Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Mystery of Sex in Space

Astronaut, Lisa Marie Nowak, drove 1450 km from Houston, Texas to Orlando Florida on 4-5 February 2005. In her car were latex gloves, a black wig, a BB pistol and ammunition, pepper spray, a hooded tan trench coat, a 2-pound hammer drill, black gloves, rubber tubing, plastic garbage bags, $585 in cash, her computer and an 8-inch Gerber folding knife. She was crossing the country to confront and kidnap her rival for the affection of another  astronaut, Bill Oefelein. With the kidnapping foiled, upon her arrest she admitted to investigators to being in a relationship with Bill Oefelein which was "more than a working relationship, but less than a romantic relationship"
Nowak and Oefelein were never in the same space mission, so they could never have a sexual encounter in space. However, rumours abound of a secret history of astronauts doing the deed in zero gravity.
NASA has an official stance of forbidding sexual activity in space. In 1991 the first married couple, Jan Davis and Mark Lee, were allowed to fly on the same mission. NASA would usually not allow married couple to fly together, although not for such reasons but with the argument that it disrupts team morale. At the time, Davis and Lee having married so close to launch time might have pushed the circumstances beyond NASA's disciplinary rigor. 
Current and former astronauts often avoid questions of this nature. In a live interview in 1997 conducted by C-Span with American and Russian crew carrying out re-supplying mission on Mir Space Station, a caller asked if "anybody had ever thought about having sex in space". Col. Charles J. Precourt alluded to the manic schedule on board of the shuttle to the topic not usually arising. As he turned to cosmonaut Elena Kondakova, she shrugged off the subject almost completely.
A respected French scientist Pierre Kohler published a hoax report of a secret experiment conducted on board the Mir Space Station in 1996. Project codenamed STS-XX was to explore possible sexual positions in a weightless atmosphere. This report is now widely available online.
But, is sex in space even desirable? An MSNBC report, quoting Laura Woodmansee's book "Sex in Space", concluded in 2006 that sex in space would be (unpleasantly) "hotter and wetter" as scientists found that people perspire more in microgravity. The physics of zero gravity makes even the act of kissing very difficult. To maintain their position the couple would have to be strapped together, which is inconducive to love-making. Zero gravity would also lower your blood pressure which will in turn reduce the blood flow to the male member, resulting in a rather deflated performance. Bodily fluids are also dangerous in a space shuttle as they can slip into electricals, short circuiting important machinery.  The more conservative of these romantics would also be deterred by the general lack of privacy in the tiny quadrants of a space shuttle. On a more serious note, conceiving in space (if it is even possible) could be very dangerous for the fetus and the mother. Fetal development could be adversely affected by zero gravity.
NASA's "don't ask don't tell" policy prevents these endless speculations from being answered anytime soon. 

Monday, 1 December 2008

The Hunches

Screw it, I guess, it's a brand new blog n all, so here's for nostalgic values.
remember when bands were like this?

Just saw Giles on Saturday. Hardly ever see him around, but there's always a warm feeling when I do. Maybe cos it's always tinted with an image of him teaching precious little kids.
Anyway, he'd appreciate this.

The Dream Syndicate

I'm waiting for their LP to plummet from its current £14 overpricing...

Comic Blog number 1

Yuichi Yokoyama
Picturebox Inc

Growing up in Indonesia, I had a gigantic chunk of my life (hours after school and before bed) dedicated to reading Japanese/Manga comics. These were serialised, illegally reprinted I retrospectively realise, in monthly thick chunks of black and white illustrations. It would take me a while before I moved on to American (Marvel) superhero comics, and even more before I was confronted by alternative comics and a big wake up slap in the face, an analytical re-evaluation of comic illustration as an art form.
Until fairly recently, I thought this cultural shift was not only a natural hierarchy, but also a progressive one, whereby I sit in my high tower, never to delve back in the murky realms of Manga comics. Absurdly, to me Ghost in the Shell, Fist of the North Star, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and the likes, were at best transitional, much like Preacher and Sandman, a bridge in your late teens to the richness of Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, and Optic Nerve.
However, as I have increasingly plundered the depth of my psyche for inspiration for my own work, I find myself rediscovering/regurgitating those years of pure joy, of sheer wonder at the sight of men in capes bludgeoning each other, explosions of colour in tiny dots of colour separation. Retracing my steps at last I’ve come home to roost at the door of Manga. Last week I found a modern example of the mastery of its style, and the reduction of its essence in beautiful, action packed, highly technical black and white illustrations. I hadn’t felt as moved, almost literally and no pun intended, as I did reading “Travel” by Yuichi Yokoyama.

Brooklyn based Picturebox Inc reprinted Yuichi Yokoyama’s “Voyage”, originally released in France in 2005, with the new title “Travel”. The plot is almost negligible, there is no dialogue, and in danger of sounding cliché the story is quite accurately in the journey. Three men (in fact, there’s not a single female character in the whole comic) start their journey boarding a train at a station. They continue to walk down the carriages, passing other characters, as the train travels the length of the countryside, through various landscapes, weather, and architecture. The book is action packed, every movement is deliberate, every act is with force and imbued with hysteria, every gaze is mysterious, and the movement of the train itself is almost cosmic. Characters and landscapes merge in a blur of thin lines, technical staples of traditional Manga re-contextualised. When it starts to rain, everything in sight literally bleeds. I was swept up in this roller coaster and my only wish was for it to never end. But when it did end, it ended so magically, so bizzarely, my head was totally spinning; never has anything been so silly and profound at the same time.

Of course, it would be pretentious and out of the line to say that this book represents the world of Manga in its mainstream configuration. It is obviously cutting from a somewhat different cloth. However, it has sparked the kid in me and reintroduced me to the magic of these long forgotten worlds, which in essence were full of wide-eyed wonder n bizarre intrigue. Therefore, I am now resting my Chris Ware, Hernandez Bros, et al, and becoming obsessed with the Watchmen, Earth X, Inhumans, and soon, perhaps… Dragonball Z.


Yuichi Yokoyama has another book, also released by Picturebox Inc, called New Engineering. It collects his two previous sets of works: Public Works and Combats. That’s definitely on my Christmas list. Here’s a much better and more thorough analysis of Combats by Chris Lanier at The High Hat