Saturday, March 31, 2007

Binary Planets Are Common, says JPL

Binary systems are at least as likely to have planets as single-sun systems like our own, NASA scientists said yesterday. The group, working with the Spitzer space telescope, have an article published in the April edition of the Astrophysical Journal.

This means that the probable number of planets in the galaxy is more than doubled. And to me, that means the probability that there's life out there is more than doubled, too. Interesting stuff. I volunteer to go visit one as soon as NASA send a ship. Are you listening, NASA?

Not everyone's thrilled. M John Harrison, the writer, on his blog says that it is "culturally a total disaster because it encourages even respectable science journalists to make the obvious reference. Trilling’s team would have been better keeping their discovery secret until humanity could handle it." I puzzled over what the hell Mike meant for about five minutes. I eventually concluded that the universe, by having more than half of its planetary systems over-shone by binary systems, was displaying a distressingly white, middle-class, conservative notion of parenthood. When kids are involved, the universe itself comes down on the side of heterosexual two-parent families!!111!!Eleventy!11

It seemed like a blindingly stupid thing to say, but I couldn't say that in a comment on Mike's blog as it only accepts registered users. A couple of hours later, by dint of the Rosetta Stone of comments that had been posted under his pronouncement, I worked out that this wasn't what Mike meant at all. Apparently the discovery is "culturally a total disaster" because it will encourage people to see Star Wars as a Good Film, what with its lyrical twin sunsets over Tatooine as Luke pines for the fjords or whatever it is he's doing in A New Hope. Seeing Star Wars as a Good Film is apparently a Bad Thing in the Mike Harrisoniverse.

Suns setting on Tatooine (Lucasfilm).

I love Star Wars, so I'm going to pretend he really did mean the first thing. At least it shows imagination.

JPL/NASA's write up is here.'s write up is here.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Department of Dancin' White Boys Part II

Much more funny, up to date and culturally important than the clip below, this is the only surviving clip of the Beatles singing Ticket To Ride on Top of the Tops in 1965. The BBC wiped all the tapes of early TOTP during one of its many frugal but stupid moments. This fragment survived because it was shown during a broadcast of Dr Who as a glimpse of the distant past seen through some sort of device in the Tardis.

So it's a glimpse of the distant past showing up as a fictional glimpse of the distant past in a long gone TV show, on the show's internal TV. That's very meta. Deep.

Or just watch the first Doctor and his companions demonstrate how to groove to a Beat Combo in authentic fashion. But wait, they're actors, not real fans. They are faking their authenticity, despite being of the correct non-Austin Powers time period! That's deep too! I need a drink.

Can I just say that at least in the last two clips I've put on the blog, I haven't said anyone is hot? I think that's progress.

Department of Dancin' White Boys Part I

Rappin' Carl Rove.

This video features Carl Rove, proudly acting even more like a tool than usual and boasting about ripping the heads off animals. Or off of animals, as he puts it.

Do they think it's funny? See how the news ticker below them displays something about death camps. Some days I love to live here, in the future. Today isn't one of them.

I can't think of a sensible comment so I'm going to go with the old standby "Pass the sick bag, Alice."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

You and I have been through that. And that is not our fate.

I don't know who the Post Gazette is and why they got the scoop, but they have an interview with Ron Moore, creator of Battlestar Galactica.

Spoilers hidden. Mouse over to view.

Ron says that the four who were revealed in the season finale are indeed Cylons, but fundamentally different from the ones we know.
R: Are these four all full Cylons?
RM: Yes, but they are different fundamentally.
R: Why did Roslin have a mental connection to Sharon and Six and not the other Cylons on board?
RM: They are fundamentally different Cylons.

So I'm sticking to my prediction. (There's more at the link above.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I still miss my fave poster Alquit and his trove of grooves. But there's still gems on YouTube.
Here's The Pretty Things on a Swedish show in 1966, singing "LSD".
(No relation to the Deviants' "Takin' LSD". )

LSD: For any whippersnappers out there, in 1966 English money was known as Pounds, Shillings and Pence. Shillings are easy to abbreviate. They get an S. Pounds, from Libra, the Latin for 'pound', were abbreviated L. And pence, from the little Roman coins 'denarii', were abbreviated D. So there you go. And the Beatles' Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was about a kid's drawing.
I think - I haven't looked into this too closely – that the Deviants' song was about drugs.

Don't the Pretty Things look pretty in this? I seem to remember they were considered famously ugly – worse than the Stones, even – but Phil's looking hot in this one.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Pre-Ring Modulators

For anyone who thought I was joking in a recent post about early synthesizers – here is a clip of Frank Zappa playing a bicycle. It's from a 1963 Steve Allen show. Same year as the original Dr. Who theme. So long ago, so different and yet so plus c'est la même chose.

Here's a still in case you can't be bothered the watch the whole 8 minutes. (Who has the time?)

Here's the clip.

Apart from the bicycle and the strange sight of Frankie-boy without his trademark 'stache, the most interesting thing is how hip Steve Allen appears to have been. He's perfectly capable of holding his own with FVZ, which has to have been a difficult task even when Zappa was small and cute in his stage-domination. I think when I was young, all people Steve Allen's age were considered square. Either I am now square myself (always a possibility but I doubt if it works with the sort of perfect deformability that means yesterday's hipness is today's squareness and vice versa) or, when I was young, I didn't know my ass from my elbow. (Seems more likely.) Maybe they just hid it well to let the young generation go to San Francisco or blow in the wind or whatever the hell it was they wanted, without interference from their meddling elders. Apart from the Vietnam draft thing, where apparently non-interference didn't apply.

Frank Zappa trivia: Most people, including Frank Zappa, thought that his real name was Francis Vincent Zappa. It isn't. It's Frank Vincent Zappa.

Battlestar Galactica - Crossroads part II

Battlestar Galactica – gone for nine months. A pregnant pause?

Hell of a finale for the season. Four people now believe they are Cylons – and have gone back to their posts on the Galactica. Three of them are in prime positions to do lethal damage to the fleet. Of course, I don't think they're Cylons.
That's too easy. They were activated when they began
their trip towards Earth. Activated by the sound of "All
Along the Watchtower", an Earth song.
If I was the Earth's defense
system, I'd be tempted to make a dreadful pun like using "All Along the Watchtower" as a keying phrase for the true human individuals allowed past the defense barrier. These people, in my opinion, represent Earth human individuals amongst the Colonials. Where the Cylons actually fit in, I don't know – but they're close behind the fleet so maybe they have their own onboard guides.
(Spoiler and speculation hidden - mouse over to view.)

And Starbuck's back. Of course. She looked a bit peaky though. I wonder if it's her or a copy. Or if there's any distinction between the two where she's been?

Isn't Crossroads a Cream song (pace Robert Johnson of course)? Given the lyrics, they might have used that instead of Dylan. Crossroads is creepier AND easier to dance to.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Hard Day's Night of the Living Dead

I wish I'd thought of that title.
But I didn't. And I wish I'd been the one who put together this mashup, but I wasn't.

It's exactly what it says it is, and very funny with it too. (Seen on Mick Farren's Blog .)

Sunday, March 11, 2007


(Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

This is General Petraeus, photographed talking to an Iraqi man on March 3rd, 2007.
Something about him reminds me of the Imperial officers in the Star Wars movies. How can you resist a general called (in Greek) "Rocky" who looks like that?

Found on Andrew Sullivan's blog.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

RIP Baudrillard, John Inman, Captain America, and 200 rare 1960s pop/rock videos.

Alquit, my favorite YouTube uploader, seems to have become an Unperson. His videos have been Disappeared. Unfortunately for us out here in Vid-Watchy-Land, the vast majority of his videos were 60s tracks lovingly gleaned from obscure European VHS (if they were released at all) and so they are now unavailable, for all reasonable values of unavailable. Score one for "Cuddly" Google's scorched-media policy. I've sadly had to remove them from my favorites list, and some that were referenced here in the past will now go to dead links.

However, Frozenfish, a new Free uploader, has joined the party. Here are two gems: a black and white, pre-VHS version of All Right Now (similar to the one available in color on the DVD, but without the DVD version's post-VHS image degradation) and a pre-psychedelic color-washed Beat Club version.

Both of these are neatola. He has some other rare footage too. Since they're not available on DVD he may actually be allowed to thrive.

I wrote more (much more) about the official DVD release here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Drop out with Peter Scott on Duck Call

I work in Southern California. I work here, in fact:

It has a certain charm. It's just over a mile to walk all around it, so today I did, reasoning that climbing the Stairway to Nowhere at the gym was inferior to ankling briskly under the wheeling Turkey Buzzards of the National Unreachable Wilderness area in which I find myself.

For some reason my iPoddy-thing (it doesn't have a name anyone would recognize and yet I don't feel I should call it an iPod for short in the same way all vacuum cleaners are hoovers), on random, decided to start playing the Bonzos' The Intro and the Outro as I trekked over the chaparral. The Bonzos are significantly non-Californian.

This is where my boss works (80 miles away).

I believe I got the better deal. (He's in Los Angeles.)

Mind you, I have this to put up with.

We also have turtles.


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