The Missing Link Roundup

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Supernova RefsdalWhat are we looking at in the above photo? The singular Supernova Refsdal exploding at four different stages in time, thanks to Einsteinian optics. This is known as an Einstein Cross, and we’ve never witnessed a supernova captured within one before. The scientists that found it published their study in the new issue of Science, which just so happens to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of Einstein’s release of his general theory of relativity papers. — NY Times

Recently a group of passionate artists and scientists combined to film an amazingly beautiful dance/opera inside of CERN, called Symmetry. It will be debuting this month at several film festivals, but you can check out the teaser trailer now. I can’t wait to see this in full length! — The Creators Project

While we still don’t know a lot about dark matter, scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics think the amount of dark matter in a galaxy is directly proportionate to the mass of the black hole at the center of said galaxy. How and why? We still don’t know, but this is an interesting read! — CFA

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Top 5: Movies

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Mindy’s Top 5 Movies

Mindy’s Thoughts: FYMFB has a special post this week; in honor of my birthday (yesterday) I am doing a top 5 list of my favorite movies. This is not a review of those movies, more like an overview of why they are my favsies. Let’s jump in, shall we? In order from oldest to newest (but in no particular personal order) I present to you the five best movies OF ALL TIME.


The ShiningThe Shining (1980)

The Shining is an American psychological thriller film directed and produced by the amazing Stanley Kubrick. It follows the story of Jack Torrance and his family (son Danny and wife Wendy) as they live in a creepy old, possibly haunted or possessed, hotel for the winter. The movie is based on the Stephen King book (released in 1977) but deviates from the book plot enough to piss Stephen King off.

The ShiningLet’s get an obvious statement out of the way: because The Shining is a Stephen King based book/movie, the plot is entirely about a writer struggling with addiction. Jack, played by Jack Nicholson, is a recovering alcoholic that is barely hanging onto the sobriety wagon when they get to The Overlook. Within a week, he’s selling his soul for some bourbon.
On a sidenote, while it absolutely works in this story, I’m sick and tired of Stephen King’s life story being retold every single time he writes a god damn book. We get it, bro! You’re a writer and have struggles with addiction, you don’t need to rehash it for all of eternity. Moving on!
I love this movie for so many reasons, but the biggest one is of course Stanley Kubrick’s directing/producing. The Shining remains timeless, despite being filmed in what could be a very dated time period. The score is perfect and highlights all the right moments. The hotel becomes a living being in this movie, interacting with the family, mirroring Jack’s psyche. While there aren’t many actors in the movie aside from the Torrance family, the acting is top notch; Jack Nicholson always plays a very convincing crazy person and Shelley Duvall was practically born for this role (well, aside from Olive Oyl in the live action Popeye). Shelley Duvall is one of my all time favorites, which makes sense as she now spends her time flashing car headlights into the Texas wilderness to communicate with alien lifeforms.

If you recall, I did a review last year of The Shining Forwards and Backwards which I feel presents all these parts of the original movie in a really beautiful and obvious manner. All of the elements are masterfully laid out and Kubrick’s direction is entirely responsible. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite Kubrick movie, but The Shining might be it.


Die Hard 1988Die Hard (1988)

The original Die Hard starring Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, and Bonnie Bedelia, was adapted from a book titled Nothing Last Forever, released in 1979 by Roderick Thorp. The basic character profiles and some of the character names originated from this story, but this was not meant to be the movie it became. Originally the book was written in hopes that it would turn into a post WWII movie starring Frank Sinatra, then it was going to be adapted into the Commando sequel. After everyone passed on it, they decided to make it into Die Hard and eventually cast Bruce Willis.

Die Hard - Welcome to the Party PalBruce Willis’ character, John McClane, is an every-man; he’s a cop, but he’s not a superhero. He gets hurt constantly and by the end of the movie is barely limping along, covered in blood and dirt. This character is not necessarily a ‘good guy’; his marriage is failing, he’s argumentative and possibly a bit controlling, he’s distant from his kids, he later develops a drinking problem (between Die Hard 2 and 3). Despite that, he saves the day time and time again with nothing more than his handgun, intelligence, and fast reflexes. Why does he do it? Because he has to, because he doesn’t want innocent people (his family included) to get hurt or killed. People can relate to John McClane as played by Bruce Willis because we’re all that person, just trying to make it through each day with our lives, families, and sanity intact.
Please note that this is why Die Hard 5 (and 4 — to an extent) is a failure of a movie, it’s because we stop seeing McClane as ourselves or our brother/father/friend, and start seeing him as a cold and impersonal superhero. In the 5th movie he has machine guns and spends time just killing random people in Russia, because why not? Anyway, this is not a review of why the later Die Hard movies are shit, so we should move along.
Aside from Willis’ character, the other great part of this movie is the supporting cast, specifically Alan Rickman and his crew. They did a great job as the evil henchmen, Alan Rickman even faked a convincing German accent for most of the movie. It seems out of context to watch this movie now, considering it was written in the 70’s and released as a movie in the 80’s, all before the Cold War ended, all while East Germany still existed. We live in a different world now, so while this movie does feel a little dated at times, that doesn’t take away from the fantastic pacing and action that fills Die Hard from start to finish.


The Lion KingThe Lion King (1994)

Compared to the other four movies in my top 5 list, The Lion King may seem like a strange selection but I truly believe there is no better animated film than the 1994 Disney classic. Aside from beautiful and truly artistic animation work, there are so many talented voice actors that starred in the film: Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean!), Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, and the list goes on.

The Lion King - Mufasa in the CloudsWhat isn’t to love about this movie? It has been a favorite of mine for over 20 years, but as I get older the reasons why I love it so much have changed. As a child I loved the art, the music (amazing!!! thank you Tim Rice and Elton John!), the story itself. As an adult it gets me right in the feels, thinking about my family, about life, about the world, about the fact that I’ll die one day. It’s even become a common way for me to talk about death, that one day I too will become the grass.
One of my favorite scenes, and in my opinion one of the most impactful scenes, is when Simba is visited by cloud Mufasa. Simba, a young lion man, has been ‘wasting’ his life doing nothing in a forest with his friends. Enjoying the day to day and never thinking about his purpose, his past, or his future. While there may be controversy around the origins of The Lion King‘s story (some say it was inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, other say it is a rip off of Japan’s Kimba the White Lion), I think there is no doubting that this movie conveys a truly human story that almost every person can relate with. We all struggle with our past and future, we all question “why am I here”. Some people find answers in religion, others find answers in their careers, or families, but there is no singular answer for us human beings. For Simba, he realizes after James Earl Jones talks some sense into him, that he wants more out of life than the day to day, that he wants to lead and protect others, that he wants a family, that he is part of the world and can’t hide from it for the rest of his life.

As with all fairy tales and Disney movies, there is a lesson to be learned from this film. The message in The Lion King resonated with me as a 9 year old and has continued to evolve with me 21 years later.


Casino, the movieCasino (1995)

Casino is a 1995 American crime drama, starring a million people (seriously, just a huge cast), but most notably Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci. It was directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Nicholas Pileggi and Scorsese. On a sidenote, Pileggi is most famously known for writing the book Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family, aka the Henry Hill story, which was later adapted (by he and Scorsese) into Goodfellas.

Casino is about Midwest gangsters and a casino called the Tangiers (the code name for the real life Stardust), but the movie is really about all consuming obsession and how it will ruin you and everything you care about. Obsession with money, power, fame, love, even obsession over the details can eventually drive you crazy and drive everyone away from you. With a run time over over three hours, this movie is an epic tale, spanning a 15-ish year period from the early 1970’s to the mid 1980’s. Everything in the movie is authentic; the costume budget was over one million dollars alone, and each of the leads had 100s of pieces of custom made or vintage clothing, jewels, accessories, etc.Sharon Stone in CasinoI love this movie for so many reasons, for starters it’s a Scorsese film and I will watch anything that man produces. Past that, one of the biggest reasons I love this movie is Sharon Stone. She begins the movie as a hustler, as someone being hustled, as a manipulative woman being manipulated by the man she’s loved since she was 14 who just so happens to be a pimp. She is the most beautiful woman in the world, fiery and explosive, she’s the woman men want to be with and women want to be. Over the course of a decade we see her descent from glory into drug addled insane person, a shell of the person she used to be, before she dies alone in a hallway of a drug overdose. It’s sad, but the movie is a pragmatic cautionary tale; everyone ends up alone in the end.

Sharon Stone won a Golden Globe for her role, and an Oscar nomination — though Susan Sarandon won that year for her role in Dead Man Walking. Scorsese also was nominated for a Golden Globe for best Director but lost to Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. I don’t know if there is a better Gangster movie than Casino, despite it not even being on the AFI’s top gangster movies list.


The DepartedThe Departed (2006)

The Departed is a 2006 American crime drama, directed by the brilliant Martin Scorsese. The movie is based on a true American crime story about Whitey Bulger, a crime boss that basically ran Boston from the late 60’s to the mid 80’s. The story of Whitey Bulger mixes with a very popular fictional Hong Kong crime-thriller called Internal Affairs to create the story of The Departed. The movie went on to win a lot of awards, including Scorsese’s first Best Director Oscar, which he had been previously nominated for six times but never won.

When The Departed was released in theaters I was living in (the armpit of) California, and was very excited. I convinced all my dude friends to go see it with me, and roughly three hours after it started it was over and I just sat there disappointed. Later when it was released on DVD I rewatched it several times, feeling that same disappointment. Why? It just didn’t hit me the way other Scorsese movies had, I guess. Whereas Casino and Goodfellas (among many others) were like a punch to my face, The Departed was a slow burn. It follows a parallel story of two men, Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio, and is essentially a played out thought experiment about the consequences of our choices. Both characters grow up in the same area, both are hand picked by their mentors/father figures to follow a life of crime and justice. The entire movie is a mirror; when there is a Matt Damon scene where he’s happily on a date with a woman, Leo’s character is in a hospital with a female nurse. While Matt Damon pretends to be someone he’s not in front of his family and friends, Leo pretends to be someone he’s not as an undercover cop. The Departed creeps up on you and makes you think about good versus evil, about life and death, about the nature of people, about what we’re all willing to do to get what we want.

Dignam - the DepartedWhile there is not a bad part of the movie, by far the best part is anything involving Dignam (Mark Wahlberg). When he’s not busy kicking ass or calling people cunts, he’s telling everyone to go fuck themselves and busting the real bad guys. While The Departed had an amazing cast (Martin Sheen, Leo DiCap, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon .. excuse me, MATT DA-MON, Alec Baldwin, etc), no one stood out like Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg was the only actor from the film nominated for an Academy Award, but he lost to Alan Arkin for his role in Little Miss Sunshine (boooooooo). There is such a cult following for Detective Dignam that there have been serious considerations of doing a sequel/spin-off with his character. I’ve been a huge supporter of that idea and would be first in line to see that movie, but who knows if it will ever be made.

The Departed is a thoughtful movie, more cerebral than Scorsese’s past flicks, and I believe is the last truly great movie we’ve had released in American cinema.

The Missing Link Roundup

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NuSTARNASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, normally spends time probing black holes, supernova remnants, and other extreme objects in the far reaches of space. Recently we pointed it at our own sun and it has produced the most sensitive solar portrait ever taken in high-energy X-rays. —Astronomy.com

In February Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, began a million-mile journey that will bring it to a place where the gravitational forces between the sun and Earth are balanced so it can do science! —KQED News

Did you know that Pluto, including its atmosphere, is technically bigger than Earth? Why is that the case, and why aren’t we demanding for Pluto to be called a planet again?!? — New Horizons Website

The Missing Link Roundup

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NASA Lunar PhotosA number of NASA’s ‘blooper’ reels from older space missions are up for auction. Which means we get to see all the photos, and they are very cool. — Sploid

After traveling for 9 years, NASA’s New Horizon’s craft is out of hibernation and closing in on Pluto. Even though it may not be a planet, we are about to learn a lot about the little icy rock on the fringe of our solar system. — NASA

On the 85th anniversary of Pluto’s discovery, New Horizon took photos of Pluto and its moons, Nix and Hydra. While the craft is still over 100 million miles away from the celestial bodies this is the best ever view we’ve gotten of the moons. — NASA

Child of Light

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Child of LightReleased across multiple platforms in 2014 by Ubisoft, Child of Light is a beautiful combination of a 2-D platformer and RPG rolled into one. It follows the story of Princess Aurora, who is mysteriously kidnapped away from her family in the middle of the night.

Rating: 4.5/5

Mindy’s Thoughts: We begin with Aurora, a girl from 1800’s Austria, who wakes up in Lemuria. Lemuria is a mythical land ruled by the Dark Queen, who has stolen the sun, moon, and stars from the world. Aurora is told if she manages to recapture the celestial bodies, she can go home to her family and most importantly, her beloved father the Duke. We spend the rest of the game exploring Lemuria and all its different areas and inhabitants.

On a high level, Child of Light is a side-scrolling, 2-D platformer with RPG elements. Throughout the game you gain interesting new allies that will join your party, some that specialize in certain things (white/black magic, physical attacks, healing, etc). There is a leveling system for each character, with a talent tree that allows you to personalize everyone to your preferred play style. You gain experience and items by doing battles with monsters, like your average RPG.

High level aside, the most stunning thing about Child of Light is the art style. Playing through this game feels like playing a beautiful, living, watercolor painting. The game is constantly moving, the trees, the air, monsters, even Aurora’s hair and dress are constantly fluttering in the breeze. I wish I could include a hundred more photos of the background landscape for this review, because I feel that it is such a strong selling point on it’s own, but you can just take my word for it. The art director, Thomas Rollus, stated in an interview about the game, “we really put forward the watercolor effect. We wanted to give the impression of being awake in an underwater dream.” It worked, Thomas!
If you upgrade to the deluxe version of the game it comes with a 24-page art book as an accompaniment, because the art is so distinctive and beautiful. The deluxe version also comes with a poster and a keychain; full disclosure, I did not get the deluxe edition.

Child of Light art styleChild of Light’s battle sequences having a learning curve to them, but as you learn, they become easier. This is not a game that will have you grinding levels all day long, your battle interactions are pretty sparse unless you go looking for a fight. The basic idea is that two people within your party fight 1-3 monsters in each battle. Most of the monsters are pretty nasty and have specific ways they prefer to be attacked. Attack a magic monster with their elemental magic type and at best you will only hit them for a few points, at worst they could counterattack and kill you. Most physical monsters have some kind of counterattack as well.
The game also includes an active battle timer, which you can influence with spells and Igniculus. Learning how to properly use this timer system is the most crucial part of battle engagements within Child of Light. While in battles you will need to control Igniculus plus your one or two other characters (that can be switched out mid-battle), all at the same time, so get ready to multi-task!

Child of Light battle sequenceA second local player can co-op play Igniculus while you run around as Aurora. This might seem like a throwaway mechanic at first glance, because why not allow co-op play as a different character instead? However, I think that Ubisoft took a chance with incorporating Igniculus as a fun and important part of the game. Even during solo play, you use him constantly, to slow down monsters, to light up dark pathways, to solve puzzles, etc. I played a short amount of time with another player as my Igniculus and the reaction was mixed. The game pacing seems non-ideal for most kids (or adults with a limited attention span) as it involves some coordination between players.

Like any good platformer/RPG game, Child of Light has puzzles incorporated into the game at certain points. These puzzles are challenging, but not impossible. In my experience, it was fairly easy to figure out what they wanted me to do, but sometimes challenging to get that accomplished. One of my favorites is in the below screenshot, where you are lining up colored gems with Igniculus as the light source. I really enjoyed the puzzles and thought they added a thoughtful touch to the game.

Child of Light PuzzlesDespite being a shorter game, Child of Light really packs in a condensed story, full of very vivid images, characters, and emotions. I don’t want to get too far into the story as it could spoil it for some, but I’ll say that there were a few times where I was genuinely happy/sad/angry/elated by events in the story line. It manages to draw you in, especially if you had/have a close relationship with your father. Child of Light is a fairytale, and as such the story gave me flashes of other fairy tales like The Little Mermaid and Cinderella. Hey, don’t act like I’m the only one that ever cried to The Little Mermaid because Ariel had to leave King Triton at the end!

Overall, Child of Light is a very fun, unique, gorgeous, and heart felt game. I was not happy when I finished the game, not because it wasn’t enjoyable, but because it was over and I wanted to keep playing in the world of Lemuria. My only actual complaint with the game is that it isn’t full length (I clocked about 20 hours of play time), but Ubisoft is aware of that and it is priced to reflect the shorter game time (when I purchased it, it was ~$20 from the Xbox store, versus $60 for a full title release). Unfortunately Child of Light doesn’t have a lot of replay value but it’s possible that we may see a sequel, eventually. However, if you are interested in beautiful imagery and side scrolling RPG type games, you need to play Child of Light. You will not regret it!

Minecraft: Castle East

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Minecraft Castle EastWhile in the finishing stages of Castle West I started scouting locations for my next build, and didn’t need to travel very far before I found the chunk of mountain pictured above. Lava flows, connecting bits between spires, waterfalls, it was perfect.

I went to work on the bridges first and let them shape the building of the castle. The top tier bridge you can see barely changed from the raw to finished versions (above and below), while I added a middle tier bridge and a bridge/entrance to the main floor.

Minecraft Castle EastThe ground level bridge actually extends backwards so you can approach it from either direction (pictured below). Once the bridges were in place I started carving out the insides; a process that included many, many revisions and a lot of time. In the end, I carved three floors out of the western spire of Castle East and two floors carved out of the eastern spire.

Minecraft Wizard tower East on the backBelow is the grand entrance to Castle East; this is on the ground floor and is the only direct entrance to the castle, so I spent a lot of time tweaking it to perfection. In the picture below you can see a doorway (with torches surrounding it), which is a secret passage into the stables and village area. If you go up the stairs (on the right) you will gain access to the bedrooms (see the glass windows in the above few pictures? Those are bedrooms!) and throne room. Behind the central pillar is a ladder to the second and third floors, as well as the rail hub leading to Castle West.

Specifically for the decoration and lighting of Castle East I used a lot of lava; you can see here that it is behind colored glass and acts as my main light source throughout the castle.

Minecraft Castle East Grand EntranceUp the stairs into the throne room, I love this room! I went a little crazy with it, but it’s Minecraft, so why not? The “throne” itself is made of various cuts of quartz, the floor tiles are carpet/wool, and again I have lava lighting throughout — though each room had a different pattern for the stained glass.

Minecraft Castle East Throne RoomFloors two and three were mainly built out into giant storage hubs for my entire world. All materials from previous locations were painstakingly transported through nether rail and regular rail hubs to the central storage here. I also included an indoor food garden, utility blocks, and more lava lighting on the second floor (below).

Minecraft Castle East Storage and Food area

On floor three you can see more storage, utility blocks, the alchemy sets and even a small plot for netherwart to grow. If you look closely at the “back” of the picture (central) you can see additional lava lighting and the doorway to top bridge. The tube of lava lighting went through both floors two and three, very cool.

Minecraft Castle East Storage and Potion areaI unfortunately do not have many pictures of the East spire, but I do have one from before anything was built there, taken by a friend on the server (below). I included different kinds of stained glass, giant lava flows that were used for lighting, and several entirely glass/lava floors. This was also the area I ended up using for a library/enchanting table.

Wizard Tower East - InteriorThat is all for this entry; I hope you enjoyed my walkthrough of Castle East. Leave a comment and let me know what you’ve been building lately!

The Missing Link Roundup: Rosetta

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67P - taken from the Rosetta craftAbove is the first color photo taken of 67P from the Rosetta space craft. Even in color 67P looks black and white! — BBC News

Philae had Cometary Acoustic Surface Sounding Experiment sensors recording onboard the lander when it bounced onto the surface of 67P. Want to hear what a comet sounds like? — CNET

Recent findings from the VIRTIS instrument (Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) on Rosetta were published. They found that 67P is one of the darkest objects in our Solar System. That we know about at least! — ESA Blog

While no one really knows where Philae is resting, ESA believes that by May it could start receiving enough solar energy to wake up. You know, before it is fried by radiation. — ESA Blog