SXSWedu 2016: Teachers and Policy

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Originally posted on Medium.

Panel discussion on Youtube
Often times when we think of teachers and policy, we think of them in isolation, one only affecting the other as an after thought. For us, teachers, it’s also much more comfortable to focus simply on teaching and stay away from policy because we all fear being too political. After all, it’s all about the kids, and politics and policy just get in the way of good teaching, right? Now, I’m not going to argue for educators to become activists or run for local office though it can’t hurt if some do, but as educators, we can’t shy away from policies that affect our students, and how we’re able or not able to teach them.

This past Wednesday, March 9, I was able to participate in a panel at SXSWedu and discuss policy. The panel was titled, “Straight Talk from Teachers on EdTech Policy”, moderated by former governor, Bev Perdue. I was accompanied by Kerry Gallagher and Matthew Worthington.

I arrived on Wednesday in Austin, and let me start by saying, that I should have gotten there on Monday. That was my bad, and am already planning for next year. I say this because going through the schedule I could see that I’d miss a lot of really cool sessions and workshops on virtual and augmented reality, EdTech, and Maker education. I did get to attend a panel titled: Can Hip Hop Save Us? I felt pleased that hip hop had been given a platform at the event. I actually appreciated the effort at diversity throughout the event.

I even saw Jose Vilson, author of This Is Not a Test, just hanging out. I had to approach him, and let him know I thought he was rock star. If you follows teachers on Twitter, you know Jose Vilson, especially if you follow #educolor. I didn’t say much because I didn’t want to interrupt his conversation, but walked away feeling like such a groupie/fanboy. To a certain degree, Vilson is one of my inspirations and role models for blogging and tweeting. Of course, I had to tweet about having seen him. I walked into the green room before my panel even more excited and pumped. I’d only even ever heard of green rooms from TV. I think I was expecting more snacks, but that’s just on TV, but it was nice to have somewhere to sit and wait.

The panel consisted of a Q&A session followed by a questions from the audience. Former governor, Bev Purdue, had a set of questions we had reviewed over the phone earlier to discuss throughout the session. Right away, I was impressed by my colleagues on the panel, and the ease with which they spoke about policy.

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One of the issues we discussed was on access and equity. While I argued for the importance to provide access to equipment and technology within the schools, my colleagues added that not only should we be talking about access, but also equity. They brought up a good point about certain schools having state of the art technology that goes unused or underused because the staff hadn’t been trained properly or the technology was not rolled out adequately while there are schools doing a whole lot with the little technology they do have. This highlighted the importance of professional development for teachers and staff during the acquisition of new technology.

Another topic we looked at was data, and the growing concern in different districts with concern to data. We felt teachers were definitely concerned about privacy. I, however, feel that there are certain expectations to privacy that we automatically give up when we choose to participate in this modern society. In my community, many parents aren’t really that concerned about their children’s data. Perhaps, it’s because most of my school’s parents for better or worse have full trust in us, and what we are doing. Another reason is that being immigrants many of students’ parents just don’t feel they have any agency to push back or question anything the school does.

I have a love/hate relationship with data. As a math person, I love numbers and collecting data to find patterns. The problem is that some of the data teachers are asked to analyze is often times irrelevant and very abstract. In particular, having a score for an assessment where teachers are not aware of the question and how the student answered provides very little information. I also dislike data being used to evaluate teacher effectiveness. Doing so hinders creativity and experimentation on the part of administrators and teachers, which in turn means the teachers allow the students less creativity and experimentation.

Currently, I’m loving using programs to create my own assessments and forms in particular when those programs and forms can graph the results, so that I’m really enjoying collecting data, but the thing is that it’s my data. Teachers have access to tons of data, and if we are strategic we can begin to collect “smart data”. “Smart data” that aligns to our curriculum, instruction, and students’ needs.

For too long, we have been given the data by our districts, and many times, the data is reflective of student’s learning the previous year, and not even of the whole year, but of that one day on that one subject. We still need some form of data, so that instead of fighting against data, we would do better to guide the discussion towards smarter, timely, and relevant data. Technology definitely has a roll in the collection of this data.

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Another point, we made about the use of technology was about allowing students to use the tools of their times. Kerry mentioned how often times we look at school as preparation for the real world, forgetting that for our students, school is the real world. Matthew mentioned a student who was interested in film who sought out professionals to engage in the process of filmmaking, so that because of technology students can now seek out professionals in a given field for mentorship or collaboration.

This is what I feel is technology’s most important role. Our students need to be working with the tools and equipment that will be used once they are professionals. Also using these tools will give them an idea about whether or not it’ll be something that interests them as a career.

When I was in elementary school, I performed really well in Math, and competed. In eighth grade, I placed second in the whole city in the math portion of the city’s academic olympics, and teachers told me I should go into accounting, but why not computer science or programming. A lot of it had to do with the fact that my teachers weren’t teaching me with the tools of my time. Our computer lab was hardly ever used, and when it was, there was hardly any computer science happening.

The event ended, and I checked my Twitter account, @j053frau5t0, and retweeted all the awesome recaps from the panel. I headed back to my hotel, and to my surprise right after the panel, Jose Vilson tweets me back with “You should have said more tocayo,” which in Spanish is a term of endearment for someone with your same first name. Bonus. I replied that next time I would, which means I need to get on it, and look towards the next conference or the next panel. Geek heaven on Twitter for a moment.

I walked away from my panel very impressed and pleased with the whole process, and very excited to return, and maybe even hopefully stay for some of the music next time. Thank you to all involved in organizing the panel.

One last side note, everyone at the SXSWedu was quite aware that we were the nerd contingent of the whole SXSW madness, and as we, the nerds, departed all the real cool kids were beginning to arrive. I was surprised by the amount of roadies, and that even McDonalds was setting up a stage.

Ensuring Equal Access to Tech

Originally posted in Medium.

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For some, technology has made the world a smaller place and brought us closer together. For others, the gap between the haves and the have-nots has widened. Take technology in schools for example — students in certain schools, primarily where the poor and people of color reside, still lack access to the basic technology and tools they need to help them succeed in today’s world. A University of Chicago study has found that “at-risk” youth — including low socioeconomic students — in Chicago use technology less than other students. The same report also revealed that increased technology use was correlated with higher student outcomes.

As a student, I attended my neighborhood public school in Chicago and from a very early age, I felt the difference between the haves and the have-nots. Now, as a teacher in the same system, the gap has become even more apparent.

I grew up here and went to my neighborhood school. Like many public schools at the time that primarily served low-income students, there was very little technology in the building. My school had a computer lab equipped with 30 or so desktop computers, but it was only used by students who needed remediation. The first time I used a computer at school was during an after school class when the school decided the high-performing students needed technology exposure before high school.

In high school, all this changed. I went to Whitney Young High School — Chicago’s first magnet school. Suddenly, technology was everywhere. We had two computer labs, a TV production lab, and a media lab. It was an amazing transition. I felt empowered and trusted, like I was in control of where my future was going because I finally had the right tools at my fingertips. This is where my passion for education began, and part of what drove me to become a teacher. I knew — even back then ­– that if more students had this type of access and these experiences, it could be a game changer.

For the past 13 years, I’ve been teaching at Enrico Tonti Elementary School, a school that has the luxury of providing our students with technology, though not without effort. Many students at Enrico Tonti don’t have access to the level of technology required for future careers, so that the school has taken it upon itself to provide access to those tools. My students have access to so much more technology than I ever had and it has made a huge difference.

Our students are learning to use devices at a young age. In kindergarten, they learn how to handle the equipment, use QR codes, take screenshots, type, and even code. Eventually, students learn to create digital content and by fifth grade they design their own websites. Students use technology during the day to work on self-paced learning programs tailored to meet them at their specific level. The best part is how well this is working; in a survey we gave, nine out of ten students said that they pay more attention and focus better when using technology. This bodes well for their future careers.

Although we’ve come a long way since my time in elementary school — Enrico Tonti is proof — there’s still more we can and must do to narrow the gap. In a city where poverty and crime are so closely linked — where 2,995 people were shot in 2015 — we must find ways to educate youth who need it most. It’s the only way to bend the curve of systemic poverty and make our city safer and more prosperous.

Technology is not an end in and of itself and I certainly don’t think it’s the answer to all our educational problems. But we must be aware of the message we are sending to our students if we don’t address the barriers that currently exist. All students should have access to the types of devices and programs they’ll be expected to navigate as adults. If we don’t show them we trust them, who will?

As the politics around the future of Chicago Pubic Schools intensify and new deals and policies are discussed and negotiated, let’s be sure that we are not forgetting our city’s most vulnerable youth and that we do everything we can to equip them with the tools they desperately need to succeed. We’ve made some progress since my years as a student, but our work is not finished.

introductions. of sorts…

Originally posted in Medium.

introductions

of sorts…

Hello, I am Mr. Frausto and am very excited to be teaching in the computer lab and using the Internet a lot more in the classroom, especially to create a space on the Internet that extends what we do in the classroom out into the real world.

I have been teaching since September 2001, and have been teaching in Chicago since 2002. I love living in the neighborhood in which I work because it makes me feel extremely connected to my students and their families, especially since my family has lived in this neighborhood since October of 1994. I feel very connected to my students being a product of the Chicago public school system myself. I hope to inspire my students to establish goals and to then set in motion actions to achieve them. Having been very fortunate to have taken part of various diverse learning experiences myself, I hope to prepare my students to become active participants of an ever-evolving technological and multicultural world. I believe that it is important for students to be able to express themselves, their feelings, and thoughts. I hope this space is being created in my classroom, and now on the World Wide Web.

In my spare time, I enjoy reading and writing. Some of my interests include poetry, photography, video editing, music recording, web design, coding, traveling, and history.

from Tonti’s Computer Lab

i am me, a teacher, a po’ E.T, artivist, journalist, librarian.
short e aka 5ynthet1c m1t0515 of the lonely lost dark empties. a dreamer, a wanderer, a wonderer. still trying to find sense, crashing against spaces of the mind. not sure anymore about me or about u. it’s stopped making sense a long time ago, falling deeper into the rabbit hole. where am i again!?! what? never mind… don’t expect me to say anything. i came to watch. it’s too complicated. “who needs action when you got words.” “i’m a loser baby, so why don’t you…” and stuff.

i am just like you, with too many words inside my head, and too many ideas floating around, but i am just like you, regardless of what the voice inside my head may attempt to convince us of.
i can usually be found working with students, and when i am not, i am working on myself in my community with a pen and paper and a camera interacting with my laptop, a mic, garageband, a guitar, and a midi player…

in the future, where will we be? in the future, what will we be? i am po’E.T. today! tomorrow who knows?
and they say he spoke in two tongues, armed like two guns…

from urban po’E.Tree(s)

Well, I am currently a computer science/technology teacher who’s been writing poetry regularly since I was 12. What began as something I did at night, while hiding in my room, has turned into an obsession of sorts. Poetry is my therapy, joy, a home, a friend, a companion and partner in dialogue. I want to share this relationship with my students, and hope they also find a way to find their voice through poetry.

Compiled in these posts are poems created mostly by third through fifth grade students along with the process as to how assignments/activities are selected. Students have been members in the school’s Spoken Word club or have been a student at some point in one of my classes.

The official title of the club/class was “Spoken Word: Poetry, Raps, and Lyrics”, which is currently non-existent, but won’t be for long. I guess I will also post some of my poems, which I write specifically for the students of the Spoken Word club, my classes, and community.

I’m hoping that eventually this blog becomes a continuous conversation about poetry, in particular the poetry of children.

The Poetry of Children

Breaking schemas
And
The molding of tomorrow’s youth
Into plastic soldiers
With replaceable, interchangeable personalities,
Guns, and names.
Marching away into the eve
Of tomorrow’s dawn,
Our
Children’s poetry
Will be
Bullets and gunshots ricocheting off the walls
That once supported dreams.
Left trying to decipher,
Marks on the wall,
Messages in graffiti,
If there was ever any
Meaning.
Cavemen left their marks on walls,
But these new scars relate misguided,
Disenchanted, disenfranchised urban youth-
Revenge on the concrete
Built on superficial ideals,
Wasted energy, fading hope, and savage inequalities.
Historians will remain in awe
At stains of blood,
Of murder filled books juxtaposed with fairy tales.
And these stories are yet to be recorded and written.
Depending on who dictates the future,
And how much everyone’s allowed to know,
They may never get written.
Thus the
Children’s poetry
Must not fall on
Or off
Deaf ears,
So that deviant behavior and memory
Will continue to remind
History,
And perhaps the whole conscious
Of present society,
Of those ignored, gentrified, and pushed to the outskirts
Until permeating the psyche.
Being that truth cannot be
Hidden or buried,
Children’s poetry
Will come out beating
To rhythms the color of love
That most people have already long forgotten.
Beatings and rhythms,
Washing out
The bitterness the present has left us.
Or maybe it’s just me that keeps hearing
The same thing,
The same song
That everyone’s been singing.
All the radio’s been playing.
Dewey would argue what the schools have been teaching
For centuries since the Romans and Greeks,
Or what corporate entities dictate through promoting.
Because
Nobody’s been listening,
Nobody is listening,
Nobody is listening
To the
Children’s poetry.
Cause what could they possibly teach anybody?
The
Children’s poetry,
Strange mutterings,
Frequencies,
But transmissions
Have had a tendency of being
Intercepted,
And thus the message has yet to be
Fully understood.
But children still believe in poetry.
Translating messages for history,
Some must start then decoding these writings and movements
Before an eternal silence befalls us all.
Trying to figure
Children’s poetry,
Already hiding in alleys,
Break dancing, and drawing on walls.
Trained to be just like little adults.
Learning quickly to bully and scheme,
How to politic and maneuver,
Aaaarrrggghhhhh.
Next comes the nervous breakdown.
Screaming, shouting, shooting in schools.
Wait.
It’s already happening.
Wait.
Because
Nobody’s been listening,
Nobody is listening,
Nobody is listening
To the
Children’s poetry.
Listening to the static off the vinyl
Interwoven into the grooves
Until foundations come down crumbling
Off the bass
From the
Children’s poetry.
Yelling to be recognized
As a single living identity, entity,
Independent of society’s standards and schemas
Of how children are supposed to be.
The whole of society seems bent and content with silencing
What echoes tremble in the voice of
Children’s poetry.
Dancing, running, playing, exploring, discovering
Without guides, barriers, or grown ups
At peace to develop like haiku:
The child once had thoughts
Till order became borders
The child could not cross.
The child still has dreams,
But rules are raised up like walls.
Free the child in me.
Please.
Free the child in me.
Please. Free the child in me. Please.
Free the child in me.
Free the child in me.
Please. Free the child in me. Please.
Free the child in me.

9.24.04.

from spoken word: poetry, raps & lyrics.

Summer Reading List

This Is Not a Test “Graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in computer science, Jose Vilson left campus with no job and a few hundred dollars to his name, propelling him (eventually) to his calling: teaching middle school children math in a public school in Washington Heights / Inwood, Manhattan.”

Vilson, Jose. This Is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014. Print.

I Funny: A Middle School Story “Jamie Grimm is a middle schooler on a mission: he wants to become the world’s greatest standup comedian—even if he doesn’t have a lot to laugh about these days.”

Patterson, James, and Chris Grabenstein. I Funny: A Middle School Story. NewYork: Little, Brown and Company, 2012. Print.

Last Evenings On Earth “Roberto Bolano’s story collection Last Evenings on Earth was acclaimed by Francine Prose inThe New York Times Book Review as “something extraordinarily beautiful and (at least to me) entirely new….””

Bolaño, Roberto. Last Evenings on Earth. Trans. Chris Andrews. New York: A New Directions Book, 2007. Print.

Boxers “The Boxer Rebellion is a war that took place on Chinese soil over 100 years ago.”

Yang, Gene Luen. Boxers. New York: First Second, 2013. Print.

Howl and Other Poems “The epigraph for Howl is from Walt Whitman: “Unscrew the locks from the doors!/Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!””

Ginsberg, Allen. Howl and Other Poems. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1959. Print.

Open Veins of Latin America “Since its U.S. debut a quarter-century ago, this brilliant text has set a new standard for historical scholarship of Latin America.”

Galeano, Eduardo. The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1997. Audiobook.

Peace, Locomotion “In this sequel to Locomotion, Lonnie, now age 12, has become adjusted to his foster family.”

Woodson, Jacqueline. Peace, Locomotion. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009. Print.

Saints “Western powers were able to establish concessions – pieces of land that functioned as colonies – all across China.”

Yang, Gene Luen. Saints. New York: First Second, 2013. Print.

Blow Up and Other Stories “A young girl spends her summer vacation in a country house where a tiger roams . . . A man reading a mystery finds out too late that he is the murderer’s victim . . . “

Cortazar, Julio. Blow Up and Other Stories. Trans. Paul Blackburn. New York: Pantheon Books, 1967. Print.

The One and Only Ivan “Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.”

Applegate, Katherine. The One and Only Ivan. New York: HarperCollins Publishing, 2012. eBook.

Ungifted “The word “gifted” has never been applied to Donovan Curtis. It’s usually more like “don’t try this at home.” So when the troublemaker pulls a major prank at his middle school, he thinks he’s finally gone too far. But thanks to a mix-up, instead of getting in trouble, Donovan is sent to the Academy for Scholastic Distinction, a special program for gifted and talented students.”

Korman, Gordon. Ungifted. Toronto: Scholastic Inc., 2012. Audiobook.

The Imagist Poets “Collection contains 81 poems from 13 poets, inluding: Richard Aldington, H.D., John Gould Fletcher, F.S. Flint, D.H. Lawrence, Amy Lowell, Skipwith Cannell, William Carlos Williams, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Hueffer, Allen Upward, and John Cournos!”

Joyce, James et al. The Imagist Poets: A Collection of Imagist Poetry. A & L eBooks, 2011. eBook.

The Shock Doctrine “In THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, Naomi Klein explodes the myth that the global free market triumphed democratically. Exposing the thinking, the money trail and the puppet strings behind the world-changing crises and wars of the last four decades, The Shock Doctrine is the gripping story of how America’s “free market” policies have come to dominate the world– through the exploitation of disaster-shocked people and countries.”

Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Picador, 2007. Audiobook.

 

list of films

Below is a list of movies that have influenced my personal philosophy through the power of their story telling.

1. Fight Club 

“You’re not your job.  You’re not how much money you have in the bank.  You’re not the car you drive.  You’re not the contents of your wallet.  You’re not your fucking khakis.  You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world. ”

Based in the novel by Chuck PalahniukFight Club really spoke to how my friends and I were feeling at the time about the world.

2. The Matrix 

The Matrix offered us a glimpse into a future we are still becoming.

3. The Battleship Potemkin 

4. Trainspotting 

This movie got me excited about watching movies that came from other countries.

5. ∏ 

This black and white film by Darren Aronofsky about the insane world of mathematicians blew my away while introducing the world to this amazing director.

6. The Harder They Come 

This is one of the first movies about Jamaica by Jamaicans highlights the pitfalls of stardom.

7. Fast, Cheap and Out of Control 

8. Amores Perros 

9. Salt of the Earth 

Blacklisted for labor and immigrant issues.

10. Pulp Fiction 

And of course…

bands for young folk

So before a lot of people start to assume that I listen only to hip hop and rap, or others that I’m an over-aged angry punk rocker, here’s a list of newer folk music I really enjoy. I think deep down when all is said and done, I am really just a big time hippie.

I don’t know what folk music really is, nor do I like putting music into genres, but this is just what I think of when I think of folk music, and I really like the fact that it seems to be coming back, at least commercially it is much more visible. There is no order to this (and that’s just the way I like it) list.

1. Bowerbirds 

I heard this band with my wife, then girlfriend, after one of her best friend’s weddings. They had planned for those that were still up for partying to accompany them to the show. We bought their album that night, and fell in love with this band. But besides the emotional connections to our memories, their music always makes me yearn for a good walk through a forest away from the city for a bit, which is probably intended since they have been known to write a few songs, and albums in fact, amongst nature’s wilderness. They also use an accordion, which is very cool when it is made to rock.

2. Devendra Banhart 

This guy’s music just blows me away, not because it’s so complicated, but because it seems so simple and effortless. It just seems like so much fun. It’s also very worldly, and if you read any information about him, you’ll understand why. He might be a bit theatrical for some, but I find it comically refreshing.

3. Beirut 

His electronic stuff might not be so folky, but his music displays the sounds of the world and of the past. He delves heavily into eastern European sounds, a bit of Paris mixed in, and has even recorded half an album with a Mexican folk band. I include him because he plays the ukulele.

4. Y La Bamba 

I must admit that this is a band that I have only found recently and am a bit disappointed with myself for not having found them earlier. Their name was something that kind of scared me away at first, but after watching a few videos on Youtube, I was impressed. Their from Portland, which, no way, really, but yeah, they are very cool. I just really liked all the harmonizing that this band has going on.

5. Animal Collective 

This band is a whole different animal if you will. The collective is really just four guys, that pretty much exchange leads on songs, and not always with all four members. Though they include a lot of electronics, I find their approach to be very folk, especially at how songs sound like jam sessions. As they’ve gotten bigger, their projects have gotten more ambitious, but their is still a lot of soul to their music. Avey Tare and Panda’s solo projects are also very good, and in my opinion much more focused than Merriweather Post Pavilion.

6. Andrew Jackson Jihad 

I will admit that the name was the first thing that made me want to check out this band. Let’s face it, it’s evocative. And sometimes, there music is as well, but for the most part their music is a lot of fun. There’s a lot of videos where you can check them out using a stand up bass and a washboard. They have a song about people that eat people being the luckiest people of all. Check them out if you have a sense of humor.

7. CocoRosie 

Two sisters. Something about Americans going to live in Paris, and making music. They use children’s toys as instruments, and often sing in child like tones, which are actually more haunting than soothing. This is hippie music for the ex-goth kid.

8. Kimya Dawson 

As half of The Moldy Peaches, Kimya Dawson demonstrated quite a sarcastic wit. With the soundtrack for Juno, she demonstrated a much softer and mature side, which is where she is usually at now as a solo artist. She also creates children’s music, which she performs where half of the show is meant for the kids, while the second half is aimed at their parents. I’ve also heard a few songs from a project she’s working on with Aesop Rock, which I have been eagerly anticipating.

9. MGMT 

These guys’ music makes me very happy. It is a bit commercial at times, and sometimes I do feel it’s more about aesthetics with them, but I must admit that they put on a good show.

10. Akron/Family 

Although since losing Ryan Vanderhoof the band does not sound completely the same in my opinion. They are still a very good band, which jams out like the best bands of the 60’s and 70’s. I guess I really like bands that have a lot of harmonizing.

Maybe the only thing these bands have in common is that they fill me with nostalgia.

bands for a young punk

One of my favorite things has always been to recommend bands to younger people. As I’ve been getting older, sometimes they recommend music to me, but for the most I have still been able to keep with new bands and new music, but still I think it’s important to get a taste of the range in different genres, and especially to learn what has come before.

Below is a list of bands I like that I’d burn or recommend to a student that told me he liked punk (whatever that really means now) music. In no particular order…

1. Sex Pistols 

So I will admit that anytime I sang in high school with the Scrubs and later Crying Laurel, I was always pretty much just trying to sound like John Lydon, (Johnny Rotten). These guys have been written about enough, and love or hate their attempt to continue to tour while being the same age as my parents, their emergence was prolific.

2. The Clash 

As I got older, I really began to appreciate the Clash more and more. Once I became politically aware, the Clash’s message becomes much more radical than that of the Sex Pistols. The Clash also managed to age much more gracefully probably because of their point of view is much more informed and mature.

3. Bad Religion 

I love this band. They’re intellectuals. They’re political. Greg Graffin is a college professor, and his solo album Cold as Clay, was also pretty damn good. I used to ride the train in high school, and while I listened to “Stranger Than Fiction”, I felt like I was listening to stories about the future that we are still all becoming.

4. At the Drive-In 

This band became Mars Volta, which is also an awesome band, and a lot of the newer stuff that Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is doing is just way ahead of its time. But there was a certain energy to At the Drive-In that is only found in those albums.

5. The Jesus Lizard 

Being that they never reached the success of Nirvana, those of us from Chicago always felt like the Jesus Lizard were our own secret. The energy. The angst. The noise. And a hint of weirdness.

6. The Blood Brothers 

The combination of vocals is freakin’ awesome. They’re from the Seattle area for whatever that’s worth, and though I found about this band pretty late, they quickly became one of my favorites.

7. Nirvana 

Perhaps over-rated for some, but I was 12 when Nevermind came out and barely discovering music. Nirvana changed my life, and made high school so much more tolerable because those that identified with not identifying could easily identify each other because of our identification with the band and what they stood for.

8. Green River 

This band determined who were the posers, and who was really into grunge and punk for my friends and me. The members went on to form Pearl Jam and Mudhoney. Anyone interested in what was going on in Seattle in the early 90’s had to check these guys out to understand the full story.

9. Rage Against the Machine 

Rage Against the Machine’s members all had roots in hardcore scenes. So it was easy for someone like me that really didn’t like rap music at the time. Rage changed all of this for me. The music still had the energy and edge of the bands I liked, but I was also able to appreciate Zack de la Rocha’s rapping style, which at moments had more in common with hardcore screaming than rap. Their politics also introduced me to the history of the world.

10. Iggy Pop 

Without sounding too much like a punk snob, but if you don’t check out Iggy Pop then you have no business saying you like punk rock music. Yeah he’s old, but this is where punk started, especially his work with the Stooges. Fortunately, the movie, Trainspotting, helped him become relevant again.

I know there are a bunch of other bands I could have named, but these are the ten bands that I chose today, maybe if someone had asked me yesterday or two days ago, I would have said something else.

my year in lists – topics of interest

So I will be compiling random lists of tens. I guess until I run out of ideas. Each list will be about a specific topic. None of the lists will be extensive, but merely reflect the mood I am in. All of the lists will be presented in no particular order, but probably more or less the order in which I thought about them.

If anything these lists are meant to help me keep mental inventory of my interests.

Topics of Interest

1. Graffiti 

piece by Blu

I love the city, and am an urban brat. With that said, maybe it’s because of the neighborhoods I’ve grown up in, but graffiti has always intrigued me. The level of expression and the level of illegality make the art form attractive to all urban rebels, especially since many of its messages have yet to be deciphered.

2. Yoga

Viribhadrasana

I know it’s trendy as all hell, but for someone who grew up disliking jocks, yoga is a happy medium. The stretching is something that gets me going, and ready to head out into the city streets. The fact that I can practice yoga anywhere I have my mat is something, which ensures I maintain my yoga practice. Plus the meditation aspect of yoga is perfect to help shut off the city noise when so desired.

I’m personally a big fan of Rodney Yee, and watching his DVD’s really helped get my practice started which has now lasted over two years.

3. Shamanism

Shaman vision

My initial interest began with Jim Morrison. Eventually, I read Carlos Castaneda books. In my travels through Mexico, I have at several times attempted to connect to my indigenous past through shamanism and my ancestors magical past.

Anyone with a little of consciousness can sense that something is very wrong with the world. You don’t have to be an economist or rocket scientist to have a feeling that we are heading in a very dangerous direction. Perhaps, now more that ever, we are in need of the Shaman. Our rock stars no longer fulfill that need, the way the Doors intended to do.

4. IndieDIY

As someone that grew up on punk music, this is just a further extent of the culture into adulthood. I am glad that the DIY movement is extending outside of the music scene and into very pragmatic everyday things like generating one’s own electricity. The mainstream will never know where it’s at until it’s too late because the kids are all doing it for themselves.

5. Environmentalism

Being green.

This is a no brainer. The planet is on everyone’s minds, well at least those of us who believe in science. I’m really excited by the do-it-yourself aspect of a lot of environmental initiatives, especially those in the inner city and in “underdeveloped” countries.

6. Mexico

painting by Orozco

Mexico is the country where my parents came from. In order to better understand who I am, I have had to learn about where they came from. This has helped me understand them better, but also myself. The country to the south is like a grandparent I hardly knew growing up, but with which I have become very familiar with as an adult. Mexico is for all intents and purposes still a post-revolutionary state.

corazon Zapatista

7. Education

 

Let me be clear, I am interested in an education of liberation, and not simply in a liberal education. Until that distinction is made clear, all conversation and dialogue will be futile.

8. Poetry

Saul Williams

"Coded Language" on Def Poetry Jam

Poetry is my passion, my friend, my retreat, and my weapon. Poetry fills a lot of spaces in my world. I first started writing regularly when I was 12, but I didn’t think of myself as a serious poet until I was 16. Still I wasn’t able to refer to myself as a poet until I came up with the moniker, po’ E.T. about 4-5 years ago.

Will post a post about my favorite ten poets later, or at least my ten favorite that day.

9. Vinyl

not just for hipsters anymore

I got into vinyl into seeing something on the history channel. They found these vases that had grooves on the outside, which they tried to play with a needle and a speaker. They explained about how if we were to lose access to all technology, we’d still be able to play vinyl as long one had a needle and something to use as a speaker. It made me think, “I better get some vinyl to ensure I got some tunes for the apocalypse.”

10. Black & White Photography

Beatriz's great grandfather

Nothing beats being able to process your own film and develop one’s own photos. I miss having access to a darkroom, but digital photography compensates for it, and requires much less space and no inhaling of chemicals.

dream # 7: surrounded.

sept. 22, 1998.
dream #7: surrounded.
     there is a church that i think i've seen on past visits to mexico. it's so big that it blocks everything behind it like it's blocking off the rest of the world. it's one of those great huge stone churches that looks like a castle. very well decorated with flowers of all colors. the people must have had a festival a few days earlier. there are remnants of fireworks on the floor. my younger cousins are running around and laughing. these are cousins that i haven't seen for a long time, but i recognize them all. my surviving grandparents are sitting in front of me. we are sitting in the middle of this park where the church lies in front of me. we are sitting on the inside of two u-shaped benches. my dad is sitting next to me. my mom and sisters are sitting across from us, next to my grandparents. i'm happy. i haven't felt safe near a church for a while. these people dressed in black robes with black pointy hoods approach us. all the trees in the background disappear. the hooded people become the background. they tell us that we don't belong there. they could almost pass for monks or nuns because they're wearing big crosses around their necks. most of them are women. they begin to make racist remarks against us. they're telling us, but i think they're talking more to me, that we're stupid. i start to cry. there's nothing i can do, and i hate that. their big bodies tower over me. i'm so small compared to them. i start shaking. i'm not sure if it's out of anger or fear. i decide to confront them but my dad holds me back. everyone else is just sitting there. no one is reacting. i'm not sure why the rest of my family is just sitting there, emotionless. all this while i keep shaking and crying, clinching my fists.
sophomore year. creative writing class assignment.

freestyles.

freestyles from the last two weeks.

there’s a hole in the ground.

recorded on 06.27.11.

don’t exist, in this country.

recorded on 07.04.11.

soldiers @ heart.

recorded on 07.11.11. additional instrumentation and vocals beAtreez.