A while ago I wrote a post about the depression period song Brother Can you spare a dime?, in which I played you a number of differing versions of this classic song. This evening while I was enjoying myself simply following the links on Youtube (as one does), going from one amazing bit of music to the next, I came across this version of that song sung by Dr John and Odetta which was so amazing I felt I had to add it to the blog.
The only thing to be said about it is that it is an astoundingly beautiful and moving version of the song and the way the two voices blend and flow is simply wonderful.
Anyhow, I have no desire to examine this version to death, but to simply let you listen to it and enjoy it as I did, so here it is for your pleasure.
So, did you enjoy that? I really do hope you did, and that you might even feel moved to leave a comment here telling me how you felt about this version of that song.
The other day, whilst hunting for some Steam Punk stuff I came across this absolutely silly and pointless machine.
The idea seems to be to have a machine that gives itself endless high fives, which I suppose it actually achieves quite well. This of course begs the obvious question, namely, why on earth would anyone want such a machine? And even weirder, why would anyone go to the considerable troubles that the good soul who created this thing did?
As you will see, what he (or perhaps, she) has created here is a machine that very slowly and ponderously gives a series of high five salutes. It is about as basic a machine as you can imagine, there has been no attempt to give it any sort of “finish”, which in fairness I suspect is simply because this is an early stage in the making of a properly finished bit of kinetic art. So you will see a machine which is held in place with clamps with rubber arms that still have their sprue along the edges of the mould that was used to make them.
In many ways this machine is in the same area of philosophy as the “Ultimate Machine” which was invented by a bloke by the name of Marvin Minsky and actually built by another odd ball called Claude Shannon. This was a machine that had as its only purpose the function of switching itself off. So as you will see in the video below, when you push the switch on the outside of the box (the only control it has by the way), the lid slowly opens, and a hand comes out, and pushes the switch to the off position, and then flips back into its box again.
Some time ago I wrote a review of the first Angie And Agent X book by Gary Ruse, a silly, funny and thoroughly enjoyable book all about a very unlikely pair of CIA operatives and their adventures attempting to defeat a totally evil criminal (Link to that review: Angie and Agent X). Well now I have just had the pleasure of reading the follow up to that book and found it to be as enjoyable as the first volume was.
Once again our unlikely pair of heroes (Angie the young woman CIA operative and Agent X, an alien who has become involved in the CIA after his arrival on earth) find themselves asked to solve some very puzzling mysteries, the first mystery being how on earth did the dead body of a CIA operative who was apparently killed in Mexico turn up in the USA about 45 minutes after he was killed… And it gets weirder and weirder from that point on.
Gary Ruse (the author of this fine bit of silliness) has this to say about his book:-
In this sequel to Aggie & Agent X, CIA officer Agnes Westfeld has now been permanently assigned to the special investigative unit at Area 51 in Nevada. She and her partner, Agent X, are immediately thrown into a new case with a seemingly impossible twist. As they seek to solve this baffling mystery and learn the extent of a diabolical scheme by an ancient criminal organization, Aggie and Agent X face dangers more deadly than ever before. A new adventure with that special blend of sci-fi, espionage, mystery, humor and old movie atmosphere that launched the most unusual team-up of spies ever. A new mission! New perils! New villains! And more…
I came across the Chapman Stick a couple of days ago for the first time and fell in love with it at once. It is the most amazingly versatile and pleasing electronic instrument I have heard, one that is capable of being played in real time without any pre-programming of its various voices.
As you can see, it owes its form and to a lesser degree, its function to a simple electric guitar, but it is way more than that. Unlike a guitar, which is essentially a plucked string instrument, this one is much more a sort of keyboard in which the strings are hit rather than being plucked, though you can of course, pluck the stings if that is the effect you desire.
I think probably it would be best to show you a video made by the guy who invented the instrument, in which he describes in fine detail exactly what and how it works and is played. And for those of you who prefer to get your information by reading it, here is how good old Wikipedia describes it.
A Chapman Stick looks like a wide version of the fretboard of an electric guitar, but with 8, 10 or 12 strings. It is, however, considerably longer and wider than a guitar fretboard. Unlike the electric guitar, it is usually played by tapping or fretting the strings, rather than plucking them. Instead of one hand fretting and the other hand plucking, both hands sound notes by striking the strings against the fingerboard just behind the appropriate frets for the desired notes.
For this reason, it can sound many more notes at once than some other stringed instruments, making it more comparable to a keyboard instrument than to other stringed instruments. This arrangement lends itself to playing many lines at once, and many Stick players have mastered performing bass, chords and melody lines simultaneously.
So now you know what it looks like and roughly how it works, here is a video in which Emmett Chapman (the guy who invented this wonderful instrument) describes it, tells us how it works and demonstrates it as well.
See what I mean? Isn’t that the most amazing instrument you have ever heard? Such a versatile and intuitive instrument, and capable of so many different tones, colours and styles.
As you will see in the following videos, it is an instrument that lends itself easily to just about any sort of music you can think of.