Penelope Cruz in March 2014.
Image: Alexandra Wyman/Invision/AP/Associated Press

Penelope Cruz is Esquire‘s “sexiest woman alive.”

Cruz, 40, is the 11th woman to be given the title by the magazine. Previous honorees include Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, Rihanna, Charlize Theron and Scarlett Johansson.

The Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Vanilla Sky actress tells Esquire that she had “an attraction to drama” in her teens and 20s but “could not be less interested now.”

Cruz is keeping quiet about her personal life. She declined to comment to the magazine about her actor-husband, Javier Bardem, as well as their two children. She says, “That is for us.”

The actress will next be seen in the Spanish-language film Ma Ma and in Grimsby with Sacha Baron Cohen.


Image: Esquire/Associated Press

The November issue of Esquire will be on newsstands Oct. 21.

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Mashable OP-ED: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

For those of us who lived through the dotcom crash of 2000, plummeting tech stocks are nothing new. But I can’t remember ever seeing a company lose 40% of its value in just a few hours — and that’s what happened to Zynga Wednesday afternoon.

The online gaming giant’s share price, which once stood as high as $16, has been trading in the region of $5 recently — until it released its second quarter earnings report Wednesday, and the price wilted like an untended FarmVille crop to $3 in after-hours trading.

Investors, it seemed, had finally lost patience with Zynga founder and CEO Mark Pincus, and his vague explanations of how the company will continue to grow.

I can’t say I blame them. I like Pincus; I knew him back in the days when he founded a great little social network called Tribe, which plugged the gap between Friendster and Facebook. But I also saw him interviewed on stage at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference last week in Aspen; it was hardly a bravura performance.

Pincus spoke haltingly; he was much more precise in defining Zynga’s challenges (for one, the smartphone boom has created an environment where people spend less time in his games) than in identifying solutions (there isn’t even a rough launch date for a FarmVille mobile app). No wonder a cheeky Twitter executive tweeted Wednesday that Zynga engineers were always welcome to come interview at his company. (The tweet has since been deleted.)

Gaming vs. Gambling

So how can Zynga right itself? Where do the future revenue streams lie, in a world where people are simply playing less Draw Something, having fewer Words With Friends, and slowly stepping away from nearly all of the Villes?

As I see it, there are two main possibilities: legalized gambling on the one hand, and smarter, more compelling, more original games on the other.

Gambling — or real-money gaming, as Pincus calls it — is a potential solution the CEO returns to a little too loudly and a little too often. As he points out, Zynga is already home to the world’s largest poker game, its biggest slots and bingo enterprise. Why, all it would take is a change in the entire federal regulatory environment, and Zynga would be a virtual Caesar’s Palace, but one the size of the entire Strip!

Investors aren’t buying it. Zynga is no Vegas casino, no offshore operation. It’s a company firmly rooted in California, with nearly all its customer base in states where gambling is illegal. Pincus is hardly the CEO to talk multiple governments into making a change to gambling law that would hurt the casino lobby. (One wonders if even Steve Jobs could meet that challenge.)

The End of Following

That leaves better-written, more compelling, more original gameplay. I’m told by Zynga sources there is a movement in this direction already — but that it’s hard to change the culture of a company with a tendency to either buy its games outright or be heavily influenced by others in its creativity, to put it mildly. (I hear jaws dropped and heads shook all around the Zynga building when The Ville, a game not entirely unlike The Sims, was unveiled.)

Pincus is right to say, as he does, that games should be social, simple to pick up, effortless to start playing, and capable of being consumed on the go, in bite-sized chunks. Do that and your audience is almost limitless. I give Zynga a lot of credit for shaking up the stodgy old computer and videogame industry with this model.

But he’s wrong to believe, as much of the evidence suggests, that games should be dumbed-down clickfests and meaningless reward loops. The great thing about gaming, especially when it’s social, is that it lets our imaginations soar. It lets us have fun by playing someone else — and playing the role of someone else.

I would argue that some of Zynga’s most successful games have been its smartest — the ones that sneak in some self-improvement while you’re enjoying yourself in your downtime. The Scrabble-like Words With Friends bestows an appreciation of the English language; Draw Something hones artistic skills, however mildly; FarmVille teaches agriculture, of all things. None would look particularly out of place in the classroom next to fully educational games such as Oregon Trail.

More Fun, Less Marketing

That pleasure wears off fast, however, when those titles are stuffed full of ads for other games, overly-eager requests to hook you up with more players, and nudges towards virtual goods purchasing. (The first two, plus a poor and completely unnecessary redesign, are the reasons I’ve been able to shed my long-standing Words With Friends addiction in recent weeks.)

I’d much rather drop a few dollars on a great game than constantly be on my guard for commercial purpose within it. Wouldn’t you? In-app purchases need to be super subtle, obviously optional; the game environment needs to tease our minds rather than our wallets.

For instance, my wife is addicted to DragonVale, a Zynga-esque game by Backflip Studios about breeding dragons. Ask her why she keeps returning to it, and she’ll tell you about the thoroughly silly descriptions you get to read when you buy a new dragon. There was attention to detail in the writing, and it paid off.

Mobile is a vast new frontier for gaming; we don’t know half of what works yet. What we do know is that the world is getting smarter, to the tune of an IQ point a year on average.

Maybe millions of us are ready for Choose Your Own Adventure-style text quests with multiple players, or games where you compete to compose the catchiest tune on a simplified instrument, or a galaxy-wide empire-building god game you only get to play five minutes at a time. Who knows until we try?

I’d like to see Zynga throw a thousand wacky, creative ideas at the wall and see which ones stick. Stop trying so hard to make them all look the same. Iterate fast, fail fast, and win with something you never expected — rather than trying to provide a platform for other developers to win on.

With more than a billion dollars in the bank, the company can certainly afford to invest in good game design — and investors may buy that strategy more than the unlikely promise of legalized gambling.

Roller coasters provide big thrills to people around the world. Amusement parks get swamped with those seeking to feel the rush that only the coaster experience can provide. Its part scary and part exciting! But while we take for granted that these things are completely safe, it turns out there have been some extremely horrific deaths that have occurred on roller coasters. Check these out:

‘Big Dipper’ Wooden Roller Coaster – 1972

This coaster was the main attraction at the Battersea Park Funfair in England. The amusement park had been running for 20 years, but on May of 1972, something tragic occurred. One of the ropes carrying a car snapped, causing a car at the top of the hill to roll backwards. The car was filled with kids and five of them became crushed to death while 13 others were injured.

Mindbender – 1986

The Mindbender just opened months prior in Alberta, Canada at Galaxyland, but disaster soon struck. Missing bolts in the last car were to blame. It flew off the track, slamming into a wall and then, with the safety bars releasing, sending passengers flying through the air, some to their death. Three dead and others were injured. Despite the tragedy, the ride is still open.

Fujin Raijin II – 2007

It was 2007 at Expoland in Osaka, Japan. The Fujin Raijin II left one college student dead and another 19 injured. It had derailed and the cars went flying off the tracks. Turns out the axles had not been replaced or even serviced for 15 years. Eventually the park shut down after people stopped going there.

Superman: Tower of Power – 2007

Six Flags Kentucky. June of 2007. The Superman: Tower of Power ride. While heading up the ride, teenage girls became thrashed by cables in the face and body. The support cables had broke and now the ride itself was smoking, while still climbing to the top. 13-year-old Kaitlyn Lasitter had both of her feet chopped clear off by the whipping cable. One was later able to be reattached. The other was so mangled it was not. Other passengers were injured as well.

Puff The Little Fire Dragon – 1989

This was supposed to be a kids ride that was safe. But Utah’s Lagoon Amusement Park’s Puff the Little Fire Dragon ride proved to be far from it. Despite it was one of the slowest rides in the whole park in 1989, the Little Red Dragon ride put a 6-year-old on the tracks after his restraints didnt hold. The four feet fall was not severe injury inducing, but it was when he went to get up, climbing back on the track, that the demonic Dragon ride circled back around and hit him on the head, killing the boy.

Ride of Steel – 2011

It was in Syracuse, New York, where Iraq War vet Sgt. James Hackemer rode the Ride of Steel coaster at the
Darien Lake Amusement Park. He had lost both legs in war, due to a roadside IED, but made it back alive. Naturally he wanted to ensure he was fastened in securely due to his condition. But when the ride took off, it went over one of the small hills, and thats when the Sgt. came out of the safety restraints, falling to his death…

Cyclone – 1988

Coney Island. 1988. The Cyclone. A classic wooden coaster. One person was riding it at the time and he was a maintenance worker. Thinking it would be okay to ignore the safety bar and proceed to stand up on the ride, he was quickly thrown from it, plummeting 30 feet onto a crossbeam where he instantly died.

Water World USA – 1997

Water World USA. 1997. 33 high school seniors. Graduation. They all celebrated by crowding onto a water slide. Unfortunately the slide could not take all the weight. It collapsed. One teen died, all the others were injured, 17 of which received their diplomas in wheelchairs a few weeks later.

Action Park

Action Park. The sight of the most dangerous water park in America, with a string of accidents occurring from 1978 to 1996. Drownings included a 15-year-old in 1982, a 20-year-old in 1984, and an 18-year-old in 1987. Action Park closed after the lawsuits set it and lack of attendance. In 1998 it opened back up as Mountain Creek Waterpark. In 2014, apparently feeling enough time had passed, they changed their name back to Action Park.

Haunted Castle – 1984

May, 1984. Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. The Haunted Castle. A fire breaks out inside. People ran out and escaped harm. But eight teens remained trapped inside. They ended up becoming burned to death, their bodies unrecognizable once recoverd. It was concluded that arson was the likely reason the fire had occurred.

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Entertainer and Navy veteran Bill Cosby at a Veterans Day ceremony, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, at the The All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors in Philadelphia.
Image: Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Bill Cosby is still slated to perform at a venue on the outskirts of New York City next weekend, but has agreed to offer refunds to ticket-holders who don’t want to attend.

The offer is in the midst of mounting sexual abuse allegations against Cosby that recently resurfaced. So far, 16 women have publicly accused the comedian of sexually assaulting them, and many of their stories include allegations that Cosby drugged them beforehand. He has denied the allegations.

Tarrytown Music Hall, where Cosby has two sold-out shows on Dec. 6, will offer refunds to ticket-holders. In an update on its Facebook page Saturday, the venue thanked “all parties involved in negotiating this deal.”

An email sent Friday afternoon from the Music Hall box office told ticket-holders, “Mr. Cosby’s management is now allowing for refunds for any patron’s (sic) that do not wish to attend the show. Please let me know if I may cancel and refund your order,” The Journal News reported.

Previously, Tarrytown Music Hall executive director Bjorn Olsson wrote on Facebook that the shows were booked before the allegations against Cosby had resurfaced, and that the venue couldn’t cancel them or offer refunds. “Canceling the show or refunding tickets would not hurt Bill Cosby, only The Music Hall, a non-profit organization, and the promoter,” Olsson said on Nov. 19.

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Venues in Nevada, Illinois, Arizona, South Carolina and Washington have all recently canceled Cosby performances, but the comedian still has more than 30 shows booked through May 2015.

Cosby’s first stop on his American standup tour since the allegations resurfaced was in Melbourne, Florida. The comedian received a standing ovation from the crowd, but there were also many empty seats, despite the venue claiming that the show was sold out.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press

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