Author Laura Kasischke to Read at Penn State Behrend

Creative Writers Reading Series returns March 26  By definition, Laura Kasischke is a poet. But...

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - With pulsating sounds, stunning videos and elaborate costumes, a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) dedicated to the work of Bjork transports visitors into the creative world of the Icelandic musician, composer and singer.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts will rename its Avery Fisher Hall for music mogul David Geffen, who has made a $100 million gift to help with its renovation, officials said on Wednesday.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Feature films from 31 countries, many of them about the struggles of everyday life and featuring stars such as Richard Gere, James Franco and Dakota Fanning will be screened at the 14th Tribeca Film Festival.

LONDON (Reuters) - International conducting star Simon Rattle said he hoped to make the concert experience more theatrical to attract younger audiences, as the London Symphony Orchestra announced on Tuesday he would become its fulltime music director in 2017.

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Archaeologists working in the dense jungle of Honduras have found dozens of artifacts at a site where they believe twin cities from an ancient civilization once thrived, the head of the country's anthropology institute said on Wednesday.

Sports News

NEW YORK (Reuters) - NASCAR calls it "right-sizing" but others see it as sign that something is terribly wrong with America's most popular motor sport as thousands of seats are being removed from tracks across the United States.

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - Walt Disney World said on Wednesday it would sponsor Orlando’s new Major League Soccer team, which plays its inaugural match on Sunday against a fellow expansion club from New York.

FALL RIVER, Massachusetts (Reuters) - The judge in Aaron Hernandez's murder trial ruled on Wednesday that jurors will not be allowed to hear about a former friend of the ex-NFL star who claimed Hernandez shot him in the face after an argument in Florida in 2013.

(Reuters) - An elite field including the top 50 in the world rankings will vie for supremacy at this week's WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami where the infamous Blue Monster course will once again pose a daunting challenge.

BIRMINGHAM (Reuters) - World champion Chen Long avoided a potential first-round exit at the All-England Championships on Wednesday and blamed an uncomfortable pillow for a sluggish start to his campaign.

Science News

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A toilet that uses urine to generate electricity and can charge a mobile phone will soon light up dark corners of refugee camps after being tested by students in Britain.

LONDON (Reuters) - British scientists are turning to crowdfunding to complete the first scientific study ever to image the brain of someone "tripping" on the psychedelic drug LSD.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 2.8-million-year-old jawbone fossil with five intact teeth unearthed in an Ethiopian desert is pushing back the dawn of humankind by about half a million years.

HAIFA, Israel (Reuters) - Israel is embarking on a five-year mission to stake its claim on a crowded new frontier, the $250 billion a year commercial space market.

(Reuters) - A little known but controversial program that flagged sensitive patent applications involving potentially touchy subjects such as AIDS vaccines and abortion devices has been scrapped by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Movie Reviews

As districts are devastated above ground, other struggles rage underground. We’re not just talking Woody Harrelson’s straggly Games vet Haymitch Abernathy’s problems with “prohibition”, either. With her role beefed up from Suzanne Collins’ third and final Hunger Games novel, how can Elizabeth Banks’s future fashion grotesque Effie Trinket hope to look ab fab in a rebel hold-out with serious wardrobe issues?

Given Effie’s egregious situation, it’s a wonder she looks as presentable as she does. For Effie, read Mockingjay - Part 1. Even with the odds against him, returning director Francis Lawrence joins sturdy-handed writers Peter Craig (The Town) and Danny Strong (The Butler) to mount a rich, punchy, well-paced treatment of a tricky novel: an unlikely victory comparable to felling hoverplanes with arrows.

After all, the outcome was never certain. If Gary Ross’s first Hunger Games flick benefitted from lunging fast into the arena, Catching Fire repeated the trick and proved it stood repeating. Now that Katniss Everdeen’s revolt at Fire’s climax has pushed the future districts into a climate of unrest, countered by state oppression, there are no games to play but political ones. This time, it’s war? Yes, but for unwary viewers expecting the fun stuff of bonkers baboons terrorising teenagers it could just be a bore.

The issue of division is equally sticky. Tackling an already divisive novel with the divisive decision (see The Hobbit, Deathly Hallows) to divide it into two movies, the third and fourth Games films raise a question: how many divisions can a story take without collapsing?

But Part 1 holds up, mostly, with Jennifer Lawrence doing some proper heavy lifting. On the page Katniss initially lacks her old spark, a point flagged on screen by District 13 President turned rebel Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) when she tells rebel-leader Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), “This is not the girl that you describe.” As Plutarch and Coin slowly coerce Katniss into becoming a symbol for revolt against the venomous President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) decadent Capitol, the plot rests less on scraps than strategy; less on action than debates about how to start the action; and less on Katniss than the absence of the girl on fire. With heavy doses of recap and semi-meta stuff about making propaganda movies stacked on top, the focus shift threatens to distance viewers.

But J-Law tugs us in to Katniss’ fraught humanity, invoking memories of Aliens’ harrowed Ripley as she wakes from troubled sleep in District 13’s rebel base. (And yes, the ginger cat is here.) These layers of trepidation firm up Katniss’ position as a reluctant hero we can engage with, not a superhero: qualities rare enough in some A fiction, let alone YA fiction.

Francis Lawrence pushes YA boundaries further as Katniss visits districts decimated by Snow’s army, where streets spill with skulls. When Katniss, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and a rag-tag propaganda film crew explore the devastated District 8, a makeshift hospital oozes with what censors like to call “injury detail”. If the reverence for Katniss among the wounded verges on cheesy, the rubble-strewn war-zone images and ear-bashing hoverplane attacks imbue Katniss’ subsequent big speech with a sense of high-stakes potency. As she “becomes” Katniss again here, Lawrence steers her fear and rage into air-punching “Get away from her, you bitch!” terrain.

If one particular District 8 atrocity seems torn from today’s headlines, the rebel debates about how to use the media as a weapon are equally, achingly of the now. But Mockingjay isn’t a course in Advanced Media Know-how: the two-part split provides the elbow room needed to flesh out a boosted character count. In his last bow, Hoffman invests Plutarch with weathered heft. Judiciously expanding the novel beyond Katniss’ perspective, added Coin-age benefits from Julianne Moore’s authoritative delivery. Good, no-nonsense ground-level support comes from Natalie Dormer’s Cressida, sort of Kate Adie with face tats.

Less successful is the decision to boost Effie’s role: like Derek Zoolander gate-crashing Fury to pimp a tank, she lightens the tone but draws sniggers. The vote’s still out (and probably out for good) on the narrative value of Gale’s charisma vacuum, though less is more for Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta. Seen largely through ambiguous TV broadcasts, his arc ranges smartly from turn-coat interviews with Stanley Tucci’s Capitol creep Caesar to well-administered shocks.

Even with the pace-dampening burden of time spent on Katniss visiting old haunts, Francis Lawrence makes up for the arena’s absence with punch-packing action jolts. The rebel assault on a dam is Lord Of The Rings-sized. Later, a tense night-time raid on the Capitol successfully splices sprawling effects work with grounding war-movie grit.

These beefed-up action beats are well integrated with Katniss’ viewpoint, especially when the Capitol incursion runs parallel to a tense vid-screen stand-off between two key verbal combatants. That poised weighting holds until the climactic cliffhanger, a better-paced send-off than the sudden drop that closed The Desolation Of Smaug.

Francis Lawrence faces more trials tackling Collins’ rushed finale in Part 2, but the two-film split could give him vital air, assuming he doesn’t go all Return Of The King on us. “I’m optimistic,” shrugs Plutarch at one point, facing a new dread. On the strength of this gutsy, considered rewrite of the Games’ rules, there’s reason to be.

Stills of Tom Hardy pursing his lips at a puppy might have made Twitter melt, but The Drop did well to change its title from Animal Rescue. This is no cutesy romcom or inspirational adventure but rather a downbeat, character-driven crime drama set in a squalid neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Facial stubble and handguns are de rigueur, for this, as the opening voiceover goes, “is where all the things happen that you’re not allowed to see.” Running bar for his Uncle Marv (James Gandolfini in his final big-screen role), Bob Saginowski’s (Hardy) life turns upside down when he’s robbed at gunpoint. The money belongs to the Chechen mob – they were using Marv’s bar as the drop point for their bookmaking business – and Bob and Marv need to get their hands on $5K fast. Enter Twitter’s favourite pup, found by Bob in a trashcan on his way home. The bin belongs to Nadia (Noomi Rapace), and the dog, it transpires, was stuffed there by her headcase ex Eric (Matthias Schoenaerts). Bob takes it home and begins a tentative friendship with Nadia, his actions inevitably met by sinister visits from Eric and an escalating tension that promises violence. The US debut of Belgian filmmaker Michaël R. Roskam (2011’s Bullhead), The Drop, based on Dennis Lehane’s short story, melds European sensibilities with the tropes of an American crime picture. The dilapidated setting and its hardscrabble inhabitants are observed with an outsider’s eye and an insider’s knowledge, while the narrative simmers rather than bubbles over like so many Hollywood thrillers. Gandolfini, in Nike tracksuit and leather jacket, is as tough and tender as ever, and a hesitant, slouching, mumbling Hardy evokes Stallone’s Rocky and Brando’s Terry Malloy – perhaps a little too consciously. Over-familiarity clings to The Drop, but it’s a crafted, admirable picture with a halo of hope around its melancholic heart – a melancholy deepened, of course, by Gandolfini’s passing.

With a title like The Imitation Game, you’d be forgiven for expecting a contemporary CIA thriller – rather than a carefully constructed character study of one of WW2’s largely unsung heroes. It’s centred on Alan Turing, the man responsible for cracking the Nazis’ Enigma cipher, thus helping end the war. Enemy dispatches, however, are not the only guarded secrets. Bletchley Park’s efforts to outthink the Germans’ most cunning device has been covered before in Michael Apted’s Enigma (2001), where Dougray Scott played a vague approximation of Turing. But this digs far deeper. Adapted by first-time screenwriter Graham Moore from the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, the story begins in 1952, several years after Turing’s moment of triumph, when the police (led by Rory Kinnear) investigate a suspicious break-in at his house. Benedict Cumberbatch swiftly and compellingly differentiates Turing from his other ‘genius’ roles – Stephen Hawking, Sherlock – though the latter flashes through when the narrative winds back to 1939, as Turing enters Bletchley for the first time. Arrogant and assured, he’s also uncompromising and unpopular, divorced from the Matthew Goode-led codebreaking team. When Turing demands to be put in charge, even petitioning PM Winston Churchill, it seems never in doubt that he’ll solve the riddle of the Enigma machine, a device that changes its settings every 24 hours to make detecting coding patterns nigh-on impossible. But this achievement, aided by Keira Knightley’s crossword-fanatic Joan Clarke and under the watchful eye of Mark Strong’s MI6 operative, is only part of The Imitation Game, which takes a darker turn with revelations that Turing is gay. The result is less a portrait of WW2 innovation than it is of a man drowning in secrets at a time when homosexuality was illegal. He even asks for Joan’s hand in marriage – but theirs was always more friendship than frisson. Given the frequent shots of Turing in training (he was also a marathon enthusiast), you’re left to wonder if he’s running from himself – or public censure. Director Morten Tyldum (Headhunters), essays the same attention to detail that fellow Scandinavian Tomas Alfredson brought to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. If The Imitation Game doesn’t emulate that film’s dazzling direction, it equally captures the texture of past British life and features a similarly exemplary Cumberbatch-inclusive ensemble. Only this time, he leads from the front, pouring body and soul into Turing. Cracking, you might say.

The world’s most influential film critic, the late Roger Ebert knew the importance of good direction. That Ebert chose Steve James to direct this exceptional documentary, based on his own memoir, says much about its subject’s character. Ebert always believed in cinema as a machine for generating empathy, citing James’ Hoop Dreams as a classic example. With full access to Ebert during the final months of his life, James brings the same insight here. Critical peers debate his legacy here: did Ebert’s famously populist, “thumbs up” approach to cinema dumb things down, or help to pioneer the internet’s renaissance in grassroots criticism? Meanwhile, directors like Martin Scorsese recount the double-edged sword of Ebert’s patronage: every good review a boost, every bad notice a blow. A truly rounded, complex character emerges, especially in the central relationship with TV show co-host Gene Siskel, Ebert’s equal and opposite. Yet, as the title suggests, there was more to Ebert than watching movies. James reveals parallel lives: the student editor who spoke out for civil rights; the rambunctious reporter nearly destroyed by alcoholism; the mischievous screenwriter behind Russ Meyer’s manic Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. James follows each facet thematically as much as chronologically; the mosaic resembles not only Ebert’s beloved Citizen Kane but also the treasured jigsaw puzzle that provides a stand-out moment. Latterly, of course, there was Ebert the cancer sufferer, robbed of his voice but reaching new readers via his blog. Ordered by Ebert to show “the full reality”, James achieves an unvarnished, desperately sad portrayal of this once towering figure reduced to frailty and discomfort. Ebert eventually becomes too ill even to reply to emails – yet the film’s power lies in its use of archive footage, voiceover and even Ebert’s computerised speech translator to keep the writer’s voice alive.

The feature debut of Irish director brothers Rob and Ronan Burke, Standby is a gentle, funny rom-com for which the term ‘heart-warming’ might have been coined. Alan (Brian Gleeson, son of Brendan) lives a dead-end life, manning the tourist-info desk at Dublin airport, when back into his life swims Alice (Mad Men’s Jessica Paré), with whom he shared a brief romance eight years ago in New York. Her NYC flight’s not till the next day, so he offers her a night on the town – strictly on a platonic basis, of course. Ok, you can guess how it’ll end – but getting there is a delight.

CD Reviews

- Harriet Gibsone

(RCA)

The 2010 X Factor runner-up’s previous albums had a satin-smothered ambience that might be best suited to a yoghurt advert. Nevertheless, Rebecca Ferguson has a melancholic timbre that distinguishes her solo material from that of most other generic reality-TV balladeers. It’s less of an insult to Billie Holiday’s legacy than you might think, then, that Ferguson has decided to interpret a number of songs from the jazz legend’s seventh studio LP, Lady Sings the Blues, plus an additional handful of big-band covers. Her husky, resilient vocals ease effortlessly into these classic tracks, but without the subtext of Holiday’s tragic backstory they are little more than languorous, luxurious exercises in easy listening. (Mercifully, though, there is no attempt at a coffee-table cover of Strange Fruit.) Like Lady Gaga’s pairing with Tony Bennett or Robbie Williams’ recent career, Lady Sings the Blues is a regal step into retro, and a guaranteed dinner-party pleaser. Müller, take note.

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- Andrew Clements

Los Angeles PO/Robertson/Bambert SO/Nott(Cantaloupe)

Completed in 2009, Dystopia is a half-hour “film symphony”, a portrait of Los Angeles with visuals by Bill Morrison and a score by Michael Gordon. As with their earlier 2002 collaboration on Decasia, Morrison’s virtuoso collage of images from decaying nitrate film stock, Gordon’s score may be performed independently of the images, and the recording comes from the concert premiere at the city’s Disney Hall in 2008.

It’s music that goes on a frantic, often exhilarating, journey, setting off at top speed and only occasionally pausing for breath in moments of sliding, swooping instability. Gordon describes it all as “a ride down the freeway at 90 mph with few detours” and though his musical style is fundamentally minimalist and hard-edged, a whole range of earlier musics, from Renaissance counterpoint to drum’n’bass, are part of the mix, too, though the quotations are rarely recognisable. There are moments when its busyness calls to mind another musical portrait of a city, An American in Paris, though Gordon’s cityscape is much more clear-eyed and ambiguous than Gershwin’s. This objectivity doesn’t undermine the moments of striking beauty, though, nor the startlingly imaginative textures and scouring dissonances that are strewn through the score: its power is undeniable.

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- Kate Molleson

Greyfriars Kirk, EdinburghThe BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s principal clarinet revealed iron technique and a gorgeously rounded sound in this programme of Brahms, Howells and Yun

Like a screen actor on the stage or a stadium band unplugged in a jazz bar, it’s hugely illuminating to hear an orchestral musician in a chamber setting. Players who spend their lives following a baton and projecting nuance across a hulking symphonic ensemble are suddenly able to zoom in and take charge; usually the musician in question is thrilled by the chance to whisper rather than shout, and that thrill is no bad starting place for any performance.

The musician in question at this Hebrides Ensemble concert was Yann Ghiro, principal clarinet of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and a stunning player. The Hebrides had already given the programme – three rich-scored clarinet quintets – in Perth at lunchtime, then hightailed it to Edinburgh for a teatime repeat performance. Anyone who has played a wind instrument will know the stamina issues accompanying such a schedule (think wobbly cheeks), but with iron technique, gorgeously rounded sound and the sort of control that makes anything seem possible, Ghiro appeared entirely unfazed.

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- Robin Denselow

Barbican, LondonThe Irish-American five-piece combine soulful ballads and fiddle work in an intense, emotional performance of largely new material

The Gloaming are that rarity: a folk band who manage to be classy, original and commercial. An Irish-American five‑piece of distinguished but very different musicians, they mix tradition with experimentation and are better suited to the concert circuit than clubs or festivals. Tonight’s show came straight after three at Dublin’s National Concert Hall, and directly after this London gig this they were due to fly to WOMADelaide in Australia. Yet despite an exhausting schedule, they produced an intense, emotional performance of almost exclusively new material.

They came on in semi-darkness, with master fiddler Martin Hayes centre‑stage, alongside Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh, who played a modified version of the Norwegian hardanger fiddle, and Hayes’s long-term musical partner, the US guitarist Dennis Cahill. They were joined by the young New York pianist Thomas Bartlett, AKA Doveman, who has worked with the likes of Rufus Wainwright, and by Iarla Ó Lionáird, a man with an exquisite voice but a constantly baleful expression. “I’m sorry if I look gloomy,” he said, “but that’s the way I came out.”

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- Jason Farago

Museum of Modern Art, New YorkFairyland meets the Hard Rock Cafe in this exhibition dedicated to the singer’s unique career. There’s definitely no logic – and not enough history either

The least interesting question you could ask about the Björk retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art is whether she deserves one. The last 30 years in art history are in large part a story of collaborative enterprises, of collapsed boundaries between high art and low, and of the end of divisions between media. Few cultural figures have made the distinctions seem as meaningless as the Icelandic singer who combined trip-hop with 12-tone, and who brought the avant garde to MTV just before both those things disappeared. When even Rihanna is now photographed by the Dutch duo Inez & Vinoodh wearing an Alexander McQueen mask, who can doubt that Björk – who made both the photographers’ and the late designer’s careers – is the master of today’s cultural terrain?

Related: Björk retrospective at MoMA – in pictures

Related: Björk exhibition at MoMA celebrates 'paradigmatic artist of the 90s'

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Book Reviews

Top 5 at a Glance1. THE CONFESSION, by John Grisham2. WORTH DYING FOR, by Lee Child3. AMERICAN ASSASSIN, by Vince Flynn4. THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST, by Stieg Larsson5. SIDE JOBS, by Jim Butcher

Top 5 at a Glance1. LIFE, by Keith Richards with James Fox2. BROKE, by Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe3. EARTH (THE BOOK), by Jon Stewart and others4. THE LAST BOY, by Jane Leavy5. AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN, VOL. 1, by Mark Twain

Top 5 at a Glance1. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, by Stieg Larsson2. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, by Stieg Larsson3. THE FINKLER QUESTION, by Howard Jacobson4. LITTLE BEE, by Chris Cleave5. CUTTING FOR STONE, by Abraham Verghese

Top 5 at a Glance1. THE LOST SYMBOL, by Dan Brown2. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, by Stieg Larsson3. THE RECKLESS BRIDE, by Stephanie Laurens4. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, by Stieg Larsson5. 61 HOURS, by Lee Child

Top 5 at a Glance1. EAT, PRAY, LOVE, by Elizabeth Gilbert2. INSIDE OF A DOG, by Alexandra Horowitz3. STONES INTO SCHOOLS, by Greg Mortenson4. THE GLASS CASTLE, by Jeannette Walls5. THREE CUPS OF TEA, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

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Dates Announced for 2015 PA State 8-Ball Championship

Local Pool Leagues Forming Now in Anticipation of Tournament The Erie Sports Commission is pleased to announce that the Pennsylvania State...

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Shortest Books Ever Written

1. HOW I SERVED MY COUNTRY by Jane Fonda 2. MY BEAUTY SECRETS by Janet Reno 3. HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN AIRPLANE by John Denver 4. MY SUPER...

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Internationally Acclaimed Book of the True Story of Two Holocaust Survivors is Now Available in French

Author and Holocaust survivor Leon Malmed kept a secret for more than 60 years – a secret he has unveiled in his moving book,...

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‘Send This Instead’ App Gives Kids an Alternative to Sexting

Members of the Ontario Provincial Police, Child Sexual Exploitation Unit in Ontario, Canada launch a sexting alternative app for teens...

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Finance Speaker to Focus on Retirement Planning

Financial advisor Ronald R. Walchack to discuss retirement goals March 18  A financial advisor for Ameriprise Financial Services will...