The 2021 Stuffed Animal Sleepover

Birago Lion and Belinda Sheep introduce the 2021 Stuffed Animal Sleepover at the UU Church of Palo Alto. Dr. Sharpie and Elephant are going to help out, too.

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Full script is below.

Continue reading “The 2021 Stuffed Animal Sleepover”

The Pool of Enchantment, part one

Rolf, Sharpie, Possum, and the gang decide to act out another story from the Ramayana.

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Full script below the fold.


Rolf: I want to hear the story of the Pool of Enchantment!

Sharpie: Oh, yes, the story from the Ramayana. I’ll act out the part of King Yudhisthira.

Possum: The King, or rather the Queen, and her siblings were chasing a deer who had stolen the wood needed to start a Brahmin’s sacred fire. After chasing the deer for a long time, they sat down under a tree, so thirsty they couldn’t go on.

Sharpie: If we don’t find water soon, we’ll die. Nakula, climb this tree to look for water.

Birago: There’s water over there.

Sharpie: Go get some water and bring it back to us.

Possum: Nakula soon found a pool of clear water. A Crane stood at the far edge of the pool.

Birago: Water! I’m so thirsty!

Voice: Do not drink, O Prince, until you answer my questions.

Possum: Nakula was thirsty, so he ignored the Voice. He drank the cool water, and in a few moments lay dead beside the pool.

Sharpie: Where is Nakula? Sahadeva, you’ll have to go and bring us some water.

Castor: On my way!

Castor: Nakula, dead! I’m so thirsty, I’ll drink before I find out what killed him.

Voice: Do not drink, O Prince, until you have answered my questions.

Possum: But Sahadeva had already drunk from the water, and also lay dead beside the pool.

Sharpie: Arjuna, find our siblings, and bring us water.

Nicky: I’ll take my bow and arrows, just in case.

Nicky: My two siblings, dead! I’ll find who or what killed them. But first, I’m so thirsty.

Voice: Do not drink, O Prince, until you have answered my questions.

Nicky: Who are you? Come out and fight with me.

Voice: Bwa ha ha ha. Do not drink, O Prince.

Possum: Soon Arjuna, too, lay dead beside the pool.

Sharpie: Bhima, go find our siblings, then bring water back to me.

[Nods silently.]

Possum: Seeing his siblings, Bhima wondered what evil demon had killed them.

[Looks around in silence.]

Voice: Do not drink, O Prince, until you have answered my questions.

Possum: When the Queen realized that her siblings were not going to return, she went to the pool herself.

Sharpie: This must be the work of some evil spirit. But I am so thirsty, I will drink first.

Voice: Do not drink, O Queen, until you have answered my questions!

Rolf: They shouldn’t have drunk the water!

Nicky: Who’s that strange Voice that speaks?

Possum: We’ll have to wait until next week to find out….

The Story of the Flower Communion

Dr. Sharpie, Rolf, Possum, and Nicky ask to be told the old story of the UU Flower Communion, or Flower Celebration.

Click on the image above to view the video on Vimeo.

Full script below the fold.


Rolf: Dan, can you tell us the story of the Flower Communion again?

Dan: Don’t you know that story already?

Possum: You tell it better. But you don’t have to tell us that Unitarian churches in the Midwest did flower services starting in 1875.

Rolf: Just start with Maja Oktavec, when she came to the United States from the Czech Republic.

Sharpie: And we already know that she was a librarian in the New York Public Library.

Nicky: And she fell in love with Norbert Capek, and they married in 1917.

Dan: OK, I’ll start there. Norbert was a Baptist minister, but he started to doubt his Baptist beliefs. Maja encouraged his doubts. After they married, he resigned from the Baptist ministry because of his doubts.

Rolf: They sound like Unitarians to me!

Dan: One day, their children wanted to go to Sunday school. Each week, the children chose a church to try. Afterwards, Maja and Norbert asked them what they had learned. It always sounded like the same old religion they had left behind, so they’d ask the children to try a different church next week.

Possum: Until the children went to a Unitarian church.

Dan: And they told their parents that they had been encouraged to wonder and to ask questions. So of course they returned to the Unitarian church. And Norbert and Mája decided that they’d attend the Unitarian services, and then they became Unitarians.

Nicky: Meanwhile, back in Europe….

Dan: The Capeks’ homeland became an independent country. The American Unitarians helped Norbert and Mája to go back to Czechoslovakia to start a Unitarian church in the city of Prague.

Sharpie: And they didn’t want to be reminded of the religions they had left behind.

Dan: In 1923, Norbert and Mája created a new Unitarian ritual that wouldn’t be like anything in any other religion. They called it the Flower Celebration.

Possum: Now we call it a Flower Communion.

Rolf: Yeah, and everybody gets to exchange flowers.

Nicky: Exchanging flowers symbolizes how all we are all connected to one another.

Dan: Soon the Unitarian church in Prague had three thousand members. It was largest Unitarian church anywhere. But next to Czechoslovakia, in Germany, the Nazis had taken over the government. In 1939, the Nazis began invading nearby countries.

Rolf: This is the scary part.

Dan: Maja came to the United States to raise money to help refugees who were escaping from the Nazis. While she was here, the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia. Norbert was arrested because he spoke out for freedom. The Nazis put Norbert into a concentration camp, where he died in 1942. After the Nazis were finally defeated, Mája stayed in the United States. Norbert’s death made her sad, but she watned to keep working to make the world a better place.

Nicky: Now for the good part!

Dan: Maja decided to bring the joyous Flower Celebration to Unitarians here in the United States. What better way to remember Norbert, and all the Czech Unitarians who fought for freedom?

Possum: I’m glad Maja Capek brought the Flower Communion to the United States.

Sharpie: I like the way the Flower Celebration honors the connections between all beings.

Rolf: I like the flowers!

Nicky: Now I can’t wait till next year’s Flower Communion!

Dancing on May Day

It’s time for the annual Maypole dance, and the annual Morris dance — virtual, of course, in these pandemic times. But if the Morris dancers don’t dance on May Day, the sun won’t come up!

Click on the image above to view the video on Vimeo.

Full script below the fold….


Eric: Welcome everyone! It’s time for the annual UUCPA Maypole dance. This year’s dance will be a virtual dance. Everyone take a ribbon.

(Outdoor sounds)

Eric: You want a blue one? … If you’re following along at home, it’s fine to grab a virtual ribbon or an imaginary ribbon. When the music starts, half of you circle around one way, half of you circle around to the right. And make sure you weave between each other. OK, go!

(Music)

Eric: Over! Under! Weave!

(Music)

Eric: Over!

(Music)

Robert: Good morning. Morris dancing is an ancient English traditional dance form. And today’s dance is inpsired by one observed in the village of Adderbury about a hundred years ago. It’s meant to be danced in the spring to encourage the earth to wake up and produce goodness, fertility. So when it comes to whacking, you might want to whack something. All right Maestro, let’s dance.

(Music, and sounds of sticks hitting)

Eric: You know, of course, that spring will only arrive if the Morris dancers dance at May Day. Now that we’ve danced, spring can come. Welcome, spring time!

Story of Easter

Sharpie, Rolf, Possum, Muds, and Nicky want to hear the rest of the story of Jesus in Jerusalem, the way Dan’s Unitarian mother used to tell it.

Click on the link above to view the video on Vimeo.

As usual, full script below the fold.

Continue reading “Story of Easter”

Story of Palm Sunday

Possum, Rolf, and Nicky, want to hear the story of Palm Sunday — although Dr. Sharpie and Muds are skeptical of that old story. So Dan gives them the Unitarian Universalist version.

Click on the image above to view the video on Vimeo.

The full script is below the fold.

Continue reading “Story of Palm Sunday”

YouTube is evil

I’ve hated YouTube for a long time, but they finally went too far. I’m going to start moving the videos I make for kids to another platform.

What was the final straw that’s causing me to ditch YouTube?

I created a children’s video for this Sunday’s online worship service. I was careful to use either my own content, or public domain content (e.g., music), or Creative Commons content (e.g., sound effects) I have a great respect for the rights of authors and creators, and I don’t want to violate copyright.

YouTube has a new process whereby when you upload a video, they scan it for copyrighted material. Fair enough. The scan of my latest video claimed to have found copyrighted material on my video. That’s not fair, but that happens because YouTube relies on machine algorithms instead of humans to review copyrighted material, and they give free access to the algorithms of known copyright trolls. So while it’s not fair, I can deal with it. I’ve dealt with it before — you submit a claim showing why the copyright claim is incorrect, wait seven days, and it goes away.

But as it turned out, this time not only did I get a message telling me that there’s a claim, but for the past two hours there’s been another message freezing the video because, so they say, they were still scanning for copyright violations. The effect of this is that YouTube has given me no way to contest the claim. Which is utter bullshit. And don’t tell me to contact customer support. YouTube is notorious for having no customer support at all — because, hey, we’re not customers, we’re the product they’re selling (or more precisely, our data is the product).

There are plenty of other reasons why I hate YouTube. I know they’re collecting unbelievable quantities of user data and using that data for purposes I don’t approve of. I don’t mind so much for myself — I’m going into this with my eyes open — but I’m making videos for kids, and I simply do not trust YouTube with kids’ data. Plus YouTube video compression sucks, producing inferior audio and video quality. Remember, their business model is to provide the absolute minimum of quality, with the least amount of paid human time, while selling the absolute maximum amount of data to advertisers and others; their sole goal is to make tons of money, with no apparent effort to provide any redeeming social value. By saying this, I don’t want to denigrate their workers, who work incredibly long hours and work software engineering miracles; but YouTube’s corporate management is, at best, amoral.

Do I need to add the fact that, as is true of all Big Tech employers, YouTube has insufficient numbers of women, people of color, and people over the age of 40 working at the company? The Big Tech firms are notorious for their sexism, racism, and ageism; YouTube is no exception.

I’ve known for some time that I need to move the children’s videos I make to a paid hosting service. So I finally bit the bullet and opened a Vimeo account. That’s where I’ll be posting all future kid’s videos that I make. Eventually I’ll move older videos there, though that will take time.

It’s been a relief to take this step. I’ve long been uncomfortable with YouTube’s exploitative business model. I’m glad I can stop feeling morally compromised.