Si Se Puede
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
So the other day I was listening to Tony Dize’s new album “La Melodia de la Calle” & one track struck me. The song “Permitame” feat. Yandel, which also happens to be the 1st single off the album is a completely different sound for Tony Dize & I would argue much of Reggaeton. The track is infused with Timbaland/Timberlake type sounds & I could envision someone like Justin Timberlake singing over this track & it being a hit.
I was wondering if you could lend your musical ear to the track & let me know what you think. I haven’t been on my Reggaeton game as much as I used to, my MA thesis is has been taking up most of my time, so maybe this track is something not out of the ordinary. Anyway, I find it musically intriguing & wonder if this American Pop style of Reggaeton (is it even Reggaeton anymore?) could possibly be a new wave of the genre? The track is getting a lot of play in PR & is making its way to the radio here in the states, I heard it the other day on “La Kalle” here in Chicago.
I also asked Wayne to check out Daddy Yankee's track "Pose"
Here's Wayne's Response:
These are some interesting examples. Thanks for bringing them to my attention. They definitely depart from recent orthodoxy in reggaeton (though perhaps suggest an emerging new orthodoxy). For one, they’re faster than a lot of reggaeton ca. 03-07; instead of around 100bpm, they’re closer to 120/130, so more like house/techno/club/dance tempo, which is — as usual — pretty consistent with contemporary hip-hop/r&b/pop. Also significantly, — perhaps in part b/c of the tempo — I don’t hear any “Dem Bow” samples; there’s still that ol’ boom-ch-boom-chick (which some might hear as a general “dembow” rhythm), but even then it’s less pronounced/consistent. And the type of synths in use on both tracks, that buzzy/tactile, mid-range wheeze — which perhaps is what suggests the work of Timbaland/lake to your ears — is pretty au courant, not just in hip-hop but all kinds of genres. I think that’s, to some extent, a matter of shared software, but it’s also an aesthetic thing: a return to “ravey” synths that may have been reinitiated, at least in the mainstream, by Lil Jon’s refitting of rave presets for crunk tracks a few years ago (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/28/arts/music/28sher.html?_r=1&oref=slog).
To my ears, once again, reggaeton shows itself very in touch with contemporary global/American pop trends, while maintaining a distinctive sonic profile all its own.
Wayne's analysis is on point & speaks to new trends in reggaeton. I'm curious to see how the genre develops & changes over time. The recent trend in reggaeton to break away from the dembow & to clarify, as Wayne states, "referring not to the rhythm in general but to the specific sounds associated with that dancehall break") speaks to the various influences in Reggaeton music & the global appeal it is seeking to attract.
As I listen to more, I will keep writing....
Monday, May 26, 2008
26 May, 2008
REFLECTIONS BY COMRADE FIDEL
THE EMPIRE’S HYPOCRITICAL POLITICS
It would be dishonest of me to remain silent after hearing the speech Obama delivered on the afternoon of May 23 at the Cuban American National Foundation created by Ronald Reagan. I listened to his speech, as I did McCain’s and Bush’s. I feel no resentment towards him, for he is not responsible for the crimes perpetrated against Cuba and humanity. Were I to defend him, I would do his adversaries an enormous favor. I have therefore no reservations about criticizing him and about expressing my points of view on his words frankly.
What were Obama’s statements?
"Throughout my entire life, there has been injustice and repression in Cuba. Never, in my lifetime, have the people of Cuba known freedom. Never, in the lives of two generations of Cubans, have the people of Cuba known democracy. (…) This is the terrible and tragic status quo that we have known for half a century – of elections that are anything but free or fair (…) I won't stand for this injustice, you won't stand for this injustice, and together we will
stand up for freedom in Cuba," he told annexationists, adding: "It's time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime. (…) I will maintain the embargo."
The content of these declarations by this strong candidate to the U.S. presidency spares me the work of having to explain the reason for this reflection.
José Hernandez, one of the Cuban American National Foundation directives who Obama praises in his speech, was none other than the owner of the 50-calibre automatic rifle, equipped with telescopic and infrared sights, which was confiscated, by chance, along with other deadly weapons while being transported by sea to Venezuela, where the Foundation had planned to assassinate the writer of these lines at an international meeting held in Margarita, in the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta.
Pepe Hernández’ group wanted to renegotiate a former pact with Clinton, betrayed by Mas Canosa’s clan, who secured Bush’s electoral victory in 2000 through fraud, because the latter had promised to assassinate Castro, something they all happily embraced. These are the kinds of political tricks inherent to the United States’ decadent and contradictory system.
Presidential candidate Obama’s speech may be formulated as follows: hunger for the nation, remittances as charitable hand-outs and visits to Cuba as propaganda for consumerism and the unsustainable way of life behind it.
How does he plan to address the extremely serious problem of the food crisis? The world’s grains must be distributed among human beings, pets and fish, which become smaller every year and more scarce in the seas that have been over-exploited by the large trawlers which no international organization could get in the way of. Producing meat from gas and oil is no easy feat. Even Obama overestimates technology’s potential in the fight against climate change, though he is more conscious of the risks and the limited margin of time than Bush. He could seek the advice of Gore, who is also a democrat and is no longer a candidate, as he is aware of the accelerated pace at which global warming is advancing. His close political rival Bill Clinton, who is not running for the presidency, an expert on extra-territorial laws like the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts, can advice him on an issue like the blockade, which he promised to lift and never did.
What did he say in his speech in Miami, this man who is doubtless, from the social and human points of view, the most progressive candidate to the U.S. presidency? "For two hundred years," he said, "the United States has made it clear that we won't stand for foreign intervention in our hemisphere. But every day, all across the Americas, there is a different kind of struggle --not against foreign armies, but against the deadly threat of hunger and thirst, disease and
despair. That is not a future that we have to accept --not for the child in
Port au Prince or the family in the highlands of Peru. We can do better. We
must do better. (…) We cannot ignore suffering to our south, nor stand for the globalization of the empty stomach." A magnificent description of imperialist globalization: the globalization of empty stomachs! We ought to thank him for it. But, 200 years ago, Bolivar fought for Latin American unity and, more than 100 years ago, Martí gave his life in the struggle against the annexation of Cuba by the United States. What is the difference between what Monroe proclaimed and what Obama proclaims and resuscitates in his speech two centuries later?
"I will reinstate a Special Envoy for the Americas in my White House who will work with my full support. But we'll also expand the Foreign Service, and open more consulates in the neglected regions of the Americas. We'll expand the Peace Corps, and ask more young Americans to go abroad to deepen the trust and the ties among our people," he said near the end, adding: "Together, we can choose the future over the past." A beautiful phrase, for it attests to the idea, or at least the fear, that history makes figures what they are and not all the way around.
Today, the United States have nothing of the spirit behind the Philadelphia declaration of principles formulated by the 13 colonies that rebelled against English colonialism. Today, they are a gigantic empire undreamed of by the country’s founders at the time. Nothing, however, was to change for the natives and the slaves. The former were exterminated as the nation expanded; the latter continued to be auctioned at the marketplace —men, women and children—for nearly a century, despite the fact that "all men are born free and equal", as the Declaration of Independence affirms. The world’s objective conditions favored the development of that system.
In his speech, Obama portrays the Cuban revolution as anti-democratic and lacking in respect for freedom and human rights. It is the exact same argument which, almost without exception, U.S. administrations have used again and again to justify their crimes against our country. The blockade, in and of itself, is an act of genocide. I don’t want to see U.S. children inculcated with those shameful values.
An armed revolution in our country might not have been needed without the military interventions, Platt Amendment and economic colonialism visited upon Cuba.
The revolution was the result of imperial domination. We cannot be accused of having imposed it upon the country. The true changes could have and ought to have been brought about in the United States. Its own workers, more than a century ago, voiced the demand for an eight-hour work shift, which stemmed from the development of productive forces.
The first thing the leaders of the Cuban revolution learned from Martí was to believe in and act on behalf of an organization founded for the purposes of bringing about a revolution. We were always bound by previous forms of power and, following the institutionalization of this organization, we were elected by more than 90 percent of voters, as has become customary in Cuba, a process which does not in the least resemble the ridiculous levels of electoral participation which, many a time, as in the case of the United States, stay short of 50 percent of the voters. No small and blockaded country like ours would have been able to hold its ground for so long on the basis of ambition, vanity, deceit or the abuse of power, the kind of power its neighbor has. To state otherwise is an insult to the intelligence of our heroic people.
I am not questioning Obama’s great intelligence, his debate skills or his work ethic. He is a talented orator and is ahead of his rivals in the electoral race. I feel sympathy for his wife and little girls, who accompany him and give him encouragement every Tuesday. It is indeed a touching human spectacle. Nevertheless, I am obliged to raise a number of delicate questions. I do not expect answers; I wish only to raise them for the record.
1) Is it right for the president of the United States to order the assassination of any one person in the world, whatever the pretext may be?
2) Is it ethical for the president of the United States to order the torture of other human beings?
3) Should state terrorism be used by a country as powerful as the United States as an instrument to bring about peace on the planet?
4) Is an Adjustment Act, applied as punishment on only one country, Cuba, in order to destabilize it, good and honorable, even when it costs innocent children and mothers their lives?
If it is good, why is this right not automatically granted to Haitians, Dominicans, and other peoples of the Caribbean, and why isn’t the same Act applied to Mexicans and people from Central and South America, who die like flies against the Mexican border wall or in the waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific?
5) Can the United States do without immigrants, who grow vegetables, fruits, almonds and other delicacies for U.S. citizens? Who would sweep their streets, work as servants in their homes or do the worst and lowest-paid jobs?
6) Are crackdowns on illegal residents fair, even as they affect children born in the United States?
7) Are the brain-drain and the continuous theft of the best scientific and intellectual minds in poor countries moral and justifiable?
8) You state, as I pointed out at the beginning of this reflection, that your country had long ago warned European powers that it would not tolerate any intervention in the hemisphere, reiterating that this right be respected while demanding the right to intervene anywhere in the world with the aid of hundreds of military bases and naval, aerial and spatial forces distributed across the planet. I ask: is that the way in which the United States expresses its respect for freedom, democracy and human rights?
9) Is it fair to stage pre-emptive attacks on sixty or more dark corners of the world, as Bush calls them, whatever the pretext may be?
10) Is it honorable and sound to invest millions and millions of dollars in the military industrial complex, to produce weapons that can destroy life on earth several times over?
Before judging our country, you should know that Cuba, with its education, health, sports, culture and sciences programs, implemented not only in its own territory but also in other poor countries around the world, and the blood that has been shed in acts of solidarity towards other peoples, in spite of the economic and financial blockade and the aggression of your powerful country, is proof that much can be done with very little. Not even our closest ally, the Soviet Union, was able to achieve what we have.
The only form of cooperation the United States can offer other nations consist in the sending of military professionals to those countries. It cannot offer anything else, for it lacks a sufficient number of people willing to sacrifice themselves for others and offer substantial aid to a country in need (though Cuba has known and relied on the cooperation of excellent U.S. doctors). They are not to blame for this, for society does not inculcate such values in them on a massive scale.
We have never subordinated cooperation with other countries to ideological requirements. We offered the United States our help when hurricane Katrina lashed the city of New Orleans. Our internationalist medical brigade bears the glorious name of Henry Reeve, a young man, born in the United States, who fought and died for Cuba’s sovereignty in our first war of independence.
Our revolution can mobilize tens of thousands of doctors and health technicians. It can mobilize an equally vast number of teachers and citizens, who are willing to travel to any corner of the world to fulfill any noble purpose, not to usurp people’s rights or take possession of raw materials.
The good will and determination of people constitute limitless resources that cannot be kept and would not fit in a bank’s vault. They cannot spring from the hypocritical politics of an empire.
Fidel Castro Ruz
May 25, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
The idea that a university education is for everyone is a destructive myth. An instructor at a “college of last resort” explains why.
BY PROFESSOR X
I work part-time in the evenings as an adjunct instructor of English. I teach two courses, Introduction to College Writing (English 101) and Introduction to College Literature (English 102), at a small private college and at a community college. The campuses are physically lovely—quiet havens of ornate stonework and columns, Gothic Revival archways, sweeping quads, and tidy Victorian scalloping. Students chat or examine their cell phones or study languidly under spreading trees. Balls click faintly against »
bats on the athletic fields. Inside the arts and humanities building, my students and I discuss Shakespeare, Dubliners, poetic rhythms, and Edward Said. We might seem, at first glance, to be enacting some sort of college idyll. We could be at Harvard. But this is not Harvard, and our classes are no idyll. Beneath the surface of this serene and scholarly mise-en-scène roil waters of frustration and bad feeling, for these colleges teem with students who are in over their heads.
I work at colleges of last resort. For many of my students, college was not a goal they spent years preparing for, but a place they landed in. Those I teach don’t come up in the debates about adolescent overachievers and cutthroat college admissions. Mine are the students whose applications show indifferent grades and have blank spaces where the extracurricular activities would go. They chose their college based not on the U.S. News & World Report rankings but on MapQuest; in their ideal academic geometry, college is located at a convenient spot between work and home. I can relate, for it was exactly this line of thinking that dictated where I sent my teaching résumé.
Some of their high-school transcripts are newly minted, others decades old. Many of my students have returned to college after some manner of life interregnum: a year or two of post-high-school dissolution, or a large swath of simple middle-class existence, 20 years of the demands of home and family. They work during the day and come to class in the evenings. I teach young men who must amass a certain number of credits before they can become police officers or state troopers, lower-echelon health-care workers who need credits to qualify for raises, and municipal employees who require college-level certification to advance at work.
My students take English 101 and English 102 not because they want to but because they must. Both colleges I teach at require that all students, no matter what their majors or career objectives, pass these two courses. For many of my students, this is difficult. Some of the young guys, the police-officers-to-be, have wonderfully open faces across which play their every passing emotion, and when we start reading “Araby” or “Barn Burning,” their boredom quickly becomes apparent. They fidget; they prop their heads on their arms; they yawn and sometimes appear to grimace in pain, as though they had been tasered. Their eyes implore: How could you do this to me?
The goal of English 101 is to instruct students in the sort of expository writing that theoretically will be required across the curriculum. My students must venture the compare-and-contrast paper, the argument paper, the process-analysis paper (which explains how some action is performed—as a lab report might), and the dreaded research paper, complete with parenthetical citations and a listing of works cited, all in Modern Language Association format. In 102, we read short stories, poetry, and Hamlet, and we take several stabs at the only writing more dreaded than the research paper: the absolutely despised Writing About Literature.
Class time passes in a flash—for me, anyway, if not always for my students. I love trying to convey to a class my passion for literature, or the immense satisfaction a writer can feel when he or she nails a point. When I am at my best, and the students are in an attentive mood—generally, early in the semester—the room crackles with positive energy. Even the cops-to-be feel driven to succeed in the class, to read and love the great books, to explore potent themes, to write well.
The bursting of our collective bubble comes quickly. A few weeks into the semester, the students must start actually writing papers, and I must start grading them. Despite my enthusiasm, despite their thoughtful nods of agreement and what I have interpreted as moments of clarity, it turns out that in many cases it has all come to naught.
Remarkably few of my students can do well in these classes. Students routinely fail; some fail multiple times, and some will never pass, because they cannot write a coherent sentence.
In each of my courses, we discuss thesis statements and topic sentences, the need for precision in vocabulary, why economy of language is desirable, what constitutes a compelling subject. I explain, I give examples, I cheerlead, I cajole, but each evening, when the class is over and I come down from my teaching high, I inevitably lose faith in the task, as I’m sure my students do. I envision the lot of us driving home, solitary scholars in our cars, growing sadder by the mile.
Our textbook boils effective writing down to a series of steps. It devotes pages and pages to the composition of a compare-and-contrast essay, with lots of examples and tips and checklists. “Develop a plan of organization and stick to it,” the text chirrups not so helpfully. Of course any student who can, does, and does so automatically, without the textbook’s directive. For others, this seems an impossible task. Over the course of 15 weeks, some of my best writers improve a little. Sometimes my worst writers improve too, though they rarely, if ever, approach base-level competence.
How I envy professors in other disciplines! How appealing seems the straightforwardness of their task! These are the properties of a cell membrane, kid. Memorize ’em, and be ready to spit ’em back at me. The biology teacher also enjoys the psychic ease of grading multiple-choice tests. Answers are right or wrong. The grades cannot be questioned. Quantifying the value of a piece of writing, however, is intensely subjective, and English teachers are burdened with discretion. (My students seem to believe that my discretion is limitless. Some of them come to me at the conclusion of a course and matter-of-factly ask that I change a failing grade because they need to graduate this semester or because they worked really hard in the class or because they need to pass in order to receive tuition reimbursement from their employer.)
I wonder, sometimes, at the conclusion of a course, when I fail nine out of 15 students, whether the college will send me a note either (1) informing me of a serious bottleneck in the march toward commencement and demanding that I pass more students, or (2) commending me on my fiscal ingenuity—my high failure rate forces students to pay for classes two or three times over.
What actually happens is that nothing happens. I feel no pressure from the colleges in either direction. My department chairpersons, on those rare occasions when I see them, are friendly, even warm. They don’t mention all those students who have failed my courses, and I don’t bring them up. There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass. The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces—social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students—that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty. No one has drawn up the flowchart and seen that, although more-widespread college admission is a bonanza for the colleges and nice for the students and makes the entire United States of America feel rather pleased with itself, there is one point of irreconcilable conflict in the system, and that is the moment when the adjunct instructor, who by the nature of his job teaches the worst students, must ink the F on that first writing assignment.
Recently, I gave a student a failing grade on her research paper. She was a woman in her 40s; I will call her Ms. L. She looked at her paper, and my comments, and the grade. “I can’t believe it,” she said softly. “I was so proud of myself for having written a college paper.”
From the beginning of our association vis-à-vis the research paper, I knew that there would be trouble with Ms. L.
When I give out this assignment, I usually bring the class to the college library for a lesson on Internet-based research. I ask them about their computer skills, and some say they have none, fessing up to being computer illiterate and saying, timorously, how hopeless they are at that sort of thing. It often turns out, though, that many of them have at least sent and received e-mail and Googled their neighbors, and it doesn’t take me long to demonstrate how to search for journal articles in such databases as Academic Search Premier and JSTOR.
Ms. L., it was clear to me, had never been on the Internet. She quite possibly had never sat in front of a computer. The concept of a link was news to her. She didn’t know that if something was blue and underlined, you could click on it. She was preserved in the amber of 1990, struggling with the basic syntax of the World Wide Web. She peered intently at the screen and chewed a fingernail. She was flummoxed.
I had responsibilities to the rest of my students, so only when the class ended could I sit with her and work on some of the basics. It didn’t go well. She wasn’t absorbing anything. The wall had gone up, the wall known to every teacher at every level: the wall of defeat and hopelessness and humiliation, the wall that is an impenetrable barrier to learning. She wasn’t hearing a word I said.
“You might want to get some extra help,” I told her. “You can schedule a private session with the librarian.”
“I’ll get it,” she said. “I just need a little time.”
“You have some computer-skills deficits,” I told her. “You should address them as soon as you can.” I don’t have cause to use much educational jargon, but deficits has often come in handy. It conveys the seriousness of the situation, the student’s jaw-dropping lack of ability, without being judgmental. I tried to jostle her along. “You should schedule that appointment right now. The librarian is at the desk. ”
“I realize I have a lot of work to do,” she said.
Our dialogue had turned oblique, as though we now inhabited a Pinter play.
The research-paper assignment is meant to teach the fundamental mechanics of the thing: how to find sources, summarize or quote them, and cite them, all the while not plagiarizing. Students must develop a strong thesis, not just write what is called a “passive report,” the sort of thing one knocks out in fifth grade on Thomas Edison. This time around, the students were to elucidate the positions of scholars on two sides of a historical controversy. Why did Truman remove MacArthur? Did the United States covertly support the construction of the Berlin Wall? What really happened in the Gulf of Tonkin? Their job in the paper, as I explained it, was to take my arm and introduce me as a stranger to scholars A, B, and C, who stood on one side of the issue, and to scholars D, E, and F, who were firmly on the other—as though they were hosting a party.
A future state trooper snorted. “That’s some dull party,” he said.
At our next meeting after class in the library, Ms. L. asked me whether she could do her paper on abortion. What exactly, I asked, was the historical controversy? Well, she replied, whether it should be allowed. She was stuck, I realized, in the well-worn groove of assignments she had done in high school. I told her that I thought the abortion question was more of an ethical dilemma than a historical controversy.
“I’ll have to figure it all out,” she said.
She switched her topic a half-dozen times; perhaps it would be fairer to say that she never really came up with one. I wondered whether I should just give her one, then decided against it. Devising a topic was part of the assignment.
“What about gun control?” she asked.
I sighed. You could write, I told her, about a particular piece of firearms-related legislation. Historians might disagree, I said, about certain aspects of the bill’s drafting. Remember, though, the paper must be grounded in history. It could not be a discussion of the pros and cons of gun control.
“All right,” she said softly.
Needless to say, the paper she turned in was a discussion of the pros and cons of gun control. At least, I think that was the subject. There was no real thesis. The paper often lapsed into incoherence. Sentences broke off in the middle of a line and resumed on the next one, with the first word inappropriately capitalized. There was some wavering between single- and double-spacing. She did quote articles, but cited only databases—where were the journals themselves? The paper was also too short: a bad job, and such small portions.
“I can’t believe it,” she said when she received her F. “I was so proud of myself for having written a college paper.”
She most certainly hadn’t written a college paper, and she was a long way from doing so. Yet there she was in college, paying lots of tuition for the privilege of pursuing a degree, which she very likely needed to advance at work. Her deficits don’t make her a bad person or even unintelligent or unusual. Many people cannot write a research paper, and few have to do so in their workaday life. But let’s be frank: she wasn’t working at anything resembling a college level.
I gave Ms. L. the F and slept poorly that night. Some of the failing grades I issue gnaw at me more than others. In my ears rang her plaintive words, so emblematic of the tough spot in which we both now found ourselves. Ms. L. had done everything that American culture asked of her. She had gone back to school to better herself, and she expected to be rewarded for it, not slapped down. She had failed not, as some students do, by being absent too often or by blowing off assignments. She simply was not qualified for college. What exactly, I wondered, was I grading? I thought briefly of passing Ms. L., of slipping her the old gentlewoman’s C-minus. But I couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t be fair to the other students. By passing Ms. L., I would be eroding the standards of the school for which I worked. Besides, I nurse a healthy ration of paranoia. What if she were a plant from The New York Times doing a story on the declining standards of the nation’s colleges? In my mind’s eye, the front page of a newspaper spun madly, as in old movies, coming to rest to reveal a damning headline:
THIS IS A C?
Illiterate Mess Garners ‘Average’ Grade
Adjunct Says Student ‘Needed’ to Pass, ‘Tried Hard’
No, I would adhere to academic standards, and keep myself off the front page.
We think of college professors as being profoundly indifferent to the grades they hand out. My own professors were fairly haughty and aloof, showing little concern for the petty worries, grades in particular, of their students. There was an enormous distance between students and professors. The full-time, tenured professors at the colleges where I teach may likewise feel comfortably separated from those whom they instruct. Their students, the ones who attend class during daylight hours, tend to be younger than mine. Many of them are in school on their parents’ dime. Professors can fail these young people with emotional impunity because many such failures are the students’ own fault: too much time spent texting, too little time with the textbooks.
But my students and I are of a piece. I could not be aloof, even if I wanted to be. Our presence together in these evening classes is evidence that we all have screwed up. I’m working a second job; they’re trying desperately to get to a place where they don’t have to. All any of us wants is a free evening. Many of my students are in the vicinity of my own age. Whatever our chronological ages, we are all adults, by which I mean thoroughly saddled with children and mortgages and sputtering careers. We all show up for class exhausted from working our full-time jobs. We carry knapsacks and briefcases overspilling with the contents of our hectic lives. We smell of the food we have eaten that day, and of the food we carry with us for the evening. We reek of coffee and tuna oil. The rooms in which we study have been used all day, and are filthy. Candy wrappers litter the aisles. We pile our trash daintily atop filled garbage cans.
During breaks, my students scatter to various corners and niches of the building, whip out their cell phones, and try to maintain a home life. Burdened with their own assignments, they gamely try to stay on top of their children’s. Which problems do you have to do? … That’s not too many. Finish that and then do the spelling … No, you can’t watch Grey’s Anatomy.
Adult education, nontraditional education, education for returning students—whatever you want to call it—is a substantial profit center for many colleges. Like factory owners, school administrators are delighted with this idea of mounting a second shift of learning in their classrooms, in the evenings, when the full-time students are busy with such regular extracurricular pursuits of higher education as reading Facebook and playing beer pong. If colleges could find a way to mount a third, graveyard shift, as Henry Ford’s Willow Run did at the height of the Second World War, I believe that they would.
There is a sense that the American workforce needs to be more professional at every level. Many jobs that never before required college now call for at least some post-secondary course work. School custodians, those who run the boilers and spread synthetic sawdust on vomit, may not need college—but the people who supervise them, who decide which brand of synthetic sawdust to procure, probably do. There is a sense that our bank tellers should be college educated, and so should our medical-billing techs, and our child-welfare officers, and our sheriffs and federal marshals. We want the police officer who stops the car with the broken taillight to have a nodding acquaintance with great literature. And when all is said and done, my personal economic interest in booming college enrollments aside, I don’t think that’s such a boneheaded idea. Reading literature at the college level is a route to spacious thinking, to an acquaintance with certain profound ideas, that is of value to anyone. Will having read Invisible Man make a police officer less likely to indulge in racial profiling? Will a familiarity with Steinbeck make him more sympathetic to the plight of the poor, so that he might understand the lives of those who simply cannot get their taillights fixed? Will it benefit the correctional officer to have read The Autobiography of Malcolm X? The health-care worker Arrowsmith? Should the child-welfare officer read Plath’s “Daddy”? Such one-to-one correspondences probably don’t hold. But although I may be biased, being an English instructor and all, I can’t shake the sense that reading literature is informative and broadening and ultimately good for you. If I should fall ill, I suppose I would rather the hospital billing staff had read The Pickwick Papers, particularly the parts set in debtors’ prison.
America, ever-idealistic, seems wary of the vocational-education track. We are not comfortable limiting anyone’s options. Telling someone that college is not for him seems harsh and classist and British, as though we were sentencing him to a life in the coal mines. I sympathize with this stance; I subscribe to the American ideal. Unfortunately, it is with me and my red pen that that ideal crashes and burns.
Sending everyone under the sun to college is a noble initiative. Academia is all for it, naturally. Industry is all for it; some companies even help with tuition costs. Government is all for it; the truly needy have lots of opportunities for financial aid. The media applauds it—try to imagine someone speaking out against the idea. To oppose such a scheme of inclusion would be positively churlish. But one piece of the puzzle hasn’t been figured into the equation, to use the sort of phrase I encounter in the papers submitted by my English 101 students. The zeitgeist of academic possibility is a great inverted pyramid, and its rather sharp point is poking, uncomfortably, a spot just about midway between my shoulder blades.
For I, who teach these low-level, must-pass, no-multiple-choice-test classes, am the one who ultimately delivers the news to those unfit for college: that they lack the most-basic skills and have no sense of the volume of work required; that they are in some cases barely literate; that they are so bereft of schemata, so dispossessed of contexts in which to place newly acquired knowledge, that every bit of information simply raises more questions. They are not ready for high school, some of them, much less for college.
I am the man who has to lower the hammer.
We may look mild-mannered, we adjunct instructors, but we are academic button men. I roam the halls of academe like a modern Coriolanus bearing sword and grade book, “a thing of blood, whose every motion / Was timed with dying cries.”
I knew that Ms. L.’s paper would fail. I knew it that first night in the library. But I couldn’t tell her that she wasn’t ready for an introductory English class. I wouldn’t be saving her from the humiliation of defeat by a class she simply couldn’t handle. I’d be a sexist, ageist, intellectual snob.
In her own mind, Ms. L. had triumphed over adversity. In her own mind, she was a feel-good segment on Oprah. Everyone wants to triumph. But not everyone can—in fact, most can’t. If they could, it wouldn’t be any kind of a triumph at all. Never would I want to cheapen the accomplishments of those who really have conquered college, who were able to get past their deficits and earn a diploma, maybe even climbing onto the college honor roll. That is truly something.
One of the things I try to do on the first night of English 102 is relate the literary techniques we will study to novels that the students have already read. I try to find books familiar to everyone. This has so far proven impossible. My students don’t read much, as a rule, and though I think of them monolithically, they don’t really share a culture. To Kill a Mockingbird? Nope. (And I thought everyone had read that!) Animal Farm? No. If they have read it, they don’t remember it. The Outsiders? The Chocolate War? No and no. Charlotte’s Web? You’d think so, but no. So then I expand the exercise to general works of narrative art, meaning movies, but that doesn’t work much better. Oddly, there are no movies that they all have seen—well, except for one. They’ve all seen The Wizard of Oz. Some have caught it multiple times. So we work with the old warhorse of a quest narrative. The farmhands’ early conversation illustrates foreshadowing. The witch melts at the climax. Theme? Hands fly up. Everybody knows that one—perhaps all too well. Dorothy learns that she can do anything she puts her mind to and that all the tools she needs to succeed are already within her. I skip the denouement: the intellectually ambitious scarecrow proudly mangles the Pythagorean theorem and is awarded a questionable diploma in a dreamland far removed from reality. That’s art holding up a mirror all too closely to our own poignant scholarly endeavors.
Professor X teaches at a private college and at a community college in the northeastern United States.
The URL for this page is http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200806/college.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
May 22, 2008
Puerto Rico’s Moment in the Sun
By MICHAEL JANEWAY
PUERTO RICO, an afterthought trophy for the United States 110 years ago at the end of the Spanish-American War and an island in limbo since, has become an improbable player in the contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Its primary on June 1 could bolster Mrs. Clinton’s claim to a majority of the popular vote — the combined tally for all the Democratic primaries and caucuses held across the country over the past six months.
Puerto Rico’s formal role in the process is indeed weighty. Its 63 voting delegates — 55 elected ones and eight superdelegates — at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this summer will outnumber delegations from more than half the states (including Kentucky and Oregon) and the District of Columbia. Yet Puerto Rico does not have a vote in the Electoral College, nor will its 2.5 million registered voters cast ballots for president in November.
How in the world did this happen? From the beginning, the question of Puerto Rico has perplexed the United States. The island was essential to the defense of the Panama Canal, so we did not make it independent, in contrast to two other Spanish possessions we gained in the war, Cuba (which become independent in 1902) and the Philippines (1946). And we judged it foreign in language and culture — and worse, overpopulated — so New Mexico-style Americanization leading to statehood was out of the question.
Similarly, Puerto Ricans have never resolved their relationship with the United States. For almost 50 years after the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rican sentiment was divided between dreams of statehood and of independence. This ambivalence deterred the island from ever petitioning Congress for one or the other. And until mid-century, sporadic outbursts of violent nationalism haunted the scene.
Partly to put such extremism out of business, Congress in 1948 allowed Puerto Rico to elect its own governor and then in 1950 gave it an intricately designed, semi-autonomous “commonwealth” status short of statehood. Two years later, the island adopted its own Constitution, and Congress quickly ratified it.
Puerto Ricans elect their own Legislature, along with the governor. They enjoy entitlements like Social Security, but they do not pay federal income taxes. They retain their own cultural identity (Spanish is the prevailing tongue) but live under the umbrella of the American trade system and the American military. They have been citizens since 1917, but they have no vote in Congress or for the presidency.
The man who brought forth this unique arrangement, which has come to seem permanent, was Luis Muñoz Marín, who dominated Puerto Rico’s politics beginning in 1940. In 1948 he became the island’s first elected governor. He won three more terms and could easily have been “president for life.” A stretch of 116th Street in Manhattan’s Spanish Harlem is named Luis Muñoz Marín Boulevard in his honor.
Muñoz was an eloquent advocate of independence until, faced with daunting statistics at the end of World War II, he concluded that Puerto Rico’s impoverished economy could not support nationhood. So he began packaging his third-way brainchild.
When pitching commonwealth on the mainland, Muñoz — an artist of words and imagery who also enjoyed a drink or two — would observe that Puerto Rico is the olive in the American martini. The phrase went down well in Washington, but Muñoz used different language at home. Neither Congress nor the American courts have ever embraced Muñoz’s Spanish-language phrase for “commonwealth,” universally recognized in Puerto Rico: “estado libre asociado,” or free associated state. Those three words suggested an autonomy (or even statehood or independence) beyond what came to pass. But Muñoz was too popular on the island for that to cause him trouble.
Still, Muñoz always intended to bring “enhanced autonomy” in trade, self-governance, taxation and entitlements to Puerto Rico. But Fidel Castro’s seizure of power in Cuba in 1959 moved Washington’s attention away from the commonwealth.
Muñoz left office in 1965. His dreams faded. The economy he jump-started went flat. Today, the government accounts for 30 percent of Puerto Rico’s work force (compared with 16 percent on the mainland).
Then in 1974, the Democratic National Committee and some shrewd local political strategists came up with an idea for how to play to lingering discontent over the island’s status: Why not make nice with Puerto Rico (and, as important, with the Puerto Rican vote in American cities) by awarding it the number of delegates to the Democratic presidential nominating convention that its population would yield as a state? But not until this year has a presidential race been close enough, long enough, to yield Puerto Rico a role in the endgame.
On the island, politics is focused on the longstanding deadlock between the two dominant parties, whose identities — one is for statehood and one is for enhanced autonomy — today bear no relation to those of the Republicans and Democrats in the 50 states. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama are, gingerly, bidding for support from both of them.
But the mainland population of Puerto Ricans (like the island’s, almost four million) is watching, too. That fully enfranchised constituency is up for grabs in November. Republicans have fished in these waters, too.
Presidential candidates usually offer Puerto Ricans hazy promises that are sure to be unfulfilled. First on the list: We’ll do whatever you want about the island’s status if you deliver us an overwhelming majority for one or another option. That’s not going to happen.
Since 1967, public support on the island has seesawed inconclusively between statehood and enhanced autonomy — a better version of the deal they already have. Muñoz’s commonwealth helped eclipse independence; that course enjoys only limited support today. An overwhelming majority of Puerto Ricans wants, one way or another, to be American.
The next president could just appoint another commission, more high-level and forceful than past ones, to reopen the dormant question of Puerto Rico’s status. But there is an additional option.
Fidel Castro is gone from office, Hugo Chávez’s influence is growing, Brazil is becoming an oil power, and the United States has no Latin American policy to speak of. John F. Kennedy wisely turned to Puerto Rican leaders to help him frame a new policy for the region in 1961. Similarly, the next president could ask Puerto Rico, with its democratic tradition and its past success with economic development, to help us plan for the post-Castro Caribbean.
The United States is overdue in re-engaging with this special place, which landed in our lap as a stepchild of imperialism in 1898, and which we have never seen clearly.
Michael Janeway, a former editor of The Boston Globe and a professor of journalism and arts at Columbia, is writing a history of the United States and Puerto Rico in the 20th century.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Published on Sunday, May 18, 2008 by CommonDreams.org
Hillary Is White
by Zillah Eisenstein
It seems clear that Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee for president this fall. Nevertheless, it is crucial to clarify how wrong-headed Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been so that the legacy she leaves does no more damage to a multi-racial, multi-class based feminism/womanism both here and abroad.
None of the pundits and journalists appears to be wondering and worrying about black women in this post-Indiana-North-Carolina-West-Virginia moment. Instead, all eyes, and especially Hillary and Bill’s are on the so-called “white-hard-working working class”. Hillary’s preoccupation with white voters is a dead give-a-way of how she thinks about gender, and being a woman. Gender is white to her, like race is black. Bill and Hillary Clinton have thrown African-Americans to the wind because they thought they could play the gender card with its history of whiteness and win.
And here lies the rub. Hillary Clinton presents herself to the electorate as a woman. She argues that she wants to break the glass ceiling of/for gender. But the truth is that she is not simply a woman but both a woman and also white. The very fact that she ignores her own race, in a way that Obama cannot, is proof of the normalized privileging of whiteness. In this instance white is not a color, but the color, the standard, by which others are judged. So she silently, inadvertently but knowingly, uses her color to write her meanings of gender and mobilize older white women and angry white men by doing so. She presents herself as a woman but her real power here is as white. Misogyny — the fear, hatred, punishment, and discrimination towards women — ensures that Hillary’s privilege is her whiteness.
Most often the term white is not spoken alongside the term woman; there is no need. One only specifies color when it is not white. Women are assumed to be white if not specified otherwise, especially if you are speaking about gender or women’s rights, or feminism. Forget the fact that it was a group of black women that initially challenged the Supreme Court in the first sex discrimination case in this country years ago.
Hillary speaks of herself as a woman, and then speaks separately about race, as though she does not embody both at the same time. She has as much ‘race’ as Barack, but her race is not a problem for her. It is for him, even though it may not be as much as a problem as she is trying to make it. As such, Hillary, as a (white) woman pits herself against Barack (as black) with a race so to speak. So Hillary (as a woman) is falsely, wrongly, pitted against Barack (as black). Her whiteness privileges and pits gender against race. She encodes her whiteness as though it is central to her gender, and to her kind of feminism without saying a word. She re-awakens and rewrites the history of 19th century U.S. feminism that pitted black men getting the vote before white women had that right. More recently, women’s rights rhetoric was used to justify the bombing of the Taliban and brown people in Afghanistan and Iraq. Feminism has a history of being bankrupt on this issue so this is nothing new. What is forgotten here is that women’s rights come, or should come, in all colors.
Barack Obama has said he wants to embrace the new notions of race and the racial progress that has occurred. He is not post-racist, but recognizes the newly raced relations as they exist at present. Nevertheless, he must give a speech on race although he says he does not want to be a racial candidate. He recognizes that the country has new-old racial hierarchies with complex identities and that he himself represents white and African blackness, whatever this might mean for him. Meanwhile Hillary says she is running as a woman, and never gives a speech on gender because white angry men and women, would not be pleased by this. So patriarchy, or sexual discrimination, or the structural hierarchy of masculinity with its racialized and class aspects is never mentioned in her campaign. She uses whiteness as her weapon and pretends to be speaking about gender. But she never once mentions the unacceptable misogyny of this country, or the sexual hierarchy of the labor force, or any of the great racial and class inequities that define women’s lives today. This is a misuse and abuse of her gender.
Feminisms of all sorts have moved beyond the idea that feminism is a white woman’s thing; or that feminisms should be particularly beholden to the white mainstreamed part of the U.S. women’s movement. Large numbers of women, especially women of color, but many white women as well, know that race and gender are inseparable and that is why most of these women, whatever their color, are voting for Barack Obama. Hillary should not be allowed to push feminism backwards for her own political ambition. It is not surprising that it is older white women who disproportionately support her. They identify with old notions of womanhood-a homogenized notion that all females share an identity, and race and class are not connected issues to be named and spoken. This is why younger women and progressive women from the civil rights and women’s movements, some of whom are older, disproportionately support Obama.
My thoughts about Hillary Clinton have their own history, which also coincide with her history. I have not been a fan of hers. I have written critically of her for more than a decade now. She has never spoken on behalf of women or as a candidate with a woman’s agenda, let alone as a feminist when she was in the White House. Many of us who are her contemporaries were active in the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Movements and Anti-Vietnam War movement — while she chose not to be. Her one speech addressing the exploitation of women was delivered in Beijing, China, as though it is women outside, but not inside the U.S. who face untold discrimination. Now she runs for president and has become a gun-toting, war mongering white woman who asks for your vote if you are an angry white Reagan Democrat. Maybe she thinks manly gender is the answer for breaking glass ceilings for women.
I would argue that she is not breaking gender boundaries but rather has embraced and extended masculine/misogyny for females. And misogyny always comes in racialized form. She remains female in body and hence parades as a decoy for feminist claims. And her white self is central to this decoy status. Susan Faludi wrote in the New York Times that Hillary is having a success with white male support because she is willing to battle, and engage in rough play like one of the boys. She is supposedly willing to “join the brawl” and as such has won their confidence. She has “broke through the glass floor and got down with the boys” opening the way for women to finally make it “through the glass ceiling and into the White house”. Barbara Ehrenreich in The Nation hesitantly embraces this assessment and then more forcefully criticizes Clinton for her ruthlessness. Ehrenreich writes that Clinton has “smashed the myth of innate female moral superiority in the worst possible way…demonstrating female moral inferiority.”
Hillary has proven that sometimes the best man for the job may be a female posing to be a man. In other words, Hillary has simply clothed herself in men’s tactics and strategies. She can nuke with the best of them. Hillary not only authorized the war in Iraq but she repeatedly continued to do so for several more years — up until the time she began running for president. She allowed, along with Bill Clinton, the egregious trade blockade against Iraq as hundreds of thousands of children starved to death after the ‘91 war. She more recently has supported Israel’s terror bombing of Lebanon and has newly endorsed “the total obliteration” of Iran.
But this is just part of the sad story. Hillary’s embrace of a masculinist machismo embraces the very misogyny that most feminists want to dismantle. Instead of challenging the gender divide Hillary simply slides over to the other side of it. Instead of offering a new vision of what it might mean to have a female president she offers us old versions of white privilege and war mongering. But the structural privilege of patriarchy is ignored and obfuscated with Hillary’s race card.
Nevertheless many (white) women write, like Marie Cocco in the Washington Post (May 15, ‘08), that she won’t miss the misogyny of the campaign when it’s over — she lists the sexist T-shirts, and array of commercial goods circulating at present. While I abhor any form of degradation of girls and women, or any human being for that matter, I am also hesitant to see this as a sufficient critique of the problem.
Hillary Clinton should never be demeaned for being a woman. But being a woman comes in all colors and classes. Hillary has done the unforgivable. She has used race — the whiteness card — on behalf of gender. We, the big “we” — the huge diversely defined feminisms in this country and across the globe — are better than this. Black feminists in this country, during the 1970’s and 80’s women’s movement made sure to break open the race/gender divide and clarify that gender is always racialized and race is always gendered. No person ever experiences one with out the other. Only when whiteness parades as an invisible standard can you think that gender and race can be separate. As such Hillary is white and a female and Barack is black and male. They are each both. Everyone is.
Hillary’s manipulation and misrepresentation of her gender reveals her sexual decoy status. Being female is not enough to allow one to claim their gender as a political tactic. Such claims must be rooted in a commitment to end gender discrimination and their racial and class formulations; not pit races and classes against each other in the hopes of being the first woman president. Clinton does not share a political identity with women of all classes and colors and nations simply because she has a female body. She first needs to claim that body and demand rights for it — reproductive, day care, health, education, etc. She has no multi-racial woman’s agenda because she has no anti-racist agenda. Meanwhile she is thrilled that she won big in West Virginia. West Virginia is “almost heaven” to Hillary. She says it shows the country that she can win the “hardworking white Americans” in November. But West Virginia is not heaven, nor is it like much of the rest of the country. It may look like what the U.S. used to be, but that is exactly the point. It does not have the diversity of color, age, culture that defines the U.S. today. Neither does Hillary’s vision.
Hillary is a sexual decoy. She looks like a woman but is not a feminist nor does she speak for or on behalf of most women. She speaks for white people while identifying with her gender, as a woman. But she has trumped herself here. If a female prepares to bully the rest of the world with war and white privilege hopefully we — the big “we” — the “we” that spans across our differences will defeat the political forces she represents. And this means building a coalition for the November elections that makes sure that a non-misogynist agenda is part of the anti-racist politics of the Obama campaign.
Zillah Eisenstein is professor of politics at Ithaca College, a feminist anti-racist activist, and author of ten books in feminisms and feminist theories across the globe. Her most recent book is Sexual Decoys: Gender, Race and War in Imperial Democracy (London: Zed Books, 2007).
from The Masculinity Project:
What does it mean to be a man? The Masculinity Project will gather multi-generational voices to explore this question, with a focus on the black community in the 21st century. This project addresses the critical topic of masculinity in the African American community by exploring how young men are represented and perceived, investigating the obstacles they encounter, and celebrating the contributions they make.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Here are some news clips about the incident.
More to come.
Fuck the Police.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
rented a movie from Blockbuster/Hollywood Video. I'm an avid Netflix user, just more convenient & cheaper. If I want a movie on the spot, I just download it! Any thoughts?
Historic 2018Blockbuster2019 Store Offers Glimpse Of How Movies Were Rented In The Past
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I don't know how I lived without my DVR.....
May 12, 2008
In the Age of TiVo and Web Video, What Is Prime Time?
By BRIAN STELTER
This week, the television upfronts — in which the broadcast networks present their schedules to advertisers — will open with a mystery. Who stole six million viewers?
That’s the number who were watching prime time television last May, a month affectionately known as “sweeps,” but have disappeared this year, according to the overnight Nielsen ratings. Each of the major broadcast networks, save for Fox, has seen its audience decline this season. The ratings for hit shows like “American Idol” and “CSI” have approached record lows.
Where some of last May’s 44 million viewers went is not a mystery, according to the networks. The writers’ strike this winter deflated the ratings and accelerated the flight of viewers to cable channels.
But the more significant shift can’t be blamed on the strike. In the past television season, there has been a sharp increase in time-shifting. Some of the six million are still watching, but on their own terms, thanks to TiVos and other digital video recorders, streaming video on the Internet, and cable video on demand offerings. So while overall usage of television is steady, the linear broadcasts favored by advertisers are in decline.
The mystery, then, is what the networks should do now.
Brad Adgate, research director of the advertising agency Horizon Media, said that advertisers were paying attention to the changes.
“Part of the reason why advertisers buy television is because of its immediacy,” Mr. Adgate said. As more consumers time-shift their viewing, “there becomes less of a difference between ads in magazines and ads on television.”
Broadcast television remains the dominant medium for advertising, as the $9 billion upfront market attests, but its prime-time audience is gradually shrinking. Time-shifting has cushioned the declines, but in ways that are trickier to measure and pitch to marketers. With on-demand options available in more households than ever, networks have no choice but to adapt.
For starters, the prime-time schedules crafted by television programmers might become less important with each passing year. David Wolf, a senior executive with the consulting firm Accenture’s media and entertainment practice, said that “must-see TV” — the longtime slogan for of NBC’s Thursday night lineup — might become a television relic.
“The days of the ‘lineup’ are numbered,” Mr. Wolf said. In other words, with fewer viewers watching linear over-the-air television, networks can’t assume that a heavyweight lead-in like “Dancing With the Stars” will keep viewers watching all the way to the late local news, a pattern that has helped networks introduce new shows.
It may also mean that matching up programs becomes less important, or at least less potentially damaging. Last fall’s powerhouse Thursday at 9 p.m. match-up — ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” versus CBS’s “CSI” versus NBC’s “The Office” — was a scheduling move influenced by time-shifting. All three shows are popular among the young, upscale viewers who record and stream shows most often.
“I think that scheduling decision would have been a lot harder to make in a non-DVR world,” said a senior network executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to be candid about the issue. “It would have been more of a zero-sum game then.”
Many of the top-rated broadcast shows now have 20 percent to 25 percent ratings gains when DVR viewing is calculated. In urban areas, the gains are even greater. In Los Angeles, fully half the 18- to 49-year-old viewership for some shows, including “The Office” and another NBC sitcom, “30 Rock,” happens on a time-shifted basis.
Some viewers shift their viewing only slightly, overlapping shows scheduled later in the evening.
Of 20 shows time-shifted most often, only one (“Medium”) is on at 10 p.m. As appointment viewing wanes, hit franchises — ones that viewers will record or watch online each week — become even more important.
“As a result of time-shifting, the biggest shows are getting bigger and some of the smaller shows are getting negatively impacted,” the senior television executive said.
At a series of upfront presentations this week, the networks are likely to discuss the dizzying number of new ways to watch television. Last week, for example, the General Electric unit NBC started streaming some episodes to the Apple iPhone, and Microsoft added show downloads to its online store.
The availability of television shows online has become widespread surprisingly quickly. Some series are viewed millions of times a week via free, advertising-supported streaming Web sites like Hulu, Veoh and Fancast (and the network sites themselves). DVRs and online streams offer “a fairly large library of content available on an on-demand basis,” said Amy Banse of Comcast Interactive Media.
“The Hills,” the most popular show on Viacom’s MTV, is a leading example of the shift. Comparing television ratings with online streams is imprecise, but the audience for the series soars when on-demand options are factored in. Since the show returned on March 24, premiere episodes have averaged 3.7 million “live” viewers on Monday nights. Almost a million more viewers have watched each episode using DVRs. On the Internet, episodes and excerpts have been streamed another 32 million times. Some overlap undoubtedly exists, as some fans watch the episode both on TV and online. But every viewing is another advertising opportunity for MTV.
Streaming is particularly popular among younger viewers, who are able to sample shows they would otherwise miss. In a first-of-its-kind experiment, the CW decided last month to stop streaming the teen drama “Gossip Girl” on its Web site and steer viewers to the television broadcast in an effort to bolster its over-the-air ratings. Stephanie Savage, an executive producer, said she worried that the move would alienate viewers. After all, each episode put online had been streamed hundreds of thousands of times.
“There were a lot of question marks,” she said.
But executives at the CW, a joint venture between a Time Warner unit and the CBS Corporation, were pleased with the results when the ratings rose slightly in late April, Ms. Savage noted, and the episodes are still for sale for $1.99 each at Apple’s iTunes store, where they regularly rank No. 1.
Cable operators offer yet another on-demand option. Comcast and Time Warner Cable, the country’s two largest cable providers, are increasingly promoting their video-on-demand platforms, which are mostly associated with movies and premium programming. One-third of United States households now have on-demand capabilities, and Comcast said its platform recorded more than 300 million video views in March, up 50 percent over the previous year.
But of all the time-shifting technologies, digital video recorders are the most popular. One in four American households now uses a digital video recorder to time-shift shows and skip commercials, up from about 15 percent last May. The broadcast networks experienced a 60 percent rise in recorded viewing this season. Last year, in recognition of the growth of DVRs, many television networks converted to a new ratings metric for buying and selling ad time that includes shows watched within three days of the broadcast.
For networks, the DVR is a friend and an enemy: “the classic frenemy,” said Alan Wurtzel, the head of research for NBC.
While they enable viewers to watch more hours of television, they hurt the rate of commercial recognition, as about half of all commercials are skipped in time-shifting modes.
“Honestly, if I could wish away the DVR, I would,” Mr. Wurtzel added. “But I can’t. It’s growing.”
Time Warner is trying a half-measure: letting viewers start an episode anytime during the hour of its broadcast. “I’d like to see this get to the point where we have so much content that consumers can actually plan their lives around knowing that they don’t have to plan their lives,” said Peter C. Stern, the executive vice president for product management at Time Warner Cable.
Friday, May 09, 2008
So a man that the U.S. Dept. of Defense once labeled a "terrorist" & who has been linked to the deaths of innocent people is allowed to walk free on the streets of Miami & lead a normal life, while the Cuban 5 are still in jail for fighting to defend their country? The hypocrisy of this country & its policy towards its "war on terror" is so blatant it's disgusting. & now Carriles is honored?
Luis Posada Carriles, a terror suspect abroad, enjoys a 'coming-out' in Miami
A dinner with 500 fellow Cuban exiles honors the militant and former CIA operative, now 80 and still wanted in Venezuela on terrorism charges.
By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 7, 2008
MIAMI -- The dapper octogenarian in a crisp blue suit, his face smoothed by plastic surgery, swanned from table to table in the candlelit banquet hall, bestowing kisses and collecting accolades.
An aging movie star being feted by fans? A veteran politico taking his bows?
LA PLAZA: News and observations on Latin America
No, the man being honored by 500 fellow Cuban Americans at a sold-out gala was Luis Posada Carriles, the former CIA operative wanted in Venezuela on terrorism charges and under a deportation order for illegally entering the United States three years ago.
Posada, 80, has mostly kept a low profile since his release from a Texas prison a year ago and a federal judge's dismissal of the only U.S. charges against him -- making false statements to immigration officials.
But recent events like the Friday dinner and an exhibition and sale of his paintings last fall show that the man who spent his life trying to topple the communist government of Fidel Castro has returned to the social forefront of this city's exile community.
"We are coming to the end of a terrible stage. The end of our struggle is near," Posada told the crowd of supporters in evening dress, referring to Castro's failing health.
Venezuela's ambassador in Washington, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, condemned the celebration of Posada as a mockery of justice and evidence of a Bush administration double standard in fighting terrorism.
"This is outrageous, particularly because he kept talking about violence," Alvarez said of Posada. "He said that the whole thing now is 'to sharpen our machetes' " for a confrontation with leftist regimes in Latin America.
The U.S. government has never given Venezuela a formal answer to its 3-year-old request for extradition of Posada, despite a treaty providing for such cooperation that has been in effect since 1922, the ambassador said.
Posada, a naturalized Venezuelan citizen, is alleged to have masterminded the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976 on which all 73 on board were killed, including a youth fencing team returning from a tournament in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. He is also suspected of plotting a series of hotel bombings in Havana in the late 1990s, one of which killed an Italian tourist.
He has boasted of his many attempts to kill Castro and has allegedly been involved in, according to court documents, "some of the most infamous events of 20th century Central American politics."
Posada was serving time in a Panama prison for a 2000 assassination attempt on Castro when outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso pardoned him and three accomplices in August 2004 in what some observers saw as a favor to President Bush to rally the Cuban-dominated Florida vote for his reelection.
The three other Cuban Americans returned to Miami as heroes; Posada arrived six months later, reportedly fetched from Mexico by a shrimp boat owned by an anti-Castro benefactor.
As Venezuela, Cuba and human rights groups clamored for Posada's extradition for trial on the plane-bombing charges, federal authorities here arrested him in May 2005 for illegal entry. A federal judge in Texas ordered him deported, but another judge prohibited his being sent to Venezuela, heeding claims by Posada's lawyers that he could face torture or execution there.
None of a half-dozen friendly countries contacted by the State Department would agree to take Posada.
An immigration fraud case was brought by federal prosecutors later that year but dismissed in May 2007. U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone accused federal authorities of using trickery, fraud and deceit in pursuing a criminal case against him.
Federal prosecutors appealed and are waiting for a ruling from the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, said Dean Boyd, spokesman for the Justice Department.
Analysts speculate that the U.S. government has dodged calls for prosecution of Posada for fear he would disclose details of CIA involvement in coups, assassination plots and scandals, including the Iran-Contra Affair.
Peter Kornbluh, head of the Cuba Documentation Project at George Washington University's National Security Archive, has compiled declassified CIA and FBI documents on Posada that show he remained in close touch with Washington handlers throughout his covert service.
"The spectacle of a wanted international terrorist being publicly feted as a hero in Miami makes a mockery of the Bush administration's commitment to wage a war on terrorism," he said of Posada's coming-out party.
Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.) convened a congressional hearing in November on the administration's handling of the Posada case, arguing that there was "compelling evidence" implicating Posada in the plane bombing.
Delahunt said Tuesday that "there doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm" under the current administration for prosecuting Posada, but that he would push again for legal action against Posada after the fall election. "To have Posada honored in such a way sends a terrible statement to the rest of the world," the congressman said of the tribute.
Posada, still under a supervision order with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, entered the banquet to a standing ovation, his face beaming and minus the scar from a 1990 attack by gunmen in Guatemala.
"He's a real hero for Cuba. He's been fighting for the freedom of Cuba since the day he arrived in the United States," said Hector Morales-George, a retired surgeon who attended the dinner.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Here is an article written by my girl Amanda over at New America Media.
Are Immigration Authorities Going After School Children Now?
By Amanda Martinez, New American Media. Posted May 8, 2008.
If true, then it's hard to imagine the cruelty that resides in these people's hearts.
Editor's Note: Immigration raids near schools in Berkeley and Oakland have sent waves of panic in the communities and may keep undocumented students from attending class, writes NAM education reporter Amanda Martinez.
OAKLAND, Calif. - Berkeley High senior Chase Stern said he was taking an Advanced Placement test May 6, when he noticed that his classmates were fidgeting in their seats and seemed distracted.
He soon found out that the Latino students were receiving text messages and phone calls from family members, warning them that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers were nearby, and that they should be cautious and find their way home because family members could not pick them up.
Scores of undocumented parents began to panic as early as 7: 30 a.m. May 6, as word got around that ICE vehicles were parked near schools in East Oakland and South Berkeley.
Parent liaison Isela Barbosa said she was swamped with phone calls all day. "Parents were so afraid to come to the school, they called family members and neighbors, whoever had papers, to pick up their children."
A community member contacted Mark Coplan, Berkeley Unified School District's public information officer to tell him that a Latino family from South Berkley had been detained at a house near Russell Street, and that neighbors had spotted ICE vehicles near school areas.
By noon, the district had received so many calls from concerned parents that they set up an automated voice message system, assuring parents that that there was no way they would allow ICE officers to pick up students from school campuses. These messages were sent out both in English and in Spanish.
At about the same time, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) officials were receiving similar calls from concerned parents and community members that ICE agency vehicles had been spotted near four Oakland schools, including Esperanza Elementary, where parents say they saw agents parked on International Blvd, 98th, 95th, and San Leandro Boulevard, a four block radius surrounding the school.
OUSD officials said they were hesitant to communicate with parents, so instead sent out e-mails to all school district staff about what was happening and reminding them that the school district's commitment was to educate all students, documented or otherwise. The e-mail also advised staff not to facilitate any immigration enforcement actions.
As word of the presence of ICE agents in the neighborhood spread, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums rushed over to Esperanza Elementary School, where a number of parents and community members had gathered.
Addressing them, the Mayor called the situation the "the ugly side of government."
He labeled the ICE actions "inappropriate and unnecessary" and reiterated that children needed education, not harassment. "There should be no raids in Oakland," he said.
"As a sanctuary city," Dellums said, "we're all in unison. We don't want this type of intimidation. Immigrants are human beings, and need to be dealt with respect."
Oakland Vice Mayor Larry Reid, who also showed up at the school, said there was no warning about the ICE raids. "ICE just rolls in and tells our police department after the fact," he said. "The students are upset and crying. The school's administration said some of the kids are very shook up."
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said that the agency is mindful of the sensitivities associated with schools. She said there was no truth to the reports that ICE was targeting schools on this day, and that the two ICE fugitive operations teams based in the Bay Area go out virtually ever day seeking immigrant fugitives.
She confirmed that on the morning of May 6, ICE officers arrested four immigration violators who were from Mexico, and were living at a residence in Berkeley. A fifth person was arrested at a residence in Oakland, she said, noting that all five have been released, pending immigration hearings.
Sara Nuno of the Family and Community Office of the OUSD dismissed ICE's assertion that there was no targeting of any schools. "They are targeting schools and we are watching them do it," she asserted.
Ellen Murry, who had come to the school to pick up her grandnephew, said that she believed these types of government actions hurt all students, not just the undocumented ones. She said that if students stayed away from school out of fear, it could impact the school district's income, the bulk of which comes from student attendance.
Troy Flint, communications officer of OUSD, pointed out that such raids distracted students who were taking the state standardized test. He assured students that the OUSD would do everything it could to allow them to finish taking the tests.
Parents and local groups, including the Alameda Labor Council, sent out more than 900 e-mails letting parents know of what was taking place.
One parent liaison, who helped to make phone calls throughout the day to concerned parents, said he thought the fear of deportation was serious. If parents sought his advice, he said, he would tell them to keep their chidren at home, even though the OUSD has assured them that the students would be protected.
NAM reporter Pete Micek contributed to this report.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Ok, so I’ve been meaning to write about this show for a while. So on April 13, 2008 VH1 premiered their new reality show “Viva Hollywood.” The show follows 12 aspiring Latin@ actors who are competing for a role in one of Telemundo’s telenovelas. They all live in a house together (“la casa de los locos”) and the show is hosted by Maria Conchita Alonso & Carlos Ponce. Oh yea, Walter Mercado is around too giving the contestants their challenges, which all center around one of the “7 deadly sins of telenovelas.” This is what VH1 says about the show:
“Our cast of fiery wannabes will live together, fight together, make love together...while competing for the coveted title and a Hollywood prize package that includes a contract with Telemundo, the biggest telenovela production company in the United States.”
To perceive this show as a positive sign of the increasing Latino presence in U.S. English-speaking television is utterly wrong. “Viva Hollywood” is just a catalog of all the worst stereotypes regarding telenovelas and Latin@ culture. The show is set up in a way to exploit tons of different stereotypes about Latin@s and they succeed. The VH1 website states : "Latin telenovela stars are so hot, so sexy, so emotional, so extreme...don't you wish you knew what the hell they were saying?" In this same vein, VH1 proclaims that the show will introduce telenovelas to an “American audience.” Last time I checked millions of Latinos in this country who already watch telenovelas are American. Thus, in VH1’s subtle wording, they are making it clear that they don’t consider Latinos to be real Americans. So who is the target audience? I’m assuming just like they’re other reality hit “Flavor of Love,” the majority of viewers are white. Which poses a whole bunch of other questions about the implications of this show….
The show runs the gamut of Latin@ stereotypes from the oversexed Latino to the bitchy confrontational Latina. Everyone is “hot blooded”& this reflects VH1’s website which believes that “Latin Telenovela stars are so hot, sexy, so extreme—and so emotional.” The show does touch on some critical issues, although unknowingly. For examples, issues of language, body image, immigration, sexuality, machismo, homophobia, and others are evoked, but rarely addressed or unpacked.
Lastly, instead of competing to stay on the show like many other reality shows. The contestants are essentially asked to beg for their place in the house & justify to the judges why they deserve to stay. Hmm…kind of like the way many Latinos need to justify the right to stay in this country? Or how many of us have to legitimate our identity as authentic Americans?
So overall, there is a lot to be said about this show and a lot of issues to address & I hope to write more about it once the season is over, because VH1 will undoubtedly have a 2nd season to capitalize on its success.
One side note I found interesting is that the intro for the show is a “Viva Hollywood” Reggaeton song. Never before did I associate Reggaeton with telenovelas, but I guess this is VH1’s attempt to appeal to a young demographic because us kids respond really well to Reggaeton, right? I guess it falls in line with the whole hot, spicy, and sexy motif they were going for.
Here are the first two segments of the first episode:
I’m curious to hear people’s thoughts, reactions, and overall sentiments towards the show.
So after reading this article & posting it on facebook my boy Will hit me up with some thoughts on racism in Video Games.
Below is the article that sparked the dialogue & the convo that followed, feel free to share your thoughts.
A no-win situation
The debate over stereotypes in video games has become a no-win situation
By Vanessa E. Jones Globe Staff
May 5, 2008
By the time Priester was a teenager, he had decided to limit his play to mentally challenging games such as SimCity and Intelligent Qube. The series NBA: The Life alienates Priester because it shows basketball players using their salaries to buy rims and other materialistic goods. "When you're younger," says Priester, now a Boston University sophomore, "you're not cognizant of these stereotypes. As you grow older it becomes more and more glaring." Video games have long had a bad rap for stereotyping women and promoting violence. Grand Theft Auto IV, released last week, is generating controversy for its focus on an Eastern European immigrant who goes on a car theft and murder rampage. But Priester is among a growing number of gamers and scholars criticizing the lack of diversity and high proportion of stereotypes in video games.
It's a sensitive issue. "The subject of racism and games is not really discussed," says Chris Mottes, CEO of the Denmark-based game developer Deadline Games. And when it is, game developers and some gamers usually denounce the complainers as overly sensitive; a common response to critics is that these are "only games."
But the subject continues to resurface as gamers find more reasons to take offense. In a February post on MTV Multiplayer, blogger Tracey John wrote about her experience playing Carnival Games. She could change her character's pants, shirts, shoes, and hairstyles, John wrote. "But when it came to skin color, it only offered different faces in one pale hue. In other words, as a minority (I'm a Chinese woman), I could not replicate my skin color for my avatar within Carnival Games (much less if I were African-American or Hispanic). I found that a bit offensive."
Last year, the trailer for the upcoming Resident Evil 5 depicted a white soldier shooting black zombies. A contributor to the blog Black Looks wrote: "This is problematic on so many levels, including the depiction of Black people as inhuman savages, [and] the killing of Black people by a white man in military clothing . . ." In March the website GameDaily posted an illustrated story about the "most allegedly racist games," which included Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, LocoRoco, Custer's Revenge, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Hitman 2: Silent Assassin.
Karen Dill, a psychology professor at Lenoir-Rhyne College in North Carolina, told the congressional Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection in September that video games blatantly stereotype minorities. A recent study she co-wrote, "Playing With Prejudice: The Prevalence and Consequences of Racial Stereotypes in Videogames," analyzed the representation of minorities in photographs used to promote stories in the top video game magazines published in 2006. The study found black and Latino men were more likely to be portrayed as athletes or aggressors. Black men were less likely to wear protective armor or use technology than whites. Asians were often portrayed as intellectually superior but physically inferior.
Robert Simmons, 21, a Tufts University senior, spends about three hours a day playing video games. The majority are role playing games such as Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts and sports games such as the Madden football series. He's also delved into the Grand Theft Auto series, which generated heavy criticism in 2003 because characters in the Vice City edition encourage players to kill Haitians and Cubans. Simmons says the negative images in Grand Theft Auto leave him unmoved. "It doesn't encourage me to buy into the stereotypes," he says.
Dill said in an interview that she gets a lot of resistance from consumers and industry insiders about her findings. "No one wants to believe that the habit they have is harmful," says Dill. "A lot of people think we're saying you play a video game, you grab a gun and start shooting people. We're saying it instigates aggression. . . . This can manifest itself in different ways: a person is more insulting, a person shows someone else less respect in terms of the racial and gender issues. There's a real effect, but it's subtle."
Deadline Games CEO Mottes, a South African who worked in the anti-apartheid movement, took particular offense when his games Total Overdose and Chili Con Carnage were panned for their stereotypical depictions of Mexicans. Mottes's post on gamedaily.com last year delved into the issue of racism and the video game industry: "We have to find the nuances other than to accept that there's no place for these kind of stereotypes or storytelling methods." In an interview, Mottes defended the use of stereotypes as a form of comedy. "I can't think of a comedian or comic movie that doesn't play on stereotypes," he says.
To some, Mottes's argument for the use of stereotypes fails to provide the nuance he accuses his critics of lacking. Latoya Peterson, an avid gamer who wrote about Mottes's post on the blog Racialicious, doesn't think stereotypes can ever be seen as positive. "They say, 'Oh it's just a game, don't worry about it,' " Peterson says. "Wait a minute. The game also is a part of entertainment that . . . informs how you look at things and reinforces mindsets."
When 20-year-old Jonathan Priester was younger, his parents would talk to him about the lack of diversity in video games. They would examine the games he wanted to play. If one contained questionable content, they didn't refuse to buy it. Instead they asked him to justify the purchase.
"In making you talk about it - 'Is that something you would grow up to do? Is it something that's positive?' - you come to the conclusion yourself that maybe this isn't the best," Priester says. "This is how other people could possibly view you. Would you want to be viewed in this manner?"
© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.
My initial post of this article was followed by the statement "Are some video games racist? yea,racism evolves with technology"
Here is the convo that followed:
Will: Yo ok so I've actually been thinking about this all day and I think the issue has tons of different facets to address. One question that I gotta ask you though. What exactly do you mean by "racism evolves with technology"? I think I get what you are trying to say but as stated I am missing the connection to the article you posted.
Tito: So I guess what I meant by that is that as new forms of technology evolve (i.e. video games) & racism does too, in that it takes form & is deployed in various ways within these new mediums. As of right now the majority of video game makers & developers are white males, so the games will reflect that accordingly. As video become more & more a staple of American culture, they will reflect the culture as such. So video games are a form of media that also serves as a representation of American culture & values. Take our army/war games, its always American soldiers killing foreigners, often middle easterners. From Zombies to thugs, African American & Latinos are also represented in a negative light in many games.
I don't think all games are racist, but GTA clearly takes the cake on its inclusion of racial stereotypes, so I think its going to be interesting to look at the new version. Basically, I think that this discussion of racism in video games is one that has yet to really be explored & as video games continue to be a profitable industry in American society, we should expect to see more & more games that reflect the values of their creators. The article I posted talks about a study that found that people of color tend to be represented more negatively than whites in many games (i.e as criminals, weaker, etc) so I think that study illustrates the ways in which Racism has manifested itself into another medium of popular culture, in video games. I would argue that American youth, particularly male youth represent a huge market for the video game industry & most guys I know from little kids to college-aged play & have played video games, so these games are reaching a large audience, so its important to take note of the messages & ideologies that are being subverted into the games.
I also posted this video on youtube, which I found interesting as an additional to our discussion.
Will: I think I have a bit of a different take on this. But all in all we same to be on the same page, that games like this are bad. But, there are several things that cloud this argument/debate/issue.
For one the use of the word "racism" is often made incorrectly, both in that video and in general and it bothers me to no end. I would say that the majority of the games referenced are not racist. Racism (which I often mispell, if it happens here I apologize) is one of those words that gets used incorrectly alot and is used as a synonym for bigotry, prejudice and stereotyping. When in reality those words all mean distinctly different things.
This is important because the issue of racial and cultural injustice and insensitivity - as you know - is quite complicated. And it is my opinion that when we diminish the complexity of this issue we risk losing the subtleties of those "messages and ideologies that are being subverted into games" (is it weird to quote someone you just poke with). And therefore we risk misunderstanding the capacity to which this issue can affect people.
The only game I can see as out in out racist is "Ethnic Cleansing". That was the game made by the klan or skinheads or hitler youth (not sure which). I mean that thing discriminates against minorities, it infers and directly states that white people should be the ones in charge, and it is heavy on the "hatred and intolerance" of other races. In that game you actually have to embody the character of a racist homicidal maniac. Coincidently though the game is garbage, I mean the message is shit, the graphics are shit and it looks like the gameplay is shit, which brings me to my next point.
Most games that rely heavily on stereotypes and culturally insensitive imagery are usually awful. Think of that fifty cent game where you are killing middle easterners or GTA (I don’t care what anyone says that game is awful… tell Ax I’m sorry). For the most part the poorly made games use offensive content (depictions of racially insensitive characters, violent and sexual acts, etc…) to make them marketable. In reality these are are sub standard games that try and garner sales through gimmicks. These gimmicks have a high shock value that gets the games heavy media coverage*. That coverage in turn creates free buzz for the game and undoubtedly boosts sales.
Now I may be splitting hairs here but I think this is an issue of racial exploitation than it is an issue of racism. Exploitation for the purpose of making turning a profit, that result in flooding the market with ignorant and free-thought killing materials**. The question is thus, how do these games affect minority (youths and adults).
And finally I am left wondering was my initial thesis wrong. Video games could be considered racist only if you look at the bad ones beings made. You could argue that the collection of those works is a system that works to disseminate images of minorities as inferior beings. This inferiority is shown through either a lack of mental or physical ability that places them below the ability of the average member of the majority. Looking at just the racially insensitive ones -which are usually bad as well- it would appear that yes video games are in fact a racist device. But in actuality I think they are not and in order to prove they were you would have to gather enough other video games to show the whites are being depicted in grandiose manner with minorities being used as their foils and depicted as incompetent fools. *think “hot coffee” in GTA III **think Lupe Fiasco’s “dumb it down”
Tito: I agree that the title of racism is often misused, but also think that racial exploitation is a product of racism. Racism is the overarching force or ideology that is just being deployed in a variety of ways. The conversation for me changes when you are talking about race vs. ethnicity (i.e. the treatment of Italian-Americans in GTA vs. Black people) because I think that racism & prejudice are different things & the thing that separates racism for me is that it functions as a system of power.
I don't think all video games are racist or even most, but the reality is that some are and in the example of GTA or the 50 Cent game, although you may think that the games themselves are bad, they are incredibly popular (millions of copies sold within the U.S. alone). So I think racist ideology or even the deployment of race in certain video games must be analyzed & addressed.
So as you can see from the convo above there is a lot that can be said about the role that race/racism plays in video games, i'm curious to see where this discussion goes as video games become more popular aspects of American culture.