“Hey Daddy, I wrote ‘Mom’!”

I suppose I could argue that my girl Kate is guest blogging this post:

Bill Cosby tells the classic story of a father teaching his son how to play football and then, when the boy makes it to The Show, he addresses the TV camera during his moment in the spotlight and says “Hi Mom!”.

Kate wrote her first “real” word last night.  And I don’t feel like Bill Cosby’s putative father in his story.  It was a long time (and many random lines) in coming.  :o)

You go Katelyn.


Albert Pujols is not Mexican.

While the name “Los Angeles” is definitely of Spanish origin, the rest of the “Anaheim” Angels’ roster, while dotted with several Latinos, is definitely bereft of Mexican players.

Yesterday morning, in reacting to the signing of Albert Pujols by the Angels, ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd noted:

 …they got a young centerfielder Mike Trout, rookie…Torii Hunter’s contract comes off, so they probably look around and think, well, Bobby Abreu’s gone, Latino community…

He continues by going on (helped by Curt Schilling–not Latino either) about the “international flavor” of cities along the coast, extolling the signing as yet another way for the Angels’ owner, Arte Moreno, to appeal to Los Angeles’ Latino community.

Huh?  Bobby Abreu is from Venezuela!

Ok, let’s focus upon what I thought was Cowherd’s thesis.  If true, Cowherd and Moreno need a geography lesson with respect to what type of Latino you find in the neighborhoods around   the former Anaheim Stadium.  After all, Albert Pujols is not Mexican, while the percentage of those of Mexican origin living in the city was 46% (according to the 2010 US Census) .  Of the other 6+% of the city’s Latino population, none was listed as being from the Dominican Republic.

Albert Pujols is Dominican.

Santa Ana, next door to Anaheim, has a Latino population approaching nearly 80%, the bulk of those also mostly of Mexican origin.  In seeing if the thesis suggested by Cowherd was valid, the LA Times went searching.  They found:

…Pujols won’t energize L.A.’s Latino community the way Manny Ramirez did — and certainly not the way Fernando Valenzuela did. Of the 7.7 million Latinos that call Southern California home, less than 6,000 of them are Dominican, according to census data.

Signing Pujols is a huge boon to the Angels as a team, even if I personally feel that they still need a thirdbaseman, and that Pujols, at 32, is not getting any younger.  But to argue that this was a move also designed to appeal to some generic “Latino”, shows Moreno’s incredible ignorance of the local market he purports to understand.  For years, people, including the City of Anaheim have tried to get him to make any glance at a local map that could have shown him (or Cowherd, for that matter), that Anaheim is nowhere near Los Angeles.  Nor would a typical Angel fan be necessarily be found that far beyond the Los Angeles-Orange County border, despite the Angels’ push to make an impact upon local sports fans in a market where the Dodgers, as an active franchise, have been emasculated until the team can be sold.

But there’s also the implicit assumption that the team can sign any Spanish speaker and market it to a specific population that somehow can’t tell the difference, when, in fact, it can.  The Angels, if they truly want to appeal the immediate communities that surround the stadium–Anaheim and Santa Ana–need their own Fernando Valenzuela.  That is, they need their own Mexicano.  Bobby Abreu, Maicer Izturis, Ervin Santana, Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar all speak Spanish, yes.  But they are not going to be drawing fans to Anaheim (not Los Angeles) simply because they lack that visceral appeal to the majority of those potential fans who are of Mexican origin–they are not Mexican.

And neither is Albert Pujols.  He has done many things in his great baseball career.  But the Spanish she speaks is not going to immediately produce a wave of new baseball fans in the manner in which Fernando Valenzuela once did.

This was a definitive baseball-only move.  It was not a sociological step forward.  Sadly, try as he might, Arte Moreno is neither Branch Rickey nor the O’Malley family.  He is late to the party in trying to steal away the Dodger’s impact of having that history that includes Jackie Robinson, Fernando Valenzuela, Hideo Nomo, and Chan-Ho Park.

They did get a nice player though.

Angels’ GM Jerry Dipoto, later on in the Times’ article:

“How it affects our market, Southern California, winning breeds interest. And we are setting ourselves up to start next season with an opportunity to be good.”

True on the first point.  And, for a brief shining moment yesterday, the Angels did manage to breed some interest on the second point.  But I  doubt very much interest came out of the monolithic Latino community that Cowherd felt was agog over this acquisition. But Moreno did get his publicity bump, although it was far briefer than he might have hoped.  By last night, and continuing into today, local sports talk did center around a player–but it wasn’t Albert Pujols that got the talking heads going.  And even more stunning, at least as of today, this player wasn’t even coming to Los Angeles.

Move over Albert, people in LA (and OC) would rather talk about Chris Paul.  Even the Mexican ones, Colin.

Sorry Arte.

“Holding On to What You Got…”

Even though it was mid-week, I was already tired.  The wife had just left for an out-of-town conference, and playing single dad had already gotten me tired.  But sitting on the couch for a moment before starting in on some grading, I flipped on the TV, and discovered that the DVR was already approaching 86%.  With Amber’s big recording night coming the next day, Thursday, I decided I needed to watch something I had recorded the previous weekend in order to guarantee that her shows weren’t deleted:

As a unapologetic U2 fan, the premiere of this film on Showtime last month was something of an anticipated event for me since I heard of its imminent arrival at some point over the summer.

Full disclosure:  I could launch into an unadulterated homage to the band, but that’s not necessarily the point of where I want to go.  Honestly, I’ve become convinced there are any number of music critics out there, who need to prove their bon mots by attacking the band itself for their own personal agendas.  I, myself, tend to view the specific choice of one’s musical favorites as entirely a personal matter, that defies any sort of detailed reasoning.  U2 happens to be my band that matters to me.

But that misses the point about what this post is really about.  As someone who is charged with teaching writing to his students, the idea of mentor texts figures in instruction.  Essentially, the idea is to use the text written by a “mentor” author as a way to inform and improve your own writing.  If a student enjoys the writing of Christopher Paul Curtis, Jack Gantos, Cynthia Kadohata, etc., among others, they can use their work as a way to inspire their own piece of original writer.  The manner in which U2 figures in all of this was that, suddenly, in the midst of what I had anticipated to be a mental health break, I was watching my favorite songwriter, Bono, give me a mentor lesson in how he wrote a song.

The documentary paints a picture of Bono’s songwriting that was totally antithetical to how I think and thought songs get written.  I had this idea in my mind of how lyrics get written, followed by the creation and/or matching of a melody with which to match the rhythm or repetition of the lyrics themselves.  Instead, “Sky Down” showed a more disengaged Bono, literally grabbing lyric batches out of his head, writing them down in a manner so haphazard–without words, but gibberish, that it defied those things I would normally tell my students NOT to do when they working on their own writing.  Eventually, the gibberish becomes starting points for what eventually transforms into song lyrics.  Still, for those who’ve thought of the Irish songwriter as being just a bit beyond leftfield, seeing his particular writing process simply confirmed that suspicion.  It was almost amazing:  25 years of following this band, and I get this revelation about their writing process.  That wasn’t all, though…

Most moving about the film, was the manner in which they revisited their sessions at Berlin’s Hansa Studios where their 1991 album, Achtung Baby, was written.  In a memorable sequence from the documentary, Edge pulls out digital audio tapes of the sessions in which you can hear the preliminary development of their song “Mysterious Ways” (then called, in its working form, “Sick Puppy”), but then, in the midst of that songs distinctive tracks, comes the snippet of melody that slowly and methodically begins to morph, both musically and lyrically, into the song “One”.  In the clip below, you can slowly begin to hear the bass line of the original song and how this little bit starts the transition to a new song that becomes Achtung Baby’s anthem:

The movie cuts back to Edge, who notes how a rejected bridge to “Sick Puppy” starts to form the basis for One.  Bono’s reaction to hearing the tape for the first time in years is, in my view, priceless:

As I prepared to delete “Sky Down” from the DVR (since I will eventually buy the DVD at some future point), I was left with the impression that as a writing teacher, we often default back to those techniques that we know, or that we’re afraid to move away from, because of misconceptions designed to produce “safe” writing over writing that has “voice”.  (fallacy about the Five Paragraph Essay, anyone?)  Here I had just watched a band whose lyrics inspire me, produce a composition using methods that flew in the face in the conventional manner in which we expect things to happen as a writer.  I was amazed, thrilled, and, quite honestly, stunned.  I have long tried to ensure that my kids wrote in a manner that sounded like them, and not in some way that they wound up sounding like something pirated out of “Step Up to Writing” in terms of the formulaic way their writing begins to sound like after they’ve worked in that program, or something similar, for a time.  But in terms of thinking of how to move them out of their comfort zone, I had to be more comfortable moving out of my own comfort zone, instruction-wise, and here it was, my “mentor text” showing me that some basic assumptions I had about writing was basically wrong.

I haven’t quite figured out a way in which I might apply that night’s televised “in-service” could be directly applied to my own instruction, but it won’t be for lack of trying.  Sometimes a mental health break in front of the television turns out to be anything but.  And sometimes that teaching tip can come from an odd place that you just discovered did do delivery after all.