• Make your own techno and acid beats with this fun and free online clone of the legendary TR-909 drum machine

    Musician and programmer Matthew Cieplak, aka Extralife, created the ER-99, a delightful browser-based clone of the legendary Roland TR-909 Rhythm Composer. First produced in 1983, the 909 led to the birth of deep house, acid, and techno musical genres. From Cieplak's ER-99 page:

    ER-99 is a web-based instrument 🎛️ based on a famous Japanese drum machine from the 1980s. It was built to celebrate 9/09 day 2022 🎉!

    All of the drums are synthesized using the WebAudio API. The hi-hats, crash, and ride cymbals are produced from sampled audio.

    The complete source code is available on Github.

  • Glorious stripped-down version of Christopher Cross's "Sailing" you've likely never heard before

    Christopher Cross's 1980 song "Sailing" is the archetype of Yacht Rock. It's a spectacular song, and I mean that without irony. As we know, the original was an orchestral number which meant that if Cross and his band were to mime/lip-sync the song on TV, it would look particularly ridiculous because the instruments you hear wouldn't even appear on the stage. Of course, this was (and is) very common but Cross would have none of that. So he recorded a stripped down arrangement of the tune for a six piece band. That recording was then used for their TV appearances so at least it appeared that they could have been playing it live.

    Bonus comment by stuffitystuff on r/ObscureMedia: "… Christopher Cross is still the only person to look like both members of Tenacious D."

    image: Anna Om/Shutterstock
  • Michael Jackson's "deep voice" is quite unnerving

    Michael Jackson's falsetto singing and speaking voice was integral to his personality, but on rare occasions he'd drop into a deep baritone. I find it unnerving. Submitted for your review, the above clip of Jacko performing "In the Closet" in Copenhagen in 1997.

    (Thanks, UPSO!)

    image: "Michael Jackson in the Madame Tussauds Hollywood wax museum." (Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock)
  • University student arrested for threatening to detonate on-campus nuclear reactor if school's football team lost

    Police arrested a University of Utah student who allegedly threatened on social media to detonate a nuclear reactor located on campus if the Utes football team lost a big game against San Diego State. Fortunately, the Utes won because there is a nuclear reactor in one of the school's engineering buildings. It's occasionally used for research and teaching. According to police, the suspect, "is aware of where the reactor is located and attends class in the same building where the reactor is housed." From KSL.com:

    …The university released a statement regarding the arrest, saying that even though the student claimed her comments were a joke, the school has "a zero-tolerance policy for these kinds of threats."

    University of Utah police also noted that the school's nuclear reactor "is secured and alarmed and police have unique protocols for managing any breach of the facility."

    From the New York Times:

    The university is among 24 colleges and universities that operate research and test nuclear reactors on campus as part of their engineering programs. These reactors, also known as nonpower reactors, are primarily used for research, training and development, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the agency that oversees nuclear capabilities in the United States. There are 31 research and test nuclear reactors in the country.

  • Vampire film museum exhibit includes opportunity to donate blood

    Nosferatu—filmmaker Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's German Expressionist masterpiece about a Transylvanian vampire—turns 100 this year. (You can watch it below!) To celebrate, Berlin's Nationalgalerie is staging an exhibition about the film and its influence on cinematic horror and pop culture. Brilliantly, the exhibit also features an opportunity to donate blood to the Red Cross. Phantoms of the Night: 100 Years of Nosferatu runs December 16, 2022 to April 23, 2023. From Artnet:

    Murnau's film was an unauthorized remake of Bram Stoker's original 1897 novel Dracula, and instantly became an icon of the German silent film era that has been heralded by many critics as one of the best films ever made. (Who can forget Max Schreck's portrayal of the fearsome Count Orlok, whose curling facial expressions reveal the vampire in all his macabre glory?)

    "André Breton considered Nosferatu a key surrealist work," read a statement from the museum, "and sketches for the set design, for example, include motifs that call to mind etchings by Francisco de Goya."

  • James Earl Jones has signed over Darth Vader's voice to artificial intelligence

    James Early Jones has signed over the rights to his Darth Vader voice to artificial intelligence. Respeecher, a Ukraine-based synthetic speech start-up, already used archival recordings and algorithms to create Vader's voice for the "Obi-Wan Kenobiu" series and has since turned over the rights to his Vader voice. From Vanity Fair:

    What Respeecher could do better than anyone was re-create the unforgettably menacing way that Jones, now 91, sounded half a lifetime ago. [Lucasfilm supervising sound editor Matthew] Wood estimates that he's recorded the actor at least a dozen times over the decades, the last time being a brief line of dialogue in 2019's The Rise of Skywalker. "He had mentioned he was looking into winding down this particular character," says Wood. "So how do we move forward?" When he ultimately presented Jones with Respeecher's work, the actor signed off on using his archival voice recordings to keep Vader alive and vital even by artificial means—appropriate, perhaps, for a character who is half mechanical. Jones is credited for guiding the performance on Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Wood describes his contribution as "a benevolent godfather." They inform the actor about their plans for Vader and heed his advice on how to stay on the right course.

  • Watch this ridiculous football punt ricochet off a player's butt yesterday, a first time in the NFL

    The highlight of yesterday's Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins football game was when the Dolphins' Thomas Morstead made a powerful punt that slammed right into the butt of his blocker, Trent Sherfield.

    front page thumbnail image: noraismail/Shutterstock

  • Wall Street Journal reports on Bigfoot, complete with one of their iconic "hedcut" portraits

    The Wall Street Journal wrote about the rise in legitimate researchers—from academics to naturalists—who are "open-minded skeptics" or true believers in Sasquatch. Wonderfully, the WSJ created one of their iconic "hedcut" portraits of Patty, the female Bigfoot star of the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin footage that remains the best visual evidence of the ape-like cryptid. From the Wall Street Journal:

    John Hickenbottom, a naturalist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources at Salt Fork State Park in Ohio, said he used to be dismissive of "dads in tube socks and cargo shorts saying 'Have you ever seen Bigfoot?'" After some research, he considers himself an "open-minded skeptic."[…]

    During a recent meeting of about 20 researchers, several declined to provide their names to a reporter. A primate zookeeper from Michigan said she long thought of Bigfoot as a joke but changed her mind after realizing that many sighting accounts included primate behaviors she didn't think most people would know about.

    She traveled to Washington state in 2019 to see nests studied by the Olympic Project. The sight of the large oval nests, woven of huckleberry branches and looking similar to beds made by apes the zookeeper works with, was "mind blowing," she said.

    An insect taxonomist at a Utah university said he has been investigating since 2015, when he and his son were elk hunting in northern Utah and saw a group of five apelike animals going through an aspen stand about 250 yards away.

  • Spiritual jazz pioneer Pharoah Sanders, RIP

    The great Pharoah Sanders, a pioneering spiritual and avant-garde jazz saxophonist who first gained great acclaim in John Coltrane's 1960s bands, has died at age 81.

    "If you're in the song, keep on playing," he said in a 2020 interview with The New Yorker.

    Farrell Sanders was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, eventually moving to Oakland, California and then New York City where he played with Sun Ra who nicknamed him Pharoah.

    From Pitchfork:

    Sanders also played a key role in the spiritual jazz movement and helped popularize overblowing and multiphonic techniques. He was additionally a key player in defining the 1960s sound, thanks to his 1969 album Karma [listen below], playing on Alice Coltrane's 1968 album A Monastic Trio, and beyond. addition to his work with Sun Ra and John Coltrane, Sanders collaborated with jazz luminaries like Don Cherry (on 1966's Symphony For Improvisers and 1969's Where Is Brooklyn?) and Ornette Coleman (on 1966's Chappaqua Suite). He collaborated numerous times with Alice Coltrane, too, including on her iconic 1971 album Journey in Satchidananda, as well as with fellow jazz staples Kenny Garrett, Norman Connors, Tisziji Muñoz, McCoy Tyner, and Randy Weston.

    While he is well known for his run of albums for Impulse! Records in the 1960s and 1970s—Karma, Thembi, Elevation, Black Unity, and Love in Us All—Sanders continued recording into the 1990s and 2000s. His most recent album, the collaborative LP Promises with Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra, came out in 2021.

  • Watch a pre-Alice In Chains, glam rock Layne Stayley go off about the PMRC on Seattle television (1985)

    In 1985, Tipper Gore (wife of then-senator Al Gore), formed the Parents Music Resource Center, a ridiculous committee that pushed (and succeeded) to have warning labels on albums that included what they deemed to be explicit or objectionable lyrics and lobbied to get songs banned from the radio. They infamously compiled the "Filthy 15" list of popular songs that most upset them, including such classics as Twister Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It," "Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop," and Venom's "Possessed."

    Of course, reasonable musicians spoke out against the pearl-clutching stupidity. In the 1985 clip above, Layne Stayley, two years before he'd become the frontman for Alice in Chains, shared his thoughts on the PMRC on a local Seattle TV station. At the time, Stayley sang for a glam metal band named Sleze. Hence the hair and sunglasses.

  • The CIA has launched a podcast

    The United States Central Intelligence Agency has launched a podcast.

    The mission of The Langley Files: A CIA Podcast is to educate and connect with the general public, sharing insight into the Agency's core mission, capabilities, and agility as an intelligence leader…and to share some interesting stories along the way," they state. So far, the podcast reveals the tedium of the CIA's work, at least the work they're willing to share. From Variety:

    "We do usually operate in the shadows, out of sight and out of mind," [CIA Director Bill] Burns said in the premiere. However, he continued, "in our democracy, where trust in institutions is in such short supply… it's important to try to explain ourselves the best we can and to demystify a little bit of what we do."

    According to Burns, one of the biggest misconceptions people have about the CIA stems from Hollywood's depictions of intelligence field agents. Many people think CIA is a "glamorous world" of "heroic individuals who drive fast cars and defuse bombs and solve world crises all on their own" — a la Jason Bourne, James Bond and Jack Ryan. (Bond is a British spy, but you get the drift.) On the podcast, Burns shared that he drives a 2013 Subaru Outback "at posted speed limits."

    (Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)

  • Impressive video of a deer leaping over a speeding car

    A Michigan State Police (MSP) officer's dashcam captured this fantastic video of a deer seemingly leaping right over a speeding car as the small herd races across the road. (Yes, it's possible that the deer was actually just behind the car while in the air but it's still damn impressive.)

    MSP reminds us that "If deer cross your path – apply controlled braking; steer straight; don't swerve."

    Also, what do you call a deer that's blind in one eye? No eye deer! (Say it aloud.)

  • Tinder opened a convenience store

    Tinder opened a convenience store in Tokyo's bustling Shibuya . With a design inspired by the Family Mart chain, the Tinder SwipeMart offered free swag, snacks, and a photo area to take profile shots. Promo video below. The pop-up SwipeMart was only open for a few days but apparently was quite a scene. From SoraNews24:

    Tinder members were also provided with some original food and drinks, like chips, alcoholic sours, ramen, and a "Tinder Chiki" — inspired by Family Mart's Famichiki — which came in a two-pack for sharing with your perfect match.

    Dubbed "Tinder's Youth Convenience Store", there was no age requirement to enter before 10 p.m., but people in school uniform were denied entry at all times.

    Really though, Tinder should open a chain of love hotels.

  • Restaurant enforces $10 "screaming children surcharge"

    Angie's Oyster Bar & Grill in Singapore implemented a $10 "screaming children surcharge" about a month ago and say that complaints about noisy kids have since dropped. (Earlier this year, they also removed highchairs from the restaurant.) From Yahoo! News:

    With the penalty in place, it noted "an improvement and fewer complaints", with customers who are parents being more mindful and making a greater effort to ensure their children are not disturbing others while dining.

    Parents and caretakers are informed during the reservations process about the penalty and "99 per cent" of them are very respectful and understanding, the restaurant said.

    "We are happy to inform you that the vast majority of our guests understand the policy was introduced with good intentions and appreciate we're doing our best to make the dining experience enjoyable for everyone and not just a select few."

    (via Fark)

  • Here's the real story behind the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books

    In the 1980s, the Choose Your Own Adventure book series was all the rage among kids. From "Journey Under the Sea" to "Your Code Name is Jonah," "The Abominable Snowman," and "Deadwood City," each novel was a "gamebook" in which the reader would make choices throughout the story that would lead to different paths and outcomes. Forty years later, the series still sells a million copies each year. Leslie Jamison explores the history and power of these quaint-but-enchanting "interactive" books in The New Yorker:

    The story of Choose Your Own Adventure is largely the tale of two men: Edward Packard, a lawyer who came up with the concept while telling bedtime stories to his two daughters (who sometimes wanted the protagonist to do different things), and R. A. (Ray) Montgomery, an independent publisher who put out Packard's first book, in 1976, after all the big houses had rejected it. Each of them eventually went on to write nearly sixty titles in the series[…]

    When his daughters were young, Packard told them bedtime stories about a boy named Pete, a literary alter ego of [daughter] Andrea's. (Pete was also the name of a friend she had a crush on, but she thinks the character's creation had more to do with her suspicion that boys had more freedom in the world.) At key junctures in the story, Packard would ask his daughters what they thought Pete should do next, and when they gave different answers he'd play out both possibilities. Packard remembers this innovation as a function of necessity—"If I'd been a better storyteller, we never would have gotten the form. . . . I'd get stumped, and ask the girls what should happen next"—but Andrea recalls it as an instance of his generosity. He wanted to give each girl her own ending, just as he was always meticulously fair in his distribution of snacks, compliments, and attention.

    Andrea remembers bedtime stories with her dad as sacred—this was the time the kids got to be with him, after his long days working at a law firm in Manhattan and his lengthy train commutes back to their home, in suburban Connecticut. Eventually, Packard began using these commutes to turn his bedtime stories into his first book, "Sugarcane Island," a story full of branching paths recounting Pete's adventures on a remote island. Working on the manuscript offered Packard an escape from a law career he found largely unsatisfying.

    image: Ben__Stevens/Shutterstock
  • Photographer spent the day inside Kurt Cobain's abandoned house

    Photographer Steve Birnbaum visits the locations where iconic images of musicians were taken and then photographs those familiar photos in that context. He recently visited the abandoned Hollywood Heights house that Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, and their daughter Frances Bean called home in 1992. See Birnbaum's lovely and melancholy images in the video below.

    "Often people ask how it feels to stand in the same location as some of these people once did," Binbaum writes. "That feeling was overwhelming when I took these. I was alone, in this run down house with these photos, and all the memories permeating out of the cracks in the walls, through the splintered floors, dancing along the sun soaked windows streaked with dust. It was palpable."

  • Interview with William Shatner, revealed last night as the "Masked Singer"

    Last night on the Masked Singer, the mysterious and bizarre Knight was revealed to be the great William Shatner (aka James T. Kirk of Star Trek: The Original Series). In perfect Shatner style, he sung/spoke Fred Astaire's "Puttin' on the Ritz." Watch above. From Gil Kaufman's interview with Shatner at Billboard:

    Why the Fred Astaire song?

    First of all, because it's a nifty song. The rhyme and the syncopation… it's a really clever song and I really enjoyed learning to do it. There I was doing Fred Astaire, thinking, "this is pretty cool." Then I put the wardrobe on and I can't move, and I can't see, so everything I had planned performance-wise went out the window. If I could have crossed my fingers I would have.

    Why do this show now? Did you watch it before?

    I caught glimpses of it. As I say, this friend of mine who was on the show when they asked me to be on it I talked him and I said, "how did it go?" And he said, "The worst thing I ever did. The worst experience I've ever had."

    So of course you were like, "I'm in!"

    Well, what does he know? He's an athlete, he's not a performer.

    image: Willrow Hood/Shutterstock
  • Hilton hotels designing suites for NASA-funded private space station

    In the next decade, NASA is counting on private space stations to replace the International Space Station. One of those in development (with $160 in early-stage NASA funding so far) is called Starlab, a partnership between Lockheed Martin, Nanoracks, Voyager Space, and, now, Hilton hotels. Hilton has been named as designers of the astronaut living areas aboard the orbiting space station.

    "Hilton will bring the company's renowned hospitality expertise and experience to support the design and development of crew suites aboard Starlab, helping to reimagine the human experience in space, making extended stays more comfortable," according to a joint press release:

    The research and design work being dedicated to Starlab could also lead to advancements driving sustainability and greater design efficiencies for future hotel owners in space and on Earth.

    Voyager and Hilton will partner in the areas of architecture and design, leveraging Hilton's word-class creative design and innovation experts, to develop Space Hospitality crew headquarters aboard Starlab, including communal areas, hospitality suites, and sleeping arrangements for the astronauts. Additionally, the teams will seek to explore opportunities together for longer-term efforts including the ground-to-space astronaut experience, global co-marketing and branding, and other tourism, educational, and commercial efforts.

    I can't wait for Motel 6 to get into the space hotel game!

    (via Space.com)