Memories of Voice-O-Graph, an audio postcard

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Peace 1914-2014

McCutcheon TrenchesIn Advent we are stirred to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation in light of hope, peace, joy and love. This year, as we mark the centenary of the first world war, let us take hope by reflecting upon the elusive but inspiring peace experienced among many soldiers along the front lines on Christmas Day, 1914.

“My name is Francis Tollivar, in Liverpool I dwell…” So sings John McCutcheon in “Christmas in the Trenches,” his classic folk song about the Christmas truce of World War I . The song was released on McCutcheon’s Winter Solstice CD, one of our all-time top-ten Christmas albums featuring McCutcheon’s enduring songwriting and masterful hammered dulcimer arrangements. A few years ago, it inspired a storybook illustrated by Henri Sorensen.

This year, the story of the Christmas truce has even inspired a chocolate company:

Remarkably, this high-production quality video was released as a Christmas ad. The blue-wrapped chocolate bar featured in the film is being offered for sale this season at Sainsbury’s stores in England, with 100% of proceeds going to the Royal British Legion, to benefit armed forces families, past and present. Far from trivializing the nature of war, the video expresses the longing for peace in every human heart, the validation of which we celebrate in Advent. If I lived in England, I would be buying a lot of these, but unfortunately they’re not available online, so I’ll follow their example and wrap my own chocolate bars.

Sainsbury’s produced another video to accompany the Christmas ad, “The story behind our Christmas ad,” explaining the historical background of the Christmas truce:

A third video, “The making of our Christmas ad,” explains the care and detail that went into the production:

In this centenary year, a number of books have appeared which reflect on the significance of the war for shaping 20th century culture and intellectual life and, particularly, its implications for Christian belief. Profoundly impacted by the horror of the war, many writers (e.g., Karl Barth, Tolkien and Lewis) grappled their way to an escape from despair, imaginatively creating a vision of hope and peace that nourishes readers for the rest of the century, and for generations to come.

The story of the Christmas truce foreshadows the undaunted resiliency of Advent hope and peace, even after a century filled with wars and rumors of war.

Related links:

Brown 1914Weintraub SilentNight Joyeux Noel


Update: Robin pointed out to me that the Royal Shakespeare Company is putting on a new play for families this Christmas season, The Christmas Truce. Here’s the trailer and synopsis:

Update #2: Prince William unveils a memorial to the WW1 truce, designed by ten-year-old Spencer Turner:

William ww1truce

Let’s slightly amend what Prince William said: “”Football [AND CHOCOLATE!] had the power to bring people together and break down barriers. It is vital that 100 years on we keep the Christmas truce story alive.”


Here’s a reflection from Joseph Tkach on the Christmas truce and the advent of the Prince of Peace:

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Wolves in Yellowstone

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Janux videos available

Cross-posted from

Camille Flammarion, L'Atmosphere: Météorologie Populaire (Paris, 1888), p. 163.  Colorized by Susanna J. Magruder. Courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.A series of “From the vault” videos is now available on OU’s Janux platform and at the Janux site on YouTube. These short videos, filmed on location by NextThought in the OU History of Science Collections, show rare treasures for a given topic along with a concisely-worded comment or story. Think of them as behind-the-scenes moments in a tour of the rare book vaults. Most are only 5-10 minutes long. They are not recorded lectures; rather than offering comprehensive information about a subject, they are designed to appeal to the imagination, to awaken interest in the history of science by conveying something of the physical presence of the rare books themselves. For this reason, they may be useful as auxiliary instructional resources for other courses across the various natural sciences including physics, astronomy, medicine, biology, geology, meteorology, chemistry, mathematics and engineering, as well as in humanities disciplines such as history, art, literature and the history of science.

To find the videos on YouTube, go to the Janux section (where videos from many courses are posted) and find the History of Science Online playlist. (Update: the videos are temporarily down now; I’ll remove this notice and update the links when they reappear. For now, you’ll have to watch them through signing up for Janux as explained below.)

To access the videos on the Janux platform, go to, and look in the Archive section for the History of Science to the Age of Newton course (HSCI 3013). As noted here previously, the course was offered in the 2014 spring semester, but the videos are still accessible to anyone by registering for the free version of the course. (The course icon, “Boldly go…,” may help you spot it quickly.) Within the course in the Janux platform, click the Lessons tab to view course content arranged week by week. The outline below will help you quickly find the videos of interest to you.

Have an iPad? A Janux app makes accessing the videos a breeze.

The numbers in the outline below are discontinuous; only the “From the Vault” videos (FTV) for each weekly unit are included. Not listed below (but equally accessible) are companion videos, filmed in a studio setting, which for each week’s topic invite students to consider what they know of the cultural context (“Starting Assumptions”) and to engage thought-provoking points of view (“Interpretations”).

  1. Week 1, Exploring the Past
  2. Week 2, Origins of Ancient Astronomy
  3. Week 3, Science in Ancient Egypt and the Aegean
  4. Week 4, Ancient Greek science
  5. Week 5, Hellenistic science
  6. Week 6, Roman science
  7. Week 7, Islamic and Early Medieval science
  8. Week 8, 14th-century science
  9. Week 9, 15th-century science
  10. Week 10, 16th-century Life sciences
  11. Week 11, 16th-century Astronomy
    • 11.2 Astronomy before Copernicus (see Dive Deeper instructions)
    • 11.2 Astronomy after Copernicus (see Dive Deeper instructions)
  12. Week 12, Science in Asia
  13. Week 13, Galileo
  14. Week 14, 17th-century science
    • 14.2 Competing paradigms (FTV not yet available)
    • 14.3 The Meaning of science (FTV not yet available)
  15. Week 15, Newton
    • 15.2 Newton’s works (FTV not yet available)
    • 15.3 Janus faces (FTV not yet available)

In addition to the above “From the Vault” videos for each week, there are also videos for “Starting Assumptions” and “Interpretations.” Watch these on Janux at YouTube or on the Janux platform.

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Theology and intellectual history video timeline

St John's College, NottinghamSt. John’s College in Nottingham, which serves many students preparing for ordination in the Church of England, announces their mission as follows:

“Our core purpose is to inspire creative Christian learning marked by evangelical conviction, theological excellence, and charismatic life, that those who train with us might be equipped for mission in the world of change…”

In a remarkable ongoing project, under the leadership of Tim Hull, they are creating three video timelines, devoted to:

  • the Old Testament,
  • the New Testament, and to
  • Faith and Modernity

Each Timeline is accessed via subscription (only 15 pounds per year) from their website. Explore their youTube channel and home page:

For example, the Faith and Modernity Timeline surveys theology and intellectual history from Augustine to the present, promising to become a chronological, multimedia encyclopedia of faith and thought. Here are four examples of videos included on this timeline:

1. Tom Greggs on Karl Barth and Contemporary Theology:

(See also Greggs’ introduction to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.)

2. James Hannam on Galileo, the Catholic Church, and medieval science:

3. Russell Remanning on Natural Theology:

4. Tim Hull on “Faith and Reason, Yesterday and Today”:

The full videos are around an hour long. Half-hour condensed versions like these are available for free on their youTube channel. (I could not find them on iTunes U; hopefully they will consider adding the most convenient means of distribution for iOS users.)

The project consists not just of the videos, but of the Timeline platform that organizes them. The Timeline architecture supports many handy features, explained here.

A version of the Timeline platform designed for iPad is in development, explained here.

To support this ongoing effort, I’ve subscribed now to both the New Testament and Faith and Modernity Timelines.

Convenience of access, rather than cost, is paramount for me, so I’m hoping that they’ll soon make the Timelines available through the App Store or iTunes, as I would then be able to make far better use of them for my own study and reflection.

Many thanks, Tim Hull and St. John’s, Nottingham, for this excellent resource!

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Time capsule

Truman Time Capsule

“Who could have imagined 60 years ago all that was to come? For one particular sophomore on campus, the summer of 1954 was shaping up to be pretty exciting…”

Thanks, Laura, for telling this story on your blog!

See KTVO channel 3’s version of the story, with video, here.

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All at Sea

For an “All at Sea” murder mystery game last night, our house became a ship at sea in 1914, filled with more than 25 role-playing guests.

All at Sea
Hannah did it!

All at Sea

All at Sea

All at Sea

All at Sea

All at Sea
Candace played the host

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