Titan in Fact and Fiction

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 3, 2008 11:58pm | Post a Comment


Titan was discovered in 1655 by Dutchman Christiaan Huygens. It orbits Saturn. Huygens named it Luna Saturni. When more moons were discovered, it was re-named Saturn II, then IV, then VI, which stuck as the official title, even though there are at least 19 moons in closer orbit of Saturn. It's also been referred to as "Saturn's ordinary satellite," but Titan is anything but ordinary.


Titan is the only body in the solar system, aside from Earth, with stable liquid bodies at its surface* and a dense atmosphere. Its landscape is relatively smooth, although there are mountains. As on Earth, the air is primarily composed of Nitrogen. Methane and Ethane clouds produce rain, wind and weather that give it seasons. It also has subsurface oceans*.

Embedded video from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology


The name Titan was chosen by John Herschel in 1847. The Titans, according to the Greek Religion and its adherents, were the former rulers of Greece during the Golden Age. The leader, Kronos, feared that his offspring would attempt to overthrow him, just as he had his father. To prevent this, he ate his children, except Zeus, who was saved and ultimately did overthrow the Titans and banish them to Tartarus.

Huygens's landing site on Titan

With such a mysterious, aesthetically Earth-like world hidden by a hazy atmosphere, Titan has attracted its fair share of speculation about its possible nature. Many films, television series and video games have been set there and are available at Amoeba for your own investigations...


Doctor Who - "The Invisible Enemy"

Transformers G1 - "The God Gambit"

Space Patrol (UK) - "The Glowing Eggs of Titan"

Creature (The Titan Find)

The Puppet Masters

Star Trek: The Next Generation
- "Chain of Command"



Star Trek

(season 3 and 4 opening)








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St. Louis Union

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 10, 2008 09:24pm | Post a Comment
St. Louis Union were a Manchester six piece fronted by impeccably-coifed singer, Tony Cassidy. Shortly after forming they won a Melody Maker beat contest in 1965 which scored them a deal with Decca. They were billed as "THE Group on the Northern Soul Scene." Their sound was centered around Alex Kirby's tenor saxophone and Keith Millar's electric guitar backed by some serious organ by Dave Tomlinson, John Nichols on bass and Dave Webb on the skins.

Their live set was built around "Turn On Your Lovelight," "Woke Up This Morning," "Every Day I Have the Blues" and "Get On the Right Track Baby."

Their name seems to be a reference to the St. Louis Union Station, a train station famous, like many things in St. Louis, as having been the biggest and busiest thing in its field way back when. Its archways are designed so that one can whisper into them and someone else can hear you clearly on the other end, a design feature with no apparent practical applications, save simple amusements in a simpler time. It was largely built of limestone taken from Indiana, probably just to remind the Hoosiers who's boss, as the state of Missouri is entirely made of limestone and they're the nation's leader in lime production.

Truman having a laugh at St. Louis Union Station

In the 1970s, the station was bought by Amtrak. They ended operations soon afterward and relocated their operations to a building the unhealthily train-obsessed refer to as Amshack. Now it's a mall where tourists watch the guys at the Fudge Factory put on a show and the Footlocker has a basketball hoop with the backboard autographed by the D.O.C.

While ridership of trains out of the station began to decline in the 1960s, 1966 was the Mancunian band's biggest year. Their debut single was a cover of the Beatles' "Girl," which reached #11 on the charts. A band known as the Truth also released a cover at the same time and didn't score a hit. Such was the world of British pop in mid-60s bands releasing covers of their peers. The b-side was a cover of Otis Redding's "Respect." They went on to open for him when he played in Manchester.

Their second single was a recording of slept-on genius Mancunian Graham Gouldman's "Behind the Door." The b-side was "English Tea."

They appeared in the Spencer Davis-centered Ghost Goes Gear alongside Dave Berry (singer of "The Crying Game"), The Three Bells and Acker Bilk (as the object of Modernists' disdained Traditionalist Jazz). It's not a great film, but as a relic it's fascinating and provides us with the only visual evidence of  St. Lous Union's impeccably forward fashion, timeless hair and considerable stage presence.

"East Side Story" backed by "Think About Me" failed to make the top 40 and it proved to be their final recording.

They split the following year, in 1967. Webb still plays drums, in a heavy metal band, T F L. Nichols went on to become a respected fashion photographer. Tomlinson, as Dave Formula, played with Magazine, Ludus, Visage and other bands. Millar went on to play synthesizer with many major artists and co-wrote Divine's "Think You're a Man." He died of a brain hemmorage in 2005 at just 58 years old. Cassidy, the swaggering singer, died that same year, just 57 years old.

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Happy Australia Day

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 26, 2008 09:23am | Post a Comment
The Flag of Australia                                             The Australian Aboriginal Flag        The Flag of Torres Strait Islanders

Australia was discovered about 45,000 years ago when they either walked or made short sea-crossings from Papua to the north in what is now the Torres Strait. In Australia they grew into diverse cultures with around 250 languages spoken by nations such as the Koori, Murri, Noongar, Yamatji, Wangkai, Nunga, Anagu, Yapa, Yolngu and Palawah, who together may've numbered around 3 quarters of a million.  43,830 years later (give or take a few thousand) it was claimed, like a quarter of the planet, by the tiny, faraway island of Great Britain.

Initially, it served as a penal colony set up at Port Jackson on January 26, 1788, which is why it's Australia Day today. 50% of the indigenous population died from smallpox within the following years. Massacres and land seizures reduced the indigenous population another 30%. Often the convicts sent to Australia were charged with minor offenses. In the 1850s, the Gold Rush began and with it, an Americanization of the language. For example, "bonanza" (borrowed from Spanish) became "bonzer." By 1827, Australian English was already diverging significantly from British English. Author Peter Cunningham noted a distinct vocabulary and a non-rhotic accent that owed heavily to Cockney. It is typically divided into three accents which owe less to region than UK English or US English.

      Broad: Exemplified by larrikins Paul “g’day mate” Hogan, Steve “crikey” Irwin.
      General: The typical Australian of Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman.
      Cultivated: The British-sounding manner of Geoffrey Rush or Judy Davis.

None of the examples above probably say "shrimp on the barbie" since "shrimp" are called "prawns" in Australia.
Most of the wildlife and plant life is endemic. It's the flattest country on Earth, mostly desert and covered with the least fertile soil. It seems like wherever you go in the world, you run into loads of Australians. Luckily, they all have multizone DVD players.


One animal that rivals the kangaroo and koala as a symbol of Australia is the dingo. However, the dingo is not native to Australia and is partially responsible for the extinction of some native Australian fauna such as the Tasmanian Tiger. It was brought to Australia a mere two or three thousand years ago by Austronesians.

I think one of the things that makes Australia so interesting to me is that it seems like some kind of Bizarro America. It has gold rushes, coastal cities separated by a wild west, beer drinking and sprint-car racing, English people waging genocidal war against natives. Remember Chris Gaines? Garth Brooks' alter-ego was Australian. Bizzaro! Bizzaro! Maybe that's why Australians, as a rule, are so much better at playing Americans than the English. Do Americans play good Australians? Has that ever happened?


Australia's first feature length, narrative film was 1906’s Story of the Kelly Gang, about the beloved bushranger, Ned Kelly. In the 1910’s, Australia produced a large number of silent films. Following World War I, however, American films flooded the market and effectively smothered Australia's film industry.

In the 1940s and 50s, an effort was made to popularize Australian Westerns with examples like The Overlanders, The Kangaroo Kid, The Phantom Stockman and Bitter Springs.

But it wasn’t until the 1970s that Australia began making films with any degree of popularity. Examples include Peter Weir's Picnic At Hanging Rock, The Last Wave, and The Plumber. George Miller's Mad Max achieved success at home and abroad, although it was dubbed in “American” for U.S. audiences.

The 1980s were and are widely considered the golden age of Australian Cinema. The other George Miller made The Man From Snowy Creek. There was also Young Einstein, The Year My Voice Broke, Breaker Morant, Gallipoli, Dogs In Space, BMX Bandits and the film that still defines Australia for most Americans-- Crocodile Dundee. In the television world, the never-ending Neighbours began.

The 1990s produced many (often campy) cult films like Flirting, Proof, Romper Stomper, Strictly Ballroom, Muriel’s Wedding, Adventures of Priscilla- Queen of the Desert, and Babe.

In the past decade we’ve seen Chopper, The Proposition, Lantana, Moulin Rouge! Rabbit-Proof Fence, Wolf Creek, and Happy Feet.

The Top 20 Selling Australian Films at Amoeba (so far)

1. Chopper
2. Adventures of Priscilla-Queen Of the Desert
3. Moulin Rouge!
4. The Proposition
5. Muriel's Wedding
6. Strictly Ballroom
7. Road Warrior
8. The Piano
9. Picnic At Hanging Rock
10. Rabbit-Proof Fence
and The Year Of Living Dangerously
12. The Last Wave
13. Mad Max
14. The Pirate Movie and Shine and Babe
17. Mad Max-Beyond Thunder Dome and Romper Stomper
19. Ghosts Of the Civil Dead
20. Happy Feet


                   Slim Dusty                                          Tex Morton                                    Simon Bonney

One thing that’s interesting about Australia is that it has a strong Country Music Tradition. Oh, 'course there’s Keith Urban, but it all began with Slim Dusty (“A Pub With No Beer”) and Tex Morton, who both reflected a strong American influence. The more home-grown variety, often with a stronger Celtic influence and a lyrical focus on Australia, is usually called “bush music” or “bush band music,” exemplified by the Bushwackers.

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