Connect with us

Living

Soul Asylum’s Song About Runaway Children Helped Find Them

Soul Asylum has had its share of miles on the road. For years, the band toured via a beat up van, and their music was sold on an independent label. It was not the traditional path to make it big in the Hollywood music industry or earn millions by any means. Dave Pirner, the frontman for the band, then realized an even bigger challenge – he might be losing his hearing. The entire experience was driving him to, in his words, a nervous breakdown.

To stay with music but relax his inflamed ears, Pirner switched to an acoustic guitar. One of the songs that came out of that phase was an influential one, Runaway Train. The song lyrics end up reflecting Pirner’s state of mind at the time, particularly when he needed to talk to a friend at the worst of it. Combining an old interest in trains with his mental crash at the time, the words to the song started to flow out seamlessly, the runaway train being a symbol of Pirner’s own feeling out of control at the time. When the song eventually reached the stage and got its first hearing during a band show at the University of Minnesota, everyone realized Pirner was onto something. It helped that the band had some good musicians putting music to the song with additional instruments.

Runaway Train was so good, Soul Asylum shopped it around when sending demo tapes for the band to big labels. Columbia Records signaled a strong enough reception that the band signed on with them, and Runaway Train was recorded with Michael Beinhorn producing. As Pirner reflected, the band worked their tail off on that recording. Beinhorn had Pirner re-sing the words at least a hundred times in that recording session.

Unfortunately, big label production had a cost, and the band’s drummer got replaced. At this point, Soul Asylum’s success was moving out of the road-band and into a full-fledged big label production. So, a bandmember getting hacked for a better musician was not unheard of. But the entire experience of letting go of Soul Asylum’s original drummer was a painful price in experience.

Runaway Train hit the airwaves and the song took off. It took on a life of its own, easily outpacing the other singles from Soul Asylum’s album, Grave Dancers Union. It made sense to Pirner that Runaway Train would become one of their most important tracks. It had a serious message. When it was time for a video of the song, Pirner got the video’s inspiration seeing a missing child billboard driving home in L.A. The song would be about runaways. The connection made sense, Columbia was supportive of the idea, and the band was able to leverage support from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The song started rotation on MTV, including real images of missing children. The hope was that it would trigger finds and help close some missing children cases. Nothing happened at first. However, after a few weeks, kids started seeing their faces on the video channel and began to reach home. Each time, a new child’s photo would be used, and a new case would be closed. Some didn’t always have a happy ending, but it did provide closure for the families. At final count, 21 kids were found out of 36 profiled in the video. It was a classic social impact situation via Soul Asylum’s music and popular entertainment being used for something more than just music alone.

Living

Triumphant Return: Rhinos Reintroduced to Kenyan Plateau

Renee Yates

Published

on

In a remarkable turn of events, rhinos have made a triumphant return to a plateau in central Kenya after decades of absence due to rampant poaching. This success story marks a significant milestone in conservation efforts, as 21 eastern black rhinos were relocated to a new home to provide them with ample space to breed and potentially increase their dwindling population.

The relocation, considered Kenya’s largest rhino move ever, saw the rhinos being transferred from three overcrowded parks to the private Loisaba Conservancy. This sanctuary, where rhino herds were decimated by poaching many years ago, now aims to restore the rhino population to its former glory. Daniel Ole Yiankere, the security manager at Loisaba, expressed optimism about the rhinos’ return, stating, “It’s been decades since rhinos roamed here, almost 50 years ago. Their numbers were severely impacted by poaching. Now, our focus is on rejuvenating this landscape and allowing rhinos to breed.”

Rhinos are generally solitary animals, and their reproductive rates can decrease when there are too many in a territory. David Ndere, a rhino expert at the Kenya Wildlife Service, highlighted the importance of managing rhino populations to ensure their continued growth. “By removing some animals, we expect that the rhino population in those areas will rise up,” Ndere said. “And then we reintroduce that founder population of at least 20 animals into new areas.”

The successful relocation of these rhinos not only provides them with a safe environment to thrive but also underscores the importance of conservation efforts in protecting endangered species. It serves as a beacon of hope for the future of rhinos in Kenya and highlights the critical role that conservationists play in preserving our planet’s biodiversity.

Continue Reading

Living

Las Vegas Parent Revolutionizes Reading Apps to Help Struggling Students

Kelly Taylor

Published

on

In the bustling city of Las Vegas, one parent’s determination to help his daughter catch up on her reading has led to the creation of a groundbreaking approach in educational technology. Meet Dave Vinzant, father to 8-year-old Aubrie, who encountered difficulties in reading during and after the pandemic.

“It was about halfway through the first grade that we realized that she couldn’t read,” Dave Vinzant shared, highlighting the challenges Aubrie faced. Despite their efforts, traditional methods weren’t yielding the desired results. “The frustration level was really high,” Vinzant recalled. “After an hour of trying to get through a 10-15 page little book, she was crying.”

Determined to find a solution, Vinzant took matters into his own hands. Despite lacking a background in computer programming, he embarked on a mission to develop a tool that could effectively assist his daughter. The result? A free web application called WordStumble.

WordStumble isn’t just any reading app—Powered by artificial intelligence, specifically ChatGPT, the program customizes stories for each user. Vinzant explained, “What is magical is it is able to take all of those words that she knows, all of these words that she is struggling with… and it returns a custom children’s story.” By incorporating both familiar and challenging words, WordStumble ensures that Aubrie—and other young learners—stay engaged while progressing at their own pace.

For Vinzant, the success of WordStumble isn’t just personal; it’s a vision he wants to share with others. “I want other kids to use it,” he emphasized. “This is now my passion, it is a dream that I see is working for her, and is starting to work for other kids, so I know that it can work.”

But Vinzant’s ambitions don’t stop there. He’s currently seeking investors to transform WordStumble into a phone app, making it even more accessible to families everywhere. With his dedication and innovative approach, Vinzant is not only changing the landscape of reading apps but also giving hope to countless parents and children facing similar challenges.

In the heart of Las Vegas, a father’s love and determination have sparked a revolution in education technology. And as WordStumble continues to evolve, it’s clear that the power of one person’s passion can make a world of difference for young learners everywhere.

Continue Reading

Living

The Amazing Comeback of the Wollemi Pine: A Prehistoric Tree’s Fight for Survival

Renee Yates

Published

on

Imagine finding a living dinosaur right in your backyard. That’s almost what happened when scientists discovered the Wollemi Pine in Australia, a tree they thought had been extinct for millions of years! This discovery was so astonishing that Dave Crust from the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service called it “the botanical find of the century.” The Wollemi Pine used to thrive during the time of the dinosaurs, but until its discovery in 1994 in a remote canyon of the Wollemi National Park, experts believed it was lost forever.

Only 90 of these ancient trees were found growing in the wild, making the Wollemi Pine incredibly rare and precious. Understanding the gravity of this discovery, conservationists have been working tirelessly for the past thirty years to save and regrow these prehistoric trees. They’ve started planting hundreds more in a top-secret location to ensure their survival.

This secret garden, known as a translocation site, was established in 2019. It’s part of a grand plan to create an “insurance population” of Wollemi Pines. This means if something bad happened to the ones in the wild, there would still be others growing safely elsewhere. Dave Crust explains, “The population was at a number where any significant event could have caused their extinction, so we’re at a point now where we’re trying to rebuild that population.”

However, growing a Wollemi Pine isn’t easy. Berin Mackenzie, a research scientist, shared that these seedlings and saplings grow less than one centimetre a year. They won’t be fully mature until they reach about 20 or 30 metres tall, which can take many decades. In over thirty years of watching these trees, not a single seedling or juvenile tree has been seen reaching adulthood in the wild.

The trees at the translocation site are planted in different environments—from rainforest settings to eucalypt forests and even on rocky ledges—to see where they grow best. But, there’s a catch to keeping them safe: people can’t visit them. The NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe has stressed that one of the biggest threats to these ancient trees is the spread of pathogens, which can happen if people visit the sites. Keeping the locations a secret and away from public interference is crucial for their survival.

This story of the Wollemi Pine is not just about saving a tree species; it’s about preserving a living piece of Earth’s history. It shows the dedication and hard work of conservationists who are fighting to protect our planet’s biodiversity. The Wollemi Pine’s journey from being considered extinct to being regrown in a secret sanctuary is a powerful reminder of nature’s resilience and the importance of our efforts to protect it.

Continue Reading

Living

Free Money in Austin: Did It Help?

Kelly Taylor

Published

on

Imagine getting $1,000 every month, for free! That’s what happened to some people in Austin, Texas. The city started a program called a guaranteed income program, where they gave 135 families $1,000 a month for a year, with no strings attached. They could use the money for anything they wanted, like rent, groceries, or even saving up for a car.

This was the first time a city in Texas had tried something like this. Some people thought it was a crazy idea, while others were excited to see how it would work. The city hoped that the extra money would help people get out of poverty and have a better life.

So, did it work?

A new report from a research group called the Urban Institute says that the program did help people pay for housing and food. On average, people spent more than half of the money they received on rent or mortgage payments. This means that the program helped people keep a roof over their heads.

One woman who got the money, Taniquewa Brewster, said it helped her pay for medical bills after she was in the hospital. She said it was a big relief to not have to worry about money while she was recovering.

What are guaranteed income programs?

Guaranteed income programs are becoming more popular around the United States. They’re basically like giving people free money, with no strings attached. The goal is to help people who are struggling financially and to give them more control over their lives.

Some people worry that if people get free money, they won’t work anymore. But research shows that this isn’t usually the case. In fact, some studies have shown that guaranteed income can actually help people get better jobs.

What’s next for Austin?

The Austin program ended in August 2023, but the city is still studying the results. They’re hoping to learn more about how guaranteed income can help people and whether they should start the program again.

Other cities in the United States are also starting to experiment with guaranteed income programs. It’s an idea that’s still being tested, but it has the potential to make a big difference in people’s lives.

Here are some other cities that have tried guaranteed income programs:

  • Stockton, California
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Jackson, Mississippi
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • Los Angeles, California

It will be interesting to see how these programs work out and whether they become more common in the future. Maybe one day, everyone will get a little bit of free money every month!

Continue Reading

Living

From Refugee to Kindness Ambassador: How Biar Kon’s Journey Shaped His Mission

Renee Yates

Published

on

Biar Kon’s story is one of resilience, empathy, and a deep-seated desire to help others. Born in Sudan, his family was forced to flee the civil war when he was just a baby. They found refuge in Kenya, where Kon spent his childhood in a refugee camp. Despite the hardships, he persevered, dreaming of a better future.

At 17, Kon arrived in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, determined to pursue his education. However, a major obstacle stood in his way: finding the Sudanese embassy to obtain documents for school. Lost and alone, he approached passerby after passerby, seeking directions. But no one seemed to know where the embassy was.

Just as Kon was about to give up, a kind stranger tapped him on the shoulder. It was an older woman, who mistook him for a homeless youth. “She’s like, ‘Hey, my son.’ That was the first word,” Kon recalled. “She said, ‘Hey, my son, how you doing?'”

Kon explained his situation, and the woman, touched by his determination, went out of her way to help him find the embassy. “‘I wouldn’t want my child to be on the street,'” the woman told him. “‘And anytime I see a child on the street, I feel like I have an obligation to help.'”

This act of kindness had a profound impact on Kon. He realized the power of a helping hand, and it planted a seed of compassion within him. Years later, when he moved to Boston as a student, he was surprised to see a significant homeless population.

“It kind of hurt me,” he said. “Because having lived in a refugee camp, I know what it means to go to bed without food. I know what it means not to have a shelter over your head.”

He remembered the woman in Nairobi and her unwavering kindness. He vowed to pay it forward, to be that helping hand for someone else in need.

One day, Kon witnessed an interaction that solidified his resolve. A young woman brushed off a homeless man asking for change, telling him to get a job.

He approached the man and listened to his story. The man shared how a mistake in his youth had hindered his job prospects and landed him on the streets. Kon bought him breakfast and offered him some money, but more importantly, he offered him a moment of human connection and understanding.

Today, Kon is a student at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, driven by a dream of making a difference. He plans to start a non-profit organization to provide housing and social support for the homeless, inspired by the women in Kenya who helped him on his own journey.

Continue Reading

Trending