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Everything posted by MIKA27

  1. ‘The Contractor’ Trailer Reveals Chris Pine’s Action-Packed Mercenary Thriller The first trailer for Paramount's new action-thriller The Contractor — starring Chris Pine and Ben Foster — really wants you to take note of the fact that it comes "from the producer of John Wick and Sicario," both original films that spawned franchises. But what it really is is an unexpected Hell or High Water reunion that seems to have a plot that is 90% similar to that of the movie Triple Frontier. Pine plays an Army veteran named James Harper, who was involuntarily discharged and denied certain privileges. Bitter about being thrown under the bus, he decides to do right by his family and takes on a job as an independent contractor. Things go south when Harper is double-crossed, which forces him to go on the run as he finds himself at the center of a massive conspiracy. Directed by Tarik Saleh, the Swedish filmmaker behind The Nile Hilton Incident, and a couple of Lykke Li music videos, The Contractor doesn't look like the sort of movie that immediately inspires confidence. It feels like something that would have been made maybe a decade ago, possibly even around the same time when Pine was flirting with his second potential franchise-starter, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Better-looking films have been relegated to streaming in the last couple of years, but the fact that The Contractor will be released simultaneously in theaters and digital isn't doing it any favors. That, and the mildly concerning subplot involving a Muslim scientist described as a "motivated radical" by someone who suggests the American mercenaries should "cowboy up" and get the job done. That, and the mildly concerning subplot involving a Muslim scientist described as a "motivated radical" by someone who suggests the American mercenaries should "cowboy up" and get the job done. Pine and Foster, of course, starred together in the excellent neo-Western Hell or High Water, which scored four Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards. The Contractor also stars Gillian Jacobs, Fares Fares, Eddie Marsan, JD Pardo, Florian Munteanu, and Kiefer Sutherland, who, by the way, appears to have been cast in a self-aware move by someone who watched Phone Booth. Written by J.P. Davis, the film arrives in theaters and on-demand on April 1.
  2. 'Formula 1: Drive to Survive' Season 4 to Launch on Netflix in March Netflix and Formula 1 have just confirmed that the much-anticipated fourth season of the series Formula 1: Drive to Survive will return to the streaming service this March, just before the 2022 Formula 1 racing season gets underway. The new season will consist of 10 new episodes, offering fans unprecedented access behind the scenes of the high octane world of Formula 1 racing. Like previous seasons, Season 4 will show firsthand how drivers and teams prepare for their races, hoping for victory in one of the most exciting seasons so far. The new season will follow twenty drivers — veterans and newcomers — as they prepare for race day. The series will delve into the background tensions behind the dueling teams as well as the title battle between Mercedes and Red Bull. Formula 1: Drive to Survive is produced by Box to Box Films, a company known for its intensive sports documentaries. Box to Box Films recently teamed up with Netflix for another sports documentary following the intense world of pro-tennis. The series will follow tennis players behind four grand slam tournaments, giving a level of access to some of the world's most elite tennis players not before seen. This project continues Box to Box Film's dedication to sports documentaries, and viewers can expect even more behind-the-scenes access in the fourth season of Formula 1: Drive to Survive. Formula 1: Drive to Survive is executive-produced by James Gay-Rees, who won an Academy Award in 2016 for his work on the film Amy — a documentary following the tragic life and death of English singer Amy Winehouse. The film gave an in-depth look to a widely misunderstood artist whose life and struggle with addiction had, during her lifetime, been reduced to gossip and tabloid fodder. Gay-Rees also worked on the 2010 documentary Senna which followed the Brazilian Formula 1racer Ayrton Senna, who died tragically in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. The film also followed his rivalry with Alain Prost, a fellow Formula 1 driver.
  3. The Kyza Reimagines Mercedes’ 190 EVO II As a Modern-Day Restomod A month ago, world-renowned concept artist Khyzyl Saleem was tapped by Hagerty to produce a ten-part video series called Rendered in which the London-based designer gives viewers an inside look at his digital design and creation process. The latest installment in the series sees the Kyza bestow his signature style upon the thoroughly iconic 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5 16 Evolution II. Taking inspiration from other high-performance modernized classics like Automobili Amos’ Lancia Delta Integrale Futurista, the aim of the project was to deliver a resto-modded version of the AMG car. Created using Autodesk 3ds Max, the donor has been treated to Saleem’s typically-slammed stance and widebody-style aero kit, which now boasts massively flared fenders, an extended rear wing, a completely reworked front-end with an exposed radiator, and a slew of exposed carbon exterior trim and aero kit elements. One of the most noteworthy and transformative aspects of the build is the fact that Saleem has redesigned the MB donor as a two-door model. The build has also been outfitted with a modernized, LED-equipped set of square headlights, a central-exiting dual-exhaust flanked by rear diffusers on either side, and a bespoke-designed set of wheels based on the stock rims used on the original 190 EVO II. Alongside getting a pair of race seats, the interior has also been treated to a full roll-cage. The final step in the EVO III’s creation was applying its digital paint job — an ultra-clean race livery done up in the colors of the Petronas-AMG Formula 1 team. Like many of the restomods that inspired it, the Kyza’s latest work is hugely transformative, though leaves little to no doubt as to the original model that the render is based on. Saleem will continue debuting all-new projects each week on Hagerty’s Rendered series for the next six weeks.
  4. CASA VEGA Founded by Rafael "Ray" Vega — his parents founders of Cafe Caliente — Casa Vega has been serving up some of the San Fernando Valley's best Mexican food and drinks since 1956. This rich tradition is being honored this year with an America's Classics Award from the James Beard Foundation. In addition to the delicious fare, the restaurant's time-capsule interior, including the tufted red leather booths, has played host to countless celebrities, notably making a boozy appearance in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Now run by Rafael's daughter Christina "Christy" Vega, it's a must-visit stop for locals and out-of-towners alike. VISIT CASA VEGA
  5. Don’t Read This Unless You Have $10,000 to Spend on Whiskey Even though I write about booze for a living, every time I go into a liquor store, I’m shocked by how much prices have increased during the past decade. What once was an affordable luxury is quickly becoming an unaffordable luxury. What has driven this price inflation? Some of this is an issue of supply and demand. There is a fixed supply (whiskey requires years of aging before its mature) and demand has increased as there is now a much broader appreciation of the category. I would also argue that there is now an incredible force from the top down. During the last decade, the top shelf has reached meteoric heights. There are now bottles of super-old whiskies that fetch tens of thousands of dollars. And so, if a 50-year-old Scotch sells for $25,000, well, $150 for the 12-year-old version almost starts to look like a downright bargain. But what are those $25,000—and up!—whiskies really like? How can they possibly be worth the money? And how can a whiskey age that long without tasting like wood? Whiskies this old don’t come with just an age and a whopping price tag, like all ultra-premium spirits some of their appeal is in their fascinating back story. Whiskey is a spirit that moves through time, creating a remarkable provenance in its wake and provides modern drinkers with a taste of liquid history. Read on to learn more about this new generation of incredibly expensive whiskies. Midleton’s Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection Chapter Two Irish Whiskey Midleton’s Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection Chapter Two bottling is a 46-year-old Irish single pot still whiskey put together by Kevin O’Gorman, the master distiller at Irish Distillers. This past spring there were just 70 bottles of this special whiskey released worldwide. (There will be approximately that many bottles in the Chapter Three release later this year.) There was, as I wrote this, one left for sale at the distillery, for a price of €40,000 (about $45,000). The Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection is a series of six whiskies, all different, from the Old Midleton distillery, which was decommissioned in 1975. (Collectors love to buy whiskies that were produced by now defunct distilleries!) O’Gorman paid tribute to the master distillers that came before him and who laid down and shepherded these whiskies: Max Crockett, who started at Old Midleton in 1946 and distilled the actual spirit; his son Barry Crockett, literally born on the distillery grounds, who transferred the whiskey to a series of bourbon, sherry and port casks; and Brian Nation, who oversaw the whiskey’s final aging in a bourbon barrel. You may not think of Irish whiskey when you think of ultra-aged whiskey—I didn’t, except for the early Knappogue Castle releases 20 years ago—but O’Gorman says that will change. “The Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection is untouched in terms of age in Ireland and moves MVR and indeed Irish whiskey further into ultra-age statement whiskey,” he said. “Distilled during a time of great uncertainty for the Irish whiskey industry, this collection will open the door for other luxury Irish whiskies to follow.” Glen Grant 60-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky Luxury Irish whiskey certainly follows in the footsteps of Scotch, which has pushed the boundaries of aging whisky beyond what was thought possible. So, I was very excited to taste the recently released Glen Grant 60-Year-Old Single Malt in a Zoom session with legendary master distiller, Dennis Malcolm, OBE. Malcolm started working at the distillery as an assistant cooper in 1961, the year this whisky was made. He’s moved around a bit, but the whisky has spent the last 60 years in a single oloroso sherry butt that’s sat undisturbed in a quiet warehouse in Scotland. That’s a large part of why the whisky could go that long. “We always felt the cask was very important,” Malcolm said. “When I was a young cooper’s apprentice, the cooper would have us unbung each new cask and blow into it, to smell the cask. Every cask is still nosed, so you put good whisky in good wood.” The “butt” part is important as well, since it held around 500 liters, as compared to the 240 liters of a typical hogshead barrel or 200 liters of a typical used bourbon barrel. A jumbo cask has a few advantages: the rate of aging is slower, since there is less wood contact, and there is less overall evaporation. At 60 years old, the single malt was beguilingly fresh and unburdened by the heavy, astringent oak that overtakes so many older whiskies. Some of that was because of the cask, Malcolm said, while some of it was down to the exceptionally light spirit distilled at Glen Grant in the 1960s. But there is a price for such a unique whisky €25,000 ($28,000) and there were just 360 bottles for the world. 51-Year-Old Royal Salute Time Series II Blended Scotch Whisky While most of the extremely old and extremely expensive Scotches are single malts, there is also the 51-year-old Royal Salute Time Series II Blended Scotch Whisky ($30,000). Royal Salute goes back to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Sam Bronfman, the co-founder and head of Seagram’s (once a huge drinks company), decided, in the words of Royal Salute master blender Sandy Hyslop, “to make an absolutely fabulous whisky for the queen’s coronation. It was so well received that it became a permanent bottling. And it’s never been sold at less than 21 years.” The Time Series II adds 30 years to the brand’s standard age. Hyslop and his team literally built the entire blend in their blending room and hand filled 101 beautiful blue bottles. The packaging of the Scotch reflects that rarity. “It’s quite something to have in the Darlington crystal flask, and the oak box of five layers of wood to note the five decades,” he said. When Hyslop learned that I’d never tasted Royal Salute before, he warned me, teasingly, that once I’d had it, I’d have to have more, and there’s something to that. This is a blend of layered, reverential depth, a whisky that absolutely rewards slowing down and doing nothing but enjoying the moment. I may well be hooked. Yamazaki 55-Year-Old Japanese Whisky If we’re going to get personal, there’s something truly singular about the Yamazaki 55-Year-Old. It’s not that it’s the oldest Japanese whisky ever bottled, or that there are only 100 bottles of it, priced at $60,000 each. This bottle contains whiskies laid down under the supervision of Shinjiro Torii, the man who started the revered Japanese whisky company in the early 1920s. I talked to the Yamazaki senior brand ambassador, Gardner Dunn, about why these whiskies aged so long. “I think any distillery will put aside barrels to see how far it can go,” he said. “It’s the blender’s dream: how far can we take this?” The Yamazaki 55-Year-Old has an ace in the hole in that game—mizunara oak, a Japanese species that is incredibly rare. Out of the tens of thousands of whisky casks laid down each year at Yamazaki, perhaps just 130 will be made from mizunara oak. Mizunara also doesn’t express its character best until the whisky has aged 20 years or more, when its signature sandalwood notes emerge. Yamazaki distillers first used the mizunara when they couldn’t get American or Spanish oak in the mid-20th century. “It was kind of cast aside, because after year and year it wasn’t giving the yield they wanted,” Dunn said, paraphrasing what he’d been told by the company’s blenders. “They forgot about the barrels. Then in 1986, they stumbled on them, and by then it was 25 to 30 years old. It was an epiphany. They started researching it and using barrels and waiting for it to mature.” One of those early barrels is the core of the 55-year-old. They took a mizunara cask from 1960 and combined it with whisky distilled in 1964 that was aged in a used bourbon barrel. The blend of whiskies and oak species balances the two influences. Again, it’s quite a story. Michter’s 25-Year-Old Bourbon The youngest whiskey in this generation of well-aged bottles is only 25 years old, but in bourbon years, that’s reaching the far end of the scale. Michter’s only releases a 25-year-old bottling when it has whiskey good enough to declare a vintage. The current bottling came out in 2020; the last one before that was in 2017. And before that? 2008! Michter’s is open about the fact that this whiskey was bought from another distillery; their own Shively, Kentucky, distillery only started production in 2012. And Michter’s has consistently impressed me in finding and bottling excellent whiskies. But a 25-year-old bourbon? “To find 25-year-bourbon nowadays in Kentucky is extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible,” said Michter’s president Joe Magliocco. Bourbon of this age has never been common—it just evaporates too fast and what’s left is often undrinkably woody. “We have a protocol aimed at ensuring that our older offerings are not overly woody,” said Magliocco. “When barrels turn about 15 years old, our Master Distiller Dan McKee and Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson sample them more frequently. If Dan and Andrea feel that a particular 19-year-old barrel is at its peak and will decline in quality with further aging, they stop the aging. They don’t keep it in the wood barrel just because it would be nice to have more 20-year or more 25-year to sell. So, we just don’t know years in advance when the next Michter’s 25-year-old bourbon release will be.” I can tell you it will be worth the wait; the 25-year-old is exceptional, deep and rich, with spicy notes of cinnamon, allspice and luscious vanilla, but still some crisply acidic berry to keep it lively. You’ll have to make your own decision on whether it’s worth the money. Listed at $1,000 suggested retail when it came out in November of 2020, bottles now are running around $10,000 and up. Gordon & MacPhail 80-Year-Old Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whisky The oldest bottle currently available, and one of the very oldest whiskies ever offered for sale by the bottle, is the Gordon & MacPhail 80-Year-Old Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch. This venerable independent bottler—which still operates its grocery store in Elgin, Scotland, with a treasure room of rare whiskies—has a tradition of bottling extremely old Scotches, and this is perhaps the pinnacle of their craft. I’m afraid I may have slightly upset Gordon & MacPhail’s director of prestige Stephen Rankin by asking if the Glenlivet had reached 80 years of age accidentally, by being “forgotten,” as is often the questionable story of such whiskies. “It was certainly not an error,” he said. “George Urquhart and his father, John, had the extraordinary foresight and vision to lay down spirit from Glenlivet distillery in a bespoke Gordon & MacPhail cask to be enjoyed after his lifetime by future generations.” Then Rankin laid down the details in an astounding manner; talk about a story. On February 3, 1940, “the spirit from the Glenlivet distillery was filled into Gordon & MacPhail’s own cask,” he said. “The cask was made in Jerez by Williams & Humbert. It initially held mosto (freshly pressed grape juice), then sobretables (new wine post fermentation) before being emptied and filled with mature sherry for bottling in the U.K. [It was] a first fill sherry butt, made of American oak. This cask has been carefully nurtured by the experts at Gordon & MacPhail for 80 years before being bottled.” It reveals an incredible amount of focus to have filled a cask with new make spirit in February of 1940 in Scotland. There were a few other things going on that month; on that same day, for instance, the first German war plane was shot down over England. There were 250 bottles of this limited single malt, but most of them were snapped up pre-release by deep-pocketed collectors (and investors, one assumes). There are still a “very limited” number of decanters available at the Gordon & MacPhail store in Elgin; the price is £80,000 (about $108,000). “Urquharts’ passionate belief that each cask he filled needed to be left to reach its full potential, undeterred by commercial pressures. Only when the whisky was deemed ready should it be shared,” explained Rankin. And if you do have the wherewithal to purchase one of these incredibly expensive bottles, keep that in mind whiskey is always best—not neat, or with a few drops of water, or with ice—when it is shared with friends.
  6. Here’s How to Preorder a Steam Deck in Australia, if You’re Game Valve’s Steam Deck set the internet on fire when it was announced in July — but you could only hear a low moan from disappointed Australians. But if you want to roll the dice with Valve’s handheld console and international shipping, here’s how you can go about preordering a Steam Deck in Australia. Remember, the Steam Deck isn’t technically available in Australia. When you go to the reservations page, you’ll find a lovely message stating the console isn’t available in your region and you won’t be able to place a preorder. But if you’re using a VPN, you should be able to remove those nasty barriers. Steam Deck release date After delays (mostly due to that whole global chip shortage thing) the Steam Deck is set to release on February 25 for a few markets (the U.S., UK, Canada, Germany and France), with initial preorder models being sent to early purchasers on around February 28. The next drop of orders is expected shortly after that. Valve has outlined some rough estimates as to when you can expect the Steam Deck in other markets, but it’s basically “after Q2 2022”. Sorry Australia, we don’t have an exact region release date for the Steam Deck just yet. But…..Here’s how to preorder the Steam Deck from Australia if you’re really keen to get your hands on a device (when it finally arrives in the U.S.). How to preorder the Steam Deck if you live in Australia The first thing you’ll need to place a Steam Deck preorder within Australia is a VPN. While the preorder page does show up without one, you won’t be able to place an order locally until the Steam page recognises you’re in an eligible location. According to testing by Streaming Rant and How To Watch, the best VPN services for accessing overseas content in Australia are: NordVPN, Surfshark, PureVPN and ExpressVPN. They each costs between $4 and $12 a month (or less for a yearly subscription) and you’ll be able to use them to access other services as well, including the hearty library of American Netflix. If you’ve never used a VPN before, it’ll basically ‘trick’ websites into believing your device is located anywhere in the world you choose. Select an American VPN location, and the Steam Deck preorder page should unlock for you. You might also have to update the home country of your Steam account to the United States, like Aussies had to do when they wanted to get the Valve Index early. (Steam has a FAQ on how to change your home country here.) When your update the account, Steam will ask you for an address from your account’s new country — which you’ll get from the next step. Because the Steam Deck still only ships to the United States, Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom, you can’t ship your console directly to Australia. Instead, you’ll want to send it to a friend in one these locations or use a mail forwarding service like ShopMate or Shipito. These services allow you to purchase goods and send them to a provided overseas address, where they’ll be shipped directly to you. ShopMate will give you a US-based address, and that’s what you’ll want to put into Steam when updating your home country. To get your Steam Deck in Australia, you’ll also need a local payment service for the United States, too. The best option is a U.S. prepaid card provider. US Unlocked is one service you can use, but note you’ll have to cop additional fees upon setting up. You may also need a US-based phone number too for registration. OpenPhone is a good option that you can link into your existing devices, as is MightyCall. Both have trial periods you can use, although you will have to pay if you want to keep the phone number active until you get your Steam Deck. Major factors to consider when importing the Steam Deck There’s a couple of unknowns about the Steam Deck you should familiarise yourself with before you run off to grab one. Namely, you need to consider the power issues you may run into, as well as compatibility issues with your Steam account. Power adaptors and voltage The first issue you’ll run into with ordering a Steam Deck from the U.S. is your charger will likely be a a two-pronged North American power cord, rather than a local Aussie one. A converter will be needed for a quick fix — but it’s not as simple as grabbing any old one off eBay. Australian power outlets are designed to deliver 230 volts of energy, while U.S. outlets deliver just 120 volts. Using a basic converter with your U.S. Steam Deck could overload and overheat your console if used in Australia, an outcome you’ll definitely want to avoid. You’ll have to purchase a voltage converter to be on the safe side, but it will add bulk to your charging set-up. In better news, the Steam Deck does appear to have an alternative USB-C option for charging — and while we haven’t seen exactly how this’ll work, it should be an easy plug-and-play fit. We’ll have to stay tuned to the console’s release to know more about how the charging will actually work, and whether the U.S. power plug system will actually be a challenge. Store compatibility Another thing you’ll need to consider is your imported Steam Deck will likely run on the U.S. version of the Steam store, not the Australia one. So if you want to buy anything from the Steam store, you’ll need a payment method that works in the United States. Steam, however, says you can update your store country multiple times “as long as you use a payment method that matches your Steam country setting” — so you’ll have to follow the steps above if you want to buy games in Aussie dollars. It pales in comparison to the power issue but it’s something you should still think about. Waiting until the Steam Deck launches in Australia? This is definitely a good option that clears everything up we talked about above. We don’t want to get your hopes up, but it’s important to add a few dollars to the conversion from USD to AUD when considering how much the Steam Deck will set you back. We go into it in a bit more detail over here, but here’s the gist. Steam Deck estimated cost: The cheapest option is $US399 (converted, that’s around $555), packed with 64GB eMMC internal storage and a carrying case. The mid-range model is $US529 (around the $740 mark, straight conversion), packing 256GB SSD internal storage, a carrying case and a Steam Community profile bundle (for your Steam profile). Finally, the most expensive model is $US649 (converted, the price for the top-tier Steam Deck is $903, so likely tipping $1,000), complete with 512GB NVME storage capacity, anti-glare etched glass, an “exclusive” carrying case, an exclusive steam community profile bundle and an exclusive virtual keyboard theme.
  7. Disturbing Video of Hundreds of Blackbirds Crashing Into the Ground Not as Weird as You Think A security camera in Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, Mexico, captured some unsettling footage last week: A huge flock of yellow-throated blackbirds crashing out of the sky. Plenty of the birds got back up, but many others appeared to die in the event, which is just the latest in a longstanding pattern of bird die-offs. The footage was taken in the early morning on February 7, according to the local media outlet El Hierro de Chihuahua, and was verified by the fact-checking website Snopes. It first shows an empty city street, which is then blotted out by a huge bird flock, which slams into the cityscape from above. The birds blanket the area and scatter across the street, and many return to the sky. But many others remain motionless on the ground. The birds in the video are yellow-headed blackbirds (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus), a migratory species that ranges from Mexico to the upper reaches of Canada. The blackbirds aren’t the first birds to do this: similar events happened in 2011, 2013, and 2021. Last year’s event, in New York City, had an obvious cause: Artificial Light at Night (ALAN), which can disorient migratory birds that use the stars to navigate. A lit-up city of glassy skyscrapers is a terrible trap for birds. But Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, isn’t exactly New York City. Experts aren’t sure what caused the recent event, though there are many theories. Andrew Farnsworth, an ornithologist at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, told Gizmodo that, based on the video’s timing, the birds may have been leaving their nocturnal roost and beginning their diurnal activities. A possible cause of the dive-bombing behaviour, he said, is that the population was startled by either a predator or a loud noise. Many bird species perform intricate, coordinated flying manoeuvres called “murmurations,” sometimes to disorient and thereby deter predators. “It is hard to say but from the video it looks like something really startled/surprised the flock, such as a predator, and caused the flock to take evasive action, with some hitting the ground and nearby structures,” said Martha Desmond, an ornithologist at New Mexico State University, in an email to Gizmodo. “While this can be shocking to see, these events do occur — just usually not caught on camera.” As upsetting as these events are, it’s important to keep the numbers in perspective. Bird die-offs like the one in Mexico are dwarfed by the harm caused by humankind. “The greatest threats to migratory and migrating birds in North America include habitat loss and change, feral cats, collisions with buildings and other structures (and vehicles), and poisoning, for example, many potentially exacerbated by climate change,” Farnsworth said. A 2019 study in Science found that there were 3 billion fewer birds in North American than in 1970, a 30% loss. With such alarmingly drastic population changes, it’s hard to see a single mass death event in Mexico as anything but an unfortunate blip for a class of animals currently undergoing mass extinction.
  8. Jack Nicholson's DCEU Joker Return Should Copy Burton's Forgotten Batman Sequel If Jack Nicholson's Joker ever returned to the DCEU, it could follow the story of the forgotten comic sequel to Tim Burton's Batman 1989. If Jack Nicholson's Joker ever returned to the DCEU, his story could copy the forgotten comic sequel to Tim Burton's Batman. Jack Nicholson was perfect casting for Joker in Batman '89, but many other actors were considered. Everyone from Tim Curry - who almost voiced Batman: TAS' Joker - to John Lithgow and Robin Williams were up for the role until Nicholson eventually closed his deal. Some critics may have accused the actor of going too over the top with his performance, but Nicholson would later counter by stating The Joker had no top. Jack Nicholson's Joker remains one of superhero cinema's most famous bad guys, with the star leaving an unforgettable mark on the character. He was also extremely well-compensated, as he had a cut of Batman's gross and merchandise and is said to have made close to $100 million off the blockbuster. There was a plan for Nicholson to cameo in Batman Unchained, the planned fifth outing that would have followed 1997's Batman & Robin. This Jack Nicholson's Joker would have been a hallucination brought on by the Scarecrow's fear toxin, but the project was later scrapped. Batman '89 was produced before long-running franchises and multi-film arcs were thought out by studios. That's likely why Jack Nicholson's Joker is definitively dead by the time the movie ends, having fallen to his death from Gotham City Cathedral. Little thought was given to Nicholson returning outing of the Batman Unchained cameo, and given that the star retired following 2010's How Do You Know, the odds of him reappearing in the DCEU are low. However, if Nicholson's Joker ever returned to the DCEU, The Daily Batman comic strip - which is a largely forgotten sequel to Tim Burton's Batman - could provide the template for his comeback. The Daily Batman is a comic strip that ran from 1989 to 1991 and opens with a recap of Burton's Batman - whose original treatment was very different - ending where the Caped Crusader defeated Jack Nicholson's Joker. This comic plays out like something of an Elsewheress take on the movie, which introduces takes on Catwoman - who is a murderous vigilante - and the Penguin that are entirely different from how Tim Burton's Batman Returns would portray them. The Daily Batman also revealed Joker didn't die in his fall, and instead fell into Gotham bay. He later reemerged in a story arc involving the Red Hood Gang, which involved some of Gotham's elite forming a fascist group intended to spread chaos with the intent of forcing the city to adopt a harsher approach to crime. It's also revealed Joker is the Red Hood, which is a callback to his comic alias. With Keaton's Batman comeback in the DCEU with The Flash, their door is open somewhat for Jack Nicholson's Joker to return also. Some slight retconning could reveal he either did land in the bay or faked his death - which wouldn't be the most outlandish thing the villain has ever done - before teasing him as the potential leader of the Red Hood gang who is sowing discord among Gotham. The Joker trail arc of The Daily Batman was one of its best and made Gotham and its citizens part of the story. Of course, the big question is if Jack Nicholson, who is currently in his 80s, would be interested in making any kind of acting comeback, even for a role he loved. A DCEU appearance by Jack Nicholson's Joker would be a major deal, and this largely-forgotten comic sequel to Burton's Batman '89 - which almost had a Robin cameo - lays the foundation for how that could work. The odds of Joker appearing in the likes of The Flash or Batgirl feel remote, but it must be a thought in the back of some studio executive's mind.
  9. The Amount of Work That Went Into This Pinball Machine Coffee Table Conversion Is Staggering The sounds, the lights, and even the satisfying feel of the flipper in action easily explain why pinball remains popular to this day. But like Adrian Atwood, few of us have the room for a full-size pinball machine at home. Atwood’s solution was to convert an old table into a double-duty coffee table, and as impressive as the results are, the work that went into the conversion is unbelievable. If you’re going to spend months modifying, upgrading, and repurposing a pinball machine, the hardest part is undoubtedly the very first step: deciding what pinball machine to use. Atwood chose Centaur, a 1980 solid-state table from Bally featuring horror-themed graphics and gameplay that centered around destroying a half-man-half-motorcycle centaur. Sealing the deal was the fact that Centaur used a TMS5000 speech synthesis chip from Texas Instruments, which was very similar to the chip that powered the popular talking Speak & Spell toy. Turning a pinball machine into a coffee table isn’t as easy as it sounds. The game’s vertical backboard had to be eliminated, which required a bunch of electronics to be relocated, and the addition of extra screens squeezed around the playfield for displaying high scores and other, more advanced functionality Atwood added. Pinball machines are also fundamentally gravity-powered, but a coffee table with an angled top would send coffee cups and TV remotes sliding off onto the floor. So Atwood built an entirely custom cabinet with an electronic lift powered by linear actuators that elevate the pinball playfield at one end. They went one step further and even added a dial that players can use to adjust the exact angle of the table, allowing for increased difficulty the steeper the angle gets. The 15-minute build video goes into a lot of detail about all of the electronic repairs and upgrades the table needed to both work as well as it did the day it left the Bally factory, but to also work with more modern upgrades like OLED screens. But if you really want to dig into all of the work Atwood had to do, the build is detailed on their website as well for those obsessed with pinball enough to do their own coffee table conversion.
  10. Record-Breaking 17.68 m Rogue Wave Detected Off Vancouver Island A simulated view of the rogue wave, showing the sensor buoy as tracks the passing swell A 17.68 m-tall wall of water that appeared off Vancouver Island in 2020 is among the largest rogue waves ever recorded, and it’s the very largest in terms of its proportion to surrounding waves, according to scientists. New research in Scientific Reports describes the gigantic wave, which appeared off the coast of Ucluelet, British Columbia, on November 17, 2020. The rogue wave reached 17.68 m tall — a height equal to a four-story building. “Proportionally, the Ucluelet wave is likely the most extreme rogue wave ever recorded,” Johannes Gemmrich, the first author of the study and a research physicist at the University of Victoria, said in a statement. He added that the “probability of such an event occurring is once in 1,300 years.” The size of this wave is downright terrifying and further evidence that suddenly appearing towers of water are more than just mariners’ tales. Rogue waves are like normal waves, except they’re more than twice the height of surrounding waves. Despite names like “freak waves” and “killer waves,” these swells are normal oceanic phenomena, though their cause remains poorly understood. They’re likely churned into existence by a variety of factors, such as wind speed, wind direction, water depth, and characteristics having to do with the seafloor. Rogue waves are not to be confused with tsunamis, which tend to be generated by massive displacements of water due to earthquakes, landslides, or volcanic eruptions. “Only a few rogue waves in high sea states have been observed directly, but they can pose a danger to marine operations, onshore and offshore structures, and beachgoers,” the scientists write in their study. No doubt, the unpredictable nature and power of these mountain-like waves make them especially perilous. The first rogue wave was detected off the coast of Norway on New Year’s Day in 1995 and given the name “Draupner.” It measured 25.6 metres high, making it taller than the Ucluelet wave. What makes Ucluelet a record-breaker is that it was three times as tall as the surrounding waves, whereas Draupner was just over twice as tall. Scientists have recorded a smattering of other rogue waves, including “Andrea” (2007) and “Killard” (2015), but this plus-sized type of wave probably appears more often than we think — we just don’t know about them. The monster wave was detected by a 1-metre buoy floating 45 metres above the Pacific seafloor. Victoria-based MarineLabs Data Systems placed its CoastScout sensor buoy — currently one of 26 buoys positioned strategically along coastlines and oceans around North America — at Amphitrite Bank some 7 km from the Vancouver Island shore. “The unpredictability of rogue waves, and the sheer power of these ‘walls of water’ can make them incredibly dangerous to marine operations and the public,” Scott Beatty, MarineLabs CEO, said in the statement. “The potential of predicting rogue waves remains an open question, but our data is helping to better understand when, where and how rogue waves form, and the risks that they pose.” MarineLabs plans to increase its fleet to 70 buoys by the end of 2022, which should dramatically improve its monitoring capabilities. And thank goodness for that. There’s still much to learn about these gigantic, and dangerous, swells.
  11. Drought Exposes an Underwater ‘Ghost’ Village in Spain In Spain, a modern-day Atlantis has become visible — and it’s a particularly depressing sign of climate change. In 1992, the Spanish village of Aceredo, located in the northwestern region of the country on the border with Portugal, was flooded to create the Alto Lindoso reservoir. It’s not uncommon that the reservoir, which is home to a 630-megawatt hydropower plant, drops to levels low enough that some roofs and trees from the old town are visible. But this winter, during a normally wet season, the reservoir is at only 15% capacity, making water levels so low that the entire abandoned town is exposed — something that has never happened before. Tourists and locals alike have been able to walk through what remains of Aceredo. ‘I Have a Feeling of Sadness’ The roof of an old house, submerged three decades ago when a hydropower dam flooded the valley. It has reappeared due to drought at the Lindoso reservoir. “It’s as if I’m watching a movie. I have a feeling of sadness,” 65-year-old Maximino Perez Romero, who lives in the city of A Coruña, told Reuters. “My feeling is that this is what will happen over the years due to drought and all that, with climate change.” Droughts Now Happening More Frequently Boxes with old bottles of beers are photographed outside a store at the old village of Aceredo Droughts are becoming more frequent thanks to climate change. In a bombshell report issued last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that extreme droughts that used to happen once a decade are occurring much more frequently. Spain’s Wet Season Is Very Dry This Year Spain is in the middle of a worryingly dry and hot winter, which is usually a wet season in the country — about 75% of Spain’s yearly rainfall total falls between October and April. The country’s meteorological agency said that it has rained 36% less than average since October. Last month, meanwhile, was one of the driest Januarys on record, with the average daily high hitting 2.1 degrees Celsius hotter than usual for the month. ‘Part of the Context of Climate Change’ An old house, submerged three decades ago when a hydropower dam flooded the valley. Over the border, Portugal is also going through extreme conditions: 45% of the country was under extreme or severe drought conditions at the end of January, the national weather agency said. “It’s part of the context of climate change,” Portuguese climatologist Vanda Pires told EuroNews of the drought in the region. Some Reservoirs in Trouble A house of the old village of Aceredo. Spain’s reservoirs overall are 44% full, officials say — significantly lower than the 61% average of the past 10 years, but higher than levels seen during Spain’s 2018 drought. But rainfall has been hitting the country unevenly, with some regions seeing far less rain than others. In the fall, officials issued a drought declaration for the Andalusia region, which sits at Spain’s southern tip on the Mediterranean. The Guadalquivir reservoir in Andalusia is at just 29% of its total capacity. A Parched View From Space This satellite photo shows the Almendra reservoir, which sits in the western part of Spain on the border of Portugal. This reservoir, which is the third-largest in Spain, is currently at less than 40% of its capacity. Some Possible Water Overuse The drought and lack of rainfall may not be the only reason the reservoir’s levels are so low. Maria del Carmen Yanez, a local official in the area, told Reuters that part of the blame for the low water levels rests with Portuguese power utility EDP, which runs the reservoir and hydropower plant. Yanez said there had been “quite aggressive exploitation” of the water resources by EDP. ‘It’s So Sad’ “The whole place used to be all vineyards, orange trees. It was all green. It was beautiful,” former resident José Luis Penín, 72, told Euro News. “Look at it now. It’s so sad.”
  12. American Southwest Is Experiencing Its Worst Megadrought Since 800 AD The brutal American Southwest megadrought responsible for conjuring up these horrific images of dried-up lakes and reservoirs is officially one of the worst prolonged droughts in recorded human history, one built largely on the backs of human-induced climate change. That historic drought now ranks as the driest 22-year period dating back at least 1,200 years with the closest comparable drought taking place about half a millennia ago according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change this week. The findings pointed to an exceptionally dry 2021 as being primarily responsible for pushing this recent stretch of time up and above the next driest period, which occurred in the late 1500s. The drought’s geographical boundaries reportedly stretch from Montana to northern Mexico and between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky mountains. “This represents the largest SWNA [southwestern North America] area to experience a top-five 22-yr drought-severity ranking in at least 1,200 years,” the study reads. The study’s lead researcher, University of California, Los Angeles bioclimatology Park Williams, reportedly looked at tree ring data dating back over a thousand years to 800 AD. Williams found just four other megadroughts within that time span. Meanwhile, 2002 marked the second driest year during that time span, according to the data, only trailing behind 1580. Though the 2002 findings were surprising on their own, William told the Associated Press he was shocked to find a “statistical tie” in drought level less than 20 years later in 2021. The study’s authors reportedly created a hypothetical world with no human-induced warming based on 29 models to suss out just how large a role humans played in the recent drought. In the end, the study directly attributed 42% of drought conditions to human-caused warming. Park had previously investigated the long-term data through 2018. At that time, the researchers had speculated the drought could have subsided by 2019 only to find dry conditions return and intensify over the course of the next two years. Unsettlingly, the researchers believe recent data suggests the drought may be far from over. “From summer 2020 through all of 2021, it was just exceptionally dry across the West,” Williams told NPR. “Indicating that this drought is nowhere near done.” The study comes on the heels of a year marked by record low water levels at both Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the two largest reservoirs in the U.S. Those are troubling realities for a region, now populated by millions of inhabitants, who are facing drought levels last seen hundreds of years prior to the industrial revolution.
  13. I'll be on and off still my friend, needed a break away from it all after so many years. Good to see you and others haven't forgotten me. Thank you for the welcome.
  14. WHISTLEPIG PIGGYBACK DEVIL'S SLIDE RYE NON-WHISKEY Dry January can seem extra long for whiskey lovers. Instead of waiting until February, March or any month really, for an Old Fashioned fix, WhistlePig created PiggyBack Devil's Slide Rye Non-Whiskey. It's made with 100% rye that's matured for six years, then undistilled to remove the alcohol but leave the flavor. The resulting drink has the same familiar notes as the real stuff, and is ready to be enjoyed neat or mixed into a mocktail. 100% of the proceeds go to benefit the United States Bartenders' Guild National Charity Foundation.
  15. SPIDER-MAN MARVEL COMICS LIBRARY: VOL. 1 / $200 Superheroes were nothing new in 1962 when Stan Lee first pitched Spider-Man to his boss, who argued against the idea, citing spiders, a teenage lead, and his loner persona as strikes against it. Finally allowing him to appear in the already-cancelled Amazing Fantasy, Spidey immediately shot to the top of the best-seller list. Six decades, multiple films, and countless issues later, the character is among the most recognizable in pop culture. Spider-Man Marvel Comics Library: Vol. 1 celebrates the neighborhood web-slinger with a reprinting of his first 21 stories, originally published between 1962 and 1964 and featuring iconic villains such as the Green Goblin, Mysterio, and Doctor Octopus. More than a simple reprint, each page was photographed as it looked decades ago, then digitally remastered and printed on three different paper stocks developed specifically to simulate the feel of the originals. Hardcover / 11" x 15.6" / 10.62 lbs. / 698 pages
  16. LOUIS VUITTON TAMBOUR HORIZON LIGHT UP CONNECTED WATCH Offering a decidedly different look than any other smartwatch, Louis Vuitton's Tambour Horizon Light Up blends luxury with tech. Its 44mm stainless steel case comes in polished, matte black, or matte brown finishes, and is topped with a piece of sapphire glass that covers both the always-on 1.2-inch round AMOLED screen and a ring of 24 trefoil-styled LEDs around the edge that gives it a seamless appearance. Eight possible dials with eleven different gradient displays provide plenty of customization options, as do the interchangeable straps in either leather or Monogram canvas.
  17. JOHN WILKES BOOTH'S SWAGGER STICK On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot and killed President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. When described on the day of the assassination, witnesses said "he held the reins of his gallant steed gathered firmly in his left hand, while in his right he carried a gold-mounted whip, seemingly more for ornament than use." The item alleged is the actor's ornate swagger stick. The 28-inch cane features a black wooden replacement shaft with a gold-plated handle in the shape of a horse's hind leg. It's engraved "Neal Bryant to J. W. Booth." and was said to have been one of his prized possessions, having appeared in eleven different photographs of the assassin. A historic artifact, the item is currently up for auction. $50K+
  18. RESTAURANT KAMAKURA VILLAGE Located in Japan's Nagano Prefecture, Kamakura Village has used its snowy landscapes to create a unique dining experience for tourists. The pop-up eatery serves guests lunch and dinner in 20 private snow huts. Inside, visitors can enjoy Noroshi Nabe, a centuries-old hot pot made from Shinshu Miso, Miyuki Pork, and locally grown mushrooms and vegetables, including honshimeji, enoki, and king trumpet. The property also hosts a Shinto Shrine housing a divine rope called a Shimenawa used to ward off evil, and an offering box. The Restaurant Kamakura Village is open until February 27, 2022.
  19. 1967 TOYOTA-SHELBY 2000 GT COUPE One of the most influential Japanese cars in history, the Toyota 2000 GT is highly sought-after, with only 351 ever built, and roughly 60 of those exported to the US. Even among those, this is a special example. The first serial-numbered 2000 GT chassis, MF10-10001, was completed on September 27, 1966, and was originally finished in Solar Red. In a bid to enter SCCA C-Production racing, Toyota handed it and two other examples over to Carroll Shelby and his team, who plussed the cars with exhaust, brake, wheel, and suspension upgrades, and also added a roll bar, racing harnesses, and a Ferrari-style gated shifter. The other two examples were used as the primary racing cars, while MF10-10001 was the backup, thus seeing less wear and tear. In 1980 it was purchased by a noted 2000 GT specialist, who spent over a decade giving the vehicle a complete body-off restoration, bringing it back to its original 1968 SCCA configuration complete with its historic white and metallic blue racing livery. With such a rare provenance, and in pristine condition, it's one of — if not the — most desirable 2000 GTs on the planet. BID NOW / $2,750,000+
  20. In the 1800s, Valentine’s Meant a Bottle of Meat Juice An act of love in the form of a medicinal tonic. IN RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, A MUSEUM simply known as The Valentine tells the story of the city’s 400-year past. Set in a beautiful neoclassical building that dates to 1812, it was founded on the fortune one man made from his meat juice—which is exactly what it sounds like. Before it became a museum, The Valentine was the home of dry goods merchant Mann S. Valentine II. In the fall of 1870, Valentine’s wife Anne Maria fell ill, apparently suffering from a “severe and protracted derangement of the organs of digestion,” as Valentine later wrote. Doctors had given up hope of curing her, and Valentine himself had been holed up in their basement for weeks. But when Valentine emerged from the basement, he brought with him a potential cure that he’d cooked up. Knowing that Anne Maria couldn’t stomach solid food, but that she was in desperate need of nutrients, Valentine had concocted a tonic from beef juice and egg whites. The tonic was more effective than beef broth, he reasoned, because boiling meat for broth alters its proteins and leaves it “impaired in value.” By gently cooking the beef at a low temperature and then pressure-cooking it, he extracted juice from the meat that retained more of its nutritional value and “was acceptable to the most irritable stomach,” he wrote. Anne Maria and Mann S. Valentine II Valentine administered his tonic to Anne Maria, and in the following days, watched as she began to recover. Thrilled with his success, Valentine returned to his basement. He made more meat juice, sent samples off to doctors, and started to bottle and sell the tonic out of his home. Valentine’s Meat Juice company was born. “I have been using your ‘Meat Juice’ on different cases in this hospital,” one New York Surgeon wrote to Valentine. “It has more than answered my expectations. I find that patients improve rapidly in appetite and strength under its administration.” By 1874 Valentine had published a booklet filled with similar testimonials from doctors, who swore to its efficacy in curing everything from nausea to dysentery and cholera. Several doctors described administering Valentine’s Meat Juice to patients who refused any other form of nourishment, liquid or solid, and witnessing signs of recovery. “One of my patients, seriously ill with typhoid fever, was nourished exclusively by it for two weeks, and daily increased in strength from its use, until firmly convalescent,” wrote one Virginia physician. Valentine heavily marketed his Meat Juice. “I have found that this preparation stimulates the stomach when enfeebled from almost any cause, not only in dyspepsia and chronic gastritis, but in seasickness, the sickness of pregnancy, and such kindred complications,” another physician wrote. He claimed that he used the tonic by enema, to achieve better absorption, and found that it “exhibits its nutrient qualities in a remarkable degree.” Another doctor eagerly suggested that Valentine’s Meat Juice be used as a substitute for meals when necessary. “In the hurry of business … many young men are debarred from taking their meals at regular hours, and to remove a sense of hunger or exhaustion, they are led to the use, or abuse, of alcoholic stimulation.” Taking a dram of meat juice instead of whiskey, he wrote, would be far more nutritious and avoid “any of the pernicious effects of the latter.” By the late 1870s, Valentine’s Meat Juice had become one of the most popular and highly available patent medicines around the world. It was a top-selling product in American pharmacies and a fixture in many household medicine cabinets. “The Meat Juice was incredibly popular the first decade or so that it came out,” says Lauren Gleason, a historian at the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum in Alexandria, Virginia. “It was one of many pre-manufactured products that you could have bought at your average pharmacy in the late-19th century.” The interior of the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, where Meat Juice was once sold. The Apothecary Museum is the site of an original apothecary, or pharmacy, where Valentine’s Meat Juice was sold. Visitors often notice a small box in the museum’s collection that carries the Valentine’s Meat Juice label. “[The name] gets a good reaction out of visitors, which is fun,” Gleason says. “They’re like, ‘Ew, what’s that? That’s so gross.’” The preparation of Valentine’s Meat Juice, however, sounds almost savory. “Beef was pressure-cooked and strained to remove its juice, which was then boiled down into a concentrated liquid that was mixed with egg whites, later glycerin,” explains Meg Hughes, director of collections and chief curator at The Valentine. Patients were instructed to take one teaspoon of the protein-rich tonic diluted with two or three tablespoons of water (cold or lukewarm, but not hot). Many people also mixed it into soup or gruel, or if they had especially tender stomachs, into crushed ice. Valentine’s Meat Juice was sold in a tiny brown bottle with a distinctive pear shape. After it achieved commercial success, other companies came out with their own meat-juice knockoffs. To foil copycats, Valentine trademarked the design of his bottle and his logo, which, for unknown reasons, featured a bird’s nest. He also successfully sued a London company called the Valentine Extract Company of London, which manufactured “meat globules” (similar to bouillon cubes), over its name. Valentine was also a savvy marketer. He showed up with his meat juice at the International Exposition in Philadelphia, in 1876, determined to get greater visibility for his product. Two years later, he took it all the way to Europe for the Paris Exposition, where Meat Juice made a splash on the world stage. Back in the United States, Valentine’s Meat Juice saw another boost in popularity in 1881, after the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal reported that President James A. Garfield took two teaspoons of it with his midday meal while recovering from an assassination attempt. However, Garfield ultimately died from complications arising from the gunshot wound, more than two months after it had been inflicted. As for Valentine’s wife, Anne Maria, she lived for two more years after Valentine first revived her with his beef tonic. So did it actually play a role in her recovery that time? “Of course we can never know if her husband’s tonic was actually effective, but I have to think that the dose of iron Anne Maria ingested in the meat juice could have been beneficial,” says Hughes. The 1800s, when Valentine’s Meat Juice came along, was a sketchy time for medicine. There was nothing to stop patent medicine makers like Valentine from making misleading or even false claims about their products. Medical “quackery” was alive and well, and apothecaries often stocked drugs that were at best ineffective and at worst, downright dangerous. A patent medicine known as Fulton’s Renal Compound, for example, that claimed to treat kidney disease probably killed more patients than it cured. The 1906 Food & Drug Act, which was the first federal regulation of medicine in the U.S., cracked down on misinformation from the patent medicine industry. Among other things, it required manufacturers to list ingredients on their labels. Valentine’s automated bottle corker, patented 1875. Gleason says there was probably nothing nefarious about how Valentine made or marketed his meat juice (and it may even have had mild health benefits). “When the product comes out, it was pre-Food & Drug Act, so there are no regulations that he’s having to adhere to,” she says. “He’s not having to say what was in his product. But it seems that it wasn’t anything terrible. You’d just squeeze a piece of meat, collect the stuff. Cook it.” Sometime after 1906, however, the company rebranded its product as a flavoring for cooking, rather than a health tonic, and Hughes suspects the Food & Drug Act was a factor. By then, Valentine had passed away. His other legacy, The Valentine museum, opened in 1898 and featured art and curios Valentine had collected over the years. Valentine’s Meat Juice remained within his family until it closed in 1986, by which time the product was more commonly found in kitchen pantries than medicine cabinets. While Valentine’s Meat Juice evokes an unfamiliar era, it isn’t entirely forgotten. As Hughes notes, there are still plenty of Richmonders who remember seeing it in the grocery store. MIKA: Meat juice! 🤣
  21. Astronomers Find ‘Weird’ Stars Covered in Burned-Up Helium Over 10,000 light-years from Earth, two mega-hot stars are changing what astronomers know about stellar evolution and how the gassy balls can be constructed. The stars are unique for their exotic surface composition: They are cocooned in carbon and oxygen, the ashen remains of helium burning. The stars were recently discovered by a team based in Germany using data from the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona and the LAMOST survey. The stars are dense and burn very hot, with surface temperatures about 10 times greater than our Sun. It’s their surfaces that make them so special, as they’re constituted by carbon and oxygen, which are produced when helium burns. Details about the discovery of PG1654+322 and PG1528+025 were recently published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. While the stars’ surfaces are carbon and oxygen, their cores are thought to still be helium, based on their temperatures and radii. That’s strange. “Normally we expect stars with these surface compositions to have already finished burning helium in their cores, and to be on their way to becoming white dwarfs,” said Klaus Werner, an astronomer at the University of Tübingen in Germany and lead author of the new paper, in a Royal Astronomical Society release. “These new stars are a severe challenge to our understanding of stellar evolution.” In other words, the exterior of the stars seem to have already undergone nuclear fusion, but their cores are still lively nuclear reactors. (That distinguishes the objects from white dwarfs, which are small compact stars at the very end of their life, devoid of nuclear fuel.) The discovery of this exotic structure naturally leads to the question of how these stars might have originated. Alongside this team’s research is a second new paper, also in the Monthly Notices of the RAS, that explores how the rare stellar class may emerge. “We believe that the weird objects discovered by Klaus Werner might have been formed through a rare type of stellar merger,” said Miller Bertolami, an astrophysicist at the Institute for Astrophysics of La Plata in Argentina and lead author of the second paper, in an email. “We argue in our paper that, under the right conditions, a carbon-oxygen white dwarf might be disrupted and accreted by a companion, forming objects as those discovered by Werner et al.” During a merger between two white dwarfs, Bertolami added, the more massive object can break the smaller object apart with its gravitational pull. Rather than two stars amicably mixing material to become one star, the interaction may be more like a hand putting on a glove, with one star cannibalising the other. Going forward, the researchers will need to change their stellar evolution models to test whether such mergers could actually result in stars like PG1654+322 and PG1528+025. There are some burning questions that still need to be answered.
  22. Grand Marnier Debuts an Ultra-Premium $3,500 Expression Grand Marnier has been an institution in the premium liquor space since 1880. The French brand of liqueurs has maintained a dominant position in its market due to its delectably sweet and complex flavor profile. While it is mainly known for its iconic Cordon Rouge, it has a variety of higher-end offerings among its Cuvées. Looking to add an ultra-premium offering to its already stout lineup, Grand Marnier is releasing an opulent Grand Cuvée: Quintessence. Part of its new and aptly named Exceptional Range, Quintessence has received such a prestigious moniker because it is meant to reflect the elite artisanship of the French Maison. Though simple in concept, Quintessence represents the beauty and potential of how implementing the highest-quality ingredients through exceptional execution can yield a masterpiece. At its core, Quintessence is merely an aged combination of Cognac, orange essence, and oak casks, but the rarity and quality of the spirit used, the double distillation process through which it goes, and the craftsmanship behind it all combine to make it truly remarkable. Quintessence blends the rarest and oldest hors d’âge Cognacs with macerated Bigaradia orange peels — the same rare citrus used in the brand’s original 1880 recipe — and puts them through a rigorous double-distillation process that intensifies the flavors. The result is an amber ambrosia with a palate that features notes of dried apricot, walnut, and warm vanilla. As if this spectacular liqueur weren’t enough, it is housed in an exquisite handmade Baccarat decanter that draws inspiration from the design of the original Grand Marnier bottle from the 1880s. Given its rarity and excellence, Quintessence is limited to 1,000 bottles and retails for $3,500. It will be available for purchase in late February.

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