It's the grand finale of Ask Me Another's favorite musical games. Fugazi's Ian MacKaye teams up with NPR's Stephen Thompson to identify acoustic renditions of punk songs performed in decidedly un-punk style by house musician Jonathan Coulton ("Un-Punk'd"). And puzzle guru Art Chung leads a gripping final round on phrases and proper nouns that contain the name of a musical instrument ("Our Magnum Opus").
The hour of musical games continues. Sometimes we like to get a little more clever than "name that tune"-style music games. Here, Ophira Eisenberg and Jonathan Coulton disguise word games as songs ("Triple Word Score"), invite contestants to sing and clap the answers ("Happy and You Know It"), and search to find the best lyricist among the audience to update Cole Porter's timeless classic, "You're The Top" ("Pen It Like Porter").
Drop a quarter into the Ask Me Another jukebox this week, and revisit some music games from seasons' past. No musical history is sacred on this show—we will rewrite any song lyrics into trivia questions. Join host Ophira Eisenberg and house musician Jonathan Coulton as we defile the Fab Four in the game "With The Beatles," and Carly Rae Jepsen's 2012 earworm in a round dubbed "Call Me M.B."
As pointed out in a recent post, blocks come in all sizes — for all sizes of people. Blocks are durable. Blocks encourage creativity. Blocks are gender neutral. Blocks seem like fixed points in a swirling world.
The simple alphabet block inspired by 17th century philosopher John Locke, for instance, can still be found on toy shelves. Companies such as Melissa & Doug still produce alphabet blocks similar to those of 100 years ago. Whatever blocks you played with as a child are probably still in the stores.
But blocks — even alphabet blocks — are evolving.
Pete Bultman, founder of the Uncle Goose block company, tells stories of companies in the early and middle 20th century that created all kinds of block sets — nursery rhymes and Disney-inspired.
When Pete decided to become a block maker, he was determined to build on that tradition — in his own way. So he has taken the familiar alphabet blocks and adorned them with foreign languages, hieroglyphics, the periodic table, the U.S. presidents and more. "Together with some of the best designers in the world," he says, "we've been able to create a little 'content machine' in which cubes provide an interesting challenge space to wrap ideas around."
"Ultimately it comes down to imaginative play and creating a space for children to discover new things in their own way," Pete says. "You never know when and how connections will be made in young brains."
Will the periodic table blocks inspire future scientists, he asks? Will the Big and Tall set inspire future typographers? "My only hope is that blocks do not get usurped into the world of technology... they are a pure, fundamental part of childhood that doesn't need any help from gadgetry."
A Chip In The Old Block
On the other hand, Michael Rosenblatt, founder of ATOMS smart blocks, sees a natural flow from building blocks to computer programming. "We draw a lot of inspiration from the simplicity of color-coded wooden blocks of the baby boomer generation," he says, "and the early days of personal computing — where a kid could build by tinkering in Basic or Logo programming languages."
He adds, "We created ATOMS to be the building blocks of the iPad generation, blocks that are smart enough to do things, and blend the virtual and physical worlds. You can build virtual ATOMS on an iPad that link to physical ATOMS on your coffee table."
Such programming, Michael says, is "very much a stage in building blocks in American history."
The Protojournalist: A sandbox for reportorial innovation. @NPRtpj
We told you Wednesday about India's Supreme Court restoring a colonial-era ban on homosexual acts. The country's government said today [Thursday] that it would take urgent steps to overturn the ruling.
"We will have to change the law. If the Supreme Court has upheld that law, then we will certainly have to take firm steps," Law Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters. "Change has to be made fast and any delay cannot take place."
Sibal said there government was considering at least two options: "One of the [options] ... could be to bring it to Parliament at the earliest," he said. "The other [option] could be to approach the Supreme Court or take any other route."
Sibal's comments were echoed by other government officials.
Sonia Gandhi, the head of the ruling Congress Party, who is among the most powerful political figures in the country, said Wednesday she was disappointed by the Supreme Court's ruling, adding she hoped, "Parliament will address the issue and uphold the constitutional guarantee of life and liberty to all citizens of India, including those directly affected by the judgment."
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, fresh off massive wins in state elections last week, refused to comment on the ruling, but said it would "react when we see the government's proposal." The BJP is seen as a front-runner ahead of next year's national elections.
Wednesday's ruling overturned a 2009 verdict from the Delhi High Court that decriminalized homosexual acts. The lower court ruled that the colonial-era law violated the fundamental rights guaranteed by India's Constitution. Its decision was challenged by Hindu, Muslim and Christian organizations, which welcomed the Supreme Court's verdict.
The Supreme Court ruled that only Parliament could overturn the law. The 1861 British law forbids "intercourse against the order of nature." And while prosecutions under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code are rare, it is often used by police to harass gays and lesbians.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta, one of India's most respected commentators, said the decision "will be remembered in infamy as one of those decisions that, like Dred Scott, show how liberal democracies can sometimes give rein to a regime of oppression and discrimination under the imprimatur of law."
Sandip Roy, a senior editor at First Post an NPR contributor, told Michele Martin, host of Tell Me More, that the court's decision "in one fell sweep it turned the clock back" to 1861.
"It was really a slap in the face to India's own notion of its modernity," he said.