Monday, October 27, 2008

Two Rs: Reformation, Writing

With this week's focus on the Reformation, the clarity of hymn 656 in the LSB, and my vocation as English teacher, I have found numerous opportunities for the following quote from Luther:

"Some think that the office of writer is simple and easy, that real work is to ride in armor and suffer heat, cold, dust, thirst, and other discomforts. It is always the same old story: no one sees where the other’s shoe pinches; everyone is aware only of his own problems and thinks the other fellow has it made. True, it would be hard for me to ride in armor; but on the other hand I would like to see the horseman who could sit still with me all day and look into a book-even if he had nothing else to care for, write, think about, or read. Ask a chancery clerk, preacher, or speaker whether writing and speaking is work! Ask a schoolmaster whether teaching and training boys is work! The pen is light, that is true. Also there is no tool of any the trades that is easier to get than the writer’s tool, for all that is needed is a goose feather, and you can pick them up anywhere free of charge. But in writing, the best part of the body (which is the head) and the noblest of the members (which is the tongue) and the highest faculty (which is speech) must lay hold and work as never before. In other occupations it is only the fist or the foot or the back of some other such member that has to work; and while they are at it they can sing and jest, which the writer cannot do. They say of writing that “it only takes three fingers to do it”; but the whole body and soul work at it too." (AE 46:248)

Sunday, October 26, 2008


"The first thing I'd do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act." NObama at a Planned Parenthood Action Fund Conference. If you value the sanctity of life and are still planning on voting for Senator Obama, read FOCA to see what you support via your vote.

Proof & DoP: Listen to a recent Issues, Etc. broadcast featuring Colleen Carroll Campbell, a St. Louis based Fellow for the Ethics and Public Policy Center and she writes a weekly column for the St. Louis Dispatch. Campbell proffers insightful Proof and DoP about Obama's stance on abortion.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Left Field operatives are bringing the varsity game with this entry. This week's guest is Mr. Tim Hardy, math and computer teacher at LHN. There is no room for a weak entry this week. Unlike DumbleDorf from Harry the Clay Potter, Mr. Hardy is a self-professed technological wizard. He knows and likes his technology. We can only hope to live up to his expectations.

In your wealth of lifetime athletic accomplishments, did you ever play left field? Yes, during my prison softball days. If a ball ever made it to the fence you let it go because the guards put the laser scope on you. “Range me”

You sport a closely cropped cranium hairstyle. When/why did this start? In college we lived in a dorm called “Mary Martha”. We did what we had to do to survive.

You graduated from Lutheran High School Westland. While a young Warrior, what were your thoughts of the Mustangs from the North? All I knew was one of their colors was brown. Five years later I was sad to see that had been changed.

You attended Concordia Chicago for your undergraduate degree. Currently, Dan Rohde is coaching football for the Concordia Cougars. Who will leave a more lasting mark on the school? I’ll say that Dan will leave a more lasting mark. That’s assuming they clear the Dean’s file cabinet after 15 years.

You have a flair for technology. If money and time were not factors, what technological gizmo would you use in your classroom to enhance learning? Cattle prods.

Do you think educator Harry Wong would have been able to keep up with you during FFR?
Absolutely, It’s all about procedures baby.

You live in The Clem. Why doesn’t everyone? I ask myself that question every day. It’s not like we’re even close to the North River Road gangs. I mean, we’re building new Meyers and everything. Although now that we have Slagel, I think things are going to pick up.

Not many Left Field readers know you once coached young Mustang grapplers. What wrestling move could you use if accosted by young punks in a back alley in some shady part of Macomb, like….Shelby Twp.? I’ve always been fond of the double chicken wing. When you can eat and defend yourself at the same time, I’m down with that.

Are you an instructions manual reader or avoider? Reader and ignorer.

You were semi-instrumental in the founding of RemBrandt Deliveries, the cycling courier service in The Clem. Why did it fail? Other than poor ownership, limited financial support, lack of foresight, declining clientele, nonexistent advertisement, and no web presence, I don’t know why it failed.

You fashion yourself as a Survivor aficionado. If you were on the show surviving, who would be your best competition, but in the end would have their torch snuffed out by your brilliant tactics? My toughest competitors would be my bed and my refrigerator. Brilliance has nothing to do with it.

If you were the MCC (Metro Conference Czar) what four teams would you add?
Grand Valley State Lakers
Trinity Lutheran Cougars
Valley Lutheran Chargers
Shelby Lions (Because I want a piece of the “young punks” from Question #8)

What was the last song you sang to your children? In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

LEFT FIELD pop flies.
Soft serve or hand dipped ice cream? Soft Serve … I can eat it faster.
Romeo Plank or North Avenue? North Avenue … have you tried riding a bike on the shoulder of Romeo Plank?
WWF or WWE? Whichever one had King Kong Bundy
Jim Rome or Scott Ferrell? I’ll take the sarcastic one with the funny voice … Ephemeral, Shenanigan, Topography, Rice Crispy Treats

CD or MP3? CDs … more stable than the stock market
Rook or Horsie? Don’t you mean Knight?
Buffalo Wild Wings or Luigis in The Clem? BW3 … You can’t find Slagel, Wesley, and Murawski at Luigis 3 nights a week

Obama: The Artful Dodger

I know what he artfully said during the third debate concerning abortion. My vote for McCain is a vote for the sanctity of life.
Yes, the economy is a mess. However, I have been and will continue to be fiscally responsible. I did not buy a house I could not afford. I did not buy a car I could not afford. I sparingly use my pay-as-you-go cell phone and never spend more than $20.00 per month on this luxury. I don't have the Internet because it's free at school and the public library. Well, I guess the taxes I have rightly paid supports the library so that last one isn't free. I also don't have a monthly cable bill. I paid for my television once. I won't continue paying for that messenger of immorality. Soon, I'd like to toss that electronic box to the curb. Oh, but what would I do if I couldn't watch Lost, a show I like, the Lions, the 10:00 news, soap operas, Dancing with the Stars, Survivor? I would miss This Old House and that would be it. What would I do instead? Stay current on my grading, read a book or look my family members in the eye and talk to them. So, yes, the economy is a mess but my fiscal responsibility is paying dividends.

My vote for McCain will be a vote for life. Obama has no respect or value for life in the womb. His voting record and actions prove this.
Don't believe me? You don't have to. Take ten minutes out of your television viewing life and listen to this episode on Issues, Etc that discusses Obama's views on abortion by Dr. Robert George of Princeton University.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Let's head north on I-75, beyond the smells of Frankenmuth chicken and out of the capitalistic grips of the Birch Run outlet mall. Now let's plop down in the ol' stompin' grounds, Saginaw. A gem in the midst of this city is Tom Roekle, a former grade school and high school chum who now teaches math and coaches varsity girls' basketball at Valley Lutheran High School. I searched my digital files and could not locate a picture, so I used clip art I thought would capture the essence of Tom's personality.

Recently a house in Saginaw was purchased on E-bay for $1.76 Do you think it was my old house on 2220 Stark? Nope. Your old house sold for $5.01 on “Houses-R-Us”. It was actually $5.31, with tax.

The proud, new owner said, “I don’t have any plans on moving to Saginaw.” In one sentence convince this woman why this might be the biggest mistake of her life. Governor Granholm says that we are one of Michigan’s “coolest cities”.

Many of my students haven’t braved moving beyond the secure walls of the suburbia that is Macomb County. What are the students like at Valley Lutheran High School? Most of them are farmers. After all, once you get north of Oakland County, that’s really all there is up here, farms……and igloos.

You graduated from Valley the same year I did, 1981. What’s it like to teach at a high school you attended? My long term memory has been permanently damaged from constant banging my head against a wall when one of the teams I coach isn’t performing well. I’d love to make the comparison for you, but it just ain’t happenin’.

Every year the local radio station WHNN would sponsor a raft race through the swirling toxins that make up the Saginaw River. Did you really expect to win with your cross country shoe design and the slogan, “Takin’ it to the streets”? We were thinking internationally. The theme would’ve been a perfect fit in Venice.

You are the head girls’ basketball coach at Valley. What’s the upcoming season looking like?
We’re looking at going 27-0, and winning our first-ever girls’ basketball state championship. It’s the same outlook every season.

In a battle royale, that is girls basketball, could the Chargers take the Mustangs?
Wouldn’t that be the Chargettes vs. the Fillies? Tawas vs. Arthur Hill would be the Squaws vs. LumberJills.

Word on Freshmen Avenue is that you won’t arrange a battle between North’s freshmen girl hoopsters and Valley’s 9th grade squad. What gives? Fear.

What’s the biggest difference between students when you first started teaching and those of today? Mostly the hairstyles. You don’t see many mullets on the guys, or the big, puffy hair of those ‘80s girls.

Finish this thought, “A great chapel includes…” law, gospel, and a few good laughs.

What’s up with the Cheeseman Road photo? Mr. Bear has it on his mantle.

Math or English? Math. It’s universal.
Word problems or short stories Short stories. Not as frustrating.
Ed or Gary? Red. It contains both of them.
Wozniak or Bay City?Little Lord Sackelroy.
Running or Cycling ? Running. Much better for inner peace.
Under Armor or Wool? Under Armor has 2 labels. Makes it illegal to wear in high school. Stupid design.
New Balance or Saucony? Brooks.
Bye, Bye Birdie or The Glass Menagerie? Hello, Dolly.
Flashy or fundamentals? Stick to the basics, and do them well.
Interlochen or summers in Saginaw Blind River, baby.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Saginaw, Cold Water & Nolan Finley

"America risks its
if it tells folks... to stop reaching for their own reward and
instead pick the pockets of those who've already made it."

This quote came from Nolan Finley's most recent column in the Detroit News.

STOP and read the column and then watch Obama's recent comments to a worker concerned that Obama's plan to "spread the wealth" takes away from what this man earned.

View the video containing Obama's "spread the wealth" comment here.

Growing up in Saginaw was the best experience I could have had. The Lord made sure I noticed how hard my mom worked to feed and clothe her children. He made sure I understood why my mom was mad if, at the end of a long work day, there wasn't a pitcher of cold water in the refrigerator for her. She didn't want a daiquiri, a martini or t-bone steaks sizzling on a stainless steel grill the size of any SUV you see lined up at gas stations. A monstrosity like that took money she would rather spend on our clothing, food and my high school tuition to Valley Lutheran High School.

She wanted cold water from the refrigerator. She worked hard. She deserved cold water from the refrigerator. I took in all those lessons of self-sacrifice and vowed to graduate from high school, graduate from college, become a teacher, raise a family and work just as hard so my children could learn the lessons of my hard work and do the same for their families. And that's why Finley's column is spot on. It's also what irks me about Obama's answer to the man in the video. People need to work hard for their earnings, be smart with their money and live within their means. Many haven't and this economic debacle proves it.
Even the fictional, disfunctional Jay Gatsby understood what Obama does not. While Jay was a boy, "A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the wash-stand and the moon soaked with with light his tangled clothes upon the floor." He knew that if he would ever obtain his American dream he would have to work for it.

My mom worked for it. I work for it. Obama,however, believes that spreading the wealth around is more important than earning it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hope Restored

For two straight weeks I have witnessed events that have restored my hope in literacy. Because of my vocation I hear kids whine about having to read, brag that they don't ever read and strategize how they will avoid reading. I pass this off as adolescent rebellion. I know they read. I know they would read a good book. I also know good books exist. What I don't know is how to get those good books into the right hands. At times it may seem like hope is lost. Seems is the key word and October 5 and October 12 are two reasons I still have hope that people are readers and will continue to be readers.

The Library Book Sale:

Recently the Clinton Macomb Public Library and the Mount Clemens Public Library both had book sales. Because I'm cheap I never attend day one or day two of these sales. I hold out. I know that day three promises rich reading rewards for minimal costs. At the Clinton Macomb Public Library, I paid $5.00 to fill a bag full of books. Oh, the giddy joy of finding six copies of Seabiscuit, one copy of Bernard Goldberg's 100 People who are Screwing up America and Al Franken is #37, The News about the News, The Perfect Storm, A Civil Action, High Crimes and Misdemeanors, Night Shift - a compilation of Stephen King short stories. Like I said, oh, the giddy joy. At The Clem Public Library all the books were free! FREE! I''ve never been to heaven but Sunday was as close to heaven as I could get here on earth. Every book I wanted was free. I found two more copies of Seabiscuit, Laura Ingraham's Shutup and Sing and I even found a book entitled, The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank.

This book is just odd but it will be the first one I read over Thanksgiving vacation. Apparently, Robert Graham, a California millionaire attempted to create cadres of baby geniuses with his Repository for Germinal Choice, better known as the Nobel Prize sperm bank. It opened in 1980 and closed nineteen years later. The donors were made up of brilliant scientists, mathematicians and Nobel prize winners.

This is weird because it's just weird and true and weird. Like a gawker driving by an accident on the side of a highway, I just have to slow down and read this book. Who were the donors? Who are the offspring? Is this a covert governmental program gone awry? How many pages will I read before Hitler's name surfaces? This is better than any CSI, FBI, CIA or EIEIO television show could ever create.

This, however, did not restore my hope in literacy. The crowds of people who were shoving me away from books and into coat racks left me slightly bruised but full of hope. I had to assertively nudge Agnes and her walker away from the box that contained Tom Brokaw's Letters from the Greatest Generation...large print version. Our eyes spotted the book at the same time and walker or no walker I was walking out of that room with that book. In addition to Agnes' sharp elbows, I could also feel the excitement of books, of reading, of literacy. The packed room was teeming with life because books mattered. I'm not sure what's going on with all the free copies of Seabiscuit but I am sure of something...

Books matter. Hope is restored.


Going way back in LEFT FIELD this week gives us Dan Sievert. Dan used to teach boys’ P.E., choir and coached soccer and golf. Join us for a trip to LEFT FIELD.

When last we saw you, your responsibilities included teaching boys PE,
directing choir and coaching soccer. What are you doing now?
I now serve as Principal of Trinity Lutheran High School, teach a summer physical education class, coach boy's soccer and shepherd the world-renown Trinity chess club.

Do you take some ribbing for living in a place called Seymour (pronounced see-more). Seriously...Do you take some ribbing from living in The Clem?

Word on the street is that you spend a lot of time in the Sonic drive thru. Their bacon cheeseburger is addictive. I find myself inventing errands that require me to hit that area of town. You just can't beat the taste, not to mention the roller skate delivery method.

Describe a notable difference between Indiana high schoolers and Michigan high schoolers.
I was warned before coming to Indiana that basketball was king, but it didn't sink in until I arrived. When they built Trinity's building, the gym was the focus. We get anywhere from 700-900 fans for our games, and that is for a school of 115. We play French Lick (Larry Bird) and Milan (the team from Hoosiers) and the tradition here is amazing. We also have many more tractors. Reminder - this Friday is harvest day sponsored by the FFA - drive your tractors to school!(see pics next week on our website) Other than that, the kids are the same, except, of course, the chess club talent level.

Any thoughts on the Kwami debacle? On the record? No.

Mr. Rochlitz heard you are once again coaching varsity boys' soccer. In a battle-extraordinaire, could the Cougars take the Mustangs? I would like to see that match up. If the ‘Stangs are still as tough as when I was there it would be a good game. Perhaps Coach Rochlitz and I could work something out....loser pays for bussing? I definitely miss those long playoff runs at North. Unlucky for us, and due to this being a basketball focused state, there is only one class for
playoffs in soccer. Wouldn't you know it...we drew Columbus North in the first round. They have 2700 kids at their school and are ranked 4th in state. We went and watched them play last week...think Country Day plus De LaSalle plus Trinity times Bishop Foley. It will be an fun experience playing against a team that has six division one recruits...

Your family has doubled since your Michigan days. What's the 411 on the family? Amy stays at home trains up the kids (without the need of a village) - 4.87 year old Nathan and 1.12 year old Holly. Holly spends her days putting everything in her mouth and filling those diapers. Nathan was recently introduced to the original star wars trilogy, minus the scary parts which I skipped...snake in trash compactor, Luke losing his arm, Darth Vader's bald head, etc. Yes, we bought the fake light saber. Yes, Nathan uses it on Holly.

While teaching at Lutheran North, you lived in Armada. Explain yourself. Another class warfare comment. Please get The Clem chip off your shoulder. Achatz pies rule!

You gave some memorable chapels at Lutheran North. Honesty is a virtue in LEFT FIELD. Have you re-used any chapels? I have reused them all, with the exception of the wallet toss chapel. No one could ever replace your brazen and bossy voice-over.

Teachers often wonder what it would be like to be an administrator. What part of administration took you by surprise? The number of hours spent in meetings. I am learning to say no, though. I've dropped out of three local chamber of commerce groups and started delegating some duties to capable people. The key here is that the teachers are awesome. For the size, this school has a plethora of opportunities for kids, including a local chapter of KABIBS (Kids against bikers in bike shorts).

Every successful administrator, has a world-class secretary. Describe a time your secretary bailed you out of a predicament. She doesn't bail me out as much as prevent predicaments. She is awesome...filters my mail like a hawk, does all the state reporting, orders lunches for the students, shows salesmen the door...

You extended an online chess tournament invitation to Pastor Ball, former LHN Chess Club Czar, but he declined to compete against the cougars. Do you think Pastor Ball finally met his match? (pun intended) The success of Trinity's chess team has come with consequences. No one will agree to sit across the boards with us. We now spend most of our chess club time playing each other, eating doughnuts, and discussing the ramifications of the disputed match between Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov in 2006.

Johnny Cougar Mellencamp is from Seymour. You are a music guy. Have you collaborated on a musical medley? He hasn't sought me out yet... If it's worth anything, our girls' tennis team practices on the court at his parents' house a mile from school. He is there sometimes, and asks about me, but we haven't been able to hook up yet.

Left Field Pop Flies:
Oil-based or latex paint? Latex. Cheaper, better.
Honda or Toyota? Honda rules.
Cloth or disposable diapers? Wow. A question straight out of The Clem.
Hoosier or Wolverine? Hoosierine.
Reggie Miller or Rasheed Wallace? Rasheed baby!
Lions or Colts? Peyton baby!Cheeseburger or Listerine mouthwash? Bacon Cheeseburger.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

...from the Curmudgeon Files

This proves I'm just an old curmudgeon. I, however, embrace my curmudgeonosity with great zeal. Why do some high school athletic teams think they are more important than our great country's anthem? Allow me to set the stage...

Parents, friends and various family members have found their way into the gym for the night's event. The event could be basketball, volleyball, badminton; it matters not. Warm-ups are over and palms are sweaty with excitement, anxiety and the opportunity to compete. Seasoned indoor observers snabbed the top row of bleachers because it alleviates back pain. Youngsters who still possess flexibility and zest sit closer to their team or friends or concession table or that hunk-a, hunk-a someone they have been eyeballing for forever...or at least since sixth hour.

Mr. GoldenTones asks the crowd to stand in honor of our nation for the playing of the National Anthem. Curmudgeon Alert! At some point the row of athletes begin swinging their arms in unison, or leaning back and forth or left and right or demonstrate some movement best saved for Dancing with the Stars.
The narrow-minded, visionless, dependent-on-others-for-independent-thought people respond with the It's-showing-team-unity cliche. That's not the place for team unity. It's the place for deference to our nation. Now I'm not sure why we have selected to play the anthem before athletic events but I'm not going to besmirch the opportunity with actions that place the focus on me and not the flag.

Hey look at us we can swing our arms together!
Yahoo, we can sway left and right in perfect rhythm to this song!
Huzzah, we can make fake cymbal sounds so people will chuckle at our narcissistic actions!
Yippeeeee! Look at us! Look at us! Look at us! ....while this nation's anthem is being played.

Unfortunately, the gospel of me is too prevalent today. Pay respect during the anthem and then play ball.

Curmudgeonly yours,
J. Brandt

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Say it ain't so! Say it aint so!


I told my mom that I wanted to live in that house when I retired. Man, I hope she enjoyed the medium cup of coffee she bought with the money made on the deal.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Welcome to LEFT FIELD. No, this isn't where fly balls go to die. I don't have time for mindless cliches. LEFT FIELD is a Q/A session with notables from around the globe. Questions are pitched and answers are....
See, this whole baseball analogy idea is dangerous. Simply put, we at The Blog: The Clem: The Truth strive to inform this blogging audience of pertinent information - thus LEFT FIELD.

Still confused? Read on and enjoy the first installment of LEFT FIELD.

He left the secure confines of The Clem for western paradise in Allendale, Michigan. LEFT FIELD chronicles the adventure that is Grand Valley State University as captured by Aaron Brandt.
So you have an actual oven in your dorm room. How’s that working out for you?
The oven is great. It really offers us an opportunity to show this town some real east-side cookin, with classic regional dishes such as Easy Bake cookies, Campbell's Chunky Soup, and pancakes.

Is there anything you miss about the LHN dress code? I miss nothing about the dress code. It was poorly enforced and inconsistent. Now, I can go to class in a robe, and people will think nothing of it. In fact, the only time people do take notice is when someone dresses up. Basically if I wore anything within the LHN dress code, people would think I was a preppy, pretty boy that is trying too hard. And I like sweatpants.

College campuses are known for being bastions of liberalism. Does your college experience support or refute that concept? GVSU is not as liberal as most campuses. I think the west side of the state is more conservative anyway. And generally, liberals are louder than conservatives. If you don't have good facts, I guess the best defense would be to yell the loudest MCCAIN IS RACIST AND OLD!

You were instrumental in The Black Hole last year. How would you gauge the GVSU fan base?The fan base is certainly better than LHN ever was. People actually care about their school. And get this, the student section watches the games! The only problem would be that GVSU is so good at every single sport, no games are close. It's hard to get pumped for a game against Michigan Tech, when we are winning by 6 TD's after the first quarter.

What high school experiences helped you cope with college life? When Mr. Slagel told me not to sign up for any credit cards, even if they had free stuff.

College food you can’t get enough of? I would say it is the soft serve ice cream machine. This horrid contraption has doomed me to obesity and diabetes. There are three flavors available: chocolate, vanilla, and a mix of both. Then there is chocolate syrup, caramel syrup and numerous toppings including Butterfinger, Snickers, Heath, sprinkles, nuts, and Oreo. It is basically the worst possible item of food, and it is all you can eat.

College food you hope to never see again? One time, they had tofu burgers. Enough said.

Some parents are concerned there is too much free time with the college life. Can you alleviate those concerns for any parents who might be reading? Well, there is only too much free time if you let it happen. There is plenty of studying to do to pass the time.

One thing you did today that’s helping you avoid the “Freshman 15”. Today I climbed down from my bunk on my ladder as opposed to jumping. Also, I got milk instead of pop for lunch.

Explain any way, shape or form that LHN successfully prepared you for college? Being a student at North helps me every day when I order food. I am now used to complicated menus full of item that are included in the meal, and items that are extra. Unlike many students who had the easy lunch life, I know how to deal with meal-plan adversity.

What teacher phrase do you miss not hearing on a consistent basis? It isn't a phrase, but Mr. Slagel's fist-pound was the highlight of my day in high school. Nothing says, “dude, I got your back” like a fist pound.

What has been a pleasant surprise? A pleasant surprise has been seeing an unknown screen name in my buddy list on instant messenger for the past 7 years and discovering that Hail2theVictrs28 lives 5 rooms down from me on my floor.
LEFT FIELD pop flies
Ramen noodles or cafeteria food?

Cafeteria food. Yes, we do have 34 packages of chicken and beef Ramen in our room, but seriously, who eats that stuff?
Breakfast or sleep? Both. I sleep, wake up and eat breakfast.
On campus or off campus church? Off campus. I'm not into sing-alongs.
Alarm clock or roommate’s loud A.M. Bumblings? Alarm clock. My roommate doesn't have classes until the afternoon, so I am up first.
Obama or McCain? McCain. Because he isn't Obama.
Cafeteria pizza or delivery? Delivery. The cafeteria (Fresh Foods) thinks pizza is dough and ketchup.