Friday, August 12, 2022

Forgotten Films: Dark of the Sun (1968)

The original title of the movie in Britain was just The Mercenaries

There's a real shortage of good mercenary movies out there, but among the few that are good, is Dark of the Sun. Released in 1968, it tells a common tale of the time, being set in the Congo, and involves mercenaries being hired to rescue European civilians in a remote mining town, but this is only a cover for the real mission on retrieving 50 million in diamonds in the company safe. There's tension with not only the enemy rebels, but also a potential the enemy within, namely a former nazi being one of the mercenaries on the team, which is of dubious trust. It's a pretty simple premise, but with excellent action and a soundtrack so good, it was reused by Quentin Tarantino in inglorious Basterds. It's also got some big name stars in it for the time, as well as being super controversial for the extreme action in the day. It still holds up and I would highly recommend it. Here's an HD remastered trailer for the movie:

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Farr's Ice Cream

One of the greatest unofficial traditions I know of among everyone I know who are Mormons is to go get ice cream after going to the temple. In the city of Ogden, UT, the famous and long lasting Farr's Ice Cream shop is the go to for those in the area, as it's just opposite of the northwestern corner of the temple there. They are certainly a step up from a lot of ice cream places, not just because they are local, but because they have some excellent flavors I have never seen before, my favorite being the lime ricky sherbet. 

Pics taken form the Farr company site.

The company recently celebrated their 100 year anniversary back in 2020, and they have a far more well documented and detailed history than most companies, but it's so extensive, I don't think I'll even try so summarize it here, but rather refer you to the detailed write up they have on their own site about it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Mystery Flesh Pit National Park

Go to the official site for all sort of cool stuff and killer merch (pun intended).

I LOVE me some good eldritch/Lovcraftian/cosmic horror, and was very pleased when the Mystery Flesh Pit National Park stuff became an internet sensation a little while back. Unfortunately, I never really posted that stuff here for some reason, and I figure it's about time I do so. 

If you aren't familiar with it, a writer posted to reddit and tumbler a bunch of adverts, and brochures he made to look like official National Park Service and corporate promo material delving into a fictional and now-defunct National Park that allowed visitors to explore the inside of a subterranean unidentified super-organism that was inducted into the national park system in the 70s under Jimmy Carter (history's greatest monster) and is located in rural west Texas.

It has it's own website that you can peruse that has all sorts of snippets, articles, and illustrations about the origin, notable people, organizations, technology, biology, safety measures for exploring the park, and the story of it's ultimate demise.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The sights of Elberta, UT

Elberta was a mining town that was formed for those working in the multiple old mines that are located between it and the town of Eureka. After most of the mines closed in 1949, the town almost turned into a ghost town overnight. The only things that really remain in the town are a couple of large farms, a natural gas facility, a Catholic mission, a few remaining houses, and a couple of noteworthy pieces of history. 

Of those pieces of history, the first is the old Sinclair gas station located right of the town's only intersection. Constructed in 1917, it was family own for the duration of it's operation and was open to the public until 1982. It's no longer open, but is still owned by the same family, and is easily seen from the road, and provides some excellent Americana in it's appearance. 

Photo from Atlas Obscura

The other thing it's notable for is the fact that there is a movie set for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that is nestled between Elberta and Goshen. From what I recall the set is unique in that it's meant to be a semi permanent set to save money over time instead of constantly building and tearing down sets. The set itself is supposed to represent the Jerusalem area, specifically the Sanhedrin but has expanded over time to include other areas like Golgotha and Gethsemane. I've meant to go out there for some time now, as I have passed close by a number of times while on the way to other places, but haven't been able to stop there yet. 

Crappy, low-rez pic from the church news site.

Though don't get too excited about going there if you are wanting to explore, as there really isn't anything else out there.

Sources and pics from:

Monday, August 8, 2022

Old school....literally

What the place looks like today

I'll admit that this post really falls under obscure unhelpful trivia, but it's something that was a part of my childhood, as I grew up not too far from there. 257 Longford Drive in South San Francisco used to be the Serra Vista Elementary School which closed in June of 1992. The place had been operating as a school for decades, most recently as an elementary school before it's closure, which was a fairly large facility. What was particularly memorable to me as kid is that I was around when it was closed and I remember the dumpsters being full of interesting and cool stuff like encyclopedias, musical instruments, and all sorts of other goodies, that we all had to liberate from their otherwise discarded fate.

Nowadays the place is known as Unitek College's South San Francisco Campus, and they provide courses for Nursing, Medical Assistant, and Dental Assisting Training. Their site states that the facility takes up more than 7,000 square feet and is comprised of 5 classrooms (two also serve as skills labs and computer centers), a small medical library, student lounge, administrative offices, faculty offices, and an admissions/financial aid office.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Not so guilty

Was riding in the car with the other half, and she put on a playlist on Spotify called "guilty pleasure songs" I dunno who was making that list, but it was pretty evenly split between songs that were pure awesome that no one should feel guilty and ones that are pure garbage that I have never heard before. In any case, I think they work on the title of that one. On the other had, my love affair with the new wave of new wave goes on as I never get tired of that sound.

All the Damn Vampires - I Can't Go (feat. Mint Simon & Sunglasses Kid)

Saturday, August 6, 2022

The Bastard

The SR-71 Blackbird is nothing short of a legendary aircraft that is even recognizable to those who are not aviation enthusiasts, as it is a record breaker with a very famous pedigree and service history (some of which is still highly classified).  Many pilots gave them the nickname “Habu”, after a venomous pit viper indigenous to the island of Okinawa in Japan where many of them were based during and after the Vietnam War.

What some may not know, is that there are a number of different variants of the aircraft out there that are not well known, in particular the one we have on display at Hill AFB museum.  

The CIA's A-12 Oxcart came first in the family tree.

In reality, the first variant of the Blackbird was the A-12, also known as the Oxcart, which was the even faster, but slightly smaller, shorter ranged version for the CIA that predated the SR-71 that was based in the famous Groom Lake (Area 51). Then there is the SR-71A, which was of course the main production variant for the USAF. The SR-71B is a rare, stepped cockpit, two seat trainer variant, of which only two were built. Then there was the YF-12, another rare version that was meant to be an interceptor armed with an early variant of what would later evolve to become the AWG-9 radar and AIM-54 Phoenix missile system used by the F-14 Tomcat. 

YF-12, the A-12's pissed off younger brother with a really long range punch.

However, even among all these variants, there is only one that bears the designation of SR-71C, and only one was ever built. It's story technically starts with the catastrophic crash of one of the two SR-71B trainers, and the Air Force desperately needed a replacement. With the limited production of aircraft already over, and there being no backup aircraft built, the Lockheed Skunk works had to think outside the box, which is something they excelled at. 

What they came up with was some pretty novel engineering. The company had built a forward fuselage to an SR-71B that was meant strictly for ground testing, but was technically flight worthy. Then, they still had an intact rear section to the YF-12 fighter prototype that had suffered a landing accident earlier. So, the engineers said, "okay let's just Frankenstein this thing and mate the two sections together and see if it works!" so they did. 

YF-12 on the left, SR-71 on the right, note the differences. 

Not being a production aircraft, it got it's unique SR-71C designation for the one-off build, and it quickly took to the skies. Because of the somewhat slapdash nature of the plane's engineering and construction, pilots immediately reported it was more difficult to fly than any other SR-71, with it suffering from very abnormal trim and control issues, and even had different internal fuel tanks, which resulted in different refueling procedures for pilots. 

Because of these difficulties, before it could be accepted by the USAF, there was a sixteen flight test program at Edwards AFB to figure out the issues. The engineers and pilots found that the variable inlet cones and ducts for the engines were not properly in sync, as well as the rudders were not correctly configured, which caused the poor handling characteristics, as well as an incorrectly configured pitot tube. So, measures were taken to provide workarounds for the pilots, as well as mechanical fixes so her flight characteristics would match the other SR-71B exactly.  Despite this, it was still given it's unofficial name by the pilots during the tests as, "the bastard" for it's unique difficulties in getting her to fly correctly. 
Note the stepped dual cockpit setup on the plane and engine display in the foreground. 

With the issues fixed, she went to Beale AFB in California for operational use in 1970. The life of the SR-71C was extremely short with it only achieving 737.3 flight hours, with over 180 of those having been done when it was a YF-12, and it was quickly retired from flight status in 1976, but was still kept as a reserve backup for the sole remaining SR-71B for several years. 

Thankfully, Hill AFB museum was granted custody of her in 1990, and she was transported in pieces to Hill in a C-5 Galaxy to be restored later. After two months of work she was restored and was able to be displayed in the museum in 1991 where she remains as one of the most popular displays in Hill AFB museum today, as she is one of a kind.

Friday, August 5, 2022

The End of Grand Theft Auto

Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages (and if you go by some other pronoun, I don't really give a crap), we are gathered here today to mourn the passing of the GTA games into irrelevancy and worthlessness.  

In case you aren't into gaming, or live under a rock, the entire GTA franchise is meant to be a hugely over the top parody of American culture, people, and locations that is supposed to be hugely sarcastic, nihilistic, and insulting to just about everyone. So when I see shit like this:

Rockstar Games Cleaned Up Its Frat-Boy Culture — and Grand Theft Auto, Too

and this:


Where the makers of the game go out of their way to say that the new GTA entry is going to be far more "culturally sensitive", all I can think of is this: 

And this:

So, Rockstar Games, you've already really tried hard at killing the culture and game with GTA V, the only crappy one in the series so far, with wallet raping micro-transactions and the most limited gameplay and features, all while insulting the fanbase. 

Now you have sealed the deal with making your new game suck even more while giving the middle finger to not only the fans, but to the very point of the game, making it the complete opposite of what it's supposed to be, so I won't be buying it at all and go screw yourselves. 

Now, the game isn't out yet, so I could be completely wrong, but with the trend set by GTA V, and the wokeness of other industries lately, I hold no hope for it at all.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Howie's Root Beer

Another cool local brand that is making some waves out there is Howie's Root Beer. Made in Layton, UT and started by the Tanner family members Howard and David. Born out of a family recipe from all the way back in 1969, the first official commercial batch was made in 1989. They are often found in more local associated food stores in the area, but are slowly expanding. 

Being the total root beer snob that I am, I have to say it's among my favorites. It's got that distinctly home made flavor, but without the issue of being too sweet or overly carbonated like a lot of other "homebrew" recipes I've come across. With a hint of vanilla, it's reminds me a lot of A&W but still less sweet than that, which is a plus in my book. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Love, Death and Robots

Finally got around to watching the Netflix series Love, Death and Robots, which was meant from the get go to be a spiritual successor to the film Heavy Metal (that I have talked about before). Other than a reliance on computer animation, which I don't entirely blame them for, it's certainly a worthy successor. 

The stories are all shot in various animation styles, and are anywhere from 7 to 17 minutes, and unlike the Heavy Metal movie, they don't have any story themes connected between them. It has a lot of dark humor, excellent horror with some great lovcraftian influences, a whole host of good sci-fi, and some even have a good moral story to them. 

If you have a chance, go check it out, but if you can't or even if aren't interested in the series as a whole, I would still highly recommend the following episodes: "Pop Squad" is heavily inspired by blade runner and equilibrium, "All Through the House" is a standard Santa story, but a little more demented, "Night of the Mini Dead" is just one of the funnies things I have ever seen, "Kill Team Kill" is about spec ops soldiers confronted with an augmented grizzly bear made by the CIA gone wrong and is just as funny, and "In Vaulted Halls Entombed" is an excellent eldritch tale in the modern world, and "Lucky 13" is about a nugget pilot being given a cursed dropship. There are others that are great as well, but those are by far my favorite. In fact here's a low-res clip of the night of the Mini Dead: