Since his groundbreaking coverage of the first Gulf war for CNN, Peter Arnett has kept close tabs on Iraqi affairs. Now, with Blood and Betrayal, he is rewriting history. Living in Iraq since before the invasion, Arnett has unraveled the secret plans of Uday Hussein, Saddam's eldest son--plans that force a reassessment of prewar Iraqi power structures and reveal the origins of the insurrection. Arnett even managed to acquire the contents of Uday's desk. "Uday's psychotic behavior certainly upset his father," says Arnett, "but he was always pushing to make sure he would inherit Saddam's mantle. Uday had made the Fedayeen his own army, providing them with proper training and good equipment, and they were to be his coup d'état force. So even before the war Saddam's days were numbered."
Hef's annual New Year's Eve bash is the hottest ticket in L.A. --and not just because of the sexy black-tie and lingerie-or-less dress code. This year everyone from athletes to movie stars gathered to pop the champagne and ring in 2005.
[dvdTitle]Laura[/dvdTitle] ([releaseDate]1944[/releaseDate]) "I shall never forget the weekend Laura died." So begins one of the all-time great film noirs, finally available on DVD. Gene Tierney is the eponymous Manhattan socialite, loved by all, surrounded by sinister paramours and murdered in cold blood. Extras: Commentaries by composer David Raksin and film historians Jeanine Basinger and Rudy Behlmer, a restoration comparison and an original theatrical trailer. [rating]4 bunnies[/rating]
[dvdTitle]The Incredibles[/dvdTitle] ([releaseDate]2004[/releaseDate]) Writer-director Brad Bird scores with a hilarious riff on the role of superheroes in this animated film that appeals to adults even more than kids. A battery of liability complaints forces Mr. Incredible and his family underground in a superhero-protection program. Newly named Bob Parr and his wife, Helen (a.k.a. Elastigirl), settle down and start a family, but soon middle-aged Bob longs for the excitement of his youth. Extras: Animator commentary, deleted scenes, a making-of documentary, a bloopers reel and the short film Boundin'. [rating]3-1/2 bunnies[/rating]
[dvdTitle]Closer[/dvdTitle] ([releaseDate]2004[/releaseDate]) You desperately want to get closer to gorgeous people like the four leads--Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen--in this intelligent, funny drama by Carnal Knowledge director Mike Nichols. But there are always buts, and here they are: the underlying ugliness and shameless deception that each character brings to this ménage à quatre. British writer Patrick Marber adapted his play for the screen, and his dialogue, blue and often biting, keeps Closer sizzling even as Nichols eschews the sex scenes that could have made this an erotic masterpiece. Extras: There's nothing official to report at press time, but we're keeping our fingers crossed for the must-see full-frontal Portman strip scene that Nichols cut. [rating]3 bunnies[/rating]
[dvdTitle]High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story[/dvdTitle] ([releaseDate]2003[/releaseDate]) Legendary card shark Stu "the Kid" Ungar didn't know when to fold 'em and died at the age of 45. The Sopranos' Michael Imperioli creates an unsympathetic character of cocky schmuck Ungar in this timely cautionary tale. Extras: Commentary by Imperioli, writer-director A.W. Vidmer and poker expert Vince Van Patten, plus a music video. [rating]3 bunnies[/rating]
The Twilight Zone: The Definitive Edition, Season Two
[dvdTitle]The Twilight Zone: The Definitive Edition, Season Two[/dvdTitle] ([releaseDate]1960--1961[/releaseDate]) Freaky season two is arguably the most mind-bendingly consistent of the show's run. The eerie classics are even better with new high-definition transfers and commentaries--our favorites are from Donna Douglas (the bandaged beauty in "Eye of the Beholder") and Don Rickles (the bettor in "Mr. Dingle, the Strong"). Extras: Some radio shows, Rod Serling TV appearances and isolated musical scores. [rating]3 bunnies[/rating]
Nicollette Sheridan first warmed our blood as the sure thing in The Sure Thing (1985), her feature-film debut, which did as much for the bikini industry as it did for our hormone level. She teased us with her tantalizing cheekbones and legs in several lame TV movies, but in Raw Nerve (1999, pictured) she finally bared all as the cunning, rich girlfriend of lucky Mario Van Peebles. We now get to feast our eyes on her each week in Desperate Housewives, on which she plays a seductive divorcée in hot pants, and we're seriously considering changing our address to Wisteria Lane.
[dvdTitle]The Machinist[/dvdTitle] ([releaseDate]2004[/releaseDate]) Christian Bale does a reverse De Niro à la Raging Bull, losing 63 pounds in this taut psychological thriller about a drill pressman whose insomnia causes reality and paranoia to become indistinguishable.[rating]3 bunnies[/rating]
[gameTitle]Fifa Street[/gameTitle] ([manufacturer]EA Sports Big[/manufacturer], [releaseInfo]GameCube, PS2, Xbox[/releaseInfo]) Finally EA gives its trademark no-way-that-would-ever-happen-but-wow-it's-fun "street" treatment to the FIFA soccer franchise. Packed with freaky four-on-four footie action and flashy trick moves, the game moves much faster and has a healthy disregard for the rules. Even with the nerve-jangling house soundtrack and aggressively awful pseudo-Jamaican commentator, we'll still be logging some serious hours with this one. [rating]3 bunnies[/rating]
LG Electronics Flatron 80-Series (17-inch, $500; 19-inch, $600; lgusa.com) Serious gamers have always turned up their nose at flat-panel LCD screens because their refresh rates have been notoriously slow, blurring fast action. The amazing eight-millisecond response time on LG's new Flatron 80-Series monitors is the fix for that bug, and the fold-and-flip stand lets you view your head shots from any angle.
[gameTitle]God of War[/gameTitle] ([manufacturer]SCEA[/manufacturer], [releaseInfo]PS2[/releaseInfo]) Tired of cute, fuzzy mascot games? Good. This unflinchingly brutal take on Greek mythology has you battle an epic array of mythical creatures such as Medusa, the Hydra and Cyclops with the aid of two "blades of chaos" attached to your forearms. Avoid the traps, solve the puzzles, commit the odd human sacrifice and pagan ritual, and maybe you'll find a way out of your cursed destiny. A gruesome, gorgeous and gleefully gory Greek tragedy. [rating]3-1/2 bunnies[/rating]
[gameTitle]Star Wars Republic Command[/gameTitle] ([manufacturer]Lucas Arts[/manufacturer], [releaseInfo]PC, Xbox[/releaseInfo]) Lightsabers are for wusses. This squad-based first-person shooter puts you in command of the clone army's black-ops Delta Squad. These four supersoldiers rely on their guns and specialties (demolitions, sniping, hacking) to get the job done. The single-player story takes place between episodes two and three, and Force dorks will think they've died and gone to Dagobah in the 16-player online death matches. [rating]3-1/2 bunnies[/rating]
[gameTitle]Enthusia Proffessional Racing[/gameTitle] ([manufacturer]Konami[/manufacturer], [releaseInfo]PS2[/releaseInfo]) Whoever said video games aren't therapeutic hasn't played this beautifully rendered driving sim. This fast-paced road-rage cure allows you to tool around in hundreds of licensed cars from 40 manufacturers; each vehicle can be raced on unpronounceable courses such as Nürburgring and Burgenschlucht. What the game lacks in originality it makes up in looks, thanks to its proprietary Visual Gravity System. [rating]3 bunnies[/rating]
More and More pros are using putters with big heads that look as though they could double as weapons. The large clubface expands the sweet spot, so there's less chance of shanking your shot. So you'll have that going for you, which is nice. Our pick from this year's models is Taylor-Made's Rossa vt Monza ($279, rossaputters.com). You can customize the feel by screwing weights into the head.
The Internet makes it Easy to access huge amounts of data. Unfortunately the Internet also makes it easy to drown in huge amounts of data. Which is where the Ambient Dashboard ($150, ambientdevices.com) comes in. Set its three analog needles to display info from more than 30 sources--the stock market, the pollen forecast, local traffic conditions, the size of your e-mail in-box--and you get an immediate, noninvasive and, above all, useful look at the stuff that shapes your life. The info comes from the company's free wireless network, so the only thing you need to plug it into is an outlet.
An Homage to the king of cool, this Swiss-made beauty from Oris ($2,325, oris-watch.com) is all about telling time in style. With its stainless steel case, crystal covering, stopwatch and luminescent hands, you can read the time in dark jazz clubs and never miss a beat, just like the man himself.
Cell phones that can deal with e-mail, contact lists and schedules may be "smart," but they're not so entertaining. Audiovox's featherweight SMT 5600 ($199 with service plan, attwireless.com) lets you enjoy music, recorded TV shows and Internet video downloads. Removable Mini SD memory cards (sold separately) can store up to four hours of video. And when it's time to do some work? This baby runs Microsoft Office and can handle eight e-mail accounts. It's an entire office in your pocket, letting you toil right from your beach chair.
You never know when you're going to need a Ping-Pong table, if only for those times when there's no other way to settle a score. But most rooms are too small for a traditional one. Rallystar's Micro ($1,500) is proportioned like a regulation tennis court, which means it's skinnier than a normal table. Shorter, too--the whole thing is shrunk to a length of five feet, making the game faster, tighter and more twitch-based. Pick one up at a local gaming retailer or order online from rallystartennis.com.
Ah, the vacuum. It cleans rooms and makes space travel frictionless. And it can make a damn good cup of coffee, too. The Cona D vacuum brewer ($180, cona.co.uk) has no power plug. Heat from an alcohol lamp creates a vacuum that draws the water through the grounds. The result? A clean, sediment-free brew that's never touched metal, for under $200 (deluxe makers can top $1,000). In the next blackout you'll be the only one on your block with fresh coffee.
From a List of gifts received by justices of the Supreme Court since 1998, as reported in the Los Angeles Times: Clarence Thomas: $19,000 Bible once owned by Frederick Douglass from a Republican donor, $15,000 Lincoln bust from the American Enterprise Institute, $5,000 cash from a fellow mobile-home enthusiast, $1,200 tires from a trucking executive, $1,200 in batteries from former law clerks, $800 jacket from Daytona 500 organizers, $500 Stetson hat from the Houston Club, $375 performance chip from a Corvette supplier, $100 in cigars from Rush Limbaugh. Sandra Day O'Connor: $1,500 crystal medallion from Scripps College, $875 Steuben glass sculpture from the Junior League, $500 blanket from the American Academy of Achievement. William Rehn-quist: $5,000 award from Fordham, $4,000 for Washington Golf and Country Club dues (value of initiation-fee waiver not disclosed). Antonin Scalia: $375 in wine from a Virginia winery, $300 cowboy boots from Texas's Tarrant County Bar Association, $300 silver box from singer Andrea Bocelli, $300 portraits from a Republican donor and former ambassador to Italy.
Below is a list of retailers and manufacturers you can contact for information on where to find this month's merchandise. To buy the apparel and equipment shown on pages 32, 49-52, 90-92, 116-125 and 174-175, check the listings below to find the stores nearest you.
Playboy (ISSN 0032-1478), April 2005, volume 52, number 4. Published monthly by Playboy in national and regional editions, Playboy, 680 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60611. Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, Illinois and at additional mailing offices. Canada Post Canadian Publications Mail Sales Product Agreement No. 40035534. Subscriptions: in the U.S., $29.97 for 12 issues. Postmaster: Send address change to Playboy, P.O. Box 2007, Harlan, Iowa 51537-4007. For subscription-related questions, call 800-999-4438, or e-mail email@example.com.
Desperate Housewives--Who says suburbia is sexless? We asked real-life desperate housewives to show us what they've got under their aprons. They dropped their mops, garden hoses, diaper bags and, yes, clothing to pose for a memorable pictorial. Be careful--Your mailman may swipe the issue.