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30 Sep

In 1993, former NBA star Charles Barkley famously declared in a Nike commercial that he was not a role model. That stirred up a conversation about the place that professional athletes and other celebrities — movie stars, musicians, etc. — have in our society and, in particular, their influence and effect on impressionable children. Now, just a few days ago, Detroit Pistons great Ben Wallace was pulled over for driving under the influence of alcohol and a weapons violation just a few miles from the OCC Highland Lakes campus in Bloomfield Township (Barkley has also been arrested on DUI charges in the past). But this kind of behavior isn’t just a problem with basketball players; certainly, celebrities across the pop culture and mass media spectrum have engaged in activities that have been less than admirable and yet they still continue to get work (for the most part).

And in your next major essay, the fake celebrity obituary, you are presumably picking a celebrity you dislike to shuffle off this mortal coil. But instead of that this week, I want you to focus on the best — not the worst — celebrities in this QOTW response.

So here’s the question: In about 150-200 words and including one source (newspaper or magazine article, website, etc.), tell us who the best celebrity in the world is — not because of their talents, but because of their behavior and/or personality when out of the limelight, a time when most of the bad celebrity actions take place. Let’s hear about the positive things for once, and tell us who you think the best-behaved and most admirable celebrity is, regardless of the field in which that celebrity operates (music, movies, art, athletics, etc….). Your response to this Question of the Week is due by class time on Friday, Oct. 7.



17 Sep

Back in the day (at least, in my day, which was the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s), there was a lot of discussion about the nature and content of rap lyrics, particularly the brash and graphic nature with which they deal with inner-city violence, drugs and alcohol, and women. There were protests, burnings of CDs, and other ways that people voiced their opposition to the lyrics. There were new labels slapped on CDs: “EXPLICIT LYRICS.” But it’s not like any of this was new; some country music dealt with some very similar issues, as did rock music, albeit perhaps let graphically, more shrouded in metaphor or “tame” language. But it was so-called “gangsta rap” that made the most noise in this cultural debate (although the consternation over Marilyn Manson was one of similar proportions, on certain levels).

So here’s the question: What is the influence of explicit lyrics on America’s youth? Is it a debate that was/is overblown? Or is there a legitimate concern about lyrical content, particularly as it relates to the behavior of young people?

Your 150-200 word response to this QOTW is due by Friday, Sept. 23 at 6 p.m.


3 Sep

As we all know, the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 is quickly approaching — perhaps quicker than any of us really would have imagined it would, in some ways. And the news media — my publication, the Spinal Column Newsweekly, included — is commemorating the upcoming event (we are doing it much more tastefully). There will be, in the next week and a half, tributes, interviews, remembrances, long essays on the terrorist attacks and their ripple effects, and frankly, some really terrible television and made-for-TV movies exploiting the horrific acts of that day in an attempt to grab ratings and readership.

So here is the question: Should the media cover the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, at all? If so, why? And if not, why not?

Respond to this QOTW in a thoughtful, 150-200 word response by the time class starts on Friday, Sept. 9.