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Redefining ‘Fascinating’ Down

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 - by Jehuda

Barbara Walters must be fascinated by the banal and underwhelming:

When talking about the Kardashian family, a lot of adjectives come to mind, but fascinating is probably not high on the list. However, that is what Barbara Walters calls the E! stars, or as she brands them, “American Reality Royalty”. The semi-retired news interviewer features the Kardashians front-and-center on her list of the most fascinating people of 2011.  And they are not the only odd choices on the list, which will be showcased at the 19th annual Barbara Walters Presents the 10 Most Fascinating People TV special on ABC.

Odd is right: “Simon Cowell, whose return to American television with The X Factor fell way short of…expectations, and Derek Jeter, captain of the New York Yankees who were eliminated embarrassingly early this fall” are also on Walters’ list this year.

I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Barbara Walters special from beginning to end.  And I’m sure she’s had some great interview guests in the past.  But are the ranks of the fabulous and fascinating really that thin this year?  More names at the link.



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FDA: Regulate Nanotech First, Learn what it is Later?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 - by Howard Lovy

The FDA, in cautionary mode, has come up with a meaningless nanotech threshold of 1,000 nanometers. The genius who decided on that number in a draft guidance on nanomaterial regulation has the biotech industry scratching its collective head over this new math.

As I wrote in my first nanotech column for PJMedia, nano is not any one technology at all. It is an enabling technology, the next step in the evolution of many different disciplines. The problem is that there is no definite dividing line between the “old” way of doing things and the nanoscale world.

There is a general agreement that nanotechnology begins at the level of 100 nanometers or less, but that has never been universally accepted and the number, itself, does not mean much. It always looked good on press releases, though, since it’s a nice round number and a good way of introducing the idea that different, counterintuitive, spooky, magical things happen to material at that scale.

That 100-nanometer limit is how nanotech businesses can promote the idea that they’re doing something futuristic-sounding and a way for nanotech detractors to find a dividing line beyond which “here be dragons” and push for regulation.

But, like the quantum world, itself, simply the act of observing it — or, in the case of the FDA, regulating it — has an impact on its development. And the FDA has multiplied that limit by 10 and came up with the 1,000 nanometer threshold.

Natalie Morrison of in-PharmaTechnologist.com reports that the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) is worried that this new definition of nanotech would “mean pointless extra regulation.”

There are many materials in existing pharmaceuticals that already are smaller than this threshold, such as liposomes, emulsions and suspensions, that are already proven to be safe and may contain nanoscale particles, but are not the new, spooky, scary, magical nanomaterials that has regulators around the world worried.

It’s surprising, because the FDA has been studying nanomaterials for a long time and I’d have thought that they would at least know what it is they want to regulate, before they begin regulations. Not a good start to government oversight of nanobiotech.

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Is Physical Strength the Most Important Thing in Life?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 - by Helen Smith

Glenn received a copy of Mark Rippetoe’s updated new book Starting Strength, 3rd edition in the mail this week and I couldn’t resist thumbing through it. The new version is terrific with lots of pictures and details about how to perform basic barbell exercises. This updated edition seems a lot bigger and more detailed than the 2nd edition. The book takes the reader through the proper form for squats, deadlifts, presses and a number of other exercises. It would make a great gift for the weightlifter or exercise buff on your list.

As an aside, Rippetoe says that physical strength is the most important thing in life. “A weak man is not as happy as the same man would be if he were strong.” I used to disagree and think that intellect was more important. I’m not so sure anymore; on days that I feel good, my life seems perfect, when I feel ill, not so much.

Do you think physical strength is the most important thing in life or do you think intellect or spirituality take precedence?

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Drunk Driving Enforcement is a Racket

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Drunk driving enforcement in this country has become a racket. It’s not about safety, it’s about money. Actually, the drive over the past two decades to lower the legal limit of alcohol for drivers has likely made traffic less safe. It has undoubtedly, though, put millions of dollars into the coffers of various jurisdictions via fines and vehicle confiscation. Additional millions have lined the pockets of police officers via overtime pay to appear in court and to man sobriety checkpoints.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

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My Advice: Stop Nagging and Treat Husbands with Respect

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 - by Helen Smith

A reader (thanks!) sent me a link to a CNN article by Martha Brockenbrough, author of Things That Make Us (Sic): The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar Takes on Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the White House, and the World. Frankly, this bitchy title should tell you that this snarky writer would have no more tolerance for husbands than she does for those who don’t use perfect grammar.

Anyway, the article entitled “Why we get mad at our husbands” is simply a rant against husbands and dads who don’t listen, drop whiskers in the sink, can’t deal with the kids and make some women (including her friend)) feel that they are “married to nothing more than a hairy man-child.”

The author is upset that her husband doesn’t listen to her. After reading her nasty piece, I can see why. The gist of it is that men don’t do enough and that women are angry that men aren’t more like…. of course, women:

The ones we also really need to talk to, however, are our husbands. The fact that so many moms are mad, and that so many of the complaints are similar, is significant. And maybe that can give all of us moms — who love our husbands but wish they’d just be…more like us — the push to make some changes, to delegate more and demand more for ourselves. Anger can be debilitating — but it can also be motivating.

Maybe what Brockenbrough should realize is that women feel anger more deeply than men and tend to do more complaining. Maybe the changes need to start with her and her angry fellow women. When you spend your time nagging someone constantly about their faults, whether the “fault” is their less than stellar grammar or what you perceive to be inadequate parenting etc., than it’s no wonder they tune you out. As Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.” Stop nagging and ranting and treat your guy with respect, maybe then, he will be more receptive to your requests.

For men out there, if a woman seems angry, does that make you more likely or less likely to comply with her demands (requests)?

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Ken Russell Dead at 84

Monday, November 28th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

In the 1970s, the legendary director defined the motto that nothing succeeds like excess:

Very sad news today: polarizing British filmmaker Ken Russell has died, reportedly in his sleep. Russell was a powerful storyteller whose films frequently stirred up controversy, perhaps most notably in The Devils, which many consider to be his masterpiece. The film, which starred Oliver Reed as a sexually promiscuous but noble priest who becomes undone when a hunchbacked nun, played by Vanessa Redgrave, in a fit of jealousy, stirs up accusations of witchcraft. The sudden freedom to act possessed leads her convent to sacrilegious orgies while Reed becomes a martyr figure, whose perceived fall from grace is exploited by the French government for political gain. The film was heavily edited before release, removing much of its subversive sexual content, and has rarely been seen in its original form. The British Film Institute had finally scheduled a proper DVD release of the film two weeks ago.

Russell is also well-remembered for his films Tommy, a musical based upon The Who’s rock opera, and the sci-fi film Altered States, which starred William Hurt as a scientist whose sensory deprivation experiments lead to wild hallucinations and physical devolution. Critics were frequently divided over Russell’s wildest films, but one of his more muted works (for Russell, at least), a 1969 adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love, which earned the director his only Academy Award nomination and his lead lady, Glenda Jackson, to win for Best Actress.

For 1975′s Tommy, Russell asked a question that none had previously dared ponder: what would Jack Nicholson sound like as a singer? By the time the movie was over, moviegoers probably begged to be deaf, dumb and blind.

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Eyeglass Wars: Lenscrafters vs. Costco

Sunday, November 27th, 2011 - by Roger L Simon

Unlike the Coffee Wars below, where taste is clearly an issue and ultimately you have to decide for yourself between Nespresso, Keurig, Peet’s, or (gasp) Starbuck’s. Degustibus, after all.

But eyewear, at least by me, is a no-brainer. Here’s my story: Last March I bought an expensive pair of prescription (progressive lens) Ray-ban glasses at Lenscrafters. I didn’t pay too much attention to price because my generous WGA insurance pays $500/yr for what they call “vision care.” The glasses, however, were semi-defective and one of the lenses fell out intermittently. I kept putting it back in myself until, last week, I couldn’t do it anymore. I headed down to Lenscrafters, assuming they could repair. Nope. Their technician said the groove in the lens had worn out. Since it was only seven months, I then assumed they would give me a replacement. No such luck. Their glasses, evidently, are only guaranteed for the first three months, but they would give me a “discount” on new lenses. I waited patiently as they took an inordinate amount of time to compute the price on their computer. Result: $752!

Outrageous,I thought, and decamped immediately for Costco where the polite technician offered to replace my complicated progressive lenses, with UV and, for $25 extra, that tinting that varies with the sunlight (I didn’t have this from Lenscrafters) for a grand total of $178.

Never will I darken the halls of Lenscrafters again. A quick Yelp search indicates that I am not alone. (Yes, this is the same branch I went to. BTW, someone from that store left voicemail on my cell that night asking if I was now ready to order the lenses… sheesh.)

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iPhone Camera App Review—100 Cameras in 1

Sunday, November 27th, 2011 - by Tania Gail

Anyone who has searched online for photography tips has probably come across the work of Trey Ratcliff.

Trey pioneered the use of HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography,  his hard work in the photographic medium has been recognized with his HDR photograph being the first on display at the Smithsonian. He shares his knowledge and passion of photography on his blog Stuck in Customs. If you need a dose of photographic inspiration, read my review, then head over to Stuck in Customs.

When Trey announced an iPhone photo app — 100 Cameras in 1 — I took notice.

100 Cameras in One

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Coffee Wars: Nespresso vs. Keurig

Sunday, November 27th, 2011 - by Roger L Simon

A post on Instapundit revealed that Glenn Reynolds is a Keurig drinker. In the battle over lazy man’s (busy man’s?) coffee, I would like to strike a blow for Nespresso. We have been using their espresso capsules and machines in our house for several years now with great satisfaction. Great capuccino. Also, their accoutrements are aesthetically pleasing – sort of the Apple of coffee. Refill capsules arrive at Amazon speed too.

Of course, the big edge for Nespresso and Keurig vs. a full on espresso machine is… no cleanup!

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“Thermal Events” (i.e. Fires) In Chevy Volt Crash Testing Spur NHTSA Formal Investigation

Saturday, November 26th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

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Following a fire in a Chevy Volt battery pack that had been damaged in a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash test, NHTSA recently performed additional impact tests on Volt battery packs to simulate that incident. Two of the three batteries that were tested experienced what the agency calls “thermal events”, including fire. As a result, NHTSA has now opened a formal investigation into potential risks from “intrusion damage” in Volt batteries. It should be pointed out that the tests involved a very specific sequences of events. The original crash test was a 20 mph side pole impact test, followed by a post impact rollover. Chevy Volts have a sophisticated battery conditioning and temperature management system that involves liquid cooling. In the crash test the Volt battery case was penetrated and a battery coolant line was cut. Three weeks later, while the wrecked Volt was sitting in a storage lot, its battery caught fire, burning the Volt and nearby vehicles. GM now says that their own procedure in the event of a serious collision is to drain the battery’s electrical charge. That information was not shared with NHTSA and the burned Volt’s battery had not been discharged.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News


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Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto and Why Sometimes Pop is Just Pop

Saturday, November 26th, 2011 - by Jonathan Sanders
Mylo Xyloto

Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto may be 2011's most misunderstood pop gem.

Expectations can be a beast in the world of music criticism. Bands can blow up overnight thanks to blog reviews, even when they don’t have an album to promote – the live shows are that good. Then, when the album drops and it isn’t as magnificent as people expected, the band is dropped like a hot potato, while sites like Pitchfork leap to the next flavor of the week they can’t help hyping to death.

The dreaded sophomore slump isn’t so much named for a significant drop in quality or artistic vision, but rather for the frequent sales drop-off when fans don’t like a band’s second album as much as the one they worshiped maybe a year prior. Worse is the fate doled out to bands who initially sound like another popular act; they initially get a benefit from that comparison, only to have fans turn on them when their music either doesn’t follow closely enough in the footsteps of the iconic act, or conversely fails by following too closely with the original.

Such has been the fate of Coldplay, a band which clearly can’t win for losing.

If you were to spend too much time reading what the majority of the criticsphere has to say about Mylo Xyloto, the latest Coldplay album, you’d have to wonder if this one collection of songs happened to be the worst thing to happen to music since Kevin Federline’s rap abortion. “It’s a bit uplifting, but ultimately insipid,” was the write-up they received in the UK’s Observer, while the Guardian referred to the album as “standard issue Coldplay” in the perjorative, as though a band’s fifth album sounding like anything recorded prior to its release is somehow a brutal disservice to all appropriately cultured music fans.

It’s almost been a competition to see who can damn the album with the faintest praise. You see, what’s worse than a sophomore slump is the brutal crash to earth which comes when a band previously christened as a “hipster alternative to pop” decides to continue recording pop music long after the hipsters have decided to throw said band to the dogs.

I, for one, was never a particularly huge fan of Coldplay. “Yellow,” off their debut Parachutes, bored me to tears with its repetition and was doomed by radio overplay. And A Rush of Blood to the Head, the band’s sophomore effort, featured solid songs but frequently seemed to this critic as though the band was trying too hard to come up with songs to match what radio wanted from a follow-up to Parachutes. That, and the band was fighting to avoid becoming overly pretentious. While many have always lumped them in with the 90s brit-pop of Oasis and the rousing stadium rock of U2, with others clamoring for Chris Martin to follow in Thom Yorke’s avant-garde footsteps, the band was merely at the time trying to find its own voice and follow its own path.

Over the last eight or nine years, however, the band has grown on me. They’ve proven to be willing to push the envelope and try experiments with style, while sticking primarily to the world of pop music. While Radiohead saw a chance to go mainstream with the uber-success of OK Computer and then turned 180 degrees in the opposite direction, choosing to avoid pop at all costs, Coldplay wants to be the pop band everyone likes, with hooks that stick in your head and won’t leave, like tiny musical viruses. They finally found songs that led in that direction on Viva La Vida, which had a title signaling pretension even as the music was more mainstream than ever: I dare you to keep the tribal hook that is “Lost!” out of your head once it sneaks in.

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NEXT: Why Mylo Xyloto is far from the abomination critics have made it seem.

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Achtung Baby by U2: Twenty Years in the Rear-View Mirror

Saturday, November 26th, 2011 - by J. Christian Adams

This month marks the 20th anniversary of one of the last great culturally and musically dominant albums of the rock era — Achtung Baby by U2.  The album introduced a wild new industrial wall of sound, rhythm, and psychedelic swirl to the world.  It sat on top of the charts for months, won the Grammy for album of the year, and regularly appears on critics’ lists of the best albums of all time.  It may be my generation’s Sgt. Pepper.

Not long after Achtung Baby dominated the airwaves, the radio and music industry changed forever. Market micro-segmentation and the diminished relevance of terrestrial radio meant that no single album would again capture the rock nation as did Achtung Baby, and Nirvana’s Nevermind did earlier that fall.  Sure, musical acts still explode to riches and some fame, but culturally unifying musical dominance doesn’t occur the way it once did.

There are no more Michael Jacksons or The Beatles, or groups like U2. These days, it is difficult to name any single contemporary song that the vast majority of Americans are familiar with as they were with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” in 1984 or U2’s “One” from Achtung Baby.  Like our politics, our music has frayed apart.

“Well it’s too late, tonight

To drag the past out into the light

We’re one, but we’re not the same”

—    “One,” Achtung Baby

The first time I heard “The Fly,” Achtung Baby’s first single, in November 1991, it was sonically radical. It was an unfamiliar but delightful experience, similar to what the first listen to “Love Me Do” by the Beatles in 1963 must have been.  U2’s new radical sound was intentional.  Faced with creative stagnation after Rattle and Hum in 1988, U2 sought to reinvent themselves. To record Achtung Baby they traveled to Berlin, a city that was undergoing its own reinvention in the fall of 1990.

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Aided by Brian Eno, the aural master of little known but spectacular works like Here Come the Warm Jets, U2 set up in Berlin’s Hansa Studios.  Eno and Bono sought to push the album toward an industrial, rhythmic, and distinctive continental European sound.  Others in the band resisted the radical new direction, but eventually they hit upon genius.  The post-punk guitar explosions, a giant dancehall bass, and drums thrust to the forefront created something never done before, and never done since.

Simply, Achtung Baby was one of those rare moments in the rock era like Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys or Rubber Soul by the Beatles.  Achtung Baby sounded like nothing else.

 “Time is a train  —  makes the future the past

Leaves you standing in the station

Your face pressed up against the glass”

— “Zoo Station,” Achtung Baby.

For lovers of deep tracks, the album even produced a fantastic array of B-side special releases including “Lady with the Spinning Head.” (Find it! It’s on the newly released two-disc deluxe version of Achtung Baby.)  In all, five of the 12 songs hit the charts in the United States and the Zoo TV tour filled football stadiums around the world.

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Worst. Dinner. Guest. Ever

Thursday, November 24th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

I’ll cop to having a nut allergy, but I guarantee you there’s somebody who’s at the bull’s eye of this graphic:

Did he attend your Thanksgiving dinner? In any case, how was it?

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It’s A Conspiracy! (And Other Paranoid Thrills from the Movies)

Thursday, November 24th, 2011 - by Jehuda

Prompted by the 48th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy (which, incidentally, was carried out by an America-hating communist – and not by a Texan, Tea Party type), I thought I’d discuss some movies which I’ve enjoyed through the years that deal with secret plots and conspiracies.  There are a good bunch of them out there; and the best of them can be truly unforgettable.

I’ll start in the 60′s:  1962, the year before JFK was murdered, saw the release of the John Frankenheimer-directed film adaptation of The Manchurian Candidate.  Widely considered a classic of the political thriller genre, it features Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury (plus Psycho’s Janet Leigh!) in prominent roles, as cogs in a machine set in motion by Russian and Chinese spies to overthrow the U.S. government.  Acting, screenplay, and direction mesh together perfectly for truly spine-tingling results .  Skip the 2004 remake and watch the black and white original instead.  You know who’s the villain in the 2004 version?  A Halliburton-type corporation.  Yeah, in the 2004 version crony capitalism isn’t good enough.  Corporations have to carry out high-level assassinations to actually influence government.

Another paranoia great directed by John Frankenheimer is Seconds (1966), which is not just a thriller, but a morality tale of sorts.  The protagonist is an older, successful, middle class straight arrow who feels unfulfilled and frustrated with his station in life.  When he learns of a shadowy organization that can provide him with a new, exciting life as an accomplished artist with a younger body and identity, he approaches it – and is essentially given no choice but to accept its services.  But his new, glamorous, hedonistic existence is not quite the right fit.  Things quickly become more challenging as his regrets add up.  Creepy and heartbreaking at the same time, it stars Rock Hudson, whom we now know led a double life himself.  It’s another black and white title, but color would just ruin the entire atmosphere of the film.  This is a movie designed to make you uncomfortable as it entertains you.  It accomplishes that and more.

One of the go-to movies for paranoia in the 70′s has to be Three Days of the Condor (1975), starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway.  Redford plays a CIA analyst who — perhaps predictably — has analyzed more than he should have, though even he is not aware of what makes him so dangerous to the CIA agents who want him dead.  The jazz score by Dave Grusin alone is a delight, but the movie is just plain fun to watch.  Redford and Dunaway are great together; and you can’t help to root for them as they try to figure out who to trust, who to run away from, and ultimately where to turn for help.  Max Von Sydow plays a hitman who’s both elegant and menacing at the same time.

Moving on to the 80′s, for paranoid horror nothing beats The Thing (1982), directed by John Carpenter.  A sci-fi thriller through and through, and excellently executed — including its old school in-camera special effects (no CGI back then).  The minimalist Morricone score is a perfect fit for this story of a group of men stuck in an arctic outpost where there is really not much to do beyond looking at snow and feeling cold — until it becomes evident that some life-form which can mimic any other living creature 100% is making its way through the facility with fatal results.  Who to trust?  Who is really human and not the creature in disguise?  Kurt Russell stars.  And Wilford Brimley  has to be seen to be believed, literally.

Also in the sci-fi genre, 1991′s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is a great example of how science fiction can work with basically any storyline.  It’s a political thriller.  No, it’s a sci-fi adventure set in the Star Trek universe.  Wait: It’s a political thriller and a sci-fi adventure set in the Star Trek universe.  Much like the Soviet empire which collapsed two years before this movie was released, the Klingon Empire – perennial enemy of Starfleet — is no longer viable.  It’s a chance for peace, at long last.  But there are forces on both sides that cannot abide this potential ‘New Space Order’, including Captain Kirk himself.  There are patsies and there are plotters.  And the long-beloved veteran Enterprise crew is stuck in the middle.  I had only seen one Star Trek movie before I saw this one in the theater back in the day; and yet I enjoyed it tremendously.  If anything, check it out just so you can see Kim Catrall with pointy ears.  Also features Christopher Plummer…as a Klingon!

Moving into the first decade of the 21st century, I’m torn between a number of choices.  But it’d be too obvious for me to discuss Minority Report or Valkyrie (both of which coincidentally star Tom Cruise), two great titles which dwell in themes of conspiracy and paranoia.  So let me close by recommending the fifth installment of another beloved franchise: Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix.  One caveat: I believe it’s better if you watch all the prior movies in the Potter series before seeing this one, in order to really enjoy it.  But if you ever want to see a group of wizards organize a secret magi militia to defend their community because their government is too corrupt, co-opted, or inept to protect its citizens from an imminent existential threat, look no further.  Watch it with a liberal friend and then ask him if he was rooting for the protagonists.  Then sit back and laugh a little.

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Fiat J-Lo Ad Clusterfark Continues, Body Double’s Fiat 500 Broke Down in Mid-Shoot

Thursday, November 24th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Photo: Ed Morales

The promotional tie-up between the Fiat brand in America and entertainer Jennifer Lopez was supposed to be the foundation for the launch of the Fiat 500 on this side of the Atlantic. Instead its become a gaffe filled comedy of errors. The first step in the automaker’s use of the singer/dancer as a celebrity endorser, said to be the brainchild of Chrysler head Olivier François, was to star the 500 in the music video for Lopez’ recent release Papi. That might not have been a bad idea had François not also decided on using a 30 second trailer from the video as the first national US commercial for the car. The result made no sense and was panned by Pete DeLorenzo as the worst car commercial of the past decade, forcing François to insist that it really wasn’t a commercial, just a music video trailer. This was followed up by an actual commercial featuring J-Lo, known for her self-professed “Jenny on the block” persona, apparently driving in her old NYC neighborhood. I say apparently because first it was revealed that much of the principal photography with Ms. Lopez was not shot on location in New York. Then it came to light that those scenes that were actually shot in New York used a body double for Lopez. It turns out that really wasn’t Jenny driving a Fiat 500 on the block. Now it turns out that the Fiat 500 used in shooting the New York scenes broke down in the middle of the scene, needing repairs to complete the shoot.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

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A Neuroscientist’s Plea To US Retailers

Thursday, November 24th, 2011 - by Sarah Hoyt

Dr. Tedd Roberts generally approves of commerce and enterprise.  He is however disturbed by the ever-earlier opening trend on Black Friday:

The frank truth is that lack of sleep produces many of the same mental effects as being drunk or high, and Black Friday will be staffed by employees operating on too little sleep.  The busiest retail day of the year is also the day when clerks and shoppers both are at the greatest risk of making serious judgmental errors at potentially high costs.

The factors that could lead to serious lapses in judgment include:

  1. Sudden shift from working during the day to working during normal sleep hours.
  2. Long work hours
  3. Difficulty in sleeping during the day

Many stores are opening at very early hours on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Shops which normally open at 8, 9 or 10 AM will open at Midnight, 3 or 4 AM.  The employees will have to report to work 5-8 hrs early than normal, in fact, they will start work during the times of the day when they are usually asleep and all bodily functions are at a minimum.  It is as if they had suddenly traveled from the U.S. to Europe, with all of the symptoms of jet lag, without the elapsed time.

After quoting some studies, he asserts that:

When sleep deprived, it is difficult to form and use short term memory – such as ringing sales and making change.  It is also difficult to make critical decisions, such as identifying shoplifters or when to allow exceptions to sale terms.

Essentially, people who are sleep deprived show many of the same impairments of a person with a legally impaired blood alcohol level even though they do not show the same physical effects [Citek at al., Journal of Forensic Science, September 2011, volume 56, number 5, pages 1170-1179].  While factories, shops and offices that normally operate evening and night shifts have employees who are accustomed to working in the dark hours of the morning, most retail employees (and shoppers) are not.  Thus, not only are your employees working impaired, your customers are shopping and driving while impaired.  The increase in traffic incidents and police responses on Black Friday is commonly attributed to the size of the crowds, however, the increasing trend of early opening and sleep-deprived public has to be be compounding the problem.

While I don’t think he has any chance at all of being heard, not in a year when retailers are being simultaneously squeezed between the recession and competition from online stores, perhaps I should note that having retailers stumbling around and not quite able to engage the customer as they should, besides having sleep-deprived customers finding themselves back home with two hideous sweaters and a pint of Castor oil and wondering how this happened, will only push people to shopping on line more.  Sometimes, perhaps the response to unfavorable results shouldn’t be to do more of what brought those results about.

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Five Reasons Why I Love To Watch BBC America On The Telly

Thursday, November 24th, 2011 - by Chris Queen

I’ll admit that I’ve been fascinated by British culture for a long time. I’ve loved The Beatles as long as I can remember, and I’ll argue any day that much of the best music ever made has come from the UK. When other kids wanted to be superheroes, I wanted to be James Bond. But for too many years I thought British television consisted of stuffy period pieces about old people with old money. That’s what Masterpiece Theatre taught me until I discovered BBC America.

I first watched BBC America a few years back when they premiered Gordon Ramsay’s excellent food series The F-Word. I also discovered Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares long before the U.S. version premiered. As I watched those programs, I saw promos for other BBC America shows, and I began to explore. Soon I was hooked and now BBC America is one of my regular TV destinations.

And here are the five reasons why I love to watch BBC America on “the telly.”

5. Terrific Personalities

BBC America’s slogan boasts “The Best Names In British Television,” and I’ve been pleased to get to know many of them through their shows. There are plenty of amazing actors and actresses playing compelling characters on the network’s series.

The cast of The Hour – a series, which recently ended but is now available on DVD, set at a BBC News program in 1956

Dominic West, Ben Whishaw, and Romola Garai of "The Hour"

– is a prime example of the great talents that BBC America has to offer. I’ve fallen in love with Romola Garai, who stars as the good natured yet determined news producer Bel Rowley. I appreciate Dominic West’s honest performance as news host Hector Madden, and I feel every bit of the nervousness in Ben Whishaw’s portrayal of reporter Freddie Lyon.

I’m also head over heels for Law & Order: UK’s Freema Agyeman, who plays Crown Prosecutor Alesha Philips, and Bradley Walsh is as good as the late Jerry Orbach at portraying the grizzled, jaded veteran detective on that show. The guys from Top Gear — Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May — are fun and informative, and they’re more entertaining than the hosts of the U.S. version. And then there’s Gordon Ramsay. I truly think that even viewers who are turned off by his loud antics on Hell’s Kitchen would be impressed by his passion for cooking and great cuisine on The F-Word.

4. A Really Cool Website

I’m aware that it may be a bit strange to go on about a network’s website as part of the reason why I like to watch them, but let me explain. The more I watch BBC America, the more I’m driven to their website, which in turns makes me want to watch BBC America even more.

The logo to BBC America's "Anglophenia" blog

BBC America’s website is a comprehensive, well done source of information. In addition to the UK news and British celebrity gossip, the site has extensive pages devoted to each BBC America show, along with pages about shows that are no longer on the network and previews of coming attractions. Each page contains episode summaries, video clips, and information about the series’ characters and the actors and actresses who play them. Some of the pages even offer handy explanations of UK slang.

What really sets BBCAmerica.com apart are the blogs, which are must-reads for Anglophiles like me. The bloggers share tons of tidbits about British culture, and they often good-naturedly “out” celebrities that most people didn’t know were British. The blogs feature list posts (so near and dear to my heart) about British culture and its differences from and similarities to American culture. I’ve had fun learning about the UK from the BBC America website.

Next: Do TV seasons really need to be 22 episodes? Why not six?

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Chevy Volt Fires and Hybrid Car Safety, An Expert Perspective

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

After reports of a North Carolina house fire that burned a Chevy Volt and a fire that broke out in a crash tested Volt at a NHTSA facility, the safety of hybrids and EVS has become an issue. MGS Tech is a business that provides training to firefighters, EMTs and other first responders on how to safely manage accidents involving hybrid and other new technology vehicles. The founders of MSG Tech, Matt Stroud and Paul Bindon, are both master car mechanics with extensive training on and experience with hybrid cars. In a post on FireEngineering.com they reviewed the safety of hybrid and electric cars and compared them to conventional combustion powered vehicles.

Their conclusion?

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

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As God is My Witness…

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

…I’d like to wish Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from the PJ Lifestyle blog.

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Polywhat? Polyglot!

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 - by Claude Cartaginese

Thirty-two years ago when I was a sophomore in college I found myself sitting in the student lounge one evening with little to do. It was after 8 PM and I was hoping that a certain young lady (whom I had my eye on at the time) would make an appearance and join me for a drink. Alas, she was a no-show. In fact, there was no one in the lounge aside from Bob, an accounting student whom I had only spoken to superficially in the past. Bob appeared to be about 10 years older than me, wore a beat up army jacket, and carried a black messenger bag full of books and loose papers.

As Bob seemed to be in no particular hurry to go anywhere either, we struck up a conversation and before we knew it an hour and a half had passed. I have no recollection of what it was we talked about, but I do remember that we decided to continue our chat over a cup of coffee. In those days, there wasn’t a Starbucks conveniently located on every college campus, and our only option was a vending machine located in the cafeteria (by now closed for hours), which dispensed a vile concoction which was coffee in name only. The cafeteria was located at the other end of the hall from the student lounge. We gathered our things and began walking. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was a walk that would change my life.

By this time, the hallways were deserted except for the cleaning staff. We came upon a classroom where a woman was straightening out the desks. I remember thinking about how her dyed, red hair clashed with her light green uniform. As we walked by, she recognized Bob immediately and gave him a warm greeting. He answered her back and they carried on for a few moments. I had no idea what it was they were saying to each other because they were speaking in a language that I had never heard before. After they said goodbye, we continued on our way.

“Bob, what language was that?” I asked him.

“That was Polish,” he replied casually.

I don’t remember saying anything after that, but as we continued on our walk down the empty corridor, we came upon another classroom being cleaned, this time by an elderly man wearing the same light green uniform as the Polish woman. The same scene as before played itself out. The old man lit up at the sight of Bob, spoke to him in the same type of gibberish, and afterward seemed genuinely sad to see him go.

We finally reached our destination, inserted our coins into the machine and received our beverages. As expected, the coffee tasted like swill, but at least it was hot. Attempting to ease us back into conversation, I remarked to Bob that I was not aware that there were so many Polish people employed as cleaning staff by the school. He seemed somewhat puzzled. “The woman,” he said, “was Polish. The man was Russian.”

Did I just hear him correctly?

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Living in the Material World

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

By the early 1970s, the myth of the Beatles lay in ruins. Paul and Ringo escaped into the world of light pop, but John and George decamped in polar opposite directions. John’s first two major solo albums each had songs declaring his atheism, with his first declaring  ”God is a Concept by which we measure our pain…I don’t believe in Bible…I don’t believe in Jesus,” on his Plastic Ono Band album, recorded during his “Primal Scream” phase, and then with his now legendary anti-hymn to nihilism, “Imagine.”

As Andrew Ferguson writes in the Weekly Standard, George Harrison was exploring a very different route during this period, which ultimately led to All Things Must Pass, his magnum opus three record box set, arguably the best of all of the Beatles’ solo albums:

“He had two personalities,” Ringo says. “One was this bag of [prayer] beads, the other was this big bag of anger.” Yoko Ono seconds that emotion: “He had two aspects,” she says. “Sometimes he was very nice. Sometimes he was [long pause] too honest.” Paul McCartney, coy as ever, says, “He was my mate, so I can’t say too much. But he was a guy, a red-blooded guy, and he liked what guys like.”

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Say no more.

You have to read the tell-alls, such as the memoir of his first wife Pattie, to get the details about Bad George and his heroic capacity for cocaine, brandy, and adultery. The combination resulted in, among other things, the spectacularly gruesome scene he made in 1973 at a dinner party at Ringo’s house. The party went sour when George stood up to announce that he was sleeping with Ringo’s wife and planned to run away with her. (In the event, he quickly moved on from Mrs. Starr.) Just another potluck with the Starrs and the Harrisons.

Paul Theroux, the travel writer, has for some reason been enlisted to write an introduction to the picture book, and he beats the theme of two Georges like a Ludwig tom-tom: “It is no wonder he was so passionate: he was himself his own wicked twin,” Theroux writes. “He was himself the dark and the light, the flames and the ashes.” If you think that’s overwritten, wait till you watch him wade into the hallucinatory exaggeration we have learned to expect when Baby Boomers write about rock music:

To say that he was one of the great musicians of his time—one of the most innovative guitarists ever, one of the most imaginative songwriters—is to give only part of the story.

Yes, and not even the true part!

One of George Harrison’s most appealing traits was self-awareness. He would have seen (and said) how absurd such talk was. “I was never a real guitarist,” he once told his friend Klaus Voormann. And he wasn’t; he couldn’t launch the fireworks like Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck, and the disciplined technique of Andrés Segovia or Julian Bream never interested him. About his songwriting, he told an interviewer: “There’s no comparison between me and someone who sits and writes music. What I do is really simple.” Right again. He compared himself to a pastry chef, able to combine musical ingredients nicked from others to make a pleasing presentation of songcraft. He made many marvelous records, but as a source of fresh musical ideas, he said, “I’m not really that good.”

You could say the same for pretty much anyone who ever wrote a rock song, which is an extremely forgiving art form, but you can’t imagine anyone else who ever wrote a rock song admitting it.

The Beatles were clearly greater than the sum of their parts, but George Martin must be included as one of the most important components of their success. As solo artists, they very rarely — arguably never — lived up to their greatest moments as a group. And the enormous hero worship by those fans who believed that they personified the zeitgeist of the ’60s didn’t help. Perhaps Paul and Ringo had it right in the first place: escape into “Silly Love Songs” and don’t carry the world upon your shoulder.


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The Top Five Reasons To Be a Commie Pinko

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 - by Sunny Lohmann

Editor’s Note: PJ Lifestyle has recently agreed to a content sharing agreement with the progressive blog Sunny Points Memo, the journalism wing of Sunny TV. Each week we will be featuring various hard-hitting journalistic reports from Sunny’s team of 21st century Woodward and Bernsteins.


Communism gets a bad rap, what with the 80 million or so murders, give or take 10 million, perpetrated by Communists worldwide. But hey, it’s for the greater good, don’t-ya-know. In spite of its gruesome history, Communist ideology is still going strong in American culture. That’s because there are compelling reasons to be a Communist that overshadow most people’s fear of being dragged out of their home in the middle of the night for no reason, put in a work camp that will likely kill them, or having to boil their children in pots and eat them just to survive. Pshaw! That will never happen here!

Here are the top 5 reasons it’s good to be a Commie.

Reason #1: Free Stuff!

This is by far the best reason to be a Communist. You never, ever have to buy anything for yourself or your family ever again. Anything available to be given, you will get, especially if you have some political pull, but even if you don’t, your basic life needs will be taken care of by the state. Probably. Especially after they implement that next 5-year plan.

Need an apartment? It’s free! Never mind you have to share it with 20 smelly strangers — because … wow! You don’t have to pay for it! Need food? That’s free too! And all of it organically grown (because pesticides were thrown out with the first cost cuts). Need a new pair of shoes? As soon as the shoe factory produces some, you’ll get a pair! Who cares how long you have to wait. Medical care, education, even transportation — all free!!

Holy cow! That’s awesome! See what I’m talking about? How could you turn that down?

I’m sure it tastes fine. Besides, it’s free.

Click NEXT to see Reason #2 why it’s good to be a Commie…

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Anne McCaffrey, Dead at 85

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 - by Charlie Martin

McCaffrey created the Dragonriders of Pern series, and The Ship Who Sang, one of the first stories to really explore the question of cyborged humans with emotional depth.

Sarah A Hoyt has the story here.

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Breaking In, Breaking Out, Dropping Out

Monday, November 21st, 2011 - by Sarah Hoyt

I’m routinely asked “How do I break into writing?” by hopeful, starry eyed new writers.  It is remarkably hard to answer — partly because the field has changed so much since I first broke in, and partly because it is in the midst of a change, from one state to the other and, like all things in flux, one can only guess at its final shape.

However, because I was once a hopeful, starry eyed new writer, I decided to attempt an answer.  The result looks a lot like one of those pick-an-adventure books from the seventies.

There are a few things you must understand about publishing right now and which are non-debatable:

  1. No one knows anything.
  2. Publishers and Agents are in trouble, mostly because they’re avoiding making necessary changes.
  3. The old model of “it’s not so much what you write but what you are that will determine your success” is still very much in place.
  4. Most publishers are not most writers’ friends.

Given this, this is the best advice I can give:

1- In most cases, don’t get an agent.  They don’t have the power they used to in the field, and they’re getting desperate and a little insane.

1.a. – I have a good friend who is an agent, and I MIGHT still sign with him if I were a newbie.  I can’t imagine him doing anything business-insane.  OTOH I don’t believe he has that much pull.  No agent does.  Even the “powerhouses.”

1. b. – If you’re writing nonfiction this might be different.  I don’t know that it is (and feel free to chime in any of you who do) but I’ve had the impression it might be.  If your agent is THE field expert on eighteenth century furniture and represents every author who writes about it, and you’re writing about it, it might be a good thing to have him represent you.  It will give publishers an assurance you are the real article and know what you’re talking about.

2 – If you think you have a property and/or you’re the type of person who thinks he/she can do well in traditional publishing, send queries out to publishing houses.  Yes, the old “no unsolicited submissions” is still in place, but I understand it’s honored more in the breach.  At any rate, if you go to a writers conference or a small sf con in, say, NYC, and pitch to the editor who then says to send it in, your submission is no longer unsolicited.

2.a. If you sell read that contract like a hawk.  You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff being done.

2.b. Make them cross your palm with silver.  When I broke in I heard the lowest advance for which they promote was 25k.  G-d knows what it is now.  (This is not always true, though, if you’ve become friends with an editor, even a minor one, you might get promotion for your 4k book.)

2.c. Be prepared to promote, and be aware this only REALLY works if you have a “platform” that’s at least tangentially related to your book.  Also, if you don’t have kids or a real life.  Even my “blog tour” for DST ate most of a year and was responsible for how late the second book in that is in coming out.  Not complaining.  Without it, there might NOT be a second book.  OTOH it still ate a whole year.

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