Sunday, March 23, 2008
1. The Batmobile was originally a Bargainmobile
An integral non-human “character” on the show was the Batmobile. In 1955, the Lincoln division of the Ford Motor Company designed a futuristic concept car called the Futura. The prototype was hand-built in Italy at a cost of $250,000. The car was never put into production, and 10 years later, George Barris of Barris Kustom City bought it from Ford for the bargain price of one dollar. A few modifications here and there, a custom paint job, and voilà! Barris was able to present the world’s first Batmobile to the studio just three weeks later.
2. The Boy Wonder and the Problems with his “Boy Wonder”
While casting the show, producers ended up with a choice between two Dynamic Duos: Adam West and Burt Ward versus Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell. Every Batman script included fight scenes as well as other very physical stunts. In the case of the main character, most of his face was covered by his cowl, so a stunt double could be used. But the Boy Wonder’s Lone Ranger mask made too much of his face visible for a double to be used. Ward snagged the role by virtue of a very athletic resume, which included a black belt in karate and a stint as a professional figure skater. Not long after the series began, however, the network was inundated with letters of complaint about Ward’s, er, bat-bulge, which was clearly visible in his form-fitting costume. Ward claimed in his autobiography that a studio doctor eventually gave him some mystery pills that shrank his manhood for hours at a time. He also wryly pointed out that Adam West needed no such “modification.”
3. The Riddler Gets a Promotion
The pilot episode of Batman featured a villain who had rarely appeared in the comic book series – The Riddler. Frank Gorshin portrayed the Prince of Puzzlers in that first two-part episode, and received an Emmy nomination for his effort. Of the many special guest villains that would infiltrate Gotham City, only Gorshin’s maniacally laughing Riddler gave the impression that he was just unbalanced enough to be a bona fide threat to the Dynamic Duo. Interestingly enough, after Gorshin’s appearance on the show, the Riddler became an A-list rogue in the DC comics universe and regularly rubbed elbows with such legendary criminals as Two-Face and The Penguin.
4. What Kept The Joker from Smiling
Latin American lothario Cesar Romero was tapped to play The Joker, but he only agreed to the role under one condition – he would not have to shave off his trademark mustache. The makeup department tried with varying degrees of success to cover up Romero’s cookie duster with layers of pancake, but it was still quite visible in close-up shots. Romero would later state that it took about one hour to transform him into The Joker, and that his least favorite part of the get-up was the green wig; something in the glue that was used gave him a throbbing headache.
5. The Most Prolific Villain
When Bat-Mania was in full swing, it became the “in” thing for celebrities to appear on the show. This explains why such diverse performers as Ethel Merman, Roddy McDowell, Liberace, Milton Berle, Vincent Price and Shelley Winters all put in time on the Bat-Stage. But the villain who made the most appearances was Burgess Meredith as The Penguin. He wasn’t the first choice for the role, but when Spencer Tracy turned it down, he stepped up to the plate. One problem, though; the role called for the character to constantly have a cigarette holder in his mouth, and Meredith had quit smoking a few years prior. Much like President Clinton, he didn’t inhale, and the resultant coughs and clearings of the throat became part of his Penguin schtick.
In most newer planes—including ones that took off in 2004, like Flight 815—there are two components to the virtually crashproof black box: The cockpit voice recorder (CVR), which records dialogue and ambient noise from an array of microphones in the cockpit, and the flight data recorder (FDR), which stores parametric data like altitude, airspeed and heading. While black boxes of the past stored data on magnetic tape (just like a cassette), today’s black boxes write to solid state disks, which allow FDRs to track thousands of parameters and have increased the length of time the CVRs can record. Formerly, CVRs were required to record just the final 15 to 30 minutes of cockpit sound, but new FAA standards announced March 10 will require the last 2 hours to be on record (although aircraft have until 2012 to make the upgrades). The new regulations also require the CVR to have a backup power supply that will provide 9 to 11 minutes of juice in case there’s a problem with the electrical system. The circumstances around the crash dictate which part of the recorder is going to be more helpful. “If it was an airplane problem, the flight recorder would give you a good idea of how it crashed. If it’s a crew mistake or some kind of procedural mistake, the flight recorder would look perfectly normal. If the plane ran into the side of a mountain, it’s going to show you a perfectly good airplane that just stops,” Cash says. That’s when the voice recorder becomes much more important. Sayid identified the box as the FDR only—and, if that’s the case, it’s possible there would be no record of what happened in the cockpit, so if the crash wasn’t the result of mechanical problems, there would be no information to indicate why it went down. But, according to Cash, most boxes these days—and ones in use in 2004—combine the two recorders into one unit.
Cash also says it is absolutely possible that a plane’s black box would still be in working condition after four months on the ocean floor. The current record goes to a recorder that, after nine years at the bottom of the Mediterranean, was perfectly fine. “The water, in general, doesn’t hurt them at all,” Cash says. “It’s the air that hurts them once they’ve been wet. It starts the corrosion and rust process.” Once the black box is found at a wreckage site, it’s transferred to the lab in a water-filled cooler so the data can be retrieved and copied right away. So although we know Widmore has the black box, we’re still not entirely sure he has a copy of the data that it recorded. According to Cash, it only takes a few days before the leads on the SSD start to corrode. The exact time that needs to pass before the data’s not retrievable is unknown. “I would say a couple of days,” Cash says, agreeing that a month out of water is probably sufficient time to render the black box useless. “We try not to experiment with that so I don’t know if I have a good answer. But if you let it dry out for quite a period of time, it’s going to make [data] much more difficult to recover.”
There’s another twist to the story. Most aircraft have two black boxes: one in the front and another in the tail. “If there’s an in-flight fire or some kind of structural failure, the wiring between the cockpit and rear recorder is compromised, so the recorder quits before the airplane quits flying,” explained Cash. “So they put one recorder up front to minimize that wiring risk knowing that if an airplane plows into a mountain, that front one probably isn’t going to survive. Then they put one in the tail to ensure survival in case it runs into that mountain, but if there’s an in-flight fire, that tail one is probably going to quit [due to loss of power] before the front one.”
When Oceanic 815 crashed, it broke into two pieces. The fuselage and the cockpit landed on the island while the tail end sunk in the ocean—but the plane that was recovered in “Confirmed Dead” included the cockpit. We don’t want to jump to too many conclusions here, but it’s not too far out to speculate that if Ben really did stage the wreckage, he also could have planted that black box we saw on the freighter in “Ji Yeon.” But did the box come from the original Flight 815 wreckage, or did he grab it from somewhere else? At the very least, we know there’s likely a second black box located somewhere on the island—or in Widmore’s grasp. So while the facts surrounding the black box hold true in this episode, the story Sayid and Desmond are getting might not be so solid. —Erin Scottberg
Parton, whose business portfolio includes a theme park and an, says she's spending a lot of her own money trying to get back on country radio with her new CD, "Backwoods Barbie."
"I'm looking at it like an investment," she told The Associated Press. "I thought, 'I've made enough money. I can afford to invest a little in myself.'"
She has self-released the disc on her own label, Dolly Records, and hired a seven-member promotions team.
"I purposely tailor-made this to try to get some hits," Parton explained.
The album reached No. 2 on Billboard in its second week, her best showing in 17 years.
The first single, "Better Get to Livin'," a country-pop song she describes as sonically similar to Keith Urban, sputtered at No. 48. But the second single, "Jesus & Gravity," is just now arriving at radio.
At age 62, Parton remains an icon and inspiration to younger singers.
"I don't think there's anything that woman can't do," said rising country star Kellie Pickler, who calls Parton her greatest influence. "She just walks into a room and lights it up. She's got that 'it' factor that money can't buy. She's the whole package."
Music Row began to lose interest in Parton in the '90s as a new crop of country stars emerged. Her last Top 5 hit, "Rockin' Years," was in 1991, and she hasn't had a major label record deal in 10 years.
"When it changed I was still as serious as ever and was thinking I'm still as good as ever, if I ever was any good," Parton said.
She has watched with interest as new technology has created opportunities without the big labels.
"Now the majors are what they used to think I was: history," she said.
"I thought this is a good time, but I need to make an all-out effort. ... Whatever it takes, you fight for it. You do what you have to do to feed your habit, and I'm a music addict."
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- As any fan of "The Sopranos" knows, the mob often takes out its enemies in a gruesome fashion as a way to warn others to fall in line.
"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right," claimed Arthur C. Clarke, the renowned author who died this week at age 90. "When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
For Clarke, who predicted the use of telecommunications satellites decades before technology made them a reality, and who co-authored the mind-bendingly imponderable 2001: A Space Odyssey with Stanley Kubrick in 1968, there was no impossible. To give up on possibility was to give up on humanity itself, and that was something the British-born farm lad was never willing to do.
Inspired to pursue a life of science and speculation by a childhood fascination with dinosaurs and the fiction of Jules Verne, Clarke saw more than adventure when he looked to the stars and imagined humanity's probing presence there.
A mystic with a slide-rule, he envisioned nothing short of grace in space. Calling extraterrestrial exploration "the moral equivalent of war" from the chilly depths of the Cold War, Clarke, an RAF officer in World War II, believed nothing short of redemption lay in man's grasp of worlds beyond his own. Demanding the concerted efforts of people toward a destiny far greater than any earthly conflicts, space for Clarke was the realm of our redemption. To save the Earth, we must reach beyond it. As he also claimed, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
It was precisely this blend of technological determinism with childhood wonder that drew Kubrick to Clarke in 1964.
On the surface , the two couldn't have seemed more ill-suited for fruitful collaboration.
Where Clarke was a tweedy, bespectacled Englishman with a head for theorems and a passionate conviction in humanity's deliverance through science, Kubrick was a wry, Jewish-American cynic, a true believer in folly as destiny and the Cold War itself as proof that man's primary ingenuity was a world-class genius for self-destruction. Prior to approaching Clarke – in whose 1948 story The Sentinel Kubrick saw the possibility of "the proverbial really good science fiction movie" – the filmmaker had rendered the nuclear apocalypse as a form of endgame slapstick in Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
The story was, in customary Clarkean terms, stark simplicity itself. On the surface of the moon, a team of explorers discovers a crystalline object shaped like a pyramid.
In attempting to examine the shimmering whatzit, the hairless, moon-suited apes destroy it, thus sending a signal to the extraterrestrial forces that created them of man's existence.
It's not difficult to imagine what captivated Kubrick about The Sentinel: the idea of man's arrogance tempered by boobish incompetence; the suggestion of civilization being nothing more than a move in an interplanetary chess match; the implication that humanity may be more tool to technology than technology a servant to man.
If Kubrick interpreted the story more bleakly than Clarke intended – The Sentinel can also be read as a tale of man's ascending one more rung on the ladder to greater destiny – the director and the author were at least synched in their shared determination to make a movie experience like no one had ever seen before.
With movie technology one might possibly go where scientific speculation could only point, and that was beyond the limits of the possible. Clarke signed on.
It was a challenge that meshed too perfectly with his philosophy. As he had written, "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."
Certainly working with the infamously finicky Kubrick must have tested even Clarke's faith in the impossible, and the four-year process involved in bringing 2001: A Space Odyssey to the screen would bring the contrasting sensibilities of the two men into frequent but ultimately evolutionary collision. Where Clarke was a man of ideas, facts and explication, Kubrick loved ambiguity, silence and unfathomable mystery: a black hole to Clarke's heavenly body.
But Kubrick was the director, and if Clarke provided too much information – especially of the spoken variety – the director would simply cut it out or send it back for a good whittling. Since the story itself was too sparse to support a feature film, Clarke expanded it to novel length to coincide with the release of the movie, and it is in the difference between these two 2001's – Clarke's novel and Kubrick's movie – that one encounters the divergent visions of these men most starkly. Although both are finally open to a range of interpretation – interpreting Kubrick's movie would become one of the 1960s' most avidly played mind games – there's no doubt that Clarke's intentions in the telling of the Space Odyssey were far less deliberately murky than the filmmaker's.
On the simplest level, it boils down to a distinction between fate and destiny.
Where Kubrick's film so brilliantly suggests that the entire history of humankind, from the ape-like creatures foraging and fighting in the movie's opening section to the astronaut Dave Bowman's climactic transformation into the heavenly "star child," has been the result of manipulation by extraterrestrial forces, Clarke's novel implies a kind of cosmic coupling: man ultimately merging with his creator in a form of optimistic transfiguration. The star child is what we become when we respond to the calling of what lies beyond us.
While 2001 sealed Clarke's status as a space-age sage and celebrity, even to the point of sitting elbow-to-elbow with Walter Cronkite during several televised Apollo moon landings, the film's success was clearly a mixed blessing.
Throughout the rest of his career, the author felt compelled to untangle his intentions from that of Kubrick, ultimately writing not only three sequels to the original book but an entire volume (titled The Lost Worlds of 2001) dedicated to clarifying how his ideas and the director's got muddled in the trek to the great cinematic beyond.
For Clarke, the undocking of his and Kubrick's concepts was much more than a matter of mere authorial ego. It came down to a question of core philosophy.
Clarke was simply and fundamentally uneasy with imponderables – especially those that implied there were certain things we cannot, should not and would not ever know.
As a farm-bred stargazer with his feet in the grass and his eyes on the heavens, Clarke saw the exploration of space as the means by which man's instinct toward exploration could rescue the species from itself. Science had a moral dimension, and the necessary condition for attainment of that future was clarity: Facts, if not the truth, would truly set us free.
A few weeks ago, I sat down with the charming Jim Sturgess, the up and coming 26 year old British actor best know for his role as Jude in the Beatles musical, “Across the Universe.” In the upcoming film “21,” (based on the book Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich) Mr. Sturgess plays Ben Campbell, an MIT student who uses his math acumen to win millions playing blackjack in Vegas. During our conversation, Mr. Sturgess talked about what it was like playing a character who is based on a real life MIT alum, Jeffrey Ma ’94, filming in Las Vegas, and working with Kevin Spacey. Below is an excerpt:
The Tech: Are you happy with the final results of the film?
Jim Sturgess: Yeah, definitely. I saw it a while ago. When you’re making the film you have no concept of how kind of visual it’s going to look. Especially in the scenes when we’re playing cards and all that kind of stuff. While we were shooting those scenes it was fairly kind of tedious kind of work; pushing chips and flipping cards and all that kind of stuff. And then when you see the film you see how dramatic it looks. It was a shock to all of us, I think. The director [Robert Luketic] kept saying just trust me, trust me, it’s going to look great … stuff that you kind of don’t like doing as much. Actually you want to do the kind of big shouting scenes or all the meaty scenes or whatever. But we kind of stuck with it and I think it paid off.
TT: Did you actually understand the math concepts in it?
JS: Not at all. No. Couldn’t get my head round it at all. I mean we tried. On the weekends I had to play basic strategy blackjack, which is pretty much all you can do unless … you’re a mathematical genius, which is why I think it’s so specific to these people’s story. It’s just not something everyday people can do.
TT: What drew you to the movie?
JS: The story, I think. I was kind of approached. I was shooting another film called “The Other Boleyn Girl” at the time, and I just got a call saying that Robert Luketic, the director, wanted to meet me about this film that he’s making … I guess the idea of these kind of everyday people just going against the system like that and coming out on top, which is always a nice take on life. It was just a feel good movie that was exciting to read as a script and I think exciting to watch as a film. And I got to go to Vegas. And I got to wear designer suits which I had never worn before.
TT: Were you worried about doing an American accent since you’re British?
JS: Yeah, definitely, it’s always a challenge. I enjoy a challenge that I’ve never done before. Anyone from England always thinks they can do an alright American accent. And you quickly learn once you’re put in a room with a dialect coach that you can’t … I think I maybe 2 weeks to learn how to do it before we started shooting, so it was pretty rushed. I was nervous about it.
TT: Did you play cards at all before?
JS: No, not at all. Coming from England, it’s not really — I mean we play poker for maybe matchsticks or spare change, or something like that … We don’t have a casino kind of culture as much as you guys do over here. And we certainly don’t have an equivalent to Las Vegas. So that was part of the appeal really, to sort of learn this whole new world that I didn’t know anything about.
TT: What was it like filming in Vegas with all the craziness still going on around you?
JS: It was insane. It was the only time ever a film set seemed inconspicuous. I remember I went to the toilet in the casino and I remember I came back and I couldn’t find the film set. It’s like, it’s in here somewhere. That’s how crazy it is … We were kind of sectioned off in areas of the casino. We couldn’t shut down the whole place. So of course the everyday life and the machines and all that were all going on whilst we were kind of playing, which helped the atmosphere of the film, I think. Somebody would be doing a scene when somebody would be like, “Wheel of Fortune,” and we’d have to cut and wait for that to finish.
TT: Did you get a chance to speak with some of the original MIT team members before or during shooting?
JS: They were a big part of the whole process. They were on set a lot, we hung out a lot, we went out on the weekends, we gambled with them a lot.
TT: Did they win and you lose?
JS: Pretty much. They would kind of shout out, Jim — they were just playing around — what’s the count (shakes head and mouths ‘no idea’) … So it was fun. And I think for them, they were just loving the fact that we were making this film about them.
TT: This film is very different from “Across the Universe,” obviously, because you don’t sing. Do you prefer being a singer over an actor or vise versa?
JS: I don’t have a preference, really. I’ve always done both. I’ve been sort of writing music, and playing music, and being in bands and stuff like that since I was about 15. And kind of acting — it’s always just kind of been both. I’ve never had to separate the two. I’ve never felt I had to separate the two. I still kind of feel like that. “Across the Universe” was a kind of dream job really because it was both molded into one, which then became a whole different difficult and complex thing; having to sing your kind of dialogue. Singing a song is one thing, singing what you’re supposed to be thinking or saying is another. And then trying not to laugh is another. I was pleased I didn’t have to sing [in “21”].
TT: Did you see any similarities between your character in the movie and yourself?
JS: Yes, certainly. I think the fact that he needs a sort of push or kick start to think outside the box and not live in a kind of safe environment, which is just so easy for all of us to do. And I think I could see a lot of myself in that. I think acting really is one — the only reason that stops me from being like that. You’re often kind of thrown into these difficult situations which make you have to think and behave different … Other than that, he’s a very intellectual human being, which I am not. [The former] would probably be the main similarity that we share and I think most people share.
TT: Now that you’ve done “Across the Universe,” “The Other Boleyn Girl,” and “21,” do you find that you’re getting recognized more?
JS: Not really, no. No, I wish it would (laughs), but no. No, I’m joking. “Across the Universe” was really the only film that’s come out. Which was mainly more so here in America and I’ve been in Belfast shooting another film the whole time it’s been out.
TT: What film was that that you were shooting?
JS: It’s a film called “50 Dead Men Walking.” It’s about the troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1980’s, kind of the Catholics and the Protestants and all that stuff.
TT: Not the feel good movie.
JS: No. And no singing in it either. So I’ve really been kind of living in that little bubble since the film’s come out so I haven’t kind of stepped out into the real world I guess.
TT: What was it like working with Kevin Spacey?
JS: It was cool. He’s an amazing actor, a great guy, fun guy, and a very intense guy … I’ve seen so many of his films and he’s someone I certainly have been so aware of … I remember he phoned me when I first got the part and I was back in London, and I just got a phone call and it was an anonymous number and I answered it, and said ‘hello.’ And he said, (in an intense American accent) ‘Hello, this is Kevin Spacey.’ But then we went out and we had lunch back in London because he lives in London. I went to see his play that he was doing at the Old Vic … [and] then we just hung out then and it was cool. He just felt like a kind of friend.
TT: Did you have a lot of free time when you were filming, especially in Vegas?
JS: On the weekends we did. A lot of times we shot 6 day weeks and we only got one day off. I remember we did a scene where on the weekend we’d all been out and partied and did all this crazy stuff that you do in Vegas, and then we woke up and pretty much the next of filming was acting what we had just done the night before. The line between reality and work was slowly blurring. Vegas it’s easy to kind of get into trouble over there. Not trouble, but fun, which we definitely did.
**The official movie review for “21” will be in the April 4 issue of The Tech.
Bosworth stars in the tale of MIT students who turned the table on Vegas casinos.
LAS VEGAS -- THE cardsharp playing blackjack at the Riviera Hotel & Casino didn't say "hit me," but he got hit anyway, and hard. After a remarkably profitable run at Riviera's tables, the man was dragged off by a casino security detail and hustled into a room, where he was promptly pummeled.
The scene, part of the beat-the-dealer movie "21," which opens Friday, is not exactly a slam-dunk sales pitch for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Yet the Riviera's representatives said they had no problem having the loosely factual story of a team of card counters be filmed on their casino floor.
That's because there was an upside during production in February 2007: While the "21" actors were raking in piles of make-believe money in front of the camera, some of the film's below-the-line workers were losing their per diem checks at an alarming clip at the real blackjack tables. And the Riviera was hardly the only Las Vegas gambling destination welcoming "21" into its hotel suites and blackjack pits. "Planet Hollywood gave us unfettered and unprecedented access," said the film's director, "Legally Blonde's" Robert Luketic. As did several other casinos.
It's a curious turnabout given the film's source material, the 2002 book "Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions." As author Ben Mezrich's bestseller chronicled, a team of college-age math whizzes repeatedly traveled from Boston to Las Vegas in the 1990s, combining an effective (albeit complex) strategy for counting blackjack cards with a fat bankroll to beat the casinos at their own game.
While card counting is not technically illegal -- the strategy requires players to track cards dealt from a shoe holding multiple decks, betting more heavily when the remaining cards favor the gamblers over the house -- the casinos scarcely tolerate it. As both "Bringing Down the House" and "21" colorfully recount, the book's blackjack experts were eventually spotted and chased out of town.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology team's top player, Jeff Ma (depicted in the book as Kevin Lewis and in the movie as Ben Campbell), said he is still not permitted to patronize Nevada's blackjack tables.
In fictionalizing the story for "21," Luketic and screenwriters Peter Steinfeld and Allan Loeb preserved the mechanics of the team's strategy but added an array of imaginary movie material, concocting a romance between the team's Campbell ("Across the Universe's" Jim Sturgess) and Jill Taylor ( Kate Bosworth), internecine team warfare where little existed, a back story about one player's worries about paying for medical school and a clash between math professor Micky Rosa ( Kevin Spacey, also one of the film's producers) and security consultant Cole Williams ( Laurence Fishburne).
Even with the security guard slap downs, the movie is ultimately a Las Vegas love letter, selling the town's most alluring fantasies -- easy money, women and fame -- while minimizing its potentially destructive sway: It is to casinos what "Top Gun" was to the U.S. Navy.
"I think the movie should be used as a promotion for Las Vegas," Ma said. "Has Las Vegas ever looked so good in a movie?"
Given that two of the film's key creators -- director Luketic and screenwriter Loeb -- have wrestled with uncontrollable gambling themselves, it's more than a rhetorical question.
Luketic and Spacey separately had read an early excerpt of Mezrich's book in Wired magazine and each pursued the story's film rights. Spacey beat Luketic to the punch and the project landed at MGM, where it was developed but eventually languished.
When MGM was absorbed by Sony Pictures, "21" was one of the handful of MGM movies attracting Sony's interest. "Rush Hour's" Brett Ratner and "Night at the Museum's" Shawn Levy previously considered directing "21." Loeb's rewrite ultimately earned Sony's green light, with Luketic coming in to direct.
"No one does excess like Las Vegas," Luketic said between takes in the somewhat downscale Riviera early last year. "It was a very theatrical idea: placing these kids in this environment. And there is nothing like the thrill of beating the house."
Luketic should know. Flush with cash after directing the 2001 Reese Witherspoon hit "Legally Blonde," the Australian director headed to Las Vegas and made a beeline for the tables to have some fun. Like millions before him, he didn't.
"I lost $25,000 in one hour at the Bellagio," Luketic said. "It was devastating." One friend, so upset over Luketic's losing so much money so fast, took $10,000 of the director's cash and stuffed it in a trash can, telling him there was little difference between that and his reckless wagering.
Loeb's gambling on cards as well as sports was even worse, ultimately leading him to join Gamblers Anonymous. Loeb said he hasn't gambled in about five years. "I was really ready to quit when I quit," said Loeb, co-creator of the new Fox series "New Amsterdam."
Given their backgrounds, it's fair to ask them if their movie romanticizes gambling.
"Most people are not as smart as MIT students," Loeb said. "So even if you come up with a system, you will never beat your own emotions, so it's a sucker's game. Very, very few people have the discipline to win.
"Is the movie going to get people who wouldn't gamble go gamble? I hope not. But will it get people who were going to gamble anyway to go to Planet Hollywood or one of the other casinos in the movie? Absolutely," Loeb said.
Luketic sees the movie as more of a cautionary tale and a kind of masquerade story, a tale of a college geek who turns into a jet-setting playboy through his high-rolling alter ego: Just as Campbell in the movie can enjoy a Las Vegas dream, so too can moviegoers who watch his transformation and triumph.
"I'm letting the audience come in on their fantasy," Luketic said. "But we take a position in the movie that his greed and lust is fun only in moderate doses. It's like substance abuse -- too much of anything is not going to be good for you."
Still, the lure of the game is unrelenting and, at times, completely understandable.
"I think the movie is going to inspire thousands and thousands and thousands of college kids," author Mezrich said. "They will lose a few hundred dollars -- not too devastating. But I think the movie is really about the consequences."
His disaffected lyrics and fierce integrity entranced a generation, but a new documentary featuring previously unheard interviews with Nirvana front-man Kurt Cobain reveals how he was once forced to smoke oregano with his mother after stealing her cannabis stash.
In About A Son, due for DVD release on the 30th of March, Cobain also talks frankly about clashes with his bandmates that nearly caused him to leave the band, and about his flirtation with homosexuality at school.
The film contains interviews with Cobain recorded by journalist Michael Azerrad a year before his suicide in April 1994.
According to the Independent, Cobain recounts regularly stealing cannabis from his mother’s hidden stash and replacing it with herbs to cover his tracks.
"Eventually she just had a bag of oregano sitting in her jewellery drawer," he recalls.
"One night she offered me and my friend to come down and smoke some with her - so we had to sit there and smoke oregano."
He reveals that he was branded as gay at school after he befriended a homosexual fellow student.
"I started being proud of being gay, even though I wasn't. I almost found my identity."
Discussing his relationship with Nirvana bandmates Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, Cobain reveals rifts within the band over songwriting credits.
"It was a really big deal for Krist and Dave. They sincerely felt that they deserved just as much song-writing credit as I do, which is bull***t, just bull***t!"
Since his death Cobain's wife Courtney Love has been locked in disputes with Grohl, now frontman of the Foo Fighters, over the legacy of Nirvana's music, even suggesting that Cobain tried to kick Grohl from the band in his will.
Cobain explains his atraction to his wife in the interviews, saying “She made me feel like a rebel.
“It’s so easy to play songs with Courtney. Every time we jam on something we write a great song.”
It has often been alledged, but strongly denied, that Cobain wrote songs for his wife's band, Hole.
The late Sir Arthur C. Clarke was loved by nerds and normals alike for his contributions to literature, film, and technology. Here’s a rundown of the five biggest reasons we’ll miss him.
1. Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World
Clarke kept extensive files on mysterious events, objects, and locations throughout the world. Starting in the early 1980’s, he mined these files to bring us Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World, a thirteen-part TV series covering topics ranging from UFOs to crystal skulls. The show told fascinating stories and Clarke classified them according to his three categories of mystery (dubbed, simply enough, the first, second, and third kinds) depending on how well they’re currently understood.
While the show is very dated (and a few of the “mysteries” have since been definitively explained as hoaxes), it’s great fun, and Clarke’s sober introductions to each story are fascinating to watch. I remember watching the show after school when I was growing up, and it brings back memories — the series gave me a sense of wonder, and introduced me to notions of scientific skepticism which have served me well. Today you can watch bits of Mysterious World on YouTube. Here’s a clip from one episode, in which Clarke narrates a solar eclipse (a “mystery of the first kind” — one that was a mystery to our ancestors, but is understood now):
In 1985, Clarke returned with Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers featuring another thirteen episodes on strange topics, and again in 1994 with Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious Universe, his final series on the weird.
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Clarke teamed up with director Stanley Kubrick to write 2001: A Space Odyssey, a landmark film released in 1968. The film was originally based on a previous short story of Clarke’s, but the collaboration with Kubrick significantly expanded the narrative. During development, Clarke kept an amusing diary detailing his work with Kubrick. Here’s a selection:
July 9. Spent much of afternoon teaching Stanley how to use the slide rule — he’s fascinated.
July 11. Joined Stanley to discuss plot development, but spent almost all the time arguing about Cantor’s Theory of Transfinite Groups. Stanley tries to refute the “part equals the whole” paradox by arguing that a perfect square is not necessarily identical with the integer of the same value. I decide that he is a latent mathematical genius.
July 12. Now have everything — except the plot.
Read more of the diary for lots of great 2001 trivia. Warning: if you haven’t seen the film, the diary is full of spoilers! 2001 is also an excellent book (released shortly after the film, and with a bit more backstory about why certain things are happening), and sci-fi fans should also check out 2010, 2061, and 3001. (Although I’ll admit, the latter two volumes are a little corny around the edges.)
3. The Communications Satellite
Clarke is widely credited with dreaming up the idea of geostationary satellites — orbiting satellites that enable worldwide communications networks. He published his ideas in a 1945 article entitled Extra-Terrestrial Relays - Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?
Clarke didn’t patent the idea and thus didn’t profit from it, leading to a 1965 article entitled: “A Short Pre-History of Comsats; or How I Lost a Billion Dollars in My Spare Time.” Other inventors came up with similar ideas around the same time, and there’s some disagreement as to whose idea it was first. Regardless, Clarke is already remembered as the originator of this particularly great idea.
4. Clarke’s Laws
Clarke’s interest in science, the future, and famous mysteries led him to formulate three laws on the nature of prediction. The third law has become famous, and is reprinted widely — it even appeared on my father’s office door when I was growing up. The three laws are listed below (with emphasis added to my favorite):
1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
5. His Sense of Humor
Throughout his endeavors, Clarke maintained his quiet, good-natured sense of humor. In 2006, WIRED magazine invited him to contribute to a series of Very Short Stories which were supposed to consist of only six words, after Hemingway’s famous example. Clarke, true to his lifelong practice of writing long, multi-volume fiction, insisted on writing ten words instead:
God said, ‘Cancel Program GENESIS.’ The universe ceased to exist.
Please share your memories of Arthur C. Clarke’s life and work in the comments.
- Molly Ringwald - Molly Ringwald turned down the role of Vivian in “Pretty Woman” and the role of Molly in “Ghost” among others. She was also offered a part in Scream which she turned down because she was in her late 20’s and didn’t want a teenage role. Also, she was offered Leah Thompson’s role in “Some Kind of Wonderful” which she turned down severing her relationship with John Hughes. Personally, I can’t see her in any of those roles and never felt she was all that great of an actress anyway. She’s good with whiny roles, however. I’ll give her that.
- Mel Gibson - Turned down the lead role in Gladiator. A role which landed Russell Crowe the Academy Award. Mel also turned down the part of Robin Hood in “Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.” Instead, that part went to a not very belieaveable Kevin Costner.
- Alec Baldwin - The role of Richard Kimball in “The Fugitive” was originally offered to Alec. After he turned it down, it went to Harrison Ford.
- Sigourney Weaver - Turned down the role of Ada in “The Accused,” a part that later went to Kelly McGillis, and the lead role in “A Handmaid’s Tale.”
- Keanu Reeves turned down Charlie Sheen’s role in “Platoon.” And really, thank goodness for that. The role should definitely go to someone who can act.
- Gillian Anderson - The former X-Files star was originally offered the role of Bethany Sloane in “Dogma.” She said, “no thanks” and the part wen to Linda Fiorentino instead.
- Warren Beatty - Turned down the role of Jack Horner in “Boogie Nights.” The part was then offered to a smarmy looking Bert Reynolds. Warren also turned down James Caan’s role in “Misery”, the part of Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street” and Robert Redford’s role in “The Sting.” Granted, Warren’s had some decent roles and he’s a good actor. But we’re thinking he’s not a very good judge of a good script. He accepts “Dick Tracey” and turns down “The Sting?” Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture?
- Melanie Griffith - Melanie Griffith turned down the role of “Thelma” in “Thelma and Louise.” Incidentally, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jodie Foster were originally cast as Thelma and Louise but had to drop out as pre-production dragged on.
- Sarah Michelle Gellar - Scheduling conflicts prevented her from accepting the role as Cher in “Clueless.”
- Richard Grieco - The “21 Jump Street” star turned down the lead role in “Speed” because he thought the script sucked. I guess he’s still turning down sucky scripts because it’s not like we’ve seen him in anything but the plastic surgeon’s office since the early 90’s.
- Madonna - I guess we should be thankful but Madonna turned down Michelle Pfeiffer’s role in “The Fabulous Baker Boys.”
- Denzel Washington - Turned down the role of Curtis in “Dreamgirls”, the lead in “I Robot”, and it’s rumored he turned down the role of “Ray Charles” in Ray.
- Will Smith - Turned down the role that eventually went to Keanu Reeve in “The Matrix”, and the role of Stu in “Phone Booth.”
- Julia Roberts - Turned down Sharon Stone’s leg crossing role in “Basic Instinct,” the role of Mary Corleone in “Godfather III” the role of Annie in “Sleepless in Seattle,” the lead role of “Shakespeare in Love” and the role of Lucy in “While You Were Sleeping.”
- Leonardo DiCaprio - Offered the part of Dirk Diggler in “Boogie Nights” before it was given to Mark Wahlberg and the lead role in “The Matrix”.
- Mark Wahlberg - Turned down the role of Linus in “Ocean’s 11″.
- Tom Cruise - Before Johnny Depp made the role his own, Tom Cruise signed on to play Donnie Brasco in the film of the same name. Tom was also to play the lead role in “Footloose” and ended up turning that down as well.
- Jennifer Jason Leigh - Jennifer Jason Leigh is another of the actresses who landed the role of Vivian in “Pretty Woman” and later turned it down.
- John Travolata - Turned down the role of Forrest Gump.
- Tom Hanks - Turned down the role of Ray Kinsella in “Field of Dreams,” Andy Dufresne in “The Shawshank Redemption” and the lead role in “Jerry Maguire.”
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Our society is far too insurance happy. For example, I have car insurance, health insurance, homeowner’s insurance, travel insurance, disability insurance and even an insurance policy on my mobile phone should the dog eat it. Where do we stop?
However, my insurance pales in comparison to that of the wealthy and famous. Whether it's the ultimate display of ego or a very expensive PR stunt, body-part insurance seems to be a rising trend with the super rich and famous.
Here's a list of 13 that is by no means meant to be complete. If you know of any others please leave a comment. I'd love to hear about it.
Heidi Klum insured her legs for $2 million. If priced by attittude alone, this is probably a bargain.
Bruce Springsteen insured his voice for $1 million. I think he sold himself a little short.
Mariah Carey had her legs insured for $1 billion. Mariah, I hope you are the sole beneficiary as this could give even the best of people thoughts of tripping you.
Sir Tom Jones had his chest hair insured for £3.5m ($6.9 million). At 67 he can still turn up the heat, but I'm not sure it's from the brush on his breasts.
Ilya Gort, Dutch winemaker, had his sense of smell insured for $8 million. That's an expensive nose, but can he dig for truffles?
Jennifer Lopez had her butt insured for $27 million (unconfirmed). Based on protrusion, this is a bargain.
David Beckham had his legs and feet insured for $70 million. Worth every penny.
Michael Flatley's legs are insured for $47 million. Not worth every penny.
America Ferrera's smile is insured for $10 million. Really? It's a good smile, but come on! In fact, the insurance was taken out by Aquafresh White Trays. She is said to be working with the manufacturer on a charity campaign for free dental service for jobless women.
Ken Dodd's teeth are insured for $7.4 million. A testament to the British dental system.
Keith Richards has the middle finger on his left hand insured for $1.6 million. If you ever get "the finger" from Keith, you should feel honored.
Cricket player Merv Hughes took out a £200,000 policy on his mustache. I would imagine his barber shaves him very gently. I wonder does it make him play cricket better?
Rumored to have started this insurance trend is the late Ben Turpin, who was famous for his crossed eyes. He took out a $20,000 policy in the 1920's against them becoming uncrossed.
However ridiculous all this insurance is, if there are wealthy people willing to buy it and Lloyds of London willing to insure it, I'm sure the best is yet to come.
In the video located below their strikingly similar photos, Ms. Karen Corr is a direct participant in one of the most hilarious and odd ESPN blooper moments of all time. Watch for the phalic telestrator miscue and one nasty drawn out fart that might have left her wishing she had a spare set of panties. The commentators only heighten the humor of it all.
Come on...tell me you don't see the resemblance...Now watch the video...
Everyone knows rock and roll is about thrills and excess—we just didn’t realize that spirit was supposed to extend to the greenroom buffet. The following are seven very pampered acts that made sure their laundry list of demands got tacked onto their contracts.
1. Van Halen and the Whole M&M’s Thing
Van Halen first gained notoriety for their stipulation that, at every gig, their dressing room was to contain a large bowl of M&M’s, but with all the brown ones removed. And while this has often been cited as proof of the band members’ towering egos, it was actually included by tour promoters as an easy way of seeing if the concert venues had read the contract thoroughly (particularly the parts about technical requirements). But sneaky M&M tactics aside, Van Halen’s riders are also notorious for the sheer volume of alcohol they stipulate. One rider specified that their dressing room was to contain a case of beer, a pint of Jack Daniel’s, a pint of Absolut, a 750 ml bottle of Bacardi Añejo rum, three bottles of wine, small bottles of Cointreau and Grand Marnier, and a 750 ml bottle of one of five specific premium tequilas. Don’t forget six limes, margarita salt, shot glasses, ingredients for Bloody Marys, and a blender. Sure, there are only four dudes in the band, but shouldn’t you expect this sort of behavior from a group whose bassist plays a guitar shaped like a bottle of Jack?
2. J-Lo’s Trailer from the Park
There are divas, there are superdivas, and then there’s Jennifer Lopez. That’s right, the same sultry soulstress who preaches the “keep it real” street mantra also happens to require a trailer at least 40 feet in length, in which everything is white. That means drapes, couches, candles, tablecloths, lilies, and roses (she also requires yellow roses with red trim thrown in as well). And if you’re hoping to keep a prolonged smile on “Jenny from the Block’s” pretty mug, you can’t forget the selection of current CDs she requires, chosen from a list of 43 artists, or her three favorite scented candles from Diptyque—Tuberose, Figuier, and Heliotrope. And that’s just from her contract for a charity song benefiting AIDS victims in Africa! Oh, and did we mention Jenny was only at the event for a total of 90 minutes? It’s almost as if her ego’s as big as her . . . nope, too easy.
3. Guns N’ (Long-Stemmed) Roses
Cher’s wig room, Weird Al’s weird water demand and the star who needs 24-pieces of chicken and a pack of condoms before every show, all after the break.
They were one of the biggest bands of the 1980s and ’90s. Just ask them. And in a band of big egos, the very biggest was lead singer Axl Rose. He had his own dressing room, stocked with plenty of the things a vocal professional needs: hot water and honey (Sue Bee brand only); a rib-eye steak dinner; a large pepperoni pizza; a deli tray with a heavy emphasis on lean roast beef, ham, and turkey; and a bottle of Dom Perignon. His bandmates had much simpler tastes. Their dressing room was to contain lots of chips, nuts, exotic fruits, and cheese. Of course, they went a little less simple on the drinks. Aside from a few cases of soda, the band also required four cases of beer, two fifths of Jack Daniel’s, two fifths of Stolichnaya vodka, two bottles of Chardonnay, and a bottle of Jägermeister. Oh, and don’t forget to throw in a couple bottles of . . . carrot juice? Clearly, it’s the cornerstone behind every successful rock act. As are the four cartons of cigarettes and the assortment of adult magazines you’ll need to provide.
4. Meat Loaf (Just a Little Overdone)
Yes, that Meat Loaf. The man who brought us Bat Out of Hell obviously requires quite a bit in return. His rider states that the promoters are to recognize that they are dealing with an international “superstar” and therefore all provisions must be first class, as befits a “superstar.” And that’s two words: Meat. Loaf. Sheesh! His dressing room spread must include, among many other things, a loaf of 100% multigrain bread (preferably Vogel’s Flaxseed & Soy), two bags of potato chips, a package of low-fat chicken or turkey wieners, four Gala apples (specifically, hard and crunchy ones), four low-fat fresh-baked muffins from a bakery, steamed broccoli and green beans amandine (not too soggy), a sliced roast pork tenderloin, a sliced roast beef tenderloin, and two baked potatoes. And this is supposed to feed two people. We’re guessing they’re both for the Loaf.
5. Poison’s Poison
Pretty standard for a rock band, really. Deli trays, condiments, lots of booze, etc. But what
was Poison’s poison? Apparently, pyrotechnics. Their contract also required that all the venue’s smoke and fire detectors be switched off due to the band’s flair for flares. So how do we think the concertgoers would feel knowing that little tidbit? Also very odd, Poison’s rider stipulates that an American Sign Language interpreter must be made available on request for the band’s deaf fans. And the band will need 24 hours’ notice if the ASL interpreter needs the lyrics beforehand. Of course, some critics claim that most of the band’s fan base was deaf (records sold being proof).
6. The Village People’s Payment Plan
You might think that a bunch of guys as past their prime as The Village People would just be glad to get a gig. Nope. They still draw a crowd, so therefore they still have demands in their rider. The front page of their rider contains one stipulation: that all balances to The Village People be paid in “CASH” (yes, it’s in all caps). It goes on to say that they can only be photographed in costume, that they won’t fly in prop planes, and that they prefer certain seats in the plane (as specific as “aisle, rear right side of plane” for the Navy guy) and certain airports of origin. Disco may be dead, but ego certainly seems to be staying alive.
7. Various Spoiled Artists
Oh, there are just so many. Celine Dion requires a children’s choir with 20 to 24 children of all races. Pavarotti used to demand that there be no noise backstage or distinct smells anywhere near him; but he did want a golf cart. Cher can’t perform without a wig room, cable TV that gets Turner Classic Movies, and a room for her massage therapist. “Weird Al” Yankovic is a strict vegan and forbids Dasani water. Elton John demands that his dressing room be kept at 60° in summer and 70° in winter. And Busta Rhymes insists that there be no pork or beef anywhere near his dressing room; but he does want a 24-piece bucket of KFC and a box of Rough Riders condoms (ribbed).
Ed. Note: This list was pulled from Forbidden Knowledge.