Caesar and Cleopatra

ENTERTAINMENT - There's a new movie about "Caesar and Cleopatra" starring Christopher Plummer and Nikki M. James in the lead roles.

Its actually a Stratford play that has been adapted as a film for the theatres, but its getting rave reviews from many sources ranging from Four to Five stars out of Five.

In addition to being an interracial love story it is also an examination of power structures in a cross-generational romance between teenage sex kitten Cleopatra and the aging lion Caesar.

Christopher Plummer, like Sean Connery, just seems to get better with age and his co-star Nikki M. James is spectacular in the role of Cleopatra.

Unhealthy To Stress Over Ideal Weight

HEALTH - What you think can make you healthy. Or not.

When it comes to what you think about your body it turns out that the more weight you want to lose, (even if you're not overweight in the first place), the more mentally and physically unhealthy days you have every month.

BMI, or actual weight, doesn't have that much to do with it, researchers at Columbia University found, but the desire to lose weight does affect how healthy you are.

It's likely that distorted ideas about what an ideal weight is lead to stress, and that stress precipitates bad-health days.

And distorted ideas are common, especially in women. Only 41 per cent of normal-weight people say they are happy with their weight (only 20 per cent of overweight and 5 per cent of obese people do).

If you want an objective view of your body, don't rely on only your eyes. Instead, focus on how you feel. Use your eating habits, exercise patterns and other lifestyle choices to help you feel strong and energized.

Not working? Try strength training. In one study, women felt more confident after a 12-week weight-training program even if they gained weight during it.

Speaking of brain power: There's a new bonus to good blood sugar control: better recall. It turns out that dysfunctional insulin, a problem that allows blood sugar to get out of control, not only is bad for your organs and arteries, but might also keep you from remembering the name of your prom date, what month it is or who's the latest American Idol winner. One piece of evidence: Men who had low insulin levels at age 50 had a greater risk of Alzheimer's and other types of dementia later in life. It's not clear yet how impaired insulin response bumps up Alzheimer's risk. But it is clear that the less insulin in the brain, the more it develops the hallmarks of that disease. In fact, researchers at Brown University refer to this low brain insulin problem, and the brain changes it's associated with, as "type 3 diabetes."

While researchers haven't yet shown how to prevent type 3 diabetes, it's smart to do what you can to control your blood sugar. Brand-new research found that a low-carb diet (less than 20 g of carbs per day) is better at controlling blood sugar than a low glycemic index (GI) diet.

Boost your blood sugar (Safely): This is one wrinkle you want in your morning oatmeal: dried plums. Adding them to your hot cereal may have huge advantages for your heart. A good source of fibre, what makes them such a great addition to your morning meal is that they're also chock full of polyphenols. These are the compounds that have a reputation for stopping plaque ruptures that could lead to a heart attack or stroke and their sugars appear to be safe for blood-sugar watchers.

From the heart: You don't have to eat raw fish or hard-to-find vegetables to keep your heart healthy. Simply stock up on these common, and delicious, foods:

Red Delicious apples: These are particularly rich in compounds called phenolics that make those blood fats more stable, so they're less likely to oxidize, stick to the walls of your arteries, and cause a dangerous blockage.

Sesame seeds: Women who took a little more than 3 tablespoons of sesame seed powder daily for five days reduced their total and bad (LDL) cholesterol.

They also had higher levels of heart-protective vitamin E and lower blood levels of substances linked to cell damage.

Walnuts: Studies have found that an ounce of these nuts a day decreases the incidence of heart disease a whopping 60 per cent. Walnuts are highest in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce triglycerides, stabilize your heartbeat, make platelets less sticky and may knock down blood pressure.

Salmon, catfish, flounder: Fatty fish like these are high in heart-protecting omega-3 fatty acids (and low in mercury and PCBs).

Beans: Fibre-rich beans may help reduce levels of C-reactive protein, an indicator of heart disease risk. Black beans, with 7 grams of fibre per half cup, are an easy way to fill your fibre quota (25 grams a day).

Fight Fat: Sometimes turning a scrumptious meal into a health- and weight-friendly superstar is just a matter of making a few changes:

Concentrate sauces. Let the excess water boil off. This enhances the flavour without additives like fat, salt or sugar.

Choose applesauce, prunes and bananas instead of butter and shortening in your favourite baking recipes. This improves heart health, since it takes away fat (but leaves in moisture).

Use the right tools: A blender can purée vegetables so you use less or no cream in soups and sauces.

Non-stick pans and grills allow you to cook with less oil.

Parchment paper is a terrific alternative to greasing a pan.

Freeze your herbs. Buy fresh and freeze the rest if you can't buy small quantities. Another solution: Grow your own.

A Shoppers Drug Mart Locks Up Black Hair Products

CANADA - Some people are decrying a Nova Scotia drugstore's decision to keep several of its hair-care products for black customers under lock and key.

While some balms and creams for black hair were openly available on an adjacent shelf, customers are required to ask a clerk to unlock the cabinet if they want a closer look or to buy any of the products inside.

Only merchandise aimed at black customers, however, was locked inside the cabinet — a retail practice that some said was insulting.

"It's very degrading, as a black person, to hear that," said Gavin Griffiths, a client at nearby Ebony Hair Salon.

Salon owner Elvera Ross said to lock up some products and not others sends a specific message to customers.

"It's the perception that they have that there's a lot of black people that are shoplifters, [which] they aren't," she said.

"It's just that perception that people have, and it's something that has to change."

The owner of the Shoppers Drug Mart referred questions to the store's head office, where a spokesperson said she was looking into the matter.

Those offended by the retail practice, however, say it's been going on for years.

"We're behind the times, you know? As [U.S. President Barack] Obama said, we need a change. We all should be treated as equal," Ross said.

Eartha Kitt - January 17, 1927 to December 25, 2008

ENTERTAINMENT - Kitt was born Eartha Mae Keith on a cotton plantation in the town of North, South Carolina, a small town in Orangeburg County near Columbia, South Carolina. Her mother was of African-American and Cherokee descent and her father of German and Dutch descent.

Raised by her mother's sister, Anna Mae Riley, an African-American woman whom she believed to be her mother. Kitt claimed that she suffered abuse and neglect at the hands of a family to whom Anna Mae Riley entrusted her—"given away for slavery," as she described it in many interviews. Kitt said that as she was given away, she always wondered who would accept her and was afraid of being rejected. After Riley's death, she was sent to live in New York City with Mamie Kitt, who she learned was her biological mother; she had no knowledge of her father, except that his surname was Kitt and that he was supposedly a son of the owner of the farm where she had been born. Newspaper obituaries state that her white father was "a poor cotton farmer.

Eartha Kitt began her career as a member of the Katherine Dunham Company and made her film debut with them in Casbah (1948). A talented singer with a distinctive voice, her hits include "Let's Do It", "Champagne Taste", "C'est si bon", "Just an Old Fashioned Girl", "Monotonous", "Je cherche un homme", "Love for Sale", "I'd Rather Be Burned as a Witch", "Uska Dara", "Mink, Schmink", "Under the Bridges of Paris", and her most recognizable hit, "Santa Baby", which was released in 1953. Kitt's unique style was enhanced as she became fluent in the French language during her years performing in Europe. She had some skill in other languages too, which she demonstrates with finesse in many of the live recordings of her cabaret performances.

In 1950, Orson Welles gave her her first starring role, as Helen of Troy in his staging of Dr. Faustus. Orson Welles called her "the most exciting girl in the world". A few years later, she was cast in the revue New Faces of 1952 introducing "Monotonous" and "Bal, Petit Bal", two songs with which she continues to be identified. In 1954, 20th Century Fox filmed a version of the revue simply titled New Faces. Though it's often falsely alleged that Welles and Kitt had an affair during her run in Shinbone Alley, Kitt categorically denied this in a June 2001 interview with George Wayne of Vanity Fair. "I never had sex with Orson Welles," Kitt told Vanity Fair, "It was a working situation and nothing else". In 1958, Kitt made her feature film debut opposite Sidney Poitier in The Mark of the Hawk. Throughout the rest of the 1950s and early 1960s, Kitt would work on and off in film, television and on nightclub stages. In 1964, Kitt helped open the Circle Star Theater in San Carlos, California. Also in the 1960s, the television series Batman featured her as Catwoman after Julie Newmar left the role.

However, in 1968, during the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, Kitt encountered a substantial professional setback after she made anti-war statements during a White House luncheon. "In 1968 she was invited to a White House luncheon and was asked by Lady Bird Johnson about the Vietnam War. She replied: 'You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot.' The remark reportedly caused Mrs. Johnson to burst into tears and led to a derailment in Ms. Kitt's career." The public reaction to Kitt's statements was much more extreme, both for and against her statements. Publicly ostracized in the US, she devoted her energies to overseas performances.

During that time, cultural references to her grew, including outside the United States, such as the well-known Monty Python sketch "The Cycling Tour", where an amnesiac believes he is first Clodagh Rodgers, then Trotsky and finally Eartha Kitt (while performing to an enthusiastic crowd in Moscow). She returned to New York in a triumphant turn in the Broadway spectacle Timbuktu! (a version of the perennial Kismet set in Africa) in 1978. In the musical, one song gives a "recipe" for mahoun, a preparation of cannabis, in which her sultry purring rendition of the refrain "constantly stirring with a long wooden spoon" was distinctive.

In 1984, she returned to the music charts with a disco song, "Where Is My Man", the first certified gold record of her career. "Where Is My Man" reached the Top 40 on the UK Singles Chart, where it peaked at #36. The song also made the Top 10 on the US Billboard dance chart, where it reached #7. The single was followed by the album "I Love Men" on the Record Shack label. Kitt found new audiences in nightclubs across the UK and the US, including a whole new generation of gay male fans, and she responded by frequently giving benefit performances in support of HIV/AIDS organizations. Her 1989 follow-up hit "Cha-Cha Heels" (featuring Bronski Beat), which was originally intended to be recorded by Divine, received a positive response from UK dance clubs and reached #32 in the charts in that country.

In 1992, Kitt had a supporting role as Lady Eloise in the hit film Boomerang starring Eddie Murphy. In the late 1990s, she appeared as the Wicked Witch of the West in the North American national touring company of The Wizard of Oz. In 2000, Kitt again returned to Broadway in the short-lived run of Michael John LaChiusa's The Wild Party opposite Mandy Patinkin and Toni Collette. Beginning in late 2000, she starred as the Fairy Godmother in the US national tour of Cinderella alongside Deborah Gibson and then Jamie-Lynn Sigler. In 2003, she replaced Chita Rivera in Nine. She reprised her role as the Fairy Godmother at a special engagement of Cinderella, which took place at Lincoln Center during the holiday season of 2004.

One of her more unusual roles was as Kaa the python in a 1994 BBC Radio adaptation of The Jungle Book. Kitt lent her distinctive voice to the role of Yzma in Disney's The Emperor's New Groove, for which she won her first Annie Award, and returned to the role in the straight-to-video sequel Kronk's New Groove and the spin-off TV series The Emperor's New School, for which she won two Emmy Awards and two more Annie Awards (both in 2007–08) for Voice Acting in an Animated Television Production. She had a voiceover as the voice of Queen Vexus on the animated TV series My Life as a Teenage Robot.

In recent years, Kitt's annual appearances in New York made her a fixture on the Manhattan cabaret scene. She would take the stage at venues such as the Ballroom and the Café Carlyle to explore and define her highly stylized image, alternating between signature songs such as Old Fashioned Millionaire, which emphasized a witty, mercenary world-weariness, and less familiar repertoire, much of which she performed with an unexpected ferocity and bite that presented her as a survivor with a seemingly bottomless reservoir of resilience: her version of "Here's to Life", frequently used as a closing number, was a sterling example of the latter. This facet of her later performances was reflected in at least one of her recordings, Thinking Jazz, which preserved a series of performances with a small jazz combo that took place in the early 1990s in Germany and which included both standards ("Smoke Gets in Your Eyes") and numbers ("Something May Go Wrong") that seemed more specifically tailored to her talents; one version of the CD includes as bonus performances a fierce, angry Yesterday and a live rendering of "C'est Si Bon" that good-naturedly satirized her sex-kitten persona.

From October to early December, 2006, Kitt co-starred in the Off-Broadway musical Mimi le Duck. She also appeared in the 2007 independent film And Then Came Love opposite Vanessa L. Williams.

In 1978, she did the voice-over in a TV commercial for the album Aja by the rock group Steely Dan.

After romances with the cosmetics magnate Charles Revson and banking heir John Barry Ryan III, she was married to John William McDonald, an associate of a real-estate investment company, from June 6, 1960, to 1965. They had one child, a daughter, Kitt (b. 1962, married Charles Lawrence Shapiro). Eartha had two grandchildren, Jason and Rachel Shapiro. A long-time Connecticut resident, Kitt lived in a converted barn on a sprawling farm in the Merryall section of New Milford for many years and was active in local charities and causes throughout Litchfield County. Subsequently moving to Pound Ridge, New York, then in 2002 Kitt moved to the southern Fairfield County town of Weston, Connecticut to be near her daughter's family.

Kitt became a vocal advocate for gay rights and publicly supported same-sex marriage, which she believed to be a civil right. She had been quoted as saying: "I support it [gay marriage] because we're asking for the same thing. If I have a partner and something happens to me, I want that partner to enjoy the benefits of what we have reaped together. It's a civil-rights thing, isn't it?"

Kitt wrote three autobiographies – Thursday's Child (1956), Alone with Me (1976), and I'm Still Here: Confessions of a Sex Kitten (1989).

Kitt was the spokesperson for MAC Cosmetics' Smoke Signals collection in August 2007. She re-recorded "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" for the occasion, was showcased on the MAC website, and the song was played at all MAC locations carrying the collection for the month.

Kitt died from colon cancer on December 25, 2008 at her Weston, Connecticut home at the age of 81.

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