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Paul Allen Goes to the Dogs; Michael Jackson's Birthday

Paul Allen Goes to the Dogs | Jacko's B-Day; Denise Objects; Wonderful 'Weeds'

Paul Allen Goes to the Dogs

It’s Michael Jackson’s 49th birthday Wednesday, but he’s not the one acting out his eccentricities.

Paul Allen, the kindly mega-billionaire who co-founded Microsoft, continues to find interesting ways to spend his money.

In the last three weeks, Allen visited Botswana here in southern Africa hoping to see a new batch of rare wild-dog puppies. African wild dogs are an endangered species, with some estimates of only 60 or left in the Serengeti.

I’m told that that Allen hired two helicopters with photographers and brought them to South Africa in this pursuit. According to sources here in Botswana, where this reporter’s been spending a few days after visiting relatives in Johannesburg, Allen wanted to see the new litter of wild-dog puppies so badly that he pulled out all the stops.

Unfortunately, Allen was staying at the wrong lodge, guides here say, and his whirlybird team came up with nothing. The right lodge was Lagoon Camp, and the right guides were named KB and Beedie. Who knew? It was just luck that we found them, not knowing that the nine puppies were big celebrities in these parts.

Meanwhile, Allen’s friend, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., his wife and three kids took great pleasure in besting Allen. Not only did they find the puppies near the Kwando River, they visited them every day of their trip.

Me? I thought people came to Africa to see elephants, giraffes and zebras. But wild dogs are now "in," with Web sites and all kinds of fans. What makes this litter special is that the last one didn’t make it. So everyone in Lagoon Camp is praying that this litter survives. So far, so good.

So here I enclose a picture of one of these rare puppies, born 11 weeks ago. Up close they resemble German shepherds, with large ears and pointed noses. The basic coloring is brown and black, but the wild dogs also sport black and white spots, especially on the legs.

They’re very cute, but in a few months they’ll also be very dangerous. Botswanan and Namibian security will be keeping their eyes and ears open for poachers.

Allen’s team didn’t get their pictures, but we did. And the irony of course is that I’ve transmitted the whole thing via Microsoft Media.

So Allen can at least take some comfort in knowing that even though he didn’t go to the dogs, he had some participation in getting them to you.

Jacko's B-Day; Denise Objects; Wonderful 'Weeds'

Yes, it’s Michael Jackson’s 49th birthday. He’s not with his family, but somewhere with Grace the nanny and Prince, Paris and Blanket.

Sources say Jackson probably learned about the liens on his properties (Neverland, parents’ home) from reading this column a couple of days ago. That’s not good.

Anyway, it’s also the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. You may recall Jackson was going to release a charity single to help survivors. Michael, they are still waiting.

Meantime, Michael is still being sued by Prince Abdullah of Bahrain to do the projects he agreed to in exchange for the prince taking him in. You wonder, does Michael know all this stuff and not care? Or is he really isolated from reality. …

Denise Brown has either given or is giving a press conference to protest publication of the O.J. Simpson "confession" book “If I Did It.”

Denise is mad she and her family didn’t get a cut of the profits, so now she’s taken the high moral ground. This is funny. The Browns twice asked the court to cut them in, and were denied. Denise, it’s been 13 years. Get a job. …

Long plane rides have meant a dip into DVDs of Showtime’s new schedule. Showtime, you know, is on the march trying to make inroads against blockbuster HBO with new television series.

Showtime almost had it right with “Huff,” but cancelled it. They’ve since redeemed themselves with “Weeds.”

I could watch “Weeds” endlessly, it’s that good. It’s certainly the best comedy on TV. How “Two and a Half Men" could be mentioned in the same sentence at the Emmys is a mystery.

Anyway, Mary-Louise Parker is a knockout, and Jenji Kohan’s writing and producing are top notch. Elizabeth Perkins, Justin Kirk, Kevin Nealon and newcomer Matthew Modine are exceptionally good.

The idea of “Weeds,” a widowed mom selling pot so she can stay afloat, is pretty out there. But this gang pulls it off, and you find yourself rooting for everyone because even the bad guys are good guys. …

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for “Californication.” This David Duchovny comedy is not funny. It’s mildly offensive only because it’s just low-class and not up to the talents of anyone involved.

This is what happens when people in the Hollywood Hills start believing their own cow dung. The characters are wholly unsympathetic and so is the situation.

I was rooting for the pilot episode to end. The truth is out there somewhere, but not here. Pull the plug, Showtime, before anyone else gets hurt. …

Last: the Toronto Film Festival is stingy with press credentials but we’re going anyway. We may just pretend we’re in Toronto seeing movies and call it our own festival.

But the movies look pretty good, especially Ang Lee’s "Lust, Caution." It’s been given an NC-17 rating for too much wild sex. His last film was "Brokeback Mountain," which included gay sex.

Lee used to be such a nice fellow with movies like "Sense & Sensibility" and "Eat Drink Man Woman." What happened?

Just kidding. Good for him.