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Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media
Department of English
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611

Phone: (352) 392-6650, ex. 285
Fax: (352)392-0860

Transcripts for February 2000

Programs #112-

Program #112
February 1, 2000--Shelley Frazer Mickle Remembering: Black History Month

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture. To begin Black History Month, Shelley Frazer Mickle has this Remembering:

This transcript is currently unavailable.


Program #113
February 2, 2000--Langston Hughes: The Rhythms of the World

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture.

What better place to begin Black History Month than with Langston Hughes, who reminds us of the poetry--singing, ringing, soaring, impassioned poetry that is such an essential part of the African American experience.

A lesser known aspect of Hughes's creative life is the work he did for children. An especially interesting example of this is a 1955 Folkways album called "The Rhythms of the World," in which Hughes introduced children to the idea of rhythm, and the vital role it plays in our lives.

He begins with the most basic of rhythms, the human heartbeat and connects it with one of the earliest forms of music:

(Sound clip.)

And soon he is carrying his associations through a more and more complex forms of rhythmicizing, from hand clapping and tap dancing to pre-Stomp teenagers improvising on park benches and pop bottles to the polyrhytms of a jug band:

(Sound clip.)

Hughes keeps spreading his field of sound references wider and wider to include the rhythms poetry and ocean waves, the pulsating calls of fish and the sound patterns of rain, machinery, and short wave radio signals, the rhythms of a person's walk and of a kitten's meow--until, at the end, the cosmic and the everyday are fused, in a perfect final chord of words and sounds:

(Sound clip.)

©2000 by John Cech


Program #114
February 3, 2000--Norman Rockwell's Children

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture.

For the next several years, a remarkable exhibit of the paintings of Norman Rockwell will be touring the country. The exhibit began in Atlanta and now is moving to Chicago, then Washington, D.C., San Diego, Pheonix, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and, finally New York City. If you're near one of these cities when the show is in town, don't miss the chance to take your children to see these pictures that the filmaker Stephen Spielberg, who incorporates Rockwell's images into his movies, calls the "subliminal" stories of American life.

Rockwell's own life has been well-documented in numerous books, and is the subject of a recent American Masters profile on PBS. Remarkably, he didn't come from small-town America. Instead, Rockwell had a rather unhappy, urban childhood, where the only thing he seemed qualified to do was to draw--which he did brilliantly. He had his first big commercial jobs, illustrating for Boy's Life and, later, for The Saturday Evening Post when he was barely out of his teens. Rockwell became, quite quickly, one of the most popular artists in America, and he remained that well into the second half of our century, until the sea change of American culture that began in the 1960s caught up with him, and for a time put him out of critical fashion--with everyone except all those millions of people who never gave up on Rockwell's view of what America can and should be--a tolerant, generous-spirited, democratic land full of often quirky, but always decent individuals.

Rockwell's children are especially engaging whether they're racing from a swimming hole where they're not supposed to be, or showing off a missing tooth, or sharing a swing or a rowdy fooball game together, or, in one of the show's more remarkable images, examining their child's face in a mirror, bereft that the model of beauty in a magazine may not be what is being reflected back at them.

Perhaps the most moving image of the show is Rockwell's famous 1964 painting entitled "The Problem We All live With" that shows a small black girl in a white dress, ankle socks and shoes, with a white ribbon in her pigtails who is being escorted by four U.S. Marshalls, past a tomato-spattered wall grafittied with an ugly racist epithet and into a previously segregated school. Disturbed by what he saw in America in the 1960s, Rockwell painted a masterpiece of sheer poignance and enduring emotional power, a mirror that reflects us back to ourselves, both troubling and sublimely ennobled on a few feet of canvas.

©2000 by John Cech


Program #115
February 4, 2000--"Fresh"

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture.

In Boaz Yakin's award-winning film, "Fresh," we watch with fascination and growing dread as Michael, whose nickname is "Fresh," the 12-year-old hero of this gritty urban fairy tale, begins to play a dangerous game of deception in which he pits two gangs of drug dealers in his Brooklyn neighborhood against one another. He can move between the gangs because he works as a runner for both, carrying heroine for one in the morning and crack for the other in the afternoon, and its a gambit that he must take up if he is to save his addicted sister, who is the unwilling girlfriend of one of the drug lords.

As you have gathered by now, this is not a movie for children, or even for ;younger teenagers. And I want to caution you that it has very rough language and several very violent scenes. But it is a deeply serious, truthful film for anyone who is concerned about the burdens that children often carry in their lives, and how they often must carry these weights silently and sometimes find solutions to the these problems virtually on their own.

What empowers Fresh, who is played with stunning emotional range by Sean Nelson, are the mental skills he has learned from chess, a game taught to him by his brilliant, alcoholic, absentee father, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who still hustles speed chess for money in Washington Square Park, where Fresh meets him at key moments in the movie. The strategies, the subterfuges, the calculations of chess give Fresh the only weapon that he has for coping with the gangs that terrorize him, his family, friends and neighborhood. This is a classic fairy tale predicament, in which the little hero must find a way to outwit the ogres and giants that threaten to devour him. It's an unforgettable, courageous movie, a small masterpiece about how difficult it is for kids to struggle and survive, especially those children who have fallen between the cracks into a world of indifference and exploitation that consumes most of the children who land in it. This movie will make you break out in cheers, and it will also break your heart.

©2000 by John Cech