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Posts by Andy Wagstaff

Creative Learning Templates for Parents and Teachers, Part 2: Math

Here are some more learning templates you, or your favorite parent or teacher can download and use multiple times for educating your future Einsteins. Part 1 of this entry included some fun drawing and writing templates in Word for younger kids.

Now let's move on to some math templates. I have mentioned the book Microsoft Office 

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Creative Learning Templates for Parents and Teachers, Part 1: Drawing/Writing

The other day, I had a John Denver song stuck in my head, and I kept singing this one line over and over. My 6-year-old son remarked, "Oh, THAT'S not annoying!" Ah, the sarcastic little punk apple doesn't fall far from the tree: a good thing to keep in mind as we parents want to make sure we inspire our kids to develop good learning habits. So when my son asked me if I could print out a page like his teacher had in school, one with a box for drawing at the top and some writing lines underneath, of course I wanted to oblige. I surfed around the web and found a few things 

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Great Albums You May Have Missed: Konono No.1's Congotronics (2004)

Konono No.1's sound is shockingly infectious and amazingly unique. The revolving-member group spent the last few decades playing traditional Bazombo trance music in the capitol city of the Congo: Kinshasa. Equal parts tradition, innovation, and accident, their sound centers on three Likembe (better known as the Mbira, or thumb organ) players, a rhythm section, three singers, and three dancers. Oh, but that is so not all of the story!...

A need to compete with the growing cacophony of the busy 

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Great Albums You May Have Missed: Erik Friedlander's Block Ice & Propane (2007)

As I listen to Block Ice & Propane, I recall the other possible uniform title I considered for this blog thread: “Prone to Hyperbole”; because this collection of songs may be the most evocative set of music the universe has ever heard! It throws us in the back of a camper for a cross-country camping trip, circa 1960 or '70-something; drives us down the backroads of America; and all we have to do is just notice, every so often, our impressions along the 

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Great Albums You May Have Missed: Mongo Santamaria's Afro-Roots (1958-1959)

In every corner of the world, as far back in history as the time machines of archaeology and anthropology can take us, music has been used by humans to communicate with the gods. It’s hard to remember in our world today, steeped as it is in the bubblegum profanity of pop culture; but Mongo Santamaria’s album, Afro-Roots, reminds us. It is a gateway into the spirit-world. The conga drum itself is our metaphysical guide, bridging the gap between the visible and invisible worlds, and thus bringing us into direct contact 

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On the Shadows in Abraham's Cave: Thoughts on Beryl Korot and Steve Reich's 'The Cave'

The Cave, by wife and husband team Beryl Korot (video artist) and Steve Reich (composer), is an experimental multimedia piece featuring recorded interviews set to live music. Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans are all asked about the significance of the story of Abraham and his burial place, The Cave of Machpelah, which is held sacred by Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

Interviewees are asked about the significance of Abraham to their lives, the significance of his two sons Ishmael and Isaac, and their two 

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Great Albums You May Have Missed: Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska (1982)

Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, for fans and critics alike, marks the point in Springsteen's songwriting where the barren landscapes of the American Dream are laid most bare.

The title song chronicles the true-crime killing spree of Charlie Starkweather and girlfriend, also the subject of 1973 film Badlands. Springsteen captures so vividly on record what is most human in the 

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Great Albums You May Have Missed: Highway to Hassake - Omar Souleyman

Years ago, while training my mind to think about deep and important stuff at university, I used to puff up my self-importance by reading books with the word "postmodern" in the title. I still couldn't explain what the term means exactly without launching into an hour-long babble that would leave you more confused than before; but if I could sum it up in one musician, I'd pick a one Mr. Omar Souleyman.

Omar Souleyman delivers the sounds to the people in the streets of Syria; he

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Great Albums You May Have Missed: The Books' Lost and Safe (2005)

The image of a cobweb on the front of The Books' Lost and Safe is indicative, as their unique brand of creating random sound collages often reminds me of exploring an old, deserted house, stumbling upon the relics of a remnant past.

Aged pictures hang cracked and fading on the walls, more intriguing because they were left behind, forgotten; the creaking of the stairs and the sounds of what was once a thriving house: running water, kids laughing, clanging dishes, the sounds of wind, and footsteps on a wooden floor.

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Great Albums You May Have Missed: School of the Seven Bells - Alpinisms

With the seemingly endless expansion of musical terms and genres in the postmodern world, I have acquired some favorites, not least of which is a genre called "Shoegaze" music.

As may be obvious from the name, the music involves heavy use of effects, produces a dreamlike yet philosophical state, uses washed-out yet catchy melodies, whispery or otherwise idiosyncratic reverberated vocals, and often electronic drums and synths; and though bands often wander into experimental territory, they 

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Great Albums You May Have Missed: The Wailing Wailers' Simmer Down (1963)

When a teenaged Bob Marley began recording in 1963 with The Wailing Wailers, Reggae did not exist yet. Back then Kingston Town, Jamaica was bubbling over with the jump-up-and-down energy of Ska, slowly maturing into the deliberate beats of Rocksteady.

The common thread binding these genres to Reggae is that unmistakable guitar chop on the upbeat, denoted by perhaps my favorite musical term: the 'skank'. There is simply no better example of a culture internalizing external influences and making it their own than when Jamaican artists took the shuffle of ... Read More ›

Great Albums You May Have Missed: Del the Funky Homosapien & Tame One

Is anyone else left with a bad taste in their mouths after the Grammys? Are we all really so anesthetized now that we need fireworks, an army of glittery dancers, and trapeze acts just to stay interested in music? There always seems to be a contest to see who can put on the most ridiculously over-the-top stage show, but just seems to me like an adult version of dangling shiny keys in a baby's face. OK, yea, put on a great show and all, but seriously?! It just reminds me of how Top 40 types are just 

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Great Albums You May Have Missed: Palestrina's 'Missa Papae Marcelli'

My favorite function of air, besides perhaps its ability to keep us all alive, is its ability to move beautiful sounds from place to place. For sound to travel, each molecule in the air must internalize the vibrations and pass that energy on to its neighbors in a fraction of second, and no piece of music can remind the air of this sacred purpose more than Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina's Pope Marcellus Mass. Read More ›

Great Albums You May Have Missed: Fela Kuti's 'Gentleman'

Afrobeat has been called the soundtrack to post-colonial Africa: reviving the indigenous rhythms eminating from the soil and from the blood, internalizing the best aspects of other cultures and molding them into something new, and making people dance with honest smiles on their faces even while addressing the issues of intense poverty and widespread human rights abuses at the hands of corrupt governments. Fela Kuti's 1973 release, Gentleman, is ... Read More ›

Great Albums You May Have Missed: Steve Miller Band

The Steve Miller Band's lesser known late 60's-era recordings might surprise you. In 1972, blues-rock guitarist Steve Miller broke his neck in a car accident. It put him out of commission for a full year, a time he used to write catchy blues-influenced pop songs. He emerged to become a huge success, with memorable songs like Fly Like an Eagle, and Take the Money and Run.

What many people don't realize is that the Steve Miller Band had a string of albums before Miller's more well-known era which were closer to psychedelic blues rock than the bouncy mellow pop 

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