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Kristina Vragovic

Kristina Vragovic graduated from Indiana University in May 2012 with a B.A. in English. A Hoosier at heart, she cries when she thinks about the 2011-12 season and will rail on Purdue even when nobody from said school is in the immediate vicinity.

Aside from writing, Kristina enjoys correcting people’s grammar (for money, or by calling them out on Twitter) as well as collecting classic rock LPs, watching superhero movies and online shopping.

Wii U preorders sell out within days of release

Nintendo’s newest gaming system, the dual-screen Wii U, will go on sale Nov. 18

 

The Wii U has sold out of preorders only days after the new console was announced last week. The Wii U, which is available in an 8 GB version for $299 or a 32 GB version for $349, is the first new Nintendo console since the success of the Wii in 2006, and it comes with a boatload of new features.

The Wii U updates the now-well-known Wii gameplay by adding another dimension of visuals and gameplay options, though you can play all your old Wii games on it. The gamepad features a 6.2-inch LCD touchscreen as well as the super familiar, Super Nintendo-style control pad and A, B, X and Y buttons — plus two analog sticks. The gamepad also has motion control, like the Wii remote, as well as a microphone and stylus, among other features.

Why so many bells and whistles? They all have a function, unlike the famously ignored N64’s leftmost, er, handle thingy. The Wii U gamepad can be used in several ways that go beyond the remote-and-nunchuck gameplay of the Wii. The second screen can display maps or other secondary game visuals while simultaneously being used as a controller. Or you can use a Wii remote and nunchuck while using the second screen. Or you can use the stylus to control your on-screen character via the touchscreen. The list goes on.

Perhaps even more revolutionary is that the Wii U will take on aspects of such devices as the Apple TV. Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and Youtube are all going to have apps on the Wii U, and it will have the capacity to stream live TV or shows you’ve saved on TiVo. The second screen can be used to browse these apps and select TV shows and movies, a feature that Nintendo has cleverly dubbed Nintendo TVii. (No extra syllable.)

So far, the Wii U has sold out at Best Buy, while Target and Gamestop only have the 32 GB version left. It’s expected to be one of the biggest tech gifts of the 2012 holiday season.

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart kiss and make up?!

Robert Pattinson has reportedly forgiven Kristen Stewart for her infidelity

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart are reportedly back together after Kristen Stewart’s highly publicized infidelity with Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders. Sources say the couple have had a heart-to-heart and have made up — just in time for the premiere of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2.

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart had a conversation over the weekend during, which Pattinson forgave Stewart for her “stupid mistake” of cheating on him with the married 41-year-old director, a source told The Sun. The couple has decided that they “can’t live without one another,” and Kristen Stewart has said that “she’s really looking forward to being at the last Twilight movie premiere” with Pattinson, according to the source.

“After a few tearful talks, they’ve worked it out,” the source continued. “Rob can see how truly sorry Kristen is and has totally forgiven her. They really do love each other.”

Despite the fact that the couple moved out of their Los Angeles home and took up separate residences, rumors now circulate that the two are back to cohabiting in L.A. at a residence close by the Brangelina roost.

Now, the speculation centers on whether the reconciliation of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart is real or just a publicity stunt. What do you think? Is this a bona fide reunion, or are RPatz and KStew just hamming it for the camera crew at the Twilight premiere?

Panda cam at National Zoo introduces new cub to the world

Giant panda Mei Xiang gives birth at National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

 

Panda cam is the new puppy cam. For those who remember the Shiba Inu pups that caused a sensation in 2008, there’s a new live viral video in town — the one that the Smithsonian’s National Zoo set up for a brand-new baby panda.

The 24-hour panda cam is currently live after the National Zoo’s resident giant panda, Mei Xiang, gave birth Sunday night to a tiny cub the size of a stick of butter. (Whoever actually sees the cub first wins — word is that Mei Xiang is keeping the tiny bundle of joy under a nest of hay in her den.)

National Zoo director Dennis Kelly says he is “glued to the panda cam” for his own first look at the cub. He also says he is “cautiously optimistic” but believes that Mei Xiang will be a good mommy for the new panda. This is the giant panda’s second birth from artificial insemination; her last cub, Tai Shan, was born in 2005. Mei Xiang reportedly had only a 10 percent chance of getting pregnant through the procedure, as giving birth in captivity is a rare event for pandas.

The panda cam is the only way excited panda-lovers will see the new cub for at least three months. That’s how long the zoo says it’s planning on keeping the pandas under wraps, to give them some peace and time to bond. In the meantime, fans can keep their eyes on the panda cam and decide on the new addition’s name. Four names, all approved by the China Wildlife Conservation Association, have been put to the vote via Internet poll.

There are less than 2,000 giant pandas remaining in the wild. All of the National Zoo’s pandas are Chinese property and are actually out on loan; Tai Shan was returned to China in 2009. So catch the panda cam while you can, and post your comments on the creature cuties below!

Ellen Degeneres pitches new comedy show to NBC

The talk-show host looks to be getting back into the world of sitcoms

 

Ellen Degeneres is returning to sitcom-land. The popular talk show host has sold a new comedy to NBC, which has fans recalling her initial television success on her sitcom Ellen.

For her new project, Ellen Degeneres teamed up with the senior writer on her talk show, Lauren Pomerantz. Pomerantz, whose writing career also includes such comedy heavy-hitters as Saturday Night Live and Community, will be the new show’s writer and executive producer. Ellen Degeneres will also serve as an executive producer.

The new show is about a “successful, proudly independent” 32-year-old woman who panics when she sees that the paperwork for her newly purchased house lists her as single. She wonders if she has jinxed herself into being alone for the rest of her life, runs to family and friends for support, starts getting therapy, etc.

Ellen Degeneres’s company, A Very Good Production, has been working on a string of projects lately. One is already underway on Fox and is based on the web series Couple Time, and another involves Portia De Rossi, Ellen Degeneres’s wife and star of cult show Arrested Development.

So, are you excited for more of Ellen’s comedy influence? Do you think the new show will be a success?

Melissa Gorga of ‘Real Housewives’ accused of stripper past

Former gentleman’s club owner confronts Melissa Gorga about her days dancing at Lookers

 

Melissa Gorga denied rumors last year that she used to be a stripper, but last night’s episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey stirred up the controversy once again. This time, Melissa Gorga was directly confronted by someone from her past who remembered her from her dancing days.

That someone was Angelo Vrohidis, salon public relations manager and former owner of Lookers, a gentleman’s club where Melissa Gorga used to work. While getting their makeup done for Kim D’s fashion show, Teresa Giudice and Kim DePaola were approached by Angelo, who told Teresa that he knew her sister-in-law. When Teresa asked Angelo how he knew Melissa Gorga, he replied that she used to dance at his club.

Teresa was naturally shocked at the news, but kept a straight face. “I’ve heard a lot of rumors about Melissa dancing, and this person kind of confirmed it,” she said later.

Angelo Vrohidis told AllAboutVRH.com that Melissa Gorga got in touch with her former coworkers to get them to help cover up her past. Last year, amid rumors on this same subject, Gorga did not deny that she worked at the club, but insisted that she was only a bartender. She implored her coworkers to tell the same story, says Vrohidis.

At the fashion show, Melissa Gorga noticed Vrohidis and said to co-star Kathy Wakile that she knew him, but couldn’t remember where from: “You know when you know somebody?” Vrohidis then approached her himself and asked her if she remembered him. Later, Melissa Gorga denied the story and tweeted that Vrohidis has a drug problem.

Gorga’s former manager upheld her story that she was only a bartender, adding that Lookers was “really upscale then, too.”

James Cameron planning Avatar prequel

Second and third films haven’t even been made, but Cameron says Avatar 4 will be prequel

 

An Avatar prequel could be in the works someday, says director James Cameron. That’s after the second and third films, which haven’t even been completely written yet. The director is still working on the scripts for the sequels, which he plans to shoot back-to-back. The second film likely wouldn’t come out until at least 2015.

Comparisons have already been made between James Cameron’s plans for the Avatar prequel and the sequel-before-prequel structure of George Lucas’s Star Wars saga. But Cameron said in an interview with MTV that he isn’t trying to imitate the space opera; the Avatar prequel structure would be completely organic.

“It’s a logical thing to do because we’ll have completed the thematic arc by the end of three,” Cameron said of the Avatar prequel. “The only thing left to do is go back to see what it was like on those first expeditions and create some new characters that then become legacy characters in later films.”

So, what would the plot of the Avatar prequel look like? James Cameron revealed that the film would show audiences “the early expeditions of Pandora, and kind of what went wrong with the humans and the Na’vi.” He pointed out that the plot of the 2009 Avatar film takes place in a world where colonization has been going on for 35 years, which provides plenty of fodder for back story.

An Avatar prequel is still plenty of years away, though. The visual complexity of the original film made for a long production process, and Cameron’s crew is working on simplifying the process for the sequels. Cameron said he hopes for a “much smoother workflow” going forward.

Hantavirus quarantine enforced at Hoarding: Buried Alive home

A positive test has put the reality TV home under hantavirus quarantine for past 24 hours

 

A hantavirus quarantine has been issued for a home in the Houston suburb known as The Woodlands. The home, which was featured on the TLC reality show Hoarding: Buried Alive, was recently cleaned out by 29 people. One of them, the daughter of the homeowner, became ill two weeks ago and was diagnosed with hantavirus.

The hantavirus quarantine has been in effect for more than 24 hours. A sherriff’s deputy is currently guarding the home, which was filled with mouse feces in addition to the piles of clutter removed by the cleanup crew. Hantavirus is spread through mice, specifically through exposure to mouse excrement.

The presence of rodent offal is “not unusual in a hoarding situation because there’s so much material,” Dr. Mark Escott of the Montgomery County Health Department told a local news source. “It’s impossible to keep it clean and track the rodent population.” Escott added that the other members of the cleanup crew have been notified of the hantavirus quarantine so that they can get tested for the disease.

During the cleanup of the Hoarding home, hundreds of books were donated to the Friends of the Houston Library, a nonprofit organization that sells used books with proceeds going to the public library system. The organization had not yet sold any of the donated books by the time the hantavirus quarantine was issued. Friends of the Houston Library “reacted immediately and proactively by isolating as many books as possible,” according to a statement from the organization.

The hantavirus quarantine is unlikely to affect surrounding homes. The virus, which is fatal in about a third of cases, is not contagious and can only be spread through contact with the carrier substance.

Yellowstone bison charges at children

Adult takes video, tells kids to get closer before Yellowstone bison charges at the group

 

A Yellowstone bison charge almost resulted in serious injury for a young boy visiting the park this weekend. The incident, which began as a friendly inquiry into wildlife in its natural habitat, quickly turned into a harrowing near-miss that was caught on video. 

The video of the Yellowstone bison charge reveals a group of tourists approaching a buffalo that is grazing freely. The adult who is capturing the video encourages the younger children to get closer and closer to the animal, with no fence or separation of any kind between them and the buffalo. The man whispers that the buffalo is friendly, and even though another member of the group notices the wild animal’s head movements and gestures, they keep telling the children to get closer and to touch the buffalo on the head. Little did they know they were inciting the Yellowstone bison to charge.

Moments later, the buffalo grunts and lifts its tail, a sign of aggression. Ignoring the warning signs, the children do not move away, and finally, the Yellowstone bison charges a young boy wearing a backpack. The boy moves away just in time, running around a tree and back onto the wooden pathway.

The video of the Yellowstone bison charge was posted to YouTube as well as to the Facebook page of the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce of Commerce. Park officials commented, saying that the video made them “angry, especially at the irresponsible person behind the camera.” The comment continued, “This group has no idea how incredibly lucky they were that no one was injured or killed.”

Damien Echols and Johnny Depp get matching tattoos

Damien Echols, a former member of the West Memphis Three, was released from death row thanks to support from Johnny Depp

 

Damien Echols, a former death row inmate, shares more with Johnny Depp than a penchant for shoulder-length hair and sunglasses. The two revealed their matching tattoos this Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“This one Damien designed,” Johnny Depp said of a tattoo on the right side of his chest. “It’s one of my all-time favorites, and it means quite a lot to me.”

Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin, also known as the West Memphis Three, were sentenced with the death penalty in 1994 for the murder of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Over time, it became clear that the Three were innocent, and many celebrities petitioned for their release — including Johnny Depp, who formed a particular bond with Damien Echols.

The pair have kept in touch since the release of Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin in 2011, and they usually end up getting tattoos whenever they see each other. They appeared together at the Toronto International Film Festival in support of West of Memphis, Amy Berg’s new documentary about the investigation that led to the Three’s release. Johnny Depp said it was the first documentaries on the case that initially got him invested in the cause.

“All these people stepped up and caught us like a safety net, they gave us a place to land,” Damien Echols said of the celebrity support. Of Johnny Depp, he said, “Since we’ve gotten out, he’s become like a brother to me.”

Depp will also attend Echols’ book launch later this month in New York.

Chicago Public Schools shaken by teachers union strike

Several contract offers not accepted; Chicago Public Schools forced to cease classroom instruction

More than 400,000 children will not learn anything new at Chicago Public Schools today, as the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike this morning for the first time in 25 years. Karen Lewis, president of the union, announced that after more than a year of negotiations for higher salaries, health benefits and job security, the union and the school district “failed to reach an agreement that would prevent a labor strike.”

A fraction of the Chicago Public Schools have opened their doors to children from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in an effort to help working parents find places for their children. The children will receive free breakfasts and lunches at 144 schools that are participating in the program, part of the “Children First” plan put in place in the event of a strike. Still, thousands of children are left with nowhere to go.

Chicago School Board President David Vitale said that more than 20 offers have been made to the teachers union, but at a certain point, “there’s only so much money in the system.” Raising teachers’ salaries just one percentage point would cost $20 million, a district spokeswoman said. But teachers want their salaries to reflect the longer day instituted for Chicago Public Schools, a reform championed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The Chicago Public Schools district, already plagued by dismal finances, had offered teachers a 16 percent raise over four years, a far cry from the 30 percent over two years that the union demanded. However, the district had also offered other benefits, including a program for placing teachers who are laid off because of school closings.

“Recognizing the Board’s fiscal woes, we are not far apart on compensation,” union president Lewis said. “However, we are apart on benefits. We want to maintain the existing health benefits.” Lewis also cited evaluation procedures as a reason for the strike.

Mayor Emanuel responded by saying that he thought the offers made by Chicago Public Schools constituted “an honorable deal and an honest compromise.”

The strike was authorized by 90 percent of Chicago Teachers Union members. It would have passed with only 75 percent of the vote.