The arts section was jam-packed this week, as we continued our weeks-long stretch of covering vaguely creepy things that live in the great, generative space between high and low culture (previously: David Cronenberg's cannabilism-meets-philosophy debut novel, Consumed; William Gibson's latest; and severed heads at First Thursday). This week, Robert Ham interviewed John Skipp, who filled us in on the origins and identifying characteristics of the literary subgenre known as bizarro fiction. The titles listed here, alone, are, I think, breathing new life into arts journalism as we speak:
Bizarro fiction, the Gonzo literary movement which has thrived on the small press and e-book markets, aims to scratch as many genre itches as possible at once: the emerging subgenre is a fucked-up and funny amalgam of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, romance, and erotica. And their titles read like delicious clickbait: Trashland a Go-Go, Ass Goblins of Auschwitz, and Rampaging Fuckers of Everything on the Crazy Shitting Planet of the Vomit Atmosphere.
Meanwhile, Suzette Smith talked to smooshed-face Internet hero and Parks and Rec writer Megan Amram about her latest foray into what her mom calls "this weird, sexual, anti-comedy comedy that's 'in' right now," Science... For Her! My favorite question Suzette asked is this one, about the infamous astronaut Lisa Nowak, here
affectionately referred to as "Diaper Lady":
As I was reading Science... for Her! I wondered if it was written from the perspective of Diaper Lady. [Editor's note: Lisa Nowak is the former NASA astronaut who became famous in 2007 after allegedly stalking her ex-boyfriend's new partner while wearing adult diapers.]
We're all thinking about Diaper Lady.
We're all thinking about Diaper Lady. Maybe we should just stop there. But there's more! Elsewhere, I reviewed Portland's latest iteration of True West at Profile Theatre, and though I worried it would be the dude play to end all dude plays (and thus that I would probably fall asleep, if what happens every time I try to watch The Wire is any indication), I was pleasantly surprised by director Adriana Baer's focus on identity more than anything else.
And A.L. Adams confirmed that there are, in fact, ways to stand out from the crowd at First Thursday, especially if you can "make everyone wonder if you're kidding."
Are you still thinking about Diaper Lady? My work here is done.
It has been 678 Earth days since NASA's Mars Curiosity landed to look for signs the planet could or once did support living organisms, just in case, you know, out of curiosity and all. That means it turns one Mars year old today, so HBD, Curiosity!
To celebrate, let's review a few of its discoveries over the past Mars year:
—One of Curiosity's first major findings after landing on the Red Planet in August 2012 was an ancient riverbed at its landing site. Nearby, at an area known as Yellowknife Bay, the mission met its main goal of determining whether the Martian Gale Crater ever was habitable for simple life forms. The answer, a historic "yes," came from two mudstone slabs that the rover sampled with its drill. Analysis of these samples revealed the site was once a lakebed with mild water, the essential elemental ingredients for life, and a type of chemical energy source used by some microbes on Earth.
Other important findings during the first Martian year include assessing natural radiation levels both during the flight to Mars and on the Martian surface provides guidance for designing the protection needed for human missions to Mars.
It also got its tires banged up and figured out how to take a really fancy selfie:
Click past the jump for the NASA's video update, too.
What is that we can now say with the recent discovery of a distant planet that appears to be just like the only planet on which we humans know for sure that life exists?
"This is the first validated Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of another star," Dr. Quintana said. "We can now say other potentially habitable worlds the size of Earth can exist."
Astronomers have discovered a planet about the size of Earth where water might exist: http://t.co/EL7dukm28H (NASA) pic.twitter.com/Gmn6G4P8by
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) April 18, 2014
This other earth is in a constellation that's 459 light years from our earth.
In case you decided against staying up last night to see the moon getting flooded with blood from the tears of Jesus Christ—that's the scientific explanation—Time magazine produced a nine-second GIF so you could watch the Blood Moon in a less boring fashion.
However! If that one's too slow for you, here's an even faster Blood Moon!
WHEEEEEEEE!! BLOOD MOON! WHEEEEEEEE! JESUS' TEARS! WHEEEEEEE!
As Denis mentioned in Good Morning News, Russia had some little visitors yesterday—meteorites that exploded over the Urals in Russia, damaging 300 buildings and injuring 900 people (mostly via broken glass). Here's an awesome news report from Russia Today in which the (fairly flippant) Brit host and his not-exactly-a-scientist-but-she's-cute "expert" reporter describe what happened and—here's the important part—show TONS of sweet video. And while I realize these meteorites were definitely trying to kill us, they're still kind of... beautiful? WATCH.
America! The land where you can achieve your dreams, as long as they're ridiculous ones like sending a hot dog into space.
As detailed in this week's upcoming cover story, the engineers at Portland's Ruckus Composites became the first people to ever shoot a hot dog into space this summer, when they launched an all-beef frank into the stratosphere with a weather balloon.
Read the story when it comes out tomorrow, but for now, just watch the video:
"Procyon" comes from Hot Victory's latest release, Nexus, which is available for streamin' and buyin' over on Bandcamp. Hot Victory plays at East End on Thursday, November 1 on a bill with Midday Veil, Eternal Tapestry, and Grapefruit.
If you haven't watched the whole Red Bull Freefall From The Edge Of Space, I highly recommend it. The only problem I had when I was watching it live yesterday was that I couldn't make out what Felix was saying. I ran the audio through a couple filters though, and I think it's much more clear now. Enjoy!
... or at least have him read the audiobook. Following last month's teaser, here's another quick, great ad for Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master—featuring the first glimpse of Philip Seymour Hoffman as
L. Ron Hubbard Totally Not L. Ron Hubbard. The only way this casting could be better is if they got Tom Cruise.
Whoa, weird. I just remembered Paul Thomas Anderson totally made a movie with Tom Cruise. I wonder if they're buddies. I hope so! But if they are I suspect The Master might make things just a tiny bit awkward :(
Paul Thomas Anderson's mysterious, Scientology-related new film has a trailer. Take a quick guess: Do you think it looks fucking awesome? SPOILER THE ANSWER IS YES
This is pretty incredible. Here's a to-scale model of EVERYTHING, from the tiniest particle that exists up to the size of the known universe. You can scroll backward and forward and see it all; there's the scaled size of a human, of a house, of Rhode Island, of Earth, of the Sun, of everything and beyond. I admit I actually got a whoosh of exhilaration by quickly scrolling out. It's awesome, and terrifying, and beyond informative. It definitively proves that you are nothing but a tiny speck in a colossal universe that you have no chance of ever comprehending. Happy Valentine's Day!
Here's a video tutorial on how to turn Lost Lander's fine new album DRRT into a homemade planetarium. YouTuber (and very chipper person) Abby Williamson demonstrates exactly how to fold the CD package into a triangular shaped box that, with the aid of a flashlight or phone, can throw celestial patterns onto your darkened walls and ceiling. It's actually quite a neat trick, which perhaps can't quite be captured on a YouTube video in all its glory. There are different star patterns that correspond to different songs, but more importantly, you will never, ever need to look at the night sky again.
(Also, suck it, OMSI.)
The long-awaited DRRT was released yesterday, and is available for purchase (either download or the physical copy with planetarium) at Bandcamp. The band plays a record release show at the Doug Fir on Saturday, February 4. Listen to a track below:
End Hits: At last, a Blogtown post that I can tag both "Music" and "Astronomy." My life's work is done.
Just a reminder that today is the solstice, which means the daylight now grows day by day as our collective despair shrinks.
I woke up in time to see the sunrise from Mount Tabor and want to confirm that there were, actually, a few minutes of sunlight in Portland today before the fog immediately rolled in destroyed all hope.
Apparently, an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth right now, and everyone here in the Mercury office is like, "Hey, Astronomy Guy, you've got to post something about this because you usually write about astronomyyyy! We're all gonna die! Asteroid! Meteor! Astronomy! Waaaaaaaa!"
I'm sorry. I can't. I'm too sad. I just heard some far more distressing news.
RIP, Heavy D.
I don't even know what it is, even though io9 tried to explain it to me. And I don't care, actually. Somebody just get me one.
No, I don't know why Riann Wilson is wearing Asimov muttonchops and playing some dude named "Xanthony O'Harbinger" and acting all mysterious and shit. All I know is it has something to do with the St. Johns Bridge. And maybe something to do with why "Rainn" is such a goofy name. "Rainn" is a stripper name. Perhaps Mr. Wilson has shed it.
io9 points out that this is probably some annoying viral marketing thing. Which, yeah, probably. I would still watch the hell out of Riddles of the Paranormal, though. I mean, it's on after Webster. And, presumably, is the lead-in to World of the Psychic. Which we should totally watch right now.
Serious question: WHAT IF THE DAD FROM TRANSFORMERS IS RIGHT
A decommissioned NASA satellite is plummeting towards the Earth's surface as we speak, but it seems that it's not entering the atmosphere exactly when the rocket scientists thought it would. From the Washington Post:
Thursday night, the space agency said that the 35-foot-long satellite would probably reenter Friday afternoon or early evening (Eastern time) and that it wouldn’t be over North America at that time.In other words, they don't quite know exactly when or where the six-ton satellite will crash to the ground. Could be later tonight. Could be tomorrow morning. Or, you know, whenevs. Statistically, the chances of a piece of the satellite hitting a human are only "1 in 3,200." For some reason, those aren't confidence-inspiring odds to me.
But this has proved to be a squishy situation with enormous, globe-spanning margins of error.
UARS appeared to be on a trajectory to splash into the desolate South Pacific sometime Friday night, according to a map published by the Aerospace Corp., which uses Air Force tracking data. The map indicated that if the satellite crashed just 20 to 25 minutes later, it would be over North America.
This was a significant change from a previous projection by the same organization, which showed UARS coming in several hours earlier and reentering the atmosphere just off the west coast of South America.
This news comes on the heels of NASA's publication of their 25-year plan for the future of space exploration, which includes another manned voyage to the moon as well as the possibility of asteroid exploration. Noticeably absent from the plan is what NASA will do in the next 24 or so hours about a six-ton piece of space garbage that is about to collide with Earth.
Looking at the moon from the comfort of your own home not good enough for you? You're in luck, moony: The Portland Japanese Garden is hosting moon-viewing parties this Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, timed perfectly with 2011's harvest moon on September 12. (The harvest moon is the full moon that falls closest to the autumnal equinox.) Tell us more, Japanese Garden event page:
Moonviewing, or O-Tsukimi, is a traditional Japanese festival which honors the full moon in autumn. On the evenings of September 11, 12, and 13, guests enjoy a quiet evening in the Garden, observe a candle-lit tea ceremony in the Kashintei Tea House and listen to the elegant live music.This all sounds pretty hifalutin, until you remember that the Japanese Garden is one of the most visually stunning places in the city (no bullshit), and visiting it under the moonlight—the serious moonlight—with a cup of sake in hand should be pretty spectacular. Of course, it ain't cheap, but it's also worth remembering that this is the Japanese Garden's only nighttime event of the year that's open to the general public. You can make reservations here.
Portland Japanese Garden, 611 SW Kingston, Sun Sept 11, Mon Sept 12, Tues Sept 13, 7-9 pm, $25 members/$35 non-members
In a week where astronomy news includes the discovery of a new type of rock on the surface of Mars and reported plans for a Domino's on the moon, it's possible that the most important story has fallen by the wayside:
As Reuters reports, a new planet has been discovered very nearby in our galaxy—a mere 4,000 light years away—that is the size of Jupiter and speedily orbits around its tiny star every two and a half hours. Australian astronomers have determined that the planet is likely made of carbon, but is extremely dense, far denser than gaseous Jupiter. And we all know what happens to carbon when it becomes super-dense: it becomes a DIAMOND. In other words, there is a Jupiter-size diamond just hanging out in Earth's vicinity, a planet that is not only valuable in and of itself but no doubt will increase all of the properties in the neighborhood. (Earth, you just got blingier.) You can bet that when the intergalactic war breaks out, this planet will hang in the balance.
Since the diamond planet will no doubt cause centuries of struggle and war by greedy intergalactic profiteers and jewel collectors, let me just take a preemptive strike right now by making this statement, in a public forum: I heretofore claim Planet Neil Diamond II* and all its holdings. These words, stated as such on Blogtown, are legally binding. I do this not for any personal gain, but rather to prevent an otherwise inevitable age of war and famine that will no doubt result from others jockeying for ownership. (It is merely incidental that I subsequently now have sole possession of a Jupiter-sized diamond, and am therefore the richest and most powerful person in the universe. Ahem... ladies?)
* This is its name, deal with it.
Now, I'm no sciencer, nor am I an astronomyist, but from what I can gather by reading NASA's report (via Astronomy magazine's website, which is just like the print version but without all the racy centerfolds), the swallowed star still emits a blast of X-rays even after it has been sucked in and torn apart by the black hole. Then, it disappears. Forever. And ever. Into a mysterious void, the nature of which science has not even begun to approach understanding.
Are you freaked out yet?
Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilizational expansion could be detected by an ETI (extraterrestrial intelligence) because our expansion is changing the composition of the Earth's atmosphere, via greenhouse gas emissions. A preemptive strike would be particularly likely in the early phases of our expansion because a civilization may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it continues to expand.In other words, we're fucking up our planet so much that other species in the universe might take it upon themselves to eliminate us—for the good of the rest of existence. This report has made the rounds (International Business Times wrote at least three articles about it today) but here's the thing: This isn't news. This is the plot of The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Of course it's possible that aliens could destroy us to save the rest of the universe. It's also just as possible they're as equally fucked up as we are, and could come to us for help. Or perhaps they will come to enslave us or have sex with us, or have sex with any of the other species on our planet (duh!), or perhaps just come down and steal our minidonks (again, for sexing) and leave the rest of us alone. Instead of reading this study, you'll probably learn just as much factual information about alien culture as you would scrolling through Blogtown today.
The study also suggests that we shouldn't broadcast any information into space that could be used against us, including our biological makeup. Whoops. I guess it's too late to get back the Voyager Golden Record—now our enemies will be able to defeat us with knowledge of Chuck Berry and how to say hello in Hungarian. Nice going, Carl Sagan.
It's time again for the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, the annual cluster of shooting stars that occurs when Earth falls in the path of debris left behind years ago by the messy Swift-Tuttle comet (way to clean up after yourself, Swift-Tuttle). Tonight marks the absolute peak of the shower, during which you can view up to 60 shooting stars an hour—but you might not get to see much because of the FULL MOON, whose bright, stupid light is gonna make it pretty hard to see the meteors.
Nevertheless, OMSI is hosting a star-watching party for the Perseids (named for the constellation of Harry Hamlin) tonight at both Rooster Rock on the east side, and L.L. "Stub" Steward State Park on the west (full details here). It's $5 per vehicle and gets started at 7:30 pm (when it won't even be close to being dark yet).
If you really have your heart set on seeing a bunch of fucking meteors, though, your best bet might be to wait until a couple hours before dawn tomorrow morning, when the shower will be at its peak and the moon will be low in the sky. Or we could just do what people have wanting for years, and simply blow up the moon. The time is right, people.
The countdown leading up to NASA's twelve-day mission began yesterday at 10pm PST, eventually culminating in Friday's 8:26 am launch (Pacific time!) at Cape Canaveral. If you feel like waking up to watch, OMSI will be showing the launch, via satellite, starting at 7 am this Friday in its planetarium.
Meanwhile, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a speech last Friday that even though all three of NASA's remaining shuttles are decommissioned and festering in museums, America still somehow wins (cue moar flags):
"Some say that our final shuttle mission will mark the end of America's 50 years of dominance in human spaceflight.... I'm here to tell you that American leadership in space will continue for at least the next half-century because we have laid the foundation for success—and failure is not an option."
OH MY GOD WATCH:
So... did you catch that?
(You might need to watch it again—this time with speakers ON. You still won't see anything, but man, those sweet, sweet sounds.)
As reported, asteroid 2011 MD—which is about the size of a bus—came within 7,500 miles of the earth's southern hemisphere earlier today. From National Geographic:
About one asteroid around the same size as 2011 MD comes as close to Earth every five to ten years, and one strikes Earth roughly once every 50 years.In related news, ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
"This was not an extraordinary event in the world of close asteroid approaches," [MIT planetary scientist Ben] Weiss said.
h/t to Greg
The longest total lunar eclipse since July 2000 will occur on Wednesday (June 15), with skywatchers in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Australia in prime position to witness the moon treat.Well, that's pretty much the entire planet EXCEPT for the Americas, which means you won't get to see jack shit.
For observers in regions where it will be visible, the eclipse could offer an amazing sight: the period of totality will be 100 minutes. In the last 100 years, only three other eclipses have rivaled the duration of totality of this eclipse, according to SPACE.com's skywatching columnist Joe Rao. The last lunar eclipse of similar length occured on July 16, 2000 and lasted 107 minutes.Oh, rub it in, why don't you?
"The entire event will be seen from the eastern half of Africa, the Middle East, central Asia and western Australia," stated the NASA Eclipse Website of the June 15 event.
There will be another total lunar eclipse on December 10, which will be visible from the western United States. However, it will be December, and there will be enough clouds and rain that, once again, you won't be able to see a damn thing. In other words, thanks for nothing, astronomy.
* this is not actually what happens during an eclipse
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