Sunday, July 30, 2017

Ottoman Birdhouses

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The Ottomans had a tradition of adding birdhouses to their public buildings. From Colossal Art's The Ornate Bird Palaces of Ottoman-Era Turkey:
"... providing shelter to sparrows, swallows, and pigeons while preventing bird droppings from corroding the walls of the surrounding architecture. In addition to providing shelter, the birdhouses fulfilled a religious vision. They were thought to grant good deeds to those that built the tiny homes."
You read mead more about them, as well as see a few more pictures, at the Colossal link.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Helter Skelter

Get ready for a strangely relaxed weekend with P. Leslie and his Orchestra's cover of Helter Skelter. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Down to the Seas Again

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Sea Fever - John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Different, Yet Familiar, 1960s

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.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Boundary Commissioner and Artist

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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.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Wayfaring Stranger

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Plagues and Pestilence

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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.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Von Jankó Keyboard

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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.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Bionic Rube Goldberg Machine

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.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Under the Weather

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I've been sick, so my posting has been non-existent.  I hope to bounce back soon. The above painting by Wassilij Maximowitsch Maximow captures my situation perfectly -- me sick in my rustic cabin, laying under pictures of saints, and with Mrs. Sinistral praying for me.

OK, maybe one or two details are off, but let's not quibble over the small stuff.