There’s no accounting for taste, especially our own

Friday, 24 June, 2016

Why do our tastes, or preferences, become our tastes and preferences, why do they change over time, and why do we think we had bad taste in the past, when, say, we look at old photos of ourselves, and cringe at the way we used to dress, or style our hair? The here and now is always the new black, it seems, while the past, was, I don’t know, some other colour.

It is reminiscent of the moment, looking through an old photo album, when you see an earlier picture of yourself and exclaim, “Oh my God, that hair!” Or “Those corduroys!” Just as pictures of ourselves can look jarring because we do not normally see ourselves as others see us, our previous tastes, viewed from “outside”, from the perspective of what looks good now, come as a surprise. Your hairstyle per se was probably not good or bad, simply a reflection of contemporary taste. We say, with condescension, “I can’t believe people actually dressed like that,” without realising we ourselves are currently wearing what will be considered bad taste in the future.

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What a tangled web we weave when first we begin to compose music

Tuesday, 21 June, 2016

The Musicmap, by Belgian architect Kwinten Crauwels, might look pretty straightforward when it loads in your browser, but zoom in. What started out as a dozen or so music genres, expands into over two hundred and thirty sub-genres, that encompasses almost one hundred and fifty years of pop music history.

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1976, birthday music by Dion Lunadon

Thursday, 9 June, 2016

New Zealand musician Dion Lunadon likes 1976 so much, he wrote a song about it. Mind you, he was also born that year, so that might have something to do with it. That’s definitely a 1970s guitar riff going on there though.

The video was produced by US film editor Ryan Ohm, as a private project, using archival footage. Works well I think.

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Tetris, the story of the pieces that don’t always fit together

Wednesday, 8 June, 2016

The story behind video shape puzzle game Tetris, that was created thirty-two years ago, is almost as fascinating, and, at times, perplexing, as the game itself.

It’s here that the rights issue surrounding Tetris became somewhat fraught. The UK company Andromeda was forced to negotiate a proper licensing deal with Elorg when the latter’s director, Alexander Alexinko, noticed that Andromeda was selling on rights that it didn’t actually own. Meanwhile, Spectrum HoloByte sub-licensed its rights to Henk Rogers’ company, Bulletproof Software, which planned to sell Tetris in Japan, without realizing that Mirrorsoft had also sub-licensed the game to Atari, who planned to sell it not only in America, but also in Japan.

Just goes to show, that when you’re onto a good thing, everyone wants not one, but a couple of slices of the pie.

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Roman-era notes come to light on London construction site

Friday, 3 June, 2016

Hand written documents, that were composed nearly two thousand years ago, have been uncovered during construction work in London’s financial district. They are said to be the oldest hand written messages ever found in Britain.

So far 87 have been deciphered, including one addressed “in London, to Mogontius” and dated to AD 65-80, making it the earliest recorded reference to the city, which the Romans called Londinium. Another is dated January 8, AD 57 and is considered Britain’s earliest dated hand-written document.

I sure hope whoever wrote these notes wasn’t worried about their contents becoming public, even if that were to happen twenty centuries later.

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And the life expectancy of working class Romans was?

Tuesday, 31 May, 2016

Some people appeared to live in great comfort during Roman times, but for others, especially those who kept the cog wheels turning as it were, that looked to be far from the case. For one thing, the life expectancy of such people was just thirty years. Compare that with ages sometimes approaching seventy, for other Roman citizens.

“The bones are the earthly remains of poor, working-class Romans, taken from commoners’ graves, and display high incidences of broken and fractured bones, chronic arthritis and high incidences of bone cancer,” medical historian Valentina Gazzaniga told The Local. “What’s interesting is that the average age of death across the sample group was just 30, yet the skeletons still display severe damage wrought by the extremely difficult working conditions of the day.”

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Is a marching music composer the greatest ever rock musician?

Monday, 30 May, 2016

Ask a room full of people which rock musicians of the last fifty to sixty years will be remembered in the distant future, and I’m guessing, from the numerous suggestions made, that everyone might eventually agree on about half a dozen names that would fit the bill.

Would it surprise you then, that just one person, a composer of marching music, named John Philip Sousa, might be the only person who is recalled? If nothing else, it’s an intriguing thought.

Marching music is a maddeningly durable genre, recognizable to pretty much everyone who has lived in the United States for any period. It works as a sonic shorthand for any filmmaker hoping to evoke the late 19th century and serves as the auditory backdrop for national holidays, the circus and college football. It’s not “popular” music, but it’s entrenched within the popular experience. It will be no less fashionable tomorrow than it is today.

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No advances in vacuum cleaner technology since 1910

Wednesday, 25 May, 2016

Well this is disappointing, it seems latter day vacuum cleaners are no more effective than their counterparts, that date from the early years of the twentieth century.

“A vacuum cleaner from 1910 would clean the rug just as well as a modern vacuum cleaner from today,” says Tom Gasko, one of America’s foremost vacuum cleaner historians and the curator at the Vacuum Cleaner Museum at Tacony Manufacturing in St. James, Missouri.

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Visualising the evolution of pop music from 1956

Thursday, 5 May, 2016

A look, and listen, at how pop music evolved… based on top ten hits as charted by Billboard, from 1956 through to today.

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Is it time to make Penny Farthing racing an Olympic sport?

Wednesday, 4 May, 2016

Penny Farthing races at the Herne Hill Velodrome, in the south east of London, in 1928. I lived for a short time in Tulse Hill, the suburb neighbouring Herne Hill, but was unaware of its presence, or that it was one of the oldest track cycling venues in the world.

But how about those bikes, hey? Look at them go. It’s time to introduce Penny Farthing racing as an Olympic sport, I think.

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