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I’m working on something big. I promise.

In the meantime, I have two diversions for you.  One is my gig-of-not-much-prior-notice at the Beetle Bar tonight. The second, is a trip to the edge of space with James May.

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Killer amateur 3D tomfoolery by The Faking Hoaxer:

Okay, actually I haven’t. Bit of a lie there.

I’ve had all kinds of visitors as of late, and it’s kept me busy and away from my usual broadcast post on the outer rings of the blogosphere. In fact, I now have to undergo a strenuous training regime to get me back into shape for the rigours of deep-space blogging. With that in mind, until I’m blog-fit again, things may be a bit lightweight for the next little while.

Anyhow, was watching the excellent-if-a-bit-too-juvenile-but-you-need-to-get-the-kids-excited-somehow ABC documentary Voyage to the Planets last night. This week’s episode was a tour guide to Uranus, Neptune and their respective rings and moons. Given that a round trip to Neptune and back would take 24 years with current propulsion technologies, the episode touched on cryogenics; placing prospective astronauts in suspended animation to survive the tedium of spaceflight. I had thought that we were a way off (a long way off) any kind of progress in this field, but they interviewed a researcher who’s successfully placed mice into hibernation for a couple of hours and then woken them up.

Said Atomique: “Bags not being a test subject when they get to human trials.”

Said Viper Pilot: “Silly Atomique, that’s what homeless people are for.”

Okay, bye!

Yeah, so the mother-in-law’s post-grandchild-embirthenating residency on our orbital habitat has come to a halt.  If plotted on a pretty infograph, this departure would coincide neatly with the slumber this blog has lapsed into.  I’m slowly ramping back up to full-scale blogmunition production.

In the meantime, amuse yourself with a thorough exploration of The Known Universe (it’s big, yet the video compacts it into a tidy 6:31).

Joe Meek was a pioneer of the modern age of music production, most famous for his work with The Tornados. He wrote and produced The Tornados’ #1 hit Telstar in 1962 – making them the first British band to hit #1 in the US.

As Brian Eno has sagely pointed out, ‘no one watches recorded theatre; we watch movies‘. In the early days of cinema, cameras were stationary, merely recording theatre as it was played out on stage – as the art form evolved, however, new techniques came into use such as closeups, the use of multiple cameras, lighting trickery, filters and anything that happens in post-production. The same can be said of music – the result of a work of studio production, while still related to live music, is no longer the same thing. Joe Meek was one of the first to realise this and put it into practise.

The Tornados – Robot

Before Joe Meek, recording technicians were lab-coat wearing pansies who endeavoured to keep the studio as sterile as possible in order to merely ‘copy’ the source material, like with early cinema. Joe separated instruments from each other, used echoes, used reverb and ran tapes through all manner of home-made electro-accoustic devices to end up with a final composite recording that was unique and like nothing that could have been created by the instruments themselves. He added musique concrète techniques to the mix, like the sound of a toilet flushing played in reverse at an altered speed to simulate a rocket blast.

Joe’s work was full of space-inspired titles and themes, like the aforementioned Telstar (named after the Telstar satellite, the world’s first communications satellite) and the only partially released ‘music from another planet’ concept album I Hear a New World. One of his many projects, The (once-again astronomy-thematic) Moontrekkers, famously had their single Night of the Vampire banned from play on the BBC for being ‘too scary’.

The Moontrekkers – Night of the Vampire

If you still aren’t in love with this man, try this on for size: rumour has it that upon hearing Rod Stewart sing (Meek had been brought on board to produce an album for Stewart), Meek rushed into the studio, put his fingers in his ears and screamed until Stewart had left.

Add another name to my list of heroes!

Joe’s career was sadly cut short when he comitted suicide in 1967 at the age of 37. His name, however, lives on in a range of audio equipment. I guess that counts for something. His personal life was pretty messed up, too, which these days means someone will eventually make a movie about you.

Trailer for Telstar: The Movie

Man, do I ever want one of these.  The Skylon Spaceplane not only looks cool as hell, but has a name that makes me think it’s Cobra Commander‘s weekend ride (although it rides a fine line between uber-cool and slightly ghey, I do admit).

In less than ten years’ time (hopefully!) this bad boy will be lifting  payloads into orbit for a tenth of what it currently costs NASA to do, with the bonus that it can lift off from regular airport runways.

A far more affordable, but less functional, but even more cool option for me in the vehicles-for-travelling-through-space-department is a Colonial Mark VII Viper (as in Viper Pilot pilots a Colonial Mark VII Viper kind of Viper).  As Battlestar Galactica winds up, the show’s props are being auctioned off, and there is a life-size Raptor and a Viper up for grabs.  They’re both sitting in the low $20k range at the moment, but the reserve price on neither has been met yet.

I shouldn’t have turned down my credit card company when they offered to tack another twenty grand on to my credit limit.  I’d be taking that bad boy home right now.

N.A.S.A are a DJ collective who have just released their first album, The Spirit of Apollo. The album features over 30 guest collaborators, among whom you’ll find the likes of Chuck D., David Byrne, DJ Q-Bert, Karen O. (from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Kool Keith, Tom Waits, Method Man, George Clinton, Lykke Li and on and on and on. Huh, I’m not quite sure why I said ‘the likes of’ since there’s not much alike going on in that roll-call.

Unfortunately, in this case, N.A.S.A. stands for North America / South America rather than anything astronautical. Fortunately, I think we’ll all agree that both George Clinton and Kool Keith are quite obviously from outer space.

There are six tracks up on NASA’s Myspace page and more yet on their Youtube channel, all of which are bombs dropped on us from low-earth orbit.  There’s a mighty amount of genre-bending going on here – Brazilian funk, hip-hop, Swedish folk-pop, regular funk, big beat, electro – all blended exquisitely. As soon as this album makes its way to the distant tillium-mining colony of Oz I’m grabbing a copy.

N.A.S.A. (feat. David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge, & Z-Trip) – Money
(bonus points for André the Giant Stencils in the video)

N.A.S.A. (feat. Tom Waits & Kool Keith) – Spacious Thoughts
(Not the official video, but seriously, Tom Waits & Kool Keith? ZOMG!)

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Looking for music by Viper Pilot? This blog is the current home of Viper Pilot's Munition Works, where he stores all of his mashes and mixes.

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