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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sham-Pooh! No Hair Washes For 11 Years
By SkyNews

Penny Weynberg no hair wash for 11 years

One brave woman proud of her long locks has admitted her dirty secret - she has not washed her hair for 11 years.Penny Weynberg has decided against spending a small fortune on shampoo and conditioner like most women.

The 29-year-old mother-of-two believes hair has the natural ability to clean itself - so she doesn't bother.

It all started when the chemical engineering graduate was studying for her A-Levels.

"I was too busy revising to bother about my appearance," she said.

Mrs Weynberg, who didn't even bother to lather up for her graduation ceremony or her wedding day, has admitted to having greasy hair for the first month.

But she says it became less greasy and more glossy as time passed.

Explaining her beliefs to Sky News, she said: "I find shampoo just strips out all the goodness and then you put conditioner on to put the goodness back in.

"It's like doing one thing to contradict the other. It was much easier to get out of that cycle."

Mrs Weynberg brushes her hair daily to remove dirt and smells and rinses it with warm water every few months.

She has admitted: "It's very much against the way most people think."

Notes from underground
Being Lynda Barry
For the legendary cartoonist, it's been a [very bumpy] road less taken
By Christopher Borrelli

"There's a gas leak."

That's the first thing Lynda Barry said to me. Then she looked at me sideways, like a shy child, and though it was late summer and uncommonly pleasant, conducive to an outdoors interview, she led me into the living room, where we talked for hours, enveloped by disorienting fumes, which grew in pungency by the minute. She wore a red bandanna, which she wears a lot; a white shirt because she sweats a lot; glasses with lenses so thick they reminded me of an aquarium; and intense red lipstick, because that's her uniform. "The great thing about leaving Chicago for Wisconsin," she said, "is Wisconsin's full of eccentrics." "There's no pressure to be straight. You might think there is. But they know I'm a nut. There are a lot of nuts here, which is good because the thing I can't do is tamp down the way I look. This is as straight as I get. I look crazy. I know I do. Been true since I was a kid! I looked like Alfred E. Newman. Now look at me!"

"Not much has changed—not since the last time we saw Lynda Barry. If you first read her in the 1980s, or got to know her during one of her appearances on "Late Night with David Letterman," it's all still there. Her sweaty awkwardness remains, as does her effusive warmth. And yet everything has changed. If you've heard of her, you remember "Ernie Pook's Comeek," her stinging comic strip about her (thinly veiled) childhood. Or you recall "The Good Times Are Killing Me," her Off-Broadway play about a racially mixed neighborhood, which started in Chicago. Or you read "Cruddy," her violent road-trip novel that became a staple of hipster bookshelves. In which case, her art still bears the mark of a distracted doodler, and her writing, simultaneously bitter and open-hearted, remains the voice of a wounded child, with the bittersweet notes of an adult who has not forgotten a thing.

That said, in October, so quietly even her close friends didn't know, the 52-year-old stopped drawing "Ernie Pook's Comeek." She stopped shy of the comic's 30th anniversary, which should have been this year. The strip began in the Chicago Reader, where it had taken on the feel of wallpaper, always there.

When I asked her why she quit, she said she was syndicated in only four papers anyway. A decade ago, she was in 70 alternative weeklies. Meanwhile, the Reader was paying $80 a week, the same as in 1979, and other papers were paying $25 a week—in other words, she was getting $155 a week for the strip that made her reputation, landed her on Letterman, got her a deal with HarperCollins, launched a brilliantly stubborn career, and became an inspiration to a generation of cartoonists with memoirs in their heads. She did not seem phased, though. In moments like this, Barry strikes a casual voice. She says, "It felt like an ax to the forehead." Then, after a moment, "It's cool."

It's cool because, even as she is waning as a weekly presence, she has a gathering sainthood within the comics community, a sense of impending canonization alongside cartooning legends like R. Crumb.

Consider this from cartoonist Chris Ware, one of her strongest supporters: "I say with absolute conviction that, just as Charles Schultz created the first sympathetic cartoon character in Charlie Brown, Lynda was the first cartoonist to write fiction from the inside out—she trusted herself to close her eyes and dive down within herself and see what she came up with. We'd still be trying to find ways into stories with pictures if she hadn't."

If one way of measuring an artist's importance is output, then Barry is nearing a new peak—next month brings the release of her next book, "The Nearsighted Monkey," and a year from now, a 10-volume reprint of every Lynda Barry strip ever. Asked about her slow resurrection, Matt Groening, the creator of "The Simpsons" and Barry's best friend, says simply: "I do see it beginning to happen—and it's overdue."

Cartoonist Ivan Brunetti, who grew up on the South Side reading Barry and teaches art at Columbia College Chicago, wastes no words: "She's become one of the most important cartoonists we have—however quietly people are recognizing it. She was first to do fictional comics that felt autobiographical, which is the draw today with graphic novels, and she was the first strong female voice in comics. But most importantly, I think it's become increasingly known that she moved the medium closer to real literature."

The first time they met, Brunetti says, Barry had asked a handful of friends back to her hotel room for drinks. "While we were all sitting there, she asked if anyone had ever thought seriously about killing someone and how they would do it. It was hilarious and random, and you know, as left-field as it sounded, these people had shrewd, detailed plans. But then she knew they would."

The day of the gas leak, Barry and I were sitting in the living room of Kelly Hogan, the Chicago torch singer, who splits her time working as Barry's assistant and recording with singer Neko Case. Hogan moved here, eight miles from Barry's farm (which is an hour from Madison), in May, in part to be closer to Barry.

Barry moved to Wisconsin with her husband in 2002, after being priced out of Evanston. Thus began, more or less, a self-imposed isolation. She rarely saw friends, sometimes not leaving the house for weeks. Asked why, she sounded earnest and evasive: "Something disconnected around 2000, some wire came out of the wall."

Meanwhile, the gas was enveloping us, stinging like chlorine. There was a black poodle with watery eyes curled at her feet, and as I listened to her, I began to wonder if I would die. Walls tilted. My vision blurred.

I heard Barry explain that the dog at her feet was named Ed Martin, but he appears in her comics under the pen name of Fred Milton, and that she has a lot of dogs, and that Ooola, the shepherd mix she found in a shelter and wrote about in "One! Hundred! Demons!," her 2002 "autobiofictionography," had died, and I said all of the dogs in her comics tend to look like this dog, and she said, "Turns out with dogs, you can pretty much have the same dog over and over, looks-wise."

Hogan poked her head in.

"Going to Piggly Wiggly," she said.

"Have fun," Barry said.


"At the Pig, no."

"Back soon. Need to fry up some okra before the guy shows up to shut off that gas."

The wooden front door slammed against the wooden frame. Barry looked at me and grinned.

A few weeks later on a bright fall morning, I was back in Wisconsin, headed for Barry's farm, when I found myself behind an old pickup, whose bumper sticker read, in letters that suggested overinflated tomatoes, "Oh, What a Friend We Have in Cheeses." A dog ran alongside my car for what seemed a mile, then dropped and scratched at its stomach. The truck was so slow, my mind started to wander. I had recently taken Barry's writing workshop, one of her few sources of income now. The central exercise, which she learned from her beloved college art teacher Marilyn Frasca, was to visualize and catalog an image in your head. I did this to pass the time, focusing instead on my surroundings: fields sprawling into the distance, coming to rest at far-off strip malls; above, a cloud in the shape of Connecticut. Behind, pavement, silos, an occasional cow.

These days, Barry generally wants to talk about two things—the wind farm industry, which she spends most of her time opposing; and this writing workshop, a two-day seminar called "Writing the Unthinkable," which is meant to remove the angst from creativity. Hogan books it around the country and Barry gives her half the profits.

So popular is the course, it recently spawned a book, "What It Is," which itself is so unusual that the word "book" seems wrong. Picture yellow notebook paper crammed with watercolors of octopi and drawings of Snoopy and text loaded with memories of growing up without encouragement and collages of clipped magazine photos and doodles of the Virgin Mary. The point is delivering advice on how to free your inner writer. It's hard to believe it was published at all, never mind that Montreal-based Drawn & Quarterly has gone through three printings (and sold 30,000 copies).

To flip through it is to feel adrift in someone's daydream. "What I teach with the book and the course," she tells me, "is a physical activity, which is doodling when you're not writing, which itself should induce a state of mind. Which is getting yourself to the place you are when someone tells a joke. You're open, right? It's the place you go when your body's asleep and you can feel the dream starting to come on. I try and get calm so the ideas don't go away. I let it come slowly. Then as the ideas come I write slower. Which may sound counterintuitive! But you don't have to catch ideas. They're like the ocean around you."

Thus Barry's work, she says, is never premeditated. She never considers what to draw or write until she begins. ("Ernie Pook," and its menagerie of sticky child characters, never had anything like a plot.)

When she shows me the novel she's finishing, about a man who decides he's not going to live long enough to write a book so he creates the spines of books he might have written, she reveals how she's been writing it, i.e. she paints each sentence, each letter, in watercolors—so slowly, you wonder how she recalls what she's writing about.

Barry lives on a long county road without a name, just a letter. After a few minutes of manicured fields, I spot her farm—a modest 12 acres, a short jog from the town of Footville (pop. 770). Kelly Hogan had said I couldn't miss it, "the most plant-happy, overgrown-looking farm on that road—very natural, yellow aluminum siding, pole barn, white buildings, tin rooftops, dogs barking their asses off." No joke: Barry's farm is a Munsters homestead at the edge of a Mayberry town, but in a nice way. Designed by her husband, Kevin Kawula—who, for six years, has relentlessly pruned its non-native plants while reintroducing more natives—its grasses grow high and undulate in the wind. Sunflowers tower. Bluebirds dart. Four times a day Barry walks the quarter-mile path carved into the curled grass. We trudge. She breathes lightly. She leads me to a grain silo and pokes her head in, twists her body to look up, shouts into the empty tower, pulls her head out, and says, "Love doing that."

Her home is smaller than her barn, which contains a grizzly bear's head, a vintage pickup, and, dangling from a beam, a Cuddly Dudley puppet, a souvenir of the old WGN kiddie show "Ray Rayner and His Friends." She stumbled on it at the local Dig n' Save. The centerpiece of the farm, though, is her studio. It took Kawula more than a year to build it. The windows are wide and wrap around, so the studio resembles a wooden spaceship at the heart of a vast field. She can watch storms approach from here. Every cranny is packed, with paperbacks, DVDs, CDs, a furnace, a bathtub without feet, a bathroom, a painting by Chris Ware, an elaborate model home (from an auction), stuffed dolls losing stuffing, cigar boxes, dioramas, toppling piles of National Geographic and, in a corner, her work table. She opens a drawer. Paper explodes like a can of coiled snakes. "This pile here," she says, lifting up a stack of disorganized paper, "this will become my next novel."

I grab a phone book from a pile of phone books—she hates wasting paper and so every page, every surface, is covered with paintings and letters, each precisely the same height. But it's idyllic.

You can see why someone would hole up here—and why she is scared a proposed wind farm may be built less than a mile away. When she's not working on her comics, she's organizing against the wind industry, building Web sites, attending meetings, arguing against the environmental (and aesthetic) cost. "There will be no horizon anymore," she fumes. "People forget about motion sickness. The flicker from the shadows they throw!" She said she feels like part of the French Resistance—she's the cartoonist, thrown together with an assortment of locals, most more conservative than she's used to socializing with.

They ask what kind of books she writes. She tells them "horror" —which isn't far from the truth.

She was born in Wisconsin, moved to Seattle with her Filipino mother at age 4. Her father, a butcher, left when she was young. The gory details are in her strips—the mother a cartoon gargoyle, the trailer parks where she lived, the casual cruelty of friends and family.

"It was Bizarro World. Everything backward. My mom didn't want me to go to college. She didn't want me to read—when I read, I may as well have been holding a pineapple." Barry lived a block from school and would arrive before dawn. The janitor would let her in. She would help take down chairs. She gravitated to the teachers. When school closed for the night, she would hang around until the last teacher drove away from the parking lot.

Alison Bechdel, who had great success a couple of years ago with "Fun Home," a graphic-novel memoir about growing up with a troubled father, said she remembers, as a teenager, reading Barry every week and thinking, " 'Good God, what kind of childhood did this person have?' It's remarkable for someone to do a brilliant piece now and then. But for 30 years, with that level of consistency? That's a staggering accomplishment. What's frightening is how much access she has to her subconscious."

I ask Barry why she has never moved beyond childhood, and she says, "I don't know. I don't know. I think maybe because those years are vivid. We don't have money at that age, so we can't buy our way out of a situation. We can't drive away. You're on foot a lot. You see a lot on foot."

I ask if she liked "Peanuts." She says she appreciates it now, but hated it at the time—too melancholy for a sad child. She liked "Family Circus"—"You know how everything's in a circle? I wanted to reach into it." She recently met Jeff Keane, the son of "Family Circus" creator Bil Keane. She says she touched his hand and burst into tears.

Matt Groening says he tried to get Barry to go Hollywood in the '80s. "I said to Lynda, 'Let's write a romantic comedy,' and she agreed." A pitch meeting followed at a Los Angeles movie studio. Groening remembers walking into the executive's enormous office, where Barry immediately moved toward a cagelike sculpture in the corner and stood inside it.

"That was the high point," Groening says. When they sat on the sofa, Barry cheerfully told the exec that it was Groening's birthday.

"Happy birthday," the exec replied.

"It's not," Groening said.

"It is," Barry said.

"It's not," Groening said.

"Lynda insisted it was," Groening remembers. "I gave up and said 'Yes, it's my birthday.' I looked crazy."

Afterward, Groening was mortified. Barry remembers spittle plastering Groening's windshield. She says he was frothing at the mouth. Groening remembers his car shaking, but doesn't recall the spittle.

In any case, according to Barry, Groening felt she was torpedoing her career. He felt she wasn't taking herself seriously enough.

But even now, Groening describes Barry as his oldest and dearest friend. They met at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., in the early 1970s. Groening says it was the kind of school where the word "class" was forbidden, but "group contract" was OK. There were no grades. He was the editor of the school newspaper and heard about a girl in a nearby dorm who wrote to Joseph Heller, author of "Catch 22." She had asked Heller to marry her and Heller had written back to politely decline, citing his unwillingness to live in a dormitory.

Groening and Barry became friends, and when he began writing for the Los Angeles Reader, an alternative weekly, Groening would tell everyone about Barry. Bob Roth, at the Chicago Reader, read her stuff and remembers hiring Barry because it "made telling observations about real life, which is also what the Reader aspired to at the time."

According to Barry, the sale of a single comic to Roth paid the rent.

Steadily, though slowly, her strip caught on and became a standard of alterative weeklies across the country. Groening remembers her being successful enough to talk about buying real estate.

He also remembers once proposing to Barry, though they were just friends: "I was visiting her in Seattle and she says I was drunk but I wasn't. I was a typical bachelor standing in an apartment saying, 'You know, we could get married.' "Her response was 'The hell!' "

By the late '80s-early '90s, at the peak of her success, Barry was a force of nature, says Heather McAdams, whose own deeply personal, untitled comics became ubiquitous for a short time—part of a handmade, ratty-at-the-edges Chicago scene of zines, roots rock and neighborhoods not yet gone condo. McAdams says that before Barry moved to Chicago in 1989 (bringing along her then-boyfriend Ira Glass), they were pen pals. When they met for the first time, "she came charging into the room and jumped on top of me and was yelling, 'Look at you! You have a bigger smile than I do! You're beautiful!' "

As McAdams tells it, she and Barry would climb on stage at (the long defunct) Lounge Axe and sing Loretta Lynn songs. Barry would stick her fist into her mouth. They wore cowboy boots and red lipstick and were loud. Sometimes they hung out at Fitzgerald's. For years the pendulum on the Berwyn club's grandfather clock had a photo stuck to it of Barry dancing. They lived around the corner from each other and talked every day.

By the mid '90s, however, Barry had met Kawula, a prairie restoration expert. "Chicago was like a big party for a while," Barry said. "It was fun, but you don't want to live at the party."

She and McAdams stopped speaking (they're vague on why). Barry married Kawula and stopped using the phone— with editors, with everyone. Editing, press interviews—it was all by fax.

Barry was writing. Her novel, "Cruddy," was a success, but the publisher, Simon & Schuster, did not solicit any new work. At HarperCollins, which published some of her early cartoon collections, her editor left. Harper did not request new comics.

With her career threatening to become anorexic, Barry moved to Wisconsin. Slowly, compilations of her comics slid out of print. At the same time, alternative newspapers began to fold and consolidate. She had some modest success with Portland, Ore.-based Sasquatch Books—but that relationship fell apart too. So she began to sell work on eBay (her best source of cash these days). But primarily, she began to panic.

Then Chris Ware stepped in. Ware, whose graphic novel "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth" made him one of the top contemporary cartoonists, had met Barry when he was in his 20s. She sent him "lengthy and inspiring letters," he says, "which kept me alive artistically when my self-confidence was at its lowest, an act of supreme generosity—I barely have time to answer the phone now let alone write six-page letters of encouragement to young cartoonists."

Last year, Ware found his chance to repay her: Chris Oliveros, the publisher of Drawn & Quarterly, the most adventurous publisher of graphic novels, had been anxious to work with Barry. But he couldn't reach her and assumed she was already contracted with another publisher. Ware connected them. And so, this spring, D&Q will release "The Nearsighted Monkey," followed by the 10-volume reissue of Barry's comic strip work.

"It felt like Katrina," Barry says. "The water's building. Then Chris Ware shouts, 'Hey, there's a cartoonist in that attic!' "

Francoise Mouly, art director of the New Yorker, says she had been sad about Barry for a long time "because I wasn't sure she was even doing comics anymore, not in any serious way. The last time I saw her in New York [last fall], she looked invigorated. I couldn't help think 'Lynda's back from the dead.' We should all have a self-imposed isolation in Wisconsin."

I asked Groening if he felt guilty about the disparity in their careers, and Groening says he's learned to back off. Barry has had a number of solid offers to adapt her strips to animation, but she and Groening have irrevocably different approaches. Says Groening, "I work with a huge number of people and I do this thing that's mainstream and pop culture and she's extremely personal. She is a master of the handwritten gesture. What I do is invariably collaborative. She transforms the ordinary into extraordinary, moving art but she is sensitive and I wouldn't want her to deal with the personalties."

Barry agrees—she doesn't collaborate well. As Groening puts it, when he looks at Barry, he does see the road less traveled. "We have a parallel universe thing going," he says. He could never live in Wisconsin, and she hates Los Angeles. He hates that she sells her art on eBay, and she says it's the only way a cartoonist as independent as she is can eke out a living.

Says Barry, "Matt is the kind of guy who likes to get telemarketers so he can screw with them." And Barry, says Groening, has embraced the idea of the teacher who changes lives. Indeed, when I took her two-day course, she ended by looking each student in the eye then screaming an effusive "GOOD! GOOD!"

The difference between their paths, as well as their fortunes, is stark. In the 1980s, when they were known as the king and queen of underground comics, Barry and Groening would do joint book signings. But Groening would always have a huge line and Barry would sit patiently waiting for anyone. A customer once asked her where the history section was.

Likewise, at the New Yorker Festival last October, one of the hottest tickets was an interview with Barry, conducted onstage by Groening. Tickets sold out in minutes. But Groening was the attraction—so much so that Barry worried that the audience would be disappointed with it being all Barry, and she insisted that a clip of "The Simpsons" be shown. When the two of them took questions, nearly all went to Groening. Barry listened, eyes twisted in concentration, nearly motionless; it's a talent she's had since childhood, she says, a near-supernatural ability to remain still for a long time.

Then a woman stood, sounding near tears. She told Barry that she grew up in Chicago and waited each week for a new "Ernie Pook." She said, "I want you to know how thankful I am for your creative choices. It's just a comic but it was important to me." Barry had a blubbery smile of profound gratitude. I'd seen that look before, a month earlier at a bar 10 miles from her home. We were eating cheeseburgers and she told me a story about Kelly Hogan. She said Hogan was leaving Neko Case's tour bus one night when she stepped on a cream doughnut.

"She slid on it, across the parking lot, really hurt her foot. One of the band members left the tour bus to have a look at the trail of cream and then he went back into the tour bus and looked at Kelly and said, 'Well, at least you rode it a while.' And that's exactly how I feel at the end of the day. This whole cartoonist thing—at least I rode it a while."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

'Three Stooges' coming together at MGM
Source: Hollywood Reporter
( Pictures)


MGM and the Farrelly brothers are finally slapping together their high-profile cast for "The Three Stooges," a comedy project the filmmakers have been developing for years. Sean Penn is set to play Larry, and Jim Carrey is in negotiations to play Curly. Benicio del Toro is a rumored possibility for the brothers' taciturn leader, Moe.

The studio is looking to start production in the fall for a 2010 release slot.

The project was originally set up at Columbia, which produced the 1930s Stooges shorts. C3 Entertainment Inc., which holds the licensing rights to the Stooges brand, then sold the feature rights to Warner Bros. in 2001 for the Farrellys to write and produce the movie. Eventually, Warner Bros. let the rights lapse and MGM's Mary Parent scooped them up along with the Farrellys' continuing participation.

Peter and Bobby Farrelly wrote the script, which Bobby has referenced as "Dumb, Dumber & Dumbest," and will produce with Bradley Thomas and Charlie Wessler. Earl and Robert Benjamin of C3 will executive produce.

The film is not a biopic but a fictional treatment that maintains the Stooges' gleeful slap schtick updated for a modern milieu.

Originally constructed as four separate shorts, the feature screenplay has since been streamlined into a single narrative. Included in the story line is an opening that shows the Stooges as kids in an orphanage, a device that will require some "Benjamin Button"-style visual trickery to place the adult actors' heads on child actors' bodies.

The Stooges maintain remarkably global brand recognition, and their shorts, films and cartoons are still broadcast in 30 countries. The Farrelly brothers' latest comedy "The Heartbreak Kid" grossed $124 million worldwide.

Penn is repped by CAA, Carrey by CAA and the Miller Co.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Horror film draws unwanted visitors to Conn. house
The Associated Press

SOUTHINGTON, Conn. - A Hollywood horror film that depicts the alleged haunting of a former funeral parlor in central Connecticut is turning into a nightmare for the home's current owners and their neighbors.

The movie, "A Haunting in Connecticut," doesn't open until Friday, but curious fans are already making a beeline for the Southington home that inspired the movie.

"It's just been really, really stressful," said Susan Trotta-Smith, who bought the home 10 years ago with her husband. "It's been a total change from a very quiet house in a very quiet neighborhood to looking out the window and seeing cars stopping all the time. It's been very, very stressful, and sometimes worrisome."

The family has never seen anything unusual inside their five-bedroom, two-family white wood-frame house and does not believe the property was haunted.

"It's got beautiful woodwork, and there is a nice warm feeling to the house," Trotta-Smith said. "Because it was a funeral home , the upstairs apartment is much more spacious. It's like two full houses , and it has a beautiful yard, too."

The movie, starring Virginia Madsen and Kyle Gallner and released by Lionsgate, is loosely based on stories that revolved around the house in the 1980s.

The residents at the time, the Snedeker family , claimed their son would hear strange noises in his basement bedroom, which once held casket displays and was near the old embalming room. He also claimed to see shadows on the wall of people who were not there. A niece visiting the home said she felt hands on her body as she tried to sleep, and her covers levitated.

The family brought in Ed and Lorraine Warren , self-described paranormal researchers, who became famous for documenting the alleged " Amityville Horror " haunting of a home on Long Island.

Lorraine Warren says she felt an evil presence in the Southington home and experienced the haunting herself when she spent a night there.

"In the master bedroom, there was a trap door where the coffins were brought up," she said. "And during the night, you would hear that chain hoist, as if a coffin were being brought up. But when Ed went to check, there was nobody down there."

Warren, whose husband died in 2006, has nothing to do with the movie. She said the house was "cleared" of the evil presence after a seance in 1988. A book and a television documentary followed.

The current owners, who rent out part of the home to another family, have removed the street number from the house and posted "no trespassing" signs. Trotta-Smith says they are concerned about the four children who live there.

"Most people are respectful. They stay on the road. They might take a picture," Trotta-Smith said. "But we have had a few problems with people kind of rudely coming up to the door and scaring our kids, telling them the house is haunted."

Police have added extra patrols to the neighborhood.

"There are creatures looming in the night but not inside the house," Southington police Sgt. Lowell DePalma said. "They happen to be people who are trespassing on the property, looking in windows and that kind of stuff. People are going to be disappointed. There are no ghosts."

Alison Taylor , 37, drove from her home in East Hartford with her camera after seeing a show about the haunting on the Discovery Channel and hearing about the new movie.

"I'm very intrigued," she said. "I figured since it was close, I could come. A lot of people are so skeptical, but I'm not. I'm sure some things are made up to make the movie look better, but I think it's great."

Katherine Altemus, who lives across the street, shoos curious onlookers away. She believes the ghost stories were a hoax.

"It's disgraceful," she said. "None of the haunting took place, and now it's ruining the lives of that wonderful young family that lives there."

Calls to the Snedeker family were returned by the film production company , who said they would attempt to arrange an interview.

Film producer Andrew Trapani said he believed the mother, Carmen Snedeker, was very credible, and believes the film does a good job depicting what her family went through. The movie was filmed in Teulon, Manitoba.

He said the names of the family and town in the film were fictionalized, in part to try and keep unwanted attention away from the real home. The Snedekers and Southington are identified on the film's Web site.

"We certainly didn't set out to upset anyone or have anyone show up at their home," he said. "I think in this case, this particular supernatural haunting had a much larger following than even I had anticipated."

Trotta-Smith said she's working with the police but has no plans to put up a fence. She said she just wants a normal life in the house, but she's not sure that will be possible if the movie becomes a big hit.

"I'm a little worried about this Halloween because I imagine that's when they will release the DVD and get everyone worked up again."


On the Net:

New England Society for Psychic Research:

Movie Web site:

Tragic poet Sylvia Plath's son kills himself
Son of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath commits suicide, his sister says
By Peter Wilkinson

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The family history of poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath took another tragic turn Monday when it was revealed that their son had committed suicide after battling depression.
Poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath had separated before their son's first birthday.

Poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath had separated before their son's first birthday.

Nicholas Hughes, whose mother gassed herself in 1963 at her London home while her two children slept in the next room, hanged himself at his home in Alaska, his sister Frieda told The Times newspaper.

Hughes, 47, was unmarried with no children of his own and had until recently been a marine biologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The Times said that shortly before his death he had left his academic job to set up a pottery at home.

Frieda Hughes, a poet, author and artist, said in a statement to the newspaper: "It is with profound sorrow that I must announce the death of my brother, Nicholas Hughes, who died by his own hand on Monday March 16, 2009 at his home in Alaska.

"He had been battling depression for some time."

She added: "His lifelong fascination with fish and fishing was a strong and shared bond with our father (many of whose poems were about the natural world).

"He was a loving brother, a loyal friend to those who knew him and, despite the vagaries that life threw at him, he maintained an almost childlike innocence and enthusiasm for the next project or plan."

Hughes was only a baby when his mother killed herself, and his father tried to shield his children from the intense public interest in the family. Some feminist groups blamed the death on Ted Hughes, who had left Plath for Assia Wevill, the wife of another poet.

Six years later, Wevill gassed herself and their daughter Shura in an apparent copycat suicide. Ted Hughes died in 1998, the year he published Birthday Letters, a series of poems about his life with Plath and her death.

Hughes appears in both of his parents' poetry. In "Nick and the Candlestick," published in Plath's posthumous collection "Ariel," she wrote: "You are the one. Solid the spaces lean on, envious. You are the baby in the barn."

Later his father wrote of how, after Plath's death, their son's eyes "became wet jewels, the hardest substance of the purest pain. As I fed him in his high white chair."

Frieda Hughes has written about her parents and her own battles with depression but a family friend dismissed the idea that Nicolas's death fitted into a family trend.

"Nick wasn't just the baby son of Plath and Hughes and it would be wrong to think of him as some kind of inevitably tragic figure," said the unnamed friend.

"He was a man who reached his mid-forties, an adventurous marine biologist with a distinguished academic career behind him and a host of friends and achievements in his own right. That is the man who is mourned by those who knew him."

Monday, March 23, 2009

When Did Drunks Start Wearing Lampshades?
A history of tipsy tomfoolery.
By Christopher Beam

When did the lampshade drunk become an icon?

In a speech to Irish leaders on St. Patrick's Day, Barack Obama jokingly urged the audience to go easy on the spirits. "Stay as long as you want, try to avoid putting any lampshades on your head, because there are a lot of photographers here," he said. When did putting a lampshade on your head become a universal symbol of drunkenness?

Probably in the 1910s or 1920s. While it's impossible to pinpoint the first instance of a man donning a lampshade at a party, the image most likely came out of vaudeville and was popularized in early silent films. In The Adventurer (1917), Charlie Chaplin plays a rich yachtsman who, pursued by the police, puts a lampshade over his head and stands still as the cops pass by. While that example is more about disguise than inebriation, the lampshade on the head had become a drunk gag by 1928, when the Baltimore Evening Sun ran a satirical piece called "The Life of the Party": "It is usually customary for the life of the party about the middle of the evening to put a lampshade on his head and give an impersonation of [Scottish soprano] Mary Garden, after which he tells a joke that is not meant for mixed company."

Since then, the lampshade on the head has come to symbolize the obnoxious drunk trying to be funny—and failing. In 1938, a columnist described alcoholic actor John Barrymore as "at any moment … likely to drag down a lace curtain, clap a lampshade on his head, and play a scene from Shakespeare." In the 1940s, comedian Jim Backus played a radio character named Hubert Updyke III, a wealthy East Coast boor who called cocktail parties "pours" and regularly donned lampshades. (Backus would later play Mr. Howell on Gilligan's Island.)

The victims of lampshade-wearing tend to be wives and girlfriends. In a 1966 letter to Ann Landers, a reader pleaded: "Please tell me what you think of a husband who entertains the crowd at a party by singing World War II songs which were never intended for ladies, puts a lampshade on his head and does a belly dance, borrows a blonde wig from a guest who is also smashed, and then insists that he's going to drive home?"

Variations on the lampshade joke abound. At one point in this Three Stooges short from 1950, Larry hides under a lampshade a la Chaplin and holds a lightbulb that lights up when someone pulls his tie. At a performance for soldiers in Vietnam in 1970, Bob Hope joked about drug use: "I saw a sergeant standing in a corner with a lampshade on his head waiting to be turned on."

Why is a lampshade on a head funny? French philosopher Henri Bergson theorized that laughter is a response to the mechanistic aspects of human movement and behavior. Because a standing lamp is similar in form to a person, putting the shade in the place of one's head produces an incongruity that provokes laughter. Cross-dressing may also play a role, as lampshade wearers are almost exclusively male and the practice often involves singing and dancing. It also puns on the idea of a drunk person being "lit."

Loving the Men of 'I Love You, Man'
We sit down with Paul Rudd and Jason Segel and discuss their latest bromance comedy
By James Rocchi
Special to MSN Movies

"I Love You, Man" stars Paul Rudd and Jason Segel

In Austin, Texas, at the South by Southwest Film Festival with their new comedy "I Love You, Man," Paul Rudd and Jason Segel possess the easy chemistry of old friends. In the film, though, they're just getting to know each other, as Rudd's Peter Klaven, having proposed to his girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones), looks at his life and realizes he lacks a male best friend to stand up as his best man. After meeting Sydney Fife (Segel), a good-natured wild card, Peter thinks he's found the last thing missing from his upcoming wedding. Things don't quite work out that simply, as Peter gets to know Sydney for better and for worse.

Rudd and Segel spoke with us in Austin about the challenges of male bonding, how Los Angeles can be a tough city to meet people, the rewards and risks of improvising and -- on a less serious note -- the joys of having the Incredible Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno, put you in a sleeper hold.

MSN Movies: You gentlemen worked together on "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." I'm curious how well you knew each other before "I Love You, Man."

Paul Rudd: We knew each other and had hung out, and I would say felt as though we were friends. We really got to know each other during the making of the film.

Did it help to get to know each other during the making of a film about two guys getting to know each other?

Jason Segel: Absolutely, but it happened so fast, because we tried to have a few man-date sessions before the movie started and just hang out with each other. We hung out together in Hawaii. It was a bit insulated because we shot ["Forgetting Sarah Marshall"] at the same hotel where we stayed, so we would shoot all day and then go hang out at the pool bar or have dinner at the hotel at night. So we spent some time there, but we got to know each other really well in the time leading up to ["I Love You, Man"] and the rehearsals, to the point that [writer/director] John [Hamburg] had to instruct us that we looked like we knew each other too well when we were filming the early scenes in the movie.

That was the biggest challenge for us, I think.

To dial it down?

PR: Yes, but you're also shooting stuff out of sequence. The very first scene we shot together was the scene where I ask him to be my best man. So getting to know each other over the course of the movie, you know, sometimes you're filming those late scenes early and I think it's probably that fish taco scene where we're getting to know each other -- It's one of the later scenes. That being said, I think because of the whole Judd [Apatow] connection, and even in "Knocked Up," where we didn't have that much to do with each other, we still hung out on set. And because it's like this group of actors going back and forth it probably felt like, "Oh we know each other," more than we think we maybe know each other. Because, "You work with Judd, I work with Judd ..."

JS: Yeah.

Friendship by osmosis?

PR: Maybe a little bit. But I think that would have happened regardless, primarily in Hawaii. Because even when we would shoot scenes whenever they got the shot or were changing the set up we were hanging out or doing our little comedy scenes.

JS: Ooh, remember our Brian Wilson bit?

PR: That's right!

JS: We're both comedy dorks, so we would sit around and make each other laugh. Which I'm sure really annoyed John when it was time to do this movie. Because there were times when we should have been filming, and Paul and I were laughing hysterically at something that nobody else found funny. I feel so bad for the sound guys because you're miked, and they can just hear everything you're saying and they have to sit and listen to bad stand-up comedy between two guys between takes, which must be tiresome.

One of the many great things in the film is that Los Angeles is really a character; you get a sense of the city the way you don't in a lot of films. Was that part of the appeal of the film for you?

JS: Well it was, and it was also a very concerted effort on John's part; he wanted to make a film where L.A. was more than just a backdrop. You know, you see some of these Woody Allen movies where New York is such a character but you don't see that with L.A. very much. There's "L.A. Story," but I can't remember the last one.

PR: Growing up, I was always like, "Why is that movie set in L.A.?"

JS: Really?

PR: Yeah, everyone lives there. I don't live there now, so shooting there was a pain in the ass for me. But it does make sense. You can see where L.A. would make sense in this story just because, like John said, it's tough to meet people there, because people aren't walking around, people are in their car a lot. It's also a place where people gravitate to start careers and it becomes a very closed off place where people are looking ahead, and wanting to achieve stuff for themselves.

JS: Having grown up in L.A., you're conditioned to some extent because you're so used to your own personal space and you're so used to deciding what interactions you're going to have. It's a very destination-based city, so when a stranger comes up to you this wall comes like, "Oh, what does this person want from me?" Which is a real shame because when I lived in New York, and when I lived in London, it was totally different, it was a much more convivial pub culture where you made friends instantly; I loved that.

Is the nature of male friendship that tough or is it because the vocabulary of male emotion is so inarticulate? Which of those two is a bigger problem in forming male friendships?

JS: That was a great question; I'm going to steal your question as an answer for later interviews.

PR: It's probably an individual thing. Jason and I were saying, "You know women seem to always think men get together and it's all this kind of jock-y, locker room kind of sexual banter." But we never hung out with those guys, and I don't do that with my friends and never really did.

JS: No.

PR: And never really did, and I also feel like we're the type of guys who can, to a certain extent, kind of wear our emotions on our sleeves. But there is somewhat of an inability -- the vocabulary is limited. I would say the latter in your question.

JS: I think machismo plays a huge part in it, too. People are afraid of how they might be perceived if they're very open with their emotions, but I've certainly never been that dude.

Right, to say, "I need a friend," is to say you need something.

JS: Exactly.

PR: Well, and being a man, it's probably in our hard-wiring not to show vulnerabilities. You know, you've got to be a hunter, you've got to lead the pack, all of that legitimate biological alpha-male BS that we all make fun of now. But there's probably still that element there. So to be vulnerable, I think, doesn't come naturally to men. Jesus Christ! Look at the stuff we're talking about!

I was about to say: Moving away from the touchy-feely subjects ...

PR: Let's get back to the fart jokes!

Jason, how awesome was it to be put in a headlock by Lou Ferrigno? How many takes of that did you do?

JS: We did quite a few; it was probably half a day but it was so much fun. The craziest thing was they brought in the world's expert on the sleeper hold. I think he had invented the sleeper hold.

PR: (Laughs.)

JS: And I think he was wearing a T-shirt that said, "Choke him out!" He was a 70-year-old guy, with a red, clownlike -- I need to be careful how I describe him.

PR: He will come find you.

JS: He will!

PR: This was a guy, he walked into the room and everyone said, "Oh, no one's going to mess with him."

JS: He was a short, stocky man, with kind of a Krusty the Clown haircut, but it was red. And he kept doing this weird thing with his face. And then he brought a guy that he was demonstrating the sleeper hold on and then he came up to me and he said, "OK, you gotta be tough today, kid." And -- boom! -- slapped me across the face as hard as I've ever been slapped. And I was so startled, and John had to run over and say, "You can't slap him!" It was a pretty great day. So weird!

So was it a fake sleeper hold Mr. Ferrigno was applying, or ...

JS: It was a fake sleeper hold, but he is a strong man. I don't know if you're able to tell from those gigantic muscles, but ...

He's built like an aircraft carrier.

JS: So even in the fake sleeper hold, you feel like you're in real danger. You're well aware that, should he snap, he could kill you.

Right, Lou Ferrigno has his arm around your neck. The neck being a vulnerable body part.

PR: (Laughs.)

Was that the first day you got to meet him? "Hello, Mr. Ferrigno. I'm a great admirer of your work. Now, please pretend to choke me?"

JS: It was the first day I met him, and then we got to meet his whole family for the wedding scene and they're all awesome. His boys are equally as tough, they're like 6'4".

Paul, when you're doing all of Peter's phone interactions, those are like jazz riffs of horrible awkwardness. They feel horrible, because they're spontaneous, but how carefully did you calibrate those? They feel like they're micromanaged down to the syllable.

PR: No, I just knew I had to make an awkward call. We did a lot of it so it's edited together. The organic nature of not knowing what to say if you're really, truly on the spot trying to think of something that could work. It's just getting it wrong. It's fun to do and there are certainly moments where we were doing it, and John and I would stop and say, "We could do this all day." It was so fun.

One of the interesting pleasures of the film is that Peter is a little bit off but not horribly awkward. Sydney is strange and a little bit awry, but it's not like he's got a basement full of "Silence of the Lambs"-style women-suits. Was the idea to keep close to a baseline of realism?

JS: Yes, and a lot of that was due to our amazing editor Bill Kerr, and John Hamburg. There is a version of both of our performances that are really annoying.

PR: Some might argue they're actually in the film!

JS: (Laughs.) But they did a great job. That's one of the great things about working with people you know. In an improv environment, it can be tricky sometimes because you might say something that is wrong and they might use it -- that's the scary thing. When I say wrong I mean too broad or too awkward and they might think it's funny and put in the movie. John Hamburg and Bill Kerr zeroed in our performances.

PR: We trust them because they're funny. It was definitely a concern as far as the realism goes; we were constantly having conversations -- it's important. My character is self-aware but he can't be too off because then you say, "Well, why is she engaged to him?" As far as the little things that do go wrong, with nicknames and whatnot, we added them throughout without any intention to use 80 percent of them. The editor will have so many options to construct what that thing was like.

JS: Yeah.

PR: Because there are so many Klaven-isms, as John would call them. I was a little nervous; I said, "John, I want to keep doing these things, but less is more." But I was never too nervous because I trusted John and Jason, and we all wanted it to have a realistic tone.

In "I Love You, Man," you have a great comedy back-bench of supporting characters. Who do you watch in the film and say, "That person is funny"?

PR: Oh man, there are so many!

You have to just name one.

PR: Matt Walsh [of the Upright Citizen's Brigade]; he is the master of subtlety.

JS: I don't know so much that I would call him a supporting character, but I think that [Andy] Samberg plays such a pivotal role in ["I Love You, Man"]; when I saw it again last night, I really saw what an important character he is in that movie, and he's hilarious. When he hugs [Rudd] at the end, I got genuinely touched. I had a strange relationship with my brother growing up, and now we've become very, very close. I'd say he's one of my best friends, and that moment hit me.

Special Olympics bowler wants piece of Obama
The Associated Press

Kolan McConiughey, a mentally disabled man, thinks he can out-bowl Obama. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - So President Barack Obama thinks he bowls like a competitor in the Special Olympics?

He's obviously never met Kolan McConiughey, a mentally disabled man considered one of the nation's top Special Olympics bowlers, with five perfect games to his credit. He'd like to go to the White House and show the president a thing or two about how to roll strikes.

"He bowled a 129. I bowl a 300. I could beat that score easily," McConiughey said Friday.

His challenge to Obama followed the president's offhand remark on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" Thursday comparing his famously inept bowling to "the Special Olympics or something." Recognizing his blunder, Obama apologized to the chairman of the Special Olympics before the show aired.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Friday said the president believes that the Special Olympics are "a triumph of the human spirit." Gibbs added that Obama understands that the athletes "deserve a lot better than the thoughtless joke that he made last night."

During an interview with The Associated Press, the 35-year-old McConiughey quickly rolled several strikes with his left-handed hook in a short demonstration of his prowess at Colonial Lanes in Ann Arbor.

In addition to five perfect games since 2005, McConiughey has also had an 800 series and carries a 212 average. He laughed as he joked about the popular president's apparently poor game.

"I'd tell him to get a new bowling ball, new shoes and bring him down to the lane," said McConiughey, who speaks with a serious stutter. "Keep his body straight, his arm straight and keep his steps straight. He has to practice every single day."

Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver was quick to respond to the president's apology.

"He expressed his disappointment, and he apologized in a way that was very moving," Shriver said Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Obama, Shriver said, wants to have some Special Olympic athletes visit the White House to bowl or play basketball.

Still, Shriver said: "I think it's important to see that words hurt, and words do matter. And these words that in some respect can be seen as humiliating or a put-down to people with special needs do cause pain, and they do result in stereotypes."

Shriver is the son of Eunice Kennedy-Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics and has championed the rights of the mentally disabled.

His sister, Maria Shriver, wife of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a longtime Obama supporter, said laughing at the president's comments "hurts millions of people throughout the world."

"People with special needs are great athletes and productive citizens," Shriver said.

After a White House meeting with the president, Schwarzenegger was asked about Obama's remark and said he knew the president's heart.

"He loves Special Olympics, and he would do everything he can to help Special Olympics," the governor said.

With an IQ less than half of the 100 considered average, McConiughey lives with his foster mother and has held the same job at a grocery store for 16 years. He greets customers, sweeps floors and maintains the store's break room.

"He can't read much, can't do math, can't do bill-paying," said his foster mother, Jan Pardy. "Kolan faces all these challenges, but he has an area of genius, and his genius is bowling."

McConiughey has been bowling since about age 8. And he still finds time to bowl in three leagues.

"It would be an honor for him to bowl with the president of the United States," said Lois Arnold, president of the Special Olympics in Michigan.

Pardy said she saw Obama's comment on TV Friday morning and was not offended.

"Everybody has missteps," she said. "I don't think it was a slam against the Special Olympics."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Man wrestles crazed ninja kangaroo after it invades family home
By Anne Barrowclough
in Sydney

The kangaroo is believed to have been panicked by a dog

The intruder made no sound as it smashed through the bedroom window of a suburban Australian house and started bouncing on the bed where chef Beat Ettlin and his partner Verity Beaman were sleeping.

Only half awake, Mr Ettlin and Ms Beaman had very different ideas about what was happening in their bedroom. "I thought it was a lunatic ninja coming at us through the window," Mr Ettlin told The Times. "That seemed to make about as much sense as anything else that was happening. I just couldn't comprehend what was going on."

His partner, cowering under the blankets, thought to herself: "This is one big possum."

She told The Times: "When Beatt said ‘It's OK, it's just a kangaroo', I thought it's really not OK. I thought – now this could be really dangerous. I was absolutely terrified."

The family were asleep in their Canberra home in the early hours of Sunday morning when they were alerted to an intruder in their courtyard by the barking of their terrier.

As Mr Ettlin got up to investigate, a huge dark shape smashed through the window and began jumping up and down on the bed where his wife was huddled under the blankets with their daughter Beatrix, 9.

"I really didn't know what was happening," said Mr Ettlin. "I just saw this black thing jumping on the bed and bouncing against the wall. The bed collapsed on one side under his weight. When I realised it was a kangaroo at first I was relieved but he was going crazy trying to escape."

The terrified animal gouged holes in the bed and smeared blood on the bedroom walls before bounding down the hall to the bedroom of their son, Leighton, 10, who hid behind his teddy bears screaming: "There's a kangaroo in my bedroom".

Mr Ettlin said: "I thought that's enough, I can't have this any more.

"I knew this was a big threat to my family, it could really have hurt us. My wife and daughter were terrified, they were screaming as they hid under the blankets and my son was trying to hide behind his little teddies. I had to do something."

Wearing only his underwear, Mr Ettlin, a chef originally from the Swiss city of Stans, jumped on the two-metre high kangaroo from behind and got it in a headlock. Using his entire body weight to pin the kangaroo down, he wrestled it down the corridor and out the front door.

"I really felt its power," he said. "It was trying to escape and I knew I had to make sure it didn't get up again because it could really have hurt me, and hurt my family." With one hand he opened the front door and pushed the marsupial into the night.

"It took only a few minutes," he said. "And all that time there was no sound at all. I could feel the kangaroo breathing really hard and fast against my body but he didn't make a sound. All I could hear was Verity's screams.

"When it was all over I had a few scratches on my legs, and there wasn't much left of my underwear."

The drama played out in Garran, a suburb of Canberra near a reserve that is home to a number of grey kangaroos and the family, who only moved to their new home three weeks ago, believe that their intruder must have been one of these local animals. Neighbours have told them that a large kangaroo had recently been seen grazing on their front lawn, said Ms Beaman, an English teacher.

"The poor thing, he was terrified," she said. "He must have got stuck in our courtyard, and was terrified by the dog's barking so leapt for a dark space to escape. But that dark space was our bedroom."

Describing her husband as a "hero in torn underwear", she said: "He's quite burly, but it was a struggle for him to control the kangaroo."

Eastern grey kangaroos are common around Canberra's forested urban fringe and have become so numerous that there is an debate about the need to cull them to stop them ruining the habitat.

It is not unusual for them to invade the city, particularly during droughts when they come in search of water and food. Normally timid, they become aggressive if they feel threatened and, with the potential to reach six feet in height, can seriously injure humans. Four years ago a woman was attacked as she walked her poodle in a Canberra street and another woman watched as a kangaroo killed her golden retriever.

Greg Baxter, a Queensland University lecturer on Australian native animals, said that kangaroos rarely invade homes but have done so in the past when panicked.

"It is very unusual, but when kangaroos become panicked they lose all sense of caution and just fly for where they think they can get away," he said.

Wildlife authorities confirmed yesterday that they had received a phone call saying an injured kangaroo had entered the caller's home and left.

Gang of children - some as young as TEN - caught slowly roasting puppies over bonfire
By Jaya Narain

Lucky to be alive: The two puppies saved after a 'cruel' gang of children were caught roasting them on a fire

Shocked and huddled together for safety, these puppies are lucky to be alive after being saved from an act of almost unbelievable barbarity.

A gang of youths had seized the seven-week-old brother and sister and were slowly roasting them over a bonfire on a canal bank.

Yelping in panic and distress as their fur began to burn, the pair struggled desperately to escape the children's clutches.

Lucky to be alive: The two puppies saved after a gang of children were caught roasting them on a fire

The commotion attracted a walker who ran over to the bonfire and ordered the gang to release them immediately.

Melanie Johnson, 32, said: 'I just could not believe the cruelty being shown by these kids. If I hadn't turned up, I think they would have burned the dogs alive.'

Miss Johnson, from Rochdale, added: 'Most of the kids were aged 12, 13 or older. But some were as young as ten. I was ripping mad and still am to think that anyone - least of all children - could do this.'

She took the two puppies from the bank and carried them to the safety of her home before wrapping them in a towel and taking them to an RSPCA shelter.

The cross-bred pups were examined by a vet after the incident in Newbold, Rochdale on Friday and were found to be in generally good health.

Jean Spencer, the RSPCA shelter manager, said: 'The puppies are only seven weeks old and still smelled of smoke from the bonfire when they arrived.

'The fur on one of them was singed and the other has a small hernia. Fortunately, they are going to be fine.'

She added: 'To think that children could be so cruel is really disgusting. The puppies are absolutely gorgeous. Everyone here has fallen in love with them.'

The male puppy has been named Guy and his sister Cinders.

They will now go to a shelter in Halifax to be re-homed.

No arrests have been made in connection with the incident.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Obama's Victory--A British view
London Daily Mail editorial

A victory for the hysterical Oprah Winfrey, the mad racist preacher Jeremiah Wright, the US mainstream media who abandoned any sense of objectivity long ago, Europeans who despise America largely because they depend on her, comics who claim to be dangerous and fearless but would not dare attack genuinely powerful special interest groups.

A victory for Obama-worshippers everywhere.

A victory for the cult of the cult. A man who has done little with his life but has written about his achievements as if he had found the cure for cancer in between winning a marathon and building a nuclear reactor with his teeth.

Victory for style over substance, hyperbole over history, rabble-raising over reality.

A victory for Hollywood, the most dysfunctional community in the world. Victory for Streisand, Spielberg, Soros, Moore, and Sarandon.

Victory for those who prefer welfare to will and interference to independence. For those who settle for group think and herd mentality rather than those who fight for individual initiative and the right to be out of step with meager political fashion.

Victory for a man who is no friend of freedom. He and his people have already stated that media has to be controlled so as to be balanced, without realizing the extraordinary irony within that statement.

Like most liberal zealots, the Obama worshippers constantly speak of Fox and Limbaugh, when the vast bulk of television stations and newspapers are drastically liberal and anti-conservative.

Senior Democrat Chuck Schumer said that just as pornography should be censored, so should talk radio. In other words, one of the few free and open means of popular expression may well be cornered and beaten by bullies who even in triumph cannot tolerate any criticism and opposition.

A victory for those who believe the state is better qualified to raise children than the family, for those who prefer teachers' unions to teaching and for those who are naively convinced that if the West is sufficiently weak towards its enemies, war and terror will dissolve as quickly as the tears on the face of a leftist celebrity.

A victory for social democracy even after most of Europe has come to the painful conclusion that social democracy leads to mediocrity, failure, unemployment, inflation, higher taxes and economic stagnation.

A victory for intrusive lawyers, banal sentimentalists, social extremists and urban snobs.

Congratulations America!! Your funeral will be sooner than you think!!

Natasha Richardson dies after fall on ski slope
The Associated Press

In this May 5, 2008 file photo, actress arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala in New York. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer, file)

NEW YORK - Natasha Richardson , a gifted and precocious heiress to acting royalty whose career highlights included the film " Patty Hearst " and a Tony-winning performance in a stage revival of "Cabaret," died Wednesday at age 45 after suffering a head injury from a skiing accident.

Alan Nierob, the Los Angeles-based publicist for Richardson's husband Liam Neeson , confirmed her death in a written statement.

"Liam Neeson, his sons (Micheal and Daniel), and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha," the statement said. "They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time."

The statement did not give details on the cause of death for Richardson, who suffered a head injury when she fell on a beginner's trail during a private ski lesson at the luxury Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec. She was hospitalized Tuesday in Montreal and later flown to a hospital in New York .

Family members had been seen coming and going from the New York hospital where Richardson was taken.

Vanessa Redgrave , Richardson's mother, arrived in a car with darkened windows and was taken through a garage when she arrived at the Lenox Hill Hospital on Manhattan's Upper East Side about 5 p.m. Wednesday. An hour earlier, Richardson's sister, Joely, arrived alone and was swarmed by the media as she entered through the back of the hospital.

It was a sudden and horrifying loss for her family and friends, for the film and theater communities, for her many fans and for both her native and adoptive countries. Descended from at least three generations of actors, Richardson was a proper Londoner who came to love the noise of New York, an elegant blonde with large, lively eyes, a bright smile and a hearty laugh.

If she never quite attained the acting heights of her Academy Award -winning mother, she still had enjoyed a long and worthy career. As an actress, Richardson was equally adept at passion and restraint, able to portray besieged women both confessional (Tennessee Williams' Blanche DuBois) and confined (the concubine in the futuristic horror of " The Handmaid's Tale ").

Like other family members, she divided her time between stage and screen. On Broadway , she won a Tony for her performance as Sally Bowles in a 1998 revival of "Cabaret." She also appeared in New York in a production of Patrick Marber 's "Closer" (1999) as well as 2005 revival of Tennessee Williams ' " A Streetcar Named Desire ," in which she played Blanche opposite John C. Reilly's Stanley Kowalski.

She met Neeson when they made their Broadway debuts in 1993, co-starring in " Anna Christie ," Eugene O'Neill 's drama about a former prostitute and the sailor who falls in love with her.

"The astonishing Natasha Richardson ... gives what may prove to be the performance of the season as Anna, turning a heroine who has long been portrayed (and reviled) as a whore with a heart of gold into a tough, ruthlessly unsentimental apostle of O'Neill's tragic understanding of life," The New York Times critic Frank Rich wrote. "Miss Richardson, seeming more like a youthful incarnation of her mother, Vanessa Redgrave , than she has before, is riveting from her first entrance through a saloon doorway's ethereal shaft of golden light."

Her most notable film roles came earlier in her career. Richardson played the title character in Paul Schrader 's " Patty Hearst ," a 1988 biopic about the kidnapped heiress for which the actress became so immersed that even between scenes she wore a blindfold, the better to identify with her real-life counterpart.

"Natasha Richardson ... has been handed a big unwritten role; she feels her way into it, and she fills it," wrote The New Yorker's Pauline Kael . "We feel how alone and paralyzed Patty is — she retreats into being a hidden observer."

Richardson was directed again by Schrader in a 1990 adaptation of Ian McEwan 's " The Comfort of Strangers " and, also in 1990, starred in the screen version of Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale."

She later co-starred with Neeson in "Nell," with Mia Farrow in " Widow's Peak " and with a pre-teen Lindsay Lohan in a remake of " The Parent Trap ." More recent movies, none of them widely seen, included " Wild Child ," "Evening" and "Asylum."

She was born in London in 1963, the performing gene inherited not just from her parents (Vanessa Redgrave and director Tony Richardson ), but from her maternal grandparents ( Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson ), an aunt ( Lynn Redgrave ) and an uncle ( Corin Redgrave ). Her younger sister, Joely Richardson , also joined the family business.

Friends and family members remembered Natasha as an unusually poised child, perhaps forced to grow up early when her father left her mother in the late '60s for Jeanne Moreau . ( Tony Richardson died in 1991).

Interviewed by The Associated Press in 2001, Natasha Richardson said she related well to her family if only because, "We've all been through it in one way or another and so we've had to be strong. Also we embrace life. We are not cynical about life."

Richardson always planned to act, apart from one brief childhood moment when she wanted to be a flight attendant — "wonderful irony now since I hate to fly and have to take a pill in order to get on a plane. I'm so terrified."

Her screen debut came at age 4 when she appeared as a flower girl in " The Charge of the Light Brigade ," directed by her father, whose movies included " Tom Jones " and " The Entertainer ." The show business wand had already tapped her the year before, when she saw her mother in the 1967 film version of the Broadway show "Camelot."

"She was so beautiful. I still look at that movie and I can't believe it. It still makes me cry, the beauty of it. I could go on and on — in that white fur hooded thing, when she comes through the forest for the first time. You've never seen anything so beautiful!" Richardson said.

She studied at London's Central School of Speech and Drama and was an experienced stage actress by her early 20s, appearing in "On the Razzle," " Charley's Aunt " and " The Seagull ," for which the London Drama Critics awarded her most promising newcomer.

Although she never shared her mother's fiercely expressed political views, they were close professionally and acted together, most recently on Broadway to play the roles of mother and daughter in a one-night benefit concert version of " A Little Night Music ," the Stephen Sondheim - Hugh Wheeler musical.

Before meeting up with Neeson (who called her "Tash") Richardson was married to theater and producer Robert Fox, whose credits include the 1985 staging of "The Seagull" in which his future wife appeared.

She sometimes remarked on the differences between her and her second husband — she from a theatrical dynasty and he from a working-class background in Northern Ireland.

"He's more laid back, happy to see what happens, whereas I'm a doer and I plan ahead," Richardson told The Independent on Sunday newspaper in 2003. "The differences sometimes get in the way but they can be the very things that feed a marriage, too."

She once said that Neeson's serious injury in a 2000 motorcycle accident — he suffered a crushed pelvis after colliding with a deer in upstate New York — had made her really appreciate life.

"I wake up every morning feeling lucky — which is driven by fear, no doubt, since I know it could all go away," she told The Daily Telegraph newspaper in 2003.


Associated Press Writer Jill Lawless in London and Drama Writer Michael Kuchwara in New York contributed to this report.

Red, white and blue, through and through
By Jeff Passan,
Yahoo! Sports 8 hours, 50 minutes ago

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The flag traveled around the world and through the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq. Sgt. Felix Perez brought it from home as a reminder and an amulet. The flag never left his Army backpack.

It accompanied Perez to Dolphin Stadium on Tuesday night. He needed some luck for his team, the United States, in its must-win World Baseball Classic game against Puerto Rico. Perez wore a Team USA hat and a Team USA hoodie, and his little sister, Jessica, draped his flag across her shoulders. The United States’ 6-5 come-from-behind victory in the ninth inning sent them into a frenzy. She danced around. He sat in his motorized wheelchair and roared.

On the way out, the 27-year-old Perez placed the flag in his lap and leaned over to a security guard manning Gate G. He was hoping some players from Team USA might sign it. The security guard led Perez and his sister to the U.S. clubhouse, and the flag went inside.

“The next thing I know,” Perez said, “I’m getting called to come back in there.”

And so began the coolest 30 minutes of Felix Perez’s life. On an evening when he felt especially proud to be an American – when a group of his sporting heroes wearing his country’s name across their chests banded together to win a game they had no business winning – Perez found himself surrounded by them, doused with celebratory Miller Lites, with the American flag that was with him during the worst moment of his life passed around the room and signed by every player on the team.

“Everybody,” Perez said.

Then they handed him a ball filled with signatures.

“Everybody,” Perez said.

The half-hour went too fast. Jimmy Rollins, who scored the winning run, wanted to chat more. David Wright, who drove it in, couldn’t hear enough about how the New York Mets are Perez’s favorite team. Almost half the team surrounded Perez for a photograph, the flag draped around his torso, a smile on every face, and none brighter than his.

“I’m just happy to see him happy,” Jessica said.

It’s been four years since Perez returned from the Middle East, where he spent four years. He enlisted after his 17th birthday and was in Afghanistan by the time he turned 20. He doesn’t like to talk about his injury. Some wounds don’t heal.

Perez played ball growing up in North Bergen, N.J., and still loves watching the sport. He attended Team USA’s first WBC game here, an 11-1 mercy-rule loss to Puerto Rico. When the Americans beat the Netherlands to stay alive, Perez woke up at 9 the next morning, called the box office and bought three tickets.

The stadium, practically empty at first pitch, filled to 13,224 by game’s end. It deserved more eyes. Puerto Rico scored in the sixth inning to break a 3-3 tie and tacked on an insurance run in the ninth for a two-run lead. The Americans, about to get bumped from the second straight WBC before the semifinals, needed something divine. Shane Victorino singled to right field. Brian Roberts singled to center. And then Roberts, who had joined Team USA just two days earlier to replace the injured Dustin Pedroia, stole second base – even though coaches laid down the hold sign. Roberts hadn’t quite learned the signs yet.

A walk to Rollins, and another to Kevin Youkilis, and the U.S. had cut the deficit to one run. Wright laced a 2-1 pitch from Fernando Cabrera down the right-field line, and out charged all of Team USA, from the bench and the bullpen, in a bull rush to home plate, then to greet Wright. His teammates kept pushing Wright, joyous and unbridled shoves, until he fell down and they buried his face in the dirt.

“I never thought that we’d be dog piling in March,” Wright said.

No one did. The malaise that clouded the previous games involving Team USA seemed infectious. For every Felix Perez, there were dozens, sometimes hundreds, of fans rooting for the opposing team. Every WBC game thus far, even the ones in Florida, felt like it was on the road.

Not even that dampened the Americans’ enthusiasm. They play Venezuela on Wednesday to determine seeding in Los Angeles, where they’ll face either Korea or the winner of Wednesday’s Japan-Cuba knockout game – and perhaps with a few more supporters who can appreciate what Team USA accomplished Tuesday.

“That was the greatest game I’ve ever been a part of,” catcher Brian McCann said. “Ever.”

Same went for Perez. He said he would rather Team USA win the WBC than the Mets win a World Series.

“We’re the U.S.,” Perez said. “This is our game. … This is the world. You’re representing your country. What is more honorable than representing your country?”

Team USA’s manager, Davey Johnson, grew up an Army brat, his father a prisoner-of-war in World War II.

“There is nothing more honorable,” he said.

Wright was raised near Naval Station Norfolk, one of the largest military bases in the country.

“When you see those guys and get a chance to see how much it means to them, that makes it extra special,” he said. “They take a lot of pride in that red, white and blue, and to have USA across your chest and have supporters like that – that’s what this tournament means.”

Outside the clubhouse, Perez started moving toward the stadium exit. His dad, Felix, had called. He was wondering where Perez and Jessica had gone. They were headed back to the car, Jessica said. They had a pretty amazing souvenir.

A minute later, Rollins walked by and spotted Perez.

“All right, baby,” he said. “Keep a smile on your face.”

“Hey,” Perez said, “as long as you keep swinging the bat, I’ll be happy.”

Perez lifted his right arm as high as he could to wave goodbye. He wasn’t sure he’d see these guys again. He said he might fly to Los Angeles for the finals. He doesn’t know.

Perez moved his hands onto the flag. It’s a struggle, but he wanted to touch his prize. He plans on hanging it next to his other American flag, the one his friends in the 82nd Airborne sent to him when he was injured.

The old flag’s traveling days are over. Sgt. Felix Perez brought it to his home Tuesday night as a reminder and an amulet. The flag never will leave his heart.

Friday, March 13, 2009

(Update) Magalona's ashes arrive at church for final blessing
By Dino Maragay

MANILA, Philippines -- The ashes of actor-rapper Francis Magalona arrived at a church in Quezon City for final blessing, a TV report said today.

Relatives and friends have gathered around 9 a.m. today at the Christ the King Church in Green Meadows, Quezon City, to witness the final blessing rites.

The final blessing is set to start as of this posting and expected to last for about an hour.

The ashes will then be brought to its final resting place at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City this afternoon.

Radio reports earlier said that Magalona’s body was brought to the Funeraria Paz along Araneta Avenue at around 1 a.m. from the Christ the King church, where necrological services were held prior to the cremation.

The cremation was completed around 5:15 a.m., reports added.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Actor-rapper Francis Magalona's remains cremated today
By Dennis Carcamo

MANILA, Philippines -- The cremation of the remains of actor-rapper Francis Magalona was completed early this morning in Quezon city.

Radio reports said Magalona's body was brought to the Funeraria Paz at around 1 a.m. from Christ the King church in Green Meadows, Quezon City, where necrological services were held prior to the cremation.

The cremation was completed around 5:15 a.m., reports added.

The ashes will be brought to the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City today. Police already deployed several personnel to ensure the security of those who will attend the burial -- family, relatives, friends and fans of the late actor.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Pia a pillar of strength

While everybody (other family members, colleagues, friends and fans, etc.) are dissolving in tears on national television and at the Christ The King Chapels in Green Meadows, Quezon City, where the remains of her husband Francis Magalona lie, Pia Arroyo-Magalona acknowledges the hugs and handshakes of sympathizers with a smile and with not a hint of tears.

Maybe she has cried more than enough in the seven months that she stayed beside Francis, who died at 44 (born Oct. 4, 1964), during his brave battle with acute myelogenous leukemia?

Pia smiled, her eyes showing not the pain and sorrow that mark this kind of tragedy but apparent joy that Francis is now resting in peace in the bosom of The Lord, and said, “I’d rather treasure beautiful memories of our life together,” that is, with their eight children (two of them actresses Maxene and Saab), “and that’s what I will miss most about him.”

Throughout their joint battle with the Big C, diagnosed in August last year, Pia proved to be a pillar of strength.

“Otherwise,” she said, “if I showed any sign of weakness, it might adversely affect Francis. I didn’t want that to happen. I had to be strong for him. With him gone, I have to continue being strong for our children,” added Pia, daughter of graphic designer Edwina Koch Arroyo and, according to her, related to the Arroyos of Bicol (including Sen. Joker Arroyo) and not the Arroyos in Malacanang.

There’s just one thing that Pia wanted clarified: Francis’ illness was not hereditary contrary to some reports. (Francis succumbed to secondary sepsis and secondary pneumonia last Friday, March 6, at the Medical City in Pasig City where he was rushed last Tuesday for his usual blood tranfusion.)

“Niether was it congenital,” explained Pia. “He started having persistent fever in summer last year and he thought it was one of those things, so he started taking Paracetamol. The fever didn’t go away, so he was forced to consult a doctor.”

Asked if Francis left any last wishes, Pia smiled again. “Well, he did. He had all of seven months to do it.”

One of Francis’ last requests was for Pia herself to do his make-up if and when. “I just supervised the make-up artist,” said Pia.

In his casket, Francis wears a dark suit and holds a gold rosary. His hair has started growing after the series of chemotherapy that rendered him bald. This month, he was supposed to undergo a radical bone-marrow transplant.

Pia recalled that during his last hours, Francis was aided with a ventillator that made talking difficult. He was sedated so he wouldn’t feel any pain as his vital organs broke down.

“When his heart stopped beating and the ventillator was removed,” said Pia, “I whispered ‘I love you’ to him. I knew that a dying man’s sense of hearing is the last to go so I kept whispering to him, ‘I love you very much; you are the one I will always love.’ I knew he was listening because I saw the heartbeat monitor move a bit.”

Francis’ remains will be cremated on Wednesday, March 11, after a morning mass. And then he will be laid to rest at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City.

During last Saturday’s second reunion concert of the Eraserheads at the Mall of Asia Concert Grounds, the disbanded band’s vocalist Ely Buendia asked the crowd (estimated to be more than 100,000) to shout out the name of Francia Magalona and then screamed, “Mabuhay ka, Francis!” before he and his co-Eheads sang Francis’ hit song Kaleidoscope World. Francis was supposed to be a guest in the concert. He and Ely have started work on an album of inspirational songs.

In last Saturday’s edition of Startalk, Ely sent the following message for Francis: There are no words do describe the sadness I feel. He was my brother and I will miss him forever. Thank you, Kiko, for inspiring me. Now you are a true Freeman. Say hi to my mom for me. (Ely’s mother died in August last year a few days before the Eheads’ reunion concert at The Fort which was cut short after Ely was rushed to the hospital with chest pains.)

When the wake is over, when the sympathizers are gone, when everything starts to go back to “normal” and when reality sets in, when tears have been shed, that will be the time when Pia, the pillar of strength, will surely start to feel Francis’ not being there anymore. The painful reality hasn’t sunk in yet.

“And then,” said Pia, a certain sadness crossing her eyes for the first time during the interview, “it will be only between Francis and me, just the two of us.”

I will end this piece with the following letter from readferGem Tullao-Atienza who, I think, expresses what Francis’ fans and friends feel:

Dear Francis,

When I learned that you died today,

a sudden gush of blood run through my veins

I felt sad and I mourned quietly

I asked why and how

You must have gotten tired of staying at the 4th floor.

Did you die in pain? I hope not.

Your friends, kababayans and fans think it’s too soon

And you made us believe that you were okay

You have such an intense valor that kept everyone going

But was it all just an act?

The pain must have gotten you all worn out

Did you ever want to go? I understand why.

More than a decade ago,

You sang “Meron akong Ano”

It was only a year ago when you announced,

“Meron akong cancer”

We were all sad and we prayed

Did you get sad too? I didn’t think so.

You took us by surprise with your TV guestings

You were busy here and there, despite your condition

You managed to be stable and move forward.

With high hopes, we thought you could manage.

Did you have high hopes too? I certainly thought so.

And how wonderful it is to be like you.

You passed away on a hot summer-ry day

Yet it feels like a cold summer night.

Your absence left everyone in awe

Much to our surprise, you were gone.

Did you ever want to leave on a summer day?

So we could mourn and sing your song?

I know you didn’t mean to.

Like your three stars and a sun

You shine the brightest.

You were a talented creature

Your hopes and passion

Has put you to where you were.

A man with a free mind, gone too soon.

Did it have to end like this? I don’t really know.

You said you knew that your journey

Is on full speed ahead

Yet your writings show that you willingly

Submitted yourself to our Creator

You must’ve known that death is on your way.

How lucky could you be, did you know that?

But how tragic it is for everyone who loved you so.

You were a devoted artist, a loyal friend,

a proud daddy and a loving husband.

It must have felt great to be one of them

We could only mourn and go on with our lives

Did you really go away?

Our heavenly father must have taken you.

But in our illusive minds, lies one man named Francis M.

Go in peace. Farewell my idol.