Monday, December 31, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
"St Trinian's is a fictional girls' boarding school which was created as a series of cartoons by Ronald Searle, a British cartoonist, and later became the subject of comedy films. The school is the antithesis of the Enid Blyton-type posh girls' boarding school; its pupils are wicked and often well-armed, and mayhem is rife. The mistresses (as female teachers in Britain were known at the time) are also disreputable. Cartoons often showed dead bodies of girls who had been murdered with pitchforks or succumbed to violent team sports, sometimes with vultures circling; girls drank, gambled, and smoked. It is reputed that the gym-slip style of dress worn by the girls was closely modelled on the uniform of the school that Searle's daughter Kate attended, JAGS in Dulwich. The films implied that the girls were the daughters of gangsters, crooks, shady bookmakers and other low-lifes.
The name St Trinian's was inspired by St Trinnean's in Edinburgh, originally situated at 10 Palmerston Road, established by Miss C. Fraser Lee and opened on 4th October 1922 with sixty girls.
She practised the revolutionary Dalton system of education — where the emphasis was on self- rather than school-imposed discipline — which led to it being said that St Trinnean's was the school "where they do what they like".
In 1925 the school moved from Palmerston Road to St Leonard's House near Dalkeith Road, and at the beginning of the second world war moved again to Gala House in Galashiels. The school was closed in 1946 after the retirement of Miss Lee Fraser.
It is said that a family by the name of Johnston, whose two daughters attended St Trinnean's, were evacuated to Kirkcudbright, where they met Sapper (Ronald) Searle. He drew a cartoon depicting his idea of the school attended by the girls. Searle spent part of the war in a Japanese POW camp. After the war Lilliput magazine published the cartoons. The first film was made in 1954.
10 Palmerston Road is now in private ownership. St Leonard's House is now called St Leonard's Hall, part of Pollock Halls of Residence for the University of Edinburgh; it is used for administration and conferences. One of the rooms within is called St Trinneans.
The school's existence became widely known when it advertised a reunion coffee party for old girls in The Scotsman in September 1955. By this time the fictional school was very well-known; the typesetter incorrectly used Searle's spelling in the advertisement. In an interview with the Sunday Express the headmistress firmly denied that her girls were anything like their fictional counterparts.Run while you still can-The girls of Trinians from the newest movie.A series of St Trinian's comedy films was made with well-known British actors including Alastair Sim (in drag as the headmistress, but also playing her brother), George Cole as "Flash Harry", and Joyce Grenfell as Sgt Ruby Gates, a beleaguered policewoman. In the films the school became embroiled in a number of shady enterprises, thanks mainly to Flash, and, as a result, was always threatened with closure by the "Ministry of Schools".
The first four films form a chronological quartet, and were produced by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat. They had earlier produced The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950), a stylistically similar school comedy, starring Alastair Sim, Joyce Grenfell, George Cole, Richard Wattis, Guy Middleton and Bernadette O'Farrell, all of whom later appeared in the St Trinian's series, often playing similar characters.
In the films St Trinian's is an unorthodox girls school where the younger girls wreak havoc and the older girls express their femininity overtly, turning their shapeless schoolgirl dress into something sexy and risqué by the standards of the times: skirts are short and show the tops of the dark stockings that the girls wear, and busts are emphasised by the cut of the tunic and shirt of the uniform, creating the hourglass figure and long legs favoured at the time. St Trinian's is often invoked in discussions about groups of schoolgirls running riot.
The St Trinian's girls themselves come in two categories: the Fourth Form, most closely resembling Searle's original drawings of ink-stained, ungovernable pranksters, and the much older Sixth Form (one of them is even married), sexually precocious to a degree that must have seemed somewhat alarming in 1954. In the films, the Fourth Form includes a number of much younger girls who are the most ferocious of them all. Indeed, it is something of a rule of thumb that the smaller a St Trinians girl is, the more dangerous she is, especially with a "weapon" (most commonly a lacrosse or hockey stick) in her hands—though none of them can ever be considered harmless.
St Trinian's is presided over by the genial Miss Millicent Fritton (Sim in drag), whose philosophy is summed up as: "In other schools girls are sent out quite unprepared into a merciless world, but when our girls leave here, it is the merciless world which has to be prepared."
The 1980 film, The Wildcats of St Trinian's, had the girls forming a trade union and going on strike. It poked fun at the British trade union movement which had been responsible for the recent wave of strikes that culminated in the Winter of Discontent. The film was not a critical success.
Rupert Everett confirmed on the UK television program The Bigger Picture with
Graham Norton on 16 October 2006 that a further film would be made, with himself in the Alastair Sim roles. Filming started on St Trinian's in April 2007, and it was released in December of that year. The cast also included Colin Firth, Russell Brand, Lily Cole, Stephen Fry, Girls Aloud and Mischa Barton. Reviews were generally not favourable"
.....but just don't tell the girls that otherwise there will be trouble"
Monday, December 24, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
From the mythological specter of the doughboy who can only breathe mustard gas, to the coincidence of the crossword puzzle containing the code words for the Normandy landing, conflict can bring out both the best, and the downright strangest, in human behavior and belief. So much so, that it would take much more than this little slice of cyberspace for me to outline them all. Just limiting ourselves to inventiveness still packs weirdsville to it's sprawling borders: the American kamikaze bats with their still-classified incendiary explosives, the stone-skipping delivery of the British dam-busting bombs, the around-the-corner Nazi submachine gun, Patton's phantom army, and the War Magicians, which is one of my faves: a group of British dance-hall conjurers who put their slight-of-hand talents to work making tanks into trucks, trucks into tanks, everything else into something else, all to trick the Axis.
One of my all-time favorites, though, was the one that just, almost, nearly happened. But before I reveal this glorious monument to inventive mania, a little about its inventor.
Like many British eccentrics, Geoffrey Pyke at first appears normal when viewed through Who's Who, but a closer examination always starts the head shaking. Not to say that Pyke didn't give his all and then some to the war effort - not at all. But it also would be incorrect to say that what Pyke did give could be called, at best, quirky - and, at best, bizarre.
Apprehended trying to sneak into Berlin during the first World War, Pyke was sentenced to a prison camp. By noting that sunlight momentarily blinded his guards every day at one certain location, Pyke managed to escape, becoming something of a celebrity by accounting his daring escapades after the war.
Assigned to the War Office during the second great conflict, Pyke threw himself into devising all kinds of clever (and even often practical) means of aiding the war effort. Stretcher-carrying sidecars for motorcycles? That was Pyke. Pedal-powered shunt cars for railway yards? Pyke. Marking a special motorized cart British commandos were to use with "Officer's Latrine" in German on them -- so the Nazi's would leave it well alone? You guessed it ... Geoffrey Pyke. Disguising British agents as avid golfers, and then sending them all throughout Germany to secretly gather signatures on a poll to convince Hitler that his people didn't want to go to war? You guessed it. Like I said, quirky at best.
But the concept that propelled Pyke from simple, fascinating, oddity to the military limits of the delightfully absurd was the one he hit on while pondering one of the great problems of the Second World War: that allied shipping was being literally cut to pieces by the merciless, and precise, German submarine fleet. Even Kaiser with his smooth assembly line of cheap shipping couldn't compete with the appetites of the Wolf Packs. What was needed, Pyke considered, was some kind of strong military presence, a way of providing air cover for the desperately-needed merchant ships.
But there were a lot of Liberty Ships, far too many to cover with even a token fleet. Not only did those transport need protection, but they needed cheap and easy protection, something simple to assemble, able to carry long-range aircraft, and not so expensive as to draw valuable resources from the battle fronts.
It would be easy to imagine Pyke sipping something cool when inspiration struck. But what really causes the head to shake is to remember that Pyke was a great British eccentric, and Brits (as anyone who has visited the UK can attest) are completely alien to anything tall, cool, and – especially - frosty.
Maybe it was watching winter slabs majestically move down the Thames, or pale masses of crystals sluice down a gutter, but whatever the inspiration, Pyke had his vision. But before it could be put into anything even close to reality, Pyke had to solve one fundamental problem: ice melts.
Pyke's vision was a marvelous, gloriously absurd one: 300 feet wide, 2,000 long mid-Atlantic runways. Displacing 1,800,000 tons of water (26 times the Queen Elizabeth), they would carry aircraft, munitions, crew, and - naturally - a refrigeration system that would guarantee that their 50 foot walls wouldn't fall to their greatest enemy (even more than Germany): heat.
These iceberg battleship/aircraft carriers would have been the stuff of nightmares: massive white slabs of steaming ice, churning through the sea, a flurry of aircraft and support ships darting around their bulk. The Germans, my guess, would quake in fear more from the audacity and insanity of their concept than any weapons they could carry.
But these tamed bergs wouldn't just depend on their mass and aircraft to defeat the German hordes. No sir, these were fightin' icebergs! Pyke envisioned a special system mated to the refrigeration equipment so the bergs could spray out supercold water, literally freezing enemy forces in their tracks. Code named Habbakuk after a character in the Bible known for saying: "I am doing a work in your days which you would not believe if told." To know truth, Preachers say, study the Bible. How very true in this case.
But there was that big stumbling block to Pyke's incredible plans: his terrifying, freezing giants of the sea would turn to mid-Atlantic slush before ever encountering the Germans. The humiliation alone of having to scream for help as your ship literally melted around you was more than any sailor should ever bear. So, how to make nature act ... unnaturally?
The answer actually came from Max Perutz, who named it after Pyke: take 14% sawdust and 86% water, freeze, and viola: a bizarre material you can saw like wood and won’t melt. Well, okay, it actually will melt, but just a helleva lot slower than regular ice.
Pyke was so excited by this frosty invention that he showed the stuff to Lord Mountbatten, who was so similarly afflicted that he rushed into Winston Churchill's bathroom and in a scene too close to Monty Python to be anything but real, dropped a block of the stuff in the PM's bath water. Maybe it was the audacity, the lunacy, of the idea, or some unknown properties of Pykete, but Churchill caught the bug: Pyke and his iceberg navy got the go-ahead.
A site was found, a secret boat-house on Patricia Lake in Canada, and a small-size test was organized. Pyke was ecstatic as his materials were assembled into a model of his cold revelation. As a testament to either Pyke's brilliance or the twisted humor of the universe, the ice ship was a complete success: in other words, it didn't melt all through a hot summer.
Alas, the landings at Normandy made the ice ships unnecessary. It's easy to imagine Pyke, face beaming in joy, standing on the frigid deck of his dream ship, envisioning its monstrous kin rolling through surging seas, throwing cascades of freezing death at the German Navy, just as somewhere else in the world the war was turning away from needing their frightening, protective presence.
As to what Pyke did after the war, it's hard for me to say: his strange dream of a frozen navy lasting longer than anything else he contributed. But one thing I can guarantee: Pyke could never see the onset of winter without thinking of his great ships, and the battles they might have won.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Earlier this month, artist Mike Hinge died in his Philidelphia-area apartment. The New Zealand-born artist made Manhattan his home in 1966 and was a part of the science fiction and comics scene for the next few decades. He produced covers and interiors for numerous SF magazines and for mainstream venues, including several TIME covers. In the early 1970s, SUPERGRAPHICS published a collection of his techno-oriented work titled THE MIKE HINGE EXPERIENCE.
Mr. Hinge's super-detailed and elaborate art style predated the digital illustration revolution and many of the artist's works foreshadowed the coming elegance and intricacy of computer art. In later years, PC technology caught up with him. According to friend Sanford Meschkow, "Sadly, the computer revolution in graphics in the 1990s was the effective cause of the early end of Mike's professional career."
Among Mr. Hinge's last professional commissions was a cover for the large-format revival of AMAZING magazine in 1993."
Monday, December 10, 2007
The Poe Toaster is the unofficial nickname given to a mysterious figure who pays an annual tribute to American author Edgar Allan Poe by visiting the author's original grave marker on his birthday.
The unexplained tradition began in 1949, a century after Poe's death, and has occurred on the author's birthday (January 19) of every year since. In the early hours of the morning on that date, a black-clad figure, presumed to be male, with a silver-tipped cane enters the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground in Baltimore, Maryland. The individual proceeds to Poe's grave, where he or she raises a cognac toast. Before departing, the Toaster leaves three red roses and a half-bottle of cognac on the grave. The roses are believed to represent Poe, his wife Virginia, and his mother-in-law Maria Clemm, all three of whom are interred at the site. The significance of the cognac itself is unknown, although a note was once left by Poe's grave stating it was for great respect for the family tradition the cognac is placed. Many of the bottles left behind have been taken and stored by the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.
The Toaster wears a black coat and hat, and obscures his or her face with a scarf or hood. A group of reporters and Poe enthusiasts are usually on hand to observe the event. Generally, none have attempted to interfere with the Toaster's entry, tribute or departure or to identify the individual out of respect for the tradition (and, perhaps, the mystery).
On August 15, 2007, the Baltimore Sun broke the story that 92-year old Sam Porpora claimed that he had started the Poe Toaster tradition. Porpora had been given the title of historian for the Westminster Church in the late 1960s. Porpora claims he started the tradition to reinvigorate the church and its congregation. In 1967, Porpora says, he told a reporter that the tradition dated back to 1949, though the article to which he refers actually was printed in 1976. Jeff Jerome, of the Edgar Allan Poe Society, however, says the earliest newspaper article about the Poe Toaster dates back to 1950, predating Porpora's claims. After further research, Jerome said that, "There are holes so big in Sam's story, you could drive a Mack truck through them."Jeff Savoye, another officer in the Edgar Allan Poe Society, also question his claims. Porpora's daughter said she had never heard of her father's actions but that it fit in with his mischievous nature.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
"Troy James Hurtubise (born November 23, 1963 - Hamilton, Ontario) is an inventor and conservationist from North Bay, Ontario, Canada noted for his often bizarre creations that he tests on himself in spectacular and usually dangerous ways. Some of these inventions include the Ursus personal armor suit, "firepaste", an ablative heatproofing material, various "ray" generators, and, recently, Trojan Body Armor.
Hurtubise's obsession with bears began on August 4, 1984, when he was 20 years old and survived a skirmish with a grizzly bear he refers to as "the Old Man", while hiking near Humidity Creek in central British Columbia.
The encounter had a profound effect on Hurtubise. Returning to his home province of Ontario, he decided to learn as much about grizzlies as he could. However, he realized that due to the bear's fierce nature, it is very difficult to get close enough to study them without physical danger, and he believed that drugging the animal would have its own undesirable consequences.
One day after enrolling in a college program (November 1987), Hurtubise experienced an epiphany while watching RoboCop in his college dorm, one which led to the Ursus series of protective suits. He decided to build a research suit that would be strong enough to survive a close encounter without harming the occupant. Such a robo-bear suit would allow him to search for bears, and answer important questions such as: would pepper spray work in the field? What is bear behaviour in the den like? What are the signs of agitation, such as jaw popping, the dance on the front feet, slobbering, roaring? It is possible to study these signs at a distance, but Hurtubise wanted to see them from the bear's perspective.
Seven years and $150,000 later, Hurtubise had worked his way up to the Mark VI, the suit he believed could protect him from a grizzly. In order to test it, Hurtubise consulted with professors of physics and asked them how to simulate a bear attack. The entire experience was recorded as a National Film Board documentary and called Project Grizzly, with many memorable scenes in which Hurtubise tested the capabilities of the suit using himself as the guinea pig.
Hurtubise approached a tall, heavy biker and his colleagues, and paid them to attack him while wearing the suit, with baseball bats, splitting mauls, and wooden two by fours. The suit survived, as did Hurtubise, while the weapons were reduced to splinters. Other tests included an impact by a swinging 300-pound log, a feat that the Ripley's Believe It or Not! television program later attempted with a BMW, as well as tossing him down the side of an escarpment.
Project Troy is the moniker given to the current stage of a 15-plus year effort undertaken by Hurtubise to develop protection suit technology. It began as a desire to create a suit capable of withstanding the viciousness of an enraged bear attack, but the process has developed ideas and technologies whose purposes go beyond simple bear attack protection.
Some of the testing the 145-pound (65 kg) Ursus Mark VI underwent included live bear tests in British Columbia, Canada. After initial fear of the strange looking suit the 545-kg (1200-lb) male Kodiak bear began tearing apart the chainmail. This clarified to Hurtubise that going with less expensive butcher's chainmail from France instead of shark chainmail was not the best decision. The biggest safety concern with the Ursus Mark VI is that a bear is able to rip the helmet off of the suit.
The current iteration of the suit, the Ursus Mark VII, is the 6th prototype that uses a few of the concepts and technologies developed by Hurtubise. It was initially created using a large amount of titanium. While the titanium suit was strong yet not overly heavy, it still did not provide the amount of protection Troy desired. The suit was then entirely rebuilt to replace the titanium with stainless steel (so the same version of the suit has been built twice, but the titanium version no longer exists). The resulting suit is extremely strong, much stronger than the Mark VI, but due to its materials it now weighs a total of 84 kg (186 pounds)(the upper and lower halves are each 93 pounds). To solve the helmet issues found in the Mark VI, the Mark VII makes the helmet part of the upper portion of the suit instead of a separate item, splitting it in half down the middle as the top half of the suit is opened (the upper half of the suit is hinged in the back). Like the Mark VI, the Mark VII is internally padded with a type of cushion Troy developed which is soft enough to cushion serious blows, yet stiff and strong enough to handle extensive use.
The ultimate goal is the creation of a suit that would encompass all the concepts in their final form. This form would have the ability to protect against injury from riot, explosions, fire, and high velocity projectiles, and weigh less to allow better mobility (with a goal to weigh equal or less than the heaviest equipment a firefighter might wear, 130 pounds). When/if it happens, its main protective materials will include Troy's 1313 paste (discussed below), as well as his firepaste, instead of titanium or steel.
Part of the journey was documented as Project Grizzly, which was based on his book White Tape - An Authentic Behind The Scenes Look At Project Grizzly. He has appeared on numerous television programs; performed guest lecturing at schools of all levels including Harvard; has been interviewed on hundreds of radio programs from around the world; and has been written about in countless magazines and newspapers throughout the world. In 1998 Hurtubise won an Ig Nobel in Safety Engineering for his suit development.
Without any support from outside sources such as government, or private investment, and with previous business partners faltering, the journey has bankrupted him once and almost cost him his marriage. But with the support of family and friends, and with the backing of an investor, the Ursus Mark VII was completed and Project Troy was launched.
In early 2007, Hurtubise made public his new protective suit which was designed to be worn by soldiers. Calling it the "Trojan", Hurtubise describes it as the "first ballistic, full exoskeleton body suit of armour." Weighing in at 50 lbs, he claims that the suit can withstand bullets from high powered weapons (including an elephant gun). Hurtubise claims that he has been unable to test the suit against live ammunition because no one is willing to shoot him in it.
The suit has many features including a solar powered air system, recording device, compartments for emergency morphine and salt, and a knife and gun holster. He estimates that the cost of each suit to be roughly $2,000 if mass produced. It has been called the Halo suit, after the fictional MJOLNIR battle armor the Master Chief character wears in the Xbox game.
In early February, after failing to receive any offers to buy the Trojan, Hurtubise - now bankrupt from the expense of creating the suit - was forced to put the prototype up for auction on eBay in the hopes that it would bring in enough money to sustain his family. Unfortunately for Hurtubise, the auction's reserve bid was not met. There was a raffle for the suit on the Mission Trojan website, who's goal is to raise money for further prototypes and testing of the Trojan Suit to demonstrate its abilities for military applications"
Hurtubise has also invented "Firepaste: a white paste that, when dry, is flame and heat resistant. It has a consistency and texture similar to clay when wet, and dries to become like a gray ceramic that looks like concrete. One of Hurtubise's latest projects has been the creation of a new paste that he's called 1313 and believes could be put to good military use. It is a mixture of all his previous concoctions applied to a kevlar fiber pad and then subjected to high pressure for the period of a day in a press
Most recently, Hurtubise said he designed what he calls the Angel Light, a large device that he claims can allow people to see through objects, detect stealth aircraft, see into flesh, and disable electronic devices. Hurtubise says that the design for the Angel Light came to him in a series of three dreams, and that he was able to build a working device from memory, without the aid of schematics.
The Angel Light is tubular in shape, several feet long, and is constructed in three units. The light-"centrifuge" unit contains logic devices, black, white, red and fluorescent light sources, as well as seven industrial lasers. The "deflector grid" unit is made up of a large circular piece of optical glass, a microwave unit, and plasma combined with carbon dioxide. The third, unnamed unit contains eight plasma light rods, CO2 charges, industrial magnets, 108 mirrors, eight ionization cells, industrial lights, and a variety of other electronics.
According to Hurtubise, the device makes walls, hands, stealth shielding, and other objects transparent. He also claims that beams from the device have the side-effects of frying electronic devices and killing goldfish. After testing the device on his own hand, Hurtubise claims he could see his own blood vessels and muscle tissue as clearly as if the skin had been pulled back, but the beam caused numbness and he began to feel ill. He also claims to be able to read the license-plate on a car in his garage from his workshop, and can see the roadsalt on it.
Gary Dryfoos, a consultant and former long-time instructor at MIT, said "there's a Nobel Prize" for Hurtubise if the Angel Light really performs as described. "There are laws of physics waiting to be written for what he's talking about,
Friday, December 7, 2007
The Green children of Woolpit were two strange children who reportedly appeared in the village of Woolpit in Suffolk, United Kingdom, in the 12th century. Accounts are given in the chronicles of Ralph of Coggeshall and William of Newburgh.
The children were brother and sister. Though of normal appearance in other respects, their skin was coloured green, and they spoke a strange language. Initially they refused to eat, though they did eat pitch from bean pods and eventually got used to bread. Their skin also lost its green colour after some time.
When they learned English, they explained that they came from the 'Land of St Martin', which was dimly lit because the sun never rose far above the horizon. One day, while tending their father's herd, they heard the faraway sound of bells.They crossed a "river of light" and found themselves in Woolpit.
After some time the boy, who had always appeared sickly, died. The girl went to work in the local manor house, and later married a man from King's Lynn.
One modern theory has it that the mysterious Land of St Martin was merely the village of Fornham St Martin, approximately eight miles away (but further than many villagers would have travelled). The children's accent or dialect may have been sufficiently different as to be unrecognisable, but given the fact there is a common market at Bury St Edmunds, and any reasonable route from Fornham St. Martin to Woolpit is likely to have passed through Bury St. Edmunds, this should be noted, but seems unlikely.
The faraway sounds of bells may have been from the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds. The children may have got lost in the woods for several weeks, and as a result of surviving on berries their skin turned greenish due to iron deficiency; this would explain why the colour returned to normal when they adopted a normal diet.
Another explanation, put forward by Paul Harris in 1998, is that they were possibly Flemish children whose parents had been killed in a period of civil strife. Eastern England had experienced Flemish immigration during the 12th Century, but after Henry II became king, the immigrants were persecuted. In 1173 many were killed near Bury St Edmunds not far from the Fornham villages. He also suggests the children may have been from the village of Fornham St. Martin where a settlement of Flemish fullers who would have access to a wide variety of dyes existed at the time in question. The children may have fled from their village and ultimately wandered to Woolpit. Disorientated, bewildered and dressed in unfamiliar Flemish costumes, they would certainly have presented a very strange spectacle to the Woolpit villagers.
The colour of the Green Children could be explained by "green sickness", the name once given to anaemia caused by dietary deficiency. Once given a proper diet of food their colour returned to normal. Given the possible Flemish origin of the Children, a green dye to help camouflage them during a time when Flemings were particularly unpopular seems just as likely.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Thats our lads..Dancing with Juliette Lewis for The Gap.
Daft Punk is a duo consisting of Paris house musicians Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (born February 8, 1974) and Thomas Bangalter (born January 3, 1975). The duo is considered one of the most successful electronic music collaborations of all time, both in album sales and in critical acclaim. After Daft Punk reached significant popularity in the late 1990s house movement in France, other artists such as Air, Cassius and Dimitri from Paris began to receive a similar amount of attention.
Daft Punk are noted for their use of visual components associated with their musical productions. The music videos for their singles from Homework featured memorable characters and placed emphasis on storytelling instead of musical performance. The album Discovery subsequently became the soundtrack to Interstella 5555. (see the above interview)
Their outward personae have also changed over time. During their Homework years, the duo would usually wear masks to hide their appearance. When not wearing disguises, they occasionally preferred to be replaced by animation (as they appeared in The Work of Director Michel Gondry DVD) or have their faces digitally obscured for press kits. Very few photos of the duo's faces exist, including a blurry one found in the Homework liner notes.
In their more visible Discovery years, they have appeared as futuristic robots for publicity photo shoots, interviews, live shows and music videos. These suits, engineered by Tony Gardner and Alterian, Inc., sport complicated helmets capable of various LED effects and metallic finger gloves. Daft Punk introduced the costumes to many U.S. television viewers through an advertisement for a special presentation of their videos during Cartoon Network's Toonami block. Thomas Bangalter once stated, "We did not choose to become robots. There was an accident in our studio. We were working on our sampler, and at exactly 9:09 a.m. on September 9, 1999, it exploded. When we regained consciousness, we discovered that we had become robots.
During a video interview shot in Japan, Daft Punk stated that they donned their robot masks to easily merge the characteristics of humans and machines. However, Bangalter later admitted that the costumes were initially the result of shyness. "But then it became exciting from the audiences' point of view. It's the idea of being an average guy with some kind of superpower." When asked on whether the duo expressed themselves differently within the robotic suits, Bangalter stated "No, we don't need to. It's not about having inhibitions. It's more like an advanced version of glam, where it's definitely not you." With the release of Human After All, the musical duo's outfits became slightly less complicated, consisting of simplified versions of the Discovery head gear and dark leather jumpsuits. The latter were designed by Hedi Slimane.
During he filming and promotion of Daft Punk's Electroma, the duo went to great lengths to avoid showing their faces. While on the tset of the film, the duo chose to be interviewed with their backs turned. As reported on October 2006, the band went as far as to wear black cloth over their heads during a televised interview.
It is believed that the mystery of their identity and the elaborate nature of their disguises has added to their popularity. The iconic status of the robotic costumes has been compared to the makeup of KISS and the leather jacket worn by Iggy Pop. Bangalter stated, "The mask gets very hot, but after wearing it as long as I have, I am used to it....
The Lone Gunmen were a trio of fictional characters who had recurring roles on The X-Files and also starred in a short-lived spin-off, also called The Lone Gunmen. The name was derived from the lone gunman theory.
Described as counterculture patriots, they were ardent conspiracy theorists, government watchdogs, and computer hackers who frequently assisted central X-Files characters Mulder and Scully, though they sometimes had their own adventures. The Lone Gunmen authored a news publication called The Magic Bullet Newsletter (a pejorative reference to the single bullet theory and, like the group's name, a reference to the Kennedy assassination), later renamed The Lone Gunman, of which Mulder was a loyal subscriber. None of them had day jobs; they relied on financial backers who believed in their cause, and what revenue the subscriptions to their paper generated. They shared a loft apartment (where they also worked) and used a 1970 VW Transporter (minibus) to commute.
Melvin Frohike (Tom Braidwood) was a former '60s radical and the oldest of the three. Though a skilled computer hacker, Frohike was primarily the photography specialist for the newsletter. Frohike had a lascivious attitude toward women and secretly coveted Mulder's collection of pornographic videos. However, he had a more purely romantic attitude towards Dana Scully; when she was gravely ill, Frohike appeared at the hospital in a tux carrying a flower. His unique sense of fashion made him stand out: leather jackets, furry vests, combat boots, fingerless gloves, etc. Frohike considered himself the "action man" of the trio and would often be seen doing very intense stunts (many rigged to look more impressive than they really were). Despite his childish scraps with Langly and others, Frohike's age and experience gave him a kind of quiet wisdom that occasionally surfaced when he consoled his friends about the sorry nature of their lives. In the episode "Tango de los Pistoleros," Frohike was revealed to be a former tango champion who danced under the stage name "El Lobo."
John Fitzgerald Byers (Bruce Harwood) was once a menial office worker for the FCC. He was a conservative dresser with a neatly trimmed beard, a stark contrast to his grungier comrades. He is known for the famous line, "That's what we like about you, Mulder. Your ideas are even weirder than ours." He was born on November 22, 1963, the same day that President Kennedy died. His parents named him after the fallen president. His name would have been Bertram otherwise. Byers was the most "normal" of the three, and while Frohike and Langly were seemingly born angry misfits, Byers dreamed of a quiet, uneventful, suburban life. Byers' father was a high-ranking government official, but they never saw eye to eye and when Byers' father appears in the Lone Gunmen pilot, the two hadn't spoken for some time.
Richard Langly (Dean Haglund) was the most confrontational and socially immature of the three. He was a big fan of The Ramones and enjoyed critiquing the scientific inaccuracies of the short-lived sci-fi series Earth 2, and he had a long-running competition with Frohike over who was a better computer hacker. He also had "a philosophical aversion to having his image bounced off a satellite." His nickname was "Ringo". Langly was a Dungeons and Dragons player (as 'Lord Manhammer') and enjoyed violent videogames like Quake.
The debut of the show in March of 2001, began with Byers' father faking his death to uncover a conspiracy to hijack an airliner. The lone gunmen try to get to the truth of his supposed death and uncover the conspiracy.
One retrospectively interesting aspect of this pilot episode is that the airliner has been hijacked (via remote control of the plane's autopilot) and by the end both Byers and his father have boarded the plane to try to stop the hijacking. Through the aid of the other Gunmen, they are able to regain control of the plane and just miss crashing into the World Trade Center with the airliner. This of course is before the actual attack against the Trade Centers later that year.
- or maybe that's just what they WANTED you to think.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Some suggest that uncertainty in gender is more common than not, and point to those who are more prominent as being simply the tip of the iceberg. Viewpoints aside, the fact that many to this day are arbitrarily given one gender over the other shortly after birth - doctors instigating selective surgery often without consulting the parents, and certainly not the little maybe-boy, maybe-girl, is a given. Still others, the great Kate Borstein inclusive, suggest a third gender: that those who feel ... literally, that they are not on the outside what they are on the inside becoming a combination of the two.
But this column isn’t necessarily about the current state of gender issues - rather this is a little trip down history lane to visit two of my favorite people who took their issues around gender to glorious - and sometimes surreal - extremes. It’s easy to forget in these (sarcastic) accepting times, that gender wasn’t the movable feast it is today. Back only a few decades ago only women wore earrings, only men wore pants, only women had long hair, only men had short hair. Roles were carved in cultural stone and heaven help anyone who tried to chip their own niche.
But then we had the Chevalier d’Eon Beaumont. Born in Burgundy in 1728, the Chevalier started life out as a bouncing baby ... well, suffice to say that this unusual person bounced quite a bit, even starting out life as being baptized as both Charles as well as Genevieve. In a time when women were women and men were men (both wore wigs), the Chevalier was extraordinary from the get-go.
Even more so because the Chevalier was a spy. In 1755 this surreal agent of the French was sent to St. Petersberg where the Chevalier was thoroughly integrated into the court of the Empress of Russia - as a woman. Remaining there for many years while shuttling secrets to the French government, the Chevalier eventually traveled to England - as a woman, but this time without a choice in the matter as the French found it uncomfortable that their agent could switch back and forth between genders so easily.
While in England, the Chevalier made some great friends - many, in fact of the notorious Amorous Knights of Wycomb (sometimes erroneously called the Hellfile Club). There a wager was drawn up to decide - more for the Brothers of the club than the Chevalier - to decide once and for all: Charles or Genevieve? Examined by a gaggle of high-born ladies, the verdict took some time - way too long in fact (a time frame that begs for a wild, wild smut story) - but eventually these curious women came back with the finding of ... ‘doubtful.’
Not one to let sleeping genders lie, six years later a second examination was held - over a lawsuit of all things (a court case that must have been something else to witness) - and the verdict was female, and so ‘Genevieve’ had to remain in skirts and corsets.
You’d think that the law would have ultimate say in the case of the Chevalier - but it’s a delightful conclusion to this extremely flexible life, that after he’d passed away in 1810 he was buried in St. Pancras ... as a male. The doctor, in fact, who made the examination proclaiming: “ - without a doubt a male person.”
If these learned people couldn't make up their minds, how could the Chevalier be expected to?
My other favorite gender-player is one who while more certain (at least by those who examined him after his passing) in the area of genitalia still managed to affect a brilliant transformation. For most of those who knew the legendary jazz musician Billy Tipton the question of what was between his legs seemed never to be in question - but was nevertheless a complete surprise after he'd passed away at 74.
Cross-dressing is extraordinarily common, in a variety of degrees, and history is rife with those who have played one gender or another - sometimes towards criminal ends (like the 'woman' who defrauded a kind-hearted Mormon man into marrying him) but more often simply out of a deep-seated need to feel closer to their preferred gender. But makes Billy so unique though isn't just the fact that he had female anatomy, but that he'd managed to keep this a secret from so many friends - and wives.
Not even several of these wives (Billy had five) ever thought of him in any way except as a very masculine, adoring husband and even (through adoption) a father. In fact, his children, too, were similarly shocked to discover their father's unusual secret.
Much has been made of the fact that all five of his wives never suspected a thing: were they so accepting, so clueless, or did they know the secret as well and kept it for the sake of Billy's self-image? Yet the fact when the great jazz-man passed away he left not just a few stunned friends, wives, children and admirers - for Billy was born a woman.
What we know of Billy, in hindsight, definitely lends towards thinking "how could you NOT be suspect?" Billy carefully guarded his privacy, never bathed or disrobed (or so we are told) in front of anyone, and even in bed kept himself partially clothed - more than likely making his use of a penile prosthesis. In his very early years, Billy was more open about being a cross-dresser, but as time went on he developed more and more of his male persona - eventually submerging his female self so deep that only he knew about it.
In later years Billy in fact turned away from what could have been a very successful gig to become a lowly booking agent - a decision that many have pondered as being safer than being in the spotlight and being discovered. About this time, Billy's fears of discovery and his seeming need to model himself into what could be called an 'ideal' male image appear to have pushed him into a model of domesticity. His fifth wife and he lived a suburban dream life void of sex - and thus keeping Billy's secret just that. Adopting three boys, they tried to make this idyllic life work - but, alas, their marriage couldn't stand the strain and Billy and boys left to live in near-poverty conditions. Eventually the boys left as well, and Billy - in a sad end to what must have been a frustrating life - died rather than seeing a doctor who could have revealed his secret. It was only after he did pass away - at 74 - that the world, as well as Billy's friends, wives, and children learned of the secret that he'd kept for so many years.
If there's a point to these two extremes, it could be that if you have the ability to touch yourself and say, "I am a (fill in the blank)" then you might be able to call yourself fortunate - or, in the case of these two extraordinary individuals - you might call yourself limited ... 'just' what your holding in your hand, when you could also be something much, much more than that.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Since we're already touched on The Elf With a Gun and The Headmen it doesn't seem fair not to also mention the run of Marvel's Defenders written by David Anthony Kraft with titles, characters and themes inspired by Blue Oyster Cult:
For info on other Blue Oyster Cult comic appearances click here. For fantastic info on everything Marvel go to The Appendix of the Marvel Universe.
Friday, November 23, 2007
From the fifties web:
Way back in 1925 young Allan Odell pitched this great sales idea to his father, Clinton. Use small, wooden roadside signs to pitch their product, Burma-Shave, a brushless shaving cream. Dad wasn't wild about the idea but eventually gave Allan $200 to give it a try.
Didn't take long for sales to soar. Soon Allan and his brother Leonard were putting up signs all over the dang place. At first the signs were pure sales pitch but as the years passed they found their sense of humor extending to safety tips and pure fun. And some good old-fashioned down home wisdom.
At their height of popularity there were 7,000 Burma-Shave signs stretching across America. The familiar white on red signs, grouped by four, fives and sixes, were as much a part of a family trip as irritating your kid brother in the back seat of the car. You'd read first one, then another, anticpating the punch line on number five and the familiar Burma-Shave on the sixth.
The signs cheered us during the Depression and the dark days of World War II. But things began to change in the late Fifties. Cars got faster and superhighways got built to accomodate them. The fun little signs were being replaced by huge, unsightly billboards.
1963 was the last year for new Burma Shave signs. No more red and white nuggets of roadside wisdom to ease the journey.
LJK Setright, who died on September 7 aged 74, was Britain's best-known and most eloquent motoring journalist and author, famous in an era before car experts could win easy notoriety on TV; he was "discovered" by a loyal readership within a year or two of taking up writing as a career in the mid-1960s, and maintained his reputation for erudition, mixed with an air of mystery, until he died.
Setright's fame stemmed primarily from his deep love for automobiles and engineering, about which he wrote most consistently and for longest in the monthly magazine Car. He was mostly self-taught on engineering subjects, but his erudition allowed him to meet the motor industry's best engineers on equal terms. It also enabled him to explain complicated concepts to his readers with a rare clarity. The same insights gave him the confidence to be a trenchant commentator who loved voicing provocative (but always elaborately argued) opinions - though nothing he ever wrote put his innate love for cars, motorcycles and their engineering in the slightest doubt.
Most of all, Setright was well-known for his lyrical, ornate and sometimes high-flown writing style, which bore no similarity to anything else written on such subjects. Readers loved or hated Setright's writing, but were rarely unmoved by it. Publishers became used to the fact that it was he who generated the most correspondence. Setright's editors generally loved his contributions, which were always delivered free of any kind of blemish, and written exactly to length. Much of the time, he even wrote copy in the measure of the publication for which it was intended, so that it arrived line-perfect as well.
Though fearless about voicing his frequently controversial opinions, at the core Setright was a private man who rarely volunteered much detail about his own life and activities. And although he greatly enjoyed communicating with readers en masse, he offered no one the slightest hope of individual contact. "It cannot be too widely known," he used to say, "that Setright does not indulge in correspondence." He was pleased to know that his opinions would be discussed, but was content that the discussion should proceed without him.
Leonard John Kensell Setright (friends called him Leonard, but he was always 'LJKS' in print) was born in London on August 10 1931, to Australian parents who had settled there. His father was an inventor and engineer, who eventually founded a family light engineering business that produced, among other things, the Setright ticket dispensing machine, famously used by British bus conductors until well into the 1970s.
Leonard went to grammar school at Palmer's Green, but lost his father at 11, perhaps one reason why he did not train in engineering, but read Law at London University instead.
He enjoyed his studies but hated practising law; so, after doing his national service in the RAF (when poor eyesight prevented his becoming a pilot, he became an air traffic controller instead), Setright turned to writing for a living. His first articles were on general engineering subjects and he was instantly successful, but his national notoriety began when he became a star writer at Car in the mid-1960s, and it never waned. Those who worked with Setright became used to answering the same question from readers: "What's LJK Setright really like?"
Setright's interests ranged far wider than automotive subjects and engineering. Having studied music as a child, he became expert on the clarinet as a band member in the RAF, and played it all his life. Fellow journalists remember him producing his instrument at the launch of a BMW model in France in the 1970s, and striking up with a jazz band. He was a fine singer, and a founder member of the Philharmonia Chorus (one treasured memory was a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, under Otto Klemperer).
He was a dedicated student of the Jewish religion, which he followed all his life. His wide residual knowledge of everything that moved - aeroplanes, locomotives, motorcycles - was used to produce several dozen books, all on technical subjects but packed with intriguing narrative and challenging opinion.
Those who knew Setright well enjoyed his eccentricities, such as his life-long love of Bristol cars, a rare and idiosyncratic marque which has its roots in the long-defunct British aircraft industry. He detested speed limits and drove notoriously fast, frightening his passengers, but seldom had accidents. He hated diesel trucks and cars, not least for the "filth" they dropped on the roads, endangering motorcyclists, and he also disliked environmental fads.
He enjoyed dressing well, and had a particular penchant for being photographed for some new column or feature. He was vocal on the advantages of old age and shamelessly enjoyed smoking, always Sobranie Black Russian cigarettes, taking a fatalistic stance about any effect they might have on his health.
He particularly loved the high engineering values of Honda, and drove a venerable Prelude Coupe until he died. He liked most motorcycles, too, going about on a large, six-cylinder Honda until severely injured in an accident (which was not his fault).
He peppered his writing with classical allusions, or quotations in Latin or Greek. He once wrote in blank verse about a Citroen. And when, quite recently, the editor of one of Britain's best-known magazines suggested he "tone down" these flights of fancy to suit a more modern audience, his response was to submit a column entirely in Latin (before offering a translation a day later). Blessed with a brilliant memory, Setright never needed to take notes.
LJK Setright's first marriage, which ended in the mid-1970s, produced two daughters. He is survived by his children and by Helen, his second wife, whom he married late in life.
Cafe Racer Society has been huge fun theses past few years - with over 240 hopefully informative (or at least interesting) posts. But with the impending sale of my vintage Cafe Racer after four years of fun I feel its time for something new...
The New Cafe Racer Society will focus more on the motorcycle in art, design, culture, film and the future,...and less an attempt to be all things cafe racer and the nuts and bolts of bikes.
I have transferd some of my favorite postings onto the new site and will for a while and at the end of November when I will delete the blog after that.
Monday, November 19, 2007
When it's a hoax.
On December 28, 1917, a parodical article titled “A Neglected Anniversary” by H. L. Mencken was published in the New York Evening Mail. It claimed that the bathtub had been introduced into the United States as recently as 1842 and in England as late as 1828. The article went on to describe how the introduction of the bathtub initially was greatly discussed and opposed, until President Millard Fillmore had a bathtub installed in the White House in 1850, making the invention more broadly acceptable.
The whole article was entirely false, but was widely quoted as fact years later, even until the present day. In 1949 Mencken wrote:
The success of this idle hoax, done in time of war, when more serious writing was impossible, vastly astonished me. It was taken gravely by a great many other newspapers, and presently made its way into medical literature and into standard reference books. It had, of course, no truth in it whatsoever, and I more than once confessed publicly that it was only a jocosity... Scarcely a month goes by that I do not find the substance of it reprinted, not as foolishness but as fact, and not only in newspapers but in official documents and other works of the highest pretensions.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
The Schmidt Sting Pain Index or The Justin O. Schmidt Pain Index is a pain scale rating the relative pain caused by different Hymenopteran stings. It is mainly the work of Justin O. Schmidt, an entomologist at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center. Schmidt has published a number of papers on the subject and claims to have been stung by the majority of stinging Hymenoptera.
His original paper in 1984 was an attempt to systematise and compare the hemolytic properties of insect venoms. The index contained in the paper started from 0 for stings that are completely ineffective against humans, progressed through 2, a familiar pain such as a common bee or wasp sting, and finished at 4 for the most painful stings. In the conclusion, some descriptions of the most painful examples were given, e.g.: "Paraponera clavata stings induced immediate, excruciating pain and numbness to pencil-point pressure, as well as trembling in the form of a totally uncontrollable urge to shake the affected part."
Subsequently, Schmidt has refined his scale, culminating in a paper published in 1990 which classifies the stings of 78 species and 41 genera of Hymenoptera. Notably, Schmidt described some of the experiences in vivid and colorful detail:
- 1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
- 1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet & reaching for the light switch.
- 1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
- 2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
- 2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
- 2.x Honey bee and European hornet: Like a matchhead that flips off and burns on your skin.
- 3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.
- 3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic & burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
- 4.0 Pepsis wasp: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath (if you get stung by one you might as well lie down and scream).
- 4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.
Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Graffiti Research Lab, founded by Evan Roth and James Powderly the Eyebeam OpenLab, is an art group dedicated to outfitting graffiti writers, artists and protesters with open source technologies for urban communication. The members of the group experiment in a lab and in the field to develop and test a range of experimental technologies. They document those efforts with video documentation and DIY instructions for each project and make it available for everybody.