Sunday, February 17, 2008

Karl Rove speech postponed

Because of the weather, University of Iowa officials have rescheduled a visit by Karl Rove, which was supposed to take place tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Iowa Memorial Union, according to an advisory on UI’s Web site.The lecture by President Bush’s former deputy chief of staff and senior adviser will now happen on Sunday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union.
The cancellation is just one of many in the area today because of the weather. A winter storm warning continues until midnight, and officials say travel will be very difficult or impossible as the day progresses. Many church services, activities, area clubs and groups have cancelled their plans for the day.Here are the current road conditions reported by the Iowa Department of Transportation: travel is not advised on Interstate 80 from exits 54 to 254; on Interstate 380 from Interstate 80 to exit 65; on Highway 6 from US 59 to Interstate 80 and from Interstate 80 to 380; on Highway 218 from the Washington County line to Interstates 80 and 380.
The DOT also reports Highway 218 is completely covered with ice and snow from Interstate 380 to US 18 South and is mostly covered from US 61 to the Washington County line; and Interstate 80 is partly covered with ice and snow from exit 254 to the Illinois state line.The National Weather Service says to expect moderate to heavy snow over much of Eastern Iowa this afternoon and evening and increasingly strong winds.Total snowfall could reach five to eight inches northwest of a line from Fairfield to Dubuque, according to the Weather Service.


Fond memories of the Daytona 500

The Daytona 500 turns 50 today, but, unfortunately, I only remember about 20 of them.
I admit that I wasn't an auto racing fan while growing up. In fact, I thought it was the biggest waste of time. I never even watched the Indianapolis 500.
That all changed in 1987 when my editor asked me what I was doing one Saturday night in June. I probably would have told him I was busy if I had known he was going to ask me to cover the American Speed Association race out at the Berlin Raceway in Marne.

Butch Miller of Coopersville won the race, and on my way home, I remember thinking, "That was some really cool stuff."
Daytona has produced some really cool memories over the past two decades, too. Here's my fondest memories of stock car racing's Super Bowl.

5. Harvick's home run (2007)Kevin Harvick edged Mark Martin at the finish, and right behind them came Clint Bowyer, spinning across the stripe on his roof. It provided for one of the most dramatic finishes in Daytona 500 history.
It sure was nice to see longtime car owner Richard Childress back in Victory Lane at Daytona. But you had to feel for Martin, who has yet to win at Daytona.4. Tell the doc he's busy (1997)The late Dale Earnhardt was involved in a horrific wreck on the backstretch late in the race. He was getting into the ambulance so he could be taken back to the infield care center for observation when he asked one of the track's safety officials if the car would start.
The Intimidator jumped out of the ambulance once the engine fired up, and he finished the race in his damaged Goodwrench Chevrolet.
Earnhardt won his first and only Daytona 500 one year later, but I feel that his actions in the 1997 race defined him more than any victory could.

AP PhotoJeff Gordon's gamble paid off in 1999.3. No fear (1999)It was the gutsiest move I've ever seen at Daytona.
Jeff Gordon almost went down to the grass to pass Rusty Wallace for the lead with 11 laps to go, and he nearly ended up in the trunk of Ricky Rudd's lapped car. But Gordon got the lead and held off Earnhardt for the victory.

2. Waltrip's Waltz (1989)To NASCAR's newest fans, Darrell Waltrip probably is just a commentator who tries way too hard to be Terry Bradshaw. But he was one of the best when it came to driving, and he recorded the biggest victory of his career in his 17th Daytona 500 start.
Waltrip won on a gas mileage gamble, then gave us one of Victory Lane's most memorable celebrations when he pulled off the Icky Shuffle and spiked his helmet.

1. The Dale & Dale Show (1993)Upstart Dale Jarrett held off Dale Earnhardt to win his first of three 500s.
His father, Ned Jarrett was in the television booth providing color, and he was given the play-by-play duties for the last lap.
"Gentleman, start your engines" may be the most famous words in all of motorsports.
However, Ned Jarrett's classic line -- "It's the Dale & Dale show, and you know who I'm rooting for" -- has to be in the top five.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Prison gals make a run for it in 'Racing for Time'

Because we're confronted almost daily with stories about people whose life circumstances never gave them a chance, it's no surprise we love stories about people who find one anyhow.
So "Racing for Time" takes us down a familiar path, focusing on a girl named Vanessa who seems destined to wind up as driftwood until she finds something that gives her the confidence to be more.
For Vanessa, played by Yaya DaCosta, that something is running, and the place she finds it is unlikely: a juvenile correction facility in Texas, where she has been sent after her no-'count boyfriend shot somebody and left her with the gun as he fled.
Her prognosis at that point isn't good. If she gets out, she'll probably drift back to the boyfriend and get burned again just because she doesn't see many other options. She spent her early years bouncing around foster homes - no parents anywhere in sight - and dropped out of school in junior high.
Because we know the setup, we also know what she needs: one person who believes in her and will be patient enough to give her a chance, realizing she may stumble along the way.

That turns out to be Cleveland (Mr. Stacks) Stackhouse, a guard at the correctional facility. Played by Charles S. Dutton, who also directed the film, Stacks gets the idea to organize a running team.
The goal, of course, is to provide a focus that will give these girls a chance to build self-esteem.

To its credit, the movie doesn't suggest running is a magic remedy for everyone.
But Vanessa sticks with it, through setbacks and personal struggles that gradually peel away her hard fa├žade to reveal a different and much more promising toughness underneath.
Meanwhile, the running program also helps inmates and officials confront a larger problem inside the institution: the sometimes violent rivalry between black and Latina inmates.
This part of the story is handled in a less nuanced way than the individual stories, suggesting a solution that feels a bit too easy. But the questions it raises are the right ones, and so are the places where it suggests the answers must be found.
For one thing, "Racing for Time" argues that solutions to personal problems are rarely isolated, and that success ultimately involves trusting others. So Vanessa's story is intertwined with those of several other inmates, all from equally challenging backgrounds.
Dutton the director makes their characters feel honest - honest enough that, in a mild departure from most Lifetime movies, this one does not suggest that all stories necessarily end well, at least on the first, second or third try.
But one story does show particular promise: Yaya DaCosta, a striking presence who in the right part could easily light up a larger screen.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

West Broadway explosion confirmed as arson

Vancouver Police and Vancouver Fire Department investigators have now confirmed that this morning's fire and explosion at 686 West Broadway was deliberately set.
VPD and the fire department say the fire was set inside the Taco Del Mar. An accelerant was used and there was a fuel-air explosion. Cleanup is underway, but damage is so extensive it may be some time before business owners can return.

Captain Rob Jones-Cook with Vancouver Fire says the size of the explosion doesn't automatically mean a lot of accelerant was used. Jones-Cook says different types cause different levels of damage. The relatively small size of the restaurant also may have boosted the level of visible destruction. Samples will be analyzed at a lab to see exactly what kind of accelerant was used to start the fire.
Police have not revealed any suspects or motive. Witnesses report seeing a man running from the area around the time of the blast. Investigators will probably be looking at physical evidence all day, but they do have surveillance tape that may help confirm or reject the many unconfirmed stories circulating about the explosion.
The major east-west artery was reopened to traffic just after 11 this morning, but the eastbound right-hand lane is still blocked while the investigation and clean- up continues. Earlier this morning, broken glass and debris were scattered all over the road at Broadway and Heather.

As people headed to work in the area, they described the scene as something that belongs in a warzone. The Starbucks and Taco Del Mar restaurant have been ripped apart, and damage is extensive at several neighbouring businesses.
From the sixth floor of the Holiday Inn, about half a block away, the blast actually shattered the glass of a room while a guest slept in the bed about three feet away. Remarkably, she is just shaken up but okay.

The 2:30 am blast was strong enough to shatter the front windows of the London Drugs across the street. London Drugs has since reopened as well.
One man who was two blocks away when it happened, says he was about to go to sleep when he heard a huge explosion. He says it shook the whole building, so he went out to take a look. He says it's unbelievable.

'American Idol': Top 24 revealed

I'm having some cable problems, so I missed the first few minutes of tonight's American Idol, during which the Top 24 will be revealed from the Top 50.
So the first guy who is out, I don't have his name. Ronald something. I'll try to track it down afterward.
Nina Shaw is also out. Same with Mycale Guyton and Lisa Aukerman.
Carly Smithson, the Irish woman who made it to Hollywood in Season 5 and then had visa issues, is next. Paula goes on and on, and Simon asks her to give Carly the answer, and Carly cries. She is in. As she walks out, Simon takes Paula to task for "torturing that girl."
Rocker David Cook didn't impress Simon with his guitar during Hollywood week, but I still predict he will be in. He is!
Amanda Overmyer, the rock-n-roll nurse, is in.
Brandon Gree, Amanda Hawkins and Buck Smith are out and have to make the long elevator ride back downstairs.
David Archuleta (see a clip in last night's AI entry) is next in the hot seat. Simon says they have to take more time with people under 18, but they think he's worth it, so he is in.
Kristy Lee Cook heads upstairs to the judges. Paula and Randy try to drag it out, but they don't do that good of a job. She is in. (Side note: It's really annoying when Paula tries to drag out the news.)
Brooke White is next and starts bawling just waiting for her chance to see the judges. We see footage of her messing up during her audition in round one of Hollywood week, which we definitely did not see yesterday. But she's in.
Danny Noriega goes crazy with nerves in the elevator. It's a yes.
Jason Castro, Luke Mendard and Alexandrea Lushington all get yesses (though we've seen very little of them otherwise).
Ramiele Malubay (tiny girl, big voice) is in.
Shaun Barrowes is out. Lorena Pinot and Drew Poppelreiter (the farm boy) and Nathasha Block are also out.
Michael Johns (Australian rocker) tells Ryan he feels pretty good, but he starts freaking out on the way to the judges. He is in.
Syesha Mercado lost her voice during Hollywood week, but gave a killer final audition. Paula points out that Y-E-S is in her name, and yes, she is in. Simon taunts Paula for her dumb joke
Robbie Carrico is told that he is through to the Top 24.
Garrett Haley is in, as are Kady Malloy and Chekezie Eze, Amy Davis, Alaina Whitaker and Jason Yeager.
Asia'h Epperson, whose father passed away a day before her initial audition, feels he is with her no matter what. Paula says they have been impressed with her and that she is in the Top 24.
David Hernandez finds out it wasn't unanimous. He is the one who was nervous backstage and then right on track on last night's episode. He is in. Simon says he is the one who said no and that David is going to have to work "a heck of a lot harder" to have a shot at winning.
Josiah Leming calls this "the most important day of my life." He thinks he is in, at least in his gut. He agrees that he was overconfident after his first Hollywood audition (but that didn't stop him from saying he thought he was in). He is not in, which I gathered as soon as they showed the clip of him saying he thought he was in. They say he should keep pursuing music and that he is really talented. He cries when he gets downstairs. He gets hugs from a bunch of the finalists who made it through.
So now there are four people left and two spots.
Colton Berry and Kyle Ensley are the last guys standing. Colton is in, Kyle is out, but Paula says they know he is going to go on to bigger and better things. Simon tells Kyle that he disagrees with this decision and thinks he made more impact and that people would have enjoyed him. I think maybe more of his charisma comes across in person than on screen because while Kyle seems like a nice guy and has a good voice, I don't see him as a music star. I don't have much to say about Colton Berry because I think this is the first time he's gotten much screen time at all.
Cardin McKinney and Joanne Borgella are the last women. Joanne says it's been an amazing experience and a looooong day. Cardin says it's been good but she's emotionally tired. Joanne is in, and Cardin is out, but Paula says she needs to come back. They both cry and hug.
Montage of people who didn't make it and didn't get their names on screen. Oh, well.
And now we're down to 24! And now is the time on Sprockets when they dance. (I'm sorry; I'm not in charge.)
That was a pretty good Hollywood week, all things considered. I didn't even miss the group sings!


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Coleman Says He's Secretly Been Married

Gary Coleman is a not-so-newlywed. The former "Diff'rent Strokes" star married 22-year-old Shannon Price in August on a mountaintop in Nevada, but they have been keeping their vows under wraps, the pair told "Inside Edition."
"Nobody was around but the minister, preacher, the videographers, the photographer, the helicopter pilot and us," Coleman, 40, said on Tuesday's broadcast of the program.
Coleman met Price on the set of the 2006 comedy "Church Ball." Price said it was she who proposed to Coleman, but that he surprised her on her birthday by whisking her to a mountaintop in the Valley of Fire State Park to exchange vows.
She said they kept their wedding secret because she wanted to keep being seen as her own person.
"I just want my own identity as well because I don't want to be known as Gary Coleman's wife," she said.
Coleman played down their age differences, saying "I don't have issues with age, I have issues with intelligence ... She's more intelligent than I am and that's what matters to me."
Price, who is 5-foot-7, and Coleman, who is 4-foot-8, also played down their height gap.
"That doesn't really matter to me," she said. "He was 10 feet tall to me because he was sweet and I really liked his personality."

Snow storm hits Long Island and the city

A small snow storm hit Long Island and New York City today, leading to dangerous road conditions. The storm is expected to last until midnight, at which point it will turn into sleet and then rain, the National Weather Service said.A small storm system approached from the southwest, causing light snow across Long Island and parts of the city. Nassau and Suffolk counties are expected to get an inch of snow, while a winter weather advisory has been issued in New York city until midnight. New York City will get between 1 and 2 inches of snow and sleet with a light coating of ice.Both New York City and Long Island can expect up to two inches of rain tomorrow.
Temperatures today will hover in the mid-20s and will rise into the 30s after midnight.Police in Nassau and Suffolk reported several accidents at around 3:30 p.m., but could not conclude that they were all weather related. State police said there were no fatalities, but more than a dozen reported accidents, due to icy conditions on the Northern, Southern, Wantagh and Meadowbrook parkways.Suffolk County police are advising motorists to take extra precautions when they drive home this evening.Since the snow began falling at about 3 p.m., there have been close to 40 to 50 crashes throughout the county, Suffolk police said. Authorities also reported icing on the Long Island Expressway and Sunrise Highway.
"The roads are extremely bad," Capt. Thomas Palmieri, executive officer of Highway Patrol said.He advised motorists to leave ample stopping distance and drive slowly."If you don't have to drive, stay off the roads," he said. "Leave yourself plenty of time if you have to be on the road. Above all, drive slow."


Yoko vs. Lennon

Nobody told her there'd be days like these.
Lennon Murphy—a little-known singer-songwriter who was named after John Lennon—has found herself at odds with Yoko Ono over who has legal rights to the famous moniker.
An attorney for Lennon's widow filed a petition last week with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office seeking to cancel a trademark Murphy took out in 2003 for "Lennon" as the name of her band.
The petition cites the "likelihood of confusion" in the marketplace and "dilution" of the music icon's surname. (Lennon itself is a fairly common throughout Ireland and is derived from the Gaelic word Leannon, which means a "lover" or "sweetheart.")
The 25-year-old Murphy claims that, as a courtesy, she sought and received Ono's blessing to use the name back in 2000, when she signed with Arista Records.

According to Murphy, the label was concerned about the name issue and sent her product manager, Justin Shukat (reportedly the son of Ono attorney Peter Shukat), to approach the prickly 74-year-old artist. Ono supposedly gave her okay, clearing the way for the Tennessee-born Murphy and her eponymous band to release 5:30 Saturday Morning.
Arista dropped Murphy and her mates from the label after that debut album failed to generate big sales. However, Lennon the band continues to perform concerts and release music independently.
According to Muphy, Ono's change of heart came two days before the statute of limitations was due to run out. In her complaint with the Trial and Appeal Board, Ono claims Lennon the band "fraudulently" registered its trademark.
Another attorney for Ono, Dorothy M. Weber, tells E! Online, "We don't comment on anything currently pending, whether in court or otherwise."
In an anguished post on her MySpace blog, Murphy decries the filing and says that her career could be in jeopardy, even though she believes she's in the right.

"I'm not sure what confusion I could be causing, since I don't have the $50,000 to hire a lawyer and fight this. If people were confusing me with John Lennon and accidently [sic] buying my records, I should have more than enough money to live my life and hire a lawyer? I wish that was the case," she writes.
"I haven't worked since October 2007, so I live on just enough to get through the months until I get back on the road. I have no idea what I'm going to do yet in this situation, and I'm stressed, angry and scared."

The performer went on to defend her name: "I never falsified my intentions, I never used John Lennon for my benefit, and I never took one cent out of Yoko's bank account. I play music, my name is Lennon, and the most heartbreaking thing out of this whole situation is the insult it gives to my late mother and who she believed in; on top of demeaning the man that John Lennon was and will always be."
Although Ono has picked a fight with Murphy, the young singer has gained support from a potentially key ally.
Julian Lennon, John's son from his marriage to first wife Cynthia Lennon, himself a singer-songwriter who has had his own run-ins with his stepmom, posted Murphy's message on his MySpace blog and expressed sympathy for her situation.
"This is NOT about me but about a girl named 'Lennon,' " writes the 44-year-old Julian. "She has my full support."
Come on, Yoko, give peace a chance.


Lenny Kravitz claims he's had no sex for three years

SULTRY rock singer Lenny Kravitz is renowned for his womanising ways, so it may come as a surprise to learn that he has been celibate for three years.The American Woman singer - who is renowned for his womanising ways - insists he is staying celibate until he finds the perfect woman. Kravitz, 43, told Maxim magazine: "It's just a promise I made until I get married. Where I'm at in life, the women have got to come with something else, not just the body, but the mind and spirit. It usually trips them out, but that's the way it's going to be. I'm looking at the big picture." Kravitz married The Cosby Show actress Lisa Bonet in 1987, before they divorced in 1993. The pair have a nine-year-old daughter Zoe Isabella Kravitz. Since splitting from Bonet, Kravitz has been romantically linked to Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Kylie Minogue, Vanessa Paradis, Natalie Imbruglia and Adriana Lima. Meanwhile, Kravitz has revealed he will tour Canada in March. The Grammy-award winning star is planning to showcase his eighth studio album It Is Time For A Love Revolution when he will perform at venues including Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Obama takes Virginia to stretch winning streak over Clinton

Democrat Barack Obama landed an emphatic victory over Hillary Clinton in Virginia Tuesday, in the first of a trio of Washington-area nominating clashes expected to deal new blows to her White House hopes.
In ominous signs for the Clinton campaign, exit polls showed the 46-year-old Illinois senator surging ahead in the former first lady's normal bastion of women, and splitting another of her key powerbases, white voters.
The Republican presidential nominating race in Virginia, between Senator John McCain, the presumptive nominee, and conservative favorite, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, was deemed too close to call.
Virginia had been seen as Clinton's best shot of halting Obama's winning streak, after Obama swept five weekend contests, on a day which also featured contests in neighboring Maryland and Washington, DC, where polls close at 8 pm (0100 GMT).

Clinton is now desperate to win delegate-rich contests in Ohio and Texas on March 4 to reignite her faltering White House quest, after ousting her campaign manager at the weekend amid growing signs of turmoil in her camp.
Television network exit polls said Obama, vying to become the first black president, extended his appeal among young voters and African-Americans, and split the white vote with Clinton in Virginia.
More striking, exit polls showed that he took the vote among women -- the former first lady's core constituency, by 58 percent to 42 percent in the state.
Among those who put a priority on the economy, Clinton's bread and butter issue, Obama still came out on top 60 to 40 percent.
Those who cared most about the Iraq war went 65 to 35 percent for Obama.
Virginia was the biggest prize up for grabs with 83 Democratic delegates up for grabs. Maryland had 70 on offer, and the US capital, a special federal district, 15.
Clinton gave a flurry of television interviews, looking past what was shaping up as a grim night for her, targeting markets in Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin, where Obama is favored, which votes on February 19.

Asked by a Cleveland, Ohio, station whether the midwestern state was a make-or-break encounter for her, Clinton argued she had been written off before.
"I've been down this road before, Before I won New Hampshire, nobody thought I would ... this is a close race, it's a long road to the nomination," she said.
The New York senator was due to hold a rally in Texas on Tuesday night as results from the Washington-area primaries rolled in, while Obama was in Wisconsin.
In one symbolic boost, Clinton snapped up the endorsement of former Ohio senator and astronaut John Glenn.
"She has the strength and experience to take on the Republicans in November and win Ohio and the White House," Glenn said.
Voters in the so-called Potomac Primary, for the river that passes through all three of Tuesday's jurisdictions, reveled in their newfound importance in the presidential race after nominating contests across more than half the country left the two senators in a dead heat.
"It feels a little more that something historical is happening this year," said real estate investor Brian Coulter, 48, at a polling place in Bethesda, Maryland.
Andrea Matney, 39, a special event manager who lives in Bethesda added: "This particular election feels particularly meaningful to me."

Obama led Clinton 1,144 to 1,138 in the running delegate count going into Tuesday's contests, according to website A total of 2,025 delegates are needed for the nomination.
The role of some 440 still-undecided super-delegates -- party luminaries who can choose to vote for either candidate -- is now likely to be critical.


Candidates file for April 22 primary; Rendell extends deadline

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Gov. Ed Rendell extended Tuesday's deadline for political candidates to qualify for Pennsylvania's April 22 primary, citing concerns about wintry weather, but the major statewide candidates had already filed their paperwork.
Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois filed petitions to compete for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Rep. Ron Paul filed for the Republican primary.
Among candidates for the three state row offices, the only intraparty competition appeared to be a four-way contest for the Democratic nomination for the state treasurer's seat that will be open next year.
Rendell extended the deadline, which applies to candidates for Congress and the state Legislature as well as party offices, from 5 p.m. Tuesday until noon Thursday, citing traffic problems caused by winter weather across the state. Rendell's executive order did not extend the deadline for candidates to collect petition signatures.
"I moved the date until Thursday because the weather forecast (Wednesday) could also cause problems," Rendell said in a statement.
Millions of dollars have been raised already in the Democratic race for treasurer, according to campaign finance reports through Dec. 31.
Montgomery County businessman Rob McCord reported having more than $3 million on hand and more than $1 million in unpaid debts. Bucks County lawyer John Cordisco, a former state legislator, had $598,000 on hand and $385,000 in debt. State Rep. Jennifer Mann of Lehigh County, who announced her candidacy last week, had less than $1,000 in her legislative campaign fund. Dennis Morrison-Wesley of Harrisburg, who describes himself as an investment adviser who is currently working as a cable television salesman, also filed a petition.
The only Republican to file for the treasurer's post was Tom Ellis, a Montgomery County bond lawyer.
Filing for attorney general were incumbent Republican Tom Corbett, who had $759,000 on hand at the end of 2007, and Democrat John Morganelli, the Northampton County district attorney, who had $417,000.
Vying for nominations for auditor general are incumbent Democrat Jack Wagner, who carried over $417,000 from 2007, and Republican Chet Beiler, a Lancaster County businessman who reported raising $29,000.


What's the dirtiest hotel in the USA?

It's the Hotel Carter in Manhattan, according to TripAdvisor's annual list of dirty hotels -- which is out today.
The 700-room hotel, on West 43rd Street in the Times Square area, earns the No. 1 spot on TripAdvisor's filthy list for the third year in a row. It gets hair-raising reviews from travelers on the TripAdvisor site, with tales of bedbugs, yucky bathrooms, folks who turned and ran when they saw their quarters and lurking ladies of the night. A housekeeper found the body of a woman under a bed in August, the New York Post reported.
The Carter website urges prospective guests to "enjoy the warm hospitality and service at the Hotel Carter, a unique inviting departure from traditional hotels in Manhattan." When I called the hotel number repeatedly Monday to get a comment on this rating, no one ever picked up the phone. (On a positive note, the Carter is budget-friendly. A double this Friday would cost $133.99, including tax, which is a bargain for NYC.)
So readers, what's the filthiest hotel room you've ever stayed in or seen before beating a hasty retreat? Please describe, but no hotel names please, because our policy is to check out complaints for accuracy before pointing a finger.


Jessica Sierra: Baby No Longer on Board

A source close to Sierra's family tells TMZ former "American Idol" star Jessica Sierra is no longer pregnant, though they would not confirm exactly what happened.Sierra's pregnancy was revealed in December, while the former reality star was in jail. Jessica can currently be seen on "Celebrity Rehab" on VH1 and in her Vivid Entertainment sex tape, "Jessica Sierra Superstar," which was released last week.


Scribe Passionate about Suing Gibson

That Passion of the Christ controversy just won't quit.
The man who cowrote the screenplay for the 2004 blockbuster is suing Mel Gibson and the actor's Icon Productions, alleging he was told the film would be a low-budget affair and was therefore deceived into penning the script for peanuts.
Benedict Fitzgerald agreed to a "relatively small salary," a $75,000 production bonus, another $75,000 if Gibson's vision broke even at the box office and five percent of the revenues, according to court documents filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Gibson engaged in a "chronic and conspiratorial pattern of deceit," telling Fitzgerald the film would cost between $4 million and $7 million to make and that he wouldn't be taking any of the proceeds, the suit contends. Instead, the Braveheart star said he would distribute the returns among the cast and crew.
The Passion of the Christ's budget ultimately totaled around $30 million and, thanks to some brilliant marketing on Gibson's part, ended up grossing more than $370 million domestically, per tracker Box Office Mojo.
Fitzgerald, who's alleging breach of contract, fraud and unfair business practices, contends in his 21-page complaint that he "accepted a salary substantially less than what he would have taken had he known the true budget for the film."
He is asking for unspecified damages.
Not that he was ever in it for the money, though.

"Because of his background, because of his deep and personal religious convictions (which he believed to be shared by Gibson) and because of his passion for the project, Ben forewent pursuing other scripts and exclusively devoted the following years of his life to The Passion without requesting or receiving any additional compensation," the lawsuit states.
"Gibson preyed monetarily on Ben, taking advantage of his unbridled enthusiasm for the project and with full cognizance of Ben's fundamental personal and spiritual beliefs."
George R. Hedges, an attorney for Icon, told People the suit is "utterly baseless and the charges are utterly baseless." Fitzgerald was "handsomely compensated—a very significant amount of money for any writer on any project," he said.
Icon Productions' chief operating officer, Vicki Christianson, Marquis Films and Airborne Productions are also named as defendants.

According to his page on the Internet Movie Database, Fitzgerald, who shared his Passion screenwriting credit with Gibson, also worked on several TV movies in the 1990s, including an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, starring John Malkovich and Tim Roth, and a two-part take on Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, with Anthony Edwards and Eric Roberts.


Monday, February 11, 2008

69 crimes in one night

THE Clements Estate was a scene of destruction on Sunday morning after two arson attacks and 67 cases of criminal damage.
A 16-year-old boy was arrested in connection with the crimes yesterday (Monday, February 11) and was still in police custody at 4.30pm.One of the arson attacks endangered the lives of a family of seven after a fire in a wheelie bin spread to a house in Landseer Court, Haverhill.No-one was hurt in the attack.Another wheelie bin was set on fire and police also said that 67 cars had been vandalised, most of them scratched - many with four-letter obscenities.The roads affected included Parkside, Exeter Court, Recreation Road, Clarendon Road, Bute Court, Argyll Court, Landseer Court, Clements Lane, Bath Court, Mill Hill and Belmont Court.All these crimes happened between Saturday evening and Sunday morning.Anyone with information about these crimes should call police on 01284 774100 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.Read more in this Thursday's Haverhill Echo.


Patty Hearst and French bulldog win award at Westminster dog show

NEW YORK - The owner had just the right touch, trying to soothe her French bulldog's trembling paws.
"There, there," Patty Hearst said. Far removed from the days when her image as a machinegun-toting revolutionary captivated the world, Patricia Shaw Hearst was in more genteel surroundings Monday. She was tending to Diva at Madison Square Garden, petting her soft head on dogdom's biggest day.
Surrounded by Cardigan Welsh corgis, Chinese shar-peis and Parson Russell terriers, she blended right in at the Westminster Kennel Club show.
"When people find out it's me, it's like it doesn't make sense," the 53-year-old Shaw said.
"The Frenchie people know me because I've been around. But others, they seemed surprised."
That basically summed up Mitzie McGavic's reaction. In town from Florida to root for her friend's Australian shepherd, she was startled to learn who was standing nearby.
"You're kidding. Is she the Patty Hearst?" McGavic asked.
"Showing dogs at Westminster, who knew?"
Shaw has been working with dogs for three years and her first trip to Westminster was well worth it. Her prize, with a champion's name of Shann's Legally Blonde, earned a red ribbon as Best of Opposite Sex - a male dog won the breed, and hers was judged the top female.
"It's overwhelming," she said.
Shaw said the ribbon would probably decorate one of the swords her husband collects. The gold medallion, that one is hers to keep.
"It's like winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Or would this be a silver?" she said.
"Someone asked me before I came down what were the chances of winning something. I said it was one-in-35, because that's how many dogs were entered. But I never expected this."
Shaw came down from her Connecticut home Sunday night to prepare for the event. Show rules dictate she had to keep Diva in the staging area, along with maybe 1,500 other dogs, until early evening.
"If it were up to her, she would've been gone by now," she said.
"Her name says it all."
Shaw said she always had dogs growing up. A while ago - "a million years ago, back in the Jurassic era," she said - she was backstage at a fashion show and ran across a French bulldog she liked.
"After that, it was like I had to have one," she said.
The granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst gained her greatest notoriety in 1974 when, as a 19-year-old, she was kidnapped in 1974 by the radical group the Symbionese Liberation Army. She later was photographed holding a gun while robbing a California bank and eventually spent almost two years in prison.
Her sentence was commuted by former president Jimmy Carter, and former president Bill Clinton later gave her a full pardon.
Shaw has appeared in films - "Cry-Baby" and "Serial Mom," among them - and has had television roles and done charitable work.
For the last few years, dogs have been her passion. Even though her two twentysomething daughters own cats, that is.
"But they love French bulldogs," she said.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hawaiians prepared to say aloha to Pro Bowl

Residents of the Aloha State are grimly recognizing the possibility — the likelihood — that the Pro Bowl is not long for Hawaii.
"It's important to the fans over here," Sia Tufele said last week outside a Pro Bowl practice. "It's the only professional game in town, and there's no place better than Hawaii for that game."
Like Tufele, 19-year-old Jarrin Lessary of Kane'ohe isn't thrilled about losing the one chance a year he gets to see the giants (and the Giants) of the game.
"A lot of players like to come here," he said. "I think it should stay."


'Rose' takes four BAFTA Awards

LONDON -- On a glittering Sunday night at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, "Atonement" took the best film award at the Orange British Academy Film Awards.

However, the British hot favorite with 14 nominations was eclipsed by the Edith Piaf biopic "La Vie en Rose," which stole the night with four awards, including one for best actress Marion Cotillard.

"Atonement" also picked up the best production design award, while "Rose" also won for music, costume design and makeup and hair.Daniel Day-Lewis was named best actor for his performance in Paul Thomas Anderson's epic tale of family, oil and greed, "There Will be Blood." The category was hotly contested, with George Clooney in "Michael Clayton," James McAvoy in "Atonement" and Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises" also nominated.

Barry Wilkinson was feted for outstanding British contribution to cinema, while veteran actor Anthony Hopkins was handed the academy fellowship.Joel and Ethan Coen won the director award for "No Country for Old Men," and Javier Bardem was named best supporting actor for his performance in the film. "No Country" also took home the cinematography award, beating "Atonement," "Blood" and "The Bourne Ultimatum."

"To be recognized in a country where there is this huge tradition is an honor in itself," said Bardem.Tilda Swinton took home the best supporting actress for her role as the corrupt and desperate executive who orders a hit in the tense corporate thriller "Michael Clayton."The best British film award was handed to "This Is England," while "The Lives of Others" won in the best film not in the English-language category, which includes Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." "Butterfly" nonetheless took home the best adapted screenplay honor for writer Ronald Harwood, who prompted laughter with his aside from the podium that he was "no longer on strike.""Bourne" picked up the awards for best sound and best editing, and "Ratatouille" took the best animated film award.The Carl Foreman award for special achievement by a British director, writer or producer for their first feature film was awarded to Matt Greenhalgh for the Joy Division biopic "Control."Best original screenplay honors went to newcomer Diablo Cody for "Juno," while the Orange rising star award was handed to Shia LaBeouf.The award for special visual effects was awarded to Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood for the lush children's drama "The Golden Compass.""The Pearce Sisters" was named best short animation, while "Dog Altogether" was named best short film.

Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.0 suite

The security protection of Microsoft's Windows Live OneCare 2.0 suite is much better than that of the debut version. Add to that a low price, and you have a solid, easy-to-use security product for PC users who don't want to mess too much with software settings.
OneCare combines the virus, adware/spyware, and two-way firewall protection of a security suite with the backup and defragging tools of a utility suite. We downloaded and installed it quickly, although we had to create a Windows Live ID to do so. One £37.99 inc VAT licence lets you use Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.0 on three PCs, and you can use the program to back up to one or more CD/DVDs, external hard drives, and (new in this version) networked drive volumes. You can create backups on demand or on a schedule.
Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.0 is simple to use, largely because it has few settings to configure. A status bar lets you know whether your PC's health is Good (green), Fair (orange), or At Risk (red), and prompts you to take the appropriate corrective action.
The software ran smoothly on two test machines, one running Windows XP and the other running Vista Home Premium. (We were amused to see that Vista's User Access Control required that we grant permission to Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.0 - Microsoft's own security software - to run.)
In performance tests by German security research company, Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.0 was reasonably good at detecting known malware samples. It recognised on average 95 percent of the backdoor programs, bots, Trojan horses, and worms in's collection of 674,589 threats.
In a recent round-up of security suites, detection percentages in this test ranged from 69 to 98 percent; though we can't compare exact test results between stories due to differences in sample sets, we can still reasonably conclude that Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.0 did fairly well.
Microsoft Windows Live OneCare 2.0 also detected a pretty good 88 percent of adware and spyware, and 83 percent of rootkits. OneCare's heuristic ability to detect unknown threats based on their similarity to previously recognised samples was very good too.


How to find senior benefit programs

You may be surprised to learn that there are thousands of programs that can help seniors in need. But how can you find them? And how can you see if you qualify for assistance? One way is using Benefits Check Up, a service of the National Council on Aging, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, will search through 1,500 government and private benefit programs. There are programs offering help meeting the costs of prescription drugs and health care. Others provide assistance paying utility, rent and mortgage bills. For many of the programs, there are income limits.On the Web site, you will first be given a questionnaire. The survey is comprehensive and may take about 30 minutes to complete, but once you finish it, the search engine will locate programs for which you qualify.


Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1

This is something we thought that we would never see - a Sony Ericsson smartphone running the Windows Mobile operating system. What's more, this first attempt at a Windows smartphone looks good enough to be a class leader.

This is a feature packed device, and it's a little hard to know where to start - so we will begin with the XPERIA X1's obvious physical characteristics first. The XPERIA X1 is dominated by a large 3 inch touchscreen, Sony Ericsson say that is has "wide VGA resolution" which is a little confusing, as it is actually a 480 x 800 pixel panel. 800 pixels is an ideal resolution for web surfing, pitching the XPERIA X1 directly against the Nokia E90.. but the XPERIA has the advantage of a touch sensitive display.
There's a slide-out QWERTY keyboard on the X1, but unlike many rival devices, this is an ergonomic "Arc slider". What this means is that the XPERIA curves when it opens, giving a better typing position than a "flat" slider. On the back is a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus and flash. Sony Ericsson do state that the XPERIA is capable of video calling too, although it is difficult to see where the secondary camera is hidden. The X1 can also capture VGA resolution video at up to 30 frames per second.

Inside, this is a quad-band GSM phone with tri-band UMTS (there are two variants), plus GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA and WiFi connectivity. In case you're not familiar with HSUPA, it is basically a variant of HSDPA with much faster upload speeds of up to 5.7 Mbps. And if you're not familiar with this alphabet soup at all.. don't worry: the XPERIA X1 has fast access to the internet, either through your cellular phone provider or a wireless hotspot. The X1 also support stereo Bluetooth.

Also bundled into the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1 is aGPS (advanced GPS), so the handset can be used with a compatible satellite navigation application. It's not clear if any satnav application will come bundled with the XPERIA, but there are plenty of commercial applications that will work on Windows Mobile.
As we have already mentioned, this is a Windows Mobile device. But Sony Ericsson haven't just gone for the standard (and fairly unexciting) Windows look and feel, as the XPERIA has a customisable "panel" interface designed for fingertip navigation. Presumably this enhancement is designed to make the XPERIA more competitive with the Apple iPhone.
Windows Mobile comes with pretty good media support, and the XPERIA X1 also has an FM radio. Windows Mobile also has pocket versions of Word, Outlook, Excel and PowerPoint plus Internet Explorer for web browsing. In addition, it supports push email and has an RSS newsreader.

On paper there is very little missing from the XPERIA X1. If we're being picky, then we could mention that the camera is only 3.2 megapixels and not 5 megapixels, and the handset lacks an FM transmitter. But then those aren't very common in any case. The display is only 65,000 colours rather than the 262,000 colours or even 16 million colours that we tend to see, although we suspect that you would be hard pushed to tell much of a difference.
Another surprising feature is that the XPERIA takes microSD cards, in addition to the maximum 400MB of internal memory. Almost all Sony Ericsson phones use the proprietary Memory Stick format, so the fact that the XPERIA has a microSD slot instead raises an interesting question - who actually built the XPERIA?
The biggest problem is that you won't be able to buy one of these until the second half of 2008. We strongly suspect that the XPERIA won't be available until quite late in the year, and by that time there will be a number of competing products from other manufacturers. But one fact remains is that this is a Sony Ericsson phone, so it is quite likely that the XPERIA X1 will be picked up by several different carriers after launch.
You can find more information on the Sony Ericsson X1 microsite.

Official touts Bush's efforts to improve e-government

In taking stock of the administration's progress in digitizing government services during President Bush's time in office, the White House's deputy e-government chief noted on Thursday that government-wide Web sites have helped eradicate some of the bureaucratic maze.
At a gathering of information technology leaders from the public and private sectors, Timothy Young, deputy administrator of e-government and information technology for the Office of Management and Budget, rattled off names of government-wide Web sites such as, and that did not exist prior to 2002.
Before, federal government job seekers had to visit a plethora of sites for each agency to find openings. "Now you can apply for all those jobs at one site," Young said.
Under OMB E-Government Administrator Karen Evans, Young has helped lead the planning and rollout of the administration's electronic government initiatives for more than four years.
"Imagine what would happen if we took all these services away," he said. "Think of what the labor unions would do if we did away with"
Young also pointed to the success of the recent on-budget and ahead-of-schedule launch of, a single database, mandated under a law authored by Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that allows citizens to search government contracts and grants.
"Technology and government doesn't sit on the left or the right side of the aisle," Young said. "I look at the vision of e-government beyond 2008 [when Bush's term expires] and I see great things."
Yet, during a question and answer session, Young acknowledged that not everyone is welcoming this electronic consolidation of services.
An audience member asked him about a provision in the federal government's massive fiscal 2008 spending bill that places limitations on the consolidation of agency human resources systems.


Paris Hilton leads LA prison riot

LOS ANGELES, California (UCS News) -- A judge sentenced Paris Hilton to an additional 45 days in county jail Friday for in-sighting inmates to revolt. The extended sentence has certainly put the brakes on the hotel heiress's famous high life.....or has it.
According to jail officials Hilton offered to share her bunk for a night with anyone that could get her a bottle of Jack Daniel's and a carton of Marlboro Reds. 14 guards and jail staffers were injured in the melee that followed Hilton's offer. Police officers called to the scene described how male and female inmates alike went into action, destroying jail facilities and looting store rooms in-search of Tennessee whiskey and cigarettes.After several hours of violence calm was restored but Hilton and the other inmates remained in a tense stand off with Police and the LA county S.W.A.T. team. In the early morning hours of the following day, Hilton handed over control of the jail and surrendered to authorities. As she was returned to her cell Hilton explained "The party was over, The bottle was empty and I traded the last of the smokes for a pedicure." Hilton's spokesman Elliot Mintz stated "We all know Paris Hilton is a young women of many talents, She has shown great skill diffusing a situation that could have been dangerous." Hilton, who parlayed her name and relentless partying into worldwide notoriety, had been in police custody for less than 24 hours when the revolt took place. "There's no doubt she knew her actions would lead to a general disturbance in the jail." stated the judge as he awarded the heiress an additional 45 days in jail. In the hearing following the riot Elliot Mintz, Hilton and her attorneys characterized the events as "All in good fun". According to Hollywood insiders the film rights to "Simple Life in Jail" have been offered for 28 Million dollars plus 15% of box office receipts.

Mom Starts Online Toy Rental Service

After scouring the Internet to fill her house with only the best toys for her infant twin sons, Lori Pope hated to watch the clutter build as the boys lost interest.
If you can rent movies, video games and even handbags online, she thought, why not toys?
That's the idea behind Baby Plays, a Web-based company Pope launched in October that allows parents to receive four or six toys in the mail every month, assembled and ready for playtime.
Call it Netflix for the toddler set.
Baby Plays subscribers visit the company's Web site to browse among nearly 200 toys for newborns through preschoolers. Customers build a wish list of toys they'd like to rent, and Pope's staff ships them to their door.
"It's going to take a load off of moms," Pope said.
The program has been great for Heidi Borden, a financial analyst from the Houston suburb of Katy who used to dread shopping for toys with her now 11-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son.
"She wants to get on the floor and he's running down the aisle and I'm just stressed to pick out something really good really quick, get in and out," said Borden, 39. "It's just a lot nicer to be able to do this online and not worry about if it's something that they don't like."
As the co-owner of an oilfield supply business, Pope also didn't have a lot of time to shop. To save time, money and space, she searched the Internet for a toy rental company. When she couldn't find one, she decided to start her own.
Pope started with 10 customers, shipping toys out of spare office space in her business. Now she's got about 200 customers nationwide, including about 40 grandparents, and is preparing to move into a 3,000-square-foot warehouse next door.
She has spent $250,000 of the money she's made from her other business to get the company off the ground, from buying toys and hiring employees to subletting the office and storage space. She still pours about $12,000 a month into the company but hopes to begin turning a profit by this fall.
Customers pay $28.99 a month to get four toys a month for three months and $35.99 a month to get six toys a month for three months. Families willing to sign a yearlong contract can get six toys a month for $31.99.
Baby Plays' inventory includes popular toys by brands such as VTech, LeapFrog and Playskool as well as more obscure European manufacturers. Pope keeps at least seven of each kind of toy in stock so she can fulfill almost every request. She plans to double her inventory over the next two months.
Pope mainly stocks sturdy, easy-to-clean toys with few parts or parts that are easily replaced. She searches Web sites and catalogs for popular toys that are appropriate for small children and meet all European and American safety standards.
Once a new toy comes in, Pope invites Houston-area customers and their children to her office for some hands-on testing. If the kids love them, she'll order more. If they ignore the toy or lose interest just a few minutes, it's cut.
The toys are sanitized with Clorox wipes and loaded with fresh batteries before being shrink wrapped and boxed for shipment. The few toys that are too big to be shipped fully assembled are boxed with a screwdriver and instructions.
Families generally keep the toys for one month and then send them back in the box they came in, using a postage-paid return label the company includes with each shipment. Most parents know that's long enough for little kids to exhaust their interest.
But it's no big deal if the little one wants to hang on to a couple of toys for several months, Pope said. Parents can just exchange the toys they don't want, and new toys are shipped out as the old ones are returned.
Pope also keeps a close eye on the merchandise, yanking toys that are broken or more than "gently worn" and donating them to needy families nominated by her customers.
"If it has a little scratch on it, we're not going to take it out of the program," she said. But, "we're not going to ever send anybody anything that they're going to feel like is junk."
Each type of toy is also tested for lead paint when a new shipment arrives from the wholesaler, Pope said. She also avoids toys with small pieces that a child could break off and choke on.
The lead testing was a big selling point for Regina Rubin Cody, a Cleveland mother of 8-month-old twin girls.
"With the two babies it's kind of a handful," she said. "To be able to have one less thing to worry about offers kind of a real peace of mind."
On the Net:

Bride dies during couple's first dance

The only thing Kim Sjostrom wanted more than a real-life reenactment of My Big, Fat Greek Wedding was the Greek-American husband who came with it: Teddy Efkarpides.
By the time the Davie teacher married the Sunrise carpenter on Jan. 19, she'd had a Greek-themed bridal shower, gotten a ''Greek by Marriage'' T-shirt and practically memorized the movie, which played while friends did her hair and makeup before the ceremony.
''She couldn't wait,'' says Efkarpides, 43.
The Hollywood version has a happy ending; this version doesn't. As 60 disbelieving guests looked on, Kimberly Sjostrom Efkarpides, 36, crumpled in the first dance at the reception and died of heart disease -- in her new husband's arms. They had been married for less than an hour.
''The only official document now that can bear the name she wanted to have is the death certificate,'' says Efkarpides, his voice a raw whisper. ``Life sure deals some lulus.''
Every day, Teddy Efkarpides -- a burly, bearded, Brooklyn-born six-footer -- tries again to sort out what happened. Why fate cast him as the romantic lead one minute, a widower at his own wedding the next. Why, after a wrenching divorce, he won a loving heart, only to see it fail them both.
Cardiac arrest, the doctors told him, related to blockages and hardening of the arteries. Relatives told some of her friends that she'd had a previous episode in her 20s.
The wedding guests who knew her well suspected a diabetic complication.
''She was diagnosed when she was 9 with juvenile diabetes,'' Teddy says. ``She was a poster child, literally. I remember seeing it on the New York subways.''
Or, thought the few who knew her even better, it might relate to a miscarriage the previous week.
''She was 10 weeks pregnant,'' says Efkarpides, a father of three. ''She was upset. She'd been pregnant'' in her first marriage, and lost that baby at five months.
Kimberly Sue Sjostrom was born prematurely in the Bronx and spent her first two months in the hospital. After her parents divorced, she moved with her mother to Mississippi.
She earned college degrees from New York's Fordham University, moved to South Florida in 2004 and began teaching at Davie Elementary, lately first grade.
''She loved the little guys,'' Efkarpides says. ``It's her character. She's a child in a grown-up's body.''
The two met through an online dating service.
The wedding was three years to the day after their first date -- lunch at a restaurant followed by a long talk at his apartment. He says it lasted eight hours.
The next, he cooked chicken fried rice, and they watched television and talked. By the third date, they were an item, and that summer she moved in.
Their weekend passion: ''Karaoke!'' Efkarpides smiles momentarily. ``She was magnificent. . . . She had the voice. We developed a whole portfolio of karaoke discs.''
''I'm the music teacher at the school, and she would come by my room and I'd play Broadway piano for her,'' says Dominic Church, a close friend. ``We'd get a crowd of teachers . . . listening to Kim sing.''
She produced a holiday-season musical that brought demands for an encore.
Their first Christmas together, Kim gave Teddy her ''101 Reasons Why I Love You,'' framed.
He reads: ``Number 1. You make me smile. 2: You know where I'm ticklish.''
No. 4 reads, ''You kiss away my tears,'' an irony not lost on the weeping man who has no one to return the favor.
``She was my soul mate. She was kind. Caring. She looked past all my flaws to bring out the best in me. . . She always looked me in the eyes, always with a smile, as if she won the lottery.''
He proposed at the Broward Mall, just after buying Kim a Tanzanite and diamond ring. It was Jan. 3, 2007.
Kim Sjostrom's wedding became a Davie Elementary School project. Teacher Cheryl Carter provided the venue -- her sister's large home. One teacher bought Kim's gown. Others did the flowers, the decorations, the tablecloths. The music teacher Church, also an ordained minister, presided over a ceremony melding Kim's Catholic faith and Teddy's Greek Orthodox. They said the Lord's Prayer and were crowned with Greek wedding wreaths.
Kim wore satiny beaded bedroom slippers and a crystal tiara. She carried white flowers and some dyed blue -- the colors of the Greek flag. ''In every picture from that day, she's glowing,'' says Naomi Church, Dominic's wife.
At 5 p.m., the ceremony began. Right about at ''I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health,'' tears of joy rolled down the face of Teddy Efkarpides, a Navy veteran.
Then the couple headed for the reception, on the patio. A friend announced: ``Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time ever, Mr. and Mrs. Teddy Efkarpides!''
''We walk out -- big smiles on our faces -- to where we're going to dance,'' Teddy remembers.
The song was the Greek Agapame, which means ''Love me.'' It was one of Kim's favorites.
''I used to sing it to her all the time,'' he says.
About a minute into the dance, Kim said she felt lightheaded. Teddy figured she needed sugar and suggested they head for a table.
Then, he says, ``she collapsed.''
Someone rushed in with sugar packets from the coffee service. Dominic tried CPR. Paramedics arrived in seven minutes, but it was too late.
''A lot of brides pass out on their wedding day, so maybe it was the emotion,'' thought Grettel Guerra de Jesus, who also teaches first grade and who coordinated the wedding. ``Then I noticed she was down for a little longer. . . . It was almost like watching Romeo and Juliet.''
Still, at Memorial West Hospital, Teddy saw '15 doctors trying to revive her. Then one doctor says the words I didn't want to hear: `We did everything we could.' ''
Later at the house, Teddy gathered up his wife's bouquet and placed it lightly on the pool deck, where she fell.
On Jan. 23, many of the wedding guests joined scores of others at Calvary Chapel South in Fort Lauderdale.
''The same people who took care of the decorations took care of the funeral,'' says Naomi Church.
''When it came time to make the financial arrangements, Cheryl threw me out of the room,'' Teddy says of the teacher whose sister provided the house for the wedding. Cheryl Carter says she arranged for payment because at Davie Elementary, ``We're there for each other for the happy times and the bad times.''
Kim's ashes were taken to Mississippi. She'll get her own page in the school's yearbook, says Carter, and a mural related to one of her favorite causes, Circle of Love, which delivers toys to kids with cancer.
Dominic and Naomi Church say that for such a young person, Kim Sjostrom talked a lot about her own eventual demise, and that in many ways, what happened would have pleased her.
''It was her happiest moment, with all the most important people, looking beautiful,'' Naomi says.
''It was perfect for her; for the rest of us, not so much,'' Dominic adds.
Teddy has lost 30 pounds. He tries going to work, until grief sends him home, to the company of Kim's ill-tempered cat.
Sometimes he looks at Kim's ''101 Reasons'' list -- ''97: You amaze me every day; 98: You're the one I want to grow old with'' -- and he cries.

Great Lakes Science Center brings exhibition about world's most popular sweet to town

Spend an hour or two ambling through the Great Lakes Science Center's "Chocolate: The Exhibition," now through May 4, and you'll never look at a candy bar the same way again.The museum's lower level space offers an artful exploration of more than a millennium of chocolate - from its origins in the rainforests of Central America to its $13 billion in annual sales as America's favorite snack. Along the way you'll meet the Mayans and the Aztecs, who drank their chocolate in its natural bitter state and so valued the seeds of the cacao (pronounced kah-kow) tree that they used them as money.It's appropriate, given its Central America origins, that the exhibit is completely bilingual, with Spanish as its second language.The Candy Bar - where science meets the sweet treat - will give a close-up look at what's involved in making chocolate. There you can even test your taste buds to see if you are a super taster - someone who experiences taste with above-average intensity. That interactive part of the touring exhibit was created just for Cleveland visitors.It's no coincidence that the exhibit will be in Cleveland for both Valentine's Day and Easter, the times when people are most interested in chocolate. And a dedicated gift shop, brimming with chocolate creations from near and far, will most certainly become a popular shopping stop.Linda Abraham Silver, executive director of the Great Lakes Science Center, has long wanted to bring "Chocolate: The Exhibition" to Cleveland. She first experienced it when she was vice president of education and guest relations at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.The show came most recently from Chicago, but those who saw it at the Field Museum might not recognize "Chocolate" in its Cleveland incarnation. It's been completely reconfigured and, of course, includes the addition of the Chocolate Bar. "Not only is it a lot of fun, the exhibit is thought-provoking and steeped in historical facts that will interest the entire family," Abraham Silver said. Shortly after entering, seeing becomes believing. A fake cacao tree has its pods directly on the tree trunk - just as they are in nature. They grow that way so the minuscule midges that live on the forest floor and pollinate the seeds can better reach them.Each pod contains hundreds of seeds that were fermented, dried, roasted and crushed by Mayans living 1,500 years ago. They added water and spices to the concoction, which they drank and used as a sacrifice to their gods.The botanical name for the cacao tree - Theobroma Cacao - even translates as "Food for the Gods."The exhibit's initial displays are framed in deep green foliage to represent the rain forest. Backdrops segue to replicate murals from the ancient Aztec and Mayan civilizations.Descendants of those early Mayans who live in Chiapas, Mexico, still use chocolate as a sacred offering to this day. And chocolate in Mexico - as well as in Spain - still remains more popular as a drink than as a candy.When the Spanish began to colonize Mexico, they were intrigued with the Aztecs' frothy chocolatl drink, to which the natives added corn to make a porridge. The conquistadors brought chocolate back to Spain, where it was embraced by the upper classes, who added sugar and vanilla to the beverage for the first time. The Aztecs considered chocolate sacred and believed drinking it bestowed wisdom. The Europeans considered it to be an aphrodisiac, so it became wildly popular. One exhibit shows that more than 12 million pounds of chocolate was consumed in Europe between 1759 and 1789 - an astonishing statistic with the realization that all of it had to come by ship from Central America.Like many objects of human desire, the love of chocolate had its despicable side. Indians were enslaved to harvest cacao by hand while African slave labor was used to fill the demand for sugar to mix with chocolate. Even today, when most of the world's chocolate is grown on Africa's Ivory Coast, child labor is used to harvest and prune the cacao trees.One entire wall of the exhibit tells the story of chocolate on TV monitors - made to look like square chocolates in a chocolate box filled with candies the same size. Visitors sit on cushions that look like chocolate pieces, each embraced by pleated bon-bon papers.The Science Center's Lou Palermo conducts a chocolate tasting in the Chocolate Bar, encouraging tasters to discern the fruitiness and intensity in the initial taste and the earthy, floral, woody, tobacco and other notes the emerge as the chocolate melts on the tongue. "Good chocolate has a clean, clear taste," she said. "Fats should clear the mouth quickly, leaving the strength of the flavor behind."Great chocolate should leave its taste in the mouth up to 30 seconds after it's been consumed."Pin holes indicate air bubbles," she said. "And a dark glossy shine indicates it's been properly tempered."The gift shop at the conclusion of "Chocolate: The Exhibition" may seem mind-boggling in its breadth and content. Despite being part of the exhibit itself, it can be visited separately. There you'll find chocolate from all over the world, including chocolates with chilies, wasabi, bacon and cherries. Chocolate-themed books, puzzles and games can be a sweet treat for young and old. There's even a slightly naughty chocolate body frosting, sold with a brush.


Stars arrive for 'music's biggest night'

-- The stars are filing in on the red carpet for Sunday's 50th annual Grammy Awards, and among the early arrivals have been Corinne Bailey Rae, Montgomery Gentry -- and Sergeant Pepper.

Kanye West is one of the leading Grammy nominees. His "Graduation" is up for album of the year.

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The latter, accompanied by other members of Cirque du Soleil's "The Beatles Love" show, Beatles producer George Martin and Martin's son Giles, was at the awards in conjunction with a Beatles tribute also scheduled to include Feist and Alicia Keys.
Keys is set to sing a "duet" with a virtual Frank Sinatra as well.
"I hope to one day be as classic as he [is]," she told CNN.
Keys had already won two Grammys going into Sunday night's broadcast to go along with eight wins in previous years. Most of the 100-plus honors are given out before the show, which will air on CBS at 8 p.m. ET.
"To win a Grammy is the highest honor for a musician," she said. "It's a big honor and an exciting night forever."
One person who won't be around in person to accept awards is singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse, but she may be taking home a number of trophies anyway.
Winehouse, the British singer and songwriter who has been in the news in recent months more for her public misbehavior than her music, is up for six awards Sunday night, including nominations in the big four general categories -- album of the year, song of the year, record of the year and best new artist.
With her album "Back to Black" hailed by critics and the public alike, she's considered a strong possibility to take home at least one of those awards.
Even Winehouse's Grammy nominations brought the awards some drama, as her scheduled performance at the show was canceled when the U.S. government denied her a work visa. Though the government changed its mind at the 11th hour, by that point arrangements had been made. Winehouse will perform via satellite from London on Sunday's show.
Her main competition for trophies is likely Kanye West, a performer who has never received the mass acclaim from the music business he so obviously desires.
West's "Graduation" has earned the artist his third straight album of the year nomination -- but he's never won the big prize, and he hasn't been shy about expressing his discontent about the situation. (West has won Grammys in the past, but almost all have been in rap categories.)
West is up for eight awards in total.
Other album of the year nominations went to Herbie Hancock for his "River: The Joni Letters," the Foo Fighters for "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace" and Vince Gill for his four-disc set "These Days."
The nominees for song of the year -- a songwriting honor -- are Winehouse's "Rehab," "Before He Cheats" (performed by Carrie Underwood), "Hey There Delilah" (Plain White T's), "Like a Star" (Corinne Bailey Rae) and "Umbrella" (Rihanna).
Record of the year nominations went to "Rehab," Beyonce's "Irreplaceable," the Foo Fighters' "The Pretender," Rihanna's "Umbrella" and Justin Timberlake's "What Goes Around ... Comes Around."
Among the early winners: Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who defeated two presidents -- Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter -- to take home the award for best spoken word album. Obama won for his book, "The Audacity Of Hope: Thoughts On Reclaiming The American Dream."
The Grammys, nicknamed "music's biggest night," are as much an all-star concert as an awards show. This year's performers include Aretha Franklin, named the 2008 MusiCares Person of the Year, singing with Mary J. Blige, the Clark Sisters, Israel And New Breed, and Trin-I-Tee 5:7 in a gospel segment; a reunion of the Time; Beyonce and Tina Turner; the Foo Fighters with Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones conducting; and the Fab Four tribute.


AFC attack will have a familiar look

Today's Pro Bowl in Hawaii will be a whole new experience for many players. Not so much for Peyton Manning.

WARMING UP: Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (18) prepares for his eighth Pro Bowl appearance during a practice session Saturday. - PAUL SAKUMA / Associated Press
4:30 p.m. today, WXIN-59
Not only will this be the eighth NFL all-star game for the Indianapolis Colts quarterback, but just like during the season, he will take snaps from center Jeff Saturday, hand the ball to running back Joseph Addai and throw to receiver Reggie Wayne.
Manning will make his fifth start for the AFC because New England's Tom Brady, the leading vote-getter, decided to skip the game. Saturday is starting for a third consecutive year, while Wayne, who led the NFL in receiving yards, is back for a second straight visit but first as a starter.
Addai, starting because of San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson's knee surgery, and Colts safety Antoine Bethea, a reserve, are two of 38 first-time players on the squads.
A sixth Colt, safety Bob Sanders, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, was voted to start the game but won't play due to shoulder surgery. Sixteen other selections also won't play.
While the Pro Bowl is merely for fun, Manning said excusing himself was not an option.
"I think you have an obligation to come," he told the Honolulu Advertiser on Friday. "If you get voted on by the coaches, opponents' coaches, opponents' players and the fans, I think you have an obligation to go. I know the guys over here really enjoy taking a lot of pride being here."
Bethea's first appearance is the result of a domino effect. Sanders' surgery freed up a roster spot for Denver's John Lynch. When Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu also couldn't play due to a knee injury, Bethea, who tied linebacker Gary Brackett with a team-best four interceptions, was the next alternate.
The AFC leads the series 19-18 and Manning has had a hand in his conference winning five of the past seven meetings. He holds Pro Bowl passing records for career attempts (146), completions (84), yards (1,198) and touchdowns (12), and in 2004 he was named MVP after setting single-game records with 22 completions and 342 yards.
Addai didn't have a 100-yard rushing game in the second half of the season but was presumably rewarded because of his all-around ability -- he gained 1,436 combined yards with 15 scores.
The Pro Bowl rushing record, incidentally, belongs to former Colt Marshall Faulk, who ran for 180 yards in 1995.

Clinton Campaign Manager Solis Doyle Gets Replaced

Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton replaced campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle with another longtime adviser a day after losing three contests for the Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama.
Solis Doyle, who has run Clinton's campaign since she entered the race in January 2007, will remain as a senior adviser. In a note to the staff today, Solis Doyle said she was stepping aside as Maggie Williams takes over and cited the strain of the extended fight for the nomination.
``This has already been the longest presidential campaign in the history of our nation, and one that has required enormous sacrifices from all of us and our families,'' Solis Doyle said.
The change doesn't represent any concern about the direction of the campaign, Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee said. ``We're doing great,'' he said. ``It's a competitive race.''
Long considered the Democratic front-runner, Clinton, 60, a New York senator, is in a close race with Obama, 46, an Illinois senator. The two have traded victories in states across the country for the last month.
Obama had the edge yesterday, winning Louisiana's Democratic primary with 57 percent of the vote. He also bested Clinton in the Washington and Nebraska caucuses by a 2-1 margin.
Raising Eyebrows?
``Though personnel shifts happen throughout campaigns, the timing of this one -- as Clinton fights for her presidential- campaign life, following a clean Obama sweep by big margins in the weekend contests -- will inevitably raise eyebrows,'' said Rogan Kersh, associate dean of New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.
Elleithee said campaign officials are confident about the hunt for delegates, especially in states such as Texas and Ohio that vote on March 4. ``We feel good about the states that are coming up,'' he said.
Williams had been working as a senior adviser to the campaign for several weeks. When Clinton was first lady during the 1990s, Williams served as her White House chief of staff.
``Patti and I have worked with Maggie Williams for more than a decade,'' Clinton said in an e-mailed statement. ``I am lucky to have Maggie on board and I know she will lead our campaign with great skill towards the nomination.''
Solis Doyle ``has done an extraordinary job in getting us to this point,'' Clinton said.
The next big set of primaries takes place on Feb. 12, when voters in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. go to the polls.
Clinton campaigned in Manassas, Virginia, today and is set to hold an event in Bowie, Maryland, this evening. She canceled an appearance in Roanoke, Virginia, when severe winds prevented her plane from taking off from the Washington area.


Friday, February 8, 2008

Wild West Comedy Show

Directed by Ari Sandel, this is a concert tour film with Vince Vaughn, and four up-and-coming comedians: Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst, and Sebastian Maniscalco.
Stand-up comedy is not the industry it was in the 1980s. These comedians have been around for 10-15 years each, and some of them may be headlining one week and working as a waiter next week. Vince Vaughn organized this tour to give these four guys a showcase.
In 2005 they went on a month-long 6000-mile bus tour, which happened to coincide with Hurricanes Rita and Katrina.
Also appearing are some friends of Vince Vaughn such as Jon Favreau, Justin Long, and Peter Billingsley (Ralph from A CHRISTMAS STORY, all grown up).
The four comedians: Ahmed Ahmed is of Egyptian descent, and much of his humor comes from the “Really, I’m not a terrorist” vein. Sebastian Maniscalco is from Chicago. John Caparulo is a Midwestern Everyman. Bret Ernest is a Jersey boy.
These are funny, talented, rude comedians. When it shows them on stage, the film is hilarious.
But it only shows us snippets of their stage show, quickly cutting away to other things.
Unfortunately, way too much of the film depicts backstage and what it’s like to be on a tour bus slumber party with Vince Vaughn and these guys. The film greatly overestimates how interesting it is to spend time with these guys offstage. These parts of the film come across as SPINAL TAP… only not funny.
That they managed to hit 30 cities in 30 nights is an amazing feat, and that must have been the impetus to document it. This must have been a grueling tour. But seeing behind the curtain of this tour isn’t that interesting.
I’m still recommending this mildly, because these guys are funny. I just wish the film had a greater ratio of on-stage comedy to off-stage time.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Owning awesome

Last weekend at the 2008 NSCAA Convention in Baltimore, TourneyCentral had a cake on display, made by the awesomely cool artists of Charm City Cakes (Ace of Cakes, The Food Network) It was big, it smelled delicious, it drew a crowd and it was awesome.
The cake artists at Charm City Cakes OWN their market. Duff decided at some point that being a good cake creator was just not going to be enough and that he was going to own awesome. As examples, the piping of the goalie gloves was intricate. The ball was perfectly round. The gloves were to scale with the ball. The cake was a product of years spent honing a craft and a unwavering dedication to awesome. Even a simple sheet cake from Charm City Cakes, I suspect, has elements of awesome baked and decorated in and on it. In spite of their fame, they were just regular people, taking calls, answering emails, fretting over whether I was happy with the cake or not.
Our advice: We’ve all been to “just another tournament” and it always has that certain “nothing special” feel. And then we’ve been to AWESOME tournaments when it almost doesn’t matter that our team didn’t place or even win any games. But everyone wants to go back.
Strive to be that tournament that everyone wants to come back to, win or lose. Look at your tournament from the point of view of the teams. What makes these events awesome? It may be the simple things that have nothing to do with the competition on the pitch, like a smile from the volunteers at every turn, a great hotel stay, upbeat energy from the HQ tent (yes, teams can feel tension!).. simple things — like awesomeness — that are hard to describe and harder yet to create as a formula. Yet, you know if when you “feel” it.
Behind the scenes as an attempt to get into the essence of awesome. When we booked into the NSCAA in Baltimore, I knew I just had to get an Ace of Cakes cake. This was back in September, 2007. I dropped them an email, asking if they would be interested in making a soccer cake for the exhibit booth, how much, etc. I really didn’t expect anything back because these guys are famous and I’m not, but Jessica sent me an email back within a day with a “yes, we can and want to” and a price (which I thought was way too low for an “Ace Cake”) We signed an agreement, did the money thing and we had our cake booked. On a phone call later that week, Mary Alice then asked what I wanted the cake to look like, what flavor, etc.
My response was “You guys are the artists, so whatever you want within a soccer theme. And pick your favorite flavor for the cake.” The phone call immediately turned from an order-taking into a creative session, where the tone of her voice got that bit of excitement edge. We hashed through several design ideas and came up with a soccer ball being caught by a pair of goalie gloves. And, the entire bakery would sign the “game ball” (which I thought they would charge extra for, but didn’t.) I suspect the creative process kept going all the way through until delivery.
From the emails through the phone calls, through the on time delivery during a Baltimore snow storm, to the excitement Mark (he delivered to the show) felt about the huge soccer show (while we were “ooing” and “ahhhing” over the cake; he was “ooing” and “ahhhing” over the huge soccer show, which made US feel like WE were the ones who were doing something special!), these guys were about the most awesome folks I have ever bought anything from. Ever.
The real product they are selling is not really just cake, but awesomeness that focused everything on the customer experience. Never for a moment, did they forget that the real product was an intimate, authentic customer experience. And they were responsible for managing and steering that. And they did it with ease, grace, professionalism, genuine excitement, pleasure and a sense of humor. Simply awesome

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