NPR miscellany #6: jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter

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I heard a great interview early this morning on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday. NPR’s Liane Hansen interviewed Charlie Hunter, a jazz musician who plays an instrument unlike any I’ve ever heard of before, a modified eight-string guitar. I’m given to understand an eight-string guitar is usually nothing more than a regular guitar with a slightly extended range, adding one string to the top and one to the bottom. However, Hunter has his guitar modified and tuned in such a way that his three bottom strings are genuine bass guitar strings and the other five are regular guitar strings, though he notes in the interview that he’s recently removed his top string and prefers to play without it since he felt it got in his way. Eight strings or seven, though, what’s fascinating is this guy is simultaneously playing the bass guitar, rhythm guitar, and solo guitar parts in real time! My dad plays both guitar and bass (though not simultaneously, of course), so I thought he especially would get a kick out Hunter’s unique instrument and style.

Hunter’s latest record has a nice jazzy, upbeat feel with the 7-string guitar plus a couple trombones, a trumpet, and drums. The few song clips they aired during the interview were really fun to listen to. Besides talking about his unique instrument and playing style, they also discussed his practice regiment, why he chose to record the album in mono instead of stereo, and how he is learning to play the drums because it informs the way he plays the guitar, so the interview was generally entertaining for all these reasons. I’m going to be looking around online for Hunter’s albums now.

You can listen to the article on NPR’s website: “Charlie Hunter Has ‘Neglected To Inform You’” (listen). End mark

NPR Miscellany #5

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Every once in a while I hear a story on NPR that simply fascinates me. Yesterday it was a story on All Things Considered about a previously undiscovered portrait by Van Gogh. This new painting was not “discovered” in the sense that it was found in the basement of some old museum. Rather, it was discovered hiding beneath the paint of another Van Gogh!

Apparently, Van Gogh had reused a canvas by painting a new painting over the top of an old one, and scientists used a new x-ray technique to see what the painting underneath looks like. They were even able to determine the colors of paint by analyzing the chemical makeup. Listen to the story and watch the accompanying video to see how they did it: “Experts Uncover A Painting Van Gogh Covered Up” (listen and watch). End mark

NPR miscellany #4

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I’ve been using LibraryThing to catalog my books since September 2005. All Things Considered on NPR recently featured LibraryThing in a story called “Web Sites Let Bibliophiles Share Books Virtually” (listen).

I especially love the intro to this story:

You know that you’re a bibliophile if you check out peoples’ bookshelves when you visit their homes, if you never pass a used bookstore without going in, or if you have a giant wishlist on Amazon.com.

That fits me to a tee. If it fits you, you owe it to yourself to check out LibraryThing! End mark

(hat tip: The LibraryThing Blog)

Weepies eBay auction

One of my favorite music groups, The Weepies (who I’ve blogged about before), is auctioning a ’63 Fender Vibroverb Reissue amplifier they used to record their Say I Am You album and on the road during the subsequent North American concert tour. The cool thing is the proceeds from the auction will go to Free Arts for Abused Children, a charity group that uses the arts to provide healing for abused and at risk kids.

And if this isn’t cool enough, they threw in a little bonus and announced they’ve recorded a new album! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Say I Am You and Happiness, and can’t wait to hear something new from these fantastic musicians. They haven’t divulged the album’s release date, yet. As far as I’m concerned it can’t come soon enough. End mark

NPR miscellany #1

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I hear a lot of interesting stories on NPR, so I’m going to start highlighting a few of them from time to time on my blog. Tonight I heard a couple great stories on All Things Considered that I’d like to share.

The first story is about a bizarre problem that’s killing commercial bees all over the U.S. called Colony Collapse Disorder. This is a big deal because a lot of the crops we consume are pollinated by these bees. Here’s the story: “Disease Hits Bees, and Vital Crops Suffer” (Listen).

The second story is about one the best Iranian food chefs in Washington, D.C. The kicker is that he’s not even from Iran. Instead, he’s from El Salvador. He started as a bus boy in an Iranian restaurant and worked his way into the kitchen. Now he owns his own restaurant and flies all over the world to cook for special events. My favorite part of this story is the part about the deeply religious people who are shocked to find out that a Christian Latino had prepared their Islamic Halal dinner (they calm down when they learn he does everything by the book). Here’s the story: “In D.C., Top Iranian Chef Hails From El Salvador” (Listen).

Mozilla Firefox 1.5 Beta 1

It’s been long enough that I’ve forgotten how fun it is to upgrade my browser. Sure, we’ve had the security updates, but there’ve really been no new features for almost a year.

Mozilla Firefox 1.5 Beta 1 changes all that with a slew of new bells and whistles, including a super-simple “Clear Private Data” dialog, better popup blocking, drag and drop re-orderable tabs, quicker back and forward navigation, and a shiny new automatic update system.

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Windows Vista fonts

Microsoft has announced the official name of the Longhorn code-name project: Windows Vista.

One of the more exciting announcements (imho) is that six new fonts will ship with the OS. Assuming Vista gains widespread market-share, these will be the first new fonts in a long time to be acceptable for use on the web.

You can already download the fonts from various places on the net (I got them here). They’re all pretty simple, but they’re a nice break from the same three or four fonts everyone’s used to seeing.

(Hat tip: Aaron Toponce)