Thursday, December 31, 2009

Casey wants blog time, but I want to say goodbye to 2009

Well, I accomplished another year of posting: 365 days of quirkiness. It became a pattern to my days just like waking up, showering, and brushing my teeth. This video is a collection of snap shots of the year and captures some of the events that were a part of 2009. The greatest addition, of course, was Jacob Charles. I leave this as my last post. Bon Voyage, Quirky.

Casey and Dave did all their Christmas shopping at Ollie's. There, they purchased Where Willy Went... by Nicholas Allen. It is the big story of a little sperm who races another named Butch. The Butch page is a pull out.

Together, they spent $2.99 for the book and I have to say I was delighted to read it to my family, especially the part about Butch the sperm - after all, I am a son of a Butch. They did spend $1.99, though, over what I spent on the Roddy Doyle book I posted about yesterday.

The drawings are a bit off, but it is an educational text. For those of you who collect books, this is definitely one for the shelf.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dublin as a Metaphor

In 1992, I visited Ireland for the first time. I was nineteen and traveled to find a good beer. Actually, I fell in love with the wetness of the country, but also the beauty of its traditions.

Nine years later I would return to Ireland as part of my English Speaking Union scholarship to study at Cambridge. Amy, my travel partner, and I found a new Ireland. It was prospering in IBMs investment into making it a technological hub. The poverty and struggle witnessed as a nineteen year old changed to one of excess as a 28 year old.

Then I wandered into a dollar store in Cicero, New York, and found a book by the Irish writer, Roddy Doyle. At the University of Louisville, I was told I wrote like the bloke and so I picked up Patty Clark Ha-Ha-Ha and questioned the comparison. My $1 find, The Deportees and Other Stories, written by Doyle has me reveling in my cheap find. It is wonderfully written and I love how it takes on the growing diversity of a Dublin crowd. Like most of the English speaking world that maintained its colonial, imperialist ties with Great Britain, Ireland has found itself as a multicultural nation and Doyle explores what this means to a country with immense pride for its being Irish.

It is beautifully written and I recommend it all I know.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Not the Louisville I knew

So, the quirky thing about having a smidge of free time, is I occasionally find a moment to scroll through my channels to find something stupid to read to. Well, I found it! Southern Belles Louisville!

All the years I was there and I never met any of these women. I must have been in the wrong circle of people - the Brown School people (which obviously resemble the women on this program!).

In truth, it is great to see the everyday sights and markers of the city I knew for so long. Was it me, or did the Daddy's girl and her fiance share a bagel at Nancy's? How'd I miss out on this lifestyle? I thought it only visited at Derby time!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cynde and Sesame Street

What do Cynderballs and Sesame Street have in common?
They both celebrated their 4oth birthday in 2009.

Today, December 28th, is my older sister's celebration of life! For the last 40 years she's been gracing my parents and Central New York with her sense of humor, her dedication to her family, her hard work, and her dreams. It seems almost impossible to say she's been at it for 40 years, but I'm right on her heals so I might as well get used to saying it. 40 years, Cynde! 40 years!
Time flies so we must be having fun.

Happy Birthday! (Click the Link, Cynde)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ducate Furnaces

Actually, Ducane. I called them Ducate all day yesterday as a joke.

Yep, furnace man Bryan strikes again. I helped Mike do an install all day Saturday and learned more skills (while proving to Mike I continually lack skills). Even so, I really enjoy the hands on work and gaining new perspectives on household operations. As with any home repair, every job takes a good four more hours than planned.

Pooped, I came home and put my holiday decorates away and dusted myself off in preparation for 2010. Quirky as it is, I'm ready for a new year to come.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

How I Spent My Christmas

There's a reason I don't have video games in my house. Why? They are addicting.

Casey was the master at Nintendo, and I barely graduated from Pac Man. I could coach, but I couldn't play. Even so, I bought Dylan Raving Rabbids for his Wii, and I quickly was addicted. I wasted a large portion of my day throwing plungers and whacking whacky rabbits who were singing out of tune. The Gladiator arena saw the boos and jeers go to minor applause and cheers as I moved through more and more levels. The mindlessness was mindful, and I was mindful of my mindlessness. I retired about dinner time and said, "No more." I easily could have played for twelve hours.

Games are life's quirky way of hypnotizing us from doing anything productive. It was a truly wonderful way to spend a day.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, 2009

Cynderballs hosted Christmas Eve this year and we all survived it. I wish all of you a great day, this Christmas, and hope Santa is both naughty and nice to you all. Enjoy your families and loved ones. That's what it is all about. Eat good food, drink good wine and cherish the excessive desserts.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Hard Knocks

KC used to watch Annie like a fiend, and tonight I heard this song again and thought of her. The lines, "Santa Claus we never see, Santa Claus, What's that, who's he?" has been in my head all day. In this time of giving, joy and absolute American excessiveness, I like to think about the little orphan Annies of the world and what might be done to make our globe a better place. I ask myself, "what have I done this year to spread the joy of love?" It is something we all should ask ourselves on Christmas Eve. Quirky as this is, the song is a classic.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Cuse is Looking Good

I made it to my first Orangemen game at the Dome and because the student section was light, I found my way close to the floor where Boeheim was in eye sight and we could see the Syracuse players charge the basket. The traffic out of the Dome was a bit ridiculous and I have to admit that it is quirky that people endure that traffic again and again. My thinking is it's cheaper, more fun, and definitely more comfortable to watch the games at home. Yes, the crowd moves ya' a bit, but this cheap 'bass turd' prefers the pay-less way. Sabit introduced me to his buddy, Wilson, who is playing for DeRuyter High School - a 7 foot Sudanese kid in DeRuyter. Now there's a story. It'd be nice to see him play for SU.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bry's latest read

I'm almost through with Warren St. John's Outcasts United and I can't write enough to express my appreciation for this book. The world works in mysterious ways and last week at soccer practice a woman asked me if I'd read this book and I hadn't. I bought it for myself as a holiday treat and have devoured it the last two days. For anyone who coaches, for anyone who teaches, for anyone who believes in the hope of America's democracy and for anyone who understands the struggles new Americans go through, I recommend this book. Featured here is the author speaking about his book. I'd enjoy hearing more of his wisdom, but in the mean time I post this in hopes you still may be able to have someone get it for you this holiday season.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Like an elephant in a China shop

About a year ago, my mom pulled out her grandmother's china and made a plea for one of us to take it. I looked at the pink tea roses and the gold trim on eggshell white and said, "Well, they won't look so hot with my dark woods, frogs and Buddhas." I immediately though of my friend Tricia who has a Victorian, older home and who decorates with the pristine delicateness of antiques, chandeliers, and intricate knick knacks. Being at Tricia's is like being in an English hotel for tea.

Tricia texted me last night wondering if she could rent the china for the holidays and I said I'd bring the stored boxes to her. I brought them home from my mother's, and yesterday morning I washed them all by hand. As I did this, I thought about Mimi, my mother's grandmother, using these plates, saucers and tea cups to entertain on special occasions. I packed them back up and felt a pang for history and all the conversations of yesteryear I wasn't a part of and will never know.

Unpacking them at Tricia's, I couldn't help but feel a quirky sense of coincidence as each piece of china matched perfectly with her aesthetic taste for the holidays. The setting of twelve is exactly how many she feeds at Christmas. So, I now can add party rental to my resume. To reserve pink, tea-rose china, simply send me a self-addressed stamped envelope. All parties must be considered by Butch and Sue, first, before I'm licensed to deliver.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

65 Years of Celebration

Last night was mom's 65th birthday party and we celebrated the pre-holiday hooplah with a round of cake, subs, and trail mix. As if it was practice for the chaos to come, everyone gathered for noise, argument, laughter and conversation. Poor Jake. He was so tired and had a posse of green goblins in his nostrils. He grew cranky in my arms until I rocked him to sleep. I envy the fact he could rest and chill out as all our noise surrounded him. Even so, the tranquility is an awesome gift for the Crandall~Barnwell~Isgar clan. Youth centers the old, that's for sure. It seems only yesterday he was incubating in Casey's stomach.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

So, SU Me!

I made a mental note to myself that yesterday would be my last day of work day until after Christmas. When I arrived to the office, however, Otto was waiting in the lobby. Then I learned I'm needed for a short time on Monday, so there goes that declaration. Orange you glad I posted this? Orange you glad I met Otto? Orange you glad we are about to have time off? Orange you ready to shoot me?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Reality Bites

When I graduated from Binghamton University with my undergraduate literature degree in English Literature in 1994, I rented a movie called Reality Bites starring Winona Ryder and River Phoenix. It was about naive graduates entering the "real world" (GAP clothing store jobs, relationships, becoming adult) and it featured Lisa Loeb's song, Stay. I watched the film by myself and it hit me as a big chill sort of flick - like it was an initiation, in film at least, of how harsh adulthood would really be. Still, the youth of the actors, the thrill of their fame, the narcissistic, yet optimistic drive of their ambition (or lack thereof), and the possibilities of being something bigger upon graduation, was harshly captured in a romantic, non-apocalyptic reality check of growing up. It bit. Reality bites, hence the title.

Last night, I started thinking about how cute Lisa Loeb was in her music video, but also how caught in a moment of my generation's time that film actually was. We get old. School finishes and we're kicked out to society, and society is more complicated, more severe, more difficult than any class could have prepared a student to know.

Quirky as it is, I embrace the song and hold onto it as a sacred gem of moving forward. A two hour film can't capture the harsh reality of making one's way into the world, but it touched upon my idealism at the time. No matter what anyone says, the song still resonates with me today.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What is English?

I am reading Bob Fecho's What is English? which philosophically recalls his high school teaching in urban Philadelphia and I am in love by his text and his complete honesty about being a white male who landed a position in a school district where he found his white, male pedagogy to be challenged and inspired by the students he taught.

What I love about his text is two fold. For one, he found a way to promote his students' roles in his room to be active and engaged with reading and writing the world. Second, I relate to his story: a coalition school, working with the National Writing Project, having a love for creative writing, and finding the traditional canons problematic for many of the populations he taught. Fecho turned his room into a laboratory for language and sought ways for all students to think about the way they communicated in a world where all languages, dialects and ideas are not valued nor supported. For those of you who read my quirky blog, you might find this book to be an interesting text of one teacher who kept his voice by supporting theirs. To me, that is what education is all about.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


For some reason, I kept thinking about the movie Gregory's Girl that I watched and rewatched again and again during the 1980s. Perhaps I was enthralled by the Australian accents, or maybe I saw my inner dork in the main character, but I recall LOVING this film. I now want to see it in its entirety again, and I'm afraid it may reveal more of my quirky personality than I even realized I had. I mean, reviewing this trailer has me giggling that this is the movie that kept crossing my mind all day. It must be further evidence that I'm going completely insane.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Preview of Dave Mathews Band to come

Nikki will be performing a song by Dave Mathew's Band this upcoming year which reminded me of one of my favorite songs ever - the kind of song that makes me extremely happy when it pops up in my earphones while walking or running. To me, this song is the perfect song to capture adolescence. I never tire of it. I'm not a cult follower of Dave Mathew's band (nor the frat life following they get), but this song is central to a quirky boy's imagination.

Monday, December 14, 2009

boys will be boys

I woke up yesterday morning before selling hotdogs at the Dome and read Ralph Fletcher's, Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices which is a collection of research studies on boys and writing, especially as it is known that girls surpass boys in literacy assessment. It's not an alarmist text, but it does note the tradition that boys and language arts do not often go hand in hand.

I loved the text, especially as Fletcher rallies for more freedom in the writing classroom for tolerant subjects and to, basically, let boys write about boy things. There are a lot of clever stories in the text (farting, barfing and stupid jokes) but there are also tales that reminded me of my childhood. In particular, I remember a time Peter Boy and I were riding our ten speeds and came across a vagabond of frogs. For some reason, we wanted to know what it would look like if we ran over the frogs with our wheels from the back. Pete went first and it was both disgusting and thrilling. I went second and, well, the ordeal was over. Two dead frogs was enough.

Fletcher writes that boys seek to know and take on adventurous quests to discover. He writes about the video game generation and how boys delve into deep fantasy as a way to gain control and problem solve. It is an indoor adventure of blood and guts for the 21st Century.

I've always confronted those who think reading and writing is for girls, but I can understand why it's seen this way: 90% of our teaching force is female. I'm thankful for Fletcher's text and am feeling a bit of quirky delight that it is out there. I am envious, however, that my friends and I were never able to make a tree, sling shot to throw our bodies across two lawns like Jack Gantos accomplished in the text. That would be exhilarating!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Because of the kindness of a Canadian friend, I was able to take Lossie, Abu and Robert, all from Liberia, to see the movie Invictus starring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman. Based on Nelson Mandela's use of the South African rugby team, the victory of the world cup is used as a way of uniting the complicated politics of a historical South Africa that is still a nation in the making, and one that has been troubled by a multicultural, divided community. It was a good film to see and to think about and I recommend it to all. Here is the poem that is handed to Matt Damon, captain of the team, by Morgan Freeman, president of the country.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Transitioning from high school to college, it was inevitable to pay attention to the Beverly Hills 90210 phenomenon. The California beach brats and their soap opera back stabbing became central to the haircuts and styles of my entrance to my twenties. Yes, it is stupid, but in a cold December like this, I recall the warmth the show brought me and my friends (especially as we made drinking games out of it and totally make fun of the program). There was something awkwardly charming to Tori Spelling - like owning a drooling boxer with eyes that bug out of its head. Of course, I grew up in Cherry Heights, 13401. For some reason, it didn't get any air time. Quirky to think that my box hair cut and flannel shirts wouldn't make my a Dylan McKay.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Divine Interventions

I went to the store after the gym, but failed to get dog biscuits. Baby's big, brown eyes look desperate as I unpacked the bags, and feeling guilty I opened a bag of Ritz crackers and gave her one. I thought she'd hate the make-shift treat, but she went crazy. She loved them. It must be the salt.

Then, tonight in class, the school was giving free H1N1 shots. I went down with Abu and Lossine and the nurse scooped me up and the next thing I knew, I was getting pricked with a needle and inoculated from pig disease.

So, I post today thanking the great whatever for his/her divine intervention. Swine Flu and Saltine wafers. Both meant to be.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I needed to retreat

Yesterday began with Baby leaving me a pile of her, "Oh, no. You won't make me go outside to do my business" on my floor. I then looked outside and saw the first round of old, man winter piled in my driveway, so I shoveled. I eventually made it to the library and then was called to do a favor for a friend whose car was hit and towed for repairs. She had to do portfolio presentations at SU, so I drove her there and afterwards we went to dinner at The Retreat in Liverpool. It was down the road from her house and it was my first time eating there - nice.

I threw in the towel at about 7 and enjoyed a relaxed dinner after a quirky day. I looked at this retreat as a long over-due retreat with a fellow Ph. D friend. Neither of us ever take time to chill out like that, but last night we did. Here's to us. (If you need directions, you can follow this map)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's one way to spend ten minutes

I wanted something to make me laugh and for some reason, I typed in 1990 onto YouTube and had a bit of flashback. It wasn't quirky at the time, but this was the music of 1990 condensed into a billboard briefing. Of course, by this time I was watching MTV's 120 minutes at midnite and aligning with non-pop music (I was so cool, you know, listening to the underground brought to me by the corporation of music television - man, how avant guard).

Perhaps you can take ten minutes out of your life and reminisce about a day that once was...actually, 365 days that once were.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


On the plane to and from Albuquerque, I read SALT CITY AND ITS BLACK COMMUNITY by David and Miriam Stamps (2008). It was very interesting for me on many levels, especially because it paints a history of Syracuse that was never delivered for me in school: white or black America.

The immigrant story founded Central New York and it is interesting that two black men were first seen mining salt for Native Americans in the city - they were run away slaves from the south. This salt city connection has its roots in American race relations, as Syracuse was also a big factor in the underground railroad before the Civil War. The reputations for kindness was spread in the South, so several freed slaves moved north. This was, of course, at the time of Irish, German, Polish, Jewish and Italian immigrants. During WWI, the departed white immigrants in the war left a lot of industrial jobs for black Americans in Syracuse. After WWII, though, when soldiers returned from war, they were given the jobs and benefited from the housing boom available suburbia. This housing boom was not granted to black Americans, however, a result of governmental policy.

An interesting discovery is that, numerically, African American children had better attendance in city schools than white Americans, yet as adolescence crept on, the drop out rate rose. This is speculated to be the result that the opportunities for black workers in Syracuse of yesteryear were not available so their education was seen as not worth it (that was then). Still, the drop out rate is severe. The first black teacher wasn't hired by the city until the 1960s and since then, keeping educated black teachers in the district has been hard. Stamps and Stamps (2007) write that they are easily recruited but not easily maintained. They say the divide between middle class black families who moved away from poor black families remains.

I live by Hancock airport, where my father worked, and it was interesting to also read about his work with Dr. Tolley at Syracuse University, when the good ol' boy network was in full swing.

Over all, Syracuse's history is complex and will continue to be this way for a long time. Reading SALT CITY filled historical gaps about much of Central New York in my pea-brain mind. It also made me proud. The Dunbar Center, where we had the writing conference last month, is documented as a historical monument in the city and has always been central to civil rights in Syracuse.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holding on

I'm on a bit of a Thomas Newkirk kick, University of New Hampshire, and dig his writing style. He's put forth a few excellent books on teaching: Teaching the Neglected "R" for example. I've been reading his work on why boys tend to not achieve as well with reading and writing. He has an excellent writing style.

I found this video of him on YouTube, of course, and hearing my textual heroes is as good as reading them. Perhaps I should read Holding on to Good Ideas in the Time of Bad Ones (2009) that just came out. He's tenured. This allows for him to be a bit more honest, no?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

and a return

To say I'm exhausted is an understatement. Elizabeth, my Syracuse NRC Doctoral buddy, and I left at 7 a.m. and got to Syracuse about 9 p.m.. The flight was uneventful accept I filled many napkins with nose crud while she graded her students' assignments. I think the best part about yesterday was that my mom and dad brought me chicken parmesan and that's what I was able to have for dinner. I was famished and ate it quickly. Five days out west with little sleep has left me worn out. I will need today to recoup.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Old Town Holiday

As the National Reading Conference comes to a close for me, a few of us went to the Old Town for a Spanish Christmas celebration. The streets were lined with Mariachi bands playing spanish Holiday music and it was a wonderful treat for a brain-heavy week (the tacos were also good), I will spend all of today returning from another intellectual, quirky experience, but I can honestly say it has all been a true pleasure and a total thumbs-up experience. Our America is amazing with its opportunities.

Friday, December 4, 2009


To celebrate our presentation on Using Oral Narratives to tell Life Stories at the National Reading Conference, Norm Stahl from Northern Illinois University took me, David Mwambari, Elizabeth Stevens, and Dr. Kristiina Montero to dinner. Ardyth, who couldn't make it, suggest a New Mexican restaurant called SADIE's. It was spicy, but delicious - a true treat for this ghost down and a nice place to drink margaritas and unwind our brains. Our team worked together from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m., enjoying the company and having a grand time. This day will go down as very memorable in my chapter book of experiences. We're exhausted, but it was a great day. David suggested I take this picture and I did. It is symbolic, of course.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

ghost towns

I picked up David, my friend from Rwanda, at the airport and he wanted to eat so we toured Albuquerque in search of food. He kept repeating with his thick accident, "This is a strange town. This is a strange town."

It is a city, actually, and there are lights that look like a city, but everything is dead and empty. Even the large, expensive hotels stand against the mountains, but people don't enter or exit them. The lady at our front desk said, "You are the only guest," last night when I checked in. There are over a hundred and forty empty rooms.

I feel like I'm in a ghost town like you'd see in the ol' Warner Bros. cartoons with Yosemati Sam, expect the dust hasn't settled and there's still a trace that a lively, vibrant city once existed here. It is eerie, actually.

This is a strange town. This is a strange town.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Elbow Quirky, Number 2

I thought it would be good to post a video advertising Albuquerque and all the things I won't have time for.

And I have a complaint. Now that airlines charge to check baggage, no one checks baggage. This results in stuffed overheads, so much so that I wasn't able to store my coat. Then, upon arrival, there is a mad scramble for people to jockey for their belongings that have been stored all over the plane, and rarely are they stashed above where they are seated. With the onslaught of Blackberries and IPhones, the arrival is worse than the cattle metaphor waiting for slaughter. These people aren't going to die...they are going on with their lives. The whole ordeal perplexed me. Individuals are pushing each other, texting, reaching for their belongings and trying to get out. Then, of course, they also scream at each other. I'm not sure if this is a good thing.

Oi Vay. Change is inevitable.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Elbow Quirky

At the time you read this, I will be on my way to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the National Reading Conference (soon to be National Literacy Conference). I present on Thursday afternoon and host a session on Friday. There is a part of me that wants to drive up to Santa Fe and visit the area that was kind to me a few summers ago (when I had to jump Levi Romero's and Sandra Cisneros's truck).

I doubt I will get to do much sight seeing while there, but I do hope to get some good, spicy food like I tasted during Bread Loaf.

Oh, do you get my picture? It's an "elbow" on "Quirky". Elbow Quirky, New Mexico. I'm brilliantly funny. I don't know why I'm not on Saturday Night Live (Maybe because I'm old).