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Just when you thought you were safe...Twenty years later, Pee-Wee returns!

I noticed yesterday on IMDB that Paul Reubens (a.k.a. Pee-Wee Herman) turned 54 this past weekend. And then I realized it's been 20 years since "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" debuted on CBS. And although both facts are hard to believe, the more surprising fact is that Pee-Wee is scheduled to return in "Pee-Wee's Playhouse: The Movie" in 2007. That's scary and funny. A few other surprising facts I learned on IMDB:

  • When Reubens signed to do "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" in 1986, CBS agreed to pay him $325,000 per episode. That's what an actor in a major sitcom would have made.
  • Earlier in his career, Reubens made four appearances on "The Gong Show."
  • He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. (Can that really be true? IMDB says it is)
  • During CBS's five year's of "Pee-Wee's Playhouse," Reubens never appeared for interviews as himself. He was always in character.

And you know the post-1991 Reubens story, so I'll leave it at that. And I hate to admit it but if Large Marge is going to make an appearance in the 2007 flick, I might just go see it. Don't tell anyone.

 

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Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice
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Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani once wrote that a violin's tone should "rival the most perfect human voice." Nearly three centuries later, scientists have confirmed that some of the world's oldest violins do in fact mimic aspects of the human singing voice, a finding which scientists believe proves "the characteristic brilliance of Stradivari violins."

Using speech analysis software, scientists in Taiwan compared the sound produced by 15 antique instruments with recordings of 16 male and female vocalists singing English vowel sounds, The Guardian reports. They discovered that violins made by Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari, the pioneers of the instrument, produce similar "formant features" as the singers. The resonance frequencies were similar between Amati violins and bass and baritone singers, while the higher-frequency tones produced by Stradivari instruments were comparable to tenors and contraltos.

Andrea Amati, born in 1505, was the first known violin maker. His design was improved over 100 years later by Antonio Stradivari, whose instruments now sell for several million dollars. "Some Stradivari violins clearly possess female singing qualities, which may contribute to their perceived sweetness and brilliance," Hwan-Ching Tai, an author of the study, told The Guardian.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. A 2013 study by Dr. Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, also pointed to a link between the sounds produced by 250-year-old violins and those of a female soprano singer.

According to Vox, a blind test revealed that professional violinists couldn't reliably tell the difference between old violins like "Strads" and modern ones, with most even expressing a preference for the newer instruments. However, the value of these antique instruments can be chalked up to their rarity and history, and many violinists still swear by their exceptional quality.

[h/t The Guardian]

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