Category Archives: old school

FW: Burgess

Today’s freewrite is based on the Burgess reading, “The Boss in Common” from our text (p. 158). I asked everyone to find a piece of music that they can connect with personally, that reminds them of a family member. I had to really think about this. But not for long. by the time I had logged into the blog, I had my song in mind. Brian Eno’s “Baby’s On Fire”

when I was a kid, my oldest brother used to play this song, nonstop. It’s a pretty creepy song–the opening lyrics set you up:

Baby’s on fire
Better throw her in the water
Look at her laughing
Like a heifer to the slaughter

if that isn’t enough to scare the living hell out of any little kid, I don’t know what is. So not only are the lyrics disturbing, but Eno sings them with a high pitch screeching. When my brother would play this song, he would chase me all over our house and try to catch me. When he did, it was head first into the nearest toilet. I knew when I heard those first few opening bars, I better run or I was gonna get it and get it good.

When I moved away at 18 to go to college, my brother sent me my first care package. It was a great box full of fantastic stuff from home: food from the area (I was in art school in the south so anything from the far-away north was welcome) and books to sink my teeth into. He also made me a mix tape.

I remember opening that box after a full day in the studio, home late and exhausted. I popped the tape in and sure enough, the first few bars of “Baby’s On Fire” came whining through my little 80s-era boom box. At 18, away from home and feeling homesick, my first response wasn’t one of nostalgia but a response that made me run like hell. I was certain that my brother was hiding somewhere close and if I didn’t run, I would be taking a swan dive into the closest commode.

you know, just finding the video on the computer here in the lab, the minute I played the first few seconds, I realized that I instantly made a check for the door. I was so certain my brother would come out of nowhere to direct me to the nearest bathroom. The last thing I want in the middle of the workday is a swirly.


Back-to-School Sale

I have been kind of struggling with getting into the “back-to-school” groove. This is not a good thing when you’re a professor as all of your lesson planning is best done before the semester begins. (For me, at least, since the first month of school is usually preoccupied by fall TV season premieres.) It took me awhile before I realized that my disassociation from excitement concerning a return to campus coincided with my complete disconnect from television this summer.

With all the traveling I do between the last and first day of school, I had my cable turned off to save myself the expense. Which means that any TV I did watch–because you know I didn’t just go SVU-less–was watched on download, thus, no commercials.

This sparse, TV-viewing summer parallels the summer of 1996 when I was working a dismal corporate job and a trip to Europe was my answer to getting me as far away as possible from my cubicle. I spent some time in Prague and I remember standing on the Charles Bridge, looking out over the Vltava River. In an effort to jot down some tidbits in my travel journal, I noted the date and realized it was Labor Day. School had started back in the states and I had totally missed it.

Are you getting the picture? I had not seen any Back-to-School commercials! Which means, I had not seen (or heard) anyone talking about the best thing on the planet to spend your money on: school supplies.

I used to LOVE buying new school supplies as a kid. I loved having a brand new pencil box—always pressed cardboard for us, no plastic boxes, so a new one was a big deal since it still both opened and closed and wasn’t held together with masking tape (which was usually the standard by October). I also loved the full Elmer’s glue bottle. How many of you spread glue all over your hands then spent most of First Friday mass peeling it off your fingers? (Catholic school. What can I say?) And of course, the brand new box of crayons, with in-box sharpener.

Shopping for school supplies got me excited about returning to school. When that list arrived in the mail (they didn’t post them at Office Supply simply because Office Supply didn’t yet exist), you ran around the house trying to get your mom to confirm a date for shopping. All of those new products were yours, yours alone, and you didn’t even have to share them with a sibling since you were never in the same grade.

I realize that in missing the back-to-school commercials on TV, I have missed the excitement over new school supplies. The best solution, of course, is to just head on out on my own timeframe, bring my list and have at it. So I did.

I seemed to have traded in a lot of the types of supplies I buy these days. Since my teaching is paperless, out are notebooks, folders and new pens. For this new school year, I bought a new 2T external hard drive, a flatbed scanner and updated my Mac with Lion.

And you know what? I am still damn excited about school supplies.

Guest Blogger: Shane Samuel

The Sexual Secrets in Disney Movies

Disney is known to many for its squeaky ‘clean’ image and for being the birthplace of the infamous Mickey Mouse. However, Disney has a dark side, one that seems to have a fascination with explicit images and sex. Almost every major Disney film, from the Lion King to the Little Mermaid has been under fire for the use of explicit images. Many would say that it is not the fault of Disney instead it is the artists who draw the images that are at fault, but I disagree. I am sure the people in Disney review the films before shipping them around the world and definitely see the images. That is like saying Disney producers do not realize that all of the villains in their films are of a darker skin tone. Even more interestingly, not only is Disney infamous for it sex sells attitude but for its blatant racism and sex is good ideology. For example, in the film Who Framed Rodger Rabbit Donald Duck called him “a goddam stupid nigger,” another example is in the movie Aladdin, where Aladdin is heard saying “Good teenagers take off your clothes.” Disney seems to have a clear perversion for telling children about sex. Below are stills from some of our favorite Disney movies and the explicit images found within:

The Lion King:

The word ‘sex’ is clearly seen in the stars.

The Little Mermaid:

The Priest is erect.

The image of a penis is seen in one of the kingdom’s tower.

The Rescuers:

A naked woman is seen the background.

Make it so.

We read The Hunger Games for my Adolescent Literature class this week. I love this book. I loved it so much when I first read it; I had to teach Adol Lit just so I could make it required reading for everyone. It’s an amazing text.

If you don’t know what The Hunger Games is about, or have never heard of it, you have been either living under a rock or are simply deprived of some serious quality American popular culture. The biggest news of pop culture in the past two weeks—aside from Charlie Sheen’s tiger blood and Lindsey refusing a plea deal—is that they have cast the role of the main character in The Hunger Games movie that is coming out next year. Apparently, everyone who is any female of acting caliber has read for, or at least wanted this role. Names from Abigale Breslin to Hailee Steinfeld have been mentioned but ultimately, the character of Katniss Everdeen went to Winter’s Bone actress Jennifer Lawrence.

In class, several of my students’ referred to this text as science fiction. Many wrote in their text response for the book that they didn’t care for science fiction so they had a hard time getting into the plot. I assigned this text as a dystopian novel: America in the future is a desperate place where the overruling government requires each of the segregated twelve territories to send two children into the Hunger Games each year where they fight to the death. Very much like The Giver and Brave New World, this text is classified as dystopian.

It never even occurred to me that this plot—or dystopian novels—could be classified as science fiction. I am not kidding. I never considered myself a fan of science fiction. In my mind—like many people, I am sure—lovers of science fiction are anti-social misfits that spend too much time analyzing the forcefield capabilities of the Enterprise. But as I write this, I realize: I know what the Enterprise is. That already makes me one of them.

I had to really face my sci-fi roots this week. No one has ever accused me of liking sci-fi—and I say that like it’s an accusation, a negated identity that I would never want to be associated with. Yet in this month alone, I have started rewatching The X-Files from episode one, something I just did a few years ago.

I have also listened to an audio version of Fahrenheit 451—again a revisit for me.

I also referenced the new Battlestar Galactica in last week’s blog post and quoted from Firefly in an email to a friend.

And the other night, I had a dream about Jean-Luc Picard buying me the new iPad2 as a gift for Easter. (don’t ask. I can’t even believe I am admitting this on a public blog.)

Apparently, I do like science fiction. Apparently, sci-fi fans are not all anti-social.

OK. You have me on the misfit description.

I’m a Barbie girl, in the Barbie world….

I was not a Barbie girl (big surprise?) I had one left over from my sister, who I don’t think was a Barbie girl, either. But I had my very own Skipper, the little sister of Barbie. She had a flat chest; this, I remember.

I suppose because Barbie was so curvy, Skipper was so much more relateable to me as a gawky kid.

I have written several posts on toys. You can read them here, here, here and here.

Contemporary toys fascinate me, especially the ones that have a history. Have you noticed that toys have changed rather drastically? We seemed tougher as kids of the 1970s. This was my Slinky:

And this is the new Slinky:

Notice a difference? The new Slinky is made of plastic. Plastic! Ours was the original, made of metal—cut your fingers when you popped open the last ring. We also had this wonderful outdoor horror, the metal slide:

Do you know what this did to the back of your legs on a sunny day? I think I still carry the skin scars from my childhood. And now, children have this pleasure:

Not only is today’s playground apparatus non-heat inducing but now it comes in bright colors! I am most surprised by the differences in relation to gender. The Easy Bake Oven, for example, looked like this when I was a kid:

And is now produced as this:

In a generation of young foodies due to Top Chef, and an entire cable network geared toward food, I wonder why Hasbro has gendered this product so strongly, limiting cross-gender possibilities. They aren’t the only ones. Here is my Big Wheel from when I was a kid:

And now, we can purchase this for the stylin’ contemporary girl:

I can tell you this: I was a total tomboy when I was a kid. This Big Wheel would have never seen my butt in its seat. Sadly, I destroyed my original Big Wheel jumping ramps in the woods with Chris K, my childhood partner-in-crime. Even the game Cootie (remember?!) has taken a huge turn. This was my cootie, once built:

And this is the new and improved Cootie:


But no toy has made me turn my head as quickly as Barbie. Get this: here was my Barbie camper:

And here is today’s:

And my Barbie case:

And today:

This side-by-side comparison offers a fantastic comparison of the Barbie penthouse. If you notice, the contemporary penthouse has a hot tub. A hot tub? Really?

But I think this rattles me more than anything:

I’ll say it again: um…wtf?

For what it’s worth / it was worth all the while

My birthday is coming up. Two weeks, to be exact. When I was younger, starting in my twenties, I would celebrate by doing something I had never done before. I got my first tattoo on my birthday. I flew a plane.

I went fly-fishing.

I climbed the highest cathedral in the world.

[This was not intentional, btw. I got in the wrong line and was stuck climbing to the top with a tour group.]

I went to a shooting range and fired my first gun.

I held a snake,

a major accomplishment ‘cuz they really scare the crap out of me. I went to the track and bet on horseracing.

I loved this idea, doing something new every birthday. I began planning it in June, two full months before the big day. Some of it was easy to plan. Fly-fishing, for example, my old college roommate’s husband went out every weekend so I just tagged along. And horseracing was a last minute event (I was going to go skydiving) as two co-workers “kidnapped” me for the day and I had no idea where I was going. Some events took a bit more to plan. Climbing the highest cathedral in the world was a by-product of a six-week trek through Europe. I just happened to be in Ulm, Germany on the day of my birthday.

There was a newness to kick off the next year with a special event, a “birthing” moment of who I was hoping to be that year (do not read more symbolism into the snake issue, please. It was more about overcoming fear.). Once I started teaching, I stopped planning special events, as the start of school was too close to the date. (I remember that the very first class I taught began on my actual birthday so that was definitely something I had never done before.) But ever since, school began within days of my birthday so it was too hard to plan events that took me somewhere. I was usually home working on last minute syllabi.

This year, I won’t be leaving town, either. For one, I just got back from three weeks away and I think Jimmy missed home. And school begins on the Monday after my birthday, which is only the Saturday before it. As I sit here thinking about this day two weeks away, I realize that I will have finished my dissertation and handed it in by then. This is a project I have had outstanding for at least three years, mishap after mishap preventing me from completing and submitting it for the required approval to complete my final graduate program. In reality, a project twelve years in the making if I count all of graduate school that contributed to my doctoral degree.

The point here is that perhaps this birthday is the most renewed one of all. I started out with a goal over a decade ago and stuck with it and the culmination of this project is about to end. There is a bittersweet feeling of accomplishment concerning officially completing my graduate program and becoming Dr. Polak. While I am truly happy to receive my degree and finally settle after transient living for the last fifteen years or so, I wonder if I will become that teacher that I always hated, the one that is disconnected from their students and has no idea of the reality of how busy students’ lives can be as they overplan readings and set project due dates right after spring break.

I somehow cannot imagine any of my students letting me go there.

Big Hits Snowbound Mix (1)

So I am entering into a cold and snowy Friday night. And while I actually considered going out tonight, the heaping mound of snow that blocks the passage way from my front door to my car has made me turn back inside and crawl into my office, keeping pleasantly warm and cozy with iTunes. This is what I randomly tossed into a Big Hits Snowbound Mix. How fantastic is this?

Queen: Under Pressure

Liz Phair: Polyester Bride

NWA: Straight Outta Compton

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Gimmie Some Salt

Newton Faulkner: Teardrops

The Grateful Dead: Bertha

Miley Cyrus: 7 Things

Timbaland (feat One republic): Apologize

Rufus Wainwright: Vibrate

Rick Springfield: Jessie’s Girl

Pink: So What

Beck: Loser

Matt and Kim: Lessons Learned

so what’s in your Snowbound Mix?

FW5: Corn Dog Movie

I have written about this several times already here, for example, so I will move onto my next favorite corn dog movie which is on my mind since we are butt middle into the Olympics:  The Cutting Edge.

This was a fantastic movie from the early 90s about a figure skater and hockey player that team up and form a pairs figure skating duo.  I love the movie for the mere fact that the it is so amazingly simple but full of fantastic one-liners:  “toe pick”!  to see this burly hockey player trying to do figure skating is beyond my reasoning.  LOVES it!  AND the father is played by Red from That 70s Show which is yet another fantastic moment of film usage.

The film ends, of course, in that typical fashion of Hollywood gala where the duo–who have only been paired for a few months–manage to win the Nationals and are off to the Olympics.  Gotta love it.  And while they never showed it, you KNOW they won the gold.  You just know it.

ETA: omg.  How can I be so confused?  when I got on IMDB to create a film link, I discover that the father in this film is NOT Red from That 70s Show but actually John Locke from Lost!  How can I confuse the two?  ah.  the power of the freewrite….to think on your feet and get your thoughts down.  but where.? Where was my head that I was not thinking about Locke?  Probably thinking about dinner.  I was uber hungry during class today.

Here comes the sun. Not.

I am not a fan of the sun. This usually surprises most people when I say this but it’s really pretty simple: it is way too bright for my tastes.

When the sun shines, all my productivity stops. I feel as if I should be outside, reveling in the brightness, even though the first thing I do when I see the sun is up is pretty much roll back over in bed and pull the covers up over my head.

This whole shun-the-sun thing of mine has bothered many. I have had doctors tell me I have SAD—Seasonal Affective Disorder—in reverse. As this is usually diagnosed as winter depression, the reverse would be summer depression.

I hate summer. But not because of some silly mood disorder. Because the sun is always too bright. I went to art school in Atlanta. I finally left after five years and it was mainly because of the weather.

Give me a stormy, windy, dreary kind of blur and I am happy.

I mention my distaste for bright sunny skies for a reason (and not because the sun is out today and it made me stay under the covers until 1p, totally blowing my plan to get up early and dive into work). I am trying to watch Dexter. If you haven’t seen Dexter, the show is about a serial killer in Miami. The catch is that Dexter only kills people that “deserve” to die. And he works for the Miami PD as a blood analyst.

I say trying to watch because this is the second time I am making an attempt at getting into this series. I hear so much about it and it is uber popular right now. But it is set in Miami. Which of course means: a hell of a lot of sun.

When I was in high school, Miami Vice was also the show to watch. Again, Miami. Sun.

I cannot watch Burn Notice

Golden Girls

Miami Ink

And what distresses me most: CSI: Miami.

And I really want to watch CSI: Miami. Cuz this is a TV series just ripe for the picking.

Guest Blogger: Cindi U.

My first concert was Journey. The real Journey. Journey when they were at their peak in the early 1980s. This was when MTV actually played videos and before that, we had Midnight Special for live music. The summer of my senior year, they were the hottest group on Q102, our local radio station, so I knew I had to see them. Kevin, my boyfriend, had a truck, so I knew we were halfway there. We just had to score tickets. I didn’t have a job, but he did, so I began tossing out strong hints about their upcoming show in Cincinnati. Luckily, I was good at hinting, because we soon had a chance to go. The only downfall…his parent’s didn’t want him driving there. We ended up going with some girl that went to our church (what was her name?) and HER FATHER!! I remember the father had cotton stuffed in his ears and he passed it around the car for us to use, too. I wasn’t about to protect my eardrums…this was my first concert! I remember being mortified that Kevin put cotton in his ears. I think that’s actually when I started questioning how much I really liked him! The opener was Bryan Adams, an unknown act at the time. I think he had one popular song. Our seats were up high, but Kevin had binoculars. I remember being mortified about that, too.

Here’s Wheel in the Sky, one of their popular hits at the time.

That night in Cincinnati changed me as a person. Seeing those musicians live, feeling the bass pounding throughout my body, turned me into the music-loving, concert-going fan I am today.