Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Training Tuesday: Voter Contact Methods

This week, we decided to change our plans a little bit and post about the best way to contact voters...

Reaching your potential voters is (obviously) vitally important to any campaign. But what is the best way to reach this crucial audience? This week, Kendra Sue Derby from Democracy for America's Campaign Academy is going to speak about four methods of reaching voters, some of which you should try and some you should avoid. First, she'll talk about direct voter contact, such as canvassing (which she favors) and mailings, which allow to personally speak with, and listen to, your potential voters. Next, she'll talk about online resources, such as websites, Facebook, youtube, blogs, etc, which can be great for your supporters, but might not sway the opinion of an undecided. The last two videos are about items that some volunteers love, but aren't going to win you any elections, lawn signs and chum (promotional items such as hats, frisbees, wooden nickels, and anything else you can print you name on).

--Canvasing and Mail

--Online Resources

--Yard Signs


Learn more about Democracy For America's Campaign Academy:www.DemocracyForAmerica.com/Training

See more 'Training Tuesday' entries:www.SumofChange.com/campaignacademy

Vigorous Student Protests at UCLA over UC Tuition Hike

News of a steep hike in tuition fees at University of California public schools have students riled up at campuses across the UC system.

The UC’s Board of Regents met at UCLA on Wednesday to approve a plan which will raise next year’s undergraduate fees by an astounding 32%. UC President Mark Yudof told The New York Times that the fee increase was the university’s only choice in light of significant state budget cuts in the last decade. Yudof explained that the university system currently receives half as much, per student, as it did about twenty years ago.

Despite current measures in place which have slashed staff salaries, laid off teaching assistants, eliminated free printing for students and cut library hours, the board insisted that the university will be unable to maintain the same level of academic excellence without raising tuition.

Anger within the student body was most acutely felt at UCLA, where students from across the university system rallied outside the board’s meeting. Protests at times turned nasty, leading to the arrests of several students and accusations of police brutality.

Darlene Tran, a sophomore at UCLA, received bruises to her chest and wrist courtesy of officers responding to protests outside the meeting. Tran said she was chanting with a mass of students blocking the board members’ exit from a university building. She explained that she and others were demonstrating peacefully, but officers used unnecessary force when they pushed through the crowd to clear an exit path.

“From my perspective, I understand why they did it,” admitted Tran. “But I don’t think they needed to have been so aggressive. It was almost brutal, in a way.”

Tran noted that the Board of Regent’s meeting had originally been scheduled to take place on a day earlier on Thursday. She believes that the rescheduling was a deliberate attempt to thwart students’ plans to assemble. Students representing every institution in the UC system planned to bus to rallies at UCLA, but arrived a day late.

“We thought it was very sketchy,” said Tran.

In a last ditch attempt to convince the board to reverse its decision, some students stormed Campbell Hall, a building on UCLA’s campus, and occupied it from 2 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday in protest.

Tran noted that the protests had hit a particularly sensitive chord with students.

"We’re students, we can not handle this fee increase," said an exasperated Tran. She believes many students will be forced to drop out of school because of the increased fees. "We’re smart and we’re knowledgeable. We know there are other ways, there are other solutions, but we want to be protesting.”

Senior Sharya de Silva said the vigorous demonstration was a unique display of a particularly emotional student body.

“It was more students than I have seen in a long time. When it first started on campus, I would say at least 300 kids [were protesting],” explained Silva. “But then when we walked down Westwood Blvd…another group of students showed up. I think while marching we had around 600 kids.”

She described the scene outside Covel Hall, a building on UCLA’s campus, as “a mad house,” and said she believes about 1000 were protesting there.

Silva echoed sentiments of undue police force against what she described as passionate but nonviolent protest.

“I saw one officer swinging a baton around to try and clear room,” she said. “In the process he hit two guys and almost hit me. This one girl was actually trying to help the cops by calming the crowd down, and they got her. It was sad, she just hit the ground.”

Silva believes the police “didn't know how to handle the volume of students with that much passion,” and their actions were preemptive measures taken in fear that protests would turn violent.

Despite the widespread discontentment in regard to increased fees and the fervor demonstrated by protesters, some students questioned the effectiveness of such displays.

“Everyone is unified in their opinion about it, well, sucking, but not everyone supports the protests,” said junior Nathan Stein. He said the demonstrations are “causing a lot of disturbance to people living in the dorms and not accomplishing much.”

Both Tran and Silva confessed that they believed the decision made by the Board of Regents will likely stick.

Protests have currently died down, though students continue to stew over the possible implications the increase.

For now though, students must turn their thoughts to another problem: finals. Exams for the fall semester will begin taking place in a matter of days. Little time, said Stein, to worry about tuition.

“I think most students are spending their time studying,” he said.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Music Monday: The AFI Recording Ban & The Birth of Bebop

This week, I'm going to write about a crucial point in Jazz history. You can learn more about this era in "Come In and Hear the Truth: Jazz and Race on 52nd Street" by Patrick Burke, a professor of mine at Wash U and a knowledgeable and insightful expert on the culture of Jazz (an opinion and shout out that is unsolicited, but much deserved). This week is part one, about the cultural occurrences that led to the beginning of Bebop. The next installment will be about the musicians and their personal inspirations for new musical expression.

Jazz music, along with all art forms, has developed expansively over time. During the World War II era however, Jazz went through its largest and most drastic advancements. The music had never changed so much as it did from Swing to Bebop. The Jazz scene was due for change, however. Swing had been the popular form for quite some time. But World War II hit the big band swing scene hard and made it difficult for bands to make enough money to continue. Because of supply rationing and the draft, everything, from sidemen to shellac for records, was in short supply. Finally, a ban by the American Federation of Musicians on the recording of instrumental music and an entertainment tax against the same instrumental music in 1944-45 made it nearly impossible for bands to survive. Many musicians went unemployed or into the army. The only bands left became desperate for audiences, since they could only perform live and could not record. These bands became bigger and heavier, and featured over-complicated, under-fulfilling arrangements. Jazz fans were losing their attachment to the increasingly poppy swing and were primed for something, anything, new.

A population of jazz fans, generally the older and whiter ones, took to the old New Orleans style and heralded characters such as Bunk Johnson and Sydney Bechet. They felt that Jazz had grown beyond it's means and intentions and should revert back to earlier styles. But a whole different generation of Jazz musicians, generally, young, black, and well educated, were out of organized groups and created the jam session, a nightly all-night rehearsal/performance in underground bars and clubs in New York City on 52nd street and in Harlem. These musicians were frustrated by the Jazz scene and the general state of America and needed to just be themselves. The early 40s presented the perfect breeding ground for what would come to be called Bebop.

These nightly jam sessions were more for the players than the audience, only a few recordings of any of these sessions exist. The musicians got the chance to play whatever they wanted, with whomever they wanted, for however long they wanted, without any restrictions from the public or record companies. Feeding off of each other, they broke musical boundaries and began to conceive of Jazz in a new way. No longer would they play strictly arranged, pleasing popular pieces. Instead they create their own style, highly sophisticated, extremely complicated, and very expressive.

I'll get more into the musical stylistic details in part 2, but I'm going to use two different recordings of the song After You've Gone, to highlight some of the differences in Jazz brought forth by the change in performance scenarios.

Benny Goodman was know as the 'King of Swing' and the reason why is immediately obvious as you hear the beginning of Goodman's recording of After You've Gone- the song has got a rhythm that makes you wanna move. It is, however, very organized. With the exception of the band leader, Benny Goodman, each individual musician operates as part of a section and always plays at the same time as his section mates, with the lone exception being the odd solo not taken by Goodman. The drums, bass, and piano form the rhythm section and retain a solely rhythmic function throughout the song. They pretty much maintain the swing beat, while the horn and wind sections either accompany a soloist or trade off playing the melody and harmony. Besides for the instrumentation, the song's arrangement is very strict and leaves very little room for individuality. The solos are all a prescribed number of measures and the horns and winds often play in a call-and-response pattern which leaves no room for alterations. The song is very pleasant and poppy, but doesn't have much depth or complication to it.

The second version of After You've Gone, by Charlie Parker, sounds immediately different from the first. This is a small group not a big band, so individual musicians took the role sections used to hold. The lone exception is the rhythm, which is still comprised of two members, a drum set and bass, but has lost the piano, which is now allowed to express its melodic side and play solos and accompaniments. The rhythm itself is driving and relentless, not made for dancing but instead to challenge the musicians' skill. Similarly, the solos are long and very difficult. The solos are split pretty evenly between the horn and wind players, who now solo exclusively and rarely accompany each other. They go on for a seemingly indeterminate amount of time- until the the soloist has said what he is going to say and is ready to move on. The rehearsal atmosphere of the jam session was largely responsible for this change in the approach to soloing. In big bands, musicians would have to compete with at least a dozen band mates for just 8 measures of soloing time in a song that was no longer than 4 minutes at a concert. But in a small group jam session, there were a lot more opportunities to solo, since there were only a few other soloists with whom you could split time and the all night the jam sessions meant that songs could go on for as long as the artists wanted.

This increased opportunity for expression combined with an increased influence to be expressive led the musicians to re-imagine how they played the music and lead to this drastic shift in the playing and conceiving of Jazz music. Before Bebop, Jazz was a thought of as a low-brow art form, an inferior style of dance music that was only for the poor and uneducated. But with the sophisticated shift in philosophy that accompanied bebop, Jazz became considered the cultured, heady, and hi-brow art it is thought of today.

Please check back next week for the next 'Music Monday' from SumofChange.com.

Please email me at Malasky@SumofChange.com for questions/comments/corrections/sources

Grow the Hope's House Meeting with Betsy Hoover of OFA

Yesterday, had you stopped by Sum Live Change between 2:00-4:00pm you would have stumbled upon our first ever live broadcast. We spend the afternoon in Bethesda, MD, at the home of David Hart, the founder of Grow the Hope (GTH). The guest speaker was Betsy Hoover, the Regional Director of Organizing for America (OFA 2.0).

I hope you enjoy the videos: