Monday, May 31, 2010

SOUNDWAVE lurks in space...

TRANSFORMERS 3 Update... For those of you who regularly visit my Blog and noticed that I haven’t said a thing about the third film in the Giant Alien Robots franchise recently (even though I posted a gripload of entries about Transformers 2 back when it filmed in 2008), it was intentional. I was focused on typing about the launch preparations for the Akatsuki-IKAROS spacecraft (which lifted off for Venus 11 days ago)...and didn't want Transformers 3 to be upstaged by the space-related news.

Megan Fox poses with the 2011 Chevy Camaro that will be the vehicle mode for BUMBLEBEE in Transformers 3.

Anyways, there are LOTS of things to mention about Transformers 3...namely the fact that it is very unfortunate that Megan Fox dropped out of the third film. In all honesty, the main reason why I was looking forward to seeing Transformers 2 after watching the first one back in 2007 was because I wanted to see the relationship between Sam Witwicky (played by Shia LaBeouf) and Mikaela Banes (played by Fox) develop. I’m one of the few people who actually liked how these characters were written in the first film, and even liked how their relationship was expanded upon (so to speak) in Revenge of the Fallen.

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

What’s ironic is the fact that if I DO end up losing interest in watching (or even typing about) Transformers 3, it’ll be because Michael Bay made the mistake of having that Victoria’s Secret model who was supposedly casted to take Megan’s place, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, play Mikaela...and not because of those two ill-conceived Autobot twins Skids or Mudflap, or because of testicles being added to Devastator, the Constructicon. Much like how Don Cheadle replaced Terence Howard as James Rhodes in Iron Man 2, and Maggie Gyllenhaal replaced Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight, I find it annoying when actors are dropped from movies after they had a substantial role in them.

The 2011 Chevy Camaro that will be the vehicle mode for BUMBLEBEE in Transformers 3.

Don’t get me wrong, Cheadle and Gyllenhaal did excellent jobs in those two hit comic book films, but character-wise, it would’ve been a better pay-off to see Terence Howard don the War Machine suit after he makes that "Next time, baby" remark (upon glancing at the Mark II suit in Tony Stark’s lab) in the first Iron Man film. Rachel’s death in The Dark Knight would’ve had a more emotional impact had it been Katie Holmes tied near those explosive-laden oil drums. People who didn’t watch Batman Begins wouldn’t fully realize why Dawes’ death had a strong impact on Bruce Wayne in the second film...especially with the character being played by two actresses in the Chris Nolan-directed movies. Anyways, back to topic...

The Peterbilt truck that's been the vehicle mode for OPTIMUS PRIME in all three Transformers films.

Even though it sucks that Megan Fox is out, it’s still interesting that Michael Bay cast big-name actors like John Malkovich and Frances McDormand in TF3. I’m crossing my fingers that the character played by Ken Jeong (from Knocked-Up and last year’s The Hangover) won’t be TOO offensive in the movie, and that Alan Tudyk will be as amusing in this flick as he was playing Steve the Pirate in 2004’s Dodgeball and being a villain in the now-cancelled Joss Whedon TV show, Dollhouse. Patrick Dempsey (from TV's Grey's Anatomy) is in Transformers 3 as well...though I wonder if his rumored role as Mikaela’s boss will be rewritten since Mikaela is (hopefully, since she won’t be played by Fox) gone from the film.

John Malkovich.

Transformers 3 began principal photography around two weeks ago, and the locations where it will film include Chicago, Detroit, Moscow, Washington D.C., Texas, Africa, China and...Florida. It’s been confirmed online that Bay will be shooting parts of TF3 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (where he also filmed scenes for his 1998 blockbuster flick Armageddon) and other areas in the Space Coast. Bay will be filming at KSC in September...around the time that space shuttle Discovery is set to launch on the penultimate flight STS-133.

Kennedy Space Center.

If you’ve read my fanfic synopsis for Transformers 3 that I posted last year, you’ll notice that the locations and rumors for TF3 kinda mesh with what I typed in that entry. In my synopsis, I mentioned that Sam is now out of college and about to start a new job, which is what he’s gonna be doing in the actual film. Not only that, but I also stated that his new job would be at NASA (namely at Kennedy Space Center)...and lo and behold, the movie will actually be filming at NASA’s premiere launch site. However, I also mentioned in my entry that Mikaela dies during the latter half of the movie. Looks like this won’t happen anymore...unless my fear is realized and a hot supermodel who doesn’t have acting experience indeed replaces Fox as Ms. Banes in TF3. Sorry for sounding like a broken record— I just can’t get past this bad news.

The Ferrari 458 Italia that will be the vehicle mode for a new Autobot character in Transformers 3.

Oh, and there’s gonna be a new Autobot character whose vehicle mode will be a Ferrari 458 Italia. Hot Rod, anyone? I’ve also read online speculation that the final title for TF3 may be Transformers: Day of Reckoning. Sounds like a cool title...but it’s just rumor for now.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

THE POSTSEASON OF REVENGE CONTINUES... The Sweep of 1998 by the Utah Jazz, and the Losses in 2006 and ’07 by the Phoenix Suns... Let’s see if the Lakers can get retribution for the Heartbreak of June 2008 next...when Game 1 of the 2010 NBA Finals begins this Thursday. The Celtics obviously got their mojo back— Here’s hoping Ron Artest will make a difference in this series the same way he made a difference for L.A. in Game 5 and 6 against the Suns. Stay tuned.

Kobe Bryant celebrates after the Lakers defeat the Phoenix Suns, 111-103, in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals...on May 29, 2010.  The Lakers advanced to the NBA Finals for the third year in a row.
AP Photo / Chris Carlson

Saturday, May 29, 2010

REST IN PEACE Gary Coleman (1968-2010). I’ll resist the urge in quoting his famous catchphrase from the old TV show Diff’rent Strokes...which everyone else was quoting online yesterday. Ahh, screw it— "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Parno?"

Gary Coleman.

RIP Dennis Hopper (1936-2010)... You were awesome in Speed.

Dennis Hopper.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Me (with the purple lei) and my classmates SIX YEARS AGO TODAY, I graduated from California State University, Long Beach. Being a film major, one of my teachers mentioned that if no one in my class made a movie within five years, then we should find another profession. Of course, I wonder if this excluded the senior thesis film that I made in college back in 2003... Or the videos (which you can view on this page) I made using my Fujifilm digital camera... Um, probably not. However, I did write two feature film scripts and two short scripts (one of them almost got made in 2007, but didn’t because the director and I had to keep replacing the cinematographer since the previous ones we chose kept flaking out. That's the disadvantage when you can't pay your cast and crew on a short film gig) since 2004. (I've typed seven feature-length screenplays overall...including a Star Wars "fanfic" script.) I’d write more screenplays, but my Final Draft CD broke last year and now I have to buy another one. I’d edit films, but I don’t have Final Cut Pro. Windows Movie Maker is fun to use, but it’s no FCP, haha. Panavision camera Anyways, that’s my update for what I’ve been up since I graduated from college...filmmaking-wise. I currently work at a marketing firm that conducts test screenings and press junkets for some of Hollywood's major movie studios. I used to work at Paramount Pictures back in 2005-'06. I was in the one-year-long Page program, but it's all good. Later. On the lot at Paramount Pictures

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

After completing mission STS-132, space shuttle ATLANTIS lands at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 26, 2010.
NASA / Carl Winebarger

A CURTAIN CALL FOR ATLANTIS... At 5:48 AM, Pacific Daylight Time today, space shuttle Atlantis safely touched down at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The successful conclusion of her flight, STS-132, means that there are only two more missions (STS-133 and STS-134) that officially remain in the shuttle program before it comes to an end...and those pair will be flown by Atlantis’ sister ships Discovery and Endeavour, respectively. If Congress and NASA do not approve an additional flight (STS-135...which would be flown by Atlantis) that's been rumored online for a while, then today will officially be the day that the second youngest orbiter in the shuttle fleet made her swan song. Below are three cool images showing Atlantis docked to and orbiting near the International Space Station...for her 11th and final (scheduled) time.

Space shuttle ATLANTIS is docked to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 17, 2010.

Space shuttle ATLANTIS is docked to the ISS on May 17, 2010.

With the Russian-built RASSVET Mini-Research Module in the foreground, space shuttle ATLANTIS floats near the ISS before finally departing the outpost on May 23, 2010.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Martian northern plain, with one of Phoenix's solar panels and a portion of the lander's flight deck visible in the foreground.

TWO YEARS AGO TODAY, the Phoenix Mars lander safely touched down on the Red Planet...starting a very successful mission that almost lasted 6 months even though it was only suppose to survive for 3. During its mission, Phoenix came in contact with water ice at its landing site on the Martian northern plain, which is why NASA sent the spacecraft there in the first place. The space agency had hoped the lander would come back to life after the mission came to an end on November 10, 2008 (due to low power being generated by Phoenix’s twin solar panels because of the onset of Martian winter), but a new image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in space shows that there is no chance that Phoenix will ever come back to life.

Before-and-after shots showing the Phoenix lander on the Martian surface in 2008 and 2010, respectively.

The photos above show before-and-after shots of Phoenix at its landing site. In the left picture, Phoenix’s solar panels (the two blue circles that are on each side of the white oval that would be the lander’s flight deck) are glistening in the sunlight as the spacecraft was alive and well in 2008. In the picture to the right, the left solar panel is noticeably missing...most likely due to it snapping off from the spacecraft after a huge amount of carbon dioxide ice accumulated on the panel's surface during the year-long winter. This type of damage was predicted long ago...even though NASA had the Mars Odyssey orbiter (which has been circling the planet since 2002) listen in on any radio signal that may have been transmitted from Phoenix if it returned from the dead earlier this year. The only thing Odyssey heard for the past couple of months was silence.

The Phoenix DVD is visible on the deck of the Mars lander.

While it is unfortunate that Phoenix won’t rise from the ashes (so to speak) to resume its study of water ice on the northern plain, I’m glad that it will permanently be silent. The images above show all the Martian soil that accidentally dropped onto the Phoenix DVD by the lander’s robotic arm during the mission. Even though the chances of any of the dirt getting underneath the disc and damaging its readable surface are slim (since Phoenix is obviously stationary and on leveled ground), I was still a bit annoyed that the DVD was getting covered by debris falling from the arm. If Phoenix had come back to life, who knows just how much more dirt would be covering the disc by the time the lander fell silent again? I’m glad that Phoenix is now nothing more than a man-made memorial on Mars. The Pasadena-based Planetary Society contributed the Phoenix DVD for the mission...and stated that the disc was supposed to last for at least 500 years (assuming the carbon dioxide ice didn’t damage the disc either, knock on wood that it didn't). Here’s hoping that will be the case, and that the DVD will be left unmolested even when humans finally touch down on the surface of Mars one day.

All images above courtesy of NASA / JPL - Caltech / University of Arizona / Texas A&M University

PHOENIX Blog Entries Archive:

May 8, 2007
July 28, 2007
August 3, 2007
August 4, 2007
August 8, 2007
October 25, 2007
April 11, 2008
April 25, 2008
May 1, 2008
May 11, 2008
May 18, 2008
May 24, 2008
May 25, 2008
May 27, 2008
June 18, 2008
August 4, 2008
November 10, 2008
May 25, 2009
August 26, 2009

Monday, May 24, 2010

24 logo.

THE DAY IS OVER... Tonight was the 2-hour series finale of 24, and I would have to say that that was an awesome (and honorable) ending for Day 8 of the hit FOX TV show. I’m glad that President Taylor finally came to her senses...though it’s clear that Charles Logan has 9 lives! This will probably be the second time he came back from an um, life-threatening injury and survive (the first injury being that near-Colombian necktie by his ex-wife Martha Logan in Day 6). If there is indeed a feature film in the works, Logan should be in it—and be in it with a vengeance (though that may be a bit unlikely if he's brain damaged, haha)! No doubt if he was obviously okay, Logan would collaborate with the Russians once more to hunt down and eliminate Jack Bauer, who must totally be used to being a fugitive by now...

Jack Bauer seeks retribution in the 2-hour series finale of '24'.

I'm sad to see 24 go, but also glad. I wonder how much income I would've earned over the past 5 years (when I started watching Day 4) if I didn't take Monday nights off from work to see Jack save the country without taking lunch breaks? Did he even eat at all in Day 8? With Bauer pulling a Dirty Harry/Paul Kersey (a.k.a. Charles Bronson in the Death Wish movies... Yes, I know that Paul Kersey is the fictional character here) on all of those Russians in the last couple of episodes, probably not. Anyways... Bring on 24: The Movie!

Former President Charles Logan tries to repair his tarnished reputation at the expense of President Taylor in the 2-hour series finale of '24'.

Chloe O'Brian, Arlo Glass and Cole Ortiz view video footage of Jack Bauer just as he is about to go into hiding at the end of the 2-hour series finale of '24'.

Friday, May 21, 2010

With the Dark Side beckoning, Darth Vader vows to rule the Galaxy in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

30 YEARS AGO TODAY, the Star Wars saga continued on a truly awesome note when The Empire Strikes Back made its debut in theaters across North America. To this day, The Empire Strikes Back (a.k.a. Star Wars: Episode V) is still considered the best film in the 6-episode movie series...and I agree with this assessment. Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith (overlooking some of the clunky acting and dialogue in this one) would be my next two favorite Star Wars films.

Imperial Walkers wreak havoc during the Battle of Hoth in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

It would actually be pretty cool if George Lucas showed the original Star Wars trilogy in 3-D, especially with The Empire Strikes Back (obviously). Seeing the Battle of Hoth and the Millennium Falcon’s flight through that asteroid field as it evaded those TIE Fighters and Star Destroyers in 3rd dimension would totally kick ass. No pressure there, George... I’d prefer if you convince LucasArts to re-release the original X-Wing video game so it could be played on Windows XP (which I still have) or Windows 7. That is all.

The Millennium Falcon tries to evade TIE Fighters and Star Destroyers in this promo pic from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The H-IIA rocket carrying the Akatsuki spacecraft and IKAROS solar sail is launched from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan on May 21, 2010 (Japan time).
JAXA / Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.

ONWARD TO VENUS! At 2:58 PM, Pacific Daylight Time today (6:58 AM, Japan Time on May 21), an H-IIA rocket carrying the Akatsuki spacecraft and IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) solar sail lifted off from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. Akatsuki, originally known as PLANET-C and the Venus Climate Orbiter, will take around 6 months to reach Venus (where Akatsuki will arrive by December 7). Dubbed the world’s first interplanetary weather satellite, Akatsuki will spend at least 2 years studying the greenhouse planet...generating 3-D computer models of high-speed winds in the upper atmosphere of Venus, and detecting any lightning that may exist in the thick clouds of this hellish world.

The Akatsuki spacecraft and IKAROS solar sail undergo launch preparations in Japan earlier this year.

Traveling along with Akatsuki into space were 4 university-built miniature satellites (3 of them settled in low-Earth orbit shortly after launch; a payload known as UNITEC-1 is the only other satellite placed on an Earth-escape trajectory with Akatsuki and IKAROS) and IKAROS. Unlike Akatsuki however, IKAROS will approach Venus but not settle into orbit around it. Instead, IKAROS will fly past Venus as the solar sail heads for the far side of the Sun, which should take 3 years. IKAROS will only be propelled by the sunlight that is reflected off its 66-feet-wide polyimide sail; the fuel that is onboard the spacecraft is used to adjust the orientation of the sail (by positioning the main spacecraft bus at a certain angle in space) when IKAROS is changing direction in flight. A small free-floating camera will be ejected from IKAROS to photograph the sail in its entirety once it (successfully) unfurls after launch.

Several aluminum plates that contain the names and messages of 260,214 people are prepared for installation onboard the Akatsuki spacecraft in mid-March of 2010.

In case you’re wondering why I’ve been talking about these two missions so much this year, it’s because Akatsuki and IKAROS—like Dawn, Deep Impact, Phoenix, Kaguya, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Kepler before them—are carrying (or in the case with Deep Impact and Kaguya) my name in space. Onboard Akatsuki itself are several aluminum plates that contain the names and messages of 260,214 people. These names and messages were submitted online and via snail mail between late October of 2009 and January 10 of this year [by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and The Planetary Society based in Pasadena, California]. The plates were installed onto Akatsuki in mid-March.

Several aluminum plates that contain the names and messages of 63,248 people are prepared for installation onboard the IKAROS solar sail on April 6, 2010.

Onboard IKAROS are various aluminum plates and a DVD that contain a total of 152,248 names and messages...which were submitted online and via snail mail between early December of 2009 and March 22 of this year (also by JAXA and The Planetary Society). The plates are stored in 3 metal boxes that are each attached to 3 of the 4 outer corners of IKAROS’ square-shaped sail. These plates contain 63,248 names and messages that were collected by JAXA itself. Attached to the bottom of IKAROS is the DVD...which contains 89,000 names and messages that were collected by The Planetary Society. The aluminum plates were installed onto IKAROS on April 6, and the DVD was installed on April 24 (both days on Japan time), respectively.

A DVD (provided by The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California) that contains the names and messages of 89,000 people is installed onboard the IKAROS solar sail on April 24, 2010.
JAXA / The Planetary Society

Here is a pair of certificates commemorating my participation in these two intriguing missions. Cheers to JAXA!

My participation certificate for the Akatsuki mission.
My participation certificate for the IKAROS mission.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The actual WIDE FIELD AND PLANETARY CAMERA 2, which flew onboard the HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE from December 1993 to May 2009.

PARMAN’S PAGE Update... I’ve just added a new page devoted to this year’s Open House at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Pasadena, California. I went to the annual event last Saturday, and among the highlights of the trip (which would be my sixth visit to JPL since 1992) was seeing the Curiosity Mars Rover continuing to be built and prepared for its 2011 launch, a new venue devoted to the Juno mission to Jupiter (this spacecraft also launches next year) and seeing the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) up close in person. WFPC2 was installed onboard the Hubble Space Telescope during the STS-61 shuttle flight in December of 1993, and was brought back to Earth during the STS-125 mission last year.

A cardboard marquee of the JUNO spacecraft, which launches to Jupiter in 2011.

Next year’s JPL Open House should be even more eventful...since along with the launches of Juno and Curiosity, the Dawn spacecraft will be arriving at asteroid Vesta in July of '11. I’m a total nerd...but you already knew that.

LINK: Photos I took at the 2010 JPL Open House

The CURIOSITY Mars Rover prototype, also known as SCARECROW.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A webcam shot showing Tanegashima Space Center in Japan, on May 16, 2010 (California time).  The H-IIA rocket is visible near the right side of the pic.

TODAY’S THE DAY... Around 14 hours from now, an H-IIA launch vehicle carrying the Akatsuki spacecraft and IKAROS solar sail is scheduled to blast off from the Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC) in southern Japan. Unfortunately, judging from the weather forecast that I’ve been checking online, it might be too cloudy today to launch the two probes on their journey to Venus. In fact, things look bleak through next Sunday as there's gonna be a chance of thunderstorms hitting the TNSC area over the next several days. Akatsuki and IKAROS have till June 3 to get off the ground and head for Venus.

Here’s hoping the forecast for today won't be as dire as expected, and Akatsuki and IKAROS will be able to safely travel through deep space by the end of the day...

UPDATE (2:44 PM, PDT): As expected, the launch was scrubbed due to bad weather. The next launch opportunity may be targeted for May 21 (Japan time), but if online forecasts are anything to go by, the weather at TNSC probably won't be truly ideal for launch till May 25 (Tuesday...Japan time). Darn.

UPDATE #2 (11:26 PM, PDT): The next launch attempt for Akatsuki and IKAROS is officially set for this Thursday, May 20 at 2:58:22 PM, PDT (Friday, May 21 at 6:58:22 AM, Japan time).

Photos showing the H-IIA rocket rolling from the Vehicle Assembly Building out to the launch pad at Tanegashima Space Center in Japan, on May 16, 2010 (California time).

All images courtesy of JAXA

Sunday, May 16, 2010

300,000 HITS AND COUNTING... That’s how many visits this Blog has received since I installed a hitcounter (located right below the ClustrMaps image at the right of this page) a few years ago. Thank you, Statcounter. Hey, I can’t celebrate true online narcissism if I didn’t point this milestone out to y’all. And before you start getting all skeptical on me about this achievement, I blocked my own IP address to prevent inflating the numbers right when I installed the counter. So there.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Space shuttle ATLANTIS is launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 14, 2010.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END...for Atlantis, that is. The orbiter launched on space shuttle flight STS-132 more than half an hour ago...embarking on a mission that will be its 32nd and final (scheduled) journey into space. Atlantis was responsible for being the first U.S. orbiter to dock with the Russian space station Mir in 1995, and launching two successful interplanetary spacecraft over the course of her um, career (Isn’t it awesome when I anthropomorphize a $1 billion+ space vehicle?): Magellan—which studied Venus for four years after lifting off on May 4, 1989 (I watched this launch live on TV), and Galileo—which studied Jupiter for eight years after lifting off on October 18, 1989. Godspeed, Atlantis! Only two shuttle flights remain after she safely returns to Earth on May 26.

Space shuttle ATLANTIS is docked to the Russian space station MIR in 1995.
NASA / Russian Federal Space Agency

Space shuttle ATLANTIS deploys the MAGELLAN spacecraft on its flight to Venus and the GALILEO orbiter to May and October of 1989, respectively.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sam, Dean and Bobby confront the Apocalypse in SUPERNATURAL.

SUPERNATURAL... Castiel got Rorschached! Wait, he didn't? Awesome. If you watched the movie Watchmen or read its original graphic novel, then you'd know what I'm talking about. Anyways... I'm lookin' forward to Season 6 later this year—even though Supernatural was intended to only be a 5-season TV series (like 24, originally). We'll see what the producers have in store for the Winchester brothers next fall.

Lucifer kills time by drawing on a window in SUPERNATURAL.

Lisa Braeden re-enters Dean's life following the events in SUPERNATURAL's Season 5 finale.