Filtered for music and history

13.35, Tuesday 2 Jan 2018


Mechanical Techno machine:

Cut-up records on turntables stand in for samples and synths. Electrical contacts produce buzzes of sound as wires touch copper. Cowbells become kinetic, robotic sculptural elements. Basically, every rhythmic element is mapped into physical space, into locations on discs.

Also: Wintergatan’s Marble Machine which is a mechanical musical instrument using 2000 marbles.

Also, my friend Tom Armitage has released an album and it is excellent. Listen: Between the Years, by Telechir. Equal parts live recordings and arranged work, for piano and/or electronics.


For 40 million years, trees were not biodegradable.

430 million years before present, the first vascular plants emerged from early tide pools. In order to stay upright, these plants employed cellulose, a chain of simple sugars … it was easy to make and offered rigid yet flexible support

This is from How Fungi Saved the World.

90 million years later, heralding the Carboniferous period,

plants developed a new kind of support material, called lignin. Lignin was an improvement development over cellulose in several ways: it was harder, more rigid, and, being more complex, almost impossible to digest, which made it ideal for protecting cellulose. With lignin, plants could make wood, and it lead to the first treelike growth form.

But lignin made the lycopod trees a little too successful. Because their leaves were lofted above many herbivores and their trunks were made inedible by lignin, lycopods were virtually impervious to harm.

Dead trees piled up without decomposing. Compacted by weight, they turned to peat and then to coal. 90% of all today’s coal is from this period.

Wood pollution lasted 40 million years.

Finally, however, a fungus belonging to the class Agaricomycetes - making it a distant cousin of button mushrooms - did find a crude way to break down lignin. Rather than devise an enzyme to unstitch the lignin molecule, however, it was forced to adapt a more direct strategy. Using a class of enyzmes called peroxidases, the fungus bombarded the wood with highly reactive oxygen molecules, in much the same way one might untie a knot using a flamethrower. This strategy reduced the wood to a carbohydrate-rich slurry from which the fungus could slurp up the edible cellulose.

Which leads me to think:

There’s a ton of plastic in the ocean. Why not engineer a fungus to rot it? Having this magical material that lasts forever is absurd. This is a controversial idea I admit. But although I agree that we need to reduce plastic pollution (via social change and by regulatory intervention), cybernetics tells me that’s a fragile solution. Homeostasis is to be found in a ecosystem of checks and balances: instead of eternal plastic, we need plastic plus a plastic-rotting fungus plus an effective-but-hard-to-apply fungicide. Then balance can be found.


Ancient Greek statues dressed in modern clothes.

Several images.


From 1878, here’s a photo of Billy the Kid playing croquet.

It is only the second photo ever to be confirmed of the infamous outlaw and the only known photo of Billy the Kid with his gang, The Regulators. (They’re all playing.)

Here’s a thing:

Croquet became popular in the 1860s because it was the first sport that women could play on the same terms as men, and men and women could play each other



Billy the Kid and his gang were the subject of the film Young Guns (1988). A quote from this film was sampled and opens the classic Regulate ft. Nate Dogg, by Warren G (1994).

Please refamiliarise yourself with the lyrics.

Now follow @GerryMcBride taking a Google Maps journey through Long Beach as described in the song. Seriously, do this thing.

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