Why You Should Thank Harper Lee for Tearing Down Your Childhood Hero

Originally posted on gadflyonthewallblog:

Screen shot 2015-08-27 at 10.47.03 PM

It’s been more than 50 years since Harper Lee published her Pulitzer Prize winning novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

In that time, a lot has changed and nothing has changed.

Our schools are still highly segregated and unequal – but we justify that with standardized test scores. Our prisons are still disproportionately filled with black and brown people – but we justify that with the War on Drugs. Racial minorities are still gunned down in the street while their killers get off scot-free – but we justify that with a dysfunctional justice system.

Yes, we have our first black president but most people of color still live under the shadow of white privilege and a government sanctioned caste system.

Now comes “Go Set a Watchman” a book Lee wrote before “Mockingbird” but that works best as a sequel.

Does it matter? Is it still relevant?

I’d…

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David vs Goliath: Threatened Grade School Principal Stands up to Chicago’s Corrupt Political Machine

Originally posted on Crazy Normal - the Classroom Exposé:

“Principal known as Emanuel critic reprimanded by mayor’s school board.” – Chicago Tribune, August 29, 2015

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-troy-laraviere-principal-warning-vote-met-0828-20150827-story.html

We Dont Need Heroes Troy L

Troy LaRaviere’s Blog: A place to discuss a better school system for all Chicagoans

http://troylaraviere.net/

Troy LaRaviere: My Statement on CPS’ “Warning Resolution”
CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND
I’ve been asked for my thoughts in response to the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Board of Education issuing a “warning resolution” against me for opposing their backward education policy and corrupt fiscal management of our school district. Before responding, I have to write a few words about who I am. …

http://troylaraviere.net/2015/08/28/my-statement-on-cps-warning-resolution/

_______________________
Lloyd Lofthouse, the host of this Blog, is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His…

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Make Your Readers Cry: Writing Emotional Scenes

Originally posted on Allison Maruska:

I watched The Hunger Games last night. I read the book before the movie came out, and I’ve seen the movie a few times. So I obviously knew what would happen. Still, a certain scene got me.

By that, I mean it made me weepy.

I’m not usually a weepy individual, so the moment surprised me. I think the root of it was I forgot this particular scene was in the movie (I don’t think it was in the book). I’d also had a couple glasses of wine. Bad memory + alcohol = the feels (that’s not one of the tips, but maybe write it down anyway).

It was near the beginning, when Katniss volunteers for Prim and Effie encourages the crowd to applaud. Effie’s all bubbly and claps with her hands near her head, seemingly expecting the crowd to join it. Instead, everyone in the crowd does that salute…

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Ashana Bigard: New Orleans is a Failing District

Lloyd Lofthouse:

In the city of New Orleans, if the (corporate Charter) Recovery School District was held to the same standard that allowed for the takeover of the schools after the storm, the RSD would only be allowed to keep four schools. Four. But the rules were rewritten so they could keep them all even as they fail and lie, fail and lie, fail and lie.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Ashana Bigard is a parent advocate. She wrote this article for “The Progressive.” She is aware that politicians are promoting New Orleans as a national model. She warns that the “reforms” are a fraud. She says, talk to the parents, not the hucksters.

“As a New Orleans parent and an active member of my community, I think of myself as an expert on the experiment in education reform that tranformed my city into the nation’s first all-charter school district. So when I attended a recent community-centered conference on “The New Orleans Model of Urban School Reform: A Guide or a Warning for Cities Across the Nation?” I wasn’t sure there’d be much for me to learn.

“In fact, given the focus on academic urban education research, I feared the event would speak only to people who have Ph.D.s or are working on getting one, neither of which describes me.

“But…

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The Politics of Deceit

Originally posted on The Soulful Veteran's Blog:

Every Thursday afternoon I drive to a local VA medical clinic and join a veteran writers group. One of the regular members, who never served in combat, seems obsessed with the glory of war. He can’t seem to hear enough stories from us combat vets. To listen to him, it seems that he sees war as wonderful and proof that the United States is defending and supporting democracy everywhere.

Most combat vets don’t think the same. In fact, I haven’t known a combat vet yet who doesn’t question everything an elected representative or corporate CEO claims on almost any topic that leads to more profits or power for a member of the 0.1%. For some reason, being shot at by bullets, mortar rounds and rockets—not counting the threat of stepping on a land mine and getting your legs blown off—creates skeptics of most combat vets who saw action.

Now I…

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The 1.6 Ton Concrete Stairway Procrastination Project

One challenge living in a house built on a steep hillside offers is erosion. From the street to the top of the property, I’ve estimated it’s about seven stories or seventy feet of elevation gain.

The erosion I’m talking about had washed enough dirt away from the southwest foundation of the house over the decades to expose the bottom of the concrete and allow the ivy to grow under the house in addition to letting rats move in too.

The erosion, ivy and rats led to this concrete stairway project on the southwest side of the house that I started on April 10, when I cleared away the thick ivy and ended almost four months later on August 1, 2015, with a 2nd coat of stucco in those areas where there were no steps or sidewalk. To show what I’m talking about, I’ve included nine photographs after the text of this post.

There is a double explanation for adding the word procrastination to the title. One reason is that I’ve known for several years that this job had to be done, and the second was that it was a great excuse to escape Twitter—my experience is that when you spend too much time on Twitter, it squeezes all the energy out of your brain until it refuses to function—and working on the rough draft of my next novel, The Last Sorcerer.  The next image is a working cover for the first book in a planned five-part series.

Book One on July 20 - 2015

In total, I worked on the concrete stairway project for nineteen days and 63 hours for an average of about 3.3 hours on each working day. When I started, I thought I’d be able to work the long 12 to 16 hours days of hard labor I worked when I was age 30 – 40, but I quickly learned that wasn’t going to be the case. At almost 70, when you work this hard, you quickly feel the damage age contributes.

The first damage was to my elbows from swinging a pick and sledge hammer to break up the hard packed clay—clay soil is difficult to work in dry or wet. I solved this later by using a heavy duty hammer drill and a wide chisel bit.

After that first and last 6-hour work day on April 14, I took a two-week break to let both elbows recover. The damage to the right elbow was worse than the left one. On April 15, I couldn’t move that arm or hold a pen to write, and it took the next fourteen days before I felt it was safe to continue working on the project.

Eventually, on May 22, I visited Big-5 and bought two, one-piece neoprene Pro Elbow Support sleeves that dramatically helped speed up the healing process and alleviated the pain so I could get back to work more often. I still don’t know why the elbow supports worked but they did.

By the time I finished the project, I had poured 19 bags of gravel that weighed a total of 950 pounds and mixed 41-bags of concrete (2,260 pounds based on dry weight). I have no idea how much that concrete weighed once it was wet, but I carried it up the hill in buckets from the mixing pan.

The receipts for the project reveal that I made thirteen supply runs, and I did not add in the hours spent driving to Home Depot to buy the material necessary to finish the work. If each supply run took 2.5 hours (a guestimate), then that added another 32.5 hours bringing the total to almost 96 hours.

Here are the nine photographs that show several stages of the project from near the beginning to the end, and writing this post gave me another excuse to avoid working on the last chapter in the first novel of The Last Sorcerer series.

Stairway Project One

Stairway Project Two

Stairway Project Three

Stairway Project Five

Stairway Project Six

Stairway Project Seven

Stairway Project Eight

Stairway Project Nine Stairway Project Ten

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

IMAGE with Blurbs and Awards to use on Twitter

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal . His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

The Complexity of Belief vs the Reality of Racism – a review of “Go Set A Watchman”

Do you know what a devil’s advocate is? If you don’t, here it is: One who argues against a cause or position, not as a committed opponent but simply for the sake of argument or to determine the validity of the cause or position.

That’s what I think Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” was, a devil’s advocate written to add some reality to the complexity of racism in the United States that has become too much of a black and white issue when in reality there are many shades of color at work.

When the sequel of “To Kill A Mockingbird” came out, the first thing I read was one or more of the politically correct mobs lashing out when they condemned the book because of an early scene in the novel that depicts Atticus Finch as a racist, but I didn’t let that stop me from buying an audio version of the book on six CDs at Costco, and I’m glad I did because the story in this novel offers a brutal reminder that hot-button issues like abortion, school reform and racism can’t be dealt with in a 14-second politically correct sound bite by one side or the other. Reality is more complex then simple and often ignorant thinking.

After listening to the novel, Atticus Finch turns out to be a complex individual and I don’t think he was the kind of racist that fits the stereotype that so many love to hate. He didn’t belong to the KKK. He was not a white supremacist. In fact, Atticus didn’t even own one of those white cloaks with hoods that have holes cut out for the eyes and mouth.

Instead, before the end of the novel, we learn that Atticus might believe in separate but equal, but he would also be the first one to put his body between a fire-breathing racist lynch mob and an African American the mob wants to hang from the nearest tree, because it’s obvious Atticus still believes in justice and equality for every person but maybe not everyone’s definition of what that means. Right or wrong, I don’t think Atticus deserves to be condemned. Reserve that anger for those who bomb black churches, murder minorities for just having a different shade of skin and/or block the right of minorities to vote.

I taught “To Kill a Mockingbird” in high school, and I’ve seen the film a number of times, so I was ready to read about the characters who were 20+ years older, and I was not disappointed. The audio book is read by Reese Witherspoon, and Jean Louise Finch—Scout—reminds us that she was a child once when she takes readers on journeys back in time to when she was a child and then an adolescent becoming a young woman. I think Witherspoon’s voice is exactly what we would want Scout to sound like as a young woman in her twenties.

Instead of jumping blindly on the politically correct bandwagon that defines what racism is, read this book and do what it was designed for: weigh all the factors and think for yourself. Then judge individuals like Atticus on an individual basis and not a blanket indictment written by an often angry and mindless mob.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal . His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”