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Fantastic Beasts November 27, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 2:22 pm

Tonight* I want to post my reactions to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Lately I’ve mostly used Facebook for this, but I know even putting the spoilers in comments isn’t a sure way to protect my friends from them, since FB sometimes puts ‘Your friend posted this comment on her own post’ on people’s timelines. So here I come to my blog, because I’m not the sort of friend to spoil others! (Unless they want to be spoiled. I totally spoiled “Cursed Child” for a boy at work and “Arrival” for my brother this weekend. But¬†they were both happy to be spoiled.)

So… Spoilers ahead, and please share your own spoiler-y reflections in comments here!

During movie thoughts:

  • When Mary Lou started speaking at the beginning, I was so jarred to hear an American accent in a Harry Potter movie, lol! (The customs official didn’t count somehow.) Took me a minute or so to adjust my expectations and not feel like she was doing it wrong.
  • This movie is so amazingly amazing! But they need to slow down on the amazingness and not just keep on throwing more amazing effects shots in our faces. Have your fun, effects-filled sequence and then settle into telling the story, please. You wave all these things you can do in my face but leave me no time to appreciate them, or even get a good look at many of them. It’s like spraying rich dark chocolate at me through a hose – I may enjoy what gets in my mouth, but most of it is wasted and I’m kinda grumpy in the end for the missed opportunities. At least I don’t walk out of the movie with chocolate all over my clothes.ūüėČ
  • “What caused Dumbledore to have such a high opinion of you?” Jealous, Grindelwald? *smirk* –I tend to doubt myself, so I can’t claim to have been totally certain all the way to the end, but I was pretty sure it was him at that point, and honestly suspicious from the beginning. People who look that good and have that much power, and have enough cred to get their mug in the trailer, but are not the protagonist, often turn out to be the hidden antagonist.
  • Speaking of, Graves was SUPER good at the “honest, concerned” looks, like the one he threw Tina when she was shut out of the Auror department in the beginning. Loved ’em. But does that make Grindelwald¬†a good actor, make Colin Farrell a good actor, make Colin Farrell an actor who didn’t add enough nuance to throw in that bit of doubt, or make Yates a director who insisted on intentionally-misleading shots? (Well, Yates is definitely that, with those shots of Modesty that clearly marked her as the obscurial. But is it ONLY that?)
  • The day they filmed at the zoo must have been a great one to be on set. “Hey, come watch Eddie make a total fool of himself in an empty pen, everybody!” The guy behind us in the theater eventually commented, “Better him than me.” No kidding!
  • Why did the invisible dark force suddenly become totally visible? How about those eyes the guy mentioned seeing in it at the beginning, where’d those eyes go? It certainly didn’t look the same at Shaw’s rally as it did in the subway. Maybe it changes a bit each time?
  • THIS is how they kill condemned people magically? What happened to a good ol’ AK? If they aren’t prepared to kill them with those wands at the neck, why don’t more people fight to escape? Or why don’t the guards at least knock them out and then just throw them in the acid rather than having them sink in slowly? And please tell me the IMDb member who said it’s a reference to witch ducking is wrong! That would be SO twisted!
  • I absolutely love that¬†the American magical community’s president is a woman of color. And we didn’t see it but I was imagining a fresh look of horror on that newspaper guy’s face if he realized that when he was at the scene demanding justice for his son. Not that he didn’t also have a right to some answers regarding Shaw Jr’s death, and I may be reading more into his character and into the all-white attendance at the political event than I ought… but yep that was my reaction.
  • I also love that snake-bird thing that fits its space like a giant magical goldfish, and the Aladdin-like trick to get it into a¬†teapot! Brilliant writing/directing! And what a team the four of them make!
  • Does Tina and Queenie’s¬†seemingly-effortless magical cooking outdo Kowalski’s generational recipes and mountains of effort? I’m glad he’s too besotted to notice, ’cause that would be crushing if I were in his shoes. But maybe they practiced a ton just like him – certainly Hogwarts kids struggled at first with the simplest hover charm, never mind choreographing flying plates or¬†baking a dish as you assemble it in mid-air!
  • Durn right he gave him the eggshells! Took him long enough too – did no one else think of that when they were first mentioned? Though it just occurred to me to wonder how on earth one egg got out in the bank. Is he always shedding creatures and such?¬†I’m not sure what I think the answer to that is… he’s inept with people for the most part (not that he gets the chance to interact much on even footing in this story), but he seems so good with the creatures, and that case is super well-made. Apart from the latches, anyway. That seems like a pretty serious glitch.

After movie thoughts:

  • If there are 4 more movies with Newt, I hope he gets better at looking people in the eye. Do you think he could be somewhere on the autism spectrum? It’s certainly different watching this character than most. I appreciate Eddie’s versatility – loved him in “Theory of Everything,” and while I haven’t seen “The Danish Girl,” it’s yet another different sort of role from the usual leading-man jobs.
  • This memory wipe thing stinks. Why not stick him in the case till Newt leaves the US? And what’s the deal with people inside their homes being effected by the rain? Too easy. What, it’s in the air humidity? In that case, Kowalski would have been wiped a lot sooner. Picky points aside, I file this under “Situations in sci-fi and fantasy I am thankful I will never have to face in the real world.” (such as what happens to Bean & Petra’s family at the end of the Ender’s Shadow series)
  • As Jenn whispered to me when they first climbed into Newt’s suitcase, “And I thought Hermione was good!” (Referring to her magical bag.) I so agree! It’s amazing to see magic used by lots of competent adult wizards. Totally amazing. I suppose there’s a lot of apprentice or vocational-technical training or something, because I¬†can’t imagine most Hogwarts grads doing what the folk here were doing with a flick of the wrist (not even muttering the spells most of the time – hm, that was inconsistent, they seem to only speak them when they’re spells fans will recognize). This fits with the real-world fact that trained adults can do a lot more than school children, magic or no magic, though there are certainly some teens who accomplish a lot. (Ever read “Do Hard Things”?)
  • But if the professional wizards are this good at putting a city back together with a wave of their wands, why on earth do they live in Muggle cities instead of their own? Why not, say, make a whole country underground, entered through a magic door like Newt’s¬†case or the Ministry’s various entrances? Or perhaps wave your wand to fashion a huge, fully-provisioned spaceship and go colonize Mars? Or maybe just load up some steamers and colonize a few islands? Be ambitious,¬†take over Australia and make it Un-Plottable? C’mon, basic rule for writing fantasy, you have to have clear LIMITS to the power. You have to know what it CAN’T do, or you have no story. It seemed pretty limitless – yet also somewhat arbitrary – in this movie, which makes other aspects of the story hard to believe. For instance, Hogwarts knows who’s got magic, but the US magical government doesn’t know about Credence or notice that all the attacks start at one point on the map?
  • Did no one die in that last attack? ‘Cause you can put THINGS back like they were, but corpses, not so much. Same problem with “Jupiter Ascending” – that really bugged me. (Boy, speaking of effect-show movies…)
  • So do the sentient-but-non-human magical folk have to live in hiding all the freakin’ time?! Well, I suppose there are Hogsmeade-like communities in the US too. But man, it would stink to be one of those in the city, never showing your face on the street. I guess that applies in London just as much, I just never thought about it before. Hagrid managed to get around anyway.
  • After all the excitement over the thunderbird pre-release, did he ever even mention its species? And how close to sentient are these beasts? “You know what to do”??
  • Jenn had a super idea that maybe the dying girl Newt helped with an obscurus was Dumbledore’s sister. There are problems – wrong time-frame (before Dumbledore was Newt’s teacher, and judging from Depp’s white hair it was quite a few years ago), wrong location¬†(I think Newt mentioned Sudan), and as the vlogger over at Super Carlin Brothers points out, Newt was obviously unaware of her since he claims the age of ten as the max and according to Aberforth she was 14 when she accidentally killed their mother and then died later that year. But it was a neat idea, and there certainly is a connection between her and this film. The connection is through Grindelwald looking for someone like his former friend’s late sister to use, rather than through Newt being someone who previously helped his teacher’s sister. Certainly this part of the plot adds something to the previous cannon explaining what she was dealing with. Cool? If such a terrible thing can be described with that word.
  • The podcasters over at “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” point out how nice it is to see a female lead who is strong, and who makes genuine (huge) mistakes and miscalculations but out of good intentions not just funny clumsiness. I’ll second that. Go, Tina! And I appreciate her somewhat awkward interactions with Newt, her non-standard way of holding herself (not the “gorgeous female lead” or “powerful police/agent” or whatever other roles we often see). I guess I should check out some of Katherine Waterson’s other movies and see if she’s as versatile as Eddie – and/or give Yates cred for good directing.
  • I love that Jacob has some memories left after the storm – the creatures, possibly some connection with Queenie. The “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” hosts pointed out that the exact description Newt gives of how he would use the venom is to help people forget BAD memories. Since Jacob’s¬†experiences have largely been positive, why wouldn’t he retain some while the rest of the city forgets its dark nightmare with magic?
  • I don’t get why Queenie falls for Jacob though. Other than the convention of “the sidekick deserves the reward of a pretty girl” – is there just a lot that goes on in his mind that we aren’t privy to but that attracts her? It’s not like they had a lot of time together, as far as we saw. Single supporting characters¬†of the opposite sex don’t always have to end up romantically attached. I don’t necessarily object to them being together, and it’s nice that she’s willing to push a bit on the laws that separate them, but it isn’t given enough support to make it believable for me.
  • How does Credence not know he is the Obscurial? He seems to retain his identity when he is in that form, since he targets people who have hurt him or those he cares about (I’m guessing the neighbor of his adopted sister was targeted for her sake), and he seems perhaps to respond to his name in the subway. He knows then that he needs help. Yet when help is being continually offered if only he will find the child, he doesn’t grasp it by revealing himself?
  • They walk a fine line with the Second Salem group here, which is where the books and now the movie make me most uncomfortable. Remember Harry’s textbook talking about witches just being gently tickled by the flames but giving out pretend screams? (Why didn’t they do a memory charm and then move away instead?) I do believe that there is real witchcraft that involves evil spirits in the world we inhabit. God is infinitely more powerful than any demon, so those who believe in Jesus do not need to live in fear of witchcraft, but God has also said in both Old and New Testaments that it is a sin to be involved with witchcraft. The actual Salem witch trials were not at all Scriptural, and never do we see Jesus going on a witchhunt as he models how to live out God’s kingdom. Those and similar events in history make me sad and ashamed for how the church acted, when I believe the true church is called to stand up for the marginalized and attract people to the Gospel by living it out rather than enforcing it like sharia law. But then pulling these terrible real-world mis-applications of truth, into a fantasy world in which magic is to some extent simply inborn power rather than a meddling with the spiritual realm¬†to gain power, muddles it even more. “Your mother was a wicked, unnatural woman” – the filmmakers manage to stop short of “sinful, evil witch” and thankfully they don’t give her a cross to hold as she crusades (they obviously know better than to blatantly alienate the church and its ticket-buying money given the headaches the books went through a couple decades ago) but yeah the whole Salem reference just makes me uncomfortable. It’s hard to suspend disbelief and enter willingly into an alternative reality for a story when it keeps yanking on bad memories from the real world. I hope they’ve finished with that plot element with this movie and¬†Grindelwald will find other pressure points to exploit in the following installments.
  • The memory of Tina rolling under that lowering dome made me reflect on how the president and aurors continually try to shut her out, and then at the inquest the president very unfairly blames her for withholding information when it was she who refused to listen to Tina telling her the exact same information just the day before. They continue to not listen to her when they kill Credence, and yet if only they had, he could probably have been saved. It’s not like he KNEW he was breaking the law, and though I realize ignorance of the law isn’t an excuse to break it, shouldn’t he at least get a trial and possibly a chance to (learn how to) change his ways before being blasted to smithereens?? I am also reflecting on a conversation with a Native American minister on the topic of¬†redeeming the story of the first Thanksgiving, over on Christianity Today’s “Quick to Listen” podcast. He talks about how the Native American culture has qualities to offer the broader American church, one of which is consensus. Quick review if you don’t know, “compromise” means each side giving up something to get something, while “consensus” means finding a win-win path, coming to agreement rather than just saying “fine, I’ll do without this thing I want, can we move on now?”¬†A Native American church he pastored did away with committees and simply met to discuss and decide things. He said (I paraphrase), “You know that person who keeps bringing up objections and you wish he would just stop? In a democracy you can just overrule him. But I found that as we were forced to listen, that often that person had seen something the rest of us had missed.” The fictional American magical president (perhaps the non-fiction current and upcoming muggle ones as well) could really stand to listen a lot more rather than pushing law and majority rule and steamrolling over dissenting voices.

Other thoughts? I’m sure I had a couple more while driving home, but now it’s late and I’m for bed. SO glad they made it, SO glad I saw it on the big screen, all nitpicks and plot holes aside. VERY fun to have a new series to look forward to continuing!

*I added several points a couple days after watching, as you may guess from the references to various other spoiler-y media. I certainly did not watch or listen to such media before seeing the film!

 

Life is an adventure June 5, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 11:17 am

Facebook’s “memories” function is reminding me that 7 years ago this weekend, I took an overnight train from Zhengzhou to Beijing on a Thursday¬†night (6/4) to make a quick run to the US Embassy for more passport pages, so that my new job could get a new visa pasted in it for my new city – Qingdao! Then I zipped back to Zhengzhou again to finish out my¬†last week of teaching. I love how I can follow my trip in all those old posts, but of course they’ll disappear for another year at midnight (or forever, if FB gets rid of this function in future changes), so I’m pasting them here in memorial of my international life. The texting abbreviations make me wince, but apparently that’s how I posted back then – back when one COULD post to FB indirectly from a non-smartphone. Come to think of it, the abbreviations are probably because I actually tweeted them, by texting them to a number in the UK that would post them to twitter for me.¬†An old FB function would copy them in as statuses. Believe me, I was quite¬†sad when China blocked the international Twitter phone number! *Note: These all show up on today’s memories since of course I’m in the US now but I was then in China – the times are 12 hours off, so an evening and the following morning there line up with one full day here. Going from the mundane to the zipping-around-China, here we go!

2:36pm¬†playing ‘i have a dream’ (song) during break, getting excited about watching ‘fredom writers’ w my class next wk!

6:19pm just spent 10min fishing a piece of corn from the printer. so much for multi-tasking saving me time!

10:17pm¬†note to self: in the evening, the lites r timed for leaving th city. if u need to get to th train stn, leave earlier! (made train… just.)

5:54am¬†i am SO cold! not so cold that i wish i’d gotten an un-AC’ed train, mind u, just cold enuf to be glad we r almost to BJ.

8:06am¬†in shock at seeing so many on subway reading newspaper. i don’t take pub transport at rush hr in zz, but still… (2016 note: I saw plenty of newsstands in Zhengzhou and Qingdao, but almost never saw someone actually reading a newspaper there, certainly not en masse like on the trains in Tokyo – and, apparently, Beijing.)

9:02am ptl, got to the embassy just on time. bus + subway + walk = 1:45 from train station. yikes! out now, w new passport pgs firmly attatched!

10:50am just said goodbye to the C fam. happy surprise to c kev & mandy, and hannah just started walking! now walking to western rest 4 take-out.

11:01am my dogs are barking. i am SO getting a taxi to the train station after this!

11:35am mmm, cheese steak, smells heavenly. saving it for the train. just got taxi 2 min ago to cross city, driver says 12.40 train no prob. woohoo!

11:44am¬†JUST SAW THE BIRDS NEST AND WATER CUBE! from the hiway. wow!!!! (am i a dork? i don’t care)

Now I’m curious to see what else, if anything, I posted the rest of June 5 – obviously after 12 noon in China it will register as June 5 here as well. I’ll have to log on tomorrow and find out!ūüėÄ

 

Teaching Materials Sale January 20, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 2:05 am

You may know I am a teacher. Did you know I also sell materials that I’ve produced on TeacherPayTeachers.com? My store there is known as Jubilant Learning. I’m just getting started, but I really love the activities I’ve posted so far, and I think they’re useful to anyone learning English, whether it’s a native-speaking elementary student, someone catching up on literacy in middle or high school, or a speaker of another language who is learning¬†English at any age. Looking to the future,¬†I’m working on¬†units about economics (for intermediate grade¬†students), about a memoir (for high schoolers¬†or for adult ESL), and about a couple of middle-grade novels, so be sure to “follow” my store to hear when those are ready!

There’s a big start-of-year sale going on there this week on January 20-21. All my items are 20% off – except the ones that are already free, of course! If you’re a teacher too, why not stop by and grab something for your ESL or elementary classroom?

740 √ó 400

 

Chai Milk Cake January 15, 2016

Filed under: Cooking,Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 12:13 pm

This is what happens when I melded my grandmother’s “hot milk cake” with my love of spiced, sweetened milk tea!

I made this first for a friend’s birthday party two or three years ago and thought I’d blogged the recipe then, but when I made a video about how to bake it this past week, I¬†couldn’t find the¬†recipe here!¬†Well, that problem can’t stand, so here it is.

Notes: “Double for birthdays” says the original, so if you want a 9″x13″ cake, do. Otherwise it fits nicely in a 9″ or 8″ square, or perhaps a dozen cupcakes (haven’t tried that but bet it would work).
Grease your pan, and preheat the oven to 350F (180C).

Sift or whisk together:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 sleeves of milk tea powder, if available
  • 1 tsp chai tea spices

Heat:

 

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • about two¬†servings of tea and spices (or double this if you’re not putting milk tea powder in with the flour)

 

Strain/remove the solid bits from the milk once it’s brewed nicely, then mix in:

 

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

 

Separate:

 

  • 2 eggs

 

Beat the whites till soft peaks form, then beat the yolks separately for about half as long, then beat them both together. Add:

 

  • 1 cup sugar

 

Beat the eggs and sugar till thick and smooth, about 5 minutes by hand or perhaps a couple minutes with an electric mixer.

Add the other two mixes in turns: 1/3 of the flour mix, 1/2 of the milk mix, 1/3 flour, 1/2 milk, 1/3 flour. Once everything is combined, pour it into the cake pan and bake for 25-35 min (depending how deep the batter is in the pan). Test with a toothpick poked in the middle to see if it comes out clean.

To me, this cake is perfectly sweet and spicy, but if you have more American tastes, you may want to whip up some cream with a bit more spice and sugar in it to put on top!

 

Carrot Soup January 10, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 1:30 pm

carrot soup in bread bowl

I posted my first cooking video in umpteen years today! It’s a carrot soup I made at the end of December and finally finished editing into something share-able today.

Carrot Soup on YouTube

In preparing it, I took into account a couple¬†things I’ve learned about video-making in the past semester:

  1. You will learn as you go. Don’t expect perfection or you’ll never post a single video. Set reasonable expectations and then just do it; each video will be better than the last.
  2. Your first few videos will be painfully bad. Embrace the suck. (direct quote though I forget the source – generally I don’t use the word “suck” that way, but here somehow “stink” just didn’t sound the same!)

So, the video actually did turn out better than I feared it would, but it also took many hours to complete. In the end I accepted that not all the on-screen text¬†was in the same font size, that there were spots that could have used music, that one segment where I’m talking is audio-less and several spots where my voice kind of tapers off (I know Mom, as you always tell me, stop mumbling), that my 3 different video sources produced 2 different screen ratios and 3 different video quality levels, and that as always I look a little funny to myself on camera (oh my gracious, please tell me I don’t look exactly like that when I’m teaching in-person!)… And I learned (decided) that next time, I’m going to make a shot list/storyboard ahead of time and at least a little bit of a script, so that I don’t have to wade through so much footage after filming. Also that if¬†I can find a way to borrow an actual video camera instead of having to switch out between my phone’s two angles and my laptop’s camera, I will totally take it, though that’ll mean some planning ahead as well.

Also I need to pick a purpose for my videos, if indeed I keep making them, other than “share what I love” and “eventually make some money on YouTube.” At the moment I’m hoping I speak¬†more slowly than some YouTubers, who are often way to fast for my ESL students to follow, but do I want to make that more intentional? Put more words on-screen? Add CC’s even? Or am I going more for the mainstream American cooking show audience? Or perhaps focus on alternative recipes that are vegetarian or gluten-free or something? For now it’s just “recipes I like and feel like making on the day I also feel like dealing with video recording it,” which isn’t really a plan at all!

Got any words of wisdom or encouragement?

 

Happy New Year (2016) January 1, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 12:35 pm

IMG_5807
Dawn on New Year’s Day

I didn’t plan it this way, but I woke a little after 7am and enjoyed the early morning light, the glimpse of the clear sky between horizon and cloud cover. Quiet, peaceful, with a Psalm of Ascent to start the day and the year.

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

1¬†I lift up my eyes to the mountains‚ÄĒ
    where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

3¬†He will not let your foot slip‚ÄĒ
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

5¬†The Lord watches over you‚ÄĒ
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

7¬†The Lord will keep you from all harm‚ÄĒ
    he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Thank you, Lord. As I start this year, unsure where I’ll be living, what I’ll be doing to buy my daily bread, I start off the year with a view of light over the mountains and this reminder that you are, above and beyond that, my unshakable one. I feel so loved. Amen.

IMG_5805

Note: A Psalm in the morning has been a usual part of my morning routine for years, but whereas I’ve been somewhat lax in the past about doing it daily, I have actually kept up with one a day the whole way through this time, starting with Psalm 1 on Sept 1, Psalm 31 on Oct 1, etc, and¬†spreading¬†Psalm 119 over 3 days at the end of December so I could start the New Year with¬†Psalm 121 on Jan 1 (making the 1’s digit match again – I have a mathematical mind). I love this book more every time I read it! It’s amazing how God’s word is fresh every morning.

 

New Media Finds of 2015 December 29, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 1:05 pm

This seems to be the time of year for lists, and I wanted to mention some of the media creators I’ve discovered this year, so here is my year-end contribution to the list-making season. These are the podcasts and YouTube channels that I’ve started following in the last 12-18 months (I’m not sure on a few of them!) What media sources have your discovered in 2015?

Podcasts:

  • The Church at Brook Hills – I found this church because David Platt, the author of “Radical,” was the pastor, but then he moved to another position and I’m still listening! The website has a great archive of past sermons, but mostly I listen to the new¬†messages as they are posted, often¬†by Matt Mason, the new pastor. It’s great Biblical teaching from a reformed, evangelical perspective. (I’m not great with those “Christian labels” but I think those are the best two to give you an idea of the flavor!) Recent favorites: the two or three on Daniel in October,¬†right when I was studying the book.
  • Imaginary Worlds – “A podcast about¬†how we create them and why we suspend our disbelief.” I pick and choose in this stream since I’m¬†not a full-blown sci-fi/fantasy/comic book fan, but those I do listen to are¬†well-thought-out. I also appreciate that he looks at the roles women play, and don’t play, in these genres. Right now he’s in the middle of¬†a five-podcast series about Star Wars that’s included a look at the cultural climate into which the original movie was released, the way the term “evil empire” is used and a defense of it as not necessarily evil, and the strong opposing opinions on the “slave Leia” look.¬†I’ve already put a hold on the book he discussed in the last episode I listened to, “The Golem and the Jinni.” Favorite episode so far: When Human Met Creature
  • 99% Invisible – A podcast about the design of everyday objects and experiences, I came across this after Roman Mars, the host, did a TED talk in the format of a live podcast production. It’s fascinating to me to learn what’s behind things that, 99% of the time, I don’t even notice. The hidden danger of autopilot, the pursuit of an unpickable lock, bootleg records engraved on discarded X-ray prints in the USSR,… Always something new, usually something fascinating, and very well produced.¬†Favorite episode so far: 192, Pagodas and Dragon Gates, about anti-Chinese sentiment in American history and why Chinatowns look¬†the way they do. If you love China and American-Chinese as much as I do, check out episode 182 as well.
  • Vinyl Cafe – A friend from Edmonton¬†recommended this show filled with music and stories earlier this month, and it seems to me something like a Canadian “Prairie Home Companion.” So far I’ve just dipped my toe in the water with a couple of Christmas episodes for the drive home, but I will be back to¬†listen more and see if this program is as good as it seems. Favorite episode so far:¬†“Christmas at the Store.”
  • Theology Refresh – A podcast for pastors from Desiring God, featuring 7-15-min. interviews on topics from church planting¬†to depression to youth athletics, each episode ends with a prayer. You don’t have to be in formal ministry to find the recordings helpful. Sadly this podcast¬†was already finished when I discovered it, the last episode was posted in November 2014, but since the topics are applicable at any time, I was able to mine it for old episodes for a while. While I don’t struggle with depression, that was probably my favorite episode so far, very enlightening.

 

YouTube Channels:
You can see many of¬†my favorite channels¬†by going to my own YouTube channel,¬†but be warned, I don’t necessarily encourage you to watch my own years-old videos – somehow I always seemed to be winding down at the end of a long day when I made them! One of these days I’d like to reboot my channel and post more professionally-produced videos.

 

  • The Nerdwriter (NerdWriter1) – Like the Vlog Brothers and Idea Channel, both of which I’ve enjoyed since before this year, Nerdwriter Evan looks at things from modern culture and goes deeper, applying psychology, sociology, art criticism, etc. His video on “It’s a Wonderful Life” made me blink and feel like “I knew that, but never put it into words,” while his video on “Children of Men” made me want to re-watch it to see all that I missed the first time. Admittedly¬†I do not always agree with worldview he is cultivating, but his videos generally make me think about my own in a way I enjoy.
  • College Info Geek (electrickeye91) – While I’m not in college anymore, I have been¬†teaching college, and I love all the very practical life- and study-skills videos Thomas Frank presents with clear closed captions! It’s a pity that he talks too quickly for my ESL students to easily follow (like many YouTubers), but at least they can pause to catch up on the CC’s, and/or go read the associated blog posts for each episode.
  • ¬†–That’s about it for the ones I’m really excited to share and didn’t already follow before this year, but here are some honorable mentions that I have found this year.–
  • Today I Found Out – In-depth trivia for when you’re curious or just want to waste some time learning things you really don’t need to know
  • The Financial Diet – Kind of like “How to Adult” but with a more focused scope. I think I need me some side-hustlesūüôā
  • Fouch-o-matic Off Grid – For some reason this homesteading channel and the tiny home videos YouTube shows me are fascinating to me. I don’t really want to be tied to a place right now myself, but a part of me does still dream of making a home, possibly in a more hands-on, raw way than the average American dream (but probably not hauling my own water and living in a yurt!)
  • VideoFromSpace & NASA Johnson (ReelNASA) – While I can’t say these are thrilling videos, there is some great material here if you love space like I do!

 

I’m not reading blogs as much anymore, though there are several I still enjoy that I’ve followed for two or more years. I think the only one I’ve enjoyed discovering and seeing each new post of this year is Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. I don’t always eat healthfully, but I do generally try to eat more fresh vegetables and fruit, to eat less sugar, wheat, and meat, and if possible to eat fewer carbs overall,¬†compared to what I ate growing up and definitely compared to¬†what I see on menus of the major restaurant chains and Pinterest boards around America.