The New York Public Library Puts Classic Stories on Instagram: Start with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis Soon

I'd be happy if I could think that the role of the library was sustained and even enhanced in the age of the computer. —Bill Gates

The New York Public Library excels at keeping a foot in both worlds, particularly when it comes to engaging younger readers.

Visitors from all over the world make the pilgrimage to see the real live Winnie-the-Pooh and friends in the main branch’s hopping children’s center.

And now anyone with a smartphone and an Instagram account can “check out” their digital age take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandno library card required. See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.




Working with the design firm Mother, the library has found a way to make great page-turning use of the Instagram Stories platformmore commonly used to share blow-by-blow photographic evidence of road trips, restaurant outings, and hash-tagged weddings.

The Wonderland experience remains primarily text-based.

In other words, sorry, harried caregivers! There’s no handing your phone off to the pre-reading set this time around!

No trippy Disney teacups...

Sir John Tenniel’s classic illustrations won’t be springing to animated life. Instead, you’ll find conceptual artist Magoz’s bright minimalist dingbats of keyholes, teacups, and pocket watches in the lower right hand corner. Tap your screen in rapid succession and they function as a crowd-pleasing, all ages flip book.

Elsewhere, animation allows the text to take on clever shapes or reveal itself line by linea pleasantly theatrical, Cheshire Cat like approach to Carroll’s impudent poetry.

Remember the famous scene where the Duchess and the Cook force Alice to mind a baby who turns into a pig? Grab some friends and hunch over the phone for a communal read aloud! (It’s on page 75 of part 1)

Speak roughly to your little boy,

 And beat him when he sneezes:

 He only does it to annoy,

 Because he knows it teases

CHORUS

 (In which the cook and the baby joined)

 ‘Wow! wow! wow!’ 

Navigating this new media can be a bit confusing for those whose social media fluency is not quite up to speed, but it’s not hard once you get the hang of the controls.

Tapping the right side of the screen turns the page.

Tapping left goes back a page.

And keeping a thumb (or any finger, actually) on the screen will keep the page as is until you’re ready to move on. You’ll definitely want to do this on animated pages like the one cited above. Pretend you’re playing the flute and you’ll save a lot of frustration.

The library plans to introduce your phone to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis via Instagram Stories over the next couple of months. Like Alice, both works are in the public domain and share an appropriate common theme: transformation.

Use these links to go directly to part 1 and part 2 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on Instagram Stories. Both parts are currently pinned to the top of the library’s Instagram account.

Related Content:

Behold Lewis Carroll’s Original Handwritten & Illustrated Manuscript for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1864)

Alice in Wonderland: The Original 1903 Film Adaptation

The Psychological & Neurological Disorders Experienced by Characters in Alice in Wonderland: A Neuroscience Reading of Lewis Carroll’s Classic Tale

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Join her in NYC on Monday, September 24 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Steven Van Zandt Creates a Free School of Rock: 100+ Free Lesson Plans That Educate Kids Through Music

When I think of rock ‘n’ roll high school, I think of the Ramones, but in the 1979 Roger Corman film no one really learns much. In reality, however, another legendary musician, still going strong after five decades in the business, has put his cred to serious use, leveraging stardom as a musician and actor to create a music curriculum teachers can use for free, with lessons on rock history, Native American politics, Bob Dylan’s poetry, immigration and the blues, civil disobedience, the fight to end Apartheid, and much more. That man is Steven Van Zandt—aka Little Steven of the E Street Band, or Silvio Dante of The Sopranos, or Frank Tagliano of Lilyhammer, or a few other aliases and fictional characters.

“For the past decade,” writes John Seabrook at The New Yorker, the bandana-clad guitarist has been “working on a way to recreate” a “dynamic, out-of-school learning experience inside classrooms, through his Rock and Roll Forever Foundation.” Working, that is, to recreate his own experience as a disaffected youth who “had no interest in school whatsoever,” he recalls. What interested him was music: the Beatles, at first, but as he learned more about them, he picked up “bits of information” about Eastern religion and orchestration. He learned about literature from Dylan.




“You didn’t get into it to learn things,” he says, “but you learn things anyway.” At least if you’re as curious and open-minded as Van Zandt, who came to value education through his non-traditional course. Over ten years ago, when the National Association for Music Education told him that “No Child Left Behind legislation was really devastating art classes,” he confronted Ted Kennedy and Mitch McConnell, telling them, “did you ever hear that every kid who takes music class does better in math and science?" They apologized,” he says, “but they said they weren’t going to fix it.”

So Van Zandt decided to do it himself with a program called TeachRock. Working with two ethnomusicologists, he built the curriculum to connect with kids through music. “Instead of telling the kid, ‘Take the iPod out of your ears,’” he told a crowd of teachers gathered at Times Square’s Playstation Theater in May, “we ask them, ‘What are you listening to?’” Van Zandt calls his curriculum “teaching in the present tense,” and while his own back catalog may not necessarily be streaming on kids’ current playlists, he incorporates not only his music and the fifties and sixties rock ‘n’ roll he loves, but also hip-hop, pop, punk, and the “Latin rhythms of ‘Despacito.’” He even uses Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” video to prompt a discussion on the slave trade.

The focus on popular music as a force for change is fully in keeping with Van Zandt’s own path. His self-education led him into activism in the 80s when he wrote and recorded “Sun City” with 50 other artists to protest South African Apartheid. Unlike some other benefit songs of the time (like the cringe-inducing “Do They Know It’s Christmas”), “Sun City,” with its accompanying video (above), took effective political action—a blanket boycott of the Sun City resort—and didn’t sugar-coat the issues one bit (“relocation to phony homelands/separation of families, I can’t understand”). The Sun City boycott gets its own module.

As Van Zandt told Fast Company in 2015, “I had been researching American foreign policy post-World War II just to educate myself, which I had never done, being obsessed with rock ‘n’ roll my whole life. I was quite shocked to find that we were not always the good guys.” His discoveries compelled him to visit South Africa and to “dedicate my five-record solo career to that learning process, and also combine a bit of journalism with the rock art form.” That same passion for justice informs all of the TeachRock lessons, which you can browse and download for free at the TeachRock site. The multi-media units incorporate video, audio, images, activities, informative handouts, and other resources.

Each lesson also explains how its objectives meet Common Core State Standards (or the state standards of New Jersey and Texas). “TeachRock is rooted in a teaching philosophy that believes students learn best when they truly connect with the material to which they’re introduced,” notes the site's “Welcome Teachers” page. “Obviously, popular music is one such point of connection.” Perhaps not every kid who learns through music as Van Zandt did will go out and try to change the world, but they’re more than likely to stay engaged and stay in school. And that’s exactly what he hopes to accomplish.

“Teaching kids something they’re not interested in,” he told the teachers in New York, “it didn’t work then, and it’s even worse now. We have an epidemic dropout rate.” Then, in his refreshingly honest way, he concluded, “Where are we going to be in twenty years? How are we going to get smarter looking at this Administration? You know, we’re just getting stupider.” Not if Little Steven has anything to say about it. He's currently on tour with his Disciples of Soul, and offering free tickets to teachers, provided they show up early for a TeachRock workshop. Sign up here!

Related Content:

Cheap Trick’s Bassist Tom Petersson Help Kids With Autism Learn Language With Rock ‘n’ Roll: Discover “Rock Your Speech”

David Byrne & Neil deGrasse Tyson Explain the Importance of an Arts Education (and How It Strengthens Science & Civilization)

New Research Shows How Music Lessons During Childhood Benefit the Brain for a Lifetime

The Concept of Musical Harmony Explained in Five Levels of Difficulty, Starting with a Child & Ending with Herbie Hancock

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

 

Cheap Trick’s Bassist Tom Petersson Helps Kids With Autism Learn Language With Rock ‘n’ Roll: Discover “Rock Your Speech”

You can’t fault people for turning away from current events these days, but there are many pockets of light, even if they rarely make headlines or get curated by gloom and doom algorithms. Some optimism has come to us by way of musicians like David Byrne, whose good-news aggregator “Reasons to Be Cheerful” showcases positive developments around the world. Indie rock drummer Thor Harris has encouraged fans with tips on how to stay healthy in trying times, and he has announced a run for governor of Texas. And last fall, Cheap Trick’s bassist Tom Petersson started a project called Rock Your Speech, which “leverages the power of music to build language skills in children who are working to overcome speech delay associated with autism.”

As Petersson and his wife Alison explain above, they were inspired by their experience with their son, Liam, who, “until the age of five,” reports David Chiu at Huffington Post, “had difficulty communicating,” They discovered that music could help when Liam began singing along to one of her favorite Elton John songs. Petersson wanted “to help other parents,” he told HuffPo, “and to let people know they’re not alone.” An L.A. benefit concert harnessed the collective power of celebrities and indie artists to jumpstart the project, with bands like the Dandy Warhols and Red Kross and actors Ed Asner and Billy Bob Thornton participating.




Rock Your Speech is not the only such initiative, but it is probably the most high-profile, and could bring attention to similar efforts like Auditory-Motor Mapping Training, developed by Dr. Gottfried Schlaug of the Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory. At the Autism Speaks blog, Schlaug writes, “as many as three in ten children with autism are nonverbal. Yet many children with autism have superior auditory skills and a particular attraction to music.” Like Rock Your Speech, his approach uses “forms of music-making that encourage vocalization as a pathway to developing language.” Musician and psychologist Adam Reece has also written about his research showing the positive role music therapy can play in language acquisition for kids on the spectrum.

Petersson’s project puts a rock star face on music therapy and comes “from the point of view of the parent,” he says. Rock Your Speech not only raises autism awareness but also offers original music and videos designed to stimulate and inspire kids. Hear "Blue" from the Rock Your Speech, Volume 1 album above, one of several songs Petersson wrote that “employs actual rock music," Chiu writes, "not necessarily the gentle, kiddie-type of sounds that are generally prevalent in children’s music.” Videos on the Rock Your Speech site for “Blue” and other songs “not only show the words but also demonstrate to kids how those words are formed and mouthed.”

The project’s Vimeo channel shows the Petersson family involved in Liam’s speech development through music, including his older sister Lilah coaching her brother with a song called “Wash Your Hands.” (See Lilah's video above for her song "All the Same," written for Liam.) Liam, now ten, has come a long way. “He’s in school,” says Petersson, “He loves music… He’s definitely on the autism spectrum, but he speaks, he’s social. He’s the sweetest little guy.” His musical family has a lot to do with that, but Rock Your Speech offers even non-musician parents a wealth of catchy tools to help kids struggling with speech to connect with language through rock ‘n’ roll. For many families, that could be very good news indeed.

via HuffPo

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New Research Shows How Music Lessons During Childhood Benefit the Brain for a Lifetime

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Discover the BlipBlox, a Kids’ Toy and Fully-Functional Synthesizer That Will Teach Toddlers to Play Electronic Music

A series of videos has been going around showing Zakk Wylde, former guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, playing classic rock and metal songs on diminutive Hello Kitty guitars. They're funny: seeing the burly, bearded legend rock out on a kid's guitar; but they're also pretty impressive, when he wrings real grit and feeling from these unlikely instruments.

I imagine it won’t be long before we’ll see a similar stunt with someone like Moby, for example, ripping out danceable grooves on the Blipblox, a kids' toy that is also a fully-functioning synthesizer (“actually, it’s both”!).




While the Blipblox may look like one of thousands of noisy console-like toddler toys, it’s one that won't tempt parents to do what many parents do (be honest)—pull out the batteries and hide them where they can't ever be found.

Apologies to Hello Kitty guitars, but by comparison with most instruments made for kids, the Blipblox is seriously sophisticated. “What sets this apart from other toys,” writes Mixmag, “is that it uses ‘a proprietary algorithm that synthesizes completely unique waveforms’ allowing users to create their own soundwave. The features include one low pass filter, two envelope generators, eight oscillator modulation schemes, two LFOs and MIDI, plus more.”

If those specs sound like an alien language to you, they won’t make any more sense to your 3-year-old, and they don’t need to. “The blipblox was made to have fun without fully understanding how it works,” says the toy synthesizer’s creator in an introductory video above. Turn it on and start hitting buttons, twisting dials, and pushing the two joystick-like controllers back and forth, and beats, bleeps, bloops, blurps, and other synth-y sounds spill out, at various tempos and pitches.

As kids (or parents who hijack the device) gain more control, they can start refining their technique and create original compositions, as you can see happening in the “studio sessions” video above. Then they can output their sounds to mom and dad’s home studio, or wherever—Blipblox is ready, as its Indiegogo campaign promises, for “a pro studio setup.” Or just lots of entertaining goofing around.

The Blipblox is a brilliant invention and has already won a 2018 award for “Best Teaching Tool for Pre-School Students” and made an appearance at the very grown-up 2018 NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) convention—see below. Priced at $159, the Blipblox ships this summer. Sign up at Indiegogo for “early bird perks.”

via Mixmag

Related Content:

Mister Rogers, Sesame Street & Jim Henson Introduce Kids to the Synthesizer with the Help of Herbie Hancock, Thomas Dolby & Bruce Haack

Everything Thing You Ever Wanted to Know About the Synthesizer: A Vintage Three-Hour Crash Course

Free, Open Source Modular Synth Software Lets You Create 70s & 80s Electronic Music—Without Having to Pay Thousands for a Real-World Synthesizer

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

How to Write in Cuneiform, the Oldest Writing System in the World: A Short, Charming Introduction

Teaching child visitors how to write their names using an unfamiliar or antique alphabet is a favorite activity of museum educators, but Dr. Irving Finkel, a cuneiform expert who specializes in ancient Mesopotamian medicine and magic, has grander designs.

His employer, the British Museum, has over 130,000 tablets spanning Mesopotamia’s Early Dynastic period to the Neo-Babylonian Empire “just waiting for young scholars to come devote themselves to (the) monkish work” of deciphering them.




Writing one’s name might well prove to be a gateway, and Dr. Finkel has a vested interest in lining up some new recruits.

The museum’s Department of the Middle East has an open access policy, with a study room where researchers can get up close and personal with a vast collection of cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia and surrounding regions.

But let’s not put the ox before the cart.

As the extremely personable Dr. Finkel shows Matt Gray and Tom Scott of Matt and Tom’s Park Bench, above, cuneiform consists of three components—upright, horizontal and diagonal—made by pressing the edge of a reed stylus, or popsicle stick if you prefer, into a clay tablet.

The mechanical process seems fairly easy to get the hang of, but mastering the oldest writing system in the world will take you around six years of dedicated study. Like Japan’s kanji alphabet, the oldest writing system in the world is syllabic. Properly written out, these syllables join up into a flowing calligraphy that your average, educated Babylonian would be able to read at a glance.

Even if you have no plans to rustle up a popsicle stick and some Play-Doh, it’s worth sticking with the video to the end to hear Dr. Finkel tell how a chance encounter with some naturally occurring cuneiform inspired him to write a horror novel, which is now available for purchase, following a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Begin your cuneiform studies with Irving Finkel’s Cuneiform: Ancient Scripts.

via Mental Floss

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her solo show Nurse!, in which one of Shakespeare’s best loved female characters hits the lecture circuit to set the record straight premieres in June at The Tank in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Mister Rogers Accepts a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Helps You Thank Everyone Who Has Made a Difference in Your Life

Television host and children’s advocate Fred Rogers was also an ordained Presbyterian minister, for whom spiritual reflection was as natural and necessary a part of daily life as his vegetarianism and morning swims.

His quiet personal practice could take a turn for the public and interactive, as he demonstrated from the podium at the Daytime Emmy Awards in 1997, above.

Accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award, he refrained from running through the standard laundry list of thanks. Instead he invited the audience to join him in spending 10 seconds thinking of the people who “have loved us into being.”




He then turned his attention to his wristwatch as hundreds of glamorously attired talk show hosts and soap stars thought of the teachers, relatives, and other influential adults whose tender care, and perhaps rigorous expectations, helped shape them.

(Play along from home at the 2:15 mark.)

Ten seconds may not seem like much, but consider how often we deploy emojis and “likes” in place of sitting with others’ feelings and our own.

Of all the things Fred Rogers was celebrated for, the time he allotted to making others feel heard and appreciated may be the greatest.

Fifteen years after his death, the Internet ensures that he will continue to inspire us to be kinder, try harder, listen better.

That effect should quadruple when Morgan Neville's Mister Rogers documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor? is released next month.

Another sweet Emmy moment comes at the top, when the honoree smooches his wife, Joanne Rogers, before heading off to join presenter Tim Robbins at the podium. Described in Esquire as “hearty and almost whooping in (her) forthrightness,” the stalwart Mrs. Rogers appeared in a handful of episodes, but never played the sort of highly visible role Mrs. Claus inhabited within her husband’s public realm.

The full text of Mister Rogers’ Lifetime Achievement Award award speech is below:

So many people have helped me to come here to this night.  Some of you are here, some are far away and some are even in Heaven.  All of us have special ones who loved us into being.  Would you just take, along with me, 10 seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are, those who cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life.  10 seconds, I'll watch the time. Whomever you've been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they have made.  You know they're kind of people television does well to offer our world.  Special thanks to my family, my friends, and my co-workers in Public Broadcasting and Family Communications, and to this Academy for encouraging me, allowing me, all these years to be your neighbor.  May God be with you.  Thank you very much.

via Mental Floss

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Watch a Marathon Streaming of All 856 Episodes of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, and the Moving Trailer for the New Documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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Mister Rogers, Sesame Street & Jim Henson Introduce Kids to the Synthesizer with the Help of Herbie Hancock, Thomas Dolby & Bruce Haack

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC this Wednesday, May 16, for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch Choirs Around the World Simulate the Rainstorm in Toto’s “Africa” Using Only Their Hands

The Los Angeles-based choir, Angel City Chorale, above, captured the Internet’s imagination in a big way with their 2013 cover of Toto’s 1982 hit, "Africa," in which the group’s 160 performers created a realistic-sounding thunderstorm using only their hands.

Delightful! And more common than you may at first think.




The Chorale acknowledges that they owe a great debt to Slovenian vocal group Perpetuum Jazzile’s thunderous 2008 rendition. Stagehands accustomed to creating credible thunderclaps by waving wiggly sheets of aluminum backstage may want to switch to hundreds of feet hopping up and down in unison, as heard at the 1-minute mark, below.

Go a bit further back to find an actual African choir’s finger-snapping, thigh-smacking "Africa."

The Kearsney College Choir is based near Durban, South Africa, and they appear to have been the first to open this number with the now-famous rainstorm effect. Its members are school boys ranging in age from 13 to 18. The video below shows them performing the tune in the 2008 World Choir Games, an annual competition that will be taking place on their home turf this year.

Interestingly, there’s not that much rain in the original. Over the years Toto’s songwriters, David Paich and Jeff Porcaro have made various statements about its origins—a guy transfixed by images of suffering Africans on TV, a lonely missionary, a visit to the 1964 World’s Fair’s Africa pavilion …

There’s a bit of rain to be seen in the very 80’s official music video, but nothing that rivals the choirs’ spectacular downpours.

If you’re moved to whip up a tempest of your own, Jbrary’s children's librarians, Dana Horrocks and Lindsey Krabbenhoft, have created an instructional video that shows just how simple the effect is to master. The real trick is enlisting 100s of friends to do it at the same time.

Buy Perpetuum Jazzile’s "Africa" CD and vocal arrangements here.

Download Angel City Chorale’s "Africa" single on iTunes or CDBaby.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, April 23 for the third installment of her literary-themed variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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