Pre-Class Video: Truth about Disney Princesses

Pre-class video: Have you ever wondered what happened to the Disney princesses after the movie ended?  Here’s one possibility:

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Pre-Class Video: Pete Seeger at Farm Aid 2013

Pete Seeger at Farm Aid 2013 with John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews and Neil Young.

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Remembering Pete Seeger – Singing all the verses all the time

Pete SeegerAmerican folk singer and activist (but I repeat myself) Pete Seeger died yesterday at the ripe old age of 94. I never got the chance to see Pete in person, but I did see so many of the people he influenced, including Arlo Guthrie and Harry Chapin.

I really have nothing to say about Pete Seeger that can improve upon what Bruce Springsteen said at Pete Seeger’s 90 Birthday Concert:

And I asked him how he wanted to approach “This Land Is Your Land”. It would be near the end of the show and all he said was, “Well, I know I want to sing all the verses, I want to sing all the ones that Woody wrote, especially the two that get left out, about private property and the relief office.”

I thought, of course, that’s what Pete’s done his whole life. He sings all the verses all the time, especially the ones that we’d like to leave out of our history as a people.

At some point Pete Seeger decided he’d be a walking, singing reminder of all of America’s history. He’d be a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along, to push American events towards more humane and justified ends. He would have the audacity and the courage to sing in the voice of the people, and despite Pete’s somewhat benign, grandfatherly appearance, he is a creature of a stubborn, defiant, and nasty optimism. Inside him he carries a steely toughness that belies that grandfatherly facade and it won’t let him take a step back from the things he believes in. At 90, he remains a stealth dagger through the heart of our country’s illusions about itself.

Pete Seeger still sings all the verses all the time, and he reminds us of our immense failures as well as shining a light toward our better angels and the horizon where the country we’ve imagined and hold dear we hope awaits us.

Bruce Springsteen’s introduction of Pete Seeger

Harry Chapin singing his tribute to Pete – “Old Folkie”

Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie singing “If I Had a Hammer”

Pete Seeger on the Johnny Cash Show on March 4, 1970

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Pre-Class Video: Joe Jackson, “Different For Girls”

Joe Jackson playing his classic “Different for Girls.”



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Was Justin Bieber the most important story in America yesterday?

As you no doubt have heard, if you were paying attention to almost any news media in America yesterday, Canadian pop star Justin Bieber was arrested early Thursday morning for drag racing and DUI in Miami, Florida.  In fact, if you were watching CNN, it became almost impossible to avoid the story.

We generally have CNN playing on the television set in the student area right outside my office here at UNK, and all morning yesterday everything on CNN was BieberGate.  And while their coverage of the story wasn’t that interesting, the response to it was.

My college friend Larry is a television news producer in central Iowa, and he announced proudly on Facebook, “No, I will not include Justin Bieber in my midday newscast.”

This led to an extended discussion of the merits of the Bieber story among a group of news professionals and academics. Larry’s explanation was that they didn’t try to cover every drunk driving arrest.

My friend Chris, an academic and broadcast news producer had this to say:

Depending on other news of the morning, I probably would have run it. I do have questions about celebrity news, and I understand Larry’s point. The thing about Bieber is that he is a train wreck in slow motion, and we do show the occasional train wreck (usually only when someone is harmed, though). Bieber has become a story of self-destruction, not necessarily of celebrity anymore. I think there is a strong pull of human interest in that story, and it might be interesting to see the frame changed.

Al Jazeera America is trying to build its reputation as a serious news source that doesn’t give much attention to celebrity news, and other than a brief mention, they ignored the story.

Over at MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell was forced to end discussion about the National Security Agancy to have an update about Bieber’s arrest.

CNN’s media reporter Brian Stelter had a lively conversation going on yesterday via Twitter as to the appropriateness of the network’s level of coverage of Bieber.  Stelter responded to a lot of the Tweets, and retweeted a number of them that were critical of the network

For me, Bieber was a story that deserves coverage, if for no other reason than it gets people talking. But I don’t think it should be the story of the day.  When Anna Nicole Smith died, a very serious editor friend of mine defended giving space to the story, asking which new value, other than perhaps consequence, didn’t the story meet? Omitting the story in a noon Iowa newscast is certainly a reasonable call, but I do think it’s news, even if CNN did go nuts over the story yesterday morning.

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Pre-Class Video: Klingon Style

Today in class we’re opening up by going Klingon Style! (And if you want to know more about the Gangnam Style phenomenon, check out these guest posts from Charley Reed!

Klingon Style  Parody Video

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Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

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Pre-Class Video: Ground Control to Cmdr. Hadfield

Today’s pre-class video is brought to you from outer space by former Canadian astronaut and commander of the International Space Station, Cmdr. Chris Hadfield.  He recorded this video of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” while on the ISS in 2013.  You can get the whole story on this video here.

Space Oddity by Chris Hadfield

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Lena Dunham, Vogue & Jezebel – Is there a Photoshopping problem?

The level of Photoshopping going on at Fashion/Beauty/Lifestyle magazines has been an ongoing controversy, with performers such as Adele, Kelly Clarkson and Kate Winslet being made almost unrecognizable as photo editors try to make the curvy stars’ bodies comply with fashion magazine standards of beauty.

So it should be no surprise when Lena Dunham, star of HBO’s series Girls, posed for Vogue that the question would start being raised as to how authentic her images were.  Dunham, in case you’ve missed the story, is famous for being naked in Girls – a lot — and that her tattooed body is celebrated/criticized for being an alternative to conventional standards of Hollywood beauty.

So… when the Dunham issue of Vogue came out, the blog Jezebel, which has a lot to say on Photoshopping, offered $10,000 to anyone who would supply them with the original, unedited images of Dunham so people could see how Dunham’s body was manipulated.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long to get someone to supply Jezebel with the images.  Interestingly enough, while the photos themselves were highly manipulated (i.e. entirely new backgrounds added) the New York Times points out that there was surprisingly little done to Dunham herself.

Dunham told Slate following the publication of the original images that she had no problem with what Vogue had done with the photos, and that she understands and appreciates that difference between reality and what is published in a fashion magazine:

A fashion magazine is like a beautiful fantasy. Vogue isn’t the place that we go to look at realistic women, Vogue is the place that we go to look at beautiful clothes and fancy places and escapism and so I feel like if the story reflects me and I happen to be wearing a beautiful Prada dress and surrounded by beautiful men and dogs, what’s the problem? If they want to see what I really look like go watch the show that I make every single week.

What do you think? Is Jezebel standing up for women by publishing the unedited photos of Dunham?  Or are they, as some claim, bullying Dunham, who has made her career of flouting conventionality?

(Oh, and by the way, the photos of Dunham are by famed photog Annie Leibovitz, because… of course they are.)

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Pre-Class Video: Illustrator Tommy Kane draws Seoul, South Korea

Today’s video is from artist/illustrator Tommy Kane, and I’m playing it in honor of the fact my eldest returns home from Korea tomorrow where he’s been working for the last year.

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