And the Oscar for most awkward speech goes to…
Roger Ross Williams, director of the best documentary short, Music by Prudence, was accepting his Oscar when Elinor Burkett, the film’s producer—who looked more like a stage crasher to the millions watching at home—interrupted. “Let the woman talk,” she said, grabbing the mic. It later emerged that Burkett had pulled her name from the credits due to creative differences and the pair had been embroiled in a legal battle. But that didn’t stop her from rushing the stage to accept the honour. Afterwards, Burkett accused Williams’s 87-year-old mother of blocking her path with a cane. Williams sees things a little bit differently: “She pulled a Kanye,” he says, comparing Burkett’s Oscar-night performance, which has become a YouTube sensation, to Kanye West’s interruption of Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards last fall.
Still using his noggin
Lieut. Ian Fortune was on a fairly routine mission to pick up a dozen injured soldiers in Afghanistan’s Helmand province when he flew directly into a firefight. The 28-year-old British pilot was shot in the head through his helmet, just above the eyes, but refused to relinquish control of his helicopter. He was able to get his Chinook, which dates back to the Falklands War, and the 20 people on board back to the base safely. “Even with blood pouring into his eyes, he would not let go,” said Mike Brewer, a TV host who was on the aircraft filming a series for the Discovery Channel. Fortune suffered minor injuries and is in recovery.
Sticking it to Dave
Having captured the world’s attention with his overtime heroics in Vancouver last month, Sidney Crosby seems to have suddenly become a bit camera shy. The 22-year-old hockey star reportedly turned down the opportunity to do David Letterman’s Top 10 list when his Pittsburgh Penguins were in New York last week to play the Rangers. Meanwhile, the mystery of his missing Olympic gear remains unsolved. To try to speed up the return of Sid the Kid’s golden glove and stick from the Games, which disappeared after he scored the game-winning goal in the final, Reebok Canada is offering a $10,000 reward, no questions asked.
He’s just not a fighter
Though Gunner is a fully trained bomb-sniffing dog—he’s even risen to the rank of first sergeant with the U.S. Marines—the yellow Lab hasn’t helped unearth a single bomb since arriving in Afghanistan last October. That’s because Gunner, one of 58 dogs deployed with the Marines, suffers from canine post-traumatic stress disorder. Every loud sound—even the clicking of a camera shutter—causes him to run and hide. He was fine in training, but a real combat situation has proven too much. His official record states that he “is not mission capable and is a liability if he is to leave the wire.” Gunner was sent to a rear base for training earlier this year but Cpl. Chad McCoy, who is responsible for getting Gunner in fighting shape, has a tough job. “He’s a lover,” McCoy told the Wall Street Journal.
Lifestyles of the rich and heinous
Conceding it will probably get him killed for speaking out, former North Korean colonel Kim Jong Ryul has detailed his 20 years catering to the materialistic needs of South Korea’s Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. In At the Dictator’s Service, Kim Jong Ryul, who spent 16 years hiding in Austria, tells of the leaders’ taste for luxury, including high-end cars, specialized hunting weapons and fingerprint readers. Not to mention Austrian cuisine, which the father and son had heard was world-famous. “[Kim Il Sung] only ate foreign food,” says Kim Jong Ryul. And thanks to a willingness to pay 30 per cent more for embargoed goods, there was never a shortage of suppliers. Meanwhile, the majority of North Koreans suffered in extreme poverty. “Without this book, I didn’t want to die,” says Kim Jong Ryul. “Now I can die with a clear conscience.”
A bit of Alberta on Pandora
Avatar has been a huge hit with environmentalists—last week dozens of non-profit groups signed an ad in Variety that compared Alberta’s oil sands with the destruction done by humans in James Cameron’s blockbuster. The oil industry has deemed the comparison “irresponsible.” Perhaps, but the film’s supervising art director, Todd Cherniawsky of Ardrossan, Alta., did reach out to Albertan oil sands engineers for help during the making of the film. “On Pandora, at this base, there’s a full refinery in the background,” Cherniawsky told the CBC, “so we had to know what that would look like, what the ore would look like that the trucks were bringing in.” That kind of attention to detail paid off. Though Avatar came up short in the race for the top prize, it did win the Oscar for best art direction.
Nujood Ali is just 12 years old but has already married, divorced and become a bestselling author. The grade schooler from Yemen, who demanded, and was granted, a divorce in April 2008 from a husband three times her age, has just released her memoir in North America. I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced is being published in 18 languages and was a bestseller in France for five weeks. Since escaping from her husband—who, she writes, beat her, often at the urging of her former mother-in-law—Ali is back living with her parents and in school.
Going to the dogs
Newton Marshall hopes that his journey that began in the streets of Jamaica, where he trained with stray dogs, ends at the finish line of the Iditarod later this month. Though he’s not expected to contend for the sled-dog racing title in Alaska—the event features 71 of the top competitors in the world—Marshall is trying to become the first black musher to complete the gruelling 1,850-km race. Last year, the 27-year-old, who counts Jimmy Buffett as one of his biggest fans—and his sponsor—became the first Jamaican to finish the Yukon Quest, a 1,600-km race. In that event, the former horseback tour guide finished 13th of 29.
Homecoming was bittersweet
During her first visit to Haiti since January’s devasting earthquake that left more than 200,000 dead—including her daughter Marie-Eden’s godmother—Governor General Michaëlle Jean described the destruction as “unbelievable” but remained optimistic about Haiti’s recovery. “I believe it is feasible,” Jean said. “It takes vision. Haiti’s not alone.” Over the two-day trip, Jean toured the capital of Port-Au-Prince, visiting the cathedral where she was baptized. She left a wreath amid the ruins. The next day, she travelled to Jacmel, her mother’s hometown.
With friends like these
A claim that Samantha Cameron, wife of British Conservative Party Leader David Cameron, “might have voted for Blair” in 1997, and may consider casting her ballot for Labour Party Leader Gordon Brown next time around, has caused a stir in the U.K. The allegations were especially scandalous considering the source: Ed Vaizey, the Tories’ arts spokesman and party insider (until now, presumably). Vaizey quickly backpedalled, saying he had nothing to justify his comments, which appeared on a nationally televised documentary. And Cameron denied the claim. But it wasn’t Vaizey’s only indiscretion: in this month’s Vanity Fair he’s quoted as saying that Cameron is more conservative than he seems, thanks to “political exigency”—which some have taken to mean “the upcoming election.”
That baby is so me
Some people watching the “milkaholic baby” Super Bowl ad saw a talking baby; Lindsay Lohan, it seems, saw a version of herself. Claiming E-Trade based the character on her, Lohan is suing the company for US$100 million. In the ad, one baby asks her baby boyfriend via video chat why he missed their date. The boy baby claims he was tied up diversifying his stock portfolio. “And that milkaholic Lindsay wasn’t over?” asks the girl. “Lindsay?” the boy asks. Suddenly, another girl baby appears. “Milk-a-what?” she says. Lohan’s lawyer claims her client has the same first-name recognition as Madonna. “They’re using her name as a parody of her life,” Stephanie Ovadia told the New York Post. “Why didn’t they use the name Susan? This is a subliminal message.”
A pretty good bet
Before he died last year, Nicholas Newlife of Oxford, U.K., willed his estate as well as some outstanding sports wagers to Oxfam. The bets were made between 2000 and 2005, and would be worth more than $400,000 if successful. Some involve tennis star Andy Roddick and cricketer Ramnaresh Sarwan. The real pressure, though, falls on Roger Federer. Thanks to previous wagers by Newlife, Federer has already won the charity more than $25,000. But in one bet, which may come to fruition this summer, Newlife gambled $2,400 that Federer would win Wimbledon seven times before 2020. That payout is worth more than $150,000.
Seldom had a fight he didn’t win
In his new memoir, Courage and Consequence, Karl Rove stands firmly behind former U.S. president George W. Bush who, he writes, “never authorized torture,” and did not “lie us into war.” No big shockers on that front, say critics. But the political strategist, now a Fox News analyst, also gets personal, writing about his mother’s suicide and his stepfather. “I have no idea if my [step]father was gay,” Rove writes. “And frankly, I don’t care.” There’s also a section in which he documents the first political fight he ever lost. In 1960, a local teen gave Rove, then age 9, a hard time—and a bloody nose—over the Nixon sticker on his bike. She apparently backed Jack Kennedy.