Thursday, October 18, 2007

Shatner on This!

Original Captain Kirk actor William Shatner has been lined up for a cameo role in the new STAR TREK film.

The 76-year-old star will play a small part in the forthcoming sci-fi prequel which will follow the early adventures of the original Enterprise crew.

The 11th big screen installment of the legendary TV series will also feature a cameo appearance from Shatner's former co-star Leonard Nimoy who made famous the role of Mr Spock.

Other actors already signed up for the project include Chris Pine as Kirk, Heroes star Zachary Quinto (Sylar) as Spock and Simon Pegg as Scotty.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Too Cute

Mini pigs are big success on farm
Miniature piglets
TV presenter Jonathan Ross has bought two of the pigs
A Devon fun farm is reaping the rewards of a nine-year breeding programme for miniature pigs.

The pigs, which are about a fifth of the size of ordinary pigs, have been a hit with visitors at Pennywell Farm.

TV celebrity Jonathan Ross bought two of the pint-sized porkers as pets at £150 each and there have even been offers from as far away as Australia.

The pocket pigs are a variant of the rare kune kune breed, which are found in New Zealand.

Chris Murray, co-owner of the farm near Buckfastleigh, began cross-breeding the pigs nine years ago and believes he has the perfect pet pig.

Off menu

He said: "Pigs are very cute when they are young, but they outgrow a home environment and can be aggressive when they get older.

"These pigs are just at home indoors or outdoors."

Some pet pigs, such as the Vietnamese pot-bellied variety, have in the past been bought for their cuteness.

But they fell out of fashion when it became clear how big they grow.

The world's smallest pig is thought to be the 28in-long wild pygmy hog, an endangered species which lives in wildlife sanctuaries in Assam, India.

Mr Murray said: "They are easy to house train and have a good temperament.

"A sow would normally snap at you if you picked up one of her litter, but these are amazingly content."

Mr Murray doubts if they will be appearing on restaurant menus.

"They are too small, he said.

"It would be uneconomic so it's unlikely they will be used for meat and there is already a huge amount of different pig meat available."

Uganda: Mufti Wants Gays Abandoned On Islands

Andrew Bagala
Old Kampala

THE Mufti, Sheikh Ramathan Shaban Mubajje wants gays marooned on an island in Lake Victoria until they die. Sheikh Mubajje told journalists on Friday at Old Kampala Mosque that he sold his proposal to President Yoweri Museveni when they met last week at Hotel Africana.

"I asked President Museveni to get us an island on Lake Victoria and we take these homosexuals and they die out there," Sheikh Mubajje said during a press briefing after Idd el Fitr prayers.

"If they [gays] die there then we shall have no more homosexuals in the country."

According to some Muslim clerics who attended the meeting, Mr Museveni never commented on the Mufti's proposal of marooning gays.

Sheikh Mubajje said homosexuality could lead to moral decay in the society if left to blossom.

"Homosexuality led to the destruction of the whole generation of Prophet Lut and such behaviours could be devastating to our generation as well. We join other religions in the fight against homosexuality," he said.

The Mufti's statement correlates with recent plans by the Muslim Tabliq youth to form what they called an 'Anti-Gay Squad to fight homosexuality in the country.

Sheikh Multah Bukenya, a senior cleric in the Muslim Tabliq sect recently said the vice is widely spreading among the young generation.

"We are ready to act swiftly and form this squad.It is the work of the community to put an end to bad practices like homosexuality." he said.

The gay community has for a couple of weeks now been campaigning for recognition their rights.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda.

Pirates, Ho!

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Maritime pirate attacks worldwide shot up 14 percent in the first nine months of 2007 from a year earlier, with Somalia and Nigeria showing the biggest increases, an international watchdog said Tuesday.

While Africa remains problematic, Southeast Asia's Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest waterways, has been relatively quiet, the International Maritime Bureau said in its report.

A total of 198 attacks on ships were reported between January and September this year, up from 174 in the same period in 2006, the IMB said.

It said a total of 15 vessels were hijacked, 63 crew kidnapped and three killed.

In the July to September period alone, there were 72 incidents, up from 47 in the same period a year earlier, marking the second straight quarterly rise in attacks, the London-based IMB said through its piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"If this current trend continues, it would appear that the decline in piracy attacks since 2004 has bottomed out," it warned.

Indonesia remained the world's worst piracy hotspot, with 37 attacks in the first nine months of 2007 — but that was an improvement from 40 in the same period a year earlier, the IMB said.

Rapid rise in Somalia, Nigeria
Attacks rose rapidly in Somalia to 26 reported cases, up from only 8 a year earlier, it said. Somalia's U.N.-backed government has been struggling to assert control over the country since it accepted the aid of Ethiopian soldiers to chase a powerful Islamic alliance from power.

Nigeria also suffered 26 attacks so far this year, up from 9 previously.

IMB director Pottengal Mukundan urged ships to stay as far as possible from the coasts of Somalia and Nigeria, which remained dangerous with large numbers of violent kidnappings.

"The level of violence in high risk areas remain unacceptable. Pirates in Somalia are operating with impunity, seizing vessels hundreds of miles off the coast and holding the vessel and crew to ransom, making no attempt to hide their activity," he said.

Only four attacks were reported in the Malacca Strait this year, compared to 8 in the same period in 2006, thanks to increased cooperation between states straddling the waterway, the IMB said.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Top Wits

Top wits: all men and mainly dead
The top ten places in the poll all went to men

It is not often that Liam Gallagher and Jeremy Clarkson appear in a list with Noël Coward and Shakespeare. But according to a new survey they are among Britain’s wittiest individuals.

The top ten places in the poll all went to men. The highest-ranking woman was Baroness Thatcher, at number 12, who once remarked: “Being powerful is like being a lady - if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

The top spot went to Oscar Wilde, who once claimed that “to disagree with three-fourths of the British public is one of the first requisites of sanity”. He was not known for his modesty and, for once, would probably have been happy to agree with the verdict of all 3,000 people surveyed for the digital television channel Dave TV.

Few would argue that the Dublin-born playwright, who spent much of his life in England, was the master of the clever quip. Even on his deathbed in 1900, he is alleged to have said: “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go.”

Spike Milligan, the Goon Show creator who took second place in the poll, delivered his final witty one-liner from beyond the grave. He died in 2002 after specifying that his tombstone should carry the line: “I told you I was ill”.

Stephen Fry, in third place, is the highest-placed wit who has not yet met his maker. He played Wilde in the 1997 film of that name and once quoted him when passing through customs at an airport, announcing: “I have nothing to declare but my genius.”

The comedian, actor and quiz-show host, once said that animal testing was cruel because “they get nervous and get all the answers wrong”.

Jeremy Clarkson, the Top Gear presenter and newspaper columnist, is a more surprising entry at number four.

His caustic comments have earned him a fan-base beyond those who care about the vehicles he reviews. He is not noted for his eco-friendliness and once said: “We all know that small cars are good for us. But so is cod liver oil. And jogging. I want to drive around in a Terminator, not the heroine in an EM Forster novel.”

In the world of sport, it was a late football manager who topped the league. Years before José Mourinho lauded himself as “the Special One”, Brian Clough - who won two consecutive European Cups with Nottingham Forest - declared: “I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business, but I was in the top one.”

“Cloughie” came in ninth place in the overall list, just behind Shakespeare and one position ahead of the Oasis singer Liam Gallagher.

Those surveyed showed more appreciation for the wit of former politicians than the comedic efforts of either Gordon Brown or David Cameron.

Sir Winston Churchill came in fifth thanks to his penchant for putdowns. When accused by the Labour MP Bessie Braddock of being drunk, for example, he is alleged to have replied: “Bessie, you are ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober.”

Boris Johnson, the foot-in-mouth-prone Conservative candidate for the mayoralty of London, was the next-highest politician in the list. He managed 13th place. He once said: “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3.” Jane Austen was the second-placed female at 15th. In her novel Persuasion she described one character as “a man who had nothing but himself to recommend him”. Nonetheless, 57 per cent of those surveyed thought women were less witty.

However, any men tempted to dust off their one-liners should perhaps take heed of Noël Coward, who was ranked seventh. He once noted: “Wit ought to be a glorious treat, like caviar. Never spread it about like marmalade.”

I say, I say, I say

1 Oscar Wilde “Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast”

2 Spike Milligan “All I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy”

3 Stephen Fry “An original idea. That can’t be too hard. The library must be full of them”

4 Jeremy Clarkson “Speed has never killed anyone, suddenly becoming stationary . . . that’s what gets you”

5 Sir Winston Churchill “A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen”

6 Paul Merton “I’m always amazed to hear of air crash victims so badly mutilated that they have to be identified by their dental records. If they don’t know who you are, how do they know who your dentist is?”

7 Noel Coward “People are wrong when they say opera is not what it used to be. It is what it used to be. That is what’s wrong with it.”

8 Shakespeare “Maids want nothing but husbands, and when they have them, they want everything”

9 Brian Clough “The River Trent is lovely, I know because I have walked on it for 18 years”

10 Liam Gallagher “She [Victoria Beckham] cannot even chew gum and walk in a straight line at the same time, let alone write a book.”

Japan Invades US

It wasn't until around the fifth grade that I began to think something was wrong. That year, a strange new cartoon worked its way into the social lexicon of coolness. It was called "Dragon Ball Z" and, for reasons my 10-year-old mind could not articulate, it was making me nervous. Ten years later, I can't help thinking that I could have done something, anything, to stop the tsunami of anime that was to come.

In a society dominated by excess and two-second attention spans, cartoons play a significant role in preparing us for the world. Each can be thought of as a 30-minute babysitter, instilling the kids who watch them with certain values and life lessons. But the landscape has changed.

Before I go any further, I should state the following: No matter who you are - whether you're black, white, Asian, Latino, even Canadian - I don't judge you by the color of your skin. I say this because I direct my comments to the media elites, in Japan and elsewhere, who have taken it upon themselves to flood the airwaves with shows like "Pokemon," "Digimon," and "Yugio" - sorry, "Yu-Gi-Oh!" They all started as card trading games, and should have ended there as well. Instead they've jumped to the mass media, where they're slowly chipping away at our collective moral fiber.

It's not a conspiracy. A conspiracy, by definition, requires that multiple parties are working together to achieve some sort of goal. None of the shows I've seen make nearly enough sense to be working toward anything other than a lackluster battle between Bulbasaur and Charmander and the next commercial break.

Don't believe the threat's real? A report from CNN's Tokyo affiliate in December 1997 documented an incident in which "More than 700 people, mainly school children, were rushed to hospitals Tuesday after suffering convulsions, vomiting, irritated eyes and other symptoms." Was it a gas leak at the local school? No. Were the kids breathing glue out of brown paper bags? No. Were they watching "Pokemon"? You bet your authentic Squirtle trading card they were.

Remember the cartoons you watched as a child, like "Rugrats"? Everyone watched "Rugrats." With his toothless grin and indomitable spirit, Tommy Pickles represented the very best in all of us. He was like a Che Guevara for the MTV generation. Sure, when he and the rest of the Rugrats "grew up" I died a little inside. But still, not a day goes by where I don't take a moment and thank Tommy for the life lessons he taught me. So what is Pokemon teaching the next generation of kids? The virtues of capturing exotic animals and making them fight for your amusement? I already learned that from Michael Vick.

Some of you may be thinking, "That's all well and good, but what about all of the mindless American television?" After all, this country invented mindless television. And networks like VH1 are keeping that proud tradition alive. But the difference here lies in the target audience: Shows like "Flavor of Love" and "Hogan Knows Best" are watched by people who have already been stupid for years, even decades. There's nothing we can do but make them as comfortable as possible.

The next generations of kids aren't even getting a chance. Unless something is done to reverse this trend, we're going to be looking at millions of high school dropouts who don't see the point in going to college unless it teaches them to capture magic crystals. No one wants to see that day. This issue transcends politics, even religion. It's the ethical dilemma of our day and age, one that makes me want to throw my hands in the air, and yell, "Will someone think of the children?"