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Friday, July 11, 2008

7 Companies That Fired Their Spokesmen

A good pitchman can boost any product’s name recognition with some high-quality shilling. A bad one, on the other hand, can quickly ruin the brand images that companies spend years and millions carefully honing. Take for instance these guys and gals, each of whom was given their walking papers following a scandal, public embarrassment, or bout of outspokenness.

like-a-virgin.jpgPepsi & Madonna
Although she’s back in the news now for allegedly bewitching Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, it’s sometimes hard to remember that Madonna was a sex symbol, not just a cautionary tale about taking your Anglophilia several steps too far. Back in 1989, though, she was not just the embodiment of sexuality; she was also willing to do almost anything to be shocking.

Pepsi apparently neglected to think about the possibility that something could go horribly awry when they took the singer on as their new voice, though. The soda company signed Madonna to a $5 million deal to make commercials, including one that would include the song “Like a Prayer.” That’s when the trouble started. The music video for “Like a Prayer” was almost laughable in its willingness to go over the top to appall; each scene of Madonna’s religious subplot seems to raise the bar for nonsensical shock value a little bit higher. Think Madonna getting physical with a saint is offensive? Just wait ten more seconds; by then she’ll have developed stigmata! The video caused such a stir that it was banned in some countries, and Pepsi quickly had to drop its Madonna spots and cancel future appearances by the singer.

Take a look for yourself:


Pepsi & Ludacris
In 2002, rap star Ludacris was minding his own business and endorsing Pepsi. Suddenly, the normally reserved conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly launched an offensive against both the soda maker and the rapper. O’Reilly was incensed by Ludacris’ lyrics that glorified drinking, drugs, violence, and disrespect towards women. He called for a boycott of Pepsi products until the man O’Reilly decried as a “thug rapper” was shown to the pitchman door. Pepsi quickly dumped Ludacris, and the rapper made quite a bit of hay out of his feud with O’Reilly on several subsequent records, including the jab “Hi Mr. O’Reilly/Hope all is well, kiss the plaintiff and the wifey,” a pointed dig at a sexual harassment lawsuit pending against the talking head.

dell-ad.jpgDell & The Dell Dude
Remember those fantastically annoying “Dude, You’re Getting a Dell!” ads from a few years ago? What you may not remember is that the hyper-enthusiastic “Dell Dude” (actor Ben Curtis) got busted for attempting to buy a bag of marijuana in New York City. Although the bag of pot was tiny enough that Curtis escaped any big legal entanglements, Dell was less than amused. The computer giant dropped Curtis and his ad campaign shortly after the arrest.

For his part, Curtis has bounced back, though. He has appeared in off-Broadway productions, and in November 2007 was the subject of a New York Magazine story about his employment in a Mexican restaurant in the city.

The Florida State Citrus Commission & Burt Reynolds
The mustachioed Reynolds may not have maintained the star power he had during his 1970s heyday, but he was still an effective pitchman well into the 1990s. As a former Florida State University football star, it was only natural that he’d find his way into a position promoting orange juice for the Florida State Citrus Commission. In 1993, though, Reynolds’ marriage to actress Loni Anderson had started to unravel, and as the sordid, bitter details of the rift began to surface, the orange juice biz became too wholesome for the man who’d been the Bandit. The commission phased out Reynolds’ commercials, and one featuring Anderson’s hand reaching for a glass of juice fell out of play entirely.

Slim-Fast & Whoopi Goldberg
Goldberg would seem like the perfect person to pitch a product. She’s warm, funny, and generally beloved. She’s also fairly politically active, though, and that came back to bite her while she was a celebrity endorser for whoopi.jpgSlim-Fast. When Goldberg appeared at a fundraiser for John Kerry during the 2004 presidential race, she took the stage waving a wine bottle and firing off barrages of sexual puns based on President Bush’s name. While the audience was amused, conservatives weren’t. Calls for boycotts of Slim-Fast products (sensible dinners were still allowed) started bubbling up among conservatives, and the company canned Goldberg just eight months into her tenure as their spokesperson. Goldberg remained unrepentant after her firing, though, commenting, “I only wish that the Republican re-election committee would spend as much time working on the economy as they seem to be spending trying to harm my pocketbook.”

Pfizer & Robert Jarvik
When Pfizer needed someone to endorse its drug Lipitor, Robert Jarvik seemed like an ideal fit. After all, who better to talk about a heart drug than the celebrity inventor who helped perfect the artificial heart? Pfizer started airing spots featuring Jarvik in 2006. In the ads, Jarvik would offer viewers advice about why they should use Lipitor in addition to doing cardio-heavy activities like rowing. After a few months, though, observers started to notice something was amiss. Although Jarvik had been to medical school, he never went through a residency or received a license to practice medicine. As such, he shouldn’t have been dispensing medical advice to anyone, much less to TV audiences of millions. The ads drew further scrutiny when it came out that the scenes of “Jarvik” rowing across a lake weren’t actually the “doctor” at all, but a stunt double.

Earlier this year, the criticism of the misleading ads spread to Congress, and when the House Committee on Energy and Commerce started investigating the ads, Pfizer pulled the spots and dumped Jarvik to the curb on February 25.

Verizon & Akon
If Ludacris was a victim of Bill O’Reilly, fellow hip-hop star Akon lost his endorsement deal with Verizon as the result of some really questionable decision-making and some bad luck. While playing an 18-and-over show in Trinidad in 2007, Akon danced on stage and simulated sex with the winner of a dance contest. One slight hitch, though: club management apparently wasn’t great at checking driver’s licenses, so the woman Akon got nasty with was actually a 15-year-old girl. A racy video clip of the event became a YouTube sensation, and Verizon quickly gave Akon the heave-ho, dropping his deal, pulling his ringtone clips, and backing out of sponsoring a tour in which he was opening for Gwen Stefani. The singer apologized profusely both in the media and in song, but the damage was already done to his career as a phone shill.

Original here

Six deputies put on leave after shooting Washougal driver

By kgw.com Staff

WASHOUGAL, Wash. -- Six deputies and officers were put on leave in the wake of a weekend shooting, authorities said.

Washougal shooting under investigation

The six were identified as Michael Adkins, Tommy Green, Charlie Ahn, Scotland Hammond, Jay Alie and Henry Scott, according to the Clark County Sheriff's Office. Putting deputies and police officers on paid leave after a shooting is routine procedure.

Meanwhile, one witness told KGW the shooting was the closest thing to an assassination attempt that he's ever seen.

“Seven people don't empty their guns into somebody without intention of killing them,” said witness Dave Langley.

Officers responding to a disturbance report ended up firing several shots at a vehicle they feared might ram them early Saturday morning, police said.

It all started just after 2 a.m., when Camas and Washougal officers were dispatched to a disturbance in the 20700 block of SE Evergreen Highway. Authorities said a Ford Bronco with two men and one woman inside left the scene and officers began following it a short time later.

The driver, later identified as Rocky Brown, 38, of Vancouver, was going the speed limit but would not pull over for police. Then, officers said the driver pulled over near the intersection of 58th Street and 199th Avenue and the two passengers got out.

But Brown took off again and police followed. Eventually, police said the Bronco turned around and headed right for them. The driver headed directly at deputies and officers who said they then fired multiple gun shots at the vehicle.

But even this did not stop the driver. Police said he managed to negotiate around the patrol cars and continued westbound heading directly back to where the officers were still dealing with the passengers.

“Fearing that the vehicle was going to run over the officers and the passengers officers fired at the vehicle. The vehicle came to a stop and the driver got out,” Sgt. Scott Schanaker said. “The driver refused to obey commands by the officers however, was ultimately taken into custody without further incident.”

Rocky Brown and his mother did not want to go on camera, but they told KGW he never intended to elude police. In fact, they said he called dispatch to tell police where he was heading.

Brown was transported to South West Washington Medical Center where he was treated overnight and released. Police have not yet determined what charges Brown may face.

The Clark County Sheriff's Office Major Crimes Unit, the Vancouver Police Major Crimes Unit, Camas Police Detectives, and Washougal Police Detectives are investigating.

Original here

A Guy's Guide to Buying Cigars

Unless you're a die-hard smoker with a titanium guillotine cutter in your pocket, most of us view cigars as something you enjoy every now and then or on a special occasion. There are also those instances when you're with a group of guys who are all taking part and you don't want to feel like the princess in the room.

As summer approaches, there's nothing better than spending some quality time outdoors, lighting up an obnoxiously large cigar, and watching the stink eye you get from every stroller-pushing powermom who happens to walk through your mushroom cloud of smoke.


blogCigars_montecristoLogo.jpg

ABOUT THE BLOGGER
Tony Ricciardi is the owner of The Montecristo Room, a popular cigar shop and lounge located in Westchester, New York. Visit the site at www.montecristoroom.com for more info.
THE BASICS
When buying a cigar, the three main things you are going to consider are origin, size, and strength. Yes, some fancier people would include flavor as another consideration here, but as a relative expert I can assure you that any cigar you choose will taste primarily like [SPOILER ALERT] tobacco.

Origin
Where a cigar is made has a lot to do with how it will taste and what characteristics you will notice while smoking it. Currently there are many places in the world making top-notch smokes. I'll stick with the most common and most widely available in the United States:

  • Dominican Republic
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Brazil
  • Mexico
  • Jamaica
  • USA

    Each of these regions produces what are considered world-class cigars. What makes a cigar from Honduras different than a cigar from Brazil is essentially the soil, and how the tobacco is grown before it is harvested. It's why Florida oranges taste so much better than others. The climate in these countries is perfect for the growing and cultivating of tobacco. It also doesn't hurt to have generations of expert rollers who know what to do with the stuff once it's been harvested.

    Size
    Despite what your wife tells you, size does matter… At least when it comes to cigars. The size of a cigar can determine how much tobacco was used to create it, what kinds of flavors it will give off, and how long it will take you to smoke it. Generally, there are 10 major cigar sizes you will see. The list below is arranged from largest to smallest.

    NAMELENGTHRING GAUGE
    Double Corona7½–847–52
    Churchill746–50
    Torpedo50–52
    Toro650
    Belicoso5–649–54
    Robusto4½–548–52
    Lonsdale40–44
    Corona5–5½40–44
    Petit Corona540–44
    Panatela626–38

    Choose your size most appropriate to the situation in which you'll be enjoying it, but UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES are you to ever smoke a Petit Corona or Panatela. It's just not manly.

    Strength
    Almost no cigar will be labeled with any information relating to its strength, so you'll have to rely on the salesperson to help you in that department. But generally the rules is that a darker-colored cigar is going to be more potent than a lighter-colored one.

    Now that you have a little better understanding of what you're getting into, here's a list of some cigars that you might want to check out next time you're in your local shop.

    blogCigars_OliviaSeriesG_article.jpg

    Oliva Series G

    These cigars are from Nicaragua, and are medium strength and very smooth. The Robusto, which is my favorite size of this cigar, can be found for around $5.

    blogCigars_CAOBrazilia_article.jpg

    CAO Brazilia

    These beauties are made by cigar giant CAO. They use the finest Brazilian tobacco to produce what I think is a delicious and reasonably priced smoke. I love the Samba size of the cigar, which is a Torpedo. This full-bodied smoke runs about $7.

    blogCigars_rockyPatelVintage_article.jpg

    Rocky Patel Vintage 1992

    These smokes from Rocky are actually a blend from Nicaragua, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. They are medium strength and very tasty. I prefer the Toro size, which will set you back about $9.50

    blogCigars_padron1964_article.jpgPadron 1964
    This is what I smoke when I want to remind myself why I smoke cigars in the first place. These cigars are constructed impeccably from the richest and most carefully aged Nicaraguan tobaccos. They are medium strength and have a beautiful box-press shape to them, which makes them square around instead of circular. They are a little harder to find, and a lot more expensive. The Torpedo will run you in the $16 neighborhood.

    blogCigars_ArturoFuenteOpusX_article.jpgArturo Fuente OpusX
    The Fuente OpusX is one of the rarest cigars in the world. It consistently receives the highest ratings from industry publications, and continues to be the pinnacle of fine cigars. This cigar is almost impossible to find, and is widely considered the "best of the best." It is full-bodied, and the aromas in each size are distinctly different. But the one thing each has in common is the near-perfect taste and quality. Definitely a special-occasion smoke. If you can find it, a Robusto will run you $35 to $40.

    A word on Cubans…
    Cuban cigars are a mystery to those who are not students of the leaf. Cuba is one of those magical combinations of having incredibly great climate, rich soil, and expert rollers. There's just that little embargo thing standing in the way. It's not to say that Cubans are not available to you. There are various means of procuring a Fidel special; but since they are all illegal, I'll refrain from detailing them here. Bottom line is that Cubans, while good, are also slightly romanticized due to the difficulty in obtaining them. The proliferation of fake Cuban cigars is also a huge problem, and one that you should think carefully about the next time you get offered a "great deal" on a box of Cohibas by a guy walking up the beach. Just say no.

  • Original here

    Woman injured in 'Hitchcock-style' bird attack

    A woman was treated for head wounds after a 'terrifying' attack by a seagull that resembled a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, a rescue team said today.

    The 36-year-old victim was walking along the seafront at Burnham-on-Sea, in Somerset, when the adult gull swooped and started stabbing her head with its beak.

    The woman, who does not wish to be named, suffered three puncture wounds and heavy bleeding in the attack at The Esplanade, near the pier, yesterday morning.

    She managed to stumble home and was rushed to Weston general hospital for treatment.

    Press officer Mark Newman, who runs the website Burnham-on-sea.com, which normally publicises hovercraft rescues, said: "This was almost certainly an adult trying to protect a young gull.

    "The bird obviously thought this lady was walking a little too close to one of its chicks. It was a terrifying incident for her although it only lasted for a matter of seconds.

    "She was very shaken up and taken to A&E. There was an awful lot of blood and she required a tetanus injection. Otherwise she is OK. We all think of Hitchcock's film The Birds with something like this and here it is actually happening.

    "These incidents are rare, although not unheard of. I would say there are one or two seagull attacks every couple of years in Burnham. I've never heard of anyone actually getting injured before - usually people are able to shoo them away."

    Original here

    Teen delivers LSD cookies to police departments

    By WFAA-TV Staff Reports

    City of Lake Worth Police Department
    Christian Phillips

    FORT WORTH - A man performing community service delivered drug-laced cookies to police departments in both Blue Mound and Lake Worth on Monday, authorities said.

    At least three officers at the Blue Mound Police Department consumed some food that came from a basket of cookies and assorted candies delivered by Christian Phillips, 18, on behalf of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. At the time, Phillips was working for MADD as part of ordered community service.

    It was discovered the cookies contained LSD after staff at Blue Mound thought the cookies smelled of marijuana and sent them for testing.

    Lake Worth Police Department, who was warned by Blue Mound, arrested Phillips when he came into their department to deliver another basket.

    Original here

    Group proposes George W. Bush Sewage Plant

    The panel says it's a fitting tribute to the 'mess' he'll leave behind





    Paul Sakuma / AP

    Supporters of the Presidential Memorial Commission have turned in their application to rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant to the George W. Bush Sewage Plant. The supporters are hoping to put the idea before San Francisco voters as a November ballot issue.

    SAN FRANCISCO - A California group submitted a proposal Monday to rename a sewage treatment plant after President Bush, calling the initiative a fitting tribute to the outgoing chief executive and the "mess" he'll leave behind.

    The Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco wants to switch the name of the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant to the George W. Bush Sewage Plant.

    Supporters hoping to put the issue on the November ballot turned in more than 10,000 signatures to San Francisco election officials, organizer Brian McConnell said. The measure needs just over 7,000 valid names to qualify and McConnell expects to find out later this month whether they made it.

    Proponents of the renaming plan see it as fitting tribute to a president they contend has plumbed the depths of incompetence.

    "We think that it's important to remember our leaders in the right historical context," said McConnell, a member of the group that was formed after friends came up with the renaming idea.

    "In President Bush's case, we think that we will be cleaning up a substantial mess for the next 10 or 20 years," he said. "The sewage treatment facility's job is to clean up a mess, so we think it's a fitting tribute."

    The "mess," as supporters of the plan see it, includes the aftermath of the Iraq war and what they see as a neglect of domestic economic issues.

    "What we're really doing is symbolizing the fact that as he leaves office, we'll begin the process of basically repairing damage and rebuilding our country's reputation," he said.

    Some say the plan reeks
    But others think the plan reeks.

    The chairman of the San Francisco Republican Party has promised to fight the measure if it does make the ballot.

    A call by The Associated Press to White House press officials was not returned. But Patrick Dorinson, a former spokesman for the California Republican Party now running a communications firm in Sacramento, called the measure "a horrible idea" that is "childish and it's stupid."

    "This is why San Francisco is considered wacky," Dorinson said. "It makes me ashamed to be a San Franciscan if this is all they've got time to do."

    San Francisco Public Utilities Commission spokesman Tony Winnicker says officials have bigger issues to deal with than the proposed initiative. He defended Oceanside as anything but a symbol of inadequacy.

    "The plant that they're seeking to rename really offers extraordinary environmental benefits. Without it, raw sewage and storm water would flow into the bay and the oceans and the streets. That's not our understanding of what the authors of this initiative believe the current president has delivered," Winnicker said.

    Still, he said, the commission is "trying to take it in stride and understand the humor behind it."

    Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    Original here



    Porn on the Fourth of July

    2freshfrankie_00.jpg
    [In keeping with this extremely sexy day of Fresh Intel, we sent out a very special correspondent to file us a Fourth of July on-the-scene report. Avert your eyes, though, Kiddies—this is some grown-up sociology-type stuff.—Ed.] We all know a recession looms. But with corners being cut—and the writing bucks increasingly hard to come by—I've still got two big skills with a stable market value: boobs and the ability to dispense booze. That's why when I was invited to work as a topless bartender at a Fourth of July bash, I said yes. What better way to boost America's flagging economy (and fill my own coffers) than by stimulating the libidos of a few drunken revelers?

    It was a private party in Midtown Manhattan, thrown by an acquaintance in the sex-party scene. Despite the fact that he's in his 60s and calls me "baby," I feel an almost familial fondness for this gentleman—he's like the sex grandpa I never had. My greatest concerns, then, were merely technical: Would my boobs get in the way of the business of bartending? Would they look unattractive when I bent over for ice? Early that morning, I spent a lot of time topless in front of the mirror trying out positions like "the ice bucket" and "the pour." I bought a sailor's hat, guessing it was near enough in keeping with the Independence Day theme—it cost $6, but I considered it an investment in my cuteness.

    Since the bar was BYOB, my set-up consisted mostly of a bucket of ice, some graying lemons and limes, and individual bottles of mixers. It was clearly not my bartending skills that were on display. Helping set the patriotic mood was a projection screen to my right, on which an acrylic-nailed blonde celebrated our nation's birth by hungrily slurping on a massive boner. I set my tip jar prominently and taped a few dollar bills to the sides. "Happy Fourth!" I chirped to all comers.

    The weird thing about doing a basic job without a shirt on is that nobody really mentions it. If my tits are hanging out, I want to be talking about them, not making small talk about what we do for a living. Several guys asked me if I was in college, making me wonder if bare boobs are the equivalent of frilly white socks in porno, with the ability to make men think a woman is younger than she is. Luckily, the women in attendance were more outspoken: "You have a great rack!" screeched one supportive girl upon entering.

    Disappointed with my slow start on tips, I decided to try my hand at a little flirtation. "I'm just looking for a guy who can satiate me," I cooed to the next patron. "What's that mean, like cum on your face?" he asked thoughtfully, before dropping a gentlemanly $20 in my tip jar; that's two cocktails or four beers more than my brain had earned me this holiday evening. And I was thankful to be in such a great country.

    The next guy gave me his business card and told me to get in touch if I wanted to be in a movie. Who knew that ancient trump card of sleazy agents everywhere was actually true—all you have to do to become a star is take your top off! I can feel my familiarity with the AP Style Guide taking a back seat to my budding career in porn. A line of dudes without dates began to form around my bar like the front row of a strip club. They just sat looking, as though my tits were a television set. They didn't order drinks, and they certainly didn't tip.

    Couples tipped the best, making me wonder if my chest would be starring in some future monogamous fantasies. I also considered the relative merits of a two-income household. The more drinks I poured, the more my breasts came out from the background as the main event. My friend Mark showed up to look me over, and I told him quickly that a hug hello was out of the question. One guy said he planned to masturbate to me all week, and another approached on behalf of his friend, who in his absence apparently thought I looked like I "suck great cock." Who knew the extra cash would come with a side of old-fashioned holiday romance?

    By the time I'm was back in my wife-beater, I'd made about $200 in tips, but I'm not sure when my boobs will see the view outside of my apartment again. For one night, sleazy come-ons are amusing, but I could see myself quickly getting in touch with the rage that turns strippers into lesbians. Plus, I've already wrecked my "topless diet" by chowing on free donuts and cheese and crackers.

    It is nice to know, however, that me and my own "mountains majesty" have done our small part for America (God bless it).

    Original here

    13 Things You Won't Believe Are Against the Law Somewhere


    As the movie Footloose taught us, some little backwater towns have a real hate for some bizarre things like dancing and youthful exuberance. Well some people apparently missed the scene where dancing makes everyone's troubles disappear, because they continue to outlaw the most petty and ridiculous shit they can think of. For example...
    #13.
    Indoor Nudity (Villahermosa, Mexico)

    The usual ban on outdoor nudity, or at least male outdoor nudity, is fully supported by us and we recognize it as one of the great achievements of modern civilization. The town of Villahermosa, Mexico, however, has decided to take it a step further.

    Citing a lack of morality, Villahermosa's town council has halted its citizens from wandering about their own homes, swinging in the breeze. After all, who wants to creep onto someone's property and peep in their windows only to find them nude in their own homes? That kind of fucked up stuff may be kosher in Sweden, but not Mexico.

    Sure, we get it: a fat, naked dude indoors is really just a few short steps from being a fat, naked dude outdoors. But we're pretty sure waging preemptive wars against gross public nudity is just as frowned upon as the other kind.

    #12.
    Silly String (Los Angeles)

    In LA, there is a scourge that few people dare mention out loud. It is not only nefarious, but remarkably retarded. It is Silly String. For years, citizens faced each Halloween on Hollywood Boulevard like Anne Frank, hiding away and hoping for the madness to end. Finally, one heroic Captain America stood up to the terror of Silly String and put a stop to it, banning it under penalty of a $1,000 fine.

    That hero was city councilor Tom LaBonge. The ban is for just one night out of the year--Halloween--and resulted from complaints that random Silly String sprayings resulted in fistfights during the usual Halloween street gatherings. There were reports of people actually throwing the cans at each other, according to police, which means maybe instead of a ban, they should have simply offered classes on proper Silly String use.

    #11.
    Fishbowls (Monza, Italy)

    In Italy, the problems of modern man are on a scale that North Americans can barely comprehend. While poverty, the environment, prohibition, chlamydia, dog racing, incest and overactive sweat glands are all that trouble us from day to day, in Monza, Italy they have all that back-burnered so they can deal with really intense shit like what happens to a fish if you keep it in a fishbowl.

    Do you know what happens to a fish if you keep it in a fishbowl? It sees the world all fucked up, that's what. The cleaned up version, according to town council is that a fishbowl provides "a distorted view of reality." So it's kind of like the fish Matrix. Only we're the machines. We're the fucking machines!


    Actual view from inside a fishbowl.

    Luckily for the fish, the council has banned the bowls in favor of square aquariums which, presumably, represent a fish's depressing reality in an accurate and heart warming fashion.

    #10.
    Feeding the Homeless (Las Vegas)

    Like bears and Mormons, the homeless become dangerous, bold and insatiably horny once they've been fed. The naive residents of the fairytale land of innocence known as Las Vegas are fortunate in that they have a city council watching out for them against this menace by enacting a ban on feeding the homeless.

    City marshals will be enforcing the law, presumably by handing out sack beatings to both the homeless and their ne'er-do-well feeders. But fear not if you're one of those whiny "doesn't this mean the homeless are going to starve to death" types. A cracker or a sandwich won't get you a citation, according to the city attorney. But if you happen to be wandering the park looking to hand out a rack of lamb or a nice bisque, watch the fuck out.

    #9.
    Being at the Library Whilst Having Body Odor (Houston)

    Literacy and smelling like shit have gone hand in hand for years. We're too busy reading, damn it. We don't have time to shower.

    The Houston city council was not about to have this trend continue however, and has banned the fetid stink of BO in the town's libraries. And lest you think you can walk your ripe, simmering funk into the bathroom and dip your ballsack in a library toilet to freshen up, think again. They've banned that too.

    This may be a roundabout way to run off the homeless (who have a tendency to set up camp in places like public libraries, to get out of the rain) but you have to admire the pragmatic approach that says it doesn't matter if you're actually a vagrant, as long as you smell like one.

    #8.
    The Jolly Roger (Stafford Borough, England)

    Over in England, the council of Stafford Borough decided to vent its frustrations on a child by banning the pirate flag from being flown at a 6-year-old's pirate-themed birthday party. The council must have figured that pirates are known to be a crafty bunch, and if they planned to rape and pillage the neighborhood, a 6-year-old's birthday party would be the perfect cover.

    In defense of their decision, the council also pointed out that if they let the Jolly Roger fly, it would open the door for all sorts of flags. And Lord knows no one wants to see that damn Canadian flag flapping in the breeze with impunity.

    The family was eventually allowed to fly the flag, after paying 75 pounds for a special permit and presumably passing a piracy background check.

    #7.
    Ice Cream Truck Music (Stafford, New Jersey)

    Stafford Township, New Jersey has had enough of your childish shit and isn't going to take it any more. In 1998 the township council voted 4 to 2 to ban the disruptive and potentially deadly music played by ice cream trucks.

    We can think of two possible reasons for this. One is the known fact that no one under the age of 30 can resist sprinting out into the street at the sound of a passing ice cream truck, which probably causes millions of injuries and deaths every year (we actually couldn't find the stats on this but if there's a low, it's surely in the millions).

    The other and perhaps more likely reason, is that the ban was enacted by the same people who hate it when children step on their lawn and like to water their driveway every Sunday at 5 a.m. Upon further investigation, we find the same township banned basketball hoops in driveways and attempted to have a leash law for cats implemented. So, yes, it does appear that the town is mostly run by folks who have reached the ripe old age where the sound of children laughing makes them want to curse and shake their wrinkled old fists.

    #6.
    Chewing Gum (Singapore)

    Singapore's reputation for strict laws often makes international news, and we assume the government of Singapore likes that just fine. They're sick of your shenanigans and they're not putting up with them any more.

    Therefore, in 1992 Singapore banned chewing gum. The problem was ne'er-do-wells were sticking their used gum under chairs, in mailboxes and keyholes and on the door sensors to Singapore's subways, so they decided to just have the whole damn product stricken from existence.

    Only gum chewed for therapeutic reasons is allowed within the borders. When asked by a reporter if the laws were too strict, the prime minister of Singapore said, "If you can't think because you can't chew, try a banana." That the man seems satisfied with a city littered with banana peels indicates to us that he has apparently never seen a single cartoon in his life.

    #5.
    Lobster (Reggio, Italy)

    The town of Reggio, Italy can't stomach the pain that lobsters have to endure in order to be eaten. Arguably every animal is having a bad day if it ends up on a dinner plate, but the fact lobsters have to be boiled was too intense for Reggio town council and they have now banned it.

    Curiously, this was also one of Hitler's first acts once he rose to power as the sound of lobsters screaming bothered him. We're all for this if they offer some alternative, like you can only eat lobster if you duel it to the death before putting the water on.

    #4.
    Saggy Pants (Delcambre, Louisiana)

    Rather than waiting for the whole saggy-pants fad to pass on its own, this Louisiana town put a ban on pants that show off a person's junk, ass , or their underwear at a cost of $500 to offenders.

    Then again maybe the people of Delcambre should be commended for their foresight, since they realized banning saggy pants would simply usher in the era of the assless and/or crotchless trousers. Pants manufacturers are clearly on a mission, and only the power of the law can stop them.

    #3.
    Excuses (Megion, Siberia)

    In a move that is either insane or the most awesome thing ever, the mayor of Megion in Western Siberia has banned the use of excuses by city officials. Bureaucrats are no longer allowed to say the following phrases: "I don't know," "It's lunch time," "It's not my job" and "It's impossible" amongst a list of more than two dozen other phrases that generally piss people off when coming from the mouths of government officials.

    Our favorite has to be "It's impossible," as we're guessing city officials are now constantly inundated with requests such as, "I want the faucets in my house to dispense only pudding!" and "Make it rain vodka tomorrow," knowing the old, pat answer will no longer fly.

    The official word on what happens if someone uses one of these phrases is that it will "speed their departure" which is probably the polite Siberian way of saying that you have to fight an especially quick brown bear.

    #2.
    Karaoke (Lilbum, Georgia)

    As we all know, karaoke is the tool of the devil. The city of Lilburn, Georgia has put its foot down and said enough is enough. The mayor says he doesn't want clubs in his town and is pretty sure once karaoke starts up, it's just a small step before toddlers are starting fires and people who sing Cher off key will be smuggling assfuls of cocaine to their gun-running friends across town.

    This is an extension of what is basically a ban on bars (town rules say booze can only be sold in places that make most of their money off of food sales). Whether they're banning karaoke to prevent places from turning into bars, or banning bars to prevent karaoke from breaking out, isn't clear.

    #1.
    Satan (Inglis, FL)

    In 2001, the town of Inglis, Florida took the proactive step of banning Satan, something most other Godless towns have been too lazy to do.

    The mayor issued a proclamation that actually contained the words "Satan, ruler of darkness, giver of evil, destroyer of what is good and just, is not now, nor ever again will be, a part of this town of Inglis." The ban was posted on signs at the entrance to town, just in case the Devil was on a road trip and thought to pass through. Whether or not the mayor was shitfaced on Thunderbird at the time is unknown to those of us who can be sued for libel.

    However, the ACLU, perhaps acting on Satan's behalf, pointed out some issues with that whole "separation of church and state" thing and, after some threats of lawsuits, the ban was officially rescinded. The signs were moved to private property, at which point Satan ascended from Hell and built a dark temple of charred corpses. But only on public property.

    If you enjoyed that, but are looking for more regional examples of people you might enjoy kicking in the groin, check out our rundown of 9 Cases That Prove the US Legal System is Fucked. And then watch the video that explains The REAL Reason Guns Are Dangerous.

    Original here

    The 7 Creepiest Real-Life Robots

    Scientists say they can now build near-perfect replications of a human being, and that they finally have the technology to bring the inanimate to life.

    Scientists are liars. Here are seven robots that reached for "life-like," and came up with a big handful of your worst nightmares.

    #7.
    Geminoid

    The Geminoid was built by Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University. He's used a mold of his own body for the overall shape of the robot, programmed his body language and voice into it, and even implanted his own hair into the android's skull.

    Prof. Ishiguro, in summary, would very much like to be killed and replaced by a robot, stopping just short of sending out beautiful, handwritten invitations to the T-1000, requesting its presence at his upcoming All-Night Knife and Choking Party.

    The professor often speaks through the robot, rather than personally attending company board meetings. So, perhaps this is a good time to stop bitching about your boss. At least he's not forcing you to pitch your latest project to a dead-eyed robot clone of himself.

    Why It's So, So Creepy

    On top of the simple implication that we can all be replaced by robots, the Geminoid is mostly creepy because it's not quite an exact replica of Ishiguro. It's more like Ishiguro built a slightly retarded younger brother for himself, giving it a permanent expression of intense confusion and frustration.

    It's like the Geminoid is always trying to figure out just what the fuck it's doing here, much like you probably are right now. It also reacts a little too convincingly when they start repeatedly poking it directly in the face, hard. It seems to grow annoyed--almost enraged--but then they stop just short of provoking a killing spree, and it goes right back to puzzling out what the hell all that was about.

    This suggests a level of reasoning and consciousness that is intensely disturbing. You probably don't want that robot figuring out that there are two things in this room that can pass for Professor Ishiguro, and only one of them doesn't have to sit in a folding chair getting poked in the face by research assistants for the next 20 years.

    #6.
    Simroid

    Simroid was designed by the Kokoro Company to assist dentists in training--hopefully just with dentistry, and not so much on how to get to third base with an anaesthetized patient. The Simroid has air-controlled muscles for a more fluid, natural movement, soft silicon skin for a more human texture, a limited vocabulary to express her current emotional state, and has been programmed to respond to basic commands. She also has highly sensitive receptors all throughout her mouth, so that she can react to pain in a convincing manner.

    In a nutshell: Dentists were sick of causing their fellow human beings even a small amount of pain while training, so they designed a robot that does nothing but feel pain better, and more efficiently.

    Why It's So, So Creepy

    Even setting aside for a moment the disturbing fact that they've built a robot just to hurt it, Simroid brings to mind some other, seriously creepy possible uses. Let's see if you can guess where we're going with this: She has a lifelike mouth, soft skin, responds in a variety of ways to pressure in her oral cavity ... and has even been equipped with a gag reflex, so she can accurately respond when "instruments are inserted too far into her mouth." In the interest of good taste, we're not even going to say what those "instruments" might be.

    (Dicks. It's dicks.)

    #5.
    Albert Hubo

    Albert Hubo was built to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. And what better way to honor such a brilliant and gentle human being than by building a recreation of his head and bolting it to a cartoonish Korean robot in order to impress convention-goers. It was kind of like honoring Gandhi's lifetime of achievements by digging up his corpse and sewing his decomposed face onto a Transformer so it can dance for nickels outside of the arcade.

    Why It's So, So Creepy

    "The Uncanny Valley" is the term used for the disturbing feeling you get when something is incredibly lifelike and human, but some small aspect or feature of it throws the perception off. Like the jerky way a robot moves that's not quite convincing, the stilting way it talks that's not quite natural or, in this case, the fact that it's only a human head crudely stapled to an anime-style mech. That's not slipping down the Uncanny Valley, that's being jump kicked down the Uncanny Stairwell.

    The only thing creepier than building an entire robot to resemble a human being, is only building one small part of a robot to look like a human being--leaving the rest as cold, hard steel. Don't believe us? There's nothing too creepy about C-3PO, right? In fact, meeting him would be pretty neat. Now, imagine that as you shake his hand, your eyes slowly drift downward, and you notice that he's entirely golden--just as usual--except for two tiny, pink human feet. Suddenly it's Horror Camp, and you're staying the whole summer.

    It's great that they've chosen Einstein for this unique honor, too. He's one of the few internationally recognized faces. An image so culturally constant that the part of your brain responsible for facial recognition can't help but register him as a friend ... until he comes stomping across the convention floor, his face abruptly bursting into an unsettling facsimile of his trademark grin. His cold, dead eyes locked onto you in a vicious parody of friendly recognition. And then, just when you think it can't get any worse, he reaches out for a hug ...

    #4.
    Jules

    Jules is the flagship android for Hanson Robotics, also responsible for Albert Hubo up there. Jules is their most lifelike robot to date, both in physical appearance and artificial intelligence. He comes equipped with some basic servos in his arms and torso, and some seriously advanced animatronics throughout his head and face. He even has hi-res cameras in both eyes so that he can "see, and track people" to help him "lock-on to his conversation partners."

    Well!

    That's ... uh ... that's just a smidge ominous.

    Why It's So, So Creepy

    At first glance Jules isn't so bad. He's just lifelike enough to put you the littlest bit at ease. You might be a bit uncomfortable interacting with Jules, but nothing unbearable, and everything about him is carefully designed to minimize even that small discomfort. He is specifically built to be androgynous, he speaks with a pleasing pseudo-British accent, and the default state of his facial expression is happily bewildered, like a confused puppy. That is, until Jules turns to profile:

    And you see that the back half of his skull has been sheared off, leaving only a mass of twisted wires and whirring motors.

    However, it's not until you get into Jules' personality software that things start to get really, truly creepy. You see, because Jules remembers conversations and learns from them, Hanson Robotics insists that "if you treat Jules poorly, it may not be nice to you."

    Hold up a minute. Let's get this straight: If you dis Jules, he'll note it, remember it and respond in kind. You know, we have a word for that in the English language:

    Revenge.

    They have built an android that can almost pass for human, learns from its mistakes, tracks people and actively seeks revenge. There is literally an entire genre of big-budget Hollywood films about how you should not, under any circumstances, do exactly that.

    Oh, and one more little aside here in this video: Jules wants to know more about his sexuality. Jules wants you to explain it to him. He wants to explore his sexual nature. With you.

    We know that you might be a little creeped out about being hit on by a robot and you probably want nothing more than to get the hell out of there, but just remember: "If you treat Jules poorly, it may not be nice to you."

    #3.
    Actroid

    The Actroid was designed to serve as a receptionist and an information booth attendant. She has an intensive AI geared towards question-and-answer sessions and resembles an attractive go-go dancer from outer space because, you know, she was designed by a Japanese guy.

    She's primarily used for Japanese science and robotics conventions, and knows over 40,000 phrases in each of four different languages. She can respond 2,000 different ways to an infinite variety of questions which, because she's mostly at science and robotics conventions, have thus far only consisted of "Are you anatomically correct?" "Will you have sex with me?" "Can you have sex with people?" and finally "What about just handjobs?"

    Why It's So, So Creepy

    The Actroid is fairly tame on the creepy scale ... just as long as she remains immobile. She kind of resembles a high-end wax figurine of a big-boned Caucasian transvestite utterly failing to pass as a cute Asian girl, and that's not so bad. Nothing we wouldn't see on a typical business lunch with our fellow Cracked employees, anyway. It's when she starts moving that you get both barrels of the Uncanny Shotgun:

    The disturbingly fluid movements punctuated by the jarring stops, the bizarre, puppet-like posturing and a facial expression that says, "I'm a hip, young, urban professional that hungers for the lives of your babies," creep us out exponentially.

    And that's all before she starts rapping. Yes, apparently, she raps. Because everybody knows that sudden, unexpected free-styling in casual social situations is a surefire way to set even the most anxious soul at ease.

    We honestly don't know what could possibly make us more uncomfortable than an Asian girl poorly rapping in response to an innocent question, but Japan does: An Asian tranny robot that looks like it want to eat human children in response to an innocent question.

    #2.
    WD-2

    WD-2 is a shape-shifting "Face-Bot" meant to simulate the subtle intricacies and nuances of human facial expressions. It operates under the theory that there are 17 key points of mobility in the human face, and that by lending greater versatility to these points, a robot can perfectly mimic the ever-changing expressions of the human face without appearing unnatural or disconcerting. The robot provokes a more human level of interaction by "driving a motorized shaft into the face and twisting at the desired point to create a convincing emotional response."

    One can only hope, desperately, that they mean the shaft is driven into the robot's face, and not yours.

    Why It's So, So Creepy

    Watching a convincing mock-up of a human face shift bone structure, shape and size rapidly totally puts us at ease. It looks like there are dozens of small creatures burrowing just beneath its skin, and it couldn't be happier about it!

    In addition to its unsettlingly convincing facial expressions, the WD-2 also features cold, dead eye-sockets, a sickly, inhuman paleness, and just a bit of a knowing smirk. For other examples of things sporting these features, please see every supernatural villain ever created:

    But it actually gets worse from here! You see, the WD-2 not only mimics facial expressions, it also mimics specific faces. There is a 3-D scanner and projector located in the rear of the machine that copies the texture, skin tone and even hair style of people watching it. This data is then projected onto the face up front, which has since reconfigured itself to match the overall shape of your head.

    After this process, the robot can then match your every movement on the fly--while speaking, laughing, yelling--anything. To put it more succinctly:

    THIS ROBOT STEALS YOUR FUCKING FACE.

    #1.
    CB2

    The CB2 is another project developed by the human-hating Professor Ishiguro at the Science and Technology Department of Japan's Osaka University. It's a 4-foot-tall, 100-pound baby with the physical and intellectual abilities of a 2-year-old. It was built with cameras for sight, microphones and speakers for speech and hearing, and over 200 tactile sensors to simulate a sense of touch and feeling. It was designed to ... facilitate human understanding ... of ... no, come on, what the fuck could this thing possibly be designed for?

    There are zero practical uses, and the only thing it can teach you is acute horror. This robot was designed to say only one thing: Fuck you rest of the civilized world, love Japan.

    Why It's So, So Creepy

    It's a giant baby with the power of a robot.

    Every single letter of that sentence is horrific. It looks like you defrosted a frozen infant in the microwave and then forgot about it for a few days. It has disproportionately giant, black eyes, like a shark. It has gray, baggy skin that hangs flaccidly from its bulging form, like a decomposing corpse.

    It speaks in a cooing, infantile voice, asking you for love and attention and thanks to its advanced tactile, audio and visual sensors, it can stumble across the room after you if you don't respond. And here's Professor Ishiguro's research assistant, poking it in the Goddamn face again.

    Listen, kid, we know you're probably an unpaid intern just trying to get some kicks out of an otherwise shitty situation, but could you just stop provoking the terrifying robots?

    These things are built to respond to outside stimuli, and you do nothing but piss them off all day. If you don't heed our advice right quick, you may find yourself standing in a darkened lab, the other assistants having long since left for the day. The fluorescent lights in the hallway spill a wan illumination across the tile floors. You've forgotten your keys--again. You've been particularly absent minded lately. A blue light shines in the darkness. Ah, you've even forgotten to shut off the robots! You start towards the light, making your way by feel in the pale dusk of the dim office, but the light is gone. Or no ... it's just off to the left now. You locked the robots in the supply cage, didn't you? The light is closer now. You make out a form in the darkness, small and indistinct.

    "Daddy," it coos. "Love me!"

    Oh, it's just the CB2. You must've left the latch open. You really need to start getting more sleep.

    "CB2, deactivate." Your voice seems unusually flat in this empty room.

    "Daddy, love me!" It takes another staggering step forward.

    "CB2 ... deactivate!" What's going on? Is the voice recognition software failing?

    "Daddy ... LOVE ME!" The steps are quickening now, you turn to back away but another silhouette blocks the door behind you.

    "Who's there? Oh! Professor, thank God! I think something's wrong with the CB2! Professor? Profe--"

    "Oh no! No! This ... this can't be happening!"

    "Stay back! Please, stay back! NO! NOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

    ...

    "A-ow ... ow, hey! Fuck! Ah, ow, stop! Stop, ow, quit ... QUIT POKING MY FACE!"


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