DROPPING CABLE

We’re going into this again because it seems that all the world wants to get rid of their cable service. Another reader writes to say that he wants to drop Comcast, and short of taking to the streets with flaming torches, he can’t seem to shake them. All he cares about is local channels and HBO.

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HOW’S THAT AGAIN? GETTING A TRANSLATION OFFLINE

  “Google Translate” is a free app for Android and iPhones, that can now translate 52 languages, whether you are online or off. For example: We tapped the microphone icon, then tapped “Spanish,” and said “Where is the bus station?” A voice from the phone then immediately said “Donde esta la estacio del bus?” If the person you directed this to, spoke the answer into the phone’s microphone, the phone would translate their answer into English. Joy tried Indonesian because she’s reading “Tales of a Female Nomad,” and the nomad spent most of her time there. The app solves the worst problem with the old method of using foreign language phrase books: There’s usually little trouble in speaking the phrase […]

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GOOGLE’S FREE MUSIC LAB

Musiclab.chromeexperiments.com is Google’s new music lab. Click on a picture, click again to add stuff to the picture and create your own music. We especially liked the rhythm section where we watched monkeys play kettle drums and triangles according to the rhythms we chose. Color it cute.

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MAKING MUSIC WITH 2000 BALL BEARINGS

The “Wintergatan Marble Machine” is a remarkable music-making machine, reminiscent of the great “Animusic” videos. It was created by Swedish musician Martin Molin and includes a kick drum, bass, vibraphone, guitar and over 2000 falling ball bearings, powered by a hand-crank, an incredibly intricate wooden device.

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THE PIANO JUGGLER

PianoJuggler.com shows a guy who can juggle balls and bounce them off piano keys to play recognizable music, even Bach.

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LYRICS ON YOUR PHONE

Genius (for iPhone and Android) gives you lyrics for any of 1.7 million songs. Besides lyrics, you get annotations and in some cases, can hear the song. We looked up Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” and tapped the line “When Missus Ned McLean (God bless her) can get Reds to ‘yes’ her, then I suppose, anything goes.” Mrs. McLean back then was the wife of the owner of The Washington Post, and had recently embarked on a highly-publicized trip to the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, precursor to the USSR. The “Reds” were Communists, of course. We love the song but never understood the Mrs. McLean part.

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THE RETURN OF THE LP

We’re thinking of buying one of Audio Technica’s latest turntables as a gift for our young relatives. LPs are so popular again that a rare version of Bob Dylan’s “Freewheelin'” has a starting bid of $100,000 on eBay.

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MUSIC TUTOR APP

“Music Tutor Sight Read” is a free app for Android phones and it’s getting Joy playing the piano again. The app offers quizzes so you get better at recognizing notes in sheet music.  It helps if you’ve already had some music lessons and need a refresher. “Music Tutor Free” for iPhone/iPad is similar.

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MUSIC APPS

“Google Play Music” has free radio stations, and will store any music you upload for playback on any device. They start you out with a free trial subscription for their premium service, but you can continue listening for free if you choose to play music from their free stations. We thought they were excellent.

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SHAKESPEARE ON THE RADIO

Spotify online radio now has a Shakespeare channel. You can listen to ninety-eight straight hours of Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Of course they will be performed by actors speaking too fast and with forced accents, so you won’t really be able to understand that they’re saying, but that’s the way it is with Shakespeare performances.

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