Year2004

MP3(s) of the week: Otto Preminger Presents

     Have you ever stumbled upon references to someone or something so frequently that you feel like you’re unable to avoid it / them? I don’t mean in the ‘hype’ sort of way, where you’re bombarded by advertising – I mean the sort of situation where you keep finding tangential references to something when looking for something else. This is my problem with film director Otto Preminger. He haunts me.

     Well, maybe not haunts me, but he seems to come up way more than someone I know absolutely nothing about should. So I decided to find out a bit about Otto Preminger, via the unrelated paths that have led me to him. I’m now well aware that there are other things that Preminger is better known for – he was nominated for an Academy Award for directing ‘Anatomy of a Murder’ in 1959, and famously turned down the opportunity to direct ‘The Godfather’ – but I’m more interested in following these unrelated tangents.

The Zombies

     My first exposure to Otto Preminger came with the Zombies box set: Zombie Heaven. The Zombies appeared in the 1967 Preminger film ‘Bunny Lake is Missing,’ and reworked the lyrics to one of their songs (‘Just Out of Reach’) for use as throw-away advertising. The song-by-song liner notes for the boxset are relatively brief when addressing this collaboration, noting that Preminger was present in the Studio for the session, and offering the following bit of useless trivia:

     “I remember doing that with Otto Preminger, and him saying “You can’t say ‘Clock,’ you have to say ‘clarrk,’ because Americans won’t understand it.” – Chris White

     I’ve posted the lyrics to ‘Come on Time’ below. If it seems a bit overly-obsessed with the ettiquette of theatre arrival, it’s because this was used as a marketing gimmick for the film – moviegoers were not to be admitted after a certain time. I’ve also posted an MP3 combining ‘Just Out of Reach’ and ‘Come on Time’ into one file, so you can listen along.

The Zombies – ‘Just Out of Reach / Come on Time’

From: Zombie Heaven (1997)

Come on time!Come on time for the show

The clock’ll tell you when to go

While the show’s on can you get in? (No!)



Come on time!



Otto Preminger Presents!

‘Bunny Lake is Missing’ – what suspense

Lawrence Olivier is immense!



Come on time!



Oh Yeah, The Zombies are there

(Thats us!) That’s Me / That’s Him / That’s He

We wanna go on record as sayin’

“How Great can a movie be?”



Carol Lynley is keen as a knife

Keir Dullea’ll give you the time of your life

Come with your girlfriend, or come with your wife but



Come on time!



(typically insane Rod Argent organ solo)



Oh Yeah, The Zombies are there

(Oh Yeah!) That’s us / That’s right / That’s paul

We wanna go on record as sayin’



“You’re sure to have a ball.”



Come on time for the show

The clock’ll tell you when to go

While the show’s on can you get in? (No!)



Come on time!



Please come on time.

nooneadmit

     If you listen closely between the two songs on the mp3, you can hear singer Colin Blunstone being quizzed on his pronunciation of ‘Clock’ before beginning the final vocal take:

Unknown: Let’s hear it!

Blunstone: Clarrk!

     For some reason, the sasstastic delivery of the line “Otto Preminger… Presents!” in ‘Come on Time ‘ has stuck with me since I first heard it, so when I started seeing Preminger mentioned elsewhere it was the first thing I thought of.

blim

     There’s a webpage dedicated to ‘Bunny Lake is Missing’ (“The best movie you’ll never see.”) here. It offers a nice summary of the plot:

     “Based on a novel by Marryam Modell (using the pen-name Evelyn Piper), Bunny Lake Is Missing is a rarely seen 1965 thriller directed by the acclaimed Otto Preminger. He was acknowledged as the first “indie” director and worked with sometimes controversial topics. His “Man With The Golden Arm” of 1956 starring Frank Sinatra was the first movie to be given an “X” certificate in the UK due to it’s subject matter of drug use by the main character. Bunny Lake is set in London where an American single mother (played by Carol Lynley) has arrived in town with her daughter. The basic premise of the film (without giving anything away) is that we never see her child (named Bunny Lake), even when she is supposedly dropped off at a nursery school, and when she goes missing we are left in some doubt as to whether she existed to start with. On a desperate search for the child, Lynley’s character comes across some truly weird characters on her travels around a bleak London. Shot entirely in black and white (and apparently less than 100 shots), the movie has a surreal feel to it at times with Preminger’s Hitchcock-like approach adding to the tension. A well-chosen cast including Laurence Olivier, Noel Coward and Keir Dullea strengthen what would otherwise still be a great movie. Olivier’s Police inspector suspects that the mother might not letting him know everything and so the movie builds towards a clever climax. “

     The chronology included with the boxset reveals that the Zombies shot for two full days on a soundstage with Preminger. The final cut of the film inludes them for just a few seconds – seen on a television screen in the background, behind actors delivering dialogue. A short description of the scene in question can be found here:

     “A British band by the name of The Zombies contributed a few tracks to the movie, one of which features in a way that is hard to describe but I’ll try anyway. Laurence Olivier’s character is standing in a pub talking when for no specific plot reason the camera pans up to a television above the bar where we then watch the band perform a track before the camera pans back to Olivier again. Whether or not this was an early attempt at cross-promotion I don’t know but The Zombies were actually given a “starring” credit on most of the posters for the movie. “

     ‘Bunny Lake is Missing has never been available on VHS or DVD. If Mr. internet is to be believed it last aired on television sometime in 2000. You can sign up here to be notified by Amazon if it’s ever offered. Also of note is the fact that Resse Witherspoon is actively developing a remake of this movie in which she plans to star. I can’t WAIT to see who takes the place of the Zombies.

Harry Nilsson

     For the past year or so I’ve been on a big Harry Nilsson kick. Nilsson is the guy behind ‘The Point,’ the ‘Popeye’ soundtrack, and several other ridiculously great pop songs. It was recently pointed out to me by one Mr. Zachary ‘Jack’ Curd that Nilsson had done a soundtrack in which he sang the credits. Needless to say I had to hear this.

     I soon determined that the song came from an Ill-fated 1965 film called ‘Skidoo,’ directed by… Otto Preminger. Looking back at the lyrics to the Zombies song, it seems that Preminger made a habit of getting his films’ credits set to music (If you know of any other examples, please let me know). The really great thing about the Nilsson-penned ‘Cast & Crew’ is that it appears as the OPENING credits and encompasses ALL credits, including such benign information as the film stock, the legal disclaimers, and so on.

     Some choice bits of the lyrics:

“Music and Lyrics by nilsson who also played a tower guard…” [Crediting the song to himself within the song! I guess that’s not all that uncommon, actually. Nevermind.]

“Photgraphed in panovision and technicolor…”

“Copyright MCMLXVIII by Sigma productions incorporated, the reciept’s on file…”

“The story, the charcters, and the incidents are fictitious, ho hum, etc. etc…”

     If you know of any other instances of the credits to a film being sung, I need to know about it.

     In an appropriately bizarre move, Nilsson performed the song live during one of his rare television appearances, on “Playboy After Dark” in 1968. Nilsson had this to say about the song:

     “It just happens that in writing that particular thing it was really a lot of work so it stayed with me longer because it was four minutes of peoples’ names and their jobs. So it was trying to write a melody to encompass the names and the jobs to make it come out rhythmically and in rhyme. You know, it was a very difficult thing so you spend a lot of time with it. And I became very familar with the cast and crew of the movie.”

     Harry also performed “Good Old Desk” on the show and told Hugh Hefner that the meaning of the song was in its initials – “GOD.” Nilsson later said:

     “I bullshitted him. I thought it was funny.”

     You can download an MP3 of Nilsson’s ‘The Cast and Crew’ below:

Harry Nilsson – ‘The Cast and Crew’

From: Skidoo / The Point! (2000)

     Skidoo was Groucho Marx’s last film (He plays God). It looks as though it’s become a bit of a cult classic in the ‘It’s so bad you have to see it’ sort of way. Skimming the IMDB listing yields this choice user review:

     “I went to see this after hearing a lot of hype about how it was one of the most unimaginable oddities in all movie-dom…and anticipation like that can often ruin a movie for you. I had, after all, read all the comments here on IMDB and already knew that Groucho Marx was going to play God, Carol Channing was going to take her clothes off, and Harry Nilsson was going to sing the entire credits. You’d think that the shock of the viewing experience might be compromised by that kind of foreknowledge.”

     “But no. Hearing that this movie exists is one thing, but the true surreality of its existence can only really be appreciated once you’ve actually SEEN all these actors actually performing this script, putting in various degrees of professional effort to bring to life the tale of ‘Skidoo.’ The credit song is doubly stunning in that it calls our attention to the names of all the many REAL LIVE PEOPLE who for some reason collaborated to produce this film. To be told that there is a movie in which Austin Pendleton talks Jackie Gleason through an acid trip is merely amusing; but to actually witness Gleason’s bulging eyes as he reacts to a hallucination of Groucho’s head sprouting from a giant screw – for this there is no substitute.”

     “Read all the other comments, read anything you can find on this monstrosity, and you’ll still be only half-prepared for what you’re going to see. The only two other films I can think of that so exceeded even their own outrageous hype were Blood Freak and Godmonster of Indian Flats. But, hey, those were low-budget obscurities. Skidoo was a HUGE production – and, unfortunately, I can’t imagine this is EVER going to be released on DVD, VHS, CD, cassette, or eight-track, because I can’t imagine the Preminger estate wanting any trace of Skidoo to surface ever again.”

     “Carol Channing in bra and tights. Groucho Marx on a wood screw. Dancing garbage cans. Sure, sure, sure. You’ve heard the stories. But there’s sooooo much more….”

skidoop

     This smoking Gun document, which details the FBI’s efforts to have a reference to the bureau removed from ‘Skiddo,’ describes Preminger as follows:

     “Preminger was involved in numerous communist front activities, particularly during the 1940’s. He has been described by informants as having communist sympathies. In 1960, considerable publicity was afforded the fact that he had hired Dalton Trumbo, a screenwriter whose name had appeared on the so-called Hollywood “Black list.”

     The rest of the document details Preminger’s refusal to remove the reference:

     “Mr. Preminger adamantly said that he would not delete the FBI reference from the sequence and would not substitute other material in lieu of the FBI reference. He said he felt that the FBI should see the humor in the sequence and should not view it as a damaging or ridiculing portrayal.”

     “Mr. Preminger said he is aware of the provisions of public law 670, that he has had the law researched, and that he is of the firm belief the public law is not applicable to the present situation. Mr. Preminger suggested he feels so certain that public law 670 does not apply to his portrayal of the FBI in the motion picture “Skidoo” that he would welcome a test of the law in this case if the Department of Justice was so inclined.”

     It turns out Preminger was pretty outspoken on fighting censorship (Among other things – on Marilyn Monroe, whom he directed: “A vacuum with nipples.”). Speaking at the Toronto film theatre in 1970, Preminger had this to say on the topic:

     “I originally was born in Vienna, and lived there a long time. In the United States, one of the most precious rights we have is the right of free expression. I have had trouble with censorship, with the small movie, THE MOON IS BLUE, because in 1953 people objected to the word “virgin,” which is hard to believe. I could have easily made a few cuts and compromised, but I feel that in our own fields, as motion picture directors, newspapermen, writers, whatever we are, we have not only the right, but the duty to defend this right of free expression; because if this right deteriorates, that is the first step to dictatorship, to totalitarian government, and no totalitarian government, whether on the Right or on the Left, could ever exist with its citizens having the right to speak freely. I think it is very important for us to fight for this right and that is why I have always fought censorship and won. There is no censorship in the United States. I hope it will stay like this. That is my answer to questions about censorship. My views have never changed.”

     It looks like you can buy a copy of Skiddo on DVD here ($20), along with all sorts of other rare video, such as a 5 1/2 hour workprint of ‘Apocalypse Now’; The Dirk Diggler Story – a precursor to Boogie Nights filmed by P.T. Anderson at age 17; and… er… Bunny Lake is Missing. So ignore what I said about it not being available anywhere. I don’t feel like going back and revising that paragraph.

Saul Bass

     Growing up with an unhealthy interest in neo-surf vinyl, I became well acquainted with the (really, really great) design work of Art Chantry. Chantry was the designer of choice for bands on Estrus records, an early ally of Sci-fi surf monoliths Man… or Astroman?, and he recently released a retrospective of his work titled ‘Some People Can’t Surf.’

     You can browse a gallery of his poster design here, and read a great rotodesign interview with him here.

     As I learned a bit more about design I also became obsessed with the work of Saul Bass, a graphic designer who was an obvious influence on Chantry.

     The font that this version of kempa.com sports is an amalgamation of Bass typography called ‘Hitchcock’ – available in both mac and PC incarnations at saulbass.net. The site is also home to quicktime movies of some of Bass’s best known title sequences and a gallery of his print work. Bass has done posters that probably know without knowing that they’re his work – West Side Story, Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo,’ and ‘The Man with the Golden Arm’ (Recently Co-opted by the White Stripes for their ‘Hardest Button to Button’ single) are all good examples. The Man With the Golden Arm is an Otto Preminger film – it turns out Bass worked on several Preminger productions.

hardbut

     At any rate, one morning about a year ago, I was flipping through a stack of LP’s at a library sale and I found a soundtrack bearing the distinct Saul Bass visual signature. It was for a film called the Cardinal, and I ended up buying the LP just for the cover. A few months later, I ended up ‘borrowing’ the ‘THE’ for a T-shirt design. After scanning the cover and opening the results up in photoshop, I found myself cropping out the name of… Otto Preminger.

     There’s a gallery of the posters for Preminger’s films here. It’s interesting to look at how the typographical idea was maintained across languages:

cardinal

     So: The Zombies, Saul Bass, Harry Nilsson, free speech – I suppose Otto Preminger is the human embodiment of a convergence of my tastes. I always sucked at writing conclusions.

Maximum Minimalism

     This might be old news to everyone, but there’s a really great flash video of someone constructing a song using only windows sound recorder and the default windows sound effects. It’s fairly long and really starts to evolve in a great way about halfway through. The cynic in me doesn’t believe it was done in realtime, but it’s put together pretty well. The site I link to is just a mirror – anyone know where it came from?

sndrec

More Quadratic Ridiculousness

     I started an Ask Metafilter thread on the quadratic equation songs I wrote about the other day, and got a few more submissions. In case you’re keeping score at home, so far I’ve been told of versions sung to the tune of the following familiar melodies:

  • Frere Jacques.
  • Pop Goes the Weasel
  • Row, Row, Row your boat
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  • The Notre Dame Fight Song
  • The U of M fight song
  • Jingle Bells
  • Ballin’ the Jack

     For some reason, I had never heard of ‘Ballin’ the Jack.’ Maybe it’s just me. Turns out its a 1913 rag that sparked a gigantic dance craze. Gelling nicely with yesterday’s post, Harry Nilsson even recorded a version of it. Just to add to the useless trivia – here’s some info on where the phrase ‘Ballin’ the jack’ comes from, via this newsgroup thread.

     “The “Historical Dictionary of American Slang” says that “ball the jack”
means: to go fast (said espcially of a railroad train), make haste; (hence)
to run away. The 1913 quote from a well-known ragtime song gave the phrase
wide currency and referred specifically to a dance step presumably
introduced by the song. Whether the phrase itself was coined at the same
time is uncertain. This reference is to the Jim Burris and Jim Smith song
called, “Ballin’ the Jack” as in…”and that’s what I call ballin’ the
jack.”

     So there you are. There are all kinds of references to useages of
“ballin the jack”
but not a word as to what “ballin” (in this context) or “jack” (in this
context) mean. What an elusive phrase. Sure it means, “make the train go
fast” but why does it mean that?

     From the Glossary in the back of Lucius Beebe’s “High Iron” (1938):

JACK: Locomotive.

     Unfortunately, there is no reference to ‘ball the jack’. Maybe ball is
short for highball:

HIGHBALL: Signal for clear track, deriving from the first train signals
which were in the form of painted metal globes hoisted to the crossarm of
a tall pole when trains were to proceed….

     Given that a “Jack” is a loco, and to run on a clear signal (Highball)
is to “Highball” the train, it’s probably most likely a contraction:
‘ballin’ the Jack…or running the train at top speed on clear signal.

     You can download a recording of ‘Ballin’ the jack’ for free from Amazon via this link.

     Be on the lookout for my next band: ‘Quadratic Invasion.’ Our reportoire will consist exclusively of these different arrangements of the quadratic equation… as they would sound if performed by (early) Beatles.

MP3 of the week – 'Vine St.'

     Another half-baked idea that I may or may not follow through on is to put up a new MP3 every week and write a little bit about it. Here’s the first installment.

Harry Nilsson – ‘Vine St.’

From: Nilsson Sings Newman (1970)

     There’s a nice summary of the song, on this Randy Newman site:

     “One of Newman’s truly original compositions, “Vine Street” strings together a trick intro, barbershop harmonics, split-second key changes, multiple bridges, and sudden fade-outs, all set to semi-autobiographical lyrics about starting out in the music business.”

     Taken from an entire album of Newman covers by Harry Nilsson, a friend and I recently had a drunken conversation about how the arrangement of the Nilsson version the best. The best part of the song as far as I’m concerned is the ‘song within a song’ device that Newman uses – if you listen (or examine the lyrics below), you’ll see that partway through the song there’s a drastic shift where the narrator references the first half of the song as a wholly separate song. Meta-song?

     This was the only example of such a thing I could come up with until this morning in the shower, when I realized that the new D12 single, ‘My Band,’ does something similar, including a bit from a purported future single: ‘My Salsa.’ I’m not sure if this ‘counts’ yet, my brain is still conflicted. I’ve included the lyrics to ‘Vine St.’ below, along with the relevant sections of the ‘My Band’ lyrics.

     If you can think of any other songs within songs, let me know or post in the comments, because I’m all about that. I should probably make clear that I’m not looking for songs that reference other songs – there are a billion examples of that; and I’m not looking for songs that simply reference themselves – that’s every hip hop single ever. I’m looking for songs that appear and are referenced within a song. Yes.

Update:

     I just heard the Van Dyke Parks version of ‘Vine Street,’ and the intro song is different. Crazy.

‘Vine St.’ Lyrics:

My baby left this morning

With everything I had

She didn’t give me no warning

And that’s I feel so bad

I need her, I need her

I need some sympathy

I need her, I love ya

Come and sit by me



That’s a tape that we made

but I’m sad to say

it never made the grade



That was me: third guitar

I wonder where the others are?



Vine Street

We used to live there on Vine Street

She made perfume in the back of her room

while me and my group

would sit out on the stoop

and we’d play for her

the songs she liked best to have us play



On Vine St.



Vine Street

the crack of the backbeat on vine street

swingin’ along on the wings of a song

lying secure, self righteous and sure

wild with things we’d say

if the people would pay to have us play



On Vine St.

     Having seen the Family Guy episode featuring Randy Newman (mp3) for the first time last night, it’s hard to take the lyrics too seriously, but I still think it’s a great song. There’s a similar MAD TV parody of Newman (which also involves Star Wars) here.

‘My Band’ Lyrics:

My salsa, look out for my next single, it’s called My Salsa…

My salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, my salsa

Makes all the pretty girls wanna dance

And take off their underpants

My salsa makes all the pretty girls wanna dance

And take off their underpants, my salsa

Cheap Thrills

     In case you’re into both comic books and music, there’s a good conversation from this past February on the Comics Journal message board, dealing with album art done by comics artists. The thread is rife with the requisite message board fodder – broken image links and multiple postings from people struggling with image tags – but there’s enough there to make it worth visiting.
There were several covers that I never would have recognized by artists I’m familiar with, as well as some that I’m just so used to seeing that the familiarity of the artwork never occurred to me. It also yields links to two sites that cover the same material more thoroughly (Though both are text-based so you don’t get to see the images).

phantom

Chompers

     Scene: a ginormous department store on the Saturday before Easter. A father and 5-ish year-old son are examining the flower selection.

Father: How about this one?

Son: That’s not a Chomper!

Father: I told you, none of these are chompers…

Son (Indignant): I want to get Mommy a Chomper!

     Oh man – I always wanted a chomper, too. How did I forget that? Back on the lifetime to-do list. Click the image to take a virtual tour of the Galleria Carnivora – an entire museum dedicated to carnivorous plants.


plantx.bmp

Probably Music

     A few months ago I read somewhere that Mozart had written an algorithm to compose music automatically. This, of course, fascinated the shit out of me. I did a bit of googling and turned up the following:

     “Music publishing was a thriving trade during the latter part of the 18th century in Europe. Publishers vied with one another to print the works of the latest “hot” composer. Many of them looked for novel ways to entice new customers into their music shops.”

     “One such ploy was to publish systems that would allow any amateur to compose music without having to know the techniques or rules of composition. The London music publisher Welcker, for example, issued a “Tabular System whereby the Art of Composing Minuets is made so easy that any person, without the least Knowledge of Musick, may compose ten thousand, all different, and in the most pleasing and correct Manner.”

     “Many of these schemes involved using dice or other randomizers to select musical fragments from an array of choices. Composer Johann Philipp Kirnberger (1721–1783), a former pupil of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), suggested the use of dice for this purpose in his book The Ever-ready Composer of Polonaises and Minuets, published in 1757.”

     “One well-known example of such a scheme is the “Musikalisches Würfelspiel” (Musical Dice Game), first published in 1792 in Berlin. Attributed by the publisher to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791), it appeared a year after the composer’s death.” [source]

     So it was a dice game, and it might not have been by Mozart at all, but it was a start. The next step was to look into the ‘authenticity’ issue. In doing so, I found several essays that conclude that Mozart was not the author, but that the dice game was a result of the rampant plagirism that plagued the music publishing “scene” of the 1800’s. Chief among the evidence are the tables used in the “Mozart” game, which appear identical to tables used in earlier games by other authors. An essay that meticulously traces the origins of such dice games can be found here. The author finds that many dice games bearing similarly incorrect credits were once available from the same publisher, and manages to find many simlarities between these games and previously published works. He infers from this that the Mozart game has similar origins, and that Mozart’s name was invoked purely for reasons of marketing. The essay concludes:

     “In short there is absolutely no evidence, even a hint beside Mozart’s name being on the title pages of the above issues, that these games had anything to do with Mozart.”

     This does not mean, however, that Mozart did not mix a bit of math with his music. Another article, after establishing that the dice game is most likely not authentic, adds the following:

     “Nonetheless, there are indications that Mozart enjoyed mathematical puzzles. He also had a lively sense of humor and was fond of playing around with names. And he had a passion for gambling—a major preoccupation at the time (along with drink) among the men of both Salzburg and Vienna.

The article goes on to discuss the beginnings of a musical game found in one Mozart manuscript:

     “On both sides of the sheet, Mozart wrote down long strings of measures, grouped into two-bar melodies, each labeled with a letter of the alphabet and a number (1 or 2). However, other than supplying a “worked-out” example at the end of each page, he gave no instructions on how to proceed.”

     Hideo Noguchi of Kobe, Japan, has written a paper on the rules of the game as he has worked them out. It appears to be a method for developing a ‘signiture meolody’ based on one’s name. Noguchi’s paper is available online here, complete with figures depicting bits of the original manuscript.

Gameplay

     Ok dudes, so you want to play the “Not by Mozart” dice game? Itching to compose some minuets? The procedure is as follows: the ‘composer’ rolls two dice and looks up the resultant roll in a table. The table dictates a certain numbered measure of music to be played. This process is repeated 16 times until the randomly generated minuet is complete. In the interest of further alienating former kempa.com readers, I’ve pieced together a short discussion of the mathematics involved in this game from various sources on the internet. It might be a good idea to visit one of these two sites – both are web-based midi implementations of the game – and compose a few minuets before moving on, so you aren’t completely lost.

     The total achieved by throwing a pair of six-sided dice can result in any number from 2 to 12. Therefore, there are 11 possible outcomes. As such, each of the 16 measures in the resultant composition have 11 possible selections associated with them (Depending on which version you’re going by, the 8th and 16th measure have either the standard eleven, or a far less impressive two possibilites). This means that the final piece is composed from a pool of ~ 171 prewritten measures. These measures are arranged in a table corresponding to their placement in the context of the 16 measure piece and the dice roll for that measure. You can view an example of the table that determines the measure to be played, and listen to each measure here.

     The most interesting aspect of this game is that the measures are arranged within the table according to the total rolled on two dice. The probability of getting a certain result when rolling two dice dictates that certain measures will be chosen more often than others based on their positioning. I’ve illustrated this in a ridiculous table, below:


Dice 1

Dice 2

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

1

1

x

                   

1

2

 

x

                 

1

3

   

x

               

1

4

     

x

             

1

5

       

x

           

1

6

         

x

         

2

1

 

x

                 

2

2

   

x

               

2

3

     

x

             

2

4

       

x

           

2

5

         

x

         

2

6

           

x

       

3

1

   

x

               

3

2

     

x

             

3

3

       

x

           

3

4

         

x

         

3

5

           

x

       

3

6

             

x

     

4

1

     

x

             

4

2

       

x

           

4

3

         

x

         

4

4

           

x

       

4

5

             

x

     

4

6

               

x

   

5

1

       

x

           

5

2

         

x

         

5

3

           

x

       

5

4

             

x

     

5

5

               

x

   

5

6

                 

x

 

6

1

         

x

         

6

2

           

x

       

6

3

             

x

     

6

4

               

x

   

6

5

                 

x

 

6

6

                   

x

 

Total:

1

2

3

4

5

6

5

4

3

2

1

     As you may or may not be able to see from this hastily constructed table, a roll of two dice is 6 times more likely to produce a total of seven than a total of two or twelve. Because of this, we see that the probability of a measure being chosen is directly dependent on its position in the table. As the tables were composed by the author of the game, the mathematically optimistic among us can assume that the composer took this into account when arranging the measures, placing the measures he favored with the more likely-to-be-rolled totals, and hiding the more exotic and less aurally pleasing meaures along rows two and twelve of the table. For reference, the probability of realizing each total with a roll of two dice is conveniently recorded in the table below:

Dice Roll Probability
2 1/36
3 2/36 = 1/18
4 3/36 = 1/12
5 4/36 = 1/9
6 5/36
7 6/36 = 1/6
8 5/36
9 1/9
10 1/12
11 1/18
12 1/36

     This game has proven a popular project for programmers all over the place, and there are a heap of web-based implementations. Here’s a list of the best working versions I found:

  • This version, by Zsófia Ruttkay and Bram Boskamp, is among the best. While it doesn’t show you any of the randomizing, it does everything else remarkably well: automatically loading the score to the generated piece, playing it in midi, and presenting you with a variety of playback options. There’s another simple MIDI version by John Chuang, here.
  • There’s a simple shockwave version, by Michiko Charley, here. This one also keeps the randomizing behind the scenes, jumping right to the playback of completed random piece. Uniquely, The chart of each measure is displayed as the measure is played, giving a nice visual reference to where each interchangable measure begins and ends for those of us who do not read music.

Oh man

     I was reading Entertainment Weekly last night and happened upon an interview with David Fincher regarding the forthcoming recently released THREE disc special edition Panic Room DVD. Anyone who’s into seeing behind-the-scenes filmmaking via DVD special features knows that Fincher does it best, and with TWO full discs of special features, this looks like it’ll be a monument to me wasting time.

     Someone involved with the production of the DVD started (But never finished) a production diary here:

     “Panic Room is without question the most elaborate, complex DVD I have yet produced. It wasn’t designed to be that from the outset, it just grew in the process. There’s a strange phenomena that can sometimes occur where the circumstances of a film’s production are mirrored in everything else related to the film; if pre-production was a bitch, production will be a bitch. And so will post, marketing, et cetera, right on through to the DVD, almost like a generational curse. When David Fincher set out to make Panic Room, he intended it to be a quick, breezy B-movie with a relatively low budget. But somewhere along the way a series of almost mythically proportioned mishaps and difficulties arose that turned a quick-and-dirty exercise in suspense into a gargantuan undertaking that tested the endurance and tenacity of everyone involved. Similarly, the DVD took a long and tortured route to completion, albeit for different reasons.”

Musical Quadratic equation

     When I was in 7th grade, my algebra teacher, Mrs. Berry, taught us the quadratic equation to the tune of the Notre Dame fight song. In discussing this with other people years later (I’m a “Sit around and discuss the quadratic equation” kind of guy), I found out that this was a common practice, but that the tune to which the quadratic equation was applied would vary.

     Here’s where you come in. I want to know how (if?) you learned the quadratic equation. I’m hoping it was via song. The IDEAL participant will find a recording of the tune online, and record themselves singing the quadratic equation along to it. I realize that this probably won’t happen, but that would be really, really great. The less ideal participant will post in the comments to this entry and tell me what song was used in their quadratic equation education. In case you have forgotten what exactly the quadratic equation is, here’s a reminder:

quadratic

     …and as sung to the Notre Dame fight song:

X eq-uals the op-po-site of B

plus or min-us the square root of

B squared min-us four Ayy Cee-eee

All over two times Ayy (dum dum).

     I did a bit of searching online and didn’t come up with much besides this 19 page .pdf document called the ‘Math Song Sing-a-long.’ The Math Song Sing-a-long suggests that the Quadratic equation can be sung to the tune of both the Notre Dame fight song AND ‘Amazing Grace.’ Without hearing it, the ‘Amazing Grace’ version doesn’t seem to work as well, but you can be the judge of that – here are the ‘lyrics:’

THE QUADRATIC FORMULA

WORDS BY: JOHN A. CARTER

TUNE: “AMAZING GRACE”



If you need to solve a quadratic

Equation in any form,

Set it equal to zero,

And use this formula.

You’ll have the zeroes before you know.



x equals the opposite of b

Plus or minus the square root

Of b squared minus 4a times c

All over two times a.

     Now, you may be thinking – “This is ridiculous, it can’t possibly get dorkier than this.” But it CAN. The other songs in the Math Song Sing-a-long are AMAZING. Just awe-inspiring. Here’s a bit from their take on the ‘Cheers’ theme:

CHEERS TO INTEGRATION

WORDS BY: STUDENTS IN J. CARTER’S CALCULUS AB CLASS

TUNE: “THE CHEERS THEME”


Integrating with trig identities takes everything you’ve got.

Anti-diff-er-en-tia-ting sure can take a lot.

Wouldn’t you like to learn a way… ?

     …and a bit from a mathematic interpretation of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You:’

WE WILL GRAPH YOU!

WORDS BY: JOHN A. CARTER

TUNE: “WE WILL ROCK YOU!”



Buddy, you’re a man with a hard time graphing

All you need to do is find the m and the b.

It’s not too hard you see, You put your pencil on the b.

Graphing’s not as hard as you thought it might be, singing



Chorus:

We will, we will graph you!

We will, we will graph you!

     As you can see, it’s really necessary to read the whole thing. That’s it for today. Math and music. And this is only the beginning. I can feel the cool kid links already. Also – Rob, I get half of your pay for every day you use this in class.

Gameboy Advance ADVANCE

     I’d imagine most people who read this
site don’t have a Gameboy
Advance, but I do, so that’s what you get to hear about.

     Around christmastime, I saw a little blurb over on slatch.com about flash memory for the Gameboy Advance. This is important because it means you can flash GBA
roms onto the cartridge and carry around more than one game at a time (This also means that depending on the quality of your moral fiber, you might not exactly have to pay for the games). Even better, it means that a whole programming community has sprung up
around the gameboy advance, writing all sorts of ridiculous and
entirely unneccesary software. As you well know, ridiculous and
uneccesary are my two favorite adjectives, so I did a bit of digging
around.

     The first great thing I found out is that
you aren’t limited to playing Gameboy Advance games on your Gameboy
Advance anymore. Emulators have been ported for a shitload of systems,
including the original gameboy, NES, SNES, Atari (Not released yet), and
even MAME a few classic arcade games, so you can load your GBA up with favorites from systems of days gone by. You can download all the GBA
emulation software from this page.

     Beyond emulation, developers for the
Gameboy Advance have coded TWO basic operating systems – GBA WinS and pogoshell, not to mention useful items like a calculator and guitar tuner.

     The sites to visit to keep abreast of the latest developments in the world of GBA development are gbadev.com and the GBA section of devrs.com. There’s also a ridiculously comprehensive tutorial to authoring Gameboy Advance games from scratch here, if you’re so inclined.

     I ordered my EZF II Adavnce from this company (They’re in Hong Kong). It arrived with no instructions whatsoever, but it was relatively easy to figure out with the assistance of google and some common sense. Fellow nerds will want to know that the cartridge I ordered is 256 Megs and currently holds five games (Metroid: Zero Mission, Super Mario Advance 2, Wario Ware, Advance Wars 2, and Mario Kart). In summary: WATCH OUT METROID ZERO MISSION.

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