"Christians and the Internet" newsletter CATI, Vol. 1, No. 9: March 3, 2000.
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is Copyright (C) 2000 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved. For permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact Barry Traver at email@example.com. Permission is hereby granted, however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1) no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety. To subscribe, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, including "Subscribe to CATI" in the Subject line and including in the body your real name and the email address to which you wish CATI sent. (To be removed from the emailing list, also write to email@example.com, but include "Remove from CATI List" in the Subject line.) _______________________________________________________________
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. MIDI MUSIC FILES: AN INTRODUCTION 2. FINDING SOMEONE: HOW THE WORLD WIDE WEB CAN HELP 3. MOVIE AND VIDEO REVIEWS: SOME USEFUL WEB SITES 4. SOME CHRISTIAN WEB SITES: UPDATES ON THREE SITES 5. SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION FOR THIS NEWSLETTER _______________________________________________________________
1. MIDI MUSIC FILES: AN INTRODUCTION
MIDI files are great for everyone. If your computer can play music, it can play MIDI music files. It doesn't matter how old or new your computer system is. And you can download MIDI music files from the Internet. It doesn't matter how fast or slow your modem is.
One of the nicest things about MIDI files is that they are "mini" in size. If a nice thing about MP3 music files is that they are one-tenth the size of corresponding WAV music files, a nice thing about MIDI music files is that they are one-tenth the size of MP3 music files! (This means, for example, that if it takes minutes to download a MP3 file, a corresponding MIDI file can be downloaded in seconds.)
What is "MIDI"? "MIDI" stands for "Musical Instrument Digital Interface." Essentially, it's a standard format by which a computer may talk with an electronic musical instrument. That musical instrument may be an electronic keyboard, a digital piano, a music synthesizer, or -- surprise! -- the sound card (and speakers) in your computer.
In one sense, MIDI music files are different in an important respect from the other music files you'll find around for computers, such as MP3 files, WAV files, and so on. All of these are generally what I call "microphone-music files." To create them, somebody played music, a microphone recorded it, and the result was placed in a computer file. When you play the file, your computer does its best to reproduce the actual sound that was recorded.
MIDI files are different. They are what I call "player-piano- music files." No microphone was used to record them. Rather, the file is like a player piano roll. It can be played back on an electronic musical instrument that can act like a player piano. Remember: your sound card (helped by the appropriate software) can be that kind of musical instrument!
MIDI files thus cannot attempt to reproduce the sound as it was originally recorded by a microphone, because there never was sound recorded by a microphone. Instead, essentially the MIDI file is a set of directions (or, to change the analogy, some sheet music) to be used to create the music. And since MIDI is a "musical instrument digital interface," forget about voice. (Yes, some computers can be taught how to speak, but we don't have any electronic music instruments yet that can sing words, as far as I know.)
To sum up, MIDI files make no attempt to supply detailed and precise information to allow exact reproduction of music originally recorded with a microphone. Instead, MIDI files simply provide sort of a player piano roll (or sheet music) to your computer, and then your computer has to try to play the music on its own as best it can.
With the right software, almost any computer with a sound card can do this. The resulting music may vary considerably (just as a player piano roll played on different player pianos will vary more than, say, an audio CD played on different stereo systems), but the approach means that file sizes can be very small ("mini" in size) and thus the files are fast to download and do not take up much space to store. And many people (I am one of them) find the music entirely adequate (but then again I always loved player piano music, and we even at one time owned a player piano).
By the way, don't let the player piano analogy fool you into thinking that we're simply talking piano music here. It's more like a roll for a nickelodeon, because other instruments (such as violins or guitars or drums) can also be involved. MIDI files of Christian hymns, for example, will most often sound like music played on an organ.
If you visit a Web page containing a MIDI file, you can often play the file immediately using your Web browser (both Internet Explorer and Netscape have this capability built in, I believe). To play the MIDI files off-line (that is, when you are not connected to the Internet), you will need special software to do that. For those running Windows, the Windows Media Player will do that just fine. (A bit later I will explain how to download MIDI files from the Web.)
The same warning I gave concerning MP3 files apply here as well: in obedience to the commandment "you shall not steal," you will want to avoid downloading any MIDI files that are copyrighted unless appropriate permission has been granted for you to do so. Fortunately, most church music, classical music, and ragtime music do not present a problem in that regard, and the sample sites I'm suggesting in this article fall into those three categories.
First, church music. One of the best sites here is The Cyber Hymnal:
As their home page says, "This site has over 2,100 Christian hymns and Gospel songs from many denominations. Youll find lyrics, scores, MIDI files, pictures, history, and more."
And they describe their copyright policy here:
Here is where they stand: "We have tried to be extremely careful to include only material...Which is in the public domain...OR For which we have obtained the copyright holders permission.... If we have inadvertently included a work with a copyright still in force, let us know & we will remove it immediately."
Regarding the MIDI files, they say this: "We do not claim any copyright on the MIDI files themselves. So, as long as there is no copyright notice on them, feel free to download or reproduce them."
Let's download a sample file. Go to the Cyber Hymnal home page:
Click on "Titles." On the next page click on "A" at the left. After the page reloads, click on "AMAZING GRACE" in the list of titles at the right. (You will probably have to scroll down to get to it.) At this point, you should be hearing the music for AMAZING GRACE (and it should sound as if it's being played on an organ). But we are not finished yet.
Click on the words "John Newton" to the right of the picture. A window should load which includes interesting biographical information about John Newton as well as links to two dozen other hymns for which he wrote the words.
Close that window and go back to the "AMAZING GRACE" window. A moment ago, you (left-)clicked on the phrase "John Newton." Looking this time at "Music" rather than "Words," right-click on "MIDI" (not left-click as you did before). You should see a "pop-up" menu. If you're using Internet Explorer, click (that is, left-click) on "Save Target As." If you're using Netscape Communicator, click on "Save Link As." (If you're using another Web browser, you may see something different.) At that point you'll have an opportunity to save the MIDI file for "Amazing Grace" to disk (or simply click on "Cancel" if you choose not to do so at this time).
The name of the MIDI file is newbrita.mid. The "newbrita" part of the filename refers to the fact that the tune for "Amazing Grace" is sometimes known as "New Britain," but the part I want to say something about is the "mid" part. As you probably know, "mid" is short for "MIDI" (short, because DOS and Windows before Windows 95 could only handle three letters maximum after the period as well as, for that matter, eight letters maximum before the period, which is the explanation for "newbrita" rather than "newbritain" in the filename).
Anyway, MIDI files can ordinarily be recognized by their file extension (that is, the letters after the period). Just as MP3 filenames ordinarily end in .mp3, so MIDI files ordinarily end in .mid (which you may or may not see if you are using Windows 95 or Windows 98 -- it depends on whether you have your computer set to show or not show file extensions).
Here's another site where you'll find MIDI church music:
Favorite Hymns http://www.kcnet.com/~puritan/hymns.htm
The advantage (for some) of this site is that the hymns are all keyed to the 1990 edition of the Trinity Hymnal, which is a hymnbook used by many Presbyterian and Reformed churches (as well as by some Baptists and others). If you choose "Amazing Grace," you can download to your computer the MIDI music file by right-clicking on the words "AMAZING GRACE" in the top right corner and proceeding accordingly as before (although you'll see a different filename this time).
Let's move on to classical music. In my opinion, if you like classical music the best place on the Web to find good MIDI files is the Classical Music Archives site:
At that site you will find not only an outstanding collection of classical music, but also some good software, including MidiGate, a MIDI player that I use myself on a regular basis (although I have not gotten around to upgrading my registered copy to the Windows 95-98 version supporting long filenames).
Here's their policy on copyright:
"Every attempt possible has been made to verify that the sequences contained in The Classical MIDI Connection are free from any copyright infringement...."
Do you like Debussy's "Clair de Lune"? Do you like "Jesus Loves Me"? If you answered "yes" to both questions, then I have a real treat for you! Go to the following page:
Then try out "Bradbury/Debussy "Jesus Loves Me" (arranged by Fred Boch). You'll hear the children's "Jesus Loves Me" in the style of Debussy's "Clair de Lune." (I know, it boggles the mind: you have to hear it to believe it!) Also on that page be sure to try out "Happy Birthday!" (near the bottom of the page).
You'll also find lots of "normal" classical music on the site as well, of course. In addition to general alphabetical listings, there are special sections devoted specifically to J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Byrd, Chopin, Debussy, Handel, Haydn, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Scarlatti, Schubert, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky. Consider, for example, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Check out these Web pages:
Johann Sebastian Bach: Main Page http://www.prs.net/bach.html
Johann Sebastian Bach: Sacred Music http://www.prs.net/bachsacr.html
Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantatas, Motets, Passions, Oratorios, and Complete Chorales http://www.prs.net/bachchor.html
(Remember, however, that these are all instrumental versions, since MIDI files cannot include voice.)
Incidentally, J.S. Bach was a great Christian composer (some regard him as the greatest composer ever!) who wrote music to the glory of God. If you're interested in exploring Bach further, check out the J.S. Bach Home Page at this address:
And you can also find some good classical MIDI files at the Classical MIDI Connection:
Here are some of the kinds of music you'll find there:
Twentieth Century http://midiworld.com/cmc/twenty.html
You can find classical music and ragtime music in MIDI format at the Primetime MIDI Library:
Here's where you'll find their main ragtime page:
You'll find lots of music there by many ragtime greats:
Scott Joplin http://primeshop.com/midlist2.htm#joplin
James Scott http://primeshop.com/midlist2.htm#scott
Joseph Lamb http://primeshop.com/midlist2.htm#lamb
Charles L. Johnson http://primeshop.com/midlist2.htm#johnson
Eubie Blake http://primeshop.com/midlist2.htm#blake
Jelly Roll Morton http://primeshop.com/midlist2.htm#morton
Here's where you'll find some interesting Swedish ragtime:
And here's where you'll find another page on their site, this one with nearly 300 additional rags:
Another good site for ragtime music is Warren Trachtman's Ragtime Piano MIDI Files:
And on that site you'll find many of the ragtime greats:
Scott Joplin http://www.trachtman.org/ragtime/ragpage.htm#joplin
James Scott http://www.trachtman.org/ragtime/ragpage.htm#scott
Joseph Lamb http://www.trachtman.org/ragtime/ragpage.htm#lamb
Ferdinand ("Jelly-Roll") Morton http://www.trachtman.org/ragtime/ragpage.htm#morton
James Hubert ("Eubie") Blake http://www.trachtman.org/ragtime/ragpage.htm#blake
Charles L. Johnson http://www.trachtman.org/ragtime/ragpage.htm#johnson
Tom Turpin http://www.trachtman.org/ragtime/ragpage.htm#turpin
For various other ragtime composers on the same page, check out this link:
If you look around the site, you'll also find references to some contemporary syncopators.
Well, that's it on MIDI files this time around. Enjoy! _______________________________________________________________
2. FINDING SOMEONE: HOW THE WORLD WIDE WEB CAN HELP
If you are trying to find a particular person, there are a number of Web sites that may help you, not only to track down an email address (if that person has such) but also to locate a residential address or phone number (even if the person is not on the Internet and does not even have an email address).
One such site is Bigfoot:
Bigfoot lets you search for email and residential addresses at the same time.
Or you can try Yahoo! People Search:
Yahoo! People Search may help you find an email address, a residential address (and a map of the area!), or a phone number. (If you'd like to get driving directions, go to http://maps.yahoo.com/ , click on "Driving Directions," fill in the information for "starting address" and "destination address," and click on "Get Directions.")
Or you can try the WhoWhere? People Finder:
At WhoWhere? People Finder you can also get maps or driving directions if the person's address is found.
Or you can try other sites, such as the following:
555-1212.com http://www.555-1212.com/ [try the Reverse Lookup by Address, put down your street without a house number, and you may be able to learn all the names of your neighbors!]
AnyWho Directories http://www.anywho.com/
Freeality Internet Search: Reverse Lookup, Email and Other Lookup Tools http://www.reverse-lookup.com/findet.htm
Internet Address Finder http://www.iaf.net/
Many of these are hit or miss, because people move around and a site's records may be incomplete or inaccurate, but you may find out that these Web sites may indeed be successful in helping you locate that person you're trying to find. (If one site doesn't work for you, try another, because databases and other features may vary from site to site.) _______________________________________________________________
3. MOVIE AND VIDEO REVIEWS: SOME USEFUL WEB SITES
First, let me say that there are Christians who as a practice avoid watching films (unless they were made by Christians for a Christian audience), and I respect that choice (just as we respect some good friends who have chosen to get rid of their television set). Our time is limited, and each person must decide for himself or herself how best to use that time. And, most people would admit, many or most movies may not be worth seeing.
Still, there are many Christians who have chosen to include watching films among their activities, and the Traver family is included in that number. There are many reasons for this. For example, like art, music, and literature, films display man's creativity. In the beginning God created mankind in His own likeness, and part of that likeness is that man was created not to be a mechanical robot but to have the ability to be creative. (Yes, man is still a creature rather than the Creator and man cannot create ex nihilo, that is, out of nothing, and yet man can in a real sense create a populated world, and that is true in film even more than it is in literature.) A good film is a work of art, from which we can derive enjoyment and instruction.
Even when done by non-Christians, films can display certain "common grace insights" (universal Scriptural truths) from which we may benefit (although the Christian will want to test everything by Scripture). For example, the film "A Simple Plan" powerfully demonstrates the reality that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (see 1 Tim. 6:10). In addition, movies often not only reflect our culture (or at least reflect the "media elite" of our culture), but also greatly influence our culture. Thus it is to our advantage to be informed about what people are watching if we want to interact with them in an informed and intelligent way.
But that's our perspective, and your situation and calling may be different. My wife and I, for example, teach high school students, so it helps to know what our students are watching. In addition, watching films is something we enjoy doing, just as some other people spend their time watching sports events, an activity we avoid. But whether you choose to watch films or not (or to allow your children to watch or not), you can find lots of helpful information about films on the Internet. (As a parent, for example, you may need to make a decision on whether one of your children will be allowed to see a particular movie.)
So let's take a look at some Christian sites (and some other sites) where useful film reviews can be found. One good starting point is Christian Spotlight on the Movies, which claims to be "the Web's most popular movie review site for Christians":
Christian Spotlight on the Movies http://www.christiananswers.net/spotlight/
Suppose you have a particular film in mind, say, "Life Is Beautiful." One way to find it is to click on "L" in the alphabet that lets you find it "By Title." When you get to the "L" page, click on "Life Is Beautiful." You'll see that Christian Spotlight on the Movies gives the film a "moral rating" of 3 out of 4 and a moviemaking quality rating of 4 out of 5. The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) rating is "PG-13" ("parents strongly cautioned; some material may be inappropriate for children under 13"), and the primary audience is "teen to adult." The film is about the Holocaust and "reminds us that modern man is neither basically good nor particularly evolved."
You'll find more film reviews at a Web site of Focus on the Family (Dr. James Dobson):
Plugged In: Film Reviews: Recent http://www.family.org/pplace/pi/films/ Plugged In: Film Reviews: Archives http://www.family.org/pplace/pi/allfilms/
Basically, the "recent" films are still in the theatres, while the "archives" are the ones on video.
In the "archives" section, you'll find a review of "Life Is Beautiful." That review (like some others) is divided into the following sections: "Premise," "Positive Elements," "Spiritual Content," "Sexual Content," "Violent Content," "Crude or Profane Language," "Drug and Alcohol Content," "Other Negative Elements," and "Summary." Here is the "Summary":
"Roberto Benigni is not the first to recount the atrocities of the Holocaust through film. It is a painful piece of history-- not soon to be forgotten. While acknowledging and respecting this reality, Benigni manages to do something no other writer has done. He injected this horrific time period with a story of hope, joy and an almost surreal optimism. He captured a love more precious than words. A dedication beyond all expectations. Despite its English subtitles, American audiences are still sure to be drawn in by the underlying brilliance of Life Is Beautiful. Rarely has an Oscar award winning picture been so worthy of such recognition."
Although it is not specifically a Christian site, parents may find this site to be worth a look:
Kids-in-Mind: Movie Ratings That Actually Work http://www.kids-in-mind.com/
The site provides helpful information on the sex, violence, and profanity a film may contain, telling it by the numbers. The alphabet at the top of the home page lets you find a film by title. Click on "L," and you'll see that "Life Is Beautiful" is rated 2.3.0 (that is, on a scale from 0 to 10, 2 for sex, 3 for violence, and 0 for profanity). Click on "Life Is Beautiful," and you'll get the details, as well as some other brief comments:
"A Jewish family tries to survive the horrors of a World War II concentration camp with lots of love and humor.... In Italian and German, with English subtitles. SEX/NUDITY 2 Some sexual innuendo and kissing. VIOLENCE/GORE 3 - A man is shot to death off-camera. A man sees a huge pile of human skeletons. Threatening with guns. Several scuffles, falls and chases. PROFANITY 0 - None. ADULT ISSUES - The Holocaust, 1940s Italy, World War II, being Jewish, falling in love, family relationships. MESSAGE - Love will protect and save you."
If you're not so much concerned about whether a movie is suitable for children and are more interested in its value for adults, here is a Christian movie review site that I find especially worthwhile and thought-provoking:
Hollywood Jesus http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/
The site is very professionally done, and very "visual" (in comparison with most other movie review sites). Do not expect to agree with all of the comments, but do expect a stimulating experience. (You have to search the site a bit to find it, but discussion of the movie "Life Is Beautiful" is at http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/lifeisbeautiful.htm .)
Most movie review sites are free, but here are three Christian movie review sites that have a subscription charge for full access <sigh>:
MovieGuide (Dr. Ted Baehr) http://movieguide.crosswalk.com/info/reviews
Preview Family Movie and TV Review http://www.gospelcom.net/preview/
The Movie Reporter: Film & Movie Reviews from a Christian Perspective http://www.moviereporter.com/home.htm
You'll have to decide whether it's worthwhile to subscribe to any of these. (We do subscribe to MovieGuide, but we get the reviews through the mail rather than accessing them on-line.)
Here are some other movie and video review sites that you may find helpful:
ChristianityToday.com http://www.christianityonline.com/ct/current/print.html and http://www.christianityonline.com/ct/current/ [check page for link to "Film Forum" article] [also check CT Archives for past issues]
Michael Elliott's Movie Parables http://www.christiancritic.com/ ["The Christian Critic" -- note the Web address!] Movie Reviews and Commentary http://www.christiancritic.com/movies.htm Video Reviews and Commentary http://www.christiancritic.com/titles.htm
FamilyStyle Movie Guide http://www.familystyle.com/
FilmValues: Film Reviews for Responsible Parents http://www.filmvalues.com/index.cfm
Grading the Movies: Helping Families Find Entertainment with Values http://www.gradingthemovies.com/
Michael Medved http://www.michaelmedved.com/medvedia.htm [then click on Movie Reviews]
Screen It!: Entertainment Reviews for Parents http://www.screenit.com/search_movies.html
And, finally, here's a site for people who would rather read movie reviews than watch movies:
Movie Review Query http://www.mrqe.com/
If you are interested in reviews of a particular movie, you'll probably find links at that site to more reviews than you'd ever want to read.
Again, whether or not you go to the movies is your choice, but either way, if you want useful reviews of movies and videos (either for the benefit of your family or your own benefit), there are many Web sites that should be helpful, and I hope that I have suggested some of value to you. Don't bookmark them all, but decide which particular ones you may like to check in the future. _______________________________________________________________
4. SOME CHRISTIAN WEB SITES: UPDATES ON THREE SITES
These two addresses at the Mount Zion site did not seem to be working for a couple of days, but I'm happy to report that whatever problems existed have apparently been fixed:
AGAIN AVAILABLE: C.H. Spurgeon: An Audio Archive http://www.mountzion.org/spurgeon.html
AGAIN AVAILABLE: Pilgrim's Page: A John Bunyan Archive http://www.mountzion.org/bunyan.html
The address for the C.S. Lewis and the Inklings site was not working, but I was able to contact Dr. Bruce Edwards (who is now in Africa on a Fulbright scholarship) and he gave me a new working address:
NEW WEB ADDRESS: C.S. Lewis and the Inklings http://personal.bgsu.edu/~edwards/lewis.html ________________________________________________________________
5. SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION FOR THIS NEWSLETTER
This is the ninth issue of a free newsletter devoted to "Christians And The Internet" ("CATI," pronounced "Katy," but spelled with a "C" and an "I" for "Christians" and the "Internet"). If you are not yet a subscriber and would like to become one, send an appropriate note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Past issues: you'll find archives of past issues of CATI available online at http://traver.org/cati/ . ("It's not a pretty site," but hopefully it may be a useful one.) ________________________________________________________________
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is Copyright (C) 2000 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved. For permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact Barry Traver at email@example.com. Permission is hereby granted, however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1) no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety. To subscribe, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, including "Subscribe to CATI" in the Subject line and including in the body your real name and the email address to which you wish CATI sent. (To be removed from the emailing list, also write to email@example.com, but include "Remove from CATI List" in the Subject line.)