Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash?

Yes, Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash! They’re performing “Blue Yodel No. 9,” which Armstrong recorded with The Singing Brakeman, Jimmie Rodgers, and pianist Lil Hardin Armstrong, on July 16, 1930, in Los Angeles.

This recreation is from The Johnny Cash Show, first broadcast on October 28, 1970. According to Michael Minn’s Louis Armstrong Discography, Armstrong’s appearance on this show marked his return to the trumpet after a two-year health-related hiatus. Listen for the gently bouncing trumpet phrases from 4:14 to 4:19: that’s the sound of a genius at work.

Blue Yodel No. 9 (YouTube)

Related post
Invisible man: Louis Armstrong and the New York Times
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Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash?

Soundcheck's CD Picks of the Week (Soundcheck: Tuesday, 23 October 2007)

Each week, the Soundcheck staff digs through their inboxes for the best, catchiest, or strangest music they can find. Here are Soundcheck’s pick for the week ending Oct. 26.

Various Artists, “Sonic Rebellion: Alternative Classical Collection” (Naxos)
If you’re looking for an introduction to modern music landmarks from the past 50 years, you could do worse than this collection. Ignore the cheesy cover and some questionable edits (who knew Terry Riley had a fade-up on his minimalist landmark “In C?”). Then, geek out on short pieces by Cage, Wuorinen, Varese, Crumb, Nancarrow, and a dozen others. –Brian Wise

“Sonic Rebellion” is available for purchase at Amazon.com

Orishas: “Antidiotico” (Universal Music Latino)
This Grammy-winning trio is a hip-hop group of Cuban expats who live in Paris, Milan and Madrid. Their fourth album blends boleros and rumbas with rap and pop. It makes you move … and it provokes, tackling everything from racism to immigration to the Buena Vista Social Club. –Gisele Regatao

“Antidiotico” is available for purchase at Amazon.com

Ben Perowsky’s Moodswing Orchestra: “Volume Two” (El Destructo)
This project from New York-based drummer Ben Perowsky is full of spacey trip-hop beats, oozing bass lines, and the occasional typewriter. In other words, this is late-night, bedroom-recording-studio stuff. Perowsky assembled lots of friends for this odd, but beautiful record, including Cibo Matto’s Miho Hatori, bossa nova singer Bebel Gilberto, and Joan Wasser of the indie group Joan as Policewoman. –Joel Meyer

“Volume II” is available for purchase at Perowsky.com

Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, “Steve Reich: Music for 18 Musicians” (Innova)
Out in the farmlands of Allendale, Mich., Bill Ryan, the director of GVSU’s new music group, decided to have his all-student, all-volunteer band learn to play Reich’s 1976 masterwork – long considered one of the most challenging pieces in new music. It was a labor of love –- intense, obsessive love –- and they not only learned to play the piece, they learned to play it well. – John Schaefer

GVSU’s recording of “Music for 18 Musicians” is available for purchase here.
Soundcheck’s CD Picks of the Week (Soundcheck: Tuesday, 23 October 2007)

What I found out on set on other films is, what makes a crew really roll is when the director makes decisions very quickly and very straight. What confuses a crew and actors is when the director is a little bit like, “I’m not sure what to do there.” The minute you’re confused, you lose everybody. But what’s funny is, I didn’t have to push myself too hard—I was never confused. I was always pretty strong and knowing exactly what I wanted to do, and when I didn't—when I had a moment where I didn’t know exactly what to do, I pretended I did. Which made the crew entirely follow me.

My big fat learning experience

I started the fall semester a younger and more idealistic man than I am here at the halfway point (fall break). Still, I survived (and thrived) and things are looking up. September was my transition month from going to grad school to being a grad student: that is, I can say now that if the task or decision before me has nothing to do with 1) my job or 2) school, then its value is marginal and I have to consider whether to spend time/energy on it. (The beauteous Liz, of course, excepted.)

What was so different about this semester?

  • I started with one class that met twice a week, but when I added a second class (on the advice of my advisor), the extra class's workload was such a shock to my organizational systems and my schedule that my legs are still quivering.
  • Last spring, I had two two-hour classes: one met Tuesday morning, one met Monday evening. It was very easy to accommodate my work schedule, my writing group, and still get schoolwork done.
  • This fall, I have two morning classes, each one is 75 minutes. One meets on Mondays-Wednesdays at the relatively decent hour of 9:30 a.m., the other on Tuesdays-Thursdays at a tremendously inconvenient 11 a.m. The latter class means I don't get to work until after 2 p.m. Since I work a mandated 45-hour week (if I work less than 45 hrs, I get paid less), this means staying at the office till 9 or 10 p.m., meaning all that I can do when I get home is have a late supper, unwind, and go to bed. (Unless I have homework due the next morning, but that's another story.)
  • The extra class disrupted my usual commuting and parking habits. I missed one session driving around looking for a parking space. Lesson learned: as much as possible, reduce the randomness of finding a parking space. I was lucky early on in the semester, but the luck didn't hold. So, I was tipped to a park-and-ride lot halfway to Hillsborough, which is further out from campus, but there are always plenty of spaces. However, the extra distance means that I'm now commuting via bus and car about 8 hours a week.
  • The start of the fall semester coincided with the end of the federal fiscal year, and I had a stiff schedule of deliverables to meet with a hard deadline of September 30. Of course, a major 10-15 page paper was also due on September 25. Criminy. And the first half of October was spent helping my team recover from a major project meltdown. So I couldn't sneak any reading or research at the office--when I was at work, I worked. Big blocks of time for schoolwork can only happen on the weekend.
  • The paper was a literature review, which I'd never done before. I got some great advice from my friend and mentor Cassidy and some great tips (especially from Cal Newton's Study Hacks blog) on smart ways to research and write such a paper. The main thing is, it took a lot of time to learn how to manage the overall project, then it took time learning the subject matter, then it took time pulling it all together. I used a vacation day on Sept 24 (my 46th birthday, as it happened) to relax and go over the paper. I discovered to my horror that I'd written an annotated bibliography instead of a literature review. So I totally recast the paper that day and evening (a loverly way to spend a birthday) , got to bed at a decent hour, and succeeded in getting an excellent grade. Note to self: learn RefDesk or Zotero to format citations!
  • Along the way, I learned to make use of the interstices of time available to me. The posts on scheduling time by Cal and Proto-scholar helped me really leverage Google Calendar more and visualize my commitments. I decided to routineize my schedule as much as possible. So, even though my Tue/Thu classes happen later than my Mon/Wed classes, I still rise at the same time every day, get to the bus stop by 8:30 a.m. at the latest, and use the block of time spent on the bus and slurping coffee before class to do my readings for that day or that week. (I always print out the next week's readings on Thursday or Friday.)
  • During my lit review, I fell down the rabbit hole of technology by spending an afternoon messing with CiteULike, which, to be fair, did lead me to some articles that I used, but that I finally saw to be not as useful to me as I had expected. I also spent my first research afternoon tweaking my Windows setup, trying out various programs, etc. Total procrastination monkey. That's when I simplified my methods (remember the Extreme Programming motto, "Do the simplest thing that could possibly work"). I will be trying Cal's new method of using Excel as a research database (again, Proto-scholar adds to the conversation) for my current paper, whose themes have been pre-defined by the professor. I'm also trying out Zotero, to see how it does with citation export (though this may violate the "do the simplest thing" principle).

My manager, who's getting his MBA, had a teacher who often repeated the motto, "Don't wish it was easier--wish you were better." I thought of that often during my transition period--I can't change my deadlines, I'm not going to drop the classes, I can't make the buses run faster, I need to maintain my 45-hour work schedule so I can meet my financial obligations.

And so, at some point, I realized that all this meta-thinking and self-management is part of the learning experience. I've had to re-frame a typical workday from 8a-5pm to 12pm-9pm. I have to dedicate some portion of the weekend to making up time I miss from the office, which means getting better at scheduling. I had to drop my writing group and my banjo lessons, so I could focus my disposable time on school. Many of the habits and routines of my old life that I thought immovable I now see as malleable and, in many ways, optional. Liz has been great about taking on some of my old chores and agreeing that some chores (like yardwork) will have to wait for my attention until the semester is over.

I've also discovered that, even with this tough schedule, I like taking 2 classes at a time. I find that jamming together the class readings causes me to see connections that I would miss were I taking each class on its own. There's also the pressure of trying to meet my obligations that obliges me to make faster connections and discover new ways to re-frame current problems or speed up time.

When I eventually signed up for next semester's classes, I picked one 3-hr class that meets on Mondays, and then picked a Monday-Wednesday class that meets in the morning. I've cleared it with my manager that I will be out of the office on Monday but will make up the time on Saturday and throughout the week. It's an unconventional schedule, but I'm living an unconventional life right now, and that's also something I needed to learn.

"The Autumn of the Multitaskers"

From “The Autumn of the Multitaskers,” an essay by novelist Walter Kirn in the November Atlantic:

“Where do you want to go today?” Microsoft asked us.

Now that I no longer confuse freedom with speed, convenience, and mobility, my answer would be: “Away. Just away. Someplace where I can think.”

Related posts
Multitasking makes you stupid
Multitasking: “not paying attention”
On continuous partial attention
(Thanks to L. Lee Lowe, who pointed her readers to this essay.)

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“The Autumn of the Multitaskers”

Piet Zwart






Everyone has to start somewhere. Along the line some decision towards design has to manifest itself. Maybe it’s due to your beloved New Order record covers, a logo you see everyday or a book you happen across. For me it was one afternoon looking through a book on Piet Zwart book in the middle of a life drawing lesson. ‘Yes.’ I thought ‘That’s exactly what I’d like to do’. Here are five things of his to look at. Who other than the mighty Mr Zwart could make a cable factory look this stylish?
Piet Zwart

THE IMPORTANCE OF A FRAME


There’s only one thing that all art has in common: a frame.

The frame may be made of metal or wood or it may be purely conceptual, but it is a perimeter that defines where the art ends and the rest of the world begins. No matter how outlandish or varied the art is, no matter whether it is an antique painting or the latest performance art, it is always framed by a boundary that separates the art from the rest of the natural world.

It’s pretty easy to locate the borders of a work of art if it’s on a piece of paper or canvas. However, some artists provoke their audience to think by playing tricks with the location of that border. The great Saul Steinberg jumped off the paper and created illusions, drawing on a bathtub:


or a box:

The clever artist Peter Callesen escapes the bonds of the page another way:


Even the art of Andy Goldsworthy, who makes temporary sculptures in nature using all natural materials, depends on his framing a space where he makes aesthetic choices and alters the natural order of things for the consideration of the viewer:



A few inches to the right or left of this sculpture there are rocks balanced on each other that are not art, but this one has became art because of the conceptual frame around it offered by Goldsworthy. The iconoclast Jean Dubuffet dreams of a day when there is no longer a thing named “art” because the frame is gone:

What is true of art is true of many other things whose virtues fly away as soon as their names are spoken…. [I]t is quite probable that soon the painting, a rectangle hung with a nail on a wall, will become an outdated and ridiculous object– a fruit fallen from the tree of culture and henceforth considered an antique….[T}he notion of art… will have ceased to be conceived of and perceived when the mind will have ceased to project art as a notion to be gazed upon, and art will be integrated in such a manner that thought, instead of facing it, will be inside it….


Until we live in Dubuffet’s utopia, the role of art will continue to depend in part on where we draw the frame .

THE IMPORTANCE OF A FRAME

FreeRice

FreeRice is a novel humanitarian project: for every correct definition one chooses, a participating company donates ten grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.

(Thanks, Ben!)

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FreeRice

English Pronunciation!?!

“If you can pronounce correctly every word in this poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world. After trying the verses, a Frenchman said he’d prefer six months of hard labour to reading six lines aloud. Try them yourself.”


English Pronunciation!?!

Lee Valley Jar Opener

jar_opener_sm.jpg

I always used a spoon until I was given one of these lid poppers. I was skeptical, but I now find myself reaching for it without even thinking. It’s an 8.5 by 5 cm piece of metal, bent in the middle and curved at each end to accommodate just about any size jar lid. It’s very simple and straightforward. You simply place it on the top of the jar with either of the rolled sides caught just under the edge of the lid (which side of the opener depends on the lid size). Your fingers hold the piece in place, which acs as a lever, and the bend in the metal serves as the fulcrum. The downward pressure of the heel of your hand provides just enough force to release the vacuum without distorting the lid. I can happily report no more bent spoon handles, no more splatters, no more spills, just a nice “pop” sound when the vacuum has been broken; then I know I am home free. I have not tried the plastic JarPop, but I’ve had this steel one for at least 3 years and it has never bent in anyway, nor has it rusted.

– Ellen Rocco

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Lee Valley Jar Opener
$8
Available from Lee Valley


Related items previously reviewed in Cool Tools:

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Tilia Vacuum Food Sealer

pb_stirrer_sm.jpg
Peanut Butter Mixer

wine-opener.jpg
World’s Easiest Wine Bottle Opener


Lee Valley Jar Opener

The Twitter-tracking continues...

Yup, can’t stop

(sailorblur): I don’t give a f***, I don’t give a f***, I don’t give a f*******************!

(pieman): I opened my back door to have a cigarette and there was a huge f*** off spider web across the outside. I screamed like a girl.

(rozic): could the ads on facebook s*** any worse? microsoft ad sales people need to wake up and go sell some real advertising

(mmpantsless): Does Qwest just intentionally f*** with their customers? Traceroute from 30 miles north of Minneapolis to dowtown St. Paul - goes through Chicago.

(cyounce): Oh. Dear. God. Bacon flavored chocolate doesn’t s***. Actually it is pretty good.

(chrisrbailey): Damn I should have asked for a quiet room, my neighbors s*** so far. The woman next door just said, “freedom is taking your bra off”.

(sjor): It can never be one thing. It has to be a whole slew of things together. F*** you, brain chemicals!

(jacksonwest): F*** Wheaties, the breakfast of champions is a slice of apple pie with cheddar cheese and a cup of coffee. That’s what I call nutrition!

(ramsey): I don’t think you’re happy enough. That’s right! I’ll teach you to be happy. I’ll teach your grandmother to s*** eggs.

(riddle): Watching a situation in supermarket. You know you s*** at parenting when your 10 year old child tries to beat you, crying.

And then there are the ones where you are just irrationally happy for the person without knowing anything else:

(moderndaymuse): Receiving a message from my stalker. Apparently he’s fed up with me and moving on. Ha ha ha ha ha Operation F*** Off - A success!

(anorexia): got the medication. thank f***.

And then there are the interesting implications of technology:

(piecesofvenus): I predict that the Razr’s prudish predictive text feature, which creates difficulty typing “f***”, will spur a linguistic change in “duck”.

(indieosaurous): P**** comes up before puppy in my predictive text.

And then there are the cautionary notes:

(polymerjones): Do not f*** with someone who straight punches a pterodactyl.

(panasonicyouth): Holy f***! Chevy Chase!

And then there are the piercing truths of the universe:

(fujikosan): people who perpetually emit unwanted sound s*** energy out of people who are quietly working

(bmf): Ever notice that “no offense” is just another way of say “f*** you”?


The Twitter-tracking continues…

Totentanz Blockbook

Totentanz blockbook w


Totentanz blockbook v


Totentanz blockbook u



Totentanz blockbook s



Totentanz blockbook q


Totentanz blockbook p


Totentanz blockbook o



Totentanz blockbook m



Totentanz blockbook k



Totentanz blockbook g


Totentanz blockbook f


Totentanz blockbook e


Totentanz blockbook d


Totentanz blockbook a


Totentanz blockbook


Totentanz blockbook x


In 15th century Europe, a blockbook was a codex (‘gathered volume’) in which the text and illustration was printed onto a page from a single block of wood. The wood was engraved (xylography) and gouged out leaving the text and images as raised reliefs which were then inked and placed onto a double sheet of wetted paper.

Before the use of presses, the ink transfer was achieved by rubbing the verso of the paper with a round burnishing tool. The paper was printed on one side only because the rubbing would have ruined the original inked surface on the initial sheet. The pages of the blockbook were folded and assembled, with two printed pages followed by two blanks. The blanks were then glued together giving a continuous book as we know it.

In an age where both literacy and the quest for knowledge was on the increase, the blockbook system appears from this distance to have been a great advance over the earlier painstaking manuscript copying in scriptoriums. The process was cheap (but paper was expensive) and allowed for a form of mass production once the wood blocks had been engraved. As for downsides, carving both text and illustrations in a backwards form (so that when inked and rubbed they would be reversed and appear legibly) was technically demanding and more importantly, the blocks were only useful for one double-page from one book of course.

This relief printing technique had been first seen in Europe in Holland, probably as early as 1420, in playing cards and devotional religious images which had brief captions below the illustrations. The history of development from cards to books is hazy at best due to a dearth of surviving original material, but the blockbook format had its heyday between about 1450 and 1475. The works most closely associated with the technique were the Poor Man’s Bible (‘Biblia Pauperum’), the biblical Apocalypse story, ‘Ars Moriendi’ (the Art of Dying) and ‘Speculum Humanae Salvationis’ (the Mirror of Human Salvation).

But Gutenberg’s moveable type printing appeared in 1455 and, like betmax video or the netscape navigator browser of modern times, blockbook printing was eventually made redundant by the appearance of a better technology.

The images above are the oldest known book illustrations of the danse macabre/totentanz/dance of death genre, which had begun in France earlier in the 15th century as a visual response to the effects of the plague. The blockbook of twenty six illustrations was produced between 1455 and 1458 in Germany and depicts the traditional hierarchy of victims - such as Pope, monarchy, clergy, knight, farmer, infirmed, mother and child - visited by death and accompanied by a moralising snatch of verse on the inevitability of the subject’s mortality. The illustrations are hand coloured.


Totentanz Blockbook

When Mike Reiss came to speak at the University of Chicago, he mentioned his favorite line never to make it on the Simpsons. When Homer faked his death in the Mother Simpson episode, Lenny originally said “He had the grace of Gene Kelly, and the genes of Grace Kelly.”

Comic Strip Artist’s Kit (Redux)

“The other day I got an e-mail from Carson Van Osten, a famous Disney artist who did many Disney Comic Books and created the famous “Comic Strip Artist’s Kit”. It was created to help beginning comic artists deal with perspective problems and other drawing difficulties. I scanned my old xeroxes a while ago. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever seen about practical staging and drawing for storyboards or comic books.

Anyway Carson saw it on my blog and read what nice things people had said about it and it really meant a lot to him. And he offered to send me an original copy of the handout, which is 11 x 17. I’ll scan it big so you can really see it well and print it out on 11 x 17 paper if you want to. He was even nice enough to inscribe it to me and if you print it out big you can read it.

Here’s the history of the handout, in Carson’s own words…”


Comic Strip Artist’s Kit (Redux)

Design Nouveau

Abstract design based on arabesques


Abstract design based on arabesques


Abstract design based on wings and leaf shapes


 Abstract design based on stars, circles, leaves


Abstract design based on small leaf shapes


Abstract design based on seahorses, fish, lizards, tiny leaves


Abstract design based on peacock feathers


Abstract design based on organic shapes and arabesques


Abstract design based on leaves, grass, and flowers


Abstract design based on leaves and organic shapes


Abstract design based on leaves


Abstract design based on leaves and arabesques


Abstract design based on flowers and leaves


Abstract design based on butterflies and leaves

Maurice Pillard-Verneuil (1869-1942) began architectural studies in Paris but a strong interest in art led him to apprentice at L’École Guérin under Eugène Grasset, the master of the emerging Art Nouveau style of the late 19th century.

Under the twin influences of Grasset and Japanese art, Verneuil developed into the perfect embodiment of La Belle Époque artist-designer, drawing inspiration from nature, and working in such diverse disciplines as posters, embroidery, furniture, ceramics and batik prints. As a correspondent for L’Illustration, Verneuil visited Cambodia and Java and began collecting Asian handicrafts and art, a passion for which he maintained throughout his life.

The incorporation of the natural world - plants, animals and sea creatures - into his ornamental graphic design work would remain his lasting influence, and the novel motifs were widely circulated in a series of books he published alone or in collaboration with other artists.

The images above (all cleaned slightly) are from the 1900 book, ‘Combinaisons Ornementales se Multipliant à l’Infini à l’Aide du Miroir’ (Decorative Combinations, Infinitely Multiplied with a Mirror) at NYPL (about sixty images in total).

After writing all this I discovered that the book was actually a collaborative effort between Verneuil (‘MPV’), Alphonse Mucha (circle with an ’M’) and George Auriol (I think the image with blue leaves and grass is his) {neither of whom are credited by NYPL}. The majority of the images here are by Verneuil. I don’t think there are any particular sites with background on Verneuil worth linking - I gleaned snippets of information from a range of secondary sources.

Previously related:


Design Nouveau