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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Untouched is impossible: the story of Star Wars in film

Untouched is impossible: the story of Star Wars in film

Last week saw the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, and along with it came discussions about the best way to watch the film and what we can expect from future re-releases. Michael Kaminski wrote the exhaustively researched and illuminating book The Secret History of Star Wars, so he knows damn near everything there is to know about the film stock used to shoot the film. George Lucas famously said that the original film "doesn't exist" anymore, but is that accurate?

How exactly does Star Wars exist now? What are the challenges and possibilities involved in re-releasing a perfected original cut? How do the bootlegs stack up? Let's find out.

Many prints exist

We asked Kaminksi about the master copy of the original Star Wars. What does it look like now? "The term 'master copy' is slightly vague, because there are various kinds of print masters of different generations," he told Ars. The original negative is conformed to the 1997 Special Edition, meaning the physical copy has been cut and edited with CGI "improvements." With sections of the film being too damaged to work with, parts of that print were taken from other sources. "You never throw away your original negative, so I must assume that any pieces or shots that were removed are in storage somewhere at Lucasfilm or Fox," he explained.

Kaminski points out that a duplication of the original negative—commonly printed for the sake of protection—doesn't seem to exist for Star Wars. Something better was created, though: separation masters. "These are special silver-based copies that do not fade, and in theory should be almost identical in quality to the original negative itself, so even if the negative was destroyed you still have a perfect copy (which is the point of making the separation master)." Duplicates from these prints were used to replace damaged sections of the negative during the restoration before the release of the Special Edition.

That's not all, however. "There are also Interpositives and master prints. Interpositives (and Internegatives) are the color-corrected masters that theatrical prints are duplicated from, and were used in the past to make the home video telecines from 1985-1995." Another common practice is keeping print masters, which are high-quality, fine-grain prints kept in the eventuality that no other higher-quality copies or masters are available.

What this tells us is that Lucas wasn't lying—the original copy of Star Wars is, in fact, gone. What exists in its place is a composite film that has been restored and spliced together with Special Edition scenes and sections from other, later prints. There exist enough film copies and back-ups to re-create the film, however, so nothing is impossible in terms of a more classical high definition re-release.

Why film? Shouldn't this all be digital?

It's unclear how the film exists digitally within Lucasfilm, but Kaminski does know one thing: the scanning done in the past has become obsolete. "The 1997 SE scans were done in 2K and the 2004 Special Edition was done in 1080p, but now the standard is 8K (4 times the 1997 SE and about 7 times the quality of the 2004 SE), and the color reproduction is better too," he says.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, the original film remains important as the most robust way to store this information. Hard drives fail, and data is vulnerable to time. "This may seem silly because everyone always talks about how fragile film is, but film is the most robust, durable image technology we have ever invented. There are reels of film that date back to the 1920s that still look pretty good." He claims that color Eastman Kodak film has a half-life of around 50 to 60 years. Oddly enough, the negative film used in the 1970s to shoot Star Wars is less stable than the film used before or after. We'll get to a point where all we have left are digital copies, but technology has only recently allowed digital copies to rival the original celluloid in quality and detail.

Time to talk bootlegs!

In 2006, an official re-release of the original trilogy was brought to DVD without the annoying CGI updates seen in the Special Editions. The quality was impressive, but the film is shown in non-anamorphic widescreen, a major annoyance for fans of cinema. This is where the fans have stepped up to improve upon Lucas' official releases with high-quality bootlegs.

"Any bootleg made before 2006 is lesser than the 2006 DVD because they were made from the Laserdisc, while the 2006 DVD was made from the master tape that the Laserdisc was derived from and thus is one generation higher in quality," Kaminski tells Ars. "For a 20-year-old analog tape, it does look pretty decent." Bootlegs created after 2006 have used the DVD transfer for better quality video.

"There is a new 2010 bootleg by a guy named Editdroid (who did two previous ones from 1999-2005) that hasn't yet leaked onto the Internet that is quite astounding, and another version called LFL PWNAGE edition; both use the 2006 master," he said. "These bootlegs reduce the amount of grain that came from the use of the duplicate film, smoothed out the aliasing issues, [and] used the original subtitle font from the theatrical release. The aspect ratio has been corrected for true anamorphic widescreen, and the sound mix has likewise been improved."

"Unfortunately, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are not yet available in any of these. Empire is available in a theatrical reconstruction that is mostly accurate and made by the guy who did A New Hope Revisited (it was just released this week) and uses a color-corrected 2004 master with original shots re-composited in to very good effect."

Is there hope for a definitive release of the original films?

Kaminski says that he's fairly sure Lucas is done with large, sweeping changes, but we should expect a CGI Yoda in Episode 1 instead of the physical effect shot on the set. The inevitable Blu-ray copy of the movies will likely be safe from further meddling.

The thing he stresses is that a perfect, uncut version is possible with the film left from the edits, and there is money to be made there. "It's certainly possible to do a new, high-quality transfer from original 35mm material. You could totally restore the original films from their original negatives for a few million dollars, and the 2004 release sold $100 million in a single day, so that pricetag is meaningless."

We're not asking for much, here. "Even films like Revenge of the Nerds have new transfers from 35mm prints. It costs nothing, and there are fine-grain masters and Interpositives that would only require mild clean-up to be presentable, even if the transfers were grainier and a bit damaged."

Kaminski is not convinced that we'll get a classic version of Star Wars on a high definition format, at least not for a while. "I've been trying to organize a letter writing campaign to Lucasfilm and get websites to promote the importance of having the original versions in high quality," he said. "I really don't have any need to pay money for another release of the films unless the originals are restored and available, and I don't want to sound like a disgruntled fanboy. I just don't think the 2004 master is something I would pay money for again; I would rather just watch the bootlegs of the original versions."

What George Lucas does love is money, however, and the hunger and enthusiasm for the non-fussed-over releases is going to be impossible to ignore. "Which is a great—but callous—business practice on their part, because you get people to buy the same thing over and over again."

Why is this important?

The story of Star Wars is the story of film, and of how we keep our past to share with the future. George Lucas does have the legal right to change and adjust his own work any way he'd like, but Star Wars existed in a very specific way for its original theatrical run. Those memories, and those scenes, have a very real value and meaning to fans. This isn't just a science fiction film anymore—it's an important piece of culture.

Star Wars is always going to be an ephemeral thing, changing and shifting as the film adapts to the technology of the time. As the film gets older, digital copies will become more important, but fans are always going to yearn for a version of the film that may exist mostly in their imaginations. Every time George Lucas or a fan takes another crack at the film, it's a new interpretation of the past, and as the film ages and our viewing technology changes, it will continue to look different from how each of us remembers it.

Europe's first commercial fast-charging station officially opens to public

Late last week, Epyon unveiled Europe's first commercial electric vehicle (EV) fast-charging station at a fueling depot in the Netherlands. The Epyon system is capable of delivering 50 kilowatts of juice, which the company claims can charge a nine-person taxi-van or a Nissan Leaf in as little as 30 minutes. Taxi Kijlstra, the nation's largest taxi company, recently converted a couple of its vans over to electric power and will utilize the charger during the work day.

The Epyon charging system is somewhat unusual because it features several outlets, allowing multiple vehicles to charge up simultaneously. The fast-charger supports the 400-volt CHAdeMO-standard, though it should be noted that no official standards exist for fast-charging systems. The charger also features remote configuration and Internet-based communications which allows the Dutch utility company Essent to bill customers for usage. Though it's Europe's first fast-charger, it certainly won't be the last. We imagine demand for EV charging that takes mere minutes is sure to grow.

[Source: Green Car Advisor]

Is Eli Roth's The Last Exorcist scarier than the original Exorcist?


Is Eli Roth's The Last Exorcist scarier than  the original Exorcist?

Spooky exorcisms are a staple among horror movies. But the latest trailer for the new Eli Roth-produced exorcism film has us wondering: Can this shaky cam "real life" film be half as frightening as the original Exorcist?

Some of the scenes in this trailer look horrifying, while others look very shaky-cam and shticky. But it is being produced by Roth, who knows how to get the audience to jump out of its seats. Here's the official synopsis:

A troubled evangelical minister agrees to let his last exorcism be filmed by a documentary crew.

In theaters August 27th.

Visa iPhone case lets you pay without a credit card


Visa iPhone case lets you pay without a credit cardIn a near perfect example of convergence, soon you'll be able to use your iPhone as a VISA card. Visa and DeviceFidelity have teamed up to introduce In2Pay, a case that turns your iPhone into a credit card. The resulting device will allow you to use the iPhone at approximately 150,000 retail outlets nationwide that have terminals that accept contact-less payments like Visa payWave.

The case, which connects to the dock of your iPhone, adds a MicroSD card slot in which a DeviceFidelity MicroSD card is used to make the secure contact-less payments. The In2Pay case is designed to stay on your phone and includes a Micro USB port for charging and syncing your phone. The price of the case and the use of mobile payment services will be determined by the individual financial institutions, according to Dave Wentker, head of mobile contact-less payments for Visa, in an e-mail to WalletPop.

Because the iPhone Visa case uses Visa payWave and industry standards, you'll be able to use your iPhone as a Visa card at all types of retail environments, ranging from restaurants and convenience stores to unattended kiosks and baseball games. You can view all the payWave locations near you on this handy map from Visa and view a demo of the new iPhone Visa case below.

To use the iPhone to make a Visa payment, users will need to launch an app, click "pay" and then wave their device in front of a contactless point of sale system. As part of the security, the device will only transmit payment information when you click pay. Users can set a password lock on the app, but it is optional so that users who already have a lock to access their iPhone don't need to enter yet another password. If you lose your iPhone with an In2Pay case, you'll need to call your card provider just as you would with a regular credit card.

One issue with the current setup is that many users already have a favorite iPhone case. It could be one that works with a wireless charging station, acts as an extended battery or just provides protection. Whatever your current case situation, you may need to alternate or adjust your use if you plan to add In2Pay to your iPhone. Perhaps we'll see future iPhone models come with the DeviceFidelity technology built right in.

When asked if users of other devices can expect to see similar technology in the near future, Wentker confirmed that the technology will work in other smartphones with a MicroSD slot, but he didn't provide any specific dates or devices.

The Visa iPhone case will be in testing during the second quarter of 2010, so there's still a bit of time before you can start making payments at your local coffee shop. When In2Pay does arrive, your iPhone, combined with a loyalty rewards card app like CardStar, could easily replace your wallet for quick trips out of your house.

Doctor, 100, still working after delivering 18,000 babies

A doctor who has delivered 18,000 babies over a career spanning more than 60 years is still practising at 100 years old.
Doctor, 100, still working after delivering 18,000 babies: Dr  Walter Watson
Dr Walter Watson Photo: Barry Bland / Barcroft

Dr Walter Watson, nicknamed "Papa Doc", has been present at the births of generations spanning from grandparents down to grandchildren during his 63 years as an obstetrician.

The doctor from Augusta, Georgia, USA is thought to be the oldest practising medic in the world.

Among his patients is Sabra Allen, 77, who he has treated for 59 years. He has delivered 17 members of her family.

“He delivered all five of my kids and twelve of the grandkids,” said Mrs Allen, a retired hospital administrator.

“There ain’t no one like him, he’s the best.”

Dr. Watson, who still goes to work every day, said: “There is nothing quite as amazing at witnessing the miracle of life.

“Trouble is I remember the births with complications more vividly than the ones that went perfectly. Once you’ve done several thousand they start blending in together.”

Dr. Watson qualified at the brink of the Second World War but served in Korea until 1947.

When the war ended he returned to Georgia, his wife of 65 years Audrey and the practice of medicine.

Dr Watson turned 100 on February 25.

“I get up at 6.45, have my breakfast and get to the hospital by 8.30,” he said.

“I stopped delivering babies when my eyesight got bad but I do my rounds at the nursing stations and operating rooms just like I’ve always done.”

The women’s centre at University Hospital in Augusta, Georgia, bears Dr Watson's name and there is a bronze statue of him holding a newborn baby.

Dr Watson also delivered his colleague at the hospital, Dr Michel McDonough, who is young enough to be his grandson.

Dr. McDonough said: “His work ethic is unsurpassed by anybody.

“He was around before beepers – back then you were either at the hospital, at home or at church.”

Dr. Watson says he has no plans for retirement despite suffering from minor arthritis and diminished eyesight and hearing.

“I love medicine and I love having contact with people," he said.

“It gives me a reason to crawl out of bed in the mornings.”

According to records Dr Watson is the oldest practising doctor.

The previous record holder was Dr. Leila Denmark, also of Georgia, who practised until she turned 102 in 2000.

The World's Best Photos of "Navagio beach" in Greece..(Pic)

Giant Water Balloon Bursting in Super Slow Motion

George Washington's 221-year overdue library book: A timeline

The first president never lied — but he also didn't return his library books

How did George Washington's book make its way back to its rightful  owner - 220 years after it was loaned out?

How did George Washington's book make its way back to its rightful owner - 220 years after it was loaned out? Photo: Corbis

George Washington is off the hook. This week, after more than 200 years, authorities at the New York Society Library finally got their hands back on the copy of The Law of Nations by Emmerich de Vattel, which the nation's first president checked out but never returned. (Watch an "Adult Swim" reenactment of the founding father's book fiasco.) Here, a look back at America's longest-overdue library book:

Oct. 5, 1789: Five months after George Washington takes the oath of office at Federal Hall on Wall Street, the new president checks out two books from the New York Society Library. The library was located in the same building as the president's office, in what was then the nation's capital. In a ledger, next to the names of the books — The Law of Nations by Emmerich de Vattel and Vol. 12 of the Commons Debates, containing transcripts from Britain's House of Commons — the librarian writes, "President."

Nov. 2, 1789: The books are due. No sign of Washington. Fines begin accruing.

April 1792: Librarians retire the leather-bound ledger where Washington's loan was recorded, and start a new one. At some point, the 18-pound record book covering 1789 to 1792 goes missing.

Dec. 14, 1799: George Washington dies at his estate, Mount Vernon, in Virginia.

1934: The missing ledger is found in a pile of trash in the basement of the library's fourth home, at 109 University Place in Manhattan. The library can find no evidence that Washington's books were ever returned.

April 16, 2010: Archivist Matthew Haugen stumbles upon the New York Society Library's long-lost 14-volume collection of the Commons Debates. Volume 12 — the one checked out by Washington — is missing, confirming the staff's secretly held suspicion that Washington never returned the books. The fine, adjusted for inflation, amounts to about $300,000. "We're not actively pursuing the overdue fines," says head librarian Mark Bartlett. "But we would be very happy if we were able to get the books back."

May 20, 2010: Mount Vernon staff returns a copy of The Law of Nations to the New York Society Library. After hearing of the missing books, employees at Washington's estate were unable to locate either of them. But they found an identical Law of Nations online for about $12,000. "We express our gratitude for your patience... and for your generosity in erasing the considerable funds that were probably owed by George Washington," James Rees, executive director of Washington's Mount Vernon Estate, told library staff. "He did not do his public duty." Nonetheless, the library has absolved Washington "and his representatives" of all fines.

Sources: NY Daily News, AFP,, New York Society Library

Mick Jagger Calls For Marijuana Legalization On Isle Of Man

By Steve Elliott

Mick Jagger Smoking flip.jpg
Photo: Bob Collacello
Rolling Stones legend Mick Jagger has called for U.K. government officials to legalize marijuana and other drugs on a British island, to see if it prevents violence associated with the illegal drug trade.

The rock singer, who was convicted of marijuana possession in the 1960s, said that young people will always experiment with psychoactive substances, despite the risks, reports StarPulse. He is urging the government to legalize drugs on the Isle of Man, a British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea, to test the consequences of an end to prohibition.

"The whole question of legalizing drugs is fraught... You usually try these things out in very small places," Jagger told interviewer Larry King. "You know, like you try a new product out in a small kind of society or an island somewhere," Jagger said.

"And in England they always try out new mobile phones in Isle of Man," Jagger said. "They've got a captive society. So I said, you should try -- you should try the legalization of all drugs on the Isle of Man and see what happens."

"Human beings seem to have a propensity to want to take drugs in some form," Jagger said. "It seems to be the propensity of human beings to want to use them."

"And then you also get a lot of violence at both ends of the scope," Jagger said. "So you get violence in some countries... which, like, we have in Mexico now, and you get violence at the other end of people trying to obtain drugs. That's the part that speaks to some sort of legalization, Because that, you would hope, would help the violence from both ends of the supply line."

Gigantic airship will also serve as 'stratellite'

World's largest inflatable vehicle will become a stratospheric satellite, say its developers.

BEYOND BLIMPS: The Bullet 580 is 235 feet long. By comparison, the Goodyear Blimp is only 192 feet long. (Photo: chadwho1ders/Flickr)
The heyday of air ships like the ill-fated Hindenburg were thought to be long gone. But decades since the famous airship crashed in New Jersey, the behemoths of the skies are making a comeback. reports that the E-Green technologies Bullet 580, a 235-foot long airship that is as long as a 27-floor skyscraper, is to serve as a stratospheric satellite, or "stratellite." Its developers hope that it will serve as a “high-flying sentinel” in the air.

The gigantic airship recently took six hours to inflate inside Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery, Ala. It is designed to carry payloads of up to 2,000 pounds at altitudes of 20,000 feet.
The ship is made of Kevlar, which has a width just one-16th of an inch thick. Nonetheless, this is 10 times stronger than steel. E-Green Technologies bought the Bullet 580 from its developers, 21st Century Airships, just last year.
The Bullet 580 is intended as a prototype for a series of ships for commercial use. Michael Lawson is chairman and CEO of E-Green Technologies. As he told, "Our airships are radically different designs that move beyond the performance limitations of traditional blimps or zeppelins by combining advanced technology with simple construction and the ability to fuel with algae, protecting our environment.”
The practical uses for the gigantic air ship include military and civilian purposes. reports that different versions of the airship might take on roles for “battlefield surveillance, missile defense warning, electronic countermeasures, weapons platforms, Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) services, weather monitoring, broadcast communications and communications relays.” Further, E-Green Technologies expects that the new series of airships will create aerospace and aviation jobs in both Florida and California, where the business hopes to set up operational centers.

Suspect Eats Evidence During Arrest .. Cops get OWNED

Pure Genius!!!

Suspect Eats Evidence During Arrest

9 Active Volcanoes People Still Live Near

Learn which communities sit in the path of volcanic eruptions

By Brynn Mannino


Civilizations developed on the flanks of volcanoes for the same reason an estimated 500 million people continue to live on them today: mineral-rich soil, geothermal energy, tourism opportunities and natural beauty. Following the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland, and the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, we started wondering which volcanoes pose the biggest threat to people. Here’s what we came up with.

Mount Vesuvius in Naples, Italy

Last known eruption: 1944

Mount Vesuvius, which overlooks the Bay of Naples, is the only volcano in mainland Europe to have erupted within the last century—and, due to its dense surrounding population of approximately 3 million people, is regarded as one of the most dangerous in the world. Alas, the volcanic soil surrounding the roaring volcano is too rich to let go to waste and the tourism opportunities too plentiful, because the government can’t get many of the nearby residents to accept $30,000 per family to move to a safer location. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Kilauea in Kalapana, Hawaii

Last known eruption: 1983

Kilauea, which overlaps the eastern flank of the massive Mauna Loa shield volcano, has been Hawaii’s most active volcano in recent years. Kalapana was once considered one of the most beautiful Hawaiian regions. But in 1983, a long-term eruption began that has produced lava flows, destroyed nearly 200 homes and added new coastline to the island. In recent years, however, the population of 2,421 people has grown 11.7 percent as people slowly return to the beautiful black sand beaches. Photo courtesy of rjones0856 via

Suribachi in Iwo Jima, Japan

Last known eruption: 2001

The rock on which the famous battle occurred is home to four hundred Japanese Self-Defense Force staffers who manage air-traffic control, fueling, rescue airbase and explosive-ordnance disposal, but otherwise the island has been uninhabited since the end of the U.S. occupation in 1968. Civilians are only permitted on the island for memorial services, as construction workers for the naval air base or as meteorological agency officials. Photo courtesy of

Merapi in Java, Indonesia

Last known eruption: 2007

Home to a population of approximately 130 million, Java is the most populated island in the world. It’s also host to 45 volcanoes (excluding 20 small craters) including Merapi, the most feared in the country. In Indonesia, however, the best and most lucrative rice crops—a main source of income—are obtained from the rich soils located close to the volcanoes, which keeps the farming population close by. Photos by Philippe Bourseiller / Getty Images.

Popocatépetl in Puebla, Mexico

Last known eruption: 2010

"Popocatépetl," the Aztec word for “smoking Mountain,” has had over 20 major eruptions in recent history. In the time of the Aztecs, the closer the maize grew to the mountain, the earlier it ripened and the better it tasted due to the rich soil and geothermal climate. Now, more than 2 million people live in Puebla, which is just 25 miles west of Mexico City. Officials warn residents to stay at least four miles from the crater after five hikers were found dead in 1995, possibly due to volcanic gases. Locals stick around, however, due to the city’s lucrative tourism opportunities and rich soil. Photo by Bruno Perousse / Getty.

Galeras in Pasto, Colombia

Last known eruption: 2010

Pasto, which boasts a population of more than 300,000 inhabitants, is located at the foot of the Galeras volcano, currently the most active volcano in Colombia (it has been in a state of eruption for over 20 years). A majority of the 8,000 people (mostly farmers) living close to it tend to ignore the frequent evacuation alerts. The fact that the volcano erupted unexpectedly in 1993, unleashing a deadly blow that killed nine people, doesn’t scare civilians away, as the volcanic soil serves them all too well—the region specializes in the production of dairy products. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Stromboli in Stromboli, Italy

Last known eruption: 2010

Stromboli volcano, a.k.a. “the lighthouse of the Mediterranean” is one of two active volcanoes on the Aeolian Islands—a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily, Italy. Stromboli and its always smoke-spewing volcanic cone has become a native- and tourist-loved epicenter, thanks to the city’s untouched eastern side, which is lined with whitewashed houses, narrow streets and beautiful black-sand beaches. The population, though only a few hundred people during winter, swells to several thousand in the summer. Photo by Getty Images.

Etna in Sicily, Italy

Last known eruption: 2010

Europe’s largest volcano, Etna, serves as a backdrop for the city of Catania, and is in a constant state of contained eruption. Lava moves slowly down the mountain, giving those nearby a chance to escape, which is how the volcano got the nickname “friendly giant.” In the event of a large explosion, though, many locals living nearby would probably have to relocate. But residents take the risk, as the mineral-rich soil is perfect for cultivating vineyards, olive groves, citrus plantations and orchards. Photo by De Agostini/Getty Images.

Eyjafjallajökull in Reykjavik, Iceland

Last eruption: 2010

The most recent volcanic eruption began in March 2010, turning destructive in April with melt-water floods, the evacuation of nearly 800 people (many who were farmers) and the most extensive air travel disruption in Northern Europe since World War II. As of today, there is no sign of the eruption ceasing—which is no problem for nearby tourist agencies. According to the BBC, the 25 active Icelandic volcanoes have long been the center of Iceland’s tourism, drawing crowds from across the globe. Photos by Arctic-Images /Getty Images.