Lost 80’s Live – Dates added in MI, CO, & NV

Now there are more opportunities to get lost in the 80’s. We’re going to join a number of other bands and focus on our tunes from that decade.

Also on the bill are A Flock of Seagulls, Wang Chung, Missing Persons, The Motels, and many more.

August 9
Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre
2600 Atwater St
Detroit, MI 48207

August 10
Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre
6350 Greenwood Plaza Blvd
Greenwood Village, CO 80111

September 7
Downtown Las Vegas Events Center
200 S 3rd St
Las Vegas, NV 89101

Fun reads with a purpose for kids during the upcoming Presidents’ Day Recess

WASHINGTON, DC, Feb 14 – Children across the country are looking forward to a winter break on February 18th—this year’s Presidents’ Day. It will give them a chance to clear their heads and prepare themselves for the new classroom responsibilities during the last months of the school year.

“But, it can also be a good time for kids to engage in a bit of unstructured learning and to have some fun, too. For example, web sites such as Garden of Praise offer an opportunity to go on an entertaining “trivial pursuit” of little-known presidential facts,” says author, publisher and history education advocate David Bruce Smith.

And, since Presidents’ Day is all about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, why not give your kids a chance to be carried away by a gripping story– or two– filled with excitement, adventure and a hidden history lesson? Pick up a copy of Chris Stevenson’s The Drum of Destiny, a story that is hard to put down, Smith says.

The book is about a boy on his way to join the American Revolution’s Continental Army. According to the author, “by reading [The] Drum of Destiny, young readers can learn about history without realizing they are learning about history. Most history textbooks are written with the idea of teaching kids facts they can memorize so they can then take a test. This method misses the most important aspects of history. The real life stories, the reasons behind the facts, and the character of our country’s founders are where the real learning is discovered.”

Stevenson won the 2016 Grateful American Book Prize, which Smith co-founded with the late Dr. Bruce Cole, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The intent of the Prize is to encourage authors—and their publishers—to produce more books like The Drum of Destiny that make learning fun.

Says Smith, “knowledge of our nation’s history gives kids a crucial life lesson so that they can develop into responsible, civically minded adults.”

He offers these additional Presidents’ Day picks that would appeal to kids:

  • Tad Lincoln’s Father by Julia Taft Bayne
  • Abraham Lincoln: The Making of America Series by Teri Kanefield
  • Bloody Times: The Funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the Manhunt for Jefferson Davis by James L. Swanson
  • George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spies Who Saved America by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger
  • George Washington: Soldier, Hero, President by Justine and Ron Fontes

Book Review: Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service

Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service
by Gary Sinise with Marcus Brotherton
272 pp., Thomas Nelson

Reviewed by David Bruce Smith

“Lt. Dan” chronicles his transformation into real-life military advocate.

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson was fired from his job. America — and its youth — was saturated with years of “progress” reports about Vietnam that turned out to be false.

In a deep upsurge of anti-establishment rage, manifested in marches, moratoriums, and mass protests, Johnson was swept from the White House and returned to his Texas ranch. He was replaced by Richard Nixon, who punctuated his presidency with promises, promises of peace that were premature.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the vortex of the country-wide commotion, a 14-year-old boy in Chicago was skipping classes, pulling pranks, partying with his buzzed bandmates, and absorbing the way-out wisdom of the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, and Peter, Paul and Mary. According to Gary Sinise’s memoir, Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service, the actor implies that his developmental zigzag to maturity might have been caused — partially — by the dynamic in his home:

“Reading and writing didn’t come easily to me…Today they’d probably diagnose some kind of learning disability. But maybe I just never learned the fundamentals. Mom…carried a load at home…raising three kids…taking care of her mother and…sister…and I think Dad probably overextended himself financially, and that’s why he worked all the time.”

A face-off with flunking out seemed fated, but serendipity disguised as a drama teacher defied the debacle-in-the-making:

“She walked straight toward us, a teacher named Barbara Patterson. She was a powerhouse of a gal, a tornado of a woman…She slowed when she neared us, stopped, and gave a diminutive sniff. Our clothes were cool and raggy, and my bandmates and I…wore scruffy jackets. I’d let my hair grow crazy and curly…She looked at us and said, ‘I’m directing West Side Story for the spring play. You guys all look like you could play gang members.’”

Sinise got the part of Pepe, a minor delinquent, and — to his amazement — he relished the five-week ramp-up to assimilate into the role; he formed friendships with the cast and, for the first time, attracted some auspicious academic attention:

“Teachers noticed this genuine change in me. In English, Mr. Allison knew I sucked at taking exams, but one afternoon he…asked me to tell the class what had been happening in play rehearsal. I didn’t normally speak up in class. Ever. But on the spot I opened up and told everybody about the play. My words were enthusiastic, my voice clear…I was surprised later when Mr. Allison handed me a solid grade for ‘giving an oral report.’”

By the time Sinise graduated in 1974 — half a year behind his peers because of a deficiency in credits — he had excelled in all of his drama classes and garnered leads in the school’s productions of “Tartuffe,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Look Back in Anger,” and “A Thousand Clowns.”

Almost immediately, he pushed aside the possibility of college in favor of presenting “And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little” in a Unitarian church:

“During rehearsals, we got ready to print programs and I said, ‘Okay, we need to call this outfit something.’ We threw out all kinds of names. Rick [actor-friend] was reading a Hermann Hesse novel called Steppenwolf, and while everyone was making suggestions, he didn’t say anything. He just held up his novel, and pointed to it, and I said, ‘Great, Rick! Let’s put that on the program.’ I hadn’t read it, but it sounded good. Steppenwolf Theatre Company. We needed to print programs quickly, so Steppenwolf it was.”

Two years later, the theater was incorporated by its founding members, Sinise, Terry Kinney, and Jeff Perry, with a resident company that included John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf, Moira Harris, and Alan Wilder. Later, Joan Allen, John Mahoney, Dennis Farina, and others joined. Careers were carefully crafted, and “Steppenwolf” — an artistic Armageddon — eventually achieved accolades, awards, and appreciative audiences all over the world.

Sinise sometimes doubled as the artistic director; he was prolific and parsimonious in his productions, which had been limited to Chicago until he bucked the board’s objections, staged Sam Shepard’s “True West” in New York, and won an Obie for directing.

Sinise succeeded logistically, but he was outmatched by Malkovich in performances, which were quickly praised by critics, celebrities, and customers. Soon, Malkovich was parceled and packaged by powerful agents, who managed media interviews and catapulted him to A-list movies and the covers of high-gloss magazines.

Sinise, in contrast, remained underutilized — until he was picked to play Lt. Dan Taylor, “a disabled Vietnam veteran who loses his legs in combat,” in a movie called “Forrest Gump.” He was nominated for an Academy Award for that portrayal, which remains the role for which Sinise is known — and revered — throughout the world.

The brutal boot-camp-like preparation required to “become” Lt. Taylor propelled Sinise from a focused, assiduous actor into a serious armed-forces activist. After 1994’s “Gump,” he participated in USO-sanctioned entertainment junkets, visited war-zone hospitals overwhelmed by suffering soldiers, and appeared at fundraisers on behalf of veterans organizations:

“I knew something big was shifting inside of me. A transformation was now under way. I was no longer primarily an actor…I was becoming an advocate…my job was to carry a nation’s gratitude to the troops.”

Since 2004 — between gigs in “Apollo 13,” “Truman,” “Ransom,” “George Wallace,” “The Green Mile,” and “CSI: NY” — Sinise and his “Lt. Dan Band” have performed more than 400 concerts for half a million soldiers at military bases from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait to Japan, Korea, and Guantanamo Bay. Seven years ago, he founded the Gary Sinise Foundation, which supports and strengthens programming at more than 30 serviceperson institutions.

Sinise has been magnificently magnanimous to the sometimes taken-for-granted soldiers, an irony — especially during a time of prickly politics, demographic divisions, and willful warmongering.

“I wanted to let them know the country…hadn’t forgotten them…And we wouldn’t forget…not ever…if I could help it.”

David Bruce Smith is also a grateful American, the author of 11 books, and founder of The Grateful American Foundation, which is celebrating its fifth year of restoring enthusiasm about American history for kids — and adults — through videos, podcasts, and interactive activities, and The Grateful AmericanBook Review: Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service Book Prize for excellence in children’s historical fiction and nonfiction focused on the United States since the country’s founding.

Read the original review in the Washington Independent Review of Books >>

View all Book Reviews by David Bruce Smith >>

Book Review: Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service

Lost 80’s Live

Escape to the 80’s at the 3rd Annual Lost 80’s Live in Grand Prairie, TX. We’re going to join a number of other bands and focus on our tunes from that decade.

Also on the bill are A Flock of Seagulls, Wang Chung, Missing Persons, The Motels, Farrington + Mann The Original Members of When In Rome UK, The Vapors, John Parr, Boys Don’t Cry, Real Life, The Escape Club, Trans X, Anything Box, and Christopher Anton formerly of Information Society.

Presale starts Jan 30th – use code “SWEET16″.
Public sale starts Feb 1.

Lost 80’s Live 2019
August 24
The Theatre at Grand Prairie
1001 Performance Place
Grand Prairie, TX 75050
(972) 854-5050

Celebrate Black History Month by Giving Your Kids a Meaningful Book About Black Culture and History

WASHINGTON, DC, Jan 28 – February is Black History Month; it’s a time to reflect on the nation’s African-American communities, and America’s diversity.

“As a matter of fact,” says author, publisher, and education advocate, David Bruce Smith, “Black History Month has become a global observance. Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland commemorate the contributions made by their residents and citizens of African descent. But, the whole thing started in the U.S.”

According to the Library of Congress: “The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.” The commemoration of African-American History was expanded into a one-month observance in February, 1976.

“And, what better way to observe the occasion than to pass on the wisdom and knowledge of the past—with a focus on black history—to our children,” says Smith, who co-founded the Grateful American Book Prize with the late Dr. Bruce Cole, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“Our idea was to expose young people to interesting stories that would create a curiosity about America’s history.”

Here are some reading recommendations:

I know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou

Letter to My Daughter, by Maya Angelou

Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin

Up From Slavery, by Booker T. Washington

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Moonwalk, by Michael Jackson

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain 

About the Grateful American Book Prize:
The panel of judges for the 2019 Grateful American Book Prize is now accepting submissions for books published between July 1, 2018 and July 31, 2019. Historically accurate books of fiction and nonfiction written for middle schoolers are eligible for the Prize.