Sunday, December 31, 2006

The New York Times
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January 1, 2007
The Media Equation

The Lonely Newspaper Reader

In the house where I grew up, everybody ate breakfast at the same time. The younger ones would sit at the table elbowing one another for toast while my dad stood, drinking coffee and reading The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

He would mumble and curse at the headlines, check the sports and then tell us it was time to go. When my brother John became a teenager, he left the table and would eat his toast, leaning against the washing machine and reading the paper as well.

This, I thought, is what it means to be a grown-up. You eat your food standing up, and you read the newspaper. So I did the same thing when I turned 13. I still do.

Last Wednesday morning at my house, one of my daughters back from college was staying at a friend’s house in the city, no doubt getting alerts on her cellphone for new postings to her Facebook page. Her sister got up, skipped breakfast and checked the mail for her NetFlix movies. My wife left early before the papers even arrived to commute to her job in the city while listening to the iPod she got for Christmas.

True enough, my 10-year-old gave me five minutes over a bowl of Cheerios, but then she went into the dining room and opened the laptop to surf the Disney Channel on broadband, leaving me standing in the kitchen with my four newspapers. A few of those included news about the sale of The Star Tribune, a newspaper that found itself in reduced circumstances and sold at a reduced price to a private equity group.

I looked around me and realized I didn’t really need to read the papers to know why.

Sure, the consolidation of department stores and the flight of classified ads to the Web hurt big metropolitan dailies like The Star Tribune. This summer’s downturn in overall newspaper advertising landed hard on the paper, with ads off 6.1 percent in the last year from the year before.

The McClatchy Company, which bought the paper’s parent company with a great deal of fanfare in 1998 for $1.2 billion, looked at those numbers — and the fact that it had lost 26,000 or so daily readers since it bought the paper — and decided to sell the paper for $530 million. The chain was equally bullish when it bought Knight Ridder for $4.5 billion last summer and then turned around and sold 12 of the papers, including another newspaper in the Twin Cities, The Pioneer Press in St. Paul.

But the sale of The Star Tribune came completely out of the blue, in part because, as the chain’s biggest paper, it was viewed as a marquee property. The parties were able to keep it quiet in part because they all knew each other. The principals for the buyers, Avista Capital Partners, were once a part of a private equity arm of Credit Suisse, which represented McClatchy in the sale.

McClatchy’s chief executive, Gary B. Pruitt, said that tax advantages of $160 million made it a good time to sell, partly to offset capital gains from the sale of the Knight Ridder papers. When the stealth auction for the paper ended and word of the sale came out the day after Christmas, Mr. Pruitt said, “I don’t feel good about the paper being sold.”

Me either. The paper, around in one version or another since 1867, may not have knocked down a lot of Pulitzers, but with its vigorous political reporting and thoughtful cultural coverage, it has served as a center for civic life in Minneapolis and beyond. The Star Tribune was not a great paper, but then my first car, a very used ’64 Ford Falcon, wasn’t great either. I still have a great deal of affection for both.

There are two ways to look at the sale: the second-biggest newspaper operator in the country, with its stock dropping in the wake of the Knight Ridder deal, dumped a paper with near 20 percent profit margins in what looked like a fire sale because big papers are doomed. Or, more brightly, a private equity firm saw an opportunity for a savvy investor who could operate the property without the quarter-to-quarter franticness that comes with making Wall Street happy.

It is a cliché of the media business that the assets go up and down the elevator every day. In Minneapolis, many of those assets are pals from my days of working as a reporter and editor at a weekly there, so I wondered: Who would be controlling their professional destinies, bottom feeders or benefactors?

Private equity owners are often viewed with suspicion, in part because they have limited investment horizons and tend to milk properties for cash flow, clean up the balance sheet and then flip the property to what is technically known as a “greater fool.” The sale of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News by McClatchy to a local group of investors has resulted, after a sharp downturn this summer, in a great deal of strife and talks of significant layoffs.

I talked to OhSang Kwon, one of the partners in Avista Capital Partners. “We don’t want to rule out anything, but the idea that we bought this paper with a quick exit in mind or that we were going to cut our way to profitability is not correct,” he said. “I don’t have the hubris to say that we have the answers — we are new to the newspaper business — but the old way was not working. Maybe it is time for a different approach.”

Maybe it is. Tomorrow, The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by Dow Jones & Company, will hit my doorstep in a smaller size and with a different approach, pushing much of the so-called commoditized news — the daily reports and incremental articles that everyone has — to the Web and filling the physical paper with more analysis and deeper reporting. Google, which has been dining to some degree on ads diverted from newspapers, announced last week that it is expanding a program to sell newspaper advertising using its own auction approach.

As I sat at the kitchen table, I marveled at the low price of a newspaper that had once preoccupied the conversation around my dinner table. Then I looked at the four papers on the table and the empty chairs that surrounded them. Before my second cup of coffee, the rest of my household had already started the day in a way that had nothing to do with the paper artifacts in front of me. Maybe I was the greater fool.

The New York Times
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January 1, 2007

Looking for the Next Google

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 29 — In brand-new offices with a still-empty game room and enough space to triple their staff of nearly 30, a trio of entrepreneurs is leading an Internet start-up with an improbable mission: to out- Google Google.

The three started Powerset, a company whose aim is to deliver better answers than any other search engine — including Google — by letting users type questions in plain English. And they have made believers of Silicon Valley investors whose fortunes turn on identifying the next big thing.

“There’s definitely a segment of the market that thinks we are crazy,” said Charles Moldow, a partner at Foundation Capital, a venture capital firm that is Powerset’s principal financial backer. “In 2000, some people thought Google was crazy.”

Powerset is hardly alone. Even as Google continues to outmaneuver its main search rivals, Yahoo and Microsoft, plenty of newcomers — with names like hakia, ChaCha and Snap — are trying to beat the company at its own game. And Wikia Inc., a company started by a founder of Wikipedia, plans to develop a search engine that, like the popular Web-based encyclopedia, would be built by a community of programmers and users.

These ambitious quests reflect the renewed optimism sweeping technology centers like Silicon Valley and fueling a nascent Internet boom. It also shows how much the new Internet economy resembles a planetary system where everything and everyone orbits around search in general, and around Google in particular.

Silicon Valley is filled with start-ups whose main business proposition is to be bought by Google, or for that matter by Yahoo or Microsoft. Countless other start-ups rely on Google as their primary driver of traffic or on Google’s powerful advertising system as their primary source of income. Virtually all new companies compete with Google for scarce engineering talent. And divining Google’s next move has become a fixation for scores of technology blogs and a favorite parlor game among technology investors.

“There is way too much obsession with search, as if it were the end of the world,” said Esther Dyson, a well-known technology investor and forecaster. “Google equals money equals search equals search advertising; it all gets combined as if this is the last great business model.”

It may not be the last great business model, but Google has proved that search linked to advertising is a very large and lucrative business, and everyone — including Ms. Dyson, who invested a small sum in Powerset — seems to want a piece of it.

Since the beginning of 2004, venture capitalists have put nearly $350 million into no fewer than 79 start-ups that had something to do with Internet search, according to the National Venture Capital Association, an industry group.

An overwhelming majority are not trying to take Google head on, but rather are focusing on specialized slices of the search world, like searching for videos, blog postings or medical information. Since Google’s stated mission is to organize all of the world’s information, they may still find themselves in the search giant’s cross hairs. That is not necessarily bad, as being acquired by Google could be a financial bonanza for some of these entrepreneurs and investors.

But in the current boom, there is money even for those with the audacious goal of becoming a better Google.

Powerset recently received $12.5 million in financing. Hakia, which like Powerset is trying to create a “natural language” search engine, got $16 million. Another $16 million went to Snap, which has focused on presenting search results in a more compelling way and is experimenting with a new advertising model. And ChaCha, which uses paid researchers that act as virtual reference librarians to provide answers to users’ queries, got $6.1 million.

Still, recent history suggests that gaining traction is going to be difficult. Of dozens of search start-ups that were introduced in recent years, none had more than a 1 percent share of the United States search market in November, according to Nielsen NetRatings, a research firm that measures Internet traffic.

Amassing a large audience has proved to be a challenge even for those with a track record and resources. Consider A9, a search engine owned by that received positive reviews when it began in 2004 and was run by Udi Manber, a widely recognized search specialist. Despite some innovative features and early successes, A9 has captured only a tiny share of the market. Mr. Manber now works for Google, where he is vice president of engineering.

The setback apparently has not stopped Amazon or its chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, from pursuing profits in search. ChaCha said it counts an investment company owned by Mr. Bezos among its backers, and Amazon is an investor in Wikia. An Amazon spokeswoman said Mr. Bezos does not comment about his personal investments.

Some start-ups are similarly bullish. “We expect to be one of the top three search engines,” said Riza C. Berkan, the chief executive of hakia. It is a bold claim, given that hakia’s technology is not yet ready for prime time, and Mr. Berkan readily concedes it will take time to perfect it.

The dream, however, is quintessential Silicon Valley.

“It is hard for me to believe that anybody thinks they can take Google’s business from Google,” said Randy Komisar, a venture capitalist who was once known as Silicon Valley’s “virtual C.E.O.” for his role as a mentor to scores of technology firms. “But to call the game over because Google has been such a success would be to deny history.”

In some ways, the willingness of so many to make multimillion-dollar investments to take on Google and other search companies represents a startling change. In the late 1990s, when Microsoft dominated the technology world, inventors and investors did everything they could to avoid competing with the software company.

Yet many of today’s search start-ups are putting themselves squarely in the path of the Google steamroller. Most explain that decision in similar ways.

They say that Google’s dominance today is different from Microsoft’s in the late 90s when its operating system was a virtual monopoly and nearly impossible to break. In the Internet search industry, “you earn your right to be in business every day, page view after page view, click after click,” said Barney Pell, a founder and the chief executive of Powerset, whose search service is not yet available.

They also say that the market for search simply is too large to resist. Google, which, according to Nielsen, handles about half of all Internet searches in the United States, is valued at an astonishing $141 billion. So, the reasoning goes, anyone who can grab even a small slice of the search market could be well rewarded.

“You don’t need to be No. 1 to be worth billions of dollars,” said Allen Morgan, a partner at Mayfield Fund, a venture capital firm that invested $10 million in Snap. The company is also backed by Bill Gross, an Internet financier who pioneered the idea of linking ads and search results, only to see Google seize the powerful business model and improve on it.

Almost all of today’s search entrepreneurs also say that Google’s success lends credibility to their own long-shot quest.

When Lawrence Page and Sergey Brin first started tinkering with what would become Google, other search engines like AltaVista and Lycos and Excite were dominant. But the companies that owned them were distracted by efforts to diversify their businesses, and they took their eye off the ball of Internet search and stopped innovating.

Some now say that search has not evolved much in years, and that Google is similarly distracted as it introduces new products like word processors, spreadsheets and online payment systems and expands into online video, social networking and other businesses.

“The more Google starts to think about taking on Microsoft, the less it is a pure search play, and the more it opens the door for new innovations,” said Mr. Moldow, the Foundation Capital partner. “That’s great for us.”

But at the same time, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have thousands of engineers, including some of the world’s top search specialists, working on improving their search results. And they have spent billions building vast computer networks so they can respond instantly to the endless stream of queries from around the world.

Search “is becoming an increasingly capital-intensive business,” said Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president for search. That makes it harder for start-ups to catch up to the giants, she said.

That is not stopping entrepreneurs from betting that they can. Powerset has search and natural-language experts among its two dozen employees, including former top engineers from Yahoo and a former chief linguist from Ask Jeeves,’s predecessor. They are the kind of people who could easily land jobs at Google or Microsoft or Yahoo.

Steve Newcomb, a Powerset founder and veteran of several successful start-ups, said his company could become the next Google. Or, he said, if Google or someone else perfected natural-language search before Powerset, then his company would make a great acquisition for one of the other search companies. “We are a huge story no matter what,” he said.

Ms. Dyson, the technology commentator and Powerset investor, captured the optimism more concisely and with less swagger. “I love Google,” she said, “but I love the march of history.”

new MTV reality series follows six young writers as they compete for a full time job as a contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine.
Now this is a reality series I can embrace: “I’m From Rolling Stone.” If you’re a music person, and especially a contemporary rock/pop/hip-hop/soul/country music person, you’ve probably perused Rolling Stone magazine over the years and said to yourself, “Wow, what a cushy job.

You get to hang out with the artists backstage and drink really good champagne and live vicariously through some of your favorite musicians –- and get paid for it.”

Although Rolling Stone and MTV are a little late catching on to just how many people out there want to write for the mag, their new reality series follows six young writers as they compete for a full time job as a contributing editor.

I’m guessing the winner will be the one splayed out on a green room sofa with a peace sign tattooed on their forehead while gripping an empty bottle of Cristal with a blank Microsoft Word document displayed on their nearby laptop. But I could be wrong. (MTV, Sunday, 10 p.m.)

Blog sex scandal trial could spank protagonists

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

By Matt Apuzzo
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – When Robert Steinbuch discovered his girlfriend had discussed intimate details about their sex life in her online diary, the Capitol Hill staffer didn't just get mad. He got a lawyer.

Soon, though, the racy tidbits about the sex lives of the two Senate aides faded from the front pages and the gossip pages. Steinbuch accepted a teaching job in Arkansas, leaving Washington and Jessica Cutler's "Washingtonienne" Web log behind.

While sex scandals turn over quickly in this city, lawsuits do not. Steinbuch's case over the embarrassing, sexually charged blog appears headed for an embarrassing, sexually charged trial.

Lurid testimony about spanking, handcuffs and prostitution aside, the Washingtonienne case could help establish whether people who keep online diaries are obligated to protect the privacy of the people they interact with offline.

Cutler, a former aide to Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, says she created the blog in 2004 to keep a few friends up to date on her social life. Like a digital version of the sex-themed banter from a "Sex and the City" episode, Cutler described the thrill and tribulations of juggling sexual relationships with six men.

One of those men was Steinbuch, a counsel to DeWine on the Judiciary Committee. Cutler called him the "current favorite" and said he resembled George Clooney, liked spanking and disliked condoms.

"He's very upfront about sex," she wrote. "He likes talking dirty and stuff, and he told me that he likes submissive women."

When Ana Marie Cox, then the editor of the popular gossip Web site, discovered and linked to Cutler's blog, the story spun out of control. Cutler was fired and Steinbuch says he was publicly humiliated. He went to court seeking more than $20 million in damages.

The case is embroiled in thorny pretrial issues, with each side demanding personal information from the other. Steinbuch wants to know how much money Cutler received from the man she called her "sugar daddy." Cutler demanded Steinbuch's student evaluations from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law School, where he teaches.

Steinbuch also recently added Cox as a defendant in the case, though he has not served her with court papers. A trial date has not been set, but Matthew Billips, Cutler's attorney, said there are no settlement talks that might head off a trial.

"I have no idea what he wants," Billips said. "He's never said, 'This is what I think should be done."'

Neither Steinbuch nor his attorney returned phone calls seeking comment. In court, attorney Jonathan Rosen said Steinbuch wants to restore his good name. Students in his legal ethics class all search the Internet and learn about the blog, Rosen said.

"It's not funny and it's damaging," Rosen told a judge. "It's horrible, absolutely horrible."

To win, Steinbuch will have to prove that the details of their sexual relationship were private and publishing them was highly offensive. Billips argues that Cutler never intended to make the blog public but, in the information age, data is easily copied and distributed beyond its intended audience.

If the case goes to trial, its outcome will be important both to bloggers and to people who chronicle their lives on social-networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said he may teach the Washingtonienne case this spring during his class at Georgetown Law School.

"Anybody who wants to reveal their own private life has a right to do that. It's a different question when you reveal someone else's private life," he said, adding that simply calling something a diary doesn't make it one. "It's not sitting in a nice, leather-bound book under a pillow. It's online where a million people can find it."

Rotenberg asked, what if Cutler had secretly videotaped the encounters and sold the videos without Steinbuch's consent? There has to be a line somewhere, he said.

Since being fired, Cutler moved back to New York, wrote a novel based on the scandal, posed nude for Playboy and started a new Web site, where she solicits donations "for slutty clothes and drugs."

She wouldn't discuss the case but said she's amazed by what has happened.

"The fact that anyone was interested in the first place was a surprise," she said. "The fact that there was a lawsuit in the first place was a surprise. That it's still going on is a surprise."

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman was surprised, too.

"I don't know why we're here in federal court to begin with," Friedman told attorneys for both sides in April. "I don't know why this guy thought it was smart to file a lawsuit and lay out all of his private, intimate details."

In that sense, the Washingtonienne lawsuit has become a study into when to make a federal case out of something and when to just let it go away. It's a question lawyers wrestle with all the time.

Lanny Davis, the former special counsel to President Clinton who now advises companies during times of crisis, tells clients to decide whether they want justice or simply to set the record straight and get a message across.

"If you're looking for justice, the court system is the only thing you have," Davis said. "If you're looking to get the full story, good and bad, into one coherent narrative, the court system is perhaps the worst possible forum."

canada, canadian search engine, free email, canada news
Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell downs Tito Ortiz again in UFC 66 at Las Vegas
Neil Davidson
Canadian Press

Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell, left, hits challenger Tito Ortiz during the second round in Las Vegas on Saturday. Liddell defended his title.

LAS VEGAS (CP) - Ice ice baby.

Light-heavyweight champion Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell stopped Tito Ortiz for a second time Saturday night, battering the challenger into submission at 3:59 of the third round at UFC 66 in their mixed martial arts title bout before a sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena crowd of 14,067.

The TKO came after Liddell caught Ortiz and sent him to the canvas. The Iceman kept punching until referee Mario Yamasaki finally stepped in to end the punishment.

"There's not much to talk about," Liddell said in the ring later. "I had him hurt and I kept throwing punches until they stopped it."

Liddell defeated Ortiz by TKO early in the second round the first time they met in April 2004. This one just took a little while longer, with the Iceman stalking Ortiz - and waiting for the right moment to unload.

Ortiz was game but could not take Liddell down. And ultimately he could not withstand the raw power of the Iceman, who extended his string of wins to seven while improving his record to 20-3.

"I was impressed by Tito's performance but Chuck Liddell is the man," said UFC president Dana White.

Ortiz, known as The Huntington Beach Bad Boy, fell to 16-5 and saw a five-fight win streak snapped.

"Chuck's the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world right now," Ortiz conceded in the ring.

Still, Ortiz left his mark. At the post-fight news conference, Liddell sported a couple of welts on his face and a finger splint due to a broken tendon.

"Because I have a big head, that's why," Ortiz said to laughter.

Ortiz arrived late, wearing sunglasses and a hoodie. When he took the sunglasses off, there were welts under both eyes.

"I made a few mistakes ... Chuck fought a great fight," said Ortiz, who acknowledged that he had not seen some of Liddell's overhand rights.

"I have no excuses," he added. "Liddell's the man tonight."

The crowd was solidly behind the 37-year-old Liddell from the get-go, with the champion receiving thunderous applause on his way to the Octagon and during his introduction. Ortiz's reaction was decidedly mixed, although chants of Tito and Chuck alternated during the fight.

The two started cautiously, with Liddell stuffing an early takedown attempt. Liddell found his range with about 90 seconds left in the round, cutting Ortiz's face with a nasty right. Then he knocked the challenger down and whaled on him for a while. But the 31-year-old Ortiz survived and made it to the end of the round.

Liddell stopped two more takedown tries in the second round and quickly reversed a third that was partially successful. Neither fighter did much damage in the round.

Liddell connected in the third when another takedown attempt went awry. Ortiz found himself on his back and Liddell punished him from above, reopening the cut.

Several MMA websites pegged the fighter purses Saturday at US$250,000 for Liddell and US$210,000 for Ortiz, but both men can expect a lot more thanks to a slice of the lucrative pay per view sales. White said prior to the fight that Liddell and Ortiz were guaranteed record UFC paydays.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

15 Seconds CBS and YouTube Video Contest Winner Will Air on Super Bowl Sunday

CBS Interactive Introduces a New 15 Seconds Video Contest

By Paula Neal Mooney

"If you had 15 seconds to tell the world whatever you want to, what would you say?"

That is how CBS introduced its new "15 Seconds" contest, using Craig Ferguson to introduce the 15 Seconds contest with a YouTube "Solicitation Video" of his own at

In order to participate in the 15 Seconds contest -- which will give any eligible person with access to a camcorder that can get their 15 Seconds video uploaded to the web -- a "chance to be seen and heard on national television, courtesy of CBS Interactive."

Registration for the 15 Seconds contest is free. Would-be hopeful are being asked to submit 15-second videos to through the website - or on directly, as long as participants read, accept and follow the complete rules.

The official rules for CBS' 15 Seconds contest in conjunction with YouTube can be found at and at

The 15 Seconds contest officials began accepting videos on Friday, December 29, 2006.

Every two weeks, CBS Interactive will choose from the 15 Seconds contests and select one to broadcast on TV. Of these 15 Seconds videos, the initial video selected will air on CBS on Super Bowl Sunday, February 4, 2007.

Videos that have already been submitted for the 15 Seconds contest can be viewed at

Contestants can upload their 15 Seconds videos either through for posting on or on directly -- but as the name specifically states, they must be no longer than 15 seconds in length.

Judges will post the top five favorites of the 15 Seconds video that comply with the rules, and post those top five 15 Seconds videos on every two weeks.

The CBS site states that there is a limit of "one registration and one (1) video submission per person, per e-mail address, per quarter," and that any individual attempting to register more that once will be disqualified from the 15 Seconds contest.

The 15 Seconds contest rules also detail how to submit a video, and spell out that the 15 Seconds videos must be in English. The 15 Seconds videos must also be suitable to appear on television, and must not include anything the judges consider pornographic, offensive, or illegal. See official rules on for all the details on entering a valid 15 Seconds video for consideration.

Top 15 Films To Look Out For: Pre-Summer 2007 Hype List

December 30, 2006
by Alex Billington

As we near the end of 2006 and more importantly the start of 2007, it's time we start looking forward to some of the more exciting films in the new year. Before obviously jumping too deep into the very exciting realm of summer that features handfuls of trilogy conclusions and more, I thought I'd take a look at the pre-summer films in what I call the hype list.

(Not counting the first week or two of January for the overflow-from-2006 films like Children of Men and Perfume.)

Keep up to date with the complete 2007 Release Schedule here.


Smokin’ Aces
(Jan 26)

Lots of guns and lots of violent mayhem are packed into this. I've been looking forward to it ever since we posted the first trailer a long while ago and have been getting more and more excited since director Joe Carnahan has been running a blog keeping people up-to-date and excited for it. I hope it's as good as all the trailers make it out to be combined with the positive buzz that's been coming from early reviews.


Hannibal Rising
(Feb 9)

There's a bit more to this Hannibal film than you'll originally think, as you can tell from this photo above. Still as dark as a film about Hannibal Lecter should be, but this film has been so quiet and hardly recognized when I've heard it will be incredible. I'm not that big of a horror/thriller fan, and honestly I can't wait to see this.

Ghost Rider
(Feb 16)

This is the super-hero film that will deliver complete comic book excellence well in advance of the Spider-Man / Transformers summer, and it looks like it'll be incredible. I've been anxiously awaiting it all while the buzz has been unfortunately declining. I hope it will pick up in early February before its release and draw the excited crowds of comic book fans. Don't judge this on the jumbled trailers alone, judge it on how great Nic Cage as Ghost Rider will be.

Reno 911!: Miami
(Feb 23)

Have you had enough Borat? Another great TV comedy is being brought to the big screen, and this time it's Reno 911! Featuring the full cast this time down in Miami. If you haven't seen the trailer, go watch it right now! These guys are even funnier than Borat in their TV show and will deliver and even funnier full length film. It's even got exploding helicopters!

The Number 23
(Feb 23)

A dark, mysterious thriller from Joel Schumacher. This guy knows how to set the mood and in the trailers so far, Jim Carrey looks darker and eviler than we've ever seen him. I typically am not that interested in this films, but I'm telling you, this one will be just amazing. Be prepared to be shocked in this one!

The Astronaut Farmer
(Feb 23)

This dramatic role for Billy Bob Thornton looks like it'll just be one of those feel-good films with a bit more “umph” to it than the regular Hollywood crap that's pumped out. Another one where you need to watch the trailer - it's a great introduction to the story. A change from the violent, action, and comic book movies that are filling this list.


(Mar 2)

A very intricate thriller starring a great cast and directed by the one-and-only David Fincher of Fight Club. I'm truly excited to see what he can do with this 70′s murder mystery in San Francisco and if he can turn it into as incredible of a film as is Se7en and Fight Club. Plus it's got my vote for the best poster of 2006!

(Mar 9)

My single #1 most anticipated film of all of 2007. Whenever I watch the trailer I just go crazy. I seen lots of movies, and will be seeing lots of movies in 2007, and when I watch this, I am more excited than anything I've seen or heard of. This movie will blow us away with something we've never seen before and will never see again. Pure brilliance!

Reign Over Me
(Mar 9)

Another really good drama that just has this incredible tangent feeling from the trailer. Out of all the pre-summer dramas, this is my most highly anticipated. A great cast with another comedic actor turned dramatic, and yet still a wonderful story that will have plenty of happy and plenty of sad moments. Check this out even if you're not a big fan of drama - you may yet be interested.

(Mar 16)

Ever since the new trailer came out, I've been looking forward to this. “Marky Mark” Wahlberg is one of my favorite actors as of current and putting him into a violent full-of-action film makes it even better. The few scenes he had where he shot a gun in The Departed were great - now imagine a whole movie with him like that, even though that's a far step from what this probably is.

(Mar 16 - Unconfirmed)

Still unconfirmed on its date and no real trailer, this still does sound incredible. A sci-fi, something we've been missing a lot of as of current, that becomes a dramatic thriller up in space, but with some true finesse. There is a bootlegged trailer you can watch, and maybe that will get you a little more excited for this. Let's hope it still comes out in March!

(Mar 23)

Finally, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back! Even with the latest 160 photos released, this looks great. Some have been a bit sad that it's CGI, but just imagine how incredible it's going to be and how much awesome fights there will be! One of the only animated films, along with Ratatouille, that I'm really looking forward to in 2007.


(Apr 6)

This one has been pure joy since I saw the first footage back at Comic-Con. The whole experience of it is going to be incredible, with fake trailers and everything they're doing to make it into a film that truly feels like it came from a grind house theater! Everything you love about Tarantino and Rodriguez combined into one film - yes!

Hot Fuzz
(Apr 13)

Since Shaun of the Dead came out, I can't imagine one person who isn't waiting to see the next film from this trio. A now here it is! All about some vigilante cops and still as hilarious as could be, with some serial killer horror thrown in (as they know best from Shaun of the Dead). Can't wait for this - will definitely be one of the best comedies of 2007!

The Kingdom
(Apr 20)

Again, after the new trailer came out, I've become pretty excited for it. Although I think Jennifer Garner wasn't the greatest choice, you can hardly go wrong with Jamie Foxx in an action-intense film. And Peter Berg is never a let down either, I mean, look at The Rundown - oh wait, maybe not. Either way, I'll be looking forward to seeing it.

The 25 Worst Web Sites

From unforgettable flame-outs to some of the most popular destinations around, no one is safe from our look at the world's dumbest dot-coms and silliest sites.

by Dan Tynan, PC World

Worst Sites #1


Click to view full-size image.

Yes, we know. With more than 90 million users, MySpace is now more popular than Elvis, "American Idol," and ice cream. But the Web's most visited destination is also its most poorly designed and counterproductive.

The ease with which anyone of any age can create a page, upload photos, share deeply personal details of their lives, and make new "friends" quickly turned MySpace into a one-stop shopping mall for online predators. That in turn has made the site an easy target for politicians who pander for votes by playing on parental fears. In an era when the basic tenets of the Net are under attack by both Ma Bell and Uncle Sam, MySpace is a headache we don't need.

But let's put all that aside for a moment. Graphically, many MySpace pages look like a teenager's bedroom after a tornado--a swirl of clashing backgrounds, boxes stacked inside other boxes, massive photos, and sonic disturbance. Try loading a few of those pages at once and watch what happens to your CPU. Watch out for spyware, too, since it turns out that MySpace has become a popular distribution vector for drive-by downloads and other exploits. And in a place where "U are soooooooo hot!!!" passes for wit, MySpace isn't doing much to elevate the level of social discourse.

In response to a public backlash and some well-publicized lawsuits, MySpace has begun modifying its policies--for example, limiting adults' ability to contact minors. That's hardly enough. Requiring some kind of authentication from MySpacers--or their parents--to validate their ages and identities would go a long way toward scaring off the creeps and making the site a kinder, gentler social network.

Is MySpace totally bad? Not at all. Are we old farts? Yeah, probably. But the Web's most popular site needs a serious security reboot. And probably a makeover. Until then, MySpace won't ever be OurSpace.

V.B. Price: Twisting truth

The idea that `all governments lie' is portrayed in posters

I. F. Stone

As the new year approaches, the warmth of a long thaw in politics and rationality seems to be commencing.

Our world is not one in which any kind of optimism, cautious or otherwise, can flourish without an addiction to denial. Still, we harbor hopes, grounded in age-old wisdom.

Living long enough to have exhausted the last shreds of political idealism, some of us realize the truth of what the greatest American muckraker of the McCarthy and Vietnam War eras, I.F. Stone, meant when he wrote that "all governments lie." We've see this through the lens of logic and common sense since the invasion of Iraq.

Myra MacPherson, in her new biography of Stone, tells how the dissenting journalist was hounded by the FBI, which collected a secret dossier on him. Comprised of thousands of pages, the dossier was compiled from years of surveillance and Dumpster-diving by agents of the executive branch who, like their various presidential bosses, were sworn to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution - but not from little guys with coke-bottle glasses and noses for truth, but from tyrants in disguise as public servants.

That all governments lie is a sobering and liberating reality to accept. And in the elections this November, we saw that it wasn't only I.F. Stone who comprehended the absurd falsehoods and ironies of selling candidates and ideologies like pain killers and suppositories, attacking enemies as if they were diseases.

With the Democratic victories, we saw that perhaps the greatest political propaganda machine ever devised in American politics, created and funded by the Republican Party, could actually fail to persuade people with its lies.

We can see the same lessons come to life in the setting of another political reality - in Latin America - at the National Hispanic Culture Center's Latin American Poster Show on display through March. "Public Aesthetics and Mass Politics," as the exhibition is subtitled, would make I.F. Stone feel completely vindicated, though, apparently, he never felt otherwise.

All governments and all political movements lie, and many of them justify the use of violent means to achieve their ends, spinning fear into tolerance for atrocities, a falsehood of the greatest magnitude.

In one poster, we see Augusto Pinochet, dictator of Chile, smiling like a saint at an adoring grandmother, as if he'd never been involved in the violent overthrow of an elected government.

In another poster, we see a haggard-looking Emiliano Zapata, with the quotation "Yo no lucho por ambiciones bastardos," translated as "I do not fight for ignoble causes," expressing a feeling that is shared by liars and truth-tellers alike.

If all governments lie, then it stands to reason that some lie more harmfully than others. In 2007, we'll have a chance for the first time in years to see distinctly if Republicans or Democrats are the most damaging liars.

E.W. Scripps Co.
© 2006 The Albuquerque Tribune
The New York Times

December 31, 2006

Can Google Come Out to Play?

ON a Thursday afternoon before the holidays, the game room at Google’s new offices in Chelsea was being put to good use. Two engineers were taking a break from coding at the pool table. A programmer in a purple Phish T-shirt was practicing juggling. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses blasted from the flat-screen television, where two 22-year-olds played Guitar Hero, a video game that lets players strum scaled-down guitars — karaoke without the singing.

Only one guitarist, Aaron Karp, worked for Google. “It’s very convenient that he works in such a cool place and invites me over,” said Mr. Karp’s roommate, Alex Hurst, who works in the breaking news division of CNN. “We don’t have this, or Razor scooters, at CNN. It makes me want to work here.”

Last August, Google started moving its 500-plus employees in New York from a cramped Times Square office to a former Port Authority building occupying a full city block, from Eighth Avenue to Ninth Avenue and from 15th Street to 16th Street.

The new office, which officially opened Oct. 2, is the company’s largest engineering center outside its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., which is dubbed the Googleplex.

You could be forgiven for not knowing that a satellite Google campus is growing in downtown Manhattan. There is no Google sign on the building, and it’s hard to catch a glimpse of a Googler, as employees call themselves, on the street because the company gives them every reason to stay within its candy-colored walls.

From lava lamps to abacuses to cork coffee tables, the offices may as well be a Montessori school conceived to cater to the needs of future science-project winners. The Condé Nast and Hearst corporations have their famous cafeterias designed by, respectively, Frank Gehry and Norman Foster; but Google has free food, and plenty of it, including a sushi bar and espresso stations. There are private phone booths for personal calls and showers and lockers for anyone running or biking to work.

The campuslike workspace is antithetical to the office culture of most New York businesses. It is a vision of a workplace utopia as conceived by rich, young, single engineers in Silicon Valley, transplanted to Manhattan.

The New York tradition of leaving the office to network over lunch or an evening cocktail party has no place at Google, where employees are encouraged to socialize among themselves. There are groups of Gayglers, Newglers and Bikeglers (who bike to work together). Every Thursday afternoon there is a gathering with wine and beer called Thank God It’s Almost Friday (originally it was a T.G.I.F. event, modeled after one in Mountain View, but Googlers in New York didn’t want to stick around late on a Friday).

At lunch on a recent afternoon in the Hemispheres cafeteria, the two major Googler factions, engineers and sales representatives, tended to sit segregated at long tables. It was easy to tell them apart: engineers wore jeans, T-shirts and sneakers; sales representatives wore suits, no tie. There was nary a designer handbag or gray hair in the room. But you’re wrong about who the cool kids are. At last, engineers are the big men (and a few women) on campus.

“These are power geniuses,” said Jane Risen, a statuesque brunette who works in training for the sales staff and is considered among the best dressed on campus — she was wearing a brown blazer from the Gap. “If they don’t have the same social skill or style sense, they’re extremely interesting people or else they don’t get hired.”

The power geniuses are more straight-laced than some of their predecessors in Silicon Alley. During New York’s original dot-com boom, the entrepreneur Josh Harris of was known for decadent parties in his loft offices that featured live sex shows. DoubleClick was the host of a legendary Willy Wonka-themed party for 2,000 with bartenders as orange Oompa Loompas.

The current Silicon Alley resurgence has brought back a bit of that tradition — the guys of have been celebrating the largess of a multimillion-dollar investment from Barry Diller by holding dance parties at a TriBeCa loft — but the naughtiest it gets for Manhattan Googlers is custom-made trans fat-free ice-cream sandwiches.

FOOD is a major perk at the Manhattan Googleplex. Every Tuesday afternoon, tea with crumpets and scones is served. In the cafeteria a dry-erase board lists local purveyors of the ingredients in the meals like a sign at the Union Square Greenmarket. (Dry-erase boards are big in Google culture; ideas flow quickly).

All the free food has created a problem familiar to college freshmen. “Everyone gains 10 or 15 pounds when they start working here,” said James Tipon, a member of the sales team, who actively contributes to the four pounds of M&Ms consumed by New York Googlers daily. “I definitely gained that when I started working here, but I think I shed some of it,” Mr. Tipon said. “I try to be disciplined but it’s really hard.”

The strategy of keeping employees happy and committed to spending endless hours on campus seems to be working. Richard Burdon, 37, an engineer who joined Google two years ago, has been staying past midnight to prepare for the introduction of a project. (Google’s Manhattan engineers have been responsible for developing Google Maps and are working on some 100 other projects.)

“Google is about as interesting as starting your own startup because you can really follow your own ideas,” said Mr. Burdon, who previously worked for Goldman Sachs, Sony and I.B.M. The only time he could remember leaving the office during the workday was to buy a friend a birthday present.

Sure, the snacks and the employee affinity groups are nice. But the biggest perks are stock options dating from before Google’s initial public offering in August 2004.

The majority of New York Googlers joined the company after its initial public offering, and it was the success of that launch, along with the meteoric rise of the stock (still high, although the price on Friday was around $50 below its high point of $513 in November) that allowed a hiring boom, which lead to the move into new offices.

There doesn’t seem to be open initial public offering envy in the New York office among newer hires, although the question, “How long have you worked here?” carries more weight than at most companies. “I’m not jealous,” said one engineer, Ioannis Tsoukalidis, a recent M.I.T. graduate. “I’m still pretty happy I’m here.”

Google occupies about 300,000 square feet over three floors of its blocklong building. One reason it liked the site, according to the discussion among Google-watching bloggers, is because the building sits over a major Internet fiber-optic line running up Ninth Avenue.

People in Google’s Manhattan complex juggle work, parties and play.

For a Thank God It’s Almost Friday gathering on Dec. 14, Laura Garrett, a sales operations specialist, organized an art show. “Being a Googler and being part of Chelsea, I wanted to do something that was more downtownish than a typical Google event,” said Ms. Garrett, a blonde wearing Marc Jacobs heels. Williamsburg artists created the work on display, for prices from $225 to $8,000. About 150 Googlers showed up and five pieces sold.

It was the first time that employees could bring a guest to an event at their offices. The Empire State Building glowed red and green in the background as if color-coordinated to the Googleplex’s interiors rather than Christmas. By 6:30 p.m., Steve Saviano, 22, a software engineer, was hanging out with his fellow Googlers at a table littered with empty beer and wine bottles.

“This is academic life all over again,” Mr. Saviano said. “But I’m getting paid. This is a 100 percent better option than graduate school.”

Friday, December 29, 2006

Its online buzz was better than its bite

"Snakes on a Plane" revealed how slithery the phenomenon of Web excitement can be.
'Snakes on a Plane'
By Deborah Netburn
Times Staff Writer

December 31, 2006

"SNAKES ON A PLANE," which came out in theaters in August, was not just a movie starring Samuel L. Jackson and a plane full of snakes. It was a phenomenon — and then it was a punch line.

It was very nearly the most important movie of 2006, and then suddenly it wasn't. It was a film that proved that unprecedented Internet hype does not translate to ticket sales — at least not yet. But it was the beginning of something, certainly. And on the eve of its DVD release Tuesday, it is a saga worth revisiting.

The most important element of "Snakes on a Plane" and the reason it was propelled to such dizzying heights of awareness is, of course, the title. Simple. Specific. Descriptive. Hilarious.

Screenwriter-blogger Josh Friedman, credited with starting the frenzy around the film, put it best when he wrote, "It's a title. It's a concept. It's a poster and a logline and whatever else you need it to be."

Friedman wrote that post in August 2005, a year before the film's release and a month before principal photography would begin. He had just been called in by New Line Cinema to do a rewrite of the script (which he never did), and while careful not to release details of the script he did see, the post alerted the online world that "Snakes on a Plane" was in the works.

A few months later, 26-year-old law student Brian Finkelstein launched a website called to chronicle his quest to get invited to the Hollywood premiere. The blog quickly morphed into a clearinghouse of information on the film and the hub of "Snakes on a Plane" activity on the Web.

By early 2006 "Snakes on a Plane"-mania was firmly established. In January, seven months before the film's release, Wired magazine proclaimed it the best worst movie of the year based simply on the title. Fanboy sites such as and kept up a steady trickle of information on the film, and fans began to make their own T-shirts, posters, trailers, parodies and songs for a movie none of them had seen. Almost collectively the Web came up with a line of dialogue that seemed to crystallize their campy vision for the film: Samuel Jackson, gun in hand saying, "Enough is enough. I've had it with these #$@**% snakes on this #$@**% plane."

The "Snakes" craze reached its peak in March when the film's cast and crew reassembled in Vancouver, Canada, to spend five days reshooting. New Line promised fans the reshoot would add more gore, sex and violence to the film and bump the rating from PG-13 to R. They also shot Jackson saying the imagined, profanity-filled line. Message boards erupted in posts filled with more exclamation points than words and the fanboys almost died of joy.

Pop culture observers began to pontificate on the idea that "Snakes on a Plane" was the first feature film that fans had a direct hand in shaping. And while that was true, it was maybe less true than it was made out to be.

In June, "Snakes" producer Toby Emmerich told the Los Angeles Times that even though some of the new footage included scenes the fans had come up with, the decision to make the film gorier came from more traditional channels. After seeing an early screening of the film, New Line executives felt it was too tame to be successful and ordered the reshoot.

Obsession with "Snakes" continued to build throughout the summer as New Line sent out posters and trailers and finally, a 10-minute preview at Comic-Con in July. The buzz was everywhere — on magazine covers and morning talk shows and, of course, the Internet.

Then the film came out.

Some had forecast a $40-million opening weekend, but that was not to be; instead "Snakes" took in about $14 million. The following weekend it dropped 50%. Eventually "Snakes" took in $34 million at the domestic box office — a respectable total for a film that cost about $35 million, but certainly not the blockbuster New Line was hoping for. In the end, "Snakes on a Plane" was a film more fun to talk about than to actually see.

Finkelstein, reached on his cellphone recently, just before a law school final, said he doesn't think the box office numbers prove anything about the way Internet marketing works.

"There are only so many people you can convince to see that movie," he said. "It had a finite audience. But the amount of attention paid to it meant that everybody who was going to see it saw it. They made every ticket sale they could have made."

Good point especially since for most people (Finkelstein included), the movie was a letdown — not serious enough, not campy enough, not scary enough, not exciting enough.

"I felt bad for New Line," he said. "The general public created this perception that it was going to be this campy, funny thing, but that wasn't the movie they had made. The fans wrote one line of the movie, but it was too late to impact what they had in the can."

Snakes on a bummer.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Danny Bonaduce goes off on Sept. 11th conspiracy

Bonaduce fights war
on the home front


An interview about the Iraq war has led to death threats for TV and radio star Danny Bonaduce.

Danny Bonaduce got on the phone yesterday to discuss the latest round of his bizarre feud with 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

It started Dec. 7, when he granted a street interview to a video crew that happened on him by chance. The interviewer claimed Washington knew about 9/11 in advance, prompting Bonaduce to defend President Bush and the Iraq war.

Once the seemingly pro-war video hit YouTube, Bonaduce says, his family started receiving death threats. When abuse and images of maimed Iraqi children were sent through his 12-year-old daughter's MySpace page, the FBI became involved.

"If [the interviewer] had personally offended me or I got death threats and I didn't have children, I would have tracked him down and kicked his skull in, and that would have been the end of that," Bonaduce told us. "But I have children, and you can't behave like that anymore."

The interviewer is a self-described "9/11 Truther" who declined to give his real name. He runs a Christian extremist Web site that accuses Bush of Satanism, among other things.

He told us: "I think [Bonaduce's] delusional. And if you're going to quote me, it's a 'drug-damaged mind.' "

He denied any involvement in the death threats, but wanted to make sure we included his alias and Web site in the story.

Sorry, dude, you're a fruitcake.

New York Post

Slideshow image


December 28, 2006 -- THE holiday cease-fire between Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump ended with new bombs dropped yesterday.

O'Donnell, who'd been quiet since her nasty spat began with Trump last week, called him "the comb over" on her blog yesterday - and suggested he was acting like a "pimp" for Miss USA, Tara Conner.

"a young girl in nyc," O'Donnell wrote in a poetic, no-punctuation style she uses on her website.

"meets a pimp
he cons her into a life of illusion
she works for him
no fun - no f---g - no life
she is owned
when she sneaks out on her own
to party the night away
he freaks
he roughs her up a bit
shames her in front of the others
teaches her to behave
for his own benefit"

"The View" is in repeats this week and Rosie was not immediately available to comment.

The timing of the posting was curious, coming days after Trump's last blast at O'Donnell last Thursday night on "Larry King Live."

The celebrity feud - one of the most bitter in recent memory - was in danger of going away until now.

"Rosie got mentally beaten up by me," Trump told The Post yesterday, "because she's a mental midget, a low-life.

"I think she's got a death wish."

The feud began last week on "The View" when O'Donnell accused Trump of being a "snake-oil salesman" for the way he handled the hard-partying Miss USA affair.

After Trump responded with blasts of his own, calling her a "fat slob" and an "animal" on several TV shows, Rosie chose not to respond.

Instead, she simply made a face on "The View" the following day.

Barbara Walters, creator and co-owner of "The View," has pointedly not taken sides in the battle, saying both Trump and O'Donnell are friends.

The Post's Cindy Adams has even reported that Walters tried to patch up the fuss with some e-mails.

Evidently, her peace efforts did not work.

"It's too bad a degenerate is able to get away with things like that," Trump said yester- day. "I met Tara the night of the pageant and didn't see her again until she got into trou ble."

On her blog, Rosie wrote:

"so what happens
when u say the emperor
has no clothes
the comb over goes ballistic
via phone to Mr. King"
"i imagine it is interesting
as celeb feuds tend 2b
so here r my thoughts . . .
"beauty pageants where women were paraded around
judged valuable or not
by old white men.
it is always old white men."

Schwarzenegger 'feeling great' after surgery

Back to work
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs an order creating the Public Employee Post-Employment Benefits Commission in his hospital room in Santa Monica on Thursday. Schwarzenegger is recovering from leg surgery that followed a skiing accident in Idaho.

From Associated Press

6:34 PM PST, December 28, 2006

The Terminator is looking all too human these days.

The shattered leg that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suffered in a fall on an icy ski slope was the latest in a list of injuries and ailments to befall the actor-bodybuilder-politician.

The seven-time Mr. Olympia whose broad shoulders and tree-trunk legs earned him the moniker "the Austrian Oak" has a medical chart you might find at a senior citizens' home.

Schwarzenegger, who turns 60 in July, has had a hip and a heart valve replaced. He had rotator cuff surgery in 2003. A rapid heartbeat sent him to a hospital last year. One motorcycle crash in 2001 left him with several broken ribs, and another last January resulted in 15 stitches in his lip.

Now he is on crutches while the right thigh bone he broke while skiing with his family over the holidays in Sun Valley, Idaho, heals. Doctors used screws and wires to repair his leg Tuesday, and he is expected to be released from the hospital by week's end.

Despite Schwarzenegger's travails, his doctor says he is in great shape for a man his age, though few details about the governor's condition are ever released. Schwarzenegger's office says such information is private.

The governor "is in excellent physical condition and his health is very good. He has fantastic muscle tone, excellent bone health and is in great cardiovascular shape. The governor's health is in the top 5 percent of people his age," said Dr. Kevin Ehrhart, his orthopedic surgeon.

His office Thursday released two photographs of the governor in his hospital bed, surrounded by monitors. He was dressed in hospital garb with a sheet covering his legs, and he appeared to be signing or editing documents. An intravenous tube was protruding from his right hand, and a laptop computer was perched at his bedside.

"I woke up feeling great," he said in a statement. He said he was looking forward to his inauguration next month "even if it means I have to walk into my swearing-in ceremony on crutches."

Schwarzenegger has carefully cultivated an image of vitality and strength, and his best-known Hollywood roles were built around his rippling biceps and deltoids.

In a tailored suit and a pair of his finely tooled cowboy boots, Schwarzenegger still looks younger than his 59 years. His cordovan hair appears impervious to gray, and his skin is remarkably smooth and unblemished for a man his age.

But he is not in the championship form of his youth. Photos surface occasionally showing a mushy midriff and arms that only faintly resemble the 22-inch biceps of his prime.

Schwarzenegger has acknowledged using steroids in his bodybuilding days, before they became illegal without a prescription in 1991. But he has never provided details about his usage, and it is unknown whether the drugs -- which can cause heart problems -- have had anything to do with any of his health problems.

Charles Yesalis, professor emeritus of health and human development at Penn State University and an expert on performance-enhancing drugs, said for someone who is athletic and not overweight, Schwarzenegger "appears to have a lot of health problems."

But "a lot of very healthy people who exercise a lot and look robust have bad health problems. It's hard to tie it together in any meaningful way," Yesalis said.

In addition to the physical toll exacted by professional bodybuilding, Schwarzenegger suffered his share of bangs and bruises in movie stunts.

At a 2005 appearance in front of medical workers in Burbank, Schwarzenegger credited nurses with making his hospital stays more tolerable.

"I was in the hospital three times in a row these last 10 years -- for open heart surgery, with a hip replacement and with shoulder surgery," the governor said at the time.

"This is what happens when you are the Terminator," he added. "They switch body parts."
Bald Mountain mishap