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Zogby Santa Poll Results

The poll was conducted December 7 -10 of 1,043 Santa believers nationwide. Margin of sampling error is +/- 3.2%. Results include:

"In your opinion, if Santa Claus was a registered voter, what political party would he most likely support?"

Democratic - 26
Republican - 15
Independent - 43

"When it's not the holiday season, which of the following would you say is most likely Santa's off-season profession?"

College Professor - 10
Family Court Judge - 15
Veterinarian - 10
Motivational Speaker - 24
Manufacturing Mgr. - 19
Investment Banker - 3
News Anchor - 3
Other/Not Sure - 18

"What kind of vehicle would you say Santa Claus most likely drives during the off-season?"

Luxury - 8
Sports Utility - 25
Pick Up Truck - 27
Sports Car - 4
Harley-Davidson - 9
Public Transportation - 15
Other/Not sure - 12

"Which of the following people do you think would be the best person to replace Santa Claus when he retires?"

Bill Cosby - 28
Mister Rogers - 13
Rosie O'Donnell - 6
Jason Alexander - 2
Whoopie Goldberg - 5
John Goodman - 30
Others/Not sure - 16

"Which of the following clothes are you most likely to find in Santa's closet beside his red suit?"

Sports Coat and Jeans - 3
Blue Jeans and Flannel shirt - 43
Sweats - 10
Turtleneck and trousers - 8
Business Suit - 4
Overalls - 21

"What kind of music would you say Santa Claus enjoys the most during the off-season?"

Classical - 28
Vintage Jazz - 8
Vintage Rock - 5
R&B - 6
Easy Listening - 29
Pop - 5
New Age - 2
Other/Not sure - 9

Santa in Blue Jeans and Shirt?

LOS ANGELES December 13, 2001 (Reuters & - With his smiley face and relentless good cheer, Santa Claus would most likely be a motivational speaker when he has hung up his sack for the year, according to a fantasy poll.

Most Americans questioned for the light-hearted Zogby poll, released on Wednesday, imagined Santa wearing blue jeans and a flannel shirt when he is not on official duties in his red suit.

Apart from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," he is most likely to enjoy classical and easy-listening music rather than jazz or rock, and probably drives a pick-up truck or a sports utility vehicle when his sleigh is in for a service.

Some 43 percent of Americans though Santa would vote as an Independent as opposed to either a Republican or a Democrat, and comic actor John Goodman was seen as the best person to replace Santa Claus, should he ever choose to retire.

Llama Patrols Protect Christmas Trees

Shropshire UK December 18, 2001 (BBC) - A Midland farmer is using furry 6ft security guards to deter thieves from up-rooting his Christmas tree crop - two llamas.

Topaz and Lancelot are so fiercely territorial that when they are put into neighboring compounds at night any burglar who comes across their path is in for a big shock.

Owner of Hoo Farm in Shropshire, Edward Dorrell, said the noise of a 600lb, spitting llama in full charge in the dead of night is probably enough to make any thief turn tail. The Andean "guard dogs" are proving effective and have almost eliminated the usual nightly disappearance of firs in the run up to Christmas.

Mr Dorrell, who runs an animal attraction near Telford, said the pair take no prisoners.

"One of the problems of living near a large town is that people pilfer Christmas trees," he said. Apart from having people there all night it's difficult to control. The two bull llamas don't really like one another. If they hear anybody jumping over the fence they don't know if it's another llama or a burglar. They're likely to run at them first and ask questions later."

He said about 50 trees a year - worth a total of about £750 - were being taken from the 15-acre Christmas tree plantation. But the anti-burglar llamas have cut the crime rate to almost zero.

"We have signs up and thieves don't know what they'll get from a llama and aren't very keen to find out," he said. "They have a horrible spit and if anyone got that on them they would have a lot of explaining to do. But they can also kick and have very large teeth."

He said the pair have proved the most successful of the animals from the farm who have been press-ganged in to security work.

"We have tried geese but they're susceptible to being nicked themselves or being taken by foxes. Ostriches have been very difficult to get in during the morning to allow customers to choose their trees. Catching the llamas isn't a problem."

The World's Biggest Chocolate Nougat Bar

MADRID December 14, 2001 (Reuters) - Ten cooks have spent four days mixing a ton of almonds, chocolate and sugar to produce the world's biggest nougat bar, the organizers claimed Friday.

Nougat, or turron, is a traditional Spanish Christmas sweet and the 30-foot-long bar prepared by turron-maker Virginias on show in the Port Aventura theme park in Catalonia is big enough to serve 100,000 people.

Half will be offered to customers in the theme park's restaurants and the other half will be given to the people of the nearby town of Reus, the organizers said.

How Santa Flies So High

By John Innes

Edinburgh December 14, 2001 (The Scotsman) - The legend of Santa’s flying sleigh was started by Arctic holy men who got high by drinking reindeer urine, a Scots scientist revealed yesterday.

For centuries, as a result of hallucinations brought on by the highly unusual beverage, Laplanders believed their reindeer could fly, according to new research by the botanist.

Dr Ian Darwin Edwards, head of education at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, told a seminar the myth of the flying reindeer had spread south in the 19th century.

He said: "The Sami people of Lapland - formerly known as Laps - are wild reindeer herders, and for many centuries they have ritually gathered plants to achieve altered states of consciousness and highs.

"They used to feed red-and-white fly-agaric mushrooms to their reindeer, then collect and drink the urine. The idea was to receive the hallucinogenic properties of the mushrooms in a safer and more processed form."

Malicious E-cards

London December 18, 2001 (BBC) - People are being warned to watch out for computer viruses which could be hidden in electronic Christmas cards.

Anti-virus software companies say most computer users can expect to receive a flood of e-mails during the festive season.

"Just be vigilant," said Andrew Armstrong, general manager of anti-virus firm Trend Micro, "because you'll be getting e-mails with Christmas cards in or with attachments and they could potentially be a virus."

"You need to make sure that if you receive anything unsolicited with an attachment and you don't recognize it, be very careful with it," he said. "Don't open it. You can get online checkers that will check your system for viruses and you should also look at putting some anti-virus software on to your home computer."

Mr Armstrong said that although most home users had heard about the dangers of viruses, most people think it will not happen to them.

The warning comes as more and more companies are ditching the traditional Christmas card greeting to customers in favor of e-cards. Around 40 British-based companies, including Marks & Spencer and Barclays, have stopped sending cards and will donate the savings to a charity for the homeless.

Accurate estimates of the economic damage that viruses inflict are hard to reach. However, in 2000, computer viruses caused US$17.1 billion worth of damage worldwide, according to Trend Micro. So far this year, the company estimates that viruses and worms have caused US$12 billion of damage. Anti-virus company MessageLabs has dubbed 2001 the 'year of the virus'.

In 2000 the company stopped 184,257 e-mail viruses, so far this year it has caught 1,628,750. Now 1 in every 370 e-mail messages is infected with a virus. In 2000 the figure was 1 in every 700.

One of the most widespread viruses of the past year was the Nimda worm. This malicious program used a variety of techniques to spread itself around the internet using the weaknesses of Microsoft Windows.

Thankfully the Nimda Windows worm did not do any direct damage to infected machines it compromised.

"Computer viruses are becoming much more sophisticated," said Mr Armstrong. "This means they are becoming much harder to detect and much harder to clear up the damage that they do. We're already seeing reports of viruses in DVDs. We're seeing viruses in PDAs (personal digital assistants). As phones and boxes in the home get more sophisticated, the viruses will move into those areas as well."

Yuletide Treats From The First Years of Film


Hollywood December 15, 2001 (Christian Science Monitor) - Charles Dickens inspired countless tale-tellers with his legendary "Christmas Carol" ghosts of yuletides past, present, and future. Friendly spirits of the cinematic variety are represented on a charming new DVD release called "A Christmas Past."

At a time when many viewers use the phrase "old movie" to mean any picture made before "Jaws," it's important to remember that the art of film has been with us for more than a century.

One of film's founding figures was inventor Thomas A. Edison, who produced movies in a New Jersey studio built with a hole in the ceiling so the sun could shine through. Short and simple when compared with later films, these pioneering efforts are at once works of art and relics of a bygone era.

Audiences loved Christmas as much then as they do now, and Edison's associates recognized the holiday's entertainment value. Among the results were early adaptations of The Night Before Christmas, made in 1905, and A Christmas Carol, made five years later. Both were directed by Edwin S. Porter, whose classics "The Great Train Robbery" and "The Life of an American Fireman" are still enthusiastically studied by film buffs. Both holiday gems are included in "A Christmas Past," as is A Winter Straw Ride, directed by Porter in 1906.

Edison liked comedy as well as sentiment, so it's not surprising to find a novelty film like The Adventure of the Wrong Santa Claus snuggled alongside the DVD's more recognizable offerings. A Christmas Accident also hails from the Edison studio, as does the tantalizingly titled Santa Claus vs. Cupid, directed by Alan Crosland in 1915.

That's the same year D.W. Griffith released his notorious "Birth of a Nation." Griffith, the most influential of all silent filmmakers, finds his way into "A Christmas Past" with the rambunctious comedy A Trap for Santa, photographed by the great G.W. Bitzer, his longtime collaborator.

Rounding out the collection are A Holiday Pageant at Home, made by an unknown studio in 1901, and the crisply named Santa Claus, produced in 1925, just as sound cinema was making its first tentative noises.

"A Christmas Past" was assembled by Kino, an exceptional company with a superb record of reissuing old movies (as well as contemporary independent and international films) that might otherwise go unseen and unsung by audiences today. In keeping with its meticulous approach, it has digitally mastered the movies from original 35-mm materials, and it has commissioned a musical score by composer Al Kryszak to accompany the show.

And you thought silent movies were only for students and specialists? Give this DVD a try (it's available on videocassette as well), and enjoy a new kind of old-fashioned holiday treat.

Kino -

George Reeves: The Superman Mystery Revisited

HOLLYWOOD December 14, 2001 ( - A film based on the life of late actor George Reeves will be made by USA Films, Variety reports.

The company has purchased Paul Bernbaum's script, titled "Truth, Justice and The American Way" for Michael Polish to direct, and brother Mark Polish to produce.

"Michael and Mark Polish are two of the most innovative young independent filmmakers on the scene today," said USA Films chairman Scott Greenstein.

"George Reeves' life and death in Hollywood is explored in a manner that we think will fascinate and illuminate."

Reeves, who portrayed television's "Superman," was a troubled actor whose mysterious death in 1959 by a gunshot wound in his home in Hollywood was never truly solved. Officials at the time ruled that he had committed suicide, although he was found lying face down naked in his bedroom while friends were partying downstairs.

The script centers on the death and the botched investigation, with flashbacks detailing his life and career.

"There are a number of roles any actor would love to play. The story resonates not only as George Reeves' story but also as the story of the detective on the case, and as a portrait of a moment in time where a whole generation lost its innocence," said USA Films president of production Glenn Williamson.

The Polish brothers previously made "Twin Falls Idaho" and "Jackpot."

For more information about George Reeves and the original cast and friends of Superman, including recent photos of Jack Larson (Jimmy Olsen) and Noel Neill (Lois Lane) at the 2001 Superman Day celebration, visit  Jim Nolt's The Adventures Continue - This site is an absolute must for Superman fans!

Sign the online petition to bring The Adventures of Superman to DVD -

Holidays Converge in Turbulent Mideast

Associated Press

BETHLEHEM December 15, 2001 (AP) - This is how you know the holiday season in the Holy Land is in full swing:

Santa Claus has just finished his television broadcast with an Arabic rendition of "Jingle Bells" in the studios of Nativity TV, a Christian station broadcasting from a hilltop villa in Bethlehem. As Santa leaves, he greets the next man on the air, Sheik Abdul Majid Atta, a local leader of the militant Islamic movement Hamas who dispenses an hour of religious advice to callers each afternoon during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The sheik, whose flowing beard puts Santa's to shame, invites the actor dressed as Santa, Khalid Massou, to perform at a nearby Palestinian refugee camp.

"We are living in very difficult times," Massou said. "I want to do whatever I can to help the children celebrate the holidays."

The biggest Muslim holiday, Eid al-Fitr, begins Sunday as Ramadan ends, joining Christmas and the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah as all three religions hold major celebrations this month amid the worsening Mideast crisis. The overlapping holidays offer a small measure of relief from the constant tension and bring renewed calls for a more peaceful future.

Yet while all three religions have roots here, interaction between the spiritual leaders of different faiths is limited, and the conflict is casting a heavy shadow over the holiday season for the second straight year. Just two years ago, Bethlehem's Christmas Eve party packed Manger Square and seemed to point to a prosperous future filled with an unending stream of foreign tourists.

Today, there's plenty of room at the inn. Many hotels have closed for a lack of business. Israeli forces entered Bethlehem for 10 days in October in pursuit of Palestinian militants, and Israeli gunfire turned the once-popular Paradise Hotel into a blackened shell.

Ibrahim Faltas, a Franciscan priest in charge of the town's preparations for Christmas, said Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat didn't want the celebrations scaled back. But Faltas isn't expecting any miracles.

"The tourists are afraid to come to Bethlehem," he said.

In nearby Jerusalem, Rabbi Ephraim Shore, whose office is just a few paces from the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, soaked up the beauty of a timeless scene on a recent evening. As the sun set, bathing the city's stones in a pink light, he looked on as Jews said evening prayers at the wall. Candles of the menorah were being lit. A Jewish choir was singing.

For Shore, the moment was enhanced all the more by the Muslim call to evening prayer from a nearby mosque.

"This is the way it should be, two peoples celebrating their holy days, living together," said Shore. "It's all part of the color and life in Jerusalem."

But life in Jerusalem also means the threat of violence. Shore, a director at the Aish HaTorah seminary, keeps a pistol tucked in his waistband, even when he's sitting at his computer terminal. He lives in the West Bank with his wife and six children, and travels each day on a dangerous stretch of road that has been the scene of frequent shooting attacks by Palestinian militants.

"It's absurd that I have to carry this," said Shore, a native of Canada. "I have it just in case I run out of gas in the wrong place."

His attitude seems to capture the prevailing atmosphere: Everyone would like to hold their holidays in peace, but having a gun at hand seems a sensible precaution.

Back in the Bethlehem television studio, Sheik Abdul Majid Atta is taking calls. The Christmas-tree background superimposed on the screen during Santa's appearance has been changed to a panoramic view of Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock mosque. Atta describes his show, "Lights of Belief," as a "religious program that answers questions and tries to solve problems for worshipers."

He deflects political questions from viewers. Still, the very existence of the program points to the complicated reality of life here.

Hamas boasts of the many suicide bombings its followers have staged the past 15 months. Israeli soldiers track down and kill Hamas militants suspected of organizing attacks. Yet Atta, who belongs to Hamas' political wing, not the military arm, is on live every afternoon from a Christian television station just a couple of hilltops away from Jewish neighborhoods.

After his program, Atta invites a visiting journalist for the evening meal to break the Ramadan fast, a repast shared by some 30 of his relatives in the Dheisheh refugee camp. The house features a poster of a slain Hamas militant, bandoliers of bullets across his chest.

On the road out of Bethlehem, Israeli soldiers manning a checkpoint were eating jelly doughnuts, a Jewish tradition during Hanukkah, the eight-day festival ending Sunday night. After a calm night with full bellies on all sides, the confrontations resumed the next morning, when soldiers fired tear gas at Palestinians trying to evade the checkpoint.

Ceremonies To Quiet Spirits at Ground Zero

By Jim Adams

NEW YORK CITY December 12, 2001 (Indian Country Today) — At the invitation of local clergy and Red Cross counselors, American Indian spiritual leaders are conducting a series of sacred ceremonies at Ground Zero, site of the World Trade Center disaster.

Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Woman Pipe of the Lakota Nation, and Henrietta Mann, southern Cheyenne elder and professor of Native American Studies at Montana State University, separately offered private prayers at the site in recent weeks.

They responded to invitations from clergy at nearby St. Paul’s Church and from the Spiritual Care service of the Red Cross, who minister to workers at the World Trade Center cleanup and to families of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Rev. George Abrams, a volunteer with the Spiritual Care center, said the Red Cross wanted to provide religious support for the Mohawk ironworkers clearing the wreckage.

Abrams also visited Tom Porter, the Mohawk spiritual leader, to discuss a ceremony, but Porter told Indian Country Today he preferred to wait until getting clear direction from the spirits at the site. "Dealing with the dead is a very dangerous thing."

Indian and non-Indian workers alike report the site itself, entombing about 3,150 unburied victims, was deeply troubled and troubling.

"What it was is that when a person commits suicide or dies a tragic death, the spirit is still there,’ Looking Horse said. "Why I did the ceremony was to help them so the family can feel good."

He said that on Nov. 16 the pastor of St. Paul’s took his group to a small porch overlooking Ground Zero, where he and his associate, Dave Yakima Chief performed a prayer. The historic church survived the collapse of the nearby towers and although it is closed to the public, it serves as a "respite center" for workers at the site. Visitors festooned its fence with banners, posters and memorial items.

Looking Horse said just to see the jumble of cement and melted metal at Ground Zero "was very chilling. It was pretty heavy."

A week earlier, the Red Cross counseling center arranged for Mann and her daughter Montoya Whiteman to lead a smudging and prayer on the cleanup site itself.

"The crane stopped and they stopped work for half an hour," said Liz Longshore, a Red Cross volunteer who escorted the group. "We were down underneath the largest crane, the large red crane, right over the pit where most of the work was done."

The prayer group was limited to four, but workers at the site looked on, Longshore said. Participants were smudged and Mann said a prayer to each direction.

"She picked up some dirt and said she wanted to purify the ground for all the people working in the pit. The ceremony lasted 30 minutes. It was very somber but very joyous, too. There was such beauty in the midst of such horror."

A Mohawk worker at the site, Michael Laughing Sr., of the Akwesasne territory, said he began each shift by smudging himself. During the nine days he spent at Ground Zero, he said he frequently felt an unexplained presence. "I would be standing on a pile of rubble and feel someone plucking at my elbow. But when I turned around, the nearest person was 30 feet away."

A non-Indian volunteer described having dreams of six victims of the attacks when he returned home. His wife, who attended a prayer circle with Looking Horse in Massachusetts, said she began to dream of the same people, but successfully prayed for them to help them start their journey.

Looking Horse described the World Trade Center site as heavy with the presence of unreleased spirits. "They weren’t going any place. There’s got to be some kind of breaking point.

"That’s why I went there. I had the support of many nations. People from different tribes have asked me to go there. There are a lot of different tribes of people in New York. A lot of people were praying with me through that ceremony."

Before visiting Ground Zero, Looking Horse spent a week in Massachusetts, speaking at Hampshire College and Harvard University and conducting Pipe ceremonies. He said he was touring to seek support for his annual World Peace and Prayer Day on the summer solstice. Mann was visiting New York as a featured speaker at the annual fund-raising dinner of the American Indian College Fund.

Notable Passings in 2001: Virginia O'Brien
By FLAtRich

Hollywood December 18, 2001 (eXoNews) - Musical comedy actress Virginia O'Brien died January 16th of this year. She was 81. It didn't make the headlines.

You may not know the name, but if you watch classic Hollywood movies you know the face.

Miss O'Brien was famous for delivering tunes with a complete deadpan and playing the "straight man". She did most of her work in the 1940s, and she is usually remembered as Judy Garland's sidekick in The Harvey Girls, but she was particularly great when paired with Red Skelton (Merton of The Movies and others).

Virginia O'Brien also had one hell of a voice! Look for her - you won't be disappointed.

Here are other artists we will miss:

[Credit: Obituaries from an AP story by Polly Anderson, with edits. Links to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).]

Faith Hubley, 77. An animation artist and filmmaker whose work, featuring abstract images and jazz accompaniment, won three Academy Awards. Dec. 7.

George Harrison, 58. The "quiet Beatle'' who added rock 'n' roll flash and a touch of the mystic to the band's timeless magic. Nov. 29. Cancer.

John Knowles, 75. Author whose novel about adolescent conflict, "A Separate Peace,'' has been read by millions. Nov. 29.

Ken Kesey, 66. He won fame as a novelist with "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,'' then took an LSD-fueled bus ride that became a symbol of the psychedelic 1960s. Nov. 10.

Jay Livingston, 86. Oscar-winning composer and lyricist whose collaboration with Ray Evans led to such hits as "Silver Bells,'' "Que Sera, Sera'' and "Mona Lisa.'' Oct. 17.

Dagmar, 79. She parlayed her dumb blonde act into television fame in the early 1950s on the late-night variety show "Broadway Open House.'' Oct. 9.

Herbert L. Block, 91. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post cartoonist who under the name "Herblock'' skewered every president since Herbert Hoover. Oct. 7.

Fred Neil, 64. Folk singer who wrote "Everybody's Talking,'' a hit for Harry Nilsson and the song everyone remembers from the film "Midnight Cowboy". July 7.

Mimi Farina, 56. Joan Baez's sister; an accomplished folk singer in her own right, well-known as a duo in the 60s with her late husband Richard Farina. July 18. Cancer.

Ernie K-Doe, 65. Flamboyant New Orleans rhythm and blues singer who had a No. 1 hit with "Mother-In-Law.'' July 5.

Chet Atkins, 77. Guitarist and music executive who played on hundreds of hit records, influenced a generation of rock musicians and developed country music's lush Nashville Sound. June 30.

Jack Lemmon, 76. Actor who brought a jittery intensity to his roles as finicky Felix Unger in "The Odd Couple,'' the boastful Ensign Pulver in "Mr. Roberts'' and a cross-dressing musician in "Some Like It Hot.'' June 27.

Carroll O'Connor, 76. Actor whose gruff charm as the cranky bigot Archie Bunker on "All in the Family'' pioneered a new era of frankness in TV comedy. June 21.

Hank Ketcham, 81. Comic strip artist whose lovable scamp, "Dennis the Menace,'' tormented cranky Mr. Wilson and amused readers for five decades. June 1.

Imogene Coca, 92. Elfin actress-comedian who co-starred with Sid Caesar on television's classic "Your Show of Shows'' in the 1950s. June 2.

Anthony Quinn, 86. The barrel-chested Oscar winner remembered as the earthy hero of "Zorba the Greek'', the fierce Bedouin leader in "Lawrence of Arabia'', and many other major feature films. June 3.

John Hartford, 63. Versatile performer who wrote the standard "Gentle on My Mind.'' June 4.

Arlene Francis, 93. Witty actress and television personality who was a panelist on the long-running game show "What's My Line?'' May 31.

Whitman Mayo, 70. He played junk dealer Fred Sanford's sidekick, Grady Wilson, on the 1970s television series "Sanford and Son.'' May 22.

James Myers, 81. His tune "Rock Around the Clock,'' recorded by Bill Haley & His Comets, became the granddaddy of all rock 'n' roll songs. May 9.

Deborah Walley, 57. Actress in such quintessential 1960s teen movies as "Gidget Goes Hawaiian'' and "Beach Blanket Bingo.'' May 10. Cancer.

Douglas Adams, 49. British author whose science fiction comedy "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'' drew millions of fans and spawned a mini-industry. May 11. Apparent heart attack.

Perry Como, 88. The mellow baritone famous for his relaxed vocals on hits such as "Catch a Falling Star,'' who entertained TV audiences in the 1950s on "The Perry Como Show.'' May 12.

Ed "Big Daddy'' Roth, 69. His fantastic car creations helped define the California hotrod culture of the 1950s and '60s. April 4.

Beatrice Straight, 86. Actress who earned an Academy Award for her role as William Holden's estranged wife in the television spoof "Network.'' April 7.

Sir Harry Secombe, 79. Comedian whose gift for the ridiculous on radio's "Goon Show'' made him one of Britain's best-loved entertainers. April 11.

Joey Ramone, 49. Punk rock icon whose signature yelp melded with the Ramones' three-chord thrash. April 15. Lymphoma.

John Lewis, 80. Pianist who masterminded one of the most famous ensembles in jazz, the Modern Jazz Quartet. March 29.

Morton Downey Jr., 68. Abrasive, chain-smoking talk show host whose reign over "trash TV'' in the 1980s opened the way for the likes of Jerry Springer. March 11.

Robert Ludlum, 73. Author whose spy adventure novels had unbelievable plot twists that had millions of readers turning pages and critics sometimes rolling their eyes. March 12.

Ann Sothern, 92. Blond beauty who starred as the movies' wisecracking "Maisie'' and as the busybody Susie McNamara in the 1950s TV series "Private Secretary.'' March 15.

Norma Macmillan, 79. The voice of television's Casper the Friendly Ghost and Gumby. March 16.

John Phillips, 65. Co-founder of the '60s pop group the Mamas and the Papas and writer of its biggest hits, including "California Dreamin''' and "Monday Monday.'' March 18.

William Hanna, 90. Animator who with partner Joseph Barbera created such cartoon characters as Fred Flintstone, Yogi Bear and Tom and Jerry. March 22.

Stanley Kramer, 87. Producer and-or director of some of Hollywood's most celebrated "message'' films including "High Noon,'' "The Defiant Ones'' and "Judgment at Nuremberg.'' Feb. 19.

Dale Evans, 88. Singer-actress who teamed with husband Roy Rogers in Westerns and wrote their theme song, "Happy Trails to You.'' Feb. 7.

Gregory Corso, 70. One of the circle of Beat poets that included Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, known for the 1958 poem "Bomb.'' Jan. 17.

Ray Walston, 86. He played the lovable extraterrestrial Uncle Martin on the 1960s TV sitcom "My Favorite Martian'' and the devil in "Damn Yankees.'' Jan. 1.

Les Brown, 88. His Band of Renown scored a No. 1 hit with "Sentimental Journey'' during America's big band era of the 1930s and '40s. Jan. 4.

George Gately, 72. Creator of the "Heathcliff'' newspaper comic about the antics of a rotund cat. Sept. 30.

Isaac Stern, 81. The master violinist who saved Carnegie Hall from the wrecking ball and helped advance the careers of generations of musicians who followed. Sept. 22.

Dorothy McGuire, 85. Actress who lent dignity and inner strength to such films as "The Spiral Staircase", "Gentlemen's Agreement'' and "Friendly Persuasion.'' Sept. 13.

Fred De Cordova, 90. Producer of "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson'' — and butt of Carson's jokes — for 22 years and director of Ronald Reagan's "Bedtime for Bonzo.'' Sept. 15.

Samuel Z. Arkoff, 83. His American International Pictures exploited the youth market with pinch-penny movies that bore such bizarre titles as "I Was a Teenage Werewolf'' and "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.'' Sept. 16.

Heywood Hale Broun, 83. Sports commentator known for his handlebar mustache and prose as colorful as his sports coats. Sept. 5.

Pauline Kael, 82. Brash, witty movie critic who thrashed both facile commercialism and self-indulgent pretense from her lofty perch at The New Yorker. Sept. 3.

Troy Donahue, 65. Heartthrob actor of the 1950s and '60s who starred in teen romances like "A Summer Place'' and "Parrish.'' Sept. 2.

Kathleen Freeman, 82. Veteran character actress whose face was known to audiences from television sitcoms, many Jerry Lewis movies, "Singin' in the Rain'' and Broadway's "The Full Monty.'' Aug. 23.

Jane Greer, 76. Actress in film noir dramas such as "Out of the Past'' and "The Big Steal.'' Aug. 24.

Poul Anderson, 74. Master science fiction writer known for his futuristic tales of human courage. July 31.

Classic Hollywood reigns at -

Myth of Atlantis All Took Place in Plato's Mind
By Amelia Hill

London December 16, 2001 (Observer UK) - The story of the lost city of Atlantis has fascinated academics and romantics for thousands of years. But despite the legend one leading expert has finally admitted the truth: it never existed.

Ever since Plato insisted that his tale of a seafaring civilization consigned to the deep by earthquakes and floods was true, the search for the lost empire has spanned the globe - in September two explorers claimed simultaneously to have found it at the top of a volcano and at the bottom of the Mediterranean.

But now Alan F. Alford, one of the world's authorities on ancient mythology, claims to have uncovered the truth: the Greek philosopher invented Atlantis as a metaphor for the ancient version of our 'Big Bang' theory.

'My findings allow us, for the first time ever, to get inside Plato's mind and reconsider the story of Atlantis from an ancient, rather than a modern, perspective,' said Alford, who has spent the last five years investigating the story.

'Behind the tale lies a single secret of stunning simplicity: namely that although Atlantis was a lost paradise, it was not a lost city, island or continent, but a lost planet of the former golden age,' he added. 'The loss of Atlantis was meant to signify a totally profound event - the cataclysm of all cataclysms that disrupted the universe at the beginning of all time.'

It has long been acknowledged that there is strong scientific evidence for the explosion of one or more planets in our solar system from about 427 to 347BC (around the time Plato was writing), rationalized then by the creation of the 'exploded planet myth'.

'The myth held that the cosmos was born when a planet crashed on to a dead, dry Earth, spreading the seeds and water of life,' said Alford. 'I maintain that it is this myth that the tale of Atlantis was created to explain.'

According to Plato, Atlantis sank around 9600BC (by our modern-day system of dating). But extensive scientific investigations of the ocean floor have yielded no trace of the lost island.

The popular view is that Plato's story is historically accurate and he simply got his geographical facts wrong. The search, as a result, has spanned the globe, with the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and Tyrrhenian seas, as well as the English Channel and the Arctic coming under suspicion. Crete, Cuba, the Americas and Antarctica have also been claimed as the lost continent.

Alford dismisses such theories: 'Plato is the sole authority on the story of Atlantis and to ignore what he said is to invent a new myth of one's own.'

To search for Atlantis in the physical world, or in the physical universe, Alford believes, is contrary to Plato's most fundamental belief: that reality was not to be found in this world.

Anchorage Slipping Toward Seattle!

Anchorage Daily News

ANCHORAGE December 17, 2001 (Scripps Howard) - Think of it as an earthquake in slow motion. The ground beneath Anchorage, Palmer and Wasilla has spent the past three years slipping about half an inch toward Seattle, a discovery that has baffled scientists.

"This event was completely unexpected," said geophysicist Jeff Freymueller of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "We had no idea that the earth could do such a thing."

In 1998, scientists taking annual global positioning system measurements discovered that sites spread over about 5,800 square miles of Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna area had begun easing south-southeast. The movement was swiftest that year, gradually slowed and appeared to have stopped by summer 2001.

"Presumably, it's going to start moving northward again," Freymueller said

Freymueller and five other researchers presented the findings, titled "The Great Alaska Earthquake' of 1998-2001," last week at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. If this big creep had hit all at once - say, over a minute - it would have shaken Anchorage to its foundations, probably generating a magnitude 7 earthquake similar in strength to the one that struck the San Francisco area in 1989, Freymueller said.

But no quake of that size has struck this area recently. And that's part of the problem.

"It's really a puzzle," Freymueller said. "The Earth seems to have been behaving as though there had been a big change in stress, but if so, where did it come from? It's a big change in stress that you would expect from a significant earthquake, but there was no significant earthquake."

For eons, the North American tectonic plate has been slowly riding over the top of the Pacific plate, squashing it down into the Earth under Alaska and the Aleutian Chain. The forces involved are immense, powerful enough to raise the Alaska Range and generate magma for the Cook Inlet volcanoes. But the speed is inexorably slow, about as fast as fingernails grow. When the plates lock up and stop moving past each other, stress builds. When locked plates suddenly give way, the jolt shakes the earth. The slip on Good Friday 1964 generated a magnitude 9.2 quake, the second-largest temblor ever measured on Earth.

The same plates have been locked up under Prince William Sound since at least 1993 and possibly since 1964, Freymueller said. So, as the Pacific plate slowly descends into the Earth toward the north-northwest, it pushes Anchorage and Mat-Su in the same direction. Through 1997, that surface movement was measured to be about two-fifths of an inch a year. Then it reversed.

So why did Anchorage scoot southeast?

A partial explanation may be that a big chunk of Pacific plate - roughly the same portion that ruptured during the 1964 quake - suddenly sped up, causing the surface to creep in the opposite direction.

"For reasons that we don't understand, at least not fully, (the Pacific plate) just started moving much faster than it had before and is now slowing down to its original rate," Freymueller said. "It roughly doubled its speed. It went from moving along a couple inches per year to about four inches per year."

But geophysicists can't yet explain why this section of the Pacific Plate suddenly surged forward with no accompanying earthquake or other geological signs on the surface like uplift or an offset. Using high-precision GPS units to track slippage along faults and the movement of tectonic plates has been turning up surprising results like this around the globe.

So what does all this say about Anchorage's earthquake risk, already considered higher than that of any other American city of similar size?

"I think the good news is the likelihood of a '64 type earthquake right under Anchorage is rather small," Freymueller said. "But where you get the bad news is whether this sort of event might trigger another earthquake (farther away). At this point, it seems to be confined to this region."

Gay-Rights Notes Target Holiday Pots

AP National Writer

NEW YORK December 14, 2001 (AP) - The Salvation Army's red kettles, an abiding symbol of holiday good will, are at the center of a battle over gay rights this Christmas season.

Complaining of bias by the Christian charity, some gay-rights supporters are dropping protest notes in the kettles instead of cash. In response, conservative groups are urging extra donations as a show of solidarity. The protest campaign started in Flint, Mich. - but has since spread to many states - after the Salvation Army's national leadership last month rescinded a decision by its 13-state Western branch to offer health benefits to domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees.

"It seemed so mean," said Mary Scholl, mother of a gay man, who started the campaign along with her colleagues in the Flint branch of Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Since then, Scholl said, she has received scores of messages from across the country, some supportive, others hostile. "I've had 100 e-mails from people telling me I'm going to hell," she said.

The Washington headquarters of Scholl's organization - known as PFLAG - has taken up the cause. Its Internet site shows supporters how to make copies of the protest notes, which vaguely resemble $5 bills.

"I would have donated $5," the note says. "But the Salvation Army's decision to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered employees prevents my donation now and in the future."

PFLAG's program and policy director, Cynthia Newcomer, said supporters are being asked to donate to charities that provide domestic-partner benefits.

At the Salvation Army's national headquarters in Alexandria, Va., officials say the protest appears to have caused little financial damage. They make no apologies for a policy that limits family health benefits to married couples and their dependent children.

"We're a Christian organization - we don't provide those benefits for heterosexual couples that aren't married," said Lt. Col. Tom Jones, the Salvation Army's community relations and development secretary.

The charity does not ask its 45,000 employees, nor those who seek its services, about their sexual orientation, Jones said.

"The only question we ask is, 'Do you need our help?"' he said.

Some conservative activists, angered by the protest campaign, have offered to match every protest note placed in a kettle with a real $5 bill. The protest notes "are the very currency of intolerance," said Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan. "They're attacking a Christian organization in the holiest season of the Christian faith."

Glenn said gay-rights activists in some states - rather than using the PFLAG protest notes - are using more realistic-looking fake bills that might violate counterfeiting laws. A national conservative group, Concerned Women for America, is urging its supporters to place a donation in a Salvation Army kettle along with a note praising the charity for "honoring God's word."

"The Salvation Army will pay a heavy price as liberals begin to assail them for their Biblical stand in favor of marriage and family," said Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women. "We must rally to their support."

Among gay-rights activists supporting the protest, there are some mixed feelings about the target.

"It's a tough issue,' said Cathy Renna, spokeswoman for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. "The Salvation Army does good work. But at the same time, they're not upholding their mission if this is how they treat their employees."

The Human Rights Campaign, a major gay-rights lobbying groups, says it supports efforts to change Salvation Army policy but is not urging its members to join the protest. The controversy has similarities with the ongoing debate over the Boys Scouts, another long-respected organization that incurred the wrath of gay-rights advocates because it refuses to let openly gay men be Scout leaders. Both organizations have become the target of protests, and in turn have become rallying points for conservatives who oppose gay-rights activism.

Newcomer said PFLAG and Salvation Army officials have been meeting to see if their dispute can be resolved.

"Public opinion on gay and lesbian issues has shifted," she said. "The Boy Scouts and the Salvation Army are going to have to catch up with the rest of the country."

Salvation Army:

Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays:

Joey Ramone Ain't Dead Yet

NEW YORK December 13, 2001 (ENTERTAINMENT WIRE) - Joey Ramone's legacy continues with a new solo album, Don't Worry About Me, soon to be released on Sanctuary Records!

After The Ramones hung up their jackets in 1996, Joey Ramone continued to work diligently writing and recording songs. Don't Worry About Me, the result of these solo efforts, is already garnering recognition as his best work to date. Sadly, Joey succumbed to cancer in April 2001 at the age of 49.

Producer, guitarist and long-time friend Daniel Rey worked alongside Joey on Don't Worry About Me from day one. He recently completed final mixes on songs that hadn't been mixed prior to Joey's passing. Joey recruited world-class bassist Andy Shernoff (The Dictators) and split the drumming between Frank Funaro (Cracker and Del Lords) and special guest Marky Ramone. Captain Sensible (The Damned), who guests on "Mr. Punchy," said "if anyone is looking for someone to 'blame' for punk, his would have been one of the first doors to knock on. Joey Ramone has contributed some bloody marvelous moments to the world of music."

The Ramones were indeed the progenitors of punk music and, as the voice of The Ramones, Joey not only influenced thousands of bands, but also established standards for punk fashion and culture. The Ramones enjoyed a 22-year career that yielded 23 records and countless world tours. Lemmy (Motorhead) says "Joey was my friend and he understood rock'n'roll better than any other singer of my generation."

The Ramones will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 18, 2002!

Joey Ramone Place: the corner of East 2nd Street and the Bowery in NYC's East Village, just a few steps from legendary punk haven CBGB's, may soon be known as Joey Ramone Place after a request by fans for an honorary street sign was approved by the local community board.

On December 18th, 2001 Sanctuary will release a special holiday CD containing two songs which are not included on DWAM. Over the years, Joey recorded music with his brother Mickey Leigh (Stop, Lester Bangs' Birdland and The Rattlers). The holiday CD features a pre-Ramones version of "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)" and a new song, "I Couldn't Sleep At All." The brothers' musical paths previously crossed when they performed together on the 1994 three-song EP In A Family Way under the moniker Sibling Rivalry and when Mickey contributed backing vocals and percussion on The Ramones' first record.

Updates first at

Antarctic Penguin Mystery

By Christine McGourty
BBC Science Correspondent

Antarctica December 14, 2001 (BBC) - A mystery disease is killing penguins in Antarctica. Australian scientists have found over 100 penguins dead near their Mawson base.

They fear there could be many more. It is not unusual to find one or two dead penguins in a colony, but this kind of large-scale mortality is rare. The scientists fear an unknown disease is responsible and are concerned that it could spread.

They have restricted human access to the penguins. They are also disinfecting boots and clothing after leaving the area. Blood and tissue samples are being taken from the birds and will be sent by ship for analysis in Australia in the next few days.

The penguins affected are called Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) and they are among the most abundant of all the penguins in the Antarctic, so the species is under no imminent threat. There are about 15,000 in the Australian colonies at Mawson and over two million worldwide. But their numbers have been declining here in Antarctica and it is thought that climate change may be to blame.

They are losing some of the ice that is their natural habitat. Keith Reid, an expert in penguins at the British Antarctic Survey, says there is no cause for immediate alarm at the disease outbreak.

"The Australians are very concerned about the potential for humans introducing disease into penguin colonies. But if this was an externally introduced disease, it would go through a colony extremely rapidly."

He said one possibility was that skuas (Antarctic seabirds) traveling large distances while scavenging around the oceans could introduce disease into a penguin colony. It has also been a bad year for the thousands of Emperor penguins living near the British base at Halley.

The ice broke up early this year, before the chicks were old enough to fend for themselves. And it is thought that most of them have drowned or died of hypothermia.

Glen Miller Killed by 'Friendly Fire'

LONDON December 14, 2001 (Reuters) - It has been one of the most enduring mysteries of entertainment history.

On the night of December 15, 1944, American big band leader Glen Miller, the hottest pop star of the wartime era, left an airbase in southeast England to entertain U.S. soldiers in Paris. Within minutes his plane had disappeared in fog and Miller was never seen again.

Wild theories about his demise sprang up -- from his torture and death at the hands of the Nazis to the less respectful rumor that he had died in the arms of a Paris prostitute and it had all been hushed up.

But a documentary to be shown on British television claims to have unraveled the mystery: Miller was victim of 'friendly fire', a hail of British bombs blowing his tiny single-engine Noorduyn Norseman plane out of the sky, the Guardian newspaper reported on Saturday.

Documentary-makers believe that a fleet of 139 Lancaster bombers returning on the fateful night from an abortive mission over Nazi Germany dumped their payload into the English Channel -- and right onto Miller's plane.

In a recently uncovered amateur film interview, Fred Shaw, a navigator on one of the Lancasters, said he saw the bombs hit a small plane beneath him, the paper said.

"I had never seen a bombing before so I crawled from my navigator seat and put my head in the observation blister. I saw a small high-wing monoplane, a Noorduyn Norseman, underneath,'' Shaw reportedly said in the interview recorded before his death several years ago.

"'There's a kite down there,' I told the rear-gunner. 'There's a kite gone in.' He said 'Yes, I saw it.'''

Shaw did not make the connection with Miller until 1956 when he saw the film 'The Glen Miller Story'. But with several unanswered questions remaining, his claims were dismissed at the time as publicity seeking. However, the paper said new research into Miller's flight path and time had left little room for doubt.

Genre News: Buffy, Andromeda, Joan Fontaine, Rufus Thomas and Joe Walsh

Buffy Toon Progresses

London December 17, 2001 (SciFi) Steven DeKnight, one of the writers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, told the BBC's official Buffy site that he and other writers are also working on scripts for the proposed animated version of the UPN series. "We have, I believe, five scripts already written," DeKnight told the site. "I've done one, Jane Espenson has done a couple, and it's a great experience."

DeKnight said that he was originally considered solely for the animated series. "When I was first brought in to interview, I was brought in to interview for the animated show, and I was shown rough sketches of the characters and some of the sets," he said. "I loved what I saw. I was dying to work on the show, and I was hoping once I was hired on the live-action [show], I would still get a chance to work on it. It's going to be an amazing show. It's funny. It's exciting. It's all the huge, gigantic action that we can't do in a live-action show. So, the sky's the limit. There's a lot of ideas that they've had in the past five seasons that were great ideas, but they just couldn't do, budgetwise. So, we get to do all those cool high-school stories that we couldn't tell back in high school. Plus, it's a return to the classic Buffy--the way it all started, with all the teen-agers and hijinks. It's going to be absolutely amazing."

Will the animated show feature Angel or Dawn? "You know, anything's possible in [Buffy creator] Joss Whedon world. I would say, more than likely, you will see a lot of the characters you saw in high school. As to whether or not Dawn will be there, it's completely possible. It could definitely fit into the whole timeline of season five, where Dawn was placed there by the monks, and everybody has a memory of her being there. So, it would be an interesting idea to actually put Dawn there and see how she would fit into all of this stuff."

Stait Quits Andromeda

Hollywood December 14, 2001 (SciFi) - A month after Andromeda co-creator Robert Hewitt Wolfe abruptly left the syndicated SF series, co-star Brent Stait (Rev Bem) has also quit, the Sy Fy Portal Web site reported. Seth Howard, Tribune Entertainment's creative executive in charge of production, confirmed Stait's departure during a chat on the show's official Web site.

"Brent Stait chose to leave the show for personal reasons," Howard posted. "We miss him and hope that we will be able to play again sometime in the future." Stait had been having problems with the heavy makeup and prosthetics he wore as part of his character. "Brent had a severe allergic reaction to the considerable prosthetics. It became unbearable, although he was a serious trooper," Howard said. Howard offered no details of when and how Rev Bem will be written out of the show. "We miss Rev, and I for one miss that particular quality about him. And although we wouldn't duplicate his character, we can go there in other ways. ... Keep your eye on Trance."

Brent Stait -

Toon Films OK'd For Oscar

Hollywood December 13, 2001 (SciFi) - Nine animated films were declared eligible on Dec. 12 for the first new Oscar category in 20 years: feature-length animation, Variety reported. A committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will pare the list down to three nominees.

The contenders are Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Monsters, Inc., Osmosis Jones, The Prince of Light, Shrek, The Trumpet of the Swan, Waking Life, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and Marco Polo: Return to Xanadu. A 100-member screening committee chaired by academy governor Tom Hanks will view the contenders and determine the nominees to be announced Feb. 12, the trade paper reported.

Joan Fontaine Returns

By Army Archerd
Daily Variety Senior Columnist

Hollywood December 13, 2001 (Variety) - "I wouldn't work for anybody -- but I'll work for animals," Joan Fontaine (84) told me as she's agreed to go back before the cameras in "Rikki."

The feature, a vehicle for Animal Rights Awareness, is being produced by her longtime friend and agent Michael Amato, who tells me, "She is still gorgeous!" (Amato is working on building a shelter for strays in Jersey City.)

Oscar winner ("Suspicion") Fontaine worked briefly in "Good King Wenceslas" in 1994 but admittedly only accepted that job because of the money and the Czech locations, which took her away from her home in Carmel while it was being earthquake-repaired. Otherwise she enjoys her life with her gardens, several dogs (all from shelters) and non-showbiz friends in the Carmel Highlands. She remains an avid moviegoer, told me she's seen "Harry Potter" twice. She turns down other offers, telling me, "Free at last!"

I said, "Do I dare ask you whether you talk to your sister (Olivia de Havilland)?"

There was a long silence; she laughed, saying, "-- a long silence!"

Rufus Thomas Dies At 84

MEMPHIS December 16, 2001 (Reuters) - Rufus Thomas, whose "Walking the Dog" and "Do the Funky Chicken" became musical standards, has died at age 84, his family said on Sunday.

Over a 70-year career with roots in vaudeville and in radio as a disc jockey, Thomas helped define the musical heritage of Memphis, where a street is named after him.

He died on Saturday at a local hospital of apparent heart failure, his family said. He had been undergoing treatment at the hospital since falling ill in November and had undergone open heart surgery in 1998.

His success was a key in growth of the two most famous record labels to come out of Memphis, Sun and Stax. He helped launch a number of careers, including that of B.B. King. His song "Walking the Dog" became a 60's garage band standard after it was covered by The Rolling Stones on their first album.

Dr. Joe: Joe Walsh To Receive Honorary Doctorate

KENT, Ohio December 14, 2001 (AP) - Former James Gang member Joe Walsh will receive an honorary doctorate from Kent State University during a commencement ceremony on Saturday.

Walsh, guitarist for the Eagles ("Life In The Fast Lane") and an accomplished solo artist and session musician, attended Kent State from 1965 through 1967.

Kent State spokesman Jim Szatkowski said Walsh's wife contacted the university about the honorary degree, saying Walsh regretted that he never graduated.

Walsh, 54, will receive an honorary doctor of music in recognition of his musical achievement, as well as his involvement in environmental and humanitarian causes.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 with the Eagles.

Joe Walsh -

Original Rat Pack Set the Standard for Cool

By A. Scott Walton

Hollywood December 12, 2001 (Cox) - So what if the remake of "Ocean's 11'' was the box office hit of the weekend? If you really want to understand what even made it a film worth redoing, go back and see the original. From the opening scene at Drucker's ("Hairdresser to Men''), where thrill-seeking guys got hot-toweled razor shaves, to the somber-suited funeral scene at the end, the 1960 original was all about style.

The clothes worn by Frank Sinatra in the title role, as well as his co-stars' garb, lingo and bachelor pads show "classic'' film fans what defined alpha-male postures leading into the tumultuous 1960s.

Everything - from the in-room masseuses to the hot-towel salon shaves to the come-hither cameo by a young, yummy Shirley MacLaine - spoke of an enviable lifestyle of "so sue me'' self-indulgence. In retrospect, they even made dialing rotary phones look hip.

People loved the Rat Pack, and their flaky film (which George Clooney and director Steven Soderbergh adapted) because of its "accept me as I am'' attitude. Male fans of the original watch it and think, "I'd like to be one of Danny Ocean's merry men.''

The work that Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford put in during nightly performance (and, ahem, after-parties) at the Sands Hotel remains more noteworthy than their days there filming "Ocean's 11.'' Their camaraderie made them look like a crime syndicate even a choir boy couldn't resist joining.

They drew from their own closets to play characters their public already knew and loved. In real life - when they weren't golfing or sun-bathing or ring-a-ding-dinging - Sinatra and his pals wore dark suits and skinny ties and French-cuffed shirts by day and formalwear at night. Case closed. Martin (as the sidekick that Brad Pitt plays in the remake) minted his cronies' low-maintenance mystique in the scene where he arrives for an indefinite stay in Vegas from Hawaii with just one laptop-sized carry-on bag.

Watching the 1960 film makes you miss the days when a man's swagger and handshake impressed you, in contrast to today, when it's all about what he drives and how small his cell phone is. The Rat Pack's aura of masculinity may have been misguided and misogynistic, but at least it was self-assured.

You may notice how heavily the remake's stars rely on some sort of eyewear to cloak their true identities. In the original, you may notice that no one in the Rat Pack wore specs or shades. Not even Sammy, who lost an eye in a freak accident just months before filming began.

If I'm in a room with a dozen crooks who've cooked up a cockamamie scheme to jack several casinos for serious cash, I'm gonna feel better if I can look 'em in the eye.

If I'm gonna sit through a film as flimsy as "Ocean's 11'' - the original or Part Duh? - I want to be convinced the party never ends.

Whalers Battle Protesters

Japan December 17, 2001 (BBC) - Japanese whalers have used high-powered water cannons to fight off two inflatable Greenpeace boats that were chasing them in Antarctic waters, the environmental group said.

Greenpeace said the two inflatable boats, from its ship the MV Arctic Sunrise, were trying to stop the Japanese whalers from loading a dead minke whale on to their factory ship, Nisshin Maru.

The whalers then aimed water cannons at the boat drivers, placing them in danger of being knocked overboard into the icy waters, Greenpeace said in a statement.

Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research said the Greenpeace activists were "no more than eco-terrorists". It called the environmental group's attempts to disrupt the research whaling program "a publicity stunt."

"This is a malicious and reckless threat to the lives and safety of the vessel's crew and scientists," General Seiji Ohsumi, Institute director, said in a statement. He said the research program, which plans to capture some 440 minke whales, did not threaten the Antarctic whale stock.

A helicopter pilot with Greenpeace said he had rare film footage of a vessel harpooning a whale after a 40-minute chase.

"We watched the whalers chase the whale for more than 40 minutes, repeatedly firing its harpoon and missing up to five times," said helicopter pilot Phil Robinson. "Finally, they hit it with the sixth harpoon."

A Greenpeace crew member, Japanese campaigner Yuko Hirono, rejected the government's claim that the minkes were being hunted for scientific purposes.

"There is nothing scientific about this whaling," she told the environmental group's Sydney offices from the Arctic Sunrise. Once the whalers found open water they set to with a determination to catch every whale in the area. This is commercial whaling, purely for profit."

Ms Hirono called on Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to stop the government pretending that it was allowing whaling for legitimate research.

"The world knows this is not science," she said. "It is purely the Fisheries Agency's way to continue whaling against the wishes of the international community," she said.

Drag Queen Seeks to Rule Right Wing Party

By Rajiv Sekhri

TORONTO December 14, 2001 (Reuters) - Toronto's best-known drag queen, famous for six-inch heels, slinky dresses and a failed bid to become the city's mayor, said on Thursday she wanted to join the race to head the right-wing opposition Canadian Alliance party.

"I am a supermodel for a super party," said Enza 'Supermodel" Anderson. "I don't care what you call me but please put in supermodel."

The 37-year-old, who has worked as a singer in Toronto's largely gay Church St. district, launched her campaign at Toronto City Hall wearing a short maroon dress, her signature stilettos, a blond wig and bright red lipstick.

Dismissing the Alliance as "racist, supporting bigoted attitudes and an anti-gay stance," she said the party needed to become more diverse to beat the Liberals. "I am the one to do it," said Anderson, who prefers to be called a "she."

"As a new leader of the right, I plan to unite the opposition. Let me tell 'ya, there are a lot of sexy MPs (members of parliament) I'd like to unite right now."

The Alliance came a poor second to the Liberals in last year's federal election. The party will next year vote in a new leader -- or perhaps reelect outgoing leader Stockwell Day, who quit this week to allow for a leadership race. But Anderson's platform may not match the tough-on-crime Alliance. She wants affordable housing, better public transport and decriminalization of marijuana and prostitution.

"Why is it that when a drag queen runs for office, people consider it a joke? But if (Stockwell Day) shows up in a wet suit or if the prime minister of Canada shows up in a dinghy, it's considered serious and worthy of national attention," she said, referring to recent media pictures of federal leaders.

Anderson, who says her political platform is "much more than my six-inch heels," sashayed into politics last November and won 15,000 votes in the Toronto mayoralty race. That placed her third on a slate of 25 candidates for the job, won -- as expected -- by flamboyant Mel Lastman.

Lastman later hit the headlines with ill-timed comments that may have helped scupper Toronto's bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games. He balked at the idea of traveling to Africa to lobby for the bid, admitting he was afraid of being boiled in a pot with natives dancing around him. Anderson said she had nearly collected the C$25,000 and 300 signatures needed to be eligible to run to lead the Alliance. If she doesn't win, she will continue to work odd jobs. But she said she had stopped doing drag shows now that her political career seems to be blossoming.

Day, quoted in the National Post newspaper earlier this month, refused to rule out any candidate for his job.

"We're a very open party," Day said. "I'm just pleased that we continue to attract people from across the spectrum."

Universe Ends: Frozen in Time

Cambridge MASS December 13, 2001 (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) - Astronomers often investigate the beginning of the Universe, starting with the Big Bang. New data is shedding light on the opposite end of the arrow of time - how the Universe might end.

In the past, astronomers have theorized about what we might see if we watched the Universe billions of years from now. Some thought the expansion of the universe would slow and reverse, compressing all matter back in a "Big Crunch." Others said the expansion would continue forever and we would see the stars in all the galaxies age and die, leaving us in darkness.

But now, a calculation by Professor Abraham Loeb, a theoretical astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, paints a different picture regarding the fate of the universe, and it looks quite lonely. As the universe ages and expands, fewer and fewer galaxies will be visible to us. Even weirder, as we watch the galaxies fade, their appearance will freeze in time. No matter how long we watch, like celluloid heroes in the cinema, they will never grow older or change. They will only grow dimmer as they recede from us.

These strange results are the consequence of Einstein's general theory of relativity, combined with current knowledge of the parameters of the universe. Studies of distant exploding stars have shown that the expansion of the universe, rather than slowing down from the inexorable pull of gravity, instead is speeding up under the influence of a vacuum energy dubbed "the cosmological constant". Eventually, distant galaxies will simply be moving too fast for us to see.

Over the next 100 billion years, this accelerating force will shrink our cosmic horizon, reducing the number of galaxies we can see to only about a thousand members of the local Virgo Cluster and surrounding areas. As distant galaxies cross our horizon, their image will get frozen. The light they emit after the moment of horizon crossing will never be able to reach us.

"This process is analogous to what you see if you watch a light source fall into a black hole," states Loeb. "As an object crosses the black hole's event horizon, its image seems to freeze and fade away because you can't see the light it emits after that point."

Similarly, we will see distant galaxies freeze into an unchanging vista. We will never see new stars being born or old stars dying. The galactic snapshots will simply fade away to invisibility.

This has grim consequences for our study of the universe. Not only will the number of galaxies we can see shrink away, but we will not be able to watch the evolution of these galaxies later in their history. The amount of information available to us about the distant universe is finite.

For example, light from the most distant quasar yet seen left that quasar when the universe was only a billion years old. (The universe is now estimated to be 14 billion years old.) Loeb's calculations show that if we watch this quasar for the next several billion years, we will see it freeze at an age of six billion years and stop changing. Its frozen image will only grow fainter as the universe expands.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists organized into seven research divisions study the origin, evolution, and ultimate fate of the universe.

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