What I learned this week, May 14, 2017

After 500 years, Leonardo da Vinci’s music machine is brought to life

Rather than plucking the strings, as a harpsichord would, this instrument, called the viola organista, lowers the strings onto spinning wheels which are wrapped in horse hair. This acts as a bow would on a violin. The resulting sound gives the impression of a group of string instruments. The project took Zubrzycki 3 years and 5,000 hours to complete.


The Harlan Ellison Show

The star of the long-running Harlan Ellison show is 82 now. A stroke two years ago slowed him down somewhat, though not nearly enough to stop him from working. What his admirers fear above all is the loss of his voice—sometimes annoying, sometimes sappy, always funny, always insistent, and always arresting. As George Edgar Slusser puts it, “In its ubiquity and insistence, this voice becomes both guardian and guarantor of the stories, projecting a sense that here is not dead but living discourse—words spoken and re-spoken that are worthy of being guided through the years, mediated to other human beings, and reassessed in terms of their relevance again and again.”

It is this voice—Harlan Ellison’s voice—that deserves preservation for generations of readers, of writers, of 12 year olds who dream of other worlds.


What if We Discovered an Alien Civilization Less Advanced Than Our Own?

Fourth, what would we do if we really found rock-solid evidence of a pre-industrial civilization on a planet around another star? We couldn’t communicate with them by any currently known method. Unless physicists make some kind of wildly unanticipated new discovery, there is no practical way that humans could travel there, either. Potentially we could send miniature interstellar probes to examine the planet and learn more about its inhabitants. A project called Breakthrough Starshot is exploring the kind of technology needed to do something like that. Such probes would be so small and speedy that the aliens there would have no idea they were being watched


Oysters, Despite What You’ve Heard, Are Always in Season

The life cycle of a particular species, the temperature and quality of the water in which an oyster grows, and how the mollusk is handled after leaving that water all can affect its health and taste — and your health.

“Essentially if you buy oysters that are grown in healthy waters and they’re handled properly, then there’s no problem with eating them any time of the year,” said Donald Meritt, an aquaculturist at the Horn Point Oyster Hatchery at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.


Saudi Arabia Whines US Has Too Much Control Over World’s Oil

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has asked the U.S. to stop producing so much oil, according to a report Thursday.

OPEC’s report blames the U.S. in particular because hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has greatly increased American oil production. The new production has led a lengthy period of very low oil prices. OPEC claims raising global oil prices will “require the collective efforts of all oil producers” and should be done “not only for the benefit of the individual countries, but also for the general prosperity of the world economy.”


6 Reasons You Should Watch Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me Before Season Three Premieres


How Alamo Drafthouse Is Changing the Moviegoing Experience

 


I have had a crush on the actress Natalie Dormer, ever since The Tudors. I saw this short “The Brunchers” on ShortsTV and really enjoyed it – even if it isn’t anything more than a bit of fluff. I was glad to find it was available to watch on Netflix.

You’re welcome.

Got Pupusa?

It was Thursday and time for the second of the Patio Sessions down at Sammons Park in front of the Winspear Opera House. Last week I took a lot of photographs (here, here, and here) and didn’t feel like doing that again. Viewing life through a viewfinder is not the best way to see things.

I did take my camera, just in case, but I loaded my Kindle, Moleskine, and selected a vacuum filler Parker “51” with a fine nib and Parker Quink black ink (my best note-taking combination – the “51” has an amazingly smooth fine nib, perfect for the Moleskine) and decided ahead of time I’d get something to eat from a food truck, commandeer a table, and relax – read and write a little.

I left work and caught the DART train downtown from the station near my office. The weather was cloudy and windy, but overall not too bad for Texas. I was happy when I saw they had a food truck that, not only had I never eaten at before – but it was also one I had wanted to check out. I was glad I at least brought my camera… have to get photos of food trucks.

It was Dos Paisano’s – a fairly new truck that promised Salvadorian fare. I’m a big fan because it is food that is similar to what I ate in High School in Nicaragua (I love banana-wrapped tamals)… plus pupusas.

Jacob Metcalf opened with a mellow acoustic set. The sound system is such that the music can be heard clearly from anywhere under the massive Winspear sunscreen so I went ahead and bought a pupusa plate and a bottle of water and settled down on a table, listening to the music and reading, just as I had planned. The food was very good. Now I need to track that truck down and try their plantains, yucca, and tamals.

The second musical act was The O’s – a neo-country duo singing upbeat folksy music using a banjo, a slide guitar, a foot pounded bass drum, and a bit of a goofy-corny sense of humor. I enjoyed them a lot though they had to deal with the pealing church bells, just like last week.

The crowd was quite a bit bigger than last week and the concert was sort of impaired by a large group of little kids that kept running around the reflecting pool, yelling and splashing. I know I shouldn’t complain – my kids were as big a pain as anyone’s – but I know how it works. To a parent there is nothing as attractive as their own children and nothing as amusing as their antics. You could see the proud mothers and fathers smiling broadly at the edges of the reflecting pool, out for an evening with their blankets, plastic wine glasses, and massive strollers. What is tough to do is to constantly remind yourself that not everybody thinks the way you do – as a matter of fact, nobody else thinks your kids are cute. You’re the only ones.

The Patio Sessions are not too long, at seven thirty everything was over. I gathered up my stuff and caught the train back home.

I have been working through this huge ebook of noir short stories, The Best American Noir of the Century. I kept reading on the train, coursing through a fascinating bit of fiction by Harlan Ellison called Mefisto in Onyx. Even with Ellison’s occasional overwrought chunk of prose here and there it’s a crackerjack story and sucked me in enough to have me look up and realize I had gone a stop too far. I had to get off the train and wait for another southbound to get me back to where my car was. I don’t like waiting around on a dark train station platform that I’m not familiar with… but there was some illumination from a streetlight and at least I was able to finish the harrowing story.

And it was very good.

The Dos Paisano's Salvadorian/Mexican fusion food truck. Look for it in your neighborhood.

Got Pupusa?

Ordering food from the Dos Paisano's Truck.

My pupusa order with a lot of red and (spicy) green sauce.

Also in the photo is my Kindle and its custom made case.

The top half of the Dos Paisano's Menu.

The bottom half of the menu. I'm going to have to go back.

I like that this song mentions Tietze Park – a Dallas sort of place. My bus drove by there on the way to work for years. I would look for its signature bent over tree  (I think it’s a “kneeling” bois d’ arc )every day. It was voted the best place to break up in the city. There’s even a song about it  by the band Elkhart- video performed at the Belmont, of course.

The amazing view of Downtown Dallas from the Belmont.