February 2008 Archives


It's like one of those jokes. Do you want the good news or the bad news first? The good news is that after a search of epic proportions, a team of scientists led by Dr. Emmanuele A. Jannini of the University of L'Aquila in Italy may have finally come up with a way of reliably locating the sexual holy grail: the hard-to-find G-Spot. The bad news is that the majority of women may not actually have one.

Armed with ultrasound equipment, Jannini's sexual crusaders stormed into the zone, measuring the thickness of tissue in the urethrovaginal terrain where the G-Spot is thought to hide out. A small group of twenty females volunteered for the study, which was published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Nine (blessed) women said they experienced vaginal orgasms, while the remaining eleven said they didn't (better luck in the next life). The researchers found that women in the first group had thicker tissue in the study's hot spot.

Many experts (and even more non-experts) have doubted the existence of the G-Spot, but it now seems that the significant differences in sexual capability amongst women may be due to genetically based anatomical factors (rather than a partner's lousy map reading). Previous research by feminist sex educator Shere Hite found that 70% of women did not experience orgasm by vaginal stimulation alone. Jannini's research might explain why.

"For the first time it is possible to determine by a simple, rapid and inexpensive method if a woman has a G spot or not," says Jannini. "A simple test could tell you if it is time to give up the hunt for your G spot or if your partner just needs to try harder."

Mike Myers Is The Love Guru

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"In a time when the world is searching for enlightenment, one man is in a position to help." The man: Mike Myers. The position: Not exactly the Lotus.

Check out this hilarious trailer for Mike Myers' new flick The Love Guru. The Austin Powers star plays Pitka, the "second best guru in India," who, after being raised outside of his country by gurus, returns to the States in order to break into the self-help business. His first challenge: To settle the romantic troubles and subsequent professional skid of a star hockey player (played by 40 Year Old Virgin actor Romany Malco) whose wife left him for a rival athlete (played by Justin Timberlake).

The film, which gives Timberlake a pumped-up-in-the-trunks, Boogie Nights-style 70's porn star makeover, also features Jessica Alba (as Jane Bullard), Gandhi star Ben Kingsley (as Guru Tugginmypudha), and Daily Show funny man John Oliver (as Dick Pants). It promises some light-hearted enlightenment, and features the best transcendental invention ever: a motorized guru cushion so you can mediate on the go. Anyone know where we can buy one of those?

If player fails to load click HERE to view.



When I first came to Los Angeles over a decade ago, the city's love for psychiatrists was already a longstanding joke. And when Prozac and its ilk first arrived on the scene they were hailed as miracle pills that would bring instant happiness to the metropolis' two-hundred buck an hour couch surfers. But when it comes to depression, as a new study has shown, there are no quick fixes, though promisingly it seems the blues may actually serve a purpose, and indeed have the potential to make us happier in the long run.

While at my first job at a record label here in L.A. I struck up a friendship with a young girl who worked on reception. She'd just moved to the entertainment capital and this was her first job out of school. Lonely and vulnerable, she'd stumbled into a relationship with a much older, and very married man. After the initial excitement of the illicit affair had worn off, depression set in and she began to see a psychiatrist who soon prescribed Prozac for her troubles.

At the time, this struck me as beyond wrong. As a young girl alone in a big city, away from her family for the first time, it was only natural for her to feel a little home sick and down. Add a lousy relationship with a love rat into the mix and any sane person would have been depressed in her situation. It seemed to me that giving her happy pills to make her life more bearable was counterproductive. She needed to feel depressed. She needed to feel bad enough to be driven to make positive change in her life. In short, she needed to ditch the cheating dude, and learn to cope with life alone, rather than popping a pill to make life with him more livable.

And it seems that scientific studies are now supporting my inexpert observations. One new study, which for the first time combined all results from clinical drug trials, including those that had previously been withheld by the pharmaceutical companies but had become accessible under new FDA freedom of information rules, found that, "the new-generation antidepressants do not produce clinically significant improvements in depression in patients who initially have moderate or even very severe depression, but show significant effects only in the most severely depressed patients."

The research, which was published in the Public Library of Science medical journal, drew information from trials of four popular drugs: fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Seroxat), venlafaxine (Effexor) and nefazodone (Serzone). Given these results, Prof Irving Kirsch and his team concluded that, "there is little reason to prescribe new-generation antidepressant medications to any but the most severely depressed patients unless alternative treatments have been ineffective."

Furthermore, Dr Paul Keedwell, of the Institute of Psychiatry, argues that depression serves an evolutionary purpose, and may in the long term actually be good for us. "There are benefits and that's why it has persisted. It's a tough message to hear while you are in depression but I think that there's a life afterwards," said Keedwell in an interview with the BBC. "I have received e-mails from ex-sufferers saying in retrospect it probably did help them because they changed direction, a new career for example, and as a result they're more content day-to-day than before the depression."

So it seems, at least where depression is concerned, what doesn't kill you really can make you stronger. Depression can serve as a useful mechanism that lets us know we need to make profound change in our lives. And if you can work your way through your troubles, rather than reaching for possibly ineffective pills, you'll be better equipped to deal with obstacles down the road. But try telling that to someone who's depressed.

Inmates Do Soulja Boy and Hammer - Watch more free videos

Rehabilitation in action. At least when these Filipino prisoners get out they'll be qualified to work as Britney Spear's back-up dancers. You gotta admire the creativity, and the damn fine moves. It'd be a crime for them to go back to crime after this.

If player fails to load click HERE to view.

Is Obama the new American Idol? Or are we just blinded by the hype? (And Obama's avalanche of cash?) Can Hillary derail the seemingly unstoppable momentum of Obama’s rock star-like celebrity? Do we need to believe in the American dream so much that we'll actually overlook a more qualified and experienced candidate? Is the media so obsessed with a good story that they're ignoring the truths in the way? After SNL stuck a pin in the Obama bubble last weekend, it seems for some the Kool Aid is finally wearing off. As Tina Fey succinctly put it, is "bitch the new black?"

Animals Save The Planet

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A polar bear and a penguin that discover the benefits of energy saving light bulbs, a cow that learns about the environmental impact of his own methane gas, a hippo who figures out that showers use less water than baths, and a pug dog that realizes that by turning off electrical appliances in the evenings he will finally get a better night's sleep are just some of the clever characters featured in a series of ten animated short films produced by the Oscar winning Aardman Animation studio. The cute clips, from the makers of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run, which show animals in their own habitats learning to live an environmentally friendlier life are intended to show human beings how they can adapt in order to save the planet.

If player fails to load, click HERE to view the first short in the series.

The Boreman Hall Ghost Stories

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This video ghost post chronicles actual events which took place in the all-female wing of WVU's Boreman Hall.

If player fails to load click HERE to view.

DM_Vampire.jpgVampire Chronicles author Anne Rice is relenting on her vow to abandon her blood sucking characters, and is considering writing one more novel in the series which features the enigmatic Brat Prince of Vampires, Lestat.

The first novel in the Vampire Chronicles series, Interview with the Vampire, was completed the year after the death of Rice's six year old daughter, who succumbed to leukemia in 1972. The novel sold over 8 million copies and spawned a film, which featured Tom Cruise (as the forever restless Lestat), Brad Pitt (as Louis, a conquest of Lestat's who invited him into his life after he lost his brother and his will to live) and Kirsten Dunst (who played Claudia, an eternally 5-year old child vampire).

After the death of her poet husband in 2002, Rice published her final novel concerning the black arts, Blood Canticle. In 2003, Rice, who along with her husband had been a self-described atheist, returned to the Catholic faith in which she'd been raised, and set a new course in her writing with a fictionalized Christ taking over from Lestat as the central character in her subsequent novels (Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana).

"I never stopped grieving," said Rice on the loss of her faith and her first child during a 2006 Kindling Muse interview. Rice also spoke about how the melancholy plight of the vampires in her chronicles paralleled the loss of light she felt in her own life. But now, after finding spiritual redemption herself, Rice hopes to find the same in her writing for Lestat. "I have one more book that I would really like to write," said Rice in a Time.com interview published this past Sunday. "It will be a story that I need to tell."

After being inundated with emails, Rice wrote an open letter to her fans, excerpts from which are printed below (the full text can be found on her website):

"Yes, I am contemplating one last novel involving the Vampire Lestat, and the Talamasca, the fictional organization I created years ago in the Vampire novels. The novel, if ever written, would be entirely Christian in framework and would involve Redemption. It would affirm my dedication to Christ and my belief in Him and my commitment to write only for Him."

"Such a novel would probably not appeal to the old Goth readers who want to see the vampires continue in their old ways. But it might very much appeal to readers of the old books who saw them as spiritual works about the search for salvation. They might welcome it as a Christian conclusion to the saga I abandoned in 2002."

"But let me assure you -- all of you out there, Christian or non-Christian -- that my consecration to Christ as a writer remains the same. The Lord has given me the strength to maintain that commitment, and I find writing for Him and about Him to be the most challenging and wondrous part of my entire life."

"There is no possibility for me to return to writing about the vampires as heroes of a dark realm in which they are the only authority on their actions. There will be no more rip roaring adventures for the godless Lestat. That is dead and gone. I found the light in Christ for which my old characters were always searching. The question is: can I bring my Christian faith back to one of those old characters in a meaningful and deeply religious way."

"It's worth noting that the original idea for this book was actually developed in 1998, with the tentative title of Angel Time. It never got written, and I think I know why. I wasn't ready to write it. I wasn't ready to bring Lestat into an embracing Christian faith. But now perhaps I am ready and able to do this, and the novel might reach a great many readers of the earlier books who have been reluctant to accept books about Jesus Christ."

"Let me add one more important observation. Americans think about money a lot. They think about what people will do for money or will not do for money. They are accustomed to discussing authors in terms of money quite casually and sometimes without much factual information to back up their cynical observations."

"I'm in the fortunate position to assure my readers that my new books dedicated to Christ have done surprisingly well. I see no financial advantage to returning to Lestat in any form, including that of a Christian novel. If I do write this book, it will be because I feel that I ought to write it, that it is in me waiting to be written and demanding to be written. I'm blessed in that financial considerations simply are not involved."

"And once again, let me say, my consecration to Christ remains as strong as ever, thanks to His mercy and His grace."

Anne Rice, February 25th, 2008

They say a free press is the cornerstone of any democracy. But since there's nothing free about our press, and very little that's democratic about our government-for-hire, America's house of democratic illusions is only held up by those naïve enough to still believe the fairy tale, and those too apathetic to do anything about it, which, if we're honest, is most of us (endlessly forwarding activist emails may make us feel like we're doing something, but, let's be real, is mostly ineffectual).

George Bush is certainly under no illusions about the role of the media in our pseudo-democracy. After a speech intended to welcome journalists to the new White House briefing room back in July 2007, a Reuters photographer took a now infamous snap of the president's speech. The man charged with maintaining what should be the greatest democracy in the world had taken a black pen to his own neatly typed address, and, after the phrase "a free press is", had scrubbed out the words "one of the cornerstones of." But then, as he wages wars in the name of democracy abroad, he's waged another cold war on democracy at home, which has been, however unwittingly, aided and abetted by the very cornerstone our "democracy" is supposed to rely on -- namely the press.

But if you won't pay 50 cents per day for a newspaper, $29 a year to support an independent online news service such a Salon.com, or $50 a year to fund news on PBS or NPR, then don't blame the press for the current fix we're in however. It's a matter of value. What do we value more? The news? Or the cars and burgers sold in between the news? If it's the former, we should economize on the latter and be prepared to pay for quality journalism.

Like any other commodity, with news you get what you pay for. Purveyors of infotainment, such as Faux "News", which Fox & Friends guest, comedian Lee Camp succinctly called out live on air last week for being a "parade of propaganda" and a "festival of ignorance," serves no higher purpose than to provide fodder to keep viewers tuned-in for the advertisements. Like any other mainstream news outlet owned by one of the big media conglomerates, Faux News serves its parent company's bottom line, and is under no illusions that its purpose is to provide a check and balance to curtail the activities of a runaway government.

While pumping billions into an ill-advised war overseas, Bush is trying to cut off the lifeblood of those that report on it with an independent voice at home. His proposed federal budget would cut more than half of the funds allocated to public broadcasters in 2009 and 2010. And with the New York and Los Angeles Times both announcing three-figure job cuts in the past month, don't be expecting their much maligned journalists to have the time to come up with as much original thought or news as they have in the past. With less staff but the same column inches to fill, many of our once grand newspapers are being reduced to nothing more than printed blogs, reprinting the same recycled news, press releases and wire stories by the inch, and commenting on the commentary of others in place of the time consuming task of researching their own fresh news and opinion.

Ask yourself why the word "divisive" ubiquitously sits next to Hillary's name, as does "change" next to Obama's. In truth either world could equally apply to both. But these clichés have become ingrained in our culture thanks to a media that doesn't have the time, money or inclination to find the news, but merely reports on the same briefings and press releases, representing the often unchecked facts and quotes they contain as news.

As any physicist can tell you, if you want to arrest entropy you need to put more energy into a system. Write to your congressman or woman and demand that they fight the PBS budget cuts. Consider where you should get your news from (the BBC is a great place to start), rather than reaching for the remote or reading whatever's on your homepage out of habit. Refuse to be another Faux News viewer or clicker. Don't let these masqueraders make money off your viewership and clicks. And don't just take the news as read, but consider where a story is really coming from, who's promoting it, and, most importantly, why?

DM_Gay Flag_3493769.jpgA member of the Israeli parliament blamed a recent spate of earthquakes on gays, and what he sees as Israel's overly tolerant attitude towards homosexuality. Shlomo Benizri, a member of Ultra-orthodox Jewish Shas party, made the comments during a debate on earthquake preparedness on February 20, 2008.

"Why do earthquakes happen? One of the reasons is the things to which the Knesset (parliament) gives legitimacy, to sodomy," said Benizri, who is known for his homophobic views. "A cost-effective way of averting earthquake damage would be to stop passing legislation on how to encourage homosexual activity in the State of Israel, which anyways causes earthquakes."

"We are looking for earthly solutions, how to prevent them," he continued. "I have another way to prevent earthquakes. The Gemara says that one of the reasons earthquakes happen, which the Knesset legitimizes, is homosexuality."

The Israeli government repealed laws banning consensual gay sex in 1988. Since then, though they don't permit gay marriage, they have recognized same-sex unions performed abroad, and have extended many of the benefits and rights married couples enjoy to same sex couples. Last Sunday the country's attorney general ruled on legislation that expands the rights of same-sex couples to adopt. Since then, two more earthquakes have rocked the region.

"God says you shake your genitals where you are not supposed to and I will shake my world in order to wake you up," said Benizri, who is a member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's ruling coalition. What Benizri seems to have conveniently overlooked is the fact that homosexuality is really not on God's Top 10 List, with things like adultery and theft being far more of a priority for the oft misquoted and misunderstood deity.

If God is really showing his displeasure by shaking up the Middle East, it's more likely because of the worship of false idols (money and oil), the coveting of a neighbor's house (Palestine/Afghanistan/Iraq), and the (mass) murder being committed in the region by people from all sides (including us). Can we just stop blaming the gays for our troubles? I know God isn't.

Life Is All About Perspective

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Life is all about perspective, and Hillary Clinton sure has it (see video).

Go Buy Yourself A Soul Mate

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How many times have you heard a single friend say, "if only I had a boyfriend/ girlfriend/ soul mate my life would be perfect." I've always thought that logic was flawed. That's way to much pressure to put on a potential partner. If you expect a "soul mate" to come along and make your life perfect, in reality the only thing you'll achieve is to frighten him or her off.

It makes far more sense to put your own life in order, and make it as perfect as you possibly can before you search for a special someone to enjoy your life with. That way you're more likely to attract someone who sees you for the fulfilled and healthy individual that you are. After all, do you really want to be with someone who's attracted to your neediness? Furthermore, if a "soul mate" fails to come along, with your house in order you're in a better position to enjoy the life you have. It's a win-win strategy.

So when the Daily Mantra's like-minded MySpace buddy Dvorahji, a fun-loving guru from the school of common sense, posted her Ask Dvorahji: Where Is My Soul Mate video on our page, I had to both laugh and marvel her infallible, down-to-earth wisdom. In the YouTube clip (if player fails to load click HERE to view), the eccentric (in the best possible way), self-styled "final guide for the spiritually challenged and confused" reads out a letter from an 84-year old woman called Sarah who wants to know where her soul mate is.

"The problem is everyone is spending so much time looking for a soul mate that they are absolutely not enjoying their life," Dvorahji responds. "Why waste a another moment looking for a soul mate." Dvorahji certainly didn't. Life's way too short. She went out and bought a soul mate for $250 from a puppy pound in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Who ever said soul mate's only come with two legs?

Keep Forever Blowing Bubbles

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This wonderful short called Carried Away (if player fails to load, click HERE to view), by animator Zach Parrish, reminded my of a recent trip to the Point Dume, CA. After a heady walk along the breathtaking State Beach there, I returned to my car as the sun was setting and saw two very elegant older ladies reclining on deck chairs merrily blowing bubbles with very young hearts.

Next time life is getting you down try some bubble therapy for yourself. A website that amusingly offers "homemade bubble solutions" suggests using 1 part liquid dish washing detergent to 12 parts water. For those who are more serious about their bubbles, a few drops of glycerin or a dash of corn syrup is also recommended to increase size, elasticity, and durability. And, according to a bubble expert at Flora's Hideout, "Don't throw any leftovers away either. The longer your solution sits, the better it gets."

This is an interesting Current TV video pod on exorcism in England in the 21st century (if player fails to load, click HERE to view). Meanwhile in Australia the Sunday Mail is reporting that there's a shortage of priests trained to perform exorcisms in the Catholic Church there.

One priest, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals (though we're confused as to from whom), claims he carries out exorcisms at an average rate of once a fortnight

"Being possessed by a demon is terrifying in one's mental and emotional life," said the priest. "Some of these manifestations are extremely powerful, causing people to be plagued by disturbances. They hear voices and see hideous creatures in their sleep."

To deal with the increased demand for exorcisms worldwide, The Vatican's chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, has be charged with "setting up exorcism squads to deal with the rampant growth of Satanism" by Pope Benedict XVI.

"There is a progressive distancing from God and this helps the Devil. The action of the Devil is a lot more widespread than in the past not because he has more strength but because he is given more space," said Amorth in a recent CNN/IBN interview which was first broadcast on February 4, 2008.

"We deal with priests and bishops who know nothing about the subject because for three centuries exorcisms were almost totally abandoned. They have never seen exorcisms, they never performed them. They believe in the Devil, but they don't believe much in the actions of the Devil, so they prefer to send everyone to psychiatrists and psychologists," Amorth continues. "Thank God there is a Pope who wants to fight the Devil head on."

Former Longboard Ranch guitarist, David Kaufman, and some of his pals, put together this fun parody of Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy" video to support presidential candidate Barack Obama (if player fails to load, click HERE to view).

"Barack Obama wasn't my first choice (or second), but considering the reality of the playing field, he's definitely my current pick," says Kaufman.

Though I actually feel Hillary has far more experience for the top job, I have to admire the lyrical dexterity of this version. For full disclosure, I should also mention my hubby's in Bow Wow Wow.

DM_Medium_NBC_109632_0056.jpgThe Daily Mantra is glad to see new episodes of one of our fav shows, Medium, back on air. We’re loving the way the writers switched things up, with D.A. Manuel Devalos’ downfall making way for the entrance of Anjelica Huston’s mercenary character, Cynthia Keener (though we’re a little upset about seeing less of hunky detective Lee Scanlon played by actor David Cubitt).

In a recent TV Guide interview, Huston revealed there may be more to the seemingly cold-hearted Ms. Keener than we have initially been lead to believe. “Yes, Cynthia is flinty and weird, but there's a reason for that,” says Huston. “She harbors a dark secret and is on a quest. She needs money because of a personal interest I won't divulge. There's something very strongly at stake. In the end, you'll see she's actually a pretty good egg. I like that my character starts out being quasi-skeptical about Allison's powers, then starts to believe in them to the point where it unites the women.

When asked if she was “into this psychic stuff” the actress, who played who has played numerous supernatural characters, replied, “Oh, absolutely! I find it very fascinating. I don't want to sound like a page out of the National Enquirer, but I have some psychic powers of my own, a modest sixth sense, if you will. I think a lot of women have it, certainly not as acute a gift as Allison's, but we've got it! We weren't burned at the stake for nothing!”


DM_Bible & Red Wine.jpg
Want to commune with God over a pint? On the first Friday of each month between 9p.m. and midnight customers at the Market Cross Pub in Carlisle, PA will be able to do just that thanks to a rather unique outreach program set up by Bethel Assembly of God Church senior pastor Chuck Kish. Through this new monthly ministry, Rev. Chuck hopes to offer inspiration beyond that found in the bottom of a glass, and alternative solutions to those that might otherwise try drinking their troubles away.

"He approached me on the idea about a month, a month and a half ago, and I kind of did a double-take on it," said bar owner Jeff Goss in an interview with the local Sentinal newspaper. "Once we started talking about it, I realized what a great idea it was. I'm sort of an internal optimist. Working here for 14 years, I've seen customers, regulars and employees who have had their ups and downs through life."

"There was a lady at one of the bars who was married for 30 years and her husband just up and left her, and she was there about to drink herself into oblivion," explains Rev. Chuck. "The bartender said before she could do that, maybe she'd like to talk to the chaplains. It was a sort of pilot thing for us, and we were able to give help in a very tangible way. That's when I realized, you know, this is going to work."

It could be argued that the warm, friendly, and intimate atmosphere of a pub is far more conducive to confession and communion than the chilly atmosphere of many churches. Certainly the location seems more appealing than that of Rev. Chuck's bricks and mortar church, which is located five miles out of town on State Route 34 next to the Graham Cadillac dealership and Merrick and Fair Performance Dealership.

Rev. Chuck plans to make sure there's at least one male and one female pastor on hand to serve those in need, and he promises they'll be no preaching or proselytizing at the bar. "We're not going in there to strong-arm anybody," Rev. Chuck said. "We give more pastoral care, listening to what you have to say."

The unorthodox pastor, who also serves as the Senior Police Chaplain for Carlisle and North Middleton Police Departments, is no stranger to offbeat outreach. Rev. Chuck runs a youth program called the B.A.D. Attitude tour, and offers a road side ministry on Sunday mornings at the Truck Stop TV Lounge at the Petro Stopping Center on the Harrisburg Pike. "Many drivers have come to accept Christ as their savior during these services."

Let's hope any water into wine miracles are confined to the Market Cross Pub, since though Jesus was partial to a glass with a fish and bread supper, he certainly wouldn't approve of drinking and driving.

DM_Carbon Rally.jpgCarbon Rally is the Weight Watchers of the CO2 dieters world, the proverbial 12 Step program for CA (Carbon Anonymous). We all know how to reduce our carbon footprint, but sometimes a little group motivation can help when it comes to actually cutting down.

The eco-networking site posts new challenges every few weeks, the current featured challenge being to bring your own cup when buying drinks from coffee shops in order to reduce your emissions by 1.25 lbs per week. You can take on the challenges individually, but the fun really starts when you join a team or organize one of your own.

Carbon Rally posts a 30-Day Leaderboard, which is currently topped by The Lime-aids, who are led by New Jersey based Lemon Head. They have 34 members, have taken 238 challenges and have cut their collective carbon emissions by 5.18 tons. Go Lime-aids!

Fellow teammates and challenge takers can network and swap tips via the message boards, and can also make task suggestions in the Challenge Workshop. Here at the Daily Mantra, we’d like to kick the Lime-aids carbon-skinny butts, so have created our own team. Click HERE to join.

DM_Sex_9455806.jpgTo promote togetherness, the Relevant Church in Tampa, Florida is asking its married members take part in a 30-Day Sex Challenge, during which they'll be required to “purposely engage in sexual activity” at least once a day.

A statement on the church's website explains, "People are not having enough sex. An epidemic of breakups prove the needs that lead to a great sex life are being overlooked. Dirty dishes, frumpy clothes, and a lack of authentic connections are killing the romance. A great sex life is a challenge and takes focus, determination, and planning. Some say it's an unrealistic goal, but we disagree. We believe you can have a great sex life, in fact we believe God wants you to have a great sex life."

"We believe this challenge will not only improve sex lives, but also strengthen relationships," the statement continues. "For far too long the church has remained silent on the subject, leading many people to believe that God is against sex, which is completely counter to what the Bible teaches."

Sadly it seems God only wants you to have a great sex life if you're married. The challenge set forth for the church's single parishioners could prove to be a little more, well er, challenging. They're being asked to abstain from all sexual activity for 30 days. There was no information given on what same-sex couples, who are not single but also not married, were expected to do during this 30 day period. But if you have to ask, you probably know the answer.

When we tried to download the official 30-Day Sex Challenge Guide from the church’s website, we were told the page was "temporarily unavailable" due to "capacity problems." We're therefore guessing this idea has been a hit with a least one subsection of the church's Christian soldiers.

A Brief History of Evil

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Check out this animated short about evil in western civilization from Ancient Greece to the present day (if player fails to load click HERE to view). The filmmaker, who is known only as YouTube user Omaggs2000, explains it was, "intended to show what people have believed in and pointed to as evil throughout history. It was meant to get you to think about what evil really is. It is meant to show that when we get too obsessed with 'evil' we might end up taking part in it ourselves."

"One has to separate evil and human cruelty," explains Omaggs2000. "Human cruelty is people not being nice to one another. Evil is something else, it is something we have created, a word and a concept for things that are not acceptable. It is a label for things that we do not understand and don't want to understand. But is evil really ever a complete explanation for anything? A lot of bad deeds has been done in the name of good. The people that did them meant good, are they evil?"

Finally, Omaggs2000 wants you to know that the video is not meant to

  • A: Blame religion for all the evil in the world.
  • B: Claim that God is dead. (It is simply a reference to the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, look him up.)
  • C: Offend anyone, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  • D: Claim that Elvis was evil.
  • E: Be an exact and complete account of the actual events that has taken place throughout history.

Morcheeba: Dive Deep (URB CD Review)

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Check out my review of Morcheeba's excellent new CD Dive Deep at URB.com.

Aretha Franklin Hits Bum Note With Peta

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PP_Aretha_NP_14 Feb 08_AA Aretha_CIMG3896.jpgAretha Franklin may have got some respect from the Daily Mantra after we saw her perform last week (see story), but she's not getting any props from Peta. It seems the "Empress of All Music," as she's referring to herself post Beyoncégate, upset the animal rights activist group after she was photographed wearing a white, full-length fur coat to the Grammys.

In an open letter to Franklin, PETA's VP Dan Mathews says, "Music lovers may think of you as a 'queen,' but to animal lovers, you are a court jester. I'm sorry, Aretha, but your furs make you look like a clown. Why not shed the old-fashioned look that adds pounds to your frame and detracts from your beautiful voice? Won't you donate your furs to the poor as "queen of compassion," Mariah Carey, did? You'll get a tax credit for the donation, and we at PETA will all sing your praises."

Indeed today may be a good one for Ms. Franklin to donate her offending coats since the Los Angeles Mission is holding its annual March For Human Dignity but a stones throw from The Nokia Theatre, where Franklin performed last week. The annual event aims to spread awareness about what the Los Angeles Mission is doing to help the homeless of Skid Row. During the event, volunteers are on hand to collect much needed clothing. As well as coats to keep the homeless warm, the Mission distributes around 49,000 pairs of new underwear to the homeless each year. Perhaps Franklin has some diva-size duds she can drop off with her furs.

It seems statues is no longer just a kids' game. Improv Everywhere ordered 207 guerilla agents to synchronize watches, infiltrate the bustling hoard of commuters, and freeze inexplicably for five minutes on the Main Concourse of New York's Grand Central Station. Fortunately, in these post 9/11 times, they thawed out just in time to avoid being carted off en mass to Guantanamo Bay. That place could take the fun out of any game.

If player fails to load click HERE to view.

Will civilization as we know it end on December 21st 2012 as some followers of pre-Mayan culture believe? Organizers of the 2012 Conference, to be held on Saturday March 1, 2008 at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood, CA, are hoping that the experts they've gathered for it will shed light on the question.

Using the movements of the planets and stars as their guide, the ancient Maya civilization developed a complex system of three main interlocking calendars, the Tzolk'in, the Haab, and a cycle known as the Long Count. There's some debate as to how exactly the Maya calendar and our own Gregorian calendar sync up, but the consensus of opinion says the first 394 year cycle of the Long Count calendar began on August 11, 3114 B.C., and that the thirteenth, and final, cycle is set to end on the December solstice of 2012.

What happens after this highly significant date is up for debate, hence the conference. Some say 2012 will mark the end of the world, while others believe that the Long Count was intended to work like an odometer in a car, and that it should be reset and counting should start again from zero come 2012.

While it's uncertain whether 2012 marks an end or a new beginning, we'll be hedging our bets and plan to celebrate Christmas a few days early that year just in case. In the meantime we're planning to high tail it down to the 2012 Conference to see how experts such as Cuban American medical anthropologist and psychologist Dr. Alberto Villoldo, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl author Daniel Pinchbeck, Timewave 2013 filmmakers Sharron Rose and Jay Weidner, and leading Mesoamerican cosmology expert John Major Jenkins think we should prepare for the impending shift.

Star Trek XI Launch Date Delayed

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Star Trek fans will have to wait an extra few months before their future begins. The new incarnation of the USS Enterprise had been set to blast off on December 25, 2008 (see previous story) but Star Trek XI's release is now being delayed until May 8, 2009.

"Summer is where you see the Star Wars and the Transformers," said studio spokesman Michael Vollman. "Star Trek is in that league." With the new release date, the stage is set for a battle of epic proportions between Star Trek XI and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which is scheduled to open the week before. "Star Trek is in fantastic shape. This is all about box-office potential," said Vollman.

Click HERE to view official trailer.
Click HERE to find out which Star Trek leader those in the know think should be the next American president.

Aretha Franklin: Empress of All Music

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PP_Aretha_NP_14 Feb 08_AA Aretha_CIMG3908.jpgThe Daily Mantra paid our respects to Aretha Franklin at the Nokia Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles last night. After randomly catching The Blues Brothers on TV the night before, and shopping at Whole Foods to the sounds of "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" yesterday, when some free tickets materialized at the last minute (thanks Ken!), we took it as a sign that the Universe wanted us to go see her, and we're certainly glad we did.

After the storm in a tea cup at the Grammys, when Beyoncé referred to Tina Turner as "The Queen," which upset Franklin since "The Queen of Soul" is a title she has long laid claim too, it was notable that the Nokia Theatre master of ceremonies kicked the performance off by introducing the legendary singer as the "Empress of All Music" (top that Beyoncé).

The night's performance seemed effortless to Franklin, who didn't break a sweat as she busted out classic after classic. When you watch the Aretha wannabes on American Idol, they always make you aware when they're going for a tough note, conveying the difficulty of the feat they're about to achieve as if to highlight their skill. While our new American Idols push and strain to attain pitch and volume, Franklin's only challenge is the fight to hold back and control her overwhelming vocal power.

DM_Aretha_NP_14 Feb 08_AA Aretha_CIMG3918.jpgThe true magic of a great performer lies in making it all look so easy, rather than making the audience hit the edge of their seats every time they sense a challenging note coming along as today's so-called idols do. With the finale came a gospel choir, as if to underscore the fact that Franklin's talent doesn't lie in soulless vocal gymnastics, but is born of spirituality, and impassioned pleas to a higher power to raise all our spirits to a better place.

Guerrilla Altruism: The Generosity Game

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DM_Generosity Game.jpgThe idea of The Generosity Game is to "make someone's day, and maybe even to restore their faith in humanity" by perpetrating anonymous random acts of kindness. The subversive nature of the goodness required by the game, makes generosity fun, cool, and even hip. Players are encouraged to be creative with their generosity, but to get you started the game's website offers suggestions such as paying the toll of the car behind you at a tollbooth, or going to a bakery and buying a treat for the next person who walks in the door after you leave. The idea is that the gifts are true gifts, with nothing required in return, not even a 'thank you.' Recipients are encouraged to pay it forward however, so along with their gift players leave a card behind which on one side says, "It's your turn," and on the other gives instructions for playing the game.

The game and website were started by John Stoner. He encourages players to swot up on their art by reading Louis Hyde's classic book, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property. In it Hyde explores the transformative quality of gifts, and the theory of the gift economy, which says that wealth is actually decreased by hoarding. This philosophy is in tune with the beliefs of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest United States and Canada, who practiced potlatching, a ceremony in which goods were exchanged. Generosity was intrinsically encouraged in such cultures, since the status of a family was not judged by who had the most, but by who gave the most. Bizarrely potlatching was considered to be satanic by the church, and under pressure from missionaries both the U.S. and Canadian governments outlawed the non-capitalist practice.

Using the laws of memetics, Stoner hopes his game will spread the spirit of potlatch generosity in a viral fashion. Ultimately he envisions a time when a potlatch-like economy of generosity will run alongside our capitalist one. But, whether you're in for the ideals or for sport, The Generosity Game can be a blast. Those that want to join in can download printable cards for free or order 10 spiffy plastic ones for a suggested donation of $1.50. Perhaps your first act of guerrilla generosity should be ordering a set for a friend, anonymously of course.

Witch To Be Beheaded In Saudi Arabia

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DM_ducking_stool.jpgA woman is facing execution after being convicted of witchcraft in Saudi Arabia. In a letter sent to HRH King Abdullah bin Abd al-'Aziz Al Saud on February 13, 2008 the New York-based activist organization Human Rights Watch has called for the immediate halt of the execution of Fawza Falih Muhammad Ali.

"The fact that Saudi judges still conduct trials for unprovable crimes like 'witchcraft' underscores their inability to carry out objective criminal investigations," said Joe Stork, the organization's Middle East director. "Fawza Falih's case is an example of how the authorities failed to comply even with existing safeguards in the Saudi justice system."

After her arrest by religious police on May 4, 2004, Fawza Falih spent 35 days in detention at the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV). While in detention, Fawza Falih was beaten during interrogation sessions, and required hospital treatment after she lost consciousness during one such beating. She was denied access to a lawyer her family had hired by the head of the interrogation committee, and a confession was extracted, which Fawza Fali subsequently retracted in court.

The offense of witchcraft is not defined by Saudi law. During her trial Fawza Falih was accused of being responsible for a string of unprovable incidents. A man allegedly became impotent after being bewitched by her, and a divorced woman reportedly returned to her ex-husband during the month predicted by Fawza Fali, who was accused of casting a spell. According to court records, Fawza Falih confessed that "I take 1,500 Riyal for each act of which I send half to the magician Abu Tal'a [who allegedly taught her "witchcraft"] according to the agreement, for Abu Tal'a said to me, 'If you do not bring the money, by God, you will become possessed by jinn like dogs." As an illiterate woman, Fawza Falih says she did not understand the document she was forced to fingerprint.

During court proceedings, Fawza Falih was prevented from cross-examining her accusers, many of whom she claimed she had never even met. The judge also prevented her son, who was acting as her officially certified legal representative, from attending any of the court sessions. The court in Quraiyat, convicted Fawza Falih on April 2, 2006, and sentenced her to death by beheading. In September an appeals court ruled in Fawza Falih's favor, due to the fact that the confession, which was the foundation of her conviction, had been retracted, but a lower court then sentenced her to death on a "discretionary" basis. This court claimed the execution was in the "public interest" in order to "protect the creed, souls and property of this country."

Fawza Falih is currently imprisoned in Quraiyat Prison awaiting execution. Her only hope is a royal pardon, or that Saudi religious police take up the middle-age European practice of using a ducking stool to seek indisputable proof of Fawza Falih's supernatural abilities. This 100% foolproof pre-waterboarding method, used a mechanical device to dunk potential witches in water (see illustration). If the accused drowned she obviously had no supernatural powers and was therefore innocent of witchcraft. Survival, naturally served as proof of dark powers at work, meaning the accused could be executed for her crimes with a clear conscience. Perhaps in order to put the "matter" finally to rest, King Abdullah could borrow such a device from his buddies in our military facilities in Guantanamo Bay, where justice by water has proved most useful.

A Love Story From The Reality Gap

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DM_The Reality Gap V2.jpgOne of my favorite wits, comedian, author and playwright Ben Elton, came up with the concept of The Reality Gap. Though intended as a comedic device, much truth is said in jest, and an understanding of this concept has served me well in life, especially when I applied it to one of the toughest things to get right in life: Love.

The Reality Gap occupies the territory between the lies we tell ourselves and others, and the way things actually are. To quote the good Doctor House, "Everyone lies." You therefore can't judge a potential mate by what they say, since it'll be peppered with their own misconceptions about themselves, what they think you want to hear, and what they think they need to tell you to get what they want. Actions can also be deceptive, so you need to look at something a little more set in stone as an indication of a potential partner's true self.

One such area of relative permanence is our homes; How we decorate them can serve as a visual indication of the reality gap hidden within. A living room is intended for public view and represents how we want to be seen by the world. Conversely, a bedroom is a more personal space, which is often seen by few, its décor representing more faithfully how we see ourselves. The gap between these two rooms represents the gap between how we see ourselves and what we want others to see, and thus it is a tangible metaphorical illustration of our inner reality gap.

A reality gap is not necessarily a bad thing though, since we all have our interior and exterior worlds, but the nature of these differences speaks volumes. Dating is an exercise in exploring this space, whether it be a crack or a chasm. When we first meet someone, we do the emotional equivalent of tidying the living room from top to bottom and putting a fresh vase of flowers on the coffee table before a guest arrives in order to give a good impression. As we get to know someone, our clutter is left exposed. Eventually, if the relationship is moving forward we move into the proverbial and literal bedroom, where, however much we may try to hide, more of our true selves is revealed.

After many years of unsuccessful dating, I began to apply my understanding of The Reality Gap. Rather than concentrating on what a date said, I'd look for the underlying intension. When possible, I'd apply my living room/bedroom litmus test, perhaps by poking my head around the door while paying a bathroom visit, or by taking a more direct approach and asking for a tour of a date's home (which many people like to give).

One man I dated failed the test miserably, having a sensible blue-grey Draylon couch in the living room, and silk sheets and a gold plated bed (14 carat - I kid you not!) in his boudoir, illustrating quite a reality gulf. Against my better instincts, on the advice of a friend who felt "everyone deserves a chance," I went out with him. Needles to say, the relationship was as brief as The Reality Gap was wide.

A little older and a lot wiser, the next man I went out with lived, worked and slept in one studio room, and showed a marked lack of any Reality Gap. What he said and I saw was definitely what I got. We've been together over a decade now, and have been married for eight of those years. Thus, like a washing machine in Consumer Reports, my theory is tried, tested and approved. I promised you a love story.

DM_Daily Zen.jpgWhen most of us think "meditation", a room full of screaming traders is not the first image that comes to mind. Fluorescent lights, frantic phones, a bevy of television screens on every wall, even the most grounded of gurus would concede this environment something less than meditationally ideal. Of course, these are often precisely the times we could most use a dollop of transcendence. Enter: DailyZen.com.

In addition to inspiring quotations and e-cards, this soothing site offers an online meditation sanctuary accessible from any place with an internet connection, be that a Wall Street trading floor, a crowded airport, or your own sometimes less than calming abode.

Simply click "enter" from the DailyZen.com home page, and select "Meditation Space." From here you will be invited to pause, breathe, sit tall, and release your concerns as you enter a cyber-sanctuary peopled with fellow meditators from around the globe.

So sure, cyber-meditation may sound counter-intuitive, but when you're stuck in some I-banking cubicle (or ensconced in a houseful of children and chores), just pausing at the DailyZen meditation page and breathing for a moment can go a long way in restoring your calm and composure. To this we can all say "Om."

A Click A Day Keeps Hunger At Bay

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DM_Hunger Site.jpgThe Hunger Site offers users one of the easiest ways to make a small difference each day. All they ask is that you click on the big yellow button on their homepage once a day. In return, for each click counted, the site's sponsors will donate enough money to give 1.1 cups of food to those in need. Since its launch in June 1999, more than 300 million visitors have given more than 500 million cups of food, with an average of more than 220,000 visitors clicking for a cause each day. All of the site's advertising fees go to charity, with food being distributed by the Mercy Corps and Second Harvest. One easy way to get yourself in the click a day way, is to make The Hunger Site your new homepage. For those that can manage more than one charitable click per day, the site also offers one-click options to support free mammograms, child health care, literacy, the rainforest, and animal rescue. The site also offers free pins and bracelets (for those who register), and ecards, including Valentine’s ones, to spread the one-click love.

Parodies sprout up fast on YouTube, and sometimes satire writes itself. For a huge, if dark, laugh check out this take off on the same Obama "Yes, We Can" video we posted on Super Tuesday (if player fails to load click HERE to view). Sure, it's a spoof, but the joke isn't on the Obama campaign. Rather, the video's black humor springs from the insanity and bleak absurdity of the militaristic mentality typified by likely Republican nominee John McCain. (Who knew the man was so forward thinking, looking ahead to the year 12,008 no less!) Our deep thanks to the makers of this hilarious video that not only speaks volumes but could well help deliver some of that up-for-grabs independent vote to the Democratic ticket in November. We wish them the last laugh and us all peace.

DM_I Love You_8847628.jpgWhat is Love? Ah, that universal question, which has haunted philosophers through the ages. On February 14 we celebrate Valentines Day and honor the loved ones in our lives. But Love is so much more than paper Valentines cards, a box of chocolates or naughty lingerie. Love is the deep, deep bond that holds our little planet together, and there is no time more important to think about Love than right now.

Existentialist Rollo May once said, "Hate is not the opposite of love; apathy is." We can see all around us the evidence of the power of love to move us to do things for other people. We sacrifice ourselves for our loved ones and work to overcome all kinds of obstacles for the sake of love. This power is not only true for romantic relationships, but for other kinds of love too. The ancient Greeks said that there were four different kinds of love: Agape, a pure and selfless love, Eros, a sensual love of beauty, Philia, a brotherly and virtuous love, and Storge, the love between a parent and child.

When we broaden our understanding of love, we can see our behaviors as being motivated by the different kinds of love in our lives. We compost, because we love mother earth with the soulful love of Agape. We work to end homelessness, out of a deep feeling of Philia for our fellow human beings. We strive for healthy relationships within our families, building up from the basic foundation of love laid down by Storge. We increase the beauty in the world around us by creating beautiful pieces of artwork and sensuously honoring the physical, sexual love of Eros in our lives.

Apathy traps us in miserable, loveless lives and robs us of our power to change situations for the better. Apathy causes people to stay home on voting day, to throw away useful things that could be reused or recycled, to plop kids in front of a video instead of playing with them, and to walk right on past a fellow human being in need.

John Lennon had it right when he said, "All we need is love." We need the big, universal love and the focused, interpersonal love, and all the different kinds of love in between, to get us through the changes on humanity's horizon. Perhaps the most important kind of love is self-love, because when we love ourselves and we understand that the whole world is interconnected as one, we can see that sending love out into the world is the same as loving ourselves. So this Valentines Day, send a paper heart to yourself and initiate some magical, positive changes in the world through the power of love.

Celine Dion: Energy Fruit Loop

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Last week Celine Dion showed us how to workout like a pop star, this week at a press conference in South Africa she told reporters how to exchange energy like one by using her rather "unique" new age thumbing technique.

DM_Star Trek_Nicole On Set_CIMG3812.jpgStar Trek was creator Gene Roddenberry's blueprint for a utopian society. Civilizations united under the Federation of Planets in a future where the overwhelming problems of the 21st century, disease, poverty, hunger, sexism and racism, were no longer an issue. But rather than progressing towards such a future we seem to be regressing, and could perhaps use a little help from Star Trek to get us back on course at warp speed.

From James T. Kirk to Jonathan Archer, over the years the captains of the various incarnations of the USS Enterprise have faced numerous challenges, avoiding conflict with a myriad of alien species to maintain the peace and unity of The Federation. The Daily Mantra thought that since these captains have navigated their way through troubled times with such skill, our nation might call upon one of them to steer our country through the uncertain, and most likely tough territory that lies ahead.

We therefore ventured where no Daily Mantra reporter has gone before, to the first stop of the 40-city Star Trek Tour in Long Beach, CA to ask the most dedicated Trekkies which Star Trek captain might best lead our nation. While the favorite choices were no surprise, the quietly capable Kathryn Janeway of the Voyager series was the only captain who failed to register a single vote. Perhaps we can infer from this that even forward-thinking Star Trek fans aren't ready for a female leader quite yet.


1. "Picard, because he was very down to earth and a humanitarian." Pam, Yucca Valley

2. "I think we need somebody with Kirk's cowboy politics. If an enemy comes along, he shoots first and asks questions later. He's not really diplomatic, he just blows them away. I think we need that." Brian, Huntington Beach

3. "Picard, because he's British. Everything about the British to me is more proper and honest." Brandon, Fresno

4. "Spock, because he's logical." Patty, Fontana


5. "Jonathan Archer, because I think that he's got the tenacity, and the 'we're going to get the job done and kick some butt if you mess with us', but at the same time he's got that diplomatic feel that Picard would have." John, Fresno

6. "I'll have to say William Shatner (Kirk), because that's the only one I know." Donna, Diamond Bar

7. "Picard, because he was probably the most democratic and most thoughtful all the captains." Bill, Yucca Valley

8. "Jean-Luc Picard. I think he's strong, he's balanced, I just think he's a good person." Jeanette, Costa Mesa


9. "Captain Kirk. He's been around the longest and he's the cutest." Emily, Arizona

10. "I like Captain Kirk. He's a great actor. Well actually he kind of did a little over-acting. Perfect for the job. You've got to in front of all of those people and kind of schmooze 'em." Dean, Costa Mesa

11. "I would say Picard, because he seems to have good communication skills, at least on the show he seems like a diplomat." Chris, Diamond Bar

12. "Benjamin Sisko, because he's very forceful." Angelo, San Louis Obispo

Ghostbusting Aboard The Queen Mary

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Queen Mary.jpg

The Queen Mary was once the jewel of Cunard's cruise ship fleet, capturing the Blue Riband transatlantic speed record in both directions the year of her maiden transatlantic voyage in 1936. She served as a troopship during World War II, before returning to her peacetime cruising duties. Superseded by the jumbo jet age, with her glamor faded but not forgotten, she now serves as a hotel and museum at her permanent dock in Long Beach, CA. With a storied past, The Queen Mary has seen much love and loss, and is consequently said to be one of the most haunted places in America. My husband and I decided to check in for a night to check out the grand old lady of the sea's restless soul.

  • 5.50 p.m. As we unpacked, a bag that was lying on the bed in our room shifted a little in front of our eyes. My husband and I looked at each other and raised our eyebrows.

  • 6.06 p.m. I changed my clothes in the bedroom, while my husband took a shower in the bathroom. Suddenly, the toilet seat crashed down all on its own. The spook is on.

  • 6.25 p.m. I stopped by the Piccadilly Corner gift shop to buy a postcard or two. The manager told me that while he was a skeptic where ghosts were concerned, a very good and reliable friend of his had seen a lady in white in the lounge at the Queen Mary's Sir Winston's restaurant.

  • 6.30 p.m. Naturally our next stop was dinner with a spot of ghost-hunting on the side at Sir Winston's. I asked Jesus our waiter if he'd seen any ghosts. "I am a ghost," he jovially replied. "I serve the food and then disappear." If only he could've made our check vanish too.

  • 8.45 p.m. We watched chanteuse Lauren Koval raise the spirits of Frank Sinatra and Cole Porter by the piano in Sir Winston's lounge where the White Lady is said to hang out. Though Lauren hadn't personally seen the music-loving ghost, she did report an incident that occurred some time ago which spooked her. While getting ready to perform in the restaurant's bathroom her toothbrush got thrown from the countertop to the floor, twice.

  • 9.30 p.m. We took an evening stroll around the ship, checking out all the obvious spiritual hangouts, the bridge, the chapel and the many bars.

  • 10.33 p.m. Back in our room, my husband heard a faint thud coming from the wardrobe.

  • 12.33 a.m. The bath taps began to trickle out of the blue, and continued to do so for several minutes. Was it old plumbing or something more?

  • 8.00 a.m. After a night of strange dreams about life on board the ship during war time, I drifted awake and was left with an overwhelming sense of loss, and a black and white photographic-like image of a small boy, dressed for school in shorts and long socks, carrying an old fashioned metal lunch box in my mind's eye.

  • 8.33 a.m. My husband was awakened by a loud crash coming from next door. Judging by the equally loud voices that accompanied it, the disturbance was by those that were living rather than by anyone who'd crossed over.

  • 9.00 a.m. We heard feint, very old-fashioned singing wafting down the corridor as we made morning coffee in our room.

  • 9.11 a.m. When I went to the bathroom the toilet seat was up. My well-trained husband is always polite enough to leave it down. Very strange.

While the only spirits we can 100 percent say we experienced were the ones in our glasses after dinner, some strange things did happen that night. We'll definitely be back to investigate, and are planning to return at a later date for the Queen Mary's midnight Paranormal Investigation Tour.

An international day of protest against the Church of Scientology marked what would have been one-time member Lisa McPherson's 49th birthday. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the McPherson's family after Lisa, who was suffering from severe mental illness and had allegedly been denied access to proper medical and psychiatric treatment, died while in the care of the controversial church in 1995.

Organized by the internet-based group Anonymous, the 24-hour protest kicked off yesterday in Australia, where protesters gathered outside churches in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. According to WikiNews, protests were planned in 14 countries and over 50 different cities. The news site estimates that over 9,000 protesters worldwide took part. The site has coverage of protests in the UK (from London, Manchester, Plymouth, and Edinburgh), Belgium (Brussels), Austria (Vienna) and Canada (Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver), and from twenty America cities (including Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, and Seattle). There were numerous reports of protesters being filmed by church members. Anticipating such tactics, many of Anonymous' legion wore masks.

After being accused of "religious hate crimes" and "bigotry" in a statement released by the Church Of Scientology, Anonymous uploaded a video press release to YouTube to reiterate their policy of non-violence and to clarify their position with regards to those that follow the church's doctrine. "Although many of us are put off by L. Ron Hubbard's religious doctrine, we do not oppose the right of individuals to follow beliefs of their choice," says an Anonymous spokesperson. "As set forth in the universal declaration of human rights, everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Anonymous, as a whole, honors the spirit of this declaration. We fight against the atrocities, not the beliefs, of the brain-washing cult known as the Church of Scientology. The acts of defamation, intimidation and murder perpetrated by this criminal organization galvanize our resolve to fight against it. Our righteous indignation is directed against the hypocrisy of this institution, not against the faith of its members.”

Global Warming Video Tag: Pass It On

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(If player fails to load click HERE to view.)

DM_COS Video Still.jpgA new video has surfaced from what seems to be the busiest studio in this strike ravaged town: The Church Of Scientology. In it church leader David Miscavige calls for the "global obliteration" of psychiatry. The presentation, which outlines the organization's anti-psychiatry campaign, was filmed at a 2006/07 New Years Eve event, and features shocking video footage which shows computer generated "psych buster" hand grenades and exploding government buildings.

"Where better to begin a year-end review than with our 2006 campaign to break the dark spell cast across earth by psychiatry," says Miscavige. "That campaign was expressly, maybe even diabolically, engineered to ignite both government action and media blizzard. It's also got an internal kicker: our Mental Health Budget Adjustment kit, which essentially works like a smart bomb in that it sniffs out psych fuel lines and blows the funding mechanism."

"In that way, to put it bluntly, we booby-trap the whole psychiatric ecosystem," he continues. "So while only 9 weeks have passed since global activation, here's the preliminary action report. CHR Central has a tracking board designed to measure 'collateral damage' from our campaign roll out. It monitors both incoming complaints of psych abuse, and outgoing psych alerts to state and federal prosecutors. And while it's sometimes tricky to determine just whose bomb hit the ammo dump, this much is blazingly clear: while it takers a psych 8 years to earn his license--we've already yanked 21 in the last four weeks."

According to Miscavige, the The Way to Happiness is through his church. "To a stultified student discovering Applied Scholastics, a strung out addict entering Narconon, a failing businessman chancing on a WISE consultant, LRH technology seems nothing if not magical." Sorry to burst your bubble, but the "magical LRH technology" a.k.a. the E-meter, which is used during Scientology's auditing process, is nothing more than a Ohmmeter device invented in the 1820's which measures the electrical resistance of the skin, which varies depending on how much sweat the body produces. Pass the pills please!

Workout Like A Pop Star With Celine Dion

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Your heart will go on, and on, and on if you follow this hilarious poptastic workout. Canada's greatest export takes you through all the moves you'll need to live life at the top of the charts.

(If player fails to load click HERE to view)

Diet Soda Makes You Fat

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DM_No Diet Soda_165951.jpgWe all know that diet food can make you fat. With increased sugar often replacing fat in so-called "diet" foods, dieters often don't get enough of the satisfying fat their body needs to tell them they're full, so they inadvertently end up eating more high sugar foods, putting on weight instead of taking it off. Now it seems that diet drink may have a similar effect.

In a recently published study, scientists found a link between low calorie soda and metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of medical disorders (high blood pressure, obesity, and abnormal cholesterol levels) that leads to an increased risk of heart disease, stokes and diabetes.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health and the University of North Carolina's Department of Nutrition gave a 66-item food frequency questionnaire to 9514 participants aged between 45 and 64 years old. After nine years of follow up, 3782 cases of metabolic syndrome were identified among those studied.

While dairy consumption proved to be beneficial, the study found that meat and fried food were adversely associated with metabolic syndrome. What they found surprising was that there also seemed to be a correlation between drinking diet soda and metabolic syndrome. The risk of developing metabolic syndrome was 34 percent higher among those who consumed one or more cans of diet soda each day when compared with those who drank none.

It seems there's one less short cut on the road to good health. The Daily Mantra recommends you give up your diet soda, and drink water, fruit juice or tea instead.

Procrastination Is Underrated

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DM_Bubble Wrap.jpgProcrastination is the Rodney Dangerfield of human experience. It's something you'll never get respect for, it's under-appreciated and underrated. If you tune into your need to procrastinate however, you may just find it serves a purpose. It may just be your mind's way of telling you it's not quite ready to do the task at hand.

Next time you get the urge to procrastinate, don't fight it, but work with it. Surrender to your need and go do something else, but do something rather than nothing. We're not extolling the virtues of being a couch potato, but sometimes your mind does need the freedom to wonder.

Try performing some mindless task, such as doing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom, while giving your unconscious mind the brain-break it needs to do its thing. You may start on your intended task two hours, or even two days later, but you'll do it better and more efficiently, and you'll have a clean toilet to boot!

Need procrastination inspiration? Try hitting these appropriately mindless (in the best sense of the word) sites:

It seems dolphins not only enjoy making bubbles as much as human children (see video), but they also have a "word" that's equivalent to the gleeful sound humans make while at play.

Liz Hawkins, a scientist from the Whale Research Centre at Southern Cross University in New South Wales, Australia, spent three years listening in to dolphin gossip. Her team recorded 1,647 whistles from 51 different pods in Byron Bay, New South Wales. By comparing the frequency and duration of these whistles she identified 186 distinct types, with a subgroup of 20 being most the commonly used "words" in the dolphins' vocabulary.

As the dolphins rode the wave created by the team's boat, they would make a flat-toned whistle, which Hawkins believes is similar in meaning to a child on a slide shouting "wheeee." Hawkins thinks another whistle commonly made by lonesome dolphins could mean "I'm here, where is everyone?"

"This communication is highly complex and it is contextual, so in a sense it could be termed a language," says Hawkins in an interview with New Scientist magazine.

If dolphins, along with other highly sentient animals, are capable of such complex human-like communication, many scientists are now arguing that we should extend human-like rights to such creatures. Though this may ultimately lead to more controversy as we argue about which species these rights are extended to, it is becoming increasingly clear that humans no longer have the monopoly on what we perceive as humanity.

The New Face Of Sustainable Winemaking

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They say you can't judge a book by its cover, and you certainly shouldn't judge a Central Coast wine by its label. For though there's not yet an official looking logo to alert consumers to their efforts, many of the region's winemakers are quietly adopting sustainable practices, making much of the wine from the area as good for the earth as it is for your spirits.

One such winery is Laetitia. Founded in the early 80s by French champagne house Deutz, Laetitia's breathtaking Arroyo Grande estate has since come under the careful stewardship of owner Selim Zilkha, and Lino Bozzano, who oversees the extensive vineyards. A third generation California farmer, Bozzano began his career by studying viticulture at college. His love of the land led him to become an early proponent of sustainable methods. Unlike the highly recognizable organic mark, the sustainable movement has yet to tightly bind its rules and put a stamp on them. In the meantime, like many farmers on the Central Coast, Bozzano participates in two voluntary self-assessments: the Central Coast Vineyard Team's Positive Points Program and the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance's Code of Sustainable Winegrowing.

"There's three principles," says Bozzano as he explains the essence of sustainable practices. "Is it environmentally friendly or responsible? Is it socially responsible? And is it economically viable? Whenever we're looking at putting input into the ranch we're asking those three questions."

It could be argued that since the rules of organic farming are so rigid, sustainable practices make sense for such a delicate crop, and a winemaking process that is steeped in thousands of years of tradition. "I prefer sustainability over organic farming because sustainability takes in the whole ecosystem of your farm," says Bozzano. "The hardest part for me about organics is it's very limited, and it doesn't address wine quality in the same way."

Bozzano maintains that some of his sustainable practices may even be more earth friendly than the ones demanded by organic codes when the big picture is taken into account. He cites the issue of spraying versus mechanical weed control as an example of this new thinking. The mechanical methods favored by organic farming require more tractor passes, and therefore use more fuel and spew out more CO2. So which is better for the planet? A well-chosen, minimally or non-toxic herbicide? Or oil-powered, mechanical methods? Where possible Bozzano chooses to take the third way, and uses the best of all worlds (traditional, organic and sustainable) to do what's best for the earth, what's best for the wine, and what's best for the dedicated team that makes it.

The Daily Mantra took a scenic drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to Laetitia to get better acquainted with their grapes, both in the glass and on the vine. As we toured the vineyards with Bozzano, he pointed out many of the sustainably-minded practices that lie behind each bottle of Laetitia's wine.

DM_9046336.jpgTwo leading Church of England Bishops are asking us to give up something more worthwhile than chocolate for lent this year. "Traditionally people have given up things for Lent. This year we are inviting people to join us in a carbon fast," says The Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones. "It is the poor who are already suffering the effects of climate change. To carry on regardless of their plight is to fly in the face of Christian teaching."

"The tragedy is that those with the power to do something about it are least affected, whilst those who are most affected are powerless to bring about change," he added. "There's a moral imperative on those of us who emit more than our fair share of carbon to rein in our consumption."

Jones, who is also vice-president of Tearfund, a Christian relief and development agency working with a global network of local churches to help eradicate poverty, came up with the idea of a carbon fast in a meeting with Dr Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London and David Miliband, who was serving as the British Environment Secretary at the time. Working with Tearfund, Jones has put together a 40-day fast plan.

On day one, Ash Wednesday (Feb 6th), participants are asked to "remove one light bulb and live without it for the next 40 days." At the end of the 40-day program, which includes tasks such as shopping locally, forsaking the use of the "stand-by" mode on electronic items, and stopping junk mail, Tearfund suggest you "replace your missing bulb with an energy-saving lightbulb" since "over its lifetime, you will save 60kg of carbon dioxide per year."

`We all have a pivotal role to play in tackling the stark reality of climate change," says Chartres. "Together we have a responsibility to God, to future generations and to our own wellbeing on this earth to take action."

Whether you're Christian or not, if you'd like to participate in the carbon fast, click HERE for a PDF of the full 40 Day Plan (which is also printed HERE). For daily reminders via email click HERE.

DM_DEAR COS2.jpgWe reported last week that the Church of Scientology received white powder in hoax letters mailed to several locations in Los Angeles and Orange Country (see story), and speculated that this may be the work of Anonymous, an internet-based group which is waging a high-tech war against the cult-like organization. In response to such speculation, Anonymous put a statement up on their website:

"Anonymous does not work like most organizations you have come across before, and therefore your common understanding of "responsibility" cannot logically be applied to us. Anonymous should not be thought of as a single entity, with a focus on a single path to a single goal - there is no hierarchy; there are no order-givers or order-takers. Rather, we work as individuals or as small groups, getting our ideas about what to do by communicating with each other. Whoever did this was a small group who made their own choice for their own actions, and they are the ones who are responsible. They may not even be Anonymous (they might even have been a plant by the "Church" of Scientology as black propaganda); we do not know, and by the nature of our organization, cannot know. However, be assured that the vast majority of us have not attempted to organize any actions which will cause physical or mental damage to any persons. This is indeed self-evident, if you will look past the distortions of the media - because out of the many (estimate: hundreds of) thousands of us participating in this project, the media has only managed to produce ONE report of such an action."

Like much of the media, we'd previously referred the organization as a "hacker group," but Anonymous are keen to dispel this image:

"Anonymous is a collective of individuals united by an awareness that someone must do the right thing, that someone must bring light to the darkness, that someone must open the eyes of a public that has slumbered for far too long....Among our numbers you will find individuals from all walks of life - lawyers, parents, IT professionals, members of law enforcement, college and graduate students, veterinary technicians and more. "

In order to highlight what they call the "the gross human rights violations committed by this cult, " the group are now taking their fight beyond the confines of the web, and are calling for a day of more traditional protest outside Scientology locations worldwide on February 10th. To this end, Anonymous have outlined their plans in a new video, and have prepared a list of 22 rules for those wishing to join their legion. The message, which suggests that protesters cover their faces and wear sensible shoes, starts by explaining, "The purpose of the demonstration in a modern western society is to convey a message to the public," and ends with a reminder that, "the success of the demonstration as a whole hinges on the good behavior of all those who participate."

DM_Hi;;ary_8648716.jpgHillary Clinton told reporters this past weekend that, "It would be a big mistake for Democrats to nominate someone who's already conceded on the issue of universal health care.'' I can't help agreeing with her. Universal health care only really works, or even makes sense, if it's just that: Universal.

The point that most insured seem to miss is that they're the ones that are currently footing the bill for our half-assed, non-universal, universal system. When the insured pay their premiums, they're not just paying for their own insurance, they're also paying for the massive emergency room bill that's being racked up by the uninsured. Since emergency departments are the only part of our health care system that is federally required to provide health care to all patients, that's where the uninsured go, en masse, to get medical attention when they're sick. And the insured, not the government, pay for it through inflated bills and insurance premiums.

Because of this existing non-universal, universal system, America's emergency medical system is breaking down. The financial liability that comes with having an emergency department means many hospitals are electing not to have emergency facilities. Those that do exist are over-crowded and overwhelmed. According to a Heritage.org report, in one state surveyed, over 40% of patients seeking treatment at emergency departments had "non-urgent medical problems." Those who do have real emergency medical problems are therefore being put at risk by our current, very arbitrary, emergency health care policy, and our emergency departments are too busy coping with the everyday problems of the uninsured to be able to deal with any real large-scale emergencies.

At the moment the insured are in essence penalized for being prepared. The same goes for companies with health plans for their workers. Those companies that do the right thing by their workforce are not only put at a vast disadvantage when competing against less public-spirited companies, they're also picking up the health care tab for the workers of those companies via inflated premiums. The only way for this imbalance to be addressed is with truly universal health care.

Hillary conceded on Saturday that wages may have to be garnisheed to pay for her plan. So what? Any universal health plan will be far cheaper that the rocketing private insurance premiums individuals and companies are paying now. Think about it for a moment. Compare your health insurance premium (if you have one) to your overall tax bill. I did. Even though I'm young, fit, and have no history of serious illness, I actually pay more per month for my health insurance than I do in federal taxes. How can that be right? How can my health insurance cost more than my share of the overall national budget which funds schools, social services, roads, the military, the war, etc., etc..

It doesn't make sense, and it won't until our health care is taken out of the hands of the greedy health insurance companies, with their out of control profits, which are protected by numerous pieces of highly dubious legislation. Just this past weekend it was reported that a woman called Barbara Antonelli from Staten Island was hounded for a $5 co-pay while on a gurney in the midst of a heart attack. Should our nations health really be in the hands of such a sick system?

Got health insurance, and a little in the bank for a rainy day? Think you’re OK? Think again; A 2007 Newsweek report on health care in our country estimates that to die with dignity even those with insurance will need an additional $300,000 to pay for long term care and other costs that aren’t covered by health insurance. This means that even those with insurance and six or seven figures in the bank are putting their longterm financial security at risk by putting their faith in our current system. As for the rest of us, with illness being the number one cause of bankruptcy, few of us can afford to die. Those that do will have likely surrendered their savings, their home, and their dignity, before their final breath. Now ask yourself again. Can we afford not to have universal health care?

DM_DEAR COS.jpgThe Church of Scientology has received prank envelopes in the mail containing a mysterious white powder at at least 19 of their locations in Los Angeles and Orange County. According to an AP report "The letters began showing up Wednesday. Glendale police shut down a street for two hours and Tustin authorities evacuated 60 people from buildings as hazardous materials teams were called in.” Further testing revealed the power was harmless. A spokesman for the Glendale police department, talking to a Los Angeles Times reporter, said, "We determined it was corn starch."

There's no word yet as to whether this hoax was the work of hacker group Anonymous, who began a campaign they call Project Chanology against The Church of Scientology in response to its aggressive efforts to suppress various leaked videos featuring Mission Impossible star Tom Cruise. In a video released via YouTube, Anonymous claims the church is "nothing but a psychotically driven pyramid scheme." The group clogged church phone lines, sent blank faxes, and crippled the Scientology.org website using denial of service software as part of their efforts to "destroy" the organization.

In their second video, entitled "Dear News Organizations," Anonymous stated that "the church has been declared fair game." This is most likely a reference to the Scientology Fair Game Law. According to Wikipedia, this states that Suppressive Persons (SPs), a term that is often applied to those whom the Church of Scientology perceives as its enemies, "May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist.” Furthermore it says SPs “may be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.” Anonymous may therefore consider that pranks, such as these bogus anthrax packages, fit into their rules of engagement in this new holy war.

Lost In Lost?

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DM_Lost Pedia.jpgLost in Lost? Help is at hand, for viewers of the show at least, if not for those stuck on the island. Lost-Pedia is an unparalleled resource for all things Lost, hosting 3,575 articles, and counting, related to the enigmatic ABC series. If you've lost the plot, as Hurely did in last night's season premiere, you can fill in the blanks thanks to the kind folks at AOL, who are hosting all three previous seasons in HD online. With flash-forwards being the new flashbacks, even the most avid follower of the fortunes of Oceanic Flight 815 might need some enlightenment from Lost guru/blogger Daniel, who hosts a Lost Diary Q&A each Monday. Can't wait for the next episode? Oceanic Air promise to take you to "places you never imagined." Try booking a flight with them at FlyOceanicAir.com. And remember what's lost can be found. Join the search at Find815.com.