Talk Description to Me

Episode 74 - Viral Video Contraptions

October 23, 2021 Christine Malec and JJ Hunt Season 3 Episode 74
Talk Description to Me
Episode 74 - Viral Video Contraptions
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Several internet videos featuring strange contraptions and creations have popped up in Christine's social media feed over the last few months, but we haven't managed to slip them into an episode. Then last week, a painting by the mysterious street artist Banksy sold at auction for $25 million. The crazy story of its creation features an epic prank, a hidden contraption, and a viral video, giving us the perfect excuse to pull all these wild inventions into one goofy episode.

The original videos discussed in this episode can all be found on YouTube.  For Bansky's video about the painting Girl and Balloon, check out:
https://youtu.be/vxkwRNIZgdY

For the the Rube Goldberg Machine called The Page Turner, go to:
https://youtu.be/GOMIBdM6N7Q

And for the world's longest musical model railway from the Miniature Wonderland in Hamburg, Germany, head to:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNvZY6cOijo

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/TalkDescriptionToMe)
JJ Hunt:

Talk description to me with Christine Malec and JJ Hunt.

Christine Malec:

Hi, I'm Christine Malec.

JJ Hunt:

And I'm JJ Hunt. This is talk description to me with the visuals of current events in the world around us get hashed out and description rich conversations.

Christine Malec:

This episode was a few, a few sources that contributed to its final iteration. And one of them came out in the pandemic and it was mostly about people doing funny things to amuse themselves and the the concept of Rube Goldberg machines and those ideas were floating around in our our minds in the background. And then JJ texted me about a an art piece by Banksy and this was all new to me, but it does tie in a little bit with we've talked about graffiti in the past and I believe Banksy is is a graffiti artist. And so this episode is going to be a pleasant jumble of machines and things that are do things in different ways, and so they're not functional machines as such. They're art. And so, JJ, should we start with Banksy?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, yeah, let's start with Banksy. So I was looking through the online newspapers just you know, just see what was going on in the world. And I spotted this story that the street artist Banksy had sold a painting at auction for an astonishing 25.4 million US dollars. And so I looked into this sale a little bit. And the the images, the video that's associated with this fantastic story. Were just so fantastic. I thought it would be really fun to talk about this week. So yeah, so bit Banksy isn't someone that you're particularly familiar with. That's right?

Christine Malec:

I'd never even heard it. So when you said Is this a good idea? I said, I've never I don't have a clue what you're talking about. So yeah, so it's a good idea. Ha ha.

JJ Hunt:

So Banksy is a street artist. Yeah, he's a filmmaker, political activist. But mostly he's a graffiti artist. But in fact, their identity is unknown. It's not even known actually, if Banksy is a man or a woman or maybe even a collective of people at this point, in the press in the media, they generally refer to Banksy as you with he him pronouns. So that's the convention will follow. But keep in mind that that's not an established fact. So Banksy does satirical street art and stenciling is a big part of his work, although he does other stuff as well. And I think we did talk about stenciling before, this is where you, you cut out a shape in a you know, piece of cardboard or something, you hold it up to a surface, and then you spray paint across it. And so this, the painted shape or silhouette is what's left on the surface. And if you then paint through different stencils, which block out some of the original silhouette, you can end up adding layers of detail in different colors. And what you end up with is an image that's made with distinct blocks of color. It's kind of similar to the look of silk screen because the technique is kind of similar. Anyway, in Banksy, his work, he uses a lot of black and white images with just a splash of color. So white silhouettes with realistic black details, or he paints sometimes the black silhouettes onto a white wall. So it's a little bit like creating a painting by only including the shadows. And one of his most famous pieces is a mural in black spray paint. This is a mural of a man with a backwards baseball cap and a bandana pulled up over his face. And he's preparing to throw something and everything about the posture, the clothing, the fact that this is spray painted on a brick wall. Everything about that would lead you to believe that he's about to throw a molotov cocktail. But in fact, what he's holding is a bouquet of flowers.

Christine Malec:

Oh! Heh heh.

JJ Hunt:

And the flowers are what's in color. Yeah, so that's the kind of thing that Banksy does. He one of his other favorite subjects is a little girl with a windblown dress reaching for a balloon as it floats away. And so most of his work, like I said, is public street art. But he does dabble in the fine art world selling canvases at such at auction. And in 2018, a framed copy of this girl with balloon piece was put up for auction at Sotheby's. This is a vertical painting, like three and a third feet tall, two and a half feet wide. And it was presented in what looks like a thick ornate vintage golden frame. And so the girl in the painting stands at our lower left kind of reaching toward the upper right I wear a red heart shaped balloon is floating away. So the auction at Sotheby's was being filmed because it was a big deal. And several of the art collectors who are at the auction they were filming as well you can find all these films on on YouTube. So you know at the auction, there are men and women predominantly white, all wearing fashionable business attire. And the sale is a kind of a formal version of raucous. The prices at the auction are jumping by hundreds of thousands of dollars. And there are in person bidders, and then there are agents at a bank of phones who are taking bids from outsiders. And the auctioneer is a slim immaculately groomed white man in a fine suit. And he's leaning forward on a large ornate dark wood podium that's like the size of the kitchen table and interacting with the crowd. In the painting itself. It's hanging in the corner of the room, and the auctioneer gets the price gap gets it up up higher and higher finally reaches 860,000 pounds. That's about 1.4 million US dollars. And then the bidding starts to wind down. Going once going twice. The auctioneer raps his gavel on the podium and the audience applauds. And then there's a beeping noise from the corner. And it's like the kind of beeping of a truck backing up or like an old fashioned digital alarm clock, beep, beep beep and the auctioneer looks up, and everyone turns to the corner and their mouths hanging open and they start pulling out their cell phones. Because inside the thick ornate gold frame, the Canvas has started to drop and it drops out of the bottom of the frame shredded and it gets halfway down before it stops. So what Sotheby's and now this new owner are left with is a painting that's half inside the frame fully intact, and half of it is dangling out the bottom in these thin uniform strips shredded.

Christine Malec:

Whaaaat?

JJ Hunt:

People start gasping and pointing and mumbling. Two Sotheby's employees, they quickly hurry out and they and they take the painting off the wall and whisk it away. And apparently, this was a prank on Sotheby's as well as the arts community.

Christine Malec:

Oh my.

JJ Hunt:

No one knew that this was going to happen. So they say.

Christine Malec:

whistle

JJ Hunt:

And then in the days following Banksy released a short film called Shredding the girl and the balloon. And it purportedly shows him building this frame with a hidden internal Shredder. With a friend. He's wearing a dark hoodie, so covers his face, you can't see who it is. But he builds this frame, he you know, films it and he tests it. And in his tests the frame, the canvas drops all the way down. It was supposed to be entirely shredded. So he says, and just the entire painting was supposed to be reduced to ribbons. But something went wrong and it only got halfway out. So that's 2018 the buyer was given the option to not go through with the purchase but very wisely said "No no I'll purchase it for $1.4 million."

Christine Malec:

Oh god.

JJ Hunt:

They got this new shredded version of the piece re authenticated, they gave it a new name, called it "Love is in the bin".

Christine Malec:

Ha!

JJ Hunt:

And then they put it up for auction again last week on October 14, and that was the painting half complete half shredded hanging out of the bottom of this frame. It sold after 10 minutes of bidding for 25 million US dollars. Whaaat? Ugh. A half shredded painting. So this is what Banksy is all about. He loves this stuff, making fun of the art world. You know pranking, satirical participation, and getting loaded. I mean, this was a big moneymaker. Sure. And so this was a half shredded painting. 25 million US dollars.

Christine Malec:

You know, we've had a lot of challenges to our neutrality as hosts over the last, you know, 70 whatever episodes we're on, I'm having a challenge right now on neutrality. So I'm just going to, unless you had more to say about Banksy, I'm gonna I'm gonna...

JJ Hunt:

Ha ha ha! That is the tale. That is the tale of Love is in the Bin.

Christine Malec:

Gotcha. And so it's not entirely unconnected to some of the other things we're going to talk about. And one of the things that intrigues me is the idea of a Rube Goldberg machine. And maybe one of us should define what that is. But am I right to say that the ancient game board game Mouse Trap is a is a populace version of a Rube Goldberg machine?

JJ Hunt:

Oh ya! You know, that would be a good, like a good iteration of a Rube Goldberg. Yeah, there are there are lots of those kinds of things that are kind of Rube Goldberg-esque. And I would say Mouse Trap is definitely Rube Goldberg-esque for sure.

Christine Malec:

Since you've seen a lot of them, can you maybe give a capsulized definition of it?

JJ Hunt:

So Rube Goldberg machines involve a series of elaborate steps to accomplish something minor or insignificant.

Christine Malec:

Ha ha ha!

JJ Hunt:

So you got to go back to the beginning, Rube Goldberg was a political cartoonist as a person, Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist and illustrator and newspaper, comic strip creator in like the 1910s teens and 20s. And like a one word that I've heard to describe this work often is zany. zany is a great word for it. His style was like, like a lot of the other cartoons of the day like early Mickey Mouse Betty Boop Felix the Cat, smooth lines, lots of curves, not a lot of angles. So the arms of characters would be wiggly and wavy not have you know, fine elbows. No, no pointy shoulders running like everything's curved and kind of wiggly and oversized and undersized body parts used for comedic effect. So like a little head with a round bowler hat and big feet in bulbous shoes, like that was kind of what his style was like. And what he became known for, were these amazing and ridiculous inventions that would appear in his cartoons. So one example is, he did one a one panel cartoon of his was for an alarm clock. So there's a man tucked into bed with the window open. And on the window sill, there's a little black bird pecking at a worm, and that worm is tied to a string, and on the other end of the string, is it's tied to the trigger of a hanging pistol. The pistol is aimed at a floating balloon tethered to a hanging brick, the brick is hovering above the squeeze handle of a perfume atomizer. And the atomizer is aimed at a sponge on a pulley and the pulley is tied to one end of a perfectly balanced board. And then on the other end of the board is a bowling ball on a string. And the other end of the string is attached to a cork which acts as a stopper for an upside down jug of water that's hanging over the head of the sleeping man. So this is the this is the original cartoon version of Rube Goldberg machines. This is like 1910s and 20s. jump ahead in time then you've got Peewee Herman, he used to have rube Goldberg's in his car. In his TV show. Wallace and Gromit stop motion animations, like there are these fantastic versions of Rube Goldberg and those but those are all fake, right? Like they're just made for TV or animated. In the internet age and in the YouTube age, in particular, Rube Goldberg Machine start to get built for real by actual people obsessed with making outrageous contraptions. And again, the key is you have to have a series of absurd things happen. So that one dumb thing of minor or insignificant value is accomplished at the end. So you set up a series of objects, just like in the cartoons, just like in Wallace and Gromit. And you try and get this chain reaction to happen. So in the in the modern ones that you see on YouTube, there's lots of balls being nudged, and then rolling down tracks, things that flip over and tip containers onto scales and then weights on strings dropping to pull away a wedge that's keeping up a wheeled object from rolling Domino effects, those kinds of things. Those are the kinds of elements of these Rube Goldberg machines and some of the ones on the internet, they take four or five or eight minutes to unfold, they have like 50 or 60 or 70 steps. The world record is from 2016 there was a Latvian team that built a Rube Goldberg machine with 412 steps that ultimately turned on the lights on Riga's official Christmas tree in the in the square.

Christine Malec:

Oh I love it!

JJ Hunt:

They're fantastic.

Christine Malec:

I feel like there's a metaphor for my life here somehow. I don't know there's a metaphor for life and these somehow I just need to work out what it is. Now. JJ, I'm remembering the the rapid fire tic Tock phenomenon that you did. I think it was pretty popular. I think people loved it. Is there a Rube Goldberg Machine video that you can sort of almost live describe?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, I can. I can. So okay, there's there's one guy in YouTube named Joseph. He's got a channel called Joseph's Machines. And I can't do a four or five minute long one, like people would go crazy. But Joseph has one that's two minutes long. He produced it in 2011. And it's got 11.6 million views. And I'm going to try and list everything that happens in those two minutes and I don't think I'm going to quite make it but I'll dry I'll do my very best to describe The Joseph's machine called the page turner, start your clocks. The page turner. So a slim white man with a thin mustache and wild Bed Head sits at a kitchen table lined with odd objects. He's reading the front page of a newspaper that's lying flat on the table. He picks up a mug with Scott a string tied to the handle and when he puts down the mug, the string tugs at a pencil it's on the wall keeping a picture frame frame straight. A ball on the corner of the frame rolls down the now slanted picture frame knocking away another pencil. This happens three times until the ball on the third frame on the top. It rolls into another large open frame that's mounted on the wall and it's filled with crazy wall mounted objects. The ball goes into the frame and drops into a ladle the ladle tips over a small pitcher. The pitcher drips oil into a cup which sparks a small flame. The flame lights a fuse that runs under four billiards balls. As it burns away, the balls drop onto a slanted track and roll into cups. The last ball rolls over the top of the first three down another ramp and it flips a switch on a portable propane camping stove. The gas comes out of the camping stove hits the still burning fuse and lights up above the camping stove there's a beaker filled with liquid the liquid begins to boil steam rises on to a hanging sponge on the end of a flyswatter. When the sponge gets saturated, it gets heavy the flyswatter flips up and it knocks a ping pong ball onto a stack of books. There are some knocking about of other ping pong balls and that leads to a book tipping over and there's a ball inside the book that rolls down out of the book down a ramp and into a vase that's on the kitchen table. The ball rolls out of the bottom of the vase onto a track yanking the vase to the floor. There are headphones that are also tied to the vase so they fly off the table too and that unblocks and glass lying on its side. The glass rolls down the table over a piece of tape that's on the end of the length of string. The glass rolls off the table with the tape stuck to it. The string pulls the pencil that there's a pencil that pops open a laptop tied to the other end of the string. So when that when the string flies off the table the pencil comes out of the laptop the laptop slams shut and it falls off the table. The cord of the laptop is tied to a hairdryer on switch, the hairdryer blows onto a long narrow hamster cage. The hamster gets annoyed runs to the far end of the cage and that makes the tape the cage tip and there's a ball on top of the cage that begins to roll it rolls down the cage into a tray the tray falls off the table yanking the hairdryer cord which was propping up a roll of yellow tape the roll of yellow tape rolls across the table over the newspaper sticking to the front page so when it falls off the table it drags the front page open so that the man with the bed head can read the inside of the paper. All that happens in under two minutes

Christine Malec:

Ha! Stellar. That was stellar.

JJ Hunt:

Ha ha ha!

Christine Malec:

Your entire career JJ led to that Academy Award winning description.

JJ Hunt:

Heh heh heh.

Christine Malec:

Wow. Holy cow. I didn't, it was hard to follow that even like yeah it was hard to follow that in my mind.

JJ Hunt:

They're pretty wild like that one thing after the other after the other and so when you're filming these things you know you have to be pretty careful you got to get your camera in the right place at the right moment and follow the ball or follow the action or whatever it is because it is easy to visually get lost in the series of you know cascading actions.

Christine Malec:

Does it make you want to watch it a few times? I know I'm sure you had to in order to write to sort of think out your description but it doesn't visually make you want to keep watching it to fit it all together.

JJ Hunt:

Totally .Yeah, some of these you watch a few times because you want to catch him in like a in editing or something like that. Like maybe maybe this is actually two or three. So sometimes you want to and you don't like a lot of these things. They're they're one shot like it's this is all done and filmed in one shot. And some of them if they're just so amazing, you can't believe that, that they actually managed to line these things up. And we've I've made a few of these like at the beginning of the pandemic when school was out and we were homeschooling for a while. For a science project we assigned one of these Rube Goldberg machines to our nine year old we said okay you you're a science assignment is to create a Rube Goldberg machine that's got X number of different types of steps that include this number of different kinds of stored potential energy, whatever we made us to make at school, and and he built a 10 step Rube Goldberg Machine using rolling cans and leavers and dominoes of increasing sizes and swinging pendulums. And that 10 step Rube Goldberg took him all afternoon. I mean, it was a win win for everyone. But like, the number of times that it goes wrong before you actually get everything lined up right like that can has to roll perfectly down the table and land exactly in the basket so that the basket can drop. And it's got to drop at a rate that is, you know, fast enough to pull this wedge out from under that I mean, at any one of those stages that can go wrong and ruin a 70 step, Rube Goldberg machine, it's like, they're really hard to get perfect. And so when you watch one that's got 50, 60, 70 steps, it's, it's mesmerizing. And usually at the end of it, there's someone who's like, you know, turns the camera on their on themselves and screams and yells, finally worked.

Christine Malec:

From a geek perspective, and I know you're not an educator by training, but what do you think your kids were learning by doing that?

JJ Hunt:

Well, the different kinds of energy that are involved. So I mean, you've got, you got, you got a pendulum in there, first of all, so how does a pendulum work? And the fact that you can take dominoes of increasing sizes, so if your first domino is small, but it's got enough energy when it falls over to knock over a slightly bigger one, and then that one's got enough energy to knock over a slightly bigger one, you can literally go from a tiny Domino to knocking over a great big book by that one bit of energy increases, increases. You know what, so there are things like that, that we could... And honestly, it's, you know, when you're homeschooling during a pandemic, with kids that can't go outside, you got to, you got to come up with assignments that are at least partially fun.

Christine Malec:

Ya.

JJ Hunt:

So he made one that started on the back deck, and it ended up dropping a candy into his cup as he watched TV. Ha ha! That was what his Rube Goldberg was all about.

Christine Malec:

Now, that's a lot of views on on YouTube. So you said it's mesmerizing, does it? I guess it depends on how many you've watched. But is it like you're gasping? Or is it actually more of a Zen kind of relaxing? I can kind of imagine both reactions?

JJ Hunt:

That's a good question. So there are different kinds, like some of them have that kind of, there's a calmness to it. If there's a ball, there's one there's a guy did one I think it's called the perfect swish. And he has a 70 step Rube Goldberg, that's it's mostly about a ball rolling through his property. And, you know, being knocked over this and going down this and flying through the air and bouncing off trampolines, to eventually drop into a basket. And he makes a perfect swish 70 steps, it's like five minutes long. And because the ball is rolling a lot of the time and it's going through his back, you know, his backyard and his back property. There's more of a Zen feeling with that. But some of them are, like wild and wacky and hilarious and Goofy, and sometimes they're themed like Joseph's machines. He's got some that are, like live action Super Mario Brothers, like rube Goldberg's. So we take little models and little cars from, from Nintendo video games, and they bump into each other and little figurines hop over tubes that are sticking out of the ground that look like the tubes in the Mario Brothers, like you can do themed versions of them.

Christine Malec:

Um hm.

JJ Hunt:

He even has one that ends with him eating a sandwich and the sandwich is on a teetering board. So as the as the board tips down toward him. So it's

Christine Malec:

Heh heh heh. got this, this teetering board with a sandwich on it, and the sandwich is being pushed by a rolling bulldozer. Ha ha ha!

JJ Hunt:

So when it tips down toward his face level the bulldozer rams this peanut butter and jelly sandwich that has just been assembled by a Rube Goldberg machine, it shoves the sandwich into his face, and then the board tips back the other way and, and the bulldozer goes back and he can chew for a minute and then that tips toward his face again and the sandwich is jammed into his face. They do ridiculous things and stuff like that is a giggle you know, it's just a goofy giggle.

Christine Malec:

There's a there's a kind of fascination to it. Like I'm now thinking about getting the slinky to go down the stairs, right?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah!

Christine Malec:

There's an element of Rube Goldberg there. So I think there's a we have this instinct to want to start something in motion and just watch it happen. Like flick your finger and then all of these other things happen. There's a hypnotic, like, yeah, compulsion to it? Yeah. Because a lot of kids toys come from there. Oh, no. So speaking of pandemic, I remember in the depths of the pandemic, sending this to you, and we didn't. At the time, it didn't fit into what we were working on. But there's some people in Germany and worked on some a version of a Rube Goldberg machine that played music and of course, I was mesmerized. By this and so maybe I'll let you give the proper description of JJ because I have a sense of how it's working. But please fill in the gaps for us.

JJ Hunt:

So this was the the folks at the Miniature Wonderland in Hamburg, Germany. And so they have the world's longest model train set the world's largest model railway, but no one was allowed to come visit it. So they decided to have some fun and make a viral video. And what they did was they took a little red engine car, and they put a GoPro camera on the top of it. And then they outfitted this engine car with four little drumsticks on springs. So the there were two longer sticks on the top one sticking out of each side, and then shorter sticks that were sticking out of the the inside of the engine compartment. So two sticks sticking up the right side, two sticks sticking out the left one longer than the other. And then they lined the sides of the train track with glasses filled with water. So wine glasses, water glasses, narrow tumblers, all very precisely filled. And then they meticulously spaced out these glasses of water so that when the train travels around the track, the drum sticks tap the glasses, producing particular notes and all of those notes strung together create 20, recognizable melodies from classical pieces. So all in all, they did 2814 notes along a 700 meter long track and this melody plays for five and a half minutes It's beautiful. It's just beautiful.

Christine Malec:

It's quite astonishing Do they ever show the people just standing there blissing out?

JJ Hunt:

There are a few times when you that when the track so they've got the the camera on the back of the train and then there's also someone who like walks alongside of it, filming it with a with a with a secondary camera. So in the final edit that they released to YouTube and to the Guinness Book of World Records because this was a world record, you kind of cut back and forth sometimes between the view of the train the point of view of the train, and then a side view and on one of the side views at one point the the train tracks travel past a glass walled office space. And you can see there are people inside the office just like sitting at their rows of computers doing the work as this train goes by playing like possibel cannon or something like that. But it goes because this this museum this, this train this model train set has fantastic things around like this isn't just a train going through an empty warehouse building. They've got beautiful decorations and miniature villages and then it goes through all kinds of beautiful environments so goes through a city at night. It goes past a miniature port, complete with tiny container ships. It goes past a miniature space shuttle it's taking off in the background. It goes through the Las Vegas Strip. It goes through a canyon surrounded by these orange colored rock formations. It travels through a rocky mountain landscape. It goes through a carnival with Ferris wheels and kiddie rides and neon lights. It goes through a miniature airport and erupting volcano, a mountain village and again the entire time it's playing this classical medley on these pink wine glasses. It's just so lovely and charming, but you don't get much of a chance to see the people who built it, like gleeful. It's only that one moment when they go past the office and people aren't even paying attention to it. They're just like at their desks doing their work.

Christine Malec:

Ha ha haaaa. We love making this podcast. If you love hearing it, perhaps you'll consider supporting its creation and development by becoming a patron. We've set up a Patreon page to help cover the costs of putting the show together. You can contribute as a listener or as a sponsor to help ensure that accessible and entertaining journalism continues to reach our community. Visit patreon.com slash talk description to me that's pa t ar e o n.com slash talk description to me have feedback or suggestions of what you'd like to hear about here's how to get in touch with us. Our email address is talk description to [email protected] Our Facebook page is called talk description to me. Our website is talk description to me.com and you can follow us on Twitter at talk description.

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