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I was the drum machine

Four-on-the-floor, a beat pattern that's widely used in electronic dance music, has its roots in disco. And drummer Earl Young invented it. 

Watching Young move effortlessly between beats that undergird some of the most popular music of the last 50 years reminded me of this piece from Song Exploder, in which John Roderick of The Long Winters describes watching virtuoso drummer Matt Chamberlain lay down an amazing series of drum tracks for his song "The Commander Thinks Aloud." 

Under Teahupoo

The wave at Teahupoo is renowned among surfers as one of the "heaviest" waves in the world. Videographer Ben Thouard filmed the great wave and its surfers from underwater. 

There are so many things I love about this. For starters, it really shows how shallow the water sits over the reef. This is a huge wave breaking only a few feet (or less) over a razor-sharp bottom. Failure can be very painful - or fatal. I was also fascinated by the varieties of turbulence beneath the glassy surface of the breaking waves - momentarily stable vortexes, parallel streamers like jet contrails, rolling thunderheads of air mixed with water. Then the shimmering, distorted figures of the surfers fly by, shadows on a warped sky, their fingertips trailing the glass, like spirits just skimming the surface of a magnificent, hostile world.

Head over here (or, holy crap, here) for some video of what Teahupoo looks like from above the surface, on a "good" day.

What being an expert really sounds like

I've written before about the podcast Song Exploder, in which Hrishikesh Hirway takes a song and breaks it down into it component parts. Through interviews with the musician and isolated tracks of instruments and voices, he explores the formative ideas and decisions that created the track. If I had to pick a favorite podcast, it would get the nod. 

This particular show is utterly amazing, because it describes the unexpected results when The Long Winters brought in guest drummer Matt Chamberlain, described as "the best in the country" to lay down tracks on their tune The Commander Thinks Aloud. Chamberlain played 5 tracks, one after another, then... well, it's pretty cool to hear songwriter John Roderick describe it.  

Listen to the entire show below, or click here to jump directly to the piece about Chamberlain's contribution, at 8:40. 

The moment before the moment

There will always be the hour before the world was destroyed, and people tend to remember that moment with terrible clarity, polishing it in their mind like a stone. 

One morning, April 16 eight years ago, I awoke in my girlfriend's bed to hear the wind-blown tree limbs raking the side of the house with wild fingers. She had a white mosquito net hanging overhead, a purely aesthetic touch, but one that felt familiar and comforting to me from the years I slept under nets in Senegal. The trees hissed and grated in the darkness. I arose and got dressed, barely trying to keep quiet over the noise of the wind, kissed her goodbye and went to work at my firehouse. It was the 66,953rd morning of my life, what should have been another forgettable moment. By now I should have no memory of the net, the wind, the trees, the kiss. 

But that morning, a house caught on fire, and the wind turned it into an inferno as firefighters entered, trapping and killing my friend Kyle as he searched a second-floor bedroom.

Now that morning lasts forever. The trees writhe and buckle in my memory, and the wind keens like an animal, like a foul portent, or like nothing, the wind howling through just another morning that happened to be the last one before the end of the world.  

Making of the clone dance

Tatiana Maslany's performance in Orphan Black, in which she plays clones with wildly varying personalities, has received widespread, well-deserved acclaim. Pair her skills with some really neat technical wizardry, and you get this video, which shows the making of a scene in which the actress, playing four different people, dances with herself. I keep watching this and picking up on little subtleties, like how Jordan Gavaris (Felix) and Maslany interact with personas who aren't even in the shot at the time. The blocking required to pull this off is nothing short of astonishing.

NOTE: The mere interaction of some of the clones in this scene will be a spoiler of sorts, so watch at your own risk.