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Echoes of Koyaanisqatsi

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Koyaanisqatsi is one of those movies -- one of the few -- that Changed Everything for me in terms of how I look at movies, and what they could do, and how they could communicate. Most people have caught at least snippets of it (PBS still shows it frequently) and they either love it or hate it. One thing that neither camp can deny, however, is the impact the film has had. Lacking characters, a story or spoken dialogue of any kind, the film is a visual feast that, with the aid of unconventional camera angles, super-fast and super-slow motion, tries to visualize nature, and man's place within it, in a new way. Labeled "pure cinema," its release in 1982 hearkened back to actorless silent film-era masterpieces like Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin: Symphony of a City, but created something entirely new, as well.

It also started a cottage industry of eye-popping films like Baraka, Chronos and two sequels, Powaqquatsi and Naqoyqatsi, but none of them, I think, match the grace or deep meaning of the original. I had to watch it two or three times before I really started to understand that there was a carefully-constructed (if subtle) visual argument at work in Koyaanisqatsi, one which echoes the translation of the Hopi word that is the film's title: "life out of balance." The soundtrack, too, made a deep impact -- it thrust composer Philip Glass onto the national scene in a new way, and jump-started his career doing music for movies (which he had previously said he wanted nothing to do with).

I want to look at the ways Koyaanisqatsi's style is echoed all over the place these days, but first we have to take a look at the movie itself. If you can rent it -- or better yet, see it in a theater -- by all means do, but you could do worse than watching it on Hulu with the lights down and the sound cranked. In case you don't have 90 minutes to do that right now, here's a clip:

As the ultimate bit of contrast -- and to see how far Koyaanisqatsi's tentacles reach, check out this trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV. Recognize anything?

If that doesn't look familiar, perhaps the video for Madonna's "Ray of Light" will ring a bell.

Still not convinced? Try the opening to 1992's creepy horror film Candyman.

There are plenty of other references out there -- including four or five in The Simpsons but you get the idea. Now quit reading this blog and watch the movie already!

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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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