Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Welcome to America's hall of shame

From Sarah Palin to AIG's pamper-hungry sales reps, the following characters have made us less than proud

In at least one obvious way, 2008 was a pretty good year in my country. We made history in electing an African-American president. I and 67 million of my fellow citizens brought the era of conservative dominance to a thundering close. For those of us who've been told for eight years that we weren't real Americans - liberals, urbanites, non-believers, cabernet-sippers, same-sex lovers, anti-war-mongerers, Volvo drivers - well, the tables have turned. We're the real Americans now.

But ill winds still blew, and blow, across the republic. It being the duty of journalism to take the measure of these winds, I hereby dedicate my year-end column to ranking some of the worst Americans of the year. It started as a bottom 10 list, but consultations with various associates persuaded me that 10 was not enough, and further research suggested that a non-round and totally capricious number better suited the exercise. Herewith, the Tomasky List of the 19 Worst Americans of 2008.

19 ED Hill. Ms Hill is the Fox News anchor who referred to Barack and Michelle Obama's on-stage fist bump in early June as a "terrorist fist jab". I guess she's well familiar with the various and sundry ways in which couples express intimacy - she's been married three times herself. Fox announced in November that it wasn't renewing her contract.

18 Don Blankenship. Who? He's the head of a huge coal-mining company that is an industry leader, if one must put it that way, in so-called mountain-top removal mining. It's a hideous practice that destroys mountains and communities, and Blankenship is its poster child. Our supreme court has agreed to hear a case in which Blankenship financed the election of a state judge who, in a $50m lawsuit, ruled for Blankenship's company. Google Caperton v Massey, read more about Massey, and tell me if this fellow shouldn't perhaps be even higher.

17 Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher. The man better known as Joe the Plumber wasn't a licensed plumber. He owed back taxes. He shocked even a Fox News anchor with his cavalier relationship to the facts. Let's hope he's 14 minutes into his allotted 15 minutes of fame.

16 John Edwards. How could a person run for president knowing that he'd cheated on his cancer-stricken wife with a woman who subsequently bore a child? (He denies paternity.) What if he'd actually won the nomination, and then this news came out? He gives bad judgment a bad name.

15 Heath and Deborah Campbell. You know, the parents who named their son Adolf Hitler Campbell. Nuff said.

14 Geraldine Ferraro. One of the worst vice-presidential candidates in recent history distinguished herself in 2008 as one of the worst political surrogates (for Hillary Clinton) in recent history. In between, she found a way to lose two Senate races that she once led by 20 points. What a career.

13 Stephen L Johnson. The Bush administration's chief environmental enforcement officer is ... about what you'd expect out of the Bush administration's chief environmental officer. He's loosened rules, ignored subpoenas and been rebuked by his own staff.

12 Sam Zell. Yes, market forces and technology are putting the American newspaper on life support, but that doesn't mean that the man who bought the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times should stroll into the intensive-care unit and pull the plug. Zell's belief that productivity should be measured purely by word output is a death knell for intensive, investigative work that uncovers corruption.

11 David Addington. Dick Cheney's top aide told Congress in June that he didn't even know what the unitary executive theory of presidential power was. This would be rather like Lavrenti Beria insisting that Lubyanka prison was actually a hotel.

10 The boys from AIG. Less than a week after the insurance giant received an $85bn federal bail-out, some AIG execs and sales reps spent $440,000 on a retreat at an exclusive resort, including $23,000 in spa charges. Well, they were under tremendous stress, you know.

9 Eliot Spitzer. The prostitute-visiting ex-New York governor, remember? Usually, when a scandal breaks, one reads the reports and starts thinking, "Well, I can see how they could wriggle out of this one." Even when the Lewinsky scandal broke, I could see how Bill Clinton might get out of it. But when the Spitzer story broke, it was evident instantly that he was dead meat.

8 Dick Cheney. Just because. If he lives to be 99 - and he's not as old as he looks: can you believe, for instance, that he's younger than Ringo? - and I'm still doing this column, something tells me he'll always find his way on the list. It'll take that long to undo the damage he's done to flag and country.

7 Steve Schmidt. John McCain didn't make the list, but his chief campaign strategist has earned an indisputable spot. He displayed a rare combination of incompetence, tone-deafness and cynicism. He's only as low as number eight because it didn't work.

6 Joe Lieberman. It's not that the Connecticut senator backed McCain. It's the way he did it, the way he does everything - the self-regard, the pride, the arrogation to himself of some kind of moral authority that he in fact does not have any more (even if he once did, itself a debatable proposition). Don't take it from me. Take it from his constituents, who ignored him to the tune of supporting Obama by a 22-point margin.

5 Michele Bachmann. Of the many memorable moments the campaign produced, I will never forget watching this Minnesota congresswoman say on national TV in October that Obama "may have anti-American views" and endorse the idea of a media investigation of all members of Congress to determine whether their views were sufficiently pro-American. The single most appalling political statement of the year.

4 Rod Blagojevich. "Whatever I say is always lawful, whatever I'm interested in doing is always lawful." Uh-huh. Depending on what comes out at his trial, he's a strong contender for an even higher spot in 2009.

3 George Bush. There were years when he would have been higher - 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. I'll give him a slight pass for 2001, what with the attacks and all that. In those previous years, he stole an election, started an unnecessary war, lied about it, approved torture, let a great US city drown and so on. This year he merely presided over the bankruptcy of the global economy. Twenty days and counting.

2 Sarah Palin. Does she really deserve to be this high? Never in my adult lifetime has one politician so perfectly embodied everything that is malign about my country: the proto-fascist nativism, the know-nothingism, the utterly cavalier lack of knowledge about the actual principles on which the country was founded. So, heck, you betcha she does!

1 Bernard Madoff. It's pronounced "made-off". Could Dickens have named him better? Bilking people and institutions out of $50bn is a pretty surefire way to make yourself No 1 with a bullet on anyone's year-end bad guys' list.

credit: rawstory and The Guardian

Monday, December 29, 2008

Season's Beatings

Download This Year's Henchman 21 and 24 Xmas tune HERE

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Getting Into the Xmas Spirit

Turner Classic Movies Pays Tribute

Cheech and Chong Get the Cartoon Treatment

Cheech & Chong Get Animated

December 16, 2008 12:21 PM ET
Jay A. Fernandez, The Hollywood Reporter
As the reunited Cheech & Chong's stand-up tour Light Up America fires out nationwide, Big Vision Entertainment said it will produce an animated film featuring the duo with Chambers Bros. Entertainment.

The two companies have acquired animated film rights to the classic Cheech and Chong library held by music producer and Ode Records owner Lou Adler and will use those famous comedy bits to inspire "Cheech and Chong's Smokin' Animated Movie."

Big Vision founder and CEO Houston Curtis will produce along with Keith, Branden and Eric Chambers, who devised the concept. Adler, who discovered the duo in the early 1970s, will executive produce. Eric and Branden Chambers will direct the animation.

The ICM-repped Big Vision, which focuses on direct-to-DVD special-interest material, will finance the project.

In the '70s and '80s, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong released several top-selling comedy albums and starred in six films, including "Up in Smoke" and "Still Smokin'."

"It's great to be doing a movie where Cheech and I never have to get out of bed or be on camera," Chong said.

"It's about time that we got animated because we've been doing animation without the animation for years," Marin said. "Whether you watch it smokin' a fattie or stone-cold sober, it's just plain funny."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Just In Time for Easter (March 24th)

Venture Brothers Season Three Ventures to DVD
Now in high-def with uncensored episodes and new features.
by IGN Staff

December 5, 2008 - It's time, Venture Bros. fans! It is time to finally witness what happens after the unlikely wedding of The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend. Time to discover how The Monarch came to be a supervillain. Time to witness Dr. Venture's latest and fruitless money-making schemes for Venture Industries while ducking the evil doings of familiar foes like The Phantom Limb and Sergeant Hatred. And it will most definitely be time to catch up with the dim-witted Hank and Dean to witness their newest misadventures as Adult Swim brings to DVD and, for the first time ever in the network's history -- Blu-ray Disc – The Venture Bros. Season 3.

Arriving at retail as a two-disc box set on both platforms for the suggested retail prices of $29.98 and $44.98, respectively, The Venture Bros. Season 3 features all 13 uncensored episodes from the show's highly popular third season and bonus material including deleted scenes and commentary. Additionally, the Blu-ray disc box set will be packaged with an exclusive CD which includes 20 tracks that comprise the full musical score from the television series' third season.

Launched on Adult Swim in August 2004, The Venture Bros. is an inspired spoof of 1960s action cartoon shows such as "Johnny Quest." Created by Jackson Publick III (King of the Hill, The Tick), this 30-minute animated series follows the bizarre misadventures of the Venture family. Members of this eclectic clan include the world-renowned Dr. Venture, his not-so bright, fraternal sons Hank and Dean as well as Brock, their bodyguard assigned by the government to keep an eye on the family who is then promptly forgotten by the Feds.

Dumbass Parents of the Decade Award Goes To...

The Express-Times

HOLLAND TWP. | In a living room decorated with war books, German combat knives and swastikas, a 2-year-old boy, blond and blue-eyed, played with a plastic dinner set.

The boy, asked his name, put down a tiny plate and ran behind his father's leg. He flashed a shy smile but wouldn't answer. Heath Campbell, 35, the boy's father, encouraged him.

"Say Adolf," said Campbell, a Holocaust denier who has three children named for Nazism.

Again, the boy wouldn't answer. It wasn't the first time the name caused hesitation.

Adolf Hitler Campbell -- it's indeed the name on his birth certificate -- turns 3 today, and the Campbell family believes the boy has been mistreated. A local supermarket refused to make a birthday cake with "Adolf Hitler" on it.

The ShopRite in Greenwich Township has also refused to make a cake bearing the name of Campbell's daughter, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, who turns 2 in February.

Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, a girl named for Schutzstaffel head Heinrich Himmler, turns 1 in April.

"ShopRite can't even make a cake for a 3-year-old," said Deborah Campbell, 25, who is Heath's wife of three years and the mother of the children. "That's sad."

A director for the Anti-Defamation League in Philadelphia applauded the supermarket's decision. An Allentown psychologist said the names would cause problems for the children later in life.

'Real Genius' Becoming a Reality

Airborne Laser lets rip on first target

* 15 December 2008 by Paul Marks
* Magazine issue 2686. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.

IMAGINE swarms of aircraft patrolling the skies, zapping missiles, aircraft or even satellites in low Earth orbit with invisible, ultrapowerful laser beams.

Such laser battles in the sky may not be such a long way off, after a megawatt laser weapon was fired from an aircraft for the first time.

Although the Airborne Laser (ABL) was fired from a stationary plane at a target on the ground just a few metres away, the test marked a milestone for the weapon, developed by aerospace firms Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

The laser was 12 years in the making and cost $4.3 billion, putting it vastly over budget. The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) calls it the answer to "rogue states" or terror groups who equip themselves with intercontinental ballistic missiles, such as Scuds.

Yet the ABL may soon be used to shoot down a much wider range of devices - including aircraft - and is just one of a number of laser weapons now being readied for military use.

The idea behind the ABL programme is that at times of international tension, the airborne weapons will patrol the skies within hundreds of kilometres of the missile silos or launchers of a region of interest. Then, if the heat signature of a rocket launch is detected via satellite or an early warning aircraft, the ABL will track it and fire its laser at the missile while the latter is still getting off the ground and beginning to accelerate. In theory, the heat from what Boeing calls the "megawatt class" laser beam - the precise power level is classified - should cause the pressurised part of the missile to warp, bend and buckle, resulting in the missile's complete disintegration.
The beam should cause a missile to warp, bend and disintegrate above its launch site

That's a tall order by any standards, and many sceptics have questioned whether the weapon will ever get off the ground at all. But over the last few years, various aspects of the ABL's operation have been proven to work. For instance, both the twin low-power target-tracking lasers and the main laser beam's control optics have been successfully tested, while the Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) weapon has produced a beam in the lab. But until the test on 24 November at Edwards Air Force Base in California, the laser had not been fired from inside a Boeing 747.

That was a challenge because the COIL's six chemical modules - which rely on the reaction between oxygen molecules in an excited state and iodine to produce a light-emitting gas - are each the size of a large sports utility vehicle and collectively take up the rear half of the plane. The beam-forming and fire control system takes up the front half. This system ensures that the laser beam is accurately aligned so it does not damage or destroy the plane, and that it shoots where the target-tracker tells it to.

In two test firings, a laser beam was fired at a target for 1 second. The team now plan to test fire laser beams for longer, before preparing the aircraft for flight tests next year. "We remain on track to complete a lethal demonstration in 2009," says Rinn. "There's nothing like flaming missile wreckage to show the world the system is viable and that it works."

Until now the weapon had been pitched by the Pentagon, the MDA and its contractors as a defensive device, for destroying incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). But it now appears the laser is being readied for other uses. "The ABL is not just for missile defense," says Rinn. "We're optimised for ballistic missiles but there are modifications that could be made that would give us capabilities for countering aircraft, surface-to-air missiles and cruise missiles."

The ABL's contractors have already begun simulation work to show how modifications would allow the weapon to be used to shoot down aircraft, raising the possibility that dogfights of the future could be laser battles.

Military analysts have also pointed out that the ABL's laser could be used as an anti-satellite weapon - it is thought to have a range of hundreds of kilometres. It could either heat a satellite's fuel tanks to destruction or simply blind orbiting spy cameras. Rinn says the team is not investigating this at the moment: "The design of our sensors and our particular system is for bright [heat-emitting] ballistic missiles, so we haven't looked at that one yet."

With US President-Elect Barack Obama's transitional team poring over the Pentagon's accounts, the ABL may yet be axed. Indeed, the team's talk of other military uses for the weapon may simply be an attempt to make the programme look more attractive by showing it can do more than destroy ICBMs.

Whatever happens to the ABL, the move to high-power laser weapons that use an invisible infrared beam to attack targets is already under way. Top among the early "directed energy" devices expected to be fielded is the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL), developed by the US air force and Boeing, which uses a smaller chemical laser than the ABL and is carried in a military transport plane or large helicopter.

Rock Star Releases GTA IV DLC Teaser

Punisher: War Zone -- A Guilty Pleasure

So everybody's favorite superhero, me, went out to catch the latest flick featuring everybody's favorite gun toting vigilante...

It was an interesting experience.

Some of you may have seen the Thomas Jane version of The Punisher a few years back featuring the entirely too awesome Kevin Nash. One of the major complaints about the Jane Punisher is that it was set in like Miami or Malibu or somewhere. Punisher is wholly a New York Nutcase and the new film places him squarely in post 9-11 Big Apple. And to be honest, I'm not sure which Punisher I liked better filmwise. The Jane film was decent in that it took the material semu-seriously for the first time, gave us gratuitious amounts of Rebecca Romjin, and focused on grimy anti-hero who numbed the pain with liqour.

The Ray Stevenson Punisher was fun to watch and also focused on a troubled anti-hero numbing his pain, but with religion. One of the big controversies was what the film would be rated. The Punisher is NOT a polished hero who looks good using fists. He is vioent. And where as Batman is a feared character by bringing enemies to justice by beating the living hell out of them, Punisher is judge/jury/executioner all in one. But would Lionsgate neuter Frank Castle (aka The Punisher)?

No. Brutally, graphically, painfully no.

This was the first movie I ever saw Rated R for "brutal violence". It makes the over top violence of Robocop look tame. And in a way, that's this film's major flaw. It is TOO brutal at times and the effects department wanted to create new ways to show a fist caving in a nasal cavity or splattering brains all over the wall. Jane's Punisher only had one "real" Punisher moment when he kills a guy with a combat knife in a nasty fashion. But Stevenson's Punisher reeks of those moments. Now for the die hard Punisher fan, it's great. For the curious minded comic book crowd, it may be too much. And for the pg-13 movie crowd, this fim is the Horrid Grail.

In all these help to expplain the dismal ticket sales. Less than $5 mill in week one. Less than $2 mill in week two. In fact the film only spent One Week in the top ten. Those numbers will probably spell the end of the Stevenson Punisher and will likely shelve the character for a long, long time. But I have always seen the Punisher as a tier 2 or 3 character in Marvel. One that will never get the following of Wolverine or Iron Man. That, to me, helps explain the abysmal numbers. Combine that with a feel good movie season and the fact that Christmas is not the time for obscenely violent films...and the rest is history.

For me, this may very well be, as one writer already said, the greatest B-Movie superhero flick of all time. It reminded me of "They Live" a little bit, but instead of poorly scripted laughs, we get poorly scripetd brutal vigilante killings that even made this hero cringe at times.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Farewell to an Icon

Bettie Page dies at 85; pinup queen played a key role in the sexual revolution of the 1960s and later became a cult figure

Bettie Page, the brunet pinup queen with a shoulder-length pageboy hairdo and kitschy bangs whose saucy photos helped usher in the sexual revolution of the 1960s, has died. She was 85.

Page, whose later life was marked by depression, violent mood swings and several years in a state mental institution, died Thursday night at Kindred Hospital in Los Angeles, where she had been on life support since suffering a heart attack Dec. 2, according to her agent, Mark Roesler.

A cult figure, Page was most famous for the estimated 20,000 4-by-5-inch black-and-white glossy photographs taken by amateur shutterbugs from 1949 to 1957. The photos showed her in high heels and bikinis or negligees, bondage apparel -- or nothing at all.

Decades later, those images inspired biographies, comic books, fan clubs, websites, commercial products -- Bettie Page playing cards, dress-up magnet sets, action figures, Zippo lighters, shot glasses -- and, in 2005, a film about her life and times, "The Notorious Bettie Page."

Then there are the idealized portraits of her naughty personas -- Nurse Bettie, Jungle Bettie, Voodoo Bettie, Banned in Boston Bettie, Maid Bettie, Crackers in Bed Bettie -- memorialized by such artists as Olivia de Berardinis.

"I'll always paint Bettie Page," De Berardinis said Thursday night . "But truth be told, it took me years to understand what I was looking at in the old photographs of her. Now I get it. There was a passion play unfolding in her mind. What some see as a bad girl image was in fact a certain sensual freedom and play-acting - it was part of the fun of being a woman."

"The origins of what captures the imagination and creates a particular celebrity are sometimes difficult to define," Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner said Thursday night. "Bettie Page was one of Playboy magazine's early playmates, and she became an iconic figure, influencing notions of beauty and fashion. Then she disappeared. . . . Many years later, Bettie resurfaced and we became friends. Her passing is very sad."

In an interview 2 1/2 years ago, Hefner described Page's appeal as "a combination of wholesome innocence and fetish-oriented poses that is at once retro and very modern."

According to her agents at CMG Worldwide, Page's official website,, has received about 600 million hits over the last five years.

"Bettie Page captured the imagination of a generation of men and women with her free spirit and unabashed sensuality," said Roesler, chairman of the Indianapolis-based CMG Worldwide, who was at Page's side when she died. "She was a dear friend and a special client and one of the most beautiful and influential women of the 20th century."

An Incredible Mashup of Nelly Furtado's "Maneater" Set to "Easy Lover". BONUS: Skippy Sighting at 1:18 mark

New Fallout DLC is Looking SWEET!

Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage Unveiled
Bethesda spills the beans on everything from length to lifting the level cap.
by Erik Brudvig

December 10, 2008 - It's hard to imagine anybody already doing everything in Fallout 3 already, but I guess that's why they call some gamers hardcore. Whether you've finished Fallout 3 or not, you're probably already looking forward to the downloadable add-ons coming to Xbox 360 and PC early next year. IGN recently had the chance to learn more about the three pieces of downloadable content (DLC) that have already been announced by way of Jeff Gardiner, lead producer for Fallout 3 DLC. The focus of the interview was January's DLC, titled Operation Anchorage, but we also learned a bit about the next two downloads as well.

IGN: The liberation of Alaska was hinted at a lot during Fallout 3. What can we expect out of that simulated battle?

Jeff Gardiner: In Operation: Anchorage the player will find themselves able to re-live the famous liberation of Anchorage from Fallout lore -- inside a simulation similar to one found along the main quest of Fallout 3. Once the player finds their way into the simulation, they'll be stripped of their resources and have to survive within the rules set up by the simulation's creators.

The Chinese red army is everywhere, and the player will first have to secure the surrounding mountain side and then fight their way into the Chinese base. The player will have to use a lot of their standard combat skills, along with several new tools that will only be available in the downloadable content. These include interactive Strike Teams under the player's command and unique armor, weapons, and other exotic gadgets.

Re-live the liberation of Alaska.
IGN: A lot of quests in Fallout 3 were slightly different depending upon your character (mostly through dialogue options). Can we expect the same for Operation Anchorage?

Gardiner: Operation: Anchorage focuses mainly on a combat/stealth path. It's important to our team to use DLC as a way for us to flex our creativity, to try new things and answer the "wouldn't have been cool if we did this?" question that always comes up towards a games completion; when it's too late to try them! Don't worry, we're trying something a little different with all of our upcoming content so there will be plenty of the morally gray, multiple path quest lines everyone loves the franchise for.

IGN: Do you expect title updates to fix a few outstanding bugs to come along with Operation Anchorage?

Gardiner: We are releasing an update for all versions of Fallout 3 prior to the release of this DLC. We take pride in fixing issues that are found by our fans and posted in our forums.

IGN: How will the simulation of the battle work? Will we be teleported to a new area or will it all take place within a computer?

Gardiner: Since this is a simulation of a battle that took place in the past, it is taking place within a computer. It's a "what if" scenario, created by the Government in order to test different counter-offensives against the red menace.

Prepare for lots of new art assets.
IGN: How exactly will players access Operation Anchorage after purchasing the download? Will there be a specific place they'll have to go to in order to start the quest?

Gardiner: There will be a new quest objective and map marker for the player to travel to. You can play through this content at any level, once you've exited the Vault.

IGN: The liberation of Anchorage must have taken place before the entire country was destroyed. How different will the art style be for this download?

Gardiner: Anchorage has a vastly different art style. It's taking place in the frozen north; so you have a very bright ice/snow color pallet. We've had a massive amount of art resources at our disposal, most of what the player will experience was created from scratch. We've also taken a lot of time to create a bunch of 'animation vignettes' to make the soldiers and other NPCs interact with the world in better, more convincing ways then anything we were able to do with the Fallout 3 main game.

IGN: Will Operation Anchorage include anything aside from new quests? Can we expect new weapons and armor to outfit our last best hope of humanity? What about new achievements?

Gardiner: It will include new weapons, armor and achievements! It's full of top-secret technology used by both sides during the war, which the player will of course be able to use throughout the main game as well.

New weapons!
IGN: Will the download bring any new perks? My cannibal is hungry for more.

Gardiner: Yes, there will be a new perk included with the content! I won't get into details, but it's named "Covert Ops."

IGN: We're not expecting something as big as Shivering Isles for this first batch of DLC, but how lengthy is Operation Anchorage?

Gardiner: It's about four or five hours, depending on play style. Plus, it will give you new weaponry and other tools that the player can use through the main game.

IGN: How much will Operation Anchorage cost?
Gardiner: 800 Points.

IGN: Will any of the three downloads come with a lift of the level 20 cap?

Gardiner: Yes, the plan is currently for the third DLC, Broken Steel, to increase the level cap. This will be accompanied by new foes, perks and all of the other Fallout 3 staples our fans expect.

IGN: The second piece of downloadable content, The Pitt, takes place in Pittsburgh. As that city is a bit farther away from the coast and the epicenter of DC, is it in the same state of ruin as what we've seen in Fallout 3?
Gardiner: While Pittsburgh wasn't directly hit in the nuclear onslaught, it's still had years of decay. The surrounding water is also heavily irradiated, which tends to have an effect on those that live near it...

Operation Anchorage will last about four or five hours.
IGN: Not to spoil the end of Fallout 3, but extending the story in the Broken Steel download might be a bit tricky. Will the main character still continue through for that storyline? Will he or she be usable in the other downloads?

Gardiner: Based on a lot of feedback, we're going to allow the player to continue on after the main quest ends in the Broken Steel DLC. While a lot of details still have to be sorted, this will allow the player to continue on and play in the Wasteland enjoying the side and freeform quests, along with any new downloadable content we have planned in the future.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Anyone Remember THIS Holocaust

Remember the Holodomor
The Soviet starvation of Ukraine, 75 years later
by Cathy Young

This year marks the 75th anniversary of one of the most horrific chapters in the history of the Soviet Union: the great famine the Ukrainians call Holodomor, "murder by starvation." This catastrophe, which killed an estimated 6 to 10 million people in 1932-33, was largely the product of deliberate Soviet policies. Inevitably, then, its history is fodder for acrimonious disputes.

Ukraine--which, with Canada and a few other countries, observed Holodomor Remembrance Day on November 23--seeks international recognition for a Ukrainian "genocide." Russia denounces that demand as political exploitation of a wider tragedy. Some Russian human rights activists are skeptical of both positions.

Meanwhile, the famine remains little known in the West, despite efforts by the Ukrainian diaspora. Indeed, the West has its own inglorious history with regard to the famine, starting with the deliberate cover-up by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty.

In the late 1980s, the famine gained new visibility thanks to Robert Conquest's Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine (1987) and the TV documentary Harvest of Despair, aired in the United States and Canada. A backlash from the left was quick to follow. Revisionist Sovietologist J. Arch Getty accused Conquest of parroting the propaganda of "exiled nationalists." And in January 1988, the Village Voice ran a lengthy essay by Jeff Coplon (now a contributing editor at New York magazine) titled "In Search of a Soviet Holocaust: A 55-Year-Old Famine Feeds the Right." Coplon sneered at "the prevailing vogue of anti-Stalinism" and dismissed as absurd the idea that
the famine had been created by the Communist regime. Such talk, he asserted, was meant to justify U.S. imperialism and whitewash Ukrainian collaboration with the Nazis.

By the time Coplon wrote, however, the Soviet regime was dying. The partial opening of Soviet archives soon confirmed the extent to which Stalin and his henchmen knowingly used hunger to punish resistance and beat the peasantry into submission. Among the finds was a direct order by Stalin to cordon off starving villages and intercept peasants trying to flee in search of food. The post-Soviet leadership of both Russia and Ukraine was willing to acknowledge the Terror-Famine, though differences soon emerged on whether it should be regarded as a Ukrainian genocide or equal-opportunity mass murder.

Ukrainian-Russian relations began to deteriorate after the "Orange Revolution" of late 2004. Russia under Vladimir Putin was sliding deeper into authoritarianism and anti-Western nationalism, while Ukraine, led by President Viktor Yushchenko, sought closer ties to the West. Even as the political mood in Russia began to emphasize the alleged positive aspects of the Soviet past, Yushchenko promoted a view of Soviet-era Ukraine as a "captive nation" under a foreign boot.

In November 2006, the Ukrainian parliament passed a bill proclaiming the Holodomor a genocide and making Holodomor denial "unlawful." An escalation of rhetoric followed; a 2007 statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry accused "certain political circles" in Ukraine of insulting the memory of non-Ukrainian famine victims. Since then, the pro-government Russian press has published dozens of articles assailing Ukraine's stance on the Holodomor as an insidious anti-Russian ploy. This year, President Dmitry Medvedev declined an invitation to Holodomor Remembrance Day ceremonies in Kiev in a petulant letter that dismissed "talk of the so-called Holodomor" as an "immoral" attempt to give a shared tragedy a nationalist spin and also took a swipe at Ukraine's desire to join NATO.

Metallica's New Video for "All Nightmare Long" Features Wicked Awesome Soviet Zombies. Watch it Quick Before Youtube Yanks It!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Robin Williams -- Awesome

Honda's New Concept Car Looks Like a Clone Trooper Helmet

Hermione Would Get Naked for the Right Film Role, and Not the One Quatto Wants to Shoot in a Windowless Van with Chloroform

I would go naked for the right role, says 18-year-old Harry Potter star Emma Watson

By Hugo Daniel
Last updated at 12:30 PM on 08th December 2008

She only turned 18 eight months ago, but Harry Potter star Emma Watson is already considering stripping off on screen.

In what many might see as further evidence of the pressure on women in the industry, the young actress admits she is prepared to go nude - if the role demands it.

The news will shock fans who have watched her grown up as Hermione Granger in the series of JK Rowling adaptations and still think of her as a child.

Looking good: Emma Watson looked stunning at the world premiere of her new movie 'The Tale of Despereaux' in Hollywood

Looking good: Emma Watson looked stunning at the world premiere of her new movie 'The Tale of Despereaux' in Hollywood

Emma Watson

Emma reveals her enviable figure in an ink blue backless minidress

But when asked by a Sunday magazine if she would ever film naked, she admitted: 'Yes. For Bernardo Bertolucci. It ... depends.

'I’m not getting my kit off any time soon, but it is part of my job.

'I’m at a strange age. I’m not a woman yet, but I’m not a girl any more.

'They [film companies] say: "Oh, in a couple of years you’ll be perfect for this."

'I’ll be like, yeah, but I want to be studying English then, so it’s going to be quite tough to choose between the two.'

Emma Watson laughs with the mouse as she poses with Despereaux at the premiere of 'The Tales of Despereaux' in Hollywood
Emma Watson poses at the premiere of the movie

Turning heads: Emma shows off her stunning style, in the dark blue dress and strappy heels

emma watson

A word in your shell-like: Emma gets up close and personal with the giant mouse she befriends in the animated film

Meanwhile, the university-bound actress showed her youth as she donned mouse ears - and a fasionable dress of course - for her latest Hollywood premiere last night.

She may have graced the cover of Vogue, but she looked at home promoting the animated movie, The Tale of Despereaux, which is set to be a big Christmas hit.

The British star had a big smile for the camera as she posed on the red carpet in the satin dress and a pair of peep-toe black heels.

Emma Watson poses at the afterparty for the premiere of Universal Picture's

Mousing around: Emma dons a pair of fun mouse ears at the after-party

She posed with co-stars Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick in Los Angeles.

In the CGI film she provides the voice for the character Princess Pea, who forms a friendship with a brave little mouse with huge ears.

The Harry Potter star signed a deal with Kate Moss's modelling agency Storm last summer and was a fixture at both London and Paris Fashion Week this year.

Hollywood girl: Emma Watson poses with her co-stars Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick at the premiere of their new movie 'The Tale of Despereaux'

Hollywood girl: Emma Watson poses with her co-stars Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick at the premiere of their new movie 'The Tale of Despereaux'

The young actress has admitted to having a big interest in the fashion world and has become a regular face on the fashion circuit of late.

'I've always been really interested in art and fashion', she has said.

But despite her hugely successful acting career and the interest from the fashion industry, Emma has pledged to continue her academic career following her current gap year.

After gaining straight As at A-level, she plans to study English literature in the UK or a liberal arts degree in the U.S.

Happy Birthday Lizard King

Friday, December 5, 2008

He Came and Went All at Once

Photo: DPA

Man dies in Bonn porn video booth

Published: 5 Dec 08 09:56 CET

A German man has been found dead in a pornography video booth at a Bonn Beate Uhse sex shop, Cologne daily Express reported on Friday.

Apparently “plump boobs and hot thighs” were too much for the 54-year-old pornography customer’s heart, who died while watching porn in one of the video-booths at the sex-shop on Bischofsplatz, the paper said.

A staff member became suspicious when there was no sign of movement in the cabin long after the man’s time was up. She reportedly knocked on the door and unlocked the booth from the outside and was shocked to find the “porn fan” dead in the chair, the paper reported.

A call to emergency services came too late to help the man. Though authorities suspect he died of a heart attack, the doctor on the scene could not determine the cause of death at the time, and the corpse was handed over to police.

“Investigations so far have not brought up any evidence that a third party might have been involved,” police spokesperson Christian Gräßler told the paper.

They're Coming Back, Baby!

Kids in the Hall to return to CBC

The Kids in the Hall (left to right), Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch and Kevin McDonald, are to write the new show. The Kids in the Hall (left to right), Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch and Kevin McDonald, are to write the new show. (Canadian Press)

The Kids in the Hall are heading back to CBC Television with a new series.

Kirstine Layfield, executive director of network TV programming at CBC, confirmed the new series on Friday.

The project is still in development stages, she said, and unlikely to air before the fall of 2010.

"This came out of their reunion tour [in 2008]. We approached them and suggested a new series," she said.

The Kids reunited at Montreal's Just for Laughs festival in 2007 and toured together earlier this year.

All five members of the comedy team — Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson — will be writing the show.

Foley, who spoke about the series after presenting a Gemini Award last Friday, said the show will be a narrative comedy that tells a story in eight episodes.

The Kids in the Hall began as an improv troupe and are known for their sketch comedy.

But the new series, tentatively titled Death Comes to Town, will feature the same kooky comedy and the five original members of the troupe playing multiple characters, but with a single story arc.

The Kids In the Hall show ran on CBC from 1988 to 1994 and on two U.S. networks until 1995.

And Somewhere, Morty is Weeping

Report: Former Wake Forest, NBA star Rogers paralyzed in ATV accident

Former NBA and college basketball star Rodney Rogers is paralyzed as the result of an all-terrain vehicle accident, his college coach told the News & Observer of Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

Rodney Rogers

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Rodney Rogers was one of the NBA's best sixth men and a respected 3-point shooter during his 12-year pro career.

Dave Odom, who coached Rogers when he earned All-America honors at Wake Forest and was the 1993 ACC Player of the Year, said Wednesday that his former star is paralyzed from the shoulders down, according to the report. "Say a prayer for Rodney and his family,'' Odom said, according to the newspaper. Rogers, 37, who had a 12-year NBA career and won the league's sixth man award in 1999-2000, was riding in the woods in rural Vance County, N.C., last week when he fell off the vehicle, according to the North Carolina Highway Patrol, the newspaper reported. He was recently transferred from Duke Hospital to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, which specializes in rehabilitation for people with catastrophic injuries. A Durham native who starred in high school football and basketball, Rogers had returned to his hometown and was working for the city public works department as a heavy machinery operator. He was promoted to a supervisory position six months ago, according to the report. He was also volunteering as a girls' basketball coach at a Durham middle school and had set up a computer lab at a city public housing complex, according to the report. His agent and lawyer, James "Butch" Williams, described Rogers as "an outdoorsman, plain and simple," according to the report. "He hunts, motorcycles, rides horses. He loves big trucks," Williams said. Rogers, who was financially set, took the job with the Durham DPW because he liked working with heavy trucks, Williams said, according to the report.

O.J. Simpson Sentenced to Prison


LAS VEGAS (Dec. 5) - A broken O.J. Simpson was sentenced Friday to as many as 33 years in prison for a hotel armed robbery after a judge rejected his apology and said, "It was much more than stupidity."
The 61-year-old football Hall of Famer stood shackled and stone-faced as Judge Jackie Glass rattled off the punishment. Moments before, Simpson made a rambling, five-minute plea for leniency, simultaneously apologizing for the holdup as a foolish mistake and trying to justify his actions.

Monday, December 1, 2008

HBO's Rome May Return to the Big Screen

Heller looking for movie version of 'Rome'

Romejpg The creator of CBS' red-hot procedural "The Mentalist" has unfinished business in Italy.

Bruno Heller says he wants to produce a theatrical wrap-up to his critically beloved and prematurely canceled HBO drama "Rome."

"There is talk of doing a movie version," he said. "It's moving along. It's not there until it is there. I would love to round that show off."

The lavish period drama ran for two seasons on HBO, which co-produced the series with the BBC. With the final season of "The Sopranos" as its lead-in, the first season was solidly rated. But the show's hefty $100 million production cost presented the network with a tough call on the pickup. HBO opted for a second season to help get more value from its initial investment but not a third, effectively canceling the show in summer 2006 before the second season debuted the following January. The "Rome" sets were destroyed, and the actors were released from their contracts, making the network's decision all but irreversible.

But season 2 of "Rome" was a surprise. Although slightly lower rated than the first, the show did much better than HBO expected without its "Sopranos" lead-in (averaging roughly 6.5 million viewers, nearly the same as "True Blood"). Plus it won awards, which is important to a pay network that attracts subscribers by offering premium programming: Post-cancellation, the first season received four Emmy Awards, and then another seven Emmys were heaped upon the final season.

Suddenly "Rome" was a Greek tragedy: a successful show with no future. The broadcast nets quickly snatched up the show's leads for top fall pilots.

HBO executives have since admitted that axing the show probably was a mistake.

One seeming drawback to revisiting the show after its wrap was the demise of a key lead character, Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd). Yet Heller reveals that the character's off-camera fate was far from fatal.

"It was very deliberate that we saw him drifting away but didn't see him atop a funeral pyre," Heller said.

Following his turn starring in NBC's "Journeyman," McKidd is in a recurring role on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy." Fellow "Rome" star Ray Stevenson, after appearing in CBS' "Babylon Fields" pilot, is now in the upcoming big-screen comic book adaptation of "The Punisher." Polly Walker appeared in CBS' short-lived "Cane" and is now cast in Sci Fi's "Caprica." (Also, James Purefoy is the lead in NBC's ambitious "The Philanthropist" project, but the actor's portrayal of Marc Antony concluded in season two.)

A feature revival of a defunct series always is considered difficult, though HBO succeeded with "Sex and the City," and Fox's "Arrested Development" is making progress toward the big screen.

Heller would not discuss plot ideas, but the original series outline for "Rome" next called for the hedonistic Roman leaders to deal with the rise of a certain problematic rabbi -- a story line that would have put a new Roman-perspective spin on the Greatest Story Ever Told and potentially bring "Rome" a larger audience.

"I discovered halfway through writing the second season the show was going to end," Heller said. "The second was going to end with death of Brutus. Third and fourth season would be set in Egypt. Fifth was going to be the rise of the messiah in Palestine. But because we got the heads-up that the second season would be it, I telescoped the third and fourth season into the second one, which accounts for the blazing speed we go through history near the end. There's certainly more than enough history to go around."