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The opening night of Fantastic Fest is always a memorable event, and this year proved to be no exception. Tim League, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema CEO, kicked off the evening with pyrotechnics and an extended rap session before introducing director Kevin Smith, who brought his “Human Centipede” remix “Tusk” to open this year’s festival. Smith pledged to retire from film after self-distributing the insufferably self-important “Red State,” but “Tusk” is a welcome improvement and a promising revitalization for the director.

The film was notoriously conceived on one of Smith’s many podcasts, and Justin Long fittingly stars as Wallace, a podcaster who travels the country interviewing social misfits and Internet video stars. When Wallace travels to Canada for an interview, only to have it fall apart at the last minute, he is desperate to come home with a story. Luckily, he stumbles upon Howard Howe (Michael Parks), a secluded old man who promises tales of a life of adventure. Howe has other plans, though, and Wallace soon finds himself a captive to a psychopath with one plan of action: to turn his new roommate into a walrus.

It’s an unabashedly absurd premise, and Smith deserves commendation for bringing his film’s concept to its grotesque logical end point. The film packs some truly unsettling imagery — and spectacular make-up effects from Robert Kurtzman — and even flirts with genuine social commentary, a first for the generally low-brow Smith. Although “Tusk” entertains throughout, the film occasionally drags, and it’s hard not to notice that the plot hinges on a series of coincidences, at best, and utter gaps in logic, at worst. 

Smith assembled a bold cast, led by Parks, one of the most reliable supporting actors in the business. Parks is hypnotizing as Howe, a lonely man with a lifetime of stories and regrets, and, even as the film delves into seriously bizarre territory, Parks keeps things on the rails. Long initially comes off as brash and unlikable, but his terrified work as he transitions from human to walrus is remarkable and disturbing. Meanwhile, an age-ravaged Haley Joel Osment is utterly distracting as Wallace’s podcasting partner, and Genesis Rodriguez is unmemorable as Wallace’s long-suffering girlfriend. 

At the post-film Q&A, Smith confirmed plans to make a trilogy of films set in Canada, kicking off with “Tusk” and ending with “Moose Jaws,” which is exactly what it sounds like. While “Tusk” is an imperfect work, predictably flabby with dialogue on occasion, it’s a promising start to a new phase in Smith’s career. 

Opening night of Fantastic Fest concluded with a double feature of raucously entertaining sequels: “The ABCs of Death 2” and “Dead Snow 2.” “ABCs” is an anthology of horror shorts, with 26 directors helming 26 methods of demise in alphabetical order. While the first film delighted in a disgusting variety of bodily fluids, the sequel reins in the fart jokes and ups the tension and creativity, resulting in a vastly improved product. With segments in a variety of languages and formats — one of the most memorable is a nightmarish stop-motion piece — “ABCs of Death 2” has a far-from-perfect batting average but remains engaging and entertaining throughout.

Meanwhile, “Dead Snow 2” builds on the original film’s Nazi zombie premise by introducing an army of Russian zombies who are destined to meet in the extended climactic battle. That should tell you everything you need to know about the film, which has plenty of blood, guts and even a small helping of brains. Martin Starr brings the laughs in his small supporting role, but Vegar Hoel is fantastically brawny as the unflappable lead character.

This article was originally written on March 7, 2014.

Canadian Ambassador H.E. Gary Doer said the U.S. should continue constructing the Keystone Pipeline, a cross-country oil pipeline, in a speech at the Student Activities Center on Friday.

The Keystone Pipeline System construction, divided into four phases extending the pipeline various distances across the U.S. and Canada, has been subject to significant criticism by environmental groups who allege the pipeline will be damaging. President Barack Obama rejected a proposal for the Keystone XL Pipeline Project, the final phase of the project, in January 2012. The phase would have extended the pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to southern Nebraska.

Doer said he felt the current resources available to the U.S. and Canada have the potential to make the U.S. more energy independent and advocated for less restriction on the deployment of the Keystone Pipeline in the U.S.

“I believe we’ve won the lottery ticket — we just don’t know how to cash the ticket, to be less reliant on oil from the Middle East, and more reliant and independent in the neighborhood of North America,” Doer said. “We see the Keystone Pipeline, which is controversial, fitting into that narrative on energy security.”

Doer said stopping the development of the pipeline will not stop the production of oil in Canada, and the focus of the pipeline debate should shift to the environmental and safety concerns of the rail system, which is currently used to transport oil in the U.S.

“The state department concluded that it’s higher cost on rail than on pipeline, higher safety risk with more fatalities on rail, and higher greenhouse gases,” Doer said.

Sheila Olmstead, public affairs associate professor, said she felt stopping pipeline construction would not stop oil production in the U.S and Canada.

“I think we’re not in a great place trying to maximize those resources, and I agree also that we have these alternative transportation mechanisms that probably environmentally are not necessarily defined,” Olmstead said.

Jorge Piñon, interim director of the UT Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, said individual rail cars are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. According to Piñon, there will be several thousand miles worth of pipeline constructed in the U.S. this year alone.

“If the issue is pipeline as a negative contributor to the environment, how come we’re not opposing these 6,300 miles to be built in this country?” said Piñon.

Photo Credit: Andrew Cooke | Comics Artist

With more than 250 vendors, the SXSW Trade Show can seem daunting and chaotic. The following guide will show you where to find anything from Canadian barbecue to a Screen Actors Guild application.

Sweden @ SXSW

Both Sweden and Swedish Boot Camp will be on exhibition at the trade show. Like many of the tourism-focused vendors run by countries from around the world, Swedish vendors will have a section of their trade show space focused on networking and promoting Swedish music, film and business. Swedish Boot Camp is a place for creative digitizers, geeks, musicians and startups from anywhere in the world to immerse themselves in Swedish culture. 

Italy @ SXSW

This will be the first year Italy has a promoted vendor at SXSW and it has a lot in store. Promoted by The Italian Music Hub and Puglia Sounds, the stand focuses mainly on the Italian music scene, though there will be a vendor with information on tourism.

Canada @ SXSW

What’s interesting about Canada @ SXSW is the variety of its events. The stand has information on Canadian Blast, which is focused on promoting the complex music and interactive industries of Canada. One event going on later in the week is The Canadian Blast BBQ and Showcase, held on Wednesday at Brush Square from 2 – 6 p.m. At the event, which SXSW badge holders and invited guests can attend, barbecue will be served while artists from Canada play in the background.

The New School

The New School, with its flagship located in New York City, is a university that focuses on offering a nontraditional education to students who plan to get a degree. With emphasis on collaborative problem solving and interdisciplinary work, the school isn’t a typical university experience. Students and representatives from the school will be at the stand.   

Texas MBA Program

The UT business school will have a booth set up at the trade show to inform potential students about the different disciplines and degree programs the program and the school offer. 

University of Michigan School of Information 

All the way from Ann Arbor, Mich., the representatives from the School of Information at the University of Michigan will be ready to talk all about the specificities of a degree in Information Studies. The school is a part of a growing sector of higher learning that focuses on how information is created, processed and presented.

Austin Music People

Austin Music People, whose motto is “advocating for the brands, bands and fans that make Austin the Live Music Capital of the World,” will have its own booth at the show. Austin Music People is a coalition with a purpose of strengthening the music scene for the benefit of the local economy. The booth is representative of the types of musicians that call Austin home, as well as the work the group does to collectively serve the music industry.

Start Out 

Start Out is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to serve the LGBTQ community with business marketing and support. Through events held nationwide, the group’s goal is to inspire LBGTQ business owners to start new companies and be involved in the corporate community through either owning a small business or mentoring others. 


This Austin-based nonprofit is all about making technology user-friendly for those who have physical impairments such as blindness or impaired fine motor skills. Its goal is to make technology more accessible so information can be conveyed without barriers to children, youth and adults with disabilities.

The leader in online music competitions and music expression, Gigg allows users to post videos of themselves singing. The videos can then be used for competitions against other users, or just as a mode of expression for new artists. A Gigg account is like having a YouTube account that is just for music. The vendor will be offering tutorials on how to use the site and sharing artist success stories at the booth. 

CinemaTICE lets users select items from a video that are then placed in a cart that you can shop from later. The site’s goal is to make the video watching experience more interactive and give the viewer an opportunity to shop for products of interest. The vendor will be giving tutorials on how to use the website at its booth.


While the application may seem a bit ambiguous and overwhelming, the idea behind Squerb is the innate desire people have to talk about something they have just seen, heard or experienced. Squerb allows the user to build an opinion on a particular product, movie, song, etc., without having to write a single word. Starting with more general descriptions like “interesting, moving and offensive,” the user can dive deeper into those categories, creating their well-formed opinion in just a series of clicks. 

Social Imprints

Social Imprints, a company that builds branded merchandise campaigns, has a deeper purpose that involves providing job training, highly professional positions and a second chance to recovering drug offenders, formerly incarcerated individuals and at-risk veterans. The company does work for Dropbox, Square, Wikipedia, Pinterest and Hearsay, among others, and will be sharing employee success stories and selling apparel at its booth. 

The New York Times

The premiere newspaper will have a booth at the trade show dedicated to answering questions about the publication. Looking for a subscription or an opportunity to get networking information? Look forward to some sort interactive activity and certainly some swag (probably a stress ball).


SAGIndie, a booth sent from the Screen Actors Guild — American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, will be set up at the Trade Show to answer questions about SAG membership and what the Screen Actors Guild is all about. Those interested in show business can learn more about how the industry works.

TORONTO — Canada started phasing out its penny, the nuisance coins that clutter dressers and cost more than their one-cent value to produce.

The Royal Canadian Mint on Monday officially ended its distribution of pennies to financial institutions. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced last year they were a nuisance and have outlived their purpose.

While people may still use pennies, the government has issued guidelines urging store owners to start rounding prices to the nearest nickel for cash transactions. Electronic purchases will still be billed to the nearest cent.

LOS ANGELES — A would-be Canadian Miss Universe contestant who was born male said Tuesday that a rule requiring contestants to be born as women should be dropped, whether or not she gets a chance to compete.

“I do not want any other woman to suffer the discrimination that I have endured,” said Jenna Talackova, who underwent a sex change four years ago.

Her attorney, Gloria Allred, displayed a copy of Talackova’s passport, which lists her as female, as do her birth certificate and driver’s license.

“I am a woman,” Talackova said. “I was devastated and I felt that excluding me for the reason that they gave was unjust. I have never asked for any special consideration. I only wanted to compete.”

Talackova, 23, of Vancouver was born male. Her sex change led organizers in Canada to disqualify her from the 61st Miss Universe Canada pageant in May.

The pageant’s New York based parent group, the Miss Universe Organization, run by Donald Trump, said in a statement Monday that Talackova can compete “provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions.”

The statement did not provide specifics.

Talackova and Allred called the statement confusing and urged Trump to definitely state that she will be allowed to compete and to represent Canada in the Miss Universe contest if she wins. They also called on him to eliminate the rule.

“She did not ask Mr. Trump to prove that he is a naturally born man or to see the photos of his birth to view his anatomy to prove that he was male,” Allred said.

The lawyer did not permit Talackova to go beyond her statement or say whether she would compete if granted permission to do so while the rule remains in force.

Allred also said that legal teams have been formed in Canada, New York and California to consider Talackova’s legal options.

In this Aug. 10, 2009, file photo, President Barack Obama, right, Mexico's President Felipe Calderon, center, and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper attend a North American summit in Gaudalajara, Mexico.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

President Barack Obama and the leaders of Canada and Mexico vowed a new effort Monday to boost North American trade — and cut needless regulation that stifles it — in a summit that aimed to shore up a fragile economic recovery.
After a one-day summit with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Obama said the United States has trimmed outdated and burdensome rules in talks with both its neighbors.

“Our three nations are going to sit down together, go through the books and simplify and eliminate more regulations that will make our joint economies stronger,” he said.

Obama noted trade among the three neighbors now tops $1 trillion a year, and he wants to see that number rise. “This is going to help create jobs,” he said.

The summit ranged broadly across issues of energy and climate change, immigration and the war on drugs.

But notable by its absence from a post-summit news conference in the Rose Garden was the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada’s oil sands in Alberta to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Obama shelved the plan pending further review, and has endured ferocious GOP attacks ever since, with Republicans calling the move a blow to job creation and U.S. energy needs. He maintains GOP leaders in Congress forced his hand by insisting on a decision before an acceptable pipeline route was found.

Harper has voiced disappointment with Obama’s decision. He also visited China in February to explore alternatives. Canada has the world’s third-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

Obama, Harper and Calderon will see each other later this month at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. They’re also well-known to each other from international gatherings, but are headed in different electoral directions.

While Obama faces a tough re-election battle for the next seven months, Calderon is term-limited. The battle to succeed him formally kicked off last week and will culminate with Mexican elections July 1. The main issue is the deadly war that his government has waged with drug cartels, which has claimed an estimated 47,000 lives.

By contrast, Harper, who has led Canada since 2006, appears secure in his job, having led his Conservatives from minority status to a majority in Parliament in elections last May. He doesn’t have to face voters again for four years.
Another reason Obama might envy Harper: Thanks to that majority, the budget Harper’s government introduced last week should pass easily, including its budget cuts designed to eliminate Canada’s deficit by 2015.

Dr. Bruce Beutler, co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, has taken an appointment as the new and founding director of UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Center for the Genetics of Host Defense.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

DALLAS — Dr. Bruce Beutler is sharing this year’s Nobel Prize in medicine but on Tuesday he was singled out and praised at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas where he began his major research.

Beutler shares this year’s Nobel Prize in medicine with French scientist Jules Hoffman, 70 and Canadian-born Ralph Steinman, 68.

Beutler started his scientific career at UT Southwestern and served on the faculty from 1986 to 2000. He is the fifth Nobel laureate on the faculty at UT Southwestern.

After postgraduate training at UT Southwestern, he completed a two-year fellowship at Rockefeller University.

It was there that he first met Canadian-born Ralph Steinman, who was to have shared the prize along with Beutler and French scientist Jules Hoffmann.

“I admired him a great deal from the start,” Beautler said of Steinman. “He was a great scientist.”

Steinman, a pioneer in understanding how the cells of the body fight disease, died of pancreatic cancer Friday.

“I was really very sad,” Beutler said. “I think it’s a tragedy that he came within three days of knowing that he had won the Nobel Prize.”

According to the citation award for the 2011 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, “Bruce Beutler and Jules Hoffmann discovered receptor proteins that can recognize such microorganisms and activate innate immunity, the first step in the body’s immune response. Ralph Steinman discovered the dendritic cells of the immune system and their unique capacity to activate and regulate adaptive immunity, the later stage of the immune response during which microorganisms are cleared from the body.Their work has opened up new avenues for the development of prevention and therapy against infections, cancer, and inflammatory diseases.”

Beutler was named the new and founding director of the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense at UT Southwestern on Sept. 1.

“I feel so grateful to all of you and I’m so happy to be back here at UT Southwestern,” he told a standing-room-only crowd in a campus auditorium.

Beutler, who holds dual appointments at UT Southwestern and as a professor of genetics and immunology at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., is currently splitting his time between both institutions but said he plans to be in Dallas full-time in November.

Dr. Gregory Fitz, executive vice president for academic affairs, provost and dean of UT Southwestern Medical School, said the idea for the center was born 18 months ago when a group of faculty leaders approached him about the need for the school to commit itself to further explore immunology given its importance in so many aspects of medicine, especially infection, cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Printed on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 as: Medicine Nobel given for immunology

Large numbers of protesters were recently arrested in Washington, D.C., in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, earning them the record for the largest act of non-violent civil disobedience since the Vietnam War.

The more than 1,700-mile pipeline would cut through the Ogallala aquifer, the nation’s largest, and through Texas’ Corrizo-Willcox aquifer among other waterways between Canada and the Texas Gulf Coast. As any engineer could tell you, no pipe is 100-percent leak-proof. The existing pipeline has had 13 leaks since June 2010, and the “extra-large” pipeline extension poses extreme risks to our freshwater resources and croplands. Additionally, tar sands — the crude product being transported — involves tearing down many acres of pristine forestland so it can be tediously strip-mined, leaving a wrecked ecosystem and vast amounts of toxic waste that goes into tailings lakes that can be seen from space.

The tar sands refinery has also been shown to add three to four times as many greenhouse gas pollutants to the atmosphere than the conventional oil refinery — a major worry for climatologists concerned about the ongoing climate crises that we face. James Hansen, a long-time leading climate scientist and the current director of NASA’s Goddard Institute, has said the building of this pipeline would make catastrophic climate change inevitable.

The American Petroleum Institute has called the pipeline the “biggest shovel-ready project” in the country, and Exxon has spent millions telling the American people that Canadian tar sands translates to energy security. While job creation sounds good, the institute’s argument has been seriously overblown. The pipeline is a $7 billion project — big, but hardly the biggest. It will generate 5,000 to 8,000 jobs in an economy that needs 400,000 jobs every month to reduce unemployment.

Although TransCanada claims the oil is for American consumers and that it will decrease our reliance on oil from the Middle East, there is good reason to believe that the pipeline is instead meant to get Canadian tar sands oil to China and other rapidly growing countries. For example, Chinese companies have invested $15 billion into Canadian tar sands reserves in the last 18 months, and the energy minister of Alberta has even admitted that getting the tar sands flowing to China is a top priority. China gets the oil, Canada gets the profit and America gets the pollution. How is that in our national interest?

This project would put our already limited freshwater resources at risk to contamination and further degrade the air quality of Texas port cities. It would feed our costly addiction to oil, and it would wed our future to the destructive production of tar sands crude. And most eerily, investing in this project alone will undo any progress that’s been made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the past and will render all future progress doubtful.

The decision on whether to build this pipeline rests almost entirely with President Barack Obama. Public determination meetings are being held across the country on this matter, and the U.S. State Department is coming to UT’s campus today to ask people what they think about the pipeline. The Sierra Student Coalition will meet at 6 p.m. in front of Littlefield Fountain for its March for Clean Energy before attending the hearing, which will be held from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium of the LBJ Library. The only way that we can stop this horrible mistake in the making is to attend and let Obama know that this is not the change we had hoped for.

Morgan is president of UT’s Sierra Student Coalition.

Taylor Hoagland, a key contributor for Texas in 2011, is making her presence felt as a member of Team USA.

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

Wearing number 36, rather than her usual number six, Longhorn junior Taylor Hoagland has already started to contribute to the success of the USA National Women’s softball team during her first month on the roster.

This past weekend the national team played in three games during the opening weekend of the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship hosted in Surrey, B.C. The United States posted a 3-1 record, defeating Venezuela, Australia, and host Canada, while falling to Japan.

Hoagland started out on the bench for the first few games of the tournament against Australia and Japan. She eventually entered the game as a pinch runner against Australia and a pinch hitter against Japan. It wasn’t until the United States’ game against Venezuela that Hoagland earned her first start.

In the USA’s 8-0 victory against Venezuela, Hoagland started at second base. At the plate, she accounted for an RBI double and two runs scored.

The United States played two more games Wednesday, defeating Japan, 5-1 and run-ruling Venezuela, 10-0 in four innings. Against Japan, Hoagland started a five-run fifth-inning rally with an RBI single and scored in the fourth inning during the contest against Venezuela. The championship game will take place July 17.

After the international tournament in Canada, the USA National Team will return home to host the World Cup of Softball which starts July 21 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Though born in Canada, funny man Russell Peters, whose parents are Indian, wanted to break away from the typical South Asian mold of choosing a practical career choice and instead opts for a more provocative occupation in the comedy business. The result, a successful career in comedy and an international tour, “The Green Card Tour.”

“I don’t live my life for anyone else but me, if I walk into a doctor’s office and get cut open for surgery, I don’t want to walk out knowing that this person did not want to do this for a living,” Peters said.

Peter’s material is not as much jokes as it is observations on various people and cultures. He not only performs in front of the audience but he bonds with them as well.

“When I perform a show I don’t have a set routine, I know where I’m starting and where I’m finishing, the audience plays an important role in my performance as well, many times an audience member will be the source for my next joke,” Peters said.

Since Peter’s material pokes fun at different cultures and communities especially his own South Asian culture, backlash would normally be expected but that is not the case for Peters.

“Its funny, more people get angry at me for not including their community in my material instead of the other way around,” he said.

In a past routine, Peters poked fun at the melodrama of Bollywood and when asked if the films appealed to his taste, it was safe to say that the answer was no.

“All of those movies are awful, Bollywood movies in no way represent our culture,” he said. “We have such a rich history that it is embarrassing that it resorts to these films.”