we say ‘thug’ and ‘hood’ because we don’t like to say ‘poverty’

Last Thursday, my university’s Center for Women’s Studies sponsored a screening of the incredible new documentary “Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes” about, in director Byron Hurt’s words, “representations of manhood in hip hop culture.” The doc will be shown on PBS February 20 at 10 p.m. Check, as they say, local listings.

The turnout was great: about eighty students at a school typically thought of as attended mostly by commuters. And the conversation afterwards was as electrifying as anything I ever experienced in grad school, much less as an undergrad. The title of this blog entry comes from one of the many insightful observations made by students during the discussion.

In short, I was blown away.

We need more mainstream film and video projects like this one that bring together the voices of scholars, popular artists, fans, and activists to engage in conversations about popular culture–its creation, distribution, and consumption–and its impact. The New Yorks Times reports that “the documentary is being shown now at high schools, colleges and Boy’s Clubs, and in other forums, as part of an unusual public campaign sponsored by the Independent Television Service,” which has a webpage explaining the campaign. Amazing.

You know who also needs to see this documentary? People like this.

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computer-assisted text analysis: bush’s state of the union addresses

Via Crooked Timber comes this link to a tool you can use at the New York Times website to analyze the content of all of President Bush’s State of the Union speeches.

This is a fascinating and powerful demonstration of computer-assisted text analysis. Technologies of reading facilitate traditions of reading. Think of the ways in which a book’s index, table of contents, running heads, and page numbers all contribute to your effective use of that book. These typographical features allow for and even encourage nonlinear reading: we can drop in at any point in the book, perhaps led there by an entry in the index or in the table of contents, and know where we are, thanks to the running heads and the page numbers.

Here, the NYT has created, in a visually eloquent format, an example of a new kind of reading enabled by electronic texts. It’s very well done, and not so complex that the average online reader can’t figure out what to do. However, this kind of presentation is not universal enough for all of us to agree on the best way to proceed or the significance of the results.

Here are some suggested words to search for:

  • africa
  • sudan
  • aids
  • humanitarian
  • weapon
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enough said


You tell ’em, Socks. (Via BoingBoing. See also Dr. B. on Speaker Pelosi.)

P.S. Special message to Teh Internets: I’ve found other things to do with my time. I know, I know. No one is more surprised than I am. Things are fine. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be reading a book (!) and getting some fresh air from time to time. This isn’t goodbye. You’ll always have a special place in my heart. We can still be friends.

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joe miller’s new book

One of the best things about blogging is the way in which it pushes you to meet new people you would otherwise never know. Joe Miller, writer and thinker, quickly became one of my favorite local bloggers when I was living in Kansas City. After L and I had dinner with Joe and Allie at a KC Iraqi restaurant one night, L said, “I’m glad we didn’t meet them before and get to know them better because now that we’re moving away I’d be really sad to be leaving them behind.”

Joe’s new book, Cross-X, is now available and getting good press. I haven’t read the book, yet, so I’ll just reproduce the official abstract:

In Cross-X, journalist Joe Miller follows the Kansas City Central High School’s debate squad through the 2002 season that ends with a top-ten finish at the national championships in Atlanta.

By almost all measures, Central is just another failing inner-city school. Ninety-nine percent of the students are minorities. Only one in three graduate. Test scores are so low that Missouri bureaucrats have declared the school “academically deficient.” But week after week, a crew of Central kids heads off to debate tournaments in suburbs across the Midwest and South, where they routinely beat teams from top-ranked schools. In a game of fast-talking, wit, and sheer brilliance, these students close the achievement gap between black and white students—an accomplishment that educators and policy makers across the country have been striving toward for years.

Here is the riveting and poignant story of four debaters and their coach as they battle formidable opponents from elite prep schools, bureaucrats who seem maddeningly determined to hold them back, friends and family who are mired in poverty and drug addiction, and—perhaps most daunting—their own self-destructive choices. In the end, Miller finds himself on a campaign to change debate itself, certain that these students from the Eastside of Kansas City may be the saviors of a game that is intrinsic to American democracy.

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bornanoux orleans

I’ve had a fantastic but exhausting trip. (That’s not entirely true. In some ways the trip was very energizing.) New Orleans is on the path to recovery, but they need as much help as they can get. I’ll write more as time permits.

Below is a cameraphone pic of some graffiti in the bathroom at Cafe du Monde.

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