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Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Tour of Chernobyl as it exists today (PICS)


We start not far from the remains of a tiny village. The village was destroyed, and then buried under orders from the soviets for being too radioactive. It was buried out of the Soviets desire to cover up the accident more than anything else. Ironically, the name of the village translated to English is called 'Diggers', kinda prophetic really...

Click here to see all the pics.. | digg story

Washington State Medical Marijuana Trial On National Stage

The majority of Washingtonians voted in 1998 for the health and safety of its ill residents. Supporting the medical use of marijuana was not a hard choice for most, and the state has adjusted very well overall to bringing these sick patients into the fold. Contrary to these ideals seems to be one particular man: Kitsap Co. Prosecutor Russ Hauge.

read more | digg story

Playboy Posts Unedited Back Issues Online, for Free

Sex sells, especially when it's free.

Through a partnership between Microsoft and Bondi Digital Publishing, Playboy Enterprises has put 53 back issues of Playboy on the Web, viewable through Microsoft's Silverlight viewer.

The images are free to access at PlayboyArchive.com, with no age verification required.

The issues cover the years 1954 through 2007, and appear as they did in the print version, with advertisements left intact. To do so, Bondi Digital Publishing - the software pioneers that developed the platform for The Complete New Yorker - scanned and re-typed each issue of Playboy, the company said in a statement.

"Playboy has an incredibly rich history and an intensely loyal readership," said Hugh M. Hefner, Playboy founder, editor-in-chief and chief creative officer, in a statement. "This is the perfect opportunity to offer them something they have always wanted and also a great way to allow a whole new generation to easily explore the magazine."

Users will need to install Microsoft's Silverlight player, naturally. The Web component was developed with Microsoft's Partner of the Year, Vertigo.

The player does not allow full-screen viewing, but users can pan around the digital image, which loads large enough so that text can be easily read. When the archive first loads, an array of Playboy covers can be viewed and clicked upon; after that, several pages from the inside of the magazine appear. A table of contents is also available, and the archive is searchable.

The site went live late Thursday, and was announced at Microsoft's Mix09 show in Las Vegas.

Copyright (c) 2009Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved.

NIN Launches BitTorrent Tracker for New Release

Written by Ernesto

Nine Inch Nails released their new tour sampler NIN/JA on their website a few hours ago. While the regular quality MP3s can be downloaded straight from their server, the band has set up their own BitTorrent tracker for the higher quality ‘lossless’ downloads.

ninjaTrent Reznor, the frontman of Nine Inch Nails has always been pro-filesharing and admitted to downloading music using BitTorrent. Unlike others in the music biz, the NIN members are no stranger to BitTorrent.

“We use torrents ourselves, and we know that most NIN fans are tech-savvy and familiar with file-sharing, so we want to experiment with ways to use that to our advantage, instead of making the mistake of trying to fight or ignore it, as so many artists and labels do.” NIN’s Art Director Rob Sheridan explained to TorrentFreak last year.

In fact, when they released the album ‘Ghosts‘ for free last year their server couldn’t handle the high traffic numbers and downloads, so the linked to the torrents they had uploaded to The Pirate Bay instead. Thanks to The Pirate Bay, many fans didn’t have to wait till the server recovered, and the torrent quickly became one of the most downloaded files on the tracker.

With the release of their tour promo NIN/JA today, NIN decided to prevent similar server troubles, and the band now offers .torrent downloads for the higher quality (and size) downloads. The tracker used for the torrents is hosted by the band itself on the tracker.nin.com subdomain. The tracker is already being used by thousands of fans just hours after it went up.

Self-hosted BitTorrent trackers may become a new hype. Two weeks ago, the government-owned Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) had set up its very own BitTorrent tracker to distribute some of their TV-shows.

Thus far, we haven’t spotted NIN’s tour sampler on any of the public torrent sites, but it won’t take long before it spreads. The official website requires people to submit their email address in order to get the links to the DRM-free downloads. It’s well worth it though.

Update: Apparently the tracker at nin.com was also used for some of the previous releases, we were not aware of this.

Psycho-Thriller ‘Blank’ Premieres For Free on BitTorrent

Written by enigmax on March 21, 2009

Today a brand new movie has premiered but this is not the usual Hollywood-style launch. ‘Blank’, described as an intense psycho-thriller by director Rick L. Winters, will debut on DVD but you can get it for free on BitTorrent too - with the blessing of the entire cast and crew.

blankTimes are certainly changing and slowly but surely people are beginning to realize that rather than trying to fight piracy and destroy file-sharing networks, the best approach is to embrace your one-time rivals and try and create something positive.

Established in 2000 by director Rick L. Winters, Annodam Productions is an independent film company. A forward looking outfit, Annodam will premiere its latest movie ‘Blank‘, worldwide today.

‘Blank’ is the story of a Johnny, a young boy who witnesses the violent death of his parents and older sister. Roll on some 20 years later and Johnny becomes involved in crime with his adoptive father - who is also a crime boss. While watching a game of poker Johnny discovers who murdered his family and sets about planning his revenge. Johnny unwittingly becomes involved with a pair of serial killers and the whole movie climaxes with a bizarre and shocking end.

While the plot may seems standard Hollywood fare, the way this movie has been financed and is set to be distributed is not - Director Rick L.Winters explains, “The thing that makes this film unique is that it is a co-op based concept where the entire cast and crew worked on a deferred percentage of the film’s gross. In other words, the cast and crew own a percentage of the film’s gross, so the profits are not going to Hollywood executives but instead into the pockets of the filmmakers themselves.”

After receiving several distribution offers for ‘Blank’, Rick turned them all down.

“I have seen firsthand the greed that lurks in the Hollywood corporate circles,” he said while explaining that after he released his first film, the cast and crew couldn’t understand why a distribution company was making all the money. So instead, Rick decided to let the audience distribute ‘Blank’ for him - via BitTorrent.

“This time around the fate of the cast and crew getting paid is in the hands of the audience who watch the film. No Hollywood bank accounts being filled to turn out more crappy remakes,” he said, while adding that the future of film is “in the home market, through peer to peer distribution.”

Today, ‘Blank’ is released on DVD for $14.99, via online streaming and of course, for free on BitTorrent. “No one should have to pay for a film they did not like,” says Rick. “No one should be denied the right to enjoy the art of film.”

The idea is that if people like the movie after they have seen it, they should go to the ‘Blank’ website and make a donation. People are asked to donate what they feel the movie is worth, and in return will be invited to follow the production of the next movie, which they will have helped finance through their donation.

Rick told TorrentFreak, “I am excited with the aspects of peer to peer distribution and the possibilities. Giving everyone the opportunity to see my film for free in hope of receiving donations is a little nerve wrecking - wondering if I will receive enough donations to make my next film. The concept is still scary for independent filmmakers who don’t have the big budgets like the big studios and most of the time drain their personal accounts and run up credit just to get their film made, in hopes of recouping the cost of making the film.”

Several large BitTorrent sites including Mininova will be offering ‘Blank’, but undoubtedly it will spread to many others too. Rick L. Winters is also writing a book which will document the whole process so that others can use the same methods to distribute their own movies.

“I can only hope for the success of this endeavor to show the world that the revolution of peer to peer distribution can no longer be ignored and the time is now,” Rick told TorrentFreak. “I decided to try the concept of a coop base film in hopes of encouraging other independent filmmakers to come together and create and share the art of film for EVERYONE to enjoy.”

Congratulations to Rick and the crew for effectively ending the piracy of their movies and we wish them the best of luck with ‘Blank’ and all future success.

You can grab the torrent for the movie from Mininova.

Missing the Man Who Made Nicolas Cage a Star

By John Anderson

Special to The Washington Post


Hollywood must specialize in Faustian bargains. There's simply too much evidence walking around to deduce otherwise. Consider the once-interesting Brendan Fraser, who now plays second banana to the special effects in "Mummy" movies. Or Scarlett Johansson, mousy and introspective in "Lost in Translation," now brassy, blowsy and bleach blond. Once upon a time, Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar. Once upon a time, Chevy Chase was funny.

And then there's Nicolas Cage.

Let us ask ourselves something: Why is Nicolas Cage a movie star? And why do we care?

The answer, in part, is that Cage -- whose latest, "Knowing," opened Friday -- won an Oscar in 1996 for playing a suicidal alcoholic in "Leaving Las Vegas," a gritty, brutal, honest movie, wonderfully acted (by both Cage and Elisabeth Shue) and which confirmed what a lot of people had long believed: that Cage was the most interesting actor in American movies.




His performance in "Raising Arizona" remains iconic. Likewise, "Wild at Heart." From the time he was 17 -- and got passed over for the Judge Reinhold role in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" -- he was cutting a righteous swath across the screen, in movies that rarely missed such as "Valley Girl" and "Birdy." He even made an impression in some pretty dubious projects, including two directed by his uncle Francis (Coppola), namely "Cotton Club" and "Peggy Sue Got Married." Then the Coens cast him in "Raising Arizona." He became Cher's one-handed romantic poet in "Moonstruck." That was followed by "Vampire's Kiss," the immortal "Wild at Heart" and a mixed bag of principal roles leading up to director Mike Figgis and "Leaving Las Vegas."




What happened then bears the infernal reek of sulfur, brimstone and gross receipts. "Con Air," in which Cage played an unjustly convicted parolee battling a planeload of criminal misfits and psychopaths, was an action thriller -- the old adrenaline-fueled thrill ride/riveting roller coaster of a big old movie. Yes, Cage had appeared in "The Rock" immediately after winning his Best Actor statuette (thus abandoning idiosyncratic leading manhood forever), but it was "Con Air" that made Cage fans sit up and say "Wha . . . ???" (Significantly, Steve Buscemi was in the movie, too, sliding into the Beloved Character Actor slot that Cage was so busily abandoning, in a flick that was about as cynically brainless as anything in the history of mall movies.)

And so it has been, with few detours from the action star/blockbuster track upon which Cage has trod with particularly graceless aplomb, and virtually no humor at all, except on top of his head, where his hair is continual source of mirth and mystery, because you never know what it's going to do, where it's going to go or to whom it once belonged. Some favorites: the punky cut of "Ghost Rider" (2007), with its black spikes and bangs; the inky-looking Franz Liszt arrangement of last year's bewildering "Bangkok Dangerous." Or the gravity-defying-do of "Lord of War" (2005), which was Cage's best performance in years, because it returned him to a realm of moral ambiguity and outsider status, precisely where his talent thrives -- rather than as a low-rent Indiana Jones ("National Treasure"), a thoroughly unconvincing Italian lover ("Captain Corelli's Mandolin") or anyone named Memphis Raines ("Gone in Sixty Seconds").




Taking on preposterous roles, like the supposedly coldblooded hit man of "Bangkok Dangerous" ("My name is Joe. . . . This is what I do . . ."), it's clear that Cage would like to assume the mantle of Clint Eastwood. His character is a man of few words, he grimaces with irony-free disgust at the moral bottom-feeders of the world and he dispenses large-caliber justice. But Cage has never taken Dirty Harry's advice: A man's got to know his limitations. Cage isn't a sex symbol and -- stripped of the existential complexity of his early roles -- he's not that interesting to watch. Despite the fact that there are Nicolas Cage action figures available, watching his pursuit of action stardom has been like watching a Jack Russell terrier romance a Doberman.

But in an industry, and a town, where a movie is judged entirely by its profits, Cage is secure. "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" made more than $450 million worldwide, its predecessor, $348 million. "Gone in Sixty Seconds" made more internationally ($135 million) than domestically ($102 million). These are not the kind of figures that prompt a man to resume playing suicidal alcoholics. "Ghost Rider" probably made less money than people might have expected -- $116 million here, $113 million there, according to boxofficemojo.com.

Does the average moviegoer care how much money Nicolas Cage makes? Probably more than he or she should; given the celebrity-besotted culture we live in, it's inevitable. But it seems the unavoidable conclusion that Cage, once held up as an example of the intrepid artistic impulse, has become something of the poster boy for blind ambition, cynical role selection, questionable judgment and, worst of all, humorlessness: He glowers, he hunches, he looks meaningfully into the distance without it meaning anything at all.

If Cage were replaced tomorrow by Ben Stiller, we'd get all of the above plus a couple of laughs. Instead, we have an actor who used to be able to do something remarkable -- overcome a lack of native charm by embracing his inner outsider, creating affectionate portraits of unlikely heroes, and soldiering on despite a seemingly unmerciful universe. It may not pay as well. But that's a Nic Cage we could use.

Why bottled Bling H2O is an eco low

Still requested by celebs and jet-set hollow-heads, the world's most expensive bottled water is an eco outrage, so it's time to name and shame it and other similar products

Front page of Blingh2o the most expensive bottled water.

Water waist... Bling H20's skin-deep advertising. Photograph: blingh2o.com

Anyone putting together a time capsule in 2006 need have looked no further than a bottle of Bling H2O as the most apt representation of that year. The world's most expensive bottle of water was, literally, the high watermark of the kind of conspicuous consumption that prevailed before the credit that allowed such lavish spending was mercilessly crunched a year later.

At $55 a bottle, Bling H2O was wrong on so many levels. It was hype personified: Paris Hilton was said to let her dog drink it and yet a blind taste test revealed it was indistinguishable from tap water. It was environmental madness: water shipped from a spring in Tennessee to Hollywood, London, Tokyo and other "style centres of the world" to be enjoyed by jet-set hollow-heads. (The frosted glass bottles, "exquisitely handcrafted with Swarovski crystals", were labelled, thank goodness, as "reusable", though.) And, for good measure, it somehow threw in some sexism, too: the marketing of the water featured a naked woman (sorry, she did appear upon closer inspection to be wearing a thong made of crystals) in a rather unlikely pose propping up a bottle between her buttocks and her heel.

I present to you - without any need for commentary or adulteration – the marketing blurb that accompanied BlingH20:

Bling H2O is the inspiration of Kevin G Boyd, Hollywood writer-producer. While working on various studio lots where image is of the utmost importance he noticed that you could tell a lot about a person by the bottled water they carried. In Hollywood it seemed as if people flaunted their bottled water like it was part of their presentation. Whether the bottles had a cool shape or came from an exotic island, none truly made that defining statement. Bling H2O was fashioned to make that defining statement. The mission was to offer a product with an exquisite face to match exquisite taste. The product is strategically positioned to target the expanding super-luxury consumer market. Initially introduced to hand-selected athletes and actors, Bling H2O is now excitedly expanding it's availability. Bling H2O has been featured at many recent celebrity events including the MTV Video Music Awards and television's biggest event, The Emmys. Bling H2O is pop-culture in a bottle. But it's not for everyone, just those that Bling.

I'm convinced that students will be studying and dissecting every sentence of this statement in decades to come. Indeed, we should start printing flyers for distribution with this blurb, but with the heading: "Stay Alert - Let's Never Allow This to Happen Again." Even Forbes – the Heat magazine for millionaires - has gone as far as placing it in its annual "Most Outrageously Priced Items" list.

One might have assumed that the economic shakedown would have spelled a watery grave for Bling H20 and all that it represents. But, alas, it appears that there's still exists an elite group - a last vestige of bling - who have yet to stop partying like it's 2006. The first clue came whilst reading through the rider that Michael Jackson has reportedly requested for an upcoming private gig for Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. The rider is said to include a request for "nine top doctors to be on site at all times, 11 gourmet chefs, 1,200 bottles of the world's finest bottled water, Bling H2O, and six massage therapists".

Yes, I know it's best not to look to Michael Jackson and Russian billionaires for lessons in how to surf the economic crisis, but the most surprising aspect of that rider was not the need for nine doctors, 11 chefs or six massage therapists (how many people can you have doting on you at one time?), but that Bling H20 was still in business. Furthermore, I now learn that Bling H20 is also available in plastic bottles for a more affordable $20. The only concession to the recession is that they're marked down from $24 on the Bling H20 website.

So, given that new awards are all the rage on this site at the moment, I think this is time to launch yet another: the Wrong On So Many Levels Award, or, if you prefer, the Wrongies. What other items for sale are out there that should be named and shamed as being totally incongruous to our times?

12 More Drunk Photos You Don't Want to be In

contributed by rtcrooks

There is something to be said for proper documentation of a good night out on the town. There is also something to be said for avoiding that documentation when you become blacked-out on the town, for when you end up passing out in the gutter with your Marti Gras beads surrounding you and a Las Vegas visor drooping sadly around your neck, it would be ideal if photography did not further complicate the situation.

The "We Do Everything Together"

source: Flickr

It is very difficult to maintain the appearance of masculinity while drinking out of a straw. However, when that straw is dipped into the same receptacle as another man, it is absolutely impossible. One's imagination cannot help but flash back to these young men getting ready to party by passing around the hair gel and shaving each other's backs, and then flash forward to them curling up, two per double bed, and quietly whispering "goodnight" to one another.

The Less-than-Consensual


source: Flickr

This picture was taken a split second after this guy realized that someone saw him forcing himself on this girl in the sideyard of his buddy's house. He then got creative and turned it into a joke, and they both somehow mustered up awkward smiles. "Cheers! Huh, huh."

The Crusty Cosmopolitan

source: Flickr

Being a hardass is not without responsibility. Keeping up the façade of a whiskey swillin’, filterless cigarette smokin’, freewheelin’ sommabitch can be a trying endeavor. Sometimes you just need to cut lose and have a fuzzy navel martini or two. The only problem is that if someone gets a photo of you doing it, your friends are frequently going to remind you, “Hey Carl, remember that one time when you inadvertently acquired a vagina?”

The All-Boy Dance Party

source: Flickr

'Sing like no one is listening and dance like no one is watching', right? Wrong. Because there is not only someone watching, but they are also taking pictures and uploading them to the internet. So after the four hits of Ecstacy have worn off, the glow sticks have faded and hemp necklaces and tie-died shirts are no longer cool, all you will have left is this photograph of you, dancing half-naked with a bunch of other dudes in a closely confined area to document your misspent youth. And I don't mean that in a sweet, nostalgic sort of way.


The Train Sleeper


source: Flickr

You had a hard day of work, and a hard night of play. To your credit, you had the wherewithal to find a safe mode of transportation home, but you seem to have missed your stop. Six hours later you wake up and are delighted to find that you are already dressed and ready for work again! If you can make this a habit, I would recommend letting your apartment go and saving some money on rent.


The Bloodbath

source: Flickr

If you are a dude and you drink, then chances are you’ve been in at least one drunken wrestling match. If no one gets hurt, you end up looking like you were just trying to mount each other. However, if someone does get hurt, you apparently end up one droopy eye away from becoming Sloth from The Goonies.


The "As Good a Place as Any"

source: Flickr

This reminds me of the scene from The Big Lebowski where Walter Somchek (John Goodman) picks the crippled Jeffrey Lebowski – the millionaire – out of his wheelchair and throws him on the ground. But in all seriousness, how the shit did this girl end up like this on the side of the road, as if she were just waiting to be picked up by the sanitation department? My bet is that the cooler contains a nice, fresh set of human kidneys.


The Social Caterpillar


source: Flickr

When photographs are taken of you in the evening, you would hope that they would be flattering of your social life and the people with whom you have chosen to surround yourself. You probably don’t want the pictures to show what really happened last Saturday night: you went to a party and ended up dancing with your softball coach from high school (whose eyes glazed over just before he started getting really angry), while some dude starred at you creepily until he passed out on the couch.

The "Act Your Age"


source: sofakingdrunk

If you’re an old person, you should be expected to hold your liquor. There should be no exceptions. Especially when you are in the November of your years. Thought you could hang with the big boys Grandma? You can't. Your suave grandson was born for this shit. Why don't you leave the partying to him while you grab a legal pad and jot down some notes on how you should have lived your life.

The "Aint Scared of Shit"

source: Flickr

Getting hassled by the cops is always a bitch. Especially when all you are trying to do is pull off some sweet tricks on your bike in front of an adoring crowd. The fact that someone would document this shameful occasion with a photograph is just an additional kick to your well-exposed nards.


The Inspired Perspire


source: Flickr

So you finally decided to get off the World of Warcraft message boards and get a few drinks with the boys. You danced your ass off, and your shirt is evidence of your labor of love. You couldn't care less about what anyone thinks, no one is going to tell you how to live your life. In fact, no one is going to tell you anything, because aside from the girl who sacrificed in order to make this picture a reality, no one is going to come anywhere near you.

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Giz Explains: How Cell Towers Work

I recently visited a cell site shared by Clearwire and two other unnamed carriers—without frying my nuts. We've all driven past them so many times, but have you ever actually wondered how they work?

How They Work
Whether it's handling simple phone calls or 12Mbps WiMax data, cell sites are organized with more or less the same flow:

• A cellphone or modem radios the nearest towers, saying, basically, "I'm here!" When you make a call or logon, your phone then sends a message via radio that's picked up by the antenna array.

• A wire or fiberoptic line carries the call down to the wireless access point, connected to a multi-port switch.

• The call, along with many others, gets routed to a backhaul, usually down to an underground wired T1 or T3 line, but sometimes back up the mast to a powerful line-of-sight wireless microwave antenna. They resort to wireless either when they don't have a ground connection, or when the ground connection sucks.

• The incoming call or data comes back from the backhaul and up through the switch to the antenna, where it then hits your phone wirelessly, presuming your phone is still communicating with the same site. If you are moving, then there's a handoff—a new but more or less identical cell site transmits the data to your phone, once your phone checks in and says "I'm here."

All of this happens in the blink of an eye.


The Gear
Clearwire, who gave me the tour of the cell site during my WiMax test run, is a new company, only just now deploying their network, one that is only focused on data, and not on voice calls. This means they don't have a bunch of sites already established like other carriers (though their recent acquisition by Sprint may change this). But it also means their cellular gear is modern and compact compared to the others.

For instance, the carrier whose name probably starts with A keeps its gear in a bunker like the Endor moon one that Han Solo & Co. were trying to bust into in Jedi. The backup batteries must be enormous, because there's a sign on the door that says, "Danger - Corrosive Liquids - Wear Protective Equipment."

Clearwire, by comparison, has a high-school locker for its gear—one that is built somewhere else and just trucked to the location. You attach it to the on-site power, run lines and antennas up the mast, and either bolt the sucker to a cement foundation or to the side of a steel post, and voila, you are done. It uses two car batteries for its backup power—enough juice to last six hours and they don't have to wear a hazmat suit to service it. (It can also run off of a portable generator.)

In this particular site, the carrier whose name may start with a V had a set of three larger lockers, not the huge bunker that its competitor had, but a serious array nonetheless. As you probably guessed, each carrier locks up its own facility, so I wasn't at liberty to fully inspect the other guys' gear—or even confirm their identities.

Clearwire also runs skinny fiberoptics up to the top of the tower, instead of the thick insulated copper cables that the old boys' networks run. Again, this has more to do with newness than simple common sense, but it may mean cell towers could be a little slimmer in the future.


So what happens up top?
The real demystification was the antenna array itself. I for one did not know a lot about how things were set up, and now I know a tiny bit more, which I will share:

• The huge antenna masts can have multiple carriers, each with its own triangular platform and antenna array.

• The reason the platforms are triangular is so the 360-degree coverage can be split into 120-degree pie pieces, which—if you look closely—can be subdivided again into 40-degree slices for increased, pinpointed coverage.

• If there's a white disk-shaped antenna among the array, it means that the carrier has a line-of-sight microwave backhaul. Clearwire's can handle 80Mbps at the moment, but must be directly in line with another microwave antenna. (Speaking of fried nuts, I wouldn't want to stand between two of those.)

Don't forget to read our exclusive uncapped WiMax road test—featuring blistering wireless speeds!

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