Sunday, February 28, 2010

Winter Olympics in Vancouver conclude

In honor of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which are wrapping up tonight, here are a couple of Olympics-themed lists.
The first is BlackBook’s “The 25 Best Looking Athletes at the Olympics.” The list includes gold-medal winner and Sports Illustrated cover girl Lindsey Vonn, pictured above.
The second is “The 5 most memorable Olympic figure skating falls” according to Scott Hamilton. The article on EW’s PopWatch blog includes videos of some spectacular figure skating falls.
The article would have been more helpful if it specified when during the videos the wipeouts occurred. So I’ll do it for them.

1. Kurt Browning’s Short Program in Albertville 1992.
Fast forward to 3:40 on the YouTube video.

2. Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini in 1984.
Skip ahead to 1:30 on the video. It’s a doozy.

3. Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner in 1980.
FF to the 1 minute mark.

4. Laetitia Hubert from France at the 1992 Albertville Games.
Jump ahead to the 52 second mark for the first of many falls.

5. Michelle Kwan at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Start at 2:55.

You’re welcome.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Humans: Top of the food chain and proud of it

As a species, humans are the top of the food chain. Collectively we’ve defeated all comers in the wild.
But individually most of us wouldn’t stand a chance against the world’s top predators.
It’s easy to act all tough and cocky when don’t have to face a polar bear or lion one on one.
Here’s a sample of what some artists think of our standing in the food chain:
Lots of variations for this T-shirt staple: “I didn’t claw my way to the top of the food chain … to eat vegetables.”
Most of the time the saying is a knock on vegetarians. The above shirt is available online from Blue Canoe Crew.

If the previous design was too subtle, how about this apron from Hard Salami via Café Press? It features a man wearing a bib and holding a fork and knife while standing on a pile of dead animals, including an elephant, lion and giraffe. The text says, “Top of the food chain, baby … And looking to stay there.”
Toyota ran a print advertising campaign in 2007 that offered its Landcruiser to help you reach the top of the food chain, according to The Inspiration Room.

And finally, humans meet their match on the food chain from … zombies. Of course. Art by Olly Moss. Available as a T-shirt from Threadless.com.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Humans fascinated by news of animal attacks; Killer whale case latest to grab attention

Despite all our bluster about being at the top of the food chain, humans are pretty weak creatures. We can easily get killed by any number of wild animals and even supposedly tame animals that turn on us.
But by using our brains and our social nature, we banded together to wipe out most threats in the wild – lions, tigers, bears, you name it. But that doesn’t stop an occasional alligator, cougar, elephant, poisonous snake or other creature from showing us who has the physical upper hand.
This week’s fatal attack on a SeaWorld trainer by a killer whale in Orlando, Fla., brought that point home. Orcas are amazing animals, but you don’t turn your back on them no matter how trained they may be.
I’ve often thought there’s a good opportunity for a niche blog that keeps track of fatal animal attacks. A web search on Google turned up a couple of blogs on the subject that people started but abandoned. Keeping such a niche web resource going would take time and dedication.
Perhaps Wikipedia has the right idea. It has a section on Animal Attacks to which anyone can contribute. That way, if one person doesn’t have the time to update the scorecard of animal attacks, someone else can step up and do it.

Photo: SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in a file photo from the Orlando Sentinel. Brancheau was killed Feb. 24 by a male orca named Tilikum at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are blogrolls passé?


Tech-media-tainment doesn’t have a blogroll. It has a list of favorite websites in the right column, but none of those are blogs.
The list includes web resources that I frequently use as well as fun and informative sites. Any web surfer who stumbles onto Tech-media-tainment can get a glimpse of my interests from that favorites list.
But it’s not a blogroll.
Blogrolls got their start during the early days of blogging when online writers and artists wanted to generate traffic with fellow bloggers. The philosophy was: You post a link to my blog and I’ll post a link to yours. The name blogroll comes from the term “logrolling,” a political term for trading favors.
But blogging has changed. Some popular blogs have joined media organizations and mainstream media have adopted the blogging format for posting items online. Meanwhile the individual voices of amateur blogs have been drowned out.
Most of those corporate blogs do not have blogrolls. The people behind them probably figure: Why send traffic elsewhere when we can entertain and enlighten those web surfers longer here?
Blogrolls remain relevant to certain online users, such as political writers and activists who are building communities of similar thinkers.
But for the general blogging community, blogrolls seem out of date.
With Tech-media-tainment now in its second year, it’s time to update the TMT list of favorite sites.
The old list had 15 websites. Three are self-serving – Investors.com (owned by my employer, Investor’s Business Daily), my video website One Stop Video, and my Twitter feed. I’ll keep those and add IBD’s new tech blog, Click.
I’ll keep most of the others too, but I’ll drop Lolcats – I Can Has Cheezburger? and Yahoo’s most popular news stories and photos. I still like Lolcats, but just don’t visit it much anymore. I also don’t visit Yahoo’s most popular any more.
In their place I’m adding Geek Tyrant and At the Movies, both of which I’ve written about on TMT.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Living in the age of video surveillance


Some people are concerned about the proliferation of video surveillance gear in public and even on private property. They think it violates their privacy and could lead to a police state.
I’m on the side that believes video security cameras do more good than harm. They provide a deterrent to crime and are a cop’s best friend in solving crimes.
Two years ago, a man walked into a Lane Bryant women’s clothing store in Tinley Park, Ill., and shot five women dead. The case is unsolved. There were no video cameras in the store or parking lot. Had there been cameras, the culprit likely would have been caught.
Surveillance cameras have helped to solve a bunch of high profile cases: the abduction and murder of 2-year-old James Bulger in Liverpool, England, in February 1993; the kidnapping and murder of Carlie Brucia in Sarasota, Florida, in February 2004; and the July 2005 terrorist bombings in London.
More recently, security cameras led to arrests in the killing of a masseuse in Boston who advertised on Craigslist in April 2009 and the Yale University lab murder in September 2009.
Solving crimes would be a lot easier if there were more cameras inside and outside businesses and in public areas. I’d feel a lot safer knowing that bad guys can’t hide from the unblinking eye of surveillance cameras.
More consumers are installing do-it-yourself surveillance cameras because prices have fallen and they’re easier to set up now. MultiMedia Intelligence has projected annual sales of consumer video surveillance cameras hitting more than $1 billion by 2012.

Photos: Video stills of alleged Craigslist killer Philip Markoff and the abduction of Carlie Brucia.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thank goodness for Hulu; Good backup for when Cablevision fails


This week, my Cablevision DVR failed to record the latest episode of ABC’s trippy drama “Lost.” It’s programmed to record every new episode of the show, but this time decided to skip it.
Thank goodness for Hulu though. I was able to watch the episode online and not miss any important plot points. After all, this is the final season of the show and all the big questions are supposed to be answered.
I’ve had my issues with Cablevision, mostly related to its terrible electronic program guide and DVR setup.
Navigating the on-screen guide is frustrating and often fruitless.
In fact, when “Lost” returned from hiatus a few weeks ago, I couldn’t find it in the alphabetical listings. I had to hunt for it on the grid by channel, date and time.
Another problem with the search feature is that it only lets you input the first letter of the show you’re looking for. Then you have to scroll through miles of listings to get to where the show should be.
Once, my son asked me to record a “Pokemon” movie. After inputting the letter P, I had to scroll through scores of listings titled “Paid Programming.” Why is that junk even in there?
Same goes for pay-per-view movies. You’ll be looking innocently for a show and you have to run through the raunchy names of porn movies. Why?
Ultimately I couldn’t find that “Pokemon” movie in the listings, even though the show was being advertised.
In December, the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” did not appear in the alphabetical listings. But I found it on the time and channel grid under just “Fashion Show.”
Same with the science-fiction drama “V.” It wasn’t in the alphabetical listings.
Another frustration is that the program guide only goes a week ahead. Comcast’s program guide went at least two weeks ahead.
NBC is advertising a new celebrity genealogy program called “Who Do You Think You Are?”, which premieres March 5. But the Cablevision electronic program guide doesn’t have it listed yet. Now I’ll have to remember to do that closer to the show’s premiere. And I might forget.
Cablevision does have a nice online DVR management tool, but it too only has a week’s worth of programming information.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

10 celebrities who signed deals with the devil for fame and fortune

Some celebrities are inexplicably famous.
They are widely known and have household names. Their photos grace gossip websites and magazines. Celebrity news services write about their comings and goings, who they’re dating, and what they’re up to.
But here’s the head scratcher: They have unremarkable talent, are not particularly interesting people, and in many cases not even that attractive.
There’s only one explanation for their fame: They sold their souls to the devil.
I have no proof for this claim unfortunately. Just as I have no proof that the devil exists.
But after thinking about this long and hard, there can be no other explanation. These average Joes and Janes overcame the knocks against them – their commonplace skills and looks – to jump to the head of the line and become rich and famous.
Under the terms of their deals with the Dark Prince, they get to enjoy their wealth and renown until their deaths. Then they’ll burn in the flames of hell for all eternity.
After an exhaustive analysis, here are 10 celebrities I believe must have signed away their souls for the spotlight:

1. Jay-Z – A so-so rapper with a big attitude. He thinks he’s “the new Sinatra.” Butt ugly, he managed somehow to get one of the world’s most beautiful women, Beyonce Knowles, to marry him. He’s a hip hop mogul with an uncanny lucky streak, such as his golden touch for finding talented young singers to work with. Help from Old Scratch? I think so.

2. John Travolta – Despite his mostly terrible choice of film roles and iffy acting skills, his career just won’t die. With all the actors out there hoping for their big break, Travolta just keeps getting work. When his film career dies from mismanagement every so often, someone inevitably gives him a comeback role. He’s had like five or six comebacks in his career. Is the devil his wingman? You bet.

3. Ashton Kutcher – Good looking, charming guy, but what else? He’s no actor. He seems to play himself in every role. He comes across as a dopey, uneducated hick. With his marriage to sexy Demi Moore and his continued film and TV work, Kutcher is living a charmed life. An assist from the Lord of Darkness? Oh, yeah.

4. Britney Spears – Satan certainly must appreciate her decadent, live-for-now lifestyle. It’s also a tip-off that she’s only got a few more years until the devil owns her soul. Spears is just an average singer and dancer. She doesn’t write her own music. (Even though she has some co-writing credits, they’re always with prolific songwriters.) So why does she have a career when other hard-working, more talented singer-performers do not? I dunno, maybe … Satan! (Shout out to Dana Carvey’s Church Lady on that one.)

5. David Caruso – Supposed actor best known for his cheesy dialogue delivery and sunglass-wearing on hit TV show “CSI: Miami.” Caruso somehow managed to survive the career-killing move of leaving a hit show, “NYPD Blue,” early in its second season. But he was given second, third and fourth chances to make a comeback. Is Beelzebub his manager? Count on it.

6. Miley Cyrus – The actress and singer who plays “Hannah Montana” on the Disney Channel can’t act or sing all that well. Her harsh, somewhat annoying voice gets a lot of help from Auto-Tune. So, once again I ask, why out of all the young performers in the world does she get to be popular when her talents are so limited? Lucifer, take a bow.

7. Jennifer Aniston – Aging starlet with limited acting range who keeps getting work top-lining Hollywood movies. She’s nothing to write home about in the looks or talent departments, but there she is on movie posters, TV ads and magazine covers. She can’t carry a movie or TV show on her own, but Hollywood keeps hiring her. Credit goes to: El Diablo.

8. Robin Williams – Manic, wildly unfunny, but popular comedian. In his younger days, he was known as a material-stealing standup. Now he’s making movies where he recycles the same, fast-talking, pop culture-riffing shtick over and over. Is Mephistopheles keeping his career alive? You know the answer.

9. Paris Hilton – Vapid socialite who’s a celebrity gossip press staple. She’s dumb, blonde, rather ugly, has a famous family and has done nothing with her life. Her main claim to fame is a suspiciously leaked sex tape that boosted her profile before the premiere of her reality TV show, “The Simple Life.” She’s certainly enjoying her time on Earth, partying in nightclubs and sleeping around. But the eternal fires of hell await her.

10. Kim Kardashian – Another socialite who gained fame from a suspiciously leaked sex tape. She now has her own reality TV series. Kardashian has done nothing of consequence in her life. But photos of her and write-ups of her activities are everywhere. The devil’s handiwork? Who else?

Photo: Jay-Z

Monday, February 15, 2010

Logitech’s Harmony One universal remote control simplified my life

I’m tired of being my household’s information technology manager.
Whenever the computers, network, video game systems, TVs and set-top boxes aren’t working right, I’m the one my wife, the kids and nanny turn to for help.
After we moved to Connecticut, we purchased a TV system that was more complex than it should have been. It didn’t help that problems with our Cablevision HD DVR set top box necessitated several visits from technicians who kept screwing the configuration of our AV system’s inputs and outputs.
But even when it was “fixed,” it took too many button pushes on too many remotes (four) to switch from live TV to play a DVD or Blu-ray Disc.
Before a recent trip, I had to type up detailed instructions on how to switch between watching TV and a movie on disc.
I was the only one who could do it from memory. And our living room system isn’t that complex – just an LCD TV, AV receiver, Blu-ray Disc player and cable box.
Thankfully I purchased a Logitech Harmony One universal remote control from Best Buy.
In the past, I balked at buying Harmony remotes because I thought the price was a little much for a non-necessity. The Harmony One lists for $250, but it cost me just $145 on sale. (I also had a $100 Visa gift card to spend and this seemed like a good purchase.)
Knowing what I do now, even at full price, it’s a worthwhile purchase.
The setup is simple. You connect the remote to a PC and the included software walks you through which devices you want to control. It then retrieves software drivers from the company’s database of devices via the Internet. It was a snap.
The Harmony One remote uses activity-based controls. So with the touch of one button on it touch-screen LCD display, I can either “Watch TV” or “Watch a DVD.” Like I said, those tasks would take four remotes and multiple button combinations before.
A year ago, I wrote about some consumer electronics products being marketed as “marriage savers.” Universal remote controls are one such category.
And I can tell you from experience that the Harmony One universal remote has brought more harmony to my marriage.
Now, if only I can clean up my messy home office. Then it would be like a second honeymoon.

Photo: Logitech’s Harmony One universal remote control

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What will happen to cover girls when magazines go digital?

Being the cover subject of a magazine is a big deal. It’s a major achievement for models, actors, business people, politicians and others of importance.
But it’s becoming less of a big deal.
As magazines decline in circulation and more people read articles and look at photos online, the future of magazine covers is in doubt.
Getting your face on a magazine cover means widespread exposure. Your photo is seen on newsstands nationwide, perhaps worldwide. It is something you can hold and admire, even frame for posterity.
But declining readership of magazines is a fact. (See Silicon Alley Insider chart “Nobody Wants To Buy Magazines Anymore.”) And publishers now are hoping that they can transition their paper magazines to electronic readers, such as Amazon.com's Kindle and Apple's iPad.
Going from a tangible product that can last for years to digital ones and zeros that can be erased in a microsecond will greatly diminish being on a magazine cover. Add to that the fact that digital magazines aren’t displayed on newsstands in public.
In the past, being the cover girl for Vogue and other fashion magazines meant that a model had made it big. Being the cover girl for men’s magazine Playboy had a different sort of cachet.
CoverGirl is even the name of a popular brand of cosmetics owned by Procter & Gamble.
Last week, Sports Illustrated made a slash about Brooklyn Decker landing the coveted cover of its annual Swimsuit Edition. (Examples: The Huffington Post and New York Post.)
SI is likely to continue to make a big deal about the Swimsuit cover, even as the magazine fades and transitions to digital.
But will it still resonate with the public?
I have my doubts.

This is the latest in a series of articles called “The Failed Promise of Digital Content.”

Photo: Cover of Sports Illustrated’s 2010 Swimsuit Edition featuring Brooklyn Decker.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Google’s modern-day Library of Alexandria is not looking like such a beacon anymore


The failed promise of digital content – Part 9

Google wants to be a modern-day version of the legendary Library of Alexandria. It wants to index the world’s information so it can be searched and discovered.
In the case of old books and newspapers, it’s digitizing the information itself.
But can a powerful, profit-seeking enterprise like Google be trusted to handle the task with the common good in mind? Many pundits are asking that question now because of Google’s controversial book-scanning initiative.
Google provided evidence to critics that it’s a poor steward of Internet data when it summarily deleted several popular music blogs and their content recently.
On Feb. 11, PaidContent.org wrote about how Google had deleted at least six popular music blogs that it claimed had violated copyright laws. “These sites, hosted by Google’s Blogger and Blogspot services, received notices only after their sites – and years of archives – were wiped from the internet,” Sean Michaels wrote.
This follows reports late last year of Google’s mishandling of a database of Usenet posts from the early days of the Internet.
Wired reported Oct. 7 that a treasure trove of Usenet postings entrusted to Google had been neglected for years and was nearly impossible to search.
Usenet was a vast electronic message board system established in 1980 by early Internet users. The archives controlled by Google contain such history as “the rise of Microsoft, the first Usenet review of the IBM PC in 1981, early rumblings of a Y2K problem in 1985,” and the birth of the Web, wrote Kevin Poulsen.
The database contains 700 million articles from 35,000 newsgroups, spanning two decades.
After Wired published its article, Google was shamed into taking action. In a follow-up article, Wired’s Poulsen said Google had “begun patching up its long-broken Usenet library.”
Now Google is seeking government approval for its settlement with book publishers and authors to scan millions of copyrighted books and make them searchable online. (See articles by the Wall Street Journal, Associated Press and Reuters.)
Google made reference to the Library of Alexandria in a brief this week defending the settlement.
“The (settlement) cannot claim to create a Library of Alexandria, and no settlement can bring back the works lost to Caesar’s fire,” it read. “But it is hoped that this compromise between authors, publishers, libraries, and a company willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to digitize so much of the printed history of humanity will be another small step toward the vision that the Alexandrian Library represents.”

Related weblinks:

The Googlization of Everything

This is the latest in a series of articles called “The Failed Promise of Digital Content.”

Photos: Google logo and artist’s depiction of the Library of Alexandria (Wikipedia).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It’s official: The recent economic downturn will forever be known as ‘The Great Recession’

Ever since some clever chap called our recent economic turmoil “The Great Recession,” media everywhere have adopted the label.
Now the folks at the Associated Press have included it in the AP Stylebook, a guide widely used by newspapers for consistency in spelling, capitalization and other style points.
The AP sent out an alert today saying, “A new entry has been added to the AP Stylebook Online.”
Here it is:

Great Recession

The recession that began in December 2007 and became the longest and deepest since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It occurred after losses on subprime mortgages battered the U.S. housing market.

Funny – the AP didn’t provide an end date for the period. Are we still in the Great Recession?
Many economists have said the recession is over. But I’ll wait for word from the AP.

Photo: Cover of the book “The Great Recession” (2009) by the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Microsoft error messages: A gallery of goofs

I’ve been getting a number of error messages on my Windows XP computer lately.
None of them have been fatal, like my experience last November. But I can’t shake the feeling that Microsoft is trying to send me a message to get a new PC.
The first error message is from Microsoft Office Word 2007 and the other two are from Internet Explorer 8. I just felt like sharing. Enjoy!


Sunday, February 7, 2010

HBO, Electronic Arts upstage the movie studios

The best theatrical trailers shown during Super Bowl XLIV weren’t for movies.
Commercials for HBO’s World War II miniseries “The Pacific” and Electronic Arts’ video game “Dante’s Inferno” were better than the traditional movie ads.
I counted seven movie trailers during the Super Bowl telecast Sunday. Too many of them relied on computer-generated imagery rather than storytelling and human drama to sell audiences. I was unimpressed.
The CGI-heavy potential blockbusters included “The Last Airbender,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.”
Other trailers such as “Robin Hood,” “The Wolfman” and “The Backup Plan” left me cold.
The trailers didn’t sell me. I’ll have to wait for the reviews to decide which to see.
The notable exception is Martin Scorcese’s “Shutter Island.” I’m hooked. It was the best trailer shown during this year's Super Bowl.

Poof! In an instant, all the videos posted by Conan O’Brien from his NBC run are gone


In my series “The failed promise of digital content,” I’ve lamented the fact that nothing lasts forever on the Internet.
NBC provided a case in point last week when it excised all of Conan O’Brien’s comedy bits from his eight-month run on “The Tonight Show” from the web. It was a harsh end to a bitter contract dispute between NBC and O’Brien. (See Wikipedia entry on “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.”)
On Tech-media-tainment’s sister website, One Stop Video, I had posted seven videos from the show from Hulu and NBC.com. These included funny bits with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and Conan interacting with tech geeks at Intel.
Now those embedded videos no longer work. Instead they have text that reads “Unfortunately, this video is no longer available” or “The video you are trying to access has expired.”
GE-owned NBC Universal yanked the videos off the web late last week, according to All Things Digital.
In the digital age, there is no expectation that videos on the web one day will be there the next. This case is proof of that. At least with physical media such as DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, people have something tangible. On the web, videos are ethereal.

Previous articles in the series “The Failed Promise of Digital Content.”:

Part 1: Music
Part 2: Video
Part 3: Newspapers and magazines
Part 4: Books
Part 5: Content on the web
Part 7: Yahoo

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Five things the Lingerie Football League needs to do to establish some credibility

Assuming the Lingerie Football League wants to establish some credibility – and that’s a big “if” – there are some things it should do.
The LFL may want to continue being a novelty, like World Wrestling Entertainment, rather than a sport. It certainly looks that way. But if it wants to seek some legitimacy, there are some steps it can take.

1. Don’t focus so much attention on how sexy and beautiful the women who play it are.

Men have eyes – they can see how fit and gorgeous the women players are. It’s also called the Lingerie Football League, not Women’s Professional Football. You have to be pretty and athletic to play in the LFL.
It didn’t help that the loudspeakers blared Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” during the media event before the LFL playoffs, according to the Sun Sentinel. That’s reinforcing the notion that the game is more burlesque than pro sport.

2. Game announcers and other league officials should quit making statements about how well these women play football.

Let the video and photos speak for themselves. Yes, they hit hard; tackle hard; throw perfect spiral passes, etc. Quit sounding defensive about the sport.

3. Switch from pay-per-view to cable television.

With all the attention given to the sexy women in the LFL, pay-per-view just adds to the perception that this is some sort of sex show. Use your pay-per-view revenue as a baseline to negotiate a TV contract with one of the men’s channels such as Spike or G4. That should help broaden the audience and hopefully increase attendance at the games.

4. Get more bloggers interested in covering the sport.

Mainstream media, for a host of reasons, likely won’t cover the LFL. But bloggers can create buzz and build an audience for the sport.
Cultivate a group of key bloggers who will write about the LFL’s best players, do pre-game and post-game coverage and write about news concerning the league itself. (That includes negative coverage, such as this report from The Smoking Gun website.)
Also, LFL video shorts should be embeddable, so they can be shared on blogs.

5.
Improve the quality of news and content on your website.

The current LFL website doesn’t have enough information about the games themselves. For example, the news section only has headlines, no stories, for this week’s playoff games. That’s not going to cut it. Fans want a post-game wrap-up and photos.
Also, the first LFL player awards were held Friday night, but the website didn’t post information about the awards until late Saturday.
It doesn’t help that the Lingerie Bowl this year is being played before a live audience on Saturday, but only available online pay-per-view on Sunday. Thanks to the web, anybody interested in the game will already know the outcome.

Photo: Lingerie Football League Most Valuable Player Gabrielle Marie, a running back and linebacker with the Dallas Desire. Photo posted to Twitpic.
Web links:

A Lingerie Bowl preview by Gunaxin, a website devoted to stuff guys like.

The Lingerie Football League game preview on Facebook. Lingerie Bowl VII will feature the Los Angeles Temptation (4-1) vs. the Chicago Bliss (4-0).

Huffington Post published photos of the Los Angeles Temptation.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Chicago Bliss makes it to Lingerie Football League championship game

Kudos to the Chicago Sun-Times for reporting on the Chicago Bliss advancing to the Lingerie Football League championship game.
The Chicago Bliss defeated the Miami Caliente 20-7 Thursday night in the LFL playoffs in Hollywood, Fla. They now take on the Los Angeles Temptation in the Lingerie Bowl on Saturday.
While the Sun-Times reported on the Chicago Bliss victory, cross-town rival the Chicago Tribune did not.
Mainstream media organizations can’t get past the fact that these women football players wear bikini lingerie and are selected as much for their beauty as their athleticism.
As a Chicago native, I’m just happy to see one of the city’s sports teams vying for a championship. Go Bliss!

Photo: Chicago Bliss linebacker Danielle Moinet

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The most anticipated movies of 2010

Now that January – the month when Hollywood dumps its crappy movies into theaters – is finally over, it’s time to look forward to better movies coming soon.
Here’s a list of movies I’m looking forward to – at least until the reviews convince me otherwise. (The synopses below were provided by the movie studios. I edited out some of the hyperbole though.):

Red Riding – The “Red Riding” trilogy is a neo-noir epic based on factual events and adapted from David Peace’s series of novels revolving around the manhunt for the “Yorkshire Ripper,” a serial killer who terrorized northwest England in the 1970s and ’80s. The three films are directed by Julian Jarrold (“Brideshead Revisited”), James Marsh (“Man on Wire”) and Anand Tucker (“Shopgirl”). (Opens Feb. 5 in New York City, nationwide release to follow)

Shutter Island – From Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese, “Shutter Island” is the story of two U.S. marshals, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), who are summoned to a remote and barren island off the coast of Massachusetts to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a murderess from the island’s fortress-like hospital for the criminally insane. (Feb. 19)

Kick-Ass – A twisted, funny, high-octane adventure directed by Matthew Vaughn (“Layer Cake”). “Kick-Ass” tells the story of average teenager Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a comic-book fanboy who decides to take his obsession as inspiration to become a real-life superhero. As any good superhero would, he chooses a new name — Kick-Ass — assembles a suit and mask to wear, and gets to work fighting crime. There’s only one problem standing in his way: Kick-Ass has absolutely no superpowers. His life is forever changed as he inspires a subculture of copy cats, meets up with a pair of crazed vigilantes — including an 11-year-old sword-wielding dynamo, Hit Girl (Chloë Moretz) and her father, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) — and forges a friendship with another fledgling superhero, Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). But thanks to the scheming of a local mob boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), that new alliance will be put to the test. (April 16)

Inception – A contemporary sci-fi action film set within the architecture of the mind. “Inception” was directed by Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight,” “The Prestige,” “Memento” and “Insomnia”) It stars Leonardo Dicaprio, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Cillian Murphy. (Summer)

Other movies I’m interested in seeing include “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” “Iron Man 2” and “Tron Legacy.” I'm sure I'm missing a few, but those are top of mind now.

Check out the trailers for these movies on Apple’s iTunes Movie Trailers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

‘District 9’ best picture nomination shows the value of the expanded Oscar ballot

The decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to expand the number of Oscar nominees for best picture from five to 10 has successfully opened up the category to a broader range of movies.
The best example is the nomination of science-fiction drama “District 9.” Few expected it to get a best picture nod, especially with another sci-fi movie, “Avatar,” considered a shoe-in.
Usually science fiction, fantasy and horror movies are treated like second-class citizens compared with the usual Oscar-bait dramas. Last year’s snubbing of “The Dark Knight” is a case in point.
The expanded slate also allowed an animated movie, “Up,” to get recognized.
Of the 10 best picture nominees, four are already on home video, including frontrunner “The Hurt Locker,” according to Home Media Magazine. Other nominees on DVD and Blu-ray Disc are “Inglourious Basterds,” “Up” and “District 9.”
Three more have been scheduled for release on home video: “A Serious Man” (Feb. 9), “Precious” (March 9) and “The Blind Side” (March 23).
The other three nominees – “Avatar,” “An Education” and “Up in the Air,” are still in theaters, with no home video release scheduled.
The winners will be announced on Sunday March 7.

Related links:

Official list of nominees from Oscars.org.
The Academy Awards homepage.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sandra Bullock: The best and worst actress of 2009? Razzie nominations are out

This year Sandra Bullock could very well win an Oscar for best actress for “The Blind Side” and a Razzie for worst actress in “All About Steve.”
That’s one of the interesting story angles following the announcement of the 2009 Razzie nominations today. The Razzies recognize Hollywood’s worst movies and performances. The Golden Raspberry Foundation releases its list of Razzie nominees the day before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces its Oscar nominations.
The organizers of the Razzies missed a golden opportunity to nominate 10 movies for worst picture of 2009. The Oscars are expanding the best picture nominees from five to 10 movies this year. But instead the Razzies dishonored just five movies this year, as usual.
This year’s nominees for worst picture are “All About Steve,” “G.J. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” “Land of the Lost,” “Old Dogs” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”
All great choices, but my pick is “Old Dogs” starring John Travolta and Robin Williams, because it can’t hide behind special effects like most of the other nominees.

After over 120 careers, Barbie is looking for a new profession. How about computer engineer?

Barbie has trouble sticking to a job for very long. In nearly 51 years, Mattel’s popular fashion doll has held over 120 careers.
She’s been an astronaut, race car driver, Olympic athlete and rock star. She averages about five months in a career before leaving for another challenge. True, she’s amazingly versatile, but the lady needs help holding down a job.
Mattel is sponsoring a contest to decide Barbie’s next job. You can vote for her to be an environmentalist, surgeon, architect, news anchor or computer engineer.
I’d love to see a tech geek Barbie, so I voted for computer engineer.
It’s the clear choice.
Environmentalist? She could do that as a hobby. Surgeon? Yeah, plastic surgeon. Architect? Maybe, but no one’s building much in this economy. News anchor? Please, I figured she already did that gig. Not a stretch for her.
But computer engineer? There’s an occupation for our time.

Related links:
Wikipedia entry on Barbie
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