24 October 2008

The tale of Silibil'n'Brain

The Guardian is running a story today that Irvine Welsh is writing a screenplay based on the story of rappers Silibil'n'Brains. Snatched by Sony music, the duo was hailed as "the real deal" by competing A&R execs. Never heard of them? They never actually released an album.

If they're known at all, it's as the Scottish rappers who conned their way into a record contract by pretending to be American. After failing to gain any notoriety as rappers, they effected American accents and rerecorded their music. They submitted the new recording to Radio 1, where it proved a minor hit. They took the new act on the road and played some shows in London.
Within weeks, the pair had signed a deal with a premier management company. Within months, they had signed a record deal with Sony. They headlined small festivals, played Brixton Academy, toured with Eminem, appeared on MTV, partied with Madonna, and got paid more than £150,000.

Then the whole thing became a too bit much
Every day for the next four and a half years, Bain [Brain] pretended to be an American. He had sex in an American accent, swore like an American, got drunk in American. Eventually he had a Texan girlfriend, and even she never suspected a thing. By the time Bain stopped talking like an American, he and Boyd [Silibil] were no longer talking to each other. He had a major tax bill, a drink problem and a stomach ulcer.

The group split in 2005. Bain wrote a book. Here's a promotional video or something:

17 August 2008

Sunday Mystery: The night Max stole the airwaves

Tapping into a television transmission and pirating its signal hardly seems worth the effort. Though the process is straightforward, the amount of power needed to commandeer the signal of a commercial broadcaster is hardly insignificant; one must overpower the origi
nal transmission to jam its signal. And then punishment for getting caught hardly seems worth the bother. You’re looking at some steep fines and possibly some time in the clink. Don’t bother with any illusions about your stealthiness: tracking the origin of the signal is easy enough, as the pirate is forced to set up shop within the vicinity of a trasmitter site.

In the past, such acts of broadcast piracy have shown a decidedly political bent. One broadcast in 1980s Poland issued messages of solidarity with the Solidarty Movement. Similar transmissions are known to have been broadcast in the Soviet Union. Falun Gong has cut into Chinese television programs. When the Playboy Channel was hacked in the late 80s, it was the work of a Christian Fundamentalist. In the U.S., most perpetrators are found.

Which is probably why the story of the Max Headroom affair lingers in o
ur collective near-consciousness. On November 22, 1987, two Chicago stations’ signals were comandeered by a man in a Max Headroom mask. The first incident, lasting only several seconds, cut into the sports report on WGN news. No audio was broadcast, and the station switched their link to cut off the hijacker. A couple hours later he struck again over at the local PBS affliate WTTW, interrupting their showing of Dr. Who.

This time the entire message was broadcast, with audio, as there were no engineers on duty to cut it off. What followed was a bizarre 90 second message filled with rambling nonsequiturs, pop culture references, and rude all
usions to WGN. The video culminated with Max having his ass smacked with a flyswatter by a female accomplice. And before anyone could process what they were seeing, it was all over. The screen faded to black before Dr. Who resumed. Viewers were obviously left a bit baffled and more than a little creeped out.

The hijacker left no clear motive for the attack, and it remains the last recorded intrusion on American television. The person behind the stunt has never been identified by authorities and has been understandably reluctant to step forward on his own. In all, the events that evening in Chicago amount to nothing more than a victimless crime, a bizarre stunt carried out by a bored geek or a disgruntled ex-employee. It remains known today as much for its sinister appearance as for its seemingly randomness.

Naturally, footage has found its way to Youtube.

Here's a good article about it

11 August 2008

"The Conspiracy may be blood-curdlingly evil, but at least they have a sense of humour." : Fun at the Flat Earth Society

The Flat Earth FAQ

Q: "Why do the all the world Governments say the Earth is round?"
A: It's a conspiracy

Q: "What is the motive behind this conspiracy?"

A: The motive is unknown although it is probably money

Q: "If you're not sure about the motive, why do you say there is a conspiracy?"

A: Well it's quite simple really; if the earth is in fact flat, then the governments must be lying when they say it isn't.

"The green triangle is where we live. The small white circle in the green triangle is the Arctic circle (north pole). The blue around the green triangle is our oceans. The white circle around our oceans is the antartic. The green circle around the antartic is the dry earth mentioned at the beginning of the Bible (Genesis). Then there is the waters which were gathered unto one place. And then the dark red-black decending wall (cradle) to keep the waters there. And then the rest of the earth going flat and horizontally to the sky-line. The yellow flames are the source of all heat in the universe. The sun and moon rotate horizontally. The meteor cloud between the sun and moon helps in causing day and night. It causes a slight filter of the sun otherwise it would be too bright. The stars are sunlight peering through the meteor cloud. In the day the suns' focal light pressure overwelms the meteor cloud and bright blue is seen. The blue ball, or sky, surrounds the earth, and the white outside the blue ball is the inside of the sky/ball. All measurements of size and distance are infinite except what is inside the antartic circle/where we live."

It's hard to argue with logic like that. The site is treasure trove of zaniness

10 August 2008

Sunday Mystery: The amazing journey of Gil Pérez

This fantastic story seems to have been thoroughly discredited. First, no account of the supposed teleportation appeared until a century after the event supposedly took place. Secondly, the premise of the story is, well, human teleportation. It is known, however, that Gil Pérez was a real person. Records exist of his time in the service of the Spanish Authority.

For me, the charm of the story comes from its setting: far enough into the Age of Exploration where much of the world was known, yet still a part of the time where Manila and Mexico City were dark corners of the world. Colonial outposts where the work of supernatural phenomenon remained possible. While the reader can mostly likely judge the story as the work of an active imagination, the enjoyment arises from the idea that contemporaries of Pérez would have deemed the events plausible. Or at least that’s my take on it.

On the evening of October 24, 1593, a Guardia Civil, Gil Pérez, is said to have appeared suddenly in a confused state in the Plaza Mayor of Mexico City, wearing the uniform of a Philippine regiment. He claimed that moments before finding himself in Mexico he had been on sentry duty in Manila at the governor’s palace. He admitted that while he was aware that he was no longer in the Philippines, he had no idea where he was or how he came to be there. He said the governor, Don Gomez Pérez Dasmariñas, had been assassinated in his wine cellar with an axe.

When it was explained to him that he was now in Mexico City, Pérez refused to believe it saying that he had received his orders on the morning of October 23 in Manila Philippines and that it was therefore impossible for him to be in Mexico City on the evening of the 24th. The authorities placed Pérez in jail, as a deserter and for the possibility that he may have been in the service of Satan. The Most Holy Tribunal of the Inquisition questioned the soldier, but all he could say in his defense was that he had traveled from Manila to Mexico "in less time than it takes a cock to crow".

Two months later, news from the Philippines arrived by Manila Galleon, confirming the fact of the literal axing on October 23 of Dasmariñas in a mutiny of Chinese rowers, as well as other points of the mysterious soldier’s fantastic story. Witnesses confirmed that Gil Pérez had indeed been on duty in Manila just before arriving in Mexico. Furthermore, one of the passengers on the ship recognized Pérez and swore that he had seen him in the Philippines on October 23. Gil Pérez eventually returned to the Philippines and took up his former position as a palace guard, living thenceforth an apparently uneventful life.

05 August 2008

Sexy Nazism sells Korean face cream

One more link for today. Apparently it's old news, but it's new to me.

The South Korean firm Coreana have employed the tried and true "make like the Master Race" marketing technique in a bid to ship more skin cream. You can watch the ad here. See those first words that are shown on the screen? The first word is "Hitler." I'm not sure what the rest says. A subtle statement at any rate.

Also note the smaller advertisement that creeps across the bottom of the video as you watch the main advertisement.

I remember when smoking Parliaments meant something

Another condemnation of hipster fashion is neither necessary nor gratifying, but this one from Adbusters is worth a mention if only for its hilarious self-righteousness. This comment especially stands out as pure genius:

"The American Apparel V-neck shirt, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and Parliament cigarettes are symbols and icons of working or revolutionary classes that have been appropriated by hipsterdom and drained of meaning."

This sprightly burst of malevolence reads like the tortured scribblings of the angry high school misfit. The one who's just realized the football team's quarterback also likes-- I don't know, My Chemical Romance or something. It would work well enough as a joke until you realize someone put their time and energy into creating it.

I suppose all the perennial adolescents over at Adbusters could be similarly described. These are the same self-satisfied idiots whose ideas of stinging critique include selling "no logo" sneakers (whose logo is a black circle) and manipulating advertisements to say bad things about a company. See how that works?

03 August 2008

Sunday Mystery: The Incident at Dyatlov Pass

In the typically harsh Soviet winter of 1959, Igor Dyatlov led nine students and graduates of the Ural Polytechnical Institute on a ski trek in the Ural Mountains. The journey was to be arduous. Despite their experience, the travelers would have to contend with rugged terrain, snow storms, and temperatures far below freezing. The group departed on January 25th with the understanding that Dyatlov would send a telegram confirming their return to base camp by the 12th of February. There was no concern when word of the group failed to materialize by that set date, as weather conditions often caused a few days' delay. However, by the 20th a rescue mission was dispatched.

The first of the bodies was discovered a month after the party was last seen, on February 26th (one, Yuri Yudin, became sick before leaving base camp and stayed behind). The obvious conclusion was that they were victims of the elements, and the initial evidence seemed to support this notion.
Mikhail Sharavin found the first tent: “We discovered that the tent was half torn down and covered with snow. It was empty, and all the group’s belongings and shoes had been left behind.” The first five members of the group were found sprawled in the snow, far from their tents, dressed only in their night clothes. It was determined a few of the victims had been trying to make their way back to the camp.

The bodies were sent away for autopsies. It was confirmed the five died of hypothermia, despite one member of the group having a fractured skull. The other four victims were not found until considerably later. From the St. Petersburg Times:
"Their bodies were found buried under four meters of snow in a forest ravine, 75 meters away from the pine tree. The four — Nicolas Thibeaux-Brignollel, 24, Ludmila Dubinina, 21, Alexander Zolotaryov, 37, and Alexander Kolevatov, 25 — appeared to have suffered traumatic deaths. Thibeaux-Brignollel’s skull had been crushed, and Dubunina and Zolotarev had numerous broken ribs. Dubinina also had no tongue.

The bodies, however, showed no external wounds."

A doctor judged that no human could have inflicted the injuries and that it appeared as though the casualties were the result of force similar to a car crash. The mystery deepened when it was discovered that the latter group's clothing showed high levels of radiation. No source for the contamination could be found. Family and friends who later saw the victims' bodies claimed that their skin had taken on a strange orange color. There is evidence they may have been blinded. These oddities were followed by reports of strange colored lights in the night sky.

An investigation into the affair was opened and closed within the space of a few months. The findings were classified (which, in Soviet Russia, was not particularly notable), and any further inquiry was dropped. The area was closed off to expeditions for three years.

So what really happened? The circumstances truly possess all the key components of a great horror tale: isolation, an extreme environment, and deaths that defy simple, logical explanations. And yes, there's a hint at UFOs as is present in so many of these scenarios. Yet, the story can't be dismissed as more tomfoolery from the foil-hat demographic. Even the medical investigations were unable to draw definitive conclusions. The official cause was listed as an "unknown compelling force."

It is certain something did take place that forced the group to leave their shelter in the middle of the night, ripping open their tents from the inside, emerging only partially clothed and without outdoor equipment, in a temperature of -30°C. According to Wikipedia, "Some were found wrapped in snips of ripped clothes which seemed to be cut from those who were already dead." The official inquest cited two more facts, again taken from Wikipedia:
  • Six of the group members died of hypothermia and three of fatal injuries.
  • There were no indications of other people nearby apart from the nine travellers on Kholat Syakhl, nor anyone in the surrounding areas.
Perhaps hypothermia is a reasonable explanation. In severe cases, victims become confused. They may actually begin to remove their clothing. Sufferers may become combative and behave irrationally. Perhaps there was an avalanche. Perhaps a conclusive answer will never be found.

In all likelihood, the truth of the accident is mundane. Something attributable to the conditions the party found themselves in. Yet, the thrill of a great mystery like this is in avoiding the plausible. Conveniently overlooking the ordinary and letting our imaginations get the best of us. And it's this reason that the Dyatlov Pass Accident remains a captivating tale.

You can find more information from the places I stole mine :
St Petersburg Times
SF Gate
Photos taken from here
You can find pictures from the trekkers' own cameras here

02 August 2008

Everyone's waiting for you...