Friday FunLink – “On This Day” Podcast

Happy Friday! I hope your day is as bright and warming as mine is here in Central Ohio.

I’ve written a number of times about how much I enjoy listening to podcasts. And I’ve shared a number of ones that I particularly enjoy.

I’m walking at least 13,000 steps a day for health and enjoyment and a good podcast or two to stream on my smartphone makes all the difference. As I mentioned previously, I really, really, REALLY like streaming via Pocket Cast on my Android device. I paid a few bucks for it, but it has been well worth it!

The podcast I recently found that I listen to daily is “On This Day.” Each day of the week, Dave Schultz posts a 10 minute or so look at the major historical events which happened on this day. The podcast is no frills – respectable production, decent music and reliable posting. So far, I’ve heard only Dave – no dramatic involvement by others.

And this is fine, because Dave can certainly pick interesting, relevant and clever events to highlight each day. He’s an engaging storyteller who shares details and an occasional audio clip to supplement the historical stories of the day. For example, on April 4th, as he told of the final hours of MLK, he played tape of a sermon Dr. King preached about a year before. In this clip, which I’d not heard before, King speaks of how he hoped he’d be memorialized. This sermon has historical relevance as it was played at MLK’s funeral in early April of 1968.

While I enjoy this podcast on my own, I could easily see how a middle or high school history teacher might assign his or her students to listen to it. All of the content that I’ve heard (since I started listening a few weeks ago) is appropriate for teens and the subject matter seems non-controversial.

Enjoy the weekend and this day on which Jackie Robinson became the first African-American Major League Baseball player.

 

Friday FunPost: Great Music Genres Video and A Clever Book on Music

It’s been quite a few weeks since a true Friday FunPost. Lent is over, I’m not on break and I found something quite appropriate for this feature.

Spend a few minutes (less than 6 actually), enjoying this creative and educational medley by a young band from Europe:

Not only am I impressed by the precision in cutting from one genre to the next, the costumes are pretty awesome. And I learned about a few genres which haven’t (yet?) caught on in the U.S.

I’ve been thinking about musical genres lately as I discovered a really clever book which seeks to explode the whole concept. The thesis in Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty by Ben Ratliff invites the reader to move beyond genres which are based more on commercial categorization rather than structural similarities from piece to piece.

In a new era where most any listener can easily access almost any song ever recorded, Ratliff proposes a new methodology for creating digital playlists. He presents and discusses twenty playlists with themes related to the underlying elements of the music rather than its often arbitrary “type.” Some of these themes are “Slowness,” “Virtuosity” and “Density.”

I’ve only read the first chapter on “repetition” entitled “Let Me Concentrate!” After defining this concept, the author analyzes a diverse set of musical pieces which illustrate it in a wide variety of ways. I really like how he uses thought-provoking metaphors which stretch my understanding and subsequent appreciation of works with which I was unfamiliar.

For example, he uses a piece called “Four Organs” composed and performed by Steve Reich in 1970. On page 20, Ratliff writes:

This aspect of “Four Organs” – its “repetition” – is like playing a peekaboo game with a child. You’re going to do it over and over: that’s the repetition. But you’ve got to keep changing the way you do it, otherwise he’ll expect it and will not be surprised. And at some point in the game – it doesn’t take very long to get there – you and the child understand each other; you know each other’s reaction time, range of facial expressions, sense of humor, degree of patience.

After reading this description, I found the piece within my Apple Music subscription. I listened to it for a couple of minutes before I decided the repetition annoyed and bothered me, so I turned it off. While I won’t likely listen to the piece again, I am grateful to have been directed toward it as an example of an important element of musical form.

And I’m particularly grateful that Ratliff mentions the featured pieces twice in each chapter – in the text and in a handy list (in order of mention) from which a digital playlist can quickly be created. I look forward to more reading and listening and learning via this book.

Wednesday FunLink – The Best Drawings From the “Baltimore Catechism”

As I was Google searching images for my daily post on Twitter at #amcathalm, I stumbled across a great link. I was Tweeting about the “Baltimore Catechism” and how it was today in 1885 that it received an imprimatur.

While I’ve been feeling old lately (I was the age of my Sophomores the last time a Catholic University won the NCAA D. 1 Men’s Championship back in 1985), the “Baltimore Catechism” was not part of my upbringing in the heady, post-Vatican II Catholicism of the 1970’s and 1980’s. A reading of its text today gives an important window into the religious education the generation of Catholics before me received in their parishes and parochial schools.

The website I stumbled across is Church Pop  with the tag line: “Make holy all the things!” I only perused it for a few minutes before posting this, but it seems to be mainly (completely?) Catholic focused. The theme looks to be lists which attest to be accurate, clever, funny, historical and perhaps even instructional.

Specifically, I landed on the page entitled “22 Classic Drawings From the Baltimore Catechism” . It’s worth visiting to see the entire collection. In lieu of that, here’s my favorite ones:

04-06-16-TV and Mass

Not clear as to how one precludes the other one…

04-06-16-Grace Circulation

Does it work the same way with forced-air heating or is it only for radiated heat?

04-06-16-Good and Bad

Quite an involved juxtaposition of symbols here.

04-06-16-Convent

Gosh – those rebellious kids today!

04-06-16-Communion

If all you learn from this post is “Dead People Cannot Eat,” then I consider my work here a success.

Stuff You Should Know: One Global Time Zone and Permanent Calendar

In place of the usual Friday FunLink and since it’s been exactly a month since I’ve offered a Stuff You Should Know post, I’m shifting gears today.

A short while ago I saw an interesting article today in the Washington Post entitled “The Radical Plan to Destroy Time Zones.” It fits into the category of the SYSK feature because Johns Hopkins professors Hanke and Henry are seeking to implement this unification of global time as well as a permanent calendar (see above for a screen shot of it) on January 1, 2018.

The WaPo interview doesn’t quite flesh out the day to day changes that a single time would require except to observe:

While it may ultimately simplify our lives, the concept would require some big changes to the way we think about time. As the clocks would still be based around the Coordinated Universal Time (the successor to Greenwich Mean Time that runs through Southeast London) most people in the world would have to change the way they consider their schedules. In Washington, for example, that means we’d have to get used to rising around noon and eating dinner at 1 in the morning. (Okay, perhaps that’s not that big a change for some people.)

One of the first shifts would be to go completely to 24 hour time as “am” and “pm” would just be confusing. With this in place, the mind-shift would take time (pun intended) but it wouldn’t be impossible. To translate the example above, our rising time would be about 1200 (6am) with dinner time 13 hours later at 100 (7pm) and bed time 3 hours after this at 400 (10pm). Most digital watches can already be set to show 24 hour time and adding a second set of numbers to analog clocks is commonly done as well. Clocks would still run at the same rate with the only shift at 0000 UTC on 1 Jan 2018 in which every clock in the world would jump simultaneously to 0000. Back end tech work would have to be done on computer clocks, but we already showed something similar could be achieved a decade and a half ago with the Y2K fix.

As the proponents in the article note:

I (Henry) recall when my elderly mother in Canada said to me, oh, it was hot today, 30 degrees! If she could change [from measuring temperature in Fahrenheit to measuring it in Celsius], everyone can change!

Yeah, we tried that Imperial to Metric switch back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s and how did that work out for the U.S.? Yet, ambitious people with websites keep trying…

The proposal for a new calendar, dubbed the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar has it’s own Wikipedia page, running example of the new time/date, and articles in Live Science and Wired dating back to the end of 2011. And since the proponents acknowledge that there isn’t any world governing body to implement these changes, this massive (but sensible) shift would have to come through a global on-line/social media campaign. So, here I am doing my part.

Two advantages that I see – no more Friday the 13th ever again and my birthday (Jan 20th) would always fall on a Friday (yes, bummer to all of those whose birthdays would forever fall on a Monday!).

And a disadvantage for some – Halloween would have to be moved to a different date as 31 October would cease to exist. This is not as hard as one might think as we already regularly do it here in Central Ohio – to the bewilderment and ridicule of even people like Stephen Colbert:

 

Friday FunPost – Using Games and Virtual Reality to Teach Compassion

Today’s Friday FunPost is less “ha ha” funny and more of a thoughtful, potentially inspiring type of fun. I’m chaperoning our Freshman Retreat today and in a more reflective space than on most Friday afternoons.

The other morning this word and reflection arrived in my inbox from the good brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist:

Suffering

“The prevailing reason why Jesus did what he did and said what he said was his compassion for others. Compassion, which literally means “to suffer with” another person. Compassion is not just to observe suffering, but actually entering the suffering of another.” -Br. Curtis Almquist

I shared this with my students that day as another reminder of how compassion is one of the core values essential for one who follows Jesus the Christ. We’ve been talking a lot about compassion and empathy lately in class. This essential conversation, accompanied by prayer, is a clear antidote to the widespread fear, scapegoating, nativism, racism, and generalized hostility in our social and political conversations these days.

Today I read about two tech facilitated ways to help others grow in compassion and empathy. First, Tech Crunch offers a solid overview of how Virtual Reality is expanding classroom learning in a variety of ways. After describing how VR has been and continues to be used for mainly for simulations – especially scientific and historical ones – the author suggests this creative and constructive usage:

Perhaps the most utopian application of this technology will be seen in terms of bridging cultures and fostering understanding among young students, as it will soon be possible for a third-grade class in the U.S. to participate in a virtual trip with a third-grade class in India or Mexico.

This may sound simplistic and minor, but I think it’s only a beginning of how we will soon be able to leverage VR for a wide variety of educational outcomes. We often assume that we can only use VR from our own exclusive perspective to explore myriad locations, time periods, simulations, etc. After all, everything I see with my eye-brain connection is filtered through only my own reality. The true power of VR is that it will allow me to see what the world looks like from others’ perspectives. And if the simulation is created with thoughtful skill this could engender greater empathy in me.

For example, what if the VR headset caused me to see all writing as a dyslexic person does every day? Or maybe it could show me the hallucinations and “voices” that plague a schizophrenic in his or her daily life. At the very least, it will allow us to take on the persona of someone quite different than ourselves and see, first-hand, the world through their eyes.

Even before VR becomes widely available in our classrooms, a growing genre of video games exist which allow us to experience life from a different perspective. In an article glibly titled “Video Game Psych 101:Empathy Games” we learn how:

Biofeedback video games feed off players’ physiological responses, impacting gameplay in new and interesting ways. But what happens when developers create games designed to evoke a specific emotional or psychological response?

Empathy games attempt to answer that question. These video games aspire to enhance a player’s understanding of an outside perspective, particularly those pertaining to real-world struggles and inequalities, through interactive experiences.

This genre includes the groundbreaking game from a few years ago – Dsy4ia. While this particular simulation engenders empathy towards a specific life experience, this type of game could be created to illustrate any number of situations. And, combined with the increasing power of VR, the possibilities for tech facilitated education for compassion and empathy is limited only by our imaginations.

 

Friday FunLink: Snakes? No – A Turkey on a Plane

I didn’t have a Friday FunLink until a few minutes ago. I was eating lunch (fortunately not a turkey sandwich) and going through my many daily emails from the Washington Post and found the photo above along with an astounding true story.

You’ve heard of Turkey in the Straw. Here’s Turkey on the Plane

It’s a great article and the photo of the turkey being transported in a wheelchair is precious.

The best quote from the article is:

Tom Bunn, a former commercial pilot who now runs an organization to help people overcome their fear of flying, told Fox News that it is quite easy to get a therapist note for such occasions.

“Any therapist can sign off on any kind of animal,” Bunn said. “Science has proven that when dogs look at you with total devotion, it produces oxytocin, a hormone that shuts down the fear mechanism. The turkey, I don’t think so.”

A big turkey dinner loaded with tryptophan always relaxes me. Would a large, living turkey sitting next to me on a plane do similarly? Ahh..no.

Friday FunLink: The League of Kitchens & Colbert

Yes, the FunLinks are back b/c this is the first Friday in a few weeks that isn’t Christmas or New Years Day. And, I’m back at school after a long week needing a bit of levity now that winter has truly arrived.

Stephen Colbert had a great guest on Monday night. She’s the creative founder of The League of Kitchens – an idea whose time has come.  I won’t spoil the fun of the two segments linked below. I will say that Stephen has found a worthy comedic partner in the hostess of his workshop. Bon Appetite!

 

Friday FunLink – Trio of Funny Star Wars Videos Edition

Today’s the day we’ve all been waiting for – my daughter’s 12th birthday!

OK, so if you don’t live in my home, you’ve likely been counting down to this day as the first time in a decade we’ve had a brand new “Star Wars” film. Maybe you’ve already seen it by now?

I have my tickets in hand (on my phone actually) for the 9:05 pm showing this evening. VERY excited that just 12 hours from now my son (who was four years old when “Revenge of the Sith” was released) and I will be back in the fun and fantasy of this beloved film universe.

While there’s no shortage of funny “Star Wars” videos in cyberspace (in fact I posted one here last week), I discovered these three which I find pretty funny:

Steven Colbert (yes, I’m a fanboy) makes no secret of his mad love for “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings.” But until the other night, no one knew of his personal involvement in the casting of “The Force Awakens”

 

He’s also begun a Twitter campaign to muddy the waters of the spoilers flooding the internet:

 

Here’s a clever variation on a theme from a rival late night show:

 

And speaking of clever, here’s a panoply of puns from across the pond:

 

Finally, for some non-video inspiration, here’s “57 Inspirational Quotes from George Lucas and Star Wars” One of my favorites, since it relates to mindfulness:

16. “A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind…. All his life has he looked away…to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless.”

“-Yoda notes how Luke simply cannot keep himself focused on the present moment, but is instead always looking to run before he can walk. (Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)”

Friday FunLink – Surprising “Here Comes Santa Claus” Lyrics

I’m proctoring the last final of our first semester (even though the semester doesn’t actually end until Jan. 15th). It’s not mine, so I can sit and watch rather than run room to room answering questions (like I did on Wed). I can grade my midterm essays or I can post here. For now, I’ll procrastinate and choose the later option.

Yesterday, I wrote about one of the most religious seasonal songs – “O Come, O Come Emanuel.” Today, as we’re exactly a week away from Christmas, I think it’s okay to blog about a Christmas (rather than an Advent) carol.

I discovered these surprising lyrics a few years ago when I was doing some research for a graduate school paper. Wanting to see if there are any religious messages/themes in the more secular carols (ones with Santa, reindeer, etc.), I did a Google search.

We’re all familiar with the first and maybe second verses of carols, like “Here Comes Santa Claus”:

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus
Right down Santa Claus Lane
Vixen, Blitzen, all his reindeer
Pulling on the reins
Bells are ringing, children singing
All is merry and bright
Hang your stockings and say a prayer
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight
Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus
Riding down Santa Claus Lane
He’s got a bag that’s filled with toys
For boys and girls again
Hear those sleigh bells jingle jangle
Oh, what a beautiful sight
Jump in bed and cover up your head
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight
Note that there’s an exhortation to “say your prayers” in the first verse. Compare this to the classic poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (with the indelible first line: “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) in which prayer or devotion is nowhere to be found.
Most versions of Gene Autry’s “Here Comes Santa Claus” end with these two verses. But the song gets more religious (and more interesting) in the next verse:
Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus lane
He doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor
He loves you just the same
Santa Claus knows we’re all Gods children
That makes everything right
So fill your hearts with Christmas cheer
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!
Wow – Santa is unconditionally loving!?!  What about “He [Santa] knows if you’ve been bad or good / So be good for goodness sake!” “He loves you just the same / Santa Claus knows we’re all Gods children” is quite the contrast to the veiled threats in other secular carols. It’s a common trope that God is not Santa Claus (see here and here and here):
Santa and God
But, what if the opposite is actually true – Santa Claus is like God in his unconditional love and generosity for and to all of “Gods children.”
But wait, it gets better…. Here’s the fourth (and final) verse:
Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus lane
He’ll come around when the chimes ring out
That it’s Christmas morn again
Peace on earth will come to all
If we just follow the light
So lets give thanks to the lord above
That Santa Claus comes tonight!
Now we’re singing about peace and gratitude. What is more central to the gospel than these attitudes? And we’re urged to not just give thanks, but to “give thanks to the lord above.” Not too far from the great doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”
I also like how the connection is made between “peace on earth” coming “if we just follow the light.” While “light” is surely a central theme of this time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere) in which the solar year is waning, this verse pushes the sentiment closer to:
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
So, what do we do with this secular carol with not just religious but downright christological sentiments? How about including this in a church Christmas concert or cantata. Juxtapose it with a traditional religious hymn to excite the kiddos and educate the adults.
Until then, sing along to the full, joyful, hopeful lyrics:

Friday FunLink – Hilarious “Darth Trump” Star Wars Parody

Unlike last Friday, my midterms are finally at the copy machine, so I have a moment to share a truly astounding Friday FunLink video.

As I’ve posted previously, I’m a big Star Wars fan. I’m counting down the days until a week from today when finally, finally, finally I can see Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens.”

Until then, I need to settle for this extremely well-done video which combines something I really like with someone I really don’t. So, thanks to Slate, take a 7 minute break to refresh your memory about Star Wars IV, V, and VI and also about some of the always interesting things The Donald has said. Be sure to watch while in a place where you can laugh out loud!

 

And be sure to watch until the end (or just forward to there) as the Trumpization of the final scene of Return of the Jedi is priceless – and it showcases the last sequential image we saw in the Star Wars universe.