Swept away by Sharknado: Taking a bite out of our shark fears

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year (if you have, congrats! You made it back!) you’ve probably heard of a little genius of a film called Sharknado (playing this Friday, August 8 in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre).

As the title implies, it’s about sharks and tornadoes — more specifically, water spouts off the coast of southern California which wreak havoc on L.A. as they flood the city while simultaneously picking up and distributing ravenous airborne man-eating sharks — and a motley crew, including the one and only Tara Reid, who defies the terror of the sharks to save the day. It’s a classic tale of guy meets girl, guy and girl fall in love, guy and girl get divorced, sharks attack, guy gets girl back.

Why Sharknado got snubbed at the Oscars, I’ll never know.

Now I must admit I was a little apprehensive of the film when I first heard of it. As a child who saw Jaws too soon (also showing in the GST this month), as you may have been as well, you hear the word “SHARK” and feel something like this…

And who can blame you?! Negative images of sharks are everywhere. But they actually haven’t been around for all that long. At the turn of the 20th century, most people believed that sharks had never attacked a human being. Now, we know that occasionally this does happen. There were 7 people who died from shark attacks in the world in 2012 (meaning your chance of being one of those people is literally less than one in a BILLION). Compare that to the 33,561 people who died in car accidents in the U.S. in 2012. So the early 20th century perception is actually closer to the truth than modern perceptions (most people believe their risk of getting eaten by a shark to be much, much higher).

So what happened?

In the summer of 1916 there was a horrifying case of a rogue great white shark that ate several people along the New Jersey coast, and the event received a lot of press. Then during WWII, stories of shipwrecked sailors and others stranded in the ocean getting eaten by sharks began to permeate popular culture. All of which helped to set the stage for Jaws to come along and scare the pants off America.

In this movie, Spielberg really hit a chord with American audiences; just think about how much this movie has seeped into our collective consciousness. Everything from the opening music, Baaa-da. Baaa-da. Ba-da ba-da. Ba-da-ba-da-badabada…, to the line (from the sequel’s trailer, mind you) “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…” that sends shivers down our spines.

“So why should we watch Sharknado?” you ask, “Isn’t this just perpetuating irrational fears about getting eaten by sharks?” Perhaps, but consider this: Sharknado presents the perfect way for us to get over our fear of sharks.

By taking this fear and placing it in the most ridiculous context ever, in a low budget B Movie, with a plot full of holes so big you could drive a truck through them, we can remove ourselves enough from the situation to have some perspective. When we watch Sharknado we can laugh at our fears while watching a rollicking, action-packed film full of spectacle and get swept away (pun intended) into this fantasy world.

Jaws took place in our backyard, Sharknado in some alternate universe where Tara Reid is still an ingénue.

When we leave the theatre we aren’t scared of the world around us, we’re too busy taking in the unabashed ridiculousness of the film, tweeting our friends all the way home.

So let’s take a bite out of our crazy irrational fears and embrace Sharknado for the awesome cultural phenomenon that it is Friday, August 8 at HMNS!

In case you need some more convincing, watch the trailer below! Want to learn more about how awesome sharks are? Come to HMNS starting August 29 for our SHARK Exhibition!



The 10 Kinds of Pandas You Find on the Internet

Everyone knows cute animals basically run the Internet. But what’s the best of the best when it comes to Internet cuteness?

panda bear wallpaper 9

I hereby put forth that pandas are the epitome of Internet animal cuteness, and should reign with their ever-powerful cuteness over the masses from a bamboo throne … which would have to be replaced constantly, because they’d eat it (in an adorable fashion, of course).

Don’t believe me? Check out the 10 kinds of pandas you find on the Internet:

(Or perhaps you’re already panda savvy, in which case you should totally come see Pandas: The Journey Home now playing in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre.)


Because nothing’s more adorably sad than a sad panda.



When you’re this cute, A-listers can’t get enough photo ops — even though the pandas obviously hog the spotlight.



You’d wear a hat of your own face, too, if it were this cute.



Nothing is filled with more joy than a happy panda.



Because when the going gets tough, the tough get going.



Don’t even pretend your baby’s this cute. #SorryNotSorry



Sometimes you just need that extra push and WHO COULD EVER GET MAD AT A PANDA?!



Everyone’s trying to rip off their adorableness.



Tell me what’s cuter than a giant panda scared by a surprisingly loud sneeze from an eensie weensie panda. TELL ME.



Unfortunately, the endangered status of these miraculous creatures makes me a sad panda. However, these crazy-cute guys and gals are starting to make a come back! Learn all about the conservation programs in their native China and see how their population is beginning to rebound in Pandas: The Journey Home, now playing in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre.

“These are the heroes who helped end a war”: Commemorate D-Day’s 70th anniversary at HMNS

Today marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day — the Allied invasion of Normandy — which would prove to be a critical moment in defeating the Axis powers of World War II. And we’re doing quite a bit here at HMNS to commemorate the day.

See D-Day: Normandy 1944 in our Giant Screen Theatre

First and foremost, we’re showing the 3D film D-Day: Normandy 1944 in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, with additional show times today at  5:00 p.m.6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

D-Day Normandy 1944 now showing in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre

D-Day: Normandy 1944 now showing in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre

Thanks to a generous donation from Gallery Furniture, all military personnel (veterans and active duty) can see D-Day: Normandy 1944 for free, with military I.D. (You can obtain tickets at the HMNS Box Office or Gallery Furniture locations.)

We spoke with Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, founder of Gallery Furniture, about the donation. “It’s important to remember the sacrifices [of veterans],” McIngvale said, “It’s just as relevant today as it was 70 years ago to say thank you.”

He considers this donation to be “the least we can do.” McIngvale said, “I am thrilled and excited to be involved with HMNS.”

We’re grateful for Gallery Furniture’s involvement and hope that military personnel from the Houston area will take advantage of this offer, valid through Veteran’s Day in November.

Catch Saving Private Ryan as we kick off our Take Two series on the Giant Screen

To further commemorate D-Day, we’re starting our Take Two series in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre with a screening of Saving Private Ryan tonight at 8:30 p.m.

Our Battleship Texas exhibit is now on display

To further commemorate the holiday, our Battleship Texas exhibit is also open now. Organized by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, this exhibit highlights the history of the Battleship Texas in service to the United States Navy through World War II. It showcases 60 artifacts of the only surviving U.S. Navy vessel to have seen action in both world wars.

Objects on view include a never-before displayed flag from the ship and a shell that hit the vessel but did not explode, plus select pieces from the silver service presented to the battleship by the people of Texas, historical photographs and personal items from men who served aboard the Battleship. A special listening station shares crew member memories of service aboard the Battleship during World War II.

So there you have it folks. We’re commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day in a big way, and we want you to be a part of it.

If you’d like to learn more about D-Day and WWII, check out our three-part series by our Curator of Anthropology, Dr. Dirk Van Tuerenhout

And let us remember the words of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower as he spoke to soldiers about to make the invasion at Normandy:

“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”

D-Day, Part III: “We are coming by day and by night”

Editor’s Note: This is part three of a three-part series exploring the history and significance of D-Day as we approach the 70th anniversary of the battle. Click here to read part one and here for part two. For information on D-Day: Normandy 1944, the 3D film now showing in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, please visit us online.

Landing craft approaching the beach at Normandy. June 6, 1944 (Image Wikimedia)

Landing craft approaching the beach at Normandy, June 6, 1944 (Image: Wikimedia).

Soviet soldiers hoisted their banner on top of the Reichstag in Berlin.


Less than a year separate these two images. On June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded France; on May 2, 1945, Soviet soldiers hoisted their banner on top of the Reichstag in Berlin. For the Allied armies advancing on Berlin, these intervening 11 months were anything but a cakewalk.

In France, German defenders stubbornly resisted the invasion. Hedgerow country in Normandy, known as the Bocage, offered them shelter and hiding places. It was only after an enterprising individual had equipped the front of a tank with sharp steel spikes that it became possible to drive though the hedges and overwhelm German defenses.

hedgerow_cutter_for_Allied_tank_Normandy_1944Under the command of General Patton, U.S. armored units broke through the German lines and raced toward Paris. The city was liberated on August 25, 1944. Antwerp, an important port city in Belgium, was liberated on September 4. Soon, much needed supplies were offloaded on its docksides. An attempt to rid the Netherlands of its German occupiers was only partially successful, as the Allies literally aimed for a “bridge too far.”

While armored units advanced over land to the German heartland, there was an equally ferocious battle being fought in the sky. British and American bomber forces leveled German cities and the factories in a determined effort to cripple Germany’s ability to wage war. This strategy, started in 1942 on a massive scale, continued up to a few days before the fall of Berlin. The quote at the top of this blog post comes from leaflets (and radio broadcasts) aimed at the German people. They warned:

“We are bombing Germany, city by city, and ever more terribly, in order to make it impossible for you to go on with the war.  That is our object.  We shall pursue it remorselessly. City by city; Lübeck, Rostock, Cologne, Emden, Bremen, Wilhelmshaven, Duisburg, Hamburg — and the list will grow longer and longer. Let the Nazis drag you down to disaster with them if you will. That is for you to decide.  We are coming by day and by night. No part of the Reich is safe. People who work in [factories] live close to them. Therefore we hit your houses, and you.”
 - Pamphlet dropped in Germany by the RAF, Summer 1942.

On the eastern front, Soviet troops continued their march westward. German resistance crumbled. The appearance of advanced technology, especially jet-powered airplanes, came too late and in insufficient numbers to make a difference. V-weapons, meant to exact revenge on Allies cities such as London and Antwerp, caused great loss of life. They did not, however, reverse the fortunes of war for Germany.  

The aftermath of a V2 rocket hitting London 1945 (Image: Wikipedia)

Christmas 1944 did not bring peace; a last gasp German offensive into the Ardennes region of southern Belgium resulted in the Battle of the Bulge. A German demand to surrender received a famous one-word answer from Brigadier General McAuliffe: “NUTS.”

By now German units were fighting on their own soil, in the east against Soviet forces nearing Berlin, and in the west against Allied forces occupying the industrial Ruhr area on their way east. Soviet and American forces eventually encountered each other at a crossing over the Elbe river. As they penetrated deeper into Germany, Allied soldiers liberated thousands of concentration camps. Evidence of the Holocaust became widely known abroad.

Soviet troops captured Berlin, sustaining and inflicting horrific losses. On April 30, 1945, Hitler committed suicide. Two days earlier, Benito Mussolini had been captured and killed in northern Italy. On May 7, 1945, Germany unconditionally surrendered and the war in Europe was officially over. All over Europe and the U.S. people celebrated Victory in Europe (VE) Day.

May 8, 1944 issue of Stars and Stripes. (Image Wikimedia)

May 8, 1944 issue of Stars and Stripes (Image: Wikimedia).

Hostilities were not yet over. In the Pacific theater, the war against Japan continued. Two atomic bombs dropped on Japan brought the bloody conflict to an end some three months after peace came to Europe.

As far as Europe is concerned, one can confidently say that the D-Day invasion marked the beginning of the end for the Third Reich. Forced to fight on two fronts, Germany ran out of men and material.

D-Day Normandy 1944 now showing in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre

D-Day: Normandy 1944 now showing in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science’s Wortham Giant Screen Theatre is now showing D-Day: Normandy 1944. The film is running exclusively at HMNS in the Houston-Galveston area through November 11.

In honor of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, on Friday, June 6 we’ve added additional screenings of D-Day: Normandy 1944 (at 5:00 p.m, 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.) in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre.

Thanks to a generous donation from Gallery Furniture, all military personnel (active duty and veterans) can see D-Day: Normandy 1944 for free.

We’re also starting our Take Two series this month in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre beginning Friday, June 6 with a showing of Saving Private Ryan (8:30 p.m.) and on Friday, June 13 with The Longest Day (7:00 p.m.).