Friday, June 30, 2017

A car with kaleidoscope eyes

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore,
Waiting to take you away.

Our miracle duck has found a mate!

Bosley, the magpie duck/mallard hybrid of Como Lake, has had an interesting summer. We almost always see this handsome, friendly guy dabbling along the shore or waddling around, fat as a goose. But then he disappeared for weeks, and we were very worried. Finally we saw him frantically running towards the lake, a mallard drake in hot pursuit. We were a bit shocked, but thought, well, maybe Bosley is a Boslina. Another time, we saw him chilling in the reeds with what looked like the same drake. What was going on?

Then the other day, an amazing development: Bosley appears with a completely different duck, which also looks like a hybrid. She (for it must be a she) is white with creamy-tan markings, a cocoa-brown head and neck, and a white ring where a mallard's neck-ring would be. She has the ruffly wing-feathers and tail-curlicue of a magpie duck, and her long bill, very strangely, is green.

Trust Bosley to pick a true exotic. I don't know if these two will produce young, but I hope so. Oddly enough, a lone male mallard is still hanging around with them, and I can't tell if it's the same one as before.

A threesome? What can it mean?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Irish eyes, Spanish heart

Stone, when warm, will hold the heat. As will it hold the cold. When musicians such as these play in a hall with stone walls, the result is incredible resonance and warmth, along with a certain brio. The sound waves bounce off the walls at different lengths, colliding with each other in all sorts of interesting ways. The sound is both robust and tender.

The story of this piece - there isn't one, really, except that every once in a while I think of a prancing Arabian horse (every day of my life, in fact, since I am a frustrated horsewoman who never sees horses up close), and this piece comes into my head. What piece? I wasn't even sure of the composer, let alone the name of the piece. But today I had to find out.

I sat there saying to myself, listen, you will never find it, because the only search term you have is "Spanish flute music". That covers several zillion pieces, probably. But then I began to dip into YouTube, and almost immediately found a flute compilation album of French and Spanish pieces. The video only featured a tiny snippet of each piece, but - by God, there it was!

Then I had to find the web site with information on the album, and then - . Anyway, it turned out to be a very, very familiar piece by Jacques Ibert (who was called by one waggish English musicologist "Jackie Bear"). And I listened to quite a few versions before lighting up when I heard this. 

These guys, they get right inside the music, they understand it. It isn't just those gorgeous walls. The dynamics on the flute are so subtle, so passionate, it makes other versions fall flat. And he has that very rare plush, fat tone, like Rampal.

I still see a crazily prancing horse like I did in my girlhood. The Black Stallion of my dreams. This piece is his theme song.

BLOGGER'S ADDEN-DUMB. It's late at night, and I shouldn't be doing this. There was a rumor in our family, one of those things that likely has no veracity to it at all, that we had Spanish blood which went back many generations. Maybe even as far back as the Spanish Armada. That was approximately six zillion years ago, so one molecule of blood would have to stretch pretty far. The Spanish line came through my father, a blue-eyed blonde who had a weird brown fleck in one eye. My green-eyed mother produced two sons with black hair and brown eyes. That never made sense to me.

My father's father was the deuce, the domino, the artless dodger of the family, the rogue, the renegade, and likely just a raving drunk. When I read Angela's Ashes, I thought of him, appearing and disappearing, joining the army, bringing home lavish presents only to disappear again. My Dad told me his job was to hold up the wall of the pub, and for many years, I literally believed this.

My Dad passed on a white-blonde gene that couldn't have come from anywhere else, since I have two Scandinavian-looking grandkids (whose mother is dark brunette - isn't nature grand?). And yet, and yet. My Dad's father was dark, swarthy, brown-eyed, reportedly violent. 

Every once in a while it comes into my head to get one of those DNA tests, to see once and for all if I have any Spanish blood. Meantime, my other two grandkids, dark-haired and brown-eyed, DO have Spanish blood. Their great-grandmother was born in Spain. How can they be Spanish, if I am not?

Duckling challenge!

I think this is one of the best videos I've taken. Seven ducklings were faced with an impossible challenge, but somehow managed to brave it and win. 

This has been a tremendous year for ducklings and goslings, and new batches/hatches are still appearing. Many of the goslings are now plug-ugly, in that awkward middling stage, looking like plucked chickens on stilts. You can see where the Ugly Duckling story came from, for swan cygnets are probably much the same, with a lumpy, ungainly, protracted adolescence. 

Swans may look pretty, but their temperaments are quite ugly, worse than the Canada goose with its haughty stares, stiff necks and hisses. Give me the humble duck any time. Ducks always seem to be smiling, and it's rare to find a mean one anywhere. Mother ducks will drive off threats fiercely, but their constant maternal murmuring keeps the babies within their radar. Had I been raised by a duck (or a cat, for that matter - cats make tender and attentive mothers), things might have turned out very differently for me.

The original black stallion

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Adopted chicks: Hen Solo broods a batch

Hen Solo, the broody hen of Bondi, had no fertilized eggs; her neighbor did. Thus a broodless hen warmed an adopted batch, and they hatched! We've been following the saga in installments on Facebook. These videos were taken by my childhood friend Nancy Tapley, who is blessed enough to live among the horses and the wildlife in beautiful Bondi Village, paradise of my youth.

Flying egg: the car from space

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Schlörwagen in 1939

Schlörwagen from the front

The Schlörwagen (nicknamed "Egg" or "Pillbug") was a prototype aerodynamic rear-engine passenger vehicle developed by Karl Schlör (1911–1997) and presented to the public in 1939.

Schlör, an engineer for Krauss Maffei of Munich, proposed an ultra-low drag coefficient body as early as 1936. Under Schlör's supervision at the AVA (an Aerodynamic testing institute in Göttingen) a model was built. Subsequent wind tunnel tests yielded a drag coefficient of only 0.113, incredible then and still extremely impressive today. For a functioning model, a Mercedes-Benz 170H chassis, one of their few rear-engine designs, was used. The aluminum body was built by the Ludewig Brothers of Essen. Subsequent tests of the motorized model showed a slightly higher but still impressive drag coefficient of 0.186.  A year later it was unveiled to the public at the 1939 Berlin Auto Show. The project was shelved with the onset of World War II and mass production was never realized. In 1942, the prototype was fitted with a captured soviet propeller engine. The whereabouts of the sole functioning model remain unknown.

BLOGGER'S LAMENT. Would that they had found this thing! I have no idea how they would ever fit this little pillbug, which looks as if you could pick it up with one hand, with a "captured Soviet propeller engine", or what happened to it after that. Did they end up with a flying egg/pillbug/two-door Schlor, or just one big splat?

This was the only photo I found which presumably illustrates the hybrid, but as usual there is no information with it.

I also found a couple of photos of grey men in grey hats looking at the (mostly-grey) car. Things were pretty grey, back then.

Human slingshot

Don't chew the tinfoil

This is kind of a crap animation, but I thought I'd put it up here anyway. Hey, it's better than anything YOU can do, isn't it? Have you ever animated a ham and pineapple loaf late at night? I thought not. But if you have, please send it to me and I will post it for full credit.

It's unclear whether or not the ham loaf is eating the tin foil, or throwing it up, or both. It's hard to animate tin foil.

And hey - I have just one more question to ask. WHERE'S THE GARLIC BREAD???

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cars Of The Future from 1948

Three plug-ugly cars which never got beyond the prototype stage. The first one, a 1948 Davis Divan, looks like a cross between a bedroom slipper and a steam iron. It might also pass as a Bob Clampett cartoon character. Supposedly it could hold four people across, or two people from 2017 in a tight pinch. I saw someone on YouTube (Jay Leno - see video below - I found it finally) try to drive a reconstruction, and he complained it kept tipping over.

The second one is oh, oh, my God, just horrible to contemplate, as lumpy as the Elephant Man, an airstream trailer with a horrible disease. I guess it sort of looks like someone's idea of a futuristic rocket, but it somehow does not get off the ground. 

The third one commits the sin of being merely dull. It's a kind of '40s  race-car-type-thing, but why the wheels are encased like that puzzles me. Wouldn't that make them more susceptible to damage? 

There were hundreds of "futuristic" designs like these, and in many cases the designers found backers, pocketed the money, then got out of town fast. 

The grass is smiling at you

Public signs, though useful, are often irritating. Their air of authority and power to order us around and control our movements is a little scary. God knows where we are actually going if we follow them. Seeing these public imperatives twisted and mangled is delicious, especially in Chinglish where the mistranslations are so extreme.

There are so many hundreds of them around that I decided to narrow it down to a category. Food was just too weird: complex and culturally-specific menus are impossible to translate. A lot of signs had inadvertent naughty words in them (and I restrained myself until that last one, which was just too good not to include). I found a few weird and even lovely signs about "keep off the grass", but there weren't quite enough of them, so I expanded the category to Parks and Recreation, outdoor activities that simply demand lots and lots of rules. 

Thus we are told there is a "go aheand smorking" section, that we should "be careful drowning", that we should watch out for falling people, and always "care for life. Do not fun."

I will not tell you what you should do in that last one.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Bentley: wanted all over town

"Hello, how am I?"

My life as a dog: the evolution of Betty Boop

I have always had mixed feelings about Betty Boop. How can I not? Her gigantic head wobbles on top of an impossibly tiny sexpot body, barely clothed: a wisp of a dress with no straps and back, a garter, fetish-calibre high heels. She speaks in a squeaky little-girl voice. And yet, there's something bold about her, something almost intrepid, as she gets herself into one pickle after another.

What shocks some people is the realization that Betty did not spring from Max Fleischer's pen fully-formed. She was a peripheral character in her first cartoon, Dizzy Dishes (1930) - well, actually it wasn't even HER in the cartoon (above). It was a grotesque, unnamed sort of dog-woman with a black nose and fleshy, pendulous ears, whose face sometimes popped out in a sort of weird canine snout. Betty wasn't even Betty then - she wasn't anything. She was named only after several false starts.

In the bizarre Barnacle Bill (later to be remade, much more effectively, in a Popeye cartoon called Beware of Barnacle Bill), her name is Nancy Lee. She still has the flappy, doggy ears and black nose, not to mention a sort of double-jointed quality. Betty/Nancy at this point is nothing more than a caricature - of what, we don't know.

I love the ability of inanimate objects to do weird things in Fleischer cartoons. What's the name for that? Does anybody know? But it's cool. Walls and sofas and things have a will of their own.

Let's face it, in these early cartoons, Betty is a real dog. The weird exaggerated glamour and sexpot persona is still miles away. Maybe it's that black nose - ewwww!

I think you see what I mean by grotesque - the rolling, popping eyes, cactus-spine lashes, spasmodic body language. The way those fleshy ears flap and dangle creeps me out. They look like ear lobes with gigantism or severe edema. In Mysterious Mose, she's a little less grotesque - it's a kind of middle stage in her evolution, but she still has a long way to go.

Towards the end of her life as a dog, the animators (here in Bimbo's Initiation) began to normalize Betty and nudge her towards humanness. But it took a full two years to figure out who Betty was supposed to be, from her weird table-dance in 1930 to leaning out the window (and losing her top) in her fifteenth outing, Any Rags (1932):

Note the changes, which are actually pretty radical. Her eyes have been downsized, with eye-shadowed lids. The eyebrows have been raised and made more delicate. Somewhere along the line Betty has acquired a hair stylist. I think the animators might have sat down for a conference before making this one. OK, hoop earings from now on! No more floppy flesh (though it's interesting how they felt they had to retain that familiar dangle). From then on she was Betty Boop, world's only cartoon sexpot, unchallenged until Jessica Rabbit came along some 50 years later.

And here are a few of my animations, based on the few frames available to me. These are from the infamous Dizzy Dishes, in which Betty had nowhere to go but up.

It amazes me how changing the order of the frames creates an entirely different effect: a Betty who is depressed, sorrowful, lonely, even terrified.

But lest we forget what Betty is really all about, here's a classic scene from the very first Popeye cartoon (which was in reality a Betty Boop cartoon - he "piggybacked" on her well-established fame). In fact, some claim that this scene explains exactly why the Hays code came into existence.