• Exploring the universe through a piece of A4 paper

    This amazing video by CGP Grey starts off as a seeming ode to the metric dimensional wonders of A4 paper and all of the larger and smaller A-size papers that can be made by simply folding (or unfolding) a sheet. But, then things get seriously mind-expanding as they keep folding and folding that sheet of A4, down to the quantum level and beyond, and then back to the A4, and unfolding it out beyond the known universe.

    You'll never look at an A4 piece of paper the same again. Trippy and enlightening.

    [Originally posted on Adafruit]

  • Steve Stevens tells the stories behind Billy Idol's Rebel Yell

    On this episode of Professor of Rock, Adam Reader talks to guitarist Steve Stevens about the backstory of how Billy Idol's massive 80s anthem, "Rebel Yell," came about. There are some great reveals in here, like how the title to the song came to Billy at Ron Wood's birthday party where Rebel Yell whiskey was being served. And how Stevens combined his love for toy robots and ray guns with rock guitar by playing the sound of a raygun over his pick-ups to create some of the guitar sound. We also learn more about Stevens' diverse influences, from Chuck Berry to Leo Kottke to Yes' Steve Howe.

    Image: YouTube

  • Robert Fripp's Music for Quiet Moments series nearing its end

    Back in May of last year, I announced the launch of an online ambient music series that Robert Fripp was going to be posting during pandemic isolation. I have been faithfully following the postings ever since. It was launched as a 50-week series, so it will soon be at an end.

    Fripp saw the series as a "something to nourish us, and help us through these uncertain times." For me, and I'm sure many others, it has done just that. It's wonderful to read the comments of the postings to see how these pieces have impacted listeners, like the comments from frontline health workers calming themselves down after a trying shifts in the hospital. Beautiful stuff.

    Image: Screengrab

  • How America could fall like Rome

    In this Vice News video, Mike Duncan, the author and award-winner podcaster behind The History of Rome and Revolutions, looks at parallels between the rise of Trumpism and the January 6th insurrection and societal upheavals of the past. He fears that the worst might be yet to come.

    I like how he clarifies that Trump isn't a Louis XVI or a Tsar Nicholas, because though horrible, they were much smarter, better rulers and politicians. For a Trump analog, we have to look at the teen emperors of Rome and their flippant and nonchalant attitudes towards the powers they wielded.

    What Duncan fears is that, a national political class that only cares now about holding onto power at all costs, an Executive Branch that has tested the fit of an Imperial presidency, and the willingness of mobs to reinforce the agendas of corrupt leaders are the clear beginnings of a drift into dictatorship.

  • Read Robert Louis Stevenson's handwritten manuscript for "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

    New York's Morgan Library has the entire scanned handwritten manuscript to Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde available for paging through and reading online.

    This manuscript of Robert Louis Stevenson's novella "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is the copy sent to the publisher Charles Longman in late October 1885, about six weeks after Stevenson first conceived of the idea.
    The manuscript has been marked up, primarily in pencil, either by the compositors who set the type or by someone else (perhaps a managing editor) at the publishing house, Longmans, Green & Co., that published the first edition of the book on January 9, 1886.

    Read the entire manuscript.

    Bonus Track:
    A look inside of The Morgan

    Image: Screengrab

  • Prepare for some funky spring dancing with these 10 Earth, Wind & Fire bass lines

    With some recent posts on Boing Boing, I discovered that there are a bunch of funkophiles here. So, I thought many of you fellow members of the Mothership might appreciate this recent video two-parter on Thomann's Guitars & Basses where Julia Hofer runs through ten of Earth, Wind & Fire's most epic bass lines.

    As Julia points out in the beginning, it's hard not to hear EWF grooves, especially the superb bass playing of Verdine White, and not want to dance. I don't know about you, but this spring, I plan to do a lot more celebratory booty-shakin.

    Image: YouTube

  • Disney's 1934 "The Goddess of Spring" tells the tale of Persephone and Hades

    The Goddess of Spring was part of the Silly Symphony animated shorts that Walt Disney Productions did in the 1930s. Each film was an animated accompaniment to a piece of music and they were each designed as experiments in different animation techniques, processes, and character development. The Goddess of Spring was one of Disney's first animation of human characters.

    The Goddess of Spring was basically the experimental workshop for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It tells the story of the Goddess of Spring being kidnapped by Hades (here depicted as the operatic Mephistopheles) and her eventual return above ground, and thus, the return of Spring.

    Persephone (Proserpina in Roman mythology), the Goddess of Spring, lives in a beautiful garden of eternal spring. She is greeted by dancing flowers and fairies who stand by her throne and defend her when Hades (Pluto in Roman mythology), the God of the Underworld, comes to take her away. He plans to make her his queen in the Underworld, where she is crowned by Hades and welcomed by a choir of devils. Meanwhile, above ground, the creatures suffer a rough winter and mourn the absence of their goddess.

    In the Underworld, the Goddess of Spring weeps. Hades shows concern for her unhappiness, and offers anything to make her happy; they reach the agreement that she will spend six months above ground and six below, resulting in the four seasons. She is allowed to return to her world, thawing the snow and ending the winter.


    Welcome home, Goddess. Over this long winter, we missed you more than ever.

    [H/t Pam Grossman]

    Image: Screengrab

  • Hear the sound of an 18,000 year old musical instrument

    OK, it might not sound all that eargasmic, but here is the sound of an 18,000 year old conch shell that researchers have now determined was intentionally carved to be a wind instrument.

    A team of researchers at the Natural History Museum of Toulouse in France, home to the Pyrenees Mountain foothills where the cave was discovered, decided to reexamine the conch fossil — originally believed to be a ritual or loving cup — and found it to be an 18,000-year-old wind instrument. The unique musical artifact is intentionally carved to facilitate specific notes.

    "Anthropologists and ethnomusicologists assert that there is no society without song, and more specifically, there is no ritual or celebration without accompanying sound," wrote the researchers in a collectively authored paper on the finding, released in the February 2021 issue of Science Advances. "The production of sounds in social contexts is very ancient."

    Read more at Hyperallergic.

    Image: cheesy42CC BY 2.0

  • That time that Kenner released a torture chamber playset

    Who can forget that charming scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi when we got to see screaming droids being branded and torn apart in the dungeon beneath Jabba the Huts' palace? Ah, fond memories.

    Lest any child forget, in 1983 (er… and again in 1984), Kenner released a Jabba the Hut Dungeon action playset. They did, at least, eventually think better of using the word torture on the box copy, first covering it with a sticker, replaced it with "use branding iron on," and then turning torture into "a hot time" on the 84 release. The product was, in fact, a rebranding of an earlier Star Wars Droid Factory playset.

    "It's Kenner! It's torture! [SQUAWK]"

    Image: Screegrab

  • David Bowie was slated to play Count Robert Lecter on NBC's Hannibal

    Here's a bit of Bowie trivia of which I was unaware.

    One character from the novels who didn't appear in the Hannibal series is the title character's uncle Count Robert Lecter, who first appeared in Hannibal Rising. While Robert in the novel is short-lived and ultimately doesn't play a major role, showrunner Bryan Fuller had big plans for the Count on Hannibal. In fact, he first offered the role to David Bowie during the second season, who expressed interest.

    Read the rest on ScreenRant.

    Image: Photobra|Adam Bielawski (cropped)- CC BY-SA 3.0

  • Adam Savage responds to the concept of "No basis in science"

    In a Q&A on Tested, after someone asked about busting myths on MythBusters that "have no basis in science," Adam uses the opportunity to talk about how such a question itself has no basis in science. "Science is not a compendium of knowledge, science is a process." Anything can be tested using scientific methods.

    He uses the example of free energy, how they tackled it on the show, and how they used it as an opportunity to demonstrate for viewers that free energy is unworkable, at least within the physics that we know and understand today.

    Image: Screengrab

  • On The Tonight Show, John Oliver asks Alexa: "How bad are Amazon working conditions?"

    Last Monday night, on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, while playing a word guessing game with an Amazon Alexa, guest John Oliver first told the snoopy AI to: "Speak from your heart, Alexa, your rotten heart." Then, he asked it (to the gasps and nervous laughter of the audience): "How bad are Amazon working conditions?" and "What is Union busting?"

    Fallon, ever the corporate shill, seemed uncomfortable with the questioning and shut them down before we could hear how Alexa might answer or what more Oliver might say in response.

    Image: Screengrab