Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Spam Roundup: April, 2014

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.

No matter what you say -- keep it vague!
- It's an awesome piece of writing in favor of all the online visitors; they will obtain advantage from it I am sure.

Blast from the past
- Howdy! Someone in my Myspace group shared this website with us so I came to take a look. I'm definitely loving the information.I'm bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Fantastic blog and amazing design.
[MySpace? Really? You have an AOL account, too?]

Providing a service -- I guess
[More comments about The Straco Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering along, which talks about small tinplate toy.]
- Marvelous, what a web site it is! This blog provides useful facts to us, keep it up.

The Nomura 3" Lumber Truck, ca. 1960. This is the
source of all that "excellent info" and "useful facts"
my automated commentators seem to love so much.
- Great goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you're just extremely great. I actually like what you have acquired here, certainly like what you are stating and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still take care of to keep it sensible. I can not wait to read far more from you. This is really a wonderful web site.

- Hello there! I just want to give you a big thumbs up for the excellent info you have got right here on this post. I will be coming back to your web site for more soon.
[Glad to be of service -- I think.]

Pondering Polyphony
[This was posted for The Diabelli Project - Contrapunctus XVI by J. Lee Graham", which discusses a four-part fugue.]
- Hey! This post couldn't be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!|
[Who was your roommate? J.S. Bach?]

Going meta
[These were left on Spam Roundup July, 2013]
- This is a topic which is close to my heart... Cheers!

- I am sгe tҺis piece of writinɡ has toucҺed alll the internet viewers, its really really good pioece of writing oߋn building up new website.
[So happy to have touched all.]

And finally, keeping it meticulous
- Hello colleagues, fastidious paragraph and good arguments commented here, I am really enjoying by these.

Fastidious to the last! Next month I'll share more awesome writing in favor of all the online visitors that will touch all Internet viewers!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Comical Dick Tracy

Things have become more interesting in Dick Tracy recently, with several story lines woven together -- and all having to do with vintage comic strips. The first is a reinterpretation of an older gag.  (click on images to enlarge).  Creators Mike Curtis and Joe Staton set the stage with this Sunday spread:

The following Sunday reveals more, and lets us get a glimpse of the "Straightedge Trustworthy" comic strip. Bonnie's comment to her grandfather is funny, of course, in a meta sense -- since the reader knows that in fact she is in a comic strip.

But there's more. A weekly segment shows "Staightedge Trustworthy" parodying key elements of the Dick Tracy strip, including the grotesque villains with Dickensian names.

Behind it is Vera Alldid, a character Chester Gould created in 1969 as a mordant commentary on the state of newspaper comics. Note the last panel of the strip below:

Alldid calls Tracy "Fosdick," and that's significant. Because in 1942, Al Capp incorporated a parody of Dick Tracy in his own comic strip, "Lil Abner." -- it was called "Fearless Fosdick."

Although Chester Gould, the original creator of Dick Tracy was rumored to be unimpressed (at the least) with Capp's parody, it was popular with the public -- and with future writers and artists of the Dick Tracy feature.

In the current continuity, Tracy is quite unhappy with Alldid's depiction of him, and Mike Curtis may be using the two characters to stand in for Capp and Gould.

Whatever the reason, it's great fun all around -- especially for those who know some of the background of this long-running strip.

And there's something else -- note that in both Sunday sequences the logo for a discontinued comic strip appears prominently in the first panel.

It's just setting the stage for the second story line Curtis and Staton have introduced. as we'll see in Part 2.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Diabelli Project 038 - Invention in B minor

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.

A much shorter and simpler entry this week. I've said it's in B minor (two sharps), but it's really in Aeolian mode, as there's no leading tone (A-sharp). It's another sketch in 5/8. At some point I might revisit all of these Diabelli sketches in 5/8 -- perhaps I've been subconsciously writing a much larger work in installments! (click on image to enlarge)

As always, what happens next is up to you -- or anyone else who'd like to finish this piece. Just let me know what the results were.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Re-paving Paradise in the O-Gauge Zen Garden (Part 2)

That side street was ready for renovation. And I knew
just how to do it.
As in the real world, the infrastructure on a train layout needs maintenance and upgrading in order to best serve its purpose (which in this case, is simply to give me a hobby unrelated to anything else I have to deal with).  Initially, I used colored construction paper to represent the roadways on my O-Gauge Zen Garden, and that was fine.

But time marches on, and the aging paper has warped and wrinkled. In Part 1 I shared one method I devised to replace the paper with something more closely resembling asphalt. But there was still a lot of roadway to replace, and so I tried another solution. 

Mini-highways offers an easy solution for long stretches of road. Their roadway comes with highway markings printed on it, and the back of the thickly-textured paper has cut lines printed at regular intervals. It seemed like a perfect solution, so I purchased a roll.

The roads must roll! For this project, I used Mini Highways No. 402.
Always measure before buying! It turned out that my main thoroughfare was wider than the paper. And since I had custom-built crossing ramps I was reluctant to change it. The Mini-highways road, however, turned out to be perfect for the side street.

A definite improvement. I'll need a barrier at the end of the road, but scrub
brush will do for now.
I simply cut the road to length, spread white glue thinly but generously across the back, and set it into place. I placed bricks on the roadbed to ensure it dried without wrinkling, and I'm pretty happy with the results. 

For the main drag, I'll have to go back to the paint-on-cork board method, but should the layout expand, I have additional roadway ready and waiting.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Composing America: The Lark Quartet -- an engaging survey

Composing America
Adams, Bolcom, Copland & Moravec
The Lark Quartet
Bridge Records

The Lark Quartet's latest release is a broad sampling of American string quartet music -- and it's broad in many ways.

First, it ranges from the  1928 modernism of Aaron Copland, through the minimalism of John Adams, the populist sound of William Bolcolm and ending with the more formal writing of Paul Moravec.

It's also broad in it's inclusion of performers. The selections from "John's Book of Alleged Dances" (John Adams) features percussionist Yousif Sheronick. Bolcom's "Billie in the Darbies" has the quartet accompanying baritone Stephen Salters. The Moravec work is a Piano Quartet, which the quartet performs with pianist Jeremy Denk.

Only eight minutes of the program, Copland's "Two Pieces for String Quartet" are for sting quartet alone.

And all of it's to the good. The variety of styles, forces, and sounds make this an interesting album to listen to straight through. The Lark's clear, straight-forward sound seems perfectly suited to this material.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lio and the Fourth Wall 6

Mark Tartulli's comic strip Lio often ventures outside the confines of the genre -- especially when it comes to the convention of comic strip panels (see Lio and the Fourth Wall) for other examples). In his 4/9/14 strip, Tratulli has Lio once again break the fourth wall -- this time painfully.

Tartulli's not just an imaginative cartoonist, but a gifted one, too. Consider: if you were going to draw this gag, where would you place the elements? Knowing that the eye reads left to right, Tartulli arranged them to maximize the humor.

First we see Lio -- what happened? Then we see the cannon (with the note "for outdoor use only") and then Lio's pet squid with the instruction sheet. Each element reveals another layer of what just happened, and adds to the humor.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Diabelli Project 037 - Double 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.

This week's flash composition is decidedly the most ambitious to date. It's a double fugue, which means there's some counterpoint that's both self-contained and playing in counterpoint against another self-contained group of counterpoint.

This is one I might try finishing myself -- but anyone else is welcome to also. Just let me know what you came up with1

Friday, April 18, 2014

CCC 100 - Andrew Schultz

Australian composer Andrew Schultz is this week's featured Consonant Classical Challenge entry. Schultz has written an impressive body of work, including three symphonies, a violin concerto, and several other orchestral works. His chamber music is frequently performed, as are some of his choral compositions.

Schultz is well aware of the cultural power the language of tonal music has, and uses it to great effect. Although his music doesn't use simple chords moving in standard progressions, it has both a tonal foundation and forward motion. And that, I think, is due to his understanding of how music is heard (especially outside of academia).

After Nina is an excellent example of Schultz's composition principles. The work is based on Nina Simone's "Strange Fruit." Although he deconstructs the song, the pieces aren't just scattered about. They're reorganized in a way that creates a new work with a structure and internal logic that can be easily followed by the listener.

Circle Ground Septet No. 2 rocks back and forth on a simple harmonic foundation (the ground). But over top of that foundation, all kinds of wonderful things occur, including some pretty innovative melodic writing.

One Sound, a quintet for flute and strings, shows how imaginatively Schultz uses the basic building blocks of tonal music. The harmonies are constructed of intervals that -- depending on whether they're thirds or seconds -- can have a simple, modal sound or a denser, more atonal character, without being exactly either.

In Ring Out, Wild Bells, Schultz takes a quite simple melodic idea and uses it to create a more elaborate sound structure for chorus.

In this excerpt from his Violin Concerto, the solo violin floats over elegiac and expansive orchestral music. Schultz's careful attention to detail with the orchestration creates a wonderfully unique atmosphere.

Andrew Shultz writes music that embraces rather than turn its back on musical traditions. But I suspect the blue-hairs won't hear the connection. For late middle-aged (and younger) audiences, though, Shultz's music should make perfect sense, and fit in quite well with a program of standard classical works. I wish more of his music was performed here in the States.

Recommended Recordings

Andrew Schultz - Orchestral Works

Andrew Schultz - Suspended Preludes

Andrew Schultz - Chamber Music

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Re-paving Paradise in the O-Gauge Zen Garden (Part 1)

I was quite happy with the results of my last project for the layout (Shedding an Image). Happy that is, until I looked closely at one of the photos of the finished project. (click on images to enlarge)

Pavement shouldn't be warped and wrinkled.
The construction paper I used to represent roads and parking lots had been there for some time -- long enough to absorb some moisture and wrinkle. Before I had completely finished with the shed project, I knew what would be next -- replacing that old paper!

It turned out I had a ready-made solution. When I built the layout, I happened to have a roll of cork board in the garage, left over from an old project. There was enough to carpet the surface of the layout, which helped cut down on the noise somewhat when the trains ran.

I had already used some of the cork board for sidewalks. Painted with primer and then flat gray, it looked very much like poured concrete. I decided to do something similar to simulate paving.

The cork board was trimmed at an angle to create the shoulder of the road.
I experimented with a scrap of cork board and some paint, and got the results I wanted by simply dabbing the paint onto the cork (without primer).

I prepped the area by taking up the old paper, and cut out the edge of where the paving would be with a box cutter. I made sure to cut at a slant, to represent the shoulder of the road.

Then it was just a matter of taking a bottle of flat black model paint and dabbing it onto the surface.

I finished the main road with the black paint, and it looked like pretty convincing asphalt. There was a parking lot just off the road for one of the train stations. In real life, parking lots use a different (and less expensive) type of paving material than roads that have to bear constant traffic.

To model that, I mixed a little grey paint in with the black, until I found a shade I was satisfied with. You can see the results below.

Parking lot on left, thoroughfare on the right. Still to do: paint the crossing
ramp to match the pavement.

I was happy with the results, but there was a problem. This parking lot/access road part of the layout was the smaller of the two areas that needed "paving." And I had already run through five bottles of paint. Fortunately, there was another solution for the town's main street, as I'll explain in part 2.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Danielpour: Toward a Season of Peace

Richard Danielpour
Toward a Season of Peace
Hila Plitmann, soprano
Pacific Chorale
Pacific Symphony, Carl St. Clair, director

Richard Danielpour's "Towards a Season of Peace" is an ambitious work -- and one that succeeds in that ambition. Danielpour combines texts from Jewish, Christian and Persian (Arabic) sources in his oratorio for peace. By doing so, he shows the parallels and common ground between the three major religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Muslim -- currently at war with each other in the Middle East.

Unlike Bernstein's "Requiem Mass," Danielpour never gets preachy. He lets the inherent beauty of the poetic texts, supported by his music, speak for itself. The work is tonal and quite easy to follow -- which I suspect was Danielpour's intention. This isn't an esoteric work for the cognoscente, but rather a work that can be heard and enjoyed by a much wider audience. If you enjoy "modern" composers such as Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, or Michael Tippett, then you should find much to like in Daneilpour's composition. Not that he sounds like any of those composers, but Danielpour seems to be coming from the same place.

In the liner notes Danielpour talks about reconnecting with his Persian musical heritage, and several parts of the score reflect that, adding a verve and excitement not found in works sticking to just Western traditions.

Hila Plitmann's in fine form, letting her clear soprano voice float lightly above the orchestra in her solos. The overall performance by the Pacific Chorale, Pacific Symphony and conductor Carl St. Clair benefit from their close working relationship with the composer. This may be a world-premier recording, but the ensemble performs it as if it were a work they had been playing for years.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Gasoline Alley's Revisionist History

Current Gasoline Alley writer and artist Frank Scancarelli sometimes references the strip's rich past for stories (see Return to Gasoline Alley). In a sequence from April, 2014, Skeezix is hypnotized and taken back to his childhood. But what's depicted in 2014 isn't the same as it was in the original 1922 panel.

Here's the original version (click on images to enlarge) as drawn by series creator Frank King:

From left to right: Doc, his wife Hazel, Bill, his wife Amy and son "Shorty," Skeezix, Walt Wallet (Skeezix's adoptive father),  Avery's son Elmer and wife Emily, Avery, and Rachel (Walt's cook and housekeeper).

And here's how Skeezix "remembers" it 82 years later, as drawn by Frank Scancarelli:

Some of the changes are due to the realities of newspaper comic strips, which are allotted a fraction of the space they had in the 1920's. There simply isn't room to show everyone at the table with their word balloons.

Originally, "Gasoline Alley" centered around the adventures of Walt Wallet , his three neighbors (Doc, Bill, and Avery) and their extended families. In the 2014 version, the third-tier characters are gone, and of the core supporting cast, only Doc and Bill remain.

More significantly, perhaps, is that Rachel's been updated. Not only have the racial stereotypes been removed from the character, but her race as well! Rachel's now white, and has been given Walt's dialog, delivered in a dialect-free voice.

There's no question that Rachel had to be redrawn, but I think it's a shame her race was changed. Although drawn in the racist caracture style of the day, Rachel never acted in the demeaning way African-Americans were usually portrayed in comics and film.

She wasn't lazy, ignorant, nor superstitious. Instead, Rachel was consistently shown to be resourceful, hard-working, quick-witted and quite capable of managing Walt's household. It would have been nice to see a sympathetic depiction of Rachel as an African-American.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Diabelli Project 036 - Invention in B-flat

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 purpose of the Diabelli Project is to keep the creative juices flowing by dashing off these little flash compositions with nothing between thought and paper. So yes, I've done a lot of "inventions" in a row. That's alright. It's what I felt like at the time. I've also used a repeated note to start a motif before, too. But what happens next is a little different. And what I find interesting about this piece is how much farther along I got than before.

My very first attempt (001 Canon at the Octave) I wrote about half as much -- and it was a struggle to do so.

What happens next? That's up to you. With these Diabelli Project sketches, there's a standing invitation for anyone to finish them any way they'd like. Just let me know the results.

Friday, April 11, 2014

CCC 099 - Kristin Kuster

American composer Kristen Kuster is the subject of this week's Consonant Classical Challenge. Kuster is a fairly young composer, and her style incorporates many aspects of both current contemporary and popular music. Kuster's inspired (in part) by architectural space, and it's easy to follow the structural outlines of her works.

Although her works might be classified as tonal, they're anything but simple in their harmonic structure. Kristen builds her chords up by consonant intervals, avoiding simple triads and trite harmonic motion. Her imaginative orchestrations, combined with her strong sense of rhythm and scalar melodies make her music (in my opinion) both accessible and engaging.

Two Jades -- as the title suggests, this work for solo violin and symphonic band has an Oriental theme. The work stays mostly diatonic, with syncopated rhythms that keep the music moving forward under the soaring solo violin.

Perpetual Afternoon for flute and piano, by requiring only two instruments, pares Kuster's music down to its essence. Kuster's gift for melody is apparent in this work. The flute floats and glides, with memorable motifs that are easy for the listener to recognize and follow.

Redness is an acapella work for mixed choir. Kuster uses rich harmonies -- primarily built on seconds and thirds -- to provide subtle shading to the melody and enhance the emotions of the text.

Kristen Kuster has a well-rounded catalog of works for chamber, vocal, and orchestral forces. In my opinion, her music sounds fresh and contemporary, while still maintaining a connection with classical music traditions. It's music that should be enjoyable to both new listeners, and concert-hall veterans. I'm hopeful that more organizations will program her music as time goes on.

Recommended Recordings


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Collecting -- and collecting information 14

The Linemar Central Coal & Coke Co. dump truck (click on images to enlarge)
A recent acquisition filled in a little bit more of the Linemar 3" truck mystery. In the late 1950's-early 1960's Linemar (the Japanese subsidiary of Louis Marx Co.), issued some inexpensive friction vehicles. And they were issued as a set (see Part 13 for more details).

I now own four of the ten vehicles from that set: the Potomac Electric Power Company truck, the Bond Bread van, the NYC fire engine, and my latest addition, the Central Coal & Coke Co. dump truck.

The Linemar line-up. (L-R): Bond Bread van, PEPCO truck, NYC fire engine,
Central Coal & Coke Co. dump truck.
While I've been able to deduce quite a bit just from photos alone, it's still better to examine the objects up close. The dump truck is virtually identical in construction to the fire truck. Both share the same chassis, crimped to hold the body on. And there's more.

Note how the bread van and PEPCO truck chassis (left) are similar, while
the fire engine and dump truck chassis (right) are identical.
The cabs for both vehicles are also identical. Both have the same fenders and the same crease in the hood. This suggests to me that the dies for these toys were made at the same time, using the same pattern.

By contrast, the other two Linemar vehicles I have are of much simpler construction. The body is held in place on the chassis that double as bumpers. The stamping on the PEPCO truck is not quite as detailed as the fire truck or dump truck. And the Bond Bread van is little more than a rounded block.

Why two different manufacturing processes? I'm not sure -- unless both were already in use for other projects. But I haven't run across any 3" Linemar friction toys that weren't part of this set. So the mystery continues.
The Linemar vehicle set

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Shedding an Image in the O-Gauge Zen Garden

The Plasticville freight station. A good
-- but not great -- track side structure.
When I first created my 0-Gauge Zen Garden, I used a lot of things I already had to get the layout setup. Like the Plasticville freight station that sat beside the inside loop, for example. I purchased it in the 1960's for my childhood train layout. Placing it on the new layout (built on the same train table), seemed natural.

But although the structure filled the space, something was missing. The station didn't have much character on its own, and without lights, the stretch of track it abutted seemed kind of dark.

Finding a replacement wasn't easy. The layout's pretty cramped, so whatever I chose had to be very small indeed. And the Ameri-town 503 Trackside Shed was just that. A simple structure with a very small footprint. Perfect! Construction was pretty simple, although I did a few modifications.

The joints along the sides were pretty flimsy, so I reinforced them with square plastic rods. Set into the corners, the rods help keep the corners perfectly square, and presented a larger surface area for the glue to bond with.
I knew I'd be placing a light inside the shed, so I took steps to ensure it only shown through the windows. The windows, like all the other structures on the layout, have vellum inserts. I have neither the time nor talent to construct miniature interiors for all those buildings.

I spray-painted the interior surfaces with flat black paint. After I finished gluing the shed together, I lined the interior roof joints with electrical tape to get a perfect seal. As you can see in the finished photos below, those two steps did the trick.

Initially, I was just going to set the shed directly on the table, but then decided to build a base/platform for it. The base was constructed by gluing three pieces of foam   core together.

I marked where the door would be when the shed was placed on the platform, and made sure I didn't glue the area between the edges of the foam core and the mark.

After the glue was dry, I cut a section out of the top layer, then a smaller section out of the middle. Since they weren't glued, the scrap just came right out, and voila -- I had steps leading up to the door.

At first I thought I could just get by with spray-painting the platform gray to represent concrete. But that didn't look very convincing. So I covered the rough edges with some of the embossed brick paper I had left over from the billboard project. It actually worked pretty well.

By cutting along the brick
...the joint was hidden when I
glued the strip to itself.
To join up the two ends of the strip that circled the platform, I cut along the brick outline on one end. When glued in place, it's readily apparent where the seam is -- as it would have been with just a straight edge.

The rest of the project was pretty simple. I drilled holes through the platform and the table for the light wires. The light socket itself was fastened to the table with a long wood screw that went through the platform and into the wooden table top below.

I'm happy with the way the shed looks...
...especially at night.
And I'm happy with the results. There's a little more light in this section now, and a much more colorful and interesting-looking structure.

Those colors, BTW, weren't selected at random. The Montpelier estate in here in Orange County, VA has used the same green-with-white trim paint scheme for all their outbuildings since the 1960's -- including those next to the railroad tracks at Montpelier Station.

And if you look carefully at these photos, you'll see my next project. When I started, I used black construction paper to represent roads. Over time, the paper's absorbed moisture and become wrinkled. Time to move to a more realistic -- and permanent solution.

The original inspiration. Most
of the buildings at Montpelier
also have white doors.

Sure, the shed looks great. But see the way the pavement warps
up on the left? That's the next project.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Dick Tracy and Mary Perkins

Mike Curtis and Joe Staton have taken a moribund vintage comic strip -- Dick Tracy -- and turned it into a fresh new strip full of surprises and delights. For me, many of those delights come from recognizing crossovers and cameos with other comic strips (both current and historical).

In a sequence started in March, 2014, Vitamin Flintheart takes center stage once again. This former matinee idol (and unabashed ham actor) first strutted into Dick Tracy in 1944 as an unwitting dupe of Flattop, Sr. Although a movie and TV actor, Flintheart's heart belongs to the theater. (click on images to enlarge). In this sequence, he performs the lead in a play by the Immortal Bard.

His co-star has also had some interaction with Flintheart in his offstage drama with con artist Silver Nitrate and his sister Sprocket. Newer readers might assume she's a minor character -- but she's really much more. Mary Perkins was the star of her own soap opera/adventure strip, "On Stage." The strip ran under a variety of titles (depending on the newspaper); "Mary Perkins," "Mary Perkins, On Stage," and "On Stage," from 1957 through 1979. Brilliantly written and illustrated by Leonard Starr, the strip won several professional awards for it's innovative storytelling.

Of course such a major star of stage and screen like Mary Perkins would eventually work with the equally famous Vitamin Flintheart! Curtis and Staton's subtle nod to a comic strip legend did not go unnoticed (at least by this reader).

Monday, April 07, 2014

Diabelli Project 035 - Invention in A minor

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 entry is just a little invention in A minor. Of course, it's a little unusual -- it's in 5/8 time, consistently broken down into a group of 3 followed by a group of 2. (click on image to enlarge)

 If I were to continue with this, I would probably break the motif apart, playing with groups of 2 over groups of 3. But that's just me. What would you do? As always, the invitation is open. Feel free to use this as you will -- just let me know the results!

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Straco Layout, Part 32 - Things go better with coke

The Linemar Central Coal & Coke Co. dump truck.
Read all the installments of the Straco Express layout project here.

It wasn't that long ago that I purchased a Linemar fire truck for the Straco Express display layout. But since that time, I discovered that the Linemar vehicles were all part of a set (see: Collecting and Collecting Information, Part 13). So I've been on the lookout for other 3" vehicles produced by this Japanese subsidiary of Louis Marx Co.

So when the Linemar Central Coal & Coke Co. dump truck became available at a reasonable price, I took it. The body was stamped from essentially the same mold as Linemar's fire engine (click on the image above to enlarge). The front fenders have the same contours, and both have a crease bisecting the hood  (that's actually a good thing -- it strengthens that surface and helps it resist dents).

I'm really happy with the other embossed details, too. The surface of the coal load is lumpy, to simulate individual chunks of coal, and the lip of the dump bed can be seen across the top of the cab.

There is a little bit of a cheat -- the lithography shows double axles in the rear, but in fact there is only one. But since the chassis has a significant overhang, you really have to look closely to see the actual wheels.

All in all,  a nice little piece, and a good addition to the layout.

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

  • Two Japanese toy cars: $2.00
  • A.W. Livestock truck: $4.99
  • Taxi: $2.99
  • Ambulance: $2.99
  • Two Japanese patriotic cars: $6.99
  • Namura Police Car $2.52
  • Haji three-wheel sedan $3.00
  • Namura lumber truck $3.48
  • 1950's sedan $2.99
  • 6 Namura vehicles $16.99
  • LineMar Pepco Truck $8.50
  • LineMar Bond Bread Van $8.00 
  • Linemar Fire Engine $4.95 
  • Linemar Dump Truck $12.99
  • Namura Red Sedan $5.00
Total Cost: $120.99

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Game of Attrition: Arlene Sierra's compositional conflict

Game of Attrition: Arlene Sierra, Vol.2
BBC national Orchestra of Wales
Jac van Steen, conductor
Huw Watkins, piano
Bridge Records

This release features four orchestral works by Arlene Sierra. Listening to the entire album, one gets an overall sense of Sierra's style. A small, simple musical idea -- a repeated note motif, a grouping of instruments -- is set in conflict against a similar version of itself. And that back and forth conflict forms the building blocks from which larger and more elaborate structures form.

"Moler" is a jittery, sort orchestral work. The title refers to grinding teeth, and although the music won't set your teeth on edge, it does have that relentless, restless motion and undercurrent of anxiety that teeth-grinding suggests.

PDQ Bach wrote a concerto for piano vs. orchestra - and that seems to be the relationship of forces in Sierra's piano concerto, "The Art of War." As the work's subtitle suggests her point of inspiration is Sun Tzu's classic military treatis.

In the first movement, the piano attacks the orchestra and become overwhelmed by its superior numbers. The repeated note motifs Sierra uses suggest a stabbing motion. One can almost hear the conflict move back and forth through the orchestra.

The second movement casts the piano as an insurgent, darting in and out of view, making quick jabs before retreating. It's an exciting work that requires great virtuosity from both soloist and ensemble.Pianist Huw Watkins and the BBC national Orchestra of Wales directed by Jac van Steen are more than equal to the task.

According to Sierra, the extra-musical genesis of her work "The Game of Attrition" is different species competing for limited natural resources -- in this case represented by different instrumental groups playing in the same registers. As with the piano concerto, there's a sense of conflict in the work, but it makes for compelling listening, even without knowing the background. There are no hackneyed orchestrations here. Every moment the listener is presented with fresh instrumental combinations.

The motifs in "Aquilo" seem to form a chain, with one leading into the other in an interlocking fashion. This work seems less about conflict (though it's still there) and more about an imbalance that continually tips the music forward as it rushes to its conclusion.

"Game of Attrition" is an album of urgent, high-energy music. But for me it was a rewarding listen -- and a refreshing one.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Lio and the Fourth Wall 5

Mark Tartulli's humor is definitely outside the box -- literally. His innovative comic strip Lio often plays with the confines of the comic strip panels, breaking through them and other wise incorporating them into the story (see Lio and the Fourth Wall for other examples). In his 3/14/14 strip, Lio's in a perilous place. (click on image to enlarge).

What's the role of the panel border? At first glance, it looks like the edge of  the paper being shredded -- paper that the two-dimensional Lio's trapped in. But when you orient the comic vertically, it appears as if the panel border isn't just the edge of the paper, it's also a framework that Lio can wrap his hands around! So is the border two-dimensional, or three-dimensional? Like a detail in an Escher picture, it's really both. Brilliant.

One more thing -- note how all the normal details of Tartulli's strip reinforce our perception that Lio exists on the surface of the paper. The signature, date, copyright notice and web address are all tumbling down the page.

Another comic tour-de-force by Tartulli.