Monday, January 23, 2017

Carl Sagan, the great science popularizer, vs. 1846 Sunday School text

Carl Sagan's famous essay, "Pale Blue Dot," is quoted and praised all across the cyber-galaxy, but just how original is it?  Ever wondered that?  How does it stack up, quotation-wise, against the 1846 American Sunday School Union text, The Starry Heavens (The Solar System, Part II)?  Let's find out by comparing select passages between the two texts.  Let's discover what 19th century children were learning about astronomy in Sunday School class in the days before the Civil War.

Sagan quotes are followed by select passages from The Starry Heavens:

Sagan: "The Earth is a small stage in a vast cosmic arena." And, "Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark."

The Starry Heavens: "What is the whole of this globe on which we dwell compared with the solar system, which contains a mass of matter so many millions of times greater?  What is it in comparison with the hundred millions of suns and worlds which, by the telescope, have been descried through the starry regions?"

(Post continues at my MY(P)WHAE Text blog.)

Meanwhile, it's time to hit the ceiling with Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra, from 1929:

Hittin' the Ceiling.  Ripped from my 78 rpm copy.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday morning shellac: Daybreak Express, Yesterday, Barnum and Bailey's Favorite, more!

Yet more 78s, all ripped by me from my collection using VinylStudio and MAGIX Audio Cleaning Lab MX.  And a turntable and 78 stylus.  And my ears, which I use to determine the right playback curves.  Together, they are... Team Shellac.

No, not really.  Anyway, we've got jazz, we've got marches, we've got ragtime, and we've got studio musicians playing a salon version of Yesterday, but not the McCartney tune.  (As you can see by the credits, George Harrison wrote it.  Just kidding.)  I'm very pleased with the sound on this one--having a near-mint copy helped a lot.

Mostly, lots of ragtime, with some very early Irving Berlin tossed in (Watch Your Step).  Well, not all that early, really--Berlin's songs go back to 1907.  So, mid-early.  On 1915's The Georgia Grind and It's Tulip Time in Holland, Signor "Grinderino" (his actual professional name, I guess) plays a street piano, which is, I guess, like a street organ, though the label, Victor, termed it a hurdy-gurdy.  Don't look at me.

We have banjo great Vess Ossman on two worn Columbia sides from 1907 (no wonder they're worn), but the music sounds through the hiss just fine, I think.  The raggy Happy Heine (an ethnic slur on an early 78--imagine that!) is from a somewhat bashed, one-sided Victor disc which I'm sure I'm playing back too fast at 78, but I have no way to reliably slow it down to, say, 76 rpm or so.  No strobe or meter, though I do have a speed lever.  Go figure.

The "Black Face" Eddie Ross banjo-and-orchestra sides are outstanding, and I've been enjoying them for years--owned my first copy way back in 1978, while stationed in Pensacola, Florida (it may have been a Goodwill find).  And here's a terrific page on the artist.

Our opener, Duke Ellington's amazing train song, Daybreak Express, is by far the best rip I've gotten from my 78 copy thereof.  I'm very pleased.  I used VinylStudio's 1933 RCA playback curve, found it too muffled, then I opened up the treble and bass.  VoilĂ .

Click here to hear: Daybreak Express, more


Daybreak Express (Ellington)--Duke Ellington and His Orch., 1933
Barnum and Bailey's Favorite--March--American Legion Official Band, 1926
March Salutation--Same
Ragging the Scale--Conway's Band, 1915
Flirting Whistler--Conway's Band, 1915
Yesterday (Wilhite and Harrsion)--The Arts Ensemble, 1927
Policy King March--Vess L. Ossman, w. orchestra acc., 1907
Chicken Chowder--Ossman-Dudley Trio, 1907
Watch Your Step--Medley--Victor Military Band, 1915
The Georgia Grind--Signor "Grinderino," Street Piano, 1915
It's Tulip Time in Holland--Medley--Same
Happy Heine (Two-Step; Lampe)--Arthur Pryor's Band, 1906
Ross' Dog Trot--"Black Face" Eddie Ross, Banjo w. orchestra, 1921
Ross' Reel--Same


Saturday, January 21, 2017

See how long it takes you to guess where this is going

I knew, at about the 58 second mark, where this was going--he telegraphs it so mercilessly, it's almost pathetic.  (If I wasn't sick as a dog, I'd likely have picked it up sooner.)  But he thinks he's a genius, and it hardly matters what anyone else thinks.  My, my, what did geniuses in their own minds do before the Internet gave them such a broad forum for bragging and preaching?

The secular/skeptic(al)/bright/reality-based/etc. movement practices a milquetoast kind of liberalism that dates back to (if not before) All in the Family, yet its members carry on as if they invented left-wing values.  This guy points out the American public is moving in a liberal direction, but if we're going by "secular" standards of liberalism (think 1975), the public's already there.  No, the public is hardly progressive by today's standards, but what was liberal yesterday is today passe.  This is why these pretend progressives are so energized by Trump's victory (you'd think they'd be depressed, like actual liberals)--it allows them to maintain that the American public is further to the right than it actually is.  Of course, any number of factors played a part in the election results--despite what the TV talking heads tell us, it wasn't simply left vs. right.  (Else, why would so many on the left have ditched ship?)  You and I know that.  We know this because we have time to think--we're not busy doing 24/7 self-promotion.

But these folks use every piece of news to glorify themselves.  If an asteroid were headed to Earth, ready to obliterate all traces of life, these brights would be busy working it into a give-us-money-for-our-important-work moment.

Without me, you might not know that such videos exist, so I feel like I'm doing a service.  What kind of service, exactly, who can say?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Batmaaaaannn (dudda-dudda-dudda-dudda)....

Yikes.  My follower count has gone from 212 to 210 so far in 2017.  At this rate, I'll be down to 150 by year's end.  (I'm committing the logical fallacy of assuming 1) a given trend will continue and 2) continue at the same rate.)  I shouldn't obsess over this stuff, but I do.  Give me something to obsess over, and odds are I will.  That's me.

Meanwhile, I seem to have "found" my beloved Batman ring of 1966 (the Adam West series was huge that year)--a gumball machine charm that cost me a whole quarter.  It was rubber, and it was much larger than the mundane ten-cent Batman ring that everyone, including me, owned, and I wanted it.  Once I got my hands on two bits, I ran to the drug store across from my house, stuck my coin in the machine, turned the handle, and out dropped....

At least, I think this is that.  I'm more than 90 percent sure, anyway--I'd have to see it stretched out, but it looks like the rubber ring I owned.  The big problem is the keychain (?) that comes with it--I don't remember any such adornment.  Anyway, it's very cool, but not $20 cool.  And besides, if I bought it, all I'd do is stick it someplace, where it would sit, unused and unloved, cursing eBay with its last breath for doing this to it.

Okay, there's another ad for the same thing, and this view convinces me it's the one (except for that dang keychain):

Oh, am I tempted to "Buy It Now."  But I'll save $20 and not.  Nothing is cool enough to justify an 8,000% mark-up.  (Just kidding--that's pretty conservative for a collectible Boomer toy.)

Besides, I'm sure it no longer fits.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday morning gospel:

Click here to hear: Tuesday a.m. gospel


Dreams of the Past--Frank Stamps and His All Star Quartet, 1932
His Charming Love--Vaughan Quartet, 1928
I Want to Go There, Don't You?--Same
Nearer My God to Thee (Sullivan)--Royal Military Band w. Arthur T. Braddon, 1912
Eternal Father, Strong to Save (Dykes)--Arthur T. Braddon, w. organ, 1912 (Credited to Royal Military Band)
Pictures from Life's Other Side--Smith's Sacred Singers, 1926
Where We'll Never Grow Old--Same
Don't You Love Your Daddy Too?--Higgins Sisters, 1930
The Old Fashioned Cabin--Same
The Meeting in the Air--Mr. and Mrs. F.H. Lacy, 1925

Cool labels, no?  Cool music, too.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

I'm reading right now that Frank Stamps and His All Star Quartet, who perform Dreams of the Past for us, was the original Stamps Quartet.  They were the guys who recorded Give the World a Smile for Victor in 1927.  Since I lack the patience to even try to follow vocal group history in any genre (the endless name and personnel changes drive me nuts), I never have this stuff in my head, ready to rattle off.  Whatever you think you know about a given vocal quartet, be it jazz or R&B vocal or pop or gospel, you don't know.  Believe me.

Dreams of the Past (1932) is an almost-gospel number, as I call such numbers.  Typically, these are miss-my-mother/I-dream-of-my-old-home songs--not quite gospel, but kind of, sort of religious.  (Hope this isn't too technical.)  The flip is nice, too, but too worn to rescue.

The Vaughan Quartet?  Well, there were a number of these that traveled around in the 1910s and 1920s promoting songs published by James D. Vaughan, whose cheaply printed but awesome songbooks go back to the early 1900s (mine start in the 1920s).  That's all I know--I swear.  This quartet is awesome, much closer to the bluegrass quartet singing of Carl Story than the Stamps, who had that artsy, note-perfect style found in outfits like the Old Fashioned Revival Hour Quartet.  Concert gospel, I call that.  The Vaughan Q. was more, um, down home.  Along with "authentic," "down home" may be the most subjective musical adjective in use, but I use it proudly, regardless.

Almost-gospel also describes Pictures from Life's Other Side (1926), a socially-conscious number from the late 1800s which, like, Will the Circle Be Unbroken and Angel Band, became every gospel arranger and singer's original.  ("Everyone and his brother stole it" sounds a little bit harsh.)  Along with the flip--Where We'll Never Grow Old (another widely borrowed number)--it was a sacred smash for the Columbia label.  I ripped the best of my three copies, and I think it sounds fabulous.

Almost-gospel, again, with Don't You Love Your Daddy Too? which I fully expected to be a vaudeville type of number with circle-of-fifths harmony a la Alabama Jubilee.  Nope--pure gospel, beautifully sung a cappella by the Higgins Sisters quartet, best described as a reverent, far less jazzy Brox Sisters, if the latter were a foursome.  I'm not sure what I just typed.

Here is an image of Mr. and Mrs. F.H. Lacy, swiped from here.  Once, I had some info about them, but I'm too worn out (third week of a flu/cold bug) to re-find it.  Here they are:

We'll be hearing them from 1925 (the ultra-fundie classic, Meeting in the Air)--luckily, my 78 dating guide includes catalog no.'s for private recordings on Columbia, which is what this is.  I think I put this up before, and I recall someone describing the Lacy's style in less than glowing terms.  But it works for me.

Oh, and Arthur T. Braddon, from 1912: nothing about him on line, but what a gorgeous voice.  He appears on both sides of this Coliseum 78 (Nearer My God; Eternal Father), but only gets label credit for the first.  This Nearer My God is the less familiar Arthur Sullivan (of "Gilbert and..." fame) tune, while Eternal Father is the timeless and magnificent John B. Dykes tune we all know and love (or should).  I was in the Navy, so every listen to Eternal Father is an emotional one for me--and this version, despite the cut-rate label and production, is an absolute gem.