Friday, May 29, 2015

Spam Roundup May, 2015

There's spam, and then there's spam so oddly written it's somewhat amusing. Here's a roundup of some of the "best" comments I received this month from spambots around the world.

High praise

 -  I am extremely impressed with your writing skills as neatly as with the structure to your weblog. [Neato] 

 - What a data of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable familiarity on the topic of unpredicted feelings. ["Presevereness" is a pretty ambiguous word.]

 -  Hi there. just became aware of your blog through Google and found that it's really informative. I am going to watch out for brussels. [You should. They have a tendency to sprout.]

 -  Heya I'm for the primary time here. I came across the board and I to find it really helpful & it helped me out a lot. [That's fine. Now go back to your side of the board, please.]

Behold the humble lumber truck. Made in the early 1960's by Nomura
 and sold in five and dime stores across the country for less than 10 cents.

Lumbering Along and Along

It's the post that keeps on giving. Wish I knew what SEO magic made The Straco Layout Part 23 -- Lumbering along -- a short post about a vintage Japanese friction toy such a spam magnet...

- Information on way or recreational piano, loss in driver, it contain dawn which contains all of the minus when owl it contain oven this bargaining. [Please -- contain yourself.]

- I think the admin of this web page is genuinely working hard in favor of his website, since here every data is quality based data. [Ladies and gentlemen, let's hear it for the hardest-working admin on the web!]

- Lastly you should know that the online therapist finder is really appropriate. [What exactly are you trying to say?]

- This garden would have already been seeded. [Um, okay....]

Gone, but not quite forgotten....

As a word, "fastidious" has dramatically declined in spambot usage. But I still get a few examples. 

- Hi Dear, are you actually visiting this web site regularly, if so afteward you will without a doubt obtain fastidious know-how. [Without a doubt]

And that's it for this month. Next time we'll neatly see what gardens have been seeded (if you know what I mean). Till then, keep using that quality based data to obtain fastidious know-how!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Heinrich Schütz St. Matthews Passion

This release marks the half-way point for Carus' ambitious 22-disc project, an integral set of recordings of Heinrich Schütz's complete works.

This volume presents Schütz's 1666 setting of the St. Matthew Passion. Schütz was eighty years old, but like Monteverdi, his late works are some of his most forward-looking.

At the time, instruments were banned from liturgical use during Lent, so Schütz's setting is for a cappella choir. The bulk of the work is exposition provided by the Evangelist (sung by Goerg Poplutz), but this is no dry, dull recitative. Schütz sets his text to sinuous melodic lines that recall Gregorian chant, both emphasizing the sacred nature of the text and embedding it with emotion.

The choral sections are exquisite, with simple full-bodied harmonies. This 51-minute work seems simultaneously suspended in time and moving inexorably towards the tragic events of the Passion. Schütz effectively uses his spare forces, giving his characters -- the Evangelist, Pilate, Jesus, and others music that fills out their characters and reinforces the intent of their words.

The release also features three shorter sacred works by Schütz, all beautifully sung by the Dresdner Kammerchor. This is a welcome addition to a series that was long overdue (in my opinion). I look forward to the next installment.

Heinrich Schütz: Complete Recording, Vol. 11
Matthäuspassion, SWV 479; Litania, SWV 458; O du allersüssester und lieberster Herr Jesus, SWV 340; In dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr SWV 446
Dresdner Kammerchor; Hans-Christoph Rademann, director
Carus 83.259

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Meta Humor in Sherman's Lagoon, Part 2

(Read Part 1 here)

 Leading up to the sequences presented today, I thought I knew where Jim Toomey was going with this week's "Sherman's Lagoon" continuity. Sherman and Hawthorne are talking about a cartoonist on the beach, a stand-in for Toomey who draws "Norman's Reef."

But then the strip took a strange turn, and it seemed to be no longer about being a cartoonist but about other careers a lazy shark might like. And then it came back to the start. Sort of.  (click on images to enlarge)

In this sequence, Toomey breaks the fourth wall and asserts his power (by turning Sherman into a hot dog.)

Then we seem to be moving into a story arc about different types of minimal-effort jobs.

Then we come back to the comic strip theme in a truly meta fashion. Not only are the characters aware that they're in a comic strip, but they show that they're not even fully finished (when they don't have to be).

And the sequence wraps up in the direction it was going in all along. Sherman eats the cartoonist, ending "Norman's Reef." Most newspaper story arcs begin on a Monday and end the following Friday or Saturday. This one began on a Friday, and finished a week later on Saturday. The extra time allowed for a plot twist or two, and Toomey delivered without ever letting the momentum lag.

There's a lot to unpack in this sequence, and to me, that's just part of the fun of being a comics reader.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Meta Humor in Sherman's Lagoon. Part 1

Jim Toomey's "Sherman's Lagoon" ran a sequence in late February 2015 that I found fascinating. In it, Sherman and Hawthorne observe a cartoonist on the beach. As I read each day's installment, I was lead in some unexpected directions. The first part seems pretty straight-forward. (click on images to enlarge).

It starts by playing off the misconception many have that comic art isn't "art."

In the second, we get a little taste of the meta. "Norman's Reef" is clearly an alternate version of the very strip the characters are living in.

The third seems a contemplation on the paradox of cartooning (and other creative work) -- solitary creation for mass consumption.

And the fourth continues riffing on the low status of the cartoonist.  Toomey seems to be speaking through his characters to comment (and make fun of) his occupation. And it appears that the cartonnist in question is, in fact, himself. But then something strange happened... (as you'll see in Part 2).

Monday, May 25, 2015

Diabelli Project 092 - Piano Piece

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

This week's example is a piano piece (or rather, a piece of a piece). I began with the concept of alternating 4/4 and 5/4 measures, and just let the rest follow as it would. And here's where it lead: (click on image to enlarge)

Had I more time, I think I would have developed that little half-step turn, perhaps changing the rhythm from two 16ths and an 8th note to an 8th, followed by two 16ths. What possibilities do you see? As always, I offer this sketch freely to any and all to use as they wish. Just share the results, please!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Patric Standford - The Essence of England

Listening to the music of Patric Standford, other composers come to mind. The works flow smoothly and organically, like those of his teacher Edmund Rubbra. The skittering passages of the Prelude to a Fantasy sound like more tonal versions of those by Lutoslawski (who Standford also studied with). And over all of this, there's a practical cast to the music -- and its eminent playability -- that reminded me quite a bit of Malcolm Arnold.

The centerpiece of this album is Standford's first symphony. Titled "The Seasons -- An English Year" this 1972 work quite effectively conjures up the English countryside, with each movement corresponding to a season. Though not a ground-breaking work, it is a well-constructed one, and if you're fond of Arnold or Rubbra, there's much here to enjoy.

Raphael Wallfisch plays Standford's 1974 cello concerto with straight-forward conviction, which (I think) presents the music in it's best possible light. Rather than creating a showpiece for technique, Standford seemed more interested in creating a work that let the cello sing. And Wallfisch makes his instrument do just that.

David Lloyd-Jones and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra deliver highly expressive performances that bring out the beauty for Standford's compositions. A well-recorded album of interesting music. While some may not consider Standford to be a world-class composer, I think his music holds it own at least in the realm of British 20th Century music.

Patric Standford: Symnphony No. 1 "The Seasons -- An English Year";
Cello Concerto; Prelude to a Fantasy (The Naides)

Royal Scottish National Orchestra; David Lloyd-Jones; Raphael Wallfisch, cello
Naxos 5.571356

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Praga Magna - Music in Prague During the Reign of Rudolph II

When Rudolph II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia, moved his court from Vienna to Prague in 1583, he made it an unparalleled showcase for arts and intellectual activity. Rudolph patronized artists such as Dürer and Brueghel, amassed a collection of exotic animals, historical curiosities, and employed some of the best musicians in Eastern Europe.

The early music ensemble Cappella Mariana add veracity to that last part of that statement with their latest release. It includes works by court musicians Alessandro Orolgio, Phillippe de Monte, and Jacob Regnart. All three wrote in a similar high renaissance style, with flowing counterpoint effortlessly weaving melodic lines in and out of one another.

Almost all the works on this release are sacred, giving the program an expansive, yet serene overall sound. The Cappella Mariana performs these pieces with precision, maintaining a transparent ensemble sound that is almost sensual in nature.

The program includes works by Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso, composers who were also performed in the imperial court. The music of Rudolph's own composers compares favorably to these acknowledged masterworks.

Rudolph II was a contemporary of Elizabeth I, and like the Virgin Queen, was indirectly responsible for a flourishing of musical creativity. In my opinion, Praga Magna is a beautiful recording of some unjustly neglected music. And I enjoyed every minute of it.

Praga Magna: The Music in Prague During he Reign of Rudolf II
Alessandro Orologio; Orlando di Lasso; Philippe de Monte; Liberale Zanchi; Giovanni de Palestrina; Jacob Regnart
Cappella Mariana
Artevisio AV 0001-2

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mother Goose and Grimm - Enjoy the Trip

I confess I sometimes go a little too far with my analysis of newspaper comics. Not so with today's example. Mike Peters had a simple but elegant meta gag in the March 23, 2015 sequence of Mother Goose and Grimm. (click to enlarge)

Peters takes a boilerplate element of the strip -- one that the reader never really sees -- and makes it the subject of the gag. And notice that because it is part of the gag, the copyright notice is treated a little differently. Normally, the entire notice would be in a single panel (and usually running vertically to keep it out of the way). In this case, the copyright notice starts in the first panel (to initiate the action), and finishes in the last panel so Grimmy can point to it (and we can get the joke) without having to go all the way back to the first panel.

Simple, clever, and so meta!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Diabelli Project 091 - String Quartet

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

The results of my weekly flash composition exercise are always a surprise. When the timer started this week, I had no idea I'd be writing another string quartet fragment, but that's what happened. Time ran out before I could finish the last measure, but this is what I did in the time allotted. Including last week's entry, this makes five string quartet sketches (see: Diabelli Project 090Diabelli Project 085, Diabelli Project 079, and Diabelli Project 056). (click on image to enlarge)

Do they still all hang together? Well, yes. I think I can see how they all could be part of one larger work. But what about you?

As always, I make this sketch available for any and all to use as they choose. If you think this should go in a different direction, then please take it there. Just be sure to share the results!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ries Violin Sonatas - More Mozart than Beethoven

Ferdinand Ries was many things to Beethoven; student, assistant, copyist, colleague, champion. He was a virtuoso pianist went on to have a successful career both as a performer and as a composer.

Reis' 18 sonatas for violin and piano were mostly composed between 1807-1809, while he was living in Paris. And perhaps for that reason, the three sonatas in this recording seem to have more in common with Mozart than Beethoven.

The sonatas are all models of classical restraint, with a refined elegance that eschews showiness. I didn't hear any of the bravura demands that Beethoven puts on his performers, but that didn't make these works any less enjoyable. I suspect Ries was writing for his French audience, and that audience preferred restraint.

The Sonata in F, Op. 8 No. 1 has a Mozartean charm to it. Simple elements are artfully arranged to keep the listener charmed throughout the work. By contrast, Reis' Sonata in C minor, Op. 8 No. 2 is much more forceful and dramatic. In it, I could hear the influence of Beethoven, although Reis never quite approaches the fury of his teacher.

The liner notes try to connect the Grande Sonata in F minor, Op. 19 to Beethoven's "Appassionata" sonata, but I think that does a disservice to the former. Both are in three movements, and both were written around the same time, but Reis's work lacks the inner fire of Beethoven's sonata.

Taken on its own terms, though, I found the Grande Sonata quite interesting. Its themes are more fully developed than those of the Op. 8 sonatas, and the music sound more substantial, with more inherent emotional weight.

Reis may not be on par with Beethoven, but his music is well-constructed and inventive. I found it both pleasing and enjoyable to listen to. If you lean more towards Mozart than Beethoven, you may find it so as well.

Ferdinand Ries: Three Sonatas for Violin and Piano
Eric Grossman, violin; Susan Kagan, piano
Naxos 8.573193

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tempesta di Mare -- Lully, Marais, Rebel, Drama!

This release features the music of Jean-Baptiste Lully along with two younger composers who played in his orchestra: Jean-éry Rebel (violin) and Marin Marais (viola da gamba). While the three share a certain similarity of style, there are distinct differences -- especially when played by Tempesta di Mare.

Lully's "Le Bourgeouis Gentilhomme" reflects Louis XIV's fascination with the Orient after a visit from the Turkish ambassador in 1669. The orchestral suite features drums, tambourine, and cymbals, all Turkish instruments. The Tempesta di Mare plays these selections with relish -- especially the Spanish airs, which involve hand clapping and castanets.

Just listen to the opening chords of Jean-Féry Rebel's "Les Éléments" and you might mistake it for a contemporary work. This 1736 "Symphonique nouvelle" depicts order arising out of chaos in a programmatic fashion Richard Strauss might approve of. The opening chords -- chaos -- contain every note in the D minor scale sounding (to these 21st Century ears) very much like a tone cluster!

Marin Marais was a virtuoso viola da gamba player, but he was also a composer of considerable skill. The suite from his 1706 opera "Alcyone" features a highly dramatic opening that seems to anticipate the Sturm und Drang of Haydn.

Tempesta di Mare Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra performs these works with fire and imagination. They have a tight, well-focused ensemble sound that throws the inner workings of the contrapuntal sections in sharp relief. And their expressive playing gives brings out the individuality of each composer.

Comédie et Tragédie, Volume 1 
Jean Baptiste Lully: Suite from "Le Bourgeouis Gentilhomme"; Jean-Féry Rebel: Les Éléments; Marin Marais: Suite from "Alcyone"
Tempesta di Mare Chaconne Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra
Chaconne Chan 0805

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Straco Express Layout, Part 45 - Topless entertainment

Read all the installments of the Straco Express layout project here.

The last time I wrote on this subject (see: Part 44 - Haji like a tanker?), I was able to definitely the maker of one friction car by comparing it to the chassis of the other. One of the two had Haji's trademark on it. But because construction was uniquely identical to both, I felt certain the other vehicle was also made by Haji.

Recently, something similar happened -- although the results weren't so conclusive.

This time around, I purchased a convertible. For larger vehicles, Japanese manufactures would attempt to simulate convertible interiors with stamped contoured tin.

For this small vehicle, though, I think the options were limited. The friction motor takes up a significant amount of space, so the vaguest of outlines was impressed into the body shell, and lithography did the rest. As you can see from the photos, the interior seems to bulge out of the car, rather than be recessed into it!

There's no logo on this vehicle. It's a three-wheeled car, so I compared its chassis to that of the other three-wheeled vehicles I had. It was dissimilar to the Haji vehicles, but was a perfect match for my green sedan.

So once again, I was able to match a logo'd vehicle with an unmarked one. Unfortunately, it's not clear  (at least to me) who the Indian head logo of the sedan belongs to (more details in: Part 41 - Indian Head Mystery).

Two peas from an unknown pod - the Indian head logo green sedan, and
the orange convertible.

All I can say for now is that I have two vehicles made by the same company, which may or may not be Ichinko!

Convertible (l) and sedan (r) -
- it's a match!
On the other hand, I'm happy to have a vehicle that's colored primary red, blue, or green. And since it's one of the few vehicles with no drivers or passengers depicted, you'll see it most often placed in the station's parking lot -- at it is in the shot below.

Puzzling out the origins of these toys and the relationships between manufacturing runs is part of the fun of this project. So doing a little research on this convertible I found quite entertaining. Hence the title of this post.

Total cost for the project:

Layout construction:
  • Pegboard: $4.95
  • Flathead Screws: $0.40
  • Molding: $2.49
  • SilClear: borrowed from a friend
  • Green Paint: left over from another project
  • Wood Screws: $3.60
  • Felt Pads: $1.99
Power Pack: $5.90
Small Houses: $3.00
Testor's Gray Paint for road: $1.29

Bandai Areo Station: $8.99
2 tinplate signs: $1.00
4 tinplate signs (with train) $5.99
Cragstan HO Light Tower $20.49


  • Two Japanese toy cars: $2.00
  • A.W. Livestock truck: $4.99
  • Taxi: $2.99
  • Ambulance: $2.99
  • Two Japanese patriotic cars: $6.99
  • Haji three-wheel sedan $3.00
  • Haji three-wheel tanker $5.00
  • 1950's sedan $2.99
  • LineMar Pepco Truck $8.50
  • LineMar Bond Bread Van $8.00
  • LineMar Fire Engine $4.95
  • LineMar Dump Truck $12.99
  • LineMar GE Courier Car $10.98
  • Nomura Red Sedan $5.00
  • Nomura Police Car $2.52
  • Nomura lumber truck $3.48
  • 6 Namura vehicles $16.99
  • Orange Sedan $10.99
  • King Sedan $9.95
  • Indian Head logo sedan $4.99
  • Indian Head (?) convertible $18.00
  • Yellow/red Express truck $9.99
Total Project Cost: $209.37

Monday, May 11, 2015

Diabelli Project 090 - String Quartet

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

This week's flash composition is the beginning of a string quartet. And perhaps it's part of the other string quartet fragments I've dashed off as part of this series (see: Diabelli Project 085, Diabelli Project 079, and Diabelli Project 056). This one is definitely the most challenging of the lot. If I were to fit all the sketches together, this would probably be the last movement. And it would be fast and furious, too! (click on image to enlarge)

What possibilities do you see with this? As always, this sketch is available to any and all to use you choose with no strings attached. Just be sure to share your results.

Friday, May 08, 2015

CCC 131 - Robert Paterson

Since I'm a percussionist myself, I'm always seeking out composers that contribute significantly to the repertoire. Robert Paterson has done that, and his compositions certainly qualify him for a profile in the Consonant Composer's Challenge. Paterson studied with Christopher Rouse (profiled in CCC 023), Samuel Adler (profiled in CCC 016), and Joseph Schwantner among others, and -- like them -- has adapted a form of tonality for his own work.

Although a percussionist, Paterson hasn't limited himself just to that one field, or indeed, just to instrumental music. He's completed a chamber opera and several works for SATB choir. Paterson's also written orchestral works, as well as "A New Earth," a significant composition for orchestra, chorus and narrator.

To my ears, Paterson's music sounds ordered, accessible, and full of imaginative detail. He effectively uses the tonal vernacular of the 20th and 21st centuries to communicate with his audiences. And he definitely has something to say.

"Did You Hear?" initially seems to be a novelty piece for chorus, breaking male and female voices into two gossiping groups. But in the middle, the work turns introspective, and gives us insight into the insecurities of the participants.

Paterson has developed a six-mallet technique for the marimba. Four mallet playing is fairly common, which allows marimbists to play chords and complex counterpoint. As you can see in the video for the performance of "Komodo," Paterson's technique not only allows thicker chordal textures, but gives the marimbist additional agility as he moves about the instrument. And of course, the composer Paterson takes full advantage of the possibilities of that six-mallet technique!

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any video examples of Paterson's orchestral music, but this promotional video for his work "A New Earth" provides at least a sampling of his orchestral style.

Robert Paterson's music has a down-to-earth practicality about it that I found refreshing. It's music that has an immediate appeal, yet it's also substantial enough to reward repeated listening. I'd love to hear a performance of "Dark Mountains" or his "Symphony in Three Movements." Any orchestra willing to be just a little adventuresome?

Recommended Recordings

Robert Paterson: Six Mallet Marimba

Winter Songs: Vocal Music of Robert Paterson

Robert Paterson: Eternal Reflections

Star Crossing: Music of Robert Paterson

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Zemlinsky Piano Music - A Ray of Light

Alexander Zemlinsky is best remembered for his Lyric Symphony, his tone poem Die Siejungfrau and his operas -- all works that take full advantage of orchestral color and the inherent lyricism of the human voice.

I was quite interested, then, to hear his solo piano works. What would Zemlinsky's music sound like stripped down to its essence?

As it turns out, it sounds quite nice. Zemlinsky only wrote a handful of piano pieces, most of them in the very early part of his career.

Stylistically, they owe much to Brahms and Schumann -- especially the short little pieces of Ländliche Tänze, Op. 1 and Fantasien über Gedichte von Richard Dehmel, Op. 9 But the melodies are all Zemlinsky. Rather than sounding derivative, the works are nicely turned miniatures.

These are by no means major works -- but not everything has to be. These piano works are well-constructed pieces, with rich romantic harmonies and engaging melodies. And that's enough for me.

Alexander Zemlinsky: A Ray of Light Complete Piano Music 
Emmuele Torquati, piano 
Brilliant Classics 95067

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Pepe Romero and Vicente Coves team up for Torroba

This is an interesting release. Vincent Pepe and his student Vicent Coves work in tandem, each performing a concerto and a solo guitar work by Torroba -- and what works! The Concierto en Flamenco was composed for Romero, who easily melds the discipline of classical playing with the fire of flamenco.

Coves' style is complementary to his teacher's, but definitely not the same. His performance of the Diálogos entre guitarra y orquesta had (to my ears) a harder edge and a sense of aggressiveness to it than Romero's playing. His performance of the Suite castellana also seemed to have a sense of urgency to it.

All in all, the two guitarists provide a fine balance and deliver a cohesive program. I'm really looking forward to the subsequent volumes of this series.

Federico Moreno Torroba: Guitar Concertos 1 
Concierto en Flamenco; Diálogos entre guitarra y orquesta; Aires de la Mancha; Suite castellana 
Pepe Romero and Vicente Coves, guitars; Málaga Philharmonic Orchestra; Manuel Coves, director 
Naxos 8.573255

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Facebook Blondie

One of the reasons I hear folks offer for not reading Blondie is that "it's all the same." Well, not really. Yes, like many comics, there are tropes that the creators revisit again and again, but unlike a zombie strip (like "Peanuts") it's not frozen in time -- as creators Dean Young and John Marshall made clear in this sequence from February 5, 2015. (click on image to enlarge)

Blondie started in 1930 -- but there's little of that decade in this sequence. Using the Facebook convention of Throwback Thursday is decidedly 21st century. And it's a great way to point out just how things have changed over the last 85 years.

Sure, the punch line is that there's one thing that hasn't changed. But it has in subtle ways.. When Dagwood was first shown at work (in the 1940's), there was a typewriter on his desk. If you look carefully, you'll see a computer flatscreen terminal in the corner of the final picture. So not everything remains the same in the world of Blondie.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Diabelli Project 089 - Four-voice fugue

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

In a way, this week's flash composition is a return to basics (at least the basics of the project). When I started this series, most of the sketches were fugues, or at least some form of counterpoint. When the motif popped into my head and the clock started, the rest just seemed to follow on its own.

So what happens to this little motif next? That's up to you. As with all the sketches in this series, it's available to anyone to use as they like. No strings attached -- I just ask that you share the results!