MLK and Malcolm X: The civil rights movement and the X-Men origins

The American Civil Rights movement inspired many people, including Marvel Comic’s mastermind writers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. They have created some of the most powerful superheroes in the comic universe but did you know some of these characters were influenced by actual real life heroes in history? Lee and Kirby used the iconic civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X as the inspiration behind the characters Charles Xavier aka Professor X and Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto, the creators of the X-Men. Rather than fighting aliens and criminals, they fought against the oppression mutants faced on a daily basis in society, albeit by different methods. Much like MLK Jr. and Malcolm X, Professor X chose a non-violent approach and Magneto took more of a defensive stance against violent oppression and prejudice.

It’s presumed in comic book lore that Magneto is a villain but Stan Lee had a different perspective when he created the character. Stan Lee says about the metal warping mutant, “I did not think of Magneto as a bad guy. He was just trying to strike back at the people who were so bigoted and racist. He was trying to defend mutants, and because society was not treating them fairly, he decided to teach society a lesson. He was a danger of course, but I never thought of him as a villain.”

Even in the film adaptations of the X-Men series, Michael Fassbender who plays the role of Magento, admits the iconic figures were inspiration for their on-screen portrayals.
It came up early on in the rehearsal period and that was the path we took, says Michael Fassbender, These two brilliant minds coming together and their views arent that different on some key things. As you watch them you know that if their understanding, ability and intelligence could somehow come together it would be really special. But the split is what makes them even more interesting and tragic. The Hero Complex, LA Times

Royce White vs. The Rockets: Just How Real is Mental Illness?

In this lesson, students examine their own perceptions of mental illness to help the class reach a consensus on the following question: Should the Houston Rockets provide Royce White everything he demands, or is White asking too much?

Royce White was drafted in the first round of the 2012 NBA draft and picked 16th overall by the Houston Rockets. White has yet to play a single minute in the NBA, however, because he has demanded that the team make special accommodations to deal with his anxiety disorder.

The Art of Storytelling

The objective of this lesson plan is to engage students in the art of storytelling and improve their public speaking skills.

jay-z-speaks-with-billboard-about-new-streaming-service-tidal-jimmy-iovine-poaching-his-artists-and-competition-with-spotify-1 thumbnail

Blueprint to a Mogul: Switching it Up Like Jigga

“The best style is no style. Because styles can be figured out. And when you have no style, they can’t figure you out.” – Jay Z

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you have seen at least part of Jay Z’s slow and steady rise to the top. Though he began his career in music, and continues to make moves in that genre, the 45 year old has added several other career labels to his name. A brief read over of his biography and you see job titles like former Def Jam Records president, co-founder of Roc-a-Fella Records, Rock Nation Sports owner, 40/40 Club owner, Brooklyn Nets co-owner, author, and now streaming music service owner. His ability to move fluidly between career fields is what makes him the definition of a mogul. But what is it about him that makes this possible?
Biography
Jay Z was born Shawn Corey Carter on December 5, 1969 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the youngest of four children and raised by a single mother after his father left the family when he was 11 years old. Jay’s early environment in the Marcy housing projects meant his surrounding environment included plenty of drugs and crime.  In “Where I’m From” he rapped, “I’m from… up the block, around the corner and down the street/ From where the pimps, prostitutes and the drug lords meet/We make a million off of beats, cause our stories is deep.” Though he could have remained in this environment his whole life, he used this same upbringing to motivate himself to pursue bigger dreams.

While he began rapping in his teen years, it wasn’t until the early 90s that he began to get a little spotlight from working with artists like Big Daddy Kane and LL Cool J. He encountered struggles from large record companies who refused to sign him, so in 1995 he began his own record label, Roc-A-Fella Records with friend Damon Dash. Here he released his first solo album, Reasonable Doubt, which Rolling Stone named one of the 500 Greatest albums of all time. Over the next 17 years Jay Z would release another 10 records, ultimately selling over 100 million records and earning 19 Grammies for his work.

Throughout his career as a musician he began planting his foot firmly in other ventures and established himself as a true mogul. Some of his most significant business achievements include buying a piece of the New Jersey Nets basketball team and moving them to his hometown of Brooklyn, becoming president of Def Jam Records, founding a sports management company, and landing the cover of Forbes magazine alongside billionaire Warren Buffet. To date he is worth nearly half a billion dollars! These accomplishments show how diverse Jay Z’s skills are. As he rapped in Kanye West’s Diamonds are Forever Remix, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a BUSINESS, man.”

Code Switching
Though a number of his talents have led him to success, it is his ability to work seamlessly in several different fields that has enabled him to try so many different projects. In particular, a skill called “Code-switching” allows him to speak and behave appropriately in different circumstances and with very different crowds. Code switching is defined as the practice of alternating between two or more varieties of language in conversation.  He summed up this skill perfectly in a 2005 Rolling Stone article, “Be water. If you pour water in a cup, it takes the shape of a cup. If you pour it in a teapot, it takes the shape of a teapot. Be fluid. Treat each project differently. The best style is no style. Because styles can be figured out. And when you have no style, they can’t figure you out.”

So how often do people have to rely on code-switching to succeed? When have you relied on code-switching to get ahead? Is it strategy or selling out? To a mogul, it’s just another tool in the arsenal.

Taiwan soldier_194yrbgmd88hyjpg

Dystopia in Pop Culture: Fiction or the Future?

The most frightening fictional dystopias are recognizable extensions of our current world. 

Dystopias have become a staple of popular entertainment, and despite predictions to the contrary, they show no sign of tapering off. Yet most of us have only the vaguest sense of what a dystopia is.

For starters, a dystopia is the opposite of a utopia. A utopia is a pretty old concept; Thomas More created the term in 1516 to describe a perfect society. “Dystopia” is a more recent term, dating to the 19th century: it comes from the Greek ”dys” meaning “bad” and “topia” meaning “place”. While a utopia is an ideal civilization, where everyone has their needs met, a dystopia is a society that is essentially harmful. The central arc of dystopic fiction almost always puts the hero in conflict with the government or the group of people in charge.

The most frightening fictional dystopias are recognizable extensions of our current world. These worlds answer “What If” questions about the future with the most pessimistic of responses.
What if the earth runs out of oil?

What if we stop having as many children?

What if the government used reality TV as a form of propoganda?

What if there was no law and order?

What if we lived in a military run state?

Dystopian fiction imagines the worst-case scenarios for our future. However paranoid these imaginings may seem, they also expose important truths about our current reality.

fresh

The Art of Fresh: Fashion and Philanthropy

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” ~ Paul Robeson

According to the late Paul Robeson, artists have the opportunity to use their platforms to make significant changes in society. However, some would argue that artists have no obligation to address certain issues. Although they may have a point, when I think of artists who have become icons in popular culture, I think of those who have used their voices to raise awareness, especially as it pertains to social and political issues. Artists, such as Bob Marley, Nina Simone, John Lennon, Fela Kuti, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, have all taken a stand against the injustices of the world. In retrospect, they have become bigger than their artistry. They have been philanthropists, humanists, revolutionaries, and activists. They have been individuals who have lived their lives beyond just fortune and fame.

Issues, such as poverty, gun violence, police brutality, gangs, and racism continue to persist. But there is a new wave of artists who are carrying the torch. These artists are not only using their music, but also fashion to make social and political statements. For instance, in the 2004 presidential election, P. Diddy (founder of Bad Boy Records), Sean John, and Citizen Change launched a campaign to encourage more young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to vote. This helped change the face of the U.S. political landscape by encouraging the youth to “Vote or Die”, using celebrities as his support system.

The campaign was meant to show that the right to vote is a matter of life or death. This notion may not be too far-fetched, as people have literally fought and died for this freedom. I believe this resonated with young people, not only because of the celebrities involved, but also because of its simple, yet powerful position in politics. This campaign was not only successful in 2004, but also in 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected.

Jay-Z, Hip-Hop artist and co-founder of Rocawear, also attempted to use fashion as a statement. Although it was short-lived, he released a new line of t-shirts, which were meant to support the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. This movement served as a protest against social and economic disparities between corporations and the American people. The shirt “tweaks the phrase ‘Occupy Wall Street’ by crossing out the ‘W’ and adding an ‘S’ to make it read ‘Occupy All Streets’.”

Unfortunately, this effort led to a little bit of controversy, primarily because he never intended on sharing his profits to the actual protestors. The Business Insider states, “A Rocawear spokesperson sent us a statement confirming there’s no plan to distribute any of the profits, which will surely pour in from shirt sales, to Occupy Wall Street.” According the spokesperson, “The ‘Occupy All Streets’ T shirt was created in support of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social. ‘Occupy All Streets’ is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.”

This leads to questionable motives of certain artists. There seems to be a thin line between legitimacy and sincerity from the public’s point of view, especially in this day and age where there are many cultural capitalists. In my opinion, there needs to be a clear alignment between the art and actions of the individuals, which leads me to Kendrick Lamar’s recently released, “Ventilators 2” by Reebok.

Throughout his career, Lamar has repeatedly shed light on his upbringing in Compton, California, where gang culture seems to dominate the living conditions of his immediate environment. Having been heavily influenced by this reality, he has always mentioned it in both his music and interviews. With songs, such as: “Little Johnny”, “M.A.A.D. City (featuring MC Eight), and “I”, he continues to provide a voice for his constituents by emphasizing social, political, and economic discrepancies that are woven into the American fabric. His response to these discrepancies and pervasiveness of gang culture are the Ventilators 2. Complex mentions, “These Ventilators, which were previewed by Sneakers.fr, are set against an off-white suede base with alternating blue and red accents on each shoe. The gang references are apparent, and each tongue tag is inscribed with ‘Neutral,’ echoing a sentiment Kendrick has been pushing strongly during his career.”

Other artists, such as Usher and John Legend (pictured below), aren’t necessarily known for making social and political commentary in their music, but they have also been recently seen using fashion to make a statement.

As we continue to face adversities in our lives, it is important to have the opportunity to express ourselves constructively. It may not necessarily be directly based on certain social, economic, or political issues; however, we are undeniably affected by these issues in one way or another. In that regard, we should continue to find creative ways to address these issues for the betterment of mankind.

sleeping

10 Steps to Make Summer School Not Suck

Summer is here, but you still find yourself in school. Maybe you didn’t pass a class that is required for graduation. Or maybe you want to take a class because your schedule during the school year is full. Whatever the reason is for taking a summer school class, sitting in a classroom for two hours every day for a few weeks isn’t your idea of fun. However, it doesn’t have to be so bad. Here are ten steps to make summer school not suck.

1. Have a friend sign up

Having a friend sign up makes summer school more bearable. Your friend is going to be by your side and make things easier. You can also do homework and study for tests together.

2. Ask for breaks

During the normal school day, your classes don’t last much longer than 70-80 minutes. However, summer school classes tend to be longer — most last about two hours. If you’re having trouble sitting for that long, ask the teacher for at least one break. This gives you time to get up and move around, since it’s not good to be sitting down for so long.

3. Ask if the class can go outside

Summer is usually more laid back than during the school year so ask if the teacher will take you outside. What better way to learn Shakespeare or science or whatever the subject than outside under a tree.

4. Engage yourself in the learning

Doing homework and studying for tests is hard enough during the regular school year. Think about how hard it is during the summer. You spend two hours in class, but then have homework to do, a research paper to write, or a test to study for. Do the homework and study every night so you don’t get behind.

5. Be respectful to the teacher

Your summer school teacher may be someone you don’t know, who doesn’t want to be there any more than you do. After all, summer is a time for him or her to be away from school as well. But teachers sometimes work part-time jobs in the summer to help pay bills or to earn extra money. Respecting and getting along with the teacher goes a long way and makes class more fun.

6. Get your sleep

While summer is the time for you to stay up late watching movies or hanging out with friends, you still need your sleep. You can’t sleep in class, or you won’t do well. Going to bed at a decent time will help lead to your success.

7. Take care of yourself

If you got up late and hurried to class or didn’t feel like eating breakfast, ask if bringing a snack or, at least, a bottle of water is allowed. Eating and drinking helps us stay awake when we’re bored. If you get dehydrated, you get sleepy and have trouble paying attention in class.

8. Be on time

During the school year, you are expected to be on time. If you’re late, you get a tardy and too many tardies add up to you not earning your credit for summer school. You certainly don’t want to lose the credit if you have almost made it to the end of summer school.

9. Stay positive

No matter how bad summer school really is, remember to stay positive. Doing some of things suggested above will help with that. Ask your teacher and see what he will allow you to do.

10. Remember why you are there

No matter the reason as to why you are there in summer school, the important things to remember are to do well, respect the teacher and his rules, and earn your credit. You don’t want to waste your summer.

sleeping

10 Steps to Make Summer School Not Suck

Summer is here, but you still find yourself in school. Maybe you didn’t pass a class that is required for graduation. Or maybe you want to take a class because your schedule during the school year is full. Whatever the reason is for taking a summer school class, sitting in a classroom for two hours every day for a few weeks isn’t your idea of fun. However, it doesn’t have to be so bad. Here are ten steps to make summer school not suck.

1. Have a friend sign up

Having a friend sign up makes summer school more bearable. Your friend is going to be by your side and make things easier. You can also do homework and study for tests together.

2. Ask for breaks

During the normal school day, your classes don’t last much longer than 70-80 minutes. However, summer school classes tend to be longer — most last about two hours. If you’re having trouble sitting for that long, ask the teacher for at least one break. This gives you time to get up and move around, since it’s not good to be sitting down for so long.

3. Ask if the class can go outside

Summer is usually more laid back than during the school year so ask if the teacher will take you outside. What better way to learn Shakespeare or science or whatever the subject than outside under a tree.

4. Engage yourself in the learning

Doing homework and studying for tests is hard enough during the regular school year. Think about how hard it is during the summer. You spend two hours in class, but then have homework to do, a research paper to write, or a test to study for. Do the homework and study every night so you don’t get behind.

5. Be respectful to the teacher

Your summer school teacher may be someone you don’t know, who doesn’t want to be there any more than you do. After all, summer is a time for him or her to be away from school as well. But teachers sometimes work part-time jobs in the summer to help pay bills or to earn extra money. Respecting and getting along with the teacher goes a long way and makes class more fun.

6. Get your sleep

While summer is the time for you to stay up late watching movies or hanging out with friends, you still need your sleep. You can’t sleep in class, or you won’t do well. Going to bed at a decent time will help lead to your success.

7. Take care of yourself

If you got up late and hurried to class or didn’t feel like eating breakfast, ask if bringing a snack or, at least, a bottle of water is allowed. Eating and drinking helps us stay awake when we’re bored. If you get dehydrated, you get sleepy and have trouble paying attention in class.

8. Be on time

During the school year, you are expected to be on time. If you’re late, you get a tardy and too many tardies add up to you not earning your credit for summer school. You certainly don’t want to lose the credit if you have almost made it to the end of summer school.

9. Stay positive

No matter how bad summer school really is, remember to stay positive. Doing some of things suggested above will help with that. Ask your teacher and see what he will allow you to do.

10. Remember why you are there

No matter the reason as to why you are there in summer school, the important things to remember are to do well, respect the teacher and his rules, and earn your credit. You don’t want to waste your summer.

stephen-curry-nba-golden-state-warriors-denver-nuggets-850x560 thumbnail

Is Stephen Curry Having the Greatest Season of All Time?

 

Before suffering a minor shin injury in late December, Stephen Curry’s play was hotter than the California sun. For the first three months of the season, the Golden State Warriors guard was shooting like an NBA Jam player who’s “on fire” — except instead of shooting lights-out for a few possessions, Curry was on fire for more than 30 games.

stephen-curry-nba-golden-state-warriors-denver-nuggets-850x560

Curry leads the NBA in points per game, three-pointers made, and most points in a single game. He also ranks in the top 10 in the league in a slew of other categories, including total points and free throw percentage. Curry is on pace to set a record for three-pointers per game, which would require him to break his own record that he set last season. Oh, and Curry’s Warriors won their first 28 games of the season, by far the most in league history.

But it’s not just traditional statistics that prove Curry’s value to the Warriors. Advanced stats tell the same story: he’s the best player in the league this year. For example, take Curry’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER), a statistic that attempts to account for all of a player’s contributions on the court. Curry’s PER sits at 31.6, which would be the seventh-best all-time over a full season. Basketball legends Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James currently top the list of the best PER seasons ever. It’s safe to say that Curry is in good company.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS VS LOS ANGELES LAKERS

If Curry can return to full health and continue the pace he set early in the season, he’ll challenge NBA records and put himself in the conversation among the greatest seasons ever. At that point, fans might need to come up with a new way to say he’s on fire.

create-your-own-zombie-adventure-could-you-survive-the-zombie-apocalypse-590087

What are your odds of surviving a zombie apocalypse?

In the cliffhanger Season 6 finale of the Walking Dead, the group once again got themselves into a terrible situation that is definitely going to end with one of them dying. And this won’t be the last time. It seems like Rick can’t get it together. This got us wondering, “Could we do better?”

We built mathematical projections for zombie survival strategies and ran the numbers, and came up with the quiz below. Check it out and see how your personal zombie survival plan will work out.

Turns out that no, none of us would do better than Rick. By our count, of people who followed Rick’s lead, about 4% are still alive. 4% is almost double the maximum survival project in our model (1.9%).  Rick defied not just the odds, but also the basic realities of the U.S. food and ammo supplies and the extreme difficulty of just walking down a city street. He might have seemed like an idiot in Season 1 (and also Season 2, and arguably about half the episodes in Season 3), but you can’t argue with results.

In the lesson below, students will  learn how we arrived at our quiz’s model, and make a model of their own to predict additional zombie survival strategies.