May 2009 Archives

This group of East London kids named Diversity danced all over Susan Boyle's glory Saturday, taking home the "Britain's Got Talent" title.

But don't worry about the Scottish spinster - with tens of millions of YouTube viewings and nearly overnight fame, not to mention a near nervous breakdown, she'll likely be popping up on a Simon Cowell label before you know it.

Here's her Finals performance. You be the judge: Did Diversity beat her?

No kittens were harmed in the making of this

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This week's viral video is the Whack-a-Kitty, a variation on the arcade game featuring a more whackable creature, the mole. A box of kittens, a large mallet, some catchy music. What could go wrong?

Your opinion: Is this adorable, or borderline animal abuse?

Whatever, it's no Keyboard Cat ...

If you're on Twitter, you're probably familiar with "Follow Friday," or, more accurately, #followfriday. It's a nice way for people to get the word out on some good follows on the microblogging phenomenon.

Our Sun-Times stream, @suntimes, is always fortunate to get recommendations from many fine folks, but we usually don't do our own list for a couple of reasons:

At 9,000+ being followed, it would be impossible to do it well ...

It would take forever and require numerous, annoying to some, posts ...

There are only so many hours in the day.

So, with that in mind, I'll try to compile a weekly list of sorts in this space of some good streams, in no particular order. If you don't see yours, nothing personal, you probably just got lost in the shuffle. Shoot me a DM - or leave a comment here - and you'll likely get added.

So, without further ado ...

It's always nice when corporate America comes down from on high and shows the country they care about more than just our money.

They love us for our pubes, too.

Like this instructional video from Procter & Gamble that shows you how you can trim your junk with Gillette razors without performing a home vasectomy. What could be more consumer - and family - friendly than that?

So grab a razor and start some scrotal hacking. Like the video says:

"When there's no underbrush, the tree looks taller."

Check out the link for many more useful tips on how to manscape your non-dangling areas. Apparently, it's all about pleasing the ladies. Thanks, P&G!

And they have many more useful shaving tips on other areas, as well. Like this trucker hat-wearing gent who needs his back mowed. Good stuff.

Here's 17,000 words worth of event from around the globe for Wednesday, May 27, 2009 ...

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Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano, right, argues with home plate umpire Mark Carlson after being ejected by Carlson during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Wednesday, May 27, 2009. Zambrano argued that he tagged Pirates' Nyjer Morgan out at the plate after throwing a wild pitch - you can see the blowup on video here. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

More of the day in pictures after the jump ...

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It was only a matter of time before two of the pop culture phenomenon of this young century smashed into eachother - bacon, meet iPhone; iPhone, meet bacon.

Neither of these trendy products seems like a flash in the pan - sorry - so is it any wonder they finally found a comfy niche together?

Enter a German company making felt phone cases in the form of bacon - many sizes available, including for the popular Apple Jesus phone.

Seems like one of those "act now" opportunities, though. Demand is high for this sizzling product. Sorry. Anyway, here's the really SUPER EXCITED sales pitch ...

"The Zeitgeist Case"

The Bacon Case

Dear Customers! Pls allow 20 days for delivery due to the high number of orders already placed. Sorry for any inconvenience.

The case look really lika a piece of bacon. You can feel the irregular and the illusion is perfect. Each case is different.

There ist no seam, the whole case is seamless and felted in one piece.

Shipment not EU 6€

Shipment EU 3€

I can felt the case in each size, please tell me your type of phone or anything else.

It´s absolutely trendy!!!!!

Undone -- the Snuggie song!

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Photo from Rolling Stone

We can't decide if this is adorably geeky or a hopeless sell-out. Rivers Cuomo, lead singer for the band Weezer, is so obsessed with the latest infomercial phenomenon, the Snuggie, that he's hooked up the band with its makers to create -- wait for it -- the Wuggie!

Cuomo tells Rolling Stone, "A Wuggie is basically exactly like a Snuggie, except it says Weezer on it. The people at Snuggie are doing it with us and promoting it with us. It's a totally legit Snuggie."

Our favorite reaction so far is this post: "But Phish fans are the ones who really need this, what with the epic outdoor concerts and all. Plus, they'd be Phuggies, which is a radder name."

Meanwhile, Weezer worked on their next album -- the follow-up to last year's self-titled ("Red Album") effort -- over the winter with producer Jacknife Lee (Bloc Party, Snow Patrol). They recorded "a nice pile of songs," according to the band's official blog. No release date yet.

We've had Snuggie pub crawls. Think Rivers would show up for a Wuggie pub crawl?

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Jalopnik (Gawker for cars) has a gallery up that has to be seen to be believed. If you thought cicadas were bad, how would you like to come out to your car for the morning commute to deal with it being encased in caterpillars and their cocoons?

What's the word here ... oh yeah, two words: ***ing disgusting.

WLS conservative-minded shock jock Mancow Muller went on Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" show on MSNBC Tuesday night to talk about how horrific his waterboarding experience was last week.

Last week Mancow submitted to being waterboarded on his show to proved the "enhanced interrogation technique" isn't really torture - and 6 seconds later changed his mind after being tortured - his word - by the technique.

Mancow says the physical, nevermind the psychological, effects lasted for days.

Muller says that's the message he gave fellow conservative powerhouse, Fox News' Sean Hannity, when the commentator, whom Mancow describes as a friend, called to argue that waterboarding isn't torture.

It was "absolutely torture. I would have confessed to anything to make it stop. I was willing to prove, and ready to prove, that this was a joke, and I was wrong. It was horrific. It was instantaneous. And look, I felt the effects for two days."

So the debate rages on - at least to which celebrity/journalist/talking head will be waterboarded next.

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The next generation of Microsoft's Zune music player, due in the fall, will have a touch screen, Web browser and an HD Radio receiver.

The new device, called the Zune HD, will also carry a high-definition HDMI video output that will let people play files through a docking station on HD TVs at 720p resolution. And the Zune's screen - 16:9 wide-format ratio with a resolution of 480 by 272 pixels - will use organic light-emitting diodes, a technology that helps improve battery life and image quality.

The OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen technology is also likely incorporated in the upcoming iPhone update this summer, as well as the Samsung i7500 with Google Android, according to PC Magazine, which also speculates an upgrade to similar technology from the iPod Touch.Microsoft has managed only single-digit market share for the Zune since its 2006 debut, but the company is continuing to invest in the device as an alternative to the dominant portable music player, Apple Inc.'s iPod. Microsoft says the new Zune will be the first with a receiver for HD Radio, which lets radio stations transmit extra channels alongside their regular broadcasts.

iPhone Journalism.jpgMicrosoft also plans to announce a link between the Zune music service and the Xbox video game console at the Electronic Entertainment Expo next week.

The iPod Touch (right) is the Zune HD's real target.

Sounds like some cool features, but with Apple's iPod/iPhone line sucking up about 86 percent of the personal media device market, it's probably also too late to the game to build much buzz

And speaking of games, it remains to be seen how the Zune can compare as a gaming platform, something the Touch has been marketed for and excels at.

There also the question of operationg platform and browsing.

The iPhone and iPod Touch system, based on Apple's OS X, has become a proven commodity for the device and given rise to a cottage industry of thousands of apps. And it incorporates the built-in Safari browser. Speculation for the Zune HD is that it will support a new version of Windows CE, but the question remains on browser choice. A new version of Windows Mobile or something entirely different?

We'll find out next week.

One benefit for current Zune owners, if the folks at Zunscene.com are right, is the promise of some fairly hefty discounts - about $70 off - to upgrade to the new device.

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A glass nasal douche used before each concert to irrigate Elvis Presley's sinuses with a mixture of warm salt water.

Thumbnail image for Monroe Presley Auction-1.jpgMarilyn Monroe's coffee table and Elvis Presley's prescription bottles are going up for auction.

You could be the proud owner of a Benadryl prescription bottle (right) that helped keep The King's sniffles at bay - or would have had he not died the next day.

Julien's Auctions will also sell clothing, autographed photos and other Monroe memorabilia, including items from her Brentwood, Calif., home, and jewelry, books and other items that Presley gave to his longtime personal physician, Dr. Nick.

According to the auction site, it's a summer sale filled with the mundane bits of iconic stars' lives.

Julien's 2009 Summer Sale includes over 700 unique items from legendary Hollywood celebrities and productions - including approximately 150 items from the personal and professional life of Marilyn Monroe and items from the collection of Elvis' personal physician Dr. George Nichopoulos. Also offered for sale are a collection of never before auctioned wardrobe books and test photographs from early MGM productions and items from the estate of Ann Miller.

The items - more photos here - will be on view at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas before the auction begins June 26. Bids will be accepted in person, by phone and online at juliensauctions.com.

So if you're in the market for any of the banality that proves celebrities are people just like us, get your credit card ready, make up a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich and settle in for a couple of days in June that are the stuff memories are made of. If memories are made of 50-year-old underwear and nasal douches.

World's oldest blogger dies at 97

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Photo from the Times Online

Maria Amelia Lopez once wrote: "On December 23rd 2006, my grandson gave me a present, this blog when I was 95 years old ... and my life changed ... now, I can communicate and interact with the world."

And she did. But Lopez' family is reporting that the 97-year-old Spanish grandmother -- and possibly the world's oldest blogger -- has died.

Lopez blogged here (in Spanish) about her long life, "from political memories of the Franco era to intimate musings on her increasingly fragile state of health. She blogged from the seaside town of Muxia, where she was born in 1911, or from the farmhouse in Galicia belonging to her grandson, Daniel."

Curious about to whom the crown shall pass? "Lopez became the world's oldest blogger on the death of 108-year-old Australian Oliver Riley in June 2008. The new holder of this unofficial title is unknown, although the actor Kirk Douglas, 92, who blogs regularly on his MySpace page, could be in the running."

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The place is like a museum. It's very beautiful and very cold, and you're not allowed to touch anything. - Ferris Bueller describing Cameron Frye's house

If you thought the Ferrari was nice, just wait til you get a load of the house.

The North Shore mansion made famous as the home to hypochondriac Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is for sale.

Here's the specs on this cozy little home, according to realtor.com:

The architecturally stunning, art-filled, 5,300-square-foot house went on the market last week for $2.3 million. Its most famous feature is its steel and glass "pavilion" that hangs over the ravine.

• Built: 1953

• Bedrooms: 4

• Bathrooms: 4 (full)

• Rooms details: 20x18 master bedroom, 42x35 family room, 40x25 living room, 20x16 kitchen, and dining room

• Size: Approximately 5300 sq. ft., one story, approximately 3/4 acre.

• That garage: 3-car, detached

• Amenities: Gas fireplace, central air, Lake Michigan water

• NO, it does not come with a smashed up 1967 Ferrari California in the Ravines.

And the house does have some historical architectural significance, but be warned, it's apparently a fixer-upper, as advertised.

THE BEN ROSE HOME-site of the famous movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", cantilevered over the ravine, these two steel and glass buildings, which can never be duplicated, have incredible vistas of the surrounding woods. This is a unique property designed by A. James Speyer and David Haid, both notable architects of the 20th Century. Estate Sale Sold "As Is" No disclosures! This is an amazing architectural treasure.

Of course, John Hughes, the director who made the a fictionalized Winnetkaesque world famous in a string of iconic '80s movies, is still banging around the North Shore and according to the report, has been made aware the digs are available. Apparently he hasn't shown any interest, but maybe Molly Ringwald and Michael Schoeffling can make a bid if they're still together.

Here's Cameron's NSFW reaction to the sale - we can only assume he still lives at home:

Maybe it's the Red Wings jersey, Cameron, but it just seems a little hard to feel sorry for you.

Of course, Cameron isn't the only character to undergo some changes since the joyride to Chicago and you can catch up with the others here.

So what happens if you lose out on the bid? Well, you'd need a Ferrari to be able to get to all the shooting locations Hughes has used in one day. Here's a helpful look at the properties still out there - though they may not be for sale.

UPDATE: TMZ caught up with Ruck at LAX, and apparently he doesn't have the coin to buy his own house. So sad. Anyway, you can see what he has to say in living color here.

Guess that's one potential buyer crossed off the list.

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Artist Jorge Colombo has managed to find a hip new use for the iPhone that Apple has yet to exploit for an App Store ad.

Yet.

In an amazing bit of finger-eye coordination, he created the current cover of the New Yorker with his iPhone and a $4.99 app called Brushes - and the companion Brushes Viewer app that allows for recording the process and outputting the work in large scale.

While art in the digital space continues to evolve in astonishing and impressive ways, this might be the most impressive electronic finger painting yet.

The New York Times - hat tip to Times editor Patrick LaForge - talked to Colombo over the weekend for his thoughts on how his work came to pass.

It "made it easy for me to sketch without having to carry all my pens and brushes and notepads with me, and I like the fact that I am drawing with a set of tools that anybody can have easily in their pocket," Colombo said.

And if you like Colombo's work, the New Yorker promises a new drawing each week on the Web site.

Here's a look in video form of the magazine cover in progress:

And you can find a bunch more of Colombo's iPhone work here in massively large proportions.

The great singing surprises continue to roll out of "Britain's got Talent," which is now in its finals push.

This time it's a 17-year-old high school star athlete with the pipes for singing named Troy. Oh, wait, that's actually "High School Musical."

This kid is named Shaun Smith and is a rugby player when he's not breaking down the Bill Whithers classic, "Ain't No Sunshine," which was his audition song for the show. He took on U2's "With Or Without You" as his latest venture.

Here's a link to the extended clip with the post-song interview with the judges gushing - though Amanda thinks he needs more confidence, despite her seemingly being, umm, intrigued by his look. Anyway, the abbreviated version was the only one embeddable.

Seriously, how soon til this show is on in the U.S.?

So who's this kid up against? You'll find his competition after the jump ...

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Jay Bennett (austintownhall.com photo)

Jay Bennett and Jeff Tweedy had a bitter breakup - well documented in the documentary "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," but there's no denying the powerful music they made together in Wilco.

So it's a sad day for Wilco fans as the Chicago-area Bennett apparently died in his sleep early Sunday at the age of 45.

Here's a look at the Austin City Limits show he performed with Wilco in 1999 as the band was surging in popularity:

Much more after the jump ...

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The, umm, design NebraskPWNED! on CollegeHumor

And the 2011 state-certified winner of Nebraska's lisence plate contest.

License Plates-1.jpgDepartment of Motor Vehicles Director Beverly Neth announced Friday that a white, gold and black plate featuring the state bird and state flower -- the western meadowlark and goldenrod -- is the actual winner of online voting. The new plates go into use in 2011. The winner announced Tuesday had been a black-and-white plate with the URL of Nebraska's Web site in red. But those results were skewed by a prank instigated by collegehumor.com, which encouraged people to vote for what it deemed to be the most boring design.

Gov. Dave Heineman's spokeswoman, Jen Rae Hein, said the black-and-white plate generated 12,510 of the 14,805 votes cast through collegehumor.com's link to the Nebraska DMV voting site.

After Neth disqualified the humor site's votes, the bird-and-flower design became the winner with 32,858 votes. The black-and-white plate managed to place second among four entries, less than 5,000 votes behind.

AP

Hello, Internet music industry! Buh-bye, major labels!

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Welcome to the new music industry. The beginnings of it, anyway. After years of futile resistance to the Internet's potential for popular music, its commercial outlets are beginning to relax their way into the brave new world. Two signs of life are spotlighted today at cool music news site The Daily Swarm: 1. In a few days, Hulu will broadcast its first live concert, streaming a Dave Matthews Band show on June 1. Ars Technica reports: "While the site has previously streamed certain live events, such as the 2008 presidential debates, the Dave Matthews Band concert marks the beginning of live-streamed entertainment." 2. Amazon, in conjunction with TuneCore, will soon introduce limited-run, on-demand CD pressing. Wired expands the details: "Tunecore will charge just $31 a year in upfront fees to handle a 10-track CD from pressing to delivery, passing all other costs through to the buyer. In other words, the service promises to remove nearly all of the risks of short-run CD manufacturing, which can cost musicians hundreds or even thousands of dollars for discs that rarely sell enough to cover expenses." That's called cutting out the middle men. Buh-bye, major labels. Been great to know ya.

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

Hey, kids, it's waterboarding! The craze that's sweeping the nation!

Shock jock Mancow Muller is the latest celebrity/journalist-type to subject themselves to enhanced interrogation techniques in the interest of honesty. But does it answer the pressing questions:

Is it really torture

How tough could it be?

Does it work?

When will Dick Cheney accept the challenge and take his turn?

Well, it shut Mancow up for a few moments - about 3 seconds was all he could take - so it is capable of doing something that's never been done before.

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Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, 1983

Here's something cool to dial up on a holiday weekend Friday. A gallery of cell phone designs since 1983, starting with the Motorola DynaTAC monstrosity up through current models not yet available in the U.S.

The compilers of this list at webdesigndepot say they're goal was to target phones that offered the first in a certain feature set or were the first of they're kind at the time. But, they admit they could have missed some models, so they're asking that people leave suggestions in the blog post's comments for future inclusion.

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Motorola MicroTAC 9800X, 1989, right

But even with a model missing here and there, it's an impressive look at how far the mobile communications devices that have become so ubiquitous have come in the last quart century. For that matter, just in the last 5 or 6 years. It's only then that groundbreaking ideas like color screens, QWERTY keyboards and, of course, smart phones have become standard. When you look at the first black & white Blackberry in 2003 and the iPhone with its sleek design and touch screen handling, it's amazing to think they came out in the same decade.

Also interesting is to see the groundbreaking work Motorola put into the development of mobile phones, including production of the first models in the early '80s up through the RAZR, but with nothing to show or it as the company continues to falter from lack of innovation.

The post also points out a tremendous amount of advancements along the way and the slow adaptation of those ideas in the North American market - most recent being true 3G networks, which we still don't have like you can find in Europe and Asia.

With a new iPhone due later in the summer, new Google Android phone advancements and a raft of smart phone development in play, this will be a vastly different list to look at as the first decade of the new century comes to a close.

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How crap are you as a driver?

Yeah, sure, the other guy is always worse. Doesn't follow the rules of the road. Tailgates. Eats. Yaps on the phone. Drives with his head up his tailpipe. Stuff you would never do, right?

Well, here's your chance to prove it, Racer X.

The folks at GMAC Insurance, while waiting for a federal bailout for the GMAC parent company, have rolled out a the 5th annual National Drivers Test for you to spin through to see just how smart a roadster you really are.

No problem, you say? Here's a couple test questions to see if you have what it takes to drive Miss Daisy ...

You may pass on the right of another vehicle when:

A. When traveling on a multi-lane highway carrying two or more lanes of traffic in the same direction

B. The other vehicle is making or about to make a left turn, when a lane is provided to pass on the right

C. Both answers are correct

Under most conditions what is a safe following distance?

A. 3 seconds

B. 10 seconds

C. 20 seconds

A pedestrian is crossing your lane but there is no crosswalk. You should:

A. Make sure the pedestrian sees you, but continue driving

B. Stop and let the pedestrian cross the street

C. Carefully drive around the pedestrian

How'd you do? Answers after the jump ...

Tweety? Twitter tawt it saw a puddy tat

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The race is on for another celebrity trying to rack up the hollow honor of reaching a certain number of Twitter followers. But this celebrity is different. This one craps in a litter box.

Sockington is now a full-fledged media star, having gathered 500,000 followers on Twitter and declaring a goal for 1 million. He tweets about his daily adventures in his Boston condo, about his cat naps, about the other cats who are clearly soooooo jealous of him.

Sockington, or "Socks" for short, is the cat of Jason Scott, a 38-year-old computer historian and computer administrator from Waltham, Mass. Since late 2007, Scott has been tweeting from Sockington's perspective -- and finding a "Socks Army" of followers. (Many of his followers are pets, too.)

Dogs and cats in social media isn't anything new. Many have made Facebook pages (there are applications for both "Dogbook" and "Catbook") and Web sites for their pets. The difference on Twitter is that the running thread of Sockington's feline commentary takes on the dimension of a comic strip. Scott has created a character with a particular voice by tweeting messages from Sockington's point of view like: "I must say no comment to the whole dining room incident. No questions please." "He's kind of functioning like a 'Garfield' comic," says Scott. "He's like the 21st century Garfield."

If you like tweets from crceatures who don't talk, try this one, too.

(Contributing: AP)

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Rocker shocker Kris Allen's win last night wasn't the only jaw-dropping moment last night on "American Idol."

Bikini girl (aka Katrina Darrell) returned to the "Idol" stage last night bearing new assets to pick up an award for "best attitude."

But the big surprise came when Darrell again performed her horrific rendition of Mariah Carey's "Vision of Love." She sang it during auditions early this season (yes, in a bikini) when she verbally sparred back and forth with judge Kara DioGuardi.

DioGuardi had the last laugh Wednesday.

During Darrell's performance last night, DioGuardi appeared on stage to outsing her, and then ripped off her clothes to mock the puzzled "Idol" contestant. The video speaks for itself:

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The best food is always free food, right, Oprah?

First there was the Denny's Grand Slam Super Bowl promotion that brought a stop to the country as lines poured out of the breakfast joints.

Then you could get your caffeine on with a free Cherry Dr. Pepper.

Then we had the infamous KFC free chicken deal promised by Oprah. Or did we? That promotion seemed to be clucked up from the get-go and many fans of the talk show queen are still crying foul over their unredeemable coupons.

Then the country scored a hole-in-one thanks thanks to a pro golfer's efforts in Sand Diego to secure P.F. Chang's chicken lettuce wraps for everybody.

Even a little free chocolate to take all the hurt away, courtesy the cocoa folks at Mars.And now Oscar Mayer - a division of Northfield-based Kraft - is hopping on the Wienermobile-driven bandwagon with a coupon deal on their Web site to give away a free pack of hot dogs.

Just in time for grilling season, though in annoying fashion, you have to enter an e-mail address and a physical address - no downloading of coupons for sausages, people!

So since we're rapidly turning into a Costco sample-seeking culture, what food do you want to see on the free table next? Sadly, there's no gimmes in the beer and liquor aisles, but there must be some munchies that are begging to be gratis. Chipotle burrito? Potbelly PB&J? Free Philly cheesesteaks on the 4th?

What's got your tumbly rumbly for the hook up?

ABC's Nightline did an interesting story on a Web site, establishedmen.com, that specializes in pairing up hot young golddiggers with well-off men looking for companionship.

Oh yeah, and sex.

And by the way, these guys are more than ready to pay for play. But it isn't whoring, they say! Mercy, no. They buy gifts for the chiccas and their generosity is reciprocated with they dirty dirty.

donjuan.jpgThese guys don't want relationships, they just want the hook-up.

Think of it as The Ladders meets match.com, but with a really happy ending.

Sadly, there is no embed video, but you can watch the report here.

Considering this definition, which lays out prostitution as an act that trades sexual favors for money or goods, it seems the line between the Established Men model and Don "Magic" Juan's business is about as thin as a thong strap.

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icanhasdoublethink.com on CollegeHumor

Ahh, LOLcats. Always there in a pinch when a cheap, easy laugh is in order. But it's kinda like drinking Old Style - it'll get you where you need to go, but you always feel crappy and just a little dirty afterward.

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Now the chatty cats, spelling-challenged as they are, are taking on The Man. They've focused in on George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four - wouldn't Animal Farm have been more appropriate? - like it was a toy mouse hanging from a string.

As it turns out, the future Orwell warned of, one in which the state has total control over our lives, is actually much worse than feared. The Man has been replaced by the catz.

What would Orwell say about this feline abomination dumping his good name and work into the lumpy end of the litter box? We can only guess ...

"Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness."

Or maybe something like this:

"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity."

Of course, there's always his thoughts on the alleged generational effect on increasing brain power:

"Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it."

To be sure, truisms all. But surely his sagest thought on the LOLcats clawing up what many think is his greatest work - and one of the great works of modern literature, period - can be summed up thusly:

"All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others."

Big Brother? More like Big Pussy.

Unfamiliar with the LOLcats' genius? Maybe this will help explain:

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Lots of cool photos from NASA, as always, from the Shuttle Atlantis mission to repair the Hubble telescope, but this might be the best of the bunch. Here's what the smart guys had to say about the shot:

Transiting the Sun

In this tightly cropped image, the NASA space shuttle Atlantis is seen in silhouette during solar transit, Tuesday, May 12, 2009, from Florida. This image was made before Atlantis and the crew of STS-125 had grappled the Hubble Space Telescope.

The phtographer made this image using a solar-filtered Takahashi 5-inch refracting telescope and a Canon 5D Mark II digital camera.

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But does Ravage plug into a Soundwave boombox?

Sometimes a bit of personal technology comes along that changes everything. Today, friends, is one of those times.

mouse2.jpgA company called bigbadtoystore.com, which has about any comic book/sci-fi/action figure-type toy and accessory you can imagine has gone one step further, offering a transforming USB drive in the form of Ravage and a transforming mouse in the form of Dinobot Grimlock.

What, you say? Not enough USB ports on your desktop to handle all the coolness? Good thing there's a 4-port USB hub in the form of a talking Optimus Prime head that can handle some docking duties.

prime.jpgTransform and roll out data!

The catch? Sadly, it looks like these life-altering bits of nerd gold won't be available til fall and will set you back starting at $50 for the memory stick.

And please, no sharing with the kiddies. This is grownup stuff, people ...

Safety Warning: This Product is for Adult Collectors. It may contain sharp points, small parts that are choking hazards, and other elements that are not suitable for children under 16 years of age.

Of course, if you're more about the new school Transformers, there's always this Bumblbee-inspired Camaro wireless mouse.

Roll out (your credit cards).

Looks like the folks at Super News on Current.com have come up with a sequel to their popular Twouble with Twitters video (THE FAIL WHALE!!!).

This time they take on the influx of celebrities on Twitter, particularly with Ashton Kutcher and Shaquille O'Neal hitting the million follower count recently. There's also a particularly funny shot at Jimmy Fallon, particularly if you just don't get his appeal. And there's a fun Diddy drinking game that only adds to the celebrity appeal.

And, of course, we can't forget Oprah has blessed the Twittershpere as well.

But aside from showing that their lives, at least on Twitter, are just as banal as the rest of us, what can we learn from really popular, rich people who reach down from the heavens to bless us with their wisdom - without the courtesy of a followback?

It goes beyond celebrities a bit and touches on the questions of popularity, usefulness and saturation that a lot of people are asking about Twitter now. Nevermind whether it can make money, can it be integrated into our society of communication and tweet on the fine line between essential tool and overkill?

'Star Trek' beamed up to space station crew

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"So, Jim, did Earth's first space station look as much like an Apple store as this Starfleet vessel?"


Where would be the best place to watch the new "Star Trek" film -- an IMAX theater loaded with top-quality sound systems? a breezy drive-in with a dashboard full of Starbursts? a tiny screen on the International Space Station?

Wait. What?

Yes, in between facilitating the perilous, arduous spacewalks the current shuttle crew is conducting to repair the Hubble telescope, NASA techs managed to find five free hours to reformat a copy of "Star Trek" so it could be beamed up to the astronauts aboard the ISS, at the request of die-hard Trekker, U.S. astronaut Michael Barratt.

As reported by the Times of London: "After dinner on Friday, Mr. Barratt, along with Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, and Koichi Wakata from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, settled into the node of the spaceship, strapped their feet to the floor to stop them floating during the screening and watched the specially-adapted film on a computer."

The crews of the fictional sci-fi shows are probably jealous, wherever they are. But Barratt says they inspired him to pursue his current line of work.

" 'Star Trek' blended adventure, discovery, intelligence and storytelling that assumes a positive future for humanity," Barratt said in a statement. "The International Space Station is a real step in that direction, with many nations sharing in an adventure the world can be proud of."

Yes, but how does the new Uhura look in zero-G?

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Danger Mouse

Edit: Changed to reflect track listing (5/21/09)

It's been quite a few days for unintentional streaming music news. First Wilco's Wilco (The Album) became (The Leak) when the band decided to stream it well before official release to thwart an illegal posting of the band's work.

But that's getting to be an old story. Leave it to Danger Mouse to put a new spin on things.

You know DJ/producer/artist Danger Mouse, right? Aside from being the guy who put together the brilliant "Grey Album," a mashup of Jay-Z's "Black Album" and the Beatles' "White Album," he's also half of the equally brilliant Gnarls Barkley and works with Gorillaz and The Black Keys.

Well, he's at it again. And this time he's taken the forbidden fruit approach to his music one step further with "Dark Night of the Soul." The "Grey Album" was a massive underground download hit that never saw the light of legal day because of the unsanctioned use of copyrighted Beatles material. The Jay-Z vocal content was distributed specifically for remixing, so don't call him the killjoy here.

This time Danger Mouse worked with psych-rockers Sparklehorse and the album features guests like the Strokes' Julian Casablancas, the Flaming Lips, Iggy Pop and the Pixies' Frank Black. Also on board are The Shins' James Mercer, Super Furry Animals' lead singer Gruff Rhys, ex-Granddaddy lead Jason Lytle, The Cardigans' Nina Persson, and singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt. Filmmaker David Lynch even throws in with some visual work in the form of still photos to be used in a 100-page book that was to have made up packaging imagery.

Here's a look at the track list:

01. Revenge (feat. The Flaming Lips)

02. Just War (feat. Gruff Rhys)

03. Jaykub (feat. Jason Lytle)

04. Little Girl (feat. Julian Casablancas)

05. Angel's Harp (feat. Black Francis)

06. Pain (feat. Iggy Pop)

07. Star Eyes (I Can't Catch It) (feat. Lynch)

08. Everytime I'm With You (feat. Lytle)

09. Insane Lullaby (feat. James Mercer)

10. Daddy's Gone (feat. Mark Linkous and Nina Persson)

11. The Man Who Played God (feat. Suzanne Vega)

12. Grim Augury (feat. Vic Chesnutt)

13. Dark Night Of The Soul (feat. Lynch and Scott Spillane on horns)

Exciting, huh?

Too bad you may never be able to buy it. The label, EMI, apparently in a contract dustup, is refusing to release the album.

But don't worry, Danger Mouse has you covered.

Flinging an innovative middle finger at EMI, the 100-page booklet - illustrated by Lynch - is being put out with a blank CD-R inserted in it. Oh, by the way, the album material has found its way into various illicit file-sharing sites.

Hmm. What could that blank CD be for?

A statement put out by Danger Mouse's people makes it clear that they want the album heard, but gosh, don't do anything illegal!:

"Danger Mouse remains hugely proud of Dark Night of the Soul and hopes that people lucky enough to hear the music, by whatever means, are as excited by it as he is."

He added that the album, which comes with a limited edition, "100+ page book" of David Lynch photographs inspired by the music "will now come with a blank, recordable CD-R".

"All copies will be clearly labelled: 'For Legal Reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will.'"

Fortunately, you can listen legally. NPR's "Exclusive First Listen" series will stream "Dark Knight of the Soul" in its entirety here as the only official outlet for those seeking to hear the album fully.

And here's a taste of the Grey Album work, a video put together with Beatles and Jay-Z footage. Really quite a brilliant effort in itself showing off the song "Encore";

new-kids-cruise.jpgImagine if you will being on a three-day Caribbean cruise with the New Kids On The Block. Whether this would be a dream or a nightmare to you personally, it's going to be a reality for about 2,1000 people when a Carinval cruise ship will set sea with the NKOTB in tow.

A recently moved story from the Associated Press has Carnival spokeswoman Cherie Weinstein revealing most of the tickets went to woman in their 20s and 30s.

Big surprise.

The band reunited in 2008 after a 14-year hiatus and kick off a summer tour June 4 in Atlanta.

If you thought autotuning was just something Kanye West and Britney Spears use to make their singing sound respectable, think again.

Thanks to three brothers, Evan, Andrew, and Michael Gregory and singer http://www.myspace.com/sefullen, autotuning may have found its higher calling - broadcast news. The Radford, Va.-natives rock the Gregory Brothers band as their respectable gig, but in the off-time they cull the news for melodious moments to bring to YouTube - the most recent installment was posted today.

With a varied musical background - from songwriting instruction to "American Idol" appearances - and a keen interest in the news and state of broadcast journalism, the Gregorys took their social commentary through the computer.

Here's a lightly edited transcript of an e-mail interview on what's behind their autotuned ambitions and what's next after the jump:

The cliffhanger ending to season 5 of "Grey's Anatomy" last night put two of the show's main characters on hospital gurneys, flat-lining simultaneously.

Whether Katherine Heigl and T.R. Knight's characters are saved for next season remains to be seen. But if the cold hand of dramatic death takes Izzie and George, they'll be joining a proud tradition of TV talent purging.

Killing off a character is a time-honored method for getting rid of an actor for a whole host of reasons - money, attitude, ratings or just plain old spite.

True, they don't always die off. Some ride into the sunset to pursue noble causes, like Noah Wylie's Dr. Carter on checking out of the "E.R." to become an aid worker in Africa. And sometimes, for the lucky ones, it's a trip off the show to be written into their own spinoff, like Kate Walsh's Addison Montgomery character leaving "Grey's Anatomy's" Seattle Grace to set up her own "Private Practice in Los Angeles.

But the most memorable TV character exits are the 6-feet-under variety - and maybe the most famous is the death of McLean Stevenson's Henry Blake on "M*A*S*H."

So here's the question: If you were a character on a show, how would you write yourself off? A heroic, blaze-of-glory death? A quiet evolution into another phase of life? A spinoff, starring vehicle?

Here's your chance to tell the world how your character would finish its final scene. Think of it as writing your own obit, but with better ratings and less finality.

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The cover of Wilco's seventh album, "Wilco," streaming now on the band's site.

Update, 7:20 p.m. Stream of "Wilco" seems to be flowing again and the band releases a statement on the album leak.

Ahh, rainy days in Chicago. Perfect for zoning out at work and listening to some chill music, right?

What? You say you don't have any music for the day? Bored with all your current stuff? Well, lucky you.

It looks like Wilco's new album, Wilco (the Album), is now streaming for free on the band's Web site - though be patient as the whole world is trying to log on at this writing.

02-15-08_sweda_wilco_7.jpgWilco has long been a pretty fan-friendly band, but this is not a stream born of altruistic fan appreciation, apparently. It seems that the band is trying to thwart an overnight leak of the new album, controlling the release in a brilliant, lightning move that has them in charge of their content.

Late Wednesday they released this statement on the incident and their response:

Well, we made it nearly a month with copies of Wilco (the album) floating around out there before it leaked. Pretty impressive restraint in this day and age. But the inevitable happened last night. Since we know you're curious and probably have better things to do than scour the internet for a download (though we do understand the attraction of the illicit), we've posted a stream of the full album at http://wilcoworld.net/records/thealbum/ . Feel free to refer to it as "wilco (the stream)" if you must.

We also have our usual guilt abatement plan for downloaders. If you have downloaded the record, we suggest you make a donation to one of the band's favorite charities, the Inspiration Corporation -- an organization we've supported in the past & who are doing great work in the city of Chicago. Information and donation button here: http://inspirationcorp.org/.

That's all. Enjoy the stream. Tickets for summer shows, etc. http://wilcoworld.net/tours/ Note that we'll be holding a free online midnight screening of the "Ashes of American Flags" film this Friday night (at both midnight US Central time and again at midnight Pacific). So get the popcorn or whatever together and be sure to log on and tune in on Friday.

The news was broken on Twitter and even had at least one livetweet to a first listen of the album from @crumbler.

The physical album release is still tentatively scheduled for June 30 on Nonesuch and features a collaboration with Leslie Feist.

Here's the track listing, released Friday by the band for its seventh full studio album, 10th if you count the Woodie Guthrie-inspired "Mermaid Avenue" disks and the live "Kicking Television: Live in Chicago" album.

Wilco (the song)

Deeper Down

One Wing

Bull Black Nova

You And I

You Never Know

Country Disappeared

Solitaire

I'll Fight

Sonny Feeling

Everlasting Everything

If you're having trouble getting the streaming album to load in the deluge of interest, here's a little 5-song set shot live at the Riviera in Chicago in December of 2007 as part of a benefit concert for then-candidate Barack Obama.

Wilco Live for Obama from Craig Newman on Vimeo.

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Michelle Obama is a woman who has accomplished a lot in her life. From a humble upbringing on Chicago's South Side to successful lawyer and mother to her current job - first lady of the United States.

But here's a new line for the resume she may not have seen coming: making Maxim magazine's Top 100 list of beautiful women in the world.

Michelle becomes the first first lady to transcend the East Wing to the Hot Wing, clocking in at no. 93. No doubt powered to that finish on the strength of her keen fashion sense and well-documented killer arms.

You can get a look at the top 10 on Maxim's list here and here and a look at the full list of 100 here. And this is a list of the ladies Michelle beat out:

94. Yvonne Strahovski - heating up Cold War-style espionage on "Chuck"

95. Padma Lakshmi - hot in the kitchen on "Top Chef"

96. Olivia Munn - hotness under "Attack" (of "The Show)

97. Marisa Tomei - stripper-pole hot in "The Wrestler" and hot-and-bothered over her Oscar snub

98. Rebecca Mader - "Lost" in the hotness

99. Melissa Rycroft - hot on the dance floor and under the collar after rejection on "The Bachelor"

100. Deanna Russo - hot car enthusiast on "Knight Rider"

The great thing about this big blue marble we live on is that we're all gloriously different. We have different joys, sorrow, pursuits and interests. And that goes double for TV.

Especially, it seems, in Japan.

You know the many splendors of Japanese game shows with the odd tasks, freak show scene and day-glo color schemes, but it looks like the nether region of self-help and education combined at some point in this show in the '90s called Zuiikin' English - zuiikin means "muscle," apparently.

The show was meant to teach people, among other things, to speak English. That included many useful and common everyday phrases, like "I have a bad case of diarrhea."

At the tvinjapan blog, there's a short breakdown on the show, which includes these useful bits of knowledge:

1. I believe the show originally aired in 1992 but it is currently airing on Fuji TV in Japan. I am not sure if the episodes airing now are re-airs or new content.

2. I think the basic idea is that by adding muscular repetition to language learning that it will make the words/phrases sink in easier.

3. The posted clips that feature the girls dancing are from the end of the program where the entire lesson is resung/redanced to help the viewer keep the words/movements at top of mind. I'm guessing that the Terminator clip from above is part of the main show.

The dancing and repetition in this particular episode are reminiscent of the Pepto Bismol spot that kept gurgling up in the company's memorable campaign that listed every nasty gastrointestinal issue you might have. Hmm, homage?

Hyped up for "Terminator: Salvation," which hits the screens Thursday, May 21? Well, despite exhaustive searches of everything up to and including SkyNet, no illegal knockoffs were readily available online, so you'll just have to make do with the 4 minutes of man-on-robot violence Filmdrunk posted in this extended trailer for another week.

Of course, you can always jump over to the Apple Quicktime site for the HD and downloadable versions as well. Or, you can just play this over and over. Whatever works.

So you think the cheapo Tata is pretty small? Or maybe your Mini? Or even your precious yuppie ride, the Smart Car?

Think again.

BoingBoing dug up this BBC reports on Briton Perry Watkins, who thinks he's built the world's smallest car, complete with a windup key in the back. And as an added bonus, he's built a child, his son Jack, with a mullet almost as big as the car.

Both impressive feats of engineering in their own way, though the car, the Wind Up, may actually go places. It's apparently built from an ATV bike and the hull of a Postman Pat children's ride.

No doubt this would make parking in Chicago easier, but merging onto the Dan Ryan could get kind of interesting.

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Greg Pritchard belts it out.

You've seen Paul Potts. You've seen Susan Boyle. You've seen Jamie Pugh. Now comes maybe the most, well, shocking might be the only word to describe the latest contestant on "Britain's Got Talent."

Meet Greg Pritchard, a 24-year-old waiter with dreams of worldwide stardom and a truly unique stage presence and persona.

Sadly, no embed for this yet, so watch here.

And be ready to turn your volume down, especially if you're at work.

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This just in.

Justin Timberlake is awesome.

The pop star, actor and skinny tie enthusiast hosted "Satuday Night Live" for the third time in his already illustrious career last evening, and to be perfectly honest, he killed.

Killed, Jerry. Killed.

Timberlake's ability to be the coolest guy in the room without trying -- and without making all other guys hate him for it -- is an extremely rare talent. Equally refreshing is seeing a star of his magnitude not afraid to make fun of himself, an ability that paved the way for this grainy sketch.

Which segues perfectly into the follow up of the Andy Samberg-Timberlake internet sensation about a certain object in a box. Saturday's digital short was just as bleeped -- and just in time for Mother's Day.

Good luck getting this absolute filthy ditty out of your head today ...


obama-spock.jpgWhile Americans are flocking to movie theaters in droves to see "Star Trek," it was only a matter of time before someone drew a correlation between Spock and president Barack Obama, right?

Jeff Greenwald explores the similarities in a compelling post over at Salon.com:

"Spock has been on many minds lately, and not entirely because of the new film. Big thinkers in both print media and the blogosphere -- from New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd to MIT media moguls -- have referenced the Enterprise's science officer in recent months, drawing parallels between the dependably logical half-Vulcan and another mixed-race icon: Barack Obama.

They're not just talking about the ears. For those of us who watched the show in the 1960s (or during the countless reruns since), Nimoy's alter ego was the harbinger of a future in which logic would reign over emotion, and rational thought triumph over blind faith. He was a digital being in an analog world; the Pied Piper who led our generation into the Silicon Age.

Anyone who followed the early "Star Trek" with regularity knows how charismatic Spock was. If there were two characters I wanted to be as a young man, they were Spock -- and James Bond. Both displayed total self-confidence, and amazing problem-solving skills. Both traveled to exotic destinations, and were irresistible to women. And both shared a quality that my generation lacked completely: composure."

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The Social Security Administration released today its annual report on the most popular baby names, and as you may have guessed the biggest gainer was the name "Barack." Once floundering down at the 12,535th spot in 2007, it jumped to the 2,409th most popular boy name in 2008.

That's all well and good, but more intriguing to me is that 80% of the top 5 boy's names are characters on "Lost." Topping the list is Jacob, followed by Michael, Ethan, Joshua and Daniel.

See the whole list of popular baby names here.

After free KFC, enjoy some free candy!

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After you've finished scarfing down Oprah's free chicken at KFC -- that is, if you can find a shop actually accepting the coupons -- you can have a free dessert, too.

Mars -- maker of M&M's, Snickers, Twix, Three Musketeers and other candy -- has instituted its own Real Chocolate Relief Act. Head to its new Web site and register for one of 250,000 coupons for a free chocolate bar. They're doing this each Friday, today through September.

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Abraham Lincoln Being assassinated at Ford's Theater, 2009

You may have stumbled upon the amazing piece of art above on Reddit or Digg recently, a mixed media image of the assassination of President Lincoln at the Ford Theater, created largely with text.

It's really a stunning piece of work with key words and phrases scattered throughout. In fact, it's best viewed on this site so that you can scroll around, zoom in and out and explore every nook and cranny.

Being a bit nuts around here with Lincoln lore and imagery, and thinking this was just a really cool work, we got got in touch with the artist, Christian Verdun, to see how it came to be and pick his brain on the three-year creative process behind his art. Here's the lightly edited transcript of our e-mail interview, which you'll find after the jump:

You must watch this in HD.

There's just something about HD filming and slow-motion camerawork that makes for even more stunning visuals that usual.

Such is the case with this fantastic documentary from Britain's BBC2 series, "South Pacific." Gizmodo did a nice job breaking down the shooting technique, but it's hard to care about the nuts and bolts when you watch this apparently groundbreaking footage - the voiceover says it's first of its kind views of a wave in action in super slow-mo.

The BBC always churns out some of the best HD nature images available - those of you who have seen the "Planet Earth" series know this full well. But "South Pacific" has yet to run in England, so there's no telling when the series will hit U.S. airwaves, unfortunately. And the site for the show doesn't offer much, though they do offer a synopsis of the first episode, running this weekend, called "Ocean of Islands."

The South Pacific islands are the most remote in the world. Their extraordinary isolation has created some of the most curious, surprising and precarious examples of life found anywhere on Earth; from giant crabs that tear open coconuts, to flesh-eating caterpillars that impale their prey on dagger-like claws.

Come on, Discovery. Get on it!

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A look at the bacon magic you can create on any Web page.

Because everything's better with bacon, you can now slap a slice across any web page. Forget SEO, hits and traffic, this is all about pure, smokey, porky goodness.

Just take this address - http://bacolicio.us/ - and place it in front of any Web address to add a little sizzle to your surfing.

And if you have misgivings, just tell yourself that it's turkey bacon - all the favor, but none of the guilt or religious/moral implications.

Thanks to @Outsanity for making life a little more complete by pointing out this gem.

The new i-House: Can you put it on shuffle?

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Quick: how much do you spend a month on utilities? Monthly bills in the newly unveiled i-House clock in at less than $70.

It's not a new gadget. It's a house full of them -- a project designed by Clayton Homes as an affordable means of living green. Clayton says these manufactured houses are 30 percent more energy-efficient than standard construction.

The i-House comes in two versions: a $74,900, 723-square-foot model and the $93,300, 1,023-square-foot model. Both have these standard features: R-21 wall insulation, R-30 floor insulation, R-30 roof insulation, low-e windows, dual-flush toilets, galvanized metal roofing, corrugated steel siding, butterfly roof with rainwater collection, and no-VOC paints. Add-ons include 2 kW of solar, a tankless water heater, low-flow faucets and Energy Star stackable washer-and-dryer.

Want to say i-do? Take a tour here.

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Rat on a Cat on a Dog from Heidi Petty on Vimeo.

Somewhere Dr. Seuss is most distressed that he didn't come to prominence in the video age. This item has less than no news value, but it's oddly cool. So deal.

One thing, though. Couldn't they find a mouse or something to stick on the rat? Oh well, I guess every cheer-leading pyramid needs to end somewhere.

If you like this video, you haven't seen anything yet. Keep reading ...

This is just a nice, laid-back little electronica ditty called "Alice" with a music video cut from the Disney classic "Alice in Wonderland." (Good luck housing your collection of cease-and-desist letters on that, by the way.)

The music video for my song 'Alice', an electronic piece of which 90% is composed using sounds recorded from the Disney film 'Alice In Wonderland'.

It's a pleasant enough distraction from an Australian musician who calls himself Pogo. But you are missing a hypnotically trippy treat if you don't check out this version of the video. Give it a minute to load, stare away and feel your innards go all quivery.

Maybe that's how he plans to distract the Disney lawyers before they run a flaming spear of copyright justice through his heart. Good luck with that, Pogo.

But the real fun here is that you can do the same thing with your videos. No, not steal Disney imagery, but make the layered rows of visual coolness. It's thanks to this new site/service called yooouuutuuube.

You basically just plug in a YouTube video url - or you can pick at random - and it filters the video into a constantly evolving set of stills that flash in and out at video speed while the soundtrack plays in the background.

It looks like some folks have discovered the potential in blowing new life into rickrolling with it, but there is a neverending potential for timewasting video repurposing here - try an Obama chat, for instance.

Or some really cool, seizure-inducing music video work like this and this, both of which came via Reddit.

So upgrade your Flash and make sure your computer is fairly zippy and jump in.

A look at President Obama, yooouuutuuubeized ...

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There's probably little chance Chanel will be doing any shots to celebrate her 21st birthday, but there will probably be lots of naps to cope with the excitement.

Chanel is a dog, you see. The world's oldest according to the Guinness Book of Records and, more importantly, her veterinarian. At 21 she tops out at 120 in the dog-years scale.

Yes, she has to wear those goofy red doggles because of cataracts and there's usually a sweater involved to warm her old dog bones, but she's still not ready to bark gently into that good night.

Now she only has seven more years to go til she catches the all-time doggie birthday record of 28-years-old, set by Butch, a beagle in Virginia who went to the big dog house in the sky in 2003. Then there's the 203-year-old Labrador, Bella, in Britain that rolled over for good in 2008 claiming the Guinness Record for K-9 longevity.

Thank God for the detail-oriented nerdos at ign.com. They've taken the time to sit down Madden-style and break down the trailers for the upcoming "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" to wring out every morsel of delicious roboty goodness.

It's really pretty impressive. They stop frames, rewind and spot box their way trough the latest trailer to find as many of the new Transformers we'll see when the movie drops June 24.

They even drop the bomb that Optimus Prime may bite it - based on their video analysis - in this movie.

Actually, with all the quick cuts and blurred action in Michael Bay movies, it would be great if they'd let these guys do a DVD commentary feature so we can see what actually happens in the dark corners.

They even take the time to break down Megan Fox's latest bending over a vehicle scene - this time it's a lucky motorcycle that may even be a Transformer before all is said and done.

And here's the actual trailer in case you haven't seen it. Yeah, right.

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If he had gone to Costa Rica, we may have had a Banana Boat Rat sighting.

A quick skim of Google Trends yesterday morning had this unlikely search phrase - Banana Boat Rat - popping up in the top spot with no apparent reason why. In fact, there doesn't even seem to be an actual Banana Boat Rat to even explore further to find out what the interest is.

Well, the mystery has been solved. Apparently a caller to an Atlanta radio station has a pretty whack story to tell about bringing a dog home from vacation only to discover it was actually a rat. Sounds like a load of banana boat b.s., but this is the Internet and truth is sometimes a fuzzy affair.

Anyway, since this story is a bit on the sketch side, it still seems like there should be a new category of animal, mineral or politician that can lay claim to the phrase. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Is it edible? Can you make a split out of it?

You tell us what a Banana Boat Rat is - send a picture if you have one - and we'll try to add some clarity to this little Google conundrum.

First Lady Michelle Obama is familiar to Americans. And so is the dress she wore Tuesday in New York, according to the New York Daily News.

During her first visit to New York as the First Lady, Mrs. Obama donned a Tracy Feith dress that she's worn before, according to the story.

The last time we saw her wearing it, was on President Obama's first full day in office. She wore the ensemble Tuesday to her U.S. UN mission talk.

New York Daily News fashion editor Amy Diluna adds:

"For evening, the First Lady changed into city-perfect cocktail attire - a stunning floor-length navy blue gown from high-end French designer Azzedine Alaia, layered with a corset from her Chicago favorite, Peter Soronen - to deliver a keynote address at the Time 100 Most Influential People Awards at Time Warner Center.

"At the podium, Obama's voice quivered with emotion as she told the crowd she never imagined she'd be a role model for girls around the globe."

Read more at www.nydailynews.com.

Tuesday:

Jan. 21, 2009:



Bristol Palin, the daughter of former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, has been making the morning chat show rounds to promote her new role as teen advocate for abstinence.

She appeared this morning on the "Today Show" with her infant son Tripp in tow. She also appeared on "Good Morning America."

Palin, 18, taken position as teen ambassador for the Candie's Foundation -- an organization dedicated to preventing teen pregnancy through abstinence. Palin has had to do a bit of damage control after making statements to Fox News that abstinence isn't realistic -- statements she later said were taken out of context.

At 9:30 this morning at Pace University, in the New York Times' former headquarters, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the Kindle reader we've been waiting for.

No. Really. It's pretty sweet.

• 9.7-inch E-Ink screen (1200 x 824 with 16 shades of gray)

• 1/3 of an inch thick (10.4" x 7.2" x 0.38")

• 4GB Storage for 3,500 books (a bump from 1,500)

• Unspecified but "long" battery life

• Native PDF support through built-in reader

• Automatic landscape/portrait text rotation

• Navigation buttons moved to right side of screen only

• EVDO (of course) for 60-second book transfers

You may know it as the Kindle DX moment - the time when print publishing as we know it may have changed for good, though you'll have to wait for a summer release date to find out for yourself.

The always-fun Gizmodo crew liveblogged the event.

What's the big deal about a new $489 Kindle, anyway? It's literally in the word "big." The real highlight is that this is a reader made for the print media industry.

Giving new meaning to the term 'world music'

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Playing for Change is a group of well-meaning folks with apparently a lot of free time and money -- they've traveled the globe recording musicians, mostly street players (thus the pun of the organization's name), playing the same song, the American soul classic "Stand by Me."

The group's stated goal involves a lot of peace, love and understanding through music (because we are the world, we are the children ...). The result certainly makes for a nifty video, in which dozens of performances of the song are edited together as if they're all in one big band together. Which, in a larger sense, of course, they are ...

They've assembled similar videos for other songs, too, including "One Love," "Don't Worry" and Chicago icon Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home."

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An Intelligentsia latte - ready for drinking.

The 800 lbs. gorillas are highly caffeinated and ready for battle.

Starbucks and McDonald's are taking to the air, print and Web in an all-out campaign to win the hearts, minds and coffee-craving palettes of a culture obsessed with high-end coffee drinks. No, Cuppa Joe, you are not welcome here.

As McDonald's rolls out more lattes and mochas in its Cafe scheme with the promise of premium taste at a bargain price, Starbucks fires back with the bean there, done that idea that they invented specialty coffee and if you want the best, head for the green mermaid sign.

But while the fast food - yes, you are, Starbucks - behemoths square off, maybe we should be asking if either deserves our money?

Look, Starbucks is on every corner and McDonald's comes pretty close. And in a caffeine deprivation storm, any hot, foamy port will do. But if we're talking pure preference here, isn't our national brewing quest leaving out Dunkin' Donuts - and the ongoing "America Runs On Dunkin" campaign from the discussion?

And, more importantly, what about local roasters?

Chicago is no Pacific Northwest when it comes to the sheer number of small coffee shops, but we love our jolt just as much and are blessed with a good number of local talent, any list of which probably starts with Intelligentsia, but also includes Metropolis and the Chicago Coffee Co. to name a few.

But, perhaps in the end it all comes back to the big boys based on the age old measuring stick: Location, location, location. It's a lot easier to overlook deficiencies in either company's coffee offerings - McDonald's is too sweet, Starbucks too spendy - when you need walk no further than a couple blocks to find either one. And as this Pew Research Center survey from earlier this year indicates, Mcdonald's has a clear edge in people willing to be it's neighbor, though happiness, which could be interpreted as satisfaction, seems to be a push in the report:

So, whose camp followers are happier?

Turns out we have a virtual tie: Some 31% percent of those who prefer to have a Starbucks in their community describe themselves as very happy. So do 29% of those who would rather have a McDonald's in the neighborhood. And, for that matter, so do 27% of those who have no preference.

Does that point to a more basic preference from the masses looking to grab a cup? Time, and the ensuing marketing blitz, will tell. Until then, is it coffee break time yet?

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So, you think you have an ugly cell phone? Clunky? Bad service plan, poor features and hard to use?

Well, your maligned mobile may have nothing on this list of seven awfully designed and/or just plain ugly phones PC Magazine put together. Some are ugly, some are ill-thought-out and designed and some, like the the Siemens Xelibri Line combine deficiencies in a breathtaking array of grotesque telephony.

Give 'em a look and see how a phone can quickly jump from wireless to witless. Then count your lucky stars the next time you can text away without having to flip your phone upside down in the process.

And at least none of them does this ...

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Image from crunchgear.com.

Happy Star Wars Day! May the 4th be with you!

It's not quite Cinco de Mayo. There's no special Corona beer ads and the level of boozing and vomiting in the streets is somewhat less pronounced, but there's still a holiday to celebrate every 4th of May when we all don our finest capes and channel the Force, best we know how.

There are movie marathons, costume parties and deep discussions of the Star Wars mythos and canons. Some people even get nerdy with it.

And, of course, you can get your Galaxy Far Far Away fix via Twitter. The The Force itself does not have a Twitter page yet - not a meaningful one, anyway - but you can get a joke a day from @starwarsjokes. Or, better yet, probe the mind of Darth Vader who has a wickedly dark (side) sense of humor tweeting as @darthvader. Here's a sample:

@LindaMcDoniel - The path to the Dark Side isn't a cake walk. Bullying kids out of their lunch money would be a good start though.

Can't tell if I have the swine flu or just need a fresh air filter cartridge

Just be glad I don't celebrate Earth Day the way I celebrated Alderaan Day.

Aaaah, I love the smell of dead rebels in the morning!

You can always figure out which character you are in real life - Jedi, Sith, bounty hunter or bantha fodder?

Or you could just sit back and enjoy Eddie Izzard's classic - and NSFW - take on life on the Death Star:

Mwaahhhhh! (Chewie says: happy Star Wars Day!)

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Naughty, Chewie! But, hey, according to the Supreme Court today, wardrobe malfunctions might be OK ...


Sure, it's Monday, and if you have a bad feeling about this, take heart: it's also "Star Wars" Day. This is a very unofficial holiday that grew out of a very bad pun -- declaring May 4 as "Star Wars" Day so lisping geeks could say, "May the fourth be with you."

To celebrate:

• Flip through our photo gallery of "Star Wars" stars ... where are they now?

• Staying home today? The president told you to call in sick, after all. Pull a hat down low over your face and head to the corner video store (we still have those, right?), and load up of the entire saga. Make a day of it. See how far you get into the prequels before feeling actually sick.

• Killing time at work? Bone up on your knowledge of "Star Wars" species, planets and various ephemera by perusing the Wookiepedia. Sample entry: "Lady Valarian was a female Whiphid from Toola who became a crime lord and Jabba Desilijic Tiure's main competitor on Tatooine." Score one geek point for each proper noun in that sentence you understand.

• Geek out on Twitter. The 'sphere is alive with "Star Wars" Day tweets.

• Stock up on party supplies for a "Star Wars" party. (Dig the Yoda-riffic thank-you notes -- "Thankful I am!")

• Fans of the Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston's triple-A affiliate team, celebrated "Star Wars" Day yesterday by attending the game in costume and watching Darth Vader himself throw out the first pitch.

• Start planning your vacation around another "Star Wars" day: On June 27, "Star Wars" fans will invade Disneyland, gathering for a group photo in front of the castle. All together now: "It's a Death Star, after all ..."

Relax. If you haven't seen the "Star Wars" films (all six of them) -- or, more likely, if you've only seen one or two or snatches of them on cable -- you're not alone. Enjoy this summary of the "Star Wars" saga by just such a person ...

Or, enjoy this video which retells the plot of the first "Star Wars" in 30 seconds ... and acted out by bunnies. (True geeks will notice that the laser and starship sound effects sampled in this video actually come from the original "Battlestar Galactica" TV series ...)

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Peter Gibbons: Let me ask you something. When you come in on Monday, and you're not feelin' real well, does anyone ever say to you, 'Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays'?

Lawrence: No. No, man. ... I believe you'd get your ass kicked sayin' something like that, man.

Beautiful weekend, huh? Sun. Warmth. Palpable sense of joy and lightheartedness.

Yeah, but that's over now. Back to the grind. Breaking big rocks into little ones. Mining salt. Toiling in offices and cubicles and other soul-sucking places where canned air and binding clothes are king.

No, not much we can do about it. Actually, in this suckpit of an economy, we're lucky to be suffering for The Man. Blah blah bah. But we can empathize. Maybe even put that work-a-day dread you're feeling into video form.

Does it feel anything like this?:

Or does that at least make you feel a little better about your lot in the grand free market experiment?

But hey, don't worry about time's eternal march and the flip of the calendar from Sunday to Monday. The good news is that we're in for another sunny day in the 60s and by the time many of you get out of work, there will still be several hours of sunlight left. So you got that going for you. Which is nice.

Oh, and you're now one day closer to the weekend.



It may look like your standard bucket or a plastic flower pot, but the latest in baby bathing technology is taking mommies by storm.

The tummy tub, which retails for $45, is specially designed for infants to simulate the mother's womb.

The tummy tub was invented in the mid-90s in the Netherlands, but it made it's American TV debut Friday morning on "The Today Show."

Janis McKellar, who appeared on "Today" with hosts Matt Lauer, Meredith Viera and Ann Curry, sells the tummy tub through her Web site, Bathedwithlove.com.

The benefits of using tummy tub:

It's made of nontoxic materials
It has a low center of gravity so it doesn't tip over
It requires much less water than traditional infant tubs
Water stays warm longer

The drawbacks:

People may wonder why you're bathing your kid in a bucket

So why not just buy a bucket?

"A bucket is really unsafe for babies," McKellar told 'Today.' "The Tummy Tub is anti-skid with a low center of gravity. It doesn't have a handle -- that's a big safety issue. You wouldn't want your baby chewing on the side of a bucket."

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