Friday, January 25, 2013

Hypocrisy in Blue

Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee has gotten people even more fired up on the issue of gun regulations with his recent post on the Tea Party Perspective. He opens his piece with these sentences: "Shame on liberals for exploiting tragedy once again in our country and try (sic) to use tragedy as a reason to take our rights away.  Liberals are shameful."

Then, two paragraphs later, he writes, "All of these suggestions about the need for gun control are the mindset of sheep.  Once the wolf is at the door, you’re helpless.  Sure, run and hide from a sociopathic killer.  See how far that gets you.  You know where that ‘ll get you?  26 dead at Sandy Hook School."

I'm all for public figures speaking their minds on issues like this. The Sheriff is in a unique position of authority on the subject, and his voice ought to be heard.

That said, I didn't even have to use the scroll bar to find the most blatant example of hypocrisy in Sheriff Clarke's post.

He writes "shame on liberals" for using a tragedy to further their cause, and then he turns around and uses that same tragedy as evidence that we should further his cause.

Rarely do I see such a horrible abuse of rhetoric in public discourse. This is one for the books.

If you agree with the Sheriff, I suggest you volunteer to proofread his next rant.

If you disagree with the man, talk slowly as you explain the concept of hypocrisy to him and those who have rallied behind his post.

Monday, January 21, 2013

My New Five Disk Playlist

Once upon a time, I listened to music using compact disks.

I know, right?

When I wanted new music, I would head out to the record store and sort through racks and racks of CDs in jewel cases, sealed shut with that sticky security tape, then wrapped in plastic and clamped into plastic theft-prevention/display racks. It was like the dark ages.

But I loved my CDs. The collection was growing at its fastest rate during those years in which I was sorting out my identity. The collection was one of the first things I composed that said something about who I was.

As an undergrad, my favorite time of day to listen to my CDs was as I cooked and ate dinner.

I had a five-disk carousel CD player.  I would load it up and hit "Shuffle All."

I had friends who bemoaned "the end of the album," who worried that shuffle mode and playback programming meant there'd never be another


But I couldn't keep myself from enjoying the five-disk shuffle option my stereo afforded me. I got to pick five favorites. Each new song was a pleasant half-expected surprise. And oh, the suspense at the end of each song as I listened to the spent disk drop, the carousel turn, and the next disk spin into action. 

More recently, I've been uploading all my digitized music to a cloud service.

When the whole library finally loaded today, as a celebratory gesture, I created a '5 Disk Playlist.' Just like the old days, I dropped all the tracks of five albums into the list and hit shuffle. I'm listening to the playlist now. I have to wear headphones because my wife and son are sleeping, but other than that, it's a very 1996 listening experience. 
Except, I can listen to the list anywhere I go. And I can make another list for every month until I'm 50 years old, and I'll be able to listen to every one of those lists anywhere I can access the internet. Beyond that, I can allow an online service to read the contents of my collection and generate a playlist that combines my music with music suggested by what my collection says about me. 
I don't think this kind of change is bad. In fact, I love this kind of change, but I do miss mix tapes, album art, lining up at midnight to buy a new release, the clunks and clicks of record players. There is nothing wrong with technology changing the way we listen, but I would like to go on record saying this: There is also nothing wrong with being reluctant to let go of the quirks that a fading technology  imparted on our experience.
I'm working on a paper and a presentation about introducing electronic portfolio software in writing classrooms. E-portfolios have been around for a while, and people a lot smarter than me have demonstrated how effective they are as a learning tool. But it is still difficult to get programs and teachers to adopt the technology. 

The project I worked on at school went smoothly. Last quarter nearly 500 students composed electronic portfolios using open source software and online sharing tools. I'm thrilled with the results. Students developed their digital literacy. The reflective portions were displayed in a more authentic reading space than a series of 8" x 10.5" sheets of paper. Teachers delivered the tools to students effectively. Good stuff, sure, but I'm not going to pretend it was easy. There was a ton of trouble shooting. There was a fair amount of resistance from teachers and students alike. The days leading up to the end of the quarter were brutal.
When I took on the e-portfolio project, I hadn't yet considered the long and tortured route of music recording technology as an analogous cultural process. All the lost conventions, anachronistic jargon, obsolete equipment, and the bitter late adopters - it's all familiar. 

Tonight I gained access to my music through a new and exciting technology, and what did I do? I tried to recreate the listening experience shaped by the specifications of a stereo component from the mid-1990's.