Music Copyright Infringement Project

Something interesting turned up in ye olde’ email inbox. Did you know that there is an online music copyright infringement archive? Well there is. Are you not entirely sure what that means? Remember when Vanilla Ice spent time telling us that his “Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun” wasn’t like Queen and David Bowie’s “Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun”? That was a music copyright infringement case, and now I learned there is an archive online dedicated to preserving that legacy!

This archive I didn’t know existed just moved to the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law. According to the press release, “USC Gould is honored to sponsor the Music Copyright Infringement Project,” said Jonathan Barnett, academic director of USC Gould’s Entertainment and Media Law Program. “This is an absolute treasure trove and further cements our reputation in entertainment and intellectual property law.”

Obviously this is an important tool for those studying musical copyright law, or music history, but it is also looking like a great place for music nuts like me! The press release says, “The project offers complete summaries of famous and under-the-radar music copyright infringement cases dating back to 1845, including claims leveled against Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash, George Harrison and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The multimedia collection allows visitors to play disputed songs to hear similarities – or dissimilarities – for themselves. They may also compare music scores of disputed works, and view clips of films, television shows, and advertisements at the center of lawsuits.”

You can visit the site at http://mcir.usc.edu/.

The Lonely Life of CFBDSIR2149-0403

On November 14, 2012 the BBC World News website posted a story about a “rogue planet” in anticipation of its appearance in “Astronomy and Astrophysics”. These rogues aren’t that uncommon, but what’s special about this one is that it is our closest neighbor at 100 light-years away.

The article says that these rogue planets are formed much like stars but they just never reach a star’s full mass (There is a late years Elvis or Brando joke there but I just can’t put I finger on it.), or they form the way planets normally do but are then thrown out of their host star’s orbit. Kind of like if the Earth were suddenly flung out of the Sun’s orbit, but like millions of years ago, not right this minute. Right this minute would suck.

A team went looking for these planets using the Canada France Hawaii VLT. (VLT stands for Very Large Telescope. Seriously people, I can’t make that kind of stuff up! See? Science can be totally accessible.) Etienne Artigau, co-author of the study, is quoted in the article as saying they “observed hundreds of millions of stars and planets, but we only found one homeless planet in our neighborhood.”

According to the article, this rogue planet, named CFBDSIR2149-0403, is believed to be 50 – 120 million years old. That’s a long time for a planet to be out there without a star to call its own. And it will continue to be “homeless”, a “rogue”, and “orphaned” until the sky ceases to be. It’s an interesting scientific discovery, but I also find it a rather sad, lonesome story.

Study co-author Philippe Delorme didn’t say it made him “sad”, but in the BBC article he did say, “If this little object is a planet that has been ejected from its native system, it conjures up the striking image of orphaned worlds, drifting in the emptiness of space.”

This rarely happens, but for some reason, this story made me immediately think of the song “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters” by Moby. Some may know it from the movie “Heat”. Anyway, here’s a YouTube of the song. If you want the complete “Rebecca” experience, you can start the music on the video and the start reading the BBC World News article and see if they go together for you like they did for me.

God speed CFBDSIR2149-0403, God speed.

The Whole Metric Album

I’m so very happy! Not too long ago I was complaining to my husband that iTunes killed the full length album. It seems like the more pop oriented artists just make a bunch of singles and they happen to end up together in case, if by some fluke, you want to purchase them all instead of one at a time for .99 as you discover them. Of course, if you decided like a madman to buy the whole Madonna “MDNA” album; don’t worry about hearing the songs “Give Me All Your Luvin'” or “I Don’t Give A” when selecting the album to listen to on your iPod. You see, Madonna had the nerve to collaborate with M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj on those songs respectively and thusly iTunes has decided that those song are now special, independent songs that now live entirely on their own and unless you take matters into your own hands you will never hear the “MDNA” album whole, as the artist intended. All this annoys the hell out of me because I believe in the album. I live by the rule of, if you like three songs, you buy the album. Sometimes I’ll buy on only two songs if I really like them, and I’ll even buy on none if I loved the previous album. But I almost always buy the whole album and listen to the whole thing. That’s why I’m so happy that I recently bought an album. A really good album. An album that even had a theme running through it. An album that reminds me why I buy albums; Metric “Synthetica”.

Some readers may remember that all the way back in 2009 I wrote a review of Metric’s previous album “Fantasies”. Obviously I liked that album if I took the time to review it. Well my friends, as much as I enjoyed “Fantasies” I have to say “Synthetica” kicks its ass.

“Synthetica” explores some kinds of heavy, but pretty relatable ideas and questions. Songs explore aging, disillusionment, wondering if you’re being true to yourself, etc. This theme is stretched so far that album’s lyrics and track list are printed backwards and included with the album is foil so you can read the words in the reflection. Now before you all zone out on me, thinking that this is one bummer of a concept album, I’m here to tell you where the rest of the awesome is…..it’s not one long drag.

Musically Metric works double time to rock you. I bought “Synthetica” while the weather was still warm out. I was playing it full volume in the car with both windows and the moon roof open and losing track of my speed. It’s that kind of sound. I do not often notice drums, but the drums at times are brutal. On the title track I swear the drummer had to have gone straight through the drums.

The opening track, “Artificial Nocturne” starts out slow, but it’s compelling with the opening line of, “I’m just as fucked up as they say.” Your curiosity following this is rewarded as the song opens up into a New Wave sound that would make New Order proud.

Then hold onto your hats as the single from the album, “Youth Without Youth” kicks in!

This one’s got a nice bouncy, driving, 80s vibe that I love. “Breathing Underwater”.

And here’s the title track, “Synthetica”. By the end the drums are kind of epic, right?

That was three songs. Go out and buy the whole album!

The Tibetans and The Grateful Dead

By Huston Smith

Mickey Hart, a drummer for the erstwhile Grateful Dead, is also a serious ethnomusicologist who now works with the Smithsonian Institution. Fascinated by the Tibetan monks’ multiphonic chanting, he put the infrastructure of the Dead to work and helped organize six sellout coast-to-coast tours with twelve of the Gyuto monks.

One evening the monks were returning to Mickey’s ranch, in Northern California, after a performance in the University of California’s Zellerbach Auditorium, in Berkeley. When the van reached the Marin side of the Richmond Bridge, out of the blue the monks asked the driver to pull over to the side of the road. They told Mickey that they sensed evil in the vicinity, and they wanted to alleviate it. Little did they know that at that moment they were passing San Quentin, a maximum-security penitentiary. Visibly moved, they asked if they could go into the prison and bless the inmates.

Mickey was skeptical, but he asked the sentry on duty, who referred the matter to his superior. The monks were admitted to the entrance, which was separated from the prison proper by about twelve yards. On the opposite side was an electric fence featuring elevated cages, which housed sharpshooters with cocked rifles.

The prison chaplain told us about a Christian group of prisoners who met regularly to pray and sing hymns. They were summoned, and for about half an hour they alternated with the monks, one group singing and praying, and the other group chanting. The monks were so moved by their encounter with the prisoners that they returned several times to repeat the ritual.

Later, I accompanied Mickey to the San Francisco Airport to say farewell to the monks, who where returning to India, for their final tour had ended. As the stairs for boarding the plane descended to the runway, the monks regrouped themselves and chanted a farewell blessing on the land that they were leaving. The passengers in the corridor who were proceeding to their departure gates were so captivated they stopped and clustered around the monks, listening intently. As the last monk disappeared into the plane and the door was closing, a woman asked us in wide-eyed wonder, “What was that all about?”

As if to answer her emphatically, Mickey shouted out to the departing monks the famous line from Star Wars, “May the Force be with you!”

Then, turning to me, Mickey said, “What am I saying? May the Force be with me! They already have it!”

About Huston Smith:
Huston Smith is recognized and revered as the preeminent teacher of world religions. Smith has taught at Washington University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, and the University of California, Berkeley. He has written fifteen books, including the classic “The World’s Religions”, which has sold over two million copies in many translations, and the New York Times bestseller “Why Religion Matters”. He has been bestowed with twelve honorary degrees and was the focus of the five-part television series “The Wisdom of Faith” hosted by Bill Moyers.

From the book “And Live Rejoicing”. Copyright © 2012 Huston Smith. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com

Revisiting Dr. Dee

Do any of you guys remember about a year ago when I talked about the opera “Doctor Dee”? Well for those of you who missed it, Damon Albarn (best known for his work with Blur and Gorillaz) joined forces with Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, and an orchestra to do an opera about the Elizabethan era alchemist, occultist, and scholar John Dee. As a music lover and occult nerd I was immediately smitten with this bizarre idea and bummed that I wasn’t in England to see a performance. Then I learned that Damon Albarn released an album of the music titled “Dr. Dee”. It would be mine, oh yes, it would be mine.

It’s all the same players, Albarn, Allen, and the orchestra is the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. You find songs titled, “Edward Kelley”, “The Golden Dawn”, “A Man of England”, “9 Point Star”. The music is enjoyable and atmospheric. I had never noticed, until this album, how beautifully delicate Albarn’s singing voice can be. All of that said, this is definitely not a play it every day CD, or at least not for me. It’s not the right vibe for playing in the car while running errands, not for perhaps coming out of your computer speakers while trolling around Facebook. It’s not really pop. There is no rock. It is an opera, lightly sprinkled at times with a rock musician’s voice and sensibilities. None of that is to put down the album, it’s just something that should be understood if you’re considering picking up your own copy, which would be cool if you did.

Man I wish I could see Dr. Dee live! Take a look at this short video that shows clips of it being performed along with the reactions of those who saw it.

Here’s a music video for one of the more pop-ish songs from the album called “The Marvelous Dream”.

Why John Dee? Here’s a 7 minute interview Damon Albarn did with the Guardian about Dr. Dee.

25 Years of Graceland

What can I say about Paul Simon? First and most importantly, don’t come to my website and bad mouth the man’s music because I will cut you. I. Will. Cut. You. I used to entertain the whimsical notion that somehow we were related because I’m a Simon and he’s a Simon and we both have roots in the Eastern region of the U.S. There’s absolutely no way we are, but I’d still joke about “Uncle Paul”. One of my friends in school called me, and in fact still does, Pauley to reference that my last name at the time was Simon and that I was such a big fan of Paul Simon’s music. I can’t remember when I first heard Paul Simon, that’s how long his music has been a part of my life. Musically speaking, just about the only thing my father and I can agree on is Paul Simon. In fact, at my wedding the father daughter dance was to the song “Still Crazy After All These Years”. (That’s right brides, read this and despair for my father daughter song was SO much cooler than yours.)

It’s hard for me to pick an absolute favorite Paul Simon, but like so many people, his album “Graceland” is damn close to perfection. That is why I was pretty excited for the release of the 25th anniversary edition. It’s amusing. I had put it on my Amazon wish list with the intention of buying a copy for myself and another one for my father for Father’s Day. However, instead my aunt bought a copy for me from my wish list for my birthday leaving us to just purchase one copy for my father. Zany Amazon.com shenanigans. Here’s the deal though, for a really reasonable price, like under $20, you can get the 25th anniversary “Graceland” album which includes 6 bonus tracks and Simon telling the story of “Graceland” AND you’ll get the DVD documentary “Under African Skies” which isn’t some shoddy piece o’ crap thing, it’s done by Joe Berlinger, the guy who did the Metallica documentary “Some Kind of Monster” and a handful of music videos. That’s a hell of a lot of “Graceland” going on, so what’s the big deal?

Paul Simon’s “Graceland” is generally credited with introducing African music and musicians to the West. The biggest being Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Many point out that during a time when most American’s experience with Africans was seeing starving children in television ads, “Graceland” introduced America to a jubilant, celebratory people. It’s true that much of the music on “Graceland” is mid or up tempo, although to be honest with you all, I always found the songs on “Graceland” haunting. Lyrically I found they lingered in my mind and the songs still do. Unlike much of the other music I listened to in 1986, Paul Simon’s “Graceland” still speaks as relevantly today as it did the day it was released. A pretty impressive hat trick. Of course, he is Paul Simon. Oh, and if you watch the documentary and hear Simon talk about the level of work he put into writing the lyrics your mind will be blown. I once heard comedian Louis CK talk on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast about when he develops a real strong closing 5 minutes to his routine, the kind that drives the audience wild, he’ll cut it so he’ll be forced to make the rest of the act stronger. Paul Simon kind of worked like that writing the lyrics for “Graceland”. The stuff that survived, whoa.

So obviously I love the album, and was tickled to have the few extra demos and alternative versions that the 25th anniversary version of “Graceland” offered. Here’s the thing though, the documentary “Under African Skies” was a really big deal for me. First, it was incredibly exciting as a fan to see so much footage of the actual recording sessions of Simon in South Africa with all the artists. And the documentary is loaded with interviews, some with unexpected people such as; David Byrne, Oprah, Quincy Jones, Philip Glass, Paul McCartney, and Vampire Weekend. The biggest thing with “Under African Skies” was it opening my eyes to the before now unknown to me controversy that surrounded Paul Simon’s “Graceland”. I was 10 years old when “Graceland” released. I didn’t know about apartheid in South Africa, I didn’t know who Nelson Mandela was or that he was in prison, and I didn’t know there was a cultural boycott that Simon essentially broke when he made “Graceland”. I didn’t know there was a situation. As if that wasn’t enough drama, certain segments of the African American community looked at “Graceland” as Simon basically using Africans. There was a particularly brutal exchange when Simon was doing a Q&A at Howard University and a student was accusing Simon of simply stealing music from African artists. Simon asked the student something like, don’t you think we can share ideas? And the student’s answer was in effect, if it’s with you, no. You think I will cut you? No one talks to my Uncle Paul like that! Forget I will cut you, I will take a sledgehammer straight to the crotch of those parachute pants! There were bomb threats called in to venues Paul Simon was scheduled to perform at while touring with “Graceland”. Bomb threats to Paul Simon shows.

Watching “Under African Skies” gave me a new appreciation of “Graceland” and its role in music, and cultural, history. It’s easy now that we’re on the other side of apartheid to say, well, it worked out so how Simon went about making “Graceland” was okey dokey. I don’t know how 10 year-old Rebecca would have reacted at the time. I suspect in extremes. Either “Everyone leave Uncle Paul alone, he’s the greatest and he knows what he’s doing” or “Oh no! Uncle Paul condones apartheid!’ Adult Rebecca knows that apartheid was absolutely bad, bad, bad, but who am I tell artists in America or Africa how to react in the face of injustice and cruelty. If Simon and his band of truly merry, wonderful South African artists hadn’t thrown caution to the wind, the world may never have known “Graceland”, and in my opinion, that would be a terrible world to live in.

Here’s Paul Simon performing the title track “Graceland” live in Zimbabwe. Back in ’87 Zimbabwe was a more stable location to perform than South Africa. How times have changed, right gang?

And here’s another favorite of mine, “The Boy in the Bubble”. It’s amazing how the lyrics could very well be about today. Even the sound is modern. Uncle Paul is pretty cool.

STUFF!

While I’ve been sitting on the sofa letting my ass get wide working my way through old seasons of “Chuck” and “Numb3rs”, and getting sucked into new television like “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm” (Damn you Hulu!), friends of The Magical Buffet have been actually accomplishing things. So much so that I’m way past due in giving you guys the rundown on all that has been going on.

My friends at the Northern New York Paranormal Research Society have a new website going. It has many of the same features as before, like a chat room and forum, but the upgraded site now also gives them the capability to broadcast investigations live online! Nifty, right? If you haven’t checked them out before, now is the time. www.nnyprs.com

Remember Paula Chaffee Scardamalia who wrote the wonderful essay “Weaving a Woman’s Life” for The Buffet? And how she had a wonderful book, shockingly titled, “Weaving a Woman’s Life: Spiritual Lessons from the Loom”? Well that book is now available as an e-book! Also, her more current work under the umbrella of “Divining the Muse” has a beautiful new website! You can learn more about getting a copy of “Weaving a Woman’s Life” (with free PDF downloadable journal) and her other fascinating work with creativity by visiting her newly refreshed website www.diviningthemuse.com.

Apparently this is the time of year for website upgrades (Jim, get on that!), because New Age musician, and long time friend of The Buffet, Paul Avgerinos just gave the Round Sky Music and Studio Unicorn websites a complete overhaul! You may remember I just talked about Avgerinos’ “Bliss” album in October 2011. In case you’re wondering, it’s still relaxing.

There has also been interesting news out from The Pluralism Project at Harvard University. I received this press release that I think will be of great interest to many of you.

The Pluralism Project at Harvard University is pleased to announce the launch of America’s Interfaith Infrastructure: An Emerging Landscape, a website documenting and resourcing the interfaith movement in the United States. Dr. Diana Eck, a professor at Harvard University and director of the Pluralism Project explains, “While interfaith organizations play a vital role in cities and towns across America, their critical contributions to our multireligious society are often overlooked.”

The Pluralism Project has been researching religious diversity in the United States for the past two decades; however, America’s Interfaith Infrastructure: An Emerging Landscape represents an in-depth pilot study of interfaith efforts in twenty cities across the U.S. Since 9/11, interfaith initiatives on the national scene have gained prominence and are increasingly covered in major media outlets for their outstanding work, yet few have chronicled interfaith efforts at the grassroots level. This pilot project documents the richly diverse interfaith movement as it continues to develop in the United States. Initiatives include: an innovative community video project in Omaha, Nebraska; a thriving women’s interfaith network in Syracuse, New York; and a long-standing, replicable tradition of a festival of faiths in Louisville, Kentucky.

Dr. Diana Eck explains the importance of this new resource as a starting point for scholars, activists, students, and citizens:

“Ten years after 9/11, the need for inter-religious understanding and cooperation has never been greater. Interfaith organizations create innovative programs to engage and educate – they also offer a counter-narrative amidst the rising rhetoric of division. People of all ages and beliefs from across the country are collaborating in the arts, social services, youth leadership programs, and civic initiatives at unprecedented levels. New forms of dialogue are emerging as we speak.”

The Pluralism Project invites activists, students, educators, and community members to share their own story of the interfaith movement by submitting a short audio or written piece that may be included in the storytelling portal of America’s Interfaith Infrastructure: An Emerging Landscape.

The site, www.pluralism.org/interfaith, includes promising practices, leadership profiles, case studies, and multimedia features; a summary report of the findings from this pilot study is also available.

Lastly, (I know! Freakin’ EVERYONE has been doing stuff except me!) remember Avi Glijansky, creator, writer, and director of the awesome web series “The Further Adventures of Cupid and Eros”? Well sadly he isn’t back with season 2 yet (where I secretly hope to get a cameo as God), but he is part of something new and fun that I thought I would bring to your attention; “The Silver Lake Badminton and Adventurers Club”.

In a world full of secrets, lies, and depravity, there are some crimes that the police are just too mainstream to handle. Enter: The Silver Lake Badminton and Adventurers Club. The heroes Silver Lake deserves but hasn’t necessarily heard of yet.

It’s an over the top hipster noir Scooby Doo adventure, filled with actors you may recognize from “Cupid and Eros”. Here’s part one to try out!

I guess this is a reminder that it’s time to get up and get moving! It’s time to innovate, to reinvent, to create! I’ll get right to that after this next episode of “Chuck”.

The Brute Chorus is Coming!

Very rarely I’ll receive an email from a music promoter about a solo artist or band. Rarer still, will said email catch my interest in any way. The last time this worked I was introduced to the wild and wonderful world of The Gypsy Nomads (now known as Frenchy and the Punk). However when I received an email about a band called The Brute Chorus that said their music is a, “wild blend of garage rock, blues, and folk music with lyrics populated with characters from Greek mythology and Grimm’s fairytales” and it also mentioned they have been support for Ida Maria (whose album, “Fortress Round My Heart”, you may remember I LOVED), I knew I had to see what the heck this was all about.

Let’s talk about truth in advertising! The Brute Chorus album “How the Caged Bird Sings” fits the bill to a tee.

“Could This Be Love?”

“Heaven”

I liked what I heard so much I went ahead and picked up the 2009 live album too because…..

“All the Pilgrims”

But the big news for The Brute Chorus and for the United States is that they’re coming here for the first time ever for several showcases during the SXSW festival in Austin, TX! The thing is, they’re in indie band in Britain, so getting to Texas is a pretty big task. If you like what you’ve heard, why not hop on over to iTunes or Amazon.com and download their albums? They’re both under $10 each. Better still, if you’re really inspired you can check out their fundraising page on Indie Gogo. There you can contribute cash toward Visa interviews, hiring a van, getting their instruments through customs, and more, and be rewarded with signed CDs and t-shirts!

To learn more about The Brute Chorus, you can visit their website.

Geek Month in Review: November 2011

By JB Sanders

Some interesting reading as the snow falls…

Stars over Crater Lake
Another amazing time-lapse video of the star-scape over Crater Lake. Watch for the vault of the heavens view reflected in the smooth surface of the lake about 2/3 of the way into the video. And for the photography geeks out there, details on equipment used at the end of the video.

They Might Be Giants Slashdot Interview
There’s a lot of Geek in this link: pre-eminent indie-rockers They Might Be Giants, Slashdot and Science! For those who might need a reminder, They Might Be Giants are an odd-ball rock band from way back in the 80’s who gave us such songs as “Istanbul (not Constantinople)”, “Particle Man”, “Birdhouse in Your Soul”, and “Boss of Me” (better known as the theme song of the TV show “Malcom in the Middle”). So why are they Geeky (capital G)? Because these guys are HUGE geeks. They used USENET groups in 1992 to send notices to their fans about upcoming gigs. They created Dial-a-Song, basically an answering machine people could call to listen to their new music (and some fake ads). They created one of the first artist-owned online music stores, selling MP3s directly to fans before most record companies knew about this Internet thing. I could go on.

This is a Good Sign
More and more kids are getting into the Maker Movement — which is basically Mad Scientist Training Camp, as far as I can see. There are more kids getting into creating things, buying circuit boards and soldering them together, for instance, or making their own marshmallow cannons. Great trend!

Electric-powered Multi-copter Manned Flight
Some German scientists/hobbyists built and flew the first manned multi-copter. What’s a multi-copter, you say? It’s a vehicle that produces lift (and flight) via multiple helicopter-like rotors. It’s like a hovercraft that flies. Watch the video to see what I mean. Interestingly, this is all done via electric motors. The folks behind it estimate that a one hour flight on the final device would cost about 6 euros of electricity to run.

Extreme Light Infrastructure
Or ELI for short! Scientists want to build a laser to “rip a hole in space-time”. Yeah, it’s another start to a scifi movie. To do this, they want to concentrate 10 lasers wielding 200 petawatts of power into one spot for a trillionth of a second. Fun!

Fake Mars Mission Returns from Fake Mars
Remember that Fake Mars Mission I mentioned a few Geek Reviews ago? Where they finally reached Fake Mars? No? Here’s the link:

Well, the Fake Mars crew is back from Fake Mars. It appears to have been a great success. No murders, for instance. When you consider that 6 guys just spent 520 days in the same space as a bus, stabbing a guy for taking the last pudding cup doesn’t seem that out there. The other great success was that they didn’t leave their fake spacecraft, even though they could at any time — so it’s at least more successful than the Bio-Dome (1 or 2).

288,000 Jelly Beans, One Singer and a Stop-Motion Camera
How to make a music video that’s both simple and amazingly artful. I never imagined that jelly beans could also do surreal sound-scapes, too. The link includes the video, and a behind-the-scenes look at how it was all done. One shocking factoid from the behind-the-scenes video: no green screen was used. The singer lay on top of a glass case over the jelly beans to make the video. Yeah.

3D Volumetric Projection
This is the very early steps towards those cool scifi holograms we’ve seen for 40 years in the theater — only for real! Right now they’re limited to just 10 rotational voxels, but the prof working on it hopes to use over 100 projectors (small ones, I’m guessing) to provide real, crisp resolution.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijOK_hb18kE

Global Village Construction Set
This group has created and posted the plans for 50 different industrial machines that they consider crucial for a “small civilization with modern comforts”. It includes a 3D printer, and the ability to build a very modern village.

Video Time Machine
Pick a year, and watch what comes up on the screen. It’s a giant archive of the video culture, organized by year, and randomized for your amusement. Sports clips, commercials, video games, news casts, movies, and music.

It’s a Polaroid! Sort-of
So there’s this camera that gives you an immediate print of what you photographed? Sound familiar? Like 1948 all over again? Well, it’s not. The same company that brought you the instant film camera now is coming out with a digital camera (14MP) that’s tied to an instant printer in the same unit. I’m not sure if this is a genius move or using new technology to do something old-fashioned.

Darwin and Human Emotions
Did you know that Darwin conducted an experiment (over 150 years ago) to see whether the facial expressions of human emotions were recognized or used the same regardless of cultural background. He did! They do! And now there’s an international experiment being conducted to further study this effect, only involving as many people as can get to the online website and take the test.

An Airship That Goes Anywhere
I’m sure I’ve posted about this before, but this is the first real video of a working prototype I’ve seen. This company makes what’s called a Hybrid Airship — the hybrid part is because it’s a little like a plane, a helicopter and a regular (helium-filled, thank you) airship. It can take off and land without the need of a runway (or even land, if you’ve got the water-gear on). It can stay aloft for up to 3 weeks at a time (yes WEEKS), and the full version will be 1000 feet long and be able to carry over 1000 tons. I mean, wow! Sure, you’ve heard that all before. How serious is this? The US military has bought a few.

Acoustic Ruler Using iPhone
This is kind of wild. This guy made an iPhone app that measures distance just using acoustics. It has two modes: two phones or 1 (w/headphones). You put one iPhone where you want to measure to, and the first phone where you want to measure from, they play some tones and calculate the difference. Or the same using the headphones.

Amazing Fly-over of Earth
From the International Space Station. For best results, put on HD, full-screen it, and turn up the volume on the trippy musical score.

Raise the Ice Shields!
The capital city of Mongolia, Ulan Bator, is planning on creating artificial glaciers that will very slowly melt over the course of the summer to help cool the city. Read about how they plan on doing that:

Ghost Mountains Explained
And before you get up on your high-horse about silly paranormal photos and PhotoShop, hush. These are mountains in Antarctica, buried under 4 km of ice. Scientists have finally figured out how mountains exist where everyone thought it was just a barren flat wasteland of ice. The article includes a link to an animated explanation.

New Maps of the Moon
Higher resolution topographic maps of the moon are now available, including false-color images showing detail up to 100 meters.

Giant Robot Snake
Designers have created a giant robot snake 35 feet long (because THAT was necessary), and even better, it’s based on a 50-foot long prehistoric serpent. Watch the video so you can see the very realistic movement of the giant robot snake, and also the guy in the spider-leg car (no, I’m not kidding).

Computer Legends First Computers
Speaking of giants, this article asks several giants of the computer age about their first computer experiences. See what Vint Cerf, William Gibson and others remember.

Building the World’s Largest Tesla Coils
Or how to do man-made lightning. By “world’s largest”, they mean tesla coils 10 stories tall, and 260 feet apart. Yes, there is a video.

The 2,100-Year-Old Wrist Watch
Remember the Antikythera mechanism? So last century, right? Well how about this wrist-watch version? Watchmaker’s Hublot have put together a concept piece that replicates the Antikythera’s inner workings in miniature, with a handy time-keeping circuit to show you the time, too. It can accurately show the motions of the 5 planetary objects the Greeks knew about 2200 years ago and predict eclipses. Full video from the watchmaker’s detailing their work.

Worlds lightest material
Remember aerogel? The stuff that’s super-light and non-conductive? Weighs almost nothing? So last century.

They’re Just Cake Sprinkles
Ever wonder how many cake sprinkles you’d need to make a photo-realistic mosaic? About 221,184.

Flying Robots Build Tower
I know, it sounds soooo 2236, but really, it’s happening today.

Earthscraper Concept Taking Off
Yes, that’s “earth scraper” as opposed to skyscraper. The idea is to build down (which has happened before). In this case, the idea is to build down BIG. Like arcology big.

Not sure what an arcology is? Try this:

Miniatur Wunderland
Think you have a nifty model train set? Think you’ve seen some great miniature setups? Think again. Let’s try 12,000 meters of track (yes, that’s 12 km), 200,000 human figurines or 300,000 lights.


Those pesky time travelers, always trying “fix” things. This guy was caught outside the Large Hadron Collider and admitted to sabotage, claiming to be from the future and intent on stopping it from discovering things and destroying the world.

The priceless quote from the article? “Mr Cole was taken to a secure mental health facility in Geneva but later disappeared from his cell. Police are baffled, but not that bothered.”

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog: http://glenandtyler.blogspot.com

Sounds Like Winter

By Marcy Lovitch

Not really “feeling it” this holiday season? Tired of hearing the same old Christmas music wherever you go? Worry not. There’s actually a plethora of wintry and non-denominational treasures that you haven’t heard a million times on Muzac at the mall.

Pop/Rock

Being single at the holidays can be a drag, especially when it’s not by choice. You can take solace in the 80s’ sounding ballad, “Early Winter” by Gwen Stefani,from her 2006 solo album “The Sweet Escape”. It examines lost love as autumn fades into the colder, darker days of winter. On the other hand, if you did the dumping, then assuage your guilt with Taylor Swift, exploring regret, apology and the pain of leaving a relationship in “Back to December”.

Beloved rock songstresses who evoke the contemplative mood of the cold season include Tori Amos with her reflective “Winter,” a beautiful ballad on solo piano with Tori’s soulful lyrics (“Little Earthquakes”, 1992). Equally cool is Sarah McLachlan’s “Wintersong” album featuring 12 tracks about wintertime including a the glistening gems “Wintersong,” “Song for a Winter’s Night” and a cover of the Joni Mitchell classic, “River.”

Ambient Instrumental

If you’d rather chill without lyrics, there are plenty of ambient, new age and solo piano albums to explore. Grab a cup of hot cocoa, a cozy blanket and the beautiful piano solos from Michele de Wilton new release, “Snow Angel”. Tracks like “Snowfall,” “In the Bleak MidWinter” “WinterBlueGreen,” and the story of The Ice Maiden in “Waltz for Gerda and Kay,” will transport you into a winter wonderland for the soul.

Award winning artist and extraordinary voice Seay offers with “A Winter Blessing: Songs for the Season”, a festive, seasonal album celebrating all things winter and the holidays. Filled with Seay’s spectacular vocals, your heart will be filled with magic, love and light.

Beloved international concert pianist Danny Wright offers an evergreen favorite with “An Intimate Christmas”, bursting with both traditional carols and original compositions written for people whose stories moved him to create. If loneliness is what ails you, this album wraps its metaphorical arms around you and brings a quiet solace.

Windham Hill Records’ Winter’s Solstice collections (there are six volumes) offer relaxing instrumental selections from various Ambient, New Age and Jazz artists. Pianists George Winston, Liz Story and guitarist William Ackerman are just a few contributors to this mood-setting music series. It’s the perfect background accompaniment while curled up in front of a fire.

Retro classics

Once you’ve rocked and lulled through the selections above, perhaps you’ll be ready to get back out there in the spirit of the season. Consider revisiting a few of these old faves; so many artists have covered these songs that you can pick and choose your favorite versions.

“Baby It’s Cold Outside,” a pop standard by Broadway and Hollywood composer Frank Loesser never fails to get you in a snuggly, romantic state of mind. Some notable versions include the duet with Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong; the Bette Midler version (joined by James Caan) from the 1991 film, “For the Boys”, and the pairing of James Taylor and Natalie Cole.

Another timeless standard “Let It Snow” gets a big band-y, jazzy treatment from crooner Michael Bublé. Diana Krall gives the tune a more intimate treatment. For something even slower and more low key, check out John Legend’s cut of the Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne song.

“I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” by Irving Berlin has been sung by some of the best in the business: Billie Holliday, Judy Garland, Rosemary Clooney and Frank Sinatra, among others. Canadian songstress Lily Frost delivers a stylized, cabaret style version off of her album, “Lily Swings”. But perhaps the best of all is Rat Packer, King of Cool, Dean Martin’s swingy, smooth as silk recording….just press play on that one, and — in no time at all — you’ll be wanting to drag your sweetie – or some lucky stranger – over to the mistletoe.

About Marcy Lovitch:
Marcy Lovitch is a New York-based freelance writer; she is not crazy about Christmas music. She’s a contributor at: http://hiltonshead.blogspot.com/