Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Science News - May 25, 2005

Some science news for you today:

Blackbeard's Flag IllustrationIn the marine archaeology field, researchers recently raised a cannon from an underwater site near North Carolina, hoping the artifact will prove the sunken wreckage it came from was once the flagship of the notorious pirate Blackbeard.

CNN.com features this report on a new planet found in the Milky Way.

Australian palaeontologists have discovered the fossils of what they believe to be a new species of long-necked dinosaur near Queensland.

Meanwhile at the American Museum of Natural History, the first ever fossil of a sleeping non-avian dinosaur has been described by Drs. Mark Norrel and Xu Xing.

Over in East Africa, a new species of Monkey has been discovered. Known as the Highland Mangabey, it was identified by two independent research teams working in separate locations in southern Tanzania.

Keep on learning about the wonderful world in which we live!

Blackbeard's flag image from Wikipedia.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Dynamic Duo Scores Big With Batman Begins

Batman Begins CD Cover ImageAlong with my love of movies comes my passion for soundtracks and film scores. From Jerry Goldsmith's moody Alien, to Max Steiner's adventurous King Kong, to John Barry's epic Zulu, easily half of my music collection is music from the movies and television shows. There's certainly a long list of composers who rank high on my list of favorites, including Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard.

Both have produced some outstanding work. Howard's Atlantis: The Lost Empire spotlights rousing adventure themes while his Peter Pan score conjures fantastic imagery to compliment P.J. Hogan's film. Unbreakable grounded super heroes in reality and Howard's music made us believe in a caped crusader named David Dunn.

The Rock Original Motion Picture Score ImageAlong with the great John Williams, Hans Zimmer has contributed to the rise in the popularity of film scores with the listening public. Imagine Gladiator (on which he collaborated with Lisa Gerrard) without Zimmer's waltz-inspired battle themes and the film easily loses half of its impact. African-blended music in his soundtrack to The Lion King helped the film roar worldwide and segments of Zimmer's scores for The Rock, Backdraft, and Crimson Tide have been used in nearly as many movie trailers as Enya's works.

When I saw the Batman Begins movie standee last month, the first thing I looked for was who composed the music. Seeing both Zimmer's and Howard's names as collaborators on a film featuring The Dark Knight Detective had me excited at what could become a great audio treasure.

Billboard.com features this great story about the pairing and what we have to look forward to...
Zimmer and Howard repaired to Air Studios in London, where they began work last year. They buckled down for 12 weeks of serious writing in February. The pair often would work from 10 a.m.-3 a.m. Zimmer says with a chuckle, "As soon as it was time to go home, I'd get an idea."

Zimmer says of their collaborative method, "We started pecking away on the same keyboard for a while." Howard adds, "As stuff started sticking to the movie, we intentionally started working on each other's material."

The pairing has resulted in a splendidly dramatic score in which each writer's hallmarks -- Zimmer's percussive rhythms and keyboard flourishes, Howard's ravishing strings and horns -- are immediately recognizable.

Pre-order the Batman Begins Original Motion Picture Soundtrack at Amazon.com. Thanks to SuperheroHype.com for the great link!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

New Search for The Ark of the Covenant

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark Screenshot
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark Photo © 1981 Lucasfilm Ltd.

I'm not a biblical scholar or member of the Jewish community, but when stories like this surface, involving archaeology and my favorite film adventurer, I'll post them to share my interests with fellow readers.

According to this article on Arutz Sheva - Israel National News, famed archeologist Dr. Vendyl Jones has been blessed by an unnamed Kabbalist to uncover the Holy Ark of the Convenant.

Most of you are probably familiar with the Ark from the Lucasfilm movie, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, however, the film artifact is based on a supposedly real object as described in the Hebrew Bible. The Ark, a sacred container built at the command of Moses which contained the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, has been rumored to rest at several different places during its history including a church in Ethiopia, Egypt, and even Ireland. Modern speculation even had the Ark operating as an ancient electrical capacitor.

The article comments on the possible finding of the sacred object:
Dr. Jones says the discovery of the lost ark will “flip the whole world right-side-up.”

“I just gotta drill a bore-hole into the chamber, drop a pin-camera in and there it is. And everything is gonna change, believe me. The Jewish people are gonna come back.”

Check out the article above for more on the real Dr. Jones and the new search for the Ark.

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Amazon.com/.ca purchase links:

Friday, May 20, 2005

Town's Secret Star Wars History

Star Wars Millennium Falcon GraphicTo help you celebrate the opening of the Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith movie, BBC NEWS World Edition features a fun story about a town's secret Star Wars history.
"A relatively long time ago, in a west Wales town not too far away... arguably the most famous spaceship in the universe was created."

"In the winter of 1979 word started to spread in Pembroke Dock that a flying saucer was being built in an old giant aircraft hangar in the town.

"Those involved were sworn to secrecy."

I saw the newest film during a midnight showing on Wednesday, and while there's certinaly things I'd change or add, I enjoyed it. Regardless of whether you agree with his decisions or not, it's commendable that Lucas has been able to create his worlds without interference from others. Not many filmmakers have that luxury.

If you're heading out to the see the movie this weekend, I advise you to not only pick up your tickets ahead of time, but be prepared to arrive early to wait in line to get in to see the show. From the recent news reports and estimates, it might be another record-breaking opening for a Star Wars film. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Beam me up, Hollywood!

Ghostbusters Screenshot
Ghostbusters © 1984 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

Darren Zenko from Edmonton's Vue Weekly wrote a fun article counting off "the greatest beams, lasers, death rays, and photo streams in movie history."

"They slice us, they disintegrate us, they roast us alive, they level our greatest monuments and pinpoint our deepest fears. But they also transport us, link us, serve us, protect us and illuminate the path to fortune and glory. They are beams, the glowing lances of focused radiation that have lit up our movie screens—and our imaginations—since some unknown caveman accidentally scratched a birchbark negative and became prehistory’s first FX guy. Here at the dawn of 2005’s summer blockbuster season, it’s as good a time as any to look back and salute the Great Beams of Film!"

In addition to Darren's list, I'd like to add:

  • Flash Gordon's Ray Gun
  • The Jedi Lightsaber from Star Wars
  • Superman's Heat Vision
  • The Iron Giant's Destructo-Rays, Vaporizing Beams, and Plasma Energy Balls
  • Cyclops' Optic Blast from the X-Men films
  • Gort's Laser Beam Vision from The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Han Solo's 'trusty blaster' from the Star Wars saga
  • The Emperor's Force Lightning from the Star Wars films - enough to stop all but Jedi Master Yoda
  • Martian Shrink-Ray from Mars Attacks!
  • The frozen blast of Iceman (X-Men), Mr. Freeze (Batman), and Frozone (The Incredibles)
  • "Sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads" from the Austin Powers films
  • Buzz Lightyear's Arm Laser from the Toy Story movies
  • Saturday, May 14, 2005

    The History of Dinosaur Comics - Parts 7, 8, and 9

    Ricardo Delgado Age of Reptiles The Hunt 05 Cover ImageSteve Bissette and Dr. Michael Ryan finish up their fun series of articles on The History of Dino-Comics over at Palaeoblog. Though not current to 2005, the history is worth checking out for the diverse set of dinosaur depictions alone.

    You can find Part 7 here, Part 8 here, and the conclusion, Part 9, at this link.

    Michael also plans to expand on the history by featuring an upcoming interview with Steve Bissette himself and a look at his own Dinosaur book, Tyrant. Other fascinating creators and creations to be discussed over the next several weeks include Mark Schultz and a look at his Xenozoic Tales series (among his other works), and writer/illustrator Pete Von Sholly.

    The adventure continues folks so head over to Palaeoblog and refresh your 'prehistoric' memory!

    Note: If you haven't picked up any of the hard-to-find past issues of Schultz's Xenozoic Tales series and still want to get your hands on these beautifully crafted tales, Dark Horse Comics recently reprinted the first 14 issues in two softcover volumes. I was given a copy of each from Mark himself and in addition to containing his great artwork, they come in a comic-friendly size for easy portability. One of my highest recommendations. I've provided the purchase links below.
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    Amazon.com purchase links:


    Age of Reptiles: The Hunt artwork © 1996 Dark Horse Comics, Inc. and Ricardo Delgado

    Friday, May 13, 2005

    Raiders of the Lost Archive - Vol. 1

    Occasionally, I'll venture into thrift shops, visit garage sales, and browse flea markets. Not to seek out discarded fortunes, but to discover great treasures in illustration, photography, and design. These come in many forms, but mostly materialize as books, toys, and even records.

    LPs or albums, as records were also known, had a major plus over all other forms of music media, which was the size of area available for cover imagery. Even though a large majority featured lackluster photography, gaudy colors, impossible-to-read fonts, and forgettable titles, some great gems were produced during the vinyl years.

    Scanned and retouched for your viewing enjoyment, I present the first 3 finds...

    Hit Parade for the Little Folks Record Cover
    Produced by Peter Rabbit Records / Arc Sound Ltd.

    Walt Disney's Pinocchio Record Cover
    Walt Disney's Pinocchio © 1963 Walt Disney Productions

    The Music Man Record Cover
    The Music Man © 1962 Warner Bros. Records, Inc.

    Thursday, May 12, 2005

    Science in Film, TV, and Interactive Media Summit

    Jurassic Park Screenshot - Mosquito in Amber
    A Jurassic Park scientist extracts dinosaur DNA from a fossilized insect trapped in amber.
    Image © 1993 Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment.


    I'm currently writing a proposal for a creative summit similar to the Boarding: Stories & Snow event that I was part of in Banff recently.

    I'm interested to know if any of my blog readers have recommendations for scientists or filmmakers, video game designers, concept artists, illustrators, writers, directors, producers, or animators, that have a strong interest in the sciences and would be responsive to participating in a creative summit in the beautiful province of Alberta. Honored Guests will have the chance to come share their wisdom with attendees, mingle with other science/creative types, and see some of the best natural scenery in North America. I have a lot of great contacts already, but it's always nice to have more.

    CSI PhotoIn addition to films like Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, The Lord of the Rings, Titanic, and Apollo 13, documentaries and television shows such as Walking with Dinosaurs, CSI, and Star Trek all have strong bases in the sciences. Without the brilliant and inspiring research behind these shows, the believability factor would be greatly diminished.

    Coming full circle, these types of films and shows have inspired bright young minds to choose professions in science, filmmaking, video games, writing, illustration, or computing. It's a continuous cycle that shows the symbiotic relationship between scientific research, discovery, and creativity.

    The goal of the Science in Film, TV, and Interactive Media Summit is to provide innovative film makers, writers, video game developers, animators, and documentary producers the opportunity to interact with not only Canada’s leading scientists, but also other world-renowned specialists, helping them to create new, cutting-edge fictional projects based on tomorrow’s scientific breakthroughs.

    Though this concept has been in development for a while, there is something similar in the works through the American Film Institute. However there is enough to make them both unique including taking place in two different geographic regions.

    My interest in this is as a creative producer, putting my appreciation for science and entertainment and writing skills to good use, bringing like-minded people together in a fantastic setting. Being a self-employed film and video writer/director, I'm not expecting to make money from this concept, but rather to continue to meet some great people, refresh our creative souls, and enrich our minds. I had the chance to help out some great people on the Boarding Summit, and I hope to do the same here.

    Minority Report Screenshot - Tom Cruise using Advanced Visual Display System
    Tom Cruise manipulates an advanced visual display system in Minority Report.
    Image © 2002 DreamWorks LLC and Twentieth Century Fox.


    I don't know the specifics, but trip expenses are usually covered and speakers/instructors have an incredible opportunity to interact with receptive, creative attendees. It would be beneficial if the speakers or workshop presenters are engaging, have experience speaking in front of groups, and/or have collaborated in the Entertainment or Edutainment fields. Exact dates are unknown at this point, but it could take place anywhere within a few months from now to possibly sometime next year.

    Some of the areas of interests I'm looking at are:

  • Archaeology
  • Palaeontology
  • Zoology / Cryptozoology
  • Geology
  • Genetics
  • Forensics
  • Cosmology
  • Astronomy
  • Aeronautics
  • Aquatic Sciences and Exploration
  • Cryogenics
  • Cybernetics
  • Medicine/Epidemics
  • Physics
  • Nanotechnology
  • Computer Sciences (including animation, special effects, etc.)
  • Robotics
  • Advanced Interface Design (Man/Machine/Computing)
  • Art/Illustration/Conceptualizing (science or science for film/tv/interactive)

    Ghosts of the Abyss ImageOf course we have a 'dream list' of people like James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Michael Crichton, Ray Harryhausen, and Phil Tippet but these guys are very busy creating, so we're not getting our hopes up. I do know, that with the names we've already got potential interest from, it would be quite successful.

    If you would be willing to provide contact information to me, or forward my contact information to them, it would be very much appreciated.

    A huge thanks to all of you for helping us out with this!

    CSI Photo © 2005 CBS Broadcasting Inc.
    Ghosts of the Abyss Photo © 2003 Walt Disney Pictures / Earthship Productions / Walden Media
  • Wednesday, May 11, 2005

    King Tut's Face Reconstructed

    More exciting archaeological news for you. National Geographic features this report and photo of an amazingly life-like recreation of the young ruler of Ancient Egypt.

    King Tut Golden Mask and Facial Reconstruction Image
    Photograph: Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt, and National Geographic Society, 2005

    Based on an earlier CT Scan of the boy king's mummy, Paris-based forensic sculptor Elisabeth Dayn├Ęs created a silicon-skinned bust using the previously acquired data and combined it with average traits of today's Egyptians. The CT data was then sent to a U.S. forensic team, who worked to verify the findings, without knowledge of who their subject was.

    The reconstruction will be featured in the June issue of National Geographic, in the touring exhibit Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, and on the National Geographic Channel's upcoming special King Tut's Final Secrets.

    You can read more about the reconstruction at scotsman.com, CNN.com, and The Washington Post Online.

    Also recently in the news was a discovery that is considered to be "the most beautiful mummy ever found in Egypt," according to Dr. Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. The nearly 2600 year-old mummy was buried in a wooden sarcophagus beneath 20 feet of sand in the necropolis of King Teti, who ruled Egypt more than 4,300 years ago. While the mummy's identity and sex are unknown, it's certain that it dates back to the 30th Dynasty (380-343 B.C.), which lasted about 40 years and marked the end of Egyptian rule over the country.

    More photos can be viewed here, with further information available this Dicovery Channel link.

    Sunday, May 08, 2005

    Action Figurism

    Star Wars Lando Calrissian Action Figure Photos With echoes of events in Disney/Pixar's Toy Story, Delfin Vigil shares his fun story at SFGate.com regarding the liberation of Star Wars figures from certain doom at the hands of neighborhood bullies and cleaning-frenzied parents planet-wide.

    For those of you not familiar with the brave tale of General Calrissian, I present a brief synopsis for you here. "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away," one-time gambler and previous Administrator of Bespin's Cloud City, hero Lando Calrissian participated in a plan to rescue his old buddy Han Solo from Tatooine's vile gangster, Jabba the Hutt. Under Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker's plan, Lando, disguised as a Skiff Guard, infiltrated Jabba's palace and crew and began to gain the Hutt's trust. Because of Skywalker's cunning strategy and Lando's ingenious shroud, Calrissian was able to help save the Carbonite-frozen Solo from becoming Sarlaac food.

    No doubt, the valiant rescue in George Lucas's Star Wars: Return of the Jedi inspired Delfin to take action and rescue not only Lando, but other members of the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire. Mr. Vigil comments on the sad events in action figure history:

    "What followed was the first of many acts of racism and sexism I witnessed as a child committed against Star Wars toys. I call it action figurism. While I believe it's safe to say action figures of all colors and genders lost their plastic lives to mutilation via matches, firecrackers, hammers and microwave ovens, I noticed that a Lando or Princess Leia were often the first to go."


    With more amusing anecdotes that I'm sure many of us can relate to, Vigil's quest to stop 'action figurism' is well documented. Hurry over to read his story before it's too late...many Bothans died to bring us this information.

    A warning to mothers everywhere: The preceeding is a story of greed, envy, corruption, tragedy, compassion, and ultimately, redemption. Don't let your children have to go through such tragic events. Take note and 'save the toys' before it's too late. Happy Mother's Day!

    Photos courtesy of Colacola.se.

    Friday, May 06, 2005

    May 7 - Free Comic Book Day

    Bone Sharps, Cowboys, & Thunder Lizards Comic Book CoverAs Michael Ryan reminds us over at Palaeoblog, Saturday, May 7 is Free Comic Book Day. So head on to your local comic shop and pick up some great specially-made freebie editions like Flight, Superior Showcase #0, Bone Sharps, Cowboys, & Thunder Lizards, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, The Batman Strikes and Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge.

    Sadly, Free Comic Book Day is not a day where you can venture into a comic book shop, pick out any book, and walk out without paying, but rather a great way to introduce new readers (and remind previous ones) to the world of comic books and graphic novels. Publishers produce special editions to give away at local comic shops to support the endeavor and there are often some great little gems distributed.

    You can read more about it on the official website.

    You can also use the Store Locator to find a shop near you.