History 323: History of Hip-Hop

If there is any university or college out there that would let me, I would absolutely love to teach a History of Hip-Hop class. As alluded to in the title, it would be an upper-division history course that would focus on the development of hip-hop from the early 1970s up until now. I feel I’m pretty qualified to teach a class like this, as I have a degree in criminal justice and will soon have a law degree. I’ve also been learning about hip-hop and listening to rap for close to 20 years now.

Each class would begin with listening to a rap song that I feel is relevant to what the lecture topic is that day, or just a good rap song. I definitely want to dedicate at least one class to discussing Parental Advisory warnings and the use of profanity in hip-hop and get the kids talking about whether the profanity is acceptable to them or not. I also would spend at least one class discussing the spread of hip hop to foreign countries, during which we would listen to hip-hop from Europe, Australia, and Africa.

Textbook: “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation” by Jeff Chang

Textbook in song form: Murs – The Science

A lot of kids would take this class thinking it would be an easy A. Oh how wrong they would be. Each lecture would examine the social and political conditions both on the local and national scale that led to the development of different kinds of hip-hop. We would learn about the war zone that was the Bronx, and also the gang culture of LA that led to the rise of NWA and others. To be clear, I’m not talking about rap music. Rap music is the genre that comes with the hip-hop movement. There are actually four aspects of hip-hop culture; rapping, break dancing, DJ-ing, and graffiti writing. Each element is just as integral as the last, and there were important historical figures that contributed through each element. My students would learn about DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, Fab 5 Freddy, and Tracy168 among others. I do want to focus more on the music aspect, but graffiti will have at least two class periods spent on it.

Final project: Students have to write and perform a rap that is at least over a minute long. They can have an accompanying beat if they want, but it would be optional. The rap can contain profanity, but it has to be about some sort of social or political issue. If a student raps about cars, “bitches”, or bling then they will get an automatic F.

Final exam: Students will have to name and describe the four elements of hip hop and how they relate to and compliment one another.

or

Students will have to name the holy trinity of hip-hop (Herc, Flash, Bambaataa) and describe how each individual/group contributed to the spread and proliferation of the hip-hop culture.

Anyone want to help me pitch this idea to a university?

Advertisements

The Importance of Sports

Many people undoubtedly notice that I post a lot on Facebook about sports. Football, american football, basketball, baseball, hell even tennis (go Murray!). Many people say I’m sports-mad, and you know what? I am, and I have no problem admitting it. Some people get annoyed by those posts though, mainly people who don’t care about sports and/or don’t care about whatever sport I am talking about. 

Well, I think those people and many other people I know who don’t follow sports are missing the greater cultural impact that sports have had not just here in America but all over the world. To me, having established sports helps to signify a civilized society. What is a sport though, but a set of rules that everyone has to follow to achieve an end? That to me is the most important part. The biggest, strongest, and most athletic people all have to agree to follow the same rules, or the victory achieved is invalid. 

I didn’t do any research on the history of sports for this blog post, but it follows logically that the first sports came from humans hunting together or fighting each other for territory or over a mate. When the ancient Greeks invented the Olympics, it was a simple footrace. Both runners had to start at the same time, and both had to run the same distance. Rules. That’s what makes things interesting. The more complex the rules, the more fun it can be to watch and play (aside from cricket, because the rules of cricket are bananas).

Same thing for every culture in the world since the dawn of time until now. Each culture has its own sports and games within it. Ancient sports were obviously incredibly violent (aside from the Olympic foot race) but they have gradually gotten less violent as we have gone on. 

Sports is like religion for some people, and I include myself in that category. I attend services every weekend, watching United and NFL games. Nothing can unite like sports can, and nothing can divide like sports can. The Bay Area is a great example. You can’t go anywhere here without hearing people talk about the Giants, Niners, Raiders, A’s, Warriors, and the other teams. I love it when people unite behind one thing or one idea, and sports is a great example of that. Establishing common ground and conversation with someone is easy when there is a local sports team to talk about!

In terms of dividing, Galatasary vs. Fehnerbace in Turkey is like a sectarian conflict. As is Celtic-Rangers in Glasgow, Scotland. Are these people making a big deal out of a game? Yes. That’s the point. It’s about pride. It’s about passion. It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself. It’s about bonding with people over a shared experience, whether it be your team winning or losing.

Sports in America is what I want to specifically want to talk about. Without sports, many people would not have the chance to go to college. Whether it be for anything from football to swimming to table tennis, college athletics has given people the chance to attend college when they might not have been able to afford it before. Even though most college athletes do not become professional athletes, they still get the chance to get a college degree while they are there. 

And yes, athletes are overpaid. So are coaches. Almost every sport in America and the rest of the world is commercialized all to hell and is nothing but a business venture hobby for multi-billionaires. I recognize all of that. That doesn’t mean I can’t love the games and athletes still. Besides, it costs money to find and develop talent. Guys like Ronaldo, D-Rose, Calvin Johnson, and Michael Phelps don’t perform like they do on just talent alone. They need places to train and practice, which costs money. It also costs money to televise games, matches, and events. Could they all be paid less? Yes. But if your biggest problem with sports is the commercialization of it, then you are missing the pure joy that comes from watching the actual sport. Focus on the ability of the athletes. Megatron catching a 60 yard pass in triple coverage if fucking exhilarating. Ronaldo placing a free kick just inside the corner of the goal from 35 yards away is mind-boggling. 

It’s about much more than just the X’s and O’s, everyone. It’s about pride, passion, culture, and establishing an important mark of a civilized society. Many sports also play an important role in politics and local economics, but I don’t want to go too much into that. Now you know why I post so much about sports. That being said, go Bucs, D-Backs, Bulls, Glory Glory Man United, and come on England!

 

A list of 9 things to get you to stop reading lists of things

I’ve noticed it has become a trend for social news sites and blogs like BuzzFeed, Cracked, and others to put their articles in list format. Some of the lists are fairly innocuous, like “top 5 movie villains” or “top 5 NFL QBs under 25” and things like that. I have a problem though with websites that give life or philosophical advice in that format. Articles entitled “13 things mentally strong people do” (real one from my newsfeed) or “7 things good cat owners do” and others like those are largely moronic. Here’s why:

1) The article title makes you feel inadequate. As in, “Oh no, I’m not doing 3 of these 9 things, I must not be a very good parent.” You are a much shittier parent if you take the advice in these articles as gospel truth. Odds are, if you are seeking help on how to be a better parent, you really aren’t that shitty at it in the first place.

2) On the flip side, if you find you already are doing most of the things on a given list, it can give you a false sense of security that you actually are doing the “right” or “correct” things. “Oh cool, I already am doing most of the things mentally strong people do. I must be mentally strong!” Ironically, if you conclude you are mentally strong after reading one article on the subject, you probably aren’t mentally strong.

3) The person writing the article often has no more expertise on the subject than you do. Most of these are not scholarly articles with techniques proven to help your life, it’s just the subjective experience of the person tapping away at the keyboard. Their subjective experience might not work for you, and therefore their list might not work for you.

4) Those 20 photos of people doing good deeds won’t restore your faith in humanity. If you need photos to prove that there are still good people in the world, then start hanging out with different people.

5) Every time you view one of these articles, it reinforces the idea to bloggers that people in this day and age have a short attention span, which will only encourage them to write more articles in list format. Our attention spans are short enough already, they don’t need any help.

6) The articles encourages you to stereotype yourself. This is especially true of the blogs about gender and sexual orientation. “27 bizarre things every woman has done once” is the one that comes to mind. That is a real article as well and what I don’t like about that one is that it encourages every woman who reads the article to try and identify with one of the things listed in it. By implying that every woman has done one of these 27 things at least once you are excluding any and all women who may not have done any of those 27 things. Now, not every woman is going to somehow feel excluded if she hasn’t done one of the 27 things, but by simply stating “every woman” has done one of these things the author has created a standard by which female readers will inherently judge themselves. Same goes for blogs about men and every blog that characterizes an entire group of people in a list.

7) The articles subliminally tell you that you are a certain way when you may not be. “15 signs you are addicted to American Horror Story” is a good example of that. For one, I don’t need an article to tell me when I am addicted to something. Two, just because I love watching AHS and go out of my way to watch it doesn’t mean I am addicted to it. (Disclaimer: I am fully addicted to AHS, but at least I figured that out on my own).

8) The titles of the articles are getting weirder every day. It started as, “10 tips for dating success” and will shortly be, “31 ways you know that snail on the sidewalk you passed by 3 months ago is still mad at you.”

9) You don’t need these articles to improve yourself, and you don’t need an internet article for validation! That is what introspection is for. If you aren’t happy with something you are doing in your life, it is up to you and only you to fix it. Reading an article of any kind (especially the ones with lists) will not help you become a better person in any way. You are the person who has to make the change that positively affects your life. To quote Michael Jackson: “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.” Also, to quote Katt Williams: “I fucked up your self-esteem? Bitch, it’s called self-esteem!”

I wouldn’t be academically correct if I didn’t acknowledge that some of these articles actually do help people, because I am sure they have helped somebody somewhere. The potential for intellectual laziness, group think, and self-hatred are for more detrimental than the small chance for positive effect.

How Storytelling Should Be Done (American Horror Story spoilers within)

As someone who likes to tell stories, I like to think I can recognize a good story and good storytelling when I see it. 

I just got into American Horror Story (AHS) recently and I think the method by which they tell the stories within the various seasons is nothing short of storytelling excellence. Season 1 is definitely good, but I am mainly talking about Season 2, AHS Asylum. The way they incorporate the various timelines and the method by which you see more of the story in each episode is simply astounding.

AHS season 2 reminds me of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Cronica de una Muerta Anunciada). It was required reading for one of my classes back in Spain. The subject matter of AHS and that novel are not similar, but the method of storytelling is. In each episode of season 2 of AHS, you see more of the story of the couple trapped in the abandoned asylum, mainly more as to how they were killed. You are given a basic version of the events in the first episode of season 2, but the writers expand on that story arc in each subsequent episode.

I like to think of it as a “spiral.” Imagine a giant spiral circle, with each line wrapping tightly around the ones closest to it. Now, picture the stories in both the Marquez novel and AHS season 2 as beginning within the very center of the spiral, and the center of that spiral is the basic story that is present throughout the entire novel/season. At the beginning of each chapter in the Marquez novel and each episode of AHS, you learn a little bit more about each basic story. More information besides just what you learned in the first chapter/episode is learned, and the story progresses in that manner. In each chapter/episode, you see more of the spiral until you finally get a complete picture of what happened in the original basic story. 

I’m only three episodes in to season 2 of AHS, but I hope they keep up the story line of the couple trapped in the abandoned insane asylum in the manner in which they have been doing it. I think that what Ryan Murphy and his co-writers are doing is pretty damn smart, although I’m not sure what they’re doing is intentional. 

The Legal Status of Abortion in the U.S.

This is not an argument for or against abortion. This is merely a summary of the current law regarding the matter since many people on Facebook were curious. First, thanks again to everyone who responded!! Second, this will be an outline of the federal case law surrounding abortion. The state you live in may have laws that fit (or don’t fit) within the guidelines of the federal case law and the Constitution.

Right. So everyone knows Roe v. Wade, but perhaps the most enlightening thing I learned in my Constitutional Law class this evening is that the vast majority of the ruling in Roe is no longer applicable law. (BTW, read up on the life of Jane Roe a.k.a Norma McCorvey, an interesting life to say the least!) Many people talk about Roe like it is still good law, and the truth is only a small portion of it is still applicable. The case everyone needs to know is Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 Supreme Court case which has the current federal legal standards for abortion in its opinion.

In Roe, the court decided that there was a right to privacy contained in the 14th Amendment that included the right to terminate a pregnancy. The court in Roe also outlined rules for abortion based on trimesters, and stated that a fetus did not have any Constitutional rights until it was born. Put succinctly, states could only place limits on abortions in the second and third trimesters of the pregnancy. Abortions were pretty much always allowed in the first trimester, but the farther along the pregnancy got, the more states could limit access to abortion. If there was a threat to the mother’s health in the 2nd or 3rd trimester, then an abortion would be allowed for that exception.

In Casey, the Court affirmed the idea that a right to privacy existed within the 14th Amendment and that a woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy, but they threw out the trimester thing completely. They instead became interested in when a fetus becomes “viable” (or able to survive on its own outside the womb). When a fetus is pre-viable, a state can enact laws that limit abortions unless the law presents an “undue burden” (or substantial obstacle) to the woman getting an abortion. The Court does not define what an undue burden is, which is pretty unhelpful. When a fetus is post-viable however, states can write any laws that limit abortion as long as they contain an exception that allows for abortions when the mother’s health is in jeopardy. 

There are also a bunch of laws like 24 hour waiting periods (Constitutional) and the spousal notice requirement (unconstitutional) that came forth in Casey, but I’m not going to address those in full. We also read Gonzales v. Carhart, a case that led to the ban of “partial-birth” abortions in 2007. There are also many questions surrounding federal funding of abortions that I will learn about next week!

I hope this answers the questions and gives clarity. Again, your state may have laws that don’t fit the framework in Casey, but that is probably because they have not been challenged Constitutionally. As it stands right now, Planned Parenthood v. Casey is the framework by which the Supreme Court analyzes the Constitutionality of abortion laws. 

What does it mean to be a “friendly” atheist?

You’ll notice the title of this blog is “neighborhoodfriendlyatheist”, and I allude to the overall meaning of the title in my very first blog entry. However, I want to expand a bit on what being a friendly atheist is all about since the term is somewhat ambiguous. 

This whole “friendly atheism” concept is a sort of philosophical idea that I have been toying with over the past few months. What I want to do in very basic terms is try to provide an ideological bridge between the religious and the non-religious. The two groups undoubtedly do not see eye-to-eye on certain issues, but that’s fine because I don’t want to arbitrate a compromise between them. That would be a foolhardy endeavor in my opinion because you cannot compromise on the idea of god. Either a god(s) exists or it doesn’t. It can’t “kind of” exist. 

What I am advocating for is that both groups adopt policies of non-judgment towards the other. I should not be judged for being an atheist, just like a religious person should not be judged for being a christian or whatever religion they happen to follow. I would also advocate that we actively try to avoid trying to change each other’s minds on the topic. That does not mean the nature of existence and the nature of god should not be debated, but rather that they should be debated in a civilized manner. No one should look down his nose at the other; something that I have seen people on both sides do. If you ask me what I believe about the nature of god and all things god associated, then I will tell you. I will tell you honestly and directly, and it will be completely devoid of condescension. I would answer that way because I would expect the same thing from you if I asked you about your beliefs.

We all live on this planet. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. We are all human and and as such we are all flawed. Don’t let my lack of belief lead you to negatively stereotype me, and I won’t associate you with all the negative things that accompany organized religion. There are scores of reasons for someone to be religious or non-religious, so it is not intellectually wise to make assumptions about someone based on their religion or lack thereof. A person’s spiritual choices are only a part of their overall personality, although it is admittedly a big part. But! There are numerous other aspects of someone’s personality to take into account before you pass judgment on them as an individual. 

My point is that if we can actually start talking to each other about this like rational human beings then I think we will find more common ground than people would suspect. We just have to have the courage to venture out of our intellectual bubbles (yes, both sides) and reach out to the other side. If we can talk about things like our professions, our families, and even pop-culture then I think the religious will realize that atheists aren’t all that bad, and vice versa. 

We have to get along better, humans. We already divide ourselves along race lines, socioeconomic status, and nationality. Even the different religions divide people up. Let’s try and get past the religion thing. You can keep your beliefs and believe whatever you want to believe in, but don’t try and purport yourself to be somehow superior because you have those beliefs and others don’t. Having an idea about how things work does not make you any superior to anyone else.

So what does it mean to be a friendly atheist? It means that my mantra is one of non-judgment. I am here to educate people on atheism and why I chose not to believe in god, and that is all I’m doing. I will provide information. If it escalates into a debate then that’s fine, but initially I will only be seeking to inform; not persuade. 

10 years in the future exercise

The challenge here is to write a blog post about an event happening ten years from now. Truthfully, I have no idea what could possibly be a current events issue 10 years from now but I’ll give it a shot. Odds are, whatever it is, I’ll probably find something I don’t like about it.

Date: November 9, 2023

Well, I must admit, the two terms of President Elizabeth Warren have so far been nothing but a massive success. To discuss all the reasons why would take more time than I could possibly spare on the topic, but it’s largely thanks to the self-destruction of the Republican party in the late stages of the Obama presidency. Liberals took control of the country in the national elections, mostly because the Republicans were a broken party looking to re-label themselves. President Warren was elected in 2016 in a narrow victory over Republican candidate Chris Christie, as she ran on a platform of banking and healthcare reform. Under Warren, the Glass-Steagall Act was re-enacted, and Congress was able to enact legislation that challenged the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizen’s United case. In that act, all political campaigns would be forced to disclose where every cent of their campaign contributions came from, and all corporate contributions were limited to $1,000 per corporation. 

The liberal congress also enacted legislation that reigned in student loan interest rates. In what would become known as WarrenCare, federal and private student loan rates would be reduced to 3.5%. It was projected just last week by the Congressional Budget Office that this legislation will reduce the national student loan debt (which was in the trillions in 2013) by 50% over the next five years. With the passage of this act, students were now able to pay off their loans in far less time.

The Warren administration has also enjoyed fantastic results in developing foreign relations by suspending all drone strikes in the Middle East the moment she took office. It was a bold move by a new (and first female) President in bringing about peaceful relations with countries in the traditionally anti-American Middle East. President Warren also closed Guantanamo Bay by Executive Order on the day she took office. The 70 prisoners still in the prison were moved to a maximum security facility in central Kansas where they eventually were given federal trials. Most were found innocent and given flights back to Iraq and Afghanistan. 

-I want to write so much more but I feel It will get to be too long. This is some of what I want to happen in ten year’s time. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one!