What I learned this week, June 5, 2020

I have a new obsession – Marble Machine X

Somehow I stumbled upon this guy and his band – Wintergatan. Starting in 2014 he started building a hand cranked machine that could be programmed to play music by bouncing thousands of steel marbles (ball bearings, actually) off of a vibraphone and drum set. When he finished it – he realized it was too unreliable and delicate to move. His dream was to tour with the thing and perform all over the world in front of adoring crowds.  So, several years ago, he embarked on Marble Machine X – a project to build a better machine – one that used all modern technology (CMC routing, 3D printing, TIG welding, CAD drawings and such) and a team of engineers from all over the world to make an amazing, complex, beautiful, practical (more or less) music machine.

It’s all documented on Youtube:

He puts out a new video every Wednesday, and has for years.

He’s up to number 128

 

Here is a link to a playlist of all the episodes.

I started at the beginning and now I’m hooked. I don’t know how I missed learning about this the last few years – but now I can’t wait for it to be finished.

 


 

Intermediate Axis Theorem

OK, take a tennis racket. Put a little piece of tape on one face. Then hold it by the handle, tape up, and flip it in the air, doing a 360 rotation front to back, like you were flipping a pancake (maybe) and catch it again by the handle after one revolution. The piece of tape  will still be up, right?

Wrong….


 

3D Printed Curta Calculator

When I was in college a friend of mine had a precious possession – he had a Curta mechanical calculator. I was amazed. The Curta is an amazing, complex little machine that uses incredibly precise and complicated gears and stuff to do mathematical calculations. It was invented by Curt Herzstark who did a lot of the design work while a prisoner at the Buchenwald concentration camp. After the war he formed a company and manufactured a hundred thousand or so of the machines in two different designs. Up until the invention of the digital calculator it was considered the best portable calculating machine.

I was amazed at the one I saw in college and have always wanted one. Unfortunately, they sell for thousands of bucks when they come available (most still work today as well as they did when they were made up to sixty years ago).

The other day I came across this amazing video of Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) receiving a modern, three-times scale, 3d Printed working Curta in the mail.

The best part (even better than the amazing machine itself) is the nerdy glee that Mr. Savage exhibits now that he has the precious item. I wish I could get that excited about something.

 


I know I’ve linked to this video before. Tough, I’m doing it again.

It’s Got Them Disraeli Gears

I just managed to convince my grandmother that it was a worth while that was something to do, you know, and when I did finally get the guitar, it didn’t seem that difficult to me, to be able to make a good noise out of it.

—-Eric Clapton

Dan Colcer
Deep Ellum Art Park
Dallas, Texas

There’s this show that shows up on AXS television – on the cable, you know – called Classic Albums. On the show they take an hour and go through the production of a classic rock album – usually with the musicians, producers, artists, hangers-on… the whole works. It’s pretty cool. I watch for these and DVR the ones that look interesting to me. I’ve seen a few, let’s see… Aja, Dark Side of the Moon, So, Damn the Torpedoes, Pet Sounds.

Last night I watched one on an album I wasn’t all that familiar with – Cream’s Disraeli Gears. I’m old enough to remember Cream back in the day but a bit too young to be a huge fan. They were only together for two years – Disraeli Gears came out in 1967 – and I was ten years old. I didn’t really start listening to popular music until 1968 – I would scrounge up a dollar each week and buy one 45 single on Saturday, the first one I bought was the theme song for Hawaii Five-O (jeez, don’t be hard on me, I was only eleven).

So I remember the Cream album covers in the stores and over the years I heard all the hits (Strange Brew, Sunshine of Your Love, Tales of Brave Ulysses) but didn’t know much about the band except that it had Eric Clapton in it. I did see a documentary about Ginger Baker once – he was a madman.

The show was interesting and gave me a new appreciation of this classic rock music.

But the best part was finding out what Disraeli Gears meant. I always assumed it was some sort of British political statement. It isn’t. It’s a malaprop and a cycling reference.

“You know how the title came about – Disraeli Gears – yeah? We had this Austin Westminster, and Mick Turner was one of the roadies who’d been with me a long time, and he was driving along and Eric (Clapton) was talking about getting a racing bicycle. Mick, driving, went ‘Oh yeah it’s got them Disraeli gears!’ meaning derailleur gears… We all just fell over… We said that’s got to be the album title.”

—-Ginger Backer, 1967

How cool is that! You learn something every day.

Short Story Of the Day (Flash Fiction) A Trace of Music by Robert Garner McBrearty

During all my drinking days, I listened for that music and thought it might be worth continuing to drink just to hear it once more. But, of course, it wasn’t.

—-Robert Garner McBrearty, A Trace of Music

Music at Ciclovia Dallas

Working my knee back with ice, rest and ibuprofen. Yesterday, I rode my spin bike on very light resistance for an hour and today, one week after I slipped coming out of the shower and twisted my knee, I rode my road bike for the first time – five miles around the ‘hood. It was fine – not entirely pain-free, but bearable. Maybe ten miles tomorrow after work (I have to work, I am essential). The nice thing about the road bike is that with my feet clipped in they are held rigid with no lateral flex in my leg or knee. That helps. It’s a bitch getting my shoes on, however.

A day at a time – small improvements – each day a little better than the day before.

Like in today’s story….

Read it here:

A Trace of Music by Robert Garner McBrearty

from Heart of Flesh Literary Journal

Robert Garner McBrearty Homepage

 

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction), A Longer Trip Back Home by Hiromi Suzuki

My mother spends all her wages on cigarettes. My mother, a waitress at a café in the center of a suburban residential area at the edge of the world. In the afternoon, the café is filled with ladies. They are housewives coming from elegant houses at the edge of the world, killing time.

—–Hiromi Suzuki, A Longer Trip Back Home

Stray Christmas Ball in the Trinity River, Dallas, Texas

Does a story have to have a classical plot? Does the protagonist have to want something? Is the story always about if they get it or not?

I didn’t know that a French word for mock strawberries was Fraisier de Duchesne. That sounds like a good name for a character – maybe an evil aristocrat or a kindly old neighbor, Fraisier de Duchesne.

Read it here:

A Longer Trip Back Home, by Hiromi Suzuki

from 3AM Magazine

Hiromi Suzuki Twitter

hiromi suzuki microjournal

Morgan James sings Dream On

What really brought out the voice that I have, my soul voice and true voice, was really not getting any work and being very sad and being poor and having to sit with that. I think that’s where the blues comes from.

—-Morgan James

It has been a very busy, exhausting week – the worst of it is that I haven’t been able to write as much as I want. I did have a page of notes for stuff and I sat down to write some of it out and get something for here.

But the internet interrupted me. I was reminded that years ago I used to embed Youtube videos of Postmodern Jukebox into some of my blog entries. For a moment’s entertainment I started some playing and then, stumbled across this (watch and listen to it – you won’t be disappointed):

 

It only has seventeen million views – so I suppose there are a few folks that have never seen this.

My God! That woman has some pipes!

So now I’m a big Morgan James fan. To be honest, I have never been that big on Aerosmith (though I respect their classic work, of course)  – but her version…. man. Of course, Postmodern Jukebox does a great job of the arrangement (love the cello). A fantastic piece of art.

Some comments from Youtube:

“I can make music or I can be famous”-Morgan James

I heard Aerosmith made a cover of this

What a time we live in. This level of performance used to be available to kings and queens… not the paupers.

I like how she sings with her entire body uninhibited like a toddler.
Singing in traffic pushes cars forward.
That voice surpasses all shower doors and makes the water stick to the tiles in awe.

I can cook a steak with that fire she’s spitting

I need a smoke after this one.

I didn’t believe… no. Let me start again. I thought I knew, I was sure, I kind of built my life on the fact that nobody could do this better than Aerosmith. This was THE UNCOVERABLE SONG! – – – And now this….

A doctor needs to treat me for shock, and possibly a dislocated jaw.

Damn – the moment I saw those heels I knew shit was going down!

She could sing the phone book and it would be great.

Morgan James is one of those immensely talented and pretty singers who should be a major star. Instead we get the likes of Katy Perry. There’s no justice.

Now THIS is what is called TALENT! Why isn’t Morgan James a household name? We haven Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber and all the rest of them blocking the airwaves when we could be enjoying AMAZING voices like this?!? I am so glad I just happened along this video! A beautiful woman with a gorgeous voice to match! All the best, Morgan! You’ve earned your place in music history!

There are songs out there that are classics and I always say, “You can’t mess with a classic,” but her… she can do anything she wants.

 

There are a ton of her songs on Youtube (including a cover of the entire Beatles White Album) – it’s a glorious rabbit hole.

If you are already a fan of Morgan James I’m sorry for wasting your time with this – if you have never heard her (and the world has to fall into those two categories – fans and people that haven’t heard her)… well, you can thank me.

Looking For Shelter In This Thunder And This Rain

I have been bought, I have been sold in the city.
I’ve dined with the demons, and I drank of their fear.
But you, you have known, and waited in silence.
Come, cradle my heart in a homecoming tear.
—- Jimmie Spheeris, I Am the Mercury

The musicians play next to the reflecting pool in front of the Opera House

I’ve read a couple of times lately that vinyl is now outselling compact disks. I’ve also read that digital downloads are becoming fewer and fewer and soon – vinyl will be outselling MP3s. I’ve read this on the internet so it must be true.

Everybody nowadays listens to streaming music.

For me, old person that I am, streaming music means internet radio. Hey, it’s free, there are thousands of stations… and it does leave me a bit of a link to the past… it isn’t over the air, but it is radio… more or less.

And my favorite online radio station – by far – is Radio Paradise. They have a handful of different mixes, all brilliantly curated. I listen to their main mix all the time and their mellow mix while I sleep. What I especially like is the stations ability to mix familiar excellent tracks with new and/or odd stuff that I have never heard – but will go out and look for.

The other night I was listening to the mellow mix when an old song came on that brought the memories flooding back. It was I Am the Mercury, from the album Isle of View by Jimmie Spheeris.

 

I was immediately transported back to 1974 – my freshman year of college. I could see that 12 inch album in a pile on a dormitory floor, pick it up and spin it on a cheap turntable. The quiet ethereal mysterious sound builds to a climax. Music has such an ability to bring the past back… and vinyl with a 12 inch album cover work of art especially so.

Bristlecone

“There is a tree in California, a Great Basin bristlecone pine that was found, after an intensive ring count, to be five thousand and sixty-five years old.

Even to me, that pine seems old. In recent years, whenever I have despaired of my condition and needed to feel a bit more mortal and ordinary, I think of that tree in California. It has been alive since the Pharaohs. It has been alive since the found of Troy. Since the start of the Bronze Age. Since the start of yoga. Since mammoths.

And it has stayed there, calmly in its spot, growing slowly, producing leaves, losing leaves, producing more, as those mammoths became extinct,… the tree had always been the tree.”

Matt Haig, How to Stop Time

Mural outside of Sandwich Hag, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

 

Every Day Lost On Which We Have Not Danced

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

 

Ervay Theater, Dallas, Texas

 

Euphonic Autonomy, Ervay Theater, Dallas, Texas

 

Despite the warning sign at the Ervay Theater during the performance by Euphonic Autonomy (and I didn’t hear anything that would warrant such warning) there were two young kids dancing in the dark at the back of the theater. They were having a blast. The low-light capability of modern digital cameras is amazing.

Euphonic Autonomy, Ervay Theater, Dallas, Texas

Euphonic Autonomy, Ervay Theater, Dallas, Texas

Euphonic Autonomy, Ervay Theater, Dallas, Texas