In the next room, tucked away in a fireproof lockbox, there’s a handwritten note from 1952, hastily scrawled down on looseleaf paper by a man named John (aka Jack) Whiteside Parsons. (My partner and I are both fascinated by the tales surrounding Parsons and his equally scintillating wife, Marjorie Cameron.) Purchased a few years back from a reputable private collector, it’s a short list of the books from Parsons’ personal library– the ones he planned to take with him when he relocated from Southern California to Mexico. Everything from biochem science to William Blake to Alice in Wonderland. Only… Parsons never made it to Mexico. Within days of writing that note, the man blew himself up amid persistent, weird rumors of ritual workings, sex magick, portals.
Sixty years ago to this day, in fact.
June 17th, 1952: a “brilliant young rocket scientist and occultist was killed in an explosion in Pasadena of origins that remain mysterious [...] Five days later, Pasadena police closed the case and announced that he dropped a vial of fulminate of mercury onto the floor of his home laboratory [...] He was 37 years old and one of the country’s top chemical engineers, a founder of Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the inventor of the solid fuel that would take man to the moon.” (via)
Such a strange fellow, with such an utterly bizarre life trajectory! And for me, for whatever reason, something about that list of indispensable books feels more eerie and portentous than any of his “Do What Thou Wilt”/”As Above, So Below” writings. But in any case, thoughts of Parsons’ mythic Moonchild loom large in my sky tonight. His biography is one of the most compelling stranger-than-fiction stories of the 20th Century. Here’s some highly recommended reading for the newly intrigued:
“Teenagers in Space” (Отроки во Вселенной) is a 1974 Soviet children’s sci-fi film about evil robots. In the film, a group of clean-cut teenage “pioneers” embark to a distant planet in the Cassiopeia constellation. There, they discover that robots have taken over the planet and enslaved the humans with one intention – to make their masters happy, as the robots understood happiness.
In one memorable scene, stylish robots offer to give the young cosmonauts a “Happiness Makeover.” In the futuristic operating room, sleek white sarcofagi encase the teens while robots calibrate the machine to erase their feelings of love, sorrow, shame and self-doubt. It turns out that their robots’ understanding of happiness is the satisfactions of basic needs, and the elimination of all ”disturbing” emotions.
The teens learn that a small group of humans had escaped from the “Great Enhappening” and that their descendants have been orbiting the planet for generations. Together, they figure out a way to bring down the robots’ oppressive regime.
The film is available in its entirety on YouTube, but perhaps the best way for an English-speaking audience to experience the film is through the video below, which combines footage of the film with Kraftwerk’s “Robots.” See below.
A breathtaking combination of time lapse and 3D optical illusion by California-based multimedia artist Jeff Frost:
“Over 40,000 high resolution still images were shot on Canon DSLR cameras for this film. I roamed the deserts of California and Utah looking for abandoned structures in the same manner that my Grandpa, Alfred, explored the Four Corners area looking for ancient Native American dwellings. This film is dedicated to him.”
Who knew that the Nyan Cat song could lend itself so well to space rock and shoegaze genres? Turn up the volume, close your eyes, and drift away in a tiny poptart rocket to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, leaving behind a rainbow of tiny bells and transcendental distortion.
Randy Halverson’s gorgeously ethereal “Dakotalapse”. Comprised of thousands of 20-30 second exposures stitched together, it was shot mostly near the White River in South Dakota, with additional footage shot in Utah and Colorado.
In the opening “Dakotalapse” title shot, you see bands of red and green moving across the sky. After asking several Astronomers, they are possible noctilucent clouds, airglow or faint Aurora. I never got a definite answer to what it is. You can also see the red and green bands in other shots.
At :53 and 2:17 seconds into the video you see a Meteor with a Persistent Train. Which is ionizing gases, which lasted over a half hour in the cameras frame. Phil Plait wrote an article about the phenomena [for Discover Magazine] here.
There is a second Meteor with a much shorter persistent train at 2:51 in the video. This one wasn’t backlit by the moon like the first, and moves out of the frame quickly.
The soundtrack was done by Bear McCreary, who some of you may know from his work on Battlestar Galactica If you like this there is a 23 minute(!) extended cut available for download.
Space Stallions, a bachelor film project from the 2012 Animation Workshop, plays like every Saturday morning cartoon from my childhood boiled down into one four minute concept. Created by Thorvaldur S. Gunnarsson, Jonatan Brüsch, Ágúst Kristinsson, Arna Snæbjørnsdottir, Esben J. Jespersen, Touraj Khosravi and Polina Bokhan, it appears to have everything: spaceships, spandex-clad heroes, rainbows, unicorn-shaped hoverbikes, moustaches, and laser eggs. It’s like someone put peyote in your Lucky Charms.