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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jobs Where Drinking Is A Bit Of A Requirement

Mixologist - Credit:

Coming up with a serviceable excuse to drink on St. Patrick's Day is one of modern man's eternal struggles, particularly those modern men who are stuck at work. Some guys, shockingly enough, don't need a clever scheme or vaguely plausible reason to leave work to get drunk, because they have drinking jobs.

Not all of the drinking jobs we’re going to discuss require getting loaded, but even just the smallest inclination of being able to be in the same room as alcohol while at work is far more than most guys bother to hope for.

With the proper motivation, here are five drinking jobs you can aspire to attain.

1- Brewmaster

On top of being a pretty awesome-sounding title, "Brewmaster" is also an actual area of study with tests, accreditation and science-sounding terms and everything. There are two brewing programs that we know of (one at UC Davis and one at the Siebel Institute of Technology) and one Master Brewers Association working diligently to make sure your beer tastes good. So, have some respect for that pint.

As for the job itself, the brewmaster (or master brewer) is basically the guy who runs the entire brewery. He needs an understanding of chemistry and engineering to manage the brewing operations, and from time to time he works on developing new beers or improving existing ones. An abiding familiarity with all things born of hops and grains is definitely required.

If you spent any time on a college campus, drinking jobs like this have definitely crossed your mind.

2- Sommelier

Commonly called a wine steward by people who find French names too snooty, the sommelier is the fellow in charge of the wines in a fancy restaurant. He may or may not actually come to your table (a regular waiter or wine waiter might bring you the wine list and offer suggestions), but if you have any in-depth questions or want expert advice, the sommelier is the guy you're looking for.

In addition to dealing with customers, the sommelier also designs the wine list and works with the restaurant's chefs to pair wines with specific dishes. Increasingly, sommeliers are expected to work with more than just wine, so one might taste a handful of wines, beers and cocktails when deciding what best complements items on the menu. We definitely can appreciate drinking jobs that also include eating.

3- Nightlife reviewer

Newspapers and trendy city publications often have someone on the payroll whose entire job is partying, and then writing about it. Undoubtedly, the envy of his friends and colleagues, this guy reviews clubs and bars, goes to events and grand openings, and generally gets to do stuff that no other human being is allowed to call work.

We have two more drinking jobs for you professional consideration…

There is a degree of expertise involved; a nightlife reviewer can't just be an incoherent drunk who likes to get wasted. He needs to know the clubs, bars, owners and staff, and he needs to be able to write about it all with the discerning eye of a professional. He's as respectable as any reviewer, but he just happens to be reviewing something that probably happened while he was drunk.

4- Mixologist

Some mixologists are merely bartenders frantically trying to think of a more impressive title to put down on a resume, but technically there is a distinction. A mixologist may tend bar and a bartender may make interesting and creative drinks, but a mixologist is expected to know a wide variety of traditional drink recipes and even be able to come up with some of his own innovations.

That innovation is where mixologists really distinguish themselves. Some eventually leave the bars and go on to become consultants or specialists in the industry with the skills they’ve developed creating drinks. In either case, mixologists need a capable set of taste buds and a willingness to try to refine drinks on a daily basis.

5- Chef

The chef, chef de cuisine or executive chef is the guy in charge of a restaurant's kitchen. Like a sommelier, he needs to know the menu and the wine list inside and out in order to decide what goes best with the food he prepares.

Given that this is a job that involves being stuck with a bunch of other people in a cramped, hot room -- with access to no chairs but plenty of alcohol -- it should come as no surprise that a lot of chefs can (and do) drink over the course of the day. And yes, to a point, they have to; they might be preparing a dish that involves alcohol or pairing food with wines (or just drinking for the hell of it, but what goes on in the chef's kitchen is the chef's business).

cautionary message

It probably need not be said that these jobs, though awesome, are not a blueprint for careers in general, and that even if you do work in a situation where drinking is acceptable, it should never feel like a compulsion. If you find it difficult to stop, or if your drinking is ever beyond your control, seek some help.


10 gadgets to get the most out of your iPod

From watching videos on your tv to controlling your ipod through your voice. These ten gadgets can redefine the way you use your ipod.

You and Your iPod: It's All About Control
1. Apple Remote App
1. Apple Remote App
2. DLO HomeDock Music Remote
2. DLO HomeDock Music Remote
3. Logic3 i-Station 25
3. Logic3 i-Station 25
4. Accenda Voice Control for iPod
4. Accenda Voice Control for iPod
5. Griffin iTrip AutoPilot
5. Griffin iTrip AutoPilot
6. Apple Universal Dock
6. Apple Universal Dock
7. Keyspan TuneView Pro for iPod
7. Keyspan TuneView Pro for iPod
8. Logitech Pure-Fi Dream
8. Logitech Pure-Fi Dream
9. Sonos Controller for iPod touch
9. Sonos Controller for iPod touch
10. iLuv Desktop iPod/DVD Player
10. iLuv Desktop iPod/DVD Player

5 Mixed Drinks Manly Men Can Drink (And Remain Manly)

If you’re reading this and are a man, you probably have a penis. Since you have a penis, you primarily drink beer and whiskey. Good man. Manly man. When you go to a bar, however, beer all the time can get a bit boring, and you may be looking for something like a strong mixed drink. However, being the manly man you are, you’ve never ordered a mixed drink before, and don’t actually know what drinks are safe to order without risking penile deflation. Worry not, my friend. Read on, follow our guidelines, and we’ll show you what you can order to drink, and still be a manly man.

Irish Car Bomb


Hell even the name sounds manly. This drink is a shot glass filled with Irish Whiskey (preferably Jameson) with Baileys Irish Cream floated on top. The shot is then dropped into a glass of Guinness and downed. All Irish, contains both whiskey and stout beer. Definitely a man’s drink.



Another bomb? Could be a trend… A Jägerbomb is a drink in which the only liquor is Jägermeister. Basically you fill a glass with Red Bull energy drink, a very masculine bull-like energy drink, then drop in a shot full of Jägermeister and chug it. On a side note, Jägermeister is in my copy-paste clipboard because you can’t fucking type ä on a normal keyboard. Damn Germans.



Ok, so no trend. The primary reason a martini is on this list is because James Bond drinks them. Shaken, not stirred. Otherwise, this would be a pretty hoity-toity drink. But, because James Bond is so manly and cool, what with all the explosions and all (ok, maybe a trend), anything he drinks voluntarily has a degree of awesome to it. A martini is gin and vermouth, garnished with an olive. Though on occasion, its masculinity is insulted with a sliver of lemon peel.



… Just kidding.



In the words of Alan Jackson, “Pour me something tall and strong, make it a Hurricane, before I go insane.” The man needs a damn stiff one. A Hurricane is a great answer. Jack Sparrow would appreciate this one, as it’s made with light rum, dark rum, passionfruit syrup, and lime juice. Since rum is the primary ingredient, and the drink was originally given away in New Orleans to sailors, this one has earned a spot on the list. Plus, it’s the manliest tropical drink you can get in Margaritaville.

Lynchburg Lemonade


Look at it, doesn’t it look refreshing? This tastey alternative to a boring old lemonade is made with Jack Daniels, Triple Sec, lime soda, and sour mix. It looks like lemonade, tastes like lemonade, contains whiskey, was (and is) sold as a cocktail by Jack Daniels, and is sold at Texas Roadhouse cowboy restaurants around the U.S. A cowboy’s lemonade, this is safe to drink anywhere, anytime. Even at 9:00am on a Sunday.

The above drinks are hereby ordained and established as fit for manly-man consumption by Regretful Morning. Well gentlemen, that’s it so far. Stay tuned, though. I’m going to be doing more “research” soon enough. I’ll add to the list, and perhaps even a story or two will come of this research.

BMW Art Cars [Pics]

The BMW Art Car Collection, which has been displayed at museums including the Louvre and the Guggenheim Museums in Bilbao and New York, began in 1975.

read more | digg story

No Sex Please: Life as an Asexual

Andy is young and healthy – yet he’s never experienced physical desire. And there are thousands more like him. Olly Bootle meets the asexuals.

read more | digg story

New episode of The Simpsons set in Ireland for St Patrick's Day

The Simpsons will mark St Patrick's Day with a new episode of the animated comedy set in Ireland.
The Simpsons visit Ireland: The Simpsons cartoon set in Ireland for St Patrick's Day
It will be the first time in the show's 20-year history that an episode has been broadcast in a country outside of the US before being shown there Photo: PA

In The Name Of The Grandfather, which sees the dysfunctional cartoon family swap Springfield for the fictional village of Dunkilderry, will have its world network premiere on Sky1 in the UK and Ireland, a week ahead of the US transmission.

It will be the first time in the show's 20-year history that an episode has been broadcast in a country outside of the US before being shown there.

In the episode, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie take in sights such as the Giant's Causeway and the Blarney Castle while Grampa shows Homer a pub he remembers from his youth. In a "flashback" scene, a younger Grampa gets drunk with jolly Irish men, does Irish dancing and watches as two men have a fight then beat up a Scottish man.

But on his return to the watering hole he finds it has no customers, as the Irish are too busy working, and after a night drinking he and Homer agree to buy the pub.

They enlist Springfield's bar owner, Moe, to help them boost trade.

"Moe, something terrible has happened! The Irish have become hardworking and sober!" Homer tells him.

The show's executive producer, James L Brooks, said the tale was inspired by a newspaper article.

"I read this article in the New York Times about the smoking ban and the fact that the pubs were closing. People were also working so hard and crunching hours to the point that the pubs were really suffering. It was based on these facts," he said after the premiere at Dublin's Light House cinema yesterday.

Executive producer Al Jean said he was not worried about the reception of the episode, which also features yuppie Leprechauns and claims Guinness is made from chocolate syrup and bog water.

He said: "I'm Irish American and I know Irish people have an excellent sense of humour so we weren't very worried. We wanted to do something very affectionate that was about us hearing about Ireland for years and we come over here and it isn't quite the way we imagined but it's still really nice.

"I first visited in 2001 and what I couldn't believe was how technologically forward Ireland was, it was so amazing to me. It was beautiful but also advanced past America."

Nancy Cartwright, who voices Bart, also attended the premiere and greeted the audience saying "Ith mo bhristi" which is Bart's catchphrase "Eat my shorts" in Irish.

This episode is not the first in which the Simpsons have ventured abroad. They have also visited countries such as Brazil, France and Australia.

Jean said an episode in which the family travels to the Middle East was in the pipeline.

"I think we're going to do one next year where they go to the Holy Land as we haven't been there yet. The premise will be that the Christians, the Jews and Muslims are united in that they all get mad at Homer. It's the only thing they can agree on," he said.

In The Name Of The Grandfather will be shown on Sky1 and Sky1 HD at 7.30pm.

MRI Lie Detection to Get First Day in Court

By Alexis Madrigal Email


Defense attorneys are for the first time submitting a controversial neurological lie-detection test as evidence in U.S. court.

In an upcoming juvenile-sex-abuse case in San Diego, the defense is hoping to get an fMRI scan, which shows brain activity based on oxygen levels, admitted to prove the abuse didn't happen.

The technology is used widely in brain research, but hasn't been fully tested as a lie-detection method. To be admitted into California court, any technique has to be generally accepted within the scientific community.

The company that did the brain scan, No Lie MRI, claims their test is over 90 percent accurate, but some scientists and lawyers are skeptical.

"The studies so far have been very interesting. I think they deserve further research. But the technology is very new, with very little research support, and no studies done in realistic situations," Hank Greely, the head of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford, wrote in an e-mail to

Lie detection has tantalized lawyers since before the polygraph was invented in 1921, but the accuracy of the tests has always been in question. Greely noted that American courts and scientists have "85 years of experience with the polygraph" and a wealth of papers that have tried to describe its accuracy. Yet they aren't generally admissible in court, except in New Mexico.

Other attempts to spot deception using different brain signals continue, such as the EEG-based technique developed in India, where it has been used as evidence in court. And last year, attorneys tried to use fMRI evidence for chronic pain in a worker's compensation claim, but the case was settled out of court. The San Diego case will be the first time fMRI lie-detection evidence, if admitted, is used in a U.S. court.

According to Emily Murphy, a behavioral neuroscientist at the Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences who first reported on the fMRI evidence, the case is a child protection hearing to determine if the minor should stay in the home of the custodial parent accused of sexual abuse.

Apparently, the accused parent hired No Lie MRI, headquartered in San Diego with a testing facility in Tarzana, California, to do a brain scan. The company's report says fMRI tests show the defendant's claim of innocence is not a lie.

The company declined to be interviewed for this story, but its founder and CEO, Joel Huizenga, spoke to in September about the technology.

"This is the first time in human history that anybody has been able to tell if someone else is lying," he said.

Though the company's scientific board includes fMRI experts such as Christos Davatzikos, a radiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, some outside scientists and bioethicists question the reliability of the tests.

"Having studied all the published papers on fMRI-based lie detection, I personally wouldn't put any weight on it in any individual case. We just don't know enough about its accuracy in realistic situations," Greely said.

Laboratory studies using fMRI, which measures blood-oxygen levels in the brain, have suggested that when someone lies, the brain sends more blood to the ventrolateral area of the prefrontal cortex. In a very small number of studies, researchers have identified lying in study subjects with accuracy ranging from 76 percent to over 90 percent (pdf). But some scientists and lawyers like Greely doubt that those results will prove replicable outside the lab setting, and others say it just isn't ready yet.

"It's certainly something that is going to evolve and continue to get better and at some point, it will be ready for prime time. I'm just not sure it's really there right now," said John Vanmeter, a neurologist at Georgetown's Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging. "On the other hand, maybe it's good that it's going to start getting tested in the court system. It's really been just a theoretical thing until now."

No Lie MRI licensed its technology from psychiatrist Daniel Langleben of the University of Pennsylvania. Langleben, like the company, declined to be interviewed for this article, but offered a recent editorial he co-authored in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law on the "future of forensic functional brain imaging."

From the editorial, it's clear that Langleben is a bit uneasy that his work has been commercially applied. He draws a clear distinction between "deception researchers" like himself and "the merchants of fMRI-based lie detection" and describes the "uneasy alliances between this industry and academia, brokered by university technology-commercialization departments."

Langleben has pushed for large-scale trials to determine the efficacy of fMRI-based deception-spotting. But in an interview conducted in late 2007, he doubted whether No Lie MRI and its competitor, Cephalos, had the resources to conduct the type of trials he wants.

"We need to run clinical trials with 200 to 300 people, so we can say, 'This is the accuracy of this test,'" Langleben told "But only two or three companies are trying to develop the technology. Do those companies have deep pockets? No. Do clinical trials cost a lot? Yes."

In September, Huizenga said the company was trying to get a grant for a study on a large group of people. "To date there really has been no study that has tried to optimize fMRI for lie detection," he said.

But even if the science behind a technology isn't fully established, Brooklyn Law School's Edward Cheng, who studies scientific evidence in legal proceedings, said it might still be appropriate to use it in the courtroom.

"Technology doesn't necessarily have to be bulletproof before it can come in, in court," Cheng.

He questioned whether society's traditional methods of lie detection, that is to say, inspection by human beings, is any more reliable than the new technology.

"It's not clear whether or not a somewhat reliable but foolproof fMRI machine is any worse than having a jury look at a witness," Cheng said. "It's always important to think about what the baseline is. If you want the status quo, fine, but in this case, the status quo might not be all that good."

But the question of whether Cheng's fMRI can be "somewhat reliable but foolproof" remains open.

Ed Vul, an fMRI researcher at the Kanwisher Lab at MIT, said that it was simply too easy for a suspect to make fMRI data of any type unusable.

"I don't think it can be either reliable or practical. It is very easy to corrupt fMRI data," Vul said. "The biggest difficulty is that it's very easy to make fMRI data unusable by moving a little, holding your breath, or even thinking about a bunch of random stuff."

A trained defendant might even be able to introduce bias into the fMRI data. In comparison with traditional lie-detection methods, fMRI appears more susceptible to gaming.

"So far as I can tell, there are many more reliable ways to corrupt data from an MRI machine than a classic polygraph machine," Vul said.

Elizabeth Phelps, a neuroscientist at New York University, agreed there is little evidence that fMRI is more reliable than previous lie-detection methods.

"When you build a model based on people in the laboratory, it may or may not be that applicable to someone who has practiced their lie over and over, or someone who has been accused of something," Phelps said. "I don't think that we have any standard of evidence that this data is going to be reliable in the way that the courts should be admitting."

All these theoretical considerations will be put to the test for the first time in a San Diego courtroom soon. Stanford's Murphy reported that the admissibility of the evidence in this particular case could rest on which scientific experts are allowed to comment on the evidence.

"The defense plans to claim fMRI-based lie detection (or “truth verification”) is accurate and generally accepted within the relevant scientific community in part by narrowly defining the relevant community as only those who research and develop fMRI-based lie detection," she wrote.

Murphy says that the relevant scientific community should be much larger, including a broader swath of neuroscientists, statisticians, and memory experts.

If the broader scientific community is included in the fact-finding, Greely doesn't expect the evidence to be admitted.

"In a case where the issues were fully explored with good expert witnesses on both sides, it is very hard for me to believe that a judge would admit the results of fMRI-based lie detection today," Greely said.

But that's not to say that lie-detection won't eventually find a place in the courts, as the science and ethics of brain scanning solidify. editor Betsy Mason contributed to this report.

Tear of Grief: Russia's 9/11 Memorial Gift to the USA

click to enlarge — 10-story high sculpture given to the US by the Russian government. Located at the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor as a memorial to those that died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The large polished titanium teardrop to represent the tears in Moscow shed for the 9/11 victims. A constant flowing of water which causes the sculpture to appear to weep.

Four of Saturn's moons parade by their parent

Click for larger image.

17-Mar-2009: A new Hubble image shows four of Saturn's moons circling the ringed planet

On 24 February 2009, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captured a photo sequence of four moons of Saturn passing in front of their parent planet. The moons, from far left to right, are the white icy moons Enceladus and Dione, the large orange moon Titan, and icy Mimas. Due to the angle of the Sun, they are each preceded by their own shadow.

These rare moon transits only happen when the tilt of Saturn's ring plane is nearly "edge on" as seen from the Earth. Saturn's rings will be perfectly edge on to our line of sight on 10 August and 4 September 2009. Unfortunately, Saturn will be too close to the Sun to be seen by viewers on Earth at that time. This "ring plane crossing" occurs every 14-15 years. In 1995-96 Hubble witnessed the previous ring plane crossing, as well as many moon transits, and helped to discover several new moons of Saturn.

Early 2009 was a favourable time for viewers with small telescopes to watch moon and shadow transits crossing the face of Saturn. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, crossed Saturn on four separate occasions: 24 January, 9 February, 24 February and 12 March, although not all events were visible from all locations on Earth.

Italian Galileo Galilei — often referred to as the father of astronomy — was the first to observe Saturn through a telescope in 1610. Dutch mathematician and astronomer Christian Huygens discovered Titan in 1655 and, 350 years later, the ESA probe named for him touched down on Titan (on 14 January 2005), giving the world its first views of the surface of the mysterious, icy world. Giovanni Domenico Cassini, a French/Italian astronomer, discovered Dione (in addition to others) and the German-born Englishman, William Herschel, discovered Mimas and Enceladus.

These pictures were taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on 24 February 2009, when Saturn was at a distance of roughly 1.25 billion kilometres from Earth. Hubble can see details as small as 300 kilometres across on Saturn. The dark band running across the face of the planet slightly above the rings is the shadow of the rings cast on the planet.

Notes for editors:

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

Image credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)


NASA's release


Colleen Sharkey
Hubble/ESA, Garching, Germany
Tel: +49-89-3200-6306
Cell: +49-151-153-73591

Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
Tel: +1-410-338-4514

Keith Noll
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
Tel: +1-410-338-1828


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Fantastic Treehouse Restaurant

It’s not often that a commission to design a treehouse is offered, so when asked to build one for a ‘reality’ TV advert for an off-the-wall functioning restaurant, Pacific Environments jumped at the opportunity. It’s the treehouse we all dreamed of as children but could only do as an adult fantasy.

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Bank? Who Needs a Bank? Well, Who Needs A Credit Union?

Andy Sernovitz's post "Where Are The Credit Unions?" was great, but it missed the mark by a moon-shot. The question isn't "Why aren't credit unions taking advantage of the moral mess banks are drowning in?" The question is, "Why aren't you joining a credit union right now?" The answer to that question really has to come down to ignorance, probably not a politically correct thing to say, but the truth. Most people probably don't know they are eligible to join a credit union.

First, a disclaimer: I am a big fan of credit unions in general, and have served as the independent consumer spokesperson for some big ones in this country for years. But I can speak out because I am also a big critic of many credit union practices.

But here's a fact: the worst credit union (and there are some bad ones) is better than the best bank when it comes to pricing almost all of its loans and most of its other products. Credit unions really do feel like it is their obligation to find you the cheapest product rather than the most expensive product. You cannot say that about virtually any bank and definitely not about any for-profit "specialty" loan company--like the loan companies used by car dealerships and many mortgage brokers.

These guys practice "predatory pricing"-- if you don't know how to ask for a lower price (or know that you can ask for a lower price) you will pay more. Thousands more on the average used car loan, for instance. For years, I've headed a task force that tracks auto dealership tactics, and here's a steady statistic. Consumers that have financed a vehicle at a car dealership and then refinanced it at a credit union save on the average of $1,800 by refinancing.

Credit unions don't work to find members the lower price because they are goodie two-shoes, either. Because members completely own the credit union, the financial well-being of the member has a direct impact on the well-being of the credit union. Ergo, helping members make wise decisions is a wise decision.

Okay, I'm preaching too much, so let me get back to Andy Sernovitz's post, and why its question is so off base . Actually, this is probably preaching, too, but too bad.

  • Credit unions haven't reacted as a group to the bank crisis for a very charming reason. They aren't slick marketers on the whole. The big credit unions who have more marketing savvy and bigger budgets are out there with strong "Safe Harbor" messages. But the vast majority of credit unions are small, even intimate, businesses that don't have the word slick in their spell-check. A lot of their staff members actually wake up many morning feeling good about the member they helped the day before. They wouldn't know derivatives if they bit them.
  • Small credit unions also have small marketing budgets--and their marketing is targeted to their membership, so the public doesn't see it. Why small marketing budgets? Because most of them had rather keep that money to benefit members in loan and savings interest rates.
  • Some credit unions are very involved in the most important aspect of recovery from the economic mutilation of our economy They are teaching young people the truth about money and the realities of the free enterprise system. Here's the message. If you think you can believe all the advertising you see, and if you think you're going to get the best product or service because you're nice, you're a fool.
  • Right now AOL's "WalletPOP" is featuring a column on a credit union program called FoolProof. FoolProof deals with the realities of money and the free enterprise system. I am the (non-paid or compensated) chairman of this initiative. If Andy Sernovitz wants to know what some credit unions are doing about marketing, take a look at this program and the WalletPOP column. Here's an example of valuable credit union marketing: telling the truth about something, for a change! I'll wager you will not find any bank in America who is as honest with its customers about money, credit cards, and credit as this single credit union-sponsored program.

So, Andy, the final question: After ranting about credit unions as rotten marketers while praising them as great sources for consumers, did you join one?

The 9 Levels of Hell For The Living

Dante's Inferno took us through the 9 levels of hell when you die. But we think there are plenty of hellish places you can find yourself in when you're alive. Here are the 9 levels of hell you've probably encountered at some time in your life.
LEVEL 1: Jiffy Lube Waiting Room
At first glance, the Jiffy Lube waiting room seems down-trodden, but normal. It has all of the common elements of any other waiting room: magazines, a television set, coffee, donuts, and even a little candy machine. However, upon further investigation, you’ll quickly discover that the Jiffy Lube waiting room somehow contains the absolute worst of all of these things. The magazines are from 2002, and half the pages are torn out. The television set somehow always has terrible reception, and is stuck on Spanish soap operas because the channel buttons are broken. The coffee is cold, the donut box is empty, and the candy machine is half filled with Mike & Ike’s, and half-filled with the dead bugs who ate the rest of the Mike & Ike’s. But wait, it gets worse: at the end of all of this, a guy with half of your education is going to rip you off, and then present you with a receipt from a printer that was built before cocaine became popular.
LEVEL 2: Open Mic Night At A Coffee Shop
Usually you’ve been invited to this level of hell by someone you work with, or one of your girlfriend’s friends. There’s nine people in the audience, yet somehow the person you came to see is 64th on the list to go up. After sitting through eleven different performances of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” all of which were prefaced with a five minute talk about when they came across a homeless person/dog/child that looked “disenchanted”, the person you came to see comes up. Then he or she plays an original song they wrote, the lyrics of which read like the opening credits theme to Full House. Then, after they’ve finished, you can’t just leave, because they wants to “have a cup of coffee” with you, even though by this point it’s 11:45 p.m. and you’d rather not ingest something that’s going to keep you up for four more hours and cause you to shit out the nine maple scones you ate while trying to pass the time before his performance.
LEVEL 3: A One-Year-Old's Birthday Party
Walking into a one-year-old’s birthday party is like walking into a really bad acid trip. There’s colorful shit all over the walls, everyone’s speaking in disturbingly high voices and time slows to a crawl. Then, as you stand there, you have to pretend that you’re really excited for the gurgling, snotting “special little guy” who has no idea why someone is shoving a flaming cake in his face or forcing him to wear a hat. Having a birthday party for a one-year-old is like having a birthday party for a chair or an amoeba. Yet, you have to paste a fake smile across your lips every time someone says, “Let’s all take another photo of the amoeba!”
LEVEL 4: A Denny's Restaurant Near A High School Right After A School Play Ends
Drama kids are the most annoying people in any school environment, but few things are worse than 30 high school drama kids hopped up on post-performance adrenaline, teenage hormones, and Moon’s Over My Hammy. Most of these loud, obnoxious adolescent thespians will still be sporting a thick layer of stage make-up to let everyone know that they were just in a play, and if that’s not a clear enough signal, they’ll be sure to constantly scream lines from Pygmalion, or West Side Story, or whatever other shit-ass play they just stumbled through. You’re eating at Denny’s, so your meal is not going to be that great to begin with, but these cracked-out drama kids are sure to make your dining experience a living hell.
LEVEL 5: Kinkos
No matter what you need to get done at Kinkos, if you ask an employee for help, he’ll take a simple process and explain it to you like he’s trying to recount the plot to Mullholand Drive. “Okay so first, you go to the color printer, no wait, first you grab the copy key, then there’s this part where you take your jump drive and…okay, before that part though, there’s this other part that’s really important where…hmm, maybe I have that backwards.” Then after you finally figure out what machine you have to use, it sends to a printer that apparently doesn’t exist, nor has ever, yet the Kinko’s guy is sure he’s seen it before. It’s like the Sixth Sense, except replacing Bruce Willis with a HP laser jet, and Haley Joel Osment with a 27-year-old guy who’s probably tried on several occasions to overdose on marijuana.
LEVEL 6: Emergency Room At 1 A.M.
You’re sitting next to ten people, all of whom look like they’ve caught whatever that monkey in Outbreak had. The whole place smells like someone threw a bucket of bleach on top of a pile of baby shit. Then every ten minutes, a nurse comes out and calls the name of someone you’re almost POSITIVE sat down five minutes ago. Meanwhile the guy vomiting next to you has filled up his barf bag and set it down between you and he, even though there’s no one sitting on the other side of him. You try and sleep, but the chair you’re sitting in was apparently used in Guantanamo Bay to torture Al Qaeda members into giving up Osama Bin Laden’s whereabouts. Finally, the night ends at six in the morning, when you get seen, then are informed that your insurance doesn’t cover this exact location, and you’re going to have to pay through the ass.
LEVEL 7: Dinner With Two People Who Want To Get Divorced
Have you ever noticed how mashed potatoes can instantly remind you of how much you hate your spouse? If you have, then that probably means you desperately want to get a divorce, but can’t afford to. Somehow every single element of life reminds these people that they hate each other. Subtle complaints about the green beans or the silverware quickly lead to harsh, quippy remarks on sexual performance, followed by a long, uncomfortable silence. Don’t bother trying to change the conversation, because as soon as anyone says anything, they’ll both go back to an argument that they were having long before you even showed up. Eventually, one of them will leave the table and the other one will complain in a hushed tone to you about why they hate their spouse, and what financial woes are troubling them. If you’re thinking you can just leave, forget it. No matter how awkward it gets, they will never let you leave. You’re trapped in this hell for the entire night.
LEVEL 8: A Gas Station Bathroom When You Have To Shit

Upon first entering the eighth level of hell, you’re actually in awe. And then the fear sets in. How is there shit smeared on top of other forms of shit? Why is there a human leg in the corner?
Is that a bucket of custard? As you attempt to relieve yourself, the only thing you can do is spread your legs as far as they will go so no fleshly parts of your body touch the stained, beige, cracked toilet “seat.” When you’re finished with shitting, you then realize (a little too late, I might add) that you’re now forced to wipe your own asshole with what can only be described as “mushroom sand paper.” It’s not absorbent, it’s rough enough to draw blood and there appears to be some small civilization living on its surface. The fact that you now probably have AIDS doesn’t help, either.
LEVEL 9: Florida

There are four types of people you will encounter in Florida. 1) Proudly uneducated toothless rednecks who think they’ve “made it” because they parked their trailer “in a place that has warm all the time.” 2.) Fat, jackass Midwestern tourists in cut-off jeans who think spending two weeks of their vacation eating fried shrimp at an Orlando Red Lobster qualifies as some sort of exotic luxury. 3.) Walking, wrinkled corpses who are somehow still given driver’s licenses…and actually drive cars despite their half-inch cataracts and non-existent motor skills. And 4) Everyone who lives in Miami (snobby club sluts, Cubans who won’t shut up about Cuban politics, South Beach Guido douchebags etc.) If you ever find yourself in the Ninth Level of Hell (aka, Florida), you should probably just kill yourself. Or go to the nearest airport and take the first flight out of there. Whichever is easier.

Best Live-Action Disney Movies

Which of the Mouse House's family-friendly romps comes out on top?

We tend to think of Walt Disney Pictures as chiefly an animation studio -- and with good reason -- but the house Uncle Walt built has been churning out quality (and often highly profitable) live-action entertainment since the 1950s, something we were reminded of when we noticed that the latest chapter in the Witch Mountain franchise (and the Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's latest bid for the undisputed heavyweight champion of kid-friendly cinema), Race to Witch Mountain, was landing in theaters this Friday. What better time, then, for your pals here at Rotten Tomatoes to devote a Total Recall list to the 10 best-reviewed live-action entries in the Disney canon?

Of course, not all of Disney's live-action efforts have been critical winners -- we're guessing Condorman is discussed as infrequently as possible at the Mouse House -- but not everything that missed the list was a dud: You'll find plenty of the classics you remember (yes, Old Yeller is present and accounted for), but you're bound to take umbrage with a few omissions. Some movies missed the cut on technicalities -- we limited our scope to films without animation (so long, Bedknobs and Broomsticks) and crossed any co-productions off the list, too (thus sparing Operation Dumbo Drop the embarrassment of being disqualified on critical grounds). Others, however, simply didn't have the reviews -- something we think says a lot about the strength of the competition. So let's see what we ended up with, shall we? The live-action world of Disney awaits!


10. Escape to Witch Mountain

Well, well, well. How's this for perfect? Not only did it provide a starting point for this week's Total Recall honoree, 1975's Escape to Witch Mountain wound up making the list itself. While not the best-remembered of Disney's 1970s properties, this adaptation of the Alexander Key novel helped kickstart a mini-franchise that eventually extended to 1978's Return from Witch Mountain, a 1982 TV movie and 1995 made-for-TV remake, and, of course, 2009's Race to Witch Mountain. Placing extraordinary kids in situations of nail-biting, grown-up peril is something Disney has always done well, and Escape is no exception; psychic alien twins Tony and Tia are literally running for their lives from creepy millionaire Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland). Though not all critics were susceptible to its charm -- Vincent Canby of the New York Times called it "a Walt Disney production for children who will watch absolutely anything that moves" -- most scribes took its popcorn-flavored blend of action, sci-fi, and family drama at face value, including Roger Ebert, who called it "a sci-fi thriller that's fun, that's cheerfully implausible, that's scary but not too scary, and it works."


9. The Absent-Minded Professor

No list of the Disney live-action oeuvre would be complete without a mention of Fred MacMurray's work for the studio. Although he'd been a major film star for decades before making his Disney debut with 1960's The Shaggy Dog, it's MacMurray's late-period string of pipe-puffing father types that he's arguably best remembered for, particularly among younger film fans. The most critically successful of these movies, 1961's The Absent-Minded Professor, casts MacMurray in the title role as Ned Brainard, the accidental inventor of an incredible energy-producing substance known as Flubber. Over the course of the film, Brainerd uses Flubber to make himself look like a talented dancer and helps an entire basketball team cheat during the big game, but thanks to MacMurray's Everyman charm, you still believe he's the good guy. It's goofy, and light as a feather, but Disney has always known how to make the most of those two ingredients; as TV Guide put it, "This is a zanily inventive piece of work, with delightful special effects, which set the style for a long series of live-action Disney films."


8. Swiss Family Robinson

Even in the context of the other classic films in the Disney vaults, 1960's Swiss Family Robinson was a huge success -- its $40 million gross is equivalent to $367 million in today's money, placing it proudly among the ranks of the most successful G-rated films of all time. Johann David Wyss' 1812 novel has been adapted on numerous occasions, for film and television, but Disney's Ken Annakin-directed treatment is the most well-known; although it doesn't skimp on the cheesy dialogue and cornpone wholesomeness that came prepackaged with many of the studio's live-action efforts, Lowell S. Hawley's screenplay does a fine job of drawing enough swashbuckling action and tropical derring-do out of the source material to guarantee a good time for viewers of all (okay, most) ages. Channel 4 Film's Alistair Harkness spoke for many of his peers when he wrote, "It's no Pirates Of The Caribbean, but the spirit of adventure, and Disney's high production values, means that there's still some fun to be had watching this wholesome family adapt to island life."


7. Pollyanna

Hayley Mills, like Tommy Kirk before her (and countless fresh-faced Disney teen starlets after her), became a household name thanks to a string of starring roles in Disney live-action films. Mills' six-movie run got off to a pretty good start with 1960's Pollyanna; although its box office performance was initially something of a disappointment for the studio, Mills won a special Academy Award for her performance. For many, the film is now considered one of Disney's earliest live-action classics; though Disney was far from the first to adapt Eleanor Porter's novel, it's Mills that people usually think of when they hear the name "Pollyanna" -- and for good reason, as even critics who overdosed on the movie's relentless optimism, like the Time critic who called it "a Niagara of drivel and a masterpiece of smarm," were often swayed by her performance. Variety, for instance, said her presence "more than compensates for the film's lack of tautness and, at certain points, what seems to be an uncertain sense of direction."


6. The Rookie

By 2002, the "inspirational sports movie" genre was seen as well past its prime -- and so was Dennis Quaid: one of the more bankable matinee idols of the 1980s, Quaid was suffering through a dry spell when he signed on for Disney's John Lee Hancock-directed dramatization of the brief-yet-noteworthy Major League Baseball career of high school teacher-turned-Tampa Bay Devil Ray pitcher Jimmy Morris. Like Morris himself, The Rookie was initially written off by many as an amiable relic of a bygone era -- but try as they might, most critics were too charmed by its true-life inspirational story, and Quaid's refreshingly low-key performance, to be cynical about the film. The Rookie earned a healthy return on Disney's $22 million investment, kick-started a new chapter in Quaid's career, and earned a surprising number of endorsements from critics like Looking Closer's Jeffrey Overstreet, who called it "one of those rare, wonderful 'formula' films that ... favors understatement over exaggeration, subtlety over sentimentality."


5. The Parent Trap

For a relatively lightweight rom-com, The Parent Trap has enjoyed an incredibly long life; not only was the original film re-released to theaters seven years after its theatrical debut, but Hayley Mills ended up reprising her dual roles for a trio of made-for-TV sequels more than 20 years later -- and the career-boosting power of the story of matchmaking twins who play Cupid for their divorced parents proved every bit as potent in 1998, when Lindsay Lohan starred in a remake. Part of Trap's appeal no doubt came from its pioneering use of the trick photography that made it appear as though Mills was actually her own twin -- a technique later used to notable effect on The Patty Duke Show two years later -- but even without special effects, The Parent Trap is a solid, albeit proudly corny, film that benefits from a strong performance by its winsome star. Mills' charms were even sufficient to win over more "serious" publications, such as Time, whose reviewer wrote, "Surprisingly, the film is delightful -- mostly because of 15-year-old Hayley Mills, the blonde button nose who played the endearing delinquent in Tiger Bay."


4. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Whether you attribute it to beginner's luck or the steady hand of one of Hollywood's most quality-conscious studios, it's worth noting that Richard Fleischer's adaptation of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is both one of Disney's most highly regarded live-action efforts and its first foray into science fiction. Proving he had an eye for giant squid battles to match his knack for animating adorable fauna, Walt Disney personally produced 20,000 Leagues, helping Fleischer blend an attentive eye to period detail with a rip-roaring action yarn that just happened to have strong Cold War parallels (right down to the mushroom cloud witnessed after the climactic battle). Enlisting the talents of A-list stars like Kirk Douglas, James Mason, and Peter Lorre certainly didn't hurt Leagues' box-office prospects -- nor did glowingly positive reviews from the likes of the New York Times' Bosley Crowther, who called it "as fabulous and fantastic as anything [Disney] has ever done in cartoons."


3. That Darn Cat!

Younger filmgoers may be more familiar with the 1997 remake, starring Christina Ricci and Doug E. Doug -- which, as illustrated by that film's woeful seven percent Tomatometer rating, is a shame. The 1965 original, starring Hayley Mills as the owner of a robbery-foiling feline (and the immortal Frank Gorshin as the robber), was a perfect example of the sort of goofy, animal-assisted middlebrow flick that Disney's live-action arm became known for in the 1960s -- but if it's silly stuff, it's at least eminently well-crafted, thanks to the steady hand of director Robert Stevenson and charming performances from a cast that included Disney vets Mills and Dean Jones. Critics were kind, if not exactly effusive (Rob Thomas of Madison's Capital Times waved it off as "lightweight, forgettable family fun") -- but it was the titular cat that earned some of the movie's highest warmest praise, including high marks from the New York Times' Bosley Crowther, who said, "The feline that plays the informant, as the F.B.I. puts it, is superb. Clark Gable at the peak of his performing never played a tom cat more winningly."


2. Old Yeller

A movie so successful that it spawned a sequel, Tommy Kirk's career, and the heartbreaking on-screen deaths of dozens of beloved critters, Old Yeller is mostly remembered today for its tearjerking final act and cornpone dialogue -- and although this Robert Stevenson-directed adaptation of Fred Gipson's popular novel certainly doesn't skimp on the familiar plot points and gooey nostalgia so often identified with the Disney films of the era, it also tries to impart some useful lessons about the tough choices that come with growing up. Those lessons were imparted to a huge audience, too -- watching Old Yeller was a rite of passage for multiple generations of filmgoers, among them DVDTalk's Scott Weinberg, who called it "every bit the warm, comfortable, and tragically bittersweet classic that had you sobbing like a infant the first time you saw it."


1. Never Cry Wolf

The best-reviewed of Disney's late 1970s/early 1980s string of family-friendly live-action flicks, Never Cry Wolf offers a surprisingly mature, unflinching adaptation of Farley Mowat's memoir detailing the years he spent studying the hunting habits of wolves in the Canadian wilderness. One year later, Disney would spin off Touchstone, an imprint which would eventually be responsible for some fairly racy fare, but in 1983, Wolf director Carroll Ballard's decision to afford audiences a glimpse of Charles Martin Smith's bare buttocks was a major step for the Mouse House. Though the film wasn't a giant hit, it did manage an impressive 27-week theatrical run -- all the more notable considering its small cast, exceedingly minimal dialogue, and deliberate pace. Critics were suitably impressed, sending Never Cry Wolf all the way to a 100 percent Tomatometer rating on the strength of reviews from scribes like Time's Richard Schickel, who raved, "Ballard and his masterly crew of film makers have reimagined a corner of the natural world...They leave us awed."

Check out the rest of our Total Recall archives here.

Finally, we leave you with a clip from one of Disney's trippiest live-action offerings. It's a close encouter of the feline kind: The Cat from Outer Space.