A Different, Yet Familiar, 1960s

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I would have been about 10 years old when the above film was shot. I grew up far from Kentucky, so dancing to a blue grass band in the living room was something I never saw. Still, the look of the room, and of the people in it, is very familiar. For me a very odd juxtaposition of the exotic with the nostalgic.

A Boundary Commissioner and Artist

Saturday, July 22, 2017
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In the early 19th Century John Russell Bartlett was a prominent scholar in New York circles. He belonged to the Franklin Society, the American Geographical Society, several historical societies, the Providence Athenaeum and the American Ethnological Society.

Because of his involvement in these organizations he was politically well connected. That led President Zachary Taylor, in spite of Bartlett's lack of qualifications for the position, to appoint Bartlett as the Commissioner for the U.S. and Mexican Boundary Survey.

He ended up botching his assignment, setting the border well north of El Paso. Congress rejected that, and ended up having to negotiate the Gadsden purchase to move the border south.

In his travels through the southwest he made a considerable number of sketches and paintings. Some of his paintings are pictured here, with more after the jump. They are taken from the digital Luna Archive.

Wayfaring Stranger

Friday, July 21, 2017

Get ready for a weekend, hopefully on this side of the Jordan River, with Johnny Cash's Wayfaring Stranger.

Using a Toaster as a PC Game Controller

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Yeesh. Alternate post title:
A Geek With Too Much Time On His Hands.

Plagues and Pestilence

Tuesday, July 18, 2017
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Deadly pandemics are a feature of living that the West, largely through vastly improved sanitation, have reduced over the last Century. Still, as this list of Cholera outbreaks shows, outbreaks still bloom from time to time.

Being such a feared aspect of life, plagues, pestilence and death by disease were naturally a subject of art. Here, and below the fold, are a few examples of such art.

The Von Jankó Keyboard

Sunday, July 16, 2017
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While on vacation I stopped at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center in  White Springs, Florida. One of the pianos they had on display was the one pictured above, featuring a Von Jankó keyboard.

It had never crossed my mind, but of course piano keyboard layouts are arbitrary and -- like mousetraps -- innovators are bound to try to improve upon them. in 1882 Paul von Jankó devised a keyboard with a 6-6 layout. As described at the Music Notation Wiki:
Because it has an isomorphic layout, each chord, scale, and interval has a consistent shape and can be played with the same fingering, regardless of its pitch or what the current key is. If you know a piece of music in one key you can transpose it simply by starting at a different pitch because the fingering is the same in every key.

This provides much more consistency than the traditional keyboard layout where each chord, scale, and interval has multiple shapes and requires learning multiple fingering patterns. On the Jankó layout there are twelve times fewer chord shapes and scale patterns to learn. This greater consistency also improves awareness of interval patterns and harmony, and makes it easier to improvise and play by ear.

You can go to the following link to fiddle around with Jankó style isomorphic keyboard.
Because few pianists were willing to relearn their repertoires for the new keyboard few Jankó style pianos were ever built. Lack of demand eventually led to their demise.

A Bionic Rube Goldberg Machine

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

It strikes me this video is actually a facsimile of a Rube Goldberg Machine. The real machines are overly complicated pieces of nonsense to do mundane tasks, while this is an overly complicated sequence to do nothing but advertise Red Bull. Still, it is clever in shirt-tail riding sort of a way.