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Monday, November 17, 2008

'Quantum of Solace' sets franchise record


"Quantum of Solace"

Best opening ever for a Bond film in North America

By Carl DiOrio

Critics seemed shaken by its nonstop mayhem, but moviegoers were stirred to support "Quantum of Solace" in franchise-record numbers during the weekend as the James Bond film bowed with an estimated $70.4 million in domestic grosses.

A 22nd installment in the lucrative 007 franchise, now the joint property of Sony and MGM, the Daniel Craig starrer opened two frames earlier in many foreign territories and totes a $252 million international cume. Sony is handling physical distribution of the film worldwide, but MGM was a 50-50 participant in its $200 million in production costs.

The previous-best domestic debut for a Bond film was the $47.1 million registered by 2002's "Die Another Day." The franchise's top domestic theatrical run has been charted by "Solace" predecessor "Casino Royale," which rung up $167.4 million in U.S. and Canadian coin after unspooling in November 2006.

"Solace," Craig's second outing as 007, had been set to bow Nov. 7 domestically. But studio executives decided to hold it back a week after Warner Bros. moved "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" from November to July, so the Sony-MGM film could debut closer to the lucrative Thanksgiving period.

The outsized domestic opening for "Solace" exceeded even the high end of prerelease projections and was aided by positive global buzz. Craig's industry star has received an immense boost in the process as moviegoers clearly have taken to him in the iconic Bond role.

"Audiences have embraced him, and domestic audiences were champing at the bit for the film," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. "It's certainly gratifying, to say the least."

The Marc Forster-helmed film played to audiences comprising 54% males, with 58% of patrons age 25 and older.

In reviews, many critics lamented "Solace's" dark tone and said its action profile compared more closely to rugged Robert Ludlum-inspired films like 2002's "The Bourne Identity" than to a typical Ian Fleming action-adventure.

It's worth noting, then, that "Solace" opened bigger than any installment in Universal's "Bourne" series, for which the best opening came with 2007's "The Bourne Ultimatum" at $69.3 million. "Ultimatum" ultimately fetched $227.5 million domestically and $442.8 million worldwide.

In addition, "Solace" opened bigger than any other non-summer movie this year.

Industrywide, the weekend's $154 million in collective boxoffice marked a 48% improvement on the same frame a year earlier, according to data service Nielsen EDI.

Seasonal boxoffice, at $1.52 billion, is up 9% over fall 2007.

Year to date, 2008 is 4% ahead of the same portion of last year, at $8.62 billion. That's a big-enough spurt to make it possible for '08 to outpace last year's 12-month admissions because this year's lead in grosses appears ample enough to account for ticket-price increases.

Elsewhere during the weekend, three wide releases marked sophomore sessions with varying degrees of success.

The family comedy "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," from DreamWorks Animation and Paramount, notched a relatively modest 43% decline from its opening grosses to register $36.1 million in second place and pump its 10-day cume to $118 million.

Universal's R-rated comedy "Role Models" slipped only 39% to $11.7 million in third place, netting a $38.1 million cume.

And the R-rated laugher "Soul Men," from MGM and Dimension, tumbled 55% to $2.4 million in seventh place, netting a $9.4 million cume.

Looking ahead, two major wide releases square off Friday, six days before Thanksgiving.

Disney unspools its animated comedy "Bolt," including hundreds of playdates in 3-D auditoriums, and Summit Entertainment sends out the teens-and-tweens vampire film "Twilight." The former will seek to sway family moviegoers from "Madagascar 2," and the latter is doing notably well in online ticket presales.


We suspect that this is the closest that reader George came to masturbating to a pure sports story, and I’m not saying that’s bad. Different strokes for different folks, ya know? But baseball in Japan just got a lot sexier, and by “sexier,” I mean statutorily rape-alicious. From Yahoo! News:

Eri Yoshida was drafted for a new independent league that will launch in April, drawing attention for a side-armed knuckler that her future manager Yoshihiro Nakata said was a marvel.

“I never dreamed of getting drafted,” Yoshida told reporters Monday, a day after she was selected to play for the Kobe 9 Cruise. [...]

Yoshida, 155 centimetres (five feet) tall and weighing 52 kilograms (114 pounds), says she wants to follow in the footsteps of the great Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

Yeah, but Tim Wakefield never had his underwear sold in a vending machine. If this league survives, Eri will be the first girl to play baseball alongside men in Japan. And, after that first game, she’ll be the first professional athlete to survive a 15-player subway gang-bang. Get me on the first plane to Japan. I’ve got some knuckleballin’ moose knuckle to puncture.

Yoda Cat!!

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. Suffering leads to green cats.

Massive Wave + Surfers = Massive Wipeout


Beneath a towering wall of water two surfers lay waiting like tiny dots in the dark swell.

It's the kind of contest between man and the elements normally associated with the enormous waves of Hawaii or Australia.

But with the lights of shore just flickering through grey skies this is Penzance, in Cornwall, where stormy weather has created 50ft waves.

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Braving the elements: Two surfers (circled) off Penzance prepare to surf the wave

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Heavy rain and gale force winds have taken a heavy toll on parts of Britain, but for surfers Lee William and Charlie Thompson, both 21, it was a perfect excuse to head for the sea.

Photography student Jacob Cockle, 22, was there to watch as his friends did battle with the waves.

"Penzance never gets waves like this," he said. "No-one here has ever seen anything like it.

"I was out there for ages watching the surfers. It is so unusual. Other parts of Cornwall are used to big waves - but nothing like this has ever been seen before.

"This is as much about extreme weather as extreme surfing."

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The surfer stands no chance of riding the wave as the foaming white surf closes in. He is seen being violently tossed in the air as it crashes in over him. Incredibly, he managed to avoid injury. The other surfer is nowhere to be seen

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As for his friends, a little battered after being wiped out by the might wall of water.

He said: "They loved it. They're crazy. They were really up for it - it was pure fun and games."

Elsewhere ferocious seas have had a more a serious impact.

A brave lifeboat crew in Devon battled five-metre swells to rescue a group of sailors from a stricken cargo ship that was listing perilously in wind-battered waters on Sunday night.

The 300-ft Greek-registered Ice Prince was carrying 5,258 tonnes of timber across the English Channel when it began to list in force eight gales.

Amid fears it would capsize, twelve crewmen were airlifted off the 6,395 tonne vessel by helicopter and the remaining eight was picked up by lifeboats from Torbay.

Coastguards said the rescue mission was their "most difficult rescue ever."

They faced the daunting task of pulling their 55ft vessel alongside the 300ft-long cargo ship as it was violently tossed around by the waves.

Coxswain Mark Criddle said: "The two coming together was a huge problem, we were only going to come off second best.

"Boats don't come with handbrakes and one minute we would be right alongside calling for the crew to jump, the next minute we are five metres below them.

"Some of them really didn't want to leave the mothership for this tiny lifeboat pitching and rolling in the sea."

The Ice Prince was heading for Alexandria in Egypt when it got into trouble on Sunday evening, just 35 miles from Branscombe Beach in Devon, where the MSC Napoli ran aground last January.

Yesterday experts were assessing whether they could tow the craft to safety. If it sinks, carrying oil, it could lead to an environmental disaster.

Unfortunately the battering from the elements is showing no sign of abating.

Parts of the country have already seen flooding. Worcester Cricket Club is awash, with only a sign reading 'keep off the grass' peeking above the water line.

Up to an inch-and-a-half of rain could fall in the worst hit parts of the western of the country today, where fears of a repeat of last summer's crisis are growing.

The Environment Agency has put flood warnings in place at the River Severn between Worcester and Tewkesbury and from Tewkesbury to upstream of Gloucester.

Meanwhile, emergency services and councils are on stand-by and getting prepared for the worst.

A Met Office spokesman said the wet weather was the result of bands of low pressure sweeping in from the Atlantic.

While the whole of the western side of the country will bear the brunt today, it is forecast to be wet everywhere with a string of severe weather warnings in force.

While the rainfall will not be at the highs of the summer, ground is already water-logged, increasing the flood risk.

Compounding the miserable day will be severe gale force winds of up to 60mph battering the east.

Strong winds are forecast overnight into Wednesday. Rain in the north and east should clear by the afternoon.

Thursday and Friday are forecast to bring further bands of rain. Perhaps the only bright spot is that temperatures are expected to remain a few degrees above the seasonal norm of around 6-7C (43-45f).

'JCVD' offers Jean-Claude Van Damme as a case study


Peace Arch Entertainment Group

Jean-Claude Van Damme stars in "JCVD."

The booze, the drugs, the waning fame and bad decisions are all part of the jokey yet sincere confessional.
By Chris Lee
November 15, 2008
Call it Jean-Claude Van Damme's "Being John Malkovich" moment.

In the opening sequence in his namesake drama "JCVD," the C-list martial arts movie star is shown punching, kicking and blasting his way across a wartime wasteland. Even if he's looking pouchy and a bit road weary these days, it's precisely the kind of thing audiences expect to see from the star of such so-cheesy-it's-genius action fare as director John Woo's "Hard Target" (1993) and "Double Team" (1997), opposite basketball bad-boy Dennis Rodman.

But then the scene falls apart, literally, when a prop wall accidentally tumbles down behind the Belgian-born action hero. Cut! Turns out, we've been watching Van Damme make another schlock action flick, the latest in a string of straight-to-DVD duds that have been Van Damme's stock in trade for most of the last decade. "It's very difficult for me to do everything in one shot! I'm 47 years old," the actor complains to a contemptuous Asian action auteur who scoffs, "He still thinks we're making 'Citizen Kane'?"

It's a telling exchange. "JCVD," which arrived in theaters Friday after generating some industry heat at Cannes and the Toronto Film Festival earlier this year, is Van Damme's first art-house offering. A jokey yet sincere "celebreality" confessional, the movie is a standout in the actor's two-decade filmography, which is distinguished by some of the most jaw-droppingly, unself-consciously wooden acting committed to film

Nonetheless, his Adonis-like physique, his balletic finesse with roundhouse kicks and shoot'em-ups, and his goofy charisma allowed Van Damme to occupy a special tier of popcorn-movie stardom just beneath early action icons like Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"JCVD," shot in French, arrives at a cultural moment when being a yesteryear action hero willing to filmically deconstruct past glories is a definite plus (if the early Oscar buzz surrounding Mickey Rourke's ballyhooed performance in "The Wrestler" is any indication). It also provides a mordant meditation on the downsides to stardom, using Van Damme's singular plight -- his real-life history of substance abuse and DUI arrests, precarious financial situation and waning fame -- as a kind of case study. In an effort to shatter his hard-charging image, the former European middleweight karate champion better known as the "Muscles From Brussels" takes on a role unlike any in his last 38 movies: himself. That is, a middle-aged Hollywood has-been looking for a new lease on life.

"I decided to talk about myself and open myself. Peeling off the skin of a peach," Van Damme said by phone from Bangkok, where he is editing a movie he directed and self-financed called "Full Love." He continued with the metaphor: "Cutting into the pulp and going to the seed -- to the pit -- of the peach. And I cut that pit into pieces. This is what I saw."

He added: "In 'JCVD' I am naked."

This gutsy, oddly entertaining movie can trace its DNA to a 2003 French TV documentary called "Dans le Peau de Jean-Claude Van Damme" (Under the Skin of Jean-Claude Van Damme) directed by Frederic Benudis, which features the action star speaking candidly about his career mistakes and on-screen image. With screenwriter Christophe Turpin, Benudis went on to co-write a meta-movie script called "The King of Belgium"; the action-comedy's plot has Van Damme embroiled in a bank robbery and hostage situation reminiscent of 1975's "Dog Day Afternoon" but deriving a certain antic energy from the idea that Van Damme would be powerless in the face of a real-life crisis.

The screenplay got optioned and made its way to indie director Mabrouk El Mechri, who was on the rise in France after the success of his debut feature, "Virgil." And when "King of Belgium" producer Marc Fiszman offered to introduce El Mechri to Van Damme, the director jumped at the chance -- more excited to meet one of his childhood heroes than to discuss bringing the movie to the screen.

El Mechri seized the opportunity, however, to deliver the karate chopper some tough love.

"I said to him, 'You're a great action star,' " the director recalled. "But I told him he was just doing the same film over and over. Everybody got bored. Add to that the problems with substance [abuse], the weird stuff he's known for saying in the media. He became this weird pop-culture icon. I was allowed to say that. I didn't care if he liked it or not."

Turns out, that dose of reality was exactly what Van Damme needed to hear after years of being stuck in career purgatory. "I fell in love with that guy," Van Damme said of El Mechri. "He told me, 'Don't be scared. I want to do something that shows another side of you.' "

El Mechri did a top-down rewrite of "The King of Belgium" ("I didn't like the script. It was written by people who didn't know Jean-Claude at the fan level, who weren't aware of what a big star he used to be"). And although the end result, "JCVD," is hardly worshipful to its subject, it uses his foibles as a five-times married, coke-sniffing, down-on-his-luck matinee idol to humanize Van Damme.

"Even though he didn't have a film in the theater for years, you walk with him on any street anywhere in the world and he's still a star," El Mechri said. "But when you're that huge, you don't necessarily have access to honesty."

About two-thirds of the way through "JCVD," Van Damme takes a step back from the action -- a hostage drama set in a bank in his native Belgium in which police are mistakenly led to believe Van Damme is behind the robbery plot rather than one of its victims -- to breach moviedom's fourth wall and speak directly to the viewer.

Looking exhausted and puffy, he takes stock of his life over the course of a 6 1/2 -minute monologue: the matrimonial failures, escalating tax debts and estranged children. In a further nod to his real-life circumstances, he speaks candidly about how he turned to drugs when having it all no longer seemed like enough. As well, Van Damme grapples with the way the movie biz built him up and cast him asunder.

"It's not my fault if I was cut out to be a star," he explains to the viewer. "I asked for it, really believed in it. When you're 13, you believe in your dream. Well, it came true for me. But I still ask myself what have I done on this Earth?" Visibly weeping, he answers his own question: "Nothing! I've done nothing!"

Of the scene, which has become the movie's primary talking point, El Mechri said: "It was a complete improvisation based on some notes he had on a pad. The weirdest thing is, I know him really well. And I can't say if he's acting or not in that scene."

Despite what he says during his tearful monologue, Van Damme feels "JCVD" has raised the curtain on a third act in his career.

For evidence of this, look no further than his passion project, "Full Love," in which he stars in addition to having written, directed and produced with the intention (perhaps a not entirely realistic one) of reingratiating himself in Hollywood's studio system. Van Damme is still cagey about it's plot and genre but detailed a few fragmental basics: It's largely set in Southeast Asia, flashes between the present and 1960, follows the story of a "psychologically deranged" guy in love.

"It's low-budget because I financed it myself," Van Damme said of "Full Love." "I made the movie for the simple reason: to show some responsibility. I'm not going to get paid. I'm going to give them the movie. I just want them to open it in a thousand theaters on the East Coast. That was the technique with 'Lionheart' and 'Bloodsport.' If it works, I can go back to the studios.

"It's going to be very controversial. It's kind of a dangerous movie for my career. But after 'JCVD,' why not? Why not push further?"

Lee is a Times staff writer.

A surfer's fitting funeral — Hundreds of surfers paddled to a wave break off Windansea Beach to honor slain surfer Emery Kauanui Jr., surrounding a boat from which his mother, Cynthia, scattered his ashes. The break, which had been Kauanui's favorite, was renamed "Emery's Left."

Will Obama Give Up His Blackberry?

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Senator Barack Obama with two campaign constants: his BlackBerry and his chief strategist, David Axelrod.

Published: November 15, 2008

WASHINGTON — Sorry, Mr. President. Please surrender your BlackBerry.

Those are seven words President-elect Barack Obama is dreading but expecting to hear, friends and advisers say, when he takes office in 65 days.

For years, like legions of other professionals, Mr. Obama has been all but addicted to his BlackBerry. The device has rarely been far from his side — on most days, it was fastened to his belt — to provide a singular conduit to the outside world as the bubble around him grew tighter and tighter throughout his campaign.

“How about that?” Mr. Obama replied to a friend’s congratulatory e-mail message on the night of his victory.

But before he arrives at the White House, he will probably be forced to sign off. In addition to concerns about e-mail security, he faces the Presidential Records Act, which puts his correspondence in the official record and ultimately up for public review, and the threat of subpoenas. A decision has not been made on whether he could become the first e-mailing president, but aides said that seemed doubtful.

For all the perquisites and power afforded the president, the chief executive of the United States is essentially deprived by law and by culture of some of the very tools that other chief executives depend on to survive and to thrive. Mr. Obama, however, seems intent on pulling the office at least partly into the 21st century on that score; aides said he hopes to have a laptop computer on his desk in the Oval Office, making him the first American president to do so.

Mr. Obama has not sent a farewell dispatch from the personal e-mail account he uses — he has not changed his address in years — but friends say the frequency of correspondence has diminished. In recent days, though, he has been seen typing his thoughts on transition matters and other items on his BlackBerry, bypassing, at least temporarily, the bureaucracy that is quickly encircling him.

A year ago, when many Democratic contributors and other observers were worried about his prospects against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, they reached out to him directly. Mr. Obama had changed his cellphone number, so e-mail remained the most reliable way of communicating directly with him.

“His BlackBerry was constantly crackling with e-mails,” said David Axelrod, the campaign’s chief strategist. “People were generous with their advice — much of it conflicting.”

Mr. Obama is the second president to grapple with the idea of this self-imposed isolation. Three days before his first inauguration, George W. Bush sent a message to 42 friends and relatives that explained his predicament.

“Since I do not want my private conversations looked at by those out to embarrass, the only course of action is not to correspond in cyberspace,” Mr. Bush wrote from his old address, “This saddens me. I have enjoyed conversing with each of you.”

But in the interceding eight years, as BlackBerrys have become ubiquitous — and often less intrusive than a telephone, the volume of e-mail has multiplied and the role of technology has matured. Mr. Obama used e-mail to stay in constant touch with friends from the lonely confines of the road, often sending messages like “Sox!” when the Chicago White Sox won a game. He also relied on e-mail to keep abreast of the rapid whirl of events on a given campaign day.

Mr. Obama’s memorandums and briefing books were seldom printed out and delivered to his house or hotel room, aides said. They were simply sent to his BlackBerry for his review. If a document was too long, he would read and respond from his laptop computer, often putting his editing changes in red type.

His messages to advisers and friends, they say, are generally crisp, properly spelled and free of symbols or emoticons. The time stamps provided a window into how much he was sleeping on a given night, with messages often being sent to staff members at 1 a.m. or as late as 3 a.m. if he was working on an important speech.

He received a scaled-down list of news clippings, with his advisers wanting to keep him from reading blogs and news updates all day long, yet aides said he still seemed to hear about nearly everything in real time. A network of friends — some from college, others from Chicago and various chapters in his life — promised to keep him plugged in.

Not having such a ready line to that network, staff members who spent countless hours with him say, is likely to be a challenge.

“Given how important it is for him to get unfiltered information from as many sources as possible, I can imagine he will miss that freedom,” said Linda Douglass, a senior adviser who traveled with the campaign.

Mr. Obama has, for at least brief moments, been forced offline. As he sat down with a small circle of advisers to prepare for debates with Senator John McCain, one rule was quickly established: No BlackBerrys. Mr. Axelrod ordered everyone to put their devices in the center of a table during work sessions. Mr. Obama, who was known to sneak a peek at his, was no exception.

In the closing stages of the campaign, as exhaustion set in and the workload increased, aides said Mr. Obama spent more time reading than responding to messages. As his team prepares a final judgment on whether he can keep using e-mail, perhaps even in a read-only fashion, several authorities in presidential communication said they believed it was highly unlikely that he would be able to do so.

Diana Owen, who leads the American Studies program at Georgetown University, said presidents were not advised to use e-mail because of security risks and fear that messages could be intercepted.

“They could come up with some bulletproof way of protecting his e-mail and digital correspondence, but anything can be hacked,” said Ms. Owen, who has studied how presidents communicate in the Internet era. “The nature of the president’s job is that others can use e-mail for him.”

She added: “It’s a time burner. It might be easier for him to say, ‘I can’t be on e-mail.’ ”

Should Mr. Obama want to break ground and become the first president to fire off e-mail messages from the West Wing and wherever he travels, he could turn to Al Gore as a model. In the later years of his vice presidency, Democrats said, Mr. Gore used a government e-mail address and a campaign address in his race against Mr. Bush.

The president, though, faces far greater public scrutiny. And even if he does not wear a BlackBerry on his belt or carry a cellphone in his pocket, he almost certainly will not lack from a variety of new communication.

On Saturday, as Mr. Obama broadcast the weekly Democratic radio address, it came with a twist. For the first time, it was also videotaped and will be archived on YouTube.

Forty years on, McCartney wants the world to hear 'lost' Beatles epic

George Harrison said it was too avant-garde. Now Sir Paul says the time has come to release 1967's 'Carnival of Light'
The Beatles at Abbey Road studios in 1967

The Beatles at Abbey Road studios in 1967. Photograph: David Magnus/Rex Features

For Beatles fans across the world it has gained near mythical status. The 14-minute improvised track called 'Carnival of Light' was recorded in 1967 and played just once in public. It was never released because three of the Fab Four thought it too adventurous.

The track, a jumble of shrieks and psychedelic effects, is said to be as far from the melodic ballads that made Sir Paul McCartney famous as it is possible to imagine. But now McCartney has said that the public will have the chance to judge for themselves.

'It does exist,' McCartney says on a BBC Radio 4 arts programme to be broadcast this week. Talking to John Wilson, the presenter of Front Row, the former Beatle confirms that he still has a master tape of the work and says he suspects that 'the time has come for it to get its moment'.

'I like it because it's the Beatles free, going off piste,' he adds.

In the 40 years since 'Carnival of Light' was recorded by McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and John Lennon in the Abbey Road studios in London, its collection of disparate rhythms has become a kind of holy grail for Beatles obsessives. The track was put together on 5 January 1967, in between working on the vocals for the song 'Penny Lane'.

Once released it should offer proof that the Fab Four, and McCartney in particular, were much more avant-garde in their tastes than many gave them credit for. According to the few who heard the track on the one occasion the recording was played publicly, at a London music festival in 1967, it features the sound of gargled water and strangled shouts from Lennon which vie with church organs and distorted guitar.

'We were set up in the studio and would just go in every day and record,' McCartney tells Wilson. 'I said to the guys, this is a bit indulgent but would you mind giving me 10 minutes? I've been asked to do this thing. All I want you to do is just wander round all of the stuff and bang it, shout, play it. It doesn't need to make any sense. Hit a drum, wander to the piano, hit a few notes ... and then we put a bit of echo on it. It's very free.'

McCartney had been commissioned to create a piece for an electronic music festival at the Roundhouse Theatre in north London by his friend Barry Miles. The event, the Million Volt Light and Sound Rave, was organised by International Times, an underground newspaper. Many in the audience had no idea they were listening to a new Beatles track. Other performers included Delia Derbyshire whose work at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop included jointly creating the theme for Doctor Who.

McCartney, who this month releases his third experimental album of new work under the alias the Fireman, regards 'Carnival of Light' as evidence of how musically adventurous he has always been. For the three other Beatles the track was just an oddity. George Harrison dismissed it as too weird. But McCartney is hopeful it can now be released with the agreement of the group's estate.

'It will help reaffirm McCartney's claim to have been the most musically adventurous of all the Beatles,' said Wilson this weekend. 'He told me he would love to release the track. All he needs now is the blessing of Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and George Harrison's widow Olivia.'

The piece was inspired, McCartney says, by the works of composers John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen. In his book Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, author Mark Lewisohn - who was played the track in 1987 - describes 'distorted, hypnotic drum and organ sounds, a distorted lead guitar, the sound of a church organ, various effects (water gargling was one) and, perhaps most intimidating of all, Lennon and McCartney screaming and bawling random phrases including "Are you all right?" and '"Barcelona!".'

Beatles fans came close to hearing 'Carnival Of Light' in 1996 when it was considered for inclusion in the exhaustive Anthology compilation. 'We were listening to everything we'd every recorded,' McCartney says. 'I said it would be great to put this on because it would show we were working with really avant-garde stuff ... But it was vetoed. The guys didn't like the idea, like "this is rubbish".'

McCartney revealed that George Harrison disparaged sonic experimentation as 'avant-garde a clue'.

Sir George Martin, the Beatles producer who oversaw the track, has described it as 'one of those weird things'. 'It was a kind of uncomposed, free-for-all melange of sound that went on. It was not considered worthy of issuing as a normal piece of Beatles music at the time and was put away.'

Coincidentally, McCartney played some of his Fireman compositions at the reopened Roundhouse venue last year during the Electric Proms. 'With the Fireman you're in disguise,' he told Observer Music Monthly. His pseudonym may have been taken from the lyric of 'Penny Lane' where a fireman 'rushes in from the pouring rain' and could also be a nod to his father, Jim McCartney, a firewatcher on the Liverpool docks in the Second World War.

• John Wilson's interview with Paul McCartney can be heard on Front Row, Radio 4, on Thursday

Animal rights group throws flour on fur-clad Lohan

U.S. actress Lindsay Lohan, right, and disc jockey Samantha Ronson pose for
AP – U.S. actress Lindsay Lohan, right, and disc jockey Samantha Ronson pose for photographers as they arrive …

PARIS – U.S. actress Lindsay Lohan has been pelted with a flour bomb on arrival at a Paris nightclub wearing a fur stole.

Animal rights activists showered the 22-year-old actress with flour when she went to the VIP Room Theater in the early hours of Saturday with her friend, disc jockey Samantha Ronson.

The owner of the nightclub helped Lohan dust off her blue sequined dress and black stole before she posed on the red carpet. Ronson went on to spin tracks for a crowd that included reggae rapper Shaggy and "I Kissed a Girl" singer Katy Perry.

How much does your favorite NFL player earn?

Search 2008 NFL player salaries

File photos/The Journal News

Ever wonder who makes more: N.Y. Giants' quarterback Eli Manning, the MVP of Super Bowl XLII, or N.Y. Jets' quarterback Brett Favre? The answer can be found in this database, which breaks down all of the National Football League by conference, division and team. Search options allow comparisons of players by position, from quarterback to cornerback.

Ditch Your Old E-mail Addresses

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Back in the 1990s, you were an early adopter. You got yourself an address or a Hotmail address. Or, you were issued an e-mail address when you signed up for your residential internet access, which you handed out to everyone as a badge of honor.

Times have changed, and that old address is a black hole for spam. You never check it, and you don't want to. But your stupid ISP, your stubborn family members and high school buddies insist on sending you important things there.

In other words, you are a slave to an e-mail address that you don't want or which makes you use an interface that sucks. You can't give it up because thousands of your close personal friends only know you as or A blind switch to a new e-mail address is out of the question -- you probably don't even know everyone who has the old one, and grandma wouldn't understand anyway.

Here's how to move on up.



Set up camp

Get an account at real service like Gmail. Call yourself anything you want -- you won't be giving out this address.

Get a domain of your own. This is the best $10 you will ever spend. You probably won't be able to get the domain name you really want -- each one is unique, and all but the most obscure and combinations are already taken. Be creative (think vanity license plate) and you will probably get something close to what you want.

Tip: Read Webmonkey's tutorial, "Choose and Register a Domain Name"

Once you've got a domain, set up your mail preferences so that every e-mail sent to the domain gets accepted. Otherwise, any incoming mail not sent to your master account will bounce. This is crucial for the next step of the process.

Note: Keep in mind that you will have to pay somebody to host this domain for you and handle your e-mail. Some hosting companies offer mail-only hosting for $5/month or less, but don't expect much in the way of prompt, personalized service at those prices. Alternatively, you can host your own mail server. And there are some domain hosters, like, which will let you manage mail for free.

Redirect the traffic

On your new domain hosting service, redirect your *@[] to your Gmail account.

Tell everyone in your contact book your new e-mail address. Only about 5% of your friends will pay attention, and half of those will go to the trouble of updating your deets in their address book.

Give out different addresses as much as possible. So give wired@yourdomain to wired and put bc2008@yourdomain on your business card. That way when you start receiving spam, you'll know where they got your address from and you can block a single address without having to inform all your other contacts.

On your Hotmail/AOL/whatever account, forward all of your incoming mail to a unique name at your * account. Forward your AOL mail to aol@[]. Forward your mail to hotmaill@[], and so on.

Spread the word

Use the "Vacation reply" in Gmail (activate it in Gmail's Settings tab) to announce to each sender your new address. Make sure that new address is the unique name described above.

On your Gmail account, filter incoming mail so that the source of each of your incoming emails is recognizable. So, filter all mail addressed to hotmail@[] so it shows up labeled as "Hotmail".

Tell each of these stragglers your new address.

Cut the ties

When the trickle of e-mail from an old account approaches zero, cancel the old account or connect it to an autoresponder telling the sender the address is no longer in use and directing them to your website.

Dutch homes get warm water from disused coal mine

by Gerald de Hemptinne

rticle été envoyé par email avec succès


An outside view of the cultural center and library in the Gen Coel neighborhood of Heerlen. Disused for more than 30 years, a Dutch mine that once yielded polluting coal has been revived as a source of greener energy -- heating household radiators using warm water flooding its abandoned shafts.

It emits 55 percent less polluting carbon dioxide than other water heating systems.

"The global energy question can no longer be solved with fossil fuels," Christion Cornips, executive of the residential company Weller that initiated the project, told AFP.

"Energy shortages have to be addressed at a local level, and mine water is an example of that."

The project saw five new wells being drilled into the ground at five different locations. The wells reach depths of 700 metres (2,300 feet), from which are pumped nearly 80 cubic metres (2,800 cubic feet) of water per hour.

"The water temperature measures 32 degrees C (89 degrees F) at the bottom (of the well) and 28 degrees when it arrives at the surface," explains Jan-Jaap van Bergermeer, who supervises the project.

At the heart of the Gen Coel neighbourhood of Heerlen, one finds a towering glass building accommodating a cultural centre and library whose modernity symbolises the rebirth of an area that formerly comprised mostly small mine worker houses.

Underneath the building, heated with water from the mine project, Van Bergermeer opens a discreet door in the car park to reveal a network of arteries that directs the pumped water to machines that extract heat from it.

"It is not the water from the mine that arrives in the heaters and taps," explained Van Bergermeer

The extracted heat is used to warm household water supplies before being pumped back to a depth of 450 metres to reheat and be used again.

In the coldest of winter periods, users may require the help of traditional methods for extra heating.

Planners say water extracted from a shallower and cooler depth of 250 metres may in the future also be used as part of the new climate control system in summer.

Cornips said about 70 percent of any client's invoice was for subscription and 30 percent for actual consumption.

And while the cost to the consumer was similar to that for conventional heating methods, the price of the latter was more unstable for being closely linked to variations in energy prices.

Cornips said "several obstacles had had to be overcome" before the project could get off the ground.

Because it had no precedent, it started off as a legal headache with uncertainty about its status, and received a hostile reaction from energy companies who feared competition.

It was also challenging from an engineering point of view as new heating devices had to be invented and installed side-by-side with a conventional ones in case of a breakdown at the mine water project, said to Van Bergermeer.

"We developed everything from scratch."

After the discovery of natural gas in the north of the country in the late 1950s and with the advent of cheaper coal production facilities in other countries, the city of Heerlen was among several towns that saw its mines close and its communities shrink as thousands of jobs were lost.

Having been the reason behind Heerlen's transformation from a collection of agrarian villages to a key Dutch city, the coal mines are again at the forefront of energy technology.

"There is much promise," enthused van Bergermeer. "Imagine the heat in the mines of Lorraine in the north-east of France, which are more than two kilometres deep!"

A supermarket, cooled by minewater, is pictured in October 2008 in the Gen Coel neighborhood of Heerlen. Disused for more than 30 years, a Dutch mine that once yielded polluting coal has been revived as a source of greener energy -- heating household radiators using warm water flooding its abandoned shafts.

© 2007 AFP Remko Scheepens

Claimed by its originators to be the world's first such energy generator, the "Mine Water Project" in the south-western Limburg province went into operation last month, heating some 350 homes and businesses in a newly built neighbourhood in Heerlen. Disused for more than 30 years, a Dutch mine that once yielded polluting coal has been revived as a source of greener energy -- heating household radiators using warm water flooding its abandoned shafts.

A library, which is warmed by minewater during the winter, is pictured in October 2008 in the Gen Coel neighborhood of Heerlen. Disused for more than 30 years, a Dutch mine that once yielded polluting coal has been revived as a source of greener energy -- heating household radiators using warm water flooding its abandoned shafts.

© 2007 AFP Remko Scheepens

Young sailor starts world voyage

Michael Perham
Michael Perham, 16, setting out from Portsmouth to sail around the world

A teenage student attempting to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world has admitted he is "a little crazy" to do it at his age.

Michael Perham, 16, from Potters Bar in Hertfordshire is the youngest person to have sailed across the Atlantic alone.

He set out on his latest voyage from Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, on his Open 50 Racing Yacht on Saturday morning.

He will be alone at sea for over four months and his only contact with family will be through satellite link-ups.

Michael said: "I'm a little bit nervous but otherwise really, really excited.

"It's just the feeling of being completely in control, relaxed and at one with nature. It's just fantastic. But you don't look forward to the fact you are alone for about four months."

A look around Mike Perham's boat

Psychologists have helped prepare him mentally for the challenges ahead and he said his experience crossing the Atlantic would also stand him in good stead.

His mother, Heather, said the family was right behind him: "We're all really excited, we're so proud of what he's going to be doing.

"He's just such an inspiration for other young people - for anyone really - we're just amazed we've got to this point."

His family have also put a pile of gifts and decorations on board his yacht for Christmas.

By then he is expected to be in the South Atlantic, near the Cape of Good Hope off the coast of South Africa.

His parents, Heather, 51, and Peter, 49, and 18-year-old sister Fiona all support him.

Mr Perham, a chartered quantity surveyor and experienced sailor, introduced his son to sailing at the age of seven.

"As a parent there is always anxiety, even he has anxiety.

"But whether he is 16, 26 or 36, as a parent you are always concerned for your children," said Mr Perham.

I couldn't have done what he is doing at his age
Peter Perham, Michael's father

"But it will be an amazing achievement. I take my hat off to him completely. I couldn't have done what he is doing at his age.

"Hopefully he will inspire other young people."

He is expected to arrive back in Portsmouth some time near his 17th birthday on 16 March 2009.

The current holder of the youngest non-stop circumnavigator title is 18-year-old Australian, Jesse Martin, who arrived home in Melbourne on October 31, 1999.

To set a new record, Michael's journey must be entirely unassisted and completed under sail by wind and muscle power alone.

His journey will pass the coast of Africa, cross the Pacific Ocean and the Southern Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, Cape Leeuwin in Australia and Cape Horn on the southern tip of South America.

His adventure does not get him out of school work either.

He is taking assignments with him as part of his BTEC National Diploma in Sport (Performance and Excellence) at Oaklands College in St Albans, Hertfordshire.

Money raised from the epic voyage will be donated to Save the Children and the Tall Ships Youth Trust.

Obama says he'll push for eight-team playoff

'I’m going to throw my weight around. I think it’s the right thing to do'

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - It’s not exactly at the top of his agenda, but President-elect Barack Obama says there should be a college football playoff to determine a national champion. In fact, he knows exactly what he wants — an eight-team playoff.

In an interview with “60 Minutes,” Obama addresses a subject college football fans have debated for many years, and says he will use his influence to create such a system.

“If you’ve got a bunch of teams who play throughout the season, and many of them have one loss or two losses, there’s no clear decisive winner. We should be creating a playoff system,” he tells CBS’ Steve Kroft in an interview to be broadcast Sunday.

According to Obama’s proposed system, eight teams would play over three rounds to settle the national champion.

“It would add three extra weeks to the season,” he said at the conclusion of a wide-ranging interview. “You could trim back on the regular season. I don’t know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. So, I’m going to throw my weight around a little bit. I think it’s the right thing to do.”


Great Pyramid Mystery to Be Solved by Hidden Room?

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
November 14, 2008 ON TV Unlocking the Great Pyramid airs Sunday, November 23, at 7 p.m. ET on the National Geographic Channel. Details >>

A sealed space in Egypt's Great Pyramid may help solve a centuries-old mystery: How did the ancient Egyptians move two million 2.5-ton blocks to build the ancient wonder?

The little-known cavity may support the theory that the 4,500-year-old monument to Pharaoh Khufu was constructed inside out, via a spiraling, inclined interior tunnel—an idea that contradicts the prevailing wisdom that the monuments were built using an external ramp.

The inside-out theory's key proponent, French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin, says for centuries Egyptologists have ignored evidence staring them in the face.

"The paradigm was wrong," Houdin said. "The idea that the pyramids were built from the outside was just wrong. How can you resolve a problem when the first element you introduce in your thinking is wrong?"

(Related: "Great Pyramid Built Inside Out, French Architect Says" [April 2, 2007].)

Theories Abound

Even the most widely held Great Pyramid construction theories have flaws, Egyptologist Bob Brier said.

For example, a single, straight external ramp would have been impractical, said Brier, of Long Island University in New York.

To deliver blocks to the 481-foot (147-meter) peak at a reasonable grade, the ramp would have had to have been a mile (1.6 kilometers) long and made of stone. And over the decades of the pyramid's construction, workers would have had to continually increase the ramp's height and length as the pyramid rose.

Video Clip From Unlocking the Great Pyramid Documentary

"That's like building two pyramids. And we've never found the remains of such a ramp," Brier said.

Another theory suggests a stone ramp wound around the outside of the Great Pyramid. But an outside ramp would have obscured the pyramid's surface—making it impossible for surveyors to use the corners and edges for necessary calculations during constructions, Brier said.

Greek historian Herodotus, writing around 450 B.C., theorized the use of small, wooden, cranes or levers to lift the blocks.

But, Brier said, "you'd have to have thousands, and they didn't have enough wood in all of Egypt for that," Brier said.


For Houdin, the Paris architect, the puzzle of the pyramid is a family affair. His father, a civil engineer, came up with the idea of an internal construction ramp a decade ago.

Houdin was soon hooked, as suggested by his recent book, co-written by Brier—The Secret of the Great Pyramid: How One Man's Obsession Led to the Solution of Ancient Egypt's Greatest Mystery.

Houdin eventually left his architecture firm to pursue the inside-out theory full-time.

For what they thought would be a matter of weeks, he and his wife moved into a 236-square-foot (22-square-meter) studio apartment. They ended up staying for four years, as Houdin toiled away at his self-financed project.

Outside Ramp, Then Internal Tunnel

Houdin's theory suggests the Great Pyramid was built in two stages.

First, blocks were hauled up a straight external ramp to build the pyramid's bottom third, which contains most of the monument's mass, Houdin believes.

Houdin says the limestone blocks used in the outside ramp were recycled for the pyramid's upper levels, which might explain why no trace of an original ramp has been found.

Egyptian-archaeology specialist Josef Wegner sees merit in the recycling idea.

"The notion of using the already quarried smaller blocks to build the lower ramp and then dismantling that for use in upper sections would be a very logical approach to speed up the overall construction process," said Wegner of University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

After the foundation had been finished, workers began building an inclined, internal, corkscrew tunnel, which would continue its path up and around as the pyramid rose, Houdin said.

Because the tunnel is inside the pyramid, Brier said, "when they finished getting blocks all the way up to the top this ramp disappeared [from view]."

New Clue: The Hidden Room

New evidence uncovered about two-thirds of the way up the Great Pyramid supports the inside-out theory, said Houdin, the architect.

At about the 300-foot (90-meter) mark on the northeastern edge lies an open notch.

On a recent expedition with a National Geographic film crew, Brier—aided by a videographer with mountain-climbing experience—scaled perilous crumbling rocks to reach the notch. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

Ducking inside the notch, Brier entered a small L-shaped room.

He wasn't the first to visit the space, but until now Egyptologists had taken little notice of it.

Houdin, the architect, said the feature figures perfectly with his theory.

Open Corners for Turning Blocks?

For the interior tunnel to work, it would have required open areas at the Great Pyramid's four corners, Houdin says. Otherwise the blocks wouldn't have been able to clear the 90-degree turns.

Like railroad roundhouses, these open corners would have given workers room to pivot the blocks—perhaps using wooden cranes—so the stones could be pushed into the next tunnel.

The notch and room are remnants of one such opening, Houdin claims. They are located at one of the spots where Houdin's 3-D computer models suggest they should be.

Inside the corner space, which was apparently walled in as the pyramid was completed, there should be two tunnel entrances at right angles to one another—each leading to a section of the internal ramp, Houdin believes.

Perhaps all that stands between him and the solution to the mystery are massive blocks that thousands of years ago sealed the tunnel, Houdin said.

If this previously known space truly is the missing link in the puzzle of the Great Pyramid's construction, the question remains why no one would have surmised this by now.

Brier said, "If you weren't thinking about internal ramps and notches and you climbed right by this thing, it wouldn't mean anything to you."

The Other Key Clue

Prior to the room brainstorm, Houdin's most important piece of evidence was the product of good luck.

In 1986 a French team in an ultimately fruitless search for hidden chambers in the Great Pyramid had done a survey of the monument's density using a technique called microgravimetry, which measures the strength of local gravitational fields.

Nearly 15 years later, Houdin was presenting his ramp theory at a conference and was approached by a member of the 1986 team.

The man showed Houdin an image from their survey that they'd dismissed as unexplainable.

But to Houdin, and later Brier, the explanation was clear.

The image shows what looks like a spiraling feature inside the structure's outer walls.

"If I hadn't seen that diagram, I'd probably be thinking this is just another theory," Brier said.

Next Step: Confirmation

The 1986 image, the notch room, and other evidence may make Houdin's theory plausible, but the case is far from closed.

"As with all archaeological theories, the proof is in the pudding, and many logical and compelling theories have fallen by the wayside under the weight of hard evidence," said the University of Pennsylvania's Wegner.

But "verification of the proposed internal spiral ramp would be a remarkable and groundbreaking discovery," Wegner added.

Houdin believes that verification might soon be possible.

He suggests that an infrared camera—positioned about 150 feet (46 meters) from the pyramid—could potentially record subtle differences in interior materials and temperatures. Those variations could reveal clear-cut "phantoms" of the internal ramp.

"What we need is the authorization, by the Egyptian authorities, to stay around for 18 hours, close to the pyramid, with a cooled infrared camera based on an SUV and to take images of three [pyramid] faces every hour during this period," Houdin said.

"A green light from Cairo and the Great Pyramid mystery is over."

© 1996-2008 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.

Butanol Could be a Much Better Gas Replacement Than Ethanol

Regardless of how the debate between corn ethanol and second-generation, non-food ethanol (cellulosic ethanol) pans out, we may be arguing about the wrong thing. “Why’s that?” you might ask. You see, as a source of fuel, ethanol poses several serious problems.

For starters, it corrodes pipes and tubing — meaning that it has to be shipped by truck, and cars have to be specially altered to be able to use it. Secondly, ounce for ounce it has a much lower energy content than gasoline.

In light of these problems with ethanol, the argument maybe shouldn’t be about first generation ethanol versus second generation ethanol, but simply about ethanol versus butanol.

Butanol is much less corrosive than ethanol and has a similar energy content to gasoline. It could be distributed using the same infrastructure used to move gasoline around and drivers would be able to use higher blends of it without altering their cars. Plus, you may not notice a difference in fuel economy when driving a car filled with butanol.

Researchers are pushing to find ways to make butanol cheaper, but right now the technology is still a ways off. Gevo, a small company focused on delivering butanol solutions, currently has a 20,000 gallon per year test butanol facility up and running. It appears that their main focus will be on providing capabilities to other companies to convert their first generation ethanol facilities into butanol facilities.

If butanol could get even a quarter of the political attention that ethanol has, its fortunes would surely change quickly. But, thinking it over, butanol’s relative obscurity as a biofuel may be a blessing in disguise. The massive amount of attention that ethanol has received seems have done more harm than good from both a public opinion and market-bubble-causing perspective.

So, maybe butanol will be the ultimate winner after all.

Source: Biofuels Digest
Image Credit: dodge challenger1’s Flickr photostream under a Creative Commons License.

Bond Comes to Your iPhone

Craig Rubens


iPhone apps might some day be the gold mine for advertising. In the meanwhile, we are seeing the emergence of a new trend: iPhone apps as ads. Hollywood studios are the first ones to react and using free applications to promote its movies. We are totally loving the new app for the latest Bond flick, Quantum of Solace. More than just a micro-site, the Bond application lets you watch the movie trailers and read up about the movie. It also pushes you out to the iTunes music store if you want to you want to purchase Jack White’s throbbing theme song from the film. Of course others have more immersive apps.

The Dark Knight, for example has come up with a way to add some Joker-style graffiti to photos of your friends. Use the touch screen to drag and rotate elements and then save and send them as you like. Bolt, Disney’s forthcoming animated canine adventure has released an app which is essentially a free stripped down Super Monkey game for a very subtle hand.

All three apps, however, lack the seemingly most obvious feature - the ability to actually purchase tickets for the movie. That much imagination would be too much to ask from Hollywood, but we are happy that they are thinking about ways to promote their movies on screens that matter.

Ovary transplant mother speaks of her "indescribable" joy after giving birth

Dozing peacefully in her mother's arms, this is four-day-old Maja Butscher, the first baby to be born as the result of a whole ovary transplant.

Susanne and Stephan Butscher with their new baby Maja Charlotte Shasa
Susanne and Stephan Butscher with their new baby Maja Charlotte Shasa Photo: Heathcliff O'Malley

Maja, appropriately named after the Roman goddess of fertility, is a symbol of hope to millions of infertile women around the world who could benefit from the same pioneering procedure which enabled her mother Susanne to conceive naturally.

Mrs Butscher, 39, who went through an early menopause, fell pregnant a year after being given an ovary by her identical twin sister.

Recovering from the birth at the Portland Hospital in London, she said: "Being a mother at last is an indescribable feeling. It's been hard to take my eyes off her since she was born.

"I'm so lucky to have had this wonderful opportunity which has given me a sense of completeness I would never have had otherwise.

"Being the first woman in the world to give birth after a whole ovary transplant hasn't sunk in yet, but I'm just so grateful to the doctors who enabled this to happen and to my sister, of course.

"I'm happy to be sharing my story with the world to give other women hope who might have similar problems."

Doctors believe the pioneering transplant treatment which Mrs Butscher underwent in the US last year will not only benefit women who suffer an early menopause, but could also help women who undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer and who could freeze one of their ovaries before beginning treatment.

Mrs Butscher, whose primary reason for the transplant was to halt the advance of osteoporosis which she was suffering as a result of her early menopause, began ovulating naturally for the first time in her life after receiving the ovary from her sister Dorothee.

She said she feared her transplanted ovary had failed when she missed her period eight months ago.

"It was a little bit worrying, but something inside me told me this was different," she said. "For the first time in my life, I went out and bought a pregnancy testing kit. When it showed up positive, I couldn't believe it, so I went out and bought another one to check."

Mrs Butscher, who is originally from Hamburg but has lived in London for the past six years with her husband Stephan, who is also German, said: "Ever since I found out I was pregnant it has been a magical journey.

"At the same time I was super-nervous. Every time we went over a bump or pothole in the road I was worried."

After a straightforward pregnancy, baby Maja Charlotte Shasa Butscher, whose third name means "precious water", was born by elective caesarean at 2.42 on Tuesday afternoon, weighing 7lbs 15oz.

Doctors at the Portland decided to perform a caesarean because Mrs Butscher had reached full term with no signs that she was about to go into labour.

"When I saw her for the first time I just cried," said Mrs Butscher. "You can't really put into words that feeling when you see your daughter for the first time. I heard her scream first, as she was delivered, and then I saw her. She really is a little miracle."

Mr Butscher, 40, said: "I don't think anyone has invented the right words to describe what it feels like to become a father."

Mrs Butscher, an acupuncturist and complementary therapist, was diagnosed as being infertile 12 years ago following years of tests on her ovaries and hormone levels.

She said: "I never had periods when I was younger, whereas my twin sister had regular periods. I was very slim and the doctors said that when I put weight on my periods would start.

"No-one realised at the time that my ovaries weren't working, they just said my hormone levels weren't normal, so I was put on the Pill to compensate.

"I had all sorts of blood tests, genetic tests, DNA tests, but it wasn't until we moved to Boston in America in 1996 that I was diagnosed with premature ovary failure.

"I was also told I had osteoporosis and that it would be very, very difficult for me to have children. It was hard to take on board."

Mrs Butscher and her husband Stephan, whom she had married that year, discussed the possibilities of egg donation and adoption, but, said Mrs Butscher: "We decided in the end we wouldn't go for any of this. We had a very full life and we were happy. We came to terms with the fact that we wouldn't have children."

Mr Butscher, a management consultant, said: "It was just part of what we were. It was never a massive issue because we had happy lives."

Mrs Butscher was put on hormone replacement therapy but was concerned about the long-term side-effects and began to look for other ways of treating her osteoporosis.

Her gynaecologist suggested she should contact Dr Sherman Silber, who had carried out pioneering ovary transplant procedures at the Infertility Centre of St Louis in Missouri. He suggested she might be a suitable candidate for a whole ovary transplant if her twin sister could be the donor.

"I wanted to make sure it wouldn't harm my sister, because it's such a big thing for someone to donate an organ," said Mrs Butscher. "She said she was happy to go along with it if it was what I wanted.

"At the time my primary concern was to treat my osteoporosis, but at the back of my mind it was also about fertility, even though I had been told so many times I couldn't have children. Dr Silber said it was possible I might start to ovulate, and that was what happened."

Mrs Butscher received her sister's right ovary in a four-and-a-half-hour operation in January 2007.

"It was really emotional because I'm very, very close to my sister and I knew I was the one putting her through this, so it was difficult from a physical point of view and from an emotional one," she said.

"After the surgery there was this tiny flame of hope that I might have a child, but it was difficult trying to balance hope with realistic expectations."

The moment Mrs Butscher had never dared hope for came 13 months after her operation, with confirmation that she was pregnant.

She said: "My husband was away at a conference in Dubai at the time and I didn't want to tell him until I was sure, so I said nothing when I spoke to him that evening and it was only the next day, after it was confirmed by my doctor, that I told him he was going to be a father."

Stephan Butscher said: "I was standing on a platform just about to make a speech in front of 50 people when Susanne rang me and said: 'I have to tell you something.'

"She asked me if I was sitting down, then said 'I'm pregnant.' It was the most fantastic news, and it was difficult to keep the grin off my face as I made my presentation."

Mrs Butscher, who now hopes to have more children, said: "Maja has been absolutely fantastic, she is a good feeder and she sleeps really well. She's got her own personality and she loves to observe everything that's going on around her."

As for her status as a world first, Mr Butscher said of Maja: "She is very calm and relaxed about the whole thing. She's just such a good baby."

Mark Cuban Charged with Insider Trading



Update: The SEC's announcement is now up. It alleges that Mark Cuban was informed of an impending stock offering at, and that within hours of learning of it, he dumped his stock:

The Commission's complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, alleges that in June 2004, Inc. invited Cuban to participate in the stock offering after he agreed to keep the information confidential. The complaint further alleges that Cuban knew that the offering would be conducted at a discount to the prevailing market price and that it would be dilutive to existing shareholders.

Within hours of receiving this information, according to the complaint, Cuban called his broker and instructed him to sell Cuban's entire position in the company. When the offering was publicly announced,'s stock price opened at $11.89, down $1.215 or 9.3 percent from the prior day's closing price of $13.105. According to the complaint, Cuban avoided losses in excess of $750,000 by selling his stock prior to the public announcement of the offering.

As CNBC just noted, Mark Cuban certainly has a knack for timing, noting his impeccably timed sales of, and wise decision to dump his Yahoo shares. We have no idea what his side of the story is, and we'll give him the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. But just as a general rule, if your inclination is to defend someone by asking: Would they really have been this stupid? The answer might surprise you.

Original Post: Still sketchy on the details on this one, but WSJ reports that Mark Cuban will face SEC insider trading charges associated with search engine, now known as Copernic (CNIC). CNBC has also confirmed, the news. Apparently the Dallas Mavericks owner was aware of some planned dilution at the company, and got out ahead. Oddly, the claim is that the billionaire saved himself just $750,000. Really?

There's nothing yet on, and no post up yet at his blog, either. His most recent post is titled: "I Hate To Lose".

WORLD RPS Society...serving the needs of decission makers since 1918

About Us:

Mission Statement

The World RPS Society is dedicated to the promotion of Rock Paper Scissors as a fun and safe way to resolve disputes. We feel that conserving the roots of RPS is essential for the growth and development of the game and the players.
The World RPS Society is involved in many areas of the sport, such as; research studies, workshops, tournaments at both local and international levels, book publishing, and much more.
To find out more about how to get involved with the World RPS Society, check our membership section.

History of the World RPS Society

The Paper Scissors Stone Club was founded in London, England in 1842 immediately following the issuance of the1842 law declaring “any decision reached by the use of the process known as Paper Scissors Stone between two gentleman acting in good faith shall constitute a binding contract. Agreements reached in this manner are subject to all relevant contract and tort law.” The law was seen as a slap in the face to the growing number of enthusiasts who played it strictly as a recreational activity, since for many constables it was taken to mean that the game could not be played simply for sport. The club was founded and officially registered to provide an environment free from the long arm of the law where enthusiasts could come together and play for honour.
The original charter appeared as the feature article of Edition One, Volume One of the Stone Scissors Paper published later the same year:

The club is dedicated to the exploration and dissemination of knowledge regarding the game of Paper Scissors Stone and providing a safe and legal environment for the playing of said game. We, the members, take it upon ourselves to educate others regarding the rules, customs and etiquette of the game. Through the authority given to the Steering Committee by the membership, we shall also act as the overseeing body of all tournaments. Furthermore, we shall make every effort to protect the purity of the game from those who would wish to alter it.

A plaque bearing these exact words still hangs prominently in the Steering Committee chamber.

In 1918, the name was changed to World RPS Club in to reflect the growing International representation. At roughly the same time the Club moved its headquarters from London to its present location at Trinity Plaza in Toronto, Canada. Despite the allied victory, the official reason for the move was “England is far too dangerous a place to make a suitable home country for a game of conflict resolution.” Canada was seen as an excellent choice since it was seen as a “safe, hospitable and utterly inoffensive nation, a part of the commonwealth, yet not inhabited by the descendants of criminals.”
In 1925 when the club briefly reached over 10,000 members, the name was changed again to The World RPS Society. The Steering Committee felt that since the membership had reached a new order of magnitude the term club was seen to be “inappropriate, misleading, and mocking.”

All I can say is this site is fantastic!!!