and why not a remix?

April 6, 2008

Oh, no! CD repeat:
It’s under, under, under my feet/the sea spread out before me…

-R.E.M. (same song as before! EEK!)

I made this today while I was chatting and made a weird LoLjoke:



Sing(er) me a Song

March 29, 2008

Girl I’ve been shakin and mackin the donkey/Tryin to get to youuuuu and that monkey…

 -T-Pain, from his song with E-40. We all know what it means, but imagine if we didn’t.

I’ve been thinking a bit about remix, and I realized, as I was doing research for another project I want to attempt in the coming weeks, that one of my favorite films has an unconventional example of remix (or collage essay, perhaps).

Let me preface these clips: if you haven’t seen The Usual Suspects, and you plan to someday, don’t watch the two clips. The second on will spoil the movie for you, and the first contains perhaps the coolest line in the whole film. In fact, if you want to watch the movie someday, stop reading this entry. I’ll end up spoiling it, too.

Now then, two YouTube clips:

I gave the first one for context (and because I love the end of it), but notice how Verbal Kent/Keyser Soze/Is Spacey’s Character Either weaves his story, utilizing bits and pieces of things that are going on/sitting around. He completely tricks the police with what is essentially an on-the-fly “verbal” collage essay that utilizes the nature of remix.

As if I needed another reason to love Brian Singer…

I maded you a puzzle

March 17, 2008

But it wasn’t a rock/it was a rock lobster!

-The B52scw.jpg

Bonus: What’s With the Remix Disrespect?

March 17, 2008

Pack my car/and leave this town/who would notice that I’m not around?

So I’m sitting at Julie’s place, right, having some rather delicious cherry M&Ms (which my momma could alphabetize in her belly!), when she pops up this blog by Dennis Jerz wherein I spy this quote, in response to Jeff Rice:

So students who can only remix don’t get practice thinking critically about culture — and it’s certainly possible to recognize remix culture and design assignments that ask them to think critically about it, without rejecting it out of hand as plagiarism.

I hate to take up the position of the Jeopardy judge and simply say “bzzzzzz, wrong!” but… that’s just wrong.

And I don’t mean to hurl an insult at Dr. Jerz, but… this is a case of looking in at something from the outside (I would assume, based on the admission later in the post that Jerz knows little about music) attempting to critique something without ever getting the insider’s perspective.

I would argue the exact opposite of the first portion of the quote (before the dash). But let’s also be realistic; if Jerz has encountered, or thinks he will encounter, a student who can only remix, he’s failed to keep track of public high schools in America. Every student who makes it through that system with any success—meaning 95% of our trad students—will know how to write a five paragraph essay. They will also try to do anything—including remix—in five paragraph form before they do anything else. And they will scream at us if we tell them five paragraph form is a thing of their past.

But beyond that, REMIX is a cultural rhetoric. I’ve taught classes with a number of texts (leading to research assignments, a practice I think first year college composition needs to abandon). With “classic” novels (The Grapes of Wrath, for example), students were less likely to engage with culture than with poetry (I taught a collection of Dickinson poems, a set of “minority author” poems consisting of Silko, Baraka, Hughes, etc., a book of Dylan Thomas), and were less willing to engage culture with the poetry than they were with film or comic books.

Then I started teaching using remix and the concept of comedy to shape how my students approached issues. If you show a classroom “Black Bush” by Dave Chapelle, and you discuss what it means to lampoon and remix a political situation in that way, the students will engage our culture on a profound level.

If you ask them to make their own remixes, you end up with things like the video below. Now I know some scholars would cringe at the idea that this reflects sophisticated thought, but let’s think for a moment about what a student would have to do to create this:

1.   Watch the Brokeback Mountain trailer carefully
2.   Scrape the music for use
3.    Find enough footage from the Star Wars films to create replacement shots
4.   Frame, edit, chop, screw, and remix

And while this is, on one level, very funny, there’s a sophisticated cultural critique that I think many traditional educators miss. The person who created this video has made a rather profound statement about our cultural understanding of same sex relationships by porting the issue from our expectations to something our culture holds sacred in a different way.

I realize there’s a terrible fear of plagiarism, and as someone who spent four years teaching—and three prior to that as a TA/writing tutor—at an open admissions college, I know it’s an issue we have to literally drill students about. This is not an excuse to avoid remix, though. That’s a strawman built by people who don’t want to embrace the changes digital media, web 2.0, and a whole generation of children raised on the internet bring to the table.

Quintilian, the sage of Rome, advised that we teach our students by having them copy the oratory (and writing, I suppose) of those who were highly successful.

Shall I charge him with encouraging plagiarism now, or does someone else want to get right on that?

Or should we maybe consider the highly valuable skills students of writing can learn from doing things that aren’t just standard researched essays, knowing that they aren’t idiots. They WILL understand that they still have to cite research. Give students a little credit. We all started in first year comp.

Creative thing from Friday…

February 14, 2008

just say the word-o/Phill-Phill-Phillure-o, oh, oh

-Kinda Phil  Collins


Random Brady Hate

February 6, 2008

if you’re having girl problems, I feel bad for you, son/I got 99 problems but Tom Brady ain’t one…

-Jay-Z, slightly remixed


53 Card Pick-up

February 6, 2008

I wonder what it’s like to be a rainmaker/I wonder what it’s like to know that I made the rain/I put it in boxes with little yellow tags on every one

-Matchbox 20


I feel a little weird writing about how jazzed I am for the new Joker seeing as Heath Ledger died recently, but I have to show my admiration.

Growing up, I was a huge, huge fan of the Joker. When I was nine or so, Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel The Killing Joke was released with stunning art by Brian Bolland. I reproduced the cover as an art class project and as a piece of sidewalk art in downtown Richmond.

The thing that made The Killing Joke so innovative is that the Joker was every bit the menacing killer clown he was originally meant to be. After years and years of campy Batman *pow* *whap* *zoinks* Joker, Moore re-told the story of how the Red Hood fell into toxic waste, bleaching his face and going insane. More importantly (no pun intended), in the story the Joker shoots Batgirl/Barbara Gordon in the stomach. The wound he inflicted—paralyzing Batgirl—is one of the few sadistic acts in comic history that wasn’t later “retconned” (meaning no other writer un-did or otherwise fixed Batgirl, who still works from a wheelchair as “Oracle”).

While I’m sure that I will be conflicted watching Heath Ledger’s final performance, I am overjoyed that his Joker is gritty and sadistic. From the look (the butchered smile, the wild eyes) to the awesome viral marketing campaign started with, it’s nice as a life-long fan to see a Joker with teeth.

Look for more Joker related content in the not-too-distant future. And maybe a little Lex Luthor.