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Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday links

April 28th is Duke Ellington's birthday.

The Literal Meaning of Every Country's Name on a Map (zoomable).

Inside the Strange World of Dried Hummingbird Love Charm Trafficking.

Because it's time to get the herb gardens planted, here's some advice from the 16th century on avoiding brain scorpions: Take heede therefore ye smellers of Basil.

Here's a clickable map of every street tree in New York City.


ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include how to download a copy of everything Google knows about you, ANZAC Day (the anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli), the 19th century art of measuring criminals, and, for Oliver Cromwell's birthday, his excellent (and evergreen) speech throwing out the corrupt Parliament (plus the posthumous adventures of his head). 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Happy Birthday Duke Ellington

When it sounds good, it is good.

Duke Ellington (wiki(program notes to Such Sweet Thunder, 1957)

I have a mistress. Lovers have come and gone, but only my mistress stays. She is beautiful and gentle... She is a swinger. She has grace. To hear her speak, you can't believe your ears. She is ten thousand years old. She is as modern as tomorrow, a brand new woman every day, and as endless as time and mathematics. Living with her is a labyrinth of ramifications. I look forward to her every gesture. Music is my mistress, and she plays second fiddle to none. 

~ Ellington (Music is My Mistress, 1973)

The three greatest composers who ever lived are Bach, Delius, and Duke E Ellington. Unfortunately, Bach is dead, Delius is very ill, but we are happy to have with us today the Duke. 

~ Percy Grainger* (quoted in Bird, Percy Grainger)

Outside of the intrinsic artistic value of his music (which is, of course, the most important thing about Ellington), I think his contemporary impact on American culture was at least as much a social one as an aesthetic one. He was the first black man who was widely perceived as a serious and significant artist in white America, and his success in vaulting over that barrier of perception was a source of immense collective pride in black America. It was exactly what he set out to do, too, which is one of the reasons why he went to such lengths to cultivate his image as a man apart from the common run of jazz bandleaders—black and white alike. 


April 28 is the anniversary of the birth of American jazz pianist and composer Edward Kennedy ("Duke") Ellington (1899-1974) (wiki) (official website) in Washington, D.C. One of the most influential figures in the history of jazz, Ellington established his reputation at the Cotton Club in New York City between 1927 and 1932 and toured Europe with his band in the late 1930s, setting an unprecedented standard for jazz performance and improvisation.

Over the course of a 50-year career, he wrote more than 6,000 compositions which span the spectrum from jazz to "serious" and sacred music and include such standards as Mood Indigo, Sophisticated Lady, Solitude, and Black, Brown, and Beige. 

Often credited to the Duke but actually a couplet by Irving Mills from one of Ellington's favorite numbers, is a phrase that well describes his philosophy of music-making:

"It don't mean a thing
If it ain't got that swing."

Here he is playing that song:



* N.B. Quirky Australian-born composer Percy Grainger (1882-1961) is remembered largely for popular light-classical works such as Over the Hills and Far Away and Handel in the Strand. His ranking of watery English composer Frederick Delius (1862-1934) - whose music never rises above mezzo forte - with Bach and Duke Ellington boggles the mind.

Here's a short (4 minute) bio from the Biography Channel:


And here are the Duke and John Coltrane in Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood":



If you're looking for a good biography of the Duke, I highly recommend Terry Teachout's excellent Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington. The author has provided an excerpt here.    

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The other Captain America movie - this 1973 Turkish version in which he teams up with a Mexican wrestler and fights evil Spiderman

It's called 3 Dev Adam (wiki), which, apparently, means 3 Giant (or Mighty) Men; an alternative title is Captain America and Santo vs. Spider-Man. SpiderMan, whose bushy eyebrows pop through the eye-holes of his mask, is on a crime spree: he steals golden statues, attacks strippers in strip clubs, and murders people with shower nozzles, speedboat motors, and guinea pigs.

Naturally, the legendary super-hero team of Captain America and El Santo (a Mexican wrestler and folk icon, per Wikipedia) are called in to take care of business. According to the Amazon listing:
Istanbul is being terrorized by a crime wave led by Spiderman and the police call in American superhero Captain America and Mexican wrestler Santo to put a stop to it.
If you don't have time to watch the whole clip (it's only 4 minutes), start at 2:10 to see the evil Spiderman torture some guy with a guinea pig. Captain America shows up at 2:58. The entire movie is embedded below this clip.



Here's the whole thing, with English subtitles:

Wednesday links

Today is ANZAC Day, the anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli: here's some history, a documentary, and a Lego re-enactment.

How DNA Can Lead To Wrongful Convictions: labs today can identify people with DNA from just a handful of cells, but a handful of cells can easily migrate.

The 19th century art of measuring criminals.

It's Oliver Cromwell's birthday - here's his excellent speech throwing out the corrupt Parliament, the posthumous travels of his head, and bonus Monty Python.

An Eccentric Millionaire and his Lost Rocky Mountain Treasure.

How to download a copy of everything Google knows about you.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include 10 Medieval riddles, a supercut of epic movie explosions, the actual costs of restaurant foods vs what they charge, vintage animation lessons on how to make things cute, and the massive sewer system engineering undertaken to resolve London's "Great Stink".

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

April 25th is ANZAC Day, the anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli

Ship after ship, crammed with soldiers, moved slowly out of the harbour, in the lovely day, and felt again the heave of the sea. No such gathering of fine ships has ever been seen upon the earth, and the beauty and the exaltation of the youth upon them made them like sacred things as they moved away... 

These men had come from all parts of the British world... They had said good-bye to home that they might offer their lives in the cause we stand for. In a few hours at most, as they well knew, perhaps a tenth of them would have looked their last upon the sun, and be a part of the foreign earth or the dumb things that tides push. Many of them would have disappeared forever from the knowledge of man, blotted from the book of life none would ever know how, by a fall, a chance shot in the darkness, or alone, like a hurt beast, in some scrub or gulley, far from comrades and the English speech and the English singing.

John Masefield (wiki) (Gallipoli)*

Damn the Dardanelles. They will be our grave.

~ Admiral Sir John Fisher (to the Dardanelles Committee, 1915)

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours... you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.

~Mustafa Kemal - Atatürk (wiki) (tribute to the ANZAC dead, 1934)

Map of the battle - larger version here
April 25th is celebrated in Australia and New Zealand as ANZAC Day, commemorating the key participation of the Australia-New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) in the ill-fated Allied assault on the Turkish-held Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 during World War I. This was one of the first large-scale amphibious invasion of modern times and the first major military operation in which Australia and New Zealand participated on behalf of the British Empire. As a result, the Gallipoli campaign was perhaps the key  defining event for Australia's nationhood, as it was in a sense for Turkey's also. Turkish Lieutenant-Colonel Mustafa Kemal, the hero of Gallipoli's successful defense, later became the founder of modern Turkey, adopting the name "Atatürk" - father of the Turks.

Today much of the Gallipoli Peninsula is a Turkish national park with over 20 cemeteries lovingly tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. We visited there several years ago on ANZAC Day, taking a bus with a dozen or so others, mostly Aussies, from the nearby town of Canakkale to tour the cemeteries and battlefields. The tour guide read the Ataturk quotation above, along with, as is typical, the fourth stanza of Lawrence Binyon's For The Fallen:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Followed, as is also typical, by "Lest we forget..."

The Making of a Legend, The Landing at Anzac Cove by Lambert
The visitor can not help but be struck by the stark, natural beauty of its steep, scrubby, deeply-gullied terrain and sadly moved by the remembrance of the tens of thousands of men on both sides who lost their lives there in a futile clash of empires - only a few miles across the "wine-dark sea" from the ruins of ancient Troy. Of that earlier struggle, Homer wrote in book XIII of the Iliad,

"It is not possible to fight beyond your strength, even if you strive."

* N.B. John Masefield was the Poet Laureate of England from 1930 until his death in 1967. He served as a medical orderly on the Western Front in World War I and later wrote Gallipoli to counter German propaganda seeking to exploit the British defeat there.

The most readable account of the Gallipoli campaign remains Alan Moorehead's venerable history, Gallipoli, from the late 1950s. Also, the 1981 Australian movie of that same name, starring the young Mel Gibson, is an excellent evocation of both the horror and exhilaration of those times. There's a more recent movie, apparently, but I'm not familiar with it, and... Mel Gibson.

Several years ago, Peter Jackson restored and aggregated quite a bit of contemporaneous Gallipoli film:



Here's a 9 minute documentary:



And, as seems inevitable these days, there's a Lego reenactment of the events:



There's a good article on the 2015 centennial at The Guardian, and much more at the Australian government's site.

Parts of the text above arebased on Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday links

A Supercut of Epic Movie Explosions.

Can You Solve These 10 Medieval Riddles?

The cost to make a Margherita pizza: $1.77. How much restaurants charge on average for a pizza: $12. The actual costs of restaurant foods.

Vintage animation lessons - how to make things cute.

London's "Great Stink" and the challenge of engineering a sewer system in the middle of a crowded city of 2.5 million.

Was There a Civilization On Earth Before Humans?

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include the science of knuckle cracking, how a simple artificial heart could permanently replace a failing human one, the legend of Blackbeard’s silver-plated skull, and a look inside the FBI's pre-computer fingerprint factory.