Thursday, May 20, 2010

Oops, I OD'd

I was thinking, recently, while watching a special on Kurt Cobain and reading the 50 greatest comic book characters of all time, that the greatest music tragedies of all time should be examined.
So... here are some that shouldn't be ignored as significant genre changers, ends or beginnings of cultural eras, and just plan old bad luck for music lovers.

1. The first of course is the infamous "day the music died" as portrayed in Don McClean's sometimes annoying ballad American Pie, and chronicled films like The Buddy Holly Story, and La Bamba. On February 3, 1959, the fledgling rock and roll industry was crushed by news that Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and JP Richardson had perished in a plane crash in Iowa.
The music scene would be forever changed, and artists such as Waylon Jennings, Elvis, and Jerry Lee Lewis wouldnt be the same. The first rock superstars are now legend.

2. Jimi Hendrix was able to crank out so much material in the studio prior to his 1970 overdose. Many have imagined what this guitar virtuoso would have been capable of if he had survived past the age of 27. True, now most kids picking up guitars can turn out sounds similar to Hendrix, but at the time, the style and sound was unlike anything previously heard. Everyone agrees he is a genius and we will all be able to only speculate on what would have come next.

3. John Lennon's death was a major shock to everyone, not just the music industry. A victim of a selfish, crazy super fan, Lennon's assassination stole what many believe was a brilliantly creative and loving mind from future music greatness... despite Yoko Ono.

4. Some say Randy Rhoads is Metal's equivalent of Hendrix. This makes his short career as Ozzy's axeman that much more subject to mythic and tragic adoration. Like Hendrix, Rhoads has been named as a major influence by many contemporary guitarists in the genre. Ironically, Rhoads died in a fiery plane crash... very Metal, and also a throw back to the greatest plane crash in rock history (see number 1).  and perhaps if Rhoads survived, Ozzy wouldnt suck now.

5. Seattle's music scene in late 80s and early 90s exposed rock and roll excess as ridiculous and childish, and cemented the more realistic nature of art mirroring truth . Kurt Cobain's suicide brought this renaissance to a crashing halt, and highlighted the fragility of the mind of a damaged artist and addict. Nirvana was survived by the future success of drummer Dave Grohl's project the Foo Fighters, and Courtney Love's embarrassing antics and long arrest record.

Other notable tragedies are:

Janis Joplin. She has been vaulted to near mythic status, due to a career in music that is borderline appropriation. Her finest moment: the Canadian railroad tour in 1970 with the Grateful Dead, the Band, and Buddy Guy. 

Bradley Nowell. Sublime's front man OD'd and ended the career of a band so unique and talented, there could have been so much more.

Shannon Hoon. His greatest mistake... hanging out with Axl Rose. But we'll always have No Rain. 

Jim Morrison. I hate this guy. But for some reason, the Lizard King is a legend. Dirtbag.

Jerry Garcia. Greatly missed. His death came during a tumultuous point for the band, having gone from counter culture underground success to hugely popular fandom bordering cult following, it was only a matter of time before the band either took a much needed break, or someone died.

Bobby Sheehan. Bassist and soul of Blues Traveler... the band and Jon Popper have never been the same... they suck now.

Cliff Burton. quite possibly the best metal bassist ever. It took Metallica decades to get over.

Biggie and Tupac. Although I dont necessarily care, the hip hop community thought it was a big deal. the genre hasnt been the same. its too bad that terrible rappers like Puff Daddy and 50 Cent cant die.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cult Films

I love movies.

Recently, I was reading about cult films, which are little known, small budget films that have a highly devoted fanbase. Some of the lists of cult films that I found on the interweb include some pretty big budget films, like Fight Club and ShowGirls, and well known family movies such as Willy Wonka, Princess Bride and the Goonies. These films shouldn't count as cult films, as they have become part of the general culture. Wikipedia goes further to state that cult films have a habit of creating subcultures.

I would say that once a subculture is formed, it no longer has a cult following, it has a subculture. For example, Trekkies are not cultists, but they are a subculture. Star Wars, once had a cult following, grew into a subculture, but since has outgrown its subculture into the general mainstream.
Frank Zappa once said that his favorite monster movies were cheap ones. And cheap didn't necessarily mean budget, but low budgets help. It has more to do with the strings attached to the giant spider. Cult movies are best when corners are cut, acting is poor, and writing is predictable, or downright awful.

You may ask what are some of the best cult films EVER? I just happen to have a few thoughts on the matter. Here are some of my choices...

1. Rock and Roll High School -- High school rebellion movie + the Ramones = awesome! Punk rock is probably going to be a huge theme in this post. The film is full of random dream sequences, '80s teen angst, and over the top authority stereotypes.

2. Toxic Avenger -- Probably the epitome of the cult film idea, the Toxic Avenger's story is about a 98 pound weakling who receives superhero strength from an unlikely accident. Sound familar? Instead of cool spider-like powers, or strength and agility from a super serum, or lightning from the gods, the Toxic Avenger is mutated by radioactive toxins. He's probably the best thing to come out of Jersey aside from the Boss.

3. Hedwig and the Angry Inch -- Crazy, angry musical about a transvestite rock singer. Its like a David Bowie concept album. The gender, sexuality, coming of age and fringe culture plots make this a favorite with college students, and Pride groups, but the overall theme of consequences of childhood trauma, and human beauty transcends any sexuality or gender politics.

4. SLC Punk -- Matthew Lillard is the man... and then he did Scooby Doo. This indy film is all about the hardcore punk scene in the '80s. However, it follows a predictable plot, much like Menace to Society and The Anarchists Cookbook.  The Anarchists Cookbook even has a similar protagonist in a similar subculture, but this film is far superior.  Basically, a kid involved in a subculture has a life changing experience and ends up joining the mainstream.  Still cool though. Don't be a poseur, watch it.

5. Animal House -- Most definitely the best National Lampoons movie ever, and arguably the best frat movie of all time. A must see for every aspiring college student, this should be required viewing in high school college prep classes.  This film helped launch John Belushi's short lived movie career.

6. Big Lebowski -- This is a surprisingly talented cast for a movie that has almost no critical acclaim. The movie has everything anyone could want in a film: bums, nihilists, Tara Reid, bowling, a marmot, The Jesus, and a rug that really tied the room together.  Needless to say, this film is probably the most recognizable on this page.  It blew up all over pop culture after it left the theaters.

7. Clerks -- shot on a small budget, in black and white, it has a B-movie feel, without the horrible acting and writing of a B-movie. This film was written by and for cult film enthusiasts. A day in the life of store clerks with no true plot equals excellent mindless cinema.  This is Kevin Smith's first film, and launched him into the hearts of fanboys and girls everywhere.

8. Rocky Horror Picture Show -- Not only is it a musical, its a creepy transgendered musical. Best seen in a theater where you can experience the cult following first hand (you have to dress up as a character).  Like most of these films, everyone should see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at least once.  and yes, that is Tim Curry in drag.

9. Evil Dead -- Before Zombieland, before Rose McGowan with an AK for a leg, before videogames like Left 4 Dead, and Resident Evil, there was Bruce Campbell with a chainsaw for a hand.  There are two sequels, and they rebooted the franchise in 2013.

10. Repoman -- Punk rock soundtrack? check. Young Emilio Estevez? check. Chevy Malibu with a cosmic secret? check. whats not to like?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Celtics All-Time Greats?

Charles Barkley, the great pundit that he is, came to the defense of Celtics greatness by leaving Paul Pierce off of his list of top ten Celtics. Which begs the question: where does Pierce fit in among the pantheon of hall of famers that is the Celtics legacy and mystique?

Mattrob23 posed this question on the CelticsBlog recently.

Barkley's list is as follows:

6. Bill Russel
33. Larry Bird (they call him the Legend)
00. Robert Parish (the Chief)
17. John Havlicek ("he stole the ball!")
32. Kevin McHale
3. DJ Johnson (not in the Hall. But has 3 titles, Finals MVP, and 5x All Star)
24. Sam Jones (Good choice. My favorite C.)
31. Cedric Maxwell (Cornbread? Really?)
18. Dave Cowens (the taxi driver. What a weirdo)
10. Jo Jo White (I watched Glory Road the other day)

Sir Charles also mentions Walter Brown and Red Auerbach, which I dont understand. Because, while both Brown and Auerbach did much for the Celtics and the game of basketball, they are not players, and therefore, arent really part of the discussion.

He also brings up Reggie Lewis, and Len Bias, and states that they could have been better than Pierce also, if they had lived. First of all, that same argument could be said of anything. Tim Duncan could have been a Celtic Great too, but he was drafted by San Antonio because they got the first pick that year. Second, Len Bias should never be mentioned in the same sentence as the phrase "Celtics Legends" due to the fact that A: he never played a game in a Celtics jersey, and B: the asshole didnt know how to party properly and ended up dead the day after he was drafted, which completely screwed over the entire franchise for a solid decade and a half. "Could have beens", and "ifs" dont count in this discussion.

Also out of contention for this list are: Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Chauncy Billups, Gary Payton, Bill Walton, Ed McAuley, and Nate Archibald. Although these players are all great, and all played for the Cs, and some of them helped win titles, they did the majority of their great works in other cities. Everyone on Barkley's list (with the exception of Parish, Johnson, and Cowens) were Celtics lifers. True, Johnson won a title with Seattle, and Parish won one in Chicago, but they were in their prime when they played for the Cs, and they also played in Boston for a majority of their careers. When you say Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson, everyone thinks Celtics Legend. When someone says Kevin Garnet or Ray Allen, sure the Celtics are mentioned, but the Timberwolves, Sonics, and Bucks will be also.

Kevin Garnett won a title in Boston, and a Defensive Player of the Year award, and is a 3x All Star. However, with Minnesota, he was a season MVP, and a 10x All Star, and holds their records for points, assists, steals, blocked shots, and rebounds, and as a Timberwolf, holds the NBA record for averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists 6 consecutive times, and is only one of 4 NBA players EVER to lead their team in all 5 statistical categories, but that team isnt the Celtics (Dave Cowens is one of the other 3, and his team was the Celtics).

Another thing that gets me is the fact that Cousy isnt on the list at all, one of the best point guards of all time. And what about Tommy Heinsohn? Rookie of the Year, 8 NBA titles, 6 All Star appearances, Coach of the Year, and he won 2 titles as a coach.

Paul Pierce, in comparison to the members on the list, plus Cousy and Heinsohn, stacks up numbers wise:
Pierce is the third all Celtic leading scorer behind Larry Bird and John Havlicek.
He has 1 NBA title, 8 All Star Appearances, NBA Finals MVP, a scoring title (only Celtic to ever do that), and he won the 3 point contest recently, the first Celtic to do that since Larry Bird won it 3 times.

In addition to the numbers... he has a pretty kick-ass nickname which also stacks up with other Celtics Greats. The Chief, the Houdini of the Hardwood, Cornbread, Tommy Guns, The Hick from French Lick, Satch, Loscy, the Cooz, The Black Hole, Hondo, The Jones Boys, and Big Red are all nicknames used for the Celtics Greats. The Truth is definitely just as good, if not better.

I think Paul Pierce has cemented his legacy in Boston. He is poised to finish his career with the team that drafted him. This is a pretty huge deal. There are not too many veteran players in the NBA still on the team that drafted them. I can think of two off the top of my head: Tim Duncan, and Dirk Nowitski (Kobe has played for the Lakers his entire career, but was drafted by the Hornets). Pierce has a resume of awards that matches many other Celtics Greats, and has done much to overcome character flaws, injuries, and personal issues in order to continue to be good at what he does. When Pierce retires, I would be shocked to not see number 34 raised to the rafters in the Boston TD Garden. I mean... if they retired Cedric Maxwell, Ed McAuley, Jim Loscutoff, Satch Sanders, KC Jones and Don Nelson, they'd be nuts not to retire Pierce, right?

in conclusion: my list

6. Bill Russel
33. Larry Bird
17. John Havlicek
18. Dave Cowens
32. Kevin McHale
34. Paul Pierce
24. Sam Jones
15. Tommy Hiensohn
00. Robert Parish
14. Bob Cousy

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Best Albums of All Time? I think so.

The concept of the Album struggles to be relevant in a time where the single has once again become important. Due to the ease at which songs can be purchased individually, the single has once again come into prominence as the best form of marketable music, much like the 3 minute single format used during the 20s to the 60s. The idea of an album as a complete work of art may eventually be lost. This post is an homage to the very best complete albums of all time. Much of my choices come from Elvis Costello's list from Vanity Fair of the 500 Albums You Need, and Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums. Im sure I missed some good stuff. This is a difficult kind of a list to make.  

Back in Black (1980)
Bad Brains -
   Bad Brains (1982)
Bad Religion -
Recipe for Hate (1993)
The Band -
The Band (1969)
The Beach Boys -
Pet Sounds (1966)
Beastie Boys -
Paul's Boutique (1989)
Ill Communication (1994)
The Beatles -
Rubber Soul (1965)
Revolver (1966)
Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Beck -
Odelay (1996)
Bjork -
Debut (1993)
Black Flag -
Damaged (1981)
Black Keys -
The Big Come Up (2002)
Blues Traveler -
4 (1994)
Blur -
13 (1999)
David Bowie -
Ziggy Stardust (1972)
James Brown -
Live at the Apollo (1963)
Jackson Browne -
Saturate Before Using (1972)
Jeff Buckley -
Grace (1994)
The Byrds -
The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968)
Johnny Cash -
Live from Folsom Prison (1968)
American Recordings (1994)
Ray Charles -
A Life in Music (1982)
Chemical Brothers -
Dig Your Own Hole (1997)
The Clash -
London Calling (1979)
Ry Cooder -
Paradise and Lunch (1974)
Sam Cooke -
Night Beat (1963)
Elvis Costello -
My Aim is True (1977)
Cream -
Wheels of Fire (1968)
Creedance Clearwater Revival-
Cosmo's Factory (1970)
David Crosby -
If Only I Could Remember My Name (1971)
Crosby Stills Nash and Young -
Deja Vu (1970)
Cypress Hill -
Cypress Hill (1991)
Dave Matthews Band -
Under the Table and Dreaming (1994)
Miles Davis -
Birth of Cool (1956)
Porgy and Bess (1958)
Doors -
Doors (1967)
Digible Planets -
Reachin' (1993)
Dr. Dre -
Chronic (1992)
Dr. John -
Dr. John's Gumbo (1972)
Dyke and the Blazers-
So Sharp (1983)
Bob Dylan -
Blond on Blond (1966)
Blood on the Tracks (1974)
Duke Ellington with Charles Mingus and Max Roach -
Money Jungle (1962)
Eminem -
Marshall Mathers (2000)
The Everly Brothers -
Its Every Time (1960)
Fairport Convention -
Liege and Lief (1969)
Fleetwood Mac -
Rumours (1977)
Tusk (1979)
Flying Burrito Brothers -
The Gilded Palace of Sin (1969)
Aretha Franklin -
I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You (1967)
The Fugees -
The Score (1996)
Funkadelic -
One Nation Under a Groove (1978)
Marvin Gaye -
Whats Goin On? (1971)
Gnarls Barkley -
St Elsewhere (2006)
Grateful Dead -
Workingman's Dead (1970)
American Beauty (1970)
Al Green -
Call Me (1973)
Green Day -
American Idiot (2004)
Guns n Roses -
Appetite for Destruction (1987)
Herbie Hancock -
Headhunters (1973)
Tim Harden -
Tim Hardin (1966)
Ben Harper -
Diamonds on the Inside (2003)
Richard Hell and the Voidoids -
Blank Generation (1977)
Jimi Hendrix -
Axis Bold as Love (1967)
Electric Ladyland (1968)
Lauryn Hill -
Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
Hole -
Live Through This (1994)
Billy Holliday -
Lady in Satin (1958)
Buddy Holly -
Buddy Holly (1958)
Michael Jackson -
Thriller (1982)
Bad (1987)
Jay-Z -
Black Album (2003)
Jefferson Airplane -
Surrealistic Pillow (1967)
Elton John -
Goodbye Yellowbrick Road (1973)
Wyclef Jean -
   The Carnival (1997)
Jorma Kaukonen and Tom Hobson -
Quah (1974)
Joy Division -
   Unknown Pleasures (1979)
The Killers -
Hot Fuss (2004)
Kings Of Leon -
Youth and Young Manhood (2003)
The Kinks -
Face to Face (1966)
The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968)
Ray Lamontagne -
   Trouble (2004)
Led Zeppelin -
  3 (1970)
  4 (1971)
Houses of the Holy (1973)
John Lennon -
  Plastic Ono Band (1970)
Lil Wayne -
Tha Carter 3 (2008)
Little Feat -
Sailin Shoes (1972)
Little Richard -
Here's Little Richard (1957)
LL Cool J -
Baby Said Knock You Out (1990)
The Mamas and the Papas -
A Gathering of Flowers (1970)
Aimee Mann -
Whatever (1993)
Bob Marley and the Wailers -
Natty Dread (1975)
Live! (1975)
Massive Attack -
Protection (1994)
Curtis Mayfield -
Superfly (1972)
Metallica -
Master of Puppets (1986)
Charles Mingus -
Blues and Roots (1959)
Joni Mitchel -
Blue (1971)
Moby -
Play (1999)
Thelonious Monk -
Monk's Music (1958)
Moondog -
The Story of Moondog (1958)
Van Morrison -
   Astral Weeks (1968)
   Moondance (1970)
Jelly Roll Morton -
The Birth of the Hot (1995)
Ida Maria -
   Fortress Round my Heart (2008)
Mothers of Invention -
We're Only in it for the Money (1968)
Filmore East June 1971 (1971)
Willie Nelson -
Stardust (1978)
Countryman (2005)
Neutral Milk Hotel - 
   In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)
New York Dolls -
New York Dolls (1973)
Nine Inch Nails -
Downward Spiral (1994)
Nirvana -
Nevermind (1991)
Unplugged (1994)
NRBQ (1969)
Roy Orbison -
The Orbison Way (1966)
Gram Parsons -
Grievous Angel (1974)
Pearl Jam -
10 (1991)
Versus (1993)
Pink Floyd -
Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)
Obscured by Clouds (1972)
Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
The Pixies -
Come on Pilgrim (1987)
Doolittle (1989)
The Pogues -
Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash (1985)
Iggy Pop -
The Idiot (1977)
Portishead -
Dummy (1994)
Elvis Presley -
The Sun Sessions (1976)
Pretenders -
Pretenders (1980)
Prince -
Around the World in a Day (1985)
John Prine -
John Prine (1972)
Queen -
Queen 2 (1974)
A Night at the Opera (1975)
Radiohead -
OK Computer (1997)
Kid A (2000)
Rage Against the Machine -
Rage Against the Machine (1992)
Bonnie Rait -
Give it Up (1972)
Ramones -
Rocket to Russia (1977)
Red Hot Chili Peppers -
Californication (1999)
Lou Reed -
Berlin (1972)
Reckoning (1984)
Green (1988)
Rolling Stones -
Let it Bleed (1969)
Sticky Fingers (1971)
Some Girls (1978)
Gil Scott-Heron -
Pieces of a Man (1971)
The Sex Pistols -
Never Mind the Bullocks (1977)
DJ Shadow -
Endtroducing (1996)
Paul Simon -
Graceland (1986)
Simon and Garfunkle -
Bookends (1968)
Nina Simone -
Little Girl Blue (1958)
Sly and the Family Stone -
Theres a Riot Goin On (1969)
Smashing Pumpkins -
Siamese Dream (1993)
Patti Smith -
Horses (1975)
Bruce Springsteen -
Born to Run (1975)
Steely Dan -
Countdown to Ecstasy (1973)
Sublime -
Sublime (1996)
Temptations -
Temptations Live! (1967)
Fanmail (1999)
Tool -
Aenima (1996)
Tribe Called Quest
Midnight Marauders (1993)
U2 -
Joshua Tree (1987)
Achtung! Baby (1991)
Velvet Underground -
Velvet Underground and Nico (1966)
Verve -
Urban Hymns (1997)
Muddy Waters -
More Real Folk Blues (1967)
Doc Watson -
Live and Pickin (1979)
The Who -
My Generation (1965)
Tommy (1969)
Quadrophenia (1973)
Hank Williams and Hank Williams Jr -
Father and Son (1965)
Brian Wilson -
Smile (2004)
Wings -
Band on the Run (1973)
Stevie Wonder -
Talking Book (1972)
Innervisions (1973)
Wu Tang Clan -
36 Chambers (1993)
Neil Young -
Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (1969)
After the Gold Rush (1970)
ZZ Top -
Tres Hombres (1973)

Monday, February 1, 2010

What Books do you Teach?

Why is literature important? This question was posed in my class recently. This was my answer...

There are basically two kinds of classes in school.
  1. Math/Science
  2. Social Studies/Language Arts

Both types of classes foster the same basic principles. They teach insight and knowledge into certain aspects of life, solve certain types of problems, and teach certain skillsets. 

So, while Math/science classes teach logic, reason, hard evidence, solutions to concrete problems with concrete answers, the Humanities department teaches social, emotional, and personal solutions to ethical, moral, philosophical problems. 

This department is called Humanities for a reason. It offers lessons and answers on what it means to be human. Franz Kafka said "we have need of books which act upon us with a misfortune from which we would suffer terribly... a book must be the axe that smashes the frozen sea within us". 
The goal for humanities then, is to find that axe. 

Jeffrey Wilhelm has decided that the goal of teaching literature should be about fostering maturity.  He states, "Maturity entails, first, the recognition that you have a unique perspective and a view of the world that has value, and second, the recognition that there are different perspectives in the world and that these have value and are worth knowing about". He goes on further to state that reading can be a social experiment that allows us to share meaning.

In Math and Science, we constantly have to find the value of X. But in Humanities, we try and find the value of self, followed by the value of everyone else. 

Therefore, a good literature classroom should foster social interaction. Literature should foster discussion, dissent, collaboration, teamwork, debate. Empowering the student to take charge of the learning process and build good learning habits and a willingness to seek out knowledge and meaning should be the goal for every literature classroom.

There is a huge discussion in contemporary education about what sorts of materials should be used to teach the above skills. There are a number of books considered classics in the school curriculum which are easily recognized and are taught often. Much has been said of this "canon" of literature, and questions arise as to the validity of these books over other "alternative" or contemporary texts.

I think there are a number of other reasons why teachers now are moving away from the literary "canon"
  1. the books we read in school as students are not always looked fondly on. I still cringe when I hear "Johnny Tremain". 
  2. it is way more exciting and interesting for teachers to teach new and interesting texts, authors, and genres. 
  3. it is very easy to gain students attention with the latest things then with anything that can be perceived as old.
However, the needs of the student should be placed above the desires of the teacher. Sometimes Johnny Tremain needs to be taught, no matter how much it pains the teacher.

So I have a few recommendations for the middle school reading curriculum. These are some books that will help open perspectives as well as deal with some very basic questions on ethics, and social norms, as well as looking at things from different perspectives:
Lord of the Flies
Bell Jar
The Giver
Animal Farm
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian
April Morning
To Kill a Mockingbird
In the Time of Butterflies
Romeo and Juliet
As I Lay Dying
Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank)
Little Prince
Heart of Darkness
There are some that would complain that these books have been taught before and don't give a fresh contemporary perspective on adolescence. and I strongly disagree. The themes that can be pulled from these novels are many and varied and are still very much relevant without being crass, inappropriate or too mature. 

Another complaint to teaching older traditional texts is that they are too difficult.

Boo hoo.

Some of these books are complex and can be challenging. I suppose if students would benefit from a molly-coddling teacher and never be challenged in the classroom in any way, then go ahead, teach something easier. I'm sure those students will receive an education just as rewarding. 

I think if anything, the central themes deal with differing perspectives and lives. and all have central figures making big choices dealing with social expectations, obligations, and social norms. Growth. change. adversity... Humanities.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Reading is... fun!

Recently, I entered into the debate on teaching models for language arts skills. More specifically, how do we teach reading most effectively? The classic model, made famous by those ridiculous Hooked on Phonics works for me commercials, deals with building skills from the bottom (sounds) to the top (whole sentences).

In the 80's, these experts, Goodman and Smith, decided going the other direction would be better, as communication relies on whole meanings, not just parts of meaning. The concept is that regardless of one's basic knowledge of sounds, pronunciation, and vocabulary, comprehension should be the first thing studied, and then the basic things come second. This, of course, would never work in Kindergarten, but it is effective in high school.

However, because everyone is pretty familiar with Bottom-Up tactics, since everyone was taught that way, until the late 80's, teachers found themselves blending the two ideas and it has been decided that integrating the two is the best policy.

Another concept in mainstream teaching is the idea that everything has a meaning in literature and language, and therefore reading is an exercise in decoding the meaning. This is very much the way poetry is taught. The theory is called New Criticism, which i find ironic, because there is nothing new about it. New Criticism matches up nicely with a bottom-up approach to teaching reading also.

Of course there is another polarizing method to teaching reading. An aesthetic reading, instead of looking for the definite answer, one that clearly makes sense, and obviously was meant by the author, Teachers have students look into the text to create their own meaning based on their experiences, and the experiences of the author which are made known to the class through a lesson on biography. This is a wonderfully fun and creative idea, however, no matter what students come up with, some things just mean exactly what they were intended. For example, nothing by Sylvia Plath is ever going to be about pink ponies and rainbow flavoured sherbert.

The teaching landscape, however, is moving more towards open-ended interpretation, creative thinking, aesthetic readings, despite the demand for schools to prove success through high test grades.
However, because we I think, just by growing up, for the most part, in schools in the 80s,

This seems to be an ongoing issue for contemporary teachers and the professors and experts that teach them. Its nearly paradoxical. Clearly, the teacher teachers want to see more creativity, foster the love of learning, fight boredom in classrooms, and put some energy into lackluster lessons, however, the state needs to see data that shows how smart our students are. No one can measure accurately how much a student learns and retains through personal experiences. So we are left teaching to standards, measuring success through large tests that dont require creativity, or foster outside of the test learning, or care if one is bored and uninspired. as long as you pick the correct multiple choice answer. But learning is way more than test grades.

When I was in middle school, I learned more in one week at Nature's Classroom, for example, then I did the rest of the year in my language arts class. Or, at the very least, I remember more. Guess which experience was graded, and which wasn't.

I think too, that a lesson in discourse is almost a must when teaching aesthetics especially when doing MCAS prep. Just knowing that not all types of writing and language is proper for all situations may help differentiate between efferent answers and aesthetic answers. for example: the way we write in personal journals is not the same way we should write for term papers, or... a letter to my friend (or probably more likely text message) is not the same as a letter we would send with a job application. choosing to teach efferents or aesthetics without teaching the other would be a mistake.