Entertainment Leads in This Week's Top 20 Facebook Pages — Due to Ongoing …

May 28, 2010

This week’s list of the 20 Facebook Pages that gained the most new fans in the past week shows ongoing trends, according to our PageData analytics service – entertainment Pages continue to get more popular, fast.

The numerous television shows we’ve been seeing are present, along with some popular musicians who have been staples on the list. The growth appears due to Facebook’s recent product changes to Pages, as we’ll explore below. But note that this week, many Pages that were popular before Facebook made significant changes to the product last month, such as Zynga’s Texas Hold’em Poker and Facebook’s Page, are back as well.

Top Gainers This Week

Topping the list is Nike Football, which added almost 574,000 fans to grow to more than 1.1 million with two big jumps over the weekend totaling about 545,000. Nike has been running Facebook social ads with the names of friends who’ve liked the ad and campaigning with some of the world’s most popular football (soccer) athletes. Another possible reason the Page is number 1 this week is that the FIFA World Cup is weeks away.

The Fox shows “Family Guy” and “House” came in at number 2 and number 4, respectively. “Family Guy” added about 550,000 fans to grow to 7.3 million with steady growth and “House” added about 328,000 fans to surpass 6.1 million.

We’ve previously hypothesized that the sudden prominence of TV shows on our list around the time of Facebook’s larger changes to Pages in late April. While we often see random Pages suddenly gain lots of new users, this is usually the result of one-off instances where Facebook consolidates unofficial Pages for a brand with the official Page.

The new changes include Facebook’s decisions to direct all users to match existing profile interests with Pages, starting on April 19. It also changed the nomenclature of Pages from “become a fan” to “like” at the same, an issue we’ve explored elsewhere. The company shortly followed this move with the launch of its social plugins, including the Like button which can allow people to gain access to users, similar to Pages.

The most probable scenario for the ongoing growth of entertainment apps is that because Facebook directed all of its users to convert profile interests into Pages that they like, the most popular profile interests have generated lots of new fans for the corresponding Pages. This helps explain why a range of older shows, like Seinfeld, have also been making the list recently.

Note that although the profile transition tool first rolled out in April, Facebook may have staggered the number of users who got it right away. That would be one explanation for the growth we’ve seen this past week. Another part of the explanation could be that the mass additions to Pages have prompted more interactions between users about the Pages, thereby setting off viral loops of traffic to the Pages that are still happening now.

Zynga’s Texas Hold’em Poker came in third this week, adding almost 363,000 fans to grow to 18.6 million; the Page has seen steady growth during the past week of promoting big pots, its iPhone app and virtual goods like designer poker chips.

A bunch of musicians were also on the list this week. Lady Gaga, currently on a world tour and thus prominent in the media, took fifth place, adding 325,000 fans to reach the 7.5 million mark. Justin Bieber followed, adding 322,400 fans to grow his base to 4.1 million aided by the debut of a new single, nominations for music awards and appearances on popular U.S. television shows.

Further on down the list was Linkin Park in twelfth place, adding about 208,000 fans to grow to 5.2 million as the band promotes its new Apple device game called 8-Bit Rebellion, featuring the band’s songs. Singer Taylor Swift at number 14, adding almost 200,000 fans to grow the Page’s fan base to 4.6 million; she’s on a U.S. tour and has been nominated for awards. Rapper Lil Wayne followed at number 15; he’s currently incarcerated but has taken to Facebook to promote himself, adding almost 198,000 fans to grow to 4.6 million. Finally Metallica added about 181,000 fans to take the number 19 spot on our list with a total following of just under 4 million fans. The band is currently on a world tour.

TV shows made up the bulk of the list.

“Lost,” which aired the season finale/final episode Sunday on ABC, added about 299,000 fans to reach almost 3.9 million and take seventh place.

Other ABC shows on our list this week, “Grey’s Anatomy” at number 8 adding 269,000 fans to grow to 4.3 million, “Scrubs” in eleventh place with 222,500 ew fans and a total of 3.5 million and “Desperate Housewives” with 182,500 more fans and a total of 3 million at number 20 have all shown big growth on our list during the past few months.

“South Park,” has a link to its Facebook Page on the web site but no widgets that we could see; nonetheless the page added 190,000 fans to its new base of 5.3 million to take the number 16 spot. “Los Simpson,” the Spanish version of “The Simpsons” followed at 17, by adding 186,000 fans to grow to 2.6 million.

Next at 18 was “Two and a Half Men,” a CBS show that directly asks visitors to become Facebook fans and includes a Like button on some content; the Page added 182,000 fans to surpass 3 million.

The random Pages on our list this week included the energy drink Red Bull at number 9, adding 251,000 fans to grow to 3.7 million. The company links its active events from its web site to Facebook and there are a few Facebook share functions there, too. Number 10 was Facebook’s Page, adding about 240,000 fans to surpass 9.1 million, much of this growth may be attributable to the incessant talk of privacy issues these days.

Then there was Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu at number 13, a Turkish politician recently elected to head the main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, who pledged to run against the current prime minister during the next election. K?l?çdaro?lu added 203,000 fans to grow to about 412,000 fans.

Entertainment Leads in This Week's Top 20 Facebook Pages — Due to Ongoing …

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Blackjack here to stay in Immokalee

May 27, 2010

IMMOKALEE, Fla. – Blackjack is here to stay at the Seminole Casinos.

Governor Charlie Crist signed Senate Bill 622 with the Seminole Tribe, legalizing certain types of gambling. The agreement allows Vegas style slots, blackjack and other table games.

The deal means job security for Immokalee Casino employees, plus is also opens up the opportunity for expansion of the casino.

The state also gets a large payout from the Seminoles.

“One billion dollars over the next five years come to Florida and our children, and our schools, and our most vulnerable and education. And that is a wonderful thing,” Crist said to a group at the Hollywood Seminole Casino.

The bill still has to be approved by the U.S. Department of Interiors, which is expected in June.

The deal also allows some casinos to have card betting 24 hours a day and higher limits.

Blackjack here to stay in Immokalee

Crown croupier's betting scam backfires

May 27, 2010

A Crown Casino croupier and his gambling housemate who teamed to beat the house have had it fall on them.

Quoc Tran, 27, manned the roulette wheel while his mate Hoa Nguyen, 34, placed bets over three days in April last year.

But a Melbourne court heard that while Nguyen placed some legal wagers, other chips went down after Tran called “no more bets” and the ball had landed on its number.

Melbourne Magistrates Court was told that Tran allowed Nguyen to repeat such illegal transactions 15 times, which landed them winnings of $15,750.

Crown security watched the transactions and called police who arrested the pair and who later pleaded guilty to charges of theft.

David Grace, QC, said Nguyen had turned his life around and had also repaid his $7857 share to Crown, while Nguyen’s lawyer said he had so far repaid $900.

Deputy chief magistrate Jelena Popovic, who adjourned sentencing from December to allow the men to make repayments, today said their efforts went in their favour.

The men, both of Footscray, were released on non-conviction undertakings with orders they pay $750 to the court fund.

Crown croupier's betting scam backfires

A taste of Vegas in Silicon Valley?

May 27, 2010

A restaurant tied to a celebrity chef. A theater for live music acts. An upscale hotel and dozens of gaming tables, all under one roof.

If it sounds like Las Vegas, think again, says Eric Swallow. The co-owner of San Jose’s Garden City Casino wants to turn his venerable card room into an entertainment hot spot — right here in Silicon Valley.

And while experts differ on whether he can pull it off, they say the concept could set a trend for card clubs.

“Even traditional casinos are trying to become more multidimensional,” said Swallow, 48. “It’s more than just for people who want to gamble. They want to hang out, stay over night, have some good entertainment.”

The San Jose City Council apparently agrees, and last week it approved the club’s relocation from Saratoga Avenue to North First Street’s tech corridor. The club would sit less than a mile from the city’s other card room, Bay 101, whose management cautiously embraces the idea.

But it’s the proximity to Highway 101, Interstate 880 and especially Mineta San Jose International Airport — not Bay 101 — that Swallow is touting.

“The beauty is that it will bring people from outside San Jose,” he said. “Because there is nothing like this in San Francisco — or for that matter, the Bay Area.”

The idea has raised eyebrows.

“No other card club is contemplating anything like that,” said Jacob Appelsmith, chief of California’s Bureau of Gambling

Control, which enforces gambling regulations in the state’s 89 card clubs and 65 Indian Tribal casinos.

Robert E. Ross, executive director of the California Gaming Association, said only two card clubs in the state have hotels: Commerce Casino in Commerce, with 243 tables, and the Crystal Casino & Hotel in Compton, which has 35.

Garden City, with 40 tables, is considered a medium-sized club. But should San Jose voters approve a June ballot measure to let it and Bay 101 expand to 49 tables each, the two combined would eclipse the state’s fifth-largest card club and nearly equal its fourth-largest, Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood.

San Jose’s leaders see the same upside. With the city facing a $118.5 million deficit in the fiscal year that starts July 1, Mayor Chuck Reed has endorsed Measure K, which would add about $5 million in annual revenue by raising the card room tax from 13 to 15 percent.

In exchange, the measure would increase each club’s number of tables; eliminate the city’s $200 betting limit; and ease restrictions on the number of approved card games.

Yet even the mayor sounds dubious of Swallow’s grand plan.

“I just don’t think we will ever see that kind of a major investment,” said Reed. “But I could be wrong.”

Even if Measure K doesn’t pass, Swallow intends to go forward with the plan.

“We’re investing serious money in San Jose,” he said of what he expects will be a $100 million project. “We’re very confident that we’ve done our homework and that it will be a success.”

State gambling control officials say that despite the weakened economy, both of San Jose’s card clubs are among the state’s top 10 money makers.

The expansion plan has been a dream of Swallow’s since 2007, when he and two partners bought the 64-year-old, bankrupt club for $21.5 million. He runs E.Swallow Agency, a Walnut Creek advertising and Web development firm whose clients include companies in the hospitality industry.

He also heads Profitable Casino, which sells business-efficiency software to card clubs and casinos.

Other than that, he and his partners — Los Gatos residents Peter and Jeanine Lunardi (not related to the Lunardi’s Market chain) — have no experience in the entertainment business.

Swallow said the trio, who met as neighbors in Diablo, had done some commercial development projects together when an attorney they knew suggested buying the San Jose club.

As he studied the situation, Swallow said he wondered why Garden City was “just a card club.” He’d traveled to casinos and card clubs in Macao and Singapore, where he noticed how many had become “multidimensional entertainment” venues, with hotels and live shows.

When the partners invested in Garden City, San Jose law prohibited card clubs from relocating in most circumstances. But last year, after the city and casino settled a legal feud over fees and regulations, the council voted to loosen the restriction against clubs moving.

Swallow then brought his idea to city officials.

While he and his partners will lease the six acres on which the casino will be built, he said the property’s owner, Airport Parkway Two, is putting up most of the money to build the project. Airport Parkway Two is a limited liability company registered in California; Swallow would not identify the company’s owners, saying they don’t want to be public. (Santa Clara County assessor’s records indicate at least one of the owners has a Las Vegas address.)

Already, Swallow is working with two Vegas architecture firms on designs; he wants the hotel and card club to look as sleek and contemporary as the airport’s new Terminal B, with plenty of metal, glass, water and rock.

The theater would accommodate mostly musical acts and, Swallow says, even pared-down performances of Cirque du Soleil, though those likely would be for corporate clients.

A few “brand” name restaurants would cater to different budgets. But it’s the signature restaurant atop a proposed 15-story glass tower, linked to a well-known chef, that Swallow promises will draw crowds. (He wouldn’t divulge the names of any chefs with whom he’s been speaking.)

Swallow expects to open the casino and restaurants by early 2012, followed by the hotel and theater in 2013.

The project, to be located in an industrial area, has drawn little controversy. The city’s police union, which opposes Measure K, had no reaction to the relocation.

Councilman Kansen Chu, who cited gambling’s contribution to social problems when he voted against putting Measure K on the ballot, sees an advantage to the club’s moving.

“Right now, they’re close to schools and residences,” Chu said. “And this is not an increase in the number of tables. This is a land-use issue, that’s how I looked at it.”

Even Rob Balmer, general manager of the Doubletree Hotel across Airport Parkway from the proposed Garden City site, said: “We’re fine with the card room. I think it would be a good amenity for our guests.”

But given that San Jose’s hotel occupancy rate in April was just 58 percent, he added: “I don’t know if there’s appetite for another hotel.”

Contact Tracy Seipel at 408 275-0140.


Number of card clubs in California: 89Number of tables: 1,784Top five card clubs in California (by number of tables): Commerce Casino, Commerce City, 243; Bicycle Casino, Bell Gardens, 190; Hawaiian Gardens Casino, Hawaiian Gardens, 190; Hollywood Park Casino, Inglewood, 102; Hustler Casino, Gardena, 89. Gross annual gaming revenue for 2008: $889 millionGames allowed: All card games, but no Nevada-style blackjack; no slot machines, bingo machines, roulette or craps.

Number of Indian tribal casinos in California: 65Number of tables: 2,132Number of gaming machines (includes slots and bingo): 67,672Top tribal casinos in California (by number of slot machines): Pechanga Resort & Casino, Temecula, 3,000; San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, Highland, 3,000; Cache Creek Casino Resort, Brooks, 2,400; Thunder Valley Casino, Lincoln, 2,400; Morongo Casino Resort and Spa, Cabazon, 2,000.Gross annual gaming revenue for 2008: $7.3 billionGames allowed: All Nevada-style games (blackjack, slot machines, bingo machines, poker, baccarat, Pai Gow poker, Pai Gow tiles, etc.). No roulette or craps.

Sources: California Gaming Association; California Gambling Control Commission; Alan Meister of Nathan Associates.

Card Clubs vs. casinos: What’s the difference?

While card clubs may have the word “casino” in their names, there’s a difference between the two.

  • Card clubs cannot directly benefit from the amount wagered. Fees can be charged only for play; money is lost to other players, not to the house.
  • Casinos directly benefit from the amount wagered because players bet against the house.

    Source: California Bureau of Gambling Control

  • A taste of Vegas in Silicon Valley?

    Tasty Bingo First To Host Joy Pot

    May 27, 2010

    Tasty Bingo, Posh Bingo, Wink Bingo and Redbus Bingo have all clubbed together to give their online bingo players a very special promotion that will run for an entire year.  This new promotion is called the Joy Pot and has a prize fund of £100,000 to be given away over the four sites.  In total throughout the year there will be four different £25,000 games playing, which amounts to one £25,000 game for each online bingo site.

    Tell Me More…..

    The first £25,000 Joy Pot online bingo game will take place at Tasty Bingo on the 25th of June, the second game at Wink Bingo on the 24th of September, the third game will be on the 31st of December at Redbus Bingo and the very last game will be held at Posh Bingo on the 29th of April 2011.

    Pot Points

    You can either pre-purchase bingo cards into the Joy Pot online bingo games for £2 each at the current site that is hosting or simply collect Pot Points.  It is really simple to collect Pot Points as all you have to do is play all your favourite online bingo and instant games like normal at Tasty Bingo, Posh Bingo, Wink Bingo and Redbus Bingo.  For every £10 you spend on online bingo games at any of the sites will earn you 2 points, wager £50 on any of the sites instant games to earn 1 point.  You can also try your hand at getting a bingo on the ‘Pot of Gold’ pattern for 5 points or bingo on the call number 25 for 1 point.

    If you want to earn some points fast then simply send in an e-mail telling Joy of Bingo what you would put in your Joy Pot if you had one and they will reward you with 20 points.  Every 500 Pot points you collect can be redeemed for one bingo card.  What is even better is that the sites will calculate all your Pot Points together from all four online bingo sites before the next game plays.

    1. Tasty Bingo Weekend Treats
    2. Tasty Bingo New £2K Summer Holiday Promotion
    3. Tasty Bingo Needs Your Tasty Men
    4. Hundreds and Thousands at Tasty Bingo
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    Tasty Bingo First To Host Joy Pot

    Corvallis Community Theatre's 'Guys and Dolls' a delight

    May 27, 2010

    CORVALLIS — A little kiss, a big slap, some old-fashionedslap-stick and a whole lot of great singing are the winningingredients for the Corvallis Community Theater’s spring productionof “Guys and Dolls.”

    Director Richard Wagner said that because the Majestic Theatrereopened last winter after a lengthy upgrade to make it moreearthquake-resistant, CCT is producing only one musical this year.It opens today.

    “(Guys and Dolls has) been described as the perfect musicalcomedy — and it’s popular,” Wagner said Tuesday, just before hepresided over the second dress rehearsal in as many days.

    Wagner said his motivation is to fill the seats at the Majestic,and this show has been a proven winner that has accomplished thatgoal for six decades.

    With words and music by Frank Loesser, it debuted on Broadway in1950, packed the house for most of its 1,200 performances, and in1955 was made into a film starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons andFrank Sinatra. It has been in nearly constant production eversince.

    The story centers around two New York gamblers: Charming SkyMasterson is portrayed by local tenor Joseph Battrick. Lookingevery inch the part in pinstripes suit and gangster hat, Battrickis performing in his 18th musical production.

    Of being the star of the mostly male musical: “It was on mybucket list,” he said, referring to the list of things to do beforehe kicks the bucket.

    The role gave him a chance to work with Wagner, who is his voiceteacher. And he jumped at the chance to perform the music oflegendary composer Loesser, who wrote more than 700 songs,including classics such as “Luck, Be a Lady Tonight.”

    Another Wagner student, in the co-starring role of scrappyNathan Detroit, is technical writer Tony DeMeo. His characteroperates “the oldest established permanent floating craps game inNew York.”

    Desperately in need of $1,000 to rent a place to hold his crapsgame, Detroit convinces Masterson to take a $1,000 bet: To win,Masterson must convince aloof and prim Sgt. Sarah Brown (DanniSimon) of the Salvation Army-like mission to accompany him todinner — in Cuba.

    Complicating matters for Detroit is his dance-hall-girl fiancee,Miss Adelaide, who has been waiting for her wedding day for 14years. The all-too-patient Adelaide is portrayed — complete with aspot-on East Coast accent — by community theater veteran NancyBeaudry. “Guys and Dolls” marks her return to the stage after afour-year absence. For her — as well as the audience — the playrepresents a bit of welcome, fun escapism into a character that isher opposite.

    “She’s not really bright,” Beaudry said Tuesday of her characteras she was being made up for a full dress rehearsal. “Nathan canalways snow her.”

    For DeMeo, who is from Rhode Island, dialing up the trace of hisnatural accent comes in handy as he juggles his character’s manyschemes. In the meantime, Masterson tells Sarah that he can bringin a bunch of sinners so that her mission headquarters — ignored bythe neighborhood’s colorful assortment of gangsters andstreetwalkers — can stay open.

    The whole theme of the show could be summed up as “Love is agamble,” but under Wagner’s capable direction one sure bet is themusic.

    The leading characters all have strong, clear voices that carrywell to the back of the theater, although Wagner — who was aprofessional opera singer before becoming a teacher — is not shyabout shouting out instructions to pump up the volume or give adifferent kind of delivery.

    “I had to teach the concept of a punch line,” he said. “You know… that you deliver it with some punch.”

    Or a slap. He instructed Danni Simon not to pull her slap whenJoseph Battrick’s Masterson steals a kiss.

    “Make a big dent in him,” Wagner said.

    Simon, who is an assistant teacher at the preschool at the OldMill Center, started in community theater at the age of 12, in2000. The influence stuck.

    She plans to move to Chicago to pursue graduate studies inEnglish and musicology. The best thing about being on stage?

    “You can create a world you can jump into,” she said.

    The good news is, the audience is invited.

    Corvallis Community Theatre's 'Guys and Dolls' a delight

    MGM Grand at 2: Recession dims luster

    May 25, 2010

    Two years ago, Foxwoods Resort Casino opened the $700 million MGM Grand at Foxwoods, a companion hotel casino branded with one of the biggest names in gaming circles. 

    A match made in gaming heaven for one of the largest casinos in the world?

    Not yet, according to the numbers. As Foxwoods marks the second anniversary this weekend with celebrities of all stripes, in the analysis to date, MGM Grand has not translated to a boost in slot revenue equal to the addition of 825 hotel rooms, 50,000 square feet of casino space, new restaurants and retail and a theater that gets many top name acts.

    In April 2008, the month before MGM Grand’s debut, Foxwoods won $57.9 million at 6,776 slot machines, or $8,545 per machine. In May, the number of slots jumped to 7,449 and slot revenue leaped to $72.5 million, which comes out to be $9,733 per slot. But it was no continuous upward trajectory from there. In June, the total slot machine stock grew to 8,147, but overall revenue from those games fell to $63.6 million or $7,807 a machine.

    Slot win in the post-MGM Grand era peaked at $72.8 million in July and August 2008, with little more than 8,200 games each month. Since the May 2008 opening, slot revenue surpassed the pre-opening numbers only 10 of the 23 months.

    Mistake or bad luck?

    Did Foxwoods add more than the marketplace could absorb? Or was it bad timing as the recession gripped the country?

    Dr. Clyde W. Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, called the opening poorly timed.

    “But that is easy to say in hindsight,” he said. “It opened right into the worst recession since the 1930s, and while many economic observers thought we were due for a recession, no one anticipated its magnitude, depth or length. Consequently, I think we have to wait another year or two to make any definitive judgment about whether MGM helps or hurts Foxwoods.”

    The recession had a significant impact on patrons’ discretionary spending on gaming, Mashantucket spokeswoman Lori Potter said.

    “However, we have experienced a significant increase in overall traffic throughout the property, as well as being at or near full occupancy of all our hotels each weekend regardless of the economy,” she said. “The MGM Grand at Foxwoods brand has brought significantly more attention to Foxwoods and has helped leverage our resort.”

    Executives call the decision a great one for the property overall, said Michael Speller, president of Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprises.

    “The iconic brand helps Foxwoods introduce customers who otherwise would not experience our property,” he said.

    Las Vegas-based MGM Mirage has no part in operations. The company receives a licensing fee from Foxwoods for the use of the brand. 

    “For us, it was an opportunity to establish the MGM Grand brand on the East Coast and associate it with another well-established gaming company,” spokesman Gordon Absher said.

    “It was an attempt by Foxwoods to develop a new product in an already successful market,” he said. “It would diversify Foxwoods’ cash flow by diversifying the amenities on their campus to include a destination resort with significant meeting and convention space.

    “We were very happy with the execution of the product and, barring the economic downturn, believe MGM Grand at Foxwoods had the potential not only to meet, but exceed our expectations,” he said.

    The public numbers do not include table games, because the tribe does not have to report that profit to the state.

    “MGM Grand is more of a high-end table game place, so you have to be hesitant to say it’s a failure,” said analyst Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business magazine.

    The mix of games helps attract the better table players, Speller said.

    The investment also diversified the entertainment offerings and elevated the quality, Potter said. AAA has awarded the MGM Grand hotel the Four-Diamond Award.

    Would Foxwoods make the investment again if it could revisit history with the knowledge of the coming economic meltdown? Potter said it was more than possible.  

    “While we don’t have the ability to predict with 100 percent occupancy what may or may not happen in any given future market, the general structural components of our resort development would have remained fairly consistent. We are confident that our resort remains pivotal to the stability of travel and tourism in southeastern Connecticut, and adds to the overall draw to our region.”  

    The hotel operated at 100 percent occupancy last year,” Speller said. “That’s a testimony to how much we needed the addition. There’s no dilution here.”

    Still, the presence of MGM Grand did not insulate Foxwoods from the growing regional competition, particularly from New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island racinos, Barrow said.

    “Consequently, if Massachusetts authorizes resort casinos, it is likely that Foxwoods will see further declines in revenues, unless it can leverage MGM to bring in additional convention and meetings business from outside its regional market,” he said.

    MGM Grand at 2: Recession dims luster

    Book Review: Other Lives by Peter Bagge

    May 25, 2010

    Other Livesby Peter BaggeVertigo, 136 pp.CLR Rating: A Graphic Novel of Secret Identities: Superheroes Need Not Apply

    Peter Bagge’s latest graphic novel, Other Lives, proves to be a brilliantly original and thoroughly surprising read. Although I’m still unsure of what I found to be more surprising—the story’s clever deconstruction of modern identity issues or the fact that it was published by DC’s Vertigo line of comics. In the past I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything I’ve read that bore the Vertigo logo (Sandman, Books of Magic, Fables, Hell-blazer, and many many others) yet I still find myself refreshingly surprised by the ever-widening scope of stories that are being released under this imprint.

    I had been aware of Bagge’s prior work (his name is frequently brought up by my fellow panelists when I speak on the comics industry at science fiction conventions) but I had never gotten around to browsing any of his work. It takes no more than a quick glance at his artwork to see that he is clearly a product of the 1970’s underground comics movement; there’s an unmistakable boldly inked R. Crumb-style mixed with the elastic loopiness of the old Leon Schlesinger cartoons to Bagge’s artwork. However, his work has clearly evolved beyond his influences—he’s been published by all of the major comic companies and Hate, his satirical look at the alternative culture of the nineties, ran for nearly the entire decade and won the Harvey Award for Best New Series.

    In Other Lives Bagge gives us the story of four Dragon Con-going gamer geeks, each struggling in some way with defining who they are. The main plot line follows Vladimir Rostov (pen name, Vader Ryderbeck), an investigative journalist who is researching an article on how people use the internet to assume new identities. The main focus of his story is Javier Ortiz (cover identity, Otis Boyd), a terrorist-obsessed conspiracy theory junkie who may or may not be an agent for the Department of Homeland Securities but is definitely known to be good with computers. Rostov’s investigation frequently takes a back seat to his personal life which is complicated by his own insecurities derived from unresolved issues with his dead father and by his sudden engagement to his girlfriend Ivy Chin (online persona, Shi’a Electra). Rounding out the foursome is Vlad and Javier’s old gaming buddy Woodrow Wooley (poker ID, The Poker King; online persona, Lord Burlington), who serves to reconnect Vlad and Javy and introduces Ivy to the online community of Second World. Plot threads for all four (nine if you count their other lives) characters twist amongst each other in a cleverly plotted study about how much we are influenced by the lies that we tell to others and, more importantly, the lies we tell ourselves.

    I briefly mentioned Second World; it plays a large part in the story. Second World is, as the name suggests, Peter Bagge’s version of the online phenomenon Second Life. As in Second Life, Second World allows users to create virtual avatars that exist in a simulated 3D online environment. All four of the main characters in Other Lives interact with Second World in one form or another. Some play nicely, some don’t.

    While Second World may be the most visible manifestation of alternate identities, there are plenty of other identity issues at play. Vlad has near-crippling insecurities because he still thinks of himself as the fat, unpopular teenager that he used to be. That, coupled with some serious daddy issues, has left him questioning the value of his life and career. His girlfriend Ivy, however, finds Vlad’s reinvention of himself as a thin (but weight-obsessed) journalist who has cut ties with his past to be a rebellious act that she respects because it is so alien to her conservative Chinese upbringing. Clearly trying to establish her own identity, apart from her family, Ivy leaps headfirst into becoming The Bride and also experiments with a more sexually playful version of herself in Second World. Second World is, of course, a perfect outlet for escapism. Woodrow spends all of his free time in online identities in Second World and on poker sites as an escape from the painful reality of his divorce and financial troubles. The line between separate identities is most blurred for Javy. Diagnosed as a bipolar individual with schizoid tendencies his identity depends primarily on whether or not he’s taking his meds—on them he’s the quiet and shy Javier Ortiz; off his meds he’s the paranoid braggart Otis Boyd.

    Complicating matters, Vlad discovers that much of what his hyper-critical father had told him about his own family was untrue. When he tells his uncle about his engagement Vlad discovers that his father had led a secret life of his own. All along Vlad had been led to believe that his father was a restaurant owner whose business had burned down, leading to hard financial times. In truth the restaurant was a struggling but fancy night club that had been torched because Vlad’s father wouldn’t hire minorities and Vlad’s grandfather had left the family with sizable trust funds.

    As a whole, the narrative of the story focuses on how each character incorporates their separate identities into their real life. Will the fantasy win out? How much immersion into a second (or third, or fourth) identity is too much? And where and when do you draw the line?

    Overall, there’s a universality to the dilemma that Bagge’s characters face: Who are we? We each have our own work, personal, relationship, social, and on-line identities—is any one of these more valid than another? It’s a question that Bagge addresses quite nicely, giving us an entertaining and thought-provoking good read along the way. But don’t let my professional reviewer identity influence you too much—go read Other Lives for yourself.

    1. Mike Carey: Novelist and Comic Writer
    2. Stitches: A Memoir by David Small

    Book Review: Other Lives by Peter Bagge

    Legislative session has its share or losers, winners

    May 25, 2010


    Published: May 2, 2010

    TALLAHASSEE – A Republican governor who bolted from his party, a $3.2-billion revenue shortfall and a tsunami of protest from teachers set the 2010 legislative session apart from any other.

    Here’s a look at what passed and what didn’t during the 60-day session, which ended Friday night. With few exceptions noted below, all measures that passed await action by Gov. Charlie Crist – or by voters, in the case of proposed constitutional amendments.

    Red Light Cameras – PASSED. The state will allow intersection cameras that detect red-light runners and send tickets to the car’s owner. First-offense tickets could cost $158. Proceeds go to state and local governments, trauma centers and medical research. No points would go on a driver’s record, and insurance companies can’t raise a driver’s rates from tickets.

    Texting and Driving/Sexting – DIED.

    •Senate approved penalties for drivers sending or reading messages on cell phones while driving. The measure died in the House as one member opposed singling out one distracting activity.

    • Senate passed a related rule banning any 16- or 17-year-old from talking on a cell phone while driving. The House didn’t pass the measure.

    •Senators wanted to ease penalties on teens “sexting,” or sending sexual images via a cell phone, from a felony to a misdemeanor, saying “it may be stupid, but it’s not child pornography.” The House didn’t pass the measure, so it remains a felony, punishable with years in prison.

    Sex Offenders – PASSED. Prohibits registered sex offenders or predators from “loitering or prowling” within 300 feet of areas where children congregate: parks, playgrounds, child care centers, schools and other places.

    Hate crimes on the homeless – PASSED. Adds extra potential penalties for those who target and attack the homeless, now a protected class under hate-crime laws.

    Pill mills – PASSED. New regulation and limits on so called “pill mill” pain clinics that dispense highly addictive prescription drugs like Vicodin and Percocet. Bars clinics from dispensing more than 72-hour supplies to patients who pay in cash, check or credit card. Patients with insurance coverage or worker compensation can still get larger supplies. Senate version by Mike Fasano R-New Port Richey.

    Unborn victims of violence – DIED. This bill would have extended the charge of vehicular homicide to drivers that cause a pregnant woman to lose an unborn child at any stage of development. Current law applies the charge in the case of a viable fetus. Senate version from Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

    Mixed martial arts – PASSED. Establishes Florida State Boxing Commission authority over kickboxing or mixed martial arts events and prohibits unsanctioned amateur events. Allows pre-event cease-and-desist orders. Senate version from Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. (Part of broad professional regulation bill.)

    Smoking in cars with minors – DIED. Bill written by students in Hillsborough County “Ought to be a law” program. Bans adults from smoking in cars carrying minors. Backed by Rep. Kevin Ambler and Sen. Victor Crist, both Tampa Republicans. Failed to pass Senate and House committees.

    Cuts to state prisons – PASSED. The budget that lawmakers approved cutting 447 vacant corrections staff positions and requires the department to shift prisoners from state-run detention facilities to the now-vacant Blackwater River Correctional Institution in Santa Rosa County.

    High-school graduation standards – PASSED/SIGNED INTO LAW. After years of arguing over the fairness and efficacy of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, lawmakers voted to phase out the high school FCAT and replace it with statewide end-of-course exams in algebra I, geometry and biology I.

    Eliminating teacher tenure – VETOED. An upwelling of protest from teachers and parents statewide convinced Gov. Charlie Crist to veto a bill that would have eliminated multi-year contracts for all new teachers and tied teacher pay and recertification to their students’ performance on tests. House version from John Legg, R-Port Richey.

    Civics education – PASSED/SIGNED INTO LAW. Middle school students will have to take civics course on local, state and federal government. Starting in 2014-2015, they must pass an end-of-course exam.

    Funding for libraries – PASSED. Senate convinced the House to restore $21 million in state aid to libraries, thereby preserving a federal grant for the statewide electronic library.

    Funding for local schools – PASSED. Per-student funding for K-12 schools will average $6.843.51 in 2010-2011, $1.22 above the current average. Locally, the increases are higher: Hillsborough County will get $17.03 more, Pasco County schools will get $2.26 more, and Pinellas County schools will get $16.94 more.

    Prayer in schools – PASSED. Prohibits school boards, administrators or personnel from taking action that infringes First Amendment rights, like religious expression. Originated with cases where school officials lead prayers at events, which lawsuits claimed violated the Constitution’s prohibition of state-established religion.

    Tuition hike – PASSED. The budget hikes university and community college tuition by 8 percent, on top of an optional 7 percent “tuition differential” increase that universities may implement. Lawmakers approved the tuition differential last year to allow Florida’s universities to catch up to the national average.


    New abortion rules – PASSED. Women seeking elective abortions, even in the first trimester, will have to pay to have an ultrasound first. The woman will have to see the ultrasound and hear a doctor’s description of it unless she declines in writing to do so, or unless she can prove she is seeking an abortion because of rape, incest, human trafficking or a threat to her health.

    Medicaid overhaul – DIED. The Senate and House pushed competing plans to further privatize Medicaid by letting HMOs and other private organizations oversee the care of more beneficiaries. None of the proposals passed both chambers.

    Children’s Boards – PASSED. Hillsborough and Pinellas counties’ children’s services boards will face direct voter referendums to survive, starting in 2016. Several other boards across Florida will, as well. Each board could decide whether to ask voters to approve their existence in perpetuity or for a specific number of years.

    Service changes for people with disabilities – PASSED. The budget reduces what the state will spend on home and community-based services for most beneficiaries with developmental disabilities. The Agency With Persons For Disabilities will begin implementing iBudget, a plan to customize annual budgets for each beneficiary based on their situation.

    Cuts to Healthy Families – PASSED. The budget cuts Healthy Families, the state’s vaunted program to prevent child abuse and neglect, by $10 million, or nearly one-third.

    Biomedical research – PASSED. Lawmakers appropriated $10 million for the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and provided $40 million for the state’s two main biomedical research grant programs. They also wrote a ban into the state budget on funding human embryonic stem-cell research with state dollars.

    New USF pharmacy program – PASSED. A new pharmacy program at the University of South Florida’s Lakeland campus won $10 million for construction and $6 million in academic funding. All told, the fledgling Lakeland polytechnic campus received more than $60 million.

    Restrictions on psychotropic medications for foster kids – DIED. Responding to last year’s death of a young foster child taking strong psychotropic drugs, Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, pressed in vain for new state regulations.

    Funding for Florida Forever – PASSED. Lawmakers approved a $15 million cash injection for the state’s land conservation program.

    Everglades restoration PASSED. The budget includes $10 million for this program and another $40 million if Congress approves additional federal aid to states.

    Pythons – PASSED. New laws banning importation or release of Burmese pythons, the Nile Monitor and African rock python. Current owners of banned species can keep their animals.

    Changes for policyholders – PASSED. Lawmakers approved an industry-backed plan giving them near-automatic approval of rate hikes of up to 10 percent under some circumstances and reducing the time policyholders have to file claims from five years to three. A related bill that would have more aggressively deregulated insurance rates failed.

    Disclosure of Toxic Spills – DIED. Requires public notification of contamination sites to nearby residents, in response to 1991 toxic spill by Raytheon plant in St. Petersburg. Residents weren’t notified for years. From Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, and Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg.

    TAXES and the ECONOMY

    Jobs/Economic Development – PASSED. Florida created a stimulus package of its own with a raft of $203 million in new tax credits and benefits aimed at creating more jobs: $1,000 tax credit for hiring each person unemployed for at least 30 days. Creates state-backed venture investment partnership with outside investors, new tax credits for movie production in Florida, with extra funds for “family friendly” movies. About $15 million for space and launch projects at NASA. Cuts taxes on corporate jets and yachts.

    School Supply Tax Holiday – PASSED. Restores the popular back-to-school sales tax holiday that was shelved for two years. Allows for three days of tax breaks – Aug. 13 to 15 – instead of the usual week to 10 days. No taxes on books, clothing, shoes, wallets and bags costing less than $50, and school supplies priced at less than $10.

    Gambling compact – PASSED/SIGNED INTO LAW. Lawmakers and the Governor approved a 20-year deal with the Seminole Tribe guaranteeing the state roughly $1.3 billion through 2015. In turn, the Seminoles have exclusive rights to blackjack and other table games in Tampa, three Broward County casinos and two in Immokalee. All seven tribal casinos can keep Las Vegas-style slot machines.

    Debit Card Fees – DIED. The Senate never voted on measures prohibiting a retailer from imposing a surcharge on debit card transactions, notably on cards issued for government benefits like Social Security or Medicaid.

    Measures that will appear on the November 2010 ballot.

    Redistricting – PASSED. Sponsors say this proposed constitutional amendment from lawmakers will clarify two citizen initiatives intended to stop gerrymandering. Supporters of the citizen initiatives say the Legislature’s proposal undermines theirs.

    Class size – PASSED. This amendment would halt the implementation of class-size restrictions so schools can continue complying by meeting school-wide averages. If this amendment does not pass, every public school class will have to adhere to strict class-size caps passed by voters in 2002.

    Health care – PASSED. Responding to new federal health care legislation, this amendment declares that Floridians may not be forced into purchasing health insurance. Constitutional scholars continue to disagree on whether states can legally override the federal mandate.

    Federal budget – PASSED. A nonbinding referendum asking whether Congress should add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring a balanced federal budget.

    Legislative session has its share or losers, winners

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