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The Late Movies: Dumbness, Insanity, Celine Dion Screaming, and Billy Joel

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Last week I pointed to the unbelievably wonderful Brother IntelliFax 2800 App Store. I wondered -- who made that video? Well, it's Mike Lacher, proprietor of the delightfully weird and sometimes NSFW Wonder-Tonic. Tonight, I round up the five videos Wonder-Tonic has posted on YouTube. They're really weird. Most of them are unwatchable. But at the same time, there's something wonderful about knowing that somebody took the time to make this stuff, and thousands of people have watched the videos -- or at least the beginnings of them.

World War I Explained in 5 PowerPoint Slides

Let's start with one that won't cause your brain to explode. In this, Lacher has created one of the most hilariously horrible PowerPoint presentations ever, making liberal use of sound effects, animation, and inappropriate transitions. My favorite line: "Germany = Economic Problems. Germany Loses." (Sorry, spoiler alert!)

Celine Dion Screams For 1.5 Minutes

In this completely insane video, Celine Dion goes for a high note, and that note is looped for ninety seconds. It's hypnotizing and freakish -- you'll either laugh, cry, or turn the damn thing off. My favorite YouTube comment: "I FINALLY? UNDERSTAND. LIFE HAS LED ME HERE."

All Of Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Played At Once

I had this album in middle school, and I guess now the internet has brought it back to me. This is every track from the first disc of The Essential Billy Joel, played simultaneously. Warning: may cause complete insanity. Zip to about 5 minutes to hear slightly saner cacophonous horror.

Favorite YouTube comment: "I accidentally played three of these videos at? once. Needless to say, I became a God."

"I Am The Cute One" by the Olsen Twins at 25% Speed

Exactly what it says it is. If you actually watch the whole nine minutes, either your brain melts or you get a prize. (Sorry: the prize is that your brain melts.)

This video is roughly as unwatchable as the Billy Joel one is unlistenable. I'm pretty sure that mandatory viewing of this video would qualify as torture under the Geneva Convention.

The Brother IntelliFax 2800 App Store

This only exists to prove that Mike Lacher is very good at the internet, and is not completely insane.

You're Welcome/I'm Sorry

I had to do it. I think the Billy Joel thing planted a mind-virus in my brain that made me subject you all to this. If you actually watched these, I salute you, dear reader! And please, please take a nap or put an ice-pack on your head.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between an Opera and a Musical?
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They both have narrative arcs set to song, so how are musicals different from operas?

For non-theater types, the word “musical” conjures up images of stylized Broadway performances—replete with high-kicks and punchy songs interspersed with dialogue—while operas are viewed as a musical's more melodramatic, highbrow cousin. That said, The New York Times chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini argues that these loose categorizations don't get to the heart of the matter. For example, for every Kinky Boots, there’s a work like Les Misérables—a somber, sung-through show that elicits more audience tears than laughs. Meanwhile, operas can contain dancing and/or conversation, too, and they range in quality from lowbrow to highbrow to straight-up middlebrow.

According to Tommasini, the real distinguishing detail between a musical and an opera is that “in opera, music is the driving force; in musical theater, words come first.” While listening to an opera, it typically doesn’t matter what language it’s sung in, so long as you know the basic plot—but in musical theater, the nuance comes from the lyrics.

When it comes down to it, Tommasini’s explanation clarifies why opera stars often sing in a different style than Broadway performers do, why operas and musicals tend to have their trademark subject matters, and why musical composition and orchestration differ between the two disciplines.

That said, we live in a hybrid-crazy world in which we can order Chinese-Indian food, purchase combination jeans/leggings, and, yes, watch a Broadway musical—like 2010's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark—that’s billed as “rock opera.” At the end of the day, the lack of hard, fast lines between opera and musical theater can lead composers from both camps to borrow from the other, thus blurring the line even further.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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History
Lost Gustav Holst Music Found in a New Zealand Symphony Archive
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English composer Gustav Holst became famous for his epic seven-piece suite "The Planets," but not all of his works were larger-than-life. Take "Folk Songs from Somerset," a collection of folk tunes composed by Holst in 1906 and largely forgotten in the decades since. Now, more than a century later, the music is finally attracting attention. As Atlas Obscura reports, manuscripts of the songs were rediscovered among a lost collection of sheet music handwritten by the musician.

The Holst originals were uncovered from the archives of a New Zealand symphony during a routine cleaning a few years ago. While throwing away old photocopies and other junk, the music director and the librarian of the Bay of Plenty (BOP) Symphonia came across two pieces of music by Holst. The scores were penned in the composer’s handwriting and labeled with his former address. Realizing the potential importance of their discovery, they stored the documents in a safe place, but it wasn't until recently that they were able to verify that the manuscripts were authentic.

For more than a century, the Holst works were thought to be lost for good. "These manuscripts are a remarkable find, particularly the ‘Folk Songs from Somerset’ which don’t exist elsewhere in this form," Colin Matthews of London's Holst Foundation said in a statement from the symphony.

How, exactly, the documents ended up in New Zealand remains a mystery. The BOP Symphonia suspects that the sheets were brought there by Stanley Farnsworth, a flutist who performed with an early version of the symphony in the 1960s. “We have clues that suggest the scores were used by Farnsworth,” orchestra member Bronya Dean said, “but we have no idea how Farnsworth came to have them, or what his connection was with Holst.”

The symphony plans to mark the discovery with a live show, including what will likely be the first performance of "Folk Songs from Somerset" in 100 years. Beyond that, BOP is considering finding a place for the artifacts in Holst’s home in England.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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