Monday, June 30, 2008

CJA, ALA and Metro - What A Weekend

This past weekend I attended the Society of Processional Journalism's Citizen Journalism Academy and the American Library Association's convention in Anaheim, CA.


I have got stuff. Videos, photos and 15 pounds of paper. So over the next couple of weeks (yes, weeks!) I will be sharing and reflecting what I learned, didn't learn and how Metro aka MTA can affect where you can go and can't in Los Angeles and Orange County.

Yes, mass transit has an effect on personal enlightenment and professional development.


Well, that will take a bit of time to upload on account I have to return to the Salt Mine. Because I am my own generous sponsor. Thanks to SPJ, ALA, OCLC and the many kind folks that I have met this weekend and I promise I'll crank it out as fast as I can.

Oh, my Fourth of July weekend coming up.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Intruders on The Finally Friday Freakout

Time pass in streams and sometimes I get confused between what has past and what is about to be. One of the local TV stations runs Get Smart and there is a new movie based on the TV show.

I use to pay 12 cents to read The Incredible Hulk and now I can pay $12.95 to see it on the big screen. Everything old is new again. Now I know some of you think that other group made this song famous but these were the folks that they "vocally honored."

These are The Intruders. I'm guessing by the style of clothes and the conk in the hair this might have been recorded around 1967-1968. SpindleRecords at YouTube explained that it was on a promotional reel distributed by a night club to local TV station.

So long before MTV there were promotional videos floating around. It may be possible that a lot of musical history is sitting in a video library waiting to be rediscovered.

So here we go, Big Sonny, Little Sony, Phil and Bird - The Intruders. Props and blessings.

Dear Ralphs, Kroger or The Prince of Supermarket Land

I have a Ralphs card. I have had a Ralphs card for years, back when it was actually Ralphs. I didn't want to have a card. It was a matter of paying more for groceries if I didn't use the card. I gave my name and phone number and became a "Club Member."

Note that I didn't say I gave my address. I did not want to give it away and this was long before the Internet and the current wave of Identity Theft. I'm one of those people that does not believe in sharing every freaking detail about my life.

Now did I miss out on coupons, third party junk mail and other assorted goodies. You betcha. It was my choice to do so. Flash forward. I'm in the store today. There is a new card in town.

I am told that that I can use my old card only until July 31st. 2008. So after paying for my groceries; well you know how much I paid cuz the card rats me out on each and every purchase. You know I am frugal except when I am not.

You know I'll pick up marked down meat in a hot minute, lean toward reduced to clear food and I will buy the high tone stuff when and if I want it and not before. You know how often I shop, when I shop and you can tell suppliers that I tend to by X but have tried Z.

Fair enough, choices and trade-offs. Now I'm at the sign-up table. I'm deciding if I want the pink label card or the yellow or green. I'm going with yellow on account I have a dark lined bag. I fill it out. Name, phone and email. I hand it back to the young man.

I'm told that I have to put my address.

I say no, I don't.

The young man says that in order to get the rebate check at the end of the quarter I have to put my address.

I say no, I don't. I just wanted to use the card in order to shop at the store. Then he says I can't have the card and takes back the application. I tell him to give me my application back, If I'm not participating there is no need for him to have my info.

He gives it back. I am livid. Here is why. I'm not hating on the concept of shopper or loyalty cards. It is voluntary on both sides. I don't have to use the card to shop in the store. I know that. I can choose to pay higher prices and remain anonymous.

I can also choose not to step foot in any Ralphs ever again. I don't have to shop at Ralphs. I got Von's, Trader Joe's, Jon's, a bunch of ethnic markets, Costco, and dare I say it, the beloved 99 Cents Only Store.

So if I have that many shopping options why am I going to debate with someone who doesn't know the answer to the questions "Why do I have to give my address if I do not want to receive mail from Ralphs or anyone?"

Privacy trumps cheapness. Now when I get this mad I want answers so when I get home I hop on Ralphs web site and get the phone number for Card Customer Service HQ. 13 minutes later I speak with someone in corporate office. I ask her the question. She was very nice but said the same thing as the young man in the store.

"So to be clear, I cannot use my old Ralphs card starting in August, is that correct?" She said that I could but that I only would be getting the club member savings.

"That is not what they are telling folks in the store, they are confiscating the old cards and you have to fill out the application for new ones."

CCSHQ said "No, that is not correct. You can still use the old card but all the prior deals like the Wine Club, the Senior Card and the Pet Card will be null in void. They won't exist." She could see where there is a misunderstanding because the folks at the store want me to get my $5.00 check after spending $500 in a quarterly period. If they can't send me my rebate check what is the point of me having a new card?

But no, I didn't have to have a new card or give up the old one.

I got an idea for you. How about you lowering prices across the board and dump the cards? That would save both of us a lot of time and headaches? Oh, yeah. That tracking thing.

Here is my burn point. If you have my information in the first place why not just transfer me electronically to the new card and mail me the new card? Oh, yeah. You can't cuz you don't have my address. Strike that.

If you want to give me a new card let me pick it up at the store w/o giving you my address. If you want to give me a new shiny slicked up card that is fine, but why don't you make the change on your end?

I have my doubts if anyone knows the real deals here. If what the CCSHQ said is true then when I go to I have to enter my address in order to add my information. I'm kinda hip to fields marked in black as mandatory information.

Look Ralphs/Kroger, I'm sick and tired of being electronically sliced, diced, resold and re-purposed. Because whatever discount you give me in the store is more than compensated for in terms of valuable data of shopper preferences, staffing needs and ancillary data that you collect, share and sell. It is compensated for when you have a legal action.

Let me use my old card and there will be no further trouble from me. But if some whipper snapper tries to take my old card they can have it.

I won't be needing it anymore. Think I'm kidding? Remember the California Supermarket Strike?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Petula Clark on The Finally Friday Freakout

Downtown is one of those songs that stay with a person. I was for anything that would take me away to something new and undiscovered. The dancers in tux slay me.

Yes some folks are voluntarily heading downtown to the Music Center. Tonight they are having a Motown Sing Along at the Music Center. The event is free and I think those of us that can't carry a tune in a re-enforced bucket should make sure to represent the A-tonally challenged.

Do you know what it is like to be a short person and having to sing from the back row?

I have concerns. The first thing is I mangle song lyrics. I know they are wrong but I get caught up. So are they gonna do that projection thing that they do at the opera?

The second thing is that there is a specific notice on the website that no recording of any kind is permitted. That just blows chunks, you know what I mean? I understand that everything should not be recorded but come on, non-famous people singing is a wonderful thing. Especially if you can't harmonize to save your life.

This is just wrong. The other questionable quibble is that they are going to have a choirmaster to guide us in singing? That is how I ended up in the back row in the first place! If they stick me in the balcony without my consent there will be trouble.

Then again we who are begged not to warble in the shower could stage a music inspired uprising and take My Girl to a whole new level.

Songs I Hope Are On The List:

Stop The Love You Save May Be Your Own
Poppa Was A Rolling Stone
Take Me In Your Arms and Rock Me A Little While
Standing In the Shadows Of Love
Twenty-Five Miles
Function At The Junction
This Old Heart of Mine

Well I can get there but not so sure I can get back home without another story to tell.
If I go I'll give a full skivvy. Let the mayhem begin. If I was you, I'd bring earplugs. The Skullcandy kind, not the cheap stuff.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Lizz Wright on The Finally Friday Freakout

Too long of a day. I just wiped out two post with one finger. You live and you learn. Or not.
So here is the thing. I don't remember what I typed. I wiped out the original copy. It went something like Lizz Wright can sing to the heaven's and come back around again.

I also said something about how she is not played on many commercial radio station except for the so called smooth jazz stations. And not enough if you ask me. I am now taking the log out of my eye because I only hear those station when I am in a restaurant or elevator.

Anyway, this is her rendition of the Neil Young classic "Old Man".

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Solidarity With Karen Salazar - Knowledge Equals Power

Last night I was helping a friend with her computer. She asked me to help her find a story about a teacher fired for being too Afro-centric. My fingers went flying and there it was on the Los Angeles Times web site. The writer of the story is Howard Blume and the title of the story is School rallies around teacher fired deemed too Afro-centric.

Los Angeles Unified School District teacher, Karen Salazar, was fired because she taught her students about the words of Langston Hughes and Malcolm-X in her classroom. She tossed in a little Tupac for some flavor. The story appeared on June 12th and is only accessible for seven days before it goes behind the wall of forgettable "It is a shame but what can we do?"

Well, that what would have happened in the past. This is future-time. If you can't see the video please boogie on over to Fire In Watts Other related videos "Protest Jordan High School, We Want Ms. Salazar Back!" "Save Ms. Salazar, Now"

If you can't teach a poet in a high school class I don't want to go to your school. If you cannot teach this poet, this man of letters, then there is something wrong in the LAUSD system that no amount of money can fix.

I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America. has a good biographical page on Langston. The Library of Congress has a site called America's Story from America's Library and there is a section on Mr. Hughes. Masterpiece Theater/The American Collection has a bunch of links to help you learn more about Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance.

I am especially riled up about this because I use to sit on the second floor of my local library reading "Jesse B. Semple" stories. I found an audio authorized collection of Jesse B. Semple stories at Town Hall. Mr. Ossie Davis is your guide.

There is a surface meaning and the true meaning. Don't let Jesse fool you. You might want to smack him upside the head but hear the whole piece out and you will gather what Langston is trying to tell you and the world. I would suggest that you use the Quicktime to listen to the .au format. You should be ok if you have Real Player.

Next is a video mash-up of Lansgton Hughes poem "The Weary Blues" and a look at some of our ancestors making with the syncopation.

Somebody explain to me why 21st century kids cannot be exposed to their literary history? Don't we want our students to know that the things that they are feeling have a voice and a connection beyond their immediate world?

Oh, yes. I forgot. Teach to the test. My bad.

Now as far as that other gentleman mentioned, there isn't much more that I can add. I would say that I'd want high school students to understand the context of the video of this roundtable discussion. I'd want them to know that Martin and Malcolm occupied the same space and time. I'd want them to come up with a third option.

And I'd want them to know that seeing the impossible is what forward thinking people do. Now more than ever. Solidarity to Karen Salazar and her students on their new journeys.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Oak Town 357 on The Finally Friday Freakout

The first time I saw Oaktown 357 I said "What in the world?" It was Juicy Got Em Crazy and I counted at least 8 costume changes, guys in the background dancing and B Angie B. I felt old. I didn't care for the lyrics, I still don't but those girls had energy.

If you want to see Juicy don't let me stop you. This is another video that I like better.

It is from the 90s and the ladies are putting out the challenge to hit the dance floor and not necessarily the sack. I wish my feet could take that pounding. There are days I want to dance but there never seems to be time or space to do so. It seems that people are only allowed to dance on TV in contests.

And if they are not spot on they get hacked into pieces. I don't watch those shows.

There doesn't seem to be any public way to dance a long week into the vapors. Some days I want to remember that this body is for living and not just for warehousing future dreams. So I dance in private and my feet do the best they can.

So here ya go. If you don't like rap or hip-hop music turn down the volume and just watch them dance. Don't be surprised if something starts twitching.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Immune Attack and The Dream of Engaged Learning

There is a new software program created by the Federation of American Scientists called Immune Attack. It is designed to supplement the education that happens in the classroom. The program is free for anyone to use but it was specifically designed complement or add value to the classroom experience.

For those school districts that have current 2008 school books, computers and an engaged qualified staff this is a win, win situation. Those kids will do well. But I feel sad. Don't get me wrong. The program is well designed and a lot of thought went into making this an effective teaching support program.

It is just that, well. I think it is an invisible reminder of the digital divide. There are students here in the Los Angeles area that do not have any text books or they have outdated text books in their classes. Yes, high school classes. Even middle school classes don't have the proper books or equipment to run this program. The computer lab might be jammed into a library with two out of ten machines working. The governor has said he will make major deep cuts into education to balance the budget.

No child left behind. No child moving forward either. And student are bored out of their skulls. Wait, you should see this video:

I have limited faith that education happens in school districts no matter the education, economic or social backgrounds of the folks running the system. Not in school systems anyway. Oh, you should know that this is an ingrained highly personal bias of mine. I can grump about this into the midnight hour.

So lets turn my negative into a positive. If I could dream up the perfect system what would it look like? Well, I'd start by recognizing that this is the 21st century. We can take bits that worked in the prior century but here is what I would do:

I'd make sure that there were proper assessment to the child's ability to learn before he or she would step foot in class. Yes, My school would know about the allergies, the HDD, Dyslexia, behavior problems and gifted kids and my school we'd build a curriculum around that child's needs, not crowbar the kid around our limited vision of what we think the child needs to learn. Radical, huh?

Bonnie Bracey Sutton over at the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) blog has a full detailed post on what it would take to engage media soaked students. Here is an excerpt:

Engage: Project-Based Learning Students go beyond the textbook to study complex topics based on real-world issues, such as the water quality in their communities or the history of their town, analyzing information from multiple sources, including the Internet and interviews with experts.

Project-based classwork is more demanding than traditional book based instruction, where students may just memorize facts from a single source.

Instead students utilize original documents and data, mastering principles covered in traditional courses but learning them in more meaningful ways. Projects can last weeks; multiple projects can cover entire courses. Student work is presented to audiences beyond the teacher, including parents and community groups.

Yes, you still teach vocabulary and math but you connect those skills with a purpose or a definable outcome. Some of the time in the classroom and part of the time in the field or community. And speaking of vocabulary I'd have my staff, administrators and those that sign the check recite Angela Maiers 26 Keys to Student Engagement

Joy: Children are learning machines and have untold hours of play and joy... until... they are "educated" - educated to behave otherwise. If we want a better class of thinkers and innovators -- people with explosive curiosity and creativity, we need to bring FUN back into our classrooms. We need giggles and laughter, enthusiasm and excitement. School can become a place remembered for the love of learning, if for no other reason than it feels joyous!

I'd start building awareness to career options starting around the fourth or fifth grade. I'd show videos like this one from Cisco Systems so that there would be a generation of boys and girls that knew this career was possible:

Academic or vocational it wouldn't matter. Plumber, Chef, Boxer I'd let my students know about any option that they could dream or think to create for themselves.

Well, the good news is that I'm not the only one dreaming of a better, enriched school experience. I don't think it is impossible. There is a place for traditional studies in a enlightened school. But what if we could get it right this time? What if we realized it isn't just throwing money at school administrators but recognizing that a viable school experience would make the community profitable? Secure.

If you do it right you'd have to drag the kids home. So these are just some ideas. What do you see in your dream school?

Other Resources:

Kim Cofino at Always Learning has a great post about having students create podcast tutorials to help younger students read.

The Active Learning Blog Carnival has a tremendous amount of links on books, ideas for motivation, and what other folks are doing to make their dream schools happen.

This article was also posted at BlogHer