Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fly Oceanic Airlines... Straight to the Bottom of the Ocean!

With a new season of "Lost" on the air, ABC is getting in gear with another promotion campaign centered on Oceanic Airlines, the carrier whose doomed Flight 815 crashed onto the mysterious island with our friends, the Losties. ABC previously conducted viral campaigns on the Web, with a fake Oceanic Airlines Web site and another one for the Dharma Initiative.

The new Oceanic Airlines effort is going more mainstream: Oceanic Airlines billboards have been spotted in Ames, Iowa among other places, and one newspaper story said that to add to the drama those billboards "were later 'defaced' to redirect those who saw them to another website with additional dramatic story elements and even clue hunting games to find out more information about storylines."

and there were bogus commercials for the airline on "Eli Stone," the show that followed "Lost." Scenes of pretty female flight attendants were interrupted by flitting black-and-white images of a man in a seemingly frantic state of mind, seeming to be a "Lost"-style passenger stranded in a horrific situation, trying to broadcast a message to the outside world. Also seen is a glimpse of part of an Oceanic Airlines plane underwater, perhaps at the bottom of the ocean. These ads also promote an Oceanic Airlines Web site,

UPDATE: I've checked out, and it has the greeting from the flight attendants seen in the TV commercial, which is followed by a clip of the man we saw glimpses of in the commercial. Turns out he's the boyfriend of a flight attendant on Flight 815 and is looking to find answers regarding what happened to the doomed flight... and his message directs you to another site, Find 815. The site invites you to play an online game and join the mission of the man, Sam Thomas, to find out what happened to the flight and his girlfriend.

The site also contains a press release that announces that Oceanic Airlines is resuming service.

George Michael's "Faith" on Eli Stone and on the Web

George Michael is getting a nice, if perhaps temporary, career lift from the new TV show "Eli Stone," which is having its premiere Thursday night. A yuppie lawyer who seems to have everything going for him has a crisis of, well, "Faith," and hears snippets of a song playing throughout the day, and it turns out the song is Geroge Michael's '80s hit. Not only that, the song is performed by Mr. Michael himself, in Eli Stone's living room, and then in the lobby of his office building.

You can't buy the kind of exposure (no pun intendd) that Michael is getting from "Elli Stone" ...the song was played in all the many promos for the series, and figures prominently in the series opener.

Of course, George Michael is still promoting himself, and you can find out all about his performances, albums, videos, setlists from his "25 Live" tour, and more at the official George MIchael Web site. You can also view his set opening the new Wembley Stadium in London at the George Michael section of Yahoo! Music.

The Lost Season 4 Premiere: Interesting Reading

As you're getting ready for Lost Season 4 premiere (or have watched it already), here are a couple of interesting articles for your reading pleasure. delves into the mysteries of Lost and The Island, with its article "5 Questions the Lost Writers Need to Answer (And Why They Won't)."

And Entertainment Weekly's has a "Lost Preseason Cheat Sheet" to get you up to speed on the story thus far. Even though I've been watching the Lost specials last night and tonight, another refresher can't hurt, considering the dizzying array of multiple story lines and red herrings the series has going on.

Britney Spears Back in the Hospital: There She Goes Again

Troubled pop star Britney Spears was taken from her home to a hospital early Thursday morning and placed on what authorities termed a "mental health evaluation hold," according to the Los Angeles Times.

This is the second time in a month that Spears was removed from her home and brought to a hospital for mental-health reasons. ABC News reported that terms such as "Britney unconscious" and "suicide attempt" were heard during the discussions, though it's not clear who said them and whether they wre just speculation on the part of officers or paramedics.

The Spears removal was apparently sparked by a call from her psychiatrist. The entourage removing Spears included an L.A. fire department ambulance as well as more than a dozen motorcycle cops, and it's said the entire escort stretched longer than a football field.

Spears was said to be taken to UCLA Medical Center and a judge signed an order to put her on a 5150 hold, which allows her to be held for three days for evaluation.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ralph Nader Considering Another Run at President

Apparently consumer activist Ralph Nader is thinking about making yet another run at the White House. Nader ran for president in 2000 and again in 2004, and was blamed by some Democrats for taking votes away from Al Gore, especially in Florida, the state that ended up deciding the election in George Bush's favor. Although many Democrats may agree with Nader's stands on the environment and corporate power, for lots of them he has become an annoying gadfly who skewers politicians from both parties and has been a thorn in the side of Democrats as well as Republicans.

The 73-year-old Nader, long a critic of the power of corporations over politics, said he is thinking of running for president again because he doesn't think the candidates currently in the race are standing up sufficiently to the corporate interests.

Nader said that he has set up an exploratory committee and will spend the next month sizing up the fundraising potential for such a bid.

Ryan Shawhughes, From Ethan Hawke's Nanny to Mother of His Child

Ryan Shawhughes, girlfriend of Ethan Hawke, is expecting a baby, his publicist has announced. Ryan Shawhughes met Hawke when she was the nanny to Hawke and his former wife, Uma Thurman. Hawke and Thurman have two children.

Shawhughes is 28 and Ethan Hawke is 37. His publicist said to the AP regarding the pregnancy, "I can confirm and they are thrilled," adding that no further details would be issued.

The Huffington Post claims that "the two have been together on the down-low for years."
I hope this won't lead to a rash of young women becoming nannies in hopes of becoming their client's eventual girlfriend...

Oprah Winfrey Chooses "A New Earth" as Her Next Book Club Selection

Oprah Winfrey has chosen "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle as her next book club selection.

Winfrey said it "her boldest choice yet" and said the book fit in with her life's mission, "to lead people to their higher selves." What's more, Winfrey announced that for "A New Earth" she will conduct her "first worldwide interactive class," a free 10-week course that she and Tolle will jointly teach. The classes will take place on the Web site on Mondays at 9 p.m. Eastern time, starting March 3rd. You can register for the class or learn more about it here.

"A New Earth" was published in 2005 and according to a press release "encourages a collective sense of commitment to changing the way we live for people who want to make a difference."

"Pink Noise" Helps Drown Out Unwanted Sounds

We've all heard of "white noise," sound that can be piped into an office, store, or elsewhere to help minimize the effect of unwanted sounds. Here's a story that looks at the newest development, something called pink noise: it uses the same concept as white noise, but instead uses natural sounds that reminds me of flowing water and other reminders of nature. This audio report is by a reporter whose office building is undergoing renovation, so she had a real reason for wanting to know if pink noise was effective.

"Lost" Season 4 Trailer and Series Recap - FREE on iTunes

If you want a refresher on the TV show "Lost" before Season 4 begins tomorrow night, iTunes is offering two free videos for you to download. Both are available at the iTunes store; scroll down to the section of the front page that say "free on iTunes" or something to that effect.

The first free "Lost" video is a Season 4 preview, the second is called "Lost in 8:15," which tries to sum up the entire series thus far. The second video sounds much less useful... anyone who's followed "Lost" knows that it's hard enough to summarize half a season of "Lost" in a one-hour show, much less three entire seasons in under 10 minutes. The creators realize this and have made the video a somewhat humorous recap narrated by a fast-talking woman who could easily do those car commercial voiceovers that explain 500 words of legalese in 22 seconds. ("Sun is pregnant. But Jin is sterile. What's up with that?")

But, if you've decided to get on board the "Lost" bandwagon and don't want to be totally, well, lost, this will help a bit.

You can also watch some of this same material on ABC's "Lost" Web site, which also features a "Locke music video." Now that sounds like fun...

The "Lost" season premiere kicks off with a special two-hour episode on January 31st, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Miley Cyrus Name Change: What, *Another* Name?!

Miley Cyrus, the artist also known by the name of the character she plays, Hannah Montana, has now decided to formally change her real name. The performer, who was born as Destiny Hope Cyrus, has now changed her legal name to Miley Ray Cyrus.

The moniker "Miley" is a nickname from her childhood, when family members often called the happy kid "Smiley." Miley Cyrus, ummm, I mean, Miley Ray Cyrus, chose the middle name Ray as a tribute to her father, Billy Ray Cyrus.

And in case you're wondering, yes, her father is the same Billy Ray Cyrus who had millions of Americans singing and dancing (and many others puking) to the sounds of his big hit single, "Achy Breaky Heart," back in... hmmm, the early 1990s? Well, suffice to say it was a long time ago...

At least Ms. Cyrus didn't change her name to The Artist Formerly Known as Miley Cyrus.

Actress Sean Young Enters Rehab After DGA Outburst

Actress Sean Young has entered rehab for alcohol abuse in the wake of her drunken outburst as the Directors Guild of America awards ceremony, from which she was forcibly removed.

At the DGA Awards Saturday night Young exhibited a variety of odd behaviors, including heckling film director Julian Schnabel just as he started to speak and getting up from her table, putting her fur coat on, and then sitting down after walking around the table.

Access Hollywood published a statement from Sean Young's representative that read, "Actress Sean Young voluntarily admitted herself yesterday (Monday, 1/28) to a rehabilitation center for treatment related to alcoholism. It is understood that Young has struggled against the disease for many years."

Got iMilk? See the Video Here

This video is said to be in response to a similar "iBeer" video. It's short and kind of pointless, but a fun trick anyway. It's amazing the things that people can think of to do with their iPhones and similar devices. Though spending $400 to drink a fake glass of milk (excuse me, iMilk) doesn't make a whole lot of sense...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bette Midler to Retire from Show Biz After Vegas Run

Bette Midler, the multitalented singer, actress, and comedian, has announced that she will retire from show business after her current 30-month run of shows in Las Vegas ends.

The 62-year-old performer may be best known by younger people for her roles in movies such as "The Rose," "For the Boys," and especially "Beaches," but many people (such as myself) know her as the singer who had a string of hit pop singles in the 1970s that included jazz, swing, and pop standards. The hits by the signer who called herself "The Divine Miss M" included "Do You Wanna Dance," "Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy," and "In the Mood," as well as the girl-group medley, "Uptown/Don't Say Nothin' Bad (About My Baby)/Da Doo Run Run."

Bette Midler has been recognized for her skill in her various endeavors: she has won four Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award, and has been nominated for two Oscars.

Midler has a daughter, Sophie Frederica Alohilani von Haselberg, who is a student at Yale.

Bette Midler's Vegas show is called "The Showgirl Must Go On" and is to debut at The Colosseum at Caesars on February 20th. Midler will replace Celine Dion as the headline act.

Harlem Globetrotters to Retire Curly Neal's Number in New York

Fred "Curly" Neal was one of the most popular players on the legendary Harlem Globetrotters, and he played for 22 years with the famed ambassadors of basketball. Now Curly Neal will be honored next month when his number 22 will be retired in a ceremony at the Globetrotters' game in New York's Madison Square Garden.

Curly Neal played more than 6,000 games for the Globetrotters from the mid 1960s to mid 1980s. He will be only the fifth Globetrotter player whose number has been retired.

The game at MSG is one of several that is part of "Curly Neal Weekend" in the New York City area. The Globetrotters will also play games onFeb. 16 and 18 at IZOD Center (formerly Continental Airlines Arena) in New Jersey, and on Feb. 17 at Long Island's Nassau Coliseum.

It was Fred Neal's instantly recognizable shaved head that earned him the nickname of Curly, which was also said to be a reference to the Three Stooges' Curly Howard.

The 6 Meter Club - An Elite Group

The 6 Meter Club is an elite group in the athletic community. It's made up of that select group of pole vaulters who have cleared 6.00 meters or higher.

You can find the entire list of the members of the 6 Meter Club here. Number one on the list is Sergei Bubka with a height of 615 cm. He was the first pole vaulter to break 6 meters and I believe still holds the world record in the event. He competed for the Soviet Union before it dissolved, and then for Ukraine.

I saw Sergei Bubka pole vault at an indoor track meet in the New York area many years ago... it may have been the Vitalis track meet at the Meadowlands Arena, or maybe the Mobil meet at Madison Square Garden.

His son, Sergei Bubka, Jr., is a professional tennis player, though he doesn't seem to be good enough to get into many of the major top-tier tournaments.

Happy 50th Birthday to Legos!

Yep, it's the 50th birthday of Legos, those little plastic bricks that kids (and others) have been using to build houses, entire cities, and replicas of all kinds of things, such as the Star Trek Enterprise spaceship. (And Google has even changed its logo for today in a tip of the hat to Lego.)

Check out the official Lego Web site and check out some of the amazing Lego creations that users have built. There are sections for Star Trek, Star Wars, Batman, and Indiana Jones themed Lego designs, as well as Lego trains and, of course, many homes and other types of buildings.

Someone has even claimed to have create the entire Michael Jackson "Thriller" video using Legos... watch it here.

Lego even has software that you can download to help you design the kind of Lego building you want to create, put together your plan, and then upload it and order just the parts you need to put your dream house together.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Amber Tamblyn Grows Up in "The Russell Girl"

Amber Tamlyn, who won acclaim and a lot of fans as a high school student in "Joan of Arcadia," returned to TV Sunday night in the Hallmark Channel's TV movie "The Russell Girl." This is perhaps the first grown-up role for Tamblyn, who also played a teen in the movie "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants."

The story concerns a young woman is secrets in her past (Tamblyn) who is diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness, and apparently there another tragedy that confronts her as well. Despite having an all-star cast, however, "The Russell Girl" got mostly bad (sometimes scathing) reviews. The Detroit Free Press said, "Hallmark Hall of Fame movies generally are drenched in melancholy. 'The Russell Girl' serves up a double helping." However, the same review says that the movie is "somewhat saved by Amber Tamblyn's stellar performance in the title role and a strong supporting turn by Jennifer Ehle."

That's another star in the movie besides Tamlyn: Jennifer Ehle, who was great as Elizabeth Bennet in the BBC miniseries version of "Pride and Prejudice," from about 10 years ago, with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. "The Russell Girl" also features a performance from Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, who plays the mother of Tamblyn's character is what is said to be a minor role. (Now I know I'm getting old: I remember when Mastrantonio was playing teenage roles (and when she actually was a teenager, too).)

USA Today also is not impressed with "The Russell Girl," but it also applauds Tamblyn's performance.

For more on Amber Tamlyn and "The Russell Girl," check out the movie's page at the Hallmark Hall of Fame's Web site.

Comedian Lisa Landry - Video Clips, Official Web Site, MySpace Page

Comedian Lisa Landry (official Web site) is a Cajun from Louisiana, but now she lives in New York City. She was originally Catholic, but converted to Judaism. As you can imagine, all this gives her plenty of material to turn into stories and jokes: she has not one but two religions to make fun of, and she can riff on the South as well as NYC.

Landry was the star of her own comedy special in 2007, imaginatively titled, "Comedy Central Presents Lisa Landry." She's made guest appearances on various TV shows, and has also done voiceovers for commercials. She's currently performing a number of gigs at New York's Gotham Comedy Club, Comedy Cellar, and other clubs, and then is hitting the road to do shows in Dayton, Ohio and Austin, Texas.

You can also check out Lisa Landry's MySpace page here, and view video clips of her at her page at Comedy Central.

A Drunk Sean Young Gets Tossed from DGA Awards

Once-hot actress Sean Young is making the tabloids again, and again it's not for good things. According to USA Today and gossip blogger Perez Hilton, she got drunk Saturday at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards and made a scene, embarrassing the people at her at getting herself thrown out.

Director Julian Schnabel, whose movie "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" was nominated for best feature film, was starting to speak when Young interrupted him saying, "Oh come on — get to it!" She also was putting on her fur coat and walking around her table when people were onstage accepting awards.

It's just the latest bizarre episode for Sean Young, who was touted as one of those next-big-thing actresses but had a number of films that flopped and, more importantly, got dropped from others, supposedly because of her difficult behavior. She had a small part in the 1981 Bill Murray Army comedy "Stripes," and then had a major role in "Blade Runner."

She was great in the spy thriller "No Way Out" with Kevin Costner, often hailed as her best effort, but had troubles with other movies. James Woods, her co-star in a movie call" The Boost," filed a harassment lawsuit against Young, and she got fired from the 1990 movie Dick Tracy film. An article in Entertainment Weekly says that Young crashed the Vanity Fair Oscar party to do some networking, but was escorted out.

In the last couple of years, EW says, she's showed up in guest appearances on episodes of the TV shows CSI, ER, and One Tree Hill, among others.

I can't imagine that this latest public episode of hers will help Sean Young's career any.

The Real Story of Anneliese Michel, the Girl Portrayed in "The Exorcism of Emily Rose"

After watching "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" on DVD a couple of years back, I had a lot of questions about Anneliese Michel, the real girl who was portrayed in the movie. A couple of different movie sites I've found have accounts of what they say is the real story of the exorcism: one is, the other is

I'm not sure if one is more accurate than the other, but you can check them both out and compare notes. You can also check the Wikipedia entry on the film, which may or may not be accurate, but Wikipedia entries usually have references at the end so you can check the original sources.

(On a related note, one of my favorite actresses, Laura Linney, plays the lawyer Erin Bruner in "The Exorcism of Emily Rose"; I mentioned her earlier today in a post about Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City.")

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2008 SAG Awards (Screen Actors Guild) Tonight

The 2008 SAG Awards are tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern time on TBS and TNT. Here's the complete list of nominations for the SAG Awards, in which the performances of actors are voted on only by other actors.

Awards are given for outstanding performances in 2007 in five film categories and eight primetime television categories. This year there are also new SAG awards for "film and television stunt ensembles."

Check the list of nominations above, make your choices, and then see how your picks compare to those of the SAG members.

Armistead Maupin: Tales of the City and More

I found out too late that Armistead Maupin was interviewed on the CBS Sunday Morning program today. His "Tales of the City," "More Tales of the City," and "Further Tales of the City" were enjoyable TV miniseries based on his novels about life in early 1970s San Francisco. The characters were a diverse range of people crossing paths in the city, from long-time residents to wide-eyed newcomers, straight-laced businesspeople, members of the city's large gay community, bored rich housewives, and more.

"Tales of the City" featured some actors who would go on to great success, including Laura Linney (recent interview here) and Billy Campbell. It also featured Chloe Webb and Olympia Dukakais. You can find out more about the series on IMDB. All of the series are are available on DVD from places like

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Christian Brando, Son of Marlon Brando, Dies at 49

Christian Brando, eldest son of the legendary actor Marlon Brando, died of pneumonia on Saturday at the age of 49. His ex-wife said he had been in a hospital since January 11 with pneumonia, and that he had been comatose and on a respirator.

Christian Brando gained notoriety in 1990 when he killed Dag Drollet, the boyfriend of his half-sister Cheyenne Brando, when Cheyenne told Christian that Drollet had been beating her.

The trial made headlines around the world, especially when Marlon Brando pleaded with tears in his eyes for leniency for his son. Christian Brando was sentenced to 10 years in prison but was released after five years. He claimed he didn't mean to shoot Drollet, and that the gun went off accidentally when he and Drollet were struggling.

In another Brando familiy tragedy, Cheyenne Brando hung herself in 1995. She was 25.

Marlon Brando was one of the most acclaimed actors of all time, appearing in many iconic roles in classic films from "A Streetcar Named Desire" in 1951 to "On the Waterfront," "The Godfather," and "Mutiny on the Bounty," He also appeared in "Superman." Marlon Brando died at the age of 80 in 2004.

In a twist related to another celebrity murder trial, Christian Brando once dated Bonnie Lee Blakely, later the wife of actor Robert Blake. Blake's defense suggested at one point that Brando could have been the murderer, but Brando was cleared of any involvement in that crime.

Make Your own iPhone Guitar - Video

There are all kinds of hacks to adapt the iPhone to do all kinds of things, and now some folks have figured out how to make an iPhone guitar! This video shows the iPhone guitar, in which a person uses the iPhone's multitouch screen to create guitar strings that can be played like a real guitar (a small one, anyway): one finger holds the strings on the "frets" and moves along them, the other to pluck or strum the "strings."

Unlike the Guitar Hero game, however, you're really making the sound with the iPhone guitar... so the quality of the music/noise you create depends on how good your chops are.

Bouncing Girls and More at the St. Paul Winter Carnival

The people of St. Paul, Minnesota must figure that if they can't avoid brutal winters, they might as well make the best of it. So they've been having the St. Paul Winter Carnival for well over 100 years, and the 2008 edition is now underway. And there are plenty of events going on that might seem a bit odd to outsiders.

The local newspaper had a headline yesterday, "Winter Carnival holds bouncing girl tryouts tonight." Apparently one of the oldest traditions of the Winter Carnival is having women bounce up and down and doing aerial stunts on a trampoline held by others. The article begins: "THE JOB: A bouncing girl for the St. Paul Winter Carnival. The search is on for women to join the St. Paul Winter Carnival's Bouncing Girl team ..." I just like the term "bouncing girl."

The St. Paul Winter Carnival also features a number of non-bouncing events, including ice carving, snow sculpting, ice skating exhibitions, and for hardy runners, 5K and half marathon races. Oh, and the "Hot Dish Tent" ... I bet that's popular. The Web site says the tater tot casserole is a favorite there.

Ron Popeil, Veg-O-Matic and Pocket Fisherman Promoter

How much money would you want to bet that Ron Popeil, the master of late-night TV commercials for products like the Veg-O-Matic, is still hawking his products? Wait, don't answer yet!

Yes, the man who created those ads filled with such urgency is still at it, promoting the many products sold by his old company, Ronco Inc., even though his family sold the company years ago. I remember seeing those commercials on late-night TV, during intermissions between the horror movies I loved as a kid, selling things like the Smokeless Ashtray, the Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ. and other amazing conveniences we never knew we needed.

These Popeil commercials have had a big impact on how products are promoted... and even on some budding businesspeople (a marketing CEO writes in the Jan. 27 New York Times about how seeing a Pocket Fisherman ad on TV led him to a career in direct marketing).

There was a book written about the Popeil family's beginnings and success in direct marketing, called "But Wait! There's More!" (listen to an audio story about the book). Ron Popeil also has his own book, called "The Salesman of the Century."

The Popeil style was also lampooned and parodied many times, perhaps most famous in Dan Aykroyd's Saturday Night Live commercial for the made-up product "Bass-O-Matic," a blender than could turn whole fish into a pureed drink.

Can Ronco still be success at selling on TV, and online? Hell yes... Set it and forget it!

Elton John On Tour, Concerts Galore

Turning 60 doesn't seem to be slowing Elton John down much... he's doing a stand of dozens of show in Las Vegas, and is also playing concerts at various places in the U.S. and elsewhere (including Europe and New Zealand). A few years back he signed a deal to perform 75 concerts at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. This show, called "The Red Piano," isn't just an Elton John concert but (fitting for Las Vegas) but a show that "present[s] Elton’s great songs in a musical and visual extravaganza."

Elton John is also doing a series of more traditional concerts with his band in places like Paris and Vienna, but also some smaller towns that might seem unusual choices for an Elton John show: Darlington and Doncaster in England, and in the U.S. the Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum at Washington State University in Pullman, and the Adams Center in Missoula, Montana.

Tickets for the Beasley and Adams Center shows seem to be sold out through their ticket outlet, Tickets West (, but you might be able to buy Elton John tickets through StubHub or other ticket brokers. The Elton John Web site also notes that more shows will be added, so you might want to check back with the official Elton John concert page at his site.

I've liked the music of Elton John since I first heard "Rocket Man" from his Honky Chateau album in 1972 (yeah, I'm that old), and I never would have guessed back then that this flamboyant superstar would still be rocking into the 21st century. Of course, back then, I thought that anyone over 30 was really, really old...

Shelby SuperCars Ultimate Aero: World's Fastest Production Car in Action

In September 2007 Shelby SuperCars Ultimate Aero set a new record as the world's fastest production car, averaging over 250 miles per hour. Yes, you can actually buy the Ultimate Aero if you've got the money. How much does it cost? Well, if you need to ask, you can't afford it!*

Take a look at the Ultimate Aero in action: Business Week takes the car out for a drive in the desert of Nevada and talks about Shelby SuperCars and the development of the Ultimate Aero.

At the Shelby SuperCars Web site you can find Ultimate Aero specs, photos, and video of the car setting speed records. The site also tells where you can find a dealer to buy the Ultimate Aero (if you can afford it), and features an online shop with SSC and Ultimate Aero merchandise (if you can't).

*Okay, okay... $600,000.

The Gramophone and the Grammy

This article has an interesting look at the history of the gramophone, an early sound-reproducing machine and, of course, the device for which the Grammy awards are named. The article also ties the history of the gramophone and phonograph to the development of the iPod, and draws some interesting parallels between sound machines, then and now.

How does a gramophone differ from a phonograph? Well, that gets kind of murky: the terms haven't always referred to the same device, and different terms were used in the U.S. and in England.

The gramophone, with its distinctive large horn, is immortalized in the Grammy logo and the Grammy award itself. That horn was how sound was reproduced from the disc (or cylinder); this was before the invention of the loudspeaker, and specialized elements like woofers, subwoofers, midrange speakers, tweeters, and such.

Nicholas Braun: Chasing Time in "Minutemen"

Call it revenge of the nerds: in the Disney original movie "Minutemen" three high school nerds, including the hugely popular Nicholas Braun, create a time machine to go back and fiddle with past events to tone down their geek quotient and become more cool at school.

But these time travelers aren't changing history like Bill and Ted; apparently they can only go back in time two days at the most, and can only stay in the past for 10 minutes.

One of the classmates of the Nicholas Braun character and his buddies is 19-year-old actor Steven R. McQueen, who plays a football player. If that name sounds familiar, it should: he is the grandson of legendary actor Steve McQueen. (Along with Nicholas Braun, the other creators of the time machine are Luke Benward and Jason Dolley.)

Nicholas Braun is a busy man (yes, at 19 years old, he's no longer a kid): you may know him from 2001's "Walter and Henry" or from "Sky High" (2005), or from his guest stints on "Law & Order: SVU," "Without a Trace," and "Shark." You can find his complete filmography on his page at IMDB.

Nicholas Braun's official Web site also notes that he's doing two short films and has signed with an agent to do commercials.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cora Skinner MySpace Page - Dozens of Photos

Brody Jenner is one lucky guy. The star of The Hills has a new girlfriend, and it's the sexy brunette model Cora Skinner. Jenner has said that his family has met Cora and his parents approve. Well, that's good to know, right? Yeah, sure.

As you can imagine, people are dying to see photos of Cora Skinner, but her Web site seems to be under construction and has just one page, with a photo of her on it. Fortunately, you can head to Cora Skinner's MySpace page, which has dozens of photos, conveniently arranged into different albums. So if you happen to like how a particular photographer captures the beauty of Cora Skinner, you can head straight for those pictures.

Butt Glue: Miss America's Best Friend

The Miss America Pageant has long been a target for mockery, with its canned smiles, silly sparkling gowns, and now the pageant has decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

TLC is tonight presenting the finale of its show "Miss America: Reality Check," which isn't so odd except that TLC is also the network that's airing the Miss America Pageant itself. The pageant has had low ratings for years, and various minor tweaks haven't stemmed the bleeding, so it seems TLC decided that having the competition laugh at itself would be the major makeover the show needed.

"Miss America: Reality Check" seeks to take viewers behind the pageant, which has more than its share of hokey traditions and elements: the eternal plastic smiles, the odd parade waves, the big hair, and of course the trade secret of beauty pageant contestants everywhere: butt glue.

Anyone who's seen the movie "Miss Congeniality" knows what butt glue is: an adhesive that contestants spray on their rear ends before the swimsuit competition so the suit will not ride up. After all, it just wouldn't do for Miss America to be strutting around the stage in all her glamor, while sporting an embarrassingly public wedgie.

Jonathan Gold: Pig's Ear is Hot New Restaurant Dish

Pig's ear is the hippest new restaurant trend in New York's hot dining spots, says food writer Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly. He singles out a deep-fried pig's ear at a place called Spotted Pig, but also mentions other restaurants where one can find pig's ear. And he notes other places in "New Pork City" where you can eat pork bellies and other pig parts. In fact, the subtitle of his article is "Eating Everything but the Squeal."

Doesn't sound too appetizing to me. He says the Spotted Pig's offering is "a huge, veiny appendage, carefully deep-fried to a deep bronze, presented naked and sputtering and unadorned on a platter." Yum...

Sundance Goes Kinky with "Downloading Nancy" and "Towelhead"

Film festivals like Sundance always attract some offbeat, kinky entries, and the buzz at this year's Sundance Festival is about "Downloading Nancy," starring actress Mario Bello as Nancy, an unhappily married woman with a tendency to cut herself with razor blades.

Apparently Nancy is so miserable she meets someone online and hires him to sexually abuse her, then kill her. Reports from Sundance have been that audience members have been squirming during the movie, or walking out, or both. A review I read makes "Downloading Nancy" sound excruciating to watch, and compares the movie to "Towelhead," another entry in this year's Sundance Kinkfest. In "Towelhead," Bill Pullman plays a character who twice has sex with a 13-year-old girl (played by a young-looking 18 year old).

And what do you know, Maria Bello is in "Towelhead," too! (The movie was formerly called "Nothing is Private.")

Kinkiness aside, the reviews seem to indicate that these are just not good films.

I have to wonder why established actors get involved in such projects. Bill Pullman has been in many good movies and is well known. Mario Bello is an actress I've liked since she played a doctor on "E.R." in the late 1990s, and she was good in 2005's "A History of Violence."

Maybe actors figure they can stretch their talents in offbeat, low-budget projects, which I can totally understand, but cutting yourself with razor blades? From the reviews I've read, it seems "Downloading Nancy" will be seen by few people... and that may well be a good thing.

Big Butter Jesus -Video

Here is the video for Big Butter Jesus, music by Heywood Banks. This version was originally aired on the syndicated Bob & Tom radio show. The Big Butter Jesus apparently is a real stature that is in Ohio, north of Cincinnati, that looks like it is made of butter.

"Big Butter Jesus, oleo Lord" ... kind of makes Notre Dame's "touchdown Jesus" look pretty tame, huh?

You can find Big Butter Jesus on YouTube here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Giants in Super Bowl ... Where's Scott Norwood?

With the New York Giants in the Super Bowl this year, thoughts go back to the team's last triumph in the Big Game: their 20-19 win in 1991. As anyone who saw the game to sum it up in two words, and they'll probably say "Scott Norwood."

Norwood was the Buffalo Bills' place kicker, and with 8 seconds left in the game and the Giants up by one point, he had the chance to win the game for his team. But his 47-yard kick was wide right, and the name Scott Norwood went down in history with other would-be heroes who turned out to be goats, along with (for New Yorkers) Bill Buckner. Bucker was the Boston Red Sox first baseman who let a grounder roll between his legs in the World Series and enabled the Mets to get back in, and ultimately win, the 1986 baseball crown.

So with the Super Bowl coming up, I wonder... what's Scott Norwood up to these days?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Chickipedia: An Online Reference of... Well, You Can Guess

You knew it had to happen. Ever since Wikipedia first appeared on the Web, we've seen wiki-style, user-edited online references on just about every topic imaginable. There's WikiHow, where people can submit all kinds of how-to articles, and even MicrobeWiki, a Web site about microscopic critters like protozoa.

Now we have Chickipedia, a user-edited wiki reference on, you guessed it, photos and info on women from all walks of life who could be loosely termed "hot chicks." With searches for pictures of female celebrities one of the most popular search terms in the 'Net, the only question is why it took so long for something like Chickipedia to appear.

As you'd expect from a site called Chickipedia, the emphasis is on sexy photos of the women, not on their college majors or their opinions on global warming. And the photos are good quality. While some are racy, there doesnt seem to be any overt porn on the site. While the text on each celeb is minimal, there are links to sites for more information, such as IMDB, the celeb's official site, etc., as well as to recent news items.

Here's something the more enthusiastic fans of the female form will like: not only arethe celeb's measurements are listed, but you can click a link to see a list of other celebs with the same measurements.

I'm sure for most guys, browsing through Chickipedia will be a hell of a lot easier than looking at pictures of amoebas. Promises "Sexy Local Vixens" Free

Two of the most popular things in society are 1) hot young women and 2) virtually anything that's free. A new dating site called "" has the title of Local Vixens and promises lovely local women, and claims to be completely free to register.

There are the usual pictures of young women in sexy poses, but clicking on them just takes you to the "join" screen. So while they're promising it's free to join, it's hard to tell what you'll really be getting. How many women are registered on the site? Does have chat rooms? It's hard to tell from the home page. But it's clear that this site has struck a chord in people, because it's one of the most searched for terms this evening.

Dylan's Candy Bar Going Large

Dylan's Candy Bar is a candy, sweets, and related goodies shop on the East Side of Manhattan, and a magnet for tourists. It's got lots of candy and bright, candy-colored merchandise (pajamas, etc.), but what seems to be a big draw is that it's owned by Dylan Lauren, daughter of uber-designer Ralph Lauren.

I read somewhere that the Web site "Ask Men" ranked Dylan Lauren second on the list of "hot billionaire daughters," putting her just behind Ivanka Trump. Who knew that someone kept a list of billionaire daughers? I didn't.

Dylan's Candy Bar is at 60th Street and Third Avenue, and you can be sure that it will be getting even more crowded in the weeks to come with Valentine's Day approaching. So I guess it's fitting that the store is expanding. It's already two floors, and I've read that it's adding on more room for parties.

UPDATE: I've discovered that Dylan's Candy Bar is not just a New York store: Ms. Lauren also has locations in The Hamptons and in malls in Houston, Orlando, and elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger Death Sparks Frenetic Googling

The untimely death of actor Heath Ledger has sent many millions of people all over the world grabbing their computer mice to search not only for news about his death, but for anything and everything related to him.

Looking at the list of Google's top 100 search terms as of Tuesday night, I counted nearly 60 of those searches dedicated to topics related to Ledger, his work, or his family.

People are eager to learn about Heath Ledger... even if they aren't exactly sure of his hame. "Heath Ledger" has been the number-one search for several hours, but the number-two term being searched for is ... "Keith Ledger." We're also seeing Heath Legend and Keith Legend, and Keith Fletcher. Also on the top 100 are searches for his ex-girlfriend and mother of his child, Michelle Williams, as well as for the child herself, Matilda Ledger. And, of course, all of his movies, including the upcoming film in the Batman franchise.

Some people, though, not only can't get his name write, they haven't a clue of what it is, just that someone famous has passed away: one of the top 100 searches says simply, "dead actor."