Making Curriculum Pop


I hope folks found last week's best practice blogs and PDFs to be useful - hopefully they'll make your curriculum pop! This week we're going to shift gears and talk a little bit about "Me You and Everybody." This collection of pronouns is quoted (and missing commas) because it is a song by one of my favorite British bands, Gomez. A lot of the Gomez songs are scruffy old fashioned rock and roll numbers but this polished single will hook those who prefer their rock with a side of John Mayer - listen for the head boppin' "sha la la la la" bridge:

Since I entered high school twenty years ago I've amassed a monstrous CD collection to feed my music addiction; for about half of that time my fix was subsidized by jobs in the music industry. Living in a typical New York apartment the collection (probably over 5,000 disks) would take up at least one bedroom in our fifth floor walk up so most of the tunes live in my parents' basement in Chicago.

Like all good addicts, I've rationalized my habit...I think of it as a "business expense" since I started Mindblue in 1999. As you can see from the small selection of Mindblue study guides this music knowledge has hardly been fully utilized. Notably, Nicole and I did have unique music at our wedding. Nicole walked down the isle to "There Is A God" by Carl Craig's Detroit Experiment performed live by the band we hired. For a brief amount of time this allowed me to tell Nicole that the music budget was essential to ensure high quality nuptials. Two and a half years later that rationale doesn't work - however, sharing some tunes on this Ning could be a new reason to download a bagillion songs a month, right? Help me out here people!

I've haven't had the chance to get all my favorite tunes onto my computer but I have been working diligently to give star ratings to all 10,000 of the songs living here. Sometimes I sit and rate albums I know really well but most of the time I play tracks while I'm working in party shuffle mode; I try to rating songs as they appear. When I sort tunes by star ratings I get a pretty interesting snapshot of who I am as a listener, fan and a person. So you're wondering, what is the star rating of "Me, You and Everybody?" It is a four-star Gomez track! If I wanted to introduce you to five five-star Gomez tracks I'd direct you to:
1. "Girlshapedlovedrug" from How We Operate
2. "Devil Will Ride" from Liquid Skin
3. "Get Myself Arrested" from Bring It On
4. "Nothing Is Wrong" from Liquid Skin
5. "Detroit Swing 66" from In Our Gun

In 2004 I was at a Tower Records listening station (R.I.P. Tower) listening to Gomez's Split the Difference album. They had little tags where Tower employees had written personal reviews about their favorite bands. Some employee wrote under the Gomez CD on display that they thought Gomez was the only band working that inherited the songwriting skills and experimental spirit of the Beatles. True, they are:
1. a nerdy bunch of lads who have an incredible amount of talent
2. able to seamlessly split the singing duties between three dudes
3. guilty of some top-notch songwriting by all the band members
However, I think Gomez is a much more acquired taste than the Beatles. George Harrison thought the Beatles spirit had passed to Monty Python - did Monty Python pass that spirit to Gomez? I'll leave that for y'all to decide - just remember ... "no one expects the Spanish Inquisition."

Are some of the Gomez songs teachable? Sure, but the bigger point of this personal story that we want to take a bit of inventory this week on the people gathered on this Ning. We won't give folks star ratings - that would be too Dr. Seuss a la The Sneeches. I do get the sense that we'd all be interested in knowing a bit more about who is floating out there in cyberspace. By now you should see my plan: You see, I shared a bit about "me," I want to know a bit more about "you" and thought I could introduce one of the "everybody."

One of the most interesting people I know is one of the "everybody" out there on the MC POP Ning. Nick Sousanis is someone I met through a mentor in Ann Arbor. Nick moved to NYC this summer to pursue the same crazy interdisciplinary studies degree in that I'm working on. Back in the D (Detroit, as referred to by the locals) Nick ran The Detroiter an online arts magazine. He has a degree in mathematics but taught undergraduate classes in writing and public speaking at Wayne State University and ran a satellite art gallery for the University of Michigan in Detroit.

Since his move to NYC he's been trading comics for grades in all his doctoral classes. Nick has a blog loaded with his artwork which has things that, I think, could be taught in classes ranging from 7th grade to college. If you don't know about his work I'd suggest checking "Children's Artistic Development - Early Stages" and "Seeing Red, Feeling Blue" as introductions to his work. If you think about education in the broadest sense, we're all working hard to find ways to express and communicate ideas with each other; these are the concepts I believe Nick's work brilliantly addresses.

Also of note, I heard through the grapevine that Nick met Peter and Karen two weeks ago here on MC POP. He met Karen in person last weekend at ComicCon here in NYC. This, I thought, was pretty exciting. The moral of that story? If you think Nick sounds cool or you want to commission him to make comics for your class or you just generally need more online friends - friend Nick, he won't bite.

Nick is one of the "everybody" that out there on MC POP and I suspect we have a lot of other interesting people out there waiting to connect with people much more interesting then me. For the rest of the week, I'll be making short posts so that "me you and everybody" can make our community a bit more colorful. Don't worry, I'll sneaking a few teaching resources in along the way.

Thanks for the drive-by today,


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Nick is fabulous! Please check him out!

And (just to set the record straight) I chose "There Is A God" to walk down the aisle to..... :) Maybe your music love has worn off on me... ( Except for the part where you sneak orders from Amazon home from school... I am not a junkie. :)
I'll absolutely second the "Nick is a very cool guy" motion, and also throw my support behind his "Children's Artistic Development" comic. I think it works beautifully in both content and structure; I really learned a lot from it at the same time as I was admiring it artistically. And, really, how cool is that??
Thanks for the props, Ryan, and all your efforts to build community online and off.
And thanks for the feedback, Karen. Hi praise. Btw, if you missed the panel Karen organized at the NYCComic Con, despite having the time switched at the last minute and made the last event of the night - it was packed, and even after time was up, people stayed and could've stayed longer. That conversation and a few others i was fortunate to attend on Friday were very encouraging about comics and education.

Re: working with other folks on comics. I'm tackling as many different types of subjects and approaches to subjects as i can (which is always slower than i'd like.) I have a number in the works ranging from science to biographical, but i'm quite open to collaboration, or creating something just because it sounds interesting.

Ok, look forward to talking with you more folks,
thanks Ryan,
I don't usually think of songs as being part of a teachable moment. But I suppose they are a form of literary expression. Coming from the 60s and 70s, there was always speculation around the song American Pie and what all the imagery was referring to. I guess you could even do a music/history segment on the Vietnam war and the songs written during that era. You don't really see that happening these days around Iraq -- probably because there is not a draft and people's next door neighbors are not affected as randomly as they were during Vietnam. And Iraq is more hidden -- or ignored -- by the everyday person, it seems to me.

What other kinds of interdisciplinary connections can be made through music? Most songs I hear lately are love songs (or sex songs). Other musicians to be looked at from "my era" could be Cat Stevens or Harry Chapin or Elton John, whose songs have some sort of message -- ("Father and Son" and "oh Very Young" by Cat Stevens, "Cat's in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin, "Good-bye Norma Jean" and the Diana version, by Elton John).

The Beatles alone could be a class.




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