Friday, January 27, 2006

Synchronicity or Synchronized Swimming?

A Look At This Week's Headlines

Headline #1

Monday, April 23, 2006--USA Today

Ford will cut 25,000 to 30,000 jobs, close 14 plants

From the article, "Ford's earnings marked the third straight year of profitability. But the $2 billion, or $1.04 per share, in net income was still down 42% from $3.5 billion, or $1.73 a share, in 2004."

Headline #2

Monday, April 23, 2006--Time Magazine hits newstands

On the Cover: Bill Ford Has Big Ideas About How to Save His Company--and the Endangered U.S. Auto Industry. How He's Trying to Give Motown Back It's Mojo!


Blogger note: I waited all week to hear someone comment on Time's puff piece, but I've waited in vain. If you've heard any commentary, let me know. This is a good illustration of the nature of the system--if a company's not busy growing, it's busy dying, and that's the real factor at work here that explains much more than greed.

Meanwhile, today from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute:

"Within the top fifth of families, the wealthiest families enjoyed the highest income growth over the past two decades. In the 11 states that are large enough to permit this calculation, the incomes of the top 5 percent of families rose between 66 percent and 132 percent during this period. This is faster than the income growth among the top fifth of families as a whole in these states— and much faster than the income growth among the bottom fifth of families in these states, which ranged from 11 percent to 24 percent."

Time knows where its bread is buttered.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I Know You Got Soul

Even though I'm a music writer who teaches writing, I don't use a lot of music lyrics in the classroom. For one thing, I don't think lyrics are meant to stand alone. For another, music is a very personal thing, for both myself and many of my students. I know the music I'm in dialogue with and the music my students are in dialogue with are not just different, but distinctly varied from student to student. So rather than try to shove my own personal discoveries in their faces (my passion suggesting that what I like is better than what they like in some way), I either talk about music they bring up, or I talk about it more in the aggregate. It's a part of my class, by analogy and anecdote, but I kind of keep my own fave raves to myself.

But the other day, as I was on my way in to talk to my Comp 1 students for the first time about writing, I thought about my old friend Billy Chin who turned me onto Eric B & Rakim, the duo that changed the way I heard rap more dramatically than anyone else. They were definitely a duo, and those were Eric B's well placed beats and scratches that gave the music its seductive grooves and vibrant edge, a sound that holds up against any rap to this day, almost 19 years later.

It was Rakim Billy Chin raved about that night, talking about the single "I Know You Got Soul" and these lines where the rapper describes himself getting trapped between the lines he writes. It goes like this:

"I start to think and then I sink/Into the paper like I was ink/When I'm writing, I'm trapped in between the lines/I escape when I finish the rhyme...I got soul."

My students had come into class the other day with various quotes from writers describing the difficulties of writing and their insights into how to overcome them. My gut instinct was that this Rakim lyric spoke to what they were saying, so I started the class by putting it on the board. I think only one student in each class knew who Rakim was--and that mainly because 50 Cent and Fat Joe check him in recent hits--but that was probably a good thing because they didn't come at it with any preconceptions.

They really responded better to the lyric than I could have expected because it spoke to almost everything we needed to talk about. It spoke to why so many of my young women students write long frustrated letters to those significant others who don't seem to listen to them, and, in the process of getting trapped between the lines, they make some rhyme of it, in a sense, and find some peace--most of the time tearing up that letter and throwing it away because all they needed was to take that journey into the lines, to sink into the ink and find some way to escape. Once they've found their way out, they're whole again--as Rakim says, "I got soul."

Those lines spoke to their anxieties about writing, the frustrations in actually trying to sort through their thoughts, the longing to do nothing more than get out of it once they get deeply enough into it, but, at the same time, the reason it's all worth it--to find that soul again.