“Follow your passion? That may be the worst advice I ever got.”

This insight from Mike Rowe of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” runs counter to every bit of advice teenagers receive from parents, teachers, and counselors. Yet, it may be the best and certainly most honest guidance they hear. …


Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Does anyone really care?

What defines the “Christmas movie”? Does it have to be a feel good story like It’s a Wonderful Life, or can it just take place during the holiday season like Die Hard. Does it have to represent the holiday cheer featured in Hallmark commercials, or can it expose the cold, distant reality of authentic families during less-than-warm Christmas parties?

Thirty years ago, Clay came back to LA for Christmas, and the holiday movie was never the same. For Generation X, a group of people raised on disappointment, the cinematic version…


In the early fall of 1981, the kids of Generation X were enticed to get in shape, or just pay attention to fitness, or at least entertain our adolescent selves watching others get sweaty. Oh, sure, we’d had the first two Rocky movies to get us up and moving, and the third film revolutionized the training montage for sports films in 1982. I know I had at least a few weeks of sprinting around the neighborhood and lifting make-shift weights in the basement after Rocky kicked Clubber Lane’s butt. But it was the early days of MTV that first got…


“Would you let your ninth grader hang out at a house with no parents home? Would you let that same freshman male hang out alone at a house with two girls?” That challenging question was posed by a friend on social media. My answer: “Sure.” If Gen X’s approach to parenting were a formula, it would be: raise ’em and trust ’em. And even as my wife and I debate how much is our kids’ nature and how much is our environment, we know we’ve played a significant role in who they’ve become.

So in that hypothetical situation, I’d trust…


“Would you let your ninth grader hang out at a house with no parents home? Would you let that same freshman male hang out alone at a house with two girls?” That challenging question was posed by a friend on social media. My answer: “Sure.” If Gen X’s approach to parenting were a formula, it would be: raise ’em and trust ’em. And even as my wife and I debate how much is our kids’ nature and how much is our environment, we know we’ve played a significant role in who they’ve become.

So in that hypothetical situation, I’d trust…


Pico Iyer is an inveterate traveller and travel-culture writer who once lived for a month in LAX to observe and write about his term for a new generation of people on the move. Thus, some might suspect he’d likely be one of the last people to write authoritatively about the idea of “Going Nowhere.” However, as a writer, he has actually spent an equal amount of time sitting still, spending a year in a sort of self-imposed meditation/retreat in Kyoto, Japan, where in the fall of 1997, he fled the fast paced modern world in search of a…


While Donald Trump’s time in the White House has been an endless supply of quips and quotes, the Covid-19 pandemic disaster has given pundits and historians the catch phrase that will define his presidency: “I don’t take responsibility at all.” That was the President’s defensive answer to questions about his dissolution of the pandemic response team and the subsequent testing boondoggle that has prevented states and communities from identifying, isolating, and tracking the community spread of the most insidious villain the country has faced in a century. Widespread testing is the obvious first line of defense against a communicable disease…


“I turned 18 last week.”

Louden Swain informed us of that personal tidbit during the opening monologue of Vision Quest back in 1985. “I wasn’t ready for it,” he admitted, “I haven’t done anything yet. So, I made a deal with myself — this is the year I make my mark.”

How many of us made deals with ourselves thirty-plus years ago, especially after and inspired us to make our mark? How many of us still make deals or plan vision quests? I make deals with myself all the time, and I’m a pretty consistent New…


“You’re from Alton? I know Alton.”

I once heard those words in a bar in Taipei where a couple American businessmen actually knew a waitress at the Pasta House, a restaurant in Alton where I’d once worked. And during a CNN report on flooding on the Mississippi, I recall Anderson Cooper shocking Altonians when he told the reporter, “Oh, I know Alton well.” For a placid little river town just north of St. Louis, Alton, Illinois is a surprisingly well-known place with a big history. It has been listed on the Travel Channel’s list of “50 Most Charming Small Towns,”…


“I went to the wrong college.”

It was never even a doubt that I was going to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because I’d been going to football games with my dad there for years, and my mom went there, and for a high achieving student at a small little Catholic school in southern Illinois, the U of I was pretty much the obvious choice. Just me and about 36,000 students (though it has now just passed 50K).

In reality I should have gone to a small liberal arts school where I wouldn’t have become lost amidst all…

Michael Mazenko

Michael Mazenko is an administrator & AP English teacher in Colorado. He’s been a Colorado Voices writer for the Denver Post, and he blogs at A Teacher’s View

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