Tag Archives: past

THE VOICE OF TIME

I really enjoyed hearing Shackleton’s, Whitman’s, Einstein’s, and Curie’s voices.

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RETURN TO YESTERDAY

I have returned to a 1970s lifestyle and I haven’t been this happy since I was a teen and in my early twenties.

Over the past few years I have given up video and computer gaming, the phone (I only use my phone to take pictures, necessary business calls, take security text from my children, and I have a program which mimics a tricorder with which I take electromagnetic readings, use as a compass, etc. when exploring or traveling – otherwise I don’t use my phone and never use it or answer it in public) all professional sports (actually I haven’t watched professional sports in decades really), watching the news, any kind of car communications, and recently I have given up all social media (other than my blogs) and most of the use of my computer and the internet (except for professional reasons).

Also other than the bare minimum (as a necessary evil) I take no interest in or notice of politics, for politics is, without any doubt at all, the single lowest of all human occupations and interests (aside from criminal activity, terrorism, and that kind of thing).

As soon as the kids both get back into college (in about another month) the wife and I have been discussing giving up TV altogether too.

So, instead of that meaningless crap, I do these things: I explore, I travel, I work and write (by hand mostly, in manuscript form and have others type it), I read (even more so than before), I research and when I need to do research I do it in libraries not on the internet, I hike, I pray, I meditate and talk with God a lot, I practice Raja Yoga again, I practice Christian Theurgy (more and more successfully I might add), I invent, I discover, I conduct scientific experiments, I engage in business projects, I invest, I practice charity and philanthropy, I market and submit my work, I spend time designing my new mansion, I build my wealth, I socialize a lot, I watch little league baseball and soccer games played by kids, I build my networks, I explore churches and old buildings, I vad, I visit other cities and towns and universities and many libraries,  I add to my personal library, I write poetry, I listen to and compose music, I write songs and am learning to play the guitar, I practice playing the piano,  I spend time with my pets and family and children, I improve and work on my marriage (which is already good, but only gets batter over time), I play D&D and wargames (I actively recreate rather than engage in passive entertainments), I learn new languages, I work on my math,  I make useful observations, I build things, I weight lift and train, I clear land (by hand mostly, though I do have new chainsaws), I meet new people (almost every day), I adventure and have fun, and most of all I enjoy the living hell out of myself. (Or Heaven even, depends on how you wanna phrase it.)

As a result I am extremely happy. And I am deeply at peace. And I am supremely confident and satisfied. Not complacent or content, I have many ambitions yet to fulfill in life – but for the moment I am highly satisfied and truly grateful.

I have come to understand that so many of the technologies and conveniences and the overall “lifestyle” (if, indeed, it can be called truly living) of modern life are designed (either intentionally or unintentionally) to entrap and suck the Real Life from you – body, mind, soul, and spirit. And that deeply repulses me. I have a natural revulsion of man-traps.

So, I have returned to the lifestyle I so much enjoyed back n the 1970s. And in some ways I also practice a lifestyle very similar to that of the Medieval and Ancient ages as well. I live partly as an inventor, partly as a poet, partly as a scientist, partly as a householder, husband, and father, partly

And it enthralls and enthuses and elates me.

I will therefore not be returning to the “modern lifestyle” or to being a “modern man.” (Not that I ever really was a modern man.) Both are ugly and infantile, impotent and morose, and mostly useless. Both are harbingers of death and unhappiness, not Life, Satisfaction, and Achievement.

So to hell with and fuck em both.

For the rest of my Life I will be myself instead and do things exactly as I desire to do them. Which has been most of the course of my life anyway, but for a while I let the modern world make me forget that. To distract me with its empty toys and to try to convince me of its pathetic and deceptive values.

But to fix that I’m burying that skeletal sonuvabitch right now.

And I won’t be digging him back up. Not ever again…

GHOST DOLLS – BODY OF EVIDENCE

Photo

A government laboratory found a way to listen to recordings on fragile wax cylinders inside dolls made by Thomas Edison in 1890. CreditCollection of Robin and Joan Rolfs

Though Robin and Joan Rolfs owned two rare talking dolls manufactured by Thomas Edison’s phonograph company in 1890, they did not dare play the wax cylinder records tucked inside each one.

The Rolfses, longtime collectors of Edison phonographs, knew that if they turned the cranks on the dolls’ backs, the steel phonograph needle might damage or destroy the grooves of the hollow, ring-shaped cylinder. And so for years, the dolls sat side by side inside a display cabinet, bearers of a message from the dawn of sound recording that nobody could hear.

In 1890, Edison’s dolls were a flop; production lasted only six weeks. Children found them difficult to operate and more scary than cuddly. The recordings inside, which featured snippets of nursery rhymes, wore out quickly.

Yet sound historians say the cylinders were the first entertainment records ever made, and the young girls hired to recite the rhymes were the world’s first recording artists.

Year after year, the Rolfses asked experts if there might be a safe way to play the recordings. Then a government laboratory developed a method to play fragile records without touching them.

Audio

A recording heard from Edison’s Talking Doll. (Audio quality is low.)

The technique relies on a microscope to create images of the grooves in exquisite detail. A computer approximates — with great accuracy — the sounds that would have been created by a needle moving through those grooves.

In 2014, the technology was made available for the first time outside the laboratory.

“The fear all along is that we don’t want to damage these records. We don’t want to put a stylus on them,” said Jerry Fabris, the curator of the Thomas Edison Historical Park in West Orange, N.J. “Now we have the technology to play them safely.”

Last month, the Historical Park posted online three never-before-heard Edison doll recordings, including the two from the Rolfses’ collection. “There are probably more out there, and we’re hoping people will now get them digitized,” Mr. Fabris said.

The technology, which is known as Irene (Image, Reconstruct, Erase Noise, Etc.), was developed by the particle physicist Carl Haber and the engineer Earl Cornell at Lawrence Berkeley. Irene extracts sound from cylinder and disk records. It can also reconstruct audio from recordings so badly damaged they were deemed unplayable.

“We are now hearing sounds from history that I did not expect to hear in my lifetime,” Mr. Fabris said.

The Rolfses said they were not sure what to expect in August when they carefully packed their two Edison doll cylinders, still attached to their motors, and drove from their home in Hortonville, Wis., to the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Mass. The center had recently acquired Irene technology.

Audio

A recording from Edison’s Talking Doll. (Audio quality is low.)

Cylinders carry sound in a spiral groove cut by a phonograph recording needle that vibrates up and down, creating a surface made of tiny hills and valleys. In the Irene set-up, a microscope perched above the shaft takes thousands of high-resolution images of small sections of the grooves.

Stitched together, the images provide a topographic map of the cylinder’s surface, charting changes in depth as small as one five-hundredth the thickness of a human hair. Pitch, volume and timbre are all encoded in the hills and valleys and the speed at which the record is played.

At the conservation center, the preservation specialist Mason Vander Lugt attached one of the cylinders to the end of a rotating shaft. Huddled around a computer screen, the Rolfses first saw the wiggly waveform generated by Irene. Then came the digital audio. The words were at first indistinct, but as Mr. Lugt filtered out more of the noise, the rhyme became clearer.

“That was the Eureka moment,” Mr. Rolfs said.

In 1890, a girl in Edison’s laboratory had recited:

There was a little girl,

And she had a little curl

Audio

The first recording heard from Edison’s Talking Doll. (Audio quality is low.)

Right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good,

She was very, very good.

But when she was bad, she was horrid.

Recently, the conservation center turned up another surprise.

In 2010, the Woody Guthrie Foundation received 18 oversize phonograph disks from an anonymous donor. No one knew if any of the dirt-stained recordings featured Guthrie, but Tiffany Colannino, then the foundation’s archivist, had stored them unplayed until she heard about Irene.

Last fall, the center extracted audio from one of the records, labeled “Jam Session 9” and emailed the digital file to Ms. Colannino.

“I was just sitting in my dining room, and the next thing I know, I’m hearing Woody,” she said. In between solo performances of “Ladies Auxiliary,” “Jesus Christ,” and “Dead or Alive,” Guthrie tells jokes, offers some back story, and makes the audience laugh. “It is quintessential Guthrie,” Ms. Colannino said.

The Rolfses’ dolls are back in the display cabinet in Wisconsin. But with audio stored on several computers, they now have a permanent voice.

Correction: May 5, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated part of the name of a center in Andover, Mass. that recently acquired the Irene technology. It is the Northeast Document Conservation Center (not National center).