Monthly Archives: March 2008

Trace Adkins – a true gentleman

You’re Gonna Miss This by Trace Adkins

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I’m having trouble getting the videos to load properly, so I’ll work on that, or if necessary, in the future, move the blog. I like having videos, and since they changed the dashboard of WordPress, the videos and other things are very different, and some things don’t work. So bear with me in this time of change please : )

The videos are as follows:
Trace Adkins:

You’re Gonna Miss This

Songs About Me

I Got My Game On,

and check this one out (not in the post):

Swing by Trace Adkins


Our Song by Taylor Swift

And for Toby Keith:

Who’s Your Daddy?

I Wanna Talk About Me

How Do You Like Me Now?

(Whiskey for My Men and) Beer For My Horses, with Willie Nelson

I first heard this song on The Celebrity Apprentice, when Trace sang it in the finale. The song spoke to me – I have two daughters ages 19 and 14, and both can’t wait to grow up and away. Although they love me, they want to keep moving ahead, and my 14 yr old has her life mapped out in infinite detail, down to the continent she plans to do her volunteer work on for the Peace Corps, and where she wants to put her wildlife conservation area. So I emailed the video and lyrics to both of them.

This song is available for purchase, lyrics, and the video at

Here’s the lyrics to “You’re Gonna Miss This”:

You’re Gonna Miss This

She was starin’ out the window of their SUV
Complainin’, sayin’, “I can’t wait to turn eighteen”
She said, “I’ll make my own money and I’ll make my own rules
Momma, put the car in park out there in front of the school”
And she kissed her head, and said, “I was just like you”

You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days
Hadn’t gone by so fast

These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this

Before she knows it she’s a brand new bride
In her one bedroom apartment and her daddy stops by
He tells her it’s a nice place, she says, “It’ll do for now”
Starts talkin’ about babies and buyin’ a house
Daddy shakes his head and says, “Baby, just slow down”

Cuz’ you’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days
Hadn’t gone by so fast

These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this

Five years later there’s a plumber
Workin’ on the water heater
Dog’s barkin’, phone’s ringin’
One kid’s cryin’ and one kid’s screamin’
And she keeps apologizin’

He says, “They don’t bother me
I’ve got two babies of my own
One’s thirty-six, one’s twenty-three”
Huh, it’s hard to believe

But you’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days
Hadn’t gone by so fast

These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this

You’re gonna miss this
Yeah, you’re gonna miss this


Lyrics courtesy of Gracenote

There are some other videos available ( afew below my him and two others) as well. I had never heard of Trace before the show, as I don’t follow country music, but something about his demeanor, and quiet intelligence that came out exactly when needed, were intriguing, although I sensed that he wasn’t always that quiet. Then when I heard the song, and his voice (it’s a low deep country voice), I had to share it. I don’t usually inflict my music tastes on others (other than my little Sonific Songspot widget), but this was more than a song – it was a message for all teens in too big a hurry to grow up. As I approach my 51st birthday, I look back, and wonder at where my life has gone, and ended up, and wish I was 17 again, with the whole world and choices available to me. And I figured out why I collect 70’s kitsch – I want to go back to those times when I was happy and relatively uncomplicated, with the only decisions to make were what I should spend my savings on during my trip out west, and whether to go to Mount Holyoke, a women’s ivy league school out east, or stay at home and go to the University of Minnesota, majoring in Honors Classics.

One thing I learned about country music is that the videos tell a story – much more so than in rock or pop (except for the fabulous Thriller!), and that watching them makes the song come alive. This next video explains the populist appeal of country music, far beyond it’s geographic borders:

And this one, well, it speaks for itself. It’s about fun and “you got game”:

And one last one about baseball and women:


And I found this little one on the same page, by a singer I hadn’t heard of, but it’s cute, and is SO young love:

Our Song, by Taylor Swift

And this little video is from a favorite of mine. Even though I listen to very little country music, I adore Toby Keith – he makes no apologies for who he is, or what he believes in, and I can admire that. This one’s a gem – fun and unapologetically male:

Who’s Your Daddy? by Toby Keith

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And this one, well, it says it all. It’s a poke fun at yourself video:

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And for all of you, men AND women, who found high school a little hard, and have since left it behind and gone on to bigger and better things, this one’s for you:

How Do You Like Me Now, by Toby Keith

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And for the ultimate one, although a rather odd “take” on the genre, here’s a duet with Willie Nelson:

(Whiskey for My Men and) Beer For my Horses, with Willie Nelson

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Hope you enjoy this sampling of a genre you may not be familiar with. It’s worth a look – try Toby Keith, Trace Adkins, George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Garth Brooks (his album “Sevens” and Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” got me through my divorce), Carrie Underwood, and Willie Nelson, among others. Tags: , ,

Purell Lovers Rejoice! – new devices for germaphobes, Part Two

And for more info, here’s part of an article on the above, and germs. Having not yet survived a very nasty upper respiratory infection, including laryngitis, bronchitis and sinusitis, and two rounds of antibiotics (and you know what that means – carton after carton of yogurt!), that’s still hanging around, I begin to think maybe, just maybe, there’s something to this:

Germs Never Sleep

Published November 5, 2006

“Georgia-Pacific, the paper goods company, began receiving field reports about mysterious collections of used paper towels near bathroom exits. Further investigation found bathroom users were carrying towels to the door to cover the knob and then discarding them on the floor (because the trash cans were far away).

In the summer the company introduced Safe-T-Gard, a combination dispenser of doorknob-size tissues and a trash receptacle to be mounted on the wall next to doors.

Consumer fear of unclean environments has developed significantly over the

last five years, said Bill Sleeper, the general manager of Georgia-Pacific’s commercial tissue and towel category. “All of the issues of nosocomial infections in hospitals, the risk of bird flu, the cruise ship outbreaks, there’s just more and more awareness of health issues,” he said.

But some of the resulting behavior makes no sense, Mr. Sleeper said. The company’s studies have found bathroom users covering their fingers in toilet paper before flushing and using more tissue to open stall doors, even though there is almost no health reason to do so, because their next stop is the sink to wash their hands with soap and water.

Another company, Fulkerson, in Cumming, Ga., is attacking doorknobs differently. Its SanitGrasp, introduced in May at the National Restaurant Association convention in Chicago, replaces traditional pull handles with a large U-shape device, which allows a door to be opened with a forearm.

At the grass roots, antigerm innovation is furious:

• Sandra Barbor, 60, of Sandwich, Ill., was always bothered by having to grasp the handles of shopping carts, and when her husband was found to have myelodysplastic syndrome, which compromised his immune system, she was driven to invent the Sani-Shopping Cover, a $3.49 strip of protective vinyl that adheres to cart handles. Ms. Barbor, a retired marketer, has sold about 1,000 covers online.”

Page 2 of the article:

“• Hotel guests, concerned that bedspreads are not washed as frequently as sheets, have taken to whisking them off the bed on arrival and throwing them, bottom side up, into a corner. Marriott hotels responded last year with a bedding concept called Revive. Comforters are encased in white cotton covers, which are washed with the bedsheets. [more on this one later]

City Year New York

A portable personal subway strap.

• On the Internet frequent travelers caution about the dirtiness of hotel television remotes (suggestions include carrying a plastic bag to sheathe these button-covered germ magnets) and room coffee mugs. (Maids, the discussion-board wisdom goes, do not replace them with properly washed ones but use the towels they used to clean the toilet to swab dirty cups.)

FREQUENTERS of such message boards insist their fears are reasonable.

One of them, Julie Zagars, 34, a consultant to the food and beverage industry, said by phone, “I am a frequent traveler, and I simply don’t have time to get sick.”

When Ms. Zagars boards planes, she first slips around her neck the Air Supply Ionic Personal Air Purifier, which the company promises will repel allergens and viruses. Next she wipes the armrests, headrest and tray table with Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, and finally she pulls out her own cotton travel blanket.

Some antigerm sentiment could be stemming from the increasing pressure not to miss days at work, said Allison Janse, an author of “The Germ Freak’s Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu: Guerrilla Tactics to Keep Yourself Healthy at Home, at Work and in the World.”

The task of transmuting fear into cheer is left to marketers. Probably the first wave of modern germ consciousness began in 1997, with the consumer introduction of Purell, the hand-sanitizing gel (around since 1988 for the medical profession). Pfizer, its maker, has updated the product as the new wave of germ-fighting gadgets arrives. The company has introduced a multicolor line of the sanitizer, Purell-2-Go, which comes in small bottles with rubber rings to attach to backpacks, lunchboxes and key chains. “We tried to make it fun,” said Erica Johnson, a Pfizer spokeswoman.

A children’s book by Elizabeth Verdick published this year by Free Spirit titled “Germs Are Not for Sharing” has illustrations of children playing together without touching. “When germs get on your hands,” the text reads, “they can spread to other people. When you hold hands or play games or give each other high fives.”

“I kind of doubt kids will stop giving each other high fives,” said Dr. Michael Bell, the associate director for infection control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While Dr. Bell recommends teaching children about hygiene, washing one’s hands after using the bathroom and making sure to clean kitchen surfaces carefully is as much as most people need do, he said.

There is no hard scientific evidence that any of the air filters, nose sprays or personal sterile headrest covers for travelers help prevent infections.

But facts are not standing in the way of the antigerm marketplace, where style is becoming increasingly important. In 2001, Hydro-Photon of Blue Hill, Me., introduced SteriPEN, a portable but somewhat clunky ultraviolet device to disinfect drinking water for adventure travelers. The device is being used not only by back-country campers but also by urban Americans wanting to take extra precautions.

They want to carry the pen in their pockets, said Ed Volkwein, the company president. He expects to have a sleeker line of $130 SteriPENs, colored silver and black, in stores by Christmas.

Big-city living is a minefield for the germ-conscious. Emily Beck, the inventor of City Mitts, nonslip antibacterial gloves that commuters can wear to grasp subway handholds, has developed a prototype of a product to keep potentially infectious strangers even farther at bay.

The Excuse Me flag is a little yellow banner mounted on a lightweight pole, which is attached to one’s waist so it swings back and forth in front of the wearer during walking. Any other pedestrian who walks too close will be slapped in the face by the pole or the yellow flag, which reads “Excuse Me.”

“It generates a cubic yard of free walking space between you and a sneezer,” Ms Beck, a former New Yorker, said from her home in Delaware. “It makes it so you don’t have to touch anybody or talk to anybody in New York.” ”

From (all of the following):

Dec 11 2007

Organic hand sanitizer for crazy parents

Attention, parents of school-age children. Are you worried about a growing Purell addiction? CleanWell has the hand sanitizer for you.

The San Francisco-based company has come out with an alcohol-free, all-natural hand sanitizer. I got some samples at the ThinkGreen conference last week and my hands have been free of epidemic-causing bacteria ever since.

Need a sanitizing spritz?

(Credit: Michael Kanellos/CNET

The company claims it kills Listeria monocytogenes, Candida (we can make it together) albicans, Streptococcus pygenes, and Salmonella enterica. You can’t spray it on chicken, but the salmonella killing would be great for kitchen sanitizing. Spray CleanWell on your hands and it kills over 99 percent of these germs in 15 seconds, according to the company.

The active ingredient is called Ingenium. It’s not from the Periodic Table of the Elements. Instead, it’s a mix of essential oils that kill germs in concert. The product literature is great. It shows a kid hugging a deer. Most people would think: “cute.” To moms, that deer is just a rat with horns.

The 1-ounce spray bottle pictured here costs $7.99 and is good for 225 sprays. (That’s a lot of deer hugging.) The company also sells wipes and other products.

Posted in: Green tech

Sep 24 2007

Another way to keep food squeaky clean

(Credit: Tersano)

It’s already shaping up to be a banner day for the germaphobes here at Crave. Just after posting an item about the latest OCD vacuum cleaner, we came across another gadget to sanitize our food as well.

The “Lotus Sanitizing System” uses “super-oxygen” infused water to pulverize bacteria and other unsavory elements from pretty much whatever will fit in its “multi-purpose sanitizing bowl,” according to Shiny Shiny. (You can watch a video of it in action here.)

Granted, it’s not the first food sanitizer on the market–there are even gadgets out there designed to make meat squeaky clean. But at $170, it’s far cheaper than other models we’ve seen. Besides, when it comes to ingestion (and digestion), the true germaphobe never skimps.

Posted in: Science, Home

Jul 17 2007

How to have a public bathroom at home

(Credit: Amazon)

Talk about the world turned upside-down. The last thing we thought we’d ever see is people clamoring to make their bathrooms more like public loos, but that’s apparently what’s happening in our increasingly fixture-fixated consumer market.

We knew the trend had become mainstream (no pun, honest) after witnessing the overwhelming popularity of Dyson’s “Airblade” hand-drying machine. But that product is aimed at the business market–we think. The “EZ Touchless Infrared Sensor Faucet,” however, is clearly destined for the household at $50, according to GadgetGrid.

And why not? It’s at the perfect intersection with yet another hot trend, products targeted at the germaphobe community.

Posted in: Home

Jul 11 2007

Ultimate germaphobe gadget 2.0

(Credit: Hammacher Schlemmer)

Some months ago–on Jan. 1, as a matter of fact–we reported what we then thought was the “ultimate germaphobe gadget,” perhaps our way of ushering in a bacteria-free 2007. Barely halfway through the year, however, that item appears to have already been eclipsed.

Not only does the “Wide Coverage Germ-Eliminating Wand” claim to eradicate “99 percent of bacteria, viruses, mold, and dust mites,” but it can do so in broader areas with a 6-inch ultraviolet lightbulb. All the germaphobic head of the household needs to do is hold the wand 3 inches over a suspect surface for 20 seconds, according to Hammacher Schlemmer, and it can be programmed in 5- or 60-minute intervals.

We haven’t heard from him lately, but we’re certain that the “OCD Action Figure” will be pleased.

Posted in: Lifestyle

Jul 2 2007

Your iPhone is disgusting

Photo of Apple iPhone with iSkin revo case.

Dropping your iPhone in the toilet might actually be an improvement.

(Credit: iSkin)

iSkin’s latest antibacterial case made for Apple’s iPhone reminds us that a product’s coolness is no defense against deadly bacteria. In fact, studies have shown that cell phones happen to be one of the filthiest objects imaginable–dirtier than a toilet seat, computer keyboard, or the bottom of a shoe. There’s just something magical about the combination of spittle and your text-crazy hands that make mobile phones a germ’s best friend. The antibacterial iSkin Revo case for the iPhone is due out this month with a price of $39. Until then, think twice before passing your iPhone around at a party.

Posted in: Phones, Science, Music

Mar 1 2007

Air purifier zaps germs at 400 degrees

(Credit: Appliancist)

A USB air purifier is fine when you’re on the road, but at home you need something more powerful for a fully sterilized bubble. That’s when you might want to consider the “Airfree Platinum 2000.”

Its name may sound like something out of RoboCop, but the purifier claims to eliminate 99.99 percent of all germs. The secret weapon is a ceramic core that reaches 400 degrees, a temperature where no micro-organism can build their germ villages, according to Appliancist. (Airfree claims that it functions at these levels without burning down the house. Glad they mentioned that.)

We’ve seen–and tried–our share of miracle air cleaners, so forgive us for withholding judgment on Airfree’s claims. But even if it doesn’t pan out, you can always turn it into a futuristic Trojan helmet.

Posted in: Home, Lifestyle

Feb 26 2007

USB purifier claims to clear the air

(Credit: Fareastgizmos)

It’s been a banner week for germaphobes. Just the other day we pointed to a device that purifies water with UV rays, and now we get word of a product that filters out airborne germs from the air within its immediate vicinity.

The “Ionic USB Air Purifier,” according to Fareastgizmos, “discharges negative ions to absorb second-hand smoke, odors, clean airborne dust, and eliminate bacteria, germs, viruses.” The device circulates air silently without a fan and needs no filters. All you need, apparently, is faith.

Posted in: Lifestyle, Peripherals, Science

Feb 23 2007

UV lamp zaps bacteria from water

(Credit: Broadband Media)

Good news, fellow germaphobes. We’ve seen all manner of gadgets that sterilize surfaces but none that address what we ingest. Until now.

The “SteriPEN UV Light Water Purifier” treats H2O with a germicidal lamp, supposedly rendering it bacteria-free with no chemical aftertaste and “99.99 percent safe to drink,” according to Mobile Magazine. With our luck, we’ll probably be among the remaining 0.01 percent.

Posted in: Lifestyle, Science

Jan 1 2007

The ultimate germaphobe gadget

(Credit: Hammacher Schlemmer)

‘Tis the season to get sick, and Crave wants to do its part to help keep you healthy. We could list various types of bacteria-resistant and washable equipment on the market, but we’ve learned of another gadget that claims to detect and zap germs even before touching a piece of potentially infected hardware.

Hammacher Schlemmer says its “Handheld Germ-Eliminating Light” can “eliminate 99.99% of E-Coli, staphylococcus, salmonella, and germs that cause the flu and the common cold.” The miracle gadget supposedly works with the same type of ultraviolet light and nanotechnology used to sterilize surgical instruments in hospitals.

If you’re considering one of these as a belated holiday gift, we suggest personalizing it with an OCD action figure to show how much you really care.

Posted in: Lifestyle, Science

Dec 25 2006

A keyboard to fend off the rugrats

(Credit: Unotron)

The timing for this is perfect, as parents all over the world face the prospect of sticky-fingered kids running amok on sugar highs from an oversupply of holiday treats.

The mere thought of grubby little mitts everywhere is enough incentive for some of us to leave Christmas dinner early just so we can order one of Unotron’s wired or unwired washable keyboards, which SCI FI Tech says “can be sprayed over and over with disinfectants, submersed in cleaning fluid, rinsed under a faucet and then blow-dried.” It’s an ideal alternative for kids playing on the computer while the Legos are in the dishwasher.

So, using all of the above – will it keep you safe and healthy and free from the nasty germs around this season? That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it?

Weary Travelers Rejoice! Deluxe sleep is here

Being a lover of fine sheets and bedding (I insist on at least 600 thread count, Egyptian cotton sateen sheets at home), and/or silk quilts/shams, I found these following articles to be of great interest. I haven’t traveled in a while, and I was tired of scratchy, stiff sheets, and flat, lumpy pillows. I always had to ask for at least two or three extra pillows just for me. I have about ten one my own bed, and several quilts/duvets. I also have a very luxurious pillow top mattress from Ethan Allen, courtesy of my ex-mother-in-law, which she gave me after the divorce, along with some bed toppers and puffy mattress pads. Apparently though, hotels have figured this out, and upgraded their wares, although not perhaps to my home standards, but maybe enough for comfort while away from home. Now, if only a lucky fairy would come and deposit some money or a free trip in my lap – preferably to Bora Bora…

First up: My favorite destination, and where I lived for two years from 2000-2002, Hawaii!

Hotels want to put you to sleep

The latest tactic in luring guests is to give them a luxurious new bed for a great night’s rest


By Allison Schaefers

The latest salvo in the hotel industry’s long-running bed wars is being heard in Hawaii, as Marriott International Inc.‘s chainwide swapout of 628,000 beds reaches the islands.

The company’s $190 million global overhaul is using 30 million yards of soft, plushy fabric, or enough to stretch more than two-thirds of the way around the world.

The industry’s bed wars began in 1999, with the introduction of the Heavenly Bed by Westin Hotels and Resorts, part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

The thick, plush mattresses were an instant hit with hotel guests, long used to sleeping on the kinds of wholesale beds that make a person glad to get home.

Then, the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed, the Hilton Serenity and Suite Dreams beds and a host of other dream beds came forward.

“A good night’s sleep has become the foundation of selling hotel rooms,” said Joe McInerney, president and chief executive officer of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

Marriott went undercover with their market research to find out what consumers wanted in a bed. The company used labs to help determine the formula to give consumers better sleep than most would find at home.

From the dreams of consumers, Marriott fashioned its Revive bed — a downy confection complete with 300-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, seven feathery pillows, a white duvet and a colorful bed scarf.

The Revive bed roll-out, which began in 2005 and will become complete this summer, is more about substance than fluff for the hotel chain which operates approximately 2,400 hotels worldwide under eight different brands.

Each will introduce an upgraded bed, although the extent of its luxury will vary with the brand.

Guests at the Waikiki Beach Marriott, where the Egyptian cotton and feather pillow dressed bed became available earlier this year, already have boosted customer satisfaction surveys by seven points, said Ed Fuller, president and managing director of international lodging for Marriott International.

“We set out to find out what our customers wanted and that’s what we have delivered,” Fuller said.

Hotel chains have been installing luxurious new beds over the past few years in an effort to lure guests. Above, new double beds in rooms at the Waikiki Beach Marriott in Waikiki.

The new Marriott bed is beyond fantasy, said Amy Terada, vice president of marketing for Pleasant Holidays LLC, Hawaii’s largest wholesaler.

“I slept in it last night,” Terada said. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful bed. It looks so inviting and comfortable that you just want to jump in and bury yourself.”

If there’s an active bed war, Terada said she’d proclaim Marriott’s new offering the winner.

“I’ve slept in the Heavenly bed and the Sweet Sleeper bed and I prefer Marriott’s new bed,” she said.

Despite wide variations in consumer preference, Starwood and Sheraton can handle the competition, said Keith Vieira, a senior vice president with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

The Westin Heavenly Bed and the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Beds, which will be in every Hawaii Starwood hotel room by next year, have been so successful with consumers that many have elected to take them home.

“We sell about 200 of these beds a week to guests,” Vieira said.

Business at Westin, Starwood and Sheraton is unlikely to change as a result of Marriott’s decision to join the bed wars.

“We aren’t worried about Marriott’s newest bed,” Vieira said. “It just validates that we had a good idea and you know any good idea will be copied.”

Due to the massive costs in bedding upgrades, Marriott’s Revive bed might just be the last of the cycle.

“We’ve seen the end of the changing of the beds for a considerable period because it isn’t cheap,” McInerney said, adding that he doesn’t expect any more major bed wars for the next four to five years.

When it comes to national brands, the bed wars might be over — but they’re just beginning for boutique and off-brand properties, said Mike Paulin, president of Aqua Hotels and Resorts. That chain is in the process of renovating and changing the bedding at four out of eight of their properties.

“The emphasis on bedding in Waikiki has changed dramatically over the last 20 years,” Paulin said. “People spend a third of their time sleeping and they want a cozy experience.”

Aqua has invested in top-of- the-line commercial bedding for all of its properties, Paulin said.

“That’s what our customers want, and we have to give it to them or be satisfied with losing some of our occupancy or settling for lower rates,” he said.

Although, gasp!, not everyone is apparently of a like mind:

Détente in the Hotel Bed Wars


Published: January 31, 2006

THE hotel “bed wars” are over. But are business travelers the winners?

Most frequent travelers would probably say they are, citing the remarkable evolution of hotel beds from the no-nonsense affairs of the late 1990’s — just mattresses, sheets and bedspreads — to the superpremium sleep “experiences” of today.

Harley R. Myler, an engineering professor at Lamar University in Beaumont, Tex., is not among them. When he checked into the Marriott University Park in Tucson for a recent academic conference, he decided the bed wars had gone too far.

“There were several pillows and bedspreads,” he said. “I didn’t know what they were for. I didn’t know what to do with them.”

He added, “I would much prefer that they offered free high-speed Internet.”

Marriott International, like virtually every other hotel chain, recently upgraded its bedding — one of the final salvos in the bed wars that began in 1999 with the introduction of the Heavenly Bed by Westin Hotels and Resorts, a unit of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. The Marriott beds feature 300-thread-count sheets, a feathered mattress topper, stylish pillow shams, a decorative bed scarf and extra pillows.

Perhaps the last salvo in the bed wars was fired earlier this month, when Hilton Hotels announced a $1 billion effort that included the addition of its branded Serenity Bed to many of its properties, with its signature mattress pads, down pillows, linens, decorative bed pillows and bolsters. Hilton has offered its own branded bed since 2001.

Most hotel executives concede that the war is now over. That is to say, every hotel chain that believed it could benefit from upgrading its bedding has probably done so.

The question now is, Have their most frequent customers also benefited?

Mr. Myler does not think so. He sent a letter shortly after his stay in Tucson to that Marriott hotel’s general manager, Joe Armbrust, complaining about the surplus pillows. Mr. Armbrust agreed that the pillows “seem to be overkill,” but he said that customers had “expressed a desire to have the room similar to what they have at home.” In other words, the guests made Marriott do it.

But Mr. Myler maintains he never asked for the beds, and Westin, which started the bed wars, says its customers didn’t, either.

“We wanted to differentiate ourselves from the competition,” said Sue A. Brush, Westin’s senior vice president, who was the vice president of marketing when the Heavenly Bed was introduced. “It wasn’t anything that came through in the research.”

Roger G. Hill II, the chief executive of the Gettys Group, an interior design company specializing in the hospitality industry, agreed that customers had not clamored for new beds, nor had they asked for some of the more frivolous amenities that many properties now offer. “I’ve never seen a survey where guests said, ‘I want four pillows instead of two,’ ” he said, adding that some of the recent bedding packages were, in his opinion, “over the top.”

The argument that hotel guests, in general, and business travelers, in particular, demanded bigger and more luxurious beds is difficult to sustain. A much easier argument to make is that the hotel marketing departments were eager to join the bed wars, and that once they did, many of their customers approved of the changes.

By the time Marriott got around to remaking its beds last year, it had ample evidence that its customers would go along with the improvements. The company’s customer research confirmed that the new beds were better than the old. “We also had a chance to one-up Westin,” said Michael E. Jannini, executive vice president for brand management at Marriott. “And I think we did.”

The bed wars, it turns out, were a sound investment for the hotel industry. Not only have guests endorsed the changes by rewarding better-bedded hotels with their business, but last year, Westin sold $10 million in bedding accessories to its customers. Hilton opened a new online store,, where guests can buy things like linens or clock radios. Hilton would not reveal its sales figures, but Bill Brooks, its vice president for product development, said the site had done better than expected. He said he thought consumers were the winners in the bed wars.

Some lodging analysts say that is a commonly held belief in the hotel business. “Most travelers seem to be extremely positive about the improved quality of beds and bedding,” said Bjorn Hanson, an industry analyst with PricewaterhouseCoopers. In fact, the bedding revolution has led to changes in the way people sleep at home, with guests modernizing their bedrooms after sleeping in hotel beds.

Mr. Hansen knows that not all guests are pleased. “Some travelers do not like duvet-style bedding or very high or low beds.”

I am not one of those people. Five years ago, when Hilton introduced its new bed, I bought one (strictly for research purposes), which persuaded me that the bed wars were a positive development.

But like Mr. Myler, I am concerned about the excesses of the conflict — the unnecessary pillows and bedspreads. Business travelers may not be victims of a bed war, as he suggests, but they are also not the obvious winners. That designation belongs to the hotels with upgraded bedding, which are now finding that a room that offers a better night’s sleep can also command a higher rate.

Four Points by Sheraton Turns up the Heat in Hotel Bed Wars; Investing $13 million to Roll Out its Four Comfort Bed(SM) to 100-plus Properties in North America

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Oct. 14, 2004 — Let the feathers fly! Five years after Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:HOT) spurred a hotel bedding revolution with the introduction of the now iconic Westin Heavenly Bed, the hotel giant is betting on a bedding battle in the mid-scale arena. Four Points by Sheraton, Starwood’s moderately priced brand, is investing $13 million to roll out its new Four Comfort Bed(SM) to all of its 100-plus properties in North America by July, 2005. The Four Points by Sheraton Four Comfort Bed, already in hotels in New York, Denver and Portland, is the first new branded bed in its class.

Following in the footsteps of the Westin Heavenly Bed(R) and sister brand Sheraton’s popular Sweet Sleeper Bed(R), the Four Comfort Bed is a multi-layered, cozy cocoon designed to pamper guests. The four key comfort points of the Four Comfort Bed are: a deluxe 11.5″ Sealy Posturepedic(R) Plush Top Sleep System featuring a 9-inch high Shock Abzzorber(R) foundation; four large luxurious pillows including two feather/down and two Euro Square lounging pillows; a decorative and inviting cushioned duvet; and, crisp cotton blend sheets. The duvet features an attractive plaid design available in a rich palette of colors to match each hotel’s decor. Additional bed accoutrements include a bed skirt, mattress pad, plush blanket, and a decorative pillow featuring the brand’s signature compass logo.

Five years and three beds later….it’s the bed, stupid!

Though the hospitality industry is in the business of selling sleep, hotels were notorious for cutting corners on beds, committing a multitude of bedding sins from foam mattresses to cheap pillows to polyester bedspreads in shades of eggplant. Then in 1998, Starwood issued a wake up call to the industry when it launched the luxurious, all-white Westin Heavenly Bed. The bed was so popular, guests insisted on taking it home, and a retail business was born. Today, Westin has sold some 30,000 Heavenly pillows, sheets, duvets and beds. The success of the Heavenly Bed spawned the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed, introduced in 2003. Both brands have experienced significant improvements in Guest Satisfaction Scores and higher average daily rates since introducing the beds, and Sheraton and Westin continue to earn market share from their competitors.

“Our sister brands have enjoyed terrific success with their new beds, and Four Points by Sheraton plans to replicate this success in the moderately priced hotel segment,” said Hoyt Harper II, the brand’s senior vice president. “The Four Comfort Bed is a real competitive advantage in our class, and we think one that will inspire guests to check out of our competitors, and into Four Points by Sheraton.”

Four Points by Sheraton – On a Roll!

Four Points by Sheraton continues to aggressively expand with new hotel openings and conversions in choice urban, resort and suburban locations such as New York City, Hyannis and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Four Comfort Beds can be found in several of the brand’s newest properties including the 158-room Four Points by Sheraton Manhattan Chelsea, the 595-room Four Points by Sheraton Denver Southeast and the 150-room Four Points by Sheraton Meriden, CT. In late 2003, a new enhanced amenity program was introduced, featuring free high-speed Internet access in all guestrooms, complimentary bottled water, and upgraded bathroom products.

Four Points by Sheraton, with more than 136 properties in 17 countries, is owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. and is consistently rated as a top performer in the mid-priced category by Business Travel News’ “Annual U.S. Hotel Chain Survey.” Four Points by Sheraton hotels are located at airports, in mid-sized cities, leisure destinations, and business and commercial centers. Our hotels cater to business and leisure travelers as well as meeting planners seeking a quality, mid-priced and value-oriented product. In addition to the high-speed Internet access services, key features include an on-premise restaurant serving cooked-to-order breakfast, complimentary bottled water, room service with a 30-minute delivery guarantee, swimming pools, fitness facilities, business services and meeting space with catering facilities.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with more than 750 properties in more than 80 countries and 110,000 employees at its owned and managed properties.

Barry Sternlicht’s Bedding Revolution Continues;
Sheraton Hotel Owners Investing More Than $75 Million in New Beds –
The Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Sept. 23, 2003 — Sleeping on the job is usually a no-no, but executives at Sheraton Hotels & Resorts have slumbered on hundreds of mattresses, pillows and bed linens to develop the brand’s newest signature: the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed(sm). The hotel giant and its owners and franchisees are spending more than $75 million to put 110,000 new beds in 200 hotels in North America.

The Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed

Some may say that Barry Sternlicht is obsessed with helping people get a good night’s sleep. The Chairman and CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:HOT), Sheraton’s parent, has spent the last five years upgrading the beds in his hotel rooms. In 1998 when he launched W Hotels he modeled the brand’s bed after his own bed at home. In 1999, Sternlicht started a bedding revolution when he threw out all the old beds at Westin Hotels and introduced the now iconic Westin Heavenly Bed(R). Now he’s tackled Starwood’s most global and oldest brand, Sheraton, and developed a luxurious multi-layered custom designed bed that features an 11.5 inch thick, high coil count Sealy Posturepedic(R) Plush Top mattress, down and allergy sensitive pillows and crisp cotton sheets. In a nod to Sheraton’s classic aesthetic, the beds feature a selection of duvet patterns inspired by timeless tattersall checks, hound’s-tooth and pinstripe patterns in rich color tones.

“I have always been somewhat astounded by how little hotel companies invest in their beds considering that our primary product is a good night’s sleep,” said Sternlicht. “When we launched the Heavenly Bed in 1999, other hotel executives thought we were crazy. Four years later Westin’s guest satisfaction scores, market share and global growth are up significantly, and we’re selling our Heavenly Beds everyday to our guests. I am just thrilled to introduce a great new bed to our classic brand and improving the sleeping experience of more travelers.”

By the end of this year, more than 50,000 new beds will be installed in hotels throughout North America – accounting for 70% of Sheraton’s total room inventory here. By the end 2004, all Sheraton hotels will feature the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed, totaling more than 70,000 rooms in 200 hotels. New beds will also be installed in London and Latin America.

The Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed is the latest in a series of enhancements designed to elevate the brand to the top of the upscale hotel segment. Since 1998, more than more than $1 billion has been invested in upgrading the Sheraton brand, primarily in renovations. Sheraton’s design team, recruited from Ralph Lauren, Holly Hunt, and Williams-Sonoma has revamped Sheraton’s room design and created a portfolio of five lifestyle guestroom designs that are rolling out around the country.

“During my 30-year career at Sheraton I have never seen the brand in such excellent shape with so much momentum,” says Bob Cotter, Starwood’s Chief Operating Officer. “Just last year we introduced The Sheraton Service Promise, and this year Sheraton rolled out a new ad campaign, a great new room design and tougher brand standards throughout the United States. And now with the roll-out of thousands of Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Beds, there has never been a better time to spend the night with Sheraton and see for yourself.”

The Sheraton Service Promise, promises if you’re not satisfied, just tell us and we’ll take care of it. Here is how the Sheraton Service Promise works: if a guest should happen to have a problem during their stay, they need only tell a hotel associate and they’ll immediately take steps to correct the problem. Plus, the guest will automatically receive compensation for their problem – an extra step to ensure the guest is satisfied. Since the introduction of The Sheraton Service Promise, guest satisfaction scores have reached the highest in the brand’s history, guest complaints have declined and fewer problems are being reported.

“We made a promise to our guests to build upon our commitment to service and provide comfort and style with our new room design,” says Norman MacLeod, Executive Vice President for Sheraton Hotels & Resorts. “The Sheraton Sweet Sleeper is just yet another reason for travelers to take a new look at the new Sheraton.”

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: HOT) is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with more than 740 properties in more than 80 countries and 105,000 employees at its owned and managed properties.

Although now it looks like since the “bedding wars” are over, new :wars” are shaping up, this time in lobby services, and other extras:

Hotel Bed Wars Giving Way to the Breakfast War;
Doughnuts, Coffee a Thing of the Past

By Glenn Jeffers, Chicago TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Nov. 8, 2007 –Perhaps you noticed a change in how you slept during your last hotel stay. Maybe the mattress was bigger or the sheets softer and smoother.

If you did, then you became an unsuspecting participant in the “Bed Wars,” a years-long, multimillion-dollar race to upgrade bedding in the hotel industry that, at the very least, provided guests with a better night’s sleep.

Now Chicago-area hotels are trying to lure guests to a revamped service: They’re adding organic ingredients to menus and swapping out in-room coffee makers for espresso machines.

They’re building a better breakfast.

“This is the next step to the ‘Bed Wars,’ promoting breakfast as an amenity,” says Joe McInerney, president of the Washington-based American Hotel & Lodging Association. “It gives them something to promote. We gave you a good bed, now we’re going to give you a wholesome breakfast. The customer wins.”

Indeed, many big-name hotel chains in Chicago have upgraded their breakfast options in their restaurants and room service in the last year. The Hyatt Regency Chicago’s “Signature Breakfast” offers French press coffee, a flight of smoothies served in a 2-ounce shot glass and dishes such as poached egg casseroles and chipotle-infused corned beef hash.

In April, the Omni Chicago launched “The Art of Breakfast, swapping out its usual ingredients for cage-free eggs, organic shade-grown Starbucks coffee and all-natural pork that’s free of antibiotics and nitrates.

And around the same time, the Hilton Chicago unveiled the chain’s new “Hilton Breakfast,” a color-coded buffet and menu that labels more than 80 items according to five different categories: “low cholesterol,” “low fat,” “high fiber,” “low calorie” and (for the not-so-health conscious) “indulgence.”

“You can see it in the supermarket. People are starting to read [nutrition] labels, so they really want to know what they’re eating, even from a hotel restaurant,” `says Darren McArdle, director of food and beverage at the Chicago Hilton Towers. “I think we have a unique way of getting that message across, in a format that most people can understand.”

A little competition among the chains is good for the industry, says McInerney, giving hotels another aspect to market other than location. And more promotion means more reservations.

Starwood Hotels and its Westin chain fired the first salvo in the Bed Wars in 1999, with its new standard bed, called the “Heavenly Bed.” Several hotels also began developing their own beds and bedding lines, and last year Marriott and Hilton added their names to the list of hotels upgrading their bedding.

“This is an interesting industry,” McInerney says. “There are no trade secrets. You have a competitive edge for about two days before your competitor puts a different name on it and promotes it.”

But why has the competition spilled onto the breakfast plate? McInerney says that of the three meals one typically eats, guests are more likely to eat breakfast at the hotel.

“Breakfast is 90 percent of what guests eat,” he says. “On a three-day trip, we get them two or three days for breakfast, and then one out of three for dinner. They’re just too many other places to go. So breakfast is important.”

That’s why one local hotel, the Fairmont Chicago, has spent $200,000 to refit all 687 guest rooms with Nespresso Essenza C100 espresso/coffee machines. The machine, which also retails at the hotel for $229, is meant to give guests a memorable experience as they wake up. The Essenza’a sleek, wedge-like shape, mixed with the ease of making an espresso or brewing coffee with a button push, provides a heightened convenience the hotel hopes will be noticed.

“It’s a point of difference,” says Andre Zoloff, the hotel’s general manager. “They’ll remember, ‘When I stayed at the Fairmont Chicago, I had a great cup of coffee.’ And the next time they come to Chicago, maybe they’ll stay at the Fairmont.”

So far, it seems to be working. The hotel has sold about a half-dozen Essenzas in its gift shop since unveiling the program in August.

Another gauntlet thrown. Another war under way.

– — –

They have the technology …

Hotels have rebuilt breakfast. They’ve made it better. Faster. Stronger. OK, it’s not really bionic, but it is more nutritious, elaborate and upscale. Here are a few Chicago hotels that have upgraded their breakfast menus:

–Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker Drive; 312-565-1234

–Omni Chicago, 676 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-944-6664

–Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-922-4400

But, what about the housekeeping staff – here’s a take on what happened to them in the “bedding wars”:

Casualties of the Bedding Wars

by Victor Margolin

Hotels today compete for customers with an escalating array of comforts, offering everything from high-speed Internet to 24-hour in-room massage. Key to their identities as sanctuaries for weary travelers are the luxurious sleeping appointments they provide. Engaged in what have come to be known as “bedding wars,” hotel chains like Starwood, Westin, and Kimpton offer thick mattresses with inviting names such as Heavenly Bed, Sweet Sleeper, and Serenity Bed.

But the beds are hardly a sweet dream for the housekeepers who make them. The combined weight of mattress, box spring, and duvet for a king-size hotel bed is 225 pounds. For a queen the total weight is 183 pounds. As a result, housekeepers have been experiencing an increasing number of back and shoulder injuries. A recent survey conducted by Unite Here, a national union representing hotel housekeeping staff, revealed that among 622 workers in various American cities, 91 percent had back or shoulder injuries related to their jobs, 67 percent had visited a doctor because of the pain, and 66 percent took medication to relieve it.

As part of designing the customer’s experience of lotus-eating comfort, hotels provide luxuries such as chocolates on the turned down bed covers and even baskets of fruit as gifts of welcome. Or rather, their staffs do. Besides lifting heavy mattresses and changing three sheets and a half-dozen pillowcases per bed, housekeepers must also take time to stock rooms with all the bath amenities and minibar bottles guests have come to expect. They also have to wash the water glasses, coffee cups and coffee pot. And yet hotel managers have refused to extend the time needed to clean a room. Nor will they allow two housekeepers to work (and hoist mattresses) together, despite ergonomic studies showing that larger and heavier beds impose loads on the lumbar spine that are highly likely to result in back injuries. In August 2005, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich signed a law that would insure two 15-minute paid breaks for hotel housekeepers. The state’s Hotel and Lodging Association challenged the new law in Illinois state court but their appeal was rejected in July, 2006, and the new requirement was finally put into practice in August.

It’s ironic that although at least one chain offers a special slumber-inducing program that includes an eye mask, earplugs, lavender spray to promote relaxation, and a CD with soft music, no hotel manager appears to be losing sleep over the physical strain the bedding wars exert on employees. It’s also ironic that hotel companies plead poverty to forestall boosting the comfort of their working conditions yet have no trouble specifying costly amenities (whose expense they pass on to their guests).

This is bad design, for design goes well beyond an object’s appearance and primary application to embrace all the social consequences of creating something new. Not only does design involve the user’s satisfaction but also the conditions of its production and maintenance. Thanks to Naomi Klein and other activists, consumers are now aware of the horrific working conditions in sweatshops abroad. This has caused the public to think differently about Nike shoes and Old Navy tank tops. Yet under our very noses, hotel workers in America are being exploited to enhance the comfort of hotel guests. Its time to establish federal guidelines for hotel housekeepers just as has been done for workers in other professions where hazardous tasks can result in physical injuries. It will be a fight to get the hotel industry to accept such guidelines. But human rights are at stake. By introducing new tasks for the housekeepers that demand greater physical exertion than in the past, the hotel chains are endangering their employees’ health. If they won’t recognize this on their own and do something about it, then others must step in to protect these workers. A heavy mattress may not be lethal but it can still cause serious harm.

Bedding Wars
By Jim Merritt

From A to ZZZZZ: Hotel Interactive’s Jim Merritt goes “undercover” to find the latest bedtime trends at hotels across the nation.

You might call it “The Battle of the Beds 2006.”

This year a number of leading lodging chains are rolling out softer, more luxurious and comfortably-named bed packages. And not only in the upscale markets. Some “mid-priced” brands are getting on the bed bandwagon too.

The battle cry could be: out with bedspreads and old-fashioned comforters, in with high thread-count sheets, and — dare we say it – “up with down.”

The trend apparently dates to 1999, when Westin introduced the “Heavenly Bed.” Westin properties still feature the Heavenly Bed custom-designed pillowtop mattress set by Simmons, a comforter and a crisp white duvet.

More – and softer – bedfellows are in the offing, though.

At Hilton Hotels, Suites & Resorts, the Hilton Suite Dreams bed features a plush-top mattress designed with Serta to provide both “support and luxury.” The new bed package is being introduced after Hilton Hotels Corporation surveyed 1,000 U.S. households and found that 50 percent of respondents reported only six hours or less of sleep per night while traveling — two hours less than the average needed to function at peak performance.

Also after consumer research, Marriott International, Inc. owners and franchisees have invested nearly $190 million in replacing 628,000 beds at approximately 2,400 hotels worldwide. JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts and Renaissance Hotels & Resorts were among the Marriott brands that replaced the traditional bedspread with down comforters nestled inside sheeted duvets.

Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts now offer beds with seven pillows, a plush duvet, and luxurious sheets as part of a “Sleep Advantage” program developed with the help of sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus.

USA Today recently noted that the “hotel bed wars” were spreading to lower priced properties too.

Holiday Inn Express is planning an upgrade of its standard bedding package with a $53 million investment to be rolled out to the more than 1,400 North American properties beginning in April, with full implementation expected by September. The Holiday Inn Express SimplySmart program replaces the bedspread with an attractive decorative top sheet, a medium-weight duvet blanket and soft 200 thread-count sheets.

At Hilton’s Hampton Inns, a “super-comfortable” new bedding package will be available in more than 1,300 hotels by June. The new Hampton “Cloud Nine” bed replaces the old-fashioned bedspread with a crisp, white duvet cover enveloping a white comforter. The bed also features three or four pillows and a choice in firmness (some filled with soft down, some with firmer foam)

But what about the conventional wisdom about a firm mattress being good for your back?

That wisdom was debunked in a study several years ago. The American Chiropractic Association reported that mattresses of medium firmness were better at improving lowback pain symptoms than firm mattresses.

The American Chiropractic Association’s Dr. Scott Bautch says, “As we, as a society, have become more full-figured, designs like pillowtop mattresses have become extremely popular… mattresses designed with support and then the addition of a soft top (pillow top) will benefit the majority of people.”

The bottom line, according to Dr. Bautch: ” For the majority of people – including hotel visitors – there needs to be basic support with a soft top.”

Jim Merritt is associate editor of Hotel Interactive.

It’s All About the Bed

Phoebe Eskenazi endured many sleepless nights before checking into the Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston for a weekend. The Alexandria, Va., teacher was recovering from a bout of asthmatic bronchitis and just couldn’t get any rest. But when she collapsed into an extra-cushiony Serta bed created just for the hotel chain, she fell into a deep slumber. “It was one of the most comfortable beds I’ve slept on,” she raves. Eskenazi and her husband were so smitten they took a Sonesta bed home – for $1,600, including shipping.

“It is all about the bed,” says Sonesta spokeswoman Deborah Roker. The hotel industry is starting to agree. After all, what good is a mint on your pillow if the pillow resembles a bag of cement? Westin was the first chain to upgrade its bedding, back in 1999. Since then, other upscale hotels have jumped on the bedwagon. Now midscale joints are joining in. Last month, Hampton Inn announced it was spending $80 million to replace mattresses, pillows, and such. Four Points by Sheraton will roll out a “Four Comfort” bed this summer.

Like Eskenazi, guests sometimes want to buy the hotel bed. “It’s found money,” says lodging analyst Robert Mandelbaum, though he guesses that the take represents no more than 1 percent of the industry’s income.

You can probably score a better deal if you do it yourself, but there’s a lot to be said for one-stop shopping, not to mention the fact that you’ll be the only person on your block with a bed fit for the Ritz. The for-sale package typically includes a mattress, box spring, frame, pillows, sheets, and comforter. Prices below, from high-end chains with high-end beds, are for king size; shipping (from the manufacturer) is extra.
Phoebe Eskenazi endured many sleepless nights before checking into the Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston for a weekend. The Alexandria, Va., teacher was recovering from a bout of asthmatic bronchitis and just couldn’t get any rest. But when she collapsed into an extra-cushiony Serta bed created just for the hotel chain, she fell into a deep slumber. “It was one of the most comfortable beds I’ve slept on,” she raves. Eskenazi and her husband were so smitten they took a Sonesta bed home – for $1,600, including shipping.

“It is all about the bed,” says Sonesta spokeswoman Deborah Roker. The hotel industry is starting to agree. After all, what good is a mint on your pillow if the pillow resembles a bag of cement? Westin was the first chain to upgrade its bedding, back in 1999. Since then, other upscale hotels have jumped on the bedwagon. Now midscale joints are joining in. Last month, Hampton Inn announced it was spending $80 million to replace mattresses, pillows, and such. Four Points by Sheraton will roll out a “Four Comfort” bed this summer.

Like Eskenazi, guests sometimes want to buy the hotel bed. “It’s found money,” says lodging analyst Robert Mandelbaum, though he guesses that the take represents no more than 1 percent of the industry’s income.

You can probably score a better deal if you do it yourself, but there’s a lot to be said for one-stop shopping, not to mention the fact that you’ll be the only person on your block with a bed fit for the Ritz. The for-sale package typically includes a mattress, box spring, frame, pillows, sheets, and comforter. Prices below, from high-end chains with high-end beds, are for king size; shipping (from the manufacturer) is extra.

Filed under The Travel Critic · February 15th, 2004

And from USA Today’s travel blog, here are some recent entries about upgraded amenities that might be of some interest:

USA Today’s Hotel Hotsheet: Check it out before you check in

By Kitty Bean Yancey

Which hotel chain has the best sheets?

Some travelers don’t care what kind of sheets they sleep on, as long as they’re clean. But hotel chains’ push for higher thread counts indicates that lots of us do care.

In addition to upgrading linens, chains are selling sheets online. Upscale Rosewood Hotels & Resorts just opened an online boutique, where you can buy several types of sheets, including 740-thread-count sets starting at $200. Chains including Westin (of Heavenly Bed fame), Holiday Inn Express, Kimpton and Ritz-Carlton also sell linens online.

I’m getting ready to test hotel linens that you can buy to see which ones float my dreamboat. I’ll be rating them for an upcoming USA TODAY article. To steer me in the right direction, I’d love to hear your thoughts on which chains have the best sheets and why. Let me know by commenting below.

Posted at 05:55 AM/ET, November 17, 2006

Multi-tasking TV screens


Here’s an emerging amenity on the hotel scene: TVs that let you split the screen, so you can surf the Web or answer e-mails while keeping an eye on your favorite program.

These multi-taskers are new in the just-remodeled rooms at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C., which are being unveiled this week. Rooms boast 32-inch high-definition TVs that can be hooked up to laptops and music players.

The 767 redone rooms and suites also feature upgraded bedding and ergonomic chairs — seen at more and more JWs. And something else is new at the D.C. JW. It has officially gone non-smoking, as have all North American Marriotts.

So, on this gadget-one-upmanship hotel landscape, which unusual ones have you seen and appreciated?

Posted at 06:10 AM/ET, October 18, 2006 in

Brass keys, vibrating beds and other hotel memories

Few travelers would take issue with the recent wave of hotel renovations, from upgraded mattresses and bedding to better bathrooms. But in today’s USA TODAY Money section, Barbara De Lollis takes a look at some of the memories that have been lost in the shuffle.

“As in life generally, something’s lost when something’s gained. Gone are the floral, synthetic bedspreads, the sanitizer bands around toilet seats, ashtrays and wake-up calls from real people.

“With that in mind, USA TODAY asked hoteliers, professors and travelers to recall amenities or services that have disappeared or are on the way out.” The demise of windows that open was one gripe. Mine would be getting lost in an electronic maze the first time I try to get my favorite channel on a hotel TV.

Posted at 10:53 AM/ET, October 03, 2006

More tubs are toast

A few months back I wrote about how Hilton Hotels was experimenting with tub-free rooms. The hotelier had decided that tubs were a thing of the past, and most folks simply wanted a quick shower. Now Marriott Hotels is experimenting with the shower-only room in its new Marriott and Renaissance properties, the Miami Herald reports. Smaller brands are dumping the tub, too: InterContinental Hotels’ Indigo brand is totally sans tubs at its three boutique properties.

Many of you wrote in with your tub vs. shower vote when I first wrote about this, and it turned out to be pretty much a draw. Have times changed? Let’s hear what you want; leave your two-cents in our comments below.

Posted at 01:57 PM/ET, April 10, 2006

And the Wi-Fi award goes to …

Who’s got the best Wi-Fi? And what makes a hotel’s service the best? Availability, reliability and connectivity, for starters. Then the king of all variables: price. For its (almost) annual feature, has compiled its list of best and worst of the Wi-Fi offering hotels. Best of the best goes once again to Kimpton Hotels because Wi-Fi in that chain’s properties is simple, free and fast. Hard to top that. On the flip side, Marriott Hotels gets the buzzer from HotelChatter due to its inconsistent offerings across brands and fairly high cost. Both Kimpton and Marriott held the same slots in the last survey, so it seems while more and more hotels are getting on the cordless bandwagon, most offerings are still just middle-of-the-information-superhighway. If you’ve had trouble or a super easy experience getting connected at a hotel, let us hear about it … share your comments below.

Posted at 01:31 PM/ET, April 03, 2006

It was only a matter of time …

I’m giving a sorely-in-need-of-a-massage thumbs up to the marketing folks at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, Calif. This super swanky resort is known for its two golf courses and well-visited pools, but now the hotel’s spa has unveiled the Blackberry Hand Massage “in an effort to encourage faster, more comfortable PDA usage,” according to a press release. The 30-minute treatment includes blackberry (the fruit, not the device) balm and an accupressure massage to release the tension so many pda-addicted folks carry in their hands. The treatment is $80, and in less than an hour, you can be zooming through those text messages like you were a teenager. And for what it’s worth, if you’ve never had a hand massage, they’re awesome, and most hotel spas offer them, even if they don’t have blackberry balm.

Posted at 01:48 PM/ET, March 09, 2006

Hilton Chicago O’Hare does it again

Back in October I told you about how the Hilton Chicago O’Hare turned 17 rooms into allergen-free zones. Today, the hotel began offering a service that allows its guests to check in for their flights using kiosks in the hotel lobby, USA TODAY reports. Hilton plans to unveil the kiosks in 34 more hotels in the next two weeks, but it would seem the O’Hare location is a bit of a test pilot for cool new amenities.

The story notes Holiday Inn, Marriott and Hyatt are also rolling out flight check-in systems, or expanding on existing ones.

Posted at 02:05 PM/ET, March 01, 2006

Spa reward points, good. Spa failure notices, bad

The spa industry is in a little bit of hot water, it seems. Business is down across the market, possibly because the number of U.S. spas climbed from 5,689 in 2000 to 12,100 in 2004, according to numbers quoted in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required). As with the airline industry, overcapacity has created a challenging business environment, so the latest trend is to go after the repeat customer while they’re nice and relaxed. Spas across the country are offering deep discounts for guests who book their next stay before leaving, but what got my attention most is some of the other spa marketing tactics.

The Nob Hill Spa at the Huntington Hotel in San Francisco offers reward points to hotel and spa guests to be used on subsequent visits. Canyon Ranch Spas in Arizona and Massachusetts give room upgrades for repeat bookers, a 15% discount for both patrons if a repeat visitor brings along a first-time visitor and a customized website so you can maintain your healthy new lifestyle at home.

Reward points and discounts are great, and according to the WSJ, seem to be paying off, but I’m going to take issue with one “perk” mentioned in the story. The Golden Door Spa and Resort in Escondido, Calif., has guests write themselves a letter about their goals for the next six months. After you leave, the hotel mails you that letter, then follows up with a personal letter from the manager if you haven’t booked another stay within a year. I understand motivation comes in all forms, and this may be right up someone’s alley, but last thing I want is to be reminded of how I haven’t kept those 10 pounds off or quit eating Oreos.

Posted at 02:11 PM/ET, February 28, 2006

What’s in it for me?

“Hotel points — and airline miles — are the opium of the traveling masses.” I couldn’t agree more with this quote from a Chicago Tribune story on hotel reward programs. But it’s what we get from our frequent stays that really matters to us, even more than the reward points total on that monthly statement. It’s that personal attention, those little details, like which room we like or what newspaper we read that make us want to return. But who’s giving the perks you want? Take a look at the Trib‘s story for a breakdown of what hotels hand out to their loyalty program customers.

Posted at 12:09 PM/ET, February 22, 2006

Concierge in your computer

Courtesy Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn’s new virtual concierge: The homepage. To see this and other sample pages larger, click here.

InterContinental Hotels has unveiled a virtual concierge, eHost, in 14 of its Holiday Inn hotels. Before you go thinking “robot with connections to great concert tickets,” the virtual concierge is the HI homepage that comes up when you log in (with your own computer) to the hotel’s free high-speed Internet. I’ve seen a lot of hotel homepages, and I have to say, this one might be worth keeping up while you’re at the hotel. I was sent a link to the test page (which technology won’t allow me to share, sadly) and surfed around on it, and the offerings are pretty cool.

From local shopping, restaurants, weather, events (courtesy of Yahoo! local) to games, hotel events and online room service menus and ordering capability, the site is a decent compendium of things you might need to know when you’re in a strange town. One really nice feature for international visitors is the option to choose the language and currency the page displays. eHost can be found at select Holiday Inns, including Orlando and Cleveland airport locations, with the entire chain rollout due later this year.

None of the features, save the hotel events, amenities and room service menus are items you couldn’t find by surfing the Web on your own. That said, Holiday Inn has created a pleasant, user-friendly way to put a traveler’s needs in easy reach. And here’s to my favorite thing of all: free high-speed Internet!

Posted at 02:37 PM/ET, February 21, 2006

The lobby: More than a place to check in

Now that the bedding wars are over, the lobby wars have begun. USA TODAY reports that the hotel industry is slated to spend $5 billion on improvements in 2006 in the hope that “spiffier, livelier lobbies will give a competitive edge.”

Among the improvements are communal Wi-Fi lounges from Sheraton, Marriott’s alcoves to help create “public privacy” and a $300,000 furniture shopping spree from boutique chain Kimpton at San Diego’s Hotel Solamar. Of course there’s a reason beyond aesthetics for this investment: “By drawing guests out of their rooms, hotels hope to generate more food and beverage sales.”

Posted at 04:13 PM/ET, February 15, 2006

Disney hotels go smoke-free

Visitors to “the happiest place on Earth” will breathe easier on their next trip. Disney’s three California hotels, the Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and the Grand Californian will be 100% non-smoking as of March 1. The Grand Californian had already been a non-smoking property since its opening in 2001, but the other two hotels are just now clearing the air. According to an e-mail from Disney headquarters, the reason for the change is simple supply and demand: The properties have just 35 requests for smoking rooms from now until 2010. The decline in demand had led Disney to reduce its number of smoking rooms over the years. Guests will still be alllowed to light up outside the hotel in designated areas.

Westin Hotels went smoke-free at its 77 properties in the USA, Canada and the Caribbean at the beginning of this year, and the trend just keeps on growing, as USA TODAY recently reported.

Posted at 10:01 AM/ET, February 07, 2006

Let’s celebrate B-Day!

The bed wars are over. When the whooping and hollering dies down, and you’re done with the iconic kissing between sailors and nurses, you’ll be happy to hear the ending was peaceful. Simply put, there was no one left on the battlefield. It would appear that all hotels that took part in the skirmish have upgraded their bedding, so there is nothing left to fight about. The New York Times (registration required) reports that while customers are mixed on how great the uber-fluffy, over-pillowed beds are, there is no confusion over how the ugrades made hotels the clear victors. From increased room revenues because a) happy customers come back to their favorite beds, and b) they can charge more for the upgraded rooms to the lucrative sales of branded bedding, hotels have made out like sheet-covered bandits.

Posted at 01:34 PM/ET, February 01, 2006

Holiday Inn taps another trend

Courtesy Holiday Inn

The iHome iH5, ready to rock your tunes.

Holiday Inn Select hotels is looking to further entice Gen-Xers by appealing to the iPod crowd. Wait. That’s just about everyone, isn’t it? Anyway, the brand is putting the iHome iH5, an all-in-one docking station, charger and clock radio, into its guest rooms.

No more screeching buzz of the alarm or missing a phone call because you have your earbuds in; pop your iPod into the dock and it’s your music, your way. Other hotels that have docking stations have thus far been boutique or higher-end chains, so this is a good development for those who frequent mid-range hotels.

Posted at 10:07 AM/ET, January 11, 2006

Tops in tech touches

If high-tech is your thing, check out the U.K.’s Daily Mail story on the top techno hotels around the globe. Some hotels, like the soon-to-open Yotel in London, will offer gadgets in a small space; Yotel is a semi-capsule hotel that will have a “tech wall” in each room offering a flat screen TV and downloadable movies and music. Other hotels on the list, like Nine Zero Hotel in Boston, get techy on a grander scale; the hotel’s Cloud Nine Suite lets guests use eye scans instead of keys and offers a plasma screen TV with movies and games on-demand. Of course, the grander scale equals grander cost: Yotel plans on a debut room rate of about $123 a night, while the Cloud Nine will set you back about $4,000 each night.

Not on the Daily Mail‘s list but a definite contender should be Atlanta’s TWELVE Hotel which opens next month. This hotel looks to have a pretty cool array of high-tech goodies, including an in-room keyboard and flat-panel monitor that will allow guests to order room service, get their car from valet parking and make housekeeping requests, as well as serve as an Internet portal. The rooms will have free high-speed and Wi-Fi access and the hotel has hotspots around the pool and more. VOIP telephone systems and two flat-panel TVs will be offered in the suites. Introductory rates are set at $160 to $215 a night, but the hotel promises discounts for its opening.

Posted at 05:25 PM/ET, January 10, 2006

Woohoo! Starwood hooks up with Yahoo!

Starting this week, four Sheraton hotels will get a little Wi-Fi boost from Yahoo!, the Internet search portal. Starwood is testing Yahoo! Link@Sheraton Web access at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, the Sheraton Boston, Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers and the Sheraton Stamford in Connecticut. All four hotels will offer Wi-Fi and wired Internet access, and the San Diego and Boston locations will also have Internet lounges in the hotels’ lobbies. The lounges will offer Internet-connected workstations with both Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections.

Many Sheraton properties already had Wi-Fi, so what’s the deal? The partnership is likely an attempt to drive traffic and customers to Yahoo!. Its ever-growing competitor Google recently opened an Internet lounge in London’s Heathrow airport, and technology site Red Herring notes there are rumors the behemoth search engine would like to expand the service.

Posted at 04:15 PM/ET, January 10, 2006

Hotels hope visitors check out livelier, upgraded lobby

By Roger Yu, USA TODAY

Hotel lobbies aren’t just places to check in any more.

Flush with money from the travel boom, the U.S. hotel industry will spend $5 billion on improvements in 2006, says consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers. Hotels are channeling much of it into lobbies, making them inviting places to meet, linger and mingle.

They’re betting that spiffier, livelier lobbies will give a competitive edge. And by drawing guests out of their rooms, hotels hope to generate more food and beverage sales:

Marriott. Its new lobby plan calls for a lounge with intimate tables and wait service. For guests who want to work but don’t want to be cooped up in their rooms, the plan — partly inspired by Starbucks and airlines’ airport clubs — lays out an area of alcoves. Marriott will start with newly constructed and renovated hotels, and eventually incorporate the model throughout the chain. “It’s about public privacy,” says executive Mike Jannini.

Embassy Suites. The Hilton-owned chain, known for open-air atriums, said last month it will start installing “a European-style” cafe in its hotels. To enlarge the usable space, it will eliminate the front desk and replace it with a set of self-check-in kiosks and podiums manned by staffers.

Sheraton. In partnership with Web portal Yahoo, Sheraton said in January that it will test a Wi-Fi-enabled communal lobby lounge at some of its hotels, including The Sheraton San Diego. It features desktop computers, a plasma TV, food and comfortable chairs.

Boutiques. The high-end Kimpton chain spent more than $300,000 on lobby furniture when it opened Hotel Solamar San Diego last July.

Langham Hotel Boston, owned by Hong Kong-based Langham Hotels, will enlarge the lobby and move the bar and restaurant down from the second floor. The goal is to make the hotel, once home to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, more contemporary and lively, manager Serge Denis says.

W Hotels kicked off the lobby competition in the late 1990s with its first hotel, which is in New York. Its lobbies, known for buzzing parties, sleek décor and mood lighting, got inspiration from European hotels and cafes, says executive Ross Klein.

Anne Seymour, a Washington, D.C.-based crime victims’ advocate, says she is finding it increasingly convenient to have meetings in hotel lobbies. Says Seymour: “They are larger, cleaner and (have) huge fluffy couches, free magazines and newspapers. Geez, who needs to even get a room anymore?”

Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Well, I hope this encourages some of you weary travelers to check out some of the upgraded bedding, and sleep a better, softer sleep. Next up in the travel file will be Boutique Hotels: The BEST choice for travel.

Desktops need not be boring

I collected a few items for desktops/cubicle living to while away the hours. Most of these came from Most were in stock when I put this together, but I’m sure if it’s out of stock, a little googling can find one, if you REALLY have to have it. So have fun, lighten up your life, and think happy….

Bel Occhio by Pablo
by Pablo

The Bel Occhio by Pablo is an outstanding multi-positional and dimmable Halogen spotlight that looks like it’s from another galaxy, particularly when illuminated in a darkened room. The direction of the beam of light from the cylinder is adjusted by repositioning the outer globe on the base. Pablo, founded in 1993 by Venezuelan – born Pablo Pardo, designs and manufactures innovative lighting and home accessories characterized by uncompromising devotion to simplicity and utility.

Compare at $450.00 Our Price: $360.00

Item# as Selected: 20683, Price as Selected: $360.00

Stonehenge on your desk

August 11th, 2007 Posted by Brown Baron

Published in Misc. Gadgets

Do you have a plain looking desk? Want to dress it up? How about putting Stonehenge on your desk? This do it yourself Stonehenge kit is guaranteed to make your desktop the envy of your officemates. The largest stone is 1.5″ tall, which means the whole set will fit in nicely with all the other junk on your desk. The set comes with 16 stone replicas, a puzzle map/base, and 1 Mini Book.

Desktop Stonehenge

You know you want one.

Mini Megaliths

In the year 10,000 BC, aliens from Uranus landed on Earth. They didn’t find anyone cool to talk to, so they just added graffiti to the countryside and left. That graffiti is Stonehenge. Since that time, druids and scientists have tried to provide meaning to the awe inspiring stones, but have never riddled out the true message. We have. How? We can’t tell you. What does Stonehenge really say? That, we can tell you. It says… “WTF?” in Uranean.

This kit will help you spread the joys of an extraterrestrial WTF? to your home or office. The largest stone is about 1.5″ tall, so that the entire structure can neatly surround your coffee mug. But how will I know which stones go where?, you ask. Simple, we reply with a smile, there is a puzzle/map/Stonehenge base which is included. All the stones are numbered, so it’s real easy to assemble properly. You also get a little book with tons of information on what scientists think Stonehenge was all about – but know you’ll know the truth.

The Set includes: 16 stone replicas, puzzle map/base, and 1 Mini Book. Perfect for Spinal Tap dioramas, too.

In This Office, You’re The Boss

Two new sets: Corporate Zombies and IT Department!

Finally, the drudgery of corporate life has been captured in a play set for adults! Bob, Joe, Ted, and Ann spend eight hours a day, five days a week, at tiny desks in tiny cubicles in a giant room packed with countless similar cubicles in a giant building filled with countless similar rooms.

Bob, Ted, Ann, and Joe each come with one 2-3/4″ posable plastic figure and all the necessary plastic parts to build a classic corporate cube: four walls, desk, chair, file cabinet, in/out box, phone, and computer. Comes with a sticker sheet of decor for your cube, complete with graphs, charts, screens for the computer and pithy office posters. Also includes a job title sticker sheet so you can create a convoluted and meaningless position for your employee (how about Level C Systems Associate? Or Senior Accounting Coordinator?). Each additional set comes with the figures noted, plus character specific accessories.


Choose Between 10 Different Sets! (see additional images for visuals). Build your own corporate labryinth one cube at a time!

The Cubes

  • Bob – Comes with Bob (employee #021871138), generic cubicle playset and accessories, and stickers.


  • Ted – Comes with Ted (employee #000272319), generic cubicle playset and accessories, and stickers.


  • Ann – Comes with Ann (employee #004967751), generic cubicle playset and accessories, and stickers.


  • Joe – Comes with Joe (employee #003992461), generic cubicle playset and accessories, and stickers.


  • IT Department – Comes with Tim, cubicle, server, captain’s chair, stickers, and more IT accessories.


  • Corporate Zombies – Comes with four zombies and accessories. Glow in the dark!


  • Expansion Set – Comes with four additional figures (Jim, Jan, Sue, & Dan) each with unique accessories.


  • Copy Center – Comes with Art, the copy center playset, and playset specific accessories.


  • Delivery Man – Comes with Sam, a hand truck, and a special delivery package.


  • Sensitivity Trainer – Comes with Eve, easel, and “sensitive” visual aids.



USB Webcam Rocket Launcher

Price: $59.99


Shoot while you Chat

Where would we be without Instant Messaging? It lets us stay in contact and chat with friends all over the world (especially delightful during work hours). But sometimes the urge to reach out a shoot someone is unbearable. And that’s where the USB MSN Missile Launcher comes in. Don’t be content with sharing images, jokes, and assorted links with your friends – it’s time to share missiles!

You’ll have your USB MSN Missile Launcher set up within minutes and that’s when the fun begins. For you see, as you chat you and your buddies can control each other’s launcher. And since each USB MSN Missile Launcher has an integrated webcam (which can be used as just a webcam if you haven’t any buddies), you’ll know exactly when you are aimed at your buddy’s head. Then fire away! The only downside is that your buddy can do the same to you! The upside is, you can always retaliate by turning your buddy’s USM MSN Missile Launcher to face the door of his office and peg his boss in the gut when he/she comes to lecture your buddy about using IM for non-work-related matters. Ah the joys of progress . . . and revenge.

USB MSN Missile Launcher

  • Includes: USB MSN Missile Launcher, 3 Foam Darts, Target, Software, Instructions
  • Features:
    • Aim and fire at targets using the built-in webcam and MSN Messenger.
    • Take control over your buddy’s missile launcher and shoot them!
    • Missile Launcher can pan left and right and tilt up and down.
    • Sound effects (from your computer) when you launch your buddy’s missiles.
    • Can also be used as just a webcam.
  • USB Cord Length: 3 feet
  • Range: 15 feet
  • Software Compatibility: Windows XP/2000/Vista

Rollerscape – Roller Coaster Construction

Price: $29.99

Customer Action Shot!

The Cubicoaster

A Finely Engineered Desktop Rollercoaster Construction Set!

If at some point in your life you never dreamt of designing roller coasters, then you must be an acrophobe. If you are an acrophobe, then we have the perfect toy for you. If you aren’t an acrophobe, and don’t currently design roller coasters for cash, then we also have the perfect toy for you. Rollerscape – The Marble Rollercoaster! Simply design and build your desktop roller coaster using the included construction pieces, snap on the tracks wherever you like, and then begin the testing phase by taking one of the included marbles for a joy ride. Did the marble make it through without the Fall Of Death (FOD)? If so, you need to make your design more challenging. Try and include some loops and steep drops for impact. The sky is the limit! And so long as your marbles aren’t acrophobes you can safely enjoy their ride.

Your choice of advanced or advanced sets (that is, you have no choice). The advanced set has 194 pieces and is compatible with any other Rollerscape set you might have laying around. The image on this page features a piece that is approximately 22 inches tall.


Japanese Star Wars Lightsaber Desk Lamp

Price: $19.99

Please Select… Luke Skywalker $19.99 Darth Vader $19.99

May the Force be… with your Stapler

At the ThinkGeek office we mainly prefer to practice the dark side of the force. Hey… don’t judge. The dark side has a lot of advantages. It’s easy to pull-off since you just have to get angry and give-in to your base instincts like revenge and jealousy. We find it handy for offensive attacks during overly-long office meetings. Plus the costumes are just way cooler. However there are some amongst us who prefer the light side of course. Those weak individuals are hard to spot… except Yoda does seem to hang out in those lower employee’s offices quite a bit.

Fortunately we’ve devised a genius way to determine office force alliances for sure. Each employee places one of these nifty glowing Lightsaber Desk Lamps next to their red stapler… those paying allegiance to the powerful dark side can choose the red Vader lamp. While weaklings on their moral high-horses can sport the green Luke lamp. Of course they’re always some employees who have to be obnoxious and swing both ways by placing one of each lightsaber lamp color on their desk. But those nameless employees often find that their mouse has been replaced with Wookie dung while they were busy hitting on Princess Leia.

Product Features

  • Mini Glowing Desk Lamps look like Star Wars Lightsabers
  • Choose from the Red Darth Vader saber, or the Green Luke Skywalker saber
  • Imported from Japan
  • Officially Licensed Star Wars Collectable
  • Requires 2 AAA batteries (not included)
  • Each Lightsaber Stands 16″ High

Hydrodynamic Building Set

Price: $89.99


Let the Water Flow!

Water is everywhere. It covers 71% of the Earth’s surface and composes about 112% of the human body. Gaining control over water would be an awesome super power, but for now we are stuck with using science to master water. Good thing someone invented this Hydrodynamic Building Set. It makes science fun again. But this kit isn’t a simple connect the dots – you have to do some thinking! Why? Read on!

The instruction manual shows you how the girders connect, how to build the various tanks, and some rendered images of completed projects – but not step-by-step. Your entire model gets built up from the bottom of the carrying case, which acts as the water reservoir and also has a special footing to be the structure’s foundation. Level by level, you build your support frame and add your tanks. Then connect all the tubes, add in the valves, and turn on the electric pump. If you’ve done it right, you’ll have an awesome construction everyone will marvel at (a little food coloring helps). Fail and you’re all wet – quite probably literally.

And Kids: Build something with this kit for a Science Fair Project and you are guaranteed to win (this guarantee not guaranteed)!

Screaming Monkey Slingshot

Price: $6.99

Customer Action Shot!

Deadly from this distance.

Super Simian to the Rescue!

Legend tells of a hero not born unto this world, but destined to change forever the course of human existence. A hero so grand that all past legends will turn to dust in the wake of his greatness. This is not that hero. This is, however, the next best thing: a monkey with a cape and a mask. Because nothing says power like a cape and a mask.

This monkey has a secret – there are pockets in the monkey’s hands. Slip your fingers in, pull back his hind legs, and his arms will stretch to a crazy length with the magic of rubber! You can just feel the potential energy coursing through the monkey’s imaginary veins. Let fly and you will be treated to a wondrous sight. The monkey will scream with delight when jolted. So, if the launch is hard enough, you’ll get a scream of power in mid air; or if the landing is hard, you’ll get a scream of protest as gravity does its work. Or, you fling like a master, you’ll get a double-dose of monkey justice (i.e. noise).

Marshmallow Assault Rifle

List Price: $39.99

You Save: 62.5%

Our Price: $14.99

Mallow in the Hull!!!

Listen up, maggots. There’s a war going on out there, and it’s a war we plan to win. That’s why we’re outfitting our soldiers (i.e. you) with the confectionery weapon to end all confectionery weapons. This is some serious sugary firepower, so you better listen and listen good. Now, get your Marshmallow Assault Rifle in your hands, you gum-chewing cow patties, and check out the features with us.

First, you’ll notice two different barrels. The bottom barrel shoots mini marshmallows and should be used for cover and strafing fire. It is your main weapon – learn to love it. The magazine holds up to 12 mini marshmallows and is very easy to reload quickly. The top barrel will hold one regular sized marshmallow at a time. It is your grenade launcher, and you’ll know when you need it. With the Marshmallow Assault Rifle, a lotta luck, and some good soldiering you might just survive to fight another day. Oh, and if you get hungry out there in the field, you can just eat your extra ammo.

Dimensions: approx. 18.75″ long. Power blast the big marshmallow 20 feet away while rapid firing the mini marshmallows at closer targets.

LED Jellyfish Mood Lamp

Price: $49.99

Customer Action Shot!

Pimp my Jellyfish Tank, coming to MTV this fall.

Dancing Desktop Jellies

Blackbeard was just about the most ruthless pirate ever. His management style was unique, to say the least. If one of his crew misbehaved, he would drop them in a large tank full of jellyfish and delight as the jewels he kept at the bottom of the tank reflected different colors into the ballet of agony that played out before him. According to the infamous pirate’s diaries, it really calmed his nerves, too. Wow. Well, while we don’t recommend all that for your office, there is something we can take from this story: colorful jellyfish are relaxing.

This desktop tank holds three jellyfish which “swim” around the tank (thanks to a gently contrived current). In the top of the tank are 6 bright LEDs, which let you set the mood. You can either have them blend softly from one color to the next, or stop on your favorite color. Either way, the jellies are happy to frolic in their kaleidoscopic, quiet menace. And if one of your subordinates ever acts up, just remind him or her about the Blackbeard story…and let them know there’s room in your jellyfish tank for a hand or two. Sometimes threats are all you need. Arrrgh.

Note: If you are having any troubles getting your jellies to swim about properly, remember to add just a few drops of liquid dish soap to the water as per the instructions. It’s the part that makes the magic happen. Thanks!

LED Jellyfish Mood Lamp

  • Lifelike jellyfish movement
  • 6 bright LEDs – cycle through colors or select your favorite one
  • Includes: Tank, 3 Jellyfish, Power cord (110V), and Instructions
  • Dimensions: 7″ x 10″ x 4.5″ (with 3″ long jellyfish)

Desktop Carnivorous Plant Set

Price: $22.99

Customer Action Shot!

The office is now gnat free!

Little Desktop Of Horrors…

Here at ThinkGeek, we truly understand you have needs. Especially at work where minutes often last hours and hours become days. You need to be entertained, you don’t want your neurons to prematurely atrophy. You crave stimulation. You crave a Carnivorous desktop plant set. Perfect for the casual office worker who delights in watching insects slowly meet their makers as they are painfully digested by an engaging variety of meat-sucking flora. Nothing quite like it.

So what’s our recommendation? Grab a set and grow your own collection of feared and famous carnivorous plants. This deluxe set has seeds from over ten varieties of carnivorous plants! Watch these fascinating plants grow into bug-eating monsters and delight in creating your own authentic bog with the included peat planting mix, blue Swamp Rocks, three Bog Buddies and full color decals. This rare and unusual collection of carnivorous plants will flourish for years in this specially designed terrarium with proper care…

    Each Complete Kit Includes:

  • Growing Dome
  • Planting Mixture
  • Carnivorous Seed Pack:
    • Venus Fly Trap
    • Yellow Trumpet
    • Hooded Pitcher Plant
    • Purple Pitcher Plant
    • Pale Trumpet
    • Temperate Sundew Plants
    • Cobra Lilies
  • 3 Photo Decals
  • 3 Bog Buddies
  • Swamp Rocks
  • Instructions and Information Manual

NOTE: Unlike Insta-Pets(TM)like Sea Monkeys or Triops, your carnivorous plant set will take several weeks to get started. But have patience friends, the blood-curdling plant-on-insect action will be worth the wait! We guarantee it or pay us double!

USB R/C Mini Car w/Garage

Price: $29.99

Make a left at the stapler…

Every morning you do the same thing. You get up, brush your teeth (hopefully), get dressed, and drive to work. You sit looking at the same cars and the same tired faces also participating in the great morning commute. You get to work and sit at your desk, a new day of the same old sh…stuff. Wouldn’t you just love, for once, to drive during the week and not hit traffic? Well, now you can – right on your own desk – with the USB R/C Mini Car w/Garage.

Just plug the garage into your USB port, load up the software, and give the car about 10 minutes to charge (inside its garage). Once it’s done, open the garage door and drive the car out using your keyboard’s arrow keys. And if that pesky coffee mug gets in the way again, hit the space bar to honk your horn. But really, there isn’t any traffic on your desk, so you should enjoy a wonderfully relaxing drive. Take a right at the coffee mug, then a left at the stapler, and cruise on to Funsville (population: you).

USB R/C Mini Car w/Garage

  • Garage Dimensions: 5″ x 3″ x 3″
  • Car Dimensions: 3.5″ x 1.75″ x 1.5″
  • Includes: Car, Garage/Charger, Software (Windows only), Instructions, and Sticker Sheet

Palmsize R/C Helicopter

Price: $29.99 – $49.99

Save $9.99 on Two Copters
Choose “Red/Silver 2-Pack” from the drop-down to buy two Copters (one of each channel) and fly with a friend.

Choice: Please Select… Silver (Chan 2) $29.99 Red (Chan 1) $29.99 Red/Silver 2-Pack $49.99

Customer Action Shot!

Its a lifestyle thing

Tiny Copter Attack!

We just can’t seem to get enough of tiny R/C helicopters. They’re taking the ThinkGeek office by storm… swarming and amusing the office dogs. Buzzing delightfully as we procrastinate on our TPS reports. Even the robotic monkeys are impressed at the tiny size and amazing technology. These mini copters can take off from your hand and circle your desk as your co-workers gape in amazement. Full control allows you to hover and turn left or right as your copter moves slowly forward. Two different channels let you to fly with a friend. But practice-up on your aviation skills if you hope to challenge the expert pilots at ThinkGeek.

Important Note
You will have to practice your flying before you can do as well as we do in the video. Keep the following in mind: You can adjust the forward speed of the copter by twisting the tail slightly right or left before flight (see the instructions). Right turns are wider than left turns due to the dynamics of the rotor. Luckily for you the Palmsize R/C Helicopter is forgiving on crashes.

Smart Mass Thinking Putty

Price: $9.99

Choice: Please Select… Solar Blue $9.99 Atomic Bronze $9.99 Oil Slick $9.99 Dark Matter $9.99 Atmosphere $9.99 Alien Ooze $9.99 Martian Sea $9.99 Twilight $9.99 Sunburst $9.99

Customer Action Shot!

not exactly the smartest idea.

The Thinking Persons Putty

The Ultimate Stress Reduction office toy is here. Of course you remember playing with putty as a kid. Welp, this ain’t your kids putty. Adult sized, and as feature-rich as your favorite Operating System, the Smart Mass putty from ThinkGeek makes living life fun all over again. Like to fidget while sitting in front of the monitor? Enjoy being the envy of all those who surround you? Trying to make an impression on that new coder down the hall? Smart Mass putty will help…

But ThinkGeek, What Will My Smart Mass Really Do ??

  • It Bounces!
  • It Stretches, Contorts & Squishes !
  • It lifts comics! (as any self-respecting putty would)
  • It Shears & Tears ! (learn how!)
  • It Even Shatters !!! (learn why!)
  • It Drips From Ceilings (learn how!)

But ThinkGeek, Can I Achieve World Domination With My Smart Mass?

  • Yes. Of course. All ThinkGeek products may be used to help you achieve World Domination.

Our Smart Mass putty is just too much fun. Find out for yourselves how magically enticing and addictive playing with putty really is. As you find more and more ways to get creative with your putty, you’ll, well, find more ways to get creative with everything! It’s simply that stimulating!

Your choice of either:

  • Sunburst (new!) – A Hypercolor! Heat sensitive putty. Jumpstart your day with some sunshine! Vibrant orange shifts into an awakening yellow with the touch of your hands or warmth from your coffee mug. Starts out Orange.
  • Twilight (new!) – A Hypercolor! Heat sensitive putty. Just as an evening sky melts into the dark of night, this putty’s deep purple color disappears with a touch to reveal a fluorescent blue complexion.
  • Martian Sea – A color shifter that swirls deep clay reds and orange with a yellow to green sheen depending on the light.
  • Dark Matter – A swirling mass of matte black. Your very own personal, warpable, black hole. Has magnetic properties: pull out a thin strand of dark matter and hold it near a magnet!
  • Solar Blue – A very soothing and energetic, vibrant blue. Intoxicating. Cosmically rapturous…
  • Oil Slick – A color shifter, Oil slick will look different in different lighting. From golds and yellow to pinks and emerald greens all swirling intelligently…
  • Atomic Bronze – Lustrous comes to mind. Atomic bronze sparkles and commands attention. Your very own precious metal. Looks similar to Martian Sea, but has a much more metallic sheen to it.
  • Atmosphere – Another color shifter. Atmosphere will morph into Cerulean highlights and features rich deep purples. A veritable alien, breathing, living atmosphere…
  • Alien Ooze (glows!) – Military grade phosphors power this extremely powerful glowing mass. Charges in light or through UV sources. Amazingly bright when glowing. Ghost like when not performing…

Each tin arrives with an adult sized one fifth of a pound of Smart Mass putty. Wow. The putty is non-toxic and doesn’t leave any gooey residue! Get tins for everybody in the office and at home lest you may find yours missing…

Note: – Your Smart Mass may seem like it has a mind of its own occasionally. That’s because it does. And when not being used, your Smart Mass putty prefers to live in its comfortable tin where it can best plot World Domination Schemes.

Nabaztag Wifi Smart Rabbit

Price: $179.99

Customer Action Shot!


This bunny likes to nibble on WiFi

Nabaztag/tag with built-in microphone now available…

So you are probably wondering if a rabbit can really be “smart”? Well this bunny can teach you tai chi, read your e-mail, report the weather or stock market, pull RSS feeds and tell you the time. We’d say that’s pretty smart – but he’s also got personality. Nabaztag can move his ears, play music, talk and whistle, and his body can show off hundreds of colors and special patterns of light. Sometimes he will even have his own random things to say, as long as you can put up with his moods!

Okay, so Nabaztag is smart and has personality – but what about interpersonal skills? Can he relate well to you and other rabbits? Well, Nabaztag can marry another rabbit – that’s right – copying the other rabbit’s movements, sounds and lights. Move your Nabaztag’s ears and its spouse’s will too. And as far as friendship, Nabaztag can let you know when you have a new e-mail, read you today’s headlines or give you his opinion of the previous week. But be careful because he is uncompromising – if he thinks that he didn’t receive enough messages he might be unhappy.

And that’s just the beginning, because the world of Nabaztag is expanding all the time. Before long this brainy bunny will be able to receive traffic updates, alert you when you have SMS messages, tell you if your train is running late and broadcast ‘Nabcasts’ from fellow subscribers. The possibilities are truly endless.

  • Nabaztag is easily configured and customized through a Web browser
  • Free and subscription services available [see list]
  • Receives messages sent from the web or via e-mail
  • Can optionally receive delayed messages (use as a reminder)
  • Ears move, body lights up, talks, plays music and more
  • Works with Wi-fi (802.11 b or g)
  • Dimensions: 9″ x 5.3″ x 5.3″ (23cm x 13.5cm x 13.5cm) with ears
  • Includes: Nabaztag, power adapter, quickstart manual
  • Now available! Nabaztag/tag – featuring a built-in microphone so you can talk to Nabaztag [details]

Mini Pet Cactus

Price: $1.99 – $8.99

Customer Action Shot!

They love me.

Pocket Plant

Virtual pets are fun, but sometimes they can be a virtual pain in the virtual backside. You have to virtually feed them and virtually play with them. And yes, they virtually love you, but it’s just not the same as real love. But one has to admit, most virtual pets are easy to carry around, whereas most real pets either won’t fit in your pocket (like a dog) or wouldn’t survive in your pocket (like a trout). We have the solution: the Mini Pet Cactus.

The Mini Pet Cactus will love you unconditionally. All you have to do it is water it once a month for about a minute (instructions on packaging). Each cactus comes with a strap to attach to your jacket, cell phone, etc., so you can take it with you everywhere. Nothing says fun like talking to your cactus in a public place – until security asks you to leave, that is. Want to display your new pet at home or in the office? Try the Mini Pet Cactus Stand (sold separately). It has an adhesive back to attach to a wall, your monitor, your forehead, etc. The Mini Pet Cactus is waiting to be adopted…by you!

Dimensions: Pet Cactus: 1.75″ tall; Stand Height: 4.5″

AntWorks – Space Age Ant Habitat

Price: $29.99

Choice: Please Select… Blue Gel w/LEDs $29.99 Red Gel w/LED $29.99

Customer Action Shot!

clawing out of the earth from mile-deep catacombs!

A Space-Age Habitat For Antkind

Fascinating creatures ants. Sure you hate to see them in your socks or making a B-line for that pizza crust crumb you forgot to sweep up at the local LAN party. But let’s give credit where credit is due. Ants are amazing. Ants can lift up to 20x their body weight! They have two stomachs and three eyes! They also have uncanny communication skills and amazing abilities to work together to achieve a common goal.

This miraculous gel, derived from a NASA Space experiment, serves as both habitat and nutrition for your ants – allowing you to watch in awe as they turn a brick of aqua-blue gel into a fascinating colony of tunnels. Never before have you been so capable of watching these awesome creatures at work.

Consider Ants a pest? Think again. As Sun Tzu stated, ‘Know Thy Enemy’. And what better way to know them then in this totally enclosed space age aquarium. Ants are perhaps the most populous creatures on the face of planet earth, with at least ten thousand species and countless trillions of individual ants. Bring them indoors today with Antworks!

  • AntWorks is based on a 2003 NASA Space Shuttle experiment to study animal life in space and test how ants successfully tunnel in microgravity.
  • The AntWorks Gel (Non Toxic) is complete with nutrients to promote healthy growth in the new colony.
  • Watch ants live, work and tunnel in the nutritious and non-toxic gel as they create series upon series of intricate tunnels.
  • The included LED illuminator acts as your Antworks base and when plugged in will shine four bright blue LEDs up through your turquoise gel. The ultimate nightlight is upon us! (120v).
  • Easy to care for – Ants need NO food or water.
  • Case is 6.5″x 5.5″x 1.25″
  • Choose between Red (for evil minion ants) and blue (for space marine ants) gels.

Each ‘Antworks’ Includes:

  • Case and gel
  • Magnifying glass
  • Four blue LEDs embedded in base.
  • Ant catching/tunnel starting tool
  • Instruction booklet with interesting facts about ants.
  • ANTS ARE NOT INCLUDED! However, there is a form included where you can order some ants for delivery via mail. But why bother? Just set out some potato chips in the kitchen and voila! Instant ant colony!

Sanity not included when you choose to knowingly bring Ants into your home. However, observing them in a natural habitat should bring you closer to nature than playing Doom 3.

The Amazing Desktop Dinosaur Plant

Price: $7.99

Customer Action Shot!

continuing the eternal struggle of robot vs dinosaur (plant)

A Pre-historic Evergreen That Just Won’t Die

This one-of-a-kind plant has lived on the Earth for over 290 million years and has the ability to “come back to life” (much like the undead) over and over again for hundreds of years! Simply place this seemingly dead ball of foliage in water and within hours it transforms into a vibrant green blood-sucking evergreen. Ok, we are kidding about the blood-sucking part. It’s still amazing though! It’s also great for lazy folks since you can forget to water your Dinosaur plant whenever you want! It will simply dry up and hibernate for up to fifty years and will spring to life every time it is given water.

Some Interesting Tidbits about your Dinosaur Plant:

  • During the Carboniferous period these plants used to grow over 120 feet tall (bigger than a T-rex)
  • When dry it curls up into a tight ball so that the wind can easily roll it to a new location or cubicle, hopefully closer to moisture.
  • Retains 3% of its water when it is dehydrated.
  • Grows to be about 4″
  • Enjoys life so much it survived the Ice AgeKit includes:
  • Live Dinosaur Plant
  • Bag of genuine Volcanic Lava Rock
  • Display Bowl

    Atomic Food Containers

    Price: $8.99

    Eat and Glow

    Do people bully you in the workplace and steal your lunch? Are you tired of losing your food in the communal fridge? Do you forget often how long stuff has been in said fridge? Are you a cool dude(tte)? If your answer to all these questions is 17, have we got a set of food containers for you! Each one is as special as you are (and possibly as radioactive!)

    You’ll get three containers of different size (400ml, 600ml, and 1000ml) which each nestle into each other for easy storage. Also, each top has a dial so you can set the date you put the container into the cold wasteland of your office fridge. That way, you will know how old the hairy pasta is, and won’t have to guess. Each dial also has a special setting called “vent” which opens up a little vent to vent ventable gasses (just like our underpants, but that’s a story for another time). Buy them now and safeguard your lunch for years to come.

    Each container is microwave and dishwasher safe.

    Rock Climbing Light

    Cool Wall Climbing Light

    Designed to resemble a rock climbing man (apparently) the design of this light appeals to us as we can imagine a host of them placed in random patterns on a wall with great effect.

    Constructed from polished zinc and coming complete with two meters of cable (but without a bulb (!)), this rather funky and somewhat geeky light is sure to add a great ‘designer’ ambience to any room and at diminutive cost.

    The Wall Climbing Light retails at £19.99 /$40

    1.3 Megapixel USB Digital Microscope

    Price: $349.99

    Zoom in on stuff – up to 200X

    Higher resolution microscope produces fantastic images!

    This 1.3 Megapixel Digital Microscope allows you to capture some higher resolution images and video and display them on your PC using a simple USB connection. View specimens collected around the house, backyard, your desk, or the fridge. Look at the micro-printing on a dollar bill or examine the traces on your motherboard. This microscope provides you an easy way to zoom in on a wide variety of objects to satisfy your curiosity of the world around you. Ever wondered what lint looks like or the mold growing on your week-old bagels? Now you can find out.

    Simple plug and play operation with included software that allows you to magnify objects and view them on your PC up to 200X and take snapshots and time-lapse movies. You can also manipulate images with drawing and painting tools. The microscope is detachable from the stand to allow you to get closer to large objects.

    • Handheld digital microscope with stand
    • Great for industrial inspection, science education, forensics, printing, textile, printed circuit board (PCB) inspection, jewelers, hobbyists, tinkerers, crime scene investigation, medical, serial number identification, quality control, parts assembly
    • Resolution: 1280 x 1024 (1.3M)
    • Magnification: 10 ~ 50X, 200X Continuous Optical zoom
    • Built-in LEDs for illumination (8 LEDs)
    • LED on/off controlled by software
    • Interface: USB 2.0
    • Frame rate: up to 30fps
    • Dimension: 10cm (h) x 3.2cm (dia)
    • Weight: 0.2 lb (90g)
    • Includes: Microscope, Microscope stand, DinoCapture Software (Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP, Vista, Mac OS9, OSX)
    • One year warranty
    • Model AM-411T
    • If you encounter a software error during install, please download the latest software here

    Mandylion Password Manager

    Price: $49.99

    Single w/ Cradle $49.99

    Military-grade password protection!

    Unfortunately, we all have to deal with modern life’s little cyber-burden, the password. Some of us do so by simply re-using an old password when the system asks you to change it. Other times we use the same password but just add the month at the end. Some people even resort to keeping their passwords written on yellow stickey notes or in their wallet. None of these options, however, is very effective for protecting your valuable data. Instead, we would like to present a superior solution brought to you compliments of the US Military.

    The Mandylion Password Manager is a secure, convenient and cost-effective device built specifically for generating and protecting your passwords. Tested and matured for 3 years in real warfare environments, it is now available for commercial use. Built as a small keyring device, it can securely manage up to 50 logins, safe combinations, security codes, etc. that can be individually generated to meet the composition requirements of any login policy. Passwords can be any length up to 14 characters or namespaces. It can create passwords based on your settings for various criteria (such as length, alpha-numeric, special characters, etc.) and prompt you to change your passwords at preset time intervals (90 days, 1 year, etc.) Also, all data is stored in permanent memory, so it is unaffected by battery life or loss of power. Tamper-resistant features have been employed both inside and out, making the device a superior choice to storing passwords on your PDA, PC or worse, writing them down.

    Using the device is very easy. There are 5 buttons used for navigation and data entry. The device is activated by entering a unique button sequence that is user-defined. Totally self-contained and air-gapped from any system, passwords are viewed on the token’s LCD display which has a limited viewing angle to prevent shoulder surfing. There are also user-defined lockout settings, including a self-destruct feature for high risk scenarios. The device will also indicate failed activation attempts (with a “Tampered” message displayed upon successful activation.) Included Policy Master software makes describing the login policy (length, expiration, composition) for each login record and configuring the token a snap. The token does the rest.

    This little unit has been designed to meet U.S. Military standards for secure creation and management of passwords (use authorized under Army Regulation 25-2 IA.) This device helps creates a strong security policy for your work environment (so naturally you can brag to the boss about it) and provides cost savings in the form of reduced help desk support and password changing downtime. When used for personal password management the personal password manager eliminates having to remember all those annoying passwords and usernames.

    Has these great features.

    • Manages up to 50 login records simultaneously
    • Generates cryptographically strong passwords
    • Complies with all DoD, Govt. & Industry Password Security Policies
    • Multiple tamper-resistant features and lockout alarms
    • Manages Root and Group passwords
    • Cradle connection via USB
    • Kit containing: token, a configuration cradle, Policy Master Configuration Software (Windows only)
    • Device and software not Mac compatible (sorry)
    • Dimensions: Approx. 2.5″ x 1.5″ x .375″ (65mm x 45mm x 10mm)
    • Takes a CR2032 battery (replaceable)
    • One-year warranty

    Glow Brick

    Price: $29.99

    Please Select… Blue $29.99 Green $29.99

    A light bulb with a special glow!

    Yep – it’s a glow-in-the-dark light bulb trapped inside a solid acrylic brick. The Glow Brick recharges from energy in natural sunlight during the day and glows at night. Not only that, it is actually made with a real light bulb! That’s right.

    The glow-in-the-dark* pigment is trapped inside a real light bulb (just like the ones you have at home). Then the light bulb is encased in a solid block of Acrylic resin. The mysterious optical effect is caused by light diffracting in the tiny space between the glass of the light bulb and the resin – this space forms when the resin shrinks by a tiny amount during the production process. The polished surface gives a jewel like quality to the object. In a darkened room, or at night, the Glow Brick comes to life with a tranquil and subtle glow emanating from the pigment inside the light bulb. Size is 3.3″ x 3.3″ x 5″

    *The technical term for the glow-in-the-dark is “photoluminescence” this is a process in which energy absorbed by a substance is released relatively slowly in the form of light.

    And not necessarily in any way a desktop device, but simply a must-have one:

    MySky GPS Star Tracker

    Price: $399.99

    Twinkle, twinkle, little star. I finally figured out what you are.

    Only once in a blue moon* throughout the history of consumer tech comes a product so nifty you are convinced it cannot be real. Then you quickly glance over to your calendar and realize it’s not April 1st. “Damn!” you think to yourself, while reaching for your wallet and mumbling under your breath “Curse you ThinkGeek, curse you!” Packed with the latest in gadgetry including built-in GPS, LCD screen, magnetic north sensors, electronic accelerometers, & complex circuitry,the MySky is far from vaporwear. It’s a hi-tech virtual tour guide to your starry skies. Point, shoot, get smarter.

    But ThinkGeek, What Does the MySky Really Do?
    Glad you asked. Take the MySky out of its package, plug in some batteries, go outside, preferably at night although even when you can’t see them, the stars are still there during the day. Now let the MySky figure out its location and time via GPS. There are three different basic modes to using the night sky – Identify, Find, & Guided Tour. In ‘Identify’ Mode, the default, you will be presented with a real time LCD view of the night sky, complete with constellations. Simply point it to the object of choice in the real sky, and shoot. It will identify! You can also take a ‘Guided Tour’ of the best objects available to you at the moment based on your location, date & time. Finally, if you want to locate a specific object (planet, comet, galaxy, etc.) – you can navigate through the menus, select the item and your MySky will point out its location in the real sky.


    • Sights – Illuminated red sights to easily point to objects
    • Object Database – Database of over 30,000 celestial objects (planets, stars, nebulae, galaxies & more)
    • LCD – 480 x 234 pixel full color display
    • Audio – 500+ Audio/Multi-media presentations by NPR Stardate personality, Sandy Wood. Including interesting science facts, mythology, folklore, and astrophotography.
    • Earphones – Comfortable high-fidelity ear buds included for audio
    • Storage – 256 Megabyte SD card (included)
    • GPS – 12 channel GPS receiver
    • Orientation – Magnetic north sensors
    • Positioning – Electronic accelerometers to determine tilt/pointing
    • Night Vision – Optional mode to display screen entirely in red to protect your night vision.
    • Compatibility – Can optionally control any Meade computerized telescope.
    • Upgradeable – Software upgradeable from
    • Power save features – Advanced power saving features to extend battery life
    • Batteries – 4 AA batteries required (not included)
    • Battery Life – Up to 6 hours (normal use)
    • Instructions – Includes onboard video instructions that are optional for first time use. Also includes a printed instruction manual and quickstart guide along with a CDROM that includes Planetarium software (Windows 98/XP).
    • Dimensions – Approximately 9″ x 2.5″ x 7″
    • Death Ray Mode – Unlock this mode and you may optionally target planets for annihilation..**

    * We probably should have said ‘Blue Giant’ here. Oh well.
    ** Sorry, this feature is being re-constructed. Don’t blame us, blame the rebel alliance.

    Sun and Moon Jars

    Price: $34.99

    Choice: Please Select… Sun Jar $34.99 Moon Jar $34.99

    Customer Action Shot!

    Much easier to move around than the real sun

    Jam jars store jam, these jars store sunshine!

    Captured inside the Sun and Moon Jars are a highly efficient solar cell, a rechargeable battery and low energy LED lamps. When the jar is placed in direct sunlight the solar cell creates an electrical current that charges the battery over a few hours. This energy is then used at night to power the three LED lamps inside the jar.

    The light is diffused by the frosted jar and give the appearance of sunlight emitting from the sun or a cool moon glow (warm colored LED lights are used to give a more natural and warm light). You may have noticed that there is no switch on the Sun Jar – in fact there are no visible controls at all – but there is a clever light sensor inside that automatically activates the LEDs when it gets dark or the lights are turned out! (There is an override switch inside the lid to turn off the light at night and conserve battery life.)

    Mason jars are not only beautiful but by their very nature they are water tight – so the Sun Jar can happily be left outside in any weather conditions. A perfect garden light or night light for a child’s bedroom. The Sun Jar needs DIRECT sunshine to work! Leave the Sun Jar outside or in a sunny window in direct sunlight for several hours to charge, (electric light indoors is not bright enough!). The Sun and Moon Jars use a standard AA rechargeable battery, which is replaceable.

    So, happy desktop/cubicle living, as well as a few fun things for the home (office!)

    City of the Future – three views

    CITY OF THE FUTURE: A Design and Engineering Challenge

    Inspired by Cities of the Underworld

    In January, The History Channel, with sponsors Infiniti and IBM, challenged architects and designers nationwide to compete in City of the Future competitions in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Atlanta.

    The competition was fierce with 8 teams in each city vying for the $10,000 Grand Prize and City of the Future title. Teams only had one week to envision what their city might look like in 100 years, a mere 3 hours to construct their models, and just 15 minutes to present their vision to a panel of five esteemed judges. Now it’s your turn! We want you to decide who will walk away with an additional $5,000 and the title of National Champion by casting a vote for your favorite City of the Future.

    By casting your vote, you will automatically be entered to win a Home Theater set up, complete with 50-inch flat screen TV and Sony Blu-Ray player.

    Voting ends Monday, April 28th and don’t forget to tune-in to the season finale of Cities of the Underworld on May 5th at 9PM EST to find out who wins!

    Here is the regional winner for Washington, D.C.:

    Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, LLP

    Capital FORTway: Protecting Our History, Sustaining Our Future

    February 2108: The Majority Exocratic party today announced that their goal for making Washington, D.C. the nation’s first entirely self-sufficient and environmentally sustainable city has been realized. The collaborative practice of Beyer Blinder Belle helped create the Capital FORTway (Future Oriented Renewable Technologies) Commission in 2008. Modeled on the city’s historic fort network, the new totemic FORT towers have reengaged the city’s original defense structures, acting as hubs for transportation and the generation and distribution of resources, now feeding the city’s entire population. The FORTway is just one component of a larger planning initiative that includes adding downtown residential density, converting L’Enfant’s diagonal avenues to green space, sustaining cultural and historic resources, restoring natural tidal flows, and adding a new rapid transit network. In addition, a transformed and expanded National Mall connects the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers.

    Expert’s Corner: Commentary by Richard Meier

    “Recalling the walls, towers, and other fortifications that once protected our cities, this master plan for Washington DC imagines a series of 29 towers that would encircle the city’s borders. Inside the ring, the historic L’Enfant plan, which forms the core of the city, would be kept to a modest height. Outside the towers, the extreme portions of the city and the suburbs would increase in scale, further setting off the city’s historic center. The towers would be multi-functional structures, emphasizing public spaces for the community to gather and incorporating new public transit centers, and implementing far-reaching sustainable strategy with ecological amenities like rainwater harvesting and hydroponic farming. Lasers, anchored to each tower, would serve the city’s defenses, when needed. A vast network of infrastructure would tie these towers together and ensure they worked as a coherent system.”

    And here is the winner for Atlanta:

    EDAW/Praxis 3/BNIM/Metcalf and Eddy


    Even during the second driest year on record, rainfall in Atlanta produced 75 billion gallons of water. The city maintains over 1,900 miles of pipes to collect, combine with wastewater, treat and pipe storm water downstream. Climate change, growth, and sprawling impervious surfaces continue to degrade this outmoded, costly system.

    2008 marks “The Dawn of the Restorative Era” by overturning the infrastructure logic of the past. In the City of the Future, stormwater resurfaces to flow naturally across the land. Freed from use, existing underground systems act as aquifiers, preserving scarce water for long term use.

    This simple shift underground, in turn, transforms the landscape above. The rigidity of the urban grid yields to swaths of green and waterscapes. Settlements cluster along ridges and water catchments, participating in a sustainable, living system. Corridors of open spaces spread to link communities in an organic form and fully reclaim The City in the Forest.

    Expert’s Corner: Commentary by Richard Meier

    “The tall towers of Atlanta rise from a canopy of trees. The plan for metro Atlanta builds on that condition and foresees a region repopulated with forests 100 years from now. More than simply green space, these forests serve as the environmental lungs of the city. They filter storm water, which is currently channeled underground, allowing it to percolate through the soil and become usable. They purify the air. They also help to keep the manmade portions of the city the buildings and infrastructure concentrated so that their impact on the environment is minimized. This inclusion will stimulate the vitality of these built areas. Over time, the designers believe the city’s street grid will recede, promoting circulation and resulting in an organic evolution.”

    And my personal favorite, and the one I voted for, as it is every SciFi lover’s dream city, San Francisco:



    Symbiotic and multi-scalar, SF HYDRO-NET is an occupiable infrastructure that organizes critical flows of the city. HYDRO-NET provides an underground arterial traffic network for hydrogen-fueled hover-cars, while simultaneously collecting, storing and distributing water and power tapped from existing aquifer and geothermal sources beneath San Francisco. A new aquaculture zone with ponds of algae and forests of sinuous housing towers reoccupy Baylands inundated by rising sea levels. Hydrogen fuel is produced by the algae, and is stored and distributed within the nanotube wall structure of HYDRO-NET’s robotically-drilled tunnels. At key waterfront and neighborhood locales, HYDRO-NET emerges to form linkages between the terrestrial and subterranean worlds. Here new architectures bloom as opportunistic urban caves and outcroppings, fostering new social spaces and densified urban forms, fed by the resources and connectivity provided by HYDRO-NET. These locally responsive and distributed nodes and tendrils facilitate both the preservation and organic evolution of San Francisco.

    Expert’s Corner: Commentary by Richard Meier

    “The number of urban dwellers is expected to rise sharply in the future.
    Addressing this fact, this vision for the future of San Francisco proposes a new network of infrastructure below the surface of the city that will help the region maximize and distribute its resources. Called ‘Hydronet,’ the system will not only provide tunnels for a new generation of hover-cars, but also collection and distribution systems for water and power. The proposal identifies places where drinkable water might be harvested from both the sky and the earth, where heat might be extracted or dissipated deep in the strata below the city, and where new hydrogen based energy might be generated from algae fields. The city’s signature waterfront is repopulated with a series of eco-towers that animate the skyline and are linked to the network of infrastructure.”

    And from Inhabitat, comes more information:

    SAN FRANCISCO IN 2108? – The Hydro-Net Vision of the Future

    by Mahesh Basantani

    <!––>                           <!––>Crazy Futuristic San Francisco, A vision of San Francisco’s Future, Iwamoto Scott Architecture, San Francisco in 2108, a Hydro-Net City of the Future, History Channel City of the Future, Hydronet, Hydro Net, Hydro-Net, Iwamoto Scott Hydro-net, City of the Future, Algae Towers, Geothermal Steam Baths, Fog flowers, Fog catchers

    San Francisco is already one of the greenest cities in the US, but check out this wild new concept from IwamotoScott Architects to completely remake the city into an ecotopia by 2108.

    The design, which is as visually stunning as it is thought-provoking, recently won the History Channel’s City of the Future competition. It’s a full-scale urban system that combines the most innovative green technologies with San Francisco’s unique microclimate and geologic conditions, to produce a compelling vision for the future. Hydro-Net, as the project is known, will bring the lovely city-by-the-bay (which many Inhabitants call home) squarely into the 22nd Century with algae-harvesting towers, geothermal energy ‘mushrooms’, and fog catchers which distill fresh water from San Francisco’s infamous fog.

    ‘Crazy Futuristic San Francisco, A vision of San Francisco’s Future, Iwamoto Scott Architecture, San Francisco in 2108, a Hydro-Net City of the Future, History Channel City of the Future, Hydronet, Hydro Net, Hydro-Net, Iwamoto Scott Hydro-net, City of the Future, Algae Towers, Geothermal Steam Baths, Fog flowers, Fog catchers’

    Hydro-Net is perhaps the most remarkable, modern and futuristic concept ever envisioned for San Francisco – considering global warming and the hunt for alternative energy sources in the coming century. It is an extensive network of above ground and underground systems that fulfill infrastructural needs for the movement of people, water, hover-cars, and energy throughout the city.

    Crazy Futuristic San Francisco, A vision of San Francisco’s Future, Iwamoto Scott Architecture, San Francisco in 2108, a Hydro-Net City of the Future, History Channel City of the Future, Hydronet, Hydro Net, Hydro-Net, Iwamoto Scott Hydro-net, City of the Future, Algae Towers, Geothermal Steam Baths, Fog flowers, Fog catchers

    This network would connect water, power collection, and distribution systems across the city, forming one giant super-system that would resemble seaweed and chanterelle mushroom in its form. The aquifer and geothermal sources beneath San Francisco would be utilized as the source of water and power, while ponds and “forests” of algae would produce hydrogen.

    The walls of the network would consist of carbon nanotubes walls, which would store and distribute the hydrogen generated by algae. The hydrogen would in turn be used as fuel to run hover-cars in the underground tunnels. The network also includes fog catchers that harvest air moisture, ecotowers, and more. Sound crazy? Designers Lisa Iwamoto and Craig Scott, the partners of San Francisco-based design firm IwamotoScott, don’t think so, and frankly neither do we. The concept recently won the $10,000 grand prize for their entry in the City of the Future competition, organized by the History Channel.

    IwamotoScott Architecture

    Crazy Futuristic San Francisco, A vision of San Francisco’s Future, Iwamoto Scott Architecture, San Francisco in 2108, a Hydro-Net City of the Future, History Channel City of the Future, Hydronet, Hydro Net, Hydro-Net, Iwamoto Scott Hydro-net, City of the Future, Algae Towers, Geothermal Steam Baths, Fog flowers, Fog catchers

    Crazy Futuristic San Francisco, A vision of San Francisco’s Future, Iwamoto Scott Architecture, San Francisco in 2108, a Hydro-Net City of the Future, History Channel City of the Future, Hydronet, Hydro Net, Hydro-Net, Iwamoto Scott Hydro-net, City of the Future, Algae Towers, Geothermal Steam Baths, Fog flowers, Fog catchers

    Crazy Futuristic San Francisco, A vision of San Francisco’s Future, Iwamoto Scott Architecture, San Francisco in 2108, a Hydro-Net City of the Future, History Channel City of the Future, Hydronet, Hydro Net, Hydro-Net, Iwamoto Scott Hydro-net, City of the Future, Algae Towers, Geothermal Steam Baths, Fog flowers, Fog catchers

    Crazy Futuristic San Francisco, A vision of San Francisco’s Future, Iwamoto Scott Architecture, San Francisco in 2108, a Hydro-Net City of the Future, History Channel City of the Future, Hydronet, Hydro Net, Hydro-Net, Iwamoto Scott Hydro-net, City of the Future, Algae Towers, Geothermal Steam Baths, Fog flowers, Fog catchers

    Crazy Futuristic San Francisco, A vision of San Francisco’s Future, Iwamoto Scott Architecture, San Francisco in 2108, a Hydro-Net City of the Future, History Channel City of the Future, Hydronet, Hydro Net, Hydro-Net, Iwamoto Scott Hydro-net, City of the Future, Algae Towers, Geothermal Steam Baths, Fog flowers, Fog catchers

    Crazy Futuristic San Francisco, A vision of San Francisco’s Future, Iwamoto Scott Architecture, San Francisco in 2108, a Hydro-Net City of the Future, History Channel City of the Future, Hydronet, Hydro Net, Hydro-Net, Iwamoto Scott Hydro-net, City of the Future, Algae Towers, Geothermal Steam Baths, Fog flowers, Fog catchers

    Crazy Futuristic San Francisco, A vision of San Francisco’s Future, Iwamoto Scott Architecture, San Francisco in 2108, a Hydro-Net City of the Future, History Channel City of the Future, Hydronet, Hydro Net, Hydro-Net, Iwamoto Scott Hydro-net, City of the Future, Algae Towers, Geothermal Steam Baths, Fog flowers, Fog catchers

    For more photos, see:

    So, which do YOU like….

    Indiana Jones fever pitch


    Well, the fever’s running high – have you caught it?  The trailer’s out, and we all know this is probably the last of Indiana Jones, the intrepid, dashing anti-hero we all love.  Here’s some recent scoops: 


    From Entertainment, updated 8:49 a.m. EST, Mon March 3, 2008

    ‘Indiana Jones’ trailer a hit — everywhere

     LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — Times sure have changed in the 19 years since Harrison Ford last donned the signature fedora of thrill-seeking archaeologist Indiana Jones. The viral spread of the trailer for “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is proof of that.

    Indiana Jones

    Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf star in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” 

    The trailer for the May 22 release has drawn highly enthusiastic responses in theaters. But it may have had its biggest impact online, on a younger audience that may not think of Ford, 65, as equal to today’s spry action heroes.

    After premiering February 14 on “Good Morning America,” Lucasfilm and Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures sent the trailer to the Web, plus movie theaters and TV stations around the world. Paramount estimates the trailer was seen more than 200 million times worldwide in the first week alone.

    Harry Knowles, who runs the movie fan site (his official title is Head Geek), says he first saw a bootleg version of the trailer online, then the official version online, and then saw it twice in theaters. Video Watch the whip-cracking trailer here »

    There were cheers in the theater when the familiar theme song kicked in, Knowles said, and comments on his Web site have been positive. “People generally really, really loved the trailer,” he said. “Some people think it’s a little more cartoonish-looking compared to the prior (films), with him whipping the lights and swinging on them and stuff. But at the same time, it seems that everyone is extremely excited that there’s a new ‘Indiana Jones’ film. The excitement for it is palpable. It’s much more aggressively anticipated than anything else that’s coming out right now.”

    “The trailer caught on like wildfire, around the world, in all mediums,” said Gerry Rich, Paramount’s president of worldwide marketing, who’s targeting moviegoers “from 8 to 80. The response has been sensational and it shows what technology can do when you have material that is so appealing to audiences.”

    Older audiences certainly remember Indy, but that’s not the prime ticket-buying demographic. Thus the aggressive online campaign, which included what Paramount says is a record 4.1 million views on the Yahoo movie site in the first week and 2.6 million on the official site, the most ever for the studio.

    “It looks to be THE highly anticipated movie of the summer,” said Mark Mazrimas, marketing manager for independent theater chain Classic Cinemas. However, “this hasn’t been on the screen for so long, (the challenge) is capturing the youth.”

    The brainchild of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, the franchise kicked off with “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” in 1981, followed by “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” three summers later. “The Last Crusade” was released in 1989, boosting the worldwide box office total to $1.2 billion.

    Now, with the buzz sparked, Rich — who declined to make opening weekend predictions — just wants to keep fans’ attention: “The (only) negative comment from people was that they have to wait until May to see the movie.”


    Release Date: US (wide): May 22, 2008, UK: May 22, 2008, AU: May 22, 2008

    Produced By: George Lucas

    Written By: David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson

    Directed By: Steven Spielberg

    Genre: Action

    Other Genres: Adventure

    Studio: Paramount Pictures

    Production Company: Lucasfilm Ltd.

    Language: English

    Special Effects Company: Industrial Light & Magic

    Music By: John Williams 

    And from Vanity Fair:


    Keys to the Kingdom

    Between them, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have made 13 of the 100 top-grossing movies of all time. Yet they struggled for more than a decade with the upcoming fourth installment of their billion-dollar Indiana Jones franchise, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Annie Leibovitz gets exclusive access to the set, while Lucas, Spielberg, and their star, Harrison Ford, tell Jim Windolf about the long standoff over the plot, why critics and fans will be upset, and how they’ve updated Indy.

    by Jim Windolf February 2008

    George Lucas, Harrison Ford, and Steven Spielberg on the set of the new film in Los Angeles. “Neither of them is ashamed of making audience films,” Ford says of his partners. Photographs by Annie Leibovitz.

    When we last saw him, nearly 19 years ago, everybody’s favorite archaeologist was literally riding off into the sunset after having found the Holy Grail. This seemed as though it had to be the end of the adventure series that had gotten its start with Raiders of the Lost Ark, the big summertime blockbuster of 1981. But then, on the morning of June 18, 2007, Steven Spielberg, the director of the Indiana Jones movies, and George Lucas, who came up with the idea for the franchise, found themselves facing cast and crew on an empty piece of land in Deming, New Mexico. “How time flies,” Spielberg said, raising a flute of champagne, in a moment captured on video, which ended up on YouTube. “No one’s changed, we all look the same. I just want to say: Break a leg, have a good shoot, do your best work, and here’s looking at you, kids.”

    Before the day was out, the temperature had reached 97 degrees. Probably no one felt the heat more than the star, Harrison Ford, who, at age 65, was back in his distinctive costume. “It’s a very bizarre costume, when you think about it,” Ford says. “It’s this guy sporting a whip, who’s off usually for someplace really hot in his leather jacket.” He says he got right back into the role once he suited up. “There’s something about the character that I guess is a good fit for me, because the minute I put the costume on, I recognize the tone that we need, and I feel confident and clear about the character.”

    After 79 first-unit filming days, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a wrap. Like the earlier movies, it is a Lucasfilm Ltd. production distributed by Paramount Pictures. Aside from the New Mexico location, the film was shot in New Haven, Connecticut; Fresno, California; and Hawaii, with significant work taking place on lots built at Downey Studios, in southeast Los Angeles.

    On May 22, the movie will hit approximately 4,000 U.S. theaters. The story is set in 1957, and this time Dr. Jones goes up against cold-blooded, Cold War Russkies—led by Cate Blanchett in dominatrix mode—instead of the Nazis he squashed like bugs in previous installments. Making a return alongside Ford is Karen Allen, as Marion Ravenwood, Indy’s pugnacious true love, last seen in the first film (since retitled, rather inelegantly, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark). Rising star Shia LaBeouf joins the cast in a role that no one connected with the film will confirm is the love child of Indy and Marion.

    Once the final cut is locked, it will be dubbed into some 25 languages for an ambitious international release. The masses—lately thrilling to the lethally blank Jason Bourne, the totally out-to-lunch Jack Sparrow, and that earnest wand waver Harry Potter—will be asked once more to embrace a fedora-wearing hero of the 1980s with roots in the jungle serials of the 1930s.

    It’s not a bad bet. Lucas, 63, and Spielberg, 61, have made 13 of the all-time 100 highest-grossing movies, in terms of worldwide box office, either separately or as a producer-director duo. They are big-time spellbinders in a league with P. T. Barnum, Walt Disney, and the Wizard of Oz. The Indiana Jones series alone has grossed more than $1.18 billion worldwide—and that’s before you add in the comic books, young-adult novels, and figurines.

    But once upon a time, in the faraway 1960s, Lucas and Spielberg were upstarts banging at the palace doors. Hollywood was run by men who were the age they are now, tough guys who weren’t going to give way without a fight. At age 18, Spielberg sneaked away from the tram route of the Universal Pictures tour and stepped onto a soundstage. He was a movie-crazed kid who had already made a full-length feature, Firelight, an 8-mm. sci-fi extravaganza starring his sisters, and he wanted in.

    The next day he showed up on the lot wearing a suit, his dad’s briefcase in hand. It was a disguise good enough to get him past the guards. He settled into an empty office and “worked” at Universal all through that summer of 1965, making himself known to the cinematographers and directors, creating for himself an unofficial, on-the-fly internship. While attending California State University, Long Beach, Spielberg continued to visit the lot. On weekends he shot a 23-minute 35-mm. movie about two young hitchhikers, called Amblin’. He won a real job on the strength of it, as a director in Universal’s television wing. So there he was, a boy wonder among grizzled veterans, turning out episodes of Night Gallery, Columbo, and Marcus Welby, M.D., honing the craft he would put to use in a career spanning everything from The Sugarland Express (1974) to Munich (2005).

    Lucas was more of an accidental filmmaker. As a skinny diabetic kid growing up in the dusty Northern California town of Modesto, he wanted to be a racecar driver—in those days driving fast and fixing cars were his chief talents—but his dream died soon before his high-school graduation, when he flipped over in his own Fiat Bianchina. The wreck almost killed him. After two years of community college, he applied to the University of Southern California’s film school. He moved downstate against the wishes of his strict father (who considered the film industry vile), and soon made a name for himself with a series of prizewinning experimental shorts. His U.S.C. films earned him a paid Warner Bros. internship that led him to the set of Finian’s Rainbow, a musical being shot by just about the only young director back then, 28-year-old Francis Ford Coppola, who pushed Lucas to learn how to write scripts and create accessible movies. Lucas went on to do just that on a grand scale, and he pulled it off largely outside the system. With his considerable winnings he built Lucasfilm, his very own, leaner version of Hollywood, now based in San Francisco’s Presidio and on a large property in rural Marin County.

    In 1967, Spielberg had seen a Lucas short, Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB, at a student film festival held at U.C.L.A.’s Royce Hall. “I met George backstage,” Spielberg recalls. “I was blown away by his short film, and Francis Coppola introduced us.” They met again in the early 1970s, when Lucas was in L.A. to cast his second feature, American Graffiti. A gang of young cinéastes was gathering at a Benedict Canyon hovel that had been Lucas’s home in his U.S.C. days, and where he was staying again while in town. Among the group was Spielberg, who was working on his script for The Sugarland Express. “I’d come in at night after casting all day,” Lucas says, “and that’s when we became friends.” As the decade rolled along, blockbusters by Spielberg (Jaws) and Lucas (Star Wars—now called Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope) changed the industry.

    And from First, back in January:

    The Best Indiana Jones 4 Photos and Interviews Yet!

    January 2, 2008
    Source: Vanity Fair
    by Alex Billington

    The Best Indiana Jones 4 Photos Yet!

    These are undoubtedly the best Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull pictures you’ll see – thanks to world-renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz. Vanity Fair has published an extensive article on the new film and nabbed Leibovitz’s exclusive photos from the set, including our first look at Cate Blanchett as Agent Spalko. They all look absolutely gorgeous and are more than worth checking out simply for the visual quality alone. Vanity Fair also has one of the best articles I’ve ever read about a movie and the story behind it, including great quotes from Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg. We’ve included a few of the better quotes for your reading pleasure, though I suggest you read the entire thing.

    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

    The following excerpts are courtesy of Vanity Fair’s article Keys to the Kingdom.

    “I’m in my second cut, which means I’ve put the movie together and I’ve seen it,” Spielberg says. “I usually do about five cuts as a director. The best news is that, when I saw the movie myself the first time, there was nothing I wanted to go back and shoot, nothing I wanted to reshoot, and nothing I wanted to add.”

    Rather than update the franchise to match current styles, Lucas and Spielberg decided to stay true to the prior films’ look, tone, and pace. During pre-production, Spielberg watched the first three Indiana Jones movies at an Amblin screening room with Janus Kaminski, who has shot the director’s last 10 films. He replaces Douglas Slocombe, who shot the first three Indy movies (and is now retired at age 94), as the man mainly responsible for the film’s look. “I needed to show them to Janusz,” Spielberg says, “because I didn’t want Janusz to modernize and bring us into the 21st century. I still wanted the film to have a lighting style not dissimilar to the work Doug Slocombe had achieved, which meant that both Janusz and I had to swallow our pride. Janusz had to approximate another cinematographer’s look, and I had to approximate this younger director’s look that I thought I had moved away from after almost two decades.”

    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

    The Bourne movies, the last two of which were directed by United 93 virtuoso Paul Greengrass, have made an impression on Lucas also. The series seems to have become the new action-movie gold standard, or at least a widely admired point of reference in filmmaking circles. Lucas says he appreciates the Bourne movies for their relative believability. “The thing about Bourne,” Lucas says, “I would put that on the credible side, because he’s trained in martial arts and all that kind of stuff, and we know that people in martial arts, even little old ladies, can break somebody’s leg. So you kind of say, O.K., that’s possible. But when you get to the next level, whether it’s Tomb Raider or the Die Hard series, where you’ve got one guy with one pistol going up against 50 guys with machine guns, or he jumps in a jet and starts chasing a car down a freeway, you say, I’m not sure I can really buy this. Mission: Impossible’s like that. They do things where you could not survive in the real world. In Indiana Jones, we stay just this side of it.

    The script, Spielberg says, can provide the blockbuster pace. “Part of the speed is the story,” he says. “If you build a fast engine, you don’t need fast cutting, because the story’s being told fluidly, and the pages are just turning very quickly. You first of all need a script that’s written in the express lane, and if it’s not, there’s nothing you can do in the editing room to make it move faster. You need room for character, you need room for relationships, for personal conflict, you need room for comedy, but that all has to happen on a moving sidewalk.”

    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

    “What it is that made it perfect was the fact that the MacGuffin I wanted to use and the idea that Harrison would be 20 years older would fit,” Lucas says. “So that put it in the mid-50s, and the MacGuffin I was looking at was perfect for the mid-50s. I looked around and I said, ‘Well, maybe we shouldn’t do a 30s serial, because now we’re in the 50s. What is the same kind of cheesy-entertainment action movie, what was the secret B movie, of the 50s?’ So instead of doing a 30s Republic serial, we’re doing a B science-fiction movie from the 50s. The ones I’m talking about are, like, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Blob, The Thing. So by putting it in that context, it gave me a way of approaching the whole thing.”

    The fans are all upset,” Lucas says. “They’re always going to be upset. ‘Why did he do it like this? And why didn’t he do it like this?” They write their own movie, and then, if you don’t do their movie, they get upset about it. So you just have to stand by for the bricks and the custard pies, because they’re going to come flying your way.”

    I really encourage you to go read the full Vanity Fair article – it’s definitely worth it. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull arrives in theaters this summer on May 22nd!

    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Poster

    There were pictures released in February of the “skull”, but they were removed at the request of Paramount – they had been leaked, and were in violation of the strict “code of silence’ that surrounds this film, like most of Spielberg’s projects.

    And for your enjoyment, here is the final poster:


    Final Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Poster!

    March 9, 2008
    Source: USA Today
    by Alex Billington

    “[The] new Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Poster poster, as drawn by Drew Struzan. Like its predecessors …, the poster features a great mural including all of the cast and scenes from the film.


    In addition, the article [from USA today] includes a little snippet about the plot consideration and the alien crystal skull that we posted previously. Although we were forced to remove that photo of the skull, you can now see it prominently “glowing” in the middle of the poster.

    ‘The new poster for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the CrystalSkull confirms something alien is afoot.

    The first poster for the film (due May 22) featured part of the title relic, but there was always something odd about the eye socket. In the follow-up, also by sci-fi/fantasy movie artist Drew Struzan, it’s clear the skull is not at all human. Add to that the recent trailer, with its shot of a crate labeled “Roswell, New Mexico 1947,” and you don’t need to be a professor of archaeology to put the pieces together.

    Other clues: Looks as if our hero will face his least-favorite animal and the locals at some Maya ruins. Karen Allen (who also was in 1981’s original) seems to be enjoying herself, though.'”

    So we will have to wait, and wait, and wait…. Tags: , ,

    Newer Reads for Teens in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

    These are books from, a website from Simon & Schuster. I found them by using the guide on the left, clicking on Teens at the top, and then on Science Fiction and Fantasy under “category.” They are the printers of many of the teen books available, and are a great way to find books for your kids, and they group then not only by teen, but by each grade level and by genre, series, etc. Most of these are published within the past year, or are yet to be published. Check the publication dates listed if you’re not sure, or can’t find it – it may be forthcoming. They are very exact about age grading, far more so than Amazon, although they ARE limited to the books they publish. But it’s a great place to start, since they are so precise in age ratings, and in how to find the exact type of book you’re looking for. So try some and see what you think. I tried to pick a representative selection. They also have a number of books for the younger set, 8-12, which I will cover next time. NOTE: These have NOT been read by either me or my kids, so I can’t vouch for them. But many have won awards, and those are listed. So be adventurous – try some.

    By Lisa McMann
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: March 04, 2008
    Our Price: $15.99
    Ages: 14 and up
    Grades: 9 and up


    Not all dreams are sweet.

    For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people’s dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody- notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie’s seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.

    She can’t tell anybody about what she does — they’d never believe her, or worse, they’d think she’s a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn’t want and can’t control.

    Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else’s twisted psyche. She is a participant….

    City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments)
    By Cassandra Clare
    Cover by Cliff Nielsen
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: March 25, 2008
    Our Price: $17.99
    Ages: 14 and up
    Grades: 9 and up


    Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

    To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

    In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City’s Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation.

    City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments)
    By Cassandra Clare
    Cover by Cliff Nielsen
    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: February 19, 2008
    Our Price: $9.99
    Ages: 14 and up
    Grades: 9 and up


    Their hidden world is about to be revealed….

    When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder — much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Clary knows she should call the police, but it’s hard to explain a murder when the body disappears into thin air and the murderers are invisible to everyone but Clary.

    Equally startled by her ability to see them, the murderers explain themselves as Shadowhunters: a secret tribe of warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. Within twenty-four hours, Clary’s mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque demon.

    But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know….


    The Past is Gone (The Time Jumpers)

    By James Valentine
    Cover by Tom White

    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: May 8, 2007

    Ages: 8 – 12
    Grades: 3 – 7


    The Adventure Begins….

    When Theodore Pine Four suddenly appears in the bedroom of Genevieve Corrigan just as her friend Jules Santorini is about to ask her out on a date, the only thing they can all agree on is that it is highly unordinary. Things get even more complicated when we find out that Theo is a teenager from the year Fourteen Billion and Seventy-Three with multicolored hair, a talking coat, and the hottest new time machine on the market: the TimeMaster JumpMan Pro. And little do they know that this chance encounter is going to kick-start an epic adventure — one that will take Jules, Gen, and Theo through history, from the Big Bang all the way up to 14,000,000,073 and everywhere in between. Along the way, our heroes are going to have to figure out how to get Theo and his malfunctioning time machine back home without undoing the fabric of time itself. And, if he’s lucky, Jules might just manage to ask Gen on that date.

    The Present Never Happens
    The Present Never Happens (The Time Jumpers)
    By James Valentine
    Cover by Tom White

    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: July 10, 2007
    Our Price: $5.99

    Ages: 8 – 12
    Grades: 3 – 7


    The Adventure Continues….

    Rule One of TimeJumping was broken, but luckily disaster has been averted (at least for now), and Jules, Gen, and Theo are back. Their first adventure had them whisking through Time, talking to coats, and just managing to save Theo’s life — but that was just a warm-up. In the second chapter of the mind-bending TimeJumpers series, Jules and Gen (finally) go on a date, Theo turns out to be the biggest celebrity anyone in the year Fourteen Billion and Seventy-Three has ever seen, and we meet a peculiar and very irritating old man who has the strange idea that the entire history of the world is about to be overturned — and somehow Jules and Gen are involved. And that’s just the beginning. There are sinister forces at work, and Rule One is not just going to be broken, it’s going to be smashed apart.

    The Future Is Unknown
    The Future Is Unknown (The Time Jumpers)
    By James Valentine
    Cover by Tom White

    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: August 28, 2007
    Our Price: $5.99

    Ages: 8 – 12
    Grades: 3 – 7


    The Adventure Ends.

    In the third millennium, Jules is suddenly very popular, for reasons he doesn’t really understand. He should be happy, but all he can think about is Theo. Are Jules and Gen ever going to see him again? Meanwhile, in the fifteenth billennium, Quincy Carter One has disappeared after the world witnessed his aborted attempt to undermine the entire structure of Time. Not only that, TimeJumping has been all but outlawed on the Two Planets. And Theo can’t stop worrying about Jules and Gen — and what Quincy may be planning, wherever (or whenever) he is. It’s the thrilling conclusion of the TimeJumpers trilogy, and no one knows what’s going to happen next. Or before. But that’s what happens when you start fooling around with time.

    Sky Inside
    By Clare B. Dunkle
    Cover by Sammy Yuen, Jr.
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: March 25, 2008
    Our Price: $16.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    Martin lives in a perfect world.

    Every year a new generation of genetically-engineered children is shipped out to meet their parents. Every spring the residents of his town take down the snow they’ve stuck to their windows and put up flowers. Every morning his family gathers around their television and votes, like everyone else, for whatever matter of national importance the president has on the table. Today, it is the color of his drapes. It’s business as usual under the protective dome of suburb HM1.

    And it’s all about to come crashing down.

    Because a stranger has come to take away all the little children, including Martin’s sister, Cassie, and no one wants to talk about where she has gone. The way Martin sees it, he has a choice. He can remain in the dubious safety of HM1, with danger that no one wants to talk about lurking just beneath the surface, or he can actually break out of the suburb, into the mysterious land outside, rumored to be nothing but blowing sand for miles upon miles.

    Acclaimed author Clare B. Dunkle has crafted a fresh and fast-paced science-fiction thriller, one that challenges her characters — and her readers — to look closer at the world they take for granted.

    Pirate Emperor (The Wave Walkers)
    By Kai Meyer
    Translated by Elizabeth D. Crawford
    Cover by Dominic Harman
    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: January 08, 2008
    Our Price: $5.99
    Ages: 10 – 14
    Grades: 5 – 9


    In the vast Caribbean Sea, pirates Jolly and Griffin are stranded on a tiny island where a peculiar architect is building an enormous bridge — but to where? Another world? Before they can find out, the bridge bursts into flames and the kobalins attack. Jolly and Griffin have nowhere to run until the Ghost Trader mysteriously appears and carries them off to the magical coral city of Aelenium. It is from Aelenium that Jolly and Munk are supposed to descend far, far into the deep to keep out the world-devouring Maelstrom.

    But Jolly isn’t ready for that task. She wants to rescue Captain Bannon, the only father she’s ever known, so she steals the ghost ship and sets sail. Griffin follows her, until he is trapped by the man in the whale. Princess Soledad has her own plans — to kill Pirate Emperor Kendrick. But the truly terrifying cannibal king stands in her way. Is Soledad ready to become the new pirate emperor?

    Trickery Treat (Charmed)
    By Diana G. Gallagher
    This Edition: Mass Market Paperback
    Publication Date: January 01, 2008
    Our Price: $6.99
    Ages: 16 and up
    Grades: 10 and up


    Trickery Treat

    A portal opened — as a means for amends,
    Leaves a vengeful spirit to roam.
    Helping him cross over is the only way,
    To restore peace within the home.

    It’s Halloween, and Piper is busy decorating the Manor, which has become the neighborhood hot spot on the most bewitching night of the year. Meanwhile, Paige decides to use the party as a chance to honor the dead. She casts a spell that creates a portal for a clan of leprechauns…and other wandering spirits.

    The guests are thrilled and impressed with the realistic effects, but Phoebe, Piper, and Paige soon realize that they have a big trick to deal with: one not-so-friendly ghost going out of his way to turn the Manor into a haunted house. The Charmed Ones must stop this evil soul with a vengeance before he takes the life of one experienced ghost hunter who knows his story and has met him before….

    The Water Mirror (The Dark Reflections Trilogy)
    By Kai Meyer
    Translated by Elizabeth D. Crawford
    Cover by Melvyn Grant
    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: October 01, 2006
    Our Price: $7.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    Kansas State Reading Circle Senior High Titles
    NYPL “Books for the Teen Age”
    SLJ Best Book of the Year


    In Venice, magic is not unusual. Merle is apprenticed to a magic mirror maker, and Serafin — a boy who was once a master thief — works for a weaver of magic cloth. Merle and Serafin are used to the mermaids who live in the canals of the city and to the guards who patrol the streets on living stone lions. Merle herself possesses something magical: a mirror whose surface is water. She can reach her whole arm into it and never get wet.

    But Venice is under siege by the Egyptian Empire; its terrifying mummy warriors are waiting to strike. All that protects the Venetians is the Flowing Queen. Nobody knows who or what she is — only that her power flows through the canals and keeps the Egyptians at bay.

    When Merle and Serafin overhear a plot to capture the Flowing Queen, they are catapulted into desperate danger. They must do everything they can to rescue the Queen and save the city — even if it means getting help from the Ancient Traitor himself.

    Stone Light (The Dark Reflections Trilogy)
    By Kai Meyer
    Translated by Elizabeth D. Crawford
    Cover by Melvyn Grant
    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: October 16, 2007
    Our Price: $8.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    Evil forces have invaded Venice – the city that Merle and Serafin call home. Luckily, the two friends hold secrets that just might stop the pharaoh from destroying their ancient city.

    Merle has within her spirit of the Flowing Queen, a mysterious legendary force who serves as her guide. Indeed, the Queen’s voice has led Merle to Vermithrax, a winged stone lion. And together they are on a mission to Hell to enlist help from Lord Light.

    Meanwhile, Serafin remains in Venice. He’s joined a group of rebel boys who are plotting to assassinate the pharaoh. But can a group so small really kill the biggest, most powerful man on earth?

    Though they follow separate courses, Merle and Serafin will both encounter unexpected betrayals and startling revelations. And together they learn that evil takes many shapes in the world of Dark Reflections.

    Glass Word (The Dark Reflections Trilogy)

    By Kai Meyer
    Translated by Elizabeth D. Crawford
    Cover by Melvyn Grant
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: January 01, 2008
    Our Price: $16.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    When they emerge from Hell, Merle, her friend Junipa who has mirrors for eyes, and Vermithrax the flying stone lion find themselves in Egypt. Of course the Flowing Queen is with them as well, since Merle swallowed her back in Venice. There is something very wrong in Egypt–it is freezing cold, and everything is covered in snow. Winter is here, looking for his lost love, Summer. And another creature is here as well–Seth, the highest of the Horus priests. Betrayed by the pharaoh and his sphinx henchmen, Seth is seeking revenge. Together they travel to the Iron Eye, the vast fortress of the sphinxes.But what does the Flowing Queen want Merle to do there?

    Meanwhile Serafin, the master thief, the beautiful sphinx Lalapeya, and Eft, the mermaid, are also headed for Egypt. They are traveling underwater, in a submarine piloted by pirates. Serafin is not sure what they can do to the fight the pharaoh, but he knows surrender is not an option. Egypt has captured and enslaved his beloved Venice, and he and the others must fight the empire no matter what the cost. But the final battle will not be one that Serafin has even imagined–and the cost will be high indeed.

    Here, There Be Dragons (The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica)
    By James A. Owen
    Illustrated by James A. Owen
    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: October 23, 2007
    Our Price: $9.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    ALA Best Books for Young Adults Nominee


    The Imaginarium Geographica

    “What is it?” John asked.

    The little man blinked and arched an eyebrow.

    “It is the world, my boy,” he said. “All the world, in ink and blood, vellum and parchment, leather and hide. It is the world, and it is yours to save or lose.”

    An unusual murder brings together three strangers, John, Jack, and Charles, on a rainy night in London during the first World War. An eccentric little man called Bert tells them that they are now the caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica — an atlas of all the lands that have ever existed in myth and legend, fable and fairy tale. These lands, Bert claims, can be traveled to in his ship the Indigo Dragon, one of only seven vessels that is able to cross the Frontier between worlds into the Archipelago of Dreams.

    Pursued by strange and terrifying creatures, the companions flee London aboard the Dragonship. Traveling to the very realm of the imagination itself, they must learn to overcome their fears and trust in one another if they are to defeat the dark forces that threaten the destiny of two worlds. And in the process, they will share a great adventure filled with clues that lead readers to the surprise revelation of the legendary storytellers these men will one day become.

    An extraordinary journey of myth, magic, and mystery, Here, There Be Dragons introduces James A. Owen as a formidable new talent.

    Search for the Red Dragon (The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica)
    By James A. Owen
    Illustrated by James A. Owen
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: January 01, 2008
    Our Price: $17.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    “‘The Crusade has begun’…

    “There’s an old myth in the Archipelago,” he went on softly, shaking his head. “A legend, really…I recall it mentioned a Crusade, but those events happened seven centuries ago. We always thought it was only a story.”

    It has been nine years since John, Jack, and Charles had their great adventure in the Archipelago of Dreams and became the Caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica. Now they have been brought together again to solve a mystery: Someone is kidnapping the children of the Archipelago. And their only clue is a mysterious message delivered by a strange girl with artificial wings: “The Crusade has begun.” Worse, they discover that all of the legendary Dragonships have disappeared as well.

    The only chance they have to save the world from a centuries-old plot is to seek out the last of the Dragonships — the Red Dragon — in a spectacular journey that takes them from Sir James Barrie’s Kensington Gardens to the Underneath of the Greek Titans of myth. With friends both familiar and new, they will travel through an extraordinary landscape where history, myth, and fable blend together to tell the oldest story in the world. And along the way, the Caretakers of the Geographica will discover that great deeds alone do not make heroes, and that growing up may be unavoidable…but growing old doesn’t have to be.

    Quillan Games (Pendragon)
    By D. J. MacHale
    Cover by Victor Lee
    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: December 26, 2007
    Our Price: $8.99
    Ages: 10 and up
    Grades: 5 and up


    Let the Games Begin….
    Quillan is a territory on the verge of destruction. The people have lost control of their own future and must struggle simply to survive. The only chance they have of finding a better life is by playing the Quillan Games. Hosted by a strange pair of game masters, Veego and LaBerge, the games are a mix of sport and combat. They use the people of Quillan as pawns for their amusement as they force them to enter competitions that range from physical battles, to impossible obstacle courses, to computer-driven tests of agility. To triumph in the games is to live the life of a king. To lose is to die.

    This is the dangerous and deadly situation Bobby Pendragon finds on Quillan. He quickly realizes that the only way to save this troubled territory is to beat Veego and LaBerge at their own games and dismantle their horrible fun house. But there is more at stake for Bobby. The prize for winning the Quillan Games may be discovering the truth of what it really means a Traveler.

    Raven Rise (Pendragon)
    By D. J. MacHale
    Cover by Dawn Austin
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: May 20, 2008
    Our Price: $17.99
    Ages: 10 and up
    Grades: 5 and up


    This is where it begins. The showdown for Halla. At stake is nothing less than all that ever was and all that will be.

    There’s only one thing missing–Bobby Pendragon.

    While Bobby remains trapped on Ibara, the battle moves to his home territory: Second Earth. Mark Dimond and Courtney Chetwynde are left on their own to defend Second Earth against the forces of Saint Dane. They must face off against a charismatic cult leader who has risen to power by revealing a shattering truth to the people of Earth: They are not alone.

    The Convergence has broken down the walls. The territories are on a collision course. The final phase of Saint Dane’s quest to rule Halla is under way.

    And Bobby Pendragon is nowhere to be found.

    The Time Thief (The Gideon Trilogy)
    By Linda Buckley-Archer
    Cover by James Jean
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: December 26, 2007
    Our Price: $17.99
    Ages: 10 and up
    Grades: 5 and up


    What happens when a seventeenth-century bad guy has twenty-first-century technology?

    An accident with an antigravity machine catapulted Peter Schock and Kate Dyer back to 1763. A bungled rescue attempt leaves Peter stranded in the eighteenth century while a terrifying villain, the Tar Man, takes his place and explodes onto twenty-first-century London. Concerned about the potentially catastrophic effects of time travel, the NASA scientists responsible for the situation question whether it is right to rescue Peter. Kate decides to take matters into her own hands, but things don’t go as planned. Soon the physical effects of time travel begin to have a disturbing effect on her. Meanwhile, in our century, the Tar Man wreaks havoc in a city whose police force is powerless to stop him.Set against a backdrop of contemporary London and revolutionary France, The Time Thief is the sequel to the acclaimed The Time Travelers.

    Fall of a Kingdom
    By Hilari Bell
    Cover by Steve Stone
    This Edition: Mass Market Paperback
    Publication Date: January 01, 2005
    Our Price: $6.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    Who was Sorahb?

    Stories are told of a hero who will come to Farsala’s aid when the need is greatest. But for thousands of years the prosperous land of Farsala has felt no such need, as it has enjoyed the peace that comes from being both feared and respected.

    Now a new enemy approaches Farsala’s borders, one that neither fears nor respects its name and legend. But the rulers of Farsala still believe that they can beat any opponent.

    Three young people are less sure of Farsala’s invincibility. Jiaan, Soraya, and Kavi see Time’s Wheel turning, with Farsala headed toward the Flames of Destruction. What they cannot see is how inextricably their lives are linked to Farsala’s fate — until it’s too late.

    In Fall of a Kingdom, the first volume of the Farsala Trilogy, Hilari Bell introduces readers to a world of honor, danger, and magic in this spellbinding tale of self-discovery.

    Rise of a Hero (The Farsala Trilogy)
    By Hilari Bell
    Cover by Steve Stone
    This Edition: Mass Market Paperback
    Publication Date: June 01, 2006
    Our Price: $6.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    The Return of Sorahb?

    Legend has it that when Farsala most needs a warrior to lead it, Sorahb will be restored by the god Azura. That time has come. After a devastating loss to the army of the Hrum, Farsala has all but fallen. Only the walled city of Mazad and a few of the more uninhabitable regions remain free of Hrum rule, and they seem destined to fall as well. Farsala needs a champion now.

    Three young people are waging battle as best they can. Soraya, Jiaan, and Kavi, their lives decimated by the Hrum, are each in a personal fight against their common enemy. Apart, their chances are slim, as none of them is Sorahb reborn. United, perhaps they can succeed. But only Time’s Wheel can bring them together — if it turns the right way. If it doesn’t, Farsala is surely doomed.

    In the sequel to the critically acclaimed Fall of a Kingdom (formerly titled Flame), the first book of the Farsala Trilogy, Hilari Bell draws readers deeper into the mythical land of Farsala and weaves an epic tale of destiny and danger.

    Forging the Sword (The Farsala Trilogy)
    By Hilari Bell
    Cover by Steve Stone
    This Edition: Mass Market Paperback
    Publication Date: December 26, 2007
    Our Price: $6.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    The spirit of the ancient champion, Sorahb was reborn into the body of a deghan youth, who raised an army of peasants to resist their Hrum conquerors.

    Sorya, Kavi, and Jiann do everything they can to keep control of what little land remains free from Hrum rule. They have most of the peasantry, a small, untrained army, and the Suud helping them, but there is still one important piece missing: a sword that is able to withstand the Hrum’s watersteel. Without it, Farsala will fall.

    But what none of these young heroes can foresee is the growing desperation of the Hrum leaders. It will lead them to break some of their own laws and sacred pacts. It will also reveal truths about the nature of war, the nature of human beings, and — most important — themselves.

    Sunlight and Shadow: A Retelling of “The Magic Flute” (Once Upon a Time)
    By Cameron Dokey
    Cover by Kinuko Y. Craft
    Designed by Mahlon F. Craft
    This Edition: Mass Market Paperback
    Publication Date: June 17, 2008
    Our Price: $6.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    A new spin on “The Magic Flute” by an acclaimed author!

    In a time when the world was young and many things were quite commonplace that are now entirely forgotten, Sarastro, Mage of the Day, wed Pamina, the Queen of the Night. And in this way was the world complete, for light was joined to dark. For all time would they be joined together. Only the ending of the world could tear them apart. In other words, in the days in which my parents married, there was no such thing as divorce….

    Thus begins the tale of Mina, a girl-child born on the longest night of the darkest month of the year. When her father looked at her, all he saw was what he feared: By birth, by name, by nature, she belonged to the Dark. So when Mina turned sixteen, her father took her away from shadow and brought her into sunlight.

    In retaliation, her mother lured a handsome prince into a deadly agreement: If he frees Mina, he can claim her as his bride.

    Now Mina and her prince must endure deadly trials — of love and fate and family — before they can truly live happily ever after….

    Sara’s Face
    By Melvin Burgess
    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: June 17, 2008
    Our Price: $7.99
    Ages: 14 and up
    Grades: 9 and up


    Fame, beauty, and face transplants

    Sara wants to be famous, and when legendary rock star Jonathon Heat offers to take her under his wing and pay for her cosmetic surgery, it’s like a dream come true. But beauty comes with a hidden price tag. Is Sara willing to pay?

    By Neal Shusterman
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: November 06, 2007
    Our Price: $16.99
    Ages: 13 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    ALA Best Books For Young Adults
    ALA Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers


    In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would “unwind” them

    Connor’s parents want to be rid of him because he’s a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family’s strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can’t be harmed — but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

    In Unwind, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award winner Neal Shusterman challenges readers’ ideas about life — not just where life begins, and where it ends, but what it truly means to be alive.

    Clovermead: In the Shadow of the Bear
    By David Randall
    Cover by Steve Stone
    This Edition: Mass Market Paperback
    Publication Date: December 01, 2005
    Our Price: $5.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 6 and up


    NYPL “Books for the Teen Age”
    Theodore H. White Lecturer/Joan Shorenstein Center, JFK School of Government/Harvard University (2002)
    YALSA Teens Top Ten (TTT) Nominee


    Twelve-year-old Clovermead Wickward’s head is filled with stories of adventure. She dreams about the thrill of a sword fight and the excitement of heroic quests. The last thing Clovermead expects is for those dreams to come true. But it seems her father, Waxmelt, is not who she has believed hi to be. As she becomes aware of strange new powers within her, Clovermead realizes that her father is harboring secrest that threaten to tear their small family apart.

    At the same time, the good nuns of Lady Moon are waging war again the evil bear-priests of Lord Ursus. Suddenly Clovermead and Waxmelt find themselves thrust into the middle of an epic battle.

    Clovermead comes to understand that the clash between good and evil is raging not only on the battlefield but also within herself. Will she succumb to the temptation of evil, in the shadow of the bear, or will she fight for the salvation of good?

    Chandlefort: In the Shadow of the Bear
    By David Randall
    Cover by Steve Stone
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: December 26, 2006
    Our Price: $16.95
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    It has been just months since Clovermead Wickward discovered that she is really Demoiselle Cerelune Cindertallow — daughter of Lady Melisande Cindertallow, the sovereign of Chandlefort — and that the man she had called Father all her life was actually an embittered servant who stole her away when she was a baby. Since then, she has learned that she doesn’t wholly care for life inside the walls of Chandlefort, and that she doesn’t much like her mother’s expectations for how a Demoiselle should behave — especially the bit about not changing shape anymore. When you can turn into a bear, being forced to stay human can be deadly dull.

    Now Clovermead must confront dangerous secrets from her family’s troubled past when a mysterious stranger appears in Chandlefort. Perhaps he is the old friend of Clovermead’s real father, as he claims to be — or perhaps an old enemy of the Cindertallows who seeks a final revenge. When Clovermead unintentionally puts her mother’s life in mortal peril, her only chance to make amends and save the mother she has just begun to know is to set off on a dangerous journey to a distant abbey. The life of her mother, the salvation of Chandlefort, and the freedom of the bears enslaved by the overwhelming power of Lord Ursus all depend on Clovermead

    In this intense and compelling sequel to Clovermead, David Randall explores the strength of love, courage, and forgiveness in the battle of good and evil.

    Sorrel: In the Shadow of the Bear
    By David Randall
    Cover by Steve Stone
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: October 23, 2007
    Our Price: $16.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    The fight against the evil Lord Ursus continues, and the fate of the battle lies in the hands of fifteen-year-old Clovermead Wickward. Chandlefort’s army is in need of reinforcements, and Clovermead is charged by her mother, Lady Cindertallow, to seek allies among the nomadic Hordes of the Tansy Steppes. At the same time, Lord Ursus has dispatched Clovermead’s old enemy Lucifer Snuff to contest her. A battle of diplomacy ensues, and it is only one of many struggles that Clovermead must face.

    First, Clovermead must choose between her mission to the Hordes and the pleas of her best friend, Sorrel. All the while the survival of Chandlefort is pitted against Clovermead’s promise to free Lord Ursus’s enslaved bears. But the most painful choice of all awaits Clovermead in a face-to-face confrontation with Lucifer Snuff. In the end, Clovermead must decide between the logic of war and her heart’s instinct for mercy, relying on her sacred gifts — the ability to shift into bear-form and to speak the bear-language — to have even the slightest chance at victory.

    In an epic tale of honor, love, and redemption, David Randall follows Clovermead and Chandlefort with an adventure determining the fate of nations and human souls.

    By Joan Lennon
    Cover by Jon Foster
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: September 11, 2007
    Our Price: $16.99
    Ages: 10 – 14
    Grades: 5 – 9


    Three worlds, held in perfect balance. Nothing can change that. Well, nothing except a cataclysmic disruption in the Space-Time Continuum…

    Luckily the people in charge have a plan: Create three perfect Heroes, the best of each world, and send them on a quest to find the Objects of Power that will restore the balance. But things go wrong when the Heroes are needed ten years earlier than expected, and three confused kids set off to save the worlds. Madlen, Bryn, and Cam have no idea what they’re looking for or where they’ll find it. What they do know is that to fail would mean unthinkable disaster.

    It’s a pity, then, that someone is determined to stop them…

    From the icebound city of the dragons to the magical kitchen of The London House, Joan Lennon has crafter a highly inventive story that is fast-paced, fantastical, and funny.

    By Melvin Burgess
    Cover by Cliff Nielsen
    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: May 22, 2007
    Our Price: $7.99
    Ages: 14 and up
    Grades: 9 and up


    PART I

    London is in ruins, a once highly advanced city now a gated wasteland. Within its walls, a bloody war rages between two clans. Hope is sparse, but the people believe the gods have risen from the dead.

    Odin himself has come to play a part in the lives of two twins, a brother and sister from the Volson clan. Siggy and Signy must come to grips with their destiny as London’s future teeters on the edge of a knife….

    By Melvin Burgess
    Cover by Cliff Nielsen
    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: August 28, 2007
    Our Price: $7.99
    Ages: 14 and up
    Grades: 9 and up


    ALA Best Books For Young Adults



    Fifteen-year-old Sigurd, son of King Sigmund, is the last surviving member of the Volson clan. His father’s kingdom — the former city of London — is gone. And his father’s knife, a gift from Odin himself, has been shattered to dust.

    Now, Odin’s eye is upon him. Armed with a powerful sword forged from the remnants of his father’s knife, Sigurd will face death, fire, and torment. He must travel through Hel and back…to unite his country once again.

    She’s a Witch Girl
    By Kelly McClymer
    Cover by Kirsten Ulve
    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: August 21, 2007
    Our Price: $8.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    Prudence Stewart is FINALLY getting her witch on at Agatha’s Day School. Sadly, her love life isn’t quite so charmed. Boy trouble is lurking, big-time:

    • First, there’s Angelo, Pru’s adorable crush-next-door. When he shows up at Agatha’s, it spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E for Pru. Especially when it comes to…

    • Samuel, Pru’s best bud and tutor in all things magical. For Angelo and Samuel, it was loathe at first sight.

    • And then there’s Daniel, the bad boy with wicked talent — who also happensto be the great-great-great-great-grandson of Pru’s nemesis, Agatha herself.

    With all this boy drama, it’s all Pru can do to prep for the national cheerleading competition — the one that will bring her broomstick-to- spirit-stick with her former squad AND her boy-stealing ex-BFF.

    A little magic just might come in handy right now….

    Skin Hunger (A Resurrection of Magic)
    By Kathleen Duey
    Cover by David Ho
    Illustrated by Sheila Rayyan
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: July 24, 2007
    Our Price: $17.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best
    National Book Award Finalist


    Sadima lives in a world where magic has been banned, leaving poor villagers prey to fakes and charlatans. A “magician” stole her family’s few valuables and left Sadima’s mother to die on the day Sadima was born. But vestiges of magic are hidden in old rhymes and hearth tales and in people like Sadima, who conceals her silent communication with animals for fear of rejection and ridicule. When rumors of her gift reach Somiss, a young nobleman obsessed with restoring magic, he sends Franklin, his lifelong servant, to find her. Sadima’s joy at sharing her secret becomes love for the man she shares it with. But Franklin’s irrevocable bond to the brilliant and dangerous Somiss traps her, too, and she faces a heartbreaking decision.

    Centuries later magic has been restored, but it is available only to the wealthy and is strictly controlled by wizards within a sequestered academy of magic. Hahp, the expendable second son of a rich merchant, is forced into the academy and finds himself paired with Gerrard, a peasant boy inexplicably admitted with nine sons of privilege and wealth. Only one of the ten students will graduate — and the first academic requirement is survival.

    Sadima’s and Hahp’s worlds are separated by generations, but their lives are connected in surprising and powerful ways in this brilliant first book of Kathleen Duey’s dark, complex, and completely compelling trilogy.

    Guide to the Uglies
    By Scott Westerfeld
    Cover by Carissa Pelleteri and Howard Pyle
    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: October 21, 2008
    List Price: $8.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up

    Not available yet, but keep an eye out!

    Z for Zachariah
    By Robert C. O’Brien
    Cover by Sammy Yuen, Jr.
    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: July 10, 2007
    Our Price: $6.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    Is anyone out there?

    Ann Burden is sixteen years old and completely alone. The world as she once knew it is gone, ravaged by a nuclear war that has taken everyone from her. For the past year, she has lived in a remote valley with no evidence of any other survivors.

    But the smoke from a distant campfire shatters Ann’s solitude. Someone else is still alive and making his way toward the valley. Who is this man? What does he want? Can he be trusted? Both excited and terrified, Ann soon realizes there may be worse things than being the last person on Earth.

    Dream of the Stone
    By Christina Askounis
    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: April 10, 2007
    Our Price: $8.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    Someone is following Sarah Lucas. When she peers down from her apartment window late one night, she sees him hovering in the shadows. And what about the other strange things that have been happening to her? The old woman who appears every so often to give Sarah a cryptic piece of advice and then vanishes? The mysterious gleaming stone that turns up in the mail, a universe of tiny stars suspended in its depths?

    But there’s no one Sarah can trust with her story. Her journalist parents have been killed in a freak plane crash, and her older brother, Sam, a scientific genius, has disappeared under suspicious circumstances from the top secret institute where he works.

    Sarah couldn’t be more alone in the world, until the day she meets Angel Muldoon, a half-Gypsy stable boy who carries a secret of his own. Together they will begin an incredible journey to another world, where they must return the stone to its rightful place and keep the forces of unimaginable evil at bay.

    By Margaret Peterson Haddix
    This Edition: Mass Market Paperback
    Publication Date: March 27, 2007
    Our Price: $5.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    In the year 2000 Melly and Anny Beth had reached the peak of old age and were ready to die. But when offered the chance to be young again by participating in a top-secret experiment called Project Turnabout, they agreed. Miraculously, the experiment worked — Melly and Anny Beth were actually growing younger every year. But when they learned that the final treatment would be deadly, they ran for their lives.

    Now it is 2085. Melly and Anny Beth are teenagers. They have no idea what will happen when they hit age zero, but they do know they will soon be too young to take care of themselves. They need to find someone to help them before time runs out, once and for all….

    Virtual War (The Virtual War Chronologs)

    Gloria Skurzynski

    Reading level: Young Adult

    Mass Market Paperback: 160 pages

    Publisher: Simon Pulse (February 1, 1999)

    Language: English

    Book Description

    Imagine a life of virtual reality — a childhood contained in a controlled environment, with no human contact. Corgan has been genetically engineered for quick reflexes, high intelligence, and physical superiority. He is unbeatable in battle. But he lives his life in a lonely module. What is a real sunset like? Or a friend?

    When he meets fellow teens Sharla and Brig, Corgan begins to doubt the Federation, whose decisions he has unquestioningly obeyed. Life outside virtual reality may be for him. His fourteen years of training are about to end as the real challenge approaches. But he can’t lose focus now: He must win a virtual war, or the Western Hemisphere will be lost forever.

    The Virtual War Chronologs--Book 2 (The Virtual War Chronologs)

    Clones (The Virtual War Chronologs)
    By Gloria Skurzynski
    Cover by Barry David Marcus
    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: May 03, 2007
    Our Price: $10.95
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up

    Book Description

    Clones are supposed to be identical…aren’t they?

    Corgan, hero of the Virtual War, has been living a blissful, if placid, life on the Isles of Hiva, his reward for winning the War with Sharla and Brig. But what he doesn’t know is that Brig died soon after the War, and yet is not truly gone. Sharla had saved some of Brig’s DNA and has created clone-twins with it. Corgan’s world is disrupted when Sharla brings one of the clone-twins, Seabrig, to him to raise on the island, while she keeps the other, Brigand, with her in the Domed City. However, when circumstances force Sharla to bring Brigand to the island, they find that while the boys may look identical, their temperaments are not. Brigand is haughty, willful, power hungry, and despises Corgan because of his relationship with Sharla. And, as a result of the cloning process, both boys are growing at an astonishing rate. In what may or may not have been an accident with his clone-twin, Seabrig is badly injured and must be airlifted from the island to receive medical treatment in the Domed City. This leaves Corgan alone with an increasingly dangerous and unstable Brigand, who is now his size, and looking to get rid of Corgan once and for all.

    A gripping sequel to Virtual War that could be ripped straight from the headlines — in eighty years….

    Revolt (The Virtual War Chronologs)
    By Gloria Skurzynski
    Cover by Michael Frost
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: June 01, 2005
    Our Price: $16.95
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    What do you do when someone truly hates you?

    Corgan is used to being the hero. Leader of the team that won the Virtual War, he chose for his reward to live on the Isles of Hiva, in an idyllic paradise. Idyllic until the clones, Brigand and Cyborg, arrived, that is. Life hasn’t been the same for Corgan since.

    Now he’s lucky if his former fans even remember his name. But more worrisome is that he has an enemy, a mortal enemy in the form of Brigand, who has taken over not only Corgan’s mantle as the most well-known person in the Domes, but has taken Corgan’s girlfriend, Sharla, away too. When Brigand tried to kill Corgan back in the Wyo-Dome and failed, Corgan thought he would be free of Brigand at last. But now the power-obsessed Brigand has followed him to Florida, determined to rule the Domes and finish Corgan off for good. Corgan escaped from Brigand once, but can he do it again? And more importantly, does he even want to escape this time?

    So now Corgan’s got two choices. He can fight and risk getting killed or, worse, captured by Brigand. Or he can walk away and take Sharla with him…if he can figure out how to use a spacecraft that hasn’t been flown in more than fifty years.

    Picking right up from where The Clones left off, this fast-paced sequel will not disappoint Gloria Skurzynski’s eager fans.

    Choice (The Virtual War Chronologs)
    By Gloria Skurzynski
    Cover by Big Sesh Studios
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: October 10, 2006
    Our Price: $16.95
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 –

    Book Description

    The Final Battle

    Ever since Corgan escaped his mortal enemy, Brigand, by fleeing the Florida domed city, he’s felt haunted. He’s haunted by the fact that Brigand is still in power in Florida, torturing innocent citizens (including Corgan’s friend Thebos), but above all by the bitter memory that he ran away from Brigand rather than staying to fight. Corgan believes he made the right choice at the time, but now he wants to face Brigand in one final battle.

    His passengers in the stolen zero-gravity spaceship-Sharla, Ananda, and Cyborg-have different ideas. Tired of arguing, Corgan chooses to land the ship in the only place he has ever been happy. But even there disaster follows him, until Sharla reveals a secret that gives him hope-hope that he can once again become the hero he was meant to be. This time, Corgan intends to stand up to Brigand, win or lose, in a fight to the death.

    This thrilling sequel and conclusion to the Virtual War Chronologs has been eagerly awaited for by Gloria Skurzynski’s many fans.

    Salem Witch Tryouts
    By Kelly McClymer
    Cover by Kirsten Ulve
    This Edition: Trade Paperback
    Publication Date: October 01, 2006
    Our Price: $8.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    Prudence Stewart had it all at Beverly Hills High: straight A’s, the cutest crush, and a sweet gig as captain of the cheerleading squad. Then poof! Mom and Dad announce they’re moving to Salem, Massachusetts. Turns out, Pru comes from a long line of witches and it’s time for her to learn the craft. Buh-bye, Beverly Hills High — hello, Agatha’s Day School!

    But Pru’s not about to trade in her spirit stick for a broomstick! She’s sure she can keep her kewl at her new school — until she discovers it’s all magic, all the time, and she’s failing Witchcraft 101. Worst of all, even the cheerleaders bring a special “spirit” to their routine. As in, triple-back-somersault-with-a-twist kind of spirit.

    It’s time for Pru to cast a spell and prove she’s just as enchanting as the next girl — and somehow make cheering tryouts a flying S-U-C-C-E-S-S!

    By Thomas E. Sniegoski
    This Edition: Mass Market Paperback
    Publication Date: October 01, 2006
    Our Price: $6.99
    Ages: 16 and up
    Grades: 10 and up


    Aaron Corbet isn’t a bad kid — he’s just a little different.

    On the eve of his eighteenth birthday, Aaron dreams of a darkly violent landscape. He can hear the sounds of weapons clanging, the screams of the stricken, and another sound he cannot quite decipher. But gazing upward at the sky, he suddenly understands. It is the sound of great wings, angels’ wings, beating the air unmercifully as hundreds of armored warriors descend on the battlefield.

    Orphaned since birth, Aaron is suddenly discovering newfound — and sometimes supernatural — talents. But it’s not until he is approached by two men that he learns the truth about his destiny, and his role as a liaison between angels, mortals, and Powers both good and evil, some of whom are hell-bent on his destruction….

    By Neal Shusterman
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: October 01, 2006
    Our Price: $16.95
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    School Library Journal Best Books of the Year


    Nick and Allie don’t survive the car accident…

    …but their souls don’t exactly get where they’re supposed to get either. Instead, they’re caught halfway between life and death, in a sort of limbo known as Everlost: a shadow of the living world, filled with all the things and places that no onger exist. It’s a magical, yet dangerous place where bands of lost children run wild and anyone who stands in the same place too long sinks to the center of the Earth.

    When they find Mary, the self-proclaimed queen of lost kids, Nick feels like he he’s found a home, but allie isn’t satisfied spending eternity between worlds. Against all warnings, Allie begins learning the “Criminal Art” of haunting, and ventures into dangerous territory, where a monster called the McGill threatens all the souls of Everlost.

    In this imaginative novel, Neal Shusterman explores questions of life, death, and what just might lie in between.

    By Pete Hautman
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: June 01, 2006
    Our Price: $16.99
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    ALA Best Books for Young Adults Nominee
    Great Lakes Great Books Master List (MI)
    Hal Clement Golden Duck Award
    Keystone to Reading Book Award Master List (PA)
    Minnesota Book Awards Finalist
    New York Times Book Review Notable Books
    Texas 2×2 Reading List
    Texas Tayshas High School Reading List
    Thumbs Up! Award Master List (MI)


    “Of course, without people like us Marstens, there wouldn’t be anybody to do the manual labor that makes this country run. Without penal workers, who would work the production lines, or pick the melons and peaches, or maintain the streets and parks and public lavatories? Our economy depends on prison labor. Without it everybody would have to work — whether they wanted to or not.”

    In the late twenty-first century Bo Marsten is unjustly accused of a causing a rash that plagues his entire high school. He loses it, and as a result, he’s sentenced to work in the Canadian tundra, at a pizza factory that’s surrounded by hungry polar bears. Bo finds prison life to be both boring and dangerous, but it’s nothing compared to what happens when he starts playing on the factory’s highly illegal football team. In the meantime, Bork, an artificial intelligence that Bo created for a science project, tracks Bo down in prison. Bork has spun out of control and seems to be operating on his own. He offers to get Bo’s sentence shortened, but can Bo trust him? And now that Bo has been crushing skulls on the field, will he be able to go back to his old, highly regulated life?

    Pete Hautman takes a satirical look at an antiseptic future in this darkly comic mystery/adventure.

    Sharp North
    By Patrick Cave
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: April 01, 2006
    Our Price: $16.95
    Ages: 14 and up
    Grades: 9 and up


    In a futuristic world, will everyone be replaceable?

    Mira had always lived quietly until the day a stranger is shot and killed in front of her. The woman’s body is quickly removed, leaving bloodstained snow and a crumpled piece of paper on the ground as the only clues to her murder. Mira discovers that the paper contains a list of names, including her own — but why? Terrified, she begins to view everyone with suspicion, and attempts to follow the clues that the dead woman left behind, unaware of the danger she is stumbling into.

    For Mira lives in an environmentally damaged and socially dangerous Great Britain that is ruled by the caste of the Great Families, forming a society where reproduction is strictly limited and where families keep illegal clones — or “spares” — of themselves, just in case a replacement is ever needed….

    Fast paced and suspenseful, Sharp North is the story of Mira’s search for the truth about her own identity and her attempts to find goodness in her strange world.

    Sign of the Raven
    By Julie Hearn
    Cover by Marc Yankus
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: October 01, 2005
    Our Price: $16.95
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    Mind the gap.

    Something odd is going on in the basement of an old house in London. An inexplicable gap has formed, a gap in time that links the present to the past. And twelve-year-old Tom, who discovers the gap while on a visit to his grandmother, is torn between both worlds.

    Lured by a mysterious voice, Tom leaps into the early eighteenth century, to a time when circus “freaks” like the Bendy Man and the Gorilla Woman appeared at Bartholomew Fair. The voice he hears belongs to Astra, a tiny changeling child, whose limbs are no bigger than a man’s thumb. She has called him into the past, because she is convinced that Tom is the only one who can help her and her friends from danger. Doctors are paying a high price for unusual bodies to dissect, and Astra and her friends are prime subjects.

    But Tom is dealing with difficulties of his own. His mum has cancer and is constantly fighting with his gran. And then he discovers a dark secret in his family’s past…a secret that pulls the strands of time together and might just close the gap forever.

    By Tim Bowler
    Cover by Cliff Nielsen
    This Edition: Hardcover
    Publication Date: September 01, 2005
    Our Price: $16.95
    Ages: 12 and up
    Grades: 7 and up


    Kit and his parents are out sailing when things go horribly wrong. Fog rolls in; the compasses won’t work; weird cries come from the sea. Then squalls force their boat against a giant rock. They manage to get to shore, but the dismal, almost barren island they’re on provides no comfort. The only inhabitants are a brutal group of fundamentalists whose ancestors settled there long ago. For some reason they hate Kit the moment they see him.

    But Kit has glimpsed someone else, a girl who seems to be wild. He’s also seen a strange man who looks just like him, only older, with the same birthmark on his face. Kit goes in search of the girl, looking for answers to the eerie goings-on. He returns to find his parents gone and their tents torn to shreds. Have the islanders killed them? Kit sets off in a desperate search for them as he struggles for his own survival. Will the girl help him? And will he be able to escape the islanders, who clearly want to kill him?

    Journey on a startling voyage into the unknown, where an ordinary teenage boy faces a world filled with malice and a terrifying vision of the future, in this haunting thriller from award winner Tim Bowler.

    Well, this is all from SimonSays for teens that is fairly current. Next time it’s on to the Pre-teens, and then on to the next publisher… Tags: , , , ,

    Drool Fest: latest news on Sci-Fi flicks/shows not yet in the can…

    Starting out with the most recent one coming, this month, but somehow I missed it on the last go-around is CJ7, a new Stephen Chow film, debuting March 6, 2008:



    Stephen Chow new film CJ7 trailer

    And if that isn’t enough, here are the cute aliens:

    “Visit the official site at
    A fantasy tale featuring state of the art visual effects, CJ7 is a comedy about a poor laborer father played by STEPHEN CHOW and his young son. When a fascinating and strange new pet enters their lives, they learn a poignant lesson about the true nature of family and the things money can’t buy. CJ7 is the fifth feature directed by Stephen Chow.”

    Watch the trailer for CJ7

    See also: and


    First found on Sci Fi Wire, but reported in USA Today:

    First look: Thriller ‘The Box’ contains plenty of challenges

    James Marsden and Cameron Diaz star in the mystery.
    Warner Bros. Pictures – Life-and-death decision: James Marsden and Cameron Diaz star in the mystery.

    By Susan Wloszczyna, USA TODAY, 2/26/08

    HAMPTON, Va. — Filmmaker Richard Kelly prides himself on thinking so far outside the box that major chunks of the Internet are devoted to deconstructing his intentionally murky movies.

    His desire to bewilder has earned him a certified cult classic (2001’s Donnie Darko) and an unmitigated flop (2007’s Southland Tales), but no direct hit.

    PHOTOS: Get an exclusive look at what’s inside ‘The Box’ [requires Adobe FlashPlayer]

    For his third big-screen feat, the 32-year-old USC film-school grad is not only thinking inside the box. He is actually making The Box, complete with his first major studio (Warner Bros.) and an A-list star (Cameron Diaz) on board.

    “God bless Cameron Diaz. The second she signed on, our lives changed in a great way,” Kelly says on location at NASA’s Langley Research Center. Wrapping up the film’s final week, he spent a long day shooting inside a cavernous wind tunnel and atop a gantry, a 240-foot-high erector-set-style structure once used to train Apollo astronauts.

    Unlike his previous efforts, the sci-fi-tinged thriller is a breeze to summarize. Its plot hook is inspired by a 1986 Twilight Zone episode that haunted Kelly as a kid: A couple (Diaz and James Marsden) open their door to find a box containing a button. If they push it, they will receive $1 million. The catch? Someone they don’t know will die.

    Kelly settles back to reflect on what he calls his “first grown-up film,” whose opening date is yet to be determined.

    “We made Donnie Darko when we were 25, so obviously that has an innocence about it,” he says of his unnerving high-school fable made with producer pal Sean McKittrick. The political satire Southland Tales, on DVD March 18, “is punk rock and rebellious. We love that about it.” Still, the film was barely in theaters, grossing only $273,420 on a nearly $18 million budget. “There is no place for small movies to catch fire,” he says. “We got with Warner Bros. as a means of survival.”

    He is ready to go commercial. “With The Box, I hope to make a more mainstream popcorn film.”

    Of course, nothing is ever quite that simple in a Richard Kelly film. Richard Matheson’s [I am Legend, among others] original 1970 short story, Button, Button, is just a jumping-off point for the $30 million morality tale. Embellishments include ’70s kitsch, teleporting and the 1976 Viking mission to Mars.

    “We don’t feel like we are watering ourselves down,” Kelly assures.

    The man who delivers the title container? Masterfully creepy Frank Langella. “Richard is in a league of his own,” the veteran actor says. “He has sort of an extraterrestrial creature running around in his head. That is what Steven Spielberg was like as a young boy.”

    Namely, someone who knows how to push an audience’s buttons.

    And while we wait for the next one, you can get a cat:


    Director Nicolas Winding Refn that indicates his Viking pic, called Valhalla Rising” and starring Mads Mikkelsen is a little farther off than hoped. Though Valhalla Rising is still on track to go later this year.

    An Interview from Reverse

    RS: “Can you tell us a little bit about your next project, Valhalla Rising, starring Mads Mikkelsen?”

    NWR: “Valhalla Rising came out of me working on a horror film that I just couldn’t solve. I just got so fed up, that I went back to an old idea I had about the discovery of America by the Vikings and that was suddenly a very easy story for me to develop, and I’ve learned that if it’s easy, go with it, and so I focused completely on that one. It’s going to be about a mute man who doesn’t know where he’s from, and about the Vikings discovering America. But, I’m not a big fan of Vikings, and I’m definitely not a big fan of costume films. So it occurred to me while making Pusher III, and thought, what if I took this way of making a movie and made a film set in the year 800? Once I got the technical concept, and then I got the story down, then I needed the overall view of the story. It’s the discovery of America, so what? It’s science fiction. For the Vikings, it must have been science fiction…it’s Valhalla. And of course I’ve always wanted to do an action film.” (fall 2006)

    And a little more from Sterling’s in-flight magazine:

    “I’m doing a Viking movie called Valhalla Rising with Nicholas Winding Refn,” he says proudly. “I play a Viking slave who’s like a gladiator. Once a month he fights those sent to kill him as entertainment for the Vikings, but all the time he’s chained to a pole. The film will be a mixture of Pusher and Sergio Leone, but set in the 10th century. Of course, I escape and we all end up in America, which is historically correct. There was always an idea that the Vikings settled in America 500 years before Columbus and now there’s proof. Scandinavians have always been great travellers.”

    And from Norway: The Official Site in the UK (News and Events):

    Edinburgh, 07/03/2007 :

    Vahalla Rising

    Scotland will again be taken over by Vikings in Nicolas Winding Refn’s new historical feature film “Valhalla Rising”.

    The movie will promote the theory that an expedition of Vikings from Scotland reached North America centuries before Christopher Columbus. Most historians now accept that Vikings beat Columbus to the New World. Voyages are described in Norse sagas and evidence has been found to prove their presence on the continent. “Valhalla Rising” will though be shot as a fictional movie, in Nicolas Winding Refn’s documentary style.

    The Danish director Refn is the man behind the “Pusher”-trilogy and just as violent and almost as successful “Bleeder”. His films are quite violent, and Karen Smyth, the Scottish co-producer, said to The Scotsman: “The way Nicolas will shoot is in a gritty, realist documentary style. It’s not Gladiator – there will be no big set pieces. It’s a great project, which will play big with the 16 to 25-year-olds. It’s quite a violent film in that it reflects the time in which these guys lived.”

    Main actor will be Mads Mikkelsen, who played the villain in the latest James Bond movie “Casino Royale”. The Norwegian author Roy Jacobsen has written the script for the ambitious historical feature film, which has a budget of £4 million. “Valhalla Rising” will involve some of the most elaborate scenes ever filmed in Scotland, The Scotsman reports. The producers intend to commission a full-scale, 80ft replica of a Viking longship, and take over a small west coast harbour, possibly Stranraer.

    Filming is scheduled to begin in August, with six weeks in Scotland and nine in the U.S. The Scottish parts of the movie will be shot in the Glasgow area, according to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. The parts that are situated on U.S soil will be shot in Louisiana.” [spelling corrections made]

    And for a synopsis, from

    Detailed Synopsis For Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘Vahalla Rising’

    Posted by Todd Brown at 8:34pm.

    Stalled about a year while the production team was assembled Pusher director Nicolas Winding Refn’s viking epic is finally ready to go before cameras in early 2008 and a detailed synopsis has been added to the website of the Danish Film Institute. Originally slated to shoot in both Denmark and Canada – though I suspect that may have changed since the secondary funding is coming from the UK and Scotland rather than Canada – the film stars Mads Mikkelsen as a mute viking warrior on a voyage to the New World. Here’s the synopsis:

    For years, One-Eye, a mute warrior of supernatural strength, has been held prisoner by the chieftain Barde. Aided by a boy, Are, he kills his captor and together they escape, beginning a journey into the heart of darkness. On their flight from bounty hunters, One-Eye and Are board a Viking vessel for Norway, but the ship is soon engulfed by an endless fog that first disintegrates as they sight an unknown land. As the new land reveals its secrets and the Vikings meet a ghastly fate, One-Eye discovers his true self.

    And here’s a film, from Harry’s Ain’t it Cool Website, that’s a pet favorite – my daughter and I read the books, and loved them!:



    Harry’s look at Gil Kenan’s CITY OF EMBER at Skywalker Ranch!

    Hey folks, Harry here… I just got back from Skywalker Ranch… yeah, Skywalker Ranch. I’m writing up an entirely separate article that is about that journey and experience, but what I wanted to write up first, was the main purpose of that trip. To chat with Gil Kenan and get a first look at a movie that doesn’t have a lot of buzz going quite yet, but that I’ve been following called CITY OF EMBER.

    Last Fall, Yoko and I were going to fly over to Belfast and explore a bit of Ireland and drop in on the set of CITY OF EMBER… ever since Gil Kenan and I chatted about MONSTER HOUSE when he brought the film to Austin early… we’ve exchanged emails – and well… frankly – he’s a geek. A very talented one.

    When we first sat down to lunch, he brought up CITY OF EMBER to me. It was the project he was working on in advance of MONSTER HOUSE – a live-action… possibly Post-Apocalyptic story involving children.

    Around the end of Summer 2007 – I had a surprise package on my doorstep, the script to CITY OF EMBER as written by the amazing Caroline Thompson – based upon Jeanne Duprau’s novel. I have to admit, that as much as I loved MONSTER HOUSE – I was more eager to read a new Caroline Thompson script. With her skills upon EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, HOMEWARD BOUND, THE SECRET GARDEN, NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, BLACK BEAUTY and CORPSE BRIDE… Well… Hot Damn – turn the pages.

    The script, like most of her work, is not traditional Hollywood fare – it’s a story that builds… slowly, consistently to a fever-paced conclusion. There is no BIG beginning, instead it really plays out, less like a Post-Apocalyptic film – and more like a Post-Apocalyptic Fairy Tale… That said… I didn’t devote much thought to the world of Ember. At the time, I was going to end up visiting it… in the building where the TITANIC was created (the real ship, not the movie) and I was anxious to just see the entire town that was going to be housed in that giant space.

    Not long before the trip, my father had a stroke – and plans like Ireland and a cool movie set – well – there’s a scale to life – and in this case… Ireland and the film evaporated from my reality.

    Months passed.

    In fact – until last week I really hadn’t thought of CITY OF EMBER. I knew it was shooting… well, had been shot – but I really didn’t know where in the process the film was. It opens around the 10th of October… that’s pretty far off – and these days I’m more concerned about the upcoming Summer crop of films than the Fall and Holiday slates… but a little over a week ago – I was awoken by a phone call by Gil Kenan asking me if I’d like to go to Skywalker Ranch at his invitation to see some of CITY OF EMBER and watch them mix some of the film in the William Wyler mixing room.

    Well, I quickly answered to the affirmative. There’s all sorts of reasons – I could finally break my Skywalker Ranch cherry… and it’d give all of you the first real set of eyes on a film that wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. Besides… who knew what else was going on out there… right?

    So Wednesday morning at 5am, I headed to the airport to begin my journey. Approximately 6 hours later – I was sitting on a sofa in the Wyler room watching Gil and his sound crew mixing the temp music track for a test screening later today – somewhere on planet Earth.

    They were working on a scene in reel 1 of CITY OF EMBER where Saoirse Ronan (Lina) and Harry Treadaway (Doon) exchange their positions in life. I took Father Geek along and told him nothing about the story – he only knew it was the second film from the director of MONSTER HOUSE. In this early minute to two minutes of film we were watching – it was a designed universe. There was a hint of German Expressionism to the buildings. And at first thought – you’d think the “sky” was to be added later – but you see… in Ember… large lights in the sky that you would think were placed by the crew – but as those that have read this wonderful book know… they’re there because this world is very strange indeed.

    After about an hour of mixing on reel one – we went to see around 45 minutes of CITY OF EMBER – and it was there where I finally was able to put this movie together in my mind. Essentially – what Gil has made is a film that is LOGAN’S RUN, CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, GOONIES and METROPOLIS blended all together in one wonderfully unique vision.

    The opening credits are startling – a group of rushed men carrying a box with 3 LED windows on the front. They say, “Set it for 200 years” – and then hand it off to a person and it becomes part of the secret tradition of the mayors of Ember… You see the box handed from aged hands to younger hands that age – to then hand the box to the next set of hands… quickly… fluidly – showing us in human generational terms – the passage of the years and as we see the countdown reach 47… a mayor dies prematurely… having not passed the box on. And we find the box… stuck in a closet, forgotten and counting down till it finally ceases to countdown – and it opens, only nobody is there to see it.

    Now how long was it open till we see the start of the film? Nobody can tell – but as we start our story – it’s with Lina, and a graduation ceremony… technically called ASSIGNMENT DAY – where this selection of who you are to be… for the rest of your life in Ember, is chosen… at random… from a paper bag.

    The kids all have their hopes, their dreams – but no matter how well they might want to be in a different position – if they can’t convince another person on Assignment Day to switch jobs… they’re stuck.

    The man with the bag? Well, he’s the Mayor of Ember, played by Bill Murray… a dash of whimsy – and an ever so nice taste of warmth… Bill offers hope and encouragement to the children’s choices… helping them to feel good about it. All except Lina, she got PIPEWORKS – apparently – that’s not a good job.

    Then – as we move forward we begin to find out more… you see every person in the film is needed for the City of Ember to exist. To them – they are the last light in the world. The generator is the pulsating heart of their existence. The electricity is their life and at night – they shut it down and the lights go out and until that generator kicks back on, their world is darkness.

    The atmosphere is palpable. The society living in this city of Ember… had taken on an amazingly different vision of the future. No doubt they’re living underground… or in something. And the people in there are many generations removed by the incident that put them in this city. The city itself has begun to run down. Supplies are recycled. And it is starkly designed – based in part upon Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS – but not a direct lift – it has echoes of that world – this film doesn’t deal with the class warfare – here – the people serve the city because the city is all there is to serve. Nobody wonders about the outside world – instead – they do their job and everyone worries about the day the lights go out.

    In fact that’s the plot line of the film. You see – everyone knows that the generator could be failing and that they have a finite amount of power. When Lina and Doon stumble upon the pieces of the past from the box… they try to unlock the mystery of their town that had been lost to the ravages of time.

    This is a particular cast in the adult realm… folks like Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, Martin Landau, Toby Jones, Liz Smith and Mackenzie Crook. Moreso – the townsfolk of Ember continue that sort of character to their faces. Odd and unique.

    I saw a sequence towards the end of the film that takes place in the great Generator room… a room with amazing gigantic Mechanical Age pistons and water wheels… the closest thing to its look is that great sequence inside the Engine room in TITANIC. The effects were far from done, but it really has a potential to be jaw-dropping when finished.

    As for the performances – the cast speaks for itself – and young Saoirse Ronan is fantastic, we will see a lot more from this young lady. And young Harry Treadaway – who you may have seen in the amazing film, BROTHERS OF THE HEAD as half of the Siamese Twins in that film – is great as the curious boy that believes he’s destined to help solve the problem with the Generator. There’s almost a panic to his desire to make it all work.

    This is a remarkable project – and I can not wait to hear responses from the screening later on today. CITY OF EMBER is a film to take notice on… it has elements of some of the best in science fiction and fantasy film – without being strictly derivative of any of those films. Instead it echoes that which came before while becoming something new on its own.”


    “A trailer for a new film called Dark Matter has appeared online. According to it’s official synopsis, Dark Matter follows a Chinese science student in the United States in the early 1990s. Driven by ambition, yet unable to navigate academic politics, then, drama un-folds.”

    Dark Matter Trailer

    Note: This may or may not be the trailer referred to below.

    This Dark Matter Trailer is Scientifically Inaccurate

    By Phil Owen, 02/28/08

    I’m assuming, based on the trailer, that Dark Matter is one of those films that, like, say, Primer or Proof, wants to be extremely dense through the use to sciencespeak. As the title indicates, the film revolves around the study of dark matter, which is something with which most people are not too familiar. Focusing so heavily on something like dark matter allows the filmmakers to use it as a MacGuffin, because most people won’t have a clue about what the characters are discussing.

    That said, at the beginning of the trailer, which can be seen exclusively at ComingSoon, Liu Ye (Curse of the Golden Flower) has this line: “I’m looking at the dark matter. 99% of the universe. Dark matter.” A quick glance at NASA’s website reveals this statement to be untrue. The film is set in the early ‘90s, I thought the filmmakers might be using what was known about dark matter from that time. Nope. The film’s writer (Billy Shebar) says on the film’s website that it is currently believed that dark matter makes up over 90% of the universe. As movie folks are often wont to do, I’m guessing they’ve combined dark matter (25% of the universe) and dark energy (70% of the universe) into one concept.

    The rest of the trailer is pretty intriguing. It shows Liu Ye’s character, Liu Xing (that means “shooting star!”), as a Chinese student studying at a university in the US. He’s working to unravel the mysteries of dark matter, but he is foiled by departmental politics and begins to become despondent. It’s all very atmospheric.

    Thankfully, the trailer doesn’t even hint at the film’s ultimate destination. Dark Matter is based very loosely on Gang Lu’s time at the University of Iowa studying physics, which ended with him shooting some folks before offing himself. Perhaps there will be a scene in the film where we see Liu Xing training on Duke Nukem.

    Scientific issues aside, Dark Matter looks pretty solid from that trailer. I’m a big fan of this type of character study, one that attempts to deconstruct a mental breakdown. And it’s much better that they took that approach rather than the “important school shooting movie” approach.

    Dark Matter, which won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at Sundance 2007, is helmed by Chinese stage director Chen Shi-Zheng. The film stars, along with Liu Ye, Meryl Streep and Aidan Quinn. If you live in New York or LA, you can check it out April 11.’s article, and the trailer:

    Exclusive: The Dark Matter Trailer

    Source: First Independent Pictures, February 28, 2008 is exclusively debuting the trailer for director Chen Shi-Zheng and screenwriter Billy Shebar’s Dark Matter today. The drama, starring Liu Ye, Meryl Streep and Aidan Quinn, opens in theaters on April 11.
    Dark Matter delves into the world of Liu Xing (Chinese for “Shooting Star”), a Chinese science student pursuing a Ph.D. in the United States in the early 1990s. Driven by ambition, yet unable to navigate academic politics, Liu Xing is inexorably pushed to the margins of American life, until he loses his way.
    You can watch the trailer using the player below. For more info on the film, click here. [go to the site below to view the actual trailer discussed.]


    David Fincher To Make Completely Awesome Comic Book Movie

    By Devin Faraci, published 02/20/2008,

    I am so filled with excitement that I can almost not type these words. Variety is reporting that David Fincher has signed on to direct the adaptation of Charles Burns’ incredible graphic novel Black Hole, which currently has a screenplay by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary*. Alex Aja had been attached, and while his take on the grotesque characters of the book (more on that in a moment) would have been fascinating, I am so psyched that Fincher is on board that I cannot explain.
    Black Hole is set in the suburbs of Seattle in the mid 70s, and it’s about a group of teens who contract an STD that turns them into subtle mutants and hideous monsters. What’s most interesting about Black Hole is the way the story itself mutates, which is partially because of the fact that it was a serialized tale in 12 parts told over ten years, but it never quite works out the way that you think it will, and in the end coalesces into a truly moving and beautiful story about becoming an adult. It’s a seminal work of graphic fiction or comics or whatever you want to call it – the important thing is that the next time you see someone trying to convince a non-believer that comics can be art with some f’ing superhero book, smash that person over the head with the hardcover edition of Black Hole.

    Black Hole is a story that is highly detailed and intricately visual story; I would never have pegged Fincher for the adaptation, but after Zodiac he just makes so much sense. This news has me so happy that I’m going to pull Black Hole off the shelf and read it again. Charles Burns is going to be signing copies of the book at Skylight Books in Los Angeles on the 29th – you should go by and say hi to him.
    You know what? I needed news like this. We write about too many comic book stories lately, and I find myself more and more depressed about the form I used to love. My new roommate is a big comic reader and I’ve been catching up with DC Comics through him, and most of these books are beyond terrible – awful stories, ridiculous art, banal characters, a general sense of malevolence towards the tragic figures shelling out for them by the month. Black Hole is what comics can be, and it’s nice to be reminded that not every comic book movie has to be about male adolescent repressed homosexuality packaged for bloodthirsty, misogynistic, obsessive compulsive 30-40 year olds who can’t move past their childhoods.


    This one has some serious question marks all over it, but here’s the scoop, because if it turns out to be true, we Browncoats can rejoice!:

    Rumor: Serenity Sequel on the Horizon Realistically?! It Can’t Be!

    October 4, 2007, Source:, by Alex Billington


    I know this is beating a dead horse, but another rumor has been kicked up out of the dust and this time it may be a bit more reliable, and I just can’t resist. The guys over at have a quote from Alan Tudyk (who plays Wash) where he claims that the recent buzz regarding the re-release of the Serenity DVD is causing Universal to consider making another one. There are so many questions: How recent is this interview? Is Alan just poking fun for the heck of it? Will it be direct-to-DVD or not?

    I trust what Alan has to say, it’s that I’m not sure this can be counted as fully legitimate. Maybe he was just saying this for the heck of it and his quote got taken out of context. Or maybe this was not too recent and can’t be counted as something real, just a far-fetched “rumbling” at Universal. Anyway, here’s Alan’s ever-so-important quote.

    “They had to put [the new DVD] out because they’ve been selling out of the other one and so Universal’s like ‘So, let’s do another one’. And now… there’s now a chance there’s going to be another movie.”

    “Everybody in the Firefly crew – and that includes the ones who died in the movie – are excited about the prospect of doing another.”

    Update: Clint, the writer who conducted the interview over at Moviehole, has informed us in the comments below that this is all up-to-date and completely real. It’s all just in Universal’s hands now, as Alan makes it sound like they’re very interested.

    Being a website that focuses purely on theatrical releases – I’ve got to hope that it will be theatrical. However the current “thought” is that it just won’t be. Serenity was a massive financial flop at the box office and I don’t think they’re smart enough to realize that if they actually marketed it correctly, it could easily be a success. More and more fans join the legion of Browncoats every day – and that alone should be enough to warrant another in-theater sequel.

    For now I’ll keep dreaming and hope that Universal realizes their mistake on the first film and comes around on this second one. Need a prime example of a film that’s doing just that? How about Fox’s Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem??

    Then this appears:

    Sorry, The Serenity Sequel is Not Happening

    October 24, 2007, Source: MySpace Blog, by Alex Billington

    Sorry Browncoats, but it just ain’t so. This rumor all started a few weeks back when Alan Tudyk made some comments that were taken out of context and presumed to be talk of a sequel. Some other speculators were claiming that it was just a big, confusing rumor to begin with anyway and apparently that was the case. The update comes from the girl who plays Kaylee, named Jewel Staite in real life, who wrote a blog update (via CinemaBlend) about the whole fiasco.

    Here’s Jewel’s update from her blog on MySpace:

    Lets address these Serenity 2 rumors before anything else. I have no idea what you people are talking about! Seems to me someone (with a name that starts with A and ends in LAN) said something in an interview that was misconstrued as the sequel being greenlit, which is not the case at the moment. I will never say it will never happen, because that’s just blasphemy in my opinion, but it’s not happening at the moment… no matter what you read on the internet. You know better than to believe everything you read, anyway! (except this blog… cuz it’s all true.)

    Unfortunately now I must say “that’s that”. I was really hoping the rumor was going to turn out to be true, being a huge fan myself, but alas I just knew it couldn’t be so. Unless Universal is keeping this secret from even one of the middle actors in the series, but that’s probably just as ridiculous as this rumor to begin with.

    Now the question that remains is if there was the right emphasis from the right amount of people (say, Browncoats?), could Universal actually be smart enough to do a sequel? And if they did, would it actually succeed? If they made a sequel for 2009, that would be four years after the first movie and six years after the end of the series. Would another sequel that late and that far away from the hype actually do well? What do you think?

    And then a forum response, which I think clears it up nicely:

    From xardoz, Oct 26, 2007

    “Can’t you people read? Jewel has merely said that a sequel has not been greenlit, not that there will be no Serenity 2. Alan got his info from Nathan, and all that was is that they (read Universal) are talking about a possible (key word) sequel, depending on the sale of the Collectors Edition of the DVD. Alan never said it was greenlit, NO ONE has said it was greenlit. The ONLY authoritative voice on this is Joss Whedon himself. He is aware of Alan’s comments and has remained silent – keep in mind he’s been quick to squash false rumors in the past. It’s been over 20 days since the Moviehole interview appeared. Alan has come out and confirmed his comments on video:
    It isn’t over yet, Browncoats. It ain’t over until Joss tells us so.”


    Paul Bettany Grow Wings

    By Russ Fischer, published 02/13/2008

    Don’t tell Precious Moments, but that terrible angel wave crested and crashed on the beach of pop culture a long time ago. Don’t tell Paul Bettany either; he’s set to play the archangel Michael in Legion, the feature directorial debut of effects guy Scott Stewart. It’s a Screen Gems project so don’t get your hopes up too high, but the premise is entertaining.

    Via Variety:
    Story follows what happens when God loses faith in humanity and sends his legion of angels to wipe out the human race for the second time. Mankind’s only hope lies in a group of misfits holed up in a diner in the desert who are aided by the archangel Michael.

    Stewart penned the script with Peter Schink; the result sounds reflective of Neil Gaiman’s classic Sandman story ’24 Hours’ by way of all those right wing nutjob fictions that get made into movies with Kirk Cameron.

    Bettany dons wings when the flick rolls in March.

    And about the same from

    Bettany is Part of Screen Gems’ Legion

    Source: Variety, February 13, 2008

    Paul Bettany is set to star in Legion, a Screen Gems thriller that marks the feature directorial debut of Scott Stewart, says Variety. Stewart wrote the script with Peter Schink.

    The project was hatched by Bold Films, whose David Lancaster and Michel Litvak will produce. Gary Michel Walters will be executive producer.
    The story follows what happens when God loses faith in humanity and sends his legion of angels to wipe out the human race for the second time. Mankind’s only hope lies in a group of misfits holed up in a diner in the desert who are aided by the archangel Michael (Bettany).

    Stewart is a co-founder of visual effects house The Orphanage.
    Production begins in New Mexico in March.


    From First

    Sound Off: Who Should Direct The Hobbit? – Guillermo vs Raimi

    December 21, 2007, by Alex Billington

    Who Should Direct The Hobbit - Guillermo vs Raimi

    Over this last week an enormous amount of news and rumors surrounding The Hobbit have arisen. On Tuesday, Peter Jackson announced that all legal issues between him and New Line had been resolved and that he would only produce the films. On Thursday, speculation began as to who could and who is in the running to direct The Hobbit, and two names appeared. Sam Raimi, of Spider-Man and Evil Dead fame, seems to be clearing up his schedule. And Guillermo del Toro, of Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy fame, has expressed an interest in directing as well. Until an official announcement is made, let’s consider the options and discuss which would be a better choice.

    In our article about Sam Raimi’s upcoming schedule (which doesn’t include Spider-Man 4), it was explicitly mentioned by Variety, an official news outlet, that it’s likely Sam Raimi is directing The Hobbit. While this isn’t confirmed, Raimi has previously mentioned that he’d be interested in directing it as long as Jackson had also said that he would NOT be interested in directing – as Raimi wouldn’t want to tread on Jackson’s territory.

    As for Guillermo del Toro, SlashFilm ran a piece yesterday with some recent quotes from Guillermo, where it was mentioned that he had “heard some rumblings, but nothing official.” So now Guillermo is in the running, too. As this project moves on, the choice of the director will probably be the biggest decision anyone at New Line will ever make. And with two of the world’s greatest directors in the running, it’s a very tough decision to make. The problem is I don’t know who I would side with, because of all directors out there, Raimi and del Toro are probably my two personal favorite directors. This is like choosing with of my two kids I would have to kill to stay alive myself.

    I’m going to kick this off by defending Sam Raimi. A number of comments on yesterday’s article were condemning Raimi primarily because of Spider-Man 3, a movie that by now most people have recognized as being pretty bad. I’m not trying to defend a movie that I also think wasn’t great, but I am going to defend Sam Raimi, who is still one of the greatest directors out there despite Spider-Man 3. First off, the person who created Spider-Man 2, no matter how much they screw up elsewhere, cannot be regarded as an all-around bad director at least because they created what is (arguably) the best superhero movie ever made.

    Back when Spider-Man 3 was coming out, I attended a press conference with Sam Raimi. I listened to Raimi speak and answer questions for 20 minutes and by the end I had realized that Spider-Man 3 wasn’t his fault. It was partially Avi Arad and partially the other outside pressures that forced him to include Venom. Sure, it was Raimi who ended up making the movie, but after hearing the things he had to say, there is no way he could’ve made this bad of a movie if he would’ve done the exact story he wanted. Avi Arad and the producers came in and forced him to include Venom and forced a re-write on the script to turn it into a pile of crap.

    Lastly, Raimi is the least “Hollywood-ized” director out of anyone I’ve met. He’s still so down-to-earth and still a geek himself. He would rather chat with you about movies and Spider-Man at the end of a press conference than be whisked away. He has no “spoiler” filter, he just loves talking about things like an excited geek. The more I listened to him and the more I looked back at Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness, Darkman, Spider-Man, and Spider-Man 2, the more I realized Raimi is still an incredible director who was screwed over with Spider-Man 3. In my mind, he is and always will be a phenomenal director and is still the perfect choice for The Hobbit.

    With Guillermo del Toro, I probably love him almost as much as Raimi. Hellboy is my absolute favorite comic book movie and Pan’s Labyrinth is a incredible film, and I just love his filmmaking style and fanboy nature as well. However, I almost feel as if he has too dark of a style for it to work with The Hobbit. But at the same time, if he took on the project, he would be as perfect of a choice as Sam Raimi. I can’t decide, so it’s up to you.

    Who do you think is the best director for The Hobbit? Sam Raimi or Guillermo del Toro?

    But it seems to have been answered, maybe. From

    The Hobbit

    Release Date: TBA 2010
    Studio: New Line Cinema
    Director: Guillermo del Toro
    Screenwriter: Not Available
    Starring: Not Available
    Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
    MPAA Rating: Not Available
    Official Website:
    Review: Not Available
    DVD Review: Not Available
    DVD: Not Available
    Movie Poster: Not Available
    Production Stills: Not Available
    Plot Summary: The two “Hobbit” films – “The Hobbit” and its sequel – are scheduled to be shot simultaneously, with pre-production beginning as soon as possible. Principal photography is tentatively set for a 2009 start, with the intention of “The Hobbit” release slated for 2010 and its sequel the following year, in 2011. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh will serve as Executive Producers of two films based on “The Hobbit.”

    But see this, from the same site:

    Guillermo del Toro on The Hobbit Films

    Source: Empire Online, February 14, 2008

    Empire caught up today with Guillermo del Toro, who told the magazine that he is still not fully signed for The Hobbit and its sequel.

    “I wish it was definite, but it isn’t,” he said. “It’s still in talks, there are still a lot of ‘T’s to cross and ‘I’s to dot. It’s certainly not certain yet…But, as far as I’m concerned, [if it was definite] I would be packed in ten seconds.”

    He’s not worried at this time about the lawsuit that was revealed earlier this week, but he did say he would love to bring back actors from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy whose characters appear in the new films.

    “Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been pretty much incredibly open about the things that I love and don’t love in the past. I’ve turned down huge franchises in the past because there are parts of that world I don’t gel with. The reason I took ‘Blade II’ is because I love the characters that Stephen Norrington created and the actors he used. That times ten is the reason why I’m interested in ‘The Hobbit.'”

    The movie seems plagued by problems. A suit by Tolkien’s estate tried to block further use of his works, and now New Line is going under, but The Hobbit will remain. From The Hollywood

    Tolkien Trust sues New Line

    By Leslie Simmons, Feb. 12, 2008

    Just when two new movie versions of “The Hobbit” seemed on track, another legal roadblock has been thrown in their path.

    On Monday, J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate — a British charity called the Tolkien Trust — filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against New Line seeking a court order terminating any rights the studio has to any of the author’s works, including “Hobbit.”

    The Tolkien Trust and the author’s original publisher, HarperCollins, claim that New Line has committed “accounting chicanery” by, among other things, inflating the cost of each film in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy by more than $100 million and refusing to allow an audit of the second and third films in the “Rings” series.

    The plaintiffs allege that New Line and Peter Jackson’s Katja Motion Picture Group owe them at least $150 million in gross profits from the billion-dollar “Rings” trilogy, which has grossed $6 billion worldwide, a figure that encompasses both boxoffice and DVD sales, according to the complaint.
    New Line declined to comment on the allegations.

    As a result, the plaintiffs claim that New Line has breached the original 1969 agreement assigning rights to make films based on Tolkien’s literary works to United Artists. Although the agreement has passed hands over the years — from United Artists to Saul Zaentz to Miramax and then New Line — it remained unchanged.

    Late last year, New Line reached an agreement with MGM to co-produce and co-finance two films adapted from the “Hobbit” book, with New Line handling North American rights and MGM handling overseas distribution. Jackson, after reaching his own settlement with New Line over a profit dispute, is to executive produce the movies with his partner Fran Walsh.

    The first of the two films, set for a 2010 release, is to go into production next year.

    The latest flap in New Line’s on-going “Rings” saga comes as the studio, headed by Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, has come under the scrutiny of parent company Time Warner. The entertainment conglomerate is looking at ways to cut back costs at New Line, which could lead to some or all of the studio’s functions being taken over by Warner Bros.

    According to the new lawsuit, New Line denies the plaintiffs have any right to terminate the rights, so they seek the court’s input on the controversy. Although New Line could go forward with “Hobbit” projects, it faces the risk of losing the rights later if the court rules in the plaintiffs’ favor.

    “This case presents an extraordinary example of how enormous financial success can breed unabashed and insatiable greed,” the lawsuit states. “Despite the nearly $6 billion in gross revenues, New Line has crafted a fantasy tale of its own, making the stunning assertion that it has not received sufficient money to pay plaintiffs a dime.”

    The case is the latest against New Line over “Rings” profits. Jackson first filed suit against the studio in a contentious court battle that resulted in the December settlement. The Saul Zaentz Co. filed his second suit late last year also alleging New Line’s failure to pay profits. In 2004, Zaentz had filed a previous suit over moneys he said were owed him; that was settled in 2005.

    Jackson’s settlement paved the way for back-to-back films based on “Hobbit.” Although his schedule made it impossible for him to direct, Jackson agreed to exec produce the pair of films, with approval over creative elements, including the script. Guillermo del Toro is in talks to helm.

    Bewkes nukes New Line

    By Borys Kit and Georg Szalai, Feb. 29, 2008

    UPDATED 7:43 p.m. PT Feb. 28
    After a four-decade run that saw its transformation from an upstart indie company exploiting rude John Waters movies and gory horror flicks to a mini-major winning Oscars and billion-dollar worldwide grosses with the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, New Line is being absorbed into parent company Time Warner’s Warner Bros. Pictures.

    As part of the cost-saving consolidation ordered by TW’s new CEO Jeff Bewkes, New Line co-chairmen and co-CEOs Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne are leaving the company they founded in 1967, though Bewkes said they are in talks encompassing “a number of alternatives” and could end up producing films for New Line or Warners.

    New Line will remain more than just a production label within Warners, though. It will retain its own separate development and production, marketing and distribution operations … Bewkes said New Line, in turn, must “focus on being an indie, rather than being halfway to a major.”

    In recent years, as New Line’s ambitions have grown, it has taken on more risk. The three “Rings” movies, released between 2001 and 2003, resulted in a boxoffice bonanza. But New Line hasn’t maintained that momentum. Although it scored two $100 million-plus hits in 2007 with “Hairspray” and “Rush Hour 3,” most of its lineup failed to ignite, and its pricey “The Golden Compass,” though a hit abroad, fell flat in the U.S.



    Hayden Christensen, New Romancer, er, Neuromancer

    By Russ Fischer, published 01/8/2008

     William Gibson’s proto-cyberpunk novel Neuromancer is one of those books I have no real wish to see lifted to the screen. Not to preserve my own love for the book, which has finer points, but isn’t any significant favorite. Rather, like past efforts to make Gibson’s stuff come alive onscreen, it’s that a Neuromancer film seems likely to miss the point with such blatant glee that the deficiency would be obvious to any audience. Really, outside of Philip K Dick is any body of speculative fiction more likely to come out bland and homogenous?

    But the details of the current potential film version, which JoBlo has reported on a few times, are interesting. Made more or less as a $70M indie with Torque director Joseph Kahn in charge, this is a weird beast. Cursory checks show nothing like a finalized script or even credited screenwriter, so even if this is happening, it’s now a ways off.

    Which makes it a bit odd that JoBlo’s source is now pegging Hayden Christensen as the star of the flick. He’s been a non-entity since Shattered Glass and may continue to be so after Jumper opens, so how is this happening? Or is that what we said when Keanu was cast in Johnny Mnemonic?

    I don’t recall enough of the book to say that Christensen is specifically a good or bad fit for Case, the original hacker protagonist, but since Christensen has generally proven a bad fit for anything that involves expression, this might not be a popular choice.

    Hayden a Neuromancer
    Jan. 7, 2008, Source:, by: Mike Sampson

    You may have already heard the news about the NEUROMANCER movie. What you didn’t hear was who would be starring in this ambitious adaptation of the cyberpunk classic. sources have told us that Hayden Christensen will star in NEUROMANCER as Case, the former hacker at the center of the story. I’ll be honest and admit I’ve never read NEUROMANCER and my rudimentary attempts to try and understand the plot have only confused me. But it seems very much a precursor to the Matrix with the book even referring to “the matrix.” Joseph Kahn (TORQUE) is directing the film, which is essentially set up as an indie film with a big budget. It is not set up at a studio but still carries an impressive $70 million budget. It’s unclear when filming would begin but it could be later this year. Christensen can be seen next in the Fox action flick JUMPER, which hits theaters in February.

    Extra Tidbit: If you really want to learn more about NEUROMANCER, check out this detailed study guide [guide to the 1984 Gibson novel].

    And from First

    William Gibson’s Neuromancer Finally Coming to the Big Screen!

    May 18, 2007, Source: Variety, by Alex Billington


    Finally a great science fiction novel is getting adapted for the big screen! Well, not that there hasn’t been a great selection of other sci fi novels in the past (like anything by Isaac Asimov or Philip K. Dick), but I have a certain affinity for William Gibson’s books. His bestseller novel that was first published in 1984, Neuromancer, is being brought to the big screen by indie producer Peter Hoffman. The project will get a $70 million budget with Joseph Kahn currently set to direct. Kahn has only directed one full length feature so far, the motorcycle film Torque, but he may be better known for directing Britney Spear’s music video for “Toxic”. I think all the excitement I just had flew out the window.

    And get this, the project is being fast-tracked to replace the next Paul Verhoeven project The Winter Queen, a tough blow for the filmmaker behind one of my own all time favorite sci fi films – Starship Troopers. However, it’s not because this is a better script, it’s because Verhoeven’s film is waiting for Fifth Element star Milla Jovovich to have her baby.

    NeuromancerFor those who may be unfamiliar with the fantastic novel Neuromancer, (from Wikipedia) it tells the story of Case, an out-of-work computer hacker hired by an unknown patron to participate in a seemingly impossible crime. The novel examines the concepts of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, genetic engineering, multinational corporations overpowering the traditional nation-state, and cyberspace long before these ideas became fashionable in popular culture. In addition to tackling these hot topics in the film, producer Hoffman stated “there’ll be a sort of love interest as well.” Quite unnecessary, but that’s Hollywood for you these days.

    Now they just need to work on bringing my own favorite Neal Stephenson novel Snow Crash to the big screen, too, as I think if done right it could nearly be another fascinating and revolutionary sci fi film… if done right. In the meantime, or at least for the year or so it’ll take to film and edit, I suggest you pick up a copy of Neuromancer, or anything by William Gibson or Neal Stephenson, and become immersed in his wonderful world of science fiction.


    From First

    It’s Official – Live-Action Akira Confirmed Already for 2009!

    February 20, 2008, Source: Variety, by Alex Billington


    Back in October last year, we reported a rumor that the Japanese anime classic Akira would eventually be getting a live-action remake. We finally have official confirmation today that says there will not only be a new adaptation, but that it is being split into two movies! Warner Brothers has re-acquired the rights and is putting the first film into production right away, aiming to release the first movie by the summer of 2009. However, the film is primarily going to be adapted from anime artist Katsuhiro Otomo’s graphic novel more than the original 1988 anime movie.

    Warner Brothers exec Greg Silverman, who previously brought the studio 300 and Batman Begins, brought them Akira and encouraged them to obtain the rights. Although the studio let go of the rights a few years ago, they fought to gain them back in a bidding war, ending up paying in the seven-figures. The studio is describing the film as “Blade Runner meets City of God“, which is a fairly fitting description for the story. Each movie will be based on three of the six volumes from Katsuhiro Otomo’s graphic novel that was first published in 1982.

    The two films will be directed by Irish filmmaker Ruairi Robinson who is making his feature debut after directing a number of short films and commercials. You can watch his 2006 short titled The Silent City on his website here. The script for the two films is being written by first-time screenwriter Gary Whitta.

    Akira is a six-volume manga that was later adapted into an anime movie in 1988. The manga takes place in a vastly larger timeframe than the film and involves a far wider array of characters and subplots. Through the breadth of the work, Otomo explicates themes of social isolation, corruption and power. The original anime and and manga was set in Tokyo, but reports are saying this version will take place in “New Manhattan”, a metropolis that was rebuilt after being destroyed 31 years ago. This isn’t fully confirmed and we’re doing our best to see if this is actually the case.

    Kaneda is a bike gang leader whose close friend Tetsuo gets involved in a government secret project known as Akira. On his way to save Tetsuo, Kaneda runs into a group of anti-government activists, greedy politicians, irresponsible scientists and a powerful military leader. The confrontation sparks off Tetsuo’s supernatural power leading to bloody death, a coup attempt and the final battle in Tokyo Olympiad where Akira’s secrets were buried 30 years ago.

    I said it before when talking about the rumor, but this is going to make for one awesome live-action movie. Not only am I a big fan of the anime movie, but there are so many great action scenes, like the futuristic motorcycle chases, that could be amazing in the movie. I’m only concerned that they won’t give this duo of films the proper budget that they really need, especially with a first-time feature filmmaker working on them. Whatever the case is, I’ll hope for the best!



    From First

    The Last Starfighter is Getting a Sequel, Too?!

    February 28, 2008, Source: Cinema Blend, by Alex Billington

    The Last Starfighter

    Yesterday it was just a rumor, but today it’s pretty much confirmed – The Last Starfighter is getting a sequel. Like The Lost Boys before it, they’re now revisiting classic 80’s movies and ripping everything good out of them and then turning them into modernized Hollywood piles of crap. Our friends at Cinema Blend have been hard at work uncovering all of the details about this sequel, and it doesn’t sound too good, but who am I to say that this early in the game? One thing is for sure – we’ve officially entered the era of the 80’s revisited in Hollywood. With Transformers turning out to be a huge hit, they’re out finding every last nostalgic 80’s “whatever” and revisiting it again, from G.I. Joe to The Last Starfighter to Akira.

    The Last StarfighterJosh Tyler over at Cinema Blend initially picked up a scoop on the sequel, supposedly titled Son of the Starfighter, from an anonymous emailer, but wasn’t sure whether it was just a big rumor. The scooper reported that a production company called George Paige and Associates was already in pre-production on the film with shooting scheduled to begin next month. He also added that “it involves original director Nick Castle, writer Jonathan Betuel and actor Lance Guest. It’s your basic Son of the Starfighter storyline and actually sounds pretty cool.” Lance Guest did appear in the first movie as the teenager Alex Rogan, so it would make sense that they’d want him back, especially if they’re considering a story involving his son.

    After first hearing about the project, Josh seemed to be a bit skeptical (as were we), pointing out that George Paige and Associates isn’t exactly a big or reputable production company and that this whole project seems a little bit far fetched, even for them. However, the project does show up officially on their website and also lists Universal Pictures and Warner Brothers as the distributors, along with Relativity Media as the additional production company. Considering Relativity Media and Universal Pictures just signed a big four-year deal, this could actually be legit.

    How is it, in my many years of childhood, that I happened to miss the glorious 80’s sci-fi classic The Last Starfighter? I really do not know. The movie is about an arcade video gamer who is recruited by an alien defense force in order to put his skills to use defending the galaxy from an invasion. This wonderfully brilliant cinematic classic made a whopping $28.7 million at the box office in its 1984 debut. Why this is prime choice for a sequel in 2008, I don’t know. Maybe someone who’s a big fan of this movie can help with that explanation.

    Until we get some official confirmation, most of this is a rumor. However, it is confirmed that this sequel is actually in production, but that doesn’t mean any of the names previously mentioned are actually attached. Josh also mentions that this would be getting a theatrical release with a mid-range budget at least, so if he’s right, you can be certain that this won’t be a forgettable revival in the years to come.

    Does The Last Starfighter really need a sequel, modernized or not?


    From First again:

    Roland Emmerich (Almost) Explains What Happens in 2012

    March 3, 2008, Source: Collider, by Alex Billington

    Roland Emmerich

    Back in February, blockbuster director Roland Emmerich revealed that his next big movie would be one titled 2012, a disaster movie that takes place in the year of the title. Emmerich’s next finished movie is actually 10,000 B.C., which hits theaters this coming Friday. Our friend Steve from Collider caught up with Emmerich last weekend while he was promoting 10,000 B.C. and tried to get him to reveal what exactly happens in 2012, but still had no luck – he’s keeping a very tight lip. But if you’re interested in trying to guess what it might be or just want to know exactly what Emmerich said, read on. And considering this is the next big $200 million epic summer blockbuster, we’re sure you’ll want to know.

    Mayan calendarThe script for 2012 is apparently so good, that the studios started a bidding war for distribution, with Sony ending up the winner. Now it’s heading into production for a July 10th, 2009 opening. Emmerich has said previously that “it will be very expensive, you see the whole world go to shit” and other sources reported that the “project has more going for it than the big idea that studios love,” but what exactly that means yet, no one knows. All that we do know is that 2012 is the year that the Mayan calendar (pictured to the right) ends and many others have predicted that it will be the apocalyptic end of the Earth. What Emmerich is depicting, however, is a “natural disaster” of some sorts.

    Before we get into the juicy details, Emmerich explains his inspiration for the movie, and how he convinced himself, after saying he’d never do another disaster movie, to do 2012.

    “…This whole movie I’m doing next was inspired by just the phenomenon of the internet when you type in Google, ‘2012’, you get 240 million hits. That’s a lot. And it’s just, so many people write about it, believe it, that our world comes to an end in 2012. I said wow. I kind of said before I will never do a disaster movie again. I said, for this idea I have to do it again.”

    When Collider asked Emmerich whether this would achieve a new level of “blowing things up”, Emmerich responded with “it’s not blowing up, it’s something else.” And when prodded further to explain himself, Emmerich almost gave it away: “This time there’s no blowing up. It’s a natural disaster. Well, actually yeah, like a… I’m not saying it! I’m giving things away.” Damn, too close! If only he just finished his sentence…

    To be honest, Emmerich has done such a great job of teasing 2012, that I’m getting into it almost as much as Cloverfield, where it’s become all about figuring out “what it is” more than anything else. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait until we see the first teaser trailer or hear reports from the set to get to that point. Emmerich goes on talking to Collider about how “undoable” this is, especially considering they’re going to, basically, destroy the entire world. Check out what he had to say!

    “Yes, it will be very expensive, but I think it will be for a price because people who read the script said this is undoable. And I said, well but we’ll do it. I mean, it’s one of these things that everybody says it’s undoable because it’s like, you see the whole world go to shit… It’s kind of one of these things when I write a script, and I wrote it again with Harald [Kloser] together, we just said no, we’ll not think if it’s doable or not, we’ll just write it. We’ll just come up with it. And then we’ll figure out how we’ll do it. I think it’s worth doing it because it’s also when you have something where you have adrenaline because you are nervous about it, that’s good. That’s a little bit like… it’s good when actors have this adrenaline when they go on stage. I think they do their best work, and for us it’s the same thing…”

    I love the way he thinks – don’t write it with “is it doable?” in mind, just write it, and then figure out how to do it. And even be nervous about it, challenge yourself – that’s awesome. As much as we all know that Emmerich is a filmmaker who writes/directs films that are nothing but storyless blockbusters, at least they’re entertaining. And although I’m not that excited for 10,000 B.C., I’m already very excited for 2012. I’m really wondering what the hell is going to happen, and how the entire world is going to get destroyed! This should be fun!

    Any guesses as to what kind(s) of natural disaster(s) will be destroying the Earth in 2012?


    12:00 AM, 03-MARCH-08

    3-D Tron Sequel Due In ’11?
    Disney plans to release a 3-D sequel to its classic SF movie Tron in spring 2011, Dark Horizons reported. The Digital Disney 3-D movie reportedly will be directed by Joseph Kosinski.

    The studio also has Cars 2, National Treasure 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean 4 scheduled for that year, the site reported.

    Other reports suggest the fourth Pirates movie may focus on one character to downsize the budget. Other reports talk of a hyper-budget, ultra-fantastical feature, meaning anything from dinosaurs to Jules Verne-esque floating fortresses, the site reported.

    From The Hollywood Reporter site:

    Kosinski will program Disney’s ‘Tron’ sequel

    By Borys Kit, Sept. 11, 2007



    TORONTO — Commercial director Joseph Kosinski is in final negotiations to develop and direct “Tron,” described as “the next chapter” of Disney’s 1982 cult classic. Sean Bailey is producing via the Live Planet banner, as is Steven Lisberger, who co-wrote and directed the original film.

    Kosinski, who last month signed on to helm the remake of “Logan’s Run” for Warner Bros. Pictures, will oversee the visual development of the project and have input on the script, which is being written by “Lost” scribes Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Story details are being kept secret.

    The original, about a computer programmer thrust into a computer and forced to fight in games he helped create, is remembered for its sci-fi gladiator-style battles and groundbreaking special effects. It was the first movie to use computer-generated images instead of models and other optical effects in conjunction with live action. The arcade game based on the movie was so popular that it earned more than the movie.

    When making the original, in order to convince the studio to take a chance on a first-time director, Lisberger shot a test reel, financed by the studio, involving the deadly Frisbee battle. In a case of historical synchronicity, sources said one of the things Kosinski will be doing is working on a sequence involving the movie’s Light Cycles to work out his vision for the movie. Sources also said visual effects personnel, for many of whom “Tron” was an inspiration to enter the business, already are jockeying for pole position to work on the sequence.
    Brigham Taylor is overseeing for Disney.

    Kosinski is a former architect whose specs caught the attention of director David Fincher, who convinced Kosinski to move to Los Angeles, where he joined the director at commercial house Anonymous Content. Kosinski then moved quickly up the ladder, eventually directing award-winning spots for Nike, Apple and Nintendo that gained notice for their use of computer technology that erased the lines between reality and CGI.

    Kosinski is repped by Endeavor and Michael Sugar and Bard Dorros at Anonymous Content.


    From First (where all the good news seems to be coming from):

    Sam Rockwell Tells of Sci-Fi Movie ‘Moon’

    February 7, 2008, Source: MTV, by Alex Billington

    Sam Rockwell

    A week ago we speculated that the fashionable new beard that actor Sam Rockwell was sporting at Sundance was for Gentlemen Broncos, Jared Hess’ next film. Alas, we were wrong. MTV actually had the guts to ask Rockwell what he had the beard for, and got a response that even gets me excited. You see, Sam Rockwell is one of my favorite actors working these days that still somehow remains under-the-radar. He’s great because he isn’t an A-list actor but he gives A-list performances and that’s what really counts. He explained that the beard was actually for a sci-fi movie titled Moon that he’s working on next. Want to know more?

    Moon is being directing by Duncan Jones, also known as Zowie Bowie, the son of David Bowie. Jones is a former ad exec turned filmmaker with only one film under his belt, a sci-fi short from 2000 called Whistle. If this project is anything like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was director Garth Jennings’ first feature film, a sci-fi nonetheless, then I may even be more excited, if that’s possible.

    Rockwell explains, “I’m doing a sci-fi movie where I’m stranded on the moon for three years. That’s why I have the beard.” That’s apparently all that’s known about the story, with the addition of some “what if” scenarios. “What if Neil Armstrong had to wait until Apollo 12 to come back home? And what if he had a freaking awesome beard?” I’ll tell you what if – we’d have an awesome movie on our hands!

    Anyone who has been reading here for a longtime knows that I’m a huge sci-fi nut, so anything sci-fi I’m usually all for. Especially when it involves Zaphod Beeblebrox from The Hitchhiker’s Guide, another sci-fi role that Sam Rockwell nailed. And considering the concept and story, this could be both hilarious and awesome. I’m already giving Moon a thumbs up without even knowing who wrote the script or the status of the production, because with Rockwell cast, at least I know it’s in good hands! And now the mystery of the beard has been solved.


    From MTV, again, not Sci-Fi, but close, and appeals to fans of the genre usually, comes the new James Bond flick:

    ‘James Bond: Quantum of Solace’ Plot Revealed!

    Published by Larry Carroll on Friday, February 29, 2008 at 3:27 pm.

    James BondWhat is “Quantum of Solace”? James Bond screenwriter Paul Haggis might not have any idea, but if MGM was kind enough to cc him on their latest press release, the Oscar-winner will gain a drool-inducing insight into the film’s plot, right alongside the rest of us.

    Below is the spankin’ new, studio-approved plot summary of Bond’s 22nd flick. Does it leave you shaken, or stirred? Oh, and at the risk of sounding like a cheesy guy in an IROC is driving past us: “Spoiler alert!”

    “‘Quantum of Solace’ continues the high octane adventures of James Bond (Daniel Craig) in ‘Casino Royale.’ Betrayed by Vesper, the woman he loved, 007 fights the urge to make his latest mission personal.

    Pursuing his determination to uncover the truth, Bond and M (Judi Dench) interrogate Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), who reveals the organization which blackmailed Vesper is far more complex and dangerous than anyone had imagined. Forensic intelligence links an MI6 traitor to a bank account in Haiti where a case of mistaken identity introduces Bond to the beautiful but feisty Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a woman who has her own vendetta.

    Camille leads Bond straight to Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a ruthless business man and major force within the mysterious organization. On a mission that leads him to Austria, Italy and South America, Bond discovers that Greene, conspiring to take total control of one of the world’s most important natural resources, is forging a deal with the exiled General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio). Using his associates in the organization, and manipulating his powerful contacts within the CIA and the British government, Greene promises to overthrow the existing regime in a Latin American country giving the General control of the country in exchange for a seemingly barren piece of land.

    In a minefield of treachery, murder and deceit, Bond allies with old friends in a battle to uncover the truth. As he gets closer to finding the man responsible for the betrayal of Vesper, 007 must keep one step ahead of the CIA, the terrorists and even M, to unravel Greene’s sinister plan and stop his organization.”


    2:00 AM, 04-MARCH-08


    Byrne Joins Cage In Knowing
    Rose Byrne has landed the lead role opposite Nicolas Cage in the SF thriller film Knowing for Summit Entertainment and Escape Artists, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

    Byrne (Sunshine) will play the daughter of a woman who buried a 1962 time capsule bearing the dates of the assassinations of historical figures, the hotel fire death of the wife of a professor (Cage) and an imminent world apocalypse. After the professor discovers its contents and alerts her, the initially skeptical Byrne begins remembering strange incidents from her childhood.

    Alex Proyas (I, Robot) will direct the screenplay by Ryne Douglas Pearson, with script revisions by Juliet Snowden, Stiles White, Stuart Hazeldine and Proyas.
    Production is set to begin March 25 in Melbourne, Australia.

    And here’s a “little” more from


    Release Date: TBA
    Studio: Summit Entertainment
    Director: Alex Proyas
    Screenwriter: Ryne Pearson, Stiles White, Juliet Snowden, Stuart Hazeldine, Alex Proyas
    Starring: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne
    Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller
    MPAA Rating: Not Available
    Official Website: Not Available
    Review: Not Available
    DVD Review: Not Available
    DVD: Not Available
    Movie Poster: Not Available
    Production Stills: Not Available
    Plot Summary: Cage will play a teacher who examines the contents of a time capsule unearthed at his son’s elementary school. Startling predictions in the time capsule that have already come true lead him to believe the world is going to end at the close of the week and that he and his son are somehow involved in the destruction.
    Coming Soon!


    Although not a Sci-Fi flick, it IS a medical thriller, and looks interesting, à la Robin Cook:

    From First

    Boring New Pathology Teaser Trailer Hits

    February 29, 2008, by Alex Billington

    Pathology Trailer

    I’ve been looking forward to Pathology since we were first shown the original trailer at last year’s Comic-Con. I’d say I’m much more curious than I am excited, but either way it’s definitely a movie I am very much looking forward to seeing. After Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor arrived on the scene with Crank, I’ve been anxious to see what their follow-up would be. Although Pathology isn’t directed by them, they did produce and write it, so it does have their “touch”. I don’t know what to make of this trailer, though – I’d rather see more of the actual movie than this, but oh well for now… This is all we’ve got for the moment.

    Watch the trailer for Pathology:

    NOTE: I don’t know if this is the trailer mentioned, but it is an official one

    Some say that Pathology is a window to God. As doctors, they see the perversion and corruption of the flesh by all means unnatural…by violence…by toxin…by madness…to determine the cause of death. As a result they are the experts in all signs of foul play and the best in the field can uncover all means of killing, even those that are seemingly undetectable.

    When med school student Ted Gray (Milo Ventimiglia) graduates top of his class he joins one of the nation’s most prestigious Pathology programs. With talent and determination Ted is quickly noticed by the program’s privileged and elite band of pathology interns who invite him into their crowd. Intrigued by his new friends he begins to uncover secrets he never expected and finds that he has unknowingly become a pawn in their dangerous and secret after-hours game at the morgue of who can commit the perfect undetectable murder. As Ted becomes seduced into their wild extracurricular activities the danger becomes real and he must stay one step ahead of the game before he is the next victim.

    Pathology is directed by German filmmaker Marc Schoelermann and written by Crank writers/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. The film arrives in theaters on April 18th. Make sure to check it out!

    Pathology Poster


    2:00 AM, 29-FEBRUARY-08

    Highmore Flies To Astro Boy
    Freddie Highmore has been signed for the title role in IMAGI Studios’ computer-animated Astro Boy movie, the studio announced.

    Highmore (The Spiderwick Chronicles), 16, will voice the character, based on Osamu Tezuka’s manga and 1960s TV series.

    Here’s how IMAGI describes the movie: Set in futuristic Metro City, Astro Boy is about a young robot with incredible powers created by a brilliant scientist to replace the son he has lost. Unable to fulfill the grieving father’s expectations, Astro Boy embarks on a journey in search of acceptance, experiencing betrayal and a netherworld of robot gladiators before he returns to save Metro City and reconcile with the man who rejected him. Astro Boy will be released worldwide in 2009.

    And from First

    Exclusive: AstroBoy Concept Art and Director Interview

    November 12, 2007, by Alex Billington


    The beloved Japanese manga series AstroBoy is getting a big screen adaptation courtesy of the CGI gurus at Imagi Animation, the same studio that made the CGI movie TMNT earlier this year. Although the film is quite far from completion, aiming for a 2009 release, exclusively interviewed director Colin Brady and was given the very first concept art photo which can only be seen here. Die hard AstroBoy fans and newcomers alike will definitely be excited at what ILM and Pixar animation supervisor and Toy Story 2 co-director Colin Brady has to say about helming his first feature film and what we can expect in a full featured AstroBoy CGI movie.

    Back in October we ran the first look photo at the CGI version of AstroBoy but we were asked to remove it as it wasn’t a final version. Although Colin and everyone at Imagi is still working hard on the final look of a CGI Astro, we have an exclusive concept art photo of the new and improved AstroBoy which you can check out below. Our interview with director Colin Brady follows below the photo.

    AstroBoy Concept Art
    (c) 2007. Tezuka Productions Co. Ltd. / Imagi International Holdings Ltd.
    Click for full size version.

    AstroBoy (via Wikipedia), which debuted back in 1952 originally as a cult Japanese manga and eventually as a TV anime series, tells the story of a powerful robot boy created by a brilliant scientist in the image of the son he lost. Our hero journeys to find acceptance in the human world and ultimately discovers true friendship as he uses his incredible powers to help others and save Metro City from destruction.

    Colin BradyColin Brady is an immensely talented animation supervisor who has worked previously at Pixar, Rhythm and Hues, and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM). Brady was also a director of the animated film Everyone’s Hero and co-directed Toy Story 2. In our interview, he talks about his past career and introduction to AstroBoy, as well as a lot of what we can expect in the film from the story to what it’s likely to be rated – PG. Read on to hear what Colin says about the project below. What drew you to the AstroBoy project? Why did you decide to direct this CGI film?
    I first met with Paul Wang, Executive VP of Development at Imagi Animation Studios, about 18 months ago. He felt AstroBoy was a good fit for me. My experience at Pixar and ILM directing characters like Buzz Lightyear, the Hulk, and E.T. seemed to make AstroBoy a good fit because his character has some elements of each. I am very drawn to power of Anime’s sense of mythology, whereas a lot of American animation is full of fluff. AstroBoy is an icon, packed with action and full of heart. What will the story focus on / what adventures will AstroBoy get involved in? Will it start with his origin and go from there?
    Similar to Spider-Man or the first Superman, it makes sense to start with the origin story. Although I admit that I thought it would be fun to simply start with the sequel. AstroBoy is kind of a dark Pinocchio story, but unlike Pinocchio, Astro never can become real flesh and blood. Astro’s journey of self discovery and acceptance is directly linked to the hardcore killer robot fights, and to the rejection by his creator, Dr. Tanner. Will this AstroBoy be aimed purely at kids or will it have a grungier, tougher aspect for older fans? (e.g. what rating are you going for?)
    We’re going for as hard PG as we can. Luckily robot violence is less disturbing than humans fighting each other with guns. What kind of voice actors will you be considering? Will they be completely from scratch or any from the series?
    We’re mostly looking at a mix of popular American and Japanese actors. But certainly they have to be right for the part. What are you bringing to AstroBoy that will hopefully allow this version to succeed whereas the relaunch of the series recently in the US “failed”?
    We will present Astro’s story as more of an epic Sci Fi fantasy. Although Astro is a robot, there’s a deep dark human struggle that we’re exploring. In bringing Astro to CG we’re trying to create a texture and beauty similar to the original Star Wars films. We’re extremely influenced by Hokusai, Noguchi, and Miyazaki. We’re very careful to stay as true to the original design as possible but at the same time aging up his voice and the overall tone. Are you trying to modernize him or do anything to create a more widespread appeal beyond just the fans?
    The challenge is to appeal to the non fans while not upsetting those who grew up with this character. Every step of the way we are including Tezuka Studios to ensure we’re being respectful to one of Asia’s most recognizable icons.

    Thanks to Colin Brady and Imagi Animation! I think AstroBoy has a strong chance of ringing true with fans, just as TMNT did with all the fans of that franchise. The film sounds like it is in some incredibly capable hands and although it may be Brady’s first feature film, his character animation history shows that he will bring a certain needed dynamic to the character of AstroBoy. Keep watch for more updates as the project continues production.


    2:00 AM, 28-FEBRUARY-08

    Transformers 2 Unfazed By Strike Prospect
    The prospect of an actors’ strike in late June isn’t stopping Michael Bay, who plans to begin production on Transformers 2 for a June 26, 2009, release, Variety reported. DreamWorks would like to get underway with production of Transformers 2 in early June.

    But Bay told the trade paper that the labor cloud has made the process harder. “If there is a strike, we shut down, but shutting down isn’t that big a deal,” Bay said. “You make accommodations, you make a deal with vending houses on equipment and on the stages where you are shooting. You hope for the best, but you can’t be incapacitated by the possibility that there will be a strike. We’ve got to get this town back to work. I can’t imagine anyone wants another strike; we’re all tired. Hopefully clearer heads will prevail.”

    Bay said that the sequel is still recovering from the writer’s strike, and that he’s playing catch-up after getting back his trio of writers, Ehren Kruger, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.

    “They did a detailed outline before the writers’ strike, and now they are in Michael Bay jail, holed up in a hotel and working feverishly,” Bay said. “We’re paying for a beautiful suite, and they are getting a lot of work done. Hiring three writers was unusual, but it has been a godsend in getting us to where we need to be. Somehow you find a way to get it done.”

    Meanwhile, several studios are setting additional plans for summer production starts, based on the assumption that the Screen Actors Guild contract talks will be resolved without the kind of work stoppage that crippled the film industry during the 100-day writers’ strike, Variety reported.

    Warner Brothers has already pushed forward on George Miller’s Justice League to begin shooting in mid-July.

    Warners revealed earlier this week that it will begin shooting Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins on May 5.

    Twentieth Century Fox, for instance, has scheduled August as the start date for The Tooth Fairy, a fantasy comedy that will star Dwayne Johnson.
    Sony will begin shooting its Da Vinci Code sequel, Angels & Demons, in Rome on June 5.

    Sony’s 2012, a $200 million Roland Emmerich-directed disaster epic, is slated for a summer 2009 release.



    Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins

    Release Date: May 22, 2009
    Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
    Director: McG
    Screenwriter: John Brancato, Michael Ferris
    Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington
    Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller
    MPAA Rating: Not Available
    Official Website: Not Available
    Review: Not Available
    DVD Review: Not Available
    DVD: Not Available
    Movie Poster: Not Available
    Production Stills: Not Available
    Plot Summary: “Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins” will reinvent the cyborg saga with a storyline to be told over a three-movie span. The film is set in the future, in a full-scale war between Skynet and humankind.


    More Terminator Salvation Plot Details

    Source: SCI FI Wire, January 7, 2008

    SCI FI Wire talked to Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins associate producer James Middleton, who revealed more details about the new trilogy.
    “It’s set after the events of ‘Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,’ where we see the nuclear exchange at the end of the movie, and we show what the world is like after this event, and we show how people try to deal in a post-apocalyptic world,” Middleton said. “And we introduce a new character, who becomes very important to the resistance and to John Connor, a new hero. It’s really about the birth of a new hero.”

    He added that John Connor will certainly be a central character in the film as well. “I would look at him as a character that is introduced and that will grow in the second and third movies of the trilogy,” he said about the character, to be played by Christian Bale.

    Middleton also mentioned that Arnold Schwarzenegger is not expected to make a cameo in any of the three new films as long as he is a governor.

    And from First

    Sam Worthington Cast in Terminator 4 via James Cameron’s Suggestion

    February 14, 2008, Source: Variety, by Kevin Powers

    Sam Worthington Cast in Terminator 4

    With at least a year until its release, Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins is slowly taking shape bit by bit, most recently with casting announcements. Last week we brought you the rumor that Josh Brolin might step in as the new Terminator, and before that, Christian Bale was announced as the new adult John Connor. The news is promising on its face, but there’s been a lot of discussion whether the director McG can really do the iconic storyline justice, what with his extreme lack of cred in this space. I mean, Charlie’s Angels… or “Fastlane”…? However, McG might just be getting the endorsement he needs with James Cameron, who directed the first two Terminator movies, influencing the selection of one of the new film’s main characters: Sam Worthington as Marcus, a presently unknown character who will serve a primary role in the new trio of Terminator films.

    Of course, I think we all need to accept the sad reality that nothing Terminator-related will ever live up to Cameron’s original two. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines wasn’t half-bad, and the director, Jonathon Mostow, had a similar dearth of sci-fi experience as McG. But with the recent news, does this mean that Cameron might, in fact, be sneaking around in the background? That would be great, of course, but I’m not yet convinced Salvation will have enough of a Cameron influence to make us think this could be the next real Terminator movie.

    Worthington is actually working with Cameron on his upcoming sci-fi epic Avatar. Why McG and Cameron spoke recently wherein Cameron recommended Worthington for a role in the new series is a bit unknown. Was Cameron so inspired by Worthington and interested in Salvation that he felt it necessary to give McG some recommendations? If it went down like that, will the recommendations cease or will Cameron continue to whisper in McG’s ear?

    As for Worthington and his suitability for the role, that’s a bit unknown as well. The actor isn’t exactly recognizable, though he does have the stern brow and chiseled jaw to make him right home amidst a decimated Earth.

    Personally, I’m more interested in Bale. McG confirmed recently that despite rumors to the contrary, Bale’s role as Connor is a “major player” in the film. I hated Nick Stahl’s incarnation of the future leader in Terminator 3. The question with this, however, is when and how Bale will exit the upcoming three-picture series; we all know he dies at some point, but it would suck to remove him too early, since he’s done such a cool job helping to reinvigorate the Batman franchise.

    I guess we’ll see how Cameron’s involvement (or lack thereof) plays out over this year. I’m hesitant to say his recommendation of Worthington is a sign of great things to come. After all, McG, the captain of this project, said recently in reference to finding someone for the Terminator role: “I’m looking for credible actors. We’ve already got Christian Bale, who is one of the greatest actors of his generation. I’d love to get Daniel Day-Lewis, but I don’t know if he goes in for this kind of movie.” With that kind of misguided thinking, he could use all the help Cameron can give him.


    2:00 AM, 27-FEBRUARY-08

    Glover Goes Long In 9
    Quirky character actor Crispin Glover told SCI FI Wire that he’s looking forward to the expansion of Shane Acker’s Oscar-nominated animated short 9 into a feature-length production. Glover voices a creature who steals souls in the feature movie, which is set in a post-apocalyptic world.

    “I have finished with all of my work on it, but I don’t know what exactly is happening with that,” Glover said in an interview. “The work I did on that was very different from Beowulf, because in that one I did go on and do my voice and didn’t have a chance to interact with other actors.”
    Glover voiced the monster Grendel in Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf, which dropped on DVD on Feb. 26.

    The animated 9 short is available online. Glover said the movie version will change things dramatically. The short “was a silent film,” he said. “There was no dialogue in the short, 10-and-a-half-minute film. So this post-apocalyptic nightmare is what the director’s vision is all about, and my job was to just get across what he wanted me to do. You’ve got to interpret the character and rebirth it his way, and when it’s edited, it may be completely different from what you put forth as an actor. I’m glad we’re working with the director who did the original short.”

    Written by Monster House screenwriter Pamela Pettler, 9 features the voices of Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau and Elijah Wood.

    9 is expected to be released later in the year.


    12:00 AM, 27-FEBRUARY-08

    Mostow Developing Megas

    Jonathan Mostow will partner with Virgin Comics to develop a feature from The Megas, an alternate-universe graphic novel just published by Virgin based on a Mostow idea, Variety reported.

    The graphic novel, scripted by John Harrison and drawn by Peter Rubin, presupposes an America that has a ruling class called the Megas, for whom there is a special set of laws. A detective who believes in the monarchy rethinks his position after investigating a crime that reveals ugly truths about the elite society.

    It’s unclear whether Mostow will write the script or direct the feature adaptation; he and Virgin Comics chief creative officer Gotham Chopra and chief executive officer Sharad Devarajan will begin shopping the project shortly.

    And from

    The Megas

    Release Date: TBA
    Studio: Not Available
    Director: Not Available
    Screenwriter: Not Available
    Starring: Not Available
    Genre: Drama
    MPAA Rating: Not Available
    Official Website: Not Available
    Review: Not Available
    DVD Review: Not Available
    DVD: Not Available
    Movie Poster: Not Available
    Production Stills: Not Available
    Plot Summary: Based on the Virgin Comics graphic novel, written by John Harrison and drawn by Peter Rubin, presupposes an America that has a ruling class called the Megas, for whom there is a special set of laws. A detective who believes in the monarchy rethinks his position after investigating a crime that reveals ugly truths about the elite society.



    Star Trek


    Release Date: May 8, 2009
    Studio: Paramount Pictures
    Director: J.J. Abrams
    Screenwriter: Roberto Orci, Alex Kutzman
    Starring: John Cho, Ben Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Winona Ryder, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Eric Bana, Leonard Nimoy, Marlene Forte, Jimmy Bennett
    Genre: Sci-Fi
    MPAA Rating: Not Available
    Official Website: |
    Review: Not Available
    DVD Review: Not Available
    DVD: Not Available
    Movie Poster:


    Production Stills: View here
    Plot Summary: From director J.J. Abrams (“Mission: Impossible III,” “Lost” and “Alias”) and screenwriters Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (“Transformers,” “MI: III”) comes a new vision of the greatest space adventure of all time, “Star Trek,” featuring a young, new crew venturing boldly where no man has gone before.

    Star Trek XI – Trailer #1 TRUE-HD

    From io9: Strung Out on Science Fiction comes this rumor:

    A new rumor has surfaced about J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie: it doesn’t deal with time travel at all, but rather with visiting different alternate realities. (Actually, I thought it featured time travel, which created alternate realities.) In one alternate timeline, we’ll get to see a very different version of the U.S.S. Enterprise, in which it’s a warship. (And will Spock have a cool goatee again?) Some of the movie will also take place in the Next Generation era, which makes sense since Leonard Nimoy is playing Old Spock.

    Meanwhile, Anton Yelchin, who plays Chekhov in the new movie, appears to have confirmed the movie will feature Klingons. Or else he was just talking metaphorically when he said he has to look at a greenscreen scanner and pretend he’s looking at Klingon warships. Rumor has it the Klingons will be somewhat redesigned. [Screenrant]


    For the latest update, from First

    James Cameron’s Updates on Avatar Status

    February 21, 2008, Source: AICN, by Alex Billington

    James Cameron

    One of the few people we’re desperately in need of an update from is James Cameron, who is currently working on his sci-fi 3D movie Avatar. Thankfully Harry from AICN got in touch with him just yesterday and he talked about all the latest with Avatar, including how technically complex and time consuming it is, and also how groundbreaking it just may be. This sounds like an animated Pixar project – they’re already two years in and have a year and a half to go of actual work as they prepare for its release in December of 2009. With every new day and every new update on Avatar, I get that much more excited for what this movie will bring.

    A few days ago a bland and boring new photo from Avatar was revealed, but Cameron confirms that it isn’t from him and isn’t actually related to the movie. He goes on to explain that while they’ve finished principal photography, Steve Quale is out shooting second unit footage and they still have more performance capture work to do with Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Stephen Lang that could last until April or May. And even with Lang, who is the last on Cameron’s schedule to shoot, he explains that the scene “is so technically difficult it will take us until then to figure out how to do it.”

    Things are going well on Avatar, or at least as well as can be expected on such a ridiculously complex project. We’ve wrapped principal, and most of the live action portion of the movie is already cut. It’s starting to look and sound like a movie. I’m ecstatic with the performances and the look. The cast chemistry worked out perfectly.

    When working on a movie like this, that involves both extensive principal live-action photography and motion capture, as well as groundbreaking 3D and CGI work, time is the most essential aspect. Cameron has previously said that “the film will be composed of 60% computer-generated elements and 40% live action, as well as traditional miniatures” and is a hybrid movie that’s based on a full live-action shoot combined with computer-generated characters and live environments. While I wish I could better explain what exactly Cameron is doing, there really is no way to even guess at any of what we’ll see come December of ’09.

    You can see how spread out the schedule is — it’s just the nature of this type of CG animation/live action hybrid. Most of my time now is spent editing, because on this type of film you edit every CG scene twice — once to edit the raw performance capture, before it goes to virtual camera, and then again when you have the virtual camera shots, you do the final edit of the scene. It’s very complex and taxing, but the result is amazing. The Weta animators are ON FIRE, and seeing the world and the creatures come to life is what keeps us going. There’s a spirit on this film, an esprit de corps amongst the virtual team, that comes from knowing we’re doing something absolutely groundbreaking. It’s why people still have good morale after working on this thing for two years or more. And we still have more than a year and a half to go. I don’t know if this will be a good film, great film, awful film, but I can say with absolute certainty that you will see stuff you’ve never imagined, and that the process of making this film will generate a lot of interest within the technical side of the biz.

    Although they’ve been working for two years, Cameron explains that the actual CGI and final frames won’t be rendered until next year, where they’ll go into an all out “frenzy” to render everything by the release date. This filmmaking process and animation process has evolved quite a bit even in just the two years of time that he’s been working on it, and I can only imagine the doors it will open once the film arrives. I’ve previously heard other big name directors like Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have stepped into the studios to check out the technology and have been amazed by it. That’s certainly impressive to hear, not to mention the enthusiasm Cameron has when talking about it.

    Avatar is the last film listed on the 2009 Release Schedule, and it’s a relief because thankfully that gives us the time we need to get through every other anticipated movie in the way. When December 18th, 2009 rolls around, be ready to experience something truly breathtaking, groundbreaking, and possibly life-changing. I already can feel it coming and I’m already anxious for it, even 22 months out.

    And for a little more, although possibly rumors, on Avatar, from Market Saw: A Blog Focused on 3D Motion Pictures:

    Friday, February 29, 2008

    James Cameron’s “avatar” Secrets Revealed: Warning Spoilers!

    UPDATED (March 4th): Just wanted to clarify that until Cameron comes out and states otherwise, the original thought was that “Avatar” would be about 60% CGI. You can see the outdoor green screens here and here; they look ENORMOUS. However, there is a large live action component as well that Cameron must feel deserves the detailed set treatment – mainly interior shots it appears. Also it wouldn’t take much to move the Biolabs from inside to the exterior green scene to create the environment. I also wanted to say that we don’t know if they are creating life sized plants for this movie – though it would make sense to do so in some cases. Many flora shots would be CGI – my source was referring to “how others had the whole communication thing explained to them” by the powers at be. So whether it is exposed to the audience in a scientific way (sort of how in “Jurassic Park” they explained how they retrieved the DNA from dinosaurs) or whether they plan on “suspending belief” of the audience (i.e. unexplained) remains to be seen. Either way, it is an awesome premise and BEGS my curiosity. One thing is certain – science plays an interesting role in this movie; whether they keep the “theory” behind various communication techniques in a black box or expose it like in Jurassic Park is a guess at this point! My conjecture would be that Grace (Sigourney Weaver) explains it to someone and the audience (of course) listens in. If you want the details, highlight the white text below as it does contain spoilers.

    Well I told ya it was coming and here it is. Exclusive Avatar news you can’t get anywhere else. Now a small caveat here: These notes are from a while back and some things may have changed during filming, but what has been noted DID EXIST at one point and these notes are authentic:

    Got some VERY interesting news from one of my “Avatar” sources that was involved with getting this 3D motion picture made. AWESOME news in fact. In fact, you may not want to read this as there are definite mini-spoilers in this that may affect your viewing pleasure.

    **SPOILERS BELOW** Highlight the white text below to read the contents:
    My source was very clear on a number of things including some of the basis for the movie as well as how things looked inside the production buildings:

    1. “Avatar” production set:

    There were hundreds of workers building the sets for Avatar – MDF was being thrown around like candy to make the sets as realistic as possible – and it was very successful. The transport ships for instance achieved a “matte steel appearance” that was undetectable. Those transport ships look pretty much like the new Battlestar Gallactica transports, but much bigger – like ten times bigger. These sets filled the interior of the set buildings in Wellington – to the rafters. All very real looking and NOT scaled down – it was all life size.

    This is mainly where the security forces interior scenes were shot. It was large (30 x 30 feet) made to look like steel construction with only a few windows to view the outside world. The feeling that was conveyed with this structure was that the soldiers were trying to bring their own home with them to this alien planet Pandora, and ignore what was happening outside – kind of like what happens when soldiers are deployed overseas today and they set up coffee shops, etc to keep from feeling terribly homesick. On the wall of the mess hall was a large US flag that takes up half the space – something like 10 x 15 feet) – this could indicate political overtones for the movie.

    There were other buildings being made that were for science related things. My source only saw these labs from the outside and they seemed very true to their nature. I spoke to some other workers and they said that they look like typical laboratories – one larger lab (about 30 x 30 feet) and one mobile lab (which was about 6 x 15 feet). Sigourney Weaver’s character who plays Grace in “Avatar” spends a lot of time in a control room in the bigger one.

    2. “Avatar” Story Basics:

    Apparently the animals can communicate with the plants of Pandora, but my source was kind of hazy on that. Not only that, but the native Na’vi inhabitants take their own hair and weave it into the hair of Pandora’s animals and can communicate that way to them!


    Many workers were talking about how they are using LED lights to show how plants “talk” to other plants on the planet. They use these lights to show how electrons move back and forth between plants through their root system. Again – my source didn’t know much more than that. However, if you examine the plants in the photo here – you can see the luminosity that is being spoken of that seems to be present not only in the plants but also in the Na’vi natives of Pandora.

    A lot of speculation was taking place on the set about how the Avatar chambers work. This is where humans link up with their native avatars to kind of take over their bodies. The chambers were really very cool and if you can picture the cryo chambers in the Alien movies, take those and put them upright with a darker appearance. I suspect that Sigourney Weaver’s Grace plays a key role in discovering the crucial communication methods and applying them to humans.

    One can see a progression here of humans encountering this awesome alien communication system and then taking that idea, studying how it is done in the labs and then applying it to human to Na’vi avatar communication. At least that is my thoughts on it. Wow. This movie is going to really redefine the theater going experience! A great story, awesome effects and all in 3D. Man am I psyched. I also want to add that taking photos of the sets was impossible – so none are available (so far anyway).

    Hopefully we will see some exciting new promo materials from Jim Cameron as also exclusively uncovered by my “Avatar” sources in the coming weeks…
    As always, I will post new info as I receive it – unless the sensitivity is too extreme and my source asks me to hold back somewhat. This post for instance is missing some truly cool stuff but I cannot divulge it due to the fact it would closely label just who my source in this case is. Let’s put it this way: I am smiling a lot more today… 🙂

    First two images courtesy of HDVideoPro


    And as for TV and Whedon fans from io9:

    First Description of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse!

    6:00AMon Tue Mar 4 2008, By Charlie Jane Anders

    Here’s the production notice which Fox sent out along with the casting call for Dollhouse, Joss’ new show:

    The drama stars Dushku as Echo, a member of a group of men and women who are imprinted with different personalities for different assignments. In between tasks they are mind-wiped, living like children in Dollhouse, a futuristic dorm/lab. A group of people, known as “Actives” (or “Dolls”), have had their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas and hired out for particular jobs, crimes, fantasies and occasional good deeds. When not imprinted, the Actives live, childlike and unremembering, in a hidden facility nicknamed “The Dollhouse”. Although the Actives are ostensibly volunteers, the operation is highly illegal, and under constant threat from a determined federal agent on one end and an insane rogue Active on the other. The story hinges around a greater and more subtle threat: Echo, a female Active, begins, in her mind-wiped state, to become self-aware.


    Meet The People Who Give Eliza Dushku Her Brain Modules

    10:10am on Fri Feb 29 2008, by Charlie Jane Anders


    Just because Eliza Dushku will be an amnesiac with occasional false personalities in Joss Whedon’s new TV show Dollhouse, doesn’t mean she won’t have friends.

    A new casting sheet for Dollhouse includes a whole raft of morally gray characters, including friends, mentors, bosses and a love interest. Click through for a list of the show’s characters.


    A new Fox network show starting as soon as next fall, Dollhouse stars Eliza Dushku as Echo, a “doll” who can take on any personality — including memories and abilities — she needs to complete a mission. When she’s not on a job, Echo sits in her “dollhouse” in an amnesiac state. And here are her supporting cast. None of these parts have been cast yet (as far as we know), but here are the characters Joss has come up with:

    • Adelle Dewitt, the forty-something ice queen who runs the Dollhouse where Echo and the other “dolls” stay while they’re blanked out between missions. It sounds like she’ll be creepy and unsavory.
    • Paul Ballard, a thirty-something G-man who will become a sort of love interest for Echo (although will she remember him between gigs?).
    • Boyd Langton, who’s Echo’s “handler” and a sort of father figure to her. Sort of the Giles to her Buffy.
    • Topher Brink, the geek who programs Echo and the other “dolls,” and may enjoy his mind-[effing] work a little too much.
    • Sierra, one of Echo’s fellow “dolls” and the closest thing to a friend she has
    • Victor, another “doll,” who’s amazingly handsome and who has to “play” everyone from Errol Flynn to Robert DeNiro on missions.
    • November, another “doll,” who’s chubbier and more goofy. (She’s compared to Tracy Turnblad from Hairspray.)
    • Dr. Claire Sanders, a gorgeous older woman whom Topher is in love with.

    So now I’m more confused than ever about how the world of Dollhouse will work, since apparently the “dolls” do form human relationships despite the constant “reprogramming” interspersed with amnesia. It’ll be interesting to see how Joss pulls it all together. Dushku image by Wenn. [Ausiello Scoop]

    And from The Hollywood

    Fox, Whedon in ‘Dollhouse’

    By Nellie Andreeva, Nov. 1, 2007


    Eliza Dushku (Getty Images photo)

    “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator Joss Whedon is returning to television with “Dollhouse,” a new sci-fi project starring “Buffy” alumna Eliza Dushku that has received a seven-episode commitment from Fox.

    “Dollhouse,” from 20th Century Fox TV, is Whedon’s first TV project since his 2002 Fox drama “Firefly.”

    The drama, whose license fee is said to be in the $1.5 million-$2 million-per-episode range, stars Dushku as Echo, a member of a group of men and women who are imprinted with different personalities for different assignments. In between tasks they are mind-wiped, living like children in Dollhouse, a futuristic dorm/lab. They have no memories of their previous lives, until Echo begins to try to find out who she was.

    “Joss has been my favorite friend, genius, ally and confidant in the business since I was 17,” said Dushku, who also will serve as a producer on the project. “It’s incredible how much energy and excitement I have for this; I can’t wait to be this Echo character.”

    “Dollhouse” came out of a lunch between Whedon and Dushku in September, shortly after the actress had signed a development deal with 20th TV and Fox. Whedon was giving her advice about writers and types of shows that might be good for her but wasn’t interested in venturing into TV himself because he was trying to get a couple of movie projects off the ground at the time.

    “In the middle of the conversation, I went, ‘Oh, God. I thought of the show, and I had the title,’ ” Whedon said. Dushku came on board immediately. Within a week, the show was set up Fox and 20th TV.

    Broadcast networks had been pursuing Whedon for years, but he had been focused on features.

    “It was a really welcomed surprise,” Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly said of getting Whedon’s pitch for “Dollhouse.”

    Reilly and Fox entertainment chairman Peter Liguori called the decision to pick up the show “a layup.”

    “Joss is not only one of the more innovative show creators out there, he is an unbelievably accomplished showrunner,” Liguori said. “It was a creatively inspired idea, and the fact that he wanted to do it with Eliza was the cherry on a sundae.”

    Whedon met with Reilly and 20th TV chairman Dana Walden for several hours Tuesday afternoon talking about “Dollhouse.”

    “You can imagine a really exciting, timely, emotional show that will be packed with his signature storytelling involving humor, emotions and themes that are relatable,” Walden said after the meeting.

    Although an agreement on the project was reached a month ago, the deal didn’t close until this week, so writer/executive producer Whedon hasn’t started writing it. With a writers strike considered imminent, he might not be able to finish it any time soon.

    “I’ll hit the ground running, and I’ll work until I’m supposed to, then I’ll stop dead in my tracks and will pick up my picket signs,” he said.

    Although it interferes with his work on “Dollhouse,” Whedon is in favor of a strike.

    “I think the issues are extremely serious, and I think the studios are extremely entrenched,” he said. “No one wants a strike, but it has to happen because (the studios) would not listen. I support it and will do anything to fight for the creative rights that the people deserve.”

    Whedon is repped by CAA and attorney Sam Fischer. Dushku is repped by Gersh.


    And as a secondary note, the AFI has put out it’s list of the 50 top Sci-Fi movies of all time:

    “The American Film Institute has come up with a list of 50 SF films that it deems among the best ever; it will pick 10 as the best SF movies of all time for a TV special that will air on CBS in June … The AFI defines “science fiction” as a genre that marries a scientific or technological premise with imaginative speculation. It has selected the following 50 movies as contenders for the best, in alphabetical order (in the case of movies that have been made more than once, we’ve designated by date which version the AFI has selected):

    A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Alien, Altered States, The Andromeda Strain, Back to the Future, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Blade Runner, Children of Men, A Clockwork Orange, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Cocoon, Contact, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Destination Moon, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Escape From New York, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Fantastic Voyage, The Fly (1986), Forbidden Planet, Frankenstein (1931), The Incredible Shrinking Man, Independence Day, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Invisible Man (1933), It Came From Outer Space, Jurassic Park, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, The Matrix, Men in Black, Minority Report, Planet of the Apes (1968), Repo Man, RoboCop, Rollerball (1975), Silent Running, Soylent Green, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, Star Wars: Episode IV–A New Hope, Starman, The Stepford Wives (1975), Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Them!, The Thing From Another World, The Time Machine (1960), Total Recall, Tron, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The War of the Worlds (1953), Westworld” made it’s own poll for the top ten, and here are the results:

    Star Wars Tops Wire Poll
    “SCI FI Wire readers have spoken, and the Force is with them: Readers picked Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope as the top SF movie of all time.

    Following a close second was Ridley Scott’s 1982 dystopian SF noir movie Blade Runner.

    The results were tabulated from hundreds of e-mails readers sent with their picks for the top 10 SF movies of all time, drawn from the American Film Institute’s list of the 50 best SF movies.

    The original Star Wars movie drew 7.8 percent of the total votes for top pick. Blade Runner received 7.5 percent.

    The rest of SCI FI Wire’s top 10 SF movies, in descending order: The Matrix, Alien, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet and the original Planet of the Apes.”

    So, get out the comfy chair, and a good book, maybe Neuromancer, because it’s going to be a long wait….

    Robots: Friend or foe?

    For the Japanese, robots are integrated into their life, and they view them in a friendly and accepting manner. Not so with Americans, whose Terminator- like visions of robotic destruction fill the movie screens, while author Vernor Vinge’s Singularity looks to the changes in mankind when a threshold of AI is passed.

    Actroid DER2 fembot – Introduction

    Here is Japan’s take on robotics and it’s uses, and how they interact with them on a daily basis, from Technology, updated 1:55 a.m. EST, Mon March 3, 2008:

    Robots enter Japan’s daily life

    TOKYO, Japan (AP) — “At a university lab in a Tokyo suburb, engineering students are wiring a rubbery robot face to simulate six basic expressions: anger, fear, sadness, happiness, surprise and disgust.


    A “toddler robot” called “Child-Robot with a Biomimetic Body,” or “CB2,” looks around the room.

    Hooked up to a database of words clustered by association, the robot — dubbed Kansei, or “sensibility” — responds to the word “war” by quivering in what looks like disgust and fear. It hears “love,” and its pink lips smile.

    “To live among people, robots need to handle complex social tasks,” said project leader Junichi Takeno of Meiji University. “Robots will need to work with emotions, to understand and eventually feel them.

    While robots are a long way from matching human emotional complexity, the country is perhaps the closest to a future — once the stuff of science fiction — where humans and intelligent robots routinely live side by side and interact socially.

    Robots are already taken for granted in Japanese factories, so much so that they are sometimes welcomed on their first day at work with Shinto religious ceremonies. Robots make sushi. Robots plant rice and tend paddies.

    There are robots serving as receptionists, vacuuming office corridors, spoon-feeding the elderly. They serve tea, greet company guests and chatter away at public technology displays. Now startups are marching out robotic home helpers.

    They aren’t all humanoid. The Paro is a furry robot seal fitted with sensors beneath its fur and whiskers, designed to comfort the lonely, opening and closing its eyes and moving its flippers.

    INSERT – “Located on the 2nd floor in Kansai airport (Japan) is Paro, the therapeutic robot seal! Because real animals are not allowed in hospitals and nursing homes, Paro was created as a substitute. Touch it, stroke it and see how it responds 🙂 Only in Japan…! (May 3, 07)”

    Paro, the World’s Most Therapeutic Robot!

    For Japan, the robotics revolution is an imperative. With more than a fifth of the population 65 or older, the country is banking on robots to replenish the work force and care for the elderly.

    In the past several years, the government has funded a plethora of robotics-related efforts. They include some $42 million for the first phase of a humanoid robotics project, and $10 million a year between 2006 and 2010 to develop key robot technologies.

    The government estimates the industry could surge from about $5.2 billion in 2006 to $26 billion in 2010 and nearly $70 billion by 2025.

    Besides financial and technological power, the robot wave is favored by the Japanese mind-set as well.

    Robots have long been portrayed as friendly helpers in Japanese popular culture, a far cry from the often rebellious and violent machines that often inhabit Western science fiction.

    This is, after all, the country that invented Tamagotchi, the hand-held mechanical pets that captivated the children of the world.

    Japanese are also more accepting of robots because the native Shinto religion often blurs boundaries between the animate and inanimate, experts say. To the Japanese psyche, the idea of a humanoid robot with feelings doesn’t feel as creepy — or as threatening — as it might do in other cultures.

    Still, Japan faces a vast challenge in making the leap — commercially and culturally — from toys, gimmicks and the experimental robots churned out by labs like Takeno’s to full-blown human replacements that ordinary people can afford and use safely.

    “People are still asking whether people really want robots running around their homes, and folding their clothes,” said Damian Thong, senior technology analyst at Macquarie Bank in Tokyo.

    “But then again, Japan’s the only country in the world where everyone has an electric toilet,” he said. “We could be looking at a robotics revolution.”

    INSERT: Japan Trip: Electric Toilet:

    That revolution has been going on quietly for some time.

    Japan is already an industrial robot powerhouse. Over 370,000 robots worked at factories across Japan in 2005, about 40 percent of the global total and 32 robots for every 1,000 Japanese manufacturing employees, according to a recent report by Macquarie. It had no numbers from subsequent years.

    And they won’t be claiming overtime or drawing pensions when they’re retired.

    “The cost of machinery is going down, while labor costs are rising,” said Eimei Onaga, CEO of Innovation Matrix Inc., a company that distributes Japanese robotics technology in the U.S. “Soon, robots could even replace low-cost workers at small firms, greatly boosting productivity.”

    That’s just what the Japanese government has been counting on. A 2007 national technology roadmap by the Trade Ministry calls for 1 million industrial robots to be installed throughout the country by 2025.

    A single robot can replace about 10 employees, the roadmap assumes — meaning Japan’s future million-robot army of workers could take the place of 10 million humans. That’s about 15 percent of the current work force.

    “Robots are the cornerstone of Japan’s international competitiveness,” Shunichi Uchiyama, the Trade Ministry’s chief of manufacturing industry policy, said at a recent seminar. “We expect robotics technology to enter even more sectors going forward.”

    Meanwhile, localities looking to boost regional industry clusters have seized on robotics technology as a way to spur advances in other fields.

    Robotic technology is used to build more complex cars, for instance, and surgical equipment.

    The logical next step is robots in everyday life.

    At a hospital in Aizu Wakamatsu, 190 miles north of Tokyo, a child-sized white and blue robot wheels across the floor, guiding patients to and from the outpatients’ surgery area.

    The robot, made by startup Tmsuk, sports perky catlike ears, recites simple greetings, and uses sensors to detect and warn people in the way. It helpfully prints out maps of the hospital, and even checks the state of patients’ arteries.

    The Aizu Chuo Hospital spent about some $557,000 installing three of the robots in its waiting rooms to test patients’ reactions. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, said spokesman Naoya Narita.

    “We feel this is a good division of labor. Robots won’t ever become doctors, but they can be guides and receptionists,” Narita said.

    Still, the wheeled machines hadn’t won over all seniors crowding the hospital waiting room on a weekday morning.

    “It just told us to get out of the way!” huffed wheelchair-bound Hiroshi Asami, 81. “It’s a robot. It’s the one who should get out my way.”

    “I prefer dealing with real people,” he said.

    Another roadblock is money.

    For all its research, Japan has yet to come up with a commercially successful consumer robot. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. failed to sell even one of its pricey toddler-sized Wakamaru robots, launched in 2003 as domestic helpers.

    Though initially popular, Sony Corp. pulled the plug on its robot dog, Aibo, in 2006, just seven years after its launch. With a price tag of a whopping $2,000, Aibo never managed to break into the mass market.

    One of the only commercially successful consumer robots so far is made by an American company, iRobot Corp. The Roomba vacuum cleaner robot is self-propelled and can clean rooms without supervision.

    For Hiroshi Ishiguro, also at Osaka University, the key is to make robots that look like human beings. His Geminoid robot looks uncannily like himself — down to the black, wiry hair and slight tan.

    INSERT: Dr. Ishiguro Greets via Geminoid

    “In the end, we don’t want to interact with machines or computers. We want to interact with technology in a human way, so it’s natural and valid to try to make robots look like us,” he said.

    “One day, they will live among us,” Ishiguro said. “Then you’d have to ask me: ‘Are you human? Or a robot?”‘

    For the perhaps most visible robot to Americans:

    Honda Develops Intelligence Technologies Enabling Multiple ASIMO Robots to Work Together in Coordination

    Watch The Video (for a YouTube demo:)

    TOKYO, Japan, December 11, 2007–”Honda Motor Co., Ltd. has further advanced intelligence technologies enabling its advanced humanoid robot ASIMO to act autonomously and perform uninterrupted service to office guests.

    Two ASIMOs working together in coordination to deliver refreshments
    Two ASIMOs working together in coordination to deliver refreshments

    Honda developed an intelligence technology that enhances smooth movement by enabling ASIMO to choose between stepping back and yielding the right-of-way or continuing to walk based on the predicted movement of oncoming people. Honda also developed a new intelligence technology related to ASIMO’s ability to perform tasks such as carrying a tray and pushing a cart. In addition, a newly added function enables ASIMO to automatically charge its battery when its remaining battery level falls below a certain level. Furthermore, a new comprehensive system was developed so that multiple ASIMOs can share tasks by adjusting to the situation and work together in coordination to provide uninterrupted service. For example, if one ASIMO is idled while recharging, other ASIMO robots will step in and perform assigned tasks.

    Honda will begin test operations of two ASIMOs equipped with these newly developed technologies December 12, at the second floor lobby of Honda’s Aoyama headquarters.

    Since introducing an all-new ASIMO in 2005, with more advanced physical and intelligence capabilities, Honda has focused its R&D efforts more on the area of intelligence technologies. The newly developed technologies, which enable ASIMO to operate in an environment with people and other ASIMOs, bring Honda one step closer to the development of a humanoid robot that can be put to practical use in a real world environment requiring coexistence with people.

    New function to work together

    In situations where more than one ASIMO works together, information regarding the current status of each ASIMO will be shared constantly among the multiple networked ASIMOs in order to share tasks in the most efficient manner. More precisely, first, the distance between the current position of each ASIMO and the site where each task needs to be performed will be calculated. Then, taking remaining battery levels into consideration, the most time efficient way to share tasks among the multiple ASIMOs will be determined. Based on this decision, each ASIMO autonomously performs its assigned tasks.

    New function to avoid oncoming people

    ASIMO identifies oncoming people through its eye camera, calculates traveling direction and speed, predicts forthcoming movements of oncoming people, and chooses the most appropriate path so that it will not block the movement of others. When there is not enough space, ASIMO will step back and yield the right-of-way.

    ASIMO yielding the right-of-way
    ASIMO yielding the right-of-way

    New autonomous battery charging function

    A new battery charging station was developed for ASIMO’s autonomous recharging. When the remaining battery level falls below a certain level, ASIMO will automatically identify and walk to the closest available battery charging station and re-charge while standing.

    ASIMO at charging station
    ASIMO at charging station
    ASIMO at charging station

    Honda will continue its efforts to further advance intelligence technologies with the goal to develop a robot which can be truly useful in a real world environment where coexistence with people is required.

    Test operations of ASIMO’s ability to guide visitors and deliver refreshments will be carried out at Honda’s Aoyama Headquarters from 3:00pm to 5:00pm weekdays between December 12, 2007 and January 31, 2008. ( except the winter holidays from December 29, 2007 to January 8, 2008.)”


    See also:

    New Version Amazing Robot Asimo:

    For more, see this story on how Asimo works:

    For information on many more robots in service in Japan, see Tmsuk's website for more information and pictures (in Japanese - here is a translated page):

    tmsuk co., LTD

    "The first hospital guide and receptionist robots in the world.

    tmsuk co., LTD of Japan will supply three robots to Aidu Chuo Hospital.
    At last, robots work in the real world.

    tmsuk co., LTD, A practical robots mft, of Kitakyushu city in southern Japan, will supply one receptionist robot and two guide robots to Aidu Chuo Hospital of Aizu-wakamatsu, Fukushima. This is the first time in the world for guide and receptionist robots to be used at a private hospital.

    Although it is expected that the robot industry will grow into a comprehensive industry equal to the car industry, a service robot's market has not yet been established. Despite robot makers having developed robots that are practical and usable, the present situation is that consumers are hesitant due to the lack of a track record, therefore, the market is still in its infancy. Aidu Chuo Hospital has decided to introduce these robots for better patient service and improvement in general convenience. We believe that the introduction of these three service robots is the first step in the development of the Japanese robot industry.

    If a visitor to the hospital touches the panel on the robot body, or speaks to it, it will display directions on any surface from a projector in the robot's head, or make a printout from a printer in the robot's hand, and hand it to the visitor. Speech recognition also supports the Aizu dialect.


    The robot can guide a visitor to a nearby elevator and carry baggage on the its arm. If the power of the battery is low, it will charge by returning automatically to an automatic battery charger.”


    From The Robot Factory website (it seems to imply that Tmsuk is from England – it is a Japanese company, but perhaps it had an English subsidiary that has the writer confused):

    TMSUK robots
    “The TMSUK robot activity started in 1992 : the Thames company, then specialized in automatic machinery manufacturing, one day decided to create it’s own robot receptionist for the new innovative production unit they presented.

    In 1993, the TMSUK-1 robot was born, and the TMSUK-2 followed in 1996. Since then, the company produced various robots, mostly aimed at research of testing purposes.

    The TMSUK-04 (1999, pictured right) was the first TmSuk robot to be presented outside Japan in a few exhibitions around the world.
    15 TMSUK-04 were produced, 11 of them were sold to research institutes.
    The TmSuk-04 was later (2000) to evolve into a 6 wheeled version (namely and very logically “TmSuk04-2”), as a prototype for an inspection robot.

    The key technology used in the TmSuk-04 control process is based on a technology Tmsuk developed in 1997 for the TmSuk3 robot. Those robots receive commands from a controller via a cellular phone network, and they transmit visual feedback and other data back to the controller.

    Below: TmSuk T5. Car makers usually present “concept cars” during car fairs, well, TmSuk presented this “Concept robot” at the Robodex 2000 show. If you’ve read this page all the way down here, then your are definitely interested in robots, and maybe in mecha. Well, the T-5 concept is maybe the first ever giant robot prototype!

    This machine is 2.9 meters tall, 1.8 meters wide and has water based hydraulic powered arms.

    Want to make yourself a better of idea of what i mean by “the first ever giant robot prototype”? Well it seems that TmSuk has created a company dedicated to marketing a robot based on the 2000 T-5 platform (below).

    The new machine is named T-52 and, following the japanese tradition of manga-like nicknames, it is subtitled “Hyper Rescue Robot”.

    Beside the fact that this nickname would perfectly suit a tokusatsu show (there’s a thin line between reality and fiction when it comes to robot, in Japan!), i guess it’s actually pretty realistic to picture this machine operating on a natural disaster scene when regular bulldozers cannot do a precise enough job.

    Compared to the T-5 concept robot, the T-52 is taller, based on more reliable hydraulics and heavy duty. It is also offering a control chamber for one operator to take place in.

    The T-52 has no leg, but can move at 3 km/h (approximately the speed of a walking person) on its caterpillars.

    If you would like to see the T-52 in action, Enryu is offering a movie page on their official site. Check it out here. [link no longer works]

    Now, we don’t have a lighting-fast operating robot here. It is not even entirely humanoid. But i guess it’s a step forward to the giant robots era, and i’m actually quite pleased to notice it is not a war machine! :)”

    Tmsuk’s RIDC-01 Robot Vacuuming:

    For more see Tmusk’s History of Robots (in English):

    Now here’s one that’s helpful, AND was presaged by a science fiction novel by over 30 years!

    TMSUK Robot Carries Your Bags

    “TMSUK has created a new shopping assistant robot. This service bot will follow you around autonomously, carrying your heavy bags full of purchases.

    (TMSUK service robot carries your bags)

    The robot will be tested at a shopping mall located in the Fukuoka airport in February of 2006. It turns out that British science fiction writer John Brunner wrote about a robot with a similar purpose in his 1975 masterpiece Shockwave Rider – the autoporter robot:

    …he nabbed an autoporter and – after consulting the illuminated fee table on its flank – credded the minimum: $35 for an hour’s service… From now until his credit expired the machine would carry his bag in its soft plastic jaws and follow him as faithfully as a well-trained hound, which indeed it resembled, down to the whimper it was programmed to utter at the 55-minute mark, and the howl at 58.

    At 60 it would drop the bag and slink away. “

    And for those pesky times when you can’t watch the kids completely, there’s hope:

    Roborior robot watching home:

    For the humanoid “Geminoid” robot, designed to look like the it’s developer, it may be all to life-like and reminiscent of Data, the android from Star Trek: The Next Generation:

    From the Pink Tentacle blog:

    Geminoid videos

    22 Jul 2006

    Geminoid with creator Ishiguro

    Geminoid is a remote-control doppelganger droid designed by and modeled after Hiroshi Ishiguro, professor at Osaka University and researcher at ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories. Robot Watch has released some short videos, which you can see at the links below. Video format is WMV.

    Video 1: Ishiguro introduces himself through Geminoid.

    Video 2: This segment shows Geminoid’s facial movements. The telepresent Ishiguro explains, “When someone touches Geminoid, it seems as if I am the one being touched.”

    Video 3: Geminoid (Ishiguro) doesn’t like it when you touch his face.

    Video 4: Geminoid is programmed so that his head continues to move, even when not being specifically controlled.

    Video 5: Sitting next to Geminoid, Ishiguro discusses his research concerning “presence.”

    In Latin, gemin means “twin” or “double,” while –oid is a suffix indicating a “likeness to something else.” Hiroshi Ishiguro would say that his Geminoid is like a twin. The body is a copy of Ishiguro’s, and the shape of Geminoid’s skull was created based on MRI scans of Ishiguro’s head. And Geminoid shares some of his mannerisms.

    Geminoid’s body, which was produced by Kokoro, makers of the Actroid line of fembots, has 46 degrees of freedom and is driven by a system of air compressors. The skin consists of soft, silicone rubber. Confined to a chair at the moment, the android is unable to stand up and move about on his own. Communication and power cables exit his rear end and snake through the shaft of the chair out of sight. It took 6 months of work to develop the body and about 2 to 3 months to develop the software.

    One of the purposes for creating Geminoid is to explore the concept of tele-existence — to figure out what is needed in order to copy an actual human’s “presence” so that he or she may exist in two places at once. “I wonder how possible it is to separate one’s inner self and outer self, to create distance between one’s body and soul,” Ishiguro says.

    See more photos of Geminoid at this link: [Source: Robot Watch]”

    image image image

    Now here’s the U.S. take on robotics:

    Autonomous Robot Weapons For Terrorists?

    “Killer robots created by terrorists? Terrorists have already proven resourceful in using cell phones and the Internet. Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, believes that robotics is yet another area in which terrorists might adapt modern technology to their own purposes.

    Sharkey spoke at a one-day conference organized by Britain’s Royal United Services Institute:

    “How long is it going to be before the terrorists get in on the act? With the current prices of robot construction falling dramatically and the availability of ready-made components for the amateur market, it wouldn’t require a lot of skill to make autonomous robot weapons.”

    According to Shakey, a small GPS-guided drone with an autopilot can be constructed for less than $500.

    Hopefully, the terrorists won’t read Count Zero, the 1986 novel by William Gibson; they might build a slamhound.

    THEY sent A SLAMHOUND on Turner’s trail in New Delhi, slotted it to his pheromones and the color of his hair. It caught up with him on a street called Chandni Chauk and came scrambling for his rented BMW through a forest of bare brown legs and pedicab tires. Its core was a kilogram of recrystallized hexogene and flaked TNT.
    (Read more about Gibson’s slamhound)

    As far as I know, the first autonomous robotic bomb was the wabbler from the 1942 story of the same name by Murray Leinster.”

    The U.S. has a different concept, seeing robotics as something that can be converted or diverted to more dangerous uses, or perhaps take on a mind of it’s own, and without the Laws of Robotics, coined by Isaac Asimov, take over the world, as in the Terminator sequence. But some companies are trying to change that. Disneyland is upgrading it’s House of the Future, one of my favorite memories from a trip to Disneyland as a child in the ’60s.

    From Technology, updated 1:35 p.m. EST, Wed February 13, 2008:

    Disneyland goes back to the future

    ANAHEIM, California (AP) — “Millions of Disneyland visitors lined up a half-century ago to catch a glimpse of the future: a home teeming with mind-blowing gadgets such as hands-free phones, wall-sized televisions, plastic chairs, and electric razors and toothbrushes.

    Disneyland’s original “House of the Future” opened in 1957 and was torn down 10 years later.

    The “House of the Future,” a pod-shaped, all-plastic dwelling that quickly seemed quaint closed its doors a decade later. Now Disney is set to open a new abode in Tomorrowland — this time in partnership with 21st century technology giants.

    The 5,000-square-foot home scheduled to open in May will look like a normal suburban home outside, but inside it will feature hardware, software and touch-screen systems that could simplify everyday living.

    Lights and thermostats will automatically adjust when people walk into a room. Closets will help pick out the right dress for a party. Countertops will be able to identify groceries set on them and make menu suggestions.

    The $15 million home is a collaboration of The Walt Disney Co., Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., software maker LifeWare and homebuilder Taylor Morrison.

    Visitors will experience the look of tomorrow by watching Disney actors playing a family of four preparing for a trip to China.

    “It’s much different than a spiel that you would get at a trade show,” said Dave Miller, director of alliance development for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. “We won’t get into the bits and the bytes. It will be about the digital lifestyle and how that lifestyle can help you.”

    The actors will be in a flurry of cooking, packing and picture-taking designed to emphasize cutting-edge features in the home’s two bedrooms, living room, kitchen, dining room, study and back yard.

    Much of the project will showcase a network that makes the house “smart” and follows family members from room to room — even adjusting artwork — to preset personal preferences.

    When a resident clicks a TV remote, for example, lights will dim, music will shut off and the shades will draw as the network realizes a movie is about to start.

    The system will allow residents to transfer digital photos, videos and music among televisions and computers in different rooms at the click of a button. Other applications still in development could include touch-screen technology built into appliances, furniture and countertops, said Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s vice president for entertainment services.

    In the kitchen, for example, touch pad software on the countertop would be able to identify groceries and produce recipes and meal suggestions. Similar programs could turn a desktop into a computer screen, allowing residents to load photos, music or e-mail onto a cell phone by placing it on the desk.

    Mirrors and closets could identify clothes and suggest matching outfits, complementary colors or track what apparel is at the cleaners or in the wash.

    The home will also feature new uses for devices that many visitors may already own, as well as technologies that are still five or 10 years down the road, said Mike Seamons, vice president of marketing at LifeWare, which makes home automation software.

    “If people walk through there and say, ‘I don’t have anything in this house at all,’ then we’ve totally failed,” Seamons said. “We’re not waiting for robots to happen in order for it to be a reality.”

    When it comes to aesthetics, designers decided to stray from the Jetsons-style House of the Future — an all-plastic cross design with four wing-shaped bays that appeared to float. The house was so tough that wrecking balls bounced off it when Disney ripped it down in 1967.

    The new home will be made of wood and steel and finished in muted browns and beiges, said Sheryl Palmer, president and chief executive of Taylor Morrison in North America.

    ‘The 1950s home didn’t look like anything, anywhere. It was space-age and kind of cold,” she said. “We didn’t want the (new) home to intimidate the visitors. We want the house to be real accessible to our guests.'”

    For a trip down nostalgia lane:

    Monsanto House of the Future

    Photo of the House of the Future
    “The floors on which you are walking, the gently sloping walls around you, and even the ceilings are made of plastics.”


    “Welcome to the walk-through attraction that provides a glimpse of how you’ll be living in future. You won’t find traditional furniture styles or natural materials in the House of the Future. Everything is ultra-modern and almost entirely synthetic. It’s a demonstration of style and technology.

    Photo of House of the Future entrance
    Monsanto Chemical Co. invites you to walk up the stairs to the entrance.

    • Step up to the Monsanto House of the Future, with its four equal wings “floating” above the beautifully landscaped grounds and waterfalls.
    • Enter the dining and family room, a comfortable place where the family of the future will play, rest, and dine on stylish plastic furniture.
    • Look into the “Atoms for Living Kitchen” with its revolutionary microwave oven.
    • Pass the two kid’s bedrooms—one for the boy of the future and one for the girl of the future—and the shared kids’ bathroom.
    • Next, see the master bedroom and the main bathroom.
    • Conclude your tour in the sleek living room, with its giant, non-operational, wall-mounted television screen.

    Photo of House of the Future with dark blue sky
    It’s stylish.

    At Disneyland, the House of the Future opened in 1957 on a prime site just off the Hub, adjacent to the Circarama theater. The House of the Future was one of two free attractions sponsored by Monsanto. The other was the Hall of Chemistry, which closed in 1966. After Monsanto’s Adventure Thru Inner Space opened in 1967, the House of the Future was doomed.

    Disneyland publicity photo of the House of the Future
    Disneyland publicity photo of the House of the Future

    Legend has it that the planned one-day demolition of the House of Future ended up taking two weeks as the wrecking ball just bounced off the exterior. Workers painstakingly cut the house into pieces with hacksaws.

    After the House of the Future was removed, the house’s landscaping, waterfalls, and walkways remained. The area, named “Alpine Gardens,” became home to a souvenir stand. In 1995, Disneyland added the King Triton sculpture and delightful jumping fountains.

    The House of the Future hasn’t been forgotten. In fact, for an attraction that’s been gone since 1967 because it was outdated, it’s amazing that there continue to be homages to the House of the Future at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

    Photo of House of Innoventions at Epcot
    The House of Innoventions at Epcot.

    The House of Innoventions at Epcot is in some ways similar to the House of the Future. It’s an opportunity to see innovative new products for the home, some of which are already available, and some of which are prototypes for future products. It’s not as visionary as the House of the Future, and the “house” itself is just a simple box-like structure within the one of the Innoventions halls. But it’s fun; it’s updated every year; and the guides do a good job. It’s one of Epcot’s best hidden attractions.

    Photo of construction wall in Innoventions at Disneyland
    Behind this construction wall, Disneyland is building a new House of the Future.

    On February 13, 2008, the Disneyland Resort announced that a new House of the Future—to be called the Innoventions Dream Home—would open in May 2008. (Is anyone else getting tired of Disney’s overuse of the words dream and dreams?)

    But don’t expect a return of the 1957 plastic marvel, and don’t expect visionary predictions of how we might live decades from now. As at Epcot, this new display home will be inside the Innoventions attraction. The round Innoventions pavilion at Disneyland was originally the Carousel Theater, home of the General Electric Carousel of Progress (1967-1973) and America Sings (1974-1988). According to an Associated Press article, “The 5,000-square-foot home, scheduled to open in May, will look like a suburban tract home outside. But inside it will feature hardware, software and touch-screen systems that could simplify everyday living.”

    The Innoventions Dream Home is sponsored by Microsoft, HP, Life|ware and homebuilder Taylor Morrison to showcase the sponsors’ products. Guests will discover how the home’s residents, the fictional Elias family, enjoy the latest in mobile phones, PCs, digital music and gaming, as they prepare for a trip to the World Soccer Championships in China. Guests will interact with family members, who, unlike the Carousel of Progress family, will be real people. The family’s name is a nod to Walter Elias Disney. I don’t know about you, but if I were preparing for a trip to China, I wouldn’t have time to interact with thousands of people visiting my home.

    Unlike the old House of the Future, the Innoventions Dream Home probably won’t be fondly remembered a half century later. But it promises to be better than most other exhibits in Disneyland’s Innoventions.”

    Photo of Innoventions at Disneyland
    Innoventions at Disneyland.

    And from Disneyland News:

    13 February 2008

    ANAHEIM, Calif., (February 13, 2008) – “The Disneyland Resort today announced a five-year alliance with Microsoft, HP, Life|ware and home builder Taylor Morrison to showcase integrated digital technologies for the home in the immersive, story-telling experiences for which Disney is known. The alliance includes the design and development of the new Innoventions Dream Home attraction, a 5,000+ sq. ft. home belonging to the fictional Elias family, scheduled to open in May in Tomorrowland at the Disneyland Resort.

    Keeping with Walt’s vision of bringing cutting-edge and inspiring ideas to Tomorrowland, the Innoventions Dream Home will introduce Disneyland guests to newly available technology from the participating companies that will enhance their lives today, while providing them a glimpse of the emerging digital advances they may find in their homes in the future. The attraction will provide guests with a “high-tech, high-touch” opportunity to experience technology in an entertaining, low-risk environment showing them how the power of technology can connect them to the people and things they care most about.

    “We’re thrilled that Disney has chosen Microsoft to bring digital entertainment to life at Disneyland,” said Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President, Entertainment and Devices eHome Division at Microsoft. “Together, we’re showcasing innovative technology that is both attainable and inspiring, offering park guests the opportunity to see, touch and feel digital home experiences in a simple, fun and interactive environment.”

    “This exciting alliance gives each of our partners a forum to inspire our guests’ imaginations and motivate them to incorporate and enjoy the new technologies that are available today,” said Ed Grier, president of Disneyland Resort. “Consistent with the Disney heritage of growth through innovation, the Innoventions Dream Home is just another example of how we are committed to investing in and developing exciting projects that keep our guests returning again.”

    The technology companies will showcase a wide range of technologies and products in the exhibit, including the latest in mobile phones, PCs, digital music and gaming. The Innoventions Dream Home demonstrates how home technology can be simple, intuitive and fun while helping guests understand how to seamlessly interconnect their home, the surrounding community and the world, helping consumers stay closer to the people, places and entertainment that are most important to them. The alliances also help ensure that the Innoventions Dream Home remains on the forefront of technology with the newest devices and products as part of the exhibit.

    Guests will actively engage in this experience as they help members of the fictional Elias family prepare for a trip to World Soccer Championships in China, where their son is competing. Elias family members rotate throughout the house, randomly interacting with guests in the various rooms. Upon exiting the house, guests can learn more about the companies that collaborated to create the Innoventions Dream House, exploring the technologies for themselves first-hand.

    INSERT (the only picture I could find of the house’s exterior OR interior! It’s “under” wraps.):

    image – Photo: Disney

    The notion of a Dream Home has deep roots at the Disneyland Resort. Walt Disney was fascinated with the concept of a futuristic home and the “Monsanto House of the Future” opened in June, 1957, near the entry to Tomorrowland. In 1998, Disneyland opened Innoventions, an interactive pavilion featuring what was then considered breakthrough technology: voice-activated computers, high-definition TVs, smart-cars and satellite broadcasting. The story line always focused on progress that led to a better way of living.

    The intent was not to predict the future, but to let people play with emerging technologies and imagine how those technologies might enhance everyday life. The precursors to the Dream Home enabled people of all ages to experiment with interactive devices, games and exhibits, demonstrating both the fun and the significance of modern innovations.

    Now comes the Dream Home, a convergence of five companies and their fascination with technology. The combination of Disney’s strong storytelling heritage, cutting-edge technology expertise from Microsoft, HP and Life|ware, and Taylor Morrison’s talent for building an environment that will bring it to life, will inspire Disneyland guests’ imaginations for years to come.”

    HP – Carlos Montalvo, Vice President, Managed Home Division, Personal Systems Group
    “The Disney Innoventions Dream Home will bring to life HP’s vision of consumers living a connected, high-definition lifestyle, demonstrating how simple it is today to control where and when you enjoy your digital content. As a driver of the emerging ‘Connected Entertainment’ market, HP is delivering on the promise of making connected entertainment an integral part of everyday life.”

    Life|ware – Seale Moorer, Founder and CEO of Life|ware
    “Life|ware is honored to be a part of the ongoing legacy of Tomorrowland,” said Seale Moorer, Founder and CEO of Life|ware. “The Innoventions Dream Home may seem futuristic to many Disneyland guests, but in fact, adding Life|ware entertainment and automation technology to products many people already own will bring this experience much closer to home than ever before. We’re thrilled to work with Disney and our partners to help people see how they can enhance their digital lifestyles now and in the future.”

    Microsoft- Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President, Entertainment and Devices eHome Division
    “Microsoft technologies touch the lives of 1 billion people, giving us an unparalleled opportunity – and perhaps responsibility – to help people understand the products and services that can enrich their lives. With millions of visitors to Disneyland every year, being a part of Innoventions Dream Home is one way to reach people and fulfill that role.”

    “By visiting the Innoventions Dream Home at Disneyland, people can see, touch and feel the latest and greatest Microsoft technologies that will inspire them to try out new technologies in their own homes as well as better understand what’s available today.”

    Taylor-Morrison – Sheryl Palmer, CEO
    On participating:

    • “Taylor Morrison has a rich heritage of building homes that become a meaningful part of our customers’ lives. To be able to participate in a project that carries the Disney name on it is a tremendous compliment to the hard work of our staff through the years.”• “Much like our partners, Taylor Morrison has a legacy of being an innovator in its field. We’re excited to apply our extensive design and construction expertise to the Innoventions Dream Home and feel fortunate to be the exclusive provider of this pioneering technology package when it’s brought to market.”

    On the home’s design:

    • “In designing the Innoventions Dream Home, we approached the project in much the same way as we have the wide range of homes we’ve built through the years – by drawing on our company’s experience, imagination and old-fashioned ingenuity.”• “Being an industry leader takes determination, inventiveness and a dedication to being bold when the situation calls for it. Like Walt Disney and our Innoventions Dream Home partners, these traits have served to transform Taylor Morrison into the dominant market leader it has become over the years.”

    On the partnership:

    • “We feel very fortunate to be partnering with our fellow Innoventions Dream Home collaborators in this five-year alliance with Disney to bring the latest in cutting-edge technology and home design to Disneyland Resort guests.”• “Walt Disney was fond of saying that his company ‘all started because of a mouse.’ For Taylor Morrison, it all started with a house, built by a 16-year-old visionary, Frank Taylor.”

    And Microsoft is lending it’s considerable talents to the robotic scene, leading a possible opening for more U.S. development, from Artificial Intelligence and Robotics: A blog about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics:

    Microsoft forms alliance with Tmsuk robot manufacturer

    Monday, September 10, 2007 at 7:45 AM Posted by Awesom-o

    Tmsuk humanoid robot“Microsoft and Tmsuk have announced a new partnership that will have Microsoft’s Robotics Studio powering Tmsuk’s robots. Tmsuk is a Japanese robot manufacturer that has been building robots since 1992. The large collection of robots Tmsuk has developed ranges from traditional wheeled robots to humanoids; the robots are designed for a number of different applications including health-care and office jobs, i.e., robot receptionists.
    Tmsuk joins the large number of robot manufacturers who are providing drivers for the Microsoft Robotics Studio (MSRS), Bill Gates’s initiative to create a standard platform for robot programming and development. Even though Microsoft only has a small number of engineers developing MSRS, they have achieved a large penetration in the market in a bit more than a year since their software development suit has been available to the public.
    Gates is obviously taking this initiative very seriously. Microsoft has no problem using their influence in the industry to dominate a new market. The open source Player/Stage initiative is probably feeling the heat at the moment but they are also reporting more than 60,000 downloads. The battle has not been decided yet because even though software seems to progress quickly, hardware hasn’t moved forward by much this year. Still, 2008 will be a critical year on deciding who will be providing software for the consumer robots that are expected to start dominating the market over then next decade.”

    Unfortunately, the U.S. seemed stuck at the Roomba stage, the only robot that had gained commercial non-industrial use (from the iRobot wesbite, the makers of Roomba):

    How iRobot Roomba Works

    “Roomba is an intelligent and effective vacuuming robot. All Roomba Vacuuming Robots feature iRobot’s unique AWARE™ Robot Intelligence Systems. AWARE uses dozens of sensors to monitor Roomba’s environment, and adjusts Roomba’s behavior up to 67 times per second, ensuring that Roomba cleans effectively, intelligently and safely.

    To see how some of Roomba’s features work, see this page ( for videos of the following features:
    A powerful vacuum

    Hard-to-reach places

    Carpets to hard floors

    Avoids drop-offs

    Detects dirt

    Won’t get stuck

    Light-touch bumper

    Automatically recharges

    Avoids off-limit areas


    Modular Design

    A smart and powerful vacuum

    Roomba picks up an amazing amount of dirt, dust, pet hair, dander, cat litter, crumbs, leaves and other debris as it autonomously navigates throughout your home. Roomba automatically adjusts from carpets to hard floors and cleans everywhere you want while avoiding off-limit areas.”

    From when Roomba was first introduced – skepticism:

    Saturday, September 14, 2002

    Maid to Order
    A little robot called Roomba vacuums your house while you lounge by the pool. Is this the beginning of the end?


    “The new Roomba robotic vacuum from iRobot, shown vacuuming cat litter
    Saturday, Sep. 14, 2002

    The first time you meet a robot can be pretty disappointing. Hollywood has taught us what to expect: a trusty sidekick like R2-D2, a gleaming robo-maid like The Jetsons’ Rosey or a cyberassassin like the Terminator. The reality is very different: most robots are either mindless factory drones or blue-sky academic projects that cost a fortune, break down a lot and don’t do very much. Most of them don’t even have death rays.

    Now meet Roomba, a new housecleaning robot spawned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Artificial Intelligence Lab and built by a Somerville, Mass., company called iRobot. Roomba’s function is a humble one: it’s designed to vacuum your living room while you’re otherwise engaged. But Roomba also represents a technological watershed: it’s the first robot ever built that is designed to live in your home, serve a useful purpose and be priced for the mass market — at $199, it costs about the same as a mid-range vacuum cleaner. Roomba isn’t quite Rosey the Robot, but it just might be Rosey’s great-great-grandparent.

    The Roomba in Action
    The Anatomy of a Robot
    Find out how the Roomba works

    Roomba had three parents: Rodney Brooks, director of M.I.T.’s AI Lab, and two of his former graduate students, Colin Angle and Helen Greiner. Brooks, who was featured in the 1997 documentary Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control, is arguably the world’s greatest living roboticist. A voluble Australian, he’s famous for finding radical, counterintuitive approaches to intractable problems; the nasa rover that went to Mars aboard Pathfinder was designed using techniques he pioneered.

    With his two collaborators, Brooks spent the 1980s building experimental robots such as Genghis and Attila, six-legged insectoidal creatures with multiple onboard computers and dozens of sensors. These robots looked cool and cost a lot but on a practical level accomplished almost nothing. “You go into robotics thinking you’re going to change the world,” says Angle, who looks like a younger, nerdier Quaid brother. “You’re not going to change the world with a million-dollar robot.” In 1990 Angle, Greiner and Brooks founded iRobot hoping to build practical, affordable robots for everyday life.

    But first they had to learn some hard lessons about those difficult creatures known as human beings. A robot is essentially a computer with a body, but iRobot wanted to market its robots as household appliances. And it turns out people have higher standards for appliances than they have for computers. Appliances have to be cheap, simple and reliable; nobody is going to buy a $2,000 vacuum cleaner that requires a Ph.D. in engineering and has to be rebooted twice a day. Leaving the ivory tower for the iRobot team was a culture shock. “We had to learn about plastics,” Angle sighs. “We had to learn about Far East manufacturing. We learned that if you haven’t had a sit-down, drag-out, pound-on-the-table argument over a nickel, you don’t understand consumer products.”

    The iRoboters also had to learn about a subject that most scientists never really study: cleaning floors. They got down on their knees and worked out the physics of how dust collects and circulates. Vacuum cleaners consume large amounts of electricity, so they had to invent a new kind of low-power vacuum that would allow Roomba to run on rechargeable batteries. They ran their baby bot over “torture tracks” to test its mobility. They spent a night in a Target store to watch industrial cleaners at work.

    Twelve years and 30 prototypes later, Roomba was born: a 5-lb. 10-oz., 13.5-in.-wide household robot that looks more like a horseshoe crab than a human being. Turn it on, and it springs to life with a surprising sense of alertness–almost as if it had a personality. Roomba’s vision is limited, so it ranges around the room partly at random, covering open areas in widening spirals, then carefully following walls when it finds them, lightly bouncing off the occasional lamp or chair leg. It navigates using a set of simple rules called “heuristics”; iRobot originally developed Roomba’s pathfinding program for a military robot designed to clear minefields. When Roomba determines — based on those heuristics, the size of the room and the number of obstacles it encounters on its travels — that it has covered every part of the room several times over, it stops, beeps cheerfully and shuts itself down.

    As maids go, Roomba isn’t perfect. Because of its shape, it leaves a little fluff in the corners where it can’t quite reach. And if a couch is just the wrong height, Roomba can get wedged underneath. It helps to make the room Roomba-friendly by clearing up clutter and closing doors before you let it loose. (“It’s a robot,” Angle says, playing the protective daddy. “It’s not Einstein.”) But Roomba gets the job done — as long as the job isn’t too big — and it sure beats doing it yourself. Angle hopes that one day Roomba will do for vacuuming what dishwashers did for dishwashing.

    That day isn’t here quite yet, but it’s coming, and perhaps soon. Don’t believe it? The big players are already moving in; companies like Hoover, Electrolux and Dyson are working on their own vacuum-cleaner robots, though they have yet to bring one to market in the U.S. Think of what personal computers were like in the late ’70s. Nobody believed then that anybody would want a PC in their home, but then companies like Apple and Radio Shack made PCs affordable, and a killer app — word processing — made them indispensable. Now we can’t imagine life without them.

    Roomba will go on sale this week at and in retail stores, and on the Home Shopping Network shortly afterward. The first shot in the robot revolution has been fired, and the race to build the first successful PR (personal robot) is on. Is vacuuming the killer app robots have been waiting for? Is iRobot the first of the (gulp!) botcoms? If it is, one thing is clear: Roomba won’t be the only one that cleans up.”

    An update. from the roombareview forum, by “marymac – roomba lover,” Posted: January 29, 2008, 10:05 pm

    “The filter replacement that was discussed was on older models (I think the 400 series). The 500 series filters really can’t be modified or replaced with other materials. They’re smaller. Just shake them out or run them under water to clean. The 500 series filters are effective in capturing dust. Mine always has a heavy coating on it at the end of a run.

    The first time I used my Roomba 550, I thought I’d made a mistake buying it because the air seemed dirty from the vacuum. I have a 9 year old Hoover Wind Tunnel with a Hepa filter that I loved when I bought it because of the Hepa filter – I could vacuum and not suffer respiratory problems! However – I really hate vacuuming and I’d go many weeks (I’m too embarrassed to say how many!) without doing it – so what good was the Hepa filter?

    After the Roomba ran a few times and eliminated a lot of accumulated cat fur, hair, and general dust, I noticed the air quality never bothered me again. My carpets and floors have never been this clean. And my entire house in general is cleaner because clutter has to be controlled when you run a Roomba daily. I’ve become quite the little housekeeper since I bought a Roomba and Scooba. I’ve never really enjoyed cleaning before – but I love having spotless carpets and floors. And I initially thought the maintenance of the Roomba – and especially the Scooba – was annoying – I now find it enjoyable. It’s a kind of Zen experience. It really doesn’t take that much time – and it’s more enjoyable than pushing a vacuum or a mop. Dare I say it’s fun to clean these machines? It takes less than 5 minutes.

    Other people on this forum have other vacuum robots. One is a Karcher With a run time of up to one hour per charge, the robot automatically returns to the base station to charge and empty itself into the base station. After a 20 minute charge, it automatically resumes vacuuming. It’s low profile, stair detection feature, and low impact bumpers, allow it to safely and thoroughly clean even hard to reach areas. If you want a robotic vacuum – go for the Karcher – but it’s $1495 U.S. dollars. I think the iRobot is great for the price – in the USA – not the European price!

    In summary, I honestly feel the Roomba and Scooba have made me a better housekeeper and have given me the incentive to be much more organized at home. I also just love gazing at my very shiny tile floors! And I always walk around barefoot and it’s still a thrill to feel a squeaky-clean floor under my feet. And to look at my circular Roomba tracks in the carpet and admire the cleanliness and lack of dust. My highly allergic daughter-in-law didn’t have to leave the house at all over the holidays. She likes to sit on the carpet and then she has breathing problems (due to the dust and cat fur in the past). With the Roomba at work all the time – there’s no dust – or cat fur!

    I don’t view the iRobots as gadgets but as cleaning tools – and yes I named them but I only call the Roomba by his name. The Scooba is used only once/week so that relationship hasn’t been fully developed! I’ve had my 550 almost 4 months and I still smile when I hear the happy little song that signifies he’s starting to work or has successfully docked. My first trash compactor made me pretty happy – and I still love compacting my trash to this day – 27 years later – but these robots are even better – and I’d rather clean them than the trash compactor (I still remember the grape jelly jar compaction that went bad!).”

    But is it getting better? From Robots in America: Insider blogs from the staff at Robotic Industries Association

    NFL Helps Robots M[a]ssage Their Image

    by Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR (RIA)

    “Fox Sports on MSN recently posted a story claiming Eagles team trainer Rick Burkholder has adopted a device for “robotic therapy.” According to the report, a robot arm with a special end effector can do a better job than a person at massaging muscles to loosen up the back. I wasn’t able to find any more details, so I have to wonder if this is a real robot arm (in the industrial sense), or just set of rollers and gears like you can find in m[a]ssage chairs at malls.

    A lot of devices get called robots that upon closer examination are probably nothing more than mechanical devices with a little mobility. But the term robot is more popular than ever, and at Robotic Industries Association, we are very aware of how perception is changing. It seems the general attitude for robots in everyday life has become more positive than ever over the last few years.

    We have seen toys like the Sony Aibo (now discontinued) and Wow Wee’s Robosapien ride a wave of popularity in the consumer market. Robotic lawnmowers continue to attract interest if not large market share. Roomba, the robotic “vacuum cleaner” seems to be the most successful product in this segment.

    If you have enough expendable income you might end up with one of the robots sold to the consumer segment. Even more sophisticated (and expensive) devices have made inroads in the medical, military and law enforcement sectors.

    There is room for debate on where this all will lead. Many pundits say the non-industrial robot market is bigger than that for factory robots. It’s not always easy to say how robots are defined in these “other” markets, and safety issues are far from resolved. As soon as concerns are raised about pets and small children you will find a dearth of information on how to protect consumers, whereas in the industrial market, worker safety around robots is very well defined by the ANSI/RIA R15.06 Robot Safety Standard which holds great weight with OSHA.

    Another factor not often addressed has to do with corporate investment. If the market is so huge, where are the Fords, Mattels and IBMs of consumer robotics? Perhaps the argument is that this industry is a collection of small companies and startups pounding out millions of dollars in sales on a collective basis. Nevertheless, this always makes me wonder what qualifies this collection of goods to be classified as robots.

    We do know that Microsoft has a software suite to standardize and simplify programming for mobile robots, which they hope will help stimulate success by companies looking to market robots to consumers. Meanwhile, every time a story comes out like the one about robots for NFL training rooms, awareness goes up and positive interest is reinforced.

    Robotic Industries Association is fortunate to have more than 260 company members representing thousands of professionals with tremendous technical know-how and business acumen. Our members have honed their skills in a competitive marketplace and sit on committees and a very active Board that guides Association activities.

    RIA is North America’s only trade association dedicated to industrial robots, a market that evolved a little over forty years ago when Unimation sold its first robot to General Motors. It is very easy to identify the industry’s main players with a simple review of RIA’s member ranks. Perhaps the service robot market is nearly ready for its own formal trade association to represent its market leaders. We are very interested in developments and needs of the non-industrial robot sector and ready to respond as needs and issues arise.”

    So, things are looking up:

    Robosapien is a WINNER!
    Check out its growing list of awards!


    “Welcome to the Wow Wee Robosapien website, your official source for information about the first affordable humanoid robot.

    Loaded with attitude and intelligence, Robosapien is the first robot based on the science of applied biomorphic robotics.

    Designed by a scientist, Robosapien is ready to go right out of the box (just install his batteries). He comes to life at a touch of the ergonomically designed remote controller! Command him to perform one of his pre-programmed functions or program your own sequence of functions.
    The only limitation is your own imagination.

    About Robosapien:
    Robosapien is packed with an awesome number of features made possible by advanced technologies:
    Fluid motions and gestures: fast dynamic 2-speed walking and turning; full-function arms with two types of grippers.
    67 pre-programmed functions: pick-up, throw, kick, dance, kung-fu, fart, belch, rap and more; 3 demonstration modes.
    Fully programmable by remote control: Up to 84 program steps with 4 program modes for advanced operations; programmable “reflexes” to sound and touch stimuli.
    Fluent international “caveman” speech.
    Extended battery life.

    About Mark Tilden:
    Mark, the designer of Robosapien, is a robotics physicist who has worked for NASA, DARPA and JPL through Los Alamos National Laboratory. He developed the basics for biomorphic robotics in 1988; Robosapien is the first commercially available robot based upon this principle.”

    From YouTube, Robosapien learns to bowl:

    And for the future of Robotics, and some video (this is from Robots in America WordPress blog):

    Unauthorized Site Contains Interesting Video from Robots & Vision Show

    July 31, 2007

    by Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR (RIA)

    “What would you do if you found an unauthorized Web site about your company’s “family jewels”? I recently bumped into a site that highlights the Association’s International Robots & Vision Show, our biggest and most elaborate event, and was delighted to see it was done in such an interesting manner. Nelson Bridwell came to the 2007 Show and (with permission) shot footage and interviews on the floor.

    It turns out that Mr. Bridwell, 55, used to work for Intel and is now running a startup business called Mirage Robotics in Beaverton, Oregon. After a brief search, I was able to find his number and have a quick conversation to see what makes him tick.

    Nelson Bridwell foresees a day when robotic applications are incorporated into the transportation industry, specifically in ways that are now being explored in DARPA’s Grand Challenge which is a competition for developing autonomous vehicles. He hopes this leads to spin-off technology in the automotive market for the elderly or in the delivery sector.

    An admirer of Joseph F. Engelberger, the “Father of Robotics,” Nelson sites a sentiment he credits to Joe that there is little merit in creating humanoid robots for the sake of an emotional reaction. (This certainly is the kind of thing I’ve heard Joe talk about.) Mr. Bridwell hopes to see more practical applications for non-industrial robots, and feels the biggest bottleneck for progress is software, not hardware.

    It was an interesting few minutes with Nelson. His site is not sanctioned by the Association, but if you want to see it and all the videos and other commentary, go to”

    From YouTube, a video from the Robots Vision Show on a craps dealing robot:

    As for the future of Robotics, read the essay below this little update, a link to which is in this piece, from the Robots in America WordPress blog:

    Future of Robots

    “At RIA, we are often asked to predict the future for robotics. In December 2001, I wrote an open letter to students in general, and one in particular, who wanted to know how robots would affect future generations. Since then, it has become one of the most read articles on Robotics Online.

    Even though many years have passed since it was written, the editorial is still valid. There is, however, one notable discrepancy. In this article, I reference 10,000 visitors per year for Robotics Online. In 2006, the site hosted more than 2.2 million visitors (I had to check … that is a 21,900-percent increase).

    Click here to read, “How Robots Will Affect Future Generations.”

    I had to include the piece, as it highlights where we are going, and how we might get there (and it affects one of my favorite commercial cookies – the Milano) – remember, they now get 2.2 million visitors a year to their site, and I suspect that number will only grow:

    How Robots Will Affect Future Generations
    by Brian Huse

    “What does the future hold for robot applications? How will robots affect society in five years; 10 years; 20? These are typical questions received by Robotic Industries Association. Following is a look forward based on a correspondence I recently sent to a student to address in a small way a very big question: ”How will robots affect future generations?”

    Robots in Your Every Day Life
    Let’s start with life as we know it. Did you know that your life is affected virtually every day by robots?

    If you ride in a car, an industrial robot helped build it. If you eat cookies, such as the Milano brand from Pepperidge Farm, there are robot assembly lines to help make and pack them. The computer you use to send e-mails and use for research almost certainly owes its existence, in part, to industrial robots. Industrial robots are even used in the medical field, from pharmaceuticals to surgery.

    From the manufacturing of pagers and cell phones to space exploration, robots are part of the every day fabric of life.

    Robots: Past and Present
    Thirty years ago, a person who pondered robots would probably never have guessed that robot technology would be so pervasive, and yet so overlooked. A 19 year-old author named Isaac Asimov, who in 1939 started writing science fiction about humanoid robots, inspired some of the first popular notions about robots. Before him it was Karel Capek, a Czech playwright, who coined the word ‘robot’ in his 1921 play ”R.U.R.” And even in millennia past, some folks conceived of artificial people built of wire and metal, even stone, known by some as ”automatons,” or manlike machines.

    Today, robots are doing human labor in all kinds of places. Best of all, they are doing the jobs that are unhealthy or impractical for people. This frees up workers to do the more skilled jobs, including the programming, maintenance and operation of robots.

    A simplified definition of a robot is that it must be a device with three or more axis of motion (e.g. shoulder, elbow, wrist), an end effector (tool), and that it may be reprogrammed for different tasks. (This disqualifies most of the toy ”robots” sold at stores.)

    Robots that work on cars and trucks are welding and assembling parts, or lifting heavy parts –the types of jobs that involve risks like injury to your back and arm or wrist, or they work in environments filled with hazards like excessive heat, noise or fumes-dangerous places for people. Robots that assemble and pack cookies or other foodstuff do so without the risk of carpal tunnel injury, unlike their human counterparts. Robots that make computer chips are working in such tiny dimensions that a person couldn’t even do some of the precision work required.

    In the health industry, robots are helping to research and develop drugs, package them and even assist doctors in complicated surgery such as hip replacement and open heart procedures. And the main reason robots are used in any application is because they do the work so much better that there is a vast improvement in quality and/or production, or costs are brought down so that companies can be the best at what they do while keeping workers safe.

    Robots Keep the Economy Rolling
    High-quality products can lead to higher sales, which means the company that uses technology like robots is more likely to stay alive and vital, which is good for the economy. In addition to improving quality, robots improve productivity, another key element to economic health.

    To think about how robots might affect future generations, consider what happened a few hundred years ago when the industrial revolution began. For instance, in 1794 Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, and later the concept of interchangeable parts for mass production of manufactured products. His inventions spurred growth in the United States, increased productivity in a variety of industries, and created more job opportunities as companies throughout the world adopted his technology and ideas.

    In 1865 John Deere invented the cast steel plow blade, giving farmers a tool to greatly increase productivity. The light bulb came in 1880. The airplane appeared in 1906. Assembly lines, TVs, plastics, and many other inventions came in the decades to follow, further changing the face of the industrialized world.

    In 1961, Joseph Engelberger sold the first industrial robot to General Motors Corporation, where it performed machine loading and unloading duties in an environment that was hot and dirty, and in fact dangerous to humans. That was 40 years ago…before personal computers and the Internet. A lot of technology evolved that helped make the industrial robot the affordable, successful machine it is today.

    A Future in Service Robots?
    Who knew all the effects the robot would have? Maybe Mr. Engelberger, often referred to as the ”Father of Robotics,” could foresee much of what was to come. He eventually sold his company, called Unimation, and became a pioneer in service robots, a sector of robotics in its infancy, but which is predicted to eventually exceed the market for industrial robots. He lectures even today that service robots must have the following criteria to succeed:

    • Magnificent physical execution (they have to be really, really good at what they do);
    • Sensory perception (one or more of the five senses, like sight, touch, etc.);
    • A ”quasi-structured” living environment (things have to be predictable)
    • Prior knowledge of their environment and duties (programmed with expert skills and knowledge);
    • A good cost/benefit standard (reasonable cost compared to expected duties).

    These are high standards indeed! Most people can do service tasks very efficiently compared to any current robotic alternative. Most service robots would cost far more than human labor does at this time (although Mr. Engelberger did demonstrate a successful business model for a cost-effective system for hospital robot ”gofers” when he created the HelpMate company).

    The opportunity for robotics arises when you ask if there are enough skilled people to do certain tasks at a reasonable price, like elder care, an industry greatly lacking in skilled labor and laborers. Much thought has been put into development of robotic helpers for the infirmed and elderly.

    Untapped Robot Applications Abound
    According to the RIA, 90% of companies with robotic manufacturing applications have not installed their first robot. Yet more than 115,000 robots are installed in the U.S. today, making it second only to Japan. Material handling and assembly are among the leading applications poised for growth within the robotics industry.

    The future for robots is bright. But, how will robots affect future generations? Sometimes you can get ideas for the future by looking into the past and thinking about the changes we’ve seen as a result of other great inventions, like the cotton gin, airplane or Internet. Perhaps one day we will have true robotic ”helpers” that guide the blind, assist the elderly. Maybe they’ll be modular devices that can switch from lawn mower to vacuum cleaner, to dish washer and window washer.

    Maybe one day ”robots” will be so small they will travel through your blood stream delivering life-saving drugs to eliminate disease. Perhaps they will have a major role in the educational and entertainment industries. Law enforcement and security may become major users of robotics. (Robots already have been deployed for such hazardous tasks as bomb disposal, hostage recovery, and search and rescue operations, including at the World Trade Center.)

    Certainly, robots will always have a role in manufacturing. They are invaluable to the trend of product miniaturization, and they provide an economical solution for manufacturing the high-quality products mandated for success in a global economy.

    Industrial robots are somewhat underrated in today’s society, but the world owes much to the productivity and quality measures imparted by robotics. Their effect on future generations may well be the assistance they provide in manufacturing faster computers, more intelligent vehicles and better consumer and health products.

    Donald A. Vincent, Executive Vice President, RIA, a 25-year veteran of the industry wrote this assessment about the future of robots in the Handbook of Industrial Robotics:

    ”After a quarter-century of being involved with robotics, I have concluded that the robotics industry is here to stay. And robotics does not stop here. Sojourner (was) the first, but certainly not the last, intelligent robot sent by humans to operate on another planet, Mars. Robotics, robots, and their peripheral equipment will respond well to the challenges of space construction, assembly, and communications; new applications in agriculture, agri-industries, and chemical industries; work in recycling, cleaning, and hazardous waste disposal to protect our environment and the quality of our air and water; safe, reliable and fast transportation relying on robotics in flight and on intelligent highways. Robotics prospered in the 1900s; it will thrive and proliferate in the twenty-first century.”

    Throughout the year, more than 10,000 visitors from all over the world turn to Robotics Online for information to help them understand the industry. This editorial is an ”open letter” to students and others with an interest in robotics, and is dedicated to Lisa from Australia, who wrote: ”I am 13 and I was wondering if you had any information on how robots/robotics might effect the future/future generations?”

    Recommended reading:

    Or if you are like the un-dynamic “demonic” threesome in Buffy, and wish to have your own fembot, one exists, but watch out -she doesn’t like inappropriate touching!

    “Aiko is the brainchild of robotics developer Le Trung and the first Canadian android to make a public appearance. The android visited the Ontario Science Centre November 10, 2007. Thank you YouTube Canada for the feature. Hopefully the attention will help get this poor girl the support she needs to get up out of that wheelchair and learn to walk.”

    Hope this starts your quest for a Robot of your own….

    Purell Lovers Rejoice! – new devices for germaphobes

    If you’re like me, and carry small bottles of Purell in your car and purse, as well as at the bathroom and kitchen sink, because either you just hate germs, or like me, you have a compromised health system, there’s hope. Here’s Part One:


    “Nasty germs, look out. Here comes another weapon against you and your creepy bacterial and microscopic friends. It‘s the Raycop anti-bacterial vacuum, now available in the U.S. and shining its ultraviolet light on all things small and dangerous. Adding to the fun is a serious 360-beat-per-minute vibrator that can shake all those mites and varmints loose from those fibers to which they cling, freeing them up for some serious suckage. As soon as any of those vermin are exposed to the old ultraviol, it’s bye bye, bugs.

    Ultraviolet light as germ killer has been getting a lot of play lately, handy for taking down all kinds of things we don’t want around. Take a look at this list of favorite devices for germaphobes we compiled last week, and you’ll see many of the items gain their strength from the purple lights. Too bad this little hand-held Raycop costs $250, but then, what price total cleanliness?’

    And there’s more from

    “We are all so petrified of germs, we turn to the highest tech to get rid of them, every last one. But that’s not going to be easy. In sheer numbers, there are 20 times more creepy crawlies in your body than cells. Heck, there are 500 species of bacteria, weighing 3.3 pounds, living in your gut alone! But those 90 trillion microbes living in and on your body right now aren’t what should be worrying us. Many of them are vital to our survival, and we want to keep them around. However, sometimes malevolent invaders try to blend in with that helpful crowd of flora and fauna. Those villains are the ones we want to kill, so click Continue to discover the top 10 gadgets that’ll help us do just that.


    10. VIOlight Toothbrush Sanitizer

    Rearrange the DNA of those puny microscopic pests camping out on your toothbrush with the ultraviolet light inside this $49 VIOlight in either travel or home versions. Once you’ve illuminated those germs for ten minutes with various wavelengths of UV light, you’ll have the cleanest toothbrush in town. Well, until you put it back into that potty mouth of yours.

    According to the VIOlight website:

    A single toothbrush can harbor millions of microorganisms, which translate into harmful bacteria — bacteria that thrive in the warm, moist environment of the average bathroom.

    VIOlight stops these microorganisms dead in their track. Independent studies prove that the patent-pending VIOlight system eliminates up to 99.9% of bacteria that thrive on your toothbrush. That’s millions of microscopic bugs that can cause flu, colds and other illnesses, zapped in minutes!

    “Even after being rinsed visibly clean, toothbrushes can remain contaminated with potentially pathogenic organisms.”
    — The Centers for Disease Control, January 2002 report
    As Easy as Brush, Store and Sanitize
    VIOlight uses a germicidal UV bulb — the same technology used in hospitals — to kill germs. Sanitization is activated with a simple push of a button. A blue-violet glow on top of the VIOlight lets you know the sanitizer is working. The entire process takes only 10 minutes. When finished, the bulb automatically shuts off and your toothbrush is fresh, clean, and protected for the next time you brush!”


    9. Just Plane Clean

    When you’re wedged into a flying tin can full of hacking, microbe-spewing meat puppets, you’re going to need some heavy air filtering. Snap the Plane Clean Filter onto that ventilation nozzle above your head, and its stale breeze will still smell rank, but at least there will be a few less funky pathogens in the air. We have our doubts about this one; it’ll cost ya $20 to be the guinea pig.

    According to Plane Clean Filter’s website:

    “Plane Clean Air
    has been tested in an FDA certified lab and is shown to remove 99.5% of all airborne bacteria, viruses and allergens from your airstream.

    So the next time you fly, make sure you travel the healthy way, by using
    Plane Clean Air

    Product Description

    The Plane Clean Air Filter is a compact device that can be attached to a passenger’s overhead gasper nozzle. Plane Clean Air houses an electrostatic charged filter media that is capable of removing viruses, bacteria and other particulate matter from an air stream. A thin air gasket is attached to the entrance port of the filter housing. Plane Clean Air is designed for attachment to most gasper configurations (Airbus and Boeing) using the adhesive on the air gasket.

    Plane Clean Air filter is installed by removing a release liner from the adhesive on the air gasket and mounting the device directly to the face of the gasper. Air flow velocity can be controlled by rotating the housing which in turn rotates the gasper. Once the desired air flow rate is achieved, the air stream can be directed onto the user’s face by turning the air exit nozzle.

    At the end of the flight, Plane Clean Air can be detached easily and placed in its storage case. The air gasket adhesive is formulated to hold the product securely but will not leave any adhesive residue on the gasper surface when removed. The adhesive and filter are designed to last for several flights. Replacement adhesive gaskets and filter media can be purchased when required.”


    8. Hands-Free Soap Dispenser

    Your bathroom can be touch-free, starting with this $40 SimpleHuman Sensor Soap Pump. Let’s hope it doesn’t require some fancy macarena-style hand motions to get the flow started. Fill it up with Purell for more antibacterial goodness; rinse, repeat.

    According to SimpleHuman Sensor Soap Pump’s website:

    “The sensor soap pump dispenses soap touch-free to help avoid cross-contamination. Simply place your hand under the sensor to dispense soap automatically. An optional LED light timer blinks for 20 seconds to indicate how long to lather for germ-free hands. Four volume settings allow the pump to dispense preset amounts of soap or lotion.

    Ideal for dispensing hand or dishwashing soap by a kitchen or bathroom sink. Also can be used to dispense hand lotion.


    • rustproof chrome-plated top cover
    • stainless steel backsplash
    • clear acrylic soap chamber


    • 14 oz.
    built-in light timer

    Optional light timer blinks for 20 seconds for germ-free hands.

    continuous dispensing button

    Hold down the continuous dispensing button to manually dispense soap directly on items.

    built-in light timer

    Optional light timer blinks for 20 seconds for germ-free hands.

    easy to refill

    Large, easy to refill opening.

    four volume settings

    Allows you to dispense larger or smaller amounts of soap.

    touch-free operation

    Dispenses soap automatically through a touch-free sensor.


    operates on 4 “AA” batteries
    (not included)”


    7. Nanotech Dresses

    These two cotton dresses, created by fiber scientists and a student designer at Cornell University, have metallic nanofabers sewn in, giving them remarkable germ-fighting capabilities. Not a single microbe can survive on these garments, and they never need washing, either. Yeah, make me some socks out of this stuff — we’ll see if they never need washing or not. Too bad the material costs $10,000 per square yard.

    According to Cornell Online:

    “Fashion designers and fiber scientists at Cornell have taken “functional clothing” to a whole new level. They have designed a garment that can prevent colds and flu and never needs washing, and another that destroys harmful gases and protects the wearer from smog and air pollution.

    The two-toned gold dress and metallic denim jacket, featured at the April 21 Cornell Design League fashion show, contain cotton fabrics coated with nanoparticles that give them functional qualities never before seen in the fashion world.

    Designed by Olivia Ong ’07 in the College of Human Ecology’s Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design, the garments were infused with their unusual qualities by fiber science assistant professor Juan Hinestroza and his postdoctoral researcher Hong Dong. Apparel design assistant professor Van Dyke Lewis launched the collaboration by introducing Ong to Hinestroza several months ago.

    Nicole Grospe ’07, left, and Andrea Clark ’07 model clothing designed by Olivia Ong ’07, at the Cornell Design League fashion show. The dress and jacket contain nanoparticles with antibacterial and air-purifying qualities.

    “We think this is one of the first times that nanotechnology has entered the fashion world,” Hinestroza said. He noted one drawback may be the garments’ price: one square yard of nano-treated cotton would cost about $10,000.

    Ong’s dress and jacket, part of her original fashion line called “Glitterati,” look innocently hip. But closer inspection — with a microscope, that is — shows an army of electrostatically charged nanoparticles creating a protective shield around the cotton fibers in the top part of the dress, and the sleeves, hood and pockets of the jacket.

    “It’s something really moving toward the future, and really advanced,” said Ong, who graduates in December and aspires to design school. “I thought this could potentially be what fashion is moving toward.”

    Dong explained that the fabrics were created by dipping them in solutions containing nanoparticles synthesized in Hinestroza’s lab. The resultant colors are not the product of dyes, but rather, reflections of manipulation of particle size or arrangement.

    The upper portion of the dress contains cotton coated with silver nanoparticles. Dong first created positively charged cotton fibers using ammonium- and epoxy-based reactions, inducing positive ionization. The silver particles, about 10-20 nanometers across (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter) were synthesized in citric acid, which prevented nanoparticle agglomeration.

    Cotton fiber with palladium nanoparticle coating Hong Dong/Provided

    A scanning electron microscope image shows a cotton fiber with palladium nanoparticle coating.

    Assistant professor Juan Hinestroza and postdoctoral researcher Hong Dong, in their Martha Van Rensselaer Hall lab.

    Dipping the positively charged cotton into the negatively charged silver nanoparticle solution resulted in the particles clinging to the cotton fibers.

    Silver possesses natural antibacterial qualities that are strengthened at the nanoscale, thus giving Ong’s dress the ability to deactivate many harmful bacteria and viruses. The silver infusion also reduces the need to wash the garment, since it destroys bacteria, and the small size of the particles prevents soiling and stains.

    The denim jacket includes a hood, sleeves and pockets with soft, gray tweed cotton embedded with palladium nanoparticles, about 5-10 nanometers in length. To create the material, Dong placed negatively charged palladium crystals onto positively charged cotton fibers.

    Ong, though strictly a designer, was drawn especially to the science behind creating the anti-smog jacket.

    “I thought it would be cool if [wearers] could wipe their hands on their sleeves or pockets,” Ong said.

    Ong incorporated the resultant cotton fiber into a jacket with the ability to oxidize smog. Such properties would be useful for someone with allergies, or for protecting themselves from harmful gases in the contaminated air, such as in a crowded or polluted city.”


    6. Zapper Kills Bugs Dead

    You don’t actually want to put your hands anywhere near those grimy houseflies, do you? This $13 Electric Bug Zapper is like a lethal Taser for any insect, testament to the cruel fact that if you’re a bug, trespassing in someone’s house warrants the death penalty.

    According to Northline

    “Here is a fast, easy, hygienic, and more effective way to eliminate those pesky flying insects. The Handheld Bug Zapper, similar to the shape of a badminton racket, is lightweight and with the push of two buttons emits a low level electrical current that halts mosquitoes, flies, gnats and other flying pests in their tracks.
    Environmentally safe, the zapper can be used indoors and outdoors. The zapper glows-in-the-dark, so when sitting around that campfire it is guaranteed not to get lost. Made of durable ABS plastic and measures almost 17″ long it will provide comfort from pests for anyone wanting to enjoy those summer evenings. And it’s fun to use!
    Caution: This is not a toy. Keep out of reach of children.
    Editors Note: This product works amazingly well both indoors and outdoors – we highly recommend it!”

    • Measures 16 3/4″ long by 7 1/2″ across
    • Weighs less than a pound
    • 2 Button Safety Design
    • Glow in the Dark
    • Safe for indoor or outdoor use
    • 2 AA batteries included
    • Weight: 1.00LB
    • Model: 40050GE “


    5. Germ-Killing Surface

    You do realize that your hands are even more germ-infested than a toilet seat, right? Keeping that in mind, the loo will be many times cleaner than you when it’s someday equipped with a nano particle surface made of titanium dioxide. Aussie innovators in the Particles and Catalysts Research Group at the University of New South Wales created the substance that not only cleans itself, it repels water, too. Still in the developmental stage, expect the sparkling surface to be coming soon to a water closet near you.

    According to the Paul Tech Network Blog:

    “It’s a veritable god-send to all women with slob significant others. Accustomed to sitting in the filth left by their so-called loved ones, women had become listless – feeling trapped in an endless cycle of degradation, shame, and rage. Fear not, Aussies have come up with a way to lift women out of this filthy cycle. Toilet Rage – Be Gone!

    Researchers at the Particles and Catalysts Research Group, University of New South Wales, have come up with a nano particle surface that can autoclean itself. The surface is made of titanium dioxide, which has better oxidizing ability than chlorine bleach. It used to be only activated only when exposed to ultra violet light, but signs are there that they may be overcoming that obstacle. The surface is hydrophobic, so it repels water. So, the coated surface would kill germs and water would slide away. There is hope!”


    4. Philips Sonicare FlexCare Toothbrush

    Not only does this $100 Philips electric toothbrush sonically vibrate that plaque into oblivion, now the company has picked up on the ultraviolet bug-killing kick, too. Just pop those brush heads into the mini-tanning booth attached to the toothbrush’s base, and all those nasty squirmy worms are cooked up like a lobster in a boiling pot.

    From an earlier DVice article on it:


    “As effective as Philips’ Sonicare electric toothbrushes may be, one thing I’ve always felt they lacked was radiation. Well, my dream has come true now that Philips has developed the FlexCare toothbrush, which includes a UV sanitizer built into the charger. After you’re done brushing, you remove the head from the brush and seal it in the chamber. One press of a button later and the sanitizer bathes the head with ultraviolet radiation, sterilizing the bristles and preventing any germ buildup. And possibly giving it a tan.

    The FlexCare has other upgrades, too: The head’s base is smaller to make it easier to clean, and there are multiple brushing modes, including one for sensitive mouths and another for massaging gums. The FlexCare is coming in August for $180. If you just bought one of Sonicare’s current brushes, you can still get in on the UV-radiation fun with a standalone sanitizer for $50. See a couple of pics of that after the jump.”




    3. Lotus Sanitizing System

    This $150 magic bowl turns ordinary H2O into superoxygenated water that can clean everything in your house, neutralize odors, kill microbes and even rid foods of pesticides. Cure all known diseases? Well, they’re not going that far. Either dip whatever you want super-cleaned into the bowlful of cleansing water, or put that special water in a spray bottle to spread its goodness hither and yon. Sounds like snake oil. Does it work? Time magazine thought so.

    From the Tersano website:

    lotus Sanitizing System – How It Works

    The lotus® patent® technology infuses cold tap water with an extra oxygen atom, creating a natural sanitizer. By passing air through 4,500 volts of electricity, the lotus® system splits oxygen molecules into atoms and forces this extra atom to combine and form super-oxygen. The third oxygen atom becomes the sanitizing agent, a natural oxidant — which kills bacteria and viruses, and neutralizes pesticides.

    How Do I Know It Works

    Built in sensors monitor and guarantee that the Oxyshield technology infusion process occurs in every cycle to safely create one of the most powerful, all-natural sanitizing agents in the world. The indicator on the unit will reach 100% once the water has been fully activated.

    1. Simply fill the spray bottle with cold tap water and place on the base unit. Select the appropriate button and start the process. In about two minutes the lotus water is ready to be used for up to 1 hour to clean. EPA registered to kill 99.99% of bacteria and viruses during the first 15 minutes. A count down timer on the unit tells you that it is time to reload and recharge.
    2. When using the bowl attachment we recommend that the produce is washed and rid of any dirt before sanitizing. Maximum bacteria and pesticide reduction may be achieved after 4 minutes but may take up to 8 minutes if the produce is highly saturated with contaminants. Once the lotus process shows 100% complete your produce is free of pesticide residues and bacteria making the produce taste better and last up to 4 times longer!

    View the test results that were run on the lotus Sanitizing System.

    Product Claims

    • EPA registered for produce and household surfaces
    • FDA and USDA approved process for food sanitation
    • UL ,CSA, GS, CE and CQC tested and approved
    • Kills 99.9 % of:
      • Escherichia coli (E. coli)
      • Salmonella choloeraesuis (Salmonella)
      • Staphylococcus aureus (Staph)
      • Listeria monocytogenes (Listeria)
      • Klebsiella pneumonia (K. Pneumonia)
    • Works 3000 times faster and 50% more powerful than chlorine bleach
    • Kills bacteria within seconds
    • Has no toxic residue or by-products
    • Scent-free, leaves no residual fragrance
    • Kills bacteria that cause food to decay, increasing shelf life up to 4 times!
    • Destroys up to 99% of pesticides
    • Improves the taste of foods or other edible products
    • Kills up to 99% of odor causing bacteria
    • Recognized by Time Magazine as one of the “Best Inventions”

    Healthy Home – Where Do I Use lotus?

    • Windows/Mirrors
    • Stain Remover on Carpets and Fabric
    • Kitchen Counters
    • Granite, Marble and Slate Counter Tops(porous)
    • Wood Surfaces
    • Dust mites
    • Floors
    • Sinks
    • Toilets
    • Shower and Bathtub
    • Appliances
    • Stainless Steel
    • Kills Mold and Mildew
    • Pet Dander/Odor, Stain Remover
    • Room/Closet Deodorizing
    • Smokers area
    • Cars/RV/Boat Interiors
    • Carpet and Upholstery Stain Remover
    • Toothbrushes
    • Baby toys
    • Baby Bottles/Pacifiers
    • Baby’s Highchair
    • Personal Grooming Tools
    • Sanitizes Fruits and Vegetables

    Replace all types of chemical cleaners!

    • Windex® Vinegar Multi Surface
    • Windex® Antibacterial
    • Oxi Clean® Carpet Stain Remover
    • Fantastik® Bleach
    • Clorox® Ultimate Care
    • Mr. Clean® Magic Eraser
    • Pine Sol® Fresh lemon Floor Cleaner
    • Lysol® All Purpose
    • Febreze® Anti-microbial deodorizer
    • Bissell® Pet Stain Remover
    • Urine Gone™ Stain and odor Eliminator
    • Febreze® Extra Strength deodorizer
    • Pledge® Stainless Steel
    • Pledge® Extra Moisturizing furniture polish
    • Tilex® Soap Scum
    • Tilex® Fresh Shower
    • Tilexv Mold and Mildew
    • Air Wick® with Baking Soda
    • Hoover® Spot and Stain Remover
    • Shout® Spot Remover

    Even replace all these types of “Green” products

    • Clean Veggie Spray
    • Carpet Stain Remover
    • Window Cleaner
    • Cleaning Lotion
    • Pet Stain & Odor
    • All Kitchen and Bath Cleaner
    • Clean Veggie Wash
    • Tub & Tile Cleaner
    • Liquid Bleach
    • Vinegar
    • Baking Soda
    • Lemon Juice
    • Extract Oils
    • Furniture Polish”

    And Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2006:


    Clean Machine
    “In the wake of the spinach scare, even the friendliest food can seem like a biological hazard, and scrubbing alone won’t necessarily wipe out pesticides or bacteria. The Lotus Sanitizing System turns ordinary tap water into superoxygenated water that kills microbes and removes toxins. The machine uses an electrical charge to infuse the tap water with ozone, which sounds scarier than it is–it just means the water carries a form of oxygen that acts as a natural sanitizer.
    Inventor: Tersano
    Availability Now; $200
    To learn more visit


    2. Halo UVX Vacuum

    The $400 Halo UVX‘s ultraviolet bug-killing light not only smites mites and the ever-present dust bunnies to which they cling, its makers say it can even kill viruses. If it can do that, those common household bacteria and common rug funk should be no match for this snarling, wheezing, purple-illuminated beast.

    According to Halo’s website:

    “What is the Halo™ UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum?

    The Halo™ UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum is the first in a line of the world’s only germ-killing vacuums. That means that the Halo™ UVX not only vacuums the dirt from your floor, but it is the only chemical-free floor-care solution that can kill dust mites, germs, viruses like MRSA and bacteria living in your carpet and home. These are all allergens that can lead to allergies and asthma.

    Can you use attachments with the Halo™ UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum?

    The Halo UVX, does not include attachments. The most concentrated sources of dust mites and other such allergens are in the home’s carpet and mattresses. We wanted our initial solution to concentrate solely on this problem. If you are interested in attachments, please see our Halo UV-ST.

    How much does the Halo™ UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum weigh?

    Approximately 15 pounds.

    Where can I purchase a Halo™ UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum?

    While many online and brick-and-mortar retailers have the Halo™ UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum, we suggest you click on our “Buy Now” link to purchase it.

    Do any replacement bags come with the Halo™ UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum?

    Yes. A replacement pack of five Halo UVX bags come with the product. Additional replacement bags can be purchased through our website.

    How do I know it works?

    See our Science and Technology section.

    What do I do if I need to replace my ultraviolet bulb? Where can I take my Halo™ UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum for repairs?

    Our ultraviolet bulb has been tested so extensively that we are confident it will never need to be replaced. Due to this, the bulb is covered under a lifetime warranty. The Halo UVX is covered under a one year warranty as well. However, if there are any problems, we suggest first taking a look at your Owner’s Safety and Operation Manual to troubleshoot your problem. If you are still having difficulties, please call our Customer Service line at 1-866-638-HALO (4256) and a member of our team will be happy to help you.

    Will it fade or burn my carpet?

    When used appropriately (as outlined in the Owners Safety and Operation Manual), the Halo™ UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum will not fade or damage carpets, rugs, floors, mattresses or other surfaces.

    How long does the UV-C bulb last?

    The UV-C bulb is estimated to last 8,000 hours and we anticipate that it would never need to be replaced. Due to this, the bulb is covered under a lifetime warranty.

    Why does the Halo™ UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum use a bag when “bagless” is so popular right now?

    Our goal was to design a vacuum that exposed the family to the least amount of allergens. Bagless vacuums expose the user to the vacuumed allergens when emptying the bagless canister.

    Does this vacuum have any belts that need to be replaced?

    The Halo UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum was designed for convenience, ease-of-use and ultimately, exceptional performance. With this in mind, the Halo UVX employs gears, not belts, to power to brush bar, so there are no belts that can break or to change.

    Does this vacuum have any belts that need to be replaced?

    The Halo UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum was designed for convenience, ease-of-use and ultimately, exceptional performance. With this in mind, the Halo UVX employs gears, not belts, to power to brush bar, so there are no belts that can break or to change.

    Does the Halo™ UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum have “True HEPA” filtration?

    Yes. The Halo™ UVX Ultraviolet Vacuum uses a premium cloth bag, then the air is also filtered through an odor removing carbon filter before the air exits the units via a True HEPA filter. The air exiting our unit is cleaner than the typical air found in homes.

    Will the bulb area get hot during operation?

    No. The UVX’s patent-pending bulb chamber has been designed to pull the UV-C light bulb heat away from the bulb chamber.

    What is the Halo™ 30 Day Risk Free Trial Period?

    The Halo™ 30 Day Risk Free Trial allows you to purchase and try the product in the comfort of your own home to see if it’s right for you. Vacuum your carpets, kill the allergens in your home, try it out. If for any reason you are not completely satisfied, just call our Customer Service at 866-638-HALO (4256) and we’ll pick up the vacuum and refund your money, no questions asked.

    Why is this revolutionary vacuum so reasonably priced?

    The first ultraviolet vacuum from Halo™ is designed to be as affordable as possible. At Halo™, we realize that many people suffer from allergies or asthma, or are seeking ways in which to have a cleaner home that provides a healthier environment for their families. It is our mission to create innovative products that make families healthier

    How does the Halo UVX compare to it’s competitors regarding pick-up?

    Halo outperforms best selling traditional vacuums in regards to pick up of debris according to an ASTM test method for evaluating dirt removal effectiveness. In addition to testing, our vacuums also employ an energy-efficient design that delivers more power with less energy consumption. We achieve this with two strategically placed motors: one to generate powerful suction and one to drive the brush bar. The benefit of the dual motor design is that when using the brush bar, performance is never compromised.”

    AND from CNET Asia – Crave Blog comes:

    Step aside Roomba, here comes Ultraviolet

    Juniper Foo | Jan 03, 2008

    “Not the Ultraviolet of the Milla Jovovich movie fame, but this killing machine sucks just as much. Thanks to the UV-C technology that’s onboard, its ultraviolet light is said to instantly vaporize dust mites, bacteria, viruses, mold, flea eggs and other unseen creepy-crawlies lurking in the carpet and flooring.
    As the first such vacuum to use UV-C light in addition to suction capability, the US$499 Halo Ultraviolet Vacuum leaves others eating its dust trail. And being a pet owner, this one gets my thumbs up for zapping those invisible house guests sans chemicals. Now all that’s needed is for the Halo Ultraviolet Vacuum to do the dirty work sans cords and human help just like the Roomba, and this one gets my money.”


    1. Samsung SilverCare Washer

    Using nanotech to release molecules of silver into your wash water, Samsung says this washer kills 99.9% of “tested bacteria” (whatever that is), even when using cold water and no bleach. Consumer Reports says the $1400 washer’s SilverCare setting actually made some stinky t-shirts smell a whole lot better than those washed the normal way, but it took an extra 6 to 24 minutes per load to release those magical bug-killing silver nanoparticles.

    Samsung says:

    SilverCare™ technology

    An advanced energy-saving technology with superb microbe killing capabilities. The sanitization process this provides without the use of hot water saves up to 92% of the energy used in traditional hot water processes. It is also is gentler on clothes which makes for longer use of your clothes and all things considered a fast payback on your investment.

    know exactly what cycle you’re in

    SAMSUNG’s easy to use display panel with its green display indicators let you know what’s going on at all times.

    safety – always a factor

    The child lock indicator reminds you when you are operating the child lock function. This ensures that children do not interfere with the operation of the machine.”

    And if that’s not enough:

    Jetpack look-a-like kills foot odor and germs in one shot


    “The germaphobe community in Japan brings us yet another oddball gadget to put our minds at ease called the CH-3800 Shoes Dryer. Although the CH-3800 will quickly and efficiently remove the damp sidewalk sweat from your shoes, the device’s ozone anti-bacterial function is what takes it into geek-out territory.

    Assuming you don’t mind constantly fielding questions regarding why you have a jet pack in your home attached to your shoes, at just 9,800 yen ($89.55) the CH-3800 Shoes Dryer is a relative bargain.”


    Germ Killing Light Gun destroys bad germs

    By Joe

    “This looks more like a Star Trek toy or a weird cellphone, but in fact it’s a nano-technology germ killing weapon.
    This device uses UV-C light to destroy 99.99% of the germs. Simply point the device to a spot and it will destroy all germs like E-Coli, staphylococcus, salmonella, flu, …
    This device is not only perfect for people suffering Germaphobes (obsessive cleaning), it might come in handy for young children, to ensure minimal germ exposure.
    This flip-weapon is available for $79.95 at Hammacher.”


    CulinaryPrep – kitchen countertop germ busting gadget


    “For a mere $400 USD you can have a peace of mind when it comes to your food safety. The germ busting gadget, CulinaryPrep kills bacteria and food born pathogens from poultry, meat, fish, and produce, including E.coli, listeria and salmonella. Applying the Grovac patented process, CulinaryPrep eliminates bacteria up to 99.5%, removes free radicals often associated with cancer from your food and reduces fat, sodium and salt levels. The results were proven by several independent studies, conducted by Kansas State University, LSU, Whitbeck and Warren Analytical Laboratories. As an added bonus, the CulinaryPrep will marinate your food while enhancing flavor and texture. This kitchen countertop germ busting gadget will be a great gift for Christmas.”

    And MY personal favorite:

    HYSO Doorknob Germ Killer

    germhyso.jpgAfter imagining he was inside a woman’s restroom—something we’ve all done at one time or…sorry, where were we?—Simon Sassoon devised a gadget that automatically kills germs on public doorknobs. Want to see what two years and $250,000 worth of investment money gets you? That’s it on the right.

    Every fifteen minutes, this $60 device sprays a mist of “hospital-grade disinfectant” onto the knob, killing whatever post-urination/defecation residue got transferred to the knob after being handled by hundreds of people.

    Those in the hygiene brigade can reel off dozens of reasons all strangers are potential enemies: virulent flu seasons, packed airplanes with stale air, buses where no one covers a mouth when sneezing. But social critics detect an element of hysteria in the germaphobia of Americans and suggest that at its root is a fear of a dangerous, out-of-control world.

    So relax, companies are thinking of you… Tags: , , , ,