Saturday, September 19, 2009

News and Pop Culture

Gay and straight men see body image the same way: study

The research revealed that while women desire to be thin, straight and gay men preferred lean and muscular physique. Psychologist and study author Shane Greentree said it was hard to say if the male body image problem had worsened, but it did seem more acceptable to discuss it. "Previously, particularly for straight men, this was an issue that was taboo topic and seen as being a women’s issue or ... a "gay man’s" issue," said Greentree. Read more here.

Gay rights bill passes Ohio House

For the first time, a bill prohibiting employment or housing discrimination based on sexual orientation passed the Ohio House. The bill, which has been introduced four times but has always stalled in committee, passed 56-38 and now goes to the state senate. Says the Columbus Dispatch: The bill could hit a wall in the GOP-controlled Senate, where President Bill M. Harris, R-Ashland, has said repeatedly that although the measure will get a hearing, he doesn’t see a need for the legislation and that there are already sufficient protections in place. “Other people are getting that evidence and information (of discrimination), but I am not,” Harris said. “I talk to business people all the time, and they’re saying it’s not an issue. If they had trouble with it, they’d be trying to get a law passed.” Twenty states have gay anti-discrimination laws, as do 443 Fortune 500 companies and 17 Ohio cities.

New generation of divas inducted on VH1 special

(New York City) There's a new class of divas in town — and they're ready to rock with attitude. Jennifer Hudson (pictured), Miley Cyrus and Kelly Clarkson were among the new inductees at the "VH1 Divas" concert Thursday night. Paula Abdul hosted and opened the show, but she got the most attention for poking fun at her "American Idol" replacement Ellen DeGeneres — rocking a signature suit, tennis shoes and a short blonde wig — while prancing around onstage. Hudson may have had the night's biggest diva moment — a duet with Stevie Wonder, who she calls her "childhood hero." Cyndi Lauper, Liza Minnelli, Sheryl Crow, Leona Lewis, Adele, Jordin Sparks and India.Arie also appeared. The show aired live from the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Wealthy gays bribe New York Republicans

Reliable sources have revealed exclusively to that gay elites have struck a deal with New York Republican lawmakers to allow a vote to be taken on equal marriage as soon as next week in exchange for financing their re-election campaigns. While these Republicans will not vote for equal marriage or the repeal of DOMA due to fear of repercussion from their constituents, they have agreed not to block the vote. Wealthy gays have committed to donate tens of thousands of dollars to New York Republicans who may support war, be against reproductive choice, be against immigrants rights, and be against health care reform in exchange for this deal. Could this set back the broader progressive movement? Read more at

Roger Corman and cinematographer Gordon Willis to get Oscars

Cult producer-director Roger Corman and cinematographer Gordon Willis will also be awarded honorary Oscars by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Corman, known as the King of the B movies, is an independent director-producer who gave a start to filmmakers such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and Jonathan Demme. His low-budget films included It Conquered the World, The Little Shop of Horrors, The Intruder, The Raven, The Masque of the Red Death and The Trip. Willis was behind the lens for The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II, which earned him an Academy Award nomination. He was also cinematographer for All the President’s Men, Annie Hall and Manhattan. The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, an award for creative producers whose work is of consistent high quality, will be presented to John Calley, who produced Closer, The Da Vinci Code and The Remains of the Day, for which he earned a best picture Oscar nomination. The awards will be presented on Saturday, Nov. 14 at the Academy Governor’s Ball in Los Angeles.

Jay Leno ratings hit low, down 53 percent from premiere

On the series’ fourth night, NBC’s The Jay Leno Show hit its lowest ratings yet, drawing just 8.5 million viewers in the 10 p.m. timeslot — which is 53 percent down from the show’s Monday premiere and 36 off from Wednesday night’s airing. And for the first time since it premiered, The Jay Leno Show did not win its time period in total viewers — that accolade went to a rerun of CBS’s hot procedural The Mentalist. The first week of Leno has been up and down. Here’s a quick rundown of total viewership so far this week: Monday: 18.4 million; Tuesday: 11.1 million; Wednesday: 13.4 million; Thursday: 8.5 million.

Runner, Caster Semenya under suicide watch: report

Caster Semenya, the South African runner at the centre of a gender dispute, has been placed on suicide watch, according to a report in the Star newspaper in South Africa. The report, published last week, said Semenya is being cared for "round the clock" by psychologists after unconfirmed reports that the 18-year-old is a hermaphrodite. "She is like a raped person. She is afraid of herself and does not want anyone near her," Butana Komphela, chairman of South Africa's sports committee, told the paper. "If she commits suicide, it will be on all our heads. The best we can do is protect her and look out for her during this trying time." South African athletics officials said Semenya is receiving trauma counselling at the University of Pretoria. On Thursday, Athletics South Africa called for a commission of inquiry into its handling of Semenya's case.

Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary dies of leukemia, at age 72

Mary Travers, one-third of the hugely popular 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, has died. The band’s publicist, Heather Lylis, says Travers died at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut on Wednesday. She was 72 and had battled leukemia for several years. Travers joined forces with Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey in the early 1960s. The trio mingled their music with liberal politics, both onstage and off. Their version of “If I Had a Hammer” became an anthem for racial equality. Other hits included “Lemon Tree,” “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and “Puff (The Magic Dragon.)” They were early champions of Bob Dylan and performed his “Blowin’ in the Wind” at the August 1963 March on Washington. And they were vehement in their opposition to the Vietnam War, managing to stay true to their liberal beliefs while creating music that resonated in the American mainstream. The group collected five Grammy Awards for their three-part harmony on enduring songs like “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” “Puff (The Magic Dragon)” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” At one point in 1963, three of their albums were in the top six Billboard best-selling LPs as they became the biggest stars of the folk revival movement.

LGBT Suicide: A Preventable Epidemic

When two 11-year-old boys died by suicide in April of this year after enduring relentless antigay bullying at their separate schools, shocked citizens across the country were forced to come to terms with an uncomfortable but blatant epidemic. The hallways of schools, homes, churches, and other places where all young people should be able to safely learn and grow are plagued with its tragic prevalence. Youths who identify as or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide at a disproportionately high rate as a result of the increased risk factors sexual minorities face. The executive director of the leading suicide hotline for LGBT youths issues a call to action to protect teens from a completely preventable demise. Read more Advocate.

Jane Fonda apologizes for signing film fest petition

Academy Award-winning actress Jane Fonda apologized for signing a petition decrying the Toronto International Film Festival’s decision to screen films by artists from Tel Aviv. In an article on the Huffington Post blog, she remonstrated herself for attaching her name to criticism that the festival was being politicized. “I signed the letter without reading it carefully enough, without asking myself if some of the wording wouldn’t exacerbate the situation rather than bring about constructive dialogue,” she wrote. Several luminaries have come out in support of the film fest’s decision to showcase the Israeli films, including Natalie Portman, Jerry Seinfeld, and Sacha Baron Cohen.

British hip hop artist Speech Debelle wins U.K.'s Mercury Prize

British hip hop artist Speech Debelle emerged triumphant at the U.K.'s Mercury Prize Tuesday night, snagging the prestigious music honour for her debut album Speech Therapy. "It feels better than I imagined," the singer-rapper said after her win. "My family's here. My friends are here …I don't get emotional — I'm emotional." The 26-year-old Debelle, whose album was inspired by a period when she was homeless, had reportedly sold less than 3,000 copies of Speech Therapy before Tuesday evening, when she picked up the £20,000 (about $34,000 Cdn) prize. By Wednesday morning, however, online retailer Amazon reported that the south London singer-rapper has seen a 4,000 per cent rise in sales. She beat out more established acts such as rock group Kasabian and solo artist Bat for Lashes. Read more at CBC.

Teenage birth rates higher in more religious states

Rates of births to teenage mothers are strongly predicted by conservative religious beliefs, even after controlling for differences in income and rates of abortion. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Reproductive Health have found a strong association between teenage birth rates and state-level measures of religiosity in the U.S. Joseph Strayhorn, an adjunct faculty member with Drexel University and the University of Pittsburgh, and Jillian Strayhorn used data from the Pew Forum's US Religious Landscapes Survey and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to evaluate the state level effects of belief on teen birth rates. Joseph Strayhorn said: "The magnitude of the correlation between religiosity and teen birth rate astonished us. Teen birth is more highly correlated with some of the religiosity items on the Religious Landscapes Survey than some of those items are correlated with each other." Read more at Science Daily.

Oprah book club picks Uwem Akpan's "Say You're One of Them"

Uwem Akpan's debut collection, Say You're One of Them, has stories about children facing slavery, religious rioting and other distressing situations. Akpan, a Nigerian Jesuit priest now working in Nigeria, says he grew up in a village with a tradition of storytelling. He studied creative writing at the University of Michigan and sold a short story to the New Yorker in 2005, which led to a book deal. Winfrey has a strong connection to Africa, having funded a school for girls in South Africa and backed educational projects, such as building schools, in several African countries. Say You're One of Them was praised for its level view of Africa's horrors by critics in the New York Times and Guardian, but others found his approach maudlin and said it reinforced stereotypes about Africa. But on The Oprah Winfrey Show Friday, Winfrey called it "an incredible book" and said each of his five stories left her gasping. In anointing a short story collection for her book club, Winfrey is giving a boost to a perennial underdog.

Nashville passes nondiscrimination ordinance

Despite considerable controversy, an ordinance prohibiting discrimination against LGBT municipal employees in Nashville passed the city council on Tuesday. The bill passed by the Nashville metro council bans discrimination against city employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In the final vote for the hard-fought ordinance, the tally was 24 council members in favor, 15 opposed, and one absent member, according to The Tennessean. Councilwoman Megan Barry, who championed the bill, praised the action. "I believe that all employees deserve protection, and it's my responsibility as a council member to make sure that happens," said Barry, according to The Tennessean.

Scientists have cured colour-blindness in monkeys

The researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Florida used gene therapy to restore the colour sensitivity of two squirrel monkeys, and say the technique could one day treat other vision disorders involving the eye's cone cells. "We've added red sensitivity to cone cells in animals that are born with a condition that is exactly like human colour-blindness," William W. Hauswirth, a professor of ophthalmic molecular genetics at the UF College of Medicine, said in a statement. But even if you can cure monkeys of colour-blindness, how would you know? The answer begins 10 years ago when Jay and Maureen Neitz — both ophthalmology professors at the University of Washington, and authors on the study — began training two squirrel monkeys named Dalton and Sam. Read more at CBC.

'Laugh-In' and 'Boston Legal' actor Henry Gibson dies at 73

Henry Gibson, the veteran comic character actor best known for his role reciting offbeat poetry on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In," has died. He was 73. Gibson's son, James, said Gibson died Monday at his home in Malibu after a brief battle with cancer. After serving in the Air Force and studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Gibson — born James Bateman in Germantown, Pa., in 1935 — created his Henry Gibson comic persona, a pun on playwright Henrik Ibsen's name, while working as a theater actor in New York. For three seasons on "Laugh-In," he delivered satirical poems while gripping a giant flower.

Avenue Q to continue off-Broadway

Tony Award-winning musical Avenue Q is coming full circle, set to return to an off-Broadway venue after officially bringing the curtain down on the Broadway edition on Sunday. After cast members of the raunchy puppets-and-people comedy took their final bows at New York's Golden Theatre on Sunday, producer Kevin McCollum took the stage to announce that the show will reopen off-Broadway on Oct. 9 at New World Stages (Ticket information here). "We love Avenue Q. It's the kind of show that is all about the aspiration of what coming to New York is all about, finding your purpose and having your dreams come true," McCollum, the high-profile producer whose credits span the long-running musical Rent to the current revival of West Side Story, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "As long as people are doing that, this show belongs in New York." The move — from the Golden's approximately 800-seats to a 499-seat theatre at New World Stages — will cost about $1 million US, he added. Avenue Q began life off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre in early 2003. It moved to the Great White Way later that summer and eventually picked up a trio of trophies at the 2004 Tony Awards, including the prestigious best musical title. The musical also spawned a short-lived Las Vegas version, a successful run in London's West End and a touring production. (CBC)