February 03, 2006

LinkNews Digest [02/03/2006]

"Springtime for Hitler" a hit in Israel

Bringing "The Producers" to Israel might seem like just another plot twist to Mel Brooks' Broadway musical about getting rich off a surefire theatrical flop. But it's for real, in Hebrew, and playing to packed houses.

And in a country where the Holocaust is an abiding trauma, swastika armbands, Nazi helmets and the signature song "Springtime for Hitler" are going down as smoothly as they did in Brooks' movie.

The production, which premiered January 26 at the 920-seat Kameri Theater, is a huge hit. But it was never a sure thing.

On a recent night at the Kameri, the audience whooped, roared and applauded at the sight of Itzik Cohen's grotesquely obese Hitler, at Bialystock and Bloom (Israeli stars Shlomo Bar Abba and Dror Keren), and at Liebkind, the helmeted, pigeon-rearing Nazi playwright (Elli Gornstein).

The response is in sharp contrast to the uproar that follows concert performances of the music of Hitler's favorite composer, the anti-Semitic Richard Wagner, and Almagor thinks the reaction to "The Producers" suggests "a certain maturity of Israeli audiences."(LINK )

Western Union Sends Last Telegram

"Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you for your loyal patronage. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a customer service representative."

The decline of telegram use goes back at least to the 1980s, when long-distance telephone service became cheap enough to offer a viable alternative in many if not most cases. Faxes didn't help. Email could be counted as the final nail in the coffin.

Western Union has not failed. It long ago refocused its main business to make money transfers for consumers and businesses. Revenues are now $3 billion annually. It's now called Western Union Financial Services, Inc. and is a subsidiary of First Data Corp.

On Jan. 26, the last day you could send a telegram, First Data announced it would spin Western Union off as an independent, publicly traded company.(LINK )

Japanese Invent Fridge Raider Robot

Finally, The Japanese have created something to keep Americans from the crippling pain of having to get off their fat asses and get themselves another beer from the fridge.
TOKYO - Though his movement is a bit stiff, slow and voice monotonous, he willingly turns on the television with a chest-mounted remote control, and brings a can of drink for you. Within years, a humanoid robot HRP-2, currently under development by a Japanese national technology institute, could be a little domestic helper.

The robots, named Promet, are being developed by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and can run errands. They are designed to respond to verbal instructions and are capable of capturing three-dimensional images of objects and locating them through an infrared sensor.

As Hara tells one of the two robots, "Please come here," it responds with a robotic voice saying, "What can I do for you?" Asked to turn on the TV, Promet repeats the instructions, "I will turn on the TV" before he executes the command.

When Hara asks for a bottle of juice, the two demonstrate a more advanced task, one relays the instruction to the other, saying "Please take care of this." [Signs of Amercian Management style Delegation of work! -ed]

The second robot huddles to a refrigerator, stands in front of it for a while, saying "Confirming the location of the refrigerator." Then he says "Searching for the juice," slowly opens the door with a right hand, grabs a bottle of drink with his left hand, shuts the fridge, then walks back to him, squats down at the table and carefully places it on the coffee table.(LINK )

More Beer Fetching Robot Action

Here’s a match made in heaven: beer and robots. For most of the world, it’s a match we are left to simply dream of (you know, slave bots bringing you a cold one, instead of the usual "Get it yourself!") If you live in Japan however, you should know that Asahi is running a promotion where they’ll be giving away 5,000 fully stocked refrigerator robots. What do these lovely creatures do?

Well, aside from stocking and cooling up to six cans of beer and two mugs, upon the press of a button, the machine will open up a can, and pour in into the mug with a perfect head every time.

To win one, contestants must collect 36 seals found on specially marked Asahi beers. Of course, you don’t have to drink the beer. but then you’d probably be missing the point.(LINK via Gizmodo )

Deja Vu, Turk 182

Teenage hooligans are being invited by Dutch transport chiefs to put their new underground trains to the test. The youths will be given free reign to tear up seats and pull apart fittings in the new trains to see which parts are vulnerable to violence and need improving.

Amsterdam city councillor Mark van der Horst said: "We want to make sure our new trains for the city's underground are completely idiot-proof, and will see if the prototype can withstand vandalism before producing more of them.(LINK )

Invention of the Week: The Approximate Watch

What time is it? "Two hairs past a freckle, Eastern Elbow Time," says the Talus AboutTime, the watch that doesn’t really care what time it is. Well, it’s a little more exact than that. It notifies you of the time of day with breezy, insouciant phrases such as, "it’s coming up on a quarter past 8," or "it’s a bit past 5," or "it’s nearly 1 thirty." For those anal types who really must know exactly what time it is, a click of the crown takes you back into the world of "reality-based" timekeeping. Talus plans to have another model in its lineup called the Talus Timeline, an elongated rectangular watch where the hour numeral starts at the top and slowly floats down as the hour progresses. I suppose these watches, neither of which has been manufactured yet, would be great for those of us bloggers who make up the ranks of the pajamahadeen, but for button-down office types, not sure the boss would care for the idea of you showing up for work at "around 10." (LINK )

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