Sun(Fun)day Night – U.S. Presidential Candidates as Shakespeare Characters

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Happy May! I hope that it has been a fun day for you on this Sunday.

Just a quick post tonight as I still have much to do before bedtime.

With the recent celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death  , I thought it would be fun to share this clever article observing a connection between each of the U.S. presidential candidates (current and withdrawn) and familiar characters from Shakespeare’s great works.

I won’t spoil the fun for you by listing any of the connections here. I will say that discovering which character Donald Trump connects to is well worth the read!

Have a great week!

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

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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.

Sun(Fun)day Post: Two Funny Podcasts to Check Out

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This post is a bit later than usual on a Sunday evening. I went for my early evening constitutional (aka walk) and then it was dinnertime. A primary New Year’s resolution of mine was to walk every day. Not to brag or anything, but since I got my Fitbit for Christmas, I’ve walked at least 10,000 steps every day (that’s 71 days – but who’s counting?)

Two things have helped me to do this – a rather warm and dry winter and great, free audio books and podcasts to listen to on my Android smartphone. As the weather warms and the sun sets later (Daylight Savings Time begins next Sunday), perhaps you’d like to walk or exercise outside more frequently?

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The first place to check for audio books is OverDrive. Many libraries have contracted with this ever-growing ebook and audio book provider to be the conduit for content checked out via a typical library card. Both of our local library branches provide materials through this site – albeit with slightly different collections. The Android app for it works pretty well and it gives the option of either streaming or downloading the content via WiFi. I do find some aspects of its functionality to not be completely intuitive, so you might have to play around with it a bit.

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Another good source for free audio books is LibriVox. The collection here is mainly classic works that are in the public domain. So, if you’re seeking to listen to works that you skimmed in high school, but as an adult you’re now curious about, this is your source.

I started my walking routine with audio books, but now I listen almost exclusively to podcasts. In case you’ve not been paying attention, there’s a remarkable renaissance happening in the audio programming world. I find this ironic. We’re now in such a visually-oriented streaming world as television supplanted the radio more than sixty years ago. Yet, those same devices you can use to watch Netflix, can also be used to stream a ridiculous amount of audio content as well. And on the supply side of the equation, the equipment needed to create a podcast is so minimal that anyone with a computer and a $20 plug-in-mic can become a podcaster. Sure, there’s a lot of amateurs out there, but a growing number of podcasters are gaining wide notoriety and significant earnings. A good example is Mark Maron’s WTF Podcast and his interview with President Obama last June.

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To stream or download a podcast, you’ll need an app for that. Stitcher and Soundcloud are two popular, free ones that I’ve used on my Android phone. I don’t particularly like either of these since a paid app I now use is so much better – Pocket Casts

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The visual design of Pocket Casts is far superior to any other podcasting app that I’ve used. More importantly, it is extremely easy to download via WiFi and then stream on-the-go. The user interface is highly intuitive. So, whether you’re brand new to listening to podcasts or a veteran, pay the $3.99 for this great app and you won’t regret it.

So, how do you find good podcasts?  Before I tell you about the aforementioned two favorites of mine, let me give you two sites to visit to find virtually any type of podcast you can imagine.

A pretty amazing one, which I stumbled across just last night is Podcast Chart (pictured above). A glance at the (partial) sidebar listing categories gives just a taste of the range of possibilities.

So, you found some interesting sounding podcasts and you’re surprised to discover that the number of episodes in the various archives is staggering. How can you find a particularly good episode? This is where NPR’s recommendation site (with weekly email) Earbud.fm comes in.

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Incidentally, these two sites will allow you to podcast directly through their interface. While this might be convenient, I still prefer finding them in Pocket Casts and listening there.

OK, time for a quick mention of two podcasts I’ve been enjoying lately. The first is silly, clever, sometimes bawdy, and always funny – Hello From the Magic Tavern

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You can read the premise in the screen shot above or you’ll hear it repeated at the top of each episode. I’m just enough of a Narnia fan/geek that I really appreciate the humor in this podcast as they explore and explode the many “fantasy story” tropes. The language and humor is mostly PG-13 (at least in the dozen or so early episodes I’ve heard thus far).

The second one, is in the wide “infotainment” category – No Such Thing as a Fish

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This is just one branch of a large network dedicated to information – mostly of the trivial kind. In this podcast four of their British and Scottish researchers/comedians share interesting facts they’ve recently discovered. Not only do I learn from their conversations, but I bust up at both the jokes and the connections they make.

I’ve been listening to other podcasts as well and I’ll likely devote another post to recommendations sometime. At this time, I need to do the dishes – with my wireless Bluetooth headphones (I use and recommend these, purchased via Tanga) and an interesting and funny podcast in my ears.

 

 

Happy 1 Year for Us! – Birthday Wishes from Stephen Colbert

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It’s hard to believe it’s one year ago today that we launched this blog! During those 365 days, it has grown to nearly 215 posts and hopefully educated, entertained, and inspired our readers.

One thing you’ve likely learned is that I’m a big fan of Stephen Colbert. A week or so ago, he offered a birthday song and video to his awesome band-leader Jon Bautiste. And it is a birthday song for almost everyone as it is customized at a special YouTube channel. Here’s the generic one (in case the person of your birthday wishes is not represented in their extensive playlist of videos):

In case you’re wondering why I chose the name above – my wife (Erin) celebrates her birthday on Monday. If she reads this, I guess I now can’t surprise her with it!

Friday FunLink – Mind-blowing Beatles Drum Tribute

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After the tragic, yet essential video about the refugee crisis, I thought an upbeat, ultimately trivial one would work for this Friday’s FunLink.

When I came across this video on the always interesting Open Culture, I knew it was a keeper. And I think its awesomesauciness speaks for itself:

Happy First Friday of November!

Mon(Fun)day Noon #2 – Pop Sonnets

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The Bard is hot these days! In the spirit of the Shakespearean Star Wars books comes an even funnier and more accessible tome: Pop Sonnets: Shakespearean Spins on Your Favorite Songs by Erik Didriksen.

This hilarious book contains more than one hundred pop songs re-written as Shakespearean sonnets. There’s a nice blend of classic and current songs sorted in to sections entitled: “Sonnets of Love” (songs include: “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “Super Bass,” “Roxanne,”); “Sonnets of Despair” (“Respect,” “Free Bird,” “Complicated”); “Songs of Time and Mortality” (“Royals,” “More Than a Feeling,” “Light My Fire”); “Rogues, Rascals, and Wanton Women” (“Material Girl,” “Party in the USA,” “Baby Got Back”); and “Ballads of Heroes” (“Piano Man,” “My Way,” “Thriller”).

Here’s a trio of my favorite ones. A way to have more fun with them – don’t look at the title at the bottom and instead see if you can guess the song:

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Oh – if you click on this Google search you can find the sonnets above, plus many, many more!

Friday FunLink 2: Sheryl Crow & Stephen Colbert Songs on This Week’s Debate

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OK, so maybe the Friday FunLink on the words used by the candidates in the debates wasn’t really that much fun or funny.  So, here’s a bonus post- complete with music too!

Singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow sang the national anthem at the debate, so The Huffington Post ran an article summarizing the debate through Crow’s songs.  My favorite paragraph, with some (maybe too) obvious connections is:

Senator Sanders frequently and importantly mentioned the issue of climate change starting in his introductory statement. Senator Sanders stated that “climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and we have a moral responsibility” to address it. Later in the debate, he deemed climate change “a major crisis.” “All [he] wan[ts] to do” is develop sustainable energy. In fact, when considering the candidates’ debate remarks on the environment as a whole, all seem ready to get out those solar panels to “soak up the sun.”

Stephen Colbert, on his Late Show, the other night, had a funny segment about campaign songs. After listing popular musicians who didn’t want candidates using their songs in rallies and similar, he offered a song that candidates from either or both parties could use as desired:

I think my favorite part is when Colbert and Jack Black rattle off the incongruent elements of “Americana” ala “We Didn’t Start This Fire.”  Since they offer this song to any candidate with no strings attached, I wonder if anyone will take them up on it?

Friday FunLink – “There’s No Way ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ Could Happen in 2015”

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Now that I’m firmly in middle-age, it blows my mind that many of my favorite movies of my teen years are turning 30 years-old in 2015.  It was truly a vintage year for films as the following classics were all released:

And some not so classic (but still quite memorable):

But today, as the image above shows, I’m thinking about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It was released in 1986 (the same year as other classic films such as Platoon, Top Gun, Stand by Me, The Color of Monday, and Police Academy 3: Back in Training). I included the list of 1985 films above because that was the year Day Off was written and set.  And because the list of films turning 30 this year is much more impressive than the 1986 ones!

Today in class, I showed my students the 1:30 clip below in which Ferris, Cameron and Sloane go to the Chicago Institute of Art. I showed this evocative scene to illustrate how I am inviting my students to gaze at art when we use it to mindfully meditate in class.  I have numerous links to share later about the value of meditation, but for now, I have a funny one about Ferris Bueller.

From Mashable, comes “There’s No Way ‘Ferris Bueller’ Could Happen in 2015″ It’s an insightful list of the technologies we take for granted today which would have torpedoed Bueller’s day off before it even sailed.  The list (which is humorously illustrated and explained at the link above) includes:

  • Tinder
  • Car-locking apps
  • Google Image Search
  • GPS
  • Instagram
  • Geocached Teets
  • Caller ID apps
  • Vine
  • Web MD

Look at the list of films above and think of all of today’s technology which would ruin nearly every single one of them, e.g. drones and Top Gun; Googling a name and Fletch; Google Earth & Wikipedia and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (or simply Googling: “Does the Alamo have a basement?”); and Rotten Tomatoes and the eternal and infernal Police Academy sequels.

 

Friday FunLink – Beautiful, Fantasy GIF’s

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Although this is a somber date for remembrance, I thought it would be a good day to bring back the semi-frequent Friday FunLink.  I believe faith leads us to bring light where there is darkness. Therefore, levity is appropriate here today too.  Plus, I found a link with cool images which I wanted to post sooner rather than later.

I’m not one to seek out GIF’s to post on this blog or other social media.  Yet, this site has such lovely, beautiful images which are truly enhanced by the magic which makes GIF’s come to life.

Along with the one above, here’s my favorite:

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To fully appreciate this, you need to see the GIF animated version.