Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Giga Industrial Ruins

Gunkanjima is a Japanese island that was dedicated to underwater coal mining. It was densely-populated, built right up onto the cliffs of the shore with high fortress-type walls around it. It was abandoned in some sort of a hurry in 1974, becoming an eerie deserted ghost town in the time-honored Marie Celeste fashion.

Now it has its own website, advertising its own DVD and the fact that it's about to become a tourist attraction. Some sort of post-industrial theme park, with minehead equipment and fallen early-seventies glamour calendars substituting for the traditional Disneyland of pepper's ghost-filled dwarf-caverns bearing tilted gilt-frame 10x8s of Goofy on the walls.

Unfortunately, the excerpts from the DVD make the word 'glacial' sound over-hasty, but if you have a fast intertubes connections and fifteen minutes to spare without feeling like you're going to start twitching, this is a very pretty site. The Japanese word for "concrete" is "concureeto" and that seems to be about all you need to know to listen to the narrator.

The videos are here, the still photographs are here. If you have another non-twitchy couple of minutes to go through the flash intro, here it is.

Found via a project managers' blog, Project ( of all places.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

You would make a good Dalek.

At least, I would if I had the pattern.

Shigella has crocheted her own Dalek. This could change everything.

I'll keep an eye out for further instructions.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Knowing in the Biblical Sense

You know the Bible 93%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

Go me! I wonder which questions I got wrong?

Wheels on Fire

OK, I got to get a set of these Pimpstar wheels.

The LEDs are computer controlled so that each wheel displays a stationary picture while you're driving.

Watch the video at the site!

Unfortunately, they start at $12.5K, which is more than I'd normally pay for a whole vehicle. . .

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Britain and America Suck - Official

According to a UNICEF report, both my original home and my adopted homeland suck if you're a kid.

They came 20th and 21st out of 21 industrialized countries in happy kid-dom markers. Winners were Holland, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. (Which I'm having a hard time getting my mind around, because really . . . I mean really - Holland, Sweden, Denmark and Finland? Nothing against you guys, I'm sure you all love your country and stuff, but . . . . Well, maybe I could go for the Netherlands, if America sank tomorrow or something. Which it seems increasingly likely to do.)

The Independent newspaper, describing the report says:

British children are languishing at the bottom of an international league table examining the physical and emotional well-being of youngsters in the world's wealthiest nations.
Despite living in the fifth richest country, the next generation of UK citizens experience some of the worst levels of poverty. The research found they regard themselves as less happy, and that they drank more alcohol, took more drugs, and had more underage sex than children overseas.

Now I really don't get it. They drank more alchohol, took more drugs and had more underage sex than the others in the study and they were less happy? Perhaps all the study is showing is that Brits love to be miserable. If the study had been set up to give people extra happiness points for having better opportunities for being studiedly dissatisfied, Britain would have won hands down.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Two Sanskrit themes in SF

I'm probably the last person to find this out, but in case you didn't know already - the words in Battlestar Galactica's theme tune comprise one of the most famous (and one of the most ancient) Sanskrit mantras, the Gayatri Mantra from the Rig Veda.
You can watch and hear the Battlestar Galactica title sequence on YouTube.

The words are:

There seems to be a multitude of translations for the Gayatri Mantra. Wikipedia gives these four:
Ralph T.H. Griffith
"May we attain that excellent glory of Savitr the God:"
"So may he stimulate our prayers."

Kavikratu Tattva Budh
"Almighty Supreme Sun impel us with your divine brilliance so we may attain a noble understanding of reality."

Gayatri Pariwar
"O God, Thou art the giver of life, the remover of pain and sorrow, the bestower of happiness; O Creator of the Universe, may we receive Thy supreme, sin destroying light; may Thou guide our intellect in the right direction."

William Quan Judge
"Unveil, O Thou who givest sustenance to the Universe, from whom all proceed, to whom all must return, that face of the True Sun now hidden by a vase of golden light, that we may see the truth and do our whole duty on our journey to thy sacred seat."

The translations certainly fit the theme of Battlestar Galactica.

The last time I heard a Sanskrit theme in Science Fiction was the wonderful music that signaled the struggle between dark and light forces in The Phantom Menace. I loved Darth Maul, and the music, called the Duel of the Fates, was tremendous. You can hear a snippet for free here. The words were taken from the ancient Welsh poem, the Cad Goddeu or Battle of the Trees, with which I was familiar, having read Robert Graves' The White Goddess. Ancient Welsh not being enough for Lucas, for some reason, a line was translated into Sanskrit as the lyrics for Duel of the Fates.

Khara Matha Khara Rath Amah
Khara Rath Amah Yuddha Khara
Khara Syada Rath Amah Dai Ya
Khara Ki La Dan Ya
Niha Ki La Khara Rath Amah
Syada Ki La Khara Rath Amah
Khara Dan Ya Khara Rath Amah
Khara Dan Ya Khara Rath Amah
Niha Ki La Khara Rath Amah
Syada Ki La Khara Rath Amah
Khara Matha Khara Rath Amah
Khara Dan Ya Khara Rath Amah
Niha Ki La Khara Rath Amah
Syada Ki La Khara Rath Amah

You can find meanings for each word out on the web, but lining up the meanings with the words sung doesn't really add up to an unambiguous image. The original line (when not in Welsh) was supposed to be "Under the tongue root a fight most dread, and another raging, behind, in the head." The rest of the poem follows:

The Battle of the Trees
translated by Robert Graves

The tops of the beech tree have sprouted of late,
are changed and renewed from their withered state.

When the beech prospers, though spells and litanies
the oak tops entangle, there is hope for trees.

I have plundered the fern, through all secrets I spy,
Old Math ap Mathonwy knew no more than I.

For with nine sorts of faculty God has gifted me,
I am fruit of fruits gathered from nine sorts of tree -

Plum, quince, whortle, mulberry, respberry, pear,
black cherry and white, with the sorb in me share.

From my seat at Fefynedd, a city that is strong,
I watched the trees and green things hastening along.

Retreating from happiness they would fein be set
in forms of the chief letters of the alphabet.

Wayfarers wandered, warriors were dismayed
at renewal of conflicts such as Gwydion made;

Under the tongue root a fight most dread,
and another raging, behind, in the head.

The alders in the front line began the affray.
Willow and rowan-tree were tardy in array.

The holly, dark green, made a resolute stand;
he is armed with many spear-points wounding the hand.

With foot-beat of the swift oak heaven and earth rung;
"Stout Guardian of the Door", his name in every tongue.

Great was the gorse in battle, and the ivy at his prime;
the hazel was arbiter and this charmed time.

Uncouth and savage was the fir, cruel the ash tree -
turns not aside a foot-breadth, straight at the heart runs he.

The birch, though very noble, armed himself but late:
a sign not of cowardice but of high estate.

The heath gave consolation to the toil-spent folk,
the long-enduring poplars in battle much broke.

Some of them were cast away on the field of fight
because of holes torn in them by the enemy's might.

Very wrathful was the vine whose henchmen are the elms;
I exalt him mightily to rulers of realms.

Strong chieftains were the blackthorn with his ill fruit,
the unbeloved whitethorn who wears the same suit.

The swift-pursuing reed, the broom with his brood,
and the furse but ill-behaved until he is subdued.

The dower-scattering yew stood glum at the fight's fringe,
with the elder slow to burn amid fires that singe.

And the blessed wild apple laughing in pride
from the Gorchan of Maeldrew, by the rock side.

In shelter linger privet and woodbine,
inexperienced in warfare, and the courtly pine.

But I, although slighted because I was not big,
Fought, trees, in your array on the field of Goddeu Brig.

To me the single line that Lucas used seems fairly clearly to refer to a Bard's thoughts rather than a physical battle, but I guess it was fighty enough to set the battle between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi against Darth Maul.

Shame Maul didn't win though.


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