Fleet Foxes: White Winter Hymnal

Good indie music: The Fleet Foxes (die flotten Füchse) who debuted this year with an album that sounds like the Beach Boys jamming with Neil Young and Bill Withers in a trance. “To me, the most enjoyable thing in the world is to sing harmony with people,” Robin Pecknold told NPR. Stunning private session at the Grand Palais, courtesy of La Blogotheque. They make the line “Light up with me, my dear” (= komm’ rauch mit mir, Liebes) sound vaguely Gregorian and definitely like a religious act – fantastic.

Sun Giant

What a life I lead in the summer
What a life I lead in the spring
What a life I lead in the winded breeze
What a life I lead in the spring

What a life I lead when the sun breaks free
As a giant torn from the clouds
What a life indeed when that ancient seed
Is a berry watered and plowed

Fleet Foxes – A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

White Winter Hymnal

I was following the pack
all swallowed in their coats
with scarves of red tied ’round their throats
to keep their little heads
from fallin’ in the snow
And I turned ’round and there you go
And, Michael, you would fall
and turn the white snow red as strawberries
in the summertime.

White Winter Hymnal from Grandchildren on Vimeo.

learning english with songs 🙂 englischlernen mit liedern


Wijng is an emerging online platform for learning English, and currently it’s free. I’ve looked at a few of the units, including one on skiffle, that nice music of the 50s, and here are a few thoughts:

  • The makers of this platform are taking existing videos, e.g. on YouTube. These are not skripted or specifically spoken and produced for language learners, so they contain “real” English. This is not “good” or “bad”, it all depends on how the media is taken apart to allow the learner to process the language. The makers then transcribe the spoken text. Some of the videos have subtitles in the video – a function allowed by YouTube.
  • Other lessons are made out of news articles that are simplified for the learner.
  • Still others present a tense or other grammar point with explanations in German
  • The makers provide vocabulary lists at the bottom of the transcript/text.
  • The explanations and questions/ responses are in German.
  • There are four kinds of exercises, content-based multiple choice and true/false/no information questions, plus vocabulary or grammar drag and drop or type in.
  • A very nice feature: Extra tips or hints are provided in the language exercises themselves to help the learner make his or her decision.
  • However, there are no explanations with the feedback to the exercises – just “right/wrong”. Not good.
  • There seem to be some bugs in the software compiling the results; the system told me I hadn’t completed the exercise.
  • They have introduced tracking and evaluation of the learner’s overall work and progress, perhaps similar to what Dalango, the Spotlight Verlag learning platform I introduced recently, does, but I haven’t seen how either works and what the user gets out of it.

Overall a nice and friendly approach. We all know how much time and money goes into producing a good video, so this is an attempt to keep it simple. The makers of the site could, however, improve it in the following ways without incurring any real costs:

  • provide simple questions and answers in English.
  • accompany the feedback with explanations.
  • add pictures and charts to the grammar lessons

A bigger problem is the didactic concept of placing “grammar lessons” in the basic level (A) and “comprehension lessons” in the section for more advanced learners (B). That’s quite oldfashioned, dear Wijngers! But yes, it is very hard to find videos with “simple” language for lower level learners. I personally don’t think that web-based training is suitable for the (A) level learner. I do include video extensively in my own lower-level classes. I show the same videos – the students and I just process them very differently!

A huge problem for any public media-based project such as Wijng is that they simply can’t compete for content and methodology with a fabulous platform such as the BBC Learning English, which has masses of good journalism and didactic expertise in-house, all available online for free. This is something that an established learners’ magazine such as Spotlight is up against, too. So Wijng needs to develop its own profile and personality to find its audience, just like any media product. I’m all for good free content on the internet (that’s a no-brainer) and am curious to see whether Wijng finds a way to make it work. Their project blog is here.

Janelle Monae

Hot stuff. Beautiful jazz voice. Quirky imagination. Playing a robot in love and singing about “the walking dead”, Janelle Monae is anything but robotic. She comes from a family that suffered from crack addiction, so she’s got a good attitude about keeping her head straight. Coming from the underground scene, she counts Prince among her fans. Now she is being promoted by Sean “Diddy” Combs, so she is sure to go places. Sounds like she’s auditioning for the next Bond here.
Update: After “Sincerely Jane”, watch her short film “Many Moons” below.

Sincerely Jane

Left the city, my momma she said don’t come back home
These kids round’ killin each other, they lost they minds, they gone
They quittin’ school, making babies and can barely read
Some gone off to their fall, lord have mercy on them
One, two, three, four, your cousins is round’ here sellin’ dope
While they’re daddies, your uncle is walking round’ strung out
Babies with babies, and their tears keep burning,
while their dreams go down the drain now

Chorus: Are we really living or just walking dead now?
Or dreaming of a hope riding the wings of angels
The way we live
The way we die
What a tragedy, I’m so terrified
Day dreamers please wake up, we can’t sleep no more

Love don’t make no sense, ask your neighbor
The winds have changed; it seems they have abandoned us
The truth hurts, and so does yesterday
What good is love if it burns bright, and explodes in flames
(I thought every little thing had love, but – uh)

Chorus: Are we…

I’ve seen them shootin’ up funerals in they Sunday clothes
Spending money on spinners but won’t pay college loans
And all you gangers and bangers rollin’ dice and taking lives, in a smokey dark
Lord have mercy on you
Teacher, teacher please reach those girls in them videos
The little girls just broken queens, confusing bling for soul
Danger, there’s danger when you take off your clothes, all your dreams go down the drain girl

Chorus: Are we…

We live and then we die, and we never know the right
So now, now we’re gone now, on your mark
We live and then we die, and we never touch the sky
So now, now we’re gone now, on your mark
Five, seven, eight, two, one
It is now time, for you to come home my dear
You’ve been gone long enough
You must come, you must go home

Many Moons

2000 year old computer attributed to Archimedes

The Ancient Greeks were even more technologically advanced than previously thought. The Antikythera mechanism, a geared device found in a shipwreck a century ago, has been recreated. Gears turn hands (or pointers) on dials, and the device is driven by a hand knob. The computer predicts the movement of the planets and is now being attributed to Archimedes.

For more on the story, watch the video (2:43 min.), go to the article in the New Scientist (12 December 2008) or read Jo Marchant’s book.

French and Saunders: The Lord of the Rings

Oldie but goodie: My favorite parody of Lord of the Rings. Brilliant French and Saunders are Bilbo Baggins aka Dildo Daggins (and later she is Frodo/ Dodo) and Grandalf aka Grand Alf.  It’s a long feature, 19 minutes, so get yourself cozy. I think every minute is worth it, but particularly love minute 2:30-3:00. Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders have just completed their farewell tour as a duo, “Still Alive”.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Up Above My Head

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the first great recording star of Gospel music in the late 1930s. Merry Christmas!

Up above my head I hear music in the air
I really do believe there’s a heaven somewhere

All in my room there is music everywhere
I really do believe there’s a heaven somewhere


I really do believe there’s joy somewhere
All in my heart / All in my soul / All in my home
It makes me whole / It makes me happy/ It makes me feel good

learning english with songs 🙂 englischlernen mit liedern