Sunday, August 2, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
By DON HUNTER
Something big and strange is floating through the Chukchi Sea between Wainwright and Barrow.
Hunters from Wainwright first started noticing the stuff sometime probably early last week. It's thick and dark and "gooey" and is drifting for miles in the cold Arctic waters, according to Gordon Brower with the North Slope Borough's Planning and Community Services Department.
Brower and other borough officials, joined by the U.S. Coast Guard, flew out to Wainwright to investigate. The agencies found "globs" of the stuff floating miles offshore Friday and collected samples for testing.
Later, Brower said, the North Slope team in a borough helicopter spotted a long strand of the stuff and followed it for about 15 miles, shooting video from the air.
The next day the floating substance arrived offshore from Barrow, about 90 miles east of Wainwright, and borough officials went out in boats, collected more samples and sent them off for testing too.
Nobody knows for sure what the gunk is, but Petty Officer 1st Class Terry Hasenauer says the Coast Guard is sure what it is not.
"It's certainly biological," Hasenauer said. "It's definitely not an oil product of any kind. It has no characteristics of an oil, or a hazardous substance, for that matter.
"It's definitely, by the smell and the makeup of it, it's some sort of naturally occurring organic or otherwise marine organism."
Something else: No one in Barrow or Wainwright can remember seeing anything like this before, Brower said.
"That's one of the reasons we went out, because in recent history I don't think we've seen anything like this," he said. "Maybe inside lakes or in stagnant water or something, but not (in the ocean) that we could recall ...
"If it was something we'd seen before, we'd be able to say something about it. But we haven't ...which prompted concerns from the local hunters and whaling captains."
The stuff is "gooey" and looks dark against the bright white ice floating in the Arctic Ocean, Brower said.
"It's pitch black when it hits ice and it kind of discolors the ice and hangs off of it," Brower said. He saw some jellyfish tangled up in the stuff, and someone turned in what was left of a dead goose -- just bones and feathers -- to the borough's wildlife department.
"It kind of has an odor; I can't describe it," he said.
Hasenauer said he hasn't heard any reports of waterfowl or marine animals turning up.
Brower said it wouldn't necessarily surprise him if the substance turns out to be some sort of naturally occurring phenomenon, but the borough is waiting until it gets the analysis back from the samples before officials say anything more than they're not sure what it is.
"From the air it looks brownish with some sheen, but when you get close and put it up on the ice and in the bucket, it's kind of blackish stuff ... (and) has hairy strands on it."
Hasenauer said the Coast Guard's samples are being analyzed in Anchorage. Results may be back sometime next week, he said.
The two Coast Guard experts sent up to overfly the area with the borough said they saw nothing that resembled an oil slick, Hasenauer said.
"We brought back one sample of what they believe to be an algae," he said, and a big algae bloom is one possibility.
"It's textbook for us to consider algae because of all the false reports of oil spills we've had in the past. It's one of the things that typically comes up" when a report turns out not to be an oil spill after all.
But, he said, "there's all types of natural phenomena that it could be."
Meanwhile, the brownish-blackish gunk is drifting along the coast to the northeast, Brower said.
"This stuff is moving with the current," he said. "It's now on beyond Barrow and probably going north at this point. And people are still encountering it out here off Barrow."
For the most part, the mystery substance seems to have stayed away from shore.
"We did get some residents saying it was being pushed against the shoreline by ice in some areas," Brower said, "but then we get another east wind and it gets pushed back out there."
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
The 28-year-old Portman has been cast as Jane Foster, who was a nurse and first love of the title character in the Marvel Comics. According to Marvel Studios, the character is being updated for the movie version of "Thor," in which the Norse warrior is cast down to Earth to live among humans.
Chris Hemsworth stars as Thor in the movie, which begins shooting early next year. It is due in theaters May 20, 2011. Kenneth Branagh (BRAN'-nah) is directing "Thor."
The movie is part of an ambitious schedule for Marvel Studios, including "Iron Man 2," "The First Avenger: Captain America" and "The Avengers."
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Disney is optioning rights to the Edgar Rice Burroughs sci-fi series "John Carter of Mars" as a potential franchise for the studio, reports Variety.
Paramount had previously owned the rights to the epic and had set the project up with Jon Favreau directing and Sean Daniel and Jim Jacks producing. But Paramount's option expired and now Disney has jumped aboard and is in talks with Burroughs' estate.
The film begins with a Civil War veteran whose retreat into a cave to avoid capture by Apache Indians takes an otherworldly turn as he's transported via time portal to the planet of Barsoom and taken prisoner by 12-foot-tall green men.
Burroughs wrote 11 volumes of Carter's adventures and Disney is hoping the film will launch a franchise.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
The monthly schedule is church-like, with its parenting classes, guest speakers and small group meetings to hash out shared beliefs. But God isn't part of this Cambridge congregation.
Greg Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard University, is building a God-free model of community that he hopes helps humanists increase in numbers and influence across the United States.
SURVEY: Most religious groups in USA have lost ground in 20 years
Epstein sees potential in research showing that there are a growing number of people in the United States with no religion. In the latest American Religious Identification Survey, released this month, 15% of respondents in 2008 said they had no religion, compared to 8.2% in 1990. Epstein believes that group includes large numbers of people who are humanist, but have never identified themselves that way and can be reached.
At the same time, there is broader acceptance of those with no faith, as indicated by President Barack Obama's mention of "nonbelievers" in his inaugural address, Epstein said.
Definitions of humanism vary. Generally, humanists reject belief in the supernatural and are guided by reason, experience and compassion for others. Epstein defines the philosophy as a commitment to living ethical, personally fulfilling lives while serving the greater good.
Epstein wants to create local humanist centers nationwide that perform many of the community-building functions of a church, only in service of the humanist creed. He will promote his idea as he tours the country to promote his book, "Good Without God," which is scheduled to be published by HarperCollins in the U.S. later this year. Epstein will receive assistance and funding from groups such as the American Humanist Association and the Secular Student Alliance, which have chapters they hope to strengthen and multiply.
"There are so many millions of people out there who basically share our views, that we've got room for everybody," Epstein said. "What we're doing here has got to grow even more."
Raised as a Reform Jew, Epstein studied Taoism and Buddhism before he became a humanist. He earned a master's degree in Judaic studies from the University of Michigan and a master's of theological studies from Harvard Divinity School. In 2005, he was ordained as a rabbi by the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism. The movement says it combines reason, human experience, Jewish culture and ethical insights from Jewish tradition.
While many humanists reject anything that hints at organized religion, Epstein is freely borrowing from it — from the "small group" format familiar in evangelical churches to calling his group a "congregation."
Paul Kurtz, founder of the Council for Secular Humanism, disagrees with that approach, saying humanists are building secular communities that show people don't need religion to get together "in a joyful mood and do good works." But that's undermined when religious words are used to describe those communities.
"I don't think we should use the language of religion, that's very confusing," Kurtz said.
Though he supports Epstein, Fred Edwords of the American Humanist Association questions whether a large, untapped pool of potential humanists exists who would join congregations.
"This is a new mission field, if you will, but are those vineyards ripe for the picking?" Edwords said. "I haven't seen sufficient evidence of it."
Still, both men agree that more humanist communities are needed, for mutual support and to offset isolation humanists often feel.
Jenni Acosta, a humanist from Newton, Massachusetts, who is part of the Harvard humanist parenting group, said the group gives her needed support, and shows her 6-year-old and 10-year-old daughters that other children are being raised the same way. Acosta, 36, said she deals with family and friends who challenge her on how she can raise her kids without the moral guidance a faith provides.
"I think it's reassuring to all of us to know that we're there for each other and there's other examples of people doing it and their kids seem to be turning out OK," Acosta said.
The parenting group started in December and meets monthly with about 10 families. Acosta says trips to museums and a parenting course called "Compassionate Communication" are planned. The Harvard chaplaincy also hosts "Humanist Small Group" biweekly Sunday brunch discussion and buys drinks at biweekly "Humanist Community Pub Nights." Last month, it hosted holiday-style celebrations around Charles Darwin's 200th birthday and is hosting a talk by humanist writer and director Joss Whedon of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fame.
Richard Lints, a professor of philosophical theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a prominent evangelical school in Hamilton, Massachusetts, said the humanist desire for greater community is understandable. He believes God "hard-wired" humans to need it.
But he said he doubts humanism can sustain itself in the local congregations Epstein envisions because community is not a natural part of humanism, where the individual is the ultimate source of meaning. If humanism becomes concerned with the "greater good," and a sort of natural moral order that implies, it starts to resemble religion and humanists will back away, he said.
"At the heart of the humanist project is deep individualism," Lints said. "It's always going to be difficult to sustain a real robust community."
To those who say it can't be done, Epstein points to his community at Harvard, and nonstop requests for more services, as a rebuttal. He believes humanists are responsible to make sure their community grows more.
"Salvation is here on earth," he said. "We have evolved over 14 billion years without purpose. Now we want purpose, we need to build it into our own lives."
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Thor is going to be thundering into movie theaters a little later than expected. Ditto some of his franchise-worthy crimefighting buddies.
Marvel Entertainment has pushed back the release dates of comic-book bonanzas Thor, The Avengers and The First Avenger: Captain America, delaying the films by up to a year.
As for why...well, it's all about building the buzz.
While the hammer-wielding Norseman was originally scheduled for release on July 16, 2010, he will now roar into theaters the following summer, on June 17, 2011.
The Avengers, meanwhile, is even further from fruition, nixing its planned July 15, 2011, release (and a showdown with the final Harry Potter) for one on May 4, 2012, instead.
Captain America fans have the shortest wait time, with the film's release getting a comparably measly delay of just a few months. The First Avenger is moving from a release date of May 6, 2011, to one of July 22 the same year.
No reason was given for the schedule shift, though chairman David Maisel said that the switcheroo "maximizes the visibility of our single character-focused films, leading to the highly anticipated release of the multicharacter The Avengers film in 2012."
Spreading out the releases also gives the studio the shot of at least one of the films turning into a blockbuster and lessens—though far from alleviates altogether—the chances of direct competition with other Marvel releases.
And, of course, it builds buzz and recognition for the hopefully all-star characters set to appear in the superhero conglomerate The Avengers.
As it now stands,will be the sole Marvel release for 2010, while Spider-Man 4, Thor and The First Avenger: Captain America will hit screens in 2011. The Avengers will come later still in 2012.
Castmembers are already being rounded up to participate in the effects-heavy crowd-pleasing slate. As announced yesterday, Mickey Rourke and Scarlett Johansson have both formally signed on to appear opposite Robert Downey Jr. in the highly anticipated sequel.
That film's release date remains unchanged and is still on track for a May 7, 2010, release.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
It was an angling moment which conjured memories of classic Jaws quote, ‘You’re going to need a bigger boat. That’s what British fishing enthusiast Ian Welch said when he caught this 350kg (771lb) giant stingray - with a rod. The fish took 90 minutes and 13 men to land.
‘It dragged me across the boat and would have pulled me in had my colleague not grabbed my trousers,’ said Mr Welch, who smashed the record for the largest rod-caught freshwater fish.
‘It buried itself on the bottom. I tried with every ounce of power but it just would not budge. After an hour, my legs went. Another 30 minutes went by and somehow I found the reserves to shift it.’
Mr Welch, 45, a freshwater biologist, was tagging stingrays in Thailand when he landed the fish and broke the 2005 record for a 293kg (646lb) catfish.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
"comic book adaptation about a team of twisted superheros the biggest opening of 2009 so far." clocked in with $55.7 million in ticket sales to claim the top spot at the box office, making director 's
Still, it was not quite as big as the $70 million take of Snyder's "300" in 2007.
Dan Fellman, head of distribution for "Watchmen" studio Warner Bros., said it was unfair to compare the two films.
"They're two different movies," Fellman said Sunday. "This is a movie that runs two hours and 45 minutes. That really only leaves the exhibitor with one showing a night. If you have an 8 o'clock show, the next show is at midnight. So with essentially one show a night, I think this is outstanding."
Fans of the subversive comic book series by writer Alan Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons waited years for Snyder's big-screen version. The anticipation was complicated last year when Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox fought over who owned rights to the $125 million film. The studios eventually settled in January, keeping the March 6 opening intact.
Many "Watchmen" enthusiasts raced to IMAX theaters to see the exploits of Dr. Manhattan and company on the bigger screens. Greg Foster, chairman and president of IMAX Filmed Entertainment, said the movie sold out on all 124 IMAX screens it was playing on during the weekend and was the second largest opening in company history behind another superhero film, 2008's " ."
With no other new releases to compete against, "Watchmen" easily bumped off "Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail," which had held the top spot the two previous weekends. The Lionsgate comedy took in $8.8 million, good for second place, according to studio estimates Sunday. 20th Century Fox's "Taken," starring Liam Neeson, took the No. 3 position with $7.5 million.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
LOS ANGELES – He always vowed that he wouldn't die unless he could take it with him.
But now that Forrest J Ackerman really is gone, the grand old man of science fiction's memorabilia collection is on the auction block.
Thousands of items, including the Count Dracula ring worn by Bela Lugosi in the 1931 horror classic "Dracula," the vampire cape Lugosi wore for decades — even the actor's outfit from the "worst film ever made," Ed Wood's cheesy " " — are going up for bid.
So are such notable pieces as a signed, first-edition copy of Mary Shelley's novel "Frankenstein" and a first-edition copy of " that was signed not only by but also Lugosi, Boris Karloff and numerous other horror film notables.
The auction, tentatively scheduled for the last week of April, is expected to raise $500,000, said Joe Maddalena, president of Profiles in History, which is handling the sale.
Ackerman, the science-fiction writer, editor and literary agent widely credited with coining the term sci-fi, spent a lifetime collecting tens of thousands of pieces, ranging from the junky to the very rare. He died last December at age 92.
"I'm holding that stuff in my hand and I'm just like, 'Wow, these are his most iconic treasurers,'" Maddalena said when he was invited by Ackerman's estate to auction the collection. He said Ackerman's will stipulates that his estate's share of the profits be divided among his friends.
At one time Ackerman had a collection of 300,000 pieces of science-fiction film memorabilia, 50,000 books and the complete sets of 200 science-fiction magazines. During his final years he contributed many pieces to museums and sold some others, but held on to thousands more.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
Los Angeles (E! Online) – It's gonna cost a pretty penny, but Warner Bros. gets to send Watchmen into theaters as scheduled.
Warners and 20th Century Fox are expected to let a judge know tomorrow that they have reached a settlement and will not need to go to trial to figure out which studio owns the rights to the highly anticipated superhero adventure.
Neither side is admitting victory or defeat just yet (the lines are blurry, regardless), but according to the Hollywood Reporter, Fox is relinquishing all distribution rights for a lump-sum payment and then a percentage of Watchmen's box-office receipts.
Meaning, Dr. Manhattan, Nite Owl, Rorschach, the Comedian and Silk Spectre, et al are headed for wide release on March 6.
After inking a couple of deals with Fox in the 1990s, producer Larry Gordon ultimately took the DC Comics-rooted story to Warners, which went ahead and made what trailers are teasing to be a pretty fanboyrific movie for about $130 million.
The film has been in the can but, thanks to a last-minute Christmas Eve ruling on behalf of Fox, it seemed increasingly unlikely that Warner Bros. was going to escape from this mess with its new-releases calendar intact.
Fox sued the rival studio last February, alleging copyright violations because Gordon didn't secure permission from Fox to shop the project elsewhere—a theory that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gary Feess more or less agreed with.
After the Dec. 24 decision, Warner Bros. filed court documents stating its intent to go after Gordon for the costs of this legal battle.
But even though the case appeared to be swinging its way, Fox apparently opted to settle up before the proceedings got even nastier.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Sunday, January 11, 2009