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The Gamine Audrey Tautou

Movie critic A.O. Scott staggered through a screening of The Da Vinci Code, and walked away unimpressed. While his review only mentions in passing the Hanks Mullet, Scott laments the underutilization of the film's other star, Audrey Tautou. "Ms. Tautou, determined to ensure that her name will never again come up in an Internet search for the word 'gamine,' affects a look of worried fatigue," he writes.

Internet

Spamming Stocks

Serge Ollu says he is pissed off. As the vice president of HE-5 Resources Corporation, he has been besieged with angry emails and phone calls from people who have received mail from spammers urging them to buy shares of his newly acquired company. "Those guys have put me in a bad situation with their shitty spam," he tells Gelf.

Internet

Reclaiming Anti-Semitism

When a prominent Iranian newspaper started calling for the creation of Holocaust cartoons in retaliation for the widespread publication of offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, Amitai Sandy was saddened. "It's not impressive to laugh at other people's sorrows," he tells Gelf over email. So the 29-year old graphic artist from Tel Aviv started a cartoon contest of his own, this time based on comic submissions from Jews around the world. "[The Iranians] don't have the balls to do an anti-Arab cartoon," he says, but he hopes that his fellow Jews are willing to draw anti-Semitic cartoons to steal the newspaper's thunder.

Internet

Celebrity Face Recognition

Face-recognition software is cool, but regardless of what the feds try to tell us, they've still got a ways to go before it becomes the exclusive identification tool. In the meantime, though, some entrepreneurs have started using this new technology as the basis of their companies, for uses other than crime-busting. One of the first commercially available versions popped up on the internet a few days ago. MyHeritage.com promises to analyze uploaded photos and compare the faces in them to those in its archive, identifying long-lost relatives and determining previously-unknown genetic relationships. Gelf decided to test it out.

Science

Placentophagy

"Any behavior you can think of," says Mark Kristal, a professor of psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo, "somebody, somewhere, has done it." That includes placenta eating, though Kristal is pretty sure that it has never been a common practice in any extant human culture. But while I was working on a recent piece for Slate about patients taking home keepsakes from surgery, I kept coming across stories about the practice, known as placentophagy (Wikipedia).

Internet

The Chronic(What?)cles of Viral Video

When New York Times music critic Kelefa Sanneh saw Lil Wayne and Robin Thicke team up for an impressive version of the song "Shooter" on The Tonight Show, he was inspired to write an article about what he terms "cross-under hits." As Sanneh sees it, this is one of many music videos that start out as part of big-budget television, get picked up on the web, and "return to life as underground hits." But he misses the point.

Science

Penguin Fact-Check

Yesterday, Boing Boing linked to an article about a baby penguin stolen from Amazon World, a zoo on the Isle of Wight in Southern England. Alerted by readers that the story might be a hoax, BB ran an update, leaving it an open question. Curious whether the story of the missing Jackass Penguin was true or the result of jackass reporting, Gelf contacted Amazon World and heard back from manager Katherine Bright. Apparently, the story is true. Here's what Bright wrote to us:

Science

The Evolution of Religious Thoughts

Why do an overwhelming percentage of people believe in a supernatural god? It's not as though there aren't good scientific explanations for how we came to be and why most events occur. According to a bold new theory, humans are religious because religion is an accidental byproduct of our cognitive evolution, and we're therefore predisposed to believe in religion in the face of enormous amounts of evidence to the contrary. "The issue isn't the presence of evidence," Paul Bloom, the Yale psychologist who developed the theory, tells Gelf over email. "There is already plenty of evidence, say, for natural selection, and it's understandable by any high school student."

Internet

Bugmenot Lives

Bugmenot—the site that provides usernames and passwords to let online readers bypass annoying (and potentially privacy-invading) registrations at many news portals—has been down today, and an ominous sign stating "Notice: This domain name expired on 10/29/05 and is pending renewal or deletion" has been posted on its homepage. For many who rely on the site, this shutdown is reminiscent of when the site when offline last August, and the site's anonymous owner told BoingBoing "Our stinkin' host pulled the plug on us without notice." But this time is different, according to bugmenot's new sever host, NearlyFreeSpeech.net.

Internet

JibJab

JibJab, makers of the awesome election video "This Land is Your Land" (see the bottom of JibJab's homepage), are being accused by some of hypocrisy for sending a cease-and-desist letter to The Black Lantern for using snippets of "This Land" in the Lantern's equally amazing mashup, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." JibJab was once sued by Ludlow Music, which owned the rights to Woody Guthrie's song, and prevailed by claiming fair use under the First Amendment (see WFMU's "Beware of the Blog" for an excellent roundup). Gregg Spiridellis, the cofounder of JibJab, talked briefly with Gelf today on the phone (interspersed with a lot of our waiting on hold and listening to "This Land is Your Land" in the background). While Spiridellis declined to tell Gelf his rationale over the phone, he later emailed us JibJab's reasons for sending the letter to The Black Lantern. (Spiridellis also said he may be willing to answer some follow-up qestions. If he does, we'll post his responses here.) (UPDATE: We post follow-up questions from the WFMU blogger who'd been critical of JibJab; we've also emailed these questions to Spiridellis.):

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