Always controversial, Sri Lankan musician Maya Arulpragasam, aka M.I.A., donned a niqab for Spike TV’s Scream Awards. Whether it was a comment on burqa-banning fever everywhere from France to Quebec to Syria, or just a fashion statement, was left unsaid; M.I.A. gave photogs a black-gloved middle finger.
One local boy to another
After 27 years, Vancouver’s B.C. Pavilion Corp. is pulling the plug on its controversial pink and green beaux arts Terry Fox Memorial Arch, the city’s lone memorial to Terry Fox. It will go, as part of an ongoing $563-million renovation of B.C. Place. Vancouverites who have griped quietly about the garish memorial—made of tile, brick and stainless steel, and featuring four fibreglass lions—may be heartened to know that Vancouver artist Douglas Coupland, who wrote 2005’s touching tribute, Terry, has signed on to design the new one. Coupland’s latest piece of public art, “Digital Orca,” is being shown outside the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Angela Merkel left pundits round the world slack-jawed with a weekend speech claiming German multiculturalism had “utterly failed.” It was an illusion, the German chancellor added, to think that Germans and the country’s immigrant class could “live happily, side by side” without newcomers assimilating. Immigrants, she said, “should learn to speak German.” Even centre-right daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung seemed cool to Merkel’s new hardline stance. Newcomers, it argued, “should be made to feel welcome.” But the hard right, whose support Merkel needs, feels differently. Merkel, once Europe’s most popular leader, is facing a conservative revolt within her centrist Christian Democratic Union party and, with a poor showing in regional elections this spring, could lose the leadership altogether.
Angelina turned down, briefly
Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut is back on the rails after Bosnia’s government reinstated a permit to film her Balkan love story in the country. It had rescinded permission last week after rumours the plot features a romance between a Serb rapist and his Bosnian Muslim victim. It acted on a complaint by Bakira Hasecic, a rape victim and president of the Women Victims of War Association. “This story, that a raped woman falls in love with a rapist, [could not be] true,” Hasecic told the Los Angeles Times. “We went through a lot, and we don’t need to go through this now.” Jolie won the government over after submitting a copy of the script. She also said the couple’s love story doesn’t begin with rape and torture. “It’s a relationship that starts before the war,” she said. “It’s a normal relationship in that way, how it begins.”
Girls with the guerrilla guns?
Another thrilling chapter in the life of Swedish crime writer Stieg Larsson has come to light: a year spent training Marxist female fighters in Eritrea, in 1977. Larsson, who achieved posthumous fame with the Dragon Tattoo series, was a “revolutionary socialist—he believed in a better life, and equality for all,” explained Graeme Atkinson, editor of Searchlight magazine, where Larsson was a long-time contributor. Larsson’s father, Erland Larsson, meanwhile, confirmed swirling rumours that his son was at work on a fourth book when he died in 2004. But the manuscript is in the hands of Larsson’s partner, Eva Gabrielsson—who is locked in a legal battle over control of Larsson’s $20-million estate. (The pair, who met at an anti-Vietnam rally, never married, so the estate fell to Larsson’s family.) An incomplete book, she worries, might dilute Larsson’s message. Already, she says, the English title of the first book changed from The Man Who Hated Women to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Larsson’s father is not giving up. He’s offered to give Gabrielsson the house she shared with Larsson—she owns half of it—in exchange for that manuscript.
Now that would be a race
There are times when it is best to admire an accomplishment without asking, why? Take Colin Furze’s quest to win the Guinness World Record for the world’s fastest mobility scooter. Furze, 31, of Stamford, England, has already hit 111 km/h after swapping a motorcycle engine for the electric motor. He needs to coax just two more klicks out of the unstable cart to make the record. “You hear lots of people complain about scooters going really slowly around supermarkets and blocking the aisles, so I thought it would be a laugh to make a really fast one,” he told the Telegraph. Then there’s the Wasilla, Alaska, couple, Fred Keller and Judy Foster, who’ve made a retirement project out of building a really big Radio Flyer wagon. Their uncanny likeness of the little red wagons that launched millions of childhood adventures uses a Mazda pickup truck as a base and can hit 97 km/h, almost enough to give Furze a run for his money.
Quite an honour
A mixed chorus of boos, hoots of approval and stunned silence greeted University of Winnipeg graduate Erin Larson’s valedictory address criticizing the university’s decision to grant an honorary degree to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. Toews is “best known among my generation of students as a vocal opponent of the expansion of human rights,” the 22-year-old psychology student said in her speech. His past opposition to gay marriage and tough policy on crime and refugees, she argued, was at odds with the U of W’s commitment to diversity and human rights. Toews sat quietly on stage and ducked out the side door immediately following the ceremony. The affair has set tongues wagging in the Peg; two of the three Winnipeg Free Press columnists who have weighed in, so far, are in support of Larson.
Humble though it may be
The fourth-richest man in the world, Mukesh Ambani, head of India’s sprawling Reliance Industries, has moved into his new home: the world’s first billion-dollar private residence. The absurdly lavish, 27-storey Mumbai tower—a stack of glass and steel designed by Chicago architectural firm Perkins & Will—has a four-storey hanging garden, a gym, a dance studio, a 50-seat cinema, three helipads and parking for 160 cars. The petrochemical tycoon, vegetarian and teetotaller is worth an estimated US$29 billion and, says Forbes, could become the world’s richest person by 2014.
A kinder, gentler Hilton
The fight against homophobic bullying has two new recruits. Perez Hilton, the openly gay and frequently vicious blogger who has often tried to pry celebrities out of the closet, has vowed to take a gentler approach, spurred by the recent suicides of several young gay men in the U.S. “A lot of people have called me a hypocrite and a bully,” he told Ellen DeGeneres. “From now on, I want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.” Meantime, 16-year-old heartthrob Justin Bieber will apparently also speak out against homophobia after his alleged confrontation with a 12-year-old while playing laser tag in Richmond, B.C., last Friday. The gossip site TMZ claims witnesses said the boy called Bieber a homosexual slur, and Bieber pushed past him to leave. “Bieber is telling friends he had no idea how hurtful those comments could be,” TMZ said. “He now wants to take a stand against bullying and homophobia.”
The family that preys together
It wasn’t your typical mother-son walk in the park. Vancouver artist Barbara Ohl, 57, and her son, Max Clough, 30, a bar bouncer, teamed up as prey for an episode of Mantracker, the Canadian reality show where bush tracker Terry Grant hunts humans in a 36-hour game of hide and seek. Grant chased the two through the wilds around Quesnel, B.C., amid warnings of bears and cougar attacks. Mother and son admit they have a spirited relationship. “You guys are our most dynamic couple,” a show producer told Ohl. “I love that the F-word is flying around,” Ohl told the North Shore News. Their filial bond didn’t prove much of an advantage. “We are both pretty set in our ways,” Ohl said. “We probably lasted only eight minutes into the chase before we split up.” As for who fared best, Clough doesn’t want to spoil the show. “I had an amazing ending, and my mom’s was even better.”
Not shy or retiring
As if French President Nicolas Sarkozy doesn’t have worries, with revolution brewing over his attempt to raise the retirement age to 62, superannuated sex-bomb-turned-animal-activist Brigitte Bardot is considering a run for his job. Bardot, 76, is offended that Sarkozy “took me for an imbecile” over her demands that animals be stunned before their throats are slit in ritual slaughter for halal meat, as required by Islamic religious law. She said Sarkozy reneged on a promise to end the practice. “Because you do the opposite of what you say, I am studying a proposition from the Independent Ecology Alliance to be their presidential candidate in 2012,” she said in a letter published in the French press.
By all accounts, 34-year-old Robert Keller of Carnegie, Pa., had aced his road test last week when he pulled into the parking lot of the driver examination centre in nearby Collier—and kept on going. Police say he panicked and hit the gas instead of the brake, plowing into the building. William Kielur, the administrator, was still in the passenger seat. Four people suffered minor injuries. “He failed the test,” Collier police Chief Thomas Devin told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a bit unnecessarily. “He was doing pretty good, up until he went through the building.”