The cat and the didgeridoo, or, my, what big ears you have, Grandpa

Can a cat be both a solid and a liquid? That was a topic investigated by one of the scientists honored at the 2017 Ig Nobel Prizes last Thursday. Other researchers receiving Ig Nobels studied such topics as didgeridoo playing as a treatment for sleep apnea and snoring, how exposure to a live crocodile influences gambling behavior, the size of old men’s ears, walking backwards with a cup of coffee, whether identical twins can tell themselves apart, and other recondite topics.

Carp time

This past weekend was the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield. Never believe anything a weatherman says. He promised clear skies and highs in the lower 90°s. Yeah, right. Here’s what I heard at Stage One Saturday afternoon, when The Outside Track were scheduled to perform:

I decided not to bring the real camera along, which turned out to be a good call, given the weather. So, no pictures this year. I did bring my little sound recorder. Here’s a bit of what goes on all night long at Carp Camp. The tunes are “Planxty Fanny Po[w]er,” featuring Amanda Roberts, this year’s hammered dulcimer winner, and “Liberty,” with an unconventional bluegrass instrument toward the end. The sound is mediocre and the recorder cut the second tune short (grr), but it should give you some idea of what it’s like there.

In a week or two, there should be videos with better sound quality on YouTube and elsewhere.

Other highlights of my visit to the camp included everyone joining in on the theme to “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and a couple of guys singing Randy Newman’s “Political Science.”

Update: a brief video of the Friday evening contra dance, shot with my toy camera. It’s not great quality, and it shows why I ordinarily use that camera only for snapshots.

There should be plenty of better videos at YouTube soon.

The longest journey

Pioneer and Voyager, slightly altered

John Salmon mentions the Voyager spacecraft, which were launched 40 years ago in August and September. These, along with Pioneer 10 and 11, launched five and four years earlier, are four of the five spacecraft leaving the Solar System, and are the most distant man-made objects at this time. NASA is planning a quiet little celebration Tuesday.

For the future of the Pioneer and Voyager probes, see the fifth and sixth episodes of Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, which reveal the true reason for the Pioneer anomaly.

Chromium Steel Wind Chimes

It occurred to me that the ideal instrument for playing “minimalist”1 music like Terry Riley’s “In C” would be wind chimes. I spent a few lunch hours recently compiling my own set of wind chime music. It uses five instances of the AAS Chromaphone, covering five octaves. See what you make of it.

Update: Uploaded a slightly tweaked and, I hope, much better-sounding recording. What sounds good on headphones at the office sometimes sounds pretty awful on the speakers at home.

Update II: Let’s drive this into the ground. Here’s a similar piece for heavily corroded wind chimes, featuring three instances of u-he’s ACE and too much percussion. (You might want to turn the volume down.)

I have a notion for one more exercise along these lines, and then it will be back to real music.

Texas Star

I visited the botanical garden yesterday, where I found both the red and white forms of Hibiscus coccineus, the “Texas Star” hibiscus (though it’s not actually native to the Lone Star state) in bloom.

In other Texas news, Ubu remains in Houston despite Harvey and has been writing about the pleasures of life in the time of hurricanes.1

Continue reading “Texas Star”

Name that tune

Here’s a pop quiz for a Monday afternoon. How many riffs can you identify?

If you found that easy, try some classical standards, or Yes songs, or Black Sabbath or Mahavishnu.

When Tatsuya Yoshida isn’t compiling medleys, he plays a Japanese version of zeuhl. Here’s a concert by Koenji Hyakkei, one of his many projects.

*****

I’ve become quite fond of songwriter and composer 伊藤真澄, a.k.a. Masumi Itou (or Ito, Itoh or Itō), though her singing voice does take some getting used to. Tunes she’s written include the ending themes for Flip Flappers1 and Humanity Has Declined and the openings to Magical Nyan Nyan Taruto2 and Azumanga Daioh. A quick search on YouTube will turn up many more. I recently found some of her recordings on Amazon.jp. Her album Harmonies of Heaven is mostly of her own compositions, but she does include the traditional tune “故郷の空,” above. It sounds oddly familiar.

Roll with the crunches

Crunchyroll recently added Haibane Renmei to its listings. I have long counted Haibane Renmei as my #1 anime, and with it Crunchyroll now has four of my top five. The website these days is streaming much good Japanese animation and is well worth the membership price.

However, Crunchyroll also has tremendous amount of garbage, and even more that is thoroughly mediocre or just plain boring. An anime neophyte picking shows at random is likely to get discouraged. Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of what I think are the best offerings at Crunchyroll for those who are wondering where to start. My taste is impeccable, of course, and my judgement infallible, but some anime enthusiasts might find my choices to be quirky and eccentric. I urge those people to compile their own lists and post them on their websites.

The best

Haibane Renmei

Serial Experiments Lain — The series that convinced me that anime was worth taking seriously.

Shingu — There are aliens and robots and a town with a secret, but the ultimate appeal of this carefully constructed and highly rewatchable series is spending time with the characters.

Mononoke — Kenji Nakamura’s first full-length series, displaying both his eye for design and color and his stringent moral sense.

Lain and Mononoke are not for kids, and small children will probably not appreciate Haibane Renmei.

(Absent from Crunchyroll is my #3 series, Dennou Coil.)

Classics

Cardcaptor Sakura and Madoka Magica — Two very different versions of the “magical girl” story. The latter is not for kids.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill — Wild, over-the-top studies in heroism from Kazuki Nakashima and Hiroyuki Imaishi. Not for those with delicate sensibilities.

Shin Sekai Yori

Also by Kenji Nakamura

C-Control

Gatchaman Crowds

Tsuritama

Recommended

ACCA — 13-Territory Inspection Dept.

Alice to Zorouku

Flip Flappers

Hozuki no Reitetsu

Humanity Has Declined

Jubei-chan: Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch — The official English-language title is stupid. Jubei is not ninja trash.

Kyousougiga

Mouretsu Pirates

Natsume Yuujin-cho

Un-Go

Other noteworthy shows

Arpeggio of Blue Steel

Assassination Classroom

GATE

Girls und Panzer

Inu x Boku Secret Service

Nobunaga no Shinobi

Problem Children Are Coming from Another World, Aren’t They?

Ramen Fighter Miki

Soul Eater

Ushio and Tora

I could add more shows to the last category, but that’s enough to suggest the range of anime.

Want more information? Steven Den Beste wrote about many of the series listed above. His reviews are here, and you can search Chizumatic for his comments on other shows. Steven had his quirks and blind spots, but in general he was the most reliable guide to anime I’ve found.

Kansas isn’t California …

… or Chile, or South Africa. A plant that flourishes in a west coast desert or mountain meadow is not necessarily going to be happy on the prairie. Some will adapt, others won’t, and the best way to determine which ones will thrive here is to grow them.1 These are the results of this year’s experiments so far. Please note that I am not an expert gardener, and someone more experienced might have had more success than I did.

From out west:

Gilia tricolor — each flower is about three-eighths of an inch in diameter

Gilia tricolor — Germination was near 100% outdoors. The plants grew quickly and bloomed freely, both those that received extra water and those that only got rainwater. The flowers are small, but there are a lot of them. All bloomed for at least a month starting in the middle of May. Those that received regular watering kept going on into July. Not the most brilliantly colorful plant, perhaps, but it rewards a close look, and it is easy to grow. I might try other species of Gilia next year.

Continue reading “Kansas isn’t California …”

Ideology and stupidity

Wrongthink, no matter how trivial the context, must be punished:

When Freeman was announced as the winner, curious Instagrammers went to her page and found a pro-Trump post from Election Day last year.

That evening, she received a direct message from Kat Von D’s personal Instagram account, telling her the celebrity had “drawn a personal line in the sand between myself and anyone who supports that man,” according to screenshots of the conversation.

“My launch party [and my brand] celebrates many things that Trump is against,” the celebrity went on to say, according to the screenshots. “And I just need you to know that I personally have a hard time with inviting anyone who would support such an anti-feminist, anti-homosexual/LGBT, anti-immigrant, and anti-climate change fascist such as Trump.”

If the story is accurate, I will never buy Kat Van D Beauty products. I’m unlikely ever to use such things, though, so I suppose it’s a meaningless boycott. It won’t affect her bottom line in the slightest.

For the record: I refused to vote for either of the major party embarrassments last November. However, I have friends who voted for Trump, and friends who voted for Clinton but would have preferred Sanders.1 Their votes have made no difference in our friendships.

Odds and ends, music edition

Non-traditional koto technique

I got curious about how affordable a koto would be, should I ever make enough room in my place to keep one and find time to practice. Not very, it turns out; prices range from $1,250 to $7,000 (sale price) at one source.

However, if you cross over to the Asian mainland, you can find similar instruments at more affordable prices. Chinese guzhengs start at $380. Here’s a Vocaloid tune played on a guzheng.1

There are also the Korean gayageum and the Vietnamese dan tranh.

If you can’t afford real instruments, there are always virtual ones, such as the Korean noisemakers that are available for free here, courtesy of Seoul National University.

Should you want to build your own koto, the traditional source for wood is Paulownia tomentosa, an attractive, adaptable and invasive tree.

Here’s something to bring to the next jam session:

Need an orchestra, but can’t afford to pay for pro-quality sample sets, let alone the real thing? Here’s a useful freebie. (If the complete instrument crashes your DAW, download just the sections you need. I’ve found the percussion to be particularly handy.)

What were the big hits in past decades around the world? You can get an idea with Radiooooo.

Those interested in early music might find this online compendium of the Cantigas de Santa Maria of interest.

If you are interested in microtunings, you might find this scala-to-TUN converter handy.

Linda Ronstadt, Frank Zappa, and the Remington Electric Razor (Via Dustbury):

Ronstadt:

It’s a real conflict for me when I go to a concert and find out somebody in the audience is a Republican or fundamental Christian. It can cloud my enjoyment. I’d rather not know.

Linda will be relieved to learn that I have formally disaffiliated myself from the Stupid and Utterly Useless Party, and describe myself politically as a Contemptuous Independent.