Rosetta Lander Named Philae by a 15 Year Old Girl
European Space Agency Press Release
February 5, 2004 - With just 21 days to the launch of the European Space Agency's Rosetta comet mission, the spacecraft's lander has been named "Philae". Rosetta embarks on a 10-year journey to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from Kourou, French Guiana, on 26 February.
Philae is the island in the river Nile on which an obelisk was found that had a bilingual inscription including the names of Cleopatra and Ptolemy in Egyptian hieroglyphs.
This provided the French historian Jean-François Champollion with the final clues that enabled him to decipher the hieroglyphs of the Rosetta Stone and unlock the secrets of the civilization of ancient Egypt.
[According to BBC, the lander name Philae was suggested by Serena Olga Vismara from Arluno, Italy. Her prize for coming up with it will be a trip to Kourou to attend the launch of the Rosetta mission. Ed.]
Rosetta's Trek to Comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko
European Space Agency Press Release
February 3, 2004 - The countdown to Rosetta’s rendezvous in space began on 1 March 1997. At the end of February 2004, seven years and not a few headaches later, the European Space Agency (ESA) probe will at last be setting off on its journey to meet Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The long-planned get-together will not however take place until the middle of 2014. A few months after arriving at the comet, Rosetta will release a small lander onto its surface. Then, for almost two years it will investigate Churyumov-Gerasimenko from close up.
Dr Gerhard Schwehm, lead scientist for the Rosetta project, explains that, "With this mission we will be breaking new ground - this will be the first protracted cometary encounter." The trip to the meeting place in space will certainly be a long one, located as it is some 4.5 astronomical units from the Sun, which translates into something like 675 million kilometers. Rosetta will be on the road for ten years, during which time it will clock up in excess of five billion kilometers.
Launch in February 2004
Rosetta will be waved off on 26 February when it lifts off from the space centre in Kourou, French Guiana, aboard an Ariane 5 launcher. Shortly after the spacecraft’s release, its solar panels will be deployed and turned towards the Sun to build up the necessary power reserves. Its various systems and experiments will be gradually brought into operation and tested. Just three months into the mission the first active phase will be over, followed by final testing of the experiments in October 2004. Rosetta will then spend the following years flying a lonely path to the comet, passing by the Earth, Mars, the Earth and the Earth again.
There is no alternative to this detour, for even Ariane 5, the most powerful launcher on the market today, lacks the power to hurl the probe on a direct route to the comet. To get the required momentum, it will rely on swing-by maneuvers, using the gravitation pull of Mars (in 2007) and the Earth (three times, in 2005, 2007 and 2008) to pick up speed.
Asteroids for company
A change is as good as a rest, and a meeting with at least one asteroid should help break the monotony for Rosetta. The spacecraft will come close to an asteroid at the end of 2008. Asteroids are, it will be remembered, rocky bodies, some as large as mountains, some even larger, that orbit the Sun in much the same way as planets.
"These 'brief encounters' are a scientific opportunity and also a chance to test Rosetta’s instrument payload," says Gerhard Schwehm. But asteroid exploration also serves an entirely practical purpose: "The more we find out about them, the better the prospect of being able one day to avert a possible collision." Following a period of low-activity cruising, the probe’s course will be adjusted one last time in May 2011. From July 2011, a further two-and-a-half years' radio silence will be observed, and Rosetta, left entirely to its own resources, will fly close to the Jupiter orbit.
Link-up in 2014
Finally, in January 2014, the probe will be reactivated and will, by October 2014, be only a few kilometers distant from Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This is where the dream of so many scientists becomes reality. Having deposited its precious lander cargo on the comet’s surface, Rosetta will continue to orbit Churyumov-Gerasimenko and together they will spend the next seventeen months flying towards the Sun.
Rosetta was built by an international consortium led by Astrium. The lander probe was developed in Cologne under the aegis of the DLR, Germany’s space agency, with contributions from ESA and research centers in Austria, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and Great Britain.
The comet explorer carries ten scientific instruments. Their job is to draw out the secrets of the comet’s chemical and physical composition and reveal its magnetic and electrical properties. Using a specially designed camera, the lander will take pictures in the macro and micro ranges and send all the data thus acquired back to Earth, via Rosetta.
"This will be our first ever chance to be there, at first hand, so to speak, as a comet comes to life," Schwehm goes on to explain. When Churyumov-Gerasimenko gets to within about 500 million kilometers of the Sun, the frozen gases that envelop it will evaporate and a trail of dust will be blown back over hundreds of thousands of kilometers. When illuminated by the Sun, this characteristic comet tail then becomes visible from Earth. In the course of the mission, the processes at work within the cometary nucleus will be studied and measured more precisely than has ever before been possible, for earlier probes simply flew past their targets.
"As we will be accompanying Churyumov-Gerasimenko for two years, until the comet reaches the point closest to the Sun and travels away from it, we can at long last hope to acquire new knowledge about comets. We are confident we will come a step nearer to understanding the origins and formation of our solar system and the emergence of life on Earth."
More information on the Rosetta launch can be found on http://www.esa.int/rosetta.
More on ESA Science Program at http://www.esa.int/science
|Mega-Tsunami Meteor |
By SIMON COLLINS
NEW ZEALAND February 9, 2004 (New Zealand Herald) - An international scientific expedition will fly to Stewart Island next week on a quest to track down a meteor that may have sparked a tsunami that possibly wiped out a legendary Chinese fleet 500 years ago.
Expedition leader New York oceanographer Dallas Abbott has found survey evidence of a huge undersea crater caused by a meteor impact 20km wide and more than 153m deep just south of the Snares Islands, 120km southwest of Stewart Island.
The expedition is going to remote Mason Bay on the west coast of Stewart Island to look for evidence of a "mega-tsunami", sparked by the meteor, which may have dumped sand up to 150m above the present sea level.
Wollongong University geographer Ted Bryant, who will join the party, believes the tsunami may have swept as far as the east coast of New South Wales, where he has found evidence of waves up to 130m high that hit about AD 1500.
Australian author Gavin Menzies has claimed the mega-tsunami as a possible cause of the destruction of all but one of more than 100 ships which he says were dispatched by China to circumnavigate the globe in AD 1421.
However, New Zealand tsunami expert Dr James Goff visited Mason Bay in December and said there was no evidence either that the tsunami occurred there as recently as 1500, or that it was caused by a meteor.
Dr Goff, who came here from Britain 10 years ago, recruited Maori novelist Keri Hulme and former Conservation Department archaeologist Bruce McFadgen to co-author a devastating attack on Professor Bryant's previous research in the December issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
The trio said that in a controversial 2001 book on tsunamis, Dr Bryant created a "geo-fantasy" about a meteor that he said exploded in the sky above Tapanui, west of Dunedin, around 1500.
They alleged that he misinterpreted a Maori legend about the "fires of Tamatea", misunderstood Maori place names, and identified a "meteor impact crater" at Tapanui which was in fact debris from a landslide.
Dr Goff said Dr Bryant had now latched on to Dr Abbott's evidence of an undersea meteor crater near the Snares Islands "because unfortunately his meteor exploding above Tapanui didn't work".
"He is desperately searching for some evidence for his possible events, which are incorrectly dated anyway," Dr Goff said.
Dr Abbott told the Geological Society of America in November that the Snares Islands meteor appeared to have hit only about 500 years ago because glassy rocks called tektites that were scattered around the ocean after the impact were still sitting on the seafloor - not covered by mud as expected if they were any older.
She said she was now seeking radiocarbon dating to prove the tektites' age.
But Dr Goff said the tektites around the Snares were "more likely to be 100,000 years old", and the sand Dr Abbott was investigating high up at Mason Bay had not yet been dated.
"There is undoubtedly a deposit there. Stewart Island gets incredibly big storms and yes, it's had a tsunami hit in the past," he said. "It's the dating of the event that is unproven, and I don't know that there is enough proof yet that there was a meteor impact at the site that she suggests."
Dr Bryant told the Herald from Wollongong that he agreed that the date was uncertain, but he said Dr Abbott found the Snares Islands crater in exactly one of the areas where he told her to look in order to account for the New South Wales mega-tsunami around 1500.
He said the words that he interpreted from the "fires of Tamatea" legend were not in Maori, but in the language of a "pre-Maori" people called Waitaha.
When they arrive at Mason Bay next Saturday, he and Dr Abbott plan to inspect piles of logs that have been observed 60m to 80m above the present sea level.
They will also look for a 20cm dust layer which Dr Abbott believes would have been dropped over the island if the meteor theory is correct.
Dr Mauri McSaveney, of the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences in Lower Hutt, said he planned to take 10 days' annual leave to join the expedition because of its extraordinary goals.
"I'm interested enough that I'm not going to let the opportunity go," he said. "A lot of evidence for a lot of Ted Bryant's things are not valid. But some of it is. Occasionally people have been right for the wrong reasons."
Huge waves in history
* Tsunamis are high sea waves usually sparked by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or other geological disturbances - and sometimes by meteors.
* More than half (53.3 per cent) of the Earth's tsunamis occur in its biggest ocean, the Pacific.
* Scientists agree that both New Zealand and eastern Australia were hit by unusually large tsunamis in the mid-15th century.
* NZ scientists James Goff and Bruce McFadgen say known earthquakes and the eruption of Rangitoto Island were enough to explain these tsunamis.
* But Australian Ted Bryant and American Dallas Abbott believe one "mega-tsunami" may have been caused by a giant meteor south of Stewart Island.
South African Rock Art 3000 Years Old
KwaZulu-Natal February 6, 2004 (SAPA) - New radio-carbon dating technology shows some South African rock art to be three times older than previously believed, Newcastle University in the United Kingdom said.
A study by archaeologists at the institution estimated that rock art at the World Heritage Site of uKhahlamba-Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal could be 3,000 years old.
Their age was originally put at 1,000 years, university spokeswoman Claire Jordan said in a statement to Sapa.
Archaeologists from the Australian National University in Canberra participated in the study.
"The findings, published in the current edition of the academic journal South African Humanities, have major implications for our understanding of how the rock artists lived and the social changes that were taking place over the last three millennia," Jordan said.
The mountainous uKhahlamba-Drakensberg region was considered to be one of the best areas in the world for rock art.
It has the largest and most concentrated group of painting in Africa south of the Sahara, with over 40,000 paintings, said Jordan.
San hunter-gatherers, who settled in the area about 8,000 years ago, created the artwork using mainly black, white, red and orange pigments.
"Until recently, archaeologists have struggled to tell exactly how old the paintings were, mainly because dating techniques have required larger samples for analysis than it has been possible to collect without destroying the art work," said Jordan.
The research team were able to analyze salt samples taken from the painted rocks using a highly-refined radio-carbon dating technique known as accelerator mass spectrometry.
The results show some of the paintings are at least 3,000 years old.
Jordan said: "Experts suspect they could be even older due to the San people's long occupation of the area but say they need to carry out further tests to prove this theory."
Dr Aron Mazel, a South African researcher based at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, who carried out the work with Australian archaeologist Dr Alan Watchman, said: "This is a small but important step forward in the interpretation of some of the world's finest collection of rock art.
"The data will contribute to a much wider understanding of one of the key periods in South African and world history, the occupation of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg by the San hunter-gatherers.
"We hope to use this technique to date more of the paintings and organize them in chronological order in the hope that, like a family photograph album, they can tell us a little more about how life evolved for the San people during the several thousands of years they occupied the mountains.
"We are still in the early stages of exploiting this new technology but it's possible further investigation could reveal that some of the paintings could be even older than 3,000 years, especially as we knew the San people first occupied the area 8,000 years ago."
Dr Chris Chippindale, reader in archaeology at Cambridge University and professor with the Rock Art Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, said: "Dating is important to all archaeology and rock art has proved very hard to date.
"It looks as if the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg rock art sequence may be very long. Any new study which tells us reliably about its age is very much to be welcomed."
Mystery Rock found in Panama
Panama February 2, 2004 (BBC) - An ancient rock covered in carved symbols has been discovered in a South American jungle by an archaeologist from Cornwall.
Julien Chenoweth, from St Mawes, said a date test showed the carvings were as old as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The rock was discovered by Mr. Chenoweth after he led an expedition through the Darian area of the Panama jungle, with a party which also included medic Jo Lloyd-King, from Camborne.
A previous archaeologist had been told about the sacred stone by a native Indian, but until now attempts to locate it had failed.
The rock has been dated to 3,000 BC. It weighs 30 tons and is about 17 feet (5.18 meters) high.
Mr Chenoweth, who works with the Scientific Exploration Society, said he would now write a report on the carvings for the government and he then expected it to attract international attention.
"There is nothing else like it in the area," he said.
"It raises all sorts of questions on what people were doing there, but until more research is done in this area and whether there is a possibility of more rocks like this being found, it is impossible to say what it means."
Mr Chenoweth said it was hard for him, as a Cornishman, to try and say what the Central American culture was saying, but he added: "I believe the rock is a ceremonial place or a boundary marker for a tribe's territory."
Monkeys Think Hard About Sex
WASHINGTON January 28, 2004 (Reuters) - Some people may joke that men don't think with their heads when it comes to sex, but a study in monkeys suggests the brain plays a significant role in the decision to mate, researchers reported on Wednesday.
Brain scans of tiny marmoset monkeys show a lot of thought goes into choosing mates, the team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said.
They used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to look at the brain functions of the Brazilian monkeys. Writing in the Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, they said the brains became busy when the monkeys smelled sexy scents.
"We were surprised to observe high levels of neural activity in areas of the brain important for decision-making, as well as in purely sexual arousal areas, in response to olfactory cues," psychology professor Charles Snowdon said in a statement.
"Lighting up far more brightly than we expected were areas associated with decision-making and memory, emotional processing and reward, and cognitive control."
Like people, common marmosets live in family groups and do not mate freely with one another. They must make careful choices.
Snowdon's team studied four male marmosets, offering them gland secretion samples from females at or close to ovulation. They also let the monkeys smell samples from females whose ovaries had been removed, and who therefore were not fertile and, presumably, not sexy.
The researchers were surprised to see how much more of the animals' brain lit up when they smelled the samples from fertile females -- including areas of complex, cognitive reasoning.
"This is the first time anyone has imaged an awake nonhuman primate in response to emotionally arousing stimuli. It is also the first link between external sexual odors and the internal sexual arousal system," Snowdon said. "This opens up a whole new field of research possibilities."
He said the marmoset data corresponded surprisingly closely to human fMRI studies.
Monkeys Share Human Left-brain Processing
National Institute of Mental Health Press Release
January 30, 2004 - Scans have pinpointed circuits in the monkey brain that could be precursors of those in humans for speech and language. As in humans, an area specialized for processing species-specific vocalizations is on the left side of the brain, report Drs. Amy Poremba, Mortimer Mishkin, and colleagues in NIH's National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Warren G. Magnuson Clinical Center (CC), components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the University of Iowa.
An area near the left temple responded significantly more than the same area on the right only to monkey calls, not to other animal calls, human voices or various other sounds. The researchers published their findings in the January 29, 2004 Nature.
"Since it's in the left temporal lobe and specialized for vocalizations only, it bears intriguing similarities to human language," noted Mishkin. "Assuming this is an adaptive mechanism, it suggests that vocalizations can be deciphered better if they are processed by only one temporal pole rather than by both."
Scientists have known for years that the human brain processes speech on the left side of the brain, but they only had hints that this is also the case for non-human primates. For example, when a monkey hears a call from behind, it characteristically turns its head to the right, suggesting that the primitive vocalizations are being processed in the left hemisphere, which receives greater input from the right ear than from the left. Also, a monkey's ability to perceive such calls is impaired if it lacks the left auditory cortex, but not the right.
To find out how this works, the researchers used PET (positron emission tomography) scanning. A radioactive tracer visualized the parts of the brain that were active while different types of sounds were being processed. After eight healthy monkeys heard a series of monkey calls, an area just below the left temple, at the front of the left temporal lobe (left dorsal temporal pole), activated significantly more than its mate on the right. Yet, this area failed to similarly activate when the animals heard a variety of other sounds – bells, tones, dog barks, bird tweets, a human voice, scrambled monkey calls, etc. Instead, significant activation was seen in a different temporal lobe area on the right side of the brain, which seems to process virtually every sound.
To gain insight into how the brain achieves this hemispheric specialization, three monkeys surgically-altered to lack connecting links between the hemispheres were also scanned after listening to the sounds. With communication between the hemispheres thusly severed, the asymmetrical pattern vanished. Conspicuously, no significant difference in activation was seen in the two temporal poles when the animals heard monkey calls.
This suggests that monkey calls normally stimulate interactions between brain hemispheres that suppress the corresponding right temporal lobe area, focusing auditory processing within the left area.
"Our results open up the possibility of characterizing such neuronal responses in a cortical region of the monkey that is not only a higher-order auditory processing area, but also one that could be a precursor for an acoustic language area in humans," note the researchers.
"This study provides neuroscientists with new biological clues for studying how communication evolved," said Poremba, who left NIMH a few years ago and is now at the University of Iowa.
National Institute of Mental Health - http://www.nimh.nih.gov
|Cordelia Is Dead |
February 8, 2004 (eXoNews) - Those among you who opted for American Idol instead of the 100th episode of Angel can stop reading right now. In fact, turn in your fangs and go away. We needed you and you let us down. Angel scored lower than average in the overnight ratings Wednesday night when, by all rights, the ratings should have gone through the roof.
Good TV is becoming as rare as the Patagonian jaw fish. (In fact, Fox is planning a new series right now entitled My Big Ugly Patagonian Lawyer, which serves to prove my case.)
"You're Welcome", the saddest episode of Angel's fifth season was also easily the best so far, but a lot of so-called fans didn't show up to see it.
The episode, which featured the return of one former costar who most Angelphiles had written off as dead and another who actually is dead, garnered an overnight of 3.9 /5 - that means only 3.9 percent of measured Nielsen households were watching the vampire with a soul and that Angel got only a 5 percent share of the total number of TVs turned on at the time.
Angel was down from the previous week (with a 4.1 / 5), so apparently all those Angel and former Buffy fans who were screaming for Charisma Carpenter's return to Angel's cast didn't care all that much when they were offered a chance to watch a bunch of people attaining plastic stardom over on Fox's glorified Ted Mack Amateur Hour.
American Idol scored an overnight of 18.5/26 in an 8:30 to 9:30 PM slot, draining several points from Angel's usual blood supply. A quarter of all American TV sets were tuned in once again to watch total strangers win big bucks. A lot of couch potatoes out there are living very vicariously.
So what did they miss? Angel featured an excellent, funny and sometimes action-packed script by Joss Whedon's cohort David Fury, who also directed. There was a tasteful (and also funny) tribute to the late Glenn Quinn, who costarred as Doyle in the first half of Angel's first season and left the real world too soon in December of 2002.
But mostly there was a delightful performance by Charisma Carpenter as Cordy awakened from her coma (no spoilers here), including a long awaited (seasons, it seemed) kissing scene with Angel. Carpenter was so completely at ease and back in character that it was as if she never left.
More than one fan noted afterwards that Cordy is a key ingredient missing from Angel's spell this season.
David Boreanaz was in true form for the occasion, taking on nemesis Lindsey (Christian Kane) for a grand bit of flipping wirework and fancy swordplay. Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Andy Hallett, James Marsters, Mercedes McNab and J. August Richards were all there to greet Cordy too, but it was clearly Carpenter's show from the moment she appeared until her final scene.
No true Angel fan could hide some emotion when Charisma's chin wobbled and her eyes filled (looked real to me!)
Cordy's demise is one of those turning points we expect but never get used to in Joss Whedon shows. Buffy seemed to die frequently and then resurrect to save the world (a lot.) Angel went bad and good and brooded and also saved the world, (but never quite as completely as Buffy.)
Diehard Firefly fans who bought the DVD set were very upset by the ending of the Heart of Gold episode.
So Cordy's final exit probably marks the beginning of a new Angel plotline. Some of the old familiars (no Wicca pun intended) slipped away at the same time (including the much-reviled Eve - who is actually quite brilliantly played by Sarah Thompson), but David Fury has already hinted on the boards that Lindsey will be back and we all noted that Eve was "thinking revenge" when she slunk out of Angel's office. (Is slunk a word? My spellchecker thinks so.)
Will Cordy also return? She is, after all, a Higher Power, dead or not. Carpenter said this week that she'd rather be Wonder Woman (see below), but there's no telling what can happen in Whedon's Buffy&Angelverse.
Sadly, poor Nielsen attendance for the 100th episode leaves us with more important questions, TV fans.
When will the vast TV audience tire of the endless parade of "real" amateur hour performers and "real" bogus weddings with Patagonian fatties and "real" people eating worms to win money? Haven't we degraded and insulted enough of these pathetic (and admittedly sometimes later very rich) simpletons?
Wouldn't you really rather watch Angel?
If you say no, then I guess I'm just preaching to the choir.
Angel's Season 3 DVD Box arrives on February 10th from Fox Home Entertainment. Zap2it is giving away four sets to lucky winners in an Angel sweepstakes. Be at least 18 years old and enter by February 20, 2004.
Check out the contest at http://www.zap2it.com/index/games/1,1146,movies-20308,00.html
Pre-order the Angel Season 3 DVD set at http://www2.foxstore.com/detail.html?item=1040&u=1074165608
Angel Official site - http://www.thewb.com/Shows/Show/0,7353,||139,00.html
eXoNews Angel Fan Poll - http://flatdisk.net/angel
Roswell Meets Buffy and Freaky in Celeste
Hollywood February 8, 2004 (eXoNews) - ABC Family channel seems to know who to cast. Now if they could only get some good writers and/or directors.
ABCF previously paired Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia on Angel and Buffy) with Holly Marie Combs (Charmed's Piper) in the incredibly awful "See Jane Date". Anyone who saw the 100th episode of Angel knows that Charisma is capable of far more demanding roles than "Jane".
Combs drifted through this turkey with her usual grace, (but Holly's good in everything.)
ABC Family also gave us Emma Caulfield (Anya on Buffy) and Jason Priestly in the equally disappointing "I Want to Marry Ryan Banks".
Caulfield's talents were completely wasted in this unfunny comedy about a reality show.
Now ABCF is rolling the dice again with genre TV stars Majandra Delfino (Maria on Roswell), Nicholas Brendon (Xander on Buffy) and Ethan Embry (Derek on Freaky Links) in their latest TV flick "Celeste in the City".
The ABCF site is billing this as a romantic comedy and says that the plot goes something like this:
"Celeste (Majandra Delfino) is a small-town girl who moves to New York with big dreams and bad hair. Things start to look up when her neighbor Kyle (Ethan Embry) befriends her, but she's still tragically unhip. Her cousin Dana (Nicholas Brendon) rallies his chic city cohorts to give Celeste a major makeover. With a fab new look and the confidence to match, Celeste takes on Manhattan but can she open her eyes in time to see that looks, life and love aren't always what they seem?"
Holy jeeze, Majandra! I know a gal has to eat, but let's hope this movie isn't what it seems either. Or at least not as bad as "See Jane Date".
Have to wonder why so much of the wonderful series talent out there seem to get bypassed by the movie industry and wind up desperately employed by the cable networks. I guess movie magnates are just too busy to watch TV.
Celeste in the City premieres March 14th at 8pm E/P on ABC Family.
ABC Family Channel - http://abcfamily.go.com
Producer Ron Moore discusses Roswell in a recent interview posted at the Crashdown - http://crashdown.mediablvd.com/exclusives/ron_01262004.shtml
The Roswell Season One DVD set arrives on February 17th with all 22 episodes from the first season. Preorder Roswell at the Fox online store - http://www2.foxstore.com/detail.html?item=1039&u=1076207907
Charisma Wants Wonder Woman
Hollywood February 5, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia on The WB's Angel, told TV Guide Online that she's actively pursuing the lead role in a proposed Wonder Woman movie.
"I am actively putting it out there that I want to do Lynda Carter," Carpenter told the site. "It's my mission to be Wonder Woman!"
Carpenter, who wrapped her Angel character's role in the Feb. 4 episode, added, "My agent hasn't seen a script, but some studio needs to do it. She's beautiful, she fights, and I like the concept of an empowerment role. I've always been so passive on Angel, where they usually wouldn't let Cordelia do martial-arts stunts. Charisma wants to kick ass and bust heads!"
A Wonder Woman movie, based on the DC Comics series, has been in development for some time, with various actresses rumored to be in line for the part.
Carpenter added that she's casting about for family-friendly jobs.
"I can tell you what my goals are," she said. "I have a son now, so I want the half-hour sitcom lifestyle, where you can have a family and work. And then, during summer hiatus, I'd like to do a Kill Bill or Wonder Woman or some movie like that."
Drew Barrymore Receives UN Peace Pin
UNITED NATIONS February 6, 2004 (AP) - Drew Barrymore got pinned for the first time — but not by a boyfriend.
The actress received a Dove of Peace pin Thursday as a new member of "Artists for the U.N.," an initiative of Global Vision for Peace founded at the start of the Iraq war last year by Hollywood writer HeathCliff Rothman and designer Xorin Balbes.
"We believe that bringing together artists in a collective voice to support the U.N., and to support the missions of the U.N. globally, is very, very powerful," Rothman said.
At last year's Academy Awards, nearly three dozen film artists wore the Dove of Peace pin — inspired by Pablo Picasso and created by Henry Dunay — including Meryl Streep, Adrian Brody, Martin Scorsese, Daniel Day-Lewis and Susan Sarandon.
Gillian Sorensen, a former U.N. assistant secretary-general who's now senior adviser to the United Nations Foundation, said 30 or 40 artists at this year's Oscars are expected to wear the pin, not only as a symbol of the organization but as part of its effort "to salute and support the United Nations."
When Barrymore received her Dove of Peace, she gushed, "This is the first time I've ever been pinned — I'm serious."
The 28-year-old "Charlie's Angels" star added, "We wake up every morning thinking, like, what more can we do in this world to make it a better, happier, more peaceful and beautiful place?
"I always say — this is so silly — but I wish there were, like, little boxes at every corner that you could list the thing that speaks to you, like: I love the environment, I want to protect it! I care about animals! I care about the AIDS epidemic!" she said.
Sci Fi Orbits 'Galactica' Series
By Andrew Wallenstein
NEW YORK February 3, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Sci-fi fans probably haven't seen the last of "Battlestar Galactica."
After successfully relaunching the franchise as a miniseries in December, Sci Fi Channel picked up the options last week on its top cast members, which include Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell and Katee Sackhoff. Sources said the cable network is aiming to run "Galactica" as a full-fledged series as early as fourth-quarter 2004.
Sci Fi declined comment, but all indications are that at least six episodes of "Galactica" will be shot in Vancouver as soon as April. It will likely be one of cable's more expensive drama series, with production estimates as high as $1.5 million per episode.
The four-hour "Galactica" miniseries averaged 4.2 million viewers last year, making it the third-highest-rated multinight program Sci Fi has aired.
Hollywood February 5, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Sam Rockwell has signed to play Zaphod Beeblebrox in the upcoming film version of Douglas Adams' beloved SF satire The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Rockwell (Galaxy Quest) will play the two-headed president of the galaxy opposite Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel and Martin Freeman. Spyglass Entertainment and Walt Disney Co. are producing.
Galaxy begins shooting in April in London, with Garth Jennings at the helm.
Adams adapted his own novel for the screen. After Adams' death, Karey Kirkpatrick came aboard for a rewrite. Hitchhiker's Guide began as a radio series and launched a book series, television series and video game, the trade paper reported.
Bryan Singer, Sonnenfeld and Nutter Direct TV Pilots
LOS ANGELES February 4, 2004 (Zap2it.com) - Two of cinema's most bankable directors and a pair of the most reliable helmers for television have come on board to direct a quartet of network drama pilots. Barry Sonnenfeld, Bryan Singer, David Nutter and Rod Holcomb are set to go into the pilot business with CBS, FOX and The WB.
Sonnenfeld ("Men in Black," "Get Short") will direct and executive produce the first episode of CBS' "The Webster Reporter." The pilot, from Warner Bros. TV, focuses on a quirky private investigator and is cast-contingent. Sonnenfeld joins executive producers Theresa Rebeck and Sarah Timberman.
The "Wild, Wild West" director's television track record is full of what could best be described as noble failures. He produced ABC's short-lived "Karen Sisco" and executive produced and directed on prematurely canceled dramas like FOX's "The Tick" and ABC's "Maximum Bob."
"X-Men" director Singer is in talks to direct the untitled Paul Attanasio/David Shore drama at FOX.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series, from Universal Network TV, focuses on a team of doctors who work on only the toughest cases. Katie Jacobs is also an executive producer on the show, and Singer may stay on as a consultant or executive producer after the pilot.
Singer, who also directed "The Usual Suspects," is working on an eight-hour Sci Fi Channel miniseries with producer Dean Devlin.
Nutter, an Emmy winner for "Band of Brothers" and a regular helmer on "The X-Files," "ER" and "Roswell," will do the honors on The WB's future president drama "Jack & Bobby." Nutter has directed eight pilots (including openers for "Tarzan," "Without a Trace" and "Smallville") and every one has been picked up, so executive producer Greg Berlanti ("Everwood") must be liking his chances.
Holcomb, who has directed pilots for series including "ER" and "China Beach," will direct CBS' untitled drama from Aaron Spelling, about a bounty hunting father and his sons.
Mel Brooks Thanks Adolf for a Couple of Bucks
By Paul Majendie
LONDON February 2, 2004 (Reuters) - Hollywood legend Mel Brooks thanked Adolf Hitler Monday for inspiring his greatest hit and told Jews not to worry -- "The Producers" is a joke.
At the ripe old age of 77, Brooks is enjoying a renaissance with his first film transformed into a theater hit and now being made into a movie all over again.
In the original 1968 movie, Brooks immortalized bad taste with the tale of two producers putting on the outrageous musical "Springtime for Hitler," conceived as a deliberate flop to allow them to take the backers' cash and flee.
Come the 21st century, Brooks is as defiant as ever. "Whomsoever wants to be served by my wit and my bad taste, please be my guest. If you don't like being in the Bible belt, then buckle it," he told Reuters Television.
Political correctness never stopped Brooks before and he is not going to start reining himself in now.
In Britain to publicize the show's London launch, he had a word of advice for his fellow Jews.
"May I warn some old Jews," he said of the outrageous show. "It is make believe. Hitler is not really on the stage. We are making fun of Hitler."
And then he offered tongue-in-cheek thanks to his inspiration.
"In this show we have a lot of laughs at the expense of Mr. Hitler and I am very grateful to him and his family for allowing me to knock the s--- out of them and make a couple of bucks," he said.
Success second time around is that much sweeter for Brooks who said: "it's like Groundhog Day."
"I feel like a punch drunk prizefighter. When I went up to the ring, my first movie was The Producers and it was a knockout. I was a champ. I won an Academy award. "I went on to do Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. I did very good movies but I was last year's news. Nobody cared."
Then came the stage version of "The Producers," which won a record 12 Tony Awards and is still running on Broadway after three years.
Three companies are also playing across North America and Hollywood star Richard Dreyfuss is to join up with British comedian Lee Evans for the London production in November.
And Brooks is going to the well a third time with another film version of The Producers.
Shaking his head in wonderment, the diminutive director said: "Here I am practically 100 years old and I have got this enormous hit."
So does retirement beckon? No way.
"Do I lift, do I drive, am I bagging groceries at a very busy supermarket? No. I sit with a little pencil and if I have an idea, I write it down. It's light work. I can do that forever."
Patricia Arquette Goes 'Medium' for NBC
By Nellie Andreeva
Hollywood February 6, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Patricia Arquette is venturing into television series with the NBC drama pilot "Medium." The actress is in negotiations to topline the project from Glenn Gordon Caron and Paramount Network TV.
"Medium," a co-production with Paramount-based Grammnet Prods. and Picturemaker Prods., centers on a suburban mom (Arquette) who uses her psychic powers to solve crimes.
Alyson Hannigan Meets London
By Gareth McLean
February 6, 2004 (The Guardian UK) - There is a certain inevitability to Alyson Hannigan's arrival on the West End stage. As Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she was part of a long-running TV show for seven years. Her likeness features on all manner of merchandise from fridge magnets to mugs, mouse mats and board games.
"You know you've reached a certain point when your character has an action figure," she smiles, a poseable doll having been made in her image. Google her name and you get about 232,000 results.
From Buffy she bounced into movies. Unlike her co-star Sarah Michelle Gellar, Hannigan eschewed horror (Gellar opted for I Know What You Did Last Summer), and in contrast to Katie Holmes, who went from Dawson's Creek to Doug Liman's Go, she also avoided indie. Instead, she chose comedy. As Michelle in the smutty American Pie trilogy, she was known for her "One time, at band camp ... " proclamation, which for most of the movie, marked her out as a geek, until she finally finished her sentence saucily with a reference combining her flute and her nether regions. One of the few stars to weather all three films, she can currently be seen grinning out from phone boxes, billboards and posters across the country promoting the trilogy on DVD.
It is therefore - for such is the scheme of these things - about time she did theatre. And so here she is, in London in rehearsals for a stage version of When Harry Met Sally, alongside Luke Perry, alumnus of the original gleaming teen drama, Beverly Hills 90210. It will be her professional stage debut. "I might as well start big, right? Skip the baby steps and take a huge leap."
With much harrumphing about the Americanisation of the West End, there is also an inevitability to a hostile reception for Hannigan. Such is the pedigree of the production (a couple of American stars; a director - Loveday Ingram - with a track record in undemanding commercial work; jazz kid Jamie Cullum providing the music à la Harry Connick Jr), it seems unlikely that Nicholas de Jongh, the London Evening Standard's theatre critic, will revise the opinion he aired when Friends' Matthew Perry opened in Sexual Perversity in Chicago: "Producers should stop palming us off with third-rate plays that they believe can be decorated with any youngish, film-starry Americans."
When the play opens, Hannigan will probably need one of those protection spells employed so ably by Willow in Sunnydale. Critics, after all, can be demons.
And Hannigan is self-effacing and engaging, even when she is drooling over you. Especially when she is drooling over you, actually. I would like to take it personally, but really can't. She is digging into a Wagamama bucket and, as she slurps, spatters my notes with noodle juice.
She apologizes with an impish grin. "You'll be able to sell those on eBay now," she jokes, while I marvel at an American actress who actually eats. And noodles too. "I love my carbs," she enthuses, continuing to sing the praises of dough balls and wrinkling her nose at the mention of the Atkins diet.
Hannigan herself is upbeat about the play. She admits to being petrified but it has, she says, always been a dream of hers to appear in the West End. It has been one fostered by actor Alexis Denisof, her recently acquired husband, whom she met on the set of Buffy. He lived in the UK for 13 years and has a background in theatre. She is pragmatic about Theatreland's so-called Americanisation.
"First of all, this play takes place in New York so I think it's better with Americans. And, you know, a lot of you English people come to America. I think it's give and take, and it's a good sign. To come here is something that people view as a great thing in your career. I do understand that it's becoming more and more popular, but I don't care if you hate me for doing it. I wanted to come to prove to myself that I could do it."
And what about taking such a well-known film and putting it on stage, particularly as it is so well-known for that iconic scene in which Meg Ryan's Sally fakes an orgasm in a diner? "I can see why people think it shouldn't be tampered with because the movie was so wonderful. I think it's going to be one of those things that's going to have a life of its own for years and years and years. Like The Producers. It really works on stage."
Hannigan has, however, been avoiding watching the movie since she started rehearsals. "I don't want to make the wrong choice just to be different from what Meg Ryan did, but, at the same time, I'm not doing an impersonation."
Inexorably, the talk turns to orgasms. "I've been practicing and I have gotten over the embarrassment factor. Every time I do it, I get more and more confident and bigger and bigger. Now I have to learn how to do it from my diaphragm rather than my throat. I have been hurting my throat. I need to be more," she pauses, grasping for a word, "guttural."
There still is a problem though. "When I'm doing it, my ears get really hot and turn red. So I'm hoping my hair will be down."
As a performer who started in commercials at three years old, and did movies and various guest parts in sitcoms such as Roseanne before she landed Buffy, it could be that Hannigan doesn't need to be worried.
When her friend Anthony Head left the latter series, Hannigan landed the much-coveted "and" at the end of the opening titles, and having been part of an ensemble in the first two American Pies, she became, in effect, one of the third installment's two main stars, earning a reported £1m for reprising Michelle. Beneath her easygoing perkiness, you sense a steeliness and an ambition.
Testament to that is her development deal with NBC.
Focused on working on her comedy ("In Buffy, we got to do it all, but towards the end, the comedy was farther and farther away. Once my girlfriends started dying, there weren't so many chuckles.")
She is doing a sitcom pilot for the American network.
"I met with a bunch of writers and producers, listened to what their ideas were and then got to pick the one I liked the best. It's pretty obnoxious, isn't it? It's amazing I'm getting sent scripts to choose one."
And having moved on to London, she is very excited about something most unexpected. "I love I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! English reality television is so much better than American reality television. I think it's the self-deprecating humor," she says.
Whatever her reviews, you suspect that Hannigan might just weather whatever the West End throws at her.