Sunday, December 20, 2009

News and Pop Culture Round-Up

Feist, Usher to play at Whistler 2010 Olympic victory parties

Feist, Usher and Our Lady Peace are among the artists who will headline medal victory ceremonies at Whistler, B.C., during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. On Tuesday, the Vancouver organizing committee announced 14 acts who will play during the victory parties held daily at 7 p.m. from Feb. 13 to 27. All the concerts will take place in the Whistler Medals Plaza after a ceremony to present medals in sports such as alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and luge. The celebrations begin Feb. 13 with a concert by Oklahoma-based rock band All American Rejects. READ MORE

Alaina Reed Hall, of 90's Hit TV show "227," dies of breast cancer

Actress Alaina Reed Hall, who played Rose Lee Holloway on the 90's NBC television sitcom "227" has died on December 17, 2009, after battling breast cancer. She was 63 years old. Alaina was married three times. Her first marriage ended in divorce. The union produced two children. She married Kevin Peter Hall in December 1988, after meeting him when he guest starred on 227. She was widowed in 1991 after he died of pneumonia-related complications after contracting AIDS. At the time of her death, she was married to Tamim Amini. Read more at Hinterland Gazette.

More UK schools running 'anti-gay' Christian crash-courses

Increasing numbers of UK schools are opting to run a youth version of the Alpha course, it has been reported. The adult ten-week evangelical courses act as an introduction to Christianity but have been criticised for being anti-gay and manipulative. According to a Times Educational Supplement report last week, the Youth Alpha courses, designed for 11- to 18-year-olds, are being taught at lunchtimes and in after-school clubs. It estimated that around 60 schools had signed up, although some of these numbers may relate to church groups using school buildings. (UK Pink News)

Star Trek's Patrick Stewart to be knighted

Star Trek favourite Patrick Stewart is to be knighted in the New Year’s Honours list. The screen and stage legend will receive the gong from the Queen for his services to drama. Stewart’s award will cap an incredible career that has spanned 50 years of film and theatre. Palace sources said the Queen is a huge fan of the 69-year-old, who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation. One observer said: “It’s a fantastic accolade for a fantastic actor. “He is a man at the very top of his trade who has mastered both popular TV and classic roles.” (UK Mirror)

Men may now join the ranks of Nevada’s brothel prostitutes

Men were previously barred in Nevada from the oldest profession because codes specified that prostitutes must undergo “cervical” testing for sexually transmitted diseases, which ruled out men. Bobbi Davis, owner of the Shady Lady Ranch, a small brothel near Beatty, wanted to add male prostitutes to her stable of sex workers. And while there have been plans for brothels to hire men in the past, Davis made the first-ever request to have the Nevada State Board of Health add urethral exams to the guidelines. That allows male sex workers to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Davis has said the men could start working at her five-bed brothel starting in the New Year. The male prostitutes will decide for themselves whether to accept male or female clients, she said, just as the female prostitutes do now. The health board approved the change in what an attorney from the ACLU, representing Davis, called “housekeeping.” READ MORE

Angelina Jolie criticizes President Obama for doing nothing over Sudan

Angelina Jolie has taken a jab at President Barack Obama. In her article entitled "Justice Delayed Is Not Justice Denied" which was published in Newsweek on December 10, she criticized the 44th President of the United States for not being firmed enough in helping to resolve the ethnic problem in Darfur, Sudan. "I believe President Obama and his special envoy Scott Gration will do their best to bring peace to the region. Their policy, though, raises a number of questions," she additionally wrote. Although the 34-year-old actress came up with good hope for the president, she once again questioned, "How is the Obama administration's approach to Sudan an evolution of justice?" READ MORE

'Alien' writer Dan O'Bannon dies, aged 63
Dan O'Bannon, the screenwriter behind Alien and Total Recall, has died at the age of 63. He passed away in Los Angeles following a short illness, reports website Ain't It Cool News. O'Bannon attended USC film school in the early '70s where he met director John Carpenter. The pair worked together on Carpenter's debut feature Dark Star, which O'Bannon co-wrote, edited, served as special effects supervisor and acted in the role of Sgt Pinback. He worked on the visual effects team on Star Wars before switching his efforts to screenwriting full time with the initial script for Alien, titled Star Beast, which he penned with Ronald Shusett. (Digital Spy)

Pee-wee Herman's big comeback

The star may be Pee-wee, but his new live stage show is absolutely huge. "The Pee-wee Herman Show," opening next month in downtown Los Angeles at Club Nokia theater, cost millions to mount. It boasts 11 actors, 20 puppets and marks the show's first production since 1982. So, why now? "Well, you know, I really want to make a movie version of 'The Playhouse,' my Saturday morning kid show," Paul Reubens said in an interview earlier this week in which he stayed in his exuberant Pee-wee persona. "This seemed like a great way to do it: Reintroduce it, get back out there, introduce Pee-wee to the new generation that didn't know about it." READ MORE

French rock icon Johnny Hallyday out of coma; early 2010 concerts cancelled

Producers have cancelled Johnny Hallyday's tour dates for the next few months, as the veteran French rocker recovers in Los Angeles from complications of recent surgery. Officials announced Wednesday that with Hallyday "temporarily indisposed," the final leg of the 66-year-old singer's farewell tour — including concert dates in France through Feb. 13 — have been cancelled. Ticketholders will be reimbursed, according to a statement. "He is doing much better," Francois Zuccarelli, a doctor who examined the singer in Los Angeles on Tuesday, told France's RTL radio. "The news is reassuring. He has come out of this critical phase." Doctors at Cedars Sinai hospital woke Hallyday — a national icon and bestselling artist considered France's Elvis Presley — from a medically induced coma on Monday. (CBC)

Simple technique changes sex of a mouse

One of the great dogmas of biology is that gender is fixed from birth, determined by the inheritance of certain genes on the X and Y sex chromosomes. But this simplistic idea has been exploded by the latest study, which demonstrated that fully-developed adult females can undergo a partial sex change following a genetic modification to a single gene. The battle of the sexes is a never-ending war waged within ourselves as male and female elements of our own bodies continually fight each other for supremacy. This is the astonishing implication of a pioneering study showing that it is possible to flick a genetic switch that turns female ovary cells into male testicular tissue. READ MORE

Maine gay marriage supporters plan to make it 2010 election issue

Maine gay marriage advocates have regrouped following repeal of the gay marriage law at the ballot Nov. 3, and they are working to put like-minded legislators in office in 2010. They also are planning to take a more personal approach with voters than they did in the months leading up to November — an approach that focuses less on identifying likely voters than it does on having conversations with people in the more rural, small-town pockets of Maine. Dorian Cole, communications director of Equality Maine, said no decision has been made about how the campaign will proceed with a new gay marriage initiative. Advocates could seek legislation through either a bill or a citizen's initiative, seek redress in the courts or alternatives such as civil unions. "Equality Maine has figured out it didn't create enough of a grassroots organization, and they're right," she said. "The way to be doing this is on the ground, with communities of people who are local, who are talking and persuading." READ MORE

Bernanke is Time Magazine's Person of the Year

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was named Person of the Year by Time magazine on Wednesday, giving him a high-profile boost as he tries to fend off proposals that might weaken the Fed's independence. The selection puts the mild-mannered Bernanke, a former professor, in the company of U.S. President Barack Obama, Pope John Paul II and Russian President Vladimir Putin, among other prominent world figures the magazine has picked in past years. The Senate is considering Bernanke's nomination to a second term to head the Fed -- the U.S. central bank -- and while he is expected to win confirmation, criticism of the Fed among the public and members of Congress is at its highest in decades. READ MORE

Further spread of Rhodesian sleeping sickness in Uganda likely due to livestock

The northwards spread of human Rhodesian sleeping sickness in Uganda is likely due to the movement of infected livestock, according to new findings from an interdisciplinary research group including members from the Centre for Infectious Diseases, University of Edinburgh; the Ministry of Health, Uganda; and the Universities of Oxford. READ MORE

Stephen King to pay for troops' holiday trip home

Author Stephen King and his wife are donating money so 150 soldiers from the Maine Army National Guard can come home for the holidays. King and his wife, Tabitha, who live in Bangor, are paying $13,000 toward the cost of two bus trips so that members of the 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Unit can travel from Camp Atterbury in Indiana to Maine for Christmas. The soldiers left Maine last week for training at Camp Atterbury. They are scheduled to depart for Afghanistan in January. READ MORE

What Houston's lesbian mayor means for Texas

In terms of geography, Houston may be a city in the Old South, but its personality is a mix of Western frontier and Third World boomtown: dynamic, diverse, a place to make a fortune and lose one. Only 40% of greater Houston area residents live inside the Loop, the freeway that defines Houston's city limits, and only 1 million of the city's 2.2 million residents are registered voters. Many are immigrants who cannot vote. The key to winning any Houston mayoral race is coalition-building, and Parker's political career has been deliberate, "low risk" and "canny," according to Richard Murray, a veteran political analyst and political science professor at the University of Houston. Her political journey echoes, to some degree, that of Houston's only other female mayor, Kathy Whitmire. Like Whitmire, Parker used the job of city controller as a jumping-off point, built on her base in the Montrose neighborhood (heart of the city's large gay community) and reached out to vital constituencies, like African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and moderate, affluent Republicans. READ MORE

Taylor Lautner's post-Twilight career officially on meteoric rise

Don't worry about Taylor Lautner's abs; they definitely won't be going hungry once the Twilight Saga draws to a close with Breaking Dawn. Following news that Lautner has landed starring roles in the upcoming Max Steel and Cancun, E! Online reports that Wolfie Boy is in negotiations to star in a remake of the 1985 Matthew Modine/Linda Fiornentino coming-of-age drama Vision Quest. Oh, and here's some other very good news—since Modine's character was a high-school wrestling star and the new script is said to be "very faithful" to the original, we're willing to make a very bold prediction right here on the spot: Can you say, "Abs ahoy"? And dare Taylor's fans hope for a locker-room/shower scene? (

Roy E. Disney dies at 79

Roy E. Disney, a longtime senior executive of the company founded by his uncle Walt and father Roy, has died at the age of 79. The Walt Disney Co. announced that Disney died Wednesday in Newport Beach, Calif., after a year-long battle with stomach cancer. "He was a great man who believed deeply in the art of animation. He put his heart and soul into preserving Disney's legendary past, while helping to move the art of animation into the modern age by embracing new technology," John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, said in a statement. Read more at CBC.

Happy fourth anniversary for UK civil partnerships

Four years ago today, three couples simultaneously tied the knot at 8am in Brighton – the exact time the legislation came into effect. The first three couples were Rev Debbie Gaston and Elaine Gaston, Gino Meriano and Mike Ullett and Roger Lewis and his partner Keith Willmott-Goodall. The first celebrity couple to have a civil partnership were Elton John and David Furnish. The couple hosted a banquet reception for 700 guests. Read more at UK Pink News.

Actor Gene Barry dies at age 90

Actor Gene Barry, who starred in TV series Bat Masterson, Burke’s Law, and The Name of the Game, has died at age 90. The actor died in a Los Angeles rest home of unknown causes, according to his son. His film credits include Invaders from Mars and Soldier of Fortune and he appeared on Broadway in La Cage aux Folles.

Elton John and Judy Garland ranked top gay icons

"Elton John and Judy Garland have been ranked as the top male and female celebrity gay icons respectively," reports UK Pink News. A spokesperson from One Poll, which commissioned the survey, said: "Interestingly only one of the men in the top 10 list of male celebrity gay icons isn't gay – David Beckham. And yet most of the women put on a pedestal by the gay community are straight. "It just shows that to advocate a certain way of living, you don't have to live the lifestyle but simply be more accepting of those around you."

Top ten male gay icons:
1. Elton John
2. Freddie Mercury
3. Stephen Fry
4. George Michael
5. Oscar Wilde
6. Will Young
7. Alan Carr
8. Paul O'Grady
9. Boy George
10. David Beckham

Top ten female gay icons:

1. Judy Garland
2. Kylie Minogue
3. Madonna
4. Cher
5. Liza Minnelli
6. Marilyn Monroe
7. Shirley Bassey
8. Lily Savage
9. Dusty Springfield
10. Barbra Streisand