Living in a World they didn’t make, by Janet Jackson

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Our next Genre of the Week focuses on gun violence and takes us back to 1989. It was at that time that one of the members of the Jackson family released a powerful album containing songs that focused on social aspects. Janet Jackson started her career with the rest of her siblings in 1973, yet went solo in 1986 with her first solo album (and third overall), Control.  Her breakthrough came with Rhythm Nation 1814, which was released in 1989 and won six platinums, garnered 12 million Dollars in sales and made it all the way to number 1. on the Bilboard charts in the US. It was the first album where songs reached number 1 in the Top 40 Charts for three straight years, and it was the first where seven songs made it to the Top 100.  It is considered one of the most iconic pop music albums in history, with a mixture of rhythm and dance but also some slow dances. The album focused not only on themes of love and dance, but also social issues, which included drug use, domestic dispute, violence,…..

and guns.

While Janet managed to get seven songs into the Top 100, this song deserves to win the Flensburg Files Genre of the Week, even if the song was produced almost 30 years ago. Entitled Living in the World They Didn’t Make, Janet takes us to a school where memories are left over after a shooting incident that happens on school grounds. Children playing on the playground- gone. Teachers helping other- gone. Neighborhoods and families- shattered. All of these ring a bell to the problem with gun violence and the school shootings that have plagued the US as of late. While some have refused to talk about it, when looking at the March on Washington that happened on 24th of March, the theme of gun laws, school violence and issues that have led to people taking it out with the guns have been brought forward to those who want to see change and will not rest until it happens, regardless of who is representing each state in Congress and is running the country at the White House.

Gun violence was the issue upon the song’s release and is still the issue to this day. Listen to the song and ask yourselves, how can we put an end to this madness without having the teacher march around with a machine gun in the classroom.

This Genre of the Week song is for the kids at Parkland who took courageous steps and brought this up front and personal on Capitol Hill. Keep strong, be stronger. Eventually those who resisted will listen or cave in. You will have it your way soon. ❤ 🙂

 

Fl Fi USA

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Shadow of the Day: A Tribute to Chester Bennington of Linkin Park

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Where have all the rockers gone? Our idols whom we’ve followed faithfully and shown our support for them and their songs sincer our days in high school are no longer with us. Those who had plenty of years of life left in them decided to cut it short. Drug abuse, family problems, taxes and the law, the paparrazi and the media chased them from the mike (microphone), erased their abilities to create and export their songs, causing them to disappear without a trace.

But with one question: why?

After losing Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots), and Chris Cornell (Soundgarten) among many gift musicians, we’ve lost another singer in Chester Bennington from Linkin Park.

And he was only 41 when he hung himself.

A father of six children, Chester and other members founded Linkin Park in 1996 and gave alternative rock a new face with a mixture of rap, electronic rock, metal and lyrics that looked at the domestic issues that he and others faced in life. Being a member of Generation X, this generation served as the bridge between the Baby-boomer generation- which grew up on platinum records, Vietnam, sex-drugs-and rock and roll, as well as Billy Joel- and the younger generations of today, who are self-absorbed but self conscience, want to experience everything but are “Holly-go-lightlies” eating breakfast at Tiffany’s, and are well-informed but digital natives spending time buried in their Smartphones. It was also the same generation that has suffered from tumultuous times, having survived two major financial crises, 9/11/2001, and rapid changes to our own environment, while being sandwiched between the two generations, not having a chance to live the dreams we wanted to, working to make ends meet and not even thinking about retirement.  All of these aspects, which resulted in the fight to find one’s identity and deal with all the personal issues in life were the themes of the songs he and Linkin Park produced in the almost 20 years the band has been together.

One More Night was the last album released by the band before Bennington’s death, having been in stores since May of this year. However, if there is one song that best describes his legacy, it is this one, Shadow of the Day, which was released in 2007 from the album Minutes to Midnight.  Produced with keyboards and guitars, the song reflects on a person’s life and the need to move on. It’s walking into the sunset honoring a person and his work. Yet at the same time, it also means the rise of the next sun and the start of a new day with a new sheet of paper to draw or write about.  This song definitely reflects on Chester’s life, leaving us with questions of why it had to end the way it did, when he left a legacy as one of the best singers in his time. It does leave a question of what happens next, and who will be able to fill in his shoes, just like we have to with our other heroes who had followed before that.

Especially when the sun rises again…….

 

 

Our condolences to members of Linkin Park and the family of Chester Bennington on this unexpected loss of a great singer, who left us with songs we will listen to for years to come, and a legacy that will be difficult to outdo. God bless you……

 

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Genre of the Week: Jack and Diane by John Mellencamp

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This genre of the week looks at a customary that celebrates the initiation of children becoming adults. In Germany, we have what is called Jugendweihe. First established in 1852 by Eduard Balzen, Jugendweihe is mainly a non-Christian event where a child is officially initiated into adulthood come the age of 14 years. Prior to that, the youth can participate in events that focus on history, culture, politics, work, sexuality and independent living, just to name a few. By the time a child reaches the age of 14, celebrations take place, marking the initiation into adulthood; some organized by the Humanist Association of Germany and the Association of Worker Welfare, others by the schools and families. The youth has a first-hand experience at what adult life is like. The only exception is of course, driving. That happens 5-8 years later- much later than the youth in the United States. There, having a driving license and a car at the age of 16 marks the beginning of the stage to adulthood, which ends by drinking legally, five years later.

I kid you not on this one, especially as I’m an American expat! 😉

Jugendweihe runs parallel to its Christian form, known as confirmation. For church-goers in the United States and in some pockets of Germany, confirmation also marks a stage going into adulthood. Yet with confirmation, regardless of which religion, it is the third and final stage in being united with Jesus Christ as well as being part of the religious denomination, after baptism and the first holy communion. It is the first of two graduation ceremonies in America’s schools, where the names are announced and the blessings and sacraments are given. The second is of course, high school graduation, where the diplomas are received and the graduates proceed to move into a new chapter in their lives.

While confirmation usually occurs at a fixed date by the churches of different denominations, Jugendweihe usually occurs at different times between March and June. The dates vary based on the projects and schedules issued by the schools, the aforementioned associations and lastly, the families of the child who is going through the initiation. Still, as a general rule, the age of 14 is the magic number signaling the departure of childhood into adulthood. It is the third most important phase in a child’s life after Zuckertüten Fest and the Graduation from Elementary School going into one of the three forms of high school in Germany.

A while back, I was asked by my students if there is an English equivalent to Jugendweihe. We do but in Christian terms but really, without a name. That is unless you listen to John Mellencamp. 😉

Jack and Diane was produced by the rock singer in 1982, and it focuses on the two main characters growing up in a rural community in America. While they develop differently going from boy and girl to a man and woman, they fight to stay young as long as they can, yet they soon realize that they are becoming adults and pursue their dreams together. The scenes in this video are typical of American culture during that time, yet you can find similar ones in Germany as well, with the discotheks, soccer, hanging out in shopping centers and even biking down trails and bikeways. In either case, this Genre of the Week looks at Jugendweihe from a musician’s point of view. One could go as far as proclaiming Jugendweihe as Jack and Diane Day in English! 😀

Still, I don’t think it would go down that well because of its age and the cultural differences. 😉

Or would it?

You decide as we dedicate this song to the 14-year olds that have celebrated or are about to celebrate Jack and Diane Day.  Enjoy! 😀

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Born in Seymour, Indiana in 1951, John Mellencamp has been coined as one of the 10 best singers/ musicians of all time in the US by many critics and colleagues. Jack and Diane made it to the top and stayed nr. 1 for four weeks in 1982. That and Hurt So Good came from the American Fool soundtrack, which is considered the best of his 23 albums he’s released since 1976. He still resides in Indiana but in Bloomington. You can find him online by clicking here as well as through World Cafe. An interview on how he’s opened up on music and arts with Forbes Magazine can be found here.

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Genre of the Week: Alternative Für Deutschland by Jennifer Rostock

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Source: Pistenwof/Festival of Summer/Wikimedia  Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AJennifer_Rostock-7.jpg

Founded in 2007, the band Jennifer Rostock has its origins that are considered unique. It features Jennifer Weist and Joe Walter, both natives of Usedom, located in the German state of Mecklenburg-Pommerania, who were childhood friends and gifted musicians. They later met fellow members Alex Voigt, Baku Kohl and Chris Deckert in Berlin and Werner Krumme while at a music workshop in Rostock. Their style of music consists of a combination of punk, electro-pop and Berlin-rock and since their founding, they have become popular on the German rock music scene, having released seven albums and toured in the German-speaking countries so far; that despite having songs released in German and English.

However, despite their punk lifestyle, they also have a world view on politics and have been engaged recently as more and more people are leaving the traditional German parties of the Social Democrats (SPD) and Christian Democrats (CDU) and joining the far-right party the AfD (Alternativ für Deutschland), whose policies consists of tax relief for the rich, less money for social and health care and banning Muslims and other groups from living in Germany- including stopping the influx of refugees entering Germany. With local elections to take place in Mecklenburg-Pommerania and Brandenburg this fall and on the eve of the federal elections next year, this band has taken an unusual approach to their music style by combining political propaganda and piano and producing a sing provoking the people to think before voting and/or even joining the AfD. Check out this video that was released recently:

Being short and to the point, each statement about the AfD and their policies are presented in an advertised form but with Weist having the confrontational gesture indicating that unless a person wants a brawl, and has the mentality of a Nazi that they should join the AfD, unless they have some time to think about it first and look for other party alternatives. The song is similar to all the campaigns that are going on in the United States, especially between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Speaking from an American expat’s point of view, such a provokative song would go great for people seriously thinking about voting for Donald Trump, whose policies are exactly the same as that of the party led by Frauke Petry- no immigration, expulsion of minorities out of the US, the return to isolation (which would be a first since the 1920s), and having a wall along the Mexican and Canadian border. This in addition to controlling the media and the freedom of speech among the American people. It makes me wonder how Weist and Co. would craft their song in English and address it to the public similar to that what she is doing for her people in the north of Germany. Music is powerful and controls the mind and hearts of those who listen to it, influencing them on what they think and sometimes do. It can be peaceful, but it can present a type of music that is classical but whose lyrics make it unusual and stunning. The AfD song by Jennifer Rostock may be considered a propaganda song supporting the party, but it has the typical German warning that you see in pharmaceutical commercials:

Zum Risiko und Nebenwirkung, lesen Sie die Packungsbeilage und Fragen Sie Ihren Artz oder Apotheke (Talk to your doctor or pharmacy about the risks and side effects of taking this medication)

For this song, which has won the Genre of the Week Awards, the first international Award by the Files, the slogan behind the song about the Alternative for Germany party goes along the following lines (something that voters in Meck-Pomm, Brandenburg and the rest of Germany should consider before going to the polls:

Zum Risiko und Nebenwirkung, lesen Sie über die politische Partei und ihre Agenda und fragen Sie die Experten. (Talk to the experts and read about the political party you are voting for).

Or in American English: Thinking about voting for the AfD? You better know what you’re getting into.

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Should Jennifer Rostock decide to write and sing about Donald Trump, what should go in there? It should be similar to what she sang about the AfD. Go to her website (here) and offer your suggestions. 🙂

 

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Genre of the Week: For What It’s Worth

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This week’s genre of the week is a rather somber one, if one has been paying attention to the latest reports on the worst massacre in United States history since Wounded Knee in 1890. It happened in the morning of 12 June, 2016 where a gunman opened fire on a crowd of people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 49 people were killed, more than 50 were injured. The motive seems to focus on terrorism and hatred towards homosexuals, which constituted for most of the people being at the nightclub at the time of the shooting. Since the shooting, heated discussions on how the US should react to the shootings have ballooned in the social network with massive amounts of mudslinging and name-calling on people whose suggestions might even save their lives. The hint is gun control- having people purchasing guns for the first time go through psychometric tests while at the same time have their guns registered and coded to ensure they remain in the right hands. The hints mentioned by opponents consist of stopping Muslims from entering the US; some jeered that the victims were homosexuals and that their choice was like signing a pact with the devil. These suggestions are way too far fetched and can result in the US becoming isolated from its European neighbors.

And while this massacre will result in significant changes in one way or another, the question is how can we do this. One suggestion is shot down by another, people pointing fingers at others, and lots of mudslinging have overshadowed the problems that are affecting American society for years, which includes integrating people of all aspects, tackling social problems which is causing violence and lastly, learning to accept people of different backgrounds. As a former CIA agent mentions in an interview, our problem is we don’t listen to others, but think about ourselves. This selfishness wreaps its own awards and our results are what we see right now.

Instead, why not listen to others and look at the real situation instead of believing in the gossip? This is where this song comes into mind. “For What It’s Worth” was produced in 1966 by the band Buffalo Springfield. Featuring Stephen Stills (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Dewey Martin (drums, vocals), Bruce Palmer (electric bass), Richie Furay (guitar, vocals), and Neil Young (guitar, harmonica, piano, vocals), the band released the song in response to the police riots and protests against Vietnam War. The song received the gold record and other accolades before the members broke off to pursue their own careers. Neil Young, although having a great solo career, joined Stephen Stills and two other musicians to form Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, where their accapella and folk music, developed from Buffalo Springfield, was carried on and many songs became successful during the 1970s and 80s. After 48 years, the band broke up recently, citing age and conflicts within the group. But nevertheless, Buffalo Springfield’s song should serve as a reminder that our decisions do produce consequences, and that problems that have been ignored for years have gotten bigger. And unless we do something about it, let alone before we don something about the problems at hand we have to…..

The Flensburg Files and the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to dedicate this to the family and friends of as well as the victims of the Orlando massacre. Your lives matter, no matter what you do in life. We matter because we want you to be happy. And when we fall victim to hatred and engage in savagery, then we need to look at why and find a solution that is constructive, safe and harmonious. We don’t care about your preferences or backgrounds. We only care about you because we love you for who you are. That is why openess is bliss and ignorance is nothing but piss.

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Genre of the Week: For What It’s Worth

1396059_644643522232967_217684749_n

This week’s genre of the week is a rather somber one, if one has been paying attention to the latest reports on the worst massacre in United States history since Wounded Knee in 1890. It happened in the morning of 12 June, 2016 where a gunman opened fire on a crowd of people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 49 people were killed, more than 50 were injured. The motive seems to focus on terrorism and hatred towards homosexuals, which constituted for most of the people being at the nightclub at the time of the shooting. Since the shooting, heated discussions on how the US should react to the shootings have ballooned in the social network with massive amounts of mudslinging and name-calling on people whose suggestions might even save their lives. The hint is gun control- having people purchasing guns for the first time go through psychometric tests while at the same time have their guns registered and coded to ensure they remain in the right hands. The hints mentioned by opponents consist of stopping Muslims from entering the US; some jeered that the victims were homosexuals and that their choice was like signing a pact with the devil. These suggestions are way too far fetched and can result in the US becoming isolated from its European neighbors.

And while this massacre will result in significant changes in one way or another, the question is how can we do this. One suggestion is shot down by another, people pointing fingers at others, and lots of mudslinging have overshadowed the problems that are affecting American society for years, which includes integrating people of all aspects, tackling social problems which is causing violence and lastly, learning to accept people of different backgrounds. As a former CIA agent mentions in an interview, our problem is we don’t listen to others, but think about ourselves. This selfishness wreaps its own awards and our results are what we see right now.

Instead, why not listen to others and look at the real situation instead of believing in the gossip? This is where this song comes into mind. “For What It’s Worth” was produced in 1966 by the band Buffalo Springfield. Featuring Stephen Stills (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Dewey Martin (drums, vocals), Bruce Palmer (electric bass), Richie Furay (guitar, vocals), and Neil Young (guitar, harmonica, piano, vocals), the band released the song in response to the police riots and protests against Vietnam War. The song received the gold record and other accolades before the members broke off to pursue their own careers. Neil Young, although having a great solo career, joined Stephen Stills and two other musicians to form Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, where their accapella and folk music, developed from Buffalo Springfield, was carried on and many songs became successful during the 1970s and 80s. After 48 years, the band broke up recently, citing age and conflicts within the group. But nevertheless, Buffalo Springfield’s song should serve as a reminder that our decisions do produce consequences, and that problems that have been ignored for years have gotten bigger. And unless we do something about it, let alone before we don something about the problems at hand we have to…..

The Flensburg Files and the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to dedicate this to the family and friends of as well as the victims of the Orlando massacre. Your lives matter, no matter what you do in life. We matter because we want you to be happy. And when we fall victim to hatred and engage in savagery, then we need to look at why and find a solution that is constructive, safe and harmonious. We don’t care about your preferences or backgrounds. We only care about you because we love you for who you are. That is why openess is bliss and ignorance is nothing but piss.

flefi-deutschland-logo

Genre of the Week: Downtown

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Music videos- a commodity that has become one of the mediums being used for the classroom today. Ever since the TV channel MTV made its debut in 1981 with the song “Video Killed the Radio Star,” music videos are being used more frequently as either a substitute or a supplement to printed media, such as novels, short stories and the like. Advantages of using such music videos include helping students better understand the language, enhance their listening comprehension and learn about the culture of the country where the music video comes from. The drawbacks to the music video include graphic images that are not suitable for certain (age) groups, profanity, and some scenes may be offensive to certain groups, regardless of religious, ethnic and social background.

This Genre of the Week takes a look at American culture from a rapper’s point of view. Downtown was released at the end of August 2015 by Macklemore. Known as Ben Haggerty, the musician made his debut in 2000 and together with Ryan Lewis, has become successful, garnering awards for his songs “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us,” as well as the album “The Heist”, released in 2012. Each of the music videos feature a background resembling American society today with Macklemore leading a parade of dancers, perfecting their choreography and bringing in the people to play along.

Downtown is no different as the scene depicts a typical American business district, run-down but somewhat multicultural in terms of various shops and the people who live there. For more on that, have a look at the video below:

One can do a whole lot with this video in terms of activities, especially when teaching English as a foreign language in a school outside the US. My idea of such an exercise would be a Sandwich Approach, where at the beginning, the class would be divided into two groups and a mindmap exercise would be introduced. There, each group would be given a word- downtown (USA) and city center (Europe)- and they would make a list of words associated with the two terminologies, with the goal of finding similarities and differences between the two. After the activity is finished, the next task is to play the first minute of the music video and guess the following: where and when it took place, what the rapper is doing, and what the environment looks like in terms of scenery and the people. After the discussion, the whole video is played (preferably twice because of the tempo of the rapper’s communication), which is followed by some comprehension questions. Vocabulary words taken out of the text should also be introduced for better understanding.

In the end one should have a better understanding of what life is like for a business district in America and compare it to what it is like in a European city center, looking at the social, cultural and economic background. Although songs with choreography are typical for America, as one can find it in music videos and even TV shows (like the Simpsons), one cannot expect this to be the norm for American culture for there are many other aspects that need to be considered- this includes the types of music that originate from the country and are still being played today, but it also includes multicultural aspects, such as the popularity of Native American music in comparison with Indie or even Asian music, for example.  Downtown represents a rather positive setting of an American business district, where everyone of different cultures and from different groups come together and play along on the streets of a large city. It’s a good song to get into the dancing groove, even if it is for a swing choir competition. 🙂 Yet the song is not the full remedy for the social ills that is still haunting the US, Germany and other countries, but more of the song of incentive, to get us to take part in helping people live in harmony. That in itself can take even longer than what Macklemore took when he produced the piece.

With that, here are a few questions for you readers to consider:

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1. Compare the scene in the music video by Macklemore to that of Main Street USA in general and/or the city center in your town? What is different and what is the same?

2. In which time period is the setting for this song? What factors influenced your argument?

3. What is your impression of the song?  Does it relate to the real life situations you face today?

4. (For teachers): Would you play this song in the classroom? If so, how would you teach the students? Would you try the aforementioned approach or would you try something different and why?

While it’s not necessary to comment on it, you can if you wish to start a conversation. Otherwise, experiment with this and see what your students think of this song and society in general.

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