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Billy Idol and Dr. Timothy Leary jamming in the studio
09.13.2018
08:30 am
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“Outlaw Tech. Rebel Science. Information is the ammunition, your mind is the target.”

Cyberpunk entered the world borne on gusts of hype. Billy Idol’s previous three albums and the greatest-hits comp Vital Idol had all been certified platinum, and the term “cyberpunk” was strained by heavy use in 1993, invoked to explain such disparate cultural phenomena as Ministry, Freejack, the Bomb Squad, white-guy dreads and the 14.4K modem. Maybe Mr. “Eyes Without A Face” could square this circle. Who better to explain cyberpunk’s continuity with paleopunk? After all, hadn’t his first band been called “Generation X,” another buzzword of the day? If you’re a record executive, you’re going to let Billy have all the binaural recording equipment, Stan Winston special effects and rails of GHB he wants.

Except for those nine dance versions of the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin,” Idol’s instincts were solid. The CD and its accompanying interactive press kit on 3.5-inch floppy incorporated the talents of some heavy hitters. However, despite the cover art by bOING bOING’s Mark Frauenfelder, the bass playing by Doug Wimbish, the remake of Blue Pearl’s “Mother Dawn,” and the participation and blessing of arch-cyberpunk Timothy Leary, Cyberpunk sank like a Macintosh Performa tossed on a leaky waterbed. (Don’t let anyone tell you it’s Billy Idol’s worst record, though.)

A couple GHB overdoses later, Billy lost the white-guy dreads and returned to his former shtick; a decade passed before he issued a new LP.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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09.13.2018
08:30 am
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The extraordinary work of Frank Kelly Freas, the Dean of Science Fiction Art
09.10.2018
07:08 am
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“Just Around the Corner” by Frank Kelly Freas. This painting appeared on the cover of Fantastic Universe Science Fiction in 1955.
 
Frank Kelly Freas was known as the “Dean of Science Fiction Art,” and was the second artist to be inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. For fifty years Freas’ work appeared in all kinds of science fiction publications beginning with his first sale to Weird Tales in 1950. In 1957, Freas would hook up with MAD magazine painting nearly every cover of MAD until 1962. His spectacular artwork has appeared on the covers of books by some of sci-fi’s most celebrated authors such as Poul Anderson, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov. He has been nominated for the prestigious Hugo Award twenty times—winning eleven—more than any other artist in history. In addition to his work in sci-fi, Freas also contributed to another organization obsessed with outer space—NASA—and many of Freas’ posters done for NASA hang in the Smithsonian. Lastly, if you still need to be convinced of Freas’ impact to the art world, he also collaborated with Queen in 1977 at the request of Queen drummer, Roger Taylor.

According to Taylor, he pitched the idea of using Freas’ artwork of a giant robot called “The Gulf Between” from the cover of an issue of Amazing Science Fiction published in October of 1953. After reaching out to Freas, the artist agreed to paint the cover for the band’s 1977 album News of the World with a few modifications. For the album cover, the robot, named Frank, naturally, is clutching the lifeless, bloody bodies of Freddie Mercury and Brian May, while poor John Deacon and Roger Taylor (Taylor is pictured on the back of the album) fall to the ground. In addition to the iconic album cover, Freas also created the poster artwork featuring his menacing robot for the News of the World Tour. And since I’m a special kind of Queen nerd, I should mention, to help further promote the record in the UK, EMI created a small number of four-and-a-half-foot Franks to be used as record displays in high-end record stores. In 1997 Sideshow Collectables put out a God Of The Robots Model Kit based on Frank—which is, sadly, nearly impossible to find just like the record store promotional Frank.

Much of Freas’ extraordinary work has been published in two books, 1978’s The Art of Science Fiction, and the 2000 book Frank Kelly Freas: As He Sees It.
 

1959.
 

1954.
 

 
Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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09.10.2018
07:08 am
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Sound and vision: Scriabin’s Theosophical score for orchestra and ‘color organ’
09.06.2018
08:07 am
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Jean Delville’s title page for ‘Prometheus’
 
I’m no synesthete, so I’m still not sure what Eddie Van Halen meant by “the brown sound.” Sorry, Eddie: I’m the kind of literal-minded philistine who sees with his eyes and hears with his ears. Regular slobs like me have to make do with the pitch-and-color correspondences of Alexander Scriabin’s Theosophically inspired score Prometheus: Poem of Fire, which included a part for color organ.

(N.B.: As this article points out, a century ago, “synesthesia” did not exclusively refer to a neurological condition, but described “a broad range of cross-sensory phenomena” that could arise from mystical or aesthetic experience. So asking whether Scriabin himself was “really” a synesthete is beside the point.)

There’s ever so much bullshit about Prometheus on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Internet. As a corrective, let’s start with some heavy scholarship from the eminent musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky:

Scriabin made an earnest attempt to combine light and sound in the score of Prometheus, in which he includes a special part, Luce, symbolizing the fire that Prometheus stole from the gods. It is notated on the musical staff as a clavier à lumieres, a color organ intended to flood the concert hall in a kaleidoscope of changing lights, corresponding to the changing harmonies of the music. Unfortunately, the task of constructing such a color keyboard was beyond the technical capacities of Scriabin’s time. Serge Koussevitzky, the great champion of Scriabin’s music, had to omit the Luce part at the world première of Prometheus which he conducted in Moscow in 1911.

 

Alexander Wallace Rimington with Colour-Organ (an instrument that did not, in fact, perform ‘Prometheus’ in 1915)
 
The Russian Symphony Society gave the first performance of Prometheus with lights at Carnegie Hall on March 20, 1915, a little over a month before the composer’s death. James M. Baker’s “Prometheus and the Quest for Color-Music” sets Scriabin’s work in historical context and traces its path to Seventh Avenue. The essay overflows with detail on the particular system of correspondences Scriabin worked out, the history of synesthetic compositions, and Prometheus’ relationship to Theosophical lore. Significantly, Baker agrees with Slonimsky that, when Scriabin wrote Prometheus, he had no clue how the Luce portion of the score would actually be played (much less how “to flood the concert hall” with colors):

Although documents from the time are sprinkled with comments hinting that various color apparatuses had been tried and had failed in preparing earlier performances, in actuality there was no color organ ready and available for which Scriabin had conceived the part. It is true that Alexander Mozer, the composer’s friend and disciple who taught electrical engineering at a Moscow technical school, had constructed a small color device with which Scriabin experimented in his apartment, but this was merely a crude circle of colored light bulbs mounted on a wooden base.

 

Alexander Mozer’s ‘small color device’ at the Scriabin Museum in Moscow
 
Baker writes that Scriabin’s plans for English performances of Prometheus accompanied by A. Wallace Rimington’s color organ were scotched by the outbreak of World War I. In New York, the technical problem fell to the Edison Testing Laboratories, which invented a color organ especially for the show: the Chromola, a keyboard of 15 keys hooked up to a number of lamps behind color filters, with two pedals to control their intensity. While more impressive than Mozer’s “crude circle of colored light bulbs,” the projections on a gauze screen fell short of the composer’s desired effect. The May 1915 issue of The Edison Monthly represented the debut performance of Scriabin’s “special light score” as a modest success:

The theory of the production is roughly this: Following out the analogy of light and sound vibration, Scriabine [sic], the Russian composer, hit upon the notion of writing a color score to accompany his orchestral “Poem of Fire.” In theory, the audience was to sit bathed in floods of changing light whose variations in tint and intensity should follow the sound variations. In practice, however, this became more complex.

It was found impossible to achieve “floods of light,” and in their place a gauze screen was provided on which the changing hues were thrown, controlled from a cleverly designed “color organ” or “chromola.” Scriabine’s original color scale was found defective and a more scientific one was provided, based on rate of vibrations, each octave extending from deep red at one end of the spectrum to violet at the other. Thus pitch was made analogous to hue, loudness to shade and quality to the intensity of illumination. Advocates of mobile color feel sufficiently encouraged by their experiment to wish to attempt another production under more favorable conditions. And apparently one of these will be a score somewhat less bewilderingly dissonant than the “Poem of Fire.”

Below, a 2010 performance of Prometheus approximates the totally bitchin’ immersive light show Scriabin imagined, with the help of 21st century lighting tech and Yale’s massive endowment (that’s Ivy League coin, perv!).
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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09.06.2018
08:07 am
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That time two scientists killed an elephant with a massive overdose of LSD because…science

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There are times when the best advice is ignored by those its intended to help even when it’s given by example. If only Tusko the elephant had taken the hint from Nellie and packed his trunk and waved goodbye to Oklahoma City Zoo, then maybe dear old Tusko could have avoided his untimely and unnecessary death on August 3rd, 1962, from a massive overdose of LSD injected by two scientists, Dr. Louis Jolyon “Jolly” West and Dr. Chester M. Pierce, and Mr. Warren Thomas, head honcho at the city zoo..

I can’t help but think if Beavis and Butthead had ever by some miracle of fate graduated from high school and then somehow majored in sciences at the local community college, then they may have come up with the idea of injecting an elephant with humongous dose of LSD just to see what would happen. Not that West, Pierce, or even Clark were random knuckleheads. They were highly qualified science guys with impressive resumes who just wanted to know what would happen if a fourteen-year-old Indian elephant tripped out on acid.

LSD was the new wonder drug. Doctors, scientists, psychiatrists, and the CIA were all fascinated at the potential use of the drug in altering behavior, helping mental illness, possible brainwashing, and as a potential military weapon. What West and Pierce were keen on discovering was the drug’s use in determining the cause of episodes of temporary madness in male elephants called musth. During these phases of aggressive behavior, male elephants secreted a fluid from their temporal gland which, on occasion, could be seen oozing out of their ears. Musth caused male elephants to go on a rampage, stomp the shit outta stuff, kill people, and generally cause havoc. West and Pierce hoped a dose of LSD would provoke a psychotic reaction in Tusko which would cause musth to occur. If it did, then LSD could be used in the research of psychotic behavior in elephants and humans—as it was thought the elephant’s brain was similar, if considerably larger, to ours.

But here was the BIG problem: no one had ever given LSD to an elephant before, well, at least no one had owned up to it, and West and Pierce had no knowledge as to what dosage would provide a suitably effective hit of the drug. They consulted zoo-guy Thomas, who noted that African elephants were often resistant to drugs. It was therefore decided to roughly estimate the dose to be administered to Tusko on calculations based on the size of dose given to humans and increasing the dosage proportionally to the elephant’s size. Somehow this ended up multiplying Tusko’s dose by approximately 3,000 percent—which is the largest known dose ever given to animal.

On Friday, August 3rd 1962, West and Pierce watched as Thomas injected Tusko with 297 milligrams of LSD. Tusko quickly started tripping balls. The elephant became very distressed and lost control of his bodily movements. Tusko ran around his pen trumpeting. His mate Judy tried to comfort poor Tusko, but it was to no avail. Believing they may have injected him with waaaay too much acid, West, Pierce, and Thomas quickly administered an antipsychotic drug—-2,800 milligrams of promazine-hydrochloride. It didn’t do much. His eyes rolled back, his tongue turned blue, and the elephant showed signs of seizures.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.25.2018
08:13 am
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The British neurologist who uses William S. Burroughs’ ideas to treat Parkinson’s disease


 
Though he never met William S. Burroughs, the British neurologist A.J. Lees credits the author as an important teacher in his recent book, Mentored by a Madman: The William S. Burroughs Experiment.

The expert in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases first encountered Burroughs on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. During the 1970s, after reading Naked Lunch, Lees began experimenting with apomorphine, the substance Burroughs advocated to cure junk addiction, as a treatment for symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

In 2013, again following Burroughs’ example, Lees traveled to the Amazon rainforest to take yagé, or ayahuasca. He told the Guardian that taking the drug “broke down certain rigid structures that were blocking innovations in Parkinson’s disease research.”

Lees has also used apomorphine and Brion Gysin and Burroughs’ Dreamachine to investigate visual hallucinations in Parkinson’s patients.

Below, in an interview at the Beat Hotel, Lees talks with Andrew Hussey about Mentored by a Madman. He’s also spoken about the book on Erik Davis’ Expanding Mind podcast and in a video for ACNR Journal
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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06.14.2018
07:08 am
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Drugs, witchcraft & werewolves: The fantastic weirdness of paranormal magazine Fate


The cover of the January 1956 issue of Fate magazine. Read the entire cover story, ‘In The Magical Land Of Mescaline’ here.
 
Fate magazine published their first issue in 1948 featuring an illustration of gold flying saucers along with an accompanying article by Kenneth Arnold of his first-hand account of seeing UFOs while piloting his plane around Washington State. Arnold was more than a credible witness as far as the public was concerned. A professional pilot with approximately 9,000 hours of flying time to his credit, his story was a national sensation. Fate publisher and science fiction writer Raymond A. Palmer got together with Arnold to polish up his paranormal tale for publication in Fate’s first issue making it hugely popular.

Palmer’s love of the paranormal and science fiction started as a child, mostly to find solace as he was recovering from a horrific accident in which his spine was broken when he was hit by a truck at the age of seven. The injury would leave the young Palmer with a disfigured back (or humpback) as well as limiting his adult height to four feet. None of this stopped Palmer from writing, editing and publishing science fiction stories under various names during his long career which includes the notable distinction of publishing Isaac Asimov’s first professional piece, Marooned Off Vesta while he was an editor for Amazing Stories magazine. In 1948 he would turn his attention to Fate magazine (with partner Curtis Fuller, who eventually bought him out) which is still going and to date has put out over 700 issues full of supernatural tales, the afterlife, the occult, witchcraft, spiritualism, ESP, telepathy, cryptozoology and anything else residing on the fringe and beyond our plane of existence. Writer John Keel, he of the Mothman mythos, wrote regularly for Fate and even edited the magazine for a period.

Many of the stories published in Fate were submitted by readers from all walks of life sharing their far-out experiences such as one published in 1956 called In The Magic Land of Mescaline. In the piece written by Claude William Chamberlain, Ph.D., the good doctor recounts the time he allowed himself to be the subject of a scientific experiment where he dropped a half-gram of mescaline.

Here’s an excerpt from In The Magic Land of Mescaline from the January 1956 issue of Fate:

“I sat in the laboratory for an hour discussing current matters with my two friends—and nothing happened! A short time later, I closed my eyes for a moment and began to see “things.” I call them “things” because I have no words to describe them. Not living creatures, people or tangible objects but forms of light and color that slid and expanded and revolved in constantly changing pattern. Something like a blooming, bright red rose evolved into a scarlet dance of lights and shadowy contrasts. Golden spheres melted into azure and pink sunsets, becoming flat planes of intense beauty. A glorious aurora borealis flashed at an angle and became a series of rainbows that developed into showers of glittering raindrops of amazing splendor. Up to this point, there had been no untoward sounds, odors or other sensations. I didn’t have any feelings either pleasant or unpleasant. But, I was looking upon everything dispassionately, with cold objectivity. The warm friendship that existed between my two companions and me had not carried over into my new world. I felt nothing toward them. Except that I continued to talk to them, they might have been strangers a thousand miles removed from the scene. I realized who they were, well enough, but it left me unmoved. They were quite outside the new me. In my own case, I was far removed from the actualities of the workaday world, with highly increased perception and hypersensitivities to what ordinarily passes for unimpressive realities. It was a fantastic experience.”

While Dr. Chamberlain’s story is not the first to be documented by a physician (proper credit likely belongs to Havelock Ellis and his self-experimentation with the drug in 1896), it does precede the well-documented travels taken by actor Cary Grant during his acid awakening period starting in 1958 and concluding in 1961 where Grant claimed to have dropped at least 100 tabs of acid ultimately declaring himself “reborn” thanks to his experience under the influence (explored in the 2017 documentary Becoming Cary Grant). I’ve posted some of the more intriguing covers of Fate below, including one done by Robert Crumb in 2000 featuring his wicked Yeti Woman Some are slightly NSFW.
 

March 1953.
 

May/June 1951.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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06.13.2018
08:59 am
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Locked-up in chastity: Men’s anti-masturbation devices from a century ago

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John Harvey Kellogg invented Corn Flakes as a means to stop masturbation. Kellogg believed a bowl of crispy morning goodness would stop youngsters from the evils of self-pollution, disease, and possible madness. Kellogg was a doctor, nutritionist, inventor, health freak, activist, and shrewd businessman. He wrote the treatise Plain Facts for Old and Young: Embracing the Natural History and Hygiene of Organic Life in which he cataloged a startling array of side-effects caused by the “doubly abominable” “crime” of onanism. His list included poor posture, stiffness of the joints, infirmity, bashfulness, and even an unhealthy predilection for spicy foods.

Kellogg believed diet played an enormous part in why so many youngsters wasted their lives in self-abuse. He, therefore, insisted on a diet of bland food, a cleansing of the bowels through regular use of enemas, and a daily bowl of his tasty Corn Flakes.

Masturbation was considered a very serious threat to the good health and clean-living of every young man and woman up as far up as the 1950s and even the 1960s. Some may recall Monty Python’s spoof advert in their Brand New Bok which displayed a naked Graham Chapman under the headline “Masturbation The Difficult One”:

Some people find it difficult to talk about. Others find it difficult to do.

The mock ad went on to explain how masturbation:

...does not make you blind
It does not make your hair fall out
It does not make you vote Conservative
It does not stunt your growth

 
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Mr. Chapman and that difficult one.
 
The writer, lawyer, and “champagne socialist” John Mortimer, probably best known for his fictional character Rumpole of the Bailey, recounted in his autobiography Clinging to the Wreckage a tale of one of his classmates, a boy called Tainton, caught masturbating by the school chaplain, the suitably-named Mr. Percy.

Mr. Percy was deeply shocked to discover Tainton playing with himself and admonished him by saying:

“Really my boy, you should save that up till you are married.”
“Oh, I’m doing that, sir,” Tainton answered with his rare smile, “I’ve already got several jam jars full.”

In a bid to stop such heinous behavior, various contraptions were invented to stop self-pollution. For young women, there was the chastity belt, and for men, well, a variety of painful devices including this one which was intended to lock the penis and testicles into a metal retainer to avoid any self-abuse.

This male chastity belt, or “surgical appliance,” was in use from the 1830s until the 1930s. The device may look like a novel fashion accessory or a variation on one of those “cock locks” favored by those into fetishism, cross-dressing, and a little S&M, but it was originally intended to put a stop to young men spilling their seed on stony ground, or rather in their hands or handkerchieves.
 
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A male antimasturbation apparatus ca 1871-1930. According to the Science Museum:

This metal device is one of a number of similar devices which were invented in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries to prevent masturbation. A leather strap which would have kept it in place is now missing. Until the early 1900s, many people regarded masturbation as harmful to a person’s health, and it was blamed for a variety of ailments, including insanity.

 
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More male anti-masturbation devices, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.12.2018
08:49 am
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A lonely planet full of isolated unhappy souls: One man’s potent takedown of ‘antisocial’ media
02.20.2018
11:05 am
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When Facebook switched on just over a decade ago, a friend described the shiny, newly minted social media platform as being like a great big cocktail party where one could drift in and out of conversations (drink in hand no doubt) meet new people, renew old acquaintances, and share ideas and information. It didn’t take too long before I started thinking Facebook was more like Sid Caesar’s writers’ room where the writers screamed out their material in the hope of getting picked every time the old comedy kingpin Caesar popped his head in the room to see what was cooking. The big difference being these writers’ scripts were gold, whereas Facebook was mainly filled with dross like the endless loops of viral videos featuring pandas sneezing, men with bulging eyes, and cats getting all surprised when they’re tickled. Even our means of responding to this “wonderful content” was limited to just a “Like” button. There were no laughing/crying faces or other emojis back then.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s noble dream of meaningful interaction bringing people together was now but a cold caller’s White Pages. Then came Twitter which soon fell into a moronic inferno of abusive trolls who seemed to think the platform was solely invented to help them deal with ther anger management issues. Next was the empty hall of mirrors better known as Instagram and the utterly pointless connectivity of Linkedin which merely confirmed the deep nagging suspicion that being part of this group was like sending your resume to the mad cat lady down the road.

Now I’m sure for many many people social media’s a groove and a gas and has helped them successfully navigate their world and given them the belief they are somehow relevant to whatever it is that’s going on. Good. That’s fair. That’s really nice to hear. Still, let me hazard a guess that maybe for some—maybe just a disgruntled few—social media ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it’s very disappointing. And if all those reports that are always wheeled out every time some old school media outlet wants to score a point are true then social media platforms like Facebook, like Twitter, like whatever, haven’t made people happier, sunnier, calmer, more fun-loving peeps but more frustrated and lonely.

Now before y’all jump in and say but…but…but… etc. If one can see faults in Heaven then it ain’t perfect and maybe we can do something about it to make it better—but can that ever happen if we haven’t the means, the tools, to correct what is wrong?

But that’s just my two cents, you can keep the change.

Digital artist Mike Campau has also been wondering about our social media world and its effects. Campau is a highly respected and very successful digital artist who’s worked with a list of names more impressive than an award ceremony guest list. One of his recent projects is ANTISOCIAL which uses photography and CGI to ask questions about our social media world as he sez in his pitch:

Social Media is starting to get some pullback, and rightfully so. Each platform has its own problems, but all have had a large impact on society as a whole, both good and bad.  Each image takes place in an empty parking lot which is a symbol of our singularly isolated posts but placed in a location where it can be easily seen by many.

See more of ANTISOCIAL and Campau’s work here.
 
More lonely planet, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.20.2018
11:05 am
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The gorgeous sci-fi ladies of ‘UFO’
02.05.2018
09:20 am
Topics:
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Actress Gabrielle Drake (sister of musician Nick Drake) in character as Lt. Gay Ellis from UK television show, ‘UFO.’
 
Television program UFO made its debut in 1970, in the UK and Canada. It came out a bit later in the U.S. The show was the creation of dynamic husband and wife duo, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson—who were best known for their pioneering kid-oriented “Supermarionation” shows such as Thunderbirds. The futuristic storyline for UFO takes place in the not-so-distant year of 1980, and it was honestly pretty gnarly for prime time viewing as it presents the scenario of a ragtag fleet of dying aliens coming to earth to harvest human organs in order to sustain their existence. No big deal. Among the members of the large ensemble cast were Gabrielle Drake (the sister of musician Nick Drake), Polish actor, Vladek Sheybal (who is likely best known for his portrayal of chess master Kronsteen in the 1963 James Bond film From Russia with Love), and model/actress Shakira Baksh who would wed actor Michael Caine in 1973. The show had much in common with 1969’s Doppelgänger (AKA Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, its better known title)—the Anderson’s’ first project to use human beings—including many of the same props, sets and even actors.

UFO was an instant hit, due much in part to the special effects created by the talented Derek Meddings which took approximately a year to develop. Meddings would go on to do special effects for several James Bond films and the pyrotechnics for every live Pink Floyd show in 1975 during their Wish You Were Here tour. Another element of any successful TV show is the development and visual appeal of its cast of characters, and as I mentioned earlier, UFO‘s actors did not disappoint. Here, we are going to focus on the lovely ladies who were a part of SHADO (the acronym for Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation) who always looked cool even in the face of an alien invasion. The most memorable characters got to wear badass purple-hued wigs and silver catsuits which made them look like go-go dancers from the future. There was also some risky looking fishnet worn by members of the cast during “underwater” sequences—a far cry from the basic turtlenecks, jumpsuits, and clerical-style jackets worn by the members of SHADO.

The show ran until 1973 and inspired a line of collectible toys and model kits based on the far-out vehicles and spaceships featured in the series, many still coveted by collectors to this day. If you had either forgotten about this television gem (which was a precursor to the Anderson’s last collaboration, Space 1999 starring Martin Landau and Barbara Bain) or were unfamiliar with it until now, you are going to love the groovy images of the fictional female members of SHADO posted below. 
 

One of the lovely ladies of SHADO.
 

Actress/model Shakira Baksh/Caine.
 

Fishnet shirts are futuristic.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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02.05.2018
09:20 am
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Strange Illustrations of Robots, Devils, Fire-Breathing Witches, and Weapons of War from 1420
01.25.2018
10:00 am
Topics:
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The Devil and all his internal works.
 
There’s an episode of South Park where Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny try out different routines only to find “The Simpson’s Already Did It.” Looking at the illustrations of technological inventions by fifteenth-century Venetian physician, engineer, and alleged “magus,” Johannes de Fontana, (ca. 1395-1455), aka Giovanni Fontana, it’s more than apparent that whatever invention we think is new someone (probably not The Simpsons...) has already imagined it.

In his technological or mechanical treatise, Bellicorum instrumentorum liber cum figuris (ca. 1420), Fontana imagined or rather devised a whole series of machines for use in war, traveling, entertaining children, flying, robots, rocket-powered craft, timepieces, fountains, and even a means of projecting images like a magic lantern. Unlike most other inventors at this time, Fontana showed the workings of his inventions—the pulleys and weights (sand, water) by which his mechanical devices worked. Most inventors illustrated their proposals “in action” as if functioning in real time, therefore, keeping internal mechanisms of cogs and wheels and what-have-yous hidden, thus to ensure they might be paid for developing such contraptions. Fontana presented his work with see-thru interiors, allowing the viewer to witness or rather imagine just exactly how this devil could fly or that vehicle move. This all well-and-good until one realizes many of these wonderful designs are utterly unworkable as they “do not conform to the principles of mechanics.”

Many of the ideas contained in Bellicorum instrumentorum liber cum figuris focus on weapons of war like exploding missiles, mechanical battering rams and alike. However, Fontana did also include a number of designs for children’s toys and several drawings that scorched myths about the supernatural and the occult by explaining how devils and witches were most probably just robotic automata used to terrorize his fellow citizens.

A copy of Johannes de Fontana’s Bellicorum instrumentorum liber cum figuris can be viewed here.
 
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A mechanical toy.
 
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More toy/entertainment for kids.
 
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A robot witch showing how it would move on rails, have wings that flapped and arms that moved, and an ability to blow fire or air.
 
More mechanical illustrations, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.25.2018
10:00 am
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