Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Oddments No. 5

Weekly bric a brac from Padraig O'Morain.

Au Clair de la Lune – not Mary had a little lamb – the world’s first recording?
From the New York Times, 27th March 2008, via Cronaca: For more than a century, since he captured the spoken words “Mary had a little lamb” on a sheet of tinfoil, Thomas Edison has been considered the father of recorded sound. But researchers say they have unearthed a recording of the human voice, made by a little-known Frenchman, that predates Edison’s invention of the phonograph by nearly two decades.

The 10-second recording of a singer crooning the folk song “Au Clair de la Lune” was discovered earlier this month in an archive in Paris by a group of American audio historians. It was made, the researchers say, on April 9, 1860, on a phonautograph, (above), a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back. But the phonautograph recording, or phonautogram, was made playable — converted from squiggles on paper to sound — by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.

The audio excavation could give a new primacy to the phonautograph, once considered a curio, and its inventor, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a Parisian typesetter and tinkerer who went to his grave convinced that credit for his breakthroughs had been improperly bestowed on Edison.

Full story here.

Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, on the bus
In his recent autobiography Good Times and Bad, veteran foreign correspondent Seamus Martin has this childhood anecdote about his brother, Diarmuid Martin, now Archbishop of Dublin: "My brother had no interest in football and in any case this playmates were from a diffferent age cohort, so we didn't see much of each other out on the streets. At home, however, there were elaborate motor races in which mother's clothes pegs were used as cards, and in the backyard Diarmuid's fascination with the bus routes of Dublin was indulged. He knew the number and destinations of all the buses in Dublin and drove them around the yard in his imagination and much to the fascination of his elders. One neighbour, Paddy Keller, made quite realistic-looking bus stops that were planted in the ground at suitable intevals to allow him to stop and take on imaginary passengers."

No such thing as a free lunch? Try New Orleans about two centuries ago
The free lunch is said to have been invented in New Orleans when 19th century midday drinkers were given snacks on the side. As snacks go, the free lunch was substantial by today's standards: soup, ham or beef, a potato, meat pie and oyster patties, according to Omni Hotels which claims its invention for the St Louis Exchange Hotel, destroyed by fire in 1841, resurrected and now trading as the Omni Royal Orleans.

Sleeping commuter - sign of the times?
Seen on the Luas (tram) from Dublin to Tallaght: A woman asleep, holding in her right hand her mobile phone, open and with her fingers in mid-text; in her left hand, a cup of coffee. All perfectly co-ordinated.

Waiting to cut the hay
Like me, Erica Funkhauser grew up on a farm. I, too, remember the old tractors with the metal - perhaps cast iron?- heart shaped seats. In Waiting to cut the hay here's how she writes about the tractor:

In the toolshed the best thing
is the heart-shaped seat of the tractor.
You don't have to know anything to sit in it.
You don't have to squeeze out the choke
and pump the gas pedal before you can go anywhere.
You don't have to steer the front wheel around
like the neck of a stubborn horse
in order to get out to the fields.

Read the rest here, on Poetry Daily.

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(This is the complete post. Ignore "Continue reading" link below.)
And here is the rest of it.

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