MIKA27

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9 hours ago, MIKA27 said:

The King's Man Trailer Shows The Birth Of The Kingsmen... And A Sword-Fighting Rasputin

The first trailer is here for The King’s Man, the turn-of-the-century prequel to the Kingsman series.

Taking place in the early 1900s, The King’s Man is about a collection of history’s worst villains (like Rasputin) coming together to plan a war that could wipe out millions of people. It’s unclear whether this war is tied to World War I, or whether it’s something even bigger and deadlier. The Duke of Oxford (Fiennes) and his new protégé Conrad (Harris Dickinson) have to work together to stop this threat, leading to the creation of the Secret Service agency otherwise known as the Kingsmen.

The King’s Man, directed by Matthew Vaughn, is the first in a series of planned “expanded universe” films in the Kingsman franchise (originally titled Kingsman: The Great Game). It also stars Djimon Hounsou, Gemma Arterton, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Harris Dickinson, Charles Dance, Daniel Brühl, and Rhys Ifans as sexy Rasputin.

The film arrives in theatres on February 14, 2020.

I wonder how this is going to tie into the original history if the Duke of Oxford created the Kingsmen, as according to Harry Hart:

“Since 1849, Kingsman tailors have clothed the world's most powerful individuals. By 1919, a great number of them had lost their heirs to World War I. That meant a lot of money, going un-inherited, and a lot of powerful men with the desire to preserve peace and protect life. Our founders realized that they could channel that wealth and influence for the greater good. And so began our other venture. An independent, international intelligence agency, operating at the highest level of discretion. Above the politics and bureaucracy that undermine the integrity of government run spy organizations. A suit is the modern gentleman’s armor, and the Kingsman agents, are the new knights.” - Harry Hart

 

8 hours ago, MIKA27 said:

Enormous Flight Simulator Installed In Tokyo Hotel

 

If they had modeled it on the new Max8, they could have gotten a lot of spare cockpits on the cheap!

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We’re getting a fourth Thor film, and Taika Waititi is directing it

Still image from Thor: Ragnarok.

Director Taika Waititi is a hot commodity in Hollywood these days, with no sign of his star fading any time soon. He's just signed on with Marvel Studios to direct Thor 4, according to the Hollywood Reporter, and Chris Hemsworth is expected to return as the titular god of thunder.

The first Thor was mostly good, blending action and comedy in a winning mix, although it wasn't quite as strong as other origin stories in the MCU. The second? Well, The Dark World suffered from early pacing problems and an overly elaborate plot, bolstered primarily by terrific performances by Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Their complicated relationship remains the heart of the franchise. Then Marvel, in a savvy move, hired relative newcomer Waititi to direct 2017's Thor: Ragnarok.

At the time, the director was best known for his cult hit, What We Do in the Shadows (now a half-hour comedy series on FX) and 2016's, Hunt for the Wilderpeople—a charming, poignant comedy-drama that deserves a much wider audience. Waititi's Ragnarok proved to be a game-changer, elevating the Thor franchise to an entirely new level with its skillful blend of humor, action, tragedy, and a final whiff of hope—only to have that hope snuffed out ruthlessly by the Russo brothers in the first few minutes of Avengers: Infinity War.

We know nothing about Thor 4, given that Waititi just inked the deal, but no other standalone superhero in the MCU has yet warranted a fourth film. Will he hook up with the Guardians of the Galaxy (whose next big adventure is also in the works)? When End Game concluded, Thor had lifted himself out of alcoholic depression—while keeping the extra pounds, at Hemsworth's insistence—and handed over leadership of New Asgaard to Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), who I'd wager will figure into the new film. We may even see some version of Loki, given the timeline shenanigans of End Game. (My Ars colleague, Sam Machkovech, is hoping for a narrative arc along the lines of Fat Thor: The Great Triumph Over Gilligan's Island Reruns. Hey, it could happen.)

Of course, that means Waititi's live-action adaptation of Akira for Warner Bros. will be put on hold, although the troubled project had already experienced delays. (The original manga-inspired anime film celebrated its 30th anniversary last year.) Script concerns had been largely addressed, but per Deadline Hollywood, "The project had been on the rocks for weeks, with word in town that it is a difficult film to cast ethnically at its high budget, in this moment of political correctness." Warner Bros. has been trying to make a live-action version since it acquired the rights in 2002, so the studio's bad luck on that front continues.

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Atari 2600 rarity Extra Terrestrials goes on sale for $90,000: Extremely limited 1984 release was practically unheard of until 2011.

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Got $90,000 burning a hole in your pocket? If so, you seemingly have a rare opportunity to purchase one of the rarest Atari 2600 games in existence.

Extra Terrestrials (not to be confused with the notorious movie-licensed Atari 2600 flop E.T.) was an actual Atari 2600 game sold near the tail end of the 2600's commercial existence in early 1984. But the cartridge was almost completely unknown, even among the Atari collecting community, until October of 2011. That's when a copy turned up as a contribution to Canada's Personal Computer Museum in Brantford, Ontario.

With a bit of research, curators at the museum were able to determine that the game's maker, Skill Screen Games, was centered around the Banting family of Burlington, Ontario (making this the only Canadian-produced Atari 2600 game, to boot). The Bantings, hoping to cash in on the Atari craze and the continuing hype around the E.T. movie, hired a programmer named Herman Quast to write a simple two-player maze game for the Atari 2600, with plans to sell that game through distributors for the 1983 holiday season.

After a delay pushed the release into early 1984, though, the great video game crash of 1983 had pretty much eliminated any chance of an unknown (and pretty derivative) game finding interest from distributors. But the Bantings decided to see their investment through, producing roughly 100 cartridges and selling them door to door in the area, according to the creators.

It’s worth how much?

Fast forward to 2011, when this unknown and unheralded game found its way to the museum. After tracking down the creators and backing up the ROM for archival and distribution, curators produced a limited edition run of 100 "Special Edition" carts for the collector's market. The museum has since obtained two more of the game's original run of cartridges and discovered a fourth that currently belongs to developer Herman Quast.

But this is seemingly the first time that a copy of this little-known gaming rarity has been up for private sale. The seller, who has a perfect feedback rating going back for years on eBay, says they "purchased this game from a seller who found this game in the Brantford area close to the site of production. I paid a premium price for it myself and it is very difficult for me to make this choice but I thought I would open the opportunity to the world to get their hands on a truly unique piece of gaming history."

With no previous sales for Extra Terrestrials on record, it's hard to say whether this cartridge is actually worth $90,000, even to the most intense Atari collectors. Retro gaming expert Racketboy estimated its worth at $7,000 to $15,000 back in October 2018. That valuation put it somewhat below Air Raid, another oddly shaped, incredibly rare Atari cartridge that sold for over $33,000 in 2012.

Even at $90,000, Extra Terrestrials' asking price is below the $100,000 garnered for a pristine, sticker-sealed test market copy of Super Mario Bros. earlier this year. But that was a (thus far) one-of-a-kind find that represents one of the most well-regarded and culturally significant games of all time. While Extra Terrestrials has an interesting history, it's not a game that brings up nostalgic memories or anything more than historic curiosity for pretty much anyone.

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For what it's worth, it seems like this eBay listing has already been ended and then re-listed, seemingly due to a fraudulent buyer. So serious bidders interested in spending $90,000 on a single Atari cartridge only, please.

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The First Cats Trailer Is Extremely Cursed

You’re not prepared for this one. Trust me, You are not prepared.

Universal just surprised us all with a first look at Tom Hooper’s adaptation of the seminal broadway musical Cats, featuring CG fur-covered actors as titular felines. It is, as you’ll see, a choice:

I should not have to state this if you have watched this trailer, but, my friends, this movie looks like an insane nightmare and I cannot believe it is real. Who thought this was a good choice? Who released this trailer? Why? How? When? I have so many questions that now claw at my very existence. Claw at it like a million, computer-enhanced cat people with their pixellated claws.

Cats boasts a bonkers cast to match its bonkers, well, everything, including Dame Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, James Corden, Jason Derulo, Ray Winstone, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson, and more. Their fursonas will now haunt every moment of your existence, waking or otherwise.

Cats will scare the everliving crap out of you today, but also later this year.

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The Weird Ways NASA Thought Moon Dust Might Kill Apollo Astronauts

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Prior to the first Moon landing, scientists had good reason to believe the lunar surface was covered in a fine layer of dust. While this might not sound like a big deal, it presented a host of concerns to the Apollo mission planners.

In the 1955, pioneering Cornell scientist Thomas Gold controversially theorised that the lunar surface was covered in a fine rocky power, the result of countless collisions with large and small meteorites and the effects of solar radiation breaking down surface materials. Many scientists objected, but NASA took this possibility very seriously, particularly during the planning stages of the Apollo program. For NASA, the presence of Moon dust, known as regolith, produced no shortage of potential problems.

First and foremost, and as proposed by Gold, the lunar dust might swallow astronauts like quicksand. Indeed, without any prior experience of standing on a celestial body aside from Earth, a concern emerged that the soft regolith on the Moon wasn’t compact enough to support the weight of the Lunar Module or astronauts out for a stroll. Nightmarish thoughts of astronauts getting swallowed up into the lunar dust prompted further investigation.

The threat was taken seriously enough that research into “lunar surface bearing strength” became a stated goal of NASA’s Surveyor program. Between 1966 and 1968, seven Surveyor probes were sent to the Moon (of which five survived the journey) to investigate various characteristics of the lunar surface—bearing strength included.

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A Surveyor 3 footpad rests on the dusty lunar surface. The imprint was caused by the probe bouncing off the surface during landing.

Data from these missions suggested the surface was tough enough to support the weight of the astronauts, but as Buzz Aldrin later recounted in his book Return to Earth, trepidation about the prospect persisted right up until the landing:

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The moon had been measured, compared with other planets, and poked at. One by one old misconceptions about it had died. In the seventeenth century, scientists believed there were creatures on the moon...More widely held was the suspicion that the moon’s surface was covered with dust so thick it would swallow a man or a spaceship like quicksand.

These theories had been disproved one by one until the only concern about the dust remained. The unmanned Surveyor landings indicated a well-compacted surface which would more than adequately support the weight of the [Lunar Module]. So this, too, was a relatively minor concern. No one would know for sure, of course, until we were there.

 

As testament to this concern, the iconic photograph of Aldrin’s footprint was actually taken as part of the ongoing research into the soil mechanics of the lunar surface. Needless to say, no one got sucked up into the lunar regolith, and this fear was finally relegated to scientific dustbin of history.

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Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing next to a leg of the Eagle lunar module. Thankfully, no one sank through the soft lunar regolith.

Because the lunar dust was presumed to consist of tiny particles, a concern emerged about the regolith’s static potential. This turned out to be true, as “static cling” caused the dust to stick to the Apollo astronauts’ suits as they entered into the capsule after their moonwalks. That said, NASA didn’t predict the scale or worry too much about the static cling at first, and a brush wasn’t supplied until Apollo 13.

Instead, mission planners worried about the static effect during the landing. Writing in his 2009 book, Moonshot: The Inside Story of Mankind’s Greatest Adventure, Dan Parry writes that scientists feared “a charge of static electricity would attract so much dust that nobody would be able to see out of the windows.” But while the Apollo landings kicked up a considerable amount of dust, the feared static cling effect never happened.

In addition to predicting the presence of lunar dust, Gold also warned NASA that the lunar dust might be volatile. His specific concern was that the dust might combust when brought into the oxygen-rich cabin of the Lunar Module, causing a fire or even an explosion. In his new book One Giant Leap, author Charles Fishman describes the nervous efforts of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, who had been forewarned of the possibility:

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Armstrong and Aldrin did their own test. Just a moment after he became the first human being to step onto the Moon, Armstrong had scooped a bit of lunar dirt into a sample bag and put it in a pocket of his spacesuit—a contingency sample, in the event the astronauts had to leave suddenly without collecting rocks. Back inside the lunar module the duo opened the bag and spread the lunar soil on top of the ascent engine. As they repressurized the cabin, they watched to see if the dirt started to smolder. “If it did, we’d stop pressurization, open the hatch and toss it out,” Aldrin explained. “But nothing happened.”

Donald Bogard, Heritage Fellow at the Lunar Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, told Space.com back in 2014 that Gold was “partly correct” when he warned NASA that the “lunar dust brought into the lunar module might spontaneously combust and produce a safety issue,” but while he had “realised the likely reactive nature of lunar material surfaces,” Gold “over-emphasised their reactive effects.”

A well-known concern about the Apollo mission was that the astronauts might bring back dangerous pathogens, and this extended to the return of potentially contaminated lunar materials.

In 1963, a special subcommittee of the National Academy of sciences gathered to discuss the unlikely, but grim, possibility of having to deal with Apollo crew members who contracted some sort of lunar disease, and how to handle potentially contaminated materials.

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President Richard Nixon visiting the Apollo 11 crew in quarantine.

The notion that pathogens or toxic substances could exist on the Moon might seem outlandish, but scientists at the time simply had no way of knowing—and they refused to take chances. The subcommittee subsequently recommended that NASA “establish a quarantine program to ensure that the Earth and its ecology would be protected from any possible hazard associated with the return of lunar material,” according to a NASA report compiled after the Apollo 11 mission.

NASA established a Crew Microbiology Program prior to the mission “in recognition of the possibility of returning terrestrial contaminants in the lunar soil,” according to the agency’s report. A strict postflight quarantine program was put in place for returning Apollo crewmembers, along with protocols for handling possibly contaminated spacecraft, equipment, and lunar samples.

The returning astronauts were quickly quarantined after splashdown, but as Apollo crewmembers Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin later admitted in the PBS documentary Chasing the Moon, it was a bit of a farce, as reported by Space.com:

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“Look at it this way,” [Collins] added. “Suppose there were germs on the moon. There are germs on the moon, we come back, the command module is full of lunar germs. The command module lands in the Pacific Ocean, and what do they do? Open the hatch. You got to open the hatch! All the damn germs come out!”

[...] “You have to laugh a little bit,” Aldrin said as archival footage showed the astronauts being disinfected inside a raft that floated beside the spacecraft. He recalled rescue personnel sponging him down, then throwing the used rag into the water beside them. “It takes all those germs to the bottom of the ocean,” he said, then paused to laugh. “I wonder if they’d survive down there?”

 

In any case, the trio had to wear Biological Isolation Garments during their transport to the lunar Receiving Laboratory (LRL) at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. The astronauts were in quarantine for 21 days, while medical staff were ready in the event the astronauts suddenly got sick from some unknown contaminant. Thankfully that didn’t happen, and the crew were able to rejoin their friends and families.

That the lunar dust might be toxic proved to be correct, but not in the way NASA envisioned. Apollo astronauts complained of “lunar dust hay fever” inside the capsule, and during Apollo 12, lunar dust caused lung and eye irritation on the return trip. Studies done after the Apollo missions revealed the toxic effects of inhaling the tiny, razor-sharp particles.

“I think dust is probably one of our greatest inhibitors to a nominal operation on the Moon,” said NASA astronaut Gene Cernan during the Apollo 17 technical debrief. “I think we can overcome other physiological or physical or mechanical problems except dust.”

Similarly, a 2016 report issued by the International Agency Working Group’s Dust Mitigation Gap Assessment Team concluded that dust “is still a principal limiting factor in returning to the lunar surface for missions of any extended duration.”

So while many of NASA’s concerns proved to be unwarranted, history showed the space agency was wise to worry about all that pesky dust on the Moon.

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First Trailer and Poster for “Top Gun: Maverick” 

First Trailer and Poster for "Top Gun: Maverick" Premieres After Hall H Presentation

Top Gun: Maverick, directed Joseph Kosinski, stars Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Val Kilmer, Jennifer Connelly, Glen Powell, Jon Hamm, and Ed Harris. It will be released June 26, 2020.

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“It: Chapter Two”: Final Showdown Looms Between Pennywise, Losers’ Club [FINAL TRAILER]

For Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård), revenge will be a dish best served cold as he’ll face the returning Losers’ Club that bested him nearly 30 years ago. Warner Bros. released the final trailer for It: Chapter Two that sees the reunited club return as adults to the town of Derry to vanquish the supernatural serial killer once and for all.

While the teaser featured Beverly (Jessica Chastain) returning to her childhood home only to find the current resident with familial ties to the terror she helped defeat 27 years ago, the trailer focuses more on the remaining adult members of the Losers’ Club finding themselves as ill equipped to battle the demon as they were before.

In one scene, Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy) gives chase in a funhouse in an attempt to save local children from the lurking clown only to find himself as helpless as the victims he ends up failing. Cutting through various shots of Pennywise staying one step ahead of the remaining adult Losers Club before we cut away to a shot of the adults alternating with their Chapter One younger counterparts.

Returning are director Andy Muschietti – as well as Gary Duberman, who pens the screenplay. Based on the novel by Stephen King, the film stars Chastain, McAvoy, Jay Ryan, Bill Hader, Isiah Mustafa, James Ransone, and Andy Beam. Sophia Lillis, Jaeden Martell, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff will reprise their roles as the younger counterparts of the Losers’ Club. Of course, Skarsgård reprises his role as Pennywise for It: Chapter Two.

'IT: Chapter 2': Pennywise is Back, Watch the First Trailer Now!

It: Chapter 2 arrives in theaters September 6th.

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New ‘Ad Astra’ Trailer

20th Century Fox has a new trailer and poster for the highly anticipated upcoming sci-fi drama Ad Astra. The film hails from acclaimed writer/director James Gray and stars Brad Pitt as an astronaut who is sent to the outer reaches of our solar system to search for his father, who went missing on a mission 16 years prior and whose ship contains material that could threaten to end life as we know it.

While I was a bit taken aback by the “commercial” aspect of the first trailer given Gray’s previous work, this trailer is definitely more in the wheelhouse of his previous thoughtful dramas like The Immigrant and The Lost City of Z. The spectacle of a space-set story is definitely there, and I love the glimpses we get here of a colony on the moon, but the internal conflict of Pitt’s central character is front and center here, and I am 1000% ready for a deep dive into this character’s psyche.

It also can’t be overlooked that this film could very well position Pitt in the Best Actor Oscar race for the first time in quite a while. While he won a Best Picture Oscar for producing Moonlight, he hasn’t been nominated as an actor since 2011’s excellent Moneyball. Could Ad Astra put him back in the race in a big way? We’ll find out soon enough.

For now, check out out the new Ad Astra trailer and poster below. Co-written by Ethan Gross, the film also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland. Ad Astra hits theaters on September 20th courtesy of Walt Disney Studios, which now owns Fox.

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Call of Duty: Watch 5 Minutes Of Modern Warfare Gunfight Gameplay In 4K

Gunfight is the newest mode coming to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and it has received five minutes of gameplay in 4K. The mode pits two teams of two against each other on a very small arena-style map. Teams will have to defeat one another within a 40-second timer; if they go into overtime, they'll have to capture a certain objective on the map or eliminate the opposing force before they take it. Rounds are quick and use randomized loadout weapons as opposed to Call of Duty's more traditional customizable classes.

The initial reveal was done via Twitch live streamers, showing them hands-on with the game. Gunfight seeks to replicate the intense personal action players would find in a fighting game like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. With rounds being very short, players can get in a satisfying number of matches, even if they don't have much time to play on any particular day. It's almost like a mode dedicated to maps that are the size of Nuketown, Rust, or Shipment.

This new gameplay footage comes directly from InfinityWard, showing a more focused look at the moment-to-moment gameplay without any Twitch streamers talking over the footage. The gameplay itself is from the PS4 Pro version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and looks to be running at a stable 60 frames per second. This lines up with the fast and fluid gameplay Call of Duty titles have always aimed for. 

One of the most striking things fans may notice during the video is the impact behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's sound design. Things are also certainly more grounded when compared to the series' previous focus on titles set in the future. The ways in which the player interacts with the environment and moves, in general, is noticeably refined compared to other boots on the ground entries. Gunfight will be separate from the core multiplayer playlist, which will consist of larger maps and 20-player battles for the first time in the series.

While Infinity Ward has revealed very little about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's multiplayer component, it appears that it'll be a big change-up from previous titles. Offering an experience that looks like Call of Duty redefined, while still including the core mechanics and systems that have made it so popular in the past. Infinity Ward is going to reveal  Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's full multiplayer offerings on August 1. If this new footage of Gunfight is anything to go by, longtime fans are definitely in for a treat.

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11 hours ago, MIKA27 said:

First Trailer and Poster for “Top Gun: Maverick” 

First Trailer and Poster for "Top Gun: Maverick" Premieres After Hall H Presentation

Top Gun: Maverick, directed Joseph Kosinski, stars Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Val Kilmer, Jennifer Connelly, Glen Powell, Jon Hamm, and Ed Harris. It will be released June 26, 2020.

Hell yeah!  Hearing this has got my thetan levels kicking on their afterburner

 

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A New Legend Begins In The First Trailer For Netflix's The Witcher

 

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First ‘Snowpiercer’ Trailer Teases the TBS TV Series Adaptation

TBS has revealed the first Snowpiercer trailer for the upcoming TV series adaptation of the critically acclaimed Bong Joon-ho film. Set more than seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland, Snowpiercer centers on the remnants of humanity, who inhabit a 1001 car, perpetually moving train that circles the globe.

This looks like a very straightforward adaptation of the 2014 film, albeit lacking the darkly comedic and more satirical touches of Joon-ho’s vision. Daveed Diggs fills the Chris Evans role here, with some key changes. While he still plays a character from the impoverished back-end of the train, he’s recruited by the folks at the front of the train to help track down a killer.

And while this trailer boasts “a series from the creator of Orphan Black,” Graeme Mason was not the first showrunner onboard Snowpiercer. Indeed, the show has had a tumultuous development period as it was originally created by Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) before he was fired over creative differences. Doctor Strange filmmaker Scott Derrickson directed Friedman’s original pilot, but when the network asked for reshoots, he declined to return out of solidarity with Friedman and a difference in Mason’s “radically different vision” for the series.

This trailer looks sufficient, and I’m inclined to check this thing out when it airs, but you do get the feeling it’s lacking the teeth that made Joon-ho’s film so special. We’ll find out when the series premieres on TBS in Spring 2020. The network has already renewed Snowpiercer for a second season.

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New ‘Watchmen’ Trailer Reveals a Vast Conspiracy, Laurie Blake, and the Arrival of Doctor Manhattan

HBO has released a new trailer for Watchmen, Damon Lindelof‘s adaptation of the groundbreaking comic book series by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons. There’s a lot to dig into over these juicy three minutes, so cue up David Bowie‘s “Life on Mars?” and let’s get into it.

First things first, it’s genuinely impossible to parse out what Lindelof and Co. are going for here story-wise, as this trailer does a fantastic job showing you a ton while revealing the meaning behind very little. Clearly, a cult-y organization of some kind has sprouted up that follows the hardline code of the masked vigilante Rorschach, even going as far as to summarize his famous diary quote: “Soon they will shout, ‘Save us!’ And we will whisper, ‘No.'”

The trailer also reveals that the all-powerful Doctor Manhattan is living on Mars—although that definitely appears to be his blue hand at the end—which would set the action somewhere in the middle of the comic series. Complicating that a bit is the fact that nothing else looks similar to the events of the comic series. Most of it actually looks like it takes place in the aftermath of the plan enacted by Adrian Veidt—played here by Jeremy Irons—to stage a violent alien invasion in order to bring together every country on Earth. (Peep that newspaper headline that reads “Veidt Officially Declared Dead”.)

Probably the biggest revelation is the fact that Jean Smart is playing “Laurie Blake”, a name that could be a coincidence, or it could suggest she’s playing an older version of Silk Spectre who has taken the name of her father, Edward Blake, a.k.a. The Comedian. That would be…quite the thing. I’m still not quite sure what the deal is with Regina King‘s vigilante character, but it definitely looks like the plot pretty much revolves around her.

Check out the trailer below. Watchmen premieres on HBO in October 2019.

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Porsche’s 515HP 911 RSR Is Ready To Dominate The Race Track

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Since 2017, the Porsche RSR has garnered the German marque a whopping 20 class wins in the FIA WEC. Shockingly, however, the brand’s engineers still saw plenty of room for improvement. So they took the race car back to the drawing board and reworked it into the beastly 2019 Porsche 911 RSR you see before you.

The biggest change to the previous iteration of this vehicle can be found under the hood — the naturally-aspirated flat-six engine has been bumped up from 4.0- to 4.2-liters, making this the highest-capacity engine ever mounted inside a Porsche 911 “ex-works.” That powerplant is now capable of producing up to 515 horsepower and offers better driveability than its predecessor. To mate with the engine, the RSR also features a revamped exhaust system with dual side exhausts that are lighter and more aerodynamic. The engineers at Weissach also tweaked and fine-tuned the aerodynamics of the vehicle in the Porsche wind tunnel. Of course, the body is still built out of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic and the body panels can be quickly swapped for improved pit stop efficiency. This speedster is set to dominate the track this September and the customer-ready version should be available sometime in 2020.

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GRIZZLY BEARS SAVED THIS VETERAN'S LIFE. NOW, HE'S RETURNING THE FAVOUR

Author Doug Peacock spent years in the wild with grizzly bears. Here's how the bears saved him, how to handle bear charges, and more wisdom.

Doug Peacock served two tours in the Vietnam War as a medic with the U.S. Army Special Forces. To find peace, he spent much of the time imagining he was somewhere else—Yellowstone National Park.

When he got back, he sought solitude there, and lived amongst a landscape that he’d previously only dreamed about. He soon encountered grizzly bears, and as he got to know these creatures, he came to respect and love them. They changed his life forever.

Peacock, who is the real-life basis for the character George Hayduke in his friend Edward Abbey’s book, The Monkey Wrench Gang, has since devoted the last half-century to writing about and advocating for the grizzly bear, which remains a threatened species due to decades of hunting and habitat loss. A new film called Grizzly Country covers Peacock’s life story and passion for grizzlies. National Geographic caught up with the author to learn about what it’s like to live safely around the animals, how to prevent bear attacks, and other life lessons.

HOW’D YOU DECIDE TO GO TO INTO THE WILDERNESS AFTER THE WAR? DID YOU LOVE THE OUT-OF-DOORS FROM A YOUNG AGE?
Yes, I was raised in the woods of Michigan. After the war I was really out of sorts, like countless other vets. I couldn’t talk to anybody. So I went to the one place I was comfortable, the wilderness, in the northern Rocky Mountains.

As the snow melted, I went north, to the Wind River wilderness [in Wyoming]. Then I came down with malaria. I had to go to a flatter, gentler place, and that was Yellowstone.

HOW’D YOU COME INTO CONTACT WITH GRIZZLY BEARS?
There were grizzlies there. I wasn’t looking for them, but I ran into them, and they got my attention. They’ve been part of my life ever since. Those bears saved my life.

HOW?
In grizzly country, humans are put in their proper place—you are not the dominant creature on the landscape. It’s a matter of getting yourself outside yourself. Your senses are forced outward. You see better. You smell better. It’s not yourself which is the centre of the universe. It’s an enforced humility.

DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU ENCOUNTERED A GRIZZLY BEAR?
Yes. I was in the Yellowstone area soaking in a hot spring. It was a cold October day, and I looked across the meadow, and there was a mother grizzly and two yearling cubs, about 200 to 300 feet away. I knew you weren’t supposed to get that close.

The wind is blowing, and I’m naked in this hotspring. So I decide to climb a lodgepole pine. I grab the low branches and stand up, but because [of the shock of quickly rising from hot water], I blacked out. I fell and cut a huge gash in my forehead. Blood is running down into my eyes. I’m terrified, so I scramble to the top of the tree. When I arrive at the top, I discover it isn’t much taller than a Christmas tree.

It’s blowing like hell and I’m naked and bleeding and the bears, without ever looking at me, grazing in the meadow, come within about 25 feet. I’m up there like some silly species of towhee or wren, clinging to the top of this tree. They never even looked up.

THAT’S AMAZING. BUT THIS WAS NOT YOUR CLOSEST CALL WITH GRIZZLIES, RIGHT?
Right, I’ve been charged a couple dozen times—almost always by moms with cubs, and almost always it was my fault, mainly in the early days.

Mother bears only care that you’re not a threat to her cubs. But they don’t always charge. A couple years ago, a mother grizzly caught me and my daughter in a raging wind, and we huddled behind a rock and I told my daughter not to move.

The mother stood up, moving her nose around to sniff... and decides we’re not a threat. She proceeds to walk right past us, 20 feet away. She stopped at the edge of a cliff, and nursed her yearling cub for like seven minutes, right in front of us. It was really magic.

WOW. WERE YOU NOT AFRAID?
I’ve just had enough experience with wild grizzlies that... I don’t have that kind of fear. I don’t do anything that to a bear would seem aggressive. I don’t look at the bear, or shout at the bear, or make any movements, and if I do, I do very slowly. The people who get mauled are the people who run, and climb trees, and yell at them.

SO IF A GRIZZLY IS CHARGING YOU, YOU SHOULD REMAIN TOTALLY STILL.
Yes. Completely. I have precipitated charges by merely reaching for something. And don’t look at the bear, as that’s considered aggressive. A grizzly bear that stands up isn’t going to maul you. Unless you do something stupid, it’s just trying to see and smell better.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO BEGIN FILMING THE BEARS?
When I lived alone in the backcountry of Yellowstone, even a wacko ‘Nam vet could tell the bears weren’t doing well, being shot into extinction—as many as 270 grizzlies were killed from 1968 to 1973, according to researcher Frank Craighead. (The bears were listed as threatened in 1975.)

These bears had done me a modestly great service, and I had to return the favour. So I filmed them, and used that film to advertise their plight. I shared my film [with National Geographic and others] and went around showing the footage to people and talking about the bears. And by that time I’d started a family, so I began writing about it all to make a living, and I’m still working for the bears.

HOW SO?
I still go around talking about them, and have been fighting the delisting effort [in which the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed taking the grizzly bear off the Endangered Species List, a move that was overturned]. (Related: Will grizzlies survive being hunted?)

We have a record number of illegal grizzly kills in the Yellowstone area, beyond anything in the historical record. [It’s mostly] by people that don’t know better. They don’t know grizzly bears, they tend to fear what they don’t know, and they hate what they fear.

HOW’D YOU MEET EDWARD ABBEY, AND WHAT WAS YOUR FRIENDSHIP LIKE?
I met Ed in 1968 and we started camping together. He was one of my closest friends ever, but it was a cantankerous friendship. He was a grouch and I’m not piece of cake myself. All the important things in our lives, we did together and collaborated on. I was alone with him in his last lucid minutes; I told him where he was going to be buried and that was the last time I saw him smile. I buried him in a beautiful spot in the desert.

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The Trailer For Shudder's New Creepshow Anthology Series Is Here

Back in 1982, the twin powers of George A. Romero and Stephen King teamed up for Creepshow, a gruesomely funny anthology film packed with five (six, if you count the frame story) tales of terror. Now, horror streamer Shudder has a 12-story, six-episode TV series on the way from The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero — and the first trailer has arrived, with a confirmed release date to boot.

In keeping with the anthology format, the trailer is a montage of freaky images, gruesome scares, and screams, juxtaposed for maximum alarm and a bit of humour.

A creepy dollhouse segues into a tortured wraith; people with haunted eyes explain that things are just the way they’re supposed to be. “You know it’s ok to be scared, right?” a voice intones over the early footage. And everything has a nice comic book theme, which is a pleasure to see.

Creepshow stars a bevy of names new and old, with Adrienne Barbeau returning from the movie alongside talent like David Arquette, Tobin Bell, Jeffrey Combs, Giancarlo Esposito, Kid Cudi, and Big Boi.

The Season One slate will include stories like “Grey Matter”, an adaptation of a King story starring Barbeau, Esposito, and Bell, directed by Nicotero, “House of the Head” written by Josh Malerman of Bird Box fame, and other menacing sounding stories like “All Hallows Eve,” “Bad Wolf Down,” and “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain.”

Creepshow arrives on Shudder Thursday, September 26 in the U.S. and with the channel rumoured to launch in Australia soon, it'll likely be heading our way at some point. Stay tuned for more information!

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE VINCENT BLACK SHADOW – THE WORLD’S FIRST SUPERBIKE

Vincent Black Shadow Girdraulic forks motorcycle

American author Hunter S. Thompson once said of Vincent’s world’s first “superbike”: “If you rode the Vincent Black Shadow at top speed for any length of time, you would almost certainly die. That is why there are not many life members of the Vincent Black Shadow Society.”

The Vincent Black Shadow qualifies in almost every respect as the world’s first “superbike” both in terms of the sheer power and speed it was capable of, and in terms of the riding experience it delivered: a bike so powerful that you might indeed expect to end your life on earth and go to join the choir invisible if you persistently pushed it to its limits.

The story of this British motorcycle that actually managed to sow fear into the heart of Hunter S. Thompson begins all the way back in 1928, when young motorcycle enthusiast Philip Conrad Vincent began to fulfill his dream as he purchased an established motorcycle manufacturing company HRD, which itself had been set up by an ex First World War pilot named Howard Raymond Davies.

Phil Vincent had been advised to purchase an existing company name rather than starting out simply using his own name: so he re-branded HRD to become Vincent HRD and established his workshop in the town of Stevenage, which was about 28 miles north of the British capital, London. HRD had a good reputation, in part built up because of motorsport success, making it a good base from which Phil Vincent could launch his business.

Vincent Black Lightning

Phil Vincent had tried his hand at building a motorcycle in 1927 and had designed what he believed would be a perfect rear suspension system which he patented in 1928: it was called the Vincent cantilever suspension and it was incorporated into his first Vincent HRD motorcycle and all that followed it.

His cantilever rear suspension consisted of vertical parallel triangulated cantilevers that extended like a either side of the rear wheel. This cantilever unit was pivoted at the bottom on the bike’s rear frame, with the top attached to a sprung telescopic shock absorber, the outer point of the triangles attached to the rear wheel axle.Vincent’s first motorcycle used a single cylinder engine from J.A. Prestwich (JAP), with some later machines using Rudge-Python engines until Vincent bit the bullet and began designing and building their own engines.

PHIL IRVING AND A “NEWTON’S APPLE” MOMENT

Phil Vincent was joined in his business by Australian engineer Phil Irving in 1934, which was the year that the engine’s bought in from outside suppliers all failed in that year’s Isle of Man TT. Phil Irving came on board to design a Vincent engine that would be just as impervious to the gremlins of Murphy’s Law as human engineering could make it, and so he created a new Vincent 500cc OHV single cylinder which was called the “Meteor” – it produced 26hp @ 5,300rpm: a sports version of it called the “Comet” was also created.

Phillip Vincent Phil Irving Vincent HRD motorcycles

The British loved 500cc single cylinder engines, and many still do, they’ve got a personality all their own. However, there came a day when Phil Irving was sitting at his desk, possibly thinking about the American penchant for big V-twin engines, possibly not, but whichever is the case Irving had a moment quite like that experienced by Sir Isaac Newton when, while sitting under an apple tree he saw an apple fall and realized that nothing moves unless acted on by an unbalanced external force.

In Sir Isaac Newton’s eureka moment he discovered gravity: in Phil Irving’s case he put two drawings of his single cylinder Meteor engine over each other and arranged them into a V-twin. We don’t know if he exclaimed “eureka” but in an instant he understood that he could create an engine that would make an American V-twin aficionado begin to drool.

This engine would be of almost one liter in capacity and in a Vincent motorcycle would cause it to move rather rapidly, and rapidly with twice as much personality as a single. They decided to call it the “Rapide”, and the V-twin Vincent motorcycle was born.

THE VINCENT RAPIDE: THE FATHER OF THE BLACK SHADOW (1936-1955)

The V-twin engine that Phil Irving created was made with a 47° “V”, because the rearward set of the engine’s idler was 23½°, so putting two together meant 23½° + 23½° = 47°. The V-twin engine could be built using the same cylinders, heads and valve gear as the existing 499cc Comet single and would be fitted with a pair of Amal 1 1/16″ carburetors.

There was a frame sitting in the workshop that had been fabricated for a customer named Eric Fernihough but he no longer needed it so it was just begging to be turned into a V-twin fire-breathing motorcycle, which is of course exactly what happened. We don’t know who was first to take the new bike for its maiden run: no doubt there was a queue of eager test riders.

The first production model installed with Phil Irving’s V-twin was made on a Vincent Comet brazed lug and steel tube diamond frame lengthened just enough to shoehorn the larger V-twin into it: the larger engine left no room for an oil tank for the dry sump engine, so the fuel tank was fitted with separate oil tank compartment.

Like all Vincent motorcycles from Phil Vincent’s first prototype of 1927 onward, it was fitted with his patented cantilever rear suspension and at the front was a Brampton girder fork with friction dampers. Brakes for the Rapide were made using the best of 1930’s technology: dual 7″ single leading shoe drums for both the front wheel and the rear.

Vincent Rapide Plumber's Nightmare motorcycle

That first iteration of the Vincent V-twin was fitted with a gear type oil pump which operated at a quarter of the engine speed and internally fed oil to the big end bearings and outer camshaft bushes. To get oil to the rocker bushes and the rear of the engine four rather pretty external pipes were used which gave the engine a deliciously complex look.

Curiously the Philistines of the motorcycle press did not appreciate this plethora of external pipework and named the engine “the plumber’s nightmare”. This was an enthusiasts motorcycle, not a “gets me from A to B” piece of boring transportation. The owner’s manual for the Series A Rapide suggested that “After every 1000 miles, disassemble the engine and check everything. Reassemble.”

So we understand that this was a bike for someone who would happily spend a day or weekend in their garage contentedly pulling their bike apart and then reassembling it ready for the next 1,000 miles”. We suspect that many young Vincent owners had to make a choice between a girlfriend or their motorcycle, and many would have chosen the motorcycle as the less expensive, and less complicated of the two!

Vincent Rapide

This bike, the Series A Vincent Rapide, was to be the parent of the post-war Black Shadow: but before this was to happen a different kind of black shadow, that of the Second World War, was to darken the lives of millions of people all over the world.

MUNITIONS, AND A LIFEBOAT ENGINE

It would appear that once his engine designs were established at Vincent, Phil Irving decided to look for other engine design related work and so he moved to rival motorcycle maker Velocette in 1937. The world is a rather unpredictable place however and by 1939 a German gentleman with a penchant for Charlie Chaplin mustaches and world domination went to war and invaded Poland, causing Britain to be at war with Germany and her Axis allies. This caused Vincent to stop making beautiful and exciting motorcycles and instead turn their hand to making wartime munitions.

Vincent lifeboat engine

It was during those years making things that explode that Phil Vincent turned his mind to making the V-twin Rapide even more explosively rapid. Engineer Phil Irving was lured back to Vincent by the opportunity to design a new lifeboat engine, but it was the prospect of a post-war world in which he would design Vincent motorcycles that would go even faster that was the real attraction.

During the war years Phil Vincent and Phil Irving worked on design improvements that could be made to their motorcycles. One of the fruits of this work was the elimination of unnecessary parts. In his memoirs Phil Vincent makes the statement “What isn’t present takes up no space, cannot bend, and weighs nothing — so eliminate the frame tubes!” For the post-war Series B Rapide, and thus for the new Black Shadow that was exactly what was done.

THE VINCENT BLACK SHADOW – THE SUPERBIKE THAT ALMOST WASN’T (1947-1948)

As soon as possible once the war was over Vincent debuted their much improved Series B Vincent Rapide. These were years when Britain was still in post-war austerity. People were still on ration books for food and gasoline/petrol and supplies of raw materials to industry were strictly rationed.

Because of this the compression ratio for the V-twin Rapide engine had to be kept down to 6.8:1 to cope with the variable quality low octane “pool petrol”. Steel was in short supply and high demand while aluminum was comparatively plentiful, and stainless steel was also fairly readily obtainable.

This tended to favor Phil Vincent’s desire to use aluminum and stainless steel where it could appropriately be used. In his mind his were to be the motorcycles to replace the highly esteemed Brough Superior which had ceased production in 1940: and to replace them not only in terms of performance and handling, but also in terms of the quality of manufacture.

Vincent Black Shadow

The process that led to the creation of the first Black Shadow was initially the refining of the Vincent Rapide design, because the Black Shadow was to be a high performance version of the Rapide. The original 47° V-twin was altered to 50° to enable the engine to be used as a stressed member. This was done for the post-war Series B Rapide on which the Black Shadow was based, sharing the same OHV V-twin air-cooled dry-sump engine and the same 998cc/60.9 cu. in. capacity with the same bore of 84mm and stroke of 90mm: in fact Black Shadow engine’s and parts were specially selected off the Rapide production line.

This pre-war Phil Irving design featured short pushrods operated by gear driven camshafts which were mounted high in the engine’s crankcase to keep the length of the pushrods short, which in turn kept them lighter and ensured better stiffness. The “plumber’s nightmare” of external piping was gone, moved to the internals of the engine away from the eyes of the heartless critics.

Vincent Black Shadow

Phil Irving had designed both his original 500cc single and the later 998cc V-twin’s valves with upper and lower guides to maximize support and minimize the potential for failure under the stresses of racing. The rockers were forked to fit around the valve stem and acted, not on the top of the valve, but on a shoulder on the stem. This design feature distributed the pressures of forcing the valve down on two sides of the valve stem providing balance and support superior to the conventional method of having the rocker press directly on the top of the valve, purpose designed for high performance reliability.

The new simplified frame, for which there needed to be no down-tubes because the engine served that support function, used a box section which enabled the oil tank to be incorporated into the upper frame member. Vincent’s cantilever rear suspension had its pivot point mounted directly on the engine/gearbox unit. These improvements served to make the 1946 Vincent Rapide Series B, the perfect foundation on which Vincent would build the world’s first “superbike”.

Vincent Black Shadow cantilever rear suspension

Despite the fact that many consider the Honda CB750 to be the world’s first superbike, it wasn’t really of course but importantly it was the bike for which the now ubiquitous term “superbike” was coined. We catch a glimpse of the difference between these two iconic motorcycles in Hunter S. Thompson’s book “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72”, in which he tells us that Chris Bunche, the editor of Choppers magazine, said the Vincent Black Shadow was “…  so fast and terrible that it made the extremely fast Honda 750 seem like a harmless toy.”

And indeed, comparing the civilized Honda CB750 with a Vincent Black Shadow is rather like comparing a Mitsubishi Evo with a Shelby Cobra, both are quick, but the Mitsubishi just can’t compete with the look, the visceral sound and the muscle delivery of the Cobra. What led to the creation of this motorcycle that made a Honda CB750 seem tame? The answer would seem to be that two men had a passion not just for speed, but for the speed to be experienced in the most unforgettable way possible: enter the Black Shadow, a bike that Evel Knievel would have loved.

Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle speedometer

But this world’s first superbike almost didn’t happen. Phil Vincent and his team were on the receiving end of inquiries from enthusiasts who wanted more performance than the Rapide delivered. Vincent built a test bed bike that was nicknamed “Gunga Din” after the character in Rudyard Kipling’s poem about whom was said “You’re a better man than I am Gunga Din”. Gunga Din was a Vincent Rapide that was made in 1947 and tuned up as a race bike.

It was raced as one of two factory Vincent racing bikes, and it was used as a development bed for a new high performance version of the Rapide. Armed with a viable test prototype in the form of Gunga Din, and with a number of inquiries regarding a higher performance Vincent motorcycle, Phil Vincent went to his finance man, managing director Frank Walker who was the only member of the management team who was not an active motorcycle rider, and proposed the new model.

Walker was not interested and refused to authorize the money for development of the new model. That refusal did not stop Phil Vincent, Phil Irving and the workshop manager George Brown however, who went ahead and built two bikes to the proposed new specification.

Vincent Black Shadow Gunga Din motorcycle

The prototype with frame number R2549 fitted with engine number F10AB/1B/558 was completed on February 16th, 1948, and loaned to a motorcycle writer named Charles Markham who was writing for Motor Cycling magazine.

His article appeared in the May 1948 edition and he stated that the bike had managed 122mph (196km/hr) on test. Regardless of whether managing director Frank Walker approved or not the new bike had made a name for itself and made her debut at the London, Earls Court Motorcycle Show that year.

A BLACK ENGINE WITH A BLACK GEARBOX, BLACK FRAME AND A BLACK FUEL TANK: THE VINCENT BLACK SHADOW (1948-1955)

For their new bike with which to ensure that the Vincent name would become a household word throughout Britain and the United States, Phil Vincent decided that it needed a characteristic paint scheme to go with its awe inspiring speed.

The engine was given a “pyluminising” coat of chromate anti-corrosion primer with Pinchin & Johnson black enamel over the top of it, which was then oven baked for two hours at 200°F/93.3°C: this was going to be a “hot” bike and would be best with a hot baked finish. The engine and Vincent four speed gearbox, which had its final drive changed from the Rapide’s 9:1 up to 7.2:1, were made as a unit so the gearbox casing was given the same treatment while the frame, forks and fuel tank were painted black.

The blackness was relieved by the “Vincent” logo on the fuel tank,valve rocker covers and gearbox, complimented by the copper exhaust flanges, and the chrome of the exhausts, wheels and other feature parts while the handlebars were black enameled Vincent “straights”. The effect was of an understated but striking tastefulness, mixed with a hint of danger.

Vincent Black Shadow

At the heart of the Black Shadow was a Vincent Rapide engine with some strategic tweaking done to it. While being mostly identical to the Rapide engine the Black Shadow’s power unit had different pistons, which raised the bike’s compression ratio from 6.8:1 to 7.3:1, and early examples featured a third inner valve spring, something that the Rapide did not have, but something that was not continued in later production bikes.

The Black Shadow’s engine also benefited from internal polishing of ports to optimize gas flow and was fitted with different carburetors, the Series B and C being fitted with 1⅛” Amal 289, and “Series D” 1⅛”Amal 389/10. Being a British made motorcycle electrics were by Britain’s “Prince of Darkness”, Lucas.

The frame of the Black Shadow was that of the post-war Series B Rapide which incorporated the engine/transmission unit as a stressed member, thus eliminating the need for down-tubes to wrap around the engine/transmission unit to support them. This of course eliminated the weight of that tubing reducing the weight of the bike to a comparatively light 458lb/207.7kg dry weight (500lb/226.8kg wet). On the early Series B and C bikes the upper frame member was fabricated as a box to do double duty as an oil reservoir while the later “Series D” bikes were equipped with a tubular frame and separate oil reservoir.

Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle

Suspension featured Phil Vincent’s pioneering patented cantilever system mounted directly at the rear of the engine/transmission unit, while the first Series B Black Shadows (called Series B because they were based on the Series B Rapide) were fitted with a Brampton girder fork at the front, but fitted with a 180lb spring instead of the 160lb spring used in the Rapide.

The Black Shadow was made not only to go, but to stop efficiently also. It was fitted with four drum brakes just like the Rapide, one on each side of the wheel hubs with a balance bar, but on the Black Shadow those drums were ribbed to enable them to get rid of excess heat just as fast as 1940’s technology could manage.

It was not long into the life of the Black Shadow, in fact it was in 1948, the year the bike made its public debut, that Phil Vincent decided to upgrade the front suspension of the Rapide, and so also the newly minted Black Shadow.

Vincent Rapide Brochure

Vincent had understood that the Brampton girder forks were not up to the task on the Vincent Rapide or Black Shadow and that a replacement was necessary. Phil Vincent did not favor the new telescopic forks because both he and Phil Irving believed they lacked the torsional rigidity needed when ridden hard, and especially when ridden hard with a sidecar attached to the bike. Both the Rapide and the Black Shadow were fitted for sidecar use and had attachments for both right and left side fitting.

THE VINCENT GIRDRAULIC FRONT FORK SYSTEM

To answer the problem of the front suspension Vincent designed his own “Girdraulic” front fork system. This was designed to provide even more torsional stability than the old style girder forks but with the supple suspension of the telescopic ones.

Vincent girdraulic motorcycle forks

The original design of the girder forks used a triangulated parallelogram steel tube structure attached to the front wheel hub with a central spring (or two) in the attachment to the steering head. Vincent wanted to get away from the use of steel, in part for the practical reason of reducing weight while ensuring strength and stiffness, but also in part because steel was heavily rationed and aluminum was not. Having Brampton forks on the front of Vincent motorcycles meant that the steel used in their manufacture was coming out of Brampton’s ration of steel, not Vincent’s.

Vincent’s new “Girdraulic” fork system was simply a development of the girder fork but instead of using steel tubing they used forged RR56 aluminum alloy for the girders and links. To these girder forks were fitted long supple springs from near the axle to to the eccentric on which the lower link had its pivot point.

Damping was provided by a hydraulic shock absorber as opposed to the friction dampers used on more typical girder forks, and providing the inspiration for the name “Girdraulic”. Hydraulic damping provided a far more progressive damping than possible with friction dampers and was a great advantage: self lubricating bronze bushes were used for the top and bottom links to keep maintenance minimal. These forks were made to be easily adjustable to make them better suited to either solo riding or sidecar use.

Vincent Black Shadow Girdraulic forks motorcycle

The Girdraulic fork was designed to progressively increase the effect of the springs’ stiffness under braking to provide an anti-dive mechanism. In recent years Vincent owner’s have discovered that Phil Vincent’s original geometry can be improved on by using a less angled lower fork link, a strategy that eliminates the fork topping that Rapide and Black Shadow riders have experienced on their original vintage bikes.

The Girdraulic forks were found to be extremely tough: a Vincent test rider discovered this the hard way when he hit an Austin A30 sedan side-on with sufficient force to “bend the car in the middle” while on the bike it flattened the wheel rim to the hub, almost pulled the steering column through the head lug, and collapsed the lower link.

The actual Girdraulic blades reportedly survived this rather violent encounter without damage and remained “dead true”, we wonder how the rider fared and we hope he continued to be one of the “Life members of the Black Shadow Society” as Hunter S. Thompson called it.

THE BLACK SHADOW SERIES B, C, AND THE UNOFFICIAL “SERIES D”

The pre-war Series A Vincent Rapide was the motorcycle that was the father of the Black Shadow and its speed on steroids sibling, the Black Lightning. Vincent did not have an extensive dealer network either in Britain or in overseas markets and Vincent owners were more likely to be interested in “do it yourself” maintenance and repairs.

To this end Vincent kept their model offerings restricted and used as limited a range of parts as possible. Thus the post-war high performance models were simply improved versions of the Series A Vincent Rapide. The Series A was improved on by the move to unitary construction with a Vincent designed and manufactured four speed gearbox. The Series A duo-brakes used front and rear were retained and in these hubs all four drums, the eight brake shoes, the minor parts and the tapered roller bearings were all identical. Not only were these parts standardized but they were made to be easily removed and changed.

The drums themselves could be removed without the need to alter the wheel spokes, and the owner could choose their configuration, whether to have all four drums fitted, or three, or whatever combination was desired. The rear wheel was easily removable and reversible, and fitting a different ratio sprocket was made easy to make the bike adaptable to different situations such as open highway speed or winding mountain roads. (Note: the front to rear brake drum interchangeability was not carried over into the Black Shadow models).

Vincent Black Shadow cantilever rear suspension reversible rear wheel

The first of the Series B Black Shadows debuted in 1948 and were fitted with Brampton girder front forks and an adjustable Feridax Dunlopillo Dualseat complete with a tyre pump under it and a tool tray under the front with each tool in a rattle-proof felt compartment.

The change to Vincent Girdraulic front forks marking the changeover to the Series C Rapide and Black Shadow also happening a little later in 1948. The Series C Black Shadow was in production from 1948 until 1954. The final development of the Series C is unofficially referred to as the “Series D” with production of this variant beginning in 1954 and continuing until Vincent ceased manufacturing one week before Christmas in 1955, prior to going into receivership in 1959.

Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle Dunlupillo Feridax Dualseat

VINCENT BLACK SHADOW SPECIFICATIONS

Engine: 998cc/60.9 cu. in. 50° V-twin cylinder OHV, dry-sump, air cooled with bore of 3.3″/84mm, stroke of 3.5″/90mm, and compression ratio of 7.3:1. This engine produced 55hp giving the motorcycle a top speed of approximately 125mph depending on conditions.

Transmission: Vincent four speed gearbox in unit construction with the engine.

Frame: Series B and C; Box-section upper frame member with the engine/transmission unit acting as a stressed member of the frame. Box section upper frame member used as oil tank for the dry sump engine. Late models known unofficially as “Series D” have a tubular steel upper frame member and a separate oil tank reservoir.

Suspension: Front; Series B; Brampton girder forks with 180lb spring and friction damper. Series C; Vincent Girdraulic forks made of RR56 aluminum alloy with coil springs, forks mounted to the upper frame member, telescopic hydraulic damper/shock absorber, the system featuring an anti-dive geometry. Rear, Vincent cantilever suspension with twin telescopic dampers/shock absorbers, lower pivot mounted directly on the engine/transmission unit.

Wheels and Tires: Front; Alloy WM-1 x 20/21 with 3.00 – 20/21. Rear; Alloy WM-2 x 19/20 with 3.5 – 19/20.

Brakes: Four 7″/180mm single leading shoe drum brakes mounted two per wheel. Drums of ribbed cast iron. Front drums fitted with small flanges secured by five bolts, rear drums fitted with larger flanges and secured by ten bolts. Brake linings were Ferodo MR41.

Fuel Capacity: 4.2 US gallons (15.8 liters, 3.5 Imperial gallons).

Weight: 458lb/207.7kg dry weight, 500lb/226.8kg wet weight.

ROLLIE FREE AND THE SPEEDO SPEED RECORD

American Roland “Rollie” Free must be credited with being the guy who made the name Vincent a household word overnight. He had spent the pre-war years working his way into motorcycle racing and when the United States entered the Second World War was employed as an aircraft maintenance officer at Hill Field in Utah: and during that time visited the fabled Bonneville Salt Flats where so many speed records had been set.

Vincent Indian prototype motorcycle

After the war Rollie left the Air Force and got back into racing, primarily on Indian machines. In this post war period Indian Motocycle and Vincent did some collaborative work to see if they could work together to create motorcycles that would appeal to American riders. One of these was an Indian Chief fitted with a Vincent V-twin engine, and another was a Vincent Rapide made specifically to suit the American market and to be manufactured partly by Vincent and Indian.

Rollie knew California businessman John Edgar who had purchased a Vincent “Black Shadow” built to special custom specifications which had turned it into a limited production motorcycle that would become known as the “Black Lightning”, perhaps because it was painted black, perhaps because it had been subjected to lightening by use of aluminum alloy wherever possible, and perhaps because the little two-wheeled bullet moved with the speed of lightning.

Rollie somehow persuaded John Edgar to loan him the little two wheeled streak of black lightning in 1948 in order for him to have a stab at the American motorcycle speed record out on the Bonneville salt flats, and so the bike and Rollie Free made their way out there to give it their best shot. The Vincent was reportedly 100lb lighter than a standard bike and the engine was producing 25hp more with help from horizontal racing carburetors and the new Mark II racing camshaft.

Rollie Free Vincent Black Shadow Lightning Bonneville Salt Flats American motorcycle speed record

For his first efforts Rollie wore the custom leathers he’d had made for the speed record attempt and adopted the flat prone position laying across the machine’s fuel tank and rear mudguard with his legs stretched out behind like an Olympic swimmer diving into the water. He reached 147mph doing things the way he’d planned but the leathers tore, and he was 3mph short of 150mph. So he decided to strip off everything that Utah decency laws would allow and try for the speed record wearing only a bathing cap, pair of borrowed jogging shoes, and appropriately named “Speedo” bathers.

I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of what it might feel like if you were riding a motorcycle at 150mph across a salt flat and you fell off? It would be guaranteed to be “rubbing salt into the wound” in the most extreme way, something so nasty that the torturers of the Spanish Inquisition would have loved to have thought of it, except thankfully they didn’t have motorcycles and so didn’t. Rollie Free decided to take the risk as he headed up to 150mph skimming above that potentially painful unforgiving salt.

Rollie Free Vincent Black Shadow Lightning Bonneville Salt Flats American motorcycle speed record

Rollie Free’s “Speedo” run took place on 13th September 1948 and he got up to 150.313 mph (241.905 km/h) setting a new American speed record and producing what must be the most iconic “need for speed” photograph of the twentieth century. No doubt the publicity was superb and the name Vincent became rather well known in American motorcycle circles.

This was not to be Vincent’s only speed record success however and across the pond in Britain Phil Vincent took four Black Shadows and two Black Lightnings, and got together a group that included Ted Davis (chief tester), John Surtees (at that time an 18 year old apprentice) and Danny Thomas (tester) plus Cyril Julian, Phil Heath, Denis Lashmar, Gustave LeFevre, Bill Petch, Robin Sherry, Johnny Hodgkin and journalist Vic Willoughby of “Motor Cycle” magazine, and took them to L’autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry in May 1952. The team took eight long distance world records and could have done more had some of the bike tires not started de-laminating.

Montlhéry Ted Davis John Surtees Danny Thomas Cyril Julian, Phil Heath Denis Lashmar Gustave LeFevre Bill Petch Robin Sherry Johnny Hodgkin journalist Vic Willoughby Motor Cycle magazine

Other Vincent owners put in the effort to set records themselves. Down in Australia on January 19th, 1953 a man named Jack Ehret managed to persuade the police near the town of Gunnedah to close off a suitable section of road so he could give his Vincent Black Shadow the gun and see if he could set an Australian speed record.

He managed a run of 149.6mph but the timing equipment broke and so did his gear shifter. Not to be defeated a makeshift repair was made to the gear shift by hammering a ring spanner onto it and fixing it there with fencing wire: a standard sort of fix in that part of the world.

Vincent Black Shadow Jack Ehret Australian motocycle speed record

The makeshift gear shifter was not as good as the original but Jack was able to achieve a two way average of 141.509 mph and with that set a new Australian motorcycle speed record.

CONCLUSION

The Vincent Black Shadow ended production with all other Vincent motorcycles a week before Christmas Day 1955 and the company finally went into receivership in 1959. There have been some efforts to resurrect the Vincent and the “Black Shadow” name: one was attempted by a gentleman named Bernard Li who intended to build new motorcycles using modern components and powered by the Honda RC51 V-twin engine. Bernard Li was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident before he was able to see his dream fulfilled.

The other effort has emerged in Australia with the creation of the Irving Vincent. This bike has been created by HRD Engineering, which in this new company stands for Horner Race Development. The Irving Vincent is a re-engineered model based on the original Vincent drawings but improved using modern technology and methods.

The Vincent Black Shadow stands with the Brough Superior as the most iconic motorcycles to emerge from Britain. It has a dedicated following, and the surviving Black Shadow’s of the approximately 1,700 that were made sell for quite eye watering sums of money. Tellingly these very costly investment quality motorcycles are usually ridden by their owners because a Vincent Black Shadow is not best appreciated sitting it static in a collection and admiring it as a “work of art”. A Vincent Black Shadow needs to be ridden to be fully appreciated. It is a bike that is best enjoyed both in riding it, and in pulling it apart and doing the maintenance that it requires. It is a hands on classic British motorcycle.

 

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Rodin’s FZero Is An Ultralight 1,000HP Street-Legal Hypercar

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The age of outlandish hypercars is upon us, and with it comes the exciting premise of near-undrivable four-wheeled platforms. While Aston Martin’s recently announced Valkyrie AMR Pro has enamored the motoring community since its announcement, a small outfit from New Zealand, dubbed Rodin Cars, has been working on its own monstrous concept — the featherweight FZero hypercar.

The FZero packs an enticing amount of power into its F1-inspired bodywork, boasting a naturally-aspirated V10 powerplant that’s capable of around 700-horsepower in its standard form. Tack on two of the company’s turbochargers, and you’re looking at a very respectable 1,000HP+, with the promise of an even higher threshold of 1,600 horsepower set to release in the near future. As ironic as it might sound, the FZero isn’t inherently special due to its performance numbers. Rather, it’s the vehicle’s incredulous curb-weight that has the automotive community in a frenzy. At just 1,333-pounds, the FZero clocks in at about half the weight of Aston Martin’s Valkyrie AMR Pro; meaning that, with a driver in tow, it can produce over 8,818-pounds of downforce. Aside from the car’s mind-numbing aerodynamics, an eight-speed mechanical sequential transmission developed by Ricardo, and an engine built by Neil Brown Engineering are slated to make their debut alongside the platform. And the best part: The vehicle is rumored to be completely road-legal. Keep your eyes on Rodin’s website for more information on performance figures, as well as an eventual release date.

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HANYU ICHIRO'S MALT FULL CARDS SERIES WHISKY

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The rarest collection of Japanese Whisky on earth will be available at auction later this summer. Ichiro's Malt Full Cards Series is comprised of 54 bottles that represent each playing card in a full pack, and no more than four sets exist in the world. Each of the premium whiskies was bottled from a single cask with production dates that range from 1985 to 2014, and every drop of the precious liquid was distilled at the famous Hanyu distillery, which closed its doors in 2004. This incredibly rare opportunity to own an exceptional collection begins August 16th from Bonhams in Hong Kong. $580K

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Historic Indian Moon Mission Underway After Successful Launch Of Chandrayaan-2 Lander And Rover

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The Chandrayaan-2 mission is officially off to a promising start, as India vies to become the fourth nation to land on the Moon.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched the three-stage GSLV Mk-III rocket on Monday, July 22 at 2:43 p.m. local time from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, an island off the coast of Andhra Pradesh, according to a press release from the space agency.

The rocket successfully deployed its cargo — the 3840 kilogram Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft — into Earth orbit a short time later. ISRO says the spacecraft is in “good health” and moving in the “right direction,” as the Times of India reports.

The rocket was originally scheduled to go up on July 15, but ISRO had to cancel the launch due to technical issues. Yesterday’s successful effort was met with intense relief, after fears that the launch might not happen at all due to the technical snag and short launch window.

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Over the next few days, mission controllers will use Chandrayaan-2’s onboard propulsion system to perform a series of orbital adjustments. The spacecraft is not taking a direct path to the Moon. Instead, it will perform a series of ever-widening Earth orbits until it’s far enough away to be captured by the Moon’s gravity. This process will take 48 days, after which time the spacecraft will be close enough to the Moon such that it can dispatch the Vikram lander to the lunar surface.

The Vikram lander, named in honour of Vikram Sarabhai, a pioneering figure in the Indian space program, will attempt to make a soft landing on September 7, 2019. The probe will descend toward the lunar surface at a rate of 2 metres per second and land on a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, at the Moon’s south pole region, according to an ISRO press kit.

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The Vikram lander

If successful, India will become just the fourth country in the world to land a spacecraft on the Moon, the others being the U.S., the Soviet Union and China. Earlier this year, Israel’s Beresheet Probe crashed on the Moon, dashing its hope to do the same. The Chandrayaan-2 mission will be the first to explore the Moon’s south pole region.

This is the second time India has sent a spacecraft to the Moon. In 2008, ISRO launched Chandrayaan-1, which involved a lunar orbit and an impactor, the latter of which deliberately crashed into the Moon.

Once on the lunar surface, the Chandrayaan-2 mission is expected to last for one lunar day, which is roughly equal to 14 Earth days. The Vikram lander will deploy Pragyan, a six-wheeled robotic vehicle (Pragyan means “wisdom” in Sanskrit). This rover will travel a maximum 500 metres from the landing site, moving at a rate of 1 centimetre per second. Neither Vikram nor Pragyan are equipped to survive the lunar night, in which temperatures can drop as low as -170 degrees Celsius.

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The Pragyan rover.

During the 14 Earth days in which Pragyan will be active, the rover will use its onboard particle x-ray spectrometer and laser spectroscope to study the chemical composition of the lunar surface near the landing site. Meanwhile, the Vikram lander will try to detect moonquakes, measure the Moon’s thermal conductivity (the degree to which the lunar surface can conduct electricity) and study the lunar ionosphere (the zone that’s ionized by solar and cosmic radiation). Vikram will be able to communicate with Pragyan, the Chandrayaan-2 lunar orbiter and mission controllers back on Earth.

As for the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter, it will function in lunar orbit for about one year and it will observe the surface from a height of around 100 kilometres. The orbiter is equipped with a suite of instruments that will allow for topographical scans of the lunar surface, measurements of the Moon’s chemical composition and surveys of lunar minerals and (possibly) water.

The orbiter will also study the Sun with a solar x-ray monitor. Happily, the orbiter is also equipped with a high-resolution camera, so we should get to see some fantastic photos of the Moon’s south pole region. In all, the Chandrayaan-2 mission involves 13 different elements, all of which were developed in-house by ISRO.

Indeed, this is very much a “we did it ourselves” mission for India. The country is striving to become a space power in its own right and it hopes to show the world that it can do a lot more than just launch satellites into space.

In March of this year, India purposefully shot down one of its own satellites to showcase its growing influence in space. Looking ahead, a third Chandrayaan mission is scheduled for sometime around 2023 or 2024 (possibly in conjunction with JAXA, Japan’s space agency).

There’s even talk of putting astronauts in space by 2022 and sending a probe to Venus by 2023.

“India wants to show, especially since Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi came into office, that India is a major power and that India has to be treated as a major Indo-Pacific power,” Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, head of the nuclear and space policy initiative at the Observer Research Foundation, told CNN.

But this is all for the future. For now, India still needs to safely place the Vikram lander on the lunar surface, a feat scheduled for September 8. As Israel learned earlier this year, nothing should be taken for granted. Space, as it’s often said, is hard.

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The Return of the Godfather: The Old Mafia Is New Again

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A slew of arrests show that despite the murder of ‘Franky Boy’ Cali, ties between the Mafia’s Sicilian homeland and the Gambino mob in the U.S. are still strong.

ROME–Five fleshy, bare-chested men in tight swimsuits on a dinghy doesn’t normally garner much attention in the bay of Palermo, Sicily. But it did last August when American mobster Thomas Gambino, 47, and Italian mafioso Tomasso Inzerillo, 72, were among those on board. They were overheard discussing how to divvy up the profits from the suspicious sale of Caribbean property that New York-based Gambino crime family boss Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali had recently unloaded. 

Italian investigators working with the FBI had planted bugs to catch anything they might say. Now, finally, the joint operation had a solid lead to a connection between the once omnipotent American crime family and the power-hungry Sicilian clan.

Central command for the joint operation sent officers to the Dominican Republic and redoubled their surveillance in New York and Sicily, launching the investigation dubbed “New Connection” that netted 19 men in raids of both crime syndicates this week in Palermo, Brooklyn, Staten Island and New Jersey. Among those arrested in Italy was Thomas Gambino who happened to be back in Sicily for a “family vacation.”

The police used WhatsApp, the encrypted international messaging service, to launch the raids. “In Palermo, it’s 3am, and muggy. In New York, it’s 9pm and looks like it might rain,” the Palermo anti-mafia police said at a press conference about the arrests. “A WhatsApp message is sent to the joint squad. It’s the sign the Italian police and their FBI colleagues have been waiting for because from Sicily to the U.S., the old Mafia has returned.”

What the cops uncovered during the investigation that led to this week’s arrests was a growing link between the Sicilian and New York mobs that centered on money laundering, drugs and extortion. At one point in phone taps over the last year Gambino can be heard telling his Sicilian counterparts, “We can definitely do business here,” according to police transcripts seen by The Daily Beast. 

But the criminal collaboration—and the joint Italian-FBI investigation—was nearly thrown into chaos when Cali was gunned down in front of his Staten Island, New York, home last March. 

In the hours after the hit, investigators on both sides of the Atlantic were concerned that it could have been a Sicilian mobster warning the American clan to stay away. But as it turned out Cali was gunned down by Anthony Comello, who allegedly just wanted to date his daughter.

“It was a huge relief that it was so random,” an Italian anti-Mafia investigator told The Daily Beast.

Cali, who was born in Sicily and married into the Inzerillo family at a young age, was known as the “Ambassador” between clans in New York and Palermo. He was the tie that bound the Gambino crime family and the Cosa Nostra’s once powerful Inzerillo clan, and police waited to find out what his death ultimately would mean. 

With Cali’s support from America, the Inzerillo family was on a trajectory back to power after the boss of bosses Salvatore ‘Toto’ Riina died in prison in late 2017. In the 1980s, before his arrest, Riina launched what is known as the Second Mafia War, ordering deadly hits on the heads of the strongest Palermo crime families who threatened his dictatorial power. Among those he killed was the then-powerful Palermo crime boss Salvatore Inzerillo, whose family then fled in self-imposed exile to New York. 

While in the States, investigators say, the Inzerillo mobsters worked covertly with the Gambino crime family to line their pockets and help fund their return to power in Sicily one day—all the while allegedly promising the Gambino crime family its due reward for the help. 

Riina was serving out several life sentences in solitary confinement when he died, but he still held sway among the Cosa Nostra’s fractious clans, and he still wanted all the Inzerillos dead. Riina’s death finally provided the opening the Inzerillos had been waiting for to make a grab for power. Several Gambino crime family members had already moved to Palermo permanently after Riina’s death to reap the benefits of the close ties that were sure to come with the Inzerillo clan’s return to power. 

It was all going to plan until “Franky Boy” Cali was killed. “It could have gone either way, they could have severed ties or made them stronger in his memory,” the anti-Mafia police source said. “In the end they worked harder ‘for Franky’.”

The merged clans soon strengthened their hold on companies dealing with wholesale food supplies, gambling outlets and online betting through which they engaged in extortion, loan sharking and money laundering. More than a dozen businesses, from casinos to car dealerships in Sicily and New York state, were sequestered as part of the “New Connection” joint operation. 

“The investigation has registered the strong bond established between Cosa Nostra of Palermo and U.S. organized crime, with particular reference to the powerful Gambino crime family of New York,” Italian investigating prosecutor Roberto Tartaglia said in a statement after this week’s arrests. “Those Riina wanted dead were creating a special link between Palermo and New York.”

Even with the 19 arrests, no one assumes the battle against organized crime is over. “They were the losers who ran away so they wouldn’t be killed by Riina,” Palermo police commissioner Renato Cortese said when he announced the arrests. “They continue to be losers.”      

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Life Inside The Young Pioneers: The Soviet Union’s Answer To The Boy Scouts

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Young Pioneers wear gas masks during a civil defense drill in Leningrad. 1937.

The haunting photo above has, in recent years, taken on a new life thanks to the internet. However, few seem to know the story behind it.

The image shows members of the Young Pioneers youth group in Soviet Russia donning their gas masks during a civil defense drill near Leningrad in 1937. These days, the image appears to depict a people consumed by fear of war. At the time, however, the image was meant to be one of strength, meant to convey the efficiency and preparedness of the youth organization.

The Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization, commonly known as the Young Pioneers, was a youth organization in the Soviet Union that promoted communist ideals of cooperation and hard work.

The organization was formed in 1922, when the Scouts, the larger movement that encompasses the Boy Scouts, was banned from Soviet Russia. They were banned for not supporting the new communist government, but citizens still recognized the good that the Scouts did. In order to fill that gap, the Soviet government created the Young Pioneers in order to teach life skills to young kids while also indoctrinating them into communist ideology.

Early Young Pioneers

Early Young Pioneers.

Children between the ages of 10 and 15 joined the Young Pioneers and participated in sports, games, summer camps, and the like. Though membership was hypothetically voluntary, social pressure ensured that almost every child in that age range was a Pioneer.

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Young Pioneer dress uniform.

The Soviet Young Pioneers were part of a larger Pioneer movement that sought to foster communist ideology within the youth. This larger Pioneer organization had chapters across the communist world and beyond, including Cuba, China, Mexico, and Finland.

When The Great Patriotic War, as the Soviets refer to World War II, broke out, the Young Pioneers applied the skills that they had learned in their organization in order to aid the war effort.

During the war, children of the Soviet Union were exposed to much of the violence of the war. Instead of cops and robbers, children in the Soviet Union during the war played “Soviets against Germans”.

In the midst of the war, children would play with discarded shells, grenades and clips. One Soviet newspaper article from 1942 quoted a child at a youth summer camp saying, “We practice grenade throwing and play with our pets.”

Another said that she was “mastering the rifle and reading Gogol’s Dead Souls.”

The Young Pioneers also contributed to the war effort by having as many as 5 million members working on state farms to make up for the older men who had gone off to fight. Pioneers were also encouraged to collect items that could be reused for the war effort like paper and scrap metal. Young Pioneers collected 134,000 tons of scrap metal between 1942 and 1944.

Pioneers were also directed to maintain the graves of those who died in the war, many of which were left neglected in the chaos of wartime.

In areas that were occupied by the German army, many Young Pioneers even became involved in resistance movements. Some died fighting German occupation, and four of them were awarded the Gold Star Medal, one of the highest military honors in the Soviet Union and a symbol that marks its wearer as a “Hero of the Soviet Union.”

Valentyna Kotyka

Official portrait of Valentyna Kotyka.

One such Pioneer was Valentin Kotyk, the youngest ever Hero of the Soviet Union. When the Germans occupied Ukraine at the height of World War II, Kotyk, who was only 14 at the time, joined the partisan resistance. He was wounded twice before he was eventually killed in the Battle of Iziaslav. He was honored with the Gold Star Medal and via numerous monuments at Young Pioneer camps across Russia to this day.

These days, the Young Pioneers still exist throughout the world, but they are much less popular than they were at the height of Soviet power. They have heavily reduced their focus on spreading communist ideology, and function much more like a traditional scout group.

But when the Young Pioneers were first formed, it was under unique circumstances complete with unique challenges. And with the beginning of Soviet involvement in World War II, this children’s organization was forced to confront the brutality of war, and many of its members rose to the challenge.

Thus, images like the one at the very top demonstrate that there is no way to fully remove children from the realities of war, and that the decision to go to war will always, ultimately, affect those most vulnerable.

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Wu Assassins Trailer: First Look At Netflix’s Supernatural Martial Arts Series

Netflix is set to launch its new martial arts series Wu Assassins, showing what audiences can expect with a first-look trailer. 2019 has seen a return of martial arts-driven storytelling, with Cinemax’s fun and engaging period drama Warrior, while Marvel made waves by announcing it has cast Simu Liu and Tony Leung in its upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings movie. For its part, Wu Assassins looks as though it will be a bit different, offering a martial arts series with a heavy supernatural presence that makes use of John Wick 3 star Marc Dacascos. 

The series isn’t the first attempt by Netflix to offer this kind of stylized action, as the streaming giant’s Marco Polo blended historical fiction with an epic scale (and budget) to match. Then there’s also the much maligned Iron Fist series, which despite being a martial arts-driven show, struggled to achieve the sort of action set pieces that are a hallmark of such series. Perhaps third time will be the charm for Netflix, as it appears the streamer is going all in on Wu Assassins’ action potential by casting The Raid’s Iko Uwais as Kai Jin, the soon-to-be obligatory “chosen one” who is imbued with great power to overcome the evil that’s threatening the world. 

While the premise may be a bit familiar, the trailer throws in a few interesting curveballs, like the fact that Kai must face off against his father, Byron Mann (Arrow), and that part of his newfound power involves a Sense8-like switching of personas that gives Dacascos a chance at some screentime. 

It’s hard not to find the show appealing, considering Uwais’ incredible skills are being put to great use, and that the show seems to know how best to take advantage of Dacascos’s personality. Added to that is the presence of Vikings star Katheryn Winnick and Into the Badlands’ Lewis Tan. In all, it looks as though Wu Assassins may well add up to a fun action series to binge as summer rolls along. 

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Haul Ice Cold Drinks Anywhere In Pelican’s Dayventure Cooler Sling

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Pelican’s storage-minded peripherals have become a staple in any explorer’s outdoor kit, offering exceptional protective capabilities, dependable weatherproofing, top-of-the-line ice retention, and over four decades of experience in the adventure space. Now, they’re releasing a handful of new items for your next summer-savvy trek — including a durable Dayventure Sling that’s been built with bespoke beverage carrying in mind.

The company’s futuristic Dayventure Cooler Sling might look like something out of a sci-fi movie, but that doesn’t mean it won’t fit right in with your other trail-oriented gear. This lightweight pack boasts a subtle, capsule-like silhouette, crafted from durable, puncture-resistant materials and a compression-molded base to maintain its structure while out-and-about. To top things off, a leak-resistant, waterproof zipper enclosure provides easy access to your beverages, providing space for up to four wine bottles, 12 cans, or 8.5-liters of total storage. If you’re worried about cold beer, don’t fret — a high-density closed-cell foam interior will keep your drinks cold for the entirety of the trip. You can pick up Pelican’s Dayventure Cooler Sling on Amazon for $150.

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This Gemini Man Featurette Dives Into How Young Will Smith Was Digitally Cloned

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Ang Lee’s Gemini Man is a massive experiment in filmmaking, featuring Will Smith as younger and current versions of himself. In a new featurette, the production team explains why this isn’t a simple process of de-ageing, like they did with Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Young Will Smith is a digital transformation.

“[Lee’s] technology is going to change how movies are made, and how movies are seen,” Smith said.

In Gemini Man, Smith stars as an assassin facing off against a younger clone of himself. As you can see in the video, while we’ve seen similar effects in recent years, the movie still had to break a lot of new ground.

Unlike Star Trek: Nemesis, where Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard matched wits with a clone played by Tom Hardy, Smith has taken on both characters. Visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer said it’s “not de-ageing,” but rather a complete digital person built from scratch, using Smith as the model and template.

In that sense, it’s more akin to Avatar or Planet of the Apes. But this is tougher than creating an animal or alien figure. This is a real person, built to match how they looked decades ago (and viewers are familiar with), and it still relies heavily on Smith’s acting with performance capture. According to Smith, it’s allowing him to portray his younger self in a way that utilises the experiences he’s gained over the years.

“I couldn’t have played Junior at 23 years old, now I’m able to understand and capture both characters because of the amount of experience I’ve had as an actor,” Smith said.

Gemini Man comes out in Australian cinemas October 10.

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