Educating you so you don’t educate yourself

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In one of his comedy records, Steve Martin uses his mock naïveté to explain to the audience that “it’s like those French have a different word for everything.” This joke came to mind yesterday when we were listening to this instructional record, on which Nazir Ali Jairabhoy delivers a lecture introducing his audience to Indian classical music. You could say that they have a different note for everything.

Jairabhoy’s lecture is accessible and we thought it really added to our understanding of the music, also commonly called Hindustandi classical music.

This post is a re-run of a post which originally appeared in 2014.

Our pal Craig is always bringing in odd finds from his thrift store trips, and he recently found this awesome tape of a 1988 radio documentary about Radio First Termer, a pirate station briefly broadcast in Vietnam.

vietnam radio first termerRadio First Termer broadcast just over sixty hours, for three weeks in January 1971. Its host, Dave Rabbit, is now known to have been US Air Force Sargent Clyde David DeLay. You can hear one of the only surviving recordings of the original broadcasts here.

Last month we posted A Child’s Introduction to Jazz by Captain Kangaroo, and today we’re featuring a similar LP which looks more closely at the unique qualities of the music often called America’s greatest artistic achievement.

For many Leonard Bernstein is primarily known as a conductor, due no doubt to the commercial success of his recordings with the New York Philharmonic during his eleven years as their musical director. He was also an accomplished composer, and many of his works imply the influence of jazz: notably passages from his West Side Story score (a favorite of ours featured in a post here) and in the second part of his Symphony no. 2, The Age of Anxiety.

As a teenager Bernstein formed a jazz orchestra, and he was only twenty-five when he first conducted the New York Philharmonic (hear his debut here). In the 1950s he was an occasional host of a television program called Omnibus, which presented analysis of the arts in accessible terms. In one memorable episode Bernstein proposed how Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony may have sounded different by conducting some of the unused ideas the composer discarded. Over several years, and all three major networks, he also discussed musical comedy and opera, and in what became the basis for this 1956 LP, jazz. The musical samples are derived from Columbia’s extensive catalog.

 

According to National Day Calendar, today is NATIONAL DO A GROUCH A FAVOR DAY. Of course the website, which we assume is authoritative, doesn’t offer any insight into the history of this observation. We imagine it has something to do with the most famous grouch in the world, Oscar.

We learned from Carroll Spinney in the must-see documentary I Am Big Bird that Henson, collaborator Joe Stone and he named Oscar for the tavern in New York and based the character off an exceptionally disdainful waiter. Spinney has performed the character since his first appearance (as an orange grouch!) on Sesame Street in 1969.

Oscar has performed numerous acts of kindness throughout the years, although he would never admit to them. He is known to dote on his pet worm, Slimey, and has always said the only people he can be nice to without ridicule from his fellow Grouches are human children. When Big Bird goes missing during the original Christmas Eve on Sesame Street special, Oscar goes out of his way to help find his friend. And in a more recent Muppet Family Christmas he allows Rizzo the Rat to stay in his trash can for the night. Still, his holiday song is “I Hate Christmas,” which we posted way back here.

Its been nearly a decade since Oscar’s girlfriend Grungetta derided television’s grumpiest grouches with a dig at ‘Pox news’ (“Now there is a trashy news show!”) prompting conservatives to call for a crackdown on the partly publicly-funded program. Sesame Street has long been a focus for those looking for liberal leanings in the media, an argument which hit its fever pitch two years later in Ben Shapiro’s book Primetime Propaganda. The book also broke the *shocking* story that MASH had an anti-war agenda.

If we can learn anything from the ‘Pox News’ crisis, its that we can’t learn Oscar’s politics. He plays his cards close to his chest. Besides, anyone who really understands Grouch lexicon can recognize the bit contrasting CNN (parodied as ‘GNN,’ the Grouch News Network) and Fox cast the latter in kinder light. Grouches love trashy — it’s a compliment in the same way that Michael Jackson’s “Bad” was good — but this sort of nuance is entirely lost on the sort of people who didn’t see that the larger story that day was about expressing your emotions.

By the time Sesame Street‘s 45th anniversary rolled around a few years later, the news network had forgiven the children’s program (maybe they’d been watching all along, after all) and Abby and Grover were guests on “Fox and Friends.” Oscar, always the iconoclast, was no where to be seen. Later that year he was embarrassed when shown a reel of clips showing the various times Oscar had done something to help the environment.

There’s no shortage of mean people in this world, but true Grouches like Oscar are a rare breed. If today is their special day, we hope it rains.

Actually, it’s “Book Sale Day” at our kids’ school, but parachute day was always pretty awesome.

parachute time LP

Bean bag day is fun, too!

bean bag activities

Winter break is over and bleary-eyed kids all over the City of Minneapolis are rising to alarm clocks and Mom’s admonitions. Soon we’ll all be back in the rhythm of our routine, such as it is, for the remaining 103 days of school.

To celebrate (as this is a very different kind of day when you don’t have to get on that school bus), here is the most unusual educational record we have ever posted here on the Hymies blog, borrowed from a 2014 post.

little red 1little red 2A remarkable relic from China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Songs of the Little Red Guards is a 10″ album from the late 60s with a similar package to the Ella Jenkins and Pete Seeger records American children were putting on their Fisher Price players at the time.

Although sung by a children’s choir, the songs reflect the turmoil of the times, in particular the re-establishment of Mao-ist orthodoxy. Titles such as “Let’s Help Pick Up the Rice Left in the Fields” and “Growing Vegetables for the Armymen’s Families” hint at the legacy of the famine which followed Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Foward while others enforce the Communist Party’s doctrine.

One of the most interesting songs is a tribute to Lei Feng, a relatively unknown soldier whose memoirs were published after his death in 1962 as Lei Feng’s Diary. The book expresses his admiration for Chairman Mao Zedong and the sacrifices he has made for the revolution in the form of selfless acts. The soldier was the subject of a propaganda campaign, and his story became part of the compulsory curriculum in schools.

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An iconic poster of Lei Feng

The Red Guard was a student movement which began in 1966 in the middle school attached to Beijing’s Tsinghua University. After receiving recognition from the CCP the group quickly established itself in nearly every school in China. With the Chairman’s personal endorsement at a rally that summer, the group became an essential part of his Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Party leadership in Beijing struggled to control the Red Guard, which became increasingly divided into factions as it grew, potentially out of control. The campaign against Capitalist or bourgeoisie remnants became violent in places, where assaults on Chinese cultural relics quickly became assaults on individuals. The People’s Liberation Army began suppressing the Red Guard’s most radical elements in 1967, and it was entirely eliminated, often with brutal force, by the summer of 1968. The Chairman, whose enormous personality cult was greatly enhanced by the Red Guard, was alleged to have a tear in his eye when he last spoke to Red Guard leaders.

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A Red Guard poster featuring the watchful Chairman

If you’d like to learn more about the Red Guard or start such an organization in your own school, you will likely enjoy Carma Hinton’s 2003 documentary about the Cultural Revolution, Morning Sun. If you still think it’s a good idea, we have a little red book for you.

This year’s presidential election is historic for many reasons, most notably for lowering the standard of public discourse to previously unimaginable depths. The major party candidates are possibly the least popular in American history. This has inspired some interest in third (and fourth) party candidates, who unfortunately do not seem so appealing if you take a closer look.

The Libertarian and Green Party campaigns were skewered by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight, who reached the conclusion that the lack of media coverage they lament may be doing them a favor.

minority-party-in-americaBy coincidence, we recently came across this middle sixties Folkways album on the subject of third parties. The bulk of The Minority Party in America is taken up by an interview with perennial socialist candidate Norman Thomas, and from it we can only assume his perceived role for the third party in American politics is to be so absolutely boring that one is forced to take a closer look at the major parties before plugging their nose to cast a vote.

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