April 17, 2008

"American Pie" by Don McLean


I"m not sure how I did it twice, but above is one of the many videos/interpretations of "American Pie" you can find on YouTube. The song was released six years before my birth, but I've been fascinated with it since I "discovered" it in high school. I did a bit of research this week, and I must admit that I am still not one hundred percent sure I "know" what the song means! Whatever you believe about "American Pie," you have to admit it's a great tune! Disclaimer: it's about 8 minutes long.

The song “American Pie? by Don McLean is historically significant because it marks popular music’s transition from the light and cheery music of the 50’s and 60’s to the more serious and thoughtful music of the 70’s. It is also an important song because it speaks about the social changes occurring throughout the United States during the decade previous to its release in 1971. The song is now thirty-seven years old and people are still trying to interpret its lyrics. Any song that remains the subject of such intense analysis approaching four decades must be a modern masterpiece.
Don McLean was a teenager in 1959, when Buddy Holly’s plane crashed; it affected him deeply. He saw it as the day the music – the original, fun, rock and roll of the 50’s – died. According to his “official? website, www.don-mclean.com, McLean is cited as saying that the song is autobiographical in nature. At times, he says, he is a character in the song and at times he is an observer. He writes of historical events from his point of view, such as the time “he read about his widowed bride,? referring to John F. Kennedy’s assassination. While McLean may have written a song about a young man’s perspective on the social changes taking place in the 60’s, many people have attempted to uncover a deeper meaning behind the lyrics. In just a few minutes of research, I found a complicated analysis of the song by Bob Dearborn, who interpreted the lyrics on his radio show in 1971, as well as other interpretations posted on individuals’ personal websites, such as www.rareexception.com and www.faqs.org/faqs/music/american-pie.
“American Pie? is a significant song for students to learn about today because it can be used across the curriculum. Obviously, history teachers can use it to enhance a lesson about America in the 60’s – students can identify events and interpret the social commentary in the musician’s lyrics. Music teachers can use it to teach folk music – it illustrates the difference between rock and roll love songs and folk music with a social message. English teachers can use it to help set the scene for novels or readings set in the 60’s or 70’s. It’s a great song to use when studying current events – students can use it as a guide to help them find music that make social commentary on today’s news events.
When I consider what “American Pie? might have meant to Americans two hundred years ago, I think of what was happening in the United States in 1908. Immigrants were flooding across the boarders to create a “melting pot,? so they might have understood the symbolism of a pie. As guitars have been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, I believe they would have appreciated the acoustic nature of the music. However, it would have been incomprehensible for them to imagine a song played on the airwaves with offensive lyrics like, “for no angel born in hell/ could break that Satan’s spell.? Had Americans at the turn of the century understood McLean’s reference to the Vietnam War, “bad news on the doorstep/I couldn’t take one more step,? they might have been discouraged to learn that the country was headed into a series of wars fought across the world.
However one interprets McLean’s “American Pie;? as a simple song of a boy’s point of view or a social commentary on America, there is no doubt that it is a song that will withstand the test of time, and should, therefore, be included in the education of our students.

April 13, 2008

"Hero/Heroine" by Boys Like Girls

Fifteen years ago, I embodied teen pop culture: I owned every cassette that New Kids on the Block had made, I knew every word of every song (including the Christmas album), and my locker and bedroom were plastered with glossy posters of Danny, Donny, Jordan, Joe, and my favorite…Jon. (I recently learned they are making a comeback…I wonder if they will market their music to their old fan base who are 30 year old women?)
New Kids on the Block were big, but not revolutionary, as pop culture has a history of repeating itself. One of the popular boy bands on the market today is Boys Like Girls, of whom I learned when a student researched them for her informative speech. I chose them for this week’s project because, other than that student’s research, I knew nothing about them. I soon learned that they are the 21st century’s version of NKOTB.
I chose to analyze their song “Hero/Heroine? simply because there were two music videos on the band’s official website, and that was the first one I watched. I also wondered if there was going to be a double entendre with the term “heroine,? but I found none, thank goodness. Let’s take a look at the lyrics, first:

“Hero/Heroine? by Boys Like Girls
It's too late baby, there's no turning around
I've got my hands in my pocket and my head in a cloud
This is how I do
When I think about you
I never thought that you could break me apart
I keep a sinister smile and a hold of my heart
You want to get inside
Then you can get in line
But not this time

Cause you caught me off guard
Now I'm running and screaming

I feel like a hero and you are my heroine

I won't try to philosophize
I'll just take a deep breath and I'll look in your eyes
This is how I feel
And it's so surreal
I got a closet filled up to the brim
With the ghosts of my past and the skeletons
And I don't know why
You'd even try
But I won't lie

You caught me off guard
Now I'm running and screaming

I feel like a hero and you are my heroine
Do you know that your love is the sweetest sin?

And I feel a weakness coming on
Never felt so good to be so wrong
Had my heart on lockdown
And then you turned me around
I'm feeling like a new born child
Every time I get a chance to see you smile
It's not complicated
I was so jaded

And you caught me off guard
Now I'm running and screaming

I feel like a hero and you are my heroine
Do you know that your love is the sweetest sin?

(I feel like a hero and you are my heroine)
And I feel a weakness coming on
Never felt so good to be so wrong
Had my heart on lockdown
And then you turned me around
(Do you know that your love is the sweetest sin?)
I'm feeling like a new born child
Every time I get a chance to see you smile
It's not complicated
I was so jaded

(I feel like a hero and you are my heroine)
And I feel a weakness coming on
Never felt so good to be so wrong
Had my heart on lockdown
And then you turned me around
(Do you know that your love is the sweetest sin?)
I'm feeling like a new born child
Every time I get a chance to see you smile
It's not complicated
I was so jaded
[Hero / Heroine Lyrics on
http://www.lyricsmania.com/ ]

This song is a typical teen pop love song about a boy and a girl who fall in love. Who hasn’t heard the word pairs “feel/surreal,? and “complicated/jaded? matched up in a rhyming couplet? Shakespeare these Boys are not. However, they have capitalized on the “candy clichés? to which Ann Powers refers in her article, “Bread and Butter Songs: Unorginality in Pop.? Powers write that “Teenpop needs its candy cliches more than any other genre, since adolescence is all confusion, the time when music offers for many the first map to adult emotions.?
I remember listening to my NKOTB tapes until they warped or snapped from rewinding them. Finally, someone understood the heartache and deep despair of a teenager in love! NKOTB and BLG are the cartographers of their time, creating maps for teen girls feeling, for the first time, the thrill and agony of love.

When viewing the video with the critical approach of audience analysis, one can see, like Beach writes on page 34, “They are seeking to gain an audience’s identification with a certain set of activities or beliefs that can be equated with a product.? On the band’s official website, one can view the video: http://myplay.com/video-player/boys-like-girls/?bcpid=570322901&bclid=570333558&bctid=302034118
I wanted to embed the youtube video, but it was not the same one that I watched on the official website.
The “product? that BLG is selling is the romantic boyfriend. When you watch the video, you see a handsome guy who is head-over-heels in love with a beautiful girl. Rather than do “masculine? things, the activities that he performs are thoughtful, romantic, and fairly selfless. In order of their appearance, the lead singer: lifts heavy luggage, gives her a ride on his bicycle handlebars, cleanses her wound, holds her hand and kisses her (several close ups of this one throughout the video), gives her a puppy for her birthday, shares the music on his phone, dances with her, drives a cool car, apologizes after an argument, sings in a rock band, and lets her win a game. They have targeted their audience well, as women, young and old, want their men to think and do romantic things for them. The wise teen boy would watch videos like these and take notes! NKOTB sold the romantic boyfriend to me as a teen as well.

Analyzing the band BLG with media ethnography studies, one will notice that the BLG fans participate in music clubs, as noted by Beach on page 61: “Audiences also participate in shared community experiences in music clubs or rock concerts through dancing, singing along, or karaoke singing…or participating in online music group fan sites? BLG has an official fan club at their website, and from what I can tell, there are thousands of members. Typical blog postings sound like this:
• “i love your song the great escape everytime i hear it i go crazy !!:)l0l well ya i also have it as my myspace song ..... IT ROXS!!!!?
• “Boys Like Girls are SOOO awsome!!! They rock my sox off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!<3 <3 <3?
Teens with technology have the ability to publish their love for a band online, to meet other fans and chat with them, and learn about their crushes based on their website info. Participating in the music and fan clubs that Beach writes about are ways that teens create a sense of community with each other. There were no online fan clubs in which I could participate as a teen, but I bought every issue of “Bop? magazine and gossiped about NKOTB with my friends.

BLG is not my new favorite band. However, exploring the genre of teen pop music as an adult helps me to understand why I developed such an affection for NKOTB as a teen and why teen girls continue to love boy bands today. They do three things: they create a “map to adult emotions,? as Powers puts it, they sell the product of the romantic boyfriend, and they allow for teens to bond with a shared interest in a community.

March 24, 2008

Week 8: Tonight's Local News

I chose to watch the 6pm broadcast of KARE11 news this evening, something I do several times a week. Tonight, however, I paid close attention to the amount of time given to the types of stories covered. While I often feel inundated by news coverage of the Iraq War and the 2008 election, I was surprised that the only reference to either topic during the 30 minute broadcast was twenty seconds’ worth of time referring to two American contractors’ bodies found this week. They were mentioned because of their affiliation with a Minnesota contractor whose body has not been found. Perhaps I am not as inundated as I think.

KARE 11’s headline story tonight was about a missing autistic boy, Matthew Boisclaire, in Minnetonka. They spent two minutes covering the story and included an interview with his mother. I think they chose this story as their lead because, as Beach points out, local channels pride themselves on “breaking news? (96) coverage, and other channels were unlikely to be leading with the same story. Perhaps the decision to air this story over the headline chosen this morning (I assume there had been another, as he’d only been missing since school let out) helped to find him promptly, as there was an update twenty minutes into the program: Matthew had been found in a park; he’d taken the wrong bus. I like the happy ending, but since he was found 20 minutes after the story aired, I wonder: was that news? Albeit the boy was autistic, but don’t boys get on the wrong bus every day without making the news? He took up 2:30 seconds of the broadcast, nearly 10% of the evening’s news.

Besides the brief mention of the American contractors’ bodies being found in Iraq, the remainder of the broadcast was local. The second story was about a bridge in St. Cloud being closed due to gusset plate weakness. It was a 2:15 spot and included an interview with a man whose business is affected by the decrease in traffic. I think that interviewing a person affected by the event, as Matthew’s mother was interviewed just minutes before, is a tactic local (and national) news uses to tug on the viewers’ heartstrings and get them emotionally invested in the story.

One minutes and thirty-six seconds were given to the story about an inmate named Hawkins and his interview about getting beat up by Diggins. The story went so fast that I missed why it was included in the news, as I was still taking notes on the previous story. I suppose it was important, but I figure jail fights happen all the time without making the news, so why did this one?

One minute was given to a group of anti-war protestors requesting a permit to protest during the Republican National Convention. I didn’t know that you needed a permit to protest, so I guess that was news to me! After that nearly 8-minute barrage of news, I watched 30 seconds of teasers, or previews, of what’s coming in the next segment. I should add here that I watch KARE 11 news rather than FOX 9 news because I can’t stand how much time they spend “teasing.? FOX 9 runs a 1 hour news broadcast but spends so much time “teasing? the next segment that they might be able to fit the news into 30 minutes if they cut the previews.

I did not time the commercials, as I spent it taking notes on what I’d just watched. The second segment ran 5:12 and consisted of 18 seconds about a meat-packing plant in Arkansas (okay, so two national stories, but they comprised less than one minute). Then two entire minutes were spent on George Clooney and Rene Zellweger’s visit to Duluth today to promote their movie, “Leatherheads.? Here’s the entertainment part of the news that producers think the audiences love. Two minutes were spent on their local appearance, clips from the movie (it airs Friday) and interviews with local Duluth fans. This clip was one of the teasers prior to the 6:00 hour and in-between segments, so embedding this clip in the middle of the broadcast was a wise decision, as it kept movie fans watching.

Three minutes were devoted to weather, which I think is pretty normal. Belinda Jensen embodies Beach’s description of the “happy talk? (94) commentary local anchors use. She smiled, joked, and apologized for the un-spring-like weather she was predicting for the week ahead. Another twelve seconds were given to previews for the remainder of the broadcast.

Upon return, 20 seconds were given to update the audience on Matthew’s whereabouts, as previously mentioned. I suspect that a story was removed for the update because, at the very end of the broadcast, Blaine High School Honors German class was pictured smiling and waving, as the music indicating that the broadcast was over played, with no explanation. Four minutes were then given to sports coverage – all local, about the Minnesota Twins: Joe Nathan signing, spring training and roster moves, the Vikings, and the NCAA Gopher Women’s basketball team. They fit quite a bit into four minutes! Only 8 seconds were given to previews for the last segment; a lot, I think, considering what they covered.

Upon the last return of the evening news, KARE 11 listed their evening TV show line-up (8 seconds), then another human-interest story: the “running of the brides? in an Atlanta bridal shop (49 seconds), a 1:13 recap of the 5 day forecast, and then, as I mentioned, the Blaine German class waving good-bye.

There was not one story updating the listener on the Iraq War or the 2008 Presidential Election, as I’d expected. However, some of the coverage made me wonder if it really was news: a boy getting on the wrong bus and a man getting beat up in jail? Hmm, maybe it was a slow news day? I suppose if anything tragic had happened to the boy, or if something worse happens to the man in jail, KARE 11 would have the proud distinction of covering it first. Way to promote tragedy!

March 21, 2008

Week 7: YouTube Obesity Videos

Week 7: Youtube Obesity Videos

First, I’ll comment on Trier’s articles, “ ‘Cool’ Engagements with YouTube? Parts 1 and 2. I enjoyed reading both of his articles, particularly because I learned a few things, such as what a podcast is and how it works. My church offers sermons on podcast, so maybe I’ll try it out next time I’m out of town. Part two suggested using YouTube videos for introducing the author of a novel or for students to post their created video assignments, both of which I liked and thought were useful ideas. However, I do not think that allowing students to search the internet for YouTube videos related to the study topic is a good idea, especially for my 8th grade students. I felt even more strongly that this would not be an appropriate assignment after my seemingly benign YouTube search for obesity-related clips.

I simply typed “obesity? into the search area and was immediately besieged by thousands of clips. The very first, most informative, interesting, and useful clip to come up was created by National Geographic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CodB8Q71Sok It runs 3min, 36 seconds. I’ll talk about this one first. It seems to be a clip from a TV show, posted by NG. In it, we meet a 28 year old man who weighs over 500 pounds and is preparing to undergo gastric bypass surgery. I thought that the video was informative and realistic and could be used to prompt discussion about weight loss methods for people struggling with obesity.

A second NG clip that I also found interesting seemed to also be a segment from the same episode mentioned above. It runs 6min, 4 sec. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxSAhLyKVqw In it, an endocrinologist explains Cushing Syndrome, a disorder caused by tumors on the pituitary gland, causing obesity. The clip contains interviews with a patient who was healthy as a young woman, but gained a large amount of weight in her 20’s for no apparent reason. She suffered from obesity for many years before she was diagnosed with Cushing Syndrome and had an operation to remove the tumors. While certainly not all people who are obese suffer from Cushing Syndrome, I thought this clip could start a great conversation about the causes of obesity and break down the stereotype that obesity is always caused by overeating.

A third clip that I thought would be useful in the classroom was made by “Kidfluence TV? and runs for 4:00. It seems to be a student-news program, a type of informational video often played on PBS on Saturday mornings. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mF0FUW3oJw8 This clip would be appropriate to play in health class unity on nutrition or exercise, and could introduce the topic in student-friendly lingo.

A fourth clip that I found discussed a weight-loss drug named “Accomplia.? The clip appears to be from a Fox News broadcast and was posted on YouTube in December 2006. It runs for 2:00. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsPCTGyufho I think that one could be opening Pandora’s box by discussing diet pills for weight loss in a classroom, but the same could be said about many things; suffice it to say, I would use this one with caution. I would also have to do more research about this drug because “Accomplia? is a European drug that had not been released in the United States in 2006. I wonder if the new weight loss drug advertised on TV, “Alli? is the same thing.
The previously mentioned four clips were those that I found most useful and likely to include in a classroom. I found some clips of individuals who were keeping obesity diaries; of interest was a man who called himself “used to be 803.? He’d posted hundreds of videos documenting his weight loss. The one I watched went on for several minutes and was a mostly an obese man’s ramblings on what it feels like to be judged by others based on his appearance. I felt that it was not well done and would probably not use it in class.

“Used to be 803? inspired me to enter “Weight Watchers? on my search. I found many amateur videos of people tracking their weight loss with photos of themselves in the same outfits at decreasing weights. I would only use something like this in class if I were going to assign students to keep diaries of themselves to be posted into a video. Most were boring to watch.

The remaining dozens of clips that I bothered to watch were terribly useless and mostly degrading to the individuals who posted them. I will not attach them to this blog because they disgust me and I have no intention of promoting individuals’ stupidity. Many consisted of obese women and men in sports bras and spandex shorts doing exercises like jumping jacks, dancing, running, etc. Those were the decent ones. Several appeared in my search that had titles like “how to have sex with a fat woman,? etc. There seemed to be more amateur videos of obese people exercising and having sex than there were educational or informative videos! This is the very reason I would not give an assignment such as the one I’ve just conducted, at least not in my current position as a middle school teacher. Perhaps one could expect high school students to search maturely, but after my experience of 30 eighth graders researching in the computer lab for their informational speeches, I would NOT allow them access to YouTube to search for informational videos.

This class is forcing me to become media literate, which is the intention, of course. I’m beginning to understand why America is becoming fatter – things like online communities and YouTube videos are enormous time wasters and our students are engaging in them with reckless abandon! I’ve spent more hours this semester reading and watching mostly ridiculous ramblings of people with too much time on their hands. I do feel that our students need to be media literate, but I would include in a media literacy class lessons on the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle that technology seems to promote.

March 8, 2008

Week 6: Welcome to Weight Watchers

Picture 074.jpg Aulds Hawaii Trip 424.jpg

One week after I saw this photo, taken in April 2006, I joined Weight Watchers. In July 2007, I was 25 pounds lighter and finally comfortable enough to pose in a swimsuit, in Hawaii of course. (What a beauty!)

In the two years I’ve attended Weight Watchers (WW from here on out) meetings, I’ve never gone to the message boards. This week I “lurked? for our Media Ethnography assignment and learned for the first time what people are talking about when they say “online communities.?

I’ve never been interested in joining an “online community? for several reasons, one being that I didn’t know what the internet was until I reached college! Even though I now have high speed DSL, I certainly don’t have the time to sit for hours and chat with strangers. However, lots of people do, and thousands of them are WW members!

When WW members post, they choose a made up name, and beneath that they list their start weight, current weight, and “goal? weight. There are rules by which they must abide and WW will delete posts that defy the rules. While there is an air of anonymity, many people freely share personal information, including email addresses and My Space pages, where they can show off photos of themselves and their families. Today, I read a post where two people were talking about buying a dress for an event, and the correspondent left the chat, visited the other’s My Space page to see the dress, then returned to comment on it!

There are 55 different message boards from which to choose! First, I visited the “Newbies? board, where people mostly had questions about how the WW program runs. Today, LIFETIMER4GOOD was upset about her weigh in (WI):

“I don't know exactly why I gained this week, usually I can figure it out and expect it but today I didn't! Maybe it's that I didn't exercise enough, maybe it's that I ate 2 lean quisine meals this week. Not sure! I thought my portions of everything were in check!

I did go to Pizza Hut yesterday w/ MIL and the kids. I had a salad but had 3 slices of med. pizza. Maybe the sodium from that? Would it have showed up today? I should have upped my water yesterday I guess but I didn't! Maybe that would have flushed it out! I even had a light dinner b/c of lunch yesterday. Opps...Forgot to say what my WI was/is.

I gained 1 lb!?

I could relate better to PIGLET16 whose reply made me LOL:

“Really? You had 3 pieces of pizza yesterday and are upset about a fricken pound?

<~~~gained 2.6 this week.

I advise you to shut it.?

So, sometimes the posters aren’t so kind.

I decided to visit different board for 30 year olds, and discovered several groups who knew each other quite well. For instance, MR.BUNDY started a thread this morning “Any one I know…? and the post was “and love around??

One minute later, SJGOODE replied:
“I know you. I am not sure about the love part though. Do all the freaks come out on the weekends or what??

The thread went on for an hour, with the chatters talking about what they were doing over the weekend, whose in-laws were visiting, and what the weather was like in their parts of the country. Not a word was spoken about what they were eating or weighing, which leads me to believe that they have become friends. This must be what “online community? means. I suppose that if were living alone or didn’t have other friends, or just had time to make friends online, this would be an easy and non-intimidating way to do it. I left that thread of friends and read another group’s thread, who call themselves the “YaYa Sisterfriends.? Many of them posted this morning with greetings and hugs, reported their successes and weight losses and cheered each other on. They even included a welcome for other people to join, which made me feel that I wouldn’t be booted or ignored if I chose to post there.

I decided not to post online but to leave my discovery of online communities as it is…a discovery. Now that I have a better idea of what they are and how they work, I will be more likely to use them when there is a time for them in my life. I also understand now why my students are so drawn to them; if you can type, you can make a friend. Before the advent of the internet, typing skills were not necessary for friendships. I can see how message boards may be a useful tool to get my students to write about what they are learning: WW members post about their weight loss lessons every day, all day.

February 28, 2008

Week 5: The Simpsons & American Journal of Public Health on Obesity

I decided to take a less traveled route on this post. I was inspired to go straight to the source of American stereotypes: The Simpsons. This animated show has made fun of every possible people group in America during its run, yet it remains as popular as ever. I visited its website and perused the character bios, reading only the obese or overweight characters’. Here’s the way Matt Groening and The Simpsons’ creators have chosen to represent obesity in America (quotes from The Simpsons website):
• Comic Book Guy: This obese character is single, sells comic books, and “has the emotional maturity of an 11 year old.? When I’ve seen him on the show, he is eating and harassing the kids in his store.
• Clancy Wiggum: This obese character is the chief of police and is described as “donut-scarfing.? When I’ve seen him on the show, he is portrayed as a dumb cop, constantly on the prowl for food, particularly donuts.
• Homer Simpson: This overweight character is the lovable, idiotic father of a dysfunctional family. He is described as occasionally being “frustrated at being fat and bald.? His character is more complex than the first two mentioned, so he does not ALWAYS talk about food, but he does manage to twist his conversations back to pizza, beer, donuts, and other unhealthy options.

Do these yellow men, who represent the American Caucasian population, as African American cartoon characters are brown on the show, care that they are overweight? In general, no. What could be the reason, other than they are fiction? (Or are they…..?)

The American Journal of Public Health, March 2008, explains in an article titled “Feeling fat may be worse for you than being fat.? In a study conducted by Dr. Muening of Columbia University in NYC, he explains that just FEELING fat puts a person at a higher risk of health problems. Those who are heavy according to BMI charts, but perceive themselves as healthy have fewer “unhealthy? days per month than those who feel that they are overweight. Huh? Let’s look at it through the eyes of The Simpsons characters:
• Comic Book Guy: his body is clearly large, yet he delights in his comic books and his “wheelbarrow full of tacos.? He perceives himself as a happy, healthy person; therefore, he’s fine.
• Clancy Wiggum: he also has a large body, but finds satisfaction in life through his Barney-Fife police work. He perceives himself as a good father and cop, therefore, he’s fine.
• Homer Simpson: his body is the smallest of the three men, yet he occasionally is “frustrated,? as he perceives himself as fat and bald. Therefore, he tries to diet yet ultimately fails at losing weight. He is one who perceives himself as fat, therefore has more unhealthy days, as suggested in the article.

So, according to American Journal of Public Health and The Simpsons, you’re only fat if you think you are!

Week 5: Media Representations One: Obesity

I chose to write about obesity because I am a person who has struggled with weight my entire life. Watching family members encounter obesity-related health problems in recent years has made me make some lifestyle changes, like educating myself on what healthy eating REALLY is and incorporating exercise into my schedule. Taking my height and age into account, I am still considered overweight by the medical field.

It is easy to see in nearly every media how thin and beautiful people get the lead role, make the cut, win the girl/guy or prize, etc. I set out for this assignment to find some media that are sending healthy messages to people who struggle with their weight. I was looking for media addressing the issue of obesity, presenting realistic human bodies in a positive light, while also reinforcing healthy life habits like exercising and eating healthy foods. Here’s what I found:

I recently read a copy of “Seventeen? magazine, one that is very popular with teen girls – it was the April 2007 issue. While flipping through the magazine, I saw countless images of women who were thin, in my opinion some TOO thin, but none exhibiting the ghost-like figures sometimes portrayed in the fashion world. I was relieved to find some photos of women whom I considered to be a realistic size: 2 photos of Jennifer Hudson, a celebrity, Kelly, a student modeling for the “just flaunt it? article, and an ad for “Torrid? which is a company selling teen girls’ clothes in sizes 12+. There was a feature called “Real life? about a girl whose tattoo became infected – in the full body shot it is clear that the girl is a realistic representation of teen bodies; I guess she’s a size 10 or 12, about 140-150 pounds. Another “Real life? article was about a girl who confessed her lesbianism to the school; in her full body shot it is clear that she is an obese teen. There was an article about doing cheerleading workouts, like crunches and kicks, as well as an article about choosing healthy options at the school cafeteria. Both seemed like healthy advice. This magazine included an article called “How training can turn tragic,? a story about a teen girl whose eating disorder eventually killed her. While I began reading the magazine in order to discover how obesity is treated in teen girl world, I was relieved to see an article addressing another weight danger, anorexia – one that harms teen girls much more quickly.

It’s not very often that I’m home in time to watch Oprah, but I managed to catch it today, February 25th, 2008. It’s a show that’s on at 4pm when students are home from school. Today, Oprah was interviewing Valerie Bertenelli about her lifestyle changes: losing 40 pounds on the Jenny Craig weight loss system and giving up drugs. I’m realistic enough to know that not all students will watch Oprah, but I also know that many do and won’t admit it. Most of the episodes I catch consist of high-interest material relative to a wide audience. I think that the teens who watch Oprah in the afternoon are receiving a positive message about what healthy people look like, as Oprah herself talks about her weight struggles often.

A recent popular reality show dealing with weight issues is “The Biggest Loser.? The premise is this: several contestants are divided into two teams and whichever team loses the most weight by percentage wins at that week’s weigh-in. The show goes on for several weeks, with the “weakest? person getting “voted off? each episode and the winner receiving a cash prize. While I don’t agree with everything that happens, I do like to watch this from time to time, as it motivates me to keep up my new healthy habits. This is a show that is on a major network during prime time, so I think that several students watch it. I think it paints a very real picture of the health dangers of obesity for its audience as well as shows how effective healthy eating and exercising is. While it seems to imply that an extremely buff personal trainer is necessary to achieve weight loss, it does place people struggling with obesity as stars of the show, rather than in buffoon characters.

I’m encouraged to find that there are media out there sending student images of healthy sized adults, especially those that encourage people struggling with obesity to follow good health guidelines. I know that my students are bombarded by the media with messages that they should be thin and beautiful. They read it in magazines, watch it on TV, see it on the internet, in movies and clothing stores in the mall. However, research also tells us that the adults in students’ lives have the strongest influence on them.

I try to set a good example of what a healthy adult looks and acts like. When I have the opportunity, I encourage healthy habits like eating breakfast, exercising, and drinking water, by beginning conversations about it. Very often, I will say, “Turn your neighbor and ask him or her what he or she had for breakfast.? This is a “brain break? that works wonders in middle school because of the student’s short attention spans, and it also gives me an opportunity to gauge their healthy habits as well as model my own, by telling them what I ate, or what exercise I enjoy.

February 11, 2008

Week 4: Critical Approaches/Lenses

Audience Analysis Summary and Examples

When analyzing media text through the audience analysis approach, one is determining which population the media is addressing and how that population would interpret various symbols and signs. The media outlet targets one or more of three areas with which the population can interpret – identification, participation, and socialization as consumers.

In my search to find an example of a media outlet analyzing its target audience through interpretation, I looked no further than the evening news. When one watches a major network news show during the six o’clock hour, one is inundated with ads catering to 50’s age male: insurance, vehicle, and most abundantly, medications directed at men who experience erectile dysfunction. This thoroughly annoys me because I enjoy watching the nightly news as I prepare dinner: I get caught up on what’s going on in the world while accomplishing the feat of getting a healthy meal on the table. Clearly, the medication companies take advantage of this time when men are coming home from work, not thinking of the hot, delicious meal that is being prepared for them (yes, there are young women who cook dinner and work full time) but of their ensuing evening foray. The most comedic one in my opinion is that of the man who is working in the kitchen; I think he’s preparing a meal. The man can identify with helping out with household chores because many a married man knows that a little bit of housework goes a long way with his wife. His wife begins hitting on him, then the sink springs a leak! This is a great example of Freud’s phallic symbol and it makes me crack up almost every time! Of course, because he’s taken the ED medication, he can fix the leak, cook dinner, AND have sex with his wife.

Media outlets also target audience participation by creating something in which their audience can get involved. I think the “hottest? audience participation media is currently American Idol. The creators of the show take advantage of the “15 minutes of fame? idea by holding a musical contest in which it is theoretically possible that any person in America could be on the show. While thousands and thousands of people participate by actually going to the audition location, many more people participate every week by voting via cell phone for their favorite contestant. Even Fox 9 News has blog on which Twin Cities locals can post their thoughts of the show.

The third and final way that media analyze their audience is through “socialization as consumers? (Beach 35), meaning they try to sell the product or service based how cool or popular one can be if one owns the product or uses the service. I think that Apple, Inc. has the corner on the market with their abundance of electronic gadgets. They advertise their newest product, the iphone on TV using a single person against a black backdrop demonstrating how the iphone helped a man remain “cool? when he forgot a person’s name whom he was about to meet at a restaurant: he simply looked it up on the internet using his iphone. Apple, Inc.’s ipod product also has television and print ads with cool- looking youngsters dancing to the tunes on their ipods.
Semiotic Analysis Summary and Examples

Semiotic Analysis focuses on the audience’s interpretation of a sign or code; for instance, the media understands that most people interpret the color red to mean stop and the color green to mean go. I remember an Olive Garden commercial that showed its very happy chefs training in Tuscany, Italy, to make their new dishes. The ad consisted of many shots of the warm, romantic- looking countryside, olive trees, and juicy, red tomatoes bouncing out of a colander. The chefs were laughing heartily and deeply inhaling the aromas emanating from the piping hot pasta. The images of the scenery were be interpreted by the American audience to mean that the food served at Olive Garden is authentic Italian food. The images of the olive trees and the bouncing tomatoes are to be interpreted by the audience that Olive Garden uses extremely fresh ingredients, and the happy, laughing chefs are to be interpreted that the Olive Garden has a fun, relaxing atmosphere.

I don’t know for sure if the Olive Garden chefs really trained in Tuscany, how much fresh vs. frozen food they use, or how relaxed one feels there, but DO know this: it doesn’t compare with a lunch on an Italian piazza!

February 6, 2008

Week 3: How I plan to teach film/editing

At my school, we offer a 9th grade class called Media Technology and have a very qualified and experienced teacher who covers all of the film techniques covered in Beach's Chapter 3. I would not want to detract from her curriculum, but, seeing as how her class is an elective and my 8th grade Communications class is required, there are a few things I could do.

Because we use Simon Birchat the very end of our one semester course in a unit on perspectives, I would take some time to cover the film techniques described by Beach on page 23. I will have a few short shots from U tube to illustrate the different camera angles, then give them an assignment to go home and record a certain number of camera shots they could identify while wathcing television that night. There are a few spots in the movie where certain film techniques, such as point of view shot, are used to illustrate Simon Birch's small stature, or a close up shot of an important item, the armadillo. I would stop there and have the student identify the shot being used and why they think the director may have used it. This type of questioning will give me a good idea if they understand the film techniques discussed, and will also assess the student's understanding of Simon's perspective on life, depending on where in the film I stop. THis idea in no way incorporates all of the material covered by Beach in Chapter 3, but it gives me a realistic place to start in my classroom this semester, without infrining on the Media Technology teacher's curriculum.

February 5, 2008

Week 3 Citibank Commercial

I chose this Citibank commercial of a father and son traveling to Norway "on the trip of a lifetime" because it reminds me of what my husband and father in law would do if money and time were no objects; and surely with a similar result! Following is a shot by shot analysis of the 15 (I can't BELIEVE this) shots in the 30 second commercial. The first universal idea that it uses is that everyone's family "story" is unique, and wherever one travels with family, Citibank can be used to pay for it. It also capitalizes on the idea that everyone has a dream vacation destination and that they should use their Citibank card to pay for it.

Continue reading "Week 3 Citibank Commercial" »

February 2, 2008

Week 2: Rationale for Teaching Media Studies

Last fall while taking EDPA 5341, “The American Middle School,? I learned that the National Middle School Association teaches that an effective middle school embodies fourteen key characteristics, the first of which is “curriculum that is relevant, challenging, integrative, and exploratory? (This We Believe in Action, Orb 4). I believe that integrating media studies into our current middle school curriculum, particularly Communications and Language Arts, will make the curriculum much more relevant to their lives, due to the fact that our students are swimming in media - they spend an average of 6 ½ hours a day with it, according to the Kaiser Foundation.

We have 8th and 9th grades in our building currently and there is one media technology class offered. It is a one semester course that covers advertising, news analysis, film editing and basic web design. There are four additional media technology classes offered at the high school, and they are very popular, so in that respect, one could say that the community has a positive attitude toward media studies. However, the technology levy did not pass this fall, and it is difficult to schedule classes into the computer labs at times.

I teach Communications 8 and Literacy 8 at Farmington Middle School West. Communications 8 is required in our building and is closely linked to the 8th grade English department. We meet the 8th grade requirements for a research paper in our class as well as write and present several different types of speeches throughout the one-semester course, state standards for listening, writing, and speaking. The curriculum was designed by my mentor teacher and incorporates little media technology. The reason for this is twofold, I believe: the difficulty in scheduling computer lab time and her hesitancy to use new technology. We research in the computer lab for the information speech, and we videotape one speech for the purpose of students analyzing themselves. I would like to use more technology in the class in order to capitalize on our students’ interest in technology, making it relevant to their lives. One possibility would be to watch and analyze speeches made by people in a variety of occupations in order to establish the necessity for learning public speaking. Another would be to communicate with the 10th grade students currently enrolled in Public Speaking through the use of class blogs or wikis, as Beach discusses at length on page 14. This may help students understand how they are learning the basics of public speaking and how the class has helped others do simple presentations. Having a 10th grade Communications partner could also establish a stronger sense of community within the high school in the future.

In pitching my idea to the school board, I share with them the following:

School board, it is my desire as well as yours to see that we are training our students in the basics of reading and writing, and I would like to share with you why media technology should be incorporated into our Language Arts curriculum. Our students are immersed in media and spend hours every day listening to MP3 players, playing video games, watching television and using the internet for research and socialization. When our current middle school students graduate from college, they will be taking jobs in fields that do not exist today. It is our job to train them now for the future and the future will hold media technology wherever they go.
We strive to teach curriculum that is challenging, relevant, integrative and exploratory, and with current technology we can do that. When we have enough computer labs and carts for classrooms, students can view and analyze a wider variety of texts than one book. Students can write responses in chat rooms, blogs, and wikis, all methods useful for teaching proper writing and publication techniques in a manner relevant and interesting to our students. Our students are living in a global economy fueled by media and need to be able to analyze and interpret the messages relayed to them on a daily basis; for example, they need to understand how the media can portray different populations, and how they bias reporting. They need to learn technology skills that will be necessary in their future occupations. Even our MCA tests are taken online now, which furthers the idea that our society becomes more paperless every day.
Please consider the proposal set before you to increase funding for media studies in our classrooms. With the proper tools, we will be more able to capture our students’ attentions in what they already spending ¼ of their day using, according to the Kaiser Foundation: media technology.

January 23, 2008


Welcome to my tropical themed weblog. I'm enrolled in CI 5472 at the U this semester and will be primarily discussing the class on this site, but a little about me first. I teach 8th grade Communciations and Literacy at Farmington Middle School West and love it! I am taking courses at the U to complete requirements for my Communications/Language Arts 5-12 Minnesota Teaching license, as I currently hold an English 7-12 license. As for the tropical theme, I love all things tropical; Hawaii is my favorite destination! I've even decorated my classroom with 55 feet of swimming sea turtles, an "Aloha" greeting sign, and various travel trinkets, like a big plastic pineapple from "Cheeseburger in Paradise." It once held a pina colada, but my students don't know that! Happy media studying!

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