Monthly Archives: June 2008

10 Books That Were Better Off on Paper

Written by Nivair H. Gabriel

It’s happened to all of us. We read a novel that blows us away, and a few years later its title appears on posters underneath the face of Harrison Ford or Natalie Portman. But at some inevitable point in that darkened theater, the movie takes a turn we didn’t expect. Our eyebrows go up, our lips turn down, and the disappointment begins. Maybe the wrong director or writer can curse an otherwise excellent project – or maybe some things were just never meant to be filmed. Here are 10 books that we think should never have been committed to celluloid.

DUNE by Frank Herbert

There’s no doubt about it: Herbert’s Dune is a bona fide classic. It won the first ever Nebula award and the 1966 Hugo award, and most consider it to be the best-selling sci-fi novel in history. Set in a future where a feudal empire controls the planets of the unvierse, the novel tells the story of young nobleman Paul Atreides and his family’s rule of the desert planet Arrakis. Arrakis is the only source of “melange,” an addictive spice that lengthens lives and makes interstellar travel possible. Herbert’s book explores the power struggles that arise around the spice, and the complexity of human society that exists even in the far future.

Big shoes to fill for a film producer. Yet in 1984 David Lynch wrote and directed a movie version of Dune, rescuing it from development hell and plunging it into bad-adaptation hell. Reviews panned the movie – Roger Ebert deemed it “the worst movie of the year,” and others expressed similar disgust. Despite the movie’s 40-million-dollar budget, its effects were notably cheap, and the screenplay did not hold up to the challenge of translating a four-hundred-page book to screen. You’d think you couldn’t go wrong with Patrick Stewart, Sting, and Jürgen Prochnow, but evidently you very much can.

FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury

Who could forget Fahrenheit 451, “the temperature at which book-paper catches fire, and burns …”? Bradbury’s classic 1953 novel takes place in a dystopian future where television has entirely replaced the printed word, and firemen burn books instead of saving lives. The author himself has stated that the point of the story was to showcase how owning a TV set can destroy all interest in literature – so making a movie version seems pretty damn ballsy to say the least.

With that in mind, the 1966 film, helmed by French icon François Truffaut, seems doomed from the start. It certainly didn’t help that there were many notable omissions, like the disappearance of the novel’s nuclear war (which is, let’s face it, a pretty big cut). Julie Christie plays the main character’s wife and his illicit lover, which adds an extra level of pointless weirdness. The bottom line is, there are plenty of books for which you can tell your friends to “just watch the movie.” But in the case of Fahrenheit 451, that probably makes you kind of fascist. Just sayin’.

V FOR VENDETTA by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

The book is probably one of the best graphic novels ever produced. Detailing the adventures of a masked anarchist and his sweet blond protégée, Moore’s writing also delves far deeply beyond his two main characters into complex themes of fascism, anarchy, identity, and the meaning of life itself. Nobody is without a story to tell: Even his villains are creepily sympathetic. By the end of the comic, every reader will have at least one Lloyd image burned in their brain, and be wondering – with no small amount of fear – exactly how much control their government does have.

Enter the movie. For the Wachowski brothers, the boys who gave us the two-thirds-sucky Matrix trilogy, setting this story to film was easy. They just had to cut out all of the character depth, change Moore’s nuanced portrayal of British fascism to the cookie-cutter Hollywood standby of Suited White Men, and (of course) turn the subtle, understated relationship of the main characters into romantic pining. But hey, at least they got the costume right.

A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle

Though it’s often marketed as a young-adult fantasy novel, make no mistake: This book is without a doubt a sci-fi classic for all generations, an incredible tale that deftly blends science, speculation, and humanity. L’Engle’s 1962 story invented the concept of a “tesseract” – the fifth dimension, a phenomenon that folds the fabric of space and time. It introduced a mother who cooks dinner on a Bunsen burner, a father whose research leaves him imprisoned on another planet, and a brother and sister whose loving relationship turns out to be the most important thing in the universe.

Mostly we make an effort to ignore it, but it’s true: Many of the great sci-fi writers were (and are) better at dreaming up nifty science ideas than they were at weaving together a compelling story. L’Engle, however, belongs in no such group. Her work was never meant to be a crappy Disney movie, and yet in 2003, a crappy Disney made-for-TV adaptation appeared that one critic described as “lightweight, saccharine, rather slow going most of the way, and somewhat simplistic” as well as “sometimes clunky, and… often uninspiring”. Let us speak no more about it.


Dick’s 1956 short story introduced the chilling concept of “precrime,” a police system whose officers arrest would-be murderers, rapists, and thieves before they get a chance to do their dirty deeds. His futuristic New York City is a world where three future-seeing mutants control who goes to prison and who doesn’t, and free will is a gray area – a luxury that not everyone possesses. One veteran cop, after seeing a prediction that he will kill someone he doesn’t even know, is having none of it.

So what did Steven Spielberg‘s 2002 movie add, besides a gross eye transplant? Well, for one, it brought in Tom Cruise – balding, out-of-shape 50-year-olds are never attractive narrators as far as Hollywood’s concerned, no matter what they might be able to share with us in real life. The setting’s different, too, and names have been changed, but at least it presents the idea with a lot more nifty special effects and a lot less storytelling, right? And that, my friends, is frighteningly endemic of the print-to-film adaptation.

I, ROBOT by Isaac Asimov

This is a revolutionary sci-fi classic, a collection of nine short stories exploring the limitations and dangers of human-created artificial intelligence. Asimov’s 1950 publication of I, Robot established the Three Laws of Robotics, supposedly unbreakable rules which govern the actions of these metal beings, and his short stories read like the best sci-fi mind puzzles you will ever find.

2004’s movie adaptation was undeniably well done, and it ended up being one of the best of the year – due in no small part to Jeff Vintar’s tight script and the total awesomeness of Will Smith and Chi McBride. Asimov certainly meant to get us thinking, so one could imagine he’d be pleased that his work inspired a smart sci-fi thriller like this. As it happens, however, the main plot of the movie is actually lifted from a 1939 short story by Eando Binder that bears the same name; Asimov’s publisher gave his collection the same title, against Asimov’s wishes. The Three Laws of Robotics were only added to the script after the film’s producers secured the rights to Asimov’s anthology. This project, then, has been plagued from the beginning by intellectual property snafus: It’s a confused collaboration of several minds, and it seems that not all the minds involved were properly credited. And since it’s caused most of the problems, can we let go of that title already?

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE by Philip Gordon Wylie and Edwin Balmer

It’s a crusty old staple of hard sci-fi, a 1933 novel that first saw print as a magazine serial. Wylie and Balmer’s story begins with a South African astronomer, Sven Bronson, who discovers that a pair of rogue planets are headed for Earth’s orbit. Only a small group of scientists believe his claim; they work to build two ships that will carry the beginnings of a new human settlement to one of the rogue planets, which is projected to replace Earth in its orbit. This is the kind of pre-NASA speculation that works best in old-fashioned typewriter font on yellowed paper.

But of course, Hollywood felt the need to put it in Technicolor. The film adaptation did win an Oscar for special effects, but it was 1951, so you decide for yourself if that’s impressive. The movie’s story doesn’t so much explore sci-fi ideas as showcase human hysteria when tidal waves sweep the Earth and survivors are chosen by lottery – and it naturally also allows for the most groan-worthy of romance subplots. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the way the film’s hero pushes his handicapped financier off the boarding ramp as the ship leaves, despite the fact that he funded the entire project. “Politically incorrect” doesn’t begin to cover it. Apparently there’s a remake of the film scheduled for a 2010 release – isn’t one mistake supposed to teach you a lesson?

STARSHIP TROOPERS by Robert Heinlein

War sucks, and Heinlein proved it with his 1960 Hugo-award-winning novel. Told from the point of view of Johnnie Rico, a young soldier, this futuristic tale explores a world where only veterans can vote or hold public office – and where humankind battles endlessly with giant bugs. Rico’s flashbacks to his time at school, and his experiences in the military, serve to illustrate the total destruction that war causes.

In the book, the bugs barely ever appear; Rico views them only through a giant battle suit. For the 1997 film adaptation, though, that was not an option – after all, there ain’t a moviegoer born of woman who doesn’t want to see giant grasshoppers. Special effects left little screen time for Heinlein’s philosophy discussions, but director Paul Verhoeven admitted he never got past the first few chapters of the novel anyway. If he hated the story that much, what do you think was keeping him from writing and directing his own friggin’ screenplay?

THE POSTMAN by David Brin

Originally published as two novellas (both of which won Hugo awards), this post-apocalyptic story grapples with the concepts of survivalism, civilization, and hope. In a world destroyed not by disasters but by its own people, one man discovers a worn-out United States Postal Service uniform – and discovers that his fellow humans are so desperate they’ll even take hope from that. The complete novel, published as the two novellas combined, was named the best science fiction novel of the year in 1986 in the John W. Campbell awards.

And then Kevin Costner decided to direct and star in a film adaptation. The 1997 story, while still broadcasting a message of hope, centered that message more around the Postman as a war hero – and don’t forget his tagalong baby mama. The New York Times blasted the movie for its “bogus sentimentality” and “mawkish jingoism,” but Roger Ebert warned that we “shouldn’t blame them for trying.” Well, I think perhaps we should.

THIS ISLAND EARTH by Raymond F. Jones

The year 1952, I’m sure, saw many new creations in sci-fi, but I’m willing to bet that almost none of them were as silly as the interociter – an alien transmission device, which despite its apparent sophistication is about as big as a truck. Jones gave us the interociter in his novel This Island Earth, which told of an alien race that recruited Earth’s greatest thinkers for a group called the “Peace Engineers.” Not surprisingly, the “Peace Engineers” were actually helping the aliens wage an intergalactic war. On a planet that had already seen the genius of 1951’s The Day the Earth Stood Still, this should not have seemed a good candidate for a film adaptation.

Since the movie version of This Island Earth now gets most of its viewings in the form of Mystery Science Theater 3000’s lampoon, the folly of bringing it to film is assured. Plastic skulldomes, toilet thrones, and raspberry bushes are not the stuff of eternal movie classics. Before you adapt a book, my advice is to run it through a quick Mike-Joel-Crow-Tom Servo test. You might be surprised how much money you save on camera equipment and actors.

24 Unforgettable Advertisements

Written by toxel

24 Unforgettable Advertisements

Why should ads be boring? Check out this collection of unforgettable advertisements from around the world.

Nissan Cube Advertisement

Break Glass in Case of Adventure. [link]

Nissan Cube Advertisement

Nike Cars Advertisement

Cars decorated as Nike kicks in Mexico. The front car carrying the ball. [link]

Nike Cars Advertisement

BMW Advertisement

“From up here, I can see BMW of Bridgeport” [link]

BMW Advertisement

Nescafe Advertisement

This picture of a Nescafe branded building is from Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, and must be among the largest inflatables in the world. [link]

Nescafe Advertisement

Nike Advertisement

Nike Advertisement

Nestle Advertisement

Creative Nestle billboard advertisement. [link]

Nestle Advertisement

Mini Advertisement

Mini Advertisement

Hopi Hari Advertisement

Hopi Hari Advertisement

Fitness Company Advertisement

Shopping bags given away to customers when purchasing fitness accessories or nutritional supplements at the Fitness Company fitness centers. [link]

Fitness Company Advertisement

Skin Cancer Towel Advertisement

“Please take care this summer” [link]

Skin Cancer Towel Advertisement

K-Swiss Advertisement

KSwiss Advertisement

McDonald’s Bus Stop Advertisement

Just what you want while waiting for the bus: that mouth watering, tantalizing reminder of how much you’d love to stuff your face with a 1,000 calorie burger only to be reminded later by your stomach it wasn’t the best decision you could have made. [link]

McDonalds Bus Stop Advertisement

Woodland Shoes Advertisement

Powerful idea for a billboard. [link]

Woodland Shoes Advertisement

Outdoor Stunt by Goodyear

Lovely concept, but I think there’s something lost in translation in this outdoor campaign for Goodyear. The sign says:

(front) “Your vehicle has been towed. Call 0800 081-8181.”
(back) “For sticking on the roads.” [link]

Outdoor Stunt by Goodyear

FedEx Kinko’s Advertisement

When coming up with an ad campaign for FedEx Kinko’s, the innovative minds at advertising agency BBDO were inspired by the streets of New York. The agency installed oversized bottles of correction fluid, highlighters, and, in one case, an office lamp, on the city’s busy thoroughfares for a couple of days earlier this year. [link]

FedEx Kinkos Advertisement

Peta Advertisement

The action is named ‘None of us would like to end up like this.. neither would other-than-human animals’ and it was done with four big foam trays, each of them containing a naked activist inside, and covered with a see-through plastic with a ‘Human meat’ sticker on it. The idea was to imitate the ‘meat’ trays we can find at the supermarkets and to show that we are also animals, just as other-than-human animals, we neither would like to end up there. [link]

Peta Advertisement

Ravensburger Puzzles Advertisement

Ravensburger Puzzles Advertisement

BIC Razor Advertisement

Bic developed this creative outdoor advertisement for their razors. The billboard is blank except for a small logo, but without it the advertisement might be missed and it acts as a good backdrop for the giant razor and cut grass. The only draw back is the constant trimming of the lawn. [link]

BIC Razor Advertisement

Mercedes Advertisement

Mercedes Advertisement

IKEA Advertisement

Ikea on Wheels advertisement. [link]

IKEA Advertisement

Canon Advertisement

Creative Canon outdoor advertisement. [link]

Canon Advertisement

Kill Bill Advertisement

Kill Bill Advertisement

LEGO Advertisement

Lego’s ad agency in Santiago (Chile) used cranes to hang giant Lego blocks. [link]

LEGO Advertisement

Discovery Channel Advertisement

Discovery Channel Advertisement

30+ Must-Have Updated Firefox 3 Extensions

Written by Sean P. Aune

firefox We’ve put together a list of 30+ must-have Firefox 3 extensions that we know you’ll enjoy, whether you’ve upgraded to Firefox 3 and are looking for something new to add to your browser, or have yet to make the upgrade and are looking for a reason.

We cover everything from useful tools to social bookmarking and more. Let us know which extensions are your favorites.

Colorful Tabs

ColorfulTabs – Having too many tabs open can lead to a lot of confusion, but this extension will assign your tabs different colors so you can tell them apart easier.

Adblock Plus – The popular, yet controversial extension has been updated to work with the latest version of the browser, and it’s still doing what it does best: blocking ads.

ChatZilla – Add an IRC client to your browser so you can chat in it directly without having to open any other applications.

ColorZilla – An extremely handy tool for Web developers to let them see the RGB and Hex values of any color on a Web page. Toolbar – Quickly add bookmarks to your account, edit tags and access your account.

Digg – Lets you know if the page you are viewing has been dugg, how many it has received, recent comments and more.

DownThemAll – A popular extension that assists you in downloading multiple files from a page with just a few clicks.

Facebook Toolbar – Gives you notifications of new mail and pokes on your Facebook account.


Firebug – A mainstay of the developer community, Firebug strips down Web pages quickly and lets you work on JAVA, HTML, CSS and more, directly inside the browser.

FireGestures – Use five different mouse gestures to control various functions of Firefox.

Flagfox – See a flag in the status bar that tells you what country the server is in for the website you are on. You can then look up more detailed information on the server, giving you some extra security in case the site is a fake.

FlashBlock – Annoyed with Flash animations that play on sites when you launch them? FlashBlock will stop them from playing.

Foxmarks – Have more than one computer? Then you have to have Foxmarks. It synchronizes your bookmarks across multiple computers and gives you access to them via their website.

FoxyTunes – Gives you control over multiple media players directly from your browsers to save you the effort of changing windows.

Forecastfox – Weather forecasts brought to you by the people at

Google Toolbar – Gives you the ability to search Google from a toolbar, access to your mail, auto fill forms and several other features.

Greasemonkey – Greasemonkey is the necessary extension to run the ceaseless stream of Greasmonkey scripts that allow you to customize sites from Facebook to Gmail.


GSpace – Gmail gives you nearly 7 GB of free storage. With Gspace, you can turn some or all of that into free online storage of files that you can access from anywhere.

IETab – Sometimes you just have to look at some things in Internet Explorer due to coding issues. Well, using a tab inside of Firefox is a far sight better than having to open up IE itself.

MeasureIt – An extension perfect for designers that allows you to measure the dimensions of any section of a page to figure out how much real-estate it is occupying.

Meebo – Gives you a sidebar with all of your buddies from the various instant messenger services that Meebo supports such as AIM and MSN.

NoScript – An important extension in your security arsenal as it prevents scripts from running in the background of a website without your express permission.

QuickRestart – One of the most annoying things about adding a new extenstion to Firefox is the down time while it restarts the browser to work properly. This extension speeds up the process.

Reload Every – Allows you to set your tabs to reload every few seconds or minutes, handy for sites like Twitter.

Sage-Too – A lightweight RSS reader you can integrate into your browser.

StumbleUpon Toolbar – Allows you to stumble pages from a convenient toolbar, add comments, view what has been said and more.


TwitterFox – A Twitter client that resides down in your status bar.

Update Notifier – You’ve been adding all these extensions, but it’s easy to forget to check to see when they’ve been updated. This puts the notifications out front where it’s easy to keep track of them.

Video DownloadHelper – Assists you in finding and downloading videos from over 500 websites all over the world.

WebMail Notifier – Get notifications of new email in your status bar for services such as Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail and more.

10 Reasons Why Vista Isn’t That Bad

Written by Jason Chen

Of all the ware Microsoft churns out from its sweatshop of “lightning bolt, lightning bolt” nerds, Windows is the one most inexorably tied to the public image of the company. As Bill Gates leaves the building, we look back on the last baby birthed—if not fully gestated—under his watch, the swan song operating system that he himself has issues with. Although we agree that Vista could have used a bit more time shoved back into the silicon womb for some feature buffing and bug fixing, it’s not nearly as bad as most people are making it out to be. That’s right, I’m actually happy with Windows Vista, which I use about one-third of the time I spend at a computer.

This may be counterintuitive, seeing as our guy who defended Windows doesn’t even like Vista, but I’ve used Mac OS X and Vista side by side and simultaneously for over a year (and before that, Mac and XP) thanks to the dual-computer-controlling app Synergy. Here’s why Vista’s not that bad:

1. It’s more secure than Windows XP. After being implicitly responsible for botnets and security breaches through the incredible popularity of their Windows XP, Microsoft went back and made sure Vista is more secure than its predecessor. And it is. According to security firm PC Tools, Vista had 639 unique threats over a six-month period, whereas XP had 1021. This came from much internal restructuring under the hood, but there’s a chance that it might be due to Vista being a smaller target than XP for malware as well.

2. It’s the best looking Windows yet. Despite any complaints users may have about Aero hogging up too many CPU cycles or requiring a video card from this millennium to use, it’s still the best looking Windows yet. I mean really, do you remember what XP looked like out of the box? With that gigantic balloon of a task bar and the green Start button. Vista’s glass definitely trumps that. And then there’s the underlying graphical framework changes which allow new features like live thumbnails. All these visual effects may require more power, but you can’t deny that it’s pleasing to look at.

If you want to disable Aero for certain applications for performance or compatibility reasons, see here.

3. Games work just about as well as under XP. There’s a slight performance degradation under Vista when compared to Windows XP using the exact same hardware. Is it noticeable? Probably, but it’s somewhere around the level of 10%. There’s also the consideration of DirectX 10 and the visual improvements you’ll get in the future when more developers really take advantage of it. With a slightly better video card, you won’t even really notice that you’re going at 90FPS versus 100FPS.

4. Vista Media Center is a fantastic DVR. Microsoft integrates their fantastic Windows Media Center Edition into Home Premium and Ultimate, and it’s pretty much the best DVR you can get outside of getting a TiVo. Combine it with various Media Center Extenders, of which there are lots (such as the Xbox 360), you can get HDTV streamed to anywhere in your house from one computer in your office. Our only complaint is still that Cable Labs doesn’t allow you to stick a CableCARD tuner onto just any appropriately spec’d Vista PC—you actually have to buy a machine pre-made for CableCARD.

5. The sleep mode works. Sleep mode in Windows XP was essentially a shortcut for locking up your computer and forcing you to reboot. It actually does what it’s supposed to in Vista.

6. Built-in search is better and more useful. Vista’s searching feature relies on cataloging your hard drive, then searching the resulting database to quickly (and easily) find your files. By default it’s just limited to a couple user folders, but if you expand it to your entire hard drive, you’ll be able to find anything fast, much like the way Spotlight works on a Mac. The downside is that during the first day or two, everything slows down while Vista indexes your computer. Best to leave it on overnight or over a weekend while you’re away.

7. User Account Control is useful for some people. I have to admit that I’ve turned this off but UAC—the thing that pops up and asks you for your password whenever you do something on the system level—is useful in theory for many people, especially those who share a family computer. Hide the administrator password from your parents/grandparents/kids so they won’t be able to install any weird apps they’re not supposed to. In practice, it’s a bit annoying in that it pops up for mundane things that shouldn’t really need system-level clearance. It’s a step in the right direction; however, if you want to disable UAC for certain programs, see here.

8. Drivers support isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. Although “Man gets Windows Vista to work with printer” may be an actual non-Onion headline, the root cause of his original woes was that the man installed a Windows XP printer driver instead of the correct Vista one. But there is a smaller percentage of users who—no matter how old or new their peripheral is—can’t get it to work with Windows Vista. The blame for this lies on peripheral manufacturers who either can’t or won’t update their drivers to support the new OS. There’s not much you or Microsoft can do here, but it’s rarer than you’d think from reading the internet.

9. It’s not any buggier than Windows XP. This is a bit of a corollary to #1, but out of the many, many Vista users we’ve seen, they almost all agree that the only times Vista has crashed or blue-screened on them was when they were doing something they usually don’t do. The OS by itself rarely crashes in everyday use, and compared to even OS X Leopard, it’s pretty damn sturdy. In a year’s worth of daily use, we think the OS has probably only crashed once, if that.

10. Vista is not slow if you have enough RAM. One of the main complaints that users have is that Vista is slow, but they either upgraded Vista from an old machine or they purchased a “Vista Ready” system with only 512MB to 1GB worth of RAM. You can run Vista with 1GB of RAM, but like OS X, you really want to have at least 2GB. Modern operating systems get fatter because they DO more stuff for you under the hood, such as optimizing your memory for the applications you run often so they load faster.

We’re not saying that Vista doesn’t have its faults or that Windows 7 won’t be better, we’re saying that Vista is just not as bad as people are making it out to be. If you’re on XP and you’re afraid to upgrade, don’t be. It’s no worse than Windows XP if you pay attention to the stuff I mentioned above. As long as you’ve got a reasonably decent machine—and if you’re reading Giz it’s likely that you do—you’re pretty safe in upgrading.

That said, we do have some major complaints:

1. Things aren’t where they used to be. Holy shit. This one is the worst. Various settings are hidden under levels of menus, and for some inexplicable reason, Add/Remove Programs is no longer Add/Remove programs. What’s the point of this? So people can use the hundreds of wizards more?

2. File transfers are slower than on XP, which is slightly fixed with Service Pack 1, but still has problems. Here’s the reason why. And if you’ve got problems with slow browsing, see here.

3. Wireless networking is a pain. Windows has never been great at presenting wireless networking with an intuitive UI, and Vista might be even worse than XP in this department. Stuff’s buried behind various weirdly-named menus, which you have to (at least the first few times) guess at to see.

4. Lots of balloon notifications pop up on the taskbar. Here’s how to shut them off.

5. Folder view in Windows Explorer doesn’t remember your settings. Here’s another huge pain users have run into when browsing a folder and all of a sudden having Explorer think that these are photos because there’s just one photo in the directory. Here’s how to turn that off.

Bonus Vista Tip: How to recover files from Vista’s built-in shadow copy here.

Classic Books Summed Up in 3 Lines (or Less)

Written by BEN JOSEPH


WINSTON: Don’t tell the Party, but sex is way better than totalitarianism.

EVERYONE: Surprise! We’re the Party.

WINSTON: Oh, rats.

The Lion, the Witch

and the Wardrobe

C.S. LEWIS: Finally, a utopia ruled by children and populated by talking animals.

THE WITCH: Hi, I’m a sexually mature woman of power and confidence.

C.S. LEWIS: Ah! Kill it, lion Jesus!

Paradise Lost

ADAM: Paradise has arbitrary dietary restrictions?

DEVIL: They’re really more like guidelines.

GOD: Incorrect.


ISHMAEL: I’m existential.

AHAB: Really? Try vengeance.

ISHMAEL: I dig this dynamic. Can we drag it out for 600 pages?

The Great Gatsby

NICK: I love being rich and white.

GATSBY: Me, too, but I’d kill for the love of a woman.

DAISY: We can work with that.

Oliver Twist

OLIVER: Poverty ain’t so bad, what with all the Cockney accents and charming musical interludes.

ME: Thanks to movies, no books were read in the passing of this class.

PROFESSOR WATERMAN: You’re half right.

8 Free Online Resources For Learning A New Language

Written by David DeFranza

Learning a new languagePerhaps the most useful skill you can carry is knowledge of the local language.

It can open up a startling range of opportunities, ease the strain of logistics and planning, and allow you to develop a deeper connection with the place and, more importantly, the people you are visiting.

With a little advanced planning, and an introduction to the basics, it can be surprisingly easy to pick up a language on the road.

A good phrasebook, and the dedication to use it, are the first steps to mastering a new tongue. Beyond that, an organized set of study materials can make all the difference between stumbling though a few disjointed commonalities and articulately expressing your ideas and opinions.

While most travelers understand this, who wants to buy and carry around a pile of language books? Fortunately, there are a number of excellent internet sites devoted to language study, most of them providing their services for free.

1. BBC Languages

The BBC offers comprehensive online courses in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, and Greek, with slightly briefer introductions to several other languages.

This incredible, totally free, service is the best option for starting a new language from the beginning as the curricula are well designed, very complete, and easy to follow; all important features of a self-study program.

2. MIT OpenCourseWare

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has made a great effort to supply all of its course materials online for the free use of MIT students and the global internet community.

The Languages and Literatures department features courses in languages such as Chinese, Japanese, French, German and Spanish in addition to many interesting literature and culture topics.

While the usefulness of the materials provided varies depending on the course, they all include a detailed study plan to aid the self-learner in structuring a home course.

3. Internet Polyglot

The Internet Polyglot provides study materials for twenty-one languages. The unit-based materials available are ideal for a student already familiar with the basics of the language and interested in practicing specific areas and applications.

4. The Open University LeaningSpace

Similar to the Internet Polyglot, the LearingSpace provides unit-based study materials with a primary emphasis in French and Spanish.

lost on the street5. Language Learning Podcasts

In the last few years, there has been an explosion of podcasts devoted to learning a language. These resources provide important sound cues and practical pronunciation guides, and are an invaluable tool for a self-study program.

To find podcasts, iTunes users can navigate to the “education” category of the iTunes Music Store. Other listeners can browse popular podcast databases like Odeo or The Podcast Directory.

A highlight of some of the more popular language podcasts includes Learn Greek, The French Podcast, ChinesePod, A Taste of Russian, and the Cherokee Language Podcast.

6. Madinah Arabic Language Course

For those interested in learning Arabic, the Madinah Course is the best online course available for free. Focusing on both spoken and written Arabic, this course takes the student from the first introductions through the advanced beginner level.

7. Livemocha

Livemocha is a social networking community focused on learning foreign languages. It provides free online courses in German, Mandarin Chinese, French, Spanish, and Hindi with plans to expand to other languages in the future.

In addition to the online courses, available from introductory to intermediate levels, Livemocha provides an active community of language learners and native speakers willing to work with you and give help when needed.

This community based approach makes Livemocha one of the most useful tools for the self-study of language.

8. Something Completely Different

Travelers interested in learning a more obscure, or even endangered language, should begin their research at the Ethnologue, an online database of all of the world’s 6,912 known living languages.

For more specific study, check out the Sanskrit Self Study program, an introductory course for learning Tibetan, Yucatec Maya language study materials, the great book Introduction to Zulu, or the Comparative Bantu Languages Dictionary.

Learning a new language requires time and dedication and can be a challenge no matter how good the tools available.

Still, these online resources are accessible anywhere you can find an internet connection and will make all the difference when trying to tame that new tongue, at home or abroad.

What are some your favourite online resources for learning a new language? Please share in the comments!

What I’ve Learned: George Carlin

Written by Larry Getlen

scan of esquire magazine article featuring comedian george carlin

I was in my mother’s belly as she sat in the waiting room of the abortionist’s office. Dr. Sunshine was his code name. I was fifty feet from the drainpipe, and she saw a painting on the wall that reminded her of her mother, who had recently died. She took that as a sign to have the baby. That’s what I call luck.

My father drank and was a bully. For the first five years of my brother’s life, my father beat him with a leather-heeled slipper. Had I been subjected to that kind of treatment, all bets are off. His absence saved my life.

My mother had great executive-secretarial jobs in the advertising business and raised two boys during the Second World War. She used to say, “I make a man’s salary.” That’s heroism.

I’m sure Hitler was great with his family.

I used to collect the most colorful curses I heard and write them down. I actually carried in my wallet things like “kraut cunt” and “burly loudmouth cocksucker” and “longhair fucking music prick,” which was a thing Mikey Flynn yelled at a Juilliard student that he was kicking in the head.

I don’t like authority and regulation, and I do my best to disrespect it, but I do that for myself. It’s self-expression only.

Sex without love has its place, and it’s pretty cool, but when you have it hand in hand with deep commitment and respect and caring, it’s nine thousand times better.

If it’s morally wrong to kill anyone, then it’s morally wrong to kill anyone. Period.

It’s amazing to me that literacy isn’t considered a right.

I was arrested for possession and cultivation of marijuana in the early ’70s, and it was thrown out. The judge asked me how I felt about it, and I said, “I understand the law, and I want you to know I’ll pay the fine, but I cannot guarantee I will not break this law again.” He really chewed me out for that.

Censorship that comes from the outside assumes about people an inability to make reasoned choices.

The first thing they teach kids is that there’s a God — an invisible man in the sky who is watching what they do and who is displeased with some of it. There’s no mystery why they start that with kids, because if you can get someone to believe that, you can add on anything you want.

I would die for the safety of the people I love.

I wish that we could measure how much the potential of the mind to expand has been stunted by television.

Because of my abuse of drugs, I neglected my business affairs and had large arrears with the IRS, and that took me eighteen to twenty years to dig out of. I did it honorably, and I don’t begrudge them. I don’t hate paying taxes, and I’m not angry at anyone, because I was complicit in it. But I’ll tell you what it did for me: It made me a way better comedian. Because I had to stay out on the road and I couldn’t pursue that movie career, which would have gone nowhere, and I became a really good comic and a really good writer.

I stopped voting when I stopped taking drugs. I believe both of those acts are closely related to delusional behavior.

There’s no morality in business. It doesn’t have a conscience. It has only the cash register. They’ll sell you crappy things that you don’t need, that don’t work, that they won’t stand behind. It’s a glorified legal form of criminal behavior.

If everybody knew the truth about everybody else’s thoughts, there would be way more murders.

There’s nothing wrong with high taxes on high income.

Lenny Bruce opened all the doors, and people like Richard Pryor and I were able to walk through them.

Given the right reasons and the right two people, marriage is a wonderful way of experiencing your life.

I think that the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King showed that all of the wishing and hoping and holding hands and humming and signing petitions and licking envelopes is a bit futile.

Blacks are deliberately kept down. Poor communities are deliberately underfunded.

I don’t think people should get credit for being honest and brave. I think there’s a lot of genetic shit going on there.

Someday they’ll find a gene for putting on your overcoat.

There’s a pulse in New York, even on the quietest street, on the quietest day. It’s full of potential.

If there’s ever a golden age of mankind, it will not include men over two hundred pounds beating children who are less than one hundred pounds, and it will not include the deliberate killing of people in a formal setting.

I did something in a previous life that must have been spectacularly good, because I’m getting paid in this life just magnificently, more than one would dare imagine or hope for.

Wow! 10 Awesome Interactive Websites

Written by R J Evans

Interactivity is the name of the game at the moment. Here are 10 websites that are a combination of the fun, the weird, the educational or the simply bewildering. Prepare to be awed!

  1. Alien Empire

    Although this website is primarily aimed at kids there is so much information here about the alien empire that is the world of insects that adults will want to explore it for hours! You may want to take a look at how insects are designed and how they go about the sometimes dangerous act of reproduction. There is a look at the wars that go on among insect communities and it also features the ways we and the bugs co-exist – or not!

  2. The Universcale

    Size matters, or so this website will have it. This amazing site shows you scale as you have probably never seen it – from the smallest speck to the largest asteroid and beyond. Fantastic graphics will give you a real idea of your place on the planet – or indeed the universe.

  3. Make a Flake

    Something a little less noisy and strenuous. If you like the myriad shapes that a snowflake can take and find it fascinating, then why not make your own? You are given a piece of paper and a pair of scissors – virtual ones of course! Then you can chop up the paper and create your own snow flake. Hugely enjoyable fun, you can even save the flakes you create so that others can view your handiwork.

  4. The Mini-Mizer

    Have you ever wondered what you would look like in plastic and miniaturized? No, well, maybe you are reading the wrong web page! This site allows you to build up a picture of yourself as you would appear if you were three inches tall and made of the rubber stuff! You could even make little versions of your whole family to give them a momentary laugh from something that took you five hours to do!

  5. Interactive Radio

    This is music to match your every mood and takes the shape of an astounding interactive radio station. You can choose the genre, the mood of the music and the era from which it should come. The website will then give you a very specific selection of the type of song that you have requested. So, whether you are looking for swinging tunes from the fifties, brooding jazz from the sixties, pop from the seventies straight up to contemporary music, this is the site for you!

  6. Neave Television

    Click on to this sight only if your PC can take a little action! You will need broadband and a desire to be completely bewildered. If you enjoy channel hopping then this might be that ultimate experience you have been waiting for. Click on the screen to start hopping and when you are fed up of one channel click again to hop to the next. Utterly barmy and strange fun!

  7. Kaleidoscope

    This could keep you busy for hours. The block on the left gives you a choice of shapes and colors which you drag in to the circle. A blue pie shape sweeps past the objects you have placed on to the circle. The block on the right then shows you the kaleidoscope effect that this sweep produces. Hypnotic and mesmerizing fun!

  8. Neon Bible

    This will knock your socks off! A music video that is interactive? Possibly the shape of things to come, this will certainly have you scratching your head and wondering how on earth they did that!

  9. Mr. Picasso Head

    Have you ever wanted to paint like Pablo Picasso? Here you get the opportunity, with a huge variety of permutations and combinations that can come together to give you your very own take on the great man’s style. Once you are done you can save the Picasso style drawing that you have created it and email it to your friends – or possibly some of your enemies too!

  10. Autopsy

    This website is definitely not for the faint hearted or for those who do not like the sight of a little blood. It is a step by step guide to what happens during an autopsy procedure. Watch with glee or your heart in your mouth as the first incisions are made and the bodily organs removed. A superb guide to what goes on in the autopsy room, but don’t blame me if your dinner makes a reappearance!

7 Simple Rules For How to Take A Nap

Written by Ransom Riggs

sleep.jpgBirds do it, bees do it (we think), even educated monkeys do it. So let’s do it, people. Let’s fall asleep. (The musical portion of this blog is over; thanks for indulging.) But seriously: we’ve talked about the whys of taking naps on the blog before – they improve mood, creativity, memory function, heart health, and so much else – but never, to my knowledge, have we discussed how to take a nap. In fact, whenever we write about naps, we always get a few comments from people claiming they’re unable to nap during the day; they just can’t fall asleep, or when they do nap they wake up groggy and unable to work. In that case, read on, my sleepy friends.


The first thing you should know is, feeling sleepy in the afternoon is normal. It doesn’t mean you had a big lunch, or that you’re depressed, or you’re not getting enough exercise. That’s just how animals’ cycles work – every 24 hours, we have two periods of intense sleepiness. One is typically in the wee hours of the night, from about 2am to 4am, and the other is around 10 hours later, between 1pm and 3pm. If you’re a night owl and wake up later in the morning, that afternoon sleepiness may come later; if you’re an early bird, it may come earlier. But it happens to everyone; we’re physiologically hardwired to nap.


Naps provide different benefits depending on how long they are. A short nap of even 20 minutes will enhance alertness and concentration, mood and coordination. A nap of 90 minutes will get you into slow wave and REM sleep, which enhances creativity. If you sleep deeply and uninterruptedly the whole time, you’ll go through a full 90-minute sleep cycle, and recoup sleep you might not have gotten the night before (we’ve all heard it a million times, but most of us don’t get enough sleep at night).


Try not to sleep longer than 45 minutes but less than 90 minutes; then you’ll wake up in the middle of a slow-wave cycle, and be groggy. I used to hate taking naps during the day for just this reason – I would always wake up in a fog. My problem was I hadn’t yet perfected the art of the 20-minute catnap.


Find a nice dark place where you can lie down. It takes about 50% longer to fall asleep sitting up (this is why red eye flights usually live up to their name), and be armed with a blanket; you don’t want to be chilly. You also don’t want to be too warm, which can lead to oversleeping. (There was a kind of urban legend circulating when I was a kid: don’t fall asleep in the sun, or you’ll never wake up. Not true – but you might wake up three hours later with a ripe sunburn.)


White noise can help you fall asleep, especially during the day when construction crews, garbage trucks, barking dogs and other noisy awake-world things can conspire to destroy your nap. Keep a fan on, or turn on a nearby faucet for a pleasing rushing-river sound. (Just kidding about that last one.)


Don’t nap too close to bedtime, or you might not be able to fall asleep later. Remember, your inbuilt sleepy window is sometime in the early to mid-afternoon – try to nap then.


Quit that silly job where they don’t let you take naps during the day.

The Best of TV News Lip Slips

Written by blakeley

We’ve shown you their ridiculous pratfalls, their insane and wonderful on-camera meltdowns, and now we bring you the best of television news folks’ lip slips. You know those, they’re the terrifically awkward moments when an anchor says “blow job” instead of “block party,” or accidentally outs their station’s weatherman. They’re completely embarrassing, uncomfortable, and downright amazing. Above is our compilation of the breast. I mean best.