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The new ‘Stranger Things’?

Simon Stålenhag’s paintings are a strange, irresistible mix of mundane scenes from the Swedish countryside and haunting scenarios involving abandoned robots, mysterious machinery and even dinosaurs. They are the product of his childhood memories — growing up in suburban Stockholm and painting landscapes and wildlife — and his adulthood appreciation for sci-fi. “I try to…

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The new ‘Stranger Things’?

Simon Stålenhag’s paintings are a strange, irresistible mix of mundane scenes from the Swedish countryside and haunting scenarios involving abandoned robots, mysterious machinery and even dinosaurs.
They are the product of his childhood memories — growing up in suburban Stockholm and painting landscapes and wildlife — and his adulthood appreciation for sci-fi.
“I try to make art for my 12-year-old self,” he said in a phone interview. “I want to make stuff that would make my younger self see it and go, ‘I’m not supposed to look at this because it’s for adults, but I really want to anyway.'”

‘Tales from the Loop’
Stålenhag has gained a cult following for his hyper-realistic art, which he first began publishing online through Facebook and Twitter. In 2014 he published his first book, in which the artwork is complemented by a novel-length written story. “The art took on a life of its own, because at first I didn’t publish the words, but they were always there. I just waited until I had enough to publish a book,” he said.

An illustration from “Tales from the Loop.” Credit: Simon Stålenhag
The rights to the book, titled “Tales from the Loop,” have been acquired by Amazon Studios, which will develop an 8-episode live action series based on it. The pilot will be directed by Mark Romanek, whose previous credits include 2002’s “One hour photo” with Robin Williams, which happens to be one of Stålenhag’s favorite films.
The story is set in an alternate, retro-futuristic Swedish countryside in the early 1990s, and involves children growing up around robots and a massive underground scientific facility that is spawning weird phenomena.
The plot draws parallels to “Stranger Things,” although “Tales from the Loop” predates the popular Netlfix series. Both shows were inspired by classics like “E.T.” and “The Goonies.”

Simon Stålenhag
“I wrote it as almost a memoir, where I go back and describe how it felt to grow up in this small Swedish town, which is actually a real place. There’s a general theme of technology being more advanced in this universe, but there’s no big supervillain or anything like that,” said Stålenhag.
“The biggest threats in this world are like those we all face in life, like being bullied at school or your parents going through a divorce. I wanted to make a very mundane, realistic science fiction story.”
Pacifica
Stålenhag published two more narrative artbooks, “Things from the Flood” in 2016 (a sequel to “Tales from the Loop”) and “The Electric State” in 2017. The latter isn’t set in Sweden but in a fictional US megastate called Pacifica, which corresponds roughly to California, Oregon and Washington. It was inspired by a trip to the West Coast and the photos he took there.

An image from “The Electric State.” Credit: Simon Stålenhag
“I always start by going out and taking photos, trying to find cool locations that I take tons of reference photos of. Then I play around with these images and paint on top of them in Photoshop and just try things out,” he explained.

“When I’ve found something I like, I start over and do these huge paintings which are basically traditional media, because I do everything with brushstrokes and don’t use any photo textures.”

Simon Stålenhag
In “The Electric State,” a girl and her yellow robot travel through an alternate reality in 1997, with ruins of giant battle drones scattered across the American landscape. The movie rights were acquired last year by the Russo brothers, the directors of “Avengers: Infinity War,” with the writers from that film, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, set to work on the screenplay. The director of “It,” Anthony Muschietti, is in negotiations to direct.
Online feedback
Among his influences, Stålenhag cites Ralph McQuarrie, whose concept art became a visual bible for “Star Wars,” and Syd Mead, whose production design brought “Blade Runner,” “Aliens” and “Tron” to life. As a child, Stålenhag tried to imitate the work of Swedish watercolor painter Gunnar Brusewitz and wildlife artist Lars Jonsson.
“My style could be described as a mix between those Swedish painters and the great concept artists of the 1970s,” he said.
He’s currently working on his fourth book, which he reveals will be a very bleak story about a kid and his parents traveling through a post-apocalyptic landscape where everything’s just ash.

An image from Stålenhag’s forthcoming book, “The Labyrinth.” Credit: Simon Stålenhag
“Almost all the art for this project comes from photos that I took during a snowstorm in Stockholm in February. I got all this spooky pictures and they look very foggy because of the snow. When I started playing around with them I ended up getting some really weird pale green and yellow colors which inspired the setting of the new book.”
As with the previous collections, Stålenhag has already published artwork from this new book online, looking for feedback and inspiration for the story.
“I start with the art. And I have a kind of vague idea of what kind of characters I have in this environment. But then I start actually rendering the images and putting them out there on Twitter and watch (how) other people react to them. And sometimes my idea of the story changes along with that.”

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US Navy seized Iranian petroleum products and hundreds of missiles from vessels in Arabian Sea

The weapons, the department said in the Tuesday release, were seized by the US during “routine maritime security operations.”Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps organized the shipments of weapons, which were bound for Houthi militias in Yemen, the Justice Department said. The petroleum was taken from “four foreign-flagged tankers in or around the Arabian Sea while…

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US Navy seized Iranian petroleum products and hundreds of missiles from vessels in Arabian Sea

The weapons, the department said in the Tuesday release, were seized by the US during “routine maritime security operations.”Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps organized the shipments of weapons, which were bound for Houthi militias in Yemen, the Justice Department said. The petroleum was taken from “four foreign-flagged tankers in or around the Arabian Sea while en route to Venezuela,” according to the release.US Navy Central Command seized the weapons from two “flagless vessels” in the Arabian Sea on two occasions: November 25, 2019, and February 9, 2020.”These successful forfeiture actions are a product of the U.S. government’s coordinated efforts to enforce U.S. sanctions against the IRGC and the Iranian regime,” the release stated.Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division added that “the actions of the United States in these two cases strike a resounding blow to the Government of Iran and to the criminal networks supporting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”The weapons included “171 guided anti-tank missiles, eight surface-to-air missiles, land attack cruise missile components, anti-ship cruise missile components, thermal weapon optics and other components for missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles,” or drones, the release aid. The US obtained three type “358” surface-to-air missiles and 150 “Dehlavieh” anti-tank guided missiles in the 2020 weapons seizure.The Justice Department forfeited the weapons through the US District Court for the District of Columbia. The court upheld the department’s findings, agreeing the weapons were part of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps trafficking network “designed to distribute illicit weapons to the Houthi movement in Yemen,” the release said.The petroleum products were seized because the US government believed they originated in Iran and their sale would benefit the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an Iranian entity sanctioned by the US, the government alleged in a complaint filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on July 2, 2020.The court, on October 1, 2021, agreed with the government, finding that the petroleum and its potential sale would benefit the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the release said.

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Ukraine’s defense minister warns there will be a ‘bloody massacre’ if Russia invades

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Ukraine’s defense minister warns there will be a ‘bloody massacre’ if Russia invades

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Harris condemns Russian test of anti-satellite weapon at Biden administration’s first space council meeting

The National Space Council was resurrected during the Trump administration to streamline and synchronize space priorities and policies across the federal government, and it was retained by the Biden administration. Space has proved to be one of the few areas where the Biden administration has maintained most of the policies of the previous administration –…

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Harris condemns Russian test of anti-satellite weapon at Biden administration’s first space council meeting

The National Space Council was resurrected during the Trump administration to streamline and synchronize space priorities and policies across the federal government, and it was retained by the Biden administration. Space has proved to be one of the few areas where the Biden administration has maintained most of the policies of the previous administration — from supporting the Space Force to NASA’s new Artemis program, which aims to return American astronauts to the moon by the middle of this decade.At Wednesday’s meeting, Harris applauded the Artemis Accords and said the US government must work to expand the number of signatories. Thirteen nations have signed on, and Harris says France and Mexico have indicated they will bring that number up to 15. The United States’ two greatest adversaries in space — China and Russia — have not signed on to the accords. The Artemis Accords are an international agreement designed to provide a framework for the peaceful exploration of the moon and Mars. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman described the accords as “this generation’s commitment to the Outer Space Treaty,” the landmark 1967 space law that remains in effect to this day.While the first meeting of the National Space Council under Harris’ leadership offered a window into the administration’s space policies and priorities, it produced only an outline to guide the council’s efforts. In addition to promoting the rapid development of rules and norms to govern space, the United States Space Priorities Framework is focused on utilizing space to combat climate change and enhancing STEM education.Those final two priorities are far more prominent for the Biden administration than the previous one, and they were reflected in an executive order signed Wednesday by President Joe Biden. The order added five members to the National Space Council: the secretaries of education, labor, agriculture and interior, as well as the national climate adviser. “I believe we have a responsibility to also look to our home planet,” Harris said. “While exploration of space defined the 20th century, the opportunity of space must guide our work in the 21st.”

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