The Zandokan Supremacy And The Rebellion Of Rajendra

The Mighty Galactic Federation Has Finally Fallen To The Rotten Zandokan Hordes – Who Will Save Our Cake Now?!

A Standalone Bradventure. Which Means That Brad Ain’t In This One…

“What the-?! If not, why not, eh?! Uff, typical… NEVER invited ta anyfink. Especially at this time a’ year… Can’t even wrangle me way into me own blog?! Jeez, the ‘ole galaxy’s gone NUTS…”

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“Well I could call out when the going gets tough.
The things that we’ve learnt are no longer enough” – Ian Curtis.  

“The cosmos is in chaos…” Ajaan Rajendra uttered in grim realization. “That much is certain. We could see, helplessly, how wracked with turmoil the Federation had become, but to learn that it has indeed crumbled under Zandokan might is… unbelievable…”

The warrior-monk-turned-Rebel Leader sat cross-legged, having meditated in twilight on a rocky promontory overlooking the Amethyst Sea. 

His most trusted officer: Commander Alda Vareldt kept an impatient watch, a few yards opposite. With him, a few other bedraggled Rebels waited anxiously.

Behind them, the towers of Dhoby Ghaut Spaceport – its bars and canteens once brimming with noise and good cheer – stood eerily silent that evening.

“We came to collect you, Ajaan,” Alda spat agitatedly. “It’s only a matter of time before the Zandokan fighters arrive. Sorry, sir, but we’ve got ta pull out, pronto.”

They piled into their Stalwart Land Ranger and it passed swiftly through the wastelands of Gundagan…

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“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders” – Lao Tzu.

“BEHOLT! ZE POWAIR COZMEEC!” Zan Doka cried manicly as he cradled the stupendous intensity of galactic brilliance between his bionic hands.

Recollections of that regrettable last encounter flooded back to Ajaan as the monotony of the drive set in.

“Duzn’t eet thrill you, Ajaan? Zuch powair eez now rightfully mine! At ze vanguard of our all-out azzault, may army veell be eenveencible! Finally! Ze rotten Federation veell fall unto ME! …Durn’t tell me you’re not imprezzed, Ajaan…”

“Very well. I shall spare you that little victory. But there is something from you I need to know: all that talk of enriching the well-being of the galaxy, why suddenly blight such worth with despicable endeavours and this deplorable empire-buildingWhat makes you think you can succeed?!”

“Mark may wudz, Ajaan of Hygge! Nurbuddy praizez ze goot soul-“

“I would – I would be there to encourage you to do so much more good-“

“Nur! Crush ze Federation and squeeze all eetz corrupt gnats within may totalitarian rule! Then, all those lezzer beingz who zought to mock me would cowair end grovel! THEES eez whut Ay aim to create! Wunce may Empah eez complete, Ay veel veezeet you urn Hygge, end show you how ze grandezt zchemes KEN be accurmpleeshed!

“Mark them… end mark them well. Ay shell be zeeing you egen zooner then you theenk, heh heh…”

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“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe” – Marcus Aurelius.

On the verge of the ancient Bodhi Temple, their transport came to an abrupt halt. Their cruiser stood in the compound at the rear. While Raj’s group squatted on its age-old steps, Kelly tried to open a comlink with the Calista Blockhead.

“We need Brad Company right here! Right now!”

A hologram materialized, but in place of the fabled cake-scoffer, his right-hand man: ‘Arris Wrench appeared in his stead.

“Blazes, ‘Arris! Where’s Brad?!”

“…Er, not ‘ere. ‘E’s ‘ad ta skedaddle back to his homeworld for a ritual that most of his planet’s population must observe this month every year for the foreseeable future.”

Wha-? I thought that idiot Brad was too cool for hokey religions…”

“Look, we’re all stretched at the mo. The Zandokans launched offensives on FIVE fronts, all at once. Me an’ th Co. barely scraped through that skirmish at Dork’s Drift!”

“Okay, we need immediate evac! Can you-“

The Calista Engineer’s deflated sigh said it all:

“Soz, Kells, but there is NO WAY we can get there in time! Ya’ll just have ta-” 

At that moment, the signal crackled out.

“They’ve cut us off!” Deke Dolmec cried in dismay.

“Blazes…” Kelly frowned. “Observe? What could he be watching?!”

“Gah! He’s the original loose cannon. NEVER there when ya need ‘im,” Alda growled disconsolately.

 “Yeah…” Kelly smiled wryly. “Bit of a rogue one, isn’e…?!” 

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“The Empires of the future are the Empires of the mind” – Winston Churchill. 

“That’s it,” huffed Alda dejectedly. “We’re gonna havta get past the Imperial Lightning Field… on our own-“

“Ah no!” Kelly cried. “We’re gonna ‘ave company anyway! Sensors detect THREE Zerpent Kruizers are closin’ in on this sector!”

“LANDO’S TEETH! That’s not all!” Deke blurted as his quadcorder flashed ominously. “It’s the ‘Ead ‘Ombre ‘imself! The Imperial Zentinel is comin’!”

“As I anticipated – ’tis Zan Doka – none of you are a match for him; I must face him… alone. You must go now, my friends; proceed to Kazjgar. Do as I command and rally our disparate rebel factions. Co-ord the counteroffensive-“

“But what about you, Master?!” Yala, one of his brightest students, was not ready to let go.  “We will not leave you at the hands of this… this merciless-!”

As he gave her a reassuring hug, the great Ajaan Rajendra addressed his Followers: 

“Fret not, Zan Doka comes to gloat… only,” Rajendra blinked his bulbous eyes. “I sense that he will not kill me… at least, not on this visit…”

They all looked dejected. 

“My friends – remember: do not let your hearts… and minds… be troubled. Be aware; be mindful through space. And time. Do not dwell for too long on the sufferings of the Federated Planets. You are… all blessed with great resilience! Now, you must leave. There can be no delay!”

They filed out, some smiling nervously at the Rebel Leader, afraid to accept that this could be the last time they saw this beloved ol’ Yanduri alive. 

Ajaan started to move into the temple; Alda lunged forward, whispering: 

“Why don’t you come with us, Ajaan… now?! I am lost without y-“

The Leader smiled sweetly, and clasped his hands on Alda’s shoulders.

“I know you, Alda… it is most unlike you to despair. For all your talk of great leaders…”

Ajaan’s grip tightened. 

“Be one!!”

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles” – Sun Tzu.

The infamous buzz of the Zentinel’s ion engines shattered the dusty air above the Bhoja Temple. 

Rajendra knelt beside the fountain in the courtyard… waiting.

Draped in his priestly hooded cloak, he observed the vessel’s descent and a battalion of Shokk troopers disperse. Down the ramp, borne on a wave of suffocating arrogance, the new Ruler of the Universe marched forth. A malevolent grin emerged from beneath elaborate Imperial headgear as the Zandokan Emperor recognised the Ajaan of Hygge. 

Rajendra rose to his feet and shifted back his hood; Zan Doka strode in, rubbing his bionic hands together in glee.

“Hail thee, AjRaj – Defendair of Ze Lozt Cauze! Ha ha, how ya doin’?”

“I was having a good day…” the Yanduri moaned and beckoned the Emperor to follow him back into the temple.

“Ya, uv courz! Yo really hef to sharpen yer inzults eef yo weesh ta eemprezz yer Nemezzeez!” 

Ajaan abruptly halted; Zan Doka stopped to gleer at his archenemy.

“By the Silver Shards of Callifrax, Zan, what have you done? You and your accursed empire – the galaxy is tearing itself apart,”

“Urn ze contrairy, fool, unlike uther would-be zupairveellainz who could only brag about what they would do with great power, Ay hef achieved whut Ay zet out to do!”

“Nay, the Power Cosmic has driven you mad… Why come back? You detest this planet – you said so, many times. What, getting cramp lounging on your misbegotten throne for too long?” 

Zan Doka halted, staring up at the bewitching ceiling of the Inner Sanctum. 

“Cunning old toad! Ay come beck to tell you WUN theeng: Ay tuld yo zo! Yo ken muztair a thouzand zquadronz, conzolidet dozairns uv mavereek worldz AGENZT ME – warp ze Powair Cozmeec – heh! Eef you ken…! But from the perilous heightz of the Moggadorr Mountainz to the zcintillating shores of the Crystal Zea of Izmeer, mah Empah shall ENDURE EETERNAL! Heh… I tuld yo zo….”

“Uff, spare me your insufferable monologuing, dotard,” Rajendra bowed his head in shame. 

“Ah…! Ay zenze… yer beetternezz – end… mebbe a pen that gnaws et ze vairy core uv yer being… What eez eet, Ay vonder? What ailz thee…?”

Rajendra slowly looked up, his eyes ablaze with mystic fury:

“I cannot believe we had the same mother…”

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May the Sovereign Of Our Universe save us all… 

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David Bowie: A Tribute To The Man Who Fell To Earth

David Bowie Has Died Aged 69. 

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“His death was no different than his life – a work of art. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us” – Tony Visconti. 

“Time may change me
But you can’t trace time.”

My earliest memory of David Bowie, who has died from cancer at his home in New York aged 69, was on the video of Ashes To Ashes in 1980. At that point, video was the medium transforming pop music. Bowie – who had spent that previous decade not only transforming but transcending “popular” music – always keenly embraced new styles and technologies.

One of the very few multi-talented individuals able to define what pop music/culture could – and should – be about, he was so much more than just a singer. Ultimately, he was a true artist – one of the most influential of his era – with a knack for staying relevant. 

And being confrontational, whether it was pushing down cultural, social, or even sexual boundaries. 

What gave the music, the look and the ever-changing style such mass appeal was its power to register with all the misfits, geeks and outsiders who couldn’t “fit in.” As someone who didn’t want to fit in, his love of sci-fi seemed to mirror my own.

Besides, hits such as Life On Mars, Starman, Jean Genie, Heroes (and many others, fortunately for us) will always be great, enduring pop classics. 

“Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.” 

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“David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is” – Iggy Pop. 

“There’s a Starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds”

One of the defining traits of David Bowie, in a career spanning 51 years, was his ability to experiment with different personas. From his commercial breakthrough single: Space Oddity to the glam-rock of Ziggy Stardust there was a strange otherworldly quality to this post-modernist performer. Having failed to develop Orwell’s 1984 as a musical, some of the songs went on to appear on the critically-acclaimed Diamond Dogs album.

It’s not surprising that this constant character-switching led to several movie appearances. First and foremost, Nicolas Roeg chose the pop artist for the lead role of Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell To Earth. The tragic tale of a humanoid alien on Earth trying to bring water back to his dying home planet, this 1976 cult classic is a cosmic mystery, described by its director as “a shocking, mind-stretching experience in sight, in space and sex.”  

With his bizarre costumes, ambiguous persona and those alarming mismatched eyes, Bowie was ideally cast as the enigmatic titular anti-hero. Some would say he was merely playing himself – the perfect physical embodiment of both the alien and alienated. 

Desperate to evade his escalating drug problems, Bowie escaped to Berlin that same year. In collaboration with Iggy Pop and Brian Eno, during the late-’70s he released a stunning trilogy of albums: exuding darker, more experimental sounds. Culturally and creatively, Bowie was back, with added vigour, describing his German retreat as “a city where you could get lost, but find yourself too.”   

Although Bowie cited the early-’80s as a low point, it brought Let’s Dance (in 1983) – a colossal commercial smash, heralding the MTV era, and a role ideal for the 1980s, with BIG hair and a daft name he starred as Jareth The Goblin King in Labyrinth (1986).

Despite his hiatus from public view this past decade, his music still resides within the SF genre; Moonage Daydream made it onto Peter Quill’s Awesome Mix Tape in Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014), while Starman (not Life On Mars, regrettably) found its way onto the soundtrack of last year’s The Martian.

“Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles
I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell me wife I love her very much she knows”

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“[The e-mail] was as funny as always, and as surreal, looping through word games and allusions and all the usual stuff we did. It ended with this sentence: ‘Thank you for our good times, Brian. they will never rot’. I realise now he was saying goodbye” – Brian Eno. 

“Oh man! Wonder if he’ll ever know?
He’s in the best selling show

Is there life on Mars?”

As everyone from pop stars and politicians emerge with their own tributes today, it’s really not surprising to learn that he was so much and more to such a wide variety of people. So how did he manage to touch so many lives so profoundly, so deeply? 

Not only did his appeal stretch across the generations, but through all his onstage (and onscreen) extraordinary personae he was, essentially, still an ordinary boy from Brixton, South London. 

Thought it would be possible to keep on blogging without having to do another Obituary, but this is such a huge loss, something had to be written up. An Appreciation of the man and his music fittingly entitled: “Loving The Alien” has sat on my Dashboard since his birthday only last Friday. Little did anyone know that it would have to become this Tribute just a few days later.

As someone who looked and sounded as if he had fallen to Earth, it is ironic to consider that David Bowie was ideally suited to grasp what this world is about, and what it could do for us. So many people around the world have been grieving all day today because we’ve lost our guide – our thin, white icon. 

Bowie paved the way for all of us to be heroes. 

Even if it was just for one day.  

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David Robert Jones –David Bowie 

8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016.

Cosmic Sounds!: Music To Write SF Blogs By

That Weren’t No DJ, That Was Hazy Cosmic Jive!

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“Without music, life would be a mistake” – Friedrich Nietzsche. 

When blogging, usually through the night, it is customary for the compilation of these Posts to be accompanied by music. Now, some writers prefer to work in quiet conditions: not me. At university, music on the radio, or tapes, became imperative to convey me through some particularly troublesome essays.

And so the tradition has continued, with some pumping, pounding beats to carry me to deadline, or some suitably spaced-out melodies to help me through the night. Some of your fave Posts on this site were concocted with the aid of these audio additives.

Wherever possible, appropriate spacey vids have been found to maximize your sensory pleasure! Hopefully, this fine collection will inspire you in your own blogging endeavours…

Oh my god! Youtube is full of 2001: A Space Odyssey videos! Actually, this Post could have consisted of videos with montages of scenes from this single cinematic masterpiece, but variety is indeed the spice of life, so this compendium has dared to forage for more diverse matter. 

Luke Slater, a British DJ, has been producing stellar grooves for over twenty years. His Wireless album was particularly good, and this track: Weave Your Web works well when placed over 2001’s climactic trippy viz.

Richie Hawtin is an innovative Canadian techno producer. This track: The Tunnel makes for a perfect sci-fi number, with its weird bleeping and whirring effects. And this is one of the most simple – yet striking – vids seen by these bleary eyes in a long time. 

“Sternklang is the expression of the intimate encounter with the whole, the direct connection with the stars and the vast universe…” – hookback.  

“Awesome!” is a phrase too readily bandied about these days, but this next piece unconditionally deserves that tag. Tholen’s Sternklang is an epic – seventy-one minutes to be exact! – dark and dissonant soundscape, and should only be savoured during the darkest hours (with the best quality Stereo headphones of course).

The video contains suitably majestic cosmic graphics. It can be viewed in its entirety, or in five easily-digestible segments. Part 2 is my particular fave, with the three-note drone which, commencing at 1:44, hits right to the core, while the space station which materialises at around 2:34 is particularly impressive; the moment at 9:48 is quite special too…

Wow, just as you’re recovering from that stunning experience, so it’s followed by another grand opus. Steve Roach is one of the leading ambient composers working today. Again, it is on the darkest, silent nights that his pieces are replayed over and over for inspiration.

“Darkest Before Dawn” is a deep and goose pimple-inducing masterpiece, especially in its seventy-four minute entirety, but for this Post, here is Drift, because the animation here is absolutely mesmerising. Enjoy! 

“…On my planet, we have a legend… called Footloose. And in it, a great hero, named Kevin Bacon, teaches an entire city full of people, with sticks up their butts, that dancing, well, is the greatest thing there is” – Peter Quill (Starlord). 

Yeah! Time to boogie! Karl O’Connor (aka Regis) is one of the most captivating DJs on the current scene. With Peter Sutton (aka Female) he formed Sandwell District, and reinvigorated a stagnant techno landscape.

Not only was Hunting Lodge the best techno track of 2011, but someone went to the trouble of putting it to images from 1984 (1954). Peter Cushing in a techno vid: sci-fi paradise!

This next track is a phenomenal late-night mind-blaster. The accompanying vid is equally staggering, “Gas 0095” was the debut album of electronic musician Mat Jarvis, otherwise known as Gas. Its classic track: Microscopic is overlaid to powerful effect on a short scientific film called: “The Power of Ten,” which explores both outer and inner space. These fantastic sights and sounds blew me away when first viewed five years ago.

Please be advised: take a deep breath…

“I think, therefore I ambient” – Mixmaster Morris.  

Finally, we come to Geir Jenssen, the Norwegian electronic producer, better known under the moniker: Biosphere. His music has been labelled: “arctic ambient,” supposedly because it induces a glacial atmosphere, rather than being a tad chilly. Any track from the stupendous Substrata album (2009) would have sufficed, but this track incorporates samples of Russian cosmonaut radio transmissions and skillful sprinklings of The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss to blissful effect.

There is just a still image here, but this is not important. What matters is that within the next fifteen minutes, you may most likely drift into the Land of Nod, pleasantly dreaming of gliding among the stars…

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Groovy!

Pioneer of Electronic Music: Edgar Froese (1944-2015)

Founder of Tangerine Dream died last Tuesday, aged 70 

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“Working with synthesisers is a completely different approach to electrified music. We’re open to all kinds of modern music developments…” – Edgar Froese. 

The news hit quite unexpectedly this morning. Edgar Froese, who died this week in Vienna, was one of the most prominent electronic music pioneers and the only consistent member of influential electronic group: Tangerine Dream. 

Rather than be lost amongst the sound of their Krautrock contemporaries such as Neu!, Faust and Can, Tangerine Dream spent the 70s in ambitious electronic experimentation. The first albums: Electronic Meditation (1970) and Alpha Centauri (1971) were interesting experiments; but, in 1972, their third album: Zeit, a double album with one track per side, became their first masterpiece with: “just lots of strange pulsating synths and a few creepy cellos” as the 40th Anniversary CD sleeve insists.

Signing to Virgin Records gave them the chance to experiment more and resulted in the seminal classic: Phaedra (1974). It’s ambitious use of sequencers helped create a trancey, atmospheric soundscape, from which one can detect the tentative beginnings of the modern techno and ambient genres. Rubycon and Ricochet both arrived in 1975, proving that those spacey sounds could be consistently creative. 

With the release of studio albums: Tangram (1980) and Exit (1981), experimenting with the latest electronic equipment, a distinctively 80s sound emerged, and inspired the next stage of their musical direction; directors were inspired to ask them to provide soundtracks for their movies. Here they would pick up a totally new fanbase.

For the exact moment when Tangerine Dream first caught my attention, here it is…

“Together, [Tangerine Dream and The Keep] formed one of the great audio/visual events of the Eighties, and the Franke/Froese/Schmoelling soundtrack gained almost legendary status mainly because of the conspicuous absence of an official soundtrack release” – synthmusicdirect.com

Tangerine Dream were prolific composers of film music, with The Sorceror (1977), Thief (1981), Risky Business (1983), Legend (1985) and Near Dark (1987) among some of their considerable back catalogue; but it is their extraordinary soundtrack for Michael Mann’s cult second movie: The Keep (1983) which introduced me to the unique and groundbreaking music of Edgar Froese. 

At first listening, the amazing electronic music in this much-maligned cult horror movie set in Romania during the Second World War seems bizarre and incongruous, but makes for an oddly-compelling viewing experience. This may be one of the reasons why this intriguing but badly-edited film has divided opinions so dramatically. The above scene – strange and then quite horrific – naturally calls for some unnerving audio accompaniment.

Not like Tangerine Dream to oblige so obviously. On the contrary, they provide a sublime, quite uplifting track; some would say it just doesn’t work, but personally, it made for an exceptional moment. Thirty years after first viewing, the rest of the movie may have been a blur, but that scene will live with me forever…

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“So sad to hear of the sudden death of my friend Edgar Froese, founder of Tangerine Dream. Great memories” – Brian May. 

In 1967, as an art student in West Berlin, a meeting with surreal artist: Salvador Dali encouraged Froese to depart from the conventions of guitar rock and explore the universe on sonic waves. It’s quite obvious: Edgar Froese and sci-fi melded seamlessly. Of course, Tangerine Dream have – in numerous reviews – been labelled as space-rock. With some of the most pulsating or drifting cosmic sounds ever recorded, Froese and his ever-changing band of co-synthnauts (including most notably Chris Franke and Peter Baumann) achieved some phenomenal celestial explorations and musical concoctions. A glance at such titles as Alpha Centauri (1971), Birth of Liquid Pleiades (1972), Phaedra (1974), Patrolling Space Borders (1977) would easily confirm this.

A practitioner of Zen Meditation, Froese believed that time itself was an illusion, formed by the senses. There have been numerous nights when the meditative – as well as inspirational – qualities of Phaedra, Rubycon, The Keep and Zeit have all helped immensely in the compilation of a few of my Posts; so it seems uncanny that their composer is suddenly no longer with us…

“There is no death,” he once said, “there is just a change of our cosmic address.”  

The proof of any great composer must surely lie in the sheer difficulty of selecting just one track which best epitomises the power and influence that his music can evoke. Out of Edgar Froese’s varied and extraordinary body of work, it is this track in particular which has made me look out several times from my balcony, scan the stars in the night sky and contemplate life, the universe and everything. 

Thank you Edgar. 

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