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Status: Real
image I've been compiling a list of odd (but real) musicals. So far I have: To this short list I can now add Thalidomide: the Musical. It's described as "A PC-free musical with a short-armed punch. Set against the 60s thalidomide drug scandal this is a love story with show tunes, love songs and monster baby Tangos." It features songs such as It's Hard To Hitch Down Life's Highway With No Thumbs and Talk To The Flipper. It was written by and stars Mat Fraser, who is himself a victim of Thalidomide. An article about the production states that:

While Thalidomide groups have generally backed the new show, they admit that some members have been offended by Mat's work in the past. Dr Martin Johnson, director of the Thalidomide Trust, said: "We think it's great someone as badly disabled as Mat is making a great career in this industry. Many of the people we support wholeheartedly approve of him because his aim has always been to challenge society's attitudes towards the disabled."
Categories: Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 17, 2005
Comments (19)
Status: Reality TV Show
The premise of a new UK reality TV show, Space Cadets, will be to fool a group of contestants into believing they've been blasted into space. To achieve this goal the show's producers have outfitted an old airbase in the UK to look like a Russian base. As for simulating the space flight itself:

Their shuttle will be a Hollywood creation, made originally for the film Space Cowboys. A giant custom-built screen positioned just outside the shuttle will, it is hoped, provide the illusion of a view of Earth from space including a hurricane over Mexico and a glimpse of the UK on one day when cloud cover parts... The producers will not have to worry about recreating weightlessness because they are being “sent” 62 miles (100km) to Near Space, not Deep Space, where the sensation occurs.

It's hard to imagine anyone falling for this prank, no matter how high-quality the custom-built screens outside the fake shuttle are. But it does remind me of the theory propounded by the Man Will Never Fly Society, whose members insist that mankind has never built a machine capable of flight:

Little do "plane" passengers realize that they are merely boarding Greyhound buses with wings, and that while aboard these winged buses, given the illusion of flight when cloud like scenery is moved past their windows by stagehands in a very expensive theatrical performance.
Categories: Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 17, 2005
Comments (26)
Status: Real
Most people, I assume, are aware of Strunk & White's Elements of Style. It's hard to get through high school without being exposed to it. Now, at long last, that classic grammar and style guide has been put to music. Composer Nico Muhly created an operatic song cycle based on the book. He calls it "The Elements of Style: Nine Songs," and it was performed last month at the New York Public Library. When I first heard about this I thought it was some kind of early April Fool's Day joke. But no. It's quite real. The songs have titles such as "Be Obscure Clearly!", "Overly Over," and "Hyphens." A Newsweek reviewer who attended the event wrote that:

Unfortunately, the operatic style of the piece rendered the lyrics all but unintelligible to this listener—in ironic contrast to the simplifying ethos of "Elements"—though that may be more the fault of the acoustics of the library venue, which was, after all, designed for silence.

Maybe Muhly can make a name for himself by putting all kinds of different reference works to music. What about Oxford English Dictionary: The Musical, or Love Songs Inspired by Roget's Thesaurus?
Categories: Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 03, 2005
Comments (7)
Status: Seems to be real
When word got out that New Line Cinema was producing a movie titled Snakes On A Plane, starring Samuel Jackson, some people, assuming that no major studio would actually create a movie that stupid, thought it had to be a hoax. The minimalist plot outline (with bad grammar) added fuel to these suspicions:

On board a flight over the Pacific Ocean, an assassin, bent on killing a passenger who's a witness in protective custody, let loose a crate full of deadly snakes.

The hoax theory got a further boost when New Line decided not to launch an official website for the film. But now production photos from the set have been released, and Samuel Jackson has spoken publicly about it (refuting suggestions that the studio was going to rename the movie Pacific Air Flight 121), thereby tilting the balance in favor of the movie being real. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing it. But then, I'm easily entertained. Some of the sequel titles that people are inventing are pretty funny, such as Snakes on a Plane 2: Snakes on a Boat or Snakes on a Plane 9: Bears on a Train. According to the Urban Dictionary, The movie's title has also already entered popular speech as an expression of existential resignment:

snakes on a plane: A simple existential observation that has the same meaning as "Whaddya gonna do?" or "Shit Happens". Taken from the upcoming Samuel L. Jackson movie of the same name, and immortilised by screenwriter Josh Friedman on his blog post of Wednesday, August 17, 2005.
Guy 1: (irate) Dude, you just ran into the back of my SUV!
Guy 2: (calm) Snakes on a plane man. Snakes on a plane.
Categories: Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 11, 2005
Comments (11)
A week or two ago papers were reporting the final verdict in the class-action suit against Sony stemming from the David Manning phony critic case. Sony got slapped with a $1.5million fine that was supposed to compensate moviegoers who felt defrauded by the fake ads. But William Booth of the Washington Post did some research and found out that not all was as it seemed with the payout:

News of the settlement created a stir in cyberspace and the entertainment press, with visions of tens of thousands of chagrined rubes lining up around the studio with their palms outstretched. Like, right on! Multiplexers unite! We did some follow-up and learned that Sony paid out $5,085 — total — to 170 real, honest-to-goodness ticket buyers. The rest of the cash? Brace yourself, Virginia: According to court papers, the attorneys for the plaintiffs got $458,909. Sony paid an additional $250,000 for administrative fees and costs associated with alerting moviegoers to the settlement and processing the claims — all 170 of them. Not a bad payday. The settlement, in which Sony conceded no wrongdoing, stipulated that any money left over from the $500,000 the studio set aside for claims would go to charity. And indeed it did, with $494,915 donated to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the Women’s Care Cottage in Los Angeles.
Categories: Entertainment, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 14, 2005
Comments (2)
The Mozart Effect is the term for the idea that listening to classical music will improve your intelligence. The idea is baloney, and yet it enjoys wide belief. Check out MozartEffect.com, where Don Campbell sells a variety of products that will supposedly help people use music to improve their minds and bodies. The Skeptic's Dictionary has a good article debunking the phenomenon. Now Stanford researcher Chip Heath and his colleague Adrian Bangerter have published research tracking the evolution of the idea of the Mozart Effect. They trace The concept back to a 1993 experiment that found college students experienced a slight rise in IQ when listening to classical music (other researchers were never able to duplicate these results). From there the concept took off. But even though the original experiment involved college students, it didn't take long before people were applying the idea to infants and teenagers. So Heath and Bangerter came up with the hypothesis that "the legend of the Mozart Effect grew in response to anxiety about children's education." And "Sure enough, they found that in states with the most problematic educational systems (such as Georgia and Florida), newspapers gave the most coverage to the Mozart Effect." It seems like an interesting case study of what fuels the spread of misinformation.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Sun Jul 31, 2005
Comments (38)
image I went to see Star Wars last night. I hadn't planned to. The plan was that I wasn't going to see any movies until my book is done, which should be in early June (hopefully). But I was at the mall with my wife, and I noticed it was playing, so I couldn't resist. I talked her into seeing it. It turned out that there was absolutely no line, and no wait of any kind. We bought our tickets one minute before the movie started, walked in, and pretty easily found seats. (and we got a matinee price because it was only 5:30!). I was surprised. I thought it would be more crowded opening night.

But apparently theaters were more crowded up in Hollywood. According to The Talent Show, there were also some protesters up there who were denouncing Star Wars as a Satanic menace. Yeah, it was a joke. These are the folks from ooze.com who for years have had a spoof webpage arguing that the Force is a tool of Satan.
Categories: Entertainment, Religion
Posted by Alex on Fri May 20, 2005
Comments (21)
Jeff Tweiten has been waiting in line outside the IMAX theatre in Seattle, Washington for FIVE MONTHS to see Star Wars Episode III. Some suspect this must be a publicity stunt, perhaps engineered by the Star Wars publicity department itself. I would agree. I've also noticed a lot of stories on the news about how much money businesses are going to lose on the opening day of Star Wars because of employees cutting work to see the movie. I also suspect that story is being fed to the media by the Star Wars people. (via AdRants)
Categories: Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Wed May 18, 2005
Comments (26)
There's a rumor going around that a sequel to the '80s movie Pretty In Pink will come out next year, starring all the original cast: Molly Ringwald, John Cryer, and Andrew McCarthy. It will supposedly revisit the characters from the original movie twenty years later, to find out where they are now. I know the rumor must have spread pretty far because I heard it from my wife last week, and she thinks she heard it on the radio, or somewhere like that. However, the rumor is just a hoax. There is no sequel. The source of the rumor was an April Fool's Day hoax perpetrated by ComingSoon.net. From there it got picked up by the British press, who failed to realize that it was a joke, despite some obvious clues (such as the sources for the story leading to pages that said 'April Fools Day'). The No True Bill blog has the full details.
Categories: April Fools Day, Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Sun Apr 17, 2005
Comments (15)
Want to be a best-selling author making millions of dollars? Then sign up to be on Book Millionaire and your dreams could become reality!

Here's your chance to finally become America's next Best Selling Author and Reality Show TV Celebrity!  We are scouting for the next group of candidates for America's hottest new reality show. Act now. Picture yourself featured on national television sharing your story, writing, book-to-be or book with millions of people showing you have what it takes to be America's next Best Selling Author and Book Millionaire.

John Ordover brought this to my attention, noting that it looks like a scam, and I have to agree with him. On Book Millionaire's website they claim to be producing a new reality show, but nowhere can I find what studio or network they're working with, or where they're getting their funding from. Plus, they don't even require contestants to be published authors. You only have to have an idea for a book. But how can you become a bestselling author without a book? Maybe they'll help you sell your idea to get a huge advance. Could happen, so it's not impossible that it's legitimate. And maybe they don't list any partners because they haven't sold the idea to any networks yet. I don't know. But right now it looks kind of shady.
Categories: Entertainment, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 14, 2005
Comments (16)
Diehard Star Wars fans have already begun lining up outside Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood for the opening of Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith. The problem is, Star Wars won't be playing at the Chinese Theater. It'll be playing a few blocks away at the ArcLight. But the fans are waiting at the Chinese anyway. Why? Because they suspect the studios are lying when they say it won't play at the Chinese, and also they get more publicity by waiting in line on Hollywood Blvd.
Categories: Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 08, 2005
Comments (29)
In September 1939 the fledgling BBC television service was shut down because of the start of World War II. According to legend, transmission was ended in the middle of a broadcast of a Disney cartoon called "Mickey's Gala Premiere." When transmission resumed six years later an announcer came on the air and said, "Well now, where were we?" The Disney cartoon then began to play from the exact spot in which it had left off all those years ago. Is this story true? Almost, but not quite. According to imdb.com, "Mickey's Gala Premiere" was the last thing shown on the BBC in 1939 and the first thing it aired when it started back up in 1946. However the cartoon was restarted from the beginning. Not from where it had left off in 1939.
Categories: Entertainment, History
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 06, 2005
Comments (7)
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