is this the best way we can think of to use the space of television in the year 2006?



what we exactly mean by adolescent literacies...

it's a thought/musing/dilemma that has arisen in a few pieces that i'm wrestling with at the moment, and among the questions that arise are:

which adolescents?
practices only?
(in what ways) are literacies spaces?
what happens when the literacies practices by adolescents are practiced by non-adolescents?
what are the bounds by which we discuss and delineate the literacies in the lives of adolescents?
how do we understand practices that exist outside of those bounds?

in the words of one young man who is no longer attending school and is enrolled in a court mandated GED program: [paraphrasing] the only time teachers or anyone says anything to us is to tell us we're doing something wrong.

where do we locate research about "new" literacies?

another young man in the same class uses his ipod nano to play solitaire - b/c it's helps him concentrate, and he wants to see how good he can get at it - while engaged in a social studies focused class discussion/lesson about social systems and forms of government.

my questions stem from the tension surrounding the dichotomizing of old/new literacies; digital/analog systems; and access/no-access to technologies. what questions do we investigate about the evolving landscape of literacies as it is played out in the lives of youth about whom little is written in the way of new literacies? writing, like that of of steve goodman and jabari mahiri, offers images of urban and inner city youth engaged in innovation, creativity, and discovery related to literacies and broader communicative practices. in doing so, they, and others, push our conceptions of where new literacies live, are embodied, and from where they emerge and are born. yet, so many of the questions we ask about new literacies don't seem to be situated in contexts determined to be technology-poor... and when literacies research is located in city contexts, there is often an underlying desire to prove existing deficit assumptions wrong. in doing so, do we not reify these assumptions? in spending time and word count on how/why something isn't, we lose space to tell what is and how... i've been a perpetrator of these practices myself, especially because i believe that dispelling erroneous assumptions can help to unravel some of the destructive practices that are currently in place in contexts where urban adolescents spend their time. but i find myself more and more wondering, and taking on the challenge of, describing "what is and how" - not as a counterpoint or counterstory, but as a story unto itself.

innovation as innovation.

and everyone is literate.


water falls, human flaws...

i fall. a lot. and often, this happens as i am either descending or ascending stairs. so i guess subconsciously i don't want to waste a fall on just any old flat surface. if i'm going to fall, it's going to count. that's also perhaps why i fall (a lot) in public. in public and at the mercy of strangers. strangers who, without fail, have been kind, have helped me up, and have let their gaze linger long enough to be sure that my hobble evened out into a steady walk. such an occurrence happened this evening as i was switching from the r-train - after an obscene and fruitless wait for the n- or q-train at the canal street stop - to the 2-train. i was ascending the stairs from the r when, two steps from the landing, i slipped - apparently on concrete! - and all at once banged my right toe/knee/elbow/other elbow/other knee. i only know this because of what hurt afterwards, and based on these injuries, can only imagine what a graceless mess i must have looked like. it probably didn't help the scene as i popped back up and it was a few seconds before i realized that a kind man was steadying me by laying a hand under my right forearm.

he asked me, "are you all right? you sure?" and i nodded, hurriedly, muttering, "thank you, thanks so much." and, in an almost paternal way he, who didn't appear to be much older than i am, encouraged me to "slow down, take it slow." but it wasn't in the condescending way people tend to tell each other to "slow down!" when they themselves are rushing and being a hazard to the entire free - and i use that word lightly in these odd times - world. it was more in the tone of one person reminding another that sometimes, you have to take it slow.

this relatively short moment in time caused me to spend the rest of my journey homeward in a reflective state and i focused primarily on the two hours i spent listening to presentations made by students enrolled in a career skills class in an alternative school where i do fieldwork for one of my research projects. the topics covered ranged widely: welfare, immigration, hip hop violence, corporate hustling, gay teens, black on black crime, and others... in attendance was the class, several other teachers and case managers, and a handful of students who participate in other classes throughout the program. it was an event marked with thoughtful critique, a spirited question/answer session following each presentation, and the courage to research and discuss complicated subject matter.

as i fell and stood up again, i thought about the presentations i had listened to and recognized that while falling is embarrassing, and while there will be people who laugh, there will also be people who will help you up. i thought about the alternative education programs i've been a part of over the last decade. corrections education certainly isn’t perfect, but in the past year i've spent time in two that work precisely because everyone has fallen and has been given the chance to stand again. during their presentations, these fourteen young men and one young woman stood tall behind a podium as their audience listened to and engaged them. and for a few minutes each, they were experts in their topic and commanded the attention of the room. these are the moments and triumphs that mark education beyond the traditional school walls, yet all too often we hear how young people must be feared, contained, and punished.

we all fall; some falls are more public, some are more long lasting, and only some of us are given a good hand to lean on as we stand back up.

*photo courtesy of yours truly


more youtube

it gives me great pleasure to know that i am not alone in my tendencies to get lost in youtube.com's links upon links upon clips upon videos...

Millions addicted to YouTube online video site

Great music moments found on YouTube.com


wiki this

while engaged in my latest favorite pasttime of wikipedia-ing tv while i watch - usually shortened in my head, and sometimes in my diction to "wiki this, wiki that" - i looked up the entry for malcolm in the middle. the episode i was watching featured the mom, lois, costumed and dancing around with her mom, played by cloris leachman, in outfits that resembled the ensemble that sandra bullock wears in the scene from miss congeniality where she is playing the water glasses at a pre-pageant talent showcase. (i'm not sure i can actually count all of this information toward my love/study of "popular" culture....) anyway, moving on... i was caught by the cluster of information in the entry for MITM that focused on how the show was intentionally anonymous, similar to the mystery surrounding the geographic location of The Simpsons hometown of Springfield. this mystery has certainly captured the imaginations, and observation skills, of many of the show's viewers and some of the wikipedia entry writers. for example, they write:
- There is also a good chance that the family lives in Arizona, as in the episode "Future Malcolm" when Dewey is being reprimanded for painting on the wall, a water bottle with the symbol for the NFL team the Arizona Cardinals is clearly visible.

- Also, in episode 110, "Stock Car Races", when Hal and the boys are entering the track the billboard behind the entrance displays the place as Irwindale Speedway (a real race track in Southern California).

- (my particular favorite of the ones listed): Oklahoma is a possibility. In later seasons, license plates display "Cherokee State" which is another name for Oklahoma. Despite that, the look of the plates intentionally made like California's, such as the font of the words "Cherokee State", and digits are in the format of "1 XXX 111", where 1 is a digit, and X is a letter. In episode 415, Otto was singing the title song from "Oklahoma!." In episode 313, Oklahoma Highway Police can be seen on the police car doors. However, in one episode, Hal comes to visit Francis at military school and upon seeing his father, Francis exclaims, "you drove eight hours just to see me!" The school is known to be located in Alabama, so Malcolm's family must live within an eight-hour drive of the state, perhaps in Florida. On the other hand there is also in episode 418 where Reese is sent to Whitehorse on a bus for at least 52 hours. Malcolm: "Reese, think about it. It takes 26 hours to get to Canada, and 26 hours to get back. Your bag is filled with food and nobody called Grandma!" Only Alaska is within a 26 hour drive of Whitehorse, Canada. However, in episode 43, Alaska is stated to be "5000 miles away and in the episode "Krelborne Picnic", Francis says "So I'm still a member of the family even after you sent me away to military school 1,000 miles away". In the series finale, Malcolm reveals that Harvard is 2,000 miles away. Triangulation using these distances puts the family's location somewhere in West Texas.

...and so on. what fascinates me about this is people's (viewers') collective desire to locate information they receive - via a television program, fictional sitcom notwithstanding - within shared schemes and experiential landmarks. where do they live? where is all of this taking place? throw me a bone!!! it's even noted in the show's wikipedia entry that the family's last name is never (or maaaaybe once) mentioned.

if we continue to understand literacies as local and situated and epistemologies as informed by experience, from a research standpoint, "placing" the characters and the show would seem to be of utmost importance... situating our own "reading" of how they move through their worlds would be significant for interpreting and anlayzing what it is they are doing - e.g., arguing as a family; planning the annual practical joke; ostracizing the kid who isn't a team player; etc... from my experience, it's the desire to understand the concepts that are emic to who or what i'm observing before i can make claims about it. but what if our observational capacity is limited? what if, as more of us are exploring realms where we have limited access, limited time to acclimate, and limited understanding of what questions we should even be asking, the landscape remains anonymous? i can still say that malcolm is a quirky character who has taken on some of his "real life" actor persona, but then that would be all; and it would be based on occasional viewings of the show, coupled with an unfortunate viewing of an old episode of Punk'd, and driven by a proclivity to analyze through comparison. wikipedia might just be on to something though - thanks to the collective efforts of my fellow inquiring minds, i can now add to my analysis that anonymity was not only the ethos of the show, but also something that malcolm strived for and lived out through his little brother as he "help[s] him stay in normal classes" (instead of the "gifted" classes like he put in by his parents. ok, it's a stretch, but it's my ongoing support for collaboration in research, especially acknowledging that the construction of new and diverse spaces yields not only so many more questions, but also many more limitations on participation, access, and inquiry...


reading worth reading and watching and listening

i just recently re-discovered the beat within, a weekly magazine written by incarcerated and recently incarcerated youth. the site includes writing, video diaries, and news related to juvenile justice.

(photo is part of a collection by joseph rodriguez titled "juvenile justice")


at the top of my gmail, i am daily treated to random bits of news and the occasional "word of the day" from dictionary.com. today's word, heterogeneous, is particularly poignant as i think about the recent After Words episode i watched in which congressman tom tancredo (r-co) was being interviewed by anne mulkern of the denver post. you can watch the whole interview here, so i won't summarize the whole thing. however, i will share one small tidbit that has got me thinking (again) about teacher education...

tancredo was on the show to talk about (read: promote) his new book in mortal danger: the battle for america's border and security. at one point, mulkern asks him to expound on his decision to include in his book the story of a public school teacher who was expressed frustration at having to celebrate black history month - apparently, such a comment was made in the context of having to diverge from necessary curricula... tancredo, smiling and almost a little eager, responded with the even tone he'd been using the entire time and explained that he felt that the teacher's story was indicative of a larger trend where there are celebrations of all kinds happening, while "american" holidays go unrecognized. he cited veteran's day as one example of one such forgotten holiday.

i exhaled slowly as i listened to this, and watched as he tancredo shook his head in disbelief that such adultering of the "american" curriculum was going on. earlier, mulkern had asked the congressman what "american" meant to him. he gives a litany of checklist-like qualities, but it is the second that stood out to me: [paraphrasing] speaking english, or expressing a desire to and being on the path to being a proficient english speaker.

so now i think of that school teacher who expressed her woes about having to indulge the district requirement to recognize black history month. and i wonder to what extent the tenets of plurality and, yes, heterogeneity are being engaged at the moments when not-yet-teachers are developing their understandings of not only pedagogy, but the historical context in which they are purporting to participate in the act of teaching and learning. we talked a good deal in the graduate classes i took about multiculturalism, critical multiculturalism, diversity, and occasionally, race and racism. but perhaps we need to talk more explicitly about the fact that history and sociocultural context matters not only in harlem or the delta, but, in fact, everywhere. could we ignore the heterogeneous history on which all of social life was founded and is based?

but what good is any of this musing to the teacher who feels burdened by what she considers extra to the curriculum? and, more to the point of teacher ed, how do we use the very short time that teacher ed programs have with pre-service teachers (as they strive to stay competitive with the rapidly growing numbers of alternative certification programs) to move from dialogue to action around principles of plurality (which undergirds so many connected discourses - e.g., literacies, positionalities, anti-racist pedagogies...)?


fears averted

when i first learned that a spoof of an inconvenient truth that had been circulating on youtube.com was really a commercially produced piece of media that was the work of a PR and lobbying firm whose client list includes Exxon Mobil, i admit, i was perturbed.

upon viewing said piece of media, however, i was reassured that commerically produced "amateur" video can't take the place of the real fake thing. case in point - check out some of the real spoofs based on gore's movie.

long live amateur video democracies!