1. Somehow It’s Thursday Already (001)

    Aw man.  Somehow my primary responsibilities at work have gone from Pretending to be Awake to Pretending to be Busy.  Definitely cuts out a lot of internetting.  I was meaning to read these but… you know how it goes.  Give the comments section some love and fill me in, will ya?

    And I was also meaning to watch this about six more times:

    Thanks to Pie Heaven for that one.

  2. China’s Moon Shot Rains Rocket Parts on the Countryside

    chinese rocket parts

    China sent their unmanned lunar probe Chang’e II (nickname: Moon Safari?) skywards last Friday, packing the usual assortment of stereo cameras, laser spectrometers and microwave detectors to scour the lunar surface as it orbits the moon for six months or better.  What it didn’t take with it, however, was a few large chunks of its launch rocket.  These fell to earth two days later, landing in a rural part of Jiangxi, China.

    Villagers thought they were being struck by an earthquake as the debris crashed down.  Luckily, no one was hurt and no structures were impacted.  While snarkier blogs than this one will no doubt bag on China’s devil-may-care approach to space debris management, I’m just glad no one was hurt.  Besides, there’s not a space program out there (not even Mr. Veer’s), that has its hands completely clean.

    Remember Skylab?  Australia does.

    Take a closer look at the above photo for the real story, however.  Can anyone spot the time-traveling member of Starfleet hanging out with a knowing grin?

    C’mon.  The evidence is all there.

    1. He’s bald.  The future belongs to the follicly neglected.
    2. There’s a shiny communicator pin on his left pec.
    3. His uniform color seems to indicate he’s some kind of medical officer (help me out here, Trekkies, it’s been awhile), an obvious choice to send back on a mission of peace.

    I’m just disappointed they didn’t send Worf.

    The only mysterious bit is his smoking.  Can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone lighting up on the USS Enterprise or even in the shady corridors of Deep Space 9.  Maybe it’s one of those things you indulge in as a man from the future when you’re hanging out in primitive cultures, kind of like how it’s OK to drink Beast Ice when you’re back in the sticks with your high school buddies for Thanksgiving or something.

    Mysteries upon mysteries.  Readers: keep me posted if you see this guy hanging out in the frame of any other rocket crashes, meteorite landings, or swap meets.


    Photo from news.163.com

  3. Squarepusher is back with a new band ‘Shobaleader One’

    2010 is turning out to be a great year for IDM/Braindance/whatever fans. Two albums by Autechre including their triumphant “Oversteps“; Wisp’s We Miss You, the perpetual hope of new Aphex Twin, and now today new Squarepusher. There’s been a short clip up for awhile, but today we get the track Megazine in all its glory.

    This time around though the multi-instrument and normally mildly dressed Thomas Jenkinson aka Squarepusher is in a band called Shobleader One with forthcoming release d’Demonstrator. Or so he claims.

    According to a Q&A on Warp’s Squarepusher page the band is composed of Squarepusher (Bass/vocals) Strobe Nazard (Keyboards), Sten t’Mech (Guitar), Arg Nution (Guitar) and Company Laser (Drums). Mr Jenkinson goes into more detail on its founding and purpose.

    Given this genre’s artists penchant for gags, hoaxes, and jokes this could be a one man show by Squarepusher– much like The Tuss might be Aphex Twin. Either way, its some great new stuff from a talented artist.

    If you have never listened to Squarepusher, give Hello Everything a shot. You might like it.

  4. The Squeeze: This Movie Won’t Get Rereleased (with the same poster) Anytime Soon

    The Squeeze

    This 1987 $11 million dollar over the budget flop with Michael Keaton in some 1980’s “My Life is Bonkers!” comedy in the vain of The Man with the one Red Shoe, Three Men and a Baby, and Quick Change will not see a DVD (or poster) rerelease anytime soon.

    Roger Ebert said:

    Sometimes they hold sneak previews for movies, and ask the audience to rate the picture on a scale ranging from “excellent” to “poor.” I’ve got an idea for “The Squeeze.” They should hand the audience postcards and ask them to mail them back a week after seeing the movie – if they can recall anything about the plot. I’m serious. This movie isn’t about anything or anybody, and to remember it is an act of the will.

    I think there’s one thing memorable about that cover: its never going to be forgotten today. If Sarah Palin ever wants to ban Michael Keaton comedies at “Ground Zero” I would be all for that.

    Found at: Dave Holloway’s 80’s Video Sleeves

  5. 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 to fuck with the Soviets the US Air Force and Navy would enter and exit Soviet space. These cocky moves really messed with Soviet officials, then they did something atrocious and followed it up with poor diplomacy.

    In the Soviet Union, similar brinksmanship hijinks were discussed. In May, 1981 General Secretary Leonid Brezhniv and head of KGB Yuri Andropov boldly busted into a closed room session and announced the United States was plotting their destruction as they spoke. High time to figure out what to do and get those capitalist bastards.

    Thus, Operation RYAN (Ракетное Ядерное Нападение) which translates to the utilitarian name of Operation “Nuclear Missile Attack” was born. This was the largest and most ambitious intelligence gathering operation in Soviet history.

    In September 1 1983 after months of mindfucks from PSYOP by the US military, a civilian aircraft Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was shot down. Near the Sea of Japan by Soviet interceptors for entering ‘general’ Soviet airspace. All 269 passengers were killed (hopefully painlessly, but I imagine death in the sky horrendous) including active congressman Larry McDonald. Initially General Secretary Yuri Andropov (former KGB head until 1982 who started Operation RYAN) denied any activity with the downed craft. This was against advice of the Foreign Ministry on the grounds it would be difficult to find the craft. No apology and no acknowledgment. Andropov was in poor health and as a result that may have clouded his judgment to pursue a bullshit stupid PR move of denying and then accepting with a shrug killing 269 innocent people.

    A few months prior Reagan had amassed the largest collection of weapons in peacetime US history. Including Pershing II missiles and a proposed batshit crazy idea for shooting down missiles in space. For the Soviets the fallout and obvious ill relations of Flight 007 as well as the US escalates meant serious fucking business.

    During this time uneasy autumn period NATO began preparations for a nuclear war ‘dry run’ called Able Archer. This was an exercise that would happen later that autumn but the preparations sent alarms to anyone with sense in Soviet intelligence. The Soviet Union fucked up with Flight 007 and for years the US had been mindfucking them. Now this exercise which unknown to Soviet intelligence was just an exercise seemed like a preemptive strike by NATO.

    Anything could have happened. With paranoid Soviet Union all but certain the US would attack and Andropov at the helm something did.

    25 days after the downing of Flight 007 on September 26, 1983 Soviet Air Defence Force lieutenant colonel Stanislav Petrov replaced another colonel at an early warning base.

    Been dumped? Broke a bone? Lost a job? Thank this guy because otherwise you would not be alive to experience anything.

    On that irregular shift for Petrov something irregular happened: the computer indicated four nuclear missiles headed for the Soviet Union.

    Petrov’s orders were to notify his superiors in this event if there was an attack. A decision would be made and then the Soviet missile system would throw all of its might against NATO nations, specifically the United States.

    Four missiles didn’t make sense to Petrov as a nuclear attack would be an all out strike. There would little time for retaliation. Petrov decided it must be a computer error and did not inform his supervisors or get anyone involved that would press the button. He just watched tensely and waited.

    Fortunately for all of us, he was right. Otherwise we would be scavenging canned food and fighting armed barbarian gangs led by Gary Busey. Or more likely be dead.

    Allegedly, Petrov was first heralded as a hero who averted nuclear war but then scolded for not alerting his superiors. He was not formally punished or charged but his military career was cut short leaving him to spend the rest of his life as a pensioner.

    That close call on September 26, 1983 was largely unknown in the West until after the Soviet Union collapsed. What changed Reagan’s attitude, deeply depressed him, and led to a new policy in nuclear deterrence was a science fiction TV movie The Day After.

    The film– which cast included John Lithgow, Wayne Knight, and Steve Guttenberg– was set after a schism between NATO and Soviet powers led to a nuclear war leaving most of the United States in dire straits. Set in Kansas City, it deals with the impact of radiation sickness, infrastructure destruction, and lawless gangs. The fictional President was even originally portrayed as a voice actor mimicking Reagan.

    For a TV movie its surprisingly good. It even haunts me today: I will never look at a nuclear blast as that boy did, the radiation scarred farmers furious they have to skim off top soil scare me, the President casually saying he is still in Canada angers me, and John Lithgow of all people quoting Einstein that World War IV would be fought with rocks has stuck with me since I saw it as a kid.

    In 1986 Reagan signed Intermediate Range Weapons Agreement at Reykjavik with Gorbachev. As a right wing politician, this contrasted Reagan’s 1983 era of PSYOPS, arms buildup, and even according to memos what an acceptable loss for casualties is in nuclear war. Reagan telegrammed the film’s director Nicholas Meyer saying: “Don’t think your movie didn’t have any part of this, because it did.”

    Damn. Pretty good for a TV movie, most directors cannot even dream of influencing such changes. Reagan, the B-movie Hollywood star, backed down from his policies that could have destroyed the entire world. The same man who quoted Star Wars as an insult against the Soviet Union. All because of a B-movie/TV-movie. Not bad all, for a TV movie.

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

    UVB-76 Recording

    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. Increased military activity? A training excercize like Able Archer 83? Instructions for Iran’s nuclear reactor to come online? Maybe a plan to send more sexy lingerie model spies (yes please)? No one really knows.

    There is a live stream and UVB-76 blog dedicated to the enigma for all those amateur code breaks and counter-intelligence agents out there.

    Update 19:55: Cracked open my Russian dictionary thinking ‘Naiminia’ might be на имя which means “on names.” I never heard the word ‘naiminia’ before. I’m not a native speaker though, could be wrong.

    Update 20:43: An anonymous reader kindly clarified its на имeна the plural form for names and clearly what’s in the audio.

    Update August 25, 2010: The numbers could be simple  longitude and latitude coordinates (74.14 N, 35.74 E) pointing to a location in the Barrent sea. It just so happens this week that Russia is carrying out an anti-aircraft missile training exercise in the Barrent sea. Can we breathe a sigh of relief?

    Update August 26, 2010: Yup, according to a Wikipedia author, its longitude and latitude coordinates and the other numerical strings point to deserts located in Asia near installations of some kind. Too many instances for coincidence. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UVB-76#Patterns

  7. 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.

  8. 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 grandfather of Win and William Butler of Arcade Fire is Alvino Rey, electric guitar pioneer.  Starting off with teenage experiments and progressing on to electrifying banjos, Rey (originally Alvin McBurney) was hired to produce the pickup that was used by Gibson in their first electric guitar, the popular ES-150.  Rey is also credited with creating the first talkbox, prominently featured in the clip above.

    Interested in making your own Stringy?  Speak, Wikipedia:

    In 1939, Rey used a carbon throat microphone to modulate his electric guitar sound. The mike, developed for military pilots, was worn by Rey’s wife Luise, who stood behind a curtain and sang along with the guitar lines. The novel combination was called “Singing Guitar”, but was not developed further.

    Rey’s death in 2004 was one of the inspirations for the title and grief of Arcade Fire’s breakout album Funeral.

    – – –

    Finding these connections between people who have made significant contributions to mass culture puts an image in my mind of a web of associations, bloodlines, shared paths.  For those on the outside, for those not related, connected or bonded to anyone who ever did something that changed the world, this can feel alienating, like the ability to shape events is something reserved for a certain elect or chosen.

    This is obviously loser talk.  If that destiny flows through certain currents, well, sure, you can mope in your own insignificance but that’s just one of two roads.  Either locate those currents and drink from its waters or you can wander around and rent DVDs about those who’ve hit on it from Netflix or whatever.