Thursday, December 27, 2012

Grey Explains

C.G.P. Grey is really kinda awesome. He has a series of videos called Grey Explains. Each video is short, but crams a ton of information (and more than a little humor) into its 3-6 minutes. Here are some of my favorites:

The United Kingdom Explained
The Difference Between Holland and the Netherlands (and a whole lot more)
Coffee: The Greatest Addiction Ever
Death to Pennies

Just awesome. I really need to watch each of these several times.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Music Monday: Buddy Freakin' Rich

I have a ton of holes in my musical knowledge. I have started filling one of them: Buddy Rich. I remember his appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, but I never really listened to him since then.

Live in The Hague in 1976
This concert is a good intro to what he and his big band were all about. Skip the first 5 minutes unless you want to practice your Russian, but once the music starts, it's a great concert. My favorite part starts at about 37:20. Birdland is a wonderful song, then at around 45:00, Channel One Suite includes one of the most amazing drum solos you will ever hear and see. Just wow.

One O'Clock Jump
This is a Count Basie standard on which Buddy's band does a nice job.

Seinfeld and the Buddy Rich Tapes
OK. This isn't his music. This is more about how much "fun" he must have been to work with.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Web Stuff Friday: WeatherSpark and Nand2Tetris

WeatherSpark -- Such a great way to visualize the weather. Their tagline is "Beautiful Weather Graphs and Maps," and I agree. It looks good.

From NAND to Tetris is an interesting idea: It is a course that endeavors to have students build and program a working computer from first principals. Both Boy Kid and Girl Kid will have to do this at some point, but it will take some time for them to develop the necessary background. One of the founders of the effort has a YouTube video: Nand2Tetris in a Nutshell as well as a TED Talk: The Self-Organizing Computer Course (more on those ideas will come in a separate post).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

On Nostalgia and Repetition

Chuck Klosterman's article Nostalgia on Repeat at Grantland struck a chord with me.

Like Klosterman, I had a limited set of albums and cassettes when I was a kid. When I lived in Sierra Leone between the ages of 4 and 6, we had no television, and radio was pretty useless. All I did was listen to a short list of albums:
  • Easy Rider (motion picture soundtrack)
  • Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, by The Beatles
  • ABC, by The Jackson 5
  • The Sound of Music (motion picture soundtrack)
  • 1812 Overture, by Tchaikovsky
  • Carnival of the Animals, by Saint Saens
That's it. I listened to those albums pretty much every day for easily a year and a half. I put a lot of time in listening to these albums, and thus listening to anything from them brings back feelings that are out of proportion to the quality of the music (though you gotta admit that it isn't a bad list of albums. It could have been a whole lot worse, right?).

The great mathematician John von Neumann said "Young man, in mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them." As a math educator, I interpret this as a call to practice, practice, practice. I wonder if this idea can apply to music as well? Perhaps the key to really appreciating music is to listen, listen, listen.

I still sometimes get into a mood where I listen to the same album (or short list of albums) pretty often in a short time. The good new is that I'm pretty sure that Boy Kid does the repetition thing, too. The bad news is that his list of albums isn't nearly as good as mine was. One step at a time.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Music Monday: Tiny Desk Concerts

NPR's All Songs Considered has a series of Tiny Desk concerts. In a sense, this is sort of a polar opposite of the Concerts a Emporter, which are recorded in various open air locations around France. The tight space makes for an interesting setting, and a diverse set of artists have tried it out.

Booker T. Jones: Green Onions, [conversation], Born Under a Bad Sign, Down in Memphis
Holy cow! This is THE Booker T with a Hammond B3 right there at the tiny desk. Green Onions is such an iconic song, but he breathes new life into the classic he wrote 5 decades ago. He then describes how he first encountered the B3 and the story is delightful. If you only watch one of these videos, let this be the one.

tUne-yArDs: You Yes You, Doorstep, My Country
OK, so Merrill Garbus is insanely cool and she rocks that sample pedal. Watching her spin her magic on the fly is great.

Adele: Someone Like You, Chasing Pavements, Rolling In The Deep
Everyone seems to love her, but I've never really sat down to listen to Adele. I can see why she is so well loved. She has tremendous talent.

Foster the People: Houdini, Helena Beat, Pumped Up Kicks
The contrast between this and the beautiful energy they exude in full concerts is remarkable. Honestly, I am rather sick of Pumped Up Kicks, but this version is nice.

More that caught my ear:
  • Givers: Meantime, Up Up Up, Atlantic
  • Basia Bulat: The Shore, W Zielonym Zoo, Heart of My Own, In the Night
  • They Might Be Giants: Can't Keep Johnny Down, Cloisonne, Fingertips
  • The Cranberries: Linger, Tomorrow, Ode To My Family, Zombie, Raining In My Heart
  • Bill Frissell: Nowhere Man, In My Life, Strawberry Fields Forever
  • Beirut: East Harlem, Santa Fe, Serbian Cocek
Check out some of the other concerts: Tom Jones, Yo Yo Ma, Noah and the Whale, Gogol Bordello, YACHT, Esperanza Spalding, Fanfarlo, and many more.