Thursday, September 18, 2008


Morning Class Meets in L-202E on Thursdays

We met in the lab this morning. We decided to walk over, those students who weren't sure where we were meeting; other students remembered we meet in L-202E on Thursdays. Next week Wednesday and Thursday, we will be in the LRC. Wednesday, Sept. 24, 8 AM we have a library orientation.

We reviewed the essay assignment, and then developed thesis sentences and/or introductory paragraphs. A few students brought in drafts, essay plans and outlines, like Andrew, Dion and Julian, Jaliyah and a few others. These students shared.

Post your drafts at the assignment below.

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How do dominating cultural aesthetics come to exist and what affect do they have on behavior? Its probably a part of human nature to create and to follow aesthetic trends. Aethetics are ideals of beauty. They represent, in its pure form, something that is admirable. Thus, they possess the power and ability to shape human behavior. In a way we look up to them. We see in them something beautiful, something to cherish. In ancient Rome, a precursor to American culture, celebrities of the day were the gladiatorial fighters (gladiatōrēs, "swordsmen" or "one who uses a sword," from gladius, "sword") who were forced to engage in combat with wild animals and amongst each other, often to the death, all for the entertainment of the spectator. Perhaps the Romans were possessed by the sheer brutality and fervor of these games; the very aesthetics represented and captured through the form of this bizarre gladiatorial frenzy. Perhaps through these games they sought to find a way to release themselves in a complete surrender of inhibitions. Could this have been a symptom of the decadence that ultimately plunged the Roman empire to its cataclysmal demise? Was it ultimately this decadence and appreciation of savagery that caused them to destroy themselves just like gladiators they once vicariously made destroy each other? It would seem that the ideals they had worshipped had played a significantly strong hand in what would ultimately become of them. In modern America, ancient Rome's logical successor, there are also several aesthetic trends flowing throughout its culture and people. Among them there is Hip Hop music, an art form formerly headquarters to a vast and diverse array of aesthetic values and ideals; now commonly visited as a run-down shanty of only a few dominating aesthetic trends characterized primarily by - though not entirely limited to - exaggerations of toughness, hyper-masculinity, aggression, mysogyny, and materialism.

How did these aesthetic trends within the musical genre of Hip Hop come to exist and what effects - if any - might they have on people and behavior? in Byron Hurt's fast moving and hard punching documentary, "Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes" this question is explored through his own personal experiences within Hip Hop music as well as through the lens Hip Hop's key players, from the aspiring rappers, to the industry insiders. Central to his journey is the pivotal question: why is there such strong emphasis on hyper-masculine behavior seemingly running along the lenghth of the entire genre's under belly to start with? Hurt believes that hyper masculinity may be something that penetrates all the way down to the underlying layer of all American culture and is not just a phenomena exclusive to Hip Hop music. He offers:

"I think the way you see manhood portrayed in hip hop is deeply entrenched in American culture, not just hip hop culture. Like if you watch cowboy movies, gangster movies, action movies – you can see the same elements of manhood and masculinity in those areas that you will see in hip hop. What distinguishes hip hop from the rest of the culture is that hip hop is so blatant. Also, with hip hop you have a lot of young men who come from poverty, and other situations, that make this quest for hyper-masculinity seem much more essential."

Perhaps its true that these aesthetic ideals can be found running through many different aspects of our culture. They are, after all, simply the extensions of the behaviors and values that can be found somewhere within all of us. These ideals float around loosely in the deep waters of our own humanity. They are extracted from us, condensed, and presented back in a shiny new repackagaged format ready to purchase. But not every human quality deserves idolization. The same can be said of Hip Hop.

Hip Hop first took flight on a street with no name somewhere in the crumbling New York detritus of a South Bronx ghetto. It was here where it first learned how to sing its song. You could hear Hip Hop blaring out rebelliously from the parks. You could find Dj Kool Herc cutting and scratching old vinyl records together on his two turn-tables creating coherent and rhythmic break beats from the chaos of his energetic hands sliding up and down and everywhere else. There were no rappers then; only masters of ceremony - Or M.C. - to get the crowd hype. Hip Hop soon expanded though, spreading out to cover different issues of complexity. Its child like gaze and party music innocence soon splintering into many varrying aesthetics with the growth and evolution of the M.C. from mere crowd organizer to full flegded rhyme preformer. This thereby giving a voice to many who had never known what it was like to have one before. There were many different kinds of rappers who rapped about many different kinds of things. One variety of rapper in particular represented the harsh surroundings of the impoverished streets that had created Hip Hop. Coming alive in the form of beats and rhymes, he was the physical embodiment of the alienation endured by an environment that had been all but abandonded and forgetten by the rest of society. Author, Kevin Powell (as featured in the documentary "Hip Hop: Beyond beats and Rhymes") explains that environments, such as the South Bronx which had gave glorious rise to Hip Hop, were by design intended to alter and supress the human condition. The rampant availability of foreign produced drugs, the lop-sided drug laws which effectively kneed more and more bodies into the gears of the prison system thereby creating a prison culture, the proliferation of liquor stores peppering city block upon city block, and perhaps the most crippling of all an outdated and ultimately fruitless education system that does not encourage development of the identity; the foundation by which all knowledge flows from. What sort of mentalities and aesthetics might come up in what Kevin Powell had tagged a "forced" environment designed to foster negativity and poverty of the soul, where ignorance is handed out for free yet where hope is all too expensive?

If aesthetics are rooted ultimately in deeper human elements that are selected and propped up to be reflected back to us, then the aesthetics - of violence, materialistic obbession, homophobia, and mysogyny - that are seen within Hip Hop must be a reflection of the symptoms this forced environment encourages. This is the stage where the actors are forced to play; The arena where the galdiators are forced to fight. Byron Hurt refers to this as, "the quest for hyper masculinity, " where people must blindly dawn a misguided armor of toughness and agression. This aesthetic is worshipped and promoted through Hip Hop music. Perhaps then its time for a new aesthetic? One where knowledge and enlightenment are looked up to in deep veneration and high reverence. In the deep waters of our humanity these things exist too. To do this we must recognize and isolate the thing that has been selecting the negative qualities which also lay within those waters, selecting them, and then propping them up to reflect back to us in the form of an aesthetic ideal. We must remove its ugly hand before we are lead blindly into our own destruction; before we are lead blindly by the wrong aesthetic ideals.

I wanted to add this link:

its to a song called Fear not of Man by Mos Def inspired by Fela Kuti's Fear Not For Man

here is the link I think. The lyrics capture the essence of Hip Hop better than an essay could
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