Newsmakers

James Franco’s newest reinvention, a dolphin that goes fishing, Prince embraces the medium formerly known as print

Is the Lady a mere copycat?
In its way, Lady Gaga’s tireless hunt for ways to shock us is nothing if not ambitious. Last week, it was her pals at PETA who were outraged after she appeared on Vogue Japan’s cover wearing only slabs of meat. Her Warholian shtick is now under fire as not being as original as we think. Yana Morgana claims Gaga stole her late daughter Lina’s flair for theatrics after the two recorded a dozen songs together in 2008. “Every other word she says is from Lina,” she told the New York Post.

Painting the town white
François Croteau, the mayor of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, Que., hopes to cool his corner of Earth one white roof at a time. He’s proposed a bylaw making white roofs mandatory on all new buildings in the Montreal borough so they generate less heat. Roofs under repair would also have to be painted white, though residential peaked roofs are exempt. The plan is endorsed by Concordia University engineering professor Hashem Akbari, who is campaigning to get 100 of the world’s largest cities to go white. Changing all the roofs in the world would be equal to parking the world’s cars for 20 years, he says. Councillors vote in October.

Newspapers: the next big thing
Prince, the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince, is having a boffo summer since he famously declared the Internet “completely over”—as “outdated” as MTV. He’s playing last-minute stadium shows and occasional small gigs, maintaining his reputation as a musical rebel. He gave away for free his new CD, 20TEN, in four European newspapers, including London’s Mirror. Fed up with Internet abuses, he’s banned YouTube and iTunes from using his songs. “I really believe in finding new ways to distribute my music,” he told the Mirror, which, incidentally, was founded in 1903.

The First Lady of Dance
Michelle Obama has added student dance to her list of causes. The U.S. first lady opened the storied East Room, the site of many a presidential press conference, to a new kind of White House spin. Or, more accurately, pirouettes and jetés. Students from around the U.S. have a chance to work with the best in the business, including members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. At the end of the session Obama, who watched the event with her mother, Marian Robinson, and daughters Sasha and Malia, told the young dancers: “If you’ve done it in the White House, you can do it anywhere!”

Demerit points for creativity
Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest’s status as a playoff hero didn’t prevent him from being ticketed by a city cop for a driving infraction, but, darn, he looked good committing it. Artest was pulled over driving what looked like an Indy racer that strayed from the track. In fact, it’s an Eagle Roadster, a custom beauty with a top speed of 245 km/h. Gossip site TMZ posted a photo of a smiling Artest in his racer chatting up the officer, a full-face helmet tipped back on his head. It seems his only sin was a faulty registration. As he later tweeted: “not speeding the car looks illegal it’s legal.”

Bacteria buy two tickets to Sweden
Polystyrene cups and packaging not only clog landfills, they foul waterways. That’s the problem, and Quebec City students Alexandre Allard and Danny Luong appear to have found a solution. The 19-year-olds won the 2010 Stockholm Junior Water Prize for developing a technique to break down the foam plastic. When they learned the foam releases toxins in the ocean, Allard told the CBC from Stockholm, “this gave us the idea that maybe polystyrene biodegraded.” A search of the local dump in Cap-Rouge yielded three strains of bacteria that turn the troublesome foam into carbon dioxide. Their efforts earned them the US$5,000 prize, presented by Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.

George Pimentel/GETTY IMAGES

On the seventh day, he made a doc
So far this fall, James Franco, 32, has inked a distribution deal for his directorial debut, Saturday Night, a documentary on the making of one Saturday Night Live episode. His star turn in 127 Hours, as real-life rock climber Aron Ralson, who cut off part of his arm to free himself from a boulder, was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. Howl, in which he plays beat poet Allen Ginsberg, opens on Sept. 24. And The Dangerous Book Four Boys, his solo mixed-media art show, continues its run at the Clocktower Gallery in Manhattan. It’s a study of masculinity and sexuality, which he also explores onscreen as Julia Roberts’s young lover in Eat Pray Love. Then there’s a forthcoming collection of short stories, and his enrolment this fall in Yale’s English Ph.D. program while simultaneously attending the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, among other things.

Happiness is a butter fry
Fair season is under way, but already, crazed food scientists are at work on the next caloric atrocity. It will be tough to top deep-fried butter, this year’s surprise hit at Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition and the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver. Award-winning fry-ist Abel Gonzales Jr. hatched the idea at the Texas state fair, where he holds trophies for deep-frying Coke and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. In Vancouver, Steve Parsons created a variation, mixing whipped butter, icing sugar and cream cheese into balls that are battered and plunged in boiling oil. Vicky Skinkle at the concession in Toronto keeps her recipe secret. David Bednar, general manger of the CNE, told the Toronto Star the “extraordinary” butter bombs may have fattened attendance.

Boy wonder
It would be the height of hubris for most anyone to claim he’s changed the world “at least three times,” but most people aren’t Sean Parker. He helped create Napster at 19, and was founding president of Facebook at 24. Now, at 30, the great innovator is the subject of a glowing profile in Vanity Fair, stuffed with tributes by everyone from Sean Lennon to Ashton Kutcher (“a genius, no question”). Parker’s smart enough to use the profile as a pre-emptive strike against The Social Network, a movie in which Justin Timberlake portrays him as a hard-partying greed-hog. “That [movie] character really isn’t me,” he told Timberlake.

World’s cutest speed bump
So far this school year seven-year-old Lauren Fisher has been run over hundreds of times in the name of safety. She’s the little girl used for a 3-D optical illusion of a child chasing a ball on the road outside École Pauline Johnson elementary in West Vancouver. The illusion is created by a photographic decal of her. It seems to rise from the road as motorists approach the school zone, jarring them into slowing down. Her mom, Shannon Fisher, said Lauren is proud of her role: “She kept saying, ‘We’re going to make people driver slower around schools.’ ”

When you’re yuan at heart
Zimbabwe’s VP thinks the country should adopt the Chinese yuan. The currency switch, says Joice Mujuru—long considered President Robert Mugabe’s heir apparent—would be a “natural progression,” given the Asian giant is Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner. Most of what’s produced in the country, like tobacco and minerals, “is ultimately being bought by the Chinese,” the online newspaper Afrik News reported. The 54-year-old Mujuru has been in cabinet since the tender age of 25. She earned Mugabe’s admiration during the war of independence, when she took the name “bloodspiller,” and rose through guerrilla ranks to become one of its first female commanders.

Paper or pixel?
It’s only natural that Vancouver-based author William Gibson, wildly successful with his sci-fi works, looks beyond the present when it comes to the printed word. The e-book “doesn’t fill me with quite the degree of horror and sorrow that it seems to fill many of my friends,” he told the Wall Street Journal, while plugging his new novel Zero History. Printing books, transporting them, then pulping those unsold is environmentally “crazy,” he says. He foresees stores with in-house presses that can print and bind a book within minutes of purchase. “You’d eliminate the waste and you’d get your book—and it would be a real book.”

Fishing for compliments
All that stuff Flipper did on TV—saving lives, out-thinking bad guys—maybe it isn’t so far-fetched. Scientists watching the dolphins of Shark Bay, Australia—including one they’ve named William the Concherer—conclude they’re highly innovative when it comes to filling their bellies. Sometimes they hydroplane into shallow water, chasing fish into the shallows. Or they use conch shells  like a fishing net-cum-takeout container, trapping fish, then eating them. Simon Allen of the Cetacean Research Unit at Murdoch University told the BBC dolphins lift the shells to the surface, shaking them “to drain the water and the hapless fish into the waiting jaws of death.”

Honest, I’m laughing with you
Legendary photographer Cindy Sherman took some of the stuffing out of New York’s precious Fashion Night Out this month. Working with the label Balenciaga, she created a series of six images of herself dressed as the sort of hangers-on high fashion attracts. Sherman’s staged photos and fake movie stills—sometimes featuring her as a model, sometimes featuring dummies or dolls—have appeared everywhere from Artforum to MOMA in New York City. Each of the new ones—like “aging doyenne” and “best friends forever”—pose with the kind of frantic artificiality that is the staple of society pages. In all the less-than-flattering photos, she’s dressed in Balenciaga, a gutsy move by the fashion house, one paying off with favourable buzz.

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