Breakfast of Champions: 2/15


Artist Phil Hansen (who you may remember from Rhena Tantisunthorn's profile) has a new work for Valentine's Day. It may be the most adorable video you watch this month.

A Florida church wants you to have sex with your spouse every day for 30 days. Because there's nothing sexier than scheduling. It's like 9 1/2 Weeks, but with an awkward sense of obligation.

When even Congress is embarrassed of your conduct, you know you've done something really wrong. I mean, this is a place where the likes of Dan Burton and William Lacy Clay, whose sycophantic fanboyism during the Roger Clemens debacle is as vomitorious as hearing tales of the pitcher's ass abscess. So congratulations, Senator Craig, yours is a special kind of shame. Richard Jefferson is not afraid of you, and will beat your ass. He must be listening to a lot of Yo La Tengo. I knew indie rock caused violence! And not just among emo kids fighting over the black nail polish.


A few weeks back, one of our sister sites Topless Robot posted a 15 Greatest Spaceships of All Time list. This list includes some things that are cool, some things that suck (Composite Superman Spaceship: WTF?) and a couple of unforgivable omissions.

Dr. Who fans will lobby for the Tardis, and Whedonites the Serenity. I will argue with neither. I will, however, say that the most glaring, notable and indeed unforgivable omission is the Space Battleship Yamato. You might remember it as "the Argo" or "that ship from Star Blazers."

This show was an amazing show for a lot of reasons, but I'm going to restrain myself from writing about the sociopolitical implications of Star Blazers and what the show meant for post-colonial literature. Let's just talk about why this spaceship was incredibly bad-ass and the 35-year-old story ahead of its time.

In the show, a space empire called the Gamilons are bombarding Earth with radiation. We need a spaceship to travel to a distant star, obtaining a device to cleanse the planet. The wreckage of the Yamato (Japan's lead battleship during World War II) is resurrected from its watery grave and converted into a starship for this purpose.

Why is this ship so epic? Five main reasons.

5. The weapons. The Wave Motion Gun is the most impressive sci-fi weapon ever. While Yamato had impressive energy cannons shaped like battleship guns (and side missile launchers to evoke older naval battles involving pirate ships), it's the Wave Motion Gun everyone remembers.

The entire front section of the ship is hollowed out to allow one huge blast from this energy weapon. To use it, they have to divert all power from the rest of the ship, wait for the gun to charge ... and once it's used, the Yamato is more or less defenseless. So the gun can devastate entire targets, but once it's fired, it had better have hit. Besides the suspense involved and the iconic imagery you can see in the video below, the Wave Motion Gun also foreshadowed future doomsday weapons, such at the "Death Blossom" weapon from The Last Starfighter.

4. Exploration and combat beneath the sea. The ship could seal its hatches and go underwater. The Yamato/Argo even had six torpedo tubes for underwater combat, so it was part spaceship, part submarine. Aside from the coolness factor, this was a kind of grim reference to the actual Battleship Yamato, which was not a submarine, but ended up at the bottom of the ocean anyway.

3. The Holodeck "Resort Room." The ship contained a "resort room," which projected holographic images of Earth to combat homesickness amongst the crew. Star Trek The Next Generation's holodeck, anyone? Remember, Star Blazers aired in 1974.

2. The countdown gimmick. The Wave Motion Gun had to be charged, so viewers were always in suspense when that was happening. But we also knew that Earth would die if we didn't get that radiation problem solved in just one year. Thus, every episode ended with "Hurry, Star Blazers! You only have [X Number of Days] left. This type of countdown gimmick adds to narrative tension and keeps fans coming back. 24 fans, you owe the Yamato one.

1. The whole series is a metaphor for the redemption of the Japanese empire. The real Yamato was a symbol of Japan's imperial power, and the nation only brought it out to fight (on an effective suicide mission to Okinawa) once it was clear that the war was lost. Named after an ancient province, the term "Yamato" is also used to describe Japan itself, and one way countries colonized by Japan refer to Japanese is as "the Yamato people." There's real cultural identification there.

Some of the scenes deleted from the American version of the show involve U.S. pilots saluting the Yamato as she sinks beneath the waves -- demonstrating respect for an honored foe. That ship -- the real one -- was important. That's why in the show, it's significant that all the nations of the world band together to revive the Yamato, only this time it's not an aggressive force. It's a symbol of planetary unity against intergalactic oppression!

Also, c'mon. It's a flying battleship. A flying battleship.

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