Wednesday, December 31, 2008

10,000 lakes?: 'We may have overexaggerated.'

Minnesota has long been known as the land (state) of 10,000 lakes. In fact, the nickname appears at the bottom of the state's license plates acting almost as a dare to come and count the lakes.

In a state that consists of 87,014 square miles can there really be 10,000 lakes? Did they mean to say Land of 10,000 Puddles?

"We may have overexaggerated just a bit," said Leonard Samuelson, president of Minnesota's Travel and Tourism Office. "We count the lakes every five years and we tend to ... round up."

Satellite images reveal that Minnesota contains 2,349 lakes that are at least 50 feet long by 65 feet wide.

"That's actually one more than I thought we had," said Samuelson, referring to the satellite count. "We knew people would discover the true number of lakes one day. We [Tourism Office] just didn't think it would be this soon."

Rumors have surfaced that to prolong the discovery of the true number of lakes the Minnesota government contacted Google to restrict satellite images of the state. However, the search engine would not comply with the request and called it "a very weird thing to ask us."

Reports also surfaced that several artificial lakes were created to "fool" satellite images by covering small areas with aluminum foil to give the appearance of a small body of water. This tactic was soon abandoned as the price of aluminum began to rise.

Why has the state gone to such lengths to portray this image of Land of 10,000 lakes?

"It's really just a case of 10,000 sounding much better than 2,349. Yes, we did round up, but it's a good rounding up." said Carol Molnau, Minnesota's lieutenant governor.

Monday, December 29, 2008

CGI? Not for Valkyrie

On December 25, Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise opened in theaters across the country. The movie, based on a true story, details the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler towards the end of World War II.

In the movie, Colonel Stauffenberg, played by Cruise, loses his hand during a surprise attack by the Allies while in North Africa. Although the actor briefly contemplated actually amputating his hand for the role, co-stars convinced Cruise that computer-generated imagery (CGI) was the more responsible choice. CGI would be used to remove the hand.

"I asked him what would happen if he played a role in the future where he needed both hands. After some thought he shook his head in agreement," said co-star, Bill Nighy.

However, CGI can add thousands of dollars to the production of a major motion picture. Directors and actors often forget this fact as budgets for Hollywood films seem limitless.

A production assistant on the set of Valkyrie came up with a cost-saving idea to give the appearance that Cruise's hand was missing: lengthen the sleeve of his jackets and shirts.

Director Bryan Singer called the idea brilliant.

"In every post-battle scene Tom is wearing a uniform jacket in which the sleeve on the right arm hangs low enough to cover his hand. It really makes the audience think his hand is missing."

Though the right sleeve is six inches longer than the left it is virtually impossible to determine this while in the theater.

"Audiences would really have to be looking for it to notice it," said Cruise.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hessian reenactors 'drunker than ever' on Christmas night

Trenton, NJ--The most coveted soldier reenactment position in the country is the role of a Hessian troop on Christmas night in 1776 during the Revolutionary War's Battle of Trenton. On this night, General George Washington and company bravely crossed the icy Delaware River and surprised the Hessian troops occupying the town of Trenton several miles downstream.

The Hessians were so busy celebrating the Christmas holiday that they offered little resistance to the advancing Americans.

"[The Hessians] were totally shit-faced," said reenactor James Vanze, referring to the absurd quantities of libations the mercenary troops indulged in that night 232 years ago.

Though St Pauly Girl was not available in 1776, the Hessians celebrated mostly with beer. Historical reports and journals have the party in Trenton being so raucous that soldiers sang songs using powderhorns as megaphones. Musket balls were used for juggling and not firing, and, so relaxed were the hired guns, that flintlocks sat unattended next to cannon ramrods.

It is this festive atmosphere that makes the Battle of Trenton reenactment the most popular in the nation. Soldiers apply for reenactment positions two years prior to the event, which is officially called: The Coors Light Hessian Troop Festival Extravaganza at the Yuengling Battle of Trenton Reenactment.

"We received over 25,000 applications this year," said Tom Schmidt, head of the Trenton Historical Society, which oversees the Hessian gathering. "We are only able to accept 200 soldiers. It is hyper-competitive." (New Jersey law prohibits historical military gatherings in excess of 200 people.)

Jim Tomling, a reenactor from northern California, participated in his first, and probably last, Trenton reenactment yesterday. Tomling's wife and three small children made the trek to celebrate the holiday together.

"It was incredible. This has been a two year process and it was all I thought it would be and more. I was so freakin' drunk. I just kept drinking and talking fake German," said Tomling, who was chosen by the selection committee despite not being able to speak fluent German.

Tomling was also lucky enough to win the role of learning from a local colonial boy, played by 12-year-old Princeton, NJ, resident Kevin Cornly, that the Americans were coming.

"It's one of the biggest roles. I had to run around the camp, while completely wasted, trying to convince the other soldiers that Washington was right down the road. I don't know how they chose me for that role. I feel like I'm dreaming right now," said a giddy Tomling.

Between reenactors and thousands of onlookers, more beer is served and consumed at the event than twenty NFL stadiums on gameday.

One amazed reveler reported: "I've never seen the reenactors as drunk as they were today. I mean, drunker than ever."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sam Adams calls for Sam Adams due to storm not seen since Sam Adams

The mayor-elect of Portland, Oregon, Sam Adams, has called for a plan to help residents cope with the 14 inches of snow that has paralyzed the city. Portland, which rarely sees measurable December snowfall, has not received this much snow in nearly forty years.

"One inch in February is a lot of snow for us," said a grinning resident, Mark Benson. "We probably haven't seen this much snow since founding father Sam Adams was alive."

In a city known for its microbreweries Sam Adams (the mayor-elect) is calling on a macrobrew (Sam Adams) to ease the effects of the record snow storm in the city of nearly 600,000.

Sam Adams(the mayor-elect) is using four-wheel drive vehicles to deliver Sam Adams (the beer) to thousands of stranded residents.

"We are a city who likes our beer. We need our beer. One foot of snow is not going to stop us from getting our beer," said mayor-elect, Adams.

Critics feel by distributing a national beer in America's microbrew capital his approval rating could drop dramatically. Others say that delivering a beer with the same name could send him to the governor's mansion in Salem in the near future.

"It's a very interesting strategy," said political analyst Darcy Hilton. "He's not delivering milk or bread or water. He's bringing Oregonians what Oregonians love best."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Artificial tree farm attempts to capture holiday spirit with allen wrenches

West Coventry, PA—Kelly and Martin Gomez knew they were on to something when their next door neighbor, who fiercely dislike the couple, told them it was a good idea.

"It" is Forever Green Trees, Inc. It is not just a place to buy artificial Christmas trees but an entire experience.

"Jeff, who never talks or looks in our direction, told me that we had a pretty good little idea. This had to mean our idea was big-time," said Martin Gomez, co-owner of Forever Green Trees, Inc., referring to his neighbor.

A 2006 Cooper-Sinclair study showed that 8 out of 10 live-tree buyers would not purchase an artificial tree because of the toxic gases emitted. However, the other 2 out of 10 said it was simply because of the shopping atmosphere.

"People like the idea of fake trees. Actually, most people love the idea. Even as far back as olden days. But they are hesitant because of the store environment," said Kelly, co-owner with Martin.

Forever Green Trees, Inc. is a 200-acre "heaven on Earth" located in the outer Philadelphia suburbs in beautiful Chester County. The fields are covered with artificial trees as far as the eye can see. Every size, shape and color imaginable dot the rolling landscape. Plastic trees with fake snow and some with built-in tinsel are waiting to be given a good home.

"Here, we take the artificial tree and put it in an unartificial or natural environment," said Martin.

Instead of a saw, customers are given two phillips head screwdrivers, three pairs of pliers, a set of allen wrenches (pictured), two flat screwdrivers, a slinky, a rubber mallet, and, if the need should arise, a can of WD-40.

Buyers, much like a natural Christmas tree farm, are given the option of taking a horse-drawn wagon or sleigh to choose a favorite fake tree. There is also a red horse-drawn Hummer, refurbished from a Hummer that was severely damaged in Afghanistan.

Once a family has agreed on a favorite fakey (the term Kelly often uses for artificial trees) the appropriate tool is then chosen from the provided tool kit. Customers also have the option of taking the tree completely assembled, as this makes the tree "stay alive."

"To give it even more of a live-tree feeling many of our fake trees have a microscopic sap-producing device installed in the central pole or trunk," said Kelly. "When customers attempt to assemble or disassemble the tree small bits of sap will ooze through the screw holes."

Roughly ten percent of the trees on the farm are still in boxes, with pictures on the outside, so customers wanting to build their own tree on-site have the option.

"We had hot cyder and everything," said 10-year-old Billy McGonigal. "It took us two hours to make the plastic tree."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Soul only Arena League team to play 2009 season

The Arena Football League announced earlier this week that because of the current economic crisis the 2009 season will be canceled. Though the league does have television contracts and reputable attendance numbers, league officials felt it was the right decision.

Saved from the canceled season are the 2008 AFL Champion Philadelphia Soul. While the other 15 AFL teams are sitting at home during spring and summer the Soul will continue as planned with their 2009 schedule.

"We're excited to be the only team playing this season. I feel for the other teams, but this is exciting for the Soul," said team president, Ron Jaworski.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shoe-thrower took shoe throwing lessons in U.S.

The journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush over the weekend reportedly received shoe-throwing training in the United States.

Muntader al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist, began planning "Operation: Shoe Lace" in 2006. It was then that al-Zaidi traveled to the U.S. where shoe-throwing is standard curriculum at numerous circus training schools.

"If you want to learn to throw shoes you go to the U.S. It's that simple," said Canadian Chris Danielson, 2007 Shoe-thrower runner up at the Las Vegas Invitational.

The journalist, who obtained a six month circus visa, funded his own travels to the states where he attended schools in Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey and told teachers and fellow students he was planning to start a circus school for children in Iraq.

"I thought it was strange that he only wanted to learn how to throw the shoes, but never wanted to learn how to retrieve the shoes," said Dave Miller, instructor and owner of Circus Acts, Inc, the school which al-Zaidi attended in the Texas panhandle.

Miller went on to say that al-Zaidi graduated tops in his class at Circus Acts, Inc. and was shocked that he missed his intended target, President Bush, last Sunday.

"He excelled with sneakers and hiking boots while in training. So I was surprised that he elected to throw dress shoes. He was only an average dress shoe-thrower, but was deadly accurate with high tops," explained Miller.

Monday, December 15, 2008

On 40th anniversary fans throw shoes at Santa

ACLU releases PC CD for holiday season

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is gearing up for the holidays by releasing a new CD featuring politically correct holiday songs. The ACLU teamed up with an all-star cast of musicians and non-musicians such as U2, Mariah Carey's younger sister, Barry Bonds, the Olson twins and Fred Savage.

The four-CD set includes the following songs and many more:

I saw legal guardian/caregiver Kissing the Present Bringer
I'm Dreaming of a Snow-covered December 25th
Rudolph the Nasally Challenged Reindeer
It's Beginning to Look a lot Like the 25th day of December
Frosty the Frozen Precipitation Personage
Chestnuts Roasting on a Carefully Watched Roasting Device
It's the Most Wonderful Time of a set of 365 Days
All I want for December 25th is my anteriors 8 and 9
Winter Wonderland
Smaller-sized Drummer Juvenile
Jingle Bell(singular)
A Dozen Days of December 25th
I'll be home Six Days Before the New Year
I'll be home for the 359th Day of the Year(non-Leap Year)

"We're excited about the CD. Everyone had a blast making this, even the non-musicians," said Karen Willston, ACLU public relations director. "You may see Barry release his own CD in the near future featuring all baseball songs. But you didn't hear that from me."

The reviews are in:

FOX News: "Surprisingly, not a bad little CD for the holiday season."
CNN: "Bono rocks the house with Smaller-sized Drummer Juvenile."
Martha Stewart: "I have a new book coming out soon."
Rod Stewart: "Both Elton and I were left out. But damn, this CD makes December feel like December should feel."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Burress changes story: 'It was a glockenspiel not a glock.'

New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress is changing his story. Burress, who allegedly shot himself in the leg at a Manhattan night club on November 29, is now claiming that he was not carrying a Glock, a small handgun, but a glockenspiel.

While it is true that the percussion instrument is a favorite among professional athletes, police have doubts about the players change of story. Some experts have said that Burress will be forced to play the glockenspiel to prove his proficiency to a court.

"Plaxico took up the glockenspiel about a year ago and often takes one to clubs to entertain the crowds. He often calls his glockenspiel his Glock," said the player's agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

And the wound in his leg? Burress says that one of the tuned bars, which he keeps sharpened for looks, pierced his leg while taking the glockenspiel out of his giant pocket.

Burress feels if he wasn't suspended by the Giants he would be ready to play football in a few weeks. How about the instrument?

"I don't know if I'll ever be able to play the glockenspiel again. It's tough. I may have to take up the xylophone."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

South St bridge was not made by Phoenix Steel

The the 85 year old South Street Bridge finally closed today as workers prepare to dismantle the structure. Correct, they are dismantling and not demolishing.

The town of Phoenixville, PA purchased the bridge from the city last month and planned to move the span to the borough 23 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

"We bought the bridge because we thought it was made right here at Phoenix Steel. We were wrong and now we're stuck with this thing. I really should have asked before I bought the bridge," said borough councilman, Jim McKnight.

McKnight went on to admit that he confused the South Street bridge with the Strawberry Mansion Bridge (below). Phoenix Bridge Company, a division of Phoenix Steel, constructed the Strawberry Mansion Bridge in 1896.

"I'm selling the bridge on craigslist. It's listed under old bridges in the for sale section. It's also listed under used bridges," said McKnight.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bush insists on using dollar bill for Army-Navy coin toss

Above, President George W Bush attempts to flip a dollar bill, instead of a coin, before the start of the 109th Army/Navy game in Philadelphia. The bill never landed as a gust of wind carried the paper money up and out of the stadium and into the adjacent parking lot. Although Bush wanted to see where it landed, game officials were able to convince him to use a coin for the coin toss.

Above, the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field follows the floating dollar bill as it makes its way out of the stadium. One cadet, who did not want to sound disrespectful, said the President should have used a ten dollar bill. "A ten's gotta be heavier than a one because it's worth nine more dollars."

Bush also addressed both teams prior to the game in each locker room. The President told the Navy players that "it's kinda weird that you came to the stadium in buses and not boats."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stanford University to rename mascot AndSons

Stanford University's mascot has been known as the Cardinal since the school's inception in 1885. Many, especially on the east coast, mistake the mascot for a bird where it is actually the color—cardinal red. However, the university wants a mascot that brings the green.

Stanford, despite having one of the largest endowments in the country, is always seeking ways to generate funding for graduate research. For example, last year the school asked alumni to donate money. And the year before that alumni were contacted to give money to the school.

"You can never have enough money for research. We could be the ones to develop an earthquake vaccine or invent a cable-less cable car," said Stanford vice president, Dan Williams.

Beginning in the spring the university's sports teams will be known as the Stanford AndSons. The school reached a naming rights agreement with Nickelodeon, a cable tv station, to promote the stations reruns of Sanford and Son.

The deal is for two years and will pay the school $2 million per year. The giant redwood tree that adorns the university's logo will not be altered. Nickelodeon executives pushed for the tree to be replaced with a red pickup truck, but Stanford would not budge.

Although predominately geared toward children, the network's night time lineup, Nick at Night, is more for adults. And starting in the spring the network will begin airing Sanford and Son at 9:30 PM ET.

"We looked at this as win win situation. Stanford has a top tier sports program and with many nationally televised games audiences will know Elizabeth should be expecting Fred," said Nickelodeon president, Cal Essington.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Body discovered at Chester stadium groundbreaking

Chester, PA--A dozen golden shovels shimmered in the afternoon sun near the waterfront of this once thriving port city, the Commodore Barry Bridge in the background. Yesterday, the new Philadelphia area Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise broke ground for their new 18,000+ seat soccer-only stadium.

Both team officials and politicians are hoping that the new facility can spur development in Pennsylvania's poorest city. Despite the current state of the economy, officials reinforced that the venue will be completed.

The project, however, hit a setback yesterday when, during the groundbreaking ceremony, a team official discovered a body with his golden shovel.

"I took the shovel and began to push it into the ground and it stopped about three inches down," said a team official who wanted to remain anonymous. "I put all my weight into it but it still wouldn't penetrate the dirt. Something wasn't right."

As soon as it became apparent that the blockage was a body, ceremony attendees, including the mayor, governor and numerous fans were quickly directed back to the breakfast buffet table away from the scene. Chester City Police were eventually notified and subsequently shut down the area. Police would not release the identity of the body.

The joyous crowd turned somber after hearing the news and the Sons of Ben supporters sang "Ill Fly Away" as a tribute.