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Monday, October 25, 2010

Reggae Legend Gregory Isaacs Dead at 59


Isaacs, one of reggae's most enduring and prolific crooners, passes away after year-long battle with lung cancer

David Corio/Redferns/Getty
By  Daniel Kreps

Gregory Isaacs — one of the most popular and versatile reggae singers of the late-Seventies, and the smooth-voiced dancehall crooner behind the genre's landmark 1982 LP Night Nurse — passed away this morning at his London home following a year-long battle with lung cancer, the BBC reports. Isaacs was 59. "Gregory was well loved by everyone, his fans and his family, and he worked really hard to make sure he delivered the music they loved and enjoyed," Isaacs' wife Linda said. "He will be greatly missed by his family and friends."
Over the course of his prolific career — in which he release an estimated 500 albums within Jamaica, the UK and the U.S. — Isaacs collaborated with reggae, dub and dancehall icons like Lee "Scratch" Perry, King Tubby, Sugar Minott, Freddie McGregor, Dennis Brown and Errol Holt. After spending the Seventies building a reputation as both a top-notch roots reggae singer and a soulful "lovers rock"-style crooner, Isaacs recorded his masterpiece Night Nurse at Bob Marley's Tuff Gong Studios in 1982, the year after Marley's death.

Isaacs was poised to become a worldwide star when Night Nurse climbed to Number 32 on the British charts, but instead found himself sentenced to six months in a Jamaican prison on illegal firearm charges. (Isaacs' police record is almost as prolific as his discography, with over 50 reported arrests in his lifetime.) Dubbed the "Cool Ruler" by fans, Isaacs wrestled with drug addiction throughout his career, eventually losing his teeth and jeopardizing his legendary voice from persistent drug use, but he continued to make music, releasing his final album, Brand New Me, in 2008.

Photos: Intimate Moments With Bob Marley During the 'Golden Age of Reggae'

Obama Signs iPad


The most valuable item stored on Sylvester Cann’s iPhone isn’t a phone number a voicemail or an app, its a digital signature from President Obama.

“I have a copy on the iPhone. I have on my storage drive at home and on my Macbook and PC at home. I have it at five different places,” he said. On Thursday Cann waited nearly five hours outside the University of Washington’s Hec Ed to get it.

The Obama supporter went to a rally for Democratic Senator Patty Murray. That’s when an thought hit. “About half-way through the rally I had the idea,” he said. While many people shoved to shake the president’s hand, Cann had another plan.

“We shook hands. First I said Mr. President it’s an honor, I showed him the iPad,” he said.
With secret service agents looking on disapprovingly, a cell phone video shows the moment when Cann made his move.

“I just wrote ‘Mr. president sign my iPad,’ and just something to show him very quickly, he could look down and understand and start signing,” Cann said.

“I just ran my finger down it just to show him use your finger, just put your autograph on there, as soon as I did that he was on-board. He just took it from me and began signing his name,” said Cann.

“I will put it up on the digital picture frame so I will always see I have the president’s signature,” he said.
For safety reasons the secret service does not allow people to bring pens near the president. Presidential aides say this is the first time the president has signed an iPad.

Just look at the way the technology has paved the path. Requires no pen and paper but has made it to be a very good thing to think about. This would indeed remain in the minds of many people. Such occurrences are difficult to describe using appropriate words. Of course, comparing it to his real signature, it’s pretty dissimilar.

Baby Throws Up Devil Horns in the Womb


babysnow sonogram.jpg
Courtesy of Jeff and Susan Snow
Talk about rocking the cradle.

This actual sonogram photo comes from Jeff and Susan Snow, both members of the Lake Worth Americana act Invisible Music and subjects of Courtney Hambright's story about three simultaneously pregnant women associated with the band in this week's print edition of New Times Broward Palm Beach.

The Snows assert that there's no Photoshopping or trickery going on in the shot of their son, who is due any day now. And this is definitely more convincing than the so-called "Dancing Ultrasound Baby," "Baby's First Dance," or even "Amazing Dancing Baby in the Womb!" Take that, mommy blogs.

Although the Snows are considering the name Harrison, we'd prefer something a little less presidential and more reverential for the music of this young man's future. Aside from the obvious ones (Ronnie James, Bon, Lemmy), the horrible ones (Geddy, Dimebag, Pirate), and the boring ones (James, Dave, Tom), what's a really hardcore name for this little tyke? Update: Or maybe this baby is already a University of Texas Longhorns fan. The comments field is wide open.

Kobo Wireless eReader landing at Walmart

Kobo's Wireless eReader will be landing at 2,500 U.S. Walmart stores next week...and it'll be cheaper than the Nook or the Kindle.

Walmart stores in the United States are picking up another eReader for the upcoming holiday season: starting next week, some 2,500 Walmart stores will be offering the Kobo Wireless eReader. The announcement comes just one day after Barnes & Noble announced the Nook would be going on sale at Walmart next week, but Kobo is promising to do one better by being the “opening price in the eReader category.” Although neither Kobo nor Walmart has announced pricing, that means Kobo plans to undercut every other ereader available at the discount retailer.

“We are thrilled to see the Kobo Wireless eReader receiving mass distribution,” Kobo wrote on its company blog. “This partnership further validates our promise and vision of making ereading available to everyone.”
The Kobo Wireless eReader will also be available at Borders bookstores throughout the Unites States; the deal builds on a distribution deal Kobo had in place with Walmart in Canada.

The Kobo Wireless eReader features a 6-inch E Ink display, integrated Wi-Fi wireless networking, USB connectivity, an SD slot that can handle up to 32 GB of removable storage, and supports ePub (with DRM), PDF, and Adobe DRM, so users can handle books from a variety of standards-based digital bookstores as well as Kobo’s own ebook ecosystem. The units ship with 100 free eBooks (classic public domain titles), and reader applications are available for smartphones, PCs, and Mac OS X so users can read at whatever device they like and sync their bookmarks.

The Kobo Wireless eReader carries a suggested retail price of $139.

Shocking Pics of Deputy Posted on Facebook by Soon-To-Be-Ex

The estranged husband of a Tampa sheriff’s deputy recently posted some pictures of her on Facebook that raised a few eyebrows. The photos of veteran Deputy Lisa Latimer show her in uniform, seated in her police cruiser, putting a gun in her mouth, drinking alcohol and smoking what looks to be a marijuana cigarette.

Todd Latimer says that his estranged wife has become a different person since he married her because of her job and the pressures that exist for female officers to be “one of the boys.” He claims that while he was with Lisa, male deputies sexted her constantly and that a career in law enforcement exposes women to a sexually-charged culture.

The Latimer’s divorce is messy due to allegations of domestic violence and an Internal Affairs Investigation regarding a mysterious discharge of Lisa’s department-issued Tazer gun. Todd denies that he was trying to get back at Lisa by posting the pictures, but honestly, what other motive could he have had?

The Tampa Sheriff’s Office says it will investigate the pictures and Lisa Latimer will likely be suspended pending the outcome. She is currently on vacation.

14 Most Epic Movie Battle Scenes

By: Tim

Epic is overused. Heavily, heavily overused. The internet has corrupted a perfectly good word, and now it’s used almost as badly as lol. Anything that’s vaguely humorous gets slapped with the label without any appreciation for what it truly is. You know what’s epic? Hundreds of armed and trained men, slaughtering each other ruthlessly on the field of battle. Blood and death up to your knees, under the chaos of war. That is epic, and these 14 scenes all exemplify the word, as the 14 most epic battles in cinema history.

14. Gladiator, the Germania Battle

The opening battle of Gladiator is perhaps the purest distillation of the epic battle scene that you can imagine. It has all the crucial ingredients, leading to an almost Platonic ideal of a war. You have the general, who is a brilliant tactician and a born leader. You have a clear, and easily identifiable enemy. Interesting military equipment. A rousing speech, and most importantly, a memorable line. “At my signal, unleash hell.” And, of course, blood. Lots and lots of blood, cleaving of people, horrible wounds, and everything else. A fine way to begin our list.

13. Last Samurai, the Final Charge

I had…issues…with the Last Samurai. Mostly just because of the incredibly boring trope of the outsider Westerner suddenly arriving out of nowhere, and becoming the best at something everyone else has trained their entire life for. Plus Tom Cruise’s oddly hairless chest. Even unoriginal plotting can’t take away from the immense power that the final battle had, beautiful in its futility. It’s such an absolutely heart-rending way to show the head-on collision of modernism and tradition, and the forced reforms of Meji era japan. Those chainguns, just cutting through the charging warriors, damn. Plus, Ken Watanabe is amazing in everything.

12. The Patriot, The Battle of Camden

I get it, this battle is meant to show the futility of war, especially 18th Century tactics. Everyone just kind of lines up, and takes turns shooting at each other, and someone loses. A crop of young men, barely teenagers, are cruelly snatched away. Blah, blah, blah. Watching this scene, it’s hard to see it as anything but comedic, and let’s face it, Mel Gibson only signed up for this project because he hates the British. This battle makes this list for one reason, and one reason only. A dude gets decapitated by a cannonball. Enough said.

11. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, The Final Battle

Again with the Russel Crowe. This time, we’re dealing with the ferocity of a sea battle during the Napoleonic Wars. The entire film plays as an elaborate cat and mouse game between the British and the French, as the Surprise and the Acheron chase one another. Naval battles are always a great excuse to show insane amounts of violence in a movie theater. After all, you have archaic weapons, more likely to wound than kill; hundreds of people packed into a small space, more likely to get hit by shrapnel; explosive everywhere; add the constant fear of drowning, and you’ve got yourself a perfect recipe for a bloody, brutal, and above all memorable battle scene.

10. Return of the Jedi, Battle for Endor

Okay, ignore the Ewoks, their side of things was stupid, but everything else? Absolutely fucking amazing! The perfect trap laid by the Emperor (and Ackbar’s famous line), the huge battle between the Rebels and the Imperials, the landside attempts to disable the shields around the Death Star, the rallying of the Rebels at the last minute, absolutely everything is pitch perfect. This also marks the first and only time an A-Wing was actually useful in a fight. While Jedi wasn’t the best of the original trilogy (that honor goes to Empire), the Battle of Endor really was the best of the space battles across any of the films.

9. Curse of the Golden Flower, The Final Battle

Chinese film Curse of the Golden Flower arrived late in West’s period of fascination with psuedo-historical Wushu epics that was triggered by Crouching Tiger. Curse of the Golden Flower was a sumptuous story of repression and intrigue in the Imperial Court, set in a semi-mythical Chinese past. It was stunningly beautiful, and absolutely filled with cleavage. One of the final scenes of the film was the bloody rebellion between the second son of the Emperor against his father. Hundreds of elaborately outfitted warriors clash in a bloody battle among a field of Chrysanthemums, using tactics pulled straight from a 13-year old boy’s imagination. Black clad assassins fly through the sky, impromptu stairways are made from spears, and human powered walls crush the rebellion. It’s beautiful, artfully choreographed, and utterly pointless.

8. A Bridge Too Far, the Parachute Drop

Back in the day, before computers were powerful enough to allow for CGI stand-ins in battle scenes, you actually had to get enough people to represent the armies properly. For the famous parachute scene in A Bridge Too Far, real people threw themselves from real military planes, just in the name of verisimilitude. Thousands of soldiers rain down on the enemy troops, doomed to die in an overextended assault on Axis forces occupying the Netherlands. This film also had one of the finest ensemble casts ever, with Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Edward Fox, Anthony Hopkins, Gene Hackman, Hardy Krüger, Laurence Olivier, Robert Redford, and Maximilian Schell.

7. The Lord of the Rings, Helm’s Deep and Pelennor Fields

The two major battles from The Two Towers and Return of the King share the seventh spot, as do a number of other battles from the trilogy. While #8 on this list showed that sometimes people create the most convincing battles, Lord of the Rings showed just what CGI can do, and for something set in the archetype of fantasy, there’s really no other choice. The siege at Helm’s Deep, with its thousands of orcs, shattering themselves against those walls, and then Pelennor Fields, with rampaging ouliphants, the death of the Witch King, and the Dead of Dunharrow. Both define the term epic, and both kept us rapt watching our screens, having us believe that these incredible events might actually be possible.

6. Apocalypse Now, the Helicopter Attack

The rousing strains of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries play as helicopters drop napalm on a small Vietnamese village. Not so much a battle as a massacre, the intensely one sided fight between the VietCong and American troops came to perfectly symbolise American hubris over Vietnam, and the belief that pure strength of arms would be enough. And who can forget that infamous line “I love the smell of napalm in the morning… The smell, you know that gasoline smell… Smells like, victory.” All to secure a beach for a bit of surfing.

5. Braveheart, the Battle of Stirling

Mel Gibson, again fighting the British. One might even think he holds a bit of a grudge. When I was in High School, we had the Army show up one day, and show us a clip from Braveheart, and the famous speech at the Battle of Stirling by William Wallace, as an example of a “great leader”. The ensuing battle is brutal, bloody, and the stuff of cinema legend. A rag tag bunch of filthy Scots take on the well trained English, and through sheer force of will, manage to win. Sure, the historical accuracy may be a bit on the slim side, but if I wanted, that I’d be watching documentaries. Wallace’s speech, and ensuing victory, are magnificently done, even if it is one of the most wildly inaccurate historical films ever conceived.

4. Spartacus, The Final Battle

Look, here’s the basic rule for classical epics. Don’t fuck with the Romans. Sure, they may be decadent and oppressive, but they will fuck you up on the battle field. They’re excellent tacticians, better armed, better trained, and just generally better than you. You can heavily outnumber them, and they will still stomp you into the mud. Even if you lead an army of the righteous, slaves rebelling against their masters, you will die horribly. Even if you win a couple of battles along the way, eventually they’ll get you. I don’t think there’s ever been a movie about battles with Rome in which the main character does not die horribly at the end. You have to hand it to Kubrick, the final battle of Spartacus defined the word epic, with hundreds and hundreds of extras gleefully participating in choreographed destruction.

3. 300

The whole thing, okay? Apart from the parts of the film taking place in Sparta, all of 300 is a bloody tribute to the art of the epic battle scene, with glorious beautiful death raining down on everyone. I think attempting to point out a single scene which is particularly of note would be foolhardy, as the entire flick is glorious.

2. Zulu, Battle of Rorke’s Drift

To modern watchers, Zulu is a problematic film. Noble English defending themselves using better technology and tactics against a massive force of “inferior” black dudes? Yeah, there’s a whole bunch of nasty interpretation going on there. That said, the final battle from Zulu is so riveting and amazing, it’s impossible to ignore its power. The Zulu chants at the beginning, which the Welsh battalion tries to counter with a company song. The massive number of attackers charging a small number of defenders, desperately trying to defend makeshift barricades, and the final rally which leads to victory. Peter Jackson has specifically said that Helm’s Deep was patterned on this classic, and Ridley Scott borrowed the Zulu war chant for Gladiator. That’s how influential this scene was.

1. Saving Private Ryan, Omaha Beach

27 minutes long. Half a freaking hour. That’s how long the opening assault is on Omaha beach. A full 1/6 of Saving Private Ryan is devoted to one of the most harrowing, terrifying, inspiring battles ever put on screen. No other movie has ever captured the gut churning terror and chaos of a beach assault the way Private Ryan did, and the death that came with it. More than any other entry on this list, it also showed that it was possible to have historical accuracy at the same time as memorable cinematography and amazing action, without descending into cartoon villains and anachronistic heroes. The D-Day Invasion depicted in Saving Private Ryan is harsh, brutal, and and amazing piece of cinema. It rightly deserves to be at the top of this list.

8 Tragic Ghost Towns of the 20th Century

Desolate, ruined, hollow: ghost towns are the remnants of urban catastrophe. Whether it’s a shift in local industry or a particularly nasty disaster that sparks a mass exodus, it means the death knell for a town. Eerie and tragic, yet brimming with history, the following ghost towns are monuments to hardship, good intentions with bad repercussions, and human folly.

1.  Hashima Island 端島 (Gunkanjima 軍艦島), Japan

Image: Ishida Naoki/Flickr

It’s virtually impossible to find an abandoned city with a history as sordid as that of Hashima Island, known commonly as “Gunkanjima,” or Battleship Island. Today, it’s a desolate, crumbling rock in the middle of the East China Sea, battered by hurricanes so severe it’s impossible to land on the island most days of the year. But just 50 years ago the tiny Japanese island was home to 5,259 inhabitants, making it the most densely populated city in human history.


Purchased in 1890 by the Mitsubishi Corporation for its large coal deposits, Hashima quickly became home to miners and their families. When room in single-story homes on the island started to run out, the first reinforced concrete apartment blocks were constructed to house all the workers. The apartment buildings quickly became overcrowded too, and conditions deteriorated rapidly in the concrete behemoths.
If life wasn’t already bleak for Gunkanjima’s miners, keep in mind that their days were spent descending long tunnels that lead them into coal mines below the ocean. During World War II, with Japanese men fighting in the Pacific theater, the Japanese government “recruited” (enslaved) Korean and Chinese men to work the mines. Many of these men died from horrendous working conditions and a starvation diet.



When the use of petroleum replaced the need for the production of large amounts of coal in the 1960s, the mines were no longer profitable and were finally closed in 1974. All the inhabitants on the island were shipped back to mainland China, leaving behind a concrete sea wall and rows upon rows of apartment block housing.

Along with the concrete remains, the island’s previous human inhabitants also left another unexpected legacy: plants. Hashima island is made up of coal slag and bare rock and lacked any vegetation or soil of  any kind before humans moved there. During the early ’60s, miners fought for fertilizers and plants to be brought from the mainland, and they created their own gardens on the previously barren island.

Today a very small part of the island is open to visitors, consisting of a single paved walkway, located far from the dangerously crumbling buildings. Ferry tours are also offered to see the island from afar.

2. Deception Island, Antarctica

Image: Lyubomir Ivanov
Part of a larger group of Antarctic islands called the South Shetland Islands, Deception Island was originally a refuge from icebergs for 19th-century seal hunters. The island then became home to a Norwegian-Chilean whaling factory-ship in 1906. Acting as a safe harbor, more whaling factory ships began docking on Deception Island (where they would process the whales brought in from sea and put the carcasses to use around the island). 13 ships were stationed there in 1914.

Image: Lyubomir Ivanov

During the Great Depression the demand for whale products dropped, and the floating whaling village was disbanded. In subsequent years multiple scientific stations attempted to set up shop on the island, just to be driven out by a particularly nasty and noxious gas-spewing volcano. Today, two very small research settlements are inhabited during the summer, but the rest of the island has been abandoned (save the occasional tourist expedition).

Image: Lyubomir Ivanov

3. Centralia, Pennsylvania

Image: Lyndi&Jason/Flickr

The Hottest Town in America,” “A Foretaste of Hell,” “Slow Burn“… these are all names applied to Centralia, PA, and aptly at that! Although the names are dramatic, they barely do the catastrophe in Centralia justice.

A small town about an hour outside Philadelphia, Centralia hosts a large and active coal mine that runs for miles underneath the area. It is believed that in 1962 the town’s volunteer fire department burned trash in the city landfill and then accidentally dumped the embers into an open trash pit that was not properly constructed, with some of those embers ending up in the mine itself. Within days a raging fire began to burn in the coal mines below the city, and almost 50 years later, it has yet to be extinguished.

Image: daysofthundr46/daysofthundr46/Flickr

So what does this mean for the people living in Centralia? For a few years, the raging underground inferno was pretty much ignored. There were some attempts to put it out, but they were underfunded and unsuccessful. Although some residents reported health problems from carbon monoxide poisoning, no efforts were made to relocate the population.
However, all that changed in 1979, when the recorded underground temperature at a local gas station was so hot, the gasoline had to be immediately drained from its tanks so it wouldn’t explode. Then, in 1981, a 12-year-old fell into a massive sink hole that spontaneously formed in his backyard, only to be miraculously saved by his cousin who was able to pull him out.
Maybe it was the combination of fiery sink holes, free-flowing poisonous fumes, lack of a gas station, and the prospect that the still-growing coal fire had enough fuel to burn for another 250 years, but by 1984 the town of Centralia had had enough. Faced with an estimated cost of $660 million to put out the fire, the state of Pennsylvania decided to condemn the town and instead pay around $42 million in relocation funds. Today, only seven people reportedly still haunt this suburban, smoldering ghost town.

4. Kolmanskop, Namibia

Image: MagicOlf/Flickr

Diamonds were discovered near Kolmanskop, Namibia in 1908, and for the next 20 years business boomed in this previously (and currently) desolate landscape. Along with homes and hotels, a school, casino, and hospital were built to accommodate the massive influx of people looking to strike it rich.

Image: MagicOlf/MagicOlf/Flickr

Image: Sara&Joachim/MagicOlf/Flickr

Although Kolmanskop was a diamond hot-spot for a while, it didn’t last long: even more profitable diamond mines were eventually found, and after World War I interest migrated elsewhere. With no other way to make money in the arid sand dunes, residents of Kolmanskop slowly moved away, until the town became completely abandoned and the desert sand reclaimed the buildings.
Want to experience the eerie isolation for yourself? Tours to Kolmanskop are offered daily.

6. Quneitra, Syria

Image: edbrambley/Flickr
Located in the Golan Heights in southwestern Syria, Quneitra is yet another casualty of the conflict in the Middle East. The city had been inhabited for thousands of years (Paleolithic hunter tools were found in the region) and the Romans used it as a rest stop between Damascus and Jerusalem. The small town grew to be a prominent city in the 20th century, growing to around 20,000 people by the time the Six-Day War broke our between Israel and Syria in 1967.

Image: edbrambley/Flickr

This is where the picture gets fuzzy. There are many varied accounts of what transpired in Quneitra; it depends on the political alignment of who you ask. This we know: during the Six-Day War, the subsequent Israeli occupation of the city, and then the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the city of Quneitra was totally destroyed. When it was handed back to Syria in 1974, almost all the building were razed, everything of value had been stripped from the city, and bullet holes riddled whatever was left.

Image: upyernoz/Flickr

Image: upyernoz/Flickr
The Syrian government has chosen to leave Quneitra just how the Israelis left it for them: in abandoned ruins. It stands today as a monument to the ravages of war and conflict. The city is open to the public, but it’s not easy to get to: tourists to Quneitra have to apply for a special permit and prove they aren’t a threat to the city. Once accepted as a tourist, visitors must walk around the city with an official guide and cannot stray from a pre-determined path. In addition, Quneitra must be visited through Syria. The city cannot be accessed by its border-country of Israel, since the border is closed.

7. Pripyat, Ukraine

Image: Wikipedia Commons

From 8 Abandoned Theme Parks “Open” for Exploration:
On April 26, 1986 the most horrendous nuclear disaster in human history occurred when reactor number four of the Chernobyl power plant exploded, sending deadly plumes of radioactive fallout over much of Russia and Europe. Although only a relatively small number of people died from the explosion, the residual radioactivity was devastating for the communities living in the surrounding areas. Pripyat — the town closest to Chernobyl and home to the power plant’s workers and their families — was evacuated.
Today, Pripyat remains exactly as it was in 1986 when its residents were forced to flee. Since the town falls under the “Zone of Alienation” (a 19-mile perimeter around Chernobyl not considered safe for humans to inhabit), it has been left to decay.

Images: gpjt/gpjt/Flickr
Unquestionably one of the most frightening ghost towns imaginable, Pripyat is a physical reminder of the horrors that occurred there. Although the devastating events in Pripyat are still fresh in the hearts of the people who lived there, a surprising new trend of tourism to Pripyat is emerging since the radiation levels have dropped dramatically over the past few years. Maybe it won’t be abandoned for much longer after all.

8. San Zhi, Taiwan

Located on the coast outside of Taipei, San Zhi was designed as a resort community. Although the buildings are eerily ahead of their time, the futuristic community never actually opened. It’s not clear why the project was abandoned when it was almost complete. Some sources say that the developer ran out of money. Others say shoddy construction made the pod-hotels unlivable, while still others blame the high fatality rate among workers during construction.

Sadly these amazing structures were torn down in 2009 after standing abandoned for nearly 30 years.