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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Keck Observatory on the summit of Mauna Kea, in Hawaii.

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... Just thought I’d post these images taken at Keck Observatory, which contains two of the largest optical telescopes in the world. Keck Observatory is situated on the summit of Mauna Kea, a 13,800 feet-high dormant volcano located on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Mauna Kea Observatories.

Back in 2000, I visited the island of Maui (as well as the island of Oahu...but a 1-hour stop at Honolulu International Airport on my way back to Los Angeles from Maui doesn’t really count as a visitation, haha), but one day I hope to go to the Big Island and see all of the observatories at Mauna Kea in person. One day.


One of the two 10-meter-in-diameter (33-feet-in-diameter) Keck telescopes.
Courtesy of W.M. Keck Observatory

As the Sun sets, the twin Keck telescopes prepare for another night of astronomical observations.

A laser shoots into the sky from one of the Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea.

A close-up of the laser that's being shot into the sky by one of the Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea.
Courtesy of NASA: APOD

The Milky Way looms high above the Mauna Kea Observatories in Hawaii.
Courtesy of NorCal Blogs

Monday, November 29, 2010

REST IN PEACE, LESLIE NIELSEN (1926-2010) & IRVIN KERSHNER (1923-2010)... I'll always remember how much The Naked Gun movies cracked me when I watched them when I was young. That scene where Detective Lt. Frank Drebin (humorously played by Nielsen) accidentally knocked a wheelchair-bound O.J. Simpson off a stadium ledge at the end of The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!? Hi-larious. Though it's been a while since I've seen Airplane!. I should rent it on DVD.

Leslie Nielsen.

As for Mr. Kershner... The Empire Strikes Back will always be the best film in the Star Wars saga. Always. I also found out that he directed Robocop 2. Even more awesomeness.

These two fellas will be missed.

Irvin Kershner with the villains of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, which Kershner directed.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

TRON: LEGACY.

Happy Thanksgiving Day, everyone!!! Just thought I’d share these images and posters from Disney’s Tron: Legacy...which comes out in theaters next month. This movie has absolutely nothing to do with Turkey Day, but it does have something to do with how gorgeous Olivia Wilde is (I don’t know the meaning of the word 'obsession', haha), and how friggin’ awesome the visual FX will be in this sequel to the classic 1982 film...which, as an FYI, was one of the first flicks to utilize computer-generated imagery. I'm sure you wanted to know that.

TRON: LEGACY.

So anyways; enjoy your turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and shrimp cocktail...and don’t forget that 2007’s The Simpsons Movie will be broadcast on television for the first time later night (on FOX). Oh, and as for today's football schedule: The New England Patriots will play against the Detroit Lions, the New Orleans Saints will compete against the Dallas Cowboys, and the Cincinnati Bengals will take on the New York Jets. That is all.

TRON: LEGACY.

TRON: LEGACY.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lord Voldemort plots out his plan to kill Harry Potter in Part 1 of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS.

HAIRY POTHEAD AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, Part 1... In case you’re wondering why I made fun of the movie’s title like this, click on this link to a journal entry that I posted about the first Harry Potter film back in 2001. Anyways, I saw Deathly Hallows yesterday...and thought it was good for the most part. The tone of this film is COMPLETELY 180° from that of the first Potter flick, The Sorcerer's Stone, in '01. Lots of blood (and exposed muscle tissue on one of Ron Weasley's arms in one scene... Nasty) are in this movie, and don’t forget that sexual image of Harry and Hermione Granger—both essentially nude as they make out in front of Ron during the moment he destroys that locket with the Sword of Gryffindor (yes, I went on Google to make sure I spelled that name right).

The treacherous Professor Snape...in Part 1 of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS.

Deathly Hallows had several Lord of the Rings-type moments, which in one way was a good thing (the serious undertone was a welcome change after the kiddy atmosphere in the first 6 movies...though Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix were actually pretty boring because of the dark tone that started to emerge as those films went on) and in another way wasn't. There were shots after shots of Potter and his two threesome partners (err, Hermione and Ron) walking aimlessly about across a grassy/forest landscape before brooding inside that large magical tent that Hermione somehow kept inside her purse. I was waiting for Frodo and the rest of the Fellowship of the Ring to make a cameo, haha. These drawn out sulking scenes were obviously the result of dividing this story into two separate movies. David Yates (who directed this film as well as The Half-Blood Prince and Order of the Phoenix) had to find SOME way to get this Potter flick to the usual 2-½ hour running time...

Rubeus Hagrid attempts to um, fly Harry Potter to safety on Hagrid's motorcycle in Part 1 of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS.

One thing I really liked about Deathly Hallows, however, were the large number of action scenes in this flick compared to the previous movies. The best scenes in Deathly Hallows were obviously those of Lord Voldemort and/or his minions as they hunted down Potter and company. And nice allegory to the Nazi discrimination of Jews with the whole Muggle persecution by the Ministry of Magic thing. I guess this was J.K. Rowling’s attempt at bringing substance and relevance to this first installment in the final Hairy Pothead film chapter. That is all.

Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley attempt to elude Lord Voldemort's minions in Part 1 of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

An artist's concept of the exoplanet HIP 13044 b orbiting its parent star.
ESO / L. Calçada

Planet from another galaxy discovered...

****

Galactic cannibalism brings an exoplanet of extragalactic origin within astronomers' reach (Press Release - November 18)

Over the last 15 years, astronomers have detected nearly 500 planets orbiting stars in our cosmic neighbourhood, but none outside our Milky Way has been confirmed. Now, however, a planet with a minimum mass 1.25 times that of Jupiter has been discovered orbiting a star of extragalactic origin, even though the star now finds itself within our own galaxy. It is part of the so-called Helmi stream -- a group of stars that originally belonged to a dwarf galaxy that was devoured by our galaxy, the Milky Way, in an act of galactic cannibalism about six to nine billion years ago. The results are published today in Science Express.

"This discovery is very exciting," says Rainer Klement of the Max-Planck-Institut fuer Astronomie (MPIA), who was responsible for the selection of the target stars for this study. "For the first time, astronomers have detected a planetary system in a stellar stream of extragalactic origin. Because of the great distances involved, there are no confirmed detections of planets in other galaxies. But this cosmic merger has brought an extragalactic planet within our reach."

The star is known as HIP 13044, and it lies about 2000 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Fornax (the Furnace). The astronomers detected the planet, called HIP 13044 b, by looking for the tiny telltale wobbles of the star caused by the gravitational tug of an orbiting companion. For these precise observations, the team used the high-resolution spectrograph FEROS attached to the 2.2-metre MPG/ESO telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile.

Adding to its claim to fame, HIP 13044 b is also one of the few exoplanets known to have survived the period when its host star expanded massively after exhausting the hydrogen fuel supply in its core -- the red giant phase of stellar evolution. The star has now contracted again and is burning helium in its core. Until now, these so-called horizontal branch stars have remained largely uncharted territory for planet-hunters.

"This discovery is part of a study where we are systematically searching for exoplanets that orbit stars nearing the end of their lives," says Johny Setiawan, also from MPIA, who led the research. "This discovery is particularly intriguing when we consider the distant future of our own planetary system, as the Sun is also expected to become a red giant in about five billion years."

HIP 13044 b is near to its host star. At the closest point in its elliptical orbit, it is less than one stellar diameter from the surface of the star (or 0.055 times the Sun-Earth distance). It completes an orbit in only 16.2 days. Setiawan and his colleagues hypothesise that the planet's orbit might initially have been much larger, but that it moved inwards during the red giant phase.

Any closer-in planets may not have been so lucky. "The star is rotating relatively quickly for an horizontal branch star," says Setiawan. "One explanation is that HIP 13044 swallowed its inner planets during the red giant phase, which would make the star spin more quickly."

Although HIP 13044 b has escaped the fate of these inner planets so far, the star will expand again in the next stage of its evolution. HIP 13044 b may therefore be about to be engulfed by the star, meaning that it is doomed after all. This could also foretell the demise of our outer planets -- such as Jupiter -- when the Sun approaches the end of its life.

The star also poses interesting questions about how giant planets form, as it appears to contain very few elements heavier than hydrogen and helium -- fewer than any other star known to host planets. "It is a puzzle for the widely accepted model of planet formation to explain how such a star, which contains hardly any heavy elements at all, could have formed a planet. Planets around stars like this must probably form in a different way," adds Setiawan.

Source: European Southern Observatory

****

A wide-field image of the region around the exoplanet HIP 13044 b that was created using photographs from the Digitized Sky Survey 2.
ESO and Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin

Friday, November 19, 2010

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES... I obviously don’t know how good the alien invasion movie (which comes out in theaters next March) is gonna be, but HOLY S**T, the trailer for it looks totally bad-ass. You can tell by the screenshots I posted below...

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.
BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.
BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

And of course, here is the Battle: Los Angeles trailer itself:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

SKYLINE.

SKYLINE... I saw the low budget sci-fi film last Saturday, and here are a couple of notes on it:

-- The computer-generated imagery in Skyline was simply awesome. Of course, this is due to the fact the filmmakers (Colin Strause and Greg Strause...the brothers who brought you Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem) employed a bunch of no-name actors that you would see on a CW Network TV show like um, Gossip Girl to save money that was obviously devoted to the visual FX. (This no-name cast excludes David Zayas—who was last seen as a dictator being manipulated by Eric Roberts in last August’s action film The Expendables.)

-- The first 10-15 minutes of Skyline had the most pathetic attempts at character development I’ve ever seen on the big screen. Out of all the so-called characterization (some dude travels from out of state to Los Angeles to hang with rapper friend; rapper friend cheats on his girlfriend with another hoochie mama; and the girlfriend of the dude who came from out of state to hang with rapper friend is pregnant), there was only one storyline that managed to be focused on at the end of the film: One of the girls being um, 'preggers'. Of course, the fact that all but two of the characters mentioned above get killed over the course of the movie is a good reason for this. But still...Skyline's character development was atrocious.

SKYLINE.

-- It’s a wise move that the military would use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in the initial attack on the alien ships. Nice use of Northrop Grumman’s X-47B...a prototype UAV that, in real life, may possibly conduct its first flight next month.

-- I like how the aliens are more gruesome than Predator in that they not only rip people's heads off, but they also ingest the humans' brains and gain whatever memory is inside it.

-- Skyline is worthy of being considered an Oscar contender for Best Visual FX (that is...before the nominees are narrowed down to 3 choices). Best Art Direction? Probably not. This is because the aliens were a cross between Predator, the Cloverfield monster, the aliens from Señor Spielbergo's War of the Worlds and the Arachnids from Starship Troopers. Also, the mothership (that gets shot down by an X-47B armed with a nuclear missile) resembled the Romulan vessel Narada from the 2009 Star Trek film...while the smaller aerial craft/creatures were a rip-off of the Sentinels from The Matrix.

-- Skyline cost $10 million to make and made $13.2 million at the box office as of this journal entry. Nice to know that it won’t be considered a flop.


That is all.

SKYLINE.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

PHOTO OF THE DAY... Astronaut Douglas Wheelock, currently residing onboard the International Space Station (ISS), took this great image of former crewmate Tracy Caldwell Dyson (who returned to Earth onboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in late September) inside the ISS' Cupola and posted it on his Twitpic page 49 days ago. Awesome pic... Obviously, there’s something very science fiction-ish (and um, sexy) about this photo. Then again, I pointed out earlier this year that the Cupola was something that you would see in Star Wars. Search your feelings, you know it to be true. (If you were a Star Wars fan you'd know who I was quoting with that line.) That is all.

Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson gazes through the Cupola window at Earth in late September of 2010.
NASA - Douglas Wheelock / Twitpic.com

Thursday, November 11, 2010

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON logo.

AND...THAT'S A WRAP! On Tuesday, principal photography (a.k.a. filming) was officially completed on Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The news came from TF3 actor Tyrese Gibson via his Twitter page. Awesome news. Assuming, of course, the final product will be as fun as the original 2007 film and not have as many plot issues as Revenge of the Fallen did. Anyways, now comes the postproduction work on Dark of the Moon...where Industrial Light & Magic and Digital Domain will spend the next 6-7 months bringing Giant Alien Robots back to life—including the new Decepticon baddie, Shockwave. We should be getting some nice official photos from the TF3 film shoot by the end of this year, while we’ll presumbably see actual footage from the film via a Super Bowl TV spot by...early February. Can’t wait.


Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Co. complete TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON filming in Culver City, California on November 9, 2010.
Courtesy of Splash and Just Jared

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Monday, November 08, 2010

Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) tries to avert disaster as Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) snoozes in DUE DATE.

DUE DATE... I saw the film last weekend, and while it had a couple of funny moments like The Hangover did, Due Date wasn’t without its flaws. The first issue I have is with the number of times Robert Downey Jr. (as Peter Highman) gets into an accident thanks to Zach Galifianakis (as Ethan Tremblay)—obviously intentional—and pretty much comes out of ‘em as if they were mere paper cuts. In one example (shown above), Ethan falls asleep behind the steering wheel and causes the car he’s driving to veer off an overpass and crash onto the highway below. While he did come away with a broken arm and ribs, Peter still seems 'OK' enough to withstand a future mishap at the hands of Tremblay (in the form of...a gunshot wound)—who didn’t have a scratch or bruise on his face even though he didn’t "tense" up enough to get injured like Peter did during the accident. In another scene, Peter is getting bounced around like a ping-pong ball inside a truck trailer as Ethan—behind the wheel of a Mexican police cruiser towing the trailer—tries to evade pursuing cop cars while the duo tries to head back to the U.S. border (after accidentally driving to Mexico). The trailer flips over during a collision at one point in the chase, and Highman is still well enough to thank Tremblay for getting his arse back into the U.S. moments later. More on this scene below...

Michelle Monaghan as Sarah, Peter Highman's wife, in DUE DATE.

In terms of plot issues in Due Date, much of ‘em revolved around the car chase in Mexico. For starters, how did Highman and Tremblay manage to re-enter the U.S. without any additional obstacles...considering the fact that not only did they not have passports on ‘em, but they were driving around in a stolen Mexican police truck with its right passenger door missing? How did they manage to reach Los Angeles and NOT get pulled over by LAPD and/or California Highway Patrol officers who would find it suspicious that a law enforcement vehicle from another country was cruising down a freeway with its sirens blazing, AND missing the door? I obviously understand that the movie is about slapstick comedy and whatnot...but I kinda had trouble suspending my disbelief during these moments.

Peter and Ethan carpool with Peter's friend Darryl (Jamie Foxx) in DUE DATE.

All-in-all, Due Date could’ve been a better film. I like how Highman doesn’t completely lay an ass-whupping on Tremblay after realizing that this entire situation is caused by Ethan’s "vulnerability" due to the death of his father. The scene at the Grand Canyon was a nice moment—though overall, one wonders if Tremblay truly had what it took to act on a formidable TV show like...Two and a Half Men. Probably. I wouldn’t say that Jon Cryer is an Oscar-caliber actor either.

Peter and Ethan scuffle after a poignant moment at the Grand Canyon in DUE DATE.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Whitney Miller conducts a cooking demo at the Anaheim Convention Center in California, on November 6, 2010.

YESTERDAY, I attended The Celebrity Food and Gift Show at the Anaheim Convention Center in California...where I got to meet Whitney Miller—the Season 1 winner of FOX’s MasterChef TV show last September. Ms. Miller was totally awesome in person! She was very nice...and as shown on television, a really talented cook. Below is obviously the photo that I took with Ms. Miller, while my autographed ticket and a pic I took during her hour-long cooking demo are also shown in this entry.

Posing with Whitney Miller after she finishes her cooking demo at the Anaheim Convention Center in California, on November 6, 2010.

If there’s one thing that I initially took issue with during her presentation, it was her comment that Michael Bay filmed Transformers at Camp Pendleton (near San Diego, California)...which was the site of one of the cooking challenges on MasterChef last season. Upon further research online, however, I think Ms. Miller was referring to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, obviously not the first film. In Revenge of the Fallen, there’s a shot during that final battle sequence in Egypt where U.S. Naval hovercraft (officially called Landing Craft Air Cushion vehicles, or LCAC) and Marine Corps Cobra attack helicopters arrive on a beach to provide reinforcement for the Autobots and company. That definitely must’ve been filmed at Camp Pendleton... Just because.

My ticket for The Celebrity Food and Gift Show...autographed by Whitney Miller on November 6, 2010.

So I retract my earlier comment and have absolutely no issue with Ms. Miller’s presentation. You rock, Whitney!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The International Space Station as seen by the STS-132 space shuttle crew on May 23, 2010.
NASA

IMAGE OF THE DAY... The illustration below is courtesy of Life's Little Mysteries...

An illustration comparing the International Space Station’s size to that of other notable man-made objects, both real and fictional.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

PHOTO OF THE DAY... The image below is of Comet Hartley 2, whose nucleus NASA’s EPOXI spacecraft (formerly known as Deep Impact) flew within 435 miles of at around 7 AM Pacific Daylight Time today. Deep Impact, FYI, was the spacecraft that released an ‘Impactor’ (which contained a CD bearing the names of 625,000 people...including that of Yours Truly) which smashed into the nucleus of Comet 9P/Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005. For more info on today’s successful flyby, click here.

An image of Comet Hartley 2 taken by NASA's EPOXI spacecraft during its flyby of the comet on Nov. 4, 2010.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / UMD

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

God Bless America.

ELECTION 2010 Update... Jerry Brown is once again governor of California! Take your eBay-furnished golden parachute and leave, Meg Whitman! It's not like you were originally from California, anyway... Great concession speech, though.

Welcome back to the Senate, Barbara Boxer. Carly Fiorina can take her $100 million that she got from HP at the expense of 30,000 workers and join Whitman in Defeatedville...

And Prop 19 lost; sorry potheads. And so did Prop 23. Sorry Texas oil tycoons. And by sorry I mean SCREW YOU. I was rooting for the San Francisco Giants to beat your Rangers in this year's World Series, by the way...


Yes, I too am surprised at how animated (RE: harsh) politics can make me be. As for the California propositions:

(The actual results are marked in red)

- Voted NO on Prop 19 NO

- Voted YES on Prop 20 YES

- Voted YES on Prop 21 NO

- Voted YES on Prop 22 YES

- Voted NO on Prop 23 NO

- Voted NO on Prop 24 NO

- Voted YES on Prop 25 YES

- Voted YES on Prop 26 YES

and

- Voted NO on Prop 27 NO

Monday, November 01, 2010

God Bless America.

ELECTION 2010... FYI, I voted via absentee ballot two weeks ago. Hopefully I’ll receive that "I Voted" flag sticker in the mail since I obviously won't be at the local polling station tomorrow to get one.


As a Californian, I voted all Democratic in this year’s midterm elections. Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman? Voting for the "lesser of two evils" was never more vital than with these two candidates. Brown is no saint, but Whitman lost major points in my book by trying to take a "tough as nails" stance on immigration, and yet had an illegal alien as a house servant for 9 YEARS...and even asserts that she didn't know the maid was undocumented this whole time. Um, RIIIIGHT. And that one TV commercial showing sound bites of her copying a lot of current Governor Ah-nold's speeches word-for-word? Yea that’s a TOTAL deal-breaker.

Carly Fiorina (a.k.a. Meg Whitman's "Golden Parachute Twin")? Barbara Boxer airs commercials about how Fiorina laid off thousands of jobs at Hewlett Packard (or HP, which built the computer I’m using right now... Yes, I am ashamed) and out-sourced them to other countries, while Fiorina fights back by airing a pathetic TV ad attacking Boxer by showing footage of her telling some Joe Schmoe at a congressional hearing to address Boxer as "Senator". RIIIIGHT AGAIN. If there was a choice between re-voting for an 'arrogant' career politician and a businesswoman who caused lots of people to lose their jobs, and got a multimillion-dollar payout before she vacated her position as CEO of HP (much like Whitman receiving a huge golden parachute when she left her tenure as head of eBay...hence why she and Fiorina are considered 'twins'. That—and they're both Republicans), I'd vote for the arrogant senator.

As for the California propositions:

- Voted NO on Prop 19 (Sorry potheads)

- Voted YES on Prop 20

- Voted YES on Prop 21

- Voted YES on Prop 22

- Voted NO on Prop 23 (SCREW YOU TEXAS, and SCREW YOUR OIL COMPANIES)

- Voted NO on Prop 24

- Voted YES on Prop 25 (Probably should've been a NO...but oh well)

- Voted YES on Prop 26

and

- Voted NO on Prop 27 (since a YES would've contradicted voting YES on Prop 20... Prop 20 was about assigning a special 14-member panel to redo congressional districts in California—while Prop 27 would prevent this panel from being formed)

So don't forget to vote tomorrow, people (that is, those of you who live here in the good ol' US of A)! If you don't, then the Communists win. Just kidding. Al-Qaeda will.


I Voted!