Monday, November 08, 2010

"New" Michael Jackson track 'Breaking News' a fake

PopSpiracy has come out of the shadows to announce that the "new" Michael Jackson track "Breaking News" is indeed fake.

Sony has defended the song, saying they had "experts" confirm its authenticity. Sony is a corporation (one that, mind you, had a terrible relationship with Michael Jackson) and can thus get anyone to say the track is authentic to protect their investment.

Upon listening to the track tonight, there is no doubt. As a longtime listener of 20+ years, holder of one of the largest footage collections in the country of Michael Jackson performances from the start of his career to the end, and owning all the Jackson albums, B-sides, and unreleased tracks currently available, I can guarantee this is not (entirely) Michael.

Sony has sampled the classic signature MJ sounds, (i.e. "Aaaoow", "Heehee", etc) which are authentic and a few of the sung lyrics are Michael Jackson. The vast majority of the lyrics are done by another singer, and the voice transposed over Michael Jackson's is not his. It's as though the samples and overlay serve to "trick" the audience into believing it is his voice.

I can only conjecture, but given that he did sing a few of the lyrics, perhaps this was a song he went into the studio and begun but left mostly unfinished so in a rush to get out a quick album and make some cash, Sony hired someone to fill in the large missing gaps.

Truly bizarre, indeed. I am glad I listened to this first, I will definitely not be purchasing this album or supporting such behavior and encourage others to do the same.

Take it from Michael's mother, LaToya, and children - they know his voice far more than an unnamed "expert".

Bad blood between Sony and Michael Jackson is nothing new, Michael referred to Sony records and it's then-president Tommy Motolla as "the devil" as they engaged in vindictive behavior when he refused to sell them his stake of the Sony ATV Beatles catalog. They failed to promote his "Invincible" album (which sold over 7 million copies regardless on zero promotion) and did not allow the "You Rock My World" video to be completed to his satisfaction nor would they release other videos for the album, which was to be his last.

I don't doubt that they probably have their hands on a few legit tracks, but this one is certainly not one of them and if it's any indication of what fans can expect, that's not saying much - I'm sure this won't be the only deceptive track.

The Jackson family itself holds much of Michael's unreleased music and his children have hundreds of songs at their disposal should they ever decide to release them to the public one day. Until then - steer clear.

Another odd tidbit - the symbol representing the Artist Formerly Known As Prince appeared on the album cover (above) in a bubble in a montage of images from Michael's career. Unsurprisingly, it has been removed (most likely by the request of the lawsuit-happy Purple One) , yet Prince had no connection to Michael Jackson's career nor did they get along, making the symbol's appearance (and speedy disappearance) inexplicable.

UPDATE: A second leaked track, "Keep Your Head Up" has just been released - and is NOT Michael Jackson's voice.

UPDATE: Just-released "Hold My Hand" track w/ Akon is an authentic song, as is "Much Too Soon".

As expected, the album is partially authentic and partially fraud.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Karate Kid: Then and Now

Like most children of the 1980's, 'The Karate Kid' paid my VCR frequent visits. "Wax on, wax off" randomly found its way into conversation and The Crane never got old.

Upon seeing the trailer of The Karate Kid (2010), I was riddled with skepticism. A long-time Jackie Chan fan and lover of the original film, I couldn't possibly imagine how any of this was a good idea. If anything, it felt like a step down. Not to mention, Pat Morita's Oscar-nominated performance as Mr. Miyagi felt irreplaceable. It is, but I was pleasantly surprised that this film breathed new life into a franchise long in need of a makeover. That's not to suggest I'd like to see any more versions of it. While the traditionalist in me was offended by the need to remake a favored childhood film, I also understand that younger generations would rather watch anything but something made prior to their birth. From this angle, this remake feels like a necessity. It's a feel-good winning formula audiences never tire of.

Watching the opening title sequence of the 2010 version, I noted that Will Smith & Jada Pinkett-Smith were among the films producers, heavily implying that Jaden Smith landed a role due to his parents involvement. I found myself studying his movements, trying to find glimpses of his parents. What I didn't anticipate was his natural talent and on-screen watchability. Yes, he was cute, and like most child stars will earn him harsher critiques, but his real appeal lies in his ability to bring the authenticity and heart to the picture required of any actor taking on the title role in the series. Dre Parker is more confident than Daniel LaRusso (who happened to be far more skittish than I remembered upon revisiting the original film for this review). However, his lack of karate skills and small stature and the ferocity of his enemies instantly makes you feel he's at a disadvantage. Watching both films back-to-back, Dre appears far more capable towards the film's climax of being a great fighter than Daniel. It seems Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) has prepared him far more for battle than Miyagi. Jackie Chan doesn't try to replicate Pat Morita, nor should he. Both turn in performances worthy of their leads. Only instead of Morita upstaging Ralph Macchio, Jaden Smith somehow manages to steal the show from world-famous icon Jackie Chan, no small feat. By the film's climax, I forgot Jaden Smith's family relations and had to give him the props he clearly deserved; only to be horrified that the film's ending title sequence is loaded with pictures of Jaden hanging out on set with his famous parents. Clearly, their names in the credits roll wasn't enough. This was a true disappointment felt after a feel-good show.

The ultimate curse of any celebrity offspring is having one famous parent, nonetheless two, and finding a way to dissociate the public with that. Every celebrity child suffers for this, as they have to work twice as hard to earn a name for themselves and endure constant comparison. Jaden Smith had the opportunity of a lifetime and proved himself worthy of it, regardless of how he ended up with the part to begin with. Sadly, his parents couldn't let him bask in his cinematic glory without reminding us all of his birthright. Given that I haven't seen Will Smith in a few years, I guess he felt the need to stay relevant. I personally feel they did their son a true disservice. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his son also does a Will Smith-esque rap in a soundtrack song in the film's ending. I have hope for Jaden Smith's acting future, he is a capable and multi-talented young artist who can forge his own path if he uses his parents as inspirations, not clones.

The Karate Kid story is timeless. Not simply because of fancy martial arts moves or unique character relationships, but because The Karate Kid is about self-respect. We all have choices in our daily lives to pack up our things and walk away or to confront challenges head-on. When the going gets tough, we can shape up or ship out. There comes a time in all our lives where we learn to stand on our own two legs (or one) and set out to chart a new course toward the life we deserve and truly want. Note that Miyagi and Han's lessons come in unconventional ways but teach discipline through the simple practices of picking up your clothes off the floor or painting a fence. After all, if respect doesn't begin within our own personal environments, we can't expect it outside our front door. LaRusso and Parker learn to respect themselves which ultimately leads them on the path to earning the respect of others. Not through flying fists but through an unwillingness to let the bullies have the last word and to take a stand. We all deserve to live lives free of fear and oppression, but acceptance first begins with us.


Sunday, May 09, 2010

"Iron Man 2" Pays Homage to Walt Disney's Epcot

Attending a screening of 'Iron Man 2' on opening weekend, my inner Epcot fanchild could not have been more pleased. The film makes multiple references to my favorite Disney World park.

Tony Stark uncovers footage his father Howard left behind to help him unlock the secrets of his inventions. In this vintage footage, Howard speaks about the City of Tomorrow and stands in a suit and tie in front of the model of his futuristic city. He bears a striking resemblance to Walt Disney himself discussing his blueprint of his vision of the "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow" (EPCOT). They even bear a similar mustache.

If you look at the actual model of the fictional city in the film, it bears an extreme resemblance to the actual early models built for Epcot right down to the placement and specific buildings, namely of Future World. As you can see in the film, Howard Stark's future city is ultimately built, as seen below Iron Man as he flies through the sky, including a flight between a metal globe that bears a similarity to the globe that travels through the middle of World Showcase Lagoon for the IllumiNations fireworks extravaganza.

Once Tony Stark uncovers the key to Howard Stark's vision, his electronic blueprints expand in mid-air into a perfect geodesic sphere that is Spaceship Earth, the iconic centerpiece of Epcot.

Clearly, Disney's $4 billion Marvel Comics investment has its perks.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

PopSpiracy's Practical Guide to Weight Loss

I bumped into an acquaintance at the supermarket this week I hadn't seen since last year. Her eyes bulged out of her head when she saw me, she barely recognized me. It's at times like these that I realize my weight loss has been truly drastic. The #1 question asked of me is, "How did you do it?" This question seems rather odd to me, as I believe the majority of the public is already well aware of how to lose weight, it's actually putting it into practice that is off-putting to many. Perhaps the question does warrant a lengthier explanation, so to answer the age-old question in a more precise manner, I bring to you my methods. In doing so, please note my plan worked for me and I can't guarantee it'll work for you. Also, I don't make any money off my blog so any products I may mention are simply personal preferences I felt willing to share. I lost weight as a personal goal, not to please others. I encourage all of you to make positive changes in your life and silence your inner critic. I feel great since my weight loss. If it's something you want to do for you, go for it.

In a rare breach of privacy, I bring to you the following - an admission that I was an emotional eater and junk food addict, that I lost massive amounts of weight in a short time span, and the story of how I did it.

It was 2008. I was going through a particularly horrendous time in my life emotionally, and it reflected in my habits. I found comfort in eating copious amounts of food; the less healthy, the better. While I didn't realize it at the time, my lack of nutrition and healthy habits increased the fluctuations of my moods and contributed to making life far worse for me than need be. A personal tragedy made me further aware that time was short, life was precious, and I needed to get myself together and feel better. Deep down, I believe we are all aware of the changes we need to make... it's finding the strength and willpower to do it that proves the most challenging.

From personal experience, I've found several personal motto's that I believe to be truthful and helpful:

#1: You are what you eat.
I never understood this expression when I was younger. I learned the hard way. This is sort of another take on the karmic belief that what you put out into the universe comes back to you. Eating and living in an unhealthy manner will result in an unhealthy you.

#2: Change is possible. The first step is BELIEVING.
Never underestimate the power of belief. Most people I know that have talked about weight loss come up with a great deal of reasons to procrastinate or to believe that it isn't going to happen. 'Well, I've tried before and it didn't work.' 'Maybe one day I will.' 'The universe made me this way.' I know right away said people won't lose the weight and do what needs to be done. The first step to change is realizing one needs to take place and to take personal responsibility. The second is BELIEVING change is possible. The rest will come, but only if you truly believe it can and will. Out of the firmness of that belief comes the willpower.

#3: Don't "diet".
Diets never work. People lose the weight only to rapidly put it on again. I don't call my eating habits a "diet", I call them a "lifestyle". It's a personal commitment, not a temporary fad.

I also have a few additional weight loss tips to share prior to delving deeper into my tale...

#1: The most valuable tip I ever heard about committing to a healthier lifestyle was to "fall in love with it". Go to supermarkets, pick up new things you've never tried, read the health magazines that are available near your health supermarket entrance or exit, you'd be amazed at the information they provide. Read about health, educate yourself about it. Own it. Get yourself excited about it or find new ways to change your perspective. Discover your alternative healthy supermarkets. If you stick to local, note that even WalMart is carrying a larger selection of all-natural and organic produce.

#2: Be patient. You won't see the results immediately. Trust the process and that it's working.

You can do this by eating multiple times a day, at least 5 or 6 times. Meaning three meals and healthy snacks in between every few hours.

#4: Eat until you are satisfied, not until you are full.
If you can be responsible about it, you are allowed to eat something less than healthy once in a blue moon, and not feel horrible about it. If you don't allow yourself a little wiggle room once in a while, you aren't going to stick with it. Be responsible about your health and a little splurge every now and then won't hurt too much. Bring someone with you if you are going to have a desert and take a bite or two to satisfy any cravings, share the rest of the desert so you don't have to eat a whole thing.

#5: Tailor your food and exercise lifestyle to your liking.
Don't force yourself to eat foods you dislike, choose the fruits, veggies, etc. that you can actually stick to eating and enjoying. You don't have to suffer to eat delicious food and stay healthy. Stick to exercises and sports you enjoy, don't force yourself to do things you can't stand or it won't last.

Weight loss tip #6 (and a few extra pointers):
Eat at home. Restrict eating out to at least once a week. It'll save you a lot of money and loads of calories. Contrary to what your mother says, you don't have to eat everything on your plate. And certainly, not all at once. Bring home a doggie bag at restaurants. If you are on the road and think you have to eat junk food to get something quick, don't compromise your health for quick calorie intake. Many fast food chains now offer healthier alternatives and substitutions, i.e. apples instead of fries, etc. I find that purchasing kids meals is a great way to limit portion size and calories when you do splurge, same as kids packs at the movie theater. No, they won't ask for your ID! Eat before you go to the movies, ask for a cup for water while there. Instead of fast junk food, swing inside your gas station while pumping up. They have fruits available as well as ready-made sandwiches, such as your basic turkey-cheese for less than 250 calories. Who said convenience has to be bad?

Weight loss tip #7:
Drink lots of water. At restaurants, instead of asking for a multitude of drinks, stick with plain water. You'll be surprised at how much money is shed off your dining bills. Not to mention, the more water you drink at mealtime, the less food you'll eat as your stomach will have less room. Avoid sodas, even diet soda, which is loaded with aspartame. There are water calculators online that give you a rough idea of how much water you should drink daily for your size. When it comes to drinks, I stick with water and natural/low-cal fruit juices.

Health tip:
Eat organic and all natural where possible. It's not just a fad, the long term health benefits add up when you stay away from additives, preservatives, pesticides, hormones, etc, which cumulatively lead to numerous cancers and trips to the hospital. Yes, there are organic fries, burgers, etc. Note that these are healthier, but they are still what they are. Just because you see an organic chocolate chip cookie doesn't mean it isn't loaded with the usual calories!

READ LABELS. THOROUGHLY. Take into account serving size when adding up calories.

Even fast food restaurants now offer calorie counters on their websites. The next time you are craving that Burger King mega-meal, check the site first, do the calculations, and you might just talk yourself out of it.

Humans are as diverse as it gets, do what works for you. I am mentioning some of my favorites and general thoughts on mealtime, again, tailor to meet your own liking.

They say this is the most important meal of the day. I'll be the first to admit I was never fond of having breakfast, so I found ways to do it while 'on the go'. Which generally means a healthy granola bar like Kashi, and some sort of yogurt, fruit, or smoothies. If it's cereal you want, there are plenty of healthy and inexpensive brands available at health food stores that are low in sugar. Instead of regular milk, try soy milk, almond milk, or rice milk.

The wonder that is "the smoothie".
Smoothies are fantastic and very easy to make. My recipe consists of:
-a bag of frozen fruit (there are all sorts of combinations possible. Your supermarket most likely has a mixed concoction, such as mixed berries or some sort of tropical blend)
-a scoop of rice or soy-based ice cream, as opposed to dairy) to thicken
-powders/granules (You can toss in all sorts of healthy things in a smoothie you can't taste, such as whey protein powder. I also use lecithin granules (soy) and bee pollen, which comes in granule form) for extra vitamins, protein, etc. There are numerous vitamin powders and combinations available, chose those that meet your particular needs.
-one bottle of all natural fruit juice (apple, pineapple, etc)

All of this should fit into your blender, and should make three servings worth. There are great smoothie bottles you can buy, I recommend filling three of them up and keeping them in your refrigerator for the week so you can grab and go if you have a busy day or not hassle yourself in the morning with preparation. Smoothies are quick to make and very healthy.

Other breakfast items I enjoy are apple slices with nut butters (such as almond butter, etc).

Note that there are healthier versions of breakfast foods available on the market, feel free to make substitutions. For example, if you are a bacon lover, choose turkey bacon instead. It's tasty and has half the fat. Health food stores should offer you a number of organic sausages, buckwheat pancakes, etc. You don't have to sacrifice the foods you love, find substitutions or alternate versions that provide great taste and healthy benefits.


Lunch should be your largest meal of the day. I recommend making your lunch meals in advance and leaving them in tupperware in the fridge so you can grab and go in the morning and not be tempted to eat lunch out.

I will confess to having a love of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which I often choose as a lunch possibility. I chose jelly that is sugar-free, organic, all natural, etc. and peanut butter with extra health benefits, such as Naturally More, which is high in fiber. The best solution I've found to yummy sandwich bread is Arnold Wheat Thins. They are literally miraculous. Only 100 calories and available in flavors from Honey Wheat to Multi-Grain and Whole Wheat, they are inexpensive, come in decent size packs, stay fresh in your fridge, and are just the right size for portion control and are very tasteful. Many brands have jumped on the bandwagon with similar products. They have so many purposes it's astounding - you can toast them and spread nut butters or jams on them for breakfast, you can turn them into lunch sandwiches, or use them as hamburger buns.


Make sure to have your final meal several hours prior to bedtime. No midnight snacks!

Fruits, honey glazed almonds, nuts, seeds, organic apple sauce, fruit cups (beware high sugar content), yogurt (particularly greek yogurt), salads (watch the dressing!), Quakers cheddar cheese mini-cakes, etc.

I eat a small portion of light or reduced-fat cheese every day, such as a mini-Babybel cheese wheel or mini-cheese wedge on light crackers.

While I still eat meat, I eat it less. I have incorporated beans into my lifestyle. While baked beans appear to be an American staple at cookouts, I admittedly never made friends with many members of the legume family until recently. Since I changed my food habits, I found that my body not only changed, but began to ask me for different things. Listen to your body, it knows what it needs. Apparently, my body wanted more beans and less meats, and being as beans are so high in protein. Watch out for the sodium in beans, aim for sodium-free and reduced fat items.

I was never aware there was such a large number of great-tasting substitutes on the market. As a self-proclaimed picky eater, I was wary of this concept. I have since learned this is a mistake, not only does eating healthy taste great, but I can still eat the things I like in healthier versions. Veganaise is one of the miracle substitutions I've discovered. It doesn't taste identical to mayonnaise though it has a similar consistency, however it has a very pleasant taste and works fantastic in sandwiches, deli casserole/salad recipes, etc. It is refrigerated and often found at health supermarkets. Meatless meat was an idea that would have scared me in the past, but I have found it to be intriguing. Who knew meatless meatballs really tasted like meatballs?! Don't be afraid to explore and try new things. You just might surprise yourself.

My approach to this is much like my approach to food - tailor it to your liking if you want to make it a habit. No one is going to force themselves to eat food they don't like or do exercises they can't stand if they don't want to. There's a fallacy that one needs to spend a lot of money to eat healthy and to lose weight. This is untrue. There are plenty of ways to cut corners at the supermarket (fruits and veggies don't cost that much, it costs more to eat out than to eat in, and you can even buy a baked organic whole chicken for less than $10 and turn it into a 3-day meal! Be creative.) and you certainly don't need a gym membership to lose weight. You can go for walks around your neighborhood, up and down stairs, take a hiking trail, bicycle ride, join a sports team, etc. Develop a new skill, practice a hobby, or find other ways to entertain yourself. Even at the gym, you can watch TV, read books, listen to your iPod, etc. Even taking small opportunities to stretch out your legs is great, i.e. taking that distant parking lot space, walking a few blocks to run an errand, even taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Exercise a few days a week even for half an hour and you'll see a difference.

Good luck, readers! Weight loss is possible. You can do it. If you've been thinking about it... Get to it!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Killer" Whale, Indeed.

PopSpiracy wants to pay respects to SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, killed in Shamu Stadium in Orlando today. SeaWorld has long held a special place in my heart since childhood, and I have been an annual passholder several times over. There was a time when I practically lived at SeaWorld. I remember Dawn well, having last seen her a few months ago during "Believe", SeaWorld's latest rendition of the famed Shamu Show. She was bright and cheery, a woman in love with her job and killer whales.

As PopSpiracy encourages truth in media, I'd like to express my disappointment with Sea World's statement made by Seaworld Vice President Dan Brown. It's hard to believe his sincerity when he's lying straight through his teeth. If SeaWorld was not yet prepared to release any details, they should have remained vague instead of giving us an obviously fabricated story when there were plenty of witnesses who could corroborate the truth.

I get it. SeaWorld is a corporation. Shamu is an image. You can't let the children of the world think their precious Shamu is indeed a killer! However, he is what he is, which is to say an Orca, and the most powerful and skilled hunter in the sea. Trainers know this better than anyone, as they work with tons of sheer lethal muscle daily.

According to Brown, the trainer slipped in the tank and was accidentally fatally injured. First of all, what is this latest trend in blaming the victims? i.e. the Olympic's official statement regarding the death of the Georgian luger? It is majorly insensitive to accuse a victim who can no longer speak out to defend themselves, and I'm sure their families have suffered enough without the added blow. Nonetheless, releasing a statement that was blatantly untrue is tactless and thoughtless. This leads me to feel the bigwigs in charge of SeaWorld have little regard for the memory of this poor woman, who they in the same paragraph describe as one of their most experienced trainers. According to multiple eyewitness accounts and a Sea World employee, the whale grabbed the trainer by her ponytail and violently thrashed her around - in other words, behavior killer whales employ to knock out their victims and kill. I must also question the logic of SeaWorld in taking in Tilikum, the whale responsible for the attack, who had a track record of killing two other people during his time spent at multiple parks. Knowing this, why did he end up performing at SeaWorld if those in charge knew his violent history? Clearly, trainer safety is not priority, despite claims to the contrary.

I am honestly astounded at the mistruths spoken, it made SeaWorld look absolutely shady beyond belief for them to release such a careless lie that was not only harmful to the victim's memory and family but knowing full well there were numerous witnesses, who didn't hesitate to spill the beans.

SeaWorld has long been a controversial staple long before this incident. I personally have supported SeaWorld, they are a leader in the rehabilitation of sea creatures and public education on sealife. They take in, rehabilitate, and release numerous animals and remind us all how precious these species are and why we should care. There is no substitute to being able to see and learn about animals face-to-face, and while I acknowledge Shamu(s) are sacrificial lambs, there are less than 100 killer whales in captivity globally and as representatives of their species to the world, who knows how many children who saw Shamu or had the pleasure of meeting him grew up to be animal activists or marine biologists? I've always found the Shamu experience to be incredibly powerful and inspirational, and I was one such kid who can honestly say my life was changed by seeing this powerful and majestic creature. I applaud SeaWorld for taking larger steps in recent years to create less stress for the performers (whales), prior to the show the gate is opened and the whales have the option of swimming out. If none do, the show is cancelled. If one or two swim out, they are the lone performers. If they all want to have a go, they can. Obviously they are trained with reward systems, but are clearly not going to be starved if they do not perform. There are rules and procedures that will no doubt be re-evaluated and changed, and perhaps this will work out best for whales and humans alike.

Regardless of the general good I feel SeaWorld is capable of, those feelings have hit a low point today. The careless, insensitive, and dishonest remarks by SeaWorld are truly rock bottom for this park and Dawn, SeaWorld trainers, employees, orcas, and fans alike deserved better.

It is my deepest hope that SeaWorld apologize to Dawn's family and the public for this ugly reaction and take its steps to restoring faith in its following.

RIP, Dawn.