Friday FunLink – “On This Day” Podcast

04-15

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

04-08

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”

04-06-16- Catholic Family

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.

Friday FunPost – Using Games and Virtual Reality to Teach Compassion

Empathy Games

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

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

League of Kitchens  Cooking Workshops in NYC

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 – Hilarious “Darth Trump” Star Wars Parody

Darth Trump

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.

Friday Good News! The Hug Lady and Good Political News

Hug Lady

You don’t need me to tell you that this was a bleak week in the news. Rather than share a jovial Friday FunLink, I thought I’d share two inspirational stories from the Washington Post’s weekly “The Optimist” email. I hope these stories bring you joy, inspiration, and hope during this Advent season.

First, from Texas is 83 year-old Elizabeth Laird, aka The Hug Lady. For a dozen years she’s been giving hugs to soldiers departing for or returning from war. The past ten years she’s been struggling with breast cancer and is now in the hospital receiving intensive (and expensive) treatment. Her son, Richard Dewees, put out a request for help and…

set up a GoFundMe page to help with the medical costs. He asked for $10,000. It has raised $72,316 from more than 2,000 people in just three days. Dewees, 64, knew his mother was beloved –he’s shared her with her military sons and daughters for years now — but he said “he’s stunned.”

A few comments left by donors are published in the article. The love and gratitude expressed is heart-felt:

“Ms. Elizabeth, you gave us just an ounce of humanity before we spent the next year of our lives in a place that was tantamount to hell and devoid of humanity… The gift you gave us upon departure is immeasurable.”

And:

“I love her, I deployed teary eyed and scared, (secretly) worried my almost two year old daughter would forget me [sic] she whispered in my ear that everything would be ok [and]  meant the world to me. I wish I had millions to give her.”

Another story from the same (pre-Thanksgiving) “The Optimist” email is a follow-up about Larry Hogan’s, Maryland governor, treatment for an aggressive cancer. This minute long video will bring a smile of joy to your face:

 

Here’s to a good weekend and a happier week next than this one ending.

 

 

 

(Late) Friday FunLink – Outstanding Cover Video of “God Only Knows”

God Only Knows - 1

As I was looking around on Spotify tonight, I stumbled upon a stunning video recently produced by the BBC. As it’s still Friday, I figured I could fit in one more FunLink today.

The song, “God Only Knows” – ranked by Rolling Stone as the 25th of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (between “Dock of the Bay” and “People Get Ready” with “Like a Rolling Stone” at #1) was recently covered by an all-star, mostly British group of singers and musicians. Not only does it sound great, but it’s beautifully filmed. It’s well worth less than three minutes to view it – if only to see the venerable and complex Brian Wilson sing the final line.

Here’s the key to the photo of musicians above:

God Only Knows - 2

And here’s a pretty cool, brief “making of” video:

Finally, just because it’s the end of the week, here’s a vintage video (2006) of Wilson and The Corrs performing it live. The video isn’t great, but the audio is fine:

Friday FunLink – James Taylor & Stephen Colbert Update “Fire & Rain”

Colbert-1

Stephen Colbert has been busy singing with his guests and posting videos of it. A couple of nights ago, he had the legendary James Taylor on The Late Show.

They made this funny bit together. The premise is that when Taylor wrote “Fire and Rain” back in 1970 all he knew was, well fire and rain. Today, he knows about much, much more (including calzones) and thus his lyrics have changed. Even if you’re not a fan of Tay-Tay (as Colbert calls him), it’s worth a watch for the sheer randomness (and clever rhyme scheme) of their song.

Happy Friday!