Friday, June 26

MJ Broke The Interwebs!

Interesting story, courtesy of CNN

LONDON, England (CNN) -- How many people does it take to break the Internet? On June 25, we found out it's just one -- if that one is Michael Jackson. Jackson's death caused Twitter outages, as portrayed by Raul Orozco in this take on Twitter's fail whale.

The biggest showbiz story of the year saw the troubled star take a good slice of the Internet with him, as the ripples caused by the news of his death swept around the globe. "Between approximately 2:40 p.m. PDT and 3:15 p.m. PDT today, some Google News users experienced difficulty accessing search results for queries related to Michael Jackson," a Google spokesman told CNET, which also reported that Google News users complained that the service was inaccessible for a time. At its peak, Google Trends rated the Jackson story as "volcanic."

As sites fell, users raced to other sites: TechCrunch reported that TMZ, which broke the story, had several outages; users then switched to Perez Hilton's blog, which also struggled to deal with the requests it received. CNN reported a fivefold rise in traffic and visitors in just over an hour, receiving 20 million page views in the hour the story broke.

Twitter crashed as users saw multiple "fail whales" -- the illustrations the site uses as error messages -- user FoieGrasie posting, "Irony: The protesters in Iran using twitter as com are unable to get online because of all the posts of 'Michael Jackson RIP.' Well done." The site's status blog said that Twitter had had to temporarily disable its search results, saved searches and trend topics.

Wikipedia saw a flurry of activity, with close to 500 edits made to Jackson's entry in less than 24 hours. CNET reported that by 3:15pm PDT, Wikipedia seemed to be "temporarily overloaded."

The LA Times, the first news organization to confirm Jackson's death, suffered outages. The site also reported that AOL's instant messenger service had been hit, quoting an AOL statement that said, "AIM was down for approximately 40 minutes this afternoon." The statement said, "Today was a seminal moment in Internet history. We've never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth."

By Friday morning, news sites seemed to be coping with traffic but Jackson fan site was still performing sluggishly. reported that tributes to, and remarks upon, Michael Jackson's death were responsible for 30 percent of tweets.

As with any breaking piece of news on the Web, the reports of Jackson's death sparked something of a feeding frenzy -- and with that came rumor that dragged in other celebrities completely unconnected to the King of Pop's death.

One Wikipedia prankster wrote that Jackson had been "savagely murdered" by his brother Tito, who had strangled him "with a microphone cord."

Soon rumors spread online that movie star Jeff Goldblum had fallen from the Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand while filming his latest movie. On several search engines, "Jeff Goldblum" soon became the only non-Jackson-related term to crop up in the top 10.

The rumors forced Goldblum's publicist to issue a statement to media outlets, saying: "Reports that Jeff Goldblum has passed away are completely untrue. He is fine and in Los Angeles."

At the same time Harrison Ford was also rumored to have fallen from a yacht off the south of France.

Web site, which shoots down rumors, gossip and urban legends -- and how they originated -- said the likely culprit was a Web site which allows users to input celebrity names -- and then inserts them into fake templated stories (a further variant has stars dying in a plane crash).

In a sense the feeding frenzy was understandable -- Jackson's death, coming only hours after that of 1970s icon Farah Fawcett, left many Web users, shocked by the news of Jackson's death, asking what would happen next. In this febrile climate any rumor runs the risk of being seized on, believed and treated with more credulity than usual.

The need of the professional media to be first with the news -- many did for a short time report the Goldblum rumor as fact -- adds further veracity. And, of course, the whole process is speeded up by the Web.

There is also, of course, the old adage that celebrities die in threes, with the deaths of Gianni Versace, Princess Diana and Mother Teresa in 1997 frequently held up as an example of this.

But while Diana and Teresa passed away with seven days of each other in August and September, Versace was killed in early July. Their deaths were most keenly mourned by the same broad sections of the public -- and hence were inextricably interlinked.

The Web can link disseminate news -- but like any form of communication it can also help us create what we expect to see next.

Friday, June 19

What Every Picnic Needs!

A T-Rex Watermelon Boat! Whee!

Lost Tidbits

Just a few nuggets of goodness....

The sixth season will begin with an examination of what happened after Juliet seemingly detonated the hydrogen bomb. As usual, [Matthew] Fox said, "It's very surprising and probably fairly confusing initially to the audience." Source: Kristin on E!Online

Team Darlton is checking the availability of several MVPs [from past seasons to appear in the series final season. ...] After sitting out last season, [Emilie] de Ravin will return as a full-time series regular for Lost's sixth and final season, Team Darlton confirms. "Damon and I are very excited to bring Claire back to the show," says Carlton Cuse, "and even more excited for people to experience just how she will return." Source: The Ausiello Files

"Like, a third of the way in to the season, I would guess we are going to settle into one time frame, and it will be very linear-no more flashbacks, nothing. It will be on the Island and sort of a final conflict to the end," said [Matthew] Fox. He assured fans that all the crazy storylines introduced in earlier seasons will be resolved and that the conflict between Jack and Locke "will come head to head" this season, but he wouldn't divulge more than that. When asked what would happen if he did, he said, "Some guys would pull up outside this building in a white van and masks, and I'd never be seen again." Source: Kristin on E!Online

Lost masterminds Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have been dropping hints about how the show will end next spring. Among the mysteries unravelled in the very last episode will be the significance of the four-toed statue, what the Smoke Monster really is and who the skeletons in the cave were. [...] Says Cuse: "The end of the show will be a combination of trying to answer mysteries the audience still cares about, such as the statue and the Smoke Monster. We'll also be answering the skeletons in the cave question. We will answer the questions we feel are important and central to the plot. At the same time we will be trying to tell redemption stories about the characters. These characters do indeed have a destiny." Source: Sunday Mercury


Over 4.6 million viewers watched the finale of Real Housewives of New Jersey Tuesday—making Bravo the #1-rated television network that night and resulting in four new episodes of the show to air in the coming weeks.

The first season of New Jersey—which only had a run of six episodes—was the highest rated series out of the entire Real Housewives franchise. Knowing the hit Bravo has on its hands, four new episodes (a reunion preview, above left) of RHONJ will air over the next two weeks:

"THE LAST SUPPER," Thursday, June 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT – It was a dinner unlike any other. "The Last Supper" features never-before-seen footage, new commentary from the Jersey Housewives and their families, and a shocking post-dinner gathering that has to be seen to be believed.

"REUNION: WATCH WHAT HAPPENS PART ONE," Tuesday, June 23 at 9 p.m. ET/PT – The ladies sit down with Bravo's Andy Cohen, for part one of this explosive reunion special.

"REUNION: WATCH WHAT HAPPENS PART TWO," Thursday, June 25 at 9 p.m. ET/PT – A reunion special so juicy it needed two episodes – watch what happens as the Jersey ladies finally let it all out on the table.

"THE LOST FOOTAGE" – Thursday, July 9 at 9 p.m. ET/PT – Bubbies, Botox and Books – the ladies from Jersey had their share of drama, but we could only fit so much into each episode. "The Real Housewives of New Jersey – The Lost Footage" features new moments from season one with Housewives Caroline, Dina, Jacqueline, Teresa and Danielle.

David Sedaris

David Sedaris remembers the city of his youth: We talk Raleigh one day: Arts: Reading

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(sorta) Idol News

American Idol powerhouse vocalist Carly Smithson is joining the original guys of Evanescence, who are relaunching as a hard-rock band called The Fallen.

Tuesday, June 16

Thursday, June 4

"Duggar School Daze"

I was so disappointed by this episode of 18 Kids and Counting. Mostly, I once again felt mislead by TLC. The episode seemed to advertise that the Duggar kids were going to see what public school was like, but that really wasn't the case at all. Instead, the four oldest girls (plus baby Jordyn and Josiah, one of the middle boys, for some reason) went with Michelle as the guests of honor at a local elementary school's assembly about authors. Attending an assembly arranged especially for you is not really getting a taste of what public school is like. High school-aged children going to an elementary school isn't really seeing what public school is like. But we'll get back to this in a minute.

The first half of the episode focused on the Duggar's homeschooling methods. In their earlier TV specials, we were shown scenes with all the kids gathered around the table while Michelle instructed (which was weird, since they probably ranged in age from K through 12). We've also seen them on a couple "field trips" where they learned "per-pen-dicular" and "A-ma-zon." We now know these scenes were totally staged, because Michelle explained how their homeschool curriculum actually works. For the first three years, the younger kids work out of workbooks, directed by Michelle. To illustrate this, we are shown an endless stream of kids basically arguing with her about fetching their workbooks from the upstairs office and claiming they've already done the lesson. They clearly hate their schoolwork and it looks like a neverending battle to get them to sit down and do it. And Michelle getting pulled in a million directions with the various kids' lessons, diaper changes, and discipline obviously can't devote enough attention to all those "students." The house is basically chaos and it's surprising that anyone can learn anything there. Michelle says getting them to work is "a challenge. But amazingly, they learn!" After 3rd grade, the kids do all their schoolwork on the computer, with work graded online. One of the older girls has the password to go in and check everyone's grades. So Michelle is pretty uninvolved at this point? So much for homeschooling fostering family closeness and whatnot. But I guess she's got her hands full with all the little ones.

There were a couple interviews about letting the kids persue education outside their home. Jinger (who has a talent for photography, according to her brother Josh), says she's considered taking additional classes in photography... then sort of trails off. How sad. Let her take the classes! Jim Bob says they've discussed further education with the kids, including college or training for a specialized career such as a midwife. Of course, if they did that they might meet people who challenge their beliefs..! Quick interviews with the kids reveal that most of the boys want to be missionaries when they grow up, one wants to be a policeman so he can shoot a gun and help people, John David is fixin' to start a tow truck business (so much for that dream of being a pilot...), and little Hannie wants to play outside and eat yogurt. She is darling. When asked if they're still helping support Josh (and Anna), Michelle says that Josh was on his own financially the moment he said "I do." Of course, they gave him a business as a wedding gift, sooo...

The last part of the show was the trip to the public elementary school. What a contrast to the Duggars' home school! The kids were polite and well behaved. Some of the student ambassadors need to work on their handshakes and greetings, but otherwise, normal kids. Weird that the Duggars pride themselves on "training" their children on self-control, yet they were totally out of control at home. The public school kids start their morning assembly by doing a little dance routine. The Duggars are invited to join in, but of course, they can't dance. Michelle at least seems to enjoy watching the other kids dance, but the older girls just look on in horror.* Michelle introduces herself and the kids she's brought with her. The assembly today is about authors, because the school kids apparently just completed a project where they wrote their own book. The Duggar girls go on stage to play a song on their violins, for some reason. (Though Jana, Jill, and Jinger are in the floor-length skirts, Jessa's hits around mid-calf. You go, girl!) Around this point, Michelle straps on her Breast Friend pillow, dons her nursing poncho, and wears baby Jordyn around for the rest of the day with her little legs sticking out from underneath. It looked ridiculous and I don't see how it was at all safe. Also, nursing I thought was supposed to be a bonding time for mother and child, not a "strap 'er on and let her suck if she wants" thing.

After the assembly, the Duggar family is split up to speak to smaller groups of kids. Michelle, strap-on Jordyn, and Josiah all go with a group of younger kids, where she reads them a book. Jessa and Jinger go to another class. Jana and Jill do a Q&A session with a group of older kids. One of the kids asks Jill what she likes to write about (I guess the students were mislead into thinking that all the Duggars were authors, even though it was really just Jim Bob and Michelle who wrote their book). Jill says she journals about her day - I can just imagine how boring that would be! "Cooked breakfast. Laundry. Changed diaper. Cooked lunch. Laundry. Practiced violin. Changed diaper. Cooked dinner. Laundry. Bible time with Daddy. Changed diaper. Bed." Another kid asks what her favorite book is, and she recommends Before You Meet Prince Charming (which isn't really a book for kids to read so much as a manual for girls looking to remain pure), or The Reverend Spy for boys (who I guess don't need a purity manual as much as girls do).

At the end, annoying Josiah comments that there are more kids in public schools than in his family homeschool. Very good, 200 is more than 18! Wow, that homeschool really works! However, he says that he thinks they get more attention from Michelle than a public school teacher would be able to give their large class, and I have to disagree. First of all, he might not have realized that what he saw were a school-wide assembly and large groups of students by grade, not individual classes. Also, Michelle has students in basically every grade, all working on different things (plus diapers to change, other kids to discipline, etc.). So I would think she's much more scattered and unavailable than a public school teacher, who probably is responsible for the same number of kids, but they're all working on the same thing together.

* If Jim Bob and Michelle are really preparing those kids for the real world, they have to work more on how the kids react when presented with something that goes against their beliefs, and how to politely decline. When the waiter offered Josh and Anna a wine list at the restaurant on their honeymoon, Josh made a big deal of explaining how they don't drink, when a simple "no, thank you" (or even, "we're only 20") would have sufficed. When the kids at the school started dancing, the girls could have enjoyed watching them, instead of glaring at all these people whose souls will surely be going straight to hell (even though there's dancing - and wine, for that matter - in the bible).