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20 October 2017

The Thing: Dread Fears And The 'Other' In The Polar Environment


A scene from John Carpenter’s The Thing from 1982
A scene from John Carpenter’s The Thing from 1982 (IMDB/Universal/JohnCarpenter)
By John Ash, University of Cambridge

John Carpenter’s celebrated 1982 film The Thing is a science fiction classic. Although not an initial commercial success, it has achieved cult status and traditionally is screened (with its 1951 and 2011 counterparts) on the first full night of winter by crews staying at the Scott-Amundsen Base in Antarctica. It may seem a strange choice at first, yet the links between the polar regions and science fiction are strong.

From the pursuit by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein of his creation into the frozen north, to Ripley’s fruitless call to Antarctica traffic control in Alien, writers have used the remoteness and novelty of the poles to enhance the menace and drama of their work. Carpenter capitalises on the dark polar nights and the claustrophobic confines of an Antarctic base to ratchet up the tension and paranoia as an alien infiltrates the outpost.

Inspired by John Campbell’s 1938 novella, Who Goes There?, The Thing follows the crew of an Antarctic base who discover an alien life form that can assimilate and perfectly mimic the appearance of other organisms. Operating at the cellular level, the alien tissue invades by gradually supplanting the original cells until what remains is an exact copy of the now consumed host.

The station personnel fight a desperate battle against the invader, devising a technique for testing blood samples for infection and struggling against the distrust that grows up in the group when they realise its ability to copy and replace their colleagues.
The Thing is a polar film. Not only is it set in a polar environment, but its characters exemplify the strains of living in extended close proximity in the isolation and climatic extremes of an Antarctic base. It is also a film that speaks to the subject of “The Other” – a theme in the humanities that examines how a society identifies itself, not by defining the laudable characteristics to which it aspires, but by reviling others as exemplars of that which it rejects.

The eponymous alien constitutes an iconic Other. It defies description and therefore order. Having no fixed form other than the organisms it assimilates, it morphs – like a deceitful trickster god – into different shapes. Sometimes that shape is an incomplete transition phase, a chaotic mismatch of biological structures that affronts the logical processes of evolution (in one famous shot we see a detached human head that becomes mobile by growing arthropod legs). The assimilation process both frightens and disgusts, and the subversion of the base personnel’s own bodies into instruments of human destruction adds an extra touch of terror to the whole invasion process.

Kurt Russell, Richard Masur, and Donald Moffat in The Thing.
Kurt Russell, Richard Masur, and Donald Moffat in The Thing.(IMDB/Universal/JohnCarpenter)

Why planet Earth?
But why would an alien come to our planet in the first place? The problem receives consideration in the work of Dr Lewis Dartnell, an astrobiologist who argues persuasively that Earth possesses no property or resource that an advanced civilisation would want to acquire. Reassuring though these arguments are, there remain nagging doubts.

The alien may be a survivor of a convict group condemned to exile on a distant planet. Recalling the First Fleet expedition to establish a colony in Australia in 1788, Commodore Arthur Phillip was under instruction as commander to maintain good relations with the indigenous people. Nonetheless, the effects of colonisation on the first nations living in Australia were devastating.

Kurt Russell in The Thing
Kurt Russell in The Thing. (IMDB/Universal/JohnCarpenter)

Stephen Hawking has made similar observations on the meeting of alien and Earth cultures and the lessons of history. And HG Wells famously made the same point in The War of the Worlds. They may be understating the case. In terms of existential risk, subjugation by an alien race may expose humanity to cruelty and misery that exceeds even annihilation.

The second reason why a seemingly illogical alien visit might not be comforting is the unexpected. The alien might simply have developed engine failure and made a forced landing. (Perhaps it was shot down). But in any event, improbability does not provide the same degree of comfort as impossibility, and that mathematical certainty eludes us.
Carpenter’s alien is an imaginative analogue of the many creatures in the natural world with the ability to change appearance for competitive advantage – from cephalopods that adapt skin cells to the colours of the seabed to insects that undergo the widespread process of metamorphosis.

The ConversationIts lack of fixed form and its physical pollution of human tissue exemplify Otherness, as its calculating ruthlessness epitomises its inhumanity. In the end, the humanity of the base personnel is defined not so much by their difference from the alien as their willingness to sacrifice themselves to defeat it – which is perhaps why the movie remains so popular among crew members who have to rely on each other every single day as they live through their own polar adventures.

About Today's Contributor:
John Ash, Associate at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

19 October 2017

Are Dogs Trying To Tell Us Something With Their Expressions?


A dog
Image via Shutterstock
By Jan Hoole, Keele University

Dogs have been part of human social groups for at least 30,000 years. So it’s not unreasonable to suppose that we might have had some influence on their behaviour, and perhaps their understanding, during that time. We certainly know that dogs have developed ways to communicate with us, for example by whining when they are distressed or barking to alert us to intruders.

Many dog owners would probably say their pets can even tell us things using facial expressions, just like humans do. But is that really true? Perhaps they are just showing emotion without meaning to communicate (just like humans also sometimes do). New research published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests it might be, but there are still reasons to be sceptical.

In a rather elegant experiment, the researchers set up four scenarios. They offered a dog food (a guaranteed way to get their interest) while the human handler was facing towards and also away from the dog. They also had the handler face towards and away from the dog without offering food. They found that the animals showed facial expressions more often when the handler was facing towards them than away, regardless of whether or not food was involved.

Until now, there has been little work on whether or not facial expressions in dogs are involuntary. You might be able to see when a dog’s happy, angry or sad from their face, but that doesn’t mean they are purposefully trying to tell you how they felt.

The new paper suggests that the expressions may be a means of communicating something to the person. It is certain that the expression is more frequently displayed when the human is facing towards the dog, even though the handler did not look directly at the dog during the trial, and that humans respond to that expression.

A dog
If I make this face, will you stop shouting? (Shutterstock)

That dogs are able to understand when a person is paying attention to their behaviour is well documented. We also know that dogs show different facial expressions when in the presence of humans, especially in the case of that guilty” look that every dog owner knows. That particular expression doesn’t actually mean they are feeling guilty. It’s more an attempt to appease the owner who is angry for some, to the dog, unknown reason.

But there are some questions about the particular facial expressions the dogs made in the new study that mean the evidence isn’t conclusive. For example, one of the expressions the authors noticed was the raising of the inner end of the eyebrows. This increases the size of the eyes and makes the dog look more puppy-like.

Studies have shown that humans prefer animals that look like infants. This explains the popularity of breeds with short noses and large eyes, such as boxers and pugs. Dogs that raise their eyebrows more frequently seem to be more popular with people than those that don’t. This could have led to the breeding of dogs that are more likely to show these more attractive expressions alongside those that have childlike anatomical features.

Tongue wagging
Another important indicator that the authors noted was when the dogs showed their tongues. Unfortunately, the researchers didn’t separate tongue movements that indicate stress, such as licking the nose or lips, which can be an appeasing signal, from those that indicate pleasure, anticipation or excitement, such as panting or hanging the tongue out of the mouth. Without this distinction it is difficult to draw conclusions about the emotional state of the dogs.

Previous research also suggests that dogs are aware of when a human is paying attention to them and may change their behaviour accordingly. It is possible that these dogs, aware that the human is facing them felt a level of anticipation, excitement and possibly some anxiety which affected their facial expression. The fact that the food produced no extra interest when the person was turned towards the dog or away from them, could be influenced by the fact that the dog was not actually given the food.

The authors suggest that the dog’s facial expressions may be partly a result of their emotional state and partly an attempt to actively communicate with the handler. Without any evidence about the effect of the expression on the behaviour of the handler, it is difficult to say if that is true.

The ConversationIf further research could make distinctions between the type of tongue movements involved in these expressions, as well as the raising of the eyebrows, we might be able to say with more certainty. But whatever the outcome, many dog owners will probably continue to swear their pets are trying to tell them something.

About Today's Contributor:
Jan Hoole, Lecturer in Biology, Keele University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. 

Queen Takes The Reigns at Medieval Times Castles Starting October 19

Knights jousting (image via Medieval Times' Facebook Page)
In a major break from Medieval Times' 34-year tradition of casting a king as the show's lead role, the company announces today that a queen is now in charge and sole ruler of the land. She is cast as a firm but kind ruler respected throughout the kingdom who inherited the throne at the passing of her father, the previous king.

The company's leadership developed the idea to cast a matriarch, based in part on guest feedback that they would like to see women having more significant roles.

"Where previously our female characters played in more supportive roles, we are now showing a woman fully in charge, a woman whose authority is sometimes challenged, but she quickly rises to the occasion as a strong leader, squelching opposition," says Jon Speier, Medieval Times senior vice president and general manager.
The Queen
The Queen (image via Medieval Times)
Jousting, fighting, horsemanship, swordplay and a fresh, hot, four-course feast remain central elements of the dinner attraction. 

With the cast and script change come a series of other significant changes to the show:
  • More than 700 new costumes for all nine castles' performers including horses, all of which are custom-designed and hand-made at a dedicated costume shop near Dallas Design District.
  • 200 new suits of armor, shields, and helmets, all of which are custom-designed and hand-made at a dedicated armory in Florida.
  • More than 350 team members and 225 horses train and rehearse new lines and fight scenes for three months while still presenting the current show. 
  • It takes two months to teach a queen to ride an Andalusian stallion. 
  • New music was composed by Dr. Daniel May, composer and jazz pianist who scored "Everest" and other films and who worked with Sting, The Moody Blues and others. He directed and recorded Medieval Times' new show composition in Kiev with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. He directed the choir in Ukraine with lyrics written by poet and choir member Solomia Gorokhivska, and a solo cellist and violin player from Pittsburgh, PA. 
  • The audience experiences a live action film score that is precisely synchronized with every element of the show, from lights to fights; jousts to jabs; the Queen's entry to curtain closings; and more.
  • The sound and light team spends 120 hours programming 300 new music cues and 500 new lighting cues. Several castles are installing and programming a new LED lighting system that offers 256 colors versus the old 14-color system. The system is powered by 10 miles of cable and an estimated million-dollar upgrade.

Medieval Times owns and operates nine castles in the U.S. and Toronto, Canada. The new show opens October 19, 2017 in Dallas, TX where more than six million guests have been entertained in the castle's 25 years.

About Medieval Times

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament was founded in 1977 in Spain. It launched in North America in 1983 and has since opened nine castles across the United States and in Toronto, Canada. It has been performed for 65 million guests in its 34 years. 

SOURCE: Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament

Bonus Video:

Legacy Recordings to Release "Stranger Things" Soundtrack

"Stranger Things - Music From The Netflix Original Series" - Album Artwork
"Stranger Things - Music From The Netflix Original Series" - Album Artwork
 Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, today announced it will release Stranger Things - Music From The Netflix Original Series on Friday, October 27, timed to the launch of Season 2. 

Available for digital streaming or downloading and on CD, the 30 track compilation album includes a range of beloved 1980s hits and classic tracks featured in "Stranger Things" and the highly-anticipated second season, "Stranger Things 2." The album features nineteen songs and eleven audio clips from the show. 

  • A 12" vinyl edition of Stranger Things - Music From The Netflix Original Series will be released later this year.
Artists and original hit recordings appearing on Stranger Things - Music From The Netflix Original Series include Toto ("Africa"), the Bangles ("Hazy Shade of Winter"), Corey Hart ("Sunglasses at Night"), and more, along with unannounced titles from Season 2.

The multi-award-winning "Stranger Things" was most recently nominated for 18 Emmy Awards, including Music Supervision—the first year ever the category was recognized by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

“Stranger Things”
“Stranger Things” (image via Netflix)
"Stranger Things 2" returns globally to Netflix October 27th. 
Set in 1984, the citizens of Hawkins, Indiana are still reeling from the horrors of the Demogorgon and the secrets of Hawkins Lab. Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has been rescued from the Upside Down but a bigger, sinister entity still threatens those who survived. 

The second installment of the series also features Winona Ryder (Joyce), David Harbour (Chief Hopper), Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven), Natalia Dyer (Nancy), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan), Joe Keery (Steve), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas), Finn Wolfhard (Mike), and Season 2 newcomers Sean Astin (Bob Newby), Dacre Montgomery (Billy), Paul Reiser (Dr. Owens), and Sadie Sink (Max), among other stars.
Created by Matt and Ross Duffer, "Stranger Things" is a Netflix original series, directed and executive produced by the Duffer brothers and Shawn Levy of 21 Laps. Iain Patterson and 21 Laps' Dan Cohen executive produce. 

Bonus Videos:

18 October 2017

'You All Look The Same’: Non-Muslim Men Targeted In Islamophobic Hate Crime Because Of Their Appearance


File 20171017 30406 7bq16h.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Men with beards have been called terrorists. (via
By Imran Awan, Birmingham City University and Irene Zempi, Nottingham Trent University

There has been a 29% rise in recorded hate crimes in the UK in the past year according to new figures released by the Home Office, which also showed a spike in offences following the EU referendum.

The consequences of hate crime are widespread. While Muslims in Britain are increasingly subject to Islamophobia, some non-Muslims are also being targeted because they are perceived to be Muslim.

In new research presented to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims we looked at the experiences of non-Muslim men who reported being the target of Islamophobic hate crime.

We interviewed 20 non-Muslim men of different ages, race and religion, based in the UK. Our group included Sikhs, Christians, Hindus and atheists. Although their experiences were all different, they believed that their skin colour, their beard or turban meant that they were perceived to be Muslim – and targeted for it. We decided to only interview men in this study because we understand from our community work that men are more likely than women to be victims of Islamophobia due to mistaken identity.

Our findings backed up our previous research showing that a spike in hate crime is often triggered by a particular event. The men we interviewed, whose names we have anonymised here to protect their identities, described how they felt “vulnerable” and “isolated” after the EU referendum. Vinesh, a 32-year old, Indian British Hindu, told us:
People have been calling me names on Twitter like ‘You’re a p**i c**t’. I have also been threatened on Facebook like ‘Today is the day we get rid of the likes of you!’ I feared for my safety when I read this.
Some of the men noted how terrorist attacks including those in Manchester and London also triggered more Islamophobia. Others also noted how the Trump administration and its stance towards Muslims had promoted anti-Muslim sentiments globally.

In some cases, hate crimes are targeted at people’s homes or workplaces, with property damaged with Islamophobic graffiti because the perpetrators believe the victims are Muslim. In a recent case in Liverpool, “Allar Akbar” (sic) was painted on a Hindu family’s future home.

One 37-year-old man, called Paul, a white British atheist who is perceived to be a convert to Islam due to his beard, told us how he had been targeted:
I live on a rough estate. I had dog excrement shoved through the mailbox. They also threw paint over my door.
Nobody stepped in to help
Some of those we interviewed felt that their beard was a key aspect of why they were being targeted for looking Muslim. One 19-year-old, called Cameron, who is black British, said:
It’s happened to me ever since I grew a beard. I’m not a Muslim but people stare at me because they think I am.
Many of those we interviewed reported that they suffered anxiety, depression, physical illness, loss of income and employment as a result of being targeted. Raj, a 39-year-old British Indian, told us:
We live in fear every day. We face abuse and intimidation daily but we should not have to endure this abuse.
Such feelings of insecurity and isolation were exacerbated by the fact that these hate incidents usually took place in public places in front of passers-by who didn’t intervene to help. Mark, who is white and Christian and perceived to be Muslim due to his beard and Mediterranean complexion, said:
I was verbally abused by another passenger on the bus who branded me an ‘ISIS terrorist’ while passengers looked on without intervening. In another incident, I had ‘Brexit’ yelled in my face … I feel very lonely. No one has come to my assistance or even consoled me.
Identity questioned
The men we interviewed constantly felt the need to prove their identity, and differentiate themselves from Muslims in an attempt to prevent future victimisation. Many described it as emotionally draining. Samuel, a 58-year-old black British Christian, said:
My identity is always questioned because I look like a Muslim. It does make me feel low but I got used to it. As a black man with a beard you always get associated as being a Muslim terrorist.
The men we interviewed said they wanted much more public awareness about hate crimes and better police recording of these kind of offences. They also called for training for bystanders and people such as teachers who may need to deal with more of these situations. They also thought that an app, through which all types of hate crime could be reported in real time, could offer support for victims.

The ConversationThe rise in Islamophobic hate crime has made many Muslims live in fear. But this kind of hatred is pervasive, and can affect anyone perceived to be Muslim. “You all look the same”, one man was told after explaining that he wasn’t Muslim to somebody who abused him on the train. British society needs to get a better grip on understanding this often “invisible” form of hate crime and what to do about it.

About Today's Contributors:
Imran Awan, Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Centre for Applied Criminology, Birmingham City University and Irene Zempi, Director of the Nottingham Centre for Bias, Prejudice & Hate Crime, Nottingham Trent University

This article was originally published on The Conversation

Ricky Gervais Launches New Show Exclusively on SiriusXM

Ricky Gervais
Ricky Gervais Is Deadly Sirius
Today SiriusXM announced that award-winning comedian and actor Ricky Gervais will launch a new show exclusively on SiriusXM. Broadcast from LondonNew York, and other destinations from around the world, "Ricky Gervais Is Deadly Sirius" will premiere on October 24 at 11:00 a.m. ET
  • The one-hour show will air weekly on Comedy Greats channel 94.
"I started out in radio, and SiriusXM made me an offer to return that I couldn't refuse," Gervais said. "With 32 million subscribers, editorial control, my own playlist and absolute freedom of speech, it's the perfect platform for me, and hopefully the listener too." 
"Ricky Gervais is undoubtedly one of the most uniquely talented comedians in the game," said Scott Greenstein, President and Chief Content Officer, SiriusXM. "Whether he's starring in a beloved television show, delivering raucous stand-up before a crowd of 20,000, or skewering celebrities at an awards show, the bottom line is that Ricky is a compelling performer whose legion of fans is only growing. We're ecstatic that he's bringing those many talents to SiriusXM, where he'll tackle some of life's big mysteries, while he charms and enlightens our more than 32 million subscribers nationwide."
Ricky Gervais launched his entertainment career as a London-based radio host, honing his interview skills and sharing his love of music. Now one of the world's most popular and charismatic comedians will return to his roots and join SiriusXM, tackling more "sirius" topics with some of the most respected experts in their fields. Whether it's a conversation with scientist and author Richard Dawkins about religion and the afterlife, or rocker Noel Gallagher on hijinks with his bandmates and his musical influences, Gervais will have thought-provoking discussions about the topics he feels the most passionate about, namely music, science, art, and ethics.
  • "Ricky Gervais Is Deadly Sirius" will air Tuesdays at 11:00 a.m. ET on SiriusXM Comedy Greats channel 94, and will then re-air the same day at 5:00 p.m. ET on Raw Dog channel 99.
Ricky Gervais in Extras
Ricky Gervais in Extras
For two decades Ricky Gervais has been celebrated for his charm, razor-sharp wit, trademark laugh, and unapologetic sense of humor, with his stand-up tours routinely selling out arenas in every corner of the globe. 
He first became a household name in the United States following the critically-acclaimed run of "The Office" in the United Kingdom. Gervais co-created the original program and produced the wildly popular U.S. version before moving on to films and more television hits with "Extras" and "Derek."
During a highly successful career that spans the worlds of film, television, and music, Gervais has won seven BAFTA awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and two Emmy Awards, solidifying his position as one of the biggest names in comedy. Along the way he amassed a passionate fan base, including a large social media presence that comprises more than 12.8 million Twitter followers.
His fans can now get a weekly dose of Ricky on Comedy Greats channel 94, as well as via SiriusXM On Demand, through the SiriusXM app on smartphones and other connected devices, as well as online

SIRIUS XM logo. (PRNewsFoto/SIRIUS XM Radio)
SiriusXM also recently announced that its 200+ channels, including Comedy Greats, are now also available for streaming to SiriusXM subscribers nationwide with Amazon Alexa. Go to to learn more.

Bonus Video:

17 October 2017

New Book 'The Quantum Realm: Philly the Photon' Teaches Quantum Physics in a Fun and Easy to Understand Way

The Quantum Realm - Front Cover
The Quantum Realm
Mark Montgomery announced today the upcoming release of his latest book The Quantum Realm: Philly the Photon. The Quantum Realm: Philly the Photon is an inspirational SciFi novella that addresses some of the key elements of Science and Quantum Physics and how it relates to the human experience. It will be released in paperback this December 2017. 
The story follows Sebastian, a boy filled with fear of things he cannot explain. When traumatized by a freak electrical storm, he develops a burning need to understand light. That night, he awakens inside a lucid dream, where he meets Philly the Photon, a light particle, who offers to guide him on a perilous journey through the Quantum Realm.

As Sebastian embarks on a journey through the unknown, he learns to overcome his fears and apply the fundamentals of quantum physics to alter his perspective on self and how he is connected to the very nature of the universe.

This journey will inspire, educate, and challenge your perceptions on relative reality. It will increase your ability to think critically, rationally, and encourage you to ask more questions. Young adults will find sanity and direction in these words, while adults of all ages will find nuggets of wisdom for personal application. 

Embark on a journey with Sebastian and visually experience the more elusive universal patterns that determine who we are as humans and how we are integrally and three-dimensionally connected to everything and everyone around us through the continuum of quantum events.

What Readers Are Saying:

"A fascinating adventure that takes Sebastian and the reader into the unseen world of photons, electrons and electromagnetic waves. Reading this book teaches you the basics and gives them meaning and relatedness, and it's not at all painful -- not for one moment…" – Jack Magnus, Readers' Favorite
"Montgomery explains the scientific method through story and explanation in a way that's both fun and gripping… There are little gems of wisdom and a wealth of understanding within these pages as Sebastian tries to apply the method and find his own understanding." – K.J. Simmill, Readers' Favorite
"…a brilliant book that is such fun to read because you don't realize how much you're learning." – Sarah Stuart, Readers' Favorite

SOURCE: Mark Montgomery

16 October 2017

Halloween Partygoers to Raise Money for the IKEA Monkey's Home this Saturday in Toronto

Vegan Social Events, created by Love Wild Live Free, has partnered with UNIVERSEOFÁLI to bring the wonderful world of OZ to life, for their 3rd Annual Halloween Charity Event, benefiting Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary
Vegan Social Events, created by Love Wild Live Free, has partnered with UNIVERSEOFÁLI to bring the wonderful world of OZ to life, for their 3rd Annual Halloween Charity Event, benefiting Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary!
The 'WIZARD OF ODDZ' Halloween Charity Event, benefiting Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary, is proudly presented by UNIVERSEOFÁLI in partnership with Vegan Social Events, created by Love Wild Live Free

Guests will journey down the yellow brick road to find themselves at the historic and exclusive Armour Heights Officers Mess. 

This gala-style, costumed event is Toronto's only vegan-friendly Halloween party. It will bring together party-goers from Toronto's professional and corporate communities, the vegan community, the International and Canadian Military communities and the general public, in a non-judgmental and inclusive space.

The 'Flying Monkeys' Balloon Raffle will rule the sky as guests explore the various themed rooms around the mansion. Guests will be welcomed with appetizers by Chef James Snow of Canada Catering and complimentary tasting items curated by Kupfert & Kim, Panago Pizza, Culcherd, and more. 

Pockets Warhol
Pockets Warhol
The event will include a Silent Auction, featuring paintings by Pockets Warhol, a Capuchin Monkey from Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary, whose artwork has garnered attention from worldwide news outlets and celebrities including Ricky Gervais and Dr. Jane Goodall. 

Entertainment will include Candy Warhol of Bangs & Blush and live performances featuring a musical number by event co-organizer, Alexandria Beck of UNIVERSEOFÁLI
Beck is an international recording and performing artist and has performed for audiences of up to 60,000 people, including royalty and Heads of State, and opened the first Vancouver Olympic venue. She has been featured on TMZ, CBC, and was the in-house opera singer for the world's foremost luxury department store, Harrods.

  • What: 'WIZARD OF ODDZ' Halloween Charity Event 2017
  • When: Saturday, October 21, 2017
  • Where: Armour Heights Officers Mess, 215 Yonge Boulevard, Toronto
  • Time: 8:00 PM - 1:00 AM 
  • Event Details:
    Darwin the “IKEA Monkey”
    Meet Darwin the “IKEA Monkey”
This event proudly supports Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary, home to Darwin the 'IKEA Monkey', a Japanese Macaque whose photo went viral in December 2012, after he was found wandering an Ikea parking lot in North York, Ontario. This 100% volunteer-run sanctuary does important and necessary work, by currently providing a permanent home for 19 primates retiring from biomedical research, zoos, universities, and private residences. 

The exotic pet trade is a growing trend in Canada; according to CTV News, Canada has the worst record in the Western world when it comes to protecting animals. Unfortunately, animal testing for medical and cosmetic purposes still takes place in Canada. As one of two primate sanctuaries in Canada, Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary offers 'freedom from fear', and a place of healing and recovery for primates in need.
U N I V E R S E O F Á L I, is a collective of music, cosplay, and charity. Created by International Recording and Performing Artist, Canadian Military Veteran, Award-winning Cosplayer, and Animal rights and Vegan Advocate, Alexandria Beck.
Love Wild Live Free is a lifestyle blog created by Avra Epstein, a Toronto-based lawyer, animal rights and vegan advocate and creator of Vegan Social Events. Love Wild Live Free has gained a dedicated following and was named by BlogTO as one of "15 Instagram Accounts for Toronto Vegans to Follow."

14 October 2017

As Halloween Creeps Up, 60-Foot Spider Arrives On Orlando's Biggest Web

The invasion of the 60-foot arachnid - Orlando
The invasion of the 60-foot arachnid (Denise Spiegel/Visit Orlando)
Disclaimer: The following might not be suitable for anyone suffering from acute arachnophobia....
Friday the 13th brought the arrival of the newest addition to Orlando's Halloween scene: An invasion of spider-centric social media opportunities, including a 60-foot arachnid and 400-foot web (the largest on the East Coast), tailor made for sharing on the "Web."

As the world's Halloween Vacation Capital, Orlando features an unparalleled 10 weeks of highly-themed holiday experiences including seasonal attractions, special events, hotel packages, and even the largest horror convention in the nation.

"Orlando does Halloween on a scale like nowhere else," said George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, the official tourism association for the region. "And we know that social sharing is a big part of Halloween, it's even the most Instagrammed day of the year, so we are showcasing that our themed vacation experiences create both unforgettable memories and the world's coolest photo opportunities."
The newest additions launched this week include:

Giant Spider Selfies and Light Show
Giant spidey selfie time! - Orlando
Giant Spidey Selfie time! (Denise Spiegel/Visit Orlando)
Photo opportunities with a 60-foot spider that overran the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye, turning the 400-foot observation wheel into a massive spider web. The lair gets even spookier at night with a 10-minute kaleidoscopic light show synchronized to an iconic Halloween soundtrack. 

Limited-time Custom Snapchat Filter
Sharing the Spidey Selfie on Snapchat (Denise Spiegel/Visit Orlando)
Now through Halloween, a new custom Orlando Halloween snapchat filter frames the unforgettable photo opportunities for visitors to share their own Spider Selfie with friends and family. 

Social media video starring Orlando's "Spider Dog" 
Adding a "trick" to these treats is a social media video of Orlando's "Spider Dog," a prankster pup who scurried about in spider costume, scaring unsuspecting guests in the dark of night.
  • For a full list of Halloween events and attractions throughout Orlando, visitors wanting to plan a ghoulish getaway can visit the destination's new web page, and follow #OrlandoHalloween on Visit Orlando's social media channels.
Dead Waters Haunted House (Denise Spiegel/Visit Orlando)
Orlando: Halloween Vacation Capital℠
AAA recently named Orlando the top destination for fall travel, based on AAA travel bookings.

As the Halloween Vacation Capital, Orlando brings the season to life through 10 weeks of highly themed activities including theme park events, attractions, the largest horror convention in the nation, spooky hotel packages and much more. 

The world famous theme parks also bring a unique level of cinematic-level sophistication to these entertainment experiences, whether it is the spine-chilling terror of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando, or the family-friendly fun of Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World and Halloween Spooktacular at SeaWorld Orlando.

Halloween Spooktacular - Orlando
Halloween Spooktacular (Denise Spiegel/Visit Orlando)
  • October kicks off the height of the Halloween season in Orlando, although some of the festivities started as early as August 25 and extend as late as November 4.

SOURCE: Visit Orlando

Bonus Video

13 October 2017

New Star Trek Klingons Are Rooted In Our Own Distant Past – Ancient History Expert


A ship of klingons
A ship of klingons. (Netflix/Jan Thijs)
By Eve MacDonald, Cardiff University

Star Trek has always reflected the contemporary political atmosphere and ideologies in which it is created. From the original series in the 1960s with its peace, love and interracial kiss, to the 1990’s post-Cold War Next Generation, the world-view of progressive western ideology has featured strongly in the stories of everyone’s favourite group of space explorers.

The original Klingons of the 1960s
The original Klingons of the 1960s. © 1969 Paramount Pictures

Across each new iteration, the Klingons – a humanoid warrior species – have often been the alien of choice. The 1960s Klingons were bad, untrustworthy, duplicitous enemies, but visually they looked pretty close to the sapiens on the Starship Enterprise. They were the “other”, but that “other” was also us. They were the Cold War Soviets mixed with a bit of the Japanese from World War II (another enemy, the Romulans, also wore that hat).

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Klingons were more physically differentiated by exo-skeletal additions but they were friends now, not enemies any more, and although slightly erratic allies they fought on the same side as the Federation. It was the post-Cold War world.

Us and them
So what to make of the new Netflix series Discovery and its version of the Klingons? Set further in the past than the other series, watchers have been given a race of new/old Klingons which is physically extraordinary, kitted out like badass Egyptian warriors. Gone are progressive views of understanding the commonalities of our existence. The classical “us” and the space age “other” has been reborn.

Klingons, the next generation
Klingons, the next generation. © 1991 Paramount Pictures

What is so intriguing about these new Klingons is that they exhibit all the extremes of real-life exotic enemies from timeless representations going back to the ancient Greeks. They are portrayed as incomprehensible beasts to the federation: the Klingons participate in self-harm, believe in rebirth in flames, and have a physical appearance that has extended their exo-skeleton to make them look more like wild animals than anthropomorphic beings. They appear like beasts, as exotic as Durer’s famous drawing of a rhinoceros was to his 16th-century audience.

The new Klingon uniform was clearly inspired by ancient Egyptian breastplates, wired like ribs across their shoulders and upper chest. Even more Egyptianising is the death practice of the Klingons that sees the corpse being wrapped as a mummy, and placed in a beautifully decorated space sarcophagus. These sarcophagi are then stuck to the outside of their space ships. The way that the Klingon dead and their death cult travel together through space and time removes any previous common “humanity” that had existed in the other Star Trek series. The Klingons are now so far from the “us” who reside in the opposite ship as to be almost incomprehensible.

Albrecht Durer’s rhinoceros, 1515
Albrecht Durer’s rhinoceros, 1515. Wikimedia

Ancient monsters
Though their appearance may be drawn from history, these new, hostile Klingons are base zealots and unrelentingly evil – with an obvious comparison to be made with Islamic State. They are simply our enemy: we possess no shared values, they lie in ambush and react with unremitting violence across the first episodes. The federation officers of the Discovery series are conflicted about reacting to the aggression – and as such are depicted at first as wishy-washy and weak. The ideals of the previous series, including the “prime directive” – that crews must not interfere with the development of civilisations – have disappeared and are replaced by sneering Klingons who seek martyrdom and mock the concept of “coming in peace”.

I wonder what Star Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry would have felt about this easy dismissal of the ideals of peaceful inter-species cooperation? In the new Star Trek, violence is the only means to counter violence. For the creators it makes it much easier to accept this by physically placing the Klingons further back in our human past. Their representation in costume like exotic, alien ancients, and practice of a cult of death, further distances them from our so-called “western” humanity. By physically animalising the Klingons this becomes an easy retreat to the mythical beasts of old. As the monstrous Gorgon sisters were to the ancient Greeks these Klingons are to the Federation.

The ConversationThis new form of Klingon enemy seems to be reflecting shifting attitudes towards peace and war in today’s world. More than anything this only serves to confirm how far our society has shifted away from hope and idealism for the future. It will be interesting to see how this new Klingon war is resolved in the next chapter of the first season, and whether hopeful aspiration will return or fear of the other is all we can aspire to.

About Today's Contributor:
Eve MacDonald, Lecturer in Ancient History, Cardiff University

This article was originally published on The Conversation

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