Category Archives: Music

Puerto Rico, red meat to predatory banksters

The power of predators to draft American financial laws should be apparent to anyone by now, but it’s still shocking to see how viciously those laws impact the lives of men, women, and children who are both citizens and colonial subjects.

Puerto Rico is the classic example, a territory whose natives are by birthright U.S. citizens, yet are simultaneously exempt from laws created to protect citizens who happen to be born in states rather than territories.

Leave it to John Oliver and his gifted staff of researchers to get to bottom of things, with a little musical help from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the hottest ticket on Broadway.

From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Puerto Rico

Program notes:

Puerto Rico is suffering a massive debt crisis. Lin-Manuel Miranda joins John Oliver to call for relief.

And now for something completely different. . .

Take some old photographs of American cities, add some animation chops [including the coolest steampunk time machine we’ve ever seen], and some timely music [Al Bowlly’s rendition of “Guilty”], and presto. . .

And do pop it up to full screen!

From seccovan [where you’ll find more delightful animations]:

“The Old New World” [Photo-based animation project]

From PetaPixel, where we spotted it:

Here’s an amazing short film titled “The Old New World” by photographer and animator Alexey Zakharov of Moscow, Russia. Zakharov found old photos of US cities from the early 1900s and brought them to life.

The photos show New York, Boston, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore between 1900 and 1940, and were obtained from the website Shorpy.

It’s a “photo-based animation project” that offers a “travel back in time with a little steampunk time machine,” Zakharov says. “The main part of this video was made with camera projection based on photos.”

Another alien invader, this time it’s botanical

We open with a video from the University of California, Riverside:

The Good, the Bad and the Tumbleweed

Program notes:

University of California, Riverside researchers found that a new species of tumbleweed dramatically expanded its geographic range in California in just a decade.

And the story from the UCR newsroom:

Two invasive species of tumbleweed have hybridized to create a new species of tumbleweed that University of California, Riverside researchers found has dramatically expanded its geographic range in California in just a decade.

The UC Riverside researchers believe Salsola ryanii is likely to become an important invasive species that could spread beyond California to other states.

“Given how quickly it has spread, this species has the potential to be a problematic invasive,” said Shana R. Welles, who is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Arizona but did the tumbleweed research as a graduate student at UC Riverside. “We want to make sure people know that and try to manage this species when it still had a relatively narrow range.”

Welles outlined the findings in a just-published paper co-authored by her Ph.D. advisor, Norman C. Ellstrand, a professor of genetics and a member of UC Riverside’s Institute for Integrative Genome Biology. The paper [An $8 paywall — esnl], “Rapid range expansion of a newly formed allopolyploid weed in the genus Salsola,” was published in the American Journal of Botany.

The new species of tumbleweed (Salsola ryanii) was first documented by California Department of Food and Agriculture scientists in 2002. Surveying throughout California, those scientists found the species in two areas of the state’s Central Valley in 2002. It was also documented by a wider group of scientists in a third area of the Central Valley in 2009.

The UC Riverside researchers did their field work in 2012, collecting tumbleweed from 53 sites throughout California. They found the new species at 15 of those sites. They found it throughout the Central Valley, but also in coastal areas around San Francisco and as far south as the Ventura area.

The results strongly contradict predictions in earlier studies that Salsola ryanii would not likely become invasive.

Salsola ryanii is an allopolyploid, an organism with two or more complete sets of chromosomes derived from different species, formed via hybridization between two other invasive tumbleweed species: Salsola tragus and Salsola australis. (Allopolyploids are not rare among plants. For example, wheat and cotton are also allopolyploids.)

Salsola australis is invasive in California and Arizona and is likely native to Australia or South Africa. It was not recognized as a distinct species until 2000.

Salsola tragus is a problematic weed in 48 states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and has been described as having the most rapid spread of any introduced species. Its native range extends from north Africa and western Russia, through Asia into northeast Siberia and northeast China.

The three species of tumbleweed are not distinguishable to the average person, said Welles, who earned her Ph.D. from UC Riverside in 2015. She used DNA testing to determine the species of the samples she collected.

The researchers believe the population expansion of the Salsola ryanii species is due to two reasons: dispersal of seeds from individual plants due in large part to the “tumbling” phenomenon and multiple independent hybridizations of the two original tumbleweed species. Future research will further examine this issue.

We have to say that the university definitely went with the wrong music on their video. Here’s what we’d have used:

Slim Whitman – Tumbling Tumbleweeds

And now for something completely different. . .

Image Rube Goldberg had become a pop musician instead of one of America’s greatest-ever political cartoonists.

Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg was born in San Francisco in 1883 and by the time he died in 1970, his name was both a household word and his first name was on the award given to the Cartoonist of the Year by the National Cartoonist’s Society.

So what was a Rube Goldberg Machine?

Here are some examples of his work, starting with a pre-iPhone selfie machine:

BLOG Rube 3
And an inspiration that struck whilst on a trip to Europe:

BLOG Rube 2

Marvin Glass, directly inspired by Goldberg’s delightful madness, invented a game which most parents will know: the ever-popular Mouse Trap:

BLOG Mousetrap
Now that brings us to our video, a remarkable musical Rube Goldberg machine created by Martin Molin of the Swedish pop group Wintergatan:

Wintergatan – Marble Machine (music instrument using 2000 marbles)

Program notes:

Marble Machine built and composed by Martin Molin

Video filmed and edited by Hannes Knutsson

Costume designed by Angelique Nagtegaal

Swedish band Wintergatan will play live concerts starting from summer 2016. For booking inquiries email:

The marble machine isn’t their first venture into the literal genre of, well,  technopop.

Here’s a 2013 video of a performance in which an old-fashioned slide projector becomes not only a visual feature but the band’s percussion instrument as well:

Wintergatan – Starmachine2000

Program notes:

Welcome to the World Of Wintergatan

In May 2013 we will release our debut album and go on tour playing live starting up in mostly Sweden and Norway and a little in Europe. Hope to see you there!

All the best from Sweden and us and take care.

Martin David Evelina Marcus – Wintergatan

And to close, another 2013 performance, including a look at the amazing array of instruments they use:

Wintergatan – Sommarfågel

And now for something completely different. . .

She’s the one Hollywood let get away, a talented and charming actor equally at home doing light comedic roles in musical comedies who could’ve sung leading roles for the Metropolitan Opera.

In 1936, at age fourteen, Deanna Durbin starred with Judy Garland in her first-ever film, one in a series credited with saving Universal Studios from impending bankruptcy.

And then, twelve years later, she walked away from it all, fed up with the the system that locked actors in exclusive contracts with studios and barred from roles in films from other studios.

But during her all-too-brief career. She brought a crystal-pure soprano and immense charm to countless songs, songs we remember both because many were songs families used to sing together before television captured the American mind, and others are, well, simply brilliant renditions of operatic standards.

We begin with the trailer for that first film, The Smart Girls via ddurbfan. And while Durbin had originally slated to play a co-starring role, the reaction to the daily rushes screened during filming were so profound that the script was rewritten to give her a starring role:

And in this clip, in a promotional radio appearance well before the film was released, Durbin sings [at the age of thirteen] a song featured in the film, Luigi Arditi’s “Il Bacio” [The Kiss], via danny sharples:

In her second feature, the 1937 One Hundred Men and a Girl, Durbin stars as the daughter of an unemployed musician who had been devastated by a broken promised to sponsor an orchestra of 100 jobless musicians in the depths of the Great Depression. Told the sponsorship will happen only if a renowned conductor sign on to conduct, Durbin’s character, Patricia “Patsy” Cardwell sneaks in to a rehearsal by Leopold Stokowski [considered one of the greatest conductors of the last century] and bursts into song. The outcomne is as expected from a feel-good Hollywood 1930s musical.

From adam28xx’s channel, the confrontation and the song:

Mozart “Alleluia”: Deanna Durbin & Leopold Stokowski

Next up, a clip from Because of Him, a 1946 romance, featuring Durbin in one of the greatest performances of an old standard we’ve ever hear, via violinthief:

Deanna Durbin: “Danny Boy”

Another offering from violinthief, this time with a Scottish air, from the 1940 film, It’s a Date:

Deanna Durbin: “Loch Lomond”

Back to the operatic, this time with an English language rendition of “Un Bel Di, Venremo” from Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly from the 19397 film, First Love, via ddurbinfan:

Deanna Durbin sings “One Fine Day”

Next, another Puccini song, from the 1943 film His Butler’s Sister, via imusiciki:

Deanna Durbin: “Nessun Dorma” (None Shall Sleep) from Turandot by Puccini

Next , we switch course to some popular songs of the era, starting with a Cole Porter song from another 1943 wartime film, Hers to Hold, with Durbin playing a Rosie the Riveter character, working in a munitions factory and singing at the USO. From swan2612:

Deanna Durbin: “Begin the Beguine”

From ednamayfan, another Cole Porter song, this time from the 1934 Lady on a Train:

“Night and Day”

For a change of pace, one of her many recordings not from a film, in this case a Spanish language classic recorded in 1942, via ddurbinfan:

Deanna Durbin sings “Cielito Lindo”

Next up, some more of those songs families used to sing, starting with one featured in the 1939 film, First Love, via FirstAcquaint:

Deanna Durbin: “Home, Sweet Home”

This one is a song my father and I sang on many a long road trip in the Colorado Rockies and Wyoming’s Snowy Range, in a clip from the 1946 For the Love of Mary, via ddurbinfan:

Deanna Durbin: “I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen”

And from the 1939 film Three Smart Girls Grow Up, another classic, via, once again, ddurbinfan:

Deanna Durbin sings “The Last Rose of Summer”

Finally, from the 1947 film I’ll be Yours, a song we’ve always loved and a perfect sign-off, via #DeannaDurbin:


Durbin left Hollywood in 1948 and never looked back. She died on 20 April 2013, age 91, in her home in Neauphle-le-Château, France.

We hope you’ve enjoyed these songs as much as we have. . .

Heavens above!: A time-lapse meteoric capture

Catch a falling a star and put in your camera, never let it go away. . .

—With apologies to Perry Como.

We’ve spent a lot of night in the Mojave Desert of Southern California, a place where you can see the Milky Way in all its glory, gazing up at the stars and watching for meteors in the spectacular celestial panorama overhead, free of the pollution of city light.

One photographer did the same thing, but armed with a camera and shooting still images to use in making a time-lapse video, and came away with a wonder, captured in full 2160p resolution [just click on the YouTube gear tool and set it to your screen’s maximum resolution; you’ll be glad you did].

From PetaPixel, out favorite spot for photo news and dramatic videos:

Photographer Nao Tharp of Los Angeles, California, just released this short video that shows something neat he captured on a freezing cold winter night back on December 12th, 2015. While shooting a time-lapse of the Geminid meteor shower at Red Rock Canyon State Park in California’s Mojave desert, his camera caught a bright meteor explosion and a resulting orange glowing plume that lingered for about 40 minutes.

The video shows the same explosion at different magnifications and playback speeds.

And the video itself from naotharpstudio:

STARBURST 4K -Geminid Meteor Shower 2015

Program notes:

On a freezing cold winter night on December 12th 2015 at Red Rock Canyon State Park in Mojave Desert, California, I managed to capture an extraordinary astronomic phenomenon: a meteoroid explosion.

I was out there all by myself in pitch-dark desert shooting astrophotography time lapse hoping to capture a few frames of light streaks from Geminid meteor shower which had peaked a few days prior to that night. It was indeed a great night with dozens of sightings of sparking meteoroids, but the result of time lapse sequence was overwhelming and mind blowing. It was a bright spark illuminated the entire rim of eroded sandstone canyon, followed by orange fume floating in the sky.

According to my calculations based on the time lapse setting and EXIF data from the resulting images, the glowing orange fume floated in the air for a matter of 38.5 minutes until it framed out.

As the icy particle of the meteoroid about the size of a sand grain enters the Earth’s stratosphere at a such high speed, it explodes and turns into plasma due to atmospheric friction. The energy of the plasma stimulates molecules of the air and forces them emit photons, resulting in the glowing fume-like particle that floats in the sky.

I am in awe and honored to be able to share this rare astronomical event with you. Thank you for watching and your support.

Licensing Inquiries:

PetaPixel has stills at their site, and links to more.

And that initial reference is to a song that hit the number one spot back when esnl was still in grade school, sung the original Mr. Smooth, Perry Como:

And now for something completely different. . .

Love a good conversation? You know, one in which two people approach each other with respect and talk about the things that give meaning to their lives?

If so, then you’ll enjoy this meeting of two minds, one a highly respected essayist and novelist, the other a classically trained musician.

There’s a natural affinity between musicians and writers, or at least that’s been the case in our own experience. Both mine the world for experience, then interpret what they discover through their own inner creativity, working with the tools of the respective callings.

In this video from University of California Television, the conversation is between Steven Schick, Distinguished Professor of Music and holder of the Reed Family Presidential Chair at the University of California, San Diego, and essayist, author, and short-story writer Barry Lopez, who has held teaching appointments at several leading universities:

Music and Nature: Barry Lopez and Steve Schick — Helen Edison Lecture Series

Program notes:

National Book Award-Winning author and environmentalist Barry Lopez joins UC San Diego’s Steve Schick, a world-renowned percussionist, to explore the intersection of music, words and the natural world.

Lopez’s description of the writing process, from the initial process of selection and immersion in the subject of the world to the act of setting the words down on paper [a process greatly enhanced by music], brought repeated smiles of our lips.

Sit back, pour a nice glass of red, and enjoy. . .