There is just a man and a piano on Up Close and Alone, the 32nd and latest album from singer-songwriter Burton Cummings. And while he performs familiar hits such as These Eyes and Stand Tall from his days in the Guess Who and from his solo career, recording them in such a simple fashion left him, he says, with “nowhere to hide.” Adds the 48-year-old Cummings: “The fear was absolutely petrifying. But then, Fve never lost my stage fright—it gives you an edge.” He will have to keep dealing with that fear: this summer, Cummings will tour at least 30 North American cities. He characterizes such unplugged performances as a return to his roots when he started taking piano lessons at age 4. In turn, Cummings says he has “rekindled a great relationship” with his home town, Winnipeg, where he has a house in the city’s North End, next door to his mother. “The past is very much a part of what creates the present and I don’t divorce myself from the past.”
The physics of fun
Canadian astronomy and physics expert Lawrence Krauss likes to boldly go where few of his peers have gone before—into the realm where serious science is fun. In his spare time, the Toronto-born Krauss, 41, chairman of the physics department at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, gives talks and writes
The dog days of winter
Actors are usually leery about sharing the stage or screen with children and animals, notorious scene-stealers. But Bronwen Booth says she actually enjoyed playing second fiddle to a pack of sled dogs in her role of Mercedes in a remake of the Jack London classic The Call of the Wild. And the dog Buck— played by a 150-lb. Léonberger mastiff named Vasko de Vassan—is clearly the central character, even though veteran actor Rutger Hauer is one of Booth’s costars. “On the first day of rehearsal, direc-
tor Peter Svatek reminded us all that this is a movie about the dog,” says Booth, 27, a Canadian born in London who previously had a two-year stint on the soap opera One Life to Live. Still, working on the movie—which just wrapped up filming with northern Quebec standing in for the Yukon during the 1890s gold rush—was lots of fun, says Booth. “Rarely have I had a chance to be in a project that is so historically accurate, and to wear such wonderful period costumes,” she adds. “And besides, the dogs keep you honest”
Humor on the lamb
Last week, Marsha Boulton became the first shepherd ever to win the 49-year-old annual Stephen Leacock Award for humor. Boulton—an Ontario farmer and freelance writer who 15 years ago traded high heels and full-time journalism for rubber boots and early mornings in the barn— received the award for her 1995 book, Letters from the Country, an amusing collection of stories about her experiences raising sheep. A former People page editor at Maclean’s, Boulton, 43, was chosen from a short list that included Vancouver-based writers W. P. Kinsella, who won the Leacock award in 1987, and Bill Richardson, the 1994 winner. The award was “a big surprise,” says Boulton, who was also the delighted recipient of a bonus from her flock the same day. “After the awards lunch,” she said, “I immediately went to the barn to check on our new set of triplets.”
books that make science accessible to general audiences. His newest book, The Physics of Star Trek, is a launching pad for examining today’s leading-edge science. Krauss also examines whether such devices as wormholes and time travel on the popular television show and its sequels could someday feasibly exist. And could they? Replies Krauss: “Sometimes the writers of Star Trek get it right.”
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