Monday, 12 September 2011

A New Chez for Newlyweds Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo

BUYERS: Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo
PRICE: $2,850,000
SIZE: 8,134 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: One of Your Mama's unofficial celebrity real estate rules states that when a rich and/or famous person marries they frequently also buy a new home. In short, a new spouse means a new house. It makes little matter if the newly betrothed previously shacked up in unmarried sin. They typically still feel the urge to wrap there wedded bliss in the comforts of a new house.

Thanks to the Bizzy Boys at Celebrity Address Aerial we've learned that such was the case with former boy bander/reality tee-vee star turned singing contest host/sometime actor Nick Lachey (The Sing Off) and his new bride Vanessa Minnillo, a one-time beauty pageant participator who now earns a living as the hostess of various showbiz events and low-brow reality tee-vee programs (Wipeout, True Beauty, Total Request Live).

Mister Lachey and Miss Minnillo, coupled on and off since sometime in 2006 or 2007, have lived together on and off for the last several years in both Los Angeles and New York City. In The Big Apple they were oft rumored and reported to have purchased or possibly leased a 2 bedroom pied a terre at the Atelier building on the far western end of 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan; In The City of Angels they made their unwed nest in a very contemporary ridge top residence Mister Lachey purchased in 2006 shortly after his marriage to wife number one Jessica Simpson swirled down the Tinseltown Terlit of Love.

After years of dating and living together Miss Minnillo finally made an honest man of Mister Lachey in mid-July (2011) when they hitched their semi-celebrity wagons in a quiet ceremony on Richard Branson's private Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands. The main house on Necker Island was badly damaged last week during a fire started by a lightening strike. At the time of the 4:00 a.m. conflagration Oscar-winning British actress Kate Winslet was a guest of Mister Branson and asleep in the house. Not only did Miz Winslet get herself and her two children out of the house unharmed but also managed to scoop up and carry Mister Branson's 90 year old mother out of the house to safety. Brava beotch! But we digress...

Property records and previous reports reveal that in February 2006 Mister Lachey ponied up 5,000,000 clams for a 5,214 square foot house near the tail end of a long gated driveway shared by a few other homes that snakes dramatically along a narrow ridge high in the mountains directly above the hoity-toity Bel Air section of Los Angeles.

The then bachelor purchased the modern mini-mansion from German supermodel/media mogul Heidi Klum and Grammy-winning British R&B singer-songwriter Seal who, as it turns out, have been much in the celebrity real estate headlines lately. The sexy salt and pepper pair paid $14,200,000 in late 2010 for a 12,300 square foot mansion on more than eight hillside acres in the same exclusive gated enclave in Los Angeles' Brentwood area where other residents and home owners include philandering former California governator Arnold Schwarzenegger, supermodel Giselle B�ndchen and her pigskinner hubby Tom Brady, Libet Johnson (heiress to the Band-Aid fortune), and at least one Middle Eastern political potentate. They subsequently listed their former house, a secluded hillside estate tucked into one of the lesser traveled canyons that cut through the mountains in the Beverly Hills Post Office area, in May 2011 with an asking price of $6,900,000. Records reveal they sold the 6 bedroom and 9 full and 2 half pooper property just a month later for $7,000,000. It doesn't take a genius or a bejeweled abacus to see that's a hundred grand over the asking price but it does take a peep into the property records to reveal it's also $600,000 less then they paid for the property 5.5 years earlier. And there we go digressing again...

Your Mama discussed the Bel Air residence Mister Lachey shared with Miss Minnillo back in June 2010 when he quietly pushed the property on to the market with and asking price of $6,800,000. Listing information indicates house was last listed with a $5,995,000 price tag and property records now show Mister Lachey sold the property on the 10th of August, 2011 for $5,500,000 to an unknown buyer.

The day after Mister Lachey closed on his house in Bel Air he and his new Missus closed on a gated mock-Med mansion nestled into a thickly treed cul-de-sac in the semi-rustic rolling hills above suburban Encino. Although Encino is and has always been a leafy haven for Hollywood types of all stripes, the community none-the-less carries with it the stigma of being a suburban wasteland of vapid and tasteless consumerism. This unflattering image of Encino, at one time only a figment in the snobbish real estate minds of Angelenos who believed they lived in better zip codes, went viral in the early 1980s when L.A.-based music legend Frank Zappa released the song Valley Girl. Anyone over forty certainly knows the song?sung/talked by Mister Zappa's then 14-year old daughter Moon Unit?that openly mocked Valley Girl culture. (O.M.G., children, check out Marilyn MaCoo with her braided headband! Get. It. Gurrl!).

Anyhoo, property records show the newlyweds paid $2,850,000 for their new mansion in Encino. The house, which listing information called "Rustic Tuscan," was purchased with the same trust through which Mister Lachey owned his previous home in Bel Air. Listing information for Chez Lachey shows the house was built in 1981, measures a substantial 8,134 square feet, and includes a family-sized number of bedrooms and bathrooms, 6 and 8 respectively.

Shrubbery shrouded arched wood gates swing open electronically to a stone motor court with two car front-facing garage and adjoining single car carport. A wide, tree-shaded stone stair way connects the driveway to the front door set deeply into an arched porch. The exterior of the house, as far as Your Mama is concerned, ain't nuthin' but an architectural wart with odd proportions and botched massing. Things get a marginally better inside where some of the faux and stone finishes meant to give the house the illusion of being an ag�d Mediterranean country house are mildly mitigated by a number of surprisingly voluminous spaces with distressed hardwood floors and vaulted ceilings with exposed wood beams.

A series of stone pillars and wide arched doorways in that airy sky-lit foyer direct traffic into the spacious window-wrapped formal living room with wide plank wood floors, fireplace and French doors that open to a pair of verandas, one covered and one not. The adjacent library/den also has wood floors, vaulted wood beam ceiling with sky lights, fireplace, and French doors that open to a veranda?in this case the covered one. Boozehounds like Your Mama who can not abide the stone veneer only installed to about halfway up one very tall wall in the library/den may feel more architecturally charitable to the space when they learn there's a built-in wet bar with copper sink installed in the corner opposite the fireplace.

The formal dining room opens on one end through wood-framed French doors to a grassy area and on the side through a wider bank of wood-framed French doors to a romantic vine-covered patio with over-sized water fountain. The rather large center island kitchen has a barrel-vaulted ceiling, tile floors with Travertine inlay set at a 45-degree angle, a adjacent pantry/utility room, custom cabinetry that features a built-in buffet with plate rack and microwave oven cubby, two over-sized farmhouse sinks, side-by-side stainless steel fridge and freezer, snack counter, and a breakfast area also with a barrel vaulted ceiling.

A wide doorway with a pair of thin columns separates the breakfast room/kitchen from the family room where there's distressed wide-plank wood floors under foot and a vaulted, wood-beamed, and sky lit ceiling over head. One entire wall was covered floor to ceiling in the same stone veneer as in the library/den. All we can say about that is at least this time the stone facing reaches all the way to the high ceiling. An arched inset in the stone-faced wall holds a wide-screen boob-toob and built-in cabinet for all the various cable boxes and wireless routers required for a modern upscale lifestyle. The home's third fireplace was crammed awkwardly between the wide media archway and a much less wide archway that connects the room to the rest of the house.

A vestibule on the lower level has double doors that open into a home office with built-in cabinetry, desk top, wet bar and corner seating unit. A short hall connects the office space to the master bedroom and en suite bathroom, both of which have fireplaces set into full walls covered with stone veneer, both of which have access and/or views to the garden and swimming pool, and both of which have wall-t0-wall sand colored carpeting. That's right, puppies, there's wall to wall carpeting in the bathrooms that encircles the free standing tub and runs right up to the sinks and shower. Your Mama hopes that Mister and Missus Lachey heed Rule Number 12 in Your Mama's Big Book of Decorating Dos and Don'ts that explicitly states that due to what should be obvious sanitary issues no bathing or terliting facility of any kind in any home of any size or value shall have wall-to-wall carpeting. Bath mats and area rugs are acceptable solutions to cold feet as are, for those with the budget, radiant heated floors.

The remainder of the mansion's sleeping chambers, each of them en suite as per listing information, are sprinkled throughout the house and configured such as to allow for flexible use as guest suites, offices, game rooms, fitness chambers, children's play rooms, massage facilities, scrap booking factories or what-have-you rooms.

In addition to the various covered patios, porches and verandas that surround the house the grounds include a flat patch of grass surrounded by mature trees and landscaping. Does anyone else besides Your Mama think Missus Lachey would like to see a celebrity-style jungle gym set up out there soon? Exterior stairs connect the long dining and lounging veranda on the second floor to the multi-level lower terrace where there's dining and sunbathing areas, built-in fire pit with built-in stone bench, a swimming pool with lap lane and, tucked into a quiet corner of the yard, a foliage-surrounded spa where Mister and Missus Minnillo can film another of their outdoor sexcapades should they be so inclined.

Your Mama, who has never spoken to nor seen Mister Lachey or Miz Minnillo in the flesh, certainly hasn't any idea or inside information about why these two sometimes volatile lovebirds would opt to trade in their sexy house in Bel Air with jet liner views over Los Angeles to the Pacific Ocean for a significantly larger but far less exciting mansion in Encino. Perhaps they just wanted some thing less expensive?if not less costly to maintain and operate?where they'll have plenty of room to bring up babies when the time comes.

listing photos: Michael Andrew McNamara Photography for Partners Trust


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The political Bible, part 6: welfare | Nick Spencer

The Age of Atonement in the early 19th century featured a powerful Christian opposition to state-based welfare provision

The biblical attitude to state-based welfare provision in Britain has been strangely similar to its attitude to democracy: the raw materials were there from the earliest times but so was a distinctly critical attitude.

A little over 100 years ago, a Charities Commission report commented that "the latter half of the 19th century will stand second in respect of the greatness and variety of charities created within its duration, to no other half-century since the Reformation". The vast majority of those charities were founded, funded and operated by Christians who were simply following biblical precepts. "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, Christ said in Matthew 25. "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."

That there was a biblical imperative to feed, clothe, heal and help was never in doubt. The question was how.

In the earlier 19th century, in what historian Boyd Hilton called the Age of Atonement, there was a powerful Christian opposition to state-based welfare provision. It was wrong for government to interfere in the market and social affairs for fear of upsetting God's sanctified, if harsh, moral order. Charity was mandatory, but it was also personal.

This changed, slowly, as the 19th century progressed, and an age of atonement gave way to an age of incarnation in which the fraternal suffering of the Son was emphasised over the severe judgement of the Father. By the end of the century Archbishop Frederick Temple, addressing a deputation of trades' societies, cautiously affirmed a scheme proposed by Charles Booth that the state should pay a pension of five shillings a week to everyone over the age of 65. That would have been unthinkable for any archbishop earlier in the century.

The battle between those who sought state-based welfare solutions and more community ones raged in the interwar period, but the tide of centralised planning won the day, in part because two friends, contemporaries and Christian socialists, RH Tawney and William Temple, threw their weight behind the idea. Temple even coined the term "welfare state", although he did so in specific contrast to the "power state" of contemporary totalitarianism, rather than in direct anticipation, still less delineation, of the Beveridge plan.

In the immediate postwar period, the Attlee settlement became received Christian wisdom. "Christians should welcome [it as] the embodiment of the principle, 'Bear ye one another's burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ'," wrote Cyril Garbett, Archbishop of York. "In bringing relief to the poor, giving food to the hungry, finding work for the unemployed, caring for the children and the aged, and providing healing for the sick it is carrying out the word of Christ."

The critical voice was never far below the surface, however, and the arrival of the self-consciously Christian Margaret Thatcher gave it a powerful articulation. Britain's problems, she insisted, were as much moral as they were economic. "The economy had gone wrong," she later wrote, "because something else had gone wrong spiritually and philosophically."

Thatcher, brought up in a devout Methodist home, was a spiritual descendent of the evangelicals who shaped the Age of Atonement. But we, in turn, as Andrew Marr remarked in his History of Modern Britain, are all Thatcher's children, and in that respect the current reformation of welfare provision in the UK is another chapter in the tussle between atonement and incarnation.

This is not to claim, as some do, that the "big society" or Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms are cynical attempts to obliterate the state and impale the vulnerable on the harsh justice of the market. They are not.

Rather, it is to say that our attitudes to welfare policy are invariably tied up with our differing conceptions of justice and our understanding of the human person. And because human persons are uniquely free, moral, meaning-seeking animals, that means that our attitudes are, at root, however reluctantly, theological. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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Lady Gaga's Harper's Bazaar Cover Is 'A Big Deal'

Fashion photographers Inez & Vinoodh say stripped-down photo shows 'the old soul that she is.'
By Jocelyn Vena

Lady Gaga on the October 2011 cover of <i>Harper's Bazaar</i>
Photo: Inez & Vinoodh / Hearst Communications

Lady Gaga appears barefaced on the latest cover of Harper's Bazaar. The cover is simply a close-up of her face: no makeup, wigs, masks or high-end couture. For a star who's frequently adorned elaborately, the simplicity of the look was so drastic that it made headlines.

Fans might be surprised to learn the cover shot was taken during a hectic video shoot in Nebraska, where Gaga was not only shooting her official "You and I" clip, but also several Inez & Vinoodh-directed fashion films.

The pair, who shot the Harper's cover, told MTV News the photo truly exposes Gaga as the person she is. "She's so beautiful in it. It's her emotion and her expression, and you can just see the old soul that she is, the pure happiness," Inez explained. "She's a very special human being that is all about giving. I think that's what's great with that cover: It's so out; it's so talking to the people. That's her most incredible quality: radiating that happiness that she has, and you really see it."

Over the course of her career, Gaga has had many extreme looks on the cover of countless magazines, and it seems that this stripped-down look was the only natural progression for her. The duo, who also shot her three-headed V Magazine cover, explained that this cover is "her purely; seeing her how she is inside."

So, how did the cover come to be? Inez explained, "I think it was Stephen Gan, the art director of Harper's Bazaar, that came to us and said, 'I would love to have a shoot with Gaga where she's really bare, where it's really her,' because he knows her very well; they're great friends. He feels the same way that we do: She is so beautiful, but because of all the stuff around, you don't get the chance to see really the gorgeousness and the person inside in that part of her. For Harper's Bazaar, I think it's a big deal to have a black-and-white cover to begin with, and it's great."

It was an idea that Gaga jumped on quite enthusiastically. "She's at a point in life too where she's very confident and ... everything's going so well and enjoying so much, it's really the right timing too to bare herself like that," the pair added.

Share your thoughts on Gaga's Harper's Bazaar cover in the comments below!

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Noel Collins obituary

Stalwart of the TV police series Juliet Bravo

Noel Collins, who has died of cancer aged 74, was a linchpin of the police series Juliet Bravo throughout its entire six-series run. As Sergeant George Parrish, he was familiar for his "Yes, ma'am" response to consecutive uniformed inspectors Jean Darblay (Stephanie Turner) and Kate Longton (Anna Carteret). Parrish and his male colleagues were seen adjusting to working with a female boss in the BBC programme, which was launched a decade before the more hard-edged Prime Suspect ? although four months after ITV's The Gentle Touch, which starred Jill Gascoine as a detective inspector.

The pace of life was slow in Juliet Bravo, whose title came from a police call-sign. The series (1980-85), set in the fictional Lancashire town of Hartley and described by one television critic as "Dixon in skirts", was also notable for being the flipside to its creator Ian Kennedy-Martin's previous, violence-filled crime drama, The Sweeney. Juliet Bravo had to meet the family-viewing requirements of a programme screened before the 9pm watershed. Collins perfectly reflected its parochial nature. He was first seen with rolled-up shirtsleeves, transferring a plate of sandwiches to the cupboard below the police station's front desk.

The actor's career ended 15 years ago, when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He retired after having a lung removed and joined 52 others in a �17m lawsuit against Gallaher and Imperial Tobacco, claiming the companies were negligent in not reducing the tar content in cigarettes once the link between smoking and lung cancer had been established. The claim was abandoned in 1999 because of the prospect of soaring legal costs if it were lost.

Collins was born in London. His father, an Irish immigrant, rose from being a clerk at Sainsbury's to director of a London underwriting firm. After a private education at St Benedict's school in Ealing, west London, Collins served with the Irish Guards for three years, then graduated in law from Durham University, where he began acting.

A stint in his father's business was followed by work in a travel agency. At the same time, he gained more acting experience at the amateur Questors theatre, Ealing. Collins made the jump to professional companies as an assistant stage manager, before he acted in a West End production of Incident at Vichy (Phoenix theatre, 1965-66) alongside Alec Guinness, who told him: "You could be a really useful actor."

He had seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company, with whom he appeared in Tell Me Lies, a 1967 film based on its anti-Vietnam war play US, staged in 1966 at the Aldwych theatre. Collins also made his television debut in 1967, taking the small role of a nightclub guest in the BBC play Days in the Trees.

Character roles followed, in one-off episodes of programmes such as New Scotland Yard (1973), When the Boat Comes In (1976), Enemy at the Door (1978) and Pennies from Heaven (1978), before his face became more familiar to viewers in Juliet Bravo.

Although frequently cast as police officers, chaplains and prison warders, in 1989 Collins played a rural hotelier caught up in an invasion of Arthurian knights from another dimension in the Doctor Who story Battlefield, alongside Sylvester McCoy as the seventh incarnation of the Time Lord.

His hobby in retirement was photography, and he was a member of his local Leyton & Leytonstone Historical Society. Collins is survived by his second wife, Helene; and by a son, Nicholas, and daughter, Lucy, from his first marriage.

? Noel Michael Collins, actor, born 11 December 1936; died 15 August 2011 © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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Aggro Santos charged with double rape

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Aggro Santos, a contestant on last year's I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, has been charged with raping two women.

The 22-year-old rapper is charged with two alleged sex attacks, the first in September 2010 and the second in May this year.

His cousin, Tyrelle Ritchie, has been also charged over the second incident.
Santos, real name Yuri, was questioned by police in May after allegedly inviting two sisters to his hotel room after a gig at the University of Chichester.

According to The Sun, his solicitor said yesterday: "My client is shocked and appalled that he has been charged over trumped-up allegations which are completely false.

"He vehemently denies these charges and will be vigorously fighting them."

Both men have been bailed and are due to appear at Chichester Magistrates' Court on September 19.

Sussex Police confirmed the charges.

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Sunday, 11 September 2011

Jermaine reveals Michael Jackson escape plan

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Jermaine Jackson has revealed the family had planned a secret escape for Michael in case he was found guilty of child molestation charges.

In an interview with The Times, 56-year-old Jermaine claimed a private jet was on standby to take Michael Jackson to Bahrain, which has no extradition treaty with America, if convicted.
"If they were going to sit and crucify my brother for something that he didn't do, America deserves us not to come back here," Jermaine told the paper.

"At the end of the day, this is supposed to be the land of the brave, home of the free, democracy, freedom of speech.

"The way they were treating him, none of that existed. Why should he go to jail for something he didn't do?"

The King of Pop was accused of molesting 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo, conspiring to kidnap the boy and his family and giving the child alcohol.

After a four-month trial, Michael was cleared of all charges in 2005.

Jermaine insisted his brother knew nothing of the escape plan but would have agreed to flee "in a heartbeat" rather than face jail.

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Behind the music: Why Grooveshark takes a bite out of artists' earnings

Don't be seduced by the convenience of Grooveshark. If you want a streaming service that pays musicians, choose Spotify

When Spotify decided to limit its free ad-funded service earlier this year, a friend of mine said she was considering switching to Grooveshark ? she couldn't afford the unlimited ad-free version of Spotify at �4.99 a month (though I pointed out the vodka and tonic she was drinking at the time was more expensive). She did have her reservations, however: Grooveshark placed no limit on how much you could listen to, and ads were much less intrusive than those on Spotify, so could it really be a legal service? Let's take a closer look.

Grooveshark calls itself a radio though, of course, it's not. It's an on-demand service, which makes it more like Spotify than Pandora. If it was an online radio it would have to adhere to the US blanket licensing agreement Pandora adheres to and pay for all the music used on the site. Though Pandora pays artists and songwriters less than Spotify, it does have a licence for all music on its site ? Grooveshark does not. In fact, Grooveshark, which launched in 2007, only has a licence agreement with EMI as far as major labels are concerned. It also has a licence agreement with Merlin, which represents many independent labels, though, notably, both of these agreements only materialised after EMI and Merlin took legal action against the site over copyright infringement. Yet a quick browse shows all of Lady Gaga's catalogue (a Universal artist) and all of Beyonc�'s (a Sony artist), as well as numerous independent artists I know who have never even been approached by Grooveshark, much less ever seen a penny from them. It's an interesting way of doing business: don't bother about the rights for music on the site until the copyright owner takes you to court.

But Grooveshark, which is owned by the Florida-based Escape Media Group, argues it's covered by the the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) ? though the fact that Google took the Grooveshark app off its Android phones indicates that even Google, a company familiar with the restrictions imposed by DMCA owing to its ownership of YouTube, may not be wholly sure of that claim. And while Michael Robertson, the founder of MP3tunes, argues that the recent ruling in the case where his service was taken to court by EMI could work in Grooveshark's favour, Universal disagrees. The label is taking Grooveshark to court in the US, as are a group of musicians and songwriters in Nashville.

The EMI v MP3tunes ruling said the service was covered by DMCA "safe harbour" provisions ? which protect internet service providers from liablity for the actions of their users ? as long as it responded quickly to DMCA takedown notices and removed the accounts of persistent infringers (as with YouTube, the music on the site is uploaded by users, so a track can easily be uploaded again as soon as it's been taken down). The problem with Grooveshark's argument is that the DMCA is applicable only in the US, while Grooveshark is available in Europe, where there is no equivalent to the DMCA.

Though Grooveshark has licence agreements with some of the labels whose artists feature on the site, it's also required to have such agreements with the songwriters behind the tracks (as well as paying them royalties), yet PRS for Music ? the British performance rights society for songwriters ? does not have a licence agreement with Grooveshark. I'm a member of the Swedish performing rights society, STIM. As I've never seen any royalty reports from Grooveshark, despite seeing songs I've written on its site, I asked if there was an agreement in place. There isn't. In fact, STIM's view, as stated in a blog, is: "Grooveshark is an illegal music service in the whole of Europe. All their revenue from advertising and subscriptions goes straight into the owners' pockets."

What was even more surprising to STIM and its songwriter members was that a Swedish PC magazine had recently written an article with the headline: "This is how you get music for free with the cool Grooveshark", which stated the cite was legal and ad-free. The article was not only wrong about the ads (the site features ads and actively looks for advertisers, boasting about the 20 million users it has worldwide), but, STIM said it's completely illegal, "as opposed to Spotify, which has been legal from day one". STIM's blog said: "Grooveshark doesn't want to negotiate with anyone in Europe and does not have the right to make available music in any European country ? Grooveshark steals money from music creators."

When sites such as Digital Music News publish articles headlined "Where Grooveshark Is Still Kicking Spotify's Butt", they fail to take into account that the majority of artists on Grooveshark don't get a penny and have not given their permission for their music to be on the site.

So what did my friend do? After giving it some thought, she decided �4.99 wasn't too much to spend on the artists she loves ? possibly because she works for a newspaper and realised good content costs money to produce. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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Batmanning is a Christian Bale stunt with an Adam West flavour

The peerless inventiveness of the hive mind has at last hit on a sequel to planking

You know how it is. You had a few drinks last night. You can't quite remember how the evening ended. Now you're worried you, or someone you love, may have been Batmanning. Open your eyes. What do you see? It it the bottom of your bedroom door, upside down? Yes? Oh dear. You have been Batmanning. But don't panic: it's what all the groovy young kids are doing these days.

The peerless inventiveness of the hivemind has at last hit on a sequel to planking, the health-and-safety-bothering trend where people posted photographs of themselves lying flat out in a dangerous or improbable public place.

Horizontality is so last year. Now the thing to do is to suspend yourself upside down with your toes hooked over the edge of a door, wall or piece of piping. Look at me! I'm upside down ? like a bat! It's a whole new world of stupid. Naturally, it's screamingly popular.

Have a Google if you don't believe me. That's the one: "Batmanning is here". Click the link: there's a blurry still photograph of somebody hanging from a door in the corner of a quite unremarkable room ? captioned "Batmanning: Because Planking's For Pussies". The hit counter, at time of writing, read 1,690,764.

Can we pause, momentarily, to digest that? A still photograph of someone hanging upside down from a door has been deemed interesting enough for 1,690,764 separate people ? or, possibly, a handful of very bored students with short memories ? to look at it. There's a video, too ? 350,000-odd hits ? posted by an organisation calling themselves the Batman Boilers and inviting you to follow them on Twitter for more upside-down lulz.

I tried it, in the interests of research. I have established that footwear is key. Stout walking boots of the unbending-Kevlar-toe type are undoubtedly the best. Best start with a half-Batman from your desk. Position a cushion underneath. Do you feel good when you're upside down? Not completely. Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, is said to write his novels in this condition. That's all I'm saying.

Unfortunately, if one and a half million people are interested in this, it becomes the province not only of the ambulance service, but the arts pages. So: where does it stand?

In terms of the Batman canon, Batmanning is a Christian Bale stunt with an Adam West flavour. West ? camp 60s TV Batman ? couldn't manage it because his tubby tummy would prevent him hanging perpendicular to the door. Also, his feet would give way. Bad scene: sore head; dented bat-ears; Boy Wonder not knowing where to look.

So it's firmly Christian Bale, athletically speaking ? wasn't he hanging upside-down in Buddhist gravity boots in the first Christopher Nolan film, Batman Begins?Tonally, however, we're in Adam West territory. The soundtrack to Batmanning is definitely good old "dinner dinner dinner dinnerBatman"; not the 14-second blast of Satan having a good burp, rendered in five-dimensional surround-sound, that stands for atmospherics in those movies.

Plus, Batmanners flap their arms. Bale didn't move his arms in either of those movies, as far as I remember. He might as well have been Michael Flatley. Upside-down or right way up, Bale had to conserve his energies for his acting, ie scowling and talking in a deep voice. So, no. If Batmanning is intended as some sort of viral marketing for the third in Nolan's trilogy, it is woefully misconceived.

In terms of the wider world, Batmanning is clearly the same sort of thing as planking and extreme ironing, and sort of the same sort of thing as one of those flashmobs in which the concourse at a railway station is suddenly cluttered up with people in pac-a-macs dancing the Time Warp.

Is it performance art? Probably, on balance, not. Is it part of the culture? Certainly. Batmanning, and all these things it resembles, may be among the few genuinely distinctive pseudo-artistic emanations of the internet. Go, internet.

It will move on, mark me. We'll have Wonderwomaning (spinning round and round in a public place), Hulking (smashing stuff up in a public place ? pioneered in Tottenham) and the odd tragic Spidermanning accident before the madness comes to an end.

What's the point of it? Well might you ask. The point is, evidently, the pointlessness. In this I think we can track it back to early surrealism and the Situationist International. According to Andr� Breton, the pointless gesture ? the acte gratuit ? is a sort of concrete expression of philosophical freedom. There's little more gratuit, as actes go, than Batmanning. (Actually, Breton said that the ultimate surrealist act would be the random firing of a pistol into a crowd ? though that would technically qualify as Punishering.)

In any case, that eejit imperilling the top two vertebrae of his neck for internet giggles is a distant cousin of the existentialist antiheroes of Albert Camus, by way of Johnny Knoxville. God help us all. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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Quiet trains of thought | Joe Moran

I share campaigners' love of silence, but not enough to challenge phone users when in a quiet carriage

Whenever I travel on a Virgin train, I always book a seat in the quiet zone. I am not quite sure why, because the prominently displayed notices seem to have little impact on the use of mobile phones and other noisy devices. But the transport minister, Norman Baker, and a number of MPs representing suburban London constituencies now want to see these zones more widely applied, and have asked Transport for London to consider putting quiet carriages on the Tube and overground trains. They cite the American example of Boston's commuter train lines, on which passengers are not allowed to use phones or talk loudly in the rush hour.

The train carriage has always brought people together in an awkward mix of tolerance and irritation. Its forerunner, the stagecoach, was a garrulous mini-community by comparison. In 1818, William Hazlitt remarked that "you will hear more good things on the outside of a stage-coach from London to Oxford, than if you were to pass a twelvemonth with the Undergraduates or Heads of Colleges of that famous university".

When the railway carriage arrived in the 1830s, its greater comfort encouraged musing and window gazing, and made solitary, silent activities such as reading and sewing possible. By 1862, the Railway Traveller's Handy Book was complaining: "Generally speaking, the occupants of a railway carriage perform the whole of the journey in silence ? This is most unnatural and unreasonable ? Why should an Englishman ever be like a ghost, in not speaking until he is spoken to?"

When the earliest, brick-like mobile phones appeared in the late 1980s, this etiquette began to change. What might have been seen only two decades ago as unBritish self-display ? having an uninhibited conversation in public ? is now grudgingly accepted, without some of us ever quite getting used to it. It is not just that train passengers disagree about the nature and value of silence, but that mobile phones occupy the user and repulse strangers more comprehensively than books or newspapers. In doing so they have subtly altered the already fragile social dynamic of the train carriage, making us seem ever more absent to each other.

In A Book of Silence, Sara Maitland argues that our ambivalence about silence stems from two conflicting contemporary ideas: first, "that we feel ourselves to be happy and fulfilled only when we are interacting with other people"; and second, "the equally popular mythology that stresses individual autonomy and personal 'rights'". Some of the occupants of a train carriage want to be left alone to get on with work; for others, such "work" involves noisily conversing with other people.

The expectation that other people should be silent seems to be an arbitrary, changeable affair. Actors increasingly complain of mobile phones putting them off in mid-soliloquy, but theatre audiences were not always expected to be quiet. In his recent history of celebrity, Fred Inglis traces this convention of sitting in reverential silence back to the actor-manager David Garrick, who in the mid-18th century "taught the London audiences, bit by bit, to suppress their chatter, their zoo noises and bursts of ribald song, their bombardments of fruit on to the stage".

Perhaps today's noisier theatregoers are simply returning to a pre-modern, natural state. Maitland sees the interruption of silence as an artificial affliction of modernity, but I am not so sure. Certain environments have certainly become noisier: libraries now seem actively to encourage conversation and clatter. But many things are quieter than they used to be: you no longer hear the incessant hammering of the typing pool, and today's warehouses and factories are places of cathedral-like calm compared to a generation ago.

I share Maitland's love of silence, although not enough to challenge anyone disturbing me in a quiet zone. But I cannot decide if the desire for it is natural or unnatural in our herd-loving, compulsively communicative race. When I was a student, I happily wrote essays in crowded common rooms; now I cannot write if there is so much as a creaky floorboard in the room above me. It is amazing how much noise you can get used to, and then how much silence you can become accustomed to demanding. So I am not surprised that the quiet zone of a train carriage is such an area of conflict: I am never so estranged from my fellow citizens as when, in the middle of their never-ending noise, I feel the need for silence. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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Theophilus London Was So Fresh, So Clean, On 'When I Was 17'

'Last Name London' MC recalls raiding his dad's closet for the 'freshest Jordans' on Saturday's brand-new episode.
By Sara Waber

Theophilus London

Theophilus London really should have titled his "Last Name London" single "Last Name Swag." On this week's episode of MTV's "When I Was 17," the hip-hop artist reveals that style runs in the family.

"Shout-out to my dad, he influenced my style when I was 17," Theophilus says in the episode airing Saturday at 11 a.m. ET/PT.

"I was introducing him to be swag," his father, Moses, says. "You have to be crisp, you got to be clean. You got to be ready for school," the man behind Theophilus' exceptional style recalls advising his son.

While Theophilus didn't have a big spending budget, he found creative ways to get the looks he wanted, and that included hitting up his dad's very hip closet.

"I didn't have that much money, so I'd wake up in the morning and raid my dad's closet," he explains. "He had all the freshest Jordans, and he never wore his Jordans, so I was like, 'Man, somebody needs to wear them.' " Of course, he made sure not to nick the kicks.

Fans got to see firsthand just how the rapper uses his eye for fashion to make the ladies swoon when MTV News' Rya Backer took Theophilus on a First Date to a vintage thrift store. But even back in the day, the NYC rapper was trying to make the girls' heads turn. "My clothes [on] Sunday would be picked out for the week: This is Monday, this is Tuesday; this girl is gonna like my outfit on Friday."

"When I Was 17" — this week featuring Amy Lee, Chris Klein and Theophilus London — airs on Saturday at 11 a.m. ET/PT on MTV.

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Vince: 'Jessie was right to dump me'

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Vince Morse has spoken out for the first time since being jilted by fiancé Jessie Wallace, saying the actress was right to dump him.

In an interview with the Sunday Mirror, the catering boss said: "It took a lot of courage for her to call off the wedding... she did the right thing by dumping me.

"But now I'm begging her for her forgiveness and hoping she will still marry me."

EastEnder Jessie called the wedding off just five hours before she was due to walk down the aisle, as she struggled to come to terms with Vince's sexting revelation.

For his part Morse insists he was drunk when he flirted with ex Karen Short but began to feel guilty when Short contacted him, claiming her ex was attempting to sell the topless photo of Jessie.
"I was mortified," Vince explained. "Someone I was going to marry, and I've gone and done that... it doesn't really show true commitment and love does it?

"I thought about telling her but I thought I was going to get away with it. What man would admit to something like that without getting caught."

Unfortunately things were taken out of his hands when the story broke on the eve of the wedding.

"That Sunday was the saddest day of my life," he went on. "I knew how badly I'd broken her trust. She's the love of my life and I felt terrible."

Heartbroken Jessie has since flown to Crete to take stock of the situation but rumours that she is about to take him back seem unfounded.

Vince added: "Things don't look great at the moment but it doesn't stop me loving her and it doesn't stop her loving me. The only thing I can do is keep showing I love her and hopefully she'll soften.

"I know it's a possibility that she won't take me back but I don't want to think about losing her at the moment."

The Sunday Mirror reports that Vince received no fee for the interview but asked for a donation to charity.

What do you think - will Jessie 'soften' and agree to give things another try? Leave a comment below...

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It's never an easy time when a relationship comes to an end, so spare a thought for these poor celebs who've had to go through their splits in the public eye...




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Late Day Morsel Number One: Dominique Strauss-Kahn

There has been much chatter this week among the various New York City-based real estate gossips about the very contemporary downtown Manhattan townhouse where until recently Dominique Strauss-Kahn was holed up for several months in the lap of luxury on house arrest.

The former managing director of the International Monetary Fund catapulted to tabloid fodder in May 2011 when he was ripped off a Paris-bound plane and charged with the sexual assault of a hotel housekeeper. He denied any and all allegations of misconduct and the prosecution eventually requested the case be withdrawn due to lack of evidence.

Early reports suggested Mister Strauss coughed up fifty grand a month for the 6,804 square foot townhouse rental but reporter Matt Chabon at the New York Observer spoke with the listing agent who?somewhat surprisingly?revealed that Mister Strauss actually paid $60,000 per month for the furnished rental that was arranged for in an overnight deal.

The five floor Franklin Street townhouse?which has an elegant and well-resolved floor plan despite the windowless but sky lit main living space?is back on the market for lease at $50,000 per month and for sale with an asking price of $13,995,000. Chatty listing agent Robert Dvorin at Town Real Estate told the Observer that interest in the townhouse has been "exponential" since Mister Strauss-Kahn vacated the premises.

The French economist has, as far as we know, vamoosed permanently back to Paris where he and his Missus were welcomed with flowers by none other than magnificently kooky German-born French couturier Karl Lagerfeld.

listing photos and floor plan: Town Real Estate


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truth and reconciliation | review

Royal Court, London SW1

What happens when aggressors in conflict situations come face-to-face with the relatives of their victims? This is the question posed in this short new play written and directed by Debbie Tucker Green, and anyone familiar with this British playwright's work might guess that she does not answer it in a straightforward manner. More important than confrontation and catharsis to Green is how language falters, dies, and unexpectedly bursts into life, during five "truth and reconciliation" sessions in countries such as Rwanda and Northern Ireland. There is little in the way of reconciliation, and the catharsis, when it finally arrives, feels problematic. Still, this is a compelling and intriguing piece, and Green was brave to forge her bitter poetry out of such emotive material. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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Leona: 'Sexy singers go too far'

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We were convinced Leona Lewis was trying to shake off the girl-next-door image. But she's not ready to give it up just yet.

The lovely Leona has slammed the raunchy routines and sexy moves of female popstars. In fact, she's downright "insulted" by some of them (ahem, Rihanna).
Speaking to Stylist magazine, Ms Lewis said: "Personally, I think some people go too far. I don't really like to see people dancing around a pole or gyrating on a guy every time I go to a concert."

Er... Britney, we think she means you.

"I just don't think there is any need for it," Leona went on. "I'd rather be something positive, especially to young girls. It's not something I want to represent and I find it a bit insulting as a woman.

"There's a way to be sexy that's not too in your face."

And that means she won't be doing any naked photoshoots or "weird sex books"... sorry boys.

Call her boring if you like... she's not bothered.

In a separate interview with Rollacoaster magazine (due out next week), the singer hit back at those who have branded her dull: "It doesn't bother me. I'd rather be seen like that than a harsh, brash person."

One thing that does bother her though, are looters.

Londoner Leona weighed in on the riots debate, saying: "You have to remember (Hackney) is a very poor area and they're taking away funding for youth programmes," she told the publication.

"But I just think (rioting) was literally some hood rats that jumped on the bandwagon to go a bit insane."

She might be a nice girl but she's obviously perfectly capable of speaking her mind.

What do you think - is Leona right? And will she manage to maintain her 'nice girl' image? Leave a comment below...

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Since Leona won't be doing any sexy photoshoots, you'll just have to make do with these bikini-clad beach bodies...




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A Dish of Tea with Dr Johnson | review

Arts, London WC2

No wonder Dr Johnson slept badly ? he drank enough tea to sink a galleon: "The fragrant leaf, I drink it at all times and at all hours. I have been known to drink up to 14 cups at one sitting." His mind was a tireless forge, new opinions turning in the fire. This delightful evening takes the form of a conversation between the great 18th-century lexicographer, essayist and poet and his friend James Boswell. Johnson's life is sketched in an adaptation of Boswell's biography and his journal of their tour to the Hebrides. It is a most invigorating brew, devised by Russell Barr and Ian Redford and nicely stirred by director Max Stafford Clark.

Ian Redford's excellent Dr Johnson is a robust figure in wig and a battered coat. He has a Brummie accent, huge hands and a tendency to shout when provoked. Luke Griffin, taking over from Russell Barr (who is ill), acquits himself serviceably as a dour yet animated Boswell. And Trudie Styler intrigues as Mrs Thrale the doctor's love interest ? an ambiguously merry widow. The evening lacks a clear sense of direction but this scarcely matters. There is such penetrating wit (can there be a more beautiful definition of melancholy than "a lazy frost"?) And Tim Shortall's set is, as is only fitting, a brown study. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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Lunchtime Lowdown: See the New ?A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas? Movie Poster!

? Neil Patrick Harris featured in new A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas promo poster! (Collider) ? Ali Lohan down to 95 pounds? (Radar Online) ? Jenny McCarthy wows in blue bikini in Malibu. (Celebuzz) ? See Shia LaBeouf and his new girlfriend’s sexy, street makeout session! (Just Jared) ? Russell Crowe lands role in [...]


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'It was time to step forward'

Inspired by a trip to the Joshua Tree, the new conceptual double album by M83, aka Anthony Gonzalez, is likely to polarise fans

'I am very happy," Anthony Gonzalez, aka M83, reassures me twice during our interview, lest the recurring themes of solitude and childhood reminiscence that he finds so inspiring lead me to think otherwise.

He is indeed genial, if a little serious, when discussing a career marked by a desire to broaden the epic musical soundscapes he creates. The name M83, to clarify, is not some Gallic street parlance or "txt" speak that's lost in translation, it comes from the spiral galaxy Messier 83.

His influences range from My Bloody Valentine, Sigur R�s, New Order, Psychedelic Furs, Talk Talk, Cocteau Twins and Spacemen 3 to the less cool Tears For Fears, Toto, Thompson Twins and Vangelis. But it is his first musical inspiration, Jean Michel Jarre, that shines through. He may now be resident in Los Angeles, but Gonzalez could hardly be more French. His last, fifth album, Saturdays = Youth, was his most rounded, commercial and critically acclaimed to date, a collection of astral cinematic paeans to his youth that webzine Drowned In Sound made its album of the year in 2008. But despite the acclaim, Gonzalez wasn't entirely happy. "I wasn't super-proud of the last album," he shrugs, sipping mineral water in a 15th-floor hotel bar looking out over London. "It was a period of my life where I was a bit depressed, and not really feeling super-confident about my material."

M83, originally a two-man outfit, was founded a decade ago by Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau in their hometown of Antibes. After their self-titled debut and 2003's Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, Fromageau left the group, and Gonzalez moved on alone to record 2005's Before the Dawn Heals Us, and the more ambient Digital Shades Vol 1.

Eighteen months ago, having finished the acclaimed Saturdays = Youth tour, and approaching his 30th birthday, Gonzalez decided to make an abrupt change, and upped sticks for Los Angeles. "I'd spent 29 years in the south of France," he says. "I needed to evolve in a different country and different culture. America has always been very fascinating for me. Los Angeles is a great city for music, and the weather is perfect."

He decided to draw a line under the tracks he'd begun. "California had a big influence on this album. I was doing a lot of road trips, driving to the desert for two or three days, just myself with a couple of keyboards and a computer, and recording stuff out there."

Driving out to, let me guess, Joshua Tree? "Exactly," he laughs ruefully, embarrassed at the lack of originality in his choice of destination. "It's so clich�d, I know, but it worked. I would rent a small cabin in the middle of nowhere, and I was just making music there, by myself. Those were the best moments. It was a good way to be inspired by something else, the energy from a different landscape." So productive were those trips that Gonzalez decided early on that Hurry Up, We're Dreaming would be a double album, the longer tracks interspersed with interludes and shorter transmissions. "I always loved the idea of a double album," he says, eulogising about those he grew up with, from The Beatles' White Album and Pink Floyd's Ummagumma to The Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. "When you love big ambitious music projects you want to go for a double album one day, even if the music industry nowadays doesn't permit these kind of projects. This is what I like about this double album. It's a statement."

As if that wasn't ambitious enough, it's a double album with a concept. "The cover has a brother and a sister sitting in a bed," explains Gonzalez. "One side is the spirit of the young boy, and the other side is the spirit of the young girl. It's like how brothers and sisters are different people, but connected by blood and mind. Each track has a sibling on the other disc."

So the slow-burning synth wash of "Intro" is reflected by the mawkishly titled "My Tears Are Becoming A Sea". The upbeat swirling nu disco of "Midnight City" twins with "New Map", and the second single "Reunion" with "OK Pal" and so on through 11 sibling tracks to "Soon, My Friend" and "Outro". The warm vocals of Morgan Kibby that did much to define Saturdays = Youth are largely gone, with Gonzalez contributing more vocals himself, emboldened by touring with the likes of the Killers, Kings of Leon and Depeche Mode. "I had to say to myself, 'Anthony it's time for you to step forward ? Otherwise you're going to have regrets.'"

There are guest appearances by Brad Laner from 90s band Medicine ? "I was a huge fan of Brad's when he was in Medicine. I always dreamed of having him on one of my albums" ? and Zola Jesus ? "Zola has a really unique voice. When we met I was expecting a dark, Gothic person, but she's very uplifting and funny."

Gonzalez sees Hurry Up, We're Dreaming as a culmination of every previous M83 album, which makes sense on first listen, but means it also has the potential to polarise opinion, depending on whether you see him as a creator of post-acid-house shoe-gazing epics or a modern-day Jean Michel Jarre with low serotonin levels. Those who succumbed to Saturdays = Youth will love Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, while those who felt his previous outings were a little overblown and pretentious probably won't.

"With Mellon Collie I remember waiting weeks for the release date," recalls Gonzalez. "I listened to it over and over. It was like a discovery. There were so many sounds, that I kept digging. It was like treasure. I loved that ambitiousness. I just turned 30 and I think it was the right time for me to go for it and try something like this ? something I'd remember all my life."

Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is released on Na�ve on 17 October © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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Saturday, 10 September 2011

Angelina Jolie Supports Brad Pitt at TIFF ?Moneyball? Premiere

Although Angelina Jolie may not be an avid baseball fan, the doting wife flew out to Toronto on Friday to support hubby Brad Pitt at the Toronto International Film Festival premiere for Moneyball. ?I know nothing about baseball,? Angelina told reporters at Ron Thomson Hall as she walked the red carpet with Brad. OK! NEWS: [...]


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