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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Kung Fu star Carradine found dead

Kill Bill stars David Carradine and Uma Thurman
David Carradine believed he delivered "some of my best work" in Kill Bill

Kill Bill and Kung Fu star David Carradine has been found dead in a Bangkok hotel room on Thursday.

Thai police told the BBC a hotel maid found the 72-year-old naked in a wardrobe with a cord around his neck and other parts of his body.

The US star was in Thailand filming his latest film, Stretch, according to his personal manager Chuck Binder.

Mr Binder said the news was "shocking", adding: "He was full of life, always wanting to work... a great person."

Police said the actor's body was found in a suite at the 5-star Swissotel Nai Lert Park hotel.

A US embassy official confirmed the actor's death, but added that the cause of death had not yet been established.

Mark Kermode pays tribute to David Carradine

However, Thai newspaper The Nation reported that police believe the actor took his own life, and preliminary investigations found that he hanged himself.

Carradine was part of an acting dynasty which included his father, John Carradine, and brothers Bruce, Keith and Robert.

The star was best known for his role as Kwai Chang Caine in the 1970s TV series Kung Fu, which spawned sequels in the '80s and '90s.

The character became one of the most iconic roles in US TV and earned Carradine both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.

Kung Fu

While his film career saw him working with directors including Martin Scorsese and Ingmar Bergman, the cult actor was considered something of a B-movie legend.

In 2003, after years in the straight-to-video market, Carradine found a new audience thanks to his role in the Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill.

He was most recently seen on the big screen as a Chinese mobster in Crank: High Voltage, opposite British actor Jason Statham.

Carradine was an accomplished composer, musician, musical performer and songwriter. According to his official website, he was also a sculptor and a painter.

He is survived by his wife, Annie Bierman, and three children including actresses Calista and Kansas.

BREAKING: Gay Marriage Passes New Hampshire! 198-176

Post image for BREAKING: Gay Marriage Passes New Hampshire! 198-176

**UPDATE 5:30 PM** Governor John Lynch, calling it a “great day for all New Hampshire families” signs the gay marriage bill into law.

Today, after many votes and many revisions, New Hampshire will become the sixth state in the Union to offer marriage equality to all couples. After many rounds of votes, including full passage in both Houses of the Legislature May 6, then a vote on Governor Lynch’s required language that passed the Senate but failed to pass the House May 20, the revised bill passed today.

No explanation has ever come to light for the May 6 to May 14 period that the bill had passed both Houses but had not been delivered to the Governor. The Governor on May 14 issued a statement that demanded increased protections for religious institutions, and threatened to veto the bill if the General Court (the New Hampshire Legislature) did not include his language. While gay rights groups and Legislative leaders in both Houses were amenable to the Governor’s changes, and it appeared the bill would easily pass, a May 20 vote succeeded in the Senate but failed by two votes in the House.

Right wing groups took this additional time to slander the Governor, claiming he broke his campaign promises when he stated his personal position against marriage equality. The National Organization For Marriage admitted they had infiltrated New Hampshire. Reports of robocalls, linking conservative voters directly to lawmakers, gave an impression opposition to the bill was greater than it actually was. Since 2003, the majority of New Hampshire voters have supported same-sex marriage.

Previous votes in the House were 178-167 on May 7, and 186-188 on May 20.

The language in the bill provides even stronger protections for religious institutions than the Governor had called for. During the debate in the House, there was considerable debate on the specifics of religious exemptions. Some were concerned that the language was unclear and not certain it would allow religious institutions that wanted to provide services to same-sex couples. There are already existing laws in New Hampshire that provide for persons who object to same-sex marriage to allow them to refuse to participate in gay marriage ceremonies.

Questions about the current bill included concerns that a religion that prohibited inter-racial marriage or polygamy would be allowed to continue that practice. Concerns were raised that the bill was not written to address issues of unintended consequences. Some were concerned that the bill went too far, others were concerned it didn’t go far enough.

Rep. Steve Vaillencourt, who is openly gay and had voted against the last bill because he felt the language was too restrictive, said the new language was even more restrictive but he voted ‘yes’ because it was the bill’s last chance and although the bill was flawed, like great men in history who were flawed, it deserved support.

Barack Obama and the king's bling

Barack Obama was greeted with an elaborate welcoming ceremony and given an ornate gold necklace by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on his first visit to the country.

King Abdullah, who is putting Obama up at his lavish desert horse farm, showered Obama with compliments as he handed him the jewellery, which he said carries special meaning.

It is understood to be an award called the King Abdul Aziz Order of Merit, the country's highest honour.

The gift appeared to be the same as that bestowed on President George W. Bush during a stop in Saudi Arabia in January 2008.

"Those are only given to the very few friends of the king, and you are certainly one of those," Abdullah said as he presented the thick chain and large medallion to Obama in an ornate meeting room with marble columns, engraved mirrors and a large chandelier.

Obama replied: "I consider the king's friendship a great blessing, and I am very appreciative that he would bestow this honour on me during this visit."

Then, as an aide approached him with the necklace, Obama exclaimed: "Goodness gracious. That's something there."

The king draped it around Obama's neck, and the taller Obama bent his head low to accept it.

It was a risky move as, when the two leaders saw each other back at the G-20 summit in London, critics accused Obama of bowing to the Saudi monarch during a photo-op.

The White House maintained he was merely bending to shake hands with a shorter man.

This time, when they greeted each other at Riyadh's main airport, there was a light embrace and the region's traditional double kiss.

Obama descended his plane to find a tarmac filled with people, including the Saudi national guard and about 150 other military members.

Standing under a gazebo, the two leaders listened to each country's national anthem, reviewed the troops and greeted Saudi dignitaries.

A 21-gun salute was fired from a distance. At the airport's flower-adorned VIP terminal, Obama and Abdullah then sat together in gilded chairs, sipped cardamom-flavoured Arabic coffee from small cups and chatted briefly in public before retreating to hold private talks on a range of issues at the king's ranch outside of Riyadh.

As they arrived at the sprawling grounds, where the king keeps some 260 Arabian horses, guards on horseback flanked the long driveway, carrying swords and flags of the two countries.

Inside, Abdullah introduced Obama to several princes in an enormous room decorated to look like a tent, with a billowing draped ceiling, large candelabras, and a towering picture of King Abdul Aziz, founder of the modern Saudi monarchy.

Looking up, Obama joked: "This is a much nicer tent than you gave to Prince Charles."

That drew a laugh from Abdullah, who then explained that Saudi royals try to maintain ties to their desert roots even inside buildings.

"Well, it's beautiful," Obama replied.

The two also heaped praise on each other.

"I've been struck by his wisdom and his graciousness," Obama said of the king and thanked him for his "extraordinary generosity and hospitality."

Abdullah, in turn, expressed his "best wishes to the friendly American people who are represented by a distinguished man who deserves to be in this position."

As for that necklace, Obama took it off after a few minutes – and a few photographs – for "safekeeping."

L.A.'s medical pot dispensary moratorium led to a boom instead

A ban meant to prevent new dispensaries from opening included a loophole that entrepreneurs have exploited. Where four years ago there were only a handful, now there may be 600 dispensaries.
By John Hoeffel
June 3, 2009
Four years ago, when the Los Angeles City Council started to wrestle with how to control medical marijuana, there were just four known storefront dispensaries, one each in Hancock Park, Van Nuys, Rancho Park and Cheviot Hills.

Now, police say there are as many as 600. There may be more. No one really knows.

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That exponential rise came despite a moratorium passed in 2007 that was supposed to prohibit new dispensaries from opening. An exception was made for 186 that were already in business and registered with the city.

"The city of L.A. has failed us on this issue," said Michael Larsen, public safety director with the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council. "There's a huge loophole. L.A. city's not watching. L.A. city's not enforcing."

No other city in California has seen such uncontrolled growth in dispensaries. As signs featuring the easily recognized saw-toothed cannabis leaf multiplied on commercial strips, neighborhood activists like Larsen began to ask their council members why the city was not shutting down dispensaries that opened after the moratorium.

Larsen was shocked at the answer. "Nothing controls these," he said.

The moratorium includes a standard provision that allows dispensaries to appeal to the City Council for a hardship exemption to be allowed to operate. Some time last year, medical marijuana entrepreneurs discovered that the city attorney's office was not prosecuting dispensaries that had filed hardship applications, saying the City Council needed to rule on them first. The council has not acted on any of the applications.

So far, 508 dispensaries have applied for exemptions.

It was months before anyone at City Hall realized what was happening.

Dispensaries have spread across the city. In some places, they are clustered two or three to a block, sometimes near schools, libraries and parks. When the council passed the moratorium, it did not include LAPD Chief William J. Bratton's recommendation to keep dispensaries at least 1,000 feet from places that children frequent.

Alarmed, the City Council's planning committee Tuesday took a step to close the loophole by sending a motion to the council that would strike the hardship exemption from the moratorium.

The committee's chairman, Ed Reyes, said he had not brought up any hardship applications for review because he expected them to become moot once the city passes a medical marijuana ordinance.

The City Council approved the moratorium to give itself time to write a comprehensive ordinance regulating dispensaries. But the committee has been laboring over a draft for more than a year.

Reyes said he became aware that the pending exemption applications were creating a loophole about three months ago.

"I don't think anyone could have predicted how that clause was going to be used," he said. "We've got abusive folks who are just gaming the system."

Councilman Jose Huizar proposed the motion April 28 to end what he called a "perverse exploitation," responding to complaints from constituents in Eagle Rock, which may have as many as a dozen dispensaries.

"I was pretty infuriated when I found how many have gone up and without consideration for the local community," he said. "I do think there are a few culprits right now who are just screwing it up for the legitimate dispensaries."

Huizar's proposal would allow the city attorney to pursue legal action to close any dispensaries that open after it becomes law, but it would leave untouched the hundreds that have already slipped through.

In the month after Huizar introduced his motion, 183 dispensaries filed for exemptions.

Those dispensaries have carte blanche to operate until the council acts on their applications or an ordinance is in place, as would any other dispensaries that file before Huizar's motion takes effect.

Roughly half a dozen applications are filed with the city clerk every day.

The council will take up the motion Tuesday, but it could take two more weeks to become law.

Reyes said Tuesday he intends to whittle away at the hardship exemption applications, holding hearings in the council on a dozen at a time. If the council denies an application, the city attorney could then begin legal proceedings to force the dispensary to close.

"I'm willing to sit there as many hours as I need to because it's ridiculous that it's happening," he said.

When residents complain to the city about a new dispensary, city inspectors check it out. The Department of Building and Safety has received about 200 complaints. It has issued about 80 orders to comply with the moratorium.

Those cases remain active.

"Technically, they are not open legally," said Frank Bush, assistant chief for the code enforcement bureau, but he noted, "Before we can take any further enforcement action, the City Council has to review them and take any action."

Initially, most hardship applications were filed by dispensaries that had tried to register by the deadline but failed to meet the requirements, which included a city business tax registration certificate and liability insurance coverage.

About a year after the moratorium took effect, a new type of applicant started to appear: new storefront dispensaries. They argued for exemptions on the grounds of providing a needed community service.

In a September 2008 application, a representative of a dispensary on Laurel Canyon Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley wrote in a two-page, handwritten plea: "I believe we have done everything possible to see every patient walk out with nothing less than a smile. We show love to all, respect towards everyone and compassion with understanding to our patients and our community." It ended with the salutation, "With Love and Respect."

Most dispensaries adopted a more dispassionate approach, merely noting that they "had just become aware of the need to register" and asking that the council approve the application.

It was not long before collectives that wanted to open storefront dispensaries realized that, if they filled out a three-page form, city officials would then be powerless to close them down. Word spread.

In December, Stewart Richlin, a lawyer who said he represents more than 100 collectives, came up with a new rationale for a hardship exemption that he filed for a downtown dispensary.

He wrote that the collective had been forced to operate without city approval because the moratorium "required that managing members of the collective literally confess a federal crime in order to register." He argued that the federal government's raids had created "a pattern of terror and fear." Then he noted that a recent court decision and the state's attorney general's guidelines on how to distribute medical marijuana legally promised a "new era."

"The people who filed originally were braver," he said, "but the people who are filing now are more careful, law-abiding and conservative patients who waited to get more of a signal."

Richlin's approach caught on. Many dispensaries simply cut and pasted Richlin's explanation onto their forms.

The lawyer, who said he was flattered by the unauthorized appropriation, believes the city has no public interest or real need to control the number of dispensaries.

"There is a thing called supply and demand, and we aren't in need of paternalistic government," he said.

Richlin also noted that removing the exemption from the moratorium would give it teeth, but just for a few months. The one-year moratorium, extended twice for six-month periods, expires in September.

"They're trying to close the barn door after 500, 600 centers have relied on the old rules," he said.

john.hoeffel@latimes.com

David Ortiz Collapse: He Didn't Lie About PEDs but About Age

When great ones go, it might hurt us more than it does them.

by Bill Simmons

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

In the academy award-winning classic Cocktail, Coughlin tells young Flanagan, "Everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn't end." It's the single greatest yearbook quote ever. Hell, it may be the greatest movie quote ever. Either Coughlin was the Thoreau of bartending, or Thoreau the Coughlin of writing. One or the other.

We reached the "ending badly" point with David Ortiz five weeks ago. Remember in Superman II when Clark Kent gave up his superpowers so he could be with Lois Lane -- lesson No. 184 on how women ruin everything -- and then a bully beat the crap out of the suddenly mortal superhero in a diner? That's been Big Papi since Opening Day. What makes it stranger is that he still looks like Big Papi. Same bulky build. Same goofy beard. Same happy smile. Same batting stance. This isn't like the Ultimate Warrior returning after the then-WWF's first steroids scandal with a jarringly smaller physique. Everything looks the same with Ortiz, only Mario Mendoza has switched brains with him.

I've seen slumps. This was different. This was a collapse.

At first, we Sox fans thought we were just watching an early-season slump. Then three weeks passed and we started worrying. The guy couldn't hit the ball out of the infield. His bat was so slow he had to cheat on fastballs; even then, he couldn't catch up. One swing a night made him look like the drunkest batter in a beer league softball game. Look, I've seen slumps. This was different. This was the collapse of a career.

The steroid whispers started quickly. By late April, every conversation I had with a Sox fan seemed to include a "We need to mail Papi some HGH" joke. It was an easy leap for a couple of reasons: First, his power numbers leapt like Obama's Q rating from 2003 to 2007. Second, he's Dominican, and more than a few of his brethren -- Sammy Sosa, Miguel Tejada, Guillermo Mota -- have been in the center of PED controversies. Third, they sell steroids over the counter in the DR like they're Bubblicious. And fourth, baseball has reached a depressing point in which power hitters are presumed guilty until proven innocent.

When Manny Ramírez was suspended for trying to jump-start ovaries he didn't have, many Sox fans (including me) assumed we had our unhappy answer for Papi's demise. We braced for Ortiz to be linked to a bombshell headline that began with the words "Former Sox Clubhouse Attendant … " But one thing nagged at me: He wasn't belting bombs that were dying at the warning track like so many other former 'roiders. He just looked old. It reminded me of watching Jim Rice fall apart in the late '80s, when he lost bat speed overnight the way you and I lose a BlackBerry. That was painful too.

By mid-May, I was pondering another theory: Maybe Papi was older than he claimed. In Seth Mnookin's book Feeding the Monster, he recounts the story of how Boston nearly blew the chance to acquire Ortiz because they were concerned that he was much older than the media guide said. GM Theo Epstein asked Bill James to study Papi's numbers, and when James concluded the peaks and valleys were consistent with a man of Ortiz's stated age, they rolled the dice. The rest is history.

Well, what if James was wrong? How many Latin players have been exposed for lying about their ages in the past few years? Hell, one of Papi's best friends -- Tejada -- was found to have cut two years off his birth certificate when he was 17, er, 19 … you get the point. Watching Papi flounder now, I'd believe he's really 36 or 37 (not 33) before I'd believe PEDs are responsible. In a recent game in Minnesota, he couldn't catch up to an 89 mph fastball. Repeat: 89 mph!

That's what happens to beefy sluggers on their way out: Their knees go, they stiffen up, bat speed slows and, in the blink of an eye, they're done. Beefy sluggers are like porn stars, wrestlers, NBA centers and trophy wives: When it goes, it goes. You know right away.

So that's my theory. I think he's old(er). You may think something else. Whatever the case, it's clear that David Ortiz no longer excels at baseball. This has been banged home over and over again for two solid months. It's ruined the season for me thus far. The best way I can describe Fenway during any Papi at-bat is this: It's filled with 35,000 parents of the same worst kid in Little League who dread every pitch thrown in the kid's direction. There is constant fear and sadness and helplessness. Nobody knows what to do.

Beefy sluggers are like porn stars, nba centers and trophy wives.

It's been a sports experience unlike anything I can remember. Red Sox fans refuse to turn against Ortiz. They just can't. They owe him too much for 2004 and 2007. It's like turning on Santa Claus or happy hour. Every Ortiz appearance is greeted with supportive cheers, every Ortiz failure is greeted with awkward silence. The fans are suffering just like he is. Only when he left 12 men on base against Anaheim on May 14 did I receive a slew of angry e-mails from back home, but even those tirades centered more around Terry Francona's steadfast refusal to drop Ortiz in the order. I cannot remember another Boston athlete stinking this long, and this fragrantly, without getting dumped on.

Really, that's a tribute to what he means to his fans and how delightful it was to watch him play. His career might be over (notice I left the door open; I'm such a sap), but Ortiz has reached the highest level an athlete can reach: unequivocal devotion. Sox fans love him the same way you love an ailing family member. In the end, at his bleakest point, he's brought out the best of an entire fan base. He has inspired dignity and emotion and loyalty. The fans could have sped his demise (and saved a few games) by booing until Francona benched him. They didn't. How often does that happen?

We live in a world in which all entertainment is chewed up and spat out. We milk public figures like cows, and when they're out of milk, we tip them over and move on. Quickly. It's not just that we need to see everything "jump the shark" that bothers me. It's also that so many of us are gleeful about pointing out that something or someone we once loved has outlived his usefulness. The demise of Big Papi played out in an old-school way: real devotion, and in the end, people refusing to let go.

Including me. I still watch every Ortiz at-bat thinking, This is the one. When he belted his first bomb of the season, I clapped like everyone else and pumped my fist. Yes! He's back! The Fenway crowd cheered as if it were Game 7, demanded a curtain call and showered him with love. This was the single strangest sports moment I've ever seen: Fans going absolutely bonkers for something that once was a routine act. Turned out, it was Papi's only homer of the first eight weeks. So it really was a curtain call. By May's end, Francona had dropped him to sixth in the order. Barring a miraculous return of bat speed, he'll be benched or released soon. It'll hurt, and I'm going to feel bad. I already do. Coughlin was right.

Want more of the Sports Guy? Check out the Sports Guy's world.

London's magical history uncorked from 'witch bottle'

by Linda Geddes

A rare insight into the folk beliefs of 17th-century Britons has been gleaned from the analysis of a sealed "witch bottle" unearthed in Greenwich, London, in 2004.

Witch bottles were commonly buried to ward off spells during the late 16th and 17th centuries, but it is very rare to find one still sealed.

"So many have been dug up and their contents washed away down the sink," says Alan Massey, a retired chemist formerly at the University of Loughborough, UK, who has examined so-called "magical" artifacts and was asked to analyse the contents of the bottle. "This is the first one that has been opened scientifically."

During the 17th century, British people often blamed witches for any ill health or misfortune they suffered, says Massey. "The idea of the witch bottle was to throw the spell back on the witch," he says. "The urine and the bulb of the bottle represented the waterworks of the witch, and the theory was that the nails and the bent pins would aggravate the witch when she passed water and torment her so badly that she would take the spell back off you."

The salt-glazed jar was discovered 1.5 metres below ground by archaeologists from The Maritime Trust, a Greenwich-based charity that preserves historic sailing vessels. When it was shaken, the bottle splashed and rattled, and an X-ray showed pins and nails stuck in the neck, suggesting that it had been buried upside down.

Further computed tomography scans showed it to be half-filled with liquid, which later analysis showed to be human urine. The bottle also contained bent nails and pins, a nail-pierced leather "heart", fingernail clippings, navel fluff and hair. The presence of iron sulphide in the mixture also suggests that sulphur or brimstone had been added.

"Prior to this point, all we really knew about what was in witch bottles was what we read from documents from the 17th century," says Brian Hoggard, an independent expert on British witchcraft who helped analyse the bottle. These texts suggest "recipes" for filling a witch bottle, but don't tell us what actually went into them.

Sulphur is not mentioned in any recipe Massey has seen, although a previously discovered bottle seemed to contain the remains of some matches, he says. "If you think about where sulphur came from in those days, it spewed out of volcanic fumaroles from the underworld. It would have been the ideal thing to [kill] your witch, if you wished to."

Further analysis of the urine showed that it also contained cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine, suggesting that it came from a smoker, while the nail clippings appear quite manicured, suggesting that a person of some social standing created the bottle.

"It's confirming what 17th-century documents tell us about these bottles, how they were used and how you make them," says Owen Davies, a witchcraft expert at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, UK. "The whole rationale for these bottles was sympathetic magic – so you put something intimate to the bewitched person in the bottle and then you put in bent pins and other unpleasant objects which are going to poison and cause great pain to the witch."

Journal reference: British Archaeology

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20 Athletes Pushing the Most Insane Limits on Water, Land, or Air

Written by David Miller

Dudes flying 100 miles an hour just inches away from a cliff, dropping 186 feet down a waterfall, and ollieing over the Great Wall of China. . . all part of the progression.
Wingsuit Flying: Loic Jean-Albert, Andreas Barkhall, Espen Fadnes

Have you seen people flying yet? These guys are full on achieving mankind’s oldest dream. As they continue to push skills and develop new wingsuit technologies, it’s only a matter of time before somebody pulls off a controlled landing without a parachute.

Kayaking: Tyler Bradt, Rush Sturges, Ben Stookesberry, Jesse Coombs, Tao Berman, Pat Keller, Chris Gratmas

10 years ago, running any waterfall much over 30-40 feet was more of a stunt than anything else. Today, the latest boat and gear designs along with continually-evolving paddling technique have enabled paddlers to run enormous waterfalls totally under control. Up until this Spring, the 30-40 meter height seemed to be a plateau, but then Tyler Bradt made a completely game-changing run here in Washington, styling out the 186 foot Palouse Falls.

Check out the athlete reel of Rush Sturges below to get some idea of where paddling is at these days:

Snowboarding: Terje Haakonsen, Jeremy Jones, Bjorn Leines

There are posses of big mountain riders out there, but these guys have been pushing the biggest mountain lines for years.

Skiing: JT Holmes

Along with Shane McConkey (who died in a ski-base jumping accident earlier this year) JT Holmes has, for the last several years, pioneered big mountain lines that previously only existed in people’s imagination by incorporating base-jumping skills into skiing.

Skateboarding: Danny Way, Bob Burnquist

Although modern skateboarding still probably owes more to Rodney Mullen than anyone else, Danny Way and Bob Burnquist have (and still are) pushing limits as far as how big a feature can be skated.

Surfing: Laird Hamilton, Mike Parsons, Ken Bradshaw, Ross Clarke-Jones

These guys are among the most famous representatives of an entire crew of tow-in surfing pioneers.

Feature photo of Danny Way by ynoptic.

Megan Fox’s Sexy GQ UK Photoshoot

Megan Fox

A few days ago I posted a foxy little preview of Megan Fox’s upcoming GQ UK photoshoot, and today we’re lucky enough to get the full shebang. And ohhh baby is it drop dead sexy! Now considering how shwingtastic the photoshoot is I’m not going to waste your time and go on about how Megan Fox is hands down “The Hottest Babe On The Planet” like I usually do, so I’ll end it here and let you guys gawk away. Besides, the photoshoot should be enough to convince that she is the hottest of the hottest. Enjoy!

Megan Fox Megan Fox Megan Fox Megan Fox

Megan Fox Megan Fox Megan Fox Megan Fox

Megan Fox Megan Fox Megan Fox Megan Fox

Megan Fox Megan Fox

Miyamoto teases new Zelda Wii title, dishes on Natal

Shigeru Miyamoto hosted an intimate Q&A session at E3, and talked about a new Zelda, gave his thoughts on Microsoft's motion-sensing technology, and discussed how he doesn't want you to leave the house without your DS. A glimpse inside the mind of genius.



"I wasn't up on stage at the briefing today, so I'm in a very relaxed mood," the man tells the crowd. There is a long silence, as if no one in the room knows what to do next.

At E3, Nintendo hosted a small question-and-answer event with its personal gold mine: Shigeru Miyamoto. This was also one of the rare E3's where Miyamoto didn't take part in Nintendo press conference, so this gave him the chance to explain the games that were announced and talk at length about what he's thinking about. The stern warnings are of out character with Miyamoto's somewhat impish presence—we were all warned that video and photographs were completely prohibited. But we can listen, and one of the things Miyamoto is working on isn't game related at all.

Miyamoto says he'd like to create programs that allow you to download information about different areas around town. So if you go to a shopping center, he explains, you can download a shopping guide. In Japan, there are already a few examples of this in action. While not game-related, this is what has been taking up much of his time. It seems odd, but he speaks about it in an excited voice.

The idea being that gamers should carry their DS systems around with them wherever they go, and getting information about places you visit gives you an excuse to do just that. In Japan students in some schools use the DS system in their day-to-day lives, and give feedback about the class via the portable.

Of course, all of this is in addition to the clutch of games he's working on with Nintendo. In the free moments he has at E3, he's e-mailing the developers and keeping track of the work being done. What's clear is that Miyamoto doesn't allow himself much time for rest, and he's always cranking on something. When talking about Super Mario Galaxy 2, he shares that the game began life as more of a Mario Galaxy 1.5, a sort of remixed version of the game, but the team got carried away creating new content for the game, and thus it was decided to turn the game into a full sequel.

Another bit of news: The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks will feature four-play multiplayer, stemming from Miyamoto's enjoyment of Zelda: Four Swords. We won't be able to play the multiplayer in the version of the game shown at E3, but it will be there for the final version. There is also a new Zelda for the Wii in the works, but Miyamoto decided to work on development instead of bringing it here. He has one piece of artwork he shows, however, and the inability to take pictures becomes maddening.

The image shows Link in front of a fiery background. There's a ghostly-looking woman with a hat and a crystal pendant looking down sadly at his back. It's a beautiful image, but the only other hint is that it's very possible the game could be only played with Wii MotionPlus. "Of course, that depends on how well Wii Sports Resort sells. I'd like you to think of Zelda when you're playing with some of the swordplay in Wii Sports Resort," Miyamoto said.

His thoughts on Microsoft's motion-sensing technology? At Nintendo they like to tweak the technology and make sure it works in the game and come up with the gameplay ideas... and then show it. He looks down and smiles mischievously as the crowd chuckles softly at this answer. "Implementing technology in a way that feels good and feels natural—we've done that with the MotionPlus," he says. That somewhat contradicts the reveal from the press conference earlier today, and someone asks about how he would use the Vitality Sensor. "I think it's a very unique device that I've been interested in for quite a while."

He talks about movements and buttons and even the Balance Board, ways to control games, and expresses some skepticism of people being able to raise or lower their blood pressure of their own volition. He sees the uses for Yoga training, for instance. "When you sleep at night, are you really relaxed all the way through?" he asks. What about the longer term possibilities? They have a device at Nintendo that tests love. Couples hold each other's hands and then touch the device, and it says how much attraction there is between them. He also played with a robot that you could control by concentrating. So maybe using the Vitality sensor they could create a new Pokemon. Did that make sense to anyone else? Miyamoto doesn't seem to know where his thoughts are going to take him, which makes getting straight answers somewhat problematic, but it's clear the device has his wheels turning.

He lists Wil Wright's SimCity as a game that has influenced him, as well as Japanese comics. The very question of what other games he admires makes him groan and look uncomfortable.

It's amazing how much joy he brings to his work. Watching him, in a room filled with gaming writers, playing New Super Mario Bros. Wii and making little noises of joy or surprise is inspiring; this man loves what he does. He created the game, and he's also completely wrapped up in it, hissing softly when he misses a jump, exclaiming happily when he gets a power up.

"This is why we don't allow photography," Miyamoto joked as he died while playing his creation.

Put All Your Rewards Cards On Your iPhone With CardStar

If you're sick of grocery store rewards cards clogging up your wallet, and you love whipping out your iPhone in public, have we've got an app for you. CardStar lets you punch in all your reward cards into your iPhone. At checkout, just click the CardStar icon, select the merchant from your saved list, and show the screen. They can scan the barcode right from the image. Usually $.99, the app is currently free for a limited time. A handy way for iPhone users to reduce clutter and fumbling for rewards cards when shopping.

CardStar [iTunes Store via ProBargainHunter]
Official Site

NEC CRV43: 43-inches of curve on sale July

See that? All 43-inches of this curved NEC monitor with 2880x900 pixel resolution can be yours in July. Ok, it'll cost you $7,999 but it's, well, it's curved! The CRV43, first spotted at CES in January 2008 and again on video in 2009 (where it was expected to cost $6,499), measures in with a 200 nits brightness rating, 10,000:1 contrast, 0.02ms "Rapid Response," covers 99.3% of the Adobe RGB color gamut, and packs at least one USB2.0 jack and DVI-D and HDMI 1.3 connectors. Unfortunately, gaming is not listed amongst its targeted uses so you'll be on your own to find a release supporting the CRV43's 32:10 aspect ratio. Unfortunately, there's some junk in that trunk so deftly hidden by the glamor shot above. See what we mean after the break.



Canada's 'Prince of Pot' at war with US drug war

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Psychedelic rock booms through The Vapour Lounge. In the store, young and some not-so-young people smoke pot through a variety of devices. And owner Marc Emery stands in the middle of it all, proclaiming his goal of defeating the U.S. war on drugs.

Known as the Prince of Pot, Emery has sold millions of marijuana seeds around the world by mail over the past decade. In doing so, he has drawn the attention of U.S. drug officials, who want him extradited to Seattle. Emery has agreed to plead guilty in Seattle to one count of marijuana distribution in exchange for dismissal of all other counts, and the U.S. District Attorney is pressing for a sentence of five to eight years in a U.S. prison.

The case is the latest twist in Emery's two-decade-long fight against the prohibition of marijuana in North America. To his supporters, he is a brave crusader for the use and sale of a drug with both recreational and medicinal value. To drug officials, he is a criminal and the biggest purveyor of marijuana from Canada into the United States.

Emery sits "right smack in the middle" of the North American debate over marijuana prohibition, said Allen St. Pierre of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Washington, D.C. St. Pierre predicted that Emery's trial would "kick-start it all again."

But drug officials say they are simply going after one of the world's top 50 drug traffickers. U.S. authorities claim Emery's seeds have grown $2.2 billion worth of pot.

"We've been very clear it had nothing to do with Mr. Emery's political stand," said Emily Langlie of the U.S. District Attorney's Office in Seattle.

Emery himself, a two-time candidate for mayor of Vancouver who has never shied away from publicity, seems almost gleeful about the legal saga. He calls it the greatest platform he could have in his crusade, and his Facebook page notes that these days he hums the chorus from Canadian musician Baron Longfellow's "I'm Going to Need a Miracle Tonight". He predicted he will be in a U.S. jail by August, and will then ask supporters to push for his transfer to a Canadian jail.

"I do have millions of supporters in the U.S. and Canada," he said, unburdened by false modesty. "It's my job as leader of the cannabis culture to thwart the United States government."

___

Emery, 51, was a teen when he started selling banned pro-marijuana literature in Vancouver. He did the same in London, Ontario, including on the steps of a police station, hoping to be arrested and have his day in court. Returning to Vancouver in 1994, he set out to start a "hemp revolution business," and opened a store called Hemp B.C. in the firebombed shell of a Communist bookshop in what is now known as Pot Block.

He sold marijuana seeds and used the money to fund his campaign against pot prohibition.

"It rapidly expedited cash flow. No one else in North America was doing it," he said.

Emery took in up to $2.6 million in seed sales per year. He claims to have sold more than four million seeds, three-quarters of those to customers in the U.S.

He says he has been arrested 21 times and jailed 17 times. In 2004, he was convicted in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for passing a joint, and spent three months behind bars.

In Vancouver, however, he says police have for years chosen to ignore his business. He claims federal Canadian officials have even suggested people contact him to buy seeds for medical marijuana. Furthermore, Emery says, he has paid almost $500,000 in Canadian income tax since 1999. He says his seed sales funded half the activities of the pro-marijuana movement in Canada between 1995 and 2005, and up to 10 percent of the U.S. movement.

The marijuana debate is still wending its way through communities and courts in the United States. Federal law prohibits the possession of marijuana, even for medicinal purposes. However, the states have different laws and penalties.

In Canada, cultivation is illegal except for medical use, and a campaign to legalize it is under way nationwide.

However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes a tough stance and wants mandatory minimum jail sentences for dealers and growers. And Emery is having trouble getting the City of Vancouver to re-licence his stores, which include The Vapour Lounge, a cafe, a convenience store and the studios for Pot TV. Vancouver is suffering a string of killings over cocaine from Mexico, sometimes bartered for homegrown marijuana.

___

Emery's latest brush with the law began on July 29, 2005, when Canadian and American drug enforcement officers nabbed him along with two employees of Emery Seeds — Michelle Rainey and Gregory Keith Williams.

Emery was arrested in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, and was returned to Canada's West Coast by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents. Police raided Emery's Vancouver store, which doubles as the headquarters for the British Columbia Marijuana Party he leads.

It was the culmination of an 18-month investigation by American authorities. The DEA said at the time that Emery's business and his Cannabis Culture magazine generated $5 million a year to bolster his trafficking efforts.

"He's a drug trafficker, plain and simple," said the DEA's Rodney Benson in 2006. "Marc Emery is a significant threat to the United States."

The two employees have since pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, law enforcement officials say. They have entered into a plea agreement and will be sentenced on July 17. They faced 10 years to life in prison, but prosecutors agreed to recommend two years' probation, Emery said.

According to a DEA statement, Rainey said in her plea that she sent seeds and growing instructions to customers at Emery's instruction. She said 75 percent of the customers were in the U.S.

Williams said he handled the phone orders and the wire transfer information, and also sold seeds directly to store customers. On numerous occasions in 2004, Williams sold seeds to an undercover agent, the DEA release said.

Jason Gratl of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said Rainey and Williams were arrested to leverage Emery into surrender, and the charges against him could have disguised an ulterior motive.

"It appears the proceedings were initiated to quell certain quarters of the marijuana movement on both sides of the border," Gratl said.

Emery said he was willing to die in a U.S. jail for his cause.

"Dying as a victim of the state's cruelty would really help a person like me. The way you die is very important," he said. "Martin Luther King was killed and that's very important to his legacy."

His wife, Jodie, a former provincial Green Party candidate, snorted at this.

"I hate when he talks like that," she interjected. "I think it would be better if he continued the work he does."

Emery smiled, unrepentant.

"I had a very good reason for selling those seeds," he said. "I wanted to defeat the U.S. war on drugs."

(This version CORRECTS Corrects name of store from Toker's Bowl to Vapour Lounge)

Francis Ford Coppola to Movieline: 'Godfather Never Should Have Had More Than One Movie'


Though many of his famous peers like to say they’ll soon make smaller, more intimate movies, only Francis Ford Coppola actually seems to be doing it. The director’s latest, Tetro, is a moody family drama about young Bennie (newcomer Alden Ehrenreich) reconnecting with the titular brother (Vincent Gallo) who fled the family years before to escape from their overbearing father. When Bennie unearths one of Tetro’s discarded stories and secretly adapts it into an acclaimed play, the already-riven family dynamics become even more fraught.

Movieline talked with Coppola about his own familial rivalries, the criticism his films have received (including the famous franchise he regrets serializing), and the splashy action film he’s unexpectedly looking forward to this year.

The family in Tetro is consumed with success — the success of their father looms large over the sons, and when Bennie starts to taste critical adulation, he changes completely. How have you personally seen people affected by artistic success, for better and for worse?
Well, I’ve always been interested in just that: the idea that if you make a film or painting or symphony, it’s really something that’s separate from you. You could be a nice person or you could be an awful person, it has no bearing on what you create, but somehow the way we live, our whole value is in this work. I mean, you go to a party and you want to meet a girl, she says, “What do you do?” Our value and our status comes from something that’s so apart from us. I always think of Picasso, who was this wonderful painter but he was mean to his kids and he was mean to his wives. I maybe wouldn’t have liked him had I gotten the chance to meet him. The dilemma of that really struck me in what I saw firsthand in my family.

In what ways?
Now, of course — really, since me — the Coppola family is thought of having all these people who are either famous or successful. It’s so odd, because then there are some cousins and things who are not yet successful. Nicolas Cage is buying all these yachts and jet planes and doing all this crazy stuff, but his brother, maybe, is struggling. You begin to see that as a question, and I think I wanted to digest it a little bit in this film.

Your own father, though, is very different than the domineering dad in Tetro.
The father in Tetro is a world-famous conductor, so famous that people would know his name and ask him for an autograph. In my family, that’s more like me in a way, because my father struggled. He was a man who wasn’t getting the attention. He wanted to be another George Gershwin, he wanted that. Of course, when he was older he was working on The Godfather and stuff, so he did get a little taste of it. People think, “Oh, your father was a very successful man,” but my father was a frustrated man.

When I was a kid, my father was not even the conductor — he was the assistant conductor of musicals that would go on the road. He would be playing in the pit on the flute, and I would be sitting there watching the show, and then at the end of the show, the conductor would take his bow and leave and my father would get up and conduct the exit music. And of course, he was so serious about it! He would conduct it in such a real way, and the musicians were tired — this was just the music to go out of the theater during! They’d say, “Who does he think he is, Toscanini?” And I, as a kid, was heartbroken because the ushers were just folding up the seats [while he conducted], but he saw that as his chance.

Did it change him once he finally attained that success through scoring your films?
Well, yeah. A little bit. My father yearned for that type of recognition, and I guess he got it as an old man, when he was about sixty. But he was always a little egotistical. Swimming your way through our family with all these types and talented people, all the friction that caused, was very interesting for me…Have you ever had a friend or someone you like who got a break, and there was a bad [critical] reaction to it, and secretly you were satisfied?

Have you?
Well, one sees that emotion and is on the lookout for it. Sure, everybody does. There’s a famous quote: “It’s not enough that I succeed—my best friend must also fail.” Humans are funny. You know, I had a very talented older brother, and I sort of modeled myself on him. It’s not that he was competitive — he was just older, so he was better at everything than I was. And I always thought, “Oh, someday we could be Julian and Aldous Huxley!” In history, there are any number of brothers or sisters who were both acclaimed poets or stuff like that, and I always thought that would be really great.

I think the young brother in Tetro, he wants his brother to be successful. What he’s really doing when he gets in and works on the play is he’s trying to make his brother be the successful older brother so he can copy him. I don’t know how I personally feel about those themes, although I know more than I did before I made the movie, which is why I made this movie. It’s tricky. I have some very successful kids and nephews and in my family they all love each other, so it’s easy to hate each other. [laughs]

coppalden.jpg

Tetro was once treated very well by the notorious theater critic Alone (Carmen Maura), but he says that she eventually turned on him. Does that have any personal relevance to your own relationship with film critics, especially after your last film, Youth Without Youth, was panned?
You know, I’m a very interesting figure, because arguably, I got more famous as I got older. I became more like an icon — partly, because people need to have some old guys as icons. We don’t have Ernest Hemingway around anymore, so whoever’s old more or less could qualify! So I realize that on one hand, I’m considered this great old director, and on the other hand, it’s like, “What’s he done lately? He’s washed up, I don’t even care what movies he makes anymore.” But in truth, my films were not successful in their time. I mean, The Godfather was, but…

People forget that as the years go by.
People say a lot of the time, “You could never compete with those successes…Apocalypse Now, and this and that.” And I say, “Those movies weren’t successes! They were failures, read the reviews!” So I’m used to films being slammed and then, twenty years later, turning out differently. It’s all vague, nothing is definite. Criticism is often wrong, as we know through history. Carmen, which is now the most popular opera in the repertoire, was a tremendous flop [when it premiered]. Why did they hate it?

Still, do you take any of that criticism to heart?
What I look for with critics is more that they’re going to write about something I did and I’m gonna read it and not make those mistakes again, I’m gonna learn something from it. Often, though, they don’t do that: they say, “It’s a muddled mess.” “It’s pretentious.” I can’t learn a lot from someone saying “It’s pretentious.”

I wanted to ask you about some of the projects in development you’re often associated with — in particular, the sci-fi project Megalopolis, which you’ve long tried to mount. Is that something you’d like to come back to soon?
Eh, you know. I feel pleased to have written something, and then I’m done with it and I want to go on and write something else. Someday, I’ll read what I had on Megalopolis and maybe I’ll think different of it, but it’s also a movie that costs a lot of money to make and there’s not a patron out there. You see what the studios are making right now.

Maybe you should have turned it into a comic book first.
Yeah, I know. If it were…Well, the movies that are coming out now on a Friday night, they’re basically copying what was set up by Star Wars and Jaws, you know? Except now, they have digital effects. They’re just this nonstop roller coaster ride. I went to see Night at the Museum 2 the other night…

Really?
Yes, with my wife. [pause] It was enjoyable. There were a couple of laughs. But basically, now every movie is the same thing. Transformers, and all that…it’s nonstop action, but it’s not even action you never saw before. Even with digital effects, everyone knows that they’re digital so they’re not impressed.

There were also reports a few years ago that you were involved in a potential fourth Godfather film. Care to clarify?
I don’t think Godfather ever should have had more than one movie, actually. It was not a serial, it was a drama. The first movie wrapped up everything. To make more than one Godfather was just greed. Basically, making a movie costs so much money that they want it to be like Coca-Cola: you just make the same thing over and over again to make money, which is what they’re doing now. But Godfather was not really a serial, you know? I mean, how would you spin off Hamlet?

More ghosts!
Ghosts are good. [laughs] You know what I’m saying. Some things lend themselves to being serialized, but there’s also a law of diminishing returns. I mean, even as demonstrated with Godfather, once it shows you its stuff and has all these things you’ve never seen before, then each time you make it again, it’s gotta be less interesting. Although!

What?
I saw the coming attractions for Sherlock Holmes, and at first I thought, “What the hell is that? Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr.?” And then I watched it, and I thought it was really interesting. Have you seen the attraction for it?

I have, yeah.
Of all the coming attractions I saw…a lot of those movies have already been made, like [Public Enemies] with Johnny Depp, that was already a pretty good Dillinger movie with Warren Oates. But I was intrigued by Sherlock Holmes, it seemed to put a new perspective on it that seemed like it could be fun. Robert Downey Jr…he’s really a talented guy. ♦

Never Before Seen Ghostbusters Behind The Scenes Shots

By Meredith Woerner

A glorious collection of Ghostbusters stills and set pics have been released, showing the painstaking care that went into crafting the movie's devil-dogs and ghouls. Plus a few adorable Ray and Venkman moments. Check out the full gallery.




The official Ghostbusters site has launched, full of games, galleries and Ghostbusters auditions ripe for wasting your day away. But my personal favorite are the photos from on set. Especially the one with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd taking a break, covered in goo on the steps. I dare you not to get nostalgic for the witty comedy delivery of Venkman past when flipping through the pictures.

If they ruin the next Ghostbusters movie, I may lose all hope for actually funny (that would be fart joke-free) science fiction humor.

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