When I was a kid, my dad would let me stay up and watch “Cheers” each week. Granted it’s not the most “kid friendly” show, but I could’ve cared less. I was getting to stay up past my bedtime!MoreBarbara Brown Taylor: In Praise of DarknessBarbara Brown Taylor Faces the DarknessMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostThree Sisters Over 100 Years Old Share Their Secrets to a Long Life People
My parents divorced when I was 3, and from about 3rd grade on, my big brother and I, grew up with our dad. That’s right…3 bachelors. And what better way to establish top notch parenting skills than to immediately let this 3rd grader start staying up past 9pm central time to watch “Cheers!” You must remember, the Disney channel didn’t really exist yet, so it was up to Sam Malone, Cliff Clavin and Norm to give this kid a few life lessons.Popular Among Subscribers The Rise of Fake Pot Subscribe Common Core Sparks Parent RevoltBarbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness
Ahhh Norm. I LOVED Norm. Forget ever understanding any of the jokes. All I knew was, every week, Norm would walk through that door and the whole place would yell “NORM.” Heck I was yelling it too!
For a kid feeling like I was being tossed around between parents, the idea of a place where you were accepted day in and day out resonated deeply within me! Even the theme song to “Cheers” was practically a church hymn because it stirred me so much. “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came!” Man I would belt that at the top of my lungs the same way I am right now as I write this. Dang that’s a great song!
I’m 41 now. I’m married to the most amazing woman and have 5 kids. And I’m just now understanding my connection to that show. I’ve spent my whole life looking for grace. REAL grace. Not religion, but grace. There’s a difference ya know. I found “religion” at 13. I bought in hook, line and sinker. Grace? I discovered grace about 2 years ago. It has changed me to the core, and I ain’t going back.
Religion says “Give 110%.”
Grace says “Rest in the finished work of the Cross.”
Religion says “Don’t disappoint God.”
Grace says “God has been pleased with you since the day you called His name!”
Religion says “Being good is a start.”
Grace says “Christ on the cross is enough.”
Religion says “Get it right!”
Grace says “I’ll be there when you get it wrong!”
Religion says “We’re bad people trying to be good…you sin, you’re out”
Grace says “We’re Holy, righteous and redeemed. So when you do sin, it’s ok.”
Religion says “Your heart cannot be trusted.”
Grace says “You have the heart and mind of Christ
Religion says “Try harder.”
Grace says “Rest.”
Religion says “Please God.”
Grace says “Trust God.”
Religion says “Give more.”
Grace says “Give up.”
I did everything religion told me to do for a long time only to end up frustrated, beat down and jaded. I couldn’t keep up. No matter how hard I tried, it was never enough. So I decided to quit. And I did.
Then the craziest thing happened. Grace appeared. No, I take that back…I stopped long enough to see grace. I believe my life has been covered by grace since I trusted in Christ at age 13. I just had to turn 40 to notice.
Let me put it this way, if you were drowning, you wouldn’t really be in a place to lend a hand as far as being rescued. You’d be at the mercy of the lifeguard. Once pulled out, you may be a little out of it, not sure where you are, but safe nonetheless.
Then it sinks in. You start to realize someone just saved your life! How could you ever repay this person for saving you? You don’t have to be reminded to be grateful…you are freaking ALIVE! You have a new lease on life! From that point on, nothing will ever be the same.
I was rescued at 13. I realized it at 40. For me, life has just begun! I no longer have to be reminded to be grateful because I am freaking ALIVE! When I walked out on religion, I walked into a place where, as if I were Norm himself, grace screamed,”BARRRRRRRT!!! IT’S ABOUT STINKING TIME!”
Bart Millard is the lead singer of the Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum selling band MercyMe, who just released their eighth studio project, “Welcome to the New,” which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200. Listen to “Greater,” which appears on MercyMe’s latest album, below.
“Darkness” is shorthand for anything that scares me — that I want no part of — either because I am sure that I do not have the resources to survive it or because I do not want to find out. The absence of God is in there, along with the fear of dementia and the loss of those nearest and dearest to me. So is the melting of polar ice caps, the suffering of children, and the nagging question of what it will feel like to die. If I had my way, I would eliminate everything from chronic back pain to the fear of the devil from my life and the lives of those I love — if I could just find the right night-lights to leave on.MoreDear Religion, I Quit You!Barbara Brown Taylor Faces the DarknessMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostThree Sisters Over 100 Years Old Share Their Secrets to a Long Life People
At least I think I would. The problem is this: when, despite all my best efforts, the lights have gone off in my life (literally or figuratively, take your pick), plunging me into the kind of darkness that turns my knees to water, nonetheless I have not died. The monsters have not dragged me out of bed and taken me back to their lair. The witches have not turned me into a bat. Instead, I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.Popular Among Subscribers The Rise of Fake Pot Subscribe Common Core Sparks Parent RevoltBarbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness
The problem is that there are so few people who can teach me about that. Most of the books on the New York Times “How-To” bestseller list are about how to avoid various kinds of darkness. If you want to learn how to be happy and stay that way, how to win out over your adversaries at work, or how to avoid aging by eating the right foods, there is a book for you. If you are not a reader, you can always find someone on the radio, the television, or the web who will tell you about the latest strategy for staying out of your dark places, or at least distract you from them for a while. Most of us own so many electronic gadgets that there is always a light box within reach when any kind of darkness begins to descend on us. Why watch the sun go down when you could watch the news instead? Why lie awake at night when a couple of rounds of Moonlight Mahjong could put you back to sleep?
I wish I could turn to the church for help, but so many congregations are preoccupied with keeping the lights on right now that the last thing they want to talk about is how to befriend the dark. Plus, Christianity has never had anything nice to say about darkness. From earliest times, Christians have used “darkness” as a synonym for sin, ignorance, spiritual blindness, and death. Visit almost any church and you can still hear it used that way today: Deliver us, O Lord, from the powers of darkness. Shine into our hearts the brightness of your Holy Spirit, and protect us from all perils and dangers of the night.
Since I live on a farm where the lights can go out for days at a time, this language works at a practical level. When it is twenty degrees outside at midnight and tree branches heavy with ice are crashing to the ground around your house, it makes all kinds of sense to pray for protection from the dangers of the night. When coyotes show up in the yard after dark, eyeing your crippled old retriever as potential fast food, the perils of the night are more than theoretical. So I can understand how people who lived before the advent of electricity — who sometimes spent fourteen hours in the dark without the benefit of so much as a flashlight — might have become sensitive to the powers of darkness, asking God for deliverance in the form of bright morning light.
At the theological level, however, this language creates all sorts of problems. It divides every day in two, pitting the light part against the dark part. It tucks all the sinister stuff into the dark part, identifying God with the sunny part and leaving you to deal with the rest on your own time. It implies things about dark-skinned people and sight-impaired people that are not true. Worst of all, it offers people of faith a giant closet in which they can store everything that threatens or frightens them without thinking too much about those things. It rewards them for their unconsciousness, offering spiritual justification for turning away from those things, for “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
To embrace that teaching and others like it at face value can result in a kind of spirituality that deals with darkness by denying its existence or at least depriving it of any meaningful attention. I call it “full solar spirituality,” since it focuses on staying in the light of God around the clock, both absorbing and reflecting the sunny side of faith. You can usually recognize a full solar church by its emphasis on the benefits of faith, which include a sure sense of God’s presence, certainty of belief, divine guidance in all things, and reliable answers to prayer. Members strive to be positive in attitude, firm in conviction, helpful in relationship, and unwavering in faith. This sounds like heaven on earth. Who would not like to dwell in God’s light 24/7?
If you have ever belonged to such a community, however, you may have discovered that the trouble starts when darkness falls on your life, which can happen in any number of unsurprising ways: you lose your job, your marriage falls apart, your child acts out in some attention-getting way, you pray hard for something that does not happen, you begin to doubt some of the things you have been taught about what the Bible says. The first time you speak of these things in a full solar church, you can usually get a hearing. Continue to speak of them and you may be reminded that God will not let you be tested beyond your strength. All that is required of you is to have faith. If you still do not get the message, sooner or later it will be made explicit for you: the darkness is your own fault, because you do not have enough faith.
Having been on the receiving end of this verdict more than once, I do not think it is as mean as it sounds. The people who said it seemed genuinely to care about me. They had honestly offered me the best they had. Since their sunny spirituality had not given them many skills for operating in the dark, I had simply exhausted their resources. They could not enter the dark without putting their own faith at risk, so they did the best they could. They stood where I could still hear them and begged me to come back into the light.
If I could have, I would have. There are days when I would give anything to share their vision of the world and their ability to navigate it safely, but my spiritual gifts do not seem to include the gift of solar spirituality. Instead, I have been given the gift of lunar spirituality, in which the divine light available to me waxes and wanes with the season. When I go out on my porch at night, the moon never looks the same way twice. Some nights it is as round and bright as a headlight; other nights it is thinner than the sickle hanging in my garage. Some nights it is high in the sky, and other nights low over the mountains. Some nights it is altogether gone, leaving a vast web of stars that are brighter in its absence. All in all, the moon is a truer mirror for my soul than the sun that looks the same way every day.
Barbara Brown Taylor is the author of “Learning to Walk in the Dark” (HarperOne), from which this piece is excerpted. Read TIME’s interview with Taylor here, or in our April 28 issue.
(DALLAS) — Twin boys who were born conjoined have been released from the Dallas hospital that’s been their home since birth.
Owen and Emmett Ezell were joined at the abdomen and shared a liver and intestines when born. They were separated at Medical City Children’s Hospital last August.
Mother Jenni Ezell says the now-9-month-old twins can sit up and that they try to coo over the trachea tubes that help them breathe. They are fed through tubes in their abdomens.
At a Wednesday news conference, she described them as “very interactive, very social little boys” who “flash smiles and wave” at visitors.
Neonatologist Dr. Clair Schwendeman says he is optimistic for the still “fragile” boys.
The twins will spend the next month in an inpatient rehabilitation center before being allowed home.
We don’t know what Victoria Beckham really really wants for her 40th birthday, but because you can never have too much of a good thing, take a minute now to catch up on what the girl power pioneers have been up to since they zig-a-zig-ah‘d their way to global stardom. After stomping onto the scene with towering platform shoes in the late 1990s, the women behind the best-selling female pop group of all time have gone to become mothers, writers, designers, television personalities and solo pop stars in their own right. Girl power, indeed.
(NEW YORK) — A recently exonerated man who spent nearly 25 years behind bars for a killing that happened while he was at Disney World is getting help from dozens of well-wishers who have contributed to an online fund for him.
About 70 people had given a total of more than $3,500 to the campaign for Jonathan Fleming as of Thursday.
Fleming was freed last week after a judge dismissed the 1989 case, with the assent of Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson’s office.
The 51-year-old Fleming had said from the start that he couldn’t have shot Darryl “Black” Rush in Brooklyn on Aug. 15, 1989, because Fleming was on a family trip to Disney World at the time. Although Fleming had plane tickets, videos and other records of the vacation, prosecutors at the time suggested he could have returned briefly to New York for the shooting, and a woman testified that she had seen him do it.
She recanted soon after his conviction, but he lost appeals. Brooklyn prosecutors agreed last year to review the case and found documents in authorities’ files that backed Fleming’s Florida alibi. Meanwhile, his defense team located witnesses who implicated someone else.
Finance executive Alex Sutaru was struck by news accounts of Fleming’s exoneration and his hopes of pursuing higher education.
“I decided, ‘OK, I’m going to do something about this,’” said Sutaru, 32.
So he set up the campaign through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, after contacting Fleming’s lawyers, Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss, to make sure it would be all right. They’re not directly involved in the effort but are welcoming it.
Fleming plans to pursue wrongful-conviction lawsuits against the city and state, Koss said.
(BEIJING) — Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it will sell high-end Lincoln cars in China for the first time later this year when it opens eight dealerships in seven cities.
Lincoln is a late comer to China’s luxury car market, but Robert Parker, president of Lincoln China, said the brand is being introduced here after thorough research.
At Lincoln dealerships, Chinese customers will be greeted with a waterfall, considered auspicious, and their new Lincoln car will have a custom fragrance pleasing to Chinese noses, Parker said.
“The Chinese do not like the new car smell, so we change the smell,” he said.
Lincoln cars sold in China also will have padded backseats because of China’s higher expectations for backseat comfort, he said.
In the past year, China’s government has renewed a perennial crackdown on corruption and ostentatious spending by officials, which has crimped spending on luxury goods.
Parker said he believes there is strong interest in Lincoln among Chinese luxury car consumers and that the company aims to open 60 dealerships in 50 Chinese cities and offer five models by 2016.
John Zeng, an analyst at LMC Automotive, said Lincoln will face an uphill battle in a crowded Chinese luxury car market dominated by European brands.
“Compared with German brands, they have a long way to catch up,” Zeng said. “So for a brand like Lincoln, they need very competitive models to succeed in this market.”
Netflix dropped a new trailer for the upcoming second season of Orange Is the New Black Thursday. All 13 new episodes of the show are set to be released on Friday, June 6.
This season of the Netflix original prison drama-comedy promises the return of most of our favorite characters, including Tastee, Crazy Eyes and Red. There’s even a glimpse of Alex in the trailer (she’ll reportedly only appear in a few episodes this season).
The series premiered to critical acclaim last summer, and though Netflix does not release its audience data, it was rumored to have outpaced Netflix’s other popular originals, including House of Cards and the Arrested Development reboot, in viewership.
Netflix even filmed another video asking the show’s crew to sum up the season in three words:
Sigurður “Siggi” Hjartarson has something to say about the collection of penis specimens that comprise the Icelandic Phallological Museum: “I hope people realize this is not a joke.”MoreREVIEW: Transcendence Has Only Artificial IntelligenceIf You’re a Nerd, This Is the Best Web Site on the Internet Right NowMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostX-Men Director Bryan Singer Accused of Sexually Abusing Teenage Boy People
The museum, in Reykjavik, is the subject of filmmakers Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math’s documentary The Final Member, which has been playing festivals for more than a year and opens in select theaters April 18. Hjartarson is adamant that his museum is a scientific and cultural undertaking about which there’s no reason to be squeamish, and that there’s nothing erotic or pornographic about it. “I loathe pornography!” he tells TIME. “This is serious collecting on my part.”
But as Hjartarson, a former teacher, relates in the film, that collection came together in a roundabout fashion. After he acquired a bull’s “pizzle” in 1974, he started to receive penis specimens as joke gifts — and then, he tried to diversify his collection, and eventually complete it. “It’s just like any other collector’s mind,” he tells TIME. “You never get enough. Collectors, that’s how they think. They always want more specimens or different ones.” By the ’90s, his family objected to the amount of space the specimens took up in their house. In 1997, he opened a small museum with 62 items; it moved from the small town of Húsavik to the capital in 2011. Hjartarson has retired, but his son now runs the operations, and today the museum has specimens from every single mammal in Iceland as well as many foreign species, for a total of nearly 300.
And yes, that’s every Icelandic mammal — which means humans, too.
In fact, that’s just what the movie is about — the question of which human male would have the honor of donating to the museum first. The two top contenders are elderly Icelander Pall Arason, a noted womanizer, and a younger American named Tom Mitchell. We won’t spoil which one of them ends up contributing the titular member, but Hjartarson says that the film’s framing as a competition between the two — though it makes for a nice narrative arc and is good publicity for the museum — doesn’t entirely reflect reality. “I wasn’t altogether too happy about it but that’s a different matter. This is their film and I’m not intervening in any way,” he says. “I was getting so tired of it in the end because they were always asking only about the human [specimen].”
Which is why he asks that viewers keep in mind, as they watch The Final Member, why he wanted the human penis in the first place. There’s no difference, to him, between a human penis and that of a seal or a whale or a fox. Each one is part of a large collection — and it just happens that one had a movie made about it. “The human is not really special,” Hjartarson says. “It’s just one of 96 different species I’ve got.”
If you want a tablet built for productivity, but can’t stomach the Microsoft Surface, you might feel stuck.MoreBest Android Phone: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs. HTC One M8The Top 10 Tech Movies of the MillenniumMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostX-Men Director Bryan Singer Accused of Sexually Abusing Teenage Boy People
You could go with the iPad. Apple tells us its tablet is made for work, the chosen device of high school football coaches, heart surgeons, and teary-eyed grandparents meeting newborns over FaceTime. But let’s be honest: For every one iPad-assisted heart surgery, there are 100 beer-bellied, Cheetos-eating Americans doing nothing but belching their way through Cut the Rope 2. There’s nothing wrong with this: Just don’t call it productive.Popular Among Subscribers The Rise of Fake Pot Subscribe Common Core Sparks Parent RevoltBarbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness
Meanwhile, other popular tablets do various tasks well, like the Kindle Fire HD (reading), Galaxy Note 10.1 (writing and drawing with a stylus), and Nexus 7 (logging into Google Plus), but none come close to serving as a proper laptop replacement.
We understand how you feel. We set out to pick eight solid alternatives to the Surface, each designed for true productivity. Choose your own adventure by picking the problem that matches yours most closely:For Those Who Can’t Stand Windows 8(.1)
Give Microsoft credit for trying. From the initial “no compromises” mission, to the highly-publicized Windows 8.1 Update, the tech giant has packed in new features almost as fast as it’s churned out youthful, ethnically diverse Surface ads. Unfortunately, limited app support and a half-mobile-half-desktop interface continue to plague the operating system. With that in mind, here are some top alternatives that don’t run on Windows (with the corresponding Surface product included for comparison purposes):The Full-Spec Laptop Replacements
Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2
It may not come with a detachable keyboard, but the new Galaxy Note Pro is too powerful, and — literally — too big to ignore. With a massive 12.2-inch screen, 2.3 GHz processor, and 3 GB of RAM, its spec sheet reads more like a laptop than a mobile device. Take notes in class with the handy stylus, then grab a third-party keyboard to type up the essay back home, laptop free. You can give mom your old ThinkPad for Christmas.
Runner-up: ASUS Transformer Pad TF701T
The old standby, the TF701T is so committed to its half-tablet-half-laptop design that ASUS threw the word “Transformer” into the name — even after Michael Bay’s film series went off the rails and submarined Shia LaBeouf’s career. It’s not quite the technical achievement of the Note Pro, but the detachable keyboard comes built-in, and it’s over $200 cheaper than its Samsung competitor.The Lightweight Hybrids
So you’re not ready to give up on a laptop, but you’d still like a lightweight device for doing a bit of work between flights. Consider the following:
Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4
Cheaper and more compact than its stylus-wielding big brother, the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is nonetheless a powerful little tablet, with the same 2.3 GHz processor and quad core CPU. Snap up a third-party keyboard and slip this small-but-mighty gadget into your carry-on. Better yet, it’s half the weight of your buddy’s 4th-generation iPad (and a third lighter than the iPad Air).
Runner-up: iPad Air
Okay: we lied. If you can force yourself to put down the Cheetos, the iPad can accomplish a thing or two between five-hour Minecraft building sessions. Grab Microsoft’s newly released Office suite for iPad, poke around in view-only mode, and dream about all the work you’re about to get done.
Finally, note Office’s $100-per-year subscription fee, delete the app, and get back to your cheap, time-wasting mobile games.For Windows Fans Who Can’t Stand the Surface
Maybe you actually like Windows, but the Surface itself just doesn’t do it for you. Perhaps it’s the tablet’s unpredictable battery life, or else you just can’t trust a piece of hardware from the same company that brought us the Zune. Regardless, here are our top picks for Windows 8 tablets not designed by Microsoft (again, with the corresponding Surface included for comparison):The Full-Spec Laptop Replacements
Winner: Dell XPS 18
Though it’s been around since late 2012, the Dell XPS is still the best Surface alternative for truly serious Windows users. With 18 inches of screen real estate and 8 GB of RAM, you’ll have plenty of space and memory to do a dozen tasks at once. Just keep in mind that this titan of tablets is over five times heavier than an iPad Air.
Runner-up: Dell Venue 11 Pro
The Venue 11 Pro actually beats the XPS 18 in most technical categories, from processor speed to battery life — and that’s not to mention its far superior portability. If you plan to use your tablet mostly at your desk, grab the XPS. If you tend to live on trains and planes, however, consider the Venue 11 Pro.The Lightweight Hybrids
Winner: ASUS Transformer Book T100
Take the classic flexibility of the ASUS Transformer pad, slap on Windows 8, and sell it for a modest $350. You’ve got yourself an ASUS Transformer Book T100. Even if you don’t mind the Surface, but just want to save $100, this tablet is a solid choice.
Runner-up: Samsung ATIV Tab 3
With Windows 8.1, a $499 MSRP, a low-profile kickstand, and a thin keyboard attachment, you might confuse the Samsung ATIV Tab 3 for the Microsoft Surface 2 itself. Yes, Samsung, that’s a backhanded compliment. But the ATIV Tab 3 still provides a competent, no-frills alternative to Microsoft’s latest creation. Throw in Samsung’s long, reliable track record for hardware, and the ATIV Tab 3 is a safe buy for Windows fanatics.
This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.
Portland, Oregon has decided to dump 38 million gallons of drinking water after a 19-year-old urinated into an open reservoir, the Associated Press reports.
Portland Water Bureau spokesman David Shaff said three teens were spotted at the reservoir at around 1:00 am. One male was filmed urinating through a fence into the already-treated water.
Shaff said the urine poses little risk—water quality test sample results are due on Thursday—but the city still decided to ditch most of the water.
“There is at least a perceived difference from my perspective,” Shaff said, according to the AP. “Our customers don’t anticipate drinking water that’s been contaminated by some yahoo who decided to pee into a reservoir.”
“We’re not in the arid Southwest,” he said, the AP reports. “It’s easy to replace those 38 million gallons of water.”
The uncovered reservoir holds water that has already been treated before it’s distributed to customers. It’s one of five similar reservoirs in the city that are being replaced by underground storage systems in order to meet federal regulations.
The three unnamed men were cited for trespassing, while one was also cited for public urination.
Vladimir Putin could not have picked a better day than Thursday, April 17, to hold his annual call-in show on Russian television. Two days earlier, Ukraine’s government had sent its military to fight armed Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The result on Wednesday in the region of Donetsk was a series of clashes and confrontations between the military and the local separatists. So on Thursday, when Putin appeared live on TV, he clearly felt he had every excuse to move one step closer toward a Russian intervention.MorePutin Tells Snowden Russia Doesn’t Collect Citizens’ DataRussia’s Game in UkraineMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostAspen Socialite Nancy Pfister Died from a Head Injury with a Blunt Object: Coroner People
“The people in the eastern regions have started arming themselves,” Putin said in response to a question about the Ukrainian crisis. “And instead of realizing that something isn’t right in the Ukrainian state and moving toward a dialogue, [the government in Kiev] began threatening more force and even moved in tanks and planes against the peaceful population. This is yet another very serious crime of Ukraine’s current rulers.” He then reminded viewers that the Russian parliament has given him approval to send troops into Ukraine. “I really hope that I’m won’t be forced to use that right,” he says.Popular Among Subscribers The Rise of Fake Pot Subscribe Common Core Sparks Parent RevoltBarbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness
But Russia has been warning for months that it would take eastern Ukraine “under its protection” if the local population came under threat of military force. The Kremlin’s television channels have meanwhile been hyping that threat with all the subtlety of a jackhammer. Their narrative has been simple: Ukraine’s revolution brought fascists to power in February; those fascists are out to repress the Russian-speaking regions of southern and eastern Ukraine; salvation lies in separatism and, if needed, in Russia’s protection.
In late February, when Russia began its invasion of Crimea on the pretext of protecting its residents from Ukraine’s revolution, that story was an easy sell. The new government in Kiev was only a week old at the time, and most people in Ukraine’s outlying regions had no clear idea of the leaders who would emerge from the revolution. Many people in Crimea bought into the Russian line that nationalist thugs were on their way from Kiev to terrorize the local population.
But in the past few weeks, the Kremlin’s narrative had grown increasingly hard to maintain. The people of eastern Ukraine have had nearly two months to size up their new leaders and compare them to the fascist cabal depicted on Russian TV, and they could see that Russia’s warnings were overblown. “It’s all lies,” says Vera Oleynik, a pensioner in the city of Donetsk who said she stopped watching the news – Russian and Ukrainian – weeks ago. “It’s enough to give you heart trouble,” she says. “I only believe what I see with my own eyes.” And it has been clear enough to the locals that no nationalist thugs have come to cause havoc, while Kiev’s choice for the new governor of the Donetsk region, Serhiy Taruta, turned out last month to be a local tycoon who runs the region’s football club. Even if his constituents do not like him, they know him well enough to tell that he’s no fascist.
For the region’s pro-Russian separatists, that has been a frustrating development. The crowds that have come out to support them in eastern Ukraine have been thin, numbering a few thousand people at most, many of them idle gawkers or truant teenagers. Opinion polls suggest that there is nowhere near a majority of people in these regions would favor breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia, as the separatists managed to do last month in Crimea.
But in the past two days, the tanks rolling into eastern Ukraine have helped Russia revive its narrative and build its case for an intervention. That effort has involved large doses of deception. In his call-in show, for instance, Putin neglected to mention what exactly these tanks were doing in eastern Ukraine. So far, they have mostly been surrendering to the local gunmen rather than firing a shot. In the village of Pchyolkino, a column of Ukrainian tanks was surrounded for hours on Wednesday by a mix of civilians and uniformed gunmen, and rather than forcing their way through, the soldiers abandoned their tanks and armored vehicles to the crowd.
Though humiliated, those soldiers most likely avoided a bloodbath at the cost of their pride and their careers. (The government in Kiev pledged on Thursday to put them on trial for “cowardice.”) But the separatists in eastern Ukraine still managed to get the gunfight they have been trying to provoke for days. On Wednesday night, a group of gunmen arrived at a military base in the south of the Donetsk region and demanded the Ukrainian soldiers surrender their weapons and “come over to the side of the people.” Though it is not clear who fired the first shot, the ensuing firefight reportedly left a dozen people wounded and as many as three dead before midnight.
The Russian state media jumped on this news immediately. The Kremlin-funded Russia Today network reported that the casualties resulted from a “confrontation between anti-government protesters and soldiers.” Its report neglected to mention that the protesters were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, which they were not shy in firing at the military servicemen. But those details are easily lost in the Kremlin’s broader picture of peaceful civilians being overrun by the Ukrainian army.
Across the Donetsk region, the increasing brazenness of the separatist attacks now seems geared to provoke that kind of violence. On Wednesday morning, for instance, a group of masked gunmen stormed city hall in the region of Donetsk. Calling themselves members of a group called Oplot – in English, Bulwark – the two dozen men walked into the building with shotguns and assault rifles and set up positions at every entrance. One of their leaders, a pudgy man in his fifties who identified himself as Igor, told TIME near the backdoor of the building that they were simply there to make sure that local officials “do their job without interference” from the central government in Kiev. And what if Kiev sends its military to interfere? “I don’t know,” Igor said, lifting his surgical mask to drag on a cigarette. “Maybe Moscow will help us.”
Parenthood, NBC’s notoriously sad-yet-heartwarming saga of the Braverman family, will wrap up its fifth season on Thursday —and with the show still “on the bubble” for renewal, this could be goodbye forever.
Waterworks are a regular part of the Parenthood viewer experience, but this finale promises to be especially sob-worthy. So grab a box of Kleenex and fasten your seatbelts for our Parenthood crying game — it’s gonna be a bumpy night.
(No known spoilers follow — not even those given away in last week’s preview.)
- Tear up every time Hank mentions Asperger’s.
- Whimper whenever Sydney pouts.
- Sob if Christina talks about cancer.
- Well up for any and all of Jabbar’s kids-say-the-darnedest-things moments.
- Single tear if prodigal daughter Haddie returns for a visit from college.
- Happy tears whenever Zeek squeezes Camille’s shoulder.
- Tears of relief if Oliver Rome finally gets out of the Luncheonette.
- No tears if Hank and Sarah get back together. Really, who cares anymore?
- Snivel if Joel finds out about Julia sleeping with Mr. Knight.
- Merciful tears if he forgives her in the same conversation.
- Blubber with joy if they actually, factually get back together.
- Bawl if Victor says he doesn’t belong in the family.
- Tears of rage if Bob Little refuses to lease the school to Kristina and Adam.
- Openly weep when the Braverman crew bids adieu to the warmest, loveliest house on TV.
- And no matter what happens between Amber and Ryan, get ready to bawl your eyes out. Ah, young love!
Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie welcomed Vice President Joe Biden to Instagram Thursday a day after Joe Biden made waves with his first selfie that also starred President Barack Obama.
“#tbts always trump #selfies,” Christie wrote in an Instragram post, a “Throwback Thursday” picture of himself and Biden from back in the day. The photo’s date was unclear, though the duo appear to be standing at their shared alma mater, the University of Delaware.
Biden and Christie are considered possible contenders in the race for president in 2016, but for today, at least, it’s all #smiles.
Remember FarmVille? Of course you do. Once upon a time, circa 2010, chances are that you either played it on Facebook or were annoyed by addicted friends seeking your help tending to their crops. It was the Facebook game that made Facebook gaming famous.
A lot has happened since then — particularly to Zynga, FarmVille’s creator. The company boomed, went public, paid a lot of money to buy Draw Something developer OMGPOP, saw its stock crater, went through multiple rounds of layoffs and brought in former Xbox chief Don Mattrick to replace founder Mark Pincus as CEO. Although the FarmVille franchise is no longer a phenomenon, it’s still important to Zynga: In its last quarterly results, it reported that its first and third highest grossing games were FarmVille and FarmVille 2, respectively.
The new Zynga wants to be a much bigger player in mobile gaming, a category where King’s Candy Crush Saga is enjoying a reign of pop-culture dominance that’s reminiscent of Farmville back in the day. And it’s bringing FarmVille along with it, in the form of FarmVille 2: Country Escapes, a game for iOS and Android that’s launching worldwide today. (It’s already been available in Canada and a few other countries as Zynga tested and tweaked it before the full rollout.)
This isn’t FarmVille’s debut on mobile devices: That came with an iPhone app back in 2010. But it’s the first version designed with mobile devices in mind from the get-go, and that competes with existing mobile farming games such as Supercell’s Hay Day.
As the name indicates, FarmVille 2: Country Escape is an extension of FarmVille 2, which modernized the famously blocky franchise with fancier 3D graphics when it premiered in 2010. Visually, it’s quite similar, with the same adorable little farm folk and animals, rendered with lots of details and little animated flourishes. You touch and swipe your way around your land in a manner that, if anything, feels more natural than the pointing and clicking of FarmVille in its Facebook incarnations.Zynga
But FarmVille 2: Country Escape isn’t just FarmVille 2 in app form. In fact, it doesn’t even involve the same farm. You start all over again with new farmland nestled on a cute little coast, and the gameplay, while still involving tending to crops and animals, is quite different in its details. (The two incarnations are linked through a feature that lets people who have farms in both games move goods such as water and sugar between them.)
You can connect FarmVille 2 to Facebook, iOS’s Game Center (iOS) or Google Play Games, play with friends and speed your progress by forming co-ops with other players. But in a FarmVille first, you can also opt to play in standalone mode, without having to go online at all. “Friends are not required to play this game, ever,” says Zynga VP of Games Jonathan King. “As you can imagine, that’s a big deal for FarmVille.”
Though the game looks and feels like FarmVille, it’s not aiming to be a FarmVille-like timesink. Instead, in recognition of the fact that people often use mobile devices when they’re doing stuff like waiting in line at the grocery store, it’s designed to provide more instant gratification. “You can have a short session that actually has meaning,” Knight says. “You don’t have to feel that every time you open FarmVille, it’s a giant commitment.”
As always in FarmVille, there are forms of currency you can trade for items, including both ones you can earn and ones you can buy with real money. New this time around are stamps that can be traded for prize animals, such as a special cow capable of producing more milk than the game’s plain old cattle.
Here’s Zynga’s trailer for the new game:
FarmVille 2: Country Escape may rejigger the FarmVille experience in multiple ways, but Zynga hasn’t fundamentally reimagined it. I asked Knight about where the series might go, especially in light of Zynga’s acquisition in January of NaturalMotion, whose Clumsy Ninja iPad game features spectacular production values more reminiscent of a Pixar movie than a Zynga game. Though he didn’t have anything specific to share, he told me that the company sees lots of opportunity to embrace new technologies and take the franchise new places.
“We think FarmVille is an evergreen,” he says. “I expect FarmVille on the Holodeck in a couple hundred years.”
In case you needed more fodder for a “depressingly unrealistic body expectations” Pinterest board, lingerie shop Bluebella.com polled 500 men and 500 women to create mashup images illustrating how the sexes differ when it comes to their “perfect body.”
And so began a game of commodifying different celebrities’ body parts to be photoshopped into the super-celebrity body. Here’s the “perfect” woman:BlueBella.com
“It’s great to see such a range of ages and shapes,” BlueBella founder Emily Bendell said.
She praised men for picking curvaceous ideals, like Kim Kardashian’s breasts and Michelle Keegan’s “shapely tummy.”
Note: This is how “shapely” is getting defined
Meanwhile, women were progressively throwing out a lifeline to the over-40 crowd. “Who would have thought mother of two in her 40s in Gwyneth Paltrow would come top of the female poll for the best toned tummy?” Bendell asked. “And it is great that in her sixth decade Elle Macpherson is still seen as a style icon by so many women.”
And here is the “perfect” man—one of whom perplexing boasts Harry Styles’ hair:BlueBella.com
“What this survey shows,” said Bendell, “is that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.”
President Barack Obama said in an interview that aired Thursday that “we don’t need a war” with Russia, downplaying the chance of military conflict between the U.S. and Russia over tensions in Ukraine.
“What we do need is a recognition that countries like Ukraine can have relationships with a whole range of their neighbors, and it is not up to anybody, whether it’s Russia or the United States or anybody else, to make decisions for them,” Obama said in an interview with CBS Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett on Thursday’s broadcast of CBS This Morning.
Obama’s comments came days after a Russian fighter jet made multiple close-range passes near a U.S. Navy ship in the Black Sea. When asked if the aircraft “buzz” represented Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to send a signal to Washington, Obama said Russia is “not interested in any kind of military confrontation with us, understanding that our conventional forces are significantly superior to the Russians.”
“As commander-in-chief, I don’t make decisions based on perceived signals. We make decision very deliberately, based on what’s required for our security and for the security of our allies,” Obama added. “And the Russians understand that.”
Putin has amassed Russian troops on Ukraine’s eastern border and threatened to invade amid tensions between the pro-Western government and a large ethnic Russian minority in the region, despite the threat of increased economic sanctions from the U.S. and Western European powers.
– Zeke Miller contributed reporting.
Argentinean police said Wednesday they rescued a 15-year-old girl who had been severely beaten, starved and locked in a garage for nine years by her foster parents, the BBC reports. The girl was found in the Buenos Aires by one of her biological sisters, who had previously lost track of her.
Argentine officials said the girl was taken into foster care after a court declared her biological parents financially unfit to provide for her along with their seven other children. The girl’s biological family lost track of their daughter after 2005 for reasons unclear.
The girl had reportedly only been fed bread and water while in captivity and barely weighed 44 pounds when she was discovered. She had apparently been out of the garage twice in nine years, with only a dog and a monkey for company while she was detained. She claimed her foster parents physically abused her if she tried to eat any of the leftover food given to the pets.
The girl has been taken to a local hospital for treatment while her guardians have been arrested and charged with slavery and abuse.
If you’re an Android user, you can now access any computer running Google’s Chrome web browser remotely, courtesy the company’s just-unveiled Chrome Remote Desktop app: it’s freely available here on the Google Play store.
Those who remember something called pcAnywhere (or still use it — Symantec still makes and supports it), you’ll probably feel right at home. Those who’ve never heard of pcAnywhere (or VNC, or GoToMyPC, or any of the others listed here) or have long since abandoned such tools, well, you probably don’t need a remote desktop application, because you store all your files in the cloud anyway.
But if the notion of accessing your computer’s desktop remotely sounds intriguing, Chrome Remote Desktop will let you connect to a PC running the Chrome web browser, then pipe the computer’s visual interface back to your Android phone’s screen, allowing you to fiddle with your interface and local content from afar. See that shot of an Android phone running Windows 7? Like that.
Google’s targeting the app at users who might be on the go but need access to a file stored locally on an otherwise inaccessible computer. From September 2011, the company’s let users do that computer-to-computer using its Chrome Remote Desktop, so this is just the company extending the concept to Android devices, be they phones or tablets.
To make it work, you’ll need to install a listener service (a Chrome extension) on the intended target PC. You can find that here, and Google says it supports Windows (XP and above), Mac (OS X 10.6 and above) and Linux. To facilitate the initial handshake, you’ll have to enter a code and pin generated by the computer on your Android device, after which accessing the computer (or any others you configure) is as simple as pulling up the app and tapping the intended target.
Importantly, Google notes that “All connections are fully secured,” and if you bring up the help page for Chrome Remote Desktop, Google says it’s using SSL (with support for AES), and that all connections are maintained directly between client and host, “except in limited circumstances where they may pass through Google relays.” That said, Google says “The PIN/Access Code and SSL encryption combination also ensures that when you do connect to your host, whether peer-to-peer or relayed, no one can see your data, not even Google,” and adds that “None of your session data is ever recorded, and no session data is transmitted in a way that would let Google or anyone else (besides the participants) access it.”
As noted, the launch version only supports Android, but Google says an iOS version is on the way “later this year.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin told National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden on Thursday during a live broadcast that Russia doesn’t intercept citizens’ data en masse.
“You are a former spy so we will talk one professional language,” Putin, a former officer in the former Soviet Union’s KGB intelligence agency, told Snowden after he asked during a televised questions-and-answers session if Russia intercepts “the communications in any way of millions of individuals.”
“Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law. We have to get permission to stalk any particular person,” Putin said.
Putin also admitted during the broadcast for the first time that Russian troops had been sent to Crimea, which Russia annexed last month after it split from Ukraine. He stressed during the show that he had Russian lawmakers’ blessings to deploy military forces in eastern Ukraine as well if necessary.
“I remind you that the Federation Council has given the president the right to use armed forces in Ukraine,” he said, referencing the upper house of Russia’s Parliament, according to the Times. “I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right and that by political and diplomatic means we will be able to solve all of the sharp problems.”
Putin’s comments come as Russia has massed troops along the border with Ukraine after pledging to “protect” the large Russian minority in the region. Recent clashes between authorities and pro-Russian protesters have intensified in recent hours, as three separatists were killed during a firefight early Thursday near a Ukrainian National Guard outpost.
“The question is to ensure the rights and interests of the Russian southeast,” Putin said, according to the Times. “It’s new Russia. Kharkiv, Lugansk, Donetsk, Odessa were not part of Ukraine in Czarist times, they were transferred in 1920. Why? God knows. Then for various reasons these areas were gone, and the people stayed there — we need to encourage them to find a solution.”
[New York Times]
Anyone who doubts that star power is driving Broadway these days need only check the current box-office figures. A Raisin in the Sun, a revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 classic, is a sellout — thanks largely to its movie-star leading man, Denzel Washington. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck’s Depression-era warhorse, is another hot seller, helped by a starry cast headed by James Franco and Leighton Meester, formerly of the hit primetime soap Gossip Girl. Stars have also given a big box-office boost to two more upcoming revivals: Daniel Radcliffe in Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan, and Neil Patrick Harris, as a German transsexual in the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch.MoreBook of Mormon Cleans Up at the Olivier AwardsBenedict Cumberbatch to Play Richard IIIMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostTweet & Eat: How Your Favorite Stars are Celebrating Passover People
But the stars aren’t drawn only to retreads. Will Eno’s new play The Realistic Joneses, an enigmatic, plot-free encounter between two suburban couples, both named Jones, would most likely never have come to Broadway (and certainly would have been more of a trial to sit through) if it weren’t for its expert quartet of well-known stars — Marisa Tomei, Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall and last year’s Tony-winner, Tracy Letts. By the same token, a little more star power might have helped Bullets Over Broadway, Susan Stroman’s enjoyable but less-than-dazzling new musical based on Woody Allen’s movie. Nearly every cast member (Zach Braff as the nebbishy playwright who gets a gangster to back his Broadway show, Helene Yorke as the mobster’s no-talent girlfriend, Marin Mazzie as the show’s diva star) seems a step down from the more distinctive actors (John Cusack, Jennifer Tilly, Dianne Wiest) who brought the characters to life on screen.Popular Among Subscribers The Rise of Fake Pot Subscribe Common Core Sparks Parent RevoltBarbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness
It’s easy to be cynical about Broadway’s fixation on stars, but their presence has been been mostly good news this spring. I was not looking forward to another go-round with A Raisin in the Sun — last revived on Broadway just 10 years ago, with Sean Combs, and also revisited in the 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Clybourne Park. Moreover, the casting of Denzel Washington, as Walter Lee Younger, the chauffeur whose dreams are dying in the crowded Chicago apartment he shares with his family, seemed so obvious that I had to check the theater websites to make sure he hadn’t done it already.
He should have done it already. Washington, at age 59, is now a couple of decades too old for the part. The script has been adjusted to boost the character’s age from 35 to 40 (and the fit actor can plausibly pass for it), but the already broad age gap between Walter and his college-age younger sister (played by a young-looking Anika Noni Rose) is now almost untenable; she looks like his daughter.
Yet Washington quickly dispels the reservations. His commanding voice and magnetic physicality envelop the stage: he seems ready to burst out of the Youngers’ already cramped apartment. And yet he doesn’t overwhelm this admirably even-handed play: director Kenny Leon gives all the well-chosen actors— especially LaTanya Richardson Jackson, as the intrepid family matriarch, and Rose, as her acerbic daughter —their chance to shine. But it’s the play that shines most: the definitive depiction of the black experience in mid-century America, as relevant and powerful as ever. The chance to see the leading African-American actor of his generation finally take it on, even a few years late, seems both fitting and essential.
Of Mice and Men, the play that Steinbeck adapted from his 1937 novella about a pair of itinerant farm laborers in California’s Salinas Valley, is not as often revived (it was last seen on Broadway in 1974, with James Earl Jones in the role of Lennie). But it seems even more a part of our collective consciousness: its story of a tragic friendship as resonant as a Biblical fable, its snapshot of Depression-era migrant workers part of the American grain. As with Raisin in the Sun, revisiting it seemed more like a duty than a chance for fresh insights.
But one insight is that James Franco, in his Broadway debut, can hold his own on stage. The polymathic actor/writer/director/Instagram celebrity has played everything from James Dean to Spider-Man villains, but his scruffy cool and restless intelligence often seems like a throwback to the 1930s; one could imagine him replacing John Garfield in Group Theater productions of Clifford Odets. As George, the companion and caretaker for the kindly, feeble-minded Lennie (played with touching, if rather familiar, gentle-giant oafishness by Chris O’Dowd), he steps easily into Steinbeck’s world: a cynical victim of an economic system stacked against him, clinging to a doomed friendship out of pragmatism, loyalty and something like love.
Anna D. Shapiro’s crisp, unfussy production reminds us what an expert piece of stagecraft Steinbeck created. Each minor character is sketched in a few brief, vivid strokes; the Depression-era sense of social injustice is muted but unmistakable; the march toward tragedy perfectly paced and inexorable. A few paragraphs ago I called the play a warhorse. But cheers for this production, and the Hollywood star who helped make it happen, for letting a new audience rediscover it as a moving masterpiece.