Google to put South Sudan on map

Google agrees to put the new state of South Sudan on its maps after a campaign by 1,600 members of a website that campaigns for social change.

Intense New ‘Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ Footage Revealed

By slowing it down, David Fincher has upped the ante in the latest trailer for “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”

Earlier in the summer, The “Fight Club” and “Social Network” helmer released a scintillating, fast-paced action trailer for the first chapter in his adaptation of the Millenium Trilogy, getting the public excited with an all out action ride set to Trent Reznor and Karen O’s cover of “Immigrant Song.” Viewers caught glimpses of Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander and Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist, but character took a back seat to thumping intensity.

Now, Fincher has released a new trailer — actually, a shorter cut of a sizzle reel recently shown to the press — that works to establish the backstories of Salander and Bomkvist and explain how the two investigators, both forced underground, come to work together to solve a murder.

The highly anticipated film hits theaters on December 21st.

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Smartphone to measure radiation

Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo is reportedly developing a series of skins for smartphone which will measure, among other things, radiation levels and body fat.

Embryonic stem cell test go-ahead

Doctors at Moorfields Eye hospital in London have been given the go-ahead to carry out Europe’s first clinical trial using human embryonic stem cells.

Kevin McDonald: What I Love Most About Canada

What I love most about Canada and being a Canadian is that I’m always asked what I love most about being a Canadian. I honestly believe that Canada is the only country in the world that sits around and asks that question. I refuse to believe that Argentines sit around asking each other what they love about Argentina. They just love it. I also refuse to believe that the second Bob Newhart show was better than the first — but that is a topic for another blog.

We Canadians think and worry too much — and thus we think and worry too much about ourselves. If countries were comedians, the U.S. would be Andrew Dice Clay and Canada would be Woody Allen. Yes. I see Canada as a short, balding man with thick glasses who stutters when talking to a girl.

We think and over-think things and say no a lot. Wayne and Shuster, Canada’s most popular comedy team ever, did The Ed Sullivan Show more times than any other act except for Topo Gigio. Yes, only a rat puppet beat them out. The mighty American Network CBS offered them to come to Hollywood and do a TV show. They thought about it and thought about it (like any good Canadian would do) and said “No, we’d rather stay in Canada and make a lot less money.” For doing this, they became national heroes. Only in Canada are people celebrated for saying no.

I do love being a Canadian. I really do. And I am a typical one. When asked to do this blog, I thought about it and thought about it and said no. I was Canadian enough to like the fact that I wouldn’t make any money for it. But I said no. Yes, I am spiritually balding, short and wear thick glasses (in a few years, I will actually be that). It was only on a trip to the States, feeling the aggressiveness of Americana that I changed my mind and said yes. I love being a Canadian. A thoughtful Canadian who says no — because at least we do think before we talk. Now if you excuse me, I have a re-run of The Bob Newhart Show to watch.

Kevin and fellow Kids in the Hall member Scott Thompson are currently on a national U.S. tour with their new comedy show “Two Kids, One Hall.”

Disney Puts New Character In A Game First, Hopes It Makes It To Big Screen

LOS ANGELES — The Walt Disney Co. has used mobile games to promote its movies, but now it’s trying something new: launching a cuddly character in a game in the hope he makes it to the big screen someday.

In a first effort at the new strategy, Disney is launching this week an animated alligator named “Swampy,” whose bizarre quest in the 99-cent iPhone game “Where’s My Water?” is to keep clean.

The reptile, unlike his in-the-wild counterparts, lives under a big city and mostly hangs around in his bathtub, waiting for iPhone owners to dig a digital trench that allows water to flow into his poorly connected plumbing.

Disney Mobile general manager Bart Decrem says one goal of the launch is to incubate new characters that can cross over into other Disney business units like movies and merchandise.

“Maybe five years from now, wouldn’t it be great if there was a movie that started up on the App Store?” Decrem said.

He said mobile devices are becoming central to kids’ lives and Disney wants to make sure it is there.

“To me, this is where a generation of kids is growing up. And it’s really critical for the success of the company that we be there and telling stories and introducing characters to a new generation of kids,” he said.

Disney’s interactive unit has long been a troubled one. Expensive forays into making video games for consoles such as the Xbox and PlayStation 3 have resulted in big losses.

In the most recent quarter through July, Disney’s interactive unit lost $86 million on revenue that grew 27 percent from a year earlier to $251 million. That marked the 11th consecutive quarterly loss since Disney began breaking out results for the unit in late 2008.

Analysts have questioned what Disney is doing in the games business, especially after its $563 million purchase of social games maker Playdom last year didn’t help stem the losses.

The unit’s new co-presidents, John Pleasants and James Pitaro, have made it a goal for interactive to be profitable in 2013.

The focus on mobile games, rather than console games, is part of what Disney hopes aids the turnaround. Decrem said mobile games take up to a dozen people about half a year to create. That’s far less expensive than console games, which can take hundreds of programmers two to three years to finish.

Disney Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo told an investor conference in New York on Wednesday one focus of the interactive unit is to deliver products at lower cost. “Clearly, we’ve got a lot of work to do in this business,” he said.

‘X Factor’ Premiere Recap: The Good And The Bad

All the hype for Simon Cowell’s new show came to a thunderous end last night, as we were introduced to a two-hour premiere of his UK export “The X Factor.” Positioned as a singing competition wherein the judges nurture selected contestants — who, unlike American Idol, have no age restrictions and can be either group or solo act — the show cost a reported $100 million, meaning Simon’s pulled out all of the flashing red-light stops.

We began with a futuristic opening sequence of third-person reporting about the judges, news anchor-style, with the names of the judges zapped into the show — LA Reid, Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger, and of course Cowell. Speaking of Cowell, did he get some work done recently, or was it just the heavy-handed guyliner that made him look especially puckered on last night’s show? Other questions abound: Who is host Steve Jones? Why was he shouting out to the cameras from a running tractor truck? And what is that accent?

Anyways, throughout the show, we got entrenched into some faux-rivalry between Simon and Reid, experienced the awkward judge handover from Outrageously Telegenic Woman Cheryl Cole to Outrageously Telegenic Woman Nicole Scherzinger, and even got a cutesy bit about her birthday, but as everyone knows the real meat of the show lies in the auditions. Onwards then!

The highlights:

Rachel Crow, 13.
It’s no wonder why Simon and team decided to kick off with 13-year-old Rachel Crow: all loose lips, sassitude with a killer smile to boot, Rachel instantly charmed our socks off with her frank-but-funny assessment on why she needed the $5 million prize. “Okay, so you guys might think this is crazy, but my family has, like, NO money,” she said, full of hand gestures. “My family lives in a two-bedroom house, and we have six people… I’m a girl. I need my own bathroom!” That the girl can sing — “Mercy,” by Duffy — like hell is almost secondary.

Stacy Francis, 42.
The Brooklyn native’s sob story was enough to make Lifetime movies look like comedy by comparison. Having moved to Los Angeles with dreams to make it big, Stacy gets entrenched in a toxic relationship with a man who rocks her faith by telling her she is no good and too old to make her singing dreams a reality. Now in her 40s with a three-year-old son, the stay-at-home mom enters a nation-wide singing competition to give it her one last shot and sings a soaring, tear-strained rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman” that gets a famous record label executive to notice her… Coming to a theater near you.

Marcus Canty, 20.
Before we got to see the chipper Usher-in-the-making perform “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder, thanks to a dramatically-timed commercial break, I thought to myself “Um, why is he on the ground?” Well, now I know why: LA Reid compared him to Bobby Brown, Simon called him User (“you can sing AND dance”), and he got a standing ovation from the crowd. I’d be floored, too.

The Anser, 20-27
Besides the fact that the boy band looked like they had ripped a page out of an Urban Outfitters catalogue and followed the “How to be a Cute Hipster Boy” manual to a T, the trio were awfully entertaining with their all-over-the-place arrangement of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” Guy in red glasses was almost too much to take, but I was giggling.

Chris Rene, 28.
I have a bone to pick with the show, and it’s for performances like that from 28-year-old Chris Rene. Nothing against him — he seems like a talented guy with a knack for rhymes and a subtle, sweet singing voice — but it’s the dramatic, “Extreme Home Makeover”-style cutting of footage that frustrates me because it’s designed to be an instant tear-jerker. We get it: he’s a trash hauler and just got through rehab — only 70 days sober, even — and his singing ability could be the only thing that saves him, gives him meaning in his life. He delivered outstandingly, of course, with a self-written song called “Yo Homie,” and we’re all left feeling like he’s won something for himself and his son, all within five minutes. “I’ve worked with some of greatest hip hop artists from Jay-Z to Kanye, and all of my boys would be proud to tell me today that you are the truth,” LA Reid told him.

It’s manipulative and irresponsible, I think, to think that show like “X Factor” can not only scout out talent but also treat conditions as serious as addiction, and Cowell shouldn’t let his show handle its contestants’ back stories in the name of entertaining television. But we’ll see. Does LA Reid have the most awkward head bob ever? Why were Paula and La Reid high-fiving? Will LA Reid make the chest-fist pump into 2011’s most desired move? We’ll also see.

And on to the bad:

Siameze Floyd, 30.
For a while there, I was worried that the trotting, heels-wearing Siameze with a large personality and even larger forehead would make it through — Prince impersonation, mesh shirt and all — for novelty effect, and I was exactly right. On second thought, given his spastastic, out-there performance, his energy drink “Siamenergy” might actually work.

Dan and Venita, 70 and 83.
I mean, there’s nothing more to say about this odd couple other than may we all be so intensely in love, if not intensely deluded, when we reach their age. I thought they were cute.

Gio Godley, 43.
What with his silver velvet get-up, tie-dye shirt and hair pulled back into a greasy ponytail, Gio Godley looked a dead-ringer for a deranged cult leader. So I wasn’t all that surprised when, in the middle of his self-written song “I’m a Stud” (SPOILER ALERT: he’s not!), and after the line “We can do Bill Clinton stuff,” the clothes came flying off and he dropped trou. Okay, I lied — I was pretty surprised. Eeergh.

Two hours later, wipe away the tears, cue the Carl Orff music, it’s time for the highlights of tomorrow’s show! I can’t wait. What’d you think readers — did you prefer Cheryl or Nicole as a judge? Are you going to love LA Reid as much as I think I will? And who do you want to see more of, and who do you want to go? My money’s on Rachel Crow at the moment. Surprised Disney hasn’t snatched her up yet — she’s like a little Raven Symone in the making.

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