Entries Posted in "May 2007"

Breaking the Language Barrier
May 24, 2007

I have a problem with the notion that it is oppressive for children to be taught proper English. As though enforcing standards on the youth of America is somehow going to make them grow up repressed and bitter about being able to form sentences and conjugate verbs. They would have us all believe these children will end up as adults resting on a couch somewhere talking to a shrink about the horror of not being allowed to freely "express themselves" in the classroom. In America personal expression is overrated and unregulated. It conjures up something vaguely reminiscent of those hellion children on the show "Supernanny" who are permitted to yell obscenities at their parents all in the name of "freedom".

When it comes to freedom of expression, educator Garrard McClendon is breaking the language barrier. He's written a book, "Ax or Ask: The African American Guide to Better English" where he tackles many of the falsehoods about language that have been perpetuated in media, education, and the sub-culture. Not only that, he's done what most of us have failed to do: invade the public school system. McClendon has formulated a curriculum that teaches students how to speak proper English by focusing on correcting commonly mispronounced words and bad grammar. As can be expected, he's come under a bit of fire for specifically targeting black students. Although it is becoming quite clear that such a curriculum is needed in many other circles, his goal was to target the group of people being most affected by improper speech. For high schoolers in particular it could mean missing out on college scholarships, future jobs, and more importantly, the opportunity to say something meaningful to the world.

My dear Seattle has been in the news quite a bit as of late thanks to American Idol. Earlier this year, Seattle made headlines when Seattle Public Schools was in search of a new superintendent. Trouble came a brewin' when it was suggested that potential candidates have "a clear understanding of institutionalized oppression." At first glance, I don't see too much wrong with that statement. A little more digging and it was revealed that the implications of such a statement were convoluted to say the least. Last year, in a statement released by the school system's "Office of Equity and Race Relations", racism was defined as such (emphasis added):

"Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as "other", different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers."
So it's racist to set an atmosphere where students are expected to speak proper English? I guess the proof is in the pudding. Seattle Public Schools rank among some of the worst. Even Bill Gates stopped giving to Seattle Public Schools.

I've written quite a bit here about my sincere appreciation for the English language. Upon mastering it, I believe language, no matter where its national origin, is a very powerful knife. Language can cut very deeply. It can scar, wound and unnecessarily mark those who speak, hear or read it. When used as a butcher knife it can be fairly destructive. Contrarily, when wielded by the right person, language can be used as a scalpel to carefully dissect thoughts, expose hearts, and bring understanding and revelation to a culture desperately in need of a clear voice on just about everything.

Don't get me wrong. I am no language purist. I appreciate the newness of speech and the wacky words and expressions added to my vocabulary on a daily basis. I think the Urban Dictionary is a treasure trove of hipster nerdom. The beauty in being able to speak proper English is the license you receive to speak it improperly. In fact, some of the greatest writers in history consistently violated Strunk & White's rules of proper grammar, but did so with such intelligence and eloquence the average person could see the mark of master wordsmithing.

Every day, multiple times a day and depending on how I feel I might slip into my lax speech and be speakin' bad grammar usin' words like ain't and edumacation and dropping the terminal consonant off the verbs. The fact that I can analyze my own slang makes me a nerd. It also makes me a master of my words. I thank my private school education and my parents for that. When I slip into slang it's usually due to cultural idioms or because I'm chatting with my husband or friend and doing it for emphasis. I think of it as a dialect--my urban Seattleite version of patois. The caveat to my intermittent and intentional misuse of the English language is that I would never under any circumstances do so in the presence of those who didn't know I knew otherwise. Half the language battle is knowing where and when to speak appropriately. The other half is knowing how to speak appropriately. Therein lies the rub.

Posted by Ambra in Race | Link to This Entry | Comments { 21 }
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Celebrity Hubris
May 21, 2007

There are days (though few in number) when I am absolutely astounded with celebrities and the ignorance of their own inconsequentiality. Granted, we all like to inflate the importance of our own existence every now and then, no? The difference between the average person and those who hold a larger market share of media air time is consciousness. That is to say while the average person has enough sense to know when they have an inflated sense of their own fabulousness, certain celebrities do not.

A recent opinion column in the Los Angeles Times affirmed my long held suspicion. Theodore Dalrymple writes:

The cult of celebrity is not new, but it is increasing in its scope and effect. At one time, people wanted to simply gawp at the famous, and possibly dress like them. Now, many take their moral and political opinions from them.
Lord help us all if we are taking our moral and political cues from the likes of Angelina Jolie, Rosie O'Donnell, and dare I say, Robert Sylvester Kelly.

As though it weren't bad enough that Rose O'Donnell might be vying for a slot as the new host of "The Price Is Right," now R&B singer/pedophile, R. Kelly is comparing himself with Martin Luther King.

In a recent interview with Hip-Hop Soul Magazine, Kelly said,"I'm the Ali of today. I'm the Marvin Gaye of today. I'm the Bob Marley of today. I'm the Martin Luther King, or all the other greats that have come before us. And a lot of people are starting to realize that now."

Quite possibly cold hard evidence R. Kelly is smoking crack. To that end, he is possibly right in comparing himself to Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye. Kelly and his publicist have been back-peddling since the New York Post first ran the quote. Kelly's publicist has since clarified that Kelly was simply pointing out that he's a prolific songwriter of his time.

Generally speaking, writing and producing a lot of hit songs isn't exactly the qualification for joining the ranks of Martin Luther King. And if I recall correctly, Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay) was quite the outspoken activist during his reign as heavyweight champion. He was outspoken against the Vietnam War among many other things and despite my issues with the Nation of Islam and just about everything he stood for, at least the man stood for something. That is a heck of a lot more than Mr. Kelly can say.

What disturbs me more than anything is the fact that people (who deserve to be in jail) such as Kelly and others who shall remain nameless continue to feel comfortable talking up their own egos because there is little to no accountability. Instead, the masses still buy albums and bother interviewing him for the sake of selling magazines. To boot, so-called advancement organizations like the NAACP are idiotic enough to nominate the man for an image award while he was under indictment for charges related to child pornography. Way to go NAACP.

It is interesting to me how rarely we make the connection between talent and the need for character. It's as though a person's giftedness or talent somehow make them exempt from moral standards or accountability for their sphere of influence. If our culture is truly drawing opinions and moral conclusions from such characters, doling out moral byes is dangerous ground to be treading.

Perhaps it is accurately fitting that R. Kelly nicknamed himself the "Pied Piper of R&B." A little research on the history of the "Pied Piper of Hamelin" folklore reveals an ending that is terribly eerie:

"While the inhabitants were in church, he played his pipe again, this time attracting the children of Hamelin. One hundred and thirty boys and girls followed him out of the town, where they were lured into a cave and never seen again."
Oh my.

Posted by Ambra in Culture | Link to This Entry | Comments { 9 }
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The Presidential Action Figures
May 18, 2007

Normally I stay far away from the presidential debates. On top of being incredibly boring, the debates on either side of the political spectrum are a bit too reminiscent of a high school homecoming queen competition. They are certainly just as glossy if not even more catty. As I watched the GOP candidates mildly duke it out this past Tuesday evening, I fully expected to see various sets of cheerleaders popping out in between questions. Team Romney's cheerleaders would be wearing "temple ready" uniforms, of course, but they'd be peppy nonetheless.

We certainly are in interesting times. When Woodrow Wilson was elected president in 1913, he didn't have to participate in presidential debates on television nor did he have to worry about his word flubs or neck fat appearing on YouTube the next day. Moreover, many have speculated that if the American public had known Wilson suffered such severely debilitating consequences from his stroke, they may not have elected him at all. I'm no scholar on presidential history so I can't comment on whether or not this was good or bad in the case of Wilson, but I would speculate that such a situation probably wouldn't have been good for someone like say...Bill Clinton. Though the meaning of "good" here is entirely relative; no television persona and platform on which to be "outed" in front of millions of viewers = great for Clinton, however terribly bad for the American people.

With the advent of Web 2.0, every statement, every word, and every misplaced hair is irrevocable. Not only is it irrevocable, if you're a public figure, it's cached, uploaded, downloaded, edited, spliced, and played on repeat from now until all of eternity so you had darn well better get that sentence out correctly the first time. So what do we get when these are the times in which we live? Presidential Action Figures. But not just any action figures. These ones have perfect white teeth, shellacked hair and various strings you can pull to hear a selected catch phrase or opinion on pet "political" issues. In the case of this week's Republican debate, the phrase heard when pulling said string always included the phrase "I am more conservative than you."

I didn't watch the first Democratic debate so I can't make a fair comparison, but given the fact that Hillary Rodham Rodham Rodham Rodham Clinton was present, I suspect the same party-toting banter was carried on - except in Hilary's case, she wasn't an action figure but more like a blow up doll. Or better yet -- a large balloon on a parade float, displayed for all to see and not very useful for much of anything. And while I'm in free-form writing, beginning sentences with conjunctions and whatnot, can I just go on record and say that America as whole (or even a half) is so not going to elect a woman as president? Ain't. Gonna. Happen. So by all means, please give Hillary the nomination so all the other nations can laugh at us.

With the parade float in the mix, as well as Senator Obama (whose racial credibility is going to flip flop almost as much as Hillary's maiden name), this promises to be quite an interesting year. Can't say I'm looking forward to seeing Presidential Myspace pages and all, but I am quite curious to see how this all pans out.

Until then, I'm not holding my breath on any one candidate. There are far more important and interesting things going on in the world and I am certain the formaldehyde will preserve the candidates until we get closer to the election next year.

Posted by Ambra in Politics | Link to This Entry | Comments { 29 }
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Hello, Internet
May 14, 2007

Where to begin? I don't expect too many to be viewing this post just yet as I haven't made the official rounds or notified those who used to frequent this site that it's back up and running. In many ways that's a very good thing as I have a bit of time to ramp up, spell check, and flex my writing, er.. typing muscles. I don't want to spend a great deal of time discussing why the year long hiatus, but I am happy to report this blog will live on.

So much has happened in my life between now and the last time I posted. Good stuff, but granted nothing I could've anticipated would keep me from one of the loves of my life for such an extended period of time. I am now 25 (a young twenty five though dangit), married and still pretty much as rebellious as ever just perhaps a bit wiser, more mature, slightly darker, and most definitely humbled. Much of the last year off has been spent planning a humdinger of a wedding (approximately 400+ attendees and if you're thinking of doing the same let me spare you the stress and just yell "DON'T!") and trying my best to adjust to a new husband (still feels weird typing that) who vehemently insists on putting ketchup on his tacos. I mean honestly, have you ever heard of such a thing?

That thing my parents used to tell me about time and how quickly it flies when you're older; it's amazing how proportionately true that statement gets over time.

The thing that utterly blows my mind is that we're coming up on another election year. Where in the WORLD did four years go? This blog really first started taking off around the 2004 election. I donned my Bush t-shirt with the rest of 'em and honestly, I don't regret for one second casting my first and second votes for George W. Bush. I don't pretend to understand the entirety of what's taken place over the last four years. To be quite honest, it kinda gives me a headache and only reaffirms my deeply held conviction that I am no political junkie and this is not exactly a political blog; it's a worldview blog. What I can say is that the political climate has very much changed. The culture has changed. Dare I even say the agenda has changed as well?

I myself am interested to see what opinions and ideas once again take shape on this here blog. I've gone back to read some of the older posts and it's somewhat like a time capsule -- equivalent to pulling platform shoes and bellbottoms out of an old dusty chest. I mean, who the heck is talking about Alan Keyes anymore? Is he even still alive? What about Bill Cosby's pound cake speech? That was so two years ago.

Needless to say, I have some catching up to do and it's hard to know where to start. One thing is for sure, when you haven't written anything in well over a year, there aren't a heck of a lot of people who still subscribe to your feed or even stop by to see if you have anything to say. It's kinda cool because it's like starting this blog all over again. That's all from me tonight. Lots more on the horizon.

Hope you'll stick around (again). I'm glad to be back.

P.S. It's 11:15 pm PST on Monday, May 14th so I still made my deadline. Ha!

Posted by Ambra in Blogging | Link to This Entry | Comments { 20 }
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Mark Your Calendars
May 10, 2007

Blog's coming back May 14th, 2007. I swear.

Posted by Ambra in Blogging | Link to This Entry | Comments { 7 }
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Why I'm Not a Republican Parts I, II, III, IV
Reflections on the Ill-Read Society
The ROI of a Kid
The Double-Minded Haters
Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
Oh parent Where Art Thou?
Requisite Monthly Rant: the State of the Nation
College Curriculum Gone Wild
Walmart Chronicles
An Open Letter to American Idol
Gonorrhea and the City

I Have a Talk Show