Great Footpads of History: Spring Heeled Jack

Spring Heeled Jack also apparently kitten heeled

Spring Heeled Jack also apparently kitten heeled

Regulars here at the ol’ raincoaster blog will be familiar with our partiality for cryptids, Illuminatuses, and similiar phantoms of the night. They will also be familiar with our somewhat impractical, but extensive, erudition on the subject. Imagine our surprise, then, when we discovered a supernatural evil-doer with which we were unfamiliar!

Spring Heeled Jack.

Maybe it’s just that I find someone whose superpower is going BOING! into the sky not all that intimidating. Maybe that he never actually killed anybody. I mean, it’s all well and good to spit out blue phosphorescent flames, but at a certain point you gotta DO something with them, right? Ah well. Here is the gloriously-voiced Tom Slemen of Liverpool to tell you about Spring Heeled Jack and his friend’s mother…

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Your Moment of Existential Horror

Skeleton Mirror is emo, reflects  only darkness

Skeleton Mirror is emo, reflects only darkness

I have no idea why we’re on this big Video Kick lately, particularly as we’re working on a computer that refuses to update Flash to something dating to this century, but we are. One is using the Royal We, of course. One wouldn’t mind using the Royal Wee on Prince Hot Ginge, whose birthday it is, should one ever get a chance with that nasty ginger, but it appears unlikely, as he does not travel in our elevated social circles. But I digress.

One digresses.

Here is one video that will simply creep you right the fuck out. It’s 1962 footage of the late Kenneth Stevens, Clarence J. LeBel Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, saying words. Saying words while being X-rayed. I’m not sure what possible super-powers one might receive from a session like this; perhaps alliteration? the ability to extemporize in rhyming couplets (rap)? But certainly the ability to live on as a creepy YouTube video. His official obit from MIT is interesting.

Stevens is best known for his “quantal theory of speech,” which explored why — despite the apparent diversity of sounds across different languages — human speech actually exploits only a small fraction of the sounds that the vocal tract can produce.

In 1952, while Stevens was completing his doctorate, the MIT linguist Morris Halle, together with colleagues Gunnar Fant and Roman Jakobson, proposed that all human speech sounds could be described as combinations of 20-odd “distinctive features,” such as the placement of the tip of the tongue, the shape of the tongue, whether the glottis (voice box) was opened or closed, the shape of the lips, and so on.

Stevens, who collaborated closely with all three men, observed that these distinctive features seemed to describe configurations of the vocal tract’s “articulators” — such as the tongue, glottis and lips — in which small deviations had little effect on the sounds produced. This is by no means true of all configurations: In most cases, small deviations would actually yield large sonic differences. But, Stevens argued, language users would naturally converge on the more stable configurations, which would lead to greater consistency in sound production.

Quantal theory was not, however, just a theory of speech production; it was also a theory of speech recognition. If humans had a limited repertory of sounds that they could produce reliably, then the auditory system may very well have evolved to key in on them. Stevens spent much of his career indefatigably investigating the implications of quantal theory, both experimentally and through mathematical modeling, frequently in collaboration with Halle and, later, with Samuel Jay Keyser, another MIT linguist.

In the pursuit of knowledge in this rarefied field, he produced and starred in the following creepy-ass video, asking that musical question, “Why did Ken set the soggy net on top of his deck?”

Transcript, courtesy of YouTube robots, who are comically inaccurate:

0:03 the fifth

0:05 protect

0:06 repair

0:08 rip-off

0:09 the top

0:10 ka

0:11the death

0:13 going there

0:14 beset

0:15 is there

0:17 asar [that can’t be right!]

0:25 hock

0:26 that t

0:28 tier

0:29 attack

0:30 that uh…

0:31 the two

0:33 protector

0:34 the talks

0:36 tech

0:37 repair

0:39 hindi

0:40 he interrupts

0:41 the

0:42 he are

0:44 the are

0:47 why didn’t care will set the starting next week on top of his deck

0:52 i have put blood on her to clean your shoes

You WHAT???

Roy Henry Vickers’ The Elders Are Watching

Roy Henry Vickers is quite simply one of the greatest living artists. The web doesn’t do justice to his work, because some of the images are rendered in such a way that the totality of the work cannot be seen from every position; you can’t just stare at them straight-on and expect things to reveal themselves. His work was the inspiration for my own logo, which was created for me by my friend Shahee.

He’s gotten into social media in a big way recently, with Facebook and Twitter, and now YouTube as well. One of his most famous works is called The Elders are Watching, and he’s done it beautifully and movingly in video form. You will like this.

Happy May Day!

We the People. Hey, who you calling WE, white man?

We the People. Hey, who you calling WE, white man?

Happy May Day, workers of the world! Enjoy your paid day off, no doubt spent among your fellow labourers, reveling in your special day. Did the head of the local Chamber of Commerce bring you breakfast in bed, or is that just here in Canuckistan? Did you remember to swing by the town square for the big Kick A Newly Homeless Wall Streeter party and bbq? And pick up your share of TARP dollars (application form here)? Remember, today only that cardboard box or ’78 Dodge van you’ve been living in may be redeemed for a 1 bedroom plus den Yaletown condo.  Also today only, Urban Fare accepts those food cheques that The Ministry issues, as do C, the chocolate buffet at the Sutton Place Hotel, and Tojo’s sushi.

Fucking Capitalism: how does it work? Here’s a handy-dandy diagram that clears it all up.

Capitalism layer cake

Capitalism layer cake

The history of Puppy Mills

It's a dog's life.

It's a dog's life.

The Rules of the Universe dictate that for every kitteh post we post a puppeh post. Oh, and if reading the harsh truths about the conversion of excess pettitude into electricity so you can watch Two and a Half Men in comfort shocks you, there’s also this:

Om nom nom Pom

Om nom nom Pom