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July 17, 2007

Nickled and Dimed a Writer's Story

I found Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed a great piece on what is wrong with the so called "American Dream." Her take on working on nearly minimum wage in low end labor or service jobs as insightful indictment on what the American Dream is about in a highly sophisticated capitalist culture. What I found most interesting was not so much the jobs she worked (at least the ones she described through Chapter 1), but what she unearthed about the application and interviewing process. One of these said gems was when she applied to many entry level jobs that had applications or help wanted signs such as Winn-Dixie, Best Western, a bed and breakfeast, etc.. Only to find out that they do this on a continous basis even when an opening does not exist due to the nature of their labor market which has a short expectancy. Ehrenreich was orginally outragged upon finding out that she had not received any responses to her applications despite being well qualified. It was upon further investigation that she found out the underlying current that existed in this low end job market, which was that the employers always ran help wanted and accepted applications to keep a pool of secondary candidates available since their job market was cylical. I found that facinating because in most cases when writers discusses a particular subject such as ones ability to survive on a miniscue wage they ponder about the socio-economic ills of capitalist society. This piece of information I have not seen explored in any other article about this subject.

The other parts of her trials and tribulations I found interesting as well. I can't imagine that working as a waitress in a dinner would not have a little bit of humor and interest to it as human story. Although this is toil, sitcoms such as Al's Dinner" and "Cheers," were built on the stories of customers, waitresses, and bartenders. Her introduction where she gives the reader a backdrop as to her motivation helped give us a sense as to the direction she is going as a writer and allowed us to understand some of her quirkeness as to why she would take on such a project. Any time you open an intro with eating lunch at a $30 per plate French cafe and talk about plunging into doing a reflective story on being a low waged earner yourself gets the attention of the reader. So far I also enjoyed the fact that she is telling a story of what it is like living in this world of a low wage worker without lecturing on the social ills that produce such an environment. She even makes a wisecrack to herself promising not to take on a "Marxist," view of American society as takes on this project.

As we move further in this class I have began to look at our reading assignments more analytically and I have tried to emulate some of the strategies into my own writing. I plan to take what I consider Ehrenreich's fresh take on working near poverty level into my own paper. The ability to write something unique and enriching is what I find seperates a great story or essay from an average one. I hope the rest of Ehrenreich's story brings some more insight not written about or looked into.

July 10, 2007

Cop Killer and Deracialization of Lyrics

Sieving's article on the controversy over Ice T's song "Cop Killer," gave the reader a fresh perspective on why Ice T's message on racial differences failed. Ice T's song although not techinally rap, it was released as a rock song on Ice T's album Body Count. However, it was seen by many in media and the public as a rap song by a ganster rapper telling people to be violent towards law enforcement. It was released during a politically charged time in 1992 with a presidental election and the wake of the largest race riots in over 20 years in Los Angeles over the Rodney King beating. Sieving accurately pointed out that Ice T's message really wasn't about simply inflicting harm to law enfourcement, but was more about an indicment about black culture in the wake of economic and political subjecation.

When this issue become a political charged in the American media and culture, Sieving pointed out that Ice T and those around him chose the wrong path in defending or countering the arguement about the message of "Cop Killer." Because they failed to address the underlying racial component of the song, Ice T and Time Warner lost the ability to defend the artistic message of the song and its underlying tones about racial inharmony in urban areas. Instead, they looked at as protecting Ice T's first amendment rights.

The opponents of this song used the argument and as Sieving points out quite effectively the brutuality of the lyrics. They even frame it differently by having people like Charlton Heston read it out load as if it was short story. This effectively nullified the protection of the 1st amendament rights that T's supporters had used to defend the lyrics and the song. Sieving went as far to point out that the mainstream media and opponents of the song went as far as just using snipets of the song to further their agenda. One of the best at this was then future President Bill Clinton who used part of an interview by Sister Soulijah to point the violent sub-culture that rap (hip-hop) artists brought to American society.

I thought Sieving did a good job of presenting an argument about the failure of Ice-T to capitalize on his song as being culturally relevant commentary on black issues in urban environment where those that represent the law are often the ones bending or breaking it. His song was an outlet of what many in black urban area felt in regards to the police state that existed in these areas. Not only were blacks fighting amongst themselves they had to deal with what Ice T contended was a corrupt law enforcement system. In Sieving's final paragraph he pointed out that Ice T's record was fairly popular with white surburban teens who had never experienced this kind of oppresion. In some ways this song and album helped bridge a cultural divide between white and black America. However, the supporters of this song missed that point and eventually pulled the song from the album due to the controversy and political polarization it created.