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Published 02/04/2010 - 10:12 p.m. CDT

Andrew Betts, director of communications and marketing at Outreach International, discusses the organization's efforts to help those devastated by the recent earth quake in Haiti. The worldwide organization supports 90 schools in the impoverished nation, many of which were destroyed or badly damaged in the earthquake. (Photo: Michael McClure)

By Debbie Coleman-Topi

The staff at Outreach International has a customary role: helping those living in impoverished nations learn to help themselves to a better way of life. But, a devastating earthquake two weeks ago, in one of the organization's hubs in Haiti, has left the staff scrambling in a new role: offering disaster- relief assistance. The focus is on helping staff, students and families attending the schools closest to Port au Prince, the capitol. Those buildings are among 90 schools they operate throughout Haiti, the poorest nation of the Western Hemisphere.

"We're not traditionally a first-responder," Andrew Betts, director of communications and marketing at Outreach International, said of the organization's newest role. Nevertheless, in the last two weeks, the organization has created and initiated a disaster-relief plan aimed at assisting the teachers, students and their families, with the necessities of daily survival.

"How do you send your kid to school if there's no food or health care?" Betts asked.

Published 02/04/2010 - 6:48 p.m. CDT

Cast in Photo: Joe Dempsey (Inspector Fix), Lance Baker (Phileas Fogg), Ravi Batista (Mrs. Aouda) (Photo: Don Ipock)

Steve Shapiro

Long before the new (old) vogue for 3-D at the movies, the theater was all about it. Trap doors onstage, apparatus dropping from the ceiling, lighting and sound cues, sets moving and changing as in Terry Gilliam’s film homage to old-fashioned theatrics “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen”—indeed, the simple act of the actors on the stage, seemingly close enough to touch—all of it, when done right, registers as an experience that the audience feels it is a part of.

The new technically classy version of Jules Verne’s classic adventure “Around the World in 80 Days,” which débuted on January 29 at The Kansas City Repertory Theatre is Gilliamesque. The sets and the actors combine to create an illusion of travel, via locomotive or steamship or even elephant. The story recalls Verne’s popular 1873 novel (it was originally planned as a play, based on Verne’s own voyages); while there is a nod to the hokey 1956 Hollywood movie with David Niven as Phileas Fogg—Fogg’s servant, Passepartout asks if they will be going “by balloon”—this production, originally conceived by Laura Eason of Chicago’s innovative Lookingglass Theatre, relies on Verne’s modes of transportation.

Published 01/29/2010 - 12:07 a.m. CDT

“Mouthful of Words”

Lesley Dill at Byron Cohen Gallery

Reviewed by Steve Shapiro

Of the many words used by critics, curators and art-goers to describe contemporary art—such as angry, baffling, cryptic, daring, extravagant and exasperating—the word haunting gets little play. Perhaps it is because so much of today’s work has a mass-produced feel, or no feel at all.

Modernism was predicated in part on an industrial, almost clinical, quality; the warmth of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century paintings were overtaken by the cold porcelain of Duchamp’s urinal and the mechanical engineering of Cubism. Art since the twentieth century has come to mean anything, yet often unconnected to the idea (and the ideal) of the artist’s hand.

The sense of art that proves most haunting is art with a human touch. A Vermeer portrait, suffused with the artist’s personal intent (combined with technical prowess), can thus be linked to, say, Giacometti’s sculptures with their evidence of puttied fingerprints, and to Hannah Höch’s collages, onward to Joseph Cornell’s boxes, Richard Serra’s torqued steel arcs, and Lesley Dill’s hands-on works of copper, wire, steel, horsehair, rice paper, and thread.

Published 02/04/2010 - 11:01 p.m. CDT

Opinion by Daniel Starling

“Inconsistencies of opinion arising from changes of circumstances are often justifiable. But there is one sort of inconsistency that is culpable: it is the inconsistency between a man’s conviction and a man’s vote, between his conscience and his conduct. No man shall ever charge me with an inconsistency of that kind.”

--United States Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts during debate on the 1850 Clay Compromise as quoted in “Profiles in Courage” by Sen. from Mass., John F. Kennedy.

As I sat and watched President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union speech, it struck me again how ironic America can be. Just days after the election of a Republican to complete the term of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, the last liberal lion of the Senate, and defenders of our broken American health care system jumped for joy.

Published 01/22/2010 - 2:05 p.m. CDT

Thomas J. Bogdon, 1940-2010 (Photo: Michael McClure)

by Rhiannon Ross

The veteran Kansas City journalist, whose 40-year career included reporting, editing and publishing, died January 16th at the University of Kansas Medical Center after waging a long battle with lung cancer.

Fond memories of Tom, as well as accolades hailing him as a Kansas City “journalism legend,” continue to appear on Internet sites around the area and beyond.

Longtime CNN Headline News Anchor Chuck Roberts wrote from Atlanta, “No one articulated the city’s problems and potential better. Tom was irreplaceable...I admired him greatly.”

Published 02/04/2010 - 6:43 p.m. CDT

.Elle Molique

I recently had the kind of day where if you could take it to the customer service department and get your money back, you would. I won’t go into the details, though it involved a car, a cop, an ex-, and a lost DVD rental. PMS was my friend and I didn’t have many others.

I exploded through the door of Higher Grounds in search of pure cane sugar demons to take my frustrations out on. Seducing me sweetly from the confectionery case stood a voluptuous chorus line of glowing cupcakes. Maybe an inch and a half tall adorned with two inches of icing squeezed into church spires of heavenly glory, the vanilla one with the red heart chose me. I bought it with a charming latte to accompany us to our table.

Published 12/12/2008 - 1:00 a.m. CDT

Jigs, the German Jagd Terrier (Photo: Karen Land)

By Karen :Land

Didn’t someone once say, “It takes a village to raise a terrier?”

Most people would think that owning just two dogs would seem like nothing after having a kennel of 60-some sled dogs. But if one of those dogs happens to be a terrier, it’s a whole different ball game. Terriers aren’t stuck with the infamous nickname “tiny terrorists” because of their angelic behavior.

Even though Jigs, my German Jagd Terrier, is no saint, I’m crazy about him. He’s my bedwarmer, my little man. And he’s just so darn cute.

Movie Reviews
Published 02/05/2010 - 12:00 a.m.  CDT

Reviewed by Russ Simmons

Nicholas Sparks has discovered a literary path that leads directly to the tear duct.

Six of Sparks’ novels have been converted into hankie-wringing cinematic melodramas, including “The Notebook,” “Message in a Bottle,” “A Walk to Remember,” “Nights in Rodanthe” and the upcoming “The Last Song.”

The latest Sparks adaptation is “Dear John,” brought to the big screen by a director who knows a thing or two about the weeper genre, Lasse Halstrom (“My Life as a Dog,” “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” “Chocolat”).

Amanda Seyfried (“Mamma Mia!”) stars as Savannah, a pretty UNC-Chapel Hill student from an affluent Southern family. She and John (Channing Tatum from “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”) ‘meet cute’ when the Army Special Forces soldier risks his life by diving into the Atlantic to rescue Savannah’s fallen purse.

Can amour be far behind?

...Read More
Published 01/29/2010 - 12:00 a.m.  CDT

Reviewed by Russ Simmons

With the exception of a couple of cameo appearances, the last time that Mel Gibson appeared onscreen was in the 2002 sci-fi curiosity, “Signs.”

Of course, he’s been preoccupied by directing (“The Passion of the Christ,” “Apocalypto”) and with some highly publicized personal matters.

Choosing to keep a relatively low profile for a box office superstar, Gibson hoped to find a suitably lighthearted comedy script for his Hollywood comeback. No such luck.

Gibson’s return to the big screen is a violent, hardboiled conspiratorial thriller with lots of gnashing teeth, beads of sweat and throbbing forehead veins.

“Edge of Darkness” is a big screen, Americanized adaptation of an acclaimed series that was named one of the twenty best in British TV history. Something, apparently, was lost in the translation.

...Read More
Published 01/29/2010 - 12:00 a.m.  CDT

Reviewed by Russ Simmons

“When in Rome” is the best romantic fantasy of the year!

Don’t be too surprised to see that quote, or one very much like it, on the billboard ads for this whimsical Hollywood offering.

Here’s the kicker: “Leap Year” and “Youth in Revolt” are the only other romantic comedies to come out so far this year. The only fantasy has been “The Tooth Fairy.”

Yes, that first sentence is a case of damning with faint praise.

It really takes a deft touch to pull off this sort of thing and while it’s well meaning and has a very likable cast, “When in Rome” is a clichéd romantic fantasy.

...Read More
Published 01/22/2010 - 12:00 a.m.  CDT

Reviewed by Russ Simmons

Many filmmakers struggle for years to hone their skills and learn the nuances of their craft.

Undoubtedly, some of them are green with envy when an untrained outsider decides to make a movie…and does an outstanding job of it.

Tom Ford is a noted fashion designer and former creative director at Gucci. He has successfully adapted a Christopher Isherwood novel, “A Single Man,” into an effective and affecting drama.

But Ford had a little help. He collaborated with another newcomer, David Scearce, on the screenplay and assembled a first rate cast to bring it to life.

...Read More
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