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Photo: The Human Rights Warrior
New study suggests that children exposed to music from other ethnic groups become more tolerant.

Numerous studies have shown that children pick up biases against other ethnic and racial groups at a very young age. Here’s a study suggesting that the music of other cultures can temper that process.

Tom Jacobs writes at Pacific Standard, “Ethnocentrism remains a fact of life in both Europe and the United States. Combating it will require teaching a new generation to view members of different cultures as potential friends rather than threatening outsiders. But what mode of communication has the power to stimulate such a shift?

“New research from Portugal suggests the answer may be music. It reports schoolchildren around age 11 who learned about the music and culture of a faraway land expressed warmer feelings toward immigrants from that country than those who did not. What’s more, those positive emotions were still evident three months after this exposure to the foreign culture. …

“[The] study, published in the journal Psychology of Music, featured 229 Portuguese sixth graders, all living in greater Lisbon. Two-thirds came from blue-collar families.

“The students began by filling out a survey in which they were presented with 10 personal traits — five positive (including ‘hard-working’ and ‘honest’) and five negative (including ‘stupid’ and ‘lazy’). They were asked to pick those that applied to members of three ethnic groups common to the Lisbon area: Portuguese, Brazilian, or Cape Verdean people. …

“For the next six months, half of the students took part in a specially designed ‘cross-cultural music education program.’ During the 20 sessions, each of which was 90 minutes long, they learned about Cape Verdean culture, and listened and sang to both Portuguese and Cape Verdean songs.

“At the end of the program, all the students again filled out the survey in which they evaluated people of the three ethnicities.

“Among those who took the class, ‘prejudice towards Cape Verdean people was reduced,’ the researchers report. ‘Attitudes towards other groups were not altered.’

“In contrast, prejudice did not drop among those who did not take the class. A follow-up three months later found the same pattern held for all of the youngsters, meaning the prejudice reduction for those who took the course had stuck.”

More here.

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I know it’s possible to take good pictures on cloudy days, but for me, the play of sunlight and shadow is irresistible. And this time of year, Midsommar in Swedish, has so much sunshine.

Today’s photos feature my usual Massachusetts and Rhode Island haunts. A couple pictures may be slow to load as I am learning to use an iPhone and the size I chose is too big for a blog. I’ll get better at this.

The Mountain Laurel above is from one of my favorite walks — through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery into wooded conservation land. The sunflowers by my fence were a gift from one of the ESL teachers I assist in Providence.

I got a big kick out of the deciduous holly tapping on the window. It was overcome with curiosity about what I was reading so intently at the kitchen table. (Answer: War and Peace.)

The next photo shows a child’s playhouse in Concord. I have never seen any child there and can only imagine how I would have felt to have such a place to play in as a kid. I would have thought I was in heaven.

Next comes an actual home in New Shoreham, one that is not much bigger than the playhouse. Decades before anyone spoke of “tiny houses,” a member of a church I was attending lived in this very small house year-round. It was known as the Doll House, although today the damaged sign says only, “Doll.”

Next to Doll, is a tiny restaurant called the Three Sisters with outdoor seating only and antiques on the fence. (Order sandwich combinations with names like Hippie Sister, Sailor Sister, and Twisted Sister.) There is also a small junk yard (antique yard?) that is fun to investigate while you wait for your food.

In the first sky photo, I was trying to capture the lower clouds, which looked like sheep, but I don’t think they are that noticeable given the whole view.

Finally, a Rhode Island sunset. Ahhhh.

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Photo: Rosa Furneaux
Haroon Ebrat reaches for his notepad, where he has written down audience requests. The entrepreneurial immigrant runs Afghan Theatre TV, a Farsi-language variety show, out of his garage in suburban California.

I’m impressed how this immigrant from Afghanistan took it on himself to keep his culture alive by broadcasting a variety show from his garage. Many viewers have responded with gratitude.

Jeremy Lybarger writes at Pacific Standard, “Afghan Theatre TV operates out of a soundproof garage 40 miles east of San Francisco. … It’s an unexpected setting for a studio whose Farsi-language variety shows stream online 24 hours a day to more than a million viewers a month, according to the station. But much about Afghan Theatre TV is unexpected, starting with its credo that politics and show business don’t mix. …

” ‘We entertain,’ says Haroon Ebrat, the network’s 66-year-old founding impresario and star. On most afternoons for the last six years, he’s shuffled out to his garage in house slippers to host the live call-in shows that have made him famous, or at least recognizable to the Muslims who mob him, groupie-like, in restaurants, supermarkets, and parking lots across the Bay Area. The calls — 500 an hour, Ebrat says — come from all over: Canada, Germany, Russia, Australia, and many of the dozens of other countries that make up the Afghan diaspora. …

“Afghanistan has been in a quasi-permanent state of war for over three decades, historically exporting more refugees per year than any nation besides Syria. Most Afghans decamp to neighboring Iran or Pakistan, but approximately 124,000 live in America. …

” ‘He has preserved the culture of Afghanistan,’ says Ebrat’s 36-year-old daughter Shabnam, who hosts a call-in show of her own, often accompanied by a local psychic who counsels callers about work and love. Such preservation has come at a cost, both literal and cultural.

“Afghan Theatre TV is a family business, as are many of the more than 3,000 ethnic media outlets. … In between these segments of original programming, the station airs Afghan music videos and concert footage, and on some nights local musicians perform traditional songs like a live house band (hence the soundproofing). Ebrat, a prolific filmmaker, also screens the movies he’s made, which are ultra-low-budget mash-ups of comedy, action, and music starring him and his family.

“The station boasts a handful of Bay Area advertisers — kebab shops, halal supermarkets, Muslim-owned tax services — but Ebrat relies on his children to keep the lights on. (Shabnam is a real estate agent; [older brother] Burhan works with cars.) …

“Ethnic media, produced by and for immigrants, faces unique challenges. The relatively small niche audiences, for example, can discourage advertisers. … Even large outlets struggle to survive. Channel 18, a multilingual network that broadcast out of Los Angeles for more than 40 years, filed for bankruptcy in 2012 before finally shuttering its international format in 2017. …

“Part [the] experience includes reckoning with cultural disagreements within the same family. Shabnam Ebrat has become a target for older or more traditional Muslims who see her appearance — dyed-blond hair and make-up — as an affront to God. She doesn’t wear a hijab either. On Instagram, where her selfies reach about 23,000 followers, commenters debate whether or not she’s going to hell for posing in miniskirts and bikinis. …

“There’s the added stigma of being outspoken in a society that, to many Western onlookers, muzzles women. In Afghanistan, some women have no public identity of their own. They’re referred to simply as the wife of, daughter of, or sister of. …

“Overall, though, politics are absent from Afghan Theatre TV, where the maxim is that entertainment brings people together and politics drive a wedge. Haroon is more interested in the zombie horror movie he has in production than he is in discussing the White House. His only stated political aspiration, however vague, is to restore peace in Afghanistan.” More.

Seems like a good idea to stick to entertainment. One thing I’ve noticed while working with Afghan refugees, whether their first language is Farsi or Dari, is that individuals are, well, individualistic. Like groups everywhere, Afghans may have attitudes that diverge a good bit.

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Photo: WideOpenPets.com
The University of Maine used baby goats to calm student stress during finals. Valley Edge Farm, which specializes in Nigerian Dairy Goats, provided the rambunctious kids.

This is exactly the sort of offbeat story I love. (Feel free to send me other kooky stories.)

Emily Burnham writes at Bangor Daily News, “For the past few years, the University of Maine has brought in therapy dogs — mostly cuddly golden retrievers and adorable Pomeranians — to soothe the frazzled nerves of students during finals week.

“This spring, however, it decided to try something a little different: baby goats.

“Brittany Smith, a staffer with UMaine’s campus activities board, got the idea when a co-worker mentioned that her sister, Abby Skolfield, owned and operated a goat farm, Valley’s Edge Farm, in the western Maine town of Strong. …

“A few quick phone calls later, a truckload of baby goats was on its way to UMaine, bound for an afternoon visit with students — most of whom had no idea they were going to hang out with month-old Nigerian Dwarf goats. Once word got out, a line stretched all across the mall, full of students waiting for their chance to pet a goat.

“ ‘I thought maybe 30, 40 people would show up, but this is ridiculous,’ said Smith. …

“Skolfield’s goats are old hands at dealing with crowds. Her goats are mostly for show, and they visit daycares and walk in parades regularly.

“ ‘I get hit up for goat yoga more times than I can count,’ said Skolfield. ‘I don’t see how that’s relaxing, but hey, whatever works.’ …

” ‘They come when called. Their little tails wag,’ she said. ‘They are the most dog-like of all livestock.’ ” More here.

I had actually heard of goat yoga! The goats stand on yoga students’ backs.

Video: CBS News

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Photo: Arts Professional
Theatergoers can buy tickets at a Heron Foods store’s pop-up box office in the United Kingdom.

There’s a UK publication in which people who are in the arts write articles on initiatives their organizations have tested in case other groups want to try something new. This one is from a theater troupe in Hull. (Prolific arts and culture blogger Amelia in Hull is sure to know all about it.)

Magda Moses writes at Arts Professional, “Hull Truck Theatre’s pop-up box offices are part of our community engagement project called Community Dialogues. The project works to develop deeper relationships with people from areas of low arts engagement and high deprivation in Hull, encouraging them to come to the theatre, often for the first time.

“My job is to get out into the local community to build relationships between community organisations and the theatre, and to better understand the barriers that might stop people attending the arts. …

“As our community relationships developed, we recognised that barriers to engagement with the arts include time, cost, lack of awareness of what’s on, childcare and a sense of it being ‘not for me’. We realised that we could work with retail chain Heron Foods, which has busy stores in the areas in which we work, to learn more, build personal relationships and start to address some of those barriers. Heron Foods is already our main auditorium sponsor and offered us space to trial our visits. …

“I asked shoppers to share their past, present and future experiences of theatre, linking that with A Christmas Carol, our Christmas production. People’s experiences were extremely varied – some attended often, while others were unsure of why the theatre might be relevant to them.

“Members of our box office team then joined us, enabling customers to buy tickets from an iPad. We now run these pop-up box office and community engagement sessions in four Heron Foods stores once a month, and having other staff in attendance has helped the project become more embedded across the theatre. …

“We continue to ask people why they don’t visit the theatre. Some have told us they feel intimidated by the building, let alone by walking up to the box office to buy a ticket. Some are worried they don’t know the conventions of what to wear or how to behave. …

“One of the biggest barriers is ticket price. Why should they spend £15 to see something they don’t know if they’ll enjoy? We sought to address this barrier last November through the marketing campaign for our production of ‘The Last Testament of Lillian Bilocca’ about the women of Hull who campaigned for fishing industry reform in the 1960s.

“We held back 100 pay-what-you-can tickets to the production, which were only made available to the targeted communities via the pop-up box offices. These tickets were popular and we received positive feedback that people were thrilled to be able to afford to see a play that was directly relevant to their community.”

Read how Hll Truck Theatre’s community-engagement efforts have worked, here.

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Photo: Brain Pickings
Kelli Anderson works on paper flowers for an animation illustrating Jane Hirshfield’s poem “Optimism.”

If you haven’t discovered Maria Popova’s blog Brain Pickings yet, I hope that you will. Not only do I got the very best ideas there for books to buy the grandchildren, I learn more than I can say about literature and science — and the intersection of the two.

In one recent post, Popova talks about asking a cut-paper artist to create a short animation to illustrate a Jane Hirshfield poem. I loved reading about the thought process behind this project.

“One spring morning in 2017, walking along a San Francisco sidewalk,” writes Popova, “I was arrested by the sight of a tiny weed poking through the crevice between a concrete wall and a chain link fence, boldly blooming in its yellow gramophone blossoms. I stood there marveling at its persistence, remembering Gwendolyn Brooks’s beautiful lines: ‘Wherever life can grow, it will. / It will sprout out, / and do the best it can.’

“Poetry was on my mind that day — I was in the final stages of composing the inaugural Universe in Verseand was on my way to meet the poet and ordained Buddhist Jane Hirshfield, whose work I had cherished for years and who had kindly contributed to the program her mighty protest poem about the silencing of science and nature.

“A year passed. When I invited Jane to participate in the second annual Universe in Verse, we chose her spare and lovely poem ‘Optimism’ for the show. … It instantly reminded me of the irrepressible yellow blossoms I had seen the day Jane and I first met. I had a sudden vision of bringing the poem to life in an animated stop-motion short film. …

“I enlisted the imaginative help of artist, designer, papercraft engineer, and my longtime collaborator Kelli Anderson — a wrester of wonder from ordinary objects and creator of the wondrous This Book Is a Planetarium. …

OPTIMISM
by Jane Hirshfield
[from Each Happiness Ringed by Lions]

More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs — all this resinous, unretractable earth. …

“Find more highlights from The Universe in Versehere.”

Read the rest of Popova’s post at Brain Pickings, here, where you can also enjoy the delightful animation made from cut paper. (I’m thinking 18th C botanical paper artist Mary Delany would have loved the ability to create an animation.)

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Everything happens in June — suddenly urgent yardwork, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, Father’s Day, piano recitals, festivals, youth baseball. Sometimes there are two things you want to attend in two different states happening at the same time. That’s June for you. We could use a little of that weekend excitement in other months. (Blogger New England Nomad said almost the same thing. See the comments in his post.)

Above, my oldest grandson performs “Blue Interlude” and “Love Me Tender” for a piano recital in a setting with a delightful Old World feel.

Next are three photos from the annual Middlesex Jazz Festival in Concord. I especially liked watching the intrepid couple that got up to swing dance.

On the same Saturday as the piano recital and the jazz festival, I drove south to Providence for the hugely popular PVD Fest that Suzanne had been telling me about the last couple years: streets given over to pedestrians, performers of all kinds, costumes, food, fun activities for kids. I saw a lot of people wearing flower garlands in their hair and several in Native American dress.

It was a busy day. I slept well that night.

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