading. She is a brilliant writer.

I knew John Gardner taught at Binghamton, but he died in a motorcycle accident. His novel, Grendel, is a book I taught to 11th graders for years. I did not know Liz Rosenberg was married to him. I talked with her last night about the HUGE impact his novel had on many of my students and me.

I can't help but find this quirky coincidence of going to get an autographed copy of her new book as a miraculous choice in my decisions of how to spend an evening. I wouldn't have been able to have a reunion with her and David Bosnick, nor would I have been able to talk about Grendel with them if I didn't go.

Wisdom, I suppose, is not getting caught up in the barbaric nature of humanity. Yet, if I chose to ignore humanity, I wouldn't have learned the power of how real-life story is just as magical as fiction. The fates are strange, indeed.


Friday, June 19, 2009

I'm a dork

What does Bryan do in an auditorium full of 130 college students? He resorts to quirkiness. Before he can stop himself, he has everyone standing up and singing a camp sung called "baby shark." They follow along and conform.

I'm now wondering if a 37 year old kid can play at the college level and still be successful?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What dinosaurs say?

Chris Wildrick presented to my students today on his work on understanding dinosaurs. He's fascinated by how we create the idea of a dinosaur to meet our modern needs and some of his art work is to present and graph how we understand them. Today, he showed us video clips of individuals (including children) making dinosaur noises. To get to his website, simply click this link! Go to the left, and enter his Project archive. Scroll down to the Paleontology section and click on "Talk the Talk." Enjoy.
Your homework for today is to make dinosaur noises towards at least one person you know. Try to do it when they least expect it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

because, yeah

Back into the rat race of a hectic work week, I decided to sustain a daily running pattern with one minor adaptation. I felt my time was too short to change into running socks. What did I do? I ran in my business socks along North Syracuse pavement and sang, like my nephew Sean, "I'm running. I'm running." I figured if anyone asked me why I ran in business socks, I could also answer like Sean, responding, "Because, (pause) yeah."

Because (yeah) I can and I did.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Well, I've said yes

I've joined the Say Yes team at Syracuse University for the next eight weeks to cover a maternity leave. Today, I worked with an immediate team and then the 130 counselors who will work with 600 students, k - 3, in Syracuse City Schools this summer. The vision is solid, the funding is secure, the passion is addictive and the dreams are huge.

A lot went through my mind on day one, but above all else, I could honestly say these 130 college students and the 600 elementary students who are being served in this program are being given an irreplaceable opportunity to learn, play, explore, make money and seriously think about saying yes to education in their future. The investment is huge..

The hard work for me and for them is offering each young kid the best opportunity of their learning life, to keep each aiming high and to remind all of us that it can't be done without perseverance, a focus, and an enormous understanding that not all children in this country grow up with the same childhoods. For some, stolen childhoods have been the norm for many generations. The inequities in our culture are the quirkiest statement I've yet to make on this blog.

Here's to the next eight weeks and to the hope for the future.

Monday, June 15, 2009


There's nothing I enjoy better than a quirky burst of energy that springs me beyond my own inhibitions and towards a more strenuous run.

Yesterday, I began my usual trek of Saucony leaping when I felt I had it in me to make it to my sister's house. When I arrived, Mike was mowing the lawn and I had time to scare him before another adrenaline rush kicked in and I was able to jog over to my parents. The sun was out, the traffic was light and the run was beautiful. I made it to my folks soaked to capacity and ready for a glass of water.

Sundays are meant for such sojourns and Mondays are meant to soak sore muscles. The real test will be when I can run all the way to Manlius!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

llamenting a late post

The quirky thing about today's post is I failed to post it in my normal fashion. Why? Because I was sidetracked by a parade and a baseball game that kept my mind otherwise preoccupied.

The Cicero festival, however, made my day. I was captivated by a team of marching llamas that seemed peculiar to Central New York. I was mesmerized by a full length costume of a llama that a man, driving a four wheeler, wore - his face looking out from a neck and the llama head a good two feet above his scalp. I want such a costume to go to Wegmans in. I'm llamenting that I can't find the costume online to purchase. I believe the world would be a better place if more humans dressed as llamas and made themselves known. No?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Continuing a Water Theme

A year ago I was on Oneida Lake with my father fishing, so it seemed appropriate to be there again yesterday. We stopped at Thee Diner for breakfast, and then out to his boat. We hoped to tap into Walleyes, but didn't. The ominous rain clouds of yesterday were still in the air, but it turned into a great morning to fish.

Later that evening, Cynderballs, Dylan, Mike and I went to Brewerton for ice cream (is it possible to hit every Central, New York, spot this summer?). Afterwards, we drove along Oneida Lake and I got to see all the new homes that have gone up and look in envy at abodes I didn't know existed in Cicero. I now see why the tax base has gone up and how my alma mater can afford to pay their teachers more than most districts. The region has definitely changed. Seeing the sun along the shoreline and smelling the fresh lake air was one of they number one reasons for returning home. Now, if only I can figure out a way to afford one of those homes. Dang.

Friday, June 12, 2009

All Summer in a Day

I remember one story from my middle school days that we read in school. It was Ray Bradbury's All Summer In A Day. All Summer in a Day (found at this link for online reading) is about futuristic bullying and how one girl is denied access to the sun because of cruel kids.

Often, I reflected on this story because it reminded me so much of CNY rain and the gray days infamous to Syracuse. This spring and summer, though, we've had little rain and yesterday's showers reminded me of the story. It's a quick read if you're inclined to read on screen and I highly recommend it. Because of the dryness, I was very thankful to see the rain fall again.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I witnessed this award winning commercial on Good Morning, America! and laughed at its techno music and eye ballet. I don't have the rare talent of being able to wave both eyebrows so I'm impressed by the quirky talent of these two kids. Thursday's challenge is to look in the rearview mirror as you're driving and to make your eyebrows dance to whatever fast song you can find on the radio. If you are even more talented, you are more than welcome to send me your eyebrow fox trot and I promise not to show anyone.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A quirky coincidence, indeed

I was sitting on the edge of my bed looking out the window when I saw a hummingbird feeding on a purple button bush. Celebration. I planted items to attract hummingbirds. The thing is, I also attracted a stray black cat who was watching the hummingbird feed. I tapped on the window to get the cat's attention and thew it a piece of chicken (which it ate while the bird flew off). I went out back to feed the cat another piece of chicken when it ran off. I left it outside for a later snack, but Baby the dog got it first. The moral of my little story is plants bring birds. Birds bring cats. Cats bring chicken. Dog eats well. Go figure.

Procrastination, June Style

Yesterday, I found ways to keep my weekend going after attending a meeting and then looking for reasons not to work on my personal goals and the academic pressures to be on top of my game. First I ran an extra two miles than I usually do. Then I walked the dog. I went to the gym and grocery shopped. I came home and ironed a semester's worth of shirts. Finally, I read Susan Vaught's Big Fat Manifesto. I'm now thinking about ideal weights, body image and the stress of trying to fit a cultural mode that some bodies aren't designed to do. A quirky day indeed.

In the story, a young senior in high school writes about her boyfriend who chooses to have gastro-intestinal surgery to lose weight. Overweight herself, she works to unravel the risks of the procedure and to write a critique of thinness in her school's newspaper. It received national recognition, but also unravels her own insecurities, fears and troubles.

I'm left more knowledgeable about the stress of losing weight and how traumatic it is for young people, especially those labeled obese by their physicians. It helps me to recall the life time diet I've watched many relatives ebb and flow through. I recall my own drive to run for weight monitoring and the psychological drama of wondering what it would be like to genetically have a Hollywood body. Normal bodied people, I imagine, don't stress about weight because it's not an issue.

At the heart of this adolescent novel is the tension of trying to fit a 'norm' of acceptable being. There is no normal, though, and abnormality is more common than not. I'm going to think about this book for some time. It was well done and although it was a part of my procrastination, it is also a part of the work I do. I'm always a sucker for an adolescent story.

Monday, June 8, 2009

another 80s flashback

Riding my mountain bike today (with no hair and a helmet), I had a flashback of trying to be cool in the 1980s with my Schwinn ten-speed bike. In my tweens, all the cool, older kids could ride their ten speed bikes with no hands. This was impressive, but what was more amazing is how they could pull their thick-bristled combs from the back of tight jeans and feather their hair while riding. I knew I wanted to be like these kids. It was just that I was a hundred pounds heavier, flat footed and without much talent of feathering my hair while riding with no hands on my handlebars. Instead, I ended up with scabbed knees and bruises. Still, I tried and that has to count for something, no?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Total Eclipse of the Heart

A friend of mine found this doozy on YouTube; a total lyrical rendition and play by play of Bonnie Taylor's Total Eclipse of the Heart. Sunday morning seems like a good day to begin with quirky parody and spoof.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I'm down with J.C.B., Yeah you know me!

Because it's been a great week and we're happy for the Barnwell crew.

Friday, June 5, 2009

E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."

Students at the J. Graham Brown School, class of 2009, graduated last night. These are students I did not teach, but who I knew from the way they moved through hallways and high school (except Jordan Smith - he was in my pre-school Nature camp at the Louisville Nature Center when he was three years old. We knew each other before we knew Brown). I am thinking about the seniors today, especially after reading President Obama's speech to the Muslim world where he quotes, "E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."

That is the America and the Brown School way. Plurality. It made me recall Alice's photograph from this year's senior trip to Florida and my comment, 'Whether they know it or not, this is symbolic. Very Brown." It was the cover of their graduation program and stands as a testimony that their shadows, though united for a brief period of time, are facing new waters in the great unknown. On this quirky Friday, I congratulate the class of 2009 (and President Obama) for the hopeful efforts of trying to make in the 21st Century a stronger place on the globe. Perhaps it's a coincidence, 2009, but when I came home yesterday afternoon there was one flower blooming in my garden: a giant white daisy. For years, Alice and I gave every graduating senior a white daisy in honor of Harold & Maude. Today, I give all the graduates at the J. Graham Brown School a cyberspace daisy in honor of their achievement and my sadness I didn't get a chance to teach them.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Another Nature Post

Easter tent caterpillars are everywhere. As a kid, I used to pick up the fuzzy insects as they climbed along the outside of our house. As an adult, I strategically hop along the pavement trying to avoid the hundreds as they are moving from egg into chrysalis stage across pavement. I remember, once, when I saw them being burned out of a tree and I heard their screeching. As quirky as it is, I didn't have any recollection as to what butterfly they become. I mean, if they are everywhere in fuzzy form, what do they look like as adults? Well, this is what they look like as adults. Not the prettiest creature, but one of flight, nonetheless. So there.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Proper English

I've always been a huge fan of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. I am thinking of him today as I read Dalton Conley's Honky about a white boy growing up in the projects of New York City. As the only white boy in his diverse childhood, his memoir has me thinking about language construction and how "proper" comes to be, especially in a quirky, plural society like our own.

Here's a quote that got me thinking, "While adults might speak only Spanish, or talk with a heavy drawl if they came from down South, our way of talking was like a layered cake; it had many distinctly rich flavors, but in our mouths they all got mixed up together. When we "snapped" on each other, little did we know we were using the same ironic lilt and intonation once employed in the Jewish shtetls of Central Euorpe. This Yiddish-like English had mixed with influences from southern Italians, Irish, and other immigrant groups to form the basic New Yorkese of the mid-twentieth century. We spoke with open vowels and dropped our rs: quater was quartah, and water was watah. To this European stew we added the Southern tendency to cut off the endings of some words - runnin', skippin', jumpin' - a habit that came northward with many blacks during the Great Migration. We also turned our ts into ds, as in, "Lemme get fiddy cents."

My thinking on this is that there may have once been a conception of proper English that was aligned with aristocracy from European, English elites, but in America, language has been a mutlicultural, hodgepodge of dialect for many generations. Voice, then, becomes the ability one has in expressing in the language of their home culture, school learning and willingness to communicate. Proper is a blending of all the dialects.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A June Addition

Yesterday, at 4 a.m., my sister Casey called me and said she was leaking.

Seventeen plus hours later, the latest addition to the Crandall/Barnwell posse arrived -- taking his sweet ol' time and chillin' at the keg party within.

Rumor is Casey finally laughed him out when something tickled her funny bone. (If we'd known that, we would have made her laugh a lot sooner).

Sean is now a big brother.  Although names have been tossed around, nothing has been decided yet.  More to come.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bizarre Love Triangle

I thought I'd post this morning on a quirky song I listened to every morning on MTV before going to school in my senior year. It was a song by Midnight Oil, Beds are Burning, but it is blocked from being embedded. You can, however, listen to it on YouTube.  For some reason, MTV (when it used to play music) always had their video on right before I'd leave for school.

Not able to get their video, I thought about Frente's Bizarre Love Triangle and found that instead. I can't remember where I first heard it, but when it comes on my iPod, I think, okay, this is a decent song from my past.  Catchy, in fact.

I'm not sure how I jumped from Midnight Oil to Frente, but I did and the consequence for this quirky mind is a submission of the Bizarre Love Triangle video on this Monday. Enjoy.