Music of the Celts

Tonight, I played my guitar and sang from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Sterlington Elementary School. They had a rotational program, and every thirty minutes I was supposed to do another set. I was with the 2nd grade teachers, and though the emphasis was on Scotland, the title was Music of the Celts.

I did my usual favorites, and even a few songs I’d never done before, and it went well. It’s amazing what a good microphone will do to improve a mediocre voice. It was a night of experimentation, and I discovered that my favorite songs to sing, were also the ones I did best, and it seemed, the ones the crowd liked best. “The Water is Wide” was best received. (E.B. please note that), but my original song, “Cry, Little Artillery Man” was also well received, and I received several comments on that song as well. Other songs I performed that the crowds liked in the sets were, “Come out you Black and Tans”; a Burns poem I had put to music about the love of his life, Jeanne Amour; “Monaghan’s Lament”; and “Botany Bay,” a sad song about the ugly transportation practices of the British.

The second grade teachers at Sterlington Elementary who had sponsored me were gracious, complimentary, and I thought sharp women. I was impressed with both their abilities and their attitudes. I sold a few books (Stories of the Confederate South) and did some publicity talks on my soon to be published children’s book, Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House.

I taught school today, then had bus duty, then drove to Sterlington. I changed into my kilt and played the two hours without stopping, without even sitting down. I think that is a sign I was really into the evening. Many of the adults asked me questions about my Scottish attire, and as I had opportunity I talked to the crowd about the Celtic nations and Civil War history. I’m tired, but I must say it’s been a good day.

History of Valentine’s Day

Here is a poem I wrote about the origin of Valentine’s Day. I did take some liberties in interpretation of the good saint’s life.

Valentine’s Day Poem


A day for exchanging messages,

Poems, gifts, wooden love-spoons,

A day of love lotteries,

A time when you could

Wear your heart on your sleeve.

A day of choices,

Selecting one’s patron saint,

Remembering one’s friends, or

Select a lover for cupid’s arrows.

On the Eve of Lupercalia,

Young men would

Draw the name of their

Future lover from a box,

Dating their choice through the festival,

Their version of spin-the-bottle,

Sometimes it worked out well . . .


There aren’t enough soldiers,” Claudius II said.

“Where have all the young men gone?”

“Gone to young girls every one,” his advisors replied.

So the emperor Claudius cancelled

All engagements and weddings.

The priest Valentine ignored his edict,

Meeting couples in homes and catacombs,

Marrying them secretly,

Tying his name forever to love.


Claudius was not pleased.

Valentine was arrested and sentenced to death.

That night, the jailer’s daughter

Visited him in his cell,

A sweetheart from his pre-priest days,

And they fell in love again.

After she left, he left her a simple note:

Always your Valentine.

The first Valentine note.

The next day, he was

Beaten to death with clubs,

Followed by a mandatory decapitation.

Yes, Valentine lost his head.

That often happens when you meddle

In things of the heart.



Valentine’s Day 2007

Today is Valentine’s Day, which in Morehouse Parish is spent in kids picking up delivered valentines–huge bears, balloons, flowers, baskets full of cokes and chocolates, and other items. Though some schools in Northeast Louisiana do not allow deliveries, Morehouse Parish does. I think it’s a good idea here. The custom is definitely a boost to our rural economy and an exciting day for the kids. Their faces beam as they carry about their gifts. True, not much will get done in academics, but aren’t we supposed to nurture the “whole” student? I do try to teach them the history of Valentine’s Day, and I try to ooh and aw over their gifts. It’s a day that makes them feel special.

Valentine’s Day: A day for romance, of gifts, kisses, and poems. A day that helps us think of “love.” It’s a shame it only happens once a year.

Types of Slavery

After finishing Anthem by Ayn Rand and discussing with my students the horrid world of the dystopian novels, one of my students made this observation: “It’s like the whole society is enslaved.” That led to a discussion about types of slavery. Then this morning I found a news article that pointed out there are three types: Political slavery (when one nation conquers another), civil slavery (when a government enslaves its own people by taking away rights, etc), and domestic slavery (when one man is subjected to another man, i.e., considered property, or used for work purposes, possibly even a bad marriage could be a type of slavery).

As it’s February, Black History Month, the slavery discussion is relevant. I’m using many articles from a great site called, Issues & Views–So You Still Think All Blacks Think Alike? This site is based in Washington D.C. and the articles are written by black conservatives. Excellent material! You can visit this site here: Do your students a favor and tell them about it too.

Ayn Rand: Anthem

Last night, I finished my reading of Ayn Rand’s novel Anthem. It was a timely finish for two reasons: First of all, my gifted students had “requested” to read it over the weekend so we could discuss it today; and second of all, I finished before 8:00 p.m. so I could watch the HBO series, Rome. I am completely addicted to that series. I’ve always been fascinated with ancient Roman history, and this series–though admittedly the writers get some of their facts wrong–has an edge and puts human faces (some of them very pretty) to men and women of history. Back to Anthem.

I’m wondering how Anthem will affect my gifted students. I am confident it will in some way, but I’m not sure what theme will most get to them. Will it be the fact that the protagonist dared to love the woman of his choice in a loveless world? (The romance of the “Golden One” and “The Unconquered One,” who later call themselves Gaea and Prometheus, is a touching romance.) Will my students appreciate books more? The power of science? Will they understand the potential cruelty of man and the devastating power of ignorance?

Maybe at least the novel will motivate them to have the courage to “stand alone.”

My Mardi Gras Night 2007

The Sons of Confederate Veterans march every year in W. Monroe-Monroe’s annual Mardi Gras Parade. This year, the weather was great–quite cool, but clear–and the crowd was huge. I haven’t heard an estimated number of the crowd yet. We fired a boatload of blank bullets as we marched the six mile route, drawing cheers from the crowd every time we fired a volley. Along with the 39 men toting muskets, there were three trailers playing music, two bearing a cannon each (though we no longer are able to fire the cannon, as they set off too many car alarms) and we had a great host of flag and banner bearers both men and women in Antebellum dresses. In their coverage of the event, I was told the local TV news station even included a shot of me marching. Once again, I am a TV star.

This part of Louisiana is a Confederate friendly area, and I would say that over 90% of the crowd were enthusiastic and supportive of us, the men wearing the gray and bearing the Battle Flag; 7% of the crowd were ambivalent; and only a very few, perhaps 3%, were hostile. Most of those were quite intoxicated, and judging by their vocabulary, not the type who read books or know history and who are not likely to show up on Jeopardy or any game show that requires a demonstration of knowledge.

After we marchers returned to our vehicles, a few of us went to Bennigans for burgers and pints of Guinness. I thought about why we do this marching, and when I see the excitement of the crowds, I know: Southerners love their heritage, and they like being reminded of it. When they look at us marching, in our period costumes, firing our muskets in a salute to them and to our history, they are once again connected to a rich past, to their ancestors and they feel pride in being a Southerner.

By the way, Yankee Civil War reenactors very seldom march in parades in the South. There must be a reason . . .

All the Pretty Horses

My gifted seniors are reading and doing a project on Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. As I love this novel, I am very excited. There’s not a great deal of scholarly material on McCarthy readily available yet, but at least it is increasing. I’m going to have them create a map of John Grady Cole’s journeys, research the topic of Americans in Mexican prisons (a depressing topic to be sure, but one we need to think about), study and learn the Spanish phrases in the text, take a test (prepared by me) on the novel, and write a five-page research paper on the novel. Should be a busy two weeks. But they’re gifted, and they can do it. More on this great novel later.

Monroe Mardi Gras Parade 2007

This Saturday, I’ll be marching with my friends in the Sons of Confederate Veterans in the West Monroe-Monroe Louisiana Mardi Gras Parade. It’s about a five mile march, and I’ll shoot my musket, be in Confederate uniform, and have a grand time. The crowd has been extremely receptive, with only a few being assholes and giving us a hard time. These few don’t really bother me, as I know they probably just need a history lesson. I’m going to work the SCV booth in W. Monroe during the day Saturday (Feb. 10) and then march with the boys. Lineup is at 4:00 pm. If you’re there, look for me. I’ll be the rebel soldier with the long hair. God bless the South. If you would like a pic of me in my Confederate uniform, write me and I’ll send you one.

The Missing “I”

Having started a study of Ayn Rand’s Anthem in my first period gifted class, I find myself pleasantly surprised. I and my students are learning much from this exercise. I think I could classify this novel as dystopian, and since we had already studied Animal Farm and Fahrenheit 451, my young scholars are picking up the “ideas” of this novel quickly.

As you likely know, the novel’s protagonist lives in a world of the collective we. There is no I. He had separated himself from the “mindless human herd” in that terrible world he lived in. I think this is extremely relevant for my students as they too live in an age that ostracizes and persecutes individuality. Being smart, being passionate, being anything different from the status quo will cause one to pay a terrible price.  Gifted teachers are trained to notice, encourage, and develop individual interests and talents, but in this day of standardized tests, we are not really encouraged to do so. In addition, the apathy and ignorance of this present age is so deep that I wonder what can be done to reverse it. To borrow the wording of Anthem‘s back cover, I don’t want my students to grow up in or live in a “world that deprives individuals of name, independence and values.”

I’m sure I will write more about this book in later posts.

Ayn Rand

Confession: I have never read Ayn Rand’s books. When I was able recently to obtain a free class set of Anthem, and a free class set of The Fountainhead (on the condition that I actually teach both the novels) I jumped for the opportunity.  We actually began a study of Anthem today in my first period (Gifted English Class, 9th and 10th graders). I introduced the book with a short lecture on Rand’s life and introduced her philosophy of Objectivism. I will introduce The Fountainhead to my 4th period gifted students the same way.

I plan on working through the books in class, a chapter a day if possible I know it is slow, tedious work doing that, but it is a good way for me to learn these works myself, and I can construct a test as I go along. This kind of read-aloud time also makes for good discussion (at least with gifted kids). Anthem is a novella, so I should complete it easily in this manner. The Fountainhead is much longer, and I’ll likely have to assign those readings, and it may take a little longer to complete the study. Oh, well.  The exciting part of this exercise is I know I will learn some things. I already have. More on Rand later. If you’d like to know more about Rand, go to this site: