April 2009 Archives

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Of all the homoerotic theories and conspiracies about "Top Gun," It's Kelly McGillis - call sign "Charlie" - who ends up being the one to come out?

Seems that way.

The 51-year-old actress recorded a video blog interview with SheWired blogger Jennifer Corday in Florida and told her that "done with man thing. I've done that," when asked what her relationship status is and what she's into.

Of course, the next scenes after the interview show McGillis auctioning a date with herself off for some sort of charity and she's bought by a guy. So, oops.

Admit it, you expected something more along these lines when "Top Gun" and "gay" were mentioned in the same sentence ...

But that's just the latest in interesting career and life developments for the castmembers of "Top Gun." Val "Iceman" Kilmer has had some fun with divorce and is currently pursuing political ambitions in New Mexico. And, of course, couch-jumping enthusiast and Xenu-loving Scientologist Tom "Maverick" Cruise ...

... has turned himself into a sought-after actor and tabloid oddity.

Mother Goose, of course, remains dead.

Lessons learned here? "Top Gun" was WAY ahead of its time, you never ask your TAG REP and she never tells and you always stay out of another guy's jet wash.

Cameras keep getting smaller but at least in some quarters, pictures are getting limitless in size. A few companies are starting to offer the ability to make digital images that are measured in gigapixels, not megapixels.

Giga imagery isn't that new, but it's getting more prevalent, cheaper and easier for the general public to attempt with even the least expensive point-and-shoot digital cameras on the market.

What's that mean? It means you can take an image like this shot from President Obama's inauguration, which is fairly standard as a long-range image ...

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And zoom in nearly limitlelsly and without quality degradation to something like this ...

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In fact, this image, which really is best viewed for full effect here, has made quite an impression online because of the zoomability. Viewers make a game of scanning the crowds in high detail to find famous faces and unusual people. Give it a try if you have an extra hour of time and a good attention span.

Photographer David Bergman gives these details of the shot:

I made this Gigapan image from the north press platform during President Obama's inaugural address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2009. It's made up of 220 images and the final image size is 59,783 X 24,658 pixels or 1,474 megapixels.

These images can be produced with anything from a simple point-and-shoot camera to and expensive digital SLR and a piece of fairly inexpensive equipment you can get for yourself from a company called GigaPan.

And there are plenty of studios, like Gigapixel in Canada, shooting images that can be commissioned, as well. Here's a look at a particularly cool work of theirs, which again, is best viewed on the zoomable link here:

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Which gets you ultraclose like this:

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As Gigapixel explains it, these aren't enlargements like you might be used to, but huge patchwork quilts, in essence, made up of hundreds or even thousands of smaller images that are stitched together.

Gigapixel images are created by tiling a large number of photographs, or scanning a large film negative (8" x 10"). Gigapixel images are displayed on-line using streaming technology which breaks the image into small tiles and loads them as you look. This allows you instantly view high-resolution images that are over several gigabytes in size.

It's probably not the type of photography you'll be hanging on a wall - unless you have REALLY big walls, but it sure is cool to poke around and find all the details that go unnoticed in standard photography, hidden in the small corners and details that everyday photo technology can't deal with.

First of all, apologies your boss, your sweetie, your children, your dog and your X-Box for what's to follow. You most likely will lose all sense of productivity, responsibility and the need for state-of-the-art gaming and graphics because of this.

If you grew up a child of the late '80s and early '90s and blew more quarters at the arcade than it takes to park 2 hours in downtown Chicago, this is for you. Thanks to the great work of the folks at amog.com, there's now a list of 95 classic arcade video games you can play online. For free. Anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

Poster Tech Mog has gone through and graded each game on a 1-to-5 scale for various criteria: graphics, popularity, difficulty, fun, sound, etc. And you should take some time and read the whole post. Fun stuff and as thorough as Donkey Kong.

But save the reading for your own time. This is about gaming, Old School. For the kids, that's way before 64-bit and wireless controllers. It's about the history - how you got to Madden and World of Warcraft and Call of Duty and the rest. The graphics? They mostly suck. Sound? Garbage. Gameplay? Simplicity itself. But see how many minutes/hours/days you lose once you sit down and crank up a few of these gems.

For the sake of my own misspent youth, here's a couple of my favorites to check out. But with 95 titles, by all means, dive in and relive your quarter-fueled glory days on your own terms.

Thumbnail image for donkey.jpgDonkey Kong

How many new curse words did you learn playing this bastard at 7-Eleven for hours on end? Even better in your friend's basement on Atari!

Tech Mog's take:

You must be from another planet if you've never heard of Donkey Kong. In this game, Donkey Kong makes his [1981] debut as a kidnapper/barrel throwing enthusiast. You play as Mario and the goal is to rescue the girl while jumping over DK's barrels. Bonus points go to anyone who knows the rationale behind naming a gorilla "Donkey."

pacman.jpgPac Man

And yes, that includes the 15 other Pac Man spinoffs. Wakka wakka, baby!

Tech Mog's take:

"Pac-man" is synonymous with 1980s arcade and video games. When the original "Pac-Man" was released in 1980, it ignited a new craze. A relatively simple game with a static screen, it was, and still is, addicting. I'll do us all a favor and not explain how to play. If you've never played, come out of your cave and try it. You'll figure it out right after learning such skills as "not staring directly at the sun" and "how to operate indoor plumbing."

galaga.jpgGalaga

Die aliens, die!

Tech Mog's take:

Galaxian and the sequel Galaga is in an outer space setting, like a lot of games from back then. Your ship is at the bottom of the screen, and you can only move left or right. Like "Space Invaders," the object is to shoot all of the alien ships. But unlike "Invaders," these ships occasionally dive bomb you. "Galaxian" was a pioneering game for many reasons. It was first with multi-colored animated sprites and explosions, a crude theme song, different colored fonts for the score and high score, and more prominent background music and graphic icons that showed the number of ships left and how many rounds the player had completed. How did people play games before this? The graphics are better in Galaga, the sequel to Galaxian, but the game play is really no different. So, if you love Galaxian, then you'll also love ]Galaga.

Game on, people (and work off)!

Wait a minute ... you mean to say you thought Slap Chop was just something ShamWow huckster Vince Shlomi used to beat biting hookers off his tongue? Come on, infomercial neophyte, you're better than that. The Slap Chop is actually the latest kitchen goodie you can shove small amounts of pre-chopped food into, smash the top and watch the food become smaller bits.

And who doesn't need that, right?

But we're not here to shill for Vince and his As-Seen-On-TV gem du jour. He doesn't need the help. Nope, this is all about MC "Love My Nuts" Shlomi and his next life as a YouTube remix star - the finest example so far by djsteveporter can be seen above.

Oh, and bonus points for slipping some "Breakin'" footage in there, Mr. DJ.

A quick YouTube search will yield a treasure trove of slapped and chopped reimaginings of Shlomi's work if you're so inclined.

And just in case you haven't seen the original, here's a a pre-bitten Vince dropping his beats like only he can ...

Who is Chicago Larry?

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An unstoppable force? A rebel? A professional photographer? Try all of the above.

In fact, Chicago Larry -- who routinely refers to himself in the third person -- is the greatest celebrity photographer in the world (self-proclaimed).

The enigmatic Larry Stafford created plenty of intrigue when "Caviar" from "For the Love of Ray-J" VH-1 reality series identified him as her photographer and called him, "The closest person to me."

Upset by stiff competition on the show, Caviar phoned Chicago Larry to vent and let him know that she was "going crazy":



"Larry knows that," said the breathy voice on the other line. "So ... do me a favor... you're playing a game. Be you, but ... do whatever you can to play the game."

Sage advice, Chicago Larry. Sage advice.

Larry created such a stir on 'Ray-J' that the producers invited him back for last night's reunion show. By the looks of it, Larry enjoyed every second of his moment in the sun:



Larry summed up his general approach to life with the simple phrase: "I'm about all the pretty girls in the world."

Rumors are circulating that Chicago Larry is planning his own YouTube reality series. If it's going to be anything like the trailer, we'll be tuning in:

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A fractal called "Fan Room" by artist 12GO

Smashing Magazine has posted a very cool gallery of fractals - a.k.a. nerd art of the highest order. That's nothing unusual, but these are in black and white and they are pretty stunning. Normally color is a huge part of the fractal experience, but stripping away that aspect of the work really adds some clarity to these images.

But if you just can't live without your precious color, ad maybe want a trippier motion experience, check out this zooming, scrolling video that descends into a fractal's innards.

Or better yet, check this out and see if you can make something yourself - color optional.

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The oldest profession is succumbing to the new economic reality, it seems. As the global economy continues to suffer shrinkage, prostitutes in Germany see their livelihood dangling precariously and are taking unusual actions to combat their flaccid sales.

Enter a new age of costumer service in Germany's legal prostitution industry. Gone are the days when you paid full price for, erm, full service. Customers are demanding more for their hard-earned money, and the country's prostitutes are having to relent. Enter everything from customer rewards cards to shuttle service to flat-rate fees - one club introduced a a 70-euro admission for unlimited food, drink and sex between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

That's about $93 to leave with a full stomach and a real sense of accomplishment. Or as the club marketing puts it:

"Our offer might sound like it's too good to be true, but it's real. You can eat as much as you want, drink as much as you want and have as much sex as you want."

These are hard realities for the Germany's 400,000 or so legal sex workers who toil in an $18 billion industry.

"Times are tough for us too," said Karin Ahrens, who manages the "Yes, Sir" brothel in Hanover, in a Reuters interview. Ahrens said revenue had dropped by 30 percent at her establishment and "We're definitely feeling the crisis. Clients are being tight with their money. They're afraid. You can't charge for the extras any more and there is pressure to cut prices. Everyone wants a deal. Special promotions are essential these days."

It's a worry for local economies, too, who expect to reap tax booty from the country's working girls - and a few boys, too.

But you have to wonder, if prostitute's are unable to make ends meet and are forced to whip out the marketing push just to get Johns' butts in the sex slings, what other formerly slam-dunk industries are next to jump on the desperation train?

Gift cards and free giveaways for every 10th bus ride?

Politicians that make campaign promises, then actually follow through?

A guaranteed number on every lottery scratch ticket?

One thing's for sure - this meltdown gives a whole new meaning to the Hot Girls signs blinking away in neon across Germany's cities and towns.

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

After 60 years under the surface of Lake Michigan, a WWII-era Dauntless dive bomber was rescued from the depths and may get a new home in a museum. Here's a time-lapse video of the plane rising one last time. You can check out a blow-by-blow of the event courtesy the Lake County News Sun's Twitter feed from the scene.

Our playlist for a spring day! What's yours?

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Spring has sprung! Good tunes! Happy faces!


You're not at work today are you? You're feeling sick, right? Play some hooky, for spring's sake! Retrace the steps of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"! Get up, get out, get gone!

Regardless of what you're doing today, or tomorrow, in this gorgeous weather, here's a quick playlist of songs (via our Blip.fm feed) for all you who've got the spring fever. Just click the orange play buttons one at a time to enjoy some spring tuneage!

What are your favorite spring songs? Here are some of ours ...




More music for your workday/hooky pleasure, after the jump ...

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Earth Mosaic 2009 image by Bree Marie !

If you haven't had a chance to check it out, the Earth Mosaic 2009 project on Flickr is collecting some truly outstanding Earth Day images - so many, in fact, their servers got bogged down for a bit. It's basically just a nice way to spend some time clicking through beautiful photos of our planet.

They are still taking submissions, but you have to be a member of the group and because of the demand, they are placing some sizing restrictions on your uploads.

The end game is to take every photo they receive and create a high-quality mosaic, which you can see an unfinished sample of here.

Denise Richards really has morphed from what seemed to be a dim, wooden actress into a truly frightening attention magnet desperate for your constant attention. Unless, of course, the your in question is Charlie Sheen

So it's no surprise to see her show up spoofing herself of funnyordie.com hawking her famous fun bags. Paris Hilton started the trend and Lindsay Lohan did an impressive spin recently with a fake online dating video. Richards' fun bags just sag in comparison to those clever sendups, it seems.

Which of these incurable socailites/celebrities came out on top in the self-deprecation quest for relevance?

Paris Hilton

Lindsay Lohan

Andrea Wachner is a high school survivor, like many of us, dreading a trip through time to take part in her 10-year reunion.

It may be the best years of our lives, but that doesn't mean you want to go back to relive them, dragging your fat, older, beaten-down-by-life self to take part in tribal comparisons with all the other formerly fresh faces to see who's better looking, more successful and generally annoying.

What to do? Hire a stripper to play yourself, of course!

So Wachner, a comedy writer and filmmaker, brought (or is that bought?) "Cricket" into the mix. A taller, sexier, more clothing-optional stand-in that goes through the halls flirting, insulting and being VERY outgoing with all of Wachner's former Los Angeles-are classmates, all of whom accept the stripper as the real deal.

And for good reason. The real Andrea has hooked her up with audio to feed names and details for authenticity and has the whole room wired on a video feed to follow the action live.

What happens? Happiness on all counts. And lap dances, of course.

Wachner, 31 explains on her MySpace page what she was looking to do with the filmed stunt:

"Here's the long and short of it ... I sent a stripper, as me, to my high school reunion, rigged it so I could feed 'Andrea' info, and filmed the whole thing."

Who would you send as a sub to avoid a reunion?

Don't just play like a rock star, play with one

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Hipster 1: What did you do on your vacation?
Hipster 2: Went to Hawaii. ... And wrote some songs with Glen Matlock and Wayne Kramer.
Hipster 1: (spit take!)

You could be Hipster No. 1. For a few thousand bucks, of course.

Yes, these days aging rockers don't just pimp themselves out for high-dollar coporate parties. Now they're whoring themselves out as exotic music dates. The Rock & Roll Experience allows you to fly to Honolulu and play real-live rock band with a few guitar (and drum, etc.) heroes.

The organized vacation, Oct. 7-11, is a fantasy camp for aspiring rockers. Wanna-bes of every experience level can bring their instruments and jam with members of the MC5 (Kramer), the Sex Pistols (Matlock), the Beach Boys (Al Jardine), Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (Steve Ferrone), Devo (Gerald V. Casale), David Bowie's band (Earl Slick), Blondie (Clem Burke) and more. There are private lessons and master classes, ending with a live concert -- yes, you on an actual stage with these guys.

"The Rock and Roll Experience is for musicians, by musicians, and inspired by the bands we love" says co-founder Zak Einstein. "All of the celebrity artists are on site for the duration, eating, drinking, and jamming with our guests. People will get to live their rock and roll dreams, play music with rock legends, and be treated like celebrities themselves."

The full five-day package is $7,999, or you can just play golf with the rockers and have a few drinks with them for a day for $2,499. Rock that recession!

Avon calling ... in a new infomercial

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Either infomercials are respectable now, or troubled cosmetics company Avon is this desperate.

The blush 'n' beauty sales team -- once synonymous with door-to-door sales tactics (hasn't the Internet finally, thankfully killed door-to-door sales?) -- is, as Harvey Milk said, here to recruit you! This time, they're taking their sales pitch for sales staff to cable TV in its first-ever TV infomercial. It will debut Saturday on the Oxygen cable network.

None other than financial guru Suze Orman is on board to herald the glory of selling Avon products (a nice endorsement for a pitch like this in troubled economic times), along with "Inside Edition" host Deborah Norville.

AP reports: "The project is an example of the growing acceptance of infomercials, once an advertising form reserved for cheesy products. Avon also needs to increase its base of 500,000 sales representatives in the United States. The company said two months ago that it was freezing salaries and hiring as part of a restructuring."

We can't wait to watch it in our Snuggies after mopping up massive spills with our Sham-Wows.

And just to help you bliss out on a Thursday, here's how optimistic and individualistic the '80s looked through Avon's eyes ...

Bootylicious Beyoncé not tone-deaf after all

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A giggle-inducing audio clip of an apparently tone-deaf Beyoncé performance made the internet rounds yesterday after Howard Stern poked fun at her "real voice" on his radio show. The clip was supposedly taken from a sound board recording of a performance the bootylicious singer did for the "Today Show."

Today a hoaxer stepped forward to admit that he digitally altered the sound on the recording. Matt from Hellohomo.com sent in a videotaped confession to celebriblogger Perez Hilton to explain how he created the audio track.

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Ran across an interesting blog post at ThisPiggy.com that has a list of "14 Pizzas to Die for."

Basically it's a look at 14 round abominations with loose association to pizza. Well, make that 13 abominations. For some reason a Chicago-style deep dish made it into the same list with things like:

The Snack Bomb: This pizza features french fries, sliced corn dogs, Doritos and KFC Popcorn Chicken ...

The Happy Meal: A wheel of nast that has McDonald's cheeseburgers, McNuggets and fries - and what appears to be a lot of ketchup ...

and The Corndog: Exactly what it sounds like - a pizza covered in whole corndogs. Yum.

W.T.F.?!?

Look, people, corndogs on pizza is not pizza. It's more like the reason this country is getting fatter by the second. But health concerns aside, it's also NASTY. Does that mean you have to live with just cheese, sausage or pepperoni? Of course not. But trying to figure out what toppings to order on the extra large for delivery shouldn't involve a trip to the vending machine.

It also shouldn't involve a deep-fat fryer.

Besides, if you really have to stoop to the basement pizza levels, there's always New York style.

Fourteen pizzas to die for? More like 13 pizzas somebody should be shot over.

That said, what's the most unusual pizza you've seen or eaten? Were you pleasantly surprised or predictably repulsed?

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Keith Hale, Chicago Sun-Times

The Field Museum has jumped into the Bulls and Blackhawks playoff fever sweeping Chicago - cooled off after a couple losses - and broken out the jerseys from some of the creatures and creations hanging around there. What, no throwbacks? Anyway, here you see the Pterodactyl going all Air Jurassic. Good things he's too old to qualify, with ups like that he may have given Derrick Rose a run for his money.

Disclaimer: We do not endorse this action and people should NOT try this, no matter how daring you think you are.


Can the iPod shuffle be swallowed? from Gizmodo on Vimeo.

The iPod and iPhone lines from Apple, once the domain of bleeding-edge hipsters, are now the ubiquitous calling card of a society. White earbuds pop up from the daycare to the old folks home.

Face it, whether you're a Mac or a PC, all things "i" are tasty.

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But are they "tasty."

Does the iPod shuffle, left, really make beautiful music for your mouth?

Thankfully the good folks at Gizmodo wanted to find out if the iToys really are something worth eating up. They called in a professional sword swallower - can you have an amateur sword swallower? - named Heather, of all things, and gave her the seemingly simple task of knocking back the 1.8 x 0.7 x 0.3-inch, .38 gram iPod shuffle and letting the blogger listen to some tunes using the in-cord remote controls. This woman is used to throwing down 36-inch swords thanks to a highly trained and suppressed gag reflex. This tiny tune machine should be nothing but a treat right?

Wrong. It was too light? She couldn't get it down her throat. Gizmodo speculates that Apple has created a child- and moron-proof device that's too airy to choke on. And they may be right, but we recommend you don't try this at home whether you're a child or a moron.

Earthlink service tanks on Earth Day

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Today of all days.

In the kind of ironic twist only fate can deliver with real panache, the Internet service provider Earthlink suffered a major outage today. On Earth Day.

Earthlink users have been unable to access e-mail or Web sites hosted by the company. No word yet on the cause of the problem. In fact, the company's homepage is down and its phone numbers are unresponsive.

The news first broke mid-morning, of course, on Twitter. "Wake-up call to EarthLink," writes meechybee. "You may need a Twitter page of your own. We need updates (and your phones aren't working)." Perhaps more irony: Earthlink hasn't updated its own Twitter page in nearly two years.

Earthlink is based in Atlanta and serves nearly 3 million subscribers in the United States.

What do you think: marvelous coincidence or devious conspiracy?

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How 'bout a little Earth photography for Earth Day. Sure, we've been sucking up the Google Earth images of various cities and neighborhoods for a while now, but there's nothing that beats the literally stellar database of photos NASA has compiled in its five decades or so of exploring outside the limits of our atmosphere.

From satellite imagery to snapshots taken by astronauts from the surface of the moon, they have more cool Earth photos than you'll have time to pick through. But, if that's the case, you can just log onto their Image of the Day page and they'll pick a new photo for you every day from a library that runs the gamut from beautiful shots of Earth's topography to images of man's effects on the planet we call home.

So dig in a bit, but be warned: You will get nothing done once you do. The NASA image library is a timesuck of the highest order.

peapod.jpgIt's tiny, it's slow and probably won't turn heads on the street the way a Mercedes Benz SL65 AMG Roadster might. But darn it, the thing sure is cute.

Chrysler's Peapod is the company's entry into an increasing amount of Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) that are making their way to urban streets. The four-seat hipster carrier has a range of 30 miles and goes on sale today to mark Earth Day.

One perk of owning a Peapod is that your chances of getting a speeding ticket are markedly reduced due to the fact that it tops out at a paltry 25 mph. This also means you'll have a good excuse for avoiding the Eisenhower at all costs.

The car retails at $12,500 -- which includes the uber-nerdy option of using your iPhone as a key.

However, when you consider that the car uses no gasoline and emits no pollutants, it starts to make complete sense why its grill and overall design seems to be constantly smiling.

Grinning Peapod Car Prepares To Be Picked By Customers [Eco Geek]

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

The great thing about stupid is this: Stupid never takes a break; Stupid never gets smarter; and Stupid is almost always funny.

Witness these fine gents enjoying a backyard game of the national pasttime with a potato gun as the pitching machine. Put aside the fact that the batter seems to have been killed and you really just have some good old Internets fun. The only thing missing, probably just out of camera shot, is a couple of cases worth of empty beer cans and a couple cars up on blocks.

Aww factor: 9 Recession got you down? Just a bad day at the office? Nothing Elke, the 4-day-old Francois leaf-monkey can't turn around. Elke, a hand-raised Francois Langur, is shown for the first time last month at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney. The Leaf-Monkey's native habitat is Northeast Vietnam and Southeast China.

Playboy's got what could turn into an interesting new feature on their Web site that's both journalistic in nature AND, oddly, somewhat safe for work. It's called Lab Rat and the premise is they take an underemployed journalist and put him through various exercises that the rest of us wouldn't want to have happen.

First in line is waterboarding, the "non-torture" torture method used as many as 266 times by U.S. agents on Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah and Daniel Pearl's professed killer, Khalid Sheikh Mohamed. The journalist, Mike Guy, is filled with bravdo, betting the cameraman he can take 15 seconds easily.

He even chats up the "torturer," a supposedly military-trained user of the practice, who breaks down the reasons he won't be able to withstand any amount of waterboarding. No, the yoga training won't help and it doesn't matter how long you can hold your breath, buddy.

And sure enough, Guy taps out pretty quick. It's interesting to hear his post-game wrapup as he describes why he failed so quickly. Why the brain tricked him into thinking he was drowning. Why panic was so easy even though he knew he was in a safe environment and controlled setting.

There could be some interesting subjects tackled here and it will be curious to see where they take it - hopefully not the simple gross-out route.

Not as promising is that the second of two episodes has him enduring waxing. It's mildly interesting, but played-out. You could get just as good a tutorial watching the director's commentary version of "40-year-old Virgin." Though you do get to hear the phrase, "OK, do the testicles," in this NSFW installment.

Yo SWA raps!

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Flying on Southwest is always a new experience. The flight attendants usually try to change-up the rote announcements and presentations, just to keep things interesting. Here's a guy rapping all the information you need to know about today's flight ... Can't decide: If you were on this guy's flight, would you welcome this performance or try to flush yourself off the plane?

More video of crazy Domino's workers

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We've all seen the video of the Domino's workers sticking cheese up their nose. Here's new footage that just came out for your distracting pleasure. Enjoy:

FREE Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream today!

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Our friends Ben and Jerry are giving away ice cream, frozen yogurt or sorbet cones today until 8 p.m. as part of their annual free cone day promotion.

Here's a list of participating local stores. Enjoy!

Ben & Jerry's Evanston 1634 Orrington Ave. Evanston, IL 60202 847-869-2640

Ben & Jerry's Navy Pier 700 East Grand Ave. Chicago, IL 60611

Ben & Jerry's Navy Pier Kiosk 600 East Grand Avenue Chicago, IL 60611 312-595-5487

Ben & Jerry's Oak Park 1025 West Lake Street Oak Park, IL 60301 708-358-8081

Ben & Jerry's Palatine 807 North Quentin Road at NW Highway Palatine, IL 60067 847-359-7474

Pheasant Run Spa & Resorts 4051 E. Main Street St. Charles, IL 60174 630-524-5079 x7732

Ben & Jerry's The Glen The Glen Town Center 1860 Tower Drive Glenview, IL 60025 847-657-8474

Ben & Jerry's Vernon Hills 701 N. Milwaukee Avenue #128 Vernon Hills, IL 60061 847-816-9016

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You love to jam out to Rock Band, right? And who doesn't love the wholesome goodness of LEGOs? Well, like the proverbial chocolate falling into the peanut butter, you can now enjoy the best of two nerdy obsessions with the launch of LEGO Rock Band.

The game will play along the lines of the other Rock Band franchise entries, including guitar, bass, singer and drums. And the look will be similar, with a full band, concert venues, etc., but the band, instruments, and arenas will look as though they were built from LEGOs, keeping it in step with the other surprisingly addictive LEGO video game titles, Batman, Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Characters, instruments, and the band's entourage will all be customizable, so you can make sure the group clicks. Get it? Clicks? LEGOs, people.

Anyway, the setlist for LEGO Rock Band will be more "family-friendly" and while the total number of songs has yet to be revealed, here's some of what you can expect to play:

Blur "Song 2"

Carl Douglas "Kung Fu Fighting"

Europe "The Final Countdown"

Good Charlotte "Boys and Girls"

Pink "So What"

Can we refer to that as rock blocks? Sorry.

This kiddie-friendly rock is due for the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii, somewhere in the "holiday 2009" area. Til then, you can enjoy this low-budg bit of LEGO rock ...

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Scott Stewart-Sun-Times

In case you missed the splendor of the second Windy City Snuggie Pub Crawl Saturday, you can relive it in photo form here. And remember, it was a 70-degree day. Moist conditions in those Snuggies, my friends.

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Once again, legions of weed fans will fire up as 420 Day - the National Smoker's Day - hits. Recognized as a time when potheads everywhere can break out of their rut, sit back and get baked, err, wait, that's actually like every other day of their lives. Well, whatever. It hits on a Monday this year, which at least assures that some of us won't be having a bleak start to the work week, if the blazing conversation on Twitter is any measure.

If you're still having a problem chilling, Snoop Dogg was good enough to create a wake-and-bake soundtrack appropriate perfect for the event.

You could probably use a little music to get your day started right, maybe even some Twitter references since there's never enough mention of Twitter in the news these days.

Any reason we can't do both?

This tremendous bit of Twit Hop comes to us from Andy Milonakis and his musical collaborator K000l K0jak. You may remember Milonakis from his MTV show a few years back or from a few random sightings through the underbelly of pop culture. Anyway, he's gone to the trouble of making a halfway decent video slamming the ubiquity of Twitter, so why not watch? And don't worry, there's no mention of @Oprah.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go tweet about this because there's nothing I love more than being meta.

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Friday night seems like the appropriate time for this soothing photo. It comes to us courtesy of Louisville, Ky.-based, graphic artist Lance Wilson. There's loads more of his vintage beer can collection available on his Flickr stream if you're interested. In fact, according to this post at the package design blog dieline.com, Wilson and his classmate, Dan Wilson, have about 2,000 of the things spanning 70 years of pop-top glory.

Here's to you, fellas!

Oh, and cheers to Oregon tweeter @jessefelder for sending an item on this.

How do you give CPR to a tiny lemur?

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Very carefully.

Here's a bit from today's "Today," chronicling the heroic rescue of a baby lemur at the Little Rock (Ark.) Zoo. Any parent will empathize with the lemur parents, named Todd & Pepper, shown on a patron's video clearly hysterical after their new child, named Houdini, has fallen into one of the zoo's moats and gone under. Then watch the zookeeper jump in and give the lil' critter CPR -- including mouth-to-mouth.

First: eeeuw! Then: awwwww!


What do you think: were Todd & Pepper negligent? Does Angelina Jolie or Madonna need to step in and adopt?

Better yet, since, as NBC reports, "ring-tailed lemurs can't swim -- and don't even like getting wet." ... why is there a water feature in their habitat?!

Update: The "Today" Twitter feed just announced: "Sad news. NBC affiliate KARK reporting that the baby lemur (featured on the show this am) has died. They believe it suffered from pneumonia." R.I.P., lil' guy.

There are a lot of fantastic snake oil salesmen in the world, and Joel Bauer will be happy to tell you he's their king. Thing is, he might be right.

Bauer, whom you've probably seen as his business card video makes its way through the Internets like wildfire lately, is a self-proclaimed mentalist that specializes in telling people how great he is and basically makes a living selling the idea that he can train you to ... um ... well, I really have no idea what you'll learn at his knee. Something about observation. Something about success. Something about mental power. Yadda yadda yadda.

But who is the pompous gasbag you see in the video above? Is this guy for real? Can you get that hair? Here's a quick look at his bio from his Web site and, if you can stomach it, a half-hour interview on his amazingly craptastic talents of magical, physiological observation.

• Consumed by Martial Arts and Magic

• Performed professionally at events from age 7

• Warm-up act on tour for George Jessel at 12

• Featured Entertainer on cruise ships from 14-21

• From 21-41 created/produced Infotainment presentations & road-shows on Trade Show floors and corporate events internationally (IBM, Nortel, Dresser Wayne, Polaroid, and ITT to name just a few clients)

• Author of best selling books which include: "Hustle, Hustle-The Business Of Magic", "How to Persuade People Who Don't Want to be Persuaded", "Gravitational Marketing", and soon to be released, "Retire In 5-8 Years As An Infotainer"

• Creator of four systems on personal marketing, branding, passion, Infotainment, speaking, and closing from the platform

• Featured media personality on CNN, CNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and in SUCCESS, WIRED, and The Wall Street Journal to name a few Retired at 43

OK, all well and good. He's just one of many greasy life or success coaches running around like the proverbial post-apocalyptic cockroach. At some point, you even have to ask yourself if this guy is for real. A quick skim of the Google seems to indicate he is indeed serious. So much so, he provides this 20-minute gem that teaches you how to pack for a trip oversees. I know. 20 minutes is more than you want to devote to this guy, but believe this: you will not be able to stop watching the self-possessed crazy emanating from this d-bag.

Some of Bauer's motivational mentors after the jump ...

Domino's Pizza: Sorry for these two idiots

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OK, so maybe by now you've seen this video of two dumbass employees of Domino's Pizza. A girl films her co-worker buddy making footlongs, and captures all the glory of him putting snot onto the cheese ("It's our special ingredient") and enhancing the sandwiches ("Let's fart on 'em!") ...

That was a few days ago. Today, we get this video from Patrick Doyle, the president of Domino's USA, apologizing for the incident and assuring us that the two dorks have not only been fired -- they have felony warrants out for their arrest! (Wow!) Plus, the now-infamous store in North Carolina has been shut down and sanitized.

Check the sighs and the look on this poor guy's face. How disgusted is he to have to be doing this ...

Love, too, how he thanks "members of the online community who quickly alerted us and allowed us to take immediate action." That's two incidences this week of a company's gaffe being caught within minutes and citizen-arrested by tweeters and bloggers! (Take that, Amazon!)

Of course, a good way to make us all forget about this would be to have another "glitch" that sends me a free pizza ...

iStock_000000195819XSmall.jpgSo maybe those aren't really jumbo jets after all?

Beginning today, United Airlines is going to start aggressively enforcing its obesity seating policy that requires passengers that need a second seat because of physical size to pay for that extra space. According to WBBM AM-780, at the airline's ticket counters at O'Hare International Airport, that means gate and ticket agents will be asked to size up their larger customers - deemed "seatmates of size" - for the potential fat fee.

If a passenger cannot fit into a single seat, buckle their seatbelt - even with a seatbelt extender - or put the seat's armrest down, the airline will ask that passenger to pay for an extra seat or stay behind.

The policy applies to tickets purchased on or after March 4, 2009 for travel on or after April 15 and United says they did it because of passenger complaints - though a spokesperson tells Lewis Lazare that they got only 700 gripes out of 80 million or so travelers last year - and the increased fuel costs brought on by the heavier payload obese passengers create.

Here's the big question, especially for gate agents: How do you determine who's too big to go in one seat? Are they supposed to pull people out of line who look a little too hefty? Will calipers and Body Mass Index charts be issued and hanging next to the luggage check scale? Are there measurements involved? How soon til the first discrimination lawsuit is filed? And will there be discounts for the svelte fliers?

Who's next on the target list? People who snore while sleeping are charged extra to be put in a seclusion zone? People flying with crying children charged extra for a blast of thorazine and noise dampeners? Where does it stop?

Of course United isn't the only airline dealing with this weighty issue. Southwest Airlines has been in the headlines for its handling of heavy folks, too, though they've backed off their policies of late and do offer a refund if a seat is pulled out from underneath a passenger.

What do you think? Is this fair?

LONDON (AP) -- A middle-aged volunteer church worker with the voice of an angel is Britain's latest unlikely showbiz star.

Susan Boyle, 47, wowed judges and audience alike when she performed on television contest "Britain's Got Talent."

By Tuesday, a video clip of Boyle's performance on Internet site YouTube has been watched more than 2.7 million times.

The unemployed Scot who said she'd "never been kissed" drew titters when she told the judges her ambition was to be a professional singer. But her soaring rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical "Les Miserables" astonished the show's hard-to-please judges.

They were captivated by the singer from Blackburn in western Scotland. Usually acerbic judge Simon Cowell dubbed her singing "extraordinary." Fellow judge Piers Morgan said her "stunning" performance was "the biggest surprise I've had in three years of this show."

The show, the first in a new series of "Britain's Got Talent," was watched by 11.4 million of Britain's 60 million people on Saturday night.

British bookmakers made Boyle the early favorite to win the series.

She is the latest in a proud tradition of underdogs who win the heart of the British public.

The program, sister show of "America's Got Talent," made a star of its first winner, an unassuming mobile phone salesman named Paul Potts. He wowed audiences with his rendition of the aria "Nessun Dorma" and has become a global recording star since winning the series -- and signing to Cowell's record label -- in 2007.

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Chicago Sun-Times photo by Richard A. Chapman

Marco Hernandez, a sophomore at Taft High School, washes tile on a 30'-by-12' mural near the entrance to the school. The project was started by last year's art classes. The mosaic is made with ceramics students brought from home - marble, broken glass, pottery, etc. The flower designs represent cultural plants or flowers of students' heritages. You can see more of the impressive work here.

Pay It Forward: The Road Trip

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A Pittsburgh man calling himself "friendinpittsburgh" recently road tripped to Chicago, accompanied only by a Lady Gaga soundtrack, video camera and a generous spirit.

"Friendinpittsburgh" placed an ad on Craig's List offering help for people willing to "pay it forward," or return the kindness to someone else.

Contacted by the Chicago Sun-Times, he declined to give his name, saying he wanted his actions to speak for themselves.

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Denver's Falling Rock Tap House might not brew it, but they pour it on if it is brewed in the region.

Over at the blog Sloshspot they put together a handy reference so you can find breweries throughout the country. In Chicago, we like to think of ourselves as a tippling town, and MillerCoors and Pabst offerings aside, we have some excellent local craft beer from Goose Island, Three Floyd's, Piece Brewery and the like. But we're pitifully dry compared to some of the rest of the country.

Lindsay Lohan is lookin' for love

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But perhaps in all the wrong places. So here's a funny video positing the idea that even LiLo could find the perfect mate, instead of crashing her ex's parties, now that she's single. Maybe.

The 15 most influential movies of all time?

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Celebrating its 15th anniversary, cable network Turner Classic Movies has compiled a list of -- what they say are -- the 15 most influential films of all time. And (drum roll) they are ... listed after the jump ...

By now you've probably seen the new Burger King ad riffing off the classic Sir Mix-A-Lot "Baby Got Back" that takes it in a new, and to some, horrifying direction. The King's people are pushing a new 99-cent SpongeBob Kids Meal that for some reason touts a combination of Sponge Bob Square Pants and the desirability of a butt flat as a book.

Huh?

If getting the attention of the American public is the goal, Congrats! You got it. If you're looking to create some sort of kid-friendly vibe, BK, you probably managed to eek out a rating slightly better than letting the kiddies watch full episodes of "Californication" while they slurp the slop in your stores, but plenty of parents groups are ready to storm the King's castle over this one.

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President Obama introduced his newest Cabinet-level advisor this morning, E. Ster Bunny, charged with helping the U.S. auto industry pull their collective heads out of Fantasyland after receiving billions in federal bailout money.

What? No? It's just the Easter Egg Roll at the White House, hosted by the Obamas? Well, that certainly makes it a less newsworthy, but no less entertaining a hippity-hop photo op. Give us a hand in writing a caption and maybe you'll get some extra obliterated Peeps in your basket next year. Just leave your best efforts in the comment field.

pizzarolls.jpgThere are many worthwhile challenges one can undertake "just for the fun of it." Reading. Taking a class in pottery. Helping kittens out of trees. Finding a job.

But none of those was an imposing enough mountain to scale for 22-year-old Jesse Herd of Glen Burnie, MD. No, only the daunting image of a full box of Tostino's Pizza Rolls - that's 40 rolls, people!!! - in 2 minutes was enough to get this guy up for a challenge.

And why not? What better way to express yourself in this American culture than to give yourself the foie gras treatment on a Web cam for all the world to enjoy and ridicule. And 122,999 viewings and a recent spot atop the Digg.com hot trends list are enough to prove that fame never means having to bring pride into the mix.

It may be too late to still be cataloging moments in our collective experience to pinpoint as the downfall of Western Civilization, but we need to make an effort to make sure this Herculean non-task is added to the list if possible. There's so much wrong about it that it's nearly a study in microcosm of everything wrong with us as a people in the age of excess and voyeurism.

And to cap it off, Jesse's 2-minute tour turned into 4 minutes of self torture. He missed his target by a full 2 minutes! So much for the world of competitive eating, which is silly and obscene, but at least would have given this nonsense an air of credibility - rather than the odor that actually wafted from the feat.

But all is not lost, at least for this pizza-popping fellow. At least there's the potential for a Grape Smirnoff Ice endorsement in his future.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, here's the calorie count on the challenge of the day:

Calories: 1452 calories

Fat: 72.6 g

SFat: 16.5g

Cholesterol: 66 mg

Sodium: 3036mg

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peeps2.jpgChances are there are Peeps somewhere nearby right now. You know, those dayglo marshmallow baby chicks and bunnies that come out of the woodwork every Easter.

Well, you can actually eat them, I suppose, but it seems like some people have gone to a lot of effort figuring out ways to fight them, torch them, shoot them and in every way possible torture the ubiquitous confections - up to and including making pop-art diorama projects with the sticky critters.

The best so far is from these industrious folks at Hackerbot Labs who apparently make a habit of Peep torture annually. They froze the little sugar bombs in liquid nitrogen, then shot them with a pellet gun and filmed the pink explosion in closeup, which is what you see at the top of the post and can find more of here.

Before that there was the nifty experiment of a Peep in a vacuum - no, not the type you clean the floor with - with 9,000 volts running through it. Peep go fry-bye.

And for the more sporting of you, there's Peep jousting, complete with brackets. All you need is a microwave, some toothpicks and, of course, a few teams of the Peeps in colors you like best - or least. A lot of beer seems like it might be an unmentioned but necessary ingredient as well. Check this out for an extraordinarily detailed account of how you smash these little guys into eachother.

So go grab a few packs of Peeps - likely a few packs of brews, too - and make some marshmallowy science or art for yourself!

Live Videos by Ustream

snoop.jpg So you know how sometimes you'll be trolling the Internets, searching for the answers to life's deep questions? Well sometimes, friends, the Internets provide.

Snoop Dogg has a NSFW live show on Ustream - his wake-and-bake blowout. He sparks up, plays tunes, smokes weed, chats with his Twitter followers, hits the chronic and even does some occasional free-styling.

There's so many reasons to check this out - Snoop's easy humor, the fan questions and comments, the music - that you almost lose sight of the constant smoke billowing around the room. It's like being in the middle of a forest fire as the D-O-Double-G ceaselessly and unapologetically tokes on fat splifs.

And the vibe of the show? L-A-I-D back, of course.

slydial.jpgFor those of you who have ever made a phone call and immediately began repeating the phrase "Please don't pick up" in your head, there's now a phone application for you.

Slydial voice messaging service will connect you directly to the voicemail of the person you're trying to call. (As if text messaging hasn't already made phone communication impersonal enough!)

Slydial offers a few scenarios where its product could prove particularly helpful:

"You go to a week long convention for work in Las Vegas and blow $5,000 the first night at the roulette table. You need to call your wife and tell her why she should hold off on making the monthly mortgage payment. Her voicemail will be much more understanding than she will."

"You just remembered that it is your friend's birthday. You want to call her but it is really late and you don't know if she is still up. Don't take the chance that you might awake her from her beauty sleep. Instead just leave her a sweet voicemail."

"You just partied hard last night and going to work is just not on your radar today. You dread having to call your boss and answering any awkward questions he may have. Instead just leave him a simple voicemail letting him know that you won't be coming into work today."

Slydial is a free application for iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile. You can also use it by calling (267) 759-3425 and following the prompts.

Pool party at Zac Efron's house!

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Today's -- and probably tomorrow's -- viral video is this little comedy gem from none other than Zac Efron. The "High School Musical" heartthrob stars in a short film about hosting a pool party, stuffed with celebs, which quickly goes awry when his rude uncle arrives, played by Thomas Lennon ("Reno 911").

Making appearances in the film are Vanessa Hudgens, Justin Long, Nicole Sullivan, Brody Jenner, Nicole Richie, Carmen Electra, Queen Latifah, Lance Bass and more.

FunnyOrDie.com is the comedy video Web site co-founded by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.

In a recent interview with CNN's Shannon Cook, rapper Flo "Boots with the fur" Rida divulged his personal cell phone number -- or one of them, at least -- to the general public.

The number, for those of you who, like me, have nothing better to do than chat up celebs, is (305) 528-2786.

You can also try texting him, as says he tries to respond to as many as possible.

As you can imagine, we here at the Sun-Times will be documenting any further contact we have with Flo Rida. We encourage you to do the same.

If you didn't get a chance to see the report, enjoy:
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Twitter is a rage to be reckoned with. People are signing up in droves to live their lives 140 characters at a time and are sparing no moment - personal, professional or otherwise - when it comes to sharing their details with the world.

Particularly interesting is the trend of instant-update personal journalism - tweeting during, say, plane crashes in Denver or the Hudson River miracle in New York City and even from the scene of the Mumbai terrorist attacks earlier this year. So perhaps it shouldn't be surprising to find that rapper Jim Jones broke out his BlackBerry during a traffic stop to chronicle his arrest on Twitter Monday night in New Jersey.

Jones, no stranger to a view behind bars lately thanks to an alleged scrap with a friend of R&B singer Ne-Yo in New York and possibly being part of an argument that ended in gunfire last month in Detroit, fell victim to the worst of all possible hip hop crimes this time, though - a warrant for an old traffic ticket. The man best known for "We Fly High (Ballin')" got jacked for his $120 worth of oversight in Teaneck. The rapper posted bail and was scheduled for a Tuesday court hearing on the matter.

Here's a sample of the wisdom imparted during his bust:

Just got pued over by the boys of al days I decide to drive by myself let's see how this plays out ...

Misssses officer let me go the funny part was watching them have to count all the money in my pocket lol I must say they were very cool ...

And it was a punk ass warrant from 2005 for 120 dollars and I've been detained 10s of time since then make sure u pay old tickets ...

Check the fly shit though they gave me a court date for tommorow 9am here we go again lol I'm sick of goin to court (sorry judge) ...

So kids, keep that in mind next time you think about skipping on a ticket. You can run, but never hide.

And while we're all thankful Jones has consumed the Twitter Kool-Aid and had the wherewithall to keep us informed of his hard time, you can't help but wonder what getting busted for a traffic ticket does to the street cred of a guy with a couple of assault beefs on his resume. Not to mention the idea that his first instinct was to whip out the phone for his jail cell tweetup.

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Kal Penn volunteered as a floor whip at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. (AP Photo)

Actor Kal Penn is leaving one "House" for another.

Penn, of "Harold and Kumar" fame, is taking a position in the White House as an associate director in the office of public liaison, according to several online reports.

Penn told Entertainment Weekly that he "was incredibly honored a couple of months ago to get the opportunity to go work in the White House. I got to know the President and some of the staff during the campaign and had expressed interest in working there."

(Click here to read the entire EW interview.)

Penn acknowledged to the magazine that he will be taking a sizable pay cut, and leaves the door open to a future return to acting.

Penn's character on "House," Lawrence Kutner, committed suicide on the show, prompting Fox to set up a "mourning" site for Penn's character that includes an obituary.

Sun-Times political correspondent Lynn Sweet has more.

In case you were wondering how we, the aging, crusty bastards of the news gathering world are adapting to the realities of Web 2.0 journalism, well, it's going just ducky, thanks!

In fact, in this video you can see how one of our hardscrabble scribes is living after entering the slick world of the blogosphere. And let me tell you, it's about time those mashup-loving Web nerds get an injection of good, old-fashioned, muckraking journalism.

Copy!

Thanks to @ericasmith and @gabehartwig for digging this up, by the way, on their new-fangled Internets.

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The country - the world, for that matter - is weathering one of the worst economic doldrums in its history. Businesses are folding, jobs are being lost and people are looking for hope that things will, one day get better.

Some really desperate and deluded folks are even looking to the government for answers. And for once, they might be onto something. Turns out the powers-that-be are turning to a miracle cure for what ails us.

Cannabis

Shotgun wedding?

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The groom wore beige.
The bride wore blue.
Their bodyguards, allegedly, wore bullets.
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady reportedly participated in a second wedding ceremony in Costa Rica Saturday. The couple first married in California in February.
French news agency Agence France-Presse reported that one of its photographers said a bodyguard for Bundchen shot at his car after he refused to give up his camera outside the wedding site.
Al Dia photographer Rolando Aviles says he was also in the car and has filed a police complaint, AP reported.
People magazine was reporting Monday on its Web site that "three to four guys" were involved in the apparently attack on the press.
Nobody was hurt, the Associated Press said.
"I have no knowledge of the events being described," Don Yee, Brady's agent, told The Associated Press in an e-mail on Sunday night. "Additionally, security personnel have reported they do not have any knowledge of such an event. Given this, I have no other comment."
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Comedy at 140 characters per joke

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Twitter has certainly broken into the mainstream. Which means it's now officially ripe for parody. To wit ...

One more after the jump ...

'I thought they smelled bad ... on the outside!'

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These are the days I wish I were an advertising copywriter. Imagine, once upon a time, someone had to face a blank white computer screen and compose this:

In the sub-zero wasteland of the planet Hoth, only the strong survive... and of course those lucky Jedi protected by the thick skin of a Tauntaun. Now after exhaustive movie viewing research and analysis ThinkGeek Labs has isolated the exact synthetic compounds needed to re-create Tauntaun fur. What have we done with this supreme knowledge? Created a Tauntaun sleeping bag of course."

'Tis true. If you ever envied a stunned Luke Skywalker as Han Solo stuffed him inside the slimy guts of an extraterrestrial beast, well, envy no more. Furry on the outside, gut-looking inside -- and (nice touch) notice that the zipper is a blue light saber ... slicing open the ... yeah, love it. Operators are no doubt standing by.

Oh, but that's right. You'll buy this for your kids. (Wink.)

Of course, this was the cruelest April Fool's prank ever and it doesn't really exist. Or does it? Looks like the people at ThinkGeek are looking to actually make this greatest of all sleeping bags since so many people want it for realz.

ATTN Tauntaun Fanatics! Due to an overwhelming tsunami of requests from YOU THE PEOPLE, we have decided to TRY and bring this to life. We have no clue if the suits at Lucasfilms will grant little ThinkGeek a license, nor do we know how much it would ultimately retail for. But if you are interested in ever owning one of these, click the link below and we'll try!

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President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are greeted by France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy at Palais Rohan in Strasbourg, France, on Friday. But it was the casual butt-grab Sarkozy administered to his sometimes NSFW former-model wife that caught some attention in this photo.

So give us a hand writing a caption that describes the moment.

No means yes, at least when it comes to Pope condoms

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PopeCondoms.jpg A backlash against Pope Benedict XVI's recent comments on how condoms actually contribute to the world's AIDS problem has spread beyond protests -- to Pope-themed condoms.

The International Women's Health Coalition reports that the "I Said No!" condoms are hot commodities in France.

After a recent visit to Africa, the Pope said that AIDS "cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems."


An anti-smoking commercial featuring a child in a crowded train station who cries when his mother steps away is sparking debate on whether it's appropriate for commercials to shock their audience into taking action.

The commercial seems harmless enough until one realizes that the four-year-old child's tears are real -- and his actual mother briefly stepped away from the boy, causing him to be overcome with real fear.

"This is how your child feels after losing you for a minute," a voice tells the viewer, "just imagine if they lost you for life." The commercial is for the Australian anti-smoking group Quit Victoria.

In an interview this morning with the Today Show's Matt Lauer, the group's executive director, Fiona Sharkie, said the boy was completely safe during the filming of the commercial.

Did you have a yo-yo as a kid? Maybe learned a few tricks - walk the dog or whatever. Well, this guy's yo-yo could kick you and your yo-yo's dog's butt.

The guy is Jensen Kimmitt, a 20-year-old artist in Canada who can sling like you can't believe, which when you're talking yo-yoing is kinda like being king of the nerds a bit, but also something oddly cool to behold. He's been a Canadian National Yo-Yo Champion in 2001 and is gunning for the World Yo-Yo Championship in Orlando this year - there are world yo-yo championships? - to add to his string-hanging glory.


Hulk Smash from Jensen Kimmitt on Vimeo.

When airplanes attack!

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Cue the "Jaws" music ...

We could share a few of our own stories. Like the time we flew through the thunderstorm over Colorado and one of the engines was hit by lightning. Or the time the lady behind us used the air sick bag ... and then put it back into the seat pocket in front of her. Or the three times our luggage embarked on a completely separate holiday.

Yes, these are the tales of flights from hell. So of course now there's a Web site to collect them, and you can find it at ... wait for it ... FlightsFromHell.com. There you can read stories of passengers too large for one seat, gruesome medical issues, horrible odors in the cabin and more, including this little number:

Twenty years ago I took a flight home from the Dominican Republic that was totally full and there was a lot of commotion as people were getting situated. After everyone was sitting and we were preparing to take off, I heard what I thought was a chicken cluck. After a minute or so it got more frequent and louder and I was certain it was a bird. Other people noticed as well, and then the attendant came back and it was discovered that a fellow across the aisle a row ahead of me had a live fighting cock in a paper bag on his lap. The stewardess informed him that live animals were not permitted. In response, the angry passenger grabbed the bag and apparently killed the bird within the bag by twisting its neck. Everyone could hear the twist and crack. People were gasping, but incredibly this satisfied the attendant and away we went! How bizarre is that?

Pretty bizarre. When you're done reading, click here.

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I'm sure there's more than a few people who would like to jam Bernie Madoff's head into the spokes of a bike wheel, but they'll just have to make due with the Topps trading card effigy.

From the people who bring you the collectibles adored by young baseball fans - and slightly creepy adults - for decades comes a new line of trading cards dedicated to the world of sleazy business. Madoff, Enron, even the namesake Charles Ponzi are all there in the "World's Biggest Hoaxes, Hoodwinks & Bamboozles" pack, due this summer.

"These cards feature 20 perpetrators of some of the most notorious pranks, dubious claims, and outright frauds of the last 2 centuries," promises a Topps press release.

Don't worry, the gum has probably been pre-stolen and chewed into uselessness for you.

Packs of the cards will sell for $3 apiece at retailers including Target and Wal-Mart and odds of landing the Big Bern are about 1-in-12. So good luck, kids!

Then you can proudly display them with your complete three-set collection of serial killer cards.

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Finally, fellas, we have a solid hope at battling erectile dysfunction that doesn't involve sitting in bathtubs on a mountaintop or dealing with a pesky 4-hour erection. Nope, now all you have to do is squeeze.

And for your inspiration, just drop by a lamaze class sometime.

We're talking Kegel exercises here. Kegels have been around since the '40s as an exercise intended to help pregnant women build up strength in the nether regions to help them push babies out with a minimum of damage to the body. You basically act as if you're peeing, then hold, pee, hold, pee, hold ... until you build up the muscles between the fore and aft to sufficiently carry the load.

Well, men, Kegels aren't just for those pregnant women anymore! Turns out they're being touted by a new host of "experts" to help us tighten up our pubococcygeus - that's the musculature that stretches from the pubic bone to the tail bone and is crucial for such important daily tasks as sexual function and stopping the urine stream.

And here's where the Kegels come in, according to the ad claims, you can increase you sexual health by doing the baby clench - and there's even a special tool to help you do it at work. So, you know, you can be efficiently crotch strengthening while you make the daily widgets.

Doesn't this sound promising?

Performing KegelPad exercises are the same as any workout in the gym. The results are the same when adding resistance to muscular exercise - circulation is increased to supply the muscle tissues with oxygen, resulting in a stronger muscle. In a sense, KegelPad exercises are like doing push-ups for a man's PC muscle. And just like any muscular exercise routine, results can be noticed after several weeks.

All you have to do is slide this handy little tool into your scrotal zone and start squeezing! What could possibly be less intrusive at work than watching you futz with a metal plate shoved into your special area? Very discrete.

So what are you waiting for? Pump this iron and tone that muscle!

Hail to the Chia!

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Obama merchandising is a spectator sport. We've seen the new president's likeness plastered on everything, so it was only a matter of time before the Obama Chia came along.

Yes, Obama's barbershop on the South Side certainly enjoyed its moment in the limelight, but now you, too, can give the commander-in-chief a trim. First, spread some gritty goo on the president's head. Then, dunk the leader of the free world in water. When his green fro comes in and starts looking a little 1972, buzz it back to "Yes we can!" levels and repeat.

The Obama Chia even comes in two different facial expressions. There's the Happy Obama and the Determined Obama ...

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UPDATE: Doh! The makers of Chias have pulled this item from shelves and it's no longer for sale. According to this story, some buyers found the item racist. Discuss.

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With members of the International Olympic Committee in town to evaluate the prospect of Chicago as a host city, buildings Downtown got into the spirit with some creative lighting - here the Merchandise Mart features the colors of the Olympic rings. Sure, there is controversy and there will be protests and we may not even get the Games. But one thing's for sure - this city shines when it wants to.

You know that delightful bit of snow and slop we got vomited on us as March raced out the door this weekend? It was a cold, snowy, wretched reminder that Chicago is a great place to live until the weather happens.

And nobody knows that better than the poor souls who slogged through the Shamrock Shuffle - the annual 8K through Downtown that turned into a Kwik-E-Mart Slushee. Thankfully, we live in an age where nobody goes nowhere without shooting video documentation of their every move, particularly helpful for the non-runners among. See, you can follow along here through that slop with this poor/dedicated guy - and his thousands of friends - without dropping your Doritos or shedding your Snuggie.

Squish, squish, squish ... the sound of victory. And frost-bitten feet. We salute your resilience and question your sanity. And remember, endorphins are not the boss of you next time there's a run through that muck.

Esquire magazine has a long history of thought-provoking art direction on it's covers - in particular check out the ground-breaking work in the '60s and '70s. From race to politics to pop culture, they always go the extra mile in terms of smart visual solutions.

The May issue, available April 10, is no disappointment. The mag promises the "first-ever mix 'n' match" cover, a perforated effort that lets you switch between portraits of George Clooney, President Obama and Justin Timberlake, flip-book style, to create stylized portrait from three of the leading faces in America.

Are there names missing? Of course. Limited to three photos, it would be impossible to please everyone. But this truncated stab is pretty cool no matter.

So, you may have heard our corporate parent, Sun-Times Media Group, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday. Many people have taken this to mean we're a dead media provider walking.

Not true! And here's five reasons why ...

1. City government

Look, those people down at Daley Plaza are here for one reason only - to mess with you. Without our expert reporting on the deals, scams, names and numbers, how would you know who was taking what out of your pocket - from a city government standpoint? Covering the city? You can't leave important Chicago stuff like that to the Trib.

2. Oprah

If the Queen of Talk - and pretty much everything else in the world - says we're a great paper, who are we to disrespect by going out of business? By the way, O, you may have heard we're for sale ... cheap.

3. Cubs, Sox, Hawks, Bears, Bulls, etc.

Look, there's enough misery spread amongst our sports teams that our struggles hardly register as a blip on the radar. I mean, 100 years since a championship? The Dollar Bill Wirtz years? The cavalcade of mediocre quarterbacks, etc., etc. We've got a long way to go before we can approach that level of futility. On a related note, we do have baseball hats and team shirts for sale in the store ...

4. No more Mariotti!

We've never been more popular than since the "tell-it-like-it-is" windbag left for AOL Sports. Our inbox instantly changed from a holding tank for hate mail to a fountain of joy for our readers. You might hate him, but you love us.

5. Conrad Black is still in stir

The mastermind behind our financial issues is still making license plates, blogging and learning the shiv arts behind bars in Florida. As long as His Lordship stays put away, we've got a halfway decent shot at holding onto the cash we have.

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