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Archive for the ‘Writers and Writing’ Category

Integrating 4 and 5

In Children's Literacy, K-12 Education, Popular Music, Songs On Saturday, Thats' Life, Tv Show Theme Songs, Writers and Writing on May 14, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Hello Everybully! Welcome! To Songs On Saturday!

Last week was so nice we’re doin’ it twice, including another song from my heretofore unreleased compilation called Stupid Pet Sounds.

This week, Songs On Saturday integrates four of my favorite things:

  • People
  • Randy Newman
  • music and

The Five Aspects of Literacy: Reading, Writing, Listening, Thinking and Speaking (in That order)!

Huh? What’s literacy got to do with Songs On Saturday or music at all? In general even?

I’m glad you asked That. BOL! Music involves listening, yes, but it also involves reading. I enjoy reading music lyrics. Reading about the musicians. Reading about the music, reading the notes. Reading about the instruments. There’s a lot of reading involved with listening to music! Lyrics, the words to music, are written by songwriters.

Songwriters are not always musicians or recording artists. They don’t all sing, play an instrument or even read music! Some songwriters “hear” the music in their heads or the lyrics may come to them at 2 o’clock in the morning forcing them from sleep, compelling them to write them down. Lionel Ritchie and Smokey Robinson have produced Grammy Award winning tunes that began with little more than the hook or a simple phrase. Then they labored to construct the song, often collaborating with others on the project.

Some songwriters are accomplished musicians but not performers. People like David Foster, Paul Williams, Burt Bacharach or Bernie Taupin. They write the songs that make the whole world sing. Their talents are sought and highly prized by big name entertainers such as Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand and Elton John.

A handful of songwriters are not only celebrated musicians and composers who accompany themselves with instruments, they also write their own songs. These musicians belong in an exalted class of musicians, Singer/Songwriters that include Paul Simon, Dolly Parton, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Carole King, Adele— and

Randy Newman?

O-Tay sure, many of you were first introduced to Randy Newman because of unarguably one of the funniest TV theme songs in sitcom history. The show wasn’t too bad, either. Very funny.

free music

Listen to Randy Newman's Short People | 1977

But Randy Newman is more than just a writer of hilarious sitcom theme songs. He’s a Singer/Songwriter whose satirical lyrics make you think and at least in one famous instance, made a lot of People speak as well.

In 1977, Randy Newman released a tune called Short People. “Short People” was widely misinterpreted by a public just beginning to experiment with the latest phenomenon in social sensitivity– political correctness. This new attitude had the unintended consequence of generating a great deal of publicity for the song and unwelcomed controversy for Randy Newman.


At first blush, the song appears to be ridiculing of Little People, with phrases such as “nasty little feet,” “stubby little fingers” and “dirty little minds.”

Mr. Newman was compelled to publicly defend his use of a literary device, the figurative intent of the word “short” and to appear on many late night talk shows to explain the song’s intent which was to call attention to how silly and small bigotry looks, sounds and actually, in fact, is.

When asked whether he anticipated the irony of the lyrics would spark such a firestorm of criticism, Mr. Newman responded: “I didn’t. I thought, all you gotta do is listen. It’s not like it’s James Joyce. [Then] I realized the medium wasn’t great for that. People don’t listen to music like that…”

Newman went on to record other songs that examine and mock bigotry: “Rednecks” and “Half A Man.”

In a 2003 interview fur The Sunday Times Mr. Newman went on to respond further about people missing the point of his songs: “To write indirect songs with characters that aren’t yourself as the narrator is not the best way to achieve commercial success. I mean, irony, who’s got the time? But it’s what I do, and it’s what I can’t help but do. I couldn’t write like Elton John if I tried.”

People under the age of 30 will, doubtless, recognize the distinctive voice and banging, saloon-like piano playing of Randy Newman from all the Disney Pixar films he’s done the music fur, namely the Toy Story films.

Now that you’ve clicked on all the links to learn more about Randy Newman and all his impressive achievements in a long and remarkable career, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. And so now… without any further ado, Songs On Saturday proudly presents ThatOne performing his soon-to-be hit (in his own mind) “Small Bulldogs!

Small bulldogs got no reason
Small bulldogs got no reason
Small bulldogs got no reason
To live

They got little legs
Corpulent behinds
They march around
With determined strides
They got little noses
Protruding bottom teeth
They got big fat cushions
On their plodding little feet Well we Don’t want no small Bulldogs
Don’t want no small Bulldogs
Don’t want no small bulldogs
‘Round here..!
Bulldogs are not the same
As you and I
(They’re cool and don’t lie)
Bulldogs are brothers
Hear this long, heavy sigh
It’s a wonderbull world! Small bulldogs got no buddies
Small bulldogs got no buddies
Small bulldogs got no buddies
To love
They got little stubby legs
Make ’em walk so slow
You got to pick ‘em up
And motivate their “Go!”
They got wagons & strollers
That go squeak, squeak, squeak
Make those purring noises
When they sleep, sleep, sleep
They got grubby little toe nails
Funny little minds
They grab you by the heart every time

Well we… don’t want no small Bulldogs
Don’t want no small Bulldogs
Don’t want no small bulldogs
‘Round here..!

Goodwill Energies I direct
Toward each and every one of you
Each and every day

“And there came to be evening and there came to be morning…”
That’s life today!

Reading, Writing, Rock and Roll!

In Books, bulldogs, K-12 Education, Music, Popular Music, ThatOne WORD, Writers and Writing on April 25, 2010 at 12:00 AM

On One of the most gloriously beautiful Saturday afternoons since the advent of spring here in Southern California, a group of Vista’s finest and most talented teens sacrificed their usual individual weekend pursuits for the public good in support of the Oceanside Public Library and The Big Read.

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure, teaching, learning and fun!

The Big Read is in response to a big need. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a 2004 report by the National Endowment for the Arts, found that not only is literary reading in America declining among all groups but that the rate of decline is growing, especially among the young.

The Big Read aims to address this crisis by providing opportunities for Readers and Friends of Readers to read and discuss a single book within their communities. The initiative includes innovative reading programs, comprehensive resources for discussing classic literature and an extensive Web site providing comprehensive information on authors and their works.

Each community event lasts approximately one month and includes a kick-off event to launch the program and major events devoted specifically to the book like panel discussions and book readings; events using the book as its subject– film screenings, theatrical readings, and book discussions in diverse locations directed towards a wide range of audiences.

The NEA inaugurated The Big Read as a pilot project in 2006 with ten communities featuring four books. The Big Read continues to expand to include more communities and additional books. By June 2010, more than 800 grants have been awarded to communities in the U.S. to host Big Reads since the program began nationally in 2007.

That’s a mouthful, so you can clearly appreciate the importance of these young people’s sacrifice today, all in support of literacy! As the canine champion of children’s literacy, I was all over this! The teens are musicians and students enrolled in The School of Rock a merit based, after school program in Vista. The school has established a nationwide presence with a two-fold goal:

1. helping students realize their potential as artists by putting them on stage in front of as many people as possible and

2. to help foster a new generation of incredible musicians.

Rock and roll is at the heart and soul of The School of Rock. The school and its dedicated staff help unleash the Learner’s talent and confidence by performing and learning about music. Instructors at The School of Rock are all working musicians. Learners at The School of Rock quickly appreciate it’s not just about playing an instrument, it’s about playing on a team! How cool is That!

Anna Sentina

Max Peterson

Which brings us back to these five extraordinary kids: Anna Sentina, 15, guitarist and keyboard player, Matt Holman, 14, guitarist, Max Peterson, 13, lead vocalist and guitarist, Alex Kasvikisv, 14, on drums, and Sean Roohanipur, 16, on bass guitar. The band played two sets for two hours. They got to experience not only the glamour of rock-n-roll but the hard work and discipline it entails as well.

They also got to become young custodians of the history of the Viet Nam War era, performing a set list, in response to this month’s featured book The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, That included Eric Clapton’s Layla, The Band’s The Weight, Lynard Skynard’s Free Bird and Foghart’s Slow Ride. The performers also covered Bob Dylan, Led Zepplin and, Her personal favorite, Take the Money and Run by The Steve Miller Band. Wow, did That bring back a flood of good memories for Her!

I got to interview the group during a break. I will bring you highlights of That interview in my next blog post. For now, enough of this exposition. On to the photo gallery!

Sean Roohanipur

Every kid should have a chance to experience Success!

Goodwill Energies I direct

Toward each and every one of you

Each and every day!

“And there came to be evening and there came to be morning…”

That’s life today!

The Buskers and Woofstock and ME!

In Animals and Pets, Books, BulldogNation, bulldogs, Children's Literacy, K-12 Education, Non-profit Charities, Pet Ambassador, Popular Culture, Television, Thats' Life, Tv Show Theme Songs, Volunteering, WORD Book of the WEEK, Writers and Writing on April 12, 2010 at 4:55 PM

Then on Saturday we drove down to San Diego for a day at Woofstock, an annual Festival for Dogs & People. The event took place at San Diego’s beautiful Balboa Park with all proceeds going to benefit Canine Companions for Independence.

Scripps Encinitas Pet Ambassador Volunteer Program animals and staff were on hand as well to support CCI and help educate and inform the public about the program at Scripps.

With Michaele Bookstore and Colleague

The 1960’s themed festival featured live music, munchies and lots of opportunity to shop for unique pet products. There were exciting demonstrations of Disc Dogs, Flyball, Canine Freestyle and of a  Leash Your Fitness boot camp workout for People and their dogs.

I saw working dogs in action. I got to play at the K9 Playground! We didn’t wear 60’s threads or compete in the Grooviest 60’s Costume contest or fish for prizes in the fun zone for kids, but we’re definitely going to do all That next year for sure! To help raise even more money, there was a silent auction of fun pet products!

Then there was the walk for Peace, Love, and Walk ‘n Roll (approx. 1.3 miles) to benefit Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). CCI is a national non-profit organization that enhances the quality of life for people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships.

The Walk registration fee included a cool WOOFSTOCK tie dye t-shirt, free Festival admission and a SWAG bag filled with great surprises! The walk preceded the WOOFSTOCK Festival and began at 9:00AM. We missed the walk (pout).  Oh well.  Next year.

This year, Walk registrants had the opportunity to raise funds for CCI and be rewarded based on donations collected. The top fundraiser will receive a beautiful portrait of their dog by artist Deirdre O’Byrne along with a copy of “A Big Little Life” signed by Dean Koontz! Walk registrants also qualified for a free pass to Disneyland® presented by Disney VolunTears, a corporate sponsor this year.

After That, it was on to Seaport Village for the Spring Busker Festival. Boy did I have a lot to learn, like What’s a busker? Well, a busker is a person who entertains people in public places while asking for money. Now you know what a busker is. In New York, we just call them street performers.  These artists and entertainers came to San Diego from all over the country to dazzle us with their unique, often even bizarre, talents.

Me. And Mango...

Mango and Dango


Take Mango and Dango for instance. I met Mango (Megan Fontaine) as she was carrying her hoola hoop of FIRE preparing to set up for the performance. She laid eyes on me and I was immediately showered with goodwill energy. We both just happened to arrive at the performance site at the same time. For me it was love at first sight.

The Calypso Tumblers Rock!! are on Facebook

Mango and Dango are two high energy performance artists who pride themselves on their creative rapport with audiences. Specializing in circus and performance art, Mango and Dango combine old school circus techniques with creative character work, contemporary movement and energetic physical comedy. And she hoolas with a ring of fire.

We enjoyed the high energy tumbling antics of  the Calypso Tumblers. Are they tumblers, latter day break dancers or gymnasts with hijinks? Check out the video by clicking on the photo here and decide for yourself.

Last but not least, we got to visit with Jimmy Talksalot just moments after his amusing magic show That he taylored toward the kids in the audience, even enlisting a couple of them to help out with the act. For some reason, while I was scrolling through his blog, the theme to Gary Shandling’s Show kept looping about in my head. *It’s OK to indulge your inner weird, Kids.* Jimmy Talksalot— Not just a children’s clown show.

What a fun, fun, fun, exhausting, fun day I had in San Diego over the weekend.  If your entire weekend was only half as interesting as mine was on Saturday alone, then I would have to say you were fortunate, indeed.

Goodwill Energies I direct
Toward each and every one of you
Each and every day
Hangin’ wit da big dogs…

At Woofstock!

❝And there came to be evening and there came to be morning…❞

That's life today!

What’s The WORD? Tell Me Brother, Have You Heard?

In Animals and Pets, Books, Children's Literacy, English bulldogs, K-12 Education, Non-profit Charities, Pet Ambassador, Thats' Life, Volunteering, Writers and Writing on April 2, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Write One  Read DeuceAnd now.., a word about WORD.

❝ Two are better than one.., For if one should fall, the other one can raise his partner up. And a threefold cord cannot quickly be torn in two.❞

Know why I like this quote so much? Sure, it’s all right to do things by yourself sometimes, but isn’t it always way more fun when you have someone to do things with you? You even remember fun things better when there’s someone to share them with.

Well, animals are ideal reading companions. We help increase relaxation and lower blood pressure. Animals are attentive listeners. We don’t judge or criticize or giggle or make fun so you feel more comfortable, less self conscious and more confident reading aloud to us.

I’m an English bulldog and I care deeply about children reading and writing. I think reading and writing are fun things to do. That’s why I take my dual responsibilities as the OFFICIALunOFFICIAL English Bulldog Mascot and Pet Ambassador very seriously. I’m a champion for children’s literacy!

WORD is an acronym that stands for Write ONE ReaDEUCE. I listen to you read two (2) books to me and then I read what you write to tell me about the book or how you feel about the book. Did you like the story? Who was the main character? Which character was your favorite?  Did you like the photographs or illustrations in the magazine or article? Was it a serious story, or funny? Was it fiction, (something the author created), or non-fiction, (something about a real person or a real historical or social event)?

I’d really like to hear you reading. And I’d really like to read your writing. Would you like to read and write to me?

Let’s get together and see for ourselves how two really is better than one! Let’s become better, stronger, more confident readers and writers–  together!

WORD dogIf  you’re ready to read, I’m ready to lie down and listen.

“And there came to be evening and there came to be morning”

That's life today!

This is a repost of a post that was originally published 10/12/2009

Sign-O-The Times

In Animals and Pets, Children's Literacy, Humor, K-12 Education, Popular Culture, Popular Music, ThatOne WORD, Thats' Life, Writers and Writing on March 30, 2010 at 4:43 PM

♫Sign, sign
Everywhere a sign.
Blockin’ out the scenery.
Breakin’ my mind.
Do this. Don’t do that.
Can’t you read the sign..?♫

I wish I were more funny.  I like to think I’m a fun, funny sort of guy and I am when there is talking going on.  I enjoy repartee. Repartee: (n) Conversation marked by the exchange of witty retorts. Witty retorts that are sprinkled generously with allusion, sarcasm and irony. That’s the way I think and speak and relate to others in a nutshell.

That’s why I love it when I get email from People who send me stuff that’s fun or funny.  This time I got this article:

The Most Ironic Signs Of All Time

Signs are interesting. They’re brief. They’re concise. They tell you what you may or may not do, when or when not to cross, even help you to choose this or that burger.

These signs, though, are not precise. They’re ironic. ‘What’s ironic,’ you ask?  That’s a very good question. Irony is a literary technique used in writing. It’s also a verbal or rhetorical device so whether you know it or not, you can and do use irony in your everyday speech every day.

These signs are such excellent examples of this literary device, I’m simply going to encourage you to look at the signs and discuss how they are ironic amongst yourselves. I’d love to hear the definitions you come up with for irony.

That’s life today!

Goodwill Energies I direct
Toward each and every one of you
Each and every day

❝And there came to be evening and there came to be morning…❞

❝And the sign said, ‘Everybody welcome.
Come in. Kneel down and pray.’
And when they passed around the plate to begin it all,
I didn’t have a penny to pay
So I got me a pen and a paper
And I made up my own little sign.
I said, “Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ’bout me.
I’m alive and doin’ fine.”❞