Monday, March 27, 2006

Sorry, wrong volcano!

In 1961, the Soviets tested Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear explosive ever at 57 "megatons", powerful enough to give a person 100 km away 3rd degree burns.

But Tsar Bomba was puny compared to the volcano Krakatoa which exploded in 1883 with a force of about 200 megatons. "The sound of Krakatoa's destruction is believed to be the loudest sound in recorded history, reaching levels of 180 dBSPL 100 miles (160 km) away."

However, I am most stunned to learn, after all these years, that Krakatoa is NOT "east of Java". It is, in fact, west.

Another, even huger volcano, Tambora is east of Java. Tambora went off in 1815 and put so much sunlight-blocking ash into the air that the the year following was known as "the year without a summer".

Friday, March 24, 2006

God Save (and cut and paste) the Tsar

Remember when our worst fear was the people who played this song? (1.1MB mp3)

Life was simpler then and you could count on the Evil Empire to have some good tunes.

Russia has a grand musical history, but most of it happened before the 1917 revolution. Obvious outrages like the tsarist anthem "God Save the Tsar" could be banned, but what's a good soviet do with a national emblem like Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture which actually incorporates GST into the finale? Disgraced party members could be airbrushed out of a photo but what to do about the 1812?

I hardly believed it when one of my college professors told me this... but it's true: they snip the score where "God Save the Tsar" starts, paste in a passage from a Glinka opera, and then go back to Tchaikovsky when the danger is past.

The Russian National Anthems Museum has a comparison of "original" and "Soviet" versions of several Tcahikovsky works that quote GST including 1812.

download MP3 (25.4MB, 15:29, 224kbps) — fully instrumental; by the USSR State Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Evgeny Svetlanov and go to about 14:00 with your mp3 player. If you're like me and spent many teenage hours playing 1812 at high volume, this will be the most ear-bending thing you ever heard.

Many interesting parodies of various Russian anthems are also contained on the Russian National Anthems Museum page, including C&W, techno and punk versions.

BTW, that's not Tchaikovsky at the top, that's Alexis Lvov, composer of "God Save the Tsar".

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Georg Phillip Backstabbing Telemann

According to Wikipedia, the baroque composer Georg Phillip Telemann played the bass trombone, among other instruments.

Telemann wrote a huge amount of music for just about every instrument imaginable. His viola concerto in G is one of my most favorite baroque pieces ever. Likewise his trumpet concerto in D.

For many years he held down a job that required him to write two cantatas for every Sunday, plus holidays. Telemann was so prolific, I'm sure he must have been writing with both hands simultaneously, with an apprentice shoving a new blank page underneath as soon as he filled one up.

But in his long musical life did he ever bother to write a trombone concerto?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

It's Jonny Quest's Fault

I'm just wondering, is Jonny Quest the reason I'm... a trombone player?

Theme from Jonny Quest

(Audio link on the page)

Hanna and Barbera claimed they wrote all the themes for their shows. Whatever, this is something that comes up surprisingly often in trombone circles.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


I'll bet you can't do this when you turn 46.

Alternate captions:

-But the picture in the attic is getting really scary.
-Ten years of crunches and all I got was a lousy 4-pac.
-Shot through gauze? It was shot through naugahyde.
-The main advantage of being 46 is... uh... gimme a minute, will ya...
-Don Knotts called: he wants his body back.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

And They Just Can't Hide It

I used to go to a sometimes annual festival in Hollywood called The World Animation Celebration. It was a chance to see lots of animation and hear industry people talk about their stuff.

As I attended the various events I noticed there was one recurring phrase that seemed to herald... ANNOUNCEMENT OF WORTHLESS CRAP.

"We're very excited about our initiative to put excerpts from Scooby-Doo® on the world-wide web!"

"We're very excited about the opportunity to include officially licensed characters from Sabrina the Teenage Witch® in Happy Meals®!"

"We're very excited about our $38 million (Canadian) deal to develop Who Wants to Be a Millionaire®, starring Regis Philbin®, into a 72x30 syndicated afternoon cartoon series, in which Regis® will travel the globe fighting crime and deliver a positive message encouraging viewers in the 9-13 age bracket to just say no® to drugs!"

This is going to ruin the Pointer Sisters.

See my adventures at the last World Animation Celebration

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


The maker of an independent feature has put his film on the web via "BitTorrent"

I'm trying it, but what is the imagined advantage of "bitTorrent"?

speed? It's downloading at only 8 KB/second.

The status line says "0.0% done, 6 days remaining" I haven't seen a message like that since I first used Adobe Premiere in 1995.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Long Load Time

One day at my old job a co-worker complained that a video in one of our multimedia things was taking too long to load.

"Almost 30 seconds!" he said.

I told him to get happy with it. "Back when I was a boy... we had to wait six months for a movie to get from downtown theaters to the theater in the suburb where we lived."

2001: A Space Odyssey was one of those rare exceptions I can recall from childhood where the whole family went down to St. Paul to see a movie, including my dad, who generally does not believe in such entertainments.

We were dumbfounded by it, but for the next four years I was building spaceships with robot arms out of cardboard boxes in the basement.

When I tell people about 10 years younger than I that 2001 made a huge impression on me, they don't get it. They can't imagine watching a space movie that has no light sabers, no weird aliens, and no X-wings.

I don't do much 3D modeling but I did make this spacepod last year.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Did he throw a bow at them?

I watched Master and Commander~The Far Side of the World last night. It seems Russell Crowe only needed one stunt double, one stand-in, one sword master even... but it took three people to show him how to pretend to play the violin?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Seeing Spots

I watched Kubrick's Barry Lyndon last night. So what's with the moles?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Beat the Devil

It sounds like something out of one of those improv comedy shows... What if Truman Capote wrote a Humphrey Bogart film?

But it actually happened. It's my new favorite (live-action) film: Beat the Devil, directed by John Huston.

A very odd group is headed to Africa to do some uranium deal, but nothing goes the way they thought it would. So many great characters, so many great situations to put them thru the wringer...

Good news! It's in the public domain so you can download it for free at

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Genetic Engineering

Why is it they can make a mouse that glows in the dark but they can't make a seedless tangerine?

Las Vegas Wedding

In 2001 I flew to Las Vegas for my nephew's wedding. The ceremony was done by a professional wrestling referee and all the bridesmaids were last minute replacements because the original five refused to get on a plane two weeks after 9/11. I think the marriage lasted about a year.

My flight out of Las Vegas was late boarding. But even after everyone had gotten on board and found their seats we stayed at the gate for the longest time.

Waiting... waiting... waiting...

Eventually a flight attendant came down the aisle and spoke to a guy in the row in front of me sitting next to one empty seat.

"Your wife's ticket has been cancelled because her credit card has been declined." she said. "Would you like to come back to the gate and help her pay for her ticket?"

He seemed to consider it for about three seconds, then replied "Nah, I need to get home."