Monthly Archives: July 2010

“Sissy Bounce” in New Orleans

Apparently, this shit is totally blowing up. I’d never heard of it until moving to New Orleans where, in my neighborhood at least, its completley unavoidable. Literally, Sissy Noby performed in front of my house for my neighbors sweet-sixteen party. Aside from that, it’s being played on the radio, out of peoples’ cars, and at every block party of the summer. In New Orleans, it’s pretty hard to miss. It’s also been around for years.

Now, national media is drawing some attention to the wonder that is New Orleans’ bounce music. The New York Times recently did an article on bounce music in New Orleans, specifically investigating “sissy bounce”, a sort of inadvertent subgenre of the music primarily performed by gay or transgender singers. One interesting point throughout the piece points to  the sexual empowerment provided to females during bounce events, the lyrical content being more suitable for women to identify with and the role of the gay or transgender performers being comforting to many women participating in the sets.

The music in itself is kind of phenomenal and the live sets something to behold. It’s versatility, like Big Freeida performing at Chaos in Tejas, is undeniable. One element of the music that is noteworthy is it’s total lack of marketability or, at least, the reluctance of major labels to embrace this music as commercially viable. Perhaps this will change with the continued exposure of some the New Orleans artists who have been doing this for a while now.

The Twilight Zone – Season 1 – “The Lonely”

This particular episode contains some strong concepts: outer-space imprisonment, loneliness, and the capabilities of a robot to serve as a cohort.

Solitary confinement takes place on an asteroid, a version of criminal punishment in the future, imprisonment being outdated. Sterling utilizes the desert as an allegory for space and infinity, a theme he will continue to explore in future episodes. The man held captive is delivered a crate during one of the routine supply deliveries that take place every three months. It’s a gift from a compassionate deliveryman to help the man through his fifty-year sentence for murder. When asked what the contents of the crate are by one of the other members of the crew, he states, “I’m not quite sure, really. Maybe just an illusion, maybe its salvation. I don’t know.”

It’s a machine, though “physiologically and psychologically she is a human being with a set of emotions and a memory track.” Violently opposed at first to a machine aiding him through his time, the man becomes enamored with “Alicia” in discovering that she, though a robot, has feelings too. In questioning his situation after eleven months, the man wonders whether what is occurring is a relationship between man and woman or man and machine. The one certainty is  that she not only caters too but also develop his tastes. His loneliness is eliminated by the presence of “Alicia”.

With much time passed, the delivery crew returns with fated news—the man has received a pardon and is being shipped back to earth, though he is only able to carry fifteen pounds of baggage. The problem of most significance in this episode is presented in the separation of the man from “Alicia”. “She’s not a robot,” the man pleads, “She’s a woman. You don’t understand. If you leave her behind that’s murder.” Fully-succumbed to the emotional companionship of his cyborg companion, the man refused to give up his love.

Until the man who originally brought the robot, effecting desperate measures, shoots Alicia in the face.

Similar to a Stepford Wives scenario, a robotic imitation serves the role of a female in the image of the man who makes her possible. Of interest in this case is the man’s dismissal of reality, his lack of acknowledgment in regards to the robotic nature of his love. However, when reminded of her internal components (electronics, exposed through her blow-open face) he is able to abandon his feelings and return home.

A commentary on loneliness as much as the possibilities of a cybernetically guided future, “The Lonely” posses questions even today of our attachment to and enchantment by technologically-aided devices. Perhaps the commentary also inadvertently alludes to the effect of technology to create an impressive illusion of reality, a perfect Twilight Zone scenario.

Silent Running – 1972 eco sci-fi with robot drones

It would be an understatement to say that this 70’s science-fiction flick comes bearing a message.  If the grating voice of Joan Baez in the movie’s soundtrack singing about the beauty of nature weren’t enough to enforce the tree-hugging moral, consider the presented scenario: There are no more trees or plant-life on earth. The only existing vegetation exists in large domes that move through outer space attached to a ship manned by three very unsympathetic astronauts, three robot drones akin to steel-plated television box sets on wheels (accomplished by employing double amputee actors), and one very vengeful astronaut hippy responsible for maintaining the several eco-domes—barefoot, while wearing a cloak. In spite of Earth’s request to radiate the domes into oblivion, our faithful, friend of all furry creatures and is determined to save the forests.

As retrospectively cheesy and over-simplified as this movie is, “Silent Running” carries such a strong “green-minded” stance that I would be interested what the writer would have done had all the information and understanding of global warming, oil dependency, and the global health dangers of genetically modified products were as present as they are now. Undoubtedly, this is what allowed stories such as “Children of Men” and “The Road” (the book, not the movie) to develop with such a keen focus on the present, providing a historically-relevant commentary through presenting a future based on a sensitive understanding of facts. Alas, we still have movies like “The Day After Tomorrow” that have full-access to an abundance of informed ideas and still manage to turn out as awful and senseless Hollywood flops.

For the best cheesey 70’s sci-fi, I would continue to regard “Logan’s Run” as the brightly colored, polyester zenith.

Paul Klee: Castle and Sun

Know about him.

Operation Twin Oceans and the Narco Submarine

Recently got excited about the narco-submarine after reading about Operation Twin Oceans, a huge drug bust a few years ago of rather large proportions:

“May 17, 2006: Three islands, $70 million in assets and 52 tons of cocaine were seized by the DEA as part of Operation Twin Oceans. Brazil, Colombia and Panama joined the U.S. in the operation which also resulted in over 100 arrests including one of the most-wanted drug kingpins in the world.”

This is what 744 kilos of Columbian cocaine looks like:

This is the semi-submersible submarine seized in the operation.

VBS.TV did a fairly informative five-part documentary worth watching, especially part four when they start discussing the torpedo.

From wikipedia:

“Instead of a full featured self propelled ship, a “torpedo” style cargo container is used with a ballast tank (submersion control) to keep it at about 30 m (98 ft) under water while being towed by a regular fishing boat. If a patrol ship is spotted, the “torpedo” cargo container is released. While still submerged, it automatically releases one buoy concealed as a wooden log and equipped with a location transmitter system for a second support fishing vessel to retrieve it and continue the cocaine delivery. None of these boats do anything suspicious that could reveal their drug smuggling activity.”

My limited amount of research also led me to the fairly recent media attention garnered by the discovery of a fully-submersible submarine. Drug traffickers are smart.

The Twilight Zone – Season 1 – “Where is Everybody”

“it is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition,  and it lies between the pith of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.”

I’m going to be slowly working through all five season of The Twilight Zone (1959–1964, 156 episodes) and periodically posting responses along with some video stills to episodes I view as worth highlighting upon. While being the first syndicated network show that could be adequately categorized as “sci-fi”, Rod Sterling’s concepts were ahead of their time and his writing style peculiarly poetic. The breadth of the series influence is far-reaching and I’ve figured my viewership fundamental to my interests.

I’ll begin by highlighting the first episode ever broadcast: “Where is Everybody?”

“the place is here. the time is now. and the journey into the shadows we are about to watch could be arching.”

The first installment of The Twilight Zone presents a man who finds himself in a deserted town. He has forgotten his identity and searches for other people in vain. A phone booth in the middle of the park rings with no one on the other end. A cigar in an ashtray of the police station is found still burning. This scenario is closer to an elaborate practical joke than a post-apocalyptic situation.

A visit to a drugstore results in the character stumbling upon a spindle of books all titled “The Last Man on Earth”. Still holding onto the impression he is merely under the spell of a bad dream, a theatre abruptly lit in the evening brings the man to his peak of anxiety—the most cinematically pleasing-scene being when he flees the theatre in fright and crashes into a mirror, his reflection being his only animated companion in his state of isolation.

484 hours, the equivalent of a trip to the moon, several orbits, and return. The man’s delusions were a product of his existing alone in a small box without any human contact for this elongated period of time, a military exercise in simulating space travel.

As this episode was made a decade prior to the first successful moon mission in 1969, this particular story serves as testament to some of the fears and uncertainties produced by lunar travel. Sterling also seems to be alluding to the general weirdness and the strange subsequent experiments of the late 50’s United States government. Paranoia is a frequently used literary tool of Sterling, one that he was particularly adept at implementing.

To make a brief contemporary comparison, the Mars 500 is an eerie, yet somehow awesome elaboration on the idea of simulated isolation for the purposes of space travel. Six astronauts from various regions of the world spending 520 days together in an authentically replicated spaceship with numerous mock situations related to interstellar travel, the only human contact limited to twenty-minute delayed verbal correspondence with the monitoring base and e-mail. All in a mysterious warehouse in Russia for the intent of studying the physical and psychological effects on a crew during an expedition to Mars.