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Bloggers Eye Topless Teacher

With millions of sites floating through the blogosphere, who really has time to peek at even a fraction of them? Blogophile reads them for you and presents a weekly roundup of the buzz on must-read blogs. Blogophile appears new each Wednesday, and is written by CBSNews.com's Melissa P. McNamara.

What is art? This question takes over the blogosphere this week, as bloggers debate if an art teacher should lose her job over topless photos. Plus, is Bill Gates a Spiderman fan? Some bloggers think so. And, two lucky bloggers land their dream jobs.

Art In The Eye Of The Beholder

Tamara Hoover, a Texas teacher, was the most searched person in the blogosphere over the weekend. And it wasn't because of her teaching; rather, it had more to do with her extracurricular activities.

Austin High School officials considered Hoover a model art teacher with a knack for helping students find their creative streaks ... until they found out about her topless photos, that is.

The photos, which were posted on Flickr.com by her partner, show Hoover in the shower, lifting weights, getting dressed, in bed and doing other routine activities.

Hoover stands by her photos as genuine works of art, but the school district said the photos were inappropriate and violate the "higher moral standard" expected of public school teachers. As a result, she was dismissed, escorted out of class last month.

Many bloggers are outraged at the school, and support Hoover's stance that her photography is art.

On Hoover's MySpace profile, she defends her work, "The First Amendment serves not only the needs of the polity but also those of the human spirit — a spirit that demands self-expression," Hoover blogs.

"I'm an artist and I'm going to participate in the arts," Hoover told the Associated Press. "If that's not something they want me to do then I want to be told that. I don't feel as if I was doing anything that was beyond expectations."

But, as the Longhorn Law blog notes, "The First Amendment and teaching in public schools don't always mesh."

As the Green Llama writes, there may be a special consideration given she is teaching young students. "Too bad her students don't live under rocks, and do in fact have access to the internet," Green Llama writes.

Some bloggers are hardly surprised. "Hey, big surprise! Our fascist society/school system is now firing art teachers for being, um, artistic," No Matter, Ron blogs. "Maybe it's just me, but I don't really see how appearing topless in an artful pic (or a pornographic one, for that matter) is at all a reflection of one's 'goodness or badness.'"

SaveManny agrees the photographs are "artful." "These pictures are done by what looks like a professional photographer and have artistic value. Further these pictures were taken during her free time and have nothing to do with her ability to effectively teach a high school art class," Manny writes.

Plus, Big Damn Heroes says Hoover's firing sends the wrong message to students. "Way to go, Austin High School! Make it clear to any good-hearted person coming out of college with a desire to help (and no sense of financial self-preservation) that teaching is a spit-upon, worthless exercise in catering to the lowest of common denominators," the blogger writes.

Gates Channeling Spider-Man?

Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates announced last week that he will be leaving his daily responsibilities at Microsoft to concentrate on the charitable work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

But while experts in the fields of business and technology were off analyzing the impact of Gates' semi-retirement on their industries, bloggers took notice of Gates' not-so-unique turn of phrase during his press conference.

Explaining his rationale for devoting more time to his charitable work, Gates noted that "with great wealth comes great responsibility"…eerily similar, bloggers say, to Spider-man's dictum, "With great power comes great responsibility."

Coincidence? Maybe not, some bloggers say.

"Perhaps the choice of quote might offer a clue as to how Gates sees himself: The vastly misunderstood Peter Parker type, who just wants to do good but is routinely vilified by the very public he wants to help," Steve Fox wrote on Infoworld.

Bertrand also notices the similarities. "Gates is now in the unique position of being able to dramatically improve the welfare and lives of the millions of suffering peoples in the third world nations of the world," he writes on The Ramblings of an Itinerant Vagabond.

"Holy Tingling Spider-Sense, Spider-Man," EJ Wise exclaimed. "I suppose all we need look out for is a Hobgoblin or two, waiting in the wings, to swoop down on Mr. Ballmer once he's at the helm."

Aside from the Spidey-connection, many bloggers also praised Gates' charitable inclinations. "The bit I admire most about him is his sense of noblesse oblige [or, in Spider-Man terms, that "with great power comes great responsibility"], and his willingness to act on that," Alex Mallett blogs at Malletrivia, summarizing what many bloggers were filling the blogosphere with.

A Blog And A Dream

Bloggers were envious of two people this week, who represent one very good reason to blog…it could lead to your dream job. One blogger will be paid to snowboard around the country and hand out Snickers bars, and the other will be paid to follow around the Dixie Chicks. It's good to be a blogger.

Blogs Snickered

Many candy-lovers and skaters are already jealous of Jake Levine. The 25-year-old Cherryfield, Maine native was selected by Snickers to become the ambassador for the candy company and Burton, the maker of snowboards. As Adrants notes, it's an effort to reach an audience usually immune to traditional media.

Jake will be a "Rover," crossing the country for a year in an all expenses paid position as board sports ambassador, hanging with riders and boarders, attending events...and, of course, blogging.

As he writes on his blog, "Over the next year, I'll live every amateur rider's dream as I hang out with riders throughout the country, meet pros and demonstrate my techniques at popular venues, giving away tons of cool stuff from Rover sponsors along the way."

Bloggers are smitten with the job. "Imagine the best job you could ever think of in the whole wide world. Jake Levine's new job as the Burton Rover is oh, about ten times cooler," Snowboard 360 writes.

"Whatever your passion in life may be, imagine being given the opportunity to live one perfect, all-expenses-paid dream year in which that's all you did," Stephen Harris at BostonHerald.com adds.

Blogging About Chicks

The Dixie Chicks have sure had their share of controversy in the blogosphere, but one recent move has garnered them many online fans.

In another dream job, (for some that is), Junichi Semitsu, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, has become the official blogger for the Dixie Chicks.

As the Washington Post reports, Semitsu, 32, will spend his summer armed with a laptop and an all-access tour pass on the road with Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison. He is one of the music industry's first embedded bloggers, assigned to be everywhere and write whatever about the country-music group.

His posts are cleared by the Chicks' camp before appearing online, but Semitsu insists he has free rein to write what he wishes.

As the Washington Post notes, Semitsu's position is unique in the music world. Sure, plenty of musicians like Radio Head and even Neil Young have their own blogs, but few, if any, have hired a blogger to write for them. "I can't even name all the bands doing it, there are so many," Antony Bruno, digital/mobile editor at Billboard magazine told the Washington Post. "But I haven't heard of an individual artist bringing a blogger on board to do it for them."

Bloggers cheered the development, and Semitsu is equally proud of his cool new summer gig.

"To respond to the article, yes, I believe I have the greatest summer job in the history of summer jobs," he writes on his Dixie Chicks blog.

And in his personal blog, which helped him land the gig, Semitsu blogs, "Being referred to as a "Chicks Magnet" in the Post is an especially huge accomplishment for a short and stocky Asian guy with an enormous Pez collection….In any event, this whole gig continues to be banana split: bananas, nuts, and pretty sweet."

Hadji Girl

A Marine corporal seen in a video singing about killing members of an Iraqi family says the song was a joke.

"It's a song that I made up and it was nothing more than something supposed to be funny, based off a catchy line of a movie," Cpl. Joshua Belile, 23, said in Wednesday's Daily News of Jacksonville.

The Marines are now investigating the video. But while some bloggers are not amused, many (especially on the right) side with the Marine.

In the four-minute video called "Hadji Girl," a singer who appears to be a Marine, tells an audience about gunning down members of an Iraqi woman's family after they confront him with automatic weapons.

Belile said he wrote the song in September while stationed in Iraq. He said his buddies pushed him on stage with his guitar. Someone taped the performance and posted it on the Internet, but it has since been removed. He only learned it was on the Internet after returning from Iraq in March.

"I will never perform this song again, and I will remove all video and text in relation to this that I have control of," he said.

In a press release, which also links to the video, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) "called on the Pentagon and Congress to investigate a music video posted on the Internet that seems to show U.S. Marines cheering a song that glorifies the killing of Iraqi civilians."

But in the blogosphere, Belile has many defenders.

Some think he will soon be in the clear. "This Marine is guilty of bad taste and bad taste is not listed in the Manual for Courts Martial. His Commander needs to explain the significance of the 'Strategic Corporal,'" Oak Leaf at PoliPundit blogs.

Others blame the mainstream media for blowing the story out of proportion. Writing a "Letter to the Brass," The Laughing Wolf writes, "Is the song politically correct? No, then again war is not either, nor should it be. Could the song be used by our enemies against us? Yes, with your full help and collaboration, it is being done so in the media and elsewhere."

A blogger at Little Green Footballs agrees. "The four-minute song includes graphic descriptions of killings, real or imagined. The horror! We would never want anyone — let alone soldiers on a battlefield — to hear such things. Except of course in every movie made for the last ten years," he writes.

Scroff, a liberal, understand some may consider the song offensive, but also appreciates the circumstances under which they were likely written. "While I can certainly see how it can be found offensive, I don't think Cpl. Joshua Belle had that in mind when he wrote it….But, to the raving maniacs on the left I say, chill out. It's called stress relief," he writes at Any Which Way.

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By Melissa McNamara