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Friday, January 29, 2010

The 19 most complex and dangerous roads in the world


Sure, it feels fantastic to traverse the vast stretches of the best roads in the world via adrenaline pumping speeds. How about a complicated road, one that twists and turns, or has downright congested traffic, or unforgiving terrain? They might give you a headache, but it sure feels good when you’ve conquered them. Here is the list of the world’s most complicated and dangerous roads. Some of these complicated mountain passes can be dangerous if not negotiated with utmost caution, while others are complicated sets of roads and bridges, erected to ensure a streamlined flow of traffic at busy junctions. Without further ado, we present our top 19 list…

1) Col de Turini, France



photo credits : 1,2

Situated more than 1 mile above sea level, Col de Turini is a mountain pass situated in south of France in the Alps. It’s also part of a 20 miles rally stage of the Monte Carlo Rally of WRC, which combines 34 challenging hairpins and long stretches where cars top 111 mph. It is one of the most exciting roads on Earth. The pass was featured in the very first episode of Top Gear series 10, when the presenters went in search of the greatest driving road in the world. At its highest point, Col de Turini is 1607m high. In the north, the Col de Turini starts with a dazzling series of hairpins. Finally, we end up riding in a gorge, with a wild river on the left, and a steep rock-wall on the right.

2) Stelvio Pass, Italy



Photo credits 1,2

Located in the Eastern Alps in Italy, the Stelvio Pass Road connects the Valtellina with Merano and the upper Adige valley. This mountain road pass is situated at an altitude of around 1.7 miles above sea level. The road is particularly challenging to drive due to the presence of 48 hairpin bends, with the road becoming exceedingly narrow at some points, and some very steep inclines. With a height of 2757 meters, it is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps and the second highest in the Alps, after the 2770 m high Col de l’Iseran. While it might not be as dangerous as the other routes, it is certainly breathtaking. The toughest and most spectacular drives are from the Prato side. The mountain pass is one of the best continuous hairpin routes in the world.

3) Leh–Manali Highway, India


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The Leh-Manali Highway is situated in India and spans over a length of 297 miles among the Himalaya mountain range. It passes through some of the worlds highest mountain passes in the world, with a mean altitude in between 2 to 3 miles above sea level. The road is one of the most complicated and challenging roads in the world, with snow, landslides and terrain making the journey exceedingly difficult for anything other than a capable four wheel drive vehicle. The road was built and is maintained by the Indian Army.

4) The Puxi Viaduct, Shanghai

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This is one of Shanghai’s busiest and largest interchange that caters to thousands of vehicles every hour. It has five levels of bridges that help connect two of the cities busiest highways, directing vehicles without much fuss.

5) The Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange, LA


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The Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange is situated in Los Angeles, CA and is one of the most complicated interchanges in the country. It permits entry and exit in all directions between the I-105 and the I-110. It’s a stack interchange with layers of bridges making a complicated network of roads allowing smooth flow of traffic though both the interstate highways. This interchange was opened in 1993. It is a 4 level interchange with a restricted access lane that can be used by high-occupancy vehicles.

6) The Road of death, Bolivia

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Photo credits: 1, 2

The North Yungas Road (also known as the El Camino de la Muerte, ‘Road of Death’ in Spanish) is a 43 mile road connecting La Paz and Coroico, 35 miles northeast of La Paz in Bolivia. Famous for its extreme danger, it was christened as the “world’s most dangerous road” in 1995 by the Inter-American Development Bank. The single-lane width, extreme drop offs, and lack of guardrails, only add to the danger lurking behind. Further, the fog and rain can make visibility poor and the road surface muddy, loosening rocks from the hillsides above. It is estimated that 200 to 300 travelers are killed per year on this treacherous road. Although, the old North Yungas Road is much less used by traffic nowadays, an increasing number of adventure bikers travel it for the thrills.

7) Russia’s Lena Highway, the Highway from Hell



Photo credits: 1,2

The last 600 miles of the Russian Federal Highway from Moscow city to the Siberian city of Yakutsk is called the “Lena Highway”. This bizarre road runs parallel to the River Lena on the final leg to Yakutsk. As if the road of mud was not a big problem, Yakutsk is considered one of the the coldest cities on earth, with January temperatures averaging -45 °F. But surprisingly, it is only in the summertime that the road becomes impassable. Whenever it rains in summer, the road virtually becomes a slush pit making it impossible for the vehicles to pass through it. This being the only road to Yakutsk makes the traffic heavy and even more complicated to negotiate.

8. Gravelly Hill Interchange, Burmingham, UK


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Gravelly Hill Interchange, nicknamed ‘the Spaghetti Junction’, is the 6th junction of the M6 motorway, where it joins the A38 Aston Expressway in Birmingham, UK. The name “Spaghetti Junction” was coined by Roy Smith, a journalist from the Birmingham Evening Mail in the 1970s. The areal view of the junction sure tells us why it is called the Spaghetti Junction. Spanning an impressive 30 acres, the junction serves 18 routes and includes 4 km of slip roads. Across 6 different levels, there are 559 concrete columns, reaching up to 24.4 m in height. The engineers had to elevate 13.5 miles of the motorway to accommodate 2 railway lines, 3 canals, and 2 rivers. It’s the most complicated junction in United Kingdom.

9) Russian-Georgian “Military” Mountain Roads



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When they are not covered in sheets of snow, then it’s the thick, grueling mud. These remote highways would probably swallow your car in the snow or mud. Though neither affect the locals who drive their Lada cars down it regularly. Situated in the Caucasus mountains, these roads are to be tackled only by the Russian military which probably explain why they lack any official designation. The harsh surface, along with the problems posed by snow, makes this road almost inaccessible during winter. The seldom used road connects Russia and Georgia and assumes of strategic importance for both countries.

10) Guoliang Tunnel Road, China




Photo credits: 1,2

The magnificent tunnel road in the Taihang mountains was built by 13 local villagers headed by their chief, Shen Mingxin, and took around five years to finish. Many villagers lost their lives in accidents during construction of the tunnel but the others continued relentlessly. The tunnel was opened to traffic on May 1st, 1977. The 1200 meter long tunnel is about 5 meters high and 4 meters wide. It is located in the Henan Province of China. The Guoliang tunnel is another addition to most dangerous and complicated roads to travel. Dubbed as “the road that does not tolerate any mistakes”, most accidents in the tunnel are primarily caused by the neglect of the traveler. Nonetheless, it is an extremely scenic route and is a key destination on the Chinese tourism map.

11) Taroko Gorge Road in Taiwan (Chungheng)

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Taroko Gorge Road in Taiwan (Chungheng)

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The Taroko Gorge Road in Taiwan is another mountain route in China made by carving out rocks, like the Guoliang Tunnel road. The road passes through the Taroko national park alongside the Taroko Gorge. The road is an appeal to the tourist, as well as a mode of transportation of marble found abundantly in the Gorge.

12) Pasubio (Vicenza), Northern Italy

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This is a hiking trail made out of an ancient road trail. The road serves mostly for motorcycles and certain types of car. The road is dangerously narrow and slippery, spanning many cliff faces and tunnels with stunning scenery, making this a popular destination for adventurous travelers.

13) The Halsema Highway in the Philippines

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The Halsema Highway runs through the Central Cordillera Valley in Philippines. It is also called the Baguio-Bontoc Road. The road is approximately 150 miles long and is mostly unpaved. The road runs through steep cliff faces which barely have any guard rails or other safety devices installed. The narrow roads and steep cliff faces make the road almost impassable during the rainy season. It’s known for the rock slides and mud slides and buses driving dangerously fast on its narrow passage. There are plenty of accidents and many overturned buses on a yearly basis. There are sheer drop offs of more than 1000 feet without a safety guard rail. This route is for sure one of the most dangerous roads in the world.

14) Trollstigen in Norway

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The Fjord in Norway has many roads that attract tourists. The most notable among them is the Trollstigen which is a series of stunning roads with a breathtaking view of a few waterfalls. The word Trollstigen means the Troll Ladder. The road, though not lacking in safety standards, takes a lot of concentration and driving skill to conquer. The vertigo-inducing steep inclines, intense set of hairpins and narrow roads leave no margin for error. However, once you are at the top, the view is just breathtaking. The narrow road leaves us with extremely few possibilities for vehicles to pass each other. The frequent rockfalls in the region have resulted in some upgrades to the road in 2005. At the top, there is a viewing balcony which overlooks the road and the Stigfossen waterfall, a 320 m long waterfall which falls down the mountain side.

15) Los Caracoles Pass in Andes

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This road passes though the Andreas Mountains on the way between Chile and Argentina. Los Caracoles is a series of hard switchbacks on an extremely steep incline. The road has many steep inclines and hairpins without any safety guard rails. The road is covered with snow for the most part of the year. The snow together with nature of the road requires extreme patience and skill to negotiate. However, this road is maintained pretty regularly and does not have a morbid accident record. Cargo trucks and even double-Decker tourist buses travel through the road on a daily basis, and it’s quite an experience.

16) Iroha-zaka winding road, Japan

Irohazaka Winding Road Japan

Iroha-zaka winding road is the main route that connects central Nikko and Oku-Nikko. The First Iroha-zaka is used to come down, and the Second Iroha-zaka to go up. Each corner has an ancient Japanese alphabet, and you will see it in alphabetical order starting from I-ro-ha and hence the name. The road was used by ascetics in the past. The number of curves on the road was 48, matching the 48 letters of the ancient Japanese alphabet. Therefore, the tourist guides started to call the slope Iroha-zaka. After the construction of the second Iroha-zaka there were 50 curves, but 2 were decreased to remain corresponding with the 48 letters. How’s that for complicated?

17) Van Zyl’s Pass, Namibia

Van Zyl pass

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Van Zyl’s Pass, or the DR3703, located in Namibia, is a classic extreme road. It is not exactly a road, just a route made over the mountain by the travelers over time. The outrageously steep pass provides a pure adrenaline rush, but the route that leads up to it is a 10-15km of tough driving where one has to dodge their way through rocks, boulders, badlands and ravines. At the end, the road descends to the ancient glacial valley called Marienfluss valley, which is one of the planet’s most beautiful sights that await only the brave-hearted.

18) El Espinazo Del diablo, Mexico

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El Espinazo del diablo

Photo credits: 1, 2

El Espinazo Del diablo or ‘The devil’s backbone’ is the mountain pass in Durango, Mexico. It’s about 5 hours long, and it was the only road from Durango to Mazatlan Sinaloa for a long time. We have heard many cautionary tales about crossing the devil’s backbone, El Espinoza Del Diablo, But the road is exceptionally well maintained and there are many cautionary signs marking most of the hazards. Of course these are in Spanish, so keep an electronic translator or a dictionary, handy. Pull out spots are frequent, so you can easily stop anytime you want. There are some tight curves, too. So tight that a truck needs all of the road to make it around. These hinder potential two way traffic in these regions. However, stunning rock formations rising around you and the lush, green vistas stretching on for impossible distances make every inch of the drive breathtaking.

19) Lysebotn Road, Norway

Lysebotn Road

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This is probably the most fun road you can travel on four wheels, and then maybe on your two legs checking out the various hiking trails leading from the area. In fact, this might be considered the most breathtaking place in Europe. It all starts with the narrow road up the steep walls of the Lysefjord, Norway. It has 27 switchbacks and a 1.1 km long tunnel at the bottom, with 3 switchbacks inside. The last 30 km of Lysebotn road is a true roller-coaster! It’s narrow but has a perfect surface, winding left and right all the time. If you happen to ride a motorcycle in Norway, then this is the road you simply cannot afford to miss!


Goldeneye: Source Beta 4 Trailer


Goldeneye: Source Beta 4 Trailer - Watch more Game Trailers

Rare Lunar Rainbow Over the Beach This stunning shot captures a rare lunar rainbow, or moonbow. The photographer writes: "Just after 1am in the middle of the night I noticed some geometrical formation in the sky on Fraser Island. I quickly stopped the car and turned off the light. It was then that I realised I am witnessing the rare event....a rainbow at night."

Facebook for Silverlight Puts a Dark, Stylish Facebook on Your Desktop

Windows/Mac: Back in November, Microsoft featured an attractive Facebook client to demo Silverlight 4, and many people wondered where it went. Well, Microsoft has finally released the fancy Facebook client for download, and it has almost everything you could want from Facebook.

Above all, this app is beautiful, certainly more beautiful than Fishbowl, the client that was released after Silverlight's introduction and confused many by its lack of similarity to the client demoed. Not only does it have cool photo grids integrated into your news feed, but there are some really cool (but subtle) sweeping animations when viewing photos in an album. It even features a photo uploading tool to replace Facebook's mediocre uploader.

Viewing photos is certainly where Silverlight's strengths come into play the most, but the app has pretty much every other part of Facebook integrated—you can view your news feed, friend list feeds, profiles, and even your inbox. You can view a list of upcoming events, but the event pages themselves are not integrated—clicking on it will take you to the event's Facebook page in your browser. The app doesn't currently support chat, which isn't really a drawback due to Facebook chat's suckage—but if you are that addicted to Facebook chat, you can already get it on your desktop easily through a client like Pidgin or Adium.

The app has a few minor bugs, which is to be expected due to the fact that it's still a developer preview. It's supposed to have TweetDeck-style notifications, which I'm not seeing, and sometimes new posts just don't load. A new post on my wall showed up in my news feed but took awhile before it showed up on my wall, so it seems there's a bit of a delay in updates. In addition, it seems you can't use your scroll wheel in the application—you actually have to click the arrows or the scroll bar to scroll up and down. These things are hardly a deterrent, though—if you, like many, have been looking for a desktop version of Facebook since 2005, this looks like the app to use.

The Microsoft Silverlight 4 Beta Client for Facebook is a free download, requires Windows or Mac OS X with Microsoft Silverlight to use.

Send an email to Whitson Gordon, the author of this post, at

Pork better for sex than Viagra?


Eat pork, spice up your sex life: Argentina's Kirchner
AFP/File – Eating pork is at least as effective as popping a Viagra pill to spice up your sex life, according to …

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina's president recommended pork as an alternative to Viagra Wednesday, saying she spent a satisfying weekend with her husband after eating barbecued pork.

"I've just been told something I didn't know; that eating pork improves your sex life ... I'd say it's a lot nicer to eat a bit of grilled pork than take Viagra," President Cristina Fernandez said to leaders of the pig farming industry.

She said she recently ate pork and "things went very well that weekend, so it could well be true."

Argentines are the world's biggest per capita consumers of beef, but the government has sought to promote pork as an alternative in recent years due to rising steak prices and as a way to diversify the meat industry.

"Trying it doesn't cost anything, so let's give it a go," Fernandez said in the televised speech.

(Reporting by Karina Grazina; Writing by Helen Popper)

The First Hints Of A Dinosaur's True Colors

Artist rendition of two Sinosauropteryx
Enlarge Chuang Zhao and Lida Xing

An artist's rendition of two Sinosauropteryx dinosaurs, showing their short, bristle-like feathers along the midline of the head, neck, back and around the tail, forming irregular stripes.

Scientists have found evidence of some of the original coloration of a dinosaur that lived about 125 million years ago, showing that it had rings of orange-brown bristly feathers around its tail.

Fossils have revealed a lot about the lives of dinosaurs, but researchers always used to think that the fossil record couldn't show what color they were. "This was the one point at which we had to give up," says paleontologist Mike Benton at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, who explains that fossils tend to preserve an animal's hard parts, like bones and teeth, and not soft parts like skin.

But feathers are made of tough proteins. "And, in fact, they can survive even in conditions where other internal organs, you know, muscles and guts and brains and so on, will disappear," says Benton.

That created the possibility of learning something about what colors could be found in the primitive feathers of early birds and recently discovered feathered dinosaurs.

Unfortunately, these fossilized, ancient feathers just look like rock to the naked eye, because of the way they were preserved. "When you look at the feathers, you don't know what the colors were. The feathers are a mixture of brownish colors," says Benton. "They're just preserved either as sort of dirty, whitish, beige kind of color and a kind of darker, equally dirty kind of brownish color."

Fossilized remains of Sinosauropteryx
Enlarge The Nanjing Institute

The fossil of a small Chinese theropod dinosaur, Sinosauropteryx.

Clues About The Original Color

But Benton and his colleagues thought they could get clues about the original color by looking at tiny structures inside these fossilized feathers.

After all, they knew that in the feathers of living birds, some color comes from pigments called melanins. And inside of a hair or a feather, "the melanin is actually contained within a kind of capsule," says Benton.

The shape of the capsule depends on the color. "The black or dark brown kind of melanin goes into a somewhat sausage-shaped capsule," says Benton, while a reddish-brown kind of melanin goes into a more rounded capsule shaped like a ball.

With this in mind, the researchers used a sophisticated, powerful microscope to peer inside primitive feathers on a turkey-sized dinosaur called Sinosauropteryx. "It's a flesh-eater. It's got sharp little teeth in its mouth, and it's got grabby little hands," says Benton. "It's a two-legged dinosaur, so very slender limbs. It's got a sort of straightish backbone and a long thin tail."

Fossils show that this tail was ringed with dark bands of primitive feathers that look like bristles. And inside these bristles, Benton and his colleagues found melanin capsules in the shape associated with the orange-brown color.

"These dark stripes, as far as we can tell, were exclusively ginger, and so this early dinosaur with its long thin tail had ginger and white stripes up the tail," says Benton.

'Watertight Evidence Of The Original Color'

He says they assume the tail must have been completely covered with primitive feathers, with alternating orange-brown and white stripes. The white feathers would not have contained any melanin capsules, which means they would have had less structural strength and would have decayed rather than being preserved in the fossil.

"For the first time ever, we have evidence, we believe fairly watertight evidence, of the original color," says Benton.

The researchers also looked inside feathers from fossils of the early bird Confuciusornis and found that this species appears to have had patches of white, black and orange-brown coloring.

An artist's rendition of a single Sinosauropteryx
Enlarge Jim Robbins

The Sinosauropteryx was a turkey-sized, flesh-eating dinosaur that scientists believe had primitive feathers and dark rings around its tail.

Benton's team reported all of these findings in the journal Nature. Other paleontologists said the work was an impressive feat.

From Artistry To Science

"This is a really exciting result," says Richard Prum, an evolutionary ornithologist at Yale University. He and his colleagues had previously shown that melanin capsules fossilize very well in feathers. "But that work was based on much more recent fossil bird feathers," says Prum, adding that this new study extends the work to much older specimens from feathered dinosaurs.

"This study begins to bring the colors of dinosaurs out of the realm of artistry and into the realm of science," says Thomas Holtz of the University of Maryland.

But Holtz says this approach will only be possible for feathers and maybe scales on those dinosaurs that are extremely well-preserved in fossils. That doesn't include a famous one that he studies — Tyrannosaurus rex.

"I would love to know if Tyrannosaurus was green or brown or, you know, chartreuse," says Holtz. But he doesn't think that's going to be possible. "It's unlikely that I'll ever know or that anyone will ever know the colors of some of our favorite dinosaurs."

For these extinct creatures, at least, it looks like artists trying to create images of a long-lost world will continue to be limited only by their imagination, and not by science.

Miramax Dies: Rest in Peace

It’s been a slow death, but Miramax dies on Thursday.

The New York and Los Angeles offices of the arthouse movie studio owned by Disney will close.
Eighty people will lose their jobs. The six movies waiting distribution -- "Last Night," "The Debt," "The Tempest” among them -- will be shelved, to gather dust, or win a tepid release.
It’s not clear that anyone at the studio will care.
But a lot of other people around the movie business mourned the impending loss of a label that once set the bar for taste and artistry. (Update Thursday: A Disney spokeswoman called to protest that Miramax is not 'dead.' "Miramax will consoldiate its operations within Walt Disney Studios, and will be releasing a smaller number of films than in previous years. But it will continue to operate within the Walt Disney Studios," she said.)
Over 31 years, the movie company that for most of its existence was led by founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein brought the public enduring stories that plumbed the depths of human emotion (“My Left Foot”) and pushed the boundaries of cultural barriers (“Reservoir Dogs”).
When we think of the movies that defined the latter part of the 20th century -- the movies that mattered, that stories that hit pop culture like a hammer and left a dent -- more often than not they came from Miramax.
“The Piano.” “Pulp Fiction.” “Sex, Lies and Videotape.” “Clerks.” “The English Patient.” (See slideshow.)
All too often, we may find ourselves saying: Why doesn’t Hollywood make those movies anymore?
Maybe the movie industry doesn’t know how to. Miramax, for well over a decade, was something special.
“Miramax wasn't just a bad-boy clubhouse, it was a 20th century Olympus,” filmmaker Kevin Smith wrote to TheWrap. “Throw a can of Diet Coke and you hit a modern-day deity. And for one brief, shining moment, it was an age of magic and wonders.” (Read Kevin Smith's full Hollyblog.)
With these in the vault: “Shakespeare in Love” (Oscar: Gwyneth Paltrow). “The Crying Game” (Oscar, Neil Jordan). “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (5 noms). “Chicago” (6 Oscar wins).
“If there was any company that contributed more to the shaping of a generation and a sensibility -- I don’t know it,” said veteran publicist Fredell Pogodin, lamenting the closure.
There were lots of overambitious flops, or movies that tried too hard -- “The Aviator.” “The Shipping News.” “The Four Feathers.” “Cold Mountain.”
But there was also lots of plain audacious filmmaking, movies that nobody else would dare make, much less ride to awards glory: “Kill Bill I and II.” “The Ciderhouse Rules.” “Good Will Hunting.” “Swingers.”
The story of Miramax has been told and retold: Scrappy New York brothers name the studio after their parents, wheel and deal to hold their movie company together, bully business partners, seduce filmmakers and spend loads of money on Oscar campaigns.
Then came the sale to Disney. The success, the hubris, the Oscars, the overspending. The loss of identity, the desperate attempts to reconcile with Michael Eisner followed by the bitter divorce, and the quiet takeover by Daniel Battsek.
The final chapter has been short and bitter.
Battsek was squeezed to a smaller and smaller size by Disney, despite releasing some respectable movies including “The Queen,” “Tsotsi” and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”
The studio endured endless rumors of its impending closure. On Oct. 2, Disney announced that “Miramax Films will reduce the number of films it releases annually while consolidating certain of its operations.”
Dick Cook, the former chairman of the studio, told me last summer that while reduced in size, the studio would continue.
But by year-end , Dick Cook was gone, and Rich Ross had taken over. Soon after, Daniel Battsek was gone, too.
Remained the final sweep-up -- the firing of the remnant staff as part of the Ross reboot of the larger Disney studio, focused on a digital future with great, big, global brands.
I asked Harvey Weinstein how he felt on Wednesday. He wrote:
"I'm feeling very nostalgic right now. I know the movies made on my and my brother Bob's watch will live on as well as the fantastic films made under the direction of Daniel Battsek. Miramax has some brilliant people working within the organization and I know they will go on to do great things in the industry."
The Weinsteins have tried to buy the name of their former company back. Disney has not responded. But Bob Iger has made it known that he would be willing to sell Miramax outright -- for about $1.5 billion.
Too rich for the Weinsteins, and probably anybody else.
So on Thursday, one more arthouse film outlet goes away.
Some in this business just can’t believe it.
“I refuse to believe it will go away forever,” said Amanda Lundberg of 42West, who spent eight years of her life at the company.
“I think Miramax is too strong a brand to not exist in some incarnation. Maybe not this year or in five years, but the library is huge and the brand is big. I can’t imagine it will disappear.”

The Magic of Moonlight at Fisher Towers [PIC] A bright moon furnishes magical light to this late night view of Fisher Towers in Utah.

Ochocinco wants to kick in Pro Bowl



CINCINNATI -Chad Ochocinco hopes to show a Pro Bowl audience that he can kick it as well as catch it. The Bengals receiver made some kickoffs Thursday during practice for the Pro Bowl in Miami, hoping to convince the coaches that he's capable of going toe-to-toe. He showed off his punting skills during warmups a day earlier.

Ochocinco told The Associated Press in a phone interview after practice that he's also planning to kick field goals during practice this week. He wants to persuade AFC coaches that he could be more than a just receiver during the game on Sunday.

"Yesterday was punting, today was kickoffs, tomorrow will be field goals," Ochocinco said of his lobbying effort. "I don't know. We'll see what happens."

If the coaches want more proof, he's got the tape.

The six-time Pro Bowl receiver is an international soccer fan and practices kicking. He had never done it during a game until last August, when Bengals kicker Shayne Graham was bothered by a sore groin in practice before a preseason game against New England in Foxborough.

Ochocinco kicked an extra point and had a deep kickoff as Graham's replacement, providing the winning point in Cincinnati's 7-6 victory. Afterward, he referred to himself as "Esteban Ochocinco, the most interesting footballer in the world."

He'd like to do it again on the all-star stage.

"It shouldn't be a problem," he said. "If they're going to let me do it, I'm going to do it early in the game before they get serious and they start to play for real."

'Caligula' director to make 3D porn film

Tinto Brass announces project involving Roman emperor

By Eric J. Lyman


ROME -- Longtime Italian erotic film director Tinto Brass on Thursday announced that he would produce what he called the world's first-ever 3D pornographic production.

Brass, 76, best known for his 1979 film "Caligula," which he directed in collaboration with noted author Gore Vidal and magazine publisher Bob Guccione, said the time is right for 3D technologies to be used to create an erotic film. He noted that the project, which he said will be the world's first 3D erotic film, will also be the first 3D film of any type made in Italy.

Brass said that with the film he plans to "revisit an abandoned project about a Roman emperor that was ruined by Americans, and go from there," a reference to "Caligula," which he has criticized because of hard-core sex scenes added during postproduction without his consent.

He said he would start work on casting and the script immediately, and that he planned to start filming in May or June.

Peek at Harry Potter's world as it takes shape

The new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Resort, opening this spring, will replicate landmarks from the Harry Potter books, including Hogsmeade village, Ollivander?s wand shop and Hogwarts castle.
Universal Orlando Resort
The new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Resort, opening this spring, will replicate landmarks from the Harry Potter books, including Hogsmeade village, Ollivander?s wand shop and Hogwarts castle.

Universal Orlando Resort honchos are keeping a veritable Invisibility Cloak over the landscape of the highly anticipated Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The multifaceted attraction in the resort's Islands of Adventure park will open this spring, but Universal won't say exactly when. Hogwarts castle, with its Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, will feature "entirely new technology." But Universal is mum on even the basics. The 20-acre "world" will replicate aspects of Hogsmeade village, including Ollivander's wand shop, where the wand chooses you. But how that works is anyone's guess.

In fact, since revealing some details about the $200-million-plus themed area in September, Universal executives have invoked the sort of secrecy usually reserved for, say, vital questions of national security.

But in an exclusive arrangement with USA TODAY, the theme park is providing a virtual sneak peek via an augmented-reality map, which, with the aid of a webcam, offers a bird's-eye view of Harry Potter's new world.

The centerpiece is Hogwarts castle, rising more than 150 feet and visible from beyond park boundaries. It houses Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a "dark ride" that uses robotic arms to move passengers in various ways as they pass through scenes from the movies, says Robert Niles of industry tracker Two other rides, Dragon Challenge, a twin high-speed roller coaster, and Flight of the Hippogriff, a tamer coaster, use the core of existing attractions that have been re-themed.

The majority of Harry's world consists of venues in which to eat, drink and shop.

But Universal Creative president Mark Woodbury assures that those outlets will be about more than mere consumption. Dining will be an "experience," and shopping will be "retail theater," he says.

At Ollivander's, for instance, a costumed "wandkeeper," with the aid of some questions and special effects, will help shoppers find which of the 10,000 wands in stock is destined for them.

"Everything is about immersing you into ... the stories of Harry Potter," Woodbury says. "It would be a real letdown to me if people just came and bought something."

That said, there will be plenty of Harry-themed merchandise to peruse, from Quidditch equipment to Spectrespecs. Ditto for distinctive food and drink. The fare at the Three Broomsticks and the Hog's Head pub will include the first J.K. Rowling-approved recipe for Butterbeer.

Creating a Potter-themed attraction would seem to be a slam-dunk proposition. The seven-book series has sold more than 400 million copies and been translated into 67 languages. The movies have raked in $5.3 billion. The venture has author Rowling's blessing. And the films' production designer, Stuart Craig, and art director, Alan Gilmore, are working on the theme-park version of Harry's world.

"We're taking the most iconic and powerful moments of the stories in the books and putting it in an immersive environment," says Thierry Coup, Universal's vice president for creative development. "It's taking the theme-park experience to the next level."

But devoted fans can be demanding. Translating hugely popular books and movies into three-dimensional reality isn't easy. Expectations are high. Regardless, industry scuttlebutt on the venture is practically reverential.

"The advance word on this is that it's fabulous," says Bob Rogers, head of BRC Imagination Arts, a major designer of museum and theme-park exhibits. "How do you do something that's going to live up to this incredible world? All indications are that Universal is about to hit one out of the park. Even people who would be in head-to-head competition are anticipating its completion."

Indeed, some believe the new attraction could have a rippling effect that would boost attendance at other area theme parks. Orlando tourism hasn't been immune to the recession: Visitor tallies are expected to drop by 9.4% to 44.3 million for 2009. Parks have been forced to discount to boost attendance.

Meanwhile, Orlando's other major theme parks, including Walt Disney World and SeaWorld, are unveiling no major new attractions for 2010.

"Clearly, (Harry Potter) is the most anticipated attraction opening this year, to the point you're seeing a smaller number of new attractions from other parks," Niles says. "A lot of parks are thinking, 'Let's let (Universal) have it this summer.' "

This video explains how to use the printed map in the Jan. 28 issue of USA TODAY to get an augmented-reality preview of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort. After viewing, go to to launch the magic map. If you don't have the newspaper, you can print this PDF map file.