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NEW YORK (AP) One of the biggest draws in New York this time of year is the “Christmas Spectacular” featuring the iconic Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. Everyone knows about their high kicks but do you know how many calories each burns? What do they snack on? What’s the best place to be in their famous kick line? Two veterans Bailey Callahan of Melbourne, Florida, and Alissa LaVergne of Houston reveal all the backstage secrets.


There are 80 Rockettes, split into two teams of 36 dancers and four standbys. The 36 women can fit shoulder to shoulder along the 66 foot (20 meter) stage. They perform eight dance numbers per show, up to four shows daily, 200 shows a season. The show produces 350 laundry loads weekly.

HEIGHT AND CALORIESRockettes must stand between 5 foot 6 and 5 foot 10 (roughly 1.7 to 1.8 meters) and be proficient at tap, jazz and ballet. Candidates must be ready to do 300 eye high kicks a show. One Rockette used a fitness tracker and discovered that she burned 1,000 calories every show. “When we do four shows a day, that’s a lot of pizza that we get to eat,” says Callahan.


Rockettes this year come from 27 states, plus Canada and Australia. New Jersey sent the most dancers, 12. Ohio is next with six. Pennsylvania, Florida and California each have five; Michigan, New York and Arizona, four each; Maryland, three; Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana, Connecticut, Texas, Nebraska and Virginia, two each. Louisiana, Rhode Island, Kentucky, Washington, Kansas, Wisconsin, Alabama, Illinois, Utah, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, one each. Two come from Australia, five from Canada.


Heels? Optical illusion? “The way we line up is we put the taller girls in the center and gradually go down to the shorter girls on the end,” says LaVergne. “There’s a bit of an illusion but it’s actually really simple.” The costumes are made proportionately, helping the illusion.
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As always we were woken with a start:the lights came on and the automated Tannoy voice started shouting our call signs. I headed down the pole to the trucks and was handed the call slip “Make pumps plenty”. What?That’s a big incident.

Approaching the tower we could see that this was a bad one. The sky was glowing and parts of the building were already starting to fall down. We received our brief: 23rd floor, people stuck in their flat. Go!

Weighed down carrying 30kg plus of equipment, not including our fire kit and breathing apparatus (BA), we made our way up a crowded stairwell,struggling to make progress.

Around the ninth floor we lost all visibility and the heat was rising. Still we continued up and up through the blackness. We reached what we believed to be the 19th or20th floor but there was no way to tell. It was here where we found a couple trying to find their way out, panicking, choking, blinded by the thick toxic air.

A quick gauge check showed us that the amount of floors we’d climbed had taken its toll; we were getting low on air. There was no way we could make it to the 23rdfloor and back to the bridgehead.

The couple were shouting and screaming tous between choking coughs, trying to tell us there were five more people on the floor above.

I had horrible decisions to make and a very short amount of time to make them.

We had stopped and lost our rhythm on the stairs; would we have enough air to leave this couple and to reach the next floor?

Then I started to panic. Why haven’t we seen another crew for so long? Will another crew find them? The radios are playing up.

I tried to radio down to entry control. “Alpha Control Priority!”

No response. I tried again. Still no response. Where are they? What’s going on?

“Go ahead with priority, over.”

“Alpha control, two casualties found approx 20th floor, crew now escorting them down, request another BA team be committed to reach flat on 23rd floor. Five casualties are reported apparently trying to make their way out on the floor above. My partner had to drag her down alone. I couldn’t help.

Two floors later, we found another crew making their way out. One of them was carrying a little girl. I handed off my casualty to the firefighter who hada free set of hands. “Please take him out,” I shout, “we’ll be right behind you.”I turned to go and help my partner, but then he handed me something I’d not seen initially: a firefighter’shelmet. Why does he have this? Where is the firefighter it belongs to?

ThenI saw him. He was missing his helmet but was with my BA partner wearing no helmet and no breathing apparatus. “Are you ok? Where’s your BA set?!”

He had given it to a casualty, he tells us, coughing,
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delirious from the heat and smoke. Still, he tried to help carry the casualty. Helping others is still his first thought.

“Get down those stairs, get down to the bridgehead!” I shouted at him.

I took the casualty down to the ground floor, while my partner remained with the fireman we found, administering him oxygen at entry control on the fifth floor.

Ascending back to the bridgehead to find my partner, I shut my set down and I took my mask off, hoping for a deep breath of clean air. I sucked in alungfulof lightish smoke. I coughed and retched, but it was still clean enough to breathe. It was better than the air higher up. Thenwe were off again and we took the firefighter down and out with us.

As we got outside,we were desperate for a drink of water, collapsing on the grass by the leisure centre. Colleagues were all around us, tunics off, their T shirts soaked through with sweat,no one able to talk.

We were all looking up at the building we had just come out of. It was getting worse. The fire was everywhere.

It threw me and I struggled to reply. I looked across at a police officer and pointed, telling her he will take her to the people who will take her friend’s information and pass it on to the crews inside. Stay on the phone with her, I said. Tell her not to give up, we are still coming. We are still getting to people, I promised.

A while later, a senior officer was telling us he knewwe’dalready broken all the policies we have. He said he knew the risks we had taken but that’s not enough: we are going to have to take more. There are still a lot more people who need us.

He said he was going ask us to do things that would normally be unimaginable to put our lives at risk even more than we already have.

Everyone was looking round at each other, listening to this officer try to motivate us into action again. He didn’t need to,though:we were ready for it. This is what we train for.

Hour after hour, my colleagues were pushing themselves above and beyond what you’d think was humanly possible.

As the light broke, trucks with fresh crews arrived and those of us whowere there early on were swapped over. No one wanted to leave, everyone willing to give more,
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but eventually we all had to leave the scene.

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Icy stairs and sidewalks are terrifying to navigate on foot, not to mention dangerous. And the experts agree that rock salt (sodium chloride) is about the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to make ice go away.

But with everything good comes some bad: Rock salt can damage plants and, over time, can cause concrete to heave and crack.

“Salt kills the roots of plants and makes it impossible for them to absorb the nutrients they need,” says Ann McCulloh, plant curator at Cleveland Botanical Garden. “The salt washes into streams and waterways and can affect aquatic life.”

Homeowners might be looking for green alternatives to harmful salt and chemical de icers, but the options aren’t perfect yet. There are less harmful de icers, but they also are more expensive.

At Home Depot, a 50 pound bag of Halite Salt Crystals is about $5.50. A 50 pound bag of Prestone Driving Heat calcium chloride pellets that are less harmful to vegetation and don’t leave white residue is $15.97 for a 50 pound bag.

For now, salt and chemical de icers are a necessary evil, at least for clearing ice on roads. Salt damage to plants has to be weighed against the loss of lives due to slick roads.

One option is to use a smaller amount of salt or de icer just to loosen ice, not completely melt it, and then remove the softened ice manually.

Brad Charles Melzer of the Ohio State University Extension says the “greenest” method to melt ice around your home likely is already in your garage.

“Shoveling is the best line of defense,” he says.

But we all know how fast a sheet of ice can form, and trying to prevent the buildup with a shovel can be useless.

Sand, light gravel, cinders and cat litter can provide some traction but won’t melt ice completely, he says. These can be used in conjunction with de icers if you’re looking to use fewer chemicals.

Safe Paw Ice Melter is touted as a no salt melter that’s safe for the environment and pet friendly. It’s available online and at Wal Mart, Petsmart and other stores.

Rob English, president of MeltSnow, a New England based company that makes de icing products including Magic Salt, says consumers are concerned about de icers.

“People want to know what are the best products to use on city streets, in parking garages, around day care centers where children crawl and pick up deicers on their hands, and around canine kennels where pets are exposed.”

De icers containing calcium chloride, though not entirely “green,” are definitely among the safest but, like the Prestone product, pricier. De icers containing potassium chloride also are among the most environmentally friendly but expensive. And neither are always easy to find.

Here are the main five types of de icers for home and commercial use, according to English. Some might only be available online.

Sodium chloride, or rock salt. This crystal de icer is the least expensive and most widely used. It’s harmful to vegetation.

Magnesium chloride, such as Ice Melt by Uline. It doesn’t leave a powdery residue, and it’s considered safer for humans, animals and vegetation. But it’s pricier than rock salt and can damage masonry.

Calcium chloride, such as Prestone Driving Heat. If used as directed, it won’t harm vegetation. But it’s expensive, and it can leave a harmful residue on carpets and shoes.

Potassium chloride, such as Diamond Crystal. People like it because it’s environmentally friendly, says English, but expensive.

Acetates, such as IceClear De Icer. They come as sodium acetate, calcium magnesium acetate and potassium acetate. These de icers are organic chemical compounds that break down naturally in the environment and leave little damage.

If you do use rock salt, at the very least stop applying it by later winter. According to OSU’s Melzer, late March is when plants are breaking dormancy, and the roots begin to actively absorb water and nutrients.
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Home3amCelebrity NewsI’m A Celebrity winnersI’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here past winners where are they now? From Tony Blackburn to Scarlett MoffattA real mix of talents have been crowned King or Queen of the jungle over the years12:05, 11 DEC 2017Updated12:20, 11 DEC 2017Joe Swash, Kerry Katona and Matt Willis have all won I’m A Celeb in the past Get celebs updates directly to your inbox+ SubscribeThank you for subscribing!Could not subscribe, try again laterInvalid EmailWhen it comes to a flagging TV career there is one place z list celebrities turn the Australian jungle.When it seems that music singles can no longer be sold, soap roles dry up, or sporting accomplishments have been resigned to history, I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! can offer a lifeline.More recently, the show has attracted a raft of desperate fame hungry reality stars who have managed to crowbar their way onto the screen in an effort to launch their career for the first time without proving they have any real skills at all.But what of all the winners of I’m A Celeb so far? Here is what they’re all up to now.Atomic Kitten’s Kerry was the winner of series three becoming the first woman to be crowned Queen of the Jungle.Kerry has continued to be tabloid fodder since her win thanks to the soap opera scale of her life featuring romantic woes and financial problems.She rejoined Atomic Kitten in 2012 (with limited success), has appeared on Dancing On Ice and Celebrity Big Brother , and can frequently be seen on the Loose Women panel as a guest where she freely gives more details about her tragic life.Read MoreI’m A Celebrity 2017Squeaky voiced comedian Joe made it out of the jungle with the crown on his head in series 4 (the second series to air in 2004).His win injected a bit of life back into his career with an ITV special titled An Audience with Joe Pasquale airing in 2005.He has continued to crop up on television every now and again with notable turns on The Paul O’Grady Show in 2009 (where he filled in for the show host) and The Nightly Show in 2017 (where he put himself through a series of humiliating trials for comedy purposes) and is set to play Frank Spencer in a stage production of Some Mothers Do Ave Em and helm his own stand up tour in 2018.Carol Thatcher (Sereis 5: 2005)(Image: Daily Mirror)Journalist Carol managed to emerge from the shadow of her mother (the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) to win over the I’m A Celeb audience in 2005.After winning the show, she was launched into a correspondent role for The One Show where she would host a variety of segments in and out of the BBC show studio.She has also appeared on Most Haunted and fronted a documentary about the Falkland Wars (titled Mummy’s War) in 2007 but has stepped back from the limelight since 2009.Matt Willis (Series 6: 2006)Having been two years since the release of a Busted single, Matt entered the jungle as his solo music career stalled.
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SAN FRANCISCO A top immigration official said Wednesday that about 800 people living illegally in Northern California were able to avoid arrest because of a weekend warning that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf put on Twitter.

she did is no better than a gang lookout yelling when a police cruiser comes in the neighbourhood, except she did it to a whole community, Thomas Homan, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting chief, told and Friends.

Homan said the Justice Department is looking into whether Schaaf obstructed justice and said her actions allowed immigrants who have committed crimes to remain in Oakland, making the community less safe.

just can believe it happened, he said.

Federal immigration agents arrested more than 150 people in California in the days after Schaaf warning of the raids, the agency announced Tuesday.

In this May 13, 2016 file photo, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, speaks at a news conference in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, FIle)

Agents made the arrests in a three day sweep starting Sunday that covered cities from Sacramento in the north to Stockton in California Central Valley agricultural heartland. About half of those arrested for being in the country illegally had criminal convictions, the agency said.

In a statement Tuesday, Homan suggested the sweep targeted so called cities that limit co operation between ICE and local law enforcement.

jurisdictions like San Francisco and Oakland shield dangerous criminal aliens from federal law enforcement at the expense of public safety, Homan said. these jurisdictions prevent ICE from arresting criminal aliens in the secure confines of a jail, they also force ICE officers to make more arrests out in the community, which poses increased risks for law enforcement and the public. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thomas Homan takes a question from a reporter at a Department of Homeland Security news conference in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Defenders of sanctuary city practices say they improve public safety by promoting trust among law enforcement and immigrant communities and reserving scarce police resources for other, more urgent crime fighting needs.

ICE said those arrested included several people with convictions for crimes such as assault with a deadly weapon, including a man who had been previously deported to Mexico eight times.

Schaaf said in a statement Tuesday night that her earlier warning meant to give all residents time to learn their rights and know their legal options. is Oakland legal right to be a sanctuary city and we have not broken any laws. We believe our community is safer when families stay together. immigration sweep was the second in California since a statewide sanctuary law took effect last month. Agents have arrested more than 200 people earlier this month in the Los Angeles area.
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It’s freezing when I meet Tilda Swinton, in a hotel overlooking London’s Leicester Square. The country is still in the grip of the grimmest winter in 30 years, not that it has dented her mood. “We were snowed in for seven days!” she says, with glee. “In the north of Scotland, it’s been extraordinary. It’s been like Siberia. Just to show you.”

She leaps up, pointing to her hip to demonstrate the depth of snowfall: “It was up to there.” It conjures an enduring image: Swinton, surveying her kingdom, like a Highlands version of the White Witch she played in The Chronicles of Narnia films. I question why she didn’t head for warmer climes. “Why would I when there’s hip high snow in the north of Scotland?”

That comment rather encapsulates Swinton: she may have an Oscar and may count Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney and Brad Pitt among her co stars, but she’s extraordinarily down to earth. When it comes to Hollywood, she’s like the party’s eccentric guest. “I’m like an escapologist,” she says. “I can go in for a bit, and then leave.” Quite apart from helping maintain her sanity, this policy ensures she hasn’t built up an entourage. She doesn’t, for example, have a publicist usually an essential A list accoutrement. “Couldn’t afford one and what would I do with one?” she says. “I don’t actually know what they do. I think they’re supposed to keep you in the news and I’m really not interested in the news any more than necessary. The only reason I have any interest in papers is to talk about films.”

This she does very well. You don’t interview Swinton so much as engage with her particularly when it comes to cinema. As passionate about Avatar as she is about the work of Robert Bresson, Swinton’s here today to talk up I Am Love, a project she’s been developing for 11 years with its director, Italian born Luca Guadagnino. Gloriously operatic in its intensity, it’s an intelligent, searing study of infidelity, betrayal and love in the closed circles of upper crust Milanese society. She plays Emma, a Russian migr married into a wealthy Italian clan who begins a life shattering affair with a friend of one of her grown up sons.

Swinton performs in Italian, filtered through a credible Russian accent, and her character is, according to the actress, a “cipher”. “She’s someone who has lived undercover for 25 years, not even with her own name, with nothing from her own life. So she brings nothing. She’s completely empty and she’s completely disguised and to be disguised that long is an interesting psychopathy, I think. I went out of my way not to make any analysis of what her previous life was. She makes the decision not to bring any of it with her. Her decision is to start a new life completely and we meet her at a moment when that life has reached a turning point. The life of the mother, of growing children, is kind of at an end now.”

She calls the film her “meat and potatoes”; it’s the kind of fare she likes to get her teeth into more so, presumably, than her forays into the Narnia like fantasy that is Hollywood. “What I’m doing with Luca is much more my home territory trying to get absurdly ambitious independent European films off the ground, over many decades.” You only have to look back on Swinton’s career, and the film makers she’s remained loyal to, to see this is not unusual. Most will point to the late Derek Jarman, the avant garde director with whom she made seven films in eight years. But there are others: Lynn Hershman, for example, with whom she’s made three uncompromising works, and Sally Potter, who cast Swinton in arguably her most iconic role as the omnisexual Orlando in the 1992 Virginia Woolf adaptation of the same name. “People ask me to be mascots in their films,” she says. “It feels like that.”

In some ways as ageless as Orlando, Swinton has defied the rules of an industry geared towards youth. After spending one season at the Royal Shakespeare Company she left, comparing it to working for ICI she didn’t get her first film role until she was in her mid twenties, when Jarman cast her in Caravaggio. “I kept my head down when I was Keira Knightley’s age,” she says. “I kept under the radar, because I was so longing to be 40. I knew it. I thought, ‘If I can just keep my head down, just keep playing with my friends until I’m 40, then I will have the nerve to come out.'” It’s no bad thing, she estimates. “People aren’t sick of me quite yet. Maybe that’s a clue. Maybe it was a self fulfilling prophecy. I was never any dolly bird, was I?”

While that’s true, Swinton is the sort of woman you can’t take your eyes off. Impossibly tall and thin, her ghostly pale androgynous face is illuminated by emerald eyes and capped by a brushed back crop of hair (blonde, at the moment, rather than her more famous bright red). Today, she’s dressed in what might be considered conservative apparel for her black trousers and a charcoal pullover, worn over a light grey polo neck. Fashion is just one of the many things Swinton does differently. Take a look at the summer 2009 edition of AnOther magazine, in which she models a series of stunning outfits by innovative young designers, or the 2008 Oscars, the year she won Best Supporting Actress for her guilt stricken lawyer in Michael Clayton. A red carpet risk taker, she simply oozed confidence in a washed silk satin black Lanvin gown.

Remarkably, Swinton turns 50 this year (not that you’d know, her skin freakishly free of wrinkles). Perversely though typically for her she has no interest in such a milestone. “Is 50 more important? I think 49 is really important. Maybe that’s because I’m surrounded by too many hippies.” Drifting off into a digression about the spiritual significance of 49, she then tells me she’s never liked playing the “numbers game”. “The rules are you have to have found what you want to do with your life by the time you’re 19. Wrong! Or that you have to be in a significant relationship in your twenties. Wrong! It’s all just nonsense! In my life, I have to say, if I were to play that game, it’s just a beeper constantly. It’s like the vulture gnawing at you.”

Swinton wouldn’t know how to be conventional if she tried. It’s almost too obvious to say her childhood moulded her this way, but it’s unavoidable. Her father, Major General Sir John Swinton, is the former head of The Queen’s Household Division and Lord Lieutenant of Berwickshire and Swinton, if she so wished, could trace her paternal ancestry back 35 generations, to the ninth century. Along with her three brothers, she travelled extensively when she was young her father’s position leading to numerous postings around the globe yet she also attended the lite boarding school West Heath,
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where she was a contemporary of Princess Diana. A life of leisure, living in the upper echelons of society, awaited.

Yet if her path was set for her, she quietly rebelled. After taking two years off, working as a volunteer in a South African township and then in Kenya, she went to Cambridge to study political sciences and English literature. Was she expected to go into academia? “No, I think I was expected to marry a duke! And when it became clear I wasn’t going to marry a duke, I think all bets were off, basically.” So how did her family feel about her acting? “You’d have to ask them,” she retorts. “I think they’re incredibly fond and bemused and totally ‘Wassever, no big deal!’ about the whole thing. Bit late now. I don’t know what they’d prefer me to do. They’re wise enough people to want their children to be happy.”

Still, it would’ve been interesting to eavesdrop on the dinner table conversation when Swinton first announced she’d joined the Communist Party (before later switching her allegiances to the Scottish Socialist Party). “It must be tricky when a child goes into a completely different world,” she muses, suddenly thinking of her own brood 12 year old twins Xavier and Honor who came courtesy of her 15 year relationship with Scottish playwright John Byrne. “I ask myself what it must be like sometimes. I think if my children my insanely pagan hippie children eventually turn round and say that they’re going to be fascist accountants or join the BNP. well it’s a challenge, I think. But you know what? You just go on loving.”

As far as Swinton’s concerned, she’s not even really an actress. I’d read a comment that she was planning to give it up for poetry, but when I mention this, she corrects me. “Other way round. I’ve never taken up acting and I was a poet. I went to university as a poet. I’m a complete fraud. I was accepted as a poet. And I got there and I stopped writing. I started performing very half heartedly.” So she’s a poet at heart? She lets out a sigh. “My daughter [Honor] was asked when she was six what she was going to do when she grows up, which is the most awful question to ask anybody of any age. And she said, ‘I am a poet.’ Which she is. And I was so envious that she has this confidence to say this.”

If she had a choice, Swinton would call herself “a scientist” and she certainly experiments like few others. In 1995, the year after Jarman died of an Aids related illness, she climbed inside a glass case at the Serpentine Gallery and dozed for eight hours a day for Cornelia Parker’s work The Maybe. Almost a decade later, she took to the Parisian catwalks for designers Viktor Rolf, strutting down the runway to the sound of her own voice, advising attendees to “Follow your own path”. More recently, she contributed speaking parts to three songs on Patrick Wolf’s album The Bachelor, as “the voice of hope”. For the record, while she plays a bit of piano, she’s not a “practitioner” of music.

Swinton also set up her own boutique film festival renting the Ballerina Ballroom in Nairn, the Scottish seaside town close to Inverness where Chaplin used to holiday and which she calls home. The festival lasted eight and a half days (in tribute to the Fellini film) and audiences brought homemade cakes to munch on while watching everything from Polanski to Czech surrealism. Last year, she took her quest to bring arthouse cinema to the masses one step further, as she and a group of volunteers pulled a mobile cinema screen, mounted on a 33 tonne truck, for an hour a day through the more remote areas of Scotland. “We only plan to do things that nobody would think we’d do,” she grins.

While swinton may live in the Highlands, she doesn’t exist in a bubble. In 2008, the year she was sweeping up awards for Michael Clayton, her private life had a good going over by the tabloids. She concedes it’s a consequence of an ever growing Hollywood profile that’s seen her work with such maverick talents as David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), the Coen Brothers (Burn After Reading) and Spike Jonze (Adaptation). “It’s to do with walking into a different market square,” she explains, in her curious way. “I was in the alternative hippie end of the art freaks around the corner, underneath the bus station, and I walked around the corner and went into the slightly glam market where people were selling off cuts from Monsoon. There’s a different kind of scrutiny there.”

As Swinton puts it, winning a “national award” like a Bafta, which she did for Michael Clayton, meant she was suddenly fair game for such attention. “It’s like having your passport checked.” The problem was, those checks intensified, as her living arrangements with Byrne were put under the microscope. With the couple said to be sharing their house with Sandro Kopp, a German born artist 21 years Swinton’s junior, rumours of a mnage trois began to circulate. As you might expect, Swinton gave as good as she got. Asked, in one particularly spiky article in the Daily Mail, if she shared her affections with both men, she answered, “That is absolutely none of your business,” with the requisite confidence needed to deflect such a personal invasion.

Today, she dismisses the whole affair. “There are some people who got a bit over excited and went up all sorts of gum trees shall we say insanely hallucinogenic gum trees and had to be educated. We live an extremely orthodox life. I don’t any more live in a couple with the father of my children. How many countless people out there can say the same thing? We are incredibly close friends. We bring up our children together. We no longer live under the same roof. We live over the road from each other. I have been in a relationship for the past five years and continue to be in a committed relationship with someone else. The father of my children is [also] in a relationship with someone else.”

Still, she does take issue with one element of the Mail’s story, which quoted her as saying, “I am a soldier”. She first of all concedes that being a soldier’s daughter is good training for being a film maker. “The whole thing of working from campaign to campaign, the whole strategic thing, the whole thing about working in a group, comradeship, is very good training. I do talk with my soldier brother about our respective lives, and we do find parallels.” She takes a deep breath and continues. “Having said that, I never said that I’m a soldier. I would never say that. I wouldn’t be that disrespectful to what that means. I’m the last person who’d say that. If I were in Afghanistan and read someone saying that at a film festival, I might be a little peeved.”

As to the future, she is next set to work with Scottish film maker Lynne Ramsay. They plan to adapt Lionel Shriver’s “extraordinary” Orange Prize winning novel, We Need To Talk About Kevin, about a mother dealing with the horror of her child being the perpetrator of a Columbine style school massacre. She and Guadagnino have also formed their own production company, The Love Factory, named after the 1999 short they made just as they were first formulating I Am Love. There’s talk of them remaking Morton DaCosta’s 1958 film Auntie Mame, with Swinton taking on the Rosalind Russell role.

The truth is, Swinton’s just reaching the peak of her powers right now. “I’m really grateful for this and it’s not true for lots of people but for me, in every way, life gets better,” she says. “In every way.”

‘I Am Love’ opens nationwide this Friday

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Waqas Ali and Sidra Qasim are family friends from Okara. Today, they run a company known as Markhor, which produces handmade shoes and has a high end clientele in many parts of the world. The brand is named after an endangered animal, Markhor, which is Pakistan’s national emblem. The owners believe they are protecting a craft that is both iconic and endangered.

The idea of setting up this company came to Ali’s mind when he met Muhammad Hussain, a shoemaker in Okara. The shoemaker complained that they could hardly make both ends meet despite producing products of unmatchable quality.

Ali who was inspired by the power of the internet and social media thought that these mediums could be used to connect master artisans with those in the world who could really value their craft. So, he set up this platform and tried to minus the middlemen and reach the potential clients directly.

It took a few failed attempts to get the company orders from abroad, including from a top executive at Google. Ali was so determined and confident that he discontinued his studies and focused on this project. He would spend his college fees on establishing the brand, something that disturbed his parents who finally stopped funding him.

Ali shared the idea with Sidra and got her support. The brand, previously known as Hometown Shoes, manufactures customised leather shoes and sells them online at a premium price.

The craftsmen are also earning amounts many times more than they would earn earlier. These shoes are being sold for as high as Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 per pair. “The best part is that the owner tries to deliver them at the doorstep of the buyers,” says Uzair Shahid, Project Manager at Plan 9. “Ali has been the most enterprising individual that we have come across so far,” he says.

Markhor products are valued as all products and process involved are traceable. The CEO reaches the buyer with a personal note and the latter’s name inscribed on the product.
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