Brian Braiker

TV: 'Rob & Big' Returns for Season 2

If there is any eternal truth to be gleaned from the squillions of reality TV hours that will air this season, it is perhaps to be found in this single statement: "Owning a barnyard animal isn't as easy as it looks on the Internet." Credit this singular epiphany to Rob Dyrdek, professional street skateboarder and bona fide MTV star.

The Sensitive Art of Marketing After a Tragedy

The shooting at Virginia Tech wasn't even a day old when Mobile Campus e-mailed a press release to technology reporters. "Everyone's asking why the students at Virginia Tech weren't notified of the shootings more quickly and efficiently," it began. "I'd like to suggest a story on a proven emergency-notification system." The system, naturally, is made by the company pitching the story.

Poll: God's Approval Rating

The latest Newsweek poll shows that 91 percent of American adults surveyed believe in God—and nearly half reject the theory of evolution. Also, Americans on John Edwards and the Senate's goal for troop withdrawal.

I Was Only In Favor Of Gay Marriage On The Internet. And Only For A Limited Time

For about an hour yesterday, visitors to Sen. John McCain's MySpace page were treated to a stunning announcement from the 2008 presidential candidate. "Today I announce that I have reversed my position and come out in full support of gay marriage," the message read. "Particularly marriage between two passionate females." Cleary this was the work of some malicious hacker, right?

Tech: Inside The FBI's Cybercrime Survey

Ever receive a "Dear friend" e-mail from a "West African widow" you've never met? Did this person claim to have access to millions of dollars in "leftover funds" and want to transfer them to a "foreign partner" such as yourself for safekeeping, for which you would be handsomely compensated?Did you, even for just one second, consider replying to that e-mail?If you did, you're not alone.

Music: Ry Cooder Gets a Little Catty

"My Name Is Buddy" is coolly billed as "Another record by Ry Cooder," as if it were a casual studio outing in an unremarkable career. But this is, after all, the man who brought us 1997's "Buena Vista Social Club" and, in 2005, "Chavez Ravine," a record about the ugly razing of an immigrant Los Angeles neighborhood to build Dodger Stadium.

Attention Shoppers: Bring Your Own Bag

Apparently BYOB translates a little differently in Sweden. At least for IKEA, the privately held assemble-it-yourself furniture chain and Swedish-meatball purveyor, the acronym now means "bring your own bag." Beginning March 15, all of its U.S. stores will start charging five cents for each plastic bag that customers take their purchases home in.

A Sorry State

President George W. Bush concluded his annual State of the Union address this week with the words "the State of our Union is strong … our cause in the world is right … and tonight that cause goes on." Maybe so, but the state of the Bush administration is at its worst yet, according to the latest NEWSWEEK Poll.

Dirge For A 'Surge'

When President George W. Bush declared earlier this month that the only way to quell sectarian violence in Iraq was to send more than 20,000 additional American troops, he probably knew the move would be unpopular.

'A Towering Danger to Kids'

Four families from around the country filed separate suits against MySpace and its corporate parent, News Corp., this week alleging negligence, recklessness and fraud, after, they say, their underage daughters were sexually abused by adults they met on the site.

Still 'Alright'

Before we start talking about Lily Allen, let us just point out that we are not, in fact, a year behind the curve on this one. Yes, the music on the brash Brit's MySpace page launched her into Internet stardom at the end of 2005, which was followed by her first U.K.

The Year of the Widget?

Sean Stroupe has a fairly typical MySpace page in that it's fairly atypical. His profile is tricked out with a song that plays whenever his page is reloaded, two slideshows from recent parties, a couple of YouTube videos that caught his fancy and an audio message from his mother, posted with just a twinge of irony. "You want to make it as interesting as possible.

Diller Time

After being introduced as the Madonna of stand-up, Phyllis Diller quipped, "The day I grab my crotch, it'll mean it's falling off. And at my age it could." You can watch her deliver that line, and hundreds of others, in "Goodnight, We Love You." Out on DVD this week, the documentary chronicles her last performance ever, in 2002, after 47 years on the road.

'Love' Bites

It certainly sounded like a bold idea—shockingly brazen, even. Raid the Beatles' master recordings at Abbey Road Studios, break them apart, scramble, mash and reassemble them, and then serve up the result in 5.1 Surround Sound as the score to a Cirque de Soleil show called "Love." To diehard fans it smacked of sacrilege.

Down with DRM?

Fred Benenson spent a recent drizzly Saturday afternoon with friends in Manhattan wearing yellow hazmat suits. They were in front of the new Apple store on Fifth Avenue, distributing flyers and explaining to passersby why iTunes, Apple's online music store, "sucks." The target of their ire: a technology the recording and film industries call "Digital Rights Management." DRM, as it's known, is encoded onto downloadable digital content so that copyright owners can prevent piracy.

Want Fries with That?

For a man who has so assiduously cultivated a slacker aura, Richard Linklater is one very productive director. "Fast Food Nation," his fifth movie in three years, opens this week.

Funny Fodder

Cartoonists, the writing is on the wall. Step into the Jewish Museum in New York City, which is currently cohosting the wonderful "Masters of American Comics" exhibit, and read it for yourself: "'Masters of American Comics' endeavors to establish a canon of fourteen of the most influential artists working in the medium throughout the 20th century." The framing-and-hanging of cartoons is nothing new—Mort Walker, the creator of "Beetle Bailey" and "Hi and Lois," founded the Museum of Cartoon...

Bearing Witness

If you lived anywhere near Boston six years ago, there was a grim little memoir, peppered with hard-won humor, called "All Souls" that was inescapable: you saw it in shop windows, in the hands of passengers on the bus, on laps on the "T," which the author and his pals from the projects used to hop turnstiles to ride. "All Souls" was the first-person testimony of Michael Patrick MacDonald, survivor of the Old Colony development in the Irish enclave of South Boston (Southie, as it's known)—one...

'Best' of the Bad Boy

Since Joe Eszterhas has seen fit to publish "The Devil's Guide to Hollywood" ( St. Martin's ), a guidebook to aspiring young screenwriters, we feel it only fair—journalistically speaking, of course—to revisit some of his work.

Riddim Nation

Jamaican music is suddenly the ubiquitous chaser to this summer's nasty shot of a heatwave. Rising star Cham's "Ghetto Story" single was a monster hit in Jamaica; an album of the same name was released in the United States this week.

Hip to Be Round

Maybe there's something in the water. Even the most casual pop-culture consumer has probably noticed that the latest must-have celebrity accessory is, apparently, a belly.

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