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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

In About Four Seconds, a Teacher Will Begin to Speak 

Last week, the school board of the Sun Prairie Area School District approved a proposal set forth by myself and the English department at Sun Prairie High School for a class entitled "Interdisciplinary Poetics: Hip Hop 101".

Obviously, I'm wildly excited about this, my first opportunity to teach an actual class about rap music and hip-hop culture. The support of the department and other folks in the school (as well as at the district level -- Ms. Evelyn Smojver, the Assistant District Administrator, has been extremely outspoken in favor of the project) has been overwhelming. For this, of course, I thank them and the gods for placing me in such a supportive milieu.

Alas, not everyone is on board. The Sun Prairie Star recently editorialized against the class. I will reprint a large section here, since apparently there is no archive of their editorials and I don't know how long it'll be up.
"I don't think we should take hip-hop, which in my opinion is the lowest form of poetic literature, and focus a course on just that," [a committee member] said.

Frankly, we agree.

Too often, hip-hop as an object lesson degrades women and elevates violence to a glorification status.

Although English electives at the high school have been pared back, we think more constructive uses of time for electives could be found in not only teaching the classics, but also requiring students to read.


In this age of the electronic books and Books on Tape, we should require students to read literature?


Yes -- and the same English should also require students to read something outside their normal cultural landscape so they can become familiar with words they won't normally see and can translate into today's language.

And as another challenge, students should be required to read books that haven't been made into top-grossing Hollywood movies or TV shows so they can interact with the material and provide their own interpretation of the subject matter.

Count us among Sun Prairie citizens who protest against this class.

They will be labeled -- just like the newspaper -- as stodgy, insensitive foagies [sic] whose minds are not enlightened to the stylish ways of new-fangled literature.
I have prepared a modest response, which I will post here once I have sent it to the newspaper. The point is: They're wrong on a number of counts, the class has already generated a huge level of buzz on campus, and Bender is great. (By which I mean me.) More news on the class as it develops.

Speaking of Buzz

Microsoft has been sucking up to bloggers and -- once again -- I have been overlooked by our corporate overlords.
Microsoft Corp.'s efforts to woo influential bloggers by sending them free computers loaded with the Vista operating system is generating controversy, with some online writers attacking would-be Vista reviewers for taking what are tantamount to bribes, while recipients defend their editorial independence, arguing that journalism-style rules prohibiting such gifts are outdated.
Hey, Microsoft! I would never accuse you of bribing people. In fact, if you took advantage of my tremendous offer, you would in fact be able to salvage your tarnished image, because there would be no question about my editorial independence.

Don't be morons, Microsoft. Hook me up. (If you really insist on sending only computers, we could maybe work something out where you supply 500,000 free new laptops to Timor.)

I was going to do another Photoshop job tonight, but it's late and I wanna get in some BF2MC before The Daily Show.


Keeping with the MadTV theme, I've always been a fan of their character Marvin Tikvah. Watch him attend a yoga class. Come on, Shelley!

Today I'm listening to: Poor Righteous Teachers!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Idle Chatter of a Busy Mind 

I know it's been forever since I blogged, but I've been sick and the semester just ended -- so get off my back!

Isn't this picture cool? It comes to us from the sand sculpture archive of Grow-A-Brain. There's lots of cool pix and links to loads more. (I would have used the Simpsons sand sculpture, but they look freakish and scary. The transition to 3D just didn't work there.)

Life and Media

I finally got over that gruesome head cold. There's nothing like being sick for three weeks to make a person appreciate being well. I intend to celebrate by playing video games all day. (I also have to buy a blue pen so I may sign all these letters to parents for the new students second semester.)

Went to see The Last King of Scotland last night, the new film where Forest Whitaker masterfully takes on the role of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. The movie was good enough; Whitaker simply makes the film. (If he loses Best Actor to Leo DiCap or Will "Parents Just Don't Understand" Smith I will break something.)

The problem with Last King is the problem with nearly every movie about Africa -- it's mostly about a white guy. Hollywood simply cannot allow itself to make a movie about Africa without showing it through the eyes of a white person who goes there with kind, noble intentions. God forbid we should have actual Africans as the focus. (As Diane pointed out, thank heaven for Hotel Rwanda.)

Found out the new 100 Bullets collection is out; I'm halfway through it now. It's still good, but I'm having trouble staying interested in all the machinations of The Trust. The characters aren't so sharply drawn anymore, and the shifting narrative blurs with the natural but around-the-bush dialogue to keep things pretty confusing. (Especially since it's been a while since I read the others.) But it's one of those things that I want to keep at until the end. Hopefully it'll wrap up soon.

Finally -- check out Diane on the "Your Five Words" video from the National Conference for Media Reform. You'll also see most of her coworkers at the Center for Media & Democracy.


The Wonder Rake 5000 picks up leaves, pine cones, and .. lots of other things. Best MadTV sketch ever. (Though I remember Garrett was quite fond of Steven Seagal's Letterbox 2000.)

Today I'm listening to: KRS One!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

New Year's Pix R Up 

Man, this head cold is really chafing my ire. Anyway, I went ahead and posted the pictures from the past week's new year's festivities and gatherings. Check 'em out! You can also watch them as a fun slideshow.

In Other News

The inventor of Ramen noodles has died.
Nissin has led the global instant noodle industry since then, selling 85.7 billion servings every year, according to Agence France Presse.
A friend to college students (and poor people) everywhere has been lost. RIP, kind sir.

A French Go tournament site has used some of my Go art. Tres bien!


The video from M-1 (of dead prez) for Til We Get There is pretty good.

Today I'm listening to: M-1!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Crozet Pix R Up 

My pictures from our end-of-the-year trip to Diane's family in Crozet, Virginia are up on Flickr. Why not view them as a beautiful self-advancing slideshow?

Christie, Garrett, Max and Abby are visiting for New Year's -- I'll have those pix up soon enough. Alas, today I have a yucky head cold and I already have to go back to school tomorrow.

The Vacation

The holiday itself was nice -- I read five books while we were away:
  • Love My Rifle More Than You: Young & Female in the US Army by Kayla Williams. The latest in a series of military memoirs I've been devouring lately.

  • War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges. Powerful, personal. He's been in the midst of wars around the globe; this man knows whereof he speaks.

  • The Truth by Terry Pratchett. I've never read a Discworld book I didn't like (Interesting Times was kinda phoned in); this is as good as anything he's written. Diane's reading it as I type.

  • The Truth (With Jokes) by Al Franken. Funny and thorough, but not nearly as much fun as Lies. I like all the different adjectives he uses for Tim Russert.

  • After the Dance by Edwidge Danticat. A walk through carnival in Jacmel, Haiti. As always, she mixes the poetic and the painful with plenty of pathos.
Okay, I need to lie down and watch some Simpsons or something.


Man, I dunno. Watch the H*R Decemberween Shorts.

Today I'm listening to: dDamage!