Monday, June 25, 2012

Google, Animal Planet, NOAA

We've got quite a bit going on around here this week.  The NOAA research ship "Oscar Elton Sette" showed up on Saturday.  They've been setting up camps to monitor Hawaiian monk seals on most of the islands up the chain.  They stayed around for a day and left for Kure Atoll this morning to bring some seal monitoring people, as well as a couple of other Kure workers.  We still have one person here taking pictures for Google maps.  They'll be uploading pictures and soon you'll be able to get the street views of Midway.  We have a film crew here too.  They are filming a show for Animal Planet, so I'll let you know when that will be coming up.  I took them out on the boat the other day to get them some spinner dolphin footage.  There are chicks of all kinds hatching everywhere, so I'll give you a couple of photos of those.
The "Oscar Elton Sette" is parked next to the cargo pier.  They brought us a bit of extra food in their freezer, and they will be taking away a load of marine debris.  Thanks!

The NOAA group that was here picking up marine debris for the last few weeks loaded all of their nets onto the ship.  They'll be at Kure Atoll picking up nets and things for a few days, then pick up more at the islands and atolls on their way back to Honolulu.
While filming some underwater shots, a Black-footed albatross fledgling started chasing around one of the crew for a few minutes.  

 This White tern chick was keeping low, trying to not get blown off of the log.

 This Sooty tern chick hatched within the last hour.

Here is another Sooty tern chick that just hatched.

The Brown noddy chicks have started hatching this week too.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

'Transformers 4' headed for final frontier

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

Transformers 4 is headed for the final frontier, according to director Michael Bay. When asked by The Los Angeles Times recently if the new story will involve a departure from Earth, Bay replied: “I think so, yeah, a little... That feels like the way to go, doesn’t it? I want to go a littleoff [Earth] but I don’t want to go toosci-fi. I still want to keep it grounded. That’s what works in these movies, that’s what makes it accessible.” 

Exactly, because if the Transformers franchise goes too far off-planet then it might stretch credulity. It could even risk tarnishing the gritty documentary realism Bay worked so hard to create in the first three movies. The otherwise sober notion of giant transforming alien robots might even start to seem... silly? 

Bay told the LA Times that his next Transformersmovie (which will be his last) will not be a reboot, as rumours had suggested, but will nevertheless veer off in new directions and feature a new cast. Some of the Transformers themselves will also be redesigned (allowing for a new line of Hasbro toys). 

“It’s not a reboot, that’s maybe the wrong word,” Bay said. “I don’t want to say reboot because then people will think we’re doing a Spider-Man and starting from the beginning. We’re not. We’re taking the story that you’ve seen — the story we’ve told in three movies already — and we’re taking it in a new direction. But we’re leaving those three as the history. It all still counts.”

Transformers 4 is currently without a script. It does have a release date, though: 29 June, 2014.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

'The Watch': new international trailer

Silver Screen Saucers

The new international trailer for R-rated sci-fi comedy The Watch has just landed online...

The movie stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Will Forte and Billy Crudup. It follows a suburban neighborhood watch group that finds itself in over its head when it uncovers an alien plot to destroy the world.

The Watch hits cinemas July 27.


Hollywood's Aliens After Disclosure 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Short-tailed Albatross

We had another big newsworthy event this week.  Our Short-tailed albatross chick fledged.  This was only the second time one has been raised outside of Japan in recorded history, so we're glad that our rare pair of albatrosses were successful at raising another chick.  Here's a link to the news release and a couple of photos and videos that John Klavitter took.

We're just about back to normal after the 70th Battle of Midway Commemoration.  All of our extra visitors and volunteers have gone back home.  Thanks to everyone who came to make it a great event, especially Col. John F. Miniclier and Sgt. Ed Fox. Thanks to Dallas Nagata White for passing along a link to her photos and writeup of her visit that day. It's very good and worth taking the time to see her great photos.

One interesting project going on here right now is a Google project.  They've been taking a lot of photos so soon you'll be able to get a street view on Google maps and be able to see our historic sites. Even Eastern and Spit Islands will be online.  I'll let you know when I hear that the project is done.

Here's one of John Klavitter's photos of the Short-tailed albatross chick on the last day that it was seen on Eastern Island.

 I'm posting a couple more photos from the Battle of Midway Commemoration.  Here is Sgt. Fox getting thanked by some of our Navy visitors.  Note the albatross chick at the bottom of the picture holding a plumeria flower.  I wish I had noticed that when I was taking the photos.

Admiral Cecil Haney visits with Col. Miniclier at the Canon Memorial.  Col. Miniclier is wearing the helmet he wore during the Battle of Midway, which he left with us for our Visitor Center.

Col. Miniclier tells the story of being in the tower as the Japanese planes attacked (see last week's post).

This is a view of Spit Island out toward the old water barge wreck on the horizon.  Since very few people get to visit Spit Island, it will be nice to be able to see it on Google maps.

 Gray-backed Terns like to nest on Spit Island. 

 This is a Red-tailed tropicbird chick.  As I was taking this picture, one of the parents showed up to feed it.

 The chick was really wobbly and could barely keep upright enough to get its food.

 There are still thousands of White terns on eggs.

 The volunteers: Ryan, Jennifer, and Liz are sorting through plastic collected from their marine debris plot on Eastern Island.

This is a Spotted boxfish (female).  I like these little fish.  They can't bend their bodies, so they just move their fins and tail really fast to swim.  The males are very colorful, but they hide more than the females do, and I almost never see them.

UFO movie news round-up (18 June, 2012)

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

Jupiter Ascending

Channing Tatum has confirmed to MTV that he will star in the Wachowski brothers’ Jupiter Ascending, which is about "higher forms of life [who] are watching us... from other worlds." Mila Kunis is set to play a Russian immigrant "who is busily scrubbing toilets for a living. Unbeknownst to her, she actually possesses the same perfect genetic makeup as the Queen of the Universe and is therefore a threat to her otherwise immortal rule."

MTV says that Tatum's character is “an evolved-being bounty hunter sent to kill Kunis' character, but instead falls in love with her and attracts the ire of his genetically superior contemporaries in the process.”

What the hell are the Wachowski’s sniffing?

Michael Bay’s Aliens

Paramount Pictures has postponed the planned release of Michael Bay’s upcoming Ninja Turtles reboot. Originally set for release on Christmas Day, 2013, the movie’s opening has now been pushed back by 10 weeks to May 16, 2014. The (controversially alien) turtles themselves are expected to be motion capture CGI, using the same techniques employed in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Michael Bay has also told Hero Complex that the next Transformers movie will be his last. Incidentally, Transformers: The Ride 3D opened at Universal Studios last month, with Steven Spielberg in attendance. View the opening here...

Ender’s Game

There have been a number of updates in the production log for upcoming alien invasion epic Ender’s Game, which looks set to be a technologically groundbreaking movie. It stars Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley and is produced by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (who, as writers, brought us Transformers and Cowboys and Aliens). View the Ender’s Game production log here.


Photos have emerged of Tom Cruise on location in New York for the shoot of his upcoming alien invasion movie Oblivion (formerly titled Horizons). Apparently the movie involves New Yoik cops as well as aliens. View the pics here.

Hollywood’s Aliens: Prototypes for the Real Thing?

SETI’s Seth Shostak contemplates the realism of Hollywood’s alien movies.

Alien Contact: Movie Smackdown

Bryce Zabel’s pits numerous alien contact movies against one another to see which ones emerge victorious. It makes for fascinating reading and provokes great debates. Check it out. 

‘Battleship’ Sank with Weight of Own Brilliance

Battleship: Too good for its own good.

That’s right. Peter Berg’s alien invasion movie / Navy recruitment ad failed at the US box-office not because it was in any way shit, but because it was, in fact, just too damn visionary and ambitious. Berg – whose 209-million-dollar movie made just 62 million in the US and is struggling to reach 300 million worldwide – told the Huffington Post recently: “I have a movie in theaters right now which has obviously underperformed in many ways... But the concept is so big and powerful, and the money is so big and so powerful, that the movie is going to run away with itself.”

We know where you’re coming from, Peter. Because everyone knows that big-budget alien invasion movies - such a rarity for Hollywood - are always a huge risk at the box-office. Oh, wait a minute...

Box-Office: Avengers, MIB 3 & Prometheus

Still on release at the international box-office, The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble) has so far taken 1.4 billion dollars worldwide, making it the third most successful movie of all time (not adjusted for inflation). Men in Black 3, meanwhile, with a production budget of $225 million, has so far raked in some $544 million worldwide, and the oh-so-controversial Prometheus, with a budget of $125 million and a non-family-friendly ‘R’ rating, is now approaching $220 million worldwide.

More Prometheus

On the subject of Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s long-awaited movie has, of course, divided the critics, with much vitriol being spewed at its screenplay. Notably, Bryce Zabel was bitterly disappointed, stating that, while “Scott’s direction of Prometheus is a mastery of design,” the idiocy of the movie’s characters is “chronic”:

“Anyone who would spend a trillion dollars on a hot-shot spacecraft like Prometheus and send it out on the most important mission ever conceived with a crew of morons like this one, well, it just boggles the mind. People in this film simply do not behave rationally — not toward each other, not toward the mission, not at all. Most films can be forgiven a time or two when the characters veer off wrongly in order to accomplish a plot point, but the problem in Prometheusis chronic.”

Read the rest of Bryce’s review over at

As for Prometheus’ central concept that human ancestry can be traced to the stars, “It's not such a crazy idea,” says TimeEntertainment, “research has long supported the theory that life originated elsewhere.” Read all about it in: Prometheus 101: The Science Behind Ridley Scott's Vision of Aliens Populating Earth.

PROMETHEUS SPOILERS AHEAD! Scroll down no further if you’ve not yet seen the film...

Many cinemagoers have begun to pick holes in Prometheus’ admittedly infuriating plot. I’m not sure the imaginary exchange below (via Enchanted Mitten) – funny though it is – quite ‘gets’ what really unfolded in the movie, but it effectively sums-up the post-Prometheus debate now raging on fan forums across the web (again, major spoilers here)...

And, finally, here are some cool stills from deleted scenes that will almost certainly appear in a DVD director’s cut of Prometheus later this year (for more like this, head on over to

Saturday, June 16, 2012

“Alien language” presented by CIA & Disney

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

UPDATED: 19 JUNE, 2012


Nordic aliens in Disney's Race to Witch Mountain (2009).

One of the most eyebrow-raising cases of government involvement in a Hollywood UFO movie in recent years is that of Race to Witch Mountain (2009), which apparently received extensive support from the CIA – albeit in an ‘off the books’ capacity – despite its plot drawing extensively from UFO mythology (with references both to Area 51 and Roswell) and its presentation of a sinister government UFO cover-up.

In 2010, the film's director, Andy Fickman – a self-described “UFO enthusiast” born and raised in Roswell, New Mexico – told me that, although he personally shaped the majority of the film’s UFO-related content, at least some of it was the result of CIA input. The director claims that, in a highly unusual production arrangement, he and his crew were closely assisted by an active employee of the CIA whose advice extended to designing the alien writing seen in the flying saucer during the film’s climactic scenes. 

Race to Wicth Mountain: inside the flying saucer.

Despite my best efforts, Fickman has been unwilling to reveal to me the identity of his CIA advisor, but claims he’s a former Air Force Technical Intelligence Officer, that he had been “very active in Hollywood,” and “had a lot of connections in the computer world and [experience in] satellite imagery.”Fickman said of his CIA advisor:

All of the on-camera alien language in terms of their spaceship and everything – that was all designed by him in the sense [of what] the mathematics of communication would be, so you know... there would be a similar mathematical equation that the government probably has if they were to ever come across an alien race. So a lot of the things we ended up using were things he was bringing to me... and the next thing you know, that’s what I had on screen. 

The alien “language” to which Fickman refers appears onscreen in Race to Witch Mountain in the form of holographic symbols aboard the Nordic aliens’ flying saucer. Some are simple, some are more elaborate. Presented below are three of the most frequently recurring symbols that appear in the climactic scenes of the movie...

Morse code-type design as featured in the Race to Witch Mountain DVD menu.
This 'code' also appears in the film alongside various symbols.

Race to Witch Mountain DVD menu featuring various symbols that appear in the film. Not all symbols are displayed here.

The symbol pictured right frame appears frequently in Race to Witch Mountain's flying saucer. In the film it is seen to rotate.

Left frame: the flying saucer's schematic.

The question, of course, is what do these symbols mean? Besides some of them bearing a passing resemblance to certain crop formations (the authenticity of which is debatable), it is difficult to ascribe any significance to them beyond the fact that they were designed by an alleged CIA operative.

Has the CIA, in cooperation with Disney, presented us with real alien symbols / language? If so, to what conceivable end? In all likelihood, the symbols mean nothing, but it would be remiss of me not to throw them out there for feedback. Your comments are welcome.

More information on CIA involvement in Race to Witch Mountain can be found in my article UFOs and Disney: Behind the Magic Kingdom.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

70th Battle of Midway Commemoration

As you probably know, on Monday we had our 70th Commemoration of the Battle of Midway, which was June 4-6, 1942.  It was a great day and went really smoothly.  Everybody on the island worked really hard to pull it off.  We had 2 US Navy flights which brought about 150 visitors.  They had a very long day.  They flew in about 3:30 a.m. and left about 9 p.m. We're still having our flights only in the dark, to minimize the chances of hitting any birds.  We had 2 veterans who were actually on Midway during the Battle of Midway, and 2 vets who were here later in the war.  It was amazing to hear their recollections.  Both Battle of Midway vets were 20 year old Privates First Class at the time. 
Here's a quick writeup of one of our guests, Col John F. Miniclier-USMC (retired):

Our other Battle of Midway vet, Sgt Ed Fox-USMC (retired) was stationed in a pillbox on the south beach.  He thinks that the one that you've seen in my earlier posts, is likely the one he was stationed in.  Here's a link to his accounts of joining the marines with a link to the battle story below the text:

Here are more photos that I took of the commemoration:

If you search on Flickr for Battle of Midway 70th, you'll find a lot of photos from other press & photographers that were here.

Here's a good article written up by the Navy reporters that were here with a link to their photos:

The current Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Cecil Haney, spoke at the ceremony.  He and I were both on the same submarine, USS Honolulu (SSN-718) at different times.  I left the sub in 1992 and he didn't become the commanding officer until 1996, but it was great to meet him and talk about the shared experience, although it was separated by a few years. 

 This is Refuge Manager Sue Schulmeister with the four WWII vets.  The next photo is a closeup of the albatross chick biting one of the veterans' shoe. Sgt Fox on the left and Col Miniclier all the way to the right.

Col. Miniclier actually lived in this building for a while. He told his story to the visitors.  This was the power plant/command center that I've showed in earlier blog posts.

 This photo was taken from the building in the previous photo during the battle.  Col. Miniclier is in the tower in the center of this photo.  He says you can see his helmet in the original photo.  He left that helmet on Midway for our newly remodeled museum in the Visitor's Center.

Visitors stopping by the Ave Maria chapel saw a White tern on its egg in one of the little candle holders.

 Other things are still going on here.  NOAA has sent out a crew to remove marine debris from the atoll.  They've been going out in boats and getting nets that were stuck on the reef.  This pile is what they've collected so far.

We took a group of volunteers out snorkeling to thank them for all of the help with the commemoration preparation.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Battle of Midway

We're still getting ready for our 70th Battle of Midway commemoration.  There's been a lot of weeding, trimming, painting, sweeping, etc.  The Battle of Midway was fought from June 4-6, 1942 and we'll be having the ceremony on Jun 4th (tomorrow, as I write this).  We'll be getting 2 planes with visitors for the day.  They have to fly in before sunrise and fly out after sunset to minimize the chance for bird strikes, so it will be a very long day for the visitors.  There has been a veteran visiting us this week who was on Midway from 1941-1943, and it's been great to hear his stories about how things used to be here.  He even remembers the Laysan rail (picture below), which is now extinct.  We have another person coming tomorrow who was also here during the Battle of Midway.  I'll give a few more details next week.

 Jennifer and Christine are cleaning up "gun battery C", which is right behind the cemetery.

Here is the Laysan Rail that used to be on Midway, but became extinct when rats showed up.  The image is from Rothschild (1893-1900).  I got it from the Bishop Museum site.  Wikipedia also has some great info.

 We had a Memorial Day ceremony on Monday.  Most of the island people showed up so it was nice.

Here is a close up of the Memorial Day wreath made by one of our Thai workers named Kittipong.