Friday, August 27, 2010

Blog of Shame/Creepy Planet

Okay, so I am made of suck. I could give lots of excuses except I don't really have any.

I'm just going to dust myself off and try and get back on this blogging horse.

Creepy Planet: Plants, nice sedentary sort of things, fairly inobstrusive right? WRONG!

Mind Controlling Fungi

One for every species...... maybe we should stop eating mushrooms, just in case.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fantasy Traveler's Guide

It’s Sunday and I’m extremely bored, and I’ve decided to make a proper go of this whole blogging thing. In the next few days I’m going to write a sampling of all my features and promise to start making regular posts. I’m thinking a Creepy Planet every Sunday and at least one other feature or random blogpost during the week.
So, let’s go a-traveling!
To begin with I thought I’d stick with the old adage “write what you know,” and while I live closer to New York than our first location, I feel a great sense of national pride and want to sing it’s praises.
I’m speaking of Vancouver, British Colombia: Hollywood North, and a sci-fi fans dream destination.
The Vancouver area is worth a visit regardless of your geeky proclivities, the beautiful coastline, view of the North Shore Mountains from the city and swathes of temperate rainforest make it an ideal place for hiking, skiiing(depending on the season) and camping. A nature buff like myself would certainly come away happy, and with hundreds of pictures no doubt. The city itself is pretty amazing, with a gorgeous skyline backed by mountains, and according to PZ Myers a happening nightlife, even if you never left the city limits I don’t think you’d be disappointed. 
For those who spent their lives indulging in science fiction television and movies, however, it is a particular joy.
Vancouver’s geeky street cred is off the charts. Over the years it has hosted the productions of The X-files, The Outer Limits, Andromeda, The 4400, Smallville, Sliders, Supernatural, Fringe, Battlestar Galactica, and Caprica, Eureka and the entire Stargate franchise, just to name a few. And that’s only the TV series!
So, I thought I would point the spotlight on a few places in Vancouver where geeky tourists of all stripes can marvel at the startling beauty of the real world, whilst reveling in their fantasy world as well.
Queen Elizabeth Park-
This place just looks spectacular. Ever since I watched the Stargate SG-1 episode The Keeper (guest-starring Dwight Schultz, yay Barclay!) this park has been on my must-see list. With attractions like the arboretum and the domed Bleodel Floral Conservatory, as well as a golf course, tennis courts and lawn bowling, you could easily make a day of it, if not a whole week.

Can I admit that should I visit the park with a like-minded individual I would immediately start playing “SG team”? Your damn right I can. (For the record, I’d be Daniel)
Vancouver Aquarium-
As the setting for a clandestine meeting between Mulder and Deep Throat in season 1 of The X-files, the aquarium is another naturalist gem in the heart of the city. Wander through the underwater exhibits, have an animal encounter with a beluga whale, or book yourself a sleepover (How cool is that!!).

They also have a 4-D theatre. Now, if you’ll allow me to get all sciencey for a moment, I hasten to explain that the aquarium isn’t experimenting with the abstract mathematical concept of the fourth dimension as entertainment. No, they are combining 3-D movies with physical effects like wind, mist and scents to create what is no doubt an amazing experience. I am particularly jealous of anyone who has attended the Planet Earth 4-D showing, as David Attenborough is one of my heroes and to hear his voice booming out of big theatre speakers would be quite a thrill. (Supergeek side-note: 4-D is also the name of a season 9 X-files episode, bringing the whole thing full circle)

If I ever get the chance to visit this fabled city I will most definitely be setting up a clandestine meeting here. Who wants to be my Deep throat? (sexual innuendo? me? nooo, never!)
UBC Campus-
With a mile long list of series and movies that have used the campus, the University of British Colombia has sci-fi locations coming out the wazoo. It also has 44 hectares of gardens, comprised of the botanical gardens and centre for plant research, as well as the Rose Gardens, and the Nitobe Japanese Memorial Gardens. 

And just in case you are bored of nature’s bounty there is also the Museum of Anthropology, Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, an art gallery, their own cinema and a studio theatre as well as fine dining. You know, just in case.

I’d also like to geek out over their library and learning centre, a thing of beauty both inside and out, for the eye and the brain. UBC is a research powerhouse and a treat for any science geeks, nevermind the fiction part.

One final note about the city, it has a huge Asian population. As one of the most popular destinations in Canada for immigrants, the attraction for any anime fan is obvious, as the number of stores importing anime, Asian pop and cuisine is extremely high and from what I’ve heard, very very good quality.
Vancouver is truly a fantasy travel destination. So, planned your trip yet? I sure as hell have! 

Creepy Planet: psychadelic snails!

After my first post I fell into the deep black pit that is the job search. Suffice it to say I got distracted.

But now I'm back with my first installment of Creepy Planet, and I'm giving you one of my favourites.

Watch as a parasite turns a snail  into the natural world's equivalent of a glowstick!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Revelatory Beginning (via LOTR)

Middle Earth is fracking awesome!
Though if  unfamiliar with Battlestar Galactica they probably wouldn’t use that exact phrasing, I am pretty sure that any Tolkien fan would have to agree with me on this point.
The level of detail and attention paid to the building of his world is one of the things that made Tolkien’s iconic trilogy so compelling. So when creating the movies, Peter Jackson had to show us a world that was just as awe inspiring as the one Tolkein described. And boy did Jackson deliver! No matter what your opinion of the storyline or the acting or the special effects, I don’t think anyone can deny that the vistas and skylines and locations that filled the movies were absolutely breathtaking.
Here’s a little reminder of what Middle Earth looks like: 

Peter Jackson did a fabulous job when making these movies, and they really are some of my favourite movies. The best thing about these movies, however, is that they helped me realize something wonderful.
Middle Earth is real.
The magnificent landscape of Middle Earth that we see in the movies is very very real, its a place called New Zealand. Now this may not be the mind-blowing revelation for you that it was for me, but let me explain.
I have always been obsessed with two things, sci-fi/fantasy and the natural world.
As a kid I knew all about different animals, cassowaries and kinkajoos and ibexes. I loved picking berries, and playing with leaves and digging in the dirt. I was the kind of little girl who would scream and run toward the spider rather an away from it, and would always get very upset if someone tried to kill one in my presence. My summer’s were spent camping, and I reveled in the fresh air, the crystal clear lake, and the joy of being allowed to get dirty. My hometown of Sudbury, Ontario provided its local schools with two annual field trips, one to Science North, a fabulous science center with a large focus on nature (an in-house porcupine named Ralph was a favourite of mine). The other trip was to the Laurentian Conservation area. My favourite game which I can still vivdly remember is one in which all the kids chose at random the role of carnivore, omnivore or herbivore, and then were let loose into a designated woodland area. I always relished getting to be a herbivore. I’d find a well hidden spot and then just sit and relax, listening to all the rest of the kids chasing after each other.
At the same time my appetite for fantasy novels was insatiable. My mum got me started by reading me the Narnia Chronicles, Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree and E. Nesbitt’s Five Children series. My mind was wrapped up in magic and fabulous places. My Dad gave me the wonderful gift that is Star Trek. When I was growing up every kid dreaded 6 o’clock, because it was the hour that our evening of TV viewing would be brought to a halt by our parents wanting to watch the boring news. Not in my house. At six o’clock every weekday my Dad would switch on channel 8 to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. Talk about creating a monster! From then on my sci-fi obsession would grow to epic proportions. I was reading Hitchhiker’s Guide at age 12, Isaac Asimov at 13, and tricking my mother into falling asleep early so I could stay up late and watch Star Trek Voyager (with no cable, the only time I could see it was at midnight).
These are my two passions, the things that most fascinate me.  One half of me wanted to escape into fantasy, the other was fascinated by the world around me, grounded in reality. But until I made the connection that Middle Earth was New Zealand, I had always seen them as two opposing sides. 
How foolish I had been, of course the two were connected. All sci-fi and fantasy is created by someone whose only frame of reference is the natural world around them. A strange planet may have pink grass and blue trees, but there is still grass and trees. All of the fabulous locations my favourite TV shows had taken me to over the years were all based in reality. The running joke on Stargate SG1 was that all of the planets looked like Vancouver, B.C. From the deserts of Abydos to the garden paradise of P7J-989, these exotic otherworldly locales were places here on earth.
My escape into a fantasy world was in fact, to steal a phrase from one of my favourite podcasts/blogs, an escape to reality.
So, here on Fantastical World I’m going to endeavour to continue to explore my pivotal revelation, and look at the world around us through the eyes of a scifi/fantasy buff, and look at scifi and fantasy through the eyes of a natural history buff. 
Some features to look forward to:
Hero Worship: a profile of some of my ecological and fantastical heroes, and I’ll attempt to get interviews with those a little closer to home.
Creepy Planet: Just as scifi and fantasy love to explore the darker side of speculative fiction, I’ll be delving into some of the creepiest creatures here on planet earth. From mind-controlling plants to the mysterious depths of the oceans, nature is pretty freaking scary at times.
Fantasy Traveler’s Guide:  I’ll be taking a look at the places  here on Earth that can make you feel like you are stepping into another world. From film and TV set locations, to fabulous jungles or magnificent mountain ranges that remind us of our favourite novels, these places are a must-see to believe.