Monday, January 30, 2012

Buffy’s On A Plane!!-Part II

About two years ago I wrote this post about Buffy’s first time on a plane and how taking dogs on a plane works. This was a nerve-racking experience but we felt that it was worth the extra stress and since then we have continued to take Buffy on trips with us. A couple weekends ago, Buffy completed her tenth plane ride, flying a little bit more the 14,500 miles total.

Flying on planes and airports are stressful and adding a dog into the equation doesn’t help. One of the biggest concerns about taking a dog on a plane is the dog’s need to go to the bathroom. Most airports have some green space around the terminal that dogs can use to go, but none of these places are past security. Buffy is usually so excited at the airport she rarely goes at these places before flights. So usually right before we drive over to the airport, we try to time it so Buffy goes and she usually does.

When we get off plane we hustle to get outside of the baggage claim so Buffy can do her business. Sometimes she has more of a desire to run in circles and stretch her legs out than actually going potty, but after a couple minutes she usually does.

Walking through the airport Buffy is greeted to “ahh’s” and request to pet her. Airports can be such a bleak and depressing place and it’s really amazing to watch how Buffy can bring a smile to the face of bedraggled travelers.

Buffy’s presence seems to invite people to tell us about their dogs. Many people relate how they are looking forward to going home to their puppy and we are asked often about the logistics of having her on the plane.

Airplane employees have a variety of responses to Buffy. Most are so enamored by her cuteness that they simply ask to pet her. Many flight attendants don’t mind if during the flight she sticks her head out the top of her bag while others are really strict about her being completely in the bag.

We did have one horrible incident when we were about to board a plane. One of the ticket agents thought we were being cruel to Buffy by making her be in a bag that was too small for her. Diana and I are very conscientious about this and Buffy is in regulation for the bag we use to carry her. This flight was already late and numerous airline employees had seen Buffy, checked her in and made no comments about her bag being too small.


This situation escalated until a manager had to be called in who really didn’t care about Buffy being on the plan. She let us on the plane to the objections of the one ticket agent. Even though I was angrier during the confrontation than I had ever been at an airport, Buffy quietly sat in her bag the entire time.


Probably my favorite thing about flying with Buffy is when Diana carries her down the aisle to our seats. We are usually part of the last group to board. So as Buffy’s head sticks out from the top of her bag and we make our way to our seat, almost all of the passengers turn their heads to watch Buffy go by. Some people smile, others point Buffy out to people they are traveling with, while a chorus of “ahhs” accompany Buffy as she passes by.

Buffy is much better traveler than most people.  She doesn't get stressed out, pushy or irritable like many of us do when we get on plane flights.  She makes being at an airport and a plane, somehow not as bad for the people who encounter her.

In the past ten plane flights with Buffy, she's never given me a reason to feel stressed out, she's only given me reasons to be proud of her and love her even more.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Year 2: Week 19 – What Diversity Means In Education-Part II

Last spring I made a post of diversity in education. I didn’t really draw any conclusions in this post. I reflected on my own life and told a story about talking about my background enrich my students’ lives.

This week as I sat on a sub-committee at my school focused on the issue of diversity, I realized that I actually did have a strong idea of what diversity in education meant in education contrary to my conclusion in my earlier post on the subject.

“Diversity” is a huge buzz word not only in educations but in many corners of our world. The idea is that somehow, whatever business or group is more diverse is better. Why? A more diverse group of people brings more perspectives and abilities and is therefore more relevant. There’s almost a “political correctness” to the idea of being more diverse to the point that anyone who asserts the opposite is offensive.

As someone who brings diversity as an Asian American into most of the situations in my life, I like diversity. Because I am diversity. However I understand reservations about putting such a focus on being diverse especially if it’s at the cost of other things. Should a university be more diverse if it means the academic standards drop? No, I’m not talking about simply minorities here, I’m talking about all of the differences in our culture: gender, sexual-orientation, location in the country, socio-economic level, religion to name a few.

Not everything is better by being made more diverse. How strong can a Catholic Church community be if people of many religions come to the services with no intention of converting? There’s a place for a level of homogeny, but I think American education isn’t one of those places.

One of the things that I point out whenever someone asks me what I think about the fact that some countries like Japan and in Northern Europe have much higher test scores then American students is that their student population is much less diverse. If our goal as educators really was to teach math and reading, then we should segregate the schools by gender, languages they speak at home, learning styles, and of course ability. While you find schools that do separate their students by some or all of these ways, most schools don’t.

American education believes that it’s worth having lower test scores if students learn not only have to work with people who are different than them but embrace those differences as an asset.

Diversity isn’t just about specific differences in our country like race or gender. It’s not even about preparing our youth for a more global economy in the future. It’s about teaching students a paradigm that valuing diversity, differences in our world is what helps us understand each other.  In recognizing the differences and accepting them, we see the similarities that we all share and in those connections we find the moments that make life worth living.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Love Is Your Love by Whitney Houston

This is how I like to remember Whitney Houston.



With brilliant production by Wyclef Jean and simple but beautiful lyrics, Whitney proved in 1998 after years of controversy that she still had it.  She started in 1987 simply wanting to dance with somebody. . .



While this song is fun, that hair . . .wow.



Of course there's her unforgettable cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You."



I guess I go back to "My Love Is Your Love" which is one of my favorite songs of all time because it feels so much more real.  There's a warmth and relaxation in her voice and an honestly.  It's hopeful, where as "I Will Always Love You," really is a break-up song.   There's something so profound she captures in the second verse that gets to me every time I hear this song.   
If I lose my fame and fortune,
And I'm homeless on the street.
And I'm sleeping in Grand Central Station,
It's okay if you're sleeping with me.
 While you imagine the loneliness and despair of this situation, her voice is liarms warm embrace.  

Monday, January 23, 2012

We Take Care Of Our Own by Bruce Springsteen

Starting with a snarl of angry guitars and unforgiving drums, Springsteen starts "We Take Care Of Our Own" with an spite and frustration. When we feel this way, we have a choice: either dwell in the darkness of our feelings or work towards something better. What is Springsteen's answer to these emotions? In the shining guitar chords, singing violin and sparking bells that enter next, we hear hope.

The opening guitar riff doesn't disappear with the other instruments but remains as a reminder of the darkness that leads to hope. These layers, the chords, the melody and the colors are a sonic landscape that is uniquely Springsteen and uniquely American which fits these simple but profound lyrics of Springsteen's newest anthem.



"We Take Care Of Our Own" is Springsteen's first single from his upcoming album Wrecking Ball, which comes out in early March. On its surface this song appears to be an almost Toby Kieth-esque patriotic rock anthem. With a chorus "wherever this flag is flown, we take care of our own," there's an illusion that Springsteen is simply trying to milk patriotic emotions out of his audience. However like many of Springsteen's greatest songs, this song is so much more than it appears. "Born In The U.S.A." was about the burdens, not the pride of being born in America, "Dancing In The Dark" is an examination of the loss of ones identity, not a frivolous 1980s dance song, and "We Take Care Of Our Own," is not a simple patriotic anthem, but rather a critical examinations of the values that we hold dear and the promises of our country that for many are simply illusions.

The first verse is a journey, searching for something that is missing, something that has been lost. Good intentions now seem meaningless. The second verse explores the corners of America, some full of glory but others full of shame. He brings up the Superdome alluding the the catastrophe of the Hurricane Katrina and the horribly inadequate response to the disaster using the Superdome as an evacuation center. Then in the third verse Bruce starts asking questions. These are questions we've all asked ourselves more and more as our country has suffered through some of the it's most challenging times in the last four years.

These questions lead up to one final passionate call to us all, "where's the promise from sea to shining sea." The repetition of this line drives this questions home as one of the central lines in this song. More importantly it invites us all to sing along when he eventually performs this song live.  Imagine 20 thousand people singing this line in unison. Think about all the frustration, the struggles, the loss our country has gone through in the past four year and imagine the being able to yell out this question as a united people.

We need this in America right now, but what we don't need is for these emotions to turn into anger, and Bruce immediately reminds us that regardless of what our government does, no matter how bad times get, we take care of our own. Or do we? But that is not the question that this song is really asking us. It's forces us to focus on the central questions the nature of our country, our community and our citizenship: what does it mean to take care of our own?

Who is our "own"? Are people who are on death row our "own"? How about unborn fetuses, illegal immigrants or the homeless guy I drive by every day on the way to work? Does taking care of someone means saving their soul, if you believe that living a certain lifestyle will get them to heaven even if they don't? Does taking care of someone mean giving a person food or does it mean making them feel the pangs of hunger to motivate them to work?

In one statement Bruce has summarized the entire current political discussion and brings it into focus. Yes there are songs that Springsteen has recorded that have a clear political bias and Bruce himself regularly campaigns for Democrats. However this song is truly apolitical because it doesn't make assertions about taking care of our own.  It simply raises questions about what we value.

This isn't a liberal or conservative thing to do, this is an American thing to do as one of our greatest freedoms. It is the amazing feeling of being in a country that values reflection which is expressed in the shear joy of this song.

Bruce Springsteen doesn't state that he's proud to be an American, instead he reminds us why we should feel proud to be one.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Year 2: Week 18 - Why A Teacher Is Not A Friend

"No, I'm not your friend."

Usually when I say this to one of my students, I'm joking around. But every once in a while I need to have a conversation with one of my students when they get too comfortable with me and I need to explain to them the nature of our relationship. A teacher is a lot of things, but a friend is not one of them. Every time this topic comes to mind I think about Katya.

Katya was one of my students when I was student teaching. She was a sophomore flute player and she quickly became comfortable confiding in me. Every day she would come to band, walk by the desk and give me an enthusiastic greeting and fill me in on the events of her day.

One of my jobs as a student teacher was to enforce the students’ marching band dress code. This was important to set and standard for the band and create a uniform look which helped during competitions. One of the requirements was that all of the students had to wear black socks.

At the end of one football game, I walked by Katya as the band was lining up and deciding to be cute she said "hey Mr. Tang, check out my socks." Looking down I noticed that she was wearing pinks socks.

"Katya, you know the deal, anything but black socks are going to be points off your grade." I told her.

"You're not going to report me, c'mon Tang" she said smiling back at me.

But I did report her to my supervising teacher, and Katya got called and had to deal the consequence of her actions. The next week Katya walked right by my desk instead of stopping to say hello. In class she was polite to me, did everything I asked but it ended right there. No more happy greetings, updates of her day and asking me for help with issues with her life,

That's how it was between Katya and I for the last half of my time student teaching at her school. I missed the relationship we had developed but I knew I did the right thing. Even though we had become friendly, my job was not to be her friend. Her "liking" me simply
wasn't as important as being fair. I told myself all of this but it didn't change how I missed seeing her smiling face greet me every morning.

On my last day student teaching, I sat in the office during lunch finishing up some work and I heard Katya's voice greeting me. She didn't greet me the way we did before I reported her but there was warmth to her voice beyond simply acknowledging my presence. She sat down, told me about her day and what had been going on her life. Then she told me that should would miss me and said goodbye.

Somehow in that moment I knew we had an understanding even though we never talked about what happened. Her goodbye was the way that Katya showed me that and with her simple words she helped me finally feel that I had done the right thing.

A teacher's relationship with a student is a difficult thing to define. It's relationship that has certain strict boundaries but others that we have to define for ourselves.

If we base our decisions as teachers on being a friend we are doing a disservice to our students and ourselves. This is something that students rarely comprehend and almost never thank us for, however every once in a while a student will let you that they understand.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Beatles are tired and so am I. . .

While most the Beatles' catalog are songs about love, they understood music's ability to express the spectrum of the human experience.

Including being tire:



And sleeping . . .



Now I'm not someone who whines about being tired or obsesses about sleep, but man, I could use a nap.    Like all great music, the Beatles remind us that we aren't the only ones who sometimes feel tired.  This doesn't make me feel any less tired, but hey at least I know someone out there understands.

Monday, January 16, 2012

All I Need by Matchbox Twenty

Once upon a time, iTunes wasn’t a store. It was simply an application used to play CD’s. It wasn’t until a couple months into using it that anyone I knew started using this program to import songs onto their computers (We’re talking about the early 2000s here). iTunes was far better at not only organizing music but also burning music CDs.

Before iTunes you had to import the songs, arrange a playlist, create an image and then burn that image onto a CD. Most of the time this two-hour process would mess up and you’d have to restart. iTunes slimmed this process down and it opened up the world of making mix CDs. All you had to do was drop some songs in a playlist you had previously uploaded and press burn and in about 45 minutes you would have a personalized audio CD.

I really loved making these mixes for people. I tried to create something that expressed the way I felt about them and also gave a joyful to experience. Most of the time I started the mix with faster music and ended with slower and more introspective tunes. I didn’t really try to send subliminal messages through these mix CDs. Most of the time if there was something that I wanted to say through a song, it was pretty explicit like with “Bobby Jean” by Bruce Springsteen, which I discussed in this post.

When I set out to make the first mix CD I ever made for Diana,  I spent a lot of time figuring out which songs to include. One of the first songs that came to mind was “All I Need” by Matchbox Twenty.



This song is probably the most joyful song that this band ever recorded. Released in 2002 from their third album, Matchbox Twenty leaves behind the brooding darkness of many of their hits embracing a hopeful joy.  There’s an 1960s feeling in this song even featuring a quote from The Buckingham’s hit “kind of a drag” in the bridge.



Within this shiny soundscape the lyrics talk about difficult times and people with “a sinking feeling” and being “down on themselves.” Thomas’ reaction to this in the chorus is that all he needs is someone to lean on.  It’s such a simple sentiment but at that time it was exactly how I felt about Diana. All I felt like I needed was someone to lean on and in some ways that has never changed.

Putting “All I Need” on that mix CD forever connected this song with that time in my life and the feelings I had for Diana.  When I talk to my students about music, this idea that you can create a group of songs for about how you feel is lost on them.  We don't have any more as people share songs more than playlists.

Music isn't just about how we feel about ourselves, but also how we feel about each other.  Mix CDs communicated my feelings to other people and while I haven't made a mix CD in a while, whenever I hear "All I Need" that reminds me of the joy creating one.  As dorky as they may seem, mix CDs were awesome and I wish we could embrace this unique gift of music once again.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Year 2: Week 17- From The Back Of The Bus

“What does the word segregation mean to you?”

When I posed this question to my third graders what was fascinating wasn’t so much the content of what they said but how they said it. They all knew about the Rosa Parks and the fact that the buses were segregated. However they had a really hard time describing the groups that were segregated from each other.

I heard students stumble over the words, “Aftrican-American,” “black” and “minorities.” Also they had issues dealing with the words “white” and “Caucasian.” One student was so confused about the terms he asked me “It’s Cauc-Asian, right? So does that include Asians?”

Instead of immediately correcting my students I let them try to work out the language and take cues from each other. What I found and was very proud of was the fact that they all knew that they needed to be careful with the words. They just didn’t know which to use.

Before I settled this issue for my students I introduced them to the term “colored people.” I explained that myself as an Asian American would also be subject to Jim Crow laws because I was a “colored person.” Some of my third graders didn’t quite believe me but as I discussed how other minorities were affected by this type of discrimination it started to make sense to them.

The reason I began this class with discussing segregation is because as part of our Martin Luther King Jr. Day assembly next week we are singing “If You Meet Me At The Back Of The Bus.”



Charles Neblett took the tune of “O Mary Don’t You Weep” and added lyrics about positive develop in desegregation from universities to swimming pools.

As I described the different verses and the stories behind them, there was a level of disbelief from my students. I told them that this stuff is hard to understand and hard to imagine for me as well. At the same time we have to try so we can understand how much we’ve grown as a country since these times and be grateful that we get to share

After learning the song, I came back to the difficulty they were having with terms for groups of people. I told them how “white” used to not include groups of people that we call “white” now. While I explained this, it made me realize how these labels don’t really describe anyone accurately and are often used to disenfranchise people.

I didn't give them a clear answer of that any particular term was right or wrong because none of the term really feel right.  There's better and worse and some are offensive  that's not what we are really talking about here.  My third graders have not developed a sense of a person directed connected with labels because they haven't really learned to do that yet.  Maybe that's not such a bad thing.

If you ever wonder why we have a day set aside for Martin Luther King Jr.,  think about the fact that by simply talking about the struggles he was a part of it teaches us something about ourselves and each other.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Behold The Hurricane by The Horrible Crows

Brian Fallon of the founding members of one of my favorite bands The Gaslight Anthem started a side-project last year forming the band The Horrible Crows.

Fallon and Ian Perkins released the album Elsie which has echos of the The Gaslight Anthem.  Like his work with The Gaslight Anthem, Fallon's work is a combination fo punk and Springsteen-like storytelling, which is clearly evident in the lead sing "Behold The Hurricane."



While the story of this song is sad, there is a triumphant glory in the music that allows you to comprehend the darkness of the lyrics with a unique perspective.  This song isn't suppose to depress, instead it makes you consider yourself and the choices in your life.  Fallon, triumphs again pushing rock music into places that few musicians date to approach.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Where The Streets Have No Name by U2

As the organ rises like the sun breaking through the darkness of night, the world awakens. In the guitar there is the rivers flowing through the land, birds flying through the sky and people facing the daylight. The guitar grows in energy and as the pulsing bass enters, the heartbeat of our humanity begins and the guitar vigorously throws off our fears and insecurities with a new found energy.

Everything you need to know about U2 can be understood in the first 45 seconds of “Where The Streets Have No Name.” Actually everything you need to know about Rock music can be heard in this introduction. Bono described Rock music as being about one thing: liberation. In this song, U2 encapsulates the desire, the hope and the complexities of what liberation really means.



One thing that many great albums share is incredible opening songs. Springsteen’s Born To Run, opened with the unforgettable piano chords of “Thunder Road,” The Rolling Stone’s Exile On Main Street, exploded with the snarl of Keith Richard’s guitar on “Rocks Off,” and U2's Joshua Tree begins with “Where The Streets Have No Name.”

Bono was inspired when he heard about how in Belfast, Northern Ireland, a person’s religion and income could be determined simply by the street they lived on. Like John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Bono wrote a song to question the assumptions we base our world on and like Lennon, brings these desires to a deeply personal place.



The first verse speaks of desire. There’s the want to “tear down walls,” to liberate, and the desire to feel, “touch the flame.” It continues wanting shelter, “poison rain,” the divisions in our lives to the place where they do not exist. The chorus is a call to stop “burning down love,” to stop tearing down the things that we work so hard to build.  All this desire and passion ends with the thought “I go there with you. It’s all I can do.”

In that one line, Bono foreshadows “With or Without You” later in the album speaking that moving through life with someone else that you love is not a choice. It’s something that we simply have to do. It’s all we can do to be alive, maintain hope and keep moving through the world.

The second verse and chorus speaks of destruction and even though “love turns to rust” and he is “blown by the wind” they got together to the place where we aren’t judged by the world and the labels we put upon each but rather by love.  Yes, love is getting old and rusty, but it perseveres.



Musically we take U2 for granted. Most of us can’t imagine a musical world without Bono’s soaring vocals and Edge’s symphony of sound he creates with his guitar and the simple fact that along with the rest of U2 they are one of the greatest and most original bands ever.

If you try to listen to “Where The Streets Have No Name” with fresh ears you find that everything about this song is astounding. If this song came out today it would blow people’s minds the way it did twenty-five years ago.

Rock 'n' Roll may not be able to save the world but U2 makes you believe it can.  Somewhere in their we find the part of ourselves that believes that through all the darkness we can save the world as long as we have hope in our hearts and loved ones by our sides.

If you still need a little help to understand what I mean check out this trailer and you'll know exactly what this songs really is about.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Year 2: Week 16-Laughing "at" Kids

When I looked down at one of my 3rd graders papers and saw the word “peanow.” I was really confused what musical instrument she was trying to spell and then I sounded it out and preceded to laugh out loud.  She was trying to spell “piano.” Wow.

This was after class and the student had left the room closing the door behind her so my response wasn’t in front of anyone, but I did get a good laugh out of this. One of my fellow teachers enjoyed this when I showed him after school and he laughed as well. And then when I posted this on my facebook profile seven people “liked” it and four people made comments.

Am I a bad teacher because I laugh about things that my students do or say? Well, I don’t think so. It means I'm human, and laughing about students is a fact of life teachers.  But there's some things you have to keep in mind like, first off, I never laugh at something a student does unless I’m 100% sure he or she is trying to be funny and even at those times, I often hold it in.

As a teacher one of the most important skills you learn is how to laugh on the inside. What I mean by this is the ability to keep a straight face and show no reaction when a student does something like raise he left hand when you ask them to raise their right hand, which would be fine if this student wasn’t in 8th grade!

It’s usually not very hard for me to do this because when you look at someone who says or does something that is inadvertently humorous, they usually aren’t smiling so you just take your cue from them.

Then the student leaves the room and you let it out. Sometimes at the end of the day, I sit in my office, go through the funny things kids did or say and laugh for five minutes straight. More often then not I find another teacher, share these stories and have a good time reflecting on the silly things our kids do.

Is this mean? Well, I think it could easily become mean. It’s one thing to laugh in private about students asking an obvious question and another thing to talk about how “dumb” they are. Almost all the time when I tell people stories about kids, which are funny, somewhere in there I express how much I like the kid.

I say this, because it’s true. I like my students and I like how sometimes kids say silly things that seem like something someone far younger then them would say. That’s part of the charm of kids they aren’t perfect. The thing is, if you really have done a good job at making your students feel comfortable in your class and take chances in learning, these moments will occur more often as you’ve allowed that students to feel more comfortable taking chances. That’s a powerful thing. If you as a teacher can keep that laughter inside it will teach the other kids to react to students taking chances and sometimes failing in an appropriate and respectful way.

Yes, teachers can be very mean when they talk about students and I've walked out of situations when I feel teachers cross the line from being mean to laughing about a cute mistake.  There is a line and we need to be conscious as teachers about where that is, because the instant our laughter becomes meanness it shades the way we think about our students.  This is something that we can't hide from students at any age.  Once a students feels that you make fun of them in a mean way, your effectiveness as a teacher dramatically diminishes.

That's something that's not funny at all.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Adele At 19

Three reasons to get Adele's first album 19.  


1.



One of her best songs showcasing an Amy Winehouse-like wickedness.

2.



"Chasing Pavements" was the most famous single from this album.  This isn't quite "Rolling In Teh Deep" but it comes close."

3.



This album featured a cover of Bob Dylan's "To Make You Feel My Love."  It seems like everyone and their mom has recorded this song (Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, etc.) but Adele manages to make it sound fresh.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Beware (Jay-Z Remix) by Punjabi MC

Recipe for great song:

Fist let’s start with a 1980s TV theme song:



Now let’s take the bass line from that and add in some vocals. How about we use “Mundian To Bach Ke” by Punjabi artist Labh Janjua. This Indian song warns a young girl that now that she is grown up she needs to be careful of boys, perfect.



Ok. . . this ought to be good, let’s see what happened when Punjabi MC mixes these things up.



That’s a party right there, maybe we should add a little of the “H to the Izzo” and see what we get:



My mind is officially blown.

This is one of those things that on paper seems like it would never work but it comes together in a way that is unbelievable. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised with Jay-Z, this guy did sample a song from Annie (which I wrote about in this earlier post).

Every once in a while a Western pop artist deeps into what people call “world music” for influences like Sting’s song “Desert Rose” which featured Algerian singer Cheb Mami.



I came across this song for the trailer for new Sacha Baron Cohen film The Dictator.



While the song seems to fit the vibe of this film it doesn’t really make sense. The trailer portrays this fictional dictator as being from a Middle Easter country and well, “Beware” is clearly of Indian origin. It’s like using “La Bamba” for the movie trailer for New Year’s Eve, which is set in New York City.

Besides being a pleasing mix of sounds what does this all add up to. The bass line from a show about a talking car makes sense in the way its about protection and so is the warning about men. Jay-Z’s lyrics start with typical boasting in the first verse talking about how he’s the “black Brad Pitt” but he gets decidedly political in the second verse.

Jay-Z takes this palate of sounds to talk about issues in the Middle East. He talks about screaming, “leave Iraq Alone” and wanting the troops to have a safe return. Then we get a deeper look at Jay-Z’s world view.
Before Bin Laden got Manhattan to blow
Before Ronal Reagan Got Manhattan the blow
Before I was cabbing it there back and forth
Raw we had it all day, Papi in the hallway
Cop one on consignment give you more yay
Yea, but that’s another story
But for now, Mami turn it around and the let the boy play.

Jay-Z starts talking about the attacks on 9/11 as well as referencing speculation that the Reagan administration had partial responsibility for the distribution of crack cocaine. He goes into his experience selling drugs out of a cab with his distributor. Then he wraps the verse up basically saying that it’s time to party.  Like most Jay-Z lyrics there’s a lot crammed in here and he puts it across while effortlessly rapping through a variety of rhythmic patterns.

This song represent diversity in the best way.  There's layers of meaning in all of the ingredients involved and each group of people these separate parts represent are invited through this song to explore cultures outside of their own.

This song isn't created for the sake of being "diverse."  It's not a lesson in "diversity training," rather it's a celebration of how great a time we can have by coming together.