True or False: Determining the Reliability of What You're Reading

From Morgan Freeman, Jon Bon Jovi, and Eminem’s “deaths” to numerous reports that Barack Obama isn’t a US citizen, false stories constantly circulate on the internet, where they often spread like the wildfire that reportedly caused James Earl Ray’s 2015 death. So, can you really trust anything you read on the internet? Here are several ways to be certain that what you are reading is the truth.

1. Look at the source.

If you come across a story that you are unsure about, start with the source. If it is earth shattering news, chances are good that it is not going to be first reported by a source you have never heard of. While it isn’t always possible to tell by the URL whether or not a site is reputable, it is a good place to start. However, be aware that even reputable sites, such as Forbes, allow random people to post blog posts without checking the facts. If you are in doubt, head to a leading site with a good reputation, such as CNN or The Wall Street Journal and do your research.

2. Examine the headline closely.

When you encounter a headline that begins with “MIRACLE” or touts an answer for obesity, world peace, or any other miraculous event, approach it with skepticism. If the article isn’t an outright lie, then there is a good chance the title is highly misleading. Again, do your research (with a reputable site) before believing anything.

3. Do a fact check.

There are a number of sites that are dedicated to letting you know the truth. For example, Snopes has a database of current and past false stories, along with the actual facts of the story and a bibliography that cites reliable sources. If you don’t see the story you are looking for, but still are unsure about the truth behind it, you can submit it to the site for the moderators to research. For political stories, head to Politifact for a full breakdown of what is fact and what is fiction.

4. Perform a Google image search.

If you see a photo that is questionable, do a reverse Google image search. You’ll be able to see where this image has appeared on the internet in the past. FotoForensics is another good option for evaluating photos.

5. Don’t forget to check out videos.

If you see a video and question whether or not it is as current as the author suggests, YouTube DataViewer will tell you the truth, including when the video was first uploaded and whether or not several versions of the video are making the internet rounds.

Unfortunately, you can’t always count on a story to be true. Fortunately, you now have the tools to verify it for yourself.

History of Reggae

With a slow, relaxed tempo and a rhythmic beat, reggae music has a distinct sound that is easily recognized throughout the world.  Made popular by artists including Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley and The Wailers, and Peter Tosh, reggae originated in Kingston, Jamaica in the late 1960s.  Over the years, it has had a significant influence on the world that is viewed as both negative and positive.

Reggae Gets Its Start:
Reggae’s beginnings can be traced back to traditional Caribbean and African music, as well as jazz and rhythm and blues.  It is also heavily based on ska, an early form of Jamaican music that included a four beat rhythm with a bass and electric guitar, drums, and a scraper, a corrugated stick rubbed by a plain stick.  The earliest recorded example of reggae, “Long Shot (Bus’ Me Bet)” by The Pioneers was completed in 1968.  Almost immediately, reggae began to dominate Jamaica’s music scene.  During the same year, reggae was introduced to the United States by Johnny Cash in his hit “Hold Me Tight”.  By the 1970's, it was being played worldwide and was especially popular in Africa, Britain, and the United States.

 During this time period, popular artists included  Don Drummond and The Skatalites, The Wailers (Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh), Millie Small, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and Joe Perry.  In 1972, Jimmy Cliff, another reggae superstar starred in the movie The Harder They Come.  This film gained international fame, largely because of its soundtrack that celebrated the bold human spirit that refused to be suppressed.  As a result, this genre of music continued its worldwide gain in popularity well into the 1980's and 1990's.

The Message of Reggae:
Reggae has a longstanding tradition of incorporating social criticism into its lyrics.  In the beginning, lyrics often centered on the need for freedom from political oppression and a call for the world to come together for a new tomorrow despite our different beliefs.  It was not unusual for human rights, segregation, oppression, slavery, poverty, and a glimpse at the struggles experienced by the poor to be the focus of the lyrics.  Reggae music also focused on brotherhood, love, peace, unity, and religion.  Religious lyrics often pay tribute to Jah, the Rastafari God.

Reggae Music and Marijuana:
Although many socially conscious reggae artists have used their music as a way to spread powerful social messages, it is also greatly associated with marijuana and a Rastafarian lifestyle.  The pioneers of reggae, such as Marley, were primarily Rastafari.  Marijuana use is an essential feature of the Rastafari movement.  Therefore, marijuana is not actually a feature of reggae music itself, but a part of the lifestyle most reggae singers live.

According to Lutan Fyah, one of today’s top reggae artists, "It's not the music that we should associate with weed, it's the people who do the music. The music is pure and original. As a reggae artiste, I cannot say that weed is essential in what I'm doing. The originators, the ones who pioneered reggae music, those were the ones that used the herb to gain enlightenment and inspiration. That's why the music was so powerful back then."

While many of today’s most popular reggae musicians have attempted to disentangle reggae music from marijuana and the culture associated with it, they haven’t been successful.

Today, the Jamaican Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment has declared the month of February to be Reggae Month.  In addition, the first week of the month is known as Bob Marley Week, a week long celebration that pays homage to the  great reggae artist.  Throughout the entire month numerous concerts and cultural events are scheduled all over the island.

If you are not familiar with reggae, it is time to get acquainted with this musical form of art.

Computer Music

“The history of the music industry is inevitably also the story of the development of technology. From the player piano to the vinyl disc, from reel-to-reel tape to the cassette, from the CD to the digital download, these formats and devices changed not only the way music was consumed, but the very way artists created it.”
-Edgar Bronfman, Jr., CEO Warner Music Group

From creating and recording, and even listening to music, the invention of the computer has drastically changed the world of music.  While there is no denying that there have been significant benefits related to the evolving technology, it has also created problems, primarily for those working within the industry.

Introducing the MIDI:
The introduction of the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) in 1983 provided musicians with minimal musical notation experience with the ability to create elaborate arrangements.  The uniting of computers and synthesizers completely transformed the music industry.  Essentially, singers no longer needed a band or had to play live.  The MIDI gave artists access to a vast array of musical instruments, as well as the ability to sequence and playback.

A New Genre:
By the mid 1980’s an entirely new genre of music, techno or electronic dance music, had been created with the use of computers.  Known for a cutting edge sound and fast dance beats, it incorporated bits of reggae, soul, and hip hop to form a unique sound that quickly became a favorite in nightclubs all over the world.  Contrary to popular believe, techno music started in Detroit and not Europe.

The Difference Between What is Recorded and What You Hear:
Prior to the invention of computers, what a singer recorded was what you actually heard.  Today, there are numerous voice enhancement computer programs that are often used to make improvements.  For example, Auto-Tune was created to correct tone and pitch problems with a singer’s voice.  Unfortunately, it is now frequently overused in every genre, from rap and rock to country and hip hop, and is often used to completely change the singer’s voice.  Who can forget when one of Britney Spears’ unedited tracks was released?  Before Auto-Tune, it was horrific.  After Auto-Tune was used, you could at least listen to it.

Sound Quality:

Perhaps the biggest impact the computer has had on the music world involves sound quality.  The simple act of recording a song was a long and thankless process.  Plus, there was the issue of how it sounded when replayed. While there are plenty of people who will argue that vinyl music is more “real”, it is not unusual for the sound to be somewhat distorted.  For example, the sound waves could easily become jagged on a record player resulting in annoying cracks and pops.

There are people who argue that there is minimal sound difference between vinyl records and cassette tapes/ CDs.  However, it is hard to deny that today’s sound quality hasn’t been greatly enhanced over the years.  As the availability of Hi-Res Audio technology increases, sound quality will only get better.

The Computer Takes a Huge Chunk of the Music Industry’s Profit :
From 2000 to 2010, the total revenue generated from music sales and licensing fell from $14.6 billion to $6.3 billion, or almost 60 percent.  Why?  Piracy, made possible by computers, made it easy for people to access the music they wanted to hear without having to pay for it.  Now, artists simply cannot make the money off traditional music sales, or even downloads, that they did in the past.  Essentially, if an artist wants to make serious money, they have to head out on tour.

The invention of the computer changed every aspect of our lives, including the quality of the music we listen to and how we listen to it.

History of Hip Hop Past Present and Future

“Rap is something you do, but hip hop is something you live.”
-KRS-One

The History of Rap and Hip Hop Music:
It is believed that the hip hop movement was started in the early 1970's by a Jamaican DJ living in the Bronx.  Named Kool DJ Herc, he originally recited rhymes (raps) over reggae music, but he quickly realized that this type of music did not appeal to the masses.  He, soon, adopted a style that involved him chanting (usually about something happening in his life) over the instrumental section of popular songs.  Using an audio mixer, he was able to play the same segment of a song repeatedly.

Before long, this style has spread throughout NYC and DJs began to incorporate rhymes, such as “Throw your hands in the air and raise ‘em like you just don’t care” into the rhymes, as well.  Considered to be a street art, it was especially popular among young African Americans.  Today, it is enjoyed by by all races, socioeconomic groups, and nationalities.

The Rules of Rap:
The only real rule of hip hop is to be original and rhyme to the beat of the music.  Rap was simply a way for people to express themselves without boundaries.  Rappers rap about everything from significant issues they are dealing with to something as simple as a girl they met and even worldwide issues including violence, politics, death, and prejudice.  In fact, rappers such as Lupe Fiasco and Common frequently use their lyrics as a way to push social changes.

Big Names in Hip Hop:
It would be virtually impossible to list every one of the big names in hip hop, so the following is just a small look at those who made this genre what it is today.

Within the world of hip hop, there are some top rappers whose names are instantly recognizable to those not familiar with this type of music, such as LL Cool J, Will Smith, Ice T, and Ice Cube.  Of course, this is most likely due to their TV and movie careers, while there are others, such as Tupac Shakur, Eminem, Notorious B.I.G., and T.I., who names are familiar due to the controversy that surrounds them.

However, there are plenty of rappers who have had a huge impact on rap music.  Keith “Cowboy” Wiggins, a member of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, who received credit for the terminology “hip hop”, although it is believed that Kool DJ Herc first used the term.  In addition, Run DMC, Dr. Dre, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, Snoop Dog, Eazy E, Big Pun, KRS1, Slick Rick, Lil Wayne, and Chuck D are just a few more memorable names in hip hop.  The list really is endless.

For the millions of people who love hip hop and rap music, it is simply an effective way of self expression set to a cool beat.  For those who don’t understand the world of hip hop and rap, it may be time to try something new.  You may just find that you actually like it and that it is nothing like what you thought it was.

Fun Things To Do Indoors When It Is Cold Out

Everyone loves the feel of the summer months. The warm weather means lots of outdoor fun for people of all ages. Swimming, camping, biking, playing basketball, hiking, playing football, and going to camp, are just a few of the activities to participate in. The sky is definitely the limit on what you can do when the weather is just right. The same, however, can not be said during the winter months. The cold temperatures affect the amount of outdoor activities that can be done and the activities drastically change from those that can be done during the summer months. Some outdoor winter activities include:

- skiing

- sledding

- ice skating

- snowball fights

- snowboarding

- building a snowman

Not all regions will be lucky enough to see any snow but that does not mean that fun can not be had indoors. There are many fun indoor activities to participate in, without having to be out in the cold and they will help pass the time by. Some fun indoor winter activities include:

- playing cards or board games

- curling up with a good book

- watching a good movie

- listening to some music

- trying a new recipe

- playing a video game or online game

Fun can also be had by inviting family or friends over. Sometimes, just looking at old photos, old home movies, or just reminiscing about the past, can lead to hours of fun. Another thing to consider is that just because it is cold out, does not mean you can not go anywhere and have a good time. Indoor ice skating, indoor arcades, a nice restaurant, bowling, or going to a cabin, are all great ways to enjoy yourself, regardless of the weather.

No matter whether it is hot or cold out, there is always some form of fun to be had, even if it means making your own.