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Dispatches : Celebrities

Stuff You Should Click On: Week of November 12

Obscure sports, a brief history of fossil fuels, "will write for ski swag," and... Dick Van Dyke?  Here's the stuff you click this week.

I Can Ride My Bike with No Handlebars:

Those Are 'Shrooms, Dude!
Making Plastic from Mushrooms (Wend)

It's a... headlampternpod?
Headlamp + Lantern + Tripod = Sheer Brilliance (Wired)

Want Some Ski Swag? Use Your Words:
An Essay Contest? An Essay Contest (

I Think We're Going to Need Some More Sunscreen:
California's Whales Suffer Sunburn (NewScientist)

Beats Community Service:
Irish Judge Sentences Man to Climb Mountain (

In Case You Missed It:
Nikolai Novosjolov Wins Epee Title (ESPN)

Live Like the Other Half:
A Training Plan: for Spectators (Runner's World)

A Brief History of Fossil Fuels:

Never a Dull Moment:
Porpoises Rescue Dick Van Dyke on His Surfboard (Surfersvillage)

--Michael Webster

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Attack of the Mama Grizzly

    Sarah Palin checks fishing nets for holes,  Photo by Gilles Mingasson

An early review of Sarah Palin’s Alaska  —Abe Streep

Toward the end of a long montage introducing Sarah Palin’s Alaska, the Mark Burnett-produced, eight-episode series that premieres on TLC Sunday at 9 P.M. Eastern (7 P.M. here in Mountain Standard Time), the show’s narrator and star asks, “How come we can’t ever be satisfied with tranquility and serenity?” Then she shoulders a rifle and fires off a round. In the background, triumphant orchestral music gives way to a blaring new country, electric-guitar-driven flag waving. And we're off!

Watch more Sarah Palin videos on

The premiere episode—which features the Palin clan fishing for salmon; witnessing a grizzly bear battle; and going climbing on Mount McKinley—has all the nuance of a Sarah Palin political campaign. That’s not too surprising. Many have pointed out that the show, for which Discovery paid a reported $1.2 million per episode, may be nothing more than an early presidential campaign conducted over the modern medium with the longest tentacles: reality TV. (Palin hasn’t dissuaded the notion, responding to Karl Rove’s criticism of the show by saying, “Wasn’t Ronald Reagan an actor?” Yes, he was—before he completed two terms as governor of California, but perhaps that’s besides the point.)

This is not quite reality TV, though. Palin, who is listed as an executive producer alongside Burnett, is in complete control of the message here, free of questions from badgering reporters. She tries to come off folksier and friendlier than the Palin of the past few months—much of the show is dedicated to life as an Alaskan mom. But you don't forget that she's a mom with teeth. When a neighbor non-grata, journalist Joe McGinniss, moves to town to write a book about Sarah, Todd responds by building a 14-foot fence to block McGinniss’s view. From her porch, Sarah chirps, “Others could look at it and say, 'Oh, this is what we need to do to secure our nation’s border!'”

For such a loud show, Sarah Palin's Alaska is surprisingly slow and tiring. We see a bear fight, and Sarah and Todd go climbing on Mount McKinley hours after she dons a suit to appear remotely on Bill O’Reilly—and still, the viewer gets the impression that nothing much happens. The camera is always moving, panning around Palin, Todd, and the children, a swirl of effects surrounding the small show of family life. The grand Alaskan landscape appears as a bit player, background for the swell adventures of the state's most famous citizen.

Watch more Sarah Palin videos on

Struggling up a small section of Mount McKinley with the aid of a top-roping guide, Palin yells, “Oh, I just don’t like heights, I was so cocky, I’m being punished for it!” The scene goes on far too long; it’s just not that much fun to watch a beginning climber struggle up an easy section of rock. But perhaps Burnett and co. decided to show the little ascent in all its extended tedium for another reason.

“I didn’t want to quit,” Palin says, after reaching her guide. “I didn’t want to quit in front of other people.” It could be a long campaign.

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The Top 10 Blogs from October

What made big news last month? Scroll down to find out. Here are the top 10 posts from October. At least you'll be armed with good dinner party conversation.

Number 10: The Top 10 Adventures in Scotland


Number 9: The Top 10 Things To Do in Tofino


Number 8: Fatal Shark Attack in California

Picture 2

Number 7: Red Bull Stops Stratos: Freefall Jump from 120,000 Feet

Number 6: The Gear Junkie Interview: Clif Bar's Gary Erickson

Number 5: The Marathon Diaries: The Stubborn Gene

Number 4: Gear Army: CW-X Running Tights


Number 3: Twitter Contest: Win Custom Folsom Skis

[Editor's note: Sorry, contest ended October 31st. But follow us on Twitter and you'll find other contests worth entering]


Number 2: The Top 10 Fitness Trends of 2011

Number 1 (and reigning champion for two months!): Woman Saves Choking Bear


Anything we missed that you'd like to share?

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Former Child Soldier Becomes Fitness Warrior


Tchicaya Missamou, once a child soldier in the Republic of Congo, is now helping hundreds of Americans shape up in his Warrior Fitness Camp in California, CNN reports.

As a child in the Republic of Congo, Missamou was taught brutality and forced to participate in taking lives. Later, he joined the country's elite military force. To avoid fighting, he began a private security militia that helped white families flee during the Republic of Congo's civil war in 1997, though even his own men turned against him and brutalized his family, setting fire to their home while some were still inside. Missamou managed to escape and fled to the United States.

Missamou quickly joined the U.S. military and was soon leading men into battle in Iraq. After eight years of service and a harrowing return to the Republic of Congo that landed him in jail there, Missamou opened his gym, offering "warrior" classes to help Americans shed pounds and gain self-confidence.

"You're going to see them rolling, sweating, and crying," he told CNN. His tough training style includes spraying clients with water as they don a full military pack and pull dollies piled with tractor tires. "My workout is a mind game," he says, "because I believe when your mind is strong, your body will be strong."

Missamou, who recently published his memoir In the Shadow of Freedom, also lectures around the country on the plight of child soldiers in Africa, CNN says. "All my life, I lived in the shadow of freedom," he told CNN. Now, "I am not dreaming freedom. I am living freedom."

--Nick Davidson

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