Friday, March 23, 2018

Old School vs New School

Throughout time music changes and evolves. Evolution is supposed to relate too growth and improvement. Is this the case for the music industry ? Some may argue yes some may argue no. To be honest this is a opinionated question that can result in many points and arguments. The early 80's was a digital age, filled with sounds of robots and techno music. Music was more about rhythm and the beat of the music. Sort of like dance hall music. During the early 90's this kind of music changed to rap where MC's focused more on story telling and expressing feelings, values, and morals through lyrics. The mid 90's evolved music to a gene of gangsta rap that is still heard today.

This era is where most of hiphop's greatest artist thrived in. Tupac, Biggie, Nate Dogg, and groups like NWA, Bone Thugs and Harmony, and New edition. There are plenty more groups but I just named a few. The main difference between then and now is the lyrical content. Although there are some artist who have true the essence of hiphop when they spit rhymes most don't. This genre of Hip-Hop was basically based on injustices in the law and corruption of police officers. Artist expressed feelings towards these issues as well as shard stories of how they grew up to explain to the world how the african american community can be misunderstood by those not from the environments most grow up in. But now hip hop lyrics are based on, sex, money, clothes , cars, drugs, and violence towards those in their same community.  This is a message that does nothing for the culture of hiphop.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Have movies ruined reading?

Reading is declining in the United States. Longitudinal studies have shown a steady decrease in the number of adults that read for pleasure.  It seems that pop culture gets the blame for many of society’s ills and this issue is no different.  Crain in the Twilight of Books, and this article in the Washington Post both imply or directly blame movies and video games for the decline. However as Sydney Pollack pointed out, the industry might not deserve all the blame it is getting.

There is one connection however that I think is important, that people talking about adult reading habits aren’t discussing.  Of course, correlation does not equal causation. However, it’s interesting that the decline in reading habits inversely coordinate with the increase in standards for early childhood education.  And this is where I get on my soapbox.

More “rigorous” academic standards have been the rallying cry in the political and education scene for decades.  However, those actually in the field of early childhood education and research are continually trying to point out that there is such a thing as Too Much Too Soon.

Early literacy is important.  There is a considerable body of research on the importance of literacy and reading related to other indicators of well-being and success, academic and otherwise.  There is no denying the benefits of literacy.

However, statistics, such as those illustrated above are often used to justify the “push down” of academics.  We would never push a baby down the stairs because we’ve randomly decided that a six-month-old needs to develop large motor skills sooner.  But essentially we are pushing children down the intellectual stairs.  Their brains have not suddenly evolved in the last 50 years to do tasks they are not ready to do.  Lillian Katz, Professor Emerita of Early Childhood Education at the University of Illinois, and Past President of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, has joined others in expressing concern about the long-term negative impacts that pushing “academic” goals, such as early reading, can have.

Boys especially are susceptible to the consequences.  The concern is that if you push a child before they are ready, they will be frustrated, learn to hate reading and don't read for pleasure as they grow older.  In this article from The Guardian Lillian Katz states, “It can be seriously damaging for children who see themselves as inept at reading too early”.  She suggests formal reading instruction shouldn’t even begin till age 7, which is the age widely agreed upon which most children are ready to read.

Bev Bos, noted early childhood educator and advocated, pointed out that when a child is READY to read it takes a total of 24 one-hour lessons to teach them how to read.  If pushed before that it will take substantially longer, be more frustrating, and much less enjoyable for both child and teacher.

Maybe it’s time as Mr. Pollack suggested in "The Way We Are" that we look to a place closer to home for the answers. If as parents we buy into the societal messages we are getting that our children are BEHIND if they don’t know all their letters and numbers before they even get into kindergarten and if we refuse to stand up to developmentally inappropriate practices in our schools, we could unconsciously be doing great harm to our children down the road.

How do we create a generation of readers?  We encourage a generation of adults who are more concerned about story, about reading your child’s favorite book over and over again until they can “read” it from memory.  We sing songs with children; we let them play with bubbles (and develop visual tracking skills), we snuggle them at night with a book, we put on puppet shows, we teach them rhymes and poems, we encourage them to ask questions and tell their own stories.  We foster wonder.  I believe this is the fastest way to revive reading and books.

What was your experience of learning to read?  Do you read for pleasure as an adult now? What do you think has contributed to the decline of reading in America?
Skin heads must read the Bible with Popular Discrimination - or  - The Critical Theory explanation for Utah Mormons.  

Nearly everyone I know who belongs to the predominant religion in UT. or who lives in UT. is familiar with the label "Utah Mormon." The term is derogative without exception, and generally used to describe an individual or a group possessing one or more traits including but not limited to judgmental, condescending, hypocritical, unkind, exclusionary, self-righteous, uncharitable, etc.

 One would wonder how this could be, as the scriptures and council to which Mormons claim to adhere commands or at least strongly suggests that one should strive to be characterized as none and in fact the opposite of  all of the latter. And although one may attribute the persistent and common occurrence of the Utah Mormon to the frailties of human error, its prevalence among the “faithful” suggests further explanation is needed. Then let us consider skin Heads and other less-obvious racists who also claim to study and routinely quote from the Bible. The New Testament in particular is chalk-full of admonitions encouraging and commanding peace, love and understanding. Then why oh why the Bible beaters gotta be the haters? Enter Stuart Hall and John Fiske and the wonders of academia that apply useful terminology to all the unfathomable questions in the world. The simple answer is that those who fail to follow the good word in the arguably (for the purpose of this assertion) good books fail because they are reading according to the ease of Popular Discrimination and not as a student of Critical Discrimination. 

Let me now share an experience from an English Lit class many years ago in which we were reading Thomas Hardy's ‘Convergence of the Twain” - a fairly well-known poem using the Titanic as an image to explore the inevitability of Fate over our lives and so forth. One student in the class suggested an interpretation in which the poem explained the inability of women to escape a misogynistic world in which they are dragged down to the depths of subjugation by chains of chauvinism and patriarchal preference (except her argument was not anywhere so intelligently phrased nor as brief). The professor failed to guide the student in any way - and I KNOW all are thinking, "poetry is subjective" so there are no wrong answers. CRITICAL DISCRIMINATION says you are wrong, Critical discrimination has brought me peace and comfort as I have been haunted by this and other similarly ill-fated and irksome readings of literature. 

One of my favorite professors introduced another helpful appendage to this argument which is a triangle. David Lee, former Utah Poet Laureate and SUU English Department Chair, with a national reputation as a poet and scholar,  taught that when one reads poetry or any great work, one should read it WITHIN the triangle. Within the triangle the work has integrity and honor and a place all its own to be weighed and considered for reading and interpretation and extraction of meaning.  The reader must stay within the triangle to understand and LEARN something about what the artist is COMMUNICATING about LIFE and the manner in which the arts communicates the HUMAN CONDITION!!! When one stays within the triangle and reads or observes art and literature from the perspective of Critical Discrimination, then what Fiske describes as a reverence to the text and the respect for the integrity of the text and the unique and valued  voice of the artist is accomplished. Within the triangle means that the text and the author, or artist if it is a visual text, is considered as an entity with a unique voice and standpoint, and that although the reader has a conversation and interaction with the text and the author, that interaction must allow for deference and respect given to the text and the artist. For instance one could not read Jany Austen without considering her time period and social standing – i,e, her books could not possible be a symbolic period piece discussing the lamentable effects of technology on romantic interaction.  Then one realizes that Hardy, knowing what we do about Hardy and his work and time period, didn't give a damn about women or misogyny and if he did, it certainly was not to be found in that poem.

 But when Popular discrimination is used to read and search for meaning or communication in a piece of art, "The popular reader holds no such reverence for the text but views it as a resource to be used at will…Popular readers are concerned less with the final unity of a text than with the pleasures and meanings that its elements can provoke.”  Fiske further explains that the popular reader lacks either or both the competence or the motivation to decode the text on its own terms. The popular reader wants only to read the text in a manner that reinforces his or her preconceived beliefs, mirrors his or her own experiences and creates pleasure and/or comfort in that reinforcement.  Fiske refers to a triangle as well but that triangle is a conversation between the audience, the producer and the text that demands the text seek to conform to the consumption needs of the audience – that the text have no merit or integrity of its own, only that it provides the pleasure of a chameleon that can morph into whatever the masses need it to be.

 This concept of Popular Discrimination explains why the general public is incapable of reading any text or observing art and absorbing and assimilating any new information. Popular Discrimination explains how Skin Heads can read the bible and its verses to support only violence and hate, ignoring all other messages. It explains how bi-annual General Conferences addressing all Mormons that include messages of acceptance, love, and charity are twisted, tortured, and morphed into the attitudes producing judgmental, exclusionary communities that spend copious amounts of money and resources on porn and plastic surgery but claim the bum on the street is too lazy or a grifter and not worthy of a dollar.

 It explains why literature is lost on people who are incapable (or unwilling) of reading a text on its own merits thus to expand one’s understanding of wide interpretations of the human condition. True Critical Discrimination allows the arts and literature to change people and makes us better, and more connected  as a human race in a way that cannot be replicated. Such Critical Discrimination allows for empathy and personal growth and understanding that seems to be absent from so much of society. 

This Popular Discrimination has given a name to that which has irked me since I had to listen to students even in high school who refused to enlarge their view of the world and their understanding of the people in it.
Read The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Beloved, Let the Great World Spin, or Love in the Time of Cholera and tell me you have not changed how you see the world around you and the people in it, and I will have to call you a popular reader.
What have you read that has changed your view of your world – metaphorically?

Say That We Was Beefing But You All On Your Own...

Never really did I think that music had a big effect on me until I read the article by about how music can act as a Rhetoric and influence people. This was interesting to me because I thought back to what influenced me growing up and the only thing that I could really think of that made a lasting imprint on me was my parents. My father is a tough, stoic man who grew up listening to a lot or Naz, Jay - Z, and DMX while my mother listened to a lot of Sade, Whitney Houston, and Brian McKnight. Growing up I never really though of the music but it had a big role in how I was raised by each parent. My mother taught me to be loving, sweet, and smooth, always calm and collected while my dad taught me to be a "G" and if you say something to or need to handle something with someone that's messing with you, you better be able to back up everything and make sure that I didn't get caught. He wanted me to be a strong and reserved man while my mother wanted me to be sweet and collected at all time.
I never really realized it but as I grew up my mood would change based on my music. I listened to a lot of Rap while in middle school and a lot of it was to 50 Cent. 50 Cent would make me as mean as anyone because we were poor and I didn't have a lot of outlets. I remember running into drug dealers at school and just thinking of how they had the freshest kicks and the nicest clothes and it all seemed so glorious because of how it was painted in the music. I later learned that none of it was glorious from talking with them at lunch and that the only reason why they were doing it was because they didn't have parent like me. It's amazing to think that music had that much influence on me to where I almost went down a bad path in middle school and I can honestly say it was from the culture of the music I listed to and the lack of knowledge I had on the dialogue.
I think it's crazy how music can help push a person to different things because when I got to high school, I started hanging with a girl that listened to a lot of Colbie Caillat and her music would make me feel all giddy and happy and because her music was more about love and good times. I went through a phase with her where all I would listen to was Colbie, Jason Mraz, and other artists in that genre. None of it was about the struggle either so my dopeboy ambitions quickly left.
How has music shaped your life and your dreams growing up? Do you think our peers influence us more or the music we listen to at a certain age?

"Linsanity" in White America

For a brief moment in 2012, a young man named Jeremy Lin was the face of the NBA.

It was truly a surreal moment, not because Lin had very little playing time in the NBA prior to this instant, nor was it because he went undrafted out of college two years earlier.

It was because he was Asian American.

Despite the fact that there are roughly 17 million Asian Americans in the United States today, there have been only a handful to play in the NBA. And none made a splash quite like Lin did in 2012.

His story is one of legend-- a true, modern-day underdog narrative. As this type of story tends to resonate with our society, Lin's fame quickly went mainstream. He became an inspiration to many, especially other young Asian Americans. As Lin was the first American of Chinese descent to play in the NBA, this was the first time other boys and girls of the same ethnicity were able to identify with an NBA star that looked like them.

It happened so quickly, and much of America did not know how to respond.

Many media outlets quickly reacted to Jeremy Lin and his success, often doing so in a questionable, and frankly, racist, manner. After Lin had a tough outing towards the end of "Linsanity", ESPN used a title for a game recap that read "A Chink in the Armor". Taking it even further, another sports personality stated after a particularly impressive performance by Lin during his run, "Some lucky lady in NYC is going to feel a couple of inches of pain tonight."

Some scouts and analysts described his abilities as "deceptive". When prodded to expound, one individual said, "He's (actually) incredibly athletic. But the reality is that every person... thought he was unathletic. And I can't think of any other reason other than the fact that he's Asian."

Many have speculated this line of thinking as a primary reason as to why he was not drafted by an NBA team when he declared for the draft, despite the fact that he was an all-conference player at Harvard University. This may have also been indicative as to why he did not receive any athletic scholarship offers, despite the fact he was unanimously voted as the Northern California High School Player of the Year in 2006.

Many concepts housed within Edward Said's idea of Orientalism may contribute to the idea that Jeremy Lin's story was merely used to bolster the values of Western culture. Because his story became a sports myth filed under the heading of "The American Dream", the narrative of Lin's story seemed to convey one that allowed the dominant culture to use it according to how it would benefit them the most. Orientalism also highlights the fact that Western Culture uses the Orient to show its "contrasting image, idea, personality, and experience".

Do you believe that Orientalism describes all or part of Jeremy Lin's story? Do you think much of Lin's fame was based on the fact that he was of Asian descent and succeeding in the NBA? 

Life Ain't Been No Crystal Stair

I've always had a deep love for the Harlem Renaissance and especially the poetry that came from that time. 
Image result for langston hughesImage result for angelina weld grimke
Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Angelina Weld Grimke and many other amazing poets and artists created such beautiful work before, during and after the Harlem Renaissance. 

Their beautiful poetry expresses the oppression felt by the authors of the poetry and describes the experiences they had dealing with the difficult circumstances of their lives. Fortunately, much has changed since that time but we still have a long way to go to improve the lives of African Americans and work to overcome the pervasive stain of racism. 

Image result for the bean eatersIn attempting to remove racism, I often come across the idea that we shouldn't see race and that we should treat everyone exactly the same. I agree with this argument in that we should treat everyone with the same level of respect and that each person should be allowed the same opportunity, but sometimes I worry that this idea will begin to also eliminate the beautiful things that each culture has to offer. 

In the reading by Cashmore, he says that culture is daunting subject and one I feel is deeply complex. It is extremely difficult to navagate cultural issues, making sure that some cultural paradigms are shifted while making sure that the wonderful things that make each culture unique are also still kept intact. 

I want more than anything to live in a world where each person can be who they want to be. A world devoid of unkindness and racism. In our attempts to make sure that we provide each person equal respect and opportunity, I hope we don't see each person as exactly the same, but that we see each person as unique and individual with the opportunity to become whoever it is he or she wishes to be. 

"...Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair."
-Langston Hughes

Do you feel that individual culture is being assimilated in our attempts for equality?

How do you feel culture can be preserved and expressed while negative stereotypes/behaviors are removed?

Keeping the Gators Fed

Originally this post started as a look at Gangsta Rap and the classifications of hip-hop music. From Christian Hip Hop to Comedy Hip Hop to Chopped and Screwed??, Wikipedia lists more than fifty styles of music derived from Hip Hip. Information overload.

The one that caught my eye and changed the direction of this post, Horrorcore. I honestly did not know there was a horror genre of music until now (please tell me I’m not the only one?). The kicker, I also listen to artists that can be categorized in this style.

For a little background, Horrorcore is defined by Wikipedia as “a subgenre of hip hop music based on horror-themed and often darkly transgressive lyrical content and imagery.” This genre is considered violent, dark, and includes topics like death, self-harm, mental illness, mutilation, suicide, murder, torture, rape, and drug abuse.

Among this sub-genre is Eminem, a well-known artist, one of the best-selling artists of all time and the only artist to have eight albums in a row debut at number one on the Billboard 200. 

Eminem is an immensely popular artist singing about extreme situations and a lifestyle that is not relevant to many. Similar, I would say, to Brummett’s thoughts on white listeners and gangsta rap.

In Brummett’s chapter, On Gangsta Rap, he explains that listeners (particularly white listeners) use gangsta rap to place themselves in stereotypical roles, saying that “gangsta is the permissible expression, verbally and visually, of the kind of appalling racist attitudes that we have all heard but know that we cannot and should not express. It helps a white audience to replicate in their heads a number of racist stereotypes, especially about African Americans.”

He also states that part of the appeal of gangsta is “its ability to say for whites what we may not say to one another in public.”

Now let’s bring the focus to this week’s readings and Why We Crave Horror Films. In this section, Stephen King explains why he thinks viewers enjoy the horror genre in film. He lists few obvious reasons like just to prove that we can, but the answer that hits home is “we go to have fun.”

King’s thought is that we are all insane to some degree and horror appeals to our dark side. He says, “the mythic horror movie, like the sick joke, has a dirty job to do. It deliberately appeals to all that is worst in us. It is morbidity unchained, our most base instincts let free, our nastiest fantasies realized.”

When looking from the perspectives of Brummett and King, it can be argued that horror in music and horror in film can appeal for the same reasons. As King said, “the potential lyncher is in almost all of us, and every now and then, he has to be let loose to scream and roll around in the grass.”

I’m hesitant to say this, but I’m taking a leap. While I think that both can be consumed just as entertainment (because I really don’t want to assume that they appeal to my darkest side), I can see that both could also be used as an outlet for people to live out their darkest fantasies.

I do have concerns as well, there is an unprecedented amount of violent happenings in our world today. It’s a common debate that violent video games, music, films, are fueling the fire and pushing people to act, not suppressing these tendencies. I want to believe that these genres are “keeping the gators fed” as King would say, but I tend to lean towards the other side. I don’t think it is a stretch to say the horror genres can influence real-life actions.

Do you think violence in film, books, music, pop culture in general, is making an impact on society? Are these genres useful as King might say?

What the heck was I thinking?

It is interesting to look back in time and reflect on my personal musical tastes from my teenage years and now. Snellow notes that human beings “have an innate need to symbolize in order to comprehend life experiences.” Growing up in southern Utah I was raised around country music, and fell in love with bluegrass as well, but in high school I mostly listened to heavy metal and death metal.

I assume this is because I enjoyed the intensity patterns, paralinguistic cues and more likely, the illusion of life it represented. Growing up poor, I hung out with the other less fortunate kids mostly and that is what they listened to. I could relate to songs like S#^t Towne by Live, I could feel a connection with bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Testament.

"The Weavers' live up the street from me,
The crackheads they live down the street from me, 
The tall grass makes it hard to see
beyond my property,
Hey man this is criminal 
this hard line symmetry of people and pets,
We don't bother anyone,
we keep to ourselves,
the mailman visits each of us in turn." - S#^t Towne, Live 1994

I enjoyed songs with congruent, tragic messages that usually went unnoticed by my friends from bands like Rage Against the Machine, songs that I know now had a lot to do with people feeling oppressed by capitalism, big brother, the government and the wealthy. I guess I was depressed at my life situation, angry I wasn’t born more well off, although I have never been an angry person, and just wanted to be different.

What I could not understand upon looking back, until reading Adorno, is how I ever listened to bands like Slayer and Cannibal Corpse, whose music does not have clever meaningful messages. I always assumed this was because I wanted to be rebellious, but Adorno says, “popular music divests the listener of his spontaneity and promotes conditioned reflexes. Not only does it not require his effort to follow its concrete stream; it actually gives him models under which anything concrete still remaining may be subsumed.”

So it was the rhythm I was hooked on, not the blood and the guts, the death or Satan. My mind was lulled into standardization. I craved individualization, to be different than my roots, but as Adorno states it was a pseudo-individualization I was receiving.

We discussed in class our pet peeve songs, and the one that always annoys me is “Party Like a Rock Star.” The whole song consists of those five words, yet someone made a bundle off of that one song.

These days I listen to a lot of KSUU because it helps me keep up on what my children are listening to, and sometimes the classic rock station, which now plays The Doors along with Nirvana, but when nobody is around to cry about it one can find me alone in my car, backyard or tool shed with some good ‘ol bluegrass turned up to a respectable volume.

On a final note, taking into consideration Bermingham's reading on remix, I did find one rap song I like through remix, although I still don't relate to the lyrics in any way, shape or form. 
(Warning: Lots of swear words. Bluegrass version of Snoop Dogg's Gin and Juice.)

What about you? Do you have the same preferences in music as you did 10, 15 or 20 years ago? (I know, I'm old.) If no, why do you not listen to the music you used to? What changed?

More Than Eye Candy: Women in Pop-Culture

Kids are some of the most important members of our society. The things that children are exposed to today, will create the adults and leaders of tomorrow. You can ask pretty much any adult who their favorite cartoon or movie character was and you will get an answer. For most of this semester, I have focused on aspects of pop-culture that related to me personally, and directly effected me in my own life. I can think of dozens of pop-culture influences in my own life, and even think of direct example of how the media has impacted and molded me as a person. When I looked over the readings on women in pop culture, I was intrigued, because I haven’t ever considered the direct importance of women in pop-culture. I was particularly interested in the question “Is this woman a good role model for young girls?” that was posed in the readings. I think that this question is asked a lot by parents, the media, and just about anybody else with an opinion. However, I often feel like we are asking this question for all the wrong reasons. One of my favorite cartoons as a kid was Kim Possible. Kim is a stereotypical teenage girl who is on the cheer team, but she is also a spy that frequently saves the world, and takes out bad guys. Kim also wears a shirt that shows off her stomach. I would be willing to bet money that plenty of parents are so worried about the fact that Kim wears clothing that may not be appropriate for their daughter that they overlook the fact that Kim is a great role model, who shows girls that it is okay to have ambitions, and do jobs that aren’t typically “for women”.

As I think of female role models in pop culture, I often think about the saying “life mimics art”. In recent years, female role models have bcome much more prevalent. In World War II, America got Rosie the Riveter. Rosie is one of the earliest examples of a female role model being specifically created for women. Rosie was a character that inspired women to work hard. Rosie showed women that they could do the things that “ladies shouldn’t do”. Unfortunately, after the war Rosie wasn’t needed as much, and female pop culture icons went back to the housewife type characters that you would find in I Love Lucy. Boys don’t need these pop-culture role models in the same way that girls do, because men have always ruled the world. The things that we show young girls of society will make an impact on them more than I think many people realize. For instance, I am sure that many young boys could name a number of famous scientists. Albert Einstein, Bill Nye, (okay maybe just them). If you asked young girls the same question, they would probably name the same people. Perhaps if Marie Curie or Rosalind Franklin had been made into celebrities in the same way many male scientists were, we would have a more equal representation of men and women in STEM fields.


I don’t think that gender stereotypes are necessarily a bad thing, but I do think that society should put a heavier focus on the fact that there are other options than looking pretty and getting married. Recently, Barbie released a set of dolls that depict real women, in a variety of professional fields. Showing girls that they can wear make up and look pretty is fine, but showing girls that they can wear make up and look pretty for their job as a doctor is a hell of a lot better in my opinion. Children today spend more time consuming media than any other generation. Perhaps the media has been playing catch up with actual women, but I have a feeling that many women have gained power and respect because cartoon characters showed them that they could be something. Women are strong, capable, people and they will do anything that the world tells them they can do, and then they will do even more.

Women in this class, do you feel that women are represented fairly or unfairly more frequently in pop culture? Who is a pop-culture icon that you personally look up to? Men in this class, do you feel like men are ever represented unfairly in the media? Would you feel okay with the current generation of media stars being role models for your children (or future children)?