Monday, October 29, 2007

The train with eyes...

I found this surreal gem while virtual window shopping for Bullet train models. Sadly after much googling I still virtually know nothing about set of rural electric railway cars in Japan, except for the fact they run on the small Kakogawa Line.
For those who are like me-and lets be honest, thats a very small number- who must have one of your own, you can have a table top model of the train with eyes from all things tiny Japanese railway -Newhallstation.

N scale Series 103 "Train with Eyes" Kakogawa Line - 2 Cars Set. A snip at $199.99..please note: this is a pathetic attempt at a holliday gift suggestion.

Food: the water caltrop.

{ Cal"trop (?), Cal"trap (?), } n. [OE. calketrappe, calletrappe, caltor (in both senses), fr. AS. collræppe, calcetreppe, sort of thistle; cf. F. chaussetrape star thistle, trap, It. calcatreppo, calcatreppolo, star thistle. Perh. from L. calx heel + the same word as E. trap. See 1st Trap.] 1. (Bot.) A genus of herbaceous plants (Tribulus) of the order Zygophylleæ, having a hard several- celled fruit, armed with stout spines, and resembling the military instrument of the same name. The species grow in warm countries, and are often very annoying to cattle.

2. (Mil.) An instrument with four iron points, so disposed that, any three of them being on the ground, the other projects upward. They are scattered on the ground where an enemy's cavalry are to pass, to impede their progress by endangering the horses' fee

From Waynes world noteworthy plants.

"This strange, horny pod that was presented to Professor Armstrong by a summer biology student. This bizarre horny fruit (not the student) has two prominent, downcurved horns and superficially resembles the head of a bull. The fruit body has a woody, sculptured surface that resembles a face. To some people the entire structure resembles a bat, especially if they are slightly delirious. It comes from an oriental aquatic plant often called "water chestnut" (Trapa bicornis). [Note: This plant is not to be confused with the crunchy, tuberous roots of a vegetable called water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) commonly served in Chinese restaurants.] Other common names for this plant include "water caltrop" and the Chinese name of "ling kio" or "ling chio." It belongs to the water-caltrop family (Trapaceae) and includes the single genus (Trapa) with several closely-related species. The generic name Trapa is derived from calcitrappa, Latin name of the caltrop, in reference to the peculiar, horned fruits. During medieval times, a vicious weapon called a caltrop was used in European warfare. This was an iron device with four points so designed that one was always facing upward, whichever way it landed, to impale the hooves of enemy cavalry horses. A similar device was also used in World War II to destroy truck tires on enemy supply convoys. Actually, the widespread and more commonly-known water caltrop (Trapa natans) has a four-pronged fruit that more closely resembles the caltrop. The fruits of puncture vine also resemble a caltrop, especially when they impale your bicycle tires. In fact, this ubiquitous weed belongs to another unrelated plant family called the caltrop family (Zygophyllaceae).

Water caltrop plants are anchored to the bottom of lakes and ponds, and send to the surface a slender stem with a rosette of floating leaves. Like water hyacinths, the leaf stalks are inflated with air and are very buoyant. Solitary flowers are produced in the leaf axils followed by the strange horny fruits. Under the tough outer wall, the fruit contains a pulpy seed rich in starch. The fruits can be roasted or boiled like true chestnuts of the eastern United States. They are delicious sauteed with rice and vegetables. According to Joy Larkcom ("Oriental Vegetables," 1991), they contain toxins and should not be eaten raw. Seeds of some species are preserved in honey and sugar, candied, or ground into flour for making bread. In Italy Trapa natans is the main ingredient of a famous risotto (rice cooked in meat stock with shallots and butter). The unusual, bullhead pods of Trapa bicornis sometimes float down rivers and into the ocean where they occasionally drift ashore on Asian beaches. Local people make ingenious necklaces from the pods and sell them to tourists. With a backing attached to your lapel, they actually make a nice little emblem to wear on special occasions, or an attractive slide for a bolo tie."

Thats a joke son....

I say, I say , I'm just sucking air son-Senator Claghorn

"Senator Beauregard Claghorn was a popular radio character on the "Allen's Alley" segment of The Fred Allen Show beginning in 1945. Succeeding the vaguely similar but not nearly as popular Senator Bloat from the earliest "Allen's Alley" routines, Senator Claghorn---portrayed by Allen's announcer, Kenny Delmar---was a blustery Southern politician whose home was usually the first at which Allen would knock. Claghorn would typically answer the door with, "Somebody, ah say, somebody knocked! Claghorn's the name, Senator Claghorn, that is. I'm from the south."

Claghorn had an unshakable obsession with the South, and would proudly voice his disdain for the north in humorous ways. For instance, the Senator refused to ever wear a "Union suit", or to drive through the Lincoln Tunnel when he visited New York for example, or claim to drink only out of Dixie cups. The Senator even rebuked Allen for saying the word "no" in his presence, saying "N-O.. That's North abbreviated!!"
When Allen was finally able to get a word in edgewise on the Senator, he would ask him a topical question, to which Claghorn would respond with a rapid stream of talk, shouting, repetition, and punnery. After a quip, the senator would laugh uproariously, and utter one of his two catchphrases: "That's a joke, son!" or "Pay attention now, boy!"

That's not a chicken-thats just a loudmouthed schnook-Foghorn Leghorn

Foghorn Leghorn is the name of a character appearing in numerous Warner Brothers animated cartoons, especially Looney Tunes. He is an obnoxious, lazy, and large adult rooster with a and very familiar Southern accent..

Foghorn's voice was created by actor Mel Blanc, patterned after the character of Senator Claghorn. Leghorn used a number of Claghorn's catch phrases, like "That's a joke... I say, that's a joke, son." The references to Claghorn were obvious to much of the audience when the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons first premiered, they have since become dated and obvious at the time are know unknown...

Let the bells ring out and the banners fly, its too good to be true but i'm here-Eldrod the albino

Cerebus the Aardvark's Elrod the Albino (Elrod of Melvinbone) Is issentially Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone with the voice and personality of Senator Claghorn (or Foghorn Leghorn), Elrod is an almost purely comic character whose main purpose is to frustrate and enrage Cerebus. In Women it is revealed that he was created by Cerebus' proximity to a magic gem, and after learning this he vanishes from existence"

Friday, October 26, 2007

Some of Our Favorite .... Strangers: The Headmen

From Wikipedia:

The Headmen are a group of would-be masterminds who use magic, science, and surgery to gain superpowers. They fought the Defenders, She-Hulk, and Spider-Man on different occasions.

Defenders writer Steve Gerber formed the Headmen from 1950s anthological horror-story characters appearing in the reprint title Weird Wonder Tales #7 (Dec. 1974). That comic's five reprinted stories included the introduction of Dr. Arthur Nagan, the Gorilla-Man, from Mystery Tales #21 (art by Bob Powell); Chondu the Yogi, from Tales of Suspense #9 (art by George Evans); and Dr. Jerry Morgan, a.k.a. Shrunken Bones, from World of Fantasy #11 (art by Angelo Torres).

In The Defenders #32 (Feb. 1976), the Headmen were joined by Gerber's newly created Ruby Thursday (Thursday Rubinstein), who ran for President of the United States and was the instigator of the death of another Gerber creation, Omega the Unknown. In the same issue, Doctor Strange declared that Chondu's real name was Harvey Schlemerman, and Jack Norris, husband of the woman whose body was being used by Valkyrie, claimed to have seen him perform.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Welcome to Weirdsville: When a Hoax is a Hoax

Manhattan (shown not cut in half)

Back when I used to write a variety of columns on the weird and the wonderful, like the Welcome to Weirdsville posts that have been going up here on Meine Kleine Fabrik, I came across what I thought was perfect fodder: one conman + lots of gullible people + a wild story = trying to save the island of Manhattan from sinking by sawing it free, towing it out to sea, turning it around, then putting it back. It was good. Too good, in fact, because I've since learned that the story of this hoax was ... a hoax. So, for a few laughs at my own expense, here's the original piece and a few comments but more more reliable sources about what really happened. Enjoy!


It seemed such a logical thing-after all, this was the 1800s and construction, development, and industry were everywhere. The United States was exploding like a runaway locomotive. Why, it seemed like practically everyday something new was being invented; the world was full of engineering miracles, and it was all, more than a little, frightening.

It also seemed like every day that new projects-some almost insane in their complexity-were being started. This was the era of bridges, tall, taller, and tallest buildings, transatlantic cables, and bigger and bigger steam engines.

And so it made perfect sense that a kind of mechanical Tower of Babel was lurking right around the corner-God sneering down on those damned industrial Americans and their hubris. Something, a lot of people felt, had to happen. Things were just going too well.

Then came their answer, and it was so simple-and, even better, the solution played right into the attitude of the age. The disaster was immanent, Biblical in its proportions, and the solution almost as grand. Why, those taken by the idea believed it was just too perfect: a punishment for our engineering pride, solved by our own mechanical brilliance. Irony can be so captivating.

As can insanity ... or a well-laid hoax.

Whether or not he was insane or just a mischievous craftsman of great hoaxes is a matter of conjecture. While the incident he sparked continues to amaze us to this day, the facts surrounding its mastermind are frustratingly obscure. His name, we know, was Lozier, and in New York City of the early 1800s he was known for being a persuasive, if eccentric, orator. Spouting off on all manner of subjects from his soapbox in Centre Market, Lozier was mesmerizing-to a degree, in fact, that will astonish you.

One day he spoke of something that seemed to resonate with the people of Manhattan. Lozier spoke of the new buildings that seemed to spring like brick and mortar mushrooms overnight on their tiny island-down at the Battery in particular. One day he told a rapt group of Manhattanites something he'd observed while looking down from City Hall, something that had shocked him to the very core of his being. The Battery was sloping down hill.

The situation was obvious, at least for Lozier. Luckily for the possibly doomed citizens of that great island, he had a solution as audacious as the impending disaster.

Manhattan, he said, was sinking, methodically slipping under the waves of the bay. What was needed to be done, he put forth in all his zealous brilliance, was to get a massive workforce together and systematically, precisely cut the island in half.

Once freed of its submerging half, the rest of Manhattan could then be safely towed out to sea, turned about, and then reattached to better reinforce the imperiled island.

I'll wait while you either laugh, or shake your head in amazed disgust.

Ready? That was the plan-but what separated Lozier's plan from, say, the idea of beaming up to an alien spacecraft clinging to the ass-end of the Hale-Bop comet is what happened. Yes, Lozier preached his insane, ludicrous disaster to the citizens of New York. But what's truly insane, truly ludicrous is that the fine, intelligent, cultivated citizens of the Big Apple... believed him.

Over the next few days Lozier organized a massive workforce-over 300 men signing up to help the first day, alone. Burly and eager to save their precious island, these men recruited others who then perpetuated the mad scheme/hoax. Supplies, Lozier deduced, would be needed, and so he dispatched many to various suppliers all over the island. With no money or backing, he managed to acquire bids for the construction of a headquarters, chain (for the towing), the manufacture of the massive saws, boats, and even food and necessities for his workers.

The dangerous part, he explained, would be handled by a very select cadre of men-for these masterful workers would have to be placed under the island, to help guide the massive saws. Since this required them being underwater for a considerable amount of time, Mad (or devious) Lozier held auditions for these so-important positions with a stopwatch in his hand to make sure the candidates could hold their breaths for the necessary amount of time.

Finally, it was zero hour. Finally, it was time to rally his troops and begin the actual construction and implementation of his all-important scheme. Manhattan was in danger! Manhattan could-and would-be saved. On that fateful day, several thousand showed up at the selected location, eager and willing to save their island.

But no Lozier. No sign of him anywhere. Those thousands lingers for hours, puzzled and confused. Eventually, they drifted off, back into the hurl and the burl of their constantly growing island. Insane or with just an insane sense of humor, Lozier was never seen or heard from again.

However, it is important to note, in Lozier's defense, that a recent study conducted by the US Geologic Survey calculated that the island of Manhattan is sinking at approximately the rate of a half-inch per year. Whether or not the US government has any plans to halt the submersion of this all-important trade and cultural Mecca is not known-but it's at least comforting to know that there was someone, once before, who not only foresaw this problem, but also dreamt up an elegantly simple solution.


18th Century folks (not that gullible)

But here's the truth behind the myth:

What you just read was a hoax of a hoax. Several books about journalism history have retold the above story as fact. It originated in 1835. A business partner of the man named Lozier in the story claimed Lozier had told him the story much earlier. He related the story to his son and grandson many times over. the truth finally came out in the 1870's. The entire story was made up. Despite the truth coming out, many journalism history books continued to retell the story as being true well into the 1950's. Despite being lower educated, people living in New York in the early 1800's WERE NOT that gullible!
From Wikipedia:

The sawing off of Manhattan Island is an old New York City story that is largely unverified. It describes a practical joke allegedly perpetuated in 1824 by a retired ship carpenter named Lozier. According to the story, in the 1820s a rumor began circulating among city merchants that southern Manhattan Island was sinking near the Battery due to the weight of the urban district. It was believed that by cutting the island, towing it out, rotating it 180 degrees, and putting it back in place that Manhattan would be stabilized, and that the thin part of the island could be condemned. Surprisingly the main concern was not the futility of the idea but of Long Island being in the way. Lozier finally assembled a large workforce and logistical support. At a massive groundbreaking ceremony, Lozier did not show up but hid in Brooklyn and did not return for months.

The story did not appear in any known newspapers (although the press supposedly did not report on such pranks in that era) and no records have been found to confirm the existence of the individuals involved. This has led to speculation that the incident never occurred and that the original report of the hoax was itself a hoax. The hoax was first documented in Thomas F. De Voe's 1862 volume The Market Book, and was told again in Herbert Asbury's 1934 title All Around The Town. Another condensed retelling occurs in the 1960's Reader's Digest book, Scoundrels and Scallywags. The term has taken on new meaning since the 1980's when upstate New York entered a regional economic recession that it has yet to recover from. Many upstate residents joke or believe that New York City itself is a huge drain on the state's economic resources and ever increasing income and sales tax rate over the last several decades. Some believe that New York City should be a separate and distinct district, like Washington, D.C., and rely on its own economic and tax infrastructure while allowing the rest of the state to adjust its own accordingly to try to bring back jobs and businesses.

- and be sure and check out the absolute source for telling truth from fiction: Snopes.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Our Favorite Heroes: Jonny Quest

From Wikipedia:
Jonny Quest (or Jonathan T. Quest) is a ten- or eleven-year-old boy (his exact age is never stated in any of the show's episodes, though a 1964 ABC promotional trailer gives Jonny's age as eleven), the son of Dr. Benton Quest, "one of the three top scientists in the world," and apparently something of a Renaissance man; his scientific and technical know-how spans many fields. According to Jonny's file (read by government agent Corvin), his mother is dead (first episode, "Mystery of the Lizard Men").

Government fears that Jonny could "fall into the wrong hands" resulted in the assignment of a bodyguard, Roger "Race" Bannon, from Intelligence One. Bannon guards and tutors Jonny and Hadji. Hadji is Dr. Quest's adopted son, an eleven-year-old Indian boy (his age was stated in one of the show's episodes, "Pirates from Below") who is seldom seen without his bejewelled turban and Nehru jacket.

The Quests have a compound in the Florida Keys (on the island of Palm Key), but their adventures take them all over the world. Jonny's pet, a small white bulldog named Bandit, often provides comic relief although at least once ("Skull and Double Crossbones") he was instrumental in foiling the bad guys.

Dr. Quest travels the globe studying scientific mysteries, which get him into scrapes with foes that range from espionage robots and electrical monsters to Egyptian mummies and pterosaurs. Although most menaces were unique to the episode, one recurring nemesis is known as Dr. Zin, an Asian mastermind. Race Bannon's mysterious old flame, Jezebel Jade, also occasionally appears.

Tim Matheson performed the voice of Jonny. Mike Road was "Race" Bannon, Danny Bravo was Hadji, and Dr. Benton Quest was voiced by John Stephenson for five episodes, and by Don Messick for the remainder of the shows. Messick also provided Bandit's vocal effects, which were combined with an archived clip of an actual dog's barking. The voices of Dr. Zin and other assorted characters were done by Vic Perrin, who is best remembered as the "Control Voice" for the original The Outer Limits television series.

The memorable theme music for the 1960s series, a percussion-heavy big band "spy jazz" piece with no lyrics, was written by Hoyt Curtin. The character Hadji was noted as the first major non-white character to be presented as an equal, sympathetic participant in the stories in American television.

The Quest team. Front row (left to right): Dr. Benton Quest and "Race" Bannon.
Back row: Jonny Quest, Hadji, and Bandit.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Welcome to Weirdsville: The Revenge

You really can’t blame them. How many hundreds of years have we lured them with tasty morsels, only to have that first taste not be food but rather points of sharpened steel driving through their lips, their mouths. How many thousands of years have me thrown vast nets down into their domain, hauling them up to die, flopping and choking in the dry, toxic air? How many millennia have we spent butchering them in so many horrible ways -- but what is worse sometimes only for such frivolous reasons as lipstick, explosives, pet food, fertilizer, or even simply for sport?

Is it no wonder that some of their more brutal kin routinely take pieces out of us, digesting our illusory superiority as easily as they chew up simple cod? Their hungry warriors are frightening enough - vast, insatiable mouths ringed with shredding teeth - but these are grotesque caricatures of vengeance. Their real revenge is small and darting, a terror that strikes very close - too close - to what we consider precious.

Namely, our genitalia.

For now they have limited their field trials to a remote and rather inhospitable location, namely a certain large, winding stretch of water in South America, but rest assured that if their experiments are successful they will, no doubt, take their plan of horrific revenge to every corner of this water-soaked world. I firmly believe that after reading the following account of this devastating weapon being developed, you too will understand the danger we face, the terror possibly lurking within every body of water.

It is called vandellia cirrhosa, or more commonly by the residents of that distant location, the candirú. This rather small member of their species is nevertheless perfectly equipped for its horrendous mission. At only two to three inches in length, its size is ideal. Needle-sharp spines lay along its spine. Normally, this deceptive member of this passive-appearing species lives parasitically, by attaching itself to the gills of its larger brethren and draining off enough blood to sustain itself. It appears to be at first to be a simple, innocent member of that sinuous body of water. Appearances, as always, can be deceptive.

Its teeth are sharp, yes, and as stated those spines are very, very sharp, but it’s such a small little creature. How, you ask, can such a simple, humble organism be capable of feeling our great, proud world? How can this ridiculous ... FISH be so terrifying?

It is in the presence of homo sapiens that this tiny devil reveals its true purpose, its terrible function. You see, this strong, slimy little creature of the Amazon, without a doubt, is the most horrendous weapon ever devised by the coming aquatic rebellion.

We are a species governed more by sex than intellect, so how better but to strike at our most precious organ?

While reports at this time are sketchy, the aptitude and inclination of this tiny member of the Amazonian ecosystem cannot be denied. Lured by urine, this fish has the ability and the powerful inclination to seek out the source, to push its slimy, needle-sharp body up into the human body through the male or female urethra. Pause. Think. I repeat: “Lured by urine, this fish has the ability ... to push its slimy, needle-sharp ... up ... the male or female urethra.”

If you feel the need, you may now wince, moan, scream, or cup your hands around your favorite organs.

Once in place, this little piscine monster cannot easily be removed. The spines along its back face backwards, making any attempt to grab the rarely-exposed tail excruciating and irreparably damaging. If the beast should happen to squirm its way deep enough, the only recourse is immediate surgery to remove it. Without going into too much needless detail, suffice it to say that knives and (if available) large quantities of anesthetic are necessary. However, I propose that the shock and fear generated by the invasion of this aquatic horror would do much more damage that the long incisions needed to remove its ferocious body.

Please, I beg of you, heed this warning. Watch the oceans, and particularly watch the fish that appear to so innocently swim in it - and never, ever, pee in the pool.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Our favorite paintings: The Raft of the Medusa.

When painting the figures for the medusa it is rumored that Gericalt locked himself up with fresh cadavers posed as the dead or dying victims in of the tragedy in order to achive the perfect realisim of the colors and forms, and after the painting was complete he was never truely the same afterwards-it was simply all to much for one person (and artist) to take on.

"The Raft of the Medusa (French: Le Radeau de la Méduse) is a work by the French painter Théodore Géricault, and one of the icons of French Romanticism. An extremely large painting (491 × 717 cm), it was highly controversial at its first appearance in the Salon of 1819, attracting passionate praise and condemnation. The painting depicts the desperate survivors of the French frigate Medusa, which gained notoriety when it struck the Bank of Arguin off the coast of Senegal in 1816, and their first moment of apparent rescue.

The painting was a political statement – the incompetent captain was an inexperienced but politically sound anti-Bonapartist – and an artistic achievement that galvanized romantic painting and led to a break from the neoclassical style. The work was realized on the epic scale of a history painting, yet— and for the first time in France — it was based on a current news story. The unblemished musculature of the central figure, waving to the supposed rescue ship, is reminiscent of the neoclassical, but the painting is broadly romantic. The naturalism of light and shadow, authenticity of the haggard bodies, and emotional character of the composition, differentiate it from neoclassical austerity. The Raft of the Medusa was a further departure from earlier works because it depicted contemporary events with ordinary and unheroic figures, rather than religious or classical themes. However the ragged state of the figures' clothes means that the "unromantic" nature of modern dress was an issue that could be largely bypassed.

Impressed by accounts of the shipwreck, which had received huge publicity, the 25-year-old artist Théodore Géricault decided to make a painting based on the incident and contacted the authors of published accounts in 1818. In order to make his Raft of the Medusa as realistic as possible, Géricault made sketches of bodies in the morgue of the Hospital Beaujon. The painting depicts a moment recounted by one of the survivors: prior to their rescue, the passengers saw a ship on the horizon, which they tried to signal (it can be seen in the upper right of the painting). It disappeared, and in the words of one of the surviving crew members, "From the delirium of joy, we fell into profound dispondency [sic] and grief".The ship, the Argus, reappeared two hours later and rescued those who remained.

Géricault used friends as models, notably the painter Eugène Delacroix as the figure in the foreground with his face turned downward and arms outstretched.

A bronze bas-relief of the painting adorns Géricault's grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. The painting, urgently championed by the curator of the Louvre, comte de Forbin, was bought for the Louvre from Géricault's heirs after the artist's death in 1824."

Faster than a speeding bullet: The Shinkansen.

Oh so pretty: the classic O series Shinkansen

"The Shinkansen (新幹線?) is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan operated by Japan Railways. Since the initial Tōkaidō Shinkansen opened in 1964 running at 210 km/h (130 mph), the network (2,459 km or 1,528 miles) has expanded to link most major cities on the islands of Honshū and Kyūshū with running speeds of up to 300 km/h (188 mph), in an earthquake and typhoon prone environment. Test run speeds have been 443 km/h (275 mph) for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record of 581 km/h (361 mph) for maglev trainsets, in 2003.

Perhaps for christmas: the N-scale Tomix Shinkansen.

Shinkansen literally means "New Trunk Line" and hence strictly speaking refers only to the tracks, while the trains themselves are officially referred to as "Super Express" (超特急 chō-tokkyū?); however, this distinction is rarely made even in Japan. In contrast to older lines, Shinkansen are standard gauge, and use tunnels and viaducts to go through and over obstacles, rather than around them."
Japanese Manga hero Cyborg 009 (a.k.a Joe Shimura) races the local Shinkansen-and wins.

The popular English name bullet train is a literal translation of the Japanese term dangan ressha (弾丸列車), a nickname given to the project while it was initially being discussed in the 1930s. The name stuck due to the Shinkansen locomotive's resemblance to a bullet and its high speed.
The "Shinkansen" name was first formally used in 1940 for a proposed standard gauge passenger/freight line between Tokyo and Shimonoseki, using steam and electric locomotives with a top speed of 200 km/h. Over the next three years, the Ministry of Railways drew up more ambitious plans to extend the line to Beijing (through a tunnel to Korea) and even Singapore, and build connections to the Trans-Siberian Railway and other trunk lines in Asia. These plans were abandoned in 1943, as Japan's position in World War II worsened. However, some construction did commence on the line; several tunnels on the present-day Shinkansen date to the war-era project.
The Japanese Sonny Chiba film: "The Bullet Train" via its German Lobby card.
Existence as a Shinkansen train is tough; though most rail equipment has a service life of thirty or more years, Shinkansen sets are retired after fifteen, and they are generally removed from service after that point. All 0 series cars are now past fifteen years of service; therefore, few are left. The only 0 series sets now in use are 6 car sets used on JR West Kodama services between Shin-Osaka and Hakata, and on the Hakata Minami Line, which is technically not a Shinkansen line. Outside of Japan, the leading vehicle from a 0 series set can be found at the British National Railway Museum in York. It was donated to the museum by the JR West company in 2001.
During the Shinkansen's 40-odd year, 6 billion passenger history, there have been no passenger fatalities due to derailments or collisions (including earthquakes and typhoons). Injuries and a single fatality have been caused by doors closing on passengers or their belongings; attendants are employed at platforms to prevent this.

There have been suicides by passengers jumping both from and in front of moving trains.

Even perfection can have a bad day: Toki No. 325 has fallen and can't get up.

The only derailment of a Shinkansen train in passenger service occurred during the Chūetsu Earthquake on October 23, 2004. Eight of ten cars of the Toki No. 325 train on the Jōetsu Shinkansen derailed near Nagaoka Station in Nagaoka, Niigata. There were no casualties among the 154 passengers. [2]PDF (43.8 KiB) In the event of an earthquake, an earthquake detection system can bring the train to a stop very quickly. Experimental Fastech 360 trains have ear-like air resistance braking flaps to assist emergency stops at high speeds.

Nice kitty: The Fastech 360 perks its ears for the camera.
Noise pollution concerns mean that increasing speed is becoming more difficult. Current research is primarily aimed at reducing operational noise, particularly the "tunnel boom" phenomenon caused when trains exit tunnels at high speed.
JR East has announced that new trains capable of up to 320 km/h are to be introduced coinciding with the opening of the Tohoku Shinkansen extension from Hachinohe to Shin-Aomori in early 2011. Extensive trials using the Fastech 360 test trains has shown that operation at 360 km/h is not currently feasible due to problems of noise pollution, overhead wire wear, and braking distances. This may indicate the limits to railed Shinkansen technology, and eventually maglev or another technology will need to replace it. Operation at speeds of up to 320 km/h between Utsunomiya and Shin-Aomori is expected to allow journey times of around 3 hours for trains from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori (a distance of approximately 675 km)."
If I eat over three dozen child's bentos at my local sushi bar I get to keep the dish, I'm up to 13 as of today...a third of the way there, such is the depth of my devotion.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

One of Our Favorite Heroes ... sort of: Gorodish

Gorodish: Some get high on airplane glue... detergents... fancy gimmicks. My satori is this: Zen in the art of buttering bread!

One of our favorite films (to be featured later) is Jean-Jacques Beineix's pure 80's style (and substance) fest Diva. The film is wonderful on many levels not least of which is the auditory magnificence of Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez as the titular Diva Cynthia Hawkins.

But one of our favorite characters in Diva is Gorodish (played with pure Parisian cool by Richard Bohringer). One of the two main characters in Daniel Odier's book series (as Delacorta) - the other the perpetual Lolita of Alba - Gorodish is a existential con-man, crook, and sort-of hero who finds zen in the art of buttering bread, patiently assembles a giant jigsaw, and who creates and executes plans without lifting an eyebrow.

Did we also mention that he drives a Traction Avant?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Transportation in France during wartime

Not much is known about these grand French Illustrations, except they were printed during the occupation of France during the severe fuel (and food) shortages. Scanned from the Balland Book "Les Vehicles de l'occupation" that I picked up in a Paris bookstall yonks ago.

Water, Water Everywhere ... which makes it so damned funny

From Wikipedia:
Hellbrunn Castle (German: Schloss Hellbrunn) is an early Baroque castle, or palace, near Morzg, a southern district of the city of Salzburg, Austria, built in the early seventeenth century by Markus Sittikus von Hohenems, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. It was only meant for use as a day residence in summer, and the Archbishop usually returned to Salzburg in the evening. Therefore, there is no bedroom in Hellbrunn.

The castle is also famous for its watergames in the grounds which are a popular tourist attraction in the summer months. These games were conceived by Markus Sittikus, a man with a keen sense of humour, as a series of practical jokes to be performed on guests. Notable features include stone seats around a stone dining table through which a water conduit sprays water into the seat of the guests when the mechanism is activated. However, one seat lacks a conduit: that of the Archbishop. Other features are a mechanical, water-operated and music playing theatre built in 1750 showing various professions at work, a grotto and a crown being pushed up and down by a jet of water, symbolizing the rise and fall of power. It should be noted that at all of these games there is always a spot which is never wet: that where the Archbishop stood or sat, which is today occupied by the tour guide.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Movies You Haven't Seen But Should: The Monolith Monsters

From Wikipedia:
A meteor crashes near a small town in the American desert southwest. One of a pair of geologists finds a piece of it in a roadway and, not recognizing the mineral, takes it back to their laboratory to study. In the morning his partner finds the lab wrecked and the man himself petrified. It is eventually determined that the substance composing the meteor uses water as a catalyst. If wet it grows into black, crystal-like shafts which absorbs all available silica nearby, including from any animals or humans who come in contact with it. Once all silica is absorbed and grown to its fullest possible height, the shaft becomes dormant, but may easily totter and collapse, shattering into a legion of fragments, waiting to grow entire new shafts at the next contact with water. The original meteor has also shattered all about the area where it crashed. A local schoolgirl on a field trip takes a piece home and puts it in water ... her farmhouse is later found demolished, and the girl near death. She's rushed to the city and kept barely alive in an iron lung. The big problem for the town is a rain storm is on the way.... Our hero races time to find a treatment for the little girl and protect the town from the onslaught of the towering, destructive Monolith Monsters.
Monolith Monsters on INDB:
Martin Cochrane: The desert's full of things that don't belong. Take the salt here. Used to be an ocean bed. Now that ocean knew that the middle of a desert was a pretty silly place for it to be, so it just dried up and went away.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Just where the hell is Toad Hall anyways?

Lets go!..Toad Hall from the Southern Calif Disneyland ride Storybook Land.
"Mr. Toad, of Toad Hall, is one of the main characters in the novel The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Toad is portrayed as the village squire and a bit of a fop, being the wealthy occupant and owner of Toad Hall. Mr. Toad is very rich and thus able to indulge his impulsive desires, such as punting, house boating and hot air balloons, and his penchant for Harris tweed suits. He is, however, conceited, self-centred and lacking in basic common sense. His reckless interest in motor cars led to an episode in which he stole a motor car and subsequently crashed it. The result was brief spell in prison, from which he was to escape, dressed as a washer woman, to regain his family seat of Toad Hall from the clutches of the weasels."
Up for sale? Toad Hall, Uffington, Nr Stamford U.K.

Toad Hall: the Theme Cafe, Disneyland, Florida.

Toad Hall: the toad house..

..and the Toad Home

Toad Hall: the bed and breakfast Butte, Montana

and Port Stanley, Ontario Canada

Toad Hall: The Gallery and Restaurant, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Toad Hall: the womens clothing store, Truro, U.K.

Toad Hall: the Garden Centre, Henley-on-Thames, U.K.

Toad Hall: the racing Team

"The Toad- came- home!
There was panic in the parlours and howling in the halls,
There was crying in the cow-sheds and shrieking in the stalls,
When the Toad- came- home!
When the Toad- came- home!
There was smashing in of window and crashing in of door,
There was chivvying of weasels that fainted on the floor,
When the Toad- came home!
Bang! go the drums!
The trumpeters are tooting and the soldiers are saluting,
And the cannon they are shooting and the motor-cars are hooting,
As the- Hero- comes!
Shout- Hoo-ray!
And let each one of the crowd try and shout it very loud,
In honour of an animal of whom you’re justly proud,
For it’s Toad’s- great- day!"

Our Favorite comics: a visigoth explains himself.

Frequently Felt*

*Old Hat: 1800's slang for a woman's privities, as they were frequently felt

As meine kleine fabrik has (through design or coincidence) been pretty much SFW a spin-off has been spun off to accommodate the perversely weird and the fetishasticly strange: frequently felt. Check it out when you get home from your 925.

Parkour: See It In Action

Friday, October 5, 2007

The perfect movement: Parkour


"Parkour (sometimes abbreviated to PK) or l'art du déplacement (English: the art of displacement) is an activity with the aim of moving from one point to another as efficiently and quickly as possible, using principally the abilities of the human body.It is meant to help one overcome obstacles, which can be anything in the surrounding environment — from branches and rocks to rails and concrete walls — and can be practiced in both rural and urban areas. Male parkour practitioners are recognized as traceurs and female as traceuses.

Founded by David Belle in France, parkour focuses on practicing efficient movements to develop your body and mind to be able to overcome obstacles in an emergency. Also may be a form of entertainment or as a pastime.

Parkour is a physical activity which is difficult to categorize. It is not an extreme sport, but an art or discipline that resembles self-defense in the martial arts. According to David Belle, the physical aspect of parkour is getting over all the obstacles in your path as you would in an emergency. You want to move in such a way, with any movement, that will help you gain the most ground on someone/something as if escaping from it, or chasing toward it. Thus, when faced with a hostile confrontation with a person, one will be able to speak, fight, or flee. As martial arts are a form of training for the fight, parkour is a form of training for the flight. Because of its difficulty to categorize, it is often said that parkour is in its own category: "parkour is parkour."

An important characteristic of parkour is efficiency. A traceur moves not merely as fast as he can, but also in the least energy-consuming and most direct way possible. Efficiency also involves avoiding injuries, short and long-term, part of why parkour's unofficial motto is être et durer (to be and to last).

Parkour is also known to have an influence on practitioner's thought process. Traceurs and traceuses experience a change in their critical thinking skills to help them overcome physical and mental obstacles in everyday life"
Read the whole Wiki listing..and then go outside- run, jump, be free....

Will the world ever be ready for Eugene Tsui?

By Anh-Minh Le From The SFGate:

There is something terribly right about this man: Eugene Tsui

"Throughout his 30-year career, the Emeryville architect has put nature and the environment at the forefront of his designs - long before the words "green" and "eco-friendly" started popping up in every shelter magazine. Could it be his unusual designs will find a home in the green movement?

"In high school," he said, "I started asking, 'Why do buildings have to look the way they do? Why do we use the materials that we do?' It was a long, gradual process - thinking about how nature is the real teacher of architecture - and years of questioning, researching, developing ideas."

In 1981, he completed a home addition in Eugene, Ore., with a windmill system, rainwater-catching roof design and recycled wood beams.

In the mid-'90s, he gained national attention for the Berkeley house he devised for his parents. Its curved exterior, sweeping lines and bubbled windows stand out from the traditional, boxier homes on the street.

Although Tsui dubbed the dwelling Ojo del Sol (eye of the sun), it is commonly referred to as the Fish House. It was actually modeled after a tardigrade, an insect that Tsui has described as "the world's most indestructible living creature" - and he wanted his parents' house to be the most indestructible around. It was designed to withstand natural disasters, such as fire, flooding and an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or more, as well as more mundane problems, such as termites.

Neighbors vehemently opposed the 2,100-square-foot structure. Even a dozen years after its completion, Tsui still expresses surprise when recounting the screaming that marked the public hearings.

Tsui, 52, has run into similar hurdles across the bay. His portfolio includes two San Francisco projects - neither of which was approved.

"San Francisco is one of the most conservative, conventional cities that I've experienced," he said. "When it comes to residential architecture, there seems to be this desire to move backwards instead of forward.

"There's so much innovation in other fields, but not in architecture. Maybe people want to preserve what's familiar."

Down the Peninsula, the affluent town of Hillsborough has been a challenge as well. Hillsborough is already the home of one eye-catching home dubbed the Flintstone House. Tsui didn't design the Flintstone House - a domed, concrete home visible to drivers traveling north on Interstate 280 - but in 2004, he worked with its owner to design a second home on the property. He proposed a 1,200-square-foot residence that he described as "off the charts in terms of LEED certification," referring to the environmental rating system called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Solar panels are part of the design; metal spirals hide windmills that would produce additional electricity; and the cellar is designed to cool the house.

"At the time, the architectural review board was very much against it. They didn't think it was appropriate for Hillsborough," Tsui recalled. "Now, they are very much pushing for green buildings and ecological design. So there's a much better chance when we revisit the project."

Steven Schwartz, who recently completed a six-month internship with the Tsui Design and Research firm, said Tsui's work should not be judged on appearances. "But unfortunately, that is important to the people making decisions," he said.
Schwartz says Tsui "is idealistic about how city governments make decisions." "So in a proposal or decision to convince a bureaucracy or some sort of interested board, he would imagine that excellent design was sufficient, when, in fact, there's a lot of politics.

"Design review boards are not that forward-thinking aesthetic-wise. And Eugene won't compromise and make things more boxlike."

Dave Bayer of Oakland has firsthand experience with the obstacles that come with building a Tsui-designed home. He hired the architect to create a house on what he acknowledged is "a really hard lot to deal with." Narrow and long, his property is on a hill in an area that has the potential for a landslide. It is adjacent to a creek and an undeveloped part of a regional park.

Tsui described the proposed 2,500-square-foot residence as "sort of like an airplane fuselage. It's all one continuous, curved form." It would be predominantly concrete and steel on the bottom, wood and sheet metal on top.

"We raised the living portion of the house off the ground," Tsui said, "so it's a radical departure from most residential design. ... It has a very small footprint to not disturb the ecology of the site."

In the future our highways will be beautiful

Today, four years after Tsui and Bayer's initial meeting, construction has yet to begin. And with a budget that has quadrupled, Bayer isn't sure it ever will. He figures the odds are 50-50.

Mary Lou Babilonia worked with Tsui on her Alameda house, known as the House of Seven Boulders because of the enormous stones that grace the property. Although the boulders in the front yard raised eyebrows in the neighborhood when Tsui added them as a design element, the back is where Tsui made the biggest impact. "He opened up the whole house," Babilonia said. "We have a feeling of being right on the water now."

In designing an addition and overhauling the backyard, Tsui took full advantage of Babilonia's location along the Alameda Lagoon. Water from the lagoon is pumped into a backyard waterfall. A water slide feeds into the lagoon, making the house especially popular during the summer.

"It was fun because he is such an artist," Babilonia said. "He can get out of hand at times. But his visions, his ideas - no one else could think of these things.
"If we would have allowed him to do everything he wanted, it would have really been like, 'Wow.' "

Although Babilonia pushed back on some ideas, it was the contractors who had the most difficulty with Tsui's plans, she said. "He would say, 'OK, here are the designs. Do it.' They would get frustrated because they didn't know how to do it."
For example, Tsui wanted some boulders to straddle the indoors and outdoors to integrate the two areas. Glass windows would have to be cut to fit around the boulders and properly sealed. The contractors, however, were concerned about potential leaks, so the concept was nixed.

After flipping through Tsui's portfolio, one might expect to find the architect living in a futuristic house resembling something out of a sci-fi movie. In fact, he resides in an Emeryville condominium with his wife, Elisabeth Montgomery, and their 15-year-old daughter. The couple also have two sons, ages 31 and 28.

Nature, of course, played a key role in his interior design. "It was a significant challenge to create something that was faithful to my outlook and approach to architecture," Tsui said, referring to the restrictions of a condo.

Concentric circles on the ceiling start at the entrance and, Tsui said, and are "like ripples of a drop of water on a still pond, expanding outwards through a series of glass doors that open onto an 84-foot-long terrace overlooking the Emeryville Marina and the San Francisco Bay."

The light fixtures, which he fashioned himself out of transparent paper, are reminiscent of floating clouds. Tsui also designs clothes and pottery.

Mr and Ms Aquaman your house is ready..

With his eco-conscious approach to architecture, Tsui finds himself in high demand these days. Next week he will participate in two panels at the West Coast Green conference.

Next year, he hopes to start construction of his Telos School and Design Laboratory in Mount Shasta and is in conversation with the College of the Siskiyous (near Mount Shasta). Tsui, who attended the University of Oregon, Columbia University and UC Berkeley, envisions a hands-on approach to teaching architecture. Students would participate in every step of the building process, including presenting to review boards and planning committees. They would also learn to design with minimal destruction to the site and explore sustainable building ideas.

Tsui views the school as a natural progression of his internship program. Over the past 16 years, his firm has accepted more than 300 interns from all around the world.

Schwartz, the former intern, knows that much can be learned from Tsui and his experiences. "It's not simply his aesthetic that distinguishes him," he said. "It's his way of looking at things and approaching problems."

Schwartz points to Tsui's proposed Straits of Gibraltar Floating Bridge. Yes, this is a proposed bridge for the Strait of Gibraltar, which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. The bridge, which Tsui was inspired to design without being commissioned, would connect Europe and Africa. In Tsui's design, a pair of tubes - one on each side of a Tsui-designed floating island - would include 24 lanes for car traffic, six lanes for trains and five lanes for bikes, pedestrians and even camels. But the bridge would be more than just a way of getting from Point A to Point B. Tsui's plan calls for gardens, performance areas, theaters, waterfalls, fountains, feeding troughs for animals, marinas, vendor kiosks and electricity farms.

"In a lot of ways, he was and is ahead of his time," Schwartz said. "He looks at things as systems - as organisms, almost. The green design wave that is currently catching fire still hasn't shifted the way people think of houses as objects and boxes as much as it should."

Tsui concurs. "Although the green architecture and design movement that's going on is encouraging, it doesn't go far enough," he said. "We may be using different materials - green materials - but we're applying them to the same box. The buildings are still ugly and still uniform.

"The structure itself isn't affected by the movement. It will still fall down in an earthquake, float away during a flood, get crushed by a tsunami."

He advocates more design that is influenced by nature: "We don't move in straight angles. We move in curves and arcs. Buildings should follow that form."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Welcome to Weirdsville: Sweet, Sweet Death

"Tell me, what was 15 feet high, moved at 35 miles-per-hour, and killed 21 people in 1919?"

"I don't know, Mr. Bones, what WAS 16 feet high, moved at 35 miles-per-hour, and killed 21 people in 1919?"

"Well, before I tell ya, I'm going to first have to tell you about the sweet brown liquor called rum."

Not to blow the surprise, but if you happen to live in Boston, your parents and grandparents have probably already spoken, with hushed seriousness, of this certain day (January 15, 1919) though you may have replied, "Right, sure -"

Liquor has always been a big cash cow. It is with no exaggeration that businessmen have said that you can't go broke investing in sin, and an almost guarantee big seller has always been alcohol. Cheap materials, easy to produce, high profit margin, and with addicted consumers, booze is an entrepreneur's dream, especially before 1919. But this WAS 1919, and a nightmare was lurking not too far away. A nightmare, that is, for those Americans who like a little sip now and again, and for the business that tried to meet that tipsy demand. In other words: Prohibition.

It was no wonder that the Purity Distilling Company of Boston, Massachusetts tried, before Prohibition went full-swing, to push the limits of their steam-heated, 2 million storage tank by … shall we say, 'a bit too much' … and subsequently caused what has been called one of the most bizarre industrial accidents in American history.

Okay, I won't keep you waiting too long (god knows what people's attention-spans have deteriorated down to, what with the intervention of the web, and all), the prime ingredient used in the manufacture of rum is good-old, slower-than-in-January, molasses.

So, ladies and gentlemen of cyberspace, I present to you: The Great Molasses flood.

In an irony only found in truth, this event really did take place during January, through, alas, an unusually warm January. Had the weather been a bit more typical, this really would have been a really comical flood - one in which the "victims" would have had time to notice the on-coming calamity, pack their things, move all their belongings, and maybe even have a leisurely meal, before the brown wall of molasses would have gotten them.

But, as I said, the weather was anything but typical: forty three degrees, almost shirt-sleeve, a beautiful day in old Boston town. Women were doing their washing and cleaning, sailors were strolling the cobblestone streets, the Boston elevated railway (the EL) was clicking and clacking overhead, and, in general, it was a very typical morning.

But the Purity Distilling Company was going full-bore, topping off its huge tank of steam heated, so as to flow better, molasses.

I've read several different accounts trying to pin down exactly happened that day, a bit before noon. They all agree, pretty much, on the cause and the culprit, but what's funny is that they get a bit fuzzy in regards to what happened to that 2 million plus tank. Locals reported, at first, a banging and tapping sound, then the rivets holding the tank popped free (sending post-traumatic Doughboys diving for cover) and then "it" happened. Ranging from "explosion", to "rupture", to "implosion" the descriptions all agree on one definite fact - a little over two million gallons of warm, sticky molasses ... well, how else can I put it? Got away ….

Located at 529 Commercial Street, in the North End, the tank burst, sending huge hunks of steel whirling down into the town, and a wall of sticky doom rolled down into Boston.

It's hard to think of flowing molasses as terrifying. I mean, seriously, go into your kitchen and get some. Go ahead ... I'll wait. Got it? Good, now open it up and pour it at your feet. Yeah, I know, this might take a while. You might want to catch up on some reading, do some housework ... Geese, look at the dust on those cabinets. Still nothing? It's just slowly creeping out? Well, you see what I mean: molasses just doesn't make it onto the creepy scale. Okay, there's a slight similarity to The Blob, but molasses won't exactly put the fear of sugar into Steve McQueen. A diabetic, sure, but Steve McQueen? Hardly.

But as one of the prime tenements of horror goes, a little something might not be frightening, but a LOT of something is terrifying.

But brown, slow, sticky, sweet molasses in 1919 certainly was.

Steam-heated, and moving a LOT faster than one would normally expect, with a dull, muffled roar the brown goo surged out from the Purity Distilling company's crumbling storage tank and rumbled down into Boston's North End. Carrying along huge, jagged sections of the tank, the wall of molasses crushed trolley cars, swallowed trucks, horses and carts, and knocked buildings off their foundations. Flying debris from the tank smacked into, and crushed, a firehouse, trapping many inside and killing one.

Some of the tank, propelled by both its collapse as well as the surging brown terror, tore into the supports holding up the Atlantic Avenue elevated train, twisting and snapping the steel tresses and collapsing the track. A heroic motorman, seeing the wall of sticky doom roar into the supports and the rails ahead vanish into the cascading molasses, reacted with enviable cool - walking to the rear of the coach and reversing the engines, stopping the train from dropping off the tracks and into the molasses. After an experience like that, one can naturally wonder if any of those people, and that motorman in particular, developed hysterical diabetes or at least took their coffee less sweet.

The wall of sugary destruction continued on its path down into Boston, the 15 foot high roaring monster swallowing people, horses, and property - tearing apart buildings, turning clapboard into splinters, and brick walls into tumbling avalanches of shearing stone.

The greatest fatalities seemed to have been in a Public Works building, where a number of municipal employees were eating their lunch. The molasses slammed into the building, shattering it, and throwing fragments fifty yards further into the city. A second city building was similarly torn from its foundations, the tenement above collapsing into kindling.

Literally a tidal wave, the molasses swallowed dozens of people, rolling and crushing them under its brown mass. Dozens were critically injured by the debris picked up and carried by the sticky mess, while others were simply crushed to death by the heavy sweetness.

Slowly, as the molasses began to congeal, it's 35mph assault ebbed but by then it was too late for the 21 people killed by collapsing buildings, swallowed by the fatal sugar, or the 150 others injured. Sailors from the anchored Nantucket were the first to arrive, trying to pull survivors from the molasses, and giving aide where they could. Horses, their legs broken, screamed and thrashed in the sticky mess - silenced only after being put down by the pistols of the Boston police.

The clean-up of Boston was almost as surreal as the flood itself. Hoses were run from the harbor, and saltwater was used to try and clean up the mess. But saltwater and molasses were not a great mix, and soon the whole area was buried under a foaming brown mess.

Molasses is rather persistent stuff: the town was covered with it for months. Anyone who had anything to deal with Boston felt its presence in some way: a brown stain, a street as sticky as a cinema floor, the pungent aroma of sugar hanging over the city like a nauseating glaze.

Unusual, certainly; fatal, most definitely: the Great Molasses Flood remains to this day one of my all-time favorite urban disasters. If anything, if proves that just about anything can be terrifying (and fatal) if you set enough of it moving fast enough. Oh, and there's one other thing, about the Great Molasses Flood:

Never has death been so sweet.