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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Talk isn't cheap? For cellphone users, not talking is costly too

A study shows many customers pay for much more time than they use
David Lazarus

March 8, 2009

If you're like most cellphone users, you probably think you're paying less than 10 cents per minute for calls. Think again.

When you do the math, you find the average cellphone customer actually pays more than $3 per minute, according to a report being issued this week by the Utility Consumers' Action Network, a San Diego consumer advocacy group.

I got a sneak peek at the report the other day.

Researchers arrived at the average $3.02-per-minute charge by comparing the average number of minutes charged in more than 700 San Diego consumers' telecom bills and dividing by the average number of actual minutes used.

"We knew it was a myth that wireless costs were going down," said Michael Shames, UCAN's executive director. "But we were blown away by the actual costs."

That $3-per-minute figure is skewed by the relatively small percentage of people who pay for a lot of minutes but barely use any. But even when those folk are taken out of the mix, most wireless customers still pay between 50 cents and $1 per minute, the study found.

Shames said this wasn't a problem just for San Diego residents. He said the findings of the report were representative of cellphone use and bills nationwide.

That's something to keep in mind as an increasing number of people abandon traditional land lines and embrace a wireless-only lifestyle. More than ever, you have to make sure you're in a calling plan that fits your needs.

Among other findings in the report:

* Only about 8% of land line customers pay less than 10 cents per minute for long-distance calls. The majority pay well over 10 cents per minute, with 20% of people paying more than 50 cents per minute and 10% paying more than $1.

* The cost of additional phone services has soared. In AT&T's case, the cost of call waiting has risen 86% since 2004, the cost of an unlisted number is up 346% and the cost of directory assistance has skyrocketed 1,630%.

* The average cellphone customer uses only about a third of "any time minutes" allowed by most wireless plans. The rest are paid for but wasted.

Many of the findings -- particularly the average cost per minute of wireless service -- have been speculated about for years by telecom observers. The UCAN report represents one of the first attempts to quantify costs based on a relatively broad sample of customers.

Bottom line: Most telecom customers are buying more product than they use, and that's pure gravy for service providers.

"It's hard for customers to gauge how much of this product they're going to use," Shames said. "The phone companies basically force you to calculate in advance something that's very difficult to calculate."

The big dogs of the telecom industry -- AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. -- insist that they're dedicated to making customers happy and ensuring that people have the best possible calling plans for their needs.

"We encourage people to look at their bill, question their bill, and call us if they see anything that's not right," said John Britton, an AT&T spokesman.

Ken Muche, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless, echoed this sentiment. "If you're not using the total amount of minutes in the bucket, we'll work with you to get you on the right plan," he said.

The trick, of course, is that consumers have to be proactive in tracking the number of minutes used each month and shopping around for the most suitable plan. Shames said the UCAN study found that most people don't take the time to look closely at their telecom bills.

For that matter, the study found that most bills were written and formatted so opaquely that even when customers tried to decipher their statements, they often couldn't make heads or tails out of what they were being charged for.

Shames said land line customers needed to be wary of long-distance plans that included monthly fees along with per-minute charges. He also said cellphone customers should explore pay-as-you-go plans that allow you to purchase minutes in advance, and to buy additional minutes in relatively small amounts so no money is wasted.

Be careful, though. AT&T, for example, offers pay-as-you-go plans that might seem penny wise at first but actually can cost some serious coin.

One plan charges cellphone customers 10 cents per minute plus $1 for every day you use the phone. Another skips the daily fee but costs 25 cents per minute.

The UCAN report recommends that federal regulators require a "cost-per-minute box" on all phone bills so that customers know exactly how much they're being charged, and standardize taxes so that customers can more easily compare one service with another.

Providers frequently list taxes and fees differently, making it tough for many people to understand exactly what they're paying for.

"We have millions of customers grossly overpaying for services," Shames said.

He said a copy of the UCAN study will be sent to the Federal Communications Commission. Maybe something will come of that.

But something tells me all we'll get is a busy signal.

David Lazarus' column runs Wednesdays and Sundays. Send your tips or feedback to

The Leon Hendrix Experience

Being Jimi’s baby brother can be a tough row to hoe, especially if you wield an axe.

By Mike Seely

On November 6, several famous guitarists—Buddy Guy, Mike McCready, Jonny Lang, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd among them—took the stage at the opulent Paramount Theatre, trading porn licks in front of a sold-out crowd. The concert marked the Seattle stop of an annual Jimi Hendrix tribute tour organized by Janie Hendrix, who controls a large share of her late stepbrother's estate through an enterprise called Experience Hendrix.

Conspicuously absent from the concert, which also featured former Hendrix collaborators Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox, was Jimi's younger brother, Leon. As the show began, Leon could be found rehearsing with his band in a small practice space underneath the Red Door in Fremont. Leon wasn't invited to the Paramount gig, as he's been on the outs with Janie for years, the result of an epic legal struggle over the rights to Jimi's lucrative legacy—a struggle that's found Leon on the losing end time and again.

A week earlier, on Halloween: Leon and his band are sharing a bill at the Imperial Dragon, a cavernous restaurant-lounge in Tacoma, with a group fronted by Goldy McJohn, the former keyboard player for Steppenwolf and the Mynah Birds. McJohn lives in Burien, and was once tight with both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, who died within days of each other in 1970.

Despite its emphasis on Asian fare, tonight the Dragon is offering a $2 hot dog special in the banquet room where Leon and McJohn are to perform. In the lounge, there's another stage, where a classic-rock cover band is playing to a sparse crowd. The banquet room is slightly more crowded, albeit mostly with members of the bands and a handful of groupies.

The promoter of the gig is a large man in a bejeweled cowboy hat named Jim Nelson. Back when he was "three-quarters fucked up and had a beautiful blonde wife," Nelson claims, he performed regularly at the Las Vegas Hilton, where he sang his "road song, 'Johnny B. Goode.'" Tonight, he says, he'll be performing that song with Leon's band.

"Have you seen the flyer? Have you seen it?" Nelson asks excitedly. "The flyer" is Nelson's main method for promoting this Halloween show. He claims he's handed them out and plastered them all over town, as well as at a pair of nearby military bases. He believes flyers are more effective than newspaper advertising and just about any other promotional tactic. "People keep them," he says. "That's how I promote my bands."

Judging from the lackluster crowd that's assembled shortly before Leon and his band take the stage, however, the flyer appears not to have worked as Nelson had hoped. McJohn, for one, is incensed that Nelson has promoted his Steppenwolf cover band (in which McJohn's the only original member), Goldy McJohn & Friendz, as the actual Steppenwolf. "[Nelson] is full of shit," says McJohn. "Steppenwolf would never play a room like this." McJohn, who speaks deliberately and boasts a long, gray mane of hair, hands over a self-released solo CD entitled Fugue in D, which he describes—aptly, it turns out—as "59 minutes and 23 seconds of backwards, forwards, pure, uninterrupted psychedelia."

Leon is rail-thin, with stringy hair and massive hands to rival Jimi's, and wears tinted spectacles at all times. He is dressed in a long leopard-print robe, open to reveal a T-shirt bearing his brother's likeness that he designed himself. He and his band, a four-piece, take the stage and launch into "Red House," followed by a string of hard-rock originals from the band's lone LP, Keeper of the Flame. After finishing a track entitled "Voodoo River," Leon points to the sky and exclaims, "Thank you, Jimi. What's up, brother?"

The band plays a handful of other Jimi covers, including "All Along the Watchtower" and "Hey, Jimi," a lyric-tweaked interpretation of "Hey, Joe." Leon mainly plays rhythm guitar, but occasionally trades solos with Stefen Isaac, the band's competent lead guitarist. Like his brother, Leon, who sings lead, is not the greatest vocalist, his gravelly voice spitting out lyrics at such a frantic rate that they're often unintelligible. As a guitarist, he shows flashes of ingenuity, but mostly defers to Isaac.

"Johnny B. Goode" is the band's finale, and Nelson, as promised, strides to the stage. Leon reluctantly cedes the microphone to the promoter, who hunches and sways from left to right as he sings. After a verse and a chorus, an unimpressed Leon pushes Nelson off the stage and finishes the song himself.

"That was a bullshit thing, I'm tellin' you," says Nelson, reflecting on the incident weeks later. "Leon's a great singer, but he doesn't sing that song worth a shit. He's a class act, but he's not a rock-and-roll singer." That said, adds Nelson, "His brother's name gives him the inside track, and the guy's good."

Leon says his band received "a check for $18" for performing that night. Nelson chalks this up in part to the fact that the musicians were signing drinks to his tab without permission, and concedes "I don't think they got paid shit."

Now 61, Leon's become accustomed to getting the short end of the stick. A former drug addict and small-time crook, Leon was famously cut out of his father's will—and in turn, Jimi's estate—before Al Hendrix's death in 2002. A costly legal battle, in which Leon claimed his stepsister Janie coerced a sickly Al into shunning him financially, ensued. It was a battle Leon would ultimately lose in 2004, and subsequent attempts to profit from his brother's legacy have been quashed in court as well.

While Leon says he's "tired of all the family stuff," there's always a chance he'll continue his quixotic quest to carve out a slice of Jimi's fortune. For now, he's left with only his music, a career he reluctantly took up a little over a decade ago, when he claims his brother encouraged him to pick up a guitar in a drug-fueled hallucination.

"This is all I've got," says Leon of his music. "This is the only way I can take care of my children and my grandchildren."

That leaves Leon trying to make a go of it in a field where his deceased brother is considered a deity. As Charles Cross, author of the 2005 Hendrix biography Room Full of Mirrors, puts it: "If you were Van Gogh's brother, would you paint sunflowers?"

The afternoon of the big-name Paramount concert, Leon rides the #28 Metro bus to band practice in Fremont. He's seated alone, near the front, and nobody recognizes him.

Leon has lived in Seattle almost his entire life, but spends most of his time these days at his girlfriend's place in Los Angeles. When he's in town, where the rest of his band resides, he stays in West Seattle at the Seattle West Inn & Suites, a budget motel around the corner from a bar called the Redline, where he occasionally plays impromptu gigs.

The Hendrix brothers grew up dirt-poor in Seattle's Central District. Their parents were heavy drinkers who divorced when Leon was still a small boy. Their mother, Lucille, died soon after. Al, says Leon, "was abusive and an alcoholic and a motherfucker, but we loved him."

Jimi stayed with Al, but Leon was placed in foster care. "My dad always put me in foster homes like two blocks away, because he loved me," says Leon, five years younger than Jimi.

Leon and Jimi remained close into adulthood. Leon recalls one time when Jimi called him from London. "He played 'Purple Haze,' and I told him it was the stupidest song I'd ever heard," says Leon, cracking up over a glass of white wine at the Red Door. "He was such a mild-mannered guy. He was my brother, my father, and my friend."

When Leon was in his late teens, he hit the road with Jimi, often serving as the "gatekeeper" for females in romantic pursuit of his older brother. But by the time Jimi died, Leon was making a name for himself as a two-bit criminal. In the three decades that followed, Leon developed a mile-long—albeit relatively softcore—rap sheet and a serious crack-cocaine addiction.

He occasionally found employment as a delivery driver, and sold some of his artwork to help support his now-estranged wife and six children. Leon was also able to set up trust funds for each of his kids through a deal in which he relinquished to Al all future claims to Jimi-related copyrights in exchange for $1 million. Al gained control of Jimi's copyrights in 1995 after a costly legal battle of his own; that same year he formed Experience Hendrix and tapped Janie to run the multimillion-dollar enterprise that, among other ventures, controls Jimi's catalogue and all associated commercial releases (many of which are sold through EH's retail arm, Authentic Hendrix).

But Leon quickly pissed away his share of the loot, due in large part to his debauched, hustler lifestyle. "Leon has wasted more money than most people make in their lifetime," says Cross.

Leon has completed rehab, and his daughter, Tina, says he's made great strides as a father since cleaning up his act. But with his recent focus on his fledgling music career, he's repeating the absentee-patriarch cycle that permeated his youth.

"This was the second Christmas without him," says Tina, a music producer herself. (Her Hendrix Dynasty Records has produced Bay Area rapper Sam Quinn and the guitarist BluMeadows.) "He hasn't even seen two of his grandkids. I know you have dreams, but they just want to play chess with you. He gave a lot of energy to his kids and grandkids before, so he'd be well-received if he came around. He's trying to get rich for us, but we don't care about that. When he was a drug addict, we fed him."

Yet Tina, who lives just south of town in a house off Rainier Avenue, admires her father's verve. "He's living his dream, traveling the world, and he's over 60 years old." While Tina feels her dad has chops, she considers his band's sound to be "a little dated," and says he "needs a real producer." To this end, she notes, "I would love to work with him.

"We're building a new legacy for a new time," says Tina, whose brother, Jimi II (currently doing time in Phoenix on a weapons charge), is an aspiring rapper. "We're always gonna respect [Uncle] Jimi. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't be doing this. He was the first Barack Obama."

Prior to Al Hendrix's death, Janie and Leon held comparable shares of the estate, according to a September 2004 article by Cross for Tracks magazine. At the time, Janie told Cross she was surprised Leon had been excluded entirely from Al's final will.

"I can't answer for what my father was thinking," she says today. "He tried to instill his morals and his values into all of us. And I often did hear my father say that Leon didn't get it. [Al] was a gardener who often worked from six in the morning to nine at night. He was an avid golfer, and he said, 'There're no gimmes.'"

"You look at Jimi, he had his own studio," continues Janie. "[Jimi] recorded around the clock, laid down for a little while, got up, and wanted to work again. Consequently, we probably still have another 10 years of unreleased material, which is incredible for an artist who really functioned for only four years. Why? His work ethic."

Janie also states that Leon was offered a design job at Experience Hendrix, but turned it down—a claim Leon disputes. "When we were in front of my dad, [Janie] said, 'Yeah, Leon can work here,'" Leon recalls. "But when I got out of treatment a year or so later, it was a different story. Every time I tried to go down there and say 'OK, give me the job now,' there was always an excuse. If she offered me a job now, I'd take it. She's committed genocide on my family. We got no insurance; we got nothin'."

Bankrolled to the tune of $3.5 million in legal fees by a wealthy real-estate developer named Craig Dieffenbach, who doubled as Leon's manager at the time, Leon filed suit in King County Superior Court after his father's death. Here he claimed his stepsister, who only met Jimi a handful of times in her youth, had manipulated an elderly, infirm Al into rewriting a will that did not represent his true interests. In court, Janie's lawyers portrayed Al's action as tough love—after Leon had squandered multiple opportunities to prove himself a worthy recipient of his brother's fortune. In 2004, the judge ruled in favor of Janie.

"Whatever the will said, Leon was the single closest person to Jimi during the course of his life," observes Cross, who attended much of the trial. "Should he have been included? Positively, yes. There's the law, and then there's what's right."

Counters Janie: "First of all, the closest person to Jimi was Dad. As far as Leon goes, it is sad and unfortunate, but Leon received more than two million dollars in his lifetime when my father was taking care of him. And Leon had already sold his rights to various people. If he'd gotten any money, it wouldn't come to him, it would come to the people he'd sold his rights to."

Not long after the verdict, Dieffenbach came out with Hendrix Electric Vodka. After Dieffenbach hosted a star-studded launch party for the hooch that was chronicled in the Los Angeles Times, Experience Hendrix sued, alleging trademark infringement. Dieffenbach countered that Janie only held the rights to Jimi's music. Janie once again prevailed in court, and last month a settlement was announced wherein Dieffenbach and Electric Hendrix, LLC will pay Experience Hendrix $3.2 million for the infraction. Bottles of the vodka will also be removed from store shelves. (It's worth noting that Experience Hendrix has pushed its share of tacky Hendrix-related products as well, including a rocking chair, golf balls, and a non-alcoholic red wine. "The Jimi Hendrix rocking chair is one of the dumbest ideas ever marketed in rock and roll," says Cross.)

Some news reports stated that Leon was involved with the vodka launch, and though court documents identify him as part owner, Leon was never named as a defendant in the suit and denies any direct involvement with the product. "I had nothing to do with it," he says. "[Dieffenbach] didn't even contact me until two years after he started the company. I came to find out later that he'd put me as an owner when he first started the company. He called it a Hendrix family endeavor in some fancy magazines, so he had to come to me then. He said, 'I'm gonna give you guys [Leon and several of his relatives] some money [2 percent shares of the company, according to Leon],' and we said OK because we didn't have no money. But we haven't seen any money since."

Dieffenbach, who now lives in Beverly Hills, remembers things much differently. "He was in on it from the very fricking beginning," he says of Leon's involvement. "I'm very disappointed in him."

Dieffenbach also disputes Leon's claim that he and family members never received payouts from the vodka endeavor. "At one point, we did a $26,000 distribution, and we'd been paying Leon for years."

Leon first met Dieffenbach in Seattle in the late '90s, shortly after Leon got out of drug treatment. At the time, Dieffenbach, who was instrumental in redeveloping the block where the Columbia City Theater and Tutta Bella Pizzeria now reside, ran a local recording studio, and he says he arranged for Leon to take guitar lessons and helped get his career off the ground. Today the two rarely speak to one another.

Now that he's $6.7 million lighter, does Dieffenbach regret getting involved in the Hendrix family affairs? "No, because there's a lot of help that we were able to bring to a lot of his family members," he insists. "We worked on saving [Jimi and Leon's childhood] house and gave it our best shot. We backed him when he got cut out of the will, but how much can you help somebody? The family's dysfunctional. That whole family has been in an awful way for a long time."

The familial acrimony has also ensnared a seemingly benign branch of the tree: the James Marshall Hendrix Foundation, which Al set up in 1988 as a means to empower Leon to do good deeds on his brother's behalf and help support himself in the process. The foundation is now headed by Jimmy Williams, a boyhood friend of both Hendrix brothers who was also very close to their father.

According to Williams, who lives in a home overlooking Boeing's Renton airstrip, he and Leon eventually "parted company" over the foundation's direction. "Leon and others were trying to commercialize it too much," Williams says. "Janie had that side of the legacy. Al wanted [Leon's foundation] to be a pure charitable organization."

But Williams and Leon began to patch things up in 2006, when, says Williams, "Leon was having issues with people who loaned him money for the 2004 lawsuit. Everybody was broke, and the only way people could think to get the money back was through the foundation, so Leon asked me to watch his back—to take it over."

Around this time, Janie sued to get the foundation to stop using the Hendrix name. But in a rare setback, her claim was dismissed, and Experience Hendrix was ordered to pay the foundation's legal fees.

"A lot of people came aboard to take and mislead and not really help that family," says Williams, who as a boy lived for a spell with the same foster family, the Wheelers, as Leon. "Even with all that money, it hasn't benefited [them] much. My hope is that at some point—and I don't see this happening with Janie and Leon—one of their kids can piece the family back together and share in that legacy."

Despite a life fraught with disappointment, Leon remains upbeat about his future as an entertainer. He's got at least two new albums in the can, he says, with members of Styx and Deep Purple contributing. Furthermore, he's working on a biopic that he says Steven Seagal wants to produce, and has a book proposal that's attracted interest from the "biggest book agent in L.A."

But the problem is that these projects are, to borrow a favorite phrase of Leon's, "caught up in legal"— an apt metaphor for his entire life.

Of the biopic, Leon says, "Seagal, he's a good friend of mine; he wants to make a movie, but he wants to control it. But all the other people who control a piece of [the film] don't want him to do that." (Seagal's management did not return calls seeking comment). The book, meanwhile, is something of a mystery, as Leon can't recall the name of that big L.A. agent. As for one of the new albums, currently titled Tricked by the Sun, Leon says, "The people I was involved with, they're blackmailing each other to control it." As for the other, the one purportedly featuring musicians from Styx and Deep Purple, Leon says, "That's in legal too. I just can't believe all the shit I have to go through." (A Styx publicist denies any knowledge of this collaboration.)

One outfit that shares the rights to Leon's music and film projects is Gotham Metro, a production studio with offices in Los Angeles, Portland, and Carson City, Nevada. Dave Craddick, one of Leon's many ex-managers, claims he's currently close to wresting control of Tricked by the Sun from the company, where he used to work. Gotham "didn't get its funding and ran into trouble with some other projects," explains Craddick. "As things deteriorated there, I had to take [the album] over and follow it through. I found the rest of the money to pay the producer and studio costs, then I hit a wall financially and haven't been able to hire an attorney to negotiate some of the contracts. But I have been moving forward with some online distribution outlets and some labels that are interested."

As if that weren't convoluted enough, Craddick adds: "I do have a completed master, which I'll release through my production company, Manhattan Entertainment Group. It's ready to go. I just got an e-mail from Gotham Metro saying they'll sign the album over to me. I didn't want to release it and have any loose ends, because that's when people come out of the woodwork."

Gotham Metro CEO Michael Lasky confirms Craddick's account, and classifies a Hendrix-related film project his company has been working on as "on hold." As for his company's current financial bill of health, Lasky concedes they've fallen on hard times, quipping "If the state of California and federal government are considered solvent, then I guess we are too."

For years, Leon and his bandmates ignored this contractual tornado. But recently Isaac, for one, got fed up. "I personally couldn't take it anymore," says the guitarist, who feels that the band has become "a local Seattle joke." Hence this past August he enlisted Chicago businessman Greg Groeper, a friend from Isaac's days as a studio engineer in the Windy City, to help apply some business-savvy salve to the band's situation.

The first person Isaac put Groeper in contact with was Williams. Groeper is now the foundation's marketing and charitable gifts coordinator, and has taken charge of the band's affairs as well. "Mark [Stella, the group's bassist] calls me the anti-terrorist division," Groeper says of his current role. "He says my job is to keep the assholes away."

Groeper also helped soothe the residual tension between Leon and Jimmy Williams. "Leon knows I'm working with Jimmy, and Jimmy knows I'm working with Leon," he says. "Having me in between them has seemed to make a very big difference in their relationship. Leon could basically be the spokesperson for the foundation and use the band to create awareness and funding for the foundation. And the foundation can provide Leon with the necessary legal cover he needs to make sure that Janie doesn't go chasing his ass down the road ever again."

Adds Groeper: "I believe truly that there are a lot of things [Leon] has done that he would not have done were it not for the influence of some unscrupulous people. Yes, he's blessed with having Jimi as his brother, because that cuts through a lot of the muck and gives him an audience. But as a visual artist, he's very talented—and nobody pays attention to that. They just want to use him to market vodka or coffee or condoms or whatever. I'm just trying to convince him that he has to make it with what God gave him, not what other people give him."

Isaac first met Leon a few years ago, shortly after Leon began performing live, at a Venice Beach bar called Scruffy O'Shea's where Leon was scheduled to play. "He was scared shitless," recalls Isaac. Leon aborted his set before Isaac had a chance to join him onstage, but the pair cemented a relationship that night, and Isaac eventually joined Leon's band.

"At first, [Leon] didn't believe in himself, and has at times been afraid to play," seconds Neil Kirkland, the band's drummer and keyboardist since 2002. "But then he got good."

Good, but not great—and Jimi was arguably the best there ever was. "I have a psychological impediment being Jimi's brother," Leon concedes. But he got over this hump shortly after one of his clients came to him looking to score dope. She didn't have any money, but had an old guitar in tow, so Leon agreed to a swap. Later, while loaded, he says, he nodded off. Shortly thereafter, he claims, "Jimi came and the guitar started vibrating, making noise by itself. The guitar started to talk to me, and it was compelling."

"[Leon is] a natural musician," says Williams. "He's not Jimi—nobody is. But he's done a lot in 10 years. He's mastered the guitar and has a band and he's great."

"He's way better than I expected," seconds Cross. "The problem is his brother is the most famous guitarist who's ever lived. So for Leon, it's absolutely nuts for Jimi Hendrix's brother to even think he could be a guitar player. It's suicidal, almost. You have to, to a degree, admire that."

Al sure didn't. According to Cross' book, he frowned upon his boys taking up music as a career, with Jimi often practicing in secret to avoid his father's ire. Only when Jimi made it big did his dad embrace his talent. But this only served to strengthen Al's resolve when it came to Leon.

"My dad forbade me to play after Jimi," Leon says.

For years, Leon honored his father's wishes. But when he finally went against Al's will, "his attempt at music helped get him edged out of the estate," says Cross.

Local musician-producer Brin Addison was the one who gave Leon guitar lessons on Dieffenbach's recommendation. Addison remembers the Hendrix clan being less than receptive to Leon's six-string pursuit. "I recorded countless hours of music that [Leon] could present to Al in the hopes of being accepted back into the family. Janie didn't like that idea and pretty much poisoned Al against him—and eventually he was cut out of the estate altogether," says Addison. "In the end Al figured he knew Leon too well and didn't see music as a turning point. I'm not sure playing guitar was a direct reason for him being cut out, but it may have contributed in some way or other."

To this, Janie again denies having had any involvement in removing Leon from the will, saying only, "As far as his music career, I wish him happiness; I wish him peace; I wish him healing. If his music makes him happy, I applaud him for that."

For every gig like the one in Tacoma on Halloween, there are at least two others where Leon is treated as rock royalty—where he's not only the closest people are going to get to Jimi Hendrix, but the closest they're going to get to celebrity, period. To wit, at a working-class bar in Everett called the Doghouse, a 50-something soldier on leave from Iraq lit up at the mere mention that Jimi Hendrix's younger brother was playing a venue down the road. That show, a white-linen affair at Club Broadway in commemoration of what would have been Jimi's 66th birthday, ended up selling out. The crowd was receptive to the band even though Leon seemed a little off his game, understandable since he'd come straight from the airport after playing a similar affair at B.B.'s in Manhattan the night before.

Leon had flown to New York unaccompanied by his regular band. Instead he played with what he termed from the stage his "New York band." After Leon opened with the track "Jimi & Me" off Keeper of the Flame, the crowd applauded warmly. To this a self-deprecating Leon responded, "You guys are too kind. That was terrible."

When he moved on to covers of "Foxy Lady" and "Red House," the assembled group of mostly Caucasian tourists became genuinely enthused. "Kind of surreal seeing Jimi's brother," remarked one onlooker.

At gig after gig, Leon's magnetism proves a recurring trait. Glen Bui, the lead guitarist for Goldy McJohn & Friendz, says that "Leon got more attention from the fans than us or Foghat" when the three acts shared a bill at Farragut State Park Amphitheater in Coeur d'Alene this past summer.

Two days after the Paramount gala, at Kennedy's Nightclub in Longview, a workaday town that most Seattleites only stop in for gas en route to Portland, Leon's band is set to share a bill with McJohn and Bui. A poster on the club's window touts Leon's band as "Jimi Hendrix brother Leon Hendrix," and a portion of the evening's proceeds are designated for the families of fallen soldiers.

Leon begins his set with an eloquent tribute to those who've perished in the line of duty, and then launches into "Let's Roll," a driving rocker about United 93. Next the band plays a solid cover of "Sympathy for the Devil," after which Leon passes around a tin bucket and encourages patrons to drop money into it for the show's beneficiaries.

Later the band covers "All Along the Watchtower," during which Leon executes a deft, smoking guitar solo. They close with their usual cover of "Johnny B. Goode," with Leon tweaking the lyrics so that he sings, "Go, Jimi, go!"

Afterwards, as McJohn and Bui haul gear to the stage in advance of their set, Leon nonchalantly sits down at a table with a drink. Mere seconds go by before a crowd gathers around him, where Leon chats with fans and autographs clothing, CDs—even a woman's breasts.

"I'm not in Jimi's shadow," he says. "I'm in the shade."

With reporting from Ben Westhoff in New York, as well as Erinn Unger and Kassiopia Rodgers in Seattle.

Is Cutting-Edge Marijuana Lab the Future of Legitimate Pot?

If pot is truly medicine, shouldn't it be standardized? A lab has big plans to test the potency of Cali cannabis sold in dispensaries.

read more | digg story

Nuerologist explains how marijuana increases brain size.

Short video on how lifestyle, food, and drugs can make dramatic changes in our physiology, including increasing/decreasing brain size.

read more | digg story

Former NiN Drummer Takes Album Promotion A Step Further

by Stan Schroeder
josh_freeseYou know how Nine Inch Nails tie the digital goods (which can be duplicated ad infinitum) to scarce goods (merch, collector’s items, signed items, etc) to engage their audience and give them a chance to choose how much they’re willing to spend and what exactly they’re getting for their money?

Well, their former drummer Josh Freese has a new album, and he has decided to take the concept a couple of steps further. I’m not sure whether he’s joking or is this for real, but what he’s offering to his fans is definitely funny as hell. Here goes (courtesy of


* Digital download of Since 1972, including 3 videos


* CD/DVD double-disc set
* Digital download


* CD/DVD double-disc set
* T-shirt
* “Thank you” phone call from Josh for buying Since 1972. You can tell him what you like about the record that you purchased, or what you thought sucked. Ask whatever you want, like “Is Maynard really THAT weird?” or “Which one of Sting’s mansions has the comfiest beds?” or “Are Devo really suburban robots that monitor reality or just a bunch of dads from Ohio?” or “Why don’t the Vandals play more stuff off the first record?” It’s your 5 minutes to yack it up. Talk about whatever you want.

$250 (limited edition of 25)

* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* T-shirt
* Signed drum head and drumsticks
* Go on a lunch date with Josh to PF Changs or The Cheesecake Factory (whatever you’re into)

$500 (limited edition of 15)

* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* T-shirt
* Signed cymbal and sticks
* Meet Josh in Venice, Calif., and go floating together in a sensory-deprivation tank (to be filmed and posted on YouTube)
* Dinner at Sizzler (get your $8.99 steak and “all you can eat” shrimp on)

$1,000 (limited edition of 10)

* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* T-shirt
* Signed cymbal, drum head and drumsticks
* Josh washes your car OR does your laundry … or you can wash his car
* Have dinner with Josh aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif.
* Get drunk and cut each other’s hair in the parking lot of the Long Beach courthouse (filmed and posted on YouTube, of course)

$2,500 (limited edition of 5)

* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* Get a private drum lesson with Josh, or for all you non-drummers, have him give you a back and foot massage (couples welcome)
* Pick any 1 member of the Vandals or Devo (subject to availability) to accompany you and Josh to either the Hollywood Wax Museum or the lunch buffet at the Spearmint Rhino
* Signed DW snare drum
* Take 3 items of your choice out of his closet (first come, first serve)
* Change diapers and make bottles with him for an afternoon (after hitting the strip club)

$5,000 (limited edition of 3)

* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* T-shirt
* Josh writes a song about you and makes it available on iTunes
* Co-direct a video with him for the song about you and throw it up on the YouTubes
* Josh gives you and a friend a private tour of Disneyland
* Get drunk together. If you don’t drink, we can go to my dad’s place and hang out under the “Tuba tree”
* Stone Gossard from Pearl Jam will send you a letter telling you about his favorite song on Since 1972

$10,000 (limited edition of 1)

* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* T-shirt
* Signed DW snare drum from A Perfect Circle’s 2003 tour
* Josh gives you a private drum lesson OR his and hers foot/back massage (couples welcome, discreet parking)
* Twiggy from Marilyn Manson’s band and Josh take you and a guest to Roscoe’s Chicken ‘n’ Waffles in Long Beach for dinner
* Josh takes you and a guest to Club 33 (the super-duper exclusive and private restaurant at Disneyland located above Pirates of the Caribbean) and then hit a couple rides afterward (preferably the Tiki Room, the Haunted Mansion and Tower of Terror)
* At the end of the day at Disneyland, drive away in Josh’s Volvo station wagon. It’s all yours … take it. Just drop him off on your way home, though, please.

$20,000 (limited edition of 1)

* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* T-shirt
* A signed drum from the 2008 Nine Inch Nails tour
* Maynard James Keenan, Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo and Josh take you miniature golfing and then drop you off on the side of the freeway (all filmed and posted on YouTube)
* Josh gives you a tour of Long Beach. See his first apartment, the coffee shop on 2nd Street where his buddy paid Dave Grohl $40 to rip up tile just weeks before joining Nirvana. See the old Vandals rehearsal spot, the liquor store he got busted at using a Fake ID when he was 17 (it was Dave from the Vandals’ old ID). Go check out Snoop Dogg’s high school. For an extra 50 bucks see where Tom and Adrian from No Doubt live. For another $25 he’ll show ya where Eric from NOFX and Brooks from Bad Religion get their hair cut.
* Spend the night aboard the Queen Mary and take the “Ghosts and Legends” tour. (Separate rooms … no spooning.)
* Josh writes 2 songs about you and both are made available on iTunes and appear on his next record (you can sing back up on ‘em, clap, play the drums, triangle, whatever)
* Drum lesson OR foot and back massage (once again … couples welcome and discreet parking available)
* Pick any 3 items out of Josh’s closet

$75,000 (limited edition of 1)

* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* T-shirt
* Go on tour with Josh for a few days
* Have Josh write, record and release a 5-song EP about you and your life story
* Take home any of his drum sets (only one, but you can choose which one)
* Take shrooms and cruise Hollywood in Danny from Tool’s Lamborghini OR play quarters and then hop on the Ouija board for a while
* Josh will join your band for a month … play shows, record, party with groupies, etc.
* If you don’t have a band he’ll be your personal assistant for a month (4-day work weeks, 10 am to 4 pm)
* Take a limo down to Tijuana and he’ll show you how it’s done (what that means exactly we can’t legally get into here)
* If you don’t live in Southern California (but are a U.S. resident) he’ll come to you and be your personal assistant/cabana boy for 2 weeks
* Take a flying trapeze lesson with Josh and Robin from NIN, go back to Robins place afterwards and his wife will make you raw lasagna

Now, if this isn’t changing the way music business works, I don’t know what is.

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Ketchup Bottle as Pancake Batter Dispenser

Ketchup bottle as batter dispenser
Original purpose: Flavoring Mom's meat loaf.
Aha! use: Portioning pancake batter with precision―and without the usual mess of transferring batter from the bowl. Squeeze out baby-size or plate-size rounds, or add Mickey Mouse ears to a batch of silver dollars.
Reward: Restaurant-worthy flapjacks.

A Show 2 Lame 2 Miss

Photos: Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer Reunite

Things get def in Utah, of all places, at rappers one-night-only reunion show

The idea of an MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice concert in Utah raises a lot of questions. On second thought, it's just one question—why?—but it comes in two varieties. There are the nuts-and-bolts whys, which we can tick off now. Why would either Hammer or Ice do a concert to begin with? Because they have families and mortgages and the Iceman has the tattoo bug. Why together? I thought they hated each other. There was mild drama when they toured together in the '90s, after Ice reportedly said the crowds were more impressed with his skills than Hammer's. Water under the bridge. Why is it in Utah? Because a local promoter invited them to perform there, and Utahns love to party. Why would anyone pay forty bucks to see this concert? If you've read up to this point, let's face it, with the right social lubricant you're there with bells on. But there are more complex, philosophical whys. Why do MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice still exist? Having provided the soundtrack for my bat mitzvah and the basis for ironic Halloween costumes, has not their purpose been served? Why, after all these years, have the winds and rains not eroded them away?

Here's why. Imagine the crowning achievement of your life was your performance as a stalk of broccoli in a second-grade play about the four food groups. Would you slink back into obscurity because it was expected of you, or would you get over yourself, suit back up and comically mispronounce beta carotene just like old times? Even though their music has come to represent all that was cheesy about the '90s, instead of hiding from it, these two old friends perform it. It's a feat requiring either a complete lack of self-awareness or an overabundance of it. Most would settle for the former, but don't hate on Hammer and Ice for choosing the latter.

Hammer, for his part, isn't apologizing for any of it. Not for the music, not for the pants, not even for that Cash4Gold commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. ("I could get cash for this gold medallion of me wearing a gold medallion!") Hammer, né Stanley Burrell, believes that between the 10 million-plus albums he's sold and the cultural influence he claims, he's got nothing to be ashamed of. "I'm not the least bit self-conscious," says Hammer, now 46, his tone steeled with defiance before the show. "I'm the guy who went to the Tokyo Dome and sold out five nights. Who's the other rapper who sold out five nights at the Tokyo Dome? Oh, that's right, there isn't one. You don't have to add anything to my résumé, just read it like it is." A few minutes later, one of his buzzabouts brings him a Rockstar Energy Drink, presumably because the Pop Rapper Emeritus Energy Drinks weren't cold.

One-hit wonders don't intend to be one-hit wonders, and that's doubly true for rappers. Hip-hop, even the triple-distilled variety Hammer and Ice trade in, is all about hubris, about knowing that pop stardom is fickle and fleeting but proclaiming loudly that you have what it takes to defy the inevitable decline. Look at this portion of the first verse of Ice's "Ice Ice Baby": "Will it ever stop? Yo, I don't know." Say what you will about the man, but he's never minced his words. He's a sober realist, and he didn't mollycoddle those who saw his stardom as a national nightmare. He stared them straight in the eye and told them plainly that this scourge may never end, and now that Ice (né Robert Van Winkle) is 41, it seems more than an idle threat. Hammer, meanwhile, said he was "Too Legit to Quit." It not only rhymed, it was hard to argue with. And then there are those pants, with the drooping expanse of fabric in the crotch. At first they're a fashion statement, but give it a couple decades and they become the perfect camouflage for middle-age paunch. Clearly, he had no intention of fading away.

But there's a difference between accepting their right to exist and coming out in droves to celebrate them, as the good people of Utah do. They come costumed: neon colors, translucent fabrics and acid-wash denim, with teased hair and single earrings. Many of them wear the pants that became Hammer's sartorial trademark. One woman wears no pants at all, the better to read the words stitched on the rear of her red panties: "Ice Baby." Most of these folks were just born the last time Hammer and Ice performed together 18 years ago, if they were born at all. Somehow, they still sound nostalgic. "I hope he does his old stuff," says Reagan Nickel, 21, who trekked an hour and a half from Bountiful, Utah, to see Ice. "I saw him on TV a while ago bashing his old stuff. He shouldn't bash it, he should be proud of it. We are. Aren't we proud of it?" "Yeah!" shouts a sextet of nearby girls, in unison, every last one of them 14 years old. The majority of the crowd falls into the late-teen, early 20s range. They aren't the ones who bought Hammer's and Ice's records the first time around. They got their nostalgia secondhand, from VH1's ceaseless "I Love the '80s" and "Awesomely Bad" specials, from iTunes recommendations, from "Family Guy," which derives a solid half of its humor from arcane pop-culture references. To these kids, the Hammer era is fun and frivolous, something to celebrate, not to deride. It's not the lame music their parents conceived them to. It's the music that blared from their older siblings' rooms.

It's about 10 o'clock when Ice takes the stage. He's making bold strokes, pulling mostly from his recent rap-rock material, which the audience doesn't appear to dig. After a few songs, he starts speaking their language: "How about I take it back to the old school?" The crowd goes nuts. "Ice Ice Baby" brings down the house. He follows with "Play That Funky Music," and even plays "Ninja Rap," the song he penned for "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze." He might not be as proud as Nickel and the tweens would like, but he's doing his job. Hammer joins him wearing a black pair of his signature pants and tears through a set of his biggest hits. A camera crew swarms about collecting footage for his forthcoming reality show. He includes one of his campier, later singles, "Pumps and a Bump," best known for its video in which he frolics about in a Speedo that proved too immodest for MTV censors. No shame in his game. By the time Hammer's ready to mount his closing number, the smash "U Can't Touch This," the crowd is at a fever pitch. The harsh truth is, these songs are giddy and infectious, just as much now as then. A mite odd, yes, but as Friday night entertainment in Utah, perfectly legit.

© 2009

Ladies of the Geneva Motor Show

Sexy side of the show!Second day of the Geneva Motor Show is almost over and tomorrow doors will open to the general public. We have brought you information about different concepts, future models and also new debuts.

This post here is not about another new model, it is all about the girls who spend their days next to all these cars.

just like with cars there are girls for every taste. Some are taller, some are shorter. Some have blond hair, some dark. We are not going into all the details about these girls. Just sit down with your buddies and browse through all the images below. Enjoy!

Reasons why you should have a camera phone

Some pics NSFW...

read more | digg story

Ban on medical pot cases quickly lifted

L.A.'s U.S. attorney declines to say why he ordered prosecutors to stop filing charges, then abruptly changed his mind.
By Scott Glover
March 7, 2009
The U.S. attorney in Los Angeles sent a confidential memo to prosecutors last week ordering them to stop filing charges against medical marijuana dispensaries, then abruptly lifted the ban on Friday, according to sources familiar with the developments.

U.S. Atty. Thomas P. O'Brien declined comment on what prompted him to issue the directive or to later rescind it.

O'Brien's decision to temporarily halt the prosecutions came two days after remarks by Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, who seemed to imply at a Washington, D.C., press conference that medical marijuana prosecutions would not be a priority for the Justice Department under President Obama.

A Justice Department official said Friday that the attorney general did not direct O'Brien or any other U.S. attorney to alter policies regarding the prosecution of such cases.

O'Brien's initial order was delivered in a memo by Christine Ewell, head of the U.S. attorney's criminal division, according to three sources who read the document, which was distributed by e-mail on Feb. 27.

In addition to being told to stop filing new cases, prosecutors were instructed to refrain from issuing subpoenas or applying for search warrants in pending cases, said the sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. In fact, a few hours after the memo was circulated, Ewell sent out another e-mail admonishing prosecutors not to discuss the contents of the memo with anyone outside the U.S. attorney's office, the sources said.

Another e-mail came out Friday instructing prosecutors to resume work on medical marijuana cases. Despite the reversal, news of the temporary ban is likely to spark interest amid the ongoing national debate over medical marijuana. Thirteen states, including California, allow for the cultivation, use and sale of doctor-prescribed medical marijuana under certain conditions, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, an organization that supports the legalization of the drug. Federal law, which trumps those of the states, bans the drug altogether.

As a result, operators of dispensaries in California and elsewhere who maintain they were operating under state law have been raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration and charged under federal drug laws.

Such prosecutions have been controversial, with patients and supporters of the dispensaries complaining that operators embraced by their own communities were unfairly targeted. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for O'Brien, has said that prosecutors target people they consider egregious offenders, such as those accused of selling drugs to minors or proprietors with past drug convictions.

One high-profile case went to trial in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles last summer. Charles Lynch, who sought and received the blessing of elected officials in Morro Bay before opening a dispensary in that Central Coast community in 2006, was charged with distributing more than 100 kilos of marijuana.

At trial, prosecutors portrayed Lynch, 47, as a common drug dealer who sold dope to minors and toted around a backpack stuffed with cash.

Lynch and his lawyers hoped to mount a defense based on the assertion that he was providing a legitimate service to cancer patients and other severely ill people. But they were limited in doing so because the U.S. Supreme Court has concluded that because federal law trumps those of the states, why drugs are being distributed is irrelevant.

Jurors convicted Lynch on five counts, but the jury forewoman said it was not easy to do so. "We all felt Mr. Lynch intended well," Kitty Meese said after the verdict in August. "It was a tough decision for all of us because the state law and the federal law are at odds."

Lynch, who is to be sentenced later this month, is facing a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison. His case has become something of cause celebre among medical marijuana advocates.

Holder was asked about medical marijuana at a Feb. 25 press conference after the arrests of more than 50 alleged members of Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel. Specifically, he was asked whether the DEA would continue raiding medical marijuana dispensaries under Obama's administration. He did not answer the question directly but said: "What the President said during [the] campaign . . . is now American policy."

Obama was asked about the topic numerous times during the campaign and responded with varying levels of specificity. Generally speaking, the campaign's position was that DEA raids would not be a high priority in states with their own medical marijuana laws on the books.

"The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind," Nick Shapiro, a White House spokesman, told the Washington Times last month. Shapiro declined to elaborate on Friday.

Alex Capron, a professor of law and medicine at USC, said the debate about medical marijuana centers on whether the drug is viewed exclusively as an illegal narcotic or a drug that also has legitimate medical applications.

"It has become a highly politicized issue as to whether it is something that is part of the doctor-patient relationship or something where the authorities have an obligation to protect the community from a dangerous drug," Capron said.

He added that he wasn't surprised that O'Brien would want to deliberate over his office's policy on such a matter in private.

"On the one hand, there's a very vocal constituency that wants this treated like a medical issue. On the other, there's a very vocal constituency that regards allowing medical marijuana treatment as a very slippery slope toward the legalization of drugs. He doesn't want to look like he's abandoning his commitment to law enforcement," Capron said.

T.O., Bills reach deal

by Jay Glazer and Alex Marvez, was the first to report that Owens and agent Drew Rosenhaus were visiting Buffalo and that the Bills were expected to offer T.O. a one-year deal.

"I'm leaving America's team (for) North America's team," Owens said at a news conference. "This may not be the most ideal place for a lot of people, but I'm the guy. I beat to my own beat sometimes, my own thinking, my own intuition."

While his prior stints in Dallas, Philadelphia and San Francisco all ended badly, Owens is a major upgrade for a Bills team seeking more offensive firepower. Buffalo already was rebuffed earlier this offseason in attempts to sign wide receiver Laveranues Coles (Cincinnati) and running backs Fred Taylor (New England) and Kevin Jones (Chicago).

In an email sent to on Friday morning, agent Drew Rosenhaus said there were "several teams" interested in Owens and he expected "to have a deal in place by the end of next week if not sooner."

Owens finished last season with more catches (69), receiving yards (1,052) and touchdowns (10) than any player on the Bills roster. In Buffalo, Owens could draw double-teams away from Lee Evans, who in the past two seasons hasn't come close to matching his 82-catch campaign from 2006.

The Bills also can't be certain about the availability of wideout James Hardy. A 2008 second-round pick, Hardy suffered torn knee ligaments last December against the New York Jets.

The Bills were 25th in the NFL in yards gained and failed to have a 300-yard passer. The offense has been a perennial problem. It has ranked 25th or lower in each of the past six seasons.

"I must move on, and it's another beginning for me," Owens said. "If I can be that extra added piece to get them to the playoffs, then that's what I'm here for. I looked at the defensive side of ball and offensive side of the ball, and these guys have all the pieces."

Buffalo certainly needs a boost. The Bills have missed the playoffs for nine straight seasons, the longest drought in team history. The Bills are also coming off three straight 7-9 finishes under coach Dick Jauron, who was retained by the team after his three-year contract expired at the end of the season.

"Our focus is on winning football games, and the production, and everything that goes with that and that speaks for itself," said Bills GM Russ Brandon. "So just the thought of what our receiving corps looks like right now and what our offense can be with (QB) Trent Edwards, is really exciting for all of us."

"I am really excited about the addition of Terrell Owens to our team," Edwards, the neophyte starter, said. "We spoke earlier and both look forward to working hard this offseason. We share the common goal of winning football games. His ability and experience will add to our offense and the weapons we already have."

But while the Owens signing makes sense on many levels, history has shown there are major risks involved whenever Owens is added to a roster.

It's believed most — if not all — of the other teams in the market for a veteran wide receiver shied away from Owens because of his reputation as a selfish player and derisive locker room presence. Owens previously squabbled with veteran quarterbacks like Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb, so it's questionable how well he would handle any growing pains being experienced in 2009 by Edwards.

Owens responded to the criticism at the press conference.

"That's all hearsay," Owens said. "If you look at all of the comments that have come from all of my teammates with the Cowboys, it's all been positive. Prior to that, I can't really ... I don't really want to get into it. I'll let my teammates speak highly and I think they have done that. They've spoken and they speak loudly as to what transpired."

Another cloud of doubt enshrouding Owens: Is he is still an elite wide receiver or a player quickly on the decline like 30-something peers Marvin Harrison, Amani Toomer and Joey Galloway were in 2008? While he is coming off his eight 1,000-yard receiving campaigns in the past nine years, Owens turns 36 in December and did drop 33 passes in 2008.

Owens is among the most productive wide receivers in NFL history. He has 951 catches for 14,122 yards and 39 touchdowns in a 13-year NFL career.

The Cowboys cut him Thursday after three seasons. While his on-field performances were quite good, his behavior off the field — and sometimes on the sideline and in the huddle — made Owens too much of a distraction for team owner Jerry Jones.

"In the aftermath of the season, we talked about change," Jones said in a statement. "Some of what is changing involves the process and some of it involves people. This is a decision that was made based upon consideration for an entire team.

"We will move on now with a new team — a new attitude — and into a new stadium. The evaluation process and the prospect for change will continue at every level of the organization."

"I enjoyed having the opportunity to coach Terrell Owens, and I appreciate his contributions to our team over the past two years," added coach Wade Phillips, who wasn't around during T.O.'s first season in Dallas, in a press release.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

EDAG's OLED Windshields Shine in the Night

By Jose Fermoso Email


An auto-engineering company from Germany has built a prototype car that uses OLED displays on its front and back windshields, the better to communicate with surrounding vehicles.

EDAG's 'Light Car – Open Source' car is based on the same principle used by phone manufacturers when replacing the physical buttons of their UI. That is, a display can have easily customizable inputs and can increase the surface area for dynamic media. In the case of the Light Car, the OLED screen can display road conditions and, when you tap on the brake or stop, a giant 'stop' sign will appear in the back windshield and warn the car behind.

In this first design, the glass panel OLED displays in the front of the car outline, or enhance, the area where the LED headlights blast out. In the back, a transparent tailgate is built on top of the OLED screen, as can be seen in the pictures below.

EDAG's big idea is that in the process of buying a car similar to this one, you could configure the shape of your headlights, so that the OLED effects can be created accordingly around it, on a computer. So if you're a big S.F. Giants baseball fan and you're heading to the Park to watch Barry Zito play, for example, you could plug in little digital dollar signs surrounding the headlights. Or not. That might be too cruel and distracting to drivers.

Apparently, EDAG does not intend to make the LC-OS. They want to sell or share the technology to big car manufacturers so they can be put in the streets faster, hopefully within the next two or three years.

It's true that if you're a careful driver, adding OLED displays shouldn't make that much a of a difference. After all, we've adapted to look for two fading red lights in the back of cars for years.

But this could help out people who don't see as well. In other words, people who shouldn't be driving in the first place.






The 10 Coolest Wii Controllers

1. Thrustmaster Glow Sabre Duo Pack NW
1. Thrustmaster Glow Sabre Duo Pack NW
2. CTA Digital Maracas for Wii
2. CTA Digital Maracas for Wii
3. Gene Simmons AXE Game Controller for Wii
3. Gene Simmons AXE Game Controller for Wii
4. CTA Digital Crossbow for Wii
4. CTA Digital Crossbow for Wii
5. Nintendo Wii Zapper
5. Nintendo Wii Zapper
6. CTA Digital Trauma Center Surgical Kit
6. CTA Digital Trauma Center Surgical Kit
7. DreamGear Wii Play Poms
7. DreamGear Wii Play Poms
8. CTA Digital Sure Shot Rifle for Wii
8. CTA Digital Sure Shot Rifle for Wii
9. ezGear Wii Boxing Gloves
9. ezGear Wii Boxing Gloves
10. CTA Digital Airplane Controller Stand
10. CTA Digital Airplane Controller Stand