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Virtual Music Box

The Whitney Music Box is a musical realization of the motion graphics of John Whitney as described in his book Digital Harmony. The dots are arranged to trigger notes on a chromatic scale when they pass the line. The dots are each timed to a different speed, but they synchronize themselves at constant intervals. Its a bit hard to describe, but you'll love seeing it in action. There are 17 music box variations.

This is a repost from October 12, 2006. That was exactly ten years ago, and it was my first post at Neatorama. Alex had linked some things from my site before, and I had contributed material to a co-blogging project, but this was the first post under my own account. I figured it’s been long enough so that readers won’t mind seeing it again. It’s been a great ten years!

Little Boy is Thankful for Prank Gift

(YouTube link)

A little boy opens a birthday gift and finds that it’s a wooden chopping board. Amazingly, he remarks that it is nice and he’ll use it. And he thanks his parents. Aww!

Then he gets another gift, in a shoebox. His mom mentions that he won’t have to glue his sneakers anymore… which leads us to believe that the family is far from wealthy. The boy thinks he is getting new sneakers and is happy about it -until he sees what’s really in the box. That’s when we who are watching go all verklempt. He’s a good boy. A part of the YouTube description is translated as “"Humility is synonymous with greatness.”

You can see a direct translation of the conversation from a YouTube commenter if you like. -via reddit

Once It Was a Prison. Now It's a Beach.

Murru Prison was a Soviet prison and forced labor camp on Lake Rummu in Estonia. The Soviet Union sent its enemies there to toil in the open-air quarry. But it is no longer an icon of tyranny. It's a pleasant beach and swimming hole where people while away their idle time. This footage shot by XL Studios shows happy people at play on the water and the ruins of the prison, which now serve as diving platforms.

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The crystal blue waters are also a good place to go scuba diving. Much of the prison is now submerged in the water, giving divers plenty of places to explore

-via Nerdcore

What Is A Photocopier?

(YouTube link)

This would be funny even if it weren’t word-for-word from an actual legal deposition. It’s from a 2010 case in which the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Recorder’s office was sued for charging $2 a page to make copies of public documents. The exchange, re-enacted verbatim from the court records, shows the lengths a person can go to to avoid answering a simple question. The expanded story is at The New York Times, although I cannot read it because I’ve already reached my limit of ten free articles this month. -via Viral Viral Videos

You’re Going to be a Grandpa

(YouTube link)

Jessica Hickey is an only child, and her father has been a widower for twenty years. Since she got married, he’s wanted a grandchild, and the moment finally came to break the news to him. This is short and terribly sweet, so you might want to have a hanky ready. The top comment at reddit brings us back down to earth:

He is crying because being a Cubs fan, he is not used to getting what he wants.

We wish the entire family all the happiness in the world. -via reddit

The Best Beaver Experience of My Life

(YouTube link)

John Cena got the opportunity to watch -and record- a family of beavers repairing their lodge right in front of him. They were in a hurry to get as much done as possible before the nighttime cold set in, and demonstrated exactly where the phrase “busy as a beaver” came from. The excited commentary is priceless! -via Metafilter

Two Dogs, One Ice Cream Cone

(YouTube link)

Daisy and Cooper are living a dog’s life. They got an ice cream cone from McDonalds! But they have to share it with each other. According to established protocol, Daisy always gets to lick the ice cream first. You may be able to figure out why pretty easily, but you’ll still giggle when it happens. -via Daily Picks and Flicks

The True Identity of Andy’s Mom

Jon Negroni, who made a name for himself by coming up with the Unified Pixar Theory, continues to bring us new insights about the movies. By analyzing the clues you may have missed by watching Toy Story 2 only a dozen or so times, he knows who Andy’s Mom really is. She is only referred to as Mom or as Ms. Davis in the film, but if you buy this theory, she had a more fleshed-out past than you thought. I won’t give it away, but rest assured that the explanation is only for real Toy Story fans. -via Digg

Mission Control Desk

(YouTube link)

Jeff Highsmith’s oldest son started school and needed a desk for homework. But this kid didn’t get just any desk- his dad built him something extraordinary. When the lid is down, its a slant desk used to complete homework. But when the homework is done, raise the lid and you’re in Mission Control!

I researched the Apollo Program as well as NASA’s Mission Control Center, and designed my own console roughly based on those. I say “roughly” because the actual Mission Control does more monitoring than controlling, and isn’t awash in the whiz-bang rocket noises young kids appreciate. I took great liberties and made more of a “space-themed” play console than an accurate simulator. My goal was simply to provide some extra ideas and sound effects for my two sons to play “space” together.

Hey, when I was that age, my dad made me a pair of stilts. Make has an extensive article on how Highsmith built the desk and all the widgets inside, with lots of photographs. -via Metafilter

Oliver Hardy: The Fat One

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

Norvell Hardy, who was to gain world fame as one half of the legendary movie comedy team of Laurel and Hardy, was born on January 18th, 1892, in Harlem, Georgia. He was the fifth and youngest child of Oliver Hardy and Emily Norvell (young Norvell had two half-sisters and two half- brothers). Oliver Hardy was a confederate veteran who was wounded at the battle of Antietam in 1862. Sadly, he was never to get to know his father, as Oliver Hardy was to die in the first year of Norvell's life (he passed away on November 22, 1892).

He faced another childhood tragedy when his older brother Sam died in drowning accident. Norvell fished his brother's body out of the water and tried to resuscitate him, but Sam was already dead.

Almost from day one (possibly to compensate for these early childhood tragedies) young Norvell had huge appetite. According to family lore, his mother once baked 20 buttermilk biscuits, only to watch in amazement as little Norvell ate all 20. For the remainder of his life, as a child, a teen, and an adult, Hardy was to be obese, his weight, at it's peak, reaching 350 pounds. His ravenous appetite caused him to be overweight from an early age, and Norvell had to deal with the taunts of "Fatty! Fatty!" from the other kids.

He soon realized that laughter brought him balm and pleasure. If the other kids laughed with you, they couldn't laugh at you. Norvell loved to umpire the local baseball games and ham it up, calling out "Steeeriiiike threeeee!".

Once, a wild bear got loose and chased him up a tree. Even in this terrifying situation, Norvell caused great laughter, as he shouted out from the tree top, "Lord, if you don't help me, please don't help the bear!!"

A born entertainer, Norvell developed a very melodic singing voice at family sing-a-longs. At the age of eight, he ran away from home and joined a troupe called Coburn's Minstrels, who he briefly toured with. After returning home, he was enrolled in a local boarding school, which he hated, causing him to run away again.

When he returned home, Emily, realizing what a great singing voice he had, sent him to receive singing lessons in Atlanta from the distinguished Adolf Dahm-Peterson. Norvell often skipped his lessons, instead earning $3.50 a week singing at the local Alcazar Theater. Returning home once more, Hardy's mother (probably to discipline him) put him in a military academy, which, as would be expected, the rambunctious Norvell hated. He was enrolled briefly at Young Harris college, but his heart was obviously in entertaining.

Around 1910, two important things happened in the life of Norvell Hardy. First, he changed his name from Norvell to Oliver Hardy. One story says he changed his name because he was advised to by a psychic or a numerologist, but possibly, he simply took on the name of his late, lamented father.

Second, he opened the first-ever movie theater in Milledgeville, Georgia. Ollie, besides being the movie theater's manager, was also its janitor, ticket taker, and projectionist. While watching and studying the movies on screen, Oliver thought he could act just as well, if not better, than the actors he saw.

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The Weirdest Odd-Cylinder Engines

(Video Link)

Jalopnik has a great discussion post up about engines, particularly car engines, with an odd number of cylinders. There are some real gems in the comments, such as this Lanz Bulldog tractor. It's a 1-cylinder engine, which is not that uncommon. Many old motorcycle designs, such as those of Royal Enfield, have only one cylinder.

But the Lanz Bulldog's two-stroke thumper engine has a displacement of 10.3 liters! Look at it shake in the above video. Also note that the steering wheel is used as a starter crank. This simple, rugged tractor design dominated the German market before World War II. John Deere bought the company in 1953.

Bonus Item: A five-cylinder rotary car engine that spins on a vertical axis.

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This is the only 1906 Adams-Farwell in existence. It has an air-cooled 4-stroke rotary engine, so the crankshaft remains stable while the entire crankcase spins.

Teaching the Baby to Walk Down Stairs

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In this video, we see how a mother dog teaches her pup how to walk down the stairs. First she lovingly demonstrates, then she provides watchful encouragement. The puppy is scared, but he does the job. That's a good dog! Then we are treated to a look at a cat teaching a kitten how to navigate down the stairs. Now you know the difference between cats and dogs. -via Daily Picks and Flicks

R.I.P. Professor

Russell Johnson, who a generation of television fans knew as The Professor on the TV show Gilligan's Island, died today at his home in Washington state.  

The Professor was a good-looking but nerdy academic, an exaggerated stereotype of the man of capacious intelligence with little or no social awareness. Occasionally approached romantically by Ginger (and guest stars, including Zsa Zsa Gabor), he remained chaste and unaffected.

But he was pretty much the only character on the show who possessed anything resembling actual knowledge, and he was forever inventing methods to increase the castaways’ chance of rescue. Still, among the show’s many lapses of logic was the fact — often noted by Mr. Johnson in interviews — that although the Professor could build a shortwave radio out of a coconut shell, he couldn’t figure out how to patch a hole in a boat hull.

Professor Roy Hinkley was not his only role. Johnson appeared in movies beginning in 1952, and played in many Westerns both in film and on TV -usually as the villain. He also appeared in time-traveling episodes of The Twilight Zone twice.

What many fans do not know was that during World War II, Johnson was an Air Force Captain and flew 44 bombing missions. He was awarded many combat medals, and earned a Purple Heart after a plane crash. Johnson was 89 years old. -via Metafilter

Bryan and Kaia

(vimeo link)

There's taking your dog for a walk, and then there's this. Bryan Gregory and his dog Kaia tear through the forest joyfully burning up serious calories. Go, Kaia, go! Anyone who has ever known a border collie can feel how happy she is at full speed. Producer Jonathan Kang of Foxwood Films did a marvelous job catching the action on camera. -via Metafilter

Little Buddy: The Life of Bob Denver

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

Robert Osbourne David Denver was born in New Rochelle, New York, on January 9, 1935 (that is exactly one day after the birth of Elvis Presley). Just as his "distinguished-sounding" real name seems a bit incongruous for the actor who was to achieve worldwide fame playing a perennial goofball named "Gilligan", so the real-life Bob Denver was almost a direct dichotomy to the character too.

Shy, introverted, highly intelligent and well-read from his youth and on into adulthood, Bob, and his family, soon moved to Brownwood, Texas, where he was to grow up. His early jobs included working as a mailman and as a high school teacher of both math and physical education.

After high school, he moved to California, where he enrolled at Loyola-Marymount College in Los Angeles. Denver earned a degree in political science and was considering a career in law when he got bit by the acting bug.

He made his stage debut in a west coast stage production of The Caine Mutiny Court-martial in the late fifties. Soon thereafter, he made his movie debut in the 1959 film A Private's Affair with Sal Mineo (also in the cast was his later Gilligan's Island co-star Jim Backus). The year 1959 also brought the young actor his first big break when he was cast as beatnik Maynard G. Krebs on the TV series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.

Denver's portrayal of Krebs is legendary in television history. His catch phrases "You rang?" upon his entrance in every episode and his stimulus-response of "Work??" whenever the word came into the conversation became highly popular and Maynard became one of television's first icons and "breakout characters." Denver's character was so popular there was a huge backlash from fans when rumors of Maynard being drafted into the army cropped up during the show's run (in real life, Denver had broken his neck in 1956, saving him from actually being drafted into the military).

Although the "Gilligan" character is more well-known nowadays, Denver actually played Maynard in more episodes (142 to 98) and it was Maynard who was later voted one of TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Characters. After the Dobie Gillis run ended in 1963, Denver again played a beatnik-like character in the 1964 movie For Those Who Think Young (also featuring his soon-to-be co-star Tina Louise).

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