Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Monday, 30 May 2011

Scholarly Scintillas

Untouched by photoshop this blue shroom is the Entoloma Hochstetteri found in New Zealand and parts of India. Apparently not edible it did make me think of Soma, strangely, probably it's Krishna blueness.

The neuroscience behind morality is becoming exposed thanks to efforts from the University of Chicago. ScienceDaily.

Lasers are exposing the musical secrets of guitars. From io9

Italian psychologists at the University of Padova have some interesting results regarding the power that belief exerts have over our physical selves. Wired.

Someone's tinkered with an astral time lapse and rejigged it to demonstrate the Earth's rotation. Neatorama.

Australia's Channel 7 capture this disturbingly cool waterspout tornado. Reddit.

Canadian researchers have found that human echolocation relies on some of the same neuroanatomy as sight. BBC

Brain boggling piece about light and and mirrors on Io9

Artificial flesh takes a step closer to reality with the creation of a biomaterial that shares properties of actual human tissue - nanotech away. Sure the religulous types will be peeved. Science Daily.

Amazing snap of zero gravity fire after a little experiment burning a droplet of heptane onboard the ISS. New Scientist.

Purty Picturs

There's a new sub Reddit devoted to Space porn - above is The Flame Nebula & The Sword of Orion and below is a nice colourised relief map of Mars and a pic from the most complete 3D model of our local universe. Click the link for supersize versions.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Living in America

DangerousMinds, excellent as always, has posted a couple of startling images that I'm basically just pinching, anyways the first took me a second to appreciate and was taken after the Joplin Tornado and the second well, I think it's self explanatory.

Dusty Old Bits & Pieces

Buried pyramids in Egypt have been discovered using Infra Red Sat imagery. BBC. According to this site the may be up to 17 pyramids waiting neath the sand.

Underneath the waves lie, I'm sure a tonne of undiscovered history, here's a list of 7 sites that are already providing the goodies. Via Reddit.

Laser surveying has started on an Iron Age site in the UAE.

Penn State are trying out a new imaging technique that'll allow 60 acres of subterranean Inca ruins to be revealed without lifting a trowel.

Fossils from Loch Torridon show a key stage in life's evolution from simple bacteria to more complex cellular structures that paved the way for photosynthesis and sexual reproduction. ScienceDaily.

Back in Egypt the first images are out from the probe that's working it's way towards a hidden chamber in the Great Pyramid. New Scientist. Oh and here's prosthetic toe from Thebes that's probably 2500 years old, via Reddit.

Sov-Sci-Fi & Fowles' Meta Musing Fun

Heart of a Dog is a blistering attack of the Communist view of man written by Mikhail Bulgakov, author of the majestic The Master and the Margarita. Written originally in 1925 this wasn't published in Russia till the 80's and given it's relentless poking, mocking and chiding of the Soviet ideology I'm really not surprised. Sharikov, a local stray dog, after undergoing experimental surgery implanting some proles pituitary gland & knackers develops into alarmingly human like creature and a stubborn, highly amusing thorn in his Mad Professor's side. It's not long before things get out of control however and the grubby State officials start to take an interest. A brilliant, occasionally poignant book that strikes deep into the mythos of the soul crushing idiocy that is the Communist creed and somehow Bulgakov's spin on Moreau's nutty tinkering adds to it's power. Whoever suggests science fiction is hamstrung & toothless daydreaming should give this a read.

John Fowles' novella Mantissa is whimsical, meta-fiction that spins like a whirly gig from the interaction of handful of characters, or rather, from just one. The protagonist wakes in a hospital bed, seemingly suffering from amnesia, and is almost immediately subjected to a bold form of psycho-sexual therapy, apparently with the full consent of his Mrs. What follows is a dizzying exploration of authorship and the written word, the sexual act and gender politics that folds in Greek mythology, contemporary literary theories, historical references and a bucket load of jokes whilst being oh so meta, referencing itself as a novel and a work in progress. Though it's slight, terribly self indulgent and it's gender mores dated it's stills a highly amusing firework that burns brighty with wit and erudition.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Ha Ha He He Ho Ho

Star Wars mashed with Richard E Grant's Withnail performance is mind bendingly brilliant - oh and there's a second part with Danny "Camberwell Carrot" burbling as Yoda. Hat tip to Popbitch.

And to close a massive dose of WTF from the b3ta link board.

Brain Juice and Juiced Bairn

Bradley Cooper moons about in Limitless a thriller about the powerful effects of a smart drug which increases brain function to super genius level. Once Cooper's drunken dead-beat author ingests his first pill he is transformed into a razor sharp, Wall St. player with fighty/drivey skills and his life is changed but not always for the best. De Niro turns up at the halfway mark just as things turn a little sinister but he can't lift this above the usual paper thin effort from the Hollywood factory floor even with the help of some distinct SFX sequences, a shame as it has the kernal of a good idea.

Hanna is an action thriller about a teenage girl trained in the way of killing in an Artic forest hideaway but is soon unleashed on the world in a bloody quest to avenge her Mother's death. It's not bad with some stylish cinematography, some excellent action and Saoirse Ronan does a decent job in the title role but the pacing is a little uneven and the whole teenage assassin plot thing is a little unbelievable and especially so after the her origins are revealed. Despite these qualms it's still an entertaining watch with Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana providing quality support to proceedings and oh it's a Euro/US coproduction so it manages to avoid most of Tinseltown's homogenising mania.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Space Spumata

Io's volcano, Prometheus, pluming.

Jumbo Jets from a Black Hole. Reddit.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Flaccid Sex Coms

John Waters' A Dirty Shame somehow escaped me on it's release maybe it was the face of the chump Knoxville on the poster that put me off but anyways it's a comedy about a cult of sex addicts over running a typical Merican small town and as you'd expect from Waters it's gleefully crass and offensive. Tracy Ullman joins the Jackass-ass along with a clutch of familiar faces who all do a decent enough job but the script is patchy and it appears Waters has backed away from more outrageous material.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is a Kevin Smith feature from a few years back. A pair of coffee shop workers struggling to pay their bills & decide to make some quick money is to shoot themselves and some friends screwing. Starring Seth Logan and Elizabeth Banks this is a half hearted half amusing film, certainly not one of Smith's funniest but not as bad as say Cop Out or. I'm sure he must have read Once More, With Feeling a humorous book I read years ago as they're quite similar. Anyways Fat Kev pulls back from filthy jokes that peppered his earlier films in and, much like Waters, fails to exploit the gamut of laughs the situation offers. I guess Smith was, an effort to instill some heart or romance into the script.he shouldn't have bothered.

Oh Things Aint What They Used To Be

After the assassination of Dr King in 1968, African American musicians & performers started to take bolder steps with their music in reflecting the dire circumstances they all faced on a daily basis. With albums like Curtis, Stand!, Is It Because I'm Black and Everything is Everything ideas of social justice and depictions of the plight of ordinary folks became increasingly frequent and strident but it was on May 21st 1971 with the release of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On that black music's political consciousness came into full bloom.

More of a collaborative effort than most realise, Marvin (after battling with Motown's owner Gordy) enlisted the help of Al Cleveland, Obie Benson & The Funk Bros, and produced a beautiful, multilayered album of heartbreaking sincerity that encompasses issues such as Vietnam, drug abuse, environmentalism and social deprivation and bolstered by a rich, lush production, repeating codas, hooks and buckets of soul this was always going to be groundbreaking but for me it's Marvin's singing that pushes this way beyond a protest/concept album and into something much more profound: released from the shackles of Motown's demands for dance numbers Marvin's vocal performance is simply stunning, with a jazzy, super horizontal, uber relaxed and honeyed tone that's layered over and over again on the same tracks bringing an ethereal, deeply spiritual quality to the album that no other singer could've done. Anyways after first hearing the album in my mid-teens it's long been thoroughly burnt into my soul. In fact I can't think of a single album that has meant more to me than this one, I discovered it when I was beginning to dig into the soul scene and, 20 years later, it's still never very far from my stereo or my heart and it's power & sentiments can still move me more than I care to admit here. I could go on but this is getting embarrassing so just give it a listen - it's 40 years old today goddammit.

I couldn't find the PBS documentary about the making of the album but this 55min feature is worth a watch if you're unfamiliar with his story.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Empirical Erudition

Usual APOD beauty

Some spiders wear silk slippers apparently. ScienceShot

I'd live in a house made of Shrooms. Impactlab.

BoingBoing link to a disturbing/amusing Guarnida article about a Chinese farmer's problems with exploding watermelons.

Mmm Gliese 581d is a shaping up to be the first habitable exoplanet discovered. ScienceDaily.

The situation at the Fukushima plant is looker bleaker and bleaker. Reddit.

Slate have a funny article about the filthy nomenclature coined by neuroanatomists of yore.

Awesome shot of Endeavour's final blast. Bad Astronomy. According to Wired on board are 5 micro-organisms and a Bobtail Squid, hopefully some Astronauts too.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Nice Duds

Dunno, maybe I'm really losing it but I'm beginning to think Zardoz is actually quite a good scifi film. Sure I've seen it a fair few times so I've become inured to it's intense silliness but beyond the paper bag scene, the dodgy pants, stupefying chanting and po faced seriousness this much maligned lump still has a shiny nugget of decent ideas. Sean plays a savage who sneaks into a decadent, decaying society of Elites whose tinkering and technology are about to collapse under the brutal clunking fist of Connery's innate masculinty, hey stop sniggering at the back, along the way there's plenty of cheesey dialogue, ham acting and cod philosophy but it somehow works. This time around it made me think of Clarke's City and the Stars, in reverse, kind of, anyways regardless of it's faults this is a distinctive, dystopian flick that has few peers in terms of er commitment. Think Barbarella with chest hair and a bit more brains.

Alien 3, though not as ridiculed as Zardoz, is still widely regarded as pile of shit but rewatching it on Bluray has somehow tempered my earlier disdain. Directed by David Fincher it's festooned with half-decent British actors and there's plenty of grubby, industrial scifi stylings and the requisite action and gore. The main failing of this 3rd outing of Ripley and her xenomorphs however lies within the plot: napping in deep space Ripley and the remaining survivors from Aliens are ejected onto a prison planet when things go tits up on the spaceship, only Ripley survives and ends up hooking up with the prison Doc played by Charles Dance and unsettling the warden as well as the assorted murderers and rapists all the while slowly being thinned out by the now familiar foe. Ripley's actions and behaviour seem a little incongruous to her previous antics but there's some good banter provided by the inmates and Weaver's performance is strong as ever and she's complimented with an excellent actor playing Dillon the righteous Pastor to the damned. Seriously it's not that bad and in comparison to most contemporary efforts it's got plenty to offer.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Data + Design = Cool Beans?

Nice graphic about the costs of sitting around all day at work, via Cool Infographics.

Excellent Diagrammatic Lord of the Rings via Gawker.

Information is Beautiful have updated their awesome Snake Oil graphic and have an interesting survey of theories of Consciousness.
Match.com have crunched some numbers regarding Dating expenditure.

Examining Americans attitudes towards the death of Osama. Thanks to Good.is

Star Wars Iconography, Via Infosthetics.

Big Dumb Fun

Obviously inspired by the big budget nonsense of Avatar, the Tamil scifi epic Endhiran certainly pulls out all the stops. Sure there's some weird musical numbers and peculiar subcontinental comedy but this tale of a sentient robot going off his rocker is bags of fun. The actor playing mad scientist doubles up as the mad robot and does a decent job keeping the characters separate but my eyes were mostly on his beautiful paramour Sana who is achingly gorgeous. Anyways if you can stomach the nearly 3 hour run time this scifi film will reward you with some of the most bonkers SFX sequences you"ll ever see.

Marvel's pantheon has always felt a little, well cartoonish, compared to DC's but Ken Branagh makes a pretty decent Thor, despite the inherent silliness in the character's back story. Some Australian provides the muscle behind the hammer wielder as he's banished to Earth for hubris and must contend with the machinations of his brother Loki before returning to Asgard to kick ass. Though the lead is a clunking fist Branagh has assembled a range of talented support including Hopkins, Skarsgard, Portman and Elba and the otherworldly designs of Asgard and Jotunheim, land of the Frost Giants, is rather spiffy lending a pleasant sheen to all the nonsense.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Miike Magic & The Brothers Dim

Takashi Miike is a film director with few equals, imaginative, highly prolific and always willing to push boundaries but his latest 13 Assassins is, ostensibly, a more traditional Japanese tale of honour and samurais based on a 1963 film of the same name. The cruel and vindictive brother of the Shogun inspires men of honour to assemble and craft a plan to kill him as he travels through the countryside and they choose a lowly village for their confrontation. Though it takes it's time to get going it's superbly acted and scripted and once it sheds it's stately pace what follows is a jaw droppingly brutal onslaught of dismemberment, gorings and blood letting that left me somewhat dazed. Miike's next Samurai rework, called Harakiri, is in 3D and will apparently debut at this years Cannes festival and I'm sure it'll be another accomplished thunderbolt of ultraviolence.

The Farrelly Bros are famed for their commitment to crass, low brow comedy and they've certainly made some chucklesome films over the years but Hall Pass sees them drift into sub par Apatow territory with a film about couples taking leave from their marriage vows for a week. The assembled cast all have reasonable comedy chops but all seem mis-cast in their roles and the script is pretty flat and sanitised so the laughs are sadly thin on the ground. I'm sure it'll do well in the multiplexes but I'd have rather rewatched Kingpin or Mary than sit through this wasted opportunity.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Load of Old Balls

Hat tip to B3ta

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

War Machinery

Micmacs is Jeunet's latest and as usual it's filled with a panoply of oddbod characters and steampunk-y apparatus. Bazil, a video shop clerk, gets a bullet lodged in his brain and winds up on the streets only to be adopted by a gang of quirky rejects who live under a rubbish tip and it's not long before they decide to combine their talents to wreak revenge on the arms companies behind our hero's sorry predicament. What ensues is a charming comedic caper with a fine cast and more than a few barbs for the filthy arms trade. All in all another highly enjoyable half-fantasy from the director of City of Lost Children and Delicatessen.

Lebanon is a searing antiwar movie set predominantly in the claustrophobic confines of a tank during Israel's 1982 incursion into Lebanon. The strains of urban conflict soon take their toll on the mostly inexperienced squad in their sweaty vehicle and they find themselves marooned in a Syrian enclave. The film has an almost mythic feel to it as it switches between the inside of the tank and the carnage/mayhem outside as observed through the tanks gun sights but the excellent cast bring a desperate humanity to proceedings as it slowly builds to a frenzy of panic and confusion. A brilliant, nuanced, quite devastating anti-war movie, that's the perfect companion piece to Waltz With Bashir.