David Wong: "The True Meaning of Christmas (That Everyone Forgets)" (Cracked)
It's hard to understand why Christmas came to be a big deal even for people who have never stepped foot inside a church without understanding the context. And the context -- which does predate Christianity by thousands of years -- is that December kicks off winter in the Northern hemisphere. And for most of human history, winter meant a bunch of us were going to freaking die.
Robin Warder: 6 True Stories to Make Sane People Believe in Xmas Miracles (Cracked)
We live in a cold, cynical world where miracles only seem to come in "Whip" and "Gro" variety, except around Christmas time. That's when you start hearing about "Christmas miracles," those amazing tales about people overcoming impossible odds that the media probably made up to sell more Internet newspapers. Not these ones, though. These are all complete real Christmas stories that should come with a Surgeon General's warning because they'll make your heart grow three sizes:
Mark Morford: The strange, wonderful, dying art of the Christmas card (SF Gate)
A card. A card, with a nice family snapshot, maybe a short personal note. The perfect thing. Times have changed, wildly and fast and obviously. Then again, maybe not so much.
Andrew Tobias: Christmas Eve
I love Santa Claus and all the good he stands for (but don't believe he actually clambers down chimneys). I love "It's a Wonderful Life," and all the good it stands for (but, unlike most Americans, don't believe in angels). I love the teachings of Jesus (but don't believe he walked on water). I love "The Ten Commandments" (but don't believe God parted the Red Sea). . But that doesn't make Christmas any less magical for me, the Sermon on the Mount any less inspirational, tikkun olam any less a beacon, or "The Ten Commandments" any less stirring.
Noah Smith: If you get a PhD, get an economics PhD (Blogspot)
People often ask me: "Noah, what career path can I take where I'm virtually guaranteed to get a well-paying job in my field of interest, which doesn't force me to work 80 hours a week, and which gives me both autonomy and intellectual excitement?" Well, actually, I lied, no one asks me that. But they should ask me that, because I do know of such a career path, and it's called the economics PhD.
Pat Carnell: The 5 Craziest Ways People Defeated Terrifying Regimes (Cracked)
In a movie, rescuing refugees from some oppressive regime usually involves dodging bullets and leading stormtroopers on high-speed chases. In real life, the stories are just as exciting, but usually involve more ingenuity and fewer explosions. Totalitarian regimes are all about brute force, after all -- that's the sort of shit they're good at. So beating them means, well, getting creative ...
Mark Morford: Miracle pill! Eat anything, burn fat, die miserable (SF Gate)
It's coming, any minute now. Can you feel it? science will soon invent a drug, a chemical additive, a time-release eyeball injection that will completely upend Americans' relationship to our greatest nemesis of all: food.
"Skyler Gisondo's Prom Proposal (featuring Ben Stiller and Robin Williams)" (YouTube)
During the shoot for Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb in May, actor Skyler Gisondo, who played Ben Stiller's son, was missing the time of year at his school when his friends were asking girls to the prom. Gisondo enlisted the help of costars Stiller and Robin Williams to shoot a video proposal to his intended prom date. Williams and Stiller loved the idea.
David Bruce's Amazon Author Page
David Bruce's Smashwords Page
David Bruce's Blog
David Bruce's Lulu Storefront
David Bruce's Apple iBookstore
David Bruce has approximately 50 Kindle books on Amazon.com.
Michelle in AZ
From The Creator of 'Avery Ant'
from Marc Perkel
Hello Bartcop fans,
As you all know the untimely passing of Terry was unexpected, even by him. We all knew he had cancer but we all thought he had some years left. So some of us who have worked closely with him over the years are scrambling around trying to figure out what to do. My job, among other things, is to establish communications with the Bartcop community and provide email lists and groups for those who might put something together. Those who want to play an active roll in something coming from this, or if you are one of Bart's pillars, should send an email to email@example.com.
Bart's final wish was to pay off the house mortgage for Mrs. Bart who is overwhelmed and so very grateful for the support she has received. Anyone wanting to make a donation can click on this the yellow donate button on bartcop.com
But - I need you all to help keep this going. This note isn't going to directly reach all of Bart's fans. So if you can repost it on blogs and discussion boards so people can sign up then when we figure out what's next we can let more people know. This list is just over 600 but like to get it up to at least 10,000 pretty quick. So here's the signup link for this email list.
( mailman.bartcop.com/listinfo/bartnews )
from that Mad Cat, JD
In The Chaos Household
Heads List Of Overpaid Actors
Comedian Adam Sandler topped Forbes' list of Hollywood's most overpaid actors for a second consecutive year, nudging out Johnny Depp and Tom Hanks for the dubious honor, the magazine said on Tuesday.
Although Sandler's latest film "Grown Ups 2" was a hit, pulling in $246 million at the global box office, it didn't go far enough to make up for the 48 year-old's previous flops, "Jack and Jill" and "That's My Boy."
"We estimate that for every $1 Sandler was paid, he returned an average of $3.20," said Forbes, the lowest return on investment of any actor whose record the magazine examined.
Depp, the star of the hugely successful "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, came in second, returning an average of $4.10 for each dollar paid, because of recent misses like "The Lone Ranger" and "Dark Shadows."
Comedian Ben Stiller, whose film "Night at the Museum: Secrets of the Tomb" opened in U.S. theaters earlier this month, was No. 3 with a $4.80 return, due to "Tower Heist" and The Watch," which did not perform well at the box office.
Still A Racist
On December 23, Rush Limbaugh decided it was time to take on the injustice that is Sony floating the idea of Idris Elba as James Bond. If you're so inclined, you can listen to the whole thing over here on Media Matters. Limbaugh declared that of course Elba can't be 007 because "James Bond is a total concept put together by Ian Fleming. He was white and Scottish, period. That is who James Bond is."
Despite then acknowledging that Bond is a fictional character, Limbaugh wrapped himself in the armor of admitting "I know it's racist to even point this out" and plowed headlong into a feat of flawed logic so gigantic, you can see it from space.
The talk show host doubled down with, "Fifty years of white Bond because Bond is white. Always Scottish. Always drank vodka."
Then things take a turn for the bizarre. Channeling Jigsaw, Limbaugh says "Let's play a game," before ruminating that Jay-Z's favorite drink must be Cristal. This is all in lead-up to the following. Brace yourselves.
"How about in the movie about the Obamas, George Clooney plays Obama and Kate Hudson plays Michelle? How would that be? [ ] Kelsey Grammar as Nelson Mandela. [ ] Who will we get to play Al Sharpton? Rod Reiner. Colonel Colin Powell? How about George C. Scott? I know he's dead, but what does that matter [ ] Condoleezza Rice? Scarlett Johansson. [ ] Michael Sam? How about Hugh Grant?"
Shatters Tourism Record
Las Vegas enjoyed a stellar year for tourism in 2014, reaching a historic milestone and attracting more than 40 million visitors for the first time.
And if the 'Entertainment Capital of the World' continues along its current visitor trajectory, it's predicted that the city could approach 41 million visitors by the end of the year, says the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority.
The previous record was set in 2012, when the city drew 39.7 million tourists.
Ancient Glass Bracelet Found
Archaeologists in Israel recently unearthed a glass bracelet decorated with a timely design. The ancient piece of jewelry is engraved with a seven-branched candelabrum, or menorah - the symbol of the Hanukkah holiday.
The bracelet was discovered in Mount Carmel National Park, which researchers think was a large settlement during the late Roman or early Byzantine period. Archaeologistshave been working in the park, a declared antiquities site, before the excavation of a new water reservoir in the area.
During a routine dig last Thursday (Dec. 18), a team of excavators uncovered a box containing hundreds of glass fragments that had been thrown into a refuse pit. Among the old pieces of glass was a small fragment of decorated glass from an ancient bracelet.
The bracelet was likely stamped with the menorah symbols when it was still hot, according to the excavation directors. The single fragment features two menorahs, each with the traditional seven branches, but with one menorah also depicting a single flame above each branch.
Glass bracelets embossed with the menorah symbol are not an unusual find in the region, according to Yael Gorin-Rosen, head of the ancient glass department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who said that such symbols have been found on jewelry in Lebanon, Syria and Israel. Other common symbols found on glass jewelry from this period (at the end of the fourth century or beginning of the fifth century A.D.) include lions and other animals, as well as images of gods, he said.
Court Denies Bid
Roman Polanski lost his latest bid to have a California court dismiss his 1977 sex case when a judge rejected a motion for a new hearing.
A nine-page order issued Tuesday by Superior Court Judge James Brandlin states that Polanski's claims of judicial misconduct cannot be addressed because he remains a fugitive outside the country after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor in 1977.
Polanski's lawyers have sought a public evidentiary hearing for the case, claiming a judge who handled the matter in 2008 and 2009 committed misconduct by failing to properly consider a dismissal motion due to pressure from a presiding judge.
Brandlin's order states Polanski has other options in his latest push to dismiss the case, including returning to California to address his claims.
Pleads Not Guilty
Katt Williams has pleaded not guilty to a robbery charge filed after a photographer accused the comedian of stealing her camera.
District attorney's spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said Williams entered the plea Wednesday and was ordered to return to court Feb. 3 for a scheduling hearing.
Williams was charged along with Death Row Records founder Suge Knight with taking the camera as the photographer tried to take a picture in Beverly Hills on Sept. 5. Knight has also pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The 43-year-old Williams has starred in several comedy specials and appeared in films. He could face up to seven years in prison if convicted.
Must Face Lawsuit
U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in Oakland, California, on Tuesday dismissed some state-law claims against the social media company but largely denied Facebook's bid to dismiss the lawsuit.
Facebook had argued that the alleged scanning of its users' messages was covered by an exception under the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act for interceptions by service providers occurring in the ordinary course of business.
But Hamilton said Facebook had "not offered a sufficient explanation of how the challenged practice falls within the ordinary course of its business."
According to Tuesday's ruling, Facebook ceased the practice at issue in October 2012. But the company said it still does some analysis of messages to protect against viruses and spam, the ruling said.
Navy Investigating Soldier
The former US Navy Seal who claims to be the soldier who fired the shots that killed Osama Bin Laden is being investigated for possibly leaking classified information, the US military confirmed.
US Navy spokesman Ryan Perry said investigators were probing claims that Rob O'Neill had broken the law by disclosing details about the daring 2011 raid that ended a 10-year manhunt for Bin Laden.
O'Neill, 38, ignited a firestorm of controversy last month after coming forward to claim that he was the man who shot Bin Laden through the forehead at his hideout in Abbottabad three years ago.
The highly decorated Montana native told The Washington Post that he was near the head of the column of US soldiers that raided Bin Laden's compound, adding that at least two other SEALs fired shots.
However O'Neill's decision to go public dismayed military brass and serving SEALS who maintain a fierce, Omerta-like code of silence.
The children of radio legend Casey Kasem said Wednesday they will share all hospital records in their possession with his widow, who is suing a hospital in Washington state to learn more about the last weeks of his life.
The records will show all appropriate measures were taken to preserve Kasem's life, and when it was clear he was dying, to allow him to die comfortably, Kerri, Mike and Julie Kasem said in a statement issued through their lawyer Troy Martin.
The statement came in response to a lawsuit by their stepmother Jean Kasem seeking records from St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor, where the "American Top 40" host died last June at 82. He had dementia.
Jean Kasem's lawsuit filed earlier this month in Pierce County Superior Court seeks his entire medical record, The News Tribune reported. That includes his medical charts, laboratory results, billing records, notes, medications prescribed, and log of people who visited him.
Jean Kasem had moved her husband to a friend's home in Washington state from California in a battle over his care with the three children from a previous marriage. Kerri Kasem had won control of her father's care and had him taken to the hospital.
Breaks Ground On Canal Project
Nicaraguan officials and a Chinese company broke ground Monday on a $50 billion transoceanic waterway predicted to rival the Panama Canal, but which has been a source of anger and protests from citizens in recent weeks.
President Daniel Ortega, with Wang Jing, president of the contracting firm HKND Group, said the canal will change the economy of Nicaragua, one of Latin America's poorest countries, as well as the rest of the hemisphere.
In a televised address, he promised the project would have minimal impact on the environment and that farmers concerned about their land will receive a just price.
The groundbreaking marked the start of some ancillary projects in Brito, a city about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Nicaragua's Pacific coast where the first port will be built. Officials say the canal will be fully operational by 2019.
Projected to span 173 miles (278 kilometers) between the Caribbean and the Pacific, the canal would be the realization of a dream that has been studied and discarded multiple times since the early 1800s.
Gluten Free Communion
Rachel Rieger figured getting diagnosed with celiac disease and having to rid gluten from her diet meant she could no longer partake of the wheat-based communion bread that represents a key facet of her Catholic faith.
She was thrilled when her priest in Cleveland, Ohio, told her the church allows a low-gluten wafer generally considered safe for people who suffer damage to their small intestine when they eat the gluten protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
Low-gluten and gluten-free communion options are becoming more readily available at churches across the United States, as religious leaders respond to the increasing prevalence of people with gluten intolerance and manufacturers create products that meet most dietary and liturgical needs.
Researchers say celiac disease is now four times more common than it was 60 years ago, though many of the approximately one in 100 people who have it go undiagnosed. The autoimmune disorder can cause severe stomach pain, weight loss and fatigue.
Sister Lynn D'Souza spent several years helping to create the recipe for low-gluten hosts made by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri, after hearing from churchgoers unable to take communion due to wheat sensitivities.