Visual Inspiration: An Underground Fire from 1962 Is Still Burning

Apparently in Pennsylvania, there’s a town—Centralia—all but abandoned due to a coal mine fire that’s been burning underground since 1962.

Flickr t3hWIT Centralia PA Cracked Old Route 61

There is disagreement over the cause of the fire. It seems that one way or another a surface fire moved into the system of mining tunnels below the town.

The effects are indisputable and scary: unstable ground, sink holes, damaged roads, plumes of hot steam, vents of smoke and toxic gases (like lethal levels of carbon monoxide), and, finally, evictions plus abandoned and/or demolished buildings.

Flickr Kelly Michals Coal Fire in 2011

Flickr dfirecop AP Photo Sinkhole

Speculative fiction that takes place in a post-catastrophy world of some sort immediately comes to mind, and no wonder. Even the little that I read gave me a glimpse on the variety of reactions people can have to major environmental disruptions and their aftermath. Not to mention that photos of the abandoned parts of Centralia are stunning. They remind me of Pripyat after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, which is the closest equivalent I can think of from my childhood in Finland.

Found via Paul Cooper on Twitter. (Visit his Twitter tread for additional photos & info.)

Images: Cracked old Route 61 by t3hWIT on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0). Coal fire in 2011 by Kelly Michals on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0). Sinkhole from Feb. 14, 1981, by AP Photo via dfirecop on Flickr.

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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DIY Star Wars Marquee

Ashley DIYed a really cool Star Wars marquee. It even lights up!

Handmade with Ashley diy_marquee_star_wars

The base is a handmade wooden sign stenciled, painted, and varnished.

Handmade with Ashley diy_star_wars_marquee_sign_wall_art_knockoff_tutorial-25

Wow. I don’t think I’d have the patience! Full props for such a meticulous job!

See the full tutorial at Handmade with Ashley.

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

 

Quotes: Trust Isn’t a Gift

“Trust isn’t a gift […] You earn it, and it’s not cheap.”

– Harper Blaine in Kat Richardson’s Greywalker

However long I live, I cannot understand how some people can’t (or won’t) grasp this concept.

Richardson, Kat: Greywalker. New York, NY: Roc, 2006, p. 185.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

1970s Concept Art of Space Habitats Courtesy of NASA Ames Research Center

In the 1970s, NASA designed potential space habitats in three basic shapes—toroid, Bernal sphere, and cylinder. Artwork depicting some of the plans has now been published in several sizes without copyright restrictions. Here’s the NASA description of the images:

“A couple of space colony summer studies were conducted at NASA Ames in the 1970s. Colonies housing about 10,000 people were designed. A number of artistic renderings of the concepts were made.”

Below are some of my favorites.

A version of cylindrical habitats has since been seen in popular media—Babylon 5, anyone?

NASA Ames Research Ctr AC75-1086 Rick Guidice Cylindrical Interior

The residential buildings look kind of cutely 1970s. (And I say this as a non-fan of the 70s aesthetic!)

NASA Ames Research Ctr AC75-1086-1 Rick Guidice Toroidal Cutaway

Apparently all of these designs were meant for thousands of people: the toroid and spherical stations could house around 10,000 and the cylinder a million. Wow. They certainly did not dream small!

Finally, two images of a Bernal sphere habitat:

NASA Ames Research Ctr AC76-1288 Don Davis Bernal Sphere Construction

NASA Ames Research Ctr AC76-1089 Rick Guidice Bernal Sphere Cutaway

Visit the NASA’s “Space Colony Art from the 1970s” page for more images and links to high-res scans.

Found via The Public Domain Review.

All images courtesy of NASA Ames Research Center: Cylindrical habitat / interior view looking out through large windows (NASA ID number AC75-1086) and toroidal / cutaway view exposing the interior (NASA ID number AC75-1086-1) by Rick Guidice. Bernal sphere / construction crew at work (NASA ID number AC76-1288) by Don Davis. Bernal sphere / cutaway view (NASA ID number AC76-1089) by Rick Guidice.

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

Two Black Amazons from 1400s

Oh, goodness! An illumination from a 15th-century French manuscript shows two black Amazons. Have a look:

Le secret de l'histoire naturelle fol 2r Cropped
Le secret de l’histoire naturelle, France, ca. 1480-1485, BnF, Français 22971, fol. 2r; via discarding images on Tumblr.

This image has clearly been cropped and edited. My source, discarding images on Tumblr, says the two women are Amazons but gives no more details.

Being an early history nerd, I did some additional digging. Below is the whole page via Gallica, the digital library for the national library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France, or BnF).

Le secret de l'histoire naturelle fol 2r Full Page
Le secret de l’histoire naturelle, France, ca. 1480-1485, BnF, Français 22971, fol. 2r.

The full title of the manuscript is Le secret de l’histoire naturelle contenant les merveilles et choses mémorables du monde. It was created between 1401-1500, and is currently stored at BnF. The illumination comes from the first part of the book, which presents the great countries and the great provinces of the old world.

Unfortunately, my French isn’t good enough anymore to be confident in my reading; I can understand a word here and there, but not the whole. However, it does look like the first word below the illumination is Amazon.

I’ve cropped into a separate image the bottom left corner of the illumination with the text following immediately after it:

Le secret de l'histoire naturelle fol 2r Amazons
Le secret de l’histoire naturelle, France, ca. 1480-1485, BnF, Français 22971, fol. 2r; cropped.

I just cannot make out the full spelling of the first word due to the ligatures that squish up the last two or three letters. It definitely looks like it’s inflected, though. The sequence ma definitely follows the capital A, with most likely a z and o further along.

It also looks there’s a sigil marking an abbreviation on top of the o, which was very common in handwritten Medieval documents to mark inflectional endings, among others. (Unless it’s a diacritic like in modern French – were they even used in Medieval French? If so, maybe Amazonye? Amazònye? Amazónye?? Amazônye???)

Anyway, it seems that Amazons are indeed talked about on the same page. The larger block of text above the illumination mentions the word affricà, too. (Again, not sure whether that’s a sigil or diacritic on the final a.)

In any case, if the two women aren’t Amazons, at the very least they are heralds of some sort leading a column of warriors. The image details, like the mi-parti dresses, are really neat, too.

Found via MedievalPOC on Tumblr.

And speaking of MedievalPOC, I’ve found it a truly valuable source for types of art imagery that’s not usually included in the canon from the Middle Ages onwards. The site is sometimes a little too interesting: on several occasions, I’ve spent much longer than intended there, happily chasing intriguing details down the rabbit hole. If you’ve got the time to spare, I wholeheartedly recommend it. 🙂

P.S. You can also follow MedievalPOC on Twitter. Happy browsing!

Crossposted from the Playfully Grownup Home blog.

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

 

Cheddar Man: A European Mesolithic Male with Blue Eyes and Brown Skin

I saw these headers go by earlier this spring, but didn’t really have time to really dive into it until now. Well, better late than never, as they wisely say. 🙂

Despite the name, the Cheddar Man isn’t some silly cheese ad bloke. Instead, he has opened doors to very intriguing discoveries about European population during the later Stone Age.

The remains of an anatomically modern human male from about 10,000 years ago were found near Bristol in Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, England in 1903. Recent DNA analysis of the skeleton—Britain’s oldest (almost) complete one—suggests that he had blue eyes, dark curly or wavy hair, and dark brown to black skin.

Natural History Museum Tom Barnes Cheddar Man Bust Closeup

They also found that the Cheddar Man belonged to the same population as Mesolithic individuals whose bones were recovered from Spain, Luxembourg, and Hungary, usually referred to as western European Mesolithic hunter-gatherers or European early modern humans.

Hannah Devlin at The Guardian writes most aptly:

“The discovery shows that the genes for lighter skin became widespread in European populations far later than originally thought – and that skin colour was not always a proxy for geographic origin in the way it is often seen to be today.

“Tom Booth, an archaeologist at the Natural History Museum who worked on the project, said: ‘It really shows up that these imaginary racial categories that we have are really very modern constructions, or very recent constructions, that really are not applicable to the past at all.’”

A new bust model of Cheddar Man was made by Kennis & Kennis Reconstructions. (See a photo of the previous model made by a team at the University of Manchester here.) They took measurements of the skeleton, scanned the skull, and 3D printed a base for their model. Then they applied certain conventions to shape the face.

I fully confess I’m having a hard time keeping track of the exact timespans and geographical limits of the various Stone Age eras in Eurasia and Africa—what’s paleolithic, mesolithic, or neolithic and where and at what time. But it is so fascinating (and delightful!) that we continue to develop new methods of finding more about our past, and that so many different disciplines seek to understand where we came from and what makes us tick.

Image: closeup of the model of Cheddar Man by Tom Barnes / Channel 4 via Natural History Museum, London

Christopher Robin Trailers with Thoughts on Gender

The movie Christopher Robin opens in a week, on August 03, 2018.

Here’s a trailer from the end of May:

Christopher Robin Official Trailer by Disney Movie Trailers

And a sneak peek from July:

Christopher Robin “Adventure” – Sneak Peek by Disney Movie Trailers

I remember liking Nalle Puh stories (as they were translated into my native language) quite a bit, so I wonder what my reaction to the voice acting will be, since I didn’t grow up thinking of the characters in terms of gender.

You see, Finnish does not have grammatical gender at all; we only have gender-neutral third-person pronouns (singular hän or plural he). This means that for me the only explicitly female character in the gang was Kengu because she was a mother, and the only explicitly male character was Risto Reipas because he was a human boy. The others were their own individual, quirky, stuffed-animal selves.

I guess the closest I can come is associating the stuffed animal characters with the non-binary gender identity. They didn’t need categorization into male or female, because that’s not how I saw their world working. I still don’t, even though talking about them in English forced me to learn which pronouns English associates with each.

It’s fascinating to notice myself using gendered English-language pronouns and yet at the same time still thinking of the stuffed animal characters as not fitting into those divisions. Eating too much honey and getting stuck in someone’s doorway, or figuring out that a popped balloon and an empty jar of honey go splendidly together do not require the gendering of anybody in the story.

I really do wonder how my perception changes after hearing voice actors and their intonational choices—or whether it will change at all.

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

Quotes: Violence Is a Tool That … Begs You to Use It Again and Again

“Violence is a part of our trade, yes. It is one tool of many. But violence is a tool that, if you use it but once, it begs you to use it again and again. And soon you will find yourself using it against someone undeserving of it.”

– Ashara Komayd, former operative for and prime minister of Saypur in City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

Yup. I’ve been thinking along similar lines with regard to the racism in the U.S. and the ridiculous, racist non-reasons some racist-ass whites justify their calling of police on people of color, especially blacks. It’s racist, wasteful, racist, reprehensible, racist, entitled, racist, cruel, racist, wrong, and racist. It has to stop.

Bennett, Robert Jackson. City of Miracles. New York: Broadway Books, 2017, p. 177.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Faves from a List of Upcoming Female-Lead Action Movies

Jordan Crucchiola at Vulture listed and tracked every upcoming female-lead Hollywood action movie. It’s divided into sections so that it’s easy to see what’s in development, in production, and postproduction (or coming soon).

IMDB Widows Photo

It’s an impressive list. (I wish its scope were wider, though—gimme other genre subtypes, too, and productions from around the world, please?)

Below are a few of the ones that most tickle my fancy, with first a short description by Crucchiola and then my impressions.

 

The Aeronauts (preproduction)

  • “Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones star as a researcher and pilot team that goes on a science mission in a hot-air balloon. They ascend higher than anyone ever has, and have to fight for survival in the thinning atmosphere.”
  • Apparently set in the mid-1800s, this sounds like a non-mystery precursor to Murdoch Mysteries. I like Felicity Jones a lot, but am dubious of Amazon productions (mostly since I haven’t seen any so far, so take this with a bucket of salt).

A Black Widow stand-alone movie (screenwriter attached)

  • “It was announced earlier this year [2018] that Kevin Feige and Marvel had hired a writer for a Black Widow stand-alone screenplay.”
  • High time!

Captain Marvel (postproduction; U.S. release March 08, 2019)

  • “Marvel’s first female-lead superhero movie stars Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel, an extremely powerful figure in the comics canon. We don’t know much—except that it’s set in the 1990s […].”
  • Again, high time! (According to Wikipedia, Captain Marvel has been in development since 2013.) I know extremely little of the character, but liked Brie Larson in Kong: Skull Island and Community.

Cleopatra Jones (in development)

  • “Details about the new film are not yet known, but in the 1973 original, Cleopatra Jones was a James Bond-type who worked as a special agent for the U.S. government and dealt with drug-related crimes.”
  • A reboot, although nothing I’ve heard of before. Hm. Maybe?

Enola Holmes (just announced at the start of the year)

  • “[A]daptation of Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes Mysteries novel series. Enola is the baby sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, and wouldn’t you know it, a crack sleuth in her own right.”
  • Yes, please! Even more so, since Millie Bobby Brown (who outshone everyone else in Stranger Things) is set to star in and produce.

The Killer (in development)

  • “An assassin with a strict moral code can no longer abide the amoral ways of her employer, and so seeks to get out of the game.”
  • This might be amazing: John Woo is set to direct a reboot with Lupita Nyong’o in the head role.

Star Wars Episode IX (preproduction but definitely happening; U.S. release December 20, 2019)

  • “Star Wars remains an ensemble-powered saga, but this trilogy has always been about Rey’s journey.”
  • Yay! I’m just so sad we can’t have Carrie Fisher in it!

Widows (postproduction; U.S. release November 16, 2018)

  • “Brace yourself for this screen adaptation of a British mini-series from 1983, in which four widowed women plan to finish a heist job their dead husbands failed to complete.”
  • Ocean’s 8 was a great heist movie with a fantastic spread of women of all sorts (except the law-abiding type, heh heh) so this might be good, too.
  • Of the female cast, I recognize only Viola Davis (who’s awesome!); of the male, Collin Farrell (a meh performance in the 2012 Total Recall reboot and a suitably psycho Bullseye in the 2003 Daredevil), Daniel Kaluuya (W’Kabi in Black Panther), and Liam Neeson (who’s a turnoff for me, but perhaps he’s only got a small supporting role).

Wonder Woman 2 (in development)

  • “The timeline will reportedly move into the ’80s for the Wonder sequel, with the Cold War and USSR factoring in. Jenkins has also teased another love story.”
  • Am I the only one who’s noticed an uptick in movies where Russia (in one of its embodiments) is a bad guy? But: puh-leeeease stop writing forced love interests in movies! Love is great, but we don’t have to have an example of romantic love in every. single. story. Some stories work better without it, or with other types of love than the romantic variety.

 

Image: photo from the movie Widows from Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation via IMBD

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Quotes: Finland Is Weird. Finland Is Different

I first became aware of Adrian Tchaikovsky when he won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2016. I’ve been meaning to check out his writing since then. Ironclads, a limited-edition hardcover novella, finally made it to the top of my TBR pile last month.

The novella was great in several respects, but I was especially tickled by the American POV character’s descriptions of Finland and Finns. For example:

“All the middle of Nordland is the bit we’ve got problems with, basically: Sweden and Finland, say the maps. Sweden is where the fighting is, and the other place… Finland is weird. Finland is different.“

– Adrian Tchaikovsky: Ironclads

The version of U.S. in the story is fighting in Scandinavia, and, due to having laxer laws on genetic modification, Finland apparently has become home to very interesting types of special forces.

But the best, the absolutely best detail is mentioned in this section:

Quotes Tchaikovsky Ironclads

“[F]or a long time I couldn’t even work out what was on her screens. Then it started animating, frame by stilted frame, and I worked out that some parts of what I was seeing were a satellite view. The vast majority of what should have been contested Swedish soil was smeared with roiling dark clouds that obscured any sight we might have had of what the enemy was doing.

“’Seriously,’ Sturgeon hissed, ‘what is that?’

“’Is that the flies?’ Lawes asked gloomily.

“’Yeah.’ Cormoran gave us a bright look. “Gentlemen, this is a gift from the Finns. They breed these little bugs, midges, they chip ’em and ship ’em, and every so often the Nords release a batch. There are millions of the little critters each time, and they basically just block the view of our satellites – and we can’t see a thing – no one can. So every time our forces advance, we’re going in blind. Makes for all kinds of fun.’

“’They bite?’ Franken asked uneasily. We were all thinking it: mosquitoes, disease, some kind of Finnish labgrown plague that zeroed in on the stars and stripes.

“’Not yet,’ Lawes told us. ‘Jolly thought though, ain’t it?’”

– Adrian Tchaikovsky: Ironclads [original emphasis]

The militarization of mosquitoes! We already joke—as a way of dealing with an irritant that’s just a part and parcel of life—that mosquitoes are the Finnish air force. Finally, someone did it! 😀

It makes perfect sense in a world with aggressive biological research to turn a ubiquitous pest into an asset. Come to think of it, it sounds very much like the strategies that Finns used in the Winter War of 1939-1940 against Soviet forces—making native conditions work for you and against the enemy.

Of course, no one person can disapprove or approve of any characterization on behalf of their whole group. However, in My Official Opininon As a Finn, Tchaikovsky managed to balance well the view of Finland as part of Scandinavia with Finns being distinctly different from their Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish cousins. Also, he got so many little details right, like the way the Finnish language sounds, or our deep appreciation of nature.

I practically tore through the book. Kudos!

Tchaikovsky, Adrian. Ironclads. Oxford: Solaris, 2017, p. 22 and p. 29.

This post has been edited to correct a typo.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.