Before There Was Vinyl

Posted: September 22, 2017 in Audio, Geek
Tags: ,

Like many audiophiles I have appreciated the recent surge in the popularity of vinyl recordings. There is not only a marked difference in sound quality but there is also something satisfyingly tactile about placing the record on the platter and positioning the tonearm, triggering for yourself the moment the music begins. Putting an audio CD in the slot and watching the machine suck it in or tapping an icon on your phone just doesn’t have the same vibe.

That said, there is an even older format than vinyl that we are not very likely to see come back in the same way – beetle resin. That is to say – shellac.

That’s right – beetle resin. Shellac was used for a variety of things in it’s heyday from furniture and violin finishes, to fingernail polish, to electrical insulators, to..  well, records. If you have ever watched an old movie and seen someone break a record to stop it from being played again, it’s very likely it was a shellac disc because they were quite fragile and shattered quite nicely. Some of you will point out that vinyl breaks as well, and while that is true it just isn’t as easy to do as with shellac and in movie making you go with what works consistently.

The records ran at 78 rpm which is why you most often hear them referred to as 78s rather than “shellacs” and their fragility plus the fact they are made from beetle secretions is why you’re not likely so see this little piece of nostalgia on the shelves at Best Buy® any time soon. That doesn’t mean there is something wonderful happening with them however.

I recently became aware of The Great 78 Project, and effort by the Internet Archive, George Blood L.P., and The ARChive of Contemporary Music to preserve for posterity as many 78s as they can, physically and digitally.

The digitization work is being done by George Blood L.P., and will be made available to the public for download – FOR FREE! Great news for audiophiles and soundscape designers everywhere.

For the techies among my readers, I would like to point out that this is not easy because unlike their vinyl descendants, shellac records were not all created equal. Other than the fact they all rotated at 78 rpm (more or less) there were differences in manufacture from one publisher to the next, including diameter, groove size, spiral spacing, and shellac formula (some were softer than others so too heavy a tonearm might damage the groove). For the most part shellac records were designed to be played on the machines manufactured by the publisher of the music. They didn’t want you playing other company’s records on their machines and if you wanted you play their music you needed their machine. Kinda like Apple®.

As you can imagine this makes getting an accurate digitized copy challenging because it’s hard to tell exactly what the recording was supposed to sound like. George Blood met this challenge by, among other things, creating a turntable with four tonearms, each with a different size stylus. The full story on the digitization process can be found here.

The Great 78 Project is out to preserve as many 78 recordings as they can, not only sourcing them from artists and collections at various museums but they want your 78s as well. You can donate your old 78s to the project or they will advice you on the best way to digitize your collection and then you can upload the digital files to the project for inclusion.

Check it all out at The Great 78 Project.  @great78project

 

 

Grace Under Pressure

Posted: May 30, 2017 in Personal

Why, when there are so many people in the world like this, do so few get elected?

Katyboo1's Weblog

Yesterday, driving back from dropping Tallulah at a party I was listening to PM on Radio Four. I love Eddie Mair. Even when the news is dire, which it invariably is, Eddie is just the person to deliver it. His interviewing technique is particularly excellent (take heed, Jeremy Paxman).

I was moved to tears last night, listening to him interview a woman called Sarah Jenkins, whose daughter, Emily was blown up in the 7/7 bombings. The phrase that came to mind was grace under pressure, and not just because it’s an Elbow song. The dignity she was afforded and expressed in the interview made it so poignant, and very powerful indeed.

Her refusal to give in to hate, to do something constructive, to make the absolute best of her situation and remember Emily not as a victim of terrorism, but simply as her daughter who died, was magnificent.

It made me…

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I could not possibly have said this any better. So I won’t try.

Trinity's Portico

Dear Frank

Can I call you Frank? This is just pastor to pastor. Feel free to call me Peter. Anyway, I have to say I was flattered when I learned that your Decision America Tour took a detour off the beaten path to call upon us “small community churches.” We are nothing if not small. We seat 30-40 on a good Sunday. And we are a century old fixture of our small community. Most often we are overlooked and overshadowed by mega-churches and politically influential religious voices like your own. We don’t hold a candle to an auditorium filled with the music of a one hundred voice choir led by professional musicians. We probably will never be recognized in any nationally syndicated media. After all, we don’t do anything really “newsworthy.” We just preach the good news of Jesus Christ; love one another the best we can (which sometimes isn’t…

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March 23, 2017

An Open Letter to the Next Generation,

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

I can’t begin to tell you just how much this means to me. You see, for the last few years I’ve been wondering how we were going to cope? The bills keep getting bigger, our savings keep getting smaller, Roberta and I keep getting older; you get the picture. Then on top of all that the added tax burden from every level of government; the future was starting to look more than just a little bleak; and by future, I mean next month!

But then you came along with your incredibly generous offer.

I could hardly believe it when Premier Wynne said our hydro bill was going down by 25% and you guys were going to pay it for us! I mean, really? With all you have going on; struggling with a fledgling career, trying to sort out your gender issues, wondering if 45 down in the States is going to get us all blown up; I wouldn’t blame you at all if you didn’t have a moment’s thought for anyone but yourself. I know I didn’t at your age.

But not you, nope! With all that’s going on in your own lives you’re going to take on the added burden of paying down 25% of my hydro bill. And you’re going to do it at a time in your life when your own struggles are likely to be even worse than they are now. Yeah, by the time this bill comes due you will be facing the disillusionment of you own middle age wondering what the hell happened to all the hopes and dreams you had in 2017. I just hope you haven’t bitten off more than you can chew.

At a time when all the pundits are slagging the younger generations (sorry Millennials) you are shattering the stereotypes by committing your future to making a better today for the people who screwed up yesterday by electing the bunch who came up with this crazy idea to begin with.

You guys ROCK!

Dennis Gray, Guelph, ON

open letter pic

Really?

Posted: January 23, 2017 in Current Events, Politics, Society

I’ve been avoiding posting about the US election. In fact, avoiding such is why I haven’t posted since July. I have friends on both sides of the equation and I really wanted to avoid getting into it with any of them. My conservative friends say I’m too liberal, my lefty friends say I’m too right-wing, which is why I general consider myself a centrist libertarian (please note the small ‘L’). Personally I want a gov’t that is fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and not one bureaucrat larger than it has to be to get the job done effectively, which in today’s political climate likely qualifies me for membership in the Fantasy Island Party.

Now, I would truly prefer to keep all my friends, even the ones I totally disagree with, because life and conversation is decidedly more interesting with them than without them; so, I have been hoping against hope that there is more to what I have been seeing than meets the eye. I was betting that all the insanity on TV and the Internet was simply smoke and mirrors, setting up the “big reveal”. You see, when you work in theatre, even just community theatre, you soon understand what you are looking at is a thin wall of plywood and paint that hides the real work going on backstage, and a big part of me was sure the American election fell into something of that same category.

I was clinging to that hope because I really didn’t want to believe that what I was seeing was actually real. I still don’t want to believe it; but it’s beginning to look like I don’t have a choice. So here I am, blogging once again.

When I got to work this morning the conversation quickly turned to the “alternative facts” comment and one of my coworkers (who doesn’t blog or even comment on their Facebook account very often so I won’t use their name here) made a very good point; it went something like this.

“I get it, you don’t like the numbers, but it would have been very easy to spin this. You go out there and you say, ‘Yes, the numbers were disappointing. We would have liked to be able to say it was the biggest Inauguration audience ever,but it wasn’t and here’s why. Most of our supporters live in the interior and lower states. They don’t make a lot of money because far too many of them are unemployed. They can’t afford to just skip off for a few days and take a bus to Washington. That’s why we’re here. That’s why they elected us. We’re going to fix that!’ But instead of doing that they do THIS? That I don’t get.”

In less than five minutes they came up with a far better official response than Trump and all his advisers could. Or worse yet, his advisers did come up with it and Trump shot it down and they all said, “Okay fine.”

The one my coworker is really confused by is Sean Spicer, Trump’s new spokesman. They pointed out, and I have to agree, that the conversation in the Oval Office should have gone something like this, “I’m sorry Mr. President. I can’t say this. Bending the truth a little is one thing. Spinning the facts to work in our favour is another, but this is stupid! There’s video coverage, photos all over Facebook and Instagram, we can’t sell this!”

But he didn’t. Instead he walked out there and told what amounts to the biggest bold-faced lie in American politics since “I did not have sex with that woman”, possibly bigger, and in doing so has effectively neutered every press release from the White House going forward. Because if they will tell this lie, how can we ever trust another word.

As so it seems that reality television has become the new reality for American politics. Can’t wait to see what the writers have scripted for tomorrow’s episode.

Shaking My Fist at the Sky

Posted: July 29, 2016 in Personal

I’ve been watching what Kathleen Wynne is doing to the Ontario Health system and found myself wondering if Katy’s blog might contain a little foreshadowing…

Katyboo1's Weblog

My brother was in hospital for surgery today.

He’s had a kidney stone for months. It is one of those things the NHS no longer fix in the early stages. They hope it will just ‘go away.’

I understand this. There is no money, and if you know anything at all about the NHS you will know that they now routinely employ what they call rationing. This means that they do not stop offering certain treatments/drugs, but they do make the criteria to get them almost impossible to achieve. Kidney stones, along with hernias, are things that are often on hospital trust ration lists.

To be fair, sometimes people do pass kidney stones without any help,  but sometimes they don’t and in my brother’s case, he didn’t. In fact his kidney stone got bigger and bigger and worse and worse. In fact, the drugs they gave him several months ago which they swore…

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Happy Now?

Posted: June 28, 2016 in Personal

I’ve been fascinated by the aftermath of the Brexit vote in the UK. Of all the commentary I’ve read I have to say this is my favourite, not because of what it says about Brexit, but because of her comments on the current state of Western democracy and sociopolitical discussion in general. I see the same complaints in discussions her in Canada, in the States, and all around the G8 especially. They say that misery loves company but frankly I’d feel better if Katy’s complaints weren’t so wide spread.

Katyboo1's Weblog

It is day four in the Big Brexit house.

I had hoped after Friday’s absolute catastrophe of a day that the country might somehow magically rally over the weekend. I mean, when you plunge your country into possible ruin on the promise of a golden future that will allow it to rise like a phoenix from the flames, you have a plan, right?

As it turns out, you don’t. The only person that seems to have any plan at all, and be acting on it rather than just spouting meaningless Churchillian rhetoric is Nicola Sturgeon, and I can’t even vote for her.

I was distraught and angry on Friday. I had hoped to feel better by today. Instead I am running on barely controlled rage and getting more enraged by the moment.

Here are a few things I am furious about:

Firstly, leave voters telling me to calm down. I’m sorry…

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