So you're sitting around on a Sunday night with not a lot to do, no desire to watch a Hillbilly Handfishing marathon or whatever other mindless programming the idiot box might spew at you, and no wish to prattle on endlessly about what you had for lunch on Facebook or Twitter? Bored to pieces and looking for something new and different to fill up that empty space in the back of your mind? Friends, I'm here to help with yet another collection of some of the coolest, awesomest, and all-around bestest things I've found on the big, wide Internets lately. Check 'em out and enjoy:
TV trying desperately to stay awake to see all four hours of the then-fledgling USA Network's greatest contribution to pop culture history, Night Flight. If you are among those smiling in fond remembrance of that program, you need to bookmark Network Awesome immediately. Just as Night Flight did in the era when folks were abandoning network television product for the uncharted frontier of cable content, so Network Awesome does in the now when folks are trading in their cable boxes and bloated cable bills to find better, more imaginative content online.
Network Awesome repurposes content in much the same way Night Flight did thirty-odd years ago: the site's ever-expanding crew of curators sift through the immense amount of detritus filling online video sites to find rare gems in the form of long-forgotten documentaries, episodes of foreign TV shows, short-subject animations and independent films, music videos both popular and obscure, and just enough original production to tie everything together into loose "themes" for each day's six-hour block of programming. Rare concert footage, bizarre broadcast experiments, and programming not seen in decades is not only presented, but examined in short essays. Watch what you want, when you want - everything is archived. You are likely to find something fascinating that you never knew was out there. Don't waste time with sites that simply stream internet versions of cable product (I'm looking at you, Hulu). Not when there is Network Awesome to be had!
Tumblr blogs. Never really got the whole point. There some good ones out there, a handful of which even appear on this site's Blogroll. But it always seems to me that there is some special secret way I'm supposed to interact with Tumblr blogs that I don't understand, so I feel like I'm not in the club when I'm visiting one. (Do not even get me started on Pinterest! That's thoroughly alien territory from where I sit!)
That said, filmmaker Allison Andrews has created a Tumblr blog that just may prove to be my gateway into that secret club, because of its utterly fascinating subject. Ms. Andrews went out and bid on a lot 50 record albums from the estate of movie legend Greta Garbo, and dangit if she didn't win! Armed with this stack of celebrity-owned vinyl, she pulls one album from the lot for each post, and not only plays and shares the music within, but attempts to glean something about the famously enigmatic star's deeply private world from the choices she made at whichever record shops she frequented. She was a Beatles fan? She was hep to Professor Longhair? She did the Twist?!? The things Garbo chose to listen to when she "vanted to be alone" are truly fascinating, and Andrews does an excellent job of exploring the unanswerable question that seems to pop up with each selection: what is this record doing in Greta Garbo's collection?
Hope From Nope
That question is the basis of entrepeneur and blogger Jia Jiang's Hope From Nope project. Subtitled "100 Days of Rejection Therapy," Jiang's project is to go out each day for 100 days and ask a random person for something that he will most certainly be refused, record the interaction on video, and blog about the results. In doing so, Jiang reverses the standard expectation of personal interaction: in this project, being accepted is actually failure while being rejected is the success sought. The results are both hysterical and deeply insightful. Starting out nervously asking a security guard if he can borrow $100 on Day 1, Jiang has shown a marked increase in confidence and poise as he has steadily worked through his self-prescribed therapy. He has asked for a "burger refill" at Five Guys, he has challenged a local CEO to a staring contest, danced with a mall Santa and attempted to name his own price at Dollar Tree. Entertaining and inspiring - check it out!
Feeling a bit low lately? Overtaken by moodiness? Are the grey skies of winter causing your seasonal affective disorder to kick into overdrive? Well, spend some time over at Vimeo with MajorScaled TV, and you will have the musical frown turned upside-down! Not sure how this digital magic is worked, but MajorScaled TV somehow takes recordings of great downbeat minor-scale tunes reworks them with their major-scale equivalent chords, recasting the dirge into a bright sunshiny piece of poppy ear candy guaranteed to set your toes a-tappin'. It's like listening to a radio transmission from a parallel universe where there are no hassles, man, just good vibes. Behold as The Doors' "Riders On The Storm" morphs into an easy-listening smilefest. Marvel as Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" comes back sounding happily lobotomized. And, well, just listen to R.E.M. sounding shinier and happier than ever:
OK, if MajorScaled TV didn't put a smile on your face, then a few minutes with Jimmy Slonina certainly will. You remember as a kid standing in front of a mirror lip-synching to to your records your the radio? Come on, fess up - we all did it. Well Jimmy still does it, only these days in front of a video camera. The fact that he is blessed with a very expressive face and clearly has a brilliant sense of humor helps immensely, and if you can get through his takes on "Under Pressure," the theme from Hong Kong Phooey, or "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" without cracking a grin, there may be no hope for you. And if this run-through of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You" doesn't do the trick, well, just go in a corner and mope until you're ready to join the rest of us in hysterics over here!
The Pitch Drop Experiment
one of my Now Hear This! posts back in August, I directed your attention to the work of an artist named Buttress O'Kneel who was working with songs slowed down and stretched out to almost incomprehensible length (check that post to listen to "Heaven," in which she stretched a recording of "Stairway to Heaven" out to 77 minutes and 7 seconds.) Experiencing things on such extreme time scales forces a re-evaluation of time itself, as you quickly learn that even in immense slowness, things can occur that are so quick you might miss them.
Underscoring that concept is an ongoing experiment at The University of Queensland in Australia. In 1927, Professor Thomas Parnel put a bit of pitch, a highly viscous tar-like substance that, at room temperature, appears to be solid yet is actually a liquid, into a funnel over a jar, and let it begin to drip. Over 85 years later, the pitch has dripped only eight times - yet when it does eventually drip, the drop falls so quickly that, to date, no one has actually seen it happen! The ninth drop has been on the verge of dripping for about five years now, and these days there is a webcam trained on the funnel in the hopes to finally catch the event. There are pitch geeks around the globe who keep the webcam page open day and night hoping to see it live. Me, I just check in every now and then. You might want to also. You just might see something no one has ever seen before!
Vegan Black Metal Chef
So you say you're a vegan who is into death metal, but you just don't have time to cook a decent meal? Pish posh! Since 2011, Brian Manowitz has been posting video tutorials on making quick, easy, and delicious vegan dishes that even the least versed in culinary arts can follow - just be sure to crank the volume! This is right out of the Things I Wish I'd Thought Of file, and is just sheer brilliance! Must be seen to be believed and yet there he is, exactly as promised in the name. Mr. Manowitz, you see, is the Vegan Black Metal Chef. This is not your parents' cooking show, my friends. The guy makes a mean pad thai, lemme tell you: