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N2M2L helping students gain digital media skills

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Rooted is all about the people and the places that make us proud to call our community home.

Giving kids a space to explore their creative media side is what the Near North Mobile Media Lab was hoping to do when it set up the Digital Creator North program.

Operating out of seven different locations around northern Ontario, with the headquarters in North Bay, the Near North Mobile Media Lab will get to unveil this program locally to the public with an Open House event on Saturday, (November 12th) from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

“Digital Creator North has been open, but there hasn’t been an official launch and that’s what is happening on Saturday. We have all the kinks worked out and all the equipment and mentors in place and we have a solid group of kids that come and take part, so we know we are doing it right,” says Executive Co-Director Sharon Switzer.

“Now we are excited to open it up to the public for our Open House.”

Located in the lower level of the Capital Centre, the Digital Creator North Program is open for youth ages 11-19.

“We advertise that we are open for kids to drop in from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We have two artist mentors that staff the program and kids can just sign in and do whatever they want in terms of their own creative projects,” says Switzer.

“We run workshops where they can get one-on-one help from the mentors as well. They can take part in our digital music set up, they can learn things about photography and video and we also have more formalized workshops that happen a few times a month.”

Alexander Rondeau is also Executive Co-Director and says their mandate is to provide the tools and the knowledge to work with different software and equipment that media and digital artists require in order to realize their projects in northern Ontario.

He says, “We know there is limited access for a lot of these things up north and so the media lab looks to build upon that foundation.”

In 2016, the Media Lab launched six spaces for youth to hang out with full-time on-site staff members who are themselves artists who can teach a variety of media and digital skills to the individuals.

Rondeau says, “We’ve partnered with area museums and libraries in six communities across northern Ontario including; Sioux Lookout, Sault Ste. Marie, Kenora, Timiskaming Shores, Elliot Lake and Timmins.”

He says while the programs in those areas are still on pause due to COVID-19, they have seen great success stories come out of these various locations.

“A recent example of how kids really use the space is at our Sioux Lookout location. There was a group from Sandy Lake, which is a remote fly in First Nation community, and they would have to go into Sioux Lookout to attend high school. One of them got really interested in drag, and they would come to the Digital North Creator program after school and started to make these videos of themselves interviewing themselves out of drag, using different camera angles and editing to sequence the interview to appear as two people instead of one,” says Rondeau.

“We held a big digital media industry conference in North Bay and a part of that conference allowed this student to showcase their videos and they went on to earn gigs as their drag personas. So, we’re seeing these actual tangible things happening for youth that otherwise wasn’t there before.”

It’s not the only tangible evidence that the film and digital media industry is one which youth would be wise to gain some skills in.

“In North Bay we have an organization that is doing such great advocacy work called Creative Industries and they are always pointing towards data research that consistently shows that the creative sector of Ontario contributes more to the GDP than other sectors such as the agriculture, forestry and mining industries combined. So just to see the film industry thrive up north is really telling of that,” says Rondeau.

Rondeau adds, “We really want the youth to call the shots and have them tell us what they need. For these youth who are media consumers, we want them to also become media producers as well.”

Switzer says, “One of the things we’ve done in the past is when a student has an idea for a bigger project, we really open up the space to them. While students can’t take the equipment off site, we do have the capabilities for them to be in that space.”

Switzer says there are a lot of different things students can do in that space.

“Every kind of group of people that come through seem to be different. What I’m hearing from our program leads is that the kids are loving being on the iPads and working on digital drawings,” she says.

“They also love the music stations that are set up where they are learning to record and make their own music. That’s really exciting to them. We have a girl who is a recent immigrant from the Ukraine and she comes in everyday just to have a place to hang out and be creative in her own way. We found what was being the most valuable to the kids was just having their own space, their own clubhouse where they can figure out stuff on their own and learn at their own place and feel safe while doing it.”

Digital Creator North is just one of the projects the Near North Mobile Media Lab is undertaking.

“We have a lot of programs that we are running right now,” says Switzer.

“Every two years there’s the Ice Follies event which is a large contemporary art event taking place right on frozen Lake Nipissing. This is run by three organizations but we take a large administrative role in that event,” she says.

There’s also the upcoming North Bay Film Festival which takes place in November and will be running again this year from November 25th to the 27th.

“This is the seventh year of the Film Festival as we know it now,” says Switzer.

“There have been a lot of dedicated volunteers over the years to make this happen through various iterations. The Media Lab are officially running it, but we are not running it alone. It takes a lot of people and it’s a very fun event. We’re excited to be back in person this year after a few years of doing it virtually, and we get to celebrate film and bring an amazing list of films to North Bay which otherwise would not come here.”

Rondeau says, “To have them screen in the Captial Centre is also a great piece to this whole thing. The event itself feels like a love letter to North Bay.”

If you have a story idea for the “Rooted” series, send Matt an email at m.sookram@outlook.com

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From Mansion to Moat: Drake’s Million Dollar Home Gets Soaked

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Toronto residents woke up to a soggy Wednesday morning after the city was pummeled by record-breaking rainfall on Tuesday. The downpour caused widespread flooding across the city, and even the opulent mansion of rap superstar Drake wasn’t spared.

 

Drake’s “Embassy” Flooded

Drake shared a video on his Instagram story showing the extent of the water damage at his Toronto mansion, nicknamed “The Embassy.” The sprawling 50,000-square-foot estate boasts an NBA-regulation basketball court and an art-deco theme, but on Tuesday, it was battling ankle-deep murky water flooding its halls.

The video shows Drake himself, clad in shorts and holding a broom, wading through the water. Someone else can be seen desperately trying to hold a large glass door shut as water surges in, presumably from a flooded patio or balcony.  Drake captioned the video with a touch of humor: “This better be espresso martini.”

The extent of the damage to the mansion remains unclear at this time.

 

Historic Rainfall Causes Citywide Flooding

The flooding at Drake’s mansion was just one symptom of the unprecedented rainfall that lashed Toronto on Tuesday. The city saw over 100 millimeters of rain in a single day, easily surpassing the average rainfall for the entire month of July (71.6 mm). This deluge makes it the fifth-wettest day ever recorded in Toronto’s history.

The heavy downpour overwhelmed the city’s drainage systems, leading to widespread flooding across neighborhoods. Emergency services were inundated with over 700 calls reporting flooded basements.  A major artery, the Don Valley Parkway, became an impassable waterway, with cars submerged almost entirely and some drivers forced to wait for rescue on the roofs of their vehicles.

 

Toronto Cleans Up After the Storm

As of Wednesday morning, the city is in cleanup mode.  Emergency crews are working to clear debris and assess the damage caused by the floods.  The extent of the financial losses incurred by homeowners and businesses is still being determined.

While Drake’s mansion may have gotten an unwelcome soaking, the true story of this weather event lies in the impact it had on ordinary citizens across Toronto. The city is now focused on recovery efforts and ensuring the safety and well-being of its residents.

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Ryan Reynolds BLEEDS for Deadpool! Sacrificed Salary to Keep Franchise Alive!

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Marvel fans, rejoice! After a whirlwind journey filled with setbacks and triumphs, Deadpool & Wolverine is finally clawing its way onto the silver screen. This highly anticipated pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman has had its fair share of challenges, from production delays due to Hollywood strikes to struggling to solidify a cohesive storyline. But through it all, Reynolds’ unwavering dedication to the project has shone through, proving that sometimes, the biggest victories come from the most unexpected sacrifices.

The road to Deadpool & Wolverine began in May 2023 with a triumphant start to filming. However, that momentum was abruptly halted by a wave of strikes that swept through Hollywood, forcing a hiatus until late winter. This wasn’t the only obstacle the project faced. The creative team, including Reynolds himself, wrestled with crafting a narrative that lived up to the outrageous charm of the Deadpool character while seamlessly integrating Wolverine into the fold. There were even whispers of the entire project being shelved altogether, leaving fans anxious about the fate of this dream team.

 

Reynolds’ Pockets Take a Hit, But His Vision Persists

But amidst these uncertainties, a heartwarming detail recently emerged, shedding light on Reynolds’ incredible commitment to the Deadpool franchise. In a revealing interview with The New York Times, Reynolds opened up about the financial sacrifices he made to ensure the success of the original Deadpool film.

“Deadpool wasn’t just a movie; it was a decade-long passion project,” Reynolds confessed. “Honestly, when they finally greenlit it, I wasn’t thinking about box office numbers. I just wanted to see this crazy character come to life on screen. I even gave up my acting salary for the project just to get it off the ground.”

 

However, Reynolds’ generosity didn’t stop there. The studio, it seemed, wasn’t convinced of the importance of having the film’s screenwriters, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, readily available on set. “They wouldn’t allow my co-writers on set, which was a huge blow,” Reynolds continued. “So, I took what little money I had left after forgoing my salary and paid them myself to be there. We basically formed a makeshift writer’s room right there on set.”

This wasn’t the first instance of Reynolds’ financial commitment to the Deadpool universe. Writers Reese and Wernick had previously shared on the AMC show Geeking Out that Reynolds also personally financed aspects of Deadpool (2016) to ensure the film achieved the level of quality he envisioned.

 

A Commitment That Reaps Rewards

 

Looking back on the original film’s scrappy beginnings, Reynolds described it as a labor of love fueled by limited resources and boundless creativity. “There wasn’t a lot of money, but I poured my heart and soul into every detail,” he said. “That experience taught me a valuable lesson: the importance of having a strong creative team by your side, no matter the project.”

Reynolds’ unwavering dedication wasn’t just about financial backing; it was about safeguarding the film’s creative vision. His actions ensured that the core team behind Deadpool’s success – the writers, the director, and himself – remained on board to bring their vision to life. This commitment is sure to translate into Deadpool & Wolverine, a film that promises to be a landmark achievement in the wacky world of Deadpool. Mark your calendars, fans – Deadpool & Wolverine slashes into theaters on July 26th!

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Bob Newhart, deadpan comedy icon Dies at 94

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Bob Newhart, the deadpan accountant-turned-comedian who became one of the most popular TV stars of his time after striking gold with a classic comedy album, has died at 94.

Jerry Digney, Newhart’s publicist, says the actor died Thursday in Los Angeles after a series of short illnesses.

Newhart, best remembered now as the star of two hit television shows of the 1970s and 1980s that bore his name, launched his career as a standup comic in the late 1950s. He gained nationwide fame when his routine was captured on vinyl in 1960 as The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, which went on to win a Grammy Award as Album of the Year.

While other comedians of the time, including Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Alan King, and Mike Nichols and Elaine May, frequently got laughs with their aggressive attacks on modern mores, Newhart was an anomaly. His outlook was modern, but he rarely raised his voice above a hesitant, almost stammering delivery. His only prop was a telephone, used to pretend to hold a conversation with someone on the other end of the line.

In one memorable skit, he portrayed a Madison Avenue image-maker trying to instruct Abraham Lincoln on how to improve the Gettysburg Address: “Say 87 years ago instead of fourscore and seven,” he advised.

Another favorite was Merchandising the Wright Brothers, in which he tried to persuade the aviation pioneers to start an airline, although he acknowledged the distance of their maiden flight could limit them. “Well, see, that’s going to hurt our time to the Coast if we’ve got to land every 105 feet.”

Newhart was initially wary of signing on to a weekly TV series, fearing it would overexpose his material. Nevertheless, he accepted an attractive offer from NBC, and The Bob Newhart Show premiered on Oct. 11, 1961. Despite Emmy and Peabody awards, the half-hour variety show was canceled after one season, a source for jokes by Newhart for decades after.

He waited 10 years before undertaking another Bob Newhart Show in 1972. This one was a situation comedy with Newhart playing a Chicago psychologist living in a penthouse with his schoolteacher wife, Suzanne Pleshette. Their neighbors and his patients, notably Bill Daily as an airline navigator, were a wacky, neurotic bunch who provided an ideal counterpoint to Newhart’s deadpan commentary. The series, one of the most acclaimed of the 1970s, ran through 1978.

Four years later, the comedian launched another show, simply called Newhart. This time he was a successful New York writer who decides to reopen a long-closed Vermont inn. Again Newhart was the calm, reasonable man surrounded by a group of eccentric locals. Again the show was a huge hit, lasting eight seasons on CBS. It bowed out in memorable style in 1990 with Newhart — in his old Chicago psychologist character — waking up in bed with Pleshette, cringing as he tells her about the strange dream he had: “I was an innkeeper in this crazy little town in Vermont. … The handyman kept missing the point of things, and then there were these three woodsmen, but only one of them talked!” The stunt parodied a Dallas episode where a key character was killed off, then revived when the death was revealed to have been in a dream.

Two later series were comparative duds: Bob, in 1992-93, and George & Leo, 1997-98. Though nominated several times, he never won an Emmy for his sitcom work. “I guess they think I’m not acting. That it’s just Bob being Bob,” he sighed.

Over the years, Newhart also appeared in several movies, usually in comedic roles. Among them: Catch 22, In & Out, Legally Blonde 2, and Elf, as the diminutive dad of adopted full-size son Will Ferrell. More recent work included Horrible Bosses and the TV series The Librarians, The Big Bang Theory, and Young Sheldon.

Newhart married Virginia Quinn, known to friends as Ginny, in 1964, and remained with her until her death in 2023. They had four children: Robert, Timothy, Jennifer, and Courtney. Newhart was a frequent guest of Johnny Carson’s and liked to tease the thrice-divorced Tonight host that at least some comedians enjoyed long-term marriages. He was especially close with fellow comedian and family man Don Rickles, whose raucous insult humor clashed memorably with Newhart’s droll understatement.

“We’re apples and oranges. I’m a Jew, he’s a Catholic. He’s low-key, I’m a yeller,” Rickles told Variety in 2012. A decade later, Judd Apatow would pay tribute to their friendship in the short documentary Bob and Don: A Love Story.

A master of the gently sarcastic remark, Newhart got into comedy after he became bored with his $5-an-hour accounting job in Chicago. To pass the time, he and a friend, Ed Gallagher, began making funny phone calls to each other. Eventually, they decided to record them as comedy routines and sell them to radio stations.

Their efforts failed, but the records came to the attention of Warner Bros., which signed Newhart to a record contract and booked him into a Houston club in February 1960. “A terrified 30-year-old man walked out on the stage and played his first nightclub,” he recalled in 2003.

Six of his routines were recorded during his two-week date, and the album, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, was released on April Fools’ Day 1960. It sold 750,000 copies and was followed by The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back!. At one point the albums ranked No. 1 and 2 on the sales charts. The New York Times in 1960 said he was “the first comedian in history to come to prominence through a recording.”

Besides winning Grammy’s Album of the Year for his debut, Newhart won as Best New Artist of 1960, and the sequel The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back! won as Best Comedy Spoken Word Album. Newhart was booked for several appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and at nightclubs, concert halls, and college campuses across the country. He hated the clubs, however, because of the heckling drunks they attracted. “Every time I have to step out of a scene and put one of those birds in his place, it kills the routine,” he said in 1960.

In 2004, he received another Emmy nomination, this time as Guest Actor in a Drama Series, for a role in E.R. Another honor came his way in 2007, when the Library of Congress announced it had added The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart to its registry of historically significant sound recordings. Just 25 recordings are added each year to the registry, which was created in 2000.

Newhart made the best-seller lists in 2006 with his memoir, I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This!. He was nominated for another Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album (a category that includes audio books) for his reading of the book.

“I’ve always likened what I do to the man who is convinced that he is the last sane man on Earth … the Paul Revere of psychotics running through the town and yelling `This is crazy.′ But no one pays attention to him,” Newhart wrote.

Born George Robert Newhart in Chicago to a German-Irish family, he was called Bob to avoid confusion with his father, who was also named George. At St. Ignatius High School and Loyola University in Chicago, he amused fellow students with imitations of James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Durante, and other stars. After receiving a degree in commerce, Newhart served two years in the Army. Returning to Chicago after his military service, he entered law school at Loyola, but flunked out. He eventually landed a job as an accountant for the state unemployment department. Bored with the work, he spent his free hours acting at a stock company in suburban Oak Park, an experience that led to the phone bits.

“I wasn’t part of some comic cabal,” Newhart wrote in his memoir. “Mike (Nichols) and Elaine (May), Shelley (Berman), Lenny Bruce, Johnny Winters, Mort Sahl — we didn’t all get together and say, Let’s change comedy and slow it down.′ It was just our way of finding humor. The college kids would hear mother-in-law jokes and say, What the hell is a mother-in-law?′ What we did reflected our lives and related to theirs.”

Newhart continued appearing on television occasionally after his fourth sitcom ended and vowed in 2003 that he would work as long as he could. “It’s been so much, 43 years of my life; (to quit) would be like something was missing,” he said.

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