Well, the team that was in the worst physical shape, Debra and Steve, was eliminated in the first leg of the Amazing Race 4 last night. The race took the teams from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles to Milan, Italy. From there, they travelled to the Italian Alps and did a grueling Detour in snowy peaks at Cinque Torri.

Debra and Steve trailed the beginning and never recovered. They got lost in traffic in Los Angeles as they traveled from Dodger Stadium to LAX. They got on the last plane to Italy with a bunch of other teams and the other more athletic teams eventually overpowered them at the Detour in the Italian Alps.

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Microsoft is to pay $750 million to AOL Time Warner as part of a settlement for an antitrust complaint filed last year. AOL Time Warner contended that Microsoft used its monopoly to to push Netscape (now owned by AOL Time Warner) out of Internet browser market. In addition to the cash, the settlement includes the following key points:

  • AOL will receive a seven-year, royalty-free license to continue using Internet Explorer on its flagship online service.

  • AOL receives a long-term, nonexclusive license to use Microsoft’s Windows Media 9 software, which offers playback, delivery and rights management for digital media.
  • The companies will explore ways for AOL and MSN Messenger to interoperate, which Microsoft has sought for years.

In my opinion, this settlement won’t hurt Microsoft, which reportedly had $46.1 billion in cash last quarter. Microsoft management probably sees this settlement as a $750 million “marketing pact” with AOL to push Internet Explorer and Microsoft Media Player products worldwide.

Notably, Microsoft will finally get MSN Messenger and AIM to interoperate, which just means less reason for consumers to install the AIM client. The MSN Messenger is already integrated into Windows XP and will probably be a part of future Windows versions.

AOL was already working on integrating ICQ and AIM instant messaging clients, which means that Yahoo! Messenger may become a solitary island in a sea of interoperable clients. If this all comes to pass, I foresee Yahoo! also joining the dark side to create a global instant messaging platform.

As the emperor, Emperor Palpatine not Bill Gates, would say, “Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen …”

EBay lost its pending patent lawsuit on Tuesday and was ordered to pay $35 million in damages to Thomas G. Woolston. Woolston, a patent lawyer and founder of MercExchange, filed for the patents in question in April of 1995, several months before EBay was launched. The patents are for EBay’s “Buy it now” functionality and its Half.com business model.

Talk about being at the right place at the right time. When Woolston filed for those patents he had no way of knowing that a huge and successful Internet company would eventually infringe on them. You got to admit, a $35 million payday is not bad. Sad thing is that he needs to beat EBay twice, since an appeal is almost inevitable.

Who needs enemies? A kid in Ohio decided to scratch the muck off the bottom of the gene pool and create his very own one-hour Jackass video special. The problem is that to film it, he threw boiling water on his “friend” while he was sleeping. Result–second degree burns and criminal charges for the budding young director. Maybe they’ll change the Ohio state motto to “With a camera, dumb things are possible.”

Well, now that Memorial Day weekend is over, I decided to do a little Spring cleaning. Hey, I know it’s the official start of Summer, but I didn’t get around to it in the Spring, so there. Anyway, I decided to sell some stuff on EBay, including a HP Laserjet 5L, a Sony SAT B3 DirecTV Satellite Receiver, and a Sony STR DE-805G Receiver. If you are interested in any of these, please do not hesitate to bid.

Larry Wachowski, co-director and creator of the Matrix films, including Matrix: Reloaded, has had his assets frozen by an L.A. Superior Court judge as part of a bitter divorce battle with his estranged wife, Thea Bloom. Ms. Bloom stated in a court documents, “Larry has been extremely dishonest with me in our personal life, and I believe he is hiding information from me regarding our financial affairs.” Oh! What a bitch slap! I can imagine the court room scene. The judge is a smiling Agent Smith sporting sunglasses and a black suit underneath his robe, saying, “Mr. Wachowski, it is a pleasure to see you again…” Man, I bet he wishes he had Neo in the courtroom with him. Moral of the story: divorce is no fun.

LeBron James, the high school basketball phenom, just signed an endorsement deal with Nike worth over $90 million over seven years. This comes just two days before the draft, when James will find out where he will play with his new shoes. I wonder what it must be like to know that you’ll make $13 million a year for seven years, guaranteed, above and beyond your salary. In contrast, Michael Jordan’s first shoe contract in 1984 was worth $2.5 million over five years. Jordan got only half a mil a year! This kid will be making 26 times more money than MJ did 20 years ago–times really have changed. I hope this kid can live up to expectations, or people are going to want their money back.

According to the Associated Press, two weeks ago Michael Jackson burst into a congressman’s field office in Solvang, CA wearing a Spiderman mask to ask why there weren’t any fast food restaurants there. When he was told that Subway was the only restaurant in town, he replied “I love Taco Bell.” WTF!? This bitch is crazy.

I had the opportunity to view Comandante at the San Francisco Film Festival earlier this month (see entry). In response to HBO’s choice not to air the film, Oliver Stone has recently flown back to Havana to obtain additional interview footage from Castro regarding the most recent incidents. These new scenes will now be incorporated into the documentary and the new film will air on HBO at a later date. Having already seen the original film, it will be interesting to hear Castro’s thoughts on the recent executions and the brutal repression of Cuba’s dissidents by his regime. If you are even remotely interested in global politics, you must watch this incredible film when it is released.

The U.S. bumped the terror alert level up to orange because there’s intelligence that says some Al-Qaida mofos may be planning an attack on U.S. soil. This means that we are to be a little more afraid of biological threats today than in a “normal” day. Let’s hope this is another case of Tom Ridge crying wolf and nothing actually blows up.

Disney announced today that it will start renting “self-destructing” DVDs to the public that do not have to be returned. The DVDs will change color due to a chemical reaction to oxygen once the packaging is opened. This chemical reaction will turn the DVD surface from red to black in 48 hours. During that time, the DVD will be able to be played, or even copied, just like a regular DVD. Now the only hurdle is to get the public to accept this new technology.

Big ups to Maria Labos, my friend Santiago’s sister, who graduated from UC Hastings College of the Law earlier today. We wish her luck on her upcoming bar exam, but most of all, we wish her continued success and happiness. Congratulations, Maria!

Our friends, Meerenai Shim and David Warren, tied the knot earlier today in a beautiful ceremony held among beautiful redwoods in Old Mill Park in Mill Valley. Meerenai did an excellent job at arranging the music for the ceremony, which included included I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll by Joan Jett, Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, and a couple of Elton John standards. The reception was held immediately after the ceremony at the Mill Valley Community Center. It was awesome. Mama and I wish Meerenai and Dave a lifetime of happiness. Mazel Tov!

4 Stars

The Matrix has you, and me, and him, and her. Apparently it has almost everybody. The theatre house that I saw it in was packed to the gills, and it was a Friday afternoon! I wonder if anyone has tried to correlate drops in worker productivity to major theatrical releases. Or at least, drops in technology production when sci-fi movies are released.

Matrix: Reloaded - Neo and Trinity

The film is visually stunning. An amazing spectacle of special effects wizardry intermingled into an admittedly weak storyline. The first Matrix movie was fresh and unexpected, since we didn’t know what the Matrix was then. When Morpheus says that the Matrix is the world that has been pulled over our eyes to blind us from the truth–we were shocked, we cared, we were interested.

The plot of this installment is simple, in the real world, the machines are making their way down to the city of Zion to destroy the city and its quarter million inhabitants. Morpheus says that the prophecy states that Neo will bring end to the war between the humans and machines, and destroy the Matrix.

Neo goes into the Matrix to speak to the Oracle about fulfilling the prophecy and destroying the Matrix. There he finds out that the Oracle and other entities in the Matrix are actually rogue programs created by the machines that inhabit the Matrix. He also finds that Agent Smith is no longer an official agent of the Matrix, but is now a also a rogue program that is intent in gaining revenge or power from Neo–his intentions are never made perfectly clear. In fact, the intentions of all the rogue programs are never made clear, and there are a bunch of them in this film.

There’s a lot of things about this movie that don’t make perfect sense. Do we even care about the people in Zion? What’s so great about Zion, anyway? All they do is rave and bicker with each other, except when they are not worshipping Neo like the next messiah or having raves next to lava pools and shit. Morpheus is preachy in this one, really preachy. Hell, even the Architect of the Matrix is preachy. By this point you almost want the Matrix to be “reloaded” and Zion to be completely destroyed, fuck ’em.

There’s absolutely no denouement–it is the first of two parts that will be continued when the next film, Matrix: Revolutions, is released in November. Reloaded is weaker than the first in storyline and frustratingly preachy in parts, but still a visual delight worth watching. It is a landmark film that must still be seen to be believed, but it falls short of capturing our imaginations as the first one did four years ago.

Update (5/19/2003): Be sure to read Larry O’Brien’s review.

They say all good things must come to an end, and so it was tonight. As the moon disappeared from an eclipse, the Lakers saw their dreams of a fourth title fade away at the hand of the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs were hot for most of the game, but just burst into flames in the third and fourth quarters to extend their lead past the 20-point mark. It became clear that there was no coming back from this one. There would be no last minute run, no athletic alley-oops, and no buzzer-beating heroics for this game. I congratulate the Spurs on a well-played series and retire my Lakers jersey to the closet until next year. Lastly, if we can’t win it, neither can the Kings–go Mavs! Peace.

Microsoft admitted today that they were full of shit and that the iLoo crapper was not a hoax. For the record, I called bullshit on their “fake” press release story yesterday. Microsoft now says it had relied on bad information from an employee in the UK who said the iLoo was a hoax. However, after more talks with people in London, the company determined that it was a real project after all. The project has since been flushed, no pun intended, since Porta-Potties do not flush.

Mr. Stinky

An amorphallus titanum plant named Mr. Stinky started blooming in Miami, Florida yesterday, attracting massive crowds to its massive display. In case you are not familiar with the amorphallus, its bloom smells like putrid flesh to attract carrion beetles which help polinate it. Additionally, while the stink is making patrons nearly pass out the amorphallus exposes himself to the world in the most phallic of ways. You sick bastard! That’s right, Mr. Stinky’s manhood is a staggering 85 inches high, dwarfing last year’s stinky bloom in Encinitas by several feet. Check out last year’s blog entry for some real amorphallus titanum fun.

A county hospital in Oregon seeks a Klingon-English interpreter to communicate with some of the mental health patients that refuse to speak anything else. I thought this was fake when I first read about it, but lo and behold it was picked up by the Associated Press and got on CNN. That’s what happens when geeks snap, so don’t push them over the edge or they’ll go Klingon on your ass–Kling Kling, Aaargh!

Microsoft announced today that the iLoo product that they officially announced on May 2nd was just an elaborate April Fool’s joke. Who are they kidding with this shit!? First of all, if that were true, it would be the first time in Microsoft’s history that they have issued a “fake” press release, even for April Fool’s Day. Second, why would the joke be released on May 2nd, over a month late, and in Britain? Who knows? Anyway, that’s their story and their sticking to it. If you ask me this “fake” release explanation is just a ruse to cover up what can best be described as a major fuck up. Reading my blog entry about the crapper still makes me crack up, and this explanation is just as funny.

Phil Jackson did not coach the Lakers today and was recovering from an emergency angioplasty he had yesterday. Lakers fans breathe a collective sigh of relief, since it appears that Phil Jackson dodged a potential heart attack by having the procedure.

Kobe Bryant about to posterize Tim Duncan
The Lakers were notably inspired by the absence of their leader and played solidly to tie the series with the Spurs 2-2. This now becomes a best-of-three series with Tim Duncan and his squad. The Lakers seemed flat for the first half of this game, but came back from a 16-point deficit in the second quarter to win by four points. Fourth quarter heroics from both Kobe and Shaq were the reason for todays win. If the Lakers win the next game in San Antonio, they may have enough momentum to close it out at the Staples Center in game six. Good luck Lakers!

I really enjoyed watching Three’s Company when I was a kid. John Ritter was at the top of his game and Suzanne Somers didn’t need any plastic surgery–those were the days. I thought the girls on the show were hot and the premise of the show was funny. A guy living with two girls pretends he’s gay so the landlord will let him stay. Oh, and did I mention the girls were hot? Anyway, this Monday, NBC is going to air a movie that will tell the unauthorized behind the scenes story of the show. For fans of the show, that may be worth checking out.

British lawyers, called barristers, are not happy that the British courts are thinking of removing the curl wig that has been part of court dress code since the 17th century. Apparently, they must all enjoy wearing the itchy, heavy, unhygenic, and smelly horse hair wig simply because of tradition. One of them even compared a barrister without a wig to a doctor without a stethoscope. I disagree. A doctor uses a stethoscope to examine his patients, but a lawyer doesn’t argue a case using the stink of his wig or the ridiculousness of his appearance.

A friend of mine sent me an email with George W. Bush’s resume. Some of it is anti-Bush propaganda and way off base, but there’s a lot of stuff in it that’s right on the money. Either way, it’s a pretty interesting read. One of these days when I have time I’ll try and reference each “real” bullet with a news story hyperlink as proof–that would be pretty cool. Big ups to Mike Busick for the info.

A huge security flaw in Microsoft’s Passport system was disclosed late on May 7th and has apparently already been fixed by Microsoft. The flaw allowed an attacker to change a passport account’s password by typing in a simple URL into his browser. I just tried the exploit on my own passport account and I didn’t receive a password change email from the server, so it’s probably fixed. Scary though.

In any language, Microsoft does not equal security. I guess that could be written as Microsoft <> security, or Microsoft != security, or Microsoft == insecurity, etc. Sorry, I am in the middle of a programming course right now so please excuse the geek out on alternative logical operator syntax.

The Who guitarist Pete Townshend, who was arrested in January on child porn charges, received a formal police caution from London’s Metropolitan Police today and was placed on Britain’s national registry of sex offenders. The investigation showed that although he had accessed a child porn site in 1999, he was not in possession of any downloaded child abuse images. Police now admit that Townshend had no “nefarious purpose” for accessing the site.

Microsoft’s MSN Division in the UK has come up with a new product called the iLoo. It is essentially an average Porta-Potty outfitted with a computer, wireless keyboard, a telescopic plasma screen, and a wireless Internet connection so you check your email while taking a dump.

Dude! Have the designers of this thing even been inside a Porta-Potty? They are fucking gross!!! When you are inside of one of these things you are not concerned with world affairs, stock quotes, or email. You are concerned about making it out alive. You are concerned about keeping your balance and not falling. You are concerned about hyperventilating, because you are holding your breath for minutes so the the fucking toxic fumes don’t burn the inside of your lungs. You are concerned about not touching anything, let alone a wireless keyboard. Who would touch that thing anyway? Plus, you know the fucking kids are going to dip the keyboard in the vat of shit just for fun, you just know it! And there’s always the fear of some asshole flipping the whole thing over–that’s always lurking in the back of your mind. Man, this bad idea just gets worse and worse the more I think about it.

This is simply a desperate attempt to find revenue outside of software licensing by Bill and Co. If this is their best idea, they’re in trouble.

I was all bummed today after the Lakers lost to the Spurs, but was happy to find out that the Amazing Race 4 (aka TAR4) is finally scheduled to air on May 29th. If you are unfamiliar to the show, here’s a summary.

Twelve teams of two people, each with a pre-existing relationship, will take off on a race around the world to compete for a $1 million prize. It’s a grueling and emotionally exhausting competition filled with excitement and conflict. The show is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the producer behind many box office action movies, like Enemy of the State, Bad Boys, Pearl Harbor, and Black Hawk Down.

Here are the more interesting and unusual teams in this race.

First, there’s two guys from New York that are best friends and clowns. Everybody knows that clowns are scary (especially Killer Klowns From Outer Space), so off the bat these guys will have a pretty serious intimidation factor going for them. You know what they say, don’t fuck with clowns! Other teams won’t be able to sleep at the rest stops knowing that these guys are nearby.

Next, there’s a pair of virgins from Tenessee. That’s right. This couple’s claim to fame is that they have not engaged in sexual intercourse with each in over twelve years of dating–now that’s what I call an amazing race! I am sure they’ll be knocking boots at the rest stops to relieve stress. They better if they want to win the big bucks!

Next, they have these two guys that are a married gay couple from Los Angeles. That’s pretty progressive for any prime time show. You have to give it up to Bruckheimer’s production staff for picking them to compete. Ultimately, the race is all about stress management, so sexual orientation doesn’t mean squat! It should be interesting to watch though.

The last interesting team concept in the race are these two old guys from Chicago that are air traffic controllers–that’s awsome. These guys have pretty stressful jobs that will allow them to deal with the emotional stress and exhaustion of the race. If they could get a move on in the physical challenges, these guys may be able to pull it off.

I can’t wait for the premiere of the race and the twists and turns that come along with it. This is the best reality show on TV, don’t miss it.

The Lakers lost the first game to the Spurs. Adding insult to injury, or injury to insult, Devean George left the game in the fourth quarter with a severely spraigned ankle. I need not remind anyone that Rick Fox is already on the injured list, and will be there for the better part of a year. The Lakers can’t afford another injury or they can kiss their fourth straight championship goodbye.

There will be two game sevens, or is it games seven, today in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The first game will be between the Detroit Pistons and the Orlando Magic. The Pistons are proving to the world why they are the number one seed in the East and may be culminating a comeback from a 3-1 deficit to take the series from the Magic.

More amazingly, the Portland Trailblazers are meeting the Dallas Mavericks with a chance to make NBA history. If the Blazers win it will be the first time that any team has comeback from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven game series. Jeez, that would probably make Mark Cuban’s head explode. Although I am not a fan of the Blazers, I will be rooting for Rasheed and the boys today in their quest for the record.

5 Stars

I was very skeptical about X2: X-Men United being better than the first. However, the opening sequence with Nightcrawler attacking the President in the Oval Office left me dumbfounded–it was then that I knew the hype was all true. Magneto’s escape sequence is equally amazing and imaginative. Not surprisingly, he gets out with Mystique’s assistance. The film is filled with almost non-stop action and is visually spectacular, and it isn’t just Halle Berry’s nipples showing through her top, I’m talking about the special effects. The struggles between mutants and a distrusting and fearful human society continue in this installment of the X-Men series. Unfortunately, this time it means the loss of one of their own. It is a must see film that marks the official start of the summer movie season. Next: Matrix Reloaded.

4 Stars

Bend It Like Beckham is a playful coming of age film that leaves you warm and fuzzy after you watch it. It deals with the cross-cultural tensions of a young Anglo-Indian soccer-playing girl in Britain. The casting for the film is excellent, especially the lead character, played by beautiful and talented newcomer Parminder Nagra. Although it has a simple storyline, the film has strong performances and thoughtful directing that take it to the next level. The cast and crew had fun making the film too, as we see in the closing credits. Check it out.

Kobe Bryant performing an acrobatic assist past Kevin Garnett

The Lakers finished off the Timberwolves last night with authority. Kobe Bryant was on fire in the last quarter, scoring 14 of his 31 points. Also, Shaq missed a triple-double by only one assist. The Lakers advance and will battle the Spurs on Monday, but the boys aren’t worried.

Why? Tim Duncan wears a Shaq jersey when he’s chillin’ at home. In fact, he’s Shaq’s biggest fan. Everybody knows that the Spurs Championship win in 1999 has an asterisk by it–it was a shortened season–it was a lucky break. If post-season history for the last three years against the Spurs is any indication, this will be another winning playoff series for the Lakers.

5 Stars

Comandante, an Oliver Stone film, is an amazing and an incredibly intimate portrait of Fidel Castro that portrays him as a revolutionary, a dictator, and a beloved leader. Castro definitely let his guard down for this film and had a “whatever happens, happens” attitude regarding the filming. Although the rules for the shooting stated that Castro or Stone could call “cut” at any time, neither of them used this privilege throughout the filming.

It was very interesting to hear Castro’s views of the United States and his explanation of what was happening behind the scenes during the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Castro portrays Cuba as a country that was caught between two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States. A country that has always done things its own way–Castro’s way.

Castro also expresses sadness towards the American people because of the actions of its government, citing the secret creation of the CIA. He refers to the years that the world knew of the Agency’s existence while the American people were in the dark about both the Agency and its practices in the global stage. Castro is also critical of the United States’ quick invocation of “National Security” and its use of these “sacred words” to instill its will onto the rest of the world and declare wars or conflict.

Stone does a great job of mixing documentary news footage from the past five decades with the present to make his own commentary about the dictator. He even shows Castro and his revolutionary forces executing opposing factions near a mass grave. However, it is clear that this is a biopic view of Castro’s life that focuses more on his successes than his mistakes.

Comandante is a controversial film that has been banned from the New York Tribeca Film Festival this week. Additionally, HBO has chosen not to air the film because of Cuba’s execution of ferry hijackers last month. HBO feels that current events now make the film “incomplete.” It is a shame that the Comandante wasn’t interviewed after this event, it would have been interesting to hear his thoughts on how the situation was handled.

Ultimately, you will have to watch the documentary and come up with your own ideas about Castro, the complex dictator. Cuba, a country that refuses to play by the rules of the United States and now abandoned by the fall of Mother Russia, is now in a very precarious position. It will be very interesting to see what the future brings for Castro, his country, his heirs, and his people.