Tuesday, June 23, 2015

James Horner 1953 - 2015

James Horner [61], one of the most prolific film score composers of the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s tragically lost his life yesterday in an aircraft accident.

He was best known as the composer for two of the world's highest grossing films, Titanic and Avatar - both of which earned him Oscar nods, a win in the case of Titanic as well as it's song “My Heart Will Go On”. He would receive another 7 Oscar and three BAFTA nominations as well as winning two Golden Globes, three Saturn Awards and three Satellite Awards throughout his career.

Horner had little issue composing scores for impressive works in the field of motion pictures such as Glory and Braveheart, family favourites like Jumanji and Casper, period epics like Troy and Legends of the Fall, balls-out action movies like Commando and Red Heat, for animated movies including The Land Before Time and An American Tail, comedy such as Honey I Shrunk the Kids and Hocus Pocus, thrillers including Ransom and Patriot Games and even for comic-book heroes The Rocketeer and The Amazing Spider-Man. With over 100 scores under his belt he was one of few composers who catered for everybody and any type of movie.

In an interview in 2010, Horner said that scoring Avatar was the toughest assignment he had taken on and he needed time to get it out of his system, so he had done little of note since but he was collaborating with James Cameron in providing music for the director's Avatar sequels over the course of the next few years.

Horner was one of the first composers whose work I listened to daily. His compositions along with those of John Williams, Danny Elfman and the late Jerry Goldsmith were the four cornerstones of my musical tastes for many years. Among my favourites from Horner are Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan [‘82], Aliens [‘86], Willow [‘87], The Rocketeer [‘91], Braveheart [‘94], Apollo 13 [‘94], The Mask of Zorro [‘98] and Enemy at the Gates [‘00].

Horner was often mocked for lifting sequences and musical motifs - as well as almost entire segments from one of his own scores and adapting them to fit the musical scores of other movies he was assigned to. Throughout the years his audience became more accepting of this quirk and when recognised upon listening it can only bring a smile to the face of his true fans.

Many of Horner's detractors were critical of his use of the works of classical music composers such as Orff, Elgar and Wagner and labelled his works as derivative - but if anything he spotlighted the works of the classical greats he admired and cherished the works of, and helped them to be discovered by successive generations. I have no doubt that in the future, composers of scores will even use Horner's own cues in the same way he did, and make it part of their work as a homage and  as they take us on a new musical journey of their making.

Thank you James Horner for over 100 gifts to us over the years and may you rest in peace.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sir Christopher Lee 1922 – 2015

He was Scaramanga - The Man With the Golden Gun, he was Saruman - Head of the White Council & Lord of Isengard, he was Count Dooku/Darth Tyrannus - Sith Lord of the darkside and when one thinks of Dracula himself - it is the rumbling voice and menacing black and white visage of Christopher Lee you should think of.

A former intelligence officer for the RAF during WWII, Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE, CStJ brought many silver screen characters to life in a career that spanned seven decades and was a favourite baddie of both young and old movie-goers alike. 

Lee died on Sunday 7th June from heart failure, he was 93.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Laser satellites on the way

The recent destruction of the U.S. Air Force's 20-year-old Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13 and the resulting cloud of space debris adding to an already dangerous amount of clutter traveling at high speeds in orbit of the planet has brought to light a plan by Japanese researchers to fit a laser to the ISS.

The Extreme Universe Space Observatory (EUSO) telescope, originally designed to detect cosmic rays, could be put to use for a more 'useful' project. The EUSO which is scheduled to be installed on Japan's module on the ISS in 2017, could help the orbiting complex detect dangerous debris. Researchers say that a powerful laser under development could then help shoot down this space garbage.

Toshikazu Ebisuzaki, an astrophysicist and chief scientist at the RIKEN (Rikagaku Kenkyūsho) Computational Astrophysics Laboratory in Wako, Japan, and his team reasoned that the EUSO's wide range of view and powerful optics could also help it detect high-speed debris near the ISS. Then a Coherent Amplification Network (CAN) laser could then blast the debris. The CAN laser consists of many small lasers working together to generate a single powerful beam and is currently under development to drive particles at high speeds in atom smashers. The laser would vaporize a thin film of matter off the surface of debris and the resulting high-speed plasma would act like a rocket plume, nudging the junk downward to eventually burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

A full-scale version of the system would be armed with a 100 kilowatt ultraviolet CAN laser that can fire 10,000 pulses per second, each lasting one-tenth of one-billionth of a second. The researchers say this system could blast debris from a range of about 60 miles (100 kilometers), and the laser would need about 17 lbs. (8 kilograms) of lithium-ion batteries.

A proof-of-concept version of the system is first intended to be deployed, consisting of a miniature version of EUSO and a prototype 10-watt ultraviolet CAN laser firing 100 pulses per second. A RIKEN spokesman noted that the mini-EUSO telescope has been accepted as a project on the ISS and could perhaps go up in 2017 or 2018, but the laser system is still a concept that has not been built.

Simulation of Earth's orbiting space junk - NASA
If the concept and full versions are successful, the researchers suggest developing a satellite devoted solely to blasting space debris. They suggest the satellite should assume an orbit that takes it over both of Earth's poles, allowing it to shoot down debris all over the planet, and be armed with a 500 kilowatt ultraviolet CAN laser that can fire 50,000 pulses per second. They estimate it could blast one piece of debris every five minutes, or 100,000 pieces of space junk each year.

"The biggest obstacle is funding," Ebisuzaki said. "There are some technical challenges, of course, but the main issue is getting funding for development and launch."

It was noted that Major General "Jäger" Brandt, SPEARHEAD Deputy Commander for Security and Surveillance and Brigadier General "Whopper" Creedon, SPEARHEAD Assistant Commander for Intelligence and Information both visited RIKEN recently, fueling online conspiracy rumours that SPEARHEAD had deliberately destroyed DMSP-13 in an effort to fast-track extra funding for the Japanese project. Neither RIKEN or SPEARHEAD have answered questions on the issue.

Sources: Space.com

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Dunford continues to blaze a trail to the top

Long time readers will remember the Marine General "Fighting Joe" Dunford from the past several years of posts. In June 2010 when General Amos was nominated to replace General Conway as Commandant, I expressed the opinion that Dunford, then a 3-star and CG of I MEF, may have been a better choice. He had been elevated from 1 to 3-star rank quickly [never actually holding 2-star grade] and his combat experience in Afghanistan was both exemplary and proved he wasn't just a politician but perhaps he was too young [at 55] to be elevated to the USMC's #1 spot just yet.

Dunford did however assume the Vice Commandant's position and a fourth star that October. Exactly two years later in October 2012 I blogged when he was nominated to command the ISAF which he did in February 2013 replacing General Allen and then last June when the man was nominated for Commandant, a position he assumed last October replacing General Amos.

Now only in his 7th month as Commandant, President Obama has unexpectedly nominated Dunford to replace Army General Martin Dempsey as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when his tour ends in the Autumn. I would have expected Army Chief of Staff General Raymond T. Odinero or Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear, Commander, US Pacific Command to have been tapped for the billet but it looks like they're retiring.

General Dempsey said: I've known General Dunford for almost half of his 39 years of service,... He is a phenomenal, combat-tested leader and a man of integrity, courage and humility." He's known for keeping his cool under pressure, Marine Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis, former CENTCOM commander said he once saw a grenade pass over Dunford's Humvee in Iraq and explode 100 yards away. "He barely glanced up and then went right back to writing his orders."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The rise to power continues...

Expect some action on this list likely before 2016.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

He lived long and prospered. Leonard Nimoy 1931 - 2015

I had a rough draft of Leonard Nimoy's obituary saved here for a while now, but I deleted it on Friday. Instead it was recommended to me that because thousands if not millions of people would be writing and paying tribute to him over the following few days, my own impression of the man would be lost in a sea of lists of his extraordinary accomplishments, artistry and impact on the human race. So instead I took my time until I could say what Leonard Nimoy meant to me.

Amongst other things Leonard Nimoy was a soldier, an actor, director, photographer and poet. To me he represented the face of Star Trek, even before I watched the show or embraced science fiction in general my teens. Leonard Nimoy's characterisation of Dr. Spock [that's not an error that's what I thought he was called] has such an impact it was literally all I knew about Star Trek before the time I began a passive-aggressive bullying campaign against Dave, a school-chum because he liked Star Trek and I often drew pictures of him with "Spock ears".

To negate the bullying Dave asked me to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation it first came on TV and see what I was mocking. So I did. The bullying stopped on Monday morning afterwards. Just over 12 months later I was wearing a Starfleet Uniform in public and people were calling me "Lt. Commander", I shit you not.

I needed a fix like a drug addict. So for about 26 weeks Dave who was now my pusher/supplier had to make me a video tape with three episodes of the Original Series on it so I could properly embrace all of Star Trek. Before long I had acquired enough knowledge to begin forming my own opinion and like all Star Trek fans, the arguments and differences of opinions surfaced, but now all in good fun.

He was never my favourite Character, but due entirely to Leonard Nimoy's performance I certainly was able to identify with Spock more than any other - he was very weird, says a lot of weird shit but once you get to know him and accept him he was a friend. That's also pretty much what I think about Star Trek as a whole and I've discovered it's also actually how more than one person has described ME.

"Of my friend, I can only say this: Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most.... human" - Adm. James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Hot porn right here, right now [SFW]

That's right, time for something new on the Bunker. PORN!

Well GUN-PORN [is there a better kind?]. Beretta revealed this sexy little piece at the IDEX (International Defence Exhibition and Conference) in Abu Dhabi last week, the Beretta APX - their their first full-size striker pistol.

The gorgeous 7.55-inch-long APX is a striker fired pistol built on a chassis system.  The just over 4.25 inch long barrel is cold-hammer forged with nitriding surface treatment on all the steel parts. Beretta describes the operation as semi-auto, tilting barrel locking system using a non-pre-cocked striker block.

The serialized stainless steel chassis is encased with a fiberglass reinforced polymer frame and this helps to reduce the weight. With an empty magazine loaded, the APX weighs about 26.8 ounces in the 9 mm versions and just over 26.8 ounces in the .40 S&W variant.

To accommodate different hand sizes, there are three sizes of removable backstraps and grips. Each option provides a different palm swell and length of pull for the user. For those wearing heavy gloves, the trigger guard opening is designed to make that possible. APX also features coarse slide serration making cocking with cumbersome gloves easier.

The trigger, designed to be flatter and wider than others in the striker-fired pistol space, has a pull weight of about 6 pounds. The trigger travel is 6 mm, with reset at 3.

The weapon has the standard 1913 Picatinny rail for accessory mounting. Sights will be a standard three-dot combat sight system with a unique mounting system. For one handed slide cycling, there’s a rear sight ninety-degree face. 

Fieldstripping and switching components should be super easy. Triggerless disassembly is one of the advantages of striker-fired pistols and the APX has enhanced safety with the ability to disassemble without pulling the trigger. There is a disconnector pin on the rear right side of the pistol under the breech.

Christmas is just over nine months away folks :)