Monthly Archives: March 2012

Stuff You Missed in History Class – Podcast Review

Stuff You Missed in History Class

Stuff You Missed in History Class is a Podcast funded and produced by howstufworks.com. The Podcast is currently written, produced and narrated by Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdey. It explores history from all over the world with some focus on North American history. This is due to the fact that North Americans are their primary listeners.

The show does exactly what the title depicts; it tries to educate the audience in past events that their high school history curriculum most likely have left out. The show explores various topics such as How the Spanish Inquisition Worked, Belle Starr: A Bad Rap for the Bandit Queen, Leading the Charge: The Massachusetts 54th, A Jewish Pirate’s Life and 5 Sinners in Dante’s Inferno.

A big problem with informational Podcasts is they can be extremely dry. Deblina and Sarah avoid this problem by staying upbeat and not remaining on the same subject for too long. The show is constantly flowing and changing which keeps listeners captivated. Another way the producers keep their audience engaged is by choosing topics with feedback from the fans. This not only allows Stuff You Missed in History Class to build community with their listeners but it also ensures that their subject matter continues to be both entertaining and educational.

The show does a superb job of educating its audience on various topics. The two hosts do a magnificent job of presenting information while still remaining engaging. The two hosts of the show are very engaging and pleasant to listen to. They share valuable information while remaining candid and without any bias.

Click to Subscribe to:Stuff You Missed in History Class

Lignatone – The Czech Guitar (A Brief History)

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure:

I chose to do my video blog on Lignatone guitars. I knew nothing about the brand name even though I have been playing one off-and-on for over a year. I found a lot of people in similar situations. They owned a Lignatone model, wanted to find out more about the company, but simply couldn’t find any solid information on the brand. After scouring countless forums and reading dozens of reviews I found very little on the company. However, what I did find was pretty damn interesting.

Lignatone guitars were made in Cremona Luby, Czechoslovakia anywhere between 1955 and 1989. The guitars had some presence on the “communist” market but were mainly used as export. Lignatone mainly made acoustic instruments of a fairly conservative design.  There were only 2 guitar companies in Czechoslovakia during communist rule, Drevokov in Blatna from 1955 to 1963 and then the big national CSHN in Krnov, Hradec  Karlove, Horovice and various other places from 1964 to 1989.  This means these guitars must have been made by one of these two establishments and branded as Lignatone guitars. Drevokov and CSHN made several very similar guitars under the names Resonet, Arco, Arioso, Grazioso, Neoton, Jolana, Tatra, Delicia and of course Lignatone.

I found this guitar in my friend’s basement, he owed me a couple bucks so he said, “Hey man why not just take this little guitar and well call it even.” Before I even picked it up I agreed. The guitar itself is in rough shape at best. The truss rod has been completely destroyed, so the action is so high it is unplayable without a slide. It looks like someone cranked the rod too far and cracked the wood surrounding it. This also means is inevitable going to cave in on itself from the constant tension of the strings. The machine heads are rusted and a real pain to tighten. The bridge moves around so it required tedious measurements and adjustments every time you re-string the guitar. Overall for ten bucks, the Lignatone was a steal. It doesn’t by any means have  great tone, sustain, or playability, but it’s a fun time to fiddle around on. I keep it tuned in open E or Em depending on how I’m feeling.

Bottom Line: This guitar is not the most playable and it sure is not the prettiest but its got something 98% of guitars don’t have. The guitar has history and charisma. With a little bit of love, time and money it could be fully restored to near its original condition.

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Fad Activism and Five Concerns with Kony 2012

Fad Activism and Five Concerns with Kony 2012:

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Joseph Kony

I can’t stress it enough, before straddling the Kony pony do some research on the campaign.

Over the past few weeks the Kony 2012 campaign produced by Invisible Children, Inc. has gathered a tremendous amount of attention from North American social media platforms. The newfound exposure is credited to a 30 minute documentary also entitled Kony 2012. It asks individuals and communities to bring awareness to the LRA and Joseph Kony in an attempt to have him incarcerated. The documentary asks for donations while encouraging social activism and public awareness.

Let me start off by saying that I personally believe Joseph Kony should be arrested and tried for the atrocities he and the Lord’s Resistance Army have committed against the people of Africa. The crimes inwhich he is guilty of are unquestionably horrifying and need to cease. However, I see many problems with the integrity and effectiveness of Invisible Children, Inc. These include:

1. The co-founders unsubstantiated paychecks.

2. Lack of transparency in terms of funding.

3. Support of violent resolution.

4. Focus on awareness rather than action.

5. The materialist sentiment of the “Action Packs”.

1. In June 2011, at the end of the fiscal year, it was revealed that the cofounders of IC, Bobby Bailey, Laren Poole and Jason Russell took home a combined pay of $262,287. This is over 2.9 percent of the not for profit organization’s total revenue. Leading to approxamately $90,000 annually for each of the founders. As the founders of a charity this is unquestionably a ridiculous and selfish salary; especially when you consider a majority of their expenses are already covered by the organization.

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The founders of Invisible Children, Inc

2. Invisible Children, Inc. is a not for profit organization which refuses to be externally audited. This should most definitely raise the eyebrows of anyone donating. Why is this charitable organization not allowing any outside sources to audit their financial records? This is inexcusable.

The organization has three goals:

a) Document and make the world aware of the LRA. This includes making documentary films and touring these films around the world so that they are seen for free by millions of people.

b) Channeling the energy and awareness from informed viewers of IC films into large scale advocacy campaigns that have mobilized the international community to stop the LRA and protect civilians.

c) Operate programs on the ground in the LRA-affected areas to provide protection, rehabilitation and development assistance.

Invisible Children, Inc. spent 8.9 million dollars last year. Disconcertingly, only 2.8 million dollars ended up making it to Uganda. After film equipment, travel, advertising and a cornucopia of other questionable expenses, a mere thirty-one percent of the funding actually goes to Ugandan relief efforts. This ratio is unacceptable, over two-thirds of the money donated is not going into the country. This raises warranted concerns about the legitimacy and integrity of the organization.

3. Even the money that gets into Uganda raises enormous contention. This controversy stems from IC’s support of direct military intervention. They continue to financially aid the Ugandan governments and other military groups. Unfortunately, the government of Uganda has also been accused of crimes against humanity.

4. Talk without action accomplishes nothing. Facebook statuses, hash tags, and viral videos aren’t stopping the rape, murder and indoctrination of thousands of African children. The people of Uganda don’t need awareness, what they need is aid. Preferably not from a government that is also accused of rape and pillaging. Fighting fire with fire can only lead to more turmoil.

5. Another huge seller for IC has been the infamous Action Pack. It includes a t-shirt, two bracelets, button, stickers and posters. Unfortunately, wearing Kony 2012 campaign t-shirt, button, or bracelet won’t show how much you care about the Ugandan children. This is because a majority of the money isn’t going to them in the first place. Wearing clothing dedicated to a political cause does little to create real and effective change. Wearing a Kony 2012 t-shirt will however show an individual’s support for violent resolution in Uganda.

I’ll finish by saying that I think awareness and activism are both necessary, especially within North American society. Nevertheless, it is absolutely pathetic that it takes a viral video to motivate and create change. It is disheartening to see people catering to a social fad, but not doing their homework on the real issue. A majority of people are not basing their support for the Kony 2012 campaign based on research and love for humanity but rather just sheepishly following the masses because “it’s the right thing to do.” Violent intervention is not a viable way to create a stable environment for the Ugandan community. Fighting violence with violence is not going to better the situation. Donating your money to support an organization that lacks charitable understanding and transparency will not remedy anything.

Thanks for reading.
Christian Cantarutti

Here is a link to the Financial Records released in June 2011 by Invisible Children, Inc: http://c2052482.r82.cf0.rackcdn.com/images/895/original/AR11_small_final2.pdf?1325722694