1983: The Year the World Almost All Died

Cast your mind back to 1983 when the cold war was heating up. Then President Ronald Reagan carried a cavalier attitude against the Soviet Union, calling them “evil” such as this speech from March 8 1983: In your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil. The bold was added by this author. Rather than tact or diplomacy Reagan had taken policy into a fuzzy metaphysical world of good versus evil. A new military policy was introduced of Psychological Operations (PSYOP) on an extreme scale later that year. Just […]

UVB-76, Secret Soviet Number Station, Dramatically Increases Activity

UVB-76 is a number station from Soviet days. Its purpose still remains a mystery. Rumors claim its a dead man’s switch to automatically launch nuclear weapons in the event of the Kremlin being destroyed– but that seems like sheer speculation. Today, August 24 2010, there has been three audio transmissions. What is odd is that in its 20 years of operation the station has only broadcast vocal transmissions five times– two of which were this week! Normally it sounds like a buzzer pulsating a coded message to unknown agents. Whatever purpose the station serves it still receives funding as is staffed. Anything else is a mystery. The message repeated three times says in Russian: UVB-76, UVB-76 — 93 882 Naimina 74 14 35 74 — 9 3 8 8 2 Nikolai, Anna, Ivan, Michail, Ivan, Nikolai, Anna, 7, 4, 1, 4, 3, 5, 7, 4 UVB-76 from Satellite Possibilities abound. […]

RIP Jack Horkheimer, Star Hustler

If you live in the United States, there’s a fairly good chance you have seen Jack Horkheimer’s Star Hustler or recently dubbed Star Gazer. He delightfully explained constellations seeming something like Carl Sagan’s Uncle Buck. Low budget, outdatted effects and cheesy deliver no matter when it aired. It was a Tim & Eric skit but with a genuine passion for the stars. Horkheimer passed away at age 72 according to the Miami Dade Herald. His later life was surrounded in some controversy but he will be missed.

Arcade Fire Frontman’s Grandfather Helped Invent the Electric Guitar

What’s the diminutive of ‘mind-blowing’?  How does one indicate a spot on the continuum of emotions between ‘oh, that’s interesting’ and ‘holy sweet goddamn!’? Among my many areas of interest is that of instrument inventors.  I dabble myself, mostly in making electrical contacts that warp the frequency of a triggered sample, but still, there’s an aspirational admiration for those who have pushed through with their tinkering and made a mode of music that became a standard, that provided the very vocal cord of a whole means of expression.  And of that pantheon, there’s a special place for the tweakers of that universal weapon of the Western music canon, the electric guitar.  Credit due to Les Paul, with his electric log, and credit to George Beauchamp, for guiding this innovation.  Credit to the swamp-pop stylings of Willie Joe Duncan and his unitar. So I found it notable to discover that the […]

VisitBritain.org Knows How to Make You Foreigners Comfortable

Britain’s tourism agency, VisitBritain, has come through with a list of handy stereo… I mean, tips, on how to handle the strange  foreign visitors that may stumble onto the shores of Airstrip One.  Choice cuts: Do not be alarmed if South Africans announce that they were held up by robots. To a South African the word robot means traffic lights. ‘’Takkies’’ means trainers, a barbecue is a ‘braai’, and ‘’howzit’’ is an informal way of saying hello. When in a social situation with a South African do not place your thumb between your forefinger and your second finger – it is an obscene gesture. … Avoid physical contact when first meeting someone from India. … Avoid saying ‘’thank you’’ to a Chinese compliment. Instead, politely deny a compliment to show humility. If you compliment a Chinese person, expect a denial in reply. The Chinese are famous for communicating by “Saying […]

Versus Ugly Infrastructure and Useless Monuments

Every reputable blog has been posting these amazing mockups for Choi and Shine Architects’ The Land of Giants project.   Such images instantly evoke that gut feeling of ‘why the hell haven’t we been doing this all along?’ The chronicle of the infrastructure achievements of the 20th century will surely include the phrase ‘done on the cheap’.  Whereas once public works were a canvas for artisans and a symbol of the munificence of the rulers who ordered their construction, rarely has something functional been built in the modern age that has been a delight to behold.  Functionality with minimal adornment has been the  norm, replacing craftsmen with workers and leaving the most grand and inspiring of plans on the drawing board or, at best, the pages of architecture journals. Bursts of public beauty can be found in the trend across cultures to invest in monuments, often in remembrance of people or […]

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Rip Off the Skateboarders From Hell

Dangerous Minds tipped me off to this particular piece of cinema history. (Oh, NSFW, by the way… there’s like, four nipples shown).  The trailer for Skateboarders from Hell is one piece of 1980’s Loose Shoes, a movie composed of genre spoofs filmed as trailers for nonexistent movies.  Kind of like a whole movie made out of the intermission of Grindhouse. What really grabbed me, though, was the motorized skateboarders these feral thrashers use to reach the podunk town they terrorize.  They give a quick closeup at about 0:19 in the video above.  They appear to be the lovechild of a weedwacker engine and a skateboard, complete with a handheld throttle and some kind of brake. Besides wracking my brains for a plan to make one, what struck me was the similarities to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle’s ride of choice: The Cheapskate.  (Image from Amazon) While the toy sports some […]

Dave Valentine’s £10,000 ($15,671) Crisp (Chip) Packet Collection

Dave Valentine loves crisps, or more specifically crisp packers from the 1980’s. Accoring to his 1980’s Crisp Packet group on Facebook he started the hobby as family was poor and he could not afford to collect the usual childhood staples. His parents encouraged him to “keep Britain tidy” and the net result is he has a £10,000 collection. Unlike stickers or trading cards, this hobby paid off. Does he plan on selling them? No. According to Children’s BBC (always a good source): Dave Valentine has more than 500 different packets which he holds on to after he’s eaten the snacks inside. Most of them you can’t buy any more, and they’ve been valued at thousands of pounds. But although they may be worth a small fortune but Dave says he’s not planning on selling them and wants to keep collecting even more! Those interested in crisps, package design, or 1980’s […]