Thursday, April 30, 2009

Do You Know What Your Children Will Be?

Orion's Arm, (also called the Orion's Arm Universe Project, OAUP, or simply OA) is an online science fiction world-building project, founded by M. Alan Kazlev. Anyone can contribute articles, stories, artwork, or music to the website. A large mailing list exists, in which members debate aspects of the world they are creating, discussing additions, modifications, issues arising, and work to be done.

OA is set over ten thousand years in the future, and adheres to plausible, or "hard" science fiction; that is, no human-like aliens, no literal faster-than-light travel or other violations of the known laws of physics, and no "naval analogy" space battles. Certain speculative technologies, such as the creation of "negative-mass" (averaged null energy condition-violating) exotic matter and the manipulation of strange forms of matter, such as magnetic monopoles and Q-balls, on length scales much smaller than that of an atom appear in the setting, distinguishing it from "ultra-hard" science fiction (which assumes only technologies proven to be possible at the time it is written).

The denizens of this universe are ruled over by god-like, superintelligent artificial intelligences (AIs), called "archailects", the descendants of humanity's (though not exclusively) early artificial life experimentations. These beings are so powerful that they can create new miniature universes, and are completely beyond the comprehension of normal humans. Their bodies exist as distributed intelligences in networks of planet-sized computer brains; their subroutines are themselves sentient, making an "archai" an individual and a civilization at the same time. Extraterrestrial life exists, but the focus is entirely on the descendants and creations of Earth life, here collectively called "terragen life". Normal humans, called "baselines", are an endangered species. Their genetically and cybernetically enhanced descendants have supplanted them.

There are many types of intelligent life: nearbaselines (enhanced humans), posthumans, cyborgs, vecs (intelligent robots), aioids (intelligent computers), uploads (intelligences transferred into computers), neumanns (self-replicating robots; named for John von Neumann), provolves (animals with enhanced intelligence, similar to "uplift" - see below), rianths (humans with animal DNA spliced in), splices (similar to provolves, upgraded with human DNA), neogens (life genetically synthesized from non-life) and xenosophonts (aliens). Nanotechnology is common. Ringworlds, Dyson spheres and other "megastructures" exist. Much of civilised space is connected by a network of wormholes.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Some of Our Favorite Heroes: The Mecha of Project Livewire


Livewires is a six issue comic book limited series published by Marvel Comics in 2005. The series is written by Adam Warren, who also provided layouts, and pencilled by Rick Mays.

The series stars a group of fictional androids who are members of a covert black ops program code named Project Livewire. These androids are on a mission to seek out and destroy other black ops.

  • Cornfed looks like a big farm boy, and seems to be the team's muscle, but he is actually in charge of all mechanical repairs. He can usually be found behind the scenes giving support and coordinating the team's missions.
  • Gothic Lolita is the actual muscle even though she does not look the part. Social Butterfly used the term "Ben Grimm in black baby doll lace" to describe Gothic Lolita. Her code-name and look are both in reference to the Gothic Lolita style of dress popular in Japan. Gothic Lolita herself has described her role as "smashing and bashing duty."
  • Hollowpoint Ninja is the team's infiltration agent. His description of his role is short, but to the point, "stealth, weapons, ambushes."
  • Social Butterfly's role is to extract information from individuals. She uses a variety of means to achieve this purpose. These include micromanagement of her facial expressions and body language; subliminal vocal clues; artificial pheromones; and force field induced direct brain manipulation.
  • Stem Cell is the tech specialist. She has a nanofactory where a human stomach would be. This is used by her to quickly manufacture any bit of technology that her teammates might need.
  • Homebrew was the team's tech specialist before Stem Cell. He was killed just before the beginning of Livewires #1.
  • David Jenkins is the main supporting character. Throughout the series Stem Cell is educated in her abilities by her teammates through the use of their memory archives. Jenkins is featured in most of these. Apart from being the main person behind the construction and programming of Project Livewire's androids, Jenkins is also shown to be chiefly responsible for their education and training. He was a father figure of sorts to them.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'm Not Going To Be Able To Sleep Tonight (Part 4)

Sea angels, also known as cliones, and previously known as one kind of pteropod, are a group of small swimming sea slugs.

In this suborder the foot of the gastropod has developed into wing-like flapping appendages (parapodia) and their shells have been lost. These are both adaptations which suit their free-swimming oceanic lives. The adaptations also explain the common name sea angel and the New Latin name of the order; from gymnos meaning "naked" and soma meaning "body."

The other suborder of pteropods, Thecosomata, are superficially similar to sea angels but are not closely related. They have larger, broader parapodia, and most species retain a shell; they are commonly known as sea butterflies.

Sea angels are gelatinous, mostly transparent and very small, with the largest species (Clione limacina) reaching 5 cm. Clione limacina is a polar species; those found in warmer waters are far smaller. Some species of sea angel feed exclusively on sea butterflies; the angels have terminal mouths with the radula common to mollusks, and tentacles to grasp their prey, sometimes with suckers similar to cephalopods. Their "wings" allow sea angels to swim much faster than the larger (usually fused) wings of sea butterflies. Other species of sea angel feed mostly on zooplankton.

Another large polar species of sea angel, Clione antarctica, defends itself from predators by synthesizing a previously unknown molecule, named pteroenone. As predators will not eat the sea angel some animals, such as amphipods, take up home inside them. Local population density of Clione antarctica may reach claustrophobic levels; up to 300 animals per cubic metre have been recorded.

The animals are simultaneous hermaphrodites, and fertilization occurs internally. A gelatinous egg mass is released during spawning, and the eggs float freely until hatching. Their embryonic shells are lost within the first few days after hatching.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Do You Believe?


Project Alpha was an elaborate hoax orchestrated by the stage magician and skeptic James Randi. It involved planting two fake psychics, Steve Shaw (known as Banachek) and Michael Edwards, into a paranormal research project. During the initial stages of the investigation, the researchers came to believe that the pair's psychic powers were real. However, more formal experiments, as well as criticism from both the parapsychology community and Mr. Randi himself, led them to dismiss their initial trust. The hoax was later revealed publicly.

The success of Project Alpha led Randi to use variations of the technique on several other occasions. Perhaps the most famous example led to the downfall of TV evangelist and faith healer Peter Popoff, when Randi had a man pose as a woman with uterine cancer, which Popoff happily "cured." In another example, Randi hired a performance artist to pose as a channeller known as "Carlos," who was presented on Australian TV and soon had a wide following. After this hoax was exposed, the artist was constantly approached by people who believed him to be genuine, even if he told them directly that he was an actor.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Anthony Gormley's Another Place

At tip for the hat goes to the very great Jude Mason for turning us onto this fantastic artist ... thanks!

Antony Gormley OBE RA (born 30 August 1950) is an English sculptor. His best known works include the Angel of the North, a public sculpture in Gateshead commissioned in 1995 and erected in February 1998, and Another Place on Crosby Beach near Liverpool.

Born the youngest of seven children, Gormley grew up in a well off family in Hampstead. Gormley studied at Ampleforth College, Yorkshire. He also studied at Trinity College, Cambridge from 1968 to 1971 before going to India and Sri Lanka to study Buddhism from 1971 to 1974. From 1974 onwards, he attended various colleges in London, completing his studies with a postgraduate course in sculpture at the Slade School of Art, University College London between 1977 and 1979. His career was given early support by Nicholas Serota who had been a near contemporary of Gormley's at Cambridge giving him a solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1981.

Almost all of his work takes the human body as its subject, with his own body used in many works as the basis for metal casts.

Gormley describes his work as "an attempt to materialise the place at the other side of appearance where we all live." Many of his works are based on moulds taken from his own body, or "the closest experience of matter that I will ever have and the only part of the material world that I live inside." His work attempts to treat the body not as an object but a place and in making works that enclose the space of a particular body to identify a condition common to all human beings. The work is not symbolic but indexical - a trace of a real event of a real body in time.

Gormley won the Turner Prize in 1994 with Field for the British Isles. In The Guardian (8 September 2007) he was quoted as saying that he was "embarrassed and guilty to have won - it's like being a Holocaust survivor. In the moment of winning there is a sense the others have been diminished. I know artists who've been seriously knocked off their perches through disappointment."

The 2006 Sydney Biennale featured Gormley's Asian Field, an installation of 180,000 small clay figurines crafted by 350 Chinese villagers in five days from 100 tons of red clay. The appropriation of others' works caused minor controversy, with some of the figurines being stolen in protest. Also in 2006, the burning of Gormley's 25-metre high "The Waste Man" formed the zenith of the Margate Exodus.

He is currently a trustee of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and (since April 2007) of the British Museum. He is an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Movies You Haven't Seen But Should: The Ruling Class

The Ruling Class is a 1972 British comedy film, an adaptation of Peter Barnes' satirical stage play which tells the story of a paranoid schizophrenic British nobleman (played by Peter O'Toole) who inherits a peerage. The film costars Alastair Sim, William Mervyn, Coral Browne, Harry Andrews, Carolyn Seymour, James Villiers and Arthur Lowe. It was produced by Jules Buck and directed by Peter Medak. Peter O'Toole described the movie as "a comedy with tragic relief".

Jack Gurney, the 14th Earl of Gurney (O'Toole), at first he thinks he is God and shocks his family and friends with his talk of returning to the world to bring it love and charity, not to mention his penchant for breaking out into song and dance routines and sleeping upright on a cross. When faced with unpalatable facts (such as his identity as the 14th Earl), Jack puts them in his "galvanized pressure cooker" and they disappear. His unscrupulous uncle, Sir Charles (Merwyn), marries him to his own mistress, Grace (Seymour), in hopes of producing an heir and putting his nephew in an institution; the plan fails when Grace actually falls in love with Gurney.

Gurney gains another ally in Sir Charles' wife (Browne), who hates her husband and befriends Gurney just to spite him. She also begins sleeping with Gurney's psychiatrist, Dr. Herder (Michael Bryant), to persuade him to cure Gurney quickly.

Herder attempts to cure him through intensive psychotherapy, but this is to no avail; Gurney so thoroughly believes that he is the "God of Love" that, ironically, he dismisses any suggestion to the contrary as the rambling of lunatics. The night his wife goes into labour with their child, Herder makes one last effort at therapy; he introduces Gurney to McKyle (Nigel Green), a patient who also believes himself to be Christ, or, as the patient puts it, "The Electric Messiah", who subjects an unwitting Gurney to electroshock therapy. The plan is to use the electroshock to (literally) jolt Gurney out of his delusions, showing him that the two men could not both be God, and so he must be operating under hallucinations. The plan works, and, as Grace delivers a healthy baby boy, Gurney returns to his senses and reclaims his true identity, proclaiming "I'm Jack, I'm Jack".

Sir Charles, still intent on stealing the title, sends for a court psychiatrist to evaluate Gurney, confident that his nephew would be sent to an asylum for life. He is once again thwarted, however, when the psychiatrist discovers that Gurney was a fellow Old Etonian, bonds with him, and declares him sane.

Gurney soon relapses into mental illness, however, this time believing himself to be Jack the Ripper ...

[The Ruling Class on the IMDB]

Lady Claire Gurney: How do you know you're God?
Jack Arnold Alexander Tancred Gurney, 14th Earl of Gurney: Simple. When I pray to Him, I find I am talking to myself.

Sir Charles: [exasperated, after meeting Jack] Oh, my God!
Jack Arnold Alexander Tancred Gurney, 14th Earl of Gurney: [ducking back into the room after hearing Charles] Yes?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mountweazels, Nihilartikels, and Other Fictitious Entries


Fictitious entries, also known as fake entries, Mountweazels, and Nihilartikels, are deliberately incorrect entries or articles in reference works such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps and directories. Entries in reference works normally originate from a reliable external source, but no such source exists for a fictitious entry.

Fictitious entries can be humorous hoaxes intended to be more or less quickly recognized as false by the reader or copyright traps deliberately inserted into a work to facilitate detection of copyright infringement or plagiarism.

One would typically only stumble upon a fictitious entry by chance. Some, however, are more likely to be discovered because they are closely related to a well-known fictitious subject. For example, a fictitious entry in an otherwise non-fictional reference work might define or explain a term from a work of fiction, give a biography of a character from a novel, or describe a fictional institution, without explaining that it is fictitious.

There does not appear to be any commonly used English-language term for this phenomenon. The neologism Mountweazel was coined by the The New Yorker magazine based on a fictitious entry for Lillian Virginia Mountweazel in the 1975 edition of the New Columbia Encyclopedia. Another term, Nihilartikel, is of uncertain origin, combining the Latin word nihil, "nothing" with German Artikel, "article". There is also the specific term trap street.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"But now Haruko is here ...."

Some folks have asked us about "Haruko" in our humble little blog's description (up top). Well, here she is in all her brilliantly crazy glory from FLCL, our favorite anime.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What's Your Name?


Shinigami ("death god" or "God of Death") is the personification of death that evolved in Japan, having been imported to Japan from Europe during the Meiji period. This image of death was quickly adopted and featured in such works as the rakugo play Shinigami and in Shunsen Takehara's Ehon Hyaku Monogatari (One-hundred Story Picture-Book).

The term shinigami may also be used more loosely to refer to any death deity. It seems to be a recent term, however, as it belongs to no specific Shinto deity and is rarely used in folklore.

Perhaps the first appearance of shinigami in Japan was in a rakugo play titled Shinigami. It is thought that this play was based on the Italian opera Crispino e la Comare, which was in turn based on Der Gevatter Tod, a German fairy tale recorded by the Brothers Grimm.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Movies You Haven't Seen But Should: Patlabor 2

Patlabor: The Movie 2 (機動警察パトレイバー Kidō keisatsu patoreibā the movie 2 is a 1993 Japanese anime film directed by Mamoru Oshii, who also directed Patlabor: The Movie. The movie has taken some liberties from being a mecha-themed movie in theme to a political-themed one with domestic and international issues that the Japanese government had faced during the 20th century. The main theme of the movie is mainly based on the status of Japan, which had been economically, politically and technologically progressing under prosperous years without being involved in another war after the nation's defeat and occupation by the Allied Forces after the end of World War II.


The Roanoke Colony on Roanoke Island in Dare County in present-day North Carolina was an enterprise financed and organized by Sir Walter Raleigh in the late 16th century to establish a permanent English settlement in the Virginia Colony. Between 1585 and 1587, several groups attempted to establish a colony, but either abandoned the settlement or disappeared. The final group of colonists disappeared after three years elapsed without supplies from England during the time when England was at war with Spain, leading to the continuing mystery known as "The Lost Colony". The most likely explanation is that they were assimilated into one of the local indigenous tribes.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Amazing Creations of Andrew Scott

MKF is very pleased to be able to spotlight the incredible work of Andrew Scott. You can see more of his artwork on his blog (Bug Factory) and his Flickr pages.

Sunday, April 19, 2009



Children of Lieutenant Schmidt (Russian: Дети лейтенанта Шмидта) is a fictional secret society of con men that pretended to be children of Lieutenant Schmidt (a Russian revolutionary hero), described in The Little Golden Calf by Ilf and Petrov: Ostap Bender's two sidekicks were hapless former members of the society.

According to the novel, roaming across Russia in the 1920s were numerous fake relatives of Karl Marx, Prince Kropotkin, and other revolutionary figures. Their con tricks were aimed at persuading various Soviet officials into granting them cash. Their numbers grew, and to prevent any unlucky chance of spoiling each other's attempts, they started to "unionize", with Schmidt's Kids being the most difficult to organise. When the latter finally decided to convene, "it turned out that Lieutenant Schmidt had thirty sons, from eighteen to fifty-two years in age, and four daughters, stupid, unattractive and no longer young". They split Russia into 34 agreed territories.

Ostap Bender, being a great improviser, unwittingly decided to play the same trick, and ran into another trickster (Shura Balaganov, who became his accomplice), but managed to get out of the gaffe by pretending Shura was his brother. Later they met yet another "sibling" (Mikhail Panikovsky), who was running for his life (he had ignored the convention, trespassed, and was caught red-handed by victims of yet another "brother").

Since then, the expression "Children of Lieutenant Schmidt" has become a Russian cliché for various con enterprises or persons which use false pretenses, e.g., of being war veterans, Chernobyl liquidators, simply relatives of the targeted victims, etc., in order to extract money from the victims.

A music band from Minsk, Belarus and the KVN team from Tomsk bear the name.

A monument to two of the most famous of Schmidt's "sons" (Bender & Balaganov) was erected in Berdiansk in 2002. A statue of Panikovsky, carrying out his favourite trick of pretending to be a blind man, has been erected in Kiev, Ukraine.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"A magic effect on mankind and will form the foundation of a universal brotherhood that will last as long as humanity itself."

A Teslascope is a radio transceiver that was alleged to have been invented by Nikola Tesla for the purpose of communicating with life on other planets. Even though Tesla talked about “interplanetary communication“ on many occasions, it has never been confirmed that he built such a device. The paranormal device called the Hyperdimensional Oscillator is sometimes associated with this device

The claim that Tesla created a device called a “Teslascope” grew out of Arthur H. Matthews 1970 book, "The wall of light; Nikola Tesla and the Venusians space ship, the X-12" (OCLC 2094500). Matthews, who had apprenticed under Tesla at the turn of 20th the century and worked for him until Tesla's death in 1943, wrote that Tesla had designed it in order to communicate with extraterrestrials. Matthews made many other claims, such as Tesla was born on Venus (supposedly told to him by Venusians who visited Matthews in Canada). Matthews also claimed that he built a model of a Teslascope in 1947 after Tesla’s death and operated it successfully, although it is hard to verify such a claim since Matthews left unclear documentation of his accomplishments.

Tesla had mentioned many times during his career that he thought his inventions such as his Tesla coil, used in the role of a "resonant receiver", could communicate with other planets. In 1896, Tesla told interviewers:

The possibility of beckoning Martians was the extreme application of [my] principle of propagation of electric waves. The same principle may be employed with good effects for the transmission of news to all parts of the earth....Every city on the globe could be on an immense circuit. [Thus] a message sent from New York would be in England, Africa and Australia in an instant. What a grand thing it would be.

Nikola Tesla,

In 1899 when Nikola Tesla was investigating atmospheric electricity using his receivers in his Colorado Springs lab, Tesla observed repetitive signals of what he believed were Extraterrestrial radio signals that were substantially different from the signals he had noted from storms and Earth noise. Specifically, he later recalled that the signals appeared in groups of one, two, three, and four clicks together. Tesla seemed to think the signals were coming from Mars. Research has suggested that Tesla may have had a misunderstanding of the new technology he was working with, or that the signals Tesla observed may have simply been an observation of a natural radio source such as the Jovian plasma torus signals. In 1901 Tesla said the following about his 1899 Colorado experiment:

I can never forget the first sensations I experienced when it dawned upon me that I had observed something possibly of incalculable consequences to mankind..… Although I could not decipher their meaning, it was impossible for me to think of them as having been entirely accidental. The feeling is constantly growing on me that I had been the first to hear the greeting of one planet to another.

Nikola Tesla,

In Time magazine’s July 20, 1931 issue celebrating Tesla's 75th birthday Tesla stated:

[I have conceived] a means that will make it possible for man to transmit energy in large amounts, thousands of horsepower, from one planet to another, absolutely regardless of distance. I think that nothing can be more important than interplanetary communication. It will certainly come some day and the certitude that there are other human beings in the universe, working, suffering, struggling, like ourselves, will produce a magic effect on mankind and will form the foundation of a universal brotherhood that will last as long as humanity itself.

Nikola Tesla,

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dark Roasted Weirdsville

Here we go again: another article for the always-great Dark Roasted Blend. This time it's about early monorails. Enjoy!

Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, allow me to present to you, for your amusement and edification, one of the strangest, weirdest, and most counter-intuitive ways of getting from point A to point B: the monorail.

While the concept of possibly traveling across a city, and/or across the landscape, on monorails has become close to acceptable these days – or even grudgingly acceptable -- back in its infancy visionary proponents of this form of transportation instead saw a future where everyone, everywhere, moved in gleaming high-tech splendor balanced on a single rail.

One of those first dreamers was Henry Palmer, whose creations worked the docks of London for many years – and even carried quite a few passengers. Terrified of falling over, to be sure, but passengers nonetheless. Other inventors, like Ivan Elmanov in Russia and Charles Lartigue, the French Engineer, saw their dreams made in iron and steel and even – in the case of Lartigue – were able to ride their visions and see them as, abet short-lived, successes.

To be fair, some of these early designs were more thought-out than you might think – though the actual engineering was naturally a bit primitive. Some designs used a single rail for both balance as well as power (either balanced by a gyroscope or hanging by an overhead support), while others kind of ‘cheated’ by having a single rain for balance and then a second wheel off to the side for propulsion.

While the early 20th century didn’t see a lot of huge developments in one-rail trains – except for here or there earnest experiments and limited uses – the 1920s and 30s were a boom year for the monorail in the pages of science fiction and techno-gee-whiz magazines like Popular Science and Modern Mechanix.

For some reason the brilliant artist of these and other magazines always saw the future as balancing on one rail. Their images are bold and daring, a plastic … or more like bakelite … glowing and chrome gleaming tomorrow of pipe-smoking, hat-wearing business men and balloon-toting and picnic basket-carrying children and wives zipping across meticulously manicured landscapes at the astounding speeds of 300 miles per hour.

Dreaming along similar Tomorrowland vistas, Disney’s imagineers adopted the monorail as the futuristic way of traveling around their famous amusement park. Other engineers looked to this high-speed, or at least futuristic, way of travel as well, getting their visionary monorail systems installed in Japan (naturally), Seattle and a few other rare urban experiments.

It’s ironic that a system put in place – sometimes -- as a way to bring the future into the backward world of today would now be seen as a realistic future mass transit alternative – all because of magnets.

Well, Maglev to be precise: “magnetic levitation” to you and I. The principle is simple: put the plus pole of a magnet to the plus pole of another magnet (or negative to negative) and you get resistance, that fun little ‘repulsion’ that’s delighted kids since magnets were first discovered.

While this propulsion method was often included in those chrome and bakelite futures of one-railed, high-speed trains it wasn’t until recently that the idea of using magnetic levitation has been taken seriously as a mass transit alternative. It seems that one of the best ways of using Maglev is as the lift for a monorail system – as test beds around the world have proven. Proven so well in fact that Maglev trains hold the current ‘fast train” record at Modern Mechanix, Popular Science astounding speeds of 361 miles per hour.

It’s fun to look back at those old pulp dreams of tomorrow, at their bulbous machines and glowing tube control panels, their mountain-sized turbines and silo-proportioned engine cylinders and barely suppress a superior smirk at how they – charmingly, to be sure – got it so wrong, but, who knows, maybe sometime soon we’ll be doing that smirking while we silently blast across our own carefully maintained landscape as passengers in 300+ miles per hour, magnetically supported, one-rail trains.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Irony: an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected #3

John Kendrick (c. 1740 – 12 December 1794) was an American sea captain, both during the American Revolutionary War and the exploration of the Pacific Northwest alongside his partner Robert Gray ....

... Kendrick arrived in Fairhaven (now Honolulu) on December 3 [1794]. Two other ships were there also, British vessels: the Jackal under Captain William Brown and the Prince Lee Boo under a Captain Gordon.

This was coincidentally when a Hawaiian chief named Kaeo invaded Oahu, meeting little resistance from Chief Kalanikupule. Brown sent eight men and a mate to aid Kalanikupule’s forces. Kendrick also probably sent some of his men to help the Hawaiian chief in what was later called the Battle of Kalauao. The muskets of the sailors drove Kaeo’s warriors into some hills that overshadowed Fairhaven. They finally retreated into a little ravine. Kaeo tried to escape, but Brown’s men and Kendrick’s men saw his ahuula, his scarlet coat with yellow feathers, and fired at the enemy chief from their boats in the harbor to show his position to Kalanikupule’s men. The Oahu warriors killed Kaeo along with his wives and chiefs. The battle ended with Kalanikupule as the victor.

At 10:00 the next morning, December 12, 1794, Kendrick’s ship fired a thirteen-gun salute, to which the Jackal answered with a salute back. One of the cannons was loaded with real grapeshot, though, and the shot smashed into the Lady Washington, killing Captain Kendrick at his table on deck along with several other men. Kendrick’s body and the bodies of his dead men were taken ashore and buried on the beach in a hidden grove of palm trees. John Howel, Kendrick’s clerk, read the prayer book for the captain’s funeral. The Hawaiians thought it an act of sorcery and stole Kendrick’s winding-sheet (Shroud that the body is wrapped in) that night. He was 55 years old.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Huaka'i pō


In Hawaiian legend, Nightmarchers (huaka'i pō or "Spirit Ranks," 'oi'o) are the ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors. On the nights of Kane, Ku, Lono, Akua, or on the nights of Kaloa they are said to come forth from their burial sites to march out to past battles or to other sacred places. They march at sunset and just before the sun rises. Anyone living near their path may hear chanting and marching, and must go inside to avoid notice. They might appear during the day if coming to escort a dying relative to the spirit world. Anyone looking upon or seen by the marchers will die unless a relative is within the marcher's ranks- some people maintain that if you lie face down on the ground they will not see you. Others say that this only works if you are naked. However, if you have time to get out of the way it is best to do that. Still others say that you should be naked, lie face up and feign sleep. Placing leaves of the ti (Cordyline sp.) around one's home is said to keep away all evil spirits, and will cause the huaka'i pō to avoid the area. There is one story of a young boy being protected by a mysterious playmate. That mysterious playmate turned out to be the spirit of a dead man, whose bones were in the room of the child. The source of that story is found in Glen Grant's Chicken Skin Tales 49 Favorite Ghost Stories from Hawai`i. The book is written by Glen Grant. Copyright 1998 by Mutual Publishing.

A march greatly depends on who is in it. Say, in his life, a chief was fond of sound. The march would have much drumming an chanting. If the chief enjoyed the opposite, the march would have no noise except for the snapping of branches and other sounds that may accompany them. If a chief did not like to walk around much, he would be carried in a sling. In old Hawaii, laws declared parts of a chief to be sacred, and not seen. The punishment for looking at these parts was death. If a chief's face was not supposed to be seen, he would lead. If his back was not to be looked upon, he would be in the back. However, for some chiefs, there was no part of them that was forbidden to look at. This chief would march among the other warriors in the group. There are gods in some marches. The torches are a lot brighter than the torches in other marches. The biggest torches are carried at the front, back, and still three within the rest of the group. Five was a special number for Hawaiians. In the march of gods, there are six gods in a row, three male and the others female. A very important god is in the march, and she is called Hi`iaka-i-ka-poli-o-Pele. The marches are indeed very different

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

One of Our Favorite Paintings: "Europe After the Rain" By Max Ernst

I'm So Sorry -


You're in the Picture was an American television game show that aired on CBS for only one true episode on Friday, January 20, 1961.

Considered by many to be one of the largest flops in television history, the show was an attempt to mirror the success that Groucho Marx had enjoyed for many years with You Bet Your Life. Lending the comedic touch as host was TV star Jackie Gleason, joined by Johnny Olson as announcer and Dennis James doing live commercials for sponsor Kellogg's.

A four-member celebrity panel would stick their heads into a life-sized illustration of a famous scene or song lyric and then take turns asking yes/no questions to Gleason to try to figure out what scene they were a part of. If they were able to figure out the scene, 100 CARE Packages were donated in their name; if they were stumped, the packages were donated in Gleason's name.

The celebrity panel on the Premiere consisted of Pat Harrington, Jr., Pat Carroll, Jan Sterling, and Arthur Treacher. Johnny Carson stated that he was on the program in a 1980's Tonight Show interview with Gleason; surviving clips do not show him involved, however.

The first episode of You're in the Picture received negative reviews across the board.

The following Friday (January 27), instead of the game the entire second episode consisted of Gleason sitting in a chair on the now-bare stage and apologizing for the previous week's show. Saying that the show failed because of "the intangibles of show business", Gleason also noted that more than 300 years' worth of show business experience had been involved in the production.

He commented that the program "laid, without a doubt, the biggest bomb in history... This would make the H-Bomb look like a two-inch salute." Acknowledging the critics, he also stated that "you don't have to be Alexander Graham Bell to pick up a telephone and know it's dead."

He also told stories of his other flops (adding at one point "I wish I didn't know so much about these things"), and had one of the illustrations brought out to show what the format was for those "fortunate enough not to see last week's show". He also noted that nobody complimented on how the show itself was after it finished airing, instead mentioning how good the commercials were and that the show went off the air at the right time.

This comical half-hour apology got much better reviews than the game show, and Gleason finished out his series commitment by renaming the program The Jackie Gleason Show and turning it into a talk show.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Movies You Haven't Seen But Should: Silent Running

Silent Running is a 1972 ecologically-themed science fiction film directed by Douglas Trumbull which depicts a future in which all plant life on Earth has been made extinct, except for a few specimens preserved in space in greenhouse domes. When orders come from Earth to jettison and destroy the domes, the ship's botanist (Bruce Dern) opts instead to send the last dome into deep space to save the remaining plants and animals. In addition to Dern, the film starred Cliff Potts, Ron Rifkin and Jesse Vint.

The three "drones" were played by four double-amputees, an idea inspired by Johnny Eck. The 20 pound (9 kg) "drone suits" were custom tailored for the different actors. The suits still exist, and are in Douglas Trumbull's personal collection.

Freeman Lowell
: [after jettisoning the last dome with Dewey] You know when I was a kid, I put a note into a bottle and it had my name and address on it. And then I threw the bottle into the ocean. And I never knew if anybody ever found it [presses button on nuclear charge, destroying his ship]
Silent Running on the IMDB

Thursday, April 9, 2009

You Just Lost The Game


The Game is an ongoing mind game, the objective of which is to avoid thinking about The Game itself. Thinking about The Game constitutes a loss, which, according to the rules of The Game, must then be announced. While one can avoid losing The Game by not currently thinking about it, one can never actually "win" The Game.

As of 2008, The Game is played by millions worldwide.

There are three main rules to The Game:

  1. Everyone in the world is playing The Game. (Sometimes narrowed to: "Everybody in the world who knows about The Game is playing The Game," or alternatively, "You are always playing The Game.")
  2. Whenever one thinks about The Game, one loses.
  3. Losses must be announced (a statement such as "I lost The Game" is often used).

Variations of The Game exist. For instance, some players allow a grace period after they have lost once, during which a player cannot lose The Game again or is not obliged to announce a loss. This can range from just a few seconds to half an hour. Some people claim that The Game ends when the British Prime Minister announces this on television. No established sanctions exist for players breaking the rules of The Game.

Some players have developed strategies for making other people lose, such as writing about The Game on hidden notes, as graffiti, and on banknotes. The Game has been described both as pointless and infuriating, and as a challenging game that is fun to play. Other strategies involve distracting oneself so as to forget, and also to learn "I lost" in another language.

The origins of The Game are uncertain. One theory is that when two men missed their last train and had to spend the whole night on a platform, they tried not to think about their situation and whoever did first, lost. Another is that it was invented in London in 1996 "to annoy people". The reported earliest reference on the Internet is from 2002. The Game is an example of ironic processing, also known as the White Bear Phenomenon, in which attempts to avoid certain thoughts make those thoughts more persistent. A classic example of ironic processing is Dostoevsky's quote: “Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Take A Seat In That Tub Of Warm Yogurt And We’ll Be Right With You ...


The Bureau of Surrealist Research, also known as the Centrale Surréaliste, was a Paris-based office in which a loosely affiliated group of Surrealist writers and artists gathered to meet, hold discussions, and conduct interviews with the goal of investigating speech under trance. Located at 15 Rue de Grenelle, it opened in October of 1924 under the direction of Antonin Artaud, almost simultaneously with the publication of the first Surrealist Manifesto.

One of the more significant contributions of the Bureau was its implicit idea that Surrealism was not to be contained under the category of the aesthetic. An assumption of the Bureau was that Surrealism could be a mode of research, and could produce knowledge on a par with the knowledge produced by scientific researchers.

Monday, April 6, 2009

"It was as if an occult hand had…"

The Order of the Occult Hand is a whimsical secret society of journalists who have used the phrase "It was as if an occult hand had…" in print as a sort of inside joke. Since the introduction of the phrase in 1965, the "Order" has been widely exposed in the media. Paul Greenberg reports that as of 2006, the Order has chosen a new secret phrase and is back in operation.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Doctor Will See You Now: Dr. Josiah Stinkney Carberry


Josiah Stinkney Carberry is a fictional professor, created as a joke. He is said to have taught at Brown University, and to be known for his work in "psychoceramics," the supposed study of "cracked pots."

The joke originated when John W. Spaeth posted a false notice for a Carberry lecture on a bulletin board at Brown in 1929. The lecture, on "Archaic Greek Architectural Revetments in Connection with Ionian Philology" was, of course, never given, and when asked, John Spaeth obligingly provided false details about the professor's (fictional) family and (non-existent) academic interests. The joke has been embraced since that time, at least at Brown, and Carberry has traditionally been scheduled to lecture every Friday the 13th and February 29th (he of course "misses" all of them), and a general mythology has grown around him and his family. Jars, many of them cracked pots, are placed in many of the administrative buildings as well as the libraries and students can donate change to Professor Carberry on these days. Students have taken great delight in inserting references to him in otherwise serious journals, as any such reference which fails to point out his non-existence seriously undercuts the reputation of those works. The prominent legal philosopher Joel Feinberg, whose teaching career began with a two-year stint at Brown, carried on a long and apparently furious feud with Carberry in the acknowledgement sections of his many books. Carberry was also known at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut from about 1930, when Spaeth moved from Brown University to join the Wesleyan faculty. Carberry's career there closely paralleled the Brown experience, which continued in Providence, raising the suspicion that Carberry had mastered the art of bilocation.

Each Friday the 13th is "Josiah Carberry Day" at Brown. Often lectures are scheduled where Carberry fails to show up, and cracked pots are put outside the libraries for donations to the Josiah S. Carberry Fund, which Carberry set up for the purchase of books "of which I might or might not approve". Books in the Brown library collections purchased by this fund have a special bookplate identifying them with the Latin phrase "Dulce et Decorum Est Desipere in Loco" (It is pleasant and proper to be foolish once in a while.)"

Those "in" on the joke, however, also enjoy the use of his name: a snack bar at Brown (Josiah's or Jo's for short) and the library's card catalog (Josiah) are named for him. Professor Carberry also writes letters to the Brown Daily Herald, Brown's student newspaper, that are published annually on April Fool's Day. A Brown-affiliated student housing cooperative (Carberry House) also shared his name from 1970 until its closure in 1998. Professor Carberry also appeared in an American Express commercial in the 1980s. Additionally, the documentation for logging into password-protected areas of the Brown University website often uses "jcarberr" as the example username.

On October 3, 1991, at the First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, Carberry was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for Interdisciplinary Research, making him one of only three fictional people to have won the award. He was commended as "bold explorer and eclectic seeker of knowledge, for his pioneering work in the field of psychoceramics, the study of cracked pots."

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Thre's Big And Then There's Globus Cassus


Globus Cassus is an art project and book by Swiss architect and artist Christian Waldvogel presenting a conceptual transformation of Planet Earth into a much bigger, hollow, artificial world with an ecosphere on its inner surface. It was the Swiss contribution to the 2004 Venice Architecture Biennale and was awarded the Gold Medal for the "best designed books from all over the World" at the Leipzig Book Fair in 2005. It consists of a meticulous description of the transformation process, a narrative of its construction, and suggestions on the organizational workings on Globus Cassus.

Being the Earth/World's antipode in many aspects, Globus Cassus acts as a philosophical model for the opposite-based description of the Earth/World and as a tool to understand the World's real functioning processes.

Waldvogel describes it as an "open source" art project and states that anyone can contribute designs and narratives to it on the project wiki.

The proposed megastructure would incorporate all of Earth's matter. Sunlight would enter through two large windows, and gravity would be provided by centrifugal force. Humans would live on two vast regions that face each other and that are connected through the empty center. The hydrosphere and atmosphere would be retained on its inside. The ecosphere would be restricted to the equatorial zones, while at the low-gravity tropic zones a thin atmosphere would allow only for plantations. The polar regions would have neither gravity nor atmosphere and would therefore be used for storage of raw materials and microgravity production processes.