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Shorts that don't suck, vol. 2

Writing this days in advance, I can't be sure -- and will just have to assume -- that volume I of "shorts that don't suck" was an unprecedented victory for blog awesomeness, and deserves nothing less than a follow-up. Anyway, there are way too many cool shorts out there to just do one blog on them, and I can't cram more than three or four into one blog entry since they're all at least 3 or 4 minutes (and sometimes way more), and it's hard to sit through a bunch of shorts in a row. (That's the problem with short film festivals; it's not so much that shorts, y'know, suck, so much as it's tough to reset your brain every five minutes, twenty times in a row, to accept totally new stories and characters.) So here's volume two!

The Elephant's Egg
My friend Sam put at least a year's worth of blood, sweat and hours hunched over a computer to create one of the best shorts to come out of USC film school in recent years. It's an incredible journey that's a bit hard to describe -- think of it as Salvador Dali meets John Hughes. Or something!

The Big Empty
A quirky and beautiful short about a woman who discovers an Antarctic wasteland inside her. Heavy on the metaphor and bursting with famous faces (like Selma Blair, who stars), it's got a lot of laughs and a big heart. (This is part I. For part II, click here.)

Doll Face
Another animator from USC, Andy Huang's Doll Face took the internet by storm last year, garnering more than 1.5 million hits on YouTube -- pretty incredible for a pensive, strange art piece. But it's hypnotic and brilliant, and Andy describes it this way: "A machine with a doll face mimics images on television screen in search of a satisfactory visage. Doll Face presents a visual account of desires misplaced and identities fractured by our technological extension into the future." (Yep, Andy was an art major.)

A Great Big Robot from Outer Space Ate My Homework
I caught this at the Mill Valley Film Festival a few weeks ago, and thought it was just charming. Great 3D animation, cute idea, well done.

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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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