Stories for January 2007

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Wednesday, January 31

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Review: Lost Planet (360)

This title had a ton of potential. It had an interesting setting, visually interesting alien creatures, gorgeous graphics, and realistic audio. However, it's obvious that Capcom needed to spend far more time ensuring that the game was actually fun to play.

Exhibit features local artists, students

CornerBank's current art show features colorful paints by local artists Susan Ashline and Vaughn Cowden and several sculptures by two KU graduate students, Dave Werdin-Kennicott and Stephanie Sailer.

Tuesday, January 30

Review: Dreamgirls

Based on the 1981 hit Broadway play, Dreamgirls has been hyped all year as a frontrunner for Best Picture, and now that it has finally arrived, it turns out to be as phony as Pat Boone covering a Little Richard tune. It is big and showy and loud, but director Bill Condon's attempts to make the movie more socially relevant than the theatrical production just serve to highlight what little soul was there in the first place.

Monday, January 29

'Pan's Labyrinth' a bewitching fairy tale for adults

If you think about it, fairy tales have always been pretty brutal. There's Hansel and Gretel-two abandoned children who are kidnapped by an old woman who plans to devour them.

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Where All The Lights Are Bright

Lawrence's longest-lived fine dining restaurant settles in downtown

At nine on Friday nights, the sounds of Luxe Soul fill the Star Bar in the back of Pachamama's. Well-behaved patrons of all stripes lounge in plush armchairs, quaffing wine and grazing on artfully presented appetizers. As the night deepens, they dance.

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An 'inappropriate female'

Transgender artist Dylan Scholinski's trials of sexual identity

Born "Daphne," painter and author Dylan Scholinski was institutionalized in a mental hospital for nearly four years after not exhibiting "appropriate" female behavior in high school.

Young black American

Dred violinist DBR pays tribute to civil rights icons

Daniel Bernard Roumain's music moves easily between hip-hop and Handel-a collision of influences DBR refers to as "dred violin." In conversation, he moves just as easily among diverse topics, but always with the same sense of urgency present in his music.

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Strange sorrows

KU opera melds the grotesque and the sexy in "The Tales of Hoffmann"

When KU associate professor of opera Tim Ocel started planning his original staging of Jacques Offenbach's famed opera The Tales of Hoffmann over a year ago, he drew a strange but natural connection between the opera's protagonist-real-life German Romantic author E.T.A. Hoffmann-and Austrian painter Egon Schiele, an eccentric who died young and was known for his tormented nude portraits.

Actual news*

*based on actual news

Style scout: Wes Sharpton

Style scout: Kim Callaway

Sunday, January 28

'Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty' composes darkly comic future

Guy Fontaine, a 72-but-looks-62-years-old transplant to California, is playing golf when he feels the ground shift. Only it's not an earthquake. It's a mind quake, and in minutes, Guy is happily piloting his 1958 Bel Aire down a familiar Oklahoma road.

Saturday, January 27

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Hop Wings

KC correspondent Miles Bonny drops in The Peanut for Hip Hop and Hot Wings

The Peanut's atmostphere is friendly and full of characters-imagine a hip hop version of Cheers. However this environment is not just for those in the know. All those people interested in experiencing the atmosphere and energy-and the hot wings-are made to feel welcome.

Solid faith

KU scientist balances her career as a chemist with her career serving God

When Dinah Dutta was 14, her father - a Christian pastor - gave her a choice. She needed to decide if she would be Christian or Hindu.

Event to explore teen relationships

In its fourth year, the Straight Up Beautiful conference at Morning Star Church is entering uncharted territory.

Friday, January 26

Review: The Hitcher

"The Hitcher" is the latest bland attempt to scare teens of today by updating a movie their parents probably watched a generation ago. And it's no more -- or less -- successful than recent spins on "When a Stranger Calls," "The Amityville Horror" or "Black Christmas."

Art al a Carte

Welcome to Art a la Carte. I'm Journal-World arts editor Mindie Paget.

"Smokin' Aces" commits grand larceny

The non-stop superficial mugging of "Smokin' Aces" would not even have been cool if it had come out twelve years ago, when Tarantino rip-offs were as common as a Hootie & the Blowfish hit single. This movie is so bad it makes "2 Days in the Valley" seem like "The French Connection."

Pulse video: Cow landscapes

Rachael Sudlow often can be found out in the country, taking photos of cows.

Found sound

KU's Music and Dance Library showcases recorded works

One library on the Kansas University campus is as focused on sound as it is words. As such, don't expect the librarians at the Thomas Gorton Music and Dance Library to go around shushing patrons for being too noisy ... that's part of the place's function.

Local radio station hopes to re-establish Lazer's attitude

There won't be any more ZZ Top heard on Lawrence's X 92.9 FM. This month the classic rock station changed to a format of "active rock," which means listeners can expect about two-thirds contemporary artists such as Godsmack and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as cuts from bygone '90s acts such as Nirvana and Alice in Chains.

Wednesday, January 24

'Good German' recalls but cannot duplicate old Hollywood magic

From its handsome black-and-white images and heavy use of shadows to its low-key lighting and back-projected car backgrounds, "The Good German" is a loving tribute to the noir melodramas of the 1940s and 50s. It's a shame that the film can't muster the emotional weight that marks the best of those movies.

Lawrence author tips her hand with debut of mystery novel

In the middle of Illinois, on a long return trip from visiting family in Canada, Elisabeth Lee plucked a heroine from a couple of road signs.

Monday, January 22

Station's format change may yield more airtime for local music

Lawrence bands could have a new outlet for their music after radio station X 92.9 FM switched formats this week from classic rock to "active rock" and promised to play local music.

Actual news*

*based on actual news

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Nashville Rising Star

Five years after leaving Lawrence to take a shot a country music fame, Ashley Ray gets her break

Brace yourself for a familiar story, a Nashville story. A starry-eyed girl from middle America story, with humble beginnings and small triumphs and heartbreaks, and in the end the girl gets a major record contract. Brace yourself for a make-it-or-break-it story, cliches and all.

Leave Home!

Fledgling rockers The Kinetiks take their act on the road

Huddled around an atlas at a coffeehouse table, the Kinetiks are planning their first tour.

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Touched by an Anglo

Comedian Jim Gaffigan brings his "Beyond the Pale" tour to Lawrence

He's pasty, balding and otherwise your typical wad of doughy Midwestern albinism, but Jim Gaffigan is a comedy rock star.

Style scout: Nathan Jenkins

Style scout: Elizabeth Steranko

Sunday, January 21

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Review: Elebits (Wii)

Elebits is one of those titles that's so Japanese that it's surprising to see it come stateside. It's got a ridiculously absurd story, a unique control scheme, and somewhat odd gameplay mechanics, but it winds up working out very well.

National Symphony Orchestra to perform

Kansas University's Lied Center presents the National Symphony Orchestra in a performance at 7:30 p.m. March 28.

State of the arts

Recent gallery closings spur creative community to rethink the scene

Sometimes it takes bad news to shake people out of complacency. That might be the best way to describe what's going on at the moment in Lawrence's visual art community.

Friday, January 19

Local sketch comedy ensemble presents 'Year in Review' shows

While 2006 was characterized by war, scandals and political upheaval, one group thought the year was actually quite funny.

The name game

Bands try to solve the daunting puzzle of what to be called

While in Las Vegas last year to fulfill best man duties for my friend Jeff, we were killing time at the Mandalay Bay blackjack tables when we noticed a band starting to set up. The group of six had all the markings of a cheesy casino cover act: They were color-coordinated in red attire. Some had hats on. Some had mullets. One guy sported a keyboard tie. Jeff and I began a series of increasingly ridiculous guesses as to what the dreadful act's name might be:

'Iwo Jima' reveals enemy's POV

Is it sympathy for the devil to make a film about Japanese soldiers in World War II who are human beings, not fiends from a propaganda pamphlet? A film that shows American troops, like their adversaries, committing battlefield atrocities?

Thursday, January 18

Cast reunites for second 'Jest'

It can be hard to be part of a traditional Jewish family - especially when no one is Jewish.

Wednesday, January 17

Eastwood's 'Iwo Jima' looks familiar

Clint Eastwood's second World War II drama of the year, "Letters From Iwo Jima" is a more focused film than "Flags of Our Fathers," riffing on the classic anti-war themes of the best of American war movies. Ironically, it is almost entirely subtitled and spoken in Japanese. The soldiers of the Empire look awfully familiar, and many of them don't believe that the war is a good idea. Nevertheless, they will fight to the death against insurmountable odds for a country that knows they will perish.

Monday, January 15

Kansas atheist "Maggot Punks" fight the right

The Maggot Punks are a bawdy band of atheists and agnostics based out of Wichita who have been baiting anti-abortion activists (whom the Punks refer to as just "antis") since 2002.

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Packing Serious Wood

Log Lady aims to set cities on flame with rock and roll

Call them purists, retro-rockers, or deconstructionists and the three members of Log Lady nod in agreement. Call them cock-rockers and they smile.

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Ad Nauseam

A peek behind the curtain of a local restaurant's advertising l-l-l-landslide

A pretty blonde in a white dress shakes her hips and makes love to the microphone: Come with me, baby. Spangles got the shakes going on. Oooh, come with me, baby. Spangles is shakin' up some fun.

Style Scout: Charley Downey

Style Scout: Becca Evanhoe

Actual news*

*based on actual news

Saturday, January 13

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Accessory Review: Guitar Mania amplifier (PS2, 360)

I love The Ant Commandos' obvious (and fully warranted) enthusiasm for Guitar Hero, but there are only so many ways to improve on the already-excellent experience.

Review: Metal Slug Anthology (Wii)

I'd imagine that if game developers snorted about four pounds of cocaine, watched the first scene of Saving Private Ryan repeatedly, and played Contra for a week, something like Metal Slug would be the result.

In honor of the fallen

City's newest public artwork pays homage to firefighters killed in duty

The figure is a firefighter, larger than life at 7 feet 8 inches tall. He's peering forward valiantly, as if toward a burning building he's about to enter. To artist Benjamin Victor, the sculpture represents the bravery of an entire profession.

Friday, January 12

'Invisibles' gets lost in translation

There must have been some charm to the French blend of animation and live action titled "Arthur et les Minimoys," a fantasy concocted by the director of "The Fifth Element."

The kids in the hall

Kansas Music Hall of Fame honors inductees from its junior class

Jim Stringer loved to go hear The Silver Tones in the early 1960s; he just wasn't allowed to see the band. "I was too young to get into The Soc Hop," Stringer recalls of the Overland Park club.

Regional contest gears up to recruit music fest talent

The Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival sold tickets to concertgoers from all 50 states last year. Now the Lawrence festival is launching a program to offer fledgling bands from many of those states the opportunity to play the 2007 event.

Thursday, January 11

Dench does dark in 'Notes on a Scandal'

Sometimes being pigeonholed can be a good thing. Take, for instance, "Notes on a Scandal," the latest Judi Dench movie. It comes out during awards season -- like most of her movies do -- to help secure the highly respected British actress another Oscar nomination. (When she gets one for this movie, it will be her sixth.) We have come to expect Dame Dench to play the older lady who bucks some kind of societal tradition in a charming but fairly safe manner in a lavish period piece.

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The scan man

By chance, Lawrence man adopts scanner as new artistic medium

Bill Bowerman's family has learned to spot that twinkle in his eye. It's the spark that flashes when he gets his hands on something that might look interesting in his artwork. When they see that light, they know they might as well say goodbye to Bowerman and whatever he's holding.

Monday, January 8

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Review: Resistance (PS3)

If it weren't for this game, the PS3 launch would have been much more of a debacle than it already was. Because of Resistance, however, purchasers of the system have access to a launch title that is better than Halo in virtually every aspect.

Review: Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy (Wii)

Most players can appreciate it for its comedic presentation and interesting weapons and levels, but there's just not enough depth in the gameplay itself to warrant much replay.

No more Excuses

New year presents opportunity to try something you've always wanted to do

Let's face it: The beginning of the new year is as much about breaking resolutions as making them, as much about excuses as goals. So, this year, why not pick one way to better yourself and stick to it? Heck, it might even be something fun.

Sunday, January 7

Ordinary heroes

Play recognizes women's contributions to civil rights movement

Six women - black, white, Catholic, Jewish, Presbyterian, college graduates, high-school dropouts, poor and rich. What could they have in common?

Saturday, January 6

Hybrid hymns

Doctoral student fuses gospel and classical music into seamless melodies

Most advanced piano players don't go to college to learn how to play gospel music. Then again, not all of them think like James Cockman. Cockman, a doctoral student at Kansas University, can play the works of the classical masters. And he can play the old standby hymns that are standard at churches.

Friday, January 5

Dixie Chicks' 'Shut Up and Sing' a shrewd PR move

In 2003, Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines made a now-famous offhand comment about President Bush at a London concert. "We're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas." Coming just as the U.S. military was gearing up to attack Iraq, it was real bad timing.

Chicks embrace controversy in 'Sing'

It all seems too quaint now: the "boycott," the death threats, the CD-trashing parties, enraged protesters at fluffy pop concerts The idea that there were performers who had the temerity to question America's rush to invade Iraq in 2003, to mock America's now increasingly mocked chief executive pushing for it - and the price they paid - feels like ancient history.

Thursday, January 4

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Warning: Smoking May Considerably Alter Social Life

Not so many moons ago, smoking had little effect on the structure of your life. No more effect than, say, a caffeine habit. Working, eating, going out, staying in-most anything could be done with a cigarette in your mouth.

Wednesday, January 3

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Review: Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam (Wii)

As a longtime fan of the series, I was intrigued at the idea of changing the fundamentals of the game engine. Unfortunately, Downhill Jam is in no way more entertaining than the standard series.

Review: Xiaolin Showdown (PSP)

Its presentation is right on for the source material, but the shortcomings of its gameplay and its general lack of originality will be a big turn off for anyone else.

Tuesday, January 2

Review: Red Steel (Wii)

If Red Steel were released on any console but the Wii, it would come and go without anyone paying any notice. It would be another generic, sub-par FPS that offers absolutely nothing new.

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Honorable Mention

Barbering Hizzoner Mike Amyx looks back on a bumpy year of civic uncertainty, bar violence, a microburst and more

Street Level deftly swivels a barber's chair to talk about the last year face-to-face with Mayor Mike Amyx about guns, the weather, and facing south for more than 30 years.

'Children of Men' hits close to home

A rare blend of serious science fiction and pulse-pounding action, director Alfonso Cuarón's "Children of Men" is the best film of the year. Despite a gloomy apocalyptic setting (that serves as a cautionary warning for us all today), it remains a movie about hope against all odds. The kicker is that this catastrophic future is one that closely resembles an all-too-familiar present.