John

Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

B2 Spirit Crashes in Guam

In News on February 25, 2008 at 9:58 am
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pic courtesy ABC news

Excerpt from USA today:

HAGATNA, Guam — A board of military officers will investigate Saturday’s crash of a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, which forced two pilots to eject to safety before the aricraft fell from the sky shortly after takeoff at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base.

Yigo resident Albert Saboy, a heavy equipment operator who sometimes works on Andersen, was at his home near the base when he heard an explosion of the bomber crash.

“I heard a loud bang, saw some smoke and a co-worker called me and told me what happened,” he said. “My co-worker was driving the water truck with the air-con on and windows up, he could still feel the burst.”

According to Saboy, his co-worker said the bomber exploded a second time about 30 minutes after it crashed. Other residents also reported hearing two explosions.

Jeanne Ward, another witness, was on base visiting her husband for lunch when the bomber crashed. Ward said she didn’t see the aircraft hit the ground because she was inside a building, but immediately noticed a rising plume of thick black smoke behind the base’s air control tower.

The Air Force has 21 B-2 bombers. Missouri’s Whiteman Air Force Base is their long-term home. The four B-2s currently deployed in Guam, were scheduled to return to Missouri now that six B-52s from the 96th Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., have arrived to replace them.

B-2s have been rotating through Guam since 2004, along with B-1 and B-52 bombers.

An Air Force fact sheet lists the price of a B-2 at $1.2 billion, but a report from the Government Accountability Office estimates that each plane can cost up to $2.2 billion.

Crickey… at 2.2B, one of these could buy around 20 F15s! This is easily the most expensive aircraft to crash. Since the USAF have a reported 21 planes (now 20) thats like losing 5% of their B2 fleet!

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Facebook Dips, Everyone Goes All Hooey.

In News on February 22, 2008 at 4:53 am

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The knives are out for Facebook. The naysayers–often people who’ve never signed up for social networking and carp on about the uselessness of such things–are starting to harp on the fact that social networking is on the decline after Nielsen Online posted that Facebook has suffered its first fall in UK users, with a 5% drop between December and January.

This translates into a dip of some 400,000 UK users month on month, following an impressive 17 consecutive months of growth. While the Register is reporting these figures as the start of the end for Facebook, calling the slide as “very bad news for Facebook,” Alex Burmaster, European internet analyst at Nielsen Online, is asking everyone to take a chill pill.

“One month of falling audiences doesn’t spell the decline of Facebook or social networking,” said Burmaster on The Guardian. “However, most of the leading social networks are less popular in the UK than they were a year ago. It was inevitable that early growth rates couldn’t be sustained and the larger networks have been plateauing over the last few months.” To put this dip in context, The Guardian added, Facebook’s audience is still a massive 712% higher than in January 2007 and 9% bigger than at the end of October.

Following the recent news that FB has made it easier to erase your personal data (notice your friend count dropping lately?), I can see how The Register, and other analysts like Lance Ulanoff is forecasting the end of Facebook. But that’s not the case–FB clearly couldn’t sustain such a hectic growth rate, and this is just a sign that it’s taking the foot off the pedal for now and going on cruise mode.

Lindsay Lohan Goes Nude Like Marilyn. Creepy.

In Celebrity on February 21, 2008 at 1:58 pm

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So yes. Watching The Parent Trap starring Lindsay Lohan is officially just plain WRONG now. In a shoot for New York Magazine, Lindsay Lohan controversially sheds her clothes in a recreation of Marilyn Monroe’s final shoot by Bert Stern in 1962, some six weeks before Monroe died from an overdose of barbiturates. Those images taken for Vogue magazine featured Monroe in “next to nothing, posing nude with some scarves and jewellery as her accessories and sipping champagne.”

To recreate the shoot as close as possible, Stern shot Lohan in the same hotel, The Bel-Air in California. I think it’s a good move for Lohan–I mean, if she planned on shedding your clothes, she might as well do it in iconic fashion rather than it being for some lads or porno mag like FHM or Playboy.

That being said, however, it only increases my worry that celebrity pop culture is being obsessed with the death of young Hollywood. It wasn’t so long ago that thousands of strangers the world over mourned the death of Heath Ledger, and now this morbid obsession with recreating a moment of vulnerability and fragility is just… well. You figure it out. Read more about it in my KLue column in March.

More NSFW pics can be found at the NYmag website, while Page Six has a creepy comparison between Monroe’s shoot and Lohan’s shoot. Here’s an excerpt from the story:

In 1962, photographer Bert Stern shot a series of photos of Marilyn Monroe that have collectively come to be known as “The Last Sitting.” Taken during several boozy sessions at the Hotel Bel-Air, the photographs are arguably the most famous images ever captured of America’s most famous actress: Monroe, sleepy-eyed and naked, sips from a Champagne glass, enacts a fan dance of sorts with various diaphanous scarves, romps with erotic playfulness on a bed of white linens.

Six weeks after she had posed, Monroe was found dead of an apparent barbiturate overdose.

Forty-six years later, Stern has revisited his classic shots with Lindsay Lohan, another actress whose prodigious fame is not quite commensurate with her professional achievements. Stern, who shot the photos on film rather than digitally, told me he was interested in Lohan because he suspected “she had a lot more depth to her” than one might assume from “those teenage movies.”

Indeed, many in the film industry believe that Lohan has yet to pursue projects equal to her gifts. Without putting too fine a point on it, you might say Lohan has, like Monroe, a knack for courting the tabloids and tripping up her career. (Readers will remember that Lohan had her own Billy Wilder moment two summers ago on the set of Georgia Rule.)

Stern said the project also grew out of his interest in “controversial women,” or “bad girls,” like “Britney, Paris, and Lindsay.” Monroe was, in a sense, the original tabloid queen.

Oh, and I think they’re nice. I heart freckles.

The Tipping Point Suxxorz?

In News on February 21, 2008 at 8:55 am

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Guy Kawasaki’s blog last month picked up an interesting feature written by Clive Thompson about Duncan Watts debunking Malcolm Gladwell’s popularization of the Tipping Point theory in regards to the power of “key influencers” in affecting a trend in society. It’s a long-assed article from Fastcompany that spans some 9 pages (a testament to how uncomfortable the web is for long-form journalism) but the point is well-made.

PR and Marketing people won’t be happy to hear that a hit happens more randomly than was previously thought–it’s harder to predict and affect a sweeping trend now, whereas before they could seed certain influencers to kick-start a movement.

I think that it’s more of a mix of the two theories–it’s hard to disprove Gladwell’s theory (after all, even in my circle of friends, there are those with more influence than others), but Watts’s point shows that marketing folks shouldn’t be too reliant on these key people to make a big hit; there are a lot more factors at play here than meets the eye.

The story’s excerpt:

In the past few years, Watts–a network-theory scientist who recently took a sabbatical from Columbia University and is now working for Yahoo–has performed a series of controversial, barn-burning experiments challenging the whole Influentials thesis.

He has analyzed email patterns and found that highly connected people are not, in fact, crucial social hubs. He has written computer models of rumor spreading and found that your average slob is just as likely as a well-connected person to start a huge new trend.

And last year, Watts demonstrated that even the breakout success of a hot new pop band might be nearly random. Any attempt to engineer success through Influentials, he argues, is almost certainly doomed to failure.

Proof That Magazine Revamps Do Work

In magazines on February 21, 2008 at 8:19 am

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(Esquire UK’s March Cover. w00t! More pics here)

Half-yearly figures of the latest magazine ABCs from the UK came out last week, and I’m glad to say that the men’s titles didn’t suffer as badly as the previous results. For one, the slide of FHM UK seems to be slowing down after reporting a 1.1% gain on the previous six months, although it is still suffering a 15.1% year-on-year circulation drop. The big result for me was the revamped Esquire UK, now under Jeremy Langmead, which reported a half-year circ figures that was up by 11.7% on the previous six months and 14% year on year.

The numbers may not be much, but it’s a ray of hope in a very bleak industry. Those who failed to keep being relevant to their readers, as media columnist Jon Friedman commented, are continuing to slip. This includes Maxim and Loaded. Read the rest of this entry »

Knight Rider Back On The Telly?

In TV on February 21, 2008 at 7:29 am

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(Pic from Wikipedia. Yes, I’m lazy.)

Last week was filled with crazy deadlines, but somehow, I managed to keep in touch with it and managed to avoid going to 7-11 for a pack of ciggies. Other than that, everything’s status quo: Lack of alcohol in blood. Check. Lack of social life. Check. Addiction to the OC. Check.

Speaking of television, I didn’t know that a remake of Knight Rider was in the works, let alone making a big debut on TV last Sunday. According to the Guardian, NBC’s remake of Knight Rider “looks likely to earn a full series commission, after the 1980s show returned to US TV on Sunday night with almost 13 million viewers.”

Apparently 12.7 million viewers bothered to turn on their telly sets to watch a two-hour pilot, with most of them likely to be guys who once thought driving a talking car while flamboyantly showing an abundance of chest hair (check.) made you the coolest guy on television. Ever. Read the rest of this entry »

Egads! It’s The Indiana Jones IV Trailer!

In Movies on February 15, 2008 at 2:57 am

The Hat! The Whip! The Soundtrack! What else is there to say?!

All patriots: we vote on the 8th!

In News on February 14, 2008 at 8:09 am
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It’s time to exercise our duty and right. All eligible Malaysians go to the polls on the 8th of March, a Saturday. Get to know the candidates running in your constituency. Try to find out where they stand on issues relevant to you and the nation and above all, make an informed decision when casting that ballot!

Update: Joon Ian pointed me out to Malaysiakini’s undi.info website that keeps you updated on the elections and who’s contesting. Sure beats reading all the biased crap in the mainstream press.

Will Lenovo X300 kick Air?

In Geek Stuff, News on February 14, 2008 at 3:36 am

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(Pic from Gizmodo, link below)

WSJ’s Walt Mossberg, whom I’ve always regarded as an Apple Fanboy, has recently leaked out pictures of the upcoming ultraportable from Lenovo to Gizmodo. Placed cheekily enough on top of a manila envelope, the X300 is rumoured to trounce the MacBook Air in many ways if all the specs are true: floating around is news of “the inclusion of a removable battery, three USB ports, WiFi, an integrated Ethernet jack and optional GPS / WWAN to boot. Heck, users will even be able to order this 3.12-pound critter with Windows XP if they so choose.”

Furthermore, looking at the comments section, it’s going to be just 0.2-inch thicker, but what you could get is “WWAN and WiMAX connectivity, GPS and an expansion bay, which will accept either a DVD drive, secondary battery or ExpressCard slot,” according to trustedreviews.com

Of course, no way is it as sexy as the MacBook Air–you don’t buy ThinkPads for the way it looks, but for its functionality. It’s less of a rich-boy’s plaything and more for biz-on-the-go.

No More Sex and Drugs In Amsterdam?

In News on February 13, 2008 at 11:22 am

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It’s been well-known that Amsterdam is where repressed Asians dream of going, if only just to window shop and smoke a joint without fear of death. That certainty, however, looks set to disappear in the near future if city councilors get their way in clearing the streets.

I don’t think it’s a good move–the clean-up will merely force business onto the streets into even more shady practices. Singapore’s recent proposal to “curb [HIV] infections by making it a crime for those who engage in such unsafe practices” like going to Batam for a stag weekend isn’t going to stop people from visiting brothels either–it’ll just make tracking the activity more difficult. Read the rest of this entry »

Clone Wars Makes It To Cinemas! w00t!

In Movies on February 13, 2008 at 3:17 am

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(Pic from USA Today, link below)

Arguably, the best thing to come out of the new Star Wars trilogy was a cartoon. The Genndy Tartakovsky-directed Clone Wars mini-series was everything the new trilogy was not–plenty of kick-ass action, minimal dialogue, and an engaging storyline. Well, the fanboys have been heard, and news is that the a 100-minute Clone Wars full-length movie will be hitting the cinemas this 15 August.

Great news? Maybe not–George Lucas is executive producer, and the first screenshot printed by USA Today shows that it’s nothing like the animated series. It still looks mean, though. Story from Firstshowing.net:

You might have thought that no Star Wars movie would ever show in theaters again, at least not until Lucas re-releases them in 3D sometime after 2010. Good news – that’s no longer the case, as we have received confirmation that the animated movie Star Wars: The Clone Wars will be playing in theaters on August 15th later this year! The movie is a full-length feature developed from the 25-episode animated Clone Wars series that played on Cartoon Network a few years back. Lucasfilm is launching this new movie in theaters where it will later play on Cartoon Network again before the launch of yet another new animated series. Star Wars is back in theaters again in 2008, baby!

Warner Brothers decided to kick off the series with this theatrical release after they were shown the first footage from the series. Star Wars: The Clone Wars will run around 100 minutes in length and will take place between Episodes II and III. Anakin is not Darth Vader yet and the story will be focused around the ensuing Clone Wars that began in Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Warner Brothers and Lucasfilm seem as excited about this release as we are, saying “I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want it” and taking a risk by “trying to do something unprecedented — marrying TV series and theatrical release.”

In this film, Anakin and Obi-Wan are trying to hold together the galactic republic, split apart by war between a separatist robot army and the good-guy white-armored clones. The Jedi apprentice you see above is actually Anakin’s padawan, a change from the story that we’ve been familiar with throughout the movies. However, they’re not changing up the Star Wars lore without the help of the man in charge. “George is our guide. He’s the creator of the Star Wars universe, so we couldn’t have a better mentor,” asserts director Dave Filoni.

For those who missed out on the original Clone Wars series, here’s a clip to see what you’ll miss out on in the movie:

Because it’s Marisa Miller on Sports Illustrated

In Celebrity on February 12, 2008 at 3:05 pm

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Well, expect these pictures to float around pretty quickly. Just unveiled on the Late Show with David Letterman was the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2008 issue was Marisa Miller on the cover, with the coverline “Barely Bikinis”. Gawsh. It’s time to just… well, since it’s lent, I’m just gonna say “appreciate God’s creation.” And you should too.

Go to Popcrunch (they have an awesome videoblog) for more pics and the video clip of David Letterman doing the unveiling. Read the rest of this entry »

Bible as Manga Comic, Jesus Is A Samurai. Archbishop says: “Way Cool!”

In News on February 12, 2008 at 2:33 pm

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One of the cool things about Christianity is how it takes things in its stride. I won’t compare it to other religions, but suffice it to say that instead of hearing an outrage of “Blasphemy!” and “Sacrilege!”, there’s enough room in a 2000-year-old religious institution to understand and adapt to something as radical as a Manga Bible.

Developed by Manga artist Ajinbayo Akinsiku, “The Manga Bible: From Genesis to Revelation” is something like the Picture Bible I used to read as a kid, only much cooler. Jesus, says the creator, “is a samurai stranger who’s come to town, in silhouette. He’s a hard guy, seeking revolution and revolt, a tough guy. ”

I mean, the only reason why I sorta understood the whole Bible was through the comic version of it, so I’m happy to see that someone was bold enough to revamp and re-present the Bible in such a refreshing way for the new generation. Even better still was the Archbishop of Cantebury (so he’s not Catholic–meh.) giving it the thumbs up, saying in a blurb for the Bible: “It will convey the shock and freshness of the Bible in a unique way.” Read the rest of this entry »

The End of Polaroid

In News on February 12, 2008 at 11:27 am

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A piece of sad news heard over the weekend: the Polaroid instant film will cease to be produced by 2009. I’ll miss the film–I think it’s one of the most soulful methods of capturing a moment in ways that digital cameras can’t. I’ll miss the harsh lighting, the waiting to develop moments, the fascination people have whenever someone whips out a Polaroid Instant Camera.

But I get the feeling this isn’t the last we’ll see of it–it’s bound to comeback as a form of nostalgic art, like Lomography is. From the Sunday Herald:

THE DIGITAL age has claimed another victim. First it was the VHS recorder, then the humble transistor radio. Now it’s the turn of the Polaroid camera.

Yesterday, the company behind the iconic instant camera announced it was to stop making the film used by Polaroid enthusiasts, because there is no longer a market for it.

Three factories will close in Massachusetts, Mexico and the Netherlands, resulting in 450 job losses. The company stopped making the cameras for commercial use in 2006 and halted production of the consumer models last year.

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“We’re trying to re-invent Polaroid so it lives on for the next 30 to 40 years,” said Tom Beaudoin, the firm’s president.

This reinvention means developing Polaroid-branded digital cameras, and portable printers for mobile phone images.

Polaroid film, which has been around since the late-1940s, became a big hit with people who wanted instant results from their camera, and in 1994 its popularity peaked with sales reaching $2.3bn.

However, these figures dropped dramatically to $752 million in 2003 as customers moved to digital cameras.

Polaroid, which was bought out by Petters Group Worldwide three years ago after filing for bankruptcy, will make enough instant film to last into 2009.

It plans to license the technology to third-party companies, leaving Fujifilm as the only remaining supplier of instant film in the United States.

The blame for Polaroid’s demise has been laid squarely at the door of digital photography because consumers can achieve the same quick results with the added bonus of being able to edit the images and print them at home.

Cop Caught Having A Joint. At His Own Ganja “Plantation”.

In News on February 12, 2008 at 11:06 am

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I swear this could be the Dude from The Big Lebowski in real life. Reported in the Star:

An auxiliary police constable was caught smoking ganja while watering his marijuana plant at his security post at the Sultan Abu Bakar Dam in Cameron Highlands.

Cameron Highlands OCPD Deputy Supt Yahaya Othman said the man was busy fussing over his 90cm-high plant when the police caught him at 5pm on in Ringlet.

“At the time, he was also smoking a joint he had just rolled for himself,” he said, adding that the police managed to ambush the man following a public tip-off.

The 28-year-old man, who has worked as a security guard at the post for the past eight years, had apparently been growing the plant for over two months.

“He grew it close to his security post, near some bushes,” said DSP Yahaya.

The story got me interested into digging more pot-related stories, and one story in particular caught my attention. It’s by some marijuana-advocate who says that by criminalizing pot, the US government actually loses $42billion dollars a year on lost tax revenues and rehabilitation costs. Read the rest of this entry »