Monthly Archives: May 2012

Glowing reviews for Snow White and the Huntsman – from Ebert and the L.A. Times

Despite poor overall reviews from Rotten Tomatoes (49%) and Metacritic (56), the movie “Snow White and the Huntsman” has been winning over some top critics. Among them Roger Ebert:

“Snow White and the Huntsman” reinvents the legendary story in a film of astonishing beauty and imagination. It’s the last thing you would expect from a picture with this title. It falters in its storytelling, because Snow White must be entirely good, the Queen must be entirely bad, and there’s no room for nuance. The end is therefore predetermined. But, oh, what a ride.

And, Betsy Sharkey of the L.A. Times:

“Snow White and the Huntsman,” starring a fierce Kristen Stewart and an even fiercer Charlize Theron as warring sides of good and evil, is a baroque enchantment filled with dazzling darkness, desultory dwarfs, demonic trolls and beastly fairies. It is an absolute wonder to watch and creates a warrior princess for the ages. But what this revisionist fairy tale does not give us is a passionate love — its kisses are as chaste as the snow is white.

 

Both reviews fawned over the special effects in the movie, from the overbearing castle to the forbidding forest. Describing it as “a triumph of art direction and CGI” and, “a forest lush with bewitching flora and fauna is otherworldly to behold.”

Which means you can count me in, I love that stuff!

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Music Video: Days by The Drums (at the Handplane Hoedown)

On Saturday, May 5th, 2012, a gathering of fine individuals came together to play in the sun and shorebreak. A plethora of handplanes littered the beach and everyone was smiling and having fun. The video is a short view into what went down and some of the reasons why bodysurfing is so stoke heavy.

Google brings 130 World Wonders online – explore with photos, videos, and street view

The Google World Wonders Project is a platform which brings world heritage sites of the modern and ancient world online.

Journey to more than 130 world heritage sites across the globe—like Stonehenge, the Palace and Garden of Versailles, temples of ancient Kyoto or The White City of Tel-Aviv.

With videos, photos and in-depth information, you can now explore the world wonders from your armchair just as if you were there. Advancements in our camera technologies allow us to go off the beaten track to photograph some of the most significant places in the world so that anyone, anywhere can explore them.

The World Wonders Project also presents a valuable resource for students and scholars who can now virtually discover some of the most famous sites on earth. The project offers an innovative way to teach history and geography to students all over the world.

Together with partners including UNESCO, the World Monuments Fund and Cyark, the World Wonders Project is preserving the world heritage sites for future generations.

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Start exploring the World Wonders Project and share your favorite places you’ve visited using the hashtag #worldwonders

 

via World Wonders Project

 

Screenshot of the site:

 

 

And, clicking on the Wonder – Three Castles in Bellinzona, Switzerland:

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U.S. unemployment drops to 8.0% – Gallup reports, May 2012

U.S. unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, dropped to 8.0% in May, a new low since Gallup began measuring employment in 2010, and more than a full percentage-point decline from May 2011. Gallup’s seasonally adjusted number for May is 8.3%, down from 8.6% in April. However, that remains higher than the seasonally adjusted low of 7.9% recorded in January 2012.

Despite recent drops in unemployment reported by Gallup and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. employment situation remains fragile.

 

Fragile…or, rocky as seen in the graph above where the numbers have been rising/falling since January 2012.

Tomorrow the U.S. government’s will publish its own unemployment numbers form the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

// Thx – Flap’s Blog

Epic Photo: the anatomy of the Incredible Hulk

click for full size image (and then zoom to read text)

 

I drew this fan art of Marvel Comics’ Incredible Hulk, dissected and analyzed. Here it is with a new lick of paint.

At the time, I tried to draw on not only my mother’s nursing school anatomy textbooks, but also gorilla and hominid ancestor skulls (such as Paranthropus, though my murky text identifies it with the outdated Zinjanthropus name), inspiration for things like the cranial ridge and large jaw muscles. I included details such as 3 scars on the bone (I’m Canadian: Wolverine wrecked his face a few times and I wanted to document that) and perfect glowing teeth. If anyone has perfect shiny teeth, it needs to be Hulk.

via Scientific American

The lucky last aisle seat next to the “Fat Man” on the plane

Yesterday, I had an experience that restored my faith in humanity. One of those heart-swelling moments when I thought to myself, “Yes, all is right and good in the world.”

I was flying on Southwest from LAX to BWI. I don’t regularly fly on the airline (but when offered a free flight, I’m not one to turn it down!) and had forgotten to check-in for my boarding group. By the time I remembered, I was relegated to C30 and practically guaranteed a middle seat.

*A note about my flying style: I’m mildly claustrophobic and particularly fidgety and faithfully book an aisle seat whenever I fly. 

When I boarded the plane, I scanned my seating options — all middle seats.  I carefully walked down the aisle, looking at potential mates, searching for someone who’d be able to handle me getting up at least a few times to go to the bathroom and stretch my legs.

And then I saw it, oddly open and beckoning — an empty aisle seat.

I curiously approached the row, and asked the man sitting in middle if the seat was taken. He said No.

Score.

After I sat down, I thought a little about my good fortune, and wondered if the man’s weight had anything to do with the seat going empty for so long (I’m not assuming it did, but simply stating it was one of the explanations I considered for such an unlikely event).

He was definitely heavier than the average male. His belly protruded beyond his mid-thigh and he appeared slightly uncomfortable sitting in the middle. But flying next to him for five hours turned out to be a notably pleasant experience.

He was mindful of not intruding on my space, and invariably calm and low maintenance.

Towards the end of our flight, I asked him if he was from Maryland (he was) and then inquired into his trip to LA. It turned out he, and his three daughters traveling with him, were just connecting from Hawaii.

His wife had gotten a year-long job assignment in Waikiki and they were moving there this summer.

He told me he was a middle school teacher (of math and science) in Baltimore City and he would be taking a sabbatical from teaching in order to “just enjoy Hawaii and spend time being a dad.”

I subsequently burst out in a huge smile and exclaimed, “I’m so happy for you!”

We talked for about 20 minutes. I wish I had struck up the conversation earlier. He was smart and insightful and seemed kind and compassionate. His one daughter, about 10 or 12 years old, sitting in the window seat next to him, was quiet but cheerful and regularly smiled as we talked.

I walked off the plane carrying the feeling that there is justice in the world. That good things can happen to good people.

And it was a rousing reminder of how much we can miss in life when we only look at the surface of things.

PS – I considered not posting this, for fear of offending those sensitive about weight. However, after moving to an environment that glorifies youth, beauty and thinness over everything else in this world, it was a much-needed reminder of what I value and hold dear.

Netflix updates video player for iPhone, iPad – adds rewind feature

We are happy to announce the release of our new video player for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.

The updated player includes the following features:

  • Larger, more separated play controls appropriate for how people use these devices
  • Exploration during video play with thumbnail images on the scrub bar
  • Access for audio/subtitles settings and other existing player features
  • In Canada we also added easier “do not share” capability for Facebook-connected members

Stay tuned for similar updates to our App for Android.

 

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Progress in the Middle East – if you measure by the number of Facebook users

There are growing signs of progress in the Middle East, if you measure by the total number of Facebook users. That number has skyrocketed since 2010, going from 15 million to near 40 million.

Of those users, a growing number are starting to prefer using the site in their own native language, Arabic.

Of the 39+ million Arabic users on Facebook, 39% prefer to view the site in their native language, while 36% like it in English.

As more users in the region are coming online, with an obvious desire to access sites in Arabic, there is a rising demand for content that appeals to them, and quite a few social media sites are trying to meet that demand.

Twitter recently added support for right-to-left languages, including in Arabic, while Storify is working with a team of volunteers in the Middle East to translate their interface into Arabic.

Arabic is one of the fastest growing languages on sites like Twitter and Wikipedia, and with Yahoo having just licensed the technology behind smart transliteration tool Yamli, it is becoming increasingly easy for Arabic speakers to interact in their mother tongue online.

via The Next Web

 

The numbers are not overwhelming, by any means, considering that there are 152 million users in the U.S. and 232 million in Europe, but it is a positive sign.

 

// Photo – Sean MacEntee

Amazing Species: a carnivorous plant – Nepenthes rigidifolia

Nepenthes rigidifolia is not yet listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, however a provisional evaluation classes this species as ‘Critically Endangered’. Known only from a single location in Sumatra, Indonesia, this spectacular carnivorous pitcher plant produces mottled brown and yellowish green pitchers up to 21 cm tall and 8 cm wide, borne from unique, rigid leaves from which it receives its name. The traps of this plant are home to a wide range of dependant animals, including mosquito larvae and other arthropods.

Only 24 specimens of this ultra-rare plant species were ever discovered in the wild, all outside of national parks and nature reserves. Unfortunately, that small number has been decimated by poaching and habitat destruction, and a recent survey confirmed just two individuals surviving in the wild today.

To safeguard against complete extinction, multiple strains of Nepenthes rigidifolia are preserved through an ex-situ conservation strategy (i.e., conservation outside their natural habitat), with the hope that protection and restoration of its habitat may save this critically rare species, and the ecosystem of miniature life that it supports.

via IUCN Amazing Species (pdf)