Thursday, July 31, 2008

Montauk Monster Has Curious Americans Wondering, "WTF *is* that Thing?!"

Four-dollar gas. Recession. An endless war overseas. But the thing that's preoccupying Americans these days is a butt-ugly, bird-beaked, nekkid-as-a-jaybird rotting animal corpse that's washed up on the northeast end of New York's Long Island. So what the hell is this "Montauk Monster," as it's being called?

[BREAKING NEWS: John McCain has named the Montauk Monster his running mate!]

Here are some possible explanations of what the Montauk Monster is, ranging from the practical to the absurd (you can decide for yourself which is which). [UPDATE: A blog called Amnesia Blog has a good collection of Montauk Monster pictures, so you can get a better look at The Thing.]

* Lab experiment gone wrong, escaped from a nearby agricultural research facility, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center
* A turtle without a shell (never mind the fact that turtles can't just detach from their shells, like in those TV cartoons)
* A shaved raccoon
* An alien creature from outer space, come to warn us about the end of the world (or to go on a tour of one of the North Fork's many wineries)
* A new undiscovered species of animal, just out looking to check out some of the North Fork's wineries
* A pretty snazzy creation of someone's imagination and a lot of time spent on Photoshop
* An escaped pet (notice the cloth wrapped around it's right front arm... leg... whatever it is)
* A very large rat, escaped from the NYC subway or maybe the Long Island Rail Road (it got injured after not Minding the Gap)
* A Department of Defense experiment - a successor to the attack badgers the British were supposedly using in Iraq
* A very lifelike synthetic creature made by an unemployed movie prop maker with a lot of free time and even more spare latex
* A viral marketing stunt for a sci-fi TV show
* Joan Rivers fell off a cruise boat... this is how she looks without her wig

What do you think the Montauk Monster is? Let us know!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Montauk Monster - Just the Thing for a Slow Summer!

Things can get kind of slow in the news business during the summer in New York, so writers and bloggers must have been cheered by the mysterious appearance (and apparent disappearance) of what's being called The Montauk Monster, which was seen lying on its side on a Montauk, Long Island beach.

What... the... frack?!
The creature looks like a hairless dog, with an eagle-type beak for a nose. Gawker published a photo of the Montauk Monster along with a story, with some of their classic commentary. It notes that one person has claimed that this might be an escapee from a government animal testing lab that's supposedly nearby, but Gawker disagrees:

"... unless the government is trying to design horrible Montauk monsters that will eat IEDs and fart fire at bad Iraqis, we're not sure why they would create such an unthinkable beast. Our guess is that it's viral marketing for something. Ali Lohan's new album perhaps."

Ali Lohan and her famous sister (and father, and mother) were apparently unavailable for comment.

So is this a viral marketing scam, as Gawker suggests? We may never know, because liberal blog The Huffington Post has wasted no time in jumping on the Montauk Monster bandwagon, giving the creature his (her?) own column, entitled The Montauk Monster.

In the current column, the Monster says that he (she?) came to the beach for sun and surf: "The sun was very hot and I took a nap, naked. And then it turns out a picture of this very nap was posted on the Internet, paparazzi or some such thing, I'd imagine."

There you go, straight from the Montauk Monster's mouth. Now that the Monster is working for HuffPo, I guess its job will be to blog about New York nightlife and write puff pieces on Barack Obama.

What's Mandarin Chinese for "Rah Rah, Sis Boom Bah!"

The Chinese are leaving nothing to chance in their quest to have a good Olympics, and that goes beyond preparing its athletes. First we heard about its plans to seed clouds so that rain does not fall on the opening ceremonies on August 8th.

Now, to rev up its army of athletes in the Beijing Olympics, China is training people to become cheerleaders for its sports teams. So they've created classes to instruct people in cheerleading, according to a recent story that aired on the radio in the U.S. The classes run a total of 10 hours, and some workers are taking time off without pay to get the cheer training.

"The students in one cheerleading class are not leggy athletic girls with pompoms, but rather desk-bound, middle-aged government employees brandishing balloons," the article notes.

Imagine Michael from "The Office" training his employees in cheers, waving balloons...

This article says that at least 300,000 people will be on China's Olympic cheering squads.

One cheer goes, "Smile, Beijing, a smile shows Beijing's best tomorrow." It doesn't sound all that rousing to me, but I guess it might be more dramatic sung by a middle-aged office worker furiously waving his balloon-holding arms around as if he was trying to land a jumbo jet.

Or maybe not.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Randy Pausch, Author of "The Last Lecture," Has Died

Professor Randy Pausch, who inspired millions of people with "The Last Lecture" as he fought terminal illness, has died. He was 47 years old.

Pausch suffered from pancreatic cancer, which eventually took his life. Pausch was a Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. (Randy Pausch's Web page at Carnegie Mellon.)

The book "The Last Lecture," which became a New York Times bestseller, arose from a lecture that Pausch gave in September 2007 called "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2006. In recent months the cancer had spread to his liver, lungs, and spleen.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The American Vampire League - Fighting for Vampire Rights!

If gray-eyed left-handed lacto-ovo people can fight for their rights, then why not our life-challenged cousins? It's time to let the people of the night emerge from those musty old coffins and shake off those dusty old stereotypes that have been around for centuries.

The American Vampire League seeks to fight for the "human rights of vampires" and let them "emerge from the dark" (OK, these may sound better in print than in practice, since vampires aren't technically human, if you want to get all scientific about it. And if they emerged from the dark they might melt or something. But you get the idea.)

If you don't get the idea, then check out the American Vampire League Web site. It's brought to you by the good folks at HBO, who as part of the Time Warner media conglomerate know a thing or two about good old corporate bloodsucking! But I digress...

The American Vampire League just happens to be affiliated with a new TV program by the aforementioned HBO, called True Blood. It's named after Tru Blood, a new synthetic blood substitute that will eliminate the need for vampires to suck blood from human creatures. The tagline for Tru Blood is, "All of the flavor, none of the bite." Sounds like a win-win to me. (You can learn more about the beverage at the Tru Blood Web site.)

How does Tru Blood taste? I haven't sampled it, but it can't be any worse than Red Bull...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Big Changes at CSI: William Peterson, Gary Dourdon Out; Jorja Fox Coming Back

It's getting hard to keep track of all the comings and goings at the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. William Petersen will be leaving the show this season (by the middle of the season, it seems), but is going to make some appearances on the show even after he leaves. And Petersen will remain as an executive producer, so he won't be straying far from the crime lab. (The head of the CSI team outlined plans for the show.)

Jorja Fox and Gary Dourdan have also left the show recently. Fox was seen driving out of Las Vegas after surviving a kidnapping. Gary Dourdan was last seen on the show in a precarious and dangerous position in last season's finale, and speculation is that he'll be killed off. But Dourdan is scheduled to appear in the upcoming season's premiere, which some observers are speculating will be the last time we see the original cast all together in one episode.

As for Fox, she will be returning for "multiple" episodes (including the season premiere), according to the producers.

It's also reported that another male CSI will be brought onto the show, and the producers are looking for a heavy hitter to fill the role (they're said to be seeking Laurence Fishburne or Kurt Russell).

Looks like we'll need a scorecard to keep track of all the lab geeks...

Friday, July 11, 2008

It's Cow Appreciation Day at Chik-fil-A ... Dress Like a Cow, Get Free Food!

My Chik-fil-A Cow-lendar tells me that today is Cow Appreciation Day, and that means that you can get free food for dressing up like a cow. (The more complete your transformation into a cow, the more food you get.) You can learn more at The site includes a section called "Cow Tipping" that gives advice on how to dress up like a cow.

For several years Chik-fil-A has been running an ad campaign meant to look like it was created by cows, urging people to eat chicken instead of beef. The campaign includes sloppily written signs that say things like "Eat mor chikin," and has spawned the popular Chik-fil-A Cow-lendar, which each month features amazingly lifelike photo-illustrations of cows in a variety of positions.

The 2008 Cow-lendar is called One-Hit Wonder Cows and features cows in musical settings ranging from Saturday Night Fever ("Brisket Inferno") to a Wayne Newton-style Vegas act, a boy band, a reggae group, and even a heavy-metal concert scene (called "Slaughterhaus").

The illustrations are pretty detailed, and their creator used a variety of techniques including real cows and life-sized cow models to create them.

As the "Slaughterhaus" cow says, "4 Those Abowt 2 Eat Chikin, we Saloot U."

Monday, July 07, 2008

Dara Torres - Profile of the Five-Time Olympic Swimmer

U.S. swimmer Dara Torres has made history by becoming the first American swimmer to make the Olympics on five different occasions. And she's 41 years old! Oddly, the Internet seems to be abuzz with people searching for "Dara Torres husband" -- apparently folks are more concerned with her marital status than her swimming accomplishments? Or maybe it's a trivia question in a drinking game.

The New York Times has a good profile of her, which tells of the extensive training regimen she uses to stay in top competitive shape. (The Times also did a profile of her late last year, which you can find here.) Torres has her own Web site,, but it has been very busy and not loading the last few days.

In any case, "Dara Torres husband" is kind of a trick question: though Torres has a partner (a doctor named David Hoffman), they are not married. Dara Torres has been married (and divorced) twice, so maybe she feels having another husband is not the best idea right now.

So while there is no Dara Torres husband, the swimmer and her not-husband Hoffman do have a daughter, a two year old named Tessa Grace.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Joey Chestnut Keeps Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Crown in Thrilling OT Eat-Off!

Joey Chestnut held onto his title in the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Championship in a thrilling overtime dog-off with six-time champion Takeru "Kobe" Koayashi. For the first time ever, the contest ended in a tie when the contest ended after 10 minutes (the contest was formerly 12 minutes, but was shortened by 2 minutes this year).

Chestnut and Kobayashi were deadlocked after 10 minutes, having both eaten 59 hot dogs and buns. In the Dog-Off, five additional hot dogs and buns were brought to both contestants, and Chestnut was just a bit faster in finishing them off.

Kobayashi had won the contest six straight times before losing to Chestnut last year; he had been suffering from arthritis of the jaw but seemed to be recovered for this year's contest.

The annual contest takes place next to the location of the original Nathan's Famous hot dog restaurant, on the boardwalk in Coney Island, Brooklyn.