Category: Entertainment

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Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac Singer-Songwriter, Dies at 79

Christine McVie, the British-born Fleetwood Mac vocalist, songwriter and keyboard player whose cool, soulful contralto helped define such classics as “You Make Loving Fun,” “Everywhere” and “Don’t Stop,” has died at age 79. 

Her death was announced Wednesday on the band’s social media accounts. No cause of death or other details were immediately provided, but a family statement said she “passed away peacefully at hospital this morning” with family around her after a “short illness.” 

“She was truly one-of-a-kind, special and talented beyond measure,” the band’s statement reads in part. 

McVie was a steady presence and personality in a band known for its frequent lineup changes and volatile personalities — notably fellow singer-songwriters Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. 

Fleetwood Mac started out as a London blues band in the 1960s and evolved into one of the defining makers of 1970s California pop-rock, with the combined talents of McVie, Nicks and Buckingham anchored by the rhythm section of founder Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass. 

During its peak commercial years, from 1975 to 1980, the band sold tens of millions of records and was an ongoing source of fascination for fans as it transformed personal battles into melodic, compelling songs. McVie herself had been married to John McVie, and their breakup — along with the split of Nicks and Buckingham — was famously documented on the 1977 release “Rumours,” among the bestselling albums of all time. 

Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. The group’s many other hit singles included Nicks’ “Dreams,” Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way” and McVie’s “Little Lies.” One of McVie’s most beloved works, the thoughtful ballad “Songbird,” was a showcase for her in concert and covered by Willie Nelson, among others. 

McVie, born Christine Perfect in Bouth, Lancashire, had been playing piano since childhood, but set aside her classical training once she heard early rock records by Fats Domino and others. 

While studying at the Moseley School of Art, she befriended various members of Britain’s emerging blues scene, and in her 20s joined the band Chicken Shack as a singer and piano player. Among the rival bands she admired was Fleetwood Mac, which then featured the talents of blues guitarist Peter Green, along with the rhythm section of Fleetwood and McVie. By 1970, she had joined the group and married John McVie. 

Few bands succeeded so well as Fleetwood Mac, against such long odds. Green was among the many performers who left the group, and at various times, Fleetwood Mac seemed on the verge of ending or fading away. More recently, Buckingham was kicked out, replaced on tour by Mike Campbell and Neil Finn. 

McVie herself left for years, only to return for good in 2014. 

 

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UN Puts Baguette on Cultural Heritage List

The humble baguette — the crunchy ambassador for French baking around the world — is being added to the U.N.’s list of intangible cultural heritage as a cherished tradition to be preserved by humanity.

UNESCO experts gathering in Morocco this week decided that the simple French flute — made only of flour, water, salt, and yeast — deserved U.N. recognition, after France’s culture ministry warned of a “continuous decline” in the number of traditional bakeries, with some 400 closing every year over the past half-century.

The U.N. cultural agency’s chief, Audrey Azoulay, said the decision honors more than just bread; it recognizes the “savoir-faire of artisanal bakers” and “a daily ritual.”

“It is important that these craft knowledge and social practices can continue to exist in the future,” added Azoulay, a former French culture minister.

With the bread’s new status, the French government said it planned to create an artisanal baguette day, called the “Open Bakehouse Day,” to connect the French better with their heritage.

Back in France, bakers seemed proud, if unsurprised.

“Of course, it should be on the list because the baguette symbolizes the world. It’s universal,” said Asma Farhat, baker at Julien’s Bakery near Paris’ Champs-Elysee avenue.

“If there’s no baguette, you cant have a proper meal. In the morning you can toast it, for lunch it’s a sandwich, and then it accompanies dinner.”

Despite the decline in traditional bakery numbers, France’s 67 million people still remain voracious baguette consumers — purchased at a variety sales points, including in supermarkets. The problem is, observers say, that they can often be poor in quality.

“It’s very easy to get bad baguette in France. It’s the traditional baguette from the traditional bakery that’s in danger. It’s about quality not quantity,” said one Paris resident, Marine Fourchier, 52.

In January, French supermarket chain Leclerc was criticized by traditional bakers and farmers for its much publicized 29-cent baguette, accused of sacrificing the quality of the famed 65-centimeter (26-inch) loaf. A baguette normally costs just over 90 euro cents (just over $1), seen by some as an index on the health of the French economy.

The baguette is serious business. France’s “Bread Observatory” — a venerable institution that closely follows the fortunes of the flute — notes that the French munch through 320 baguettes of one form or another every second. That’s an average of half a baguette per person per day, and 10 billion every year.

Although it seems like the quintessential French product, the baguette was said to have been invented by Vienna-born baker August Zang in 1839. Zang put in place France’s steam oven, making it possible to produce bread with a brittle crust yet fluffy interior.

The product’s zenith did not come until the 1920s, with the advent of a French law preventing bakers from working before 4 a.m. The baguette’s long, thin shape meant it could be made more quickly than its stodgy cousins, so it was the only bread that bakers could make in time for breakfast.

The “artisanal know-how and culture of baguette bread” was inscribed at the Morocco meeting among other global cultural heritage items, including Japan’s Furyu-odori ritual dances, and Cuba’s light rum masters.

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Women Enter World of Breakdancing

Breakdancing is breaking new ground with the sport’s inclusion in the 2024 Paris Olympics, and scores of women are entering the traditionally male-dominated activity. Aron Ranen has the story from New York City.

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Afghan Refugee Opens Store in Texas to Keep Culture Alive

Ajmal Zazai, who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover, now runs a store in San Antonio, Texas, selling traditional Afghan clothes and carpets For VOA, Zabiullah Ghazi has the story, narrated by Nazrana Yousufzai. Roshan Noorzai contributed.

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Protester With Rainbow Flag Runs onto Field at World Cup 

A protester ran onto the field Monday carrying a rainbow flag and wearing a blue Superman T-shirt that said, “SAVE UKRAINE” on the front and “RESPECT FOR IRANIAN WOMAN” on the back during a World Cup match between Portugal and Uruguay.

Security officials chased the protester down, and the flag was dropped on the field before the person was escorted off the field. The referee then picked up the flag and left it on the sideline, where it stayed for a few moments before a worker came and collected it.

The spectator was ushered away through a tunnel. It wasn’t immediately clear if the protester faced any charges or had been detained by police.

In the first week of the tournament in Qatar, seven European teams lost the battle to wear multicolored “One Love” armbands during World Cup matches. Fans also complained they weren’t allowed to bring items with rainbow colors, a symbol of LGBTQ rights, into the stadiums of the conservative Islamic emirate.

Qatar’s laws against gay sex and treatment of LGBTQ people were flashpoints in the run-up to the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East. Qatar has said everyone was welcome, including LGBTQ fans, but that visitors should respect the nation’s culture.

The incident occurred during the second half of the game at Lusail Stadium.

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Vintage Magazines Tell Tale of Turkish City’s Literary Past

An exhibition in Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir gives viewers an in-depth look at local periodicals and other publications that are more than a century old. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan has the story, narrated by Bezhan Hamdard. Videographer: Mahmut Bozarslan

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Monkeys in Central Thailand City Mark Their Day With Feast 

A meal fit for monkeys was served on Sunday at the annual Monkey Feast Festival in central Thailand.  

Amid the morning traffic, rows of monkey statues holding trays were lined up outside the compound of the Ancient Three Pagodas, while volunteers prepared food across the road for real monkeys — the symbol of the province around 150 kilometers north of Bangkok. 

Throngs of macaque monkeys ran around, at times fighting with each other, while the crowds of visitors and locals grew.  

As the carefully prepared feast was brought toward the temple, the ravenous creatures began to pounce and were soon devouring the largely vegetarian spread. 

While the entertainment value of the festival is high, organizers are quick to point out that it is not just monkey business. 

“This monkey feast festival is a successful event that helps promote Lopburi’s tourism among international tourists every year,” said Yongyuth Kitwatanusont, the festival’s founder. 

“Previously, there were around 300 monkeys in Lopburi before increasing to nearly 4,000 nowadays. But Lopburi is known as a monkey city, which means monkeys and people can live in harmony.” 

Such harmony could be seen in the lack of shyness exhibited by the monkeys, which climbed on to visitors, vehicles and lampposts. At times the curious animals looked beyond the abundant feast and took an interest in other items.  

“There was a monkey on my back as I was trying to take a selfie. He grabbed the sunglasses right off my face and ran off on to the top of a lamppost and was trying to eat them for a while,” said Ayisha Bhatt, an English teacher from California working in Thailand. 

The delighted onlookers were largely undeterred by the risk of petty theft, although some were content to exercise caution. 

“We have to take care with them, better leave them to it. Not too near is better,” said Carlos Rodway, a tourist from Cadiz, Spain, having previously been unceremoniously treated as a climbing frame by one audacious monkey.

The festival is an annual tradition in Lopburi and held as a way to show gratitude to the monkeys for bringing in tourism. This year’s theme is “monkeys feeding monkeys,” an antidote to previous years where monkey participation had decreased due to high numbers of tourists, which intimidated the animals. 

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‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ Singer-Actor Irene Cara Dies at 63

Oscar, Golden Globe and two-time Grammy winning singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance … What a Feeling” from 1983’s “Flashdance,” has died. She was 63.

Her publicist, Judith A. Moose, announced the news on social media, writing that a cause of death was “currently unknown.” Moose also confirmed the death to a reporter for The Associated Press Saturday. Cara died at her home in Florida. The exact day of her death was not disclosed.

“Irene’s family has requested privacy as they process their grief,” Moose wrote. “She was a beautifully gifted soul whose legacy will live forever through her music and films.”

During her career, Cara had three Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including “Breakdance,” “Out Here On My Own,” “Fame” and “Flashdance … What A Feeling,” which spent six weeks at No. 1. She was behind some of the most joyful, high-energy pop anthems of the early ’80s.

Tributes poured in Saturday on social media, including from Deborah Cox, who called Cara an inspiration, and Holly Robinson Peete, who recalled seeing Cara perform: “The insane combination of talent and beauty was overwhelming to me. This hurts my heart so much.”

Movie fame started with the movie ‘Fame’

Cara first came to prominence among the young actors playing performing arts high schoolers in Alan Parker’s “Fame,” with co-stars Debbie Allen, Paul McCrane and Anne Mear. Cara played Coco Hernandez, a striving dancer who endures all manner of deprivations, including a creepy nude photo shoot.

“How bright our spirits go shooting out into space, depends on how much we contributed to the earthly brilliance of this world. And I mean to be a major contributor!” she says in the movie.

Cara sang on the soaring title song with the chorus — “Remember my name/I’m gonna live forever/I’m gonna learn how to fly/I feel it coming together/People will see me and cry” — which would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award for best original song. She also sang on “Out Here on My Own,” “Hot Lunch Jam” and “I Sing the Body Electric.”

Three years later, she and the songwriting team of “Flashdance” — music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Keith Forsey and Cara — accepted the Oscar for best original song for “Flashdance … What a Feeling.”

The movie starred Jennifer Beals as a steel-town girl who dances in a bar at night and hopes to attend a prestigious dance conservatory. It included the hit song “Maniac,” featuring Beals’ character leaping, spinning, stomping her feet and the slow-burning theme song.

“There aren’t enough words to express my love and my gratitude,” Cara told the Oscar crowd in her thanks. “And last but not least, a very special gentlemen who I guess started it all for me many years ago. To Alan Parker, wherever you may be tonight, I thank him.”

Career started on Broadway

The New York-born Cara began her career on Broadway, with small parts in short-lived shows, although a musical called “The Me Nobody Knows” ran over 300 performances. She toured in the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” as Mary Magdalene in the mid-1990s and a tour of the musical “Flashdance” toured 2012-14 with her songs.

She also created the all-female band Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel and put out a double CD with the single “How Can I Make You Luv Me.” Her movie credits include “Sparkle” and “D.C. Cab.”

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Lewandowski Scores at World Cup, Poland Beats Saudis 2-0

Robert Lewandowski at last scored a goal in a World Cup match Saturday, helping Poland beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 and boosting his team’s chances of reaching the knockout stages.

Lewandowski shed tears after scoring in the 82nd minute. He raced toward the corner with his arms outstretched, then slumped on the field as teammates rushed to congratulate him. He got up, rubbed his face, and blew a kiss to the crowd.

“Today everything I had inside, the dreams, the importance of the occasion, all those dreams from my childhood came through,” Lewandowski said. “It was so significant.”

One of the best forwards in the world, Lewandowski’s barren streak at the World Cup was somewhat puzzling. Now, in his fifth match at the tournament, it’s over.

Against Saudi Arabia, Lewandowski also set up the opener in the 40th minute when he kept the ball in play after goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais’ initial block, then laid it back for Piotr Zielinski to knock in.

Poland was scrambling for long periods at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, as enthusiastic fans pushed the Saudi team forward in what seemed like a home game. The frustration was clear on Lewandowski’s face as Poland’s yellow cards mounted.

Saudi Arabia had a chance to equalize at the end of the first half, but Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saved Salem Al-Dawsari’s penalty kick. He then blocked Mohammed Al-Burayk’s shot from the rebound.

Szczesny was also called upon in the second half, when Saudi Arabia created several good chances.

“There is some part during the game, you must be more efficient,” Saudi Arabia coach Hervé Renard said.

Renard’s team had 16 attempts at goal, twice as many as Poland.

“Like I said before, we are still alive,” the French coach said. “This is the most important.”

Poland will next face Argentina, while Saudi Arabia will meet Mexico in their last Group C games.

Australia 1, Tunisia 0

Mitchell Duke celebrated scoring Australia’s winning goal by forming a “J” with his fingers in a tribute to his son Jaxson, who was in the stands.

Coach Graham Arnold dragged injured winger Martin Boyle — on crutches — into the celebratory huddle as fans sang merrily along to Men at Work’s “Down Under,” blaring over the stadium speakers after the final whistle, in Al Wakrah, Qatar.

Later, Arnold wiped away tears.

It was an emotion-filled day for Australia, which beat Tunisia 1-0 Saturday for only its third win in 18 World Cup matches.

Duke gave Australia the lead midway through the first half with a header.

“I actually was messaging some of my family, saying that I was going to score today, and I told my son that I was going to be able to share this moment with him and get that celebration,” Duke said. “I haven’t seen it yet but apparently he did it back to me from the stadium, which was a really special moment that I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life.”

Australia hadn’t won at the World Cup since beating Serbia in 2010 and it means the Socceroos still have a chance to qualify for the round of 16, despite losing to defending champion France 4-1 in their opening match.  

In the final round of group games on Wednesday, Tunisia will play France and Australia will meet Denmark. 

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Hong Kong Emigres Seek Milk Tea in Craving for Taste of Home

In London, Wong Wai-yi misses the taste of home.

A year ago, the 31-year-old musician was in Hong Kong, earning a good living composing for TV and movies and teaching piano. Today, she makes about half as much money in London working part-time as a server alongside her musical pursuits. She chose the job in part because staff meals allow her to save money on food.

It’s a difficult adjustment. And Wong, who left Hong Kong with her boyfriend in January, has turned to a beloved hometown staple to keep her grounded: milk tea. She brings the beverage to parties with Hong Kong friends and gives bottles to co-workers as gifts.

“It’s like reminding myself I am a Hong Konger. It will be fine as long as we are willing to endure the hardships and work hard,” said Wong, who left as part of an exodus that began after Beijing passed a law in 2020 that curtailed civil liberties.

As tens of thousands leave Hong Kong for new lives abroad, many are craving a flavor from childhood that’s become a symbol of the city’s culture: the sweet, heavy tea with evaporated milk that’s served both hot and cold at diner-like restaurants called cha chaan tengs. Workshops are popping up to teach professionals to brew tea like short-order cooks, and milk tea businesses are expanding beyond Chinatowns in Britain.

In Hong Kong, milk tea is an unassuming beverage, something you use to wash down sweet French toast off a plastic plate. It’s so beloved that members of Hong Kong’s protest movement have called themselves part of a “Milk Tea Alliance” with activists from Taiwan, Thailand and Myanmar who drink similar beverages.

Following a law that silenced or jailed most political opposition, more than 133,000 residents have secured a special visa that allows them to live and work in the U.K. and apply for British citizenship after six years. Official figures have not been released on how many of those have left, but most recipients are expected to do so.

The pathway was introduced last year in response to China’s 2020 enactment of the National Security Law, which the U.K. called “a clear breach” of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. The declaration included a promise to retain the former British colony’s rights and freedoms for 50 years after it was returned to China’s rule in 1997.

Exiled activist Lee Ka-wai said that immersing himself at a Hong Kong-style cafe in London with a cup of milk tea was a “luxury.”

The 26-year-old fled Hong Kong in March last year out of fear of being arrested. He is wanted by the city’s anti-graft body for allegedly inciting others to boycott the legislative election in December 2021. As an asylum seeker in Britain, he is not allowed to work and is living on savings.

Even if the taste is right, he said, the feel of a cha chaan teng and the sounds of customers chatting in Cantonese cannot be replicated.

“It’s strange because I can feel a sense of home overseas. But it also has another meaning — there’s something that cannot be replaced,” he said. “What we long for most is to go home and see a better Hong Kong. But we can’t.”

Some emigrants, like Eric Tam, a 41-year-old manager at an insurance company, enroll in milk tea lessons before leaving Hong Kong. Visiting Hong Kong this month, he stocked up on a milk tea blend, a recipe that evolved from British teas in the colonial era.

While tea is easy to find in England, he said, the taste isn’t the same: “British milk tea is just watery milk,” Tam said.

Before moving to Liverpool with his wife and two younger daughters in June, Tam signed up for lessons at the Institution of Hong Kong Milk Tea. The 2-year-old organization teaches students skills like pouring tea back and forth between a kettle and a plastic container to enhance its flavor before mixing it with evaporated milk.

Yan Chan, the school’s founder, estimated that about 40% of the 2,000 people who have studied with her were planning to emigrate.

Milk tea only began to emerge as a symbol of the Hong Kong identity over the past 15 years, said Veronica Mak, associate professor at the sociology department of Hong Kong Shue Yan University.

Mak said that many young people began to think about Hong Kong identity after the government removed Queen’s Pier, a landmark from the city’s colonial past, in 2007. Childhood memories, marketing and a fashion for localism came together to make milk tea a totem of Hong Kong culture.

“When you ask young people what kind of milk tea they like to drink, they will tell you it’s the bubble milk tea,” she said, referring to a drink from Taiwan. “But when you come to the identity part … they will not say the bubble tea but the local style milk tea.”

Most milk tea lovers interviewed told the Associated Press that milk tea isn’t political. But Tam said it’s a form of silent resistance.

“We can choose to preserve the culture that we want to keep. It cannot be destroyed even if other people try,” he said.

Contemporary Asian tea culture is catching on globally. Outside Chinatowns, at least five Hong Kong-style milk tea brands have emerged over the past two years in Britain. One set up a pop-up cafe in the trendy London neighborhood of Shoreditch in September, attracting Londoners and tourists as well as Hong Kong emigres.

Eric Wong, a tea wholesaler, began selling bottled milk tea in 2021 after moving to the U.K., and offers milk tea workshops. He said he’s making 500 to 1,000 bottles of milk tea a week, and his south London business broke even after about six months. His Trini Hong Kong Style Milk Tea products are available online and at major Asian supermarkets.

The taste of home can provoke strong emotions. A young woman from Hong Kong once shed tears after tasting his tea, Wong said.

Between people planning to leave and growing interest in local culture, Chan is busy. On Nov. 3, nine people attended her class, none of whom had plans to emigrate.

Cooking enthusiast Dennis Cheng took a class with her in late September and practiced the signature pouring while preparing to leave Hong Kong with his wife and children.

He said the taste will help remind him of Hong Kong and friends back home.

“This may help me feel emigrating overseas isn’t really that sad,” he said. “It’s just that I need more time to adapt to it.”

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