Sunday, November 25, 2007

The New York Times



November 26, 2007

Laugh Lines in the Hollywood Strike

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 25 — When the 12,000 members of the Writers Guild of America decided on Nov. 4 to strike, Hollywood wondered how hard the white-collar group would fight. The guild addressed the worry before the first pickets hit the streets.

“In years past, our picketing schedule has gone, ‘Picket on Mondays for two hours and then meet at a bar until the following Monday,’” said David Young, the union’s director, early this month. “That’s not how we’re going to do it this time.”

Studio executives rolled their eyes, but they soon blanched as well-organized pickets fanned out across Los Angeles and New York, and only grew in intensity. It turns out, many union members say, that striking in Hollywood — at least short term — is not that bad. A lot of strikers say they are enjoying networking, taping YouTube videos, organizing theme days and dreaming up placard slogans.

“The studios think we are having a horrible time out here,” said Richard Potter, a screenwriter who made “Strike Dancing,” a YouTube video showing pickets bebopping in formation to “Play That Funky Music.”

“What’s actually happening is we’re having a great time.”

The video is one of dozens on YouTube — most of them humorous, or trying to be — that are helping the union win the public relations war. A nationwide poll released on Nov. 14 by Pepperdine University found that 63 percent of Americans sided with the writers.

No one contends that writers would prefer to be walking in circles and shouting into megaphones than working. On Monday, the union and the studios will resume contract negotiations for the first time in 22 days. Writers are crossing their fingers that the studios will agree to give them a bigger cut of the proceeds from Internet reruns and that the strike will soon be over.

Still, certain perks in picketing are undeniable. For a lot of writers, picketing at a studio’s front gate is the closest brush with the movie industry’s halls of power they have ever had. They can wave to Steven Spielberg as he drives onto the lot and rub elbows with notably successful people in their field, like Steven Bochco, Tina Fey and J. J. Abrams, the creator of “Alias” and “Lost.”

Even some prominent screenwriters have been star-struck. “I didn’t know J. J. at all, except as a geeky fan,” wrote John August, the writer of the “Charlie’s Angels” movies and “Big Fish,” on his blog. In another posting, Mr. August offered to chat with screenwriting students while marching.

“Get to know some film and TV writers and talk to them about their work,” he wrote. “I was delighted to finally meet Gary Whitta,” a screenwriter and comic-book author.

There have been other attractions for striking writers. A special theme day, Picket With the Stars, drew celebrities like Ben Stiller, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Ray Romano in Los Angeles. Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams turned up in New York.

To help cheer up striking members, and to keep reporters interested, the union helped organize impromptu concerts. The pop singer K. T. Tunstall performed an acoustic set outside an NBC parking lot in Burbank, Calif., while Alicia Keys headlined a rally last Tuesday that tied up sections of Hollywood Boulevard.

“Forget the strike, I’m just here to be entertained,” remarked Toni Perling, a television writer whose credits include “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” as Ms. Keys got started.

She had come to the right place. “When somebody is doing us wrong, they must go!” Ms. Keys shouted, before sitting down at a piano on the back of a truck. Several dozen writers jostled to take her picture with their camera phones.

Pickets have been well fed. The longshoremen’s union sent turkey baskets, and stars have played caterer roles. Justine Bateman brought tacos, Jay Leno chipped in doughnuts, and Jimmy Kimmel contributed burritos. Eva Longoria handed out slices of pizza.

Some union members say they are criticized no matter what they do on the picket line. At first, they drew comments about boring signs.

“People would say, ‘You people are writers — where is the creativity?’” recalled Joe Medeiros, head writer for “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” Early in the strike, most pickets carried signs reading simply, “On Strike.”

Writers took note. “They Wrong, We Write” became popular, as did slogans ridiculing J. Nicholas Counter III, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios. “Nick Counter Hates Babies and Puppies” was a favorite, and Katherine Heigl, a “Grey’s Anatomy” actress, weighed in with “Nick Counter is a Wiener.”

One person mounted a typewriter on the end of a metal crutch and waved that in the air.

The seeming contradiction between the serious strike and the circus sideshow was on display at the Hollywood Boulevard rally, which drew more than 4,000 people.

Writers pumped their fists in the air, cheered speeches by union officers and shouted slogans like, “On strike, shut ’em down. Hollywood’s a union town.”

Even the Teamsters were impressed.

“Wow,” said Leo Reed, the gruff secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 399 and director of its motion picture division. “You are acting like a militant union.”

At other times, the protest more closely resembled a Halloween parade. A man in a full Spider-Man costume picketed, as did someone dressed as the Incredible Hulk. Seven elderly actors who played munchkins in “The Wizard of Oz” rode by in a carriage, waving.

“How about a round of applause for the Lollipop Guild?” a union speaker said.

Roxana Brusso, an actress picketing in support of the writers, made an adjustment to her Ugg boot and shrugged. “Well, that’s Hollywood for you,” she said.

While some union-sanctioned theme days have included “Bring Your Kids” and “Performers With Disabilities,” C. Jay Cox noticed that there was no day for gay and lesbian writers. So Mr. Cox, who wrote the screenplay for the movie “Sweet Home Alabama,” organized one.

“We’ll get a chance to catch up with some old friends,” his invitation said, “oh-so-casually check out some potential new ones and make snide comments about one another’s attire.”

Silvio Horta, writer-producer of “Ugly Betty,” declared the gay-theme day “like a party at my house.” About 200 people attended, eating Pinkberry yogurt and grooving to an iPod playlist as they marched. Nia Vardalos, the writer and star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” handed out fruit bars.

Not everyone in the Writers Guild of America appreciated the effort. “Every other day I get some new mass e-mail from the WGA about what ‘fun’ themed strike event is coming up,” a writer on an industry blog said. “Is this a strike or a social event?”


latimes.com

You're invited for the holidays

Tempted to take a workout break? Gyms and trainers saw that coming -- and want to save you from yourself.

Fit list
Trainer Nina Moore, left, at the Sports Club/LA with Mia Sable, gives holiday marching orders to her clients. Sable says she likes “knowing there will be accountability” in the new year.

By Jeannine Stein
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

November 26, 2007

WITH gifts to buy, halls to deck, parties to plan and copious amounts of rich, fatty food to be consumed, even devoted fitness buffs might lop a few workouts off the holiday schedule. Less devoted enthusiasts might just say to heck with gym visits altogether.

But health clubs, personal trainers and fitness instructors would like you to know they're here for you during this hectic time -- and they'd really, really like you to come in. They're so concerned about the slide toward flabdom that, even before Thanksgiving leftovers are history, they're offering special classes, parties and workout sessions to bolster your flagging motivation and make sure you don't opt for sloth over svelte.

If the major get-in-shape push from clubs comes at the first of the year and the beginning of summer, this is more of a stay-in-shape push. Gyms are livening things up for the holidays, hoping to be more tempting than cheesecake -- or at least offering a way to do penance for eating it. Trainers are leaving nothing to chance, mapping out strategies for their clients to maneuver past holiday pitfalls. Instructors are offering abbreviated classes, operating under the premise that a little activity is better than none.

"I think it's better to keep an even keel going versus that panic that comes Jan. 1, when people feel they have to make their New Year's resolutions," says Toni Brown, group fitness director for Spectrum Athletic Clubs.

Although the fabled average holiday weight gain of 7 to 10 pounds has been blasted (it's really only a pound or so), fitness experts say there's danger in slipping out of the exercise habit.

"It's easy to get sidetracked because you're always going to be busy and have challenges," says Marcus Pierce, a master trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Hollywood. "No one likes to keep starting over. Today you'll wake up thinking that you'll start again on Jan. 1, and that'll drag on until February."

Holiday workout treats

The Spectrum in Rolling Hills is offering a one-time Doggie and Me hike in December, "so that the pooches don't get too puffy" along with their owners, Brown says. "People just have to break away from the craziness and shopping and get in here." Spectrum's Howard Hughes club in Los Angeles booked a DJ for an Afro Brazilian Beat class in December. He'll venture into the club afterward to pump up members as they head into the home stretch toward New Year's.

Bally Total Fitness gyms will offer extra classes this Thursday, encouraging holiday revelers to burn off those Thanksgiving calories. The chain's clubs will also offer free small-group personal training sessions that day for members. "We're trying to help members stay focused during this tough time," says Tia Willows, senior vice president of member services and customer care.

Because many people are scheduled within an inch of their lives this time of year, several gyms have half-hour classes on their calendars through the holidays. Equinox in Century City created two classes: Cardio Quickie, with high-intensity drills; and Rock It Out, which concentrates on core and upper-body work. Spectrum's holiday short classes target upper and lower body: "If they do this, then they feel like they've done something," Brown says. "And usually they'll stay a little longer once they get in the door."

But not everything is designed for a massive calorie burn. YogaWorks studios schedule more restorative classes this time of year to counteract the stress of the holidays. "I think people know it's a refuge," says Julie Kleinman, director of programming. "The thing that most people need to attend to in December is that they're super stressed out."

Those needing a mood-lifter can attend the Yoga to Lift Your Spirit class at the Larchmont studio in December. The classes designed to help people de-stress and have fun have featured stand-up comedy, art, poetry and chocolate.

"It's a lighter approach," says Kleinman. "For a lot of people, the holidays are a time for depression, and this is community-oriented and is something to make you feel good."

They know where you live

But keeping people focused can't be left just to corporate headquarters. Trainers know that the holidays can be treacherous for clients with maxed-out schedules and ample opportunity to wine and dine. Canceling sessions is the first and most obvious sign of exercise negligence, followed by halfhearted workouts. Some plan outdoor runs or hikes just as a change of pace; others substitute basketball games for the regular cardio routine.

People need to stick to their workouts, even if they scale back, trainers say, because a one-week slip can easily segue into a three-month hiatus.

"This should be a separate conversation aside from the regular session," says Gregory Florez, chief executive of health and fitness coaching and training companies First Fitness Inc. and FitAdvisor, both based in Salt Lake City. "You should set some realistic parameters and expectations . . . . Here are the potential land mines and how to deal with them."

That's helped Mia Sable, who's been working out with trainer Nina Moore three times a week for about a year at the Sports Club/LA. "The holidays are particularly tricky," says the Los Angeles singer-songwriter, who will be spending part of the holidays with her family in Charlotte, N.C. "You don't want to pass up Grandma's special whatever, and any time you're not at home, there are definitely challenges. It's great to have a trainer who can set up a routine for you and show you what to do while you're away."

Moore gives Sable marching orders the minute a holiday schedule is set. Staying in unfamiliar locations away from a gym requires detailed instructions on alternate workouts using body weight, resistance bands and, if possible, the outdoors.

Moore also takes a client's measurements just before the holiday onslaught, and then afterward, making it impossible for even the most convincing fibber not to get caught. That helps keep Sable on the straight and narrow: "It's knowing there will be accountability," she says, "that it's going to be noticed if I haven't kept it off. And then I'm just going to have to work harder later, and that's going to put me back months into the new year. Why do the same thing over and over every year?"

Tough love keeps Mike Ryan's clients motivated. The trainer with Gold's Gym Fitness Institute says, "When I hear 'I can't make it because . . . ,' I know there has to be a total intervention. I know where you live. Don't make me come to your house."

He counters excuses with solutions: No gym? Take a walk. "Even if you're back East and it's chilly, bundle up," he says. "The body has to heat up, so you're going to be burning more calories. People will look for any excuse. But we are not grizzly bears. We do not hibernate."

Cellphones and the Internet have made it simple for trainers to check in with out-of-town clients. "I keep in touch with all lines of communication," Moore says, "texting and e-mailing. I'm usually just asking them how it's going, answering any questions."

But there's a fine line between motivation and nagging, which can backfire. It's all about balance this time of year, Florez says. Trainers need to recognize that indulgences will happen, he says, but they shouldn't be met with flogging.

"Throw the scale out," he says. "It will only serve to create anxiety. This should not be about stress; it should be about fitting things in when you can and toeing the line as much as possible, knowing that four weeks from now you'll get yourself back on track and be fine."
The New York Times



November 25, 2007
Novelties

A Web Tour Will Show Stores From the Inside Out

THREE-DIMENSIONAL mapping programs like Google Earth let people fly over the rooftops of virtual cities, and other online services lead them down individual streets.

Now, one company is planning 3-D-like tours of Cambridge, Mass., and other cities that not only venture down streets, but also inside some local businesses. Tourists to this virtual Cambridge will be able to click their way along a Brattle Street rendered in realistic detail, and move through the computer-generated interiors of dozens of nearby shops and institutions.

EveryScape (www.everyscape.com) in Waltham, Mass., will start virtual tours of streets and businesses in Cambridge and Lexington, Mass., in December, said Mok Oh, founder and chief technology officer.

EveryScape is charging companies about $250 to $2,000, depending on the size of the space, to create an indoor tour of the business and to display it for a year, Mr. Oh said.

Companies that need to update merchandise regularly, like shops showing seasonal collections, can arrange package deals to include the updates for an extra charge.

Many businesses in Cambridge and Lexington have signed up, including the Harvard Coop in Cambridge, the university’s main store for books and merchandise bearing the Harvard seal.

Visitors to the Cambridge Web site will be able to mosey down a virtual version of Harvard Square’s red brick walkways and, at the click of a mouse, inspect three floors of merchandise at the Coop, or, if they have a sweet tooth, repair to a nearby ice cream parlor and check out the flavors.

EveryScape’s service may be attractive to companies that want to expand their online presence beyond a standard Web listing, said Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association.

Many of the neighborhood group’s 350 members have already signed up to have tours created for their businesses. Some of the businesses and institutions are relatively big, like the Harvard Museum of Natural History and the Charles Hotel, but others, like bookstores, restaurants, art galleries, a hair salon and a massage therapist, are much smaller, said Jeff Brandes,vice president for business development at EveryScape.

Online visitors will be able to take the tour when they go to the Harvard Square Business Association site, www.harvardsquare.com. A preliminary version of the tour, already posted, lets visitors navigate local streets, but not the interiors of businesses.

The Harvard Square site is popular, Ms. Jillson said. It gets about 2 million hits a month, about 37,000 of them first-time visitors, up from about 1.3 million and 30,000 new visitors a year ago.

Allan Powell, corporate general manager of the Harvard Coop, said that tourists “are going more and more on the Web to view a destination before they get there.” Adding a virtual tour of the Coop might attract new business by introducing people to the store’s range of goods. “We want to tell a better story through the Web,” he said.

Mike Liebhold, a senior researcher at the Institute for the Future, a research organization in Palo Alto, Calif., says EveryScape is entering a complex marketplace of mapping services that already has many established players, like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo.

“Everybody has got these street views from the outside,” he said of existing technology. “But the idea of interior views is terrific, because Google, Microsoft and Yahoo don’t have that yet.”

One of Mr. Liebhold’s research interests is what he calls “blended realities, or the combination of real and virtual worlds.” EveryScape’s mapping service is an interesting example of it, he said. Rather than being an imaginary place like, the online virtual community Second Life, he said, “EveryScape is taking a real place, Harvard Square, and creating a virtual world that is modeled closely on it.”

To capture images of streetscapes for this virtual world, EveryScape has been dispatching cars with four standard digital single-lens reflex cameras mounted to the roof — pointing east, west, north and south — through the streets of Cambridge, Lexington, and other cities where they are mapping public spaces, Mr. Oh said. Every 50 feet or so, the driver presses a button to take a panoramic photograph that is the basis for a rendering that simulates three dimensions.

So far, a limited number of street tours in Boston, New York, Miami Beach and Aspen, Colo., can be seen on a beta version of EveryScape’s Web site.

For the interior scenes, one method of imaging uses a camera with a fisheye lens that captures the 360-degree area by making two shots in opposite directions. Then software stitches the images together and models the space, calculating what people standing at the exact spot of the photographs would see if, for instance, they looked up at the ceiling or down at the floor. These images change smoothly from one to another as the viewer moves around the room with the computer mouse.

Jerry Michelson, a member of the retailers’ association in Lexington, said the modest price of the service was right for him. A store, for instance, may need only one to three panoramic views, costing $250 to $500, to display its entire public area. He has signed up to show his business, Michelson’s Shoes, at www.viewlexington.com when the Web site goes into operation in December.

”Our business has had a Web site for many years,” he said. “This is the next step.”


Saturday, November 24, 2007

HAWTHORNE HEIGHTS guitarist dies

http://us.ent2.yimg.com/musicfinder.yahoo.com/images/yahoo/victory/hawthorneheights/0205_hawthorne_heights_a.jpg

Sat, Nov 24th, 2007

Today is probably the worst day ever. Its with our deepest regrets that we have to write this.

Casey Calvert passed away in his sleep last night.

We found out this afternoon before sound-check.

We've spent the entire day trying to come to grips with this and figure out as much as possible.

At this time we're not sure what exactly happened.

Just last night he was joking around with everyone before he went to bed.

We can say with absolute certainty that he was not doing anything illegal.

Please, out of respect to Casey and his family, don't contribute or succumb to any gossip you may hear. We don't want his memory to be tainted in the least.

Casey was our best friend.

He was quirky and awesome and there will truly be no others like him!

His loss is unexplainable.

As soon as we know more we will let you know.


Sincerely,

Hawthorne Heights

Eron, JT, Micah and Matt

http://blackplanet.fr/site/bdgroupes/emo/images/01_h.jpg

FOXNews.com

Britney Spears' 'Blackout' Drops Out

Friday , November 23, 2007

By Roger Friedman


Britney’s Blackout Drops Out

A month to the day after its release, Britney Spears’s "Blackout" album is over and out.

Even with the enthusiasm of the holiday sales, fans have pretty much turned their back on the CD after buying 430,000 copies.

On Friday morning, "Blackout" stands at No. 59 on Amazon.com. It’s also No. 13 on iTunes, which means that its downloading days are dwindling as well.

A new single, “Piece of Me,” is getting some airplay including on the nation’s top pop station, New York’s Z-100. But that doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.

“Piece of Me” is registering as only the 37th most downloaded single on iTunes, the place where anyone who wanted it would get it at this point if they didn’t want the whole album.

Brothel plans on hold, the 'Hollywood Madam' does laundry
Heidi Fleiss, once known as the Hollywood Madam, in her office at a laundry business in Pahrump, Nevada, that she runs.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

PAHRUMP, Nevada: Sex is the commodity that Heidi Fleiss says she knows best, but for now she is settling for fabric softener.

Since her release from prison after serving a three-year sentence on tax-evasion, money-laundering and pandering charges, Fleiss, once known as the Hollywood Madam, has made a go as retailer, author and promoter for a publicly traded sex business in Australia.

Now Fleiss, whose prostitution ring in Los Angeles served wealthy denizens of Hollywood and high finance, said she planned to open a brothel here in Nye County, one of several counties in Nevada that permit prostitution. Her brothel, she said, would offer a twist: she would have only male prostitutes, serving a female customer base.

Fleiss also plans to take over a massage parlor attached to a strip club.

But these professional goals have been stymied by legal issues surrounding another brothel owner, and the matter of a license application that she has yet to complete.

For now, Fleiss is overseeing a small coin-operated laundry here, some 60 miles, or 100 kilometers, west of Las Vegas and near her home in Crystal, where she hopes to build her brothel.

"I tried to pick a business that fit with the demographics of the community," Fleiss said about her casino-themed business, Dirty Laundry, which features panels from slot machines in its decoration and a rather pleasant, dim restroom.

The drive from Las Vegas to Pahrump is on a mostly two-lane road, through largely barren landscape peppered with signs that warn motorists about errant burros. At the town's border, there are housing developments, a strip club and a few casinos. Not so far down the main drag is a strip mall with a jewelry store, a payday loan business and Dirty Laundry, where fluff and fold costs 65 cents a pound and horse blankets are strictly forbidden.

From her market research at the nearby Nugget casino, Fleiss gleaned that she should offer competitive pricing and invest in washing machines that offer such efficient extraction of water that drying times are lessened. "People told me that water softener is imperative," she said.

Fleiss also tried to make Dirty Laundry, which opened last summer, a more pleasant place to wash clothes than the average laundry, eschewing plastic tables chained to hard-backed chairs for wooden tables, ceiling tiles that resemble those found in fancy hotel lobbies and the casino-themed walls. "If you're doing laundry," she said, "you can have a little fantasy. 'Hey, I'm going to win a $20 million jackpot.' "

But as profitable as Fleiss says her clothes-washing business has become, she still longs to open her provisionally named Stud Farm - if she can get a license.

"I really do know the sex business better than anyone," she said in an interview near a washing machine. "I'm not saying that to be arrogant."

Fleiss bought the land in Crystal. She visited brothels from Pahrump to Reno to study best prostitution practices. She picked an architect.

But Fleiss introduced a would-be business partner, Joe Richards, owner of brothels in Crystal and the strip club in Pahrump, to a former county commissioner who happened to be a cooperating witness in an FBI corruption inquiry.

Richards was indicted last year on charges of wire fraud and deprivation of honest service in connection with his effort to build a new brothel. He has pleaded not guilty and filed a motion for dismissal; a trial is scheduled in Las Vegas next May.

Although Fleiss is not a defendant in the case, she says she gave testimony to a grand jury (which the U.S. attorney's office in Las Vegas would not comment on) and therefore feels compelled to hold off for now on her plans to open the brothel.

Her antipathy for Richards notwithstanding - "He fined a girl $1,000 for eating a tomato. I don't do business like that," she said - Fleiss took a reporter on a tour of a never-opened massage parlor space in his strip club, which she said he had given her permission to manage. "My business philosophy is to have a superior product," she said.

Richards did not return several calls seeking comment.

Whether or not Fleiss could actually get a brothel license from Nye County is a question worthy of introspection and debate. According to the county Web site, the board that oversees liquor, casino and brothel licenses may refuse to grant a license if the applicant has been convicted of a felony or a crime involving "moral turpitude."

Sheriff Tony De Meo of Nye County, a voting member of the board, said failed brothel owners usually were done in because they lacked the assets needed to support the enterprise.

Though Fleiss's Web site, Heidistud farm.com, is up and running and taking applications, she is stuck for now with the spin cycle.


latimes.com

The iPod lecture circuit

Technology is bringing the ivory tower to big rigs and fishing boats, offering the chance to study existentialism or theoretical physics.

Learning on the move
Arthur Marquis, a retired federal attorney loves to walk. He listens to philosophy classes from UC Berkeley on his iPod as he walks at least 10 miles every other day.

By Michelle Quinn
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

November 24, 2007

BERKELEY — Baxter Wood is one of Hubert Dreyfus' most devoted students. During lectures on existentialism, Wood hangs on every word, savoring the moments when the 78-year-old philosophy professor pauses to consider a student's comment or relay how a meaning-of-life question had him up at 2 a.m.

But Wood is not sitting in a lecture hall on the UC Berkeley campus, nor has he met Dreyfus. He is in the cab of his 18-wheel big rig, hauling dog food from Ohio to the West Coast or flat-screen TVs from Los Angeles to points east.The 61-year-old trucker from El Paso eavesdrops on the lectures by downloading them for free from Apple Inc.'s iTunes store, transferring them to his Hewlett-Packard digital media player, then piping them through his cabin's speakers. He hits pause as he approaches cities so he can focus more on traffic than on what Nietzsche meant when he said God was dead, then shifts his attention back to the classroom.

"I'm really in two places at once," he said. "The sound of chalk on the chalkboard makes it so real."

By making hundreds of lectures from elite academic institutions available online for free, Apple is reinvigorating the minds of people who have been estranged from the world of ideas.

For several years universities have posted recorded lectures on their internal websites, giving students a chance to brush up on their classes or catch ones they missed.

But 28 colleges and universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford and Yale, now post select courses without charge at iTunes.

The universities want to promote themselves to parents and prospective students, as well as strengthen ties with alumni. Some also see their mission as sharing the ivory tower's intellectual riches with the rest of the world.

"It was something we couldn't easily do before the digital age," UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said.

These unofficial students, invisible to their instructors, won't earn degrees for listening. Some professors won't even respond to their correspondence. But they relish the explosion of free lectures.

Retirees in Long Beach and Weaverville, Calif., halibut fishermen in Alaska, data entry clerks in London, casting agents in New York -- all separated from the classroom by age, distance or circumstance -- are learning from some of the world's top scholars.

"Something revolutionary is happening," said UC Berkeley professor Richard Muller, whose Physics for Future Presidents class airs on iTunes. "A large number of people around the world want more education. They thirst for understanding and knowledge." One e-mail Muller received came with the subject line "Thank you from a grateful sailor in Iraq."

Apple began working with Duke University in late 2004 to broadcast classes from its website using iTunes software and has expanded the service to other schools. Separately, some universities started putting lectures on the iTunes store in the form of podcasts, which are free video or audio recordings that anyone can download to their computer or iPod.

The downloads have surged since May, when Apple began featuring lessons on the iTunes home page under the heading iTunes U. For example, the 86 courses UC Berkeley offers are now being downloaded 50,000 times a week, up from 15,000 before Apple's promotion.

Analysts say Apple foots the bill for storing and cataloging the recordings to create goodwill with universities, which are big buyers of its Macintosh computers. It has another motive: Podcasts drive demand for iPods.

For their part, universities are experimenting to see what works. Mogulof said UC Berkeley had no plans to charge for the podcasts but acknowledged that the benefits were unclear.

"We know there's oil under the ground," he said. "People are punching a lot of holes, and no one is sure what will come up as a big gusher."

The courses on iTunes U may not be the stuff of Casey Kasem's "American Top 40." But they are ranked nonetheless, and some become surprise download hits. One recent week, popular iTunes U podcasts included Modern Theoretical Physics from Stanford, Elementary Greek from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and Intro to Biology from MIT.

It's a stretch to say that professors compete for iTunes popularity, but many are eager to know how many people tune in and see whether the university can benefit.

Dreyfus has cracked the top 20. He's the iTunes U equivalent of an indie rocker with a cult following.

Fans of his podcasts have trekked to his office in Moses Hall to meet him. Many have sent the university money, generally between $5 and $500, to show their appreciation for him and other podcasting professors, said Benjamin Hubbard, a co-manager of webcast .berkeley, which produces Berkeley's online courses and events.

One week last spring, before Apple started promoting the lectures on its home page, one of Dreyfus' philosophy and literature lectures -- he calls it "From Gods to God and Back" -- ranked 58th among podcasts on iTunes. It trailed programs from the BBC and Comedy Central but was downloaded more often than NPR's "This I Believe" and NBC's "Meet the Press."

To improve the sound quality of his lectures, Dreyfus agreed to teach in a room outfitted with a microphone and special recording device. But he is ambivalent about the benefits of broadcasting his philosophy class to the world. He said 25% of his enrolled students cut class.

One of the occasionally absent is Alexander Diaz, 18, a second-year philosophy major from Downey. He says he skips roughly every third class and listens, with his feet up, to the missed lectures through his iPod headphones on his back porch while he takes notes in the margins of Heidegger's "Being and Time."

"I'm pretty honored to take the class, but at the same time, when he does his lectures, it's not like I'm there with Dreyfus the man," Diaz said, referring to the impersonal feeling of sitting in a large lecture hall.

Dreyfus, who has taught at Berkeley since 1968, has long questioned the effectiveness of distance learning. In his 2001 book of essays, "On the Internet," he called the practice a "disembodied telepresence" and worried that remote students would take fewer risks than those sitting face-to-face with their instructors.

But Dreyfus says the chance to disseminate ideas softens his reservations. And the e-mails he receives from the listening audience -- "you podcast people," he calls them during class -- are touching.

Zachary Streitz soaks up the philosophy lectures as he baits hooks on a 58-foot fishing boat in the Gulf of Alaska, where he trawls for halibut and black cod. On shore, the 30-year-old fisherman loads up on course books.

"There are enough hours spent here that my hands are involved in the repetition that is my work, and my mind has more or less free rein to wander," he wrote to Dreyfus in June 2006. "If ever you are in need of any halibut, let me know."

Joe and Diane Mercier, who live outside Weaverville in Northern California's Trinity County, get their Dreyfus fix over morning coffee. They also listen to Muller's physics class from UC Berkeley and a Stanford course on geography and world cultures.

Joe, a 60-year-old evidence officer for the county Sheriff's Department, is annoyed by some of the routine instructions that begin and end classes as well as the sound of a student's phone ringing or a professor scolding someone for leaving early.

But he and his wife revel in the moment when Dreyfus dispenses with administrative work with his usual, "OK, here we go" and plunges into a philosophical discussion.

"We listen to relieve ourselves of mainstream television," Joe said.

He occasionally writes the papers that Dreyfus assigns but hasn't submitted any, unsure whether they would be read.

Arthur Marquis, 59, a former Justice Department attorney in Long Beach, told guests at his retirement party last year that he wanted to use his newly free time to see the world differently. They laughed.

Marquis, who graduated from UC Berkeley's law school decades ago, started taking French lessons at a local school. He found Dreyfus on iTunes and then bought an iPod so he could listen on his treadmill or outdoors.

"It's like electronic schizophrenia," he said. "I can hear voices in my head, and it's Dreyfus."

While other truck drivers talk to one another on their CB radios, Wood prefers to pass time on his weeks-long routes by sampling from an academic smorgasbord. He has listened to classes on astronomy from Ohio State University, geography from UC Berkeley and behavioral endocrinology from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, which makes podcasts available through its website but not iTunes U.

"I'm a curious person," said Wood, who comes from a family of Pentecostal ministers and missionaries.

He attended the University of Alaska in the 1960s and remembered only one thing from his philosophy class: the name Kant (which belonged to the 18th century German thinker Immanuel Kant). He worked as a wood and stone turner until the dust started bothering him. In 2002, he became a truck driver.

Professor Hubert DreyfusProfessor Hubert Dreyfus

This spring, he found the lectures on iTunes. "I felt like I discovered the Fountain of Youth," he said.

Wood doesn't listen to classes during his one week off the road each month, only when he's behind the wheel.

"For me, driving and listening are bound together like space and time," he said.

Sometimes, the classes that involve math or obscure concepts such as string theory lose him. But not Dreyfus' class, which he finds electrifying.

He remembers being somewhere in western Kansas in April when he heard Dreyfus' concluding lecture on existentialism, during which the professor asked students to vote, by raising their hands, for their favorite philosophies.

Dreyfus offered a thumbnail description of each: traditional Christianity, with God the creator and heaven; Kierkegaard's unconditional commitment to another person or cause; Dostoevski's unconditional commitment to all human beings; Nietzsche's belief in different identities, a life more like a series of short stories than a novel.

Wood, who long ago broke away from his family's religion, voted for Nietzsche silently.

"OK, that's it," Dreyfus said. "I have to stop and hand out the evaluations."

The class erupted in a sustained ovation, whooping and whistling.

The course had been recorded a year earlier. But Wood, separated by space and time, clapped and whooped too.

"Big trucks have enormous inertia. They practically drive themselves," he said. The machine, indifferent to his emotions, powered on, his body molded to the wheel, his mind having a great ride.
washingtonpost.com
Scratched Discs Can Wreck a Rock Band

VIDEO | Xbox System Failure - Rock Band

By Mike Musgrove
Sunday, November 25, 2007; F01

The band broke up a lot earlier than I expected last weekend.

We were an all-girl band from Stockholm, called Buddha Cracka. I was the lead singer, a redhead named Debbi. A handful of my friends and I were rising stars on the Swedish rock scene for about two hours, before the disaster happened.

It wasn't the squabbles over the set list or over our look that did us in -- I blame Microsoft. Specifically, I think it was the Xbox 360, which appears to have cut a circular scratch into a video-game disc and left it unplayable after only about a day's worth of use.

Alas, the disc, for a game called Rock Band that was released last week, could be a victim of an alleged problem that has launched a few class-action lawsuits against Microsoft this year. Microsoft says it has not heard of other instances of scratched Rock Band discs.

Rock Band is the new offering from the creators of the first two smash-hit Guitar Hero games that takes the concept to its logical next step. Where those two games were made to appeal to the guitar-star wannabe, this one fills out the band by throwing in a game-controller drum kit and a USB microphone, in addition to the latest version of the guitar controller.

All told, the package, which is also available for the PlayStation 3, costs $170. Even at that price, the game's publisher, Electronic Arts, has said that it will have trouble producing enough to keep the game in stock this holiday season.

Music and rhythm-based games are a huge business for the video game industry this year, thanks to the success of Guitar Hero. Activision acquired the rights and issued the latest version of the game in October; it did $115 million in sales during its first week. Different versions of the game took four of the top 10 slots for the month, according to research firm NPD. Rock Band, by original Guitar Hero developer Harmonix, is another attempt to cash in on the trend.

Microsoft has had a number of tech-related headaches with the Xbox 360 game console, but the scratch issue was a new one to me.

A few lawsuits were filed separately this summer, alleging that the Xbox 360 console sometimes damages game discs. More recently, the plaintiffs -- from Florida, California, Georgia and Washington -- teamed up and filed a consolidated class-action suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle.

Jeffrey M. Ostrow, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., lawyer among those who filed the complaint, says his team has gotten thousands of reports from users about scratched discs. He came to the issue after one of his clients complained about the problem in passing. Later, Ostrow said, he noticed that some of the sports games in his personal video game collection had similar scratches.

Microsoft's lawyers filed a response to the consolidated complaint on Monday, denying that the system scratches discs during normal use.

"When the game console and the game discs are handled properly, the game disc should not scratch," said Molly O'Donnell, a spokeswoman for Microsoft. O'Donnell said the company has not received many complaints about scratched discs.

This isn't the only scratched-disc story I've heard concerning Xbox 360 games. Most recently, there was a problem with discs that were scratched when they came loose during shipping in a special metal box for a premium version of the game Halo 3. Microsoft offered to replace the damaged discs for free in that case.

This past summer, Microsoft announced that it was expanding the warranty on the Xbox 360 for an unrelated tech failure, a move that the company said would cost at least $1 billion.

At the time, Microsoft's corporate vice president of interactive entertainment, Peter Moore, posted an apology for the Xbox 360's technical problems on Microsoft's Web site.

"Good service and a good customer experience are areas of the business that we care deeply about," he wrote. "And frankly, we've not been doing a good enough job."

Two weeks later, Moore left Microsoft to take a job at Electronic Arts, Rock Band's publisher. He said that his move was not related the Xbox 360's tech issues.

For the record, the Xbox 360 I used, an "Elite," had never chomped on any other discs before last weekend -- but I know four folks who can attest that it left Rock Band unplayable on two relatively new Xboxes, and sorta buzz-killed the party.

According to tech blog Ars Technica, online-game rental service GameFly warned over a year ago that its customers should not move the Xbox 360 game console "in any way" with a disc inside -- or risk causing permanent damage.

I don't recall moving the system when the power was plugged on, though I also didn't know that doing so could destroy a game. In any case, my friends and I played for a couple of hours straight, without touching the system, before the game froze and we found the otherwise pristine disc had a circular scratch.

Did we rock too hard? Four people bouncing around and fake-rocking out in a living room cause a lot more vibration on the floor, where my game console is parked, than the usual couch-potato fare. Sounds like a stretch to me, though -- and if you can't bounce around while playing a game called Rock Band, what's the point?

In any case, the game is a blast and offers up an experience that could leave Guitar Hero in the dust. My friends and I barely scratched the surface, you could say. And my wife, who cares nothing for video games, now wants to set it up in a spare room of her office one afternoon for chuckles.

You're really making a significant lifestyle statement if you buy this game, as all the gear and wires involved tend to take over the room. Also, you need a big screen if you're going to play with your friends; that old 26-incher is not going to cut it if you want to crowd the band together in your living room. Fortunately, I had a gigantic screen and a high-definition projector on loan from Epson for the test run.

Hopefully, Buddha Cracka will have a reunion one of these days -- but I don't know how that'll work, as of this writing. I'm inclined to keep the replacement disc away from the bite-y Xbox. And next time, we're going to have to rock out a little more carefully.


Christina Applegate Gets Naked For Charity

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Christina Applegate has posed nude for animal rights group Peta in a bid to stop shoppers from buying fur this Christmas. Christina decided to make a stand and pose for the raunchy campaign because of the respect she has for animals.

She told People magazine: “My house has been basically a zoo since I was a kid. Everything I wear has dog hair all over it, and that’s just the way it is!”

The 35-year-old actress also said she decided to become a vegetarian while on the set of her US TV sitcom, Married With Children, when she was a teenager.

“I realised I can’t eat something that has been alive. So I stopped, and that was it. That was the last time.”

Christina joins the ranks of Alicia Silverstone, Alyssa Milano, Maggie Q and Dominique Swain by stripping off for charity.

Hulk Hogan's wife files for divorce

She filed on Tuesday. Reached Friday, the wrestler didn't know.

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By JACOB H. FRIES and RICHARD DANIELSON, Times Staff Writers
November 24, 2007


CLEARWATER - As if the family's affairs weren't complicated enough, it now appears that Terry and Linda Bollea, also known as Mr. and Mrs. Hulk Hogan, are heading to divorce court.

Pinellas County court records show that Linda Marie Bollea, 48, filed a petition for dissolution of marriage from Terry Gene Bollea, 54, on Tuesday. She is represented by Largo attorney Elliot Jay Goldstein.

In an e-mail, Goldstein said: "As this is a very personal matter for the Bolleas and their children, Mrs. Bollea has understandably requested that no further comment be given."

The possibility that the Bolleas would divorce after 23 years of marriage was the subject of an episode of Hogan Knows Best, a VH1 reality show that follows the exploits of the famous wrestler and his family. On the episode, Wedlock Headlocks, Linda Bollea says she's fed up.

"I can't live like this, Terry," she told her husband.

"Every day it's drama," he responded. "It's just ridiculous."

But later, after counseling, tears and a love poem by Terry Bollea, the couple reconciled.

More recently, the couple has been preparing to help their son, Nick Bollea, 17, defend himself against a felony charge that he was driving recklessly in August when his Toyota Supra went out of control and slammed into a tree. His passenger, John Graziano, suffered a brain injury.

Reached by phone on Friday night, Terry Bollea said he had no idea his wife had filed for divorce. When informed during the call that the paperwork was submitted on Tuesday, Bollea said politely, "Thank you for the great information," and hung up.

He called back about five minutes later.

"I'm kind of shocked," he said. "You caught me off-guard. My wife has been in California for about three weeks. ... Holy smokes. Wow, you just knocked the bottom out of me. ... I just pulled over to the side of the road for five minutes to find out what was going on here."

Asked whether he and his wife had discussed divorce, he said, "That's my private business."

Phone calls to Linda Bollea's cell phone went unanswered on Friday night.

The couple first met in Los Angeles at a restaurant in 1983 and carried on a long-distance relationship for two years, according to the show's Web site. They married in 1984 and Linda Bollea, a California native, moved to Tampa.

They had a daughter, Brooke, in 1988, and then Nick two years later, the Web site says.

"Linda also encourages her son Nick's love of cars," the Web site says. "When Nick was thirteen, Linda bought him a car to keep in the garage just to work on, now Nick is quite the car expert."

On Nov. 7, Nick Bollea was arrested in connection with the Aug. 26 crash. Police say he was racing his Toyota Supra moments before the crash.

He was charged with reckless driving involving serious injuries. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, although experts have said Bollea more likely would face probation.In the meantime, the state suspended his driver's license.

Graziano, a Marine who served in Iraq, remains comatose at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. If he were to die, prosecutors said they could upgrade the charges against Bollea.

Graziano's parents believe a lawsuit against the Bollea family will be necessary to pay for their son's long-term care, their attorneys have said. One of the doctors who examined Graziano said he would likely spend the rest of his life in a nursing home.

The New York Times



November 25, 2007

Tightening the Beltway, the Elite Shop Costco

WASHINGTON

RICHARD PERLE said he was game for a reconnaissance mission.

Mr. Perle, the neoconservative and former adviser to Donald Rumsfeld, offered to walk through his local Costco, pointing out the products that he said were increasingly drawing D.C. power shoppers like himself.

That Richard Perle? The gourmand with a home in Provence who once dreamed of opening a chain of soufflé restaurants?

Yes, Mr. Perle proudly shops in Costco’s cement warehouses stocked with three-pound jars of peeled garlic and jumbo packs of toilet paper. And he has no problem serving the store’s offerings to dinner guests.

“Because it should have been Dean & DeLuca?” he asked, sounding half incredulous and half amused. “I really think there’s a socio-cultural thing here, and people are entitled to their pretensions.”

As a recent article in Vanity Fair lamented, the days of glamorous Washington dinner parties are long gone. Indeed, some hostesses today aren’t above serving Costco salmon, nicely dressed up with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Mr. Perle said he shopped at Costco once a week when he was in town, and at a dinner party he held recently for several colleagues and friends, most ingredients were from there — the beef for his daube à la Provençal, the limes for his lime soufflé. The salmon for gravlax — also from Costco. He said he always received compliments, and he always got double takes when he told his guests where he shopped.

He’s not the only D.C. host or hostess to go big box.

“I do it — Costco all the way,” said the writer Sally Quinn, who is known for the power salons she puts on with her husband, the former Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee, at her Georgetown town house. “I just started.”

Ann Jordan, the wife of Vernon Jordan, also calls herself “a big fan” and says she has used Costco food for parties, especially for the fund-raisers she held during the Clinton years. Ellen Bennett, a fine art photographer and the wife of Robert S. Bennett, President Clinton’s personal lawyer in the Paula Jones case, has thrown an open house “Costco party” each Christmas since 2004.

“Pigs in blankets, salamis, salmon, shrimp, pâté, cheese,” said Mrs. Bennett, remembering her parties.

Juleanna Glover, a lobbyist and former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who is also known as a hostess, was an early convert. And, she added, almost as if confiding a secret, “You recognize the brownies and black and white cookies at some of the most prominent individuals’ homes.”

Susan Lacz, chief executive of Ridgewells, the largest catering company in the Washington area, said she knows the trend all too well. “My gosh, it drives me crazy,” she said. “Some of the people I hear are going to Costco, I think, ‘Oh, you must be kidding me.’”

The ultimate awkwardness, she said, is when clients want to buy their food from Costco but disguise it: “They’ll say: ‘Why don’t you bring the fancy glassware, and we’ll get the rest from Costco. And could you put it on one of your fancy plates? Oh, and how about some of your fancy ice cream on top?’”

Ms. Lacz said she was “not going to name names,” but that one of her best clients, a high-end retail store, told her, “We’re going to go to Costco and buy a bunch of stuff, and we want you guys to serve it.”

To which she replied: “No, you’re not.”

Entertaining in Washington has gone decidedly casual. No one has stepped in to duplicate Pamela Harriman’s or Katharine Graham’s elegant soirees, and the Iranian Embassy, which once served free-flowing Champagne and caviar, is long shuttered. “There used to be so many black-tie dinners at private homes,” said Buffy Cafritz, an honorary Kennedy Center trustee who also is known in Washington hostess circles. “Now everything is so much more informal, and we serve meatloaf instead of beef Wellington.”

(For the record, Mrs. Cafritz said she had never used Costco herself, but might get there before the holiday season ended. “I have a weakness for apple pie,” she said. “I’ve heard their apple pie is delicious.”)

Against the backdrop of an unpopular war, rising oil prices and a subprime mortgage crisis, a certain thriftiness seems to have crept into the city’s dining rooms.

“I don’t think anyone would dare serve caviar as a first course today, and instead of filet mignon, there are a lot of other beef dishes,” said Letitia Baldrige, the etiquette writer who was Jacqueline Kennedy’s social secretary. “Embassies don’t have the pocketbooks they used to. And to have these opulent menus for these parties here, it looks bad.”

In that sense, catering by Costco is a style statement, like drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

“Reverse chic is a very powerful phenomenon in status-oriented circles,” said David Kamp, the author of “The United States of Arugula” (Broadway, 2006), a book about the American fine-food revolution. “I think Costco is the same thing. It gets discovered.”

To its benefit, Costco has carefully fashioned an upscale-downscale image, and their stores do better in high-end locations, said the company’s chief financial officer, Richard Galanti. In the Washington area, the highest volume location is its store in the Pentagon City neighborhood of Arlington, Va.

“WE knew that we would attract government, we would attract ambassadors, we would attract military personal, we would attract the parties and embassies," said Joe Potera, the chief operating officer, referring to the Pentagon City store. "We have thousands of sheet cakes during all the major holidays for Pentagon parties, for ambassador parties, for staff parties in the capital. It’s kind of a destination." Costco also has a chocolate shop that produces molds of the Capitol as well as the Pentagon.

Ms. Baldrige said she saw no problem shopping for dinner parties at Costco.

“I would say bully for you, get the best deal you can,” she said. “Just don’t make that the main topic of conversation. Know a little bit about foreign affairs as well as how Costco is doing. Be able to be a little more scintillating other than being able to discuss the cost of your food.”

Bragging about the saving might be reserved for the brave few. One Washington hostess who loves Costco didn’t want people to know that her husband likes to hang out in the food court munching the quarter-pound hot dogs ($1.50 with a soda).

Mr. Perle knows no such shame. “The book section, the cheese section, the seafood, I almost always get some fresh produce there,” he said, rattling off his favorite Costco haunts. “I just bought chanterelles there the other day, and they often have fresh shiitake mushrooms.”

Perfect for a mushroom soufflé.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Sony ordered to pay $5M in logo dispute

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Sony Music must pay the founder of a small record company $5 million for failing to put his company's logo on reissues of Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell album, a federal appeals court ruled.

Steve Popovich, 65, who started Cleveland International Records in 1977 and soon afterward signed the chubby singer named Marvin Lee Aday, persuaded Epic Records to release the wildly successful album.

Epic was owned at the time by CBS. Sony, which bought out CBS Records, paid $6.7 million to Popovich and his former partners in 1998 to settle a lawsuit over royalties from the album.

The settlement required Sony to place the Cleveland International logo on future Meat Loaf albums but Sony did not add the logo to Bat Out of Hell for more than a year.

In a 2-1 decision Wednesday, a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld a federal jury's decision in 2005 awarding Popovich an extra $5 million in damages.

"I worked too hard for them and made them too much money to get robbed now, in the autumn of my life," he said.

Cleveland International's roster also includes singer/songwriter David Allan Coe and an array of polka artists including Grammy winners Brave Combo and the late Frankie Yankovic.

A call Thursday to Sony Music in New York was answered with a message that the offices were closed until Monday.

Sony has claimed that the logo omission was a mistake that later was corrected. In court documents, Sony also accused Popovich of trying to get money out of the company by trumping up the logo agreement.

Bat Out of Hell, operatic in tone, but guitar rock through and through, has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, according to court records.


Champion appetite or sheer gluttony ???

Some in US find competitive eating hard to swallow

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MICHAEL J. CRUMB Associated Press Writer

(AP) - DES MOINES, Iowa-As Americans stuff themselves with traditional turkey dinners on Thanksgiving holiday Thursday, professional eaters will take center stage in a nationally televised competition, gobbling 20-pound (9-kilos) birds in eight minutes.

While some shudder at the sight of contestants racing to devour food at a time when a third of Americans are obese, competitors just shrug.

"Doing it once in a while isn't bad for you, when you do it responsibly," champion eater Tim Janus said.

Others have had their fill of such events.

This fall, the University of Iowa canceled its annual corn-eating contest, which many saw as a fun nod to the state's hallmark crop. But Phillip Jones, the university's vice president of student services, viewed it as an act of gluttony.

"It was something I thought was reasonable based on the data and stories I've seen about obesity and the proportion of people who are overweight," Jones said. "I don't know ... if it is dangerous, but it was a symbolic gesture to get people to address changes in our lifestyle."

Last year, organizers of the World Pie Eating Championship in Wigan, England, gave in to pressure from health advocates and cut back on contestants' consumption.

Competitors converged on the northwestern English town for 15 years to see who could eat the most meat pies in three minutes. But organizers changed the rules in 2006, presenting the award to the person who could eat a single meat pie in the fastest time. They also added a vegetarian category.

In the U.S., the International Federation of Competitive Eating organizes about 80 eating contests a year, including The Turkey Bowl, scheduled to air Thursday on cable's Spike TV.

The group's chairman, George Shea, said competitive eaters are athletes who train for their sport, working to improve jaw strength and increasing their stomach capacity.

"This is an entertainment product that has its roots in fairs and festivals and not a celebration of excess," Shea said. "It's a comedic thing - a combination of Coney Island hucksterism and sports commentary."

Janus said criticism of his sport demonstrates that people misunderstand the nation's obesity problem.

"Most of us are pretty thin and in pretty good shape. To say we're bad examples is misleading," the 5-foot-10 (178-centimeter), 165-pound (75-kilogram) Janus said.

A 30-year-old stock trader from New York City, he competes in about 30 contests a year and holds records in several categories, including tamales (71 in 12 minutes) and cannoli (28 in 6 minutes).

Dr. Lee Kaplan, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center in Boston, said concerns over the link between the contests and obesity are not well founded.

"I think these competitions are somewhat caricatures of eating behavior ... and don't have much relevance to the obesity problem," he said.

Brian Wansink, a food science and psychology professor at Cornell University, compared competitive eaters to other extreme athletes.

"It's the same sort of person who, let's say, would train really hard and compete really hard in a marathon," said Wansink, author of "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think."

"It has the same level of competitiveness and compulsiveness," he said. "One we label crazy and one we label as noble, but in reality it's the same sort of process that drives both these people."

Shea said there's no reason to be embarrassed about such events.

"Seeing these guys go at a 20 pound turkey is like poetry," he said. "It's like a dance."


Hollywood's biggest rumor answered

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He's been married three times and has also been romantically linked with some of Hollywood's most desirable women.

Yet for nearly his entire career, Tom Cruise has been subject to pervasive rumors that he's gay.

Though Tom's camp has repeatedly denied the talk, it has persisted over the years, with two men even claiming to have had affairs with him — tales which Tom was willing to challenge in a court of law.

Now, after conducting an extensive investigation of the gay rumors, porn star-turned-private investigator Paul Barresi is speaking to In Touch about his findings.

"Everything I've found and everything I know points to Tom being heterosexual," Paul tells In Touch.



JORDAN aka Katie Price demonstrating her new perfume line called "Stunning"

I Know What I'm Getting You For Christmas !!!

I've been stressing trying to figure out what I'm going to get people for Christmas and now I have the perfect gift!

They are called Giant Microbes and they come in a variety of characters. Above is Chlamydia, Herpes, Syphillis and The Clap!

You whores probably already have all those things already, so I'll have to get one of the other characters.

They have other diseases like Athlete's Foot, E. Coli and Rabies.

The company that makes this shit says they make great learning toys for children.

Um...like you really want your kid to be going to bed at night hugging Herpes!

'Frank TV' Premieres Strong For TBS

Frank Caliendo series draws better demo numbers than many network late night shows

November 23, 2007

Frank Caliendo, 'Frank TV'Frank Caliendo of 'Frank TV'

Frank Caliendo appears to be doing a great impression of a late night TV star.

Caliendo's sketch comedy series "Frank TV" premiered to an audience of 2.9 million viewers on Tuesday (Nov. 21) night.

Airing at 11 p.m., the relentlessly promoted series -- ask any baseball fan how often the ads ran during the postseason -- also hooked in 1.9 million in the 18-49 demographic and 1.1 million viewers between 18-and-32.

TBS boasted that those demographic numbers outdelivered the 2007-to-date averages for new episodes of such late-night series as "The Late Show with David Letterman," "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," "The Colbert Report" and "MadTV."

"After a summer in which we celebrated the top-rated premieres of 'Tyler Perry's House of Payne' and 'The Bill Engvall Show,' TBS is keeping the fire burning into fall with yet another superb series launch," boasts TBS exec Steve Koonin. "With 'Frank TV' joining the line-up, we have proven once again that TBS is the television destination for outstanding comedy from some of the best talents in the business."


Variety.com

Studios sue Internet café, website

Majors allege illegal downloading

HONG KONG — Five Hollywood studios are suing a Chinese online service and a Shanghai Internet cafe for providing illegal downloads of their movies.

Case against Beijing Jeboo Interactive Services and Technology and Shanghai East Cybercafe was filed in the Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate Court on Sept. 28 and case is now pending.

Frank Rittman, regional legal counsel for the Motion Picture Association said that the MPA is coordinating the action on behalf of 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney, Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures and Universal Studios.

Studios are seeking damages of RMB200,000 ($27,000) per title plus legal fees and court costs, for a total of $432,000 in compensation. Case cites 13 MPA member titles including include "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," "X-Men 2" and "Night at the Museum."

Rittman said that Jeboo earns its revenues from providing technical services for downloading and streaming content to the country's numerous Internet cafes. Cafes then charge their end users. According to some estimates, there are more than 28 million people in China who use Internet cafes primarily for watching movies.

Jeboo has not commented on the case. But its website says company is China's biggest film download provider with close to 30,000 movies and television series available and says that its content is obtained legally. Menu of movies changes daily.

Rampant software piracy in China is at the heart of a trade dispute between the U.S. and China that is now being probed by the World Trade Organization.

China says its laws are adequate and that it is now increasingly cracking down on piracy. In September, Hollywood studios won damages from a Beijing business selling copies of pics from the "Lord of the Rings" franchise and other popular films.


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MSNBC.com

Howard Stern’s favorite radio show? His own
Shock jock says Sirius program is funnier since punch lines aren’t censored

People Howard Stern



Associated Press
Fri., Nov. 23, 2007

NEW YORK - Howard Stern finds himself listening to something different these days: “The Howard Stern Show,” on satellite radio.

Unlike his last years on terrestrial radio, where Stern felt his voice was neutered and his program sterilized, the still undisputed king of the shock jocks loves what he’s hearing now.

“I know the show is funnier,” Stern says over lunch. “I tune in and it’s funny. It’s a good show. I’m proud of it.”

Oh, and one more thing ...

“When you’re making a joke,” the oft-censored radio star says, “the punch line doesn’t need to be bleeped.”

Almost two years since his much-heralded leap from CBS Radio’s WXRK-FM and terrestrial syndication to Sirius Satellite Radio, Stern is blissful.

He’s reveling in the huge increase in satellite radio subscriptions, not to mention the woes of old foes like his ex-employer or longtime nemesis Don Imus.

He’s only two years into his five-year, $500 million deal with Sirius and he’s already considering a possible extension. Stern is on board with the proposed satellite merger with once-rival XM. And he’s proud of his role in expanding the number of Sirius subscribers from 600,000 when he signed his deal to nearly 8 million today.

Stern, his hair creeping out from beneath a black knit cap, is delivering his state of satellite address between bites of two turkey burgers (no rolls, just a salad). Stern admits now that his loud boasts about the future of satellite radio before his debut were as wishful as anything else.

“I didn’t think it would be like this,” Stern says. “Not this fast. This is crazy. ... I just didn’t want to be embarrassed.”

Making the leap
It was Dec. 16, 2005, when Stern said goodbye to terrestrial radio after an unprecedented run in the nation’s No. 1 market. Tired of federal regulators and feuding with his bosses, Stern signed on with Sirius and never looked back.

But Stern still keeps an eye on terrestrial radio — mostly as a source of schadenfreude.

He delighted in the problems that CBS Radio endured after his departure, from the ill-fated hiring of David Lee Roth as his replacement to the whole mess with Imus, fired over his remark about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.

“I don’t want to see anyone doing poorly,” Stern says sarcastically before breaking into laughter.

And he wonders why Citadel Broadcasting would bring Imus back on its New York flagship station, WABC-AM.

“At this point, I don’t think he’s very relevant,” Stern says. “People will tune out within a week. I defy you to listen. It’s like a rodeo — you know, see how long you can ride a bull? See how long you can keep listening to Imus.

“Time it. You’ll throw up. You’ll get sick. You’ll die.”

Potential merger
Stern is more excited about the potential merger between his company and XM.

“It would be great for the industry, great for the company, great for the consumer,” he says. “I’m not a salesman for the merger, I don’t know all the facts and figures, but there’s more service and they’re talking about lower prices.”

He has no fears of the government intruding into satellite radio over its unexpurgated content.

“I don’t see, legally, how government regulation would hold up in a pay industry,” says Stern, whose First Amendment battles with the Federal Communications Commission once led to a $1.7 million fine.

“Then they’re going to have to do that with the Internet, and newspapers, and magazines — everything,” Stern continues. “If people are paying for it, why would there be government regulation? And I don’t see that ever changing.”

Stern’s two-year anniversary at Sirius comes with a gift for his fans/subscribers: an epic recounting of the King of All Media’s life. “The History of Howard Stern” — beginning with Stern’s bar mitzvah and trips to summer camp — debuts Dec. 17 on Sirius, covering the years 1954-85.

It’s the kind of radio that keeps Stern listening to his own stuff, and keeps his fans coming over to Sirius as he gets ready for year three. As Stern starts speaking enthusiastically about those fans, one stops by the restaurant table to say hi: Alan Alda.

Yes, “Hawkeye” Pierce from “M-A-S-H,” the Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning actor, the silver-haired Hollywood star. The pair swap moves from an imaginary chess match, with Stern delivering a stumper.

“I mostly lose,” Alda says.

“I’ll show you what to do,” Stern replies.

No surprise, the radio star sounds like he knows what he’s talking about.


MySpace moves to ad-supported music

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By Brian Morrissey, Adweek
NEW YORK -- MySpace is joining the search for a new business model for the music industry by enlisting the help of advertising.

In March, fans of punk band Pennywise can go to stores to buy the group's ninth album. Or they can go to the MySpace profile of Textango, a mobile music distributor, and add it as a friend, which will allow them to download the entire album for free.

The promotion is the first test by MySpace of whether it can marry its enormous reach, fledgling record label it began two years ago and roster of advertiser relationships to create an alternative for bands to the current distribution model, which nearly all participants agree is faltering.

"This happens in a time when the record industry has such a black eye," said Josh Brooks, vp marketing at MySpace. "It's a nice opportunity and a way to get your music out there."

Several companies are looking to marry advertising with music distribution. SpiralFrog launched in September with a model that lets users listen to and download music to some devices. Last week, Rcrd Lbl introduced a service to offer free music underwritten by such brands as Nikon, Puma and Virgin America.

Pennywise typically sells between 60,000 and 100,000 albums, Brooks said, and MySpace expects at least that many will take up the free offer and add Textango as a friend.

Yet the expected onslaught of friends was not a primary attraction of the partnership, Textango CEO Shawn Dornan said, but rather the opportunity to associate with News Corp.'s MySpace and a new kind of music delivery.

"The overarching spirit is it's breaking new barriers, doing new models and going against the status quo, which are all things we stand for," he said.

Textango hopes to use the draw of Pennywise to attract other bands and build awareness of its service among music fans. It is looking to build awareness with bands of its service for selling music that bills a user's cell phone for music downloads rather than requiring a credit card. Consumers text a band's name to Textango, which then returns a code for downloading the music from Textango's Web site. The charges are placed on the user's phone bill.

Textango is not the first advertiser to use content or added functionality as a lure for brand friendship. Last year, Fox gave friends of X-Men the chance to expand their top friends feature. It helped the film amass more than 3 million friends.

The incentive of free music and ads run across MySpace, particularly its music section, will quickly build Textango's friend count from its current 30, Brooks said. But in the end, incentives only start a dialogue, and brands will need to maintain it with their own proposition.

"Once you get to the page and make the commitment to friend, the brand has to be appealing enough to maintain it," he said.
psuedo-punk Avril Lavigne holiday shopping at the 99cent store

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A little bit of Hollywood

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By Nirit Anderman

"We saw only a small excerpt of the film, but, wow, it was impressive," says Hollywood producer Donald De Line ("The Italian Job") to actor Oshri Cohen. He describes a scene from the movie "Beaufort" that he watched only a few hours before. "Oh, that was you?" He is surprised to discover that Cohen played the role of the outpost commander in the film. "That was so powerful. I can't wait to see the whole movie. It is a troubling movie in the positive sense of the word."

The conversation between the two took place last Saturday evening in a Tel Aviv restaurant, at a reception in honor of several Hollywood bigwigs, who came to Israel for a five-day visit. De Line asked when "Beaufort" was released to local movie theaters, wondered how it was received and was surprised to hear that despite Cohen's tender age (he is 23 years old), he has already starred in a number of feature-length films. Cohen, for his part, took advantage of the opportunity to introduce De Line to his friend, actor Ofer Shechter, who stood nearby them throughout their conversation.

Even before that, on Saturday afternoon, the Israeli actors, directors, writers and producers thronged to the Tel Aviv Cinematheque to meet the guests from Hollywood. They wanted to ask the visitors how to find work in Hollywood and hoped to hear professional advice. Some probably also fantasized about making a new acquaintance who would open a few doors in Los Angeles.

On the stage at the Cinematheque, alongside De Line and moderator Oded Kotler, sat other important people from the city famous for filmmaking: Sony Pictures Entertainment Chair Amy Pascal; David Guggenheim, the director of the Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth;" producer Nina Jacobson, former president of Buena Vista Motion Picture Group; director Brad Silverling ("City of Angels," "Casper"); agent George Freeman; as well as the delegation's organizer, David Lonner, of the William Morris talent and literary agency. The group had come at the initiative of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles and the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership.

The visitors entered the auditorium after listening to a review about the status of filmmaking in Israel, accompanied by the screening of excerpts from four selected films: "Beaufort," "The Band's Visit," "Jellyfish" and "Noodle." The audience in the hall bombarded them with questions. Each time a different person asked a question and each time the question was worded differently, but it seemed that overall, the content remained the same: What do we need to do for Hollywood to read our screenplays, see the films we have made and let us be a part of the American productions, asked the local artists.

Pascal, the delegation's most senior member, clearly stated that Hollywood is currently increasing its investments in films made in various place around the world. "These days a lot of money is coming from international films, so we are aware of the importance of actors from abroad and international casting," she said.

De Line tried to offer hope to those present by mentioning "Body of Lies," directed by Ridley Scott, which is currently being filmed in Morocco, with American stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, and Israelis Alon Abutbul and Clara Khoury. The other panel members agreed that today, more than ever before, Hollywood is looking for talent beyond America's shores.

Still, the artists in the hall wanted to speak in practical terms - whom should they approach in Hollywood to find work in the filmmaking industry there. The guests made it clear that there is no point in sending them a script by regular mail or e-mail. They do not read such scripts, for fear of future law suits and claims that they stole ideas. "We read only those scripts that we have ordered," said Lonner, but hastened to remind everyone that there is no barrier in Hollywood that personal connections cannot overcome.

"If [Israel Film Foundation director] Katriel Shechori or [head of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School in Jerusalem] Renen Schorr, professional people whom we know and trust, were to phone us and say, 'This is something very special that is worth reading,' we would read it," said Lonner.

Pascal was the most forthright and direct of all the members of the delegation and reminded everyone of Hollywood's main guiding principle. "We do everything we believe will make money," she said. "We are constantly looking for good artists who are different, who have a special voice. They are the people who make a lot of money." As befits someone who heads one of the big studios, she stressed the word "lots." At Sony they are always looking for people with talent, she said, adding, "Not only because of the strike. Whoever writes, I will be happy to accept his [business] card."

Although the audience laughed in response, Pascal was later asked if she had been serious. Her answer was disappointing - she had been joking. This response may not have gladdened the local screenwriters, but at least it breathed a little life into the somewhat drowsy event. Pascal then proceeded to present the position of the studios' heads concerning the screenwriters' strike, in the clearest terms ("The writers want more money, and we don't want to give it to them"), expressed her lack of enthusiasm for the subject ("Do we have to talk about this?"), and spurred a reaction from Silverling, who hastened to present the striking screenwriters' position.

Toward the end of the event, Ofer Shechter, who had been sitting in a back row of the theater, stood up and asked what an Israeli actor has to do to be noticed in Hollywood. The visitors explained that the best thing for him to do was to continue working and wait for someone to notice him, to try using connections, or to come to Los Angeles himself, in order to try and blaze a trail for himself there.

Only Guggenheim felt the need at some point to object to the dialogue being conducted around him. "Before we came to this hall we watched excerpts from four Israeli movies, and all of us agreed that they were really good films," he said. "All of the clips we saw contained pure cinematic moments, the kind we don't get to see often. This is rare for us, just as it is rare here. I want to tell you that in my early years in Hollywood I tried to find a way to break through, but today I think it is a waste of time. What you have to do is that hardest thing - to sit and think what my next story will be, how I will find it, how I will make it my next film. Leave your thoughts of how to get into Hollywood, and simply make your movies. If you make a good one, even if it is a small, personal film, if it is good enough, enough people will see it.