Friday, November 30, 2012

Ice on mercury

NASA: There’s enough ice on Mercury to encase Washington, D.C.

By | The Sideshow – 14 hrs ago
New evidence suggests Mercury's north polar region contains large deposits of ice. (NASA/Johns Hopkins Univers …NASA's Messenger spacecraft has discovered evidence that the planet Mercury has enough ice on its surface to encase Washington, D.C., in a block two and a half miles deep.
"For more than 20 years the jury has been deliberating on whether the planet closest to the Sun hosts abundant water ice in its permanently shadowed polar regions," writes Sean Solomon of the Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the principal investigator of the Messenger mission. The spacecraft "has now supplied a unanimous affirmative verdict."
"These reflectance anomalies are concentrated on poleward-facing slopes and are spatially collocated with areas of high radar backscatter postulated to be the result of near-surface water ice," Gregory Neumann of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center writes in the paper. "Correlation of observed reflectance with modeled temperatures indicates that the optically bright regions are consistent with surface water ice."
The study results were published on Wednesday in Science magazine, which explains in its summary, "The buried layer must be nearly pure water ice. The upper layer contains less than 25 wt.% water-equivalent hydrogen. The total mass of water at Mercury's poles is inferred to be 2 × 1016 to 1018 g and is consistent with delivery by comets or volatile-rich asteroids."
Radar imaging of Mercury has long suggested that there could be large deposits on the planet's surface, with reports dating to 1991. But today's report presents harder evidence supporting that theory.
Messenger has fired more than 10 million laser imaging pulses at Mercury's surface since arriving in its orbit in 2011. Feedback from those pulses have helped NASA in its quest to verify whether ice is present in Mercury's poles, which are largely shielded from exposure to the sun's rays.


From Hooters To High Places: How Kat Cole Turned Cinnabon Into A $1 Billion Brand

Kat Cole, 34, got an unlikely start in the food industry. While in high school in Jacksonville, Fla., she worked part-time as a Hooters girl, serving beer and chicken wings in those tiny orange shorts. At age 19, she got a once-in-lifetime opportunity to help the restaurant chain expand internationally. She hung up her plans to become an engineer and lawyer, opting instead to take the executive path in food retail. In the decade she spent at Hooters, Cole says it went from approximately 100 locations and $300 million in revenue to 500 locations in 33 countries and $1 billion in revenue.

Now Cole hopes to work her magic again. This time as president of shopping-mall cinnamon roll brand Cinnabon, an Atlanta, Ga.-based unit of the FOCUS Brands portfolio, which also includes Carvel, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and Moe’s Southwestern Grill. Beyond its 1000 franchise locations in 50 countries, Cinnabon has expanded into grocery-store products by partnering with packaged-food kings Pillsbury and Kellogg. It’s also ramping up its presence in other restaurant chains by teaming up with fast-food leaders Burger King and Taco Bell. Cole says it’s about to hit $1 billion in retail sales and will soon be considered one of the “world’s greatest food brands.”

She sat down with me to reveal what’s in store for the company, how she ended up here and why those little shorts were the best thing that happened to her.

Jenna Goudreau: Bring me up to speed on the Cinnabon business.

Kate Cole: It’s becoming one of the world’s greatest food brands. Eventually it will end up in the bucket with brands like Oreo and Hershey.

That’s a bold statement for a shopping-mall pastry.
It’s no longer just a bakery in malls. That’s still the heart, but it’s only the nucleus of a much bigger thing. Several years ago Cinnabon started getting into consumer packaged goods. We own a proprietary ingredient, Cinnabon cinnamon, which is chemically different at the cellular level, making it gooey and aromatic. Because we’ve built credibility in the cinnamon roll space and Pillsbury is the largest seller of refrigerated dough, we joined forces and put our cinnamon in their rolls and our name on the package.

We continued to expand into waffles and pancakes, which led to a partnership with Kellogg’s cereal and other smaller branded partnerships. We now have 60 products—including syrups, sprinkles and Cinnabon International Delight creamer—in grocery and big-box stores like Costco, Wal-Mart, Target and Publix. People go to the grocery much more often than the mall or airport, so it’s a good way to be a regular part of their lives.

You’re also venturing into product licensing. How does that work?

Making products for other restaurant chains is the final frontier and the reason we’re about to hit $1 billion in retail sales, a major milestone for the brand. Licensing is the love-child of franchising and consumer packaged goods because we are now developing products for immediate consumption at other restaurant chains. We’ve got a doughnut product that we developed for Taco Bell called Cinnabon Delights, and we just launched Cinnabon Minibons in over 7,000 Burger King locations. The chains want something that will resonate with consumers, so they’ll pay a premium. The cinnamon, dough and frosting are all proprietary, so with these ingredients we can go anywhere.

How do you mitigate the risks of expanding so rapidly?

Many leaders go wrong by turning their backs on their core and chasing the next thing. My licensing deals would have limited life if the franchises went away, so it’s critical to reinvest in the core. We have about 25% of our domestic franchises remodeled. They’ve got a sexier, sleek look that doesn’t look like Grandma’s bakery. By the end of next year, 50% will be reimaged.

This is not a healthy food. The classic roll has 800 calories. How do you balance business and community responsibility?

There is a place in the market for indulgent brands. Even though there’s a big focus on health, Pres. Obama still has a greasy hamburger every once in a while. We’re not telling people to eat a classic roll every day. Everybody gives themselves discretionary calories. If you’re going to give yourself a treat, give yourself something that is so worth it. It has more pleasure per calorie than anything else that’s out there.

You’ve been running major food brands since you were in your early 20s. Do other leaders raise an eyebrow at your age?

If they do, they’re doing it on the inside. Youth is in my favor. Anytime you’ve got someone young, they’re curious. I’m humble enough to know there’s a whole lot of [stuff] I don’t know. I ask for a lot of help and people are generous when you ask.

Your career path began in an unusual place: A Hooters restaurant in Jacksonville, Fla.

I had a single parent—a mother who worked three jobs and fed us on $10 a week—so I started working as early as the law would permit. I sold clothes at The Avenues mall after school before I was recruited to be a Hooters hostess. By 18, I was a Hooters girl and loved it. When the cook quit, I learned how to run the kitchen, and when the manager quit, I learned how to run a shift.

I went to college at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, planning to get an engineering degree and then go to law school. When I was 19, I got the opportunity to go open the first Hooters restaurant in Australia. I’d never been on a plane. I didn’t even have a passport. I realized that in Miami you could get a passport in one day, so I flew to Miami, got a passport and flew to Australia the next day.

I was in Sydney for 40 days, came back and within 10 days was asked to open the first restaurant in Central America. Then ones in South America, Asia, Africa and Canada. By the time I was 20, I’d opened up the first Hooters on most continents outside the US and was failing school. So I quit to become the head of Hooters corporate training. I’m a college dropout.

I read that you have an MBA. How did you swing that?

It’s very rare. I moved up quickly at Hooters, becoming vice president of the company, and was urged by mentors to go back to school. I was 29 and thinking: Gosh, I’m already a VP of a $1 billion company. Do I really need to go back and finish my Bachelor’s? I took the GMAT, went through double the interviews at the university and got letters from every CEO I knew, including a recommendation from Ted Turner. I was accepted to Georgia State’s MBA program and did nights and weekends from 2008 to 2010. I graduated two months after I started at Cinnabon.

What attracted you to Cinnabon?

I met the current CEO, Russ Umphenour, and developed a major business crush on him. It felt right. It’s a multi-brand portfolio, and I knew I’d get to learn from the other brands. I was interviewing there, still in school, running the Georgia Restaurant Association and handling a huge, complicated Hooters transaction. The CEO had died, and I was asked to lead the company’s liquidation, dealing with analysts, brokers, investors and the internal team. The whole time I was thinking: Thank God I went to class yesterday or I wouldn’t have known what that meant! I started at Cinnabon after Hooters signed the purchase agreement.

Do you have some supernatural ability of multitasking?

I don’t have kids. The work is incredibly fulfilling and I’ve had fun, so it’s easy to do it. Layering in the education was the most difficult.

What advice would you give other young women hoping to succeed in business?

Get diversity in where your experience comes from. Volunteer. Be a part of some industry organization. I started out as the nametag lady, handing out nametags at the Women’s Foodservice Forum events. They took me in when I was 24 and made critical introductions and gave me volunteer opportunities that allowed me to develop other areas of my career like finance and marketing that I wasn’t getting the technical opportunity to do in my company. It was a safe place to run committees and work on projects in different areas.
At one of their events, this woman was lost and I helped her find her way. It turns out she was the founder of Pink magazine, on a ton of tech startup boards and doing big things. I was just helping her find her way, and we ended up being friends. When you do the right things for the right reasons, it always pays you back.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Craig's rivals for Bond

Daniel Craig beat Superman & Perseus to win ‘Casino Royale’ Bond role

By | Movie Talk – Sat, Nov 3, 2012 4:01 AM EDT
Sam Worthington, Daniel Craig & Henry Cavill.
Though Sean Connery is solidly cemented in cinematic history as the original 007, it's become a well-known bit of Bond lore that some legendary actors were initially considered for the part, including Cary Grant, David Niven, and Richard Burton. However, not so well-known are the talented actors that current Bond Daniel Craig beat out to become the fresh new face of the aging franchise.
In a casting process that lasted nearly two years, Craig beat out over 200 would-be Bonds before officially stepping into 007's no-longer-white dinner jacket for "Casino Royale" (2006). Part of the reason behind the lengthy casting process was that producer Barbara Broccoli and Bond's new distributor, Sony, couldn't agree on the right actor to help lead the franchise in a grittier, post 9/11 direction.
At Sony's behest, an extensive net was thrown across the British Commonwealth and beyond. Orlando Bloom, Clive Owen, Colin Farrell, Karl Urban, and Gerard Butler were discussed. Rumors also circled around Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman, and Jude Law. But none of these men were ever considered serious enough to merit a screen test. Besides Craig, only four potential candidates made it that far.
Before making a household name for himself in "Avatar" (2009) and "Clash of the Titans" (2010), Australian Sam Worthington was offered to screen test to play Bond in "Casino Royale". Ultimately, he lost the role, but Worthington does credit the experience as a vital prelude to landing the part of Jake Sully in "Avatar" (2009). "I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I thought the least I'll get out of this is to act a few scenes with James Cameron, and that's a hell of an opportunity. I learned that from going for the James Bond audition," said Worthington.
Daniel Craig in Sony Pictures' 'Casino Royale'Another relatively unknown 007 screen tester who's gone on to heroic heights is Henry Cavill. According to the ultimate Bond fan site,, "Casino Royale" director Martin Campbell considered Cavil right up until the very end, when the director opted for Craig instead, feeling that at 22, Cavil would be too young to play the superspy. In another sour casting note, Cavill was "Twilight" creator Stephenie Meyer's first choice to play Edward Cullen, the part for which Robert Pattinson continues to make mad bank. Everything seems to have worked out okay though, as Cavill's set to play Superman in this summer's probable blockbuster, "Man of Steel".
After impressing Campbell in a screen test for "The Legend of Zorro" (2005), Croatian Goran Visnjic was invited to screen test for 007, even though English isn't his native tongue. Visnjic, who was best known for playing Dr. Luka Kovac on "ER," obviously didn't land the role, but he has worked steadily in film and TV ever since, including an upcoming part in Ridley Scott's "The Counselor" (2013), which also stars "Skyfall" baddie Javier Bardem.
Finally, another Aussie, Alex O'Loughlin screen tested for Campbell in full wardrobe. Since then, he's gone onto some choice TV roles, as Detective Kevin Hiatt on "The Shield" and as Steve McGarrett on "Hawaii Five-0".
Ultimately, both Broccoli and Sony agreed that their Bond should be reborn in the same dark vein as Jason Bourne, the part Matt Damon had successfully commandeered in "The Bourne Identity" (2002) and "The Bourne Supremacy" (2004). After nearly 200 candidates and five screen tests, the two sides finally came together and agreed on Craig, the thoroughbred Broccoli had been backing since before Sony came on board. Considering how savvy Barbara Broccoli is, in her mind, it was probably never really a competition at all.
It's also interesting to note that while Daniel Craig was in contract talks to renew as his royal Bondness, London native Idris Alba ("Thor," "Prometheus") had spoken to Broccoli about becoming the first black Bond. Of course that discussion was made moot when Craig signed on for three more Bond flicks, starting with "Skyfall," which opens this Friday, November 9th.
Follow me on Twitter (@adpoc)


Chinese paper congratulates Kim Jong Un on being named ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ by the Onion

By | The Lookout – 18 hrs ago
Kim Jong Un (KNS/Getty Images)
In a hilarious if increasingly common example of a real newspaper taking a satirical newspaper seriously, the People's Daily—the website for the Communist Party of China's newspaper—published a story on Tuesday congratulating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on being named 2012's "Sexiest Man Alive" by the Onion.
"U.S. website The Onion has named North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un as the 'Sexiest Man Alive' for the year 2012," the story announces before quoting the Onion's sarcastic write-up:
"With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman's dream come true. Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper's editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile," it said.
"He has that rare ability to somehow be completely adorable and completely macho at the same time," said Marissa Blake-Zweiber, editor of the Onion Style and Entertainment.
The accompanying 55-page slideshow includes images of Kim in varying degrees of sexiness—riding a horse, posing with military leaders, aiming a rifle, riding a horse and, uh, riding a horse.
Of course, this isn't the first time the Onion's sarcasm has been lost in translation.
In 2002, the Beijing Evening News picked up an Onion story asserting the U.S. Congress would leave Washington "unless a new Capitol is built."
In September 2011, Capitol Police in Washington were forced to investigate after the Onion's Twitter feed teased a satirical article—"Congress Takes Group of Schoolchildren Hostage"—with a series of tweets proclaiming breaking news of a hostage situation inside the Capitol building.
A month later, the Onion caused real confusion when it published a satirical story—"Study Finds Every Style of Parenting Produces Disturbed, Miserable Adults"—that cited the California Parenting Institute in its findings.
The real institute was soon deluged with emails and phone calls from concerned residents.
And in September, Iranian news agency Fars plagiarized an Onion story that claimed an "overwhelming majority of rural white Americans" would prefer Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over President Barack Obama.
[Hat tip: BuzzFeed]

Superman's dresscode changes lol

Movie Talk

Zack Snyder takes off Superman’s underwear in ‘Man of Steel’

Henry Cavill as Superman in 'Man of Steel' (Photo: Warner Bros)
It's strange how a world obsessed with comic book movies can no longer accept a man in tights... or at least red briefs.
Henry CavillHenry Cavill in costume on the set of 'Man of Steel' (Photo: Facebook)What Warner Bros. (and millions of fans) hope will be a Superman for the 21st century (following the lukewarm reception of Bryan Singer's well-intentioned but perhaps ultimately misguided 2006 would-be reboot, "Superman Returns") will be unveiled next summer, and with him a somewhat dramatic tweaking of that most dubious aesthetic challenge in bringing a superhero to the live-action screen: his costume.
Don't worry -- the "Man of Steel," played by Australian actor Henry Cavill, will still have the red cape and that awe-inspiring big capital "S" on his formidable chest. He'll even have a blue bodysuit and red boots. But what he won't have is the red briefs of previous big-screen Supermen played by Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh.
"The costume was a big deal for me, and we played around for a long time," director Zack Snyder said in an interview with the New York Post. "I tried like crazy to keep the red briefs on him. Everyone else said, 'You can't have the briefs on him.' I looked at probably 1,500 versions of the costumes with the briefs on."
Snyder said the brief-less look was chosen to update Superman's outfit without completely throwing away what makes him iconic.  He said, "If you look at the costume, it's very modern, but the relationship to the original costume is strong."
It's a radical variation on what's been the traditional Superman wardrobe, as the removal of the "red briefs" makes way for an all-blue unitard with a somewhat metallic, more armored look... which sets the stage for a superhero who's more of a brooding warrior than perhaps, say, a melancholy stalker of ex-lovers (an element that made for one of the many criticisms of "Superman Returns").
This approach is certainly in line with Warner Bros.' desire to turn the Last Son of Krypton into a more serious, introspective kind of hero -- and with producer Christopher Nolan's insistence on bringing a sense of realism (or, as original "Superman" director Richard Donner put it, "verisimilitude") to even the most outrageous concepts.
"There's a logic and concreteness that has to exist with Chris," Snyder said. "You can't just do stuff because it's cool. He demands that there be story and character behind all of it, which I'm a big fan of."
Indeed, if the impressive teaser trailer released this past summer is any indication, Snyder will be giving us a more introspective Superman, an alien coming to terms with his remarkable abilities and the responsibilities that come with them -- and how they ultimately might make him even more isolated from the very world he's sworn to defend.
"Man of Steel" opens June 14, 2013.
See the teaser trailer for 'Man of Steel':
'Man of Steel' Jonathan Kent Teaser Trailer

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Men like Morsi

There will always be men like Morsi
Dictators drunk with power
Trying to put blinkers on the eyes of their people
Make them feel that every wrong step they are taking is for their own good
While they line their nests with the state's loot

They will always be men like Morsi
Though thankfully
Their strain has been stamped out none too slowly
Africa is being slowly cleansed
of the dictatorship
And the landscape is slowly changing

Now he sits on his high horse pontificating
Telling Egyptians that the new laws are from their benefit
Now he is a Pharaoh like in the times of Moses
And he wants to rule without mercy
Now let me speak about my country
Sometimes I wonder who is worse 
Who has the most vile thoughts
Who is the greater of the lost

My president is not different from Morsi
Though in his defense his only hunger
is for money
There is such mammoth theft all around him
But he doesn't have the will
To persecute those that loot
around him

Our dear Petroleum Minister
I cannot help laughing when I think about her
Trillions of naira, Billions of dollars disappeared
Under her watch
And my dear President with his silence
says ride on!!!
While millions of Nigerians suffer on

There will always be leaders like Morsi
And this is sickening
God is our only defense from the evil we see
At their hands
The pain that runs so deep
Caused by men like Morsi
Who to put it mildly are slightly crazy
I dont know why men like Morsi
Never learn such great lessons
That with power comes responsibility
You have to make life better for your people not worse

In my opinion life would be better without men like Morsi
What we need now are men of empathy
Not power hungry, money grubbing fiends
who want to become deities
I wish an end to all this
And God will be with us till we achieve it

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Life of a writer

The life of a writer
It sounds like a romantic beginning
of a play let or a lovely song
But it is anything but that
It is a calling I could not in good conscience
Allow anyone to get embroiled
Without giving it the much needed thought
And you could swear by all that is important to you
That it was what you want

Success doesn't come easy
And to some it never does
How many people know of the many hours
Spent poring over words
In front of your computer
And no matter what you did
It still came out sounding wrong

I cannot tell you of the tons
And tons of discarded paper
That have been flung
And disposed of
Because even after hours and hours
You couldn't find the right tone
I cannot tell you of the scores
For some hundreds
For others thousands of rejections
Ranging from try harder
To i do not feel your narrative voice

I cannot tell you of the looks of pity
Like some abandoned deity
you get
When people look at you
And say what the heck is he doing
Get a solid nine to five
And get your life
Back on track
Stop chasing the silly desires of the heart
Be realistic
Those dreams of fancy do not mean a thing
How could i describe
The hunger
And drive of the unwritten story
Or the hope for glory
not glory
The hope that somewhere out there
Someone appreciated your story
Loved it maybe
Then if you were lucky
You would eventually get paid for it
And no more would you feel like
The world's biggest git
Or as if you had fallen asleep
While the world raced ahead
Pit by pit
Like last's season's grand prix
But if you succeed
You have achieved life's ultimate

You have made a difference
Put aside the shame
And gained a reprieve
The life of a writer is not one of ease
But it is what I was born to be
My Father in heaven
Please help me!


Shoplift Suspect Dies in Confrontation With Walmart Workers

A man suspected of shoplifting two DVD players from a Lithonia, Ga., Walmart today died after an altercation with two store employees and a contract security guard, prompting a police investigation.
The man, whose identity has not been released, exited through the front door of the store at 1:30 a.m. today and was confronted in the parking lot, according to DeKalb County police.
When officers arrived at the scene, they found the employees on top of the middle-aged man, according to a police report obtained by ABC News affiliate WSB-TV. When an officer bent down to handcuff the suspect, he noticed there was no resistance.
At that point, the officer noticed the suspect was bleeding from the nose and mouth, according to the report. He was transported to DeKalb Medical-Hillandale Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
"This is truly a sad situation. We don't know all of the facts right now. We're in the process of working with law enforcement to determine all of the facts and cooperating and providing any information we have to assist in the investigation," Dianna Gee, Walmart spokesperson, said in a statement issued to ABC News.
Gee said the contract security guard will no longer be providing services to the retailer. The two store employees have been suspended with pay while Walmart assists police in the investigation.
"Our associates are trained that the safety of our customers and our associates is our first priority," Gee said. "No amount of merchandise is worth someone's life. Associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk. That being said, this is still an active investigation and we're working with police to provide any assistance."

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Magic in New Zealand

Hobbits, superheroes put magic in NZ film industry

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A crate full of sushi arrives. Workers wearing wetsuit shirts or in bare feet bustle past with slim laptops. With days to go, a buzzing intensity fills the once-dilapidated warehouses where Peter Jackson's visual-effects studio is rushing to finish the opening film in "The Hobbit" trilogy.
The fevered pace at the Weta Digital studio near Wellington will last nearly until the actors walk the red carpet Nov. 28 for the world premiere. But after "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" hits theaters, there's more work to be done.
Weta Digital is the centerpiece of a filmmaking empire that Jackson and close collaborators have built in his New Zealand hometown, realizing his dream of bringing a slice of Hollywood to Wellington. It's a one-stop shop for making major movies — not only his own, but other blockbusters like "Avatar" and "The Avengers" and hoped-for blockbusters like next year's "Man of Steel."
Along the way, Jackson has become revered here, even receiving a knighthood. His humble demeanor and crumpled appearance appeal to distinctly New Zealand values, yet his modesty belies his influence. He's also attracted criticism along the way.
The special-effects workforce of 150 on "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy a decade ago now numbers 1,100. Only five of Weta Digital's workers are actual employees, however, while the rest are contractors. Many accept the situation because movie work often comes irregularly but pays well. Union leaders, though, say the workers lack labor protections existing in almost any other industry.
Like many colleagues, Weta Digital's director, Joe Letteri, came to New Zealand in 2001 to work on the "Rings" trilogy for two years. The work kept coming, so he bought a house in Wellington and stayed.
"People come here because they know it's their chance to do something really great and to get it up on the screen," he said in a recent interview.
Jackson, who declined to be interviewed for this story, launched Weta in 1993 with fellow filmmakers Jamie Selkirk and Richard Taylor. Named after an oversized New Zealand insect, the company later was split into its digital arm and Weta Workshop, which makes props and costumes.
Loving homages to the craft are present in Weta Digital's seven buildings around the green-hilled suburb of Miramar. There are old-time movie posters, prop skulls of dinosaurs and apes, and a wall of latex face impressions of actors from Chris O'Donnell to Tom Cruise.
Its huge data center, with the computing power of 30,000 laptops, resembles a milk-processing plant because only the dairy industry in New Zealand knew how to build cooling systems on such a grand scale.
Little of Weta's current work was visible. Visitors must sign confidentiality agreements, and the working areas of the facilities are off-limits. The company is secretive about any unannounced projects, beyond saying Weta will be working solidly for the next two years, when the two later "Hobbit" films are scheduled to be released.
The workforce has changed from majority American to about 60 percent New Zealanders. The only skill that's needed, Letteri says, is the ability to use a computer as a tool.
Beyond having creativity as a filmmaker, Jackson has proved a savvy businessman, Letteri says.
"The film business in general is volatile, and visual effects has to be sitting right on the crest of that wave," Letteri says. "We don't get asked to do something that somebody has seen before."
The government calculates that feature films contribute $560 million each year to New Zealand's economy. Like many countries, New Zealand offers incentives and rebates to film companies and will contribute about $100 million toward the $500 million production costs of "The Hobbit" trilogy. Almost every big budget film goes through Jackson's companies.
"New Zealand has a good reputation for delivering films on time and under budget, and Jackson has been superb at that," says John Yeabsley, a senior fellow at New Zealand's Institute of Economic Research. "Nobody has the same record or the magic ability to bring home the bacon as Sir Peter."
"You cannot overestimate the fact that Peter is a brand," says Graeme Mason, chief executive of the New Zealand Film Commission. "He's built this incredible reputational position, which has a snowball effect."
Back in 2010, however, a labor dispute erupted before filming began on "The Hobbit." Unions said they would boycott the movie if the actors didn't get to collectively negotiate. Jackson and others warned that New Zealand could lose the films to Europe. Warner Bros. executives flew to New Zealand and held a high-stakes meeting with Prime Minister John Key, whose government changed labor laws overnight to clarify that movie workers were exempt from being treated as regular employees.
Helen Kelly, president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, says a compromise could easily have been reached. She says the law changes amounted to unnecessary union-busting and a "gross breach" of employment laws.
"I was very disappointed at Peter Jackson for lobbying for that," she says, "and I was furious at the government for doing it."
Weta Digital's general manager Tom Greally compared it to the construction industry, where multiple contractors and mobile workers do specific projects and then move on.
Animal rights activists said last week they plan to picket the premiere of "The Hobbit" after wranglers alleged that three horses and up to two dozen other animals died in unsafe conditions at a farm where animals were boarded for the movies. Jackson's spokesman Matt Dravitzki acknowledged two horses died preventable deaths at the farm but said the production company worked quickly to improve animal housing and safety. He rejected claims any animals were mistreated or abused.
Jackson's team pointed out that 55 percent of animal images in "The Hobbit" were computer generated at Weta. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have asked Jackson in the future to create all his animals in the studio.
Controversies aside, the rise of Weta and the expat American community in and around Miramar is visible in everything from a Mexican restaurant to yoga classes. On Halloween, which in the past was not much celebrated in New Zealand, hundreds of costumed children roamed about collecting candy. Americans gave the tradition a boost here, but the locals have embraced it.
The National Business Review newspaper estimates Jackson's personal fortune to be about $400 million, which could rise considerably if "The Hobbit" franchise succeeds. Public records show Jackson has partial ownership stakes in 21 private companies, most connected with his film empire. He's spent some of his money on philanthropy, helping save a historic church and a performance theater.
For all his influence, Jackson maintains a hobbit-like existence himself, preferring a quiet home life outside of work. In the end, many say, he seems to be driven by what has interested him from the start: telling great stories on the big screen

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Random words

Dark days
Lonesome ones
You think you do right
Then the right you thought
You did comes back to bite you in the back
Or the hand whichever you prefer

Oh what words!
They seemed so right at the time
But now....
I am wondering why I did it in the first place
Why I ran this hard in a stupid race
But even as I think this
I see her face
And what I thought was bordering on hate slowly fades away

The words I must admit make
Perfect sense
In my defense
You can't see a good thing
And not want a taste
Or want to possess
Whichever one comes first
But I realize one thing
You can't let the anger take the place
Of empathy
You got to take the right one in
Not anger,
Not lust,
Not shame,
Then what?
Its freedom
They come and they go
Slow and steady
I realize I face the race alone
They don't matter
If they did....
All my dreams would have become real

The funny thing is
I don't feel a thing
All that matters is the dream!
The dream is all that will stay
Will not!
So maybe that's the lot
I on the other hand
Must face the sun
The dream, the one,
Other things should not matter at all
At least not so much

My book The Birth of the Pale Rider is free for the next couple of days. Go here for a quick download. Your comments and reviews are also welcome

Secret world war II message

The Sideshow

Secret message found with carrier pigeon may never be deciphered

British man finds carrier pigeon skeleton in his fireplace with unbreakable secret code (Reuters)British man finds carrier pigeon skeleton in his fireplace with unbreakable secret code (Reuters)
Before military forces had secure cell phones and satellite communications, they used carrier pigeons. The highly trained birds delivered sensitive information from one location to another during  World War II. Often, the birds found the intended recipient. But not always.
A dead pigeon was recently discovered inside a chimney in Surrey, England. There for roughly 70 years, the bird had a curious canister attached to its leg. Inside was a coded message that has stumped the experts.
The code features a series of 27 groups of five letters. According to Reuters, nobody from Britain's Government Communications Headquarters has been able to decipher it. The message was sent by a Sgt. W. Scott to someone or something identified as "Xo2."
A spokesperson remarked, "Although it is disappointing that we cannot yet read the message brought back by a brave carrier pigeon, it is a tribute to the skills of the wartime code-makers that, despite working under severe pressure, they devised a code that was indecipherable both then and now."
The bird was discovered by a homeowner doing renovations earlier this month. In an interview with Reuters, David Martin remarked that bits of birds kept falling from the chimney. Eventually, Margin saw the red canister and speculated that it might contain a secret message. And it seems as if the message will always be secret.
Carrier pigeons played a vital role in wars due to their incredible homing skills. All told, U.K. forces used about 250,000 of the birds during World War II.

One hit wonders

One-Hit Wonders & Their Unlikely Post-Musical Careers, From Pete Burns To Samantha Fox

By | Stop The Presses! – Wed, Nov 21, 2012 7:56 PM EST
Ninety-five times out of a hundred, the answer to "where are they now?" questions about pop's one-hit wonders is: playing in a very small nightclub somewhere, or very quietly living off annuities. But some quickie stars take surprising career paths years after they've burned out as musicians. For this exercise in insatiably curious nostalgia, we looked up 10 quick flame-out hitmakers who rose to fame for a half-minute in the late '70s, '80s, or '90s...and we found realtors, teachers, visual artists, British reality-show stars (of course), and even a fitness guru. See how the years have treated these former chart-toppers, who, we hope, are giving thanks this holiday for their single shot, as well as for life after pop.

Then: "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" hit No. 1 in a lot of countries in 1984, but fell just short of the top 10 in America, peaking at No. 11—though you'd never guess it wasn't a chart-topper here. Most notably, it formed the basis of Flo Rida's 2009 smash "Right Round," though it's gotten straight remakes by everyone from Jessica Simpson to the Chipmunks. The band had its final entry on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1989 but soldiered on through 2000.
Now: Plastic-surgery-excess example and activist! He's released two solo singles since the turn of the century, but lately he's been more famous for being famous…and for an altered appearance that rivals Jocelyn Wildenstein's for bizarreness. His notoriety in the U.K. was renewed in the 2000s when he appeared on British reality shows like Big Brother and Celebrity Wife Swap. In 2006, he was the subject of a special on English TV, Pete Burns's Cosmetic Surgery Nightmares. He won damages from a cosmetic surgeon who did his lips and left him "suicidal," yet he continues to advocate for plastic surgery, and last year told the Daily Mail: "It's something I'll always do. People redecorate their homes every few years and I see this as no different. Changing my face is like buying a new sofa…I don't feel like I'm addicted to surgery. I could leave it alone for long periods of time if I wanted."
Mike Edwards of Jesus JonesJESUS JONES'S MIKE EDWARDS
Then: "Right Here, Right Now" reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1990. (Oddly, it only made it to No. 32 in the band's native Britain, though they did have a No. 1 album at home.) Jesus Jones continued releasing albums on and off through 2004.
Now: Personal trainer! "I decided early on that being cardiovascularly fit would prevent me losing my voice onstage," the former lead singer told the Guardian in 2010. "As the band's career went down the tubes, I wondered what I'd ever do should Americans ever stop playing 'Right Here, Right Now,' and remembered Mick Jagger saying that apart from music he was unemployable. I came across an advert asking 'Have you ever fancied a career in fitness? and I did...I now run a personal training business with a couple of trainers under my wing. The band thought I was nuts, but I was always the least rock 'n' roll in the group." Nerves are not a problem for him in his adopted career. "When I was first qualifying [to be an instructor], the people around me were absolutely terrified, but after playing to 72,000 people at Wembley Stadium, doing exercises in front of 10 people was nothing."
Then: Smith recorded six albums for Columbia in the late '70s and early '80s and became a teen idol in 1979 with "You Take My Breath Away." "That popped out when I was doing Grease [on Broadway]," he recalled. "They called me up to say I was selling 300,000 copies of the song a week. I went out around the world because of that, and then did Pirates Of Penzance onstage and on film. Then I did Solid Gold...which was a huge mistake career-wise. I was young and having fun...But it came at the expense of really losing momentum in terms of achieving some great roles." He did television with Street Hawk, and did further Broadway roles in the late '90s, releasing his latest album to date with 2000's Simply…Rex.
Now: Realtor! His website advertises that he's available for Pirates Of Penzance revivals, though he's been most visible with touring productions of Kiss Me Kate. But his day job has been as a real estate agent in Orange County, California. His website used to be split between his music/acting and realtor sides, but he's more recently scrubbed any sign of house-selling from the homepage.
Then: Nothing says "one-hit" quite like Rob Van Winkle's album discography. To The Extreme topped the sales chart in 1990 and was certified seven-times platinum. None of his subsequent albums even made the Billboard 200. He did at least have two top 10 singles, following up "Ice Ice Baby" with a remake of "Play That Funky Music," before disappearing off the radio for good. By the time his feature film Cool As Ice came out in late 1991, his career was living up to the movie's name.
Now: House-flipper! "I had a 'weekend' that lasted a few years," he admitted of his partying times in the '90s. Then he got addicted to…house-flipping. His home renovation show, The Vanilla Ice Project, about his flipping a 7,000-foot mansion in Palm Beach, did well enough on the DIY Network to warrant a second season. He even wrote a real estate self-help guide. "I can get these distressed homes, and get some really good deals, " he said, "then three or four months later [after renovating them], I can make money." And this is somebody who knows what can happen to a truly distressed property. This year, he told CNBC: "The short sales, the foreclosures are great, but tax auctions are even better. I just bought the Season 3 house on a tax auction. If no one's bidding against you…you can steal the homes for pennies on the dollar."
Then: Atkin got as sick as anybody of "Unbelievable," which reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart in 1990. "I couldn't listen to it for quite a while…but now I quite enjoy it." EMF haven't released a new album since 1990 (their bassist, Zac Foley, died in 2002), though they've done periodic reunion gigs.
Now: School teacher! "Initially I intended to move to the countryside to retire," Atkin said, "but decided I wanted to keep making music." Which didn't mean he felt like getting back onstage. He started volunteering for a local school in the U.K. town of Keighley, and eventually took a full-time position teaching music.
98 Degrees' Justin Jeffre (Dave Allocca/Getty Images)98 DEGREES' JUSTIN JEFFRE
Then: It may be stretching to call this boy band one-hitters: They had four top 10 singles between 1997-2000, although only one, "Thank God I Found You," reached No. 1.
Now: Occupier! Jeffre was arrested for trespassing after participating in an Occupy Cincinnati protest last year. "I didn't feel like singing in there," Jeffrey told a Cincinnati paper after being sprung from jail, but he did say that some of his cellmates recognized him and "everyone was very nice…Nothing is more important that standing up for what you believe in." Jeffre blogs about political issues and ran for mayor of Cincinnati in 2005, though he garnered just 2 percent of the vote, even after a campaign appearance by Nick Lachey. "The local media chose to marginalize my campaign," he complained to MTV. Things are going better on the band reunion front, as the band did a gig on The Today Show in August, after being apart for a decade, and an album is being planned.
Then: The band had to settle for success on alt-rock radio and press accolades in America. But in England, Elastica's self-titled debut on Geffen soared to No. 1 in 1995, and Frischmann became the pinup girl for a generation of indie-rock boys jealous of her long relationship with Blur's Damon Albarn. "Stutter" and "Connection" both made the top 10 on Billboard's modern rock chart. The band broke up after releasing a second album in 2000.
Now: Visual artist! She's long since settled down with her husband in San Francisco. "I don't write songs too much anymore," she said in 2010. "I help friends out with their songs and production...That's the only musical work I do. I'm not interested in writing for myself or performing anymore. I feel really satisfied by making visual work. It feels more natural to me." As for locale, ""I got very burnt out by London," she said, and in 2005 she enrolled at a liberal visual arts college in Boulder, Colorado, before settling in the Bay Area. In 2008, she married a UC Davis professor/scientist, leaving fans' fantasies of a male/female Britpop dynasty even further in the dust.
Rep, John Hall (D-New York)ORLEANS'S JOHN HALL
Then: Orleans had two top 10 singles in the mid-'70s, with "Dance With Me" and "Still The One"—which was much later used as a presidential campaign song by both George W. Bush and John McCain, much to the consternation of Hall, a liberal Democrat. He left Orleans in '77 for a solo career but reunited with the band in the '80s and beyond.
Now: Congressman! Or ex-congressman. New York elected him to the House of Representatives as a progressive Democrat in 2006 and again in 2008, though he lost his bid for a third term in 2010, which was not totally unexpected, given the historically Republican makeup of his district. In the final election, his GOP opponent, Nan Hayworth, created a spoof ad featuring a fictional organization called "Young Voters For An Orleans Reunion Tour."
Then: Prior to recording her debut single, "Touch Me (I Want Your Body)," in 1986, Fox was the London Sun newspaper's most popular "Page Three girl"—that is, topless model—for three years running. Her retirement from modeling coincided with her signing with Jive Records, which resulted in a first single that reached No. 4 in the States. Thus did the busty starlet become one of the very few pop stars ever to have a picture disc released with her semi-nude photo underneath the grooves. Though she's primarily remembered for "Touch Me," Fox did crack the American top 10 two more times in the late '80s, technically rendering her a three-hit wonder.
Now: Celebrity lesbian! (Or bisexual.) In 2003, while refusing to label herself as strictly gay, Fox acknowledged that she was deeply in love with her female manager—dashing a decade and a half of men's pinup fantasies. She and her manager/partner appeared on a show called Celebrity Wife Swap, making a trade with a heterosexual couple, in 2008; a year later, she parlayed her renewed notoriety into a slot on Britain's popular reality show I'm A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here.
Then: He had joy, he had fun, he had seasons in the sun… and his musical season ended when he released his final album in 1987, 13 years after "Seasons In The Sun" was a No. 1 smash.
Now: Environmentalist! Jacks became more concerned about water pollution than chords, and embarked on drawing attention to the damage caused by paper mills in his native Canada. His Facebook page mentions that he wrote, produced, directed, and—of course—scored a 2000 environmental documentary, The Warmth Of Love: The Four Seasons Of Sophie Thomas.