I will be presenting a paper at the Popular Culture Association of the South / American Culture Association of the South conference this fall.
This year, the conference will be held in downtown Wilmington, NC on September 26-28, at the Hotel Ballast.
My abstract for the conference is below:
The Five Themes of Geography Meet the National Football League
Sports references are one way to teach basic geographic concepts to K-12 and general education college students. There is a great interest in professional football (The NFL) although there is less interest in esoteric geographic concepts such as spatial diffusion, cultural landscape, altitudinal zonation, etc. Most college students only take one “general education” elective in college, and many remain uninformed as to how geography relates to their interests. This project presents several discussion topics which could be used to teach the classic “Five Themes of Geography”. The five themes of geography are 1) Location 2) Region 3) Movement 4) Human-Environment Interaction and 5) Place.
Geography as a natural science is discussed in such issues as environmental influences on franchise location, and how the atmosphere influences game physics. Geography as a social science is discussed in issues such as the controversy over team names, marketing problems, and ethnic or cultural identity. Teaching modules were developed for general education courses in geography, which were particularly aimed at education majors. The expected outcome is for these future educators to utilize and embellish these concepts further when teaching the five themes.
Keywords: Five Themes of Geography, Professional Football, K-12 Education, Geography of Popular Culture
For more on the PCA South Conference, see the link here:
Today’s post will be a cocktail mix of part meteorology, part song lyric analysis, and part cross-country geographic transect. How are these three things related? Well, I like to use transects when I teach Geography … and I sometimes listen to rock music when commuting … and I also like to clarify meteorological terminology when I can.
You may have seen a current local conditions status page on The Weather Channel. The meteorological and aviation term “ceilings” refers to the height of the lowest layer of the flat base of clouds. If you are looking up, how high do you have to reach in order to touch the cloud base – or the “ceiling”? This is a height usually reported in feet above ground level. Modern meteorologists use a ceilometer, which measures the cloud base height with a laser. What if there are no clouds in the sky? In that case, a number cannot be reported – and so the condition is listed as “ceiling unlimited”.
The term is also the title of a song by the Canadian rock band Rush, off of their 2002 comeback album “Vapor Trails”.
Listen to the song via the YouTube video posting linked here.
Make sure to view the lyrics of the song in the link posted here.
Fans of Rush are well aware of the personal life tragedies which occurred to drummer and lyricist of the band, Neil Peart. In 1997, Mr. Peart’s nineteen-year old daughter Selena was killed in a horrific traffic accident. He and his wife Jackie were devastated by the loss. A year later, Neil’s wife also died — from cancer officially, but many felt that she had died of a broken heart, and willed herself to die because she could not deal with the pain of her daughter’s death. Band members Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson agreed that Rush should go on hiatus, and possibly never continue. Neil Peart’s story of grief is told in the book “Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road” (Amazon link here).
While still in a state of extreme grief, Neil suffered other indignities. His faithful family dog died soon after his wife, then his best friend was sent to prison for marijuana possession. All alone with this own dangerous thoughts, Neil took off on a solo motorcycle ride across Canada. A photo of his red BMW Touring Motorcycle, which was a gift from his wife during happier times, is seen in the photo gallery below. (Click an image to view full size.)
Mr. Peart traveled approximately 50,000 miles, often riding 500 miles or longer each day. The lyrics he later wrote for the Rush album reflect his travels and feelings down this “healing road”.
Riding a motorcycle through the wilds requires concentration, which helped to take his grieving mind away from his emotional pain. Mr. Peart himself drew the example of how infants can be calmed by taking a car ride. Riding across North America calmed his “baby soul”. The “Ghost Rider” book – written some time later — includes many of Mr. Peart’s observations about the physical terrain and culture. The lyrics intertwine with his mixed feelings of anger, resentment, thankfulness and humility. He kept a journal, which includes excerpts from letters and other supportive messages exchanged with his friends. The Rush movie documentary “Beyond The Lighted Stage” has a segment about Neil’s travel linked on this YouTube clip. Make sure to listen to Neil’s observation about travel at time 4:00.
His band mates thought that the group might not ever play together again, so Vapor Trails must be viewed as a “comeback” album for the group. (It was back to Rush heavy-metal basics (… and no keyboards were used!) The album title itself symbolizes the ephemeral nature of existence. We live — then soon we are gone — leaving only partial evidence of our lives. That trace will then also soon evaporate. The record makes for some pretty good “motorcycle music” or for driving those long-distance geographic transects! The other songs also contain Zen-like travel philosophy. You can listen to the entire album, with on-screen lyrics here.
“Ceiling Unlimited” is probably my second or third favorite song on the album — the title coming from a Weather Channel forecast Neil happened to catch on one stop. When Mr. Peart’s experience is considered, these lyrics make perfect sense.
Lyrics are in bold italic, my vapid comments are in orange font.
It’s not the heat / It’s the inhumanity / Plugged into the sweat of a summer street / Machine gun images pass / Like malice through the looking glass
……….. Perhaps this is a grip about bad situations, and negative human interactions one might have when traveling. Neil was known for having a short-fuse and did not interact well with the public. Although Geddy and Alex relished meeting and interacting with Rush fans, Neil hated it. “Machine gun images” may allude to the rapid paced movement of objects coming into, and then out of vision very quickly on a fast moving motorcycle. It might also allude to his own dark thoughts.
The slackjaw gaze / Of true profanity / Feels more like surrender than defeat / If culture is the curse of the thinking class / If culture is the curse of the thinking class
………. Similarly, the “slack-jawed” insult may be reserved for the contempt he felt for ignorant people. I hope that he does not really have contempt for rural people. One will run into people with bad attitudes on a trip occasionally. Educated in the arts, and having an appreciation for literature as Mr. Peart is known for, I also know what a burden it is when you have knowledge of art or esoteric subjects, yet all of your daily interactions are with ignoramuses.
Ceiling unlimited / World so wide / Turn and turn again / Feeling unlimited / Still unsatisfied / Changes never end
………. Could this be an awakening of some hopeful thoughts. Now that his former life has been destroyed, is his future all open-sky? Unlimited in possibility? What would his wife and daughter have wanted for him?
The vacant laugh / Of true insanity / Dressed up in the mask of Tragedy / Programmed for the guts and glands / Of idle minds and idle hands
I rest my case – / Or at least my vanity / Dressed up in the mask of Comedy / If laughter is a straw for a drowning man / If laughter is a straw for a drowning man
………. Well, he had to set his luggage on the dressers in many small town hotels as he traveled. The shows and commercials he would see on his motel television would provide nothing useful. Likely, he would have to put on a false face of friendliness when interacting with locals. Being amused or acting friendly on occasion with a friendly clerk or waitress could not ease his pain, but perhaps it was all he had.
Ceiling unlimited / Windows open wide / Look and look again / Feeling unlimited / Eyes on the prize / Changes never end
………. (Repeats from the chorus) Perhaps he begins to heal a little, day in and day out.
Winding like an ancient river / The time is now again / Hope is like an endless river / The time is now again
………. My favorite line is “the time is now again”. Because time in this situation does not matter. There is only the here and now. He had no destination. The natural environment, the river had been flowing and cutting its course for millennia. This may be the temporal version of the old country expression “no matter where you go, there you are.”
Do American college students have something to learn from Japan’s “Coming of Age Day”?
The second Monday in January is a Japanese public holiday termed 成人の日“Seijin no Hi”. “Coming of Age Day” or “Adults Day” honors young people who have turned 20 years old since April 2 of last year, or will turn 20 by April 1 this year. Twenty-years old is termed the “age of majority” — meaning that the youth join all other adults in the larger society. Age 20 is also known as the “age of maturity”. The holiday is an important rite of passage for young people, and the tradition dates back centuries. The day is observed to congratulate and honor those young people who will accept the responsibilities of being an adult citizen. Certain legal rights are expanded at that age, but with that also comes with an expectation of increased responsibility.
The legal age for drinking alcohol, smoking, signing a lease, getting a loan, or getting married without parental consent is 20 years old in Japan. Japanese youth are expected to give up childish behavior, and commit to being a more serious adult. Ironically, as age 20 is also the official legal drinking age – thus many young people are welcomed into the adult majority by having their first (legal) drink of sake, and many become intoxicated in celebration. I think that most American college students would agree that the best way to demonstrate maturity and independence is to drink alcohol.
Seijin Shiki ( 成人式 ) refers to the social celebration and observation of the youths’ commitment. This usually involves a ceremony at a Shinto shrine and/or commemoration at legal offices in local prefectures. The entertainment districts in Tokyo are filled with young people and their families. Even Tokyo Disneyland also hosts events.
Notable is the formal wear the young people wear. A formal kimono is traditional for young women. These are termed a furisode (a long-sleeved kimono for unmarried women). These are all strikingly beautiful garments. Most young women rent them for the ceremonies, as these formal kimonos may cost thousands of dollars each.
Kimonos are one of the more unique and interesting aspects about Japanese culture:
Young men wear either Western-style formal attire or a traditional men’s kimono with hakama. Some celebrants instead wear traditional (historical) Japanese dress. A recent trend has begun, where participants wear “cosplay” type attire, as some may choose to dress as a famous Japanese character. They perhaps “party hard” on this day, because from then on they will have to be a responsible adult.
See more photos at http://netachou.blog.jp/archives/27809156.html
Unfortunately, there are fewer participants every year, which is a reflection of Japan’s declining birth rates and its inverted population pyramid. There is also an attitude of rejection of the concept by some youth. The idea of taking on more responsibility merely because of age is not something some agree with. Japan’s “age of maturity” is scheduled to be legally reduced from age 20 to 18 in the year 2022. Japan’s leaders hope that more young people will mature faster, get married sooner and start families at an earlier age.
Do you think that a commitment to maturity would take hold among American youth? Why or why not? Is twenty years old the right age for American kids to accept responsibility? How about thirty? Please comment.
Students, please view this collection of blogging meme’s. Which one is your favorite? Which one(s) do you think you might identify with?
Think and reflect on your blogging experiences this semester!
ASSIGNMENT: Please create your own meme based on your blogging experiences. It can be about the entire semester, or one particular issue you had. Generally, they should be light-hearted or humorous. If you want to go for poignant, please do.
I have not bought many “self help” books before — actually, I probably never did. However I bought Jordan B. Peterson’s book “Twelve Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos”. I think that it is a great read.
Dr. Peterson is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto. Many people are already familiar with his work, his website and his YouTube channel. He has his fans and he has his detractors. Dr. Peterson has been unfairly maligned in the mainstream media. Although he considers himself a liberal, he is detested by radical college leftists, and the “SJWs”. Which is a good reason to like him right there! My purpose here is not to discuss his controversies however.
The book is divided into twelve main chapters, each based on a simple phrase, such as “Chapter 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back”. Professor Peterson’s readers often report how his book contains “things that they already knew, but could not put into words before.” I think that I can attest for that. I do not always follow his reasoning on some issues, but do I admire him for his manner of communication. It should be noted that he treats fellow academics much more fairly than other academics treat him.
Professor Peterson has hours of lecture material available on YouTube. There is a lot to watch, and a lot to choose from. I wanted to share with you today — my favorite chapter from his bestselling TRFL book. Professor Peterson himself reads the chapter: “Rule 6: Put your own house in perfect order before you criticize the world.”
I hope that you can listen and take it to heart. If you like this chapter, let me know. Maybe I will send you a copy of the book for Christmas … and some fudge too.
This is a conference paper/Powerpoint slide show that I presented in an Asian Studies session at the Popular Culture Association conference in Indianapolis, IN in March 28-31, 2018. This topic contains material dealing with human sexuality — so “trigger warning” and all that.
I received more in-session feedback and discussion than I have with any other topic, at any other conference, at any time.