Saturday, July 22, 2017

I've always been a sucker for that jet-black hair/translucent creamy white skin look. It makes me melt.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Yes, he's beautiful.

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... that NFL inside linebacker Hayes Pullard was the first USC player since 1979 to lead the team in tackles for three back-to-back seasons?

"As the play continued, Chris began to become sexually aroused. He shouted his lines with abandon, his erection becoming ever more painful and prominent as Greg carried him around the stage. The script called for the character to reach sexual orgasm while riding the horse. As he moaned and squealed, Chris began bucking and pressing his erection against Greg's head, his body writhing in the air, his need for release impossible to satisfy in front of the packed theater."

Equus is a 1973 play by Peter Shaffer, who later wrote Amadeus. There are two themes in the play. The first is carried on by a psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Dysart, who has come to believe that "normalcy" is dead and boring. A believer in the philosophical musings of Foucault, he is upset that he makes people "normal" at the cost of the belief, power, "worship", and even evil that make life worth living.

The other theme is carried out by 17-year-old boy Alan. Alan's mother is a Bible-humper, and his father is an atheist. Alan has had a lifelong fascination with horses. At the age of six, a stranger gave him a ride on a horse, during which Alan achieved sexual arousal. Since then, Alan has eroticized horses: He wants to be naked with them, feel their muscular bodies against his own, smell their sweat, and pet their coats. About a year ago, Alan became infatuated with violent themes in the Bible. Alan's father tore down a painting depicting Biblical violence which hung in Alan's room, and put up a poster of a horse.

The play is almost all flashback. Chronologically. the play's narrative is set in motion when Alan meets Jill, a girl who works in a horse stable. Alan takes a job at the stable, and is seemingly a hard worker. But at night, Alan secretly takes the largest horse, Nugget (whom Alan calls "Equus"), out for naked bareback rides. Alan fantasizes that he and Equus become one, destroying their mutual enemies. During these rides, Alan becomes sexually aroused and ejaculates. Alan reveals that he has long thought sex to be abnormal, as his mother has said. But Jill takes Alan to an adult theater, where they run into Alan's father. Although Alan is initially embarrassed by the meeting, he comes to realize that sex is normal and natural. Jill and Alan visit the stable, where Jill seduces Alan. But when Alan hears horses moving about below, he becomes impotent. He throws Jill out of the stables, and then confronts the horses. In Alan's deranged mind, he hears the horses telling him that they are jealous gods, and Alan must only have sex with them. Alan declares himself free from their influence -- and stabs all the horses in the eyes with a spike, because they have "seen his soul". Dr. Dysart, guilt-ridden over his "normalizing" of teenage boys, agrees to treat Alan, but realizes he will succeed only by taking away Alan's ability to worship, and to feel power and love.

The script calls for the actor playing Alan to be naked in several scenes. The play is usually staged with tall, muscular men playing the horses, wire cages around their heads mimicking the shape and outline of a horse's head.

It is not unusual for actors to achieve an erection during the play.

He ain't your daddy's farm-hand.

So, a week ago, I was aerating the front lawn. I have this pronged device which pushes into the grass and removes a core of dirt, which helps the roots grow. As I'm stepping downward, I stepped on a small twig on the lawn. A piece of it went through the bottom of my shoe, through my orthotic, and into the ball of my foot. I bled kind of profusely for a while, and had to stay off my feet for almost a week until it healed. (Yes, that's blood. mwah ha ha ha ha!)

It still bothers me a bit. But I need to get out there and mow the lawn...

I think OSHA needs to intervene, here. He's a distraction at work, and could cause accidents.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

I'm not a graphics person, but if I work long and hard enough I can turn in something approaching decent. I spent 13 hours yesterday working on a project, and successfully finished at 3:30 AM. (When I get on a roll, I get on a roll. There's no shortage of energy.)

At 5:47 AM, a massive thunderstorm rolled through Cleveland Heights, waking me up. Oy...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

July 9, 1755 – The Braddock Expedition by the British Army is routed by a smaller French and Native American force in its attempt to capture Fort Duquesne (now downtown Pittsburgh). It is a defining moment in young George Washington's life.

* * * * * * * * *

The French claimed nearly all of North America east of the Appalachian Mountains. But unlike the British, the French sent only minimal settlers into the area, and almost none of its settlements survived more than a year.

Realizing that possession is nine-tenths of the law, the British stopped enforcing laws that prevented English colonists from moving inland. In 1746, a small but enterprising number of settlers now began moving into Ohio, where they rapidly cleared land, built roads, and displaced large numbers of Native Americans.

Deeply alarmed, the French sent a military mapping expedition into the Ohio Country in 1747 to reinforce their claim. The British chartered the Ohio Valley Company two years later. Investors included some of the most prominent Colonial politicians of the day, including Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia. Large numbers of English settlers began moving into western Pennsylvania and Ohio with the company's financial backing.

The French responded by building a fort on Presque Isle in Lake Erie near what is now Erie, Pennsylvania, and driving off large numbers of British traders.

* * * * * * * * *

Dinwiddie stood to lose a vast sum if the French incursion succeeded. So he ordered 21 year-old Major George Washington of the Virginia Regiment into western Pennsylvania in October 1753. Washington met with the French commander of the area, demanding he leave. "I do not think myself obliged to obey," he told Washington.

The French now began moving south, building roads and forts. Fort Duquesne was erected in early 1754, and Dinwiddie sent Washington to seize it.

War broke out on May 28 when Washington's men surprised the French at Jumonville Glen. A massive French and Indian retaliation occurred, and Washington retreated. Overtaken, he established Fort Necessity (present-day Uniontown) to try to hold out. But he was forced to surrender.

* * * * * * * * *

The British decided to send an expedition to North America under the command of General Edward Braddock. Braddock had two regular army regiments, the 44th and 48th, with about 1,350 men. Another 500 regular army soldiers and militiamen from several British American colonies joined his column, bringing with them 10 cannon. His orders were to seize Fort Duquesne.

Braddock, with Washington besides him, set out from what is now the District of Columbia on April 14. He reached the British stronghold at Fort Cumberland, Maryland, on May 29. Braddock now faced a major challenge: Moving his heavy cannon through and over densely wooded Allegheny Mountains into western Pennsylvania, a journey of about 110 miles. Braddock, sure of victory, decided to build a road while he moved. This would give him an important logistical advantage in holding the fort after it was taken, and permit major British settlement of the area around the road.

Braddock's Road became one of the most important legacies of the march. It exists to this day, and is a major highway.

* * * * * * * * *

The French garrison at Fort Duquesne consisted of 250 French Army regulars and Canadian militia, with about 640 Indian allies. General Claude-Pierre Pécaudy de Contrecoeur, the French commander, received reports from Indian scouts weeks before Braddock approached, and learned of the heavy cannon that Braddock carried. Contrecoeur decided a preemptive strike -- attacking before Braddock could bring his cannon to bear -- was the only way to defeat the British.

On July 9, 1755, Braddock crossed the Monongahela River, about 10 miles south of Fort Duquesne. Washington tried to warn Braddock that the French and the Indians fought differently than the open-field style used by the British. Braddock ignored him.

About 11 A.M., a force of 300 French and Indian troops skirmished with Braddock's 1,400 men. The French field commander was killed, but the French swiftly counterattacked. The British, startled by the second assault, mistakenly concluded that they had been ambushed. The Britsh advance units began to retreat -- and ran smack into their own main force on Braddock's Road. The British column dissolved into chaos as the French and Indians surrounded them, using the cover of the woods.

Suddenly, the main French force of 600 began advancing down the road. As British officers on horseback tried to reform their troops into perfect lines, the French and Indians shot them. With their own troops milling about in front, the British could not bring effective cannon fire to bear. Colonial militia headed into the woods for cover to try to blunt the French and Indian attack; British regulars fired on them, mistaking them for French militia.

Several hours of intense combat ensued.

Near sunset, Braddock was shot and fell from his horse, mortally wounded. Washington managed to cobble together a rear guard, and ordered a retreat.

On July 13, the British reached the shattered remains of Fort Necessity. Braddock died that night. Washington had the general buried in the middle of the road he had constructed.

* * * * * * * * *

The British had suffered horrifying losses. There was an overall casualty rate of 67 percent (30 percent renders a unit no longer combat-effective). The casualty rate was even higher among officers (78.5 percent). The French and Indians reported 23 killed and 16 wounded.

The French and Indians did not pursue. The surviving French commander realized the British were utterly defeated, but he did not have enough of a force to engage in organized pursuit.

The British were left stunned by the loss of Braddock. By now, war between the French and English had moved to Europe, where it was called the Seven Years' War.

The French in North America achieved numerous victories over the British and their Colonial allies over the next two years. But in Europe, the British blockaded the French coast. As French resupply dwindled, British fortunes in North America revived.

By 1760, the British had defeated the French in North America, seizing all of Canada and of North America to the Mississippi River.

* * * * * * * * *

The French and Indian War nearly bankrupted the British. Parliament sought to recoup the costs of the war by taxing the American colonies. This set in motion the American Revolution 16 years later.

For George Washington, the defeats at Fort Necessity and the Monongahela proved life-changing. Washington never forgot how much hubris, pride, and arrogance both he and Braddock had shown. Never again would he show the recklessness of his youth. Over and over, Washington would refer to the losses in western Pennsylvania during his strategic and tactical discussions with his commanders during the American Revolutionary War.

Portions of the original Braddock's Road can still be seen in Pennsylvania.

In 1804, some workmen regrading Braddock's Road discovered General Braddock's remains. Some of the remains were kept as souvenirs. Outraged, a local judge ordered the bones and buttons returned. Some hand bones ended up in a museum, and later the collection of P.T. Barnum. They were lost in a fire in 1864. A section of vertebrae was retained by the U.S. Army, and resides in the Army medical museum in Bethesda, Maryland. Braddock's remains were reinterred on a small hill adjacent to the road. A marker was placed over the site in 1913.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... that with just 18 months on the job, John McKenna had the shortest tenure of any Chief Usher in the history of the White House?
Paramount's Transformers may be dead.

The Last Knight, which hit theaters on June 21, has grossed only $102.1 million. The previous installment, Age of Extinction, topped out at $245.4 million, versus $342.4 million for Dark of the Moon and a franchise-best $402 million for Revenge of the Fallen.

Actually, I learned something VERY interesting about film economics while reading about the failing franchise.

(1) In the United States and Canada, the movie theater owner will take 50 percent of the box office gross, with the remainder going to the studio. (It's actually more complicated than that. In the first weekend, the studio gets like 70 percent. But the percentage declines over each successive week. A big hit that lingers in theaters, like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, can end up with 90 percent of revenues going to theater owners after eight weeks.)

HOWEVER: Overseas, studios get a lot less. There are very rigid laws and regulations about revenue sharing, which means no negotiation. (Studios often negotiate special deals with North American theaters regarding certain big-grossing films like the Star Wars and Marvel films. They might, for example, take only 40 percent of box office the first week if the theater chain agrees to put the film on ten screens rather than six.) Theater owners overseas take about 60 percent right off the bat, and their take climbs slightly to about 80 percent over time. Most countries also have a quota system for foreign films (they can account for only a certain percentage of films released and box office per year), to protect their indigenous film industries.

Thus, foreign box office is NOT the salvation for a lot of movies. The Mummy (2017), for example, is raking in 80 percent of its profits ($300 million of its $376 million total) overseas. But just $180 million is coming back to the studio. The Last Knight is in the same boat: 75.6 percent of its profit is coming from overseas. It may be fair to say that the studio is probably getting about what The Mummy did, which means those big foreign box office totals don't mean much.

(2) Domestic box office predicts licensing revenue -- which is where massive amounts of money is made. A whopping 85 percent of all licensed material (bedsheets, t-shirts, posters, action figure, trading cards, diapers, disposal picnic plates, Burger King soda cups, tea cozies, collectible swords and jewelry, snowglobes, etc.) are sold in the United States and Canada. Very little of this junk is sold outside North America. In part, it's because the wealthy foreign markets (Western Europe and Japan) are so small in comparison to the North American market. But, in part, it's because these other cultures don't value this stuff. The Germans, for example, will buy Transformers because they are toys. But they don't buy Transformers breakfast cereal or shampoo or collectible spoons. Even the media-hungry Japanese don't purchase that gimcrack.

Licensing deals can make or break movies. Hasbro Studios (the co-producer, with di Bonaventura Pictures) made about $60 million on licensing alone after the first Transformers movie, covering 40 percent of the film's budget (but not any of the prints and advertising costs, which were about $100 million). That number was only a little higher after the $200 million second film, Revenge of the Fallen. But it shot to $80 million for the third (Dark of the Moon) and fourth films (Age of Extinction).

The Last Knight hoped to top $1 billion in box office gross, like the last two films, which would have given Hasbro Studios $80 million again. The studio had hoped for even more licensing income than that: The studio partnered with two Chinese film companies to get around quota and revenue-sharing rules. This gave the film much greater access to the Chinese market, and everyone assumed the Chinese would buy licensed stuff. But the film saw a massive 76 percent drop-off in its second week!! China represented 63 percent of the film's foreign opening, but the picture is now bombing there. (After making $123.4 million its first week, it made a horrific $24.3 million its second week.)

Moreover, the budget for The Last Knight rose to $250 million (not including the $100 million P&A budget), an eye-popping increase over the past four films. With both domestic and foreign box office running 50 percent lower than expected, and no "China boost" in licensing revenue, Hasbro Studios could see its licensing revenue drop to $40 million -- the lowest of the franchise ever. This wouldn't even cover the increase in budget.

From a licensing perspective, the only way to save the franchise would be to slash the budget to under $190 million (which is where the first film was). Even then, the next film would only break even.

Friday, July 7, 2017

I need a farmhand...

A new study says a man should ejaculate at least 21 times a month in order to avoid prostate cancer.

Given the average number of times I rubbed one out between the ages of 11 and 21, I should be safe until the year 7,058.
"Is She With You?", also known as "Wonder Woman's Theme", is a musical score written for the 2016 motion picture Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The composer was Hans Zimmer, collaborating with cellist Tina Guo.

The theme was reworked by Guo and composer Rupert Gregson-Williams as "Wonder Woman's Wrath" for the 2017 film Wonder Woman.

Hans Zimmer was hired to write the musical score for Batman v. Superman. He had worked with Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg), a Dutch electronica and film composer, on Man of Steel, and asked him to collaborate on the new film. To avoid reusing themes Zimmer had used for the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, Zimmer worked on the Superman music while Holkenborg worked on the Batman music. Unable to "just let go", Zimmer eventually collaborated with Holkenborg on the Batman themes.

Zimmer worked on a number of Wonder Woman themes for the film, using a variety of approaches -- sweeping strings, vocals, etc. All of them have been done and overused, and he didn't like any of the results. Then he had a flash of inspiration: "One thing that has bugged me forever is that our superhero movies are so masculine and male generated. I wanted Wonder Woman to be... I wanted the music to be full of more female..." Zimmer contacted his friend, cellist Tina Guo.

Guo had been a classical cellist since the age of 11. A life-long fan of heavy metal music, she made a heavy metal electric cello music video about eight years ago. A friend showed Zimmer the video, and he contacted her. They became good friends.

Guo spent three days in the studio, discussing different ideas with Zimmer and working out different approaches. Guo wanted to emulate her favorite band, Rammstein, because she felt they had a raw, carnal energy. She wanted something powerful and strong, but also a little more refined. For his part, Zimmer wanted something akin to a banshee's wail, something really terrifying and feminine.

They settled on a relatively simple music trope: Resolution. The initial three notes (an E, G, and B) turn into a minor key, six-note ostinato (or flutter; B-flat and A). After two repetitions, the flutter resolves to a B-natural, before using a glissando to hit lower B-flat.

Contrary to a wide range of sources, Holkenborg did NOT work on the Wonder Woman theme. He did cause Zimmer to start the music at a different spot in the scene, one Zimmer never would have chosen himself. The surprising placement of the musical cue added to its impact.

For the Wonder Woman soundtrack, Rupert Gregson-Williams wanted to stay away from Zimmer and Guo's theme, as it represented a mature Wonder Woman. Gregson-Williams wanted a more percussion-heavy, symphonic sound for the "innocent" Wonder Woman of the film, particularly for the earlier scenes on Paradise Island. Yet, Gregson-Williams knew he wanted to use the Zimmer theme once Wonder Woman comes into her own during the fight with Ludendorff and Ares.

Gregson-Williams and Guo decided to rework the Zimmer theme, using an electric cello rather than electric guitar. Guo played the electric cello with the orchestra, and Gregson-Williams says her ferocity and energy while playing brought out an entirely different kind of playing and emotion from the percusssionists. It was the same music, but wildly different at the same time.

The "Wonder Woman Theme", which some critics refer to as the "War Cry", is first heard during the assault on the Belgian town. It's heard only briefly at first. Gregson-Williams re-orchestrated the theme, shifting the second ostinato a half-tone higher. During the "Wrath of Wonder Woman", Gregson-Williams has the bass brasses play the War Cry first. When we hear it again a few seconds later, it's the electric cello. At mid-battle, as the attack crescendos, we hear the theme again, repeated twice. But Gregson-Williams' own Wonder Woman theme is heard before we hear the War Cry again -- which this time is begun by the electric cello, but finished by strings.
He'd do better to leave his pecs unshaved, like his belly is. That is an impressive tenting he has there, though.

The Sombrero Galaxy...

Also known as Messier Object 104 (M104) or New General Catalogue 4594 (NGC 4594), it is an unbarred spiral galaxy in the constellation Virgo located about 31 million light-years from Earth.

The Sombrero Galaxy was discovered on May 11, 1781 by Pierre Méchain.

The galaxy is approximately 50,000 light-years across, which makes it just a third of the size of the Milky Way.

Its nucleus is both unusually bright and large, and surrounded by a vast halo. Astronomers initially thought that the halo was small and light, later observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope showed that the halo was both larger and more massive than previously thought.

The core is surrounded by a prominent ring of cold atomic hydrogen gas, cold molecular gas, and dust. A particularly dark lane of dust lane exists at the outer edge of the ring, marking the center.

The nucleus of the Sombrero Galaxy is probably devoid of any significant star formation activity. Yet, it is a powerful and steady source of synchrotron emissions. Synchrotron emission occurs when high-velocity electrons oscillate as they pass through regions with strong magnetic fields. This emission is quite common for galactic nuclei with high star formation. The nucleus is also a powerful emitter of submillimeter radiation.

In the 1990s, astronomers discovered that the galaxy has a super-massive black hole at its center, one approximately 1 billion times the mass of the Sun. But neither the synchrotron emission nor the submillimeter radiation appear to be connected to the black hole.

No one knows what's going on in there...

The ring of the Sombrero Galaxy appears to be quite an active region for star formation. The galaxy also appears to have a rather high number of globular clusters, spherical collection of stars that orbit the galactic core much as a satellite does.

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... that in 2016, the Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Women's History Museum recommended that there be an American Museum of Women's History as part of the Smithsonian Institution, and handed off all fundraising to the Smithsonian's Office of Institutional Advancement to raise the necessary $180 million?
Words fail me.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

After all the hub-ub-bub about The Man in the High Castle last year, the BBC's SS-GB has gotten zero attention. I thought it should.

It's based on the 1978 novel by thriller author Len Deighton. The novel is set in an alternative history in which Nazi Germany invades Great Britain immediately after Dunkirk, and conquers the island nation. Queen Elizabeth flees to New Zealand with the princess royal (Elizabeth and Margaret), and the Duke of Windsor escapes France to Canada. George VI, however, remains in London, is captured, and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Winston Churchill is executed. The shocked United States stays out of the European conflict. The Soviet Union -- lacking American war materiél -- sues for peace and gets it.

The SS has established a branch in Britain, known as SS-GB. SS-GB oversees the British police.

Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer of the London Metropolitan Police is called in regarding the murder of a well-dressed German with a curious sunburn on one arm. Archer is surprised when SS Standartenführer Oskar Huth arrives from Germany to supervise the investigation. Huth and Gruppenführer Fritz Kellerman, Archer's boss, begin waging a battle for power. Soon, it looks as if the British Resistance is involved in the murder. If true, the SS will kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians in retaliation. Archer must solve the case in order avoid mass slaughter. But with the Huth overseeing his investigation, he can't lie and ignore the truth.

Soon, the stakes rise even higher in Archer's investigation...

The BBC mini-series consists of five one-hour episodes. It aired from 19 February to 19 March 2017, and stars Sam Riley as Archer, Kate Bosworth as Barbara Barga, Lars Eidinger as Huth, and Rainer Bock as Kellermann.

Damn your eyes!

The Star-Spangled Banner, on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

This flag flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Seeing the flag inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem which later became the national anthem of the United States.

* * * * * *

After the Burning of Washington during the War of 1812, it became clear that the next target for the British would be Baltimore, then the fourth-largest city in America. Fort McHenry was the city's primary defense from attack from water. Major George Armistead, commander of the fort, wanted a very large flag to fly over the fort -- one that would be unmistakable from a great distance. An order was placed with a Baltimore flagmaker, who provided the largest American battle flag ever flown at the time.

The flag had been sewn by Mary Young Pickersgill of Baltimore in 1813 at a cost of $405.90 (equivalent to $5,037 in 2016). The flag was made of cotton and dyed wool bunting. Pickersgill was assisted by her daughter, two nieces, and an African American indentured servant. The flag has fifteen horizontal red and white stripes, as well as fifteen white stars in the blue field. (At the time, the practice of adding stripes as well as stars with the induction of a new state had not yet been discontinued. The two extra stripes represented Kentucky and Vermont.)

The flag measured 30 by 42 feet.

* * * * * *

The flag was retained by Major Armistead after the battle. The "fly end" -- the tail of the flag -- was in tatters due to its snapping in the wind. Over the next century, the Armistead family occasionally cut pieces from the fly-end of the flag to give away as souvenirs and gifts. Other fly-end remnants were used to patch the flag. At some point, someone sewed a red chevron onto the flag, possibly to represent the "A" in "Armistead". In 1873, in preparation for a public display in Baltimore, a heavy canvas backing was attached to the flag. By 1900, eight feet had been cut from the end of the flag. One of the stars was also removed and given away as a gift.

* * * * * *

In 1912, Armistead's heirs donated the flag to the Smithsonian Institution. The flag was in poor shape. Many of the stripes had split apart, and much of the bunting was threadbare. The banner was riddled with holes, from wear and tear, insect damage, and probably at least one British rocket. It was restored by Amelia Fowler in 1914, in preparation for going on display. She removed the canvas backing (which was putting immense strain on the original fabric), sewed a linen backing onto the flag to support it. She and 10 her assistants also sewed more than 1.7 million interlocking stitches over the flag in a honeycomb-like mesh to hold the flag against the line backing.

The flag was displayed upright in a glass case in the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building. In 1942, it was moved to a secret government warehouse in Luray, Virginia, to protect it from possible bombing raids on the nation's capital. It returned to display in 1944.

In the late 1940s, the flag was spot-cleaned with gasoline, and then vacuumed.

In 1964, the National Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History) opened on the National Mall. The flag was moved there, and displayed in the second floor central hall.

* * * * * *

Wildly varying temperatures, high heat and humidity, and strong light had adversely affected the flag by 1980. In 1981, the Smithsonian took the flag off display and vacuumed it. New lighting and air-handling systems were installed in the central hall, and a screen mounted in front of the flag to protect it from light and airborne matter. The flag went back on display in 1984. The screen was lowered for five minutes every hour to give the public a view of the flag.

In 1994, the cables holding the screen broke, leaving the flag exposed. Conservators removed the flag to allow repair of the screen. Upon close inspection, they discovered that the screen had not done its job. The wool fibers were decaying rapidly, and humidity from sweaty human beings and chemicals from hair spray, deodorants, sunscreen, bug spray, and perfume -- all worn by people thronging the museum -- had caused many fibers to disintegrate. Additionally, bits and pieces of plants (tracked in by museum patrons), paper, and clothing fibers (including a large about of blue denim fibers) had contamined the flag.

* * * * * *

The flag was kept off display which conservators researched a plan for saving the flag. In 1998, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton initiated a fundraising project designed to help the Smithsonian save its most fragile treasures. The flag was moved to a climate- and light-controlled conservation lab in 1999 for conservation.

The conservation effort first removed the honeycomb mesh and the linen backing. The wool fibers of the original flag wer so damaged, even the light weight of the linen was dragging on them and causing them to disintegrate. For two years, a microscopic examination of the condition and construction of the flag was made, to determine the flag's actual condition. This included infrared spectrometry, electron microscopy, mechanical testing, determination of amino acid content, and infrared imaging. The flag was then cleaned with a water-acetone solution, which also reduced the acidity of the wool and retarded its disintegration. A new backing made of a sheer polyester fabric called Stabiltex was then attached to stabilize the flag.

The restoration was completed in 2008 at a total cost of more than $21 million.

* * * * * *

The Star-Spangled Banner is now on display in a two-story sealed, pressurized display chamber. A waterless fire-suppression system protects it. The air quality and humidity of the room are tightly controlled, and the flag is displayed only in dim light of a certain wavelength. A special glass viewing window protects it from flash photography.

The flag lies on a custom-built table at a 10-degree angle that allows it to be viewed by the public. A gantry system allows conservators to move over the flag and inspect and care for it without having to move it or touch it. The flag's condition is monitored by a series of sensors placed beneath the flag and in its sealed preservation room.

Flash Gordon... For those who faithfully watched the entire 16 episodes of the first season unfold, it was magical. The splendor of creator Alex Raymond's strip was in great evidence.

Filmation began work on Flash Gordon as a reaction to the release of Star Wars in 1977. It was originally intended to be a made-for-television movie. The script was by author Samuel A. Peeples, best known as the author of various Western novels and scripts for Western-themed TV shows. But he'd also written the script for the Star Trek episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before". The film was set during World War II, and featured a subplot about Ming supplying Adolf Hitler with military technology. When NBC saw the finished work, it ordered the film chopped up and turned into an animated TV series. This forced a major expansion in the story, and reqeuired setting it in the modern day (which meant the subplot about Hitler was dropped). Most of the characters were recast and redubbed, with the exception of Robert Ridgely as Flash Gordon, Diane Pershing as Dale Arden, and Melendy Britt as Princess Aura.

The series began airing in September 1979. The first season was a serial, with each episode telling part of a season-long narrative. The basic story was lifted right out of the Alex Raymond comic strip, and followed Flash, Dale Arden, and Dr. Zarkov as they travel to Mongo and do battle with Ming the Merciless, Princess Aura, and Ming's army of Metal Men. The TV show includes nearly all the characters developed by Raymond, including King Thun of the Lion People, Prince Barin of Arboria, and King Vultan of the Hawkmen.

NBC renewed the series late in the spring of 1980, which delayed the second season a full year (due to the long lead-times required to do animation). NBC demanded that the second season be episodic rather than a serial (each episode a self-contained story), and that the series aim at younger children. To this end, a new character was added, Flash's goofy pet dragon Gremlin (which can make images with its smoke).

The series was canceled after its second season, after ratings plunged.

The original footage was reassembled with the original soundtrack, and aired on NBC as a primetime movie in 1982 under the title Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All. It has never been released on DVD or blu-ray. (There was a laserdisc release in Japan that is long out of print.)

The animated film is much more adult in tone and visuals, and has a large number of differences from the TV series:

  • The departure of the trio from Earth is depicted. Instead of Zarkov forcing Flash and Dale aboard his rocket, they are trapped there when molten lava floods the area and a launch is their only escape. Unfortunately, the rocket is programmed only to go to Mongo...
  • Flash and Zarkov use 1939 firearms.
  • Ming's Lizard Women overseers are depicted as eating their human prisoners.
  • Mongian firearms look much more like 1939 Earth weapons than those in the animated series.
  • The Hawkmen's sky-city is clearly destroyed (not just damaged).
  • Flash and Dale Arden see their clothing become ripped and torn, exposing more of their flesh. Dale spends the majority of her time in a very revealing costume imposed on her by Ming. Flash does not receive his red and blue uniform until the last 20 minutes of the film.
  • Various people (hawkmen, lionmen, Arborians, etc.) aren't just shot and fall -- they die on film. Ming also clearly intends to put Barin, Vultan, and Thun to death.
  • The final fight between Ming and Flash involves the use of both pistols and swords by both parties.
  • Aura is much less sympathetic. There is physical attraction between her and Prince Barin, but no romance. In the end, she refuses to swear allegiance to Barin as Regent, and Barin imprisons her.
  • Flash, Dale, and Zarkov learn they will never be able to return to Earth. (The animated series never addresses the issue.)