28 September 2011

Duck family for Ronne

Haven't got interesting records recently worth writing a blog entry here, but bought some interesting toys (including the previous two: handbell set and magic mirror carousel) for my son.

Here comes another selection. I bought Ronne a big mother duck with three little lovely ducklings, produced by Ambi Toys, an Italian company. The three wee ones can hide inside their mother. The happy family can swim together to allow endless water play at bath time and can, of course, play out of water on the ground as well.

Certainly it's unnatrual— a duck is not a kangaroo and has no pouch. However, so what, I would ask. It's a creative design. It doesn't matter; kids will learn more about animals later at school.

Unlike the previous two I bought earlier this month which are reserved for Ronne's coming birthdays, the duck family were given to him immediately. He has had some good time with them for a couple of days.

21 September 2011

Red Raven magic mirror movies

Lucky boy! Dad bought Ronne another toy—well, not to be played with at the moment but to be reserved as another gift on your fourth birthday.

I bought an interesting item, Red Reven Magic Mirror, from eBay a couple of weeks ago. It's made in the late 1950s by Morgan Development Laboratories in New Canaan, Connecticut (a strange company which also made a multi-functional Lucite letter opener, which is plastic but extremely sharp and thus can be carried onto the plane without sounding the alarm at the security point).

This device is a modern version of the Zoetrope and its successor, the praxinoscope.

This 16-sided mirrored carousel is to be operated with special 'movie records', on which a 16 image cycle is printed on the outer two inches of a large paper label. Placed atop a 'movie record', the 16 mirrors are aligned at an angle to the surface of the record. When the record spins on the turntable of a record player, the quick succession of reflected static images produces a looped animation.

What's more surprising, that the animation comes with music, because a Red Raven movie record is really a vinyl music record. While the magic mirror brings out the animation, the music is delivered through the stylus on the phonograph.

Although once designed as a toy, Red Raven Magic Mirror is now a collectable item, a novel gadget. Lucky Ronne! Dad has prepared you another birthday gift and something to show you future classmates.

As I haven't got time to shoot a video about how it actually operates, refer to the YouTube clip to see how magic the Magic Mirror is.

Toy handbells for pleasure or campanology?

Campanology (formed by Latin 'bell' campana and English suffix -ology) is a word which designate the knowledge and study of manufacturing, tuning and ringing bells. Somehow, I was told when I lived in Britain that campanology is a pretentious term to and thus loathed by serious bell-ringers, particularly those who consider ringing primarily a service to the church.

I don't expect my son to become a professional ringer or campanologist; he can decide later by himself. Nevertheless, I think it's good fun and musical exercise, especially in this day and age when most young children spend too much time on playing video game and surfing the internet, to play handbells so I bought a vintage toy handbell set made in 1954 from TimeWarp Vintage Toys (not very pleasant experience —they charged me 35 US dollars for postage while the actual cost was only 20) for my son.

There are eight plastic bells, each of which comes in a different colour with a real metal bell inside to produce different pitches, which encompass an octave . This toy set was approved by educators and endorsed by Ding Dong School, an daily educational TV programme produced for pre-school children in the 1950s. An illustration of a bell with DING DONG SCHOOL on it is placed at the right side of the outer box.

(Watch streaming video of several complete broadcasts on the contribute website of this old-time children's TV show to have an idea what sort of programme it is, if you fancy.)

As I suppose an 18-month-old toddler is obviously too young to ring bells in an organised manner to produce a 'tune' (don't ask me if a music prodigy, such as Mozart, can do it; I don't know either), I would reserve them as a gift for his second, or probably third, birthday.

09 September 2011

A Mystery Record

Side 1
Side 2
(Listen to the sides of this Mystery Record and see how many artists you can recognise)

The 2011 autumn semester is commencing. I shall write down something special to mark the arrival of the new semester from which my full-time job terminated. As life indeed has so many turns and is full of mysteries, I deem a 'Mystery Record', which I've just received yesterday, to be appropriate for this occasion.

Daily Mail, a British national daily tabloid established in 1896, once organised a 'voice recognising' competition in late 1932. In collaboration with EMI, which had just been formed in 1931 by the merger of two big companies–the Columbia Graphophone Company and the Gramophone Company–Daily Mail issued a 'Mystery Record'.

This record was actually a compilation of recordings released previously on labels of HMV, Columbia, Parlophone, Regal and Zonophone, all of which were then owned by EMI. Daily Mail offered a prize of 1,950 Pound Sterling for any reader who could correctly guess the identity of the more than two dozen artists on this record. The winner would be awarded in January 1933.

Under Agricultural Wages (Regulation) Act 1924, the average minimum wage paid to ordinary agricultural labours 51 basic hours (roughly weekly pay) in late 1932 is £1. 10s. 9d. Therefore, £1,950 is undoubtedly a big fortune.

Apart from the super-mega prize provided by the tabloid newspaper, what really amazes me is how the producer/engineer pieced together all the audio clips. There was no tape editing, no digital audio workstation, but how they managed to compile such a record?

I couldn't even name a single person on this record. How many can you?