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10 Laid-back Islands without Cars

Islands without cars can be the perfect car-free holiday destination, offering a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere. Clear from traffic jams, parking fees or the struggle to find a free parking space these islands can be explored on foot or by bicycle. But with over 500 million cars in this world finding a car-free island is becoming an increasingly difficult task. Furthermore islands in this list should be laid-back (this excludes Venice) and have at least a small population and some facilities (this excludes all uninhabited islands).

10Little Corn Island
Nicaragua, Info & ImagesLittle Corn Islandphoto: Sean94112

Little Corn Island is the smaller of the two Corn Islands that lie about 70 km east off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. The island was originally colonized by the British, and most native islanders have more in common culturally with other English-speaking Caribbean islands than they do with the mainland of Nicaragua. Without roads and motorized vehicles the only option to get around the island is by walking. The surrounding coral reefs make it a popular destination for scuba diving and snorkeling.

9Rottnest Island
Australia, Info & ImagesRottnest Islandphoto: Mark

Rottnest Island is located off the coast of Western Australia near the city of Perth. The island was inhabited by Aboriginal people from approximately 30,000 years ago, until rising sea levels separated the island from the mainland. When the Dutch explored the island in the 17th century the island was uninhabited. Today the island is a popular tourist destination. Activities include swimming, snorkeling, fishing, surfing, diving and cycling round the 11km long island. Cars are not permitted although there are a few tourist busses. Just don’t time your visit with the annual school leavers who come to Rottnest Island en masse.

Fiji, Info & ImagesKadavuphoto: Seth Bokelman

Kadavu is the fourth largest island in Fiji and has about 10,000 inhabitants. Some of the natural resources of Kadavu include the mountainous jungles and waterfalls, bays fringed by coral reefs and a mangrove forest that provide habitat to a host of wild life and birds, including the Kadavu musk parrot. The untouched and natural state of the island makes it ideal for a remote vacation destination. There are very few roads on Kadavu and the main mode of transportation include boat taxis and ferries.

Greece, Info & ImagesHydraphoto: StefanosP

Hydra is one of the Saronic Islands of Greece separated from the Peloponnese by narrow strip of water. The island is deservedly one of the most popular day-trip destinations from Athens. The port of Hydra has a scenic location in a deep harbor, with whitewashed houses rising on the hills on both sides from an azure blue sea. Motorized transportation is forbidden on Hydra. The town center is small enough to get around on foot while donkeys, bicycles, and water taxis provide public transportation to the rest of the island.

6Lamu Island
Kenya, Info & ImagesLamu Islandphoto: Cessna 206

Lamu Island is a part of the Lamu Archipelago of Kenya. Lamu Old Town, the main town on the island, is one of the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa. Built in coral stone and mangrove timber, the town features inner courtyards, verandas, and elaborately carved wooden doors. There are no roads on the island, just alleyways and footpaths, and therefore, there are few motorized vehicles on the island. Residents move about on foot or by boat, and donkeys are used to transport goods and materials.

5Caye Caulker
Belize, Info & ImagesCaye Caulkerphoto: originalgrammatique

Caye Caulker is a small coral island off the coast of Belize in the Caribbean Sea and is accessible by high-speed water taxi or small plane. In recent years the island has become a popular destination for backpackers and other tourists for its (relatively) cheap prices, laid-back vibe, and abundance of restaurants and bars. The main mode of transport on the island is simply walking. The paths are well defined, and crossing the island takes about 20 minutes. Bicycles and golf carts can also be rented.

4Perhentian Islands
Malaysia, Info & ImagesPerhentian Islandsphoto: Viktor Kaposi

The Perhentian Islands lay off the coast of northeastern Malaysia not far from the Thai border. The two main islands are Perhentian Besar (“Big Perhentian”) and Perhentian Kecil (“Small Perhentian”). Both the islands have palm-fringed white sandy beaches and turquoise blue sea. Scuba-diving, snorkeling, and swimming are the most popular tourist activities here. On most beaches, the water is shallow with lots of rays, cuttlefish and parrotfish. Aside from walking, the only means of transport are water taxis.

3La Digue
Seychelles, Info & ImagesLa Diguephoto: Olivier Cochard-Labbé

La Digue is one of the smaller islands of the Seychelles. It has a population of about 2,000 people, who mostly live in the west coast village of La Passe, which is linked by ferry to the islands of Praslin and Mahé. A popular way to get around the island is by bicycle. A great cycle excursion is to L’Anse Source D’Argent, one of the world’s top beaches.

2Gili Islands
Indonesia, Info & ImagesGili Islandsphoto: yeowatzup

Lombok’s most popular tourist destination, the Gili Islands are an archipelago of three small islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. The islands are very relaxed and laid-back, with countless little beachside cafes still playing reggae and no cars or motorbikes to disturb the peace. Bikes are available for rent and the main tracks are good enough for riding, at least on Gili Trawangan. The islands however are only a few miles in diameter and can just be walked instead.

Note that the name “Gili Islands” is rather redundant as gili simply means “small island” in Sasak and there are many other islands around the coast of Lombok with Gili in their names.

1Ko Phi Phi
Thailand, Info & ImagesKo Phi Phiphoto: Hector Hurtado

Ko Phi Phi is a small archipelago in the Krabi Province in Southern Thailand. Ko Phi Phi Don is the largest island of the group, and is the only island with permanent inhabitants while the smaller Ko Phi Phi Leh is very popular as a beach or dive excursion. There are no cars or motorbikes on the island so transport on the island is mostly on foot. Longtail boats can be chartered which take you to beaches on the island that can’t be reached by foot.


January 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

EU foreign policy across Arab world faces upheaval

The European Union has long feared popular Islamist revolutions on the Mediterranean, preferring undemocratic stability. But Tunisia’s secular uprising has forced Europe to rethink its support for friendly dictators.


The French government was embarrassed this week. It was forced to admit that it had backed the wrong horse in Tunisia in the violent upheaval that ended with the removal of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Outrage was focussed on Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, who publicly offered Ben Ali “the world-renowned know-how of France’s security forces” three days before he fled the country. He was subsequently refused refuge in France before being taken in by Saudi Arabia.

Alliot-Marie’s morally dubious offer outraged not only political opponents, but also members of the French government. French magazine Canard Enchaine quoted Prime Minister Francois Fillon calling his colleague “totally mad,” while President Nicolas Sarkozy grumbled, “These are statements that weakened France’s position.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, poses with Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali Ben Ali used to be a friend to France, now he’s a pariah

Sarkozy has good reason not to be too tough on his foreign minister. On a visit to Tunisia back in 2008, he was full of praise for his host. Europe was led to believe that Ben Ali was a changed man: “Nowadays freedom is expanding in Tunisia,” the diplomatic president said. After all, “How could I visit a country as a friend and then appoint myself as an advisor?”

Alliot-Marie defended her misguided offer afterwards: “Let’s be honest: We were all – politicians, diplomats and researchers, journalists – surprised by the Jasmine Revolution (Tunisia’s uprising – ed.),” she said.

Surprise and confusion

This is certainly true, and Thomas Klau, head of the Paris office of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), is inclined to forgive the foreign minister’s statement as a poorly-timed faux pas.

“She’s new to the office, and it was seen by many in Paris as an indication that she hasn’t quite mastered all the skills of a foreign minister,” he told Deutsche Welle.

In fact, Klau points out that Alliot-Marie’s offer merely embodied the position of the Sarkozy government before the revolution. Not just France, but the whole of the EU and the US: “I think the unspoken consensus in the EU was that it was better in the Arab world to have an authoritarian regime than a potentially unstable democracy.”

Other foreign ministers were more skilled at adapting to the rapidly changing situation in Tunisia than their French counterpart, leaving Alliot-Marie out in the cold as the only one who revealed Europe’s anti-democratic bias in Arab states.

Ben Judah, policy fellow in London’s ECFR office, told Deutsche Welle, “We had this belief that supporting moderate, anti-Islamist regimes with trade was actually a guarantor of stability. I think that’s been shown to be absent. What a regime needs to be truly stable is legitimacy, which Ben Ali didn’t have.”

The problem with democracy is that it is messy and difficult to control. “We’ve seen the difficulties that the electoral success of Hezbollah has raised for western politics in the Middle East,” says Klau. “It’s easy to call for free elections, but if these elections deliver a government that is actively hostile to legitimate European interests like security, then that creates a serious problem.”

The new Central America?

Some pundits have compared the EU’s policy in the Arab states to that of the US’s much-maligned foreign policy in Central America in the 1970s and 1980s, where democratic movements were suppressed in favor of stable, anti-communist dictators. The EU’s fear of Islamist risings in countries like Tunisia, Libya and Egypt led it to ignore human rights records and sustain bloody and corrupt regimes.

People in TunisEurope needs to rethink its ideas about what causes instability in the Arab world

But the fall of Ben Ali has changed the game. “This confronts the EU with a new situation,” says Klau. “They will have to develop a new set of answers, because clearly the old line isn’t good enough anymore.”

It is the secular nature of the Tunisian revolution that has taken the EU by surprise. “We expected revolutions in some of these countries, but when it happened, it wasn’t a revolution led by Islamists,” says Judah. “It was led by young, secular, educated men who wanted visas and better job opportunities. We weren’t correctly identifying what were the sources of instability, and what parts of society were disgruntled.”

For all of Tunisia’s status as a package holiday resort for Europeans and its economic growth, the wealth was clearly not reaching the well-educated population. People were desperate for food. “What has toppled this regime is actually the rise in commodity prices,” says Judah. “Commodity prices are soaring right now – the price of bread, oil, coffee and so on. This is actually a far greater danger to the regime’s survival than Islamism. We need to work out a policy that looks at the link between instability and commodity prices.”

Dominos like in Eastern Europe?

But though there are similar situations in Egypt and Libya, the fear that keeps other Middle Eastern dictators awake at night is not so likely to come about. “Politics in the Arab world is local,” says Klau. “Political and economic conditions are very different from one country to the other, so I would be surprised if we saw the kind of domino effect we saw in Central and Eastern Europe as a result of the collapse of Soviet control.”

“But on the other hand, Tunisia will certainly serve as an inspiration for others in the region. It won’t be so much a domino effect, but a potential trend that might materialize in some countries and not in others.”


January 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Human rights court slams EU asylum policy as inhumane

Refugees at a Greek detention center

In a landmark ruling the European Court for Human Rights has criticized the EU’s asylum policy. It said forcing refugees to apply for asylum in the country of their entry into the EU was inhumane.


The European Court for Human Rights on Friday ruled illegal the deportation of an asylum seeker from Belgium to Greece.

The Afghan national first entered the European Union in Greece but then traveled to Belgium to apply for asylum there. Under current EU regulations, asylum applications must be processed in the country of entry into the 27-nation bloc.

Yet the judges at Europe’s top human rights court said that the appalling conditions in Greek refugee camps were inhumane and humiliating – and most importantly that Belgium was aware of those conditions but still sent the Afghan back.

The court ruling could mean that the European Union will have to rethink its entire asylum policy.

“This is a historic moment for the protection of Human Rights,” Marei Pelzer of rights group ProAsyl told Deutsche Welle.

“The ruling will have fundamental consequences in so far as the EU can not simply pretend that the situation with regards to asylum seekers is the same in all EU member states. And it’s crucial that refugees should not be forced to stay in Greece just because Greece happens to be the country where most of them arrive.”

Almost 90 percent of all illegal border crossings into the EU take place via Greece. The country has repeatedly come under fire for appalling living conditions in its refugee camps.

Human rights groups have long been calling for a more coherent EU policy that would make all member countries responsible for asylum cases in the same way.

Appalling conditions in Greece

Refugees arrive in Greece across the sea or via the border with Turkey

The circumstances and procedures that refugees are exposed to in Greece are the worst in Europe, according to a recent report on asylum seekers by rights group Amnesty International.

The European Commission has also already proposed a reform to the current regulation in an effort to take some of the pressure off countries such as Greece, Italy and Malta, which see the main influx of refugees from outside the EU.

Germany has so far rejected the Commission’s proposals for reform yet rights groups hope that the Strasbourg ruling will have Berlin rethink its position. But Reinhard Grindel, member of parliament for Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats insists the solution to the problem in Greece has to be fixed by Athens rather than by watering down EU regulations.

“All EU member states guarantee the international human rights standards,” he told Deutsche Welle. “We do have one problem case, and that’s Greece. However, what this means is not that we have to change EU rules but rather that Athens has to get its house in order.”

“For Germany a change to the current EU regulations would be a catastrophe,” he warned. “It would mean a flood of asylum seekers coming to Germany. And that’s something that everyone who now calls for changes of EU rules has to realize.”

And yet, to a certain extent, Germany has already changed its position. Berlin earlier this week announced that for one year it would stop sending back any refugees to Greece, because of what Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere described as “appalling conditions” for refugees there.

Britain, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have also stopped sending refugees back to Greece.

January 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘I never met anyone else like Jack Kerouac’

In the 1950s, Joyce Johnson was the girlfriend of the hottest novelist of the beat scene. But she was also an aspiring writer herself, trying to establish her own voice. She tells Laura Barton why she never could go on the road with the man who has overshadowed her life

It began at a restaurant counter on Eighth Avenue, on a blind date arranged by Allen Ginsberg, he in a checked shirt, she in a red coat and lots of eyeshadow. Two years later, in 1958, it ended drunkenly, tearfully, outside a restaurant on a New York street corner. What happened in between, in the time that Joyce Johnson spent with Jack Kerouac, has come if not to dominate then certainly to colour Johnson’s life.

Fifty years after the publication of Kerouac’s On the Road, Johnson’s role as the author’s former girlfriend has almost overshadowed her own work. She is herself an accomplished writer who has published three novels: Come and Join the Dance, In the Night Cafe and Bad Connections; two memoirs: Minor Characters and Missing Men; and a collection of her letters to and from Kerouac: Door Wide Open. Her fiction and articles have appeared in publications including the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Harper’s, and the New York Times Magazine. She has won the National Book Critics award and the O Henry award. And yet her work, like that of many other female artists and writers, has been ushered to the sidelines of the beat movement.

“I’m a 47-year-old woman with a permanent sense of impermanence,” Johnson writes on the final page of Minor Characters, and there is something about her today, now aged 72 and sitting in the pale light of her New York apartment, that is gauzy and impalpable, like a bathroom curtain. Minor Characters is the story of how the young Joyce Glassman (as Johnson was then known) turned her back on her safe, middle-class upbringing, embracing the bohemian culture of New York’s Greenwich Village; it is a story of an extraordinary period in cultural history, and also of friendships, untimely deaths, and illegal abortions in a small white room in Brooklyn. “Being in the middle of this new beat movement, it was the beginning of a big cultural shift,” she says, in a voice that is unexpectedly strong, “and being right there, that was an incredible experience. And Jack was an amazing person. Never met anyone like him.” Whether out of habit, or perhaps out of generosity to the listener, Johnson readily anchors much of her conversation with references to Kerouac.

The day in September 1957 that On the Road was published, Kerouac was staying with Johnson in her narrow-windowed apartment off 68th Street. At midnight, they headed to a newsstand at 66th Street and Broadway, to collect the first copy of the New York Times review, in which the critic Gilbert Millstein would proclaim it “the most beautifully executed, the clearest and most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as ‘beat’, and whose principal avatar he is”.

As much as the review made Kerouac’s reputation as a writer, it also encouraged in him a degree of self-destructive behaviour as he attempted to live up to that role as “principal avatar” of the beats. “Following that [review] most of the attention he got was hostile, humiliating,” Johnson recalls. “It’s very hard to stand up to a barrage like that. Suddenly you become not only famous but notorious. And then to have all these people who expected a much more extroverted character as their leader, than Jack was.”

Kerouac relied increasingly on alcohol to fire him up; the problem was that neither the success nor the liquor helped his writing. He was attempting to write an account of his childhood, entitled Memory Babe. “But he was too demoralised by his experiences following the publication of On the Road, and by the increasing alcohol, to ever complete it,” Johnson says. “It was the first time that it happened to him, that he had to abandon a project. It was very upsetting to him.”

At the time of On the Road’s publication, Johnson had herself just received a handsome advance of $500 for her first novel, Come and Join the Dance. She had resigned from her job at a publishing house to concentrate on her writing, aiming to have the book completed in six months. “As a writer, I would live life to the hilt as my unacceptable self, just as Jack and Allen [Ginsberg] had done,” she had daydreamed while still in her office job. “I would make it my business to write about young women quite different from the ones portrayed on the pages of the New Yorker. I would write about furnished rooms and sex.” However, the sequence of events that followed the publication of On the Road stalled her progress. “It took me several years to finish the novel,” she says, “much longer than anticipated because my life was chaotic, and interrupted by people like Jack.”

For the time they were together, it seems Kerouac leaned heavily on Johnson; both before and after the hurly-burly that proceeded On the Road’s publication, she represented a rare fixed point in his life. “When I met him in the January of ’57, he had absolutely no idea what awaited him,” she says. “Because he’d suffered – he’d had a novel published in ’49, The Town and the City, and he’d written several other novels, including On the Road, and none of them had been published. And he’d lived an impoverished life, essentially the life of a homeless person. It’s all very romantic to go on the road, but it’s also rather terrible not to have a place of your own. And he was always sort of searching for a place he could be, but because of the way he was, he could never find that. He’d set off for a new destination imagining it was gonna be great, and then he’d get there and bad vibes would come, and the bad vibes were inside him, of course …”

Kerouac took, it seems, a similar attitude towards relationships. “Yes,” she nods, “I think he had a grass-is-greener idea about women. I also think he was very messed up about women because of his overly intense relationship with his mother. And in a way, I think, flitting from woman to woman was his way of staying faithful to his mother – no one was ever going to supplant her as the fixed figure in his life.” When Johnson and Kerouac finally split for good, it was after he had spent an evening drunkenly flirting with another woman right in front of her. “Choked with pain, I searched for the worst words I could think of. ‘You’re nothing but a big bag of wind!'” she writes in Minor Characters. “‘Unrequited love’s a bore!’ he shouted back. Enraged, we stared at each other, half-weeping, half-laughing. I rushed away, hoping he’d follow. But he didn’t.”

“You know,” she says now, “I always felt that, in his own way, flawed as it might have been, Jack loved me as much as he could. And I think our relationship was one of the best relationships that he had. But he couldn’t sustain a relationship, and I think I realised that even then. I had this sort of double-vision, even though I was quite young; if Jack had said, ‘Let’s get married!’, I definitely would have done it, but I also knew, deep down, this wasn’t for ever.”

In a funny way, though, it has been for ever. Johnson would go on to marry the artist Jim Johnson, who died in a motorcycle accident in the early 60s, and later another artist, Peter Pinchbeck, from whom she is divorced, and with whom she had a son, Daniel, also a writer. But it is still to Kerouac that the conversation always returns. “There are a lot of misconceptions about Jack floating around and I keep trying, trying to keep the record straight,” she says. “And then a new generation of people comes along and I find myself repeating myself.”

As much as Johnson’s story is one of the artistic advancements made by the beats, it is also a tale of emancipation. “In the late 1950s, young women – not very many at first – left home rather violently,” she writes in Minor Characters. “They too came from nice families, and their parents could never understand why the daughters they had raised so carefully suddenly chose precarious lives.” Johnson herself came from a nice New York family. She took piano lessons and went to stage school, later attending the prestigious Barnard College. Her parents despaired of how she chose to live her life, causing a rift that would never be healed. When her first novel, Come and Join the Dance, was published, she admits they found its contents “very painful” to read. “I wanted to write the real way that the girls I knew were living. And it was at a time that there was all this incredible anxiety about having sex, that was the great breakthrough and adventure for a girl – if you could dare to have sex outside your marriage. And so it was about a girl who was in her last week in college and feels that nothing real has ever happened to her, and she decides to lose her virginity. In the 1950s, young women did not write those books.” Even when it was published in 1962, there were “very peculiar reactions” from reviewers: “‘To think [that] a girl with a good college education at a fine institution like Barnard College would write a book like this … What is happening to our young people?'”

She draws her face into a look of soft resignaton. “There was this prudishness about women,” she continues. “In my day, if you went to college, that was considered good; you acquired some culture that would make you a more interesting and valuable wife. But the idea was that you would marry rather quickly.” Johnson herself pursued a career in publishing, its perceived gentility counterbalanced not only by her “unacceptable” beatnik lifestyle, but also by her own writing.

Sex, she repeats, was for her generation of young women “the great mysterious, important real experience, the turning point”. As adventures went, it was more readily accessible than travelling, for example. “Jack would talk to me about ‘Oh, the experience! You should go on the road like me.’ I couldn’t do that.” What would have happened if she had? “With a knapsack on the road? Nothing good. I mean, I was adventurous, yet kind of cautious and pragmatic, and I knew that I never wanted to find myself in a situation without money. I always knew I had to earn my way and not be at the mercy of other people because I had no money.” It was different for people such as Kerouac and Ginsberg, who were able to free-fall. “They were men! They didn’t have to worry about having sexually exploitative encounters.”

On a couple of occasions she almost joined Kerouac on his travels – in San Francisco and Mexico City – but those plans were thwarted when, inevitably, he moved on to the next destination. “So my adventure was staying here and being with Jack through this process [of On the Road’s success], but also being in New York – it was an incredible moment in New York, there were so many talented people, and everybody knew each other, everybody converged in a few blocks downtown, went to the same drinking places and the same parties. It was an amazingly rich period in New York.”

One of the constant strains in her relationship with Kerouac was his devotion to his mother, Gabrielle L’Evesque Kerouac. “He had this fantasy that he was going to withdraw from the world and be a hermit,” she says at one point, “but his hermitage was his home with his mother. Which was terrible for him in many ways, and she was very suspicious of all his friends, really isolated him from his most important relationships. And she certainly didn’t want any competition from other women.” Having fled the constraining influence of her own domineering mother, this puzzled Johnson. “Yes,” she says, “here I had broken away, and he was tied to her apron strings.”

When Johnson is writing memoirs – she has written a further book of memoirs named Missing Men, she relies on her tendency to regard herself as an observer more than a participator; even in the thick of the beat heyday, on the arm of Kerouac, in the kitchen of William Burroughs’ apartment, she always felt on the periphery. “It’s in my nature to be a watcher,” she says. “That was something I shared with Jack … [And in memoir] I’m looking for the truth of what happened – I don’t want to fictionalise it. I want to find out, what was it really? That’s what I get out of it. I make discoveries about the meaning of things that happened to me in the process of writing.” For the past 20 years, she has taught creative writing (though she bemoans the “professionalisation of writing” such courses can encourage), including a class on memoir, a genre that has become increasingly popular in recent years. “I think the stories told by memoirs are often very surprising, and shaggy, you know? Whereas stories told by novels, fictional stories, are often very predictable and conventional,” she says. “My own aim in writing a novel is to have some of that shagginess and memoir in it.”

Johnson’s style of writing differs greatly from that of Kerouac and the majority of beat writers, more in structure than in theme, and it took her many years to view herself as one of them. “Jack was always telling me, ‘First thought, best thought. Don’t revise!’ But I’m a big reviser. And at the time that I wrote that [first] novel, my big influence was Henry James. I liked the way that he got under the surface of things that people said and people did, that the real action was going on inside people’s heads. That taught me a lot.”

But unlike On the Road and the rest of Kerouac’s canon, unlike the work of Ginsberg and Burroughs and Gary Snyder, Johnson’s novels are now out of print – a situation that seems strangely to echo a passage from Minor Characters in which she recalls herself at 22, sitting black-clad in a beatnik bar in Greenwich Village: “The table in the exact centre of the universe, that midnight place where so much is converging, the only place in America that’s alive … As a female, she’s not quite a part of this convergence. A fact she ignores, sitting by in her excitement as the voices of the men, always the men, passionately rise and fall.”

“What has been frustrating to me is that the people who know my work seem to remember it only in the context of my writing about Jack,” she says today with a flicker of that same fierce independence that first led the young Joyce Glassman to head down to the Village all those years ago, that took her to that restaurant counter in her red dress, and that let her walk away from the man she loved that night in 1958. “But I have other books,” she says defiantly. “And all of my books have been very well reviewed. I’d like to establish my reputation as a writer, apart from all that …” she smiles sweetly. “It’s getting a little late. But I’d like it to happen at some point.”

January 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Razzmatazz Fountain of Youth

GHR-15, is a product available through the Internet in capsule and powder form as a human growth hormone (HGH) supplement. The company promoting this product suggests it can cure or help prevent a variety of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis. A few weeks ago, a team of physicians at Saint Louis University discovered that a compound acting in the opposite way as the growth hormone reverse some signs of aging and the growth hormone given to middle aged and older people may be hazardous. This new finding is very important because some older adults were taking growth hormone thinking that this fountain of youth would revitalize them.
Growth hormone (Somatotropin) is a protein synthesized and secreted by somatotrophs cells in the pituitary gland. This hormone has two distinct types of effects. It stimulates the liver to produce IGF-1 that stimulates the proliferation of chondrocytes (cartillage cells) and myoblasts (muscles cells), resulting in both bone growth and muscle growth. Growth hormone has also an important effect on proteins, lipids and carbohydrates metabolism.

Production of growth hormone is modulated by stress, exercise, nutrition, sleep and growth hormone itself. However, two hypothalamic hormones and one hormone from the stomach control its production. Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) is a hypothalamic peptide that stimulates both synthesis and secretion of growth hormone. Somatostatin (SS) is a peptide produced by several tissues in the body, specially the hypothalamus. It inhibits growth hormone release in response to GHRH and to other stimulatory factors such as low concentration of glucose in blood. Ghrelin is a peptide hormone secreted from the stomach which binds to receptors on somatotrophs and potently stimulates secretion of growth hormone. Growth hormone secretion is also part of a negative feedback loop involving IGF-1. High blood levels of IGF-1 lead to decreased secretion of growth hormone. It not only directly suppress the somatotroph, but also stimulates release of somatostatin from the hypothalamus. Basically, the concentration of growth hormone in blood is very low, but the most intense period of growth hormone release is shortly after the onset of deep sleep in children and young adults.
Excessive growth hormone secretion cause Giantism that begins in young children or adolescents. Giantism is a very rare condition that results from a tumour of somatotropes. One of the most famous giants was a man who weighed 8.5 pounds at birth, but by 5 years of age was 5 feet 4 (160cm) inches tall. As an adult he reached 8 feet 11(272 cm) inches in height and died at age 22. Excessive secretion of growth hormone in adults cause Acromegaly which results usually from a benign pituitary tumour. Clinical signs of acromegaly include overgrowth of extremities, soft-tissue swelling, abnormalities in jaw structure and cardiac disease. The growth hormone deficiency in children causes growth failure and short stature. It can also cause delayed sexual maturity.
Basically, the concentration of growth hormone in blood is very low, but the most intense period of growth hormone release is shortly after the onset of deep sleep in children and young adults
As a drug, the hGH is taken as an injection. It has been used since the 1950s to help stunted children grow normally. It is also given to AIDS patients to reverse muscle wastage and to adults with growth hormone deficiency. It stimulates muscle growth and helps reduce body fat. It also allows athletes to recover faster from strenuous training. Swimmers athletes mostly used to use this drug and it was undetectable until WADA recently devised a test for it. As a result, no athlete was ever caught using hGH prior to the new test being developed. Human growth hormone therapy has not been proven to be effective via oral treatments, therefore people taking GHR-15 are not likely to experience any therapeutic benefits. Health Canada cautions against the self-diagnosis or self-treatment of serious diseases and advises Canadians that GHR-15 is not approved as a treatment for any of these diseases. GHR-15 can also cause hyperthyroidism, which can lead to increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, excessive sweating, hand tremors, nervousness and anxiety, difficulty sleeping, weight loss despite increased appetite, increased activity level despite fatigue and weakness, and frequent bowel movements, occasionally with diarrhea.
In a recent study, scientists of the divisions of geriatric medicine and endocrinology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, studied the compound MZ-5-156, a growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) antagonist. They found that MZ-5-156 had positive effects on oxidative stress in the brain, improves cognition, telomerase activity (the actions of an enzyme which protects DNA material) and life span, and decrease tumour activity. This compound inhibited several human cancers such as prostate, breast, brain and lung cancers. It also had positive effects on learning, and was linked to improvements in short-term memory. Dr.William A. Banks, M.D., the lead study author said that antagonists of growth hormone-releasing hormone have beneficial effects on aging.

December 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2010 National Geographic Photography Contest Galleries


View the winning shots in the People, Places, and Nature categories. Plus, browse weekly galleries.

  • Nature

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Grand Prize Winner and Nature Winner

Photo and caption by Lim Boon Teck , Aaron

A canceled trek turned into the opportunity of a lifetime for photographer Aaron Lim Boon Teck, who captured an active Indonesian volcano in his image “Eruption of Gunung Rinjani.”

“Trekkers [who] were able to make it up to the crater rim on time [were] able to camp overnight to witness the eruption [the] whole night long,” Boon Teck, of Singapore, wrote with his submission to the 2010 National Geographic Photography Contest. “I wanted to share with everyone this experience of seeing many elements going on at a particular point in time.”

Freelance photographer and contest judge Joel Sartore said, “This image best represented the craft of photography. Not only is the light subtle and beautiful, and not only is it a lovely scene, but there’s a volcanic eruption going on in the background.”

National Geographic magazine senior photo editor and judge Sadie Quarrier noted that combining multiple images into one stitched image “gives us a wide, powerful, and unique view.”

Freelance photographer and judge Stephen Alvarez agreed, adding that Boon Teck was “thoughtful” to choose a wide view and include the eruption’s spectators.

“Besides, it is just a lovely photograph,” he added.

December 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blues Artists That Died In 2010

We’re always saddened by the passing of blues talents that leave behind a lifetime of great music and mourning fans. We honor these bluesmen and women, obscure and well-known alike, with this list of blues artists that died in 2010.

Calvin “Fuzz” Jones

Muddy Waters Tribute Band's You're Gonna Miss MePhoto courtesy Telarc Records

From our friend and mighty blues harpist Bob Corritore (via blues guitarist Bob Margolin) comes the news of the death of legendary blues bassist Calvin “Fuzz” Jones due to complications from lung cancer. Although Jones had successfully fought cancer during the late 1990s, it had reoccurred, and after he developed pneumonia, he was rushed to the hospital in Southhaven, Mississippi where he passed away from a heart attack on Monday, August 9, 2010. He was 84 years old. A Mississippi native and long-time fixture on the Chicago blues scene, Jones was best-known as bassist for the Muddy Waters Band during the blues legend’s phenomenal runs during the decade of the 1970s.

Earl Gaines

Earl Gaines' Nothin' But The BluesPhoto courtesy Price Grabber
R&B music giant Earl Gaines, the vocalist behind the 1955 Louis Brooks & His Hi-Toppers hit “It’s Love Baby (24 Hours a Day),” has died in Nashville, Tennessee on December 31, 2009. Gaines was 74 years old. Born in Decatur, Alabama and raised on a farm, Gaines learned to sing in his local church. He moved to Nashville at the age of 16 years old to pursue a career in blues music, and taught himself the drums to help ensure steady employment. Gaines first worked as a demo singer for songwriter and local R&B scenemaker Ted Jarrett, who also got him work in the city’s thriving club scene.

John Leslie

John Leslie Blues Band's In The KitchenPhoto courtesy Price Grabber

John Leslie Nuzzo, known to the adult film industry as “John Leslie,” passed away on Sunday, December 5, 2010 from a heart attack at the age of 65. Leslie was one of the leading stars of the adult film biz of the 1970s, appearing as an actor in more than 300 movies, co-starring alongside such leading ladies as Kay Parker, Seka, and Annette Haven. He made a successful transition to the other side of the camera during the mid-1980s, directing almost 100 adult films and chalking up a room full of awards during his lengthy career in the industry.

Lil’ Dave Thompson

Lil' Dave ThompsonPhoto courtesy Electro-Fi Records
It is with great sadness that we must report the death of bluesman Lil’ Dave Thompson. The noted blues guitarist was killed in an auto accident outside of Augusta, Georgia at 7:00 AM on Sunday morning, February 14, 2010. Thompson and his band were returning home to Greenville, Mississippi from Charleston, South Carolina where they had performed Saturday night, the last gig on a lengthy and successful tour. None of Thompson’s band members were seriously hurt in the accident.

Little Smokey Smothers

Little Smokey SmothersPhoto by Mark Pokempner, courtesy Alligator Records

Chicago bluesman Albert “Little Smokey” Smothers passed away from natural causes on Saturday, November 20, 2010 after a lengthy illness. The talented guitarist was a well-known and much beloved fixture on the Chicago blues scene since the mid-1950s. Through the years, Smothers played alongside some of the city’s best-known artists, accompanying Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, and Magic Sam, among many others, on stage and on record.

“Mean Gene” Kelton

"Mean Gene" KeltonPhoto courtesy

The Houston, Texas blues community lost one of its favorite sons on Tuesday, December 28th, 2010 when Sidney Eugene “Mean Gene” Kelton was killed in a head-on collision with a school bus. Kelton was 57 years old. A veteran blues guitarist and singer, the Mississippi-born Kelton formed his band the Die Hards in Houston in 1992. Kelton’s blues-rock hybrid sound, which incorporated elements of country, rockabilly, and Southern rock – as well as the band’s black-leather-and-sun-glasses garb – appealed to the close-knit Harley community, and the Die Hards proudly became known as a “biker band.”

Mississippi Slim (Walter Horn, Jr.)

Mississippi Slim's You Can't Lose The BluesPhoto courtesy G-Town Records

Walter Horn, Jr. – better known as bluesman “Mississippi Slim” – passed away on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at the age of 66 years. Horn was born and grew up in Greenville, Mississippi. As an adult, he worked on a plantation as a tractor driver during the day and sang the blues in local clubs at night. By 1968, he had decided to take a shot at blues music as a career, and moved to Chicago where he became known as “Mississippi Slim.” In a city full of flamboyant, charismatic performers, Slim stood out with his brightly-colored hair, loud suits, and trademark mismatched, colorful socks.

Mr. Tater the Music Maker (Foster Wiley)

Mr. Tater, the Music MakerPhoto courtesy Roger Stolle, Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art

The favorite son of Clarksdale, Mississippi – bluesman Mr. Tater, the Music Maker (a/k/a Foster Wiley) – passed away on Friday, September 10, 2010. Wiley had been hospitalized for over a week at the Methodist University Hospital in Memphis due to kidney and other health problems. Perhaps the last true Delta blues street performer, Mr. Tater, as he was known to his fans, was a familiar site in downtown Clarksdale, playing his guitar in front of local businesses, especially Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art, where he found a friend and supporter in owner Roger Stolle.

Phillip Walker

Blues guitarist Phillip WalkerPhoto courtesy Alligator Records

The wires are burning up this morning about the death of blues guitarist and singer Phillip Walker. The talented bluesman died on Thursday, July 22, 2010 of heart failure at the age of 73 years. Walker’s distinctive guitar sound, honed in the barrooms and juke-joints of Texas and polished in the clubs of Los Angeles, was match only by his expressive, soulful vocals.

Robin Rogers

Blues singer Robin RogersPhoto copyright Joseph A. Rosen, courtesy Blind Pig Records

Sadly, we have to report that blues singer Robin Rogers passed away on Friday, December 17, 2010 at her Gastonia, North Carolina home at the too-young age of 55 years. Rogers had been fighting liver cancer for the past few months, even as her critically-acclaimed 2010 album Back Into The Fire was making her a star in the blues world.


December 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Best Actors of 2010, Top 10 Actors of 2010

Normally, gathering a list of the best performances by actors is one of the most difficult Top 10 lists to put together in that there are so many to choose from. However, unlike years past, 2010 didn’t have an overabundance of stand-out performances by actors. For the first time in over a decade there were more awards-worthy performances by actresses than actors. Actors in supporting roles also fared better in 2010 than those tackling lead characters in theatrically released films. That said, there were 10 actors who stood out from the pack enough to make this list of the Top 10 Actors of 2010.

James Franco – ‘127 Hours’

James Franco in 127 Hours© Fox Searchlight
It wasn’t until the second time I watched 127 Hours that I fully appreciated the brilliant performance of James Franco. Directed by Danny Boyle and based on the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston, Franco’s basically a one-man show in this dramatic film that caused some audience members to seek medical attention due to a particularly graphic and disturbing scene. Franco has been experiencing a career resurgence the past couple of years, and 127 Hours shows just how talented the 32 year old actor is when paired up with the right director and given the opportunity to dive into meaty material.


Colin Firth – ‘The King’s Speech’

Colin Firth in The King's Speech© The Weinstein Company
Colin Firth was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actor category in 2010 for his outstanding performance in 2009’s A Single Man. He follows that critically acclaimed film up with yet another award-worthy performance as a stuttering King of England who forms a unique friendship with an Australian speech therapist. Watching Firth and Geoffrey Rush (as the therapist) square off is one of the highlights of the year in films, and both men deliver incredibly moving and real performances.

Jesse Eisenberg – ‘The Social Network’

Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network© Columbia Pictures
Jesse Eisenberg had the difficult job of portraying one of the youngest billionaires in the world in The Social Network, a thought-provoking look behind the scenes at the events leading up to and immediately following the creation of Facebook. As I said in my 5 star review of the film, “Jesse Eisenberg is a revelation as the fast-talking, socially inept, computer genius who goes from obscurity and longing to get into elite clubs to being a self-made billionaire.” Eisenberg, who up until The Social Network was best known for playing one of the few survivors in a world overrun by the undead in Zombieland, emerges as one of the finest actors of his generation with his incredible work in The Social Network.

Ryan Reynolds – ‘Buried’

Ryan Reynolds in Buried© Lionsgate
He’s best known for comedies and for being the star of 2011’s Green Lantern superhero film, but Ryan Reynolds also has some serious dramatic chops as he displays in Buried, an intense thriller about a man buried alive in Iraq while an unseen kidnapper demands money for his release. To quote from my review, Reynolds delivers “a mature, committed performance, displaying talent sometimes hidden in the numerous romantic comedies and the spattering of action roles he’s taken on in recent years. Buried rests squarely on his shoulders and he attacks the character with fierce determination and grit. We have to be able to feel every moment of panic and face this unimaginable terror with this poor truck driver, who was only guilty of being in the wrong place at the worst possible time, or else Buried would be dead on arrival. And the fact we are right there with him is because of how masterfully Reynolds brings to life his character.”

Colin Farrell – ‘Ondine’

Colin Farrell in Ondine© Magnolia Pictures
Colin Farrell picks up dual honors from me for his work in 2010 films. Farrell earned a spot on my Top 10 Supporting Actors of 2010 with his performance in the gritty, real life drama The Way Back and he’s a part of this Top 10 Actors list due to his tremendously engaging, emotionally moving portrayal of a divorced dad dedicated to his critically ill young daughter in Ondine. What Farrell pulls off here is one of his most mature performances to date.

Johnny Depp – ‘Alice in Wonderland’

Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland© Walt Disney Pictures
Johnny Depp and Tim Burton reunited for the seventh time with Alice in Wonderland, a trippy adventure tale that took audiences of all ages down the rabbit hole and into the land of floating Cheshire cats, big-headed queens, and the maddest of all hatters. Burton and Depp can be counted on to deliver extraordinary films (that are extraordinarily risky), and Alice in Wonderland is one of their best collaborative efforts. Depp, hidden underneath some truly bizarre makeup, transforms into The Mad Hatter and brings this peculiar, manic being to life in a way only Depp possibly could.

Leonardo DiCaprio – ‘Shutter Island’

Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island© Paramount Pictures
This was a difficult choice for me to settle on as Leonardo DiCaprio was worthy of earning a place on this list for both of his 2010 films – Shutter Island and Inception. Ultimately Shutter Island won out due in large part to the fact Inception seems like so much more of an ensemble piece. And I do stand by my review of Shutter Island in which I state his performance in this Martin Scorsese film (DiCaprio’s fourth with the Oscar-winning filmmaker) is the best of his career. A psychological drama reminiscent of Hitchcock’s work, Shutter Island is the perfect combination of director, material, and cast, with DiCaprio pitch perfect as the conflicted and tormented main character.

Jeff Bridges – ‘True Grit’

Jeff Bridges in True Grit© Paramount Pictures
Jeff Bridges earned his first Oscar for the 2009 film Crazy Heart, proving the 61 year old actor is in fact getting better with age. That’s confirmed with his alternately hilarious and threatening portrayal of a drunken US Marshal recruited by a 14 year old, wise-beyond-her-years girl to track down her father’s murderer. It’s a role made famous by John Wayne (who won his only Oscar for playing Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 version of True Grit) and it’s no small feat that Bridges is able to take over such a well-known character and completely make it his own.


Ryan Gosling – ‘Blue Valentine’

Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine© The Weinstein Company
Ryan Gosling’s yet another actor who had the potential to make this Top 10 list for performances in more than one 2010 film. Gosling was totally convincing as a mentally unstable millionaire who killed his wife and got away with it in All Good Things, and he took on one his most difficult and complex characters to date in Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine (a film I wanted to love but just couldn’t, despite stellar performances by Gosling and Michelle Williams). Gosling starts the film as a confidant young man who, as he ages and his relationship with Williams’ character sours, gets increasingly cynical, bitter, and out of control. What Gosling does with the character proves just how capable he is of dissolving into any character, and his performance in Blue Valentine feels devastatingly real.

Aaron Johnson – ‘Nowhere Boy’

Aaron Johnson in Nowhere Boy© The Weinstein Company
Aaron Johnson showed he can kick bad guys’ butts in 2010’s Kick-Ass, but it was his portrayal of a teenage John Lennon in Nowhere Boy that allowed him to show a real emotional connection to a character. Johnson plays Lennon as a trouble-making high school student with a confusing, dysfunctional family life and a burgeoning love for music. While Nowhere Boy is based on true events in the life of one of the most talented rock and rollers in history, the film concentrates on Lennon’s personal life with his music playing second fiddle to the complex relationship involving Lennon, his absent mother, and the aunt who raised him. Johnson’s absolutely terrific in Nowhere Boy, and although he doesn’t much physically resemble the late Beatle, he does an outstanding job of bringing Lennon’s story alive on screen.


December 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A List of Ten Great Recordings to Start Your Jazz Collection.

Jazz is perhaps best experienced live, but some recordings are veritable works of art. Below is a list of ten albums that represent important periods in the development of jazz, and whose music is as fresh today as when it was recorded. The list, ordered chronologically by the dates each album was recorded, functions as a mere introduction to classic jazz recordings.

1. Louis Armstrong – Complete RCA Victor Recordings (RCA)

Courtesy of RCA
This compilation is a must have for anyone interested in the origin of jazz. Louis Armstrong’s melodic trumpet improvisations and his scat singing are considered the seeds from which all jazz since has sprouted. This collection consists of crackling renditions of some lesser-known tunes from Armstrong’s repertoire. Each track radiates the joyous spirit and individualism that Armstrong bestowed upon jazz.

2. Charlie Parker with Strings: The Master Takes (Polygram)

Courtesy of Verve
When Charlie Parker, one of the creators of bebop, recorded with a string ensemble, he was criticized for pandering to a popular audience. His music was characterized in part by taking conventions of swing music and pushing them to their extremes; extreme registers, extremely fast tempos, and extreme virtuosity. Unlike swing music, bebop was considered art music, and represented a hip musical subculture. Parker’s recording with strings, although perhaps more palatable for a popular audience, doesn’t display any sacrifice of craft or musicality. On each of these tracks, Parker’s sound is pure and crisp, and his improvisations display the impeccable technique and harmonic knowledge that bebop was famous for.

3. Lee Konitz – Subconscious-Lee (Original Jazz Classics)

Courtesy of Ojc

Lee Konitz made his mark on the jazz world in the late 1940s and 1950s by developing a style of improvisation that contrasted from that of the father of bebop, alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. Konitz’ dry tone, swirling melodies, and rhythmic experimentation are still models for today’s musicians. Subconscious-Lee features pianist Lennie Tristano and tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh, two of Konitz’ comrades in the development of this style.


4. Art Blakey Quintet – A Night at Birdland (Blue Note)

Courtesy of Blue Note

Art Blakey‘s music is known for its funky stride and soulful melodies. This live recording, featuring trumpet legend Clifford Brown, is one energy-filled example of Blakey’s first ventures into the driving style that would come to be known as hard-bop.

5. John Coltrane – Blue Train (Blue Note)

Courtesy of Blue Note
John Coltrane was said to have practiced up to twenty hours a day, so much that late in his career, it was rumored that by the time he was finished he had already abandoned some techniques he had figured out earlier in the day. His short career (he died at age forty-one) is underscored by constant evolution, shifting from traditional jazz to completely improvised suites. The music from Blue Train marks the pinnacle of his hard-bop stage, before he moved on to more experimental improvisation styles. It also contains tunes that have worked their way into the standard repertoire, including “Moment’s Notice,” “Lazy Bird,” and “Blue Train.”

6. Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um (Columbia)

Courtesy of Columbia
Each of bassist Charles Mingus’ pieces on this album has a specific character, ranging from frenetic to morose to ebullient, so that the compositions almost have a visual nature. Each member of the band plays his part in such a way that it sounds as though he is improvising, giving the music vitality and spirit that is practically unmatched. 

7. Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (Columbia)

Courtesy of Columbia
In the liner notes to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, pianist Bill Evans (who plays piano on the album) compares the music to a spontaneous and disciplined form of Japanese visual art. The simplicity and minimalist touch of this landmark recording are perhaps what allow the musicians to paint pristine pictures and achieve such a meditative and contemplative mood. Each member of the group comes from a different musical background, and yet the result is a unified work of beauty that every jazz musician or listener must own.

8. Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come (Atlantic)

Courtesy of Atlantic
Ornette Coleman caused a stir in the late 1950s when he began to play what has come to be known as “free jazz.” Hoping to free himself of the restrictions of chord progressions and song structures, he simply played melodies and gestures. Recorded in 1959, The Shape of Jazz to Come is a rather conservative experiment with such concepts, and the average listener may not notice much is different, but Ornette and a multitude of musicians since have used the idea of “free” playing as a springboard into a vast musical realm.

9. Freddie Hubbard – Open Sesame (Blue Note)

Courtesy of Blue Note
Freddie Hubbard’s searing lines and juggernaut sound have made him the model after which most trumpet players shape their approaches to the instrument. Soulful and groove-oriented, this early Hubbard recording is the door through which his fiery playing burst into jazz.

10. Bill Evans – Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Original Jazz Classics)

Courtesy of Ojc
Bill Evans and his trio explore a variety of moods on this live recording. Evans’ background in classical music is apparent with his lush chords and subtle gestures. Each member of the trio (including Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums) is allowed the same amount of flexibility, so instead of one player being featured while the others accompany, the group breathes and swells as a unit. This freedom, as well as the fluidity of the phrasing, is something that contemporary jazz musicians strive to emulate


December 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jeff Bridges Talks About ‘TRON: Legacy’

Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn in Tron LegacyJeff Bridges poster from ‘TRON: Legacy.’

© Walt Disney Pictures

When Jeff Bridges was shooting TRON back in 1981 he, of course, had no idea he’d be reprising his role as Kevin Flynn in a 2010 sequel. TRON: Legacy finds Bridges as Flynn stuck in the world of Tron, but there’s hope for his rescue. His 27 year old son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), has discovered a signal originating from the old Flynn’s Arcade and when he goes to investigate, he’s pulled into the strange world where his dad’s been trapped for 20 years.

At the Los Angeles press day for the Walt Disney Pictures sci-fi action film, Bridges talked about what it was like to have his younger self featured in TRON: Legacy, the advances in filmmaking technology since the original TRON broke new ground, and his career.

On inserting a few ‘Dude’ moments inTRON: Legacy

Jeff Bridges: “Well, you know, in looking back at TRON – the original – since I’m playing that character and kind of referencing that guy, he would kind of say things like that. He was, I don’t know if you would say Dude-esque because he preceded The Dude, but both [Steven] Lisberger and Joe Kosinski, our director, encouraged that kind of speak. That was Flynn, too. Flynn wasn’t a tight, typical silicon [valley] guy. He was pretty loose and hippy-ish himself.”

Does playing the hero and the villain in the same scene mess with his Zen?

Jeff Bridges: “Pretty familiar, man. I always feel like I’m that in a way, so it didn’t mess with it too much. It was great to be able to include a wonderful friend of mine, Bernie Glassman who is a Zen master, in this whole process. He was brought on board in some of the early writings to add some of that Zen quality to it.”

“[Bernie and I] talked a lot about Flynn. He’s kind of trapped in the absolute reality. He’s discovered that the more he goes against Clu, the more powerful he becomes so he’s kind of retreated and gotten into the place of acceptance for the way it is to such a degree that it’s almost paralyzed him. It takes his son to shake him out of that. So in the early meetings, we had Bernie just kind of sitting at the table giving thoughts as the story progressed, from a Buddhist perspective. Very helpful.”

On the technology used in creating both TRON films:

Jeff Bridges: “Oh, well, I was really drawn to both of them for the same reason, or one of the reasons was to take part in a movie that was using that cutting edge technology. Now what I was most curious about for this one is making a movie without cameras and this idea that everything is held in post, from the costume to your makeup to the set, even the camera angles, where the camera is. That was quite amazing.”

On talking about the sequel 28 years after making the first TRON:

Jeff Bridges: “Yeah, I like that. I was able to do that with Texasville too, which was carrying onThe Last Picture Show saga. I was just in Texas with Peter Bogdanovich and we’re hoping to do the next installment. Larry McMurtry’s written three more of those books and that would be wonderful.”

“With this one, I think a lot of people who were kids, played video games when this first one came out. It kind of hit a sweet spot for those kids. Those guys who must be maybe [in their 30s or 40s], so it’s kind of like going to the movie kind of conjures up your own childhood again a little bit, where you left off and you remember how that one affected you. So maybe that’s kind of the reason for this thing you’re talking about.”

Is he involved in gaming at all?

Jeff Bridges: “No. I mean, it’s so much different now. I think I left off, my last game was Myst. I did that with my girls, but that was a long time ago. I haven’t kept up. I haven’t experienced it.”

On having his body digitized for use in the film:

Jeff Bridges: “It’s so fascinating. Yeah, there’s a bright side and a dark side. The bright side is that now I can play myself at any age. Normally, I love to go to the movies and when I see a character portrayed by different actors at different ages, it kind of pops a little bit for me. It brings me out of the movie experience. Now we have the technology to cure that. I could be whatever age I am; it’s amazing. The other thing is up for grabs. How that’s going to work just as far as the contracts, do you own your own image? But you’ve got to let it all go.”

“I’ve been so fortunate and blessed. I can’t hold on. I’m just going to let that go, that concern. I could really get behind it a lot and be really upset about it, but it’s the same kind of task with this new technology I was telling you about. That kind of rubbed my acting fur against the grain because I like costumes and sets and it helps me create the illusion for myself that I’m actually in this reality in the world of the movie. To not have that, you really have to use that part of your imagination that you used when you were a kid, bringing it all up. So it was a challenge for me to get with the program as quickly as I could and not spend too much energy about it or bitching about it not being how I like it. Kind of letting that go.”

On seeing his younger self onscreen:

Jeff Bridges: “Well, they modeled Clu I think after the Against All Odds period, and it’s not that strange for me to see myself in different stages of my life because I have movies and that sort of thing that I can look at. So it wasn’t that crazy. It was amazing that they could do it at all. What they’re doing was quite amazing.”

On the costume design:

Jeff Bridges: “I’m very much into the costuming of any character that I portray. And it’s one of the great things about making movies is it’s a collaborative art form so you get all these artists who are looking specifically about, for this instance, your character’s costume and what that might tell about your character. That’s one of the first things I do when I’m developing a character is meet with a costumer because they’ve got to build all the clothes.”

On the 2010 Oscar season and 2011’s Oscar chances:

Jeff Bridges: “Oh, yeah. Yeah, what a year. So wonderful. It’s affected me in a lot of ways, not so much getting a flood of scripts or something. That would be nice, or it sort of would be nice. I don’t like to read too many scripts, really. But the big thing, a couple of things, two things that come to mind that really affected me. One was the music, because Crazy Heart was all about music. It really set fire to my own music and after I leave you guys today, I’m going into the studio with T-Bone Burnett. We’re working on an album this week, and that’s really exciting.”

“Then I guess it’s made me more famous. Fame, there’s a double-edged sword like probably everything else. The upside of that is you can put yourself in alignment with some concerns that you are concerned about and that you want to turn around. I just came back from Washington, D.C. where I was presenting the No Kid Hungry campaign that I’m the national spokesperson for. So that success that I had last year allows me to be more visible for helping end childhood hunger in our country, which is incredible.”

“Just to throw you out some statistics for your papers and stuff, 17 million of our kids – that’s one in four in our country – live in food insecure homes. They don’t know if they’ll get enough nutrition to lead healthy, active lives. These statistics are from the Department of Agriculture. The good news is that we have programs in place like Food Stamps is now called SNAP, the WIC Program and the school meal programs, breakfast, after school and summer meals. But the shame is we’ve got the billion dollars of federally funded programs are out there available to all the states and it’s not being fully used. In other words, there’s like 19 million kids who are eligible for the school breakfast program, only half of those kids are taking part. This summer only 15%. So this No Kid Hungry program, campaign, which is by the way, is working with mayors and governors specifically zeroing in on where the blockage is. Why aren’t these communities using the money that’s available and strategically dealing with each of those problems. That’s a very exciting thing that’s happening that the awards and everything has helped promote that, so I’m happy about that.”

On taking on the role of Rooster Cogburn in the Coen Brothers’ True Grit:

Jeff Bridges: “Yeah, when the brothers first came to me, I was making TRON when they came to me on True Grit. I was curious. I said, ‘Why do you want to make that movie?’ I couldn’t figure that out. I couldn’t figure that out. It seemed like such an odd choice. We had talked about making a Western and stuff. I met them at a party and there was something about that, but why they would want to make that movie… Then they said, ‘Well, we’re not really remaking that movie. We’re referring to the book by Charles Portis.’ I wasn’t familiar with the book and they said, ‘Oh, it’s a great book.'”

“So I read that and then I said, ‘Oh, I see what you’re talking about,’ because the book is very Coen-esque and great. I can’t wait… But also when they said that, it took a lot of concern about filling the Duke’s boots. At least don’t worry about that, so I never thought about John Wayne or anything like that until somebody asked me the question, ‘How do you feel about this?’ Oh, well, let me see. I’m not worried about it. I wasn’t thinking about it when I did it. I just did the best I could with the part. That’s what I always try to do.”


December 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment