BASEBALL IS BACK!

Welcome Back!

In honor of baseball’s first opening day in July, I thought I would focus this blog on ‘America’s Pastime”.  Baseball is such a timeless game, opening day 2020 has featured some great matchups, from the Yankees and Nationals, the 2019 World Series Champs, to the Angels and Athletics with future Hall of Famers Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.  These are not just future Hall of Famers but future ‘First Ballot’ Hall of Famers like Yankees greats Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter recently.  We got to go to an Angels game a couple of years ago and it was a great experience, beautiful stadium with that Southern California vibe, awesome place to watch a game. 

Speaking of Albert Pujols, my favorite team when I was a kid was the St Louis Cardinals.  Pujols is a legend in St Louis; World Series Championships, MVP’s, Rookie of the Year, this list goes on and on but that was after my childhood.  The teams I am talking about are the 1970’s Cardinals led by the great Hall of Famer, Lou Brock.  The Cardinals were my grandfather’s’ favorite team and I remember going to a game at the old Busch Stadium in St Louis when I was just a little kid.  I cannot remember the exact year so I’m going to go with 1975.  The 1975 Cardinals had a great team, they were only 82-80 that year and finished 3rd in their division but I thought they were great (the Cincinnati Reds of the mid-1970’s were one of the greatest teams of all time but that team will have to wait for another blog).  My favorite players were the outfielders; Brock, Bake McBride, and Reggie Smith.  All three batted over .300 for the year but I think the reason I remember them so well was a picture of the three from the program of all three running to the outfield together.  It’s one of those images that takes on an iconic status in your memory, possibly due to the emotional attachment. 

The Cardinals have always had great teams, they are second only to the mighty New York Yankees for most World Series Titles with 11.  They have a ton of Hall of Fame Players such as Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, etc., but the 1970’s Cardinals are my favorite.   Let’s take a look at the everyday lineup:

This is a solid lineup.  Catcher, Ted Simmons, led the team with a .332 batting average which is a great average in any era.  A switch hitter, Simmons is a 2020 Hall of Fame inductee that batted over .300 seven times. As mentioned before all three outfielders batted over .300 which is the Gold Standard for MLB.  Baseball may be the only game in the world where if you are successful 1 in 3 times you are doing well or maybe it’s a little simpler to say that if you get 3 hits in 10 at bats you are doing well.  This is exactly what 4 out of the 8 everyday players did that year.  Simmons was a great player, and while his career may not have been as flashy as his contemporaries, Johnny Bench of Cincinnati or Carlton Fisk of the Boston Red Sox (who were the starting catchers for their teams during the 1975 World Series, one of the greatest series in history), he was of the best catchers of his era.  A young Keith Hernandez was at first, he only played 64 games that year and is probably best remembered for winning a World Series with the great New York Mets teams of the 80’s.  The infielders at 2nd base, shortstop, and 3rd base, Ted Sizemore, Mike Tyson, and Ken Reitz were all solid MLB players.  The outfield for the 1975 Cardinals was exceptional, Lou Brock at the age of 36 batted .309 and stole 56 bases.  Brock was the all time stolen base champ until his record was broken by Ricky Henderson.  Bake McBride was a solid player and would go on to have a lot of success with the Philadelphia Phillies (a team the Cardinals seems to trade a lot of their good players to, Pitcher Steve Carlton instantly comes to mind).  Reggie Smith was a dangerous power hitter in a time when home runs were much more rare.  He would go on to have a lot of success with the Los Angeles Dodgers, winning a World Series with them in 1981.  The 1975 Cardinals had a solid lineup, with Brock leading the way.  Here are Brock’s career stats, the bold numbers represent years he led the league.  His 938 total stolen bases were also a MLB record that stood for many years.  He also finished his career with 3,023 hits, with 3,000 being the Gold Standard for a hitter. This is what Hall of Fame resume looks like:

Here is a video of Brock breaking the stolen base record.

Lou Brock breaking the stolen base record

Now let’s take a look at the pitching staff

The Cardinals had a solid pitching staff in ’75, the superstar here is Bob Gibson.  Past his prime at age 39, Gibson’s stats were not his norm, but make no mistake, Bob Gibson was one of the very best and most feared pitchers of his era.  The National Baseball Hall of Fame wrote, “Bob Gibson may well have been the most intimidating pitcher in history.” The other pitcher of note is Al Hrabosky, a relief pitcher that actually won 13 games and saved 22.  Great numbers that were fairly common during the era but never happen in today’s game.  Hrabosky was unique for his pre-pitch ritual of going behind the mound and conducting a short but aggressive meditation session that always ended with him slamming ball into his glove.  The standout of the Cardinals pitchers was obviously Gibson, let’s take a little closer look at his career stats: 

 This is another Hall of Fame resume; Gibson was a 2-time Cy Young winner and the league MVP in 1968.   He won 9 Gold Gloves for being the best defensive player at his position.  He also won 2 World Series with the Cardinals.  With 251 career victories, 3,117 strikeouts, and a lifetime ERA of 2.91, as well as throwing a no hitter in 1971, it’s easy to see why Gibson was one of the very best pitchers of the era.  In 1967 the Cardinals beat the Red Sox in the World Series, that was the year that Carl Yastrzemski hit for the triple crown in the American League, with Gibson leading the way winning games 1, 4, and 7 and being named series MVP (Gibson was a 2X World Series MVP). Lou Brock led the Cardinals with a .414 batting average in that series. Below are some highlights from Gibson’s no-hitter. 

Bob Gibson throwing a no hitter in 1971

Baseball in 2020 is different.  The season didn’t start until July 23 and there are no fans in the stands (some teams have cardboard cutouts in the area behind home plate and the outfield, Oakland has a great cutout of a young Tom Hanks selling hot dogs, and the season is only going to be 60 games but it’s finally back and that’s a good thing. 

Discovering El Paso – The Gunfighters

El Paso in the late 1800’s

“I never saw so much useless killing.” — Cowboy Bob Kennon, discussing El Paso, Texas in the early 1900’s

Tombstone ain’t got nothing on El Paso! This is not a boast but a fact. According to noted author Leon Claire Metz in his book The Shooters, “El Paso had enough violence to make Dodge City look like a Girl Scout encampment” (1996). To put it in perspective, Dodge City had 5 deaths from gunfights in 1878 (this was during the great cattle drives from Texas into Kansas), while El Paso had 8 men killed in gunights in 1881 (this includes the ‘Four Dead in Five Seconds’ gunfight involving Marshall Dallas Stoudenmire but that’s a story for another time). These numbers don’t sound all that high in this day and age but in the late 1800’s a gunfighter was an awe inspiring figure, made famous in modern times by actors like Clint Eastwood or John Wayne, gunfighters were made famous in their own day and age by the social media of the time, the newspaper. The exploits of Billy the Kid or Wyatt Earp were written about in local newspapers such as the El Paso Times or the Tombstone Epitaph and then carried in the bigger papers back East making the gunfighter the Rock Stars of their day. While Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp may still be household names today, perhaps the most notorious of all the gunfighters of the Old West was El Paso’s own John Wesley Hardin.

JOHN WESLEY HARDIN

“I never killed anyone who didn’t need killin’.” J.W. Hardin

The first act

Named after the Methodist minister, Hardin was born on May 26th, 1853 in Bonham, Tx (just north of Dallas) and began killing men soon afterward. According to his autobiography (which is a very interesting read by the way) he killed his first man at the age of 15 with a Colt .44 in self-defense (a theme that would recur with Hardin over the years). He quickly killed three Soldiers that were pursuing him for the first killing and didn’t quit for the next five years or so. Texas Rangers finally tracked him down in Florida in 1874 and captured him and the $5,000 reward that was on his head. Tried and found guilty for the second degree murder of a deputy sheriff by the name of Charles Webb, Hardin was sentenced to 25 years in the state penitentiary at Huntsville. While in prison, he had a remarkable change of character and became an avid reader, favoring the Bible and then switching to law. Released after receiving a full pardon and restored citizenship in 1894, Hardin quickly passed the state legal exam and set up shop in El Paso as “John W. Hardin, Attorney at Law”, a remarkable transformation for one of the most notorious gunfighters of all time.

A few of the famous gunfighters of the Old West. The number of men they killed are only estimates, Hardin claimed to have killed 43 or 44 depending on what source you reference.

The second act

“Readers, you see what drink and passion will do. If you wish to be successful in life, be temperate and control your passions; if you don’t ruin and death is the inevitable result”. J.W. Hardin

Hardin’s character transformation would not last for long after his release from prison as events conspired to set the stage for some of Hardin’s most famous exploits. Drinking and gambling became the favorite pastime of Hardin in El Paso as he returned to his old ways, but his downfall would ultimately come after he agreed to defend a cattle rustler named Martin Morose. Morose was on the run from the law and holed up in Juarez, Mexico; just across the Rio Grande, Morose’s wife Beulah, came to El Paso and hired Hardid to defend her husband, an event that would ultimately spell the end for him. Hardin became involved with Beulah and rather than spending his energy defending Morose he made Morose’s attractive wife his mistress. After answering a challenge to come to Juarez and meet with Morose who was enraged with jealousy, Hardin ran into El Paso sheriff Jeff Milton and US deputy marshall George Scarborough before running into two of Morose’s confederates in a Juarez bar. After a heated discussion with Morose’s men Hardin challenged both to a shootout, they politely declined but the legend grew and the stage was set. This is where the story takes a strange twist, rather than hunt Morose down and kill him himself the story goes that Hardin hired four law officers, the aforementioned Milton and Scarborough as well as John Selman Sr and Texas Ranger Frank Mahon to kill Morose and collect the $1,000 reward. A few days later the four lawmen set a trap for Morose and killed him. The brutal slaying offended the sensibilities of the locals and charges were brought against three of the lawmen but were ultimately dropped. That should have ended it but a month later while Hardin was out of town on business, Beulah was arrested for drunk and disorderly by young policeman who was also the son of one of the men Hardin had hired to kill Morose, his name was John Selman, Jr. Upon returning to El Paso, Hardin began issuing threats against the young Selman and August 19, 1895 while shooting dice in the Acme Saloon old John Selman came up behind Hardin and shot him down. The reasons for Selman killing of Hardin are somewhat cloudy, was it because old man Selman feared for the life of his son, they had a heated argument before Hardin was killed or did the reason have to do with the killing of Martin Morose. Were the four man gang Hardin hired to kill Morose worried he was going to implicate them in murder in one of his frequent drunken binges? There is evidence to support both theories, as a drunken Hardin had recently made remarks that he had hired Scarborough and Milton to kill Morose, comments which he later redacted to the El Paso Times. Regardless of the reasons, John Selman Sr killed John Wesley Hardin and El Paso breathed a sigh of relief, one of the last true gunfighters of the Old West was gone forever.

Rock Star?

“I spent most of my time in Abilene in the saloons and gambling houses, playing poker, faro, and seven-up”. JW Hardin

With all the gunfights, with the colorful life like something right out of a dime store novel, why is Hardin not as famous as Billy the Kid or Wyatt Earp? The answer might lie in the methodology of Hardin’s actions. While Billy the Kid fought in a economic conflict in New Mexico, the Lincoln County Wars in which his mentor was murdered right in front of him, generating a strong emotional impact on both sides and Wyatt Earp fought with his brothers in Tombstone (which has successfully turned the Shootout at the OK Corral into a lucrative tourist attraction), John Wesley Hardin was a lone wolf. While his exploits are legendary, he once shot a man for snoring too loud in Abilene, KS and barely got away before legendary marshal Wild Bill Hickok caught up with him, while Hardin claimed to have killed 42 men before he was finally caught, he never had that signature moment that would have made him a Rock Star. There was no Lincoln County war, no OK Corral, no daring back robberies like the James Gang. While Hardin may not be as well known, his life and times are truly the stuff of Old West legends, from eluding the Pinkerton Detective Agency to being captured by Texas Rangers, John Wesley Hardin was truly one of the most notorious and dangerous gunfighters that ever lived.

Aftermath

“He is dead. Don’t shoot any more”. John Selman, Jr.

Buried in Concordia Cemetery located in the middle of El Paso across from the excellent L & J’s Cafe, along with other celebrities of the day Martin Morose, Beulah Morose, John Selman and Bass Outlaw, Hardin will forever live as one of the most notorious and last true gunfighters.

Discovering El Paso

December 11, 1953

On December 11th, 1953 a United States Air Force B-36D “Peacemaker” Strategic Bomber took off from Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas bound for Biggs Army Airfield at Fort Bliss, Texas.  Three hours and twenty-two minutes later it crashed into the western side of the Franklin Mountains in El Paso when the plane encountered poor weather conditions, to include snow and dust, as it attempted to land.  On the anniversary of the crash and in honor of the brave crew that lost their lives that day I would like to tell a little bit of their story and describe the memorial that still exists on the side of the Franklin Mountains to this day.   

The B-36 “Peacemaker” was the largest mass-produced piston engine aircraft ever built, its place in history resides during one of the most dangerous times our world has ever known, the Cold War.  With the threat of nuclear war hanging over the globe in the immediate aftermath of World War II, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) protected the United States day and night with its fleet of strategic bombers.  Led by the legendary General, Curtis LeMay, SAC served as a nuclear deterrent to the Soviet Union, who had just detonated their first atomic bomb in 1949, plunging the world into the Atomic Age.  SAC protected the United States and its allies throughout the Cold War, activated in 1946, it was not deactivated until 1992, the year after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. 

The Cold War

The B-36, along with SAC’s first bomber, the B-29 (the Enola Gay, which is the first airplane to have ever dropped an atomic bomb was a B-29), the B-50 Superfortress, and later the B-52 Stratofortress among others, were the backbone of the SAC.  First conceived in 1941, at the height of WWII, the B-36’s first flight was in 1946 with the first aircraft deliveries to the Air Force in 1948.  It was a remarkable plane with a wingspan of 230’, a length of 162’, and a height of 46”9’ designed for long-range tactical missions, it’s combat radius was 3,740 nautical miles with a 10,000-pound payload (one small nuclear bomb), which made it a very credible deterrent.  The B-36’s maximum payload of conventional weapons was 86,000 pounds but this load decreased the combat radius to only 1,757 nautical miles (a nautical mile is equal to 1.15 regular miles).  Powered by six propellers and later an additional four jet engines which coined the term, “six turning, four burning” the B-36 was incredibly powerful.  In service throughout the 1950’s, the B-36 never dropped a bomb in combat but later variations did serve as high altitude reconnaissance aircraft.  The true strength of the B-36 was its ceiling, it could fly at well over 40,000 feet making it very difficult for fighter aircraft to engage.  The B-36 was eventually replaced with jet powered aircraft such as the B-52 but for the 1950’s the B-36 ruled the skies. 

Strategic Importance

To put the strategic importance of the B-36 into perspective it might be helpful to look at the historical context and the geopolitical landscape of the era.  The first B-36 was delivered to the Air Force in 1948, immediately before an important focal point in the Cold War, the year 1949.  In 1949, NATO was founded, the Soviet Union detonated its first Atomic Bomb, and Mao Zedong’s Communist forces took control of China.  World War II has just ended in 1945 and as the world struggled to pick up the pieces new existential threats began to emerge with alarming regularity.  The fear of nuclear Armageddon was an everyday fact of life in the 1950’s and 1960’s leading many people to build fallout shelters in their homes and many government buildings to have fallout shelters in their basements.  This is where the Strategic Air Command came in.  To provide an effective nuclear deterrent from Cold War enemies SAC provided an immediate response force to reassure the United States and its allies against the fear of nuclear war.  The fact that the Cold War did not escalate into WWIII during SAC’s watch should serve as a testament to their effectiveness as a credible deterrent.  In the 1950’s, the B-36 was a big part of that deterrent. 

Today

Today, a relic of the Cold War can be found on the western side of the Franklin Mountains.  Large pieces of wreckage, including engine, landing gear, and part of a tail fin can still be found on the mountain from the B-36D crash in 1953.  The best way to visit the crash site is to hike up the side of the mountain directly to the site (the other way that is listed on internet sites is to take the Wyler Aerial Tram but it is currently closed due to safety concerns).  To begin the hike, drive to the Thousand Steps Trailhead at the end of Kenyon Joyce Lane, just off of North Stanton Street, parking is easy, and the trail begins just off the street.  A historical marker at the beginning will give you an overview of the crash site and the airmen that lost their lives in the crash.  From there, follow the trail and after about a mile or so you arrive at a large boulder on the right side of the trail, this is the marker to turn left into a draw.  Follow the draw, there really is not a trail for very far, it’s just hiking over very rough terrain.  Make no mistake, it is a difficult half mile hike but well worth it.  As you make the ascent, you will begin to notice debris, please be respectful and do not disturb anything and do not take any souvenirs, it is very important to leave the site just as you found it (the site is protected as a Texas State Archeological Site).

Once you arrive at the site you will see pieces of the landing gear, a jet engine and propellers.  There is also a small memorial to the airmen that perished that day, it’s mounted on the backside of a rock outcropping at the site.  Pay your respects, enjoy the view of El Paso, and remember the sacrifice made by these brave men in protecting freedom and the American way of life. 

I highly recommend hiking to the crash site and viewing the memorial in person but if you can’t make it, I suggest you let YouTube be your tour guide to Discovering El Paso and paying homage to those who gave their lives in the name of freedom!

Great video of the B-36 Crash site on the Franklin Mountains

       

Destination Prague

Letting YouTube be your Tour Guide

Prague’s Old Town Square

Prague – The Golden City of a Hundred Spires!

In keeping with my YouTube as a tour guide inspired theme of late, I thought I would do another blog on one of my favorite places.  The destination this time is the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague.  Prague is an amazing city, dating back over 1000 years, it has some of the finest architecture in Europe and possesses an authentic ‘old world’ feel.  Two ‘must sees’ in Prague are the Charles Bridge and the Prague Astronomical Clock. 

Charles Bridge Tower on the Old Town Side

The Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge, commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV, began construction in 1357 and spans the Vltava river which runs through the heart of Prague connecting the Old Town and the Lesser Town.  The bridge is always crowded with tourists, street musician and everyone in between while offering incredible views of the city. The Old Town is the historic center of the city and is absolutely incredible to tour, amazing architectural feats are visible on almost every street, super high-end shops are around every corner, awesome restaurants including a Hard Rock Cafe, and in the center is the famous Prague Astronomical Clock

The Prague Astronomical Clock
The Prague Astronomical Clock closer view

The Prague Astronomical Clock

The clock itself is an amazing technological feat and possesses an equally incredible legend about its creator, Mikuláš from Kadaň, who is believed to has ended his own life by throwing himself into the clocks gears after being blinded by jealous city councilors who did not want him to recreate the clock, or a better one, for any other city.  Built in 1380 or 1410 depending on what source you look at, the clock keeps four times; Babylonian, Old Bohemian, German, and Sidereal.  It has four automatons and a rotating display of the 12 apostles while also depicting the sun’s movements through the zodiac and the moons phases.  It also has a calendar dial that shows the day of the week and month.  Pretty incredible for 1380 or 1410!

Take a look at the video below for a video tour of Prague.  

Rick Steves’ Europe video tour of Prague

To truly enjoy a trip to Prague I strongly recommend doing your homework before getting there. The historical significance of Prague is vast, spanning much of European history across political, cultural and economic landscapes. From being the seat of the Holy Roman Empire to Mozart’s first performance of Don Giovanni, Prague is truly a special place. There are many other treasures to be found in Prague, check out the gallery below for a small sample. I suggest you make the trip there yourself but if you can’t make it, I recommend letting YouTube be your tour guide. Enjoy!      

https://www.youtube.com/about/

Let YouTube be your Italian Tour Guide.

St Mark's Basilica
St Mark’s Basilica, St Mark’s Square, Venice, Italy. (27DEC18)

Touring Italy with the help of YouTube

In keeping with the travel theme of my last blog I thought I would share some of our tourist experiences in Italy.  Italy is beautiful country with a rich history and YouTube has many videos showcasing the historic sites.  For this blog I would like to focus on two bucket list destinations, Venice and Pisa, and with the help of some pictures I took and YouTube hopefully you will get a good idea of the magic of Italy.

Venice

Venice is an incredible place, unfortunately it is currently flooded, filled with many irreplaceable works of art, beautiful architecture, and a truly old world feel that almost makes you feel like you have gone backward in time.  Founded after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, around 568, Venice was born out of necessity as the indigenous populations of northern Italy were driven off the mainland by invaders to the islands of the lagoon that would later become Venice. This forced migration and the urban expansion that followed would later turn Venice into a thriving port with a booming economy and many political aspirations.  But like much of Europe its political and economic fortunes would ebb and flow with the expansion and contraction of competing European powers until finally becoming an official part of Italy in 1866.  Unlike Neuschwanstein, which only has a history of about 150 years, Venice can trace its history back 1500 years.  Venice is a ‘must see’, particularly St Mark’s Square, for anyone interested in history, art, or culture.  If you’re not interested in any of those things it’s still a great place to visit and just get away from the fast pace of modern life.  YouTube can help you maximize your Venice trip with videos of tourist sites and the many attractions of historical significance.

Venice, 15NOV19
Venice on a much better day

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta at the Square of Miracles.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta at the Square of Miracles. (28DEC18)

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is another world-renowned tourist destination and the Square of Miracles not only boasts the Leaning Tower but an incredible cathedral and a baptistry, all three are very impressive, there is also a cemetery called the Camposanto.  The city of Pisa traces its roots back even further than Venice, over 2000 years, and was the birthplace of Galileo in 1564.  Pisa survived the fall of the Roman Empire to become a thriving commercial center but like most cities in Europe it was at the mercy of the near constant political turmoil throughout the centuries.  Today, the city of Pisa is unremarkable, but the Square of Miracles is timeless.  I was a little unprepared for visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa, I didn’t realize there were actually three incredible buildings in the Square, the Leaning Tower, which is 846 years old, was really the only one I had ever heard of but needless to say the entire complex is extremely impressive, the architecture is truly amazing.  This is where the magic of YouTube as a virtual tour guide comes in, in order to maximize your vacation I recommend checking out any of the incredible videos on YouTube to get an idea of the history, the layout of the area, and a general idea of the region and the significance of Pisa throughout the history of Europe.  Plus, to get to see in person the famous Leaning Tower is truly thrilling, as a child I never dreamed of going there but to see it in person was incredible.  Another bucket list destination, if you can’t make it in person let a YouTube tour be the next best thing. Enjoy!     

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

https://www.youtube.com/about/

Vacationing with YouTube

Neuschwanstein Castle (photo taken with iPhone 7)

Step into a Fairy Tale

One of my favorite places in the world is Neuschwanstein Castle, or “The Fairy Tale Castle” as it is also known, in southern Bavaria, Germany.  Commissioned by King Ludwig II, the “Fairytale King”, construction began in 1869 and was never truly completed as Ludwig died under mysterious circumstances in 1886 near Munich after being deposed by the Bavarian government for his excessive spending habits and increasingly eccentric behavior.  Ludwig was enamored by the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and both the exterior and interior are virtual shrines to the Arthurian legends.  He was also very close with the composer, Richard Wagner, and had an elaborate music hall, The Hall of Singers, built on the fourth floor of the main palace to commemorate Wagnerian operas.  Scenes from Arthurian legends decorate The Hall of Singers, including many of Parzival and his quest for the Holy Grail.  The epic nature of Neuschwanstein, which means the New Swan Castle or the New Swan of Stone Castle referring to the Swan Knights of legend and immortalized by Wagner, coupled with the incredible aesthetics make it truly breathtaking.  It is one of the most beautiful castles in the world and must be seen in person to truly appreciate its splendor.

A bucket list destination

Traveling to Neuschwanstein Castle should be on everyone’s bucket list of ‘must see’ places but that might not always be practical due to distance, cost, etc., this is where the beauty of YouTube comes in.  YouTube has many videos of Neuschwanstein Castle featuring narratives about the history of the castle and Ludwig II.  In many ways the better videos serve as virtual tour guides, telling the story of the castle, Ludwig, and the legends that inspired Neuschwanstein.  Unfortunately, photography is forbidden inside the castle, so many of the videos only have a few interior scenes but the exterior images are very impressive.

YouTube as a tour guide

The real secret to effectively using YouTube as an educational aide while vacationing is to use it in conjunction with travel to a destination such as Neuschwanstein.  By viewing the videos before visiting the “Fairytale Castle” and absorbing some of the legends the actual trip there takes on a whole new meaning.  Walking through the castle and understanding the iconic imagery depicted in the various halls is much more enjoyable and meaningful, from both a tourist and an educational point of view.  I have been there two times and I enjoyed the second time much more as I knew more of the history and legends surrounding the castle.  Neuschwanstein has become iconic, inspiring the Sleeping Beauty castle (see gallery above) at Disneyland as well as over 1 million tourists each year.  There is also another castle at the bottom of the hill, Hohenschwangau (see gallery), which was Ludwig’s fathers castle as well as Linderhof, another one of Ludwig’s castles that is a short drive away (see gallery). I highly recommend a trip to Neuschwanstein but if you can’t make it in person then YouTube is the next best thing.  Enjoy!   

Conducting Research using YouTube

Conducting Research using YouTube

After focusing on YouTube channels and the many educational benefits of viewing and subscribing to specific YouTube channels I wanted to shift gears for this post and talk a little bit about conducting personal research using YouTube.  The vast number of videos on YouTube make it a great platform to conduct scholarly research, for this post I would like to focus on one video from the Vietnam War era and what can be learned from viewing the news media from a specific time period. I used videos similar to this one for a course I took a few years ago called Vietnam and America.    

When researching a topic such as armed conflict it is important to remember that it is composed of so much more than just battles and operations in support of a tactical objective.  As many historians have noted; social, political, and economic factors play a huge role in the decision-making process before, during and after wars.  As Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz so correctly stated, “War is a continuation of policy (politics) by other means” and while this is certainly true it is also true that war is waged in social and economic arenas concurrently or independently, often to support political goals.  At the national level, the DIME acronym might provide a useful example of the use of social, political, and economic factors that are used during peace or war, the elements of national power are Diplomatic (political), Informational (political/social), Military (political), Economic (economic).  In parentheses I have tied the elements of DIME in with the social, political, and economic factors that historians have analyzed across historical conflicts and each of these factors is affected by the others to varying degrees of proximity or relevancy to advancing national interests.

For example, a video of an NBC News Special report from 1968, encompasses all these aspects and provides a much greater context to learning than simply reading from a history book.  The video is over 16 minutes of recorded television and included the end of a nightly newscast, commercials, a short clip from Johnny Carson, and the Special Report.  The video starts off with the ending segment of a local news broadcast, the anchors and set look very basic in relation to today’s 24-hour news channels.  This is followed by a series of commercials for products such as Colgate and Cold Power washing detergent.  The commercials are interesting in they both show family settings and cite scientific evidence of how the products work.  This is an example of advertising (economic) using a social component through a visual/auditory medium aimed at families with an emotional appeal to buy their products.  After the commercials, Johnny Carson, the famous talk show host and forerunner to David Letterman, Jay Leno, etc., does an announcement that he is being preempted by an NBC News Special Report on Vietnam on what would become known as the Tet Offensive.  It’s interesting to note that Carson’s guest that night was a District Attorney from New Orleans named Jim Garrison who was investigating the JFK assassination and would later become a famous in the movie JFK by Oliver Stone.  Carson is followed by the Special Report, which lasts approximately 15 minutes, and covers the Tet Offensive battles in Saigon, Hue, etc., with embedded reporters and live video footage.  This is an example of politics by way of the continuation von Clausewitz describes. 

This is an example of using YouTube as a research tool for personal or professional use.  To make it truly scholarly, cross referencing other sources might be necessary to ensure the validity of the news accounts (at the time this video was originally aired it was current) but when used as a means to acquire contemporary social texture and context the power of a time specific video from a credible source is unmatched.       

Craig   

MASTERY LEARNING

We’re a nonprofit with the mission to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.

I have talked about the Khan Academy in some of my other blog posts, but I recently found a video on YouTube of Sal Khan on a TedTalks discussing Mastery Learning that was very interesting and very timely.  In the video he talks about mastering a topic before moving on and the inherent dangers of moving to new topic before establishing the foundational skills required to understand and apply the topic at a higher level.  He also describes traditional learning models that fail to close educational gaps before moving on to new content, models that most of us are probably familiar with.  This video really got my attention due to the work we have been doing on Behaviorism.  Khan makes a great case for Mastery Learning, check out it below. 

He also makes some great points about mindsets and students taking ‘agency of their learning’ that reminded me of some of the Cognitive concepts we have been talking about recently.  He also talks about using technology to enable Mastery Learning, this is what I really found interesting.  His last point about society entering the Information Age is also very enlightening. This is a great video that really made me think about Mastery Learning and its potential. Enjoy!

YouTube as a Research Tool

In honor of the recent passing of the great Ginger Baker, 80, drummer for rocks first ‘Supergroup’ Cream, I thought I would do this blog on the educational benefits of YouTube from an individual research perspective.  I have been focusing on Educational Channels and the powerful effect YouTube can have in a classroom but for this blog I am going to shift the focus to research, specifically, the history of Popular Culture.

A few years ago, I took a course on the History of Rock and Roll and I was very impressed with the sheer volume of classic video footage available of 60’s era bands.  Every band from The Beatles on is represented in what cultural historians refer to as the ‘British Invasion’, beginning on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Beatles took America by storm and opened the flood gates for British acts to conquer American radio while dominating the Billboard music charts. 

For an example of the dominance of The Beatles look at the graphic below:

This is from one week in 1964. The Beatles owned the charts.  Following in their footsteps were a wave of British acts and in 1966 the first rock ‘Supergroup’ Cream was formed with Eric Clapton on guitar and vocals, Jack Bruce on bass and vocals and Ginger Baker on drums.  With extensive roots in the English music scene, Cream (as in Cream of the Crop), took the charts by storm in 1968 with their hit “Sunshine of Your Love” reaching number 5 on the Billboard charts.  From the album Disraeli Gears, vinyl was the dominant medium of the time, “Sunshine of Your Love” was a catchy 4 minutes of psychedelic ear candy that is still inspiring musicians to this day.

Cream would go on to sell over 15 million records during and after their short career, which ended abruptly in 1968 resulting from internal turmoil and culminating with Rolling Stone magazine criticizing their live show, calling it “boring and repetitious”.  This would in effect end the band although they did regroup in 2005 for several performances, but the influence of Cream in popular music is still being felt. 

To fully appreciate the impact Cream had on popular music it is important to frame the research with the right context, aside from being there nothing can do this better than videos from the time.  The music, the style, the fashion and the context are all on full display in the live and television appearances captured on YouTube.  Studying the videos themselves is an interesting exercise in the technology and techniques employed during the late sixties, in one video the camera angle captures Jack Bruce tuning his bass guitar during the song, another shows Cream lip-synching or playing to a backing track on a British television show long before the lip-synching controversies seen in more recent times (lip synching seems to have been a common feature of the time as I have seen this on multiple videos from both British and American television shows such as Top of the Pops in Britain and American Bandstand in America).  In tribute to Ginger Baker and the lasting impact of Cream, enjoy a couple of videos and pay attention to the some of the things I mentioned above, not only are the songs groundbreaking for the time but the visuals are a reflection of a bygone era.      

Cream performing ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ live, undated but most likely 1968.
Cream performing ‘White Room’, one of their biggest hits.
Cream ‘lip-synching’ Strange Brew on Beat Club, a German music program, ‘lip-synching’ or playing to a backing track of the original recording was a very common practice for the time.

Microsoft Education

Microsoft Education Channel on YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/user/Microsoftedu/featured

YouTube is an iconic communications platform that focuses on pretty much every topic known to man.  With such a wide variety of content the question might be asked “how can YouTube focus on anything when it is focused on everything?”  The answer is really very simple, the scope is so vast that it is broken down into channels that group similar topics and many cultural icons have their own channels.  For this blog, I would like to talk about a true modern-day icon, Microsoft and the Microsoft Education YouTube channel.  The description of the Microsoft Education channel is very simple and sounds very familiar in that it “is creating immersive and inclusive experiences that inspire lifelong learning, stimulating development of essential life skills and supporting educators in guiding and nurturing student passions” (Microsoft Education, 2019).  This is a great channel for educators to connect and empower students, offering an impressive array of videos on everything from inspirational moments to how to maximize the use of Microsoft office products.

The channel’s site is set like most other YouTube channels with a menu under the header followed by an introductory video.  As you scroll down the page there are a lot of videos grouped in different subjects ranging from ‘What’s New in Microsoft Education’ to ‘Hack the Classroom’.  I focused on ‘Hack the Classroom’ and the first video was about a teacher from the iPromise school in Akron, Ohio.  The iPromise school was founded by LeBron James, a cultural icon from the NBA that is obviously branching out and giving back to his hometown.  The ‘Hack the Classroom’ video is about “Educating the Heart and Mind” and in it the teacher, Jessica Tozzi,  talks about “Empowering Scholars Through a Focus on Social Emotional Learning.”  The video describes how young scholars are selected to attend the school, essentially through a lottery of second graders from the Akron area that read in the 25% or lower percentile.  Of the approximately 600 scholars that fell into this category 120 were randomly selected for attendance at the iPromise school. Tozzi goes on to describe the environment at the school and the five priorities or ‘Habits of Promise’ that that form the backbone of the curriculum.  The five ‘Habits of Promise’ she talks about are: perseverance, perspective, partner, problem solver and perpetual learner, which set the tone for the educational experience. 

She proceeds to explain the guiding principles of the school which are called the iPromise Circle (Restorative Circle) and how it guides the learning process for the students.  The principals of the iPromise Circle are ‘Trauma informed + responsive, Being mindful, Scholar choice, and Accountability.’  Powerful principles for young scholars, 3rd graders, that have faced significant challenges in life.  The most striking thing to me was Tozzi talking about encouraging the young scholars to be the ‘Best Version’ of themselves.  The enabling aspect of this video is very powerful and is a great example of the power of education, particularly for young viewers.  The video is also a great tool for sharing the narrative across a universal platform.

The LeBron James Family Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Khan Academy are all iconic organizations, led by iconic individuals dedicated to making the world a better place.  The YouTube platform is a great way for them to share their ideas with the largest possible audience and connect with others across the planet.  The Microsoft Education channel on YouTube is just one of the many great ways to explore some of these great ideas.  Check it out.  Craig

References: Microsoft Education. (2019). Retrieved at https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCG_FV4WjnZqtm6sux2g069Q?pbjreload=10

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started