I’ll be bringing back one of my favorite lectures from my curriculum on the Geography of American Popular Culture. From the poster/site description:
Pop Culture in the United States, like American History at large, must address uncomfortable realities about its past (and present) to embrace what has made it remarkable. Early forms of American music, theater, and eventually film, radio, and television are inextricable from the minstrel show – generally speaking, mockery of African-Americans by white performers and audiences. However, as with anything in popular culture, the realities, appeals, and most influential performers exist within gray areas. As this lecture argues, much of the most persevering and influential American art – all the way from The Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup (1933) to Childish Gambino’s “This is America” (2018) – has happened as a reaction to minstrelsy rather than embrace of it.
See you next Thursday, October 20th, at 6pm in DOW Science Complex Room 102 (not Pearce 127, the original location as posted on the Honors site).
In the swirl of information, news, and potential material to use in upcoming courses for the Fall semester, it’s easy for a couple of positive items to fall through the cracks. One recent announcement that made me excited to hear was that my doctoral adviser and friend, Derek Alderman, was selected by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to serve on a special committee on place naming. Derek taught me most everything I know about symbolic violence in place naming, which is still something I regularly teach about. Congrats to Derek and everyone else on the committee. I’ll post the DOI press release from August 9th below.
Secretary Haaland Announces Members of the Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names
WASHINGTON — Today, on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced the members of the Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names, a federal advisory group to help identify and recommend changes to derogatory terms still in use for places throughout the country.
In November 2021, Secretary Haaland issued Secretary’s Order 3405, which proposed a new Federal Advisory Committee tasked to broadly solicit, review and recommend changes to derogatory geographic and federal land unit names. Committee tasks will include developing a process to solicit and assist with proposals to the Secretary to identify and change derogatory names and will engage with Tribes, the Native Hawaiian Community, state and local governments, and the public. A separate federal task force (the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force) was established by Secretary’s Order 3404 to focus exclusively on the sq-word, a derogatory term in use more than 650 instances within federal land units alone.
“Our nation’s lands and waters should be places to celebrate the outdoors and our shared cultural heritage – not to perpetuate the legacies of oppression,” said Secretary Haaland. “The Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names will accelerate an important process to reconcile derogatory place names. I look forward to listening and learning from this esteemed group.”
As directed by the Secretary’s Order, the Committee is composed of individuals who represent Tribes and Tribal organizations, Native Hawaiian organizations, the general public, or have expertise in fields including civil rights, history, geography and anthropology. The Committee also includes four ex officio members representing the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Defense and Commerce.
The Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names is composed of up to 17 members appointed by the Secretary who represent Tribes and Tribal organizations, Native Hawaiian organizations, the general public, or have expertise in fields including civil rights, history, geography, and anthropology:
Derek Alderman – Professor of Geography, University of Tennessee
Angelo Baca – Assistant Professor, Department of History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences, Rhode Island School of Design (Diné/Hopi)
Kiana Carlson – J.D. candidate, Mitchell Hamline School of Law (Ahtna Kohtaene, Taltsiine; Native Village of Cantwell, Alaska)
Julie Dye – Board Member, Eliminating Racism & Creating/Celebrating Equity (Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians)
Lauren Monroe Jr. – Secretary, Blackfeet Tribal Business Council (Blackfeet Nation, Pikuni)
Federico Mosqueda – Coordinator of the Arapaho Language and Culture Program (Arapaho)
Rachel Pereira – Vice President of Equity and Inclusion at St. John’s University
Kimberly Probolus-Cedroni – Historian, Washington D.C
Howard Dale Valandra – Member, Tribal Land Enterprise Board of Directors (Rosebud Sioux Tribe)
Aimee Villarreal – Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Texas State University
Elva Yanez – Senior Advisor for Parks, Land Use, and the Built Environment at the Prevention Institute
The Committee also includes four ex officio members from the federal government. An all-of-government approach will be invaluable as this work is undertaken:
Charles Bowery, Executive Director, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Department of Defense
Meryl Harrell, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Elizabeth (Liz) Klein, Senior Counselor to the Secretary, Department of the Interior
Letise LaFeir, Senior Advisor, Office of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, Department of Commerce
Members will meet for the first time in the coming months, and approximately two to four times per year, to identify geographic names and federal land unit names that are considered derogatory and solicit proposals on replacement names. Committee meetings will be open to the public and announced in the Federal Register at least 15 days in advance.
Happy Almost-May to anyone who has stumbled back here. The home stretch of the Spring semester has put a whole bunch of entries/essays on hold, unfortunately, but there will be a song challenge for May that I’m sure many of you will appreciate (especially a surprising number of millennials).
A few weeks ago, students in my two sections of GEO 121 (Intro to Globalization) submitted their third paper, which asked them to do a geographic analysis of a song of their choosing. I know I have done this at least once here, but I wanted to keep up the tradition. Here are, in no particular order, the songs which students chose (an asterisk indicates that I assigned this one, per request) for this semester’s music geography paper.
Here, I hold a stack of postcards written by my students in GEO 121 (Intro to Globalization), about to go into the post. As of this writing, they’re on their way all over the country.
I created this mini-assignment in equal parts as a tribute to the US Postal Service as well as a simple lesson on a lost art (or, at least a heavily niched one). So many students told me they had never composed or sent a postcard before. Well, now they have, and their friends and relatives are in for a surprise.
Another semester of Intro World Regional Geography/Globalization = another set of musical geography papers. I always look forward to assigning this piece, and the variety of songs that students analysed always produces a few surprises. I was also fortunate to learn about a few new (to me) artists like Mr. Vegas, and the amazingly-named Tropical Fuck Storm (TFS), and Declan McKenna.
The almost-full list is below, with any multiple submissions in parenthesis. I would make a Spotify playlist if I used Spotify, but you can find any of these in good quality on various online platforms. It bears mentioning, too, that almost every track is available on vinyl in some form from your local/regional record shop, who are likely suffering right now and subsisting on mail orders.
“America: Fuck Yeah!” from Team America: World Police
Gordon Lightfoot – “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (2)
Sean Kingston feat. Nicki Minaj – “Letting Go”
Mukesh – “Chhodo Kal Ki Baatein”
Evan Legler – “Michigan”
The Monkees – “Pleasant Valley Sunday”
Pink Floyd – “San Tropez”
Kendrick Lamar – “Compton”
The Veronicas – “Change the World”
Men at Work – “Down Under”
Kid Rock – “Detroit, Michigan”
Declan McKenna – “Brazil”
Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys – “Empire State of Mind” (3)
NWA – “Fuck Tha Police”
Yusuf Lateef – “Eastern Market”
Alabama – “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta have a Fiddle in the Band)”
The Arcade Fire – “Here Comes the Night Time”
Lee Greenwood – “God Bless the U.S.A.”
Glen Campbell – “Southern Nights”
LCD Soundsystem – “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”
In light of these events, I’ve decided to release this video version I recorded of a specialized lecture that I created my World Regional Geography classes about the geography of Major League Baseball and Latin American circulation. I hope you enjoy it, and please don’t be distracted by how I’m still learning where to look when I record these.
Happy Monday, and Happy Finals Week (depending on where you are) everyone. I’ve been fortunate to bring some fun subjects into what’s normally a stressful time for students and faculty alike.
My Globalization class (GEO 121) submitted their 4th paper, which required that they pick a song and pick apart its geographical references. My North American regional class (GEO 350) had a group zine semester project, which they are just submitting today. One group, who focused mainly on the American Southeast, did a zine devoted to music and region. Despite their thwarted attempts to burn a mix CD, they were still able to share their playlist with the class, which I’m passing along here.
GEO 121 Musical Geography Paper Class Playlist
King 180 – ‘I Ain’t Goin’ Back Again’
Sufjan Stevens – ‘Oh Detroit, Life Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)
Jason Aldean – ‘Crazy Town’
Gordon Lightfoot – ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’
Rise Against – ‘Help is On the Way’
Kid Rock – ‘All Summer Long’
Toto – ‘Africa’
John Denver – ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’
The Kinks – ‘Waterloo Sunset’
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’
Nelly – ‘King’s Highway’
The Manao Company – ‘Drop Baby Drop’
Men at Work – ‘Down Under’
Eminem, Royce da 5’9″, Big Sean, Danny Brown, Dej Loaf, Trick Trick – ‘Detroit vs. Everybody’
U2 – ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’
Logic – ‘Everybody’
Lynyrd Skynyrd – ‘Sweet Home Alabama’
Ray Charles – ‘Georgia on my Mind’
We are the World 25 for Haiti
The Hold Steady – ‘Confusion in the Marketplace’
Arkells – ‘Michigan Left’
Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett – ‘It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere’
Highly Suspect – ‘Serotonia’
The Specials – ‘Ghost Town’
Jason Aldean – “Fly Over States’
Shakira – ‘Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)’
The HU – ‘Wolf Totem’
OutKast – ‘ATLiens’
Red Hot Chili Peppers – ‘Especially in Michigan’
Panic! at the Disco – ‘Vegas Lights’
Kid Rock – ‘Detroit, Michigan’
Drake – ‘Know Yourself’
John Denver – ‘Rocky Mountain High’
Jim Jones ft. Fat Joe – ‘NYC’
‘Tear Me Down’ from “Hedwig & the Angry Inch”
Tony Bennett – ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’
Jack White – ‘Just One Drink’
Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys – ‘Empire State of Mind’
GEO 350 Group Project Playlist
OutKast – “Ms. Jackson” (oooooh)
Lil’ Jon – “Snap Yo Fingers”
Wes Montgomery – “West Coast Blues”
Blind Blake – “West Coast Blues”
Blind Willie McTell – “Statesboro Blues”
Mississippi Fred McDowell – “You Gotta Move”
Garth Brooks – “Friends in Low Places’
Johnny Cash – “Ring of Fire”
Randy Travis – “Forever and Ever, Amen”
Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World”
Nina Simone – “Backlash Blues” (Live at Montreaux 1976)
Nina Simone – “Backlash Blues”
Joe Hertler (CMU alum) & the Rainbow Seekers – “Evening Coffee’
The Velvet Monkeys – “The Creeper”
Scream – “Caffeine Dream”
Fugazi – “Waiting Room”
Charlie Daniels Band – “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”
I once told myself that if I ever had the opportunity to teach a course on gender and geography, I would feature Prince on the flyer. So, here is me keeping that promise to myself. On second glance, I’m not sure whether that’s Minneapolis sprawling out behind him, but it should be.
Anyway, for any Central Michigan students interested in the course (Registration Open as of last week – CRN 22387709), I have a draft syllabus available which includes focuses on numerous topics including the spatiality of gender, the role of gender in urban development, a crash course in feminist geography, toxic masculinity, and representations of gender in place in film, TV, and music. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions.
or, I could just call this entry ‘Fire Up, Chips!’
I would say I’m surprised I haven’t written anything here about my new position and base of operations in Mt. Pleasant, MI, but that would involve me ignoring how little I’ve posted in general over the past month. I’m still hoping to post some pictures from the IAG meeting in Hobart, I swear.
Right before I left for Australia, I accepted a position as a Lecturer in the department of Geography and Environmental Science at Central Michigan University. I’m teaching four classes this semester: two sections of the world regional course GEO 121 WI (that means writing-intensive), one section of ENV 101 WI (Introduction to Environmental Science…writing-intensive), and one section of GEO 350 (The United States and Canada). So far, I have no complaints. I’m working with a great new faculty who have been overwhelmingly supportive, and from what I can tell now that classes have begun, really cool students as well. I had trouble preparing to teach my class today because so many people were stopping by to ask how I was doing, offer help wherever needed, or invite me to play pickleball (which I’m sure will be a blast, once I look up what that is).
Also, I can’t say enough good things about living in the middle of the Mitten. Mt. Pleasant in particular is a wonderful place, with extreme walk-ability, wonderful cycling culture, a disproportionately high number of good radio stations, a cat-fé, and if you move here on a Thursday toward the end of the summer, Max & Emily’s may enable you to watch Brian Vander Ark and his band play a free show minutes from your house. For the life of me, I cannot remember a more fortuitous “Welcome, Tyler!” moment anywhere else I’ve moved.
Brian also welcomed me to Michigan via Instagram (a proposition that would make less than zero sense to my thirteen-year-old self, enjoying a Verve Pipe video on MTV), telling me to say hello to Mustard Plug when I go see them at the Bell’s Brewery in October. I guess those rumors about the great Grand Rapids ska/alt-rock beef were unfounded after all.
As always, thanks for reading. Back to lesson-planning and life-organizing.
Part Three of “Tyler Down Under” (It’s going to happen!)
Part One of “The Ben Irving Postcards Go to Michigan”
Updates on CMU Course Work and hopefully some news about Capitals of Punk
Are you an undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee who will be around this May? Are you in need of a quick 3-credits that would satisfy most programs’ core requirements? Would you enjoy taking a fundamentals-class (that normally hosts over 100 students) in a more intimate, laid-back environment?
Well, you’re in luck! I’m going to be teaching GEOG 101: World Regional Geography as a Mini-Semester course this May. The class will meet every morning for three weeks, from May 8th until May 29th. That is likely the most efficient way you’ll ever be able to take this class, and it will open up your summer and fall session schedules for other requirements of your major or your other responsibilities.
Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or for a draft of the special 3-week syllabus. I look forward to seeing you in May.
Coming Soon to Sonic Geography
An Exclusive Interview (Audio) with Ian MacKaye, recorded live at AAG
An Overview and Retrospective on AAG in DC (April 3-7), including the premiere of my DC Punk Walking Tour
A Look at the Ben Irving Postcard Series in Memphis & Western Tennessee
Announcing my new book Capitals of Punk (Palgrave Macmillan)