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Monday, October 5, 2009

Thom Yorke’s Unlikely New Band Has Its Debut

Thom Yorke’s Unlikely New Band Has Its Debut

LOS ANGELES — Thom Yorke’s new band is so new that it has no name. For its official debut on Sunday, the first of two nights at the Orpheum Theater here, the marquee outside identified the group simply with six question marks.

Barely a week ago Mr. Yorke, the lead singer of Radiohead, announced online that he had started a side project that included, intriguingly, Flea, the bassist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Like everything in the Radiohead universe, it was done in an Internet rush: In the same statement, Mr. Yorke posted links for tickets to the Orpheum concerts, and a couple of days later made a last-minute addition of a "warm-up show" at a small club, each of which sold out faster than you can say "refresh browser."

(He was apparently moving faster than his own organization. When a press release was issued for the Orpheum, the morning after Mr. Yorke’s statement, it reassured fans: "Radiohead is not breaking up.")

If anything in pop music could be a true surprise, this new band would seem to be it. But after its warm-up show, at the Echoplex on Friday night, YouTube videos of almost every song — shot from almost every imaginable angle — quickly spread around the Internet, along with set lists, quick-take reviews and debates about song titles.

By Sunday night the fans knew exactly what to expect, and in the lobby before the show they discussed the agony of temptation: was it possible to resist looking at the spoilers? "I tried not to watch," said Aron Towner, a 30-year-old graphic designer from Phoenix. "When my friends were playing it, I left the room."

Mr. Yorke’s nearly 80-minute set on Sunday was almost exactly what it had been at the Echoplex: He played his 2006 solo album "The Eraser" (XL) in its entirety, followed by seven songs, most of them new. The songs on "The Eraser" were created by stitching together swatches of electronica, and as a result the album has an abstract, disembodied sound. But in performance the band brought out muscular, kinetic patterns, to which Mr. Yorke responded with peculiar but totally liberated dancing. On "The Clock," the drummer Joey Waronker (who has played with Beck) and the percussionist Mauro Refosco (a frequent David Byrne collaborator) locked in clattering counterpoint, while Flea kept a tense momentum in a three-note repeated bass line, his head rolling as he jerked his body backward and forward.

For "Skip Divided," the stuttering electronic bleeps of the album version became a sinister tribal rhythm, with a slowly crawling melodica theme played by Flea. Throughout the show Nigel Godrich, Radiohead’s longtime producer, created rich, ominous soundscapes on guitar and keyboards.

The performances of Mr. Yorke’s newer songs, in two encores, suggested that he might be waffling between gentle balladry and further apocalyptic dance music. "Lotus Flower," which might also be called "Moon Upon a Stick" ("I don’t even know yet," he said), a hymn to emotional honesty ("listen to your heart"), was played solo with guitar, his falsetto filling up the theater like clear moonlight. For the more cynical "Open the Floodgates," he played mournful, bluesy chords at the piano, where he stayed for "Super Collider," a Radiohead rarity.

But for the second encore Mr. Yorke brought out the band, and once again he turned into the wild dancer, gasping for his vocals as he skipped frantically across the stage for the "The Hollow Earth," a new song whose twitchy, hurried beat gradually pulls the vocals from angelic peace to spasms.

To judge from the audience at the Orpheum, a 1920s movie palace downtown with a capacity of about 2,000, it didn’t much matter whether any of it was a surprise. Dotted with faces from youngish Hollywood — Anne Hathaway was a few seats down from Tobey Maguire, who wasn’t far from Edward Norton — the crowd for the most part swayed in reverent silence, keeping their roars for the breaks between songs. But they knew their cues, crying out in approval when Mr. Yorke sang the lines "No more talk about the old days/It’s time for something great" in "Atoms for Peace."

After the show, fans compared celebrity-spotting notes and sketched out their own reviews. "It was excellent," said Matt Lingo, a 21-year-student. "It was the most depressing dance music I’ve ever heard." But the reaction of his friend, Brent Koepp, also 21, suggested that the next stage of the hype cycle — backlash — may have already arrived, barely 15 minutes after the end of the show.

Mr. Koepp had gotten lucky and scored tickets to both the Echoplex and Orpheum shows. The first one, he said, felt spontaneous and unpredictable. At the Orpheum, "the performance was tighter, but it was lacking that raw energy," he said. "This one was more of a professional show."

Why American Credit Cards Suck


If you prefer to use a credit card when traveling abroad due to safety and better exchange rates, bad news. Other countries have adopted smartchip technology in their bank cards, and soon we Americans may be forced to use cash when traveling.

Smartchip technology is sort of a banking equivalent of the metric system—it's superior to magnetic stripe cards, every other country is using it, and the American banking system simply isn't interested.

Twenty-two countries, including much of Europe, Mexico, Brazil and Japan, have adopted the technology, according to the Smart Card Alliance, a nonprofit association that promotes chip cards. About 50 other countries are in various stages of migrating to the technology in the next two years, including China, India and most of Latin America, according to the association.

In the last year, Canada began rolling out chip-and-PIN cards and plans to stop accepting magnetic stripe debit cards at A.T.M.'s after 2012 and at point-of-sale terminals after 2015.

These governments like the cards because they reduce fraud. With an embedded microcontroller, large amounts of data can be stored on the card itself rather than in a central database, and counterfeiting such a card is difficult.

Canada, nooooo!

We understand that American banks have enough problems right now, and tourists' ability to buy train tickets or rent bicycles at a kiosk is not high on their list. So consider this a travelers' advisory instead of a consumer complaint.

For Americans, Plastic Buys Less Abroad [NY Times]

(Photo: Ciaran McGuiggan)

National Geographic Tours Lamborghini Factory In HD

By Ben Wojdyla


The documentarians at National Geographic are turning their lenses towards the great factories of the world in a new Ultimate Factories series. First up is Lamborghini and if the still shots and video below are any indication, it's a must-see.


[Sub5Zero]

The Chevy Caprice Police Car Is Back!

By Ray Wert


After a 15-year absence patrolling U.S. streets, an all-new law-enforcement-only Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle (PPV) joins GM's fleet in 2011. Although it's built on the same rear-wheel-drive Camaro and dearly-departed Pontiac G8-spawning Zeta platform, it's not a G8 sedan.








Chevrolet plans to make the announcement of their new police cruiser today at the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police convention, in Denver, Colorado. Because we asked, we've been given an exclusive look at the details of the new car they plan to begin taking orders on next year with cars set to hit the streets in early 2011.

Contrary to reports at the end of last week by a number of auto outlets, we're now able to exclusively report GM's new police cruiser brings back the old Chevy Caprice name. It also will not be a re-badged Pontiac G8 sedan. Instead, the new Chevy uses the longest wheelbase version of the Zeta platform — 118.5" — making it almost four inches longer than the 114.7" wheelbase Pontiac G8 sedan. If that bigger-than-G8 number sounds familiar, it should — it's the same length as the Holden VE Ute, the Holden Statesman and the Middle Eastern Chevy Caprice and...drum roll, please...the Pontiac "El Camino" G8 ST. That's right folks, the new police car from Chevy is as close to the El Camino as we're coming here in the U.S. We'll give you a moment to clean up any coffee you've just spit up.
Done? Good, because there's more to the story. Chevy sounds like it's setting up the Caprice to not only meet the bar set by the police vehicle competition, but to blow it away. The long wheelbase Zeta-platformed Chevy sits right in the middle of the Ford Crown Vic's 114.7" wheelbase and the larger Dodge Charger's 120.0" wheelbase.
Under the hood, GM says the Caprice will have a 6.0-liter LS2 V8 engine rated at an estimated 355 HP and 384 lb-ft of torque mated to a six-speed auto transmission. Power output compares favorably to the 340 HP HEMI in the Dodge Charger police edition and absolutely blows away the Ford Crown Vic's 250 HP 4.6-liter V8.

VIDEO: The new Caprice in tire-squealing action!

We're told that bigger engine will deliver an expected best-in-class 0-to-60 time of under six seconds along with a similarly best-in-class top speed. But, for those forces uninterested in the super-sized 6.0-liter eight-cylinder engine, we're also told a V6 engine will be offered beginning in the 2012 model year.

The Caprice with both engine sizes will recieve the same police car-specific vehicle systems like high-output alternator and standard 18-inch steelies with bolt-on center caps and will ride on a heavy-duty four-wheel independent suspension and a "police-calibrated stability control system."



Chevy's cop competitive streak continues to the interior with optional compatibility available for in-dash, touch-screen computer technology (by relocating the standard radio to the trunk), two trunk-mounted batteries, with one of them dedicated to powering various police equipment and complimentary special packages such as spotlights; lockouts for the power windows and locks; and an "undercover" street-appearance package. Good luck with the "undercover" part considering there's no civilian version of the Caprice PPV.

Even the front seats have been sculpted to "pocket" an officer's equipment belt, with the foam density of the seatback and cushion insert surfaces designed to conform to the shape of an equipment belt's various items, allowing the officer's back to rest properly on the seatback surface. The barrier between the front seat and rear seat is also positioned farther rearward than the Charger or the Crown Vic, allowing for full front-seat travel and greater recline while officers take a highway-side siesta.

The new Caprice will also have significantly larger interior volume — 112 cubic feet — than the Ford Crown Victoria, including — thanks to the longer wheelbase — nearly 4 inches more rear legroom to help give handcuffed suspects a much more comfortable experience. The Caprice PPV's long wheelbase also gives it 18 cubic feet of free trunk volume. That's enough room for a full-size spare located under a flat load surface in the trunk storage area and any number of shotguns, RPGs and whatever other riot gear an officer feels like fitting into a trunk.

The new Caprice will not replace any current vehicle in the GM police vehicle fleet. Rather, it will join the Chevy Impala and the Chevy Tahoe in the bowtied brand's marked patrol vehicle lineup as a very high-powered member of GM's fraternity of police vehicles.

We can't wait to try out the driver's seat. Hopefully it'll be sometime before we try out the extra-large back seat.

'Bluehenge' the new Stonehenge, say researchers

Article from: news.com.au

By staff writers

October 03, 2009 11:00pm

  • "New Stonehenge" smaller, same age
  • Been kept secret for months
  • "Bluehenge" just as important

A "NEW Stonehenge" uncovered near the original famous monument could be one of the most important prehistoric finds in decades, archaeologists say.

Dubbed "Bluehenge", the site was unearthed over the British summer and has been kept secret since.

Researchers say it appears to have been constructed around the same time as Stonehenge and the two may have been used in conjunction.

Made up of 27 stones, compared to 56 at Stonehenge, Bluehenge has been so-named due its use of blue Welsh stones, many of which were taken down to enlarge Stonehenge hundreds of years after the two first appeared.

"It's no longer Stonehenge standing alone," monument expert Professor Tim Darvill told the UK Daily Telegraph.

"It has to be seen in context with the landscape."

Professor Darvill said it was likely more circles would be found.

None of the stones at Bluehenge remain, but chips found in the bottom of excavated holes suggest the stone was the same as that used at Stonehenge.

The circle was found at the end of a path connecting Stonehenge to the River Avon known as "The Avenue".


Bluehenge
"Bluehenge" may be just as important as the nearby Stonehenge, say archaeologists / AP / The Associated Press

I surfed the tsunami to safety: Briton tells of remarkable escape by riding OVER deadly Samoan wave

By Mail Foreign Service


Enlarge Tom Gogola, 22, who survived the Samoan tsunami by riding over the giant wave

Tom Gogola, 22, who survived the Samoan tsunami by riding over the giant wave

A British survivor survived the tsunami which devastated the by paddling towards the towering wave, he has claimed.

Tom Gogola, from Devon, was in Samoa for a three-week holiday when the island was hit by a 20-foot wall of water.

The 22-year-old was in the water surfing when he saw the wave racing towards the shore.

He did the only thing he could - and paddled as hard as possible straight for the wave.

Aiming the tip of his surfboard up to ensure its nose was not pushed under by the towering wall of water, he said he rode right up and over the top of the wave.

It is not clear how far out to sea Mr Gogola was at the time. The nearer tsunami wave comes to shore, the more quickly it will change height as the water becomes more and more shallow.

Mr Gogola's father Steve, 59, said: 'He said it was pretty unreal surfing when the tsunami happened. He and a friend decided to paddle out, rather than in, and they were picked up by a boat.

'Tom also said half of the people who were surfing got washed into the jungle.'

Mr Gogola, keeping in contact with his family on Facebook, said the tsunami has taken everything apart from a few clothes.

The college student wrote yesterday: 'I've lost everything but I've still got my life.'

His father said: 'When I saw the news I thought 'oh God, Tom is out there, I hope he is alright'.

Mr Gogola was not the only surfer to survive the giant wave by riding it out.

Surfed to safety: Chris Nel rode out the tsunami for an hour and a half, fearing that he would be smashed into the land at any second if he lost control

Surfed to safety: Chris Nel rode out the tsunami for an hour and a half, fearing that he would be smashed into the land at any second if he lost control

student Chris Nel was surfing on the south coast of Savai'i island in Western Samoa when the 8.3 magnitude quake struck on Wednesday morning.

He had been in the water with four other New Zealand surfers and an Australian when the tsunami appeared.

Mr Nel, a hospitality student, was forced to ride out the tsunami on his surfboard for more than half an hour, fearing he would be 'smashed into the jungle' by the surging water.

Now, back home on dry land, he is thanking his lucky stars that he lived to tell the tale.

Enlarge Riding the wave: The roof of a building is swept away by a tsunami wave in Apia, Samoa, on Tuesday

Riding the wave: The roof of a building is swept away by a tsunami wave in Apia, Samoa, on Tuesday

'All of a sudden the water went really weird, it kind of glassed off and got really lumpy, then we started moving really quick, getting sucked out to sea'

Mr Nel, from Wellington, was on holiday in Western Samoa when the massive undersea earthquake struck.

'I went out early morning for a surf, then I felt the tremor - you get them all the time in New Zealand, so I didn't really think too much of it. Then I went out in the water and caught a few waves.'

Mr Nel had been in the water with an Australian man and four other New Zealanders when the first signs of the coming tsunami appeared.

'All of a sudden the water went really weird, it kind of glassed off and got really lumpy, then we started moving really quick, getting sucked out to sea,' he said.

Enlarge The water is eerily glassy as the first of a series of tsunami waves approaches the shore outside the Ulimasao Marist Center, in Vailoa, in Samoa on Tuesday

Calm before the storm: The water is eerily glassy as the first of a series of tsunami waves approaches the shore outside the Ulimasao Marist Center, in Vailoa, in Samoa on Tuesday

'It was pretty scary looking back and seeing the reef completely dried up; it looked like a volcanic riverbed, it was just gone.'

Then he saw a giant spurt of water hit the shore.

'I was thinking, 'This is it, we're going to get washed away and smashed into the jungle'.

'We didn't know what was going on, we thought 'Why is no one coming out to help us?' but it turned out everyone had already been evacuated by that point.'

The surfers tried in vain to reach the shore as whole trees started floating past them. They lay on the surfboards as wave surges swept ashore, riding them out and trying not to get smashed.

'After about 35 or 45 minutes of floating around, we managed to time it between a surge to get to land through the reef channel.,' Mr Nel said.

When he made it to shore, he saw that the surf camp he had been staying at had been destroyed.

'A lot of my stuff got washed out to sea and I found one of my surfboards in the jungle,' Mr Nel told the Dominion Post newspaper.

See animation of the tsunami moving through the Pacific here

Initially he had stayed at the beach to help salvage a wrecked boat but left when he heard another tsunami warning.

'Everyone just got out of there. I managed to grab my passport and board shorts.'

The surfers headed to a village and waited for about five hours until the threat of a second surge had passed.

Days earlier, Mr Nel had been surfing off the south coast of Upolu, an area that was devastated by the tsunami.

Mr Nel left Samoa on Thursday, flying back to Wellington wearing the pair of jeans he had managed to find in the jungle.

'We were really, really lucky,' he said.

'If anyone had caught a wave closer to shore there would have definitely been people who would have died or been severely injured.'

The Red Sox' swing doctor

Slumping sluggers could soon get help from MIT Media Lab researchers.

A player at the Boston Red Sox preseason training camp is wired with sensors developed by the MIT Media Lab, which gauge the forces he exerts when he swings the bat.
Photos: Joseph Paradiso and Alexander Reben

On Wednesday, the Boston Red Sox reached Major League Baseball's postseason playoffs for the sixth time in seven years. But whether or not they go on to win another World Series, when the Sox report to spring training next year, they could be spending some time in the trainer's room with members of the MIT Media Lab.

For three of the last four years, Professor Joseph Paradiso and other members of the lab's Responsive Environments Group have been strapping sensors on players at the Red Sox preseason camp to gauge the physical forces they exert when they swing a bat or throw a ball. So far, the researchers have been working mainly with minor-league players, trying to determine what kind of useful information they can extract from the sensors. But next spring, Paradiso hopes to gather more data on more players engaged in a wider range of activities.

If trainers could wire up a hitter when he's on a hot streak, and then again when he's in a slump, they might be able to determine how the mechanics of his swing have changed and how he can fix them. "There's many areas where this technique will have a meaningful influence on how things are perceived and how data is interpreted," says Eric Berkson, one of the Sox' team physicians. As a doctor, Berkson is particularly interested in how the technology could be used to identify behaviors that can lead to injury. "And then, using the same technology, we can try to find better ways to figure out when someone's able to come back from an injury and make sure they don't injure themselves in that process," he says.

The Responsive Environments Group's work with the Sox grew out of a project to allow dancers' movements to control the music accompanying them — "a very Media Lab thing," Paradiso says. While exploring the work's implications for gait analysis with collaborators at Massachusetts General Hospital, Paradiso met some physicians who worked with the Red Sox and were intrigued by the technology. Paradiso and his graduate student Michael Lapinski did the initial work on sensors customized for baseball players, and they've recently been joined by Clemens Satzger of the Technical University of Munich, who's at MIT until January.

Baseball teams had been trying to collect data on the biomechanics of players' swings and pitching motions for years, but they'd relied on optical systems that worked only in the lab and produced data that could be difficult to analyze. "Trying to measure pitching with just an accelerometer has never been done effectively before," says Berkson. "The idea that we can potentially do this biomechanics evaluation during real activities is a huge step."

In fact, the MIT team's sensors use more than just an accelerometer; they also use gyroscopes, and recent versions include a magnetometer that measures joint angles. But the biggest difficulty in developing the sensor, Paradiso says, is that no single accelerometer can handle the range of accelerations — measured as multiples of earth's gravity, or Gs — that a professional athlete can produce during a routine motion. The same goes for gyros and angular acceleration. "For dancers — even thought they're pretty kinetic, too — the 10-G range was okay," says Paradiso. "But for athletes — especially for pitchers — you have to go up to 120, 130 Gs to get that full range of motion, and for angular rate, you have to go up to about 10,000 degrees per second." The beginning of a pitcher's windup, however, though no less crucial to his delivery, is so slow that it won't register very clearly on a high-G accelerometer or high-rate gyro. So each Media Lab sensor includes two sets of three-axis accelerometers and gyros that span different ranges, to capture an athlete's full range of activity.

In the hope of further reducing the size of the sensors, Paradiso is talking with a Boston-area device manufacture about developing accelerometers and gyros that can handle a wide range of accelerations and angular rates, avoiding the need for dual sets of devices. But in the near term, a greater concern is developing ways to get the sensors on and off athletes more efficiently. "In spring training, even with a minor-league player, they're so tightly scheduled, that if you've got 20 minutes with this player, and you take a half-hour, that's going to throw their day off," Paradiso says. The lab is currently experimenting with a new method for mounting the sensors that should be more efficient but will also provide an attachment secure enough to withstand huge accelerations.

Ultimately, Paradiso believes, his group's work with the Sox will aid in the development of commercial devices for measuring biomechanics. Berkson finds that prospect exciting. "We can now look at what's causing injury in a shoulder through a pitcher's real activity, in real-world situations," he says, "and this will help us understand why kids get injured, and why Little League pitching is dangerous for some kids, and why there's an increased number of surgeries happening on these kids on a yearly basis." To some people outside New England, that could sound like an even more important application than helping the Sox to another World Series victory.

Coachella Time-Lapse: Everything Happening at the Same Time


Ever wondered what a giant, sprawling, three-day music festival in the desert would look like if it were nano-crammed into five minutes? Boing Boing presents a cool timelapse of the 2009 Coachella Music and Arts Festival (www.coachella.com) directed by filmmaker Ray Klein (www.rayklein.com).

The music you hear is "Everything is Happening At The Same Time," by Hawke, courtesy of Eighth Dimension Records. (http://www.eighthdimension.com). His new record, +++, is availa

German kids hand out lost 15,000 euros in playground

German kids hand out lost 15,000 euros in playground
AFP/File – Children in a school in Germany had a day to remember this week when four pupils found around 15,000 …

BERLIN (AFP) – Children in a school in Germany had a day to remember this week when four pupils found around 15,000 euros (22,000 dollars) and then handed it out to their friends in the playground, police said Friday.

The four, two boys and two girls aged between 10 and 13, found the bundle of cash stuffed in a dirty brown envelope on the way into their school in Frankfurt on Tuesday morning.

One worried child went to the teaching staff following the excited playground handout that followed, however, and the children were told to return the money.

"But since some were quite pleased by their new-found wealth, with many already making plans for what they would spend it on, collecting the money proved to be harder than handing it out," police said in a statement.

By the time a patrol car arrived at the scene, around 12,000 euros had been collected, rising to 14,040 euros after teachers made a final appeal to their pupils' consciences.

With the possible owner of the money, identified later as a 33-year-old Afghan man, unable to say exactly how much was in the envelope, it was unclear how much was still missing, police spokesman Karlheinz Wagner told AFP.

The possible owner, identified using passport copies and documents for a Chinese visa application also in the envelope, will only get his money back once he has provided documents proving it was his, Wagner added.

The man from Offenbach, a town south of Frankfurt, told police that the money was for a trip to China to pay school fees there and to pay off debts. His name was not made public.

Anne Frank Footage Posted on YouTube

Museum in Amsterdam Started Airing Only Known Film of Teenage Diarist

  • Anne Frank, seen looking from a window at a neighbors wedding, July 22, 1941, before she and her family were forced into hiding to avoid the Nazis during the World War II occupation of the Netherlands. Photo

    Anne Frank, seen looking from a window at a neighbors wedding, July 22, 1941, before she and her family were forced into hiding to avoid the Nazis during the World War II occupation of the Netherlands. (YouTube)

(AP) The Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam has begun airing the only known video of the teenage diarist on a channel dedicated to her on YouTube.

The channel also features clips of others, including her late father Otto and Nelson Mandela, talking about Anne, museum spokeswoman Annemarie Bekker said Friday.

"It is really a great platform to show all the different kinds of films and documentaries about Anne Frank," Bekker added.

The channel shows footage taken during a neighbor's wedding on July 22, 1941. It briefly shows Anne before she and her family were forced into hiding to avoid the Nazis during their World War II occupation of the Netherlands.

The fleeting moving images of Anne already are on display at the museum and on its Web site in slightly shorter versions.

Bekker said the YouTube channel also has a video about the making of a 3-D virtual version of the secret annex concealed in an Amsterdam canalside house where the Frank family hid for 25 months until they were betrayed and deported.

The virtual version of the secret annex is due to be formally launched next year to help mark the 50th anniversary of the museum's founding.

Anne died aged 15 of typhus in the German concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, seven months after her arrest and just two weeks before British and Canadian troops liberated the camp. Her posthumously published diary has made her a symbol of all Jews killed in World War II.

Watch the video here:



© MMIX, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Overhead Bike Surf Racks Carry Boards, Block Sun

surfracks

Something seems very wrong about driving to the beach to go surfing. You’re all set to enjoy a free ride from Mother Nature and marvel at the power of the sea, and yet you get to the coast by burning her very lifeblood and spewing toxic waste into her lungs.

No, much better to go by bike. I see plenty of surfers here in Barcelona heading to the sea with their boards on side mounted racks. Apart from the fact that the Mediterranean has practically no surf, these racks work fine.

But an alternative from ACG SurfRacks puts the board overhead on tall stands. Why is this better? Because it makes you narrower (and therefore less of a nuisance on the boardwalk), taller (added visibility) and our favorite, the board itself acts as a sun-shade, kind of like the canopy on those dorky BMW cocoon-like C1 scooters. Add to this the fact that a side wind is less likely to blow you out into traffic and you have a solid set of specs.

The racks bolt on to your bike and offer two padded T-bars, front and back, to which you can secure the board. As the chaps behind the racks are surfers, they’ve spent more time out on the waves than working on their website, so we have no prices for you. There is, though a list of surf shops which stock them. Predictably, the majority are in California.

Product page [ACG via Bike Hacks]

21 Secrets to Save on Travel


Our insider's guide to snagging the deepest discounts on hotels, airfare, cruises and more.

The travel industry continues to smart from the recession, so deals abound. You just need to know where to look. Search no further than our 21 tips to save on lodging, airfare, vacation packages and cruises:

Book a bargain stay

1) Check TripAdvisor.com for 25 million property reviews from real travelers and professional critics. For details on cozy and often less-costly venues, go to BedandBreakfast.com.

2) Visit Hotels.com every Thursday for its new last-minute deals. While you’re there, watch for other rate sales and package specials.

3) Book directly through the hotel's Web site. Many places offer special online-booking and prepaid deals. You can also opt in to hotels’ free rewards programs and receive e-mails about special promotions and discounts.

4) Book blindly for rock-bottom rates. The auction-style booking pushed by William Shatner’s “Priceline Negotiator” in the popular commercials really can cut up to 50% off regular hotel rates (and 40% off airfare and car-rental rates). And Hotwire.com’s “Hot Rates” can knock up to 60% off retail room prices. With either, you specify your length of stay, preferred neighborhood and a guaranteed minimum star class. But you won’t know the exact hotel or location until after you pay – an especially big risk when visiting unfamiliar areas, particularly overseas. (Blind booking is a safer bet for car rentals; a sedan is a sedan is a sedan. But it’s a big gamble for flights because you won’t know exact flight times or airlines.)

5) Call your hotel to confirm an online reservation, especially if you made one at the last minute, and ask about any additional fees you should watch out for. Most hotels are especially willing to waive fees for frequent visitors or rewards-program members. Also, request a copy of your bill the night before you check out so you have time to dispute any extra charges.

6) Consider specialty lodging, such as condos, villas and vacation home rentals, especially when traveling with a big group. These options often offer more space and amenities for prices similar to or less than hotel rates. HomeAway.com offers the biggest selection of rentals, with more than 176,000 listings worldwide.

Fly for less

7) Use Kayak.com to quickly scan hundreds of travel Web sites for the best airfares. And don't forget to check Southwest.com; Kayak does not include the discount airline’s fares.

8) Sign up with airlines’ free loyalty programs to get the best bargains delivered straight to your in-box. Or visit Airfarewatchdog.com, where the site’s employees join airlines’ rewards programs to snag those promotional codes and special offers to share with you.

9) Plan your purchase at Bing.com/travel, formerly Farecast.com. The site’s “price predictor” forecasts whether fares on major domestic routes will go up or down. Enter your itinerary and it will return a list of airfares with a recommendation to either buy now or wait for a fare drop.

10) Try flying at less-traveled times; flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturday afternoons typically see the least demand and therefore offer the best rates.

11) Choose your destination based on the cheapest flight. For example, if you’re interested in a Caribbean vacation but don’t have a specific location in mind, you can use Kayak’s Buzz tool to search for flights to anywhere in the Caribbean and then pick the place with the lowest fare.

12) Dodge flying fees. To avoid charges levied for buying tickets in person or by phone, book directly with the airline's Web site or with one of the big three online travel agencies – Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz- which recently dropped their flight-booking fees. . And pack lightly to dodge baggage costs. At FlyingFees.com, you can compare the baggage fees carried by 30 major airlines, and other types of fees charged by 20 major airlines.

Save a bundle on vacation packages

13) Online travel agencies Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz are well known for their bundled bargains. But don’t forget to check packages offered by airlines such as United Vacations and smaller operators such as Apple Vacations for some of the sweetest deals.

14) Check the cost of add-ons, such as rental cars, show tickets, tours and museum passes, when booking packages with online travel agencies. Sometimes the agencies offer those extras at a discount.

15) Get one price on your trips with all-inclusive deals from resorts such as Club Med and Sandals.

16) Add travel insurance to your bundle. With Expedia's Package Protection Plan, for example, you're ensured a refund if you need to cancel or change plans. You'll also be reimbursed for trip delays, baggage losses and medical expenses. The package costs $40 to $89, depending on your destination. If you're not offered this protection when you book, or if you need more insurance than what you are offered, go to TravelGuard.com.

Cruise to savings

17) The best deals are close to the departure date -- just don't expect the really cheap tickets to get you a stateroom with a view.

18) Understand the different elements of a cruise, including theme, cabin types and ports of call. CruiseMates.com provides useful reviews and advice columns to get you started. But if you're a first-timer feeling overwhelmed, consider using a travel agent.

19) Visit CruiseCompete.com, where you submit your cruise preferences and more than 300 travel agents compete for your business.

20) Book your flight separately. Using Kayak or Bing.com/travel, you can often find fares that are lower than what a cruise line will package in for you. Make sure you allow enough time to reach the departure port; the ship won’t wait for you if your flight is delayed.

21) Sail into big savings with a repositioning cruise. Ships need to take these one-way voyages in order to relocate for the season. For example, ships that cruise near Alaska in the summer head south once fall arrives, and cruise lines invite passengers aboard for the ride at deeply discounted rates.

High Res New Na'vi Photos from Avatar!


by Alex Billington

Avatar Photos

I'm probably way more excited than I should be for these new photos from James Cameron's Avatar because I just saw another 20 minutes of footage, include two new never-before-seen scenes, at Fantastic Fest earlier tonight. This movie still looks absolutely breathtaking and I wish everyone could see the same footage I saw in glorious 3D as well, as I think more of you might be converted into supporters. Anyway, Spoiler TV has a small batch (six photos in total) of new photos from Avatar in very high res. Everyone definitely needs to see these. And don't forget that almost all of these are completely CGI shots (at least the first four). Enjoy!

Avatar Photos

Avatar Photos

Avatar Photos

Avatar Photos

Avatar Photos

Avatar Photos

Avatar is the story of an ex-Marine on the planet Pandora who, as an Avatar - a human mind in an alien body - finds himself in a desperate fight for his survival and that of the indigenous beings called Na'vi.

Avatar is both written and directed by Oscar winning visionary filmmaker James Cameron, of Piranha II, The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies, and Titanic previously. He has been developing the technology to make this movie for the last 10 years. 20th Century Fox is bringing James Cameron's Avatar to both IMAX and regular theaters in 3D around the world on December 18th.

Disney offers free entry to 1 million volunteers


NEW YORK -- Disney is offering a free day's admission to 1 million guests who complete a day of volunteer work next year.

The "Give a Day, Get a Disney Day" program will provide certified volunteers with a one-day ticket to any park at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., or Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla., in 2010.

Disney is partnering with HandsOn Network, a clearinghouse for volunteer opportunities, to connect people with projects and to certify that the work was done.

"We are trying to inspire 1 million people to volunteer in their communities and we're inspiring them to do that by giving them a free day at a Disney park," Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

Rasulo called the promotion "very timely," citing the increased needs of nonprofits in the weak economy, as well as President Obama's national volunteering initiative.

"The spirit of our country is very much behind that, whether it's the first family or whether it's the average family," Rasulo said.

Duncan Dickson, who teaches theme park management at the University of Central Florida's Rosen School of Hospitality Management in Orlando, said the volunteer initiative is "a smart marketing move."

Dickson said Disney will get good buzz for encouraging volunteerism plus free publicity from the nonprofits that benefit. And even when theme parks let people in for free, they make their money back in other ways, Dickson said.

"You make a lot of money in popcorn and T-shirts and other things," Dickson said.

Some guests who come in for free would have bought tickets anyway, but the free offer will also bring in visitors who wouldn't otherwise have made the trip, and they'll bring paying guests with them, Dickson added. "Anything that pushes the turnstiles is good for business," Dickson said.

HandsOn Network has 70,000 affiliated agencies, from Habitat for Humanity to local food banks, churches, health care centers, and educational programs. Once their service is verified by HandsOn, volunteers print out an online certificate that can be redeemed at a Disney park.

Examples of volunteer opportunities currently listed on HandsOn's Web site range from drivers and bingo callers to a book drive organizer at a senior center in Scranton, Pa., to a docent at the Oregon Maritime Museum in Portland.

The free admission offer is part of a larger trend in the tourism industry, using everything from free hotel nights to two-for-one discounts to attract visitors in the weak economy. Disneyland this year offered two free nights with the purchase of three nights at a Disney resort, and all the U.S. Disney parks have allowed guests in free on their birthdays this year.

Rasulo said that 3.5 million people registered for the birthday promotion and about 30 percent of them have taken advantage of it so far.

Disney kicked the volunteer promotion off Tuesday by sending 1,000 volunteers, including employees from Disney and Southwest Airlines, to work on projects around the country, from a Habitat for Humanity site in Los Angeles to the Bethune School of Excellence in Chicago.

Would-be volunteers must register online with Disney and must be residents of the U.S., Canada or Puerto Rico to be eligible for the free admission. The work must be performed in 2010, and the park visit must take place by Dec. 15, 2010. Participants must be 18 or older to sign up for the program, but volunteer work done by children ages 6-17 qualifies for a free ticket as long as kids are accompanied by an adult when volunteering. Unused admission certificates can be donated to a charity designated by Disney.

Volunteers who have multiday tickets or annual passes can get a special FASTPASS for up to six people in lieu of the voucher.

Michael Bay Today Officially Signed On For 'Transformers 3': Confirms Release Date Of July 1st, 2011; Works With Megan Fox Again

By Nikki Finke |

Paramount breathed a sigh of relief, not that there was any doubt, that Michael Bay officially signed on to Transformers 3 today. And, after conferring with Steven Spielberg, he set an early release date of July 1st, 2011 -- not 2012. He also took a potshot at Megan Fox whom he's welcoming back for T3. This is from Michael Bay's website:

Transformers 3: July 1st, 2011
10/01/2009 09:41 AM
Well its official: We have a great Transformers 3 story. The release date is now July 1st 2011. Not 2012.

Today is Day One. This morning started with an ILM meeting for five hours in San Francisco. Currently I'm flying with writer Ehren Kruger to Rhode Island to talk to Hasbro about new characters.

P.S. Megan Fox, welcome back. I promise no alien robots will harm you in any way during the production of this motion picture. Please consult your Physician when working under my direction because some side effects can occur, such as mild dizziness, intense nausea, suicidal tendencies, depression, minor chest hair growth, random internal hemorrhaging and inability to sleep. As some directors may be hazardous to your health, please consult your Doctor to determine if this is right for you.

Pain and Gain is right after shooting of Trans 3.

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