Does Blockbuster Even Have an 'Entrails' Section?

Monster Mash

from Best Week Ever

Media Data Corp thought it might be timely to take a look at the frequency of certain acts of violence – 13, to be exact – in 100 horror films released since 1975.

So what are the "certain acts of violence" they were looking for? Here we go: bite injury, charred skin, decapitation, decomposition, disfigurement, electrocution, entrails, impalement, protruding object, severed limb, skeletal remains, transmogrification, twisting body part.

Not bad. The study concluded that 1) Impalement is the number one pain inducer, 2) Freddy vs. Jason is the most gruesome movie ever (and not just because of the script), and 3) Doing a "study" on horror movies is a great excuse to sit down and watch all the Halloweens, Child's Plays, Jaws, and Nightmare on Elm Streets back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Happy Halloween indeed.

From: YourDeadWife@beyondthegrave.boo

Cyber Ghosts and E-Mail from the Dead

from TheGlobeAndMail.com

His wife had died, but he kept her e-mail account open and checked it regularly to see if she had any messages from far-flung friends or acquaintances who didn't know she had passed away.

On the anniversary of their first date, a strange e-mail arrived with an attachment that had nothing in it. He checked to see who it was from, but there were no names in the "from" header area. On their wedding anniversary, an identical message arrived. He became convinced, he explained on a website devoted to the paranormal, that it was his dead wife trying to communicate with him.

E-mail and cellphone calls from the dead. Ghostly orbs that appear in pictures taken by digital cameras. Demons captured on cellphone cameras. New technology is having an impact on how people experience the paranormal.

"Any technology throughout history has been adapted to two things - first of all pornography and secondly, the paranormal," James Alcock, a professor at York University who specializes in the psychology of belief, said. He is a founding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, a group that has investigated and exposed psychics, spoon benders, alien abductees and poltergeists since it was formed in the mid-1970s.

But for some, cyberspace extends to the great beyond, and the Web is a worldwide Ouija board. There are thousands of websites devoted to the paranormal, where people report their supernatural experiences. Many are encounters with old-fashioned-style ghosts and apparitions, the kind that inspired the most spectral Halloween costumes you'll see on the dark streets tonight.

But a growing number involve modern technology, like cellphones. A young man gets calls from a grandparent warning that he left the oven on. What's remarkable is that Grandma is dead, said Amy Allen, Ontario director for Paranormal Phenomena Research & Investigation, an organization that includes about 75 paranormal investigators in Canada, and another 60 or so in the United States and around the world. These calls, she said, have always proved impossible to trace.

There are also reports of mysterious e-mails, like the one posted on a paranormal website by the man, who identified himself as Tom, who believed his wife had attempted to contact him on two important anniversaries in their relationship.

He's in good company. Even Thomas Edison saw new technology as a possible channel of communication with the spirit world, Dr. Alcock said. The inventor tried to make contact through a phonograph-like device in the 1890s and then tried again in the 1920s with chemical equipment.

The advent of photography was closely followed by mysterious pictures of ghosts, and today, digital cameras have sparked a similar boom in spooky pictures, including many containing strange, transparent orbs. Darryll Walsh, executive director of the Halifax-based Centre for Parapsychological Studies in Canada, said they are caused by the flash being too close to the lens in the point-and-shoot cameras.

"People want to see something," he said.

Once the telephone became popular, people reported calls from dead loved ones. The advent of television brought reports of people seeing faces of the dead on the screen. For several decades, people have reported hearing the voices of the dead on their tape recorders. The messages - phrases like "Save Me" - have not always been comforting.

Technology has meant changes for paranormal investigators such as Elliott Van Dusen, with the British Columbia Branch of Paranormal Phenomena Research & Investigation. He and his colleagues look into reports of the paranormal, looking for rational explanations. They offer their services for free.

He still gets lots of "conventional" cases and has been asked to investigate reports of strange noises at an abandoned military base, and a house that the residents believed was haunted by a mysterious visitor who left pennies in strange places.

But he recently received an e-mail from a young man in Germany. He said he and his friend were goofing around, taking pictures with his cellphone camera. When they looked at the digital photo, they say they saw what looked like a demon. It was a shadowy, skeletal face, obscured by smoke. He told Mr. Van Dusen that the "thing" in the photograph looked as if it wanted to be seen, or was trying to get their attention.

Mr. Van Dusen was immediately suspicious, but the picture was too small for the kind of computer analysis that can detect tampering. In the field report, he and his colleagues conclude that it looked remarkably like the faked ghost photos that were so popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. But they couldn't say for sure that it was fraud.

"Technology is a Catch-22. Sometimes it is easy to tell if something is fake because of technology," he said.

But it also can make it easier for someone to perpetrate a hoax.

Mr. Van Dusen, 22 and finishing off a sociology degree, has been investigating reports of the paranormal since he was 16. He grew up near Halifax, where Mr. Walsh teaches two courses on the paranormal at a local community college.

At first, Mr. Van Dusen was excited by the thought of finding a real ghost.

"As time went on," he said, "I started to get more skeptical."

Bush Declares War on Candy Corn!

Trick-Or-Treaters To Be Subject to Random Bag Searches

from The Onion

WASHINGTON, DC — Responding to "a possible threat of terror and fright," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced Monday that trick-or-treaters will be subject to random bag searches this Halloween season.

"Individuals concealing their identities through clever disguise, and under cover of night, may attempt to use the unspecified threat of 'tricks' to extort 'treats' from unsuspecting victims," Chertoff said. "Such scare tactics may have been tolerated in the past, but they will not be allowed to continue this Halloween."

While he would not elaborate on the specific threat, Chertoff said his office had "heard a couple spooky tales."

"We have done and will continue to do everything we can to protect citizens from those who would play on our fears," a haunted Chertoff said. "Nevertheless, Americans are advised to be in a state of readiness."

Chertoff recommended that law-enforcement authorities be granted sweeping new powers to ensure security, including mandatory street-corner identity checks for suspects wearing clothing designed to conceal facial features or otherwise obscure ready personal identification.

National Guard troops and local police are being stationed at checkpoints in residential neighborhoods to seize the contents of any paper bags, pillowcases, plastic pumpkins, or other receptacles. Additionally, candy-sniffing dogs will be posted at regular intervals to locate and devour suspicious items.


Darth Sycophant

'I'm Done with Aliens'

Researcher Takes Aim at Alien Abductions

from The Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Susan Clancy is sick of space aliens. The Harvard psychologist figures she has read every book and seen every movie ever made about extraterrestrials, and she has interviewed roughly 50 people who claim to have been abducted by aliens.

All in the name of scientific truth, not science fiction.

"I have become a reluctant scholar of alienography," Clancy said.

Clancy is bracing for a fresh round of hate mail once her book, Abducted: How People Come To Believe They Were Kidnapped By Aliens, is published by Harvard University Press later this month.

Those who believe aliens are among us haven't taken kindly to her theory that abductees have created "false memories" out of, she writes, a "blend of fantasy-proneness, memory distortion, culturally available scripts, sleep hallucinations, and scientific illiteracy."

That doesn't mean Clancy thinks her subjects are crazy. In fact, she was surprised how many of them seemed quite normal, intelligent and articulate.

"Arguing weird beliefs is a very normal thing," she said in a telephone interview from Nicaragua, where she has a research job. "It's very human for us to believe in things for which there is no scientific evidence."

When she arrived at Harvard in 1996, Clancy didn't set out to debunk the stories of little green men kidnapping people from their bedrooms and using them for painful experiments. Instead, she started her research on false memories by studying victims of sexual abuse.

She quickly found herself the target of angry "outsiders" who accused her of trying to discredit victims. One irate letter-writer called her a "friend of pedophiles everywhere."

Wouldn't it be easier to test her theories if she could be certain that her subjects' memories were not real? She and her adviser, Harvard psychologist Richard McNally, placed a newspaper ad that asked, "Have you been abducted by aliens?" It took less than a day for callers to fill her voice mail.

As Clancy and McNally interviewed the abductees, they started to find some common threads. Many of them, for instance, described the terrifying experience of waking up and being unable to move, certain that an intruder was lurking in their room.

To the Harvard psychologists, it was obvious that their subjects had suffered an episode of sleep paralysis — a state of limbo between sleep and being awake, sometimes punctuated by hallucinations.

"It's a little bit like a hiccup in the brain. It's harmless," said McNally, adding that 20 percent of the population will experience sleep paralysis at least once.

Many of the abductees also could be described as "spiritual people" who have abandoned conventional religious beliefs, McNally added.

"The people convinced of this are getting genuine spiritual payoff," he said. "To encounter a naturalistic account of it is deeply offensive."

In her book, Clancy describes her subjects' stories of abduction in detail, changing only their names.

One man, "an articulate, handsome" chiropractor with a "strikingly attractive wife" and twin sons, claimed to have fathered hybrid babies with an alien, a "streamlined, sylph-like creature."

Another subject, a 34-year-old artist with a college education, couldn't put a finger on her "disturbing sleep-related experiences" until he was hypnotized by an abduction researcher he found on the Internet.

During his second hypnosis session, the artist said he recovered memories of being abducted by aliens who strapped him down on a black marble table and subjected him to a painful sexual experiment.

Clancy said a wealth of research shows that hypnosis makes it easier for people to create false memories.

"This is in large part because it both stimulates the imagination and relaxes reality constraints," she writes in her book.

However, Clancy learned it was impossible to categorically disprove alien abductions.

"All you can do is argue that they're improbable and that the evidence adduced by the believer is insufficient to justify the belief," she wrote. "Ultimately, then, the existence of ETs is a matter of opinion, and the believers have their own opinions, based on firsthand experience."

Clancy [is reluctant] to make a career out of alien abductions. She said the volume and nasty tone of the hate mail she gets these days is far worse than what her research on sexual-abuse victims generated. In July, for instance, she appeared on CNN's Larry King Live and started receiving nasty e-mails before the show was even over.

"I'm done with aliens," she said.


Attack of the Mutant Rat-Boy!

Don't Drink, Don't Smoke - What Do You D'oh!?

Reworking The Simpsons for the Arab World
Made in America, Assembled in Egypt, Al-Shamshoons Is a Culturally Adapted Version

from The Daily Star

CAIRO: As with any family moving to the Arab world from the West, The Simpsons quickly discovered they'd need to make some adaptations to their lives if they were to connect with the natives. First, they would change their names - the family now called Al-Shamshoons; the father, once Homer, now goes by Omar; his mischievous son Bart, now Badr.

There would be fundamental changes to their lifestyles as well. Omar, once a fan of tossing back a few beers with friends, now goes to the club or the ahwa (coffee shop) and sips on sodas and juice. Donuts have been replaced by kakh (Arabic cookies); bacon is done away with altogether as it is against Islam; and the kids, once a rowdy bunch of conniving delinquents, are still just as cunning but mind their manners with their parents a bit more.

Brought to life by creator Matt Groening and the FOX network, The Simpsons, over the last decade, would take the United States and later the world by storm. The show, in a way, prompted an animation revolution - with idiosyncratic expressions such as "Doh!" recently added to the English dictionary. In sharp contrast to cartoons already airing at the time, The Simpsons targeted teenagers, with its sophisticated, often controversial and risque antics.

Just before Ramadan, Arab satellite network MBC won exclusive rights to air an Arabic-dubbed version of the show, slightly adapting story lines to suit Arab audiences. Dubbing western cartoons is by no means a new trend. Disney cartoons have been dubbed for years, though their storylines are generally better suited for younger audiences. Still as dysfunctional as their U.S. counterparts, MBC's creative team looked to maintain Al-Shamshoons plots nearly identical to that of the original, subtly changing references that may be deemed inappropriate.

"In the Arab world, life does not revolve around bars," Costandi points out.

"Sure we have a night life, but alcohol is not really part of the daily scene in Egypt, Lebanon or anywhere else. So, we do not stress on what Homer is drinking. If he is drinking beer in the original, in ours, we let him drink something else, or even we don't say what he is drinking."

Currently, the network has only scheduled to run Al-Shamshoons daily through the month of Ramadan. However, Costandi says the apparent success of the dubbed program has encouraged executives to continue showing the program after the holy month. As with their decision to run Arabized-reality television shows and game shows modeled after American programs, MBC also intends to repeat the process with other Western programs that would be suitable for this age group.

The original Simpsons was famed for introducing younger audiences to controversial subjects, such as homosexuality and racism. Should MBC decide to continue airing the series, it will have to make some major decisions about the storylines it will keep and those it will do away with.

Dork vs. Door

'Houston, We're Under Par'

NASA Chief Under Fire For Personal Shuttle Use

from The Onion

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL — NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has yet to respond to recent allegations that he used NASA space shuttles on as many as one dozen unauthorized outings to such destinations as New York City, the French Riviera, and his vacation home near Ketchum, ID.

A report issued Monday by NASA's Oversight Commission indicates a cumulative 1.8 million miles unaccounted for on the Atlantic, Discovery, and Endeavor shuttles. In addition, shuttle pilot James Kelly reported numerous occasions on which he found the pilot seat "adjusted for someone else."

The report also revealed that radio presets on the shuttles had been changed to receive various talk-radio stations from across the country, and that the cargo bays contained foreign items such as an old pair of sneakers, "aviator"-style sunshades, two empty Big Gulp Los Angeles Dodgers collector cups, and CDs that shuttle astronauts say are not theirs.

Griffin's apparent joyrides came to light last week, when sharp-eyed patrons at Georgia's Augusta National Golf Club spotted Discovery in the club's parking lot. Within hours, NASA employees began coming forward with their own observations.

"Every now and then on a Friday, Mr. Griffin would stop by Launch Complex 39B and say, 'Well, I'm off early today, taking the wife shopping on Fifth Avenue,' and I wouldn't think twice about it," said assistant fuel-cell technician Lawrence Clemmons. "But about half an hour later, the ground would shake, I'd hear this earsplitting roar from the pad, and then the shuttle would fly off."

Trajectory-optimization engineer Russ Holcum said he'd long suspected that Griffin "had an in" with the staff in Engineering and Fabrication. Said Holcum: "I figured he knew someone who cut him an extra set of keys or two."

In a press conference held Tuesday, NASA spokesperson Arjun Congrove apologized to taxpayers for the billions of dollars expended on the unauthorized missions.

"The shuttle costs an estimated $2 billion per launch, not counting delays and repairs, and for Mr. Griffin to use it to take his wife on luxury shopping trips to Europe is not appropriate," Congrove said. "We apologize to affected personnel at NASA, and to the good people of New York City whose homes were vaporized by Mr. Griffin's several unauthorized launches near LaGuardia Airport."

Griffin may face penalties ranging from dismissal to having his salary garnished for the next 376 years in order to pay for fuel.

Warning: Face May Turn Black & Ooze Off

A Tale of Two Faces: Plans Advancing for World's First Face Transplant

from First Coast News

CLEVELAND - In the next few weeks, five men and seven women will secretly visit the Cleveland Clinic to interview for the chance to have a radical operation that's never been tried anywhere in the world.

They will smile, raise their eyebrows, close their eyes, open their mouths. Dr. Maria Siemionow will study their cheekbones, lips and noses. She will ask what they hope to gain and what they most fear.

Then she will ask, "Are you afraid that you will look like another person?"

Because >whoever she chooses will endure the ultimate identity crisis. Siemionow wants to attempt a face transplant.

This is no extreme TV makeover. It is a medical frontier being explored by a doctor who wants the public to understand what she is trying to do.

It is this: To give people horribly disfigured by burns, accidents or other tragedies a chance at a new life. Today's best treatments still leave many of them with freakish, scar-tissue masks that don't look or move like natural skin.

These people already have lost the sense of identity that is linked to the face; the transplant is merely "taking a skin envelope" and slipping their identity inside, Siemionow contends.

Her supporters note her experience, careful planning, the team of experts assembled to help her, and the practice she has done on animals and dozens of cadavers to perfect the technique.

But her critics say the operation is way too risky for something that is not a matter of life or death, as organ transplants are. They paint the frighteningly surreal image of a worst-case scenario: a transplanted face being rejected and sloughing away, leaving the patient worse off than before.

Such qualms recently scuttled face transplant plans in France and England. Ultimately, it comes to this: a hospital, doctor and patient willing to try it.
The first two are now in place. The third is expected to be shortly.

The "consent form" says that this surgery is so novel and its risks so unknown that doctors don't think informed consent is even possible.

Here is what it tells potential patients: Your face will be removed and replaced with one donated from a cadaver, matched for tissue type, age, sex and skin color. Surgery should last 8 to 10 hours; the hospital stay, 10 to 14 days. Complications could include infections that turn your new face black and require a second transplant or reconstruction with skin grafts. Drugs to prevent rejection will be needed lifelong, and they raise the risk of kidney damage and cancer. After the transplant you might feel remorse, disappointment, or grief or guilt toward the donor. The clinic will try to shield your identity, but the press likely will discover it.

Another form tells donor families that the person receiving the face will not resemble their dead loved one. The recipient should look similar to how he or she did before the injury because the new skin goes on existing bone and muscle, which give a face its shape.

All of the little things that make up facial expression - mannerisms like winking when telling a joke or blushing at a compliment - are hard-wired into the brain and personality, not embedded in the skin.

Some research suggests the end result would be a combination of the two appearances.

The clinic will cover costs for the first patient; nothing about others has been decided.

It took more than a year to win approval from the 13-member Institutional Review Board, the clinic's gatekeeper of research. At first, not everyone was on her side, acknowledged the board's vice chairman, Dr. Alan Lichtin. After months of debate, Siemionow brought in photographs of potential patients.

Looking at the contorted images, Lichtin said he was struck by "the failure of the present state of the art to help these people." He decided he didn't want to deprive the surgeon or patients of the chance.

The board's decision didn't have to be unanimous. In the end, it was. Surgeons wished they could have done a transplant six years ago, when a 2-year-old boy attacked by a pit bull dog was brought to the University of Texas in Dallas where Dr. Karol Gutowski was training.

Other doctors had tried to reattach part of the boy's mauled face but it didn't take. The Texas surgeons did five skin grafts in a bloody, 28-hour surgery. Muscles from the boy's thigh were moved to around his mouth. Part of his abdomen became the lower part of his face. Two forearm sections became lips and mouth.

"He'll never be normal," said Gutowski, now a reconstructive surgeon at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Surviving such wounds can be "life by 1,000 cuts." Patients endure dozens of operations to graft skin inch by inch from their backs, arms, buttocks and legs. Only small amounts can be taken at a time because of bleeding.

Surgeons often return to the same areas every few weeks, reopening old wounds and building up skin. Years later, many patients are still having surgeries. A face transplant - applying a sheet of skin in one operation - could be a better solution.

Despite its shock factor, it involves routine microsurgery. One or two pairs of veins and arteries on either side of the face would be connected from the donor tissue to the recipient. About 20 nerve endings would be stitched together to try to restore sensation and movement. Tiny sutures would anchor the new tissue to the recipient's scalp and neck, and areas around the eyes, nose and mouth.

"For 10 years now, it could have been done," said Dr. John Barker, director of plastic surgery research at the University of Louisville, where the first hand transplant in the United States was performed in 1999.

Several years ago, these doctors announced their intent to do face transplants, but no hospital has yet agreed. They also are working with doctors in the Netherlands; nothing is imminent.

However, Siemionow had been doing experimental groundwork. She already had creatures that resembled raccoons in reverse - white rats with masks of dark fur - from years of face transplant experiments. She developed a plan and got clinic approval before going public, and insists she is not competing to do the first case.

She wants a clear-cut first case. No children because risks are too great. No cancer patients because anti-rejection drugs raise the risk of recurrence.

"You want to choose patients who are really disfigured, not someone who has a little scar," yet with enough healthy skin for traditional grafts if the transplant fails, she said.

Dr. Joseph Locala will decide whether candidates are mentally fit. His chief concern: making sure they realize the risks. A psychiatrist who has worked with transplant patients for 11 years, Locala knows they often have been coached on what to say to be chosen. He'd veto candidates who had abused alcohol or drugs, because they may not comply with medications. Likewise someone who had attempted or seriously threatened suicide, or with little family or friends for support.

"I'm looking for a psychologically strong person. We want people who are going to make it through," he explained.

Matthew Teffeteller might seem an ideal candidate. Hair is driving him crazy. What used to be a beard can't grow through the skin-graft quilt that Vanderbilt University doctors stitched over parts of his face that were seared off in a car crash. Trapped under this crust, hair festers, leading to staph infections, pain, and more surgeries. "It's a nightmare and it never ends," he said. "Being burned is the worst thing that can happen to you. I'm about sure of it."

Teffeteller, 26, lives south of Knoxville, in the foothills of Great Smoky Mountains National Park where he worked, ironically, as a fire fighter. The day after Valentine's Day in 2002, he was taking his pregnant wife to buy a cowboy hat and go country line dancing to celebrate their first anniversary. "The next thing I remember, everything just went all to pieces...there was a big explosion. I remember seeing gas splash off of the windshield," he said. Rear-ended by a truck, his car flipped and caught on fire. His wife died. He was burned trying to free her. "They said my face was charcoal black," he said. He didn't see it for two months, until he glimpsed a mirror on his way to therapy. "Oh, my God," he thought. "I remember seeing my eyes pulled open. I remember my ears were burned off, and I remember my bottom lip being pulled down."

Three years later, his face still frightens children. Yet he wouldn't try a transplant. "Having somebody else's face...that wouldn't be right. When I look in the mirror, I might be scarred but I can still tell that it's me," he said. "I'd be afraid something would go wrong, too. What would you do if you didn't have a face? Could you live?"

Bioethicist Carson Strong at the University of Tennessee wonders, too. "It would leave the patient with an extensive facial wound with potentially serious physical and psychological consequences," he wrote last summer in the American Journal of Bioethics.

Such worries led the Royal College of Surgeons in England and the French National Ethics Advisory Committee to decide it shouldn't be tried. Any doctor considering it should examine soul and conscience, Strong wrote.

Ironically, people most emotionally devastated by disfigurement are those most likely to seek a transplant and least able to cope with uncertain results, media attention and loss of privacy, ethicists from England wrote in the same journal.

One worried that a donor family might have unhealthy expectations of seeing a loved-one "live on" in another person's body, or that recipients might want to see and approve a potential face.

No way, said Siemionow. "It's not a shopping mall. They need to rely on our judgment.
If they are starting to shop, they are not good candidates," she said.

Siemionow said critics should admit that risks and need for the transplant are debatable.

"Really, who has the right to decide about the patient's quality of life?" she asked. "It's very important not to kind of scare society...We will do our best to help the patient."

If all of the candidates back out, "that's OK. It means that we are not ready yet," she said.

But if a transplant succeeds, many people who live in misery could benefit, said Gutowski, the Wisconsin surgeon.

"Someone's got to push the envelope," he said. "In retrospect, we'll know whether it should be done."


Bad Elf! Very Bad Elf!

The Connecticut state Liquor Control Commission has notified Shelton Brothers distributors that it will not allow the sale of Seriously Bad Elf , a British import, in Connecticut on the grounds that the label might appeal to children. The state has wide ranging discretion to regulate the sales of alchohol according to state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. (AP Photo/Shelton Brothers)

12k-Year-Old Pyramid...in Bosnia?!

Europe's First Pyramid?

from BBC

Bosnia's leading Muslim daily Dnevni Avaz writes excitedly about "a sensational discovery" of "the first European pyramid" in the central town of Visoko, just north of Sarajevo.

Excavations at a hill site above the town have been going on for several months and initial analyses "have confirmed the original claim that this is Europe's first pyramid and a monumental building, similar in dimensions to the Egyptian pyramids."

"The pyramid is 100 metres high and there is evidence that it contains rooms and a monumental causeway...The plateau is built of stone blocks, which indicates the presence at the time of a highly developed civilisation," the daily explains.

"Archaeological excavations near the surface have uncovered a part of a wall and fragments of steps," it reveals.

"Visocica hill could not have been shaped like this by nature," geologist Nada Nukic tells the daily. "This is already far too more than we have anticipated, but we expect a lot more from further analysis," she concludes.

Set Your Phasers on Fabulous!

Takei Comes Out of the Closet

from SciFiWire

George Takei, best known as Capt. Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek movies, has told the Los Angeles gay/lesbian magazine Frontiers that he is gay. Takei, a Los Angeles-based actor who is also a community activist, made the revelation in an interview published this week.

"It's not really coming out, which suggests opening a door and stepping through," Takei, 68, told the magazine. "It's more like a long, long walk through what began as a narrow corridor that starts to widen. And then some doors are open, and light comes in, and there are skylights, and it widens."

Takei said that he has been in a relationship for 18 years with a man he identifies as "Brad," but that this is the first time he's spoken publicly about his homosexuality. He also admitted that he continues to have problems with his family as a result of being gay.

"I've not had a good experience with one sibling," Takei said. "And I won't be specific, because it's still a problem. My mother, initially, had some adjustments to make, but she got to like Brad very much. She got Alzheimer's, and it got very difficult for her, so we moved her in with us. Brad was wonderful. He was a saint. It's very difficult when you're dealing with someone with Alzheimer's. And some of the stages were...horrific. And Brad helped throughout that. She was with us for the last four years of her life. And I owe so much to him."

No Longer Six Feet Under:
Vampires Come to HBO

Ball Raises Southern Vamprie

from SciFiWire

Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball is developing a new HBO series based on Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire book series, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The project is the first under Ball's two-year deal with HBO to develop new original programming, the trade paper reported. HBO has ordered an hourlong pilot to be written and directed by Ball.

The Southern Vampire series chronicles the intermingling world of humans and monsters in contemporary rural Louisiana, particularly vampires, thanks to a synthetic blood formula that allows them to roam far from their coffins, the trade paper reported.

There is no timetable for shooting the Southern pilot, but Ball believes it will happen sometime next year.

I Hope Santa Reads My Blog...

I had not one, not two, but three orgasms...blew my shoes right off...


Blame Canada!

Rock, Paper, Scissors World Champion Named

from Courtesy of CityTV Toronto

Toronto, Canada - .It takes skill to be a champion. It takes mental prowess to be a champion. Andrew Bergel is a champion and his skills are world-class. Bergel has been named the World Champion of the game Rock, Paper, Scissors.

This past weekend, more than 500 participants came to Toronto from as far away as Norway to compete in the World Championship of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Andrew won, and he only did it as part of a friend's bachelor party.

Andrew's day job, when not schooling people in the ways of the "sport," is as a lawyer in Toronto.

His grand prize for winning the tournament was a $7,000 check. Unfortunately, they couldn't even spell his name right on it.

These Bits Are Made for Walkiing

Walking Small: The First Bipedal Molecule

from LiveScience

Scientists have created a molecule that walks on two feet when it feels hot.

The molecule, called 9,10-dithioanthracene (DTA), walks in such way that only one "foot" rests on a surface at any one time. When heated, the body of the DTA molecule pivots forward, causing one leg to lift up and the other to plop down.

In this hot-potato fashion, it plods along in a straight line without veering off course or stumbling.

Bipedalism like this is, of course, the preferred mode of natural movement for humans, but it's not easy to accomplish even in the realm of human-sized robots.

DTA can also be lured by the tip of a scanning tunneling microscope serving as a sort of carrot. In tests on a standard copper surface, DTA took 10,000 steps without faltering once.

Ludwig Bartels, lead researcher of the project at the University of California, Riverside, said the tiny walker could one day be used to guide the movements of molecule-based information storage or even computation.

The bipedal molecule joins a growing list of recently manufactured oddities at the molecular level:

The World's Smallest Car
The World's Smallest Motor
The World’s Smallest Robot
The World's Smallest Refrigerator
The World’s Smallest Fountain Pen

Gold-Plated Zombie Cyborg Bacteria?

Microbe & Machine Merged to Create First 'Cellborg'

from LiveSpace

Fully merging microbe and machine for the first time, scientists have created gold-plated bacteria that can sense humidity.

The breakthrough is the first "cellborg" in what might become an array of devices that could sense dangerous gases or other hazardous substances.

The bioelectronic device swells and contracts in response to how much water vapor is in the air. It's called a cellborg humidity sensor, and it is at least four times more sensitive than those that are solely electronic. It even works even when its biological parts are long dead.

Scientists first coated a silicon chip with a layer of live Bacillus cereus bacteria. The chip was then washed in a solution containing tiny gold particles, each one about 30 nanometers across. The gold nanoparticles attached to long hair-like proteins on the surface of the bacteria, transforming them into gold-plated bridges that completed an electronic circuit.A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. A human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide.

Once assimilated, the gilded bacteria can survive for only about two days, but even when dead, their bodies still swell and contract in response to changes in humidity. They can go on working this way for months, Saraf said.

According to Saraf, their hybrid sensor is the first to incorporate microorganisms into an electronic device.

If scientists could coat bacteria with gold nanoparticles without killing them, it might be possible to make cellborg sensors that could power an electronic circuit instead of just completing one, Saraf told LiveScience. Another possibility may be to tweak the bacteria so they respond to things other than humidity.

The study was detailed in the Oct. 21 issue of the journal Angewandte Chemie.

What If...
Fox News Had Been Around Throughout Historyyyy...

Top 10 List: TV's Scariest Villains

TV’s Top 10 Scariest Characters

from MSNBC

1. Charles Montgomery Burns (The Simpsons)
2. Eric Cartman (South Park)
3. Arvin Sloane (Alias)
4. John Locke (Lost)
5. T-Bag (Prison Break)
6. Emily Gilmore (The Gilmore Girls)
7. The Monkey in Chris Griffin's Closet (Family Guy)
8. Silvio Dante (The Sopranos)
9. Mandy (24)
10. The Entire Supporting Cast (Desperate Housewives)


Robots May Allow Surgery in Space

from The Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. - Small robots designed by University of Nebraska researchers may allow doctors on Earth to help perform surgery on patients in space.

The tiny, wheeled robots, which are about 3 inches tall and as wide as a lipstick case, can be slipped into small incisions and computer-controlled by surgeons in different locations.

Some robots are equipped with cameras and lights and can send back images to surgeons. Others have surgical tools attached that can be controlled remotely.

"We think this is going to replace open surgery," Dr. Dmitry Oleynikov said at a Wednesday news conference. Oleynikov is a specialist in minimally invasive and computer-assisted surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

Officials hope that next spring, NASA will teach astronauts to use the robots so that surgeries could one day be performed in space. On battlefields, the robots could enable surgeons in other places to work on injured soldiers on the front line, said Shane Farritor, a university engineering professor who helped design them.

The camera-carrying robots can provide views of affected areas and the ones with surgical tools will be able to maneuver inside the body in ways surgeons' hands can't, Oleynikov said. The views from the camera-carrying robots are better than the naked eye, Oleynikov said, because they send back color images that are magnified.

"We think with robot assist, we can do better than human hands," he said.

A robot capable of doing biopsies is in the works and another is being designed that can be inserted into a person's stomach via the esophagus.

The robots themselves currently cost about $200 each, Farritor said. Initial plans call for each robot to be used once and then disposed of.

Eventually, Oleynikov said, the tiny robots may enable surgeons to work without ever placing their hands in patients' bodies.

"That's the goal."

Mr. Incarcerated

Elmo Impersonator Accused of Harassment

from The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - The red and cuddly Sesame Street Muppet Elmo has learned a new lesson: 'H' is for handcuffs.

A man dressed as the character was one of three impersonators arrested last week for allegedly harassing tourists for tips after posing for photos on Hollywood Boulevard. Booked with him were people impersonating superhero Mr. Incredible and the dark-hooded character from the horror movie Scream.

The impersonators said they were taken into custody at gunpoint, handcuffed and paraded on the Hollywood Walk of Fame before stunned tourists and other impersonators. They were charged with misdemeanor "aggressive begging," police said.

What Every Fashionable Astronaut Will Be Wearing...

This Suit Is Made for Walking (on Mars)

from Christian Science Monitor

In 1972, when humans last visited the surface of the moon, the bulky, stiff legs of spacesuits made the "moonwalk" more of a swaying hop. But when explorers get back to the moon, or if they ever get to Mars, these old spacesuits aren't going to cut it, scientists say. Astronauts will need added mobility and dexterity for the next stage of modern experiments, exploration, and construction.

"The current spacesuits, they tend to be gas bags," says Bob Cassanova, director of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC), which funded the research. "They're gas-pressurized, very bulky, very heavy, very cumbersome."

By combining an old idea with the latest technology, Dr. Dava Newman, a researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her team are trying to build a better spacesuit: the BioSuit, a form-fitting "second skin," designed for lunar and Martian living.

The proposed BioSuit will consist of a skintight body suit, a hard torso and backpack for life-support systems and equipment, and a domed helmet. The conceptual images for the project look like science fiction: sleek, color-coded spacemen and spacewomen climbing Martian windmills, whacking red rocks with hammers, and casually shaking hands.

Much of the technology needed to make the BioSuit practical may be decades away - just like a Mars mission - but the idea behind it was dreamed up decades ago. In the late 1960s, Paul Webb, a former Air Force physician, tried to create a spacesuit that used mechanical counterpressure - squeezing - instead of gas pressure.

Dr. Webb made a suit of six layers of elastic that physically pressed the body to mimic Earth's air pressure. The design was lighter and less bulky and provided greater range of motion than a "gas bag." Webb tested the suit and its physiological effects and wrote a report in 1971 that said the idea was viable and safe. But NASA didn't bite.

Thirty years later, Newman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics, took up the challenge. "I think it was a great idea, just before its time because we didn't have the materials technology," she says.

Newman's team has made several lower-leg prototypes, including one of nylon-spandex, one of elastic wrapped like bandage, and another of pressurized foam painted with layers of urethane.

Ultimately, the BioSuit must maintain fairly constant pressure over the whole body as it moves. With three-dimensional mapping and scanning, Newman's lab studies how skin stretches and joints move.

"I just marvel at it," says Newman. "Every day, I look at the skin and say, 'How could this be designed so fantastically?'"

Making the BioSuit easy to put on is another challenge. It might feel a bit like squeezing into a wetsuit several sizes too small. It took two helpers 20 minutes to tug on the layered elastic suit Webb developed decades ago.

It still is a problem, which is why Newman and other researchers are looking to "smart" materials, metals and polymers that expand, contract, or change their properties in response to heat or electricity.

Intelligent Design: A New Hope

Star Wars Becomes Tool To Teach Modern Technology

from Reuters

BOSTON - It's a Star Wars fan's dream - the first public display of props and costumes from all six films in the series, including a replica cockpit of Han Solo's asteroid-battered Millennium Falcon.

But the $5 million exhibit goes beyond entertainment and turns Star Wars into a educational tool for science and technology, fields in which U.S. dominance faces a challenge from a new generation of engineers in Asia.

"Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination," opening on Thursday in Boston, was developed by George Lucas's LucasFilm Ltd. and Boston's Museum of Science to give some scientific basis to the fantasy of the films.

Luke Skywalker's gravity-defying "Landspeeder" appears on stage in original form - accompanied by lessons in magnetic levitation and the powerful electromagnets that can hurtle high-speed "maglev" trains at speeds of up to 310 mph.

Rows of Star Wars androids and Anakin Skywalker's prosthetic right hand from Episode III - before his transformation into Darth Vader - are used to explain advances in robotic technology and modern medical prosthetics.

The cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, built to a blueprint provided by Lucas, is transformed into a high-tech planetarium with a recorded voice of Anthony Daniels, who played C-3PO, explaining the stars and how modern scientists view them.

In another exhibit, children can choose sensors, select wheels and build their own android-like robots. About 80 props - from Princess Leia's white dress to Darth Vader's mask and R2-D2 - sprawl over 10,000 square feet in the museum.

The museum's president and director, Ioannis Miaoulis, said he feared U.S. schools were failing to produce enough future engineers to meet competition from Asia, putting pressure on museums like his to play a more influential role.


My Advice? Two Words: 'Silver Bullets'

What Kind of Animal Makes a Pawprint as Big As This?

from Macclesfield Express

SCOTLAND - Mystery surrounds the discovery of a giant pawprint in Bollington which was spotted by walkers just hours before a sheep was mauled to death.

The huge print, which measures about 6in wide and 8in long, was found embedded in a soggy cow pat close to the mutilated caracass on a quiet track just off Oakenbank Lane last Tuesday.

Ann Lovett from Kent was shocked when she saw the size of the print while walking with husband Philip and his uncle Brian Peacock, 70, while visiting Brian’s home on Oakenbank Lane in Bollington.

The group took a photograph of the print but didn't give it any more thought until the following morning when some guests were checking out of a holiday cottage owned by the Peacocks at their home at Higher Ingersley Farm.

Brian said: "They said there was a racket at 3am in one of the lower fields with growling and animal noises. When we went down there to have a look we saw a sheep that had been torn apart. The sheep carcass was very badly mauled and the missing flesh was quite considerable."

Dog expert and Macclesfield Express columnist Vic Barlow who studied a picture of the pawprint thought it may belong to a very big dog: "I doubt it is a cat as it is the wrong shape and size. My bet would be a German Shepherd, a Great Dane, a French Mastiff, or a hoax."

A spokesman from the National Museums of Scotland said he was unable to hazard a guess on what sort of creature left the print and the British Big Cats Society failed to respond.

Not a Good Time To Be a Sheep in the UK...

Occult Fear As Sheep Slaughtered

from IC Wales

WALES - A Dartmoor farmer who found six of his sheep with their necks broken and their eyeballs removed believes occultists could be responsible.

Four of the dead animals had been laid out in a square, while the other two were discovered near stones apparently arranged to make a pagan symbol.

Farmer Daniel Alford previously found seven of his sheep killed and left in a circle less than half a mile away on moorland near Tavistock, Devon, in January.

Devon and Cornwall Police said the incident was being investigated.

Europeans Boycott Halloween As Blasphemous American Commercialism

Some Europeans Aren't Fans of Halloween

from The Associated Press

VIENNA, Austria - It's almost Halloween — and all those ghosts, goblins, tricks and treats are giving Hans Kohler the creeps.

So the mayor of Rankweil, a town near the border with Switzerland, has launched a one-man campaign disparaging Halloween as a "bad American habit" and urging families to skip it this year.

"It's an American custom that's got nothing to do with our culture," Kohler wrote in letters sent out to households. By midweek, the mayors of eight neighboring villages had thrown their support behind the boycott. So had local police, annoyed with the annual Oct. 31 uptick in vandalism and mischief.

Although Halloween has become increasingly popular across Europe — complete with carved pumpkins, witches on broomsticks, makeshift houses of horror and costumed children rushing door to door for candy — it's begun to breed a backlash.

Critics see it as the epitome of crass, U.S.-style commercialism. Clerics and conservatives contend it clashes with the spirit of traditional Nov. 1 All Saints' Day remembrances.

Halloween "undermines our cultural identity," complained the Rev. Giordano Frosini, a Roman Catholic theologian who serves as vicar-general in the Diocese of Pistoia near Florence, Italy. Frosini denounced the holiday as a "manifestation of neo-paganism" and an expression of American cultural supremacy. "Pumpkins show their emptiness," he said.

To be sure, Halloween is big business in Europe.

Germans alone spend nearly $170 million, on Halloween costumes, sweets, decorations and parties. The holiday has become increasingly popular in Romania, home to the Dracula myth, where discotheques throw parties with bat and vampire themes.

In Britain, where Halloween celebrations rival those in the United States, it's the most lucrative day of the year for costume and party retailers.

But not everyone takes such a carefree approach toward the surge in trick-or-treating — "giving something sweet or getting something sour," as it's called in German.

In Austria, where many families get a government child allowance, "parents who abuse it to buy Halloween plunder for their kids should be forced to pay back the aid," grumbled Othmar Berbig, an Austrian who backs the small but strident boycott movement.

In Sweden, even as Halloween's popularity has increased, so have views of the holiday as an "unnecessary, bad American custom," said Bodil Nildin-Wall, an expert at the Language and Folklore Institute in Uppsala.

Italy's Papaboys, a group of pope devotees who include some of the young Catholics who cheer wildly at Vatican events, have urged Christians not to take part in what they consider "a party in honor of Satan and hell," and plan to stage prayer vigils nationwide that night.

Don't take it all so seriously, counters Gerald Faschingeder, who heads a Roman Catholic youth alliance in Austria. He sees nothing particularly evil about glow-in-the-dark skeletons, plastic fangs, fake blood, rubber tarantulas, or latex scars.

"It's a chance for girls and boys to disguise themselves and have some fun away from loud and demanding adults," Faschingeder said. "For one evening, at least, kids can feel more powerful than grown-ups."

The War God Cometh

This image captured by NASA's Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope shows Mars when it was approximately 43 million miles (68 million km) from Earth. On Sunday, October 30, the Red Planet will be 69.4 million kilometers (43.1 million miles) from Earth - a distance that in galactic terms is less than wafer-thin and will not be equalled until 2018.(AFP/NASA/File)