BYU Radio


Thinking Aloud: Full Belly Project

Here’s one I know you’ve heard before: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” But have you ever thought about the huge problem with this statement? Learning to fish is all well and good, but what about the people who know how to fish but have no nets?

            Across the globe members of impoverished or rural communities work long and often grueling hours to perform tasks such as fetching water, tending crops, hunting, or finding fuel. While these resources can be scarce, often their real problem is not having the tools necessary process and efficiently use the resources they do have.

Countless humanitarian organizations work tirelessly to install water-pumping and filtration systems, communications networks, and other technological boons for farmers and rural villagers. One such group, very small in number but ambitious in its aims, calls itself “The Full Belly Project.”

This group has a unique vision that guides them to address some of the crucial gaps missed by larger organizations. The Full Belly Project devises prototypes for small-scale gizmos and contraptions to solve problems that may seem small but that take far too much time and effort without the right tools.

You can listen in to our conversation with Jock Brandis, Director of Research and Development of the Full Belly Project on our website. The project’s work is streamlining the daily workload of thousands of people across the world, giving them the tools to help themselves for years to come.

Check out the Full Belly Project’s Website here.​

Movie Review: Dunkirk

Dunkirk is the latest film from director Christopher Nolan.  It tells the story of 400,000 soldiers who were driven into the town of Dunkirk, on the northern coast of France by German tanks in 1940.  The film is the story of their rescue.

This is a difficult film to talk about.  Not only because it is a war film, but because Nolan is telling this story in a non-linear fashion.  He uses 3 different points of view.  The stories overlap in many places and at first I was confused.  I also did not like it when Nolan increased the volume of the soundtrack so the dialogue of the actors is drowned out by the music.  Of course there is not much dialogue to drown out.

I do realize though that Nolan is using these conventions to confuse the audience on purpose.  He does it to make us feel more like we are one of the soldiers in the story and it is this fact that makes this film so incredible.  On the one hand I dislike the story telling and the audio but on the other hand I understand why it was done and it hits that mark.  You will want to pay attention during this film.

Being a war film there is much violence.  Soldiers are shot and die from enemy fire and bombs.  Ships are bombed with people on board.  People are burned by an oil fire on the water.  Planes are shot down and crash.  One civilian passes away on his way to assist the soldiers.  Torpedoes are launched and hit a boat.  Soldiers below deck in a boat are fired upon from the outside.  Bodies are seen floating in the water.

Despite not liking the storytelling I am giving Dunkirk an A- for making me feel a part of the story. 

Lessons from Summer Reading

Summer reading is a staple among most middle schools and high schools. I was recently revisiting some of the books I read for summer reading. One in particular is burned in my memory. I hated “Tears of a Tiger” by Sharon Draper. At the beginning, two high school boys are in a drunk driving accident and one dies. At the end, the other kills himself. In general, I personally prefer to shelter children from this kind of story. When I read, I prefer it to be for enjoyment and I hate sad things, but I had to read that book for school. While I disliked it, I will never forget it.

Often, schools require books that deal with adult themes. Sometimes we wish to shelter our children from such ideas, but these stories deal with concepts in a way that is manageable to children. Sometimes, these books can make more of a difference in a child's life. The best way to deal with summer reading that discusses adult themes is to have conversations about them with our children. In the end, they can have a large impact on children's lives.


By Olivia Noli, Social Media Manager, WORLDS AWAITING


At Worlds Awaiting we discuss a wide range of information aimed at supporting adults who want to build literacy skills in their children.   We understand that there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to children’s development, so the information we provide is intended to reach a wide audience. The books and other resources we recommend will also naturally cover a wide range of interests and subject matter that addresses a range of maturity, reading, and comprehension levels.  Since no one understands a child’s needs better than their caretakers, we encourage families to critically select the books and resources that meet their own individual needs and standards.

Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes, 7/14/17, PG-13

This is the third installment of the latest Planet of the Apes” series.  Andy Serkis reprises his role of Caesar, leader of the apes.  An illness is infecting humans and killing them and humans are blaming the apes for it so all the apes are in hiding. 

Woody Harrelson plays “The Colonel” and he finds where the apes are hiding and kills two of them in their sleep, thinking he has killed Caesar.  Instead he killed Caesar’s wife and son.  Caesar decides the apes must move somewhere else but he will not go with them so he can get his revenge.

This film really got my attention.  It is amazing that the motion capture of the actor’s faces can project so many emotions.  Andy Serkis can really make you feel something with this technology.  The story moves along really well and kept my interest as new characters were introduced. Woody Harrelson’s character is ruthless to everyone in this film. 

If you have not seen the other two most recent “Planet of the Apes” films there is a quick story review.  But those films are good as well.  I’m not sure if this will only be a trilogy of films, but I would go see another one. 

As the title says this is a war movie.  There are battles during this film with guns blazing and people and apes being shot and killed.  Apes are forced to do manual labor and are held in a camp.  Caesar is tortured.  The final battle scene is massive and destructive.  Some bloody wounds are visible and there are many explosions.  Not much profanity in the film.

War for the Planet of the Apes is rated PG-13 and I am giving it an A-.  

Highway 89: Drew and Lacey Williams

“Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.” –Johann Sebastian Bach

Drew and Lacey Williams create real harmony together. It’s present in the twining of their voices through their original songs – the blend of bluegrass, country, folk and pop that comprises their repertoire – and also in the twining of their lives together as they’ve worked to nurture a family and a musical career. As Drew said in our interview: “The thing about music for Lacey and I is that you can never take it away from us. We use music as a way to reconnect.”

When they visited our studio, they impressed us with rich, candid talk about their journey as musicians, and also as spouses. People who know them now would be surprised to learn that they almost didn’t marry at all; they were both engaged to other people before they became interested in with each other, and even after they connected, Drew’s first proposal to Lacey (on a romantic trip to Nashville) didn’t hit the mark. Add to that the difficulty of living thousands of miles apart for a time (he in Utah and she in Hawaii) and it’s a wonder this story ever worked out the way it did. But like dissonance resolving in a lovely chord, they eventually found their way permanently into each other’s lives. Their sound is now even sweeter, having welcomed three beautiful children into the family, along with dozens of beautiful original songs. Drew and Lacey approach everything as a team, from songwriting to coaching their kids through music lessons of their own. Lacey said: “As humans we have to share in each other’s struggles, or else what are we here for?”

As our student assistant Victoria Hardy put it: “It’s the type of music that makes you feel happy and safe.” Listen to Drew and Lacey's full interview, along with terrific performances of some of their original songs, on-demand.

Top of Mind: Documenting Own Dementia

Here’s a conversation you won’t want to miss: When Gerda Saunders, a Gender Studies Director from the University of Utah, was diagnosed with dementia, she decided to document her experience. Her notes turned into the memoir “Memory’s Last Breath: Field Notes on My Dementia.”

When Julie asks Gerda if she was surprised that she was still able to write despite the diagnosis she says, “There are lesions on my brain that you can see on an MRI and they just happen not to be in my language centers yet . . . the fact that I could write was an enormous gift.” 

She details the disorientation she experiences on a daily basis, providing a vivid and relatable picture. Tune in here  for the full conversation.

Thank you to Gerda Saunders for a fascinating conversation and lovely visit. 


Words make up an important part of my life as a reader, writer, and teacher. I would even assume that they make up an important part of your life and the life of you children as well. The body of words used in a language is termed as vocabulary. This word bank allows us to communicate effectively with one another. It is no surprise that one of the essentials of learning to read is vocabulary. 

Reading comprehension begins as you understand that the words you hear also have an equivalent in printed form (reading starts with speaking and listening). For the youngest readers, talking and interacting with lots of words is one of the the best ways to start. As children become better at decoding printed text, they then move on to expanding their knowledge and building their vocabulary. Even adults need to consistently learn new vocabulary so they can correctly identify new words in print and understand their meaning. Older children and teens soon expand beyond their daily language to the more complex vocabulary of unusual or specific contexts. 

Words such as brabble, a seventeenth-century word meaning a dispute or noisy quarrel, is an example of vocabulary that you would only encounter in a certain time context. Other words such as abiotic, meaning the absence of life, only occur in particular scientific domains. For older children, words that are rarely used need the most concentrated instruction and focus.  So, it’s critical that teachers make vocabulary instruction a part of their teaching strategies. There are also great ways to engage with unusual vocabulary outside of the classroom.

 First and foremost, reading all kinds of texts (books, magazines, newspapers, etc.) in all kinds of genres (fiction, nonfiction, historical, etc.) is one of the best vocabulary builders. Writing down unfamiliar or new words and looking them up in the dictionary for their definition is another effective way to learn new words. If you’re a young child just learning to read or an older reader encountering a new text—vocabulary matters! Here at Worlds Awaiting, we recommend that it’s important for kids of all ages to see, hear, and use lots of great words.


At Worlds Awaiting we discuss a wide range of information aimed at supporting adults who want to build literacy skills in their children.   We understand that there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to children’s development, so the information we provide is intended to reach a wide audience. The books and other resources we recommend will also naturally cover a wide range of interests and subject matter that addresses a range of maturity, reading, and comprehension levels.  Since no one understands a child’s needs better than their caretakers, we encourage families to critically select the books and resources that meet their own individual needs and standards.


Movie Review: Spider-Man Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming, 7/7/2017, PG-13

Spider-Man: Homecoming begins right after the events of Captain America: Civil War.  In fact it begins with an original movie made by Peter Parker that shows how he got to Berlin and into the fight with all the super heroes.

After the big fight Peter goes back home and there is not the same level of excitement stopping petty crimes around the neighborhood.  Then he comes across bank robbers who have some really advanced weapons.  He traces the weapons and finds he may be over his head this time.

If you didn’t know already, this is not an origin story.  Peter Parker has already got his powers when this film begins.  You will get to see how Peter learns what it is to be a hero.  That is what makes this movie different. Also Tom Holland makes a really good Peter Parker.  I was apprehensive about his best friend knowing he is Spiderman and that does become a problem.

The action in the film is really good and Michael Keaton plays a really bad guy as the Vulture.  There are some twists that make you think, and I must say the film has the best end of credit scene ever!  Stay to the end of the credits to see what I mean.

Parents, there is violence in this film including people being vaporized by weapons and punches being thrown.  There are threats and some perilous action.  There are a few instances of language including replacing Peter’s name with a body part and gestures. 

Spider-Man: Homecoming is rated PG-13.  I really enjoyed this film and I am giving it an A- grade.  

Thinking Aloud: Something More Than Water Lilies

While setting up for a show earlier this month, our host, Marcus Smith, asked me if I liked Monet.


“Yes, on a purely superficial level, in that I think his paintings are pretty,” I responded as I tinkered with sound levels and file names and phone numbers in the studio.


The show’s topic was the creation of Monet’s Water Lilies series as told by Ross King in his book Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies. Like my take on most of Monet’s work, I expected to like it. I did not expect to be changed by it. But it only took thirty minutes of listening to Ross King for my perception of Monet’s water lilies to go from pretty paintings to representations of deep conflict: Monet’s conflict about the war, about his family, and about his place in the changing world. That conflict was something I never expected to see in paintings of a pond. 


“There’s this kind of disjunction between the tranquility we see in them and the mental and physical distress that the act of painting them caused Monet,” King said. “Which I think tell us he was painting something more than water lilies on a sunny afternoon in the Seine Valley. He was seeing something in the pond that was more than merely reflections of clouds and beautiful blossoms.”


It’s not that I was wrong to think of Monet’s work as pretty. The real problem was that I had failed to see beauty beyond the pleasant scenery and generous brushstrokes—the beauty of emotion, history, and obsession.


Isn’t that often how life goes? Whether it’s an object, an idea, or a person, we see in others what we want to see, favoring the qualities that convenience and reinforce our existing worldview while throwing out the ones that harm it. But that kind of thinking leaves out so much of the human experience. What we see almost never tells the full story of what’s really there, and it takes more than a glance and a reaction to tease out the hidden and transformative details.


That’s what I love about Thinking Aloud. It invites me to spend thirty minutes focusing on an idea or a topic I wouldn’t normally spend more than a few seconds considering. It complicates and nuances my perspective on the world around me. I’ve found that when things are complicated, it’s difficult to jump to conclusions.


Complicate your thinking on water lilies and more. Catch Thinking Aloud weekdays at 6pm on BYU Radio.

By Rachel Sherman

The Apple Seed: St. Louis Storystitchers

This week on the Apple Seed: Tellers and Stories, we featured a piece about the St. Louis Storystitchers, who we met and saw in performance at the historic Old Courthouse, in the shadow of the Gateway Arch, in St. Louis, MO.  The Storystitchers took the place by storm, at an event honoring some of the men who, 50 years ago, worked on that remarkable arch. Before a panel discussion that had us meeting those men and hearing their stories, the Stitchers – a group of local young St. Louis writers and performers under the direction of KP Dennis and Susan Colangelo – performed high-energy hip-hop pieces about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Dred Scott Trial (important parts of the historic story of the 1857 Dred Scott decision took place right in the very building in which we clapped and cheered as those stories unfolded in hip-hop before our eyes and ears). We saw dance and poetry as well (one piece, called “603 Stories,” took our breaths away).
The St. Louis Storystitchers have a goal to “work alongside twenty 15-24 year old urban youth living in economically disadvantaged areas to collect stories, reframe and retell them using the arts, direct community engagement, storytelling, publishing and the Internet to promote a better educated, more peaceful and caring society.” They erase real and perceived divisions through cultural exploration and arts practice — by stitching together our city.”
That’s the language the Storystitchers use on their website. What the show looks like in practice is a handful of talented young people exploding onto stage in committed, competent performances of stories, songs, dance, and poetry that they created themselves.
In performance, the Storystitchers wear t-shirts that say, in big letters, “Pick the City Up.” And this is an organization (like others that have cropped up in this age of storytelling) that when faced with real-world stakes, turns to the power of storytelling to do the heavy lifting. In this case, the heavy lifting includes helping young people speak out on issues that are important to them: issues like gun violence (one song, “They Think it’s Okay,” decrying the myths that make gun violence a part of life in the neighborhoods from whence come these young artists, is a staple in their live shows).

We were amazed at the degree of trust placed in the artful rendering of St. Louis stories by this high-stakes organization. And also at how well-placed that trust seems to be. You can hear the Storystitchers episode of the Apple Seed in our archive: Just enter “Stitching the City Together” in the search field. You can find out more about St. Louis Storystitchers by visiting their website, ​

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