• Hostile Planet: a new animal series unlike any other you've seen

    Hostile Planet, premiering tonight at 9/8c, brings fresh grit and excitement to the nature documentary genre with innovative camera technologies and a willingness to showcase animals' struggles in the most exposed environments. The series doesn't shy away from the unpleasant realities faced by many animals in bleak, unrelenting wilderness, which drives the energetic storytelling throughout the six-part series.

    Amboseli, Kenya – Aerial of herd of elephants swimming through flooded grassland. (National Geographic)

    New camera technologies allow stories to be told from creative and engaging perspectives. The camera incorporates the animal's point of view into the series flawlessly, placing audiences in the middle of what they are watching. An immersive experience like this, which accredits the animal's perspective of the world, brings new power to the wildlife film genre. But getting closer to the action and seeing events unfold as an animal would are not all that Hostile Planet does new; the series places a lot of focus on surviving in a rapidly changing world.

    Jaguar hunting a crocodile on the river banks in the Pantanal, Brazil. (National Geographic/Adrian Seymour)

    Mateo Willis, producer and director of the Mountains episode, sets Hostile Planet apart from other wildlife films, saying it is not "like a moving coffee table book which is nice and calm and you can put it away at the end and forget about and it's not troubling. That is not a real representation of the world, particularly not today. Because our world is changing faster that it ever has before." The plight of animals in increasingly volatile environments is visually and emotionally striking, especially given how timely and accurate the series is. The brutal, dramatic, and endless realities of the natural world are on full display in this show, and are sure to stir empathy and awareness in viewers. Looking back on how incredible each sequence of the show is, executive producer Tom Hugh Jones says, "Forget the celebrities, these are the real stars of the world."

    Red Sea, Egypt –  A predatory lionfish stalks the shallows as it waits for nightfall to hunt. (National Geographic/Corinne Chevallier)

    Hostile Planet, hosted by Bear Grylls, premiers Monday, August 1 at 9/8c on National Geographic.

    Images: Courtesy of National Geographic

  • Two new fun and gorgeous books by National Geographic

    National Geographic's Almanac 2019 is a fun, illustrative guide to the natural world and breakthrough sciences and, with 400 pages of stunning, evocative images, celebrates some of the most amazing places, events, and facts about Earth's history. Opening to a random page you may be surprised with the lifecycle of tardigrades, the logistics of eating insects, or the history of Timbuktu; for someone who enjoys picking up facts about niche subjects, this book satisfies any wandering impulses or curiosities they may have.

    The almanac doesn't go into exhaustive detail about any one topic but covers an incredible range of scientific concepts, processes, and findings. The text is paired with amazing photographs and fun infographics, providing visual learners or less scientifically savvy readers with easy ways of understanding intricate ideas and data. It is effortless and enjoyable to learn from this book, especially since you can thumb through to any page, find an interesting topic or image, and dive right in. Anybody interested in facts and photographs of the natural world and sciences will love this book, simply because it covers a little bit of everything.

    A larger coffee table book, Space Atlas, Second Edition: Mapping the Universe and Beyond refines the scope of topics to space and astronomy. Full of charts, maps, and stunning photographs, the Space Atlas is a deeply informative and beautiful book. It is well-bound and lays flat so no small details are lost in the binding, which is important when looking at a two-page spread of a planet or trying to read the names of peaks, valleys, and craters on a moon. Anything notable in space gets a proper treatment in this book and the depth of information is incredible, all while remaining accessible and easy to understand. For anyone interested in space this is an excellent book that gives a complete coverage of the universe.

    The Almanac 2019 and Space Atlas are both visually striking books, rich with fun facts and easily comprehensible data. Being able to quickly learn about cave systems, vikings, or the first missions into space is rewarding and addicting, but taking the time to closely read a single, well-researched topic shows the deep knowledge and care it took to make these books.

    Image: Courtesy National Geographic Almanac 2019

  • Big losses for Superman at Macau roulette wheel and other East meets West art

    Chinese pop artist Jacky Tsai presents his new show "The Lost Angels" at the Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles. Tsai is best known for his unique processes and crossovers between Eastern and Western imagery in his art. "The Lost Angels" exhibits Tsai's work in many mediums, including lenticular prints, acrylic canvas work, and lacquer carving, a 3,000-year-old technique that has been updated with the introduction of vibrantly painted superheroes.

    The show's largest piece, titled "Golden Fortune Tree," features Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman fighting alongside traditional Chinese characters to protect a luminous, gold-leafed tree from encroaching industrialization. In another work, titled "One Night in Macau," Superman is seen losing big at the roulette wheel, his trademark "S" now the British pound symbol.

    Tsai's work references Eastern artistry and Western pop art styles in an attempt to establish balance between the two cultures. He creates artworks that reimagine a standard of beauty and are appealing to viewers from any cultural background. His lenticular print, "Chinese Floral Skull, Yellow Lenticular", examines the conception held about death, beauty, and decay from both the East and West.

    Tsai is also known for his contributions to the fashion world, where he has launched his own label and collaborated with designer Alexander McQueen to create the acclaimed skull motif. On view through November 25 at the Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles, "The Lost Angels" is a great show for those familiar with or new to Jacky Tsai's work.

  • Is $17 toothpaste worth the price?

    Australian personal care company Aesop recently released a toothpaste infused with sea buckthorn, cardamom, and wasabi. At $17 a tube (60ml) and no promise of dramatically whiter teeth or immunity from cavities, what's the draw? Does it work, and is it worth the price?

    While some find coffee to be the perk of the morning, fancy soaps, shampoos, or lotions are what get others ready for the day. Like any of the others products from Aesop, the natural and unconventional ingredients, which include jojoba, rosehip, or parsley seed, really do freshen up the time spent washing hands or brushing teeth. The wasabi in this toothpaste leaves the mouth feeling fresh in a way that other toothpastes don't (you can try it in stores; they are also very generous with samples). There is no intense minty aftertaste, but that doesn't mean you don't feel fresh all morning after using this product.

    It is fluoride-free, which may or may not be a deal-breaker. This should not replace regular visits to the dentist, but for $17 it's a relatively inexpensive way to add some luxury to your day. Whether you want to make a switch to novel products, ritualize the morning at-sink routine, or are shopping for gifts, the new Aesop toothpaste is something enjoyable and very unique.

  • A book of beautiful hand-painted maps of of 35 great movies

    Cinemaps: An Atlas of 35 Great Movies is the latest project from artist Andrew DeGraff and is available for pre-order now. DeGraff has illustrated for The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Slate, and many other publications, and in 2015 compiled a book of painted maps inspired by famous novels titled Plotted: A Literary Atlas.

    In his most recent work DeGraff draws from the silver screen, exhibiting on paper the fantastical geographies from 35 of cinema's most acclaimed titles. Each map includes the pathways that main characters follow throughout the film, so you can track Dorothy's journey along the Yellow Brick Road, the Ghostbusters through New York City, or Vincent Vega in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Below is a map of Middle-Earth; the printed book has close-up images detailing certain areas of the map.

  • Last days to catch the Summer Breaks art show in LA

    Open until August 18, 2017 at the Joshua Liner Gallery in NYC is Summer Breaks, a group show exploring conventions in Western Art History. The seventeen artists, including David Henry Nobody Jr., Wayne White, and John Gordon Gauld, are limited to working within three of Western Art's staples – portraiture, landscape, and still-life.

    Despite being confined to these historical genres, the artists produce works that are seemingly void of convention. There is a thorough review on Juxtapoz that notes:


    While we know history repeats itself, painting will continue to shift and change and build upon the traditional motifs of the past. Summer Breaks is a vessel for this transition and through multiple perspectives comes an exhibition that nods to the past while simultaneously showcasing some of the best and brightest of the future.

    Images from Joshua Liner Gallery

    Top image: Aaron Johnson, Swampy. Acrylic on paper. 2017. 14 x 11 inches

  • Try to guess the artists represented on these cards

    Guess the Artist (available for pre-order) is an art history quiz game that comes in a sleek, colorful package. Each of the 60 cards gives three clues from which the players must guess an artist (who is named on the back, like a flashcard). The clues/illustrations, which are done by Craig & Karl, range from things the artist might have worn to methods and iconography that they used.

    Even if you don't know your Monet from your Manet, the reverse of each card gives the artist's name and explains each of the clues very clearly. Because of this, Guess the Artist can easily be a learning tool for anyone wanting to brush up on art history. This is a beautiful game that will stand out on any bookshelf or table, and the amount of information packed into this little box makes it something you can return to again and again.

  • Coffee makes you live longer? Don't believe the buzz

    Two new studies from the Annals of Internal Medicine have made the rounds on news sites, each claiming that an increased coffee consumption leads to a higher life expectancy. While this may sound like a great excuse to fuel a coffee habit, the summary of the studies explicitly states that:

    Although drinking coffee cannot be recommended as being good for your health on the basis of these kinds of studies, the studies do suggest that for many people, no long-term harm will result from drinking coffee.

    Despite the claims from many news sources, excessive coffee drinking has not been proven to prolong your life. For those wondering why the study in inconclusive, an opinion piece in Forbes clearly outlines why association does not prove causation, and why more coffee will not necessarily benefit you.

    A compelling article from last year in New York Times' Well explains a fairly decisive link between genetics and the health impact of coffee-drinking. Whether or not you are a fast- or slow-metabolizer of caffeine may determine its health benefits or consequences. If you are interested in the subject, it is worth reading.

    While the two new studies do suggest that coffee drinkers live longer lives, there is no evidence that clearly points to coffee as the culprit. For now, drink assured that coffee will not harm you, but know that it may not be the elixir that it's currently hyped up to be.

    Image: Peter Lindberg