Thursday, July 23, 2009

Taco Bell Dog Dead

Gidget, the lovable mascot for many years of Taco Bell has died of a stroke at the age of 15 in Los Angeles. According to her trainer, Sue Chipperton, what made Gidget such an exceptional dog was that she "always knew where the camera was" and seemed to really her work. She was an exceptional professional animal.

Gidget had starred in numerous TV commercials and other advertising. Taco Bell decided to retire her campaign about five years ago, in favor of different spots as the dog aged. At one point some false rumors emerged that Gidget had died, however she enjoyed a good five year retirement. It was also possible that Taco Bell might have decided to end the ad campaign using Gidget because while the ads were very popular and cute, they might have accidentally have been interpreted as involved in some stereotypes about those in the Latin culture, and Taco Bell might have been very concerned about that aspect. Taco Bell didn't want any fun ads to cross the line of good taste, and might have decided the age of the dog was good enough reason to move on with different ads.

Gidget was used in one Northeastern ad by Taco Bell in September 1997. Soon, because the response was so strong, she began to appear in ads all across the nation run by Taco Bell. However, the concept of using a Chihuahua in Taco Bell ads was first pitched to the company six years earlier according to a lawsuit filed against the company by a plaintiff, who eventually won a total judgment of around $42 million in damages. So while the use of the small Mexican dog did bring Taco Bell a great deal of good publicity, it also attracted a huge lawsuit, so the use of Gidget turned out to be a mixed blessing in many ways.

Regardless, Gidget was very popular and well loved. And many toys of her image remain as collectables today. She will be missed.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Advertising Media: Google And Fashion Magazines Both Indicate Big Advertising Drops

More bad economic news from Google and fashion magazines has been reported, as both indicate fresh new advertising drops in orders and sales. Google claims that advertising revenues have now hit their lowest point since the dot com bust a few years ago. And now industry sources for advertising in major fashion magazines claim a staggering 50% drop in September issue ad orders.

For Google, the fresh cutbacks indicate further belt-tightening of businesses. And for fashion magazines, the fresh round of advertising cutbacks mean less marketing for back to school clothes for high school and college aged females. Neither trend means that the economy is pulling out of this global recession soon. In fact, both figures could indicate that this recession is continuing to deepen and worsen in the short run.

On the other hand, if advertising revenues had improved, it would have been a very good indicator that this recession is slowing and turning around.

A further problem for the fresh advertising shortfalls it that it could result in further job layoffs, or even force some fashion magazines to close up shop as advertising is critical for print publications to stay afloat. Retailers are apparently expecting a slow Fall season as the fresh advertising cutbacks seem to indicate.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Paula Abdul's Threat To Leave AMERICAN IDOL Might Be Ploy To Seek $20 Million a Season Salary

Paul Abdul, the controversial, but popular, judge on AMERICAN IDOL has been sounding some threats recently to leave the show. And a blog she writes has some seemingly "good bye" type message sentiments as well brewing. However, it might all be a ploy for Abdul to seek a salary raise to $20 million a year according to some rumors.

Funny thing, but when the entire cast of FRIENDS once demanded a salary increase to $5 million per year each, there were a lot of kicks and screams going around at NBC. Now Paula Abdul has decided that her sometimes erratic behavior is worth 4 times that figure. Who knew such unpredictable behavior was worthy of such a reward?

Monday, July 20, 2009

MONK Prepares For It's Final Season

The wildly popular USA Network comic-detective drama, MONK, is preparing for it's final 16 episode run starting Friday August 7. Last February, during the normal rating sweeps period by major networks, MONK drew a series high figure of 7.55 million viewers to NBC's sister basic cable channel, the USA Network. The first of eight Summer episodes will be "Mr. Monk's Favorite Show", in which he is excited to become a bodyguard for a former child star(played by guest star Elizabeth Perkins). Reportedly, Bitty Schram who left the series over a reported contract dispute will make a guest appearance in one of the final episodes.

The eight Summer episodes should run into nearly mid-September until the major Networks like NBC kick off their big fall seasons. USA's run of MONK has provided high quality new episodes of a program for the cable channel during the less than peak seasons or programming breaks by NBC. NBC did attempt to air repeat episodes of MONK and PSYCH during primetime once before, but with a disappointing ratings. Now NBC allows local channels to air old episodes late Saturday or Sunday night as syndicated shows. But as first run episodes for the USA Network, MONK has proven to be their first and largest hit original program so far.

So the big questions here are why is a very popular program with a growing audience of viewers being cancelled. It appears to be largely another cost cutting problem for NBC, USA and all other channels part of the NBC company . Although the program started off at a modest budget 7 seasons ago, the costs have continued to soar as the program became more popular and the audience expected more. It appeared that the smaller USA Network has been hard pressed to trim costs by ending their best program and developing a cheaper replacement for the future. USA might have convinced the producers of MONK that going out at the peak of popularity much like SEINFELD or MASH once did is the right way to end a great series. Yet it is a heartbreaker for fans of one of the greatest and most unique detective characters ever.

The strange and quirky detective character, Adrian Monk, had a strange enough history as well. Originally, as SEINFELD was ending, and Michael Richards starred in own quickly failed comedy detective prorgam, producers for the new MONK project looked to actor Michael Richards to play the lead in the series. They viewed him as the perfect actor to play the brilliant but troubled, Adrian Monk, traumatized by the explosion death of his wife as well as own mental health problems and subsequent firing from the San Francisco police force as a detective. Yet, Richards saw little value in the script and turned it down, which proved to be a terrible career move. Richards return to stand-up comdey turned into disaster after an incident of comedy turned into something viewed as racist by many in 2006, virytaully forcing Richards to retire from comedy and acting. After a search for a replacement actor for the MONK project, Tony Shalhoub, who sometimes played largely ethnic roles because of his own Lebanese-American ancestry was chosen. Shalhoub was largely a supporting actor in the comedy WINGS on NBC, playing an ethnic cab driver. But MONK was an opportunity for Shalhoub to do something new outside of this typecasting, although he has a far longer stage and film career than many of his fans really realize. For Michael Richards, missing the MONK role might have become a near career ender, while for Tony Shaloub, the role won him three Emmy awards.

Fans can probably expect some of the best episodes ever during the final season16 episode run, with eight Summer and eight Winter episodes. One surprising report is that a series finale where Mr. Monk finally brings down his wife's killer may even emerge. Mr. Monk will really go out on top it seems. Expect big things from this great series in the coming weeks.

BURN NOTICE Star Burned With DUI Charge In Miami

Jeffrey Donovan, 41, the star of the acclaimed spy thriller on the USA Network was arrested and then released in Miami recently on suspicion of DUI charges. News of July 12, Sunday arrest has just become public and wasn't known until now.

In the popular series, which combines action with some comic moments, Donovan plays a spy whose identity has been "burned" or wiped clean by the government, pretending that he never existed. The show has been picking up a steady and loyal audience as well as critical acclaim.

Filming of the series might be on a break right now between seasons, so likely any legal problems for the actor won't have any effect on filming.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Stop The Presses:The Death Of Satire And Parody Magazines

With MAD magazine recently announcing a cutback to just a quarterly publication and laying off several staffers in an ordered company-wide cost-cutting campaign by the ownership at Time Warner, it is only the latest blow to hit humor, satire and parody magazines where MAD is the sole survivor out of group of many great magazines to fold over the years. The recession certainly has not helped the efforts of MAD magazine either. In general, most print publications of all types including both magazines and newspapers are suffering in a real sales slump right now, where many big name publications could cease publication soon.

MAD is not only cutting back to just a quarterly publication, but the TV show by the same name is ending over at FOX. And the MAD specials which were large compilations of older features and MAD KIDS are also ending their publication runs as well. For MAD going from a eight times a year publication under the direction of the legendary William Gaines to a monthly publication under the ownership of TIME WARNER, to now just a quarterly publication is not a good trend. Not good at all. This magazine is just barely hanging on for dear life. Some distributors may be less apt to want to carry MAD with the sporadic quarterly distribution schedule compared to more regular monthly schedule of the recent past. This might well be the beginning of the end for MAD.

MAD also had many good competitors at one time. CRACKED magazine was once perhaps the best competitor that MAD magazine ever had. It featured great 1950's style cartooning that seemed to resist the trend of MAD to update their magazine over the years. But CRACKED seem doomed after a 2001 anthrax scare incident to their main office now located in Florida caused the magazine to miss a critical publishing deadline, and some major distributors lost interest in carrying the magazine, and sales tumbled. A short-lived attempt to revive the magazine in a whole new format unlike the old magazine quickly failed after just three issues in February of 2007. Even THE WASHINGTON POST ran a scathing review of the new revamped magazine as unfunny compared to old publication.

But there were other humor magazines styled after MAD including CRAZY and SICK, although EC Publications that was the founder of MAD once provided their own competition with another humor comic called PANIC. But both CRAZY and SICK had some good moments in their history. CRAZY was a really great attempt to imitate the formula of MAD, but it ultimately failed. SICK sometimes had problems with too much bad taste, especially for younger buyers. MAD by comparison seemed to get things just about right between challenging the status quo and authority, without appearing too trashy or radical. MAD had a decidedly liberal political bent, highly critical of corporate greed as well as government hypocrisy. It was for a generation that questioned authority long before the religious right in America taught followers not to question anything, only to follow orders, and not to think for themselves. With his long hair and beard long before many others looked the same, former MAD publisher William Gaines was a publishing industry rebel with a cause.

ARCHIE'S MAD HOUSE and PLOP managed to revive the early 1950's comic book beginnings of the EC magazines for a time, and both were very good but short-lived efforts aimed a grade school aged audience. PLOP even featured those unique Basil Wolverton illustrations on the front cover, where the cover art alone was worth the cost of the magazine. PLOP also managed to carry humor in a weird direction with bizarre tales, besides some great artistic contributions from MAD's Sergio Aragones. It was a real gem for a time.

NATIONAL LAMPOON and HARPOON(later renamed and revamped into APPLE PIE, a parody of PEOPLE magazine) carried humor mags in a whole different and ground breaking direction as did THE ONION and HARVARD LAMPOON. During the 1970's NATIONAL LAMPOON was a great magazine catering to a young and hip college age market of buyers. NATIONAL LAMPOON was also more adult in content as well, often finding itself sold behind store counters next to PLAYBOY or PLAYGIRL magazines. But it had some awesome features including an incredible "Miracle Monopoly" cheating kit with fake cards and special features to win a monopoly game including a "Shoot The Moon" card allowing one winner to essentially take all. In 1976, a special election issue with Carter and Ford lookalikes was a real gem.

But the sad fact of the matter is that humor, satire and parody magazines are on a real downward spiral right now. MAD magazine may not survive. And television's SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE as well as clever bloggers might just end up doing all the heavy lifting for satire and parody in the near future. This is one recession that MAD magazine might not be able to laugh it's way out of.

Rush Limbaugh Probably Tickled Pink To Be Included In Tabloid Story About Gay Celebrities

Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is probably really pleased pink to find himself included in a current tabloid story in the NATIONAL EXAMINER on gay celebrities. According the story running in the July 13, 2009 issue, Rush Limbaugh learned how to "dress for success from a homosexual man who also helped get him a big break in radio". And even though Limbaugh has been known for heavy gay bashing content on his radio programs, he himself has been dogged by many rumors of a secret gay lifestyle for years. There is even one man who claims to have been sexually involved in a three month affair with Limbaugh during college, although Limbaugh actually spent little time in college before dropping out to pursue a career in radio.

While Limbaugh's sex life remains something of a matter of tabloid debate, still the latest tabloid story running in the NATIONAL EXAMINER raises new questions whether Limbaugh is a hypocrite or not, and raises some new doubts about his credibility, honesty and integrity.

A New Prototype Wienermobile Built On The Mini Cooper S Frame

In 2008, Prototype Source built a new prototype Wienermobile based on the Mini Cooper S frame, which should far more easy to handle than the current large GMC truck based model which is 27 feet long. The new smaller Mini based prototype comes in at just 15 feet, considerably smaller and lighter than the well known larger bodies associated with Wienermobiles of the past. Since 1936, there have been several Wienermobile models.
The new Wienermobile features a GPS navigation system, and hot dog and mustard color coordinated seats among other cool features. It also probably gets far better gas mileage than 6 liter 5700 V8 engine in the current large model, built in 2004 on the truck frame.
The new smaller prototype Wienermobile actually becomes the ninth Wienermobile since the original model was introduced in 1936. The 1936 original cost $5000 to construct, and was all metal compared to most of the other models that were largely fiberglass in construction. The original was also the smallest at only 13 feet long, two feet shorter than the current Mini Cooper S prototype. But perhaps a 1958 model of the Wienermobile built by design legend, Brooks Stevens was perhaps the greatest bold leap in design ever for the famous Wienermobile ever.

The Troubled History Of Wienermobile Traffic Incidents Since Just 2007

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile has unfortunately been the subject of several traffic incidents taking place in just the last two years. The latest incident involved a young 22 year old female driver who mistook the gas for the brake and crashed the large 27 foot long fibreglass vehicle built on a truck chasis into a home in Wisconsin. But this unfortunately was only the latest traffic incident involving the Wienermobile.

In June 2007, a Wienermobile was stopped in Arizona by a police office after it was slowing traffic and appeared to have a stolen license plate. Further, there was a question whether the vehicle was even street legal according to strict Arizona motor vehicle laws. Arizona has laws where vehicles have to certified as being safe for use. At first a clerical error determined the "YUMMY" license plate to be stolen from Wisconsin, and the Wienermobile was towed and impounded by the police. Later it was released after it was determined that a clerical error indicated the plate was stolen only if it was not on a Wienermobile vehicle.

In August 2007, the Wienermobile again made news when one was illegally parked in a no parking zone and was ticketed in Chicago.

On February 11, 2008, there was the poor decision to operate the Wienermobile near Mansfield, Pennsylvania, despite icy road conditions after a Winter storm. Predictably an accident did happen when the Wienermobile slid off the road and suffered some minor damage. However, the two drivers were not injured in the traffic incident.

But perhaps the July 17, 2009 crash into a Wisconsin home was the most serious traffic incident involving a Wienermobile to date. And likely caused the highest dollar value damage yet for any incident involving the Wienermobile.

The intent of the Wienermobile is supposed to be a fun vehicle meant to promote Oscar Mayer products. However, the troubling pattern of traffic incidents since just 2007 should be a reason for concern to Oscar Mayer who might have to look for more safety rules.

Breaking News: How Youth And Inexperience Contributed To The Wienermobile Crash!

Unfortunately, it appears that the selection process used by Oscar Mayer to select drivers for the fleet of seven promotional Wienermobiles may have only helped to contribute to the Wisconsin crash into a home which damaged the foundation of the property. Rather than hire drivers with a great deal of experience driving larger vehicles such as commercial trucks, Oscar Mayer uses a selection process choosing drivers from a pool of young applicants who are college seniors about to graduate. The driver of the Wienermobile involved in this accident was just 22 years old. And so far there isn't any information to confirm whether she had any experience driving a large commercial rig such as the 27 foot long and 11 foot high Wienermobile.

The young driver pulled on to a dead end street, and mistakingly put her foot on the gas when she was attempting to brake, crashing the Wienermobile into a Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin home, causing structural damage such as destroying and deck and causing foundation damage to the property.

With such a large commercial vehicle that is built on a GMC W-series chasis, it is highly questionable why Oscar Mayer allows drivers without a commercial trucking background to become drivers for such a large rig as the Wienermobile. Allowing young and inexperienced drivers to drive such a large vehicle was like an accident waiting to happen. And one did.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite Elevated TV News To Honor And Trust

The sad passing of television news icon Walter Cronkite is only the latest passing of yet another legend within the last few weeks. Cronkite was a real giant in the field of television journalism, and brought CBS news a great sense of dignity and trust for as many years as he covered important news events such as the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy or the 1969 landing on the moon. Cronkite seemed to have near universal trust among both liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, because he was a political moderate and a political independent who never tried to use his news position to make a case for one side or the other, even though some Democrats once made a really good effort to urge him to run for office.

For someone who dropped out of college in 1935 to pursue a life as a journalist, Cronkite went through a series of jobs at newspapers covering both news and sports. However, during WWII he was able to land an important role as a war reporter, joining the ranks of some like the legendary Ernie Pyle. Cronkite joined the Army Air Force in bombing missions over Germany in B-17 "Flying Fortress" bombers. It was a dangerous job for sure, with many lost during the war. But CBS legend, Edward R. Murrow, was so impressed with Cronkite that he helped to recruit him to the station in 1950. Cronkite began duties covering political conventions, as well as the TWENTIETH CENTURY and the CBS Sunday weekend news. By 1962, Cronkite was elevated to host the CBS EVENING NEWS, and continued in that role until 1981. Even after giving up that important post, Cronkite seemed to cast a big shadow over that news that no anchor reporter seemed to ever really fill. Cronkite was probably far and away the best news anchor of his time and generation.

CBS News seemed to really struggle after Walter Cronkite gave up the anchor role. Dan Rather looked to be a promising choice for many years, with folksy sayings spicing up his election coverage. However, during the 1984 election, a controversy swirled around some documents related President Bush's national guard service, where some supporters of Bush believed the documents to be fakes. Dan Rather and some other staffers were forced to resign by CBS, although Rather and fired story producer Mary Mapes have continued to present evidence that the documents were authentic over the years to defend their reputations. Some Bush supporters claimed the sort of type machine was not yet invented that produced the documents confirming that they were fakes, while Mapes has published a book attempting to prove otherwise. However, rather than stand by their reporters ability to cover news, CBS was quick to cave-in for political reasons and lost a lot of credibility over journalistic integrity as well with the whole controversy. And a high priced move to lure NBC's Katie Couric to CBS to anchor the news quickly failed as ratings quickly tumbled and viewers fled. CBS News has been absolutely unable to capture the magic it once had with Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.

Make no mistake about it. Walter Cronkite was a one of a kind journalism icon such as will never be witnessed ever again.

Friday, July 17, 2009

PASSION Actor Jim "Jesus Christ" Caviezel Has Minor Injuries From Harley Davidson Crash

Actor Jim Caviezel, 40, who played Jesus in the Mel Gibson film, PASSION OF THE CHRIST, faced some minor injuries after a bicyclist deliberately threw their bicycle in front Caviezel's Harley Davidson motorcycle up in Washington state. The bicyclist faces potential criminal charges for reckless endangerment(if not a real good spiritual awakening ass-kicking from any of the religious brotherhood of angel motorcycle riders in the world who look out for Harley riding Jesus actors).

Why some idiot would deliberately throw a bicycle into traffic to create a motorcycle crash will likely require a pretty good explanation to some judge, if this joker wants to avoid some nice jail time, which he richly deserves for this thoughtless act. If the bicycle thrower is charged with assault as well, then the case could become a felony, and this bike thrower could become someone's prison bitch, and thereby lose the Kingdom of God according to Scripture. But there's probably a pretty good place run by a guy in a red suit with a pointy stick for those who assault Jesus actors regardless.

After a brief visit to the hospital emergency ward, to mend a few cuts and bruises, Caviezel was released. His Harley will likely require a little miracle healing as well, as skidding a beautiful bike on pavement never does wonders for the beauty of any bike.

At any rate, that's no way to treat the son of God, or at least the actor that played him. Jesus actors deserve far better than this.

Michael Jackson Autopsy Update

It now appears that the Los Angeles County Coroner's office plans to delay the release of the Michael Jackson autopsy report to the public by at least two more weeks, while police continue to collect evidence from several doctors who attended to and prescribed drugs to the late pop legend. It appears highly likely that the cause of death might be listed as the drug Propofol, which was to normally only be used in a hospital setting to create a medically induced coma for severe trauma or burn victims while they heal from their injuries. Why such a potentially dangerous drug was even used outside of a hospital setting, or as a sleep inducing agent for Jackson are serious questions for any doctors who prescribed or administered this drug to Jackson?

If abusive prescription or administration of this dangerous hospital-grade drug is determined by the autopsy report, then it might fuel possible sanctions against any doctors involved, including possible loss of medical license all the way to criminal charges. Doctors who treated Jackson have prepared by hiring lawyers to offer public statements pledging cooperation with the authorities as they collect evidence and decide what course of action to undertake.

Part of what makes Propofol such a dangerous drug is the rare, but potentially very dangerous abuse potential of the drug. Some abusers of the drug like the sense of euphoria and sexual hallucinations that the drug most often spurs. And with a steep dose response curb, abuse can quickly become life- threatening. This drug is often used by veterinarians for surgery, as many medical doctors or dentists often use other drugs with more pain fighting qualities, as Propofol has little analgesic qualities.

It is highly possible that the release of the autopsy report could come on a day that either state medical authorities or some prosecutors could also decide to announce some action if the prescription and administration of the drug was considered to be an unethical medical use. If the autopsy report cites an overdose of the drug Propofol as the primary cause of death, as is likely expected, then some significant legal fireworks might soon follow any doctors involved with the administration of this drug to Jackson.

Foreigner Back With TRIPLE VISION 3 Disc Set Soon

The pop rock group Foreigner, who were one of the better top forty groups of the 70's and 80's will be back with a great new 3 disc set in mid-September that will include 13 new songs, a Dolby 5.1 stereo live performance DVD, and some cool remixes of their old classics such as "Cold As Ice", "Hot Blooded" and "Urgent". Rhino Entertainment will release the set, so you know that the sound and mastering quality will be top flight. And the price will only be a very reasonable $12. The only hitch is that only WalMart of all places will sell this pretty decent product.

TRIPLE VISION might become the working title for this upcoming package, although the title could change by the actual release date. But the two Cd and one DVD package concept seems firm for this great idea to repackage an old 70's and 80's band to this new generation as well as give old fans a great package to enjoy and give a spin or two on their Cd player or DVD unit.

Unfortunately, it looks like former front man and lead singer Lou Gramm is not playing with the current band called Foreigner. So his fans will have to enjoy the older songs on the album, and try to live with the new songs lead by replacement Kelly Hansen. Lou Gramm was a great vocalist, with a great style, and will be missed. Yet there should still be plenty of good stuff here to enjoy, especially fresh remixes of the old hits sung by Gramm. This group did seem to comprise a great union of British and American top forty rock.

While Foreigner hasn't had much of anything new in years playing on the radio, still the band comprised one of the better top forty rock acts at one time. A two disc greatest hits albums by them is surprisingly enjoyable, and one of my better loved Cds in my collection for some odd reason. Maybe, the fact that the band could write reasonably good material and was tight musically with great vocals made them seem reasonable enough for me. Foreigner was always a pretty fair band in my estimation for what they were. They weren't the Stones, Dylan, Doors or Hendrix. But they were a darn good act. And they did survive a few other nearly forgotten 1980's rock acts such as April Wine or others at one time.

Heck, for a mere $12, I'm going to have to buy this Cd set once it comes out. I'd strongly recommend that you do the same. It looks to be a great package, well worth the small price for so much great music and memories.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Albums of Unreleased Songs By Michael Jackson Might Appear Soon

It is highly likely that with a substantial number of unreleased songs and possible remixes of old songs, that some new albums by Michael Jackson could appear soon. One unreleased song, "A Place With No Name", seems to be essentially the old 1971 song done by the trio, America, "A Horse With No Name". The group reportedly gave Jackson permission some years back to do a rework of their classic. However, some material that breaks new ground could also be released as well. And since Jackson's material never really delved into the rap or hip hop sound, some reworks of his material could even include these stylings as well, much like some popular groups like the Black Eyed Peas or their lead singer Fergie have done.

However, the song, "A Place With No Name", seems to have some eerie and nearly prophetic lyrics of a Michael Jackson in some state of suffering or emotional pain. As his legal and financial problems built over the last few years, his unreleased recordings such as this song might have reflected more suffering in his music. Audiences might well be surprised at how much his unreleased music reflects his moods, compared to the far happier music he is associated with. Most of his music was strictly pop oriented, where he set his own trends at the time.

Just like the unreleased recordings that follow many artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Marc Bolan or many others, there is likely a market ready to hear more recordings by Michael Jackson or for a nice box set to include a few rarities that his double Cd greatest hits compilation just doesn't include.

NBC's Primary Owner, GE, To Quit Motorcycle Financing Business

GE, which owns an 80% share in NBC, has made a business decision to leave the motorcycle, motor scooter and other power-sports financing business at the end of July. A credit division of GE has operated a speciality power-sports financing business for several years, acting as a major boom to many motorcycle and power-sports dealers offering a special "FUNancing Card". Many dealers incomes have heavily depended on this card to finance their products, although the interest rates that GE Money Bank charges customers can be very high, often around 21% interest.

Although GE hasn't really elaborated on all the reasons they intend to leave this important financing sector, but production and sales on all two wheeler vehicles tend to trending downward just like the automobile market. In Japan, the production by engine class of many motorcycles is down as much as 54% compared to a year ago. However, domestic sales of motorbikes in the United States are only down by 12-35.3% based on engine size and class, so some segments still have some healthy signs. But likely, GE is being hit with record loan defaults, as younger buyers who are attracted to motorbikes lose their jobs and ability to afford to pay for their purchases.

GE might be looking to cut losses in a declining market and with record purchase defaults. Whatever GE's reasons, it now might be just a little bit harder to be that Peter Fonda, "Born To Be Wild", EASY RIDER-type guy you imagine yourself to be in your fantasies.

Jay Leno's 200+mph 60,000rpm Jet Turbine Motorcycle

Comic Jay Leno is a proud owner of one of these great Allison aircraft/marine style jet turbine motorcycles produced by Marine Turbine Technologies. These bikes cost a cool $150,000. The Allison R-R 250 C18 engines weigh just 136 pounds, yet produce an awesome 317 horsepower and 425 foot pounds of torque. Part of the advantage of turbine engines is that they continually produce power, unlike the sequential power process of comparable four stroke engines or even of two stroke engines, which have superior power characteristics compared to the four stroke engines of the same size.
Part of the disadvantages of both turbine engines and of two stroke engines, is that in producing so much power compared to four stroke engines, they are more wasteful of fuel and tend to produce higher pollution levels and often are far more noisy in operation. Four stroke engines can be civilized down to a level where emissions can be greatly reduced and pollution control devices used. However, that becomes more difficult in either two stroke or turbine engines because of their power producing characteristics.
Turbine engines also tend to spin at outrageous numbers of rpms compared to comparable two and four stroke engines as well. In the early 60's, Chrysler Corporation built a small fleet of experimental gas turbine powered automobiles which strangely sounded like giant vacuum cleaners when running, but were very powerful, but produced a great deal of heat and also burnt a lot of fuel compared to comparable conventional automobiles. And the engines tended to spin around at up to 50,000 rpm, forcing Chrysler to greatly gear down these engines for safe street use and manageability.
For racing applications, turbines always have great potential. However, with the wild power they produce, greater pollution levels, and sometimes very noise levels, gas turbines are not very practical it seems. But they sure are cool!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Comic Dave Chappelle Performs Huge Free "Guerrilla" Comedy Show In Downtown Portland, Oregon

Controversial and reclusive comic, Dave Chappelle, surprised downtown Portland, Oregon by performing a giant free one hour stand-up comedy event at about midnight last night at Pioneer Square. The event was only rumored on Facebook and Twitter, but drew a huge crowd despite the late hour it was held. The only real hitch was major microphone problems, forcing Chappelle hold up a small guitar amp to make his comedy address. Chappelle held some similar guerrilla comedy events in California recently as well.

While widely praised as a true comic genius, Chappelle strangely negotiated a business contract deal worth $50 million dollars a few years ago with Comedy Central to do a program, which was twice what Jay Leno was earning at the time, but then mysteriously walked away from the deal after agreeing to sign the deal, and became something of a recluse, with only a few appearances since. These new free guerrilla comedy events by Chappelle may signal that he is getting ready for a return to comedy.

Despite the heavy overtones of some comedy based on race relations issues, Chappelle continues to draw huge audiences of White fans. In fact, in Portland, the audience was overwhelmingly White. And Chappelle was once also controversial for much drug humor. Despite very controversial content such as his racial humor or his drug humor, Chappelle is highly praised and has legions of loyal fans. Chappelle seems unable to scare away fans no matter what type of jokes he tells, compared to some comics such as former Seinfeld star Michael Richards which told some racial jokes that weren't very funny singling out a fan in the audience who paid to hear him, only hurting his career. Chappelle manages to be funny and offensive both at some time, whereas Richards came across as merely offensive and not very funny. This is part of the Chappelle genius. He is able to say things other less skillful comics cannot quite pull off.

Chappelle also hosted a half hour comedy show that once aired over at Comedy Central that now is in syndication to other networks, undoubtedly a little more censored. Chappelle was also very funny and made great fun of race relations, drugs, culture and politics. The short-lived program was sheer genius at times and great TV.

Hopefully, Dave Chappelle may be back in a big way soon. His guerrilla comedy events seem to indicate something brewing for this comic genius.

CNBC Offers Major Special On Adult Entertainment Industry Tonight

Tonight at 6:00 pm, and with at least two repeat airings later in the evening, CNBC, NBC's financial news cable channel is offering a major one hour special on the adult entertainment industry business in the United States. While this industry remains controversial for many Americans, it is a mostly legal industry, that operates lawfully, and has far less legal problems than other comparable industries such as recording industry.

The recording industry for example has had ongoing problems with payoff scandals to radio stations to play certain songs, drugs, and even murder in the case of recording producer Phil Spector. Many artists do not even receive royalties for their recording from companies due the industry charging artists for production work time for their recordings. Many artists are forced to tour and do concerts if they expect to be paid. Yet the recording industry is quick to sue individuals for illegal downloading of songs claiming that artists don't get paid royalties as a justification.

By contrast, adult entertainment businesses of all types generally are law abiding companies. In California, adult film production companies have to take out all the same insurance payments, bonds or permits from state and local government agencies as any other legal film company does. Even a local tavern that features adult entertainment such as strippers must comply with every liquor licensing law at their local or state level to operate. Yet, some pro-censorship organizations such as Morality In Media, and their leader, Robert Peters, routinely lie about this industry falsely claiming connections to organized crime. In 1972, the humorous erotic movie DEEP THROAT, might have been financed by a figure associated with the Columbo crime family. And during the early 70's a few adult film or magazine producers were forced to use independent trucking companies that might have had connections to some organized crime figure. But since those early days no real connection to organized crime exists among the adult entertainment industry, which largely as professional as the mainstream film industry.

However, former Senator Jesse Helms was able to pass federal legislation while in office that considers "obscenity" as a predicate racketeering offense, where the conviction of a film production company for producing and distributing as few as two films might allow for the government branding the company as RICO enterprise, even though no connection to a traditional organized crime organization exists. In fact, RICO laws have now become so broadly over-applied to persons or businesses not associated with traditional organized crime that even denturists who might have overcharged for making false teeth have been convicted under RICO statues rather than some more normal civil remedy or fine.

But generally most mainstream adult entertainment does not fall under some legal definition of illegal obscenity. Generally courts have established that most nudity or even sexual penetration in film is considered to constitutionally protected but sexually explicit in nature, but not legally "obscene". Some arthouse films for example feature acts of sexual penetration such as the controversial film by Robert Gallo, THE BROWN BUNNY, which was originally considered to be appalling by film critics attending the Cannes Film Festival, by then praised by many critics when a newly edited version was released on DVD to video stores.

Another problem with any legal definition of "obscenity" is that it is a moving and subjective legal standard compared to other crimes such as murder which is always going to be murder. While established crimes such as theft, arson, murder, etc. are always going to be based on the same legal premise from century to century, what meets the legal definition of "obscenity" is a constantly shifting standard. During the 1970's, scenes of simple nudity or sexual penetration were routinely prosecuted as "obscenity", such as several legal cases against HUSTLER magazine for simple displays of explicit nudity. However, today many popular men's magazines such as CLUB, CHERI, HUSTLER and many others outside of PLAYBOY or PENTHOUSE have moved beyond just centerfold girls as the J.Geils Band once sang about, to full-on penetration scene photography. And this is generally considered to be legal. Only a few more outrageous or kinky sexual acts might cross the line into illegal obscenity these days. However, the CNBC special tonight features an interview with erotic filmmaker Paul Little(aka Max Hardcore) who was convicted in Tampa, Florida of crossing that legal line of "obscenity" because of some incidental kinky acts in some films he produced. Strangely, Little did not distribute the films to the local community in Florida. A separate film distribution company did. However, this distributor was given immunity to testify against Little. And instead of Little's films being judged as a whole, which is the standard that the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision established, the judge only allowed excerpts of Little's films, generally hand-picked by the prosecutor to be played in court for the jury. This was clearly an illegal trial in which legal standards for evidence used in court were ignored or the fact that Little never distributed the films in question were also ignored by the court. The federal government wanted to put Little away and did. However, thousands more adult entertainment companies operate legally with little or no problems from local, state or federal authorities.

But beyond the legal challenges to the adult entertainment industry, the CNBC special also looks at how the economy and the Internet are both challenging the profits of the adult entertainment industry with DVD sales down more than 50%, and cheap to free porn available on the Internet, driving down the sales of many traditional men's magazines. This is part of the reason that many traditional old time men's magazines have moved to adding in harder content, They were losing a war for their survival to competition from the Internet as the market becomes over-saturated for this type of material that only appeals to a limited audience of buyers. The slice of pie for each seller in this multi-billion dollar market is not only shrinking, but the entire pie is shrinking as well, thanks to the bad state of the economy.

However, strangely the adult entertainment industry has driven the technology for mainstream America as well. During the early 80's, when the adult film industry moved to VHS as a dominant format for home video releases of their films, it only helped to put the Sony Beta format on the skids, even though Beta had a superior picture quality. And the CNBC special will feature segments dealing with new technology advances largely attributed to this industry which is far more important to entertainment technology than most people will ever realize. This CNBC will both entertain and inform.

Tonight's CNBC original business special should prove pretty fascinating considering the clips now available on the CNBC website about the program. And some companies such as PLAYBOY offer public stock in their corporations. Anyone interested in how this multi-billion dollar industry actually operates might want to tune in to this important business special. CNBC is more than just stock market reports it seems.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

DVDs You Should Own: Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood: LIVE FROM MADISON SQUARE GARDEN DVD & Bluray

As if the new Cd release of the great reunion concert by former Blind Faith members, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood wasn't a fantastic enough release, and the best album by either music legend in a few years, the new DVD and Bluray release of the same concert events is really awesome. Essentially both the Cd and DVD include the same songs, however the razor sharp DVD and especially Bluray disc picture and sound quality make the video release one of the best music video DVD experiences in recent memory. The DVD or Bluray is a must have item.

But the DVD does include a second disc of cool extras not included in the Cd audio only release, including two great documentaries, including one with interviews with Clapton and Winwood. A second documentary includes sound-checks and other preparations for the three nights of shows. And some bonus performances of "lowdown", "Kind Hearted Woman" and "Crossroads" are added in as well. The last two songs are not included at all on the audio Cd version of the album.

If either the DVD or Cd have any slightly disappointing moments, it is Clapton attempting his own version of the the two Jimi Hendrix classics "Little Wing" and "Voodoo Chile". As great as Clapton may be, he just cannot quite the match the same stylings of Hendrix doing his own material. "Voodoo Chile" is very difficult to pull off when it will always be compared to the Hendrix classic. Likewise, the Hendrix version of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", seems strange compared to the Beatles version. However, Clapton has always been very good at doing a few of his favorites from fellow guitarist, J.J. Cale.

If you'd like to enjoy one of the best music DVDs ever made, then you'll love this great reunion concert with former Blind Faith members Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood back together after nearly 40 years since the one and only 1969 album BLIND FAITH. Many of the classic songs from this album are performed live here on both the Cd and DVD versions, as well as some Clapton solo classics like J.J. Cale's "Cocaine" and "After Midnight". Darn good stuff here. Git It!

TV Media & Politics: Televised Hearings Encouraged Senators To Dominate All But 8 Minutes Of Confirmation Hearing With Speeches Promoting Themselves

If yesterday's confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was intended to be an educational experience for the nation, then you'd never have known it from the way that senators of both parties managed to dominate all but 8 minutes of the hearings with speeches or statements about themselves or their own views. Anyone watching coverage by CSPAN or other cable news networks had to be simply appalled that the nominee was given so little time to represent herself or her own views. Yet this is exactly the type of spectacle that confirmation hearings have become since CSpan or other news agencies began to move cameras into Congress for important hearings. Politicians of both parties play to the audience of viewers when such events are televised.

Television media had hoped to make important events more accessible for the public and better educate the public by moving cameras into government hearings some years ago. Instead, politicians now find that media gives them a free soapbox platform to run for re-election, or to some higher office. Part of the mission of CSpan has failed to educate the public because politicians have altered their behavior to use the media for their own benefit.

Some years ago, CSpan was hailed as a great educational breakthrough for the public appetite for information and as a means to make government's affairs more open. Instead, politicians have now found that this medium gives them new opportunities at self-promotion.

Back in 1967 , the great media author Marshall McLuhan's book THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE seemed to view that the media surrounding us would act to shape our understanding and perception of the world around us as well as to affect our behavior. Whenever hearings are held in Congress, those who are given a platform to speak seem to be playing to the camera or to core groups of voters. It alters their behavior, and possiby their votes as well. The impact of moving cameras into government cannot be understated. Behavior of all types were altered forever when cameras moved into Congress.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Latoya and Joe Jackson Both Suggest Foul Play In Michael Jackson Death

In a British tabloid, Michael Jackson's sister, Latoya Jackson, who has something of strained relations with some of the other Jackson family members went as far as to suggest that Michael Jackson was a victim of "murder" by those around him who only wanted his money, although Michael Jackson was actually heavily in debt to the tune of around $400 million. And in a separate interview, Michael Jackson's father, Joe Jackson simply suggested "foul play" in the death.

However, it is two important statements by family members that seem to implicate that some doctor prescribing drugs to Jackson was possiby criminally negligent. Both statements represent something of bombshells, and could only help to widen any criminal investigation into the over-prescribing of drugs to Jackson by one of many doctors who attended to him. These twin damning interviews have to only be but bad news for any of the doctors involved in prescribing drugs to Jackson, putting any who might have over-prescribed drugs in a possible legal issue or medical license jeopardy if any could be found to have abused their duties as professionals.

The fact of the matter is that this Michael Jackson story will continue to have legs for many days. And when new interviews emerge from Jackson family members such as these two bombshell claims, it could potentially lead to some legal problems for some who attended to Michael Jackson if any wrong is discovered through a legal investigation.

Lifestyles Of The Rich & Infamous: Kim Jong-il Reportedly Has Fatal Cancer

North Korea's infamous dictator Kim Jong-il is reportedly suffering from pancreatic cancer, which is usually aggressive and fatal, and has only about a 5% survival rate. This weekend he made a public appearance at a government event, looking noticeably frail and having lost considerable weight. It is possible that a son as young as 26 years old could lead the reclusive, hostile and secretive nation in the event of the death of the 68 year old Communist dictator.

And while famine, poverty and starvation pervade life in North Korea, Kim Jong-il lives a life that many movie stars or celebrities would only dream of. At one point, Kim was thought to have at least three mistresses besides a wife, although other reports link him as many as five women. There are also reported "happiness teams" assigned to "Dear Leader" to give him massages, erotic and otherwise.

Further, while he imposes a huge political censorship on his own people, he is a huge lover of film and owns a huge American and international film collection. Kim reportedly owns more than 20,000 videotapes or DVDS of movies. And while most in North Korea have very meager diets, Kim is something of an obsessive food gourmet and keeps cellars of fine imported French wines on hand. Some reports claim that he is a heavy drinker.

It turns out that Kim is a huge fan of Elizabeth Taylor. But films such as the JAMES BOND series, GODZILLA, RAMBO and FRIDAY THE 13th rate as his favorite films. And Kim is a huge basketball fan as well, and with the CIA well aware of this, former Secretary Of State Madeline Albright once gave the Kim an autographed Michael Jordan basketball as a gift to help to thaw out chilly relations between between the U.S. and North Korea.

While many Hollywood celebrities have to content themselves with owning just a single home or mansion, Kim reportedly owns at least 17 palaces. However, he has an irrational fear of flying in any aircraft, so he travels by train to any mansion or to any foreign visit outside the nation. Kim is not without more than a few unusual quirks.

If Kim Jong-il was not terrified of flying, and not a dictator of a strict Stalinist state, then you'd almost confuse his opulent lifestyle to any "jet-setter". Instead, he's just an unusual man who fell into more power than what he knows to do with it. In a great many ways, his unusual quirks make him something of the "Michael Jackson" of dictators. The unwholesome image of him lounging around nearly naked with a few beers is unfortunately all too much like some awful image of the bizarre recluse Howard Hughes.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Health Evaluation For Actress Maura Tierney Delays Launch of NBC's PARENTHOOD

NBC had high hopes of the new Ron Howard drama, PARENTHOOD, to become an anchor series for the struggling network. But now some sort of medical or health evaluation for the popular actress Maura Tierney, who plays a key role in the series, has put the entire production schedule on hold for as much as eight weeks, likely moving the series to a 2010 release in January.

Tierney has become an important actress in NBC programming with major roles on the moderately popular comedy series, NEWSRADIO and on the long running medical drama, ER. NEWSRADIO fell into a ratings slump after the murder of cast member Phil Hartman. And ER continued to lose cast members after a long run, including Tierney, and concluded it's run a few months ago.

NBC's regular season programming has suffered a ratings beating for the last few seasons, with CBS, ABC and FOX often besting the network. NBC was hoping a revamp of their dramas, including high hopes for PARENTHOOD would improve their regular season ratings. During the Summer season, NBC has been traditionally pretty strong though, with hit series such as AMERICA'S GOT TALENT giving it some strength from the other networks, mostly running rerun programs with fewer Summer season entries.

If health or medical problems for Tierney appear as serious, then that could lead to a serious problem for NBC, as it might be difficult to replace her in the series. For now, the series will only pause and take a break and wait for news on her health situation.

TV Media & Politics: Robert McNamara Discovered That Managing The TV Media Image Of Ford Was Far Different Than Managing The Media Image Of War

Robert McNamara's success as the top CEO over at Ford during the 1960's seemed to establish him as a credible and effective manager. In those days, American auto producers had a commanding 90% market share with only Volkswagen presenting the biggest foreign challenge at the time. A few brands like the BWM Isetta or Renault may have attempted to penetrate the U.S. market, but with only limited success among a few buyers. And Ford's skillful use of advertising helped to cement a pretty decent market share in those days.

McNamara brought his keen scientific mind to the Kennedy Administration in 1961 acting as the new Secretary Of Defense, and bringing the sciences of "systems analysis" which evolved into a sort of "policy analysis" scientific view of issues and problems. At Ford, such scientific thinking proved to keep Ford as a top brand while some other automakers during the 1950's such as Kaiser, Packard, Willys, Studebaker began to slip into some serious financial problems. McNamara seemed able to effectively manage nearly any challenge. But then the war and the media reaction to it threw McNamara his biggest management challenge of his entire career.

One thing that McNamara never anticipated was that his successes or failures would be magnified by the television news media, as the American television news media created Vietnam into the first living room war for American TV viewing. All of this would mean that Americans would begin to establish opinions about that war based on the amount of coverage they watched. During previous wars such as WWII, the American government largely controlled the war news through newsreel footage that could prove propaganda purposes or spur Americans to buy war bonds. The public felt involved as well when kids to sacrifice as they found it nearly impossible to purchase chocolate candy bars or women had to paint their legs to look like they were wearing nylons because nylon was needed for manufacturing parachutes.

Countless massive bombing missions, and then bombing halts in Vietnam failed to deter the North Vietnamese or the Viet Cong. To McNamara's scientific thinking, such massive military acts would influence the behavior of the Vietnamese rivals to respond with a call for peace and bring about some sort of a quick settlement of the war. However, the Vietnamese discovered that they could create events that would be covered by the American news media that would break the American resolve to continue to fight the war. The well planned Tet Offensive of 1968 in which Viet Cong waged attacks in around 800 cities and villages in Vietnam seemed to badly shake American resolve that America could win that war. And as public opinion soured on the war, Lyndon Johnson chose not to run for president. For a time Richard Nixon seemed like a peace candidate, offering a just peace where American foreign policy would remain intact, a "peace with honor" he called it.

In the end, McNamara discovered that the rules of "systems analysis" and "policy analysis" are sometimes prone to failure. And his command to use the news media to cover his battlefield "successes" could quickly be turned back by the Vietnamese to also use that media to send back an image of failure for American forces, who might have been actually "winning" on the battlefield in as much as they could bring far superior power to each battle front.

Iraq became another living room war for Americans, where the early successes over Saddam Hussein became a huge celebration for Americans as they watched his statue fall in Baghdad on their televisions. But then the insurgency, taking a cue from the Vietnam experience, found out that a continued low tech war would only sap American will to support that war with every car bomb featured on their TV news coverage.

The fact of the matter is that every future war, including Afghanistan, will now become a living room war, where the American opinion will now judge those wars according to the TV news media coverage of those events. Television news media coverage of war has dramatically changed the canned newsreel footage of WWII forever. The instant gratification standards of the public seem unsatisfied when wars cannot be concluded very quickly, and the TV news media reminds the public that a military situation is only dragging along with no quick conclusion in sight.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Classic Motorcycle Cinema: THE MINI-SKIRT MOB

1968's awful, but fun American International Pictures release, THE MINI-SKIRT MOB, is a classic bad 1960's motorcycle film. Rather than a real motorcycle gang, it turns out that the MINI-SKIRT MOB are in fact some girls who ride bikes with some guys who are actually rodeo types with cowboy hats. However, a jealous and sadistic blonde helps to encourage plenty of violence in this grade Z exploitation film that combines plenty of bad psychedelic music with hoodlum violence. In short, THE MINI-SKIRT MOB is hardly a great film, but a pretty good example of typical grindhouse or drive-in movie fare.

This movie will probably make you chuckle more than once at the dated music and dance scene, or at other dated absurdities. And the "gang" of cowboy types riding around on what look like about 250cc Triumphs and other bikes just don't look as fear inciting as a real group of outlaw biker types on big loud Harleys. But still as a classic motorcycle film, this 41 year old film is a pretty entertaining example of the type of trash cinema that American International would churn out. MGM now owns the right to the American International film catalogue and has done a wonderful remastering job with these films to DVD, with a very crisp and fresh picture and sound quality.

While the plot and story are indeed poor here, the movie is still a big kick to watch. And the posters and title of the movie look very cool as well, where perhaps such a great exploitation title as THE MINI-SKIRT MOB might have deserved a better film. But it makes a great popcorn film for any fan of bad cinema or motorcycle films.

Cds You Should Own: Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band: GROW FINS Boxset

The adventurous five disc GROW FINS boxset by the legendary bizarre avant garde psychedelic-era artist Captain Beefheart is indeed a very impressive package. Besides tons of rarities including rare unheard demos and alternate versions of songs and live recordings, there is an awesome 112 page booklet included in this package, all of which will only set you back the better portion of $100.

Each disc has a strange vacuum cleaner graphic on it, for no particular good reason other than to be bizarre. But every little detail of this package, especially including the songs, all set an overall impression of weirdness for this outrageous one of a kind act.

Discs three and four of this set includes the TROUT MASK REPLICA house sessions. This album has a strange story behind it. As much as the Captain Beefheart songs might sound like musical anarchy, the members of the band were virtual hostages living and practicing all in one house for a good month to make every song as tight as possible. Frank Zappa who produced this macabre masterpiece of an album was even forced to bail out a couple members of the Captain Beefheart group out of jail after they were arrested for stealing food from a store because they had no money and were very hungry. In the case of this band, they were literally starving artists.

However, as much as this boxset highlights the TROUTMASK REPLICA era recordings, it still manages to act as a great anthology of the development of this odd musical act. Disc one for example displays a pretty good understanding of R&B, while later recordings on the other discs display a steady move into more avant garde musical stylings. It is little wonder that Frank Zappa was so impressed with this band. Even Matt Groening, the founder of THE SIMPSONS has become a fan over the years. He once considered TROUT MASK REPLICA to be one of the "worst things" that he ever heard. Now the album is one of his favorites.

It is difficult to believe, but Captain Beefheart did manage to have several singles out during their career. I know that this is very hard to believe for such a noncommercial band. The band even recorded their own peculiar version of a Bo Didley standard, "Diddy, Wah Diddy" as their very first single ever. However, Captain Beefheart was all about albums, and not singles, and not much real radio airplay either. Reputation mostly carried this band along.

I can't honestly say that GROW FINS will grow on you as much if you aren't a fan. But it's a pretty great package of rare Captain Beefheart material. And I'm certain fans of this group will love this great Cd package.

Alec Baldwin Eyes A Run For Congress

Actor Alec Baldwin, a staunch Democrat, is eyeing a possible run for Congress. Baldwin could announce that he's leaving 30 ROCK sometime this year if he intends to get an early start on a run for a Congresional seat during the 2010 midterm elections. However, it is not entirely clear from which district Baldwin might decide to run from.

But the perhaps the biggest elephant in the room is the volatile temperament of Baldwin, who had an infamous breakup with actress Kim Basinger that made steady tabloid news a few years ago. And when CNN's Jack Cafferty suggested that Baldwin may not be as qualified as Al Franken to serve in Congress, Baldwin had a few choice words in response to Cafferty.

The fact of the matter is that Baldwin has the intelligence to become an excellent member of Congress. And he has the passion to make a hard run as well. But that sometimes volatile temperament is a huge liability to Baldwin who needs to keep it in check if he really intends to be successful. Some actors who have been successful have easy going types such as singer Sonny Bono or "B" grade actor Ronald Reagan. Baldwin is a straight type A personality by comparison with too much passion for what he believes in. And that might present his biggest political liability by far.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Death Cars Of The Stars: The Austin Mini 1275 GT & UK Pop Superstar Marc Bolan

Marc Bolan, the British superstar founder of the great UK pop and rock act, T.Rex, was killed on the early morning of September 16, 1977 when his girlfriend, backup singer Gloria Jones lost control of the purple Austin Mini 1275 GT at about 4am in the morning and hit a tree. Jones was unconscious but survived the accident, but Bolan suffered multiple serious injuries and was killed instantly in the crash.

Interestingly, the little Austin Mini 1275 GT cars were not equipped with seatbelts in most cases, and the front seats often had no locks on them, only allowing a passenger to go head first into the windshield during a crash in these little cars. Coupled with the small size, the little Austin Mini 1275 Gt cars were a perfect deathtrap in the event of a serious accident, probably only exceeded by motorcycles for risk potential.

Reportedly, Bolan likely slammed head first into the windshield and then was knocked clear into the back of the car by the crash, suffering substantial crash injuries to the front and back of the head both, neck and body.

If anything, the serious safety issues with the 1960's vintage Austin Mini cars prove the real value of basic modern safety devices such as seatbelts, locking seats, airbags and protective bumpers and crash zones. The accident might well have survivable if these basic safety devices had been installed in British cars of that era.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Progressive Insurance's Wacky "Flo"

The actress that plays the wacky "Flo" in those popular Progressive Insurance ads is actually 39 year old stand-up comic and lead Groundlings comedy troupe actress Stephanie Courtney. Courtney might just be the best comic actress that is not part of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE at this time. Amazingly, her "Flo" character is so popular that all of her ads are posted over at YouTube and so many comments prove her strong cult following among a sizable number of fans.

Part of the "Flo" persona is the cartoonish, larger than life, overly enthusiastic personality and the wildly overdone rockabilly makeup and unique hairstyle that Courtney claims takes up to two hours of makeup work to do. Courtney's skills as an actress really carry the role as a unique personality that some even liken to a post-modern version of "Josephine The Plumber".

Strangely, while a half-cracked personality like a real "Flo" might not be good for business at a real insurance agency where buyers want complete seriousness, the wacky "Flo" advertising character has struck real gold for Progressive and meant strong sales and new buyers. "Flo" has proven to be one of the greatest game changers ever for Progressive really setting itself aside from other insurance companies, and spurring real interest in the brand.

However, with all the popularity, some goofy rumors will flourish including some claims by some that "Flo" is pregnant, or of all crazy things, a sex tape even exists. With the huge popularity of "Flo", some fans of the actress sometimes invent some silly rumors.

Courtney has also had quite a number of TV show and movie appearances as well. She might just be one of the most talented performers ever is not a household name. But a great stand-up comedy routine of Courtney can be found circulating on YouTube and elsewhere called the "99 Cent Store".
Many years ago, MAD magazine had a parody of TV GUIDE where commercials became more popular than TV shows, with the Dash detergent man on the front cover. Well, "Flo" is nearly that popular, and perhaps better loved than a few TV shows right now.

Sorry fellows. While more than a few of you might just think that "Flo" is a real babe. But Courtney is happily married to a fellow worker at the Groundlings theatre so you're plum out of luck.

Cars Of The Stars: The Great Studebaker Avanti

Even though only 4,643 Studebaker Avanti sports cars were ever produced by the financially struggling Studebaker Corporation back between June 1962 and December 1963, the cars have continued to be a popular car of the stars. Originally designed by industrial designer Raymond Loewy, who was also responsible for a Coke bottle design as well as some of the dresses for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Lowey had a real following among many trendsetters in Hollywood. To own a car designed by someone who designed dresses for the popular first lady was considered real prestige among Hollywood's powerful.

While the original Studebaker produced cars had only a very short model run before Studebaker could not afford to continue to build them, they were still considered to be one of the most perfect automobile designs ever produced. The nearly timeless styling loaned itself to the cult following of the car where several attempts to revive the car by small independent car makers have been undertaken.

Some of the many Hollywood greats and other celebrities attracted to the Avanti were:

Popular UK singer, Shirley Bassey, who performed the GOLDFINGER theme song among other UK chart hits, owned a 1963 Avanti.

Late night TV legend, Johnny Carson, owned a 1964 Avanti.

Richard Carpenter, of the pop singing duo, The Carpenters, was the proud owner of 1963 Avanti.

Alice Cooper, the popular 1970's era shock rocker who something like the White man's Screaming Jay Hawkins, owned a 1963 Avanti.

Jimmy Dean, the popular folksy country styled performer who later became known for breakfast sausage, was proud to own a 1963 Avanti.

Dick Van Dyke, another great talented performer on TV and screen, owned a 1963 model Avanti. Today, you can find it on display at the Peterson Automobile Museum.

Although Fremont F. Ellis, isn't a household name to all persons, this impressionist painter owned both a 1963 model Avanti and even reportedly traded someone one of his paintings in exchange for one of the 1967 Avanti II models produced by another company who revived the cars.

NBA basketball legend, Dr. J., Julius Irving, the Philadelphia 76ers great, reported owned a Studebaker Avanti, however the exact year is not known.

Al Jardine, a member of the legendary 1960's pop surf music group, The Beach Boys, owned a 1989 model Avanti, which was a reproduction produced by a modern company of the original designs.

Deforest Kelly, "Dr. Bones" to all you STAR TREK fans out there was so proud of his 1973 Avanti II, that he managed to slip in into the STAR TREK film, THE VOYAGE HOME.

Ian Fleming, the author of the JAMES BOND series of books as well as the children's classic CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, was a huge car lover, and was proud to add a black 1963 Avanti to his collection of fine British automobiles.
Andy Granatelli was not only a racing legend, but he also was main pitchman for STP which was another Studebaker product for many years. When Studebaker ceased building cars in the mid60's, STP became all that was left of the company. Granatelli was proud to own a 1963 Avanti as his own car.
Sandy Koufax, who was the L.A. Dodgers great pitcher, and also one of the greatest Jewish American professional athletes of all time, owned an unspecified year 1960's vintage Avanti.
Michael Landon, who was one of the most popular TV actors of all time, despite starting his early career with real 50's shlock like I'm A TEENAGE WEREWOLF, owned a 1988 Avanti.
Barry Morrow, best known for his Oscar winning RAINMAN screenplay was proud to own a 1986 vintage Avanti.
Ricky Nelson, the teen idol offspring of OZZY AND HARRIET fame, who once had many hit singles by recording restrained energy rock and roll singles, owned a 1963 model Avanti that is now on permanent display at Colorado's Classical Gas auto museum.
Rod Sterling, was far more than just the creator of the legendary TWILIGHT ZONE TV series. Sterling was also a huge automobile fan, and just loved his 1964 model Avanti which was proudly passed on to two other owners since.
Herb Shriner, was a popular 1950's television performer. However, Shriner suffered the terrible fate of being killed in a serious accident involving his 1963 Avanti.
Frank Sinatra, the great music and film legend, owned a 1963 Avanti. Perhaps Sinatra was the biggest stars of all time to own of these great legendary automobiles.
Gene Siskell, the late great film critic not only knew great films, but he knew great cars. Siskell owned a 1963 Avanti.
Barabra Walters, the interview legend over at ABC, and on the cast of THE VIEW, owned an Avanti of an unknown year.
Roger Ward, not only won the Indy 500 race one year, but he managed to win the race to become the first ever Avanti owner of a brand new 1963 model.
Dwight Yokam, who self-describes his own music as "White trash music" rather than country music, and repulsed audiences as the very mean and nasty brother in SLINGBLADE, owns an unspecfied vintage Avanti.
Even though less than 5,000 original Avanti cars ever rolled off the Studebaker production line, it is simply amazing that so many of the cars were sold to celebrities. French born design genius Raymond Lowey had many design milestones in his career including the design for Lucky Strike red and white package, 1940's Harley Davidson parts, Greyhound double deck buses as well as the Zippo lighter. The Studebaker Avanti probably stands as one of his greatest achievements, with so much star power acclaim for the design. For someone who started his career as a fashion designer, neatly everone in the Western world has either owned or used a product designed by Lowey, including drinking a cold Coke from one of those classic glass bottles.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Jackson Family Sought To Hide Needle Marks In Michael Jackson's Arms From The Public

Some news agencies such as CNN have now confirmed that the Jackson family might have taken efforts to conceal an extensive network of needle marks in Michael Jackson's arms. His veins were collapsed from extensive intravenous drug use according to one source who viewed the body. Jackson's body was buried in long sleeves and there was no public viewing of the body, unlike many other celebrities, to help to conceal the evidence of this extensive use of intravenous drugs normally used only in hospital setting. One drug, Diproven, for example is normally only used in hospital setting to induce medical coma for serious burn or accident victims. Yet, is was highly unlikely that Michael Jackson suffered from any sort of chronic pain condition comparable to such serious victims of accidents.

As earlier reported, Michael Jackson might have used up to $48,000 a month in prescription drugs. One pharmacy had problems for a time collecting a $102,000 prescription bill from Jackson due to his serious financial problems. Jackson really need to go back on tour and earn some money just to support his extensive use of prescription drugs if anything.

Further, the details of the actual burial of the body still remain elusive according the UK's GUARDIAN newspaper. Reportedly assistant chief coroner Ed Winter in Los Angeles confirmed that the coroner still holds Michael Jackson's brain for further tests. Likely, the Jackson family may stall the actual burial of Jackson's body until the brain is returned.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Official Chinese News Media Covers Muslim Riots

Unlike Iran, which sought to largely ignore much of the coverage of the unrest over the disputed election, Chinese media is giving coverage to the riots and unrest by Muslim protesters in Western China. However, like Iran, China is limiting Facebook and Twitter activity. claiming that such media is being used by the rioters to orchestrate their violence. And although the Muslim protesters claim that the Chinese police are responsible for the violence and bloodshed, it is clearly the Muslim protesters seen in new footage shown throughout the world setting fires and overturning cars.

All of this proves that the Chinese media and government are at least far more open than the Iranian government and media. Maybe that's not saying a great deal for a country with serious human rights issues. But it does prove some slow progress towards openness for this society.

Breaking News: Michael Jackson's Body Will Be Protected By SWAT Team

Surprisingly, the body of Michael Jackson will be protected by the LAPD SWAT team on it's journey from Forest Lawn to the Staples Center. And a police helicopter will fly overhead as well for added security. The protection the body will probably be as great or greater than that of a presidential appearance. A planned private memorial for around 100 persons, mostly relatives of Michael Jackson will be held before the body is transported to Staples Center for the huge public memorial event. Many television networks will present coverage of this memorial which will likely rival the memorial for Princess Diana.

You have to admit that's it's one heck of a country where some poor African American boy can be born and can make lots of money doing a Zombie dance video, and buy enough plastic surgery to die looking like a rich White woman, and get a funeral suitable for a head of state.

Wrestling Promoters Sentenced To Prison On Obscenity Charge

Former XPW( Xtreme Pro Wrestling) promoters Rob Zicari and his wife Janet Romano have been sentenced to one year and one day in prison by Federal Judge Gary Lancaster for an obscenity charge that the judge had earlier ruled was unconstitutional. It was a bittersweet decision for the judge, which believed that the couple acted within their constitutional rights to produce their own line of kooky adult entertainment films. By sentencing the couple to one year and one day, they can qualify for good time. Further, the judge refused to levy any fines against the couple which faced up to $5 million in fines and potentially 50 years in prison.

Wrestling promoter Rob Zicari had at one point decided to combine the outrageous theatrics of his professional wrestling business with adult filmmaking, creating a goofy gonzo adult film company called Extreme Associates. Zicari and his wife decided to push the limits of good taste, and the careful legal and artistic customs of most other commercial California adult films, and offered a clear challenge to Christian right oriented Attorney General John Ashcroft back in 2002 on an episode of PBS FRONTLINE to bring obscenity charges against them as a test case to affirm free speech rights in the United States. But like any braggart prowrestler who issues silly threats, Zicari only bought himself far more problems than he ever expected where another Christian right federal official, Federal Prosecutor Mary Beth Buchanan in Western Pennsylvania helped to orchestrate a federal postal sting operation and case against the couple to bring serious federal obscenity charges against Extreme Associates for three films and some film clips posted on their California company website. It became the first federal obscenity case in 10 years, and drained huge amounts of tax money on one hand, and also drove both Zicari and his wife into financial ruin as well, losing both their wrestling and film businesses with endless legal bills for a silly case tied up in the courts for years.

After spending years in court battles, and broke, the couple finally agreed to guilty plea to a single federal charge of conspiracy to distribute obscene material to stop their endless legal bills. It was highly debatable whether the films produced by Zicari were much worse than any other California adult film producer. If anything, from the very beginning the case seemed like it was entirely a political payoff by the Bush Administration to the religious right to find someone to prosecute for obscenity charges simply to prove something to supporters like James Dobson or others.

The case against Zacari and his wife was probably one of the biggest wastes of money as a political boondoggle to satisfy a few political supporters. And Buchanan's case against the couple seemed to be far more about her promoting religious views through law than anything else. Buchanan even used morality terms such as "filthy" to refer their films, which really begs the question whether religion has any legitimate role in policing culture such as film in American society. In most parts of the Western world, government has long ago gotten out of the censorship business and acting as some film policing arm for the churches.
At one point during the trial of the couple, Federal Judge Gary Lancaster had ruled that federal obscenity laws are unconstitutional and struck them down citing the right of privacy allows adults to distribute films to other adults as they see fit. But the Bush Administration appealed that ruling to a friendly appeals court loaded with friendly judges that reinstated the obscenity charges. When the couple ran out of money to continue to defend themselves, then they eventually were forced to plead guilty to the single obscenity charge deal offered by the government who wouldn't drop the case, but appeared unable to win the case as long as the couple continued legal efforts.

The three films probably had a retail value around just $60 total. Yet the federal government and Zicari probably both wasted several million dollars to take a grand total of three absurd and trashy DVDs off the market because they offended the religious tastes of a few federal officials. If anything, the case is significant in that it proves the huge ongoing problem of religious control over the American media in the United States. Few adult films could be found legally obscene in most parts of the country, so elaborate legal schemes to put a film on trial in some conservative community to bring down some filmmaker must be put together by prosecutors, and even that's no guarantee of success at trial. Prosecutor's need to find a few strange quirks in an adult film in most cases to bring such material to trial. Other court cases have pretty well established that sexual penetration in films, adult or arthouse, are not obscene, but constitutionally protected materials.

The case against the prowrestler didn't do anything positive for American society other than burning up millions of dollars to remove just three low budget films that few would ever care to see. These three films weren't very popular. Few retailers cared to stock them in video rental stores of any type. They never set any sales records by any means. They were strictly oddball goofy stuff. If anything, it proves the fanaticism of some in the religious community who are willing to spend millions of American tax dollars to remove just three films from distribution that offend their religious or moral tastes.

Strangely, even though Los Angeles has as many as 100,000 active gang members and huge problems with drug distribution and violent crime, the Los Angeles Police Department maintain a pornography squad. That's a real handy thing to have around when you have only one obscenity case once every ten years to pursue, but drive-by shootings and robberies related to drugs or gangs every single day.

It seems like prowrestling promoter Rob Zicari wanted a real fight. He got it from some in the federal government, hell bent on using law to promote their religious views. This was one wrestling match he clearly lost.