Category Archives: Music

Let’s Get Shrill

What year is it???

No one told me that having a baby would mean having less time for myself and getting less sleep!  I assumed babies were like those tiny dogs that you carry around in your designer purse as a fashion statement.

Baby in bag

MS Paint for the win!

Okay, so I just read this book.  It’s called Shrill, and it’s written by Lindy West.  Go.  Buy.  It.

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This book is for every woman who has ever felt the need to apologize for being a feminist or to explain that being a feminist does not mean hating men or to lie about thinking of themselves as a feminist to avoid judgment.  The fact that many women (myself included) feel that feminism is a bad word IS PROOF THAT WE NEED FEMINISM.  Guess who propagates the idea that feminists are monsters and Nazis?  It starts with M and rhymes with Flen.

Anyway, Shrill is pretty good.  I fell in love almost immediately because Lindy West states all the things I have thought in the past, and she does so much more elegantly (fart jokes aside).  She is a Word Wizard TM.

For example, she, too, thinks it’s strange that we ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  As West states in the opening of her book, asking this question is the equivalent of saying, “‘Hello, child.  As I have run out of compliments to pay you on your doodling, can you tell me what sort of niche you plan to carve out for yourself in the howling existential morass of uncertainty known as the future?'” (1).

I, too, hate that question.  That question tells children, “You can only be one thing ever.  Choose one interest and stick with it.  Pursuing two things is for Communists.”  If someone had forced me to stick with one thing, I would not be a self-proclaimed blogger-author-English-teacher-jewelry-maker-glass-blower-calligraphy-artist-Japanese-and-Spanish-student.  In other words, my life would be supremely boring.

I want to train my son to say something clever whenever he gets asked this question.  Like, “What don’t I want to be?”

Eternal

Lindy West’s thoughts on The Trump and Trump supporters also mirror my own.  At first I didn’t want to get political on this blog, but then I realized if I’m offending Trump supporters then I’m probably doing something right.  Pardon my French, but fuck that guy.

I expected this election to be bad.  I know from experience that shrill bitches get punished.  I did not anticipate that millions of Americans would be so repulsed by the hubris of female ambition that they would elect a self-professed sexual predator with zero qualifications and fewer scruples. (West viii-ix)

Just a warning that the book does get into some pretty heavy stuff.  Abortion, periods, rape.  But it’s so necessary to read.  Even if you don’t agree with everything she says, it is important to absorb her perspective.  At least bask in the glow of her words because she’s so damn eloquent.

I’d like to end by telling a story involving my best friend and best-friend-in-law who are smarter than me in every way.  A few years back, there was a popular song on the radio by Lukas Graham called “Seven Years.”  There was a lyric in this song that rubbed me the wrong way.

I’m still learning about life|My woman brought children for me

My woman.  For me.  Brought children for me.  My woman brought children for me. My.  Woman.

It buzzed around in my brain until I had to ask Liz and Martyn, “Should I be offended by this?  Or am I just being overly sensitive?”

Liz looked at me and said, “The fact that you are asking permission to be offended is proof that feminism needs to exist.”

She and Martyn talked me through it until I realized that feminism is still controlled by men, and we need to change that.

In short, women need to be shrill.  We need to be opinionated.  We need to be feminists.

Read Shrill.

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Filed under books, Music, Politics, reading, writing

Lyrics Part 2

I honestly did not think I was going to grade any more lyrics, but then I remembered the song “Story of My Life,” by One Direction.  So yeah, I had to do it.  This time I did it in image format so it’ll be easier to see.  But my handwriting is just as awful as ever.  Enjoy!

OneDirection1

OneDirection2

OneDirection3

OneDirection4

So that’s that.  I think I’m done grading lyrics now.  The joke’s probably already old.  But I got that off my chest.  Also as a gift to my friend, Micah, I made a new elemental chinchilla.  Because Micah has been helping me out with a project I’m desperate to get right, and he deserves a fire chinchilla if he wants a fire chinchilla.  Here it is.  (see the last post if you’re confused)

Fire Chinchilla

If you’re wondering what this post has to do with writing, then keep wondering!

Sorry, that was rude.  I’m working on a thing (mentioned above) but I don’t want to share anything right now.  I’ll write about writing again soon.  Maybe there will be another chinchilla to go with it for some reason.

 

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Filed under Grammar, Humor, Language, Music, reading, writing

Your Lyrics Will Be Graded

I’m not a stranger to song/singer analysis.  You’ll recall I had a particularly scathing post about John Mayer a while back, and my friend, Liz, analyzed the nuances (or lack thereof) of Taylor Swift’s character.

As some people know, I am currently studying to become a high school English teacher in Texas.  This involves a lot of repetitive reading about how we should probably focus more on engaging students in school, and less on lecturing at them.  Turns out they learn more if they’re emotionally invested.  Who knew?

Anyway, as a fun activity, I decided to grade a couple songs as if they were student essays.  Starting with Katy Perry’s “Firework.”  Click to enlarge!

Firework001

I didn’t bother doing the rest of the song because it’s just “Boom boom boom, even brighter than the moon, moon, moon” repeated a bunch of times.

So the thing is that – while that was fun – I haven’t graded any other lyrics.  I was going to do Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” because no one who can easily shake off negative comments goes on to write an entire song about all the “mean” things that are said about them for the world to hear (Irony!).  But that seemed like low-hanging fruit.  Ol’ Tay-Tay’s already suffered our wrath, as you saw above.

This activity left the subject of education knocking around in my brain.  It feels important to get a few things written down, even if they’re obvious.  At the end, as a thank you for reading my wall of text, I have presented you with a drawing of an Ice Chinchilla, which was commissioned by my friend, Liz.

  1. If the goal of schooling is to increase student knowledge and understanding, then the current model is waaaaay off base.  A fifteen-year-old can memorize all the significant dates related to the American Revolution.  S/he can regurgitate facts onto a test and get a good grade, but that does not mean that s/he understands this conflict.  The student likely has no feelings about the American Revolution one way or the other.  Because s/he has learned that the goal of school is to get A’s, not to understand the content.  Along those lines…
  2. Our methods of assessing students are crap.  We live in a country where C is average, but only A’s mean anything.  That means we are pressuring our students to jump through as many hoops as necessary to get top letter marks.  As I said in point 1, this rarely requires genuine understanding.  Just look at the term “Standardized Test.”  It is literally a test that measures students’ abilities to fit into a mold.  At the beginning of the year, all students start with an A in their classes.  The best thing that can happen for them is for their grade to remain exactly the same.  Most likely what will happen is their grade will drop.  This is expected to motivate them.  All I see is a practice in futility, neatly packaged with buzzwords.  “If you don’t do well here, you won’t get into a good college.”  How about this?  How about every student starts with a zero.  Not an F, mind.  A zero.  As they do assignments, they get points.  At the end of the year, the number of points they have can be translated into a letter grade.  It’s not a perfect system, but you’ll notice with this design, the only direction students can go is up.  Instead of losing, they’ll be working to gain.  Every day, every semester, every class.
  3. It turns out that every person learns in a different way.  This means that a significant portion of “Special Ed” students might not need drugs or a psychological diagnosis.  Maybe all they need is someone to approach teaching in a different way.  It’s hard to cater your teaching methods to suit the needs of a fifty-student class, but we can start by abandoning the “Sit still, shut up, and listen” model.  From where I’m sitting, “Special Ed” is a lovely euphemism for “We’ve given up on you.”  That probably does wonders for kids’ self-esteem.
  4. You’ve heard this all before.  Studies that prove kids aren’t learning in school have been coming out for decades.  Kids aren’t learning.  Kids aren’t motivated.  Kids aren’t supposed to be put through test after standardized test.  It’s common knowledge at this point.  As far as I can tell, we as a country have gone, “Oh, look.  Schools are failing our children.  What a shame,” and then moved back to reading the morning paper or whatever.  Just shrug and move on, America.  Your education system is a mess.  Oh, well!  It happens.  Right?  No!  No, damn it!  I have read paper after paper from people saying we’re in the middle of a “paradigm shift” and “we need school reinvention, not school reform.”  (See writing by Ornstein and Hunkins for more details about school reinvention)  By “paradigm shift” do they mean that about 0.5% of the schools in this country have made changes to the way education is accomplished?  That’s not a shift.  That’s not even a blip on the radar.  So why aren’t we seeing real change?  Well, for one, politicians love using education to boost their numbers.  They throw out buzz words, cite the studies that I’ve been reading for my classes, and promise change.  Then they introduce new standardized tests or cut more music programs.  Meanwhile teachers are left floundering in a system that forces them to dish out education like it’s a punishment.
  5. No more complacence.  Educators need to band together.  Families need to support them.  We need a separation of school and state in a lot of ways, because educational policies are being instated by people who have never stood in a classroom full of bored sixth graders.  As an individual, all I can do is try to beat the system one classroom at a time.  And write ineffectual blog posts about it.  Hopefully one day I’ll be able to do more.  If enough individuals decide to make real changes, maybe it’ll have a ripple effect.

I don’t know.

Here’s a chinchilla.

Ice Chinchilla

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Filed under education, Humor, Language, Music, Politics, reading, writing