Kanye West: Misunderstood?

Aaah. The last blog post. Bittersweet. When it came to choosing my own pop culture pick I knew it was going to be about music or related to music somehow. I just didn’t know who or what I was going to write about. Once I got home from work & logged in I found myself searching for peer reviewed articles about Kanye West. There you have it. I decided on Mr. West because I feel the guy has a lot of negative articles written about him already that I knew there had to be more neutral articles written about him & what really matters. The music. The article that I found is titled “Can’t Tell Me Nothing: Symbolic Violence, Education, and Kanye West” which was published in February 2011 in Popular Music & Society. It focuses on different themes while analyzing a couple of his albums but I’m going to be focusing more on the education part of the essay. 

The first three Kanye albums are titled The College Dropout (2004), Late Registration (2005), and Graduation. (2007) So, you can already sense the education theme in his music based off these titles. Anyone who is a Kanye fan (such as myself) knows that his background is that he’s an only son who was raised primarily by his mother after his parents divorced. His mother was an English professor at Clark Atlanta University and the Chair of the English Department at Chicago State University. His father taught photography and media production. Kanye attended both Chicago’s American Academy of Art & later Chicago State University for a short time before dropping out to focus on music full-time. Hence the title of his first album.

The article states a quote from West’s mother, If you’re in a room full of people and everyone is speaking Ebonics and you break out with the Queen’s English, super proper, then even if you’re speaking so-called correct English, you’re not correct” (x). West writes that he “remembered that when I wrote my songs.” This was interesting to me because being a reader & writer I always notice how well or bad a song is written  & in Kanye’s music he tends to over enunciate his words but I never really thought too much about why. Or as West raps “They say I talk with so much emphasis, oooh, they so sen-sa-tive.” (Can’t Tell Me Nothing, 2007) The essay expounds this further by stating, “through this kind of wordplay, West draws attention to different ways of speaking & seeing and presents an alternative view to which audiences can view.” Interesting. I’ve never thought about it that way before & I’ve been listening to Ye since his second album was released back in ’05.

Further in the article the author breaks down more of West’s critique of higher learning. Noting that West did attend college for a brief time it’s pretty clear why education played such a central role in his older albums. Graduation is the one album that is pretty prevalent with it. In his song Good Morning off the same album, West raps “Look at the valedictorian/complacent career student/Some people graduate/but be still stupid.” West is very vocal in ridiculing the idea that obtaining a college degree automatically means success. This particular dropout has won 21 Grammy awards, sold over 32 million albums, and has a net worth of approximately $180 million. So, maybe he’s earned the right to critique the higher learning institution especially since his background is rooted deeply in academia. “West recognizes that a university degree is necessary for attaining status and the hope of a well-paying career but is also a way for the dominant culture to judge others and legitimate social hierarchies and segregation.” 

The essay analyzes further but that would make for an extremely long blog post. 😉 As I was writing this blog post I was listening to Kanye’s music, especially the songs that were analyzed further, and it’s definitely make me do a double-take. Since I have the opportunity to go to school & continue my education; I’m not advocating not to go to school or that school is bad but I do understand Mr. West’s overall message that a college degree isn’t the end all be all. Heck, the guy isn’t even 40 yet & he’s made so much money that a large majority of us probably won’t ever see in our lifetime. Not bad for a college dropout. But of course what works for one person may not work for another. 😀 

Yeezy

“In short, West is a contradiction who embodies the larger contradictions in American culture.” (12)

Works Cited:

“Can’t Tell Me Nothing.” Richardson Chris. Web. 14 July 2016 

 

 

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Write, Scribble, Write, Sing?

journaling.jpg

For as long as I can remember I have been a total bookworm & because of that came my love for writing. When I was a kid I would write short stories for fun which obviously reflected my reality. School, Family, Friends, Hobbies. As I got older I drifted away from writing short stories into writing poems & just writing in general. Then when social media got more popular during my teenage years, I started blogging through sites such as MySpace or Blogger. So, basically, ever since I’ve learned to write I’ve been doing just that. I found writing to be a way to express myself in a world that I’ve created or whatever book I happen to be reading at the time. 😉 I’m awkward sometimes at forming thoughts into coherent sentences so writing has always been a way for me to clearly express what I’m thinking or feeling. Now, I don’t write as much as I used to during my younger years but when I feel the urge to it’s always pen to paper. There’s just something therapeutic about it. I have kept blogs in the past but I still like to write in a journal. It’s a little more relaxing than pushing buttons. 😀

One thing that is in par with my love of writing is my enjoyment of singing. As I got into my high school years I ventured into choir which I ended up taking all four years. That’s when I started writing poems with dreams of maybe becoming a singer. 😉 Now I haven’t sung since high school but I am considering taking a music class next semester just to dip my toes into it again. Music, Books, & Writing. Those are how I express myself & find my creative juices. 

yo gottime

These are poems that I’ve written over the years. The first one I wrote back in 2012 when I first moved back to California & the second one are just random thoughts put to paper. 🙂

Eh…video games

Video Games

I’m not a video gamer at all. I like to watch movies, listen to music, or read books in my spare time. I’ve never really liked video games. I was a little sketchy when I saw this week’s post but what the hey. Playing a video for 30 minutes or so isn’t going to kill me. 😉 I took the liberty of choosing a game from the link provided & ended up playing Sniper Team 2. The choice of games wasn’t the greatest but I found Sniper Team 2 to be one of the better ones. The premise of the game is pretty much having a tsunami of enemy soldiers attacking your side. Your main objective is to stay alive (obviously!), destroy the enemy soldiers, all while protecting your tank. I guess the fun part is the balancing act. I never surpassed Level 3 because I’m not that strategic or fast & because there is ALWAYS that random shooter that is nowhere to be found.

I suppose people play video games for the same reason I like to read. It’s a relaxing hobby & you can escape to a another world. I do it through reading words while others choose to play a simulated character. In the article, Death From Above, it quotes  “Modern warfare is becoming more like a video game, most obviously while increasing the distance between soldiers and their targets. But at the same time, warfare video games are becoming more realistic-and not just in the blood and guts way.” That stuck out for me because it’s actually very true & I don’t think anyone realizes it. I have an 11 yr old brother who is a gamer (maybe video gaming is a more generational thing?) & he likes to play all different games. He was really into World of Warcraft & Call of Duty. I was kinda shocked at how realistic they make the games now. So realistic that my step-dad can’t handle the volume too loud because it triggers flashbacks. (Marine vet with 5 or 6 tours under his belt.) But the article is right when it says not in the blood and guts way. You have to be strategically making decisions for your team or else something might happen. Or as the article says “Many of them force players to follow the rules of engagement and make difficult judgement calls about when to shoot – and when not too.” I do see that in the newer releases of these games. I sometimes like to watch my kid brother play because he gets intense with it at times. 😉

Video games are hardly to blame for the 2007 tragedy in Baghdad. But they could help prevent the next one.” That is an interesting quote because as far back as you can remember all you hear is how video games rot your brain or are bad for you because you’ll learn to do bad things. But as the article discusses maybe kids should be playing more of the games that are discussed in the article such as Virtual Iraq that deal with real life situations in simulated form. That could help lessen the ignorance of unawareness about those issues. Kids are going to be gaming in this generation already. Why not have them play games like that?

Parody News: Funny & Informative?

Jim Kimmel

Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver. Those are the few parody news show hosts that are out there. Now, I’m familiar with a lot of them but the only one that I ever cared to watch (and even then it’s not all the time) is Jimmy Kimmel. And it’s usually because an entertainer that I like is a guest star. The humor can be funny but most of the time it usually goes over my head. Case in point, Colbert’s testimony at the U.S. House’s subcommittee hearing in where he testified as a “egotistical right-leaning pundit.” I’m sure the intent was supposed to be humorous but it didn’t come off that way to me. Maybe it’s just me thinking too much into it. I do have the tendency to do that. 😉

Now, my experience with parody news is limited. While it can be entertaining I tend to get my news from other sources such as CNN. They’re a little more reputable but sometimes turning on parody news can be entertaining in a world that is besieged with dark news stories almost everyday. As Kanye West says in one of his songs, “Ain’t nothin’ on the news but the blues.” So I can understand the popularity of parody news shows. But as for their value? In my personal opinion, there really isn’t that much value in them. The way I view them is that they’re geared more for entertainment to get laughs with maybe some news reporting thrown in. As with the Sun Moon hoax back in 1835 it was described as “the first truly sensational demonstration of the power of the mass media that had come into existence after the introduction of steam-powered printing presses.” But over 180 years later now with comedic parody news shows it’s not really considered to be the truth or even good journalistic reporting. But I can also understand that people use them as a valid news source.

As John Oliver says in describing parody talk shows as “petting zoos with a desk,” there’s a whole lot of worthlessness and not a lot of value. At least that’s how I see them. But, as with a lot of other things, it’s all subjective. Just because I view them as worthless doesn’t mean that everybody else does. And yes, I admit, the humor can be quite funny at times. As the saying goes, laughter is the best medicine. 😉

laughter meme        

 

Blackfish: The Tilikum impact.

SeaWorld

One of my fondest childhood memories was one family vacation where our parents took my brother & I to SeaWorld. Two things stuck out for me on that trip: feeding the dolphins & seeing the orca show & getting splashed at the end. It wasn’t until years later (17 to be exact!) when I saw the documentary Blackfish & my eyes were really opened to how inhumane SeaWorld treats the marine life & how they profit from taking wild killer whales & making them perform shows while also showing the mental impacts being held in captivity has on the whales. Blackfish was directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite and premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. It later then got picked up by CNN Films & Magnolia Pictures for a wider release.

Are News Documentaries Honest?

In the article there was a quote, “In their zeal to draw attention to the cause, even Nobel Peace Prize laureates can make mistakes or shade the truth a little.” When Blackfish was released in came a huge controversy around the documentary and of course SeaWorld. SeaWorld claimed that they were sensationalizing a tragedy (the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau.) I remember when that happened. It was a sad incident because she was killed by one of the whales she worked with. It later came out that Brancheau’s death was the 3rd death by the same whale. Tilikum’s story is a huge focal point of the documentary. So, maybe Blackfish overlooked a few things or dramatized the truth a little. I think the main intent was spreading the awareness of how the marine animals are being treated & how they’re captured & the effects was a success. As it says, “An aware media consumer watches a feature-length news documentary experience knowing that the movie might have a bias.”

Are Documentaries Independent?

“But the lesson we can glean about independence is that this value varies depending on who’s paying the bills.” I guess you can classify Blackfish as an independent documentary. I don’t know the budget that it was made on but it pulled in about $2.3 million from the box office. I personally don’t remember it being in theaters but I watched it when I was browsing through Netflix. 😉 So, I’m neutral if it’s an independent or not.

Are Documentaries Productive?

Since the release of Blackfish it has made a massive impact. Attendance levels dropped at SeaWorld & their stocks dropped over 50% from the previous year. SouthWest Airlines after a 26 year business relationship severed ties with them. Eventually SeaWorld’s chief executive resigned his position. The release has allowed new legislation to be introduced. Such as the example of the Orca Welfare & Safety Act which was introduced in March 2014 & called for a ban for entertainment driven orca captivity & retire currently performing whales. In November 2015 SeaWorld announced plans to stop killer whale shows at the San Diego park. As current as March 2016 they also  announced plans to end their orca breeding program & to phase out all live performances. Similarly, Ringling Bros recently announced that they’re no longer using  elephants in their shows & will retire their current ones. So yeah, I’d say Blackfish was and still is productive.

On a smaller scale, Blackfish had an impact on my life in the sense that it really opened my eyes to parks such as SeaWorld that use wild animals for profit. It led me to go back to school to pursue a career in conservation, environmental and wildlife. Even though it was so sad at parts I’d recommend seeing it at least once. It’s eye-opening.

Tilikum 

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad

“Each of the five seasons develops the story of Walter White, an Albuquerque, New Mexico high school chemistry teacher – and his descent into the deeper realms of immorality and illegality. Breaking Bad thereby places front and center for the viewer a host of crucial questions concerning moral and political agency, autonomy, action and responsibility.”

Those are some of the beginning sentences of the essay written by Samuel Chambers titled Walter White is A Bad Teacher. Breaking Bad aired on AMC from 2008-2013 with Bryan Cranston playing the lead role of Walter White. I remember the popularity of the show while it was still on air. My brother & mother were obsessed and would watch it together every Sunday. I’ve seen a few episodes here & there but never really got into it. (Sorta like the Game of Thrones craze now) But I was a HUGE Sons of Anarchy fan & watched every week when it was airing around the same time. Both Breaking Bad & SOA dealt with similar themes & the main characters of each show battled similar conflicts. But I digress. 

The events of the show begin to unfold when Walter’s wife becomes pregnant with their second child at around the same time he’s diagnosed with advanced terminal lung cancer. He makes the decision to use his skills as a chemist to earn as much money as he can to leave his family before he dies. Therefore, he teams up with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, who failed his class but later becomes a small town meth producer. And the show begins.

The essay focuses not on Walter’s criminal activities as a methamphetamine cook but more on his failures as a teacher on a more personal level. At times, the essay goes over my head especially when he’s making comparisons to another essay written by a French writer but the author makes his case by focusing on the end of Season 3 and the events that set up Season 4. For those who aren’t familiar, Jesse & Walt teamed up with Gus who is the head of a Mexican cartel who later decides to kill them because he considers them a liability to his operation, especially Jesse who becomes addicted to the product he’s selling. Convinced by Walt, Jesse later murders one of Gus’s associates & afterwards finds that Walt is unappreciative & unsupportive. You can see the effects of taking another life has on an already fragile Jesse. As Season 4 begins, Jesse who by now is a recovering addict, there is a subtle power play between Gus and Walt with Jesse in the middle. The majority of the season focuses on Gus honing in on the divide between Walt & Jesse in attempts to get Jesse to betray Walt. However, by the season’s climax, Walt is the one who betrays Jesse which completely undermines their relationship in order to come out on top against Gus.

After reading this essay I went back to the episode(s) mentioned & re-watched them & it’s very interesting to watch it now with a different perspective than before. It’s very obvious to the watcher that Jesse’s character wants approval from Walt & he just wants to be accepted. He’s naive and easy to manipulate & of course Walt uses that to his own benefit.  Walt or Mr. White as Jesse calls him is obviously someone that he looks up too & Walt doesn’t regard Jesse in the same way. He views him more as someone that can be used to fulfill the means to his end. Hence his failures as a teacher to Jesse.

“You’re the chemist man, you know, not, not me. And say they got like actual chemists…asking me chemistry stuff, that I don’t know how to answer because I’m not you. If I mess this up, I am dead. Mr. White, I need your help. Maybe you could coach me or give me some notes.” (Breaking Bad, Episode 4.9)  

“Only a bad teacher tries to establish mastery by way of assertion of superior intelligence.” This is the basis of Walt’s relationship with Jesse. He thought he was superior because he has a high level of intelligence & Jesse is a simpleton who failed his high school classes & later becomes a meth dealer. That way of thinking backfires on Walt in another way because it also shows that he approaches his marriage & family life with that way of thinking to the point in where his wife leaves him & his disabled son wants nothing to do with him later on in the series.

Overall, I’m glad I read this essay even though at times it went over my level of comprehension. 😉  It allowed me to go back & watch certain episode(s) with a different lens & really see the point the author was trying to make with this piece of writing. I would recommend perusing the essay’s main points & maybe watch an episode or two. (or Sons of Anarchy!) It’s interesting, to say the least. 

“….Doing so in such a way that the student follows the teacher’s will precisely because the student has been emancipated – because a student who has been granted the assumption of equality can choose to follow the teacher. This is what it means to inspire in teaching: not to show that you know more than students but to show them that they can know more.”

Breaking Bad 2

 

Netflix (Hulu) & Chill

Nashvi;;e

Oh man. When I read the prompt for this week’s blog post about binge watching I thought that this lesson was made for me. 😉 I’ve binge-watched shows many a times, both on Netflix & on Hulu. I don’t have cable but I don’t miss it that much due to using my mother’s Netflix account & also my friend’s Hulu account. I do watch shows that are still being aired on cable  but Hulu is amazing in that they stream recent episodes a day after being aired. The article by Ana Swanson quotes “Or maybe it’s the sinful indulgence of spending so many hours with your feet up when there are other, more productive things you could be doing.” That pretty much sums it up in a nutshell. As much as I love reading or being outside Netflix has some kind of magnetic pull for me to binge-watch. It’s oddly gratifying. 

The average American now watches 3 hours and 21 minutes of TV per day on the weekend, and 2 hours and 36 minutes per day during the week.” When I’m watching my shows it doesn’t seem like a lot of time but as the article states it is a significant amount of time being spent to watch fictional characters battle over who’s going to rule the country charts (Nashville) or a family fighting each other for control of their record label. (Empire). There have been times where I have done absolutely nothing all day except binge-watch. Watching that much internet television doesn’t really make me feel like anything. At the time I just want to know what happens next on Nashville or what new fairy tale characters they’re going to bring in on Once Upon A Time. Those pesky television writers really know how to suck their audience in. I have a couple shows that I like to watch. But the ones that I really binge-watch are Nashville, Empire, Once Upon A Time, & SVU. Hulu has all 17 seasons of SVU!

“Netflix, since its streaming service debuted in 2007, has had its annual revenue grow sixfold, to $6.8 billion from $1.2 billion.” That’s a little crazy to think about how much Netflix has taken from cable. My father still pays for cable but he has the most basic package which excludes all the good channels. I can see the appeal of paying a relatively low price every month & have all these shows, movies, etc to choose from. I like to use Netflix for certain shows & movies & their documentary section is superb. But I tend to use Hulu more just because they stream the latest episodes, unlike Netflix. Overall, I try to watch how much I’m watching just because I don’t need to be staying in bed watching all these shows all day. It’s a little bit harder when school is in session & when you have a part time job (as I do) but I’ll still make time for it. It’s one my favorite past-times. 

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit