Day After Reality!
Life on Venus? Memories Stink!
Mini Microbes, Mr. Moonlight,
Meet Comet Linear & More!
Day After Reality!
Day After Tomorrow - The Reality
Michigan State University News Release

May 27, 2004 - Instantaneous ice ages, grapefruit-size hail and tidal waves – all courtesy of global warming – are being served up as Memorial Day weekend entertainment in movie theaters.

The side order: A little scientific food for thought.

"The Day After Tomorrow," a star-studded movie that paints a vivid picture of global climatic catastrophe, is a simplistic look at the complex and real issue of a potential outcome of global warming, said David Skole, professor and director of MSU’s Center for Global Change and Earth Observations.

"This is a complicated problem – it’s not like a movie where it’s catastrophic overnight, but there is some science behind it," Skole said. "It stems from abrupt climate change. Changes in storm frequency and intensity; changes in water availability; changes of pests and related disease – that’s the story."

Scientists across the globe, including Skole, struggle to better quantify and understand local impacts of changes in global climate patterns. Skole has been a member of the Academies of Science committee to review the U.S. Climate Change Science Program.

"We must not forget the literary license which Hollywood takes in making such films," Skole said. "While they do a lot to enhance viewer appeal, I think there is some scientific basis in the topic, even if the details are sometimes way wrong. It’s important to note that a movie can get away with these wild depictions precisely because the science of abrupt climate change is only in its infancy."

Michigan State University -

Global Warming Is Real
BMJ-British Medical Journal Press Release

May 27, 2004 - Global warming is a real concern to health experts, according to a senior scientist in this week's BMJ. His comments come as global warming gets the Hollywood treatment in the disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow.

Global warming means not just a gradual climb in temperature, but also an increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, and storms, says Professor Jonathan Patz of Johns Hopkins University. 

Extreme weather events have claimed millions of lives during the past 20 years. Between 1972 and 1996, an average of 123,000 people were killed annually by natural disasters, most of them in Africa and Asia.

Growing evidence suggests that climate change will increase malnutrition and outbreaks of infectious diseases in the 21st century. 

Although the doomsday scenarios in the film may be far from reality, the slower march of climate change still presents a formidable challenge for the health sector and society as a whole, writes the author. 

The many health effects posed by climate change will arrive through numerous convoluted pathways and will require interdisciplinary analyses and integrated prevention planning, he concludes. 

[from Editorial: Global warming BMJ Volume 328, pp 1269-70]

BMJ-British Medical Journal -

The Day After Tomorrow Official site -

Life on Venus?
By Martin Redfern 

Venus May 25, 2004 (BBC) - There could be life on the planet Venus, US scientists have concluded in a report in the journal Astrobiology.

But microbes could survive and reproduce, experts say, floating in the thick, cloudy atmosphere, protected by a sunscreen of sulphur compounds. 

Scientists have even submitted a proposal for a NASA space mission to sample the clouds and attempt to return any presumed Venusians to Earth.

"Venus is really a hellish place," said Professor Andrew Ingersoll, of the California Institute of Technology.

"If you could get through the sulphuric acid clouds down to the surface of Venus you'd find it was hotter than an oven. You could melt lead at the surface of Venus and there'd be no water." 

But it was not always like that. Earth and Venus are in many ways sister planets. 

"Current theories suggest that Venus and the Earth may have started out alike. There might have been a lot of water on Venus and there might have been a lot of carbon dioxide on Earth," Professor Ingersoll explained. 

But all that was to change. On Earth, life in the oceans took in carbon dioxide and turned it into limestone. On Venus, 30% closer to the Sun, any oceans boiled away and the water vapour added to the runaway greenhouse effect. 

Venus became our planet's ugly sister. Its make-over, which occurred billions of years ago, has left a surface where the pressure is crushing. 

But, according to Louis Irwin of the University of Texas at El Paso, the changes on Venus may have been slow. "It may well have been Earth-like long enough for life to either emerge or be transported there," he said. 

Once established, life would have adapted to every environment, just as it did on Earth. 

Two years ago, Austrian scientists discovered bacteria living and reproducing within clouds on Earth. The same could have been true on Venus. Then, as the surface became hot and dry, the clouds might have become life's only refuge.

The Venusian clouds are high in the atmosphere, where the temperature and pressure are quite Earth-like. There is even water present, though it is in the form of concentrated sulphuric acid. 

But we now know of organisms that thrive in very acidic environments on Earth. 

"If you think about what life needs in a broad sense then the clouds of Venus might actually be a habitat where something could live," explained David Grinspoon, of the South West Research Institute in Colorado. 

Another problem could be UV radiation from the Sun. But Dirk Shulze-Makuch, also at El Paso, thinks Venusian bacteria could make use of a natural chemical sunscreen there. 

"When we looked at the composition of the atmosphere, we thought that sulphur compounds are actually an ideal sun block for microbes." 

David Grinspoon speculates that the organisms might even have evolved ways of making use of the UV, much like Earth plants use visible light for photosynthesis. 

"One lifeform's deadly radiation may be another lifeform's lunch," he added. 

But will we ever know if there is truth behind the speculation? Louis Irwin and his colleagues have a proposal in with the US space agency,

"We would send a probe to Venus that would drop probably a collector tethered to a balloon-like floating spacecraft, it would collect samples of the cloud droplets and then blast off from the Venusian atmosphere for return eventually to Earth." 

And what are the chances of finding live Venusians? David Grinspoon is in no doubt: "If they're there, I think we will find them eventually."

NASA Venus site -

[Earth observers can watch Venus pass across the face of our sun on June 8, 2004. The last time was in 1882 and the next will be in 2012. Ed.]

Memories Stink!
University College London News Release

May 26, 2004 - Smells trigger memories but can memories trigger smell, and what does this imply for the way memories are stored?

A UCL study of the smell gateway in the brain has found that the memory of an event is scattered across sensory parts of the brain, suggesting that advertising aimed at triggering memories of golden beaches and soft sand could well enhance your desire to book a seaside holiday. 

By reversing the premise used in Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, UCL researchers established that the memory of an event is spread across different areas of the brain such as the hippocampus and the olfactory cortex - the smell gateway of the brain. 

In Proust's story, protagonist Charles Swann is transported back to his childhood when the smell of a biscuit dipped in tea triggers memories from his past. 

Dr Jay Gottfried and colleagues at UCL's Institute of Neurology set up an experiment to establish whether this mechanism could be reversed, i.e. that memories would reawaken the smell-sensitive regions of the brain. The study is published in the latest issue of Neuron. 

A group of volunteers was asked to create stories or links between pictures of objects and various different smells. When the volunteers were later shown pictures of the same objects, their piriform (olfactory) cortex was re-activated even though the smell was no longer present. 

Dr Jay Gottfried explains: "Our study suggests that, rather than clumping together the sights, sounds and smells of a memory into one bit of the brain, the memory is distributed across different areas and can be re-awakened through just one of our sensory channels. This mechanism would allow human beings more flexibility in retrieving their memories." 

"For example, let's say you spent an enjoyable evening in a nice restaurant and ate a delicious steak. Now, if the memory of this evening was packaged into a single area of the brain, then major aspects of the original evening might have to be recreated to reactivate the memory successfully." 

"But if the individual aspects of the evening, such as the music playing in the restaurant, the candles on the table and the taste of the steak were stored in different sensory parts of brain, then the whole memory could come back to you through just one of your senses being re-awakened." 

"In an extreme case such as a survival situation, by creating memory associations you would learn to anticipate the pounce of a predator from a number of sensory cues – a pattern of footprints in the sand, a rustling of a bush, or a musky scent in the wind – even if you couldn't see it." 

"Advertising relies on the fact that memories are a set of associations rather than unitary chunks, where a picture of woman drinking a cocktail on a beach can stir up your own holiday memories, even if the only similarity between the image and your memory is the sun hat she is wearing." 

"That sun hat can set off your own memories of feeling the sand between your toes, hearing the crash of waves, and smelling the pungent aroma of seaweed."

University College London -

Grizzly Bears Threatened
University of Alberta News Release

May 25, 2004 - A deadly combination of industry and human activity may soon wipe out Alberta's grizzly bear population, but new University of Alberta research identifies the province's highest mortality spots. 

Scott Nielsen, from the Department of Biological Sciences, has isolated specific spots where the bears are dying at the highest rates, all sites where grizzly habitats overlap areas that humans frequent regularly. Nielsen's paper, published in the journal "Biological Conservation" is one of the first to map out these dangerous locations. 

Until now, research has concentrated on mapping habitat alone. 

The biggest culprit, said Nielsen, is when industry--forestry, oil and gas, and mining--extract resources, since each activity develops a new network of roads to access this property. Grizzly bears already are low in number and have very low productive rates, so even when a small number of bears are killed, it can have significant consequences on the species. "Mortality rates in many sites are simply way too high to expect long-term persistence of grizzly bears," said Nielsen, the lead author on the paper. "Methods that identify mortality sites in most need of management or restoration are needed." 

Over the past century, human encroachment has destroyed their existence in much of North America and Alberta isn't far behind that practice, said Nielsen. The bears existence is so serious that the province is considering labeling the grizzy's status as "threatened." 

Nielsen's recommendations include limiting human access to highly quality habitat sites and increasing education programs that facilitate a greater understanding of grizzly bears in the province. 

"Until poaching and translocation actions are reduced, the limited entry spring hunt--a controllable source of mortality--should be closed," he said. 

University of Alberta -
Giant Mushroom Baffles Experts!
BRAZZAVILLE May 28, 2004 (Reuters) — A giant three-tiered mushroom, which measures a yard across and was found in the tropical forests of the Republic of Congo, has left experts in the capital Brazzaville scratching their heads.

"It's the first time we've ever seen a mushroom like this, so it's difficult for us to classify. But we are going to determine what it is scientifically," said Pierre Botaba, head of Congo's veterinary and zoology center.

The giant fungi stands 18 inches high and has three tiered caps on top of a broad stem.

The bottom cap measures a yard across, the second one two feet, and the top one just under a foot wide, Botaba said.

The bizarre-looking mushroom was found in the village of Mvoula about 38 miles from Brazzaville and transported carefully to the capital by the local chief.

Frozen Mini-Microbes 120,000 Years Old!
American Society for Microbiology New Release

May 26, 2004 - The discovery of millions of micro-microbes surviving in a 120,000-year-old ice sample taken from 3,000 meters below the surface of the Greenland glacier will be announced by Penn State University scientists on 26 May 2004 at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans, Louisiana. The discovery is significant because it may help to define the limits for life on Earth as well as elsewhere in the universe, such as on cold planets like Mars.

According to Penn State researchers Vanya I. Miteva, research associate, and Jean E. Brenchley, professor of microbiology and biotechnology, the majority of the microbes they discovered in an ice-core sample taken from the glacier were less than 1 micron in size--smaller than most commonly known bacteria, which range from 1 to 10 microns. In addition, a large portion of the cells appeared to be even smaller and passed through filters with 0.2-micron pores.

The scientists are interested in understanding how microbial life can be preserved in polar ie sheets for hundreds of thousands of years under stresses that include subzero temperatures, desiccation, high pressures, and low oxygen and nutrient concentrations. Because the ice was mixed with the ancient permafrost at the bottom of the glacier, the microbes could have been trapped there for perhaps millions of years.

"We are particularly interested in the formation of ultra-small cells as one possible stress-survival mechanism, whether they are starved minute forms of known normal-sized microbes or intrinsically dwarf novel organisms, and also whether these cells are able to carry on metabolic processes while they are so highly stressed," Miteva says. Physiological changes that accompany the reduction of a cell's size may allow it to become dormant or to maintain extremely low activity with minimal energy.

"Many of these ice-core microbes are related to a variety of ultra-small microorganisms from other cold environments that have been shown to use different carbon and energy sources and to be resistant to drying, starvation, radiation, and other stress factors. Their modern relatives include the model ultra-micro bacterium Sphingopyxis alaskensis, which is abundant in cold Alaskan waters," Brenchley reports. She and Miteva are in the process of closely examining all the microbes they found in order to determine the identities and diversity of the species and to look for ones with novel functions.

The researchers used a variety of methods including repeated sample filtrations, electron microscopy, and a modified technique of flow cytometry to quickly reveal the number of cells and to estimate their different sizes, DNA content, and other characteristics. Miteva and Brenchley discovered cells with many different shapes and sizes, including a large percentage that were even smaller than filter-pore sizes of only 0.2 microns. "It appears that these ultra-small microbes often are missed in research studies because they pass through the finest filters commonly used to collect cells for analysis," Miteva says.

Scientists believe these dwarf cells belong to the "uncultured majority" because they are among the 99 percent of all microbes on Earth that never have been isolated and cultured for study.

Obtaining such "isolates" is necessary in order to describe a new organism, study its cell size, examine its physiology, and assess its ecological role.

"We now know just the tip of the iceberg of all the microbes that exist on Earth, and it generally is believed that a large portion of these unknown microbes are very small in size," Miteva says.

"A major challenge is to develop novel approaches for growing some of these previously unculturable organisms," Brenchley says. "At present, no single established protocol exists and little is known about the recovery of these stressed and possibly damaged cells from a frozen environment that subjects them to severe conditions for long periods."

Some of the cells that Miteva and Brenchley were successful in cultivating required special conditions and up to six months to form initial colonies.

The researchers discovered that these colonies grew more rapidly during further cultivation and that most continued to form predominantly small cells.

"Our study of the abundance, viability, and identity of the ultra-small cells existing in the Greenland ice is relevant to discovering how small life-forms can be; how cells survive being small, cold, and hungry; and what new tricks we need to develop in order to cultivate these small cells," Miteva says.

"This study is part of the continuing quest by microbiologists to overcome the current limitations of our methods and to answer the big question, 'What new microbes are out there and what are they doing?'"

This research was supported by the Department of Energy (Grant DE-FG02-93ER20117) and the Penn State Astrobiology Center (NASA-Ames Cooperative Agreement No. NCC2-1057).

American Society for Microbiology -

Maya Microbes Deteriorate Ruins
American Society for Microbiology News Release

NEW ORLEANS May 27, 2004 – Researchers from Harvard University have discovered the presence of a previously unidentified microbial community inside the porous stone of the Maya ruins in Mexico that may be capable of causing rapid deterioration of these sites. They present their findings at the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

"The presence of a previously undescribed endolithic microbial community that is different than the surface community has important implications for the conservation of Maya ruins as well as other stone objects and structures," says Christopher McNamara, a researcher on the study.

McNamara and his colleagues collected stone samples from a Maya archaeological site and separated it into surface and interior portions, which were then broken down into tiny particles. They extracted DNA from the samples and identified and compared bacterial communities on the inside and outside surfaces of the stone. Photosynthetic microorganisms, mainly proteobacteria, were found to populate the surface whereas Actinobacteria was the dominate population on the interior where no photosynthetic organisms were detected. Additional tests on the interior bacterial communities suggest that they break down limestone as they grow.

"Surface analysis of microbial growth and disinfection of stone objects and buildings can no longer be considered sufficient," says McNamara. "Furthermore, treatments designed to penetrate stone objects must consider the presence of a microbial community that may be substantially different than that visible on the surface."

American Society for Microbiology -
Mr. Moonlight
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office News Release

May 27, 2004 - According to a new NASA-funded study, insights into Earth's climate may come from an unlikely place: the moon. 

Scientists looked at the ghostly glow of light reflected from Earth onto the moon's dark side. During the 1980s and 1990s, Earth bounced less sunlight out to space.
The trend reversed during the past three years, as the Earth appears to reflect more light toward space. 

Though not fully understood, the shifts may indicate a natural variability of clouds, which can reflect the sun's heat and light away from Earth.

The apparent change in the amount of sunlight reaching Earth in the 1980s and 1990s is comparable to taking the effects of greenhouse gas warming since 1850 and doubling them.

Increased reflectance since 2001 suggests change of a similar magnitude in the opposite direction. 

Researchers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Newark, N.J., and California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, Calif., combined NASA cloud data from satellites with records of Earth's reflectance off the moon, called earthshine.

The study, funded by NASA's Living With a Star Program, appears May 28 in the journal Science. 

"Using a phenomenon first explained by Leonardo DaVinci, we can provide valuable data on the overall reflectance of the Earth, and indirectly, on global cloud cover," said Phil Goode, a physicist at NJIT, one of the paper's authors. He is director of Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), Big Bear City, Calif. "Our method has the advantage of being very precise, and light reflected by large portions of Earth can be observed simultaneously," he said. 

Recent news reports suggested sunshine reaching Earth declined from the late 1950s to the early 1990s. This new study suggests the opposite. Earth's surface may have been sunnier, or less cloudy, in the 1980s and 1990s. BBSO has conducted precision earthshine observations since 1994. Regular observations began in late 1997. 

The research team improved upon an old method for monitoring earthshine. They compared earthshine measurements from 1999 to mid-2001 with overlapping satellite observations of global cloud properties. The cloud satellite record from 1983 to 2001 came from the NASA-managed International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project. By matching these two records, the researchers used the cloud data to extend the record and construct a substitute measure of Earth's albedo, the fraction of light reflected by a body or surface. 

The data showed a steady decrease in Earth's albedo from 1984 to 2000. Between 1995 and 1996, Earth dimmed even more sharply. The data were consistent with satellite measurements of changing global properties. From 1997 to 2000, Earth continued to dim. The researchers suggest, during this time period, the decreases in Earth's reflectance may be related to an observed accelerated increase in mean global surface temperatures. From 2001 to 2003, Earth brightened to pre-1995 values. The researchers attributed the brightening to changes in cloud properties. 

"At the moment, the cause of these variations is not known, but they imply large shifts in Earth's radiative budget," said co-author Steven Koonin, a Caltech physicist. "Continued observations and modelling efforts will be necessary to learn their implications for climate." 

The research offers evidence Earth's average albedo varies considerably from year to year, and from decade to decade. "Our most likely contribution to the global warming debate is to emphasize the role of clouds in climate change must be accounted for, illustrating that we still lack the detailed understanding of our present and past climate system to confidently model future changes," said Enric Palle, a postdoctoral associate at NJIT, lead author of the paper. Pilar Montan~es-Rodriguez, a postdoctoral associate at NJIT, is another co-author. 

"Even as the scientific community acknowledges the likelihood of human impact on climate, it must better document and understand climate changes," Koonin said. "Our ongoing earthshine measurements will be an important part of that process." 

BBSO, operated by NJIT, is partially supported by NASA. NASA's Living with a Star Program develops the scientific understanding necessary to effectively address those aspects of the connected sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society.

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office -

Maya's Mystery Knock Up
JERUSALEM May 25, 2004 (Reuters) - Israeli zookeepers suspected some monkey business only after Maya, a 24-year-old chimpanzee, suddenly gave birth to twins despite an apparent lack of virile mates. 

The happy event at Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo caught everyone by surprise: nobody had noticed Maya was pregnant.

Og and Gremlin, the only adult males among 11 chimps at the facility, were sterilized years ago, a zoo official said Tuesday. 

A search for the father found that a precocious seven-year-old chimp called Nicky had reached puberty early and was probably having the run of the primates' house. 

"We have another eight fat female chimps who, as in Maya's case, we thought had gained weight by eating too much during the winter," said zoo official Sigalit Dvir. 

"But it looks like we'll be seeing some more babies soon."

Meet Comet Linear!
European Space Agency Press Release

May 26, 2004 - ESA's comet-chaser Rosetta, whose 10-year journey to its final target Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko started on 2 March, is well on its way.

The first phase of commissioning is close to completion and Rosetta has successfully performed its first scientific activity - observation of Comet Linear.

The commissioning activities, which started a couple of days after launch, included the individual activation of all instruments on board the Rosetta orbiter and the Philae lander.

This first check-out worked flawlessly and showed that the spacecraft and all instruments are functioning well and in excellent shape.

The commissioning tests also paved the way for Rosetta's first scientific activity: observation of Comet C/2002 T7 (LINEAR), which is currently traveling for the first and only time through the inner Solar System and offered Rosetta an excellent opportunity to make its first scientific observation.

On 30 April, the OSIRIS camera system, which was scheduled for commissioning on that date, took images of this unique cometary visitor. Later that day, three more instruments on board Rosetta (ALICE, MIRO and VIRTIS) were activated in parallel to take measurements of the comet. Although the parallel activation of the instruments was not planned until later in the year, the Rosetta team felt confident that this could be done without any risk because of the satisfactory progress of the overall testing.

The first data from the remote-sensing observations confirm the excellent performance of the instruments.

The four instruments took images and spectra of Comet C/2002 T7 (LINEAR) to study its coma and tail in different wavelengths, from ultraviolet to microwave. Rosetta successfully measured the presence of water molecules in the tenuous atmosphere around the comet. Detailed analysis of the data will require the complete calibration of the instruments, which will take place in the coming months.

The OSIRIS camera produced high-resolution images of Comet C/2002 T7 (LINEAR) from a distance of about 95 million kilometers. The image showing a pronounced nucleus and a section of the tenuous tail extending over about 2 million kilometers was obtained by OSIRIS in blue light. 

The successful observation of Comet Linear was a first positive test for Rosetta's ultimate goal, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which will be reached in 2014. Rosetta will be the first mission to undertake a long-term exploration of a comet at close quarters whilst accompanying it on its way towards the Sun.

The unprecedented in-depth study conducted by the Rosetta orbiter and its Philae lander will help scientists decipher the formation of our Solar System around 4600 million years ago and provide them with clues of how comets may have contributed to the beginning of life on Earth.

In particular, the Philae lander, developed by a European consortium under the leadership of the German Aerospace Research Institute (DLR), will analyze the composition and structure of the comet's surface.

After Rosetta's first deep-space maneuvers were carried out on 10 and 15 May with the highest accuracy, the first phase of commissioning is set to be completed in the first week of June.

Rosetta will then go into a quiet ‘cruise mode’ until September, when the second phase of commissioning is scheduled to start. These activities, including the interference and pointing campaign, will last until December.

So the Rosetta spacecraft is well under way on its epic 10-year voyage, to do what has never before been attempted – orbiting and landing on a comet.

European Space Agency -

Genre News:  Enterprise, Dead Zone, Nico, Marlene, Medium, Jack Black, Bandstand & More!
Correction and apologies:  in our review of Star Trek: New Voyages, we incorrectly stated that James Marshall starred as Captain Kirk. In fact, Jack Marshall, who authored, wrote and directed the first episode, played Mr. Scott. Kirk was played by James Cawley - and a fine job he did too. Thanks to Linda of New Voyages for this data. Ed.
Enterprise Finale - Porthos as a Metaphor
By FLAtRich

Earth May 27, 2004 (eXoNews) - And so, after a full season chasing galactic terrorists around the quadrant - bullying confessions, putting innocents at risk and generally scowling a lot - Star Trek: Enterprise's Captain Archer blows up the death star and quantum leaps into an alternate universe where World War II is populated by alien Nazis.

Yep. Executive Producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga wrote the script, valiantly kept secret by cast and crew until last night's Enterprise finale. Possibly so fans wouldn't say the hell with it and watch something else? [The Trekkers stayed loyal, giving Enterprise a 3.7/6 overnight. No Smallville to fight but a respectable showing against American Idol and all the rest of the usual mundane stuff. Ed.]

It is appropriate to once again invoke the Great Bird. When Gene Roddenberry was the executive in charge of Star Trek, the Enterprise went where no man had gone before. The Original Series, Next Generation and Deep Space Nine followed that tradition, usually flying inside the Star Trek universe. 

We watched the various other cultures of our galaxy - the Klingons, Vulcans, Romulans, Ferengi, etc. - grow and feud. We got involved, taking up our phasers when necessary but always within the bounds of The Prime Directive.

Well, almost always. Testing the limits of The Prime Directive became a Star Trek tradition, not unlike frequent challenges to the boundaries of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Memorable episodes established the differences between the needs of the few and the needs of the many.

Star Trek Voyager attempted to go somewhere else, sending Captain Janeway and her crew into a quadrant mostly free from Klingons. The idea had precedence - DS9 adventures through the wormhole left the Alpha Quadrant behind and gave the writers and makeup department something new to imagine. Voyager worked, but a lot of fans missed the Klingons.

Luckily, Picard and the Next Generation crew were still around to make a string of big screen adventures.

Throughout it all, the Roddenberry credo - that life would improve in the future (and men wouldn't have to wear ties) - was kept alive.

Engage! Go forward!

Cut to the day after tomorrow. A veteran Star Trek watcher sitting at his keyboard trying to come up with something nice to say about Star Trek Enterprise, despite a downbeat Captain Archer blowing up the death star and leaping into an alternate universe where World War II is populated by alien Nazis.

It all sounds so familiar - because it is. How can one best eulogize a universe of borrowed metaphors? 

Well, I liked the scene with T'Pol and the dog. Not that the poor dog ever gets anything to do in the show. In fact, maybe Porthos is a perfect metaphor for what has become of Gene Roddenberry's wonderful creation.

Porthos is decorative. Compared to other TV dogs, Porthos serves no earthly purpose other than giving Captain Archer an excuse to talk out loud when there are no humanoids around.

Porthos doesn't get out much. Captain Archer doesn't include him as a member of the away team. We rarely get to see the Enterprise from Porthos' point of view.

Mr. William Shatner, still an active participant in Federation politics, declared a short while back that Star Trek needed new blood.

Mr. Shatner, who I recall claiming more than once that he never watched post-TOS Trek shows, was using a metaphor. I figure he meant Rick Berman was past it and Star Trek had lost its edge.

Mr. Shatner was saying the Franchise needed younger writers and (presumably) producers.

This was before Mr. Shatner offered Rick Berman a Kirk arc for the fourth season of Enterprise, of course. (Not sure what happened to that pitch.)

Anyway, I disagree with Mr. Shatner. TV writer-producers can age and still give us quality.

Look at Don Bellisario, the former producer of Magnum and the aforementioned Quantum Leap. His script for the first year finale of Navy NCIS rocked, man! Ably directed by genre vet Thomas J. Wright (X-Files, MillenniuM, etc.), Bellisario absolutely freaked us with an ending mutated from the famous "Ivan" episode of Magnum.

(Look it up! I'm a critic, not an encyclopedia!)

The Bellisario lesson is simple: to succeed, one must grow with the times. Like Star Trek Nemesis, the third season of Enterprise jumped on the terrorism bandwagon and found itself mired in unseemly metaphors. 

In earlier series, Star Trek didn't follow trends. Star Trek led the way. Fighting the Borg, yes, but Star Trek is not a cop show or a military show. Star Trek is a better future.

For three seasons, Enterprise essentially kept its dog in a cage. It's time to think outside the cage. Berman better get rid of those predictable alien Nazis fast!

Unleash that dog, Mr. B!

Alas, poor Porthos! Reduced to a mere metaphor! Even Eddie on Fraser had better moments! Dexter, the dog on Chris Carter's aborted series Harsh Realm (to be released on DVD this year), positively stole the show.

By comparison, Porthos doesn't even bark.

Enterprise Official -

The Dead Zone Returns 

Hollywood May 27, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Anthony Michael Hall, who stars as psychic Johnny Smith in the USA Network series The Dead Zone, told SCI FI Wire that the third season will feature bigger themes and more multi-episode story arcs.

"We feel strongly about doing serialized shows, whether it be about a death or a murder or a kidnapping," Hall said in a recent interview.

"And I think that's a lot to latch onto as a group of actors. It's helpful for us, too. It's much easier to make something like that plausible and believable, to kind of latch onto that."

Hall said the goal of season three is to expand on the visual and narrative elements established in the first two seasons and to appeal to an even wider audience.

"We're in our third season and what matters to me is the evolution itself," Hall said. "Just making it more cinematic, making it more intense and more visually dynamic, everything we can. And that includes, with the support of the network, bringing in name actors."

Two of those actors include Frank Whaley and Sean Patrick Flanery, who will become recurring cast members this season. Whaley plays a mysterious figure from the future who shares Johnny's psychic abilities, while Flanery plays politician Greg Stillson, a character originated in the Stephen King book on which the series is based.

"[Whaley's] character kind of alludes to the future and the Stillson storyline," Hall said. "[He] is kind of goading me forward to kind of meet my fate and deal with the Stillson thing and the idea that Stillson will eventually lead to this incredibly corrupt political figure, even more powerful than he is now as he's running for Congress."

This season, Hall will expand his credits from actor and executive producer to director as well. In the episode, titled The Cold Hard Truth, Richard Lewis plays a DJ haunted by a tragedy in his past. Although it was filmed first to allow Hall preparation time, the episode won't air until later in the season. Hall said he was pleased with how his first television directing effort turned out.

"I'm proud of it," Hall said. "I think it has a real emotional impact, where it'll be less busy in terms of the look of the show, and technically it really hits the heart and has a real emotion to it."

The Dead Zone starts its third season Sunday, June 6, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Official Dead Zone -

Nico's Ghost
By Chris Gardner

LOS ANGELES May 27, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - German model/actress Nico, who was part of the Andy Warhol scene in the 1960s, will get an extra 15 minutes of posthumous fame courtesy of a movie about her colorful life. 

The Vagabond Films project, described as dark and funny, will be directed by British filmmaker David Mackenzie, currently in theaters with the NC-17-rated "Young Adam," starring Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton. 

Born Christa Paeffgen, Nico started out as a model in Paris, landed a small part in Federico Fellini's 1960 film "La Dolce Vita," and got into music through friendships with Brian Jones and Jimmy Page. She sang a few songs on the debut album by Warhol's protege rock group, the Velvet Underground. She continued recording and performing on her own account, but heroin addiction took over her life, and she died in 1988 in a bicycle accident in Ibiza, Spain. 

The film will be based on the book "Nico: The End" by James Young. A documentary about Nico, called "Nico: Icon," was released in 1995.

[Nico was fabulous! Look for a CD. You can thank me later. Ed.]

Nico Fan site -

Marlene Dietrich's Comeback
By Michael Fleming

Hollywood May 25, 2004 (Variety) - DreamWorks will turn Marlene Dietrich's story into a star vehicle for Gwyneth Paltrow. 

The studio has optioned Maria Riva's memoir "Marlene Dietrich," and has secured cooperation from Dietrich's estate.
Jess Money will write the script and produce with Paltrow and David Nicksay. 

There is no firm timetable on the project, which is just as well because Paltrow has taken a screen sabbatical following the birth of her first child with her husband, Coldplay front man Chris Martin. 

Paltrow and her producing partners pitched the project to a DreamWorks contingent that included Steven Spielberg. 

She becomes the second actress vying to play Dietrich: Louis Malle once worked with the family to produce a film starring Uma Thurman, but the project halted when Malle passed away.

John Guare, who scripted "Atlantic City" for Malle, was to have adapted the project for United Artists. 

Dietrich, who come of age in Germany during the carnage-filled waning days of WWI, became a legend on the stage and screen, and in many bedrooms. 

"In the cabaret scene in Berlin, girls dated girls as much as men, and nobody wanted to settle down because they were so affected by the horrors of war," Dietrich's grandson Peter Riva said.

"She would fall in love with a song, with Paris, or a beautiful woman or a powerful man, and she would pour all her passion in that direction for as long as she wanted to." 

Dietrich was the top-paid diva in town and she was first to get gross percentage from Paramount while building her star with such films as the Joseph von Sternberg-directed "The Blue Angel." But her defining moment -- and a likely pivotal point in the biopic -- came when her film career grew cold just as WWII was heating up and Hitler wanted the country's screen queen to come home. 

"The Nazis were desperate and offered her everything to return to Germany and become the face for the Third Reich," Riva said. "By rights, she could have returned because Hollywood had turned on her. But she felt moral indignation for what the Nazis were proposing, and she spent the entire war doing everything she could to fight against them."

Dietrich openly stumped for war bonds and secretly helped the OSS by making personal recruitment calls to Germans who were persuaded to become turncoat spies. Then, she actually joined the troops near the front lines all over Europe -- she arrived in France three days after the invasion of Normandy. She didn't leave until the Allies reached Berlin. After WWII Dietrich grew bored with the frivolous films being made. She carved out a singing career before taking radical retirement. 

"When she realized that age caught up to her at 76, she made sure that she did not undermine her memory by being seen getting old. She stayed in bed for her final 11 years." 

Riva said Paltrow is one of few contemporary actresses who could do justice to his grandmother. 

"She has the stillness required in an aristocrat, and the ability to plumb the depths of character without too much emotion, which was Marlene's trademark," Riva said. "Like Marlene, she has the kind of body designers love to hang clothes on. And while Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald taught Marlene to maximize her limited vocal range, Gwyneth is a much better singer. She'll just have to sultry up her voice a bit." 

DreamWorks' David Beaubaire will shepherd the pic.

Jane to Tru Calling
By Nellie Andreeva

Hollywood May 27, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Writer-producer Jane Espenson has inked a two-year overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television.

As part of the pact, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" veteran Espenson will join "Tru Calling," 20th TV's sophomore drama for Fox, as a co-executive producer while also developing other projects for the studio.

Espenson, who started in comedy before moving on to one-hour shows, was recommended to 20th TV brass by "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon.

Rene Echevarria Joins Medium

LOS ANGELES May 26, 2004 ( - Writer-producer Rene Echevarria is joining the staff of NBC's new drama "Medium," reuniting him with the show's creator, Glenn Gordon Caron.

Echevarria will serve as an executive producer of "Medium" with Caron, Kelsey Grammer and Steve Stark. He comes aboard the show as part of a two-year deal he signed with its producer, Paramount Network TV, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Echevarria worked with "Medium" creator Caron on the short-lived "Now and Again" in 1999-2000. His credits also include writing and producing stints on ABC's "MDs," FOX's "Dark Angel" and two "Star Trek" series, "The Next Generation" and "Deep Space Nine."

This past pilot season, Echevarria developed a cop show called "Ricochet" for FOX that would have told the story of a case in reverse, beginning with the outcome and working back to the commission of the crime. He's also among the writers for USA's upcoming alien-abduction miniseries "4400."

"Medium" stars Patricia Arquette as a woman who can communicate with the dead and uses her abilities to help the police solve cases. NBC has picked up the show for midseason.

Iranian Lizard Comes to America

LOS ANGELES May 26, 2004 (AP) - A judge has ruled against an overseas film distributor who tried to block the release of the controversial Iranian film "The Lizard" in the United States.

The satirical movie featuring a thief disguised as a cleric was a smash hit in Iran until authorities pulled it from theaters May 19. It won top honors at Tehran's international film festival in February and took in about $1 million. 

Director Manuchehr Mohammadi agreed to a contract to distribute the film through Atlantis Enterprises in the United States and elsewhere. The film's Iranian distributor, Kamal Mosafaye Tabrizi, sought a temporary restraining order in Los Angeles Superior Court to block the U.S. debut. 

Judge Dzintra Jamavs denied that restraining order Tuesday. 

Tabrizi's lawyer, Patrick M. Saboorian, said he would be back in court next week if the parties can't work out a private agreement. 

Among depictions that angered the conservative Iranian clergy were a man singing inside a mosque and a cleric robbing a driver and sweet-talking a young woman. In one scene, a thief escaped from prison disguised as a cleric. 

The film, whose Farsi name is "Marmoulak," opened in late April and had been scheduled to continue until the end of July, screening in 33 theaters in Tehran alone.

Marvel Goes Direct to DVD

NEW YORK May 25, 2004 (AP) - Marvel Enterprises Inc. is teaming with Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. to enter the direct-to-DVD video cartoon market. 

The comic book giant, whose 4,700-character library features such big names as Spider-Man and X-Men, said Tuesday the new agreement with Lions Gate covers eight original animated projects based on "certain characters within the Marvel universe." 

Financial terms were not disclosed, nor were the titles and characters involved, but production will begin immediately and the first DVD is to be released late next year. 

Lions Gate will pay licensing fees for character rights and fund all of the development, production, distribution and marketing, the companies said. Marvel will "spearhead creative development and production." 

Lions Gate, headquartered in North Vancouver, B.C., previously won licenses to develop theatrical motion pictures based on the Marvel characters Iron Fist and Black Widow, and it and Marvel plan a sequel to the recently released movie "The Punisher." 

"The Marvel universe maintains an outstanding and loyal fan base that craves fresh material featuring Marvel's superheroes," said Jon Feltheimer, chief executive officer of Lions Gate. "We're confident that we can take Marvel's extensive library of popular characters with compelling storylines and create action-packed, appealing animated made-for-DVD movies." 

In trading Tuesday, Marvel shares closed up 30 cents at $19.80 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Jack Plays a Mad Scientist
By Nicole LaPorte

Hollywood May 24, 2004 (Variety) - Michel Gondry is directing an adaptation of the sci-fi thriller "Master of Space and Time" by Rudy Rucker. 

Jack Black is attached to star in the pic, which is in talks to land at DreamWorks. 

Project was brought to the studio by Gondry for Walter Parkes and Laurie McDonald to produce, but deal is not yet completed. 

Last year, the French production company Midi Minuit optioned "Master of Space and Time," about two mad scientists who figure out how to control reality. Gondry became attached to the project due to his relationship with Midi Minuit; the shingle produced many of his musicvideos before he crossed over to feature films. 

DreamWorks is negotiating rights with Midi Minuit. 

"Master of Space and Time" was first published in 1984 by St. Martin's Press. 

"School of Rock" star Black is starring in this summer's Will Ferrell laffer "Anchorman" and is also lending his voice for this fall's animated film "Shark Tale." Both pics are at DreamWorks. 

Gondry is fresh off Focus Feature's arthouse hit "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."

American Bandstand Lives!

LOS ANGELES May 24, 2004 ( - Ryan Seacrest's agent is probably already on the phone. The "American Idol" geniuses at 19 Entertainment and the eternally youthful Dick Clark are joining forces for a new generation of "American Bandstand" and the show is sure to need a host.

Clark, 19's Simon Fuller and Allen Shapiro of Mosaic Media Group (a controlling stockholder in dick clark productions) are hoping to relaunch "Bandstand" in the summer of 2005, following a nationwide search for a host.

"'American Idol' is one of the very few music formats to have been successful on network television in the U.S. for many years. 'American Bandstand' was the first and longest running," Fuller says. "Dick Clark is the father of American music television, and the prospect of the two of us working together to bring 'American Bandstand' back to all its former glory, whilst giving it a 21st century twist, is very exciting indeed."

From 1957 to 1987, "American Bandstand" aired on ABC-TV and offered a mix of live performances by the world's hottest recording artists and imagines of attractive youngsters dancing away. Of course, a whole younger generation of viewers only knows "American Bandstand" from the NBC drama "American Dreams," which suggests that a revival was probably necessary.

"Bringing back an American tradition like 'Bandstand' has always been a dream of mine, and I can't think of a better person to partner with than Simon Fuller, whose foresight in trend-setting television shows and music will surely bring the show new luster and then some," Clark says.

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