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Monday, April 14, 2008

Angry Elephant Charges


Young Bin Laden in Sweden (1971) [PIC]

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Do we care about swearing any more?

Five media industry insiders were asked this question in today's MediaGuardian section. On Saturday BBC1 and BBC2 were required to carry Ofcom rulings critical of Live Earth broadcasts last summer, as the watchdog found the BBC guilty of allowing "repeated" swearing. Among the offenders were Madonna, Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock and Phil Collins.

Nick Ferrari, LBC breakfast presenter
Yes, I bloody well do. I have a seven-second dump facility at LBC which means we can stop anything offensive or libellous, and we use it. Five Live, which I used to work for, do not, which staggers me. The BBC seem to think a delay spoils being live, but I don't. There is a greater tolerance than there used to be among the media and chattering classes for bad language, but not among decent normal people, and we have to respect them.

Stephen Whittle, ex-director, Broadcasting Standards Commission
It depends who you are. Young men and women living in cities will think nothing of lyrics with strong sexual language. But if they have younger siblings or are parents themselves they will take a different view. In the end, it is a matter of manners. We use different words in different places and with different people. The street is not the same as the pub or the workplace or the home. The rules are clear: "Thou shalt not swear before the watershed." The trade-off is greater freedom for adults after 9pm.

Nicky Campbell, presenter, Five Live breakfast and Watchdog
I was watching Gordon Ramsay and he opened the show by saying "Not a fucking chicken in sight." Maybe I'm getting old, but I turned it off within 10 minutes. It just seemed overwrought and heavy-handed. I'm not prudish about the language - I think Stephen Fry swears beautifully, and Richard Pryor in concert makes swearing sound like WB Yeats.

Breakfast in particular is a very sensitive time for the ears, and anything more than "damn" has to be properly contextualised with editorial reasons for it. I think there is more tolerance now than there used to be. Imagine someone coming on the TV at 9 o'clock 10 years ago and saying "Not a fucking chicken in sight." It would be front page news.

Geoffrey Perkins, comedy producer
The BBC's 1947 guidelines prohibited just about anything that you might want to say or think of as funny. So we've come a long way, by reflecting on TV the way people actually talk and the things they talk about. As for Madonna and Live Earth ... I once had to ask Billy Connolly just before he went out at the Wembley Nelson Mandela concert, which was going out live on television at 3pm, not to swear. He promptly strode on and said "Hello Wembley, how the fuck are you". I'm guessing something like that happened with Madonna.

Mark Story managing director, national brands, Bauer Radio
Swearing has become less of a deal on TV, but it's still quite important on radio. It's a terribly intimate medium and talks to people one-to-one. When John Lennon died I was working in Ireland for RTE Radio 2. We wanted to play Working Class Hero but couldn't record it in advance. So the studio manager said he would bleep it live but his mother rang up just at the wrong moment to ask what he wanted for his tea. He bleeped lots of words out but not the offending one. Someone rang up to ask: "I noticed you left the fucking in, but what was it you bleeped out?"

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The man who was Stalin's body double finally tells his story

The narrow, baggy eyes and droopy moustache are unmistakable – features that terrified half the world, condemned millions to a cruel death and which even today are an instant symbol of monstrous despotism.

Yet the man who so clearly has Joseph Stalin's face upon his shoulders is not Stalin at all.

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Convincing: Felix Dadaev (left) in the late forties and the real tyrant Joseph Stalin, who feared for his life

Enlarge the image

Despite the careful curve of the brows and the immaculate hair, these pictures show someone else entirely, someone who has never been supreme leader of the Soviet Republic.

This, as the Russian public has been learning, is Felix Dadaev, a dancer and juggler who, amid the desperate defence against Hitler's invading armies, was ordered to the Kremlin to work as Stalin's body double.

For more than half a century, Dadaev remained silent, fearing a death sentence should he dare to open his mouth.

But at the age of 88, and with the apparent approval of the Putin regime, he has finally come forward to tell a quite remarkable story.

It takes him from the ruined streets of Grozny all the way to Yalta on the Black Sea coast for the historic three-powers showdown, where Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt fought to determine the shape of post-war Europe.

Dadaev's new autobiography explains that he was one of four men employed to impersonate the supreme leader, taking his place in motorcades, at rallies, on newsreel footage and wherever – as at Yalta – Stalin feared he was in particular danger.

The Russian media has been enthralled. For years, speculation about Stalin's body doubles remained just that, with the truth locked away in the KGB archives and protected by the culture of paranoia.

Dadaev is the first living proof that the stories were correct.

Even now – with the Russian security services resurgent – it is unlikely that his book, Variety Land, would have been published without official approval.

Brief statements from the KGB archives, the state film industry Mosfilm and the state-run Academy of Security, Defence, Law and Order have supported Dadaev's version of events.

"Even when I was young, my friends joked that I looked like Stalin," he recalled.

"By the time my make-up and training were complete, I was like him in every way, except perhaps my ears. They were too small."

Trained at the personal request of Stalin, Dadaev attended rallies and meetings across Russia wearing the leader's trademark Red Army cap and heavy overcoat encrusted with medals.

He rarely had a speaking part but, in an age before television, his carefully copied appearance and mannerisms went down well.

It helped that he had trained as both an actor and illusionist.

Dadaev was born in the Caucasian highlands of Dagestan and, when his family moved to Grozny, in Chechnya, he began taking ballet lessons – quite normal for a Russian boy in Soviet times.

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Spot the difference: Felix Dadaev (left) even fooled Stalin's closet aides

At the age of 16, he had been offered a place in the State Singing and Dance Band of Ukraine.

But war broke out and, instead of joining a tour of Britain with the band, Dadaev was posted to a concert brigade, where he performed as a dancer, juggler and illusionist.

He was required to fight, too, and was so badly injured during the Russian liberation of Grozny in 1942 that his family was told he had been killed.

"I was one of seven 'corpses' delivered to a hospital, but another guy and I were still alive," he said.

That "death" was the start of a strange double life. One evening in 1943, he was flown to a cottage near Moscow where officers from the NKVD (predecessor of the KGB) demanded that he forge a new and distinctive identity.

"I was flattered, of course – proud to look like the leader, proud to think what my friends who teased me about looking like him when I was young would say now," he said.

Just into his 20s, Dadaev was a great deal younger than Stalin, but make-up and the strain of war meant that he could pass as a 60-year-old.

"We had all experienced so much suffering that I looked much older than I was," he said.

He spent months in training, some of it under the eagle eye of Lavrenty Beria, Stalin's feared chief of secret police.

He watched movies of Stalin to perfect the mimicry of his movement and intonation.

Dadaev's book recalls his first terrifying attempt to play Stalin in front of the leader's comrades at the Kremlin.

"Remember, this plan was devised by the chiefs of all those frightful committees," he said.

"There was much riding on the plan. Perhaps I did not fully understand all the responsibility.

"Everybody shivered. Even among those men at the highest level, everyone was scared. The main thing, they said, was to keep silent at the first meeting if Stalin was not in the mood for conversation.

"But if he was, to be laconic and say something to him in his own voice.

"After a sleepless night, at 9am they brought me to the Kremlin. First General Vlasik, head of Stalin's personal security, came by.

"He was stunned, then, after a pause, nodded his head approvingly. Then he studied my jacket and gown, paid attention to my slightly bent left arm and glanced at my boots.

"I was waiting with fear in case he noticed my fake grey temples.

"I had a make-up artist but he couldn't be with me all the time. So I learned to do it myself.

"But my ability to copy Stalin's manners, voice and walk was far more important."

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Secret revealed: Felix Dadaev in his military uniform today

Today, General Vlasik's daughter Nadezhda Nikolayevna confirms Dadaev's role.

"Yes, they used doubles," she said.

"All the tricks to distract attention from the leader were invented by my father.

"He was so involved in the work, and loved Stalin so much, that he suggested fantastic ideas." Dadaev was talented – and lucky. Had he failed to convince Vlasik or Beria, he would almost certainly have been shot to protect the secret plan.

As it was, he was banned from seeing his relatives and bound by a non-disclosure agreement that remained in force long after Stalin died.

Dadaev met his doppelganger on only one occasion, in the Fifties, and even then the encounter was brief.

"He smiled and gave me an approving nod and that was it," he recalled. "Stalin had four doubles in all. He was very afraid of attempts on his life.

"Spies surrounded him and every trip was thoroughly planned. For example, doubles were often substituted for him on the way to the airport.

"Several cars were used to distract anyone watching. I often took those trips."

Initially, Dadaev's meetings were limited to leaving the Kremlin and driving off in Stalin's car.

"He progressed to meeting party officials, and once, Dadaev stood on the mausoleum in Red Square instead of Stalin.

"It was a sportsmen's parade," he said.

"Everyone was sure it was Stalin himself. I walked to the mausoleum with members of the government, then stood on the central dais, smiling and greeting the passing columns.

"The key thing was to get the step right. When Stalin was among his entourage, his walk was prompt and firm.

"But at receptions or meetings, he walked slowly and pensively.

"My confidence was bolstered as soon as I came out and was greeted by government members saluting me.

"We went directly to the mausoleum. I could see there were no suspicions. Yet again the KGB had pulled it off."

Dadaev's biggest mission came as Stalin flew to Yalta for the famous conference in February 1945.

Stalin's flight was kept top secret while a later one with Dadaev on board was publicised.

"Two flights were arranged, with one of them aimed to distract everyone's attention," he said.

"Nobody ever wrote about it, no one knows about it. I was a decoy to draw the attention of foreign intelligence. Stalin was already in Yalta.

"But it didn't work. Two attempts were made in Yalta to kill the real Stalin. Our intelligence failed. I was back in Moscow by then.

"Seven high-ranking intelligence officers lost their posts. They were lucky to lose just that."

Original here

Firefox Introduces New Rickroll Protection

Mountain View, CA - The developers of Firefox, a web browser created by the Mozilla Foundation, have decided to once again rescue the masses from the horrors of the Internet. Having produced top-notch phishing protection, malware identification and other security features unmatched by their competitors they are now introducing the "Rickroll Detection Filter."

This new filtering protection will pre-screen links when the page renders and determine the campiness of the content. The new technology is called "Quash Unreasonable Electronic Entertainment Recognition" or QUEER. It will start being tested in the fifth beta of version three of their flagship product.

Avid gamer Ronald Parks was Rickrolled just hours before attending a LAN party to play Halo. "I started humming the tune while fragging the other team. They all stopped playing because they were laughing so hard. It was embarrassing. They all think I'm gay now," says Ronald.

"This new scheme will protect the many users who are now suffering, sometimes for days, with catchy yet awful songs and images in their head," says Hans Freidenhaufer, a top developer at the Mozilla Foundation. He continues, "The worst part is when you are caught humming these tunes in your cubicle when someone walks by. The QUEER filter will keep you from having to wear that old Metallica t-shirt to work for the next three days to restore your respectability."

The filtering mechanism will be extensible with plug-ins to catch threats that may get past the default engine. The first of these extensions, the "LoLCat Image Malady Protection" or LIMP, has the ability to still render pages where LolCats have been found with the offending images removed.

When asked if the QUEER filter would protect against things like the Goatse website, Mr. Freidenhaufer responded, "While the imagery depicted there is rather horrific, the use of this particular attack is usually directed at an individual not to the public at large. Also, it is not used lightly. If you have pointed someone to that page, they probably deserved it."

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Eat Shit, Webbys!


Cracked.com super editor Jack O’Brien called for a staff meeting at the Cracked house. I hate staff meetings. Usually it’s “Stop stealing from the company” this and “Leave Hannah Montana alone” that. Christ. If I had a dime every time Jack called a meeting to tell me to keep my pants on at work or to stop reading his mail, well, then I wouldn’t have to steal from the company so much.
I’d have all those dimes.
Jack assured me, however, that this particular meeting had nothing to do with my various indiscretions.
“Not to say that I don’t disapprove of your indiscretions,” Jack added when he saw me start loosening my belt, “because I do. It’s just that we’re not going to talk about them at this particular meeting.”
Seeing as I’m not really accustomed to attending meetings that don’t directly address my frequent and shameless pantslessness, I had no idea what to expect. What could the meeting be about? Was Gladstone retiring? Is Swaim too racist? Is Bucholz not racist enough? What about Ross’s beard? Was this meeting going to be about Ross’s beard? I always felt that discourse regarding Ross’s beard was tragically absent on Cracked, and I was thrilled with the idea that we would finally address the issue. When I arrived at what I assumed would be the beard event of the season, Jack was ready to speak.

“Guys, thanks for coming. You’re all probably wondering why I called this meeting.” I wasn’t. It was Ross’s beard. I could just feel it. “I just figured I’d let you all to know that Cracked.com was named an Honoree for the 12th Annual Webby Awards in the category of Humor.” A couple of the interns clapped. Personally, I don’t exactly know what kind of nerd bullshit a “Webby” is, but I do know that awards, in general, are cool as corndogs, (which is to say, very). I could only hope that a Webby wasn’t one of those embarrassing awards. Would this be a prestigious award, like a Best Actor Oscar, or one of those lame, pointless dipshit awards, like a Best Actress Oscar? My immediate concern was whether or not I could use my new status as an award-winner to do some good in this world. As I’m sure you’re all aware, “doing good in this world” translates to “porking supermodels like crazy” in my book.
Because, folks, I made a promise (below). I got into the internet comedy business for one reason: Boning supermodels. That promise is as true today as it was when I made it, when I was twelve years old and I first discovered supermodels, boning and the internet. (It was a big year.)

Jack spoke up again.
“That’s basically all I had, but if anyone has any questions-” My hand shot up immediately. My middle finger, to be specific, but whatever.
“I’ve got a question. How many supermodels, on average, do you think I’ll be able to bone a month as a result of this award? A whole bunch, or just a lot?”
“No, you misunderstand,” Jack explained. “We didn’t win, anything.”
Yet,” I corrected with a wink.
“At all,” Jack said.
Yet.” Another correction, another wink.
“No, I mean we don’t have a chance of winning. We’re honorees.” I nodded, to present the image that I was listening instead of thinking about railing all those freakin supermodels. What I did gather from what Jack said was that the amount of supermodels I’d be plowing would rank somewhere in the high-to-superhigh buttloads, which would be just fine with me.

Webbys are awards given out for websites and bloggers that are outstanding in terms of either content or design or both. For the Webby awards, you can either be an honoree or a nominee. Being an honoree, which is what we are, means absolutely nothing. It’s kind of meaningless, actually,” Jack explained. I still didn’t quite understand, but I find that happens often when I don’t pay attention.
“It means we weren’t funny enough to be nominated, but we’re, I guess, slightly funnier than other websites,” Bucholz clarified, because he’s the only Cracked Blogger who actually knows anything. “I mean, the Webby’s wanted us to know that they’re aware of our existence, but, and I can’t stress this enough, we’re not funny enough to be even considered for an award. We’re basically not funny enough to lose.” This must be a joke.

“Are you pulling my leg, Bucholz,” I screamed. “Don’t you lie to me. Don’t shit in my toaster and tell me it’s a pop tart.” Bucholz lowered his eyes, so to suggest that he wasn’t, in fact, shitting in my toaster.
“Jaxaphone, you chump, did you seriously call a meeting to tell us we don’t even stand a chance of winning some award? Some stupid nerd award for jerks?” He nodded. “God Dammit. I can’t believe I got up early to be at this meeting.”
“It’s four in the afternoon,” Gladstone pointed out.
“And you were three and a half hours late,” Swaim added.
But it was too late. I’d already left the house and started keying Jack’s stupid car.

Now, you’re all probably wondering “If the laughter-and-orgasm-inspiring comedy juggernaut that is Cracked.com didn’t get nominated in the humor category, who did?” Well, I’m glad you asked, weak literary device. The Webby nominations aren’t just for your run-of-the-mill comedy sites like Cracked, (which, I should mention is updated every single day with original content). No, it takes a special kind of comedic genius to be nominated for a Humor Webby. Someone funny, yet smart. Someone edgy, and fresh. Someone that manages to be consistently funny yet still culturally relevant. For example, I Can Haz Cheezburger, a site that was nominated for a Webby this year.

And with good reason, too. Allow me to dissect the delicate nuances of ICHC’s comedy. See, they take pictures of cats doing things, (or alternately, not doing things), and they put words on the pictures. Words that aren’t spelled the way they ought to be spelled, as evidenced in the very title of the site. (”Has” is spelled with an “s” in real life. Not a “z.” Laughing yet?)
Honestly, how can Cracked possibly compete with the comedic brilliance over at Cheezburger? We barely have any cats at all!

Wait, are you still reading this blog despite the fact that I just pointed out a humor website that is clearly superior to us? Maybe I wasn’t clear on the art of their comedy. Let’s start over. See, they take pictures, and then they put captions on them. There are a bunch of picture of cats with words on them, and this website is just loaded with them. There’s, like, a thousand fucking pages of these fucking cats, right? And they’ve all got captions, like “Im a cat doin sum stupid shit all the tyme.” It’s pretty high brow, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t think it’s funny. You just have to trust me that it is funny. You might not think it’s funny, (specifically, because when you look at the pictures you don’t laugh), but you’d be wrong. It’s very funny. For a slightly more authoritative opinion, you can turn to Aristotle’s Four Elements of Comedy. This book, thought by many to be “the definitive dissertation on comedy,” (while considered by some skeptics to be “totally made up”), focuses two whole chapters on the brilliant and subtle humor of merging cats and illiteracy. Dude was way ahead of his time.

If you’re not rolling on the floor laughing right now due to the content over at Cheezburger, (why not? Lol!), there are other Webby nominees for your viewing pleasure. After all, posting pictures of cats isn’t the only way to get a Webby nomination, just ask fellow nominee Rathergood.com, a site that claims to be “Your One Stop Shop for Good and Evil Kittens.”

Wait, I typed that sentence before I actually read it. Is this another fucking site about fucking cats doing stupid shit? Hold on one second.

Holy crap, it is…Uh, no problem, no problem with that at all. Truth be told, pictures of cats are the only things on the planet that are actually funny. Everything else is chimp excrement, plain and simple.

Don’t get me wrong. I mean, I was aggravated when I heard that we didn’t get a nomination. I’ve spent a year with this site. We’ve had compelling social commentary, wildly popular videos, and articles that challenge the lies you were taught in high school. So yes, I was a little pissed when we didn’t get a nomination. But now that I’ve seen our competition, I don’t feel so bad. Clearly, we were beaten by the best. It’s like we entered a painting contest and we were beaten by DaVinci, or perhaps, by someone who’d taken one of DaVinci’s paintings and written a bunch of misspelled words on it.

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