Florence + the Machine: I'm obsessed with Florence and her red hair. I'm obsessed with her cosmic voice. I'm obsessed with her lineage and her Celtic robes. I think she is an extraordinary terrestrial.
“Piss Christ” by Andres Serrano: When we studied this photograph, almost every student appreciated the image as a work of art until they discovered Serrano used his own blood and urine to create the golden background for the image. Once my students discover this fact, all hell breaks loose change. In the end, less than half of the students wanted the image censored. Art is dangerous, I told them. One student asked me to (politely) shut up. Why didn't he use orange juice, instead, the student asked. No idea, I answered. Maybe he is anti-orange juice.
“War” by Sinead O'Connor: I knew why Sinead O'Connor tore up the photograph of the Pope. I was 18 when I witnessed her act of defiance on national television.
This was just a few weeks after it was revealed in the local news that a substitute math teacher at my private, Catholic elementary school had sexually abused boys over the years. The Vatican's child sex abuse scandal, revealed years later, vindicated O'Connor actions, but no one wanted to listen to her then. Last year I had the opportunity to ask her a question on behalf of my students during an on-line forum at the Washingtonpost.com. She told my students to keep up the fight for justice for all victims of sexual abuse and to burn down the forest if that is what it takes to get our voices heard. Fortunately, we don't have any forests in South Florida anymore. We've cut them down already.
Ladytron: Students were like, what is Ladytron. I told them it's a combination of a Lady and a Tron. They didn't get it, so we moved on.
Little Miss Sunshine: I cry at least twice during the film even though I've seen it 8 times.
Alive Day Memories: I cry thinking about the human cost of war.
District 9: I hate violent, graphic films, but this films makes me see the beauty in the uglyfulness around us. My students preferred Little Miss Sunshine, so I made them write a Marxist Critique of District 9. I just felt like giving them a challenge.
"Mr. Zebra" by Tori Amos: I love Zebras. I love Mrs. Crocodile. That's my explanation.
"Kinky" by Denise Duhamel: This poem is a good way to subvert my students preconceived notion of what poetry can be about, especially when many of my students have had little to no contact with the art of poetry. I ask the girls to bring their Barbie Dolls to class. The guys bring their GI Joes. Given enough time, at least one student will suggest that the two dolls have sex.It's our stupid human nature, I tell them, to try to recreate the world in their image.
--Neil de la Flor