Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How Eloquence Made History Class Cool Again

On May 12, 2009, the White House hosted an evening of poetry, music, and the spoken word. Lin-Manuel Miranda, a lyricist, musician, actor, and recent Tony Award winner, was invited to the event to share a little project he had been working on. Miranda, who is known for his fast paced and witty hip-hop songs, got up onstage and said, "I'm thrilled the White House called me here tonight because I'm actually working on a hip-hop album. It's a concept album about the life of someone I think embodies hip-hop: Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton." His idea was met with a bought of laughter from the audience, including President Obama. Of course the idea seemed silly. Who would ever associate our founding fathers with the musical influence of Eminem or John Legend? Miranda continued his presentation and stumbled through a rap that chronicled the early life of Secretary Hamilton. The audience occasionally erupted into laughter at the absurdity of the concept, but Miranda was rewarded with a warm applause as he left the stage. 
Lin-Manuel Miranda at the White House in 2009
Since that night at the White House, Miranda has performed his award winning musical "In The Heights" hundreds of times, and has been thrown into numerous projects in the performing world. The Hamilton album seemed to become Miranda's background project. Yet, here we are six years later, and Miranda has not given the world a Hamilton album, but rather the most envied ticket on Broadway. Behind the scenes all these years, Miranda turned his concept album into a full blown musical, and no one is laughing at him now. The musical, entitled "Hamilton", is completely sold out at the Richard Rodgers theater until January 2016. Luckily, a cast album was released on NPR a few weeks ago. And as much as it pains me to say it, NPR just dropped the hottest mixtape of the year. Tumblr is exploding with praise for the album and the internet is already predicting "Hamilton"s inevitable Tony Award sweep. I sat down and listened to the entire album in one day and was completely blown away by its brilliance. However, I couldn't help but notice that the opening number of the show is nearly word for word what Miranda performed at the White House in 2009. This made me wonder why he was met with laughter in 2009 and nothing but sincere praise now. I listened to Miranda, who plays the role of Hamilton, eloquently share the story of the founding of our nation and realized eloquence was exactly why the show was receiving such accolades. Miranda chose to tell a story that has great significance to every American with "nearly Shakespearean" eloquence. The patriotic pathos, theatrical magic pathos, and beautiful wordplay make the music almost irresistible. My attention was immediately captured with the line, "The ten dollar founding father without a father got a lot farther by working a lot harder by being a lot smarter by being a self-starter. By fourteen, they placed him in charge of a trading charter." This is only the beginning of two hours of fantastically crafted lines, but I loved how the assonance and anaphora grabbed my attention before I even realized those figures were being used.

In class, we discussed how rap and hip-hop are some of the most common forms of eloquence today. Miranda's musical is the perfect example of this and I think it is also a perfect way to bring American history directly to high school students. The show's fierce political rap battles between Thomas Jefferson and Hamilton resonate wonderfully with the current culture of teenagers. Miranda even retweeted a video last week of a class of students attempting to rap along with him. By taking a piece of history and rewording it into art that catches attention, engages the mind, and stirs up emotion, Miranda has efficiently used rhetoric to prove that a hip-hop musical about our founding fathers is anything but ridiculous. Below I have embedded the opening song from the musical as well as one of the rap battles that exhibits both Miranda's eloquence and the actual rhetoric used by the original members of president Washington's cabinet.

Song writing with a cannon view
Keith Urban has definitely come out of the music star slump and has shot right up to the number one spot on a number of his songs in recent years. Being interested as a singer songwriter myself I have been looking into famous people and how they effectively do what they do. My love for music is not just country but all genres of music, but in this case it is country… don’t judge.  In my opinion not every average person becomes famous; then we would all be famous. People that have a certain uniqueness to them, different background, tonally different voice, distinctive sound, that is what makes people famous… not just a copy of what was already done. I say this laughing to myself because music in its natural form is built upon what is already known. To a person who doesn’t understand artistic views this would be like math. What is learned in one lesson of math is then transferred over to another lesson and so forth. In music you must know how to play but also be able to play with others and bounce ideas off each other. This is how a famous musician goes from famous to revolutionary in my book. Creating new sound and paving the way for new musician. A network of music can be made from the artist’s influences which then the influences can be heard slightly in the new music of the artist.  
Looking a one specific song such as John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16 a person can see and hear all of the influences of Keith urban in his playing and abilities. This song probably wouldn’t get popular if some random artist chose to play and make this song their own. This song got popular because Urban had an intention behind the song; he wanted the song to be different. I believe he effectively used the cannons of communication to do so.  Just to look at a few aspects, he wrote the song originally on guitar (sounded just like every other country song) he then reinvented his song by starting it with bass and drums.  He recreated something from an idea he had in his head and thus invented something new. This song has made it to the top of the music charts for a reason because it is very memorable. The chorus has a very catchy line and can be sung by nearly any body.  This song is relatable to everyone and people like to hear songs they can relate to in their own life.  Urban’s song stands out amongst the rest because no other country song starts out that same way so people recognize it as something new and unusual so are therefore more likely to remember the song as a whole. Lastly this song has a great delivery both on Urban’s part of his attitude he puts into the song but also because he is an already established musician. He has access to display his music in form of audio sound on the radio, internet, and TV. He can also use the power of vision with his music video he has for the song as well which shows his physical attitude while playing the song.

Being famous is what I aspire to be but realize it will be a long journey ahead to play for audiences bigger than football Saturdays. I find joy in the fact that yes music that is on the radio is on the radio for a reason but also the fact that I could have music on the radio by using the cannons of communication. By looking at already established musicians you can see the cannons at work in their songs especially but also in every other aspect of their life. Using cannons correctly to display your thoughts is all a musician has to do. After that is done you play. Kairos.

Communication today

                A large class concept grasped was when we talked about Orality, Literacy, Visually, and Networking in terms of communication. Our world has well advanced in the last few hundred years, and these four ways of communication are a great example as to how.
                Communication began with Orality. Orality can be more defined as the quality of being spoken to. Prior to text print, such as newspapers, news was orally communicated to one another. This associates orality with a multi–author aspect, but can also be associated with the singular form. In other words, more than one person would go around spreading news, or just one person can be associated. Although this form is much outdated due to mass media, it is still demonstrated daily. Oral communication is still performed to this day in forms of speeches. The President of the United States is a great example of this. While he embodies mainly the multi-author aspect of Orality, he can also compose a speech on the spot. A famous example of this is when President George W. Bush gave his famous speech at the World Trade Center, just days after the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001. You can watch him compose the short speech on the spot here. President Bush utilized the singular aspect here, forming a short speech to help unify those involved in search efforts. This speech later became one of the most memorable moment in modern American history.
                Literacy is another effective form of communication. The most traditional definition means the ability to read and write. Literacy can be paired up with another common, Visuality. Visuality refers to the quality of being visible, while also demonstrating learning types. I paired both of these up, because they both have the singular author aspect in common. Back in the day, Literacy was required for effective communication. By being able to read and skillfully write, journalists were then able to push their ideas out more efficiently, producing visual text such as newspapers. Literacy was required on both ends though, because if the receiver picked up a newspaper and could not analyze a piece of writing, he or she would not be able to comprehend it. This is a great example of what Visuality truly means. For a better understanding, check out the image below.
These two commons have changed a little bit as the years passed, such as that they are no longer fully single–author. One could potentially argue that in this day, Literacy & Visuality could be both. For example a newspaper is not published solely by one person. It takes journalists, editors, printing machines and so on. Either way you categorize them, you end up with the same output; effective communication.
                Arguably the largest form of communication to this day is networking. Networking involves the use of the internet, and all different types of social mediums working together to push a topic across. Networking could be referred to as the new form of newspapers, except all digital. This networked form has had a dramatic impact on today’s generation, because we have everything at our fingertips. A great example of a popular networked communication form is Facebook. Facebook has become the major source for everything from news, to what my friends are up to, or something as simple as messenger. Although this new, digital form of communication is a large benefit to us, it also has its negatives. The largest down side is laziness. In my three previous commons, it is able to be concluded that communication takes effort. With this electronic format, the Orality is eliminated completely and vital skills are lost. Back in the day, you would call your friends up and form plans. In this day of age, all you have to do is create a post on Facebook and you’re set. You can access more about the negative impact of networked communication here.
                Overall, this day in age relies on all four of these commons. Whether it is Orality, Literacy, Visuality or networking, they all contribute to the same goal and in the end get you to where you want to go. It is all based on personal preference which route you take, although I am sure the younger generations would choose networking while the older would choose Orality.

Swearing: A form of language symbolism

What makes some of our words in our language more hurtful than others? You're in an argument with a woman, and things start to become tense and heated. Anger fills your body and you called her the "B"word. In most cases, this will trigger off a response from the woman, usually resulting in her smacking you across the face and then storming off. Whether you get the last word in or not, you still lose.

As humans, we all possess the power to hurt someone with our words. The swear words that we call each other or the name calling that we all have done at some point in or lives is sending a much deeper message than just the words we say. When I think about the swear words we say, the very words themselves have no power behind them. For instance, if I were to call someone a leaf, that would have no affect on them and they would laugh at me for my inability to come up with a demeaning word. Swear words come from three commonplaces: sex, bodily functions, and religion. What they all have in common is that they all can be used to establish power and dominance of another individual or people. This is where lies the problem of our swear words. We use these words to create a social reality that makes us feel more powerful than the other individual, and this is the core of what makes us feel inadequate when someone curses us out. 

What I think makes a word bad is that the emotion(s) stemming from the word reflect the condition of our hearts. Cuss words are blunt, rough, and quick to say which signifies that our heart is unloving, rude, and lacking acceptance in that moment.

I have two younger brothers, and one is only two years younger than me and we used to really be unkind to each with our words. My goal was to put him in his place because I was the older brother and that made me better in my mind. When I would call him names, he responded negatively to me not because the words hurt him, but because the message behind the words was hurtful. What my words were symbolizing was that I was better than him. 

Swearing at someone when you're infuriated with them will be the easy thing to do, but we must remember that our word choice is sending a deeper message to the recipient of our message. We are not just saying harsh words. We are signifying that we want to belittle and embarrass them with our words. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Power of Phones in Schools

The Power of Phones in Schools

Texting in schools has been an issue for over a decade now.  Students are consumed by what is  provided to them by their phone.  Whether it is texting, playing games, news media. etc. a phone is argued to be the cause of failure in schools.  On average ages 13-17 send and receive about 3339 text messages per month; that is half the texts ages 18-24 send and receive.  That proves that there is some sort of a drive that pushes teens to always be in contact with the world. Parents are constantly buying phones for their children to make sure that they will be able to be contacted at any moment.  Parents don't consider the harm that a phone can do to a child.  Most teens spend most of their time on the phone after school; homework is not priority anymore.  Being connected to their friends becomes a priority. Cell phones are very powerful because they take away attention from what is important and what should be done. Considering decades ago and today student have become lazier which is causing their education and study ethic to slow down.  To prove my point, my mom studied physics and calculus in 6th grade.  Back then it was a norm for students to study subjects in middle school what we study in high school today.  I believe that technology plays a big role in the difference of  the level in education.  Even though the usage of cell phones is banned in schools phones are still being heavily used.  This means that the laws have little or no control over certain phone users/addicts.  
The article, Texting in the Classroom: Not Just a Distraction, states that phones are a distraction but they can also be used for educational purposes.  Cell phones have been evolving quickly.  Tools such as Reming, Poll Everywhere, Celly, and StudyBoost are beneficial for school.  I can dispute that by stating that on average these tools are not that popular therefore they are not often used.  The phone does more harm than good in schools.  It is true that person who uses a phone in school is likely to do worse than a person who doesn’t.  The abuse of phones by teenagers has grown in the last few years given the recent advance in technology.
I’m not saying that phones are a terrible invention.  Students can use phones for good purposes; such as staying in contact with parents or use it for educational purposes.  Phones are great for communication and connection but it would be an ideal if they were able to be controlled rather than it controlling us.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Are People Buying Technology For The Right Reasons?

    Technology is a beautiful thing, and I am not only talking about all of the new and improved technological features.
    In today's society more and more people are buying technology for the wrong reasons. People want what is going to look the best, not what is going to work the best. Technology is now selling a lifestyle. The two main pieces of technology in today's world are cellphones and computers. Both pieces have several different companies producing the same product. This sparks a lot of competition between all of the companies when it comes down to selling the product for a certain lifestyle, and selling it for advanced technological advantages.
    Richard Lanham created a thesis relating to this topic. He described how in today's society we want the technology that will best fit our life aesthetic, this is known as the economics of attention. Another aspect of the thesis describes how some sources that relate to technology are scarce, but the most abundant resource is information. This part ties into the debate about what brand of technology people should be buying because there is so much information about each company. People should be able to research the product that they hope to buy and get all of the information on it, whether that be good or bad.
    Cellphones have become a necessity in this world. Cell Phones started off as bricks and now they shatter with one hard fall. Today a person can get a cell phone that is made only for calling, or they can get a phone that will talk back to them. The biggest powerhouse phones in the market right now are the Apple iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy. Personally, I have only ever used iPhones so I have a very biased opinion. The Samsung software is far more advanced than Apple, for example, multitasking while using the phone. Although, this might sound like a great thing, when it comes to the phone being user friendly it becomes a bad thing. The storage and pixels in the Samsung are ranked superiorly over Apple. When is comes to the overall look of the phone, which is the main deciding factor, the iPhone has always been the winner. Due to the fact that I have only ever had apple phones I had to do some research on Samsung phones and this video is great for comparing all of the features. One thing that I have noticed when it comes to selling a lifestyle, not necessarily a phone, is that females tend to buy iPhones, and males lean more towards the Samsung. With that being said, I still think that more people buy Apple phones over Samsung phones. This statement could very easily have no meaning what so ever, but I think that it is just another adding factor that proves society buys more for a certain lifestyle that anything else.

  Computers are another piece of technology that you can not live without in today's world. When it comes to computer company competitors it all depends on whether or not you want Windows or Mac software, in many ways this competition is just like cellphones. The Windows software is said to be more personal than the OS X (Apple) software, which to some may be a major plus. This may also lead to Windows computers being more user friendly, but Apple computers are made for a more simplistic user. With the Windows software the user can code their computer to fit their personal needs. On an Apple computer this task is very daunting and often times not worth the hassle. For the longest time Apple computers have always been known for being unreceptive to viruses, but that is not always true. On the other hand, Windows software has always had a problem with viruses. I think the biggest difference would have to be the price range. You can get a brand new windows computer for as low as four hundred dollars, but the lowest you could get an Apple computer is close to one thousand dollars. When it comes to the over all look of the computers, Apple computers automatically have a sleeker look and people notice them. The simple Apple logo will persuade a consumer to purchase it to enhance their lifestyle, not so much their life.  

    All in all, when a consumer buys technology in today's society they are buying more for the lifestyle and status, proving Richard Lanham's thesis to be true.