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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Full List of 2010 Grammy Winners

Album of the Year: Fearless A— Taylor Swift

Song of the Year: “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” — Thaddis Harrell, Beyonc— Knowles, Terius Nash & Christopher Stewart, songwriters (Beyonc—)

Best Solo Rock Performance: “Working on a Dream” — Bruce Springsteen

Record of the Year: “Use Somebody” — Kings of Leon

Best Country Album: Fearless — Taylor Swift

Best Rock Album: 21st Century Breakdown — Green Day

Best Hard Rock Performance: “War Machine” — AC/DC

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration: “Run This Town” — Jay-Z, Rihanna & Kanye West

Best Dance Recording: “Poker Face” — Lady Gaga

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance: “Halo” — Beyoncé

Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals: “Use Somebody” — Kings of Leon

Best New Artist: Zac Brown Band

Best Electronic/Dance Album: The Fame — Lady Gaga

Best Alternative Music Album: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix — Phoenix

Best Contemporary R&B Album: I Am… Sasha Fierce — Beyoncé

Best Female R&B Vocal Performance: “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” — Beyoncé

Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals: “I Gotta Feeling” — The Black Eyed Peas

Best Rock Song: “Use Somebody” — Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Matthew Followill & Nathan Followill, songwriters (Kings Of Leon)

Best Pop Vocal Album: The E.N.D. — The Black Eyed Peas

Best Male R&B Vocal Performance: “Pretty Wings” — Maxwell

Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals: “Blame It” — Jamie Foxx & T-Pain

Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance: “At Last” — Beyoncé

Best Rock Instrumental Performance: “A Day in the Life” — Jeff Beck

Best Urban/Alternative Performance: “Pearls” — India.Arie & Dobet Gnahore

Best R&B Song: “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” — Thaddis Harrell, Beyoncé Knowles, Terius Nash & Christopher Stewart, songwriters (Beyoncé)

Best Rap Solo Performance: “D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-Tune)” — Jay-Z

Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group: “Crack a Bottle” — Eminem, Dr. Dre & 50 Cent

Best Rap Song: “Run This Town” — Jeff Bhasker, Shawn Carter, Robyn Fenty, Kanye West & Ernest Wilson, songwriters (Athanasios Alatas, songwriter) (Jay-Z, Rihanna & Kanye West)

Best Rap Album: Relapse — Eminem

Best Male Pop Vocal Performance: “Make It Mine” — Jason Mraz

Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals: “Lucky” — Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat

Best Female Country Vocal Performance: “White Horse” — Taylor Swift

Best Male Country Vocal Performance: “Sweet Thing” — Keith Urban

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Michael Bublé Meets Madison Square Garden — Michael Bublé

Best Metal Performance: “Dissident Aggressor” — Judas Priest

Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals: “I Run to You” — Lady Antebellum

Best Country Collaboration With Vocals: “I Told You So” — Carrie Underwood & Randy Travis

Best Country Song: “White Horse” — Liz Rose & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)

Best Americana Album: Electric Dirt — Levon Helm

Best Contemporary Blues Album: Already Free — The Derek Trucks Band

Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media: Slumdog Millionaire — Various Artists, A.R. Rahman, producer

Best Song Written For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media: “Jai Ho” (From Slumdog Millionaire) — Gulzar, A.R. Rahman & Tanvi Shah, songwriters (A.R. Rahman, Sukhvinder Singh, Tanvi Shah, Mahalaxmi Iyer & Vijay Prakash)

Best Recording Package: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today — Stefan Sagmeister, art director (David Byrne & Brian Eno)

Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package: Neil Young Archives Vol. I (1963-1972) — Gary Burden, Jenice Heo & Neil Young, art directors (Neil Young)

Best Short Form Music Video: “Boom Boom Pow” — The Black Eyed Peas

Best Long Form Music Video: “The Beatles Love – All Together Now” — (Various Artists)

Best Comedy Album: A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift Of All! — Stephen Colbert

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Apple iPad Release Date is Set to April 2010 and Will Sport Apple's New ARM-based Processor With Integrated GPU

Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs, finally unveiled the Apple iPad during an event today. The name of the new tablet was revealed only a few days ago, and aims to separate itself from tablet computers such as Microsoft's new Slate PC category. Leaks have prepared us all for an "iPhone on steroids" and we recently estimated the release date to be April 2010. The "iPhone on steroids" has turned out to be a good description of the new Apple iPad, and the release date will indeed be April 2010.

According to Steve Jobs, the reason for its existence is to beat both smartphones and laptops when it comes to the categories in bold throughout this story. Of course, with such a mission the Apple iPad will likely walk down the same road as the iPhone: Either you'll grow to love the Apple iPad, or you'll return it and hope that the netbook category will soon be offering optimized software and services too.

So, we all know what a netbook can and can't do for the time being, and now the time has finally come to figure out what the Apple iPad can and can't do:


The Safari browser on the Apple iPad is just as capable as the iPhone browser. Steve Jobs pitches it as a way to see the full page you're surfing on without zooming in and out, something you can obviously not do on the iPhone. There's of course also landscape and portrait mode support, and the built-in accelerometer will take care of the switching for you. That being said, Apple is known to be a strong supporter of HTML5, and there's no doubt that the Apple iPad is part of the company's effort to get Web developers moving in the right direction in that regard. There's no Flash or Silverlight support at the time of writing here.


The Apple iPad offers a very nice presentation layout, and a large on-board QWERTY keyboard will appear when you need to enter text. Will the iPad beat a laptop keyboard? The iPad Keyboard Dock will be available as an accessory, offering a full-size traditional keyboard for those who need that.


Apple's way of presenting photos is already highly acclaimed. Especially taking flick scrolling to this new level where it can be combined with a larger screen real estate, should really give you the feeling of an "iPhone on steroids". We're sure it's going to be a whole lot easier to bring out old memories when friends comes to visit after the Apple iPad hits store shelves than before. Showing photos on a laptop is fine, but the Apple iPad will basically act like an advanced photo frame in that regard. There's likely no smartphone or laptop that'll be able to beat that experience.

Video & Music 

Videos on the Apple iPad will obviously be a challenge when it comes to power. With built-in access to the iTunes store, as well as YouTube and YouTube HD streaming being available, it'll be easy to throw your smartphone or laptop away in favor of the Apple iPad. You can play movies, TV shows and music videos. When it comes to music playback, we guess playing those music videos will be the most alluring part here, as the iPad would obviously not beat the iPhone when it comes to portability and battery life.


A large part of the iPhone apps out there are games and the Apple iPad will run any iPhone app out-of-box without modifications. To take advantage of the iPad's large screen, one can also double the pixels on-the-fly and run apps in full screen mode. Popular iPhone developers will offer optimized iPad apps pretty quickly to take full advantage of the larger screen though, and an Apple iPad Developer SDK was released today to ensure that every developer out there can offer optimized iPad apps. The app store will be an integral part of the iPad.

Some high-def games will be available from companies such as Electronics Arts from day one. EA's Need for Speed Shift will for instance offer a range of new touch controls besides taking advantage of the obvious graphics power and display technology hidden in the Apple iPad.

eBooks & Newspapers

Of course, eReaders will never look the same after you've seen what type of content the Apple iPad can offer. New York Times have created a showcase of its newspaper, which will for sure become a popular service on the iPad. In stead of holding a static newspaper in front of you, you can simply load up New York Times on the iPad, boasting multimedia such as in-line video streaming. Yes, you read that right. It's that simple to reinvigorate newspapers, as long as you have the world's largest gadget maker enabling it, of course. If you're an independent sketch artist, Apple will of course also provide you with an application called Brushes. We guess its potential is self-explanatory.

There's also a new iBook Store, which will basically compete directly with certain other eBook stores out there. Apple has partnered up with Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette Book Group, and eBooks will be available in the ePub format.

Steve Jobs has also pushed his army to create iWorks for Apple iPad, and will sell it for $10 each (Pages, Numbers and Keynote). A calendar for scheduling is also available out-of-box.

Apple iPad Specifications

The Apple iPad is 0.5 inches thick (just as slim as the iPhone) and weighs in at 1.5 pounds. It sports a 9.7-inch IPS display and offers "full capacitive multi-touch". Compared to TFT displays, IPS displays require a brighter backlight, subsequently drawing more power. In return, Apple iPad users will get a wider viewing angle (178 degrees to be exact) and accurate color reproduction. The Apple iPad is the first consumer device to take advantage of an IPS display (LG.Philips is likely the brain behind this screen).

The Apple iPad will be available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions. It also boasts 3G, Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR connectivity, speaker, microphone and an Apple 30-pin port. Apple promises a battery life of up to 10 hours and over a month of standby time.

The bomb shell as far as specifications is concerned: The 1GHz Apple A4 chip. It's an ARM SoC with an integrated graphics processing unit (GPU) manufactured by P.A. Semi. Apple acquired P.A. Semi back in April 2008, and this is the first Apple chip to appear. We guess it's just a matter of time before Apple's iPhone will be powered by an Apple chip as well. In other words, companies like Qualcomm and Intel doesn't seem to get much fun out of Apple's new mobile adventure in the future.

Price and availability 

The Apple iPad Wi-Fi models will start shipping worldwide in late March 2010 ($500 for 16GB version, $600 for 32GB, and $700 for 64GB).

The Apple iPad 3G models will start shipping in the U.S. and selected countries in April 2010 ($630 for 16GB version, $730 for 32GB, and $830 for 64GB). International pricing and worldwide availability will be announced at a later date. Apple expects to have international carrier deals ready by June 2010.

The Apple iPad 3G models (7.2Mbps HSDPA) will be sold with an unlocked micro SIM card, but Apple has a new prepaid data plan deal with AT&T Wireless: $30 per month for unlimited data or $15 per month for up to 250MB. AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots will be free to use when signing up for a data plan with AT&T. There's no contract and you can cancel it at anytime. The AT&T plans can also be activated on the Apple iPad.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Video Game Expands the Concept of Dark Energy for Mass Effect

Mass Effect 2, the new sequel of the popular video game, lets players battle enemies by channeling something akin to the unknown force that causes the universe to continue expanding.

Could a person harness the power of dark energy—the mysterious and pervasive force suspected of speeding the universe's expansion—to block bullets, hurl adversaries around like rag dolls, and create small gravitational vortices out of thin air using nothing more than thoughts? The short answer: no. That is, unless that person exists in the intricate cyber universe created by the makers of the video games Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, the latter of which drops on January 26.

In the Mass Effect games, humans (excuse me, that is certain humans known as "biotics") have the ability to channel dark energy if they can survive in utero exposure to a substance known as "element zero," which causes them to develop nodules throughout their nervous systems that enhance the body's natural electrical impulses. If a biotic's natural abilities are cultivated properly, he (or she) is able to generate and control dark energy to move objects, generate protective barriers or restrain enemies. Got all that?

There's much, much more to know about the Mass Effect games (enough to populate several wikis, blogs and online communities), but what of its fascination with a relatively new scientific concept as purely theoretical as dark energy?

Incorporating the concept of dark energy into a video game is "not completely implausible," says astrophysicist Tamara Davis, a research fellow at the University of Queensland in Australia and an associate of the Dark Cosmology Center in Denmark. "To the best of our knowledge, dark energy is everywhere. We do think it would change slightly in the presence of matter, but we don't know how."

Still, it's unlikely that dark energy as portrayed in the game has anything to do with "real" dark energy, says California Institute of Technology physicist Sean Carroll. "I like to think of what's being used in the game as some force out there that resembles dark energy," he says. "There's a small amount of dark energy in every cubic centimeter of the universe, but it's not powerful enough to do the things described in the game."

It was very important for BioWare to incorporate science into the Mass Effect trilogy (a third game is in development) and do so in a way "that didn't offend people who know about science," says Casey Hudson, project director for Mass Effect 2.

What makes dark energy a promising component of a fantasy video game is that although scientists are learning more about it, "there's still so much more that we don't know," Hudson says. Taking this thought a step further, he asks, "What if we could understand how dark energy worked and manipulate it the way we've manipulated electromagnetism to create electronic devices like cell phones and computers?" Hudson likens the way that Mass Effect biotics summon dark energy to the way electric eels can sense and manipulate electricity in their environment.

Hudson didn't formally consult any scientists during the making of the game, but he says that he and his staff soaked up the available research on dark energy. Neither Davis nor Carroll has played Mass Effect, but they're intrigued by the concept.

"I sort of like the idea of having people who could sense [dark energy] and manipulate it," Davis says. In fact, "one of the reasons we're studying it is to find some way to manipulate it." One of the roles of video games and science fiction is to stretch what we know by using our imagination, she adds.

"It's a fun idea," Carroll says, adding that introducing gamers to even the concept of dark energy is a step in the right direction. "Someone might hear that term as part of a game and then hear it again in a more scientific context, and that might help them ultimately gain a better understanding of what it is. There's a tremendous untapped potential in games for incorporating cool science."



How a Lack of Control Leads to Superstition

A Skeptic's review of the study "Lacking Control Increases Illusory Pattern Perception"

By Michael Shermer

Imagine a time in your life when you felt out of control—anything from getting lost to losing a job. Now look at the top illustration on this page. What do you see? Such a scenario was presented to subjects in a 2008 experiment by Jennifer Whitson of the University of Texas at Austin and her colleague Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University. Their study, entitled “Lacking Control Increases Illusory Pattern Perception,” was published in Science.

Defining “illusory pattern perception” (what I call “patternicity”) as “the identification of a coherent and meaningful interrelationship among a set of random or unrelated stimuli ... (such as the tendency to perceive false correlations, see imaginary figures, form superstitious rituals, and embrace conspiracy beliefs, among others),” the researchers’ thesis was that “when individuals are unable to gain a sense of control objectively, they will try to gain it perceptually.” As Whitson explained the psychology to me, “Feelings of control are essential for our well-being—we think clearer and make better decisions when we feel we are in control. Lacking control is highly aversive, so we instinctive ly seek out patterns to regain control—even if those patterns are illusory.”

Whitson and Galinsky sat subjects before a computer screen, telling one group they must guess which of two images embodied an underlying concept the computer had selected. For example, they might see a capital A and a lowercase t colored, underlined, or surrounded by a circle or square. Subjects would then guess at an underlying concept, such as “all capital As are red.” There was no actual underlying concept—the computer was programmed to tell the subjects randomly that they were either “correct” or “incorrect.” Consequently, they developed a sense of lacking control.

Another group did not receive randomized feedback and so felt more in control. In the second part of the experiment subjects were shown 24 “snowy” photographs, half of which contained hidden images such as a hand, horses, a chair or the planet Saturn, whereas the other half just consisted of grainy random dots. Although nearly everyone saw the hidden figures, subjects in the lack-of-control group saw more figures in the photographs that had no embedded images.

In another experiment Whitson and Galinsky had subjects vividly recall an experience in which they either had full control or lacked control over a situation. The subjects then read scenarios in which the characters’ success or failure was preceded by unconnected and superstitious behaviors, such as foot stomping before a meeting where the character wanted to have ideas approved. The subjects were then asked whether they thought the characters’ behavior was related to the outcome. Those who had recalled an experience in which they lacked control perceived a significantly greater connection between the two unrelated events than did those who recalled an experience in which they had felt control. Interestingly, the low-control subjects who read a story about an employee who failed to receive a promotion tended to believe that a behind-the-scenes conspiracy was the cause.

In their final experiment Whitson and Galinsky created a sense of lacking control in two groups of subjects, then asked one group to contemplate and affirm their most important values in life—a proven technique for reducing learned helplessness. The researchers then presented those same snowy pictures, finding that those who lacked control but had no opportunity for self-affirmation saw more nonexistent patterns than did those in the self-affirmation condition.

In 1976 Harvard psychologist Ellen J. Langer and Judith Rodin, now president of the Rockefeller Foundation, conducted a study in a New England nursing home in which the residents were given plants, but only some had the opportunity to water them. Those residents who were in charge of watering the plants lived longer and healthier lives than the others, even those given plants watered by the staff. The sense of control had the apparent effect on physical health and well-being.

Perhaps this is what Voltaire meant at the end of Candide, in the title character’s rejoinder to Dr. Pangloss’s proclamation that “all events are linked up in this best of all possible worlds”: “’Tis well said,” replied Candide, “but we must cultivate our gardens.”

Note: This story was originally printed with the title "Cultivate Your Garden"


Monday, January 25, 2010

Lifestyles of the rich and famous... Egyptians

The rich and famous people of ancient Egypt lived a decadent lifestyle with fine wine, sex, high fashion, and plenty of partying. How do they compare with their equivalents today - the modern western celebrity set?

The main differences might be regarding who were the richest people then, and who are the richest people now. In ancient Egypt the pharaoh was at the top of the ‘pyramid’ and his family, noble people who owned land, and the priests came after. Scribes, architects and doctors were well off, and skilled craftsmen also had many privileges.

Peasants and unskilled workers were low down the scale of Egyptian society, but it was the servants and slaves that skirted the bottom of the class pyramid. Those working in mines and quarries were really asking for trouble, as diseases, physical strain and dangers lurked in every turned stone in the desert. Slaves working in rich domestic environments were the lucky ones as they were assured security, housing and food. Many of these endured hard physical work and usually died young as we can see from the osteological remains found at Amarna site analyzed by Dr. Jerome Rose which proved that people building those megalomaniac buildings for Akhenaton died young with severe bone lesions.

Jobs For the Boys

Men in the armed forces, army and navy were not afforded a high social status, and neither were entertainers. Members of the armed forces are still not wealthy today, and face the same dangers. Many still die in wars like the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, or return with physical and mental injuries that haunt them for life.

However, it is somewhat different now regarding entertaining. Although there are still many badly-paid wannabes, entertainers today are amongst the richest people on the planet. Beyonce (who Zahi Hawass called "a stupid woman" because of her lack of interest while touring ancient Egyptian monuments with him), Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears and Simon Cowell are some of today's high-earners.

Professions were usually hereditary, not chosen; a man followed his father’s trade and so on. We also have that today as seen for example by the careers of actor Martin Sheen and his sons (both actors) Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez or Gwyneth Paltrow, famous actress and daughter of Bruce Paltrow and Blythe Danner (both actors too). And of course, there's the Bush 'dynasty' in US politics.

Scribes were the top dogs in the sphere of learning and teaching. Not every child was able to learn how to read and write; this was restricted to those following the scribe profession. We can compare this to the present computer industry where people like Bill Gates and Larry Page rule the world of communications and fight for more people using their ‘scripts’. A paradox: we can have hieroglyphics in our cellphones now.

These days the situation is different, as the presidents and kings of nations might not be the richest people in their country. The priests of any religion nowadays are not the richest people, that is for sure, as cults and religions are not considered as economically important in society as they were back then.

Gotta Get to... the Temple

Priests loved to eat and drink well. They had all those succulent leftovers from the rituals at the temple to take home. That is why arteriosclerosis (high cholesterol) was found in ancient Egyptian mummies. Unlike today, when there's a branch of Greggs (British bakery chain, famous for its sausage rolls) on every corner it seems, in ancient Egypt, only the elite could afford such a decadent disease!

Different kinds of meat were available for the elite: beef, veal, antelope and gazelle meat. The poor ate mostly birds such as geese, ducks, quails, cranes, and from the New Kingdom onwards raised their domestic poultry animals. Different fish from the Nile were consumed, though some were forbidden because of the myth of Osiris where he travelled along the Nile and the Mediterranean Sea while dismembered by his evil brother Seth. The fish were most frequently dried in the sun.

Sweeteners were different too; the rich used honey, while the poor used dates, left to ferment in the heat.

Booze Nation

Similarly to today perhaps, wine was the booze of choice for high society individuals. Fine wines were labelled with the date, vineyard and variety as the tax assessors requested, such as the ones found in Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Beer was the poison of the masses. Rich people also drank beer though... loads of it, in fact.

People loved to drink, as they do today, according to maximas written in the New Kingdom’s The Maxims of Ptahhotep or Instruction of Ptahhotep, a vizier under King Isesi of the Egyptian Fifth Dynasty (c. 2414-2375 BC).

These writings functioned as advice and were intended to be directed to his son. There are several copies available today; the Prisse Papyrus dating from the Middle Kingdom, at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and two slightly different versions at the British Museum.

Ptahotep explains why he wrote these; he had reached old age and wanted to leave a legacy of ‘good sense’ instructions to his son. These are rules on how to be kind, just, peaceful, and on how to behave in the correct manner in general. Among those there were some pieces of advice on how bad your reputation gets (it goes down the drain, really), if you drink too much. Just like what happened to Charlie Sheen and his wife last Christmas...

Grand Designs

As homes were built with adobe bricks, none of these buildings survived. The most modest houses, for the poorest people, were built with straw, palm leaves and also some rudimentary bricks, and were incapable of resisting the winds and sands of centuries. The houses built for the rich and powerful were obviously different from the ones built for labourers and farmers. The two main differences were: materials and space.

Not that the rich all had golden taps, literally made of gold, like Saddam Hussein’s, in their bathrooms, or Carrara marble like many rich people do today. But, for example, wood was expensive in Egypt. Egyptian trees did not provide the best wood for furniture-building, so the good stuff was imported from Byblos – present Lebanon. Furniture made of ‘good’ wood was only found in the homes of the rich. Wooden beds and wooden headrests featuring gods protecting the occupants from demons were not available for lower classes.

Rugs from Persia, ebony and ivory pieces from African kingdoms, golden vases, jewellery and sculptures from Nubia, various precious stones and gold ornaments were some of the treats rich people could afford in ancient Egypt. As far as we know, they didn't have their own version of Hello magazine in which to show off their interior decor.

The equivalent to present day Beverley Hills or the Hamptons, the rich had their patch of land outside the city, where they had room for orchards and vineyards. The poor were clustered together on the outskirts in small brick houses. An example of housing ‘for the poor’ were the villages expressly built for workers like the one at Deir el-Medina - similar to the workers camps outside Dubai.

Dressed to Party

Another distinctive trait of rich people in ancient Egypt was the use of wigs, made with sheep or real human hair, and worn at parties and in domestic environments as well as at festival and important cults. Fashion thrived, and found its victims amongst the wig wearers. In an ancient Egyptian version of the Emmys or the Oscars, guests such as Victoria Beckam, Ivana Trump or Paris Hilton would all have wigs, and perhaps also burning perfume cones, on their heads.

But what about the gowns? It seems from archaeological findings that everyone wore tunics. Men wore them down to their knees and women down to their ankles. These tunics were made from linen, from the Flax plant very abundant across the Mediterranean. Not the choice of Victoria Beckam for sure!

Like a school uniform, people found a way to customise the ubiquitous tunic. Richer individuals wore their tunics folded, as depicted in art, with some with gold lines and designs. Add on the jewellery and the headdresses, and there was no way could you mistake a celeb for her personal assistant.

Sandals (ankh) were worn by everyone (without socks, you'll be pleased to hear). The difference was that poorer people could only afford papyrus or palm fibre sandals, while richer individuals had their sandals woven in leather. There were no high heels like the ones models refused to put on at the latest Alexander McQueen fashion show!

Men and women wore makeup (the rich ones). Kohl for eyes was also used as a protective balm as many of the medical papyri prescriptions suggest, and henna was worn on the lips and nails. Tattoos were common, applied to both the living and the deceased. Today tattoos are becoming common amongst all types of people, and many male celebs slap on the face paint as well as the women.

Love, Sex and Adultery in Ancient Egypt

Women had more freedom than their counter parts in Mesopotamia, for instance, but never as much as Paris Hilton and pals. Egyptians married young, very young indeed, and, in royal families, between themselves. Childbirth was dangerous but encouraged in ancient Egypt - prosperity was a goal for everyone and that included having a big family.

The love and sex lives of the Egyptians were as complicated as they are today. Turin's famous Erotic Papyrus assures us that the Egyptians were sexually adventurous, with a penchant for naked belly-dancing, and collections of love poetry from the Amarna era reveal that they were also big romantics.

According to Angelina Jolie in recent news “fidelity is not essential in her relationship with Brad Pitt”, but adultery is one of the oldest reasons for divorce, death and depression - the 3 D’s - and in ancient Egypt as in most of the modern world, women often still file for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Divorce was legal and the problems arising from it were usually when it involved property that had to be divided. The bigger the stake - the bigger the battle, as the recent multi-million divorce case between ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and Heather Mills clearly illustrates.

The love and sex lives of the rich and famous captivated the less fortunate in ancient Egypt just as the romances of Jordan and Peter Andre or 'Bradjelina' do today. The alleged affair between Hatshepsut and Senenmut clearly occupied the minds of workers at Deir el-Medina - one of them drew a caricature of their love affair in an ostracon. Then, as now, there would always be somebody who didn't approve!

Playboys of the Ancient World

There are many similarities between the leisure pursuits of the rich and famous now and in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians practised many sports, including hunting and fishing (still high on the country gent's agenda), and wrestling, which has perhaps suffered some decline in status over the centuries.

Like now, the rich had a need for speed. They loved racing horses and chariots (after the horse was introduced in Egypt), just as the modern elite love their fast cars. It was a dangerous passion that possibly caused Tutankhamun’s death as well as James Dean’s, but led rich playboy Lord Carnarvon to his career as an explorer.

Dinner parties, or banquets, were also frequent in rich houses with dancing, drinking and maybe sex included - just as today.

No scientific proof of the use of recreational drugs in ancient Egypt has been found yet, but jars from Cyprus found in Egyptian sites reveal that they used opium as medicine. Now, there is a growing practice of the legitimate use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, to treat MS amongst other complaints. No doubt Amy Winehouse and Pete Docherty have used 'medicinal purposes' as an erroneous excuse at some point too.

Celebs Behind Bars? Not in Egypt

Scandals like the 1970’s allegation of a young girl’s homicide by the hand of director Roman Polanski (linked to sex offenses) are not known to ancient Egypt.

However, the ancient world wasn't without its bad boys. High treason and attempts to the king’s life were among the top crimes to be punished in ancient Egypt. Robbery existed but there is no evidence of homicides or other death crimes. Justice was Maat, the supreme balance against chaos, and everything in life had to be done accordingly. Just as we respect our Constitutions and laws, ancient Egyptians had their laws and ordinances. Viziers and judges were appointed by the pharaoh to decide upon requests for intercession.

Forget not to judge justice. It is an abomination of the god to show partiality. This is the teaching. Therefore, do you accordingly. Look upon him who is known to you like him who is unknown to you; and him who is near the king like him who is far from his house. Behold, a prince who does this, he shall endure here in this place. - From The Instructions of Rekhmire, in The Wisdom of Ancient Egypt by Joseph Kaster.

So, it seems like the rich and famous of ancient Egypt had a lot in common with today's celebs when it came to lifestyle choices. They could probably drink, race, eat and party our paltry lot under the table - but when it comes down to it, they were a lot better behaved.


Even If We Found Aliens, How Would We Communicate?

The great Italian physicist, Enrico Fermi, called it a paradox. If life is not unique to Earth, and with billions of stars in just our own galaxy, then there must be many millions of Earth-like planets out there populated by intelligent beings. So why haven’t we seen them?

Some of the finest minds in science – and science fiction – have since tried to solve the “Fermi paradox”, but as experts in extraterrestrial life gathered this week at the Royal Society, the greatest question of all remains unanswered: are we alone?

It is one thing of course to be able to detect alien lifeforms on another planet and another to find that there is intelligent life that can travel or communicate through the vast distances of interstellar space.

The two-day conference brings together experts in the various scientific disciplines involved in assessing whether alien lifeforms could exist, what they might look like and how we should attempt to communicate with them if they ever make contact with us.

Frank Drake, the veteran American astronomer who was one of the first to conceive of the idea of a coordinated search for extraterrestrial life (SETI), will today [tuesday] present an upbeat assessment of the chances of finding a signal from space that indicates the existence of intelligent aliens.

Professor Drake famously devised an equation nearly 50 years ago for calculating the potential number of planets in the Milky Way galaxy suitable for life, but he now believes we may have seriously underestimated the potential places in space where life may exist.

“The number of habitable planets in the Milky Way is very probably much larger than we have believed in the past. A realistic picture should include the contributions to habitability of deep atmospheres, thick ice layers, even the solid surface itself, all of which can lead to life-supporting near-surface temperatures,” said Professor Drake.

“Even the very numerous red dwarf star planets may be rendered habitable by a substantial atmosphere or by an eccentric orbit?almost all of the Milky Way becomes a suitable search target,” he said.

The fact that we have not detected any extraterrestrial signals of intelligent life after nearly half a century of listening with powerful radio telescopes should not dissuade us from further searches with more sophisticated instruments than we have used so far, perhaps basing these new tools from space itself, he said.

“This demands a very powerful search system which can search many stars at the same time, at many radio frequencies, and is continuously available, if possible,” Professor Drake said.

“Looking to the future, SETI projects would be far more sensitive and comprehensive if carried out from the far side of the Moon, and ultimately at a gravitational focal point [midway to] the Sun,” he said.

If we do detect signals of extraterrestrial intelligence, one question posed by scientist attending the conference is how to cope with the public response. Will it result in fear, mass panic and riots?

Professor Albert Harrison of the University of California, Davis, believes this is unlikely, based on what he calls “historical prototypes”. In any case, social policies could be used to ease humanity into the “postcontact” era, he said.

“Many people already believe that extraterrestrial intelligence exists and are confident of their own ability to withstand the discovery but doubt other peoples’ abilities to cope,” Professor Harrison said.

“It is easy to imagine scenarios resulting in widespread psychological disintegration and social chaos, but historical prototypes, reactions to false alarms and survey results suggest that the predominant response to the discovery of microwave transmission from light years away is likely to be equanimity, perhaps even delight,” he said.

ET might of course by simple microbes, in which case we will have to go out looking for them, using much the same tools that we have used to search for fossilied microbial lifeforms on Earth.

Professor Colin Pillinger of the Open University, who was the inspiration for the ill-fated Beagle 2 probe to Mars, said that it will not be enough to rely on what we know about life on Earth if we are serious about the search for extraterrestrial lifeforms on other planets.

“More than 70 years ago it was recognised that certain biologically derived molecules survive processing in the geosphere, after the demise of their host, so that features of their structure are little or unchanged after millions of years,” Professor Pillinger said.

“These compounds are thus indicators of the existence of living organisms in Earth’s early history. Such observations led to the idea that ‘carbon skeletons’ as ‘chemical fossils’ could answer questions regarding when life on our planet began,” he said.

“If we are to detect life beyond Earth by comparable methods it will be necessary to delve more deeply into the makeup of organic matter found in space. Chemical methods will need to be more subtle,” Professor Pillinger said.

And then there is the question of what ET will look like. Darwinists believe that alien life on another planet will be subject to the same evolutionary rules that have shaped life on here Earth. This means they might look surprisingly similar to us, according to Professor Simon Conway Morris of Cambridge University.

“It is difficult to imagine evolution in alien biospheres operating in any manner other than Darwinian. Yet, it is also widely assumed that alien life-forms will be just that, alien, strange, un-nerving and probably repulsive. I suggest two opposites, both of which make our blood run cold,” Professor Conway Morris said.

“The first, and actually extremely unlikely, is that alien biospheres will be strikingly similar to the terrestrial equivalent and that in such biospheres intelligence will inevitably emerge,” he said.

“The reasons for this revolve around the ubiquity of evolutionary convergence, the determinate structure of the Tree of Life, and molecular inherency. In reality Darwin only explained the mechanism but failed to grasp the predictability.

“But if something like a human is an inevitability why do I also claim that the first possibility is extremely unlikely? Simply, because the other possibility is actually the correct answer. We and our biosphere are completely alone. So which is worse? Meeting ourselves or meeting nobody?” he said.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Drinks Industry "Seducing Teenagers"

A row has broken out between the alcohol industry and Britain's leading medical journal over allegations that the industry is using dubious tactics to promote its products to young people.

Internal industry documents obtained by the Commons Health Select Committee for its recent report on alcohol reveal that firms are "pushing the boundaries" of the code on alcohol advertising, according to researchers writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

They say market research on 15- and 16-year-olds is used to guide the development of campaigns and that many references were made to the need to recruit new drinkers and establish their loyalty.

Lambrini, a perry aimed at young women, was described in industry papers as a "kids' drink" and the alcopop WKD was targeted at "new 18-year-olds". Carling highlighted the fact that its Carling Weekend was the "first choice for festival virgins".

Smirnoff Ice wanted "to become the most respected youth brand (overtaking Lynx deodorant)" and Lambrini's 2007 TV campaign set out to be "a cross between Myspace and High School Musical". In other documents, Carling was described as a "social glue" by its promotion team while those behind WKD noted the need to "communicate maleness and personality".

The alcohol industry spends £800m a year promoting drinking in the UK, 45 times more than the Government spends on educating people about its dangers. Promotion is restricted by a voluntary code of practice which bans advertising aimed at under-18s, encouragement of irresponsible drinking, linking drinking with social or sexual success or with masculinity or femininity.

The BMJ analysis was carried out by Professor Gerard Hastings, director of the Institute for Social Marketing at the University of Stirling, and colleagues. Professor Hastings advised the Health Select Committee, which obtained the documents in order to explore how self-regulation was working. The authors say the UK needs to tighten regulation of the alcohol industry and that an independent regulator should vet all alcohol advertisements.

"The current problems with UK alcohol promotion are reminiscent of those seen before tobacco advertising was banned, when attempts to control content and adjust targeting simply resulted in more cryptic and imaginative campaigns... History suggests that alcohol advertisers are drinking in the last-chance saloon," they write.

The alcohol industry reacted angrily. David Poley, chief executive of Portman Group, a trade group of UK alcoholic drinks producers, said: "We are proud of the regulatory system for alcohol in the UK which is admired across the world.

"Gerard Hastings trawled through thousands of pages of internal company marketing documents on behalf of the Health Committee. He failed to find any evidence of actual malpractice. He therefore resorts to slurs and innuendos. We wish Gerard Hastings would publish his criticisms in an advertisement. The ASA could then rightly ban it for being misleading."

Simon Litherland, managing director of Diageo GB, said: "This article is a gross misrepresentation of the strict internal marketing process that Diageo applies, and a distortion of the evidence we provided to the Health Select Committee as part of its inquiry. We are extremely disappointed that the confidential and commercially sensitive information shared with the Committee, in good faith, has been made available for Professor Hastings's use in pursuing his own public agenda."

The BMJ called for a clampdown on alcohol promotion and a minimum price per unit of alcohol to curb the harm caused. The editorial by Trish Groves, deputy editor of the BMJ, said: "It is time to put away the rhetoric, popular with the drinks industry, that alcohol misuse is largely an individual problem best avoided and managed through education, counselling and medical treatment."

Hard sell: Voluntary code on advertising alcohol

Young people and the next generation

Advertisements for alcohol must not appeal strongly to people under 18 or be associated with, or reflect, youth culture. No one who is, or appears to be, under 25 years old may play a significant role in any advertisements.

Drunkenness and excess

Advertising must not link alcohol with brave, tough, unruly or daring people or behaviour; nor should it encourage irresponsible, antisocial or immoderate drinking (whether in terms of style or amount).

Sociability and social success

Advertising must not link drinking to the social acceptance or success of individuals, events, or occasions. It should not imply that it can enhance an individual's popularity, confidence, mood, physical performance, personal qualities, attractiveness or sexual success.

Masculinity and femininity

Advertising must not link drinking with enhanced attractiveness, masculinity or femininity, nor with daringness, toughness, bravado, challenge, seduction, sexual activity, or sexual success.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Obama: A Year in Black & White. Who Says Race Doesn't Matter?

The election of Barack Obama was meant to signal the birth of a ‘post-racial’ America; the moment when the long struggle for equality would finally be over. But as Baratunde Thurston argues, colour has become the defining issue of his presidency.

In the beginning there was Shelby Steele, who in December 2007 had the audacity to release a book titled A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win. Other pundits shared the same sentiment in broadcast commentary, newspaper columns and online, but Steele went the furthest in committing a gross underestimation of candidate Barack Obama and of the American people who would elect him. Just one month after publication, Obama shook the world when he won the Iowa caucuses, and one year later, he was inaugurated as president. Steele and other professional opinion peddlers were proven devastatingly wrong, and the suddenness of this proof is but one example of how the presidency of Barack Obama has made the conversation about race in America more unpredictable than ever before.

The election of the first half-black president – which in America means its first black president – raised expectations and uncertainties about how this country would, perhaps for the first time in a while, begin to wrestle with the question of race in new ways. Would Obama’s presidency lead to unprecedented enlightenment, respect and candour around the topic of race? Would it provoke a backlash and release an uglier, more shameful conversation generally held in private? Would it fulfil the hopes and dreams of the Civil Rights Movement? Would it lead to a rush by white Americans to acquire more black friends?

Given the speed with which our modern society moves, however, one year is too inadequate an amount of time with which to render any final, meaningful verdict on the change in attitudes of Americans toward race. What it does offer, beyond the symbolism of an anniversary and the obligatory conclusion-drawing demanded by such symbolism, is an opportunity to look for hints of trends, to analyse some of the behaviour among the country’s media and political class (both of whom affect wider public opinion by setting the rules and range of public debate) and to ground both of these, to the extent possible, in actual measures of public opinion.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Golden Globes 2010 Winners - Complete List

Best Actor Television, Drama- Michael C. Hall, Dexter

Best Supporting Actor Television, Drama- John Lithgow, Dexter

Best Supporting Actress Motion Picture- Mo’nique, Precious

Best Animated Feature Film- Up

Best Original Song, Motion Picture- Crazy Heart, “The Weary Kind”

Best Original Score, Motion Picture- Up, Michael Giacchino

Best Actress Television, Drama- Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife

Best Actress Television Series, Comedy- Toni Collette- United States of Tara

Best Actress Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical- Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Best Actor Mini-series, Drama- Kevin Bacon, Taking Chance

Best Actress Mini-series- Drew Barrymore, Grey Gardens

Best Screenplay, Motion Picture- Up in the Air, Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

Best Actor Television, Comedy- Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television- Grey Gardens

Best Foreign Language Film- The White Ribbon

Best Television Series Drama- Mad Men

Best Supporting Actress Mini-series- Chloe Sevigny, Big Love

Best Supporting Actor Motion Picture- Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Bastards

Best Director Motion Picture- James Cameron, Avatar

Best Television Series, Comedy or Musical- Glee

Best Actor Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical- Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes

Best Actor Motion Picture, Drama- Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

Best Actress Motion Picture, Drama- Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical- The Hangover

Best Motion Picture, Drama- Avatar

Friday, January 15, 2010

Medieval Law and Order

Law and order was very harsh in Medieval England. Those in charge of law and order believed that people would only learn how to behave properly if they feared what would happen to them if they broke the law. Even the ‘smallest’ offences had serious punishments. The authorities feared the poor simply because there were many more poor than rich and any revolt could be potentially damaging - as the Peasants Revolt of 1381 proved.

By the time of Henry II, the system of law in England had been improved because Henry sent out his own judges from London to listen to cases throughout all England’s counties. Each accused person had to go through an ordeal. There were three ordeals:

Ordeal by fire. An accused person held a red hot iron bar and walked three paces. His hand was then bandaged and left for three days. If the wound was getting better after three days, you were innocent. If the wound had clearly not got any better, you were guilty. Ordeal by water. An accused person was tied up and thrown into water. If you floated you were guilty of the crime you were accused of. Ordeal by combat. This was used by noblemen who had been accused of something. They would fight in combat with their accuser. Whoever won was right. Whoever lost was usually dead at the end of the fight.
In 1215, the Pope decided that priests in England must not help with ordeals. As a result, ordeals were replaced by trials by juries. To start with, these were not popular with the people as they felt that their neighbours might have a grudge against them and use the opportunity of a trial to get their revenge. After 1275, a law was introduced which allowed people to be tortured if they refused to go to trial before a jury.

If you were found guilty of a crime you would expect to face a severe punishment. Thieves had their hands cut off. Women who committed murder were strangled and then burnt. People who illegally hunted in royal parks had their ears cut off and high treason was punishable by being hung, drawn and quartered. There were very few prisons as they cost money and local communities were not prepared to pay for their upkeep. It was cheaper to execute someone for bad crimes or mutilate them and then let them go.

Most towns had a gibbet just outside of it. People were hung on these and their bodies left to rot over the weeks as a warning to others. However, such violent punishments clearly did not put off people. In 1202, the city of Lincoln had 114 murders, 89 violent robberies and 65 people were wounded in fights. Only 2 people were executed for these crimes and it can be concluded that many in Lincoln got away with their crime.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Eva Mendes - Bio

A fiercely independent actress who refuses to be pressed into a conventional mode or typecast, Eva Mendes, born on March 05, 1974,  was studying marketing in the late '90s when an agent stumbled across her photo while perusing Mendes's neighbor's portfolio. Soon appearing in an Aerosmith video and making her film debut in Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror, Mendes worked her way through the gamut of aspiring actors to appear in such high-profile films as Urban Legends: Final Cut and Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

Dropping out of school soon after being randomly discovered by an agent, Mendes appeared in a few made-for-television productions and hammed it up with Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan in A Night at the Roxbury before being cast in a prominent role in Urban Legends: Final Cut. Working against typecasting despite her teen horror resumé, Mendes next took roles in Exit Wounds, Training Day, and All About the Benjamins. Mendes next began work on a children's book titled -Crazy Leggs Beshee in which she wanted to introduce art, history, vocabulary, and values to children in a fun and easily comprehendable medium.

In 2003, Mendes' career took off, with the actress taking on large roles in an ecclectic quartet of high-profile films. In 2 Fast 2 Furious she played a customs agent working with Paul Walker to bring down a Miami drug cartel. Out of Time found her reteaming with Training Day costar Denzel Washington. Flexing her comedic chops, Mendes was the love interest of half a pair of conjoined twins in the Farrelly brothers' Stuck on You. And in Once Upon a Time in Mexico she played another government agent, this time opposite Johnny Depp.

The year 2004 saw no signs of Mendes slowing down, with the Cuban-American beauty starring as the ex-girlfriend of Luke Wilson in The Wendell Baker Story, a film Wilson co-wrote with brother Owen Wilson and co-directed with sibling Andrew Wilson. 

Jason Buchanan, 

All Movie Guide


Melyssa Ford - Bio

Born on November 7, 1976. Originally from Toronto, Canada, this exotic beauty, with a combination of West Indian, Norwegian and Russian heritage, possesses a look that many have gravitated toward and that has landed her on numerous national magazine covers and top-selling calendars. Through hard work and perseverance, she is quickly emerging as the latest sex symbol/icon in the entertainment industry.

A passion for performing began at a very early age for Melyssa, as she would star in various plays throughout her school career, such as Beauty and the Beast. Melyssa then went on to star in several independent films and secure a recurring role on Showtime's hit series "Soul Food" and the UPN series "Platinum". In the interim, Melyssa decided to continue her educational studies at York University in Toronto . Studying forensic psychology with the hopes that one day she would grow up to work for CSIS, within their behavioral science unit, helping to develop character studies on high profile criminals and sex offenders.

Discovered by director Little X while living in Toronto , Melyssa was tapped to star in several of his upcoming music video projects. Videos for chart toppers such as Mystikal's “Shake it Fast”, Jay-Z's “Big Pimpin'”, and Sisqo's “Thong Song Remix” would make her a familiar face on MTV and BET.

Subsequently, offers for editorial work in magazines began to pour in. It was a feature piece in XXL Magazine that led to a job offer to host a website show, produced by Vice-President of Bad Boy Entertainment, Harve Pierre, which was the catalyst for major change in Melyssa's life. The only issue was a question of relocating to New York City . Not one to let an opportunity fall short, Melyssa left home and school with two suitcases and $25 dollars to make a commitment to her dream. And so it was that she would be the host of the website show called “Lifestyles of the Phat and the Phabulous”.

Others soon become aware of Melyssa's star power. Black Men's Magazine selected her to model in their fall 2001 swimsuit issue. Black Men's Magazine was so captivated by her beauty that they gave Melyssa the cover.

She would go on to appear as be Black Men's Magazine cover girl three more times, becoming one of the most popular cover girls in the magazine's history. She also landed the cover of the 2002 Ebony Rider Calendar. Sales of that calendar surpassed the sales of all five years previous combined. In addition to the modeling, Melyssa began writing monthly advice column for Smooth Magazine. Originally asked to appear in the magazine as a model for the monthly column, but upon hearing of her minor of English Literature in University, she was asked to be the in-house celebrity columnist for the magazine.

Always one to develop a forum of thought provoking topics, she began to write for Smooth Magazine in early months of 2002. Around the same time, Melyssa became acquainted with her former manager, Jeff Robinson, CEO of MBK Entertainment, who also manages Alicia Keys. Together with the MBK team, Melyssa put the finishing touches on the Melyssa “Jessica Rabbit” 2004 Calendar and DVD which are currently available on her website


Aishwarya Rai - Bio

Many are green with envy when they think of the green-eyed Aishwarya Rai, who was born November 1, 1973, in Mangalore, Karnataka, India. Her beauty and charm made her a natural for the entertainment business. She began modeling by the time she was in high school but continued to focus on her studies. She excelled in school and intended on studying science in college. Instead, she decided to focus on modeling and was featured on advertisements for several prestigious companies, including Pepsi. In 1991, Rai, nicknamed Ash, won the Ford Supermodel Contest. She was later featured in Vogue magazine. Three years later she was crowned Miss World 1994 and soon after was receiving offers to star in films.

Eventually becoming "The Queen of Bollywood," Rai proved that she was not only beautiful but she could also act. Her 1997 performance in Iruvar was met with critical acclaim, and she received a best female debutant award for Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya. In southern India, she gained recognition for Jeans (1998) and Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000). She won a best actress Filmfare Award for her performance in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. She also garnered rave reviews for her role in Hamara Dil Apake Paas Hai.

As of 2005, Rai was the highest paid actress in Bollywood.
Aishwarya Rai's striking beauty might make her seem an obvious fit as a model, but the truth is that India's 1994 Miss World winner originally took up modeling as a part-time job to get her through school. She was studying to be an architect, but due to her obvious talent on-stage and in front of the camera, -- most notably in a wildly popular Pepsi campaign -- the starlet began accepting the movie offers that had been pouring in. Rai began her reign as Bollywood's favorite leading lady in the film Iruvar, following it up that same year with ...Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya. They both earned her critical praise and the latter brought her a Best Female Debutante Award. More awards would follow, including Best Actress by Filmfare and Zee Cine for 2000s Straight from the Heart. As the actress put more and more films under her belt, her position as India's darling cemented. Her role in 2002's Devdas was especially auspicious; the movie was the most successful in Bollywood history and received a special screening at the Cannes Film Festival -- the first Bollywood film to receive such an honor. The next year found Rai making still more headway for Bollywood when she became the first Indian member of the grand jury at Cannes.

By 2004, Rai had appeared in well over 20 films in just seven years, and it was finally time for her to star in her first English-language film. The Hollywood/Bollywood crossover hit Bride and Prejudice reworked Jane Austen's classic love story -Pride and Prejudice with the Bollywood film style, bringing together Eastern and Western actors, as well as themes. The film proved to be yet another successful example in Rai's history of helping to bring India's culture and film into the world spotlight, delighting fans all over the globe. Having sampled Hollywood, Rai was now ready to make a serious foray into American films. She signed on to star with Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley in 2007's historical epic The Last Legion as well as French director Coline Serreau's remake of her 2001 film Chaos, which would cast Rai alongside Meryl Streep. The actress had no intention of abandoning the cinema of her heritage, however, and simultaneously jumped on board with Indian movies like the The Heart of India and the historical romance Jodhaa Akbar -- in which she would play the title role of Mungal king Emperor Akbar's Hindu wife and queen.

By this time, Rai's success as an actress unwilling to compromise her love and devotion to her national background had made her the highest paid actress in Bollywood history. Her fame had also buffered her image as the face of India, helping bring the art of her home country into the world-consciousness through countless magazine covers in multiple countries, a listing in Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World Today," as well as Hello Magazine's "Most Attractive Women in the World" and Rolling Stone's "Hot List." Rai even joined actresses Catherine Deneuve and Andie MacDowell as a member of L'Oréal Cosmetics' Dream Team, acting as an ambassador around the world.

In 2007, Rai married fellow Bollywood superstar Abhishek Bachchan.

Cammila Albertson

All Movie Guide


Monday, January 11, 2010

The Rustix - A Great Band

Formed in 1966, the group consisted of co-lead singers Chuck Brucato & Al Galich, Bob D’Andrea (guitar), Vince Strenk (keyboards), Bobby Blando – replaced by David Colon (drums). Kit Nelson was their bass guitarist until he was replaced by Bob Sohner in 1968. Bob then left the band a year later & Ron Collins came in before they signed with Motown. George Cochini was their lead guitarist.
The Rustix were known in the Rochester area for Chuck & Al’s tight harmonies and the band’s precision musicianship – the result of a rigid rehearsal schedule where the members encouraged & challenged each other to be disciplined with their craft. They played gigs in the area such as The Airport In at Lake George for two summers (in 1967 & ’68), the Brighton Bowl & Club 45. Businessman Charles Leone & radio personality Ferdinand J. Smith III (of WBBF-AM) took an interest in the Rustix and signed on as the band’s management team.
The group recorded a couple of singles for Columbia Records & the Chess label in 1968. Neither recordings sold much but did create a stir among their fans. A year later, the band along with Leone & Smith heard that Motown was launching a rock label & were looking for acts. Motown was no stranger to the rock market – they had groups from the Michigan area such as the Underdogs & the Ones as well as the Canadian-based now-legendary Mynah Byrds (whose members included Neil Young & the late Rick James). By 1969, with progressive rock radio dominating the FM dial and the Woodstock festival attracting a half-million folks, Motown was ready to dive into the lucrative rock market with their new subsidiary, Rare Earth. That year, the Rustix were signed to the label & songwriter/producer R. Dean Taylor was assigned the task of producing their debut album.
“Bedlam” – the Rustix’ first disc – was released in December 1969 in an album cover that was shaped like the Rare Earth logo (arched top) and tunes that came from the band’s tight music sets. A combination of originals and outside material, “Bedlam” featured their rock-soul versions of “Feelin’ Alright” & “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, a gritty take on the ballad “Free Again” as well as songs written by Chuck Brucato & Al Galich – “Can’t You Hear The Music Play”, “Country”, “I Can’t Make It Without You”, “Lady In My Dreams”, “That’s What Papa Told Me” & “Wednesday’s Child.” According to drummer David Colon in an on-line interview, the band was happy with the production until the label had overdubbed strings on a few of their tracks, which – in the band’s collective opinion – changed their sound. Even though “Bedlam” charted on Billboard’s album listings & the label released “Free Again” as a single, neither LP nor single moved out of the magazine’s lower rankings.
The “Bedlam” album did make enough noise nationally on radio (due to Ferdinand’s broadcasting contacts) to earn the Rustix some key gigs as the opening act for some major hit-makers. David Colon explained that the group opened for Jimi Hendrix, the Rascals, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Three Dog Night, Grand Funk Railroad, the Four Tops and – yes – the band Rare Earth. The group went back to Detroit in 1970 and recorded their second disc, “Come On People”. This time, no string orchestras or slick horn arrangements – the band took control of the production and came up with a more stripped-down self-contained effort. Their treatments of Aretha’s “Do Right Woman – Do Right Man” as well as Otis Redding’s “Hard To Handle” found Chuck & Al in fine voice while the originals (from Chuck’s pen) – “Billie’s Gone”, “Cry Another Day Away”, “Maple Shade Country Day” & “Dress Colored Lavender Blue” had the band exploring rock, folk, R&B and even a touch of country. The “Come On People” album is considered by fans to be more in line of what the Rustix wanted to do musically.
Unfortunately, “Come On People” and its singles didn’t do as well chart or sales wise. The group had become frustrated with having no hit records and the stress from touring. Meanwhile, Motown/Rare Earth wanted them to try recording “We’ll All End Up In Boxes”, written by Mike Valvano. With Valvano as producer, the tune was released in 1971 (with “Down Down” as the b-side) and did earn some national airplay at first before it fell off radio station play lists a couple of weeks later. By 1972, the Rustix felt that they hit a brick wall with the music career and disbanded.
Although they got back together in Rochester NY for a one-time only concert in 1979, the Rustix have not reunited for any recordings or tours since they disbanded. Chuck Brucato returned to Rochester where he had a successful career producing ad jingles for radio & TV (including the theme music for the CBS Movie Of The Week). When I met Chuck at a local oldies dance in 1986 & showed him my copies of the Rustix’ albums his only response was “yeah – they were all good songs.” I was later told that he was still sad that the Rustix’ didn’t have hit records.
As of now, only the Rustix singles have been reissued as part of Motown’s Complete Singles collections (for 1969, 1970 & 1971). T.W. Collins – the son of bassist Ron Collins – has an excellent set of Rustix photos posted through Flickr as well as David Colon’s fine overview of the group’s career. This writer does hope that Universal Music Group (owners of the Motown catalog) will someday reissue the Rustix’s two albums.
The Rustix was and is a band that is treasured by those that remember them. With their music, they certainly earned their place in the history of Motown Records.


Jamie Oliver - Bio

Jamie Trevor Oliver was born May 27, 1975 in Clavering, Essex, England. Jamie grew up in Cambridge where his parents, Trevor and Sally, own a pub and restaurant called The Cricketers (still in business). When he was 8 years old, Jamie began working in his parent's restaurant. At age 11 Jamie could cut vegetables as well as any of the kitchen staff. In 1989, at the age of 14, Jamie formed the band Scarlet Division with composer/musician Leigh Haggerwood.

Culinary Career:

Jamie began attending the Westminster Catering College at the age of 16. Later, he worked in France learning as much as he could before returning to London. His first job back was working for Antonio Carluccio as Head Pastry Chef at The Neal Street Restaurant (one of the best Italian restaurants in England).Here Jamie worked alongside Gennaro Contaldo, who Jamie considers one of his mentors. After The Neal Street Restaurant, Jamie worked 3 1/2 years at the famous River Cafe in London. It was here, Jamie says, where he learned "all about the time and effort that goes into creating the freshest, most honest, totally delicious food."

The Television Star:

The River Cafe was also his big break into television. The day after appearing in a documentary about the restaurant called Christmas at the River Cafe, five television production companies contacted Jamie about starring in his own show. He accepted an offer from Optomen Television to produce his first show The Naked Chef. The title is a reference to the simplicity of his recipes. Two seasons of the show, which also aired in the U.S., were filmed in 1998 and 1999.Jamie's Kitchen was Oliver's second television series. The show, produced by Channel 4, is a documentary that follows Jamie as he mentors 15 unemployed youths (1000 applied for the position). Jamie trains the youngsters to be professional chefs and help staff his first restaurant, Fifteen, a not-for-profit endeavor. The restaurant is still open for business and on its third class of students.Later, Jamie would film another charitable project, Jamie's School Dinners. This four part series documents Jamie as he takes responsibility of running the kitchen at Kidbrooke School, Greenwich. It also showcases the Feed Me Better campaign, his crusade to change the poor eating habits of children and improve school meal systems. The campaign was directly responsible for the British government's pledge of 280 million pounds (over 3 years) to improve school dinners.Jamie's latest series (2002-present), Oliver's Twist, appears on the Food Network. The show follows Jamie as he shops for the best food in London and takes it home to cook for his friends. In 2005, Jamie's Great Escape premiered. The show is a travelogue of Jamie's trek across Italy (in a camper van) as he tries to rediscover his joy of cooking.

The Prolific Writer:

Aside from his many cookbooks, Jamie has a regular column in the Saturday Times Magazine, is a monthly editor of Marie Claire (UK), and is the food editor for Britain's GQ magazine.

The Good British Citizen:

In 1999, Jamie and his staff of 15 students were invited to 10 Downing Street to prepare lunch for the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who was entertaining the Italian Prime Minister. In June 2003, Jaimie was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for services to the Hospitality Industry.

The Family Man

On June 24, 2000 Jamie married his childhood sweetheart, Juliette (Jools) Norton. They have two daughters, Poppy Honey (born March 2002) and Daisy Boo (born April 2003).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Birth of "Penthouse" Magazine

In 1965, Penthouse Magazine started its colorful history in the world of media communications. Sensing that the sexual desire of man is a good marketing niche, Bob Guccione founded the Penthouse Magazine in London, United Kingdom. Bob Guccione or Robert Charles Joseph Edward Sabatini Guccione by birth was born on December 17, 1930 in Brooklyn, New York.

The sexually explicit contents of the magazine paved its way to the common households and stayed on top with its rival, Playboy Magazine in terms of sales and popularity. Four years later, Bob Guccione expanded the operations of Penthouse Magazine to the United States.

Bob Guccione together with Kathy Keeton and some family members managed the privately owned company over the years. With the rise of Penthouse magazine, Bob Guccione also rose to fame and was known for his lavish lifestyle and spending including the Penthouse Mansion in Manhattan, gold chains, dream of building a portable nuclear device and casino without a gambling license.
The empire that started from Penthouse Magazine was earning Bob Guccione a fortune.

With the kind of business the Penthouse Magazine is in, attacks and condemnation from several groups were to be expected. The National Federation for Decency, a Christian conservative group now known as American Family Association, threatened to boycott stores that carry adult materials. In 1986, Attorney General Edwin Meese and an 11 member Commission on Pornography also sought to publish a blacklist of pornography distributors. About 20,000 retailers and convenience stores withdrew support to the magazine after the campaign, causing a decline in sales.

In 1992, an issue between Penthouse Magazine and United States Navy surfaced. The United States Navy reacted negatively on the issues of Penthouse Magazine being circulated and distributed around the military base. Distribution and sale of Penthouse Magazine, a magazine explicitly pornographic in nature, is said to be inconsistent with the rules and regulations concerning sexual harassment and human dignity.

The Military Honor and Decency Act signed by President Clinton in 1996 stated that the Secretary of Defense may not permit the sale or rental of sexually explicit material on property under the jurisdiction of the Defense Department. Also, a 1998 Supreme Court ruling held that a military base is not a public forum. Bob Guccione lost the battle.

Videocassettes gaining popularity and the steady rise of Internet users are some reasons that caused the steady decline of Penthouse Magazine circulation and other pornographic magazines like Playboy Magazine and Hustler Magazine. The Internet provided a cheaper and multiple avenues of satisfying the desire of a man. Also, a different level of satisfaction is achieved watching the glossy pictures come to life. Bob Guccione finally announced in April 2002 that Penthouse Magazine was going out of business.

Bankruptcy of Penthouse Magazine

On July 2003, Bob Guccione lost his famous Penthouse Mansion. The Penthouse mansion was composed of two townhouses built in 1879. Rebuilt in 1920s by Jeremiah Milbank, it was one of the largest private residences in Manhattan. At the height of prestige, Bob Guccione bought the mansion in 1975.
On August 12, 2003, General Media, asubsidiary of Penthouse Magazine filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It was thought that this move would help salvage the magazine.

Penthouse Magazine in Recent Times

In October 2003, announcement of the sale of Penthouse Magazine circulated. Later in 2004 General Media was renamed the Penthouse Media Group by owners Marc Bell a real-state developer and founder of the Globix corporation and Daniel Staton, an investor with diverse portfolio. Penthouse Magazine was repackaged.

Starting with the January 2005 issue, Penthouse Magazine no longer showed female genitalia, simulated sex scenes, or male genitalia. The change improved the declining sales but was still way below the original sales numbers of Penthouse Magazine during the heyday of the magazine.

In 2005, Penthouse Media Group had a total circulation of 326, 358 copies. Penthouse Magazine continues to increase sales as it works to become a competitor of the adult entertainment genre.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Revealed: Enid Blyton and the Hitler Appeasers' Country-House Dinner

Her tales of youthful adventure have made Enid Blyton one of the best-known and bestselling children's authors of all time. Stories featuring the likes of the Famous Five, the Secret Seven and Noddy have shifted more than 600 million copies.

Since her death in 1968, however, Blyton's reputation has been eroded by accusations of racist attitudes in her books. That view won't be helped by revelations this week that she may have been a Nazi sympathiser.

Ida Pollock, who has written more than 100 novels herself, and who married Blyton's ex-husband Hugh, told The Independent on Sunday this week that Blyton had been present at a dinner in the late 1930s where the conversation turned to appeasing Hitler. While Hugh walked out in disgust, Blyton was happy to remain.

"On one occasion Hugh and Enid were invited to dinner at a well-known country house," she said. "It was the late 1930s, and at dinner that night there seems to have been a lot of talk about appeasing Hitler. I don't know what Enid Blyton actually thought about appeasement, but it's pretty certain she didn't want to walk out. Hugh couldn't take it, though. His blood boiled. They had a driver waiting to take them home and he knew Enid would be all right, but he wasn't going to go on hanging about in that house, so he left alone and walked home through the woods."

Ida, who now lives in a nursing home in Cornwall, published the most recent of her novels last year, aged 100. A Distant Drum, a historical romance centring on the Battle of Waterloo, appeared last year under the name Marguerite Bell. She has now just published her memoirs – Stardust – which she began writing "a long time ago". "Seeing your own novel come out, that's different altogether, wonderful. But your personal life is private, or it should be.

"Lately, though, I have been urged to finish this memoir and get it out, if only to set the record straight."

Much of that record concerns Enid Blyton because the author could never let go of her former husband, even though she divorced him.

Many of Ida's novels were written for Mills & Boon and it is through writing that she met Hugh Pollock, who at the time was married to Blyton, at another of her publishers, Newnes.

"I met Hugh. And, I suppose, I fell in love – just as Enid Blyton had done, years earlier but in rather similar circumstances. Quite soon I realised Hugh was married, and of course I didn't expect anything to develop between us."

In 1943 she married Hugh. He and Blyton had divorced after a rocky marriage. But the children's author would still loom large in the newlyweds' life.

"When Hugh and I had been married three or four years, I received a letter from Enid Blyton. It was a fairly spiteful letter, certainly about Hugh, and I remember thinking, 'how odd'. After all, she had also remarried and it seemed as if she was happy enough."


Psychology of Women

Three decades of research on men's sexual arousal show patterns that clearly track sexual orientation -- gay men overwhelmingly become sexually aroused by images of men and heterosexual men by images of women. In other words, men's sexual arousal patterns seem obvious.

But a new Northwestern University study boosts the relatively limited research on women's sexuality with a surprisingly different finding regarding women's sexual arousal.

In contrast to men, both heterosexual and lesbian women tend to become sexually aroused by both male and female erotica, and, thus, have a bisexual arousal pattern.

"These findings likely represent a fundamental difference between men's and women's brains and have important implications for understanding how sexual orientation development differs between men and women," said J. Michael Bailey, professor and chair of psychology at Northwestern and senior researcher of the study "A Sex Difference in the Specificity of Sexual Arousal." The study is forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science.

Bailey's main research focus has been on the genetics and environment of sexual orientation, and he is one of the principal investigators of a widely cited study that concludes that genes influence male homosexuality.

As in many areas of sexuality, research on women's sexual arousal patterns has lagged far behind men's, but the scant research on the subject does hint that, compared with men, women's sexual arousal patterns may be less tightly connected to their sexual orientation.

The Northwestern study strongly suggests this is true. The Northwestern researchers measured the psychological and physiological sexual arousal in homosexual and heterosexual men and women as they watched erotic films.

There were three types of erotic films: those featuring only men, those featuring only women and those featuring male and female couples. As with previous research, the researchers found that men responded consistent with their sexual orientations. In contrast, both homosexual and heterosexual women showed a bisexual pattern of psychological as well as genital arousal. That is, heterosexual women were just as sexually aroused by watching female stimuli as by watching male stimuli, even though they prefer having sex with men rather
than women.

"In fact, the large majority of women in contemporary Western societies have sex exclusively with men," said Meredith Chivers, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology at Northwestern University, a psychology intern at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the study's first author. "But I have long suspected that women's sexuality is very different from men's, and this study scientifically demonstrates one way this is so."

The study's results mesh with current research showing that women's sexuality demonstrates increased flexibility relative to men in other areas besides sexual orientation, according to Chivers.

"Taken together, these results suggest that women's sexuality differs from men and emphasize the need for researchers to develop a model of the development and organization of female sexuality independent from models of male sexuality," she said.

The study's four authors include Bailey and three graduate students in Northwestern's psychology department, Chivers, Gerulf Rieger and Elizabeth Latty.

"Since most women seem capable of sexual arousal to both sexes, why do they choose one or the other?" Bailey asked. "Probably for reasons other than sexual arousal."

Sexual arousal is the emotional and physical response to sexual stimuli, including erotica or actual people. It has been known since the early 1960s that homosexual and heterosexual men respond in specific but opposite ways to sexual stimuli depicting men and women. Films provoke the greatest sexual response, and films of men having sex with men or of women having sex with women provoke the largest differences between homosexual and heterosexual men.

That is because the same-sex films offer clear-cut results, whereas watching heterosexual sex could be exciting to both homosexual and heterosexual men, but for different reasons.

Typically, men experience genital arousal and psychological sexual arousal when they watch films depicting their preferred sex, but not when they watch films depicting the other sex. Men's specific pattern of sexual arousal is such a reliable fact that genital arousal can be used to assess men's sexual preferences. Even gay men who deny their own homosexuality will become more sexually aroused by male sexual stimuli than by female stimuli.

"The fact that women's sexual arousal patterns are not all predicted by their sexual orientations suggests that men's and women's minds and brains are very different," Bailey said.

To rule out the possibility that the differences between men's and women's genital sexual arousal patterns might be due to the different ways that genital arousal is measured in men and women, the Northwestern researchers identified a subset of subjects: postoperative transsexuals who began life as men but had
surgery to construct artificial vaginas.

In a sense, those transsexuals have the brains of men but the genitals of women. Their psychological and genital arousal patterns matched those of men -- those who like men were more aroused by male stimuli and those who like women were more aroused by the female stimuli -- even though their genital arousal was measured in the same way women's was.

"This shows that the sex difference that we found is real and almost certainly due to a sex difference in the brain," said Bailey.