lunes, 28 de marzo de 2011

Sakhalin Lighthouse

Sakhalin is Russia’s largest island, 950 km long and just off the east coast, slicing down the middle between the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk. In the 1800s both Japan and Russia became interested in annexing it, the Russians for use as a penal colony, leading to years of conflict, retrenchment, and buildup of military forces. A ring of light-houses were built on Sakhalin’s rocky coast to signal incoming troop carriers and merchant ships.

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The Aniva light-house was first built by the Japanese as Naka Shiretoko Saki, then in 1905 Russia took it back, nuclearized it, automated it, and left it to do its thing. Some time in the 60′s it became dysfunctional and nobody bothered to fix it. Now its atomic casements have been splintered by vandals and it spews radioactivity into the sea.
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A unique plan was utilized to construct a lighthouse on Cape Aniva. The Aniva Lighthouse was installed in 1939 on the small rock, Sivuchya, not far from the hard-to-reach Cape Aniva.
It is a round concrete tower with a small wing. It stands 31 meters high and the height of the light is 40 meters above sea level. The tower has seven floors. There are diesel engines and accumulator rooms on the first floor; the kitchen and storerooms are on the second floor; the radio station, equipment room and watchmen are on the third floor; and there were living rooms and storerooms on the other floors. A flashing, lighting device was put into operation using a clockwork mechanism. The lighting device was in a bowl with 300 kilos of mercury used as a bearing surface. The pipe with the pendulum (a 270-kilo weight) was at the center of the tower and was wound every three hours to rotate the optical system.
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I read about this location first on English-Russia. He has interior photos taken by an urban explorer, though none that are particularly striking. It seems to me quite insane that anyone would go into this place. It was nuclear, has since surely breached, and is covered in signs in white paint that read- RADIOACTIVE. Phew. I hope they at least took a Geiger counter.
The god-father of modern urban exploration, a guy called Jeff Chapman, founder of the urbex zine ‘Infiltration’ and author of the book ‘Access All Areas’, died at the age of 31 from a rare condition brought on by his exploration of closed old factories. The prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals killed him. Be careful, people.
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info and pics from Michael John Grist

jueves, 24 de marzo de 2011

The Great Harry Houdini's 137th Birthday!

“Look at love. How could we ever keep love a-burning day after day if it wasn't that we, and they, surrounded it with magic tricks...”
Harry Houdini was one of the greatest magicians and showmen of the 20th century. A 5'5" Hungarian Jewish immigrant with little education, he changed his name from Ehrich Weiss and compensated for his small stature with grand illusions and escape stunts that earned him worldwide fame.
Houdini with wife, Bess and mother, Cecelia Steiner Weiss
Born Erich Weisz on March 24, 1874, in Budapest, Hungary. One of seven children born to a Jewish rabbi and his wife, Erich moved with his family as a child to Appleton, Wisconsin, where he later claimed he was born. 
When he was 13, Erich moved with his father to New York City, taking on odd jobs and living in a boarding house before the rest of the family joined them. 
It was there that he became interested in trapeze arts. In 1894, Erich launched his career as a professional magician and renamed himself Harry Houdini, the first name being a derivative of his childhood nickname, "Ehrie," and the last an homage to the great French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. Though his magic met with little success, he soon drew attention for his feats of escape using handcuffs. In 1893, he married fellow performer Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, who would serve as Houdini's lifelong stage assistant and beloved friend.
In 1899, Houdini's act caught the attention of Martin Beck, an entertainment manager who soon got him booked at some of the best vaudeville venues in the country, followed by a tour of Europe. Houdini's feats would involve the local police, who would strip search him, place him in shackles, and lock him in their jails. The show was a huge sensation, and he soon became the highest-paid performer in American vaudeville.
Houdini continued his act in the United States in the early 1900s, constantly upping the ante from handcuffs and straightjackets to locked, water-filled tanks and nailed packing crates. In 1912, his act reached its pinnacle, the Chinese Water Torture Cell, which would be the hallmark of his career. In it, Houdini was suspended by his feet and lowered upside-down in a locked glass cabinet filled with water, requiring him to hold his breath for more than three minutes to escape. The performance was so daring and such a crowd-pleaser that it remained in his act until his death in 1926. Metamorphosis was a ingenious trick invented by John Nevil Maskelyne but made famous by Harry, in this trick he would be bound and locked in a coffin and seconds later Houdini would come out and his assistant or his wife, Bess would be locked inside.
Houdini's wealth allowed him to indulge in other passions, such as aviation and film. He purchased his first plane in 1909 and became the first person to man a controlled power flight over Australia in 1910. He also launched a movie career, releasing his first film in 1901, Merveilleux Exploits du Célébre Houdini Paris, which documented his escapes. He starred in several subsequent films, including The Master MysteryThe Grim Game and Terror Island. In New York, he started his own production company, Houdini Picture Corporation, and a film lab called The Film Development Corporation, but neither was a success. In 1923, Houdini became president of Martinka & Co., America's oldest magic company which is still in operation today.
As president of the Society of American Magicians, Harry Houdini was a vigorous campaigner against fraudulent psychic mediums. Most notably, he debunked renowned medium Mina Crandon, better known as Margery. This act turned him against former friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who believed deeply in Spiritualism and Margery's sight. Houdini had great disdain for those that used his art of trickery, to cheat people. He exposed frauds and cheats everywhere he traveled and because of this had many threats on his life. After the death of his mother, Houdini turned his focus on debunking self-proclaimed psychics and mediums. His magical training allowed him to expose frauds who had successfully fooled many scientists and academics.
Though there are mixed reports as to the cause of Henry Houdini's death, it is certain that he suffered from acute appendicitis. Whether his demise was caused by a McGill University student who was testing his will by punching him in the stomach (with permission) or by poison from a band of angry Spiritualists, it is unknown. What is known is that he died of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix on October 31, 1926 at age 52. Beatrice, held yearly séances on Halloween for ten years after his death, but Houdini never appeared.
After his death, Houdini's props and effects were used by his brother Theodore Hardeen, who eventually sold them to magician and collector Sidney H. Radner. Much of the collection could be see at the Houdini Museum in Appleton, Wisconsin, until Radner auctioned it off in 2004. Most of the prized pieces, including the Water Torture Cell, went to magician David Copperfield.

sábado, 19 de marzo de 2011

Revenge of the Cat

By Makato Shinkai:

sábado, 12 de marzo de 2011

Andre the Giant

the gentle giant

At 7'4" and 500 pounds, Andre the Giant could have been famous for his size alone. His drive, talent and ambition, however, proved to be as big as Andre himself, and the wrestler became legendary for his achievements in and out of the ring. 

His parents named him Andre Rene Rousimoff, but we knew him as The Eighth Wonder of the World.

 Born André René Roussimoff in 1946 at the foot of the French Alps, in a town called Grenoble, André was normal-sized at his birth, but with adolescence came an incredible growth spurt — details are hazy, of course, but various stories put him at 6 feet at the age of 12, 6-foot-7 at the age of 17, and 7-foot-4 by 19. 

He had an affliction called acromegaly, a syndrome wherein the pituitary gland overproduces growth hormone. (There are stories that his grandfather in Bulgaria had the same affliction, and grew to a height of 7-foot-8.) 

Legend has it that when he made the long walk to school as a child, he would sometimes hitch a ride from his neighbor, Samuel Beckett. 

As an adolescent, he worked on the farm, completed an apprenticeship in woodworking, then worked in a factory that manufactured engines for hay balers, but none of these jobs brought him any satisfaction.

At 18 years of age, Roussimoff moved to Paris and was taught the art of professional wrestling by a local promoter who knew there would be good money in André's future. 
Roussimoff trained at night and worked as a mover during the day in order to pay living expenses. Roussimoff was billed as "Géant Ferré", taken from the name of a mythical French giant, and began his career wrestling in Paris and surrounding areas. For the next few years, Roussimoff began making a name for himself wrestling in various countries around the world.
Roussimoff made his Japan debut in 1970, billed as "Monster Roussimoff", wrestling for International Wrestling Enterprise. Wrestling there as both a singles and tag team competitor, he quickly won the company's World Tag Team titles alongside Michael Nador.
The wrestling world quickly realized that Andre was a formidable foe and few could best him, so Andre learnt how to be the heel, making his opponent look good for a number of years. 

For two decades, from the late 1960s through the mid 1980s, Andre the Giant was the highest paid professional wrestler in the business and a household name across the globe. Promoters fought tooth and nail to book Andre, as his presence on a card all but guaranteed a sell-out. 

Fans cheered his every move, and mobbed him on the street. He was known by friends to be cheerful, warm-hearted, and was known by fans as "The Gentle Giant." 

The disease that granted him his immense size eventually began to take its toll on his body. By the late 1980s, André was in constant, near-crippling pain, and his heart struggled to pump blood throughout his massive body.
According to William Goldman, author of The Princess Bride and its respective screenplay, André was having such terrible back pain during the filming of the movie that in the first shooting of a scene where Robin Wright drops about one foot and is caught by André, he fell to one knee and almost dropped her.
In the A&E documentary, BiographyArnold Skaaland mentions how André wished he could see a Broadway play. Arnold offered to buy tickets, but André then passed up the opportunity, citing how he was too big for the seats and that people behind him would not be able to see. This was cited as a principal reason for why André frequented taverns more than anywhere else.

He has been unofficially crowned "The Greatest Drunk on Earth" for once consuming 119 12-ounce beers in 6 hours. In her autobiography, The Fabulous Moolah alleges that André drank 127 beers in a ReadingPennsylvania hotel bar and later passed out in the lobby. Because the staff could not move him, they had to leave him there until he regained consciousness.
After Wrestlemania, Andre retired from wrestling for good. 

His beloved father died in 1993 and Andre returned to Frances to be with his family and attend the funeral. During this visit Andre died in his sleep of heart failure on January 26th, he was 47. According to his wishes his remains were cremated and his ashes were scattered over his ranch in North Carolina.
Andre continues to have a loyal following of fans, for both his wrestling career and his much-loved character in The Princess Bride, Fezzik. RIP Andre!
"I only dog paddle."

jueves, 10 de marzo de 2011

Sonnet of the Wretched

I have found my new vocalist idol...

martes, 8 de marzo de 2011

Carnevale di Venezia

Today is Carnival, also known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. Carnival dates back to medieval times and is a time for Catholics of the world to let loose a little bit before the self-denial of Lent.
Starting in the 13th Century in Venice however, Carnival tended to get a little out of hand. Usual Carnival merry-making, which consisted of elaborate feasting and masquerade balls, entertainment in the piazza with jugglers and acrobats, and a traveling show of exotic birds and animals. 

The donning of masks was what really fueled the activities, which the Pope would describe as "hedonistic." Behind the mask, noblemen and women and public officials could freely mingle with the crowds and get up to all sorts of naughty business free from consequences. 
Guess who!

The anonymity also meant that religious figures could be freely poked fun at along with public officials or virtually anyone else. Many Carnival-goes dress as bishops or other religious figures. 
Popes Clement IX and XI and Benedict XIII, and even Napoleon among others, tried to ban the festivities of Carnival many times but they were never quite successful, as you can't keep the rich man down...

Over time masks and costumes became even more elaborate and evolved into the full-coverage costumes that are still seen today in Venice. If you can ever make the trip over, it's well worth the journey! Here are some pictures from last years Carnival in Venice, enjoy!

Bishop costumes

miércoles, 2 de marzo de 2011

Small Pox Isolation Ward

This is Michael John Grist's (a very cool Haikyo explorer) story of his experiences exploring the Small Pox Isolation Ward in the Izu Islands, Japan:

 Small Pox was once an incurable killer, claiming around 400 million deaths in the first half of the 20th century before its eradication.  The people who contracted it were likely to die, and had to be removed from the general population lest they spread the infection to others. The Small Pox Isolation Ward Haikyo set into a then-remote Izu cliff-side was one such place they’d be banished to, to endure the agonies of their disease while lying on a straw mattress in a wooden shack, looking out to the sea and waiting to die.

It wasn’t easy to find- chiefly because it was so old that the road it was on had long been replaced, and would only appear as a ghost on our GPS, phasing in and out of existence as we went in and out of tunnels. The most immediate approach seemed to be to park on the bend of a very busy throughway, just before a narrow bridge and immediately after a narrow tunnel, with no obvious way into the cliff-side forest, and no clear way down. It seemed far too dangerous to park there, so instead we searched for the old road.

It took several sweeps of the new road up and down to find it. Eventually it emerged, at the end of an off-shoot through ramshackle houses towards the sea. What at first seemed to be a dead-end turned out to be an avalanche-damaged road. We climbed up onto the old greenery, pressed on, and at times saw the glimmers of the old road’s asphalt and yellow lines peeking through beneath us. As the going went along, it just got tougher, and we had to trail blaze along an increasingly steepening and overgrown mountainside. After a time of this effort, we came to the tunnel. It peeked out at us through a mess of tangled vines and bushes. It had been fenced off, but as usual an enterprising explorer had been there before us and forced the gate open. We went inside, clicking our flashlights on.

This was the second leg of the grand Izu haikyo road trip I took with Mike and JC, a location I’d seen photos of in numerous books and always considered a little risky. True, Small Pox has been eradicated, but isn’t it tempting fate to walk into a sanitarium where people once died from that disease? Would we be the ones to bring the disease back to life, touching an infected bed or table where the disease had lain dormant for long lonely years?

 Eventually it emerged, at the end of an off-shoot through ramshackle houses towards the sea. What at first seemed to be a dead-end turned out to be an avalanche-damaged road. We climbed up onto the old greenery, pressed on, and at times saw the glimmers of the old road’s asphalt and yellow lines peeking through beneath us. As the going went along, it just got tougher, and we had to trail blaze along an increasingly steepening and overgrown mountainside. After a time of this effort, we came to the tunnel. It peeked out at us through a mess of tangled vines and bushes. It had been fenced off, but as usual an enterprising explorer had been there before us and forced the gate open. We went inside, clicking our flashlights on.

Inside the tunnel walls were pitted and damp, the floor covered in detritus fallen from the roof. We progressed through, only to find the far end nearly completely blocked off by land-slide dirt, but for a small chink of light at the top. We decided to climb for it, loose going on the unstable scree, but we made it. At the top the going became nearly impossible, until the cliff-side we were on became virtually sheer, and we had to quit.
Returning, we decided to park a little ways up on the main highway, above the dangerous spot between the narrow bridge and tunnel. Walking back down the road was terrifying, as cars whizzed by us really very close, and I constantly wondered if we’d get mashed into the guard-rail like a bunch of dumb little flies. We didn’t though, and made it to the little culvert. Mike scouted the back end and found a path leading down, and into the Isolation Ward.

It was much bigger than it first appeared, and one of the oldest and most rundown places we’ve visited. In every room the windows were gone, the wood degraded, the mattresses splayed in rotten straw, and bamboo stalks grew up through the floor. In several rooms we were startled by bats, who I suppose were startled by us.

info and pictures from Michael John Grist, read more of his haikyo adventures