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I hope everyone is having a safe and happy 4th of July today, and enjoying some good fireworks. My friend Jenn took this fireworks photo (and a bunch of other amazing pictures), and since all of hers came out looking better than mine, she let me use one for today’s post. Thanks, Jenn!

Fireworks Photo
Fireworks ECard

The iPhone Photography Awards are exactly what they sound like: the best pictures taken with an iPhone and entered into the contest. The link I gave is to the page that displays the actual winners, but take a look through all the categories, because there are some amazing photographs throughout the collection. I have seen the quality some of the pictures I have taken have, but knowing what the resolution is, what the light levels required for different kinds of shooting are, and understanding simple composition rules like the law of thirds is one thing. It is a far cry from having the eye to compose images of this quality, often having to do it on the fly as the opportunity presents itself. My flabber is well and truly gasted by these amazing pictures, and I think every entrant deserved each award they received.

The folks over at Cornucopia3D are holding a Game of Thrones Fan Art Contest all this month, until June 30th. Create a landscape, city, hamlet, or castle from Westeros. Or you can illustrate an event from the George R.R. Martin book series or the TV show they made from it, such as a coronation, treaty negotiation, battle, or assassination. Of course, you can not use any copyright images from either source, you will have to create your own original artwork inspired by the series. There are a few other rules, which you can get from their web site, along with a list of the prizes. If you don’t feel like entering the contest but want to show off some of your artwork they have a ton of non-contest galleries you can upload to as well.

They also have some software and 3D modeling resources you might find useful, including a free copy of Vue 2014 Pioneer. If you haven’t used Vue before, it is one of the best 3D modeling programs available for easily creating terrains and landscapes, from a single scene to an entire mountain range or planet. The Pioneer version is a full product, not crippleware or a limited time trial, but it is their entry-level version. There are modules you can buy to upgrade it to some of the functionality of the other versions, such as 3D model importing with bone rigging and texture/bump mapping, but it is a great way to get started on creating your own worlds.

In movies, Kill Zombie! is a Dutch horror/comedy. After a night in jail, four hung-over friends and one female officer emerge to discover their city ravaged by a zombie outbreak cause by a meteor shower. The other film choice isn’t genre as such, but an esoteric and visually stunning production called Visitors, a non-verbal film by Godfrey Reggio, Philip Glass, and Jon Kane.

In TV, Resurrection: The Complete First Season is based on the book The Returned by Jason Mott. I was certain it was the American remake of the 2012 French TV show Les Revenants, which won an International Emmy for Best Drama Series, but I was wrong. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is on the list this time as well, and I think this show proves Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a fitting inheritor of Carl Sagan’s cosmic mantle. This is a rather nice release schedule, since the season finale episode airs tonight at 9PM in my time zone, and I am a big believer in instant gratification.

In Anime, Maoyu is the story of the war between humankind and the Demon King. Except, as the hero named Hero discovers, the King is a Queen, and she has a plan to bring lasting peace to both realms with his help. So is this a deal with the devil or the best options for both species? Warning, for those looking for a serious combat-centric war show, this series is a Romantic Comedy/Fantasy. Date A Live: Complete Series is about the spacequakes that killed 150 million people when they first happened 30 years ago, and our protagonist has just learned that the spacequakes are caused by the Spirits, mystical creatures found at ground zero. Now he has been recruited to help save the world by sealing the Spirits powers. The complication is that Shido is an ordinary high school boy, the Spirits are all cute girls, and the only way to seal one is to make her fall in love with you. Surprise, this one is also a Romantic Comedy/Fantasy.

Deltora Quest Megaset, the epic magical quest series, is a bit confusing. It is an excellent series of children’s books from Australian author Emily Rodda that was made into either 52 or 65 episodes of Anime, depending on which Anime web site you read, but everyone agrees the box set has 52 episodes. It was supposed to have been released on May 13th, but most of the web sites say release was delayed until June 10th. When I check the Barnes and Noble web site it says you can pre-order it for the 10th, but when I go to Amazon it says there are only 12 left in stock and has May 13th as the release date, while Wallmart says it came out on June 3rd and they have lots of copies. So I don’t have a clue if it is coming out this week, last week, or last month, but probably one of those times.

The New York Public Library has put an amazing collection of hi-res Open Access Maps online for downloading. There are over 20,000 cartographic properties which they believe have no known US copyright restrictions. Because of that, they have put them all under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. You do have to create an account, but that is free within the bounds of being asked to support the library every so often. There is a bit of a learning curve finding your way around the site, but it doesn’t take long to pick up on it.