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Monday, March 16, 2009

100:1 Guy-Girl Ratio at a Phish Concert (PIC)

Phish Hampton: The Dudes in the Front Row

Phish Hampton photo from 3/6 showing tons of dudes and very few chicks

Photo by J.Bryce. Used with permission.

Learn about Phish Summer Tour 2009 on Jamtopia.

Man, I thought this picture of an Umphrey's Aragon crowd was funny, but the Phish Hampton picture above takes the cake. For some inexplicable reason, there's about 4,000 dudes and only 40 chicks 46 chicks* on the entire floor at the Phish Hampton show on March 6th — basically a 100:1 ratio of guys to girls.

We pretend to like the dudes in the front row.
Trey Anastasio

I identified every floor mistress I could find with a little red arrow, but feel free to click the image above for the high-res pic and look for yourself. It's entertaining and sad all at once.

* Thanks to the amateur Columbos who found the other 6 chicks.

Update (March 16, 2009): Well incredibly this made the front page of Digg so welcome Diggnation to Jamtopia. Notably, one eagle-eyed Digger has taken the time to identify a handful of additional ladies in the picture. Thanks Gypzee. I'll post an update it later tonight. Props also to cryptographic genius kamerononfire who noticed a secret message hidden in the picture.

Hugh Hefner Selling $28M Mansion

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner is unloading the Holmby Hills mansion adjacent to the Playboy Mansion for $27,995,000. The mansion has been home to his estranged wife Kimberly and their two teenage sons since the late 1990s.

The two-story, 7,300-square-foot (700 square meters) English manor-style personal residence was built in 1929 and purchased by Hefner in 1998.

It has five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a library and commons for staff. Some of the walls are hand-painted, and there is a hand-carved staircase.

The home sits on 2.3 acres (one hectare), borders the Los Angeles Country Club and has a pool.

The two homes share a fence and the boys, heading off to college, could easily walk between their parents' respective houses.

The Hefners married in 1989 and despite appearances otherwise, never divorced.

More pictures of the home here

Here is a Google map from above the two homes. The Playboy Mansion's backyard appears to have been tented at the time it was taken:

Michael Jackson sells out all 50 U.K. gigs

American singer Michael Jackson announces his summer concert dates at a press conference at O2 Arena in London on March 5, 2009.  (UPI Photo/Rune Hellestad)
LONDON, March 13 (UPI) -- Organizers of pop star Michael Jackson's shows at London's O2 Arena, set to begin in July, say all 50 scheduled concert dates are sold out.

The BBC said more than 1 million tickets to Jackson's "This Is It" London concert series have been sold.

The 50-year-old U.S. recording artist, who last toured 12 years ago, initially announced plans for 10 London gigs, but more were added due to the overwhelming response from fans.

"We never thought '50 shows' and frankly based on the queues on Ticketmaster, plus the 300,000 registrants we still haven't issued codes to (for online ticket buyers,) we could spend two years here," AEG Live's Randy Phillips told BBC Radio 1's "Newsbeat" program.

"Mike asked me how long he would be in the United Kingdom for and I told him, probably long enough to get a British passport," Phillips added. "Michael's already pretty much put together a list of the dancers he wants. Michael's very engaged now."

The BBC said some tickets to the Jackson shows are being re-sold on eBay for thousands of dollars apiece.

The International Space Station Needs Laser Turrets

OK, let's cut the crap here, NASA: After today's near-evacuation, it's clear that you need weapons on the International Space Station. And don't forget to put web controls so we all can play.

Seriously now: This is seriously fraked up. The ISS is almost as big as a Corellian corvette and it's up there defenseless, floating peacefully, sitting like a dinosaur-sized duck, waiting for one of the 18,000 pieces of tracked space debris to crack it open and take it down in a fiery ball of junk.

Sure, they have a escape spaceship for astronauts. In case things go bad—like they almost did today—they can jump in there and fly away before the worst happens. However, after all the money and effort put in the only human post in space, do we want to send everything to hell for a piece of orbiting crap? Wouldn't it be better to install defense mechanisms against space debris—or, ah, hmmm, alien ships!—to preserve the ISS?

Technically, there are already weapon systems that may be altered to perform this task, but this is not an easy task. We know it is not as easy as firing a laser and taking down the incoming chunk of metal with a Star Wars explosion.

There's a lot of things to be taken into account. First, you will need to detect the threat and fire from a very long distance, so the resulting effect doesn't cause any harm to the ISS itself. Then, the method to take down the object will change depending on its nature. Is it a big satellite or just a big chunk of metal from a previous collision? Does the incoming object have explosive elements inside? If the object is too big and can't be obliterated in a single shot, perhaps it would be better to have some kind of rocket that may approach the object and change its orbit by exploding near it? Perhaps some kind of emergency tug that can attach to the object and take it down?

We don't know. Whatever NASA and its international partner can come up with, they need to do it as soon as possible. Things are getting complicated up there, and this doesn't conflict with the international protocols against the militarization of space—which, in any case, are being constantly violated by the US, Russia, and China.

This will be a defense mechanism against space threats, and that's exactly what the ISS needs. It is just too valuable to be left there with no protection. NASA, it's time to get some pew pew action going on up there.

Gang of 40 Squatters Invade $4.9 Million Home

By Daily Mail Reporter

Dozens of squatters have taken over a £3million mansion – and are threatening to prosecute the owners if they try to remove them.

A gang of 40 artists climbed through an open window and are living rent free in the Grade II listed building in Bristol, playing music and huddling around electric heaters.

The squatters claim it is a criminal offence to remove them and they are doing the owners a favour by keeping the building warm and dry.

squatters in Bristol

A gang of 40 squatters have taken over listed Mortimer House in Bristol

Squatting is legal if entry to an empty property is not forced and there is no criminal damage. But the squatters can be removed if the owners get a court order.

Owner Jason Birakos was visiting the four-storey Mortimer House in the suburb of Clifton, when he spotted posters on the door and was told by the squatters that they wouldn't leave.

One notice said: ‘We live in this property, it is our home and we intend to stay here. The section 6 is a legal document making it an offence - illegal - for you to try and enter by force and anyway we'd much rather talk to you.’

One squatter, Miriam said: ‘We have occupied this property because we want to highlight issues of homelessness.

'Buildings like this get damp damage and we keep them warm - it is like having your own live-in security.

'We have agreed to leave on Monday morning. We have swept the floor and tidied up and we will leave it tidier than we found it.'

Mr Birakos, who represents AGM City Space Investments Limited, has vowed to take legal action if they are not out by Monday.

He said: ‘They claim they entered through an open window but I’m absolutely positive the whole property was secure and windows boarded up for insurance purposes.

‘The whole situation is extremely frustrating. My hands are tied right now but if they’re there on Monday morning I’ll seek legal advice and get them out.’

‘It’s a very intricate building with some marvellous features and I’m worried there will be damage caused by their presence.'

The building used to be a hospital and is due to be converted into a luxury £7million apartment block.

park lane V sign

[A squatter gives a defiant V sign while staying at the Park Lane pad in January]

Squatters delayed an affordable housing scheme by taking over a home in the St Paul's area of Bristol in November.

In January squatters took over an empty £22.5million mansion in London’s Park Lane. They were evicted five days later after an order was granted to the owners.

Man Builds Home Version of $60 Million Flight Simulator

Matthew Sheil with his homebrew 747-400 flight simulator.

Matthew Sheil with his homebrew 747-400 flight simulator.

Latest related coverage

View World's best flight sim
Matthew Sheil can fly to 27,000 airports without leaving his Sydney warehouse.

Sydneysider Matthew Sheil has built what could easily be one of the most elaborate big boy's toys in the world, and his efforts have earned him a Guinness world record.

Sheil is the top gun in the surreal world of flight simulator enthusiasts, where virtual pilots join virtual airlines, fly virtual routes and are assisted by virtual air traffic controllers.

For most, a joystick and Microsoft's Flight Simulator PC software is sufficient, but, over the past 10 years, Sheil has built what Guinness describes as the "world's most expensive home flight simulator".

A homebrew version of the $60 million simulators used to train pilots, Sheil's contraption is almost identical to the cockpit of a 747-400.

Thanks to 45 different software programs running on 14 different computers, the simulator allows Sheil to fly to and from 27,000 different airports around the world with breathtaking realism.

By day, Sheil runs a trucking parts company but at night he takes to the skies with other enthusiasts from around the globe. The simulator is stored at his warehouse in Chipping Norton.

It is able to mimic real-world weather conditions in any country with startling accuracy, and the hydraulics system means Sheil can feel every bump.

"When you taxi out on the runway you feel it bumping on the cracks in the pavement, you feel it when the wheels touch down," he said.

While only a handful of people in the world have a simulator that's anywhere near as good as Sheil's, thanks to Microsoft's Flight Simulator, anyone with a PC, joystick and an internet connection can fly with him from the comfort of their bedrooms.

Terry Scanlan, founder of the virtual flying association VATPAC, says there are 5000 members in Australia.

"We've got real pilots that fly for Qantas that are on our network and we've also got air traffic controllers that do this as a hobby as well - one of the air traffic controllers that works in Melbourne is in charge of our training," he said.

Scanlan said although air traffic control sounds boring it's actually fun and challenging. Last night he was tracking 20 or 30 aircraft movements.

"The challenge - as it is in the real world - is to keep planes from flying into each other and you do that by the use of the simulated radar that we have and we can actually see the targets and following real-world procedures we keep the aircraft separated," he said.

In Sheil's simulator, computer screens replace the windows and if he is flying in the virtual world behind a person in Melbourne, and they are using a Qantas 767, "we actually see a Qantas 767 out the window - the software puts it in there for us - and he sees us".

Moreover, if Sheil flies through Russia, he is greeted by a volunteer Russian air traffic controller. Cars can be seen on the road when he comes in to land and people wave at him from the terminals.

Sheil says it's sometimes easy to forget that it's a simulation.

No one involved in virtual flying make any money from it. In fact, all of the money Sheil earns by renting out his simulator for training is donated to the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS).

The simulator cost him $300,000 to build - a far cry from the $60 million price tag on the professional simulators - but many of the parts were donated to him because of his charity work.

Every year, Sheil and scores of other simulator enthusiasts from countries including Britain, Scotland, USA and Austria, participate in an event called Worldflight (video here) to raise money for the RFDS.

Participants go to their nearest flight simulator - Sheil hosts about 15 people, some from overseas - and take part in a round-the-world-flight, taking legs in shifts for an entire week.

"They're here for the whole week and they'll be rostered on at certain times of the day to fly," he said.

"It's all done in real-world conditions - Qantas sponsors us and they provide airline food for a week."

Sheil is a veteran real-world pilot and owns a Beechcraft Baron B58. He said he preferred flying a real plane but enjoyed the simulator because there were no limitations.

"The [real] plane I fly you take off and you point it in the direction of Melbourne and you press a button and away it goes until you come into land, whereas a simulator you can do whatever you want - if you want to fly upside down, fly upside down," he said.

"If we hit a mountain or the ground the simulator just freezes in its current state and everything goes red - and then we just hit reset."

The Top Seven Awesome Things You Didn't Know About Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal has been a cultural icon representing everything squinty and badass about action films for around 20 years. He exploded onto the scene in 1988, ponytail intact, and has never looked back. But it’s easy to get cocky about Seagal trivia; a lot of people think they know everything there is to know about this mysterious man of aikido chops and energy drinks. The truth of the matter goes much deeper, so here are seven facts you need to know to consider yourself a master of Steven Seagal.

Source: Paul Harris/Getty Images

By Nathan Bloch

The following article does not represent the opinions of Spike TV or its affiliates.

7. Steven Seagal speaks fluent Japanese


Source: Nathan Shanahan/Getty Images

It’s pretty impressive that the man spent ten years in Japan and became a 7th dan black belt aikido master, and then came to America to teach overprivileged Hollywood insiders like Michael Ovitz the craft of kickin’ butt.

On top of all that, the man speaks fluent Japanese. Some have suggested that Seagal isn’t the real deal, that he’s just a fat, bloated, cowardly sack of crap who runs like a girl and is incapable of doing any of his own stunts or even telling the truth on a regular basis. To those apostates I would reply: Sayonara, pussies. Seagal has your number – and yes, he can count that high.

In Japanese, too.

6. Jean-Claude Van Damme challenged Steven Seagal to a duel


Source: Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Okay, so he didn’t challenge Seagal to a duel, exactly…no knives or rapiers or guns would be involved. But he most definitely did challenge him to a fight. I believe his exact words were: “I'm not a fighter, I'm a lover. If somebody's going to speak bad about me, I will walk away. But if a guy like Steven Seagal slaps me once, I will slap him twice as hard. Life is full of violence.” Wow, thems ain’t lovin’ words, thems be fightin’ words.

Would this be the all time best showdown ever in the history of multicellular life on planet earth? Perhaps. Few real or fictional fights can compare. A few that would be in the running: Batman vs. Superman, Alien vs. Predator, Abraham Lincoln vs. Barack Obama, or Mike Tyson vs. a younger, even crazier Mike Tyson. Otherwise JCVD vs. Steven Seagal takes the cake, hands down.

An interesting side note to this fact is that after Tyson had his butt handed to him on a balsa wood platter by Lennox Lewis, Seagal manned up and did what had to be done: he challenged Lewis to a boxing match, even promising to follow boxing’s rules and leave his lethal weapons (his right and left legs) out of the fight. Lewis is still contemplating the challenge. It’s this blogger’s opinion that Lewis is waiting for Seagal to turn 70 before taking him up on his offer.

5. A mystical dog saved Steven Seagal’s dojo in Japan


Source: TAO CHUAN YEH/Getty Images

How much this is truth and how much this has now become Steven Seagal lore is hard to say, but it’s important as part of the creation myth of Seagal’s greatness. Among the great origin stories – the Popol Vuh, the Koran, the Bible – Seagal’s has some of the best stories, full of the richest metaphors.

Legend (Seagal) has it that while living in Japan and training in aikido he adopted a stray white dog. A few days later the dog began barking at him and brought his attention to the fact that his dojo was on fire. Seagal got help and successfully extinguished the fire, but the dog was nowhere to be found. He never saw this mystical white dog again.

The lesson of this story is that magical things involving mystical animals are no big thang to Steven Seagal, and if that dog hadn’t warned him about the fire then another, way more mystical, even whiter dog (or wolf or bear or tiger) would have warned him.

It’s really hard to burn down Steven Seagal’s dojo, so don’t even try.

4. Steven Seagal was a 17th century monk in his past life


Source: John Heller/Getty Images

This, too, is a very difficult fact to verify. Seagal has explained his beliefs regarding his past life: “My old Buddhist teachers have identified the person I was in a past life. I was a 17th-century monk called Chungdrag Dorje. I believe this is true, but I don't dwell on it.”

And that’s the kind of modesty you come to expect from Steven Seagal. Here’s a guy who’s been told, point blank: You were a big friggin’ deal 400 years ago, a really holy son of a bitch. Anybody else would blow it out of proportion and write a memoir. Not Steven Seagal. Guy just takes it in stride and tells reporters every now and then – and never dwells on it. I found out I used to whistle when I was a baby and I still haven’t shut up about that.

Some of you cynics out there have probably already written some snarky comments about Seagal’s past life, but before you hit the post button you should read on. Turns out Seagal’s spiritual mentor, or instructor, or whatever – Penor Rinpoche – is the person responsible for discovering the secrets of Seagal’s personal history. He said, “When I first met [Steven Seagal], I felt he had the special qualities of a tulku within him,” but Seagal “has not undergone the lengthy process of study and practice necessary to fully realize what I view as his potential for helping others.”

The take home message here is that Steven Seagal was a big friggin’ deal 400 years ago. And he’s not exactly chopped liver now, either, even if he’s not the most helpful person on the face of the planet according to Pinot whoever. What were you in your past life? A squirrel?

3. Steven Seagal was poisoned in 1994 by a mysterious opponent


Source: Warner Bros./Getty Images

Seagal has never determined just who exactly it was that poisoned him back in ’94, but it’s pretty clear at this point that whoever this nemesis is, he’s smart enough to stay hidden.

We all know by now that this unnamed foe conquered neither Steven Seagal’s health, spirit, or acting ability, as all are to this day thriving and well. But things could’ve turned out much different had Seagal not wisely sought the medical advice of a Brazilian witch doctor. This doctor promptly expelled all demonic spirits from Seagal’s liver and kidneys and left him stronger in the places he’d been broken – though his ponytail never regained the thickness and shine it had before the poisoning. It was a small price to pay to keep Seagal in this world.

The moral of this story is: Do not secretly try to kill Steven Seagal, because it won’t work. But if you do try, don’t use poison, because Steven Seagal will have a spell cast on his kidneys. To be a secret nemesis of Seagal is to be a man engaged in a futile pursuit.

2. Steven Seagal broke Sean Connery’s wrist


Source: AFP/Getty Images

Seagal was employed to do the fight choreography for 1983’s Never Say Never Again, and was put in charge of personally training Sean Connery. While working with him he managed to break the star’s wrist, unbeknownst to Connery until years later. Which is a lesson right there: Steven Seagal can break you without you even knowing it. You might walk away thinking everything’s fine and dandy, but your bones know better.

The fact of the matter is that Seagal has had troubled relations with many of the actors he’s worked with. Julianna Margulies, while working with him on Out for Justice, described him as “the biggest jackass.” And at 6 feet 4 inches, she’s not joking, either – whatever Seagal is, he’s definitely the biggest. The rapper DMX and Exit Wounds co-star said of Seagal, “Steven Seagal is a f***ing s***head. With f***ing spray-on hair.”

Another story about Seagal, stunts, and a coworker involves the legendary stuntman Gene LeBell. Seagal was on set and made the claim that nobody could ever choke him out. LeBell took him up on his offer and the two had a little wrestling match. LeBell had him in a choke hold and Seagal couldn’t get out of it, going so far as hitting him in the crotch to escape. Eventually Seagal lost consciousness, urinated himself, and later blacklisted LeBell from getting hired again, resulting in a protracted lawsuit.

Who was the real winner in this scenario? Clearly, it was Seagal, not only for allowing himself to be beaten and humiliated, but also for pretending that he hadn't allowed himself to be beat and humiliated on purpose. Genius.

Clearly Seagal tends to inspire envy in those he works with, which is something we can’t really hold against him. But more important than what those say about him is what the man says about himself. Striking a philosophical tone, Seagal said of himself, “I am hoping that I can be known as a great writer and actor some day, rather than a sex symbol.”

I haven’t read any books or poems by Seagal, but I think we can all safely say: Mission accomplished, sir. Mission accomplished.

1. Steven Seagal had a tuxedo tailor-made to conceal two firearms


Source: Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

I think this fact alone really says everything about the man, the myth, and the legend that is Steven Seagal. Most people, when they leave work, clock out, go home and relax. Not Steven Seagal. Seagal is on call all the time, which is why he needs to make sure when he’s out partying at black tie social events he’s showing up fully loaded. What’s the point of being a one-man murder machine if you aren’t packing at least two handguns?

The fact of the matter is, if we actually know that Seagal packs heat in hidden compartments in a tailor made tuxedo, what other weapons is he holding that we don’t even know about? Throwing stars in his cuffs? Knives in his sleeves? A collapsible rocket launcher in his pants?

The man is a walking weapon, but he’s not going to just show up at some charity function like it’s all s**** and giggles. Anyone who’s been the go-to guy for the CIA his entire adult life knows that when the poop goes down you gotta be ready to shoot everything in sight. The guns, knives, and bombs he conceals on his person are like an extension of the aphorism his life represents: Healthy living is remorseless killing.

The message here is pretty simple. When you invite Steven Seagal over for dinner, don’t ask him to take his shoes off, because he might decapitate you with a battle axe in his sock. The fact that Seagal is by all appearances a slow, overweight, narcissistic fraud incapable of hurting anything other than his own reputation simply means he’s expertly manipulated you into putting down your guard.

Always respect Steven Seagal. The guy is a big friggin’ deal.

Ride the world's 'steepest' rollercoaster..ARGHHHHH!!

Ride the world's 'steepest' rollercoaster with Stephen Robb

By Stephen Robb
BBC News

After more than a century of striving to propel screaming riders ever faster, higher, steeper and longer, many roller coasters now hurtle to the limits of human endurance. So where is there left for the tracks to go?

The new attraction at Thorpe Park in Surrey, Saw - The Ride, claims to offer the world's steepest freefall drop - a beyond-vertical 100-degree descent back under the ride's 100ft (30m) peak.

It takes about three seconds.

Saw - The Ride
Fasten your seatbelts

An even steeper 112-degree descent is due to be unveiled in July on a new ride - Mumbo Jumbo - at Flamingo Land in North Yorkshire.

Roller coaster one-upmanship is something of a tradition in the amusement park industry, with rides sometimes designed seemingly with headlines as much in mind as effective frights and thrills.

Coasters now stand hundreds of feet tall, race at speeds nearing 130mph, and turn the rider upside down with multiple inversions. Predictably, the US boasts most of the world's roller coaster records.

"In America there are so many parks, there are always these coaster wars going on," says Andy Hine, founder and chairman of the Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain (RCCGB).

But he adds: "When you get into these coaster wars, you don't always end up with a good ride."

"A roller coaster represents a really well choreographed sequence of unusual stimuli," says Brendan Walker, director of Thrill Laboratory and a visiting senior research fellow at the University of Nottingham.

The farther a roller coaster can push its dual extremes of fear and pleasure, the more thrilling the ride will be, he argues.

"Thrill as an experience is actually defined as a large, rapid increase in pleasure and arousal together," he says.

"If you can manage to pull somebody towards displeasure through fear, through danger, and then provide a pleasurable release, the margin of change is larger."

Shake, rattle

Most roller coaster fanatics prefer wooden rides, despite them tending to be smaller and slower than steel ones, partly because of the more anxious experience often involved.

Andy Hine
Sit at the back of the train to whip over hills and enjoy more 'airtime'
Extend your arms to stretch trunk and enhance physical sensations
"Keep your eyes open no matter how scared", because the imagination only creates worse
Trains go fastest just after rain and at the end of the day
For shorter queues, start visit at the back of the amusement park, move round it anti-clockwise, and ride during lunchtime
The swaying and creaking frame, the deafening rattle of the wheels on the track, and the archaic appearance can suggest that the ride - and consequently the riders too - may not be around that long.

"A wooden roller coaster has a lot more shake, rattle and roll about it," Mr Hine says.

With an estimated 35,000 rides on more than 2,000 of the world's roller coasters behind him, Mr Hine's favourite attraction is the wooden Phoenix, in Pennsylvania, US, standing at an unimposing 78ft (24m) and with a top speed of about 45mph.

Mr Hine claims that the most popular sensation offered by roller coasters is the weightlessness over a hill, when negative G-forces lift a rider out of their seat, and that this is more frequently experienced on wooden rides.

"They don't build them high, they don't build them fast. They have to compete in another way - they go for the fun factor," he says.

"They give you more 'airtime', which is an enthusiast's favourite part of the ride."

Not for no reason, Airtime is the name of the RCCGB magazine.

Adult fun

On their arrival around the turn of the 19th century, roller coasters held iconic status in a rapidly changing world, argues architectural historian Dr Josie Kane.

"Suddenly you get amusement parks that are permanent. People go by train or by car. They travel quite long distances to these sites. They are technologically interesting in a way fairgrounds weren't," she says.

Brendan Walker
The mind is as deep and as broad as you want to play with
Brendan Walker, Thrill Laboratory
"Roller coasters seemed to symbolise this massive, dramatic, radical change that people understood was happening with mechanised travel, industrialisation and technological advancement. They seemed to encapsulate that.

"They still do," she adds. "When people talk about the roller coaster of modern life, it's a metaphor for the fast pace, ups and downs and unexpected turns of living in a modern world."

A release from that metaphorical roller coaster is, of course, a fundamental part of the appeal of the real thing.

Height restrictions exclude most pre-teens from extreme coasters like Saw - The Ride, and attractions will insist children are accompanied by adults or offer warnings like: "Caution: May be a bit scary for the very young."

Mr Walker calls amusement parks "playgrounds for adults", where it is "socially acceptable to go and lose your inhibitions, and become as engaged as you want to, and scream".

"It's a bit of escapism," says Mr Hine. "When you go to a theme park you can leave all your worries at the front gate."


Saw - The Ride is a tie-in with the brutal horror films of the same name; from the moment people join the queue for the ride, grisly props of severed body parts and alarming sound effects aim to build tension and fear.

Steel Dragon 2000 roller coaster, in Japan
The bigger they are...
This combination of psychological and physical elements could hint at roller coasters' future.

"You can only go upside down so many times, you can only go 100mph so many times before it becomes boring," says Mr Hine.

"I think the days of really big rides are coming to an end."

Mr Walker expects theatrical elements to become increasingly significant in roller coaster design.

"We are on the borders of what the body can sustain," he says.

"Engineering could now do more to the body, but the body is a limiting factor. But the mind is as deep and as broad as you want to play with."

Having bounced the body around until it can take no more, roller coasters may start messing with the mind.

The next generation of rides could be mental.

'Socialize' it? Oregon may grow, tax and sell medical marijuana

Stephen C. Webster
Published: Thursday March 12, 2009

Submitted legislation would impose $98-per-ounce tax on cannabis

In most states, the issue of medical marijuana is not on any legislative docket.

In Oregon however, a state which already allows medical marijuana, socializing the weed is being pitched as a bipartisan cause célèbre.

Maybe socializing is the wrong word.

"House Bill 3247 would direct the state to establish and operate a marijuana production facility," reported Oregon's KGW-TV. "The state would control potency and pharmacy distribution."

Okay, so maybe it isn't.

If the legislation, which is currently in committee review, becomes law, the state would take control of Oregon's booming cannabis industry, bringing growing and sales under the public domain.

Oregon's current medical cannabis program allows care providers and patients to grow their own supply, but both Republicans and Democrats in the state feel the system is not working. Their solution is to bankroll the bud on the public dime and charge a weighty tax -- $98 per ounce -- every time an approved patient makes a purchase.

"Many patients have no assurance that their marijuana is not laced with pesticides or other toxic chemicals," Rep. Jim Thompson (R-Dallas), told The Oregonian. "If passed into law, this legislation will implement safe standards to dispense the drug through a tightly-controlled system."

"Rep. Ron Maurer, R-Grants Pass, and Rep. Chris Harker, D-Beaverton, are also sponsors of the bill," the paper reported. "Now that's what we call bipartisanship."

"Radical? For sure," said Oregon Live's Janie Har. "Even California, a state where dope dispensaries run rampant, doesn't have government workers growing pot."

"Private growers have been accused of illegally selling pot to non-cardholders, and other grow sites have been targeted by burglars and robbers," reported Oregon station KATU.

"There are growing concerns that private grow sites are being misused for illegal marijuana sales, threatening the safety and well-being of legitimate participants in the program," Rep. Chris Harker, (D-Beaverton), told the station. "(The bill) takes medical marijuana off the streets and into a safer and more secure environment."

In 2004, Oregon voters rejected a similar measure which would have created state-run cannabis distribution facilities. According to the state's Department of Human Services, about 21,000 have been approved for the medical cannabis program.

I Would Bend Over Backwards to Marry Her

Even though it seems the bending would be completely unnecessary on my part.

Kevin Smith's In-Depth Review of 'Watchmen'

by: David Chen

In this very special episode of the /Filmcast, David Chen, Peter Sciretta, Devindra Hardawar and Adam Quigley are joined by writer/actor/director Kevin Smith to discuss Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. In this epic, 1 hour and 45-minute long discussion, the five of them delve into the faithfulness of the film adaptation, the effectiveness of the film’s soundtrack, the controversy surrounding the film’s ending, the sexuality of Rorschach, and the resemblance between Zack Snyder and Jesus.

Have any questions/comments/complaints/suggestions? Want to sponsor or advertise with the /Filmcast? You can always e-mail us at slashfilmcast(AT)gmail(DOT)com or call and leave a voicemail at 781-583-1993. Join us next Tuesday night at 9 PM EST / 6 PM PST on Slashfilm’s live page as we review The Last House on the Left.

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Snow Kitty

For Berlin Museum, a Modern Makeover That Doesn’t Deny the Wounds of War

Barbara Sax/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A preview: the Neues Museum in Berlin, whose modern restoration includes elements of the war-damaged original building. More Photos

Published: March 11, 2009

BERLIN — The Neues Museum briefly reopened here last weekend (was reborn, seems more like it), and local newspapers reported that more than 35,000 Berliners, many of them waiting hours in the cold in lines stretching nearly half a mile, filed into the still empty building over three days to see it.

The art that will go inside (Egyptian and pre- and early history, as in the prewar years) won’t be installed until the fall. This little preview was cooked up as a kind of civic ceremony. There was a ritual turning over of keys to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, an occasion when the building could speak for itself.

And it does, poetically, and not just for itself. It’s at the heart of the so-called Museum Island, a complex at the center of the city, which the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV in the 19th century conceived as a public sanctuary of culture and learning, a modern Acropolis. The Neues Museum opened in 1855 as the island’s “focal point,” in the words of the building’s architect, Friedrich August Stüler; and with its displays of art and archeology, it was meant to cultivate, as he put it, “the most elevated interests of the people.”

But, typical of Berlin, a city forever on the verge of greatness but never quite becoming the glorious megalopolis it dreams of being, only in 1930 did the last of the Museum Island buildings, the current Pergamon Museum, finally open. Then nine years later the whole complex had to be shut down with the onset of the war. Nine years and out.

The Neues Museum suffered more than any other structure there from Allied bombs dropped in 1943 and 1945. (This is not to mention the destruction to the art in it that was too large to be moved out for safekeeping.) For decades afterward the museum simply lay in shambles, exposed to the elements, neglected by the former Communist East Berlin to which Museum Island belonged.

Its revival now, at a cost of some $255 million, testifies among other things to the civic virtues of dogged perseverance, and as such the building is something of a cautionary tale too. In its tortured and conflicted efforts at urban renewal, Berlin these days often seems to wish both that the worst parts of its past could be erased and that better ones could be magically summoned back to life: as if the city might be returned to what it was in, say, 1928.

But the past persists, as a burden or opportunity, depending on one’s perspective, more so here than perhaps anywhere else in Europe. David Chipperfield, the London architect in charge of resuscitating the Neues Museum, recognized this truism and turned burden into opportunity. His renovation, an 11-year effort (ordeal is perhaps the more apt word at this point), began from the unobvious and instantly disputed proposition that a “Piranesian pile,” as he called the vivid jumble of remains, could yet be put back together. The undertaking would be the world’s biggest-ever Humpty Dumpty project.

All usable scraps and remnants of the original, countless thousands of pieces, big and small, including even bullet holes (if they weren’t too big), were to be incorporated into the building, as Mr. Chipperfield and his team saw fit. Every wall, floor, lintel, column, frieze, mosaic and ceiling was treated as part of this vast jigsaw puzzle. The process, Mr. Chipperfield has repeatedly said, entailed “millions of decisions,” technical, aesthetic and political.

Where no pieces of the original survived, new spaces were invented along the lines of Stüler’s original. The whole northwest wing of the building, for example, had been destroyed by the air raids; much of the southern end, including one magnificent gallery with a soaring cupola, now reinvented in ingeniously modern terms by Mr. Chipperfield, was demolished by the East Germans when they undertook an aborted renovation not long before the Wall fell. And the colossal stairwell, the centerpiece of the building, modeled after a plan by Stüler’s great teacher, the neo-Classicist Karl Friedrich Schinkel, was left an empty shell by the bombardments.

Reconceiving these and other gaps, Mr. Chipperfield copied the original proportions of Stüler’s rooms, which are beautiful, and also stuck with Stüler’s idiosyncratic but elegant layout, which appears symmetrical but isn’t. The goal was to come up with a satisfying visual whole that would remain everywhere legible and honest. Honest in that the new parts should look clearly new, the old, old, while the two go together gracefully. Concrete, wood, metal and recycled bricks, often covered with slurry so the original fragments blend more seamlessly in with what’s new, provide a subtle, muted palette for the modern interventions.

What results isn’t a Peter Brook-like Bouffes du Nord, the Paris theater: it isn’t shabby chic, or what German critics of this project have taken to calling “ruin nostalgia.”

It’s not the Gedächtniskirche, either, the so-called “hollow tooth” Memorial Church in West Berlin, bombed during the war, now preserved as an immense admonitory ruin, towering over one end of the city, laying entirely bare the evidence of its history.

Mr. Chipperfield’s museum is instead a modern building that inhabits the ghost of an old one. It’s a patchwork of vestigial shards, whose organization is the consequence of all those millions of decisions — decisions that in one respect should never have been the responsibility of any architect, since in this city historic preservation, especially with such freighted monuments, is always a matter of German responsibility and national identity, no less than a matter of esthetics.

But Mr. Chipperfield’s museum looks so beautiful and is so eloquent that it short-circuits doubt and criticism. Germans who complained over the years about “ruin nostalgia” (they were the real nostalgists) said that the country, by association with such a symbolic site, shouldn’t continue to be held hostage to the worst episode in German history. Better, they argued, rebuild the Neues Museum as it originally looked, from scratch, without all the bullet holes and rotting columns, along the lines of the fake 18th-century Hohenzollern Stadtschloss on Unter den Linden, the city’s central boulevard not far away, which, if Germany ever comes up with the nearly $1 billion the building will cost, is now on the drawing board.

Maybe with the success of the Neues Museum, which will open officially on Oct. 16, the Schloss supporters will reconsider that misguided plan. Meanwhile, from the slender bow-string iron trusses, lovingly restored in the upper-story galleries, to the marbled floor in the octagonal room where the famous head of Nefertiti (now on view in Schinkel’s Altes museum next door) will be installed, and even to the new concrete galleries whose simplicity is itself a revelation, the new Neues Museum offers a variety of small technological and visual marvels that speak, as Stüler intended, to the benefits of keeping an open mind.

As for the grand central stairway, now under a basilica roof, it rises between bare brick walls toward towering windows, toward the light, then doubles back to lead upward again to more windows, more light. The concrete and dark-beam design reinvents Stüler’s original concept, which becomes a kind of chrysalis out of which now emerges a new, modern grandeur. The space is a metaphor, you might say, for Germany today, which surely Stüler would also have appreciated.

Even the 19th-century frescoes by Wilhelm von Kaulbach, which once traced the progress of man from the Tower of Babel to the glory of Prussia, persist as small fragments embedded high up in the brick, like half-recalled dreams come to life. In such ways the Neues Museum isn’t Lazarus exactly, but it’s almost a miracle. And with it Berlin has one of the finest public buildings in Europe.


Travel - Customer Packing Tips

Here are just a few of the wonderful packing tips we've received so far! Thank you to everyone who has sent us their tips and advice. Keep them coming!

  • "We put all of our small items in a mesh laundry bag. Then we can pull it out and can see everything that is in it. We place small items that go together in plastic quart bags inside the mesh laundry bag. The mesh bag flattens out nicely in our luggage. Then small items do not get all over your luggage." - Ralph, Longview, TX

  • "When packing your carry-on, pack a smaller bag inside that contains all your must-have items in the plane seat. Make sure the smaller bag has a thin hook or loop to hang on the tray hook, and fill it with your book, MP3 player and headphones, snack, kleenex, gum, etc. This eliminates the need to frequently access the overhead bin and most importantly, is easy to carry on in the event you are required to check your bag at the gate." - Ellen

  • "To prevent thin necklace chains from tangling, slide each one through a plastic straw then fasten the clasp. The straw adds no extra weight, but certainly takes away a lot of frustration once I’ve arrived at my destination! I’ve even done this with all my necklaces at home." - Cheryl, Aspen, CO

  • "Place copies of your current itinerary and tickets, ID, passports, credit cards, important phone numbers and email addresses, on an encrypted tiny 'thumb drive'. ALSO, take a photo of your suit case(s) AND their contents (eg spread out before packing) and put it on the drive. If your luggage is stolen or delayed / lost, you can actually show/refer to the photo while filing for it's return. You'd also have the pics of included items to estimate cost or for insurance. I pack one 'thumb drive' hidden in my shaving kit, and carry another in my wallet." - David, Stevens Point, WI

  • "My husband does not like the very casual travel wear for our many trips that include cosmopolitan destinations. So, about 12 years ago he took his favorite sports jacket to a tailor and had a special, very deep, buttoned flap pocket created on the inside left side of the jacket. He now carries passports, tickets, and other essential travel documents, easily accessible on his person, and the jacket becomes the indispensable multi-use jacket for the trip (warmth, dress casual, dress for evening, etc). The jacket still looks great...he wears it on at least 2 trips a year...more than worth the small investment." - Patty, Bainbridge Island, WA

  • "I always take my small down parka or down sweater and in the pocket, a large square silk scarf. Especially when traveling from cold place to warm place, but also for out west when the nights may be chilly even though hot in the day. I wear the parka on the plane, then when seated, place scarf on my lap, remove jacket, fold the arms in and make a square pillow. Take one diagonal pair of scarf ends, tie in knot. Do same with other ends. You now have an enviable travel pillow or lumbar cushion. An additional comfort is knowing that no matter what, you can be cozy and warm in any situation." - Diana

  • "Roll small items like socks and underwear. Stuff them inside shoes and in gaps between clothing. This will help keep the shape of your shoes and use wasted space in the suitcase." - Marissa, Chicago, IL

  • "My wife and I always pack a small, stove-top-size count down timer with at least a 24 hour range to use as our alarm clock. It allows for very precise timing of your wake up call (not the ‘whenever’ of a front desk) and is very useful to remind you when to get ready for a departure during the day, prepare for going to a meal or to meet someone, taking a siesta or nap when you have to awaken by a set time, or similar situations." - Martin, San Leandro, CA

  • "Take a small washcloth (Japanese ones are thin & dry quickly) and put it in a ziplock bag. After washing your hands, if there is nothing to dry your hands on, you can use the washcloth. I also always take a lightweight pack towel in case housekeeping hasn't given me fresh towels. In one case I used it because the hotel towels smelled of smoke so badly I wouldn't use them (in a 5 star hotel, no less!)." - Gretchen, Yuba City, CA

  • "My husband and I pack all of our clothes using 2 gallon ziplock bags. Large enough to pack one outfit or three shirts. Place items in bag and squeeze air out as you zip up. Voila! Stack neatly in your bag and clothes don't wrinkle as they are shifted around. Plus, TSA loves this method of packing. They told us so! " - Sharon

  • "One of my favorite packing tips is regarding digital cameras. I recommend taking the 1st photograph on each media card of your business card or your home address label and phone number. I accidentally lost my brand-new digital camera on a Florida vacation. Amazingly, someone found my camera, reviewed the photos, saw my name & phone number, and returned the camera to me with all of my great vacation photos intact!" - Terri, Appleton, WI

  • "I usually like to pack a few dryer sheets in my luggage....they come in handy if i'm doing laundry at laundromat... I dont have to buy them If I don't do laundry, they keep my luggage from having an overwhelming odor when I open it upon returning home. There is also a 3rd use for them: rub them on your body as a highly effective mosquito repellant!" - Pat, San Jose, CA

  • "Rather than just fold clothes, role them. It compresses them more and actually reduces ironing." - Bob

  • "Next time list: I carry a small notebook whenever I travel. Anytime I think of something I wish I had done before leaving, or wish I had brought with me, or wish I'd left at home, I write it down. I do keep a packing list which I update after every trip using this information. I find it as important to write down how many of something were actually needed, as it is to remember to bring them." - Ralph, Arlington, VA

  • "I take a lightweight plastic hanger, place several tops, jackets, and slacks over one another on it, then cover the entire ensemble with a plastic dry cleaning bag and fold it in half and place in my suitcase. The plastic keeps the items from wrinkling, in addition, the hang up items are conveniently all together to pull out and hang directly into a hotel closet! " - Terri

  • "Because security personnel randomly go through suitcases, I put personal clothes items such as underwear in compression bags. Security personnel can see through the bag; and my personal items are kept untouched." - Chris

  • "Stuff souveniers into your shoes that are packed in your luggage. The shoes protect the items from damage and they take up no additional space. A bottle of wine fit nicely into a men's size 11! " - Terri, Pennsville, NJ

  • "I know packing food for trips takes so much space, to save space, prep time and the possibility of broken eggs. I premix the scrambled eggs in a recycled cleaned out 1/2 gallon or gallon jug." - Ada, Fort Myers, FL

  • "I always take along Zip Lock Freezer Baggies... (They're thicker and stronger than regular Zip Locks). I use them to store liquids and things I don't want to 'spread'. They are great to put your bar of soap, or that still damp face towel. Use them as a 'doggie bag' when you didn't finish breakfast or dinner to enjoy later as well as packing up your picnic lunch that you got at the store. Anything damp, or anything that you want to keep clean, or anything that will dirty up everything else!" - Richard, Reedsport, OR

  • "I always tuck a couple granola or energy bars in the outer pocket of my carry-on in case the on-board snacks are undesirable, inadequate, or expensive. In the same pocket are my daily meds, a few cough drops, and a small first aid kit with a few Bandaids, Tylenol, antacids, etc. " - Rodney
  • This crazy world - the biggest gold coin of the world

    vienna’ museum
    The biggest coin in the world “Canadian Maple Leaf”, made of gold with incredible purity of 99.999% can now be seen in Viennamuseum devoted to history of art. It is granted to the museum for an indefinite period of time by the firm Auer von welsbach.
    canadian maple leaf
    The precious gold piece of art has the face of Queen Elizabeth II on one side and on the other a maple leaf can be found. It’s weight is 100 kg, thickness is 3 cm, and the diameter - approximately have a meter. The coin will be preserved in a special display protected against thievery and breakage, because the current price for the coin is stated to be 2 mil € and it is insured for 3 mil €. The unique coin is created by the Canadian Monetary Agency for it’s hundredth anniversary.

    biggest gold coin

    Today five such coins can be found. At first eleven should have been created but later the count went down to six. Unfortunately one of the original six was written off because it was two grams lighter. In the neighboring display the world smallest gold antique coin can be found. Its weight is just about 0.24 gr. It was most probably issued during 2nd century B.C in a downworth Austrian Celtic Village. It would fit its “greater” sisters volume exactly 400 000 times.

    Scarlett Johansson has joined the cast of "Iron Man 2"

    - Scarlett Johansson has joined the cast of "Iron Man 2", joining Robert Downy, Don Cheadle and Mickey Rourke. Scarlett will play Black Widow, a Russian with long red hair, huge breasts and pouty lips. Iron Man wants to find this woman, as do I. (source = imdb)