Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Belly Dancer Turns Sci-Fi Fantasy Into Career

By John Scott Lewinski

For testosterone-driven sci-fi devotees in their 30s and early 40s (such as this reporter), the universe changed about 15 minutes into 1983's Return of the Jedi.

The Star Wars galaxy (and, in most cases, our own lives) were blissful, asexual realms of brave adventures and weapon-wielding heroes threatened only by their assigned villains and (if they weren't careful) "cooties"/"girl germs." Sure, Han Solo smooched Princess Leia a little inside that giant slug, but that's what heroes are supposed to do when there are no Sith Lords handy. Captain Kirk did the same thing with alien chicks to fight boredom when there were no Klingons to phaser. It was nothing we wanted to do.

Then, there was Jedi. Tattooine. Jabba the Hutt and his dark, foreboding palace. Lando in hiding. Chewbacca brought in as a prisoner by Leis in disguise. She managed to free Han from the carbonite, but (of course) she was captured. She was only a girl, after all.

Only a girl. Only a slave girl chained to Jabba's side. A slave girl in that outfit.

For some boys, the sight of Leia lounging in that gear proved that they were officially amidst the asteroid collision called puberty. For some others, the image suddenly introduced them to the possibility of looming reproductive maturity. "That's what Leia looked like under the thermal clothes of Hoth? She had abs? And breasts?" When she climbed the cannon atop Jabba's sail barge to let the desert winds blow her skirt aside, boys became men and were suddenly too uncomfortable to get up and get their Moms popcorn refills.

Professional belly dancer Amira Sa'id turned those hot, sticky memories into a cottage industry for herself. Donning a precise replica of that Leia outfit, she travels to conventions across the country to perform for enthusiastic fans who always wondered what Leia might have looked like shaking what her Padme gave her.

The Orlando, Florida-based Amira has been dancing since the age of 5, taking all the basic classes like tap, ballet, etc. She excelled in Irish folk dancing in her adolescence but had to put dancing aside to complete her college degree in physics.

But, there was no putting aside her lifelong love of science fiction and her frequent trips to various conventions around the country. When she returned to performing following college and discovered a new affinity for Middle Eastern dance, it soon occurred to her that her various interests met within the gilded beauty of Princess Leia's slave girl get-up.

"I danced in the outfit for the very first time at a Halloween show at the restaurant I perform at here in Orlando," Amira said. "I then wore the costume to dance at a 2006 sci-fi convention in Connecticut. It was hit."

As Amira continued performing for ever-growing crowds of Star Wars and Star Trek fans at her beloved cons, YouTube videos began to circulate -- building a little nerd buzz for the scantily clad nouveau celebrity. She was in demand.

"At first I made my own appearances and booked myself," Amira said. "Now the conventions are booking me. My dancing depends on what the convention wants. Usually, I'll do a couple days of panels and performances."

At Star Wars Celebration IV, Amira was named Lucasfilm's "official" slave Leia, hosting her own booth to sign autographs and pose for photos: "We had a green screen set-up, so I could add a Star Wars background with my computer, print out the photo and sign it for the fans."

"I taught the two dance panels at Celebration IV," she said. "I performed and got fans up onstage with me -- teaching them choreography to 'The Cantina Song.'"

All of this attention can spell trouble for a young woman dressed in a costume designed to tease the male eye. It may come as a great shock to some readers, but male sci-fi fanatics are not always graceful around the opposite sex. So, Amira must tread carefully lest a would-be Salacious Crumb try to chain her to his throne.

"Some of the coolest guys at the conventions bow to me, and others compliment me on my performance," she said. "But I have had some obsessed fans and some marriage proposals. I'll receive gifts from strangers, and there are guys that won't leave me alone."

Amira utilizes bodyguards now -- often recruiting honorable, upstanding members of various Stormtrooper divisions attending the cons.

When not at conventions, Amira performs at conferences and restaurants around Orlando. She's currently appearing in Disney's Indiana Jones Cairo Dinner Show at Disneyworld. She also teaches dance for up-and-coming Leias.

But sci-fi man does not lust for Leia alone, and Amira added other routines to her arsenal, including a dance as a green Orion slave girl for Star Trek fans.

For a look at Amira in action, we include three performance videos. Enjoy, and may the gold bikini be with you.

Amira's performance from Megacon 2007:

Leia and Padme dance-off:

Amira as a green Orion slave girl:

Photo courtesy Amira Sa'id

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US officials think Kim Jong Il may be ill


North Korean soldiers parade through Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008. North Korea marked the 60th anniversary of its founding Tuesday amid news reports that the communist country's leader Kim Jong Il did not attend a closely watched parade amid recent speculation that he may be ill. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Western officials say there are signs that North Korea's unpredictable dictator may be gravely ill, after the man North Koreans call the "Dear Leader" apparently failed to show up at an important national celebration Tuesday.

Kim Jong Il's incapacity would have serious implications for the international effort to get North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons.

There was no sign of Kim at a closely watched parade Tuesday marking the 60th anniversary of North Korea's founding, and the country's state media was silent about his absence. His last reported public appearance was August 12.

"There is reason to believe Kim Jong Il has suffered a serious health set back, possibly a stroke," a Western intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another official said rumors and reports of a possible health setback were based in part on intelligence gathered by other nations.

A senior U.S. official said rumors had been circulating for weeks about the state of Kim's health and his control over North Korea's highly centralized government.

That official said the United States has no independent confirmation that Kim is ill, but that Kim's absence lends credence to reports that he is suffering and may no longer be in a position to command the absolute authority he had wielded.

"What we do know is that he was not at the military parade," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity about the administration's internal assessment of the situation. "That is quite unusual and reinforces a lot of what we've been hearing."

All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe sensitive intelligence gathering.

In a broadcast monitored in Seoul, Korean Central Television showed North Korea's No. 2 leader and other officials atop a viewing stand on Tuesday. Kim was not shown.

The rumors began circulating in mid-August. Shortly thereafter, North Korea announced it was suspending the disablement of its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, a key step in abandoning its atomic weapons program that it agreed to take in negotiations with China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States.

North Korea's powerful military is known to have been opposed to the measure, and many analysts believed it was proceeding mainly due to Kim's support for the process and the backing of moderates in his foreign ministry.

When North Korean diplomats notified their U.S. counterparts of the suspension, they did so in a note that explained the move was being taken "due to pressure from the relevant agencies," according to people familiar with its contents.

Kim has held absolute power in the Stalinist regime, and the wording of the note set off alarms that his control over the disarmament scheme may be in question.

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6 Real-Life Vigilantes Crazier Than Batman

By Kenneth Schroeder

Yesterday's story about real-life super-villains left a bad taste in our mouth. Surely those flamboyantly evil criminals have counterparts on the right side of the law: Men of great courage and strength of conviction willing to plunge alone into the criminal underworld, handing out justice like some kind of a man-shaped justice dispenser.

Instead we learned the world is chock full of lunatics who think they're that guy. Men who consider a COPS marathon intensive law enforcement training and are always ready to take to the streets with whatever weapons they found in their garage. They may not make us feel any safer, but they certainly restore our faith in crazy.

Jonathan "Jack" Idema

Is the name familiar? If not, it damn well should be. It takes quite a set of plums to do the things Jack Idema has done.

Army Special Forces? Check. Formed his own counter-terrorism training company? Check. Secretly invaded Afghanistan under the guise of humanitarian aid, but with the actual (and completed) purpose of capturing suspected terrorists? Fuckin' check, buddy.

Okay, so we've established that Mr. Idema is kind of a badass. We forgot to mention that he's also pants-crapping crazy.

Roughly 98% of the things Jack has done have either been: a) colossal fuck-ups, or b) total bullshit. He invaded Afghanistan and captured a dude, sure. We'll give him that one. But when he presented the prisoner to US forces, they released the frightened (presumably bearded) man a week later. So we're thinking the evidence against the guy wasn't all that strong.

Captured. Tortured. Probably Bearded.

Idema became so entrenched in his own bullshit that he was finally jailed for entering the country illegally, running a private prison, and torturing his inmates. Oh, did we not mention the prison thing? Sorry, but the guy's got a long damn list to go through.

The thing that really sets Jack Idema apart from his contemporaries is this: in April of last year, Idema was released from prison with amnesty. In true form, Jack did what we'd like to think Batman would do (if Batman were in the habit of shitting his suit out of sheer craziness): Idema flat-out refused to leave his horrible Afghani prison cell.


The Lavender Panthers

There was a time in this country when harassing a gay man would not result in criminal charges, or at least not serious ones. At that time homosexuals had even less legal protection than blacks (and we know how much help they were getting) so verbally abusing or even physically assaulting a gay man was considered a minor offense. But in one city, that offense meant you were about to get the shit kicked out of you by a gang of gay vigilantes.

They were The Lavender Panthers, formed in the '70s in San Francisco as the direct result of pervasive gay bashing across the country. The Reverend Ray Broshears, (who, as an openly gay Pentecostal Evangelist preacher has to be the man with the least probable job in fucking history) formed the group after getting his own ass kicked for being gay and in public.

The group was renowned for its ability to appear out of nowhere (or a large van), and promptly begin flailing ass on anyone who represented a threat to individuals, or the community at large. They also had a form of immunity. After all, if you're uncomfortable enough with your masculinity to go around harassing random gay men on the street, you're probably going to be unwilling to admit to the police that you just got your ass rolled on by The Lavender Panthers.

Interestingly, this all-gay group actually only has the second-gayest name on our list ...

The Bald Knobbers

Aside from their unfortunate name, Missouri's Bald Knobbers were probably not lighthearted enough to laugh at the fact that they just won Cracked's coveted Gayest Vigilante Group Name award.

They were originally founded by a mustachioed man-mountain named Nathaniel Kinney to counteract the wildness of the Old West, a job left laughably unfinished by Will Smith. But then they inevitably realized that if they were the only ones administering justice, they could pretty much administer it in whatever way they chose. Namely, killing the shit out of everything.

The mustache does not hide his secret smile. It hides another, angrier mustache.

Eventually, enough hell was raised that people began to speak out against the Bald Knobbers. An anti-Bald Knobber movement set about ridding the countryside of their phallus-named tormentors, and actually carried out the planned assassination of Mr. Pouty Mustache up there.

The assassin himself walked away from the trial, acquitted for the murder by reason of self-defense. That's right, a planned assassination was deemed "self-defense" meaning the law's official stance at the time was that the Bald Knobbers would have eventually killed everyone in the world.


In New York City, there is a group of intrepid heroes who stalk the night in search of injustice. They are dedicated to eradicating crime on Gotham's lonely streets. They are...

...not the Justice League. They're not superheroes. They're probably not even that good at intimidating criminals. Well, unless the street tough in question is terrified of being unable to pronounce the name of the guy whose ass he's kicking. In that case, he'll probably think twice about stepping to the likes of Yossi and Avraim.

You see, Shmira, a 100-person vigilante group based in NYC, is comprised entirely of Jews. As of press time, neither the Hebrew Hammer nor the Zohan could be reached for comment, leading the Cracked research team to believe that both are stupid exploitative fictional caricatures and not real people.

So what could possibly go wrong when a group composed entirely of members of a single religion or ethnicity decide to take vengeance on bad guys? Meet Andrew Charles, a young black man who took an unwarranted beating at the hands of the Shmira. That caused people to start to murmur all sorts of crazy things about "racism" and "gang violence" and "Adam Sandler used to be a lot funnier."

You could say that the Shmira didn't quite help the cause of Jewish folks in that particular neighborhood. Add in the fact that Charles was the son of an NYPD sergeant, and that after the beating the Shmira were presumably the only people who would protect those Jews, and you could say they achieved the exact opposite of what they set out to accomplish. Unless their secret goal was to teach everyone an important lesson about the value of the whole "due process" thing.

The San Juna Ixtayopan Lynch Mob

To us English-speakers here at Cracked, loco means "crazy". It's something corny white guys say while they're putting on a bad Mexican accent and ordering "gwackamowlee."

Whatever it means to us, "loco" has its subtle cultural nuances. For instance, in the Mexican community of San Juan Ixtayopan, it means "flip over a Ford Focus, drag out the suspected child-stalkers inside, and burn them alive." Which, not coincidentally, is exactly what a group of vigilantes did.

The only real problem, as we see it, is that the perverts they burnt to a crisp were in fact Mexican Federal Agents. Whoops.

Mexico is not the most pleasant place to live, apparently. The residents of San Juan Unpronounceable grew weary of the violence and baby raping and decided to take matters into their own hands. It's just that, even if the men were actually evil perverts, dousing them with gasoline and setting them on fire is not precisely "justice" in any language.


Not Justice

The Sombra Negra

Sombra Negra means "black shadow" in Spanish, proving that even the coolest vigilante names in the world can still be painfully redundant (nobody wants to be confused with the magenta shadows, after all). So what did these guys do to earn the top spot on our list? Oh, just target one of the most powerful criminal enterprises in the fucking world.

The mob, you might suggest? No, not the Italians. Once you've been around long enough to be on the Simpsons, you're really not that dangerous anymore. No, kids, the particular enterprise Sombra Negra targets is none other than El Salvador's own Mara Salvatrucha, otherwise known as MS13.

MS13, for those Cracked readers not in the know, are fucking scary criminals. They've taken over border towns all along the Rio Grande, and have overrun Laredo, TX so thoroughly that not even Texas' own Rangers will go there. In other words El Salvador's Black Shadow is the only group in the world with big enough balls to take them on.

Unlike the rest of the vigilantes on this list, not much is known about Sombra Negra other than they're a group of police and military personnel who like to execute their blindfolded targets with pistols. In 1995 it was claimed the group had executed 17 people.

Why hasn't the score been updated in the 13 years since? It's because in some ways we know even less about Sombra Negra than we do about MS13 itself, which is really saying something. If you're more underground than the underground criminal enterprise you're stalking, you sir are one bad motherfucker. Black Shadow, we formally apologize for making fun of your name.

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How to punch Oasis in the face

by Chris Bucholz
In Canada yesterday, Oasis star Noel Gallagher was attacked by a fan who leapt up on stage and pushed him over. The show came to a halt for 15 minutes or so while the two brothers conferred backstage, and, I’m guessing, said “Fuck” a lot. The duo did eventually return to the stage to finish the set, much to their fans’ delight, as they were anxious to get a chance to finish Noel off. I’m kidding of course. These were Oasis fans after all, who statistically hate Oasis less than anyone else.

Here’s a clip of the incident.

For a critically acclaimed band, Oasis sure are loathed by a huge amount of people. This isn’t the first time that they’ve been attacked on stage. Something similar happened in 1994, when someone managed to actually punch Noel in the face, presumably before being swept away on the crowd’s shoulders and publicly acclaimed as the president of England.

So what went wrong this time? Instead of punching Noel, why did this attacker only manage a shove (albeit a pretty solid one.) I’ll tell you goddamned why. Laziness. We live in an age where physical activity is at an all time low. Amateur sports leagues are contracting, P.E. classes are being canceled to make room for toffee eating classes, and people (you, probably) are getting fatter. As a potential solution to this smelly, doughy problem, below I present an instruction manual for what I hope will become the hot new exercise trend/co-rec sport in the world. Like Tae-Bo, but less ridiculous and more socially redeeming.

How to punch Oasis in the face

The Basics:

1) Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, about 2 feet away from Oasis. Turn yourself slightly so your dominant foot is further away from Oasis.

2) Roll the fingers of your dominant hand together into a ball. Clench your thumb on to the side of this ball.

3) Extend your dominant hand towards Oasis’ face, straightening the elbow as you do so. Push your shoulder forward on that side and keep the rest of your body weight behind it.

4) When your hand connects with Oasis’ face keep pushing! Your mental goal should be to reach a spot 3-4 inches directly behind Oasis’ face.

5) You’re done. Take this time to reflect upon your accomplishment, or go back to step 1 and try again.

Practical methods for punching Oasis in the face in the Natural and Built Environments:

Jump up on stage, run across it, punch Oasis in the face.

Purchase a delivery truck and paint it in a non-descript way (I like to write “Potatoes” on the side of mine.) Park it outside Oasis’ house until they leave for work, then jump out of your truck and punch them in the face.

Conceal yourself within an enormous birthday cake, wait until Oasis’ birthday. When Oasis is leaning over the cake to blow out the candles, punch Oasis in the face.

Hide within the ceiling space of a military installation where Oasis is standing guard. Wait for Oasis to walk by, remove a ceiling tile, hang upside down from some pipes and gently tap Oasis’ shoulder. Punch Oasis in the face.

Offer to teach Oasis martial arts, to help them stop people from punching them in the face. Teach them no martial arts, and use the training as a veiled excuse to repeatedly punch Oasis in the face.

Form your hand into a fist shape, and position it somewhere where you know Oasis will be moving their face soon at great speeds. This works great if Oasis is traveling in a convertible with a small windscreen, like a 1920’s roadster.

If Oasis is outdoors, in a large open area where they can carefully observe anyone approaching, consider leaping out of a plane directly above Oasis. By extending your fist at the right moment (the right moment is when it will hit Oasis’ face) you will be able to break your fall.

If Oasis is married, study the habits and appearance of their mate. At an opportune time (maybe when Oasis has fallen down bleeding, after having just been punched in the face?) seize their spouse, and replace them with yourself dressed in identical clothes. Two weeks later, when Oasis is sitting on his saddle-brown, full-grain leather Lancaster sofa, weeping into your shoulder about the sheer terror he feels at facing a world seemingly gone mad with the desire to punch him in the face, punch him in the face.

Gain access to the crawl spaces inside Oasis’ house and wait for Oasis to go out to purchase cigarettes. Remove a full length mirror and cut a hole in the wall behind it. Dress exactly like Oasis, stand in the hole behind the mirror frame, and wait for Oasis to return. When they return, mirror every action they make (practice having a terrible haircut and moping.) When they happen to examine their appearance in the mirror, punch Oasis in the face.

Set up a well respected psychiatric practice in Oasis’ neighborhood, and treat several of Oasis’ friends and family to increase the likelihood of them referring Oasis to your care. When Oasis comes to you, clad in despair and on the verge of suicide, offer to help them. During the first session explain to Oasis that to help them they must trust you. Look Oasis directly in the eyes, and make a fist with your dominant hand. Wait 3 seconds. Unclench your fist and hug them (they will be crying at this point). Oasis will now trust you absolutely. 4 months later, hit Oasis in the balls with a cricket bat.

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Burglar victims wake to spice rub, sausage attack

By Louis Galvan / The Fresno Bee

A burglar who broke into a home just east of Fresno rubbed food seasoning over the body of one of two men as they slept in their rooms and then used an 8-inch sausage to whack the other man on the face and head before running out of the house, Fresno County sheriff's deputies said Saturday.

Lt. Ian Burrimond, describing the crime as one of the strangest he's ever heard of, said a suspect was found hiding in a nearby field a few minutes later and taken into custody on suspicion of residential robbery.

Deputies, he said, had no problem linking the suspect to the crime.

Antonio Vasquez Jr.
Antonio Vasquez Jr.

"It seems the guy ran out of the house wearing only a T-shirt, boxer shorts and socks, leaving behind his wallet with his ID," Burrimond said.

Arrested was Antonio Vasquez Jr., 21, of Fresno.

Burrimond said deputies headed to the victims' home in the 300 block of South Thompson Avenue near Kings Canyon Road shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday regarding a burglary in progress.

The victims, both farmworkers, told deputies they were awakened by a stranger applying "Pappy's Seasoning" to one of them and striking the other with a sausage.

Both the spices and the sausage, Burrimond said, reportedly were obtained from the victims' kitchen.

After the man fled, the victims discovered the home had been ransacked and that some money was taken, Burrimond said.

Burrimond said the money was recovered, but that the piece of sausage used in the attack was discarded by the suspect and eaten by a dog.

"That's right, the dog ate the weapon," Burrimond said.

"I tell you, this was one weird case."

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The Daily Show's 13 Best Hurricane Moments

From a cable news perspective, hurricanes are great. They're non-partisan, require no research, affect a lot of people and reliably come around every year. In a way, hurricanes are nature's missing white girls. And as cable news goes, so goes The Daily Show, so there's a long and rich history of hurricane segments on the show. With that in mind, organized by hurricane, here are The Daily Show's best hurricane moments.

Hurricane Floyd

Hurricane Dennis

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Rita

Hurricane Wilma

Tropical Storm Chris

Hurricane Helene

Hurricane Gustav

Posted by matt tobey

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