January 2, 2009

Jett Travolta, son of actors, dies at 16

The 16-year-old son of actor John Travolta died Friday morning after suffering a seizure while vacationing with his family in the Bahamas, Travolta's attorney told CNN.

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"At this point, we know that John Travolta and Kelly Preston's only son, Jett, had a seizure at around 10 a.m. this morning," attorney Michael Ossi said. "All attempts to revive him were unsuccessful."

The cause of death is not known, Ossi said. An autopsy will be conducted Monday. His body will be transferred to Ocala, Florida, for burial, he said.

Jett's death "was completely out of the blue," he said. "John and Kelly are happy when their children are happy. This is the worst day of John's life."

The Travoltas also have a daughter, Ella, 8.

Bahamian police said a caretaker at the West End resort where the Travoltas were vacationing found the teenager unconcious in the bathroom. Jett Travolta was taken by ambulance to Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport and was pronounced dead on arrival, police said.

Jett Travolta had a developmental disability that his parents, John Travolta and Kelly Preston, have linked to Kawasaki disease, an inflammatory disorder of the artery walls that most commonly occurs in young children and can lead to heart disease.

According to the American Heart Association, "About 80 percent of the people with Kawasaki disease are under age 5. Children over age 8 are rarely affected."

The causes of Kawasaki disease are unknown. Some scientists think it's caused by an infectious agent, such as a virus. Some studies have noted a link between the disease and carpet cleaning chemicals.

"With my son ... I was obsessive about cleaning -- his space being clean, so we constantly had the carpets cleaned," John Travolta told CNN's Larry King in 2001. "And I think, between him, the fumes and walking around, maybe picking up pieces or something, he got what is rarely a thing to deal with, but it's Kawasaki Syndrome."

Jett Travolta was about 2 at the time, John Travolta said

Source: CNN

Tjin Edition Pontiac Solstice

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Mobil 1 – One Lug Wheels Pontiac Solstice
Designed by Tjin Edition
Built by Unique Fabrication

Exterior:

Wheels: One Lug Wheels
Front: 19x8.5” 5-spoke (OLW-1) One Lug Wheels. Gloss black centers, color matched green lips, gold bolts, hub adapter, lug nuts and center locking nut.

Rear: 19x11.5” 5-spoke (OLW-1) One Lug Wheels. Gloss black centers, color matched green lips, gold bolts, hub adapter, lug nuts and center locking nut.

Tires: Falken Tires: 245/40/19 fronts and 275/35/19 rears

Body: Custom three-tone paint job. Body covered in Ninja Green PPG paint, interior painted in a stealth gunmetal and roll cage painted champagne. Custom front bumper, front fenders, rear valance with single exit exhaust, Unique Fabrication all metal rear deck lid and spoiler, re-sculpted a-pillars and window trim, black powdercoated front bumper and fender grilles and emblems, Top Secret hood pins customized in rear deck lid, Ignited HID 8000 headlight bulbs, and 3000k fog light bulbs.
Engine: HAHN Racecraft stage 2 turbo kit, front mount intercooler, ID-Tuning downpipe, Magnaflow full cat-back exhaust with custom exhaust tip (powdercoated black). Mobil 1 synthetic oil.

Fuel set-up: 10 gallon fuel cell, Walbro 255 fuel pump and fuel pressure regulator.

Measured Wheel HP: 284hp

Drivetrain:
Layout: Rear wheel drive, Drivetrain mods: 5-speed transmission

Suspension:
Front: Function and Form Type II fully adjustable coilovers, Rear: Function and Form Type II fully adjustable coilovers

Brakes:
Front: SSBC 6piston calipers, cross-drilled rotors, and stainless braided lines
Rear: SSBC 4piston calipers, cross-drilled rotors, and stainless braided lines

Interior:
GlowShift 7-color black boost, air/fuel, and EGT gauge., Status Racing / Tjin Edition Kevlar racing seats, Team Tech 4pt harnesses, Unique Fabrication seat mounts, ID-Tuning steering wheel adapter, Nardi steering wheel, Unique Fabrication 6pt chromoly roll cage (painted champagne), D2 Racing air jacks , Fully gutted interior, Interior painted gunmetal , Custom all metal door panels and rear section , Ignited Performance toggle switches

Source: Cardomain

Vineyard owner Christian Wölffer killed by boat

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Christian Wölffer, owner of Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, was hit and killed by a boat while he was swimming in Brazil on New Year's Eve, the winery said Friday.

Wölffer, 70, was on vacation and was hit by the boat while swimming in Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian news reports said the boat's propeller cut a deep wound in his chest.

A native of Hamburg, Germany, Wölffer was fluent in six languages and had business interests from the Far East to South America in investment banking, venture capital, real estate, agriculture and entertainment parks.

In 1978, he purchased Sagpond Farm, a 14-acre parcel with a farmhouse surrounded by potato fields in Sagaponack. He invested more than $15 million in his South Fork winemaking venture, expanding his holdings to more than 170 acres including his 55-acre Wölffer Estate Vineyard as well as his home, stables, and grazing land for his thoroughbred horses.

Wölffer began his business career in 1955, at age 17, as a trainee at a bank.

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Source: News Day

Cotton Bowl: Mississippi (8-4) vs. Texas Tech (11-1)

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Played six days before the SEC and Big 12 meet in the national championship, the Cotton Bowl may give fans a glimpse of what lies in store for Florida and Oklahoma. On one side, we have Ole Miss — the only team to beat Florida during the regular season. On the other, high-flying Texas Tech’s offensive philosophy provides a similar picture to Oklahoma, though more skewed towards the passing game. The same questions exist here as do in the B.C.S. national championship game: Can Texas Tech control the Ole Miss front seven? Can the Ole Miss secondary contain Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree? And like the national title game, the Cotton Bowl is expected to be a good one.

The Cotton Bowl: Friday, Jan. 2 at 2 p.m. in Dallas

Mississippi

What a difference a year makes for the Rebels, who ended last season on the lowest of low notes (blowing a 14-0 lead in the Egg Bowl). What a difference a new coach makes as well. Houston Nutt has reversed the losing trend developed under Ed Orgeron, who led the Rebels to only 10 wins over three seasons. Few bowl teams finished the regular season hotter than Ole Miss, which won its final five games to finish 8-4, its best record since the Eli Manning-led 2003 team went 10-3. The Rebels’ quarterback is the Texas transfer Jevan Snead, who was terrific in his first year as the starter. He threw 15 touchdowns against only 2 interceptions during Mississippi’s five-game win streak. End Greg Hardy and tackle Peria Jerry combine to give Ole Miss one of the most formidable defensive lines in the country.

Texas Tech

Because of the hullabaloo about who was left out of the title game, you tend to forget about the teams who were left out of the B.C.S. entirely. Texas Tech, along with Boise State, is a team with a genuine B.C.S. resume (a 39-33 win over then-No. 1 Texas, for starters) which found itself on the outside looking in. The Red Raiders are the only one-loss team from a B.C.S. conference left out. Of course, the reason Tech is in the Cotton Bowl and not, say, the Fiesta or Sugar Bowl, was the 65-21 trouncing dropped on it by Oklahoma, which did irreparable damage to its national standing. Word of the wise to the Red Raiders: Sleep on this game, don’t come to play, and Ole Miss will be only too happy to take full advantage. Thinking outside the box, keep an eye on (if you can find him) the diminutive receiver Eric Morris, who finished second on the team with eight receiving touchdowns. Morris makes Wes Welker, another undersized Tech receiver, look like Randy Moss.

Mississippi Bowl History

Record: 19-12

Last appearance: 2004 Cotton Bowl vs. Oklahoma State (W, 31-28)

Texas Tech Bowl History

Record: 10-20-1

Last appearance: 2008 Gator Bowl vs. Virginia (W, 31-28)

Cotton Bowl History

First played in 1937

Last year: Missouri 38, Arkansas 7

Bowl Pick ‘Em

Pete: Mississippi. Will this game offer any clues to how Florida will do against Oklahoma?
Thayer: Texas Tech. New question that Rebels Coach Houston Nutt can ask his team next season: “How many have won a bowl game before?”
Paul: Texas Tech. But the Ole Miss front four is going to give Tech fits.
Fred: Texas Tech. Love the Red Raiders and love Mike Leach. This is one of the more intriguing non-B.C.S. bowl games. I just think Texas Tech has too much offense.
Connor: Texas Tech. Ole Miss is headed on the right track with Houston Nutt, but Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree make the Red Raiders too explosive.

Source: The Quad

Mark Steyn

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Mark Steyn (born 1959) is a Canadian writer, political commentator and cultural critic. He has authored five books, including America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, a New York Times bestseller. He is published in newspapers and magazines, and also appears on radio shows such as those of Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt.

Steyn, a Canadian citizen, now resides mainly in New Hampshire in the United States. He is married with three children.[1]

Career

Although born in Toronto, Steyn was educated at the King Edward's School, Birmingham in the United Kingdom. [2] He left school at 16 and worked as a disc-jockey before becoming musical theatre critic at the newly established The Independent in 1986.[3] He was appointed film critic for The Spectator in 1992. After writing predominantly about the arts, Steyn's focus shifted to political commentary and moved to the conservative broadsheet The Daily Telegraph.

Since then, he has written for a wide range of mostly conservative publications, including The Jerusalem Post, The Orange County Register, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, The New York Sun, The Australian, Macleans, Irish Times, National Post, The Atlantic Monthly, Western Standard and New Criterion.

Steyn's website "SteynOnline" provides special commentary and access to many of his columns and other published work and offers books, t-shirts, mugs and other merchandise for sale. He occasionally posts to National Review Online group blog, The Corner.

Steyn's books include Broadway Babies Say Goodnight: Musicals Then and Now (a history of the musical theatre) and America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, a New York Times bestseller. He has also published collections of his columns and his celebrity obituaries and profiles from The Atlantic. In 2008, he joined actress and comedian Jessica Martin to release a cover of It's a Marshmallow World, a holiday song first popularized by Bing Crosby.[5]

Writing Style

Steyn's writing draws supporters and detractors for content. His style was described by Robert Fulford as “bring[ing] to public affairs the dark comedy developed in the Theatre of the Absurd”.[4] Longtime editor and admirer Fulford also wrote, "Steyn, a self-styled "right-wing bastard," violates everyone's sense of good taste."[4] According to Simon Mann, Steyn “gives succour to the maxim the pen is mightier than the sword, though he is not averse to employing the former to advocate use of the latter.”[3]

Susan Catto in Time noted his interest in controversy, "Instead of shying away from the appearance of conflict, Steyn positively revels in it."[5] Canadian journalist Steve Burgess wrote "Steyn wields his rhetorical rapier with genuine skill" and that national disasters tended to cause Steyn "...to display his inner wingnut."[6] Lionel Shriver wrote, ". . . I love Mark Steyn", adding, ". . . however you may deplore his opinions, Steyn is funny." [7]

James Wolcott of Vanity Fair says that he asks himself, "how can one man be so wrong" when he reads "the latest dimestore prophesy from neocon jester Mark Steyn, whose occult powers of clairvoyance never fail to fail him."[8] Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic wrote that Steyn was, "...long on colorful rhetoric but short on dry facts."[9] British journalist Johann Hari wrote in the New Statesman: "Steyn's prose has a jangling musicality; like Ann Coulter, he writes in a demonic demotic that makes you chuckle even as you retch."[10]

Positions

Criticism of media

In a May 2004 column Steyn stated that The Daily Mirror and the Boston Globe published false pictures of British and American soldiers abusing Iraqis because editors were encouraging anti-Bush sentiments. Steyn argues that media only wanted to show images to westerners "that will shame and demoralize them."[11] Boston Phoenix media critic Dan Kennedy said that Steyn's column was an effort to "rally the spirits of his fellow warmongers: by demonizing anyone who dared to criticize the war."[12]

In a July 2005 column for National Review, Steyn amplified his dislike for the media. He criticized Andrew Jaspan, the editor of the Australian newspaper, The Age. Jaspan was offended by Douglas Wood, an Australian kidnapped and held hostage in Iraq, who after his rescue referred to his captors as "arseholes." Jaspan claimed that “the issue is really largely, speaking as I understand it, he was treated well there. He says he was fed every day, and as such to turn around and use that kind of language I think is just insensitive.” Steyn responded in his column by arguing that insensitivity toward captors is not the most important, and that it was Jaspan, not Wood, who suffered from Stockholm syndrome. He said further, “A blindfolded Mr. Wood had to listen to his captors murder two of his colleagues a few inches away, but how crude and boorish would one have to be to hold that against one’s hosts?”

In a January 2007 column in the Chicago Sun-Times, Steyn wrote that Barack Obama was “black, and white, and Hawaiian, and Kansan, and charismatic, and Congregationalist, and Muslim. [...] He was raised in an Indonesian madrassah by radical imams, which is more than John Edwards can say.” He added, “The madrassah stuff was supposedly leaked to Insight Magazine… by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s team.”[13] Two days later, Lynn Sweet of the Sun-Times responded to Steyn regarding what she called the smear on Obama and the attack on Clinton. She wrote, “And there is no evidence whatsoever that Clinton's campaign had anything to do with spreading the damaging rumor that Obama hid a Muslim background.” Sweet noted the visit by CNN's John Vause to the state-run elementary school in Indonesia that Obama attended from 1969 to 1971.[14]

Steyn has been a vocal critic of American journalism and the so-called j-school culture ostensibly entrenched in the journalism departments of many American universities, describing American newspapers as "the dullest in the world", and dismissing the idea of journalism as a profession to be studied. "When I started out in journalism, in Fleet Street, everybody I knew was only doing journalism because their lives had gone horribly wrong...and that's what happened to me. I needed some money in a hurry and thought I'd do journalism for a few weeks until something better came along, and it never did so now I'm stuck with it."

Conrad Black trial

Steyn wrote articles and maintained a blog[15] for Maclean's covering the 2007 business fraud trial of his friend Conrad Black in Chicago. Questions were raised in the media over the objectivity of Steyn's coverage,[16] for example Andrew Clark of The Guardian, referring to Steyn as one of Black’s "loyal supporters", quoted from Steyn’s Blog, “If it is bad news, I'm sorry I won't be there to support my old boss…”[17] Suanne Kelman wrote in the Literary Review of Canada[18] that the leader of Black's media cheering section at his Chicago trial was "above all Maclean’s Mark Steyn, in both the magazine and his logorrheic blog." Kelman stated that Steyn began coverage with the view that Black's trial was a "cruel farce".

After Black's conviction, Steyn published a 7,500 word post mortem in Maclean's, excoriating Black's defense team and blaming them, with a list of others, for the outcome.[19] Describing the article, Toronto Star business columnist Jennifer Wells said, "... columnist Mark Steyn lifts his leg and relieves himself with the force of a Clydesdale in the direction of Greenspan and his co-counsel Eddie Genson." Wells concludes that Steyn was "... stingingly absurd to suggest that Conrad Black was done in by his lawyers. He was done in by the facts." [20]

Eurabia - inevitability or artifice

According to Mark Steyn, Eurabia – a continent dominated by Islam – is inevitable and imminent. He says,“The problem, after all, is not that the sons of Allah are 'long shots' but that they’re certainties: every Continental under the age of 40 – okay, make that 60, if not 75 – is all but guaranteed to end his days living in an Islamified Eurabia.”[21] “On the Continent and elsewhere in the West, native populations are aging and fading and being supplanted remorselessly by a young Muslim demographic.” [22]

Steyn claims that Muslims will account for perhaps 40 per cent of the population by 2020, but Globe and Mail correspondent Doug Saunders labels the assertion false:

"Slightly more than 4 per cent of Europe's population is 'Muslim', as defined by demographers (though about 80 per cent of these people are not religiously observant, so they are better defined as secular citizens who have escaped religious nations). It is possible, though not certain, that this number could rise to 6 per cent by 2020. If current immigration and birth rates remain the same, it could even rise to 10 per cent within 100 years. But it won't, because 'Muslims' don't actually have more babies than other populations do under the same circumstances. The declining population-growth rates ... are not confined to native populations. In fact, immigrants from Muslim countries are experiencing a faster drop in reproduction rates than the larger European population.” [23]

In his book "America Alone", Steyn posits that Muslim population growth has already contributed to a modern European genocide:

“Why did Bosnia collapse into the worst slaughter in Europe since World War Two? In the thirty years before the meltdown, Bosnian Serbs had declined from 43 percent to 31 percent of the population, while Bosnian Muslims had increased from 26 percent to 44 percent. In a democratic age, you can’t buck demography—except through civil war. The Serbs figured that out—as other Continentals will in the years ahead: if you can’t outbreed the enemy, cull ’em. The problem that Europe faces is that Bosnia’s demographic profile is now the model for the entire continent.” [24]

Author and U.C.L.A. Public Policy Professor Mark Kleiman fears that, “Steyn is justifying genocide, both retrospectively in Bosnia and prospectively in the rest of Europe.” [25] Andrew Sullivan calls Steyn's book "an intellectually vulgar diatribe based on the crudest demographic reductionism"[26] and also wonders, “Is Steyn actually advocating genocide? When you read the full context of the paragraph in the book (pages 4 - 6), there are no exculpatory words around it.” [27]

Steyn responded to criticisms by saying,

"My book isn’t about what I want to happen but what I think will happen. Given Fascism, Communism and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, it’s not hard to foresee that the neo-nationalist resurgence already under way in parts of Europe will at some point take a violent form. That’s pretty much a given. . . . I think any descent into neo-Fascism will be ineffectual and therefore merely a temporary blip in the remorseless transformation of the Continent. “ [28]

Criticism of multiculturalism

Steyn has commented on divisions between the Western world and the Islamic World. He criticizes the tolerance of what he deems to be "Islamic cultural intolerance." Steyn says that multiculturalism only requires feeling good about other cultures and is "fundamentally a fraud... subliminally accepted on that basis.[29] In Jewish World Review, Steyn argues "Multiculturalism means that the worst attributes of Muslim culture—the subjugation of women—combine with the worst attributes of Western culture—licence and self-gratification." He explains, "I'm not a racist, only a culturist. I believe Western culture—rule of law, universal suffrage, etc.—is preferable to Arab culture..." [30]

Christopher Hitchens believes that Steyn errs by "considering European Muslim populations as one. Islam is as fissile as any other religion... and considerable friction exists among immigrant Muslim groups in many European countries. Moreover, many Muslims actually have come to Europe for the advertised purposes—seeking asylum and to build a better life." [31]. However Hitchens' review of Steyn's America Alone was extremely favorable, calling it an "admirably tough-minded book".[32]

Scott Horton, lawyer and Harper's writer, commented on Steyn's ethnic labels, including one that referred to Muslims as "sheep-shaggers."[33] According to Horton, "It would be quite an understatement to call this language “intolerant.” Indeed it can easily be paralleled with ethnic stigmatization that has occurred in the most vicious societies in modern times." [34]. Steyn replied to this commentary, and others like it, by illustrating that his reference was founded in factual citation of the writings of Ayatollah Khomeni[35].

Support of Iraq invasion

Steyn was an early proponent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 2007 he reiterated his support while attacking Democrat John Murtha, stating that his plan for military action in Iraq was designed “to deny the president the possibility of victory while making sure Democrats don't have to share the blame for the defeat. … [Murtha] doesn't support them in the mission, but he'd like them to continue failing at it for a couple more years”.[36]

Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald called Steyn a "faux warrior" who is “one of the most extremist warmongers in our country”, adding that Steyn has been “as fundamentally wrong as one can be about virtually every issue he has touched.”[37]

Criticisms of Steyn

Some critics argue that Steyn disregards opposing arguments and events that contradict his earlier predictions. These include his repeated claims that Osama Bin Laden was "certainly" dead. His incorrect predictions have been widely mocked. For example, Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the Guardian wrote,:

"Apart from predicting that George Bush would win the 2000 presidential election in a landslide, Steyn said at regular intervals that Osama bin Laden "will remain dead". Weeks after the invasion of Iraq he assured his readers that there would be "no widespread resentment at or resistance of the western military presence"; in December 2003 he wrote that "another six weeks of insurgency sounds about right, after which it will peter out"; and the following March he insisted that: "I don't think it's possible for anyone who looks at Iraq honestly to see it as anything other than a success story." [38]

Johann Hari accused Steyn of falsely claiming that "[o]n September 10, 2001, a sixth-grade student of Middle Eastern origin at a Brooklyn high school that told his teacher the Twin Towers would collapse five days prior to 9/11.[39] and that this was a common occurrence in New York City on the day of the attacks. Later, in a review of America Alone, Hari accused Steyn of "raw racism", pointing to a passage which he argues shows Steyn to be celebrating the birth of 'white' babies over those of other ethnicities. He also states that Steyn "describes as 'correct' a friend who talks about 'beturbanned prophet-monkeys'" and goes on to say that "for [Steyn], culture is merely a thinly veiled homologue for race."[40]

Canadian Islamic Congress human rights complaint

In 2007, a complaint was filed with the Ontario Human Rights Commission related to an article "The Future Belongs to Islam," [41] written by Mark Steyn, published in Maclean's magazine. The complainants alleged that the article and Maclean’s refusal to provide space for a rebuttal violated their human rights. The complainants also claimed that the article was one of twenty-two (22) Maclean’s articles, many written by Steyn, targeting Muslims.[42] Further complaints were filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission refused in April 2008 to proceed, saying it lacked jurisdiction to deal with magazine content. However, the Commission stated that it, “strongly condemns the Islamophobic portrayal of Muslims . . . . Media has a responsibility to engage in fair and unbiased journalism.” [43] Critics of the Commission claimed that Maclean’s and Steyn had been found guilty without a hearing. John Martin of The Province wrote, "There was no hearing, no evidence presented and no opportunity to offer a defence -- just a pronouncement of wrongdoing."[44] The OHRC defended its right to comment by stating, "Like racial profiling and other types of discrimination, ascribing the behaviour of individuals to a group damages everyone in that group. We have always spoken out on such issues. Maclean’s and its writers are free to express their opinions. The OHRC is mandated to express what it sees as unfair and harmful comment or conduct that may lead to discrimination."[45]

Steyn subsequently criticized the Commission, commenting that "Even though they (the OHRC) don't have the guts to hear the case, they might as well find us guilty. Ingenious!"[46]

On April 2, 2008, the head of the Canadian Human Rights Commission issued a public letter to the editor of Maclean’s magazine. In it, Jennifer Lynch said, "Mr. Steyn would have us believe that words, however hateful, should be given free reign [sic]. History has shown us that hateful words sometimes lead to hurtful actions that undermine freedom and have led to unspeakable crimes. That is why Canada and most other democracies have enacted legislation to place reasonable limits on the expression of hatred."[47] The National Post subsequently defended Steyn and sharply crticizied Lynch, stating that Lynch has "no clear understanding of free speech or the value of protecting it" and that "No human right is more basic than freedom of expression, not even the "right" to live one's life free from offence by remarks about one's ethnicity, gender, culture or orientation."[48]

The federal Canadian Human Rights Commission dismissed the Canadian Islamic Congress' complaint against Maclean’s in June 2008. The CHRC's ruling said of the article that, "the writing is polemical, colourful and emphatic, and was obviously calculated to excite discussion and even offend certain readers, Muslim and non-Muslim alike." However, the Commission ruled that overall, "the views expressed in the Steyn article, when considered as a whole and in context, are not of an extreme nature, as defined by the Supreme Court."[49]

Steyn later wrote a lengthy reflection of his turmoil with the commissions and the tribunals. The reflection appears as the introduction to Tyranny of Nice[50], a book authored by Kathy Shaidle and Pete Vere on Canada's human rights commissions. In it, Steyn writes:

I’ve learned a lot of lessons during my time in the crosshairs of the [Canadian human rights investigator Jennifer] Lynch mob. Although the feistier columnists have spoken out on this issue, the broad mass of Canadian media seems generally indifferent to a power grab that explicitly threatens to reduce them to a maple-flavoured variant of Pravda. One boneheaded “journalism professor” even attempted to intervene in the British Columbia trial on the side of the censors. As some leftie website put it, “Defending freedom of speech for jerks means defending jerks.” Well, yes. But, in this case, not defending the jerks means not defending freedom of speech for yourself. It’s not a left/right thing; it’s a free/unfree thing. But an alarming proportion of the Dominion’s “media workers” seem relatively relaxed about playing the role of eunuchs to the Trudeaupian sultans.

Award

Mark Steyn was awarded the 2006 Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism [6]. The annual award recognizes the work of a columnist, editorialist or writer whose work defends and expresses admiration of the United States and its democratic institutions. Steyn's article "Be Glad the Flag Is Worth Burning"[51] was nominated for the award. The following is an extract: "One of the big lessons of these last four years is that many, many beneficiaries of Western civilization loathe that civilization, and the media are generally inclined to blur the extent of that loathing".[52] Roger Ailes of Fox News presented the prize, which included a $20,000 check from an endowment founded by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

Bibliography

References

Source: Wikipedia

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D

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The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D is a 2005 family film by Robert Rodriguez, the writer, producer and director of Spy Kids. The film uses the same anaglyph 3D technology used in Spy Kids 3D: Game Over. The film stars Cayden Boyd, Taylor Lautner, Taylor Dooley, and George Lopez. Many of the concepts and much of the story was conceived by Rodriguez' kids, and seven-year-old Racer Rodriguez. The film tells the story of a 10-year-old named Max, who is burdened by school bullies and quarreling parents. He makes up two superhero friends, Sharkboy and Lavagirl, who are "real" and come and find Max in order to take him back to their home, Planet Drool, which is in danger. Most of the villains are really people in Max's real life. Much of the film deals with the conflict between fantasy (the dreamworld) and reality.

The film performed modestly at the box office, and won little praise from critics.

Plot

The movie starts off with a quote by Lava Girl: Everything that is or was began with a dream...

A boy simply called Max (Cayden Boyd), living in central Texas, is regularly bullied at his school, while his parents (David Arquette and Kristin Davis) are constantly arguing. Dissatisfied and lonely, he creates a dreamworld called "Planet Drool" wherein endless fun and brilliant dreaming are the norm. Many of the inhabitants of this world, including the two villains, resemble people of Max's own life. To inhabit this world, Max imagines two young superheroes, Sharkboy (Taylor Lautner) and Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley). Numerous of the places and concepts in the dreamworld are puns or cultural references, as shown below.

As part of a writing assignment, Max reveals to his schoolmates and teacher the origin of Sharkboy, who is the son of a biologist whose houseboat laboratory was destroyed in a violent storm and who eventually became a warrior under the tuition of great white sharks, and describes his own meeting with both fighters. No one is at all kind to Max, except Marissa (Sasha Pieterse), the daughter of the teacher, Mr. Electricidad (George Lopez). An overprotective father, Mr Electricidad does not want Max to befriend her, although he suggests that Max attempt to make friends in his real world so as to distract himself from dreaming. Later, a bully called Linus (Jacob Davich) steals Max's Dream Journal. The next day, Max confronts Linus, who returns the now heavily scribbled Dream Journal to Max. As a storm gathers outside, the characters emotions become increasingly exaggerated. Max accuses Linus of spoiling the journal, who in turn demands that Max be expelled. Angered at having his authority challenged, Mr. Electricidad spitefully proclaims that they shall "both report to the principal's office". As he concludes this speech, the wall of the schoolroom is broken down by a cyclonic wind, revealing Sharkboy and Lavagirl, who have come to enlist Max's aid in saving Planet Drool from a "Darkness" which encroaches upon it. Neither of them denies that they are Max's creations: Lavagirl, when describing Planet Drool, remarks "You should know, Max; you made it up".

The three then travel to Planet Drool, where it is revealed that Max's dreamworld has become a garish nightmare. After rescuing some children from a never-ending roller coaster, they confront the sadistic Mr. Electric, a now corrupt operator of the planet's electrical support, who overpowers them and sends them down the "Passage of Time" to the Dream Graveyard. There, Sharkboy and Lavagirl urge Max to dream, believing his imagination to be of great power; but Max is uncertain of how to proceed.

Among the useless or forsaken dreams lying derelict in the Graveyard, Max discovers Tobor, a sapient, android robot (Tobor's name is spelled "Robot" backwards) Max once tried to build. Tobor advises them to catch the Train of Thought to a place of safety, allowing them to ride on his disembodied eyes and mouth, the only parts of his body which he can move. They then ride the Train of Thought to the Land of Milk and Cookies, where Max is able to dream without the corrupting influence of the Darkness. He is abetted by some off-key singing by Lavagirl and a much better performance by Sharkboy. When they are attacked by Mr. Electric's seekers, the "plughounds", Max is able to dream up a banana split-shaped boat by which they are able to escape down the "Stream of Consciousness". Here, Max reveals that they may, in order to gain an advantage over Mr. Electric, obtain a thing called the Crystal Heart from its owner, the Ice Princess. To reach this princess, they must cross a long, narrow ice bridge; Lavagirl, whose heat threatens to melt the bridge if she is awake, attempts to sleepwalk across it. Mr. Electric ambushes them on the Ice Palace's side of the bridge. They are taken to the Dream Lair, the source of the planet's vitality, where they discover that Linus, who now styles himself Minus, has been empowered by Max's corrupted Dream Journal and now stands poised to destroy the world recorded within it. They escape when Lavagirl encourages some tiny, bubble-like, soothing dream-creatures called "Lalas" to sing at a frequency which provokes Sharkboy into tearing apart the cage holding them captive. They reclaim the Dream Journal, but it burns to ashes in Lavagirl's overeager hands. Shattered, she fervently laments her tendency towards destruction, and fears that she is inherently evil. She angrily questions Max as to why he made her of lava and paired her with Sharkboy, claiming that, like Max's parents, they are incompatible.

They return to the Ice Castle, where the Ice Princess, who more than slightly resembles Max's fellow-student Marissa, agrees to lend him the Heart, under conditions imposed by her father the Ice Guardian. As they journey to the Dream Lair, Mr. Electric challenges Sharkboy, who is then rendered insentient by electric eels. Spurning Max's warnings, Lavagirl sacrifices herself to rescue him. Max, grief-stricken, wonders what to do, whereupon Tobor's face appears as a counselor. The two converse, concluding that Max should "dream a better dream", having hitherto only dreamed for himself, on purpose to escape from rather than improve his real world.

When Tobor has gone, Sharkboy wakes and is aghast to see Lavagirl in her state of near-death. Wishing to save her, Sharkboy carries her to an active volcano and throws her into its crater, while Max imagines that her nature is that of light, the most "positive" thing to emerge from sources of heat. She is immediately revived, whereupon her power manifests itself as a light that burns away the Darkness. Max, now in full possession of his power to dream, thaws the frozen ocean for Sharkboy, who, aided by several mako sharks, pins Mr. Electric down. Max and Linus then duel, using escalating manifestations of thought to defeat each other, until Max realizes that at some time in the past, someone broke Linus' own dreams, with the result that Linus seeks to destroy everything that reminds him of what he has lost. Inspired by this, Max offers him his friendship, and Linus accepts. Lavagirl and Sharkboy join the reconciled Max and Linus at the Dream Lair, each one elated at having achieved their respective ambitions; Lavagirl at having her positive nature revealed and Sharkboy at his new status as King of the Ocean. Mr. Electric, however, has becomes addicted to evil, and therefore sets off to kill Max, who, along with Linus, is dreaming on Earth. Max reluctantly returns to his waking life, where Mr. Electric has stirred the local weather into a tornado, which sweeps up Max's parents as they attempt to rescue their son. During the struggle to avoid losing contact with each other, Max's parents realize that their affection for each other exists in spite of their recent quarrels. They are rescued by Sharkboy and Lavagirl.

Mr. Electric, meanwhile, menaces Max and his classmates, whereupon Mr. Electricidad urges the students to think of a plan by which to defeat Mr. Electric. Linus, having tried and failed to do so in single combat, suggests that Mr. Electric be frozen. Max, remembering that he has the Crystal Heart, gives it to Marissa, who being the Earthly version of the Ice Princess has the ability to use it. She confidently strides out into the windstorm (overriding her father's objections) and uses the Crystal Heart to change Mr. Electric into unseasonal snow. Mr. Electricidad, having learned "as much from his students as the students learn from him", thanks Max for having "awakened" him.

Subsequently, Max reveals to the class that Sharkboy, now king of the ocean, travels in search of his father and cares for the ocean's creatures while above him Lavagirl tends to the volcanoes that originate on the ocean floor. They no longer visit Max, though he may visit them in his dreams. You see a short clip of Sharkboy and Lavagirl walking down a beach holding pinkies. The film then concludes showing Max and his parents in the act of completing Tobor.

Cast

Characters

  • Cayden Boyd as Max. The protagonist; an imaginative ten-year-old, known as the "day-dreamer" on Planet Drool. "At first he's dreaming all for himself; he wants Shark Boy and Lava Girl to take him away", says Boyd about the role. "I like that he's selfish in the beginning and he's not selfish in the end"[1]. Some of the dialogue between Boyd and George Lopez in the film refers to Lopez's role on the George Lopez TV series, wherein Luis Armand Garcia plays a character named Max.
  • Taylor Lautner as Sharkboy. Dreamt up by Max, Sharkboy is a young warrior who was raised by sharks after he was separated from his father, a marine biologist, when a storm destroyed their floating laboratory. He therefore imitates the sharks in his personality. "He's very self-confident and sometimes his confidence gets him into trouble', says Lautner about the character. "He's also kinda jealous of the character, Max, because he has an inside crush on Lava Girl and she's overly motherly to Max"[2]. Lautner's martial arts skills helped him to obtain the role of Sharkboy. "When I auditioned for the film, Robert Rodriguez, the director, didn’t know that I had my martial arts [background], and while we there in Austin, TX he saw a DVD of me and asked me to choreograph my own fight scenes", said Lautner.[3]
  • Taylor Dooley as Lavagirl. She is the other young warrior who protects Planet Drool, and was also created by Max. Her origins are unknown; indeed, she is uncertain of her own identity and purpose throughout much of the film. The role of Lavagirl was cast after the two other main characters (Sharkboy and Max) had already been cast.[4] Her lava bike was Computer-generated, like many of the elements in the film; Dooley and Lautner described the on-set versions of the lava bike and Sharkboy's shark-themed jetski as "a green box with handles". [5]
  • George Lopez as Mr. Electricidad / Mr. Electric, Tobor, and Ice Guardian. Mr. Electricidad is Max's schoolteacher, and is sometimes intolerant of active imagination. His alter ego is Mr. Electric, who maintains the equilibrium of Planet Drool until he becomes corrupted by Minus. Mr. Electric is heard to have a sense of humor, manifest in puns related mostly to electricity. His challenge to Sharkboy is followed by a companionable "Watts up?"; a play on "What's up?", which is a way of inquiring into a friend's welfare. Later, Mr. Electric shouts "Charge!" as he emerges from the tornado, indicating both an electric surge of power and an advance into battle. Immediately before his destruction, he threatens the class with "Megahertz", suggesting "mega hurts". Rodriguez wrote the part with Lopez in mind.[6]
  • Tobor and the Ice Guardian (the Ice Princess' father) are voiced by George Lopez in the film. Tobor is a robot who appears in the Dream Graveyard on Planet Drool. Max had formerly tried to build Tobor in the real world, but had been discouraged by a careless remark of his father's. The name "Tobor" evidently is "robot" spelled backward. The Ice Guardian has a very small role; he is a tall figure made apparently of animate ice and a protective father to the Ice Princess, much as Mr. Electricidad is to his own daughter Marissa. Rodriguez states that he kept asking Lopez to play additional characters. Lopez spent a total of two weeks working on the film.[7]
  • David Arquette and Kristin Davis play Max's dad and mom respectively. Max's dad is an unemployed writer. They are on the brink of a divorce. They mean well for Max but are unable to settle his troubles. On Planet Drool, Max's parents appear as a couple of 'Cookie Giants' who live happily in the Land of Milk and Cookies. Like Sharkboy and Max, they are used as sources for a running gag wherein one character eats a mouthful of some substance and then violently spits it out, spraying the audience's viewpoint. This joke, when the male Giant is its central character, serves as a device to reflect his alter-ego's dislike of his wife's chocolate-chip cookies, which are implied to be the inspiration, in Max's mind, for the Giant's location. It also gives a reason to show his wife's empathy, which is lacking in Max's real world.
  • Jacob Davich as Linus / Minus. He is a bully at Max's school and steals his Dream Journal. With it, he enters Max's dreamworld and, using the name "Minus" (a nickname bestowed by Mr. Electricidad for Linus' habit of disliked conduct), alters it to his version. He is ultimately converted to Max's friendship when the true nature of his bullying is revealed. The dream he later creates for himself, as shown in a resolving scene, is a superhero named "Mr. Positive", possibly as a contrast with his creator's nickname of "Minus".
  • Sasha Pieterse as Marissa Electricidad / Ice Princess. Marissa is the daughter of Mr. Electricidad, and at first the only student who befriends Max. On Planet Drool, she appears as the Ice Princess, keeper of the Crystal Heart, which is a necklace she wears which can freeze anything, including time. Because Max and his friends desire an increased opportunity wherein to defeat Mr. Electric, they request the Crystal Heart of her, to discover that only she and her alter-ego Marissa can use it. Marissa is often kept under very severe scrutiny by her father; possibly as a result, Max has imagined the Ice Princess as capable of speaking boldly to her father, correcting him when he suppresses her. Because Max seems to have an emotional "soft spot" for Marissa, the oath he takes to protect the Crystal Heart resembles a Catholic wedding vow.

As seen in the credits, two of Robert Rodriguez's children, Rebel and Racer, portray Sharkboy at age five and age seven respectively. Rico Torres plays Sharkboy's father.

Production

Parts of the film were shot on location in Texas, where Max resides and goes to school in the film. Much of the film, however was shot in a studio against green screen. Most of the ships, landscapes and other effects including some creatures and characters, were accomplished digitally. According to Lautner and Dooley, when filming the scene with the dream train, the front part of the train was an actual physical set piece. "The whole inside was there and when they have all the gadgets you can pull on, that was all there but everything else was a green screen," said Dooley.[8] Eleven visual effects companies (Hybride, CafeFX, The Orphanage, Post Logic, Hydraulx, Industrial Light & Magic, R!ot Pictures, Tippett Studio, Amalgamated Pixels and Intelligent Creatures and Rodriguez's Texas-based Troublemaker Digital) worked on the film in order to accomplish over 1,000 visual effect shots.[9] Those who had worked on Rodriruez's previous 3D film Spy Kids 3D were able to use some of the lessons they learned while working on that film.[9]

Robert Rodriguez appears in the credits fourteen times, most notably as director, a producer, a screenwriter (along with Marcel Rodriguez), visual effects supervisor, director of photograhy, editor, a camera operator, and a composer and performer.The story is credited to Racer Max Rodriguez, with additional story elements by Rebecca Rodriguez, who also wrote the lyrics for the main song, Sharkboy and Lavagirl. Other members of the Rodriguez family can be seen in the film or were involved in the production.

Reception

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D was widely panned by critics, with a 19% rating on Rotten Tomatoes [1], yet performed modestly at the box office, grossing $39.1 million in North America and $30.2 million overseas [2]. Stars Taylor Lautner and Taylor Dooley were nominated for acting awards at the 2006 Young Artist Awards for their work in this movie [3].

Roger Ebert, who is among those film critics who did not entirely dislike the film, found that the 3-D process used was distracting and muted the colors, thus, he believes, "spoiling" much of the film. He expressed hope that the 2D version released on the DVD would look much better.[10]

Lawsuit

TNA professional wrestler Dean Roll, who trademarked the name "Shark Boy" in 1999, filed a lawsuit against Miramax on June 8, 2005, claiming that his trademark had been infringed and demanding "[any] money, profits and advantages wrongfully gained". In April 2007, the suit was settled for an undisclosed amount.

Soundtrack

Director Robert Rodriguez composed parts of the score himself, with contributions by composers John Debney and Graeme Revell.

Track listing
  1. "The Shark Boy" (Robert Rodriguez/John Debney) – 3:47
  2. "The Lava Girl" (Robert Rodriguez) – 1:28
  3. "Max's Dream" (Robert Rodriguez) – 1:37
  4. "Sharkboy and Lavagirl Return" (Robert Rodriguez) – 1:44
  5. "Planet Drool" (Robert Rodriguez) – 2:12
  6. "Mount Never Rest" (Graeme Revell) – 2:35
  7. "Passage of Time" (Robert Rodriguez, Carl Thiel) – 1:30
  8. "Mr. Electric" (Graeme Revell) – 1:09
  9. "Train of Thought" (John Debney) – 2:01
  10. "Dream Dream Dream Dream (Dream Dream)" (Robert Rodriguez) – 1:54
  11. "Stream of Consciousness" (John Debney) – 1:33
  12. "Sea of Confusion" (John Debney) – 3:04
  13. "The LaLa's" (Nicole Weinstein) – 1:09
  14. "The Ice Princess" (Robert Rodriguez/John Debney) – 2:51
  15. "Sharkboy vs. Mr. Electric" (Graeme Revell) – 0:55
  16. "Lavagirl's Sacrifice" (Robert Rodriguez) - 2:10
  17. "The Light" ([[Robert Rodriguez) – 2:21
  18. "Battle of the Dreamers" (Robert Rodriguez) – 1:21
  19. "Mr. Electric on Earth" (Graeme Revell) – 1:15
  20. "Unplugged" (Robert Rodriguez/John Debney) – 1:12
  21. "The Day Dreamer" (Robert Rodriguez/John Debney) – 1:29
  22. "Sharkboy and Lavagirl" (Robert Rodriguez) – 4:09
References

Source: Wikipedia