Visual Inspiration: Small Aqua-Blue-Brown Lizards

Now that summer is properly on the way here in the northern hemisphere, it’s time for summer critters. This aqua-blue-brown lizard, Anolis grahami, would make a lovely detail in speculative—or, indeed, in any kind of—story-telling.

Wikimedia jpokele Grahams anole Jamaica

In the real world, they’re endemic in Jamaica and an introduction to Bermuda. According to Wikipedia, occasionally you can see a pure turquoise blue lizard.

iNaturalist waynewg Grahams anole

Goodness, they’re incredible!

Found via Jon Suh on Twitter.

Images: Graham’s anole on Jamaica by jpockele via Wikimedia (CC BY-2.0). Graham’s anole on a piece of wood by Wayne Godbehere on iNaturalist (CC BY-NC).

The Visual Inspiration occasional feature pulls the unusual from our world to inspire design, story-telling, and worldbuilding. If stuff like this already exists, what else could we imagine?

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Space Mural Bookcase Wall

Melissa Ng and her husband hacked their IKEA bookcases with a space peel-and-stick wall mural. The results certainly have more than a bit wow factor:

IKEAhackers Melissa Ng Space Mural Bookcase Wall
Melissa Ng, via IKEAhackers.

So cool, isn’t it?

I wonder whether there is any fantasy-themed peel-and-stick wallpaper—I noticed myself daydreaming of scifi book shelves backed with space murals, fantasy shelves with amazing forests or creatures, history with vintage wood or brick or castles, etc.

Found via IKEAhackers.

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.

The Ancient Underground City of Derinkuyu

The Derinkuyu (also known as Malakopi) underground city is situated in the historical area of Cappadocia, which is in Central Anatolia in modern-day Turkey. And it’s pretty astounding.

Apparently, underground cities were A Thing thereabouts: according to Wikipedia, there are over 200 of them. Looking at the landscape, it’s no wonder.

Flickr Anthony G Reyes Derinkuyu Pigeon Valley

Much of the rock is easily accessible, i.e., not covered by layers and layers of vegetation, and there are plenty of rock faces to carve into.

The first mentions of underground dwellings in Anatolia come from Xenophon’s Anabasis (c. 370 BCE), but they were probably built much earlier as places of refuge from attacks. Derinkuyu seems to have been in use for millenia: the last recorded use was at least as late as 1909.

According to a tourism site, there are about 600 entrances to the underground Derinkuyu, and some can be closed with a door resembling a mill stone.

Flickr Dan Merino Derinkuyu Stone Doorway

Underground City in Cappadocia

In addition to tunnels and rooms themselves, there are other notable features. There are stairs, ventilation shafts, wells, and storage areas with nooks and crannies of various shapes, including wine troughs.

Underground City in Cappadocia

Flickr Helen Cook Derinkuyu Wine Recepticles

Clearly some areas were left in quite rough shape.

Flickr jyl4032 Derinkuyu Unnamed View

Flickr Patrick Barry Derinkuyu Room w Woman

Others were carefully detailed. For example, there is a room with a barrel-vaulted ceiling.

Flickr Takehiko Ono Derinkuyu Vaulted Room

At its largest, Derinkuyu seems to have been able to house 20,000 people and their livestock and supplies.

Found via Ticia Verveer on Twitter.

Images: Cappadocia: Derinkuyu and Pigeon Valley 2015 by Anthony G. Reyes on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0). Stone doorway by Dan Merino on Flickr (CC NY-ND 2.0). Stairs down by David Welch on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0). Two levels with steps and corridors by David Welch on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0). Wine recepticles by Helen Cook on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0). Unnamed view of rough corridor by jyl4032 on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0). Room with a woman for scale by Patrick Barry on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0). Vaulted room by Takehiko Ono on Flickr (CC BY-ND-NC 2.0).

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Living Vicariously Through Social Media: The Clay Forest in Western Tibet

One of the best things about social media—like the Internet, too—is how many different phenomena you can witness if not first hand then at least in a secondary capacity; way more than would be possible in a regular human lifetime.

Case in point: the Clay Forest is a massive gorge like the Grand Canyon, except it’s located in Western Tibet. Apparently it wasn’t really accessible for Westerners until 2015.

Twitter UrsulaV Clay Forest Canyon
Ursula Vernon on Twitter

Author and illustrator Ursula Vernon posted this and a few other images from Tibet on her Twitter account. Thank you for sharing!

I’m slack-jawed and stunned. Phew!

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Most Famousest of The Hobbit Soundtrack Covers

Recently we rewatched The Hobbit trilogy, which made me—again—root around looking for Dwarf-ish music. This time, though, I went wider and also included cover versions of melodies from all of the six Peter Jackson movie soundtracks.

Taylor Davis is one of the fabulous violinists out there doing YouTube covers. Here is her “Misty Mountains”:

The Hobbit – Misty Mountains (Dwarven Song) Violins Cover – Taylor Davis on YouTube

Nathan Mills aka Beyond the Guitar’s version of “Misty Mountains” by classical guitar is so lovely:

THE HOBBIT: Misty Mountains – Classical Guitar Cover by BeyondTheGuitar on YouTube

Guitar at its best, hands down.

This orchestral cover medley/remix by Parademics has an impressive range of instruments—I think we spotted an electric guitar in the background in the Ring Wraiths melody towards the end:

The Hobbit | Epic Orchestral Cover by Parademics on YouTube

Albert Chang’s arrangement of “Misty Mountains” incorporates 6 violins, 6 cellos, and a cajon, and shows why underappreciating cellos is a bad idea:

The Hobbit – Misty Mountains Orchestral Cover by sleightlymusical on YouTube

So much depth comes from the deeper-voiced string instruments!

Scott Sutherland’s tuba version is really solemn and somber:

Misty Mountains Cold – The Hobbit (Euphonium and Tuba Cover) by Scott Sutherland Music on YouTube

I have an impression that the tuba family is typically considered a bit silly, at least in the mainstream culture, but it shouldn’t.

The following Lord of the Rings medley also has an incredible cello part:

Lord of The Rings – The Hobbit (Piano/Cello Cover) – ThePianoGuys on YouTube

By ThePianoGuys aka Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson, and Al van der Beek, with van der Beek’s arrangement.

Jasmine Thompson’s cover of “I See Fire” from The Desolation of Smaug is as good if not better than the original:

“I See Fire” Ed Sheeran The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – cover by Jasmine Thompson on YouTube

Guitar for Thompson’s cover is by Seye Adelekan.

This gender-flipped version of “Into the West” from The Return of the King is awesome:

Into the West (Cover) – Josh Sahunta & Nicholas Yee on YouTube

Josh Sahunta singing and playing the piano, with Nicholas Yee on the cello.

Finally, being a Finn, I would be remiss not to include this instrumental metal version of the Lord of the Rings theme by Doug Anderson:

Lord of the Rings Theme – Epic Metal Rendition by Doug Anderson on YouTube

Do you have a favorite cover from either The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings? Please share!

An occasional feature on music and sound-related notions.

An Improved Kenobi-Vader Fight for Star Wars A New Hope

Under the moniker FXitinPost, visual effects artist Christopher Clements made an unofficial, improved scene for Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope and seamlessly inserted it into the movie. The resulting six-minute clip is all about the final confrontation between Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader, and definitely worth a watch:

Star Wars SC 38 Reimagined by FXitinPost on YouTube

I don’t know whether they had any skill or not, but if Alec Guinness and David Prowse were not competent sword fighers, it’s understandable the scene looks like it does. I have to confess, though, that the clunkiness of the fight has been long bugging me; it also stands out since Lucas retroactively changed so many other scenes. Clements’ version is much more in line with Jedi abilities and includes many intriguing creative choices on how to use the space on the Death Star. Kudos!

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.

Striking Iron: A New Exhibition at the National Museum of African Art

One of the current exhibits at the National Museum of African Art is “Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths”. It focuses on blacksmithing in sub-Saharan Africa and features works dating from the 17th century to recent times: not just weapons, but other tools and implements such as musical instruments.

The range and design of shapes is truly impressive. Below are just some of the examples.

Smithsonian African Art Iron Exhibit Ceremonial Knives

I wasn’t familiar with the concept of rain wands (image below) before. They were planted in the earth with the intention of drawing the life force of the Earth up toward the heavens in order to bring down rain.

Smithsonian African Art Iron Exhibit Rain Wands

Various kinds of sound instruments are also displayed, including lamellophones.

Smithsonian African Art Iron Exhibit Lamellophone

And, since it’s ironworking, there are weapons.

Smithsonian African Art Iron Exhibit Double-bladed Dagger

I’m especially struck by the multiple elaborate curls of the ceremonial knives and the rain wand in the shape of a three-headed snake. Simply stunning.

The exhibition runs until October 20, 2019.

Found via NPR—make sure to visit the article for more photos!

Images: Ceremonial knives by Olivia Sun for NPR (Democratic Republic of the Congo; 19th century; iron). Rain wands by Olivia Sun for NPR (Nigeria; iron). Lamellophone (chisanji) via Smithsonian (Chokwe artist, Angola; late 19th century; wood and iron). Double-bladed dagger by Olivia Sun for NPR (late 19th-century Sudan; iron, bone, and crocodile skin).

Disney Princess Cosplayers Wearing Mandalorian Armor

Ooh—I knew cosplayers were an ingenious group, but this is awesome: cosplayers portray Disney princesses in Boba Fett -like armor:

Tumblr Queens-of-Cosplay Boba Fett Pocahontas

Oh my goodness, the leaf detailing on the Pocahontas / Fett helmet! And the detailing in general—love it!

Tumblr Queens-of-Cosplay Boba Fett Elsa Tinkerbell

The photography is credited to Jonathan York who posts his photos as York In A Box. I haven’t been to confirm it, since Facebook has been glitching for me for some reason. It would’ve been great to read more about the setup and the individual cosplayers’ thoughts.

(I did some searching elsewhere, too, but my google fu fails me for the moment. If you can find a different link, please share!)

Found via Queens-of-Cosplay on Tumblr.

Images by Jonathan York / York In A Box via Tumblr.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Living Vicariously Through Social Media: The Occultation of Saturn

One of the best things about social media—like the Internet, too—is how many different phenomena you can witness if not first hand then at least in a secondary capacity; way more than would be possible in a regular human lifetime.

Case in point: the occultation of Saturn (i.e., hiding behind another object, in this case the moon) a few days ago.

Twitter Ian Griffin Saturn behind Moon
Ian Griffin on Twitter

This view and others on Griffin’s Twitter account were taken from Portobello in New Zealand.

Holy moly! The space nerd in me is impressed.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

First Trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The name and the first trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX were released last week, and both are tantalizing! Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker again seems to revolve around Rey:

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Teaser by Star Wars on YouTube

Oh my goodness, her leap over the speeding fighter looks incredible! (Even if I can’t quite understand the decision to run with an extended lightsaber in your hand… Is anyone else reminded of running with scissors?) I’m also looking forward to seeing Poe and Finn questing, er, fighting the Empire together—I always appreciated the ease with which they became and remain buddies.

J.J. Abrams’s work has been bit of a hit or miss for me in the past, so at the moment I’m cautiously optimistic about Rise. It will, however, be remarkable to see the end of the nine-movie Skywalker story arc begun when I was a toddler.

A nostalgic tidbit: A New Hope was one of the first stories I remember reacting to and realizing that I really, really liked the stuff with space and robots and dragons and elves and whatnot. Ever since then, around the age of 11 or 12 or so, I’ve considered myself a science fiction and fantasy geek.

And now I kinda want to make myself a sleeveless, hooded tunic like what Rey is wearing underneath her wrap. It’s a really neat design. 🙂

December 20, 2019, seems so far, far away.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.