Living Vicariously Through Social Media: Eagle-Winged Northern Lights

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest is hosted by National Maritime Museum, part of the Royal Museums Greenwich in Britain. In 2022, the competition was run for the 14th time. This shortlisted photo by Alexander Stepanenko didn’t win the award for auroae, as astounding as it is:

Colossal Alexander Stepanenko Winged Aurora orig Sm

Stepanenko’s shot was taken in Murmansk, Murmansk Oblast, Russia, and was highly commended by the jury.

Spectacular, isn’t it? As a Finn who grew up two hours south of the Arctic Circle, I’ve seen my share of northern lights, but never this, hm, I guess curvy is the right word. I know they undulate and can therefore make fancier shapes; I’ve only managed to see them fairly linear, though, or curving over quite a large swath of the sky, just like I haven’t seen any purple or yellow ones myself.

Come to think of it, there is a thin lining of white and purple at the right edge of this aurora. Wow! Is it any wonder that natural scenes like these have lead the earlier hominids and humans to think of magic and gods?

Image by Alexander Stepanenko, found via Colossal.

Out There highlights intriguing art, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

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First trailer for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

The first trailer for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is out!

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny | Official Trailer by Lucasfilm on YouTube

It’s still hard or impossible to say what the story is about. De-aging Harrison Ford looks impressive, from what we can see. But yay, more archaeology fan fiction with our favorite grumpy professor!

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Living in the Science-Fictional Now: Flying Cars Are Closer than Ever

Flying cars have been dreamed of as long as cars have been around. If certain projects or companies are to be believed, flying cars will actually become available soon. For certain values of soon, anyway, and for certain values of car.

Current designs are as varied as the propulsion technologies and terminologies: flying cars, hovercars, gyrocopters, passenger drones, quadcopters, VTOL aircraft, eVTOL, maglev cars, personal air vehicles… Whatever you call them, aircraft that look less like airplanes and more like other small personal vehicles do seem be closer than ever to everyday reality.

Klein Vision AirCar in Flight Sm

For example, Volocopter’s air taxis have been demonstrated in Singapore (2019). The Dutch PAL-V Liberty gyroplane has not only test flown (2012) but also been approved for road use in Europe (2022). The AirCar by Klein Vision (pictured above) has completed a test flight between two cities(!) in Slovakia (2021) and received a certificate of airworthiness from the Slovak Transport Authority (2022). Reportedly, recent projects are also ongoing in Turkey and China. And, related to flying cars, a smart city and tourist destination being built in northwestern Saudi Arabia—dubbed Neom—has been planned for rail traffic and air taxis according to some reports.

Now, I’d assume all of the above is predicated on plentiful energy. How P*tin’s attempted extortion of Europe’s energy market (which has wider ripple effects, I’m sure) affects the development of flying cars will remain uncertain for some time yet.

I have to say, if flying cars do become common enough to be relatively easily available, I am tempted to get a pilot’s license (whatever kind might be required)—if I’m not too old by that time. (Planes are too high a hurdle, but small personal vehicles might just do for me.)

As a linguist, though, I’m mostly engaged with the question of a handy everyday name. That, too, is likely to be wrangled over at least as much as the technology side of their development.

Image: AirCar by Klein Vision

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Namor Featurette for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The U.S. release day for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is tomorrow! To keep the hype up, Marvel has published a short featurette on Namor:

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever | Namor by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Looks cool, even if it tells me less than I’d like. (If I ever read any comics with Namor as a kid, I’ve blissfully forgotten.) It does look like Angela Bassett’s Queen Ramonda has a larger part to play in BP:WF. That’s great; I’ve liked her a lot ever since I saw her in Strange Days. (OMG, that was in 1995!)

We two are really busy right now, but if lucky, we might be able to slip in to see BP:WF already today. (For some weird reason, in Finland the release of large international productions often happens a few days before the American one.) Definitely some time during the opening weekend, though!

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The Second Trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The second official and likely final trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now out:

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever | Official Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

(Phew! I’m growing quite disillusioned with the current fad of making splashy trailers that tell you very little about the story. The cutting is fast, action even faster, and if anything is revealed of the characters it’s piecemeal or prosaic, reducing the characters to a gimmic each. But I digress.)

We do get a little more tidbits in this second trailer. Looks like Wakanda is attacked, but at least I can’t tell if it’s random western soldiers or Namor’s troops. (Or both???) A new character to me is Riri Williams / Ironheart. She’s wearing some sort of a power suit based on the Iron Man suit—which means that the two people in the world wearing those kinds of suits are both black, doesn’t it? Cool!

The former Queen Ramonda seems to be at the U.N. (approx. at the 1:23 mark), but what is she arguing for? Attacking Atlantis??? Finally, we do see the new Black Panther jump from a great height and land (with the kinetic energy of the fall being stored in the suit, of course). Clearly it’s a female figure—Shuri, from the general shape, maybe? And was that Nakia I saw with gorgeous, long hair?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever releases on November 11, 2022. So soon! 🙂

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Willow Trailers

Willow is joining the 1980s franchise reboots. The new incarnation bears the same name as the 1988 movie, but this time it’s going to be an 8-episode series. Here is the official teaser trailer:

Willow | Official Teaser Trailer | Disney+ by Lucasfilm on YouTube

And the official trailer:

Willow | Official Trailer | Disney+ by Lucasfilm on YouTube

At first is looks like the only returning characters are Warwick Davies’ Willow Ufgood and Joanne Whalley’s Sorsha. However, at least one of the two pixies—Rool and Franjean in the original—sounds awfully familiar. Their actors aren’t listed in IMDB, however, but the cast listing is very cursory overall at this writing, so who knows.

I am of the generation who grew up with Willow. In fact, we recently re-watched it for nostalgia’s sake. (Little did I know that there would be more soon!) It’ll be fascinating to see what they’re going to do effects-wise, since the old Willow was already a trailblazer: it was the first time we saw successful, computer-animated morphing on the big screen. (Some other effects looked clumsy now, but the morphing was spot-on.)

Anyway, it’s hard to say anything definite on the basis of the short teaser, except there’s great potential for learning to work together. I saw comments elsewhere to the effect of this series looking like a bargain-basement version of Shannara, or a copy of the new Wheel of Time series. The full teaser looks a lot better, however.

Still, not knowing two of the three listed writers (John Bickerstaff and Hannah Friedman; Jonathan Kasdan I only know from Solo and an episode of Freaks and Geeks) I just don’t know if this is worth investing my time in, 80s nostalgia or not.

Willow the series is scheduled to premiere on November 30, 2022.

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First Trailer Is out for Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

The gloomily hilarious Knives Out is getting a sequel. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is also both written and directed by Rian Johnson, and the first trailer is now out:

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery | Official Teaser Trailer | Netflix on YouTube

The cast seems great, but otherwise it’s a little difficult to say what exactly to expect, except it feels like a cross between an escape room and the Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None. Although, for my mysteries, I could completely do without the gratuitous gunplay, thank you very much; I’ll go to action movies for that.

At this writing, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is expected on December 23, 2022.

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Trailer for Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

I had completely missed the news that there was a big budget D&D movie in the making! On the basis of this trailer, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves looks kinda bad, but fun kind of bad. Take a look yourself:

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves – Official Trailer | Comic Con 2022 by IGN on YouTube

I’ve been playing so much World of Warcraft in recent years that I’m woefully out of date with D&D, but I think I spotted familiar things in the trailer. Also handsome, at least on a quick view; they sure churn out decent special effects these days.

At this writing, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is expected to release in theaters on March 03, 2023.

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Epic Mashup: Captain R2-D2

We all know interesting mashups of genre characters, but this R2-D2 / Captain America mashup really takes the cake:

Twitter Daniel_Logan R2-D2 Captain America Mashup

When you think about it, R2-D2 is very like the Cap: starts small (although R2 never gets larger), doesn’t talk all that much, embodies persistence, can often jury-rig vehicles, kicks (space) Nazi butt, and despite modest beginnings turns out to be one of the most competent characters in the story. I’m all in with this one, LOL!

Image via Daniel_Logan on Twitter.

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Trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The first official trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has now been out for a few weeks:

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever | Official Teaser by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

OMG, what a different choice of music for the trailer—at first just a neat, atypical choice, then getting more and more sinister when juxtaposed with the imagery. Brr!

The underwater events and Mesoamericans scenes completely took me by surprise. (Seems surprisingly similar to the Avatar sequel about to be released this year, doesn’t it, or am I the only one to make the connection?) Looks awesome, though, and has so much potential for very inventive storytelling.

On the other hand, the tribute to Chadwick Boseman I did expect—or would’ve been surprised to see omitted. RIP; the world lost a huge talent.

Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler did such a fantastic job with the first Black Panther that I’ve no doubt that this sequel will be amazing. (Finally, FINALLY, there are A LOT of serious, powerful, purposeful roles for women!) I can’t wait!

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